Simcha Rotem has passed at 94. He was only 15 when Germany invaded Poland. He and his mother were wounded by German bombing raids that killed his brothers and grandparents. By the time he was 19, he served under Marek Edelman to resist Nazi incursions, leading to the outbreak of combat.
The insurgents preferred to die fighting instead of in a gas chamber at the Treblinka death camp where the Nazis had already sent more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews.
Speaking at a 2013 ceremony in Poland to mark the 70th anniversary of the uprising, Rotem recalled that by April 1943 most of the ghetto’s Jews had died and the 50,000 who remained expected the same fate.
Rotem said he and his comrades launched the uprising to “choose the kind of death” they wanted.
As the Germans pounded the Ghetto and the uprising faltered, Rotem was instrumental in helping fighters flee to safety through the Warsaw’s sewer system to forests outside the city.
He continued to fight alongside Polish partisans and in 1944 participated in the Warsaw Uprising. After the war he joined avengers group Nakam, which was dedicated to exacting vengeance on Nazi war criminals.