October 13, 2009

Marek Edelman, RIP

Sometimes insurgents are the good guys, and Marek Edelman was one of the good guys. He died a over a week ago, and when I read his obituary in the newspaper after his passing, I found myself shaking my head in awe. "What a life."

I always like the back-page obituaries in the Economist because they tend to celebrate the lives of the men and women they profile rather than mourn their passing. On the heels of a highly amusing obituary for William Safire last week, the Economist then did Edelman justice this week.

The odds were overwhelming. He was deputy commander of 220 untrained “boys” with pistols and home-made explosives. Against them were around 2,000 Nazi soldiers, the pick of the Wehrmacht, with plenty more behind them. The Nazis had come on the eve of Passover, April 19th 1943, to liquidate the Warsaw ghetto, from which they had been deporting 6,000 Jews a week to the death camps. For almost a month Mr Edelman helped keep them at bay, barricaded in the streets around the brushmakers’ district until the whole place was burned down round him.