Poles, Jews, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Eighty years ago today, the half-starved Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto rose up against their German tormentors, holding out for 27 days before the SS destroyed the entire area. In this 2017 essay, Jared Sorhaindo reflects on his visit to the part of Warsaw where the ghetto once stood, the ghetto’s history, and how Warsaw’s non-Jewish residents related to both the ghetto’s inhabitants and the uprising.

The Polish underground did report about what the Nazis were doing to the Jews, in detail—the ghettoization, the shootings, the deportations, the exterminations. The Polish government-in-exile in London was updated regularly. . . . Generally speaking, the Polish government-in-exile did not want to highlight Jewish suffering too much, because it would, in their estimation, minimize the agonies of the Polish nation, which were shattering and enormous.

It seems unlikely that the Poles could not have blown up railway tracks or even attacked the death camps themselves if they had so chosen. The constant excuse was that the Polish underground had to husband its resources for a final confrontation with the Germans and could not spare them to save the Jews. The Polish underground and government were fearful that the Germans would move on to the non-Jewish Poles once they had finished with the Jews, so they had to prepare for this eventuality with all the force they could muster. The unspoken assumption, of course, was that the Jews, although Polish citizens, were not really Poles, and therefore were not worth full-throated, or any-throated, Polish resistance.

The Polish underground largely held the Jews in contempt, seeing them as going to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter. They did not, they said, want to waste arms on such people. So despite the repeated calls for help by Warsaw’s Jewish underground, the [Polish Home Army] only provided a handful of revolvers, some of which were defective.

Many Poles, however, were profoundly distressed by what was happening to their Jewish neighbors. [In 1942], the Polish government-in-exile set up the Council to Aid Jews (Polish: Rada Pomocy Żydom, code name Żegota), which helped thousands of Jews to survive through providing false documentation, food, medicine, and shelter.

Read more at Humano, Creativamente Humano

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust rescue, Holocaust resistance, Poland, Warsaw Ghetto

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security