16 May 1943

The Holocaust: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ends.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Part of World War II and the Holocaust
A Jewish boy surrenders in Warsaw, from the Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943
Jewish women and children forcibly removed from a bunker; one of the most iconic pictures of World War II.
Date19 April – 16 May 1943
Location52°14′46″N 20°59′45″E / 52.24611°N 20.99583°E / 52.24611; 20.99583Coordinates: 52°14′46″N 20°59′45″E / 52.24611°N 20.99583°E / 52.24611; 20.99583

Uprising defeated

Commanders and leaders
Daily average of 2,090 including 821 Waffen-SS About 600[3] ŻOB and about 400[4] ŻZW fighters, plus a number of Polish fighters
Casualties and losses
110 (17 dead, 93 wounded (German figures)).[5][a] 56,065 killed/and or captured of which approximately 36,000 deported to extermination camps (German estimate)

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising[b] was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II to oppose Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Majdanek and Treblinka death camps.

After the Grossaktion Warsaw of summer 1942, in which more than a quarter of a million Jews were deported from the ghetto to Treblinka and murdered, the remaining Jews began to build bunkers and smuggle weapons and explosives into the ghetto. The left-wing Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB) and right-wing Jewish Military Union (ŻZW) formed and began to train. A small resistance effort to another roundup in January 1943 was partially successful and spurred Polish resistance groups to support the Jews in earnest.

The uprising started on 19 April when the ghetto refused to surrender to the police commander SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who ordered the burning of the ghetto, block by block, ending on 16 May. A total of 13,000 Jews died, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated. German casualties were probably fewer than 150,[citation needed] with Stroop reporting 110 casualties [16 killed + 1 dead/93 wounded].[5]

It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. The Jews knew that the uprising was doomed and their survival was unlikely. Marek Edelman, the only surviving ŻOB commander, said their inspiration to fight was "to pick the time and place of our deaths". According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the uprising was "one of the most significant occurrences in the history of the Jewish people".[6]


Corner of Żelazna 70 and Chłodna 23 (looking east). This section of Żelazna street connected the "large ghetto" and "small ghetto" areas of German-occupied Warsaw.
Warsaw Ghetto Map, 15 October 1940

In 1939, German authorities began to concentrate Poland's population of over three million Jews into a number of extremely crowded ghettos located in large Polish cities. The largest of these, the Warsaw Ghetto, collected approximately 300,000–400,000 people into a densely packed, 3.3 km2 central area of Warsaw. Thousands of Jews died due to rampant disease and starvation under SS-und-Polizeiführer Odilo Globocnik and SS-Standartenführer Ludwig Hahn, even before the mass deportations from the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp began.

The SS conducted many of the deportations during the operation code-named Grossaktion Warschau, between 23 July and 21 September 1942. Just before the operation began, the German "Resettlement Commissioner" SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle called a meeting of the Ghetto Jewish Council Judenrat and informed its leader, Adam Czerniaków, that he would require 7,000 Jews a day[7] for the "resettlement to the East".[8][9] Czerniaków committed suicide once he became aware of the true goal of the "resettlement" plan. Approximately 254,000–300,000 ghetto residents died at Treblinka (most murdered outright) during the two-month-long operation. The Grossaktion was directed by SS-Oberführer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, the SS and police commander of the Warsaw area since 1941.[10]

He was relieved of duty by SS-und-Polizeiführer Jürgen Stroop, sent to Warsaw by Heinrich Himmler on 17 April 1943.[11][12] Stroop took over from von Sammern-Frankenegg following the failure of the latter to pacify the ghetto resistance.[13]

When the deportations first began, members of the Jewish resistance movement met and decided not to fight the SS directives, believing that the Jews were being sent to labour camps and not to their deaths. But by the end of 1942, ghetto inhabitants learned that the deportations were part of an extermination process. Many of the remaining Jews decided to revolt.[14] The first armed resistance in the ghetto occurred in January 1943.[15]

On 19 April 1943, Passover eve, the Germans entered the ghetto. The remaining Jews knew that the Germans would murder them and they decided to resist to the last.[16] While the uprising was underway, the Bermuda Conference was held by the Allies from 19 to 29 April 1943 to discuss the Jewish refugee problem.[17] Discussions included the question of Jewish refugees who had been liberated by Allied forces and those who still remained within German-occupied Europe.[18]

The uprising

January revolt

On 18 January 1943, the Germans began their second deportation of the Jews, which led to the first instance of armed insurgency within the ghetto. While Jewish families hid in their so-called "bunkers", fighters of the ŻZW, joined by elements of the ŻOB, resisted, engaging the Germans in direct clashes.[19] Though the ŻZW and ŻOB suffered heavy losses (including some of their leaders), the Germans also took casualties, and the deportation was halted within a few days. Only 5,000 Jews were removed, instead of the 8,000 planned by Globocnik.

Hundreds of people in the Warsaw Ghetto were ready to fight, adults and children, sparsely armed with handguns, gasoline bottles, and a few other weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto by resistance fighters.[3] Most of the Jewish fighters did not view their actions as an effective measure by which to save themselves, but rather as a battle for the honour of the Jewish people, and a protest against the world's silence.[16]


Two resistance organizations, the ŻZW and ŻOB, took control of the ghetto. They built dozens of fighting posts and executed a number of Nazi collaborators, including Jewish Ghetto Police officers, members of the fake (German-sponsored and controlled) resistance organization Żagiew, as well as Gestapo and Abwehr agents (such as Judenrat member Dr Alfred Nossig, executed on 22 February 1943).[20] The ŻOB established a prison to hold and execute traitors and collaborators.[21] Józef Szeryński, former head of the Jewish Ghetto Police, committed suicide.[22]

Main revolt

Resistance members captured at Nowolipie 64 near intersection with Smocza. Hasia Szylgold-Szpiro is on the right.
Captured Jews are led by German troops to the assembly point for deportation. Picture taken at Nowolipie street, near the intersection with Smocza.
SS men on Nowolipie street
Burning buildings photographed from the intersection of Zamenhofa and Wołyńska
Burning ghetto viewed from Żoliborz district
The site of Mila 18, former resistance base, in 1964
Great Synagogue of Warsaw, destroyed in 1943

On 19 April 1943, on the eve of Passover, the police and SS auxiliary forces entered the ghetto. They were planning to complete the deportation action within three days, but were ambushed by Jewish insurgents firing and tossing Molotov cocktails and hand grenades from alleyways, sewers, and windows. The Germans suffered 59 casualties and their advance bogged down. Two of their combat vehicles (an armed conversion of a French-made Lorraine 37L light armored vehicle and an armored car) were set on fire by the insurgents' petrol bombs.[23]

Following von Sammern-Frankenegg's failure to contain the revolt, he lost his post as the SS and police commander of Warsaw. He was replaced by SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who rejected von Sammern-Frankenegg's proposal to call in bomber aircraft from Kraków. He led a better-organized and reinforced ground attack.

The longest-lasting defense of a position took place around the ŻZW stronghold at Muranowski Square, where the ŻZW chief leader, Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum, was killed in combat. On the afternoon of 19 April, a symbolic event took place when two boys climbed up on the roof of a building on the square and raised two flags, the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white banner of the ŻZW. These flags remained there, highly visible from the Warsaw streets, for four days.[citation needed]

During this fight on 22 April, SS officer Hans Dehmke was killed when gunfire detonated a hand grenade he was holding.[24] When Stroop's ultimatum to surrender was rejected by the defenders, his forces resorted to systematically burning houses block by block using flamethrowers and fire bottles, and blowing up basements and sewers. "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans," survivor Marek Edelman said in 2007; he was deputy commander of the ŻOB and escaped the ghetto in its last days.[25] In 2003, he recalled: "The sea of flames flooded houses and courtyards. ... There was no air, only black, choking smoke and heavy burning heat radiating from the red-hot walls, from the glowing stone stairs."[26] The "bunker wars" lasted an entire month, during which German progress was slowed.[27]

While the battle continued inside the ghetto, Polish resistance groups AK and GL engaged the Germans between 19 and 23 April at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, firing at German sentries and positions. In one attack, three units of the AK under the command of Captain Józef Pszenny ("Chwacki") joined up in a failed attempt to breach the ghetto walls with explosives.[28] Eventually, the ŻZW lost all of its commanders. On 29 April, the remaining fighters from the organization escaped the ghetto through the Muranowski tunnel and relocated to the Michalin forest. This event marked the end of significant fighting.

At this point, organized defense collapsed. Surviving fighters and thousands of remaining Jewish civilians took cover in the sewer system and in the many dugout hiding places hidden among the ruins of the ghetto, referred to as "bunkers" by Germans and Jews alike. The Germans used dogs to detect such hideouts, then usually dropped smoke bombs to force people out. Sometimes they flooded these so-called bunkers or destroyed them with explosives. On occasions, shootouts occurred. A number of captured fighters lobbed hidden grenades or fired concealed handguns after surrendering. There were also clashes at night between small groups of insurgents and German patrols at night.[citation needed]

On 8 May, the Germans discovered a large dugout located at Miła 18 Street, which served as ŻOB's main command post. Most of the organization's remaining leadership and dozens of others committed mass suicide by ingesting cyanide, including Mordechaj Anielewicz, the chief commander of ŻOB. His deputy Marek Edelman escaped the ghetto through the sewers with a handful of comrades two days later.

On 10 May, Szmul Zygielbojm, a Bundist member of the Polish government in exile, committed suicide in London to protest the lack of action on behalf of the Jews by the Allied governments. In his farewell note, he wrote:

I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw Ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave. By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.[29]

The suppression of the uprising officially ended on 16 May 1943, when Stroop personally pushed a detonator button to demolish the Great Synagogue of Warsaw.[citation needed]

Besides claiming an estimated 56,065 Jews accounted for (although his own figures showed the number to be 57,065) and noting that "The number of destroyed dug-outs amounts to 631," in his official report dated 24 May 1943, Stroop listed the following as captured booty:[30]

  • 7 Polish Rifles
  • 1 Russian Rifle
  • 1 German Rifle
  • 59 pistols of various calibers
  • Several hundred hand grenades, including Polish and home-made ones .
  • Several hundred incendiary bottles
  • Home-made explosives
  • Infernal machines with fuses
  • A large amount of explosives, ammunition for weapons of all calibers, including some machine-gun ammunition.

Regarding the booty of arms, it must be taken into consideration that the arms themselves could in most cases not be captured, as the bandits and Jews would, before being arrested, throw them into hiding places or holes which could not be ascertained or discovered. The smoking out of the dug-out by our men, also often made the search for arms impossible. As the dug-outs had to be blown up at once, a search later on was out of the question. The captured hand grenades, ammunition, and incendiary bottles were at once reused by us against the bandits.

Further booty:

  • 1,240 used military tunics (part of them with medal ribbons-Iron Cross and East Medal)
  • 600 pairs of used trousers
  • Other equipment and German steel helmets
  • 108 horses, four captured in the former Ghetto (hearse)

Up to 23 May 1943 we had counted:
4.4 million Zloty; furthermore about 5 to 6 million Zloty not yet counted, a great amount of foreign currency, e.g. $14,300 in paper and $9,200 in gold, moreover valuables (rings, chains, watches, etc.) in great quantities.

State of the Ghetto at the termination of the large-scale operation: Apart from 8 buildings (Police Barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties), the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out. But the ruins still contain a vast amount of stones and scrap material which could be used.

Sporadic resistance continued and the last skirmish took place on 5 June 1943 between Germans and a holdout group of armed Jews without connections to the resistance organizations.


A man leaps to his death from the top story window of an apartment block to avoid capture. 23-25 Niska Street
Plaque commemorating two Home Army soldiers killed during the Ghetto Action.

13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising (some 6,000 among them were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation). Of the remaining 50,000 residents, almost all were captured and shipped to the death camps of Majdanek and Treblinka.

Jürgen Stroop's internal SS daily report for Friedrich Krüger, written on 16 May 1943, stated:

180 Jews, bandits and sub-humans, were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 20:15 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue. ... Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved. ... Apart from 8 buildings (police barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties) the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out.[31]

According to the casualty lists in Stroop's report, German forces suffered a total of 110 casualties – 17 dead (of whom 16 were killed in action) and 93 injured – of whom 101 are listed by name, including over 60 members of the Waffen-SS. These figures did not include Jewish collaborators, but did include the "Trawniki men" and Polish police under his command. The real number of German losses, however, may be well higher (the Germans suffered about 300 casualties by Edelman's estimate). For propaganda purposes, the official announcement claimed the German casualties to be only a few wounded, while propaganda bulletins of the Polish Underground State announced that hundreds of occupiers had been killed in the fighting.

German daily losses of killed/wounded and the official figures for killed or captured Jews and "bandits", according to the Stroop report:

Stroop Report's daily figures
  • 19 April: 1 killed, 24 wounded; 580 captured
  • 20 April: 3 killed, 10 wounded; 533 captured
  • 21 April: 0 killed, 5 wounded; 5,200 captured
  • 22 April: 3 killed, 1 wounded; 6,580 captured; 203 "Jews and bandits" killed; 35 Poles killed outside the Ghetto
  • 23 April: 0 killed, 3 wounded; 4,100 captured; 200 "Jews and bandits" killed; 3 Jews captured outside the Ghetto.Total of 19,450 Jews reported caught
  • 24 April: 0 killed, 3 wounded; 1,660 captured; 1,811 "pulled out of dugouts, about 330 shot".
  • 25 April: 0 killed, 4 wounded; 1,690 captured; 274 shot; "very large portion of the bandits ... captured". Total of 27,464 Jews caught
  • 26 April: 0 killed, 0 wounded; 1,722 captured; 1,330 "destroyed"; 362 Jews shot. 30 Jews "displaced". Total of 29,186 Jews captured
  • 27 April: 0 killed, 4 wounded; 2,560 captured of whom 547 shot; 24 Polish "bandits killed in battle"; 52 Polish "bandits" arrested. Total of 31,746 Jews caught
  • 28 April: 0 killed, 3 wounded; 1,655 captured of whom 110 killed; 10 "bandits" killed and 9 "arrested". Total of 33,401 Jews caught
  • 29 April: 0 killed 0 wounded; 2,359 captured of whom 106 killed
  • 30 April: 0 killed 0 wounded; 1,599 captured of whom 179 killed. Total of 37,359 Jews caught
  • 1 May: 2 killed, 2 wounded; 1,026 captured of whom 245 killed. Total of 38,385 Jews caught; 150 killed outside the Ghetto
  • 2 May: 0 killed, 7 wounded; 1,852 captured and 235 killed. Total of 40,237 Jews caught
  • 3 May: 0 killed, 3 wounded; 1,569 captured and 95 killed. Total of 41,806 Jews caught
  • 4 May: 0 killed, 0 wounded; 2,238 captured, of whom 204 shot. Total of 44,089 Jews caught
  • 5 May: 0 killed, 2 wounded; 2,250 captured
  • 6 May: 2 killed, 1 wounded; 1,553 captured; 356 shot
  • 7 May: 0 killed, 1 wounded; 1,109 captured; 255 shot. Total of 45,342 Jews caught
  • 8 May: 3 killed, 3 wounded; 1,091 captured and 280 killed; 60 "heavily armed bandits" caught
  • 9 May: 0 killed, 0 wounded; 1,037 "Jews and bandits" caught and 319 "bandits and Jews" shot. Total of 51,313 Jews caught; 254 "Jews and bandits" shot outside the Ghetto
  • 10 May: 0 killed, 4 wounded; 1,183 caught and 187 "bandits and Jews" shot. Total of 52,693 Jews caught
  • 11 May: 1 killed, 2 wounded; 931 "Jews and bandits" caught and 53 "bandits" shot. Total of 53,667 Jews caught
  • 12 May: 0 killed, 1 wounded; 663 caught and 133 shot. Total of 54,463 Jews caught
  • 13 May: 2 killed, 4 wounded; 561 caught and 155 shot. Total of 55,179 Jews caught
  • 14 May: 0 killed, 5 wounded; 398 caught and 154 "Jews and bandits" shot. Total of 55,731 Jews caught
  • 15 May: 0 killed, 1 wounded; 87 caught and 67 "bandits and Jews" shot. Total of 56,885 Jews caught
  • 16 May: 0 killed, 0 wounded; 180 "Jews, bandits and subhumans destroyed". Total of 57,065 Jews either captured or killed[32]

According to Raul Hilberg, "the number cited by Stroop (16 dead, 85 wounded) cannot be rejected out of hand, but it is likely that his list was neither complete, free of errors, nor indicative of the German losses throughout the entire period of resistance, until the absolute liquidation of Jewish life in the ghetto. All the same, the German casualty figures cited by the various Jewish sources are probably highly exaggerated."[33][34] Other historians such as the French L. MacLean[citation needed] endorse the accuracy of official German casualty figures. On the other hand, the Stroop report vastly exaggerated the actual losses (and strength) of the resistance.[clarification needed]

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II.[35]


Warsaw Ghetto area after the war. Gęsia Street, view to the west

After the uprising was over, most of the incinerated houses were razed, and the Warsaw concentration camp complex was established in their place. Thousands of people died in the camp or were executed in the ruins of the ghetto. At the same time, the SS were hunting down the remaining Jews still hiding in the ruins. On 19 April 1943, the first day of the most significant period of the resistance, 7,000 Jews were transported from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka extermination camp.[36] Many purportedly developed resistance groups, and helped to plan and execute the revolt and mass escape of 2 August 1943.

From May 1943 to August 1944, executions in the ruins of the ghetto were carried out by:[37]

  • Officers of the Warsaw SD facility and the security police, under the supervision of Dr. Ludwig Hahn, whose seat was located in Szuch Avenue;
  • Pawiak staff members;
  • KL Warschau staff members;
  • SS-men from the Third Battalion of the 23rd SS Regiment and the Police (Battalion III/SS-Polizei Regiment 23), commanded by Major Otton Bundtke.[c]

Both open and secret executions carried out in Warsaw were repeatedly led by SS-Obersturmführer , SS-Haupturmführer Paul Werner and SS-Obersturmführer Walter Witossek. The latter often presided over the police "trio", signing mass death sentences for Polish political prisoners, which were later pronounced by the ad hoc court of the security police.[38][39]

In October 1943, Bürkl was tried and condemned to death in absentia by the Polish Resistance's Special Courts, and shot dead by the AK in Warsaw, a part of Operation Heads that targeted notorious SS officers. That same month, von Sammern-Frankenegg was killed by Yugoslav Partisans in an ambush in Croatia. Himmler, Globocnik and Krüger all committed suicide at the end of the war in Europe in May 1945.

The General Government Governor of Warsaw at the time of the Uprising, Dr. Ludwig Fischer, was tried and executed in 1947. Stroop was captured by Americans in Germany, convicted of war crimes in two different trials (U.S. military and Polish), and executed by hanging in Poland in 1952, along with Warsaw Ghetto SS administrator Franz Konrad. Stroop's aide, Erich Steidtmann, was exonerated for "minimal involvement"; he died in 2010 while under investigation for war crimes. Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle who helped carry out the July 1942 Grossaktion Warsaw committed suicide after being arrested in 1962. Walter Bellwidt, who commanded a Waffen-SS battalion among Stroop forces, died on 13 October 1965. Hahn went into hiding until 1975, when he was apprehended and sentenced to life for crimes against humanity; he served eight years and died in 1986. SS Oberführer Arpad Wigand who served with von Sammern-Frankenberg as SS and Police Leader in Warsaw from 4 August 1941 to 23 April 1943 was tried for war crimes in Hamburg Germany in 1981 and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison; died 26 July 1983. Walter Reder reportedly served in the SS Panzer Grenadier Training Battalion III; he served a jail sentence in Italy from 1951 to 1985 for war crimes committed in 1944 in Italy, and died in 1991. Josef Blösche was tried for war crimes and executed in 1969. Heinrich Klaustermeyer was tried for war crimes in 1965 and died in 1976.

