Poles, Jews, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

April 19 2023

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

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy