By Jeff French Segall
April 19th is the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, “when Jewish resistance fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto—many in their teens and twenties—launched a sustained guerrilla battle in response to a planned Nazi mass deportation to the death camps,” wrote a press release from the Congress for Jewish Culture, along with Friends of the Bund, Jewish Labor Committee, and Workers Circle.
“They fought without any attainable hope of victory, but with the goal that they would not die in silence,” the release continued. “Heroically, they managed to hold off the German army from April 19 to May 16. It was the largest single revolt by Jews during the Holocaust.”
When we reported on last year’s ceremony, the first held live after two years of pandemic-era restrictions, many readers expressed dismay that they hadn’t heard about it beforehand. This year we’re announcing well in advance that the commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising will be held on April 19, beginning at 3 p.m. It will take place at Der Shteyn (the stone), the plaque in the center of the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial plaza, located at the south end of the Promenade at 83rd Street, overlooking the Hudson River.
Once intended to be the cornerstone for a future, more elaborate monument, the stone bears the inscription: “This Is the Site for the American Memorial to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Battle, April-May, 1943, and to the Six Million Jews of Europe Martyred in the Cause of Human Liberty.” Underneath the cornerstone is a scroll describing the defense of the Warsaw ghetto composed by Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Jerusalem…. Two bronze boxes containing soil from the Terezin and Sered concentration camps in Czechoslovakia were also placed under the cornerstone, according to the press release.
The upcoming program in Riverside Park, including music and readings, will feature Shifee Losacco (a soloist at Lincoln Center, [who] has appeared in numerous Yiddish theater productions as well as on Broadway, and is currently a soloist with The Peace of Heart Choir); Joanne Borts (appeared in Broadway’s Tony-winning Best Musical Once, as well as Fiddler on the Roof starring Topol); Dr. Michael “Menachem” Fox (author of the acclaimed memoir Becoming Ordinary: A Youth Born of the Holocaust, What I Kept, What I Let Go…); Irena Klepfisz (herself born in the Warsaw Ghetto and whose father was the first Jew to perish in the Uprising; just recently published her collected works titled Her Birth and Later Years: New and Collected Poems, 1971-2021); Marcel Kshensky (educator & son of Holocaust survivors and resistance activists); and many others.