Sunday, 23 December 2018

Mary Berg's Diary: The children's home in the Warsaw Ghetto

Mary Berg lived in the Warsaw Ghetto, but her situation was unusual. Though she was born in Poland, her mother was an American. 
Jews with American citizenship could possibly be exchanged for German prisoners of war and were imprisoned, not deported to death camps. 
Mary was imprisoned in the Pawiak prison near to the centre of the ghetto.  

Mary survived. She was nineteen in March 1944, when she stepped off a prisoner-of-war exchange ship from Lisbon in New York. 

During the years she lived in the ghetto, she kept a diary. 
A compelling document.
This is an excerpt from her diary.

"Dr. Janusz Korczak’s children’s home is empty now.
A few days ago we all stood at the window and watched the Germans surround the houses. 
Rows of children, holding each other by their little hands, began to walk out of the doorway. There were tiny tots of two or three years among them, while the oldest ones were perhaps thirteen.
Each child carried a little bundle in his hand. All of them wore white aprons.
They walked in ranks of two, calm, and even smiling. They had not the slightest foreboding of their fate.

At the end of the procession marched Dr. Korczak, who saw to it that the children did not walk on the sidewalk. Now and then, with fatherly solicitude, he stroked a child on the head or arm, and straightened out the ranks.
He wore high boots, with his trousers stuck in them, an alpaca coat, and a navy blue cap, the so-called Maciejowka cap. He walked with a firm step, and was accompanied by one of the doctors of the children’s home, who wore his white smock.
This sad procession vanished at the corner of Dzielimy and Smocza Streets. They went in the direction of Gesia Street, to the cemetery.

At the cemetery all the children were shot.
We were also told by our informants that Dr. Korczak was forced to witness the executions, and that he himself was shot afterward.

Thus died one of the purest and noblest men who ever lived.
He was the pride of the ghetto. His children’s home gave us courage, and all of us gladly gave part of our own scanty means to support the model home organized by this great idealist.
He devoted all his life, all his creative work as an educator and writer, to the poor children of Warsaw.
Even at the last moment he refused to be separated from them.

The house is empty now, except for the guards who are still cleaning up the rooms of the murdered children."

August, 1942

No comments:

Post a Comment