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Introduced and translated from the Polish by Emily Julia Roche

The poet and lyricist Władysław Szlengel, born in Warsaw around 1912, was well known in his time for his popular songs and satirical verse. When Warsaw fell to Nazi forces in 1939, Szlengel fled with his wife to Soviet-occupied eastern Poland—first to Białystok, and then to Lviv. They returned to Warsaw sometime in 1941 or 1942 and were subsequently incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto. While in the ghetto, Szlengel continued to write, composing poems and essays documenting life and death in occupied Warsaw, mourning the destruction of the city’s Jewish community, and grappling with God. In “Two Deaths,” written around 1942, he commented mournfully on the radically different wartime fates of Jewish and non-Jewish Poles: “Your death is a usual death, / Human and not that hard. / Our death is a garbage death, / Jewish and ugly.”

On January 18th, 1943, German forces entered the Warsaw Ghetto to continue mass deportations that had begun the previous summer, when over 250,000 Warsaw Jews—including a significant number of Szlengel’s friends and literary colleagues—had been taken to Treblinka; most were immediately killed in the gas chambers. This time, the Nazis were met with armed resistance. A second so-called Aktion (deportation and mass murder) ensued, and with it began the final phase of life in the Warsaw Ghetto. In “What I Read to the Dead,” Szlengel commemorates the second day of this second Aktion, when many of his companions were deported or murdered—“It was January 19, 1943. / Will these dates be noted on the margins of history?”—and mourns the lives of his murdered “colleagues, neighbors, friends, discussion partners.” In this long prose poem, Szlengel describes witnessing German troops clash in the streets with Jewish insurgents as thousands were shot, or else rounded up and deported. 

Months after the events memorialized in Szlengel’s poem, on the eve of Passover 1943, a widespread armed insurgency broke out in the ghetto—what we now know as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The uprising was brutally suppressed, and the quarter of Warsaw where the ghetto had stood was methodically destroyed by special battalions. Szlengel himself was shot by German troops on May 8th, 1943, after the bunker where he and around 100 other people were hiding was discovered.

During his life, Szlengel collaborated with the Oyneg Shabbas (“Joy of the Sabbath”) archivists, a group of historians, intellectuals, rabbis, and activists who risked their lives to preserve accounts of daily life in the Warsaw Ghetto. In the years after the war, the Oyneg Shabbas archives were located and unearthed from the dense ruins of the ghetto. It was here that the final collections of Władysław Szlengel, including the manuscript for “What I Read to the Dead,” were preserved.


What I Read to the Dead

FOR SEVERAL DAYS, a scene from a patriotic Soviet play has been stuck in my head, although I do not remember the title: The crew of a submarine, not wanting to surrender to the whites1, are sinking to the bottom . . . 16 heroic sailors await help in vain—the last image: without air . . . death circulates in the sunken boat . . . it suffocates the sailors . . . six . . . ten . . . 15 . . . the sixteenth wants to somehow document the massacre of the crew, but he doesn’t want to exaggerate the fatalities . . . at length, what has happened, is that a handful of people have died, from a nation of millions and millions . . . they died for a cause so great that the total of those who sacrificed their lives is comically small . . . how many? Sixteen! With the last of his strength, he climbs up and scrawls with chalk on the steel door of his grave: 200,000,000 – 16 . . .  He subtracts from 200 million just 16 unimportant existences and now . . . that’s all that remains for history. Figures—statistics. 

This scene and its wise, deep sense (taking into account those moments that always have meaning for me) came to me all of a sudden with the first hour of the second stage of the Aktion2 and this image has not left me for a moment. 

With all my nerves I feel choked, in a boat with an increasingly lower supply of air, which is irrecoverably heading toward the bottom. The difference is minimal: I am not held in this boat by an act of heroism, but thrown down without a purpose, blame, or any higher reason.

But I am in this boat and I feel that I’m not the captain, at any rate: I’m the chronicler of the drowned.

I don’t want to leave only numbers for statistics, I want to enrich (an unfitting word!) the future history with contributions, documents, and illustrations. 

On the wall of my boat I’m writing verse-documents, recited to the comrades of my grave, the elaborations of a poet, a poet of anno Domini 1943, searching for inspiration in the grim chronicle of his days.

I should have read these verses to people who believed in survival. Together with others I should still glance through this little tome like the diary of a nightmarish period that we managed to survive, memories from the bottom of hell . . . the companions on my journey have passed away, and the verses became, in the lapse of one hour, verses that I read to the dead. 

