22 July 1942

22 July 1942 marks one of the most tragic dates in the history of people of Warsaw. Germans had begun deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka. Due to brutal deportations, which had lasted for nearly two months, more than 300,000 Jews from Warsaw and nearby towns had died. Thanks to the Ringelblum Archive, we know about the course of the operation and about thoughts and emotions shared by people from the Jewish district.

 

The initiator of the actual beginning of mass extermination of the Jewish population of the General Gouvernement was SS-Brigadeführer and police major general Odilo Globocnik, chief of SS and police in the Lublin district. It was intended as the first stage of mass resettlements in the district, which were supposed to lead to complete germanization. In mid-October 1941, Globocnik’s project was accepted by SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and possibly Adolf Hitler himself. A few days later, during a conference of the district authorities and governor general Hans Frank, which took place on 17 October 1941 in Lublin, final technical and organizational decisions were made, even though Himmler delegated Globocnik to establish the first mass extermination location in Bełżec already on 13 October. During the Berlin conference at Großer Wannsee 56/58 street, which took place on 20 January 1942, a decision to establish two further death camps in Sobibór and Treblinka was made. It was decreed that 2,300,000 Jewish inhabitants of five districts of General Gouvernement will be murdered (Jews from the Białystok district were included in the plan already in the course of the „operation”).

The first death camp in Bełżec began operating on 17 March 1942. The Jews of Lublin were the first to be killed; in the following days, Jewish people of Lviv fell victim to the gas chambers. In Sobibór, Jews had been murdered from early May, and in Treblinka – from 23 July. It is estimated that in three death camps altogether, almost one and a half million Jews and several thousand Roma, carried in 413 transports, had been killed.

In Treblinka, almost 850,000 people had died, including about 300,000 Jews from Warsaw. The camp had been functioning until 2 August 1943, when a revolt broke out and several hundred prisoners managed to escape. In Sobibór, about 130,000 Jews had been killed, including 85,000 from outside Poland. On 14 October 1943, due to a revolt, a number of people from the last transport managed to escape. Only one person survived Bełżec. In this camp, almost half a million Jews had been murdered.

According to Odilo Globocnik’s report from 5 January 1944, Aktion Reinhardt lasted until 17 October 1943. During the operation, 70% of Jewish inhabitants of General Gouvernement, Białystok District and Polish territories annexed by the Third Reich, had been murdered. The remaining population was killed before Aktion Reinhardt or afterwards. [1]

Thanks to the Oneg Shabbat group established by Emanuel Ringelblum, the life and destruction of Warsaw Ghetto was documented. From their reports, we know the course of the first day of the Great Deportation, as well as reactions, emotions, individual tragedies of people living in the ghetto.  Authors of particular accounts describe the day of 22 July with a few days, or even weeks, delay, being already fully aware what they had witnessed (Emanuel Ringelblum, Gustawa Jarecka, Jechiel Górny, Lejzor Czarnobroda). Certain reports were written directly during the events, and in such cases authors focus on describing selected episodes. Some diaries end in July, such as Eliasz Gutkowski’s Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto (VII 1942 r.), or notes taken by S. Szajnkinder (9 July 1942), which in itself is the most tragic testimony of those events.

PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF 22 JULY 1942, PRESERVED IN THE RINGELBLUM ARCHIVE

Abraham Lewin, Diary

Wednesday, [22 July 1942], one day before Tisha B’Av:

A day of terror and fear. Information about planned deportation spread like wildfire across the city. The Jewish part of Warsaw stood still. Shops are closed, the Jews are afraid, mortally scared. Fear can be sensed on Jewish streets. The general mood is of undescribable sadness. In many places, people were killed. In the face of general horror, nobody counts the victims anymore, nobody mentions the names. The deportation is planned for today. [Refugee] points and the prison are the first in line. The hospital will possibly be evacuated too. They catch poor children and put them on carriages. I’m thinking about my elderly mother… perhaps it would be better to put her to sleep rather than to give her away to the criminals.

Jechiel Górny, Diary

22 VII 1942 (written on 22 July)

In the German outpost on the other side of the Stawki street, the German engineer didn’t come to work. His [deputy], volksdeutsch (or maybe actually a Pole), explained to the workers in Polish: „The old (engineer) won’t come today. It’s a hard day for them (Germans)”. (…) According to regulations from the authorities, part of the Jewish hospital at Stawki street, namely houses numer 6-8, should be cleared out tomorrow before 4 PM”.

