Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
The Warsaw Ghetto
Introduction to the Ghettos of the Holocaust
“Eclipse of the Sun – Universal Blackness”
Extracts from the Diary of Abraham Lewin
Warsaw Ghetto – July – September 1942
Wednesday 22 July 1942 – The Day Before Tishebov
A day of turmoil, chaos and fear, the news about the expulsion of Jews is spreading like lightning through the town – Jewish Warsaw has suddenly died, the shops are closed, Jews run by, in confusion, terrified.
The Jewish streets are an appalling sight- the gloom is indescribable. There are dead bodies at several places – No one is counting them and no names are being given in this terrifying catastrophe.
The expulsion is supposed to begin today from the hostels for the homeless and from the prisons. There is also talk of an evacuation of the hospital. Beggar children are being rounded up into wagons.
I keep thinking about my aged mother – it would be better to put her to sleep than to hand her over to those murderers. Ora brings exaggerated stories from Sweden, that the war is coming to an end.
Thursday 23 July 1942
Disaster after disaster, misfortune after misfortune. The small ghetto has been turned out on to the streets. My nephew Uri arrived at half past seven.
The people were driven out from 42- 44 Muranowska Street during the night. Garbatka, near Radom, 300 women, 55 children – Last Tuesday in the night. Rain has been falling all day.
Weeping, the Jews are weeping, they are hoping for a miracle. The expulsion is continuing. Buildings are blockaded 23 Twarda Street. Terrible scenes. A woman with beautiful hair. A girl 20 years old, pretty. They are weeping and tearing their hair.
On Zamenhof Street the Germans pulled people out of a tram and killed them on the spot. (Muranowska Street).
Friday 24 July 1942
The turmoil is as it was during the days of the bombardment of Warsaw. Jews are running as if insane, with children and bundles of bedding. Buildings on Karmelicka and Nowolipe Streets are being surrounded.
Mothers and children wander around like lost sheep – where is my child? Weeping. Another wet day with heavy skies: rain is falling. The scenes on Nowolipie Street. The huge round up on the streets. Old men and women, boys and girls are being dragged away. The Police are carrying out the round up, and officials of the Jewish Community wearing white armbands are assisting them.
The death of Czerniakow yesterday at half past eight in the Jewish Community building. As for the reasons- during the ceremony at Grzybowska Street he said “ I’ll die anyway, Madam”. The round up was halted at three o’clock.
How Jews saved themselves, fictitious marriages with Policemen. The savagery of the police during the round up, the murderous brutality. They drag girls from the rickshaws, empty out flats, and leave the property strewn everywhere. A pogrom and a killing the like of which has never been seen.
Merenlender’s visit. She and her father were taken the first day. In what kind of train wagons are the prisoners kept? According to her they will not last a night.
Many buildings have received an order to present themselves on their own. The manager of 30 Swietojerska Street, Nadzia gave herself up.
People get attacks of hysteria, 11000 people have been rounded up, 100 policemen held hostage. One of them let himself down on a rope, fell and was badly wounded. The policeman Zakhajm has been shot. Terrifying rumours about the night – Will there be a pogrom?
Schultz is dismissing 100 Jews – his explanation for his actions. -The great hunger in the ghetto. Someone saves his sister and a four year old child, passing her off as his wife. The child does not give the secret away. He cries out “Daddy”. I am trying to save my mother with a paper from the Jewish Self-help Organisation (ZTOS).
Saturday 25 July 1942
Last night I could not sleep. It passed peacefully. Everything reminds one of September 1939. People rushing through the streets. The day is so long. Packages, mainly of pillows and bedclothes.
Noisy movements, the never ending questions – “Can one get through here”. Five killed in Dzielna Street in the night. Terrible scenes in the streets.
The police are carrying out elegant furniture from the homes of those who have been driven out. Umschlagplatz a policeman is crying. He is struck. Why are you crying? “ My mother, my wife. Wife yes, mother no”.
How did Czerniakow die? 10,000! Last night there were a lot of suicides.
Conditions at the Umschlagplatz – people are dying where they are being held. You cant go in or out. By yesterday 25,000 had been taken away, with today 30,000.
With each day the calamity worsens – many people give themselves up voluntarily. It is supposed hunger forces them into it.
The new proclamation: non-productive elements are being sent to the East.
Vast numbers of dead among those being expelled. The German Jews are content to go. For them it is a long journey.
The Jewish Self-help Organisation is flooded with Jews begging for mercy, stretching out their hands for help- who is there to help them? Then every Jew would come and ask for papers from the organisation.
Since Tuesday there has been no newspaper in the ghetto, apart from the very sketchy Jewish paper – Gazeta Zydowska.
Sunday 26 July 1942
The “ Action” continues. The buildings at 10-12 Nowolipie Street are surrounded. Shouts and screams. Outside my window they are checking papers and arresting people. Human life is dependant on some little piece of paper. It is really enough to drive you insane.
A lovely morning, the sky is wonderfully beautiful, the sun is shining , the acacia is blooming and the slaughterer is slaughtering. The blockade of our courtyard. How it was carried out – Winnik’s story.
Good news from Brzesc. The closing of the post office. The terrible hunger, many give themselves up, they are not accepted, so great is the number that are going.
Yet still they set up blockades so as to extort money. The terrible corruption of our police and their assistants. An outrage, an outrage. 6 Solna Street, 99 victims. Today 12,000 martyrs. A kilo of bread – 50 zloty, Potatoes –20.
Warszawski son, an official of the Jewish community, was seized and ransomed for 250 zloty. The break up of families – it hurts so much. 37,000 martyrs today – the Jewish community and Self-help Organisation workers are also not safe. Only the workers in the “shops” seem to be still safe.
A new leadership for the community, Lichtenbaum, chairman, the deputies: Wielkikowski, Sztolcman, Orlianski. Lola Kapelusz, the wife of a lawyer from Lodz, she goes twice with her daughter to give herself up because they are starving. “ We haven’t eaten for two days”. They send them away because of huge crowds of people giving themselves up.
Monday 27 July 1942
The “Action” still continuing at full strength. People are being rounded up. Victims on Smocza Street. People were dragged from the trams and shot. One hundred dead, old people and sick,at the Umschlagplatz.
Huge numbers of dead at 29 Ogrodowa Street. The remaining occupants were taken out, no notice was taken of their papers. The cause – a piece of glass fell on to the street when there were Germans passing. Shooting all day. Dead on Pawia and other streets. The terrible hunger. Bread – 60 zloty, potatoes – 20, meat 80.
The commandant from Lublin is in Warsaw. How high will the numbers of deported become? Opinions differ – 100,000, 200,000 – some will go even further, about 50,000 will be left and these will also be removed to Grochow or Pelcowizna.
Today the number of those deported will reach about 44,000 and according to Wielikowski there is no prospect of an end to the action. A break for 48 hours, Auerswald has returned. Perhaps things will get easier?
Suicides in great numbers. The Cytryn family, mother and son embracing. The attitude of the Poles. Kalman weeping over the telephone. He calls for revenge. Neustadt has been murdered.
Tuesday 28 July 1942
The “ action” continues relentlessly. There are many volunteers, two families from 8 Nowolipie left their flats and gave themselves up – the reason – the terrible hunger. Bialer – execution because he did not remove his hat. Up to yesterday 45,000.
Wealthy Jews have left Warsaw. The Rozencwajgs on a wagon – the seizure of Gutgold – Lazar taken off a tram.
Deaths on Smocza Street – how was a strong young man shot between the eyes? He tried to escape, was wounded in the arm. He begged for mercy, and was killed by two bullets in the head. Leib Gruzalc’s mother has been taken away, he works at Toebbens.
Pessimisim of Menahem – Mendel Kon – the Germans want to leave 60,000 Jews in the town. The fate of those who work for the Jewish Self-help Organisation. Some say that their identity papers will only be recognised as valid for another two days. This is what Szerynski is said to have announced.
A blockade on our building for the second time. The two Walfisz boys were taken away. The sight of Nowolipie and Smocza Street at midday – a hunt for wild animals in the forest. The world has never seen such scenes. People are thrown into wagons like dogs, old people and the sick are taken to the Jewish cemetery and murdered there.
I heard that a smuggler who lives on our courtyard wanted to get rid of her old sick mother, she handed her over to the butchers. The huge numbers of people and sewing-machines assembled in the courtyards of 44-46 Nowolipie Street.
Wednesday 29 July 1942
The eighth day of the “action” that is continuing at full strength. At the corner of Karmelicka Street – a “wagon." People are thrown up on to it.
In the courtyard of 29 Nowolipie Street the furniture of the occupants who were thrown out of the buildings is still standing there. A Jew sleeps in the open air.
Menahem – Mendel Kon recounts: a young woman who returning from work at a placowka told of the murder of two 19 year old boys, shot dead. One was left dying for a whole hour. They were shot for no reason.
Places of execution: Piaseczno, Pustelnik, Belzec. People standing at the windows are shot at. A Christian woman on Leszno Street, seeing the wagons with those who have been rounded up, curses the Germans. She presents her chest and is shot.
