April 13, 2024
Polish/Jewish Relations

Having Fun in The Ghetto by Jerzy Robert Nowak

In one of his books, the fraud Jan Tomasz Gross reproduced famous anti-Polish slander about Poles happily playing on a carousel by the walls of a burning ghetto. Let’s recall what none other than Władysław Bartoszewski honestly stated in 1985 in the “Zeszyty Historyczne” of the Parisian “Kultura” publication (comp. 71, p.229). He said that the “carousel was closed since the outbreak of fighting in the ghetto.” In this way, he confirmed the information contained in the memoirs of a famous courier from the occupation, Jerzy Lerski – “Jura” – who mentioned “carts of the carousel frozen in stillness” (compare J. Lerski: “Emisariusz” Jur “, London 1984, p. 107). The testimonies of Bartoszewski and Lerski were as important then as they are now since the anti-Polish lie about Poles happily playing on the carousel while the inhabitants of the ghetto were being murdered by Germans has been heard for decades.

Against the background of the proliferation of anti-Polish lies, it is becoming increasingly worth recalling the forgotten facts about how many of the Jews happily played in the ghetto and lived in luxury as their poorer co-inhabitants in the ghetto were dying of starvation. From numerous records on these topics we learn that in times of monstrous misery for the majority of Warsaw ghetto residents, other Jews, mainly Gestapo agents, Judenrat officials, members of the Jewish police, and wealthy merchants were doing business with Germans, while smugglers had fun in the most expensive restaurants.

It was a rather special manifestation of the then Jewish disgrace, the total trampling of any trace of Jewish national solidarity, by the newly-formed nouveau rich Jewish “elite” collaborating with the Germans.

Bernard Goldstein: corpses of paupers next to places of night revels in the ghetto (rel.).

As described by the former Bund activist and member of the Jewish resistance movement during the war: “On the same streets where horror scenes were observed during the day, among swarms of children suffering from tuberculosis and dying like flies, along the bodies waiting for carts of street sweepers, there were stores full of the finest products, restaurants and cafes where the most expensive dishes and drinks were served. (….) The clientele of these premises consisted mainly of Jewish Gestapo agents, Jewish police officers, wealthy merchants who did business with Germans, smugglers, foreign currency dealers and similar people. The worst nest of drunkenness and debauchery was Britannia. The curfew was not observed against the customers of that place. They had fun all nights long. Feast, drunkenness and revelry were accompanied by the jazz-band rhythms. At dawn, when the revelers were leaving the restaurants, the streets were full of naked bodies covered with newspapers. Drunks did not pay much attention to them, stumbling over such obstacles in their path. There were emaciated human shadows around the restaurants and cafes, swollen from hunger, crawling behind the full stomached drunkards, begging for some scrap. They were usually pushed aside angrily not to let them spoil the mirage of luxury and prosperity. The Nazis made films from such feast orgies to show “the world” how well the Jews in the ghetto lived. ” (Background: JR Nowak, see Bernard Goldstein: op cit., P. 91).

Ruth Altbeker Cypress about Jews dying of hunger next to luxury restaurants (rel.)

Similarly grim reports about the extreme contrasts of wealth and misery in the ghetto are repeated in numerous other Jewish accounts. For example, in the memoirs of Ruth Altbeker Cyprys we read, “It may seem strange, but in this terrible, overcrowded ghetto there were restaurants where you could get the most soughtafter delicacies (…) You could see the extremes of contrasts of wealth next to poverty (…). The restaurant in Leszno attracted attention with the view of the roast goose, while the boy at the door of the restaurant was starving to death. People leaving the theater on Leszno Street passed an emaciated child, trembling from the cold and begging for food. (…) When someone died of exhaustion on the street, the passersby covered the body with newspapers, laid a few stones on it, and life went on. Some laughed, others cried. ” (Background: JR Nowak, see: Ruth Altbeker Cyprys: “A Jump for Life. A Survivor’s Journal from Nazi-Occupied Poland”, ed. By Elaine Potter, London 1998, pp. 34-35.)

Rabbi Szymon Hurberband about “Dance among corpses” in the Warsaw ghetto

The most shocking documents about the terrible social contrasts in the Warsaw Ghetto can be found in the reports of Rabbi Szymon Huberband, later murdered by the Germans. Based on his own observations, Rabbi Huberband wrote:

“During the harsh, cold winter of 1941-1942, at every step I watched half naked children lying in the streets of the Jewish quarter. Thousands of Jewish women, elegantly dressed and perfumed, walked past them with indifference (…) rarely did Jews open their wallets for another Jew who was dying of hunger.

