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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 14, 2009
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Ghetto Uprising Commander Dies
October 14, 2009   
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Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and a democratic opposition activist under communism, died in Warsaw Oct. 2 at the age of 87.

Edelman was born in Gomel, Belarus, to a Jewish family connected with the Bund, a Jewish social organization popular in working-class circles. His father died when Edelman was a few years old and his mother passed away in 1934 when he was 12.

After Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Edelman was confined to the Warsaw Ghetto where he was active in the underground Jewish Combat Organization as one of its founders. He was the last commander of the Ghetto Uprising after the death of Mordechaj Anielewicz. Edelman was among several uprising participants who managed to escape from the ghetto via sewers. He was in hiding for several months and then took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising started by the Polish underground Home Army (AK).

After the war Edelman took up residence in £ód¼ and became a cardiologist. Together with Prof. Jan Moll, a surgeon who pioneered treatment for heart attack patients in Poland, Edelman developed a cardiac surgery technique for severe heart attack cases.

In the mid-1970s, Edelman became involved in democratic opposition activity. In January 1976, he signed a letter of 101 intellectuals protesting against changes to the constitution planned by the country's communist authorities. He was active in the Workers' Defense Committee and then in the £ód¼ chapter of the Solidarity trade union. In December 1981, Edelman was interned along with other members of the anticommunist opposition after martial law was imposed in Poland. He was released a few days later thanks to the intervention of Western intellectuals. Edelman was active in the underground Solidarity movement until 1989 and took part in the Round Table talks of 1988-1989. In 1989-1993, he was a parliamentary deputy and a member of two centrist parties, the Democratic Union and Freedom Union.

In the 1990s, Edelman dealt with the problem of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. In 1993, he went to Sarajevo with a humanitarian aid convoy and in 1999 appealed for NATO's intervention in Kosovo.
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