Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
[The Occupied Nations]
POLISH FORT-NIGHTLY REVIEW
"The Warsaw Ghetto"
POLISH MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
PRINTED AS A PRESS BULLETIN
London – Tuesday 1st December 1942 – No 57
The Polish Government has recently received from Poland the following on the measures taken by the German authorities to exterminate the population of the ghetto.
The Origin of the Warsaw Ghetto:
The German authorities created the Warsaw ghetto in October 1940. All the Jews in the city were ordered to transfer to the Jewish quarter assigned to them by 1 November 1940, while all the Aryans were ordered to remove elsewhere out of this quarter.
The Jews were allowed to take only personal articles with them, and were forbidden to take their furniture, though in practice this rule was not strictly observed. All the Jewish shops and businesses in the Aryan areas of the city were closed down and sealed.
The original terminal date for the transfer was postponed to 15 November 1940, after which Jews were not allowed to leave the ghetto. But Aryans were allowed to enter without passes down to 25 November 1940. After that the ghetto was completely closed, the entire area was surrounded by a wall and the right of entry and exit was granted only to the holders of passes issued by a special German office.
Anyone leaving the ghetto without a pass became liable to the death sentence, and the German courts have passed such sentences in a large number of cases. Even after the ghetto was closed a large number of commercial and industrial enterprises owned by Aryans were left within the walls.
All the trading and commercial businesses were transferred outside the walls by the spring of 1941, but Aryan industrial enterprises were left inside and gave employment to both Aryans and Jews.
Life in the Ghetto
After the sealing of the ghetto official intercourse with the outside world was maintained through a special German department, the Transferstelle.
In the spring of 1942 at a period when relations between the ghetto and the rest of Warsaw had been systemized, trade between the two parts of the city averaged a sum of 13 groshe daily per head of the ghetto population
At this same period a kilogramme (2 ¼ lbs) of bread cost over ten zlotys and a kilogramme of potatoes some five zlotys. From the earliest days of the ghetto commerce with the outside world was based chiefly on smuggling, which was carried on, on a large scale.
The Germans themselves participated in this violation of their own prescriptions, drawing large incomes from trading profits and bribes. In economic terms this illegal trade consisted of the selling up of Jewish property and possessions in exchange for food.
The ghetto depended on smuggling for its food supplies, as the amount supplied on the ration cards was much lower even than that allowed to Poles, and was quite inadequate to maintain life.
It amounted to about half a kilogramme of bread per person weekly, and hardly anything to else. As time went on large workshops were organised for Jews to work on German orders. But smuggling remained the chief form of trade with the outside and when it came to an end during the period of “liquidation” of the ghetto the disparity between prices in the Jewish quarter and outside became even greater.
Bread inside the ghetto cost 60 to 85 zlotys a kilogramme, outside it was 8 to 12 zlotys, sugar was 400 to 450 zlotys a kilogramme inside and 35 to 70 zlotys outside, potatoes were 16 to 30 zlotys a kilogramme inside, and 3.50 zlotys outside.
The mortality rate inside the ghetto rose steadily month after month. This was due not only to the terrible need of the people, but to the harsh winters of 1940/41 and 1941/42, epidemics of spotted typhus, typhoid and tuberculosis.
Every day dozens of bodies were found in the streets – in 1941 the mortality amounted to some 13 percent of the total population, and during the first quarter of 1942 it amounted to over 15 percent, per annum. On the other hand, the birth rate fell almost to nothing.
None the less the population of the Warsaw ghetto remained almost stable throughout all the period of its existence. Officially it was about 433,000, but in fact it fell to 370,000. The reason is that more Jews were continually being driven into the ghetto from other countries such as Germany and Holand as well as from various smaller towns and places around Warsaw.
The Strengthening of Anti- Jewish Measures
The occupying authorities continually resorted to various forms of terror steadily growing in violence and accounting for dozens of victims inside the ghetto every day, apart from the daily executions carried out beyond its confines.
Armed and uniformed Germans would pour into a house at night, drag out those destined as victims and kill them in the street. Adult Jews found outside the ghetto walls were shot on the spot, while children were drowned in clay pits or thrown into the towns canals.
After the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union and the German occupation of the Eastern areas of Poland, in July 1941, news began to arrive of mass machine-gunning of Jews in the more easterly towns and local centres.