On Nowy Swiat a Christian woman stands defiantly, kneels on the pavement and prays to God to turn his sword against the executioners – she had seen how a Gendarme killed a Jewish boy. A meeting of Oneg Shabbes, its tragic character. They discuss the question of ownership and the transfer of the archive to America to the Yivo, if we all die.
The terrible news about the German’s plans. It is being assumed that they intend to deport 250,000. So far 53,000. The terrible pessimism of Eliyahu Gutkowski and Menahem –Mendel Kon. They talk of death as of something that will certainly come.
Announcements in the streets - all those who present themselves voluntarily before the first of next month will receive 3 kg of bread and 1 kg of jam. Workshop mania – will that save people?
The Germans thank the police for their productive efforts. It is said they are going to put the police to work in other locations. So far eight Jewish policemen have committed suicide.
Conditions in the streets get worse every day – many Jews with identity papers from the Jewish Self-help Organisation have been arrested.
How do Jews hide? In couches, in beds, cellars and attics. The Rozencwajgs were set free for 500 zloty. A memorandum has been handed to the authorities, offering a ransom in return for the halting of the expulsion. No reply has yet been received.
No Germans appear until four in the afternoon. They throw loaves of bread into the wagons. Those at the front grab even two or three of them those at the back get none at all. The savage round ups in the streets will go on until 1 August. Then those who are not workers will receive orders.
The day after Czerniakow’s death the German officer Witossek came and apologised, justifying himself by saying he was not responsible for the death and giving his word of honour as a German officer that those being deported are not being killed.
At the employment office there are lists of community workers and employees of the Jewish Self-help Organisation. For the moment they are being left alone. It is supposed that they are going to check them. For now they are sorting out the workshop employees.
Sometimes I am quite calm about my life and sometimes a little indifferent but suddenly I am gripped by fear of death that drives me insane.
Everything depends on the news coming in from the street. On Nowolipie Street near the Jewish Self-help Organisation they seized a girl aged 15 or 16 who was going with a basket to buy something. Her shouts and screams filled the air
Thursday 30 July 1942
The ninth day of the “action” that is continuing with all its fearfulness and terror. From five in the morning we hear through the window the whistles of Jewish police and the movement and the running of Jews looking for refuge.
Opposite my window in Nowy Zjad Street, a policeman chases a young woman and catches her. Her cries and screams are heartbreaking. The blockade on our building. How was the Rajchner family saved? How did I save Mrs Minc?
Today the post office was opened again. Brandstetter was seized yesterday afternoon by the Germans. He was released at the Umschlagplatz. Dr Fuswerg’s wife was seized as was Klima. They were freed this morning.
From midday yesterday onwards the shooting has not stopped next to our building. A soldier stands at the corner of Zamenhof and Nowolipie Streets and abuses the passers-by.
Terrifying rumours the authorities have closed the Jewish Self-help Organisation. Brandt expresses his condolences to the committee members on Czerniakow’s death. Hofle defends himself by saying he was not responsible for the death.
The terrible appearance of Nalewki Street – a woman shot dead there yesterday when she came out of the courtyard and begun to run. Workers were removed and deported from Toebbens workshop at 6 Gesia Street. Community officials were also seized and deported.
All the workshops were emptied – those who hid themselves or refused to go were shot. All the workers have been removed from the workshop of the second section of the Jewish Self-help Organisation, which was in the process of being set up.
At the corner of Karmelicka and Nowolipie Streets they used axes to break off the locks and open up the shops. By midday 4000 people had been rounded up, among them 800 volunteers. By yesterday evening the total number passed 60,000.
The notice in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung – they are broadcasting continually on London radio, “SOS Save 400,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto whom the German’s are slaughtering. The lie of the English propaganda is clear to anyone who saw the film from the Warsaw ghetto”.
A letter from Bialystok that a Polish policeman brought from a woman to her husband. She and her son are together with several other families and have to work hard in the fields, but they are receiving food.
About 2000 people have been removed from 27-29 Ogrodowa Street. Also a lot of children from Pnimia children’s home. Today many employees of the community were seized including teachers and from the Jewish Self-help Organisation.
Friday 31 July 1942
The tenth day of the slaughter that has no parallel in our history. Yesterday a large number of officials were rounded up. The female director of Toebbens workshop, Neufeld.
At the corner of 11 Mylna Street they stop me and lead me up to an officer. The Jewish Self-help Organisation identity cards have no value anymore. I was terrified.
They are driving out the old people from the old people’s home at 52 Nowolipki Street. Those rounded up are divided up into: those fit for work, those able to survive and those not fit to be transported. The last group is killed on the spot.
About 2000 people have been removed from the buildings at 27, 29 and 31 Ogrodowa Street. Also from the boarding-school at 27 Ogrodowa Street. The official from the centre – Rozen and his father taken away.
A certain young man Frydland who has been working for several months at one of the placowki has been seized and deported. Rabbi Nisenbaum’s wife was put into the wagon.
Mrs. Mlawer was shot and wounded. They removed the caretaker and his family from Centos. Yesterday 1500 reported voluntarily – today by midday 750. Among them members of the intelligentsia.
There is talk that part of the “squad” has already left for Radom. The remainder are leaving tomorrow. I have heard that they will be taking 500 Jewish policemen with them from here.
At four o’clock they suddenly took those who had been rounded up out of the wagons and announced the action was being suspended. The joy and hope that this brought forth.
At six to half past six the blockades started again. A woman called Mydlarska jumped up into the wagon after her husband had been taken.
In our courtyard a woman threw herself from the third floor – she was starving. Today about 3000 people were taken away from Walicow and Gryzbowska Streets. No attention was paid to identity papers – Goodbye, Goodbye, a young Jew shouts from the wagon.
The calamity of the “dead souls” 120,000 fictitious food-coupons
Saturday 1 August 1942
Outside there is destruction by the sword and inside there is terror, the eleventh day of the “action” that gets progressively more terrible and brutal.
The Germans are in the process of emptying whole buildings and sides of streets. They took about 5,000 people out of 20 –2 and other buildings on Nowolipie Street. The turmoil and terror is appalling.
There is a general expulsion of all the occupants of Nowolipie Street between Karmelicka and Smocza Streets. The awful sight people carrying packages of pillows and bedclothes. No one thinks of moving furniture.
Fajnkind says to his sister –in-law “Hide yourself and your beautiful child. Into the cellar”. The nightmare of this day surpasses that of all previous days. There is no escape and no refuge. The round ups never cease Sagan, Chilinowicz, Sztajn, Zolotow, Karcewicz, and Opoczynski have all been seized.
Mothers lose their children. A weak old woman is carried onto the bus. The tragedies cannot be captured in words. The Rabbi from 17 Dzielna Street has been seized and apparently shot. Children walking in the street are seized. The property of those who have been expelled is grabbed by neighbours who are left, or by the new tenants, the shop workers.
Fifty of the customers, 10 staff were removed from the “officials” kitchen at 30 Nowolipie Street. People who had hidden were shot. I spent the whole day at 25 Nowolipki Street and didn’t go out to eat, so was saved.
Sunday 2 August 1942
I spent the night at my sister’s at 17 Dzielna Street. The 12th day of the “action”, which becomes more and more intense. From yesterday the parents of police have been excluded from the category of those protected. Last night a lot of people were killed or wounded
A new proclamation in the streets of the ghetto from the head of the Jewish police: the action will continue. All those who are not employed in organisations or by the German authorities have to report voluntarily on 2, 3 and 4 August and they will receive 3kg of bread and 1kg of jam. Families will not be split up.
Yesterday evening a large group of hundreds of Jews were taken into Pawiak. Early today some of them were brought out of Pawiak, among them old people, young women with small babies on pillows. They were led by Jewish policemen. Jehoszua Zegal has been seized.
Among the tragedies: Karcewicz has been taken away, she left behind two children aged four and seven. People murdered on Nowolipki Street.
A large number of people estimated at 15,000 have been taken from the small ghetto. Grandmother was killed by a single shot – she was standing at the window that looks over Sienna Street. Mother has gone to Gucia’s
Monday 3 August 1942
The 13th day of slaughter. A night of horrors. Shooting went on all night. I couldn’t sleep. In the morning I went to Landau’s sawmill.
A mass of people, men, women and children, were gathered in the courtyard and in the garden. They were trying to save themselves. Will they be saved?
It is said that from those who were taken to the Umschlagplatz yesterday about 2000 were freed who had various papers. People are consoling themselves with the thought that the savage round up will stop tomorrow and it will be carried out in an orderly way.
Everyone was taken from TOZ – Society for the Protection of Health, who was found there. At the cemetery 56 Jewish prisoners were killed. Today the Germans have surrounded the following streets: Gesia, Smocza, Pawia, Lubiecka and took away all the occupants. Yesterday the following were taken away: Kahanowicz, Rusak, Jehoszua Zegal’s whole family.
Tuesday 4 August 1942
The 14th day of the “aktion” that is being continued at full speed. Today the blockades were set up at ten in the morning. The Germans work together with the Jewish police.
