The Warsaw Ghetto uprising ended on May 16, 1943. Almost five years later to the day (May 14, 1948), the State of Israel was reborn. From death to life – from sadness to joy, as the Haggadah says.
It wasn’t the ghost of Warsaw alone which was laid to rest with the establishment of the Jewish state, but also Masada (the fortress in the Judean Desert, which fell to the Romans in 73 CE) and almost two millennia of pogroms, massacres, forced conversions and subjugations, culminating in genocide.
But Warsaw stands out as the largest-scale resistance during the Holocaust.
The Germans confined 500,000 Jews to an 840-acre walled compound in the Polish capital. Then the deportations began, on average 5,000-a-day to Treblinka or another death camps. By the spring of 1943, just 55,000 remained.
The Nazis decided to liquidate the Ghetto and the survivors determined to resist. The Ghetto fighters knew their struggle was doomed but were determined to choose the time and place of their deaths. The destruction of the Ghetto, which was supposed to take three days, lasted almost a month.
The Germans sent in 2,000 SS troops and auxiliaries, armed with tanks, rapid-fire artillery, machine guns and flame-throwers. They were met by defenders with pistols, a handful of antiquated rifles, hand grenades and homemade incendiary devices.
The Ghetto fighters hid in the ruins of bombed out buildings and sewers. When the Reich couldn’t crush the resistance by force of arms, it used poison gas and burned the buildings block by block. Many of the Jewish fighters died of inhalation, were burned to death or leaped to their deaths from ruined buildings.
Of 15,000 captured at the end, mainly civilians, most were shot on the spot, transported to death camps or used as slave labor. Only a handful survived the war.
Mordecai Anielewicz, one of the resistance commanders, wrote a fitting epitaph for the Warsaw Ghetto in a letter to a friend: “My life’s dream has now been realized: Jewish self-defense in the ghetto is now an accomplished fact… I have been witness to the magnificent heroic struggle of the Jewish fighters.”
Five years later and 1,500 miles away, in a museum in Tel Aviv on the day the British Mandate ended, David Ben Gurion and his colleagues proclaimed the State of Israel. With the support of Harry Truman, America – which in some ways owed its existence to ancient Israel — became the first country to recognize the new nation.
Looking at Israel today – strong, confident and superbly armed – it’s hard to remember its birth pains. Initially without a professional army (what became the IDF was made up of three rival guerilla groups), it faced the invading armies of five Arab states, including Jordan’s Arab Legion, trained by the Brits.
The invaders had 270 tanks, 150 field pieces and 300 planes. Israel’s fledgling army had no military aircraft, tanks, artillery or heavy machine guns.
Some of its fighters were Holocaust survivors who had just arrived on boats from Europe. They were given two weeks of training and a rifle and told (in their native language, because they didn’t speak Hebrew) “Go, fight.” And fight they did. As the Ukrainians are showing us, a people fights best when its back is to the wall.
Azzam Pasha, the Secretary General of the Arab League, predicted, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre.” Napoleon and Hitler might have said the same when their forces rolled into Russia.
After a year and a half of desperate fighting, an armistice was declared and Israel survived. In its War of Independence, it lost 1% of it’s population, which is comparable to America losing 3.3 million today (eight times our dead in World War II).
For the Jewish state, the war never ended. Since 1948, Israel fought 16 times –wars and military operations to secure the peace. The Islamic World is just as determined to drive the Jews into the sea as it was 74 years ago.
Except now it has terrorist states, terrorist movements spread around the world and weapons of mass destruction.
It also has a not-so-secret ally in the Biden administration, which is determined to help Iran acquire nuclear weapons and push Israel into an Auschwitz peace with the so-called Palestinians.
Symbolic of its contempt for America’s only reliable ally in the Middle East is the appointment of virulent anti-Israel activist Karine Jean-Pierre (who has accused Israel of “war crimes”) as the new press secretary.
But the Jews will survive the Biden regime, as we survived 2,000 years of exile, the Holocaust and international jihad fueled by oil money.
The proximity of dates – the end of the Warsaw resistance and the beginning of the Jewish state — can’t be coincidental. It’s as if God is saying to His people, “However much you suffer, I will always be with you. My promises are eternal.”