Ask the Jews of Warsaw

Guest commentary
Exclusive to The Zelman Partisans
by Historian

My wife and I attend get-togethers of her extended family, a fairly large clan, almost all of whom are urban or suburban Reform Jews, many with non-Jewish spouses. Her family is pleasant, intelligent, fun to talk to, and polite. And largely liberal. While there is little overt criticism of my libertarian politics, or my stance in support of the Second Amendment, few of her family are comfortable talking about guns; they used to view my JPFO pin more than a little askance. ( I no longer wear it, for reasons every TZP reader understands.) At one of these gatherings some years back, I was privileged to be seated next to one of my wife’s aunts, a beautiful and bright woman who converted to Judaism when she married.

As soon as she was seated next to me, she turned and said, “ Historian, did you know that there are instructions on how to build bombs, and make poison gas, and MACHINE GUNS on the Internet?”

“Well, yes, Aunt Marie, I do; there are books published on all those topics and more besides, and I own some of them.”

“That’s outrageous,” she spluttered, “absolutely outrageous!”

“ Aunt Marie,” I began diplomatically, ‘We’re Americans, and we have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Besides which, lots of people already know how to make those kinds of things. You can’t repress the knowledge even if you tried.”

“Ridiculous,” she snorted,”Nobody needs to know to know how to build weapons!”

A bit nettled, I leaned toward her and said, “Aunt Marie, why don’t you tell that to the Jews in Warsaw?”

She looked puzzled, and said “The Jews in Warsaw? Historian, I’ve been to Warsaw, and there aren’t any Jews in Warsaw!”

Her gun-owning Jewish husband leaned over to her and very quietly murmured into her ear “Dear, I think you had better quit while you are behind.”

—–

Starting in the Middle Ages, Poland was a refuge for Jews, being the most religiously tolerant European country up until the 17th Century. Even after the Russian takeover of Poland, and the rise of anti-semitism, Poland generally and Warsaw particularly were still friendly to Jews; while estimates vary, over 300,000 Jews lived in Warsaw ( about 3.3 million in Poland) before the start of World War II.

After Poland was invaded by the Russians and the Germans, and divided between them, Warsaw became the site of the largest of several ghettos, where Polish Jews were confined before being shipped to extermination camps. Hundreds of thousands of people were sent from Warsaw to the East for ‘resettlement’ in 1942. In reality, these people were sent to Treblinka and murdered, but since the government controlled the press, few knew.

In April of 1943, the SS again entered the Warsaw Ghetto to send more Jews to Treblinka for extermination, but this time, the Jews knew where they were to be sent, and with death as their only alternative, they resisted. Estimates vary widely, but according to the sources I have read, there were almost certainly fewer than a thousand guns in the Ghetto, probably less than three hundred, most of which were small caliber pistols and revolvers with just a very few rifles, probably less than a couple of dozen all told.

In the event, after a month of fierce resistance, dozens to several hundred German troops were dead, and the Warsaw Ghetto was burnt to the ground. Few of the about 60,000 Jews left in Warsaw in April 1943 escaped the Nazis, and fewer still survived the war. In 1938, there were as many as 330,000 Jews in Warsaw. Today, in 2015, there are about 2,000; just after the War, there were perhaps 150 or 200 Jews left.

It is impossible to truly comprehend the magnitude of this horror, but the following is just one tiny taste.

My two nephews read their Bar Mitzvah text from a rescued Polish Torah scroll recovered after World War II and sent here to these presently united States. I asked the rabbi whether she knew exactly where the scroll came from, or anything about the history of this Torah, and she did not. So many were lost, and so much was lost with them. It was deeply moving and wonderful to see this beautiful handmade three hundred year old scroll inscribed with the words of Torah, and at the same time it was heartbreaking to realize that no living person would ever know how it came to be, who scribed it, how it survived, who hid it, or how it survived to be brought here to these presently united States. It was enough to make an Historian weep. One Torah, from the thousands that existed in prewar Poland, from one of the thousands of Jewish congregations that are no more.

