Warsaw Remembers Uprising

APCantor Joseph Malovany in Warsaw.
WARSAW, Poland -- The Jewish prayer for the dead echoed Tuesday across what was once the heart of the Warsaw ghetto as Polish and Israeli leaders marked the 65th anniversary of the doomed battle by young Jews against Nazi troops.

Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Polish counterpart, Lech Kaczynski, led a crowd of 1,000 gathered beneath the stark granite Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto in ceremonies honoring the Jews who rose up on April 19, 1943.

Israeli and Polish flags fluttered in the afternoon breeze as Poland's chief orthodox rabbi, Michael Schudrich, read out the Kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead.

Then, to the beat of a military drum, Peres, Kaczynski and survivors of the ghetto uprising placed wreaths at the foot of the monument, which was flanked by two large iron menorahs.

Peres praised the young fighters, who he said displayed "a heroism that our children will proudly carry with them in their hearts."

"The majority of the uprising fighters died, murdered in cold blood. They lost the fight, but from the point of view of history, there has never been such a victory," Peres said. "A victory of men over human bestiality, of pure souls over fallen ones."

"Yes, the Germans won, thanks to thousands of soldiers shooting without thought and gassing bunkers," Peres said. "What did those terrible Nazis leave to the generations that followed?"

"Only shame, a curse and damnation."

Later in the day, the presidents planned to meet with former ghetto fighters and Holocaust survivors, and attend a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta at Warsaw's national opera house.

The anniversary of the uprising's start falls on Saturday, but commemorations were moved to Tuesday to avoid coinciding with the Jewish sabbath.

On Saturday, the last surviving leader of the ghetto's struggle, 89-year-old Marek Edelman, will lay flowers at the ghetto monument, and the Jewish community is planning a seder meal in memory of the ghetto victims.

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 a swath of the capital in inhuman conditions.