Mordechai Anielewicz was born in Wyszkow near Warsaw in 1919, and grew up in a working class Jewish family. After finishing secondary education he joined the Zionist movement Ha-Shomer ha- Tsa’ir where he distinguished himself as an organiser and leader.
On the 7 September 1939 a week after the German invasion of Poland Anielewicz went with members of his group from Warsaw to the eastern regions of the country. Anielewicz attempted to cross the Rumanian border in order to open a route for young Jews to go to Palestine. However, he was apprehended and imprisoned in a Soviet prison cell. He was released and returned to Warsaw.
He went to Vilna where Jewish refugees and other political groups had gathered, to convince Jews to return to Poland and resist the harsh German rule. He returned to Warsaw in January 1940 with his girlfriend Mira Fuchrer where he continued his work with the Jewish underground.
By mid-1941, Anielewicz began concentrating on transforming the underground youth movements into an armed resistance movement and he also began creating self-defence organisations within the Warsaw ghetto.
Emanuel Ringelblum recalled a Ha-Shomer ha – Za’ir seminar in January 1942:
“Once, during a break between classes in the Ha-Shomer seminar (I lectured on the history of the Jewish labour movements), Mordechai Anielewicz and Yosef Kaplan called me down into the yard of the building at 23 Nalewki Street.
They let me into a special room and showed me two revolvers. These revolvers, the members of the central leadership explained to me, were to be employed to train youth in the use of arms. This was the first step taken by Ha-Shomer Ha-Za’ir even before the Fighting Organisation was founded.”
Anielewicz was engaged in underground work in the Bedzin- Sosnowiec area in eastern Silesia and he returned to Warsaw when he learnt about the mass deportations from Warsaw which commenced on the 22 July 1942.
In the beginning of October1942 discussions were held by the various Jewish underground organisations and on the 15 October the decision was taken to form a joint fighting organisation, and the Bund agreed to join the Z.O.B (Zydowska Organizac Bojowa – Jewish Combat Organisation) without reservation.
The first measures the Z.O.B took was against the leading Jews who had helped the Germans during the mass deportations from Warsaw to the Treblinka death camp, such as the two Jewish Order Police members Szerynski and Lejkin, and Yisrael First, the director of the Economic Department of the Judenrat.
When the Germans commenced the Second “Aktion” from the 18 – 22 January 1943 to Treblinka death camp, it was a very different Jewish population that faced them. Von Sammern- Frankenegg the SSPF Warsaw had promised Himmler that the ghetto “excess” would be deported without undue difficulty.
Robust bunkers and hideouts had been constructed during the period from the cessation of the “aktion” on the later part of September 1942 to January 1943, the Z.O.B were now preparing to fight the Germans in the ghetto streets, as Von Sammern, was soon to find out.
The first group involved in the January fighting was a band of Ha-Shomer ha- Za’ir members commanded by Mordechai Anielewicz. Armed with pistols and hand grenades, the group attached itself to a long procession of Jews being led to the Umschlagplatz.
The fighters dispersed along the length of this march and each of its members singled out one of the soldiers guarding the column. At a given signal, the fighters sprang out of line and opened fire.
A short battle, on the corner of Zamenhofa and Niska, followed, with a number of Germans killed and wounded, while others fled. Most of the Jewish fighters fell as well, Eliyahu Rozanski, who had assassinated Lejkin, fought with great valour, died from his wounds.
Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/anielewicz.html
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010