Shrouded: Untold tales of the obscure mind

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The business of smuggling brings the Aryans and the Jews together. Moreover, there are other disturbing phenomena in the ghetto that lie beyond the scope of this study, such as the fate of assimilated Jews and Jewish converts to Christianity. The first group seems to have done little or nothing to provide charity or social aid to those in need. The second group did less than they might have if contemporary writers are accurate in their criticisms.

Given the abundance of wealth in the ghetto and the large-scale smuggling that took place, there was no objective reason for the extent of the starvation that did occu in the ghetto. In spite of enclosure within walls, there were still ways in which economic and recreational desires could be fulfilled. Life in the big ghetto, lying north of the little one as far as Stawki, had a different pattern. Here lived the poor, fighting an unremitting struggle for a bite of bread, an onion, and a place to sleep. Hunger and illness were everywhere. The average death rate in the ghetto was six thousand per month.

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Still another pattern of life existed in the industrial part of the ghetto where the workers, together with their families, were put into barracks. The Germans, utilizing the Jews as cheap labor in the existing industrial installations, ran large-scale workshops making brushes, furs, and other products. Compared with the inhabitants of the big ghetto, the workers in the so-called shops were an elite.

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And most important, they did not have to fear roundups. There were marked differences in the three areas in the way they were built up.

The little ghetto was located in a typically residential quarter, consisting of apartment houses from three to six stories high, with apartments of three to six rooms. These houses were modern and well equipped. The streets on which they were situated were wide and shops were not numerous. These were mostly food stores, bakeries, drugstores, and the like. The food supply for the little and the big ghettos was, to a large extent, smuggled in. Each of the ghettos, however, organized its smuggling differently. The bribed sentries simply went blind at certain hours and then, under their very noses and with their silent connivance, long columns of lorries would enter the gate of the ghetto, laden with food, expensive drinks, exquisite delicacies, tobacco brought direct from Greece, or French cosmetics and fancy goods.

This was the meeting place of the rich; dripping with gold and glittering with diamonds; this was where painted harlots, at tables bedecked with delicacies, seduced the wartime nouveaux riches, to the accompaniment of popping champagne corks. About four hundred persons from the social elite and pseudo-elite had come. Hardly anybody remembered the last mass roundup deportation, and if there was excitement among those present it was due to quite a different reason; the elegant ladies of the plutocracy and the dashing nouveaux riches were exceedingly curious whether Mrs.

Wealthy passengers riding in rickshaws also drove away beggars with their canes. The Warsaw Ghetto … had a formidable upper class composed of bureaucrats, traders, and speculators. These privileged groups were large enough to be conspicuous. They frequented nightclubs, ate in expensive restaurants, and rode in man-drawn rikshas.

Gradually, however, the army emerged as the most important purchaser of ghetto products, crowding out other buyers. The ghettos thus became an integral part of the war economy, and this development was to cause considerable difficulty during the deportations. The Germans came to depend on the output of the Jewish labor force. More common, however, was the effort to seek salvation through labor. In short, the Jewish councils were assisting the Germans with their good qualities as well as their bad, and the very best accomplishments of a Jewish bureacracy were ultimately appropriated by the Germans for the all-consuming destruction process.

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The Jews did not always have to be deceived, they were capable of deceiving themselves. The Jewish repressive mechanism was largely self-administered, and it could operate automatically, without any misleading statements or promises by German functionaries or their non-German auxiliaries. But a social differentiation arose in the ghetto, setting apart substantial groups who had the means even under those infernal conditions to lead a comparatively full, well-fed life and enjoy some kinds of pleasures.

These establishments were run in partnership with members of the Gestapo by outcast Jews, the most important of whom was the dancer Madame Machno. The clientele of these places consisted principally of Jewish Gestapo agents, Jewish police officials, rich merchants who did business with the Germans, smugglers, dealers in foreign exchange, and similar kinds of people.

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The worst nest of drunkenness and vice was the Britannia. They made merry all night. Feasting, drinking, and carousing went on to the rhythm of a jazz band. At dawn, when the revelers left, the streets were already strewn with naked paper-covered corpses. The drunkards paid little attention, tripping unsteadily over the obstacles in their path.

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Jacob Celemenski, a representative of the Bund labour movement living on the Aryan side, recalled conditions in the ghetto:. The closed-off Warsaw ghetto became a world unto itself with a new stratum of rulers, Jewish police with their sergeants and captains, originating mainly from the wealthier classes or from the professional intelligentsia and bureaucrats. The chance to make money turned police departments into dreams for anyone who upheld to the principle of survival at any price, including, stepping over the bodies of dear ones. The Jewish police ran their own jail, further strengthening their new position.

A stratum of smugglers, grown rich at the expense of thousands of sick and impoverished Jews, was another successful new class. Not only did the police rule the ghetto, but also hunger.

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At every step, half-naked skeletons lay on the footpaths, begging for bread. Going down the street with a packet of food was not safe. In most corners lurked hungry children who pounced on the food, then disappeared into holes. Systematic smuggling developed between the ghetto and the Aryan would outside. It was done in various ways. German and Polish police were bribed.


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Poles dropped products off trams, which were still running through the ghetto at that time. Food parcels were hurled over walls at selected sites. Smuggling generated new magnates. The gap between rich and poor was a slap in the face of the poor, a distinct difference was maintained even in death. In the same ghetto, some people led an extravagant life in cabarets.

Electric lights were permitted only until a fixed hour in the ghetto. After that, it was only candlelight and kerosene lamps, so when we approached the nightclub, the street was dark. Suddenly, my companion was warning me not to step on a corpse. I jumped.

Underfoot lay a human form covered with newspapers. Upstairs, exile, downstairs, night-life. When I opened the cabaret door, a blinding light hit me.


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Big carbide lamps burned in every corner of the packed hall. Well-fed people, who sat at tables covered with white tablecloths, were eating chicken, duck, goose, carp and lobsters, which they washed down with wines and liquors. These people were being entertained by an orchestra on a stage in the centre of the hall.