Milejkowski Izrael (17.07.1887, Krewo - 08.01.1943?, Warsaw) - physician, supervising the work of the team investigating the effects of hunger in the Warsaw ghetto
Izrael Milejkowski was born on 17th July 1887 in Krewo (Wilno area), into the family of Morduch and Bella née Ancelewicz[1.1]. He had two siblings - an older brother Abraham (1882-1943) and a younger sister Tania (1890-1942?). The Milejkowski family moved to Warsaw where, like his older brother, Izrael entered the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Warsaw.
He married Blima Suwalska (1892-1927) and their only daughter, Janina, was born in 1913. In 1914, Dr Milejkowski completed his studies and was called up for military service in the Russian army as a military doctor. He was then taken prisoner by the Germans.
On 30th June 1919, he joined the Polish Army as a volunteer, serving as a doctor in the 63rd Rifle Regiment. From November 1920 to May 1921, he worked at Hospital No. 6 in Warsaw and then at the Modlin Military District. He also worked in military hospitals in Warsaw, Żyrardów and Białystok. He was honourably discharged with the rank of Captain.
Discharged from service in 1923, he began working as a doctor of dermal and venereal diseases at the Jewish Hospital in Warsaw. He lived and practised privately, initially at ul. Złota 50, then later on ul. Nalewki. His last address was ul. Orla 5/7, where he lived for the rest of his life.
He was an active member of the Association of Doctors of the Republic of Poland, the Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish People in Poland (TOZ), and the “Brijus-Zdrowie” Jewish Anti-Tuberculosis Society[1.2]. He was also a member of the Jewish community in Warsaw, and belonged to a faction of the Et Liwnot Zionist Organization[1.3].
In April 1936, he attended the first World Congress of Jewish Doctors in Palestine. On the first day of the congress, he published a document that appeared in the 'Ha-Boker' magazine, in which he called Eretz Israel 'the land of all Jews' and, at the same time, referred to himself as a Pole[1.4].
With the outbreak of the Second World War, it became an absolute necessity to set up social committees, involved in helping the inhabitants of the capital which was defending itself. As early as 1st September 1939, the Jewish community of Warsaw established the Social Committee for Matters Relating to the Defence of the State at the Jewish Community in Warsaw[1.5]. Two weeks later, it was replaced by the Jewish Civic Committee of the Capital City of Warsaw, with its headquarters in the Jewish Community Council building. Its members included Abraham Gepner, Mojżesz Koerner, Stanisław Szereszewski, Adam Czerniaków, and Marek Lichtenbaum. The sanitation and medical aid section was headed by Dr. Izrael Milejkowski[1.6].
In November 1939, Governor Hans Frank issued a decree establishing Jewish councils (Judenrats) in the General Government[1.7]. At that time, the Health and Welfare Department of the Jewish Community Council was established, with its headquarters at ul. Leszno 58. The senior management of the Health Department consisted of Dr. Izrael Milejkowski (chairman), Colonel Dr. Mieczysław Kon and Dr. Sara Syrkin-Binsztejn. On 15th December 1939, theJewish Community Council was forced to take over the Jewish Hospital in Czyste. The Department of Hospital Care (also referred to as the Hospital Care Committee), chaired by Dr. Izrael Milejkowski, supervised and financed from then on, in addition to the Bersohns and Baumans Children Hospital, the Jewish Hospital in Czyste and the so-called quarantine hospitals: the quarantine at ul. Leszno 109 and a quarantine baths at ul Żelazna 86/ul. Leszno 80[1.8].
In the autumn of 1940, the Jewish Medical Chamber in Warsaw - the so-called National Group of Jewish Doctors - was established, with its headquarters initially in the building 'Pod Orłem Białym' ('At the sign of White Eagle') at ul. Tłomackie 11, then at ul. Leszno 3. Dr. Izrael Milejkowski was elected its president[1.9].
Aleksander Donat recalled that Dr. Milejkowski, who lived in the same tenement as him, was happy to come to him for tea and talked about the constant efforts to improve the sanitary conditions and food supply of the ghetto. Dr Milejkowski wrote, and handed to the German authorities, a memorandum on combating the epidemic in the ghetto, expecting serious consequences, as he held the Germans responsible for the unrelenting epidemic[1.10].
