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The Warsaw Ghetto

Discussion in 'Massacres and Atrocities of the Second World War' started by Jim, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The clamp down on Jews in Poland began almost as soon as the first shots of WWII were fired.
    Following the brief conflict, occupying German soldiers at first contented themselves with ritually humiliating any Jews they encountered on the street.
    A punch was thrown here, a beating administered there. Crowds gathered as the crowing, cocksure military men publicly shaved off the whiskers which marked out an orthodox Jew. Few Jews fought back. The punishment for striking a German officer was torture and frequently death. And not just for the perpetrator of the alleged crime. The concept of mass punishments for one single misdemeanour soon brought the population to heel.
    Laws were hastily introduced to formalise the new official attitude to Jews. They were forbidden to work in certain jobs, to bake bread, for example, or sit at the desk of a government office. No Jewish worker was allowed to earn more than 500 zloty a month - at a time when the price of bread was as high as 40 zloty per loaf.

    Poland's Home Army attracted enthusiastic recruits.

    [​IMG]

    All Jewish wealth was confiscated and no longer could they ride on trains, trams, wear gold jewellery or leave their own district without official permission. From 12 November 1939, every Jew aged 12 years and above was compelled to wear a white arm band with a blue Star of David displayed on it. From this the situation deteriorated. During the Easter holidays of 1940, old-fashioned pogroms took place with Polish thugs in the pay of the Nazis wreaking havoc in the Jewish quarter of Warsaw. For the first time, the Jews retaliated. There was a collection of Jewish militants who refused to tolerate any further subservience to the aggressor. They gave a good account of themselves in the ensuing street battles.
    However, this token resistance could do little to halt the German roller-coaster in Warsaw. In November 1940 the Germans finally established the Warsaw Ghetto. Now the entire Jewish population numbering some 300,000 was confined to a specially designated area. Poles that lived within its boundaries were compelled to move out. Walls were built around it and security was made even tighter with vicious barbed wire. By the middle of the month the Warsaw Ghetto had been entirely isolated from the outside world.
    Inside, the existence was a sordid and miserable one. Now there was little opportunity to earn even a crust. Jews had already been brought to the depths of poverty by the actions of the Nazis, and they had nothing left to fall back on.

    Starving Poles reach for Red Cross bread as it is distributed across the divide in occupied Warsaw.

    [​IMG]

    Daily, the population of the Warsaw Ghetto increased with the arrival of more Jews deported from other cities and towns around Poland. There to greet them were the malnutrition, disease and hopelessness that were all mirrored in the bleak faces of the inhabitants.
    To the people of the Ghetto, the war was now a distant issue. The effect of the segregation on their minds together with their physical hardships left them able to focus only on the day-to-day survival of themselves and their closest family.
    Ghetto dwellers for the most part relied on soup kitchens and a meagre ration of bread, plus whatever they could scavenge or beg. Six-year-old boys were dispatched by their parents through holes in the barbed wire to steal food from other areas of the city. Occasionally they were shot in the process. If they returned, their haul was seized on by starving siblings and parents.
    Food was smuggled in from the Ayran sections of the city by the burgeoning numbers of black marketeers who preyed on the snared Jews. Jewish businessman seeking to make a living was equally at the mercy of these rogues. The final vestiges of wealth remaining among the Jews were spent in this way during the first few months.
    Within months people began to die of hunger in the streets. Corpses were covered over with paper which was weighted with stones until the daily round of the burial cart. Desperate families would dump their own dead in the streets to save the cost of a funeral. Often, the bodies were naked, stripped of rags which had now become a valuable commodity.

    Polish children ready to risk their lives to deliver underground newspapers around the occupied capital.

    [​IMG]

    Disease was raging through the over-crowded and squalid conditions, with admissions to the hospital exceeding 150 a day.
    Instead of feeling pity or self disgust in the face of this unmitigated horror, the delusion of the Germans continued. A German major who witnessed what was happening in the Warsaw Ghetto put the blame on Jewish barbarism:
    “The conditions in the ghetto can hardly be described ... The Jew does business here with the others also on the street. In the morning, as I drove through in my car, I saw numerous corpses, among them those of children, covered anyhow with paper weighed down with stones. The other Jews pass by them indifferently, the primitive "corpse carts" come and take away these "remainders" with which no more business can be done. The ghetto is blocked by walls, barbed-wire and so forth ... Dirt, stench and noise are the main signs of the ghetto.”

