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Marek Edelman

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Title: Marek Edelman  
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Subject: Grossaktion Warsaw (1942), Warsaw Ghetto, Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, Mordechai Anielewicz, Anti-Jewish violence in Poland, 1944–46
Collection: 2009 Deaths, 20Th-Century Births, Commandeurs of the Légion D'Honneur, Democratic Party – Demokraci.Pl Politicians, General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland Politicians, Jewish Anti-Zionism, Jewish Combat Organization Members, Members of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland (1991–93), People from Gomel, Polish Anti-Communists, Polish Cardiologists, Polish Dissidents, Recipients of the Order of the White Eagle (Poland), Solidarity (Polish Union Movement) Activists, Warsaw Ghetto Inmates, Warsaw Uprising Insurgents, Year of Birth Uncertain
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Marek Edelman

Marek Edelman
Marek Edelman at around the time
of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Born 1919 or 1922[1]
Died October 2, 2009(2009-10-02)[1]
Warsaw, Poland
Allegiance General Jewish Labour Bund
Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa
Armia Ludowa
Years of service 1942–1944
Rank Deputy commander (ŻOB)
Battles/wars Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
Awards French Legion of Honor[1][2]
Order of the White Eagle[1]
Yale University, honorary doctorate[1]

Marek Edelman (Yiddish: מאַרעק עדעלמאַן‎, born either 1919 in Homel[3] or 1922 in Warsaw – October 2, 2009, Warsaw, Poland)[1] was a Jewish-Polish political and social activist and cardiologist. Before his death in 2009, Edelman was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Before Mordechaj Anielewicz. He also took part in the city-wide 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

After the war, Edelman remained in Poland and became a noted cardiologist. From the 1970s, he collaborated with the Workers' Defence Committee and other political groups opposing Poland's communist regime. As a member of Solidarity, he took part in the Polish Round Table Talks of 1989. Following the peaceful transformations of 1989, he was a member of various centrist and liberal parties.[4] He also wrote books documenting the history of wartime resistance against the Nazi German occupation of Poland.


  • Early life 1
  • World War II 2
  • Later life 3
  • Family life 4
  • Death 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Details of Marek Edelman's birth are not known for certain; sources give two possible years of birth, either 1919 in Homel (present-day Belarus),[3][5] or in 1922 in Warsaw. His father, Natan Feliks Edelman (died 1924), was a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (his father's brothers, also Socialist Revolutionaries, were executed by the Bolsheviks).[3] His mother, Cecylia Edelman (died 1934), a hospital secretary, was an activist member of the General Jewish Labour Bund, a Jewish socialist workers' party.[3] After Edelman's mother Cecylia died when he was 14 years old, he was looked after by other staff members at the hospital where she had worked in Warsaw, the city he always called home.[6] He said in 2001: "Warsaw is my city. It is here that I learned Polish, Yiddish and German. It is here that at school, I learned one must always take care of others. It is also here that I was slapped in the face just because I was a Jew."[6]

As a child, Edelman was a member of Sotsyalistishe Kinder Farband (SKIF), the Jewish Labour Bund's youth group for children.[7]

In 1939 he joined and became a leader in

  • by Marek EdelmanThe Ghetto Fights
  • Edelman Biography
  • Marek Edelman's Life Story on Web of Stories (video interview in Polish with English subtitles)
  • A True Mensch - Obituary to Marek Edelman
  • John Rose. “Marek Edelman — star of resistance among Nazi horror” Socialist Worker (UK), January, 2006
  • Last Warsaw ghetto revolt commander honours fallen comrades
  • A Life of Resistance: Marek Edelman, 90, Last Ghetto Uprising Commander, Michael Berenbaum and Jon Avnet, The Forward, October 7, 2009
  • Yiddish: Isaac Laden‎, געשטאָרבן דער לעצטער קאָמאַנדיר פֿון װאַרשעװער געטאָ - מאַרעק עדעלמאַן (Marek Edelman, 1919-2009. Death of the last commandant of the Warsaw ghetto), Lebns Fragen, September-October 2009
  • Marci Shore, "The Jewish Hero History Forgot", New York Times, April 19, 2013.

