Abstract

This article describes and analyzes the coalescence and subsequent evolution of the accounts of military assistance provided to the Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April and May 1943. The author carefully illustrates the way these accounts, already during the war, were crafted to serve the contrasting political purposes of their differing narrators, and how the swiftly snowballing stories were thereby distorted above all by self-aggrandizement and, conversely, the belittling of ideological opponents. Indeed, in significant aspects the story-telling was outright hijacked by con men who fabricated whole episodes of coming to the ghetto's assistance. Thus, in weaving together the conflicting, often mythic accounts of Polish communists, former members of the Home Army and other underground organizations, and Jewish veterans of the Jewish Fighting Organization during the postwar decades, a narrative tapestry was created—only to begin to unravel in the 1980s, to become threadbare in the 1990s, and to disintegrate in the first decade of the twenty-first century owing to thorough-going archival research. What remains is the powerlessness of those in Nazi-occupied Warsaw to meaningfully aid one another—and thereafter to come to terms with that powerlessness. The paper concludes with an admonition regarding certain of today's penchants for state-led historical policy.

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