Commemorating the 81st Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Roman Dziarski on the Relevance of the Holocaust Today

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising started on April 19th, 1943. For 27 days, a few hundred young Jewish men and women, poorly armed with a few pistols and homemade grenades, fought and resisted the powerful German army that was determined to burn and level the ghetto to the ground and kill all its inhabitants. This was the largest Jewish armed resistance effort and the first uprising against the Nazi occupation in World War II. Prior to the uprising, the Nazis had already murdered most of the 460,000 Jews from the ghetto, and the uprising could not prevent the Nazis from murdering most of the Jews who remained. Altogether, the Nazis murdered more Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto than all the Jews from Western Europe, and more than twice the death toll from atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

Roman Dziarski is the author of How We Outwitted and Survived the Nazis: The True Story of the Holocaust Rescuers, Zofia Sterner and Her Family, published by Academic Studies Press in 2023. The book describes how the author’s aunt, Zofia Sterner, her Jewish husband, and the rest of his family, survived WWII and rescued many Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. The book is a stark reminder how horrific the Holocaust was and how important it is to remain human under the most inhumane conditions.

How We Outwitted and Survived the Nazis is available from Academic Studies Press or wherever books are sold.

Here, Dziarski shares his thoughts on why, after eighty one years, the Holocaust is still relevant today.

While thinking about and commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the reader may ask whether this uprising, the Holocaust, and the Second World War, which occurred over eighty years ago, are still relevant today.

I argue that they are still relevant. The human cost and loss of life in WWII were unprecedented: six million Jews—the majority of European Jews—perished. Worldwide, about 80 million people were killed in WWII—55 million civilians and 25 million military personnel. It is hard to envision the faces of all 80 million people who lost their lives in WWII. But looking at the pictures and faces of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto who were led to their deaths, we can imagine the suffering of all the victims of WWII.

Rafael Scharf wrote about one Jewish child, who asked: “‘Mummy, when they kill us, will it hurt?’ ‘No, my dearest, it will not hurt. It will only take a minute.’ [she answered] It only took a minute—but it is enough to keep us awake till the end of time.” [1] Millions of children among the 55 million civilians murdered in WWII probably asked this question. We should never forget that as we ponder whether this could happen again.

When I was growing up after WWII, the collective memory of the horrors of the war was so strong that I thought that there would be no more wars. Unfortunately, I was wrong, as tragically many wars and genocides have occurred since WWII all over the world. We have seen appalling footage of horrifying genocides, bombings, and artillery, rocket, and tank attacks in Vietnam, Rwanda, Congo, Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and now Ukraine and Gaza—and thousands of civilians fleeing for safety, just as in WWII.

The perpetrators always have their reasons and justifications. For the Nazis, it was a desire for Lebensraum (living space) and a belief in the superiority of the Germanic peoples (Herrenvolk—the master race) and the inferiority of other races, especially Jews and Slavs, whom they regarded as Untermensch (subhuman). In the brutal war in Ukraine, the propaganda from authoritarian Russia is cynically exploiting the alliance that existed between Ukrainian nationalists and Hitler during WWII. They have termed the democratic government in Ukraine and its people, who just want to live in peace, as Nazis.

Why have we not learned from history that war does not solve any problems and that, in the end, there are no clear winners—only misery and hatred?

Thus, we need to remember those dark days of WWII and guard against the conditions that spawned both the war and the Holocaust. As historian Peter Hayes writes, “The veneer of civilization is thin, the rule of law is fragile, and the precondition of both is economic and political calm. … The countermeasures put in place then [after WWII] are now under attack.” [2] These countermeasures are threatened by widening economic disparity, the resurgence of nationalism, and the growth of neo-Nazi, neo-fascist, and white supremacist groups in many countries. Racism, bigotry, and xenophobia can lead to violence anywhere. After all, the 1921 Tulsa race massacre happened during peacetime in America.

Radical ideas are often reinforced and propagated by crises. For Hitler, these crises were starvation and a lack of resources during WWI in Germany, followed by the country’s defeat and subsequent Great Depression, all of which, absurdly, he blamed on Jews. Thus, Hitler’s justification for his new war was the perceived necessity to acquire fertile lands and oil fields in Eastern Europe. His justification for the Holocaust was blaming Jews for all of Germany’s problems.

