Abraham Lewin (1893, Warsaw – January 1943 Treblinka II?) – an educator and historian; an associate of “Oneg Shabbat”
He received traditional education – he was educated in a cheder and a yeshiva. In 1916, he began working as a teacher of the Hebrew language and Judaic studies at the private Jehudija Female Gymnasium at 55 Długa Street in Warsaw. There, at the beginning of 1920, he met his future wife Luba Hotner, a Hebrew language teacher; and also Emanuel Ringelblum, founder of the Underground Warsaw Ghetto Archive, with whom he became friends. “The students greatly respected Lewin, a wonderful educator who was able to establish exceptional relationships with his students” [1.1]. Nina Danzig-Weltster’s recollections of him attest to this:
He was more than just a teacher. To us, he was a rich personality and a thinker. His appearance added to this impression. Tall and slim, with fair hair and a pale complexion, he spoke in a soft voice and in a reserved manner, although he explained the Prophets enthusiastically, bordering on ecstasy. Levin was gifted with great sensitivity to the beauty of nature. During school trips, he used to talk to the girls about the beauty of the landscape. He spoke not like a teacher, but like a friend speaking to his equals[1.2].
Between 1918–1919 he served in the Polish Army. He belonged to the General Zionists. Together with his wife Luba and their daughter Ora (born in 1928), they planned to emigrate to Palestine. His wife’s health and the birth of their child were obstacles. In addition to his educational work, he worked at the Warsaw branch of the Institute for Jewish Research (YIWO). He was also involved in academic work and published the results of his research in 1934 in a book entitled Kantonistn, in which he addressed the problem of the forced conscription of small Jewish boys into the Russian army during the reign of Nicholas I (1825–1855).
After the outbreak of World War II, he remained with his wife and daughter in Warsaw. In the Warsaw Ghetto, together with his wife, he continued his pedagogical work and taught at Yehudiya secret sets. He worked in the Jewish Self-Help – heading the youth committee. He was one of Ringelblum’s closest and most trusted co-workers within the “Oneg Shabbat” group. He took part in the Saturday meetings of “Oneg Shabbat”. He was a copyist of archived documents. He annotated them with the pseudonym “Nowolipie” derived from the name of the street where he lived in the ghetto.
Between 26 March 1942 and 16 January 1943, Lewin wrote a Diary in the ghetto, in which he described the reality around him, shared information obtained from other locations about the fate of the Jews, and his own experiences, including his fear. The first part was written in Yiddish (the period up to 10 July 1942), and the second part in Hebrew (from 22 July 1942). He continued writing the Diary also after his wife Luba was taken from the shed at 30 Gęsia Street on 8 August 1942 and deported to the Treblinka II extermination camp. He was left alone with his daughter Ora. Ringelblum emphasised that: “Because of the purity and compactness of the style, the accuracy and fidelity of the communication of facts, this diary of profound content should be qualified as a valuable literary document, which must be published as soon as possible after the war.”[1.3].
The diary breaks off on 16 January 1943 – just before the start of the January liquidation action. It was hidden with the first and second parts of the Underground Ghetto Archive materials. It is now in the Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in the Ringelblum Archive, and also in the YIVO Archives in New York in the Hersh Wasser Collection (Hersh Wasser Collection, 1939–1946).
Lewin was probably killed at Treblinka II in January 1943. His daughter shared his fate.
Dr. Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 11: Ludzie i prace „Oneg Szabat”, comp. A. Bańkowska, T. Epsztein, Warsaw 2013.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 23: Dzienniki z getta warszawskiego, comp. K. Person, Z. Trębacz, M. Trębacz, Warsaw 2015 (part I: Abraham Lewin. Dziennik, comp. K. Person), see also: Abraham Lewin, Dziennik, comp. K. Person, Warsaw 2015.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 29: Pisma Emanuela Ringelbluma z getta, comp. J. Nalewajko-Kulikov, Warsaw 2018.
- S.D. Kassow, Kto napisze naszą historię? Ukryte Archiwum Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw 2017.
- Abraham Lewin, A Cup of Tears. A Diary of the Warsaw Ghetto, ed. A. Polonsky, Oxford 1989.
- M. Młodkowska [Janczewska], Gettowe trajektorie. O zapisie osobistego doświadczenia w dziennikach z getta warszawskiego (Abraham Lewin, Rachela Auerbach, Janusz Korczak), “Teksty Drugie” 2001, no. 1, pp. 135–155.
- [1.1] Kassow S. D., Kto napisze naszą historię? Ukryte Archiwum Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw 2017, p. 302.
- [1.2] As quoted in: Kassow S. D., Kto napisze naszą historię? Ukryte Archiwum Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw 2017, p. 302 – note 90.
- [1.3] Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 29: Pisma Emanuela Ringelbluma z getta, comp. J. Nalewajko-Kulikov, Warsaw 2018, p. 513.