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U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken sent a message Wednesday marking the anniversary in Poland of the 1943 Bialystok ghetto uprising, saying it was an act of “bravery” that reaffirmed the dignity of Jews during the Holocaust.
Blinken’s mother, Judith Pisar, the widow of one of the ghetto survivors, Samuel Pisar, the state secretary’s late stepfather, took part in the observances in Poland’s eastern city of Bialystok. U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski also attended.
“I see it as one of countless acts of resistance by Jews in ghettos and Nazi German concentration camps across Europe to reject their dehumanization, to reaffirm their dignity,” Blinken said in a prerecorded message.
It was an act “not of futility but of bravery,” he said, even though “survival was not on the cards” when the uprising began on the night of Aug. 16, 1943.
For its leaders, the revolt was to „determine how, not whether they would die,” Blinken said.
The participants, who included city authorities and residents, honored the fighters and victims of the revolt, which was the second biggest single act of Jewish resistance against the Nazi Germans, after the April 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Both revolts were brutally crushed and the survivors were sent to death camps.
Before the war, Jews constituted some 43% of Bialystok’s population of 100,000. An estimated 60,000 Jews had gone through the ghetto that occupying Nazi Germany had built in the city, until the uprising.
Historians estimate that no more than 200 Jews fled the ghetto, among them Samuel Pisar, who was 13 at the time. His entire family perished in the Holocaust. Pisar died in 2015 in New York.
“As we lose more and more survivors, the responsibility to relay and grapple with the history passes to all of us,” Blinken said, stressing that for Pisar, the words “never again” were not enough of a protection against war and violence.