The small ghetto was surrounded and also Gesia and Zamenhof Streets. There are stories of terrible lootings and violence during the expulsions. They deport the people and loot and pillage their possessions. Shops are also broken open and the goods carried off. In this participate Jewish police, ordinary Jewish neighbours and Germans.
It was announced that 14 Jews were killed who had sought refuge at the cemetery, those who work in the cemetery organisations, in addition to the 56 sentenced to death, who were killed.
I have heard the following: they found a woman who had recently given birth and her three day old child on Szczesliwa Street. They shot dead both the mother and the child – this is a true story.
They are expelling the occupants from the buildings once again – from 45 Nowolipie Street and other buildings. Even if someone is not seized and sent away to die there is no certainty that when they return home they will find a roof over their head.
Again there is talk that the savage round up will stop today – but we have heard this before and nothing came of it. The workers from the kitchen at Prosta Street have been removed. A “Junak “ was crying – it’s a shame about these Jews. At 9 Nalewki Street a sick woman was murdered.
The “action” will continue until 17 August. Tozsa Apfel has been taken and sent away. Our feelings have been numbed. We hear of great calamities happening to those closest to us and we do not react.
A letter from Baranowicze – the writer is working as a farm-labourer. She asks for underwear. Life is cheap , 7 zloty for white bread, 1.80 for potatoes. It would be good if she could be sent underwear. The letter came by post.
Wednesday 5 August 1942
The “action” continues unabated. We have no more strength to suffer. There are many murders. They kill the sick who don’t go down to the courtyards.
Yesterday,about 3000 volunteers reported. Not all of them were taken – these they sent away. In the town they are rounding up people regardless of the papers they have. Whoever falls into the hands of the Germans or the Jewish police is seized. The Jewish policemen took away Hillel Cajtlin. He was released. Balaban has been taken. At 13 Dzielna Street they killed Mrs Grun who was ill and a girl. Yesterday the “action” in Radom began.
Thursday 6 August 1942
The 16th day of the “action” which is continuing. Yesterday they took away everyone from the offices of the Jewish Self-help Organisation, who were there at the time, about 60 or 70 people. Some of them Dr Bornsztajn, Sztolcman, a girl were freed. They are predicting a hot day today.
Once again there are theories that the action will be suspended tomorrow because the annihilation squads are about to leave for Radom.
Conditions in Landau’s sawmill. The expulsion of the occupants of 10-11, 23 and 25 Nowolipki Street. Redoubled savagery and the maltreatment of Jews – while flats are being emptied out and people come to save their belongings, the SS arrive and seize the occupants. Kohn and Heller have been killed.
During a blockade by the Germans the Jewish police storm into Zylberberg’s buildings. They are terrified that they have found them and say: Hide and lock yourself in well. It was then that the whole family of the Radomsko rebbe was killed.
Popower saw orders with regard to trains and their numbers that were sent to Treblinka- the place of execution? Starvation haunts the survivors, more and more, a kilo of bread – 45 zloty, a kilo of potatoes, 15 zloty. Today they have already taken about 5000 Jews from the small ghetto.
Friday 7 August 1942
The 17th day of the massacre. Yesterday was a horrendous day with a great number of victims. People were brought out from the small ghetto in large numbers. The number of victims is estimated at 15,000. They emptied Dr Korczak’s orphanage with the Doctor at the head. Two hundred orphans.
In the evening they drove out the people from the flats in the square bounded by Dzielna, Zamenhof, Nowolipki and Karmelicka Streets. There are no words to describe the tragedies and disasters. Rozenwajg’s two sisters were sent away. One with a child of six months, the other with a four year old.
Mrs Schweiger is not there. How terrible. Today Germans and Ukrainians came to the sawmill of the Landau brothers and they rounded up a large number of women with their children from among the factory workers, and women who just happened to be there. Wasser, Smolar with her child, Tintpulwer, and others, many others.
The workers turn on the intellectuals. A shocking experience. Many rabbis have been sent away. Mendel Alter from Kalisz and more, more. During the pogrom on Nowolipie Street about 360 people were killed. At number 30 more than 30 people were killed. Gorny’s mother had been killed by the Germans, and he came to sell meal-coupons as if nothing had happened. So dulled have our feelings become.
The hunger presses in on us in a terrible way. Today I had no bread for breakfast. I ate pickled cucumber. Today a kilo of bread costs 55 zloty.
A new order has been issued that if people report voluntarily for deportation from 7 to 14 August they will receive a kilo of bread and half a kilo of jam. From this it can be deduced that the “action” will continue for at least a week.
Saul Stupnicki has been sent away. Three thousand were brought from Otwock directly to the Umschlagplatz. The number who have fallen victim is enormous. The crematorium near Malkinia and Sokolow I have heard that Erlich – nicknamed Kapote has disappeared. The shooting and the killing flourishes. During the blockade on Leszno Street four people were killed.
Shmuel Hirszhorn has committed suicide. Many kill themselves. It is a miracle that there are people still alive.
Saturday 8 August 1942
The “action” continues. The 18th day. There are still reports of our cherished and loved ones who fell victim yesterday. The children of our boarding schools led away to be killed. 12 – 14 Wolnosc Street, about 1200, 18 Mylna Street, Koninski with his wife and the children from the boarding-school.
They intend to eradicate the whole of Warsaw Jewry. I hear reports today that the Germans are blockading Zelazna and Leszno Streets. They are driving people out of all the buildings on Mila Street. We have lived through a shattering and terrifying day.- 30 Gesia Street.
The numbness of everyone is staggering: Gorny loses his mother and sells meal tickets, Smolar has lost his wife and daughter, Tintpulwer widowed – goes around in despair, a broken man, and tries to find work so as to be involved in something, not to be superfluous.
Terrifying reports from the town. At 64 Lubiecka Street victims, many victims on Mila Street. All the cows were taken away – about 120 – from the farm. A loss of millions: there will no longer be the small amount of milk that was distributed to the children.
In the evening a pogrom in the streets. A great many killed at various locations – Smocza, Pawia, Mila, Zamenhof and others. I was on my way home at half past eight. Hela comes towards me. Luba and Ora are not there. I am sure they have been seized. They come home at nine o’clock. During the blockade they had stayed in the boarding school at 67 Dzielna Street.
What Luba recounted of the children 150 and the women teachers during the blockade. Their packages in their hands, ready to set off to their deaths. Menahem – Mendel Kon said yesterday, I am writing a testament about the events.
Chmielewski’s parents were taken away yesterday and he comes to the factory and is still on his feet.
Sunday 9 August 1942
The 19th day of the “action” of which human history has not seen the like. From yesterday the expulsion took on the character of a pogrom, or a simple massacre.
They roam through the streets and murder people in their dozens, in their hundreds. Today they are pulling endless wagons full of corpses – uncovered – through the streets.
Everything that I have read about the events in 1918-19 pales in comparison with what we are living through now. It is clear to us that 99 per cent of those transported are being taken to their deaths. In addition to the atrocities, hunger haunts us.
People who during the war were well fed come to ask for a little soup at a factory kitchen. The “elite” still get some, but the rabble don’t even get that. Twenty Ukrainians, Jewish policemen, a few dozen, and a small number of Germans lead a crowd of 3000 Jews to the slaughter.
One hears only of isolated cases of resistance. One Jew took on a German who was shot on the spot. A second Jew fought with a Ukrainian and escaped after being wounded. And other cases of this kind. The Jews are going like lambs to the slaughter. Yesterday 23 Jews were killed in one flat.
I have heard that the “action” in Radom is already over after a week and three days – 7000 victims. That is the target they set in advance, and here we have no idea when they will say – enough.
I have heard about letters that arrive from France telling of expulsions of Jews there. They also say that they will be brought to the Warsaw ghetto.
It is a wonder that people can endure so much suffering, living the whole day on a knife-edge between life and death and clinging with all their might to life in the hope that they may be among the ten survivors.
Monday 10 August 1942
Yesterday was horrific in the full sense of the word. The slaughter went on from early morning until nine and half past nine at night. This was a pogrom with all the traits familiar from the Tsarist pogroms of the years 1905-6.
A mixed crowd of soldiers of various nationalities, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and over them the Germans, stormed into flats and shops, looting and killing, without mercy. I have heard that people are being slaughtered with bayonets. Yesterday there were a vast number of deaths.
In the town, proclamations have been published ordering the occupants of the small ghetto to leave their homes today by six o’clock. This is a further terrible calamity. Firstly for all those who have remained there.
There is no possibility for them to take out with them a few of their possessions, clothes and bedding, because there is a danger of being seized while moving. And secondly, where can they move to.
A great many streets and blocks of buildings have been emptied by German factory owners. The number of buildings still in Jewish hands is very low. The number of those deported out – read murdered – is estimated at 150,000.
Yesterday the Guzik family was seized. He was freed, his family not. It is reported that the community organisation is to be dismantled, and a commissar appointed. I have heard that Gancwajch, whom they wanted to kill a few weeks ago, has climbed back to prominence.