22 VIII 1942 (account written on 30 September 1942)

6 in the morning. Columns of Jewish police are marching down the streets. They look as if they were going to perform some sacred work. An hour or two later, first wagons with Jews taken away from points appear on the streets. Their faces are in despair, they express painful fear, a question appears in their eyes: „Where are we going? Whose hands are we being sent to?” Women are sobbing, children are crying for food, fear overwhelms anyone who looks at them. The operation lasts the whole day. People from nearly all the points are taken away and carried in wagons guarded by the Jewish police towards the „Umschlagplatz”. From there, crushed like fish in a can, they’re being sent into an unknown direction to the Eastern Borderlands (according to information from the Judenrat). On the first day, 4000 Jews were deported.

 

Dawid Graber, Several impressions and memories (20 July – 3 August 1942)

Such horrible scenes during the round-up, everyone was crying, mother cried for their children, children for their fathers. It hurt right in the heart so much that it bled profusely. People were running up and down the streets in fear, wide-eyed, looking around, extremely tense. A coarse, ruthless scream [could be heard] above it all.

 

Nachum Grzywacz, Diary (20.07 – 3.08.1942)

The resettlements were very quick, 7 thousand people everyday. People, with 15 kilos of baggage each, were seen on wagons, shouting in despair. „Tell my mom that I am leaving, don’t know where…” (…) About 5 in the evening, the plan was complete. First news arrived – all the sick, elderly and children have been shot on the square. The first transport departed in closed carriages…

 

Lejzor Czarnobroda, Testimony from the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto and diary (22.07. – 2.09.1942)

I know that what I’m writing will be far from a complete image of the horror which humankind hadn’t seen before. It’s impossible to get anywhere near the scale of suffering and pain of the crucified nation, bleeding with the blood of hundreds of thousands of victims. It’s so hard to gather memories! It’s the sixth week of this loathsome torture now. Today, it’s 28 August. It began on 22 July. Why aren’t we crying? Why aren’t we tearing our clothes? At anytime, we can share the fate of our families, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers gassed and tortured to death. We cannot cry, we cannot shed a single tear!

A human being can cry! One cries in front of someone. We have ceased to be human! We are pain, torture, a blood shadow of our murdered relatives and friends. If I could, I would open my veins, dip my pen in my own blood and write these words down, because our history is soaked in blood, the history of pogroms and massacres. But this is the end. Maybe it is unimportant for history, from the perspective of centuries, whether there are Jews in Europe or not. But a civilization of dozens of centuries signed its own sentence, all the ideals, phrases in the name of which humanity fought and died, disappear in the face of our unimaginable suffering. We don’t know justice. We don’t know truth. We don’t know mercy. The cursed enemy pulled all feelings away from our chests. Losing our minds with pain, we were looking at our families being taken away. They were reaching to us, begging and cursing, asking for death together with us, so that our homes could become our graves. We were torn.

22 July [1942]

It was being mentioned every now and again that the enemy signed a cruel sentence on us and that its time is coming. Shootings have lasted for weeks. The concerns are on the rise (…) the enemy prepared the final trial with premeditation. We have been moving closer towards the execution with every day (…) Only recently, the English radio broadcast an international program about the horrible crimes committed by the German criminals on Jews in conquered countries. For us, sentenced prisoners, it was heartening. They know, they remember about us. (…) Our expectations proved to be futile. In the afternoon, announcements signed by the Jewish Council appeared on the walls: due to an order from the authorities, all the Jews who are not employed by German factories or council institutions, will be resettled to the East.

