1. Using Sources

One of the most effective ways of educating about this subject is through looking at source material such as Newspapers and Letters. Here are two examples which have accompanying explanations and suggestions.

2. The Call for Resistance by the Z.Z.W. in the Warsaw Ghetto, January 1943*

We are rising up for war!
We are of those who have set themselves the aim of awakening the people. Our wish is to take this watchword to our people:
Awake and fight!
Do not despair of the road to escape!
Know that escape is not to be found by walking to your death passively, like sheep to the slaughter. It is to be found in something much greater: in war!
Whoever defends himself has a chance of being saved! Whoever gives up self-defense from the outset - he has lost already!
Nothing awaits him except only a hideous death in the suffocation-machine of Treblinka.
Let the people awaken to war!
Find the courage in your soul for desperate action!
Put an end to our terrible acceptance of such phrases as:
We are all under sentence of death!
It is a lie!!!
We also were destined to live! We too have a right to life!
One only needs to know how to fight for it!
It is no great art to live when life is given to you willingly!
But there is an art to life just when they are trying to rob you of this life.
Let the people awaken and fight for its life!
Let every mother be a lioness defending her young!
Let no father stand by and see the blood of his children in silence!
Let not the first act of our destruction be repeated!
An end to despair and lack of faith!
An end to the spirit of slavery amongst us!
Let the tyrant pay with the blood of his body for every soul in Israel!
Let every house become a fortress for us!
Let the people awaken to war!
In war lies your salvation!
Whoever defends himself has a hope of escape!
We are rising in the name of the war for the lives of the helpless masses whom we seek to save, whom we must arouse to action!
It is not for ourselves alone that we wish to fight. We will be entitled to save ourselves only when we have completed our duty! As long as the life of a Jew is still in danger, even one, single, life, we have to be ready to fight!!!
Our watchword is:
Not even one more Jew is to find his end in Treblinka!
Out with the traitors to the people!
War for life or death on the conqueror to our last breath!
Be prepared to act!
Be ready

• This call for resistance by the Z.Z.W., the Betar Military Underground, was written in January 1943, just before or during the first major attack on the Nazis who came to take Jews away.

 

• Note how the language is very dramatic, highly charged with emotion and anger. It is also an appeal not to give up but to face the enemy with all the means at their disposal.

• See how the Ghetto youth were fully aware of the existence of the Death Camp at Treblinka. They had no illusions, they knew that they were going to die, so they decided to fight in order to inflict damage on the Nazis and to show that Jews were not necessarily passive or weak. They wished to salvage Jewish hope and pride.

1. Ask your group to read aloud the call for resistance and then to write on pieces of paper their immediate reactions as to how it made them feel.
2. Have people share aloud and then lead them into a discussion on why they think the Underground decided to fight, and how they think the Ghetto responded.
Note: Keep a balance between presenting information and letting your group develop their own responses.

3. The Last Letter of Mordechai Anielewicz, Warsaw Ghetto Revolt Commander, * April 23, 1943

It is impossible to put into words what we have been through. One thing is clear, what happened exceeded our boldest dreams: the Germans ran twice from the ghetto. One of our companies held out for 40 minutes and another - for more than 6 hours. The mine set in the "brushmakers" area exploded. Several of our companies attacked the dispersing Germans. Our losses in manpower are minimal. That is also an achievement. Y [Yechiel] fell. He fell a hero, at the machine-gun. I feel that great things are happening and what we dared do is of great, enormous importance....

Beginning from today we shall shift over to the partisan tactic. Three battle companies will move out tonight, with two tasks: reconnaissance and obtaining arms. Do you remember, short-range weapons are of no use to us. We use such weapons only rarely. What we need urgently: granades, rifles, machine-guns and explosives.

It is impossible to describe the conditions under which the Jews of the ghetto are now living. any a few will be able to hold out. The remainder will die sooner or later. Their fate is decided. In almost all the hiding places in which thousands are concealing themselves it is not possible to light a candle for lack of air.

With the aid of our transmitter we heard a marvelous report on our fighting by the "Shavit" radio station. The fact that we are remembered beyond the ghetto walls encourages us in our struggle. Peace go with you, my friend! Perhaps we may still meet again! The dream of my life has risen to become fact. Self-defense in the ghetto will have been areality. Jewish armed resistance and revenge are facts. I have been a witness to the magnificent, heroic fighting of Jewish men of battle.

Ghetto, April 23, 1943 M. Anielewicz

This letter by the Hashomer Hatzair Madrich and Commander of the Underground was written on the 23rd of April 1943, shortly before his death. It was written on the fifth day of the revolt from the bunker on Mila Street.

1. Ask your group to produce a list of Jewish heroes. Get them to explain who their heroes are and why

2. they chose them. See if they can come up with a set of conditions that a Jewish hero or heroine must meet.

3. Read out the letter by Anielewicz, explain briefly who he was and what the Underground did. Make sure that everyone understands the letter and ask for their immediate responses. Does the group agree that Anielewicz.was a hero? Explain that in the first stage of the Underground many people in the Ghetto thought that the fighters were not heroes at all but rather were dangerous and a great risk.

4. Summarise to the group that perceiving who is a hero can sometimes be very complex. Ask them to come up with a list of who they think are contemporary Jewish heroes - they will see that there is very little agreement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 Sep 2005 / 9 Elul 5765 0