04/19/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/19/2021 08:22
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is an extraordinary day here, in Warsaw, but I think it is equally extraordinary in the whole of Poland and beyond its borders. It is an important day also in Israel, in the United States, in numerous places inhabited today by Poles of Jewish descent, Polish Jews, all those who remember, but first and foremost, those who were fighting, who experienced first-hand April 19, 1943, the day of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Of the first ever urban uprising during the Second World War, the uprising of Polish Jews, of the fight which, as was mentioned here just a while ago, was a fight until the very end for they were denied the right to capitulate, they could not surrender, they could not count on being treated like prisoners of war, they could not hope to be protected by any international conventions whatsoever. They knew that a surrender to Nazi Germans would be tantamount to death. They chose to die with weapons in their hands, they did not condone death in concentration camps, in gas chambers - they wanted to fight right till the very end.
This is a crucially important day since this was the first uprising started here, in Warsaw, during the Second World War, as I said before, as well as the first one in the entire occupied Europe and the world. That uprising however preceded a later insurgence - the Warsaw Rising in 1944 - which was joined also by the participants of the earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the ones who had survived and those were very few indeed.
They put up a brave fight, they were fighting like lions, and they fought right till the very end, and frequently did so to the sheer horror of Nazi German soldiers who would imagine it enough to enter the ghetto with two units and instantly thwart any rebellion. Contrary to those expectations however, they had to flee in panic.
That was the moment eagerly awaited, right from the start of WWII, by Poles of Jewish descent, by Polish Jews who had suffered oppression and persecution, having been locked down here, in the Warsaw Ghetto and other ghettos for almost 3 years. Today we also observe a Remembrance Day of Insurgents who fought in other ghettos on the territory of Poland, in smaller uprisings, less well-known ones, those who likewise took up their weapons and opposed the Holocaust, the German terror.
I frequently repeat the notion that it was an Uprising of 'Our Own', they were 'Our Own'. Others might say: our Jews. No. They were 'Our Own'. Those who followed historical examples like the one set by Berek Joselewicz. Those who looked up to the ones who sacrificed their lives for Poland fighting in the Piłsudski Legions, the ones who battled for Poland in the Polish-Soviet war of 1920, the ones who defended Poland from the Nazi attack in 1939. Just think how many Stars of David are engraved upon the tombstones dating from the times of all those great battles fought by Polish soldiers. Just think how many signs there are which indicate that a soldier of Jewish descent, a Polish Jew, a citizen of the Republic of Poland rests in a given grave.
And they were precisely the ones fighting here, in the Warsaw Ghetto till their last breath, for their dignity, to show their valour and to demonstrate that they were ready to meet their death while standing up straight, not down on their knees. They were killed in action.
May their glorious memory live on.