External links

  • Marek Edelman, Resisting the Holocaust: Fighting Back in the Warsaw Ghetto, Ocean Press, 2004; ISBN 1-876175-52-4, (Excerpt online)
  • Hanna Krall, Shielding the Flame, Henry Holt & Co., 1986; ISBN 0-03-006002-8. Reprinted in Hanna Krall, The subtenant; To outwit God, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1992; ISBN 0-8101-1050-4.
  • Katarzyna Zechenter, Marek Edelman, in Holocaust Literature. An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work. Vol. 1, Routledge 2003, pp. 288–90; ISBN 0-415-92983-0.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Scislowska, Monika, "Warsaw ghetto uprising leader Edelman dies at 90", News,  
  2. ^ a b c d e "Warsaw Ghetto uprising leader Marek Edelman dies at 90". London, UK:  
  3. ^ a b c d "Marek Edelman - biografia"; accessed November 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Zychowicz, Piotr (2009-10-02). "Marek Edelman nie zyje" (in Polish).  
  5. ^ Jerzy B. Warman, In Memoriam, American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants; accessed November 1, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Marek Edelman - Daily Telegraph obituary.
  7. ^ Izabela Leszczyńska, Maciej Stańczyk, "Zmarł Marek Edelman",, March 10, 2009. (Polish)
  8. ^ Mendelsohn, Ezra. Jews and the Sporting Life: Studies in Contemporary Jewry XXIII. Institute of Contemporary Jewry,  
  9. ^ Yitzhak Zuckerman, Barbara Harshav, "A surplus of memory: chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising", University of California Press, 1993, pg. 434.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Warsaw ghetto uprising head dies".  
  11. ^ Israel Gutman, Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998, p. 214.
  12. ^ a b c d Kaufman, Michael T. (3 October 2009). "Marek Edelman, Commander in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 90".  
  13. ^ Engelking, Barbara; Libionka, Dariusz (2009). Żydzi w Powstańczej Warszawie. Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. pp. 260–293.  
  14. ^ "Marek Edelman 1919-2009", Żydowski Instytut Historyczny
  15. ^ "Rz" Online, "Pożegnanie Marka Edelmana" (Farewell to Marek Edelman), Rzeczpospolita; accessed November 1, 2015, [3]
  16. ^ a b "Marek Edelman nie żyje" (in Polish). Dziennik. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  17. ^ Andrzej STYLINSKI, "Marek Edelman; Wartime Jewish hero of Warsaw ghetto uprising",; accessed November 1, 2015.
  18. ^ (translated by Arthur Chrenkoff)Przekroj"Every war with fascism is our business". Interview by Polish Channel TVN24, re-published in a Polish weekly , May 30, 2004; accessed November 1, 2015.
  19. ^ Letter to the Editor,; accessed November 1, 2015.
  20. ^ Mendelsohn, Ezra. Jews and the Sporting Life: Studies in Contemporary Jewry XXIII. Institute of Contemporary Jewry,  
  21. ^ "A delayed victory by Hitler...",, August 18, 1993.
  22. ^ Tilman Zülch, "A disgrace for Europe!',, March 2, 2011.
  23. ^ Official website of the President of Poland, Archives, accessed November 1, 2015,
  24. ^ Boyarin, Jonathan;  
  25. ^  
  26. ^ Zertal, Idith (2005). Israel's Holocaust and the Politics Of Nationhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 34–35.  
  27. ^ Grupinska, Anna (1985). "Talk with Marek Edelman". CZAS. 
  28. ^ a b c Yossi Melman (2009-10-02). "Hero of Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Marek Edelman, dies at 86".  
  29. ^ "Marek Edelman: death of a great man". London, UK:  
  30. ^ Paul Foot (August 21, 2002). "Palestine's partisans". London, UK:  
  31. ^ "Anti-Zionist Legacy of Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Fighter Marek Edelman". Daily Kos. October 15, 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2013. 
  32. ^ "The last Bundist," Moshe Arens, Haaretz, October 5, 2009.
  33. ^ a b c d "Marek Edelman of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising dies".  
  34. ^ Moshe Arens, "Requiem for the Bund", Haaretz, [4]
  35. ^ a b "פֿון "אַרבעטער־רינג" אין ישׂראל די בונדישע "שבועה", די פֿאָן און אַ קראַנץ (Di Shvue, the banner and a wreath of the Arbeter-ring in Yisroel)" (in Yiddish). Lebns Fragn (bimonthly of the  
  36. ^ Gabriela Baczynska (2009-10-03). "Last leader of Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising dies at 87".  
  37. ^ "Poland: Death of Marek Edelman".  


