Simcha Rotem with "HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed members
February 10, 1925 |
|Known for||Member of the Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Combat Organization), participant in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Warsaw Uprising|
Simcha Rotem born Simcha (Szymon) Rathajzer, also known as Kazik (his nom de guerre as a member of the Jewish underground in Warsaw), served as the head courier of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), which planned and executed the Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis. He was a member of the "Akiva" youth movement.
The Second World War
The Warsaw ghetto
In 1942 he joined the ZOB. Because of his non-Jewish Gentile appearance and unaccented Polish, Rotem became particularly useful as a courier for the Warsaw Ghetto fighters. The nickname "Kazik" - an abbreviation of a Polish name "Kazimierz" (Casimir) - was given him during a ZOB mission, because he looked like a Gentile.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and aftermath
As a ZOB member, Kazik took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. He became the head courier, reporting directly to the ZOB commander on the Gentile side, Yitzhak Zuckerman. (The ZOB commander in general was Mordechai Anielewicz). When it became apparent that the Germans would prevail, he was sent via a secret passageway to the Gentile side of Warsaw where he met with Zuckerman to arrange an escape for the fighters. However, the passageway was discovered by the Nazis. Unable to return, he and Zuckerman were trapped on the Gentile side while the fighting raged and the ghetto burned. Desperate to reach his comrades, Rotem made several attempts to enter the ghetto through the sewers before finally succeeding. There he encountered Zivia Lubetkin, one of the last surviving leaders of the ghetto uprising, and he led her with her team of approximately 80 fighters through the sewers to the Gentile side and then to the forests outside of the city. Throughout the rest of the war he continued his underground activities with the resistance, in particular helping to care for the several thousand Jews, who still remained in Warsaw in hiding. In August 1944, he took part in the Polish Warsaw Uprising.
Immediately following the end of World War II, Rotem took part in the Beriha organization, that helped European Jews immigrate to Mandate Palestine, despite the restrictions imposed by the British Mandatory policies (White Paper of 1939). Although his twelve-year-old sister was murdered in the ghetto uprising, his parents and another sister survived in hiding and, in 1947, he and the surviving members of his family immigrated to Mandate Palestine. He now lives in Jerusalem. As of 2013, he is one of three survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Awards and decorations
- Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2013)
- Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2003)
- Gold Polish Army Medal (2013 )
- Rotem, Simhah. Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter: The Past within Me. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994 (English translation)
- Tzur, Nissan. "Ghetto Fighter: We Wanted to Choose How We Would Die." Jerusalem Post. N.p., 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
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- "Moje miejsce między trupami" "My Place Among the Dead", "Gazeta Wyborcza", July 14–15, 2007. (Polish)