Remembering Warsaw's heroes

The heroes of the Warsaw ghetto have not been forgotten. This is the basic fact on both sides of the Atlantic. It should be unsullied by the controversy surrounding Poland's own 40th-anniversary commemoration of the ghetto's extraordinary uprising against the Nazis. For three weeks in the spring of 1943 there was a gallant last stand against German troops by the Jews who had not already been transported to the gas chambers.

Today fewer than 15,000 Jews remain in a country where more than 3.5 million lived before World War II. No official observance of uprising anniversaries took place for a number of years after Poland broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967. Polish anti-Semitism has recently been reported on the rise.

Reversing any such trend would be the best testimonial to those who resisted the tide of Nazi anti-Semitism in 1943. A start could be made during the current officially sponsored observance, the most extensive planned so far. Perhaps a start was already made in Sunday's unofficial memorial, when a crowd of several thousand came to hear Cardinal Glemp preach at a church that was the only building inside the ghetto left standing by Hitler's troops. He recalled aid given persecuted Jews by Christian Poles. He condemned ''the sin of anti-Semitism.''

Some 2,000 Jews from Israel, the United States, and other countries are expected to attend the official ceremonies, including visits to the Treblinka and Auschwitz concentration camps. But opponents of the communist regime accuse it of exploiting a tragic event to curry international favor. Many people are shunning the ceremonies.

One is the only known leader of the Warsaw uprising still in Poland. He is Marek Edelman, a supporter of the Solidarity free trade union movement, who was interned for a short time when martial law was declared in 1981. He recalls that the Warsaw Jews fought not only for their lives but for dignity and freedom; he sees a betrayal of their struggle in commemorating it where life is overshadowed by ''degradation and oppression.''

Without doubt a government that is subservient to Soviet tyranny opens itself to mockery when it honors those who resisted another tyranny. Yet, whatever the motives, it must be better for a government to align itself officially against anti-Semitism than to let it grow in silence. Remembering the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto does honor to fighters for freedom everywhere.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Remembering Warsaw's heroes
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today