They Went Out and Survived

When during the Ghetto Uprising their situation became more and more difficult, some of the fighters decided to make an attempt at getting through to the so-called Aryan side.

Due to the ongoing fighting and the large German presence, they chose to use the sewers. This form of escape was extremely difficult and risky. The enemy guarded the points of entry to the sewage system, and often discharged gas inside. Of the many Jews who made the attempt, only a handful survived. Some died in the sewers, while others were identified and caught after exiting the underground maze.

One of the most famous actions was the extraction of a group of fighters by “Kazik” – Symcha Rotem-Ratajzer. On 1 May 1943, acting upon instructions received from the command of the Jewish Combat Organization, he and Zygmunt Frydrych went to the Aryan side to prepare an evacuation route for a larger group of people. A week later, on 8 May, with the help of two Polish employees of the municipal water authority, “Kazik” returned to the ghetto in search of survivors. Władysław Gaik, pseudonym “Krzaczek”, who was a member of the People’s Guard, helped organize the action.

During the night from 8 to 9 May 1943, a group of several dozen insurgents descended into the sewers through the manhole in Franciszkańska Street. After spending a good few hours wandering through the maze of underground passageways, they finally reached the pre-arranged point. The next day, they exited the sewers into Prosta Street. From there, they were taken by a furniture van in the direction of Łomianki. Among those rescued were Cywia Lubetkin, Tosia Altman, Michał Rozenfeld and Marek Edelman. Due to various circumstances, only some of the group would survive the war.

Today, No. 51 Prosta Street in Warsaw is the site of a monument commemorating the evacuation of the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto.