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Opening Hours:

Sunday to Thursday: ‬09:00-17:00

Fridays and Holiday eves: ‬09:00-14:00

Yad Vashem is closed on Saturdays and all Jewish Holidays.

Entrance to the Holocaust History Museum is not permitted for children under the age of 10. Babies in strollers or carriers will not be permitted to enter.

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Conversations with Simha ("Kazik") Rotem, Survivor Who Took Part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

“I Thought I was the Last Jew Alive”

Limor Bar-Ilan

Simha Rotem (Ratheiser), known as "Kazik," was born in 1924 in Warsaw, Poland. He was the eldest of four children in the family. When Kazik was twelve, he joined a Zionist Youth Movement called "Hanoar Hazioni". When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Kazik lost his brother Israel and an additional five family members with the destruction of their house in German aerial bombing. Kazik himself was injured in the attack. Shortly after the Jews were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, Kazik’s parents sent him to family relatives in a village called Klwów, near Radom, where he remained for three months. In 1942, he returned to the Ghetto and joined up with the Jewish Fighting Organization, the ZOB. During the Ghetto Uprising in 1943, he served as a liaison between the bunkers in the Warsaw Ghetto and contacts outside of the ghetto. At the end of the uprising he was in charge of leading the remaining ghetto fighters out of the ghetto via the sewers and was thus responsible for saving them. He organized hiding places for them in the forests and in the city until the end of the war. Kazik took part in the Polish uprising in 1944 and in January 1945, he was sent to Lublin to make contact with the Polish Government in Exile. On his way to Lublin, he met Russian soldiers and thus he knew that he was now in an area that had just been liberated from Nazi control. He also participated in organizing the Beriha. In 1946, Kazik immigrated to Israel in the wave of illegal immigration and was interned by the British in the Atlit Detention Camp.

Thereafter, he joined the Hagana and fought in the War of Independence. After the establishment of the State, Kazik served in various capacities as a State envoy. 

He is married to Gina, neé Olmer, and they have two sons and five grandchildren. In 1984, he published his memoirs as Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter. Since 1963, Kazik has been active on the committee at Yad Vashem which deals with recognizing Righteous Among the Nations. In 2010, the Government of Poland erected a monument over the manhole at (51 Prosta Street) from where Kazik emerged from the sewers with the fighters he had led out of the ghetto.

The following are remarks taken from interviews and lectures given by Kazik over the years

On the left, Kazik (Simha Rotem). On the right, Stefan Szwarski, a Pole whose aunt hid Kazik in her house after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In the background, behind them, Antek (Yizhak) Zuckerman.

Stefan Szwarski was murdered in his aunt's house by the Gestapo as they searched for Kazik. The photograph was taken on the Aryan side of Warsaw in 1943.

Kazik (Simha Rotem)

An article from a Polish newspaper in 1984, about the publication of Kazik's book, Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter.

The monument established near the sewer opening from which the fighters were rescued during the uprising, at 51 Prosta Street in Warsaw

The monument established near the sewer opening from which the fighters were rescued during the uprising, at 51 Prosta Street in Warsaw

Jews being led to the Umschlagplatz (the deportation area) during the time of the uprising. In the background, the ghetto buildings can be seen going up in flames

Buildings going up in flames at the time of the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Warsaw, Poland, 1943, General Stroop's men next to burning buildings during the suppression of the uprising

A commemorative memorial to the fallen of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The memorial, which was dedicated on April 19, 1946 – the third anniversary of the uprising – was fashioned to look like a manhole cover opening onto a sewer, and is found in the area of the former Warsaw Ghetto.

A commemorative memorial dedicated after the war which stands upon the remains of the bunker at 18 Mila Street in the Warsaw Ghetto

  1. See the article in this newsletter on armed resistance in the Krakow Ghetto for more on the Akiba youth movement.
  2. The second fighting organization in the Warsaw ghetto, the ZZW or Jewish Fighting Union, was comprised of members of Betar, another of the youth movements, as well as Revisionists.
  3. Kazik found out only later that there were people still remaining in the sewer, who were waiting in a side tributary of the sewer where the water level was lower.