The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which is famous for its month-long resistance struggle against the Germans in April/May of 1943, actually began with an initial uprising on 12 Shevat 5703 (January 18, 1943).

When the Germans began the process of liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto, one of the largest concentrations of Jews in Poland, hundreds of thousands of Jews were herded off to Treblinka or to other concentration camps. There were small pockets of resistance within the ghetto, but the ability to fight back successfully was not feasible.

As the Jews realized the astonishing rates of deportation, averaging 5,000 per day, their despair turned into rage, a rage that enabled them to fight, even though there was no hope of winning. The primary organization responsible for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was the Jewish Fighting Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa; ZOB). The initial resistance on January 18, 1943 (12 Shevat) interfered with deportations for three days, after which deportations were put on hold until April. This was, after all, the first time the Germans had ever encountered serious organized resistance.

By then, there were fewer than 60,000 Jews left in the ghetto. The ZOB used the time after the initial attack to prepare. They trained with whatever weapons were available and built an extensive system of underground bunkers in which the Jews could hide.

On April 19, 1943, the Nazis resumed the liquidation of the ghetto, and met with stiff resistance. It took the vaunted S.S. and the Wehrmacht nearly a month to destroy the ragtag, starving army of Jews who had almost no military experience and fought with a hodgepodge of weapons. Some 300 German soldiers were killed.

Not until almost an entire month later, May 16, 1943, did the Germans finally declare the fighting over, blowing up the Great Synagogue as a symbol of their “victory.”

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