I wonder, if we could ask them, what the Jews of Warsaw would say to us about needing to know how to make and use weapons. I wonder, if the dead could speak, what they would say about the wisdom of allowing those who seek power over others to take your weapons from you. I wonder whether they would protest against people having books on marksmanship, or ammunition reloading, or on making bombs. I wonder whether they came to understand that it is not the weapon but the wielder that is good or evil.

It has been said that history does not exactly repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Today, Europe is again under attack. Collectivism is again on the march. One has only to watch the online video and read the eyewitness reports to understand that. My understanding is that in Europe today, there is not a gun or ammunition to be had; reports I have read online say that there is a 12 week backlog for rifles and shotguns in those places, such as Austria, where (some) guns may legally be purchased. Yet those who resist can protect themselves only by permission, not by right. Those who protest this invasion are persecuted, thrown into jail for telling the truth.

I wonder, if we could ask them, what the Jews of Warsaw circa April 1943 would say about this ongoing Islamic invasion? I wonder what the Jews of Warsaw would say about free people being imprisoned for their opinions, about being kept helpless in the face of those who would destroy them? What would the Jews of Warsaw say about these insidious attacks here in these presently united States on our Bill of Rights, on our right to free speech, freedom of the press, and especially about our right to own, carry, buy, sell, trade, or loan weapons and ammunition? What would the Jews of Warsaw say to those who refuse to criticize their government?

My curiosity must remain forever unsatisfied, for as my aunt unknowingly said, those Jews are dead. They cannot answer my questions, and their stories will remain forever untold; I can never know what they might say.

But I do know what I say. I say that government exists to protect the rights of individuals, and for no other purpose. I say that all of the powers that legitimate government wields come from the individuals governed, and with their consent. I say that violations of our rights, including but not limited to our rights to free speech, a free press, the right to own and carry weapons of all sorts must be resisted by any means necessary.

To the forces of tyranny, in memory of the dead Jews of Warsaw, I say “Never again.”

What do YOU say?

With regard to all who serve the Light,
Historian

—–

Historian is a middle aged grouchy engineer, who writes about the history of liberty and politics. His web log may be found at www.libertyhollow.weebly.com.

—–

Ed. note: This commentary appeared first on TZP’s weekly email alert. If you would like to be among the first to see new commentary (as well as to get notice of new polls and recaps of recent posts), please sign up for our alert list. (See sidebar or, if you’re on a mobile device, scroll down). Be sure to respond when you receive your activation email!

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18 thoughts on “Ask the Jews of Warsaw”

  1. Just to expand on the numbers, about which I have had an email- The prewar Jewish population of Warsaw was around 330,000 to 350,000+; estimates vary. After the Germans took that part of Poland, they forced the Warsaw Jews to build the ghetto in the fall of 1940, then removed Jews from nearby towns and villages and forced them into the Warsaw ghetto. Again, estimates vary, but from 100,000 to possibly as many as 200,000 Jews were placed into the ghetto starting around Christmas of 1940.

    Over the next year and a half, and again, estimates and sources vary, somewhere between 75,000 and 100,000 Jews died of disease and starvation; the peak population is not known but was at least 400,000, possibly as high as half a million or more. After the ‘Final Solution’ was adopted in the summer of 1942, the Germans took a more active role, and around 300,000 Jews were either killed or transported to Treblinka in the summer and fall of 1942.

    At that point, somewhere around 60,000 to 70,000 Jews were left in Warsaw. More left the ghetto after the 1942 shipments and before the final assault in April of 1943, again, it is not known how many. After the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the Germans killed or captured over 57,000 Jews; it is known that somewhere between a few hundred and possibly as many as two or three thousand escaped either immediately after May 16th or later in June; of course the SS commander would never admit that he let any Jews escape, so there aren’t any firm numbers on that.

    75,000 to 100,000 or more died of disease and starvation;
    300,000 died in Warsaw or were sent to Treblinka by the Germans in 1942;
    60,000 died in Warsaw or were sent to Treblinka in May of 1943;
    an unknown number escaped.
    A minimum of 435,000 to as many as 500,000 Jews were forced into Warsaw Ghetto in total, and of those, about 60,000 were left in April of ’43.

