Anielewicz, Mordecai

Anielewicz, Mordecai
   Anielewicz was the commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in April 1943. Born into a poor family in the Warsaw slum, he joined a Zionist youth group where he excelled as an organizer and youth leader. Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, he made his way to Soviet-occupied Poland for the purpose of reaching Romania so he could establish an escape route for Jewish youth to reach Palestine. Arrested by Soviet troops, Anielewicz was sent to jail and upon his release returned to German-occupied Warsaw. By January 1940, Anielewicz had become an underground leader in the Warsaw ghetto, with the objective of setting up cells among his Zionist followers. After receiving a report of the mass murder of Jews following Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, he focused his energy on creating a defense force in the ghetto. Anielewicz attempted to forge an alliance with Polish resistance movements that were loyal to the Polish government-in-exile in London but his efforts failed. After the mass deportation of Jews from Warsaw in the summer of 1942, Anielewicz organized his Zionist comrades into an armed resistance movement, the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB). The ZOB, however, lacked arms and its membership was depleted as a result of deportations. By the end of 1942, the ghetto was reduced in size with only 60,000 of its original 350,000 Jews still left. Anielewicz proceeded to merge other existing ghetto underground groups with the ZOB, and he was appointed commander. On 18 January 1943, the Germans embarked on a new round of deportations from the ghetto that took the ZOB leadership by surprise. Unable to fully mobilize the various groups that constituted the ZOB for action, Anielewicz decided to take his faction and do battle against the Germans. The fighters deliberately joined the assembled deportees to the death camps, and at an agreed-on signal attacked the German troops. Most of his men were killed in battle, but Anielewicz was saved by his men.
   Following the clash, the deportations were halted, and from January to April 1943, the ZOB prepared for the expected decisive test that was certain to come. On 19 April 1943, on the eve of Passover, the Germans entered the ghetto for the final deportation of its Jews. This action marked the signal for the Warsaw ghetto uprising, which continued for four weeks of brutal fighting in which the large German force suffered unexpected large casualties. Under Anielewicz’s command, the resistance fighters eventually were forced to retreat into a bunker at 18 Mila Street, and when the bunker fell on 18 May, the main force of the ZOB, including Anielewicz, was killed. In his last letter sent on 23 April 1943 to a member of the ZOB, Anielewicz wrote, “Farewell, my friend. Perhaps we shall meet again. The most important thing is that my life’s dream has come true. I have lived to see Jewish resistance in the ghetto in all its greatness and glory.”
   See also Edelman, Marek.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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