On the 22 June, 1941, the German Army invaded the Soviet Union. The invasion had been expected for some time and was greeted with jubilation by many Jews.

Many Jews began to look to the war in the east as their only salvation, many Poles however had no vested interest with a Russian victory. This created further divisions with the political underground and stifled moves for resistance.

What was not understood at the time was that the war in the East marked the start of the "final solution".

Up until June 1941 Jews and Poles were both victims of German repression, numerically however more Poles were victims than Jews.

With the war in the East the "Einsatzgruppen" changed the nature of the repression and the emphasis. One of the four Einsatzgruppen active in Eastern Europe, "Einsatzkommando-3" , reported that from June until 25 November 1941 they killed; 1 Armenian ,5 Gypsies, 28 Russian POW, 44 Poles, 56 Partisans, 653 Mentally ill, 1,064 Communists and 136,421 Jews.

In December, 1941, the first extermination camps were established outside the soviet occupied areas.

The first was "Chelmno", 35 miles North West of Lodz. Sealed freight trains left for Western Poland, now annexed to the Reich, this was not in the distant reaches of Eastern Europe.

In the beginning of 1942 the underground received the first news of deportation and mass murders.

The underground was in a good position to inform the Ghetto population of the reports.

The underground had a mass of newspapers. Over 47 different News Papers in Yiddish, Polish and Hebrew. The Bund published the most, 11 different papers, the only legal press was run by the Judenrat.

The first mention of the slaughter of Jews was published in the Autumn of 1941, about Vilna. In 1942 the initiations of deportations in the Lublin area changed the character of the press. Some sections of the press called for an uprising and praised news of resistance.

Ha-Shomer ha-za’ir’s underground monthly, "Neged ha Zerem", published an article entitled, "The days of blood in Vilna". "On October 16 one of our members arrived here from Vilna [probably Arie Wilner] and brought news of the events that had taken place there... The Jewish population is in the grip of terrible shock and depression. All are convinced that they are about to die, and they await their turn. Whoever can, tries to escape and make his way to White Russia, where the situation is less horrifying... In many towns in the Vilna district every last Jew was murdered..."

The events in Vilna did cause much debate in the Warsaw Ghetto yet when the Vilna representatives that had gone to Warsaw to warn the underground of the danger returned to Vilna in January, they reported that, "not a single person believed their stories about the outright extermination of Jews, and no one wants a war or revolt against the Germans."

It is known that at this time the "Unified Fighting Organisation" was established in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Bund had organised its own fighting organisation as an extension of it’s pre-war activities, but this was limited, as Edelman states, "The acute shortage of arms prevents the expansion of the operation.... Thus the work is restricted to trailing members of the Gestapo and warning people of a possible "debacle"."

The Bund channelled all its work into organising a resistance movement, but at this time argued that it should be a party based activity.

In January 1942, Ya’akr Grojanowski a young Jew escaped from "Chelmno" extermination camp. Where as the murders in the East could be rationalised as the excesses of war, Chelmno was in Western Poland and Annexed to the Reich. This was the first real proof of the existence of a policy of "extermination".

In an article published on the 28 March 1942 this new policy was revealed to the Ghetto, "....We know that Hitler’s system of murder, slaughter and plunder relentlessly leads to a cul-de-sac and the destruction of Jewry. The fate of the Jews in the areas of the Soviet Union conquered by the Germans and in Warthegau signifies a new phase in the complete annihilation of the Jewish population. The gigantic killing apparatus has turned against masses of weak, hunger stricken Jews in the form of camps and deportations... there can be no doubt that Hitler, sensing that the downfall of his regime is approaching, intends to drown the Jews in a sea of blood. Jewish youth must prepare itself for such difficult days. Mobilisation of the vitality of the Jews will therefore begin. Many such vital forces still exist, despite the destruction. From generation to generation, we are troubled by the burden of passivity and lack of faith in our own strength; but our history also contains glorious and shining pages of heroism and struggle. We are obliged to join these eras of heroism..."

The political underground groups based around the Kehilla tried to inform the population of the various developments. Then in April 1942, came the destruction of the Lublin Ghetto.

In mid March the first steps were taken to build a "real" fighting organisation, at a joint meeting of the various groups.

At this meeting it was the Bund’s insistence that, at this stage the organisation should be built on a party basis. The organisation that had been most insistent on the need for resistance was now blamed for the failure of this meeting.

The Polish Workers Party, [P.P.R] the old communist party, and the left of Po’alei Zion. decided that they should still form an, "Anti-Fascist Bloc", it was based on the idea of "Fivesomes" or small pockets of resisters.

They had one revolver, as they attempted to get more, the arrest of three P.P.R, members paralysed the organisation and it ceased to exist.

David Wdowinski, the political leader of the "Betar" fighting organisation later established in the Ghetto, described his efforts to warn the Jewish public leaders of the impending danger and goes on to state: "....In April-May 1942 the better part of the Revisionist youth was living outside the Warsaw Ghetto. But even if they had been in the Ghetto, we the Revisionist party members could not have taken upon ourselves the organisation of resistance. Resistance of that kind must have the backing of the decisive majority of the population. We did not have [such support]. It is clear that the only conceivable German response to even the least evidence of resistance in the Ghetto would be a blood bath. We could not assume responsibility for that."

It is this dread of public responsibility and collective punishment that is a recurrent theme of this period.

The next development in the political underground was instigated by the Nazis. The "Night of Blood", the 18 April 1942, was the first massacre or "mass murder" in the Ghetto. After dark, SS troops entered the Ghetto guided by the Jewish police. Out of the sixty people on their list 52 were Killed and others relatives were taken in their place.

More underground political leaders were killed than any other group. The Nazis said the reason for the "retaliation" was the underground press. Yitzhak Zuckerman writes, "The next day Czerniakow, the chairman of the Judenrat, summoned Dr. Emmanuel Ringelblum and ordered him to speak to the representatives of the underground on his behalf and pass on his demand that they cease publication of illegal newspapers and refrain from illegal activity. The underground is responsible for the fate of the victims."

Zuckerman wrote after receiving Czerniakow’s message, how the political underground reacted to the threat. "We convened as a council, and as a response to the Germans and the Judenrat chairman we decided to publish the weekly Yediot exactly on time and in an expanded edition. The paper must expose the barbaric actions of the Germans and destroy any belief in their assurances that the Jewish population may harbour".

The attack meant that the political leadership went deeper underground, with no public assemblies and no cultural activities. The underground could not ignore the German change of view on the underground and must assume that the Germans had their agents in the Ghetto.

It seems that the view of the Judenrat and to some extent that of the entire Ghetto was that they had been punished because of the underground press.

The Judenrat even published a statement to that effect calling for the end of clandestine activity.

The underground then found out that the same thing had happened in other Ghettos in the prelude to mass deportations.

In June 1942, 110 Jews from the ghetto prison were murdered, according to Kommissar Auerswald’s public statement, the execution was a retaliatory act, since, "in the last few days, the Jews have repeatedly disobeyed the instructions of the German police. In many cases matters reached the point were the Jews physically attacked the police.".

The Newsletter Yediot published on the 1 July 1942, stated that, resistance was occurring, "The Ghetto has been punished for disobedience and resistance to the German police. And that is a mark of praise for the Ghetto. We have no desire whatsoever to obey. On the contrary our desire to skirt the law of the wild beasts as often as possible while taking care to incur a minimum of casualties; [we want] to break the draconian rules. Thus the most recent punishment is also something of a blood stained achievement for us.".

The information in this database may include copyrighted material, and is to be used for educational and research purposes only.