I will describe what I myself witnessed. And this is not a fictitious horror story to smear all Jewish women. Right next to a large shop window, filled with pastries, wines, grapes and other delicacies, I noticed a body of a 30-year-old man who had died of hunger. The man’s body was completely naked. Was it not a kind of irony that elegant women had to go past this body, enter the store and then go out with bags full of goodies. If only part of the goods carried by the customers had been given to the starving Jew, this Jew would not have died at the shop’s door (…)

In addition, walking down the street, I saw with my own eyes, a sixteen-year-old boy lying on the ground at the intersection of Karmelicka and Nowolipki streets, in terrible cold at the end of December 1941. Three small boys lay beside him, one smaller than the others. They were almost completely naked. Lots of people passed by them, both men and women, but rarely would anyone give them some alms. A young man, walking side by side with two girls, attracted my attention. All three were elegantly dressed in sophisticated furs and beautiful shoes.

I stood and watched them from a distance. The three young people stood right next to the emaciated Jewish children. I was sure that they were going to open their wallets and bags filled with the products and give something to the children. Young people paused for a moment. One of the girls pulled on the young man. Then they burst out laughing and went on their way.

I do not know why, but all this reminded me of a scene I had watched a few days earlier. A Jew led a cow down Zamenhoff Street, and a group of children ran by. I heard five-year-olds (…) arguing about whether it was a horse or something else. The children ran after the cow, full of curiosity. And I noticed the same type of curiosity among three young people watching the three poor, naked children (…)”

In an illegal national democratic publication, in an article entitled “Dance among corpses ” the author wrote: “The situation in the Jewish ghetto is terrible. On each corner lies a body of a Jew who died of hunger and cold. Nearly 7OOO funerals are held each month. And at the same time, Jewish cabarets and nightclubs organize dance competitions with huge prizes. In these night clubs, thousands of zlotys are wasted every night. This is really dancing among corpses. ” And this is how the myth of “Jewish unity” and “Jewish mercy” is destroyed (…) It is painful and shameful; I am ashamed (…) for the fall of Jewish women. ”

(Tł. JR Nowak; see Rabin Shimon Huberband: “Kiddush Hashem. Jewish Religious and Cultural Life in Poland during the Holocaust”: Chapter Three: “The Moral Decline of the Jewish Women”, Hoboren, New Jersey, New York 1987, pp. 240-241).

This begs the question why such an important book by Rabbi Huberband has not been translated into Polish and has not been published in Poland for so many decades since the end of the war. The answer seems to be too simple. After all, the book by Rabbi Huberband brings a lot of uncomfortable truths, very “politically incorrect”. We read in it about the atrocities of the Jewish police, about the Jews being robbed by other Jews, about the terrible power of the selfishness of rich Jews against the starving thousands of Jewish paupers dying of hunger. And in addition, all of this is described by a famous Jewish rabbi, one of the few real Jewish authorities in the Jewish ghetto. It is surprising that in the enormous, over 1,000-page thick IPN publication of 2006, edited by Andrzej Żbikowski and devoted to the relations between Poles and Jews in the war era, not even a slightest mention was made of Rabbi Huberband’s book and his critical judgments on such a large part of Jewish communities. In the National Library, Huberband’s book was not mentioned at all in the catalog containing hundreds of publications on the fate of Jews during the Second World War. Fortunately, I found the book under the name of the author. I was fortunate anyway, because the magnificent journal of Abraham Lewin, discussed in the second chapter of my book, was “strangely” omitted from the alphabetical catalog of the National Library and I found it only by the collective slogan in the material catalog. And this is an extremely important book.