Today, accelerating climate change is already beginning to create a new crisis, resulting in often bloody competition for resources and various forms of warfare (traditional, political, economic, cyber, etc.). These conflicts may ultimately escalate into a full-scale World War III. Historian Timothy Snyder writes, “the experience of unprecedented storms, relentless droughts, and the associated wars and south-to-north migrations will jar expectations about the security of basic resources and make Hitlerian politics more resonant. As Hitler demonstrated during the Great Depression, humans are able to portray a looming crisis in such a way as to justify drastic measures in the present. … A global problem … can be blamed upon a specific group of [innocent] human beings. … Climate change … as a global crisis might generate the demand for global victims. … Mass killing in Rwanda provides an example …” [3]

Hayes wrote that the “dreadful history [of the Holocaust] shows the necessity of standing up to categorization and conspiracy peddling, of refusing to turn a blind eye or deaf ear to defamation. … But … doing the right thing can have costs that are multiplied by the unwillingness of most people to pay them.” [4]

Unfortunately, political gridlock that has gripped the US and other democracies hampers progress and makes it ever more difficult to solve domestic and global problems. Also alarming is the world-wide rise of autocracies and nationalists—the Nazis were also nationalists and Hitler was an autocrat. Hayes writes: “This means that politics matters, and none of us can afford to fail to participate in making responsible public policy.” [2]

I have noticed the reemergence of the Holocaust in the news—but, sadly, for pathetic and disappointing reasons. In the US, there have been calls to teach Holocaust denial in schools, and vaccinations and other public health measures have been compared to Nazi policies. One of the attackers of the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6th, 2021, was wearing a t-shirt with the logo “Camp Auschwitz Staff.” [5] So, we need to remember what the real Holocaust was, how it started, and what a human tragedy it was.

I end with another quote from Snyder: “The evil that was done to the Jews—to each Jewish child, woman, and man—cannot be undone. Yet it can be recorded, and it can be understood. Indeed, it must be understood so that its like can be prevented in the future.” [6] I still hope history stops repeating itself. If only we could learn from it…

Roman Dziarski

April 2024


[1] Rafael F. Scharf, Poland, What Have I To Do With Thee … Essays without Prejudice (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2002), 103.

[2] Peter Hayes, Why? Explaining the Holocaust (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2017), 340, 334.

[3] Timothy Snyder, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2015), 327-329.

[4] Hayes, Why? Explaining the Holocaust, 341.

[5] Dan Stone, The Holocaust: An Unfinished History (UK: Pelican Books, 2024), 266.

[6] Snyder, Black Earth, 344.


Here I show some pictures from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Unfortunately, I cannot find any pictures of Jews fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, because in the fierce struggle for their lives, Jews did not have the luxury of taking pictures. So, we are only left with pictures of captured Jews taken by the Nazis. The first figure is probably the most iconic picture that became the symbol of the Holocaust. The other pictures are also well-known and representative of the struggles of the Ghetto. A picture of the Umschlagplatz, a place of no return from which Jews were taken to the trains heading for Treblinka, is shown on the cover of my book.

Pictures are important, because they make the atrocities less abstract by allowing us to see the victims’ faces, imagine their suffering, and make the crimes truly memorable.

Figure 1. Iconic picture of Jews being taken out of the house during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising—the boy in the foreground with his hands raised is most likely Artur (Artek) Dąb Siemiątek (who was murdered in Treblinka or Majdanek), and the SS man with a submachine gun pointed at Artek is Josef Blösche (who was sentenced to death for war crimes and shot in 1969) (public domain,

Figure 2. Captured Jewish members of the resistance movement—the woman on the right is Hasia Szylgold-Szpiro (public domain,

Figure 3. HeHalutz women fighters captured with weapons during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. From right to left: Małka Zdrojewicz Horenstein survived Majdanek, Bluma Wyszogrodzka was shot and killed after this picture was taken, and her sister Rachela Wyszogrodzka (most likely) was gassed in Auschwitz (public domain,

Figure 4. SS assault troops capture two Jewish resistance fighters pulled from a bunker during the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; names unknown (public domain,

Figure 5. Jews pulled out of the bunker by German troops during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; names unknown (public domain,

Figure 6. Jews escorted to Umschlagplatz for transport to Treblinka death camp during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising—the woman in front on the left is Yehudit Neyer, who is holding her mother-in-law’s arm, and the girl is the daughter of Yehudit and Avraham Neyer, who is visible behind the girl; of the four, only Avraham survived the war (public domain,

Roman Dziarski is Professor Emeritus at Indiana University and a biomedical scientist with 150 publications and 14,000 citations. He is passionately interested in the Holocaust, WWII history, and helping persecuted people. Learn more at

His book, How We Outwitted and Survived the Nazis, was published in 2023 and is available here or wherever books are sold.

An excerpt from How We Outwitted and Survived the Nazis, accompanied by commentary from the author, is available on Inktellect, the Academic Studies Press blog. An interview with the author about the book is available on New Books Network.