In the Bunkers During the Uprising
After the first few days of fighting in the ghetto streets, the Jewish combatants took refuge in bunkers. In order to overcome the Jewish fighters and force them out of their hiding places, the Germans began systematically setting fire to the buildings in the Warsaw Ghetto and blowing them up.
The will to resist has been sparked among thousands of men and women, elderly people and children, a will which conquers the natural anxiety and the fear of death and hardship. The masses have understood that by resisting surrender they are fighting the enemy in a unique way, hindering his deeds of destruction… The Germans were forced to conquer every single shelter and bunker with full force of arms. Hersh Wasser, in Melech Nischt: the Destruction and Rebellion of the Jews of Warsaw, p. 190.
The "bunker wars" lasted an entire month, during which German progress was slowed. People leapt from burning buildings, tried to dangle down from burning apartments using improvised ropes, and went from bunker to bunker.
Hell rages over our heads as frequent explosions rend the air, houses collapse, acrid smoke from the fires seeps through our small observation opening, and street fighting continues. One isolated hand grenade explosion followed by several revolver shots – those are ours; a few rounds of machine gun fire and a powerful explosion – those are the Germans'. … Today is the 30th of April. The liquidation of the Ghetto and its last defenses had begun on the 18th. For twelve days we have been sitting in this hole. We are not sleeping; we are not moving; we are not talking. Instead we lie silently on the bunks and think – of what? – of death, and why we must die, and of the hopelessness of our situation. Thaddeus Stabholz, Seven Hells, p.2
In order to locate the underground bunkers the Germans made use of hounds, listening devices, and informers. Once detected, they would throw poisonous gasses into the bunkers. In time, the entire ghetto was aflame. Houses collapsed, falling onto their residents. People clamored and knocked at the doors of the few bunkers still in good repair, begging to be allowed in. The fighters too were given refuge by the ghetto residents, and the situation in the bunkers went from bad to worse. The unbearable heat made breathing difficult.
On the fourth day of the uprising the command center of the Jewish Fighting Organization had to abandon its building at 29 Mila Street. The Germans set the building on fire and clouds of smoke filled the rooms. The fighters reassembled at the bunker at 18 Mila Street. Chaim Primer relates how the group of members from the Jewish Fighting Organization arrived at the bunker at 18 Mila Street, which had been built by Jews active in the Warsaw criminal underworld:
About eighty of us from the Jewish Fighting Organization came to the bunker, together we were a group of about 300 people. Upon entering one of the gangsters came toward us, a kind of guide, he showed us all the wonders of the bunker and led us to the room that had been appointed for our use… Our hosts, members of the criminal underworld, not only treated us with respect, they also forced the civilians to do likewise. Chaim Primer, From That Inferno, p. 225-226
I don't care how many devoted soldiers the Jewish Fighting Organization had... The root of the problem is that the Organization's activities… shone out to the entire Jewish society in the ghetto, provoking a chain reaction. Perhaps even they were ignorant… of the scope of the fire they had set in the souls of thousands of Jews who until this point had been passive. Report by Jürgen Stroop