I was unable to go home. We all spent the night at 30 Gesia Street. It was a very difficult night. Until two we sat on chairs, from two to five – we lay on plywood boards. We were told that 2,500 officials of the Jewish community and two members of the Judenrat have to present themselves at the Umschlagplatz. Later this was denied.
The embitterment of the workers against the unwelcome intelligentsia is growing continually. They feel they have been wronged by them. The wife of the editor Wolkowicz has killed herself. The terrible hunger: bread 88 zloty, potatoes 30.
The appalling appearance of the Jewish streets, the shops and flats stand open, the Jewish cowds have remained – looting. In a building on Leszno Street, where 150 people used to live, there are now 30 left. Of these 8 were killed yesterday.
I have heard that in the course of the massacres yesterday, the famous Warsaw singer Marisia Ajzensztat, the only daughter of her parents and a former pupil at the Yehudia School, was attacked and killed.
I have heard that yesterday Kohn’s sister and her husband were killed. And she who had celebrated her recent marriage so exuberantly. A worker sat weeping, Jewish policemen had come to his home and taken away his 16-year old son. What brutality!
Tuesday 11 August 1942
Things are deteriorating fast. Appalling, horrendous. The brutal expulsion from the small ghetto. Whole buildings have been emptied of their occupants and all their possessions left behind.
Christians are already beginning to loot 24 Sienna Street, 28 Sliska Street. Except for Jakub’s family, there is not even a single tenant remaining in the building.- the house porter is also gone. Aunt Chawa and Dora Feiga have been seized and deported.
The destruction of families. Early this morning the Germans and the rioters spread through the ghetto – by the evening they were distributed throughout the ghetto and were seizing people. In the course of five minutes they drove out all the occupants on Gesia Street between Zamenhof and Lubiecka Streets.
They pay no attention to papers. The Jewish community offices have moved to 19 Zamenhof Street, the post office building. They have reduced their personnel by half. The number of victims has already risen above 150,000.
Today they will complete three weeks since the beginning of the terrible massacre. In the night a large number of women who worked at Toebbens were removed. It looks like there is a policy to liquidate women and children. Yesterday at Toebbens three Jews died at their work. Blockades and murders in the streets that still belong to the ghetto.
The heavy blockade on the entrance to the buildings of the Warschauer Union, with two killed and a vast number seized, nearly 100 women, children and men. The mortal terror that gripped us as we sat in the office. Smolar rang Sokolow. He was told that those that are deported, or if they are to be deported to Treblinka, are going to their “death”.
The news that K. brought in: In Warsaw there is a Jew by the name of Slawa who has brought reports of Treblinka. Fifteen kilometres before the station at Treblinka the Germans take over the train. When people get out of the trains they are beaten viciously. Then they are driven into huge barracks. For five minutes heart-rending screams are heard, then silence.
The bodies that are taken out are swollen horribly. One person cannot get their arms round one of the bodies, so distended are they. Young men from among the prisoners are the gravediggers, the next day they too are killed. What horror.
Wednesday 12 August 1942
Eclipse of the sun, universal blackness. My Luba was taken away during a blockade on 30 Gesia Street. There is still a glimmer of hope in front of me.
Perhaps she will be saved, and if God forbid, she is not? My journey to the Umschlagplatz – the appearance of the streets – fills me with dread.
To my anguish there is no prospect of rescuing her. It looks like she was taken directly into the train. Her fate is to be a victim of the Nazi bestiality, along with hundreds of thousands of Jews. I have no words to describe my desolation. I ought to go after her, to die. But I have no strength to to take such a step, Ora – her calamity. A child who was so tied to her mother, and how she loved her.
The “action” goes on in the town at full throttle. All the streets are being emptied of their occupants. Total chaos. Each German factory will be closed off in its block and the people will be locked in their building.
Terror and blackness. And over all this disaster hangs my own private anguish.
Thursday 13 August 1942
The 23rd day of the slaughter of the Jews of Warsaw. Today about 3,600 people were removed from Toebbens buildings, mainly women and children. Today is Ora’s fifteenth birthday.
What a black day in her life and in my life. I have never experienced such a day as this.
Since yesterday I have not shed a single tear. In my pain I lay in the attic and could not sleep. Ora was talking in her sleep – “Mother, Mama, don’t leave me”.
Today I cried a lot, when Gucia came to visit me. I am being thrown out of the flat at 2 Mylna Street: they have already taken most of my things. Those who have survived are thieving and looting insatiably. Our lives have been turned upside down, a total and utter destruction in every sense of the word.
I will never be consoled as long as I live. If she had died a natural death, I would not have been so stricken, so broken. But to fall into the hands of such butchers. Have they already murdered her? She went out in a light dress, without stockings, with my leather briefcase. How tragic it is!
A life together of over 21 years – I became close to her beginning in 1920 – has met with such a tragic end.
Friday 14 August 1942
The last night I will spend in my wartime flat at 2 Mylna Street. The sight of the streets – the pavements are fenced off, you walk in the middle of the road. Certain streets, such as Nowolipie – on both sides of Karmelicka, Mylna and others are completely closed off with fences and gates and you cant get in there. The impression is of cages.
The whole of Jewish Warsaw has been thrown out of its buildings. There is a full scale relocation of all Jews who have not yet been rounded up and are still in the town. Whole streets that have been given over to the German firms: Muller, Toebbens, Schultz, Zimmerman, Brauer and others.
We have been sold as slaves to a load of German manufacturers. The living conditions of those in the work –shops hunger and hard labour. Their ration – a quarter kilo of bread a day and a bowl of soup. The “action” continues – today is the 24th day.
Yesterday they took away from Toebbens workshops about 3000 – 4000 men and women, mostly women and children. This morning the Jewish community council posted a new announcement – all Jews who live in Biala, Elektoralna, Zielna, Orla, Solna, Leszno, odd numbers in Ogrodowa, Chlodna Streets have to leave their flats by tomorrow., 15 August.
Yesterday and today, a huge number of people killed – victims of the blockades. I am moving my things over to Nacia’s at 14 Pawia Street. Setting up blockades on Nowolipie and Karmelicka Streets. Further victims – there are more deaths today, and very many driven out. There is talk of 15,000 . I have heard that measures decreed in the expulsion orders are directed mainly against women and children.
The police commandant of the second district is trying to save his wife and children. A new raid on the Jewish Self-help Organisation at 25 Nowolipie Street. Dr Bornsztajn and his wife taken away. Elhonen Cajtlin with his son and others. This was carried out by Jewish policemen without the Germans, that is, on their own initiative.
Renja Sztajnwajs. I have had that Yitzhak Katznelson’s wife and one of his children have been seized. The second day that I am without Luba. I am now also without a place to live. I have nowhere to lay my head.
The number rounded up has reached 190,000 just counting those expelled, excluding those who have been killed and those who have been sent to the Dulag at 109 Leszno Street.
Saturday 15 August 1942
Today is the 25th day of the bloody “action” carried out by the butchers. I spent the night at 17 Dzielna Street. The rain of shooting started at half past nine in the evening. Deaths in the street.
The whole night incessant movement in and out of the Pawiak. Gutkowski sends his only son, three and a half years old, to the cemetery to have him taken to Czerniakow. The pain because of the loss of Luba is becoming more intense. My soul can find no peace, for not having gone after her, when she was in danger, even though I could have also disappeared and Ora would have been left an orphan.
The most terrible thing is that Landau and Sonszajn misled me by saying that Luba wasn’t in the queue. Be that as it may, the anguish is terrible and it will never be dimmed. Rumours about reports arriving from women who were deported from Biala – Podlaska and Bialystok.
Today by eight o’clock there was a blockade on Mila, Gesia, Zamenhof and other streets. Our spirit is weary of the killing. How much longer? Yesterday a huge number of bodies were brought to the cemetery, victims of the blockade of Toebbens workshops.
The Jewish police have been looting, breaking open flats, emptying cupboards, smashing crockery and destroying property, just for the fun of it. More people were killed today in the course of the blockades. People killed during the blockade, Mirka Priwes, her mother and brother have been deported.
The desolation and chaos is greatest on the streets from Chlodna to Leszno Streets, all the Jewish possessions have been abandoned and Polish thugs with the Germans will loot everything. The whole of Jewish Warsaw has been laid to waste. That which remains is a shadow of what was, a shadow that tells of death and ruin.
Sunday 16 August 1942
Today is the 26th day of the “action” which is continuing with all its atrocities and animal savagery, a slaughter the like of which human history has not seen. Even in the legend of Pharaoh and his decree – every newborn boy will be thrown into the river.
People who have returned from the Umschlagplatz have told of women who were seized yesterday who were freed if they sacrificed their children. To our pain and sorrow many women saved themselves in this way – they were separated from their children, aged 3 to 12, to 14, and if they had identity papers, they were freed.
Any woman who carrying a child, or with a child next to her was not freed. The Germans lust for Jewish blood knows no bounds. It is a bottomless pit. Future generations will not believe it. But this is the unembellished truth, plain and simple. A bitter, horrifying truth. The Jewish police have received an order that each one of them must bring five people to be transported. Since there are 2000 police, they will have to find 10,000 victims. If they do not fulfil their quotas they are liable to the death-penalty.
Some of them have already received confirmation that they have presented the required number. Since every Jew has some kind of documentation – in the main – valid ones- they tear up every document they are shown and round up the passers-by. It is now dangerous for every Jew to go out on to the street. No one goes out. Rumours have reached me again that letters have allegedly arrived from the deportees saying that they are working in the area of Siedlice, and conditions are not bad.
Lifschitz’s son – my friend from elementary school – told me that his daughter herself had read one of these letters from an elderly couple. Now – four in the afternoon – I have heard there are no Germans at the Umschlagplatz. There are only Jews there and they are carrying out the bloody and terrible operation.
Today rumours are going round that an order has been issued that all wives and children of officials have to report at the Umschlagplatz. According to certain reports, Czerniakow’s place here with us – a la Rumkowski – will be inherited by Gancwajch, the man they had been hunting and trying to kill. He is outside the ghetto at the moment.
Monday 17 August 1942
The 27th day of the annihilation. Yesterday I came to 14 Pawia Street very late at night by a round-about route via Zamenhof, and was anguished to hear the terrible news about Jakub Frume and Uri. A very great blow. There is still a faint hope they can be saved, since there were no train-wagons yesterday and they weren’t taken straight to the train.
This morning I saw in the streets an announcement about a new reduction in size of the ghetto. Very many streets and sides of streets, must be vacated by Jews by 20 August at four in the afternoon.
The ghetto will be a third or a quarter of its original size, if there are no further decrees of this kind. They are emptying those streets that had already been handed over to the German firms and been fenced off, for example Mylna, Nowolipie, Dzielna Streets and many others.
The enemies’ claw is reaching out for us and it is still not sated. Yesterday hundreds of officials of the community and of the Jewish Self-help Organisation were taken away. The Gestapo commandant Brandt stood there and struck the detainees with his own hands. Jakub, Uri and Frume were hit.
The “action” is continuing today. There was a blockade on the cemetery. Ora, who works with the group from Hashomer Hatsair, was in great danger. The group was saved today thanks to the intervention of Commissar Hensel.
Jewish policemen round up people all day. It is said that they have received an order that each policeman must find six Jews. Harsh conditions at the factory. Before 80 people were employed there and now almost a thousand are registered there.
Hundreds of people wander around bored with nothing to do. They sit around in dread of German blockades and many hide themselves in all kind of dark corners. The pain over losing Luba is getting more and more intense. During the day I am often choked with tears. The fact there is no news about her suffering and torment, whether she is alive or dead, how she died – gives me no peace.
If I knew that she was alive and that she was not suffering too much , I would be calm, and if I knew that she had died but did not suffer much at her death – then I would also be calm.
I have been told that Yitzhak Katznelson shows great inner strength and endurance, keeping hold of himself after the terrible disaster that has befallen him. The Ejdus’s have been seized. Every day there are killings.
When Jakub, Frume and Uri were taken away, someone tried to escape. He was killed on the spot. For a week now we have had no news of the progress of the war. The last report was a few days ago of the heavy bombardment of Mainz. The story about the Jew Chunkis one of the directors of Adriatika. Frume and Uri have returned. What they have told me about what is going on at the Umschlagplatz . Hell pure hell.
The rich save themselves, if they are not shut into the wagons straight away. The tragic fate of the Taubers. He was killed on the spot, his wife and beautiful charming son with statuesque features Rapusz were deported.
Tuesday 18 August 1942
Today marks four weeks or 28 days of this blood operation, which has no parallel in history. The Germans and the Jewish police have been carrying out further blockades. Disaster has struck our family once again. Gucia and Hela have been taken away, by the Germans, who entered their building.
This is a very heavy blow for me. She had been so concerned for us in the war years. I have heard talk again about the new rise of Gancwajch. He will take over Lichtenbaum’s place and become commissar of the Jewish community.
Today I went with three friends to collect up the books that are in the flats that our firm has been allocated on Mila Street. We set eyes on an appalling vision, all the doors broken open, all the goods and property smashed and scattered through the courtyards. Russian pogromists would have been unable to make a more thorough and shattering pogrom than that carried out by the Jewish police.
This sight, which is everywhere to be seen, stunned us. The destruction and the annihilation of the greatest Jewish community in Europe. New proclamations from the Judenrat have been hung up which have caused panic among the Jews.
Jews who are not employed are not permitted south of Leszno Street – those who get caught there will be shot. The families of those working are no longer protected. In fact all those who are not working, even the families of those who are employed, have to report voluntarily at the Umschlagplatz. Otherwise their food-cards will be taken away and they will be driven out by force. We can see the Germans are playing a game of cat and mouse with us.
Those employed have protected their families, now the families are being deported and they want to leave behind the working slaves for the time being. What horror. They are preparing to destroy us utterly.
Wednesday 19 August 1942
The 29th day of the bloody “action”. Last evening ended in a massacre and with a large raid on the brush workshop on Franciszkanska and Swietojerska Streets.
About 1,600 people were removed – eight were killed. Among those taken away were large numbers of well-known and cherished individuals such as Mrs Mokasrska, Rabbi Huberband and others.
I have been informed that Nisenbaum’s father and Szczeranski have been seized. Rokhl Sztajn poisoned herself at the Umschlagplatz. Hillel Cajtlin wife was taken. Last night the terrible news reached me that Mrs Schweiger has been taken away. Inka tried to poison herself, but they saved her.
There is no “action” in Warsaw itself today. The squad has left for Otwock, and there is an “action” there according to reports. The Jewish police is carrying out checks in the buildings in search of “outsiders” who are certain to be hiding there hidden in dark corners and cellars.
Large numbers of Jews commit suicide. The number of victims of the expulsion has reached approximately a quarter of a million. Today is the seventh day since that great calamity that befell me. If only I could die and be free of the whole nightmare. But I am still tied to life and it is still difficult for me to take my own life.
The squad is running riot in Otwock. I have heard they have emptied Brius and Sofjowka. Who knows how many cherished and beloved victims have been lost today. And to think that many had gone to Otwock to find an escape from death.
Thusday 20 August 1942
There was no “action” yesterday in Warsaw. However, it was reported that there was a hunt on the Aryan side for Jews who had fled there. The squad carried out the “action” in Otwock with the help of 500 Jewish police from Warsaw.
I have heard that those rounded up have been marched to Warsaw on foot. My sister Gucia is lost and her daughter Hela killed. This new disaster adds still further to the weight of my gloom. She was the best of sisters and was very concerned for me during the war years.
It is such anguish and only death will end my suffering. An order for the caretakers in the buildings has been issued to collect up and gather in one place all the goods and possessions of those who have been driven out and hand them over to the community representative, who will call.
Friday 21 August 1942
Yesterday evening after six the Jewish police moved into the buildings which were supposed to have been evacuated by the occupants. They drove out the occupants by force, broke into locked flats, robbed and looted and smashed whatever they found and at the same time seized women, especially those who had no papers.
Where did the Jews get this brutality from? The German’s spirit has passed into them. They also entered our workshop at eight and caused panic among the women. They were bribed and left. I was worried about Ora and walked with her late to Frume’s.
At eleven in the evening the air-raid on Warsaw began. It was as bright as on a clear moonlit night because of the bombardment. Bombs were dropped. In spite of the danger we welcomed the raid with a feeling of great satisfaction. Perhaps our salvation will come, perhaps this evil power will be broken.
There is talk of a second front in France and Holland. If these things had happened four or five weeks ago, perhaps we would have been saved from this catastrophe. I have heard there was an assassination attempt on the chief of police Szerynski. He was wounded in the cheek. According to rumours he was wounded by a Pole from the Polish Socialist Party disguised as a Jewish policeman.
Today leaflets were distributed against the Jewish police who have helped to send 200,000 Jews to their deaths. The whole police force has been sentenced to death. What should I do with my mother? Old people have nowhere to turn. They have nowhere to hide.
They have been driven out of their former flats and are not let into the new blocks. The entrances are closed and the caretakers will not admit strangers. There are those who go to the Umschlagplatz and hand themselves over to the butchers to die a martyrs death.
Saturday 22 August 1942
Yesterday there was no “action” but the squad is active in the Warsaw area. Yesterday, it was said, it was in Minsk Mazowiecki. The heavy and gloomy scene that I had at Nacia’s because of mother.
The Tombecks will not let her sleep there. She has nowhere to go, except to go and give herself up to the executioners. How horrifying. Ora is ill and she has nowhere to lie down and no medicine. We have no roof over our heads. I leave her at Nacia’s. I am deeply worried and frightened.
Sunday 23 August 1942
Yesterday was the 33rd day of the bloody “action” in Warsaw, which has not been discontinued. On the contrary, it is still continuing. Yesterday the Germans rounded up mainly women and children with rampant viciousness and savagery.
I was told that a prettily dressed 10-year old was seized. The girl screamed in anguish and cried out: “Mr Policeman” but her pleas were of no avail. He was deaf to her screams and put her in a rickshaw to the Umschlagplatz. Yesterday the two Ostrowiec girls from Hashomer Hatsair who work at our office were seized. I have heard that the Jewish police have been ordered to round up 1,000 victims a day, and that the hunt will continue for another 14 days.
