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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 April, 2003, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
Warsaw Jews mark uprising
A Nazi SS inspects a group of Jewish workers in April 1943 in the Warsaw ghetto
Some half a million Jews were forced to live in the Warsaw Ghetto
The small Jewish community in Warsaw has held a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.

The uprising was the first major act of civilian resistance to the Nazis in occupied Poland during World War II.

People at the ceremony laid wreaths and lit candles at the memorial that sits on the square built on the ruins of the ghetto, and there was a recitation of the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Kaddish.

This was followed by a march to the rail platform, known as Umschlagplatz, where Jews were rounded up for transport to Nazi death camps.

"Warsaw is paying homage to the ghetto heroes, Warsaw is crying over all those who fought for the basic human values and the right to a dignified death," said Deputy Warsaw Mayor Andrzej Urbanski.

Marek Edelman, one of the few fighters to have survived the uprising, is now 80 and is the only one still living in Poland. He attended Saturday's ceremony.

Poland will officially mark the 60th anniversary of the uprising with a series of events at the end of April, which Israeli President Moshe Katsav is due to attend.

Hunger and disease

The Germans forced about half a million Jews to live in Warsaw's ghetto, surrounded by brick walls topped with barbed wire, early on in World War II.

Most of Warsaw's pre-war Jewish population perished in the Holocaust.

Warsaw ghetto survivor Marek Edelman
The sea of flames flooded houses and courtyards... There was no air, only black, choking smoke and heavy burning heat radiating form the red-hot walls, from the glowing stone stairs
Marek Edelman on the fire that ravaged the ghetto

About 100,000 died there of hunger and disease, while over 300,000 were sent to death camps where they were killed.

On 19 April 1943, 200 young Jews in the ghetto decided to fight back rather than wait to be deported to the by-now notorious camps.

Many ghetto inhabitants refused to believe such camps could exist and chose to go voluntarily to Umschlagplatz.

"Jews in the ghetto wanted to believe they would survive," says Mr Edelman.

"You can't understand that you can be killed for nothing," he said in a recent interview.

The German army was kept at bay for three weeks before it ended the uprising by burning down the ghetto, block by block.

The revolt served as an example, and led to the 1944 Warsaw uprising and revolts in the Nazi death camps of Sobibor and Treblinka.

The BBC's Matt Prodger
"Sixty years to the day since the Warsaw uprising began"


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