A small comment on the attitude of J.T. Gross and some other Jewish “historians” – Well, sometimes, it is very convenient to be silent about the ugly truths about the brutal egoism of some people from one’s own nation and to accuse the Poles of fabricated games on the carousel against the background of the burning ghetto! It’s worth remembering the old Romans’ advice: “Medice, cura te ipsum! ”

Emanuel Ringelblum: “The wild revelry crosses all boundries”

Emanuel Ringelblum repeatedly reported in his chronicle specific “feasts during the time of plague” referring to the fun revelry of the rich in the ghetto at a time when thousands of poor Jews were dying of poverty and hunger. Here are some very shocking accounts from his chronicle. On December 31, 1940, Ringelblum wrote: “The wild revelry exceeds all boundaries. They tell me that every day at six or seven o’clock in the morning, you see people returning from dance halls, from balls, with balloons, drunk, singing on the street like in good pre-war times. ” (Cf. Emanuel Ringelblum: “Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto September 1939-January 1943.” Background: A. Rutkowski, Warsaw 1988, pp. 228-229). On February 19, 1941, Ringelblum wrote: “At the Melody Palace, a carnival party took place. with a contest for the most beautiful legs. The ghetto dances. ” (See ibid., P. 233). A little further (on February 1941), we read: “On the other side they say:” playing like in the ghetto. “The ghetto dances. The number of new night-life spots is constantly increasing. On Żelazna -” Palermo “with offices, on Nowolipie 18-” Casanova “(see brotherhood from Leszno 13).” (See ibid., P. 243).

Another record in the Ringelblum chronicle on the same subject (from March 23, 1941): “Jewish policemen frequent the most elegant premises in the company of beautiful women. They set the tone at all events. (Podkr.- JRN). Their elegant, shiny, high officer boots impress women – as you can see”. (See ibid., P.254). At the end of 1941, in the same chronicle, we read: “In the ghetto, not only the number of public premises is growing, but also new card clubs keep opening and prospering in almost every house. A terrible impression they make – the lamentation of children who stand on the streets and ask for alms, or complain that they have no place to spend the night. ” (See ibid., P.347). Ringelblum writes indignantly about the increasing social contrasts in the ghetto, stating in a May 1942 record: “Demoralization in the ghetto is spreading ever wider. At the same time, when the poor are becoming paupers, covered with scraps of rags, girls dressing more and more exquisitely, as if there was no war in the world at all. There were many cases of daughters stealing from their parents; they take things out of the house, sell them on the spot, to have money for tinsel, for hairdos, and quite simply, for luxury. (…) “. (See ibid., P. 387).

Pianist Władysław Szpilman about luxury in the ghetto

The recollections by Wladyslaw Szpilman, a well known pianist and composer of Jewish origin, are a stern accusation of the indifference of the wealthy Jewish elites to the fate of the countrymen dying next to them in the ghetto. He wrote, among others: The bribed guards lost their sight at a certain time, and then just before their eyes and under their silent supervision, whole columns of carts filled with food, expensive drinks, luxury delicacies, tobacco straight from Greece passed through the ghetto gate. French clothing and cosmetics. I could admire the exhibition of this commodity every day in “Nowoczesna” (cafe on Nowolipki street, where Szpilman used to play in the evenings – JRN). Those who came were rich, wearing gold, and shiny diamonds, and there were also bright-eyed “ladies” with their delicious sweets. The tables, in the rhythm of firing champagne corks, offered their services to war speculators. There, I lost two illusions: one – about the prevailing solidarity and the other – about the musicality of the Jews.

In front of “Nowoczesna” beggars were banned. Stout porters were chasing them away with their clubs. In the rickshaws passing by, refined men and women were riding, in the winter dressed in expensive wool, and in the summer wearing expensive hats and French silks. In order to reach the space protected by the doorman’s batons, they had to pave their way through the band of beggars with an expression of indignation on their distorted faces. They never gave alms. “(See W. Szpilman:” Pianist “, Cracow, published in 2001, pp. 62-63). A little earlier, Szpilman outlined a dramatic scene describing the shooting by a German gendarme of a young Jewish boy who tried to smuggle some food into the ghetto. (See ibid., Pp. 61-62)

Isaiah Trunk: “Jewish policemen in the ghetto in Grodno” got rich by living full life “” at a time when hundreds of Jews were starving “

In many ghettos, Jewish policemen were the group that got enriched at the expense of others, taking advantage of their privileged situation. The situation in the ghetto in Grodno was typical in this respect. In the Jewish testimony from Grodno, we read: “As a result of the dealings (with the German guards at the Ghetto), the Jewish police were in a position where they could facilitate smuggling. However, they did it only to acquire wealth for themselves. Jewish policemen getting rich while enjoying their lives. With a few exceptions, they were the main customers of expensive restaurants, lavishly bought food and alcohol while hundreds of Jews were starving. ” (See Isaiah Trunk: “Judenrat …, p.503) …

Cywia Lubetkin: Jews in the ghetto were dying of hunger, while the channels dipped in prosperity “