At first the stories were hardly to be believed, but they were confirmed again and again by eyewitnesses. In the winter and early spring of 1942 these mass murders of tens of thousands of Jews grew more and more systematic.
Throughout the whole of the Vilno province only one centre of Jewish life was left in the city of Vilno itself, where some 12,000 Jews remained. In the city of Vilno over 50,000 Jews were murdered, in Rowne 14,000 in Lwow 50 percent of the Jewish population, and in Kowel 10,000.
Later similar reports were received from Stanislawow, Tarnopol, Stiryj and dozens of other smaller towns. It became obvious that the terror was moving westward from the eastern borders, while in the extreme west, in Poland’s “incorporated” western provinces, Jews had already been completely eliminated, only specialist craftsmen working for the German army being left, herded in isolated barracks.
New methods of extermination were being applied. The use of poison gas was resorted to for ten thousand people in Chelm. A camp was organised at Belzec for the special purpose of execution by electrocution and here in the course of about a month, in March and April 1942 80,000 Jews from the Lublin, Lwow and part of the Kielce provinces were executed.
Out of Lublin’s 30,000 Jews only 2,500 were left, 70 of these being women. Auxiliary to the main work of extermination the Jews were being deported from the smaller centres of population and concentrated in the larger towns. In the course of these operations alone some 10 percent, lost their lives.
Himmler Orders Extermination
After Himmler’s visit to the General Gouvernment in March 1941, and his order for the extermination of 50 percent, of the Jews by the end of 1942, there could no longer be any doubt that this great mass murder could be halted only by events of great military and political importance.
In the spring of 1942 the news came that a new extermination camp had been opened at Sobibor, in Wlodawa County. It was expected that the work of liquidating the Warsaw ghetto would begin in the middle of April, and then at the end of May.
In June the rumour spread that it had been postponed for a time. But Himmler’s visit to the General Gouvernment in the middle of July 1942 hastened the execution of the plans and intensified their severity as compared with the original design.
Mass Murder under the Guise of Deportation
Preliminary to the liquidation, steps were taken aimed at eliminating foreign Jews from the scope of the measures. To this end a registration of all such Jews was carried out on 17 July 1942, and they were then interned in the Pawiak prison.
From Monday, 20 July onward the task of guarding the ghetto bounds was entrusted to strong cordons of junaks, i.e. security battalions consisting of Lithuanians, Latvians, Ukrainians and certain Soviet prisoners of war of these nationalities, as well as of Russian whites.
After this the Polish police performed only auxiliary service at the exit gates. This change also marked the end of the smuggling between the ghetto and the rest of the Warsaw, while the numbers of Jews shot at the boundaries increased.
The Junaks opened fire at windows of houses adjacent to the ghetto walls. Large forces of German police, armed with machine-guns, were also posted at every exit, an SS man being placed in charge of each post.
German police on motor-cycles patrolled the ghetto walls continually day and night. These preparations were watched by ghetto inhabitants with feelings of dread and terror.
On 21 July 1942 at eleven a.m. German police cars drove up to the building of the Jewish Council in Grzybowska Street. The SS officers who arrived in them ordered the Chairman Mr Czerniakow to summon the members of the Council.
On their arrival they were all arrested and carried off in police cars to the Pawiak prison. After a short period of detention the majority of them were released. About the same time police cars drove into the ghetto’s streets. Uniformed Germans broke into the houses looking chiefly for members of the Jewish intellectual class, and killing them on the spot, in their homes, not troubling to identify them.
Among those who were thus killed was a non-Jew Professor Raszej, who, armed with an official pass, was visiting the ghetto in the course of his medical duties. At the same time round-ups were made in the streets, these being noteworthy for the fact that only the better-dressed people were detained.
It later transpired that these passers-by who were fortuitously arrested, and also those members of the Jewish Council who were detained, were to be used as hostages.
So the day passed without either Mr Czerniakow or any other member of the Jewish Council, being informed of what it all meant and what was planned.
Next day, 22 July after ten o’clock a.m. police cars again drove up before the Jewish Council building. When those members of the Council who had been released were summoned, a long order on the “trans-settlement of the Jewish population of Warsaw” was dictated to them.
The essential details were given in the placard which was afterwards posted up, the other details concerning the technique of the deportations:
On 23 July 1942, at seven p.m. two uniformed Germans again arrived at the building of the Jewish Council. They demanded to see Mr Czerniakow. Shortly after they had left his office after the interview he committed suicide.
It is not exactly known, what was the subject of their conversation, for Czerniakow said nothing to anybody about it before his death. But, from the notes he left and also a letter to his wife, it appears that he had been ordered to produce not six thousand but ten thousand people for deportation the following day, and thereafter at the rate of 7,000 a day.
After his death Mr Lichtenbaum, an engineer, became Chairman of the Jewish Council.
The Deportation Order
Next day ten thousand were in fact assembled at the transhipment point, and 7,000 every day after. The quota was made up of people taken from their homes or rounded up in the streets.
In order to encourage the Jewish police to greater activity the Germans obviously showed them favouritism at this stage: for instance, they provided them with safe-conducts stamped with the German police stamp, which freed from deportation not only their families (wives and children) who were excluded from deportation by the order, but other relations also.
As the order of 22 July 1942, excluded from deportation all workers in the large German – owned enterprises, together with their families, there was considerable competition among the inhabitants of the ghetto to obtain work in these enterprises, or rather to obtain certificates stating that they worked there.
Sums running into thousands of zlotys were paid for such certificates, the money, of course, being pocketed by the German owners of the works etc. It later transpired that not only these certificates of employment, but even the safe- conducts given to the Jewish police had no real value, for the Germans did not respect them and, despite their own order, arbitrarily deported anybody and everybody, without regard to their documents.
The actual process of deportation was carried out more and more brutally every day, and after some days the Germans themselves actively engaged in the work, with the aid of the junaks, independently of the Jewish police.
The Germans cordoned off a whole block of houses, entered the courtyard and opened fire. This was intended as a signal for everybody to leave their homes and assemble in the yard.Anyone who failed to get out quickly enough or who tried to hide was killed on the spot. All infirm, old and crippled people were also killed in their homes.
No consideration was shown for families as such, wives were torn away from their husbands, and children, even quite small tots, from their parents.
To the accompaniment of incessant firing, at the transhipment point the Germans separated any old and infirm who had escaped so far, carried them straight to the Jewish cemetery, and killed them there.
Every day between sixty and a hundred persons were disposed of in this way. The others were packed into goods trucks, 120 people being crushed into trucks with room for forty. The people choked with lack of air, but the tracks were sealed up and the trains set out.
The floors of the trucks were covered with quicklime and chlorine. The route taken by such a train was marked by the bodies alongside the lines. The deportees were carried off to three execution camps at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.
Here the trains were unloaded, the condemned were stripped naked and then killed, probably by poison gas or electrocution. For the purpose of burying the bodies a great bulldozer has been taken to Treblinka, and this machine works without stopping.
The stench of the decomposing bodies has nauseated all the peasants for three miles around and forced them to flight. In addition to Treblinka, there were also camps at Belzec and Sobibor.
It has not been possible to ascertain whether any of those who have been carried off have been left alive. We have information only of extermination. Out of the 250,000 people deported only two small transport trains, four thousand people altogether, were sent to work behind the front line in the Brzesc and Malachowicze direction.
As a rule young and physically healthy people escaped this fate, because of their value as labour power, the main victims being old and infirm and children. All the children in the children’s homes and shelters were carried off.
Among these was an orphans’ home run by Janusz Korczak a well known Polish writer. He refused to leave the children, though he would have been allowed to remain. He and the manageress of the home went with the children to the assembly point.
The deportations have been going on unbrokenly ever since 22 July – every day between three and ten thousand people are carried off. Those who are left convulsively cling to the faint hope that they may escape the fate of those who have gone.
By 1 September some 250,000 people had already been carried off. For the month of September 120,000 ration cards were printed, for October only 40,000.
According to information obtained from the German Labour Bureau (Arbeitsamt) which confirmed the figure as to the number of ration cards prepared for October, only 40,000 skilled workers are to be left in the ghetto, held in barracks, as suitable for German war production.
Meantime, the Germans were taking steps to murder off the Jews of the smaller localities outside Warsaw. These murders took place under the very eyes of the Polish inhabitants, who were shocked to the depths of their souls.
Children were shot, pregnant women were killed, people who attempted to run away and hide were hunted like animals, and hundreds of bodies in the streets, by the wayside, along the railway lines were seen by large numbers of Poles.
The liquidation of the ghettos in the nearby places of Falenica, Rembertow, Nowy Dwor, Kaluszyn and Minsk Mazowiecki was carried out during a break in the work of deporting the Jews from the Warsaw ghetto, from 20 August to 24 August. The deportations from the Warsaw ghetto began again on 25 August.
