The New York Times reported today in its obituary section the passing of Marek Edelman, M.D. He was 90 years old, and lived in much of his later life in Lodz, Poland.
Few people know who Dr. Edelman was, and until today I was among those ignorant of his mark upon history. But it would be little exaggeration to say there are few among us qualified to shine his shoes.
Dr. Edelman was the last surviving commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. If you never heard of this incredible, three week long event, then please look it up. Suffice it to say that 220 young Polish Jews, with a very few handguns and hand grenades, temporarily halted the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, stopping the all mighty Wehrmacht in its tracks, and holding off a German force more then ten times their number.
Their story is one of the myriad tales of true heroism, grit, and intestinal fortitude that the Second World War has left with us. But the history of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising has always had a special place, where the few stood against many in a hopeless fight, as if to say that they would not go quietly, and perhaps to save a few of their own.
Theirs is a story of true heroism, where the righteous find themselves in a man made Hades, and yet do not succumb in utter hopelessness at the futility of their stand against evil incarnate. This man fought the Nazis and their henchmen with his bare hands as he watched them kill his loved ones, and he not only survived but left his indelible mark on his foe and lived to tell the tale.
He is an example of a real hero, when regular people rise to the unimaginable challenges placed before them, and even if they may not succeed, they are to be hailed simply for their perseverance in the face of unimaginable adversity.