'When the dawn comes I will no longer be alive'
Rare diaries, written by anonymous Jewish fighters, offer somber insight into their heroic struggle during the darkest hours of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising • "We must survive, we hope to survive. We are fighting for justice and for the right to live."
The diary, written by an anonymous Jewish fighter who perished fighting the Nazis during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
"April 19, 1943. In another week I'll be 37 years old. Oh well, what does it matter? A new group of people was taken to the Umschlagplatz [the loading point from where Jews were taken to concentration camps]. Among them were acquaintances, friends, those who managed to survive the ghetto, who haven't been killed yet. They tell me: 'Your mother was shot.'"
This stirring account was found in a rare diary, authored by an anonymous, young Jewish fighter during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The historical artifact was unveiled at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot [a kibbutz founded by Holocaust survivors from Poland and Lithuania and housing the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum] on Thursday at a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the "January rebellion."
After finding out that his mother was shot, the anonymous fighter wrote: "I am not shaken. I am realizing that she suffered in vain for nine months, from July until April. She survived the death of her daughter, the death of her husband, having to hide in stinking, suffocating hovels. For naught she suffered the torture of perpetual fear. I suddenly understand that I wasn't gentle enough toward her, that the ghetto robbed me of my softness and sensitivity; that I absorbed the cruelty that is all around, like an X-ray."
The fighter went on to write: "A salvo of gun fire. The bullets are hitting the stones in the streets. The fighters in the ghetto are fighting a battle of few versus many. An automatic rifle is making noise on the roof. The fighter will exact a heavy price in exchange for his life. Next to him are tiny flags — a red and white flag — Polish, and a blue and white flag — the Zionist flag. By this time tomorrow I will already be past it all. I calculate things with equanimity. It's two in the afternoon right now. I look at the clear April sky. Tonight they will take us to Treblinka. When the dawn comes I will no longer be alive. The math is simple — this is the last time I will see the blue sky between the clouds. In one of the rooms a woman's body is placed; she was shot yesterday evening by a Ukrainian. He shot her when she stood near the window, because going near the windows is forbidden. A small toddler, around four years old, is crawling near her. He touches his mother's still body, pulls at her hair. The still body, its rigidness, amuses him. He sticks a finger in the slightly open mouth, touches the glazed eyes that no longer see. And then suddenly he starts crying; it's a wretched sound."
President Shimon Peres took part in the ceremony, during which he was presented with a copy of the historical document. The diary, which is only now seeing the light of day, is 28 pages long and written in Polish. During the ceremony it was revealed that the writer, born in April 1906, was a Jewish lawyer who spoke Russian and Polish and who lost his entire family in the Holocaust.
Passages from a different diary, written by an anonymous female fighter, were also read aloud during the ceremony: "This is our 10th day in the bunker. Ten days of fighting our bloodthirsty enemy, who intends to annihilate us completely. The enemy began the fight with grenades and tanks, and is finishing it by burning homes. We must survive, we hope to survive. We are fighting for justice and for the right to live."
Peres told the surviving fighters of the uprising in attendance: "It is difficult to comprehend the degree of your heroism."