It’s high time I organized my papers.

Four days ago, I built a stupid shelter with a whole system of strings, closed by primitive clasps and curtains. Four days on this piece of space without an exit, holding out against the raging storm, haunted by the ghosts of the most beautiful death that a drunk SS man could dream up.

In the course of four days the penultimate wave of my readers has departed. All of them have passed, those who barely a week ago shared my evenings and listened to the strange adventures of Mayer Mlińczyk3 on the island of Schultz’s4 block, the listeners of my literary evenings “At the Broommaker’s” have all departed—my closest colleagues, neighbors, friends, discussion partners, often the unwilling co-creators of what this book will contain.  

Carried away in a packed wagon was poor, frozen Fania R., who threw the word “merde”5 at me for good luck every time I left for a performance and knew stories about Curie-Skłodowska6 and Professor Roux.

The others who lived in my room are gone: cheerful Józio, who slept in women’s pajamas and stockings, not to cause any suggestive effects, but simply because he didn’t have anything else; his energetic wife, who had already escaped once from the Umschlagplatz7 with a gunshot wound in the back and returned to the square a second time after five months of hunger and a stubborn struggle to return to the world of the living. She didn’t make it.  

Beautiful Ida L. is gone, the epitome of health and a zest for life . . . just in the past week—ah, damn it!! My fists are shaking.

I saw the corpse of Asia S., who provoked me to write an optimistic version of my poem “Give Me Peace” . . . now gone . . . and the rest tomorrow, my God, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow: As secret sources inform us, the German orgy will return—how many still will be taken away? It is too early to tally the balance sheet. I am relentlessly haunted by the close and lively ghosts of those who yesterday or at some other time were sitting here, so trusting . . . and yet how terribly, piercingly, humanly they feared that which awaited them.

Above all it haunted me that they knew what awaited them, that they were departing with the nightmarish baggage of true or untrue news about the method of their murder.

We sat here in this room, where now the tapping of typewriter keys pulls forth a memory of their final departure—almost all of those who most often surrounded me—on chairs, a bed, and suitcases—and we talked about rumors, possibilities, chances.

Our moods, denunciations, and estimations of our chances of survival clawed at each other in burning discussions. And Asia raised a terribly dark possibility, suggesting that we open all the gas valves that night.

And now they’re all gone . . . 

That same night, I received an invitation to perform in a private apartment for a group of guests from the other side of the ghetto wall. I already knew whom I would find in this group, but I did not have to deliberate very long as to whether or not I would go, as I always found some pleasure in the reading of ambiguous verses and unambiguous mockeries of the popular Gestapo officers in their own presence. Even from the times of Kohn, Heller, and Gancwajch8, who felt directly offended if there was no joke about them in the Daily Life9, I sensed nothing unusual about it, as snobbism is a dominating characteristic among that crowd. I took my briefcase, got my papers in order, and left.

It was 9:00 in the evening, January 17, 1943.

It was a well-lit night, illuminated with freshly fallen snow, and warm. Behind the wall, at a distance of five meters and one life away, echoed the measured steps of the Gestapo gendarme . . . a few minutes after 9:00 I was at the apartment of Mietek R., in the neighboring residential block of metal workers. 

The guests weren’t there yet. The wife R. was hysterical—my host took me outside to the hallway. He explained to me, in short, that the literary evening was put off . . . his guests received an alarming telephone call from “Arek,” took their wives, and left quickly. At five in the morning we could expect an Aktion.

“Although,” he added reassuringly, “they allegedly called some big shot from the Gestapo headquarters on Szuch Avenue and that very man said that it was ruled out, that there was no agreement, etc., in the cliché of reassuring rumors.”

“I hope everything will be okay,” he said again, already looking the other way, and returned to his wife. 

I went out into the street. The difference of ten minutes: each an excruciating stone on my chest . . . now this wall is the lid of a coffin, I feel constricted, crushed, trapped, closed in . . . 

I won’t return home. My wife doesn’t need to know that the evening was canceled. 

I had to do something with this time. I set off to the Werkschutz guardhouse. The cold blast of bad news had already reached even here . . .

The visit and escape of the so-called “friends” became known to two or three whispering groups along unknown channels. They know that in a few minutes a whisper, like an evil, suffocating nightmare, will settle down on the block, will pull people out of their beds and knock the cards, glasses, cups from their hands. . .  