    Men and women from the Ghetto are marched off to camps. Their destination was probably Treblinka.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    There were continuous executions carried out on real or fanciful notions by the Germans. Those who worked on underground newspapers, for example, were targeted as were those whose illegal trading came to the notice of the authorities. Anyone found on the Aryan side of the divide without the necessary papers was returned and shot. Yet there were also examples of killing without the remotest provocation. Three children sitting outside the hospital were slaughtered and a pregnant woman who tripped and fell was continually kicked down by a German soldier who finally shot her. Every resident of the ghetto knew of horror stories such as these.

    During the Warsaw uprising members of the Home Army, two carrying flame-throwers, seek the enemy in the wrecked city.

    [​IMG]

    In July 1942 events took an even more sinister turn with the start of mass deportations, with a German quota of 6,000 people per day. Their destination was the extermination camp at Treblinka in Poland. There was panic among the ghetto dwellers. Their options for escaping the round ups taking place were limited. Each house and street targeted for the expulsions was thoroughly searched by German-sponsored officials who would shoot anyone they found cowering inside.
    The spate of deportations eventually slashed the population of the ghetto to an estimated 60,000. Many of those that remained either worked for the Germans or the Jewish Council. Their conditions were barely improved by the reduction in population but there began a subtle change of mood among the ghetto Jews. They decided to fight back. Covertly, they gathered together what arms they could, various ancient guns from bygone conflicts and a few more modern models that had been smuggled in by Polish freedom fighters on the German side. A system of underground tunnels was dug to aid Jewish resistance. By 1943, it was no longer safe for Germans to enter the ghetto. Lone Germans or those in twos and threes found in the streets of the ghetto were killed. Terrible retribution was also wreaked on those Jews who collaborated with the Gestapo to save their own skins.
    On 19 April 1943 the Germans decided to “liquidate” the ghetto once and for all. In charge of the operation was General Jurgen Stroop who had been promised honour and accolades for his men if the operation was carried out quickly and efficiently.

    Following its initial success the Polish Army proudly flies its flag from the back of a captured German vehicle.

    [​IMG]

    Stroop dispatched 2,000 troops from local garrisons, dressed as if for battle. They went in on armoured cars with grenade launchers and flame throwers. It was their aim to flatten the ghetto and kill all those who got in the way. The Jewish resistance had been tipped off and was waiting.
    Short of guns and ammunition, the determined fighters still halted the German advance and even stymied the tanks with their home-made grenades. The ghetto which was once a prison now became a fortress. The bold action of the Jews took Stroop by surprise. He had branded them “sub-humans and natural cowards” Every day, increasing numbers of Germans were sent into the ghetto. They found a canny and determined opposition inspired by its leaders, fighting with the conviction that death by defence was far better than death at the hands of the Germans in an extermination camp. When all their buildings were flattened or burnt out, the resistance took to the sewers - until they were flooded by the Germans.
    It took six weeks and thousands of German troops to quell the Warsaw uprising. German casualties were put at 1,200. Most of the Jewish fighters died in action. In the middle of May, when all hope had finally gone, 55,000 Jews remaining in the ghetto surrendered. More than 7,000 were shot immediately. A further 15,000 were sent to Majdanek camp and 7,000 to Treblinka where they were killed in the gas chambers. Only a few hundred of the total population of the Ghetto escaped to the safety of “Aryan” Warsaw.
    But this was not the last time that the people of Warsaw gave vent to their anger against the Germans.

    A casualty is tended by his comrades. Despite their dedication, the Poles could not crush the German enemy.

    [​IMG]

    In August 1944 the Polish Home Army under the command of General Bor Komorowski seized the Old City which was subsequently shelled by the Germans using Tiger tanks. Numbering an estimated 40,000, the Polish soldiers fought determinedly for each building and every street. They were doubtless bucked by the sound of gunfire from the approaching Russians and with pride and optimism raised the Polish flag over the city for the first time in six years.
    The cause was a hopeless one. Assistance from the Russians failed to materialise and the Germans, better equipped and in greater numbers, fought back tenaciously. For two months the battle raged, once again inflicting immense hardships on the residents of Warsaw who were confronted with starvation. But by October Warsaw was once again under German control, its population decimated by the revolt.
    Nevertheless, the Poles were defeated in the knowledge that they had proved a costly diversion for the Germans. The Red Army was indeed close by, ready to press ahead once more against the Third Reich. That Russia stood by and did nothing to aid the beleaguered Poles gave rise to accusations later that the Polish Home Army was sacrificed by Stalin. He had chosen his own men to lead Poland and the fighting men were not among them. In the event, Warsaw didn't fall to Soviet and Polish troops until mid January 1945.