See also

Former head of Israel's parliament and former Israeli ambassador to Poland Shevah Weiss said: "I'd like to offer my condolences to Marek Edelman's family, to the Polish nation and to the Jewish nation. He was a hero to all of us."[33] Ian Kelly, official spokesperson for the United States, expressed sympathies and affirmed that the United States "stands with Poland as it mourns the loss of a great man."[37]

Władysław Bartoszewski, former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs and an Auschwitz survivor, led the tributes to Edelman, saying: "He reached a good age. He left as a contented man, even if he was always aware of the tragedy he went through."[10][33] Bartoszewski denied that the activist was "irreplaceable," before acknowledging that "there are few people like Marek Edelman."[10][33] Roman Catholic Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek said: "I respect him most for the fact that he stayed in this land, which made him fight so hard for his Jewish and Polish identity. He became a real witness, he gave a real testimony with his life."[36] The former Polish Prime Minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, was also present and said Edelman had been a model for him.[35]

Edelman died on October 2, 2009.[2][10][33] He was buried in Warsaw with full military honours on October 9, 2009. His coffin was covered with a Bund banner inscribed "Bund - Yidisher Sozialistisher Farband," and a choir sang the Bund anthem, "Di Shvue."[34] The Polish President Lech Kaczyński and the former President Lech Wałęsa were present at the funeral, attended by about 2,000 persons.[35]

Edelman's funeral. In the background, Monument to the Ghetto Heroes


Marek Edelman was married to Alina Margolis-Edelman (1922–2008). They had two children, Aleksander and Anna.[2][28] When his wife and children emigrated from Poland to France in the wake of antisemitic actions by the Polish communist authorities in 1968, Edelman decided to stay in Łódź. "Someone had to stay here with all those who perished here, after all."[6] He published his memoirs, which have been translated into six languages.[28] Each April he laid flowers in Warsaw for those he had served with in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.[2] Edelman's wife Alina, likewise a Warsaw Ghetto survivor, died in 2008. They were survived by their son and daughter.[6]

Family life

"Many of the survivors of the uprising who settled in Israel could not forgive Edelman for his frequent criticism of Israel. When on my return from Warsaw I tried to convince a number of Israeli universities to award Edelman an honorary doctorate in recognition of his role in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, I ran into stubborn opposition led by Holocaust historians in Israel. He had received Poland's highest honor, and at the 65th commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal. He died not having received the recognition from Israel that he so richly deserved." — Moshe Arens [32]

, former Israeli Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, visited Edelman in Warsaw in 2005 to discuss the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Arens admired Edelman and tried unsuccessfully to gain official Israeli recognition for him. Following Edelman's death, Arens recalled in Haaretz:

Moshe Arens

In his old age, he spoke in defence of the [31]

Edelman was a lifelong anti-Zionist.[24][25][26] In a 1985 interview, he said Zionism was a "lost cause" and he questioned Israel's viability.[27] He remained firmly Polish, refusing to emigrate to Israel.[28]

On April 17, 1998,[23] Edelman was awarded Poland's highest decoration, the Order of the White Eagle.[1] He received the French Legion of Honour.[2]

As an appointed Senator of the Republic, he lent public support to antisemitism. In 1993, he accompanied a convoy of goods into the city of Sarajevo while that city was under siege.[20] Edelman strongly condemned international indifference during the Bosnian Genocide in the early 1990s, calling it a disgrace for the rest of Europe and "a delayed victory by Hitler – a victory from the grave."[21][22]

In post-communist Poland, Edelman was a member of several centrist liberal parties: the Citizens' Movement for Democratic Action, Democratic Union, Freedom Union and Democratic Party – He supported the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia as well as the 2003 Iraq war, both of which he saw as instances of American democracy saving countries from fascism again.[17][18][19]