The mood at the guardhouse was wrong and indistinct. They didn’t believe me: We had to pull Szymek Kac out of his warm room, away from his game of bridge, maybe he would know something, would be able to call somewhere.

We go to Szymek as a small group. The tentacles of electric lamps pass each other in the courtyard. Whispers blow over and with their passing, they grow silent.

People know, they know . . . a strange movement is getting stronger in the palpable darkness of the courtyard. At Szymek’s place they are playing bridge, of course. A few words in a hidden corner. He apologizes to his wife and leaves with us. 

The street is not asleep anymore. The ghetto is not sleeping. Telephones rattle with a dark threat. The Jewish islands are alerting each other. These islands exchange news. The news had already reached everyone. Extra! Extra! Death lies in wait for the guard tower—tomorrow, tomorrow it will pounce with a lurking leap.

Three hundred SS men. One thousand SS men . . . the figures outdo each other. At 11:30 the groups in the yard change into caravans of animals, scared to death, sensing a fire in the forest. 

People are walking around the walls of their cramped enclosure with upturned collars, lashed with dread. Some braver groups are crossing under the wall and diffusing into the Aryan side of the city. Our mountain Muza Dag10 is burning. At 1:00 I went to sleep, above me and beyond the walls the stomping of feet and clamor through the whole night.

A dream full of phantoms, struggles, and ghosts. A shortness of breath hangs below the ceiling and lays itself on my chest. At 5:00 in the morning Fania sticks her head into the room. Get dressed! It’s better to be dressed. Lazily and with a nervous tremor I get up from the warm bed.

There is no certainty yet. The optimists still have their theories and illuminations. At 7:00 in the morning it’s certain. No matter what, like something cosmic, well-known, and unavoidable, the news is repeated from mouth to mouth: an Aktion in the ghetto. 

It was January 19, 1943.
Will these dates be noted on the margins of history?

Will this day ever interest anyone, the day on which once more, and not for the last time, an inhuman German tribe made a mockery of humanity and put to a new test the resistance of human hearts and nerves, when they tried yet again their methods of murder with demonic and refined fantasy?

The day does not bring anything new. Inspired by the professional shapers of our mood, the atmosphere is held up by familiar sources of news that the action won’t touch workers, that the purge called by the selection will include only some homes in the ghetto. Calm slowly settles on hearts thirsty for such deception. 

An egotistical calm, that it’s them . . . and not us . . . 

The first panic falls on the shops and cafés, there’s no bread, old rolls, which were waiting for emergency use, now go in masses, old baked goods, leftovers—everything. Ransacked tables gaping with cold sheets of white, greasy paper. Greasy plates, naked tables in yesterday’s still noisy bars show stripped, gimpy tablecloths, skinny legs.  

In the evening, groups converge in apartments, but everything goes to sleep very early.

Night in these houses is hundreds of voices and clamor. Animals dig up their primitive molehills, naïve hideouts behind dressers, with hatches under wooden chests, feverishly inspecting cellars, the first plans for systematic hideouts in hovels are dawning—plans, which after three to four weeks started to become the passion and the anxious fever of the ghetto. 

Morning, January 19.

A calm morning—with telephone-call inoculations from friendly and neutral Gestapo men.

Whispers climb to the first floor:

“Skosowski said . . .
Paweł thinks . . .
Adam called . . . ”

The managers of the workshops hear and eagerly obey the strict order of the administration: hearings will begin on the job.   

The workshops are filling up faster than usual.

Workers stampede to get their documents. Until now the administration did not succeed in handing out numbers to the workers . . . frightened queues gather on the stairs by the doors of the thunder gods. The former gatekeeper, only half-intelligent but Aryan, Józef F., rummages through the papers and job assignments in a lazy but dignified manner.

The frightened Jews bow to the ground, to half or a quarter of their full heights, and they come out proudly with the correct papers. Hours swim by. From the ghetto, there is further news of the Aktion. There are dead bodies, of course, and Umschlagplatz, wagons, nothing has changed: Limping Szmerling11 has been brought to the square for work. One hundred days of Napoleon. The old general returns for a new victory. The old PEBID12 squad under the baton of the bearded Mephisto.

The action won’t touch the workshops, up until this point they haven’t taken workers from their jobs. 

Official from Dienstelle. The action won’t touch the shops . . . 

THE SS MEN ARE GOING TO THE SHOPS!!!

