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Maryla “Sentenced to death while alive” described what was happening in the Warsaw Ghetto. Her diary was found at Majdanek

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It is not known what her name was or where and when she died. The diary of a woman named Maryla was found after the war in the former concentration camp at Majdanek. We learn from it what the last days before the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising looked like, and what the ghetto looked like when fighting broke out in it. – An amazing testimony, hard to forget, “a voice from some abyss”, which determines its value and strength. A record of the thoughts, reflections and experiences of a Jewish woman “sentenced to die while alive”, says the director of the Archives of the State Museum at Majdanek about the book “Maryla’s Diary. Life and Death in the Warsaw Ghetto”.

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An amazing testimony, hard to forget, “a voice from some abyss”, which determines its value and strength. A record of the thoughts, reflections and experiences of a Jewish woman “sentenced to death while alive”, says Anna Wójcik, director of the Archives of the State Museum at Majdanek, about the book “Maryla’s Diary. Life and Death in the Warsaw Ghetto”.

– The diary was found in the building materials depot of the former concentration camp at Majdanek, during cleaning works on the premises of the already existing Museum, in the late 1940s. Unfortunately, the exact date and precise location of the find were not recorded. At that time, the museum was in the organizational phase and did not yet have ready-made procedures. Until 1946, the army was stationed in this area, which gradually transferred the post-camp objects into the possession of the Museum, told PAP Anna Wójcik, head of the Archives of the State Museum at Majdanek.

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The find was entered into the record book of archival materials. – Because at that time the museum inventory did not function. Two notebooks and several loose sheets were found. They’re just plain school notebooks. There were probably more of them, which is clear from the content. One is very damaged. I suppose they were hidden in some pipe, rolled up, and the one outside was more damaged. Partly due to humidity, partly due to rodents. The spine and edges of the cards have been preserved, while in the middle of the cards there are gaps that make it difficult to read the content – she reported.

Photo taken from hiding by Zbigniew Leszek Grzywaczewski, a Polish firefighter serving in the Warsaw Fire Department.  The Germans sent firemen to the burning ghetto to make sure that the fire did not spread to the houses on the

Warsaw Ghetto Jews captured by the Germans during the suppression of the ghetto uprising and led to the Umshlagplatz. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Howard Kaplan

The second draft fared much better. – It has 67 pages written in Polish, which, according to the content, contains a continuation of the memoirs written down by the author. We don’t know what her name was, she didn’t put her details anywhere. In one of the entries, she mentions that someone called her “Marylko”. That is why the memoirs were entitled “Marilla’s Diary”. We know for sure about the author that she was an adult, educated person, she spoke Polish very well, so she had to go to a Polish school, it can be assumed that she even studied – emphasized Wójcik. She added: – Her Polish is very good, with skillfully constructed sentences, without spelling mistakes. You can see that she was a very sensitive person who documented her life day after day with deep reflection, and in fact the vegetation in the Warsaw Ghetto.

– Not every day is dated, sometimes it describes the events of the previous day. We do not know exactly from what moment the first entries are made, because they are contained in the first more damaged draft, but the diary certainly covers the years 1942-1943. The first daily record from the part that can be read is dated April 1, 1943, but it describes what happened before, so it can be assumed that the end of March – she described. And she added: – She writes about the last days before the outbreak of the uprising in the ghetto, when she still functioned, together with her husband, as his resident. From the first draft, it was possible to read the mention that she had lost her mother earlier. Maryla and her husband probably worked in Toebbens’ workshop, thanks to which they stayed in the ghetto for so long. She made the final entries in the shelter, where they were hiding due to the outbreak of the uprising. The last one is dated April 27, 1943. After that, the entries stop.

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It is not known how the diary ended up in Majdanek. – On April 28, 1943, a transport of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto arrived here. Perhaps in it or in one of the following, the so-called of the last transports, Maryla ended up in Majdanek. We know for sure that she did not survive the Holocaust. The diary could also have been brought by someone close to her who wanted this testimony to be preserved. But these are only our assumptions – stressed Wójcik.

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In her diary, Maryla describes everyday life and various events taking place in the ghetto. – For example, that she participated in such literary and entertainment meetings, the so-called Szlengel’s evenings, which indicates that she belonged to a kind of intellectual elite of the ghetto. She also writes that her husband received phone calls warning them of the actions the Germans, which would mean that he might have had some contacts with the Jewish resistance. He describes friends returning from the Aryan side to the ghetto, not only deprived of any means to pay for help, but also “robbed of hope”, knowing that the end is inevitable, she noted.

Everyday life in the Warsaw GhettoNational Digital Archive

– She writes about herself that she never sought help on the Aryan side, perhaps – as she points out – because of her Semitic appearance. She recalls that her husband tried to live on the other side of the wall for several days, but returned disappointed. He devotes a lot of space to personal reflections, assesses the situation of Jews, which is interesting, quite harshly and, in my opinion, fairly. He writes about the Germans who put the Jews in such a situation, he writes about the Poles, he also writes differently and very critically about the Jews themselves. Most of all, he cannot forgive his kinsmen for letting themselves be drawn into the machine of persecution of their own countrymen. And all the time she writes about the inevitability of death, she is aware that as a Jew she will not survive, and with such insight and sharpness of observation she puts it all on paper – said Wójcik.

Everyday life in the Warsaw GhettoNational Digital Archive

She finds it really hard to read. – It shows that she knew about the existence of the camps in Bełżec, in Treblinka, she mentions the names of Trawniki, Poniatowa, so she had quite a good idea of ​​what was happening to the Jews. Writing about the shelter, she says that she saw them build it, but she didn’t even stockpile any supplies because she didn’t believe it would end like this. She hoped and at the same time knew that as a Jew she was “a person condemned to die while alive”. She also writes about people hiding with her, who literally stopped breathing when they heard that something was happening near the shelter, about the panic fear of all of them, she said.

Read also: “The uprising was not a suicide mission. On the contrary. My father wanted to live. At any cost.”

– At the same time, it is incredibly moving how much satisfaction and pride Maryla writes about the outbreak of the uprising. “The ghetto was created, only a few hundred men armed with revolvers stood up to fight the torturer, stood up for the remnants of human honor. A great, wonderful moment struck for history and posterity, because the remnants of the unfortunate, battered survivors, enduring the cruelest torments that a madman’s imagination managed to invent, who possessed the world, dared to raise the oppressed necks” – quoted Wójcik. In her opinion, the diary is a unique testimony. – A documentary that will make the most unmoved person empathize, or at least reflect. An amazing testimony, hard to forget, written literally days before his death, “a voice from some abyss”, which determines its value and strength. It is an important historical and educational source documenting the outbreak of the Ghetto Uprising. She not only talks about what happened, has a unique sense of observation, but also comments and evaluates events. What is striking is the maturity of her views, the awareness that she is in a lost position, emphasized Wójcik. She added: – However, she does not seem to lose hope, and above all, the desire to write, she wants to save the memory of her nation at all costs. I think that she also wrote in the hope that someone would find these notes. Maryla’s Diary is not only a record of her thoughts, reflections and experiences. It has a timeless, universal character.

Read also: “Only memory can save us from further monstrous evils”

Main photo source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Howard Kaplan



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