Remembrance institute marks Warsaw Ghetto Uprising anniversary

To mark the occasion, IPN deputy head Mateusz Szpytma laid flowers at a memorial to the insurgents. Marcin Obara/PAP

Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) on Friday commemorated the Sunday-falling 77th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in which Warsaw's Jews rose up against the Germans.

To mark the occasion, IPN deputy head Mateusz Szpytma laid flowers at a memorial to the insurgents.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out on April 19, 1943, in the final phase of the ghetto's liquidation, launched by the Nazis a few months earlier. The insurgency, which lasted until May 16, was a symbolic act with slim to 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 stood up to SS and Wehrmacht forces, the Security Police and their 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. Just 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 German concentration camps. What remained of the Warsaw ghetto was razed to the ground by German troops led by SS General Juergen Stroop, who, after having been tried in Poland for crimes against humanity, was hanged on March 6, 1952, in Warsaw's Rakowiecka St. prison.

The Warsaw ghetto was established on October 12, 1940. A German decree required all Polish Jews from Warsaw to move into a designated area which German authorities sealed off from the rest of the city in November 1940.

At its peak, the ghetto's population reached over 400,000 Polish citizens of Jewish descent. The first wave of mass deportations from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka German Nazi extermination camp started on July 22 and lasted until September 12, 1942, embracing some 300,000 Polish Jews.