  2. Thank you for the terrific guest commentary, Historian. Between that and your follow-up comment, I see that you earned your nym!

    I hope you’ll write for TZP many more times in the future.

  3. Great read, IMHO the key thing for all of us to understand is what it will take to not ever become a Jew of Warsaw one day in the future.

    As Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn once wrote;

    “What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, polkers, or whatever else was at hand? “

  4. Fine article, except for the following: “I say that government exists to protect the rights of individuals, and for no other purpose. I say that all of the powers that legitimate government wields come from the individuals governed, and with their consent.”

    This is not only wrong, it is manifestly wrong.

    I don’t consent. Will government stop governing me? Has any government anywhere ever stopped governing a person who withdrew consent? Apparently, our consent is not necessary.

    “Lions exist to protect the rights of wildebeests, and for no other purpose.” To me, that statement makes about as much sense as the one you made. But then, I am an apostate from the Government Religion.

    I suspect there was a high percentage of such apostates in the Warsaw ghetto, toward the end.

    1. Paul,

      I agree with much of what you have to say, but not so much in the way you deliver it many times in a personal especially confrontational manner. Please, if you would like, do your own piece on “rights” as you see them. I am very interested in hearing your opinion. Really. What you have to say may have more people seeing eye to eye more so than that of the little explanation we may have seen/think we understand as of now.

      Great article to the OP, BTW! Thank you!

  5. I will add one thing. If a government ever did bother to get consent of those it governed (as in a panarchy), only then would it be legitimate. There we can agree. But I am aware of no government that does so.

    1. Paul — You hold two positions that are well known on this board, on my blog, and (I’ve recently learned) on various other freedomista sites. One is “there are no rights.” The other is that other people are not philosophically pure enough for you and you are, by god, going to tell them so. Repeatedly. Even if it means disregarding everything else they have to say (i.e. the main point of their articles).

      Everybody knows what you think on these subjects. You’re not adding anything new to the discussion. You’re not persuasive. You’re attempting to drag the discussion off topic.

      This is trollish behavior and I’m asking you to stop it. Now. You have other useful things to say and I hope you’ll continue to make worthwhile contributions both here and at Living Freedom. But if you insist on beating the dead horse of these two topics, you will be banned.

      I say this as someone who fundamentally agrees with your anarchist position (though not your position on rights). Enough is enough. Stop or get banned.

  6. While I probably should have changed the tenor of my comment (unfortunately on this blog, once you push the “post comment” button, there is no changing it), I don’t see anything factually wrong with it.

    I used to have the habit of holding off sending my response until the following day, just to calm the wording down a bit if that was needed. Maybe I should revive that practice.

    The question of the existence of rights is worth debating, if only because the more we understand reality, the better off we are. My experience however, outside of a few souls on Strike-the-Root, is that nobody wants to talk about it. That is, it has the character of an article of faith. I’d love to discuss it with you since you are so prominent in the movement. How about it? Would it hurt, really?

    I don’t have any emotional investment in the notion. But I’m not likely to be moved away from it by religious arguments, as I’m not religious (much less by avoiding the subject). If we do discuss it I may well discover I am wrong (and Jeff Snyder too), and then I will change my mind.

    As to the charge of ideological purity, I’m scratching my head a bit. See for example this article I wrote:

    http://strike-the-root.com/there%E2%80%99s-no-such-thing-as-statist

    …or my articles about Panarchy. Just peruse all my articles;

    http://armednonviolent.blogspot.com/p/my-articles.html

    …if anything I am arguing against ideological purity. I don’t expect people to align with my personal worldview.

    Yes, I still argue for liberty; it’s an old habit. But mostly I don’t care what people do if they leave me alone.

    On the other hand, if you want me off this blog and yours, you have only to ask.

    1. Paul — Let me make myself more clear. If you jump on someone merely because they’ve mentioned rights or government … if you focus on that while ignoring the main points of their post … if you re-state the same old positions on those subjects that you habitually repeat at blog after blog after blog … you will be banned (from both TZP and my blog). It’s that simple. Endless, obsessive, unhelpful repetition of “hobby horse” points is the behavior of a troll and will be dealt with as such.

