Note: I originally wrote this article on October 5, 2009.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” — Jeremiah 17:9
Marek Edelman, hero of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, has died at 90 years old. Edelman was a leader in the hopeless fight by Jews against ruthless Nazi occupying forces. The Jews, poorly trained, starving, only 220 strong and armed with pistols and homemade bombs, held off the Wehrmacht for three weeks.
The New York Times describes the heroic struggle:
The fighting continued for three weeks. On one side were 220 ghetto fighters, hungry and relatively untrained youths deployed in 22 units. Each unit had a pistol, five grenades and five homemade bottle bombs. They also had two mines and one submachine gun.
Ranged against them, on a daily average, were 36 German officers and 2,054 others with an arsenal that included 82 machine guns, 135 submachine guns and 1,358 rifles along with armored vehicles, artillery and air power used to set the ghetto ablaze.
The Jews knew their struggle could not succeed. Backed into a corner, they determined to extend their lives by as long as they could against a brutal Nazi regime determined to wipe the Jewish race from the face of the Earth. But despite the fact that they were hopelessly outgunned and outmanned by what on paper was a vastly superior fighting force, they held on for three weeks through poor force of will. The courage of the Warsaw Jews stands in sharp contrast to the Nazi cowards who retreated when they finally faced resistance.
Marek Edelman lived to be 90 years old. Today, he is remembered as a hero, a reminder to totalitarian regimes everywhere that people with a natural desire for freedom can rise up against their oppressors. It’s no surprise that totalitarian regimes always seek to disarm the people they rule, because the Jews of Warsaw show how much trouble a few poorly-armed oppressed people can cause for even a well-armed military force.
Edelman said in April of 2008 that “man is evil, by nature man is a beast.” The Holocaust, like the genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990’s and the genocide occurring right now in the Sudan, is a reminder of the depravity and brutality of mankind. It is (or should be) a reminder that it can happen here, and anywhere man dwells. This is why we should be vigilant, as the forces of oppression will always seek to take away our liberty and, in many cases, our lives.