'It’s a symbol of showing pride in their identity'

Ahead of ghetto uprising anniversary, Polish and Israeli flags again fly over Warsaw

Holocaust commemoration group places the banners atop a roof as an homage to a famous act of defiance during the revolt 80 years ago

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Jonny Daniels stands beside the Israeli and Polish flags atop a residential building overlooking what used to be the Warsaw Ghetto in Warsaw, Poland on March 19. (From the Depths)
Jonny Daniels stands beside the Israeli and Polish flags atop a residential building overlooking what used to be the Warsaw Ghetto in Warsaw, Poland on March 19. (From the Depths)

Ahead of the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a Holocaust commemoration group is flying the Israeli and Polish flags atop a building overlooking the former open-air Nazi prison for Jews.

The gesture Sunday by the From the Depths association honors the actions of fighters in that revolt, the largest act of resistance by Jews during the genocide, who flew a Zionist flag and the Polish one for days under Nazi fire, said Jonny Daniels, the founder of From the Depths. “It’s a message of Jewish resistance, a symbol of pride in their identity. It’s our duty to carry that on for future generations,” he added.

Daniels placed the flags on the roof of a residential building near Mila St. 18, on the border of the former ghetto. The homage was done in partnership with the Axel Springer publishing giant in Germany and Poland’s Onet news site.

Pawel Frenkel, the head of one of the two main groups that led the nine-day rebellion, flew the Polish and a Zionist flag, whose exact design has not been documented, shortly after the start of the April 19 revolt. It ended with the death of almost all resistance fighters involved and the murder of thousands of Jews who were still living in the ghetto when the uprising broke out.

The flags that Frenkel flew were visible outside the ghetto as he put them on the roof of a relatively tall building on Muranowska Street. A few days into the fighting, the German troops shelling the ghetto hit the roof and blew up the display.

But by then it had already “sparked the imagination and the enthusiasm of the local population; this was the ultimate affront to the Germans,” said Daniels.

His group’s homage is among the first of several events, some sponsored by the Polish government, commemorating the uprising.

In 2013, the Israel Philatelic Service issued on the uprising’s anniversary a stamp reminiscent of From the Depth’s homage: It featured a portrait of Frenkel emblazoned with the Polish and Israeli flags.

In recent years, Poland and Israel – and Polish and Jewish groups by extension – have been engaged in an acrimonious debate about the Holocaust in Poland. The fight, which began with the Polish parliament’s 2018 passing of an amendment that outlaws blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes, sparked an argument about the level of victimhood and complicity of Poles in the genocide.

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