Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Many Jews in ghettos across eastern Europe tried to organize resistance against the Germans and to arm themselves with smuggled and homemade weapons. Between 1941 and 1943, underground resistance movements formed in about 100 Jewish groups. The most famous attempt by Jews to resist the Germans in armed fighting occurred in the Warsaw ghetto.

In the summer of 1942, about 265,000 Jews were deported from Warsaw to Treblinka. When reports of mass murder in the killing center leaked back to the Warsaw ghetto, a surviving group of mostly young people formed an organization called the ŻOB (for the Polish name, Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa, which means Jewish Fighting Organization). The ŻOB, led by 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz, issued a proclamation calling for the Jewish people to resist going to the railroad cars.

In January 1943, Warsaw ghetto fighters fired upon German troops as they tried to round up another group of ghetto inhabitants for deportation. Fighters used a small supply of weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto. After a few days, the German troops retreated. This small victory inspired the ghetto fighters to prepare for future resistance.

On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. About 700 young Jewish fighters fought the heavily armed and well-trained Germans. The ghetto fighters were able to hold out for nearly a month, but on May 16, 1943, the revolt ended. The Germans had slowly crushed the resistance. 

The SS and police captured approximately 42,000 Warsaw ghetto survivors during the uprising. They sent these people to forced labor camps and the Majdanek concentration camps. The SS and police sent another 7,000 people to the Treblinka killing center. At least 7,000 Jews died while fighting or in hiding in the ghetto. Only a few of the resistance fighters succeeded in escaping from the ghetto.

Key Dates

July 28, 1942
Jewish Fighting Organization established

In the midst of the first wave of deportations from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka killing center, the Jewish Fighting Organization (ŻOB, Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa) is established. On July 22, 1942, the Germans begin massive deportations which last without stop until September 12, 1942. During this time about 265,000 Jews from the ghetto are deported or killed. The ŻOB, formed by members of Jewish youth organizations, calls for the Jews of the ghetto to resist deportation. Reports of the massacres of Jews by mobile killing units and in killing centers have already filtered into the ghetto. However, the ŻOB is not yet ready to stage a revolt. After deportations end in September, the ŻOB expands to incorporate members of underground political organizations. They establish contact with Polish resistance forces who provide training, armaments, and explosives. Mordecai Anielewicz is appointed ŻOB commander.

January 18–21, 1943
Germans encounter resistance

The Germans renew deportations from the Warsaw ghetto. This time however, they encounter resistance from the Jewish Fighting Organization (ŻOB). The early morning roundups take the ŻOB organization by surprise. Individuals take to the streets to resist the Germans. Other Jews in the ghetto retreat into prepared hiding places. The Germans, expecting the expulsions to run smoothly, are surprised by the resistance. In an act of retaliation they massacre 1,000 Jews in the main square on January 21, but suspend further deportations. The Germans deport or kill 5,000-6,500 Jews. Encouraged by the results of resistance actions, the Jews in the ghetto plan and prepare a full-scale revolt. The fighting organization is unified, strategies are planned, underground bunkers and tunnels are built, and roof-top passages are constructed. The Jews of the Warsaw ghetto prepare to fight to the end.

April 19 to May 16, 1943
Ghetto destroyed, uprising ends

On April 19, 1943, the Germans, under the command of SS General Jürgen Stroop, begin the final destruction of the ghetto and the deportation of the remaining Jews. The ghetto population, however, does not report for deportations. Instead, the ghetto fighting organizations and remaining civilians have barricaded themselves inside buildings and bunkers, ready to resist the Germans. After three days, German forces begin burning the ghetto, building by building, to force Jews out of hiding places. Resistance continues for days as the Germans reduce the ghetto to rubble. On May 16, 1943, after a month of fighting, the Germans blow up the Great Synagogue in Warsaw. This signals the end of the uprising and the destruction of the ghetto.