Dr Milejkowski even participated in a trip to Kraków with Eng. Sztocman, Borensztajn and Dr. Weichert, intervening with the German authorities to tackle the issue of the tragic situation in which the Jewish population found itself in the General Government. Mieczyslaw Tursz wrote of Milejkowski that he was full of dedication and love towards the harassed Jewish population, courageously taking total responsibility himself. Also, Dr. Abram Yitzhok Chain spoke well of Dr. Milejkowski, writing that the Health Department was headed by 'an impeccable man with clean hands' [1.11].
Facing the epidemic of typhoid fever raging in the ghetto and the dire situation in the hospitals, in the summer of 1941, a Central Board of Health was set up under the Municipal Health Department to combat infectious diseases[1.12]. The Council was composed of representatives of the District Health Councils at the Health Centres and representatives of Jewish institutions: Col. Dr. Mieczysław Kon, Dr. Paweł Wortman, Dr. Józef Stein, Dr. Anna Braude-Heller, Dr. Owsiej Bieleńki, Dr. Tadeusz Ganc, and Dr. Izrael Milejkowski, Szymon Wyszewiański and Abram Yitzhok Chain on behalf of the Committee to Aid Jews, and Wacław Brokman and Michał Friedberg - hospital superintendents[1.13].
The position of chairman was assumed by an eminent serologist, Prof. Ludwik Hirszfeld, who – years later – voiced an opinion that the Council had no significant influence over the course of the epidemic. Dr. Zofia Rosenblum, who attended the meetings organised by the medical officer Hagen, wrote that Dr. Milejkowski, who was praised for suppressing the epidemic of typhus, replied with great dignity and incredible courage that there was no merit in this for the doctors, as they had not been given the opportunity to provide decent treatment[1.14].
Dr. Mojżesz Tursz was of a similar opinion, saying:
'The aforementioned council did not bring much health to the beleaguered ghetto. The course of spotted fever in the Warsaw ghetto followed the fundamental biological laws of all epidemics - after a period of great aggravation, there was a slow decline in the number of cases. Some, by getting sick, acquired active immunity, while others, who were vaccinated, had passive immunity or experienced much milder symptoms.'[1.15].
The tragic epidemic situation in the ghetto was exploited by Asst. Prof. Juliusz Zweibaum to create the secret teaching of medicine in the ghetto[1.16]. Dr. Izrael Milejkowski agreed to educate students under the guise of a 'Course of Sanitary Preparation for Fighting Epidemics', aimed at training sanitary instructors, disinfectors and auxiliary sanitary staff[1.17]. He, himself, was one of the lecturers of the secret teaching.
In November 1941, Dr. Milejkowski, in consultation with the president of the Judenrat, Eng. Adam Czerniaków, set up an Organising Commission to prepare research on the effects of hunger on the human body. Aleksander Donat recalled that, although Dr. Milejkowski was a very dedicated doctor, there was little he could do under the conditions dictated by the Germans. '(...) one day, he came in shaken, with a sad expression on his face, looking as if he had suddenly aged. He told me about an incident that happened in one of the refugee centres. One eight-year-old went mad with hunger, shouted that he wanted to steal and rob, wanted to eat, wanted to be a German. He also told us that many children die of starvation in refugee centres.'[1.18].
Research into the effects of starvation began in February 1942 in the wards of the Czyste Hospital. Dr. Milejkowski, supervising the progress of the work, held monthly scientific meetings in his flat. During the meetings, reports on the progress of the research were given and conclusions were read out, followed by a discussion[1.19]. The preliminary results of the research were presented on 6th July 1942 in the presence of the President of the Jewish Council, Adam Czerniaków, President Abraham Gepner and members of the Economic Council of the Supply Company. Work continued until the end of August 1942.
