Heroes of the Warsaw ghetto uprising remembered, 70 years on

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ONE of only three surviving members of Jewish combat groups who took up arms against the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto uprising returned to the scene yesterday to mark the 70th anniversary of its start.

In an emotional speech at the spot were the first shots rang out on 19 April, 1943, Symcha Ratajzer-Rotem, 88, said: “We knew that the end would be the same for everyone, but we wanted to choose the kind of death we would die. We wanted to show them that we wouldn’t be taken to the gas chambers.

“No words can describe what the uprising was like, what the Holocaust was like, and what the bestiality of the Germans was like. But despite the cruelty they didn’t break the morale of the Jewish people.”

Before his speech, air-raid sirens wailed across Warsaw to commemorate the uprising, in which around 750 poorly armed Jewish fighters took on the full might of Adolf Hitler’s war machine. They held the Nazis at bay for almost a month. As German troops closed in, some fighters chose to take their own lives, while others escaped through city sewers.