Monument to the Ghetto Heroes (Bohaterów Getta Street, from Zamenhof’s Street)
On April 19th 1943, a revolt broke out in the warsaw ghetto, taken by several hundred fighters of the Jewish Fighting Organization and the Jewish Military Union with Mordechaj Anielewicz at the head. It was a reaction to Heinrich Himmler’s order about the beginning of the liquidation of the ghetto. From a strategic and military point of view, there was no chance of success for the fighters. However, it was the Jews’ response to the cruelty and genocide of the Germans and for the Jewish people is a very important and symbolic event. On May 16th 1943, Germany announced the suppression of the uprising. Its participants were murdered at the spot, or taken to extermination camps. The area of the Jewish district was levelled to the ground.
The first monument that stood at the battle site is an inconspicuous monument designed by Leon Suzin. It was unveiled on April 16th1946. It consists of two parts: a plaque with Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish inscription: “For those who fell in an unprecedented heroic struggle for the dignity and freedom of the Jewish nation, for a free Poland, for the liberation of man – Jews and Poles” and a plaque in a shape of a circle, with the metal palm – a symbol of martyrdom, and a Hebrew letter “B”, symbolizing the first expression of the Book of Genesis.
The second monumental monument sculpted by Nathan Rappaport with Leon Suzin’s architectural design, was unveiled on April 19th 1948, the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The monument refers to the form of the ghetto walls, the Jerusalem Wall of Wailing, and the Communards’ Wall from the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. The central point of the 11-meter high monument is the relief, showing insurgents armed with Molotov cocktails, guns and grenades. The central standing figure of this frieze is that of Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the uprising, holding a grenade in his left hand. Fighters are surrounded by flames, symbolizing the burning ghetto. Bas relief is called “Fight”. On the monument on the east side there is a second relief with the symbolic title “The March to Extermination”. Two bronze menors are set before the monument. The Swedish stone labrador was used to make the monument. In 1942, the stone was ordered by the Minister of Economy of the Third Reich as a material for the construction of Hitler’s victory monuments.
This place witnessed the symbolic gesture of Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Willy Brandt, during a visit to Warsaw on December 7th 1970. He unexpectedly knelt down on the steps of the monument, bowed his head and was continuing for a moment in thought. The German journalist Hermann Schreiber described this gesture as: “If this non-religious, non-criminal, absent-minded man, made his own way through the former ghetto in Warsaw and knelt down there – he would not kneel there for a personal reason. The one who does not have to do this is kneeling, for all those who have to, but do not kneel – because they will not dare or they can’t, or they aren’t able to do or do not want to dare. He therefore confesses to a fault that does not burden him, and asks for forgiveness, which he does not need himself. He is kneeling for Germany. “