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Chaim Kaplan

Jewish teacher, in 1939 lived in Warsaw

Nazi work is filled with stupid pride and silly boasts, until it makes you sick. He skips all failures and flaunts the smallest successes. England on the verge of collapse. There is hunger and scarcity in her cities. Half of it has already disappeared from this world. It was not England that introduced the blockade to Germany, but Germany imposed a blockade on England and would soon lead to starvation.

There is no end to corpses of horses. They lie fallen in the middle of the street and there is no one to remove them and clear the road. They have been rotting for three days and nauseating all the passersby. However, because of the starvation rampant in the city, there are many who eat the horses' meat. They cut off chunks and eat them to quiet their hunger. There isn't a store that hasn't been burned or damaged and whose goods were not ruined or stolen. In this transitional period when there is no government authority, pillaging and robbery are committed in broad daylight everywhere, and have increased in those stores which were not emptied by their owners. Warm winter clothes are most often stolen. Storekeepers have been known to invite passersby in off the street to take what they want, since the merchandise would be ruined anyway.

Blessed be God for bringing me out of this alive!

Last night will go down in history as another St. Bartholomew's Massacre—the terror of the former surpassing the terror of the latter, the victims of the former far outnumbering the victims of the latter. During the St. Bartholomew Massacre, the killing was done by hand-wielded weapons; during Warsaw's Night, the killing was done by heavy artillery trained on a metropolis full of quiet citizens.

Hitler has kept his promise. In order to destroy without mercy and yet remain "legally blameless," should the conscience of the world (if there is such a thing!) bring him to trial, he has wrapped himself in legalities.

We lack all the necessities of life: bread, water, gas, electricity; and it goes without saying that such "luxuries" as meat, butter, and milk are unobtainable at any price. Our days are taken up with one pursuit-to hide from death.

Our holy day is over. Mourning is on every face. As our prophet said, “The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint." There is not one family who has not endured a sacrifice of some sort, human or material. Many of my friends have turned gray. It is hard to recognize them.

On the Day of Atonement the enemy displayed even greater might than usual. He did not give us an hour's respite.

It is interesting that in the midst of all the turmoil and haste, the Polish government did not forget to take the national treasury to Romania, and from there to England. The masses say that the ministers will divide the treasury amongst themselves, and that this is a good thing since in this way the money will remain in Polish hands. In any event, we, the citizens of the country, are left to die and starve and suffer all the other horrors of war with freshly printed, valueless bills. As long as the government was still in existence, prices remained fairly stable, but now there is no fixed price for anything, and very little food is available at any price.

Yesterday Radio Moscow announced a piece of terrifying information. The Soviet army has crossed the Polish-Russian border and penetrated into the western Ukraine and western White Russia with the intention of annexing these lands to Soviet Russia. Now the cat is out of the bag. In the Hitler-Stalin pact, which took the whole world by surprise, there was a secret paragraph that has not been revealed. The other side (England and France) would not present Stalin with as meaningful a historical achievement as the annexation of the Ukraine and White Russia; that could come about only through the destruction of Poland. Now that Poland's military might has been broken, and the government has escaped-now is the right time to act. This is the level of international morality. Just as Poland acted toward Czechoslovakia when she had the upper hand, so the Soviets act toward Poland now that they have the upper hand. When the ox is fallen, sharpen the knife


The Soviets have come from the east, bearing "peace, order, and bread” to their Ukrainian and Belorussian blood brothers. Stalin's government seems to be supported by strong public sympathy in this move. A really historic surprise! Hitler is helping Stalin spread his Communist regime to White Russia and the western Ukraine, and Stalin is helping Hitler to strengthen his hold on us. These two extremes find a common meeting ground in their hatred of democracy. It is this ideological affinity that brought about the nonaggression pact and the terrible war that has followed it.

Everything and everyone bears the stamp of war. Instead of Jews wearing prayer shawls and carrying prayer books rushing to the synagogue, one sees stretcher bearers carrying the dead and wounded dug out from the ruins of bombed buildings. Yesterday passed uneventfully, and already the populace of the besieged city seems hungry for amusements, promenades, work. That is-outwardly. Inwardly, everyone is busy preparing himself for death. Everyone senses that what we have already experienced is nothing compared to what we will yet experience.

The enemy mercilessly poured his wrath on the Jewish quarter with incendiary bombs. We too experienced such a bomb at 22 Nowolipki Street, opposite where we are. The effect is like an earthquake. But worst of all is the chaos which follows among the victims. No one knows where he is running. Each one runs to a place that has already been abandoned by another as unsafe. Carrying babies and bundles, distracted and terrified people desperately look for a haven. Tens of thousands of broken refugees find themselves lost in a strange city. These people fill every courtyard and every stairway, and during the turmoil of the fires there are none more miserable. Afterward you hear details that curdle the blood. Hundreds of families are left with nothing their wealth has been burned, their apartments destroyed, their possessions lost.

How has Warsaw, the royal, beautiful, and beloved city become desolate!

It is beyond my pen to describe the destruction and ruin that the enemy's planes have wrought on our lovely capital. Entire blocks have been turned into ashes and magnificent palaces into rubble. Every incendiary bomb dropped in the stillness of the night brings havoc and death to hundreds of people. Dante's description of the Inferno is mild compared to the inferno raging in the streets of Warsaw. Today the Jewish Polish-language newspaper, Nasz Przeglad, published a description of last night's raid and I couldn't read it through. A kilo of potatoes costs one zloty. It is impossible to get coal; the gas has been shut off; meat can no longer be found and it is now three days since we last had any. The lovely Anka Welcer, her sick mother, and her artist sister have not had any bread for three days. Yesterday she came to me and I gave her a half-kilo of bread, one pickled herring, and a quarter-kilo of sugar. It was heartbreaking to see her distress.

The streets are sown with trenches and barricades. Machine guns have been placed on the roofs of houses, and there is a barricade in the doorway of my apartment house, just under my balcony. If fighting breaks out in the street no stone will remain upon another in the wall within which I live. We have therefore fled to my wife's sister's at 27 Nowolipki Street, which is nearby. Her apartment is supposed to be safer, since it faces a courtyard.

The defense of Warsaw has been turned over to the Polish General Czuma and he is entrenching himself in the city. And where will we be? In the cellars! When I think of this war I shudder. Our sacrifices will reach into the tens of thousands. Warsaw will be turned into a second Madrid.

The enemy is at the gates, and he sends his angels of death to proclaim his coming. One must admit that the bombs are not being dropped deliberately to harm the peaceful inhabitants. Hitler kept his word. And gas bombs are not being used, so all the preparations for them were superfluous. But our torments from the bombs he is aiming at military objectives within the city are affecting residential neighborhoods. In my beautiful apartment on the first floor there are a few panicky, frightened neighbors gathered from among the residents of the block whose apartments are on a higher floor, and who are hence in greater danger. And then - suddenly - the clap of thunder! We ran downstairs to the cellar, even though we might be buried alive there if the walls collapse. This was a shattering scene.

There is no bread! Long lines of several hundred people formed in order to get a loaf of bread. The cries arose to the heart of the heavens. The beast in man came to the surface, for hungry mobs are capable of all manner of violence. One man struck his neighbor on his side and on his shoulder and there was no policeman to keep order. Whoever managed, after much effort and labor, to grab a loaf of bread, which is nothing but a bit of dough, was fortunate and his joy knew no bounds. This scene awakened revulsion in me, and pity for the unfortunates.