Mordechai Anielevich (1919-1943) was born in 1919 to Avraham and Ceril Anielevich in the Polish capital city of Warsaw. His parents owned a small grocery store in the poor neighborhood of Powiśle, and the Anielevich family lived in a constant state of poverty. With two younger sisters and a younger brother, Anielevich was the oldest child in his family. He finished primary school with honors and was awarded a scholarship to attend the Laor high school for boys. At age 14 he joined Betar and at age 16 he joined Hashomer Hatzair. From a very early age, Anielevich demonstrated natural leadership skills.
On September 7, 1939, just a few days after the outbreak of the war, Anielevich and his friends fled Warsaw and tried to cross the border into Rumania with the intention of smuggling young Jews to Palestine. At the border, he was arrested and imprisoned in a Soviet jail. Upon his release, he returned to Warsaw and immediately set out for Vilna, where refugee youth movement members had started to gather. There, he attempted to convince his girlfriend Mira Fuchrer to return to Warsaw with him.
In January 1940, Anielevich became the leader of his underground movement, and worked in youth education, editing an underground newspaper, and organizing seminars and other gatherings. After receiving the first reports of the mass murder of European Jews, Anielevich’s outlook changed. From that point on, he began to organize Jewish self-defense in the Warsaw ghetto and assumed leadership of the Jewish Fighting Organization, or the ŻOB.
On January 18, 1943, during the German Aktzia in the Warsaw ghetto, Anielevich and a group of other fighters initiated armed resistance against the German guards. Of this group, he was the only one to survive. On Passover Eve, April 19, 1943, the Nazis began liquidating the Warsaw ghetto. Anielevich was in command of the force during the first days of the fighting, after which he and his comrades retreated to the ŻOB bunker at 18 Mila Street. On May 8, 1943, he was killed in the bunker along with the fighters under his command.
In his last letter to Yitzchak (Antek) Zuckerman, a member of ŻOB Command operating in the Aryan zone of the city, Anielevich wrote: “Something has happened that has surpassed our wildest dreams. The Germans fled from the ghetto twice… I cannot describe to you the conditions in which the Jews live. Only very unique individuals will survive. The rest will perish, sooner or later. Our fate has been sealed… My life’s dream has been fulfilled. I witnessed Jewish defense in the ghetto, in all its splendor and greatness…”
Mordechai Anielevich is the namesake of streets throughout Israel, of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, where a monument was erected in his memory, and of Moreshet, the Mordechai Anielevich Memorial Holocaust Studies and Research Center at Givat Haviva.