Weapons in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Partial list of the weapons captured after the uprising was suppressed:

  • 7 Polish Rifles
  • 1 Russian Rifle
  • 1 German Rifle
  • 59 pistols of various calibers
  • Several hundred hand grenades, including Polish and home-made ones .
  • Several hundred incendiary bottles
  • Home-made explosives
  • Infernal machines with fuses
  • A large amount of explosives, ammunition for weapons of all calibers, including some machine-gun ammunition.

What follows is a brief description of some of the homemade weapons used in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Truly Impressive.

Categorized as Weapons

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The story of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising has been well documented. But the details are often lost. There were two uprisings.

In January 1943, German SS and police began a wave of mass deportations, planning to send thousands of the ghetto’s remaining Jews to forced-labor camps in the Lublin District of the General Government.

A small group of Jewish fighters, armed with pistols, infiltrated a column of Jews being forced to the Umschlagplatz (transfer point). At a prearranged signal, this group broke ranks and fought their German escorts. Although most of the Jewish fighters died in the battle, the attack disoriented the Germans, giving the Jews a chance to disperse.

Encouraged by the apparent success of the resistance, people in the ghetto began to construct subterranean bunkers and shelters. They were preparing for an uprising should the Germans attempt a final deportation of the remaining Jews from the ghetto.

Then, on April 19, 1943, the eve of the Passover holiday, the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto began the next act of armed resistance against the Germans. Lasting twenty-seven days, this act of resistance came to be known as the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

And despite years in a starvation-menu ghetto and no access to weapons fought the Nazis for nearly a month, until artillery leveled the ghetto. It was a total modern Masada. Just unbelievable bravery against overwhelming odds with captured and handmade weapons. (This may have been where the lipstick-casing-as-cartridge-case story came from.)

It is grimly amusing to note that the Warsaw inmates, with their pathetic weaponry, held off the German army for 27 days, while the French army fell in 24 days.

Categorized as Uprisings

What Defines Resistance

From the Jewish Partisan Encyclopedia

Jewish resistance took on different forms. Physical resistance by the partisans was something that hurt the Germans. Spiritual resistance may not have affected the Germans and their collaborators directly, but it was important to the Jews, since the Nazis wanted to take away their dignity and self-respect.

In defiance of the laws, the Jews held prayer services, or taught children to read Hebrew

There were smugglers who sent children to safety and couriers who carried messages between the ghettos, as well as forgers who created documents for use in the outside world. Jews in the work camps sabotaged guns and other products they were making for the Germans.

In Lithuania, Jewish partisans were responsible for significant damage to Nazi trains. Partisans also destroyed numerous Nazi power plants and factories, and focused their attention on other military and strategic targets, rather than on civilians.

Resistance and defiance took multiple manifestations. In her paper, “Tribute”, Christina Sternberg chronicles many unique and touching stories. She will states that “a rather detailed indication of the actually massive resistance is provided by the paper by Jack Gostl entitled ‘They Didn’t Just Go Quietly


Filipinka – right; Sidolowka – Left. By Halibutt

Flipinka, also known as Perelka, was an unofficial name for ET wz. 40 hand grenades, manufactured in the Home Army underground facilities in 1940. It was designed by a former worker of the Rembertow Polish Army ammunition factory and based on a pre-war anti-tank grenade, model ET wz. 38. The designer was Edward Tymoszak, hence the ET abbreviation.

About 700 young Jewish fighters clashed with German forces, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat. These fighters were poorly equipped and lacked military training and experience. Yet they held the great German war machine, the masters of the blitzkrieg, at bay for 27 days. The effects of the diversion of these resources had significant impact on the German war effort.

It is grimly amusing to note that the Warsaw inmates, with their pathetic weaponry, held off the German army for 27 days, while the French army fell in 24 days.

Categorized as Weapons


Błyskawica was the backbone of the Polish underground weapons industry, along with the Polish version of the Sten submachine gun. Originally produced in Britain, the Błyskawica was covertly manufactured in mass numbers. It was designed by two Polish engineers, Wacław Zawrotny and Seweryn Wielanier, and it combined the exterior of a German MP-40 sub-machine gun and the interior mechanism of the British Sten. All parts of the weapon were joined with screws and threads, rather than bolts and welding.

