My topic for this project is the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The Warsaw ghetto is famous for two things. The first thing is that it was a home to more Jews than any other ghetto. The second thing is that it had a famous ghetto uprising that was an inspiration to many other Jews.
Ghettos were around before the Nazis came to power and invaded Poland. Ghettos were places where Jews were forced to live to keep them separate from other peoples. They were first used in Spain and Portugal at the end of the 14th century. In 1870, the last ghetto in Europe was abolished, although there were still places in Russia where Jews were forced to live. These places, called Pales, were abolished at the end of the First World War in 1917. Germans forced Jews into ghettos by telling them that they were going to be relocated to a better place. They also told the Jews to bring all their precious items. When the Jews got there, they found armed Germans soldiers waiting for them. The Germans collected all the Jews' valuables. After that, they put the Jews in box cars and shipped them to the ghetto. Only after that did the Jews know the truth.
Nazis put Jews in the ghettos to isolate the Jews from the “regular” society. A ghetto was a walled city within a city. These Jews only got 184 calories. That is one slice of bread with a teaspoon of butter. I have twice that much for a snack. The Germans got 2,300 calories a day, and the Poles got 700 calories a day. The idea of these horrible rations was to starve the Jewish people. Also, since the Germans had to feed 400,000 Jews, they saved a lot of money. During World War II, life for most Jewish people was horrible. They were constantly being killed, deported to camps, or deported to ghettos. The few Jews who weren’t deported or killed yet were treated very inferiorly by the people in the societies they lived in.
Even before the Germans invaded Poland, the Jews were treated badly by the Polish people. Regular Polish people could steal property from the Jews without fear of getting in trouble with the law. Jews were denied many civil rights that Christians had. Jews were often separated from their families when they were deported. The Germans put men and women in different places, causing many couples to be separated.
The Germans would round up Jews in Warsaw and other small towns near Warsaw and put them in the ghetto. The Germans built the ghetto in Warsaw because a large chunk of the Jewish population in Poland was living there. The ghetto was home to more than 400,000 Jews. The ghetto only had 27,000 one-room apartments for the Jews to live in. Some German soldiers quoted that there were up to seven Jews in a one-room apartment. To further insure that the Jews would not go back into German controlled territories, they built nine-foot high walls. Each brick had a piece of sharp glass in between them so Jews could not climb up the walls. Also, barbed wire was installed at the top of the wall.
There were two uprisings, both falling on the days that the Germans made their big round-up of the Jews to deport them. The first time, the Jews fought back and the Germans killed everyone who participated in the fight. On the second big deportation, the famous ghetto uprising happened. Lots of Jews opened fire on the Germans.
This was no ordinary uprising, this was a special, unique one, and the biggest uprising in World War II. When the Germans came in to deport all the Jews, the Jews fought with the Germans. The average Jewish fighter had 4-5 Molotov cocktails, 4-5 hand grenades and a pistol. There were only two machine guns, 15 rifles, and 500 hand guns in the arsenal of the ghetto. This was not a lot of weapons for 400,000 people.
The Germans retreated after the Jews rose up because they weren’t expecting starving Jews who were always getting sick and dying to have a fighting group. The Germans retreated several times in this manner. Then, the Germans made up a strategy. The strategy was to systematically burn down the ghetto. This caused most of the fighting to occur at night, since the ghetto was being burned down by day. Finally, when most of the buildings were burned down, the remaining Jewish fighters retreated to 18 Mila Street, which was the Jewish ZOB headquarters. The ZOB was a group of Zionists. It was a young persons' fighting/smuggling organization. The Germans and the Jews fought for two hours until the Germans threw a gas grenade into the building. People say that whoever dodged the bullets, and was not gassed, committed suicide. Only 100 Jews survived the ghetto uprising by escaping though the sewers.
The reason that Warsaw ghetto people rose up was due to the fact that the Warsaw ghetto was big, so the rations were fewer and the guards were more. Since there were more guards, there was more killing. This caused psychological difficulty amongst the Jews. Also, the ghetto had a large population of Zionists. Zionists were people who believed that the Jews should have their own place. The Zionists were the ones responsible for telling the Jews about the uprising and to participate in it. The message that the people fighting in the ghetto were trying to get across was “We would rather die changing our future than to give up!”.
This ghetto uprising affected life back then and even nowadays for the Jewish people. It affected life back then by helping temporarily set back the German war machine. It also inspired many more uprisings which further hurt the German army. It also gave Jews a tiny spark of hope, something that said that they could help make a difference. It affects life nowadays by letting us know that we survived and help defeat the Nazis. Also, it is a big history subject.
This topic I chose is important to me for many different reasons. The first is that if it hadn’t been for these heroic Jews, there probably wouldn’t have been many more attempts by the Jews to fight the Germans. Also, I am interested in the roles that Jews played in the resistance because I wanted to find out what my culture did there. I like to hear about people standing up to a bigger force, even though it is a hopeless fight, to help make something right. The main reason I chose the topic about the Warsaw ghetto was because some of my great-grandparents and their relatives died in similar ghettos and camps. This encouraged me to study this topic so I could find out about how they lived. I think that the Warsaw ghetto was a terrible place to live, but it also serves as an inspiration to all the other people who were standing up for their freedom. It said “We attempted the impossible. Maybe we didn’t succeed, but maybe you can.”