From History Extra by Alexandra Richie author Faust’s Metropolis: A History of Berlin and Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw Uprising:
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, one of the most significant and tragic events in the history of the Second World War. It was a demonstration of heroic resistance, when Jews decided to fight against their oppressors rather than be forced to die in a concentration camp. It has left a remarkable legacy, which reverberates to this day.
By the outbreak of the Second World War, Jews had been living in Poland for more than a thousand years. Around 10 per cent of the country’s pre-war population was Jewish, but in some cities the proportion was much higher. Only New York had a higher number of Jewish residents than Warsaw, which was home to around 375,000 Jews – approximately 30 per cent of the city’s population. They had created a rich and diverse culture – something that the Germans were determined to destroy.
The Nazi persecution of the Jews in Poland began with the invasion of the country in 1939. Jews very quickly lost their rights; by October 1939 they were forced to register and have the word ‘Jude’ stamped on their identity papers. They were soon forbidden from many ordinary activities, such as walking on the pavement, or going to schools, libraries or museums. Synagogues were blown up, or turned into prisons or factories, and many Jews were abused and humiliated on the streets.
From October 1939, the Germans began to create a system of ghettos throughout Poland. The Warsaw Ghetto was created in November by the German Governor General Hans Frank. More than 140,000 Jews who lived outside the area – on the so-called ‘Aryan side’ – were forced to gather their belongings and move into the ghetto, while 110,000 non-Jewish Poles were made to move out.
Categories: World War II