THE JANUARY AKTION.

The deportation resumed on the 18 January 1943 and was to continue until the 22 January 1943. On the 17 January the Nazis spent the day hunting down Poles for "slave" labourers, then on the 18 January to the surprise of the Jews, the second Aktion began. Himmler had decided that 8,000 of the illegal elements, non-productive elements were to be deported. Yechiel Gorni recalls that, "The clock reads 5.45 in the morning. Today is January 18, I get dressed and prepare to go to the shop and together with the entire group, to move on to 30 Leszno Street. I hear that it must be 6.30 because our palatzovka, which is working in the court buildings on Leszno Street, is leaving the block. Suddenly a terrified neighbour bursts in "How come you are still lying around in bed?" She shouts at the other tenants of our room. "The street is surrounded by gendarmes, the paratzovkas are not being allowed out of the ghetto, a blockade, its definitely an Aktion." The house dissolves into uproar, we must hide and we all crawl into the shelter."

At the beginning of the day, the nazis concentrated on illegalís, it was after they found difficulties that they resumed their indiscriminate manhunts. The Jewish police were now only used as guides, still the leaders of the Judenrat responded to nazi orders and ordered their subordinates to obey the nazis.

The Nazis found this aktion more difficult, after the period of mass deportation, many Jews now assumed a desire for revenge and the knowledge that surrender would not necessitate survival. Many of the remaining population started to secure secret shelters. As Alder recalls of the first day, "Altogether about 3,000 were caught on the first day of the Aktion. If we take into account the factor of surprise, the radical mode of operation and the disregard for exemptions, the yield was essentially tiny. The Jewish population can that the widespread system of hiding places for that result."

It was assumed that a renewal of the aktion would automatically mean the final and total liquidation of the ghetto. What seemed apparent was that before when existence was a form of resistance, now resistance became the only form of existence.

The Z.O.B had planned to hold public demonstrations in the ghetto on the 22 January, to mark the half year of destruction of the 22 July 1942 to the 22 January 1943.

It was in anticipation of the public demonstration that the Z.O.B published a manifesto, "On January 22, 1943, six months will have elapsed since the start of the deportation from Warsaw. We all remember those harrowing days in which 300,000 of our brothers and sisters were transported to and brutally murdered in the Treblinka death camp . . . Jewish masses, the hour is drawing near. You must be prepared to resist, not give yourselves up to slaughter like sleep. Not a single Jew should go to the railroad carts. Those who are unable to put up active resistance should resist passively, meaning go into hiding. We have just received information from Lvov that the Jewish police there forcefully executed the deportation of 3,000 Jews. This will not be allowed to happen again in Warsaw . . . our slogan must be "We are all ready to die as human beings.".

The Z.O.B offered one assurance, death with honour, the ability to die a human, but not only was the Z.O.B isolated and unorganised it was caught off guard, it was not prepared. The Z.O.B was still in debate over the form of resistance.

Up to the second aktion the Z.O.B had ten revolvers in total. After the January aktion began A.K gave another 49 or 50 revolvers, 50 had grenades and explosives.

The Z.O.B had established limited contact with the communist groups and individual members of the Polish underground.

The majority of its fighters were not organised in combat groups, some groups had formed, but the shortage of weapons had prevented the Z.O.B organising any plan for wide spread resistance.

The only possible response to the January aktion was spontaneous resistance. Marek Edelman recalls, "The Z.O.B had itís baptism by fire in the first substantial street battle on the corner of Mila and Zamenhofa. We lost the cream of our organisation there. The commander of the Z.O.B, Mordecai Ancelewicz was saved by a miracle, and only thanks to the fortitude of courage.".

The most "heroic" resistance was at 58 Zamenhofa Street, 40 members of the Z.O.B armed with 4 revolvers, 4 grenades, clubs, steel pipes and sulphuric acid confronted a group of nazis. Tuvia Borzykowski remembers, "The door burst open and a group of Germans rushed into the room. The first to confront them were Zecharia Artstein and Hanoch Gutman, who had displayed supreme valour throughout the day. Zecharia sat still and pretended to be reading a book. When the Germans were about to enter the adjoining room, he shot them from behind. One man fell and the rest fled. Gutman and the other comrades with him rushed to the stairs and shot at the Germans outside. A second tumbled down the stairs. Of our own comrades, Meir Finkelstein was badly wounded and was executed by the Germans the next day.".