Jewish prisoners liberated from the concentration camp Gęsiówka and the Battalion Zośka fighters during the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 took place over a year before the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The ghetto had been totally destroyed by the time of the general uprising in the city, which was part of the Operation Tempest, a nationwide insurrection plan. During the Warsaw Uprising, the Polish Home Army's Battalion Zośka was able to rescue 380 Jewish prisoners (mostly foreign) held in the concentration camp "Gęsiówka" set up by the Germans in an area adjacent to the ruins of former ghetto. These prisoners had been brought from Auschwitz and forced to clear the remains of the ghetto.[40] A few small groups of ghetto residents also managed to survive in the undetected "bunkers" and to eventually reach the "Aryan side".[41] In all, several hundred survivors from the first uprising took part in the later uprising (mostly in non-combat roles such as logistics and maintenance, due to their physical state and general shortage of arms), joining the ranks of the Polish Home Army and the Armia Ludowa. According to Samuel Krakowski from the Jewish Historical Institute, "The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had a real influence ... in encouraging the activity of the Polish underground."[42]

A number of survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, known as the "Ghetto Fighters", went on to found the kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta'ot (literally: "Ghetto Fighters'"), which is located north of Acre, Israel. The founding members of the kibbutz include Yitzhak Zuckerman (Icchak Cukierman), who represented the ŻOB on the 'Aryan' side, and his wife Zivia Lubetkin, who commanded a fighting unit. In 1984, members of the kibbutz published Daphei Edut ("Testimonies of Survival"), four volumes of personal testimonies from 96 kibbutz members. The settlement features a museum and archives dedicated to remembering the Holocaust. Yad Mordechai, a kibbutz just north of the Gaza Strip, was named after Mordechaj Anielewicz. In 2008, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi led a group of Israeli officials to the site of the uprising and spoke about the event's "importance for IDF combat soldiers".[43]

In 1968, the 25th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Zuckerman was asked what military lessons could be learned from the uprising. He replied:

I don't think there's any real need to analyze the Uprising in military terms. This was a war of less than a thousand people against a mighty army and no one doubted how it was likely to turn out. This isn't a subject for study in military school. (...) If there's a school to study the human spirit, there it should be a major subject. The important things were inherent in the force shown by Jewish youth after years of degradation, to rise up against their destroyers, and determine what death they would choose: Treblinka or Uprising.[44]

On 7 December 1970, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt spontaneously knelt while visiting the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes memorial in the People's Republic of Poland. At the time, the action surprised many and was the focus of controversy, but it has since been credited with helping improve relations between the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries.

Many people from the United States and Israel came for the 1983 commemoration.[45]

The last surviving Jewish resistance fighter, Simcha Rotem, died in Jerusalem on 22 December 2018, at age 94.[46][47]

Opposing forces


From right: Małka Zdrojewicz, Bluma and Rachela Wyszogrodzka captured after offering armed resistance.

Two Jewish underground organisations fought in the Warsaw Uprising: the left wing Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ŻOB) founded in July 1942 by Zionist Jewish youth groups within the Warsaw Ghetto;[48] and the right wing Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (ŻZW), or Jewish Military Union, a national organization founded in 1939 by former Polish military officers of Jewish background which had strong ties to the Polish Home Army, and cells in almost every major town across Poland.[49][50] However both organisations were officially incorporated into the Polish Home Army and its command structure in exchange for weapons and training.[51]

Marek Edelman, who was the only surviving uprising commander from the left-wing ŻOB, stated that the ŻOB had 220 fighters and each was armed with a handgun, grenades, and Molotov cocktails. His organization had three rifles in each area, as well as two land mines and one submachine gun.[52][53][54][55] Due to its socialist leanings, the Soviets promoted the actions of ŻOB as the dominant or only party in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a view often adopted by secondary sources in the West.[50]

The right-wing faction ŻZW, which was founded by former Polish officers, was larger, more established and had closer ties with the Polish resistance, making it better equipped.[19][56] Zimmerman describes the arms supplies for the uprising as "limited but real".[57] Specifically, Jewish fighters of the ŻZW received from the Polish Home Army: 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, and over 400 grenades for the uprising.[58] During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, ŻZW is reported to have had about 400 well-armed fighters grouped in 11 units, with 4 units including fighters from the Polish Home Army. Due to the ŻZW's anti-socialist stand and close ties with the Polish Home Army (which was subsequently outlawed by the Soviets), the Soviets suppressed publication of books and articles on ŻZW after the war and downplayed its role in the uprising, in favour of the more socialist ŻOB.

More weapons were supplied throughout the uprising, and some were captured from the Germans. Some weapons were handmade by the resistance; sometimes such weapons worked, other times they jammed repeatedly.

Shortly before the uprising, Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum (who managed to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto, but was later discovered and executed in 1944) visited a ŻZW armoury hidden in the basement at 7 Muranowska Street. In his notes, which form part of Oneg Shabbat archives, he reported:

They were armed with revolvers stuck in their belts. Different kinds of weapons were hung in the large rooms: light machine guns, rifles, revolvers of different kinds, hand grenades, bags of ammunition, German uniforms, etc., all of which were utilized to the full in the April "action". (...) While I was there, a purchase of arms was made from a former Polish Army officer, amounting to a quarter of a million złoty; a sum of 50,000 złoty was paid on account. Two machine guns were bought at 40,000 złoty each, and a large amount of hand grenades and bombs.[59][60]

Due to the nature of the conflict and that it took place within the confines of German-guarded Warsaw Ghetto, the role of the Polish Home Army was primarily one of ancillary support; namely, the provision of arms, ammunition and training.[56][61] Although the Home Army's stocks were meager, and general provision of arms limited,[56] the right-wing ŻZW received significant quantities of armaments, including some heavy and light machine guns, submachine guns, rifles, pistols and grenades.[d]


According to Marian Fuks, the Ghetto uprising would not have been possible without assistance from the Polish Resistance.[62] Before the uprising started, the most important aid from the Polish resistance to the Jewish resistance took part of weapon smuggling and delivery.[63] Some of the earliest weapons delivered to the ghetto in mid-1942 came from the communist Gwardia Ludowa group, which in August 1942 provided Jewish resistance with 9 pistols and 5 hand grenades'.[63] Antoni Chruściel, commander of the Home Army in Warsaw, ordered the entire armory of the Wola district transferred to the getto.[63] In January 1943 the Home Army delivered a larger shipment 50 pistols, 50 hand grenades' and several kilograms of explosives, and together with a number of smaller shipments transferred around that time a total of 70 pistols, 10 rifles, 2 hand machine guns, 1 light machine gun, as well as ammunition and over 150 kilograms of explosives.[63] Acquisition of weapons was supported from both Jewish and Polish funds, including those of Żegota.[63] The Home Army also provided intelligence on German movements, connected Jewish resistance to some black market channels, and provided planning assistance for plans to defend the ghetto and safeguard the refugees.[63] Home Army also disseminated information and appeals to help the Jews in the ghetto, both in Poland and by way of radio transmissions to the Allies, which fell largely on deaf ears.[64][63]

In mid-April at 4 am, the Germans began to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto, closed down the remnants of the Jews with a police cordon, went inside tanks and armored cars and carried out their destructive work. We know that you help the martyred Jews as much as you can, I thank you, my countrymen, on my own and the government's behalf, I am asking you to help them in my own name and in the government, I am asking you for help and for extermination of this horrible cruelty.

— Supreme Commander of the Polish Armed Forces in the West and Prime Minister of the Polish government-in-exile gen. Władysław Sikorski – The content of the leaflet published in May 1943 in a circulation of 25,000 by Council for Aid to Jews calling for help for Jews.[65]

During the uprising, units from the Polish Home Army[2] and the communist Gwardia Ludowa[63] attacked German units near the ghetto walls and attempted to smuggle weapons, ammunition, supplies, and instructions into the ghetto.[28] The command of the Home Army ordered its sabotage units, Kedyw, to carry a series of actions around the walls against the German units under the code name Ghetto Action.[66][67][68] A failed attempt to breach the ghetto walls on 19 April has been described as "one of the first large-scale battles carried out by the Home Army's Warsaw division.".[68] Between 19 and 23 April 1943, the Polish resistance engaged the Germans at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, shooting at German sentries and positions and in one case attempting to blow up a gate.[67] Overall, Home Army conduced seven total operations in support of the uprising.[68] Following two unsuccessful attempt to breach the wall, the other operations focused on harassing Germans and their auxiliaries, inflicting a number of casualies.[69] A National Security Corps unit commanded by Henryk Iwański ("Bystry") reportedly fought inside the ghetto along with ŻZW and subsequently both groups retreated together (including 34 Jewish fighters) to the Aryan side, however later research cast doubts on the veracity of Iwański's claims.[70][71] Several ŻOB commanders and fighters also later escaped through the tunnels with assistance from the Poles and joined the Polish underground (Home Army).[64]

From April 24, daily patrols against Germans near the ghetto, aimed at eliminating the Germans and training our own (Home Army) branches- up to now without own losses. Some Germans were eliminated every day.

— Report for the month of April 1943 of the Kedyw, Warsaw District of the Home Army[72]

The failure to break through German defenses limited supplies to the ghetto, which was otherwise cut off from the outside world by a German-ordered blockade.[28] Despite Polish fighters joining the struggle, some survivors criticized gentile Poles for not providing sufficient support; for example in her book On Both Sides of the Wall, Vladka Meed, who was a member of the left-wing ŻOB, devoted a chapter to the insufficient support from the Polish resistance.[73] The Home Army faced a number of dilemmas which resulted in it providing only a limited assistance to the Jewish resistance; those include the fact that it had very limited supplies and was unable to arm its own troops; the view (shared by most of the Jewish reistance) that any wide-scale uprising in 1943 would be oremature and futile; and the difficulty to coordinate with the internally divided Jewish resistance, coupled with the pro-Soviet attitude of the ŻOB.[74][63] Records confirm that the leftist ŻOB received less weaponry and support from the Polish Home Army, unlike the ŻZW with whom the Home Army had close ties and ideological similarities.[19][52][57]


SS men and burning buildings
SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop (center). 2nd from right is Heinrich Klaustermeyer. The SD-Rottenführer at right is Josef Blösche at Nowolipie 64 / Smocza 1 intersection
IPN copy #42"Askaris assigned to the operation"Stroop and foreign fighters at the Umschlagplatz, with Stawki 5/7 in the back.

Ultimately, the efforts of the Jewish resistance fighters proved insufficient against the German occupation system. According to Hanna Krall, the German task force dispatched to put down the revolt and complete the deportation action numbered 2,090 men armed with a number of minethrowers and other light and medium artillery pieces, several armored vehicles, and more than 200 machine and submachine guns.[52][53][54][55] Its backbone consisted of 821 Waffen-SS paramilitary soldiers from five SS Panzergrenadier reserve and training battalions and one SS cavalry reserve and training battalion. The other forces were drawn from the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) order police (battalions from the 22nd and 23rd regiments), Warsaw personnel of the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) intelligence service, one battalion each from two Wehrmacht (Heer) railroad combat engineers regiments, a Wehrmacht battery of anti-aircraft artillery, a detachment of multinational (commonly but inaccurately referred to by the Germans and Jews alike as "Ukrainians"[75]) ex-Soviet POW "Trawniki-Männer" auxiliary camp guards trained by the SS-Totenkopfverbände at Trawniki concentration camp, and technical emergency corps.

Several Gestapo jailers from the nearby political prison Pawiak, led by Franz Bürkl, volunteered to join the "hunt" for the Jews. A force of 363 officers from the Polish Police of the General Government (so-called Blue Police) was ordered by the Germans to cordon the walls of the ghetto. Warsaw fire department personnel were also forced to help in the operation.[31] Jewish policemen were used in the first phase of the ghetto's liquidation and subsequently summarily executed by the Gestapo.[23]

Stroop later remarked:[13]

I had two battalions of Waffen-SS, one hundred army men, units of Order Police, and seventy-five to a hundred Security Police people. The Security Police had been active in the Warsaw Ghetto for some time, and during this program it was their function to accompany SS units in groups of six or eight, as guides and experts in ghetto matters.[76]

Trawniki men peer into a doorway past the bodies of Jews killed during the suppression of the uprising at Zamenhofa 42 / Kupiecka 18.[75][77]

By his own words, Stroop reported that after he took command on 19 April 1943, the forces at his disposal totaled 31 officers and 1,262 men:[31][78]

Stroop's report listed ultimate forces at his disposal as 36 officers and 2,054 men:[79]

His casualty[5] lists also include members of four other Waffen-SS training and reserve units (1st SS Panzer Grenadier; 2nd SS Panzer Grenadier; 4th SS Panzer Grenadier; 5th SS Panzer Grenadier Training Battalions). Polish police came from the Kommissariarts 1st, 7th and 8th. There is also evidence that German Police of the SSPF of Lubin took part in the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto Jews, as did the I Battalion of the 17th SS Police Regiment.[citation needed]

In popular culture

The uprising is the subject of numerous works, in multiple media, such as Aleksander Ford's film Border Street (1948),[80] John Hersey's novel The Wall (1950), Leon Uris' novel Mila 18 (1961), Jack P. Eisner's autobiography The Survivor (1980),[81] Andrzej Wajda's films A Generation (1955), Samson (1961), Holy Week (1995)[82] and Jon Avnet's film Uprising (2001).

The photograph of a boy surrendering outside a bunker, with Trawniki with submachine guns in the background, became one of the best-known photographs of World War II and the Holocaust:[e] He is said to represent all 6 million Jewish Holocaust victims.[f]

See also


  1. ^ Jewish and Polish sources claim 300 killed[citation needed]
  2. ^ Yiddish: אױפֿשטאַנד אין װאַרשעװער געטאָ‎, romanizedUfshtand in Varshever Geto; Polish: powstanie w getcie warszawskim; German: Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto
  3. ^ Bundtke's Battalion stayed in the former ghetto and worked on pacifying it after the official suppression of the uprising.
  4. ^ Specifically, Jewish fighters of the Jewish Military Union (ŻZW) received from the Polish Home Army: 2 heavy machine guns, 4 light machine guns, 21 submachine guns, 30 rifles, 50 pistols, and over 400 grenades for the ghetto uprising.[58]
  5. ^
    • "One of the most compelling and enduring images of the Holocaust"[83]
    • "The Holocaust produced scores of searing images. But none had the evidentiary impact of the boy’s surrender."[84]
    • "The boy in question can be seen in one of the most famous images of the Holocaust."[85]
  6. ^
    • "The child, whose identity has never been confirmed, has come to represent the face of the 6 million defenseless Jews killed by the Nazis."[84]
    • "A Picture Worth Six Million Names"[83]


