On This Day: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began on April 19 and ended on May 16, killing an estimated 7,000 Jews.

Jews held at gunpoint by Nazis during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jews held at gunpoint by Nazis during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

On this day in 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began. The revolt would last a few days short of a month.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in September of 1939, more than 400,000 of the Jews who lived in Warsaw were confined to the ghetto, which was the largest in Poland. In November of 1940, the ghetto was sealed off, and anyone caught leaving was shot on sight.

The lack of food and the overcrowding killed thousands of people each month.

In the middle of 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered to have the Jews "resettled" to extermination camps. The Jews were told that they were going to work camps, but word reached them that deportation meant they were going to die.

By September 1942, more than 280,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka or forced labor camps, and many were killed during the deportation process.

Captured Jews pulled out of Warsaw Ghetto bunkers are led by German Waffen SS soldiers to 'Umschlagplatz,' the assembly point for deportation.  (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Captured Jews pulled out of Warsaw Ghetto bunkers are led by German Waffen SS soldiers to 'Umschlagplatz,' the assembly point for deportation. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Approximately 60,000 Jews were left in the ghetto, and they formed groups such as the Jewish Combat Organization and the ZOB. These groups aimed to fight back and managed to have weapons smuggled into the ghetto by anti-Nazi Poles and the Jewish Military Union.

In mid-January of 1943, the Nazis entered the ghetto to prepare a new group for deportation but were ambushed by the ZOB. The fighting lasted a few days, after which deportations were suspended for a few months.

On April 19, Himmler sent in SS forces to raze the ghetto to the ground. The forces far outnumbered the Jews and were equipped with tanks and heavy artillery, but the Jews put up a fight that lasted until May 16 when the SS regained control of the ghettos.

An estimated 7,000 Jews were killed in the uprising, and it is believed that they took several hundred Germans with them.

The remaining Jews were sent to extermination or labor camps.