'Scroll of Agony,' Historic
Document That Supplements
Records of the Catastrophe
Warsaw's Agony in Historical Perspective
Royalty income from "Scroll of Agony" will be set aside for a
scholarship in Kaplan's name in NYU's department of Hebrew culture
This is the background of an historic work that will be among
the most valuable addenda to the history of the hurban—of the ca-
tastrophe that befell Jewry. It is both a scroll of an imperishable
nature and an expression of agony that must leave its mark on history.
It is not only a record of the day-by-day Nazi activities as they
affected Warsaw Jewry, but also a revealing document about Jewish
reactions, about sacrifices and frequent refusals to enter into com-
"In Warsaw, a Pole remains a Pole, a Jew a Jew.
munal cooperativieness, about the Nazis, and there is even some credit
"There is a story told in Warsaw about a Jewish diplomat of themselves vanquished by the Nazis, and there is even some credit
the Polish Foreign Office. I know the man well. It goes this way: for humaneness by Germans when some Germans acted like civilized
25 per cent of the peOple hate him because he is a Communist; beings.
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Teddy
Kolleck, well known in the United
States as the director-general for
years of the prime minister's of-
fice here, and as head of the Is-
rael Government Tourist Office,
has won the post of mayor of
Jerusalem. Although he ran in th 7-
Nov. 2 elections as a member
Rafi, the dissident group organize€.-----'n
by former Prime Minister David
Ben-Gurion, he had received what
a "phenomenally large"
25 per cent of the people hate him because he is a Jew; the rest
The Poles: 'Happy at Our Misfortune'
hate him because he is a Jewish Communist.
Kaplan's diary is marked by many scriptural influences. His diary
"It would be terribly unfair to believe that all Poles hate
Jews. There are Poles who died to save Jews. But it would be is the work of a scholar who possessed an historical sense.
naive not to understand that years after the wrenching agony of
At the very outset, in his entry for Sept. 5, 1939, he exposes the
the Warsaw Ghetto, anti-Semitism still is part of Poland's marrow." Polish partnership in the crime against Jewry. He refers to the bitter-
An agreement to declare Kolleck
as mayor, to succeed Jerusalem's
long-time chief executive, Mord-
echai Ish-Shalom, was signed by
the members of the Municipal
Council elected by Rafi, Gahal
(the Herut-Liberal Party align-
ment), Agudat Israel and the Na-
tional Religious Party. This city
coalition will give Kolleck's ad-
ministration 14 of the Municipal
Council's 21 seats. It will leave
in the opposition the members
elected by the Mapai - Achdut
Avodah alignment, Mapam and
Poalei Agudath Israel.
The coalition decided to name
Rabbi Moshe Porush as vice-mayor,
the post he has held until now.
Kolleck promised, after he was
named, to close Orthodox areas
in Jerusalem to Sabbath traffic.
That was the "price" he paid for
Writing in the New York Times Magazine under the title "Forgive
Them Not, For They Knew What They Did," A. M. Rosenthal, the
Times' metropolitan editor, recalled his experiences in Poland and
recorded a number of the tragic episodes. In the course of his re -
capitulation of the era of many horrors, he referred to the 20,000
remaining Jews in Poland "who live with their Jewishness and some
few thousand more who try to forget it, but no real flavor of Warsaw's
Jewishness survives the fire." He pointed out that some Jews tried
to escape reality. He stated:
The explanatory note that precedes Rosenthal's article asserts: ness that was shown when the Czestochowa Catholic church was de-
"Why speak of these unspeakable things? Only because it is the time stroyed by the Germans, and then he wrote:
of the 25th anniversary of the creation of that particular hell called
"But why did not the Poles join in our sorrow when Hitler
the Warsaw Ghetto." And concluding his article Rosenthal stated:
ordered the burning of our synagogues, which were consumed in
"I speak only of a microcosm, of the small Polish world.
Perhaps other men can truthfully find in Poland or elsewhere
richer meaning and hope in the lessons men and nations have
drawn from the martyred ghetto. I pray so.
"Then why speak of these things? Only because 25 years
later I simply cannot tell myself nor my sons that it cannot happen
again. I can only tell them that there was a time of madness and
that some of the Jews of the ghetto fought the mad beast and
died like men. And if it does happen again, even if there are
faint dark signs that it might happen again, that most terrible
of all prayers will rise, from myself, my sons and from men in
all parts of the earth: 'Forgive them not, father, for they knew
what they did.' "
This deeply moving admonition should not fall on deaf ears. It
reasserts the urgency of remembering for the sake of preventing re-
currence of the crimes. Those of us who had occasion to study events
in Poland in more recent years know full well how true are the
conclusions reached in the Rosenthal article. It is for such realism that
he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for reporting from Poland during,
1958-59. Perhaps it was for his fearless pragmatism that he was ex-
pelled from Warsaw by the Polish government.
Rosenthal's stirring essay serves as an appropriate introduction
to our review of a very important book: a Warsaw diary that assumes
'Scroll of Agony': Warsaw Ghetto's 1939 1942 Record
smoke together with the scrolls of the Torah? We didn't hear a
word of consolation. On the contrary, they enjoyed it; they were
happy at our misfortune. We, however, share their sorrow and
pray to the God of Israel to avenge their blood and ours.
"The Poles complain against Germany, and justifiably, for
she wishes to steal their native land from them and make them
into slaves. But one question concerns me: Why didn't the Poles
protest when the Germans decided to force the Jews, citizens of
this country from earliest times, to leave Poland and to rob them
of their land of their birth? The Poles renounce what befell them,
but not what they did. I return to the essence of Jewish ethics:
`Because thou drowndest, they drowned thee; and in the end they
who drowned thee shall be drowned.' " (Ethics of the Fathers
2:9. A moral epigram by the sage Hillel: As you have done, so
it will be done to you.).
It was in the first week of the German invasion of Poland that
Kaplan was able to express such a rebuke to the Poles. The anti-
Semitism of the Poles grew worse as time progressed—and if there
had not been exceptions like those of Waldyslaw Wojeck, the tragedy
would have been much more severe.
Thus, only a month after he had written the above, on Oct. 7,
1939, Kaplan stated in his diary:
"The conquerors and the conquered find common cause in their
hatred of Israel. Jewish morality demands: If a man suffers misfor-
tune, let him examine his deeds. Not so Christian morality. Mis-
fortune does not trouble the hearts of these practitioners of the 're-
ligion of love.' When they suffer misfortune, they merely cause others
to suffer in turn — especially if they are strangers and not friends.
During these confused times . .. when a common enemy has overrun
the country and threatens to swallow both peoples . . . despite all this,
animosity toward Jews continued to grow even during these times of
poverty and distress.
"The conquered people flatter the conquerors, open their houses
to them, socialize with them, and with a submissiveness that is down-
right ugly they eagerly accept any little kindness that the cruel
conqueror metes out. They permit themselves to be stepped on and are
prepared to eat gall, as -long as they can inform on the Jews. We are
lucky that they do not know German. In the long run, sign language
is not enough. But animosity finds its way; it is strong enough to
enable the dumb to speak."
Step by step the writer takes us through the experiences of
constantly increasing discriminations, of the emergence of the ghetto,
of the commencement of deportations.
Chaim A. Kaplan, a Warsaw Hebrew scholar, commenced the
writing of a diary about "a new world war" on Sept. 1, 1939. He
wrote it in Hebrew. There are, with very few interruptions, daily
insertions until April 3, 1941 and again from May 3, 1942, until Aug.
4, 1942, in what is now made available to us, by the Macmillan Co.,
in a translation by Prof. Abraham I. Katsh of New York University,
in the historic volume entitled "Scroll of Agony—The Warsaw Diary
of Chaim Kaplan — Translated and Edited by Abraham I. Katsh."
Between chapters 5 and 6 there is an editorial note: "The notebooks
from April 4, 1941, through May 2, 1942, have not yet been located."
And therein is a story of dramatic magnitude about the manner in
which this diary has been made available as a public record.
Chaim Kaplan sensed from the very beginning that a great
catastrophe was in the offing, that Polish Jewry was threatened with
annihilation. Like the historian Simon Dubnow, who, in his last days
before he was murdered by the Nazis, had urged that a record be
kept of the crimes, Kaplan felt that the events that were taking place
should be recorded for posterity. He had begun to fear, toward the
The activities of the children, their manner of taunting the
end of his task of compiling a diary of the great tragedy, that his
Nazis, their unawareness of what soon is to face them, is part of
work might be in vain, and he wrote down in his notes: "If the hunters
this impressive, albeit oppressive, work.
will not stop and I am caught . . . I am constantly bothered by the
There is an element of piety in Kaplan's work, as he describes the
thought of how to hide my diary for posterity."
In his introduction, in which he explains hoW the diary was insistence of the oppressed Jews to observe their festivals, as he quotes
time and again from Scriptures.
located, Prof. Katsh states:
As the "hunting" by the Nazis continues, there is panic in the
"The chronicler kept his diary in small notebooks, rather. streets of the minute ghetto into which were cramped the hundreds
like the ones that grade-school children in the United States use of thousands; there is "fear on every face, wails and cries everywhere
today. With the exception of certain months still missing, the you turn."
entries cover the time from the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1,
From July 1942 on, Kaplan wrote that "the situation grows graver
1939, to Aug. 4, 1942. (It is hoped that the notebooks for the
hour . . . the expulsion is reaching its peak . . . living
missing months will still be found.)
funerals pass before the windows of my apartment—cattle trucks or
Because it was smuggled out of the ghetto before the total coal wagons full of candidates for expulsion and exile . . the hunting
liquidation, the diary comes to us without lacunae. By a miracle goes on full force". . . .
