Wednesday, February 10, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Pieces of Warsaw, No. 1

The wall separating the Warsaw ghetto from the Aryan side of the city
     As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm currently taking the Holocaust course at uOttawa, which is a topic I've studied informally my whole life. The professor, Dr. Jan Grabowski, is an award-winning figure in the field of Holocaust studies, and co-founded the Polish Center for Holocaust research.

     Almost two weeks ago, Dr. Grabowski presented us with an assignment which I found to be a profound experience in historical research, and I wanted to share it with readers as a sort of follow-up post to the one on Emmanuel Ringelblum. All document translations were done by Jan Grabowski, and I have obtained his permission for use of them as well as discussion of his assignment.

     To begin, we were given three documents which were found in the archive that Emmanuel Ringelblum buried under the Warsaw ghetto, along with the translations into English. We then had to conduct research to identify all places and names found in the document, as well as outline the historical context in order to know as much about the circumstances as possible. The goal was to find as much information as we could so that Dr. Grabowski could determine our levels of research capability. (We weren't allowed to collaborate or share answers so he requested that I post this blog after the due date had passed).

     Here's the first document he gave us:
It says:
                                                                                               Warsaw, 28 April 1942
The Chief of the Prosecutor’s Office                                     To the Special Court
of the Special Court                                                                In Warsaw



Buki, Hinda, Jewess
born 22 February 1919, brush maker, single
resident in Warsaw, Krochmalna street 17 apt. 171
currently in prison, Gesia street 24.              

Is accused of having left the Jewish Living Area.

Being a  Jewess, she has left, on March 20, 1942, without authorization, the area assigned to the Jews in Warsaw.

This is a violation of § 4 b of the Decree of 13 September 1940 and October 15, 1941 concerning the Limitations of Residence for Jews in the General Government.


The declaration of the accused

The accused is a Jewess, she has admitted to having left the Jewish Quarter in Warsaw without authorization, in order to go begging.


I request: 1. To prepare proceedings in front of the Special Court in Warsaw
                2. To extend the period of arrest for the accused who poses a flight risk.

Dr. Peter
     Here is what I determined:
On 10 November 1941, Polish police were ordered to execute women and children on the spot for trying to leave the ghetto, and in late February of 1942 the German police began shooting people attempting to cross to the Aryan side without warning. These changes are indicative of the diminishing role of the Special Court in dealing with Jewish defendants. They also were put in place two months before Hinda Buki was arrested on 28 April 1942. On 29 May 1942, a conference of the Warsaw Special Court determined that all prisoners incarcerated in the Gęsia Street prison were to be under the Commissioner’s authority for evacuation to Treblinka, and it was requested that the headquarters in Kraków no longer be informed of Jewish death sentences. The Jewish inmates of the Gęsia prison were among the first to be evacuated during the beginning of the Aktion (liquidation of the ghetto) on 22 July 1942.
            Based on the information given in her indictment as well as research conducted on her living conditions, it can be surmised that Hinda Buki lived in a part of the Warsaw ghetto which was close to the homes and activities of non-Jews, from whom desperation and starvation had forced her to illegally beg. Upon being caught, she was immediately imprisoned according to the first Special Court conference of 7 November 1941 which called for interment of Jewish arrestees so as to eliminate their potential to escape and avoid trial. Indeed, her form requests an extension of the period of arrest “for the accused who poses a flight risk”. The nature of the form itself is of note because of its structure as a sort of checklist, where an administrator has clearly just filled in the information specific to Hinda Buki as part of a numerous series of such papers.
            To conclude, this document and case is unusual because it was produced two months after German police had begun shooting without warning Jews attempting to cross to the Aryan side, and six months after Polish police were ordered to execute escaping women and children on the spot. Thus, regardless of by whom she was apprehended, it is remarkable that Hinda Buki was even sent to the prison in the first place. I believe that this document is indicative of the amount of time it took to implement drastic and widespread policy changes by the Special Court, as well as the discourse between those administrative groups who wanted to continue legally persecuting the Jews and those who wanted them dead faster and with greater efficiency.