A grim contrast of rich Jews feasting in the ghetto and hundreds of thousands of hungry ghetto inhabitants emerges in the book of Cywii Lubetkin ‘Zagłada i powstanie’. This publication is one of the more important documents of the era, considering that its author was one of the leading figures of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the spring of 1943. According to Cywia Lubetkin: “(…) The events in the ghetto went as we had expected. When it was created on November 15, 1940, all earning opportunities ended. A terrible hunger prevailed. A thought of a German, who could burst into the ghetto and do with the Jews what he pleased terrified us. To make matters worse, Jew from the country were brought in the ghetto. To those miserable creatures, the ghetto seemed at first a dream shelter, but it soon turned into a hell. They were dragged out of their homes, thrown into the Warsaw ghetto without any possessions. I remember horrible images on the streets. Thousands of Jews swollen from hunger lie on the sidewalks, without a roof over their heads; thousands of others stretch out their hands for alms. There is no one to save them, help them. After the curfew, when all commotions subsided and silence fell on the streets of other side of the walls, and there was a terrifying silence behind the walls, the death choir would report for the night shift. I will never forget these hellish nights. On all sides in the starving city, there was crying and wailing of five and six-year-old children: A sztikełe brojt! A sztikełe brojt! (bread crumbs!).

We heard in the ghetto that a mother, who had lost her mind out of hunger ate the body of her deceased child. When hunger grew stronger, and in its claws were thousands, tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands of victims, nothing could be done to help others. How awful was the feeling of helplessness and more helplessness. We were overcome by despair at the ineffable torments of hungry people. There was not enough strength to endure these horrors. However, we took to the notches and tried to act. With the last of our strength and as far as we could, we helped.

At the same time, the exhibitions of some stores swelled with all good. There were Jews in the ghetto who were fully sated. A new class had been formed. It was the Judenrat and their camarilla – Jewish police, speculators and smugglers (…) This company also includes the handful of Jews who collaborated with the Gestapo. They were a new class grown within the ghetto walls. (Podkr.-JRN). They spent their sumptuous lives with their families, they stuffed themselves and gulped what they desired quarried at the expense of their harassed brothers. From the miserable daily ration of bread and marmalade, which the Germans assigned to the inhabitants of the ghetto, the poor Jews did not have much left for them because they were robbed of their meager rations by their brethren. The Jews in the ghetto were dying of hunger, while the scum busked in prosperity, spending days and nights in cafes and restaurants (Podkr. -JRN) (…) “.

(See Cywia Lubetkin ‘Zagłada i powstanie’, Warsaw, pp. 30,31,32).

Ruta Sakowska on the “new elite” against the background of misery in the ghetto

In the Jewish Historical Book of Ruta Sakowska “People from the closed district”, we read the following characteristics of the new Jewish elite, shaped after 1939 in the Warsaw Ghetto:

“(…) One of the characteristics of the social transition of the occupation period was the breakdown of the pre-war Jewish bourgeoisie and the creation of the so-called new financial elite. The group consisted of owners of concessionary companies and overlay companies, enriched with supplies for the Wehrmacht, large smuggling entrepreneurs, etc. The “New Elite”, partly derived from pre-war bourgeoisie, was formed in the shadow of Nazi plunder, in the environment of risk taking and fraud, practiced in collaboration with Germans applying methods resembling early capitalism exploitation. They consisted mainly of petit bourgeois, blue collared proletariat as well as underclass, well familiar with gambling and endowed with a kind of courage.

The new elite in the ghetto “was estimated at about 10,000 families (Podkr. – J.R.N.). The closest to them in prosperity was the police, who earned substantial profits from smuggling, as well as minor hustlers. It was in this circle that the Poles, Jews and Germans were doing business together. Representatives of the “new elite” and their “Aryan” partners constituted a permanent clientele of night-time restaurants and game houses in a closed district.

The “new elite” and the groups close to it grossly stood out against the disheveled, starving ghetto inhabitants. The ease of earnings and the uncertainty of tomorrow meant that these people, according to one of the ghetto’s memoirs, “enjoyed the substitute of life”, seeking oblivion in a grand play. A typical representative of the “new elite” was an employee of “Trzynastki” – Moryc Kon from the famous Kon and Heller company (horse omnibuses and big interests from the Gestapo). A young, handsome, favorite of women competing for his favors, with a grand gesture, he financed philanthropic events, playing in patronage over the bad rabbis, actors and musicians. In addition to the smooth worlds of the Kona type and educated young people from the Order Service, an additional figure emerged on the surface of the social life of the closed district – an enriched coachman or porter. (…) ”

(See Ruta Sakowska, “People from the closed district, Jews in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation of 1939 – March 1943”, Warsaw 1975, pp. 103-105).