A sudden alarm, panicked running. Ants gush forth from the courtyard to the roofs, to cellars, to the workshops . . . the block shudders with the movement of 3,000 beings.

Hide yourselves! No!! . . . go to the workshops!! Who doesn’t have a number???

Two hundred people don’t have numbers!! Escape from here, back through the hole to the ghetto!!!

TOO LATE!!! The gendarmes have surrounded the block!

The stairs pound with the stomping of horror. My boat is going to the bottom—the water rises to the cabin . . . 

Thousands of directions, ten thousand unnecessary movements, steps, and graspings, dry, terrified eyes, hands grabbing bags, doorknobs, and hats.

PANIC!!!

BRANDT is on the top floor. He’s going to the Dienstelle.

The time is 11:45.

Everyone who used to sit with me, carrying on theoretical conversations and discussions, is now waiting in our apartment.

Now the theories and plans fall apart and vanish.

We sneak into the room through a small window from the bathroom. The second entrance is blocked by the wardrobe and piles of stuff. Everyone is here . . . my neighbors, roommates, friends . . . and silent Asia, and energetic Sioma, and the others. Ziuta S. has an amazing type of Aryan beauty, or Slavic—devil knows what it’s called—she could model for some folkloristic Polish painting.

Eighteen people in the dark room, humorously and naively disguised.
Half of them don’t have their papers. The apartment quiets down, frozen in waiting.

Over the trampled porcelain, the glasses, the broken furniture, attentively and quietly walks
Terror, whose silent steps bloom into alarming, threatening reverberations.

We sit. Five minutes . . . seven . . .
The clamor is not in our minds this time.
The first dehumanization of a human.

Józek K., whose mother and sister are sitting with us, climbs into the bathroom and shouts across the barrier. Come out!!! Open up! They’re only checking papers. Nothing will happen to those with their papers! 
Indecision in the hideout, the twang of a smashed windowpane and the noise of broken plywood punctuate the meditation.
Hey man, don’t destroy the shelter! There are people without their work papers sitting here!
Don’t destroy the hiding place! But that inhumane beast races around, from the other side it pushes away the wardrobe, it smashes the imaginary decorations of manmade disorder . . . 

The shelter is smashed, unmasked, useless. The numbered cattle scurry downstairs. A few specimens without papers stand helplessly on the rubble, on this trampled meadow.

The water rises to my chest. . .There’s ever decreasing air in my imaginary submarine. . .

And so it began . . .
The last time I saw these people . . .
I hid my wife in the cupboard of the main office on the floor below us, and hid myself among the office clerks and waited for some miracle, that they would skip the Dienstelle.

After that, an hour of the blockade.
Brandt vouched with a word of honor that they would only take the “strays without papers” (this is also based on what the directors promise). 

The workers go downstairs calmly, everyone queues up in the courtyard. 

Dosed out like medicine, dispersed like medals of valor, the goalkeeper Z. now gives out work numbers by the fistful to the hands of those who are arriving, in order to disperse them to those who want them . . . someone passes by . . . to be saved! It’s too late. This time the German word of honor does not fail our sober expectations. 

Selection. Beating with the whip. ALL OF THE WOMEN are led out by the SS men. They go in ranks, heading towards the Umschlagplatz—dragged from our hideout—the mother and sister of that devastating swine (a bitter Nemesis for all too short a time). Asia is going, Fania, huddled and even smaller than usual, is going (cold, cold, freezing cold . . . and there the road, the square . . . cold), the cavalry girl from the Cossack painting, Ziuta, also goes. Ziuta’s husband asks to pull his wife from the ranks, based on his position in the Werkschutz. The SS man allows it. Eli pulls his wife from the ranks. 

A revolt awakens inside Asia. A senseless, suffocating pain. No! Why was that one saved? She herself has a child!!! The bidding of life and death . . . Law, sanity, logic, pain, truth, motherhood—everything on a narrow bridge over a chasm, in one second, one step between the crowd and the whip of the SS man . . . 

She runs after Ziuta. The gendarme shoots. The bullet hits her in the forehead. She falls in place. Ziuta and her husband rejoin the ranks going to the square.

Names—Ziuta . . . Asia . . . Eli . . . Fania . . . Sioma . . . does this mean something to you? Nothing. People. Not needed. There were thousands like them. By the thousands they went to the square, by the thousands they were whipped, torn from their families, loaded into wagons. Gassed. Not important. The statistics won’t include them, no cross will mark their graves. Names. Empty sounds. For me they were living people, close, palpable, they are lives that I know, the tatters of events in which I took part. These tragedies, which surpass my strength of understanding, are more important to me than all the fates of Europe. 

