Comrade Anna

Comrade Anna: Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto

5 COMRADE ANNA


Anna had dreamed of a united Poland whereby all its
various peoples would live together as brothers and sisters in
a workers’ state and everyone’s rights would be respected,
everyone would get a fair share of the social and political
fruits and the capitalistic profit system would be rendered an
anachronism.
She couldn’t wrap her mind around the agreement reached
by the Soviets and Germans. It made no sense to her how
one state, Communist, the other fascist, could be allies. How
could this be? Why did this happen? Still she hoped it would
turn out well.
All throughout September, 1939, Anna could not
understand why the Soviets were not joining the battle in
Warsaw against the Germans. Abandoned to her fate by
Britain and France, Poland-geographically sandwiched
between Germany and the Soviet Union-was ripe for the
taking. Stalin and Hitler had secretly agreed to split the spoils
in the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop accord. The Poles were
defeated after a heroic one-month war. The Soviets moved in
and swallowed up the eastern sections. The German army
moved in on the west. The Polish army inflicted heavy losses
on sections of the German army in the first few weeks of the
war but was unable to continue with the defense against all of
the forces lined up against her. Hitler taught the rest of
Europe a lesson about the consequences of resistance,
ordering the Luftwaffe to savagely bombard Warsaw from
the air into submission. An uneasy truce between those shortterm, unlikely allies-Germany and the Soviets-lasted until
June, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union with
3.9 million Axis troops who inflicted crushing defeats and
unprecedented mass murder.

German and Soviet officers shake hands at the end of the invasion  of Poland, public domain photo, the Soviet Tass Press Agency,  September, 1939.

German and Soviet officers shake hands at the end of the invasion
of Poland, public domain photo, the Soviet Tass Press Agency,
September, 1939.

On the day that the café was destroyed, Anna had been
telling Marcus and their university friends an hour before the
bomb hit that the Poles and Polish Jews should not meet
violence with violence. “That is not the way to deal with
them,” she had said. “We can successfully resist the Germans
if we stick together as comrades-not as Jews and not as Poles
but as comrades. We can show the world that there is a better
way than meeting violence with violence. Tolstoy had the
right idea-passive resistance is much more effective than
using violence.” They were all drinking beer, except Anna
because she had to go to class.

“Yes Comrade Anna. If a German fascist comes at me with his semi-automatic blazing away,” said Victor, a 21-year-old engineering student, “I’ll just show him your copy of Tolstoy and tell him, ‘Hey, please stop. There’s a better way than violence. Let me show you this book I’ve been reading.”
All of the group-about ten people, most of them drunk, laughed uproariously.
“You know, you guys should grow up,” Anna said. “And I
wouldn’t go off making fun of Tolstoy. If Germany attacks us
the Soviets may well help their good comrades in Poland. Just
because the Russians exploited us in the past doesn’t mean
it’ll happen again. They are our comrades now. We are all in
this together as good Communists. So you know something,
you can insult Tolstoy all you want but you get stupid
sometimes when you drink! I’ve got to get to class. Good-bye
Comrades.” The group roared with laughter. Victor stood up
and raised his glass prompting the rest of the group to stand
and raise their glasses. “To Comrade Anna, Comrade

"You Have to Keep Shooting"Tolstoy and Comrade Stalin! May they save Europe and the    world from Comrade Hitler!” The group roared again and drank the full drought of beer in their glasses .

“Drunken fools!” Anna shouted.

“They’re just having fun,” Marcus said, beer foam running down his chin. “They don’t mean anything by it. They’re just
having a good time.” Marcus-now slurring his words-tried togive Anna a hug but she resisted and turned to leave.
“Oh? Just having fun? Have a good time!” Anna said
angrily. “And what about Sarah? Look at her. She’s as fucking
drunk as you are and I’m sure Mindy won’t want to see her
mom sloppy drunk like that! Doesn’t she have any sense
of responsibility?” Anna stormed out the door.

In the next several weeks, Anna continued to write
leaflets in her spare time, spreading the Communist word,
distributing aid from international Jewish relief agencies to
poor Jewish families-which were most of them-and finding
homes for orphaned Jewish children. Although Marxist in
ideology, she had been influenced by the great, Russian
writer and teacher, Leo Tolstoy, who advocated passive
resistance against oppressive forces and who influenced
such other luminaries as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin
Luther King, Jr.
But in those same weeks after Marcus’s death, Anna’s
passivity turned ice cold. She placed Tolstoy back on the
shelf. Running guns, sabotage and assisting in the killing
of German soldiers would creep into her daily life. She
decided to become an underground fighter, a resister.
Survival for Poland meant killing the murderous invader and
passively resisting the insatiable German Nazis who
dominated Germany and now much of Europe spelled
suicide, Anna concluded. “I will kill them now and fight for
my country.”

 

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