The Polish government has begun two weeks of official ceremonies commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
WARSAW, POLAND, 1943-1944 (OFFICIAL (FILE ) (FROM REUTERS ARCHIVE - SEE 2804/63)
: (MONO MUTE) GV Ghetto wall. SVs Ghetto streets. Trams. Horse-drawn vehicles. Nazis checking papers. Crowd. SV Children eating food from trolley. STILLS Women and children. Rabbi crawling on ground. (MOTION) Jews being herded into railway trucks. Nazis closing doors. GVs and SVs fighting in ghetto. Buildings collapsing.
Background: The Polish government has begun two weeks of official ceremonies commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Nazi troops entered the ghetto on April 19, 1943 and in five weeks reduced it to rubble killing nearly 7,000 people and deporting another 50,000 to concentration camps. The ceremonies seem planned by the authorities to ease the uncomfortable relationship between Jews and non-Jews in Poland and to help Warsaw put an end to its international isolation. But the news that the PLO representative would be allowed to lay a wreath in the opening ceremony prompted protest from the Israeli and US delegates.
SYNOPSIS: Warsaw 1940 and the Germans walled off the ghetto where an estimated 350,000 Jews lived. Over the next three years, the number fell to 70,000 -- the rest had either died through starvation or disease or had been deported to concentration camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Maidanek. Scenes like these became an everyday occurrence. On April 19, 1943, led by Mordechai Anielewicz, the remaining Jews, armed with a few rifles and pistols attacked the Nazis who replied with artillery bombardments, air assaults and tank offensives. There could be no doubt about the eventual outcome of the uprising but the Jews held out for a remarkable period of time. By mid-May the ghetto was razed to the ground. Anielewicz and dozens of other ghetto rebels committed suicide on May 8.
Many of the Jews transported in railway trucks from Warsaw ended up here in Treblinka. These stones, covered in the February snow, are a moving reminder of the 800,000 Jews who met their death in the gas chambers. Unlike many of the camps Treblinka was purely an extermination centre. Jews were unloaded from the cattle trucks and herded into the gas chambers -- the whole operation taking less than 15 minutes.
In Warsaw on April 19 there was a special poignancy to the commemoration services held on the site of the ghetto. Many Polish Jews boycotted the affair and Jewish leaders world-wide condemned the government-sponsored event as a "smokescreen" to deflect attention from the effects of martial law and internal unrest. The Israeli and US delegations at the ceremony strongly condemned Fuad Yaseen the PLO representative for laying a wreath. Both former ghetto inhabitant Mark Weinberg and Fuad Yaseen commented on the situation.
There is no doubt that the commemorations, which continue for two weeks have focussed world attention not only on the ghetto uprising of 1943 but on current events in Poland.