On Sunday April 14, Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defense Minister, Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the USA, spoke at Netanya -AACI on his recently published book, “Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto.” This is a unique and novel work that rights a historic wrong in Jewish history. The date was appropriate since the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto started on April 19, 1943, the first day of Passover 69 years ago, and the date of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day in Israel. Until now the true history of what happened during that epic battle has been obscured, by lack of information and biased reportage. Finally due to Moshe Aren’s efforts, the true story can be told. This is my attempt to summarize his presentation.
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The basic story of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto is known from several survivors of the ZOB. This is the story that is to be found in the books “The Wall” by John Hershey and “Mila 18″ by Leon Uris and in several movies and documentaries. This is not surprising, since Israel was governed by Labor socialist governments in its early years, and there was an ideological preferance for the story as told by the left-wing fighters. But, what of the ZZW? None of these fighters survived, they literally fought to the death! There was no one left to tell their story.
Compared to the ZOB, who had no military training, the Betar youths had extensive excercise and weapons training. At high cost they managed to acquire two submachine guns that were smuggled into the Ghetto through tunnels. The military tactics of the two Jewish groups was totally different, whereas the ZOB ambushed the German troops as they entered the Ghetto to liquidate it on Jan 19, 1943, the ZZW fought a direct confrontation with the German forces in Muranowski Square, the largest open space in the Ghetto. They also raised two flags over the Ghetto, that of the Jewish star of David, that became the flag of the State of Israel, and the flag of Poland. Sources of both the daily German military reports, including those of Gen Jurgend Stroop who commanded the German troops, and from other observers and reporters of the scene, indicate that the major fighting that occured in the Ghetto actually took place in Muranowski Square. This has never before been described in detail. The Germans were mortified that they could not take the Ghetto, and fighting continued for nearly a month, until finally the Germans burnt the Ghetto to the ground.
This book rights a historic wrong. The uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto by Jewish fighting units was the first major organized resistance to German occupation throughout Europe. It deserves to go down in history as a foundational event of the State of Israel. All of those who fought and sacrificed themselves for the cause of good versus evil deserve to be appropriately commemmorated.