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Mordechaj Anielewicz
1919-1943
Mordechaj Anielewicz.JPG
Mordechaj Anielewicz
Nickname "Little Angel" (Aniołek)
Place of birth Wyszków, Second Polish Republic
Place of death Warsaw, General Government
Allegiance Jewish Combat Organization
Rank Commander
Battles/wars Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Awards Virtuti Militari, Cross of Grunwald

Mordechaj (Mordecai) Anielewicz (1919 – May 8, 1943) was the commander of Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (English: Jewish Combat Organization), also known as ŻOB, during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from January to May 1943.

Contents

Biography

Anilewiecz was born into a poor family in the small town of Wyszków near Warsaw. After he completed his high school studies, he joined and became a leader of the Zionist-socialist youth movement "Hashomer Hatzair".

On September 7, 1939, a week after the German invasion of Poland, Anielewicz escaped with his members of the group from Warsaw to the eastern regions in the hopes that the Polish Army would slow down the German advance. When the Soviet Red Army invaded and then occupied Eastern Poland in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Anielewicz heard that Jewish refugees, other youth movement members and political groups flocked to Vilna, Lithuania, which was then under Soviet control. He went there too and attempted to convince his colleagues to send people back to Poland to continue the fight against the Germans. He then attempted to cross the Romanian border in order to open a route for young Jews to get to the Mandate of Palestine, but he was caught and thrown into a Soviet jail. He was released a short time later, and returned to Warsaw in January 1940 with his girlfriend, Mira Fuchrer.

Anielewicz and girlfriend Mira Fuchrer in the destroyed Warsaw Ghetto (a painting by Shimon Garmize)

In the summer of 1942 Anielewicz was visiting the southwest region of Poland – annexed to Germany – attempting to organize armed resistance. Upon his return to Warsaw, he found that a major deportation to the Treblinka extermination camp had been carried out and only 60,000 of the Warsaw Ghetto's 350,000 Jews remained. He soon joined the ŻOB, and in November 1942 he was appointed as the group's chief commander. A connection with the Polish government in exile in London was made and the group began receiving weapons from the Polish underground on the "Aryan" side of the city. On January 18, 1943, Anielewicz was instrumental in the first act of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, preventing the majority of a second wave of Jews from being deported to extermination camps. This initial incident of armed resistance was a prelude to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that commenced on April 19.

Though there were no surviving eyewitnesses, it is assumed that he took his own life on May 8, 1943, along with his girlfriend and many of his staff, in a mass suicide at the surrounded ŻOB command post at 18 Miła Street. His body was never found and it is generally believed that his body was carried off to nearby crematoria along with those of all the other Jewish dead; nevertheless, the inscription on the memorial at the site of the Miła 18 bunker states that he is buried there.

Honors

Anielewicz memorial in the kibbutz Yad Mordechai
Warsaw Ghetto Heroes' Monument in Warsaw (in the center, wielding a hand grenade)

In July 1944 Anielewicz was posthumously awarded the Virtuti Militari, the Poland's highest military decoration, by the Polish government in exile. In 1945 he was also awarded the Cross of Grunwald IIIrd Class by the Polish People's Army.

During the later part of war a unit of the People's Guard made out from the Warsaw Ghetto survivors beared the name of Anielewicz. In December 1943 the kibbutz Yad Mordechai in Israel was renamed after him and a monument has been erected there in his memory. There are also memorials for him in Wyszków and in Warsaw, where in the 1960s the Gesia Street in Warsaw was renamed the Mordechaj Anielewicz Street. In 1983, 50 years after their deaths, the Israeli government issued a two-stamp set honoring Anielewicz and Josef Glazman as the heroes of the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos.

In popular culture

The actor Murray Salem played Anielewicz in the 1978 television miniseries Holocaust, while Hank Azaria played this role in the 2001 television film Uprising. Anielewicz is also a key figure in Harry Turtledove's alternate history series Worldwar and appears as a character in the Highlander 1997 novel Zealot and in the role-playing game Wraith: The Oblivion, where he is the de-facto leader of the Shadowlands version of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Sources

  • Edelman, Marek, and Krall, Hanna. Shielding the Flame: An Intimate Conversation With Dr. Marek Edelman, the Last Surviving Leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1986
  • Zuckerman, Yitzhak, A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (A Centennial Book), ISBN 0-520-07841-1

External links

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