Holocaust diaries are, without exception, very difficult reading. Among these painful eyewitness accounts, one of the most searing than that of Abraham Lewin, a former school teacher. Both in his academic background and quality of writing, Lewin bears comparison with fellow Warsaw Ghetto diarist Chaim Kaplan, a one-time principal of a Hebrew school in Warsaw until his academy was shut down and banned by the Nazis and Kaplan banished to that city's notorious Ghetto. Both men took it upon themselves to record everything they saw, heard, and knew, that is, to bear witness. Unlike Kaplan, however, Lewin rarely mentioned his reasons for writing. The most likely reason was Kaplan kept a diary, while Lewin was a journalist for Emmanuel Ringelblum’s Oyneg Shabbes underground activity. “In these tragic times, whenever several Jews gather together and each recounts just a part of what he has heard and seen, it becomes a part of what he has heard or seen, it becomes a mountain or a swollen sea of misfortune and Jewish blood. Jewish blood, pure and simple. We gather every Sabbath, a group of activists in the Jewish community, to discuss our diaries and writings. We want our sufferings, these ‘birth pangs of the Messiah,’ to be impressed upon the memories of future generations and on the memory of the whole world,” recounted Lewin on June 6, 1940.
The first part of Abraham Lewin’s work was in Yiddish.
The second part is a stark recounting of the Great Deportation of 1942; for this section, he used the more formal Hebrew. In great detail, Lewin chronicled the shrinking of the Ghetto, both in physical size and population, the latter due both to the relentless transports to Treblinka and from starvation, disease, and Nazi cruelty within the Ghetto walls, which were ever-tightening, like a noose around the survivors. His writings take on a tone of extreme bitterness after losing his beloved wife and daughter. Abraham Lewin managed to survive longer than most others, but his writings end abruptly on Saturday, January 16, 1943. Accompanied by a eulogy given on September 13, 1941 (itself a short document of exceptional poignancy), Lewin’s writings emerged from one of the two milk cans of the Ringelblum archive, offering readers an exceptionally important and well-detailed (and beautifully written) eyewitness account of those terrible and terrifying years of the horror that was the Warsaw Ghetto.