The European Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith International co-organized a conference to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The event, held under the honorary patronage of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, took place at the European Parliament and was hosted by the Working Group against Antisemitism (WGAS) and its Chair, Vice-President Nicola Beer.
The conference, titled “80 Years Since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Perspectives on Resistance Then and Now,” began with a video message from Marian Turski, a Polish journalist, historian, and Holocaust survivor who serves as Chairman of the POLIN Museum Council.
In her opening remarks, WGAS Chair Nicola Beer highlighted the importance of applying the lessons learned from the Uprising to the numerous pressing human rights issues facing the world today, with the theme of human dignity as a unifying thread: ‘We have to remember the extraordinary bravery of these people, who fought with all of their available means against the German oppression in an unconditional struggle for freedom and human dignity. It is important to remember them as fighters and heroes for freedom and human dignity – not only as victims – and to draw inspiration from the struggles against oppression and human rights violations of today and tomorrow.’
Alina Bricman, Director of European Union Affairs at B’nai B’rith International, emphasized the importance of remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the enduring spirit, dignity, and lessons of its fighters, which serve as universal and communal instructions to the Jewish community to stand up against hate and fight for justice: ‘The stories of the Jewish women and men who resisted in the Warsaw Ghetto are a daunting and immeasurable treasure trove. And in this treasure trove, we have memories that must be preserved and most importantly, we have instructions, that must guide us.’
Ariella Woitchik, EJC Director of European Affairs, honoured those brave young women and men who took part in one of the most desperate revolts humanity has ever known and recalled that the Jewish people have a long history of resistance against their oppressors, defending their right to live in dignity and freedom: ‘Resistance is not only military in nature. There have been numerous types of Jewish resistance through the ages. The will of the Jewish people to survive and protect its heritage has been unbreakable.’
Louise Haxthausen, UNESCO Representative to the European Union, spoke about UNESCO’s commitment to Holocaust education and the immense significance of the “Oneg Shabbat” archives, also known as the Ringelblum Archive, as part of the world heritage under UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.
Representatives of HaShomer Hatzair youth movement in Belgium paid tribute to the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto in a special commemorative moment. In the Warsaw ghetto, members of the HaShomer Hatzair movement were among the organizers of the ‘Jewish Fighting Organization’, and a member of Hashomer Hatzair, Mordechai Anielewicz, stood at its head.
The conference ended with a panel discussion featuring Dr Bob Moore, Professor Emeritus of 20th Century European History at the University of Sheffield, Dr Joël Kotek, Professor of Political Science at the Free University of Brussels, and Grischa Stanjek, a researcher and founder of Democ. The panelists discussed the concept of resistance in the contemporary world, the role of documentation in addressing antisemitism, extremism and hate, and the lessons that can be drawn from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to the present day. The discussion was moderated by BBC journalist Amie Liebowitz.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the month-long act of Jewish resistance that took place between April 19, 1943 and May 16, 1943, was the largest and, symbolically, most important Jewish uprising during World War II. It was also the first urban uprising in German-occupied Europe. The Jewish resistance in Warsaw inspired uprisings in other ghettos such as in Bialystok and Minsk.