The tragic death of Szmul Zygielbojm-The man who exposed the Holocaust to the allies.

Szmul-Zygielbojm-1023x946My heart was broken when I heard about this Hero. If the allies just would have listened to him and taken him serious so many lives including his own could have been saved. What make this even more tragic and poignant that he did not die by direct Nazi violence but by his own hand due to grieve and frustration.

When Szmul Zygielbojm stood up and denounced ‘the greatest crime in history’ in 1942 the Polish politician was revealing to the world for the first time the full horror of the unfolding Holocaust.

Three years before the liberation of the death camps, Zygielbojm issued his clarion call but also sowed the seeds of his own destruction warning it would ‘be a shame to go on living’ if nothing were done.

Szmul Zygielbojm (February 21, 1895 – May 11, 1943) was a Jewish-Polish socialist politician, leader of the Bund, and a member of the National Council of the Polish government in exile.

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He committed suicide to protest the indifference of the Allied governments in the face of the Holocaust.

When the Nazis ordered Jewish leaders to help with the creation of a ghetto in the Polish capital, Zygielbojm publicly opposed the command – and was subsequently smuggled out of the city.

After travelling to Belgium, France and the US, where he spoke at a series of meetings to raise awareness about the plight of Jews, he eventually found himself in London in March 1942 to join the National Council of the Polish government in exile.

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Realising that he was dealing with a sceptical non-Jewish public, Zygielbojm used British newspapers and the BBC to pass on detailed information he was being supplied with from occupied Europe.

In June 1942, The Daily Telegraph headline read ‘Germans murder 700,000 Jews in Poland’ and readers were told it was ‘the greatest massacre in the world’s history

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In April 1943, the US and UK governments met in Bermuda, supposedly to come up with answers to the unfolding plight of Jews in occupied Europe.

Ironically this happened just as the Jewish resistance rose up the Warsaw Ghetto despite facing overwhelming numbers of well armed Nazi troops.

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An estimated 13,000 Jews died during the uprising and the 50,000 or so survivors were immediately shipped to extermination camps.

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In May, Zygielbojm realised that the Allies were not going to act and then, to compound his despair, he learnt that his wife Manya and son Tuvla had died in Warsaw.

On the 12th of May he took an overdose of sodium amytal at his home in west London and left a long and detailed suicide note, explaining his decision to take his own life.

In a long, detailed “suicide letter”, addressed to Polish president Władysław Raczkiewicz and prime minister Władysław Sikorski, Zygielbojm stated that while the Nazis were responsible for the murder of the Polish Jews, the Allies were also culpable:

The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out, but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenseless millions tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility.

I am obliged to state that although the Polish Government contributed largely to the arousing of public opinion in the world, it still did not do enough. It did not do anything that was not routine, that might have been appropriate to the dimensions of the tragedy taking place in Poland….

I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave.

By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.

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He wished his letter to be known not only by the Polish President and prime minister in exile. He wrote: “I am certain that the President and the Prime Minister will send out these words of mine to all those to whom they are addressed, and that the Polish Government will embark immediately on diplomatic action and explanation of the situation, in order to save the living remnant of the Polish Jews from destruction.”

After his death, Zygielbojm’s seat in the Polish exile parliament was taken over by Emanuel Scherer.

Zygielbojm’s younger son, Joseph, survived the Ghetto’s destruction. After taking a leadership role in the Polish resistance during the war, he immigrated to the United States, where he became a scientist at NASA. He died in 1995, survived by his sons, Arthur and Paul.

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The Stroop Report- souvenir turned evidence.

A report by SS Brigadefuhrer Jurgen Stroop dealing with the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. Stroop was sent to Warsaw to remove the 56.000 surviving Jews from the ghetto, and he recorded his deeds – daily killings with cold-blooded brutality – in a boastful seventy-five-page report bound together in black pebble leather and including copies of all daily communiqués sent to his superior officer as well af photos with captions in Gothic script.Originally titled The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is No More! (Es gibt keinen jüdischen Wohnbezirk in Warschau mehr!),

The Report was commissioned by Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger, high SS and police leader in Kraków and was intended as a souvenir album for Heinrich Himmler.

It was prepared in three distinct leather-bound copies for Heinrich Himmler, Friedrich Krueger and Jürgen Stroop, with one unbound file copy of the report (das Konzept) remained in Warsaw, in the care of Chief of Staff Max Jesuiter.

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According to statement given in 1945 by Stroop’s adjutant Karl Kaleshke, to US authorities in Wiesbaden, he ordered Stroops copy of the report burnt with other secret documents in Burg Kranzberg.

The Report was a 125-page typed document, bound in black pebble leather, with 53 photographs . It consisted of the following sections:

It consisted of three parts:
a) an introduction and summary of SS operations
b) a collection of all daily communiqués sent to SS Police Leader East Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger
c) a series of approximately 52 photographs.

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The Stroop Report alludes repeatedly to the participation of the Polish Resistance in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Jürgen Stroop referred to Polish underground fighters as “Polnische Banditen” – “Polish Bandits”, he noted:

“When we invaded the Ghetto for the first time, the Jews and the Polish bandits succeeded in repelling the participating units, including tanks and armored cars, by a well-prepared concentration of fire. … The main Jewish battle group, mixed with Polish bandits, had already retired during the first and second day to the so-called Muranowski Square. There, it was reinforced by a considerable number of Polish bandits. Its plan was to hold the Ghetto by every means in order to prevent us from invading it. … Time and again Polish bandits found refuge in the Ghetto and remained there undisturbed, since we had no forces at our disposal to comb out this maze. … One such battle group succeeded in mounting a truck by ascending from a sewer in the so-called Prosta [Street], and in escaping with it (about 30 to 35 bandits). … The bandits and Jews – there were Polish bandits among these gangs armed with carbines, small arms, and in one case a light machine gun – mounted the truck and drove away in an unknown direction.”

— Jürgen Stroop, 1943

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“Our setting the block on fire achieved the result in the course of the night that those Jews whom we had not been able to find despite all our search operations left their hideouts under the roofs, in the cellars, and elsewhere, and appeared on the outside of the buildings, trying to escape the flames. Masses of them – entire families – were already aflame and jumped from the windows or endeavored to let themselves down by means of sheets tied together or the like. Steps had been taken so that these Jews as well as the remaining ones were liquidated at once”

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“When the blocks of buildings mentioned above were destroyed, 120 Jews were caught and numerous Jews were destroyed when they jumped from the attics to the inner courtyards, trying to escape the flames. Many more Jews perished in the flames or were destroyed when the dugouts a sewer entrances were blown up.”

“Of the total of 56,065 caught about 7,000 were destroyed in the former Ghetto during large scale operation. 6,929 Jews were destroyed by transporting them to T.II (Treblinka Camp No. 2). The sum total of Jews destroyed is therefore 13,929. Beyond the number of 56.065 an estimated number of 5 to 6,000 Jews were destroyed by being blown up or by perishing in the flames”

After the war only two of the four copies were discovered, those belonging to Himmler and Jesuiter. Himmler’s copy went to Seventh Army Intelligence Center (SAIC) and Jesuiter’s to Military Intelligence Research Section (MIRS) in London.Several sources stated that German Bundesarchiv also had a copy in Koblenz.However, in reply to inquiries by Richard Raskin, Bundesarchiv stated that third copy of report was never in their possession.Both copies were introduced as evidence at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, sharing the document number 1061-PS, and used in the trial as “US Exhibit 275”.It was first displayed by the chief U.S. prosecutor Robert H. Jackson for the judges during his opening address.

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The Zoo that saved Jews-The story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński.

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It’s at times of great inhumanity that you can find the greatest examples of humanity, if you look closely enough.

Jan Żabiński (8 April 1897 – 26 July 1974, Warsaw) and Antonina Żabińska  (1908–1971) were a married couple from Warsaw,recognized by the State of Israel as the Polish Righteous Among the Nations for their heroic rescue of Jews during the Holocaust in occupied Poland. Jan Żabiński was a zoologist and zootechnician by profession, a scientist, and organizer and director of the renowned Warsaw Zoo before and during World War II.

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He became director of the Zoo before the outbreak of war but during the occupation of Poland also held a prestigious function of the Superintendent of the city’s public parks in 1939–1945

The zoo’s large collection of exotic animals and successful breeding program attracted visitors from all over the country. Especially when, in 1937, the zoo introduced the first Polish-born elephant – Tuzinka

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Jan and Antonina were great lovers of art as well as animals: Jan had studied drawing at the School of Fine Arts and worked as a researcher at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, at the Department of Zoology and Animal Physiology. Antonina was an archivist at the same department, which is where they met.

The zoo’s owners kept in close touch with the local creative community. They opened the zoo up to many artist and musicians, who would come there to work, get inspired, or give concerts in the open air.

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The colorful guests and the social activism of the Jan and Antonina, soon earned their residential villa the nickname “the house under a wacky star

The zoo was thriving right up until the Second World War, when the German army invaded Poland in 1939. The bombing of Warsaw on September 1 also hit the zoo, killing many animals and urging Jan Żabiński to kill off all the predatory animals that might escape and roam the streets in subsequent bombings.

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The remaining animals faced a sorry fate: the German army organized a spontaneous hunt at the zoo, shooting any animal they deemed “not valuable.” Those animals that were considered “valuable” were captured and transported to the Schorfheide reserve, close to Berlin, at the border with Poland.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/07/27/hitlers-prehistoric-zoo/

Tuzinka the elephant was taken to the zoo in Köningsberg.

The Germans appointed him superintendent of the city’s public parks as well. Availing himself of the opportunity to visit the Warsaw ghetto, ostensibly to inspect the state of the flora within the ghetto walls,

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Żabiński maintained contact with prewar Jewish colleagues and friends and helped them escape and find shelter on the “Aryan” side of the city.Żabiński maintained contact with prewar Jewish colleagues and friends and helped them escape and find shelter on the “Aryan” side of the city.

Many cages in the zoo had been emptied of animals during the September 1939 air assault on Warsaw, and Żabiński decided to utilize them as hiding places for fleeing Jews. Over the course of three years, hundreds of Jews found temporary shelter in these abandoned animal cells, located on the eastern bank of the Vistula River, until they were able to relocate to permanent places of refuge elsewhere. In addition, close to a dozen Jews were sheltered in Żabiński’s two-story private home on the zoo’s grounds.

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In this dangerous undertaking he was helped by his wife, Antonina, a recognized author, and their young son, Ryszard, who nourished and looked after the needs of the many distraught Jews in their care.

Those hiding inside the house could move around as they pleased. But when danger approached, they were alarmed by Antonina, who would play “Go, go to Crete!” from Offenbach’s La belle Hélène operetta on the grand piano.

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Some of the Żabińskis guests were strangers who had sought out their help, and others were long-time friends. Magdalena Gross, for example,  had been a good friend of the Żabińskis for many years.

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She was a sculptor who had been in a creative crisis until she visited the zoo and went from sculpting humans to sculpting animals.

At first, Żabiński paid from his own funds to subsidize the maintenance costs; then money was received through Żegota: Council to Aid Jews.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/06/01/zegota-wwii-heroes/

During the war, Jan Żabiński was active in the underground Armia Krajowa (Home Army) and took part in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. He was arrested and taken away to a German prison camp. During this time, Antonina continued her husband’s efforts and provided care for the Jews left in the city’s ruins. Fortunately, Jan survived and was able to witness the official reopening of the zoo in 1949.

On October 30, 1968 a tree planting ceremony was held at Yad Vashem honoring Righteous Among the Nations, including Jan and Antonina Żabińska.

In 2007, the U.S. writer Diane Ackerman published The Zookeeper’s Wife, a book about the Żabiński family’s wartime activities that draws upon Antonina Żabińska’s diary.

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A film about the couple based on the book by Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife (film) was filmed in 2015, and is scheduled to be released on March 31, 2017, with American actress Jessica Chastain portraying Antonina and Flemish actor Johan Heldenbergh portraying Jan

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The Wola Massacre

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The Wola massacre  was the systematic killing of between 40,000 and 50,000 people in the Wola district of Poland’s capital city Warsaw by German troops and collaborationist forces during the early phase of the Warsaw Uprising.

From 5 to 12 August 1944, tens of thousands of Polish civilians along with captured Home Army resistance fighters were brutally and systematically murdered by the Germans in organised mass executions throughout Wola. The Germans anticipated that these atrocities would crush the insurgents’ will to fight and put the uprising to a swift end.However, the ruthless pacification of Wola only stiffened Polish resistance, and it took another two months of heavy fighting for the Germans to regain control of the city.

The Warsaw Uprising broke out on 1 August 1944 and during the first few days the Polish resistance managed to liberate most of Warsaw on the left bank of the river Vistula (an uprising also broke out in the small suburb of Praga on the right bank but was quickly suppressed by the Germans). Two days after the start of the fighting, SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski was placed in command of all German forces in Warsaw.

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Following direct orders from SS-Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler to suppress the uprising without mercy, his strategy was to include the use of terror tactics against the inhabitants of Warsaw. No distinction would be made between insurgents and civilians.

Himmler’s orders explicitly stated that Warsaw was to be completely destroyed and that the civilian population was to be exterminated.

