79 years ago today, the uprising of Jewish prisoners in the Warsaw Ghetto began. The fighting, which lasted several weeks, was bloodily put down by the German occupying forces.

The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German occupiers in 1940 as a “collection camp” for the Jewish inhabitants of the city. From there, Jews were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp. Shortly after its construction, about 550,000 people lived in the ghetto; by the end of 1942, there were still about 50,000. During the occupation, various resistance groups had formed. While in the beginning mainly civil resistance in the form of humanitarian aid (soup kitchens, medicine, etc.) had to be planned, later on the violent resistance also increased. This was organized primarily by Zionist, socialist and communist groups. Through outside contacts, they tried to smuggle weapons into the ghetto and began producing Molotov cocktails.

The central groups involved in the uprising were the Jewish fighting organization ŻOB and the Jewish military association ŻZW.

The German authorities wanted to dissolve the Jewish camp and complete their project of extermination. A first attempt by the SS to clear the camp in January 1943 failed due to resistance.

Then, on April 19, German troops surrounded the ghetto. The SS under the leadership of Jürgen Stroop tried to advance into the ghetto and expel the insurgents. In the course of the day there were fierce battles and the Germans withdrew from the ghetto in the evening. The following month saw repeated fierce fighting and attempts to defeat the resisters. Finally, on May 16, Stroop declared the uprising over and blew up the Great Synagogue.

The uprising is considered the largest Jewish resistance movement against Nazi rule.