Hear, O German God, How the Jews, in the "wild" houses pray, Clenching in the fist a stick, a stone. We beg you, O God, for a bloody battle, We implore you for a violent death, Let our eyes not see, before we expire, The stretch of the train tracks, But let the precise aim of our hand, O Lord, Stain their livid uniforms with blood, Let us see, before the mute groan Shreds our throats, Our simple human fear in their Haughty hands, in their whip-wielding paws. From Niska, Miła, and Muranowska Streets, Like scarlet flowers of blood, Sprout the flames of our gunbarrels. This is our Spring! Our Counterattack! The intoxication of our battle! These are our partisan forests: The alleys of Dzika and Ostrowska Streets. "Block" numbers quiver on breasts, Medals of the Jewish war. The cry of six letters flashes in red, Like a battering ram bellows the word: REVOLT ................................................. ................................................. And on the street, the bloodied. Trampled packet: JUNO SIND RUND. -Władysław Szlengel, "Counterattack"
Passover began last night, much as it was about to begin on April 19, 1943 for the thousands of Jews left in the Warsaw Ghetto who had managed to avoid deportation to Treblinka Extermination Camp in 1942. On that Passover, 68 years ago, the Germans entered the Ghetto planning to deport all remaining persons within three days. Instead, they were greeted by Molotov cocktails and hand grenades lobbed by members of the Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Combat Organization, or ŻOB) and Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (Jewish Military Union, or ŻZW).
The dream of my life has risen to become fact. Self-defense in the ghetto will have been a reality. Jewish armed resistance and revenge are facts. I have been a witness to the magnificent, heroic fighting of Jewish men in battle. -Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the ŻOB
Passover is the holiday in which Jews celebrate our ancestors' liberation after generations of slavery in Egypt. How bitter it must have been in 1943 to know that there would be no generations left if they waited again for God's help. No, after all those years of thanking God at Seders, this time, it was up to the people to save themselves, to smite the first born (or any born Nazi), and part the Red Sea to exit the Warsaw Ghetto to freedom. Although they were grossly outnumbered and out-armed, the fighters held out until May. The resistance was only destroyed as the Nazis systemically set fire to every building in the Ghetto, forcing people from their bunkers or burning them to death. Everyone caught was deported to Treblinka.
Do not go willingly to your death! Fight for life to the last breath. Greet our murders with teeth and claws, with axe and knife, hydrochloric acid and iron crowbars. Make the enemy pay for blood with blood, for death with death. Let us fall upon the enemy in time, kill and disarm him. Let us stand up against the criminals and if necessary die like heroes. If we die in this way we are not lost. -ŻOB leaflet, December 1942
Tonight, as I stuff myself with a delicious meal, surrounded by people I love, I will think about my cousin Beila Srodogora, who was twenty years old in 1943. I learned last May, almost 67 years to the day that the Nazis declared the end of Jewish Warsaw, that she was deported to Treblinka in 1943. Did she join the resistance, or go to her death quietly, like so many others?
I like to believe that she took up arms. I like to believe that even as she was loaded into a cattle car with hundreds of other doomed humans, she knew that somewhere out there her uncle Motel Rajsman - my grandfather - remembered her. I like to believe that she knew that he would never forget her, even if the pain of his loss was so great that he could never bring himself to say her name again. I like to think that my grandfather knew that I would somehow find out who Beila was and I would do what he could not.
This Passover, I remember Beila and say her name for him.