Tributes for leader of Warsaw ghetto uprising

By Jessica Elgot, October 5, 2009
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Marek Edelman: the last surviving leader of the ghetto uprising against the Nazis has died

Marek Edelman: the last surviving leader of the ghetto uprising against the Nazis has died

World leaders have paid tribute to the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, who has died aged 90.

Marek Edelman was the last leader of the resistance group which organised the uprising in 1943, the most successful armed urban resistance to the Nazis during the second world war.

Edelman was one of half a million Jews forced into Europe’s largest ghetto, in Warsaw.

When the Nazis began deporting people from the ghetto in 1942, Edelman formed the ZOB (Jewish Combat Organisation- in Polish) with Mordechai Anielewicz.

He was an upright, unequalled human being. There are no words to express the loss.

Lech Walesa

They carried out assassinations of Nazi collaborators, and organised the two uprisings against Nazi deportation, one on the eve of Passover 1943, when the Nazi planned to empty the ghetto within three days and send all the remaining Jews to the camps.

Edelman became leader of the resistance group after Anielewicz died in battle, and eventually fled through Warsaw’s sewers to join the Polish resistance.

After the war, Edelman became a cardiologist and remained in Poland after marrying Alina Margolis, a nurse at the ghetto’s hospital.

He was an anti-Zionist champion, believing that Jews should promote and advance their culture as part of the state in which they live.

He remained in Poland after his wife and children emigrated to Paris when they became concerned over a new rise of antisemitism in Poland.

Word leaders have paid tribute to Edelman. France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said: "France has lost a hero. He was a man who thought and did the unthinkable."

Lech Walesa, the former Polish president said: "He was an upright, unequalled human being. There are no words to express the loss."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry also released a statement: "The Jewish people and the State of Israel are mourning the death of the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Marek Edelman was one of the commanders of a rebellion which salvaged human dignity at the Holocaust's time of complete darkness.

Former head of Israel's parliament and former Israeli ambassador to Poland Shevah Weiss said: "I'd like to offer my condolences to Marek Edelman's family, to the Polish nation and to the Jewish nation. He was a hero to all of us"

Ian Kelly, an official spokesperson for the United States expressed sympathies and confirmed the United States "stands with Poland as it mourns the loss of a great man".

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, commented: “Marek Edelman was a courageous man who showed immense bravery in the face of great adversity, and his selfless actions demonstrate to future generations the importance of standing up against injustice.”

Last updated: 5:00pm, October 6 2009