Anielewicz, Mordecai

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ANIELEWICZ, MORDECAI (1919–1943), commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Anielewicz, who was born into a Jewish working-class family in Wyszków, Poland, was for a short time a member of *Betar. He later joined *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir and at the outbreak of World War ii, was one of the leaders of its Warsaw branch. When the German army approached Warsaw, he fled eastward in an attempt to reach Palestine but was caught at the Romanian border. He went to Vilna, then Soviet-occupied, where many members of the Zionist youth movements found refuge but returned to Warsaw in order to reestablish his movement in German-occupied Poland. He was instrumental in founding an urban kibbutz in a house in the Warsaw ghetto, in organizing educational activities for small groups, and in publishing an underground paper Neged ha-Zerem ("Against the Stream"). He was outside the ghetto in Western Poland during the Aktion of July–September 1942 (see *Warsaw, Ghetto) in which more than 265,000 Jews were shipped to Treblinka, where they were gassed. Consequently, he was less ridden by guilt and self-loathing for the failure to resist than his comrades who had remained in Warsaw. Anielewicz had long advocated armed resistance against the Germans, and upon the formation of the Źydowska Organizacja Bojowa or z.o.b. ("Jewish Fighting Organization"), he was named its commander. He was the sole survivor of the Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir force, which he led at the time of the Aktion on January 18, 1943, in which Jews openly resisted the German deportations, which were halted after four days. The z.o.b. believed that their resistance had halted the deportations and doubled their efforts. Thereafter Anielewicz prepared both the z.o.b. and the entire ghetto, now effectively under his control, for the final uprising in April 1943. He deeply sensed the historic importance of his mission. On April 23, he wrote to Yitzhak Zuckerman, a unit commander on the Aryan side:

What we have experienced cannot be described in words. We are aware of one thing only: what has happened has exceeded our dreams. The Germans ran twice from the ghetto…I have the feeling that great things are happening, that what we have dared is of great importance.

Keep well, my dear. Perhaps we shall meet again. But what really matters is that the dream of my life has become true. Jewish self-defense in the Warsaw ghetto has become a fact. Jewish armed resistance and retaliation have become a reality. I have been witness to the magnificent heroic struggle of the Jewish fighters.

On May 8, the Germans sent gas inside the bunkers at z.o.b. command headquarters at Mila 18. Anielewicz died as he expected, as his wished, fighting the Germans. In the underground Anielewicz used three aliases: "Marian," "Aniol" (Polish for angel), and "Malakhi," all variations of either his first name or family name. Kibbutz Yad Mordekhai is named after him.


P. Friedman (ed.), Martyrs and Fighters (1954), index; M. Barkai (ed.), Fighting Ghettos (1962), index; E. Ringelblum, Ksovim fun Geto, 2 (1963), 141–50; Y. Guttman, Mered ha-Neẓurim – Mordekhai Anielewicz u-Milḥemet Getto Varshah (1963); B. Mark, Oyfshtand in Varshever Geto (1963), index (Ger., 19593, Fr., 1955, Pol., 1963). add. bibliography: Y. Zuckerman, A Surplus of Memory: Chronicles of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1993); I. Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw 1939–1943 (1982); idem, Resistance (1994).

[Shaul Esh /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]