75th anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising outbreak commemorated

It was the Germans' intention and plan to destroy the Jewish nation, Polish President Andrzej Duda said in Warsaw on Thursday during state observances marking the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

"The Germans' intention and plan was to destroy the Jewish nation, and they also consistently tried to destroy all artefacts of the Jewish people," President Duda told the gathering at Warsaw's Ghetto Heroes Memorial.

"The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out when most of the Jews who used to be kept there were either killed or taken out to the Treblinka death camp by the Nazi Germans," President Duda emphasised.

"We bow our heads to the heroism of the Warsaw Ghetto insurgents, to their bravery, determination and courage. They were killed while fighting for dignity and freedom, while also fighting for Poland as they were Polish citizens," the Polish head of state stressed.

"I am convinced that when someone is speaking about the responsibility of the Polish State for the Holocaust, it not only hurts Poles but also Jews, Polish citizens, and the memory of those who died under the Polish and Jewish flags," President Duda emphasised.

At noon, alarm sirens were turned on for a minute in Warsaw to mark the anniversary.

The Warsaw ghetto was the biggest in German-occupied Poland, housing as many as 460,000 Jews during its peak period between January and March, 1941. The first stage of its liquidation, ordained under Germany's Reinhard Plan foreseeing the total annihilation of the Jews in Europe, was launched on July 22, 1942, and continued until August 21.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out on April 19, 1943, in the final phase of the ghetto's liquidation. The insurgency, which lasted until May 16, was a symbolic act with little or no chance of success. In an uneven, almost one-month-long struggle, the poorly-armed fighters of the Jewish Combat Organisation (ZOB) and the Jewish Military Union (ZZW) stood up to overwhelming SS and Wehrmacht forces, the Security Police and auxiliaries.

On May 8, 1943, the then commander of the uprising, Mordechaj Anielewicz, together with a group of ZOB soldiers, committed suicide in a bunker at 18 Mila Street. Only a handful of fighters managed to escape from the burning ghetto through the sewage system. Among them was the last commander of the uprising, Marek Edelman.

It is presumed that about 6,000 insurgents died in the fighting. Survivors were mostly deported to concentration camps. What remained of the Warsaw ghetto was razed to the ground by German troops led by SS General Juergen Stroop. Stroop was tried, convicted, and hanged for crimes against humanity in Poland on March 6, 1952.