ROME (JTA) — Tributes poured in following the death of Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis.
Edelman died last Friday in Warsaw. He was 90.
Edelman was one of the leaders of Jewish militant groups who fought against the Nazis during their final attempt to liquidate the ghetto. The uprising was the largest single revolt by the Jews during the Holocaust.
"He will remain in my memory as a fighting hero, a man of great courage," said Shevach Weiss, former Israeli ambassador to Poland and former head of the Knesset. "He never ceased in his struggle for human freedom and for Poland’s freedom."
Edelman, a cardiologist who after World War II lived and worked in the central city of Lodz, joined the anti-communist Solidarity movement in 1980 and later fought for other civic and human rights causes, becoming a moral authority in Poland. After the fall of communism, he was awarded Poland’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the White Eagle. He also was awarded the French Legion of Honor and an honorary degree from Yale.
Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity leader who became Polish president after the fall of communism, called Edelman "an upright, unequalled human being. There are no words to express the loss."
Said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, "France has lost a hero. He was a man who thought and did the unthinkable."
"The United States stands with Poland as it mourns the loss of a great man," U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Saturday. "We extend our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Edelman and salute his life dedicated to the defense of human dignity and freedom."