Communist Underground Leader - Warsaw Ghetto
Pinkus Kartin was born in the city of Lusk in Western Ukraine, which was part of the Polish state between the First and Second World Wars. While still in his youth he joined the Communist Movement and in the Spanish Civil War he was an officer in the Dombrovski Brigade. When the Second World War started Kartin was in France, working for the Comintern. He was recognised as a citizen of the Soviet Union and repatriated to Russia, under the terms of the German -Soviet exchange of citizens agreement - which was honoured until the outbreak of hostilities between the two countries.
In the Soviet Union, he joined the circle of Polish Communist emigres, and he underwent special military training, and was counted among the elite 'Enterprises Group' that was chosen to penetrate into Poland, lead the underground Communist Party, and organise an armed force, backed by the Communists.
After a number of abortive attempts to reach Poland, the first squad including Kartin - also known by his underground name of Andrzej Szmidt, parachuted into the Warsaw area at the end of 1941. Kartin could not take part in the enlistment campaign in the Polish sector since his appearance would betray his Jewish origins. For a while, he hid out in the home of a Polish shoemaker, suffering severely from a lack of sufficient nourishment and warm clothing.
One of his comrades in arms Colonel Gustav Alef- Bolkowicz recalled Pinkus Kartin:
Pinkus Kartin for example, I see every minute. I can hear his melodic voice, he lives forever in my memory. He was a heroic captain of the International Brigade in Spain, the leader of an anti-fascist bloc. This great humanitarian and a Jew volunteered in 1941, in the land of the Soviets, to jump, parachute together with Marceli Novotka, pseudonym 'Maryan' behind the enemy front in occupied Poland, and organise the PPR (Polish Workers Party). Later he entered the Warsaw ghetto.
Finally, Pinkus Kartin's comrades decided, ignoring the original plans and responsibilities to charge Kartin with the mission of organising the Party and the combat units within the ghetto. In May 1942, the Communists began to organise the first group slated to go out to the forests and mobilisation extended throughout the ghetto. For weeks meetings of the bloc's 'fivesomes' were devoted to instruction on the nature of partisan warfare and combat tactics in the city and in the forests. At the last moment, however, the campaign, which was supposed to be the bloc's first actual combat operation was cancelled. The reason for the postponement led to the total disintegration of the bloc.
On 20 May 1942, three of the Polish Workers Party (PPR), including Andrzej Szmidt himself, were arrested on the corner of Zamenhof and Gesia streets, while handing over printing type, purchased in the ghetto. It emerged later that a secret Gestapo agent Kisielow, who had infiltrated the ranks of the Polish Communists, was responsible for the arrest. This arrest basically led to the collapse of the Communists Resistance bloc, after an initial cessation of all routine activities, it was eventually disbanded in June 1942.
As for Andrzej Szmidt, he was killed by the Germans in Pawiak prison in Warsaw on 20 May 1942.
Y. Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw 1939-1943, The Harvester Press, Brighton, 1982
Kowalski and Arad, The Anthology of Armed Jewish Resistance 1939 - 1945, Jewish Combatants Publishers House, 1984
B. Engelking and J. Leociak, The Warsaw Ghetto, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2009
© Holocaust Historical Society 2016