Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Adam Czerniakow Diary Extracts
The Aktion to confiscate furs from the Ghettos in Poland
December 24 1941
I received a message from Warsaw that – according to an edict – we must surrender all the furs – both men’s and women’s. I am to be personally responsible. The deadline has been set for December 28, 1941
December 25 1941
At 8am in the morning I left for Warsaw. In the Community building, in the large conference room and at 27 Grzybowska Street , a collection of furs. At 1 o’clock Auerswald appeared.
I asked him for an exemption from the requisition for the members of the Order Service and the doctors. He promised to give me his answer tomorrow... I am still sick.
December 26 1941
In the morning I got up aching. At the Community building: the collection. By 12.10, 1,100 fur coats and fur pieces had been gathered. At 1.10 Auerswald and Jesuiter came.
Auerswald signed a letter authorising electricity for the Community Authority building, since it is difficult to work without it. He informed me that the requisition edict applies not only to the Jews of the General Government but also to the foreign Jews.
The only exception is the Jewish citizens of neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland.
December 27 1941
There are enormous lines in front of the 7 fur collection points. By noon 8,870 receipts were issued. In Radom they do not have to surrender the lining or the top cover. In Krakow, also, only the furs themselves
But in addition, it was announced there that new unused underwear and high and Zakopane –type boots must also be surrendered. Jews were forbidden to leave their apartments. In Lublin also the pelts only
It is anticipated that woollens as well will be requisitioned. Each family must be required to contribute to the quota
December 28 1941
An immense line of people with furs in front of the Community Authority and at 27 Grzybowska Street. Auerswald visited the Community. In our large conference room huge piles of furs. All normal work in the offices has stopped. Everybody is busy with fur collection.
I managed to bring back Niunia, and Roma from Otwock. Their trip to Warsaw is a story in itself.
December 29 1941
In the morning at the Community. Auerswald and Jesuiter arrived, complaining furiously that by 9 in the morning they had not received a report on the collection.
It has been explained to them that it has been impossible to sort and count the huge piles that would fill perhaps 6 large boxcars. They ordered us to have the inventory ready by 3pm (This was said at 12 noon). The staff in all the departments was drafted for counting the furs at 3pm.
It was ascertained that by 6pm, December 28 the collection yielded 690 men’s fur coats, 2,541 ladies’ fur coats, 4,441 men’s fur linings, 4,020 ladies’ fur linings, 222 silver fox pelts, 258 blue fox pelts, 872 red fox pelts, 5,118 fur hand-warmers, 39,556 fur collars, 7,205 assorted pelts, 2,201 sheepskin coats and 25,569 receipts were issued.
Wiesenberg and Popower were summoned to Rodeck at Bruhl Palace for 3pm, on the subject of the budget. Wiesenberg was stopped at one of the guard posts for wearing two jackets (in place of his fur coat that was taken away). They barely let him go.
December 30 1941
Yesterday the inhabitants of the ghetto have surrendered 23 men’s fur coats, 113 ladies’ fur coats, 358 men’s coats fur linings, 14 silver fox pelts, 7 blue fox pelts, 144 red fox pelts, 553 hand-warmers, 4,972 fur collars, 485 assorted pelts, 281 sheepskin coats. 2,834 receipts were issued.
December 31 1941
In the morning at the Community. I telephoned Auerswald suggesting that the collected furs be moved to the Umschlagplatz for sorting before their delivery to the authorities. I am seriously worried about theft. Yesterday while some furs were being transported from 27 to 26/28 Grzybowska Street, some of the parcels were thrown aside for “friends.”
At 10 o’clock the Kommissar announced that tomorrow, January 1 1942, there will be a holiday for the Community. At 3pm we received a letter from him postponing “for the last time” the deadline for the surrender of furs until January 3 and ordering us to announce this through the loudspeakers.
January 1 1942
In the morning at the Community. The collection of furs continues. In the afternoon many well-disposed people with New Year’s wishes.
January 2 1942
Auerswald gave us permission to remove the linings and top covers from the fur coats. We are earmarking those for public assistance. Today is the first day of severe cold minus 4 to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
January 5 1942
In the morning at the Community. The collection of furs was completed yesterday. Then the furs were moved by the SS trucks to the Umschlagplatz for sorting. Jesuiter and Auerswald were present. Each truck was escorted by guards on motorcycles armed with rifles. We are worrying about the possibility of theft. The furs were packed in paper bags.
I spoke to Auerswald about compensation. He believes that he might be able, perhaps, to give us an extra food allocation. I have an idea of my own. I will present it to Auerswald this Wednesday.