  1. ^ Marian Apfelbaum (2007). Two Flags: Return to the Warsaw Ghetto. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. p. 15. ISBN 978-965-229-356-5.
  2. ^ a b Joshua D. Zimmerman (5 June 2015). The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-107-01426-8.
  3. ^ a b Guttman, John (March 2000). "World War II: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising". World War II Magazine. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  4. ^ Maciej Kledzik (18 April 2008). "Zapomniani żołnierze ŻZW". Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Stroop (2009), pp. 25–30.
  6. ^ Freilich, Miri; Dean, Martin (2012). "Warsaw". In Geoffrey P., Megargee; Dean, Martin; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945. 2. Translated by Fishman, Samuel. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. p. 459. ISBN 978-0-253-00202-0.
  7. ^ Hillel Seidman (1997). The Warsaw Ghetto Diaries. Targum Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-56871-133-1.
  8. ^ Mlynarczyk, Jace Andrzej (2004). "Treblinka – ein Todeslager der "Aktion Reinhard"". In Musial, Bogdan (ed.). "Aktion Reinhard" – Die Vernichtung der Juden im Generalgouvernement (in German). Osnabrück: Fibre. pp. 257–281.
  9. ^ Court of Assizes in Düsseldorf, Germany. Excerpts From Judgments (Urteilsbegründung). AZ-LG Düsseldorf: II 931638.
  10. ^ The Nizkor Project, Statement by Stroop to CMP investigators about his actions in the Warsaw Ghetto (24 February 1946) Wiesbaden, Germany, 24 February 1946.
  11. ^ Moshe Arens, Who Defended The Warsaw Ghetto? Archived 26 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine (The Jerusalem Post)
  12. ^ "Jürgen Stroop". Jewish Virtual Library.
  13. ^ a b "Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg". Jewish Virtual Library.
  14. ^ "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  15. ^ Voices From the Inferno: Holocaust Survivors Describe the Last Months in the Warsaw Ghetto – January 1943: The First Armed Resistance in the Ghetto An online exhibition by Yad Vashem
  16. ^ a b Voices From the Inferno: Holocaust Survivors Describe the Last Months in the Warsaw Ghetto – January 1943: Fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto An online exhibition by Yad Vashem
  17. ^ "United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1943. General (1943)", "Bermuda Conference to consider the refugee problem, April 19–28, 1943, and the implementation of certain of the conference recommendations", s. 134–249.
  18. ^ Medoff, Rafael. "The Allies' Refugee Conference—A "Cruel Mockery"". Archived from the original on 13 May 2004.
  19. ^ a b c David Wdowiński (1963). And we are not saved. New York: Philosophical Library. p. 222. ISBN 0-8022-2486-5. Note: Chariton and Lazar were never co-authors of Wdowiński's memoir. Wdowiński is considered the "single author".
  20. ^ "The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, by Marek Edelman". Writing.upenn.edu. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  21. ^ "Benjamin Wald". Jewish Virtual Library.
  22. ^ "Josef "Andzi" Szerynski". Jewish Virtual Library.
  23. ^ a b "World War II: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising". Historynet.com. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  24. ^ a b c Stroop (1943).
  25. ^ "Last Warsaw ghetto revolt commander honours fallen comrades". European Jewish Press. 20 April 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  26. ^ "Europe | Warsaw Jews mark uprising". BBC News. 20 April 2003. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  27. ^ Voices From the Inferno: Holocaust Survivors Describe the Last Months in the Warsaw Ghetto – January 1943: In the Bunkers During the Uprising, An online exhibition by Yad Vashem
  28. ^ a b c Stefan Korbonski The Polish Underground State: A Guide to the Underground, 1939–1945 Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "The Last Letter from the Bund Representative with the Polish National Council in Exile". Jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  30. ^ Stroop (1943), pp. 77–78.
  31. ^ a b c d "The Warsaw Ghetto: The Stroop Report - "The Warsaw Ghetto Is No More" (May 1943)". Jewish Virtual Library.
  32. ^ "Online transcript of Stoop's report in German and English translation". Holocaust-history.org. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  33. ^ Israel Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw, 1939–1945: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt, Indiana University Press, 1982 (p.393–394)
  34. ^ Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Third Edition, Yale University Press, 2003 (volume 2, p. 537)
  35. ^ "Jewish uprisings in Ghettos and Camps, 1941–1944". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  36. ^ "Treblinka Day By Day". Holocaustresearchproject.org. 10 November 1942. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  37. ^ Bogusław Kopka: Konzentrationslager Warschau.. op.cit, p. 26, 60, 62.[full citation needed]
  38. ^ Władysław Bartoszewski: Warszawski pierścień śmierci... op.cit., p. 431.[full citation needed]
  39. ^ Regina Domańska: Pawiak... op.cit, p. 417.[full citation needed]
  40. ^ Voices From the Inferno: Holocaust Survivors Describe the Last Months in the Warsaw Ghetto – Clearing the Remains of the Ghetto. An online exhibition by Yad Vashem
  41. ^ Voices From the Inferno: After the Uprising: Life Among the Ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. An online exhibition by Yad Vashem
  42. ^ Samuel Krakowski War of the Doomed – Jewish Armed Resistance in Poland, 1942–1944 ISBN 0-8419-0851-6, pp. 213–14, Holmes & Meier Publishers 1984
  43. ^ Azoulay, Yuval. "IDF Chief, in Warsaw: Israel, its army are answer to Holocaust", Haaretz, 29 April 2008.
  44. ^ A. Polonsky, (2012), The Jews in Poland and Russia, Volume III, 1914 to 2008, p. 537
  45. ^ Krajewski, Stanisław (2005). Poland and the Jews: reflections of a Polish Polish Jew. kow: Wydawnictwo Austeria. p. 151. ISBN 8389129221.
  46. ^ "Warsaw ghetto uprising's last fighter passes away at age 94". Ynetnews. 22 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  47. ^ "Last Warsaw Ghetto Uprising fighter dies". Deutsche Welle. 23 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  48. ^ Call to Armed Self-Defense, from Ha-Shomer Ha-Zair newspaper in the Warsaw Underground Jutrznia ("Dawn"), 28 March 1942.
  49. ^ Moshe Arens (2005). "The Jewish Military Organization (ŻZW) in the Warsaw Ghetto". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 19 (2)
  50. ^ a b Maciej Kledzik (October 2002). "ŻZW; Appelbaum w cieniu Anielewicza". Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). 10 (12). 2002-10-11. Retrieved 2006-05-09.
  51. ^ Stefan Korbonski, The Polish Underground State, pp. 123-124 and 130. Jews Under Occupation Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ a b c Krall, Hanna (2008). Zdazyc przed Panem Bogiem (in Polish). Wydawnictwo a5. p. 83. ISBN 83-61298-02-9.
  53. ^ a b Krall, Hanna (1986). Shielding the Flame: An intimate conversation with Dr Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. transl. by Joanna Stasinska Weschler, Lawrence Weschler. Henry Holt & Company. p. 95. ISBN 0-03-006002-8.
  54. ^ a b Krall, Hanna (1992). To Outwit God. transl. by Joanna Stasinska Weschler, Lawrence Weschler. Northwestern University Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-8101-1050-4.
  55. ^ a b Krall, Hanna (1992). To Outwit God. transl. by Joanna Stasinska Weschler, Lawrence Weschler. Northwestern University Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-8101-1075-X.
  56. ^ a b c Andrzej Sławiński, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and The Polish Home Army – Questions and Answers. Translated from Polish by Antoni Bohdanowicz. Article on the pages of the London Branch of the Polish Home Army Ex-Servicemen Association. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
  57. ^ a b Peter Kenez (January 2009). Murray Baumgarten; Peter Kenez; Bruce Allan Thompson (eds.). The Attitude of the Polish Home Army (AK) to the Jewish Question during the Holocaust: the Case of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. University of Delaware Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-0-87413-039-3.
  58. ^ a b Richard C. Lukas (28 August 2012). Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation 1939–1944. Hippocrene Books. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-7818-1302-0.
  59. ^ Moshe Arens, "Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto: The Untold Story of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising", Gefen Publishing House 2007 ISBN 9652293563 page 186.
  60. ^ Yosef Kermisch, "To live with honour and die with honour! Selected documents from the Warsaw Ghetto Undergroung Archives. Oneg Shabbat", Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 1986.
  61. ^ Richard C. Lukas (1997). Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles under German Occupation 1939–1944. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-7818-0901-0.
  62. ^ Fuks, Marian (1989). "Pomoc Polaków bojownikom getta warszawskiego" [Assistance of Poles in the Warsaw ghetto uprising]. Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego (in Polish). 1 (149): 43–52, 144. Without assistance of Poles and even their active participation in some actions, without the supply of arms from the Polish underground movement - the outbreak of the uprising inthe Warsaw ghetto was impossible eat all.
  63. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cite error: The named reference Fuks was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  64. ^ a b Barczynski, Roman (2001). "Addendum 2: Facts about Polish Resistance and Aid to Ghetto Fighters". Americans of Polish Descent, Inc. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  65. ^ Wroński (1971).
  66. ^ Strzembosz (1978), page 103.[full citation needed]
  67. ^ a b Witkowski (1984).
  68. ^ a b c Joshua D. Zimmerman (5 June 2015). The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-107-01426-8.
  69. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman (5 June 2015). The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-107-01426-8.
  70. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman (5 June 2015). The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-107-01426-8.
  71. ^ Stefan Korbonski, "The Polish Underground State: A Guide to the Underground, 1939–1945", pages 120–139, Excerpts Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  72. ^ Strzembosz (1983), p. 283.
  73. ^ On Both Side of the Wall, pp. 94–109, New York: Holocaust Library, 1972, ISBN 0-89604-012-7
  74. ^ Monika Koszyńska, Paweł Kosiński, Pomoc Armii Krajowej dla powstańców żydowskich w getcie warszawskim (wiosna 1943 r.), 2012, Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. P.6. Quote: W okresie prowadzenia walki bieżącej ZWZ-AK stanowczo unikało starć zbrojnych, które byłyby skazane na niepowodzenie i okupione ofiarami o skali trudnej do przewidzenia. To podstawowe założenie w praktyce uniemożliwiało AK czynne wystąpienie po stronie Żydów planujących demonstracje zbrojne w likwidowanych przez Niemców gettach... Kłopotem była też niemożność wytypowania przez rozbitą wewnętrznie konspirację żydowską przedstawicieli do prowadzenia rozmów z dowództwem AK.... Ograniczony rozmiar akowskiej pomocy związany był ze stałymi niedoborami uzbrojenia własnych oddziałów... oraz z lewicowym (prosowieckim) obliczem ŻOB...
  75. ^ a b USHMM: Recognize someone? Askari or Trawniki guards peer into a doorway past the bodies of Jews killed during the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The original German caption reads: "Askaris used during the operation". Photo Archives. Hostile commentator: Bruno Hajda, denaturalized former guard at Trawniki, tried in the U.S., February 1996 (No. 97-2362).
  76. ^ "Statement by Stroop to Investigators About His Actions in the Warsaw Ghetto". Jewishvirtuallibrary.org. 24 February 1946. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  77. ^ Moczarski (1984), p. 103.
  78. ^ Stroop Report 19 April 1943 at JPFO Site.
  79. ^ Stroop (1943), p. 7.
  80. ^ "Border-Street – Trailer – Cast – Showtimes". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2012.(subscription required)
  81. ^ "Jack Eisner, 77, Holocaust Chronicler, Dies". The New York Times. 30 August 2003.
  82. ^ "Andrzej Wajda. Official Website of Polish movie director – Films – "The Holy Week"". Wajda.pl. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  83. ^ a b Maltz, Judy (3 March 2011). "Holocaust Studies / A picture worth six million names". Haaretz. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  84. ^ a b "How A Little Boy Became the Face of The Holocaust". Time Magazine (100 Photographs | The Most Influential Images of All Time). Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  85. ^ Kirsch, Adam (23 November 2010). "Caught on Film". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 23 September 2018.


Primary sources

In Other languages

  • Stroop, Jürgen (22 April 1943). Es gibt keinen jüdischen Wohnbezirk – in Warschau mehr! [There is no Jewish residential district - in Warsaw anymore!] (PDF) (Report) (in German). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2013.
  • Stroop, Jürgen (2009) [22 April 1943]. Żydowska Dzielnica Mieszkaniowa W Warszawie Już Nie Istnieje! [The Jewish Residential District in Warsaw Does Not Exist Now!] (PDF) (in Polish and German). Warsaw: Institute of National Remembrance Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-83-7629-455-1.German: Es gibt keinen jüdischen Wohnbezirk – in Warschau mehr!
  • Strzembosz, Tomasz (1983). Akcje zbrojne podziemnej Warszawy 1939–1944 [Armed actions of underground Warsaw 1939–1944] (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. ISBN 83-060-0717-4.
  • Witkowski, Henryk (1984). Kedyw okręgu warszawskiego Armii Krajowej w latach 1943-1944 [Kedyw of Warsaw district of the Home Army in the years 1943–1944] (in Polish). Warszawa: Instytut Wydawniczy Związków Zawodowych. ISBN 83-202-0217-5.
  • Wroński, Stanisław (1971). Polacy i Żydzi 1939–1945 (in Polish). Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza.

Further reading

  • Edelman, Marek (1990). The Ghetto Fights: Warsaw, 1941–43. London: Bookmarks Publications. ISBN 0-906224-56-X.
  • Gebhardt-Herzberg, Sabine (2003). "Das Lied ist geschrieben mit Blut und nicht mit Blei": Mordechaj Anielewicz und der Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto (in German). Bielefeld: S. Gebhardt-Herzberg. ISBN 3-00-013643-6.
  • Goldstein, Bernard (2005). Five Years in the Warsaw Ghetto. Oakland: AK Press. p. 256. ISBN 1-904859-05-4.[1]
  • Jahns, Joachim (2009). Der Warschauer Ghettokönig (in German). Leipzig: Dingsda-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-928498-99-9.
  • Meckl, Markus (2008). "The Memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising". European Legacy. 13 (7): 815–824.
  • Paulsson, Gunnar S. (2002). Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940–1945. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-13-171918-1. Review

External links

8 April 1943

Otto and Elise Hampel are executed in Berlin for their anti-Nazi activities.

Elise and Otto Hampel

Otto and Elise Hampel were a working-class German couple who created a simple method of protest against Nazism in Berlin during the middle years of World War II. They wrote postcards denouncing Hitler's government and left them in public places around the city. They were eventually caught, tried, and beheaded in Berlin's Plötzensee Prison in April 1943. Shortly after the end of the war, their Gestapo file was given to German novelist Hans Fallada, and their story inspired his 1947 novel, translated into English and published in 2009 as Every Man Dies Alone (Alone in Berlin in the UK). The story was filmed in 2016 as Alone in Berlin.

Life and resistance

One of the Hampels' postcards; in the middle is a postage stamp bearing Hitler's face, scrawled with the words "worker murderer"

The couple married in 1935.[2] After learning that Elise's brother had been killed in action, the Hampels undertook efforts to encourage resistance against the Third Reich.[2] From September 1940 until their arrest in Autumn 1942, they hand-wrote over 200 postcards, dropping them into mailboxes and leaving them in stairwells in Berlin, often near Wedding, where they lived.

The postcards urged people to refuse to cooperate with the Nazis, to refrain from donating money, to refuse military service, and to overthrow Hitler.[2] Although nearly all the postcards were immediately brought to the Gestapo, it took two years for the authorities to find the couple.[3] The Hampels were denounced in Autumn 1942 and were arrested. Otto declared to the police that he was happy to be able to protest against Hitler and the Third Reich. At trial at the Volksgerichtshof, the Nazi "People's Court", the Hampels were convicted of Wehrkraftzersetzung and of "preparing for high treason".[4] They were both guillotined on 8 April 1943 in the Plötzensee Prison, Berlin.[5]


Memorial plaque at the site of the Hampels' former residence, Amsterdamer Straße 10 in Berlin [a]

Their life was fictionalized in the Hans Fallada novel, where they are called Otto and Anna Quangel, and it is their son who is killed, rather than the wife's brother.[6] The English language version of the book published by Melville House Publishing includes an appendix containing some pages from the actual Gestapo file, including mug shots, signed confessions, police reports, and several of the actual postcards used in the protest.[7]

There have been five screen adaptations of the novel: Jeder stirbt für sich allein, directed by Falk Harnack in West Germany in 1962;[8] a television miniseries directed by Hans-Joachim Kasprzik[9] and produced by DEFA in East Germany in 1970; a film version directed by Alfred Vohrer in 1975, released in English as Everyone Dies Alone in 1976,[10], in which Hildegard Knef, who won the award for best actress at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, portrayed "Anna Quangel".[11] It was made into a three-part television miniseries in the Czech Republic in 2004, directed by  [cs].[12] A 2016 film Alone in Berlin, starring Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson as Anna and Otto, was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.[citation needed]


  1. ^ The plaque reads: "Here stood the house in which OTTO HAMPEL 21.6.1897 to 8. 4.1943 and ELISE HAMPEL 27.10.1903 to 8. 4.1943 lived from 1934 until their arrest. The working-class couple was executed on 8 Apri11943 in Berlin- Plötzensee. Their rebellion against contempt for human beings of the Nazi regime was the model for Hans Falladas' novel Everyone dies for himself."

See also


  1. ^ "Otto Hermann Hampel". German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Elise Hampel". German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  3. ^ Johannes Groschupf, "Das Ehepaar Hampel allein in Berlin" (pg. 2) Die Zeit, 16 April 2011; retrieved 8 March 2012. (in German)
  4. ^ German version, gdw-berlin.de; retrieved 5 March 2012.(in German)
  5. ^ Andreas Mix (2011-05-14). "Das Fallbeil zerschlug auch ihre Ehe". Berliner Zeitung (in German) (112, Magazin). p. 8.
  6. ^ Liesel Schillinger, "Postcards from the Edge" The New York Times, 27 February 2009; retrieved 5 March 2012.
  7. ^ See the appendix in the English language version of the book published by Melville House Publishing.
  8. ^ "Programm vom Donnerstag, dem 19. Juli 1962", TVProgramme.net; retrieved 4 March 2012. (in German)
  9. ^ "Mein Vater Erwin Geschonneck" Geschonneck.com; retrieved 4 March 2012.(in German)
  10. ^ Everyone Dies Alone imdb.com; retrieved 4 March 2012.
  11. ^ Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, 1976, imdb.com; retrieved 5 March 2012
  12. ^ "Dobro a zlo u Dušana Kleina" Hospodářské Noviny, 16 February 2004; retrieved 4 March 2012. (in Czech)

14 March 1943

World War II: The Kraków Ghetto is “liquidated”.

Kraków Ghetto
Jews forced to shovel snow from the street in Kraków.jpg
Jews forced to shovel snow from the street
Red pog.svg
Map of the Holocaust in Poland including death camps marked with skulls, and Nazi-era Ghettos marked with red-gold stars. Red dot shows the location of Kraków Ghetto in the interwar period

The Kraków Ghetto was one of five major metropolitan Nazi ghettos created by Germany in the new General Government territory during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. It was established for the purpose of exploitation, terror, and persecution of local Polish Jews. The ghetto was later used as a staging area for separating the "able workers" from those to be deported to extermination camps in Operation Reinhard in Kraków.[1] The Ghetto was liquidated between June 1942 and March 1943, with most of its inhabitants deported to the Belzec extermination camp as well as to Płaszów slave-labor camp, and Auschwitz concentration camp, 60 kilometres (37 mi) rail distance.


Before the German-Soviet invasion of 1939, Kraków was an influential centre for the 60,000–80,000 Polish Jews who had lived there since the 13th century.[2] Persecution of the Jewish population of Kraków began immediately after the German troops entered the city on 6 September 1939 in the course of the German aggression against Poland. Jews were ordered to report for forced labour beginning in September 1939. In November, all Jews twelve years or older were required to wear identifying armbands. Throughout Kraków, synagogues were closed and all their relics and valuables confiscated by the Nazi authorities.[3][2]

Kraków was made the capital of the General Government (the part of occupied Poland not directly incorporated into Germany), and by May 1940 the German occupation authority headed by the Governor-General Hans Frank announced that Kraków should become the “racially cleanest" city in the General Government. Massive deportations of Jews from the city ensued. Of the more than 68,000 Jews in Kraków at the time of the German invasion, only 15,000 workers and their families were permitted to remain.[4] All other Jews were ordered out of the city, to be resettled into surrounding rural areas of the General Government.[2]

Formation of the Kraków Ghetto

In April 1940, Hans Frank proposed the removal of 50,000 Jews from the city of Kraków.[5][6] Frank's reasoning for removing Jews from the Jewish quarter was that the area "...will be cleansed and it will be possible to establish pure German neighborhoods..." within Kraków.[5] From May 1940 to 15 August 1940, a voluntary expulsion program was enacted.[7] Jews that chose to leave Kraków were allowed to take all of their belongings and relocate throughout the General-Government (Generalgouvernement).[7][5] By 15 August 1940, 23,000 Jews had left Kraków.[7] After this date, mandatory expulsions were enforced.[7] On 25 November 1940, the Order for the Deportation of Jews from the Municipal District of Kraków was announced.[8] This order declared that no more Jews were allowed into the city of Kraków, Jews residing in Kraków required a special permit, and locations outside of Kraków that Jews were forced to move to were chosen by authorities.[8] Jews forced to leave were also only allowed to bring along 25 kg (62½ lbs.) of their belongings when they left.[8] By 4 December 1940, 43,000 Jews were removed from Kraków, both voluntarily and involuntarily.[7] Jews that were still residing in Kraków at this time were deemed "...economically useful..." and they had to obtain a residence permit that "...had to be renewed each month."[8]

The following year, on 3 March 1941, the establishment of the Kraków Ghetto was ordered by Otto Wächter.[9][10] The ghetto was to be set up in the Podgórze District of Kraków.[6][11] Podgórze was chosen as the site of the ghetto instead of the traditional Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, because Hans Frank believed Kazimierz was more significant to the history of Kraków.[12] Podgórze was a suburb of Kraków at the time.[9][8] Wächter claimed that formation of the ghetto was necessary for public health and order.[13] The Kraków ghetto was officially established on 20 March 1941.[5] When relocating to the ghetto, Jews were only allowed to bring 25 kg of their belongings.[8] The rest of their possessions were taken by the (Treuhandstelle).[8] Some Jews were resettled to the nearby ghetto of Brzesko.[14] All non-Jewish residents of the area were required to relocate in other districts by 20 March 1941.[8]

The ghetto was guarded by the German police (Schutzpolizei), the Polish police (Blue Police), and the Jewish police (Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst – OD), but the only police force inside the ghetto was the Jewish police.[13] With the formation of the ghetto, the OD had an office established at Józefińska Street 37 in Podgórze.[15] In April 1941, the ghetto was enclosed by a wall made of barbed wire and stone; the stones used were designed to look like tombstones, but also included "...Jewish monuments and tombstones from the cemetery."[9][10][13][8] The ghetto wall was constructed using Jewish forced labor.[10] The ghetto was accessible by three entrances: one near the Podgórze Market, Limanowskiego Street, and the Plac Zgody.[9] The Kraków Ghetto was a closed ghetto meaning that it was physically closed off from the surrounding area and access was restricted.[16] Within other German-occupied areas, open ghettos and destruction ghettos existed.[16] Movement in and out of the ghetto was restricted and Jews working outside of the ghetto had to have the proper documentation.[9] Jews had to "...obtain the appropriate stamps for the Kennkarten [identification cards]..." from the Labor Office (Arbeitsamt).[9]