or perhaps by decree of historic faith, which commands us to
As people were being gathered for the expulsion, by the tens of
know all and remember everything, these entries are finally seeing thousands, "I hurried to escape," Kaplan wrote on Aug. 4, 1942, in
the light of day. Kaplan himself was largely responsible for the his final entry which concluded with an account for that one day in
miracle of preservation. In late 1942, when he knew that the Nazi these words:
noose was around his neck, he gave the diary to a Jewish friend
"Thousands of people in the Nalewki-Zamenhof block were driven
named Rubinsztejn, who was working daily at forced labor out- from their homes and taken to the transfer point. More than 30 people
side the ghetto, returning each evening. Rubinsztejn smuggled the were slaughtered. In the afternoon, the furies subsided a bit. The
notebooks out singly and passed each one on to Wladyslaw Wojcek, number of passersby increased, for the danger of blockade was over.
a Pole, who was a resident of Liw, a small village near Warsaw. By four in the afternoon, the quota was filled: 13,000 people had been
Wojcek was active in ghetto underground activities, and after seized and sent off, among them 5,000 who came to the transfer of
the war, working at his trade as a mason, he discovered the their own free will. They had had their fill of the ghetto life, which
second Ringelbaum Archives, which he presented to the Jewish is a life of hunger and fear of death. They escaped from the trap.
Historical Institute of Warsaw."
Would that I could allow myself to do as they did! If my life ends —
It was the Ringelbaum record that hitherto had served as the what will become of my diary?"
background of revelations about the tragedies imposed upon the Jews
The rest is known: Kaplan is dead; his diary lives.
by the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto. Emmanuel Ringelbaum's
"The Scroll of Agony" renders, among other of its revealing
"Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto," made mention of Kaplan's notes,
factors, the immense contribution towards the accumulation of facts
thus giving added credence to the "Scroll of Agony."
regarding the resistance. Indeed, there was a spiritual resistance,
Kaplan and his wife are believed to have perished in the Treblinka
and the compiling of this diary was in itself a rebellion against
extermination camp. His notes were hidden in a kerosene can. Wojcek
brought half of the diary to the United States in 1942 and Prof. Katsh
In his introduction, Prof. Katsh includes the life story of Kaplan,
obtained the other portions, for use in "Scroll of Agony," from the
Warsaw Jewish Historical Institute. Wojcek had come to this country who had visited the United States in 1921, was in Palestine in 1936
with a note to Prof. Katsh from Berl Mark of the Warsaw Jewish In- and had planned to go back there. There is tribute in Katsh's essay
stitute, seeking employment here. Now the Kaplan diary is part of the to Kaplan's mastery of Hebrew, to "the extraordinary skill and depth"
New York University Library of Judaica and Hebraica, having been of his writings. They are deserved compliments—and what is especially
to be remembered is that through the miracle of the preservation of
presented to this library collection by Prof. Katsh.
this diary an historic documnt has been saved and there has been
spared for history a basic record about the Nazi crime in which Poles
2—Friday, November 19, 1965
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
had an ugly share.
Wirtz Vows Efforts
to Ban Job Bias
NEW YORK (JTA) — T h e
American Jewish Committee made
public here Monday the contents
of a complaint it had filed with
U.S. Secretary of Labor W. Willard
Wirtz, protesting against religious
discriminations by firms holding
government contracts, on which
Wirtz acted favorably last week-
In his action, Wirtz assured the
American Jewish Committee that
the government will make a greater
effort to enforce federal laws bar-
ring religious discrimination in
The letter to Wirtz, sent by
Burton A. Zorn, New York at-
torney and chairman of the
AJC's civil rights and civil
liberties committee, had insisted
that firms holding government
contracts must end religious
discriminations in filling top-
management jobs, in compliance
with the President's executive
order on that subject.
Zorn's letter summarized re-
search sponsored by the American
Jewish Committee over a period __
of years on the subject of "ex
eutive suite" discrimination
American business and industry.
This research had revealed that
Jews fill less than 1 per cent of
top-management jobs in represent-
ative samples of major corpora-
tions, even though Jews account
for 8 per cent of all college grad-
uates, and the executive talent
pool consists essentially of college
A recent study by Harvard Busi-
ness School of recruiting practices,
sponsored by the AJC and quoted
in the complaint, showed that 80
of 300 companies studied hired
only Protestant students on college
campuse, excluding Catholic and
Jewish students with more or less
equal capabilities and potential-
A University of Michigan re.
port on discrimination in promo.
tion practices found that "every
serious effort to collect data on
this subject has yielded the same
Zorn declared: "We were very
pleased to learn of Secretary
Wirtz's deep interest and real con-
cern for the problem presented to
him. Top executive posts in busi-
ness and industry today constitute
almost the only sector of Amer-
ican industrial life from which
religious and ethnic minorities
remain substantially excluded."