The ghetto that fought back: Rare photos show Nazi SS troops rounding-up Jewish men, women and children after they resisted being sent to death camps for nearly four weeks during the 1943 Warsaw Uprising
- Men, women and children courageously fought back against Hitler’s troops for three-and-a-half weeks
- The uprising began in April 1943 and saw 59 police officers and members of the SS killed
- Of the 460,000 Jews within the Warsaw Ghetto, 265,000 were sent to Treblinka death camp to be murdered
Stern-faced Nazi SS soldiers stare down the defiant Jews who dared to resist being sent to death camps under orders to ‘liquidate’ Poland’s ghettos.
Photos show men, women and children being lined up and herded off after fighting for nearly four weeks during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
The heroic resistance saw 13,000 Jews killed in fighting which also took the lives of 59 police officers and members of the feared SS.
The fightback was prompted by Nazi authorities’ attempts to ‘liquidate’ the ghetto, which was part of the system they had imposed on occupied Poland to segregate and confine Jews in sections of towns and cities.
Of the 460,000 Jews within the Warsaw Ghetto, 265,000 were sent to Treblinka death camp to be murdered; a further 20,000 were sent to labour camps.
Now, rare photos show the aftermath of the uprising, as the Nazis meted out their brutal revenge.
The pictures are revealed in historian Ian Baxter’s new book, The Ghettos of Nazi-Occupied Poland – Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives, published by Pen and Sword.
Mothers and children are seen being hauled from the sewage system; other men and women are forced to stand against a wall with their arms raised above them before they are searched for weapons.
Directing it all is the SS commander in Warsaw, Major General Jurgen Stroop. One image shows him surrounded by armed guards as he watches a building burn.
The end of the uprising came when Stroop himself destroyed the Great Synagogue of Warsaw by detonating explosives which had been rigged up inside.
The Warsaw Uprising of 1943 saw 13,000 Jews killed as they attempted to prevent the Nazis from sending them to their deaths. Men, women and children courageously fought back against Hitler’s troops for three-and-a-half weeks; 59 police officers and members of the feared SS were killed or injured. Pictured: Women and children stand with their arms in the air after being forced from their shelters following the suppression of the uprising. They were set to march to the Umschlagplatz – the German term for collection point which was used during the Holocaust to describe the holding areas near railway stations were Jews were assembled for deportation to death camps. The Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were deported to the Treblinka camp, where between 700,000 and 900,000 were murdered
The fightback was prompted by Nazi authorities’ attempts to ‘liquidate’ the ghetto system which they had imposed on occupied Poland. Of the 460,000 Jews within the Warsaw Ghetto, 265,000 were sent to Treblinka death camp to be murdered; a further 20,000 were sent to death camps. Pictured: SS troops guard female Jewish resistance members captured during the suppression uprising. The original German caption read: ‘These bandits offered armed resistance’
The pictures are revealed in historian Ian Baxter’s new book, The Ghettos of Nazi-Occupied Poland – Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives, published by Pen and Sword. Pictured: Jews captured by the SS during the suppression of the uprising are lined up against a wall before being searched for weapons. The original German caption reads: ‘Before the search’
Following the uprising, most of the incinerated houses were razed. SS chief Heinrich Himmler later ordered the destruction of Warsaw, demanding that ‘every building must be razed to its foundation’. Pictured: SS troops walk past a block of burning housing during the suppression of the uprising. The original German caption reads: ‘An assault squad’
Surrounded by heavily armed SS and SD guards, SS Major General Juergen Stroop (pictured centre), watches housing blocks burn during the suppression of the Warsaw uprising. Two of the guards are seen with smiles on their faces. The end of the uprising came when Stroop himself destroyed the Great Synagogue of Warsaw by detonating explosives which had been rigged up inside
The German authorities SS troops arrest the Jewish department heads of the Brauer armament factory during the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The fightback against Nazi attempts to liquidate the ghetto began on April 19, the eve of Passover. Forces were ambushed by resistance fighters who threw Molotov cocktails and hand grenades while firing guns from their hideouts
