As early as the spring of 1942, groups of young Jewish political activists had begun to discuss armed resistance. It was only after deportation of the majority of Jews from the ghetto that it began.
On the eve of Passover, 19 April 1943, the Germans began the final liquidation of the ghetto. A group of young Jewish men and women, with very little ammunition, held out against a far superior German force. The Germans responded by systematically burning down the buildings. The Jewish defenders of the ghetto fought for a month until the Germans finally succeeded in gaining control.
There were very few survivors.
The uprising had been led by the 24 year old Mordechai Anielewicz who died along with his people. This is an extract from his last letter:
‘I cannot describe the conditions in which the Jews are living. Only a few will hold out; the rest will die, sooner or later. Our fate is sealed. In all the bunkers where our comrades hide, you cannot light a candle through lack of air…The main thing in my life’s dream has come to be. I had the privilege of seeing the Jewish defence of the ghetto in all its greatness and glory.’
For Mordechai Anielewicz the very act of resisiting, fighting back against the Nazi war machine, was highly significant. The fact that the ghetto fighters had held out for a month against the brutality of the German Army was success itself.
As news of the Warsaw ghetto uprising spread, it served as an example for Jews in other ghettos and camps. There were many uprisings in the camps and ghettos of Eastern Europe.