|Marek Edelman participated in the 1943 civilian resistance against Nazi troops. (Tomasz Paczos/Forum/Reuters)|
WARSAW - The last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising paid silent tribute yesterday to the young Jews who launched the doomed revolt against Nazi troops 65 years ago.
Marek Edelman, 89, handed yellow tulips and daffodils to his grandchildren, Liza and Tomek. He watched as they placed them at the foot of the gray-and-black Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto, located in a barren square at the heart of the former ghetto.
Accompanied by a crowd of a few hundred people in wet weather, Edelman, in a wheelchair, moved on to nearby monuments to leaders of the ghetto revolt, before ending in a square where the Nazis put more than 300,000 Jews on trains to Auschwitz and other death camps.
At a separate ceremony, members of the Jewish community read out the names of some of those killed in the uprising and then formed a human chain in front of the ghetto heroes' monument, as sirens wailed and military guards fired three rounds of gunfire as a sign of mourning.
The uprising was the first act of large-scale armed civilian resistance against the Germans in occupied Poland during World War II. The Nazis walled off the ghetto in November 1940, cramming 400,000 Jews from across Poland into it, under inhuman conditions.
On April 19, 1943, German troops started to liquidate the ghetto by sending tens of thousands of its residents to death camps. In the face of imminent death, several hundred young Jews took up arms in defense of the civilians.
They held off German troops for three weeks with homemade explosives and a cache of smuggled weapons. The uprising ended when its main leaders - rounded up by the Nazis - committed suicide on May 8, 1943. The Nazis then razed the ghetto, street by street.
Yesterday's commemorations followed official events held Tuesday, to avoid coinciding with the Jewish sabbath. President Lech Kaczynski of Poland and President Shimon Peres of Israel led those observances.