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SERE: Warsaw Ghetto Survivor Relays Powerful Message

Discussion in 'Legal' started by ahadams, Apr 20, 2003.

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  1. ahadams

    ahadams Member

    Feb 7, 2003

    LODZ, Poland — Marek Edelman, the lone surviving commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis 60 years ago, keeps its lesson fresh simply by looking at today's world. The fight for freedom and against tyranny is never over, he says.

    With a strong French cigarette in his hand and strong opinions on his mind, Edelman, 82, grows agitated when talking about war in Iraq.

    "The war is not about oil, it's about defending man's freedom," Edelman said in an interview at his home. "As you can see, the world has not learned the lessons of the Holocaust."

    Warsaw's Jewish community is commemorating the April 19, 1943, start of the uprising Saturday night with prayers for the dead and a march to the rail platform where Jews were rounded up for transports to Nazi death camps. An official ceremony with the Polish and Israeli presidents is set for April 30.

    Dictatorship is "a disease that can spread" if unchecked, whether in Iraq or in Europe, he said.

    Edelman and a few hundred other young Jews faced impossible odds when they took up arms in the spring of 1943 against the Nazis, who had set about destroying Warsaw's ghetto.

    Before the Nazi invasion of Poland that touched off World War II, Warsaw's Jewish community of more than 400,000 was Europe's largest. By 1943, at least 350,000 Jews -- some brought to the ghetto from other areas -- had died there of starvation and disease or were deported to death camps.

    After the Nazis deported some 250,000 people to Treblinka death camp in the summer of 1942, "the Jews began to understand that resettlement meant death, that we have no other solution than to die with honor," Edelman wrote in his 1945 book, "The Ghetto Fights."

    The Jewish insurgents armed themselves with pistols, grenades and a few machine guns they bought from Germans or got from non-Jewish resistance fighters. Smuggling the weapons past Nazi guards and the 10-foot-high ghetto wall was to risk death.

    The struggle lasted three weeks and most of the fighters were killed, along with thousands of others, as the Nazis systematically burned down the ghetto street by street. Edelman and a few others escaped through sewers to the other side of the wall and went into hiding.

    Edelman does not like to dwell on his role in the resistance, but takes pride in the message the uprising sent to the victims of Nazi oppression and brutality.

    "It was the first time in occupied Europe that civilians put up armed resistance against Nazi occupiers," he says.

    Polish resistance fighters stepped up pinprick attacks against the Nazis and in August 1944 launched an ill-fated revolt in Warsaw that took the Germans 63 days to put down. There also were uprisings in several death camps the Nazis had set up on Polish soil, including Treblinka and Sobibor.

    "In this dark Nazi night blanketing Europe, the ghetto constituted the first brick that was removed from the wall of hatred," Edelman said. "Those 200 boys who were shooting there had no chance to win with the German army, but the fact that the struggle happened shook the dictatorship."

    After fleeing the ghetto, Edelman returned to fight in the 1944 Warsaw uprising. When the war was over he stayed in his homeland and settled as a cardiologist in Lodz, a city about 80 miles west of the capital in central Poland.

    Edelman joined Poland's anti-communist opposition and was active in the Solidarity movement that toppled communism in 1989. During the Balkan wars of the 1990s, he urged NATO to send ground troops to Kosovo against the threat of a new European genocide, this time against ethnic Albanians.

    Nowadays, he questions the sentiments of the many Europeans opposed to the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq that broke Saddam Hussein's rule.

    "I did not see those protests when he was gassing 5,000 or more Kurds or Shiites to death," Edelman said. "No war is a good thing, but sometimes wars are necessary."


    [note to those who don't know: SERE = Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape!]
  2. stevelyn

    stevelyn Member

    Mar 9, 2003
    Fairbanksan in Aleutian Hell
    April 19......... This date certainly has been the starting point for a lot of history good and bad.
  3. goon

    goon Member

    Jan 20, 2003
    I was somewhat opposed to the action that we took in Iraq, but with that coming from a Warsaw Ghetto survivor, I will respectfully shut my hole.
  4. Leatherneck

    Leatherneck Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    No. Virginia and Northern Neck
    I think a lot of us have travelled that road; from doubting Thomas to reluctant warrior, all the while in steadfast support of our young troops and wishing them Godspeed and success. Welcome to the club.

    TFL Survivor
  5. agricola

    agricola Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Office of the Holy Inquisition, Vatican City
  6. slh02

    slh02 Member

    Jan 9, 2003
    I was actually going to start another thread for this, but this is just as good a place as any to put it.

    In my Patterns of Thought class, we had a Holocaust survivor by the name of Rubin Sztajer come in and talk to us. Before he began talking about his life, he made note of the little yellow ribbon pinned over his heart. He said that he fully supports this war. He then went on to compare Saddam to Hitler and basically said that he will laugh in the face of any man who tells him this war is only about oil.

    All of this coming from someone who lived under a ruthless dictator so long ago really changed my views on what this war is really about.
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