In short, not one of us is sure to survive, especially women and children, who are left living with the threat of destruction, every day, every minute. The knowledge of this so prays on their nerves that many nearly go insane. There is talk of an “action” in Piotrkow.
The group Hashomer Hatsair that works at the Jewish cemetery and “the business” that is carried on with the Christians. The Germans are looting Jewish property, yesterday they came to the Tepicyn factory and took away the best suitcases and everything of value. They even pillage from the wagons in the street.
Life in ghetto has become quiet. The few who have survived wander the streets like shadows, like corpses, and their number diminishes from day to day. R. told me something he had heard from some German woman that in the area around the station at Kosow you can hear the screams of them being tortured to death 3km away.
I have heard in Falencia all the Jews left their homes, dispersed in the nearby small towns and the woods, and not a single one remained behind.
The executioners were left without prey. Apparently they massacred everyone in Otwock and didn’t deport people. In Falenica the Jews tried to resist the Germans and they were slaughtered. Anyone who was found was killed. The remainder ran off into the woods. Today the butchers are supposed to return to Warsaw.and there are terrible rumours circulating because of this – that they intend to liquidate the whole of Jewish Warsaw and empty it of Jews. Horrific.
Fela has returned from the Umschlagplatz and told me that Suchowolska has been seized. A few hours later I learned the end of the story. The neighbours collected a little money, clothing and food and sent the mother and her two children boys aged 10 –12.
Asch’s brother in-law has died – Alberg, yesterday he was still walking around and today he died because his strength gave out. The firm Ostdeutsche Bautischlerei Werkstatte has set up a confiscation team, which drives around carts with beds, couches and other valuable goods.
The whole society has been pillaged from top to bottom. God is there any help or salvation for us? Will the survivors stay alive, or will our end be the same as that of the hundreds and thousands who have already died?
Monday 24 August 1942
A meeting of Oneg Shabbes at the Hashomer Hatsair.- the place, the time and the appearance of the participants underline the special tragedy of the meeting.
Rumours are going around that the Germans have allowed 120,000 food-cards to be prepared and distributed for September. This would seem to indicate that they are going to leave behind that number of Jews. But this is a rumour and nothing more. On the other hand, there are other rumours, much more pessimistic.
There is talk again that the “action” will be extended for another week, today is now the 34th day. Rumours have arrived that A.I. Einhorn, one of the editors of Haynt, has been murdered or died on the way from Otwock to Warsaw. He didn’t have the strength for such a long walk. He had gone there to improve his health and met with his death.
The business that the Toporal –group are doing with the Christians in the cemetery. It is said that Szerynski the head of the police, a convert, who was wounded a few days ago, died from his wounds yesterday. This piece of news has still to be confirmed.
Ora is ill again – the fever reached 40 degrees. I had to leave her at Nacia’s even though she is in great danger. For the first time in her life her mother is not at her side.when she is sick. How can such a situation be described? Also the matter of my mother is causing me great anguish, what can be done with her?
I have given my permission to put her to sleep, eternal rest, rather than give her over to the executioners. But Jakub Tombeck refuses to carry it out. Even the devil could not have conceived of such a situation. Two in the afternoon. The day passes unexpectedly quiet.
I have heard today that they have taken out of the Pawiak the foreign citizens who were put in there six days before the events began and the members of the Judenrat who were imprisoned as hostages. If these stories are true, then they herald the cessation of the “action”.
The young man Shmuel passing by 101 Zelazna Street saw with his own eyes how the squad was packing up its booty in separate boxes and loading it up into lorries. It is possible to conclude they are preparing to take their leave. But even the cessation of the “action” can be of little comfort after the appalling slaughter of two-thirds of Warsaw Jewry.
The mourning of our losses will continue to accompany us, especially those of us who mourn for their loved ones, from the depths of their soul. Six in the evening, Jewish policemen have returned from the town and said the action is continuing.
So all our hopes that the bloody “action” had ceased now, that we would be allowed a little breathing space, have been swept away. How will we survive? How will we be able to bear it? Of the rumours from this morning only one has been confirmed, namely that the members of the Judenrat Ekerman, Zundelewicz and others, who were in prison as hostages, have been released.
It might have been possible to conclude from this that the “action” was over. But we are none the less not to be left in peace. A terrible dread seizes me, when I think of the fate of Ora. She has no documents and is in danger. Since Friday the loudspeakers have not been operating. No newspapers reach us.
No newspapers are allowed into the ghetto – the guards at the gate confiscate them. Thus we find ourselves in a special prison where we live each minute with the threat of seizure and execution and no news reaches us from the other side of the wall, and perhaps it will be granted to us one bright morning that our eyes will be opened to the light of the sun of freedom in all its strength and splendour.
How can we live like this? We never know from one day to the next if the day will pass safely. We have no roof over our head. We have no flat and are sleeping at Nacia’s, its already becoming burdensome to me. And Ora’s illness.
Tuesday 25 August 1942
Today it is five weeks since the beginning of the slaughter that is being carried out without respite against the Jews of Warsaw and the surrounding area. The “action” itself is continuing. Germans and Ukrainians carried out a round up today in the block where the community offices are. This means Zamenhof, Pawia, Gesia and Lubiecka Streets.
I am terrified for Ora, for mother and for all the relations I left at 14 Pawia Street. I have heard that they took community employees from the supply division, and others. All the workshops have received instructions as to the maximum number of workers that they have the right to employ.
Landau’s factory has been allocated 900. At our workplace the number is not so small, but other workshops feel themselves hard done by and are threatening to stop work and return the materials, as they cannot produce the goods with such a small number of workers.
Yesterday there was a meeting at the office of employment with the manufacturers and the SS present. This morning, I saw an announcement on Lubiecka Street written with a typewriter to the following effect “ In the light of the accusations raised against the head of police, the officers and the ordinary policemen who have been found guilty of criminal acts – the assassination attempt was carried out against Jakub Szerynski.
Further acts of this nature will be carried out with the full severity of the judgement. Telephone calls from Radomsko yesterday and today with the news that everything is quiet there. Gancwajch is there. However, there are rumours that things are not quiet in Czestochowa.
Six in the evening. Once again a difficult and terrible day that freezes the blood in our veins. The whole day the Ukrainians and the Germans run riot in the blocks, because that is where the small crowd of survivors is concentrated. The impression is they want to exterminate us entirely.
My own position is even more difficult now. It is very dangerous to go from here, 30 Gesia Street to 14 Pawia Street. And I can I not go and see Ora? Especially when I am tortured with worry over her fate and that of the remainder of my family.
I will certainly go and take the risk.
Wednesday 26 August 1942
Yesterday evening two announcements were posted in the streets. The first: after eight rickshaws may not be in the streets, and after nine Jews are not permitted in the streets, except for Police. Signed the Jewish community –council (Judenrat).
The second announcement is from the office of employment. It states that a Jew may not change place of work without the permission of the Arbeitsamt (Office of Employment). The penalty for disobeying the instruction is immediate removal from Warsaw.
It is interesting that a few days before the onset of the events, the curfew was extended until ten o’clock in the evening and the decree was valid until the end of September. Yesterday was one of the most difficult since the events began.
The Germans and Ukrainians (a band of thugs) ran riot among the few remaining Jews in the blocks and factories. Yesterday there were renewed round ups in the community buildings of the Judenrat, especially – so I have been told – of young people- all the messenger boys and others.
People were also taken from the blocks on Pawia and Zamenhof Streets, among them 15 doctors from 14 Pawia Street. Large numbers of those rounded up were shut into the wagons directly and it was impossible to save them. Workers were also taken from certain factories (Schmidt).
Those remaining are in fear of their lives, the nightmare is worsening, turning our lives into a living hell. A list of the number of workers permitted to be employed in the Jewish workshops has been published, in total 24,980 people, and, together with officials, of the Jewish community, the police and the JHK (Jewish Self-help Organisation).
This will mean that they intend to leave 25,000 Jews in Warsaw, or 6-7 per cent of the former number. History has not witnessed a greater destruction of an ethnic or national population. Yesterday a large number of people were taken from Mueller’s workshop. Szymon Heller’s parents, Zelmanowski and others.
I have been told that Mrs Pulman has been seized. I feel sorry for him. Szternberg and his family have been deported. Cytrinowski, and others, many others.
The streets are terrible to behold today – they are deserted with not a living soul in sight. The butchers roam the streets looking for victims.
Thursday 27 August 1942 Today is the 37th day of the greatest slaughter in human history. Yesterday the “action” was carried out in the workshops and the blocks. The day before yesterday about 45,000 were deported.
I have learnt of the death of the person who had been my closest friend during the war, David Pulman, and his daughter Henja. His wife and youngest daughter had been taken earlier. This news was a terrible blow. Ajnhorn’s wife was also taken away the day before yesterday from Mueller’s workshop. I talked with her in the morning on the way to work. The destruction of a whole family.
