Below is from a new 6-page diary
written on aged paper just found in 2004
Nowhere to run as 'hassidim of Hitler' close in
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
"We are living by the day, the hour, the moment," run the chilling
last words of the diary of a
young Jewish woman, hiding in an underground bunker during the final
days of the Warsaw Ghetto
Written in Polish and faded by age, the six-page diary, detailing
the last hellish days of the
1943 uprising against the Nazis, was recently uncovered amid other
Warsaw Ghetto archive
materials at the Ghetto Fighters' House at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot.
The unsigned record, which was originally found amid the ruins of
the Warsaw Ghetto following
World War II, is the only known existing diary written during the
27-day Warsaw Ghetto uprising,
according to the center's archive director, Yossi Shavit.
The author, probably in her 20s, most likely perished in the Nazi
demolition of the ghetto, said
After it was discovered amid the ruins of the ghetto, the diary was
given to a prominent Jewish
underground resistance leader, Adolph Berman, who bequeathed it,
with other Holocaust-related
materials, to the Ghetto Fighters' House in the 1970s. The
importance of the diary, lying amid
scores of other assorted archive materials, was apparently not
recognized until recently.
The diary, which begins April 24, 1943, five days after the uprising
began, and continues for 10
days, provides a harrowing account of a group of dozens of unarmed
people, young and old, hiding
in fear in their confined bunker, all too aware of the certain death
that awaits them.
Surrounded by the well-armed Nazis, the group finds itself slowly
running out of food and with no
running water as more and more people try to cram inside, with lice
and disease rampant in the
overcrowded bunker which is eventually enveloped by flames.
It is not known whether the members of the group were captured alive
by the Nazis or burned
during the Nazi demolition of the ghetto.
The diary, including a diagram of the bunker, is being put on
display at the Ghetto Fighters'
House, where it has also been translated into Hebrew.
After the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, more than 450,000 Jews
from Warsaw and its environs
were forced into the squalid confines of the ghetto.
By July 1942, nearly 100,000 people had died there of disease, cold
Beginning that summer, some 300,000 Jews were deported from the
ghetto to death camps throughout
Poland, 265,000 of them to Treblinka.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – the first urban insurrection in
Nazi-occupied Europe and the war's
most famous incidence of Jewish resistance – broke out on Pessah
eve, April 19, 1943.
Despite the Nazis' overwhelming military superiority, the struggle
lasted nearly four weeks.
In the end, most of the roughly 200 heroic fighters, along with the
tens of thousands of
remaining Jewish inhabitants, were killed, as the Nazis
systematically burned down the ghetto
block by block, before razing it to the ground in mid-May.
Only a few dozen Jews escaped through sewers to the other side of
the wall and went into hiding.
"We are inside a shelter," the diary begins on April 24, the group's
sixth day of hiding in the
That night at 8 o'clock, the author records, the sound of footsteps
and a knock on the secret
entrance to their bunker freezes conversation. It is a neighbor,
come to warn them that their
house is on fire.
Members of the group venture out and into the burning apartment. "We
looked out of the window of
the house, and we saw the ghetto on fire, completely engulfed in
flames," she writes.
They work until 2 a.m. to put out the flames in their home. By 6,
she records, they are back in
the bunker, and in bed. "The ghetto is engulfed in flames."
The next entry, on April 26, tells of a neighboring house, where
Jews had been hiding, engulfed
in flames, with its residents running for cover. "It seems that
disaster is fast approaching,"
the author writes.
"The shelter is very crowded because of the large number of people,
and the even larger number of
people who want to come in to the hiding place. People are knocking
to come in. Everyone wants to
come in. It is hard to give [everybody] permission to come in."
"I want to go to my brother, who is in another bunker, in the second
courtyard, but it is too
far, and also too dangerous," she writes, in what is her only
mention of other family members.
"The air in the bunker is horrible. People are almost choking. Many
lose consciousness... Sleep
is out of the question due to the danger of suffocation."
On the ninth day of their stay, food runs short, as newcomers arrive
with none. It is decided
that only a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee will be distributed
daily to each person.
That evening, they are awakened by the noise of a grenade hurled
upstairs. "Suddenly a horrible
explosion. A hand grenade explodes nearby. A deep silence fills the
room. The enemy surrounds the
house, looking for us. Our sole method of defense is complete and
April 28: "This is our 10th day in the bunker. Ten days of struggle
with our bloodthirsty enemy
who plans to utterly destroy us. He started the war with grenades
and tanks, and ends it with
setting homes on fire. We must survive and we hope we will survive.
We are fighting for justice,
and the right to live..."
The possibility of escape from the ghetto is mentioned in the next
day's entry. "It seems that we
wake up from a deep sleep. We begin to think realistically about
escape to the Aryan side.
Whoever has a chance begins to prepare. These are realistic
thoughts, but not within reach for
"In our bunker, we will not be able to survive for long. The air is
terrible, lice and
overcrowding reign supreme. What is left for us to do? To go out and
risk our lives or die here?
Whoever has a chance, whoever has the courage to do this, must do
this. But one must wait a
couple of days. If the enemy ceases its attacks on us, the chance
for escape will be greater and
this is what we expect."
"The enemy is searching for us all over," the author writes on April
30. "Suddenly a huge
explosion, the walls shake, everybody jumps out of bed but nothing
Writing while doing guard duty at the bunker entrance, the author
tells of the heroism of the 45
"Grenades are thrown at the house. People inside behave bravely.
With complete tranquility they
look death in the eye," she writes on May 2, the last full day of
"The Germans are shooting every Jew they find, these hassidim of
Hitler carrying out everything
in accordance with the order that by 1945 there will not be one Jew
left in Europe," the diary
"In my imagination it seems to me at times that our bunker is a
sinking ship. We are cut off from
the world, completely hopeless, being supported by our own strength
alone. We do not talk of
rescue. With great effort we cling on... but to tell the truth we
are but a little boat, with no
hope of rescue.... I myself am stunned that in these conditions we
have managed to survive for
three weeks," she writes, as grenades hurled by the Nazis explode
near their bunker.
"I go out to the street, around me everything is on fire...
factories, apartments, shops, whole
houses. The whole ghetto is nothing but a sea of flames... the fire
is spreading so quickly that
people do not have time to flee their homes and perish tragically,"
the diary reads.
"Because of the fire, there is a lot of movement on the road. There
is no salvation. People do
not know where to hide. Out of desperation they search, but there is
no rescue. No hiding. Death
reigns everywhere. The walls of the ghetto are surrounded. There is
no entry and no exit.
"The houses and bunkers are on fire. People are choking because of
the smoke. Everybody is
pleading for help. Many – almost all – are crying out to God. 'God,
show your strength and have
mercy on us.' God is silent like a sphinx and does not answer. And
you, the nations, why are you
silent? It seems that the end of the world has arrived. Hell has
come to earth. Dante's Inferno.
It is unbelievable and indescribable....
"The enemy continues his destruction. A new day begins. With the new
day, the silence of death
A group of male Jewish fighters, from the author's resistance
movement, report to members of the
bunker that they have killed 300 Germans.
"In our thoughts we go back to the past... we have lost many things
which we have accomplished
over the years, and the only thing that is left is our hiding place,
and of course this is not
secure in the long term."
And then, that last line of this final entry: "We are living by the
day, the hour, the moment."
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