      OTOH, if you stay on topic, make comments that are apropos to the subject of the post, and abstain from making repetitive rants about those two topics … you are very welcome here and at my blog.

      That’s all there is to it. Very simple.

    2. Mr. Bonneau,

      “The question of the existence of rights is worth debating, if only because the more we understand reality, the better off we are.”

      Speak to me of this reality of yours. You endlessly screech “There is no government nor rights and I am its anti-prophet,” yet you never seem to live up to your own standards.

      “My experience however, outside of a few souls on Strike-the-Root, is that nobody wants to talk about it.”

      Incorrect. What people do not want is to have you jumping into discussions, conducted by people who are not necessarily of your political persuasion, to pontificate on something else. You’re a rabid Trekkie interrupting Romeo and Juliet to expound upon why Star Wars sucks. While incongruously waving a lightsaber. The ushers are about to haul your annnoying ass out of the theater.

      Another analogy: Even on pro-freedom sites, you’re a tone-deaf deathmetal rocker disrupting church choir practice to cackle off-key, and substituting the lyrics with your personal variations. Is it any wonder your “message” doesn’t carry much weight even there?

      You appear to be suffering from a misapprehension of what The Zelman Partisans are. “We are: A group of Jews and friends who stand uncompromisingly for the right to keep and bear arms — and the entire Bill of Rights.

      While some individuals associated with TZP may be anarchists, minanarchists, conservatives, liberals, or pretty much anything else, this web site is not an anarchist forum. It is inappropriate to post comments — on RKBA issues — demanding compliance with your personal vision of anarchic purity. If you wish to comment here, please stay on topic and keep your anarchist jihad zipped in your pants.

      If you must wave your little tool in people’s faces, please do so here or here or here and see how welcoming those people are of your views.

      If you want to continually advocate your political purity message unhindered, consider getting your own web site instead of using other people’s venues.

  7. As a gentile/goy who was raised as a Catholic but quit religion at fourteen, I held Aaorn Zelman in the highest respect, and was a member of JPFO until he died and the people left running it sold out to the “marketing expert” who runs the SAF. I have no idea how many people are still members, but I hope not many. Gottlieb is not one of my favorite people.

    The stories I have read of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising have never failed to move me to a feeling of pride, that some humans could see that it is better to fight and die than to simply submit.

    And I would ask anyone reading this comment to remember what the literal translation of “islam” is – “submission”. Submission to the made-up, fake religion called islam. Know that mohammed (I refuse to respect islam by capitalizing its “proper names”) needed many arabian barbarians to fight for him in order to become the tyrant that he was, and he got them by telling them that any perversion was approved by “allah”. Child sex (including young boys), “war brides” (sex slaves), wives who were nothing more than chattel, to do with as they pleased, or to beat and stone when they were displeased. And they could satisfy their blood-thirsty natures by “striking the necks” of infidels.

    The Jews of Warsaw – some of them, anyway – knew submission was death, there in Warsaw or elsewhere, such as Treblinka. They knew what Churchill spoke of: “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.”

    “There may be even a worse fate. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.” Remember that is what we face if we ignore the threat of islam, and its desire for a universal caliphate. Keep your powder dry.

  8. It wasn’t just the Jews who died in the camps. I am second generation from Czechoslovakia and there is ONE FAMILY left in the old country that I am directly related to. The Nazi’s thought Slavs to be little more than animals. There are more of us here in America than there is in the small village where my Grandmother was born.
    When the dark night that looms on the horizon falls over this country you armed Jews will not be standing alone. I at least will be standing beside you.

    1. Thank you.

      Everyone who loves life and liberty must stand together. In one sense, Aaron Zelman only held up the example of the fate of Jews in WW2 as an example for all people. He didn’t insist on working only with Jews — and neither do we (I’m a gentile, myself) — he welcomed all those who value freedom and asked us to work together uncompromisingly. So do the The Zelman Partisans. Then, as now, many people and groups were targeted — as a Jew, Aaron was particularly aware of that loss, but understood the entirety — we can resist better standing strongly together.

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