(dpa) - Polish and Israeli leaders Tuesday comemmorated the Warsaw Ghetto uprising 65 years ago, when Jews fought Nazi forces for nearly a month in a famed but ultimately futile act of armed resistance during the Holocaust.
Presidents Lech Kaczysnki and Shimon Peres opened the day-long ceremonies by lighting candles at the former Umschlagplatz, the assembly place where Warsaw Jews were forced to board trains to the Treblinka death camp starting in July 1942.
Kaczynski paid tribute to the ghetto fighters, calling them "heroes" who fought for their honour.
The ceremony was a signal of "remembrance and vigilance," he said.
Peres took a darker view, noting that most of the Jewish fighters were killed. But the revolt marked a victory of humanity over "human bestiality" and Jews avenged the Holocaust by founding Israel after World War II, he said.
Later, Kaczynski and Peres were to meet former Warsaw ghetto fighters and insurgents of the Nazi extermination camp in Sobibor, Polish Radio reported.
Nazi authorities set up the Warsaw Ghetto about a year after Adolf Hitler's forces invaded Poland in 1939, touching off World War II. Up to half a million people were crammed into the walled-off part of the Polish capital, many dying from disease and starvation.
When news of the Treblinka deportations trickled back Warsaw, survivors took up armed resistance.
Using smuggled weapons, they fired on German troops trying to round up more Jews in early 1943. A full-scale uprising began on April 19, 1943 when German SS and Wehrmacht forces moved in force to bring the remaining ghetto residents to death camps.
German forces crushed the revolt by mid-May, destroying the ghetto's synagogue and sending more than 50,000 captured Jews to their deaths.
Some 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, Hitler's campaign to exterminate Europe's Jews. The worst killing camps, including Auschwitz, were in occupied Poland - a fact that even now has Polish officials pointing out that Germans, not Poles, were in control of the camps.