We will not die on our knees

Said by an inhabitant of the Warsaw ghetto, as recorded by Marek Edelman, who was there and one of those who lead the uprising.

The jews in the ghetto of Warsaw knew that they would die soon. They knew that resistance would not help. They had few weapons, some of them self-made, some of them smuggled inside. It would never be enough to save them, to change the situation, to actually help. But though they were the weaker party, they did do harm to the Germans. They were not as weak as the German believed and killed quite a few. In the end many died there during the rising, others were deported. The ghetto vanished. But like Anna Heilman said: ” I don’t think it was a question at that point of Jews fighting Germans. It was us not going without resistance.”

I find that so touching. Can you imagine being strong enough to do this? Would you still fight if you knew you would die anyway? Maybe that’s even the best trigger to actually fight. Still my admiration for these people is immense. Dignity is the last thing they can take from you. Whatever happens, if you are strong enough you can still maintain your dignity and decide that you will not let yourself be killed without fighting. Never just give in.

I’m currently writing a paper on the Polish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto, which is incredibly interesting and inspiring as well. But while reading about this, I also realized that we’re always close to doing this again. I don’t know if you heard about the Wilders thing in the Netherlands? He’s the radical kind of politicians and he actually screamed in front of many people: “Do we want more or less Moroccans?” To which the people screamed back: “Less! Less!” This is so dangerous. It’s easy to say one group of people is bad, but this is pure racism. Even if there are many Moroccans in the Netherlands who end up in prison, or should belong there – I don’t know if this is the case! – then it is still racism. You cannot state that they are all bad. Generalizing is the worst thing you can do. People will end up not giving any Moroccan a chance because ‘they’re all bad’. When not given a chance, what should these people do? Eventually they will have no more choice to prove that they are okay people. And surely there will be bad people amongst them, just like there are bad people amongst the Dutch people.

We should be all aware of the danger of this kind of things. We should never let something like World War 2 happen again. There will only be things to regret afterwards. So hopefully all these people who screamed ‘Less! Less!’ will realize that they are ignoring an important part of the Moroccans living there who are actually good, hard-working people. Hopefully we will not end up generalizing and blaming one scapegoat for all the problems. If there are problems, do something about it in a constructive way instead of blaming and screaming.

And hopefully we will all find the courage to stand up when it’s needed, even when it’s a minor thing happening. We should all have more courage to do the right thing sometimes. And remember: we should not die on our knees!


More Polish history here.