January 7 1942
In the morning at the Community. Later with Auerswald I submitted my proposal requesting him to petition his superiors for the release of the condemned men, in the Jewish prison. This would be our compensation for the furs that we have delivered.
I stressed that I had been asking previously for an additional food contingent, but I would be willing to forego this food, since the saving of lives of so many people is at stake. I added that the official channels do lead, after all, from the Kommissar to the Governor to the Governor –General. The Kommissar replied that the release of the prisoners is solely in the hands of the Governor.
This being so, I implored him, in the name of humanity, to submit the appropriate plea to the Governor. After a lengthy discussion he promised to raise the issue earnestly with the Governor.
January 9 1942
In the morning with Szerynski to Mende, later to Iwanka. Fribolin is opposing any new subsidies to the Council. He is of the opinion that they should be replaced with funds from payments by the Jews for water, gas and electricity.
While I was talking to Iwanka, I was summonsed to Auerswald, he informed me that the Governor was willing, in accordance with my proposal, to release the condemned prisoners and also those who are about to be condemned, if we supply 1,500 sheepskin coats within a week.
I immediately set the appropriate machinery in motion to cope with the task. At this moment there are 40 condemned men, as well as 800 persons detained in prison.
January 11 1942
For several days we have had extremely cold weather, the more difficult to endure since the people lost their fur coats. Niunia wears Jas’s top coat. It seems that everyone has a cold. At Choldna Street they are building a wooden overpass for the ghetto pedestrians.
January 13 1942
I called a meeting of the Council and of the rabbis for 9am I formed a committee to co-ordinate the collection with two sub-committees, a financial one and one to purchase the sheepskin coats. I managed to obtain passes to the Warsaw District for four of our buyers, experts in the trade, for the purpose of procuring the sheepskin coats. I received Auerswald’s permission to supply just the sheepskins in place of the complete coats.
January 14 1942
In the morning at the Bruhl Palace. Auerswald was not in his office. Supposedly, yesterday was the Russian Orthodox Christmas. I wanted to ask him about the prisoners who have not yet been sentenced.
In the Community Authority they have been collecting money from the public for the sheepskin project. The results today were meagre. I, myself, borrowed 250,000 zlotys from the Provisioning Authority.
By Friday the suppliers are to deliver 350 sheepskin coats and enough sheepskins for 150 coats. Subsequently they will furnish 100 per day.
This morning fire erupted at the Umschlagplatz in the fur decontamination chamber, the furs in question were not collected from the Jews. Most likely the faulty servicing of the furnace was responsible. There were many suspicions and much excitement.
January 16 1942
In the morning at the Community. I inspected the furrier workshop at Gesia Street – sheepskin coats to save the lives of so many people. It is freezing cold in the shabby little room. The craftsmen have been busy all through the night. Unfortunately, only 120 coats have been finished, 300 are being worked on.
January 17 1942
In the morning with Szerynski to Mende and Stabenow, I asked if it were true that the guarding of the ghetto was to be taken over by the Lithuanians (the szaulisi). They denied it. I queried the Kommissar on the same matter and he replied that “he knew nothing about it.”
I told him that – according to my informants – the szaulisi have already moved into Ksiazeca Street. Again, he said “that he knew nothing about it.”
In regard to commuting the death sentences, the Kommissar informed me that the Governor extended the deadline for the delivery of the 1,500 sheepskin coats, approved the submitted design, would commute the death sentences of women, would release the children and ordered that the remaining prisoners, with the exception of the common criminals and smugglers, be examined by a medical commission (5 Jewish doctors and 1 SS doctor).
Those fit for work would be sent to a camp in Treblinka
January 18 1942
In the morning at the community. At 12 noon the memorial service for the 7 deceased members of the Council in Nozyk’s synagogue. The collection of funds for the sheepskins continues. It has been freezing . The overpass at Zelazna Street is almost completed.
January 19 1942
In the morning at the Community. The Community workshop (15 furriers), making sheepskin coats in connection with the possible release of the prisoners from the Jewish prison, is very busy.
January 20 1942
In the morning at the Community. Five hundred sheepskin coats are ready. Because of the meagre contributions, I decided to invite the richest Jews to my office and to make a personal appeal to their generosity.
January 21 1942
In the morning at the Community. The drive for the sheepskin fund has not been completed. We are short of the goal by 500,000 zlotys. The house committees led by incompetent men failed us utterly.
January 22 1942
I sent Wielikowski to one of the newly rich, who in any case has a reputation for generosity. He obtained a loan for 200,000 zlotys for the sheepskins. I also summoned the first batch of the citizenry, demanding an additional contribution for the sheepskin fund. In one hour I received well over 20,000 zlotys.
