Then & Now: Genocide resisted

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The Independent Online
19 April 1943: In honour of Hitler's birthday, SS chief Heinrich Himmler launched a special 'Aktion' to clear the Warsaw ghetto by force. The deportations to Treblinka had ceased three months earlier when a shipment of Jews opened fire on their Nazi guards.

'A pall of black smoke hangs over Warsaw. When the ghetto gates are opened to allow more troops in, you can get a glimpse of Germans and Polish police standing guard, while somewhere beyond the fire- blackened houses the rattle of machine-gun fire is punctuated by single heavier explosions. Then comes the crash of dynamite going off, followed by a rush of smoke and dust and the grinding rumble of a collapsing building . . .

'People have been dying every day, dropping in their tracks. Bodies are wrapped in newspaper and tossed in heaps on to a truck. Probably 50,000 to 60,000 Jews remain. They have been seized with a desperate courage. Somehow they have got hold of a few guns, and they are standing up to the massive firepower of Stroop's squads . . .

'As the German troops advance relentlessly through the warren of dilapidated buildings, killing and dynamiting, the Jews, men and women, have retreated into the sewers, still fighting . . .

'In Berlin, Goebbels has been told of what he calls 'a truly grotesque situation' in Warsaw. He says the Jews tried to escape through underground passages, whereupon the passages were flooded. 'It is high time all the Jews were evacuated,' he sniffs.'

(Longman's Chronicle of the 20th Century)