Marek Edelman died yesterday in Warsaw. Dr. Edelman was a great Polish and Jewish hero. The New York Times obituary describes a human being who makes you proud to be human, and humbled too.
He was one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, in which almost all of his friends were killed. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising was a hopeless enterprise, as Edelman and his friends knew, but they fought almost to make a statement about who they were and what the Nazis were. Edelman always said that he wasn't a hero and that going to one's death without fighting was heroic too. In his words: if you weren't there you wouldn't understand.
A year after the Jewish revolt he fought in the general Warsaw uprising which also turned into a slaughter as the Russians stood by enjoying the spectacle pf Germans killing Poles (the Soviet army was just across the Wisla river and the Poles thought they would help. Or, at least, hoped they would. The Poles never had any illusions about the Stalinists).
Of course, the Soviets, knowing they would soon "own" Poland, were all too happy to watch the Nazis slaughter the best and bravest young Poles. And Poland went from six years under the Nazis to 40 plus under the Stalinists.
Edelman never left Poland and was one of the leaders of Solidarity, which essentially began the unraveling of Stalinism both in Poland and ultimately throughout Europe. He lived 64 years after having lived a virtual lifetime during the war.
His family left Poland for France. But he never gave up on his country and lived to see it free and democratic. Tragically, however, the Jewish community of three million that the Germans eradicated is not coming back.