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Assimilated Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1940-1943

by Katarzyna Person

Publication Year: 2014

Jews in Nazi-oppupied Warsaw during the 1940s were under increasing threat as they were stripped of their rights and forced to live in a guarded ghetto away from the non- Jewish Polish population. Within the ghettos, a small but distinct group existed: the assimilated, acculturated, and baptized Jews. Unwilling to integrate into the Jewish community and unable to merge with the Polish one, they formed a group of their own, remaining in a state of suspension throughout the interwar period. In 1940, with the closure of the Jewish Residential Quarter in Warsaw, their identity was chosen for them. Person looks at what it meant for assimilated Jews to leave their prewar neighborhoods, understood as both a physical environment and a mixed Polish Jewish community, and enter a new, Jewish one. She reveals the diversity of this group and how its members’ identity shaped their involvement in and contribution to ghetto life. In the first English-language study of this small but influential group, Person illuminates the important role of the acculturated and assimilated Jews to the history and memory of the Warsaw ghetto.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Series: Modern Jewish History


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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book is a result of my doctoral research conducted in the History Department of Royal Holloway, University of London.
I am indebted to the department and organizations from whose generous grants and help I have benefi ted while conducting the research for this book: the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Helen Shackleton Fund,...


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pp. xi-xvi

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-23

It was March 1, 1940, and Arnold Szyfman, the director of Teatr Polski (pol. Polish Theater), one of Warsaw’s most illustrious stages, was fi nishing his work for the day. Like many other theater employees who lost their apartments in the bombings of September 1939 he was now living permanently in his office. It was only a few minutes past 9 pm, but, as he wrote in his memoir, because of the cold and the...

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2. In the Warsaw Ghetto

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pp. 24-57

In the summer of 1939 Warsaw readied itself for a German invasion. The newspapers reported on tens of thousands of volunteers from all walks of life digging trenches in various parts of the capital, while others began preparing to enlist. On September 1, 1939, Hebrew scholar and future chronicler of the Warsaw Ghetto, Chaim Kaplan, noted that “all classes and all nationalities, even those who suffered persecution...

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3. The Judenrat, Self-Help, and the Fight for the Soul of the Ghetto

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pp. 58-99

The Jewish Council and the Jewish Order Service probably had the most profound influence on the general perception of the assimilated community. Their overblown structure provided jobs for the Polishspeaking unemployed intelligentsia who could not find any place in Jewish grass-root organizations. However, the vast majority of them were completely unprepared for the task and lacked the ability, or...

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4. Polish-Language Cultural Life in the Warsaw Ghetto

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pp. 100-133

The enclosure of the ghetto also affected those who up until then seemed a world away from the crowds of Nalewki or Franciszkańska Streets—the heroes of popular imagination. Those who before the war could only be seen on the covers of popular magazines or in gossip columns, the most popular actors and musicians of interwar Poland, began their new life working as rickshaw drivers, street sellers, or soup...

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5. Assimilated Inhabitant of the Warsaw Ghetto after the Gross Aktion

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pp. 134-154

The Gross Aktion, the deportation of the Warsaw Ghetto inhabitants to Treblinka, caught the ghetto unaware and unprepared. Despite the growing persecution and increasingly threatening news reaching the quarter from other Jewish communities, very few seemed to believe that the largest ghetto in occupied Poland was also doomed. Yet, on July 22, 1942, SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, Deportation Coordinator...

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6. Holocaust Survivors in Post-War Poland

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pp. 155-166

In the last words of his wartime testimony, painter and Warsaw Ghetto survivor Samuel Puterman wrote: “In the living hell of the concentration camp I wondered what it would be like to be free again—a stupid, naïve daydream—and yet it came true. I was freed; I went back. I was free but you weren’t there.”1 This image reappears in countless memoirs and diaries of Polish-Jewish survivors, those whose pre-war communities...


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pp. 167-168


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pp. 169-206


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pp. 207-212


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pp. 213-230


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pp. 231-240

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815652458
E-ISBN-10: 0815652453
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633341
Print-ISBN-10: 0815633343

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Modern Jewish History
Series Editor Byline: Henry Feingold See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 883391048
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Assimilated Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1940-1943

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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Persecutions -- Poland -- Warsaw.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Poland -- Warsaw.
  • Jews -- Poland -- Warsaw -- History -- 20th century.
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