Simcha Rotem — the last surviving fighter from the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising — died in Jerusalem on Saturday at the age of 94.
Rotem, also known by his nickname of Kazik, was the head courier of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), which planned and executed the uprising.
Following the suppression of the revolt, Rotem fled to the countryside and continued his underground activities against the Nazis.
In August 1944, he took part in the general Warsaw Uprising that was launched as the Soviet Red Army approached the city.
After surviving World War II, Rotem moved with his family to British Mandate of Palestine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, “Kazik fought the Nazis, saved Jews, made aliyah after the Holocaust, and told the story of his heroism to thousands of Israelis. His story and the story of the uprising will forever be with our people.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin remarked of Rotem, “When asked about the message he would want to pass on to Israeli youth, he answered: ‘To be a human being. We are animals on two legs. No more than that — that’s what I think, that’s what I feel. But amongst us animals, the two-legged ones, there are some who are also human beings, and who deserve the name.’”
“Thank you for everything, Kazik,” Rivlin continued. “We promise to try, every day, to be worth of the name ‘human being.’”
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said students would be taught about Rotem’s life in a lesson on Monday.
“I instructed the director-general of the Ministry of Education to hold a memorial day in his memory tomorrow, so we will remember that in the dark days of the Holocaust there was also great heroism, thanks to which we have risen from the Shoah to rebirth,” Bennett stated.
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev commented, “This is the loss of a special figure, because ‘Kazik’ was a real warrior in the full sense of the word. He was a courageous and resourceful young fighter. Kazik was not a political figure but a man who fought for the memory of the Holocaust in its purest form and did so as member of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations. Today, we lost a very important voice. Our challenge remains to continue to imbue the memory of the Shoah with meaning and relevance in the absence of exemplary figures like Kazik.”