On September 6-12, 1942, the last phase of the Displacement Action of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto took place. Afterwards, there were to be only 32 thousand people remaining in the ghetto.

‘I was living the same way as everyone else with the hope that finally this monstrous ‘action’ must end. . It already lasted a month and a half’ (From the dairy of an unknown author, [w:] Pamiętniki z getta warszawskiego. Fragmenty i regesty (Diaries from the Warsaw Ghetto. Fragments and regestas), edited by M. Grynberg, Warsaw 1988, page 117).

‘On the night from 5th to 6th September another kind of alarm. All apartment blocks, all flats, all people alarmed, they are all to get dressed, take food for two days and go to the quadrilateral closed by Smocza, Gęsia, Zamenhof and Stawki streets. […] Almost everyone goes, but some remain in the flats. Those are the ones who have no choice, who do not see any hope for themselves anyway’ (Stanisław Gombiński (Jan Mawult), Wspomnienia policjanta z warszawskiego getta (Reminiscences of a policeman from the Warsaw Ghetto), academic editing and introduction by M. Janczewska, Warsaw 2010, page 111).

On Sunday, September 6, 1942, at dawn, started the last phase of the Displacement Action from the Warsaw ghetto, called ‘the cauldron’ at Miła Street or else ‘the cauldron’ at Niska Street. Residents of the Jewish quarter were to show up for registration within the newly designated boundaries of the ghetto. All those who stayed in the apartments or hid Germans pulled out by force.

‘Miła is a trap. Thousands of people got crowded there, and now the SS men are dragging them out of there. They take the people camping on the streets and courtyards, pull them out of the apartments, search all possible places to find the Jews’ [Eugenia Szajn Lewin, W getcie warszawskim (In the Warsaw ghetto. July 1942 – April 1943), Poznań 1989, page 29].

Germans have set new employment limits for Warsaw Jews, and therefore the ‘registration’ of working people among the ghetto population was ordered. And it was mainly the employer himself who was to make the selection from his employees. For example, in the hospital at Gesia, Dr. Anna Braude-Heller had to do it. Those who were supposed to stay alive were given cards (or tin numbers), later called ‘life numbers’. The others, who during selection were considered unproductive, were taken to the Umschlagplatz and from there they were taken to the Treblinka II death camp. This group included mostly women, children, older people, patients in the hospital at Stawki Street. Among the group of people who qualified for the displacement were also members of the so-called Jewish police.

‘Barracks and factories were now blocked, they take from the workshops whoever they catch. In one factory a blockade was made in such a way that German counted and took every tenth person, in another factory they took the young ones, and in another the older ones. I myself went through such a blockade that was steered by German fantasy.

On the Gmina square next to Zamenhof Street, about three thousand people were assembled: hospital and Health Chamber workers, municipal officials, the supply department employees, etc. A boorish looking German with a whip hand in his hand segregated who was to stand on the left and who on the right. The right side was the death sentence. No documents were checked’ (From the diary of an unknown author, [in:] Diaries from the Warsaw Ghetto. Fragments and regestas), edited by M. Grynberg, Warsaw 1988, page 116).

During the ‘cauldron’, more than 54 thousand people were taken from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka II. 2648 people were murdered in the ghetto. In addition, 60 people committed suicide, 339 - died. The number of people living in the ghetto was to be 32 thousand. They were given ‘life numbers’. The actual number was bigger by 25-30 thousand of those hiding, the so-called illegal or wild residents of the district without the ‘life numbers’.

The »Cauldron« came to an end on Saturday, September 12. ‘On the ruins, ashes, life is waking up again. The rest - the few remains of the great until recently organism - do not believe yet, wiping their eyes: has the nightmare ended, will they not wake up in a moment accompanied by screams and crying, whistling of the whip [sic] and the sound of shots, won’t they see again the procession rushed to the Umschlag - the image that burned into the memory, brain and blood. No, now there is peace and quiet. Like on the battlefield, after the battle’ (Stanisław Gombiński (Jan Mawult), (Reminiscences of a policeman from the Warsaw Ghetto), academic editing and introduction by M. Janczewska, Warsaw 2010, page 119).

Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat

Bibliography:

  • Engelking B., Leociak J., Getto warszawskie. Przewodnik po nieistniejącym mieście (Warsaw ghetto. Guide to a non-existent city). 2nd edition, Warsaw 2013, pages 745-747.
  • Libionka D., Zagłada Żydów w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie. Zarys problematyki (Extermination of Jews in the General Government. Outline of the issue), Lublin 2017, page 142.
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