Peres marks Warsaw ghetto uprising

President: courage of fighters "a heroism that our children will proudly carry in their hearts."

Peres Kaczynski 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
Peres Kaczynski 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
The throngs of Jews and non-Jews from Poland, Israel and as far away as Australia who gathered in and around Poland's Warsaw Ghetto Square on Tuesday proved that time has not diminished respect for heroism and the refusal to bow to a bestial enemy. The commemoration was attended by survivors from the January-May, 1943, uprising. President Shimon Peres, who was also present, read a May 1, 1943, extract from the diary of Zivia Lubetkin, one of the leaders of the uprising, that told of the fighters sitting in the dark and clutching their weapons as they were surrounded by thousands of fearful Jews waiting for some sign of hope. In 2001, Lt. Roni Zuckerman became the IAF's first female combat pilot. She is the granddaughter of Lubetkin and of Itzhak (Antek) Zuckerman, the deputy to Mordechai Anielewicz in the ghetto. The Germans defeated the ghetto fighters, Peres said, but they were not the victors in historic terms. "What legacy did the brutal Nazis leave to their children and future generations? Only shame and disgrace, accursedness and ruin," he said. Most of the ghetto fighters were murdered in cold blood, said Peres. "But from an historical perspective there was never a victory of this kind - the triumph of Man over the human animal, a prime example of the conquest by the higher spirit over the darkness of the soul; the triumph of the few against the many. "The few had a conscience," said Peres. "The many were driven by Satan." "If we would have had the air force then that we have now," Peres continued, "Hitler would not have been able to kill without intervention. If Poland had been free then as it is now, her soil would not have been drenched by the atrocities of the Nazis." "Revenge, of course we seek revenge, but a different kind of revenge, not a Nazi type of revenge, but a Jewish revenge. And we have attained it," he said. Lubetkin and Zuckerman came to Israel and settled on a kibbutz, in a lifestyle that is one of the most just in the world, he said. A Jewish state was created, a state that was a world leader in agriculture, medicine and hi-tech. "That is revenge," Peres said. After World War II, "when most of the countries in the world closed their gates to the Jewish refugees who had survived the Holocaust, the gates of Zion opened," recalled Peres "That is revenge." When Israel's neighbors attacked seven times in 60 years, "and did not succeed in eliminating us, that is revenge. If after the Holocaust, the wars, the intifadas and the threats posed by [Iran's] enriched uranium we still voice our desire for peace - that is revenge, the triumph of the sons of light over the sons of darkness. "We lost some of the best of our sons and daughters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but their light continues to shine as an outstanding beacon of courage," he said. Polish President Lech Kaczynski said that great heroism had been displayed by different people in different places in the struggle against fascism, but the bravery at the Warsaw Ghetto, Treblinka and Sobibor was exceptional. Kaczynski said that in the spring of 1941, 450,000 Jews from across Poland had been crammed into four square kilometers. In a single year, 100,000 of them died from disease, starvation and Nazi cruelty, he said. Although they knew that they were fighting for a hopeless cause, he said, the fighters in the ghetto fought for honor. Theirs was rare courage. The uprising failed, but those who survived joined forces with the Poles and fought in the Polish Uprising in 1944, he said. "Their memories will remain with us forever," he said. Kaczynski called the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948 "an act of historic justice." He said that the atrocities perpetrated during WWII would never happen again, "and though we live in an era in which we want to believe this, we must forever remain alert and vigilant." The impressive ceremony, largely of a military nature, was attended by many dignitaries, including French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Most of Eastern Europe was well represented, as was Germany. A much more modest memorial was held earlier in the day for Pawel Frankel, the commander of Hairgun Hazevai Hayehudi (the Jewish Military Organization). A memorial plaque put up in Murowska Street by the Warsaw Municipality was unveiled by former defense minister Moshe Arens, who has long labored to give Frankel his due. Arens said that although Finkel commanded the central battle in the ghetto, his name had been forgotten or deliberately erased because he was not left wing. The man generally mentioned as a commander was Anielewicz, and justifiably so, said Arens, but it should not have been at Frankel's expense. Kaczynski mentioned Frankel in his address, but Peres, who had undertaken to say something about him, didn't.