It is impossible to give a brief review of the steps taken by the Germans to eliminate the Warsaw ghetto- concludes the report received from Poland – without attempting to give people free from the German terror some idea of the scale and intensity of the mass murders which by 1 September 1942, had been committed on some 250,000 Jews, and which are still going on.
Any such attempt to give the people of Great Britain or America some idea of these unprecedented mass murders must begin by appealing to them to believe things that would seem incredible. They must get it clearly in their consciousness that all these things are true, the truth amid which we have to live and die.
The facts which we relate are not specially selected – they are facts of everyday existence in Poland. They are not isolated facts, every one of them can be matched by tens and hundreds of similar facts every day.
Since 22 July last anything from several dozen to several hundred Jews have been murdered every day in Warsaw, by shooting in the streets and houses. These murders are committed every day during round-ups of people who are carried off to be killed. Among the six to ten thousand people rounded up every day, for deportation, between fifty and a hundred old people, cripples, and infirm are taken to the cemetery to be shot and buried.
If anyone has any doubt whether it would be possible to kill off five, six or ten thousand people in one day, they can be convinced by the thousands of witnesses at Otwock, Rembertow, Siedlce, Minsk Mazowiecki, Lomza and many other localities.
People at each of these places have seen anything from two to ten thousand people murdered in the course of a few hours.
That gives some idea of the mass scale of these murders. The brutality with which they are carried out is on the same scale. These people carried off to death have to endure the maximum of suffering. Not less than a hundred people are packed into trucks suitable for forty. The trucks are sealed, the floors are covered with a thick layer of un-slaked lime. Sometimes, in order that the effect of the lime shall be greater, the deportees are ordered to take off their boots and shoes.
To inflict further suffering on mothers the children are torn from them. Orphanages are carried off in their entirety. The staffs do not abandon their children. But they can do no more when the moment comes for loading into trucks. The children are loaded into separate trucks, and the staffs are sent off by other trains.
For a German to shoot someone on the spot is regarded as an act of humanity, as is throwing anyone out of a sixth floor window. When one of the murderers throws a mother and her child out of the window on to the stones below, he evidently has a very soft heart. Such incidents are noted by the dozen every day.
Some of the acts of brutality are horrible even amid this horror. A pregnant Jewess escaped from the ghetto, and took shelter in a house in the Grochow district of Warsaw, where she was protected by Poles, and gave birth to the child.
But a German gendarme found her, shot her on the spot, and trampled the newly born infant to death. Must we tell you even more? Surely that is enough to indicate the scale of the cruelty?
As an indication of the scale of despair among the people let us tell you of the suicides. The suicides not only of individuals but of whole families together. By gas or by cyanide.
Every day someone takes poison. Several people, even up to a score, will commit suicide in one hour. To prevent people taking poison the chemists’ shops in the ghetto have all been closed.
Numbers of people have gone mad. Some of the victims implore the junaks to shoot them. But they have to pay for the privilege. The junaks demand fees of a hundred zlotys for shooting.
Annexes To The Report
Extraordinary Report from the Jew – extermination Camp at Belzec 10 July 1942
According to information from a German employed at the extermination camp, it is situated in Belzec, by the station, and is barred off by barriers of barbed wire. Inside the wire, and all round the outside, Ukrainians are on guard.
The executions are carried out in the following fashion:
When a trainload of Jews arrives at the station in Belzec, it is shunted by a side track up to the wire surrounding the place of execution, at which point there is a change in the engine crew and train guards.
From the wire onward the train is serviced by German drivers who take it to the unloading point, where the track ends. After unloading, the men go to a barracks on the right, the women to a barracks situated on the left, where they strip, ostensibly in readiness for a bath.
After they have undressed both groups go to a third barracks where there is an electrified plate, where the executions are carried out. Then the bodies are taken by train to a trench situated outside the wire, and some thirty metres deep. This trench was dug by Jews, who were all executed afterwards.
The Ukrainians on guard are also to be executed when the job is finished. The Ukrainians acting as guards are loaded with money and stolen valuables: they pay 400 zlotys for a litre of vodka, 2,000 zlotys and jewellery for relations with a woman.
This is faithful transcript of the document, mistakes have not been corrected.
The National Archives KEW
Holocaust Historical Society
Copyright CW & Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2007