The Holocaust was one of the most horrendous and atrocious event in history. Millions of Jews were killed without even a second thought. The Nazis tried to suppress, demoralize, and dehumanize the Jews in every way possible. First, the Jews were forced into overcrowded ghettos, then to concentration camps where they were killed systematically or worked to their deaths. As the news of Jews being sent to death camps became known, the Jews began to rise up against the Nazis. They refused to let an invading army destroy their homes, friends, and family.
The strength of the resistance against the Nazis was especially seen in the Warsaw Uprising. The horrors of what the Jews faced within the two year confinement inside Warsaw were unimaginable. People died on the streets every day from starvation or were shot by the Nazis like animals. Piles of dead bodies became a common sight on the streets of Warsaw. Their combined struggles and hardships became a catalyst for resistance. They began to work together, organize, and fight back for the freedom and dignity which they took for granted. In response to the guilt from not stopping the first wave of liquidation in Warsaw, the ZOB was created.
The Jews of the ZOB would not only stand up and fight, but resist and demoralize the Nazis. When the Nazis had reduced the population of 300,000 Warsaw ghetto inhabitants to 60,000, the Jews realized that they had to stand up. Rather than to submit to the Nazis, Modecai Anielweicz organized the Jewish Fighting Organization, known as the ZOB (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa in Polish) (USHMM). Modecai organized the ZOB into over twenty two fighting units with ten to twelve people in each. These units were spread throughout the ghetto: in German workshops, market districts, and central areas (Rappaport).
Each group was supplied with weapons such as Molotov cocktails, grenades, pistols, knives, and explosives. Many of these weapons were smuggled in by resistance fighters such as Vladka Meade through the Aryan side, the non-Jewish side of Poland(movie). When the Nazis arrived to attack on April 18, 1943, the ZOB was ready as well. When the Nazis first entered singing marching songs and walking confidently into the ghetto, they were surprised when the ZOB first hurled a grenade (Rappoport). Then more grenades and explosives steadily rained on the Nazis for two hours. It was an unexpected resistance hich “stunned” the Nazis, especially with the “ferocity” that the Jews had (USHMM). The ZOB fought relentlessly. They incinerated the Nazi’s advanced tanks, attacked the ambulances transporting injured Nazis, and left many retreating behind mattresses (Edelman). Nazis scattered the streets in search for shelters and buildings to hide in, but without any luck as each doorway was blocked. After the first day, wounded and dead Nazis scattered the streets, but no ZOB member was injured (Rappaport). Never before had the Nazis seen the Jews fight back at such a large and organized scale.
The ZOB had driven the Nazis out of the ghetto, not the other way around. The perfect present for Hiter’s birthday, a “Judenfrei Warsaw”-Warsaw free of Jews- had backfired (Rappaport). It was roughly 600 ZOB members against 2,100 Nazi troops, but the statistics did not matter (USHMM). The ZOB was also ill-equipped against the modern military of the Nazis, but that did not matter either. What did matter was that it was the first time that the Jews had seen fear in the Nazi’s eyes, the Nazis were the ones running away (Webb). For almost a month, after each attack, the ZOB was able to hold up against the Nazis.
They were unwilling to give up. On the third day of the revolt, through the flying bullets, the ZOB had attached a blue and white flag to a chimney, which were the colors of the ZOB’s movement flag as well as the Jewish prayer shawl. The Nazis had tried to shoot and take down the flag, but failed (Rappopart). The flag was the ultimate symbol of defiance against the Nazis. It was not the Nazis who controlled the city, but the Jews. The ZOB was able to demoralize the Nazi’s conviction of being the superior race and that eliminating the Jews was going to be easy.
The Nazis were unable to fight the fighters directly because of the ZOB’s well organized guerilla warfare tactics which enabled them to escape the Nazis’ attacks. Frustrated, the Nazis resorted to burning the whole ghetto to the ground after a month of unsuccessful attempts. Even though many of the bunks and other fortified locations were burned, the ZOB did not give up. Instead, on April 29, forty fighters crept through the sewage system in attempt to reach the outside of the ghetto where partisan groups were attacking the Nazis. When the escape route was discovered, dams were built to raise water levels sewage systems.
To retaliate, the ZOB blew up the dams (Rappoport). Each attack from the Nazis was retaliated by the ZOB, making it harder for the Nazis to win. The ZOB became the light of hope, inspiration, and resistance in Warsaw. For the first time, the Nazis were seen as fallible and defeatable. The Polish Home Army became so impressed by the ZOB that they offered them more weapons and helped set up a make-shift factory which produced grenades (Ghetto Fights). The wealthy residents of the ghetto who were unwilling to give aid before, were willing to contribute after evident victories against the Nazis. To gain a small, extraneous pain [served] as a stimulant to mobilize [their] last reserves of energy”. Everyone worked together in hopes to defeat the Nazis, even if it meant to die for the cause. The weaker the Nazis felt, the stronger the ZOB united. The Jewish Fighting Organization in Warsaw was able to hold out longer than any other group during World War II. For almost a month, they demonstrated their strength and willpower at an unimaginable extent towards the Nazis, which became a “symbol of the indomitableness of the human spirit” (USHMM).
The Nazis became demoralized and felt fear for the first time against the Jews. Even though almost all the members of the ZOB, including the leader, was killed, they had died with honor and courage like the families who helped the Pianist (The Pianist). To them, it “was not a question of saving Jewish lives; [that] was hopeless. It was a question of what kind of death the Polish Jews would select for themselves” (Young). Each last breath which ended with a scared and demoralized the Nazis was a proud and honorable death for each fighter.