This week, LJY-Netzer’s Tom Francies selects Warsaw ghetto hero Mordechai Anielewiscz
We youth movement types like to think we are inspirational, that we change lives and make a difference. Even though I believe all three, sometimes it’s a hard sell.
However, when we look back at the history of Zionist youth movements, we see times when they have truly been at the forefront of the Jewish people.
Mordechai Anielewiscz, aka Little Angel, was a leader of Hashomer Hatzair and a key figure in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. If you are looking for inspirational and cool madrichim, then it doesn’t get better than organising the community in a struggle for liberation. When Anielewiscz was in the ghetto, one of the things he did was to set up the underground newspaper, Neged Hazerem (Against the Stream).
Not only that, he also continued running cultural and educational activities.
At the time when Jewish life and lives were in the danger, it was the youth that took the lead – making sure they weren’t sidelined, but highlighted.
Anielewiscz fought with the elders in the Warsaw ghetto about armed resistance.
They were afraid of disproportionate retribution, but he argued passionately and his opinion prevailed, and the Jewish Fighting Organisation (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa) was formed.
In January 1943, when the Nazis entered the ghetto for more deportations, the first uprising started and a street battle went on for fours days.
Over the course of the next month, the Nazis tried various deceptions to persuade the ghetto’s remaining Jews to go peacefully to Treblinka.
When this didn’t work, the Germans returned with 2,000 soldiers. On 8 May 1943, the ŻOB headquarters was gassed and Anielewiszc died along with around 100 comrades.
At that point, this amazing young man was the leader of the whole ghetto, as well as ŻOB. He provides an inspiration to this day.