Germans Create a Ghetto in WarsawJews and Poles Are Forcibly Relocated
Polish-Jewish relations did not take a dramatic turn for the worse after the German invasion. The suffering of the Jews aroused compassion and solidarity among many Poles, who themselves experienced Germanbrutality on a daily basis.
Wehrmacht General Johannes von Blaskowitz, in a report to General Walther von Brauchitsch,Commander-in-Chief of the German Army:
[February 6, 1940]: The acts of violence carried out in public against Jews are arousing in religious Poles [literally, “inthe Polish population, which is fundamentally pious (or God-fearing)”] not only the deepest disgust but also a greatsense of pity for the Jewish population.
Chaim Kaplan, a Jewish educator from Warsaw, made the following entries in his wartime diary:
[November 1, 1939]: The conqueror wanted to open the law courts. The dean of lawyers, Jan Nowodworski, in peaceful days a well-known anti-Semite, was called up and two requests were made of him: to insert an Aryan clause in the judicial code, and second, to take a loyalty oath to the Führer. Nowodworski did not agree to either, on the grounds that they were both against the Polish Constitution.[December 5, 1939]: At last the Poles have begun to understand that the hatred of the Jew which theconqueror spreads among them is an opiate, an intoxicating drink to blind them and turn their attentionaway from the real enemy. We thought that the “Jewish badge” would provide the local population with asource of mockery and ridicule—but we were wrong. There is no attitude of disrespect nor of making muchof another’s dishonor. Just the opposite. They show that they commiserate with us in our humiliation. Theysit silent in the street cars, and in private conversation they even express words of condolence andencouragement. “Better times will come!”[February 1, 1940]: But the oppressed and degraded Polish public, immersed in deepest depression under the influence of the national catastrophe, has not been particularly sensitive to this [pervasive anti-Semitic] propaganda [which is being spread by the Germans]. It senses that the conquerors are its eternal enemy, andthat they are not fighting the Jews for Poland’s sake. Common suffering has drawn all hearts closer, and the barbaric persecutions of the Jews have even aroused feelings of sympathy toward them. Tacitly,wordlessly, the two former rivals sense that they are brothers in misfortune; that they have a commonenemy who wishes to bring destruction upon both at the same time.[May 9, 1940]: Yet not a single Pole will register voluntarily [to work in Germany]. The conquerors areenraged and infuriated. … in order to avoid forcible capture in broad daylight and transportation to theReich, many Poles adorn themselves with the “Ribbon of Disgrace” (
) and masquerade asJews to make sure of not being seized for forced labor.
1 Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Reiss,
‘Those Were the Days’: The Holocaust through the Eyes of the Perpetrators and Bystanders
(London: Hamish Hamilton, 1991), 4; Jeremy Noakes and GeoffreyPridham, eds.,
Nazism 1919–1945: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts,
Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination
(New York: Schocken, 1988), 939.2 Abraham I. Katsh, ed.,
Scroll of Agony: The Warsaw Diary of Chaim A. Kaplan
(New York: Macmillan;London: Collier-Macmillan; London: Collier-Macmillan, 1965), 62, 82, 114, 150. In March 1941, Kaplanagain notes that in order to avoid round-ups and arrests, “many Poles escaped secretly and illegally fromthe Aryan quarter and came to live for a while in the Jewish ghetto. They even wrapped the ‘badge of shame’ on their right arms to disguise their origins.” Ibid., 254. (There is more later on Kaplan’s evolutionfrom the pronounced anti-Polish sentiments expressed in the entries made in the early months of the war.)Historian Philip Friedman notes that, while Christians in some Western European countries wore Stars of David to show solidarity with persecuted Jews, Poles in the Resistance trying to escape the Nazisdiscovered an ally in the Jewish badge, and that a “brisk trade” developed where Poles bought or borrowed2