They left.
The balance is settled.
The block swells with a shadowy cry. The bodies are being gathered.

A siege from the telephones. Help! Help! Help! Mobilize the big shots in the Gestapo! Telephone calls to the square—are there wagons there? Is Szmerling there? Mr. Director . . . my . . . my . . . they’re taken! . . . Mr. Commandant! Mr. Skosowski!13 Help us! Any sum of money! 100,000!! However much it will be! I’ll give you half a million for 20 people! For 10 people! For one person! 

The Jews have money! The Jews have connections! The Jews are powerless!
Who is going? Who will go? Something must be done!

New information arrives from the square—Hołodenko has been killed at the entrance to his own shelter, just as he was knocking (the day before he himself gave a new regulation to not let anyone in after the shelter was closed). 

Disjointed running around the block.
Howling. Chaos.
Asia’s body lies in the guardroom.
Eli, a bold, proud young man (those stories about Belgium, Ghent, English women, the fresh breath of Europe), has left . . .
My whole house has left.  
I walk down the empty, long corridor. Somewhere, hot water is hissing. An abandoned briefcase . . .

Scattered bedding. A half-full glass.
There’s nothing. Nothing. Nobody’s here . . .
I run out of the apartment.
The rescue team has already gone out to the square.

Szymek Kac puts on his police hat. He receives money and far-reaching authority.

The night falls quickly on a valley of mourning.

Nervous again, a short dream, in the morning it will be necessary to determine if it will happen again. The tension of waiting for news from the square, of who was able to be saved. So far around 100 people were hidden in the cellar. More than 200 people are hiding in the cellars. There are no wagons. Maybe some of them will be saved.

Action in the city . . .
             Action at Schultz’s place . . .
                          Action at Toebbens’s . . .

 The first scintillating, nervous pieces of news. 

Uprising! Shots are raining down, the Jews have grenades, the Jews have weapons. On Niska Street a house is burning. At Schultz’s, grenades are thrown. 

There are murdered SS men.
A German ambulance circles the neighborhood. 
The Ghetto ceases to be a jungle of slaughtered animals.
It becomes a battlefront.
The legend flourishes. The myth is swelling. They speak of battles. About the retreat of the gendarmes.

The SS men don’t go down into the cellars. On the street corner the body of the first SS man is laid out. His whip is laying in a ditch.

The hospital was brought out from the ghetto. All of the sick people and the entire hospital staff.
Nurses, doctors, administrators. 

In the operating room those who were lying in casts were slowly shot (one after another).

(This agony must await the pens of greater writers. The tenth or fifteenth person laying in a cast, motionless . . . ) 

The entire central prison was brought out. With the Roma. The Roma didn’t want to go into the wagons. They were shot on the spot. 

Livid and wild with passion, Brandt catches up to those who were brought to the square from Schultz’s for the uprising. He smashes their skills with the butt of his revolver, shoots every tenth one, tears the hair from women’s heads, kicks them with the boots of a brutish German soldier.

They go into the wagons.

It’s a new, American in the sense of organization, and satanically and rabidly canine, German method of labor and saving work. 

The cars from Werterfassung14 arrive, carrying away the boots, coats, and sweaters of those about to board the wagons, in order to divest them of that final hope that maybe they were going to some camp . . . that they were going somewhere to work . . .

But they don’t take away the bodies . . .

Stripped of their clothes and shoes they go into the wagons.
(Fania . . . Fania . . . Fania . . . )

More than 150 people… ultimately more than 200 (normally 40 people can fit inside these wagons—during the last action it was 60).

As it turned out, it was a pragmatic act.

The third night.

Tomorrow it must be the end.

A too-short night in my room, in a dead stillness, in disarray, in the grave of existences suddenly extinguished.

People in packs float through the days of panic. Seven or eight people sleep in one room. An uninterrupted conversation about the hours they’ve just lived through.

Uninterrupted festering wounds, so that our pain clenches its fists. 

Szymek is still on the square.

He spends his nights in fruitless efforts of getting people out, of bribing and deceiving the Ukrainians and the gendarmes. 

The first birds of spring are returning.

New novels and sensational adventures from textbook romances.

Eli has returned from the square. Some friends from the police were able to help him.

