National Monument ceremony to mark Warsaw Uprising

We will never forget. 

Yom HaShoah is the Day of Remembrance for the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. This year’s commemorations at the National Holocaust Monument will be held on April 18 at 11 am and will pay tribute to the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The uprising was the largest collective revolt of Jews against the Nazis during the Second World War, and the first significant urban revolt against Nazi occupation in Europe.  

Approximately 700 young Jewish fighters, as well as civilians from the ghetto, participated in the uprising that took place on April 19, 1943. After this, the SS and police deported approximately 42,000 Jews to forced-labour camps and to the Lublin/Majdanek and Treblinka concentration and extermination camps. Most were murdered in November 1943 in a two-day shooting operation known as Operation Harvest Festival.  

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a powerful symbol of the Jewish people’s resilience and determination to survive –despite dire hardship and against unlikely odds. Even knowing their fate would be death at the hands of the Nazis, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto chose to stand up to their oppressors and fight back – whether in the literal sense or by refusing deportation. 

Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust – 63 per cent of Europe’s total Jewish population. In Poland alone, 90 per cent of the Jewish population was eradicated. Efforts like the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, revolts in other ghettos and extermination camps such as Treblinka and Sobibor, and all efforts undertaken to survive, were important forms of resistance against the Nazi plan to rid Europe of the Jewish people.  

In spite of the lessons learned from the Holocaust and promises of “Never Again,” according to Statistics Canada, Jews remain the most targeted religious group for hate crimes.  

Joel Diener, a member of the National Holocaust Monument Committee, said, “This particular commemoration is an example of how diametrically opposed groups can join forces to fight a common enemy. In this case, the extreme left and extreme right groups in the ghetto united. Despite their valiant efforts, and an uprising which lasted longer than any other rebellion, it was too late. Lessons should be learned from this today.” 

Finding inspiration from the bravery of our ancestors — whether the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto or Israelites escaping bondage in Egypt — is a powerful theme, as we face the challenge of overt antisemitism today. 

Annette Wildgoose, also an event organizer, and daughter of a survivor, explained the importance of the Holocaust Monument in such a commemoration. “The National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa serves as a focal point for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast to participate in this solemn day of remembrance. It serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. The monument provides a space to honour and remember the millions of innocent lives lost during this dark period of history. However, it also serves as a symbol of hope and resilience so profoundly demonstrated in The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

“I am honoured to be a member of the National Holocaust Monument Committee and my mother’s daughter! She taught me life’s important skill to never give up. I continue the legacy on her behalf and from those who came before us.” 

To emphasize the importance of Holocaust education, to learn from the past, and create a better future, this year’s official Yom HaShoah commemoration will invite all Canadians, Jewish and non-Jewish, to participate and reflect. The role that young Jews played in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising will be the primary focus of this year’s commemoration event.  

Please join us on April 18, at 11 am – either in person at the National Holocaust Monument or online via the livestream for this important commemorative ceremony.  

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa is also hosting a Yom HaShoah commemoration at the Soloway JCC on April 17 at 7 pm. Read more here.