Haendel returned yesterday evening from the provinces bringing with him several dozen sheepskin coats. They are larger in size and cheaper, as a result of which the price of sheepskin coats fell in Warsaw, and it appears we will save over 200,000 zlotys.
January 23 1942
At 2pm I received a group of Jews whose contributions to the fund for the release of the prisoners were either small or non-existent. Two liars among them pretended to be poverty-stricken. I gave orders for their detention.
One Obremski, a manufacturer of footwear was arrogant. On top of it, he did not give a single penny. In the evening Haendel returned from Wegrow. He managed to purchase a sufficient quantity of sheepskin coats more cheaply than in Warsaw.
January 26 1942
In the morning at the Community. The sheepskin fund drive is approaching its target. To date, the public has contributed 600,000 zlotys. I managed to borrow a similar amount.
January 27 1942
We already have 1,500 sheepskin coats. Yesterday I did something heroic – I took a bath in a tub (lukewarm water, freezing temperature in the apartment.
January 30 1942
In the morning at the Community. 18 degrees F! Later with Grassler and Auerswald. Auerswald is to communicate with the Governor on the sheepskin coats. So far he has not, informed us where they are to be delivered.
January 31 1942
In the morning at the Community. With Szerynski to Mende. Later at Brandt’s. They telephoned the Kommissar on the subject (of the disposition) of the sheepskin coats.
Apparently the Germans will collect them themselves on Monday and Tuesday.
This is the final result of the fur requisition:
Scraps: about 200 sacks
Minimum value: 50,000,000 zlotys
Contributions to the sheepskin coat funds 564,860.45 zloty
Pledges 98, 006.30 zloty
Total 662, 866.75 zloty
For the rest we will have to tear our guts out!
February 3 1942
In the morning at the Community. In the afternoon an inspection of the 1,500 sheepskin coats by a commission (Probst, etc).
February 4 1942
In the morning at the Community. The commission will complete the inspection of the sheepskin coats tomorrow morning. The Kommissar demanded 100,000 zlotys today, probably for the overpass. Just outside my office door, seemingly endless bickering goes on about money contributions by the citizenry toward the cost of the sheepskin coats.
I went to see Auerswald. He informed me about having had some difficulties in his attempt to obtain the release of the prisoners, but they have now been overcome. To be released are women, children, adult males, with the exception of 54 of the latter who will be sent to the Treblinka camp. I pleaded for good treatment for them in the camp and for the Kommissar’s protection of them.
February 5 1942
In the morning at the Community. Today we are expecting the commission that will inspect the sheepskins.
February 7 1942
Up to this point the sheepskin coats have not been collected by the German authorities.
February 9 1942
The sheepskin coats remain uncollected.
February 13 1942
With the Kommissar I raised the matter of the prisoners. He issued instructions for preparing separate dossiers for each prisoner, which was done.
February 16 1942
Today the Kommissar received from us the individual dossiers of those arrested. In reply to my report the Kommissar forbade any assistance in feeding the prisoners in Pawiak and Danilowiczowska Street.
February 17 1942
In the morning at the Community. Dr Grassler, in response to a query, informs us that he will empty the prison by Thursday. He has been in communication in this matter with the Staatsanwalt, who is to produce a list of the prisoners at Pawiak and Danilowiczowska Street will also be considered.
February 19 1942
I went to Auerswald. Today he informed me that the Staatsanwalt failed to produce the documentation on those to be released. He has the Governor’s authorisation and could order the release of these prisoners, but this would produce chaos in the files of the Staatsanwalt. Anyway the matter is still pending.
February 24 1942
With the Kommissar. He promised to attend to the prisoners release himself, all the other formalities have been taken care of.
February 26 1942
In the morning at the Community. Later with Auerswald in the matter of the prisoners. At last I received a list which I must supplement with additional information.
And then they will be released. Auerswald told me that had he known how complicated the whole business was, he would not have undertaken it. I told him to listen to the voice of his conscience, above all.
February 27 1942
In the morning at the Community. Later I delivered to Auerswald a list of 150 prisoners for release.
February 28 1942
I made a call to Auerswald who told me that there is no reason to hurry since the release of the prisoners would take place in 2 or 3 days.
March 11 1942
At 3pm I released from the Jewish prison 151 people. Among them 5 were dead, 7 are being hospitalised. I placed more than 30 of them in a shelter, the rest went home. I addressed the prisoners, everyone was deeply moved. A crowd of people gathered in the street to wait for the released.
The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow
KEW National Archives.
Looted furs photo courtesy of the Genuine ARC Website © www.Deathcamps.org
Copyright C. Webb H.E.A.R.T 2008