The End approaches in the Warsaw Ghetto

 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising -

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. The original German caption reads: “These bandits resisted by force of arms”. Picture taken at Nowolipie street looking East, near intersection with Smocza street. In the back one can see ghetto wall with a gate.

Inside the Warsaw Ghetto, where the uprising had begun on the 19th April, there was no escape. Those in hiding were merely delaying the inevitable, hoping for a miracle. Only a very few would somehow survive. For the remainder the most likely outcome was they would die in their hiding places, as they were either burnt down or blown up by the SS. Those who tried to escape through the streets knew the whole ghetto was surrounded, if they were caught by the Germans they would shot on the spot or put on a train to Treblinka. There was no longer any prospect of being able to fight back.

There were many people keeping diaries or notes of the conditions inside the ghetto, right from the very beginning. Only recently has a new diary of events during the Ghetto uprising emerged. A young woman, identity unknown, kept a record of her final days. What became of her is also unknown:

Day 19 Friday, May 7, 1943

Five difficult and tragic days have passed. In this short time, we have had many experiences. Our living conditions were difficult from the moment we entered our hideaway and they became worse since we have taken in 45 people. Most of them had no food.

At midnight on Monday, the electricity was cut off. We are now faced with a serious problem: how will we cook? We do not have stoves connected to a chimney. The bunker leaders deliberated this problem for three days and, in the meantime, arguments broke out. Brother fought with sister, friend fought with friend and they all fought among themselves. Hunger skipped no one.

The quarrelling was so loud that the echoes were probably heard outside the bunker. The situation was terrible, and dangerous as well. The emotional state of the people is dreadful. Some of them lie on the ground unconscious. The most vulnerable are the children. We have already been through three days without hot food.

In the end, the problem of the kitchen was solved. But it is preferable to avoid addressing someone in order to maintain the silence because every question brings offensive and coarse replies. The people in the bunker are behaving without courtesy and consideration.The night was horrific. There was terrible irritability.

I witnessed a shocking event when Jews were removed from the bunker in a neighbouring house. During my night guard duty I lay next to the judasz and listened to conversations going on outside.

The conversation between the Germans, full of irony and sadism, made my body go cold and my blood boil. Yes, the Germans are certain that they are justified. We are considered murderers and they want to present themselves as the epitome of morality and humanity. Descriptions of the blind hatred towards us, the persecuted and tortured, made me feel as though salt was being spread on my open wounds. Their words always ended with coarse laughter.

Wham! Boom! The enemy is shooting machine guns and throwing grenades into the bunker. The bunker is partially covered with an avalanche of rubble. The people inside are acting courageously. With complete serenity, they look death in the face.

In silence, we honour the death of the people who are burning in the flames. The Germans are shooting every Jew that they find or taking and burning the bodies on the bonfire in the community courtyard at 19 Zamenhof Street. Hitler’s devotees, his dedicated servants and hangmen, who obey their leader’s orders, execute everything in accordance with the order which states that in 1945 there will not be a single Jew left in Europe.

Today, silence reigned for a long time. We lay on the bunks until late in the evening after four days of hunger. Everyone was satisfied because we ate something and went to sleep in a better mood. The appearance of these people, whose cheeks were already sunken, improved, their eyes brightened and a spark of life was once again discernible within them. Now everyone believes that he will be able to hold on.

Surprisingly, we have light again, the electricity is back. Maybe the sun will also shine for us. It’s really about time. We are cut off from the entire world, helpless and relying only on our own powers. No one talks about rescue. We are extending our existence with great effort.

Our lives are extremely threatened now, the danger is constant. The living standard is very low. The people are half-naked, dressed in rags, running around morosely on the stone floor. They can’t live and they can’t die.

I am amazed that in such conditions we have succeeded in surviving for three weeks. We know very well what kind of action this is because they announced it in advance. This is the extermination of Warsaw Jewry and, afterwards, our end.

The Germans usually attacked us at night. Now they are expanding their attacks to the daytime as well. We must maintain absolute silence on our bunks so that the enemy will not discover us.

I am going out into the street. The streets – Mila, Zamenhof, Kurza, Nalewki, Lubecki – all are on fire. Workshops, apartments, stores, entire houses are burning. The ghetto is nothing more than a sea of flames.

A very strong wind is blowing, which fans the fire and carries the sparks from the burning houses to those that have not yet caught fire.

The fire destroys everything. The sight is horrifying, shocking. The fire spreads so quickly that people cannot escape from the buildings and they perish tragically. People with bundles run from house to house, from street to street. There is no salvation; no one knows where to hide. They search in desperation but there is no deliverance, no refuge, death rules everything.

The walls of the ghetto are surrounded. No one goes out and no one comes in. Clothing is burning on people’s bodies. Screams of pain, sobbing. Everyone wants to be saved, everyone tries to save his own life.

People are choking from the smoke. All are begging for help. Most of them, almost all of them, cry out to God: “God, show your power, have mercy on us.” God is as silent as a Sphinx and does not answer. And you, the nations, why are you silent? Don’t you see that they want to annihilate us? Why are you silent?

Despite the danger, Jews are running through the streets just to save their lives. Everything is engulfed in fire. It looks like the end of the world has come. “Save yourselves if you can!” The situation is horrifying, terrible. Everyone wants to be saved. Hell has come to earth. Dante’s Inferno – it cannot be believed and it cannot be described.

A new day is beginning. With the new day, there is a deathly silence. People are in their corners without food or water. A cemetery in flames. The sound of metal falling and of burning walls collapsing is heard.

The ghetto is burning for the fourth day. All we see are chimneys standing and the frames of the houses that burned down. In the first moment, this spectacle arouses a shudder of horror: yes, this is the work of Hitler’s vandals, who hope that the entire world will look this way. There is no doubt that they will not succeed in this.

In our thoughts, we return to the past. We’ve lost many things. The only thing left to us is our hiding place. Of course, it is not a safe place.

We live the day, the hour, the moment.

The full diary can be read at Daily Telegraph

Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. The original German caption reads: "The Leader of the Grand Operation". SS General Jürgen Stroop is at center left (looking up) wearing cap; SS Rottenführer at right is possibly Josef Blösche.

Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. The original German caption reads: “The Leader of the Grand Operation”. SS General Jürgen Stroop is at center left (looking up) wearing cap; SS Rottenführer at right is possibly Josef Blösche.

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