Poets, would you, could you get your poetry up for them. An agony unknown to you, born years before your first laugh, first tear. Would you, could you touch, feel them, wrap your poetry around them. Not asking much, asking burning craters, marathons, deep sea dives.

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The only way the child pictured above survived the Warsaw ghetto was to be given to an Aryan household outside of the Warsaw ghetto for care. Otherwise her father and/or her were taken for deportation to be gassed. The father might have avoided the gas chamber spared for slave labor but his daughter will go her death.

A situation sometimes arises where parents have the option of going with their child to the gas chamber or to choose to live another day by working in or outside the ghetto leaving their child to be herded off in a freight car with other children, the elderly, ultimately to be gassed to death.

Starving children sitting on the pavement in the Warsaw ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

Starving children: Warsaw ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

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A starving child lying on the sidewalk: Warsaw Ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

A starving child: Warsaw Ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

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dead baby, Warsaw ghetto

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Childcare in the Ghetto

Childcare in the ghetto requires a unique set of skills and is a risky business. All infants and children are doomed to death by the nazi dictate: kill every Jewish child not old enough to be put to labor. Parents had to be aggressive negotiators, have contacts outside the ghetto and have a hidden cache of jewelry, diamonds, bracelets or cash; not an easy task, their captives picked then dry. Parents had to locate an Aryan household outside of the ghetto, first to trust them, then to bribe and convince them to care for and raise their child; a monumental endeavor, dangerous, not always successful. Sometimes the Aryan would take the money, the jewelry, whatever; then refuse to take the child or turn the child and parents over to the police.

Most Jews within the Warsaw ghetto did not have the wherewithal, the goods to negotiate. The majority of parents, children, humans, people, souls, Jews shared their starvation to the cruel end. The death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto, between deportations to extermination camps, Großaktion Warschau, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the subsequent razing of the ghetto, is estimated to be at least 300,000.

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There were a few Polish citizens who risked their life to save the children, no compensation needed. Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who served in the Polish underground saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto, providing them false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children’s home outside the ghetto. The Nazis eventually discovered her activities, tortured her, and sentenced her to death, but she managed to evade execution and survive the war.

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Irena Sandler

Mothers: given the same scenario would you smother your baby?

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Concealed in a common hiding place built on the second floor of a house in the Sokolow Ghetto are a gathering of terrified Jewish families and neighbors; friends, mothers, fathers, sons, sisters, cousins, grandparents. Frozen still silent they listen to the Ukrainian guard and Gestapo storm thru the house in search of Jews. A baby starts to cry. The mother is asked to quiet her child. There is no way the mother can leave the hiding place without her capture and subsequent reveal of their hiding place. If the baby continues to cry the Ukrainians and Gestapo will hear. As it was the baby was silenced in vain — they were all discovered, herded out into the street, shot at and struck with clubs.

The opening title paragraph is taken from the book I Still See Her Haunting Eyes: The Holocaust and a Hidden Child named Aaron by Aaron Elster and Joy Erlichman Miller, PhD.

Aaron was 10 years old when he saw the mother smother her baby. Aaron’s own mother gave him a pair of earrings and a ring, told him to run off on his own, find the house his older sister is staying at, see if the family will take him in. His mother, with a strange man companion, leaves Aaron alone to fend for himself. Ten year old Aaron; he just escaped a bloodbath on the streets, leaving his father and younger sister in the deadly chaos; his mother apparently deserts him, without an embrace, keeping her distance, the only physical contact is from the strange man with his mother, he pushes Aaron away, go Aaron, go.

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Aaron escape the Nazis while enduring 2 years hiding in an un-insulated attic with a tin roof; he froze in the winter, fried in the summer, was given the bare essentials, water and scant food by a family that were reluctant to give him any shelter or care. He spent 2 birthdays, from age 10 to 12, in the attic, never leaving, no visitors except rare brief visits by his sister who lived below him in the house itself with the family. She tells her brother Aaron: “Now the Gorskis have to worry about hiding two of us.”

“Aaron Elster’s story is told with power and integrity. The memory is fresh, the experience searing. His work retains the tone of the child who lived the story, untainted by adult cynicism … a rare work of survival with a truthful immediacy that leaves the reader stunned but not numbed. It is not easy reading, but urgent reading, recommended reading.”
 Michael Berenbaum, Director, Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious implications of the Holocaust.

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Infanticide In the Ghetto

If the mother who made the sacrifice by smothering her child was slain during thesaintchild bloodletting the last glimmer of thought she’d carry with her to eternity was the death of her infant by her own hands, knowing, knowing that it didn’t make a difference to the outcome. If she lived thru the Holocaust she’d carry that awful moment with her day by day. If still alive will her God forgive her? Will she forgive herself? Is her act beyond forgiving? Not required? Forgiving not required. She requires sainthood. If you’re not into sainthood give her your love. If love is too much to ask them empathy, we can spare that much, our empathy for her.

The crying infant ghetto scenario — this grotesque, insufferable, impossible, cruel decision forced upon a parent was played out time and time again given the number of ghettos, number of hiding places Jews have built, the years the Nazis devoted to decimating ghettos and the years evil reign over the mass slaughter of infants and children. Jewish babies aren’t allowed to cry in the Ghetto.