Dr. Milejkowski, together with Dr. Bolesław Raszkes elaborated on the issue of skin changes in famine cachexia. Unfortunately, the results of their research have been lost and not published in a book edited by Emil Apfelbaum and entitled Choroba głodowa. Badania kliniczne nad głodem wykonane w getcie warszawskim w 1942 roku[1.20]. However, an introduction by Dr. Izrael Milejkowski has been preserved and it contains the following passage:
'The present work is not complete. On 22nd July 1942, it was abruptly interrupted. This is a landmark day in the history of the Warsaw Ghetto, the day beginning of the 'resettlement' or rather mass murder. Yes! Resettlement and mass murder – at the moment, these words are, unfortunately for our ghetto, synonyms. It is an act unparalleled in history, the monstrosity of which, in all its enormity and fullness of horror, will appear before the world only in the future.'[1.21].
In January 1943, the Germans deported most of the doctors who remained in the ghetto, including Dr. Izrael Milejkowski[1.22]. The patients removed from the hospital, most of them with no clothing, were kept at the Umschlagplatz. The day was sunny, but very cold. Helena Szereszewska saw them standing there in just their shirts, wrapped in quilts. Among them, typhoid patients taken straight from hospital beds. Their eyes were cloudy and their faces were purple with fever. Among them were Dr. Syrkin-Binstein and Dr. Milejkowski, who in a calm voice told them the latest war announcements. And they stood and absorbed his words[1.23].
Maria Ciesielska, MD, PhD hab.
- Milejkowski, I. 1924. „Jodo Bismuth Chinin” Gessnera w przymiocie,[in:] 'Kwartalnik Kliniczny Szpitala Starozakonnych', No. 2, pp. 93−98
- Milejkowski, I. 1925. O leczeniu przymiotu powikłanego schorzeniem nerek,'Kwartalnik Kliniczny Szpitala Starozakonnych', No. 1, pp. 8−15
- Milejkowski, I. 1926. Eozynofilia w chorobach skóry,[in:] Kwartalnik Kliniczny Szpitala Starozakonnych, No. 2, pp. 81−84
- Sterling, W., Milejkowski, I. 1929. Sadze jako alergen w rumieniu posalwarsanowym, Przyczynek do zagadnienia wstrząsu anafilaktycznego. [in:] 'Kwartalnik Kliniczny Szpitala Starozakonnych', No. 2, pp. 87−93
- Milejkowski, I. 1929. Dr Wacław Sterling (1871−1928). Ordynator oddziału chorób skóry i wenerycznych. Wspomnienie pośmiertne,[in:] 'Kwartalnik Kliniczny Szpitala Starozakonnych', No. 2, pp. 81− 84
- Milejkowski, I. 1929. Mowa w imieniu asystentów nad grobem Wacława Sterlinga,[in:] 'Kwartalnik Kliniczny Szpitala Starozakonnych', No. 2, p. 86.
- Milejkowski, I. 1929. Społeczne sposoby zwalczania gruźlicy skóry,[in:] Księga Pamiątkowa Pierwszego Krajowego Zjazdu Lekarskiego „Tozu”, Warszawa, pp. 155−156.
- [1.1] Milejkowska-Gajewska J., Personnel files of members of the Warsaw-Bialystok Medical Chamber deposited in the collections of the Special Collections Department of the Main Medical Library in Warsaw; Gliński J.B. 1999. Słownik biograficzny lekarzy i farmaceutów ofiar drugiej wojny światowej, vol. 2, Warsaw, pp. 304–305.
- [1.2] Zabłotniak, R. 1990. Zrzeszenie Lekarzy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, [in:] Słownik Polskich Towarzystw Naukowych, vol. 2, part 2, Wrocław, p. 366.
- [1.3] Menuhin, N. 2017. Non omnis moriar. Doktor Izrael Milejkowski – lekarz i przywódca społeczny [in:] Elity i przedstawiciele społeczności żydowskiej podczas II wojny światowej, Kraków – Katowice – Warszawa, pp. 426–427. Naomi Menuhin jest an author of the book published in 2022 in Israel and entitled Derech Lelo Moca – Dr. Israel Milejkowski, 1887–1943.
- [1.4] Menuhin, N. 2017. Non omnis moriar. Doktor Izrael Milejkowski – lekarz i przywódca społeczny, [in:] Elity i przedstawiciele społeczności żydowskiej podczas II wojny światowej, Kraków – Katowice – Warszawa, pp. 431–433. More details concerning the Dr Milejkowski's trip to Palestine can be found in the text by Naomi Menuhin Between 'Here' and 'There': The Dual Identity of Dr. Izrael Milejkowski, [in:] Moskalewicz, M., Baumann, U., Dross, F. (Eds.) 2019. Jewish Medicine and Healthcare in Central Eastern Europe. Shared Identities, Entangled Histories. Springer, Cham, pp. 187–198.
