Holocaust Teacher Resource Center

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Notes for Slides 11 – 15

Pages 8 – 9


Notes for slide (11)

  1. Have students study the reading passage by Rachel Auerbach in the Student Workbook, in which the author describes the process of impoverishment of the ghetto’s residents.
  2. Have students contrast this picture, together with the excerpt from Rachel Auerbach’s memoirs, with the two previous slides (9, 10) and the reading passage that accompany them. Slide 11 conveys the limited nature of subsistence and livelihood in the ghetto.


Notes for slide (12)

  1. Direct students’ attention to the background of the photograph, where there is a store that sells food and luxury items. This is of considerable interest in itself, and raises many questions concerning Jewish community life in the ghetto.
  2. There was no economic equality in the ghetto. In order to prevent any misconcep- tions, the teacher should study the section Death in the Ghetto (Y. Gutman, pp. 44-48), particularly the discussion of economic disparities in the ghetto, and the description of groups who lived a life of relative luxury
  3. The discussion of economic inequality in the ghetto can be expanded to include inequality as an universal phenomenon. Students should be reminded, however, of the deliberate character of Nazi policies which brought about inhuman conditions in ghetto.
  4. Have students study the two passages below: the first is an excerpt from Emmanuel Ringelblum’s diary, in which the authordwells on the passivity of the hungry Jewish masses in ghetto; and the second is a response by Professor Yisrael Gutman. Discuss these two passages with the class.

One of the questions that arouses much interest is the passivity of the Jewish masses who succumb to death with a hushed sigh. Why do they all remain silent? Why do fathers, mothers, all the children die without any protest? Why hasn’t the prospect that threatened the public a year ago (i.e., rampant theft and plunder, which, incidentally, motivated the building councils to purchase food for their impoverished tenants) come to pass? There are many answers to this question: the occupation regime has cast such a heavy shadow of dread that people are afraid to lift their heads for fear of mass terror in response to any outburst by the starving masses. And that is why some of those who are conscious and alert remain silent and passive and do not create an uproar in the ghetto. There is also another reason: a goodly number of the poor who exercised initiative managed to get by somehow. The smuggling provides a means of subsistence for thousands of porters. The “shops” and the orders from the German authorities provide job opportunities for a substantial portion of the laborers and craftsmen. A section of the active proletarian element engages in street trade (the sale of bread brings in a profit of 25 pennies per kilo). So there remains the passive and hopeless portion that goes to its death in silence. E.Ringelblum, Ktovim, vol.I pp. 288-289.

Ringelblum also cites the fact that the Jewish Police had begun to beat people, which was a further restraining force. But one nonetheless has the impression that the principal reason for the passivity is to be found in another quarter, which Ringelblum does not sufficiently explore. Death from starvation was a gradual process. Those who were doomed to starve to death constituted about half of the ghetto’s total population. But at no time during the existence of the ghetto did the entire public find itself in the same situation. Some had died, another sector was already starving, while a larger portion was destined to die within a month or two but cherished the hope that in the time left to them the coveted salvation would arrive. Moreover, that portion of the population already in the grip of death had sunk below the ability to organize, act, or even bring itself to the point of a spontaneous outburst.

Yisrael Gutman, p. 108-109.

Slide 13
Slide 13
Slide 14
Slide 14

Notes for slides (13) and (14)

  1. Study the section entitled Death in the Ghetto (Y. Gutman, pp. 44-48), where the author describes the phenomenon of begging. (This phenomenon was much more widespread in Warsaw than in other ghettoes.)
  2. On the one hand, begging can be seen as a symptom of demoralization and decay; on the other hand, it may indicate the presence of the will to survive. Discuss the images in the photographs: Do they illustrate survival or demoralization?


Notes for slide (15)

1. This photograph, in which distribution of food to the needy is depicted, touches upon two important issues relating to the establishment of public kitchens in the ghetto:

  • (a) The institution of the public kitchen as an example of Jewish resourcefulness, which expressed itself in voluntary activity outside the official communal framework of the Judenrat.
  • (b) The way in which public kitchens gradually assumed other functions as well, especially those of social centers. Toward the end, they also stimulated cultural and political activity in the ghetto.

2. In her diary Rachel Auerbach notes that, by themselves, public kitchens could not solve the problem of hunger in the ghetto. (See the accompanying passage in the Student Workbook and note that Auerbach took active part in the development of the public kitchen network.)