    Heavy-hearted Bor Komorowski surrenders to German SS commander Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. brandon05

    brandon05 New Member

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    Very informative post. I am so amazed that they found it within themselves after all that they had been through to put up such a resistance to the Germans. It just goes to show that no matter what you do to a human being there is always that capacity to reach down deep and find a way to survive anyway that you can.
     
  4. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Indeed a very informative post. I never thought a great deal about the Warsaw Ghetto until saw the Polanski film 'The Pianist' (2002), about the life of Wladyslaw Szpillman and read the Leon Uris' novel 'Mila 18'. The Warsaw Ghetto also featured in the 1978 US TV series 'Holocaust' . Would like to seek out any surviving diaries from the time.
     
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  5. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Patron  

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    I read both Leon Uris' "The Warsaw Ghetto" and John Hersey's "The Wall" almost 50 years ago. The memories of that time have stayed with me since then. Unforgettable, to say the least,
     
  6. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    I suspect original diaries would be a title hard to understand without a knowledge of Polish history, but anyway the best is Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto by Emmanuel Ringelblum, written by the man responsible for the so called Ringelblum Archive - which itself is a large collections of, among others, diaries.
    Unfortunately the archive itself has only been published in Polish so far.
    And, as Borowski's short stories, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto are brutally honest, so the same warning applies...
     
  7. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    Another must-have is The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow: Prelude to Doom by Adam Czerniakow, Raul Hilberg.
    Adam Czerniaków was head of the Warsaw Ghetto Judenrat - Council of the Jews.
     
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  8. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thanks for the recommendations.
    Found this clip about a Nazi propaganda film made about the Warsaw Ghetto which was never finished. Some parts show the misery of the Ghetto with some staged scenes of inhabitants enjoying themselves . Would be interested to seeing the whole film

     
  9. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Very disheartening video. I too would like to see it in its entirety. It is still amazing to me, and I predict it will always be, the level of propaganda the Nazis used to propagate their actions as being civilized while they were murdering and torturing innocents.
     
  10. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    The entire film can be seen on vimeo.
     
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  11. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    There is another, this time completely finished: The Eternal Jew, partially shot in the ghettos of Łódź, Warsaw, Cracow and Lublin in 1940.
     
  12. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    Most of the 1942 Wist's footage:


    some of it, colorized:


    the same place, shortly before the war started:
     
  13. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thanks for your help wm. Yes I think that the Germans deliberately set out to stage scenes showing some Jews enjoying some lavish entertainment against the backdrop of horrendous suffering of the many to show all Jews in a bad light. It's very haunting to see so many people who are soon to be wiped out relatively soon afterwards .
     
  14. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    Everyday life in the Warsaw Ghetto:

    one of the gates (1940)
    [​IMG]

    a daycare center (1940)
    [​IMG]

    Korczak's orphanage (1940), one of the children 75 years later, the 1990 Polish movie Korczak about the place
    [​IMG]

    the place today:
    [​IMG]

    registering for work (1941)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    departing to work outside the Ghetto (1941):
    [​IMG]
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
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  15. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Member

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    Thank you for the pictures. Still find it so haunting to see people who you know are soon to be killed off. Must try to find the 'Korczak' movie with English subtitles. Have never heard of it !
     
  16. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    Well, it seems this short thread got more views than usual, maybe it's an interesting subject after all.
    Let's then try a few more.

    a "tactical" chair (1941)
    [​IMG]

    simple pleasures, a month or two before the deportation (1942).
    [​IMG]

    A stall with the weekly Jewish Gazette, despite German censorship a quite interesting and useful newspaper,
    additionally armbands, Wrigley’s chewing gum were available.
    A single copy of New Courier of Warsaw, a German propaganda newspaper at the bottom (1941)
    [​IMG]

    in front of bookstore "Monad", which sold oilcloth and linoleum too (1941)
    [​IMG]

    Goat Street (1941)
    [​IMG]

    in front of a pub (1941)
    [​IMG]

    A watch shop - selling soda, carbonated water, and ice cream too.
    A photo made by a German soldier (1941).
    [​IMG]

    Funeral home "The Last Road" (1941)
    [​IMG]
     
  17. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Powerful photos.
     
