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April 8, 2013

Ghetto's final hours revealed in diary 70 years after Holocaust

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JERUSALEM —

The final German attempt to wipe out the remainder of Jews living in the ghetto started four days before the Warsaw diary started. The Germans, facing fighting groups and ghetto inhabitants barricaded in bunkers, began systematically burning down the ghetto. For almost a month, the Jewish fighters battled the Germans in what was the first popular uprising in a city in Nazi-occupied Europe.

The girl's diary is the first real evidence that the entire remnant of the ghetto supported the uprising, said Silberklang, who also edits the journal Yad Vashem Studies in which an English translation of the diary appeared.

"Our defense is the greatest possible silence and stillness," the young woman writes. "We had always believed we should hide well."

Then later: "Tra-ta-ta-ta-ta, boom! The enemy fires his machine guns and lobs grenades at the bunker. . . The people inside summon courage and calmly look death in the eye."

The diary includes a detailed sketch of the bunker, where the beds were, where the inhabitants cooked. It gives a description of how order was kept and rations divvied up. At one point, the young woman tells how when electricity was gone and inhabitants could no longer cook the food rations, children fainted from hunger, only to be revived by a rapidly diminishing store of onions.

"It exposes many aspects of life during the uprising that we were not aware of," said Dreyfus. "The self aid. The fact that the bunker accepted others who didn't have shelter. How the atmosphere changed as things got worse. Her diary makes us understand better what the uprising meant not just to the fighters but to those staying in the bunkers. It tells us what unbearable means."

About 6 million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World War II as the Nazis ran a campaign across Europe that included random executions, plunder and death camps.

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