The Scroll of Agony: Warsaw Diary of Chaim A.Kaplan Library Binding – 1 Jul 1999
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"A precious record of Jewish life under Nazi rule." - New York Review of Books "Not only the material for history; it is history itself, agonizingly, triumphantly alive." - Saturday Review
About the Author
Chaim A. Kaplan was a teacher and writer in Warsaw. He is believed to have died in late 1942 or early 1943. Abraham I. Katsh is President Emeritus of Dropsie University in Philadelphia, and Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Culture and Education at New York University. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
How refreshing to be able to read an historical work, without the "spin" that now accompanies most works about the Nazi occupation of conquered lands and the extermination of the Jews of Europe. This book is must reading for both serious scholars and those who are interested in the subject matter.
The reader can learn about the system the Nazis used to try and fragment Jewish morale, culture, health and lives by attempting to suppress every aspect of Jewish life. What a powerful and understated diary!
Kaplan implicitly refutes those who say that there was no Polish Quisling only because the Germans never wanted one: "You will not find one single public-spirited citizen among them [the Poles] who is willing to be the conquerors' representative, to talk to his people and make them realize that they cannot change reality and must accept the yoke of German rule--like Hacha in Czechoslovakia and Quisling in Norway. We could also add Petain in France, that stupid old man who willingly said Kaddish for his country." (p. 206).
In early 1940, Kaplan rejected the notion that the Nazis would be able to stir up the Poles to large-scale violence against Jews (p. 101, 114), but he realized that isolated attacks may occur because: "No nation lacks hooligan elements, and the conquerors have paved the way for them." (p. 114) and because: "Terrorists and troublemakers are not lacking among any people, and at all times and places they can be found in sufficient numbers." (p. 101). He characterizes the Easter 1940 events as follows: "The conquerors have begun a new political operation. Gangs of young toughs, Polish youth (you won't find one adult among them), armed with clubs, sticks, and all kinds of harmful weapons, make pogroms against the Jews." (p. 134).
Kaplan comments: "The conqueror tramples upon both `inferior' races, but the Jews are on the lowest rung and the Poles on the next to lowest." (p. 81). At other times, he comes close to juxtaposing the victimhood of both peoples: "Nazi pride is unlimited. The Poles and the Jews are classed together as if they were both `natives' of African jungles. Both were supposedly created only to serve the conqueror." (p. 73). Kaplan includes the following amazing statements: "At heart, the conqueror hates the Poles more deeply than the Jews. Once the head of the Warsaw district, Dr. Fischer, said, `The Poles we hate instinctively; the Jews we hate in accordance with orders.'" (p. 204).
Kaplan presents evidence that, in many ways, Poles were initially victimized by the Germans more than Jews. Consider the summer of 1940: "Today, Aryans were seized for work!...When pedestrians disappeared from the streets after the hunt began, they stopped the trolleys and took the male passengers off, whether they were Poles or Jews. After personal interrogation the Jews went home and the Poles were imprisoned. How good it is to be a Jew!" (p. 179). At other times, Poles wore the Jewish Schandeband to avoid forced labor (p. 150). Poles also sent their children to Jewish homes overnight to prevent the children from being seized by Germans for forced donations of blood for German soldiers (p. 152). In spring 1941, Poles hid in the Jewish ghetto during German mass executions of Poles (p. 254).
About 140,000 Poles lost their properties, along with a comparable number of Jews, during the German creation of the Warsaw ghetto (p. 212; see also p. 266). (The occasional postwar Polish killings of Jews over properties, much exaggerated by Jan Thomas Gross in his recently-published FEAR, must be understood in the light of the atmosphere of complete disregard for property rights that had recently befallen both Jews and Poles.)
Katsh, the editor, credits a Pole, Wladyslaw Wojcik, for preserving Kaplan's diary for posterity and for later discovering the second Ringelblum Archive (p. 14). Kaplan himself credits the Poles for smuggling food into the Warsaw Ghetto (p. 304, 316), and, in general, for not falling for Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda: "We thought that the `Jewish badge' would provide the local population with a source of mockery and ridicule--but we were wrong. There is no attitude of disrespect nor of making much of another's dishonor. Just the opposite. They show that they commiserate with us in our humiliation. They sit silent in the street cars, and in private conversation they even express words of condolence and encouragement. `Better times will come.'" (p. 82). Also: "Common suffering has drawn all hearts closer, and the barbaric persecutions of the Jews have even aroused feelings of sympathy towards them. " (p. 114). Later, Kaplan repeatedly credited Polish messengers for scouring the entire General Government to ascertain the fact that, up to that point, 40,000 "resettled" Lublin Jews were definitely no longer alive (p. 286, 291, 309).
In his entry for July 22, 1942, Kaplan is candid about the fact that, even at that late date, Warsaw's Jewish officials continued to insist that Warsaw's Jews would never be deported (p. 319). And, in common with many Jewish chroniclers, Kaplan criticizes world Jewry for its indifference to the fate of Polish Jews (pp. 76-77). During the deportations of Jews to the death camps, Kaplan lambastes the Jewish ghetto police "...whose cruelty is no less than that of the Nazis..." (p. 324), and says that: "It is the Jewish police who are cruelest toward the condemned." (p. 326).
Kaplan writes: "Nazism is not original. They took everything from Bolshevism, only that they expanded its rottenness." (p. 329).
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