            Had she survived the conditions in the prison long enough to be sent to Treblinka, she would have almost certainly met her death there. The question remaining is not whether or not she was killed, but the manner in which her death occurred.

 Dr. Peter: He is mentioned as having been one of several German High Court representatives at a meeting with its Commissioner and deputy on 6 February 1942 which decided to not file any new charges against Jews for offenses lesser than those which carried the death penalty. Generally, officials of the Warsaw District’s political apparatus kept low profiles and escaped punishment after the war, which, combined with the lack of a given name, makes him difficult to locate. In the case of Dr. Peter, it may be of note that he fails to appear on a list of Nazi jurists who remained active in Germany, which was compiled in 1968.

Hinda Buki: Her name has not been entered into the Yad Vashem database of victims of the Holocaust under any spelling or name order variants. However, there are a number of results for the surname ‘Buki,’ with a large portion of those names having originated in Lodz, Poland (possible relatives).The most definitive information regarding Hinda Buki comes from the Warsaw Ghetto Database, which labels the information as being from the Ringelblum archive. It mentions her arrest and imprisonment with the exact dates from the indictment document, and describes her as starving in the Gęsia prison, swollen with hunger and asking for help (translation from the original Polish).

Krochmalna Street: A lengthy, poor street before the establishment of the ghetto, it became one of the most squalid in Warsaw during the occupation, with the corpses of starved Jews littering the road. Roughly two residences away from Hinda Buki’s home (17 Krochmalna Street) was a refugee centre at no. 21, where all four hundred residents died of typhus or starvation. Given its major occurrence of typhus, it was used by the Germans at the beginning of 1940 as a test area for the planned formation of the ghetto due to a health authority report that the street was the main source of epidemic in Warsaw (noted in Ringelblum’s diary). However, the street was not entirely Jewish and not entirely incorporated into the ghetto, as evidenced by the story of a young Jewish girl being smuggled out of the ghetto to live with a Christian foster family at 33 Krochmalna until the 1943 uprising.

Gęsia Street Prison: In part supervised by the Jewish Ordnungsdienst, conditions there were worse than those present in other Warsaw jails.The prison had opened during the summer of 1941 to remove a portion of the Jewish inmates being held in “gentile” prisons, initially anticipating 500-600 but eventually serving a population of 1,500-1,800.

The entrance to the prison
“Regulation Concerning the Limitations of Residence for Jews in the General Government": Issued by Hans Frank on 15 October 1941, the decree introduced the death penalty for all Jews intercepted outside the ghettos without an armband and proper authorization, in addition to establishing the helping and sheltering of Jews as a capital offense. It also strongly emphasized a previously-ignored request to stop releasing Jews pending trial and deal with them more quickly, which created an unprecedented level of legal and practical challenges.

Special Courts (Special Court in Warsaw) : Designed to incite fear and terror, these were established in the German conquered territory as part of a two-tier system with the goal of creating a legal frame for repression.The Special Courts heard cases involving crimes against wartime regulations, and one was opened in Warsaw in early April 1940.
     If you're still reading and made it all the way to the bottom of the page, you're one of very few people who know that Hinda Buki ever existed. Her story is just one of millions of terrible experiences, many of which we will never know, but I am grateful to have had the ability to understand what happened to her and share it with you.
     Thanks for reading,
Delany Leitch (@DLeitchHistory)

Works Cited “List of Nazi Jurists Active in Germany in 1968.” Accessed 2 February 2016.
Grabowski, Jan. “Jewish Defendants in German and Polish Courts in the Warsaw District,
            1939-1942”. Yad Vashem Studies 35 (2007): 49-80.
Grabowski, Jan (2016). German Special Courts [Powerpoint Slides].
Jewish Historical Institute. “A Story From an Old Photograph.” Accessed 29 January 2016.
Polish Center for Holocaust Research. “Warsaw Ghetto Database.” Accessed 29 January 2016.
 Valley, Eli. The Great Jewish Cities of Central and Eastern Europe: A Travel Guide & Resource
            Book to Prague, Warsaw, Crakow & Budapest. Maryland: Jason Aronson Inc., 1999.
Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. “The Central
            Database of Shoah Victims’ Names.” Accessed 29 January 2016.

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