Ziuta returns from the square disguised as a Polish police officer, in a short coat, in boots, with a revolver.

Szymek pulls a pair (two or three) of delinquents out from the ranks.

He returns just before entering the wagon that pulled away O.

A new series of stories. Now we know everything.

How they’re crowded into the wagons, what they say and think on the Umschlagplatz, how the SS men draw out those who are hiding with the threat of using gas . . . we know how they were killed, how their shoes and coats are collected, how Szmerling takes the salute, we know of the last moments of the lives of those who were close to us.

We know. 

We know how these nightmarish fates come to pass—how they go up and down the stairs, looking for water, how they offer money to the Ukrainians, how those ones still saving up for white bread were deported, carrying sums of money which could have sustained hundreds of people in the ghetto for months. 

How they left without coats, with an apparition of being suffocated in gas, with diamonds hidden in the heels of their shoes, how their dollars, pounds, hard currency, soft currency, rubbed dryly against their bodies. 

The Reich is collecting its treasure.

The Jews are dying.

Everything is dying.

Our history is piling up, the small, cramped, and unimportant history of our days.

The fourth day of the action.

The opposition is growing.

The chronicle gallops onward.

Szternfeld15, the king of the Jewish gestapo, has been killed by the Germans.

A selection of the Police Bureau.

The suicide of Colonel Szeryński.16

The denouement of factories, the community boards, etc.

New formations, new false papers and perspectives.  

A pause in the deportations.

People are calling this the “small” Aktion, in comparison with the “big” one in July.

But the Aktion still goes on.

The Jews can feel it in the air, in their blood, between the verses of rumors, in the news, and the most recent hints of friends from Szuch Avenue. Cement is brought in, and bricks, and the nights resound with the sound of hammers and pickaxes. Water is pumped in through the underground wells that we are digging. Shelters. Mania, momentum, the cardiac neurosis of the Warsaw Ghetto. 

Light, underground cables, drilling the vents, still more bricks, rope, sand . . . so much sand. Sand . . .

Bunks, cots. Provisions for months.

Electricity, water pipes, everything is negated. Twenty centuries are negated by the whip of the SS man. The caveman epoch. Oil lamps. Village wells. A long night. People return underground.

Before the animals.

And an ever-higher sun rises outside the window.

A remarkably warm February. 

I browse through this and I take out the verses that were written for those who are no longer here. I once read these written verses to warm, living people, full of faith in survival, in an ending, in tomorrow, in REVENGE, in joy and in building something together.

Read it.

This is our history.

The history that I read to the dead . . .

————

1 The White Army, who fought against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War (1917–1921).
2 German for “action.” A euphemism referring to mass roundups and deportations of Jews.
3 A fictional character invented by Szlengel.
4 Schultz and Többens, a German textile factory that opened in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941 and operated on forced labor.
5 French for “shit.
6 Marie Curie-Sklodowska, the French-Polish chemist who won a Nobel Prize for her work.
7 The station from which the Jews of Warsaw were deported to the Treblinka death camp.
8 Moryc Kohn, Zenig Heller, and Abram Gancwajch were Jewish Gestapo collaborators.
9 Żywy Dziennik, the newspaper of the Warsaw Ghetto.
10 A reference to Franz Werfel’s 1933 novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, based on the true story of the self-defense of the Armenian community of the mountain of Musa Dagh against Turkish forces during the Armenian genocide.
11 Mieczysław Szmerling: A Jewish collaborator who served as the commandant of the Umschlagplatz and who had a reputation for being particularly cruel.
12 A Polish edition of this text notes that this refers to a Jewish police squad, led by the Jewish collaborator Mieczysław Szmerling, which oversaw deportations. It is unclear what the acronym stands for.
13 Leon Skosowski: A Jewish collaborator who was assassinated by members of the resistance in 1943.
14 An SS auxiliary service that collected belongings from murdered Jews.
15 Dawid Szternfeld: A notorious blackmailer and collaborator.
16 Józef Szeryński: A police colonel and the commander of the Jewish Police in the Warsaw Ghetto.

————

The notes to this translation have been updated to include additional information about a Jewish police squad within the ghetto.

Władysław Szlengel (ca. 1912–1943) was a Polish lyricist, songwriter, and poet.

Emily Julia Roche is an aspiring historian from Buffalo, New York. Her dissertation examines the impact of the Holocaust and war trauma on mid-century Polish architecture.