In 1981, when General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law, Edelman was interned by the government.[12] In 1983, he refused to take part in the official celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising sponsored by Poland's communist government,[16] believing that this "would be an act of cynicism and contempt" in a country "where social life is dominated throughout by humiliation and coercion."[12] Instead, he walked with friends to the street where Mordechai Anielewicz's bunker had been located.[16] Edelman took part in the Round Table Talks as Solidarity's consultant on health policy.[12]

[10].human rights and promoted racism movement. Edelman publicly denounced Solidarity and later with the [15])Komitet Obrony Robotników (Workers' Defence Committee In 1976, he became an activist with the [14] Edelman's hospital upbringing had proven invaluable in the Warsaw Ghetto. After World War II, he studied at

Specialized District Hospital named after Nikolay Pirogov in Łódź where Marek Edelman worked as cardiologist for over 30 years
Marek Edelman in 2009

Later life

In mid-1944, Edelman, as a member of the leftist Armia Ludowa (People's Army), participated in the city-wide Warsaw Uprising, when Polish forces rose up against the Germans before being forced to surrender after 63 days of fighting.[12] After the capitulation, Edelman together with a group of other ŻOB fighters, hid out in the ruins of the city as one of the Robinson Crusoes of Warsaw before being rescued and evacuated with the help from the centrist Armia Krajowa (Home Army).[13]

"We knew perfectly well that we had no chance of winning. We fought simply not to allow the Germans alone to pick the time and place of our deaths. We knew we were going to die. Just like all the others who were sent to Treblinka.... Their death was far more heroic. We didn't know when we would take a bullet. They had to deal with certain death, stripped naked in a gas chamber or standing at the edge of a mass grave waiting for a bullet in the back of the head.... It was easier to die fighting than in a gas chamber."[6]

After World War II, the Ghetto Uprising was sometimes given as an unusual instance of active Jewish resistance in the face of the horror perpetrated by the Germans. However, Marek never saw a difference in the character of those who fought in the Uprising and those who were sent to the death camps, as, in his view, all involved were simply dealing with an inevitable death as best as they knew how.[6]

The Germans proceeded to flush out the few remaining fighters by burning down the Ghetto - Edelman always insisted, "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans."[6] At that juncture, couriers from the Polish underground outside the Ghetto came through the sewers that still linked it with the rest of Warsaw. On the morning of May 10, Edelman and his few remaining comrades escaped through the sewers and made their way to the non-Ghetto part of Warsaw to find safety among their Polish compatriots. At this point the Uprising was over and the fate of those fighters who had remained behind is unknown.[6]

The Germans resumed their attack on the Ghetto on April 19, 1943 with over 2,000 troops. According to Edelman: "The Germans weren't expecting resistance of any kind, let alone that we would take up arms." The outnumbered and outgunned Ghetto fighters' strong resistance forced the German troops to withdraw.[6] It was on the second day of the Uprising, while protecting the retreat of Edelman and other comrades, that another prominent insurgent and Bundist, Michał Klepfisz, was killed.[11] Over the next three weeks, the fighting was intense. The Jewish fighters killed and wounded scores of Nazis but inevitably sustained far greater losses. On May 8, ŻOB's commander, Mordechaj Anielewicz, was surrounded by German forces. He committed suicide, which meant that now Edelman was in charge. "After three weeks," he recalled, "most of us were dead."[6]

[6] When the Germans had stopped their campaign of transporting Ghetto residents to

In 1939, after the Mordechaj Anielewicz, Edelman was one of the three sub-commanders and then became the leader after the death of Anielewicz.[10]

Mural in memory of Marek Edelman at 9b Nowolipki Street in Warsaw.
"The most important is life, and when there is life, the most important is freedom. And then we give our life for freedom..."

World War II

The defiance and organization of the Bund made their mark on Edelman. As conditions for Jews worsened in the 1930s, Bund members preferred to challenge the mounting antisemitism rather than flee. Edelman later said: "The Bundists did not wait for the Messiah, nor did they plan to leave for Palestine. They believed that Poland was their country, and they fought for a just, socialist Poland in which each nationality would have its own cultural autonomy, and in which minorities' rights would be guaranteed."[6]


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