  18. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    Public transport in the Ghetto.
    People usually walked, frequently great distances.
    The Ghetto was overcrowded, and the streets were too, like here:
    [​IMG]
    source: http://kolejkamarecka.pun.pl/gallery.php?pid=2044

    or here. Leszno Street was the wealthiest place in the Ghetto.
    On the right Café "Lily", with ice cream. A little closer they sold fountain pens.
    [​IMG]

    Another popular mode of transportation. Nobody knows how many rickshaws were there, probably a hundred or two.
    It was a very well-paying job, easily providing a comfortable living for a large family.
    [​IMG]

    The presence of a guard suggest a ghetto gate was nearby. The Ghetto was usually "German-free", its inhabitants were left to their own devices by the Nazis.
    [​IMG]

    Another popular mode of transportation - the trams, two are visible in the background.
    [​IMG]

    There were three lines, "nur für Juden", they never left the Ghetto.
    This one advertises floor wax chips, presumably many people were still waxing their floors.
    [​IMG]

    This tram was one of those "for the Aryans" only. They only transited the Ghetto, and never stopped there.
    Horse cabs weren't especially numerous, there were only about fifty of them.
    [​IMG]

    And there were horse trams, owned and operated by two Ghetto crime lords and collaborators.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  19. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    In summer 1942, from an apartment on the first floor of this building a handful of SS-men, living a comfortable life among their personal slaves: cooks, barbers, masseurs, courtesans, sent a quarter of a million people to the gas chambers of Treblinka. They were the only ones who knew full well what was going on.
    [​IMG]

    The place in 1944:
    [​IMG]

    and again today:
    [​IMG]

    Hermann Höfle, their leader:
    [​IMG]

    and Karl Georg Brandt, the local coordinator:
    [​IMG]

    The architect of Operation Reinhard, Hermann Höfle, along with eighteen officers under his command, had established his headquarters at 103 Żelazna Street. Höfle lived there like a king, with his officers as his privy council. The Jewish Council catered to their every wish.
    They had been given the finest house in the ghetto, with the most modem apartments. They were assigned workers, chambermaids, and cooks - the most beautiful women in the ghetto. There was even a Jewish orchestra to play soft Viennese waltzes while the murderers enjoyed their meals.
    The commander and his officers ate well. It was here that orders were issued every day sending thousands of Jews to their deaths. After a hard day’s work, those who carried out the orders needed to rest, which was to be found at 103 Żelazna Street. This was the home of the man in charge of the destruction of the Jews, the Befehlsstelle, the headquarters for orders.

    [...]
    All the rooms were richly decorated, and Höfle’s study was no exception: the finest furniture, carpets, upholstery, drapes, and light fixtures. Jewish interior designers had been commissioned to do it all by the Board. Everything there had been confiscated from rich Jews.
    I was standing before Hermann Höfle, chief of staff of Operation Reinhard, and one of the most fearsome murderers after Eichmann. [...] He was a monster in human form, an accountant of death. He lived off those he killed. I had imagined him as brutal and savage. From everything I had heard, my image of him was correct.
    I was gripped by fear when I saw him; not because of his terrifying appearance, but by the opposite: here was a man in his early thirties, with a round face, a jovial expression, and bright blue eyes. This was the creature who had already killed thousands of men.

    [...]
    As I was writing out my prescription, a thin man, about forty-five years old, walked in with a large German shepherd. There was something fox-like about his face. He swept the room with a harsh gaze. I recognized Brandt, head of the Warsaw Gestapo. He saluted Höfle, then strode to the window and opened it.
    [...]
    I gave Höfle his prescription, bowed slightly, and left the room. Höfle nodded his head and didn't extend his hand. I was already at the door when I heard Brandt’s voice: “The Jews are an abomination. I care more about my dog than all these Jews put together.”
    from: Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland, 1939-1945 by Edward Reicher
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  20. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    The other end of that building, 99 Żelazna Street, was hit during the '39 siege of Warsaw:
    [​IMG]

    the photo was made by Julien Bryan, an American photographer and filmmaker, during the siege.
    He and his crew just meters from that building:
    [​IMG]

    But as they say every cloud has a silver lining, and the destroyed part was used as a hiding place by Mr Reicher during the deportation.
    He and servants of the SS-men from the Befehlsstelle created it in the attic of the building, for him and for their children.
    He was lucky and survived, they didn't.
    The hiding place then and today:
    [​IMG]
     

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