The ghetto was populated by approximately 16,000 Jews when it was first formed.[13] Before the ghetto was cordoned off, it was home to around 3,500 residents.[7] The ghetto consisted of 320 buildings.[13] To accommodate the density, apartments within the ghetto were divided on a 2m² per person basis or by a standard of three people to one window.[13] The Jewish Council (Judenrat) was responsible for determining the new housing assignments.[8] Within the Kraków ghetto, Yiddish was the official language, not Polish.[13] On 1 December 1939, an order was announced mandating that all Jews within the General Government wear an armband identifying them as Jewish.[11] The white armbands with the blue Star of David were still required once Jews were moved into the ghetto.[11]

On 15 October 1941, the Third Decree of the General Governor's was enacted.[8][17] This decree stated that Jews found outside "...their designated residential area will be punished with death."[17][8] The punishment also applied to anyone found aiding Jews.[8][17] The decree applied to all residents within the General Government.[17]

On 28 November 1941, the area that encompassed the ghetto was reduced.[8] The population of the Kraków Ghetto increased because Nazis required the Jewish residents of 29 nearby villages to move to the ghetto.[8] The size of the ghetto was reduced again in June 1942.[8][15] The reductions in the size of the ghetto were associated with the deportation of Jews, including deportations to the Bełżec extermination camp.[13] When apartments that were no longer included in the ghetto were vacated, possessions were stolen and the units were reassigned.[13] The Municipal Housing Office was responsible for these apartments.[13]

In December 1942. the Kraków ghetto was divided into two parts: Ghetto "A" and Ghetto "B."[13] Ghetto "A" was intended for people that were working and Ghetto "B" was for everyone else.[13] This division was planned with future liquidations of the ghetto in mind.[13]

Ghetto history

Bundesarchiv Bild 121-0296, Krakau, Judenlager.jpg
Kraków area, late 1939. Captive Jews, assembled for slave labor, sit on an open field surrounded by new barbed wire fence
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L25516, Polen, Bau der Mauer für ein Ghetto.jpg
The construction of Ghetto walls, May 1941
Krakow Ghetto 06694.jpg
Deportation of Jews from the Ghetto, March 1943
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Bundles abandoned by Jewish deportees from the Kraków Ghetto, March 1943

The Kraków Ghetto was formally established on 3 March 1941 in the Podgórze district and not, as often believed, in the historic Jewish district of Kazimierz. Displaced Polish families from Podgórze took up residences in the former Jewish dwellings outside the newly established Ghetto. Meanwhile, 15,000 Jews were crammed into an area previously inhabited by 3,000 people who used to live in a district consisting of 30 streets, 320 residential buildings, and 3,167 rooms. As a result, one apartment was allocated to every four Jewish families, and many less fortunate lived on the street.[2]

The Ghetto was surrounded by the newly built walls that kept it separated from the rest of the city. In a grim foreshadowing of the near future, these walls contained brick panels in the shape of tombstones. All windows and doors that opened onto the "Aryan" side were ordered to be bricked up. Only four guarded entrances allowed traffic to pass in or out. Small sections of the wall still remain today, one part is fitted with a memorial plaque, which reads "Here they lived, suffered and perished at the hands of Hitler's executioners. From here they began their final journey to the death camps."[3][18]

Young people of the Akiva youth movement, who had undertaken the publication of an underground newsletter, HeHaluc HaLohem ("The Fighting Pioneer"), joined forces with other Zionists to form a local branch of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ŻOB, Polish: Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa), and organize resistance in the ghetto, supported by the Polish underground Armia Krajowa. The group carried out a variety of resistance activities including the bombing of the Cyganeria cafe – a gathering place of Nazi officers. Unlike in Warsaw, their efforts did not lead to a general uprising before the ghetto was liquidated.[19]

From 30 May 1942 onward, the Nazis began systematic deportations from the Ghetto to surrounding concentration camps. Thousands of Jews were transported in the succeeding months as part of the Aktion Krakau headed by SS-Oberführer Julian Scherner. Jews were assembled on Zgody Square first and then escorted to the railway station in Prokocim. The first transport consisted of 7,000 people, the second, of additional 4,000 Jews deported to Bełżec death camp on 5 June 1942. On 13–14 March 1943, the final 'liquidation' of the ghetto was carried out under the command of SS-Untersturmführer Amon Göth. Two thousand Jews deemed able to work were transported to the Płaszów labor camp.[20] Those deemed unfit for work – some 2,000 Jews – were killed in the streets of the ghetto on those days with the use of "Trawniki men" police auxiliaries.[21] The remaining 3,000 were sent to Auschwitz.[18]

Jewish Council (Judenrat) of the Kraków Ghetto

A 24-person Jewish board was formed in the city of Kraków and later in the Krakow Ghetto, when the ghetto was formed on March 3, 1941.[22] This Jewish Council was in charge of the inhabitants of the ghetto but received many orders from local Nazi officials, even though it retained some degree of autonomy. Some of its functions included overseeing labor and welfare, conducting a census and taxing the population.[23][24][25][26]

Cultural life

Cultural life in the Kraków Ghetto was bleak and dangerous for the Jewish population. Each day dragged on, consistently becoming harder and harder to tolerate and survive. There was not much for the Jewish individuals to live for. The mood was somber, spirits were low, and the majority of the ghetto's inhabitants remained hopeless.

Jewish individuals in the Kraków ghetto were required to wear a Star of David on their arm, identifying them as being Jewish, which led to the revoking of most rights.[22] A curfew was implemented that stripped Jews of many opportunities to participate in the cultural life.[27] As time went on, Jews needed to obtain permits in order to enter and exit the ghetto, robbing them of any freedom they felt they had left at this point.[27] Even though the Jewish individuals were unable to participate in certain areas of cultural life in the Kraków ghetto, “various cultural and religious activities continued within the ghetto."[28] Although the practice of religion was banned, that did not stop the individuals in the Kraków ghetto from praying and staying true to Judaism.[29] At least three synagogues or other religious facilities were still in use that served as a place for the Jews to go to and pray.[28] There was also a café where artists played live music within the ghetto, which proved to be instrumental in keeping Jewish individuals' spirits up. Finally, there was a ghetto pharmacy, which was a place where people could go to discuss problems, read underground and official newspapers and learn the realities of what was happening and what atrocities they were living through.[28] Numerous songs were created by individuals living the ghetto, serving three major purposes: “documentation of ghetto life, a diversion from reality, and the upholding of tradition.”[30] These songs portrayed their immense suffering coupled with their dedication and determination to survive. Some of the most popular lyrics are “Me hot zey in dr’erd, me vet zey iberlebn, me vet noch derlebn” (“To hell with them, we will survive them, we will yet survive”),[30] conveying and sharing the feelings of the Jewish people through music. Laughter, which was a rarity in the Kraków ghetto, was another way numerous victims attempted to cope with their strong hatred for the enemy.[30] Sometimes individuals performed ghetto songs, while other times small groups performed them with various instruments.[30] Street songs are a sub-genre of ghetto music with four dominant themes: hunger, corrupt administration, hope for freedom and a call for revolt.[30] Music has always been a traditional and important aspect of both Jewish holidays and Jewish home life more generally. The individuals in the Kraków Ghetto did their best to keep this tradition alive, especially during Passover and Yom Kippur.[30] Although music brought some comfort to many individuals, suicide rates were significantly higher among the musicians than other camp workers. Many of the musicians were forced to watch the murder of their families and friends due to the Nazi's insistence that the prisoner-musicians play music while the other prisoners were marched to the gas chambers.[30]

was an aspiring musician who did his best to “collect, compose, and perform songs” while living in the ghetto even though it was illegal to do so.[30] Individuals in the Kraków ghetto worked 12-hour days that left them more exhausted than imaginable.[31] In order to pass the time, songs were sung throughout the work day.[31]

Mordechai Gebirtig, who is “known for his beautiful and prescient songs and poems”[32] in Yiddish emerged from the Kraków ghetto.[32] His song “Our Town Is Burning” which was written in 1938 became “one of the most popular songs in the ghettos and concentration camps."[30] Unfortunately, Gebirtig was shot and killed in the Kraków ghetto.

Another individual who was in the Kraków ghetto was Roman Polanski, who became a famous film director upon his survival of the Holocaust.[32] Polanski eventually directed a film that told the story of the musician Władysław Szpilman who survived the Holocaust.[32]

In order to pass time while trapped in these horrendous conditions, a lot of Jewish children in the Kraków ghetto played the violin and any other instruments they had access to.[32]

Music proved to be an instrumental aspect of cultural life in the Kraków ghetto that aided in keeping the spirits of Jewish individuals up as much as possible during such low and awful times.


Organized resistance

The Kraków Jewish underground resistance existed from 1942 to late 1943, and stemmed from youth groups such as Akiva.[33] The two groups that formed were Iskra and , or the Fighting Organization of the Jewish youth.[34] Despite ultimately focusing on more classical armed resistance actions, they originally focused on providing support for education and welfare organizations within the ghetto. [35]Eventually establishing a magazine, the groups initially focused on working with the Polish Underground and the Communist Partia Robotnicza (PPR). They ultimately planned for action against the Nazis.[33] The Resistance conducted demonstrations against several Nazi-frequented institutions, including café Cyganeria, café Esplanada, and a theater.[36] Additionally, the Polish Underground group also aided the Jews with a program called Żegota.[37][38]

Initially, rather than aligning with either communist or Zionist groups, the Iskra Resistance group aimed solely at combating and destroying the Nazis. From the outset, Iskra's inaugural members were Heszek Bauminger, Shlomo Sh., and eventually Gola Mire. Heszek Bauminger fought for the Polish army at the beginning of the war, and despite participating in the Social Zionist Hashomer Hatzair group, he moved his allegiances to communism. Gola Mire – another Hatzair former member – became involved in the Polish Communist Party. Accordingly, Iskra worked in conjunction with the communist Polish Workers' Party division – Gwardia Ludowa – in an armed initiative.[39] Specifically, German armed forces were the target of Iskra. Further, Resistance in the Kraków ghetto decided to attack the “Aryan” portion of the city rather than fight a futile war from within.[40] To strengthen itself, Iskra merged with Hahalutz Halochem – thus mixing communist leanings with a Zionist group[41]and subsequently forming the Jewish fighting Organization (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa; ZOB)[35]Despite the similarity in name this ZOB was independent from the ZOB involved in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.[35]

Historians will argue that the youth movements involved had significant, but realistic aims. It is suggested that Nazi intentions were evident to the youth and they consequently decided to fight the Nazis vision, even though they knew success would be limited.[42] Significantly, composed of members of the Akiva Zionist youth movement, Hahalutz Halochem worked with Iskra along with communist to stage the Cyganeria bombing.[35] Aligning with Hahalutz Halochem motivated Akiva to transition to armed resistance.[43]

Furthermore, the underground movements published a paper called “Hechalutz Halochem” which was edited by Simon Dranger. This paper served to combat the German work of “Zydowska Gazeta”; this was an underground work which attempted to conceal the Nazis' genocidal aims and thus stem any opposition.[44]

Cyganeria Bombing

The Cyganeria Bombing is one of the more discussed attacks conducted by the Kraków Resistance movements. It was one of a series of attacks in a retaliatory response to the implementation of mass deportations. Prior to Cyganeria, attacks occurred at the Optima factory and the Cosmo Club – the Cosmo Club attack killed several Nazi elites. Furthermore, three attacks were planned for Dec. 24, 1942: Cyganeria Café, Esplanada Café, Sztuka theater, and an officers’ club.[45] Ultimately, the Hahalutz Halochem and Iskra resistance groups bombed Cyganeria on December 22 and killed from 7 to 70 Germans and injured many others.[46] The attack at the theater was relatively unsuccessful due to poor planning and a refusal to harm innocent Poles in attendance; however, Esplanada Café and the Officers’ club attacks were successful.[47]

The relative success of the Resistance groups was hindered by Julek Appel and Natek Waisman who betrayed the resistance. Hahalutz Halochem was quickly subdued by the Nazis – due to Appel and Waisman – but better security habits protected Iskra for a limited time.[48] Additionally, two key resistance members – Adolf Liebeskind and Tennenbaum – died in the attack. Finally, following the Cyganeria Café attack, weapons, various currencies, and enemy uniforms were found by the Gestapo. The gestapo sent a message to Nazi elites via SS-Obergruppenfüher Wolff and Reichsfüher Himmler. Lucien Steinberg, the author of Jews Against Hitler, argues that this communicates the attack's significance to Hitler.[49]

Publicly the identity of the attacks perpetrators were not revealed and it was rumored to be the Polish Underground or the Soviets.[50] Regarding the Jews who carried out the attack, they were disguised as Poles. This reflected a concern, within Hahalutz Halochem, of Nazi retaliation against the ghetto if the Jews were implicated.[51]

Religious resistance

Additionally, Jews in the Kraków Ghetto participated in a form of religious resistance by continuing to practice Judaism in secret. This succeeded through the safeguard of the Jewish police.[52]

Rescue and outside aid

The Righteous Gentiles

The only pharmacy enclosed within the Kraków Ghetto boundary belonged to the Polish Roman Catholic pharmacist Tadeusz Pankiewicz, permitted by the German authorities to operate his "Under the Eagle Pharmacy" there upon his request. The scarce medications and tranquillizers supplied to the ghetto's residents often free of charge – apart from health-care considerations – contributed to their survival. Pankiewicz passed around hair dyes to Jews compelled to cross the ghetto walls illegally. In recognition of his heroic deeds in helping countless Jews in the Ghetto during the Holocaust, he was bestowed the title of the Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem on February 10, 1983. Pankiewicz is the author of a book describing, among other events, the ghetto liquidation.[18][53]

The list of several dozen Polish Righteous from Kraków,[54] includes Maria and Bronisław Florek who lived at Czyżówka Street and saved Goldberger and Nichtberger families. Notably, Maria Florek smuggled forged identity papers procured at the Emalia Factory of Oskar Schindler (without his awareness), for the Jews hiding on the 'Aryan side' of Kraków.[55] Władysław Budyński, who provided help without remuneration even to complete strangers, ended up marrying a Jewish girl, Chana Landau in 1943, but they were caught by Gestapo in 1944 and deported to different concentration camps. Both survived, reunited in Kraków, and in 1969 emigrated to Sweden.[56] Polish gynaecologist Dr Helena Szlapak turned her home at Garbarska Street into a safe house for trafficked Jews and distribution of falsified documents as well as secret messages and storage of photographs from Auschwitz. She collaborated with Żegota, attended to sick Jews in hiding and placed them in hospitals under false identities.[57]


Żegota also had prominence in Kraków. The goal of Żegota was to aid the Jews on a day-to-day basis – rather than aiming for an overall solution.[58] Zegota provided opportunity with false documents, doctors for healthcare, money, and several other pivotal resources and aid for the Jews.[59]

In Zegota, historians assert that Polish – Jewish relations were strong before the war, and Żegota became involved to strengthen the organically arising aid. Moreover, led by Stanislaw Dobrowolski, food, medicine, funds, and means for escape were provided. Several Żegota members – Jozefa Rysinska, Mieczyslaw Kurz, Tadeusz Bilewicz, Zygmunt Kuzma, and Ada Prochnicka – facilitated transport of supplies and overall aid in the camps.[60]

Notable people

One of two preserved parts of the ghetto wall (27 Lwowska Street), with a memorial plaque and typical ghetto home in the background
The second preserved piece of the ghetto wall at 62 Limanowskiego Street
Memorial to Jews from the Kraków Ghetto on their deportation site. Each steel chair represents 1,000 victims

Movie director Roman Polanski, a survivor of the Ghetto, in his 1984 memoir Roman evoked his childhood experiences there before the mass deportations of Operation Reinhard in Kraków. "My own feeling – Polański wrote – was that if only one could explain to them that we had done nothing wrong, the Germans would realize that it all was a gigantic misunderstanding."[61]

Many years later, Roma Ligocka, Polish artist and author, and a first cousin to Roman Polański who, as a small girl, was rescued and survived the Ghetto, wrote a novel based on her experiences, The Girl in the Red Coat: A Memoir.[62] She is mistakenly thought to be portrayed in the film Schindler's List. The scene, however, was constructed on the memories of Zelig Burkhut, survivor of Plaszow (and other work camps). When being interviewed by Spielberg before the making for the film, Burkhut told of a young girl wearing a pink coat, no older than four, who was shot by a Nazi officer right before his eyes.[citation needed] Oskar Schindler was portrayed in the Thomas Keneally novel Schindler's Ark (the basis for Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List). In an especially dramatic event, 300 of Schindler's workers were deported to the Auschwitz death camp despite his efforts, and he personally intervened to return them to him.[citation needed]

Other notable people include Mordechai Gebirtig, who was one of the most influential and popular writers of Yiddish songs and poems. He was shot there in 1942.[63] Miriam Akavia, an Israeli writer, survived the Kraków ghetto and concentration camps.[64][65] Renowned dermatologist and co-discoverer of Reyes Syndrome, Dr Jim Jacob Baral was also a Kraków Ghetto survivor; his mother pushed him and his brother Martin under the barbed wire to hide at the home of a Polish rescuer who took them to Bochnia where their mother and sister joined them later.[66] Bernard Offen, born in 1929 in Kraków survived the Ghetto and several Nazi concentration camps.[67]

Second lieutenant Jerzy Zakulski, an attorney, and member of the National Armed Forces (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, NSZ) in German-occupied Kraków was sentenced to death by Stalinist officials and executed in Soviet-controlled postwar Poland on trumped-up charges of being an enemy spy.[68] A Jewish Holocaust survivor from Kraków, Maria Błeszyńska née Bernstein, attempted to save Zakulski's life in gratitude for his rescue of her and her daughter during the Holocaust; however, she was unsuccessful. The certified letter she sent to the Regional Military Court in Warsaw was thrown out, along with the plea for presidential mercy.[68]

Zuzanna Ginczanka and her husband left the Lvov ghetto for the Kraków ghetto in September 1942. She was arrested and shot in a prison in January 1945.[69]