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Professor Timothy Snyder, of Yale University, wrote that “the massacres in Wola had nothing in common with combat” as “the ratio of civilian to military dead was more than a thousand to one, even if military casualties on both sides are counted”

On 5 August, three German battle groups started their advance towards the city centre from the western outskirts of the Wola district, along Wolska Street and Górczewska Street. The German forces consisted of units from the Wehrmacht and the SS Police Battalions, as well as the mostly Russian SS-Sturmbrigade RONA and the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, an infamous Waffen SS penal unit led by Oskar Dirlewanger.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/07/09/oskar-dirlewanger-the-monster-of-warsaw/#jp-carousel-12844

Shortly after their advance towards the centre of Warsaw began, the two lead battle groups Kampfgruppe “Rohr” led by Generalmajor Günter Rohrand Kampfgruppe “Reinefarth” led by Heinz Reinefarthwere halted by heavy fire from Polish resistance fighters. Unable to proceed forward, some of the German troops began to go from house to house carrying out their orders to shoot all inhabitants. Many civilians were shot on the spot but some were killed after torture and sexual assault.Estimates vary, but Reinefarth himself has estimated that up to 10,000 civilians were killed in the Wola district on 5 August alone, the first day of the operation. Most of the victims were the elderly, women and children.

The majority of these atrocities were committed by troops under the command of SS-Oberführer Oskar Dirlewanger and SS-Brigadeführer Bronislav Kaminski.

Russland, Brigadekommandeur Borislaw Kaminski

Research historian Martin Gilbert, from the University of Oxford, wrote:

“More than fifteen thousand Polish civilians had been murdered by German troops in Warsaw. At 5:30 that evening [August 5], General Erich von dem Bach gave the order for the execution of women and children to stop. But the killing continued of all Polish men who were captured, without anyone bothering to find out whether they were insurgents or not. Nor did either the Cossacks or the criminals in the Kaminsky and Dirlewanger brigades pay any attention to von dem Bach Zelewski’s order: by rape, murder, torture and fire, they made their way through the suburbs of Wola and Ochota, killing in three days of slaughter a further thirty thousand civilians, including hundreds of patients in each of the hospitals in their path

On 5 August, the Zośka battalion of the Home Army had managed to liberate the Gęsiówka concentration camp and to take control of the strategically important surrounding area of the former Warsaw Ghetto with the aid of two captured Panther tanks belonging to a unit commanded by Wacław Micuta.

Over the next few days of fighting this area became one of the main communication links between Wola and Warsaw’s Old Town district, allowing insurgents and civilians alike to gradually withdraw from Wola ahead of the overwhelmingly superior German forces that had been deployed against them.

On 7 August, the German ground forces were strengthened further. To enhance their effectiveness, the Germans began to use civilians as human shields when approaching positions held by the Polish resistance.These tactics combined with their superior numbers and firepower helped them to fight their way to Bankowy Square in the northern part of Warsaw’s city centre and cut the Wola district in half.

German units also burned down two local hospitals with some of the patients still inside. Hundreds of other patients and personnel were killed by indiscriminate gunfire and grenade attacks, or selected and led away for executions.The greatest number of killings took place at the railway embankment on Górczewska Street and two large factories on Wolska Street – the Ursus Factory at Wolska 55 and the Franaszka Factory at Wolska 41/45 – as well as the Pfeiffer Factory at 57/59 Okopowa Street. At each of these four locations, thousands of people were systematically executed in mass shootings, having been previously rounded up in other places and taken there in groups.

Between 8 and 23 August the SS formed groups of men from the Wola district into the so-called Verbrennungskommando (“burning detachment”), who were forced to hide evidence of the massacre by burning the victims’ bodies and homes.[12] Most of the men put to work in such groups were also later executed.

On 12 August, the order was given to stop the indiscriminate killing of Polish civilians in Wola. Erich von dem Bach issued a new directive stating that captured civilians were to be evacuated from the city and deported to concentration camps or to Arbeitslager labour camps.

No one belonging to the German forces who took part in the atrocities committed during the Warsaw Uprising was ever prosecuted for them after the end of the Second World War. The main perpetrators of the Wola massacre and similar massacres in the nearby Ochota district were Heinz Reinefarth and Oskar Dirlewanger. Dirlewanger, who presided over and personally participated in many of the worst acts of violence, was arrested on 1 June 1945 by French occupation troops while hiding under a false name near the town of Altshausen in Upper Swabia. He died on 7 June 1945 in a French prison camp at Altshausen, probably as a result of ill-treatment by his Polish guards.In 1945, Reinefarth was taken into custody by the British and American authorities but was never prosecuted for his actions in Warsaw, despite Polish requests for his extradition. After a West German court released him citing a lack of evidence, Reinefarth enjoyed a successful post-war career as a lawyer, becoming the mayor of Westerland, and a member of the Landtag parliament of Schleswig-Holstein. The West German government also gave the former SS-Obergruppenführer a general’s pension before he died in 1979.

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In May 2008, a list of several former SS Dirlewanger members who were still alive was compiled and published by the Warsaw Uprising Museum.

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The Monument to Victims of the Wola Massacre, displaying a list of execution sites across Wola and estimates of the number of victims at each site.
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