Thursday, March 26, 2009

home movie, summer, 1939, Warsaw

In October 1939 Germany attacked Poland, one of the most significant events of World War II. Warsaw fell without very much of a fight and became an occupied city.

The following summer an amateur cinematographer took his camera on to the street to film daily life, particularly in the Jewish quarter. The shots, in color, show much eagerness to be immortalized in moving images, but also -- particularly among the bearded traditionalists -- reluctance and a certain amount of resistance. There is good humored joshing on screen and some hazing of a harmless peddler. Most of the subjects are males: men, youths, and boys, but in the middle there are a few women and one captivating and very young girl with a big bow in her hair. The tone is relaxed.

Not much more than a year later, the Nazis compelled all Warsaw's Jews to crowd into a ghetto which they then walled off from the rest of the city and kept in strict isolation. That began a period of repression which ended in the deaths of most of the city's Jewish population through disease, starvation, murder, exportation to the death camps, and finally brutal repression of a desperate uprising. It's likely that nine tenths or more of the people in the home movie were dead before the end of 1943.

Here is the first of two versions of the footage:

This second longer version has this caption: 'Amateur color footage filmed on May 3, 1939 in Warsaw. The video at the beginning shows Pilsudski's Place, in the city center. The rest shows shots of an area which was mainly inhabited by Jews - so called Northern District.'

Here is a photo of the wall.

{Caption: Nazis ghettoize Warsaw's Jews: Polish and Jewish laborers contribute to the construction of a 10-foot-high wall that will enclose the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw. After the 1939 Nazi German takeover of Poland, Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich ordered Jews into segregated living areas. In the fall of 1940, Heydrich used the pretext of a typhus outbreak in Jewish neighborhoods to force the city's Jews into a 3.5-square-mile section of town. Non-Jewish Poles were moved out of the area. That November, the ghetto wall's 22 gates were closed, sealing off 360,000 Jews (one-third of Warsaw's entire population) from the rest of the Polish capital. Source:}

A web page called THE WARSAW GHETTO gives more photos of the ghetto during the war.

There are also some ghetto photos on a blog called BloggusSatiricum.

Here are a few from the former with captions mostly from the latter:

{Jews being marched to the ghetto. In 1940, the population of the Ghetto was estimated to be 440,000 people, about 38% of the population of Warsaw. However, the size of the Ghetto was about 4.5% of the size of Warsaw. Nazis then closed the Warsaw Ghetto from the outside world on November 16, 1940, building a wall with armed guards.}

{Views inside and outside the wall}

{During the next year and a half, thousands of the Polish Jews as well as some Romani people from smaller cities and the countryside were brought into the Ghetto, while diseases (especially typhus) and starvation kept the inhabitants at about the same number. Average food rations in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw were limited to 184 kcal, compared to 669 kcal for gentile Poles and 2,614 kcal for Germans.}

{Caption: Children smuggling food. Unemployment was a major problem in the ghetto. Illegal workshops were created to manufacture goods to be sold illegally on the outside and raw goods were smuggled in often by children. Hundreds of four to five year old Jewish children went across en masse to the "Aryan side", sometimes several times a day, smuggling food into the ghettos, returning with goods that often weighed more than they did. Smuggling was often the only source of subsistence for Ghetto inhabitants, who would otherwise have died of starvation. Despite the grave hardships, life in the Warsaw Ghetto was rich with educational and cultural activities, conducted by its underground organizations. Hospitals, public soup kitchens, orphanages, refugee centers and recreation facilities were formed, as well as a school system. Some schools were illegal and operated under the guise of a soup kitchen. There were secret libraries, classes for the children and even a symphony orchestra. The life in the ghetto was chronicled by the Oyneg Shabbos group.}

{Over 100,000 of the Ghetto's residents died due to rampant disease or starvation, as well as random killings, even before the Nazis began massive deportations of the inhabitants from the Ghetto's Umschlagplatz to the Treblinka extermination camp during the Gross-aktion Warschau, part of the countrywide Operation Reinhard. Between Tisha B'Av (July 23) and Yom Kippur (September 21) of 1942, about 254,000 Ghetto residents (or at least 300,000 by different accounts) were sent to Treblinka and murdered there. In 1942 Polish resistance officer Jan Karski reported to the Western governments on the situation in the Ghetto and on the extermination camps. By the end of 1942, it was clear that the deportations were to their deaths, and many of the remaining Jews decided to fight.}

{These and other photos on the WARSAW GHETTO site document the unspeakable lives and deaths of the Warsaw Jews.}

No comments: