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Pawel Frenkel

Pawel Frenkel

Labeling Jabotinsky and his adherents as fascists was nothing new. What might seem surprising in retrospect is that this slander was still being used against a rival Zionist movement toward the end of World War II. As a matter of fact, under German occupation in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Socialist Zionist movements considered Betar, the Revisionist youth movement, as fascist. Mordechai Tenenbaum, one of the founders of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the ghetto, wrote in a publication of Dror, the Socialist Zionist youth movement, led by Antek Zuckerman and Tzivia Lubetkin, that both the Italian Socialist Giacomo Matteotti and Chaim Arlosoroff had been the victims of Fascism. "Matteotti was murdered by killers hired by Italian Fascism: Arlosoroff - by men sent by the Fascist organization that has arisen among Jews. The death of the martyrs, Matteotti and Arlosoroff, cries out for retribution." This was written when news of the mass murder of Jews by the Germans in Vilna, Lublin, and other places had already reached Warsaw, and only a month before the transport of Warsaw's Jews to the Treblinka gas chambers began

.It is little wonder that the Revisionists in the ghetto were not included in the ranks of the Jewish Fighting Organization, together with representatives of all other political groups, and that the two fighting organizations that led the uprising, the Jewish Fighting Organization, commanded by Mordechai Anielewicz, and the Revisionist-led Jewish Military Organization, commanded by Pawel Frenkel, did not fight the Germans as a united force

.Sadly, the story does not end here. The fact that Pawel Frenkel and his fighters fought the main battle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at Muranowski Square has been obscured for more than 60 years. A deliberate and effective effort has been made to ignore, or at the very least minimize, the participation of Frenkel's fighters in the uprising, while adopting the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a creation of the Labor movement

.The hunting season of underground fighters in Palestine occurred a year and a half after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Labor party leadership at that time was not about to give credit to the comrades of Etzel who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto. As a matter of fact, it took years before the contribution Etzel and Lehi made to the establishment of the State of Israel in fighting British rule in Palestine began to be recognized, and their fighters who went to the gallows were acclaimed as national heroes

.Today there is hardly a town in Israel that does not have a street named after the Etzel and Lehi. For that matter, there is hardly a town that does not have a street named after Mordechai Anielewicz. And rightly so. But Pawel Frenkel is still missing from the national pantheon

.David Landau, one of Frenkel's fighters who survived the uprising, wrote in his book "Caged" that shortly before the uprising began, Frenkel, in an address to his fighters, said: "Comrades! We will die before our time but we are not doomed. We will be alive as long as Jewish history lives." It is high time that Pawel Frenkel and his comrades become part of Jewish history
Two organizations of Jewish fighters had been preparing themselves for the revolt. Best known by the initials of their Polish names, they were: ZOB, for Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, a confederation of Socialist-Zionist movements, the anti-Zionist Socialist Bund, and the Communists, led by Mordechai Anielewicz; and ZZW, for Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowi, composed mainly of Zionist-Revisionist Betar members, led by Pawel Frenkel, David Apfelbaum, and Leon Rodal. Considerable rivalry and even animosity existed between the two groups, all attempts at uniting them having failed. Only a semblance of coordination between them was established prior to the revolt


After more than 300,000 of Warsaw's Jews had been sent to the gas chambers at Treblinka in the summer of 1942, only about 60,000 Jews remained in the Ghetto. They now lived in three unconnected Jewish sectors. The central sector, which contained the houses inhabited by part of the surviving Jewish population, and two German workshop areas where Jewish slave-laborers were producing goods for the German war machine. In each of these areas, there were units of ZOB and ZZW fighting units. The headquarters of both organizations were located in the central sector; ZOB headed by Anielewicz at Mila Street 39, ZZW headed by Frenkel, at Muranowska Street 7.

Only scant documentation is available regarding the fighting in the Ghetto. Yosef Kermish, at the time head of the Yad Vashem archives, wrote in 1965 in his preface to a collection of documents on the Warsaw Ghetto revolt: "As for the revolt itself and the actual preparations for it, the Jewish and Polish sources are regretfully not sufficiently adequate . What is missing in the Jewish and Polish sources regarding the revolt must necessarily be complemented from German sources that were written by the enemy himself. The most important of the German documents regarding the revolt are the reports of [German General] Juergen Stroop, that were written at the time of the events themselves." Stroop sent daily reports on the action in the Ghetto and a summary report was written by Stroop on May 16. It is from these reports that a picture begins to emerge on the course of the revolt.

In examining Stroop's reports one's attention is drawn to the following statement that appears in his summary report: "The main Jewish combat group in which participated also Polish bandits, retreated already on the first or second day to a place called Muranowski Square. There it was reinforced by a significant number of Polish bandits. The group wanted to fortify itself in every way possible in order to prevent us from penetrating. On the roof of a concrete building they raised the Jewish flag and the Polish flag, as a signal of war against us."

It was in Muranowski Square and the neighboring houses on Muranowska Street that ZZW fighters armed with rifles, sub-machine guns, machine guns, and Molotov cocktails had established fortified positions and succeeded in holding up the advance of the German forces during an entire day's fighting on the second day of the revolt, April 20, 1943. It was the scene of recurrent fierce battles between ZZW and Stroop's forces in the days to come. This is corroborated by testimony given after the war by a number of Poles who participated in these battles. Here, heavy casualties were sustained by the ZZW, which lost many of its leading fighters.

During the entire revolt there was fighting throughout the Ghetto by ZOB and ZZW fighters. The fiercest battles, which lasted several days and were possibly the most important of the revolt, seem to have been waged by ZZW in the area of Muranowski Square. Yet the story of the heroic struggle in the Warsaw Ghetto, the myth of Jewish heroism that has captured the imagination of so many, has left little room for the participation of the fighters of the ZZW in the revolt. Maybe this was inevitable, since none of the leaders of the underground organized by Betar survived the revolt.

To the best of our knowledge, Pawel Frenkel, together with some of his comrades, fell in a battle with German troops and Polish police on May 11 in Warsaw, after surviving the fighting at Muranowski Square. Most of the ZZW fighters were killed in the revolt. The story of the revolt has come down to us primarily through two ZOB leaders who survived the fighting: Yitzhak Cukierman, who was the ZOB's liaison to the Polish underground outside the Ghetto during the revolt, and Marek Edelman of the Bund who fought in the Ghetto. Edelman, in his book, "The Ghetto Fights," published shortly after the war, makes no mention of the ZZW. Cukierman, on arriving in Israel after the war, spoke disparagingly of the ZZW http://joun.leb.net/brenner01292005.html
During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ZZW is said to have about 400 well-armed fighters grouped in 11 units. ZZW fought together with AK fighters in Muranowska street (4 units under Frenkel). Dawid M. Apfelbaum took position in Mila street. Heniek Federbusz group organized a strong pocket of resistance in a house near Zamenhoff street. Jan Pika unit took position in Mila street, while unit of Leizer Staniewicz fought in the Nalewki, Gesia street and Franciszka?ska street. Dawid Berli?ski's group took position in second part of Nalewki. Roman Winsztok commanded group near Muranowska, where also the headquarters of the Union was located (Muranowska 7/9 street).