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2017-08-04

Today I saw Janusz Korczak / as he was walking with the children in the final march...

(Władysław Szlengel, A page from the ‘Action’ diary)

‘The Action’ continues. [...] Yesterday [7 August] – as they narrate – devoured yet other, particularly dear to us beings: our children. […] They want to totally undercut the roots of the Jewish population of Warsaw’

(Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy – The Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, vol. 23: Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto, part 1: Abraham Lewin’ Diary, edited by K. Person, Z. Trębacz, M. Trębacz, Warsaw 2015, page 115).

Ilustracja

Kuba Guterman, Transport, 1940-1943, Jewish Historical Institute   

‘The orphanage of Doctor Janusz Korczak is now empty. A few days ago we all stood by the window and watched the Germans surround the buildings. Ranks of children holding hands began to come out of the gate. Among them were the little ones, two, three years old. The oldest may have been thirteen. Each child held a bundle in his hand. All wore white aprons. They walked in pairs calmly and even with a smile. They had no premonition of their destiny. At the end of this march walked Korczak who was guarding the children that they wouldn’t diverge. From time to time, with his fatherly care, he tapped on a child's head or arm and straightened the ranks. He was wearing high boots with trouser legs inside them, alpaca jacket and a navy blue Maciejówka. He walked confidently in the company of a doctor from the orphanage dressed in a white apron. The sad march disappeared around the corner of Dzielna and Smocza Streets. […] The house is now empty, except for the gendarmes who are still emptying out the bedrooms of the murdered children.

 (Mary Berg, Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto, Warsaw 1983, pages 186-187).

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Janusz Korczak, photo: National Digital Archives   

5th of August – The 15th day of Great Action, Germans rob people of the hope for survival – they take the children. They take away 6623 people, including children – from orphanages at 77 Twarda and 28 Śliska Streets. On that day, or on the 6th of August, Janusz Korczak with about 200 pupils left the orphanage at 16 Sienna Street for his last journey. According to many accounts from those times, ‘The Old Doctor’ had many opportunities to rescue himself and leave the ghetto. He refused. Instead he found refuge outside the walls for many of his pupils. He stayed with the children till the end as did some other members of the Orphanage staff including Stefania Wilczyńska. Andrzej Wajda in a film entitled Korczak (1990), based on the screenplay by Agnieszka Holland, presented the activities of Janusz Korczak, who was keeping the appearance of normalcy behind the ghetto walls, until ‘the final trip’ on which the Old Doctor with his pupils was taken from Umschlagplatz.

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Isaac Celnikier, Last moments of Janusz Korczak, Central Judaica Database / POLIN Museum   

The same fate awaited other pupils of the Warsaw Ghetto orphanages, who were accompanied on the final trip by educators and staff of educational institutions, which included Broniszowska and Szternfeld, Róża Azrylewicz-Sztokman, Henryk Azrylewicz, Henryk Asterblum, Balbina Grzybowa, Róża Lipiec-Jakubowska, Sabina Lejzerowicz, Natalia Poz, Dora Sokolnicka, doctor Tola Mincowa, Jadwiga Pozner.

‘Cleansing’ the ghetto from the youngest of its inhabitants Germans continue on 7th of August – then at Umschlagplatz arrive the pupils from the boarding school at 12/14 Wolność Street (1200 children) and several hundred of the boarding school at 18 Mylna Street, together with the headmaster Aron Koniński and his wife.

Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat

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