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Famed Nazi Fighter Dead at 94

Simcha Rotem was among last survivors of the Warsaw ghetto uprising
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 23, 2018 7:37 AM CST
In this Friday, April 19, 2013, file photo, Simcha Rotem, the last known remaining Jewish fighter from the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis, walks in front of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial...   (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz, File)
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(Newser) – Simcha Rotem, a Holocaust survivor who was among the last Jewish fighters from the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising, has died. He was 94. Rotem, who went by "Kazik," took part in the single greatest act of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, reports the AP. Though guaranteed to fail, the Warsaw ghetto uprising symbolized a refusal to succumb to Nazi atrocities and inspired other resistance campaigns by Jews and non-Jews alike. Rotem, who passed away Saturday after a long illness, helped save the last survivors by smuggling them out of the burning ghetto through sewage tunnels. The Jewish fighters fought for nearly a month, managing to kill 16 Nazis and wound nearly 100. "Kazik was a real fighter," said Avner Shalev, chair of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. "The challenge for all of us now is to continue giving meaning to remembrance without exemplary figures like Kazik."

After World War II broke out, Warsaw's Jews were herded into the infamous ghetto, which initially crammed in some 380,000 Jews, and at its peak housed about a half-million. The resistance grew after July 22, 1942, when 265,000 were rounded up and killed at Treblinka. A small group of rebels began carrying out isolated acts of sabotage. The Nazis entered the ghetto on April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover, and three days later, set the ghetto ablaze, turning it into a fiery death trap. Rotem served as liaison between the bunkers and fought, before arranging for the escape of the few who did not join the final stand. With his passing, there is only a single known remaining Warsaw ghetto uprising survivor left in Israel—89-year-old Aliza Vitis-Shomron. Her main task had been distributing leaflets in the ghetto before she was ordered to escape and tell the world of the Jews' heroic battle.

(Read more Holocaust stories.)

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