It got me thinking about how the public remembers the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, if they remember it at all. That memory, that collective memory, is masculine. It’s young, strong men holed up in Mila 18. It’s a teenage boy throwing a Molotov cocktail out of a window of a deserted building. It’s a sobbing rabbi. It’s masculine action and tragedy.
There’s no place in this memory for Zivia Lubetkin. You probably don’t know her name, and that’s not your fault. The masculinization of the Holocaust narrative is no one person’s fault. But, allow me to remedy this situation.
Zivia Lubetkin was one of the founders and commanders of the Jewish Fighting Organization, the primary Jewish resistance organization inside and outside of the Warsaw Ghetto; Vladka was a member of this group. During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Zivia was stationed in Mila 18, she commanded a group of fighters, and she was the one who led surviving fighters out of the ghetto, and through the sewers to the Aryan side of Warsaw.
That’s just a fraction, just a snippet of Zivia Lubetkin’s life and accomplishments. I could do an entire Fierce Historical Ladies post series on her, but I’m saving that material for…elsewhere.
If you want to know why you don’t know her name, why you don’t know more about women’s experiences in the Holocaust, and why you don’t know more about the imperative role of women in the Warsaw Jewish Resistance, these pieces of reading contain part of the story: Why Gender History is Important (Asshole), We Need to Talk About Anne Frank, and, of course, Vladka Meed: Female Courier to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.