The appearance of the streets at five in the morning. At five o’clock a few people begin to appear. The “dealers” go about with their “wares”. They sell saccharin (fake) bread, potatoes and so on. Later the streets are deserted until 7 in the evening. The prices – bread 28-30 zloty, potatoes 12-14 zloty, butter 300 zloty, meat up to 100 zloty. Cigarettes (hard to get) a packet of 20 – 20 zloty.
Today we are experiencing a visit from the murderers to our workshop and everyone is waiting nervously and in a state of agitation. At two o’clock in the afternoon there was an inspection at our workshop and it passed off peacefully.
Two men from the Sicherheitsdienst – (Security Service) sat in the director’s office and drank and ate and looked over the list of employees, without checking documents or going to see the workers for themselves.
At the same time there was a blockade on our block on Mila Street. About 40 people were taken away, mainly women and children. One sees weeping mothers whose children have been taken away – I saw this with my own eyes.
There was also a blockade on other streets- we are drowning and the water is already up to our mouths. The meeting of all the workers and the speech of commissar Hensel, the words of thanks to him from the Landau brothers. He spoke of the benefits for us and of his efforts on behalf of the workers during the terrible “action” which was now coming to an end for us.
His efforts had met with partial success and partial failure, perhaps because of a lack of understanding on our part. In return for these benefits he appealed for dedication to the work and loyalty to the firm. He would hunt down saboteurs. The workers applauded and thanked him, as did the Landau brothers. This was a performance, prepared in every detail. Unfortunate slaves – when they hear an encouraging word – it goes to their heads and they get excited and enthusiastic.
Among the children rounded up today were ten-month old babies and eight year olds.
Friday 28 August 1942
The acts of terror are continuing. I have heard that yesterday evening a group of workers was returning from work at Oschman’s factory, in procession. The SS divided the group in two. Half were allowed to keep walking, and the second group was led straight to the Umschlagplatz.
The children who were seized yesterday were not rescued. They have perished, perished. Today we had a long talk with Dowid Nowodworski, who returned from Treblinka. He gave us the complete story of the sufferings that he endured from the first moment he was seized to the escape from the death camp and up to his return from Warsaw. His words confirm once again and leave no room for doubt that all the deportees, both those who have been seized and those who reported voluntarily, are taken to be killed and that no one is saved.
This is the naked truth, and how terrible, when we remember that in the last weeks at least 300,000 Jews have been exterminated from Warsaw and other towns, Radom, Siedlce and many, many others. From his words we put together a testimony of such stark anguish, so shattering, that it cannot be grasped and put into words.
This is without doubt the greatest crime ever committed in the whole of history. Yesterday about 4,000 people were driven from Warsaw to their deaths, men, women and children.
The “action” is continuing today. Workshops are surrounded and besieged. But I have heard there are no wagons. They will be held until evening, or until tomorrow and then another large group will be sent away.
This is the 38th day of the great slaughter. From the poison cup have so far drunk – apart from Warsaw – Siedlce, Rembertow, Radom and many, many more.
Yesterday I heard that the large factory owners, Schultz, Toebbens are negotiating with leaders of the murder squads. They are promising them millions in bribes, if they leave the rest of the Jews in Warsaw, which they estimate at 100,000, and if they leave the city.
In this connection there are rumours going round that the “action” will continue until Saturday or Sunday, and after that they will leave Warsaw and the town will be quiet.
We have so often had our hopes raised of an end to the bloody action, and they have turned out to be false and we have been disappointed. No doubt this time we will also be let down and blood will continue to be spilled. God.
Are we really to be exterminated down to the very last of us? Now it is certain that all those deported from Warsaw have been killed.
Saturday 29 August 1942
The 39th day of the bloody extermination that still continues in all its terror and fearfulness. Yesterday in the course of the evening when the workers at various German workplaces were returning home, they were attacked by SS men.
Many were shot or seized and taken to the Umschlagplatz. There was turmoil and screaming at the Umschlslagplatz . Many were shot.
Two doctors from 14 Pawia Street, who worked at a location outside the ghetto, did not return home to sleep. We must assume they have been seized. As far as the number of those deported is concerned there are different estimates, some say the number is over 230,000 others believe it is smaller 190,000.
This is according to the German’s figures – the number of Jews remaining in Warsaw is estimated at about 100,000. The number of hostages who were held in prison until the 24th of this month was 53. They were treated very badly. Some of them came back and could not find their families.
Ekerman, for example, found only a son left out of his numerous relations. One gendarme said that the action will be extended until 1 September, after that the execution squad will leave for France.
However, it seems that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. For the moment all the bloodlust and the animal violence in the form of these human butchers is directed exclusively against us.
It is possible they will leave Warsaw, but they will turn their attention to those places that have not as yet tasted the poison chalice. Among the prominent people and those near to me who have fallen victim – Rabbi Huberband, Mrs Slapak and her daughter, Celina, Lewin and her son, the poetess Lazowert, Winnik.
Mojsze Levitas from 4 Twarda Street went to look for his wife three weeks ago at the Umschlagplatz and was himself seized and sent away to Kosow. Two days ago he returned from there. The Germans freed him as he was a carpenter.
He said that Kosow, which was emptied of its Jews, is now full of deportees. The Jews have money buy food from the peasants and distribute it among those who have none. The matter must in any case be investigated – it would mean that not all those deported have been murdered.
Sunday 30 August 1942
Yesterday the 39th day of these bloody events, the “action” was carried out in the workshops. Several hundred people were removed from Bauer’s workshop on Nalewki Street. Czerski and Rakowski were taken away, but freed later.
In the evening at about nine o’clock there were loud shots in the streets of the new ghetto. There were many deaths. Seven bodies were found at the corner of Smocza and Wolynska. They were Jews who were found on the streets at nightfall. This means that a Jew can only go out from half past five to seven in the morning and from seven or half past seven to eight in the evening.
I have heard that the squad have booked the orchestra of the Jewish police for today. It looks as though they are celebrating a holiday today, are making merry and want to relax to music. From this it might be deduced that they are preparing to take their leave.
I have heard that Rabbi Kanal of Warsaw decided to die so as to be buried as a Jew. When he was seized, he refused to enter the wagon. He was shot and killed by a gendarme. His wish was fulfilled he was given a Jewish burial.
Monday 31 August 1942
The last day of the third year of the war and the 41st day of the terrible slaughter that is being carried out against us. Many workshops were blockaded.
I have been told that 80 people were removed from Hallman’s factor. I have been told of rewards of 5,000 zloty being offered for each Jew who is discovered on the Aryan side. I have heard of a large massacre that took place between 25 and 28 August in Miedzyrzec Podlaski.
One of the days – the 25th – was horrendously bloody. All the Jews were driven onto the street and mown down with machine-guns. An “action” was supposed to have begun in Czestochowa, but it has been delayed or postponed.
Yesterday 54 people were taken away from Schilling’s factory, and from Hallmann’s factory people with small defects such as the lame, the undersized, the weak were taken, even if they are specialists, or excellent at their work.
Wednesday 2 September 1942
Yesterday marked six weeks since the beginning of the “action” that still continues, as if its only to be ended along with the last Jew. The tempo of the “action” was yesterday a little less frenetic, but it was still continuing..
The Jewish police have received an order each to bring two heads. At 6 Pawia Street women were queuing to buy green vegetables. The Jewish police swooped and took several of them away.
Last night from quarter past ten to twelve o’clock there was a second air-raid after a break of 12 days. This time more bombs were dropped than the previous time and many buildings in the ghetto were hit.
In the building on 7 Dzielna Street – the Moriah synagogue which had been occupied by the Jewish police – a fire broke out which lasted a whole night. The building at 35a Gesia Street was also damaged, the roof and the façade is in danger of collapse. Many windows were broken in nearby streets Lubiecka, Pawia.
On Wolynska, Mila and Smocza Streets there were also fires and several wooden buildings were burned down. The air-raid also hit the Jews hard – but the Jews welcomed it with feelings of satisfaction. We are waiting for events that will change our fate. Today – on the first day of the seventh week of the bloody events – there are already reports that they are blockading Schultz’s factories.
Thursday 3 September 1942
Yesterday there were heavy blockades of Schultz’s and Toebbens workshops. From Schultz’s alone they took out several thousand workers. Today was a day of calamity and disaster. Josef Kaplan was arrested this morning. Later Shmuel Breslaw was shot.
In the afternoon there was a heavy blockade of our shop - 100 men and women were taken away. By a miracle Ora and myself were saved. God!
What terror, what a feeling of imminent death, and the visages of the executioners – the Germans and the Ukrainians.
Rumours about the transferring of the ghetto that is outside Warsaw across to Wola. The supply – division has received permission to distribute 105,000 food-cards.
Friday 4 September 1942
The 45th day of the bloody operation against us, which is being carried on with great savagery. In addition to the blockades on our factory, they also took 400 people away yesterday from HG Zimmerman and the whole factory is being liquidated.
The same fate awaits our workshop as well. Yesterday 100 people were taken from our factory itself and 70 from the buildings. Today the same thugs came back completely unexpectedly, set up another heavy blockade and took away 100 people from the factory.