See also


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  38. ^ Tomaszewski, Irene; Werbowski, Tecia (1994). Zegota. Montreal, Quebec: Price-Patterson Ltd. p. 11. ISBN 978-0969577164.
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  40. ^ Krakowski, Shmuel (1984). The War of the Doomed. Translated by Blaustein, Orah. New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc. p. 223. ISBN 978-0841908512.
  41. ^ Finkel, Evgeny (2017). Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival During the Holocaust. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780691172576.
  42. ^ Bauminger, Arieh L. (1987). The Fighters of the Cracow Ghetto. Jerusalem: Keter Press Enterprises. p. 18.
  43. ^ Finkel, Evgeny (2017). Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival During the Holocaust. Princeton: Princeton University Press. pp. 174–176. ISBN 9780691172576.
  44. ^ Katz, Alfred (1970). Poland's Ghettos at War. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc. p. 58. LCCN 78120535.
  45. ^ Katz, Alfred (1970). Poland's Ghettos at War. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc. p. 95. LCCN 78120535.
  46. ^ Finkel, Evgeny (2017). Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival During the Holocaust. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 176. ISBN 9780691172576.
  47. ^ Katz, Alfred (1970). Poland's Ghettos at War. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc. p. 96. LCCN 78120535.
  48. ^ Finkel, Evgeny (2017). Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival During the Holocaust. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 178. ISBN 9780691172576.
  49. ^ Steinberg, Lucien (1974). The Jews Against Hitler (Not as a Lamb). Translated by Hunter, Marion. London: Gordon & Cremonesi. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-0860330615.
  50. ^ Finkel, Evgeny (2017). Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival During the Holocaust. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 179. ISBN 9780691172576.
  51. ^ Finkel, Evgeny (2017). Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival During the Holocaust. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 177. ISBN 9780691172576.
  52. ^ Hauben, William (2001). From the Flames Miracles and Wonders of Survival. Lincoln: Writers Club Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0595158652.
  53. ^ David M. Crowe, The Holocaust: Roots, History, and Aftermath. Published by Westview Press. Page 180.
  54. ^ Virtual Shtetl (2015). "Polish Righteous: Kraków". History of Jewish Community. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Archived from the original on 2 August 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  55. ^ Polish Righteous (2015). "Maria and Bronisław Florek". Recognized as the Righteous Among the Nations: 1 July 1992. Polscy Sprawiedliwi – Przywracanie Pamięci. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24 – via Internet Archive.
  56. ^ Polish Righteous (2015). "Władysław Budyński". Recognized as the Righteous Among the Nations: 17 July 1982. Polscy Sprawiedliwi – Przywracanie Pamięci. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24 – via Internet Archive.
  57. ^ Polish Righteous (2015). "Dr Helena Szlapak". Recognized as the Righteous Among the Nations: 28 March 1979. Polscy Sprawiedliwi – Przywracanie Pamięci. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24 – via Internet Archive.
  58. ^ Tomaszewski, Irene; Werbowski, Tecia (1994). Zegota. Montreal, Quebec: Price – Patterson Ltd. p. 11. ISBN 978-0969577164.
  59. ^ Tomaszewski, Irene; Werbowski, Tecia (1994). Zegota. Montreal, Quebec: Price – Patterson Ltd. p. 13. ISBN 978-0969577164.
  60. ^ Tomaszewski, Irene; Werbowski, Tecia (1994). Zegota. Montreal, Quebec: Price – Patterson Ltd. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0969577164.
  61. ^ Roman Polański (1984). Roman. Morrow. p. 22. ISBN 978-0688026219.
  62. ^ "The Girl in the Red Coat by Roma Ligocka and Iris Von Finckenstein". Random House, Inc. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
  63. ^ Kramer, Aaron; Lishinsky, Saul (1999). The Last Lullaby: Poetry from the Holocaust. Syracuse University Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-8156-0579-9.
  64. ^ "Miriam Akavia (1927–2015)" (in Polish). DziennikPolski24.pl. 19 January 2015.
  65. ^ "Platform for Polish-Jewish Dialogue" [Platforma Dialogu Polsko-Żydowskiego]. Homepage. Dialog.org.
  66. ^ EHRI. "Macramé bag with 2 wooden handles used by a Polish Jewish family while in hiding". The European Holocaust Research Infrastructure Online Portal.
  67. ^ Offen, Sam (2005). When hope prevails: the personal triumph of a Holocaust survivor. Livonia, MI: First Page Publications. ISBN 978-1-928623-58-8.
  68. ^ a b Wojciech Jerzy Muszynski, IPN Warsaw (March 2009). "Jerzy Zakulski, Czarny Mecenas" (PDF file, direct download 2.82 MB). Biuletyn Nr 3/98. Institute of National Remembrance. pp. 53–56. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  69. ^ see for example: Balcerzan, Edward (1982). Poezja polska w latach 1939-1965 (pt. 1: Strategie liryczne). Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne. p. 30. ISBN 830201172X.


  • Graf, Malvina (1989). The Kraków Ghetto and the Plaszów Camp Remembered. Tallahassee: The Florida State University Press. ISBN 0-8130-0905-7
  • Polanski, Roman. (1984). Roman. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-02621-4
  • Katz, Alfred. (1970). Poland's Ghettos at War. New York: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0-8290-0195-6
  • Schindler's List – reproduction of the original list of Jewish people employed by Oskar Schindler
  • Schindler's Krakow – modern-day photographs

External links

Coordinates: 50°2′43″N 19°57′17″E / 50.04528°N 19.95472°E / 50.04528; 19.95472

5 November 1943

World War II: Bombing of the Vatican.

Map of Vatican City showing the buildings of the Governatorate, the Tribunal, and the Archpriest, and the railway station, which were damaged on 5 November 1943. The mosaic workshop, which received a direct hit, is positioned between the railway station and the residence of the archpriest.

Bombings of Vatican City occurred twice during World War II. The first occasion was on the evening of 5 November 1943, when a plane dropped bombs on the area south-west of Saint Peter's Basilica, causing considerable damage but no casualties. The second bombing, which affected only the outer margin of the city, was at about the same hour on 1 March 1944, and caused the death of one person and the injury of another.[1]


Vatican City was neutral throughout the war.[2] Both Allied and Axis aircraft crews were generally commanded to respect its neutrality even when bombing Rome.

On 25. July 1943, after Allied forces had conquered the Italian possessions in Africa and had taken Sicily, the Fascist Grand Council removed Benito Mussolini from power. The Kingdom of Italy at first remained an ally of Nazi Germany, but in less than two months secured an armistice with the Allies, signed on 3. September and announced on 8. September. Germany, which had discovered what was afoot, quickly intervened and took military control of most of Italy, including Rome, freed Mussolini and brought him to the German-occupied area to establish a puppet regime known as the Italian Social Republic.

Both bombings occurred while Rome was under German occupation.

Bombing of 5 November 1943

Palace of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, one of the buildings damaged by the 5 November 1943 bombing

Account by Monsignor Domenico Tardini

An undated eyewitness account written by Monsignor Domenico Tardini in 1944 states:

The (first) bombing of the Vatican occurred on 5 November 1943 at 20:10. It was a very clear and cloudless evening. The moon made visibility excellent. For over half an hour an aeroplane was heard circling insistently over Rome and especially the Vatican. At about 8:10, while an Allied squadron passed over the Vatican, the aeroplane that until then had been circling over Rome dropped four bombs and flew away. The bombs fell in the Vatican Gardens: the first near the receiving Radio, another near the Government building, a third on the mosaics workshop, the fourth near the building of the Cardinal Archpriest. If they had fallen a very few metres off, they would have hit the Radio, the Government building, that of the Tribunals (where the diplomats were housed), and that of the Archpriest. They caused considerable damage, for all the windows were blown to pieces. There were no human casualties.[3]

The future Cardinal continued:

General opinion, and general indignation, blamed the Germans and, perhaps more, the Republican Fascists. The latter view was reinforced by notes about a telephone conversation of Barracu (Undersecretary for Home Affairs) that a telephone operator (with whom I am not acquainted) gave to the Holy Father. However, some months later, Monsignor Montini received from Monsignor Carroll,[4] an American of the Secretariat of State, who was in Algiers to organize an information service for soldiers and civilians,[5] a letter in which it was stated clearly that the bombs had been dropped by an American. 5 November is for England, Father Hughes told me, an anti-Pope day. When Monsignor Carroll came to Rome in June 1944, he answered a question of mine by telling me that the American airman was supposed to have acted either to make a name for himself or out of wickedness. Monsignor Carroll did not know whether the delinquent had been punished. Perhaps we will know, when the war is over, what really happened.[3]

Statement by Monsignor Walter S. Carroll

The message from Monsignor Walter S. Carroll that Monsignor Tardini spoke of as addressed to Monsignor Montini was in reality addressed to Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione. It read: "In a conversation with the American Chief of Staff during the past week I was informed very confidentially that they feel that the bombing of the Vatican is probably attributable to an American pilot who lost his way; in fact, another American pilot reported seeing an Allied plane dropping its load on the Vatican. The General expressed his sincere regret and gave assurances that strict precaution would be taken to avoid a repetition of this incident "[3]

Official assurance that no American plane had in fact dropped bombs on Vatican City was given by the United States authorities.[6]

The German[7] and British[8] authorities gave similar assurances regarding aircraft of their countries. Aware that the bombs used were British, the British pointed out that this proved nothing as they could have been taken from captured ordnance, and used for precisely that purpose.

Recent books

Effects of shrapnel on a wall of the Vatican railway station, which is adorned with a sculpture of Elijah in the fiery chariot

Augusto Ferrara's 2010 book 1943 Bombe sul Vaticano,[9][page needed] declares that the attack was orchestrated by leading Italian Fascist politician and anti-clericalist Roberto Farinacci. The aim was to knock out Vatican Radio, which was suspected of sending coded message to the Allies. The aircraft that delivered the bombs was a SIAI Marchetti S.M.79, a three-engined Italian medium bomber known as the "Sparviero", which had taken off from Viterbo, some 80 kilometres north of Rome.[10][11]

One piece of evidence on which Ferrara bases his account of the responsibility of Farinacci was a telephone call from a priest called Giuseppe to the Jesuit Pietro Tacchi Venturi. In fact, a note on page 705 of volume 7 of the Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale cites Eitel Friederich Moellhausen[12] as stating that rumours in Rome immediately blamed Farinacci and spoke of Viterbo as the base from which the plane must have flown. Tardini's note quoted above also says that, from the start, it was the general opinion that the Italian Republican Fascists were to blame, a view that Tardini himself discounted on the basis of the information given by Monsignor Carroll. Owen Chadwick also reported that Farinacci was rumoured in Rome to have arranged the raid from the Viterbo airfield, something that Farinacci, who was killed together with Mussolini on 28 April 1945, never denied, but Chadwick considered the story "very unlikely".[13]

In Ferrara's account, five bombs were dropped, of which one did not explode. According to the Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale,[14] the report of an examination carried out by Vatican authorities after the event spoke only of fragments that made it difficult to determine whether the high-explosive bombs, which had been of 100–150 kg weight and produced small craters over a wide range, were of British, German or Italian manufacture.

The 2007 book Venti angeli sopra Roma by Cesare De Simone[15] speaks of a supposed admission of responsibility by the RAF in the postwar period.[16]

The article by Raffaele Alessandrini on the 10–11 January 2011 issue of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano says that the identity of those responsible has still not been completely clarified.[1]

However, research published in 2016 gives a more definitive identification of the bomber and presents an intriguing account of the motive behind it.[17] Throughout 1943 the Italian Intelligence Service routinely intercepted and recorded telephone conversations to and from the Vatican. On November 8, 1943 Ugo Guspini, one of the intelligence agents involved, recorded the conversation between Fr. Giuseppe and the Jesuit Pietro Tacchi Venturi. In this verbatim account Fr. Giuseppe informed the Jesuit that he had just returned from the Viterbo Air Force base, north of Rome, where he had been told by someone who was present throughout the entire operation that the bombing was undertaken by Roberto Farinacci and a Roman pilot in an Italian Savoia-Marchetti aircraft with five bombs on board destined to knock out the Vatican Radio station because Farinacci believed it was transmitting military information to the Allies.[18] This confirms the account given by Augusto Ferrara above and is further corroborated by Eitel Möllhausen, at the time chargé d'affaires at the German Embassy, Rome, who in his post war memoir claimed that Farinacci was responsible and that Farinacci never denied it.[19]

The report by Monsignor Walter S. Carroll (see above), who had just returned from Allied headquarters in Algeria, that he had been informed “very confidentially” that the bombing was due to an American pilot who had lost his way and that another American pilot had reported seeing an Allied plane dropping its load on the Vatican, correctly represented opinion at Allied headquarters, Algeria, at the time. On November 8, 1943, Harold Macmillan, the then resident British Minister in Algiers, informed the British Foreign Office in a “Most Secret” telegram: “I think we probably did bomb the Vatican.” On the night in question one of seven British Boston bombers, which had been in operation just north of Rome at the time the Vatican was bombed, developed engine trouble and dropped its bombs through clouds over an unknown location in order to lighten its load and return to base. These it was thought must have been the bombs which fell on the Vatican. But at the Foreign Office it was noted that it had been a clear and cloudless night over Rome when the Vatican was bombed. And a subsequent confidential Air Ministry investigation into the incident established that the impaired Boston had actually dropped its bombs over Arce, some fifty miles southeast of Rome, and that neither it nor any other British aircraft in operation that night was responsible.[20] The American pilot who witnessed the bombing probably saw the Savoia-Marchetti aircraft which, from a distance, is not dissimilar to the Martin Baltimore light bomber frequently used over Italy, and mistook it for an Allied aircraft. The weight of evidence, therefore, points to Farinacci, who, as seen, never denied it.

As to the motive behind it, McGoldrick questions the claim it was intended to silence Vatican Radio. The radio station's transmissions to the enemy and anti-Nazi broadcasts already ceased in May 1941 when Mussolini, under pressure from Hitler, threatened to invade the Vatican and close it down.[21] But from September 8, 1943, when Germany invaded and occupied Rome, both British and American media outlets unleashed a series of totally untrue (“False News”) reports that the Nazis had invaded the Vatican, imprisoned the Pope and arrested a number of Cardinals. This inflamed Catholic opinion in Latin America but especially in Argentina, the last South American country to maintain diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany. From September 1943 to the end of October 1943 the German Ambassador in Buenos Aires, Eric Otto Meynen, sent a series of urgent telegrams to Berlin warning that, in the light of these reports, Argentina was about to break off relations with Germany. It was not enough, he said, to deny the allegations; a concrete counter action was needed. This, together with a carefully choreographed German propaganda operation blaming the British, suggests that when Farinacci bombed the Vatican with British bombs, he did so under instruction from his German handlers, anxious to discredit the Allies and counter harmful Allied propaganda which threatened their diplomatic relations with Argentina, the last friendly country open to them in Latin America.[22]

Bombing of 1 March 1944

There is no obscurity about the identity of the British plane that dropped bombs on the edge of Vatican City on 1 March 1944 as this was explicitly acknowledged, at least in private, by the British Air Ministry as an accidental bombing when one of its aircraft on a bombing raid over Rome dropped its bombs too close to the Vatican wall.[23] It caused human casualties, killing a workman who was in the open and injuring a Dutch Augustinian in the College of Saint Monica. The six low-calibre bombs dropped also caused damage to the Palace of the Holy Office, to the Oratory of Saint Peter, and to the Pontifical Urbanian College on the nearby Janiculum Hill. Claims persist, nevertheless, that this was an Italian plane which was seen to strike an obstacle, perhaps a tree on the Janiculum, after which it jettisoned its bombs, but crashed after hitting a house on Via del Gelsomino with its wing. The Italian authorities quickly removed the wreckage and the dead pilot.[1][16]

Monsignor Giulio Barbetta, who recounts his experience of this bombing, says that, while almost all the windows of the Holy Office building were shattered, the glass covering an image of Our Lady between it and the entrance to the Oratory of Saint Peter remained intact and the oratory itself suffered no more than the effects of shrapnel against its wall. This led to the placing of sculptures of two shield-bearing angels to right and left of the image above an inscription that states: AB ANGELIS DEFENSA KAL. MART. A.D. MCMXLIV (Protected by angels, 1 March 1944 AD).[1][24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Raffaele Alessandrini, "Bombe in Vaticano" in L'Osservatore Romano, 10–11 January 2011 Archived July 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ C. Peter Chen. "Vatican City in World War II | World War II Database". Ww2db.com. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  3. ^ a b c Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, vol. 7, pp. 688–689 Archived November 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ On this American priest, see Joseph Bottum, David G. Dalin (editors), The Pius War (Lexington Books 2004 ISBN 978-0-73910906-9), p. 276 and a newspaper article by Anna B. Crow.
  5. ^ A reference to the Vatican Information Bureau, which provided information on prisoners-of-war held by both sides (cf. reports from Monsignor Carroll in Algiers to Monsignor Montini in Margherita Marchioni, Pius XII (Gracewing Publishing 2000, pp. 303–307 ISBN 978-0-85244365-1)).
  6. ^ Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, vol. 7, pp. 695–696 and 702–703
  7. ^ Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, vol. 7, pp. 697–698
  8. ^ Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, vol. 7, pp. 703–704
  9. ^ Augusto Ferrara, 1943 Bombe sul Vaticano (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2010 ISBN 978-88-2098435-9)
  10. ^ ROME REPORTS TV News Agency. "Discover who bombed the Vatican during World War II". Romereports.com. Archived from the original on 2013-03-18. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  11. ^ Mariaelena Finessi, "Book Features 1943 Bombing of Vatican" (ZENIT News Agency, 12 November 2010)
  12. ^ Moellhausen, La carta perdente (Rome, Sestante 1948), pp. 151–154
  13. ^ Chadwick, Owen (1988). Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War. Cambridge University Press. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-521-36825-4.
  14. ^ Volume 7, p. 705
  15. ^ Cesare De Simone, Venti angeli sopra Roma. I bombardamenti aerei sulla città eterna (il 19 luglio e il 13 agosto 1943) (Ugo Mursia Editore 2007 ISBN 978-88-4253827-1)
  16. ^ a b Bunker di Roma, "Città del Vaticano"
  17. ^ McGoldrick, Patricia M. (Autumn 2016). "Who Bombed the Vatican? The Argentinean Connection". The Catholic Historical Review. 102 (4): 771–798. doi:10.1353/cat.2016.0207.
  18. ^ Ugo Guspini, L’orecchio del Regime, (Milan 1973), 248–249
  19. ^ Eitel Möllhausen, La carta perdente (Rome 1948), 152–153
  20. ^ McGoldrick, Patricia M. (Autumn 2016). "Who Bombed the Vatican? The Argentinean Connection". The Catholic Historical Review. 102 (4): 779–780. doi:10.1353/cat.2016.0207.
  21. ^ McGoldrick, Patricia M. (Autumn 2016). "Who Bombed the Vatican? The Argentinean Connection". The Catholic Historical Review. 102 (4): 781–783. doi:10.1353/cat.2016.0207.
  22. ^ McGoldrick, Patricia M. (Autumn 2016). "Who Bombed the Vatican? The Argentinean Connection". The Catholic Historical Review. 102 (4): 785–798. doi:10.1353/cat.2016.0207.
  23. ^ McGoldrick, Patricia M. (Autumn 2016). "Who Bombed the Vatican? The Argentinean Connection". The Catholic Historical Review. 102 (4): 780. doi:10.1353/cat.2016.0207.
  24. ^ Giulio Barbetta, Un cardinale tra "li regazzini"(Rome, Città Nuova Editrice, 1966)

Coordinates: 41°54′8.25″N 12°27′13.98″E / 41.9022917°N 12.4538833°E / 41.9022917; 12.4538833

10 July 1943

Operation Husky begins in Sicily

Sicilian Campaign
Part of the Italian Campaign of World War II
Map operation husky landing.jpg
A map of the Allied army amphibious landing in Sicily, 10 July 1943, as part of Operation Husky.
Date9 July – 17 August 1943

Allied victory

Sicily occupied by Allied forces

 United Kingdom

 United States
 Free France[2]
Supported by:
Commanders and leaders
United States Dwight D. Eisenhower
United Kingdom Harold Alexander
United Kingdom Bernard Montgomery
United States George S. Patton
United Kingdom Arthur Tedder
United Kingdom Andrew Cunningham
Fascist Italy (1922–1943) Alfredo Guzzoni
Nazi Germany Albert Kesselring
Nazi Germany Hans-Valentin Hube
Nazi Germany F. v. Senger u. Etterlin
Initial strength:
160,000 personnel
600 tanks
14,000 vehicles
1,800 guns[4]
Peak strength:
467,000 personnel[5]
Kingdom of Italy Italy:
131,359[6]–252,000 personnel[7]
260 tanks
1,400 aircraft[8]
Nazi Germany Germany:
40,000–60,000 personnel[5][9]
Casualties and losses
United KingdomCanada United Kingdom and Canada:[10]
2,721 killed
7,939 wounded
2,183 missing
United States United States:[10]
2,811 killed
6,471 wounded
686 missing

Fascist Italy (1922–1943) Italy:[11]
4,678 killed
32,500 wounded
116,861 captured & missing[12]

Nazi Germany Germany:[11]
4,325 killed
13,500 wounded
10,106 captured & missing

The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major campaign of World War II, in which the Allies took the island of Sicily from the Axis powers (Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany). It began with a large amphibious and airborne operation, followed by a six-week land campaign, and initiated the Italian Campaign.

