A 70th Anniversary

Direct From Orchard Lake with JJ Przewozniak

“…there is no history of Poland without the Jews and no history of Jews without Poland.”
-General Consul of the Republic of Poland Paulina Kapuścińska

Today we take those words from our General Consul to heart.

Friends, I’m asking you to do something at this very special time. It was from April 19 to May 16 in 1943 that Poles took one of the most heroic of defiant stands, against the most tyrannical oppression our Nation of Poland has ever known. This is the time when we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, when Varsovians showed the world that even against the most vile oppression and certain death, they would give every last measure to fight for themselves; for Warsaw; for their beloved country. What we at the Polish Mission ask of you today, joined together by Polish diplomatic offices in the United Stets, is to remember, in your own way, the sacrifice of 70 years ago.

This request comes after a return from a most beautiful commemoration hosted by our General Consul Paulina Kapuścińska in Chicago, where a gathering of Polish Home Army veterans, Warsaw Ghetto Survivors, elected officials, community leaders, and members of the diplomatic corps of Chicago paid homage to Poland’s past—triumphant and tragic; victorious and solemn. What follows now is a transcript of her address.

Ladies and gentlemen, Distinguished guests,
It is my great honor to welcome you to the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago. I greet you with the flower of daffodil, the symbol of this event.
I am very happy that we have been joined today by so many distinguished guests:
Holocaust and Warsaw Ghetto survivors,
descendants of the Righteous Among the Nations,
Veterans,
leaders in Jewish-American and Polish-American communities,
religious leaders,
representatives of the American administration:
of Senator Mark Kirk,
of Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
of Governor Pat Quinn,
of Treasurer Dan Rutherford,
of the Illinois National Guard,
Alderman Michele Smith, 43rd Ward
Alderman Ariel Reboyras, 30th Ward
as well as representatives of the Polish scouts with Barbara Chałko.
We also have a large representation of the Chicago Consular Corps, in particular Consuls General of Israel, Germany and Austria.
I welcome the Executive President of the Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

Our Grand Commemoration is also streamed live online, for which I thank the media representatives who are with us today.
Welcome everyone!
Ladies and gentlemen, Today we celebrate a very important anniversary:

Exactly 70 years ago the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out in resistance to Nazi Germany’s final efforts to transport the remaining Warsaw Ghetto population to Treblinka German extermination camp.

A year before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out about 300,000 Jews were deported to gas chambers of Treblinka.

Those who survived knew that their death sentences were merely postponed. The only choice they had left was the choice of how they would die – and they decided to die as heroes – in battle.

Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (the Jewish Combat Organization) was created and led by Mordechaj Anielewicz.

The first combat encounter took place as early as January 1943 when the Germans entered the ghetto. The Jewish population, convinced that this was to be their final day, resisted the Nazis.
They did it so successfully that surprised Germans retreated from the ghetto.

After these events, preparations for the uprising gained momentum. Weapons were brought, provisions were made, and bunkers were set up. The Jewish Combat Organization received support from the Polish Resistance.

On April 19th, the German forces, under the command of Jurgen Stroop, surrounded the ghetto at night. The occupant made a point of committing the most atrocious crimes against the Jews on Jewish holidays. April 19th was the eve of the Holiday of Passover.

About 1000-1500 insurgents form the Jewish Combat Organization and Jewish Military Union fought the German forces for 28 days.

Eventually, the Germans – wishing to erase all traces of Jewish presence in Warsaw – set fire to buildings: house after house.

On May 8th German forces discovered the bunker where leaders of Jewish Combat Organization were hiding. Surrounded, the insurgents chose to commit suicide, along with Mordechaj Anielewicz.

May 16th marks the symbolic end of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when – by order of Jurgen Stroop – the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie was blown up.

Throughout the Uprising, about 7000 Jews were killed, most of them burned alive.

The Germans captured and deported from 50 to 60 thousand Jews to the concentration camps. The area of the ghetto was burned down and the remaining ruins were razed to the ground.

Next year, in August 1944 the so-called big Warsaw Uprising broke out which eventually caused close to a quarter of a million victims and left the whole Warsaw completely destroyed. Warsaw was the most ruined capital of WW2. Among the Polish insurgents in the Warsaw Uprising 1944 were also Jews – survivors from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, who also felt the need to fight for Warsaw, fight for Poland.

As we commemorate the victims of the Uprising today in Chicago, the Uprising’s battle ground – Warsaw has already been two hours into April 19th – the day of the Grand Commemoration during which sirens will be sounded throughout the city, and bells will chime in all the churches of the Warsaw Archdiocese as the capital city Warsaw honors its Jewish heroes – many of them native Varsovians who stood up against Nazi German tyranny.

Indeed, there is no history of Poland without the Jews and no history of Jews without Poland.

In fact, Poland is the land of ancestry for 90 percent of all American Jews and for the majority of Jews living across the world today. The founders of the state of Israel were born in Poland.

That long and fascinating history will soon be available in the world’s largest Museum about the whole Millennium of Jewish presence in Europe which soon opens in the heart of the former Warsaw Ghetto, The Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

I would like to conclude with a quotation from the appeal of the Rabbinical Council of the Republic of Poland from September 2, 1939, which shows that Poland was perceived as a welcoming homeland throughout the ages:

“Let us praise the name of the Eternal! Brothers in Israel, citizens of the Most Serene Republic of Poland! The eternal enemy has invaded our so ardently beloved Homeland, Poland, in the most dishonorable and evil way. Devoid of qualms and all human emotion, the enemy brings slaughter, plunder and destruction. We Jews, children of this land since time immemorial, stand in battle array, ready and waiting for Mr. President of the Republic of Poland and Supreme Commander to call us to defend our beloved Homeland at our posts and, if necessary, sacrifice our lives and our worldly possessions unreservedly at the altar of our Homeland.

This is our highest civic and religious obligation, in our Holy Faith, which we will most gladly fulfill. May God help us and Poland. We raise our prayers to our Maker for the victory of Poland. Let us hope He will hear our prayers. Amen.”

General Consul of the Republic of Poland
Paulina Kapuścińska

We at The Polish Mission are dedicated to our history, and as a Polish-Americans, our compassion for the tragic price of Polish valiance is a prominent guidepost in our way of thinking. But even more so, as someone given the gift of freedom here in the United States, I cannot but welcome a burning obligation to preserve this historic memory. Standing alongside people like our General Consul, Israeli General Consul Roey Gilad, and Armia Krajowa Veteran and Home Army Association President Wieslaw Chodorowski, we proudly commemorate that struggle for freedom. Representing The Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools, our Catholic Christian identity, and our own community of honored veterans, we together salute those who gave all for our motherland, and we look forward to next year, when we will come together once again to commemorate the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
So please, welcome your friends and family with daffodils, and check www.polishmission.com for continued coverage of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration news from around our country and around the world.

In the picture: Editor of The Polish Weekly Alicja Karlic, Jan Krawiec Survivor from Auschwitz and Buchenwald German concentration camps and General Consul of the Republic of Poland Paulina Kapuścińska

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