Marek Edelman remembers unarmed Bund members refusing to board the train, even when captured, the SS commander Von Eupen shot and killed the 60 resisters. The Z.O.B command had met on the night of the 19 January. They had decided to fortify their existing positions, refrain from frontal clashes, open street battle was costly and concentrate on acquiring more arms.

The nazis had anticipated Jews hiding but not fighting. The streets were deserted the majority of the population was in hiding. Until now the Jews had remained passive but now the majority of Jews were forced to resist, either with passive resistance or active resistance.

In January the Z.O.B revealed its existence as a force devoted to resistance, for the first time the Jews of Warsaw recognised the path chosen by the underground as an alternative to the Judenrat. Dr Lensky recalls that, "Unfurling the banner of revolt enhanced the undergroundís statute in the eyes of the remaining Jews. Many who had not even known that an underground existed now saw concrete proof of its deeds. They sensed that the ghetto has an organised force other than the community council (Judenrat) a moral force that is fed up with the old methods which brought a holocaust down upon the Jews. This organisation has chosen a new way of dealing with the nazis. Hope was revived in the hearts of the doomed. Perhaps the Germans will really not expose their soldiers to danger and will stop sending them to execute operations because the Jews are prepared to resist.".

The Polish Workers Party, (P.P.R), wrote in its paper on the 5 February that, "Their aktion is costing the Germans a heavy toll . . . The population is resisting with desperate courage, using the few firearms and grenades they have plundered from the Germans together with boiling water, blunt instruments, hatchets and the like. In besieged houses, the Jews pour kerosene or gasoline down the steps and set them aflame the moment the Germans enter. Groups of fighters hide out in deserted buildings and take the Germans by surprise . . . The battles in the ghetto are the first defence of the Jewish population. The Jews have awoken from apathy in a demonstration of resistance worthy of emulation.".

The January aktion came to an end on the 22 January 1943. Himmler had ordered the aktion in order to remove the 8,000 illegal inhabitants of the Ghetto. After four days the nazis had removed between 5,000 and 6,500 Jews with 1,000 Jews murdered in the streets. The nazis did not reach their aim of 8,000 Jews.

The outcome of the January resistance was seen as a victory for the Jews. Both the Z.O.B and the polish underground had assumed that a new aktion would mean the destruction of the Ghetto, as such it was concluded that the nazis were forced to halt the aktion due to resistance.

The daily decline in the number of deportees illustrates that active resistance as well as the passive resistance, achieved a major victory, it revealed that the consistent obedience and non-opposition of the Judenrat bordered the scope of the tragedy.

The number of Jews deported from the ghetto in the 4 days of the January aktion was less than the average for a single day during the summer. Moreover in January most of the nazis victims were trapped on the first day, before resistance had the effect. Yechiel Gorni wrote, "Yesterday on January 22, 1943, I overheard the following stated in a conversation. "If the beginning of the deportation in July 1942, the Jews had been armed, had attempted to resist, and had killed a number of Germans and forced the Jewish hooligans (police) to refrain from taking an active role, thousands would have been cut down by the German bullets and other Jews would have said, What happened is the fault of their foolish heroism. That such resistance would have slowed down the tempo of the aktion would not have occurred to anyone. Today, when 6,000 Jewish deportees (cost the lives of) 1,000 Jews and 12 Germans, the public has finally understood the heroism of the "foolish" youngsters." Thatís how a simple Jew put it in a conversation.".

The experience gained in January had a profound effect on the Jews of Warsaw and the Polish underground, particularly its military wing, it also challenged the notion that the Jews would never fight.

The military experience gained in January, also helped to develop the tactics of the Z.O.B the need to develop confined combat areas and ambushes was essential, keeping mobilised forces together and ready for action and mobilised units stationed at the combat position and weapons store.

The Z.O.B had to mobilise in such a way as to rule out the impulsive outbursts and responses that characterised the resistance of January.

The nazis reaction to the resistance was somewhat curious, the authorities adopted a moderate stance. It is likely that this is the result of the concealment of the information from senior officials in Berlin, the period of the war, the Wehrmacht vs SS conflict and the need for labour.

The Z.O.B now viewed combat as inevitable, it realised that in January it had taken the nazis by surprise and it had to use this respite to build a unified combat organisation.



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