Wednesday, February 17, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Pieces of Warsaw, No. 2

Bridge connecting the ghetto and non-ghetto sections of Warsaw

     As discussed last week, I recently undertook a project through my Holocaust course at uOttawa which required some in-depth research concerning the experiences of specific Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. These were documented in the archive maintained by Emmanual Ringelblum, who was also discussed in a previous post. As an update to last week's discussion, I thought I'd share that my research received 100% and personal congratulations from Dr. Jan Grabowski!

     Similar to last week, here is the second document that was provided to us:

And here is Dr. Jan Grabowski's translation from Polish:

Identity of the deceased

Day: December 15th     1941   at 8:15 am    died in Warsaw
where:   Gesia street                Nr. 24
Elbaum Malka
daughter of Szlomo and Szajndla
Born in: Warsaw                                            Date of birth: 1923
place of residence: Krochmalna 7                  profession: staying with parents
civic state: single
Cause of death:                      executed by a firing squad

This is what I was able to uncover:

      Upon examination of the circumstances of Malka Elbaum’s death, it is determined that she was among fifteen Jews shot at the Gęsia Street prison as part of the second execution of arrestees charged with leaving the ghetto.She is included in a list compiled in Kiddush Hashem : Jewish religious and cultural life in Poland during the Holocaust as ‘Melke Elboym,’ daughter of ‘Shloyme’ and ‘Sheyndl,’with the remainder of her data being exactly that listed in her death certificate. According to the book, which was written by a rabbi who carefully documented Jewish life in the ghetto, the fifteen Jews were sorted into two groups around 8:00am on 15 December, 1941, with Malka as part of the first. After being told that they were being transferred to the Mokotow prison, the first group were walked from their cell out to the execution area, where they saw “a line of armed policemen, the German military officers, and the fifteen caskets.” Despite their screams of realization and terror, the eight Jews were tied to posts by members of the Jewish police, shot, and put into coffins which were then nailed shut.While the book describes the time on the first group’s death certificates being recorded as 8:45, Malka Elbaum’s actually states 8:15 as her time of death. This raises a question as to which author was more accurate.
This document and the story it tells demonstrates the tragedy of a family torn apart and wiped from the face of the earth in a matter of two years. Supposing the database information is accurate, I wish I could find out why Malka’s death certificate lists her as living with her parents when her mother is not described as having also lived in Warsaw. The young girl’s tragic end is likely due to the temptations of living on a ghetto-bordering street while being starved inside it.

     Malka Elbaum: Her name, with the same spelling, is listed in the Yad Vashem Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, where she is described as having been born in Warsaw, 1923 to parents Shlomo and Scheindl.The spelling of the parents’ names differs here but the remainder of the data is exactly as appears on the original death certificate. She is listed as having been murdered in the Shoah and aged 18 at her time of death. She also appears in the Warsaw Ghetto Database with the description “A young girl, living with a family. Lived at Krochmalna Street no. 7; shot at 8:15,” and “shot in prison at Gęsia Street”. Documents for her entry came from the State Archive of New Records regarding the Warsaw Ghetto and the Ringelblum Archive Part I.

     Szlomo Elbaum (Malka’s Father): His name can also be found in the Yad Vashem Database, though it is spelled “Szalma” Elbaum. According to the database, he was born in Warsaw in 1903 and appears on a list of Jewish inmates from a transport transferred to the Majdanek camp in 1943, though his ultimate fate is not listed.

     Szajndla Elbaum (Malka’s Mother): Her name appears on a records list by Jewish Kutno under “Szajna Rozenblum” with the maiden name Elbaum, though her maiden and married names are likely reversed. Her father’s given name is Abraham and her mother’s is Frajda, and she is listed as married to Szlomo. She was born in 1899 in Kutno, Poland, lived in Lodz before the war, and during the war lived in Dabie, Poland. According to the list, she died in 1942 in Chelmno, Poland.

     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
     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. 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.

      The story of Malka's last few moments, described in vivid detail in the Kiddush Hashem book, was one of the most troubling accounts I've ever read. The entire time I was searching for information I refused to believe that such a young girl could meet such a terrible end, but if there's one thing this course has taught me so far it's to never expect happy endings. In the grand scheme of the assignment, the Ringelblum archive, the entire Holocaust, she is one short line in one of the most horrific tales ever written.

     Thanks for reading, 

Works Cited
Grabowski, Jan. “Jewish Defendants in German and Polish Courts in the Warsaw District,
            1939-1942”. Yad Vashem Studies 35 (2007): 49-80.
Huberbrand, Shimon and David E. Fishman. Kiddush Hashem : Jewish religious and cultural life
            in Poland during the Holocaust. Translated and edited by Jeffrey S. Gurrock and Robert
            S. Hirt. New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1987.
Jewish Historical Institute. “A Story From an Old Photograph.” Accessed 29 January 2016.
Jewish Kutno. “One-Step Search.” Accessed 3 February 2016.
 Polish Center for Holocaust Research. “Warsaw Ghetto Database.” Accessed 3 February 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 3 February 2016.


Carl said...

This is great work! Thank you for posting.

Delany Leitch said...

Hi, Carl! Thanks so much for reading and for the kind words.