A line of Jewish men, women and children are seen being marched to the Umschlagplatz ahead of their deportation to the Treblinka death camp. Next to them are troops with guns. The original caption on the photo reads: ‘To the Umschlagplatz.’ The failure of Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg – the original leader of the units sent in to liquidate the ghetto – saw him replaced with Stroop
SS soldiers take a break to eat during the suppression of the uprising. Stoop sent in 2,000 heavily-armed troops and motorised infantry, as well as Polish policeman, to tackle the resistance fighters. Savage fighting immediately broke out when the force arrived and it took ten days for the units to gain the upper hand
SS and police officers look on as Stroop discusses with his police adjutant, Kaleschke, the razing of the houses on Niska and Muranowska Street in the city. Once the Nazis had gained the upper hand, fighters continued to resist as they sought to prevent the city from being overwhelmed
An SS officer questions Jewish resistance fighters as Stroop (rear, centre) and his security guards look on. The original German caption reads: ‘Jewish traitors’. Once the fighting was over, most of the remaining 50,000 residents of the Ghetto captured and marched out of the ruins of the city, destined for the Treblinka death camp
An SS sergeant interrogates religious Jews captured during the suppression of the uprising. The original German caption reads: ‘Jewish rabbis’ Among those pictured is Rabbi Heschel Rappaport. Even after surrendering, some members of the resistance had concealed hand grenades or small firearms on them, in the hope of inflicting one final blow to the Nazis
An SS soldier searches a captured Jewish resistance fighter during the suppression of the uprising. The original German caption reads: ‘Pulled from a bunker’
German police and an SS soldier man a machine gun during the suppression of the uprising. The original German caption reads: ‘Securing a street’. The uprising had been prompted by the Germans attempting to hire out the ghetto’s remaining fit and skilled workers to businesses before eventually shipping them off to death camps once exhausted
SS troops guard members of the Jewish resistance captured during the suppression of the uprising. The original German caption reads: ‘Bandits!’. The men will likely have been sent to their deaths shortly after this photo was taken. To the right, a member of the SS is seen with his lapel badge marking him out from other troops
Jewish men, women and children emerge from a hideout inside a ruined building following the Nazis’ suppression of the uprising. The original German caption reads: ‘Smoking out the Jews and bandits’. In total, 13,000 Jews were killed during the uprising
During the Second World War as many as 460,000 Jews were crammed into the confines of the Warsaw Ghetto in occupied Poland.
Within its walls they lived under the shadow of rampant disease and starvation, even before German troops began transporting Jews en masse to the Treblinka extermination camp.
The seeds were sown for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in January 1943, when German soldiers arriving to implement a second deportation of Jews to the camp were met by Jewish resistance fighters who engaged them in clashes.
The deportation was halted after a period of days and only saw 5,000 – rather than the intended 7,000 – Jews taken away. The occupants of the ghetto were ready to fight what was regarded as a battle of honour for the Jewish people, led by two resistance organisations; the ZZW and the ZOB.
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising began in April 1943, when police and members of the SS were ambushed by Jewish insurgents. Pictured: members of the SS search Jewish officials from the city’s armaments factory after the suppression of the uprising
On 19 April 1943 the police and SS auxiliary forces entered the ghetto for a further deportation action intended to last three days.
They were ambushed by Jewish insurgents firing and tossing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades from alleyways, sewers, and windows. The Germans suffered casualties and their advance was halted.
German forces resorted to systematically burning down the ghetto, building by building, prompting thousands of surviving Jews and fighters to take cover in underground bunkers or the sewer system. Many were forced out of their hiding places by troops who dropped in smoke bombs.
On May 8, the Germans discovered a large dugout located at Miła 18 Street, which served as ŻOB’s main command post. Most of the organisation’s remaining leadership and dozens of others committed a mass suicide by ingesting cyanide.
The suppression of the uprising officially ended on 16 May 1943, with the demolition of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw.
Overall, 13,000 Jews were killed in the immediate fighting before many more were killed in death camps.
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