Yitsḥak Zuckerman delivering a speech at a memorial ceremony on the ruins of the former headquarters of the Warsaw ghetto Jewish council (Judenrat), 1947. Standing next to Zuckerman is Adolf Berman. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Leah Lahav)

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Zuckerman, Yitsḥak

(1915–1981), Polish Zionist youth leader who was prominent in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Born in Vilna, Yitsḥak (Antek) Zuckerman studied at Tarbut schools and joined the Zionist youth movement He-Ḥaluts ha-Tsa‘ir. In 1936 he went to a hakhsharah (agricultural training) farm in Grochów near Warsaw and worked at the central office of He-Ḥaluts ha-Tsa‘ir. In 1938 he was appointed secretary general of the movement.

When World War II broke out, Zuckerman and his associates fled to Kowel in Soviet-occupied eastern Poland (now Kovel’, Ukraine). In November 1939, he established underground cells for his movement in western Ukraine, and returned in early 1940 to Warsaw to organize a larger underground movement, with clandestine educational activities and political cells in the ghetto. He also founded and edited several underground periodicals.

Because of his non-Jewish appearance, Zuckerman soon took on tasks outside the ghetto, making connections with the Jewish underground in Kraków and Lublin and meeting with representatives of the Polish underground. He asked the latter to send information to the Polish government-in-exile in London to inform it about the situation of Polish Jewry and Jewish resistance. When news of mass killings of Jews in the Soviet-occupied territories reached Warsaw, Zuckerman sensed that a Nazi murder campaign would soon encompass the Jews of Poland as well. In early 1942, he helped initiate meetings with other Jewish underground groups for the purpose of creating a united Jewish force for armed resistance. These talks failed. In spring 1942, Zuckerman became an active member of the Anti-Fascist Bloc, a coalition of Communist and Labor Zionist groups in the Warsaw ghetto dedicated to military operations against German forces. However, the bloc was disbanded in June 1942 following the arrests of its leaders.

When mass deportations of Warsaw Jews began on 22 July 1942, Zuckerman demanded armed resistance. At a meeting of the youth movements Dror (affiliated with He-Ḥaluts ha-Tsa‘ir), Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa‘ir, and Akiva on 28 July, the Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization; ŻOB) was established, with Zuckerman a member of its staff. Because it lacked arms, the organization could not resist deportations, but it helped spread the idea of armed resistance in Warsaw and other ghettos.

During the second round of deportations, which began on 18 January 1943, Zuckerman stood at the head of a group of ŻOB members who had barricaded themselves in one of the ghetto buildings; from there, the group fired on the Germans. Between the end of January and April 1943 he was commander of one of the three battle sectors into which ŻOB had divided the ghetto. He was involved in the preparations for the uprising, but shortly before it broke out he was ordered to cross to the Polish side in order to serve as liaison to the general Polish resistance movement. During the uprising, he transported ŻOB arms received from the Polish underground. In the final days of the revolt he organized a rescue party that penetrated the ghetto through the sewage system and led the remaining Jewish fighters to the Aryan side.

After the collapse of the ghetto revolt, Zuckerman was active in the Jewish National Council, a position that enabled him to help Jews in hiding and maintain contacts with labor camps and Jewish partisan units in central Poland. He commanded a ŻOB unit during the Polish uprising in Warsaw in August 1944. Liberated in January 1945, he and his wife Zivia Lubetkin (also a key figure in ŻOB) became leaders of the postwar Polish Jewish community. A member of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland, Zuckerman helped reestablish the He-Ḥaluts movement, organized housing and employment for survivors, and played a central role in the Beriḥah (the Zionist-led organized exodus of Polish Jewry). He was among the initiators of the tacit agreement with the Polish government in July 1946 to let Jews emigrate.

In early 1947, Zuckerman arrived in Palestine, where he was a founder of Kibbutz Loḥame ha-Geta’ot and one of the initiators of its museum and research institute devoted to the history of the Holocaust. He appeared as a witness in the Eichmann Trial in 1961, reading a letter that had been sent to him by Mordekhai Anielewicz, commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, on 23 April 1943.

Suggested Reading

Israel Gutman, “Zuckerman, Yitzhak,” in Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, ed. Israel Gutman, pp. 1740–1743 (New York, 1990); Yitsḥak Tsukerman: Shanah le-moto; Devarim ‘alav u-devarim le-zikhro (Kibuts Loḥame ha-Geta’ot, Israel, 1983); Yitzhak Zuckerman, A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Berkeley, 1993).