Categorized as Weapons

What is a Partisan

From the Jewish Partisan Encyclopedia

They were Jews in Europe, many of them teenagers, male and female, who fought against the Nazis during World War 2. The majority were regular folks who escaped the ghettos and work camps and joined organized resistance groups in the forests and urban underground.

Some, like Polish teenager Frank Blaichman, knew their village would be turned into a ghetto; He escaped and joined a group of partisans in a forest. Others, like Abe Asner, were among the very few Jewish partisans with military training. Most partisans knew nothing about guns and ammunition, so people like Abe became important teachers and leaders.

Less than ten percent of the partisans were women. Some were fighters and scouts; the majority were part of the vital infrastructure, cooking for the group and caring for the sick.

Jews who joined non-Jewish partisan groups often hid their Judaism because of  antisemitism. Norman Salsitz, for example, used seven non-Jewish identities while fighting the Nazis and was able to save dozens of Jews from certain death.

Categorized as Partisans

The Uprising at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Young Jewish women, like Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, and Regina Safirsztain, had obtained small amounts of gunpowder from the Weichsel-Union-Metallwerke, a munitions factory within the Auschwitz complex. This gunpowder was smuggled to the camp’s resistance movement. Róza Robota, a young Jewish woman who worked in the clothing detail at Birkenau was one of the smugglers.

 Under constant guard, the women in the factory stole small amounts of gunpowder, wrapped it in bits of cloth or paper, and then hid it on their bodies. They then passed it along the smuggling chain. Once she received the gunpowder, Róza Robota passed it to the Sonderkommando. The Sonderkommando were a special squad of prisoners who were forced to work in the camp’s crematoria. Using this gunpowder, the leaders of the Sonderkommando planned to destroy the gas chambers and crematoria and then launch the uprising.

On October 7, 1944, prisoners assigned to Crematorium IV at the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center, the members of the Sonderkommando at Crematorium IV rose in revolt. The Germans crushed the revolt. Nearly 250 prisoners died during the fighting and guards shot another 200 after the mutiny was suppressed. Several days later, the SS identified four Jewish female prisoners who had been involved in supplying explosives to blow up the crematorium. All four women were executed.

But once again, the German war machine had to pause to deal with a Jewish uprising.

Categorized as Uprisings

The Uprising at Sobibor

On October 14, 1943, prisoners in Sobibor killed 11 members of the camp’s SS staff, including the camp’s deputy commandant Johann Niemann.

A group of Polish Jews led by Leon Feldhandler formed a secret committee to plan a mass escape. However, its members lacked any military experience and made little progress.

When a group of Jewish Red Army POWs arrived in a transport from Minsk, the committee turned to them for advice. Lieutenant Alexander Pechersky developed a plan. The Soviet POWS would secretly kill some of the SS officials, taking their weapons and uniforms. Then, when the approximately 600 prisoners assembled for evening roll call, the POWs masquerading as camp personnel would kill the guards at the gate and on the towers. The revolt was set for a day when Sobibor’s commandant would be away.

Close to 300 prisoners escaped, breaking through barbed wire and risking their lives in the minefield surrounding the camp. Only about 50 would survive the war.

Categorized as Uprisings

The Uprising at Treblinka

On 2 August 1943, the prisoners at the Treblinka Extermination Camp, fearing that the camp would be dismantled, and the remaining prisoners killed, a resistance group within Treblinka organized a revolt. They seized arms, set camp buildings on fire, and rushed the main gate. Despite facing machine guns, several hundred prisoners were able to break out of the camp. More than half were then traced and killed by Nazi authorities. Half remained at large.

Categorized as Uprisings

Where Did Jewish Partisans Fight?

Jewish partisans fought in almost every country in Europe. There was partisan activity in Belgium, Poland, Russia (Belarus and Ukraine), France, Italy, Greece and Lithuania. The partisans hid their encampments in the forests, swamps and mountains.

Partisan activity was particularly intense in Eastern Europe. Russian partisan units in Eastern Europe were highly organized and trained people to use guns, to dynamite bridges, and operate in a military fashion. Military order was kept in these groups (you could be shot for falling asleep on guard duty).

Partisans in Yugoslavia and Italy ambushed Nazi convoys and drew German attention away from the front. Entire battalions were removed from the front lines to deal with the “partisan problem.” Entire battalions!

Categorized as Partisans