Monday, April 14, 2008

Israel's Peres in Poland for Warsaw ghetto anniversary

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Israeli President Shimon Peres left Tel Aviv early Monday for Poland to take part in ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis, his spokeswoman said.

"Mr. Peres will make a four-day state visit during which he will meet the main Polish leaders, will address the Polish parliament in Hebrew and take part" in the ceremonies, Ayelet Frish told AFP.

Earlier, Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, an aide to Polish President Lech Kaczynski, said Peres, who was born in Poland in 1923, was scheduled to take part in a 65th anniversary ceremony on Tuesday.

His trip follows a visit to Israel last week by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

At the Warsaw ceremony, survivors are to gather at the city's imposing ghetto monument to recite the Kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead.

Peres and Kaczynski are later scheduled to meet with 98-year-old Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who risked her life to save 2,500 Jewish children from the occupying Nazi Germans.

As part of the commemorations, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of music director Zubin Mehta is due to perform a gala concert that will be broadcast live on Polish television.

The annual ghetto uprising commemoration has been brought forward to April 15 because this year the anniversary of the outbreak of the revolt falls on the Jewish Sabbath, and on the eve of the important Passover festival.

On April 19, 1943 a few hundred young Jews decided to take up arms against the occupying Germans, resolving to fight rather than face near-certain death in the Nazis' "Final Solution."

The Germans, who had not been expecting any kind of resistance, let alone an armed confrontation, were caught off guard and the young fighters managed to hold out for three weeks.

A handful of surviving Jewish fighters escaped through the sewers on May 10 and joined the wider Polish resistance movement, which launched its own uprising in Warsaw on August 1, 1944. (TurkishPress)

That 63-day revolt and the Germans' brutal response cost the lives of 200,000 civilians and fighters, and led to the near-total destruction of Warsaw by Nazi troops.


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