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Letters from the Jewish Underground Youth Movement in Warsaw

Warsaw, Fall 1942

Lately I have been feeling ill. My health is not in order. I have lung disease and spit blood. I regret deeply that this will prevent me from entering into marriage with my beloved Moledet ["Homeland"]. Our love developed 15 years ago when we studied together at school, and I sang her love-songs while I was still a child. Eight years ago I began to work in her father's office [Zionist Movement], and I made progress in my work, steadily, which increased my chances of marriage [immigration]. To my great sorrow you will see that disease has struck me, and my dreams of life joined to hers [Eretz Israel] is doomed to remain a dream. But whatever happens, I will continue to bear great love for her, and the last words that I breathe before my death will be the name by which I have called her.

Gerushovitch [a play on gerush , Hebrew for deportation] and his brother Tevahovitch [ tevah – slaughter] send you their greetings. My people labors and is going down to Killayon [ Killayon – annihilation] with the aid of Yekes [the Germans]. I am only surprised that his rich aunt, Olamska [ Olam – world], is not helping him at all. I suppose that she knows only very little about your people....

Hrubieszow, 1942

My dear friend!

Do not let the pathos of the opening frighten you. It contains what I surely will not be able to express in the letter itself. I began to write to you times without number, but I was always overcome by the feeling of a senselessness in writing, and this saved me from absurd action. You understand... I always find myself accompanied by the realization that it is illusion and self-torture to cling to the shreds of the past and to bring them out into the light of day. Then why? For you have wiped us from your memory, and what are we? It is known that one cannot draw water from a poisoned spring. I am holding fast to my soul, in order not to allow escape to the bitterness that has mounted up against you and your friends, who have forgotten us in such a simple way. I am aggrieved against you, that you did not help me even with a few words. But it is not my wish today to settle accounts with you. Only the realization and certainty that we shall never meet again has caused me to write.

The sickness of Israel and my sickness – and you know how long we have been wrestling with it – has been revealed now as entirely without hope of cure, that is what the doctors have ruled. One must therefore slowly become accustomed to this thought. Perhaps it is terrible that there is no longer time enough to assimilate it. You would surely like to know how the other members of the family are. Pra'otzki [pra'ot – pogrom] and Shehita [ Shehita – killing] live with me and with Israel. There was nothing we could do against it. It has a fatal effect on the health of Israel, and I can see how it will bring about the end. But what can we do — this is the situation and no other. I am doing everything I can to prevent it but to my regret there are elements that can stop even the strongest will. Israel is dying before my eyes, and I wring my hands and can do nothing to help. Have you ever tried to beat your head against a wall? Two months ago I was in the city where you were born. There I met my friends from Hurban [ hurban – destruction] School. It is doing excellent business....

Hurban accompanied me faithfully and tried to make the days of my visit agreeable. For as regards the satisfaction of emotions he was always very civil. I saw Chajka. Apart from her I found nobody.

As regards our material existence, we manage somehow. We work as before. Josef [Kaplan] and I in our profession [leadership], and it works somehow. Only one thing has changed – the prospects. I have only one desire: to tell the world that Israel is so sick. For he is my best friend, and even if there cannot be much practical help, still the simple realization that somebody is with us, if only in their thoughts, on our road of suffering, makes it easier. But do not upset yourself too much, my friend. After all, there are theories concerning adaptation to conditions.

This has become a strange letter. At first it was intended to talk only about myself and about you: how I draw up from my memory details about you, and how sometimes when things are difficult I wonder what you would have done in the same case. But sometimes I cannot dredge up your appearance in my memory. I have not a single photograph. Who knows what will happen to me before you get this letter.

Don't give greetings to anyone. I don't want to know them! But you I would like to see again.

Tosia [Altman]

Adam! A few days ago I saw your parents. They are managing all right. We, too, remember them with affection. So you may feel reassured about them.

Source: B. Habas, Mihtavim min ha-Getta'ot ("Letters from the Ghettos"), Tel Aviv, 1943, pp. 40-43.

* Many of the letters contain coded expressions taken from the Hebrew.

Source: Yad Vashem