To divert some of their forces to other areas, the Allies engaged in several deception operations, the most famous and successful of which was Operation Mincemeat. Husky began on the night of 9–10 July 1943, and ended on 17 August. Strategically, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners; the Allies drove Axis air, land and naval forces from the island and the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened for Allied merchant ships for the first time since 1941. The Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, was toppled from power in Italy and the way was opened for the Allied invasion of Italy. The German leader, Adolf Hitler, "canceled a major offensive at Kursk after only a week, in part to divert forces to Italy", resulting in a reduction of German strength on the Eastern Front.[13] The collapse of Italy necessitated German troops replacing the Italians in Italy and to a lesser extent the Balkans, resulting in one fifth of the entire German army being diverted from the east to southern Europe, a proportion that would remain until near the end of the war.[14]



The plan for Operation Husky called for the amphibious assault of Sicily by two Allied armies, one landing on the south-eastern and one on the central southern coast. The amphibious assaults were to be supported by naval gunfire, as well as tactical bombing, interdiction and close air support by the combined air forces. As such, the operation required a complex command structure, incorporating land, naval and air forces. The overall commander was American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of all the Allied forces in North Africa. British General Sir Harold Alexander acted as his second-in-command and as the 15th Army Group commander. The American Major General Walter Bedell Smith was appointed as Eisenhower's Chief of Staff.[15] The overall Naval Force Commander was the British Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham.

The Allied land forces were from the American, British and Canadian armies, and were structured as two task forces. The Eastern Task Force (also known as Task Force 545) was led by General Sir Bernard Montgomery and consisted of the British Eighth Army (which included the 1st Canadian Infantry Division). The Western Task Force (Task Force 343) was commanded by Lieutenant General George S. Patton and consisted of the American Seventh Army. The two task force commanders reported to Alexander as commander of the 15th Army Group.[16]

Allied leaders in the Sicilian campaign. General Dwight D. Eisenhower meets in North Africa with (foreground, left to right): Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, General Sir Harold Alexander, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, and (top row): Mr. Harold Macmillan, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, and unidentified British officers.

The U.S. Seventh Army consisted initially of three infantry divisions, organized under II Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley. The 1st and 3rd Infantry Divisions, commanded by Major Generals Terry Allen and Lucian Truscott respectively, sailed from ports in Tunisia, while the 45th Infantry Division, under Major General Troy H. Middleton, sailed from the United States via Oran in Algeria. The 2nd Armored Division, under Major General Hugh Joseph Gaffey, also sailing from Oran, was to be a floating reserve and be fed into combat as required. On 15 July, Patton reorganized his command into two corps by creating a new Provisional Corps headquarters, commanded by his deputy army commander, Major General Geoffrey Keyes.[17]

The British Eighth Army had four infantry divisions and an independent infantry brigade organized under XIII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey, and XXX Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese. The two divisions of XIII Corps, the 5th and 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Divisions, commanded by Major-Generals Horatio Berney-Ficklin and Sidney Kirkman, sailed from Suez in Egypt. The formations of XXX Corps sailed from more diverse ports: the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, under Major-General Guy Simonds, sailed from the United Kingdom, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, under Major-General Douglas Wimberley, from Tunisia and Malta, and the 231st Independent Infantry Brigade Group from Suez.

The 1st Canadian Infantry Division was included in Operation Husky at the insistence of the Canadian Prime Minister, William Mackenzie King, and the Canadian Military Headquarters in the United Kingdom. This request was granted by the British, displacing the veteran British 3rd Infantry Division. The change was not finalized until 27 April 1943, when Lieutenant-General Andrew McNaughton, then commanding the Canadian First Army in the United Kingdom, deemed Operation Husky to be a viable military undertaking and agreed to the detachment of both the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade. The "Red Patch Division" was added to Leese's XXX Corps to become part of the British Eighth Army.[18]

In addition to the amphibious landings, airborne troops were to be flown in to support both the Western and Eastern Task Forces. To the east, the British 1st Airborne Division, commanded by Major-General George F. Hopkinson, was to seize vital bridges and high ground in support of the British Eighth Army. The initial plan dictated that the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, commanded by Major General Matthew Ridgway, was to be held as a tactical reserve in Tunisia.[19]

Allied naval forces were also grouped into two task forces to transport and support the invading armies. The Eastern Naval Task Force was formed from the British Mediterranean Fleet and was commanded by Admiral Bertram Ramsay. The Western Naval Task Force was formed around the U.S. Eighth Fleet, commanded by Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt. The two naval task force commanders reported to Admiral Cunningham as overall Naval Forces Commander.[16] Two sloops of the Royal Indian NavyHMIS Sutlej and HMIS Jumna – also participated.[1]

At the time of Operation Husky, the Allied air forces in North Africa and the Mediterranean were organized into the Mediterranean Air Command (MAC) under Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder. The major sub-command of MAC was the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) under the command of Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz with headquarters in Tunisia. NAAF consisted primarily of groups from the United States 12th Air Force, 9th Air Force, and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) that provided the primary air support for the operation. Other groups from the 9th Air Force under Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton operating from Tunisia and Egypt, and Air H.Q. Malta under Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park operating from the island of Malta, also provided important air support.

The U.S. Army Air Force 9th Air Force's medium bombers and P-40 fighter that were detached to NAAF's Northwest African Tactical Air Force under the command of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham moved to southern airfields on Sicily as soon they were secured. At the time, the 9th Air Force was a sub-command of RAF Middle East Command under Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas. Middle East Command, like NAAF and Air H.Q. Malta were sub-commands of MAC under Tedder who reported to Eisenhower for NAAF operations[16] and to the British Chiefs of Staff for Air H.Q. Malta and Middle East Command operations.[20][21]


General Alfredo Guzzoni, Supreme Commander of Italo-German forces in Sicily.

The island was defended by the two corps of the Italian 6th Army under General Alfredo Guzzoni, although specially designated Fortress Areas around the main ports (Piazze Militari Marittime), were commanded by admirals subordinate to Naval Headquarters and independent of the 6th Army.[22] In early July, the total Axis force in Sicily was about 200,000 Italian troops, 32,000 German troops and 30,000 Luftwaffe ground staff. The main German formations were the Panzer Division Hermann Göring and the 15th Panzergrenadier Division. The Panzer division had 99 tanks in two battalions but was short of infantry (with only three battalions), while the 15th Panzergrenadier Division had three grenadier regiments and a tank battalion with 60 tanks.[23] About half of the Italian troops were formed into four front-line infantry divisions and headquarters troops; the remainder were support troops or inferior coastal divisions and brigades. Guzzoni's defence plan was for the coastal formations to form a screen to receive the invasion and allow time for the field divisions further back to intervene.[24]

By late July, the German units had been reinforced, principally by elements of the 1st Parachute Division, 29th Panzergrenadier Division and the XIV Panzer Corps headquarters (General der Panzertruppe Hans-Valentin Hube), bringing the number of German troops to around 70,000.[25] Until the arrival of the corps headquarters, the two German divisions were nominally under Italian tactical control. The panzer division, with a reinforced infantry regiment from the panzergrenadier division to compensate for its lack of infantry, was under and the rest of the panzergrenadier division under the .[26] The German commanders in Sicily were contemptuous of their allies and German units took their orders from the German liaison officer attached to the 6th Army HQ, Generalleutnant Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin who was subordinate to Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, the German C-in-C Army Command South (OB Süd). Von Senger had arrived in Sicily in late June as part of a German plan to gain greater operational control of its units.[27] Guzzoni agreed from 16 July to delegate to Hube control of all sectors where there were German units involved, and from 2 August, he commanded the Sicilian front.[28]


Sicily (red) in relation to the Italian mainland.

At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, with the end of the North African Campaign in sight, the political leaders and the military Chiefs of Staff of the United States and Britain met to discuss future strategy. The British Chiefs of Staff were in favour of an invasion of Sicily or Sardinia, arguing that it would force Germany to disperse its forces and might knock Italy out of the war and move Turkey to join the Allies.[29] At first, the Americans opposed the plan as opportunistic and irrelevant, but were persuaded to agree to a Sicilian invasion on the grounds of the great savings to Allied shipping that would result from the opening of the Mediterranean by the removal of Axis air and naval forces from the island.[29] The Combined Chiefs of Staff appointed General Eisenhower as C-in-C of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Alexander as Deputy C-in-C with responsibility for detailed planning and execution of the operation, Admiral Cunningham as Naval Commander, and Air Chief Marshal Tedder as Air Commander.[30]

The outline plan given to Eisenhower by the Chiefs of Staff involved dispersed landings by brigade and division-sized formations in the south-east, south and north-west areas of the island. The logic behind the plan was that it would result in the rapid capture of key Axis airfields that posed a threat to the beachheads and the invasion fleet lying off them. It would also see the rapid capture of all the main ports on the island, except for Messina, including Catania, Palermo, Syracuse, Licata and Augusta. This would facilitate a rapid Allied build-up, as well as denying their use to the Axis.[31] High-level planning for the operation lacked direction because the three mainland commanders, Alexander, Montgomery and Patton, were fully occupied in operations in Tunisia. Effort was wasted in presenting plans that Montgomery, in particular, disliked because of the dispersion of forces involved. He was finally able to articulate his objections and put forward alternative proposals on 24 April.[32] Tedder and Cunningham opposed Montgomery's plan because it would leave 13 landing grounds in Axis hands, posing a considerable threat to the Allied invasion fleet.[33]

Eisenhower called a meeting for 2 May with Montgomery, Cunningham and Tedder, in which Montgomery made new proposals to concentrate the Allied effort on the southeast corner of Sicily, discarding the intended landings close to Palermo and using the south-eastern ports.[33] After Alexander joined the meeting on 3 May, Montgomery's proposals were finally accepted on the basis that it was better to take an administrative risk (having to support troops by landing supplies across beaches) than an operational one (dispersion of effort).[34][35] Not for the last time, Montgomery had argued a sound course of action, yet done so in a conceited manner, which suggested to others, particularly his American allies, that he was preoccupied with his own interests.[36] In the event, maintaining the armies by landing supplies across the beaches proved easier than expected, partly because of the successful introduction of large numbers of the new amphibious DUKW vehicle. Alexander was later to write "It is not too much to say that the DUKW revolutionised the problem of beach maintenance."[34]

Map of the Allied landings in Sicily on 10 July 1943.

On 17 May, Alexander issued his Operation Instruction No. 1 setting out his broad plan and defining the tasks of the two armies.[34] Broadly speaking, he intended to establish his armies along a line from Catania to Licata preparatory to a final operation to reduce the island. He later wrote that at that stage it was not practicable to plan further ahead but that his intentions were clear in his own mind what the next step would be: he would drive north ultimately to Santo Stefano on the northern coast to split the island in two and cut his enemy's east-west communications.[37] The Seventh Army was assigned to land in the Gulf of Gela, in south-central Sicily, with the 3rd Infantry Division and 2nd Armored Division to the west at Licata Mollarella beach, 1st Division in the center at Gela, and 45th Division to the east at Scoglitti. The 82nd Airborne Division was assigned to drop behind the defences at Gela and Scoglitti. The Seventh Army's beach-front stretched over 50 kilometers (31 mi). The British Eighth Army was assigned to land in south-eastern Sicily. XXX Corps would land on either side of Cape Passero, while XIII Corps would land in the Gulf of Noto, around Avola, off to the north. The Eighth Army's beach front also stretched 40 kilometers (25 mi), and there was a gap of some 40 kilometers (25 mi) between the two armies.

Preparatory operations

Once the Axis forces had been defeated in Tunisia, the Allied strategic bomber force commenced attacks on the principal airfields of Sardinia, Sicily and southern Italy, industrial targets in southern Italy and the ports of Naples, Messina, Palermo and Cagliari (in Sardinia). The attacks were spread to maintain uncertainty as to the next Allied move, and to pin down Axis aircraft and keep them away from Sicily. Bombing of northern Italy (by aircraft based in the UK) and Greece (by aircraft based in the Middle East) was increased.[38] From 3 July, bombing concentrated on Sicilian airfields and Axis communications with Italy, although beach defences were left alone, to preserve surprise as to where the landings would occur.[39] By 10 July, only two airfields in Sicily remained fully operational and over half the Axis aircraft had been forced to leave the island.[40] Between mid-May and the invasion, Allied airmen flew 42,227 sorties and destroyed 323 German and 105 Italian aircraft, for the loss of 250 aircraft, mostly to anti-aircraft fire over Sicily.[41]

Operations began in May against the small island of Pantelleria, some 70 miles (110 km) south-west of Sicily and 150 miles (240 km) north-west of Malta, to prevent the airfield there being used in support of Axis troops attempting to withdraw from North Africa. On 13 and 31 May the cruiser HMS Orion bombarded the island and from 6 June, Allied attacks increased.[42] On 11 June, after a naval bombardment and seaborne landing by the British 1st Infantry Division (Operation Corkscrew) the island garrison surrendered. The Pelagie Islands of Lampedusa and Linosa, some 90 miles (140 km) west of Malta, followed in short order on 12 June.[40]


Lascaris War Rooms.

The Allies used a network of tunnels and chambers located below the Lascaris Battery in Valletta, Malta (the "Lascaris War Rooms"), for the advance headquarters of the invasion of Sicily.[43] In July 1943, General Eisenhower, Admiral Cunningham, General Montgomery, and Air Marshal Tedder occupied the war rooms. Earlier, the war rooms had served as the British headquarters for the defence of Malta.[44]


To distract the Axis, and if possible divert some of their forces to other areas, the Allies engaged in several deception operations. The most famous and successful of these was Operation Mincemeat, conceived by Naval intelligence officer Ewen Montagu and RAF Squadron Leader Charles Cholmondeley.[45] The British allowed a corpse, disguised as a British Royal Marines officer, to drift ashore in Spain carrying a briefcase containing fake secret documents. The documents purported to reveal that the Allies were planning "Operation Brimstone" and that an "Operation Husky" was an invasion of Greece. German intelligence accepted the authenticity of the documents and the Germans diverted much of their defensive effort from Sicily to Greece until the occupation of Pantelleria on 11 June, which concentrated German and Italian attention on the western Mediterranean.[45] Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel was sent to Greece to assume command. The Germans transferred a group of "R boats" (German minesweepers and minelayers) from Sicily and laid three additional minefields off the Greek coast. They also moved three panzer divisions to Greece, one from France and two from the Eastern Front which reduced German combat strength in the Kursk salient.[46]


Allied landings

Airborne landings

British airborne troops wait to board an American WACO CG4A glider.

Two American and two British attacks by airborne troops were carried out just after midnight on the night of 9–10 July, as part of the invasion. The American paratroopers consisted largely of Colonel James M. Gavin's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (expanded into the 505th Parachute Regimental Combat Team with the addition of the 3rd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, along with the , Company 'B' of the and other supporting units) of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, making their first combat drop. The British landings were preceded by pathfinders of the 21st Independent Parachute Company, who were to mark landing zones for the troops who were intending to seize the Ponte Grande, the bridge over the River Anape just south of Syracuse, and hold it until the British 5th Infantry Division arrived from the beaches at Cassibile, some 7 miles (11 km) to the south.[47] Glider infantry from the British 1st Airborne Division's 1st Airlanding Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Philip Hicks, were to seize landing zones inland.[48] Strong winds of up to 45 miles per hour (72 km/h)[49] blew the troop-carrying aircraft off course and the American force was scattered widely over south-east Sicily between Gela and Syracuse. By 14 July, about two-thirds of the 505th had managed to concentrate, and half the U.S. paratroopers failed to reach their rallying points.[50]

The British air-landing troops fared little better, with only 12 of the 147 gliders landing on target and 69 crashing into the sea, with over 200 men drowning.[51] Among those who landed in the sea were Major General George F. Hopkinson, commander of the British 1st Airborne Division, who, after several hours spent clutching a piece of wreckage, was eventually rescued by the landing ship HMS Keren. The scattered airborne troops attacked patrols and created confusion wherever possible. A platoon of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, under Lieutenant , part of the British 1st Airlanding Brigade, landed on target, captured Ponte Grande and repulsed counterattacks. Additional paratroops rallied to the sound of shooting and by 08:30 89 men were holding the bridge.[52] By 11:30, a battalion of the Italian 75th Infantry Regiment (Colonel Francesco Ronco) from the 54 Infantry Division Napoli arrived with some artillery.[53] The British force held out until about 15:30 hours, when, low on ammunition and by now reduced to 18 men, they were forced to surrender, 45 minutes before the leading elements of the British 5th Division arrived from the south.[53][54] Despite these mishaps, the widespread landing of airborne troops, both American and British, had a positive effect as small isolated units, acting on their initiative, attacked vital points and created confusion.[55]

Seaborne landings

Troops from the 51st (Highland) Division unloading stores from tank landing craft on the opening day of the invasion of Sicily, 10 July 1943.

The strong wind also made matters difficult for the amphibious landings but also ensured surprise as many of the defenders had assumed that no one would attempt a landing in such poor conditions.[55] Landings were made in the early hours of 10 July on 26 main beaches spread along 105 miles (169 km) of the southern and eastern coasts of the island between the town of Licata [56] where the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, under the command of Major General Lucian Truscott, landed at Torre di Gaffe, red beach, and Mollarella and Poliscia, green beaches in the west, and Cassibile in the east,[57] with British and Canadian forces in the east and Americans toward the west. This constituted the largest amphibious operation of World War II in terms of size of the landing zone and the number of divisions put ashore on the first day.[58] The Italian defensive plan did not contemplate a pitched battle on the beaches and so the landings themselves were somewhat anti-climactic.[59]

An American crew checks their Sherman tank after landing at Red Beach 2, Sicily, 10 July.