- [1.5] Leociak, J. 2001. Opieka społeczna, [in:] Getto warszawskie. Przewodnik po nieistniejącym mieście, Warszawa, p. 292.
- [1.6] Czerniaków, A. 1983. Adama Czerniakowa dziennik getta warszawskiego, Warsaw, p. 47.
- [1.7] Engelking, B. 2001. Rada Żydowska, [in:] Getto warszawskie. Przewodnik po nieistniejącym mieście, Warszawa, p. 148.
- [1.8] 'Gazeta Żydowska' 1940, No. 24, p. 2.
- [1.9] Separated from the so-called 'Aryan' doctors, Jews were not allowed to practise outside the ghetto walls. See Ciesielska, M. 2021 „Wyodrębnieni” – obojętność czy ciche przyzwolenie środowiska lekarskiego na eliminację Żydów z Izby Lekarskiej Warszawsko-Białostockiej w 1940 r.? [in:] Odpowiedzialność biernych, Oświęcim, pp. 103–120.
- [1.10] Relation by Moses Mieczyslaw Tursz (Thursz), Jak kształtował się sanitariat w ghetcie warszawskim, AYV O.3/438, Yad Vashem [online] [[refr:|Ciesielska, M. 2015. Tyfus - groźny zabójca i cichy sprzymierzeniec, Warsaw, p. 45.
- [1.11] Relation by Yitzhok Chain (Józef Gołębiowski), Yad Vashem Archives, Ref. O.3/2355.
- [1.12] 'Gazeta Żydowska' 1941, No. 60, p. 5.
- [1.13] Kroszczor, H. 1970 Szpital dla Dzieci im. Bersohnów i Baumanów (1939−1942). Szpital w czasie wojny, [in:] 'Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego' 1970, no. 76, pp. 39−40.
- [1.14] Szymańska, Z. 1979. Byłam tylko lekarzem, Warsaw, p. 144.
- [1.15] Relation by Moses Mieczysław Tursz (Thursz), Jak kształtował się sanitariat w ghetcie warszawskim, AYV O.3/438, Yad Vashem [online] https://documents.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&search=global&strSearch=Tursz&GridItemId=3557925 [accessed 22.09.2023]; Memorandum of the Health Committee of National Group of Jewish Doctors in Warsaw concerning the epidemic threat in the Warsaw Ghetto (28.06.1941 Warsaw), Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Ref. Ring. I/214. Mf. JHI – 280.
- [1.16] Zabłotniak, R. 1970. Wydział Lekarski w getcie warszawskim, [in:] 'Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego', Warsaw, No. 74, p. 82. Relation by Juliusz Zweibaum, Information on higher education in the Warsaw Ghetto, Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Ref. 301/4108.
- [1.17] 'Gazeta Żydowska' 1941, No. 37, p. 3.
- [1.18] Menuhin, N. 2017. Non omnis moriar. Doktor Izrael Milejkowski – lekarz i przywódca społeczny, [in:] Elity i przedstawiciele społeczności żydowskiej podczas II wojny światowej, Kraków – Katowice – Warszawa, p. 435
- [1.19] Relation by Izrael Rotbalsam, Yad Vashem Archives Ref. AYV O.3/2357 [online] https://collections.yadvashem.org/en/documents/3555941 [accessed 10.07.2023
- [1.20] Apfelbaum, E. 1946, Choroba głodowa. Badania kliniczne nad głodem wykonane w getcie warszawskim w 1942 roku, Warszawa.
- [1.21] Apfelbaum, E. 1946. Choroba głodowa. Badania kliniczne nad głodem wykonane w getcie warszawskim w 1942 roku, Warsaw, p.7
- [1.22] Kroszczor, H. 1970. Szpital dla Dzieci Dzieci im. Bersohnów i Baumanów (1924−1939), [in:] 'Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego', No. 74, p. 45.
- [1.23] Szereszewska, H. 1993, Krzyż i mezuza, Warsaw, pp. 210−211.