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My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

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A lesson from the Warsaw Ghetto – it is right to resist

I wrote this over 5 years ago. I have edited it slightly. It is as relevant now as it was then.

John
_______

In 1940, the Fascists herded 4000,000 people into the tiny space that became the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis walled it in and put barbed wire and glass on top of the wall to make sure no-one could get out. The 400,000 Jews, cut off from the rest of the world, lived on top of each other in misery and hunger. Many died and lay unburied in the streets.

In 1942 the Fascists began to transport Jews to Treblinka, a concentration camp with gas chambers. The Nazis told the people they were to be re-settled. It is likely the Jewish council and Jewish police knew that these people were going to their deaths but said nothing.

A member of the Bund, a Jewish socialist organisation, with help from a Polish socialist railway worker, secretly followed one of the trains and came back to reveal the truth.

By late October 1942 there were only 60,000 people left in the Ghetto, and with death at the hands of the Nazis their only alternative, fighting back was becoming an option. The remaining members of the anti-Zionist Bund, left Zionists and the Communists formed a group called the Jewish Fighting Organisation, or ZOB.

They executed those Jews who were collaborating with the Nazis.

When the Germans did surround the Ghetto on 18 January, the ZOB fought back. They had a few pistols, grenades and petrol bombs. And lots of courage.

After four days of guerrilla warfare, the Germans withdrew. The ZOB had forced them out.

The Fascists returned in April. For weeks the battle raged. The might of the Nazi Army could not easily defeat a group of committed and principled fighters whose courage and dignity inspire us still today.

The fascists decided to burn the Ghetto to the ground. Rather than die at the hands of the Nazis, many of the fighters ran back into the flames.

On May Day 1943 the fighters sang the socialist song, the Internationale. Here is how Marek Edelman, one of the few who survived, describes this moving moment in his book, The Ghetto Fights.

But never yet had the Internationale been sung in conditions so different, so tragic, in a place where an entire nation had been and was still perishing. The words and the song echoed from the charred ruins…indicat[ing] that socialist youth was still fighting in the ghetto, and that even in the face of death they were not abandoning their ideals.

The Warsaw Ghetto Jews had no chance of victory. But they fought to restore their humanity and to show that the Nazis were not unbeatable.

The West did nothing. At the same time as the Jews were rising up against the Nazis, the Allies were turning Jewish refugees away. They refused to bomb the railway lines to the concentration camps even though they knew the evil purpose of these places.

The outside Zionist Organisations refused to help, saying that the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel was the top priority and helping the Ghetto would detract from that goal.

One consequence of the Uprising was that it showed non-Jewish Poles that you could fight back against the overwhelming military power of the Nazis. Polish resistance against the fascists began to grow as a result. This helped defeat the Nazis. The ZOB fighters did not die in vain.

What courage, what humanity the Warsaw Ghetto Jews showed in resisting the monolith of Nazism. There is a universal message here.

It was right then to fight back against the Nazi occupiers. It is right now, even in the face of overwhelming force, to resist your oppressors, their invasions and occupation.

Like all posts on this blog, comments – see the link under the heading – close after 7 days.

For this article I have drawn heavily on Liz Walsh’s Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto from the April 2008 edition of Socialist Alternative.

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Comments

Pingback from A lesson from the Warsaw Ghetto – it is right to resist | OzHouse
Time July 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm

[…] Jul 26 2014 by admin […]

Comment from paul walter
Time July 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Deeply felt.. answers questions and poses others..

Lest we forget.

Comment from randyjet
Time July 27, 2014 at 5:57 am

There are outright lies in this. First off the Allies did NOT turn refugee Jews away like the SS St Louis voyage. ALL of those Jews were allowed asylum at the end. When WWII started, the Allies did not turn anybody away for the simple reason they needed the manpower and troops. Bombing railway lines does absolutely NOTHING at all. The rails are undamaged and the line is back in service in a few hours. Then any bombing back then meant that most of the bombs would not even hit the targets, much less do major damage. The surrounding areas would suffer major damage and save the Nazis the trouble of murdering the Jews.

The Nazis were and are not the same as the Zionists in any way shape or form. When Israel shows up at the border with trains to a death camp THEN I will agree with you. The FACT is that Hamas started the shelling against Israel. Gaza was not created by Israel and Hamas staged a coup against the PA and murdered their people. Also Israel withdrew from Gaza, and under Arafat had the beginnings of normal life and commerce. Hamas took power, abrogated the agreements, and basically declared war on Israel. Sorry, but just because you are stupid enough to start a war with a bigger power, does not mean you are in the right because you are losing. It is like saying the US was bad for bombing Japan in WWII. Give us all a break.

