Page last updated at 22:31 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 23:31 UK

Warsaw ghetto uprising head dies

Marek Edelman, pictured in 2003
Mr Edelman led young Jews who battled the Nazis in Warsaw in 1943

The last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis, Marek Edelman, has died at the age of 90.

The uprising - triggered by the Nazis' decision to send residents to concentration camps - lasted three weeks before it was crushed.

Mr Edelman, then 23, was one of 200 young Jews who fought German troops.

His friend, Paula Sawicka, told the Associated Press that he died "at home, among friends".

Former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski paid tribute to him.

"He reached a good age. He left as a contented man even if he was always aware of the tragedy he went through," he told the Gazeta Wyborcza paper.

"I don't want to say he was irreplaceable, nobody is, but there are few people like Marek Edelman."

Pitched battle

For nearly a month in the spring of 1943 a group of young Jews, armed with pistols and home-made bombs, held off the German army before the ghetto was razed to the ground.

Jewish civilians who took part in the uprising, April 1943
Jewish residents fought for nearly a month before the uprising was crushed

By that time the Nazis had sent 300,000 Jewish residents of the ghetto to the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp.

The first clashes occurred at the start of 1943 as residents took up arms to prevent more Jews being sent to the camp.

The full-scale uprising began in April in response to Nazi plans to wipe out the 60,000 remaining inhabitants.

Thousands of Jews died in the fighting as Nazi troops resorted to explosives to destroy the ghetto - created by the German occupiers in 1940.

More than 55,000 people were then killed or deported to concentration camps when the uprising failed.

Mr Edelman escaped and helped coordinate anti-Nazi resistance. After the war he became a doctor and joined Poland's democratic opposition, speaking out against racism and on human rights.

"He will remain in my memory as a fighting hero, a man of great courage," Former Israeli ambassador to Poland Shevach Weiss said.

"He never ceased in his struggle for human freedom and for Poland's freedom."

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