Irving Milchberg, who has died aged 86, was the wartime leader of the “cigarette sellers of Three Crosses Square”, a gaggle of Jewish youths who sold smokes to German officers in wartime Warsaw while covertly spiriting food into the city’s ghetto and smuggling arms to the resistance.It's quite a remarkable story about a remarkable man. RTWT.
The Ostbahn workers became a channel to resistance units within the ghetto. Using a network of contacts, including an uncle and a tram-conductor , Milchberg smuggled in small arms hidden in hollowed-out loaves (the only food allowed through the barricades). The weapons added to the cache used by the Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Uprising of April and May 1943.
To the other boys and girls he was a natural chief. “In their eyes he was grown-up and experienced,” wrote Ziemian. “Bull had authority.” Milchberg, however, took a practical view of his wartime bravery. “To tell you the truth, I never thought much,” he said last year. “If I had to do something, I did it. I didn’t have time to analyse it.”
This was brought to my attention by reader Jeff, who emails:
As the reference to the cobbler shows, Many Poles were far from anti-Semitic. For some years in the 1980s and later, I took subcontract work from a Polish accountant living and working in Edinburgh. George had been an infantry officer at the start of the War, and had escaped encirclement by the Jerries. He and his company moved east, towards the Ukrainian border.Another remarkable man. We are surrounded, but tend not to notice.
Round a bend, they came to a village on fire. It had been attacked by Ukrainian bandits. George led his company in an immediate charge, and they wiped out most of the Ukrainians. The village Jews had been slaughtered before George arrived, so he put the remaining bandits up against a wall.
You will probably guess that the Soviets were coming west, and George had to lead his men south. Decent, presumably anti-Soviet Ukrainians helped them. Eventually they escaped to Britain, and after service with us in North Africa and Italy, invaded France.
George himself did not make it to Germany: a shell went off close to him and left a dent in his forehead which never came out. I think I am right in remembering he had the Polish equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Given that the standard Polish military condition is Insanely Brave, that is remarkable.