They were also at the broom- manufacturers this morning and took away 250 people. Shmuel Breslaw’s funeral attended by the members of Hashomer Hatsair who worked at the cemetery, at Toporol. Our tragedy expressed in Ora’s story.
Saturday 5 September 1942
The enemy shows no mercy and continues to torture and murder us. I spent the day in the workshop in dread of a blockade and of death. In the blockades were set up at Toebbens, so I heard and they took away about 2,000 people.
Once again they took everyone away from Frank- Schultz’s and left behind only 50. There was also a blockade at Hallman’s- several hundred people were taken away from there. Our factory is threatened with liquidation. The whole day passed with a heavy presentiment of imminent death.
Friday 11 September 1942
Since last Saturday I have had neither the inclination, the time nor the opportunity to write anything. The human hand and pen are weary of describing all that has happened to the handful of Jews who are for the time being still alive, myself among them.
The cup of our sorrows has no parallel in our history. The horrific and brutal week began on the Saturday night, Sunday morning.
A Jewish policeman knocked on the door at three in the morning and gave us the terrible news that all Jews were to be concentrated within the boundary formed by Gesia, Mila, and Ostrowska Street, for a new registration.
Enough food for two days should be taken and something to hold water. The panic that gripped the Jews of Warsaw on Sunday morning. We all believed that our time had come to depart this life.
With tears in my eyes I said goodbye to my whole family – to mother, Frume, Nacia, Jakub and the children. The terrible and particular appearance of the streets. Mila and Wolynska, the rectangle that has been transformed into an Umschlagplatz.
The crowds of Jews with packs on their backs, streaming from the streets of the ghetto. Everyone is camped out on the street. In this way we spend the whole of Sunday. In the evening the inspections begin by the workshops, and certain groups return back to their factories or to their blocks.
On Monday the return to the blocks continues. The inspection brings new victims – children do not pass. However, everything depends on chance.
With some groups the inspection is not so severe, other groups on the other hand have enormous losses. Murders in the streets. I saw with my own eyes how a young strong man and a young attractive woman were shot.
A sight that I will never forget as long as I live. Five tiny children, two and three year olds, sit on a camp bed in the open from Monday to Tuesday and cry and cry and scream without stopping – “Mummy, mummy I want to eat”.
The soldiers are shooting continually and the shots silence the children for a moment. The children lay there for 24 hours, sobbing and screaming, “Mummy, mummy.”
Tuesday afternoon a middle-aged man, aged about 50, went up to them, broke down into a continual, choking sobbing and gave the children a little something to eat.
Earlier, women had come up and given them food. Our hearts have turned to stone and there was no way to save them. What are we saving them for if we are all sentenced to die?
We were waiting for the commissar of the firm, Hensel, to come and take us to the factory. He doesn’t come. Our mood becomes more and more despairing.
The feeling that death, in the form of the Umschlagplatz, is getting slowly nearer and nearer,, chokes us and is throttling us to death. A rumour went round that our firm had been closed by the Warsaw SS.
The people’s mood swings between hope and despair. Meanwhile there are blockades in the nearby streets and in Mila Streets. Several dozen of our people are removed from the building at number 61 Mila and from the Werksschutz: Rozenowicz and his father, Ryba and his family.
This happened on Monday. Our despair and the suffering of the hundreds of people, shut in the alleyway, reaches the ultimate limits of endurance.
The shooting that goes on all day and especially, all night shatters the nerves, bringing a deathly depression. Midday Tuesday a glimmer of hope appears, but is immediately extinguished. Hensel arrives for a short visit at ten till eleven in the morning and promises he will soon come to take us away. He leaves, the hours go by and he doesn’t return.
Once again our resolve is weakened and we fall into deep despair that is many times worse. We wait for the end that is inevitable – to be taken to the Umschlagplatz. It is hard to keep going – I have no food, nothing to sleep on. I am sleeping at 3a Dzielna Street, at Rabinowicz’s on the floor, with Recymer.
People are quarrelling with each other. Anyone who has anything left, cooks and eats and watches over their property. People steal everything they can lay their hands on, especially food, there is no feeling of common fate, of mutual aid. People wander around aimlessly like shadows.
Ora with the members of Hashomer Hatsair. These young people are more mature, more united Tuesday night was bitterly sad for me. I tried very hard to acknowledge the idea that death is inevitable and to prepare myself.
I thought the whole thing will only last 10-15 minutes, the execution, that is, and it will all be over. The lack of news from my sisters and my mother weighs oppressively. There is also an oppressive plague of fleas. Hunger forces us to beg, to ask for a little food.
Even in such terrible hours as these a hungry person wants to still the hunger. Wednesday morning once again a rumour brings hope. Hensel is coming to get us. He really has come.
Joy grips all those who are shut in the street. Straight away most of those who work in the workshop come down, men and women. Left behind in their homes, that is, in their hiding places, old women and children.
We stand and sit in the street from ten in the morning until six in the evening. The mood is almost joyful. A crowd of women, like some unit, is standing in front of us. The hours pass – but still everyone waits patiently. They want to get to the factory.
Suddenly four or five SS officers appear and a pogrom begins, the like of which I have never seen. They beat men and women with whips, sticks, strips of wood.
They took all the women away to the Umschlagplatz – except for a few with metal numbers, and a large number of men, who had by chance not obtained a metal number, thinking them to be worthless.
The best looking and the most elegant women perished. Whole families were cut down. A young officer hit out with murderous blows and shouting wildly – “ Because of you, accursed, dammed, leprous Jews I have already lost three years of my life, for three years we have been plagued, you dogs”, and so on.
I have never before seen such bestial hatred. There was also killing. We go towards 30 Gesia Street and there is a round up going on there, that is still continuing today. Yesterday and today there were blockades on our blocks, people have been taken again.
The Swieca family has perished. He gave himself up after seeing how his wife and two children were taken. Initially he went with us to Gesia Street, later he went back, gave himself up and was sent away.
I feel a great compassion and admiration for this straightforward person. Strong in mind as well as strong in body. I think that Luba would have done the same, but I didn’t have enough strength to die together with her, with the one I loved so much.
Apart from the hunt for people, the Germans are looting openly as something quite legal. They take away everything from the buildings that appeals to them. The Ukrainians are common bandits. They break into buildings at night and steal everything they can find, with revolvers and rifles in their hands. The Jews are also in the grip of a frenzied looting and thieving. They loot and steal everything they can lay their hands on. Since the day before yesterday we have been shut in the factory.
We tremble at every noise and shot that comes from the street. Yesterday the SS visited us for the purpose of looting. Today is the eve of Rosh Hashanah. May the coming year bring salvation for those who have survived.
Today is the 52nd day in the greatest and most terrible slaughter in history. We are the tiny remnants of the greatest Jewish community in the world. Tuesday 15 September 1942. The days go by without the shattering upheavals of the previous weeks.
Yesterday I was told that the Umschlagplatz has been totally cleared. Those who were still there, who were hiding, have been freed. Thus the bloody “action” of which history has not seen the like, lasted 54 days.
The conclusion was the deportation from the hospitals of their patients and their doctors and nurses and staff. According to officials of the Jewish community the number of Jews remaining legally in Warsaw is 34,000, together with those in hiding 50,000. More than 300,000 Jews have been exterminated in the course of seven and a half weeks.
Jewish Warsaw now has the air of a cemetery. In the last days of the “action” on Saturday more than 20 people were killed in the building at 3 Dzika Street, the only building where there had not been a blockade.
Two Jews were having an argument, Gorilow and one other. At that moment two Junaks were passing, they stormed in and led out more than 20 Jews.
Among the dead was the family of Leon Ringelblum, Leon, his wife and their three year old child.
Born in 1893 in Warsaw, he came from a strictly Orthodox Hasidic family. His father Shabtai was a scholar and a rabbi and his grandfather a ritual slaughterer. As a child he went to heder, the traditional Jewish school, from where he proceeded to a yeshiva. At the age of 20 he gave up wearing the traditional dress of the orthodox Hasidim.
He had already shown a pronounced scholarly bent and at the beginning of the academic year 1916-17, although he did not possess any formal qualifications, he was appointed to teach Hebrew, Biblical Studies and Jewish Studies at a private Jewish secondary school for girls, the Yehudia School.
Lewin married Luba Hotner, a teacher of Hebrew at his school, and she bore him a daughter Ora in 1928. Abraham Lewin kept a diary, which was published after his death, called “A Cup of Tears”.
Lewin was active during his time in the ghetto, he continued to lecture and teach to adult and youth groups on topics of Jewish history and literature. He was also active in the Jewish Self-help Organisation and he was a member of the directorate of the underground archive, entitled Oneg Shabbes, founded by Emanuel Ringelblum.
Abraham and his daughter Ora were deported to Treblinka in early 1943, his wife Luba was deported to Treblinka in August 1942.
A Cup of Tears – A Diary of the Warsaw Ghetto by Abraham Lewin, Fontana Paperbacks London 1990.
Copyright SJ H.E.A.R.T 2007