More trouble was experienced from the difficult weather conditions (especially on the southern beaches) and unexpected hidden offshore sandbars than from the coastal divisions. Some troops landed in the wrong place, in the wrong order and as much as six hours behind schedule,[60] but the weakness of the defensive response allowed the Allied force to make up lost time.[55] Nevertheless, several Italian coastal units fought well; the 429th Coastal Battalion (under Major Marco Rubellino[61]), tasked with defending Gela, lost 45 percent of its men, while the attacking U.S. Army Ranger Battalion lost several men to mines and machine-gun and cannon fire.[62] Gruppo Tattico Carmito (under Lieutenant-Colonel Francesco Tropea), tasked with defending Malati Bridge, defeated a Royal Marines Commando Battalion on 13 July with the help of the local middle-age reservists. Lieutenant-Colonel Tropea's 4th Self-Propelled Artillery Battalion attacked the Commandos with the help of the 372nd Coastal Defence Battalion, Italian 53rd Motorcycle Company, and three Panzer IV medium tanks.[63][64] The 246th Coastal Battalion defeated British attempts to capture Augusta on the night of 11–12 July.[65]

In Major General Terry Allen's U.S. 1st Infantry Division sector at Gela, there was an Italian division-sized counterattack where the dispersed 505th Parachute Regimental Combat Team was supposed to have been. Tiger tanks of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division, which had been due to advance with the 4 Infantry Division Livorno, were late.[66]

On highways 115 and 117 during 10 July, Italian tanks of the "Niscemi" Armoured Combat Group and "Livorno" infantry nearly reached the Allied position at Gela, but gunfire from the destroyer USS Shubrick and the light cruiser USS Boise destroyed several tanks and dispersed the attacking infantry battalion.[67] The 3rd Battalion, 34th Regiment, "Livorno" Infantry Division, composed mainly of conscripts, made a daylight attack on the Gela beachhead two days later, with infantry and armor of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division, but was repulsed.[68]

Remains of the Italian Navy armed train "T.A. 76/2/T", destroyed by USS Bristol while opposing the landing at Licata.
British troops of the 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, part of the British 50th Division, with an American paratrooper of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, in Avola, 11 July 1943.

By the morning of 10 July, the Joint Task Force Operations Support System Force captured the port of Licata, at the cost of nearly 100 killed and wounded in the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, and the division beat back a counter-attack from the 538th Coastal Defence Battalion. By 11:30, Licata was firmly in American hands and the U.S. 3rd Division had lost fewer than one hundred men. Salvage parties had already partially cleared the harbor, and shortly after noon Truscott and his staff came ashore and set up headquarters at Palazzo La Lumia. About that time, the 538th Coastal Defense Battalion, which had been deployed as a tactical reserve, launched a counter-attack. By the evening of 10 July, the seven Allied assault divisions—three American, three British and one Canadian—were well established ashore, the port of Syracuse had been captured, and fears of an Axis air onslaught had proved unfounded.[69]

The preparatory bombing of the previous weeks had greatly weakened the Axis air capability and the heavy Allied presence of aircraft operating from Malta, Gozo, and Pantelleria kept most of the Axis attempts at air attack at bay. Some attacks on the first day of the invasion got through, and German aircraft sank the landing ship LST-313 and minesweeper USS Sentinel. Italian Stukas sank the destroyer USS Maddox[70][71] and the Indian hospital ship Talamba, and in the following days Axis aircraft damaged or sank several more warships, transport vessels and landing craft starting with the Allied troopship hit and damaged by an Italian bomber formation on the morning of 11 July.[72][73] Italian Stukas (named Picchiatello in Italian service) and Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 torpedo-bombers coordinated their attacks with German Stuka and Ju 88 bomber units. As part of the seaborne landings south at Agnone, some 400 men of Lieutenant Colonel John Durnford-Slater's No. 3 Commando captured Malati Bridge on 13 July, only to lose possession of it when the 4th Self-Propelled Artillery Battalion and the Italian 53rd Motorcycle Company counter-attacked.[74][75] The Commandos lost 28 killed, 66 wounded and 59 captured or missing.[76]


Map of Allied movements on Sicily during July.

General Alexander's plan was to first establish his forces on a line between Licata in the west and Catania in the east before embarking on operations to reduce the rest of the island. Key to this was capturing ports to facilitate the buildup of his forces and the capture of airfields. The task of General Montgomery's British Eighth Army was, therefore, to capture the Pachino airfield on Cape Passero and the port of Syracuse before moving northwards to take the ports of Augusta and Catania. Their objectives also included the landing fields around Gerbini, on the Catania plain. The objectives of Lieutenant General Patton's U.S. Seventh Army included capturing the port of Licata and the airfields of Ponte Olivo, Biscari and Comiso. It was then to prevent the enemy reserves from moving eastward against the Eighth Army's left flank.[77]

According to Axis plans, Kampfgruppe Schmalz (Colonel Wilhelm Schmalz), in conjunction with the 54th Infantry Division Napoli (Major-General Giulio Cesare Gotti-Porcinari), was to counter-attack an Allied landing on the Augusta–Syracuse coast. On 10 July, Colonel Schmalz had been unable to contact the Italian division and had proceeded alone towards Syracuse. Unknown to Schmalz, a battalion of 18 Renault R35 tanks (commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Massimo D'Andretta) and supporting infantry from the Napoli Division,[78] broke through the forward positions held by the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, part of the 13th Brigade of Major-General Horatio Berney-Ficklin's British 5th Division, and were stopped only by anti-tank and artillery fire in the Priolo and Floridia suburbs of Syracuse.[79][80]

Italian soldiers of the 206th Coastal Division, taken prisoner by British forces. Typical of the second-rate equipment issued to the Coastal divisions, they are wearing Adrian helmets of World War I vintage, rather than the more modern M 33.

On the night of 11–12 July, the Royal Navy attempted to capture Augusta but the 246th Coastal Battalion repelled the British landing force that was supported by three destroyers. On 12 July, several Italian units took up rearguard positions and covered the withdrawal of Kampfgruppe Schmalz and the Hermann Göring Division. The American advance toward Canicattì was temporarily held up by Semovente da 90/53 tank destroyers, 526th Bersaglieri Battalion and 177th Bersaglieri Regiment from Gruppo Tattico Venturi (under General Enrico Francisci, killed in action and posthumously awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valour),[81] as Kampfgruppe Schmalz retreated toward Catania. The 246th Coastal Battalion retreated to strong points at Cozzo Telegrafo and Acquedolci. The 76th Infantry Regiment of the Napoli Division covered the left flank of Kampfgruppe Schmalz which withdrew toward Lentini and then retired to Palermo. The Hermann Göring Division eventually pulled back from the Piano Lupo area toward Caltagirone and the Livorno Division withdrew its right flank toward Piazza Armerina, to cover the Hermann Göring Division.[82]

Early on 13 July, elements of the British 5th Division on Eighth Army's right flank, which had been delayed by Kampfgruppe Schmalz, entered Augusta.[83] On their left, Major-General Sidney Kirkman's British 50th Division had pushed up Route 114 toward Lentini, 15 miles (24 km) north-west of Augusta and met increasing resistance from the "Napoli" Division.[84] The commander of the Italian division and his staff were captured by Brigadier John Currie's British 4th Armoured Brigade on 13 July and it was not until 18:45 on 14 July that the town was cleared of obstructions and snipers and the advance resumed.[85][86] A battalion of the Napoli Division managed to break through the British lines and took up new positions at Augusta but the British advance forced it to retire again on 14 July.[87]

Further left, in the XXX Corps sector, Major-General Douglas Wimberley's 51st (Highland) Division had moved directly north to take Palazzolo and Vizzini 30 miles (48 km) west of Syracuse, while the Canadians secured Pachino airfield and headed north-west to make contact with the American right wing at Ragusa; after having driven off the Italian 122 Infantry Regiment north of Pachino. The Canadians captured more than 500 Italians.[88] In the Canadian area, the 2nd Special Service Brigade, under Brigadier Robert Laycock, was counter-attacked by the 206th Coastal Division (under General Achille D'Havet)[89] who launched a strong counter-attack that threatened to penetrate the area between the Canadians and the Royal Marine Commandos before being repulsed.[90]

American paratroopers of the 504th PIR bound for Sicily, July 1943.

In the American sector, by the morning of 10 July, the port of Licata had been captured. On 11 July, Patton ordered his reserve parachute troops from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (minus the 3rd Battalion already deployed in Sicily, attached to the 505th) under Colonel Reuben Tucker, part of Major General Matthew Ridgway's 82nd Airborne Division, to drop and reinforce the center. In addition, going along with the 504th would be the 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, Company 'C' of the and other supporting units. Warning orders had been issued to the fleet and troops on 6, 7, 10 and 11 July concerning the planned route and timing of the drop, so that the aircraft would not be fired on by friendly forces.[91] They were intended to drop east of Ponte Olivo, about 5 miles (8.0 km) inland from Gela, to block routes to the 1st Infantry Division's bridgehead at Gela.[47]

The 144 Douglas C-47 transports arrived at the same time as an Axis air raid; the first echelon of troop carrying planes dropped their loads without interference, when an Allied naval vessel fired on the formation. Immediately, all the other naval vessels and shore troops joined in, shooting down friendly aircraft and forcing paratroopers to jump far from their drop zones. The 52nd Troop Carrier Wing lost 23 of 144 С-47s to friendly fire; there were 318 casualties with 83 dead.[92] Thirty-seven aircraft were damaged, while eight returned to base without dropping their parachutists. The paratroopers suffered 229 casualties to "friendly fire", including 81 dead.[91][93] Among the casualties was Brigadier General , the 82nd Airborne's assistant division commander (ADC), who was along with the 504th as an unofficial observer. The 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division and commanded by Colonel , was then waiting in North Africa and scheduled to land in Sicily by glider that night, together with the rest of the division staff. After what happened to the 504th, Ridgway canceled the operation.

Despite this, the American beach landings went well and a substantial amount of supplies and transport was landed. Despite the failure of the airborne operation, the 1st Infantry Division took Ponte Olivo on 12 July and continued north, while Major General Troy H. Middleton's 45th Infantry Division on the right had taken the airfield at Comiso and entered Ragusa to link-up with the Canadians. On the left, Major General Truscott's 3rd Infantry Division, having landed at Licata, pushed troops 25 miles (40 km) up the coast almost to Argento and 20 miles (32 km) inland to Canicatti.[94]

Sherman tank of the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) in the village of Belpasso near Catania, Sicily, August 1943.[95][96]

Once the beachheads were secure, Alexander planned to split the island in half by thrusting north through the Caltanissetta and Enna region, to deny the defenders the central east-west lateral road. A further push north to Nicosia would cut the next lateral route and a final advance to Santo Stefano on the north coast would cut the coastal route. In new orders issued on 13 July, he gave this task to Montgomery's Eighth Army, perhaps based on a somewhat over-optimistic situation report by Montgomery late on 12 July, while the Seventh Army were to continue their holding role on the left flank of the Eighth Army, despite what appeared to be an opportunity for them to make a bold offensive move.[97][98] On 12 July, Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring had visited Sicily and formed the opinion that German troops were fighting virtually on their own. As a consequence, he concluded that the German formations needed to be reinforced, and that western Sicily should be abandoned in order to shorten the front line. The priority was first to slow and then halt the Allied advance, while a Hauptkampflinie was formed running from San Stefano on the northern coast, through Nicosia and Agira to Cantenanuova and from there to the eastern coast south of Catania.[99]

While XIII Corps, under Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey, continued to push along the Catania road, XXX Corps, under Lieutenant General Oliver Leese, were directed north along two routes; the first was an inland route through Vizzini, and the second following Route 124, which cut across the U.S. 45th Infantry Division, which had to return to the coast at Gela for redeployment behind the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. Progress was slow as Kampfgruppe Schmalz skilfully delayed the British 5th Infantry Division, allowing time for two regiments from the German 1st Parachute Division flying to Catania to deploy.[100] On 12 July, the British 1st Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Gerald Lathbury, had been dropped in Operation Fustian, an attempt to capture the Primosole Bridge over the river Simeto, on the southern edge of the Catania plain. The British paratroopers suffered heavy casualties, but managed to hold the bridge against fierce German attacks. The initial counterattacks were Italian in the form of reinforcements from the 10th Arditi Paratroop Regiment (Major Vito Marciano),[64] gunners from the 29th Artillery Group fighting in the infantry role[101] and an armoured car squadron that nearly overran the headquarters of 9th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry at nightfall in the first day of the battle for Primosole Bridge.[102] The British 5th Division was delayed by strong opposition, but made contact early on 15 July; nevertheless, it was not until 17 July that a shallow bridgehead north of the river was consolidated.[97]

A U.S. Army Sherman tank moves past Sicily's rugged terrain in mid July 1943.

On 16 July, the surviving Italian aircraft withdrew to the mainland. About 160 Italian planes had been lost in the first week of the invasion, 57 lost to Allied fighters and anti-aircraft fire on 10–12 July alone.[103] That day, an Italian bomber torpedoed the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, and the Italian submarine Dandolo torpedoed the cruiser HMS Cleopatra.[104] Both ships were put out of action for over a year.

On the night of 17 July, the Italian light cruiser Scipione Africano, equipped with EC.3 Gufo radar, detected and engaged four British Elco motor torpedo boats lurking 5 miles (8 km) away, while passing the Strait of Messina at high speed.[105] MTB 316 was sunk and MTB 313 damaged between Reggio di Calabria and Pellaro–twelve British sailors were killed.[106][107][108]

On the night of 17–18 July, Montgomery renewed his attack toward Catania, with two brigades of Major General Kirkman's 50th Division. They met strong opposition and by 19 July Montgomery decided to call off the attack and instead increase the pressure on his left. The 5th Division attacked on the 50th Division's left but with no greater success, and on 20 July, the 51st Division, further west, crossed the river Dittaino at Sferro and made for the Gerbini airfields. They too were driven back by counter-attacks on 21 July.[109] On the left flank, the 1st Canadian Division continued to advance but it was becoming clear that, as German units settled into their new positions in north eastern Sicily, the army would not have sufficient strength to carry the whole front and the Canadians were ordered to continue north to Leonforte and then turn eastward to Adrano on the south-western slopes of Mount Etna, instead of an encirclement of Mount Etna using Route 120 to Randazzo. Montgomery called forward his reserve division from North Africa, Major-General Vyvyan Evelegh's British 78th Infantry Division.[109]

4.2-inch mortar of the 1st Battalion, Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment, British 78th Infantry Division, in action near Adrano, 6 August 1943.

Patton had reorganised his forces into two corps. The Provisional Corps, commanded by Major General Geoffrey Keyes, consisting of the 2nd Armored, 3rd Infantry, and 82nd Airborne Divisions, was on the left. Lieutenant General Omar Bradley's U.S. II Corps was on the right. By 17 July, Provisional Corps had captured Porto Empedocle and Agrigento. On 18 July, II Corps took Caltanissetta, just short of Route 121, the main east–west lateral through the center of Sicily. The American advance toward Agrigento was temporarily held up by the 207th Coastal Defence Division (under Colonel Augusto De Laurentis) that was at Sant'Oliva Station, six miles inland from Licata.[110] The 10th Bersaglieri Regiment (under Colonel Fabrizio Storti) forced Colonel William O. Darby's 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions of the 3rd Infantry Division to fight their way into Agrigento.[111] By late afternoon on 16 July, the city was in American hands.[112]

American troops fire 81mm mortars in support of the Seventh Army's drive on Palermo.

The 15th Panzer Grenadier Division managed to join the other German formations in the east of the island. Patton was ordered on 18 July to push troops north through Petralia on Route 120, the next east–west lateral, and then to cut the northern coast road. After that, he would mop up the west of the island. Bradley's II Corps were given the task of making the northward move, while the Provisional Corps was tasked with the mopping up operation. Alexander issued further orders to Patton to develop an eastward threat along the coast road once he had cut it. He was also directed to capture Palermo as quickly as possible as the main supply base for further eastward commitment north of Mount Etna.[109] On 21 July, the Seventh Army's Provisional Corps overran the Italian battlegroup Raggruppamento Schreiber (under General Ottorino Schreiber), covering the withdrawal of the 15th Panzer Panzergrenadier Division,[113] but Patton lost 300 men killed and wounded in the process.[114][115] On 22 July, the Provisional Corps entered Palermo, and the next day the 45th Division cut the north coast road.[116]

Battles for Etna positions

During the last week in July, General Montgomery gathered his forces to renew the attack on 1 August. His immediate objective was Adrano, the capture of which would split the German forces on either side of Mount Etna. During the week, the Canadians and Brigadier Roy Urquhart's 231st Brigade Group continued their eastward push from Leonforte, and on 29 July had taken Agira, some 15 miles (24 km) west of Adrano. On the night of 29 July, the British 78th Division with the 3rd Canadian Brigade under command, took Catenanuova and made a bridgehead across the river Dittaino. On the night of 1 August, they resumed their attack to the northwest toward Centuripe, an isolated pinnacle of rock, which was the main southern outpost of the Adrano defences. After heavy fighting against the Hermann Göring Division and the all day on 2 August, the town was finally cleared of defenders on the morning of 3 August. The capture of Centuripe proved critical, in that the growing threat to Adrano made the position covering Catania untenable.[116]

Men of the 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, British 78th Division, await orders to move into Centuripe, Sicily, 2 August 1943.

Patton had decided that his communications could support two divisions pushing east, the 45th Division on the coast road and the 1st Division on Route 120. In order to maintain the pressure, he relieved the 45th Division with the fresher 3rd Division and called up Major General Manton Eddy's 9th Infantry Division from reserve in North Africa to relieve the 1st Division.[116] Axis forces were now settled on a second defensive line, the , running from San Fratello on the north coast through Troina and Aderno. On 31 July, the 1st Division with elements of the arriving 9th Division attached, reached Troina and the Battle of Troina commenced. This important position was held by the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division. The remnants of the 28 Infantry Division Aosta in the form of four battalions had also been pulled back to Troina to assist in the defensive preparations and forthcoming battle.[117]

For six days, the Germans and Italians conducted a costly defence; during the battle, they launched 24 counter-attacks and many small local ones. By 7 August, Colonel 's U.S. 18th Infantry Regiment, of the 9th Division, had captured Mount Pellegrino, which overlooked the Troina defences, allowing accurate direction of Allied artillery. The defenders' left flank was also becoming exposed as the adjacent Hermann Göring Division was pushed back by British XXX Corps and they were ordered to withdraw that night in phases to the defensive positions of the Tortorici Line.[118] Elements of the 29th Panzergrenadier Division and 26th Assietta Infantry Division, were also proving difficult to dislodge on the coast at Santa Agata and San Fratello. Patton sent a small amphibious force behind the defences, which led to the fall of Santa Agata on 8 August after holding out for six days.[116][119]

General Montgomery stops his car to talk to men of the Royal Engineers working on a road near Catania, Sicily, August 1943.

On 3 August, XIII Corps exploited the disorganisation caused by the threat to Adrano and resumed their advance on Catania, and by 5 August the town was in their hands. Adrano fell to the 78th Division on the night of 6 August, while on the right, the 51st (Highland) Division took Biancavilla, 2 miles (3.2 km) south-east of Adrano.[116] After the fall of Adrano, the 1st Canadian Division was withdrawn into Army Reserve.[120] On 8 August, the 78th Division moved north from Adrano took Bronte and the 9th Division, advancing from Troina, took Cesaro, valuable positions on the New Hube Line. Both divisions converged on Randazzo, on the north-west slopes of Etna. Randazzo fell on 13 August and 78th Division was taken into reserve.[116] As the Allied advance continued, the front line shortened and Montgomery decided to withdraw XIII Corps HQ and the British 5th Infantry Division, now commanded by Major General Gerard Bucknall (replacing Major General Berney-Ficklin who returned to England), on 10 August, to allow them to prepare for the landings on mainland Italy.[121] On the northern coast, the U.S. 3rd Division continued to meet strong resistance and difficulties created by extensive demolition of the road. Two more end-run amphibious attacks, and the rebuilding efforts of the engineers, kept the advance moving.[122] Although Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring had already decided to evacuate, the Axis forces continued their delaying tactics, assisted by the favorable defensive terrain of the Messina Peninsula; on the night of 16 August, the leading elements of the 3rd Division entered Messina.[123]

Axis evacuation

Wounded American soldier receiving blood plasma, Sicily, 9 August 1943.

