Biography of Mordechai Anielewicz

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Mordechai Anielewicz (1919-1943)


     There is in Israel a community called Yad Mordechai. It is located on the road from Gaza to Tel Aviv.  It is named for Mordechai Anielewicz, who did more for the Jewish people in his short life than all the intellectuals we ever  produced. We Jews love to show that more Jews, proportionate to our numbers, have won Nobel prizes in all kinds of enterprises from medicine to literature. We praise ourselves because others call us “the people of the book.” We are so diploma mad that it has been said that a Jewish failure is someone without a doctorate of some kind.

      Yet, the truth is that all that intellectual baggage did us no good when the Europeans killed six million Jews, including all the great minds, the great professors, the great talkers, the great rabonim, the great business geniuses, etc.

     Indeed, Anielewicz was also murdered by the Germans. But he made a difference. He did not have a college education. He was born into a poor Jewish family in Wyszkow, in Poland, from which he escaped as the Germans entered Poland in September of 1939. Subsequently he traveled to Vilna and later to Romania in an effort to recruit young Jews to fight the Nazi occupiers. Reaching Warsaw in 1942, he succeeded in getting weapons from the Polish underground, which he smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto and which he and his Jewish followers used to bring on the “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising” on January 18, 1943. This was the first round in Jewish resistance to the Nazi killers. The second revolt of the Jews against the killers came about in April of 1943, leading to the first time in European Jewish history that Jews had fought for their lives and temporarily succeeded in killing the murderers. The Jews under the command of Anielewicz were able to resist the Nazi army for three weeks until the Germans burned the entire ghetto to the ground. Anielewicz may have committed suicide on May 8, 1943 or he may have died as a result of the German arson. His great merit lay in his determination not to surrender without a fight. He restored Jewish honor and he taught that Jews can and will fight for their lives.

    The lesson was well learned in Israel. Surrounded by the Arab hate mongers of today, threatened by a huge army of 250 million Arabs in and surrounding Israel, the small Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael has shown that here are 6 million Mordechai Anielewiczes ready to defend themselves against the current Nazi killers.

     It is remarkable that today even the Polish government has erected a statue to Anielewicz in Warsaw. It is called “The Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Monument.” In addition he was awarded The Cross of Valor and the Cross of Grunwald by the Polish army. In the 1978 television miniseries “Holocaust,” the actor Murray Salem played Anielewicz. He is also remembered in a history series called Worldwar, as well as in the novel Zealot and in Leon Uris’ novel Mila 18.

     He taught us that we cannot survive by throwing a book at a tank or featuring a scholar in front of a machine gun. He taught us that the first rule of life is survival and that that is also the second rule and the third.

     Finally, Mordechai Anielewicz taught our enemies that Jews can and will fight and that the day is gone forever when defenseless Jews became the targets of every sadist among the Europeans and their Arab Nazi friends.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Assassination, Anarchy, & Terrorism (2012).

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