Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto: The Untold Story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Gefen Publishing House  2011


The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April, 1943 is generally recognized as a momentous event during the Holocaust and a major event in Jewish history. In addition to the published academic histories of the ghetto resistance, such as the scholarship of Yisrael Gutman, himself a fighter in the Uprising, there is also John Hersey’s novel, The Wall, and Leon Uris’ Mila 18, which have familiarized a large reading audience with the history of the revolt. Mainstream histories of the valiant ghetto defenders, however, focus on Mordechai Anielewicz, the commander of the Zionist Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), and the Jewish Socialist Bund, as the primary leaders of the resistance to the Nazi plan to deport the remnant of the  ghetto Jews to the Treblinka death camp.

This is not the view, however, of Moshe Arens, the former Israeli defense minister, who also served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington and one of the Likud party’s elder statesmen.  In his book, which is meant to set the record straight, he bewails the fact that the Revisionist Jewish Military Organization (ZZW), led by its commander, Pawel Frenkel, receives little or no  recognition in the  historical works that recount the fight against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Arens traces the bitter ideological  differences between  Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Revisionists (the forerunner of today’s Likud), and the World Zionist Organization, differences which prevented these armed networks from working together to face their common enemy as the Nazis commenced deporting some 365,000 ghetto Jews to the Treblinka death camp. The result, argues Arens, was that the surviving members of the ZOB who fought the Nazis refused to acknowledge the role of its rival organization, and excluded them from the memoirs and books that subsequently constituted the history of the ghetto uprising. As for the ZZW, all of its senior commanders fell in battle  against the Germans. There was, concludes Arens, nobody left to tell their story. Using documents, including the  Nazi view of the  revolt as documented in the Stroop Report, Arens seeks to rectify the historical omission  of the role  played by the ZZW in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and provide the reader with a more balanced history of this  courageous  moment in Jewish history.

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