Summary List Placement
After German dictator Adolf Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Nazis began segregating millions of Jews in Eastern Europe into sections of towns and cities designated “ghettos,” eventually stripping inhabitants of their belongings and rights and sealing them in with barricades and armed guards.
In the Polish capital of Warsaw, home to the world’s second-largest Jewish population before the war, Nazis established the largest of more than 1,000 ghettos set up around Europe.
They intentionally housed some 400,000 Jews in inhumane conditions in the 1.3-square-mile Warsaw ghetto, allowing disease and starvation to run rampant ahead of mass deportations to extermination camps.
Years of war and genocide would go by before Allied troops liberated Europe, but as the Nazis systematically murdered millions, pockets of rebellion emerged, including secret Jewish resistance groups.
Starving, lacking supplies, and facing ruthless oppression, Jewish partisans carried out acts of rebellion within the ghettos.
Among the most famous is the Warsaw ghetto uprising that began on April 19, 1943, when resistance fighters launched a surprise attack on Nazis coming to liquidate the ghetto, leading to the largest ghetto revolt of World War II and inspiring similar rebellions across occupied Europe.
More than one-third of the fighters who rose up in the Warsaw ghetto were women. Many were active in Jewish youth movements before the war.
Ghetto girls defied the typical image of World War II partisans and used Nazis’ misogyny to their advantage. Some smuggled weapons in coffins and grenades in menstrual pads. They carried illegal publications between ghettos in their braids and sewed forged papers into their skirts. They blew up an Auschwitz crematorium with gunpowder smuggled in a teaspoon at a time in their bosoms.
Their courage and sacrifice has remained in the background of resistance histories. A new book by Judy Batalion, “The Light of Days: …read more