Stanisław Różycki about “oases of luxury” in the ghetto “among the swamps of hunger, diseases, slavery and misery”.

The most depressing comparisons of shocking social contrasts can be found in a memoir, “Cafes”, written by Stanisław Różycki for the “Ringelblum Archive”. Różycki wrote : “L ‘Ours- is the largest, most-nicely decorated and most popular coffee shop. Although the facility is large and spacious , it is filled with activity after 10:00PM, crowded, jammed, overflowing with patrons. (…)You can see grocery store owners, policemen, some doctors, a lot of youth (…) Who speculate, take bribes and bribe others, steal, trade with Germans, betray their countrymen (…) It is a real oasis of luxury, comfort, revelry, and lightheartedness among the swamps of hunger, diseases, slavery and utmost misery (…)

“(…) There is the power of restaurants where gastronomic orgies take place. (Exclamation – JRN). Mayonnaise, fish, sardines, herrings, chickens, turkeys, compotes, wines, fruits – such dinners and suppers are still the biggest attraction today and that is why these restaurants, or rather locals, earn the most. Bakers, butchers, concessionaires of liquor goods, smugglers, policemen, community dignitaries, pre-war rich and nouveaux riche newcomers, informers, Gestapo men, speculators, snitches and middlemen – they spend hundreds of zlotys every day not in cafes, bars or theaters, but most of all in restaurants for dinners or suppers. (…)

How do the masses, the people, the streets react to it (…)? No one has yet damaged any of those places, but every beggar, poor man, pauper, street child grinds his or her teeth when they see those bourgeois who, having eaten their fill and spent a few dozen zlotys, dare say that they have no change they could spare, (…) “(See” The Ringelblum Archive, Day of the Holocaust “, Warsaw 2008, pp. 113, 114, .115).

Let’s compare those recollections written during the Holocaust by Stanisław Różycki about the “oases of luxury” in the ghetto with contemporary false interpretations by the most influential Jewish “historian” of the Jewish Historical Institute, Andrzej Żbikowski. In a luxuriously published, for the second time, book “Jews” (Wroclaw 2005), Żbikowski wrote under the illustration on p. 245: “A cafe in the Warsaw ghetto – there were many of them, but who could afford them” (emphasis – JRN). And yet Różycki, a direct witness of events, wrote – as I mentioned above – about the cafe “L ‘Ours” “although the place is huge, a few rooms (…) it is filled with activity after 10:00PM, crowded, jammed, overflowing (…) It Is the power of the restaurant in which gastronomic orgies take place. ” Żbikowski, supposedly naïve and unaware of the truth, asked: “but who could afford them? ” The answer is very simple. It would be enough for Żbikowski to look into what was written by a truly reliable historian, Ruta Sakowska (rel.). He would learn there that “The new elite” was estimated in the ghetto at about 10,000 families (about 30,000 people). The next group down from them in terms of income size was the Order Service who gained substantial profits from smuggling, and then a circle of lower level money makers (…) Representatives of the “new elite” and their “Aryan” partners constituted a permanent clientele of nightclubs and game houses in a closed district. ”

Social contrasts in the Częstochowa ghetto

Herta Lustiger described the formation of new social stratum in the Częstochowa ghetto, stating, among others:

“(…) The elite of the ghetto society were primarily goods transporters and pets of the Germans who were recruited mostly from various social scum: Jankiel the smuggler, black Lajzer, Helenka, Ed, and famous Sarek. The carters transported goods from the ghetto. They were partners in all the transactions that were carried out, Mamlok and Lajzer were engaged in searching for “bunkers”, in which they often found and appropriated valuable objects. They had money, they had connections. Mamlok took possession of a building in the area and had hosted wild parties there every night. Eda lived with Helenka, and Hauptmann arranged a splendid house for them, in the ghetto.

At the next social level there were the managers of the districts and the Jewish police. Their incomes and revenues, much smaller than the carters’, came from bribes for a better accommodation or an assignment to easier and more profitable jobs.

The original article can be found here:


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