Ann Toback’s Remarks at 75th Anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Commemoration in Poland

Welcome, friends and honored guests.  I am Ann Toback, Executive Director of the Workmen’s Circle.  I want to thank you for joining us today as we honor, remember and mourn for people who lived and died here so many years ago. 

 This private program will include remarks by organizations and people connected to the Partisans of the Warsaw Ghetto.  We will hear an introduction to the history we are commemorating, read memories from those who once lived within the Ghetto’s walls, as well as reflections from honored organizations.  After the readings, we will all sing Di Shvue, Hatikvah, and Zog Nit Keymol, the Partisan Hymn, and then all who wish may light candles in memory at the monument here.

This year marks a new milestone for us:  Seventy-five years have passed since the night of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  On each anniversary, it becomes more and more important that we take time out to remember the millions of people who were brutally imprisoned and murdered within ghetto walls and also outside of them.  To remember the bravery and heroism of the millions who so shockingly found themselves living in a very real world ruled by hatred and violence, people whose courage took so many forms of resistance.  And we remember the young women and men of the Warsaw Ghetto who stood up to the Nazi army and strategically fought back against insurmountable odds.  Teenagers and young adults, who by all rights should have been focused on learning about the world around them, growing into the next generation of leaders and innovators, instead found themselves imprisoned in a ghetto, and facing an army whose goal was to murder them. 

The Workmen’s Circle was founded by Bundists from Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe, bringing their passion for socialism and for a world where fairness and equality prevailed to the United States.  We began commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during the war.  We sponsored the first commemorations – acknowledging the need to grieve and the need to remember.  Today, it is so very meaningful to us that we are able to gather here in Warsaw, and continue our important tradition of honoring and remembering our heroes on hallowed ground.  

That we are standing today in the shadows of greatness, of unimaginable heroism, and of terrible loss is a privilege, and must also serve as an obligation.  We have learned that it is never too early to resist fascist authoritarianism in all its forms, bigotry, discrimination in word and act –be it directed against us or others.

 Mir zaynen do, we are here, the final words of the Partisan Hymn.  A Hymn that was written by Hirsh Glick, in the Vilna Ghetto, as word reached them of the great uprising lead by the Warsaw Ghetto Partisans.  The song that became the rallying cry for Jewish Partisans throughout Eastern Europe.   We are here.  Seventy-five years later, these words still serve as a charge to us all to continue to be not only present but actively engaged in our world today.  To reflect the legacy of our heroes whose words and actions once rose in such powerful resistance.  Today, as we are honored to sing these words, Mir Zaynen Do, let us commit in the memory of so many lost: to actively protect democracy and liberty now and to move into the future their supreme example of resistance to cruelty, injustice and violence.