Pawel Frankel, Forgotten Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Hero



Many associate the famous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising with the socialist Jewish Fighting Organization, commanded by Mordechai Anielewicz. Pavel Frenkel and his men played no less of a role than Anielewicz's unit, and thus deserves recognition for his heroic efforts as well.

Pawel Frenkiel (pronounced: Pavel Frankel) was the leader of the Jewish Military Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Jewish Military Organization was formed primarily by former officers of the Polish Army in late 1939. On January 30, 1940, its existence was approved by General Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Polish commander in chief and the prime minister of the Polish Government in Exile. (The German occupiers had successfully invaded Poland in September, 1939.)

Frenkel had been a member of Betar, Zev Jabotinsky's right of center youth organization in Poland prior to the war. He had also been recruited to join Israel's pre-state underground militia, Etzel, which had established a network of underground cells in prewar Poland.

Frenkel led the central battle of the uprising at Muranowski Square. In that desperate battle fought for the honor of the Jewish people, the Zionist flag and the Polish flag were unfurled on the roof of the highest building in the square as a symbol of the uprising against the Germans. According to one eye-witness, Frenkel reportedly said: "Comrades! We will die before our time but we are not doomed. We will be alive as long as Jewish history lives."

At the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Antek Zuckerman and Zivia Lubetkin -- who survived the Warsaw ghetto uprising -- made no mention of the part played by the Jewish Military Organization in the uprising.

Emanuel Ringelblum, a Zionist who chronicled life in the Warsaw Ghetto, was impressed by the military precision and bearing he noted during his visit to Frenkel's headquarters at 7 Muranowska Street, but nevertheless remarked that the movement's ideology was similar to "Italian-style fascism."

Other leaders of the ZZW included: Nathan Schultz, S. Hazensprung, Leon Aryeh Rodal, Eliyahu Alberstein and Yitzchak Bilawski.

Because most from Frenkel's group were right of center, and because few survived the war, Israel's collective memory has largely forgotten these heroes. Let's make sure to remember them as stalwart fighters for the Jewish people.

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