Excerpt from By Parachute to Warsaw by Marek Celt (Dorothy Crisp & Co., London 1945). This brief excerpt was reprinted in 2013 in
Parachuting into Poland,1944: Memoir of a Secret Mission with Józef Retinger, by kind permission of Dorothy Crisp's daughter, Rev. Elizabeth Carmichael.
This book is the author's eye-witness account of conditions in Poland on his second parachute courier mission in April-July 1944.
THE TRAGEDY OF THE JEWS
The disappearance of the Jews is one of the strangest things about life in Poland to-day. Poles who left Poland in 1939 can hardly realise what it means. And even those who, like myself, went back during the war and were struck by their absence, could not conceive at first what lay behind it.
The Jews, who once formed such a typical feature of the Polish scene, simply do not exist. It is a fact. You cannot see them. And you will not find them, for they have been "liquidated" by the Germans in a way too terrible for words. By thousands on thousands, in the death trains, the extermination camps, the gas chambers and the gaping common graves, in Treblinka, Oswiecim and Majdanek, they have perished -- until now almost none remain. Words are too weak to describe this kind of barbarism.
There are some survivors, of course. Some were in concentration camps like that at Lodz, where the prisoners worked for the Wehrmacht; but far more were in hiding among the Poles. People in Poland tried to help the Jews in every possible way, and the occasional cases of hostility towards them, occurring mostly among the so-called Volksdeutsche, were punished by the Underground immediately and severely.
Before my departure last spring, I talked with the chief of the Jewish Socialist organisation, the Bund , and also with the chief of the United Zionist Organisation, now called the Jewish National Committee. They both asked me to stress that the Jews who were still in hiding were saved and could survive thanks only to the help and sympathy of Polish people throughout the country.
One of the Jewish leaders said to me:
"The Germans have killed almost all the Polish Jews and very many others from all over the world. They did not do it in one day, one month or even one year. They started in 1942 and they are still going on with it. It is total annihilation. All the time we have implored the world for help. And there has been no response, at least no effective response. Help from outside did not come."
"And help from inside?" I asked.
"The help of the Polish people was limited by circumstances. As far as possible it was given. We are the best proof of it, we," he pointed to his companion, "and all the others who remain."
He paused for a moment, and looked out from the window of the half-destroyed house where we had met. There lay the ruins of the ghetto.
"But what has been done will never be made good. It never can. So many lives! So many lives! ... "
I looked where he was looking. I had seen the ruins of the ghetto before, many times, and still I could never believe my eyes. This time again I was overcome by the horror of it. Ruins lay as far as the eye could reach, and around the ruins stretched the ghetto wall, still guarded by Germans.
Even now no one was allowed to pass it. The Germans had various reasons for this. From within you could often hear the thunder of mined houses crashing to the ground, and also the crack of rifle salvoes. You could see palls of smoke rising from the ruins; and when the wind blew the smoke towards you, you could smell the unmistakable odour of burning bodies. My meetings with the Chief Delegate and with the Jewish leaders were often interrupted by these sounds and these smells. I cannot easily forget the expression in the eyes of people about me at such moments. And they were accustomed to it. The Chief Delegate would stop talking. He would look at me, and his glance seemed to say:
"Listen, young man from the outside world! There, behind the wall, people are dying."
Once when the detonation of a long salvo had been followed by some twenty or more single shots, he actually said:
"You hear? They are finishing off the wounded."
My first stay in Warsaw, in 1942, was before the destruction of the Ghetto, and twice I penetrated into its forbidden streets. On one of these occasions I saw the following incident -- my own small eye-witness's testimony to the tragedy which preceded the Ghetto's final destruction.
A German patrol was walking along the street. It stopped in front of a house. Some went in, and the rest remained outside. I was standing not far away in the company of a Polish policeman then on duty in the ghetto. He had a secret mission from the Underground to escort me there. Thus I could watch the Germans safely and undisturbed.
I do not know what happened inside the house. Suddenly a window on the third floor burst open, and a young Jewess, with two small children in her arms, flung herself out, uttering a terrible cry.
If I shut my eyes now, I can see the three bodies in the air. One of the children slipped from its mother's arms as it fell. The German nearest to me lifted his rifle, aiming so quickly and neatly that the sound of the shot merged with the thud of the bodies hitting the street.
Excerpt #1: Arrival by Parachute
Excerpt #3: Return to England
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