Gustawa Jarecka, The last stage of resettlement is death

As it was announced, the resettlements began on the same day. The first transports included people from the refugee shelters, called points. Refugees from all the previous resettlements in General Gouvernement were staying there. Their numbers kept constantly dropping due to high mortality rate; they were the height of human misery in the Jewish districts. People from there have already experienced the pain of homelessness, typhus, extreme poverty, they were living on the lowest possible level offered by the miserable and helpless social care. The resettlements began with them. Only some people realized the danger and escaped, the rest was carried away. Sick people, elderly and, most dramatically, small children, were pulled away. There was no doubt that they will be exterminated. What kind of „East” was supposed to take care of them; who could have hoped that their fate was any different than to die. A sentence unseen in history, condemning civilians to death for no reason, only for the sake of population regulation, on a whim. One could say that here people were sentenced to death as well, but there was still a chance, slight but important ones, for survival. Now, this miserable march walked on, squeezed chaotically on the wagons, sounding with the groans of the sick, desperate calls from the adults and cry of children. They could carry a banner with the motto from Dante’s inferno: abandon all hope. The most astonishing thing was that not everyone understood the gravity of the situation. They were saying: „Yes, of course, the points…”, and agreeing to their destruction. This meant accepting their own destruction too.

 

Rachela Auerbach

26 VII 1942 (the last and the only one fragment of the „Diary” written after the beginning of the Great Deportation)

The fifth day began. Satan […] maybe even Satan himself is crying. Satan, like God, was invented by man. But what they’re doing now, this [could have been] invented only, according to a German phrase, Unmensch-Unteufel (non-human, non-devil).

26 VII 1942 (Testament)

26 VII 1942 I’m submitting this unfinished work to the archive. The fifth day of the operation. Maybe such horrible things have happened in Jewish history before, but there never was such a disgrace. Jews used as tools. I want to remain alive, I’m ready to kiss the boots of the most primitive boor to live until the moment of REVENGE.

Emanuel Ringelblum, Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto

(„Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto” ends in June 1942 – further notes were taken by Ringelblum after 22 July)

Umschlagplatz. Heroic sisters [hospital nurses] – the only ones who rescued without payment, Szmerling – an executioner with a whip. The zeal of the Jewish police. Children being pulled away from their parents, wives from husbands, rabbi Kanał, Lubliner. Shooting on the square – of those who were trying to escape at night though holes in the wall. Freeing people in disguise of doctors and nurses. Hospital uniforms saved hundreds of the intelligentsia, officials of the KOM (Municipal Care Committee). The council – Remba on the square. A giant factory. (…) The tragedy of those caught two, three, five times. Mother didn’t want to go without her child. Father without the wife etc. Everyone ended up in the carriage. Because of the children, hundreds of families went to the Umschlag.

Adam Czerniaków, Diary of the Warsaw Ghetto

22 VII 42

Morning, at 7:30 at the Council. The borders of the small ghetto surrounded by a special formation aside from the normal. At 10, Sturmbahnfuhrer Hoefle with company arrived. We turned off the phones. Children were removed from the opposite garden. We have been told that with some exceptions, the Jews, regardless of age and gender, will be resettled to the East. Today, 6000 people should be delivered before 4 PM. This (at least) will repeat every day. The 103 Żelazna house was ordered to be emptied for the purpose of German officials who coordinate the deportation. The furniture was kept. Because the Council officials, their wives and children are exempted from the deportation, I asked for adding officials of the JSS, the Craftsmen Society, refuse collectors etc., which was approved. (…) Lejkin told me to announce after dinner that allegedly glass was thrown into the police car. We were threatened that if it happens again, our hostages will be shot. The most tragic issue are children in orphanages etc. I have mentioned this – maybe something can be done. (…) Sturmbahnfuhrer Hoefle asked me to come to his office and announced that my wife is free for now, but if the deportation won’t work, she will be shot as first of the hostages.

One day later, on 23 July, about 4 PM Adam Czerniaków took his own life. He poisoned himself with potassium cyanide in his office in the Council. On the table, there was a short letter to his wife: They demand of me to kill the children of my nation with my own hands. There’s nothing left for me but to die.

 

Sources:
[1] In the first part of the article, a fragment of professor Andrzej Żbikowski, „Geneza i przebieg akcji Reinhardt”, was used http://www.jhi.pl/blog/2017–07–04-geneza-i-przebieg-akcji-reinhardt
Archiwum Ringelbluma. Dzienniki z getta warszawskiego, tom 23, opr. Katarzyna Person, Zofia Trębacz, Michał Trębacz, Wyd. Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Warszaw 2015.
Gustawa Jarecka, Ostatnim etapem przesiedlenia jest śmierć, Wyd. ŻIH, Warszawa 2017.
Adama Czerniakowa dziennik getta warszawskiego (6 IX 1939 — 23 VII 1942), opracowanie i przypisy Marian Fuks, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa 1983.