By 27 July, the Axis commanders had realised that the outcome of the campaign would be an evacuation from Messina.[124] Kesselring reported to Hitler on 29 July that an evacuation could be accomplished in three days and initial written plans were formulated dated 1 August.[125] However, when Hube suggested on 4 August that a start should be made by transferring superfluous men and equipment, Guzzoni refused to sanction the idea without the approval of the Comando Supremo. The Germans nevertheless went ahead, transferring over 12,000 men, 4,500 vehicles and 5,000 tons of equipment from 1–10 August.[126] On 6 August, Hube suggested to Guzzoni, via von Senger, that HQ 6th Army should move to Calabria. Guzzoni rejected the idea but asked if Hube had decided to evacuate Sicily. Von Senger replied that Hube had not.[127]

The next day, Guzzoni learned of the German plan for evacuation and reported to Rome of his conviction of their intentions. On 7 August, Guzzoni reported that, without German support, any last ditch stand would only be short. On 9 August, Rome ordered that Guzzoni's authority should be extended to Calabria and that he should transfer some forces there to reinforce the area. On 10 August, Guzzoni informed Hube that he was responsible for the defence of northeast Sicily and that Italian coastal units and the Messina garrison were under his command. Guzzoni then crossed to the mainland with 6th Army HQ and 16th Corps HQ, leaving Admiral Pietro Barone and Admiral Pietro Parenti to organise the evacuation of the remains of the Livorno and Assietta divisions (and any other troops and equipment that could be saved).[128]

The German plan was thorough, with clear lines of command imposing strict discipline on the operation. Oberst Ernst-Günther Baade was the German Commandant Messina Straits, with Fortress Commander powers, including control over infantry, artillery, anti-aircraft, engineer and construction, transport and administration units as well as German naval transport headquarters.[129] On the mainland, Generalmajor Richard Heidrich, who had remained in Calabria with the 1st Parachute Division headquarters and the , when the rest of the division had been sent as reinforcements to Sicily, was appointed XIV Panzer Corps Mainland Commander to receive evacuating formations, while Hube continued to control the operations on the island.[130]

British troops scramble over rubble in a devastated street in Catania, Sicily, 5 August 1943.

Full-scale withdrawal began on 11 August and continued to 17 August. During this period, Hube ordered successive withdrawals each night of between 5 and 15 miles (8.0 and 24.1 km), keeping the following Allied units at arm's length with the use of mines, demolitions and other obstacles.[131] As the peninsula narrowed, shortening his front, he was able to withdraw units for evacuation.[132] The Allies attempted to counter this by launching brigade-sized amphibious assaults, one each by the Seventh and Eighth Armies, on 15 August. However, the speed of the Axis withdrawal was such that these operations "hit air".[133]

The German and Italian evacuation schemes proved highly successful. The Allies were not able to prevent the orderly withdrawal nor effectively interfere with transports across the Strait of Messina. The narrow straits were protected by 120 heavy and 112 light anti-aircraft guns.[134] The resulting overlapping gunfire from both sides of the strait was described by Allied pilots as worse than the Ruhr, making daylight air attacks highly hazardous and generally unsuccessful.[123] Night attacks were less hazardous and there were times when air attack was able to delay and even suspend traffic across the straits but when daylight returned, the Axis were able to clear the backlog from the previous night.[135] Nor was naval interdiction any more practicable. The straits varied from 2–6 miles (3.2–9.7 km) wide and were covered by artillery up to 24 centimeters (9.4 in) in caliber. This, combined with the hazards of a 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) current and fear that Italian warships were preparing to attack the Straits of Messina in a suicide run, made risking warships unjustifiable.[134][136]

On 18 August, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht recorded that 60,000 troops had been recovered and the Italian figure was about 75,000.[137] In 2004, Tomlin wrote that the Italians evacuated 62,182 men, 41 guns and 227 vehicles with the loss of only one motor raft and the train ferry Carridi, which was scuttled when Allied troops entered Messina.[138] The Germans evacuated some 52,000 troops (including 4,444 wounded), 14,105 vehicles, 47 tanks, 94 guns, 1,100 tons of ammunition, and about 20,700 tons of gear and stores.[139]


American soldiers looking at a dead German pilot and his wrecked aircraft near Gela, Sicily on 12 July 1943.
A Royal Navy ammunition ship, hit by bombs, burns during the initial landings.

The U.S. Seventh Army lost 8,781 men (2,237 killed or missing, 5,946 wounded, and 598 captured), while the British Eighth Army suffered 11,843 casualties (2,062 killed or missing, 7,137 wounded and 2,644 captured). The U.S. Navy lost 546 killed or missing and 484 wounded and the Royal Navy lost 314 killed or missing, 411 wounded and four captured. The USAAF reported 28 killed, 88 missing and 41 wounded.[140] Canadian forces had suffered 2,310 casualties, including 562 killed, 1,664 wounded, and 84 captured.[140][141]

In 2007, Samuel W. Mitcham and Friederich von Stauffenberg wrote that German units lost about 20,000 men who were either killed, wounded or captured and in Germany and the Second World War (2007) Messerschmidt et al. reported that the German forces lost 4,325 men killed, 4,583 missing, 5,532 captured and 13,500 wounded, a total of 27,940 casualties.[142][140][143] According to the Historical Branch of the Italian Army, Italian military losses were 4,678 killed, 36,072 missing, 32,500 wounded and 116,681 captured.[142][144][145][146] A large part of the missing were presumed to have been killed and buried on the battlefield or in unknown locations,[142] whereas another part presumably included locally recruited soldiers who deserted and returned to their homes. In 2007, Mitcham and Von Stauffenberg estimated Italian total casualties as 147,000.[147] An earlier Canadian study of the Allied invasion estimated the total number of Italian and Germans taken prisoner in Sicily to be around 100,000.[141]

After the capture of Biscari airfield on 14 July, American soldiers from the 180th Regimental Combat Team of the 45th Division murdered 74 Italian and two German prisoners of war in two massacres at Biscari airfield on 14 July 1943.[148][149] Sergeant Horace T. West and Captain John T. Compton were charged with a war crime; West was convicted and sentenced to life in prison and stripped of his rank but was released back to active service in November 1944 as a private, and honorably discharged at the end of his service. Compton was charged with killing 40 prisoners in his charge but was acquitted and transferred to another regiment, where he died in November 1943 in the fighting in Italy.[150]

Constituent operations

See also


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  • Holland, James (2004), Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege, 1940–1943, London: Phoenix, ISBN 978-0-30436-654-5
  • Hoyt, Edwin P. (2007) [2002], Backwater War: The Allied Campaign in Italy, 1943–45, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-3382-3
  • Jowett, Philip S.; Stephen, A. (2001), The Italian Army 1940–45, Oxford: Osprey, ISBN 1-85532-866-6
  • Mitcham, Samuel W. & von Stauffenberg, Friedrich (2007) [1991], The Battle of Sicily: How the Allies Lost Their Chance for Total Victory, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-3403-5
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; Molony, Brigadier C. J. C.; Flynn, Captain F. C. (RN) & Gleave, Group Captain T. P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1966], Butler, J. R. M. (ed.), The Mediterranean and Middle East: The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa, History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series, IV, Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press, ISBN 1-84574-068-8
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  • Zabecki, David T. (1995). "Operation Mincemeat". World War II Magazine. History Net (November 1995). Retrieved 5 August 2015.
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Further reading

External links

5 March 1943

First Flight of the Gloster Meteor, Britain’s first combat jet aircraft.

The Gloster Meteor was the first British operational jet fighter and the only Allied jet aircraft to reach operational status during World War II. However, apart from its radical departure in propulsion, it was conventional in design and never considered to be “cutting edge” in performance. It had straight wings, and was not much faster than the fastest piston-fighters at the time, such as the P-51 Mustang, Spitfire and Hawker Tempest. The jet engine was still in its infancy and not a proven technology—more years were needed to perfect it. The most notable jet fighter at the time was the Messerschmitt Me 262, which was well along in production, but at a price. Its engines weren’t fully developed and it was a dangerous aircraft to fly. The Allies wanted to ensure the Meteor was airworthy before entering service. The Meteor could have surpassed the Me 262 in performance and numbers, but partly due to bureaucratic bungling, the Meteor project nearly died. It finally took Rolls Royce to get the project back on track again.

The Me 262 gets most of the attention for the development of jets, due to its Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow engines and sleek swept-back wings. The Meteor airframe however, was more conventional in design—it was powered with the soon-to-be obsolete centrifugal-flow engines and then largely forgotten. However, the Meteor was actually the better airplane. Germany had its back against the wall and the Me 262 was rushed into production, taking a heavy toll on its pilots. Had the Allies been in charge of production, the Me 262 might have never entered service.

Although Frank Whittle of the United Kingdom and Hans von Ohain of Germany were simultaneously and independently working on the turbojet engine, Germany would be first in flight with jets with the introduction of the Heinkel He 178 on August 27, 1939. The next jet aircraft to take flight was the Gloster E.28/39 on May 15, 1941. Both jets were powered by a single engine built for experimental purposes and not meant for production, although the E.28/39 design required provisions for possible later installment of armament. The next true turbojet airplane to take fight was the Messerschmitt Me 262 on July 18, 1942—the Bell XP-59 made its first flight on October 2, 1942—finally the Meteor prototype made its first flight on March 5, 1943. Although the Me 262 flew before the Meteor, it entered frontline service only after the Meteor had done so.

5 November 1943

Bombing of the Vatican during World War 2.

Bombing of Vatican City occurred twice during World War II. The first occasion was on the evening of 5 November 1943, when a plane dropped bombs on the area south-west of Saint Peter’s Basilica, causing considerable damage but no casualties. The second bombing, which affected only the outer margin of the city, was on the 1st of March 1944, and caused the death of one person and the injury of another.

An undated eyewitness account written by Monsignor Domenico Tardini in 1944 states:

“The first bombing of the Vatican occurred on 5 November 1943 at 20:10. It was a very clear and cloudless evening. The moon made visibility excellent. For over half an hour an aeroplane was heard circling insistently over Rome and especially the Vatican. At about 8:10, while an Allied squadron passed over the Vatican, the aeroplane that until then had been circling over Rome dropped four bombs and flew away. The bombs fell in the Vatican Gardens: the first near the receiving Radio, another near the Government building, a third on the mosaics workshop, the fourth near the building of the Cardinal Archpriest. If they had fallen a very few metres off, they would have hit the Radio, the Government building, that of the Tribunals, and that of the Archpriest.

They caused considerable damage, for all the windows were blown to pieces. There were no human casualties.”

The future cardinal Tardini continued: “General opinion, and general indignation, blamed the Germans and, perhaps more, the Republican Fascists. The latter view was reinforced by notes about a telephone conversation of Barracu that a telephone operator gave to the Holy Father. However, some months later, Monsignor Montini received from Monsignor Carroll, an American of the Secretariat of State, who was in Algiers to organize an information service for soldiers and civilians,in which it was stated clearly that the bombs had been dropped by an American. 5 November is for England, Father Hughes told me, an anti-Pope day.When Monsignor Carroll came to Rome in June 1944, he answered a question of mine by telling me that the American airman was supposed to have acted either to make a name for himself or out of wickedness. Monsignor Carroll did not know whether the delinquent had been punished.

The message from Monsignor Walter S. Carroll that Monsignor Tardini spoke of as addressed to Monsignor Montini was in reality addressed to Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione. It read: “In a conversation with the American Chief of Staff during the past week I was informed very confidentially that they feel that the bombing of the Vatican is probably attributable to an American pilot who lost his way; in fact, another American pilot reported seeing an Allied plane dropping its load on the Vatican. The General expressed his sincere regret and gave assurances that strict precaution would be taken to avoid a repetition of this incident ”

Official assurance that no American plane had in fact dropped bombs on Vatican City was given by the United States authorities.

The German and British authorities gave similar assurances regarding aircraft of their countries.

However in 2007 new evidence found by Augusto Ferrara, suggested that the bombing was ordered by the Italian Fascist politician Roberto Farinacci.

The main target had been the Vatican radio because the Fascists believed that the Vatican was sending coded messages to the allies.

The plane which bombed the Vatican reportedly took off from the airport of Viterbo, a town 70 miles north of Rome.Ferrara discovered that “the pilot was a sergeant Parmeggiani, who was ordered to drop the bombs by the prominent fascist Roberto Farinacci.

That the attack was carried out by the Italian fascists, and not the Allies, is also suggested by a conversation between a priest of Rome, Fr. Giuseppe, and the Jesuit Pietro Tacchi Venturi, who was continuously in touch with Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Vatican Secretary of State.The conversation is reported in the book “Skyways lead to Rome” by the historian Antonio Castellani.

According to Castellani, Fr. Tacchi Venturi lamented “the attack of the Americans” to Fr. Giuseppe, but Fr. Giuseppe replied, “they were not Americans, they were Italians.”

Fr. Giuseppe then underscored that “it was a Savoia Marchetti plane, with five bombs aboard to be thrown to the Vatican Radio station, since Farinacci was convinced that Vatican Radio transmitted military information to the Allied Forces.”

5 March 1943

Britain’s first combat jet aircraft, the Gloster Meteor, has it first flight.

The Gloster Meteor was the first British operational jet fighter and the only Allied jet aircraft to reach operational status during World War II. However, apart from its radical departure in propulsion, it was conventional in design and never considered to be “cutting edge” in performance. It had straight wings, and was not much faster than the fastest piston-fighters at the time, such as the P-51 Mustang, Spitfire and Hawker Tempest. The jet engine was still in its infancy and not a proven technology—more years were needed to perfect it. The most notable jet fighter at the time was the Messerschmitt Me 262, which was well along in production, but at a price. Its engines weren’t fully developed and it was a dangerous aircraft to fly. The Allies wanted to ensure the Meteor was airworthy before entering service. The Meteor could have surpassed the Me 262 in performance and numbers, but partly due to bureaucratic bungling, the Meteor project nearly died. It finally took Rolls Royce to get the project back on track again.

The Me 262 gets most of the attention for the development of jets, due to its Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow engines and sleek swept-back wings. The Meteor airframe however, was more conventional in design—it was powered with the soon-to-be obsolete centrifugal-flow engines and then largely forgotten. However, the Meteor was actually the better airplane. Germany had its back against the wall and the Me 262 was rushed into production, taking a heavy toll on its pilots. Had the Allies been in charge of production, the Me 262 might have never entered service.

Britain had the luxury to evaluate, develop and refine the Meteor, but as the war progressed, the Meteor became less urgent. The Luftwaffe was being drained maintaining a defense on the Russian front and the Hawker Typhoon was proving itself against the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at low altitude. By the end of the war, the Me 262 and Meteor were leagues apart in safety and reliability. The Meteor’s engines could operate 180 hours before overhaul, while the Me 262’s Jumo 004 engines were required to be overhauled after only 10 hours.1 And more than a hundred Me 262s were lost in air-to-air combat against enemy piston-engine fighters, whereas not a single Meteor was lost to enemy action. Near the end of the war, it was thought that perhaps the Me 262 and Meteor would engage in jet combat for the first time in history, but it was not to be. Aerial combat with jet fighters would not happen until the Korean War, which surprisingly brought the Russians into the picture. Jet fighters now encountered each other on a daily basis and the Meteor struggled to compete with the superior Mig 15.

Although the Meteor saw service in World War II, its missions paled in comparison to the Messerschmitt Me 262. Early jet engines consumed excessive amounts of fuel, which limited their range. Since the Me 262 was fighting on its home turf, it engaged in combat against Boeing B-17s and Allied fighters. In the time it was in operation, the Me 262 claimed a total of 542 Allied victories for a ratio of 5:1. On March 18, 1945, Me 262 fighter units were able, for the first time, to mount large scale attacks on Allied bomber formations. 37 Me 262s of Jagdeschwder 7 intercepted a force of 1,221 bombers and 632 escorting fighters. This action also marked the first use of the new R4M rockets. The high explosive warhead of only one or two of these rockets was capable of downing a B-17. They shot down 12 bombers and one fighter for the loss of three Me 262s.

Whereas, the Meteor was limited to home defense against Luftwaffe V-1 Buzz Bombs, but it did serve later on the continent and performed escort duty on bombing missions, which allowed Allied fighters to gain experience in confronting jet fighters. However, it was restricted from flying over enemy territory, lest it be shot down and its secrets revealed to the enemy.

Although Frank Whittle of the United Kingdom and Hans von Ohain of Germany were simultaneously and independently working on the turbojet engine, Germany would be first in flight with jets with the introduction of the Heinkel He 178 on August 27, 1939. The next jet aircraft to take flight was the Gloster E.28/39 on May 15, 1941. Both jets were powered by a single engine built for experimental purposes and not meant for production, although the E.28/39 design required provisions for possible later installment of armament. The next true turbojet airplane to take fight was the Messerschmitt Me 262 on July 18, 1942—the Bell XP-59 made its first flight on October 2, 1942—finally the Meteor prototype made its first flight on March 5, 1943. Although the Me 262 flew before the Meteor, it entered frontline service only after the Meteor had done so.

15 January 1943

The Pentagon is dedicated in Arlington, Virginia.

The world’s largest office building, construction began on the Pentagon on September 11, 1941. Designed by architect George Bergstrom, approved construction contracts totaled $3.1 million. The original site for this government facility was Arlington Farms, which was shaped like a pentagon. This is why the building is shaped as such. However, concerns that the building might obstruct the view of Washington, D.C. from Arlington Cemetery, President Roosevelt opted for the Hoover Airport site.The Pentagon took less than two years to complete and was dedicated on January 15, 1943.

Some interesting facts about this historical building:

Design work for the building proceeded during actual construction. Sometimes construction would get ahead of design and different materials were used than specified in the final plans.

Due to racial segregation, the Pentagon was constructed with separate dining and toilet facilities. In June 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the end to discrimination and to remove the “Whites Only” signage. At the time, and for many years after completion, the Pentagon was the only building in Virginia where segregation was not allowed.

Construction contracts were approved on September 11, 1941 and construction began that same day.

Due to steel shortage the building’s height was capped at just over 77 feet and was built as a reinforced concrete structure. This explains its vast “sprawl” across nearly 29 acres.

Rather than elevators, concrete ramps were built.

Engineers used 680,000 tons of sand from the Potomac River. Indiana limestone was used for the facade.

The Pentagon uses six zip codes and it’s registered postal address is Washington, D.C., even though it is located in the state of Virginia.

The square footage of the Pentagon is 6,636,360 square feet. The parking lot is 67 acres.

During the Cold Ware, the central plaza was referred to as “ground zero” based on concerns the Soviet Union would target nuclear missiles to that location.

While the Pentagon has undergone many improvements over the years, the core design of this unique structure remains intact. Today, nearly 3,700,000 square feet are used as offices, and the building houses about 28,000 military and civilian personnel.