Life in the Warsaw ghetto

Jews mount a truck in the Warsaw ghetto before being taken off for forced labour, May 1941

Chaim Hasenfus was an accountant in a bank in Warsaw before the war. In April 1941 he was in the Warsaw ghetto:

24 April 1941

Something happened to me today that has become rather common: I was going down Walicowa Street when a German soldier struck me on the head with his rubber nightstick and ordered me, along with several other Jews, to load gravel onto a truck. The work lasted half an hour.

I frequently walk through the ghetto from Sienna down Zelazna to Leszno, Solna, Karmelicka, and Pawia—hardly a cheer- ful or relaxing stroll; on the contrary, the whole thing is quite nerve-racking. Until recently you had to doff your cap to the guards; now you no longer have to do that, but there’s a good chance you’ll get caught in a roundup and sent to work.

Which is why your heart pounds whenever you go outside and why it’s considered an amazing success if you manage to get where you’re going without incident. People are so wound up that the sight of a German truck is enough to set off a panic and send everyone scurrying. The streets are full of people bustling about, vendors selling candy, cigarettes, and cake. A regular market has sprung up on the corner of Ciepla and Grzybowska.

This was one of the last diary entries made by Chaim Hasenfus, it is not known what became of him.

See Words to Outlive Us: Eyewitness Accounts from the Warsaw Ghetto

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