Mila 18 in the Warsaw Ghetto

Memorial at Mila 18 honors Jewish heroes of Warsaw

Pictured above is the memorial stone to the Jewish heroes of the Z.O.B. (Jewish Fighting Organization) who died in an underground bunker beneath the house at ul. Mila 18 during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April and May 1943. The stone sits on top of a mound of rubble, where the house at this address once stood; it is turned slightly toward Mila street which is to the left. The street is still named Mila, but #18 is no longer an address there.

When I visited Warsaw in 1998, my tour guide told me that the Mila 18 bunker was the last one to be destroyed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; a book entitled "A travel guide to Jewish Europe" by Ben G. Frank, which I purchased later, mentions that Mila 18 was "the last bunker of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising."

The following quote is from the book entitled "A Surplus of Memory" by Yitzhak Zuckerman, one of the survivors of the Z.O.B.

The memorial to the Ghetto Uprising was commissioned from the sculptor Nathan Rappoport after I left Poland. Initially, we set up another memorial, a big stone on the bunker of Mila 18. I gave a speech on behalf of the Jewish community at the unveiling of the tombstone, along with a Polish general on April 19, 1945.

Today there is nothing left of the house at Mila 18. According to Martin Gilbert in his book entitled "The Holocaust":

That September, the Germans sent a Polish labour battalion to the site of the ghetto, to demolish any walls and structures, still undestroyed. "Those who still remained in hiding" one of the ghetto's most recent historians has written, "evidently met their deaths during the demolition activities, although a few individuals continued to live in dug-outs, totally cut off from nature, light and human company."

The Germans had planned to make the former ghetto into a huge city park. Instead, the spot where Mila 18 once stood is now in the middle of a neighborhood of new modern buildings.

Mila 18 Stone is inscribed with names of Jewish heroes

Photo credit: Florida Center for Instructional Technology.

The memorial stone at Mila 18 has the names of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, including Marek Edelman, the longest living survivor, who died in 2009.

According to a book entitled "The bravest battle, the 28 days of the Warsaw Ghetto," Mila 18 was a self-contained world-within-a world. A long narrow corridor led into numerous underground rooms on either side. A gang of thieves, led by Schmuel Asher, had previously excavated this gigantic bunker under three large adjoining buildings. Asher led Mordechai Anielewicz, the commander of the Z.O.B., to the bunker.

The photograph below shows what the bunkers under the buildings in the Warsaw Ghetto looked like. (This is not a photo of the bunker at Mila 18.)

Jews in Warsaw Ghetto hid in underground bunkers

Access to the bunker at Mila 18 was through a house at that address. There were many other bunkers in the Warsaw Ghetto and Mila 18 was the last of them to be destroyed by the Germans. The fighting continued even after Mila 18 fell and other houses that sheltered Jews, but did not have access to a bunker, were attacked.

The attack on the Mila 18 bunker began on May 8, 1943, after the fighting between SS soldiers and the Jews had been going on for almost three weeks. The SS brought in Ukrainian and Latvian auxiliary SS soldiers because they could not speak Polish or Yiddish and thus could not be persuaded by the Jews to allow them to escape, according to Martin Gilbert's book entitled "Holocaust Journey."

For two hours, the Ukrainian and Latvian SS soldiers bombarded the entrance to the house at Mila 18, and then threw tear gas into the bunker to force the occupants out. Unwilling to surrender, many of the resistance fighters took their own lives. Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Z.O.B., was holed up that day in the Mila 18 bunker, along with around 120 of his comrades and around 80 Jews who were not members of the Z.O.B.

A family of Jews surrenders to the SS soldiers

The battle of the Warsaw Ghetto finally ended at 8:15 p.m. on May 16th when the German SS Commander, Jürgen Stroop, declared victory by blowing up the Tlomacki Synagogue outside the walls of the Ghetto. According to the Stroop Report, around 5,000 to 6,000 Jews who were hiding in buildings in the Ghetto were blown up or burned to death and a total of 631 bunkers were destroyed.

The following quote is from the book entitled "The bravest battle: the twenty-eight days of the warsaw ghetto":

As at Masada, where 2000 years earlier a group of Jews decided to kill themselves rather than surrender to the Romans, most of the 120 fighters at Mila 18 chose the same solution, though it was not imposed on anyone. The more than 80 civilians who remained would either surrender or die of asphyxiation in the bunker.

An SS soldier searches a Jew captured during the fighting

The old photos on this page were taken by the SS and put into three photo albums by Jürgen Stroop, the SS commander who led the fight against the Jewish resistance movement. One of these photo albums is now stored in the National Archives in Washington, DC.

The photograph below shows the spot on Mila street where the house once stood. Beyond the trees in the foreground, you can see the grass covered mound of rubble with a memorial stone on the top of it.

Path around mound shows size of house at #18 Mila Street

Just below the steps, in the photo above, you can see a path around the mound. This path is an outline of the actual building which stood at Mila 18. As you can see by the size of the mound, the building was very small. The photo above was taken from the street which is at right angles to Mila street. The actual entrance to the house at number 18 Mila street was formerly in the spot shown in the photo below. The house was set very close to the street. A row of trees has been planted where the sidewalk in front of the house used to be.

The former location of house #18 on Mila Street in Warsaw

Ghetto Wall

Nozyk Synagogue

The Ghetto


Ghetto Uprising

Ghetto Heroes

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This page was last updated on October 10, 2009