The Eyewitness Account of Abraham Lewin and the Warsaw Ghetto – July 1942

Warsaw Umschlagplatz, c. 1942

This July 2019 CARR Blog covers the period in the Warsaw Ghetto taken from the diary of Abraham Lewin from July 22, 1942. This is a moving account of a tragic period in the history of the Holocaust. Moreover, and at the end of the daily accounts (chronicled below), a short biography of members of the Lewin family has also been included in order to convey the life experiences of these Holocaust victims:

Wednesday 22nd July 1942

“A day of turmoil, chaos and fear: the news about the expulsion of Jews is spreading like lightning through the town, Jewish Warsaw has suddenly died, the shops are closed. Jews run by, in confusion, terrified. The Jewish streets are an appalling sight – the gloom is indescribable. There are dead bodies at several places. No one is counting them and no names are being given in this terrifying catastrophe. The expulsion is supposed to begin today from the hostels for the homeless and from the prisons. There is also talk of an evacuation of the hospital. Beggar children are being rounded up into waggons. I am thinking about my aged mother – it would be better to put her to sleep than to hand her over to those murderers. Ora brings exaggerated stories from Sweden that the war is coming to an end.”

Thursday 23 July 1942

“Disaster after disaster, misfortune after misfortune. The small ghetto has been turned out on to the streets. My nephew Uri arrived at half past seven. The people were driven out from 42-44 Muranowska Street during the night. Garbatko, 300 women, 55 children: Last Tuesday in the night. Rain has been falling all day. Weeping. The Jews are weeping. They are hoping for a miracle. The expulsion is continuing. Buildings are blockaded. 23 Twarda Street. Terrible scenes. A woman with beautiful hair. A girl 20 years old, pretty. They are weeping and tearing at their hair. What would Tolstoy have said to this? On Zamenhof Street the Germans pulled people out of a tram, and killed them on the spot.”

Friday 24 July 1942

“The turmoil is as it was during the days of the bombardment of Warsaw. Jews are running as if insane, with children and bundles of bedding. Buildings on Karmelicka and Nowolipie Streets are being surrounded. Mothers and children wander around like lost sheep: where is my child? Weeping. Another wet day with heavy skies: rain is falling. The scenes on Nowolipie Street. The huge round-up on the streets. Old men and women, boys and girls are being dragged away.

The police are carrying out the round-up, and officials of the Jewish community wearing white armbands are assisting them. The death of Czerniakow yesterday at half past eight in the Jewish community building. As for the reasons: during the ceremony at Grzybowska Street, he said, ‘I’ll die anyway, Madam’.

The round-up was halted at three o’clock. How Jews saved themselves: fictitious marriages with policemen. Guta’s marriage to her husband’s brother. The savagery of the police during the round-up, the murderous brutality. They drag girls from the rickshaws, empty out flats, and leave the property strewn everywhere. A pogrom and a killing the like of which has never been seen.

Merenlender’s visit. She and her father were taken the first day. In what kind of train-wagons are the prisoner’s kept? According to her they will not even last a night. Many buildings have received an order to present themselves on their own. The manager of 30 Swietorjerska Street, Nadzia gave himself up. People get attacks of hysteria; 11,000 people have been rounded up; 100 policemen held hostage. One of them let himself down on a rope, fell and was badly wounded. The policeman Zakhajm has been shot. Terrifying rumours about the night. Will there be a pogrom?

Schultz is dismissing 100 Jews. His explanation for his action. The great hunger in the ghetto. Someone saves his sister and a four-year-old-child, passing her off as his wife. The child does not give the secret away. He cries out, ‘Daddy!’ I am trying to save my mother with a paper from the Jewish Self-help Organisation.”

Saturday 25 July 1942

“Last night I couldn’t sleep. It passed peacefully. Everything reminds one of September 1939. People rushing the streets. The day is so long. Packages, mainly of pillows and bedclothes. Noisy movement. The never-ending questions: ‘Can one get through there?’

Disaster: Gucia has been thrown out of her flat. Five killed in Dzielna Street in the night. Terrible scenes in the streets. The police are carrying out elegant furniture from the homes of those who have been driven out. Umschlagplatz: a policeman is crying. He is struck. ‘Why are you crying?’ ‘My mother, my wife! Wife yes, mother no!’ A smuggler who threw himself out from the fourth floor, I saw him on his sick-bed.

How did Czerniakow die? 10,000. The Wajcblum family. The looting of property. Last night there were a lot of suicides. Conditions at the Umschlagplatz. People are dying where they are being held. You can’t go in or out. By yesterday 25,000 had been taken away, with today 30,000. With each day the calamity worsens. Many give themselves up voluntarily. It is supposed that hunger forces them into it.

The new proclamation: non-productive elements are being sent to the East. Vast numbers of dead among those being expelled. The German Jews are content to go. For them it is a long journey. The Jewish Self-help Organisation is flooded with Jews begging for mercy, stretching out their hands for help – who is there to help them? Then every Jew would come and ask for papers from the organisation. Since Tuesday there has been no newspaper in the ghetto, apart from the very sketchy Jewish paper ‘Gazetta Zydowska’.”

LEWIN, Abraham.  Born 1893, in Warsaw. A writer, teacher, and historian. He taught before the war in the Jehudyiah girl’s gymnasium. In the ghetto, he was one of the co-founders of the Underground Ghetto Archive. He lived at 2 Mylna Street. He was the author of a diary. He was killed in January 1943, during the first fighting in the Warsaw ghetto.

LEWIN, Luba. Born in 1900, nee Hotner. Wife of Abraham Lewin. After a blockade on 30 Gesia Street, she was deported to the Treblinka death camp on August 12, 1942, where she perished.

LEWIN, Ora. Born during 1927, in Warsaw. Daughter of Abraham and Luba. She died in Warsaw during 1943.

Mr Chris Webb is a Senior Fellow at CARR and Founder of the Holocaust Historical Society. His profile can be found here.

© Chris Webb. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).