Comment from John
Time July 27, 2014 at 9:35 am

I am not sure what your first point about Jewish refugees is, randyjet. 250 of the almost 1000 Jews on the St Louis forced back to Europe perished in the Holocaust. At the Evian conference Britain and the US refused to increase their intake of Jewish refugees and the whole thing ended in failure. White, Australia’s representative, said we had no race problem and weren’t going to import one.

I am not saying Zionists and the Nazis are the same, although some Israelis now are, and certainly mainstream commentators here are too. As I made clear in an article almost a week ago, Israel, like Australia and the US, is a colonial settler state built on the genocide of the original inhabitants. (http://enpassant.com.au/2014/07/21/australia-the-us-and-israel-a-tale-of-shared-genocide/).

What I am saying is that it is right to resist the occupiers. And Israel occupies their land. The blockade was and is itself part of that Occupation. So too is this invasion.

It is clear Israel broke the ceasefire previously in place first with its assassination of a senior Hamas figure in late June and then escalated Israeli sentiment and activity with the bullshit about the 3 murdered Israeli teenagers. They knew they were dead but didn’t tell their public for 2 weeks. They knew Hamas didn’t order their kidnapping and murder but only admitted that a few days ago.

Firing a few rockets back isn’t starting it. 66 years of genocide against Palestinians started it.

You also misunderstand what a concentration camp is. Gaza is a concentration camp.

I suggest you read my more recent posting on debunking Israel’s lies. http://enpassant.com.au/2014/07/26/professor-noura-erakat-debunking-israels-lies/

Comment from Kay
Time July 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm

John

Well, at least Gaza doesn’t have Israeli troops feeding the gas chambers with Palestinians, stoking the furnaces with their bodies, and using them in unbelievably cruel medical experiments. That’s big difference. Nor are the commentators doing this.

There are two sides to this issue. Palestine has had a long history of changing ethnic groups and religions – the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Israelites, the Samaritans etc. During the Hellenic period, Jews predominated in Palestine. Then came the Romans. The Roman occupation encompassed the end of Jewish independence in Judea. Rome destroyed the Temple and forbade Jews to live in the remaining parts of Jerusalem. Despite several rebellions against the Romans, Jews were forced out of their homeland and ceased to constitute the majority in Palestine. Although many Jews were killed, expelled or sold off into slavery after the AD 66–70 and the 123–125 rebellions, the degree to which these transfers affected the Jewish dominance in Palestine is rarely addressed. What is certain is that Palestine did not entirely lose its Jewish component. The rise of Christianity also impacted significantly on the Jewish population.

The Christian-dominated Palestinian society of the late-Byzantine era, having been formed by conversions plus various migrations, was to undergo yet another upheaval. In 629 AD Palestine was invaded by Arabs from the Hejaz. By 635 AD, Palestine, Jordan and Southern Syria, with the exception of Jerusalem and Caesarea, were in Muslim hands. Jerusalem capitulated in 636 AD.

The Islamisation of Palestine had its beginnings in the early Islamic period (ca. 640–1099 AD). Just before Partition, Jews and Christians comprised about 40% of the population of Palestine. Re ethnic groups, Palestine was around 68% Arab and 32% Jews at Partition, the total population being only 1.9M.

So the Jews had a long history in Palestine long before Muslims arrived. It is understandable that Palestine was seen by Jews as their true homeland after they had been dispersed around the world over the centuries. Everywhere the Jews went throughout the world they were persecuted, culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust. It is sad that during the return of the Jews to their true homeland, so many Muslims were displaced. But Israel is still around 20% Arab.

To talk now of the post-WW2 “Jewish invasion” of Palestine is at best a biased, mischievous misrepresentation of the history of Palestine. As usual, history is much more complex than that!

Comment from Fred
Time July 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I just love the bit about refusal to bomb railway lines in world war 2. Some people have been playing too much on their xbox.

If you want some truth about world war 2 bombing have a read http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/13/1025542/-The-myth-of-precision-bombing

Comment from John
Time July 27, 2014 at 3:29 pm

The bombing of the railway lines is a deeply contested issue and not one that can be dismissed easily. Even George W Bush (I suspect one of your heroes) says the camp should have been bombed to save lives. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/01/11/bush-pushes-peace-in-kuwait-says-us-should-have-bombed-wwii-death-camp/

The question wasn’t about precision bombing but bombing them to save lives.

Pingback from En Passant » Marek Edelman: from the Warsaw Ghetto to Gaza
Time August 1, 2014 at 8:30 am

[…] right to resist’ (an article I republished the other day in light of the invasion of Gaza as A lesson from the Warsaw ghetto – it is right to resist). This slightly edited repost is still relevant today as the Zionists shout anti-Semite at anyone […]