Diario Judío México - The last of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt in 1943 during World War II, Marek Edelman, died this weekend at the age of 90. Edelman and Mordechai Anielewicz fought against the Nazi storm troopers who invaded the ghetto. Edelman survived the destruction of the ghetto but stayed in Poland. He eventually became a distinguished cardiologist and then a leader when Communism fell. He was an anti-Zionist.
The kibbutz Yad Mordechai, next to Gaza on the Mediteranean, is named after Anielewicz, leader of the Hashomer youth group who was killed in the fighting. Born into a Polish-Jewish family in 1919 in Homl, now Belarus, Edelman was instilled at a young age with the socialist, anti-Zionist beliefs of the Jewish Labour Bund, a secular socialist party and labor union operating in Eastern Europe. As a boy, Edelman was a member of the Socialist Children’s Association, while his mother, Cecylia Edelman, was a Bund activist. The Edelman family moved to Warsaw shortly after he was born.
“Warsaw is my city. It is here that I learned Polish, Yiddish and German. It is here that at school, I learned one must always take care of others. It is also here that I was slapped in the face just because I was a Jew,” Edelman said at ceremonies in 2001 when he was decorated by the city of Warsaw for his war-time valour. More than 400,000 Jews, about 30% of Warsaw’s population, were forced to live in an area less than eight square kilometres in size, the Ghetto. Jews were deported there from all over Europe. Almost half of those forced to live in the ghetto’s squalid conditions died of disease and starvation in a year.
By April 1943, just 60,000 Jews remained. Most had been sent to the Treblinka, Majdanek and Sobibor death camps. When German troops marched into the ghetto on April 19, 1943 – the eve of Passover – to liquidate the survivors, they encountred heavy resistance from a group of starving but determined Jewish civilians armed with just a few pistols, grenades and bottles filled with gasoline. “We knew perfectly well that we would never win. We were 220 poorly armed boys against a powerful army,” Edelman said in 2007.
The uprising took the Nazis by surprise and lasted an unlikely three weeks. Edelman, who worked at a brush factory, took over command of the revolt when its leader, Mordechai Anielewicz, died.