Warsaw ghetto uprising doomed to fail says British historian

Roger Moorhouse/Facebook

The 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had no chance of succeeding despite aid from the Polish underground, British historian Roger Moorhouse told PAP on Monday.

Monday marks the 78th anniversary of the revolt, in which around a thousand Jewish fighters took up arms against German forces which were in the process of liquidating the ghetto and deporting its inhabitants to death camps.

An estimated 56,000 Jews died in the Uprising or were captured and transported to camps such as Treblinka.

Moorhouse contested the commonly held opinion that Warsaw's non-Jewish population remained largely indifferent to the ghetto rising, saying that the insurgents were aided by the Polish resistance. However, he said, the insurrection, although heroic, was doomed to fail even if it had received broader support.

"I fear the Ghetto Uprising – desperately brave though it was – was doomed from the very start,” he told PAP. “Against the well-armed and well-supplied forces of the SS and Wehrmacht, the ghetto fighters stood little chance of any genuine success."

The historian, who has written books about Poland during the war, said the attitudes of Varsovians towards the Ghetto Uprising varied greatly, and stressed that the negative attitudes to it were largely fanned by anti-Jewish propaganda spread by the Germans.

"The attitudes of ordinary Varsovians to the Ghetto Uprising would have spanned the spectrum, from hostility, through indifference, to desperate sympathy,” said Moorhouse. “Non-Jewish Polish populations outside the ghetto had also suffered greatly over the previous four years, and the German authorities had specialised in spurring rivalries and stoking existing tensions – for example by portraying Jews as exploiters and the carriers of disease, so it was perhaps easy for some to turn a blind eye to Jewish suffering. That said, the attempt to resist in the ghetto, and fight back against the hated Germans, would have found sympathy with many," Moorhouse told PAP.

Specialising in WWII history, Moorhouse has authored or co-authored several books on the subjects, the best-know of which are "The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941", "Berlin at War", and "First to Fight: The Polish War 1939".