Uprising (2001) TV Movie on the Rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943

Uprising is a made for TV movie based on the true account of the rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. A group of young and very determined Jewish people managed to do what some of the biggest armies weren’t capable of doing, namely fighting back the Nazi’s for a few weeks. It’s not a flawless production, some of the dialogue is  a bit “What-the-Heck”, including the fact that all the actors talk with a heavy accent, but apart from that I found it very interesting. The actors are mostly good and it focuses on a few historical facts I hadn’t known too much about and that I found very interesting. I can only hope it’s accurate. At least it felt so.

The movie begins with the Germans entering Poland and Warsaw and forcing all the Jews to live in the ghetto. They endure famine, illness, daily abuse. The conditions in the ghetto are harrowing. The most controversial role is played by Donald Sutherland as Adam Czerniakow, head of the Jewish council. He thought that by collaborating with the Germans he could save the Jews from being deported. When he realized his error and the daily transports to Treblinka started, he committed suicide.

The rebellion is led by Mordeachai Anielewicz (Hank Azaria), Yitzhak Zuckerman (David Schwimmer),  Kazik Rotem (Stephen Moyer) Tosia Altman (Leelee Sobieski) and Mira Fruchner (Radha Mitchell). The danger to smuggle out information from the ghetto to the Polish side and weapons back in, is shown in great detail. Those people were incredibly courageous. Still they had to fight at lot of internal opposition. The Jewish Council didn’t want to support them as nobody wanted to believe that the camps were extermination camps. When they finally coudln’t doubt this anymore and Czerniakow had committed suicide, more and more people joined them. At first they planned little terror attacks until the Nazi’s seent tanks to erase them.  The Nazi leader Stroop is played by Jon Voight, accompanied by filmmaker Dr.Hippler (Cary Elwes), who was responsible for propaganda. In Goebbel’s name he films The Eternal Jew – Der Ewige Jude, a horrible piece of shit that should help make Germans hate the Jews, as – according to Goebbels  – they were not sufficiently anti-Semitic.

The movie can’t be compared to The Pianist, that’s for sure, but it’s well worth watching and quite informative too. David Schwimmer is surprisingly good in this and so are most of the other actors. Many, I’m sure,  will be delighted to see Stephen Moyer in his pre True Blood days.

It’s often been said that it was hard to understand that the Jews didn’t fight back. This movie shows why they didn’t or couldn’t and what happened when they did and how incredibly difficult it was to organize a rebellion. Most of these young people didn’t make it but some did. Their story is a testimony of how courageous people can be.


6 thoughts on “Uprising (2001) TV Movie on the Rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I vaguely remember watching it, but definitely need to see it again. That is an interesting cast! Made for TV movies usually do not have the quality of theatrical releases, but they sometimes are the only way to bring some historical events to light. Kudos to the producer and the network.

  2. Norka says:

    soy amante de todos los films que documenten el terrible holocausto de la segunda guerra mundial y esta película es excelente…ha sido una de las que mas me ha gustado, despues de la lista de shindler, el pianista y la vida es bella….la recomiendo.

  3. kazik (Simcha Rotem still lives in Jerusalem) and I met him. A lot is based upon his book, and his role is much bigger in the film than in reality. He did not drive a car for Czerniakov, though. Kelel’s part, the polivemen, is completely a fraud, though, it’s is a realistic character that develops in the story, and he is interesting, althogh very very lossly based on a combination of real people mixed together. Basically, there is a huge problem with the holywoodization of this unique piece of history. A lot is neglected: nothing is mentioned about the socialist roots of the rebellion leaders, and very little about their Zionism. Parts who were done in history by hundreds of different people, were condensed to to a few reappearing heroes in the script, because that’s how we are use to hear stories – as the making of a few individuals, and the history was made combined strength of grassroots youth movements and political parties – too much groups and characters to remember easily. The flags of Z.Z.W are shown in the movie, without any way to know that they were hung by a different organization (the whole movie goes along the lines of the Z.O.B ). One basically realistic feature is that the Germans don’t have many casualties in the rebellion, and that Jewish shots tend to miss. I strongly recommend to read Izchak’s book: a surplus of memory (in Hebrew it’s called Sheva HAshanim Hahen, meaning “those seven years” )

    • Thanks so much for your interesting comment. It’s so often the case that they mash up history for Hollywood prodcutions.
      People want the story of one or tow people to be able to identify. a lot is sacrificed because of this.
      I find the story fascinatig and would love to know more. I will look if I can find the book.
      I’m sure it must have been very interesting to talk to him. There is a lot to be proud of in this story.

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