76th anniversary of Białystok ghetto uprising commemorated

Today's main ceremony was held at the monument to the ghetto heroes situated in a square named after the uprising's leader Mordechaj Tenenbaum-Tamaroff. Michał Zieliński/PAP

Observances marking the 76th anniversary of the outbreak of an uprising in the Białystok ghetto were held in the Polish eastern city on Friday.

According to historians, the Białystok uprising was the second largest armed resistance by Polish Jews, after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in their struggle against the Germans during World War Two.

Today's main ceremony was held at the monument to the ghetto heroes situated in a square named after the uprising's leader Mordechaj Tenenbaum-Tamaroff, who, together with his deputy Daniel Moszkowicz, committed suicide to avoid being captured by the Germans.

"It is our common duty to preserve the testament of the insurgents and to carry the testimony of their struggle to the future," PM Mateusz Morawiecki wrote in a letter to the participants in the Friday observances.

Earlier, flowers were laid at the Great Synagogue Monument commemorating Jews who were rounded up in the synagogue, which was subsequently set on fire by the Germans on June 27, 1941. The date symbolises the start of the extermination of the Białystok Jewish community by the Germans.

Candles were also lit at a plaque commemorating Icchok Malmed, who poured acid on two Gestapo soldiers half a year before the start of the uprising. Blinded by the acid, one of the soldiers pulled out his gun, but his gunfire killed another SS-officer and Malmed managed to escape. Finally, he gave himself up to the Germans, who threatened to destroy the entire ghetto if he did not, and was tortured and hanged.

Attending the ceremony were government and local government officials, diplomats, a delegation from Yehud, a partner city of Białystok, and a group of former Jewish inhabitants of Białystok and their descendants.

Before the start of WWII, Białystok was inhabited by some 50,000 Jews. The city was a major centre of Jewish culture and religion. Only several hundred Białystok Jews survived the Holocaust.

The Białystok ghetto opened in July 1941 as an incarceration site for over 40 thousand Jews from the city and its surroundings. The uprising broke out in response to the Germans' plans to liquidate the ghetto, with three hundred poorly armed insurgents facing a 3,000-strong German force equipped with tanks and aircraft.

The revolt was crushed after several days, the main fighting took place on August 16.