October 29, 2001



Dear Ms. Zapalski:


      Mr. Alexander Danel asked me to express my opinion as to the accuracy and

appropriateness of the publicity that the National Broadcating Company has

placed on its website and presumably also on the air to advertise its

upcoming mini-series entitled "Uprising."  I am the director of Columbia

University’s East Central European Center and Executive Director of its

Institute for the Study of Europe.  I received my Ph.D. in modern East

Central European history at Columbia and am a specialist in the modern

history and politics of that region.


      The particular phrase to which Mr. Danel drew my attention is as follows:


  Against impossible odds, they held off the German army

  longer than the entire country of Poland, determined to live with honor

  - and if need be, die with honor - while lighting the torch for resistance

  in the occupied territories.


It seems to me that the Ghetto fighters are poorly served by advertising

that is simply inaccurate. To be sure, the odds were impossible, and the

Jewish Fighting Organization members did live and die with honor.

However, they did not hold off the German army army longer than the entire

country of Poland. This is factually wrong.  I assume that the NBC

publicists are referring to the September Campaign, which lasted from the

German onslaught on September 1 to the surrender of the last organized

Polish army units on October 5, 1939.


That, however, takes nothing away from the Ghetto fighters, whose struggle

lasted an impossibly long and tragically short four weeks and ended with the

deaths, or deportation and extermination, of some 56,000 Jews. The Warsaw

Uprising that took place a year later lasted nine weeks, cost the lives of

nearly 250,000 civilians who, like the Jews in the Ghetto a year earlier,

lived and died with honor.  Both risings were part of a struggle waged by

the citizens of Poland against Nazi aggression that lasted from September 1,

1939 until the end of the war in Europe.  Citing Professor Joseph

Rothschild, my late colleague here at Columbia and a leading political

historian of the region, during that time


the achievements of the Polish resistance movement were indeed prodigious.

It tied down approximately 500,000 German occupation troops and, according

to official German figures, prevented one out of every eight Wehrmacht

transports headed for the Russian front from reaching its destination. The

climax of the Polish resistance movement was the heroic but abortive Warsaw

insurrections of August 1 to October 2, 1994.  Jewish uprisings had also

been launched and repressed earlier in the ghettos of Warsaw (April 19-May

16, 1943), and of Bialystok and Wilno (September 1943).  Abroad, substantial

Polish military units fought against the Germans on most Allied fronts:

Norway, France, the Battle of Britain, North Africa, Italy, Normandy, the

Lower Rhine, and the Soviet Union.



In this context, the Ghetto Uprising was part of a larger anti-Nazi Polish

effort.  Comparing the Ghetto Uprising to that larger effort seems pointless

and ultimately demeaning to the Ghetto fighters.  And it counters a more

insidious and erroneous impression that all Jews in the various ghettos

reacted passively to their annihilation. Perhaps a more accurate and fitting

way to put it might be



Against impossible odds, they held off the German army with little hope for

rescue, determined to live with honor - and if need be, die with honor -

while passing the torch for resistance in the occupied territories.



      NBC has little to gain from alienating the veterans and descendents of the

survivors of those dark days in these dark days.  Better to stick to the

facts, which the facts really do speak for themselves.






                                    Dr. John S. Micgiel