Marek Edelman

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 25 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4992
  1. Boleslav Lichterman

    A leader of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, cardiologist, and political activist

    Marek Edelman was a national hero in Poland. The day after he died the front pages of all the major Polish newspapers were decorated with his picture and obituary. His military funeral was attended by the Polish president, Lech Kaczyński, the former Polish prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, and the former Israeli ambassador to Poland Shevah Weiss.

    Edelman was born in Gomel, a provincial town in Belarus, into a humble Jewish family that soon moved to Warsaw. His father was connected with Russian socialist revolutionaries and died when Edelman was young. His mother was a secretary in a hospital and was a member of Bund, a secular Jewish socialist party. When his mother died in 1934, Edelman started to work to support himself and also became a Bundist. “The Bundists did not wait for the messiah, nor did they plan to leave for Palestine. They believed that Poland was their country and they fought for a just, socialist Poland, in which each nationality would have its own cultural autonomy, and in which minorities’ rights would be guaranteed,” said Edelman in a recent interview.

    Steal a march on God

    When the second world war started, Edelman stayed in Poland and was moved into the Warsaw ghetto, an overcrowded territory of five square miles surrounded by a three metre high brick wall, with almost half a million Polish Jews inside. In July 1942 the Germans started shipping 5000-6000 Jews a day out of the ghetto to the gas chambers of Treblinka. Edelman worked as a hospital courier and could obtain waivers for some …

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