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Diary of Jechiel Górny

Górny, Jechiel Diary 1942
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw

Jechiel Górny was one of the most important chroniclers of life in the Warsaw ghetto. There is very little information about him, except that he was probably in his early thirties when the Germans occupied Warsaw and he perished in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the spring of 1943. Apart from that, it is known that he was an associate of Emanuel Ringelblum's and was a participant in Ringelblum's Oyneg Shabes project.

Oyneg Shabes was a clandestine organization led by Ringelblum, who had established himself as an emerging young scholar of Polish Jewish history before the war. Ringelblum had also worked for the American Jewish humanitarian organization, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, known as the Joint. As the German persecution of Polish Jews escalated with the establishment of the ghetto in Warsaw in October 1940, Ringelblum and his associates realized that what Polish Jews faced under Nazi rule was unprecedented. There were many historical examples of persecution and pogroms faced by Jews in Europe, but Ringelblum and his colleagues understood that the current situation was fundamentally different.

Oyneg Shabes set out to create a collection of documents and physical artifacts that would record the persecution of Polish Jews in order to help future historians write a history of Polish Jews under Nazi persecution. As the German policy turned to genocide, Ringelblum understood that the archive itself was in danger. The activists of Oyneg Shabes thus buried their archives in the ghetto. The surviving members of the project were able to recover much of it after the war.1

Like many other Warsaw Jews, Jechiel Górny lost his family in the summer deportations of 1942. Between the months of July and September, German authorities deported roughly 265,000 Jews from Warsaw to Treblinka, where the overwhelming majority of the deportees was murdered immediately. Górny was not deported and continued his work collecting for the archive. After the summer deportations ended in fall 1942, the ghetto was reorganized into a forced labor camp that provided prisoners' labor to German-owned private companies.

During this time, Górny kept a form of personal diary. Unlike many diary authors who note down events and take the time to reflect on them, Górny recorded a rapid succession of events, rumors, brief facts, and curt observations. Most of these seem separated from any personal emotions. Often updated multiple times in a day and stripped of literary style, Górny's notes are an invaluable document from the period after the massive summer deportations from the Warsaw ghetto. Very few first-hand accounts from this time have been preserved.

The Ringelblum archive is housed at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and is digitally available on site at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. To learn more about life in the Warsaw ghetto, see Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009). For a history of Ringelblum's Oyneg Shabes project, see Samuel D. Kassow, Who Will Write Our History? Emmanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007).

The Kurier Warszawski (Warsaw Courier) was a daily newspaper published in Warsaw from 1821-1939. Górny is actually referring to the Nowy Kurier Warszawski (New Warsaw Courier), which was controlled by the occupying German forces and is considered a Nazi propaganda paper. Górny references Hitler’s speech on November 8, 1942, in which he repeated his 1939 "prophecy" that a world war would bring about the end of Jewish life in Europe.

 As in English, "Polak" is a derogatory way to refer to a Polish person in German.

"Aktsye" in Yiddish and "Aktion" in German refers here to a violent and murderous campaign; the term is often used to describe deportations or mass executions.

Umschlagplatz, the location in Warsaw from which Jews were deported to Treblinka.

Darlan was a leading figure in the collaborationist Vichy government in France. On November 8, 1942 he was detained by pro-Allied forces in North Africa, but he was quickly released and recognized as the head of French North and West Africa by the Allies in order to secure French cooperation with the Allied Forces. The deal was highly controversial, as Darlan was seen by many as a leading collaborator. He was assassinated on December 24, 1942.

The “Aryan side” refers to the rest of the city outside of the ghetto.

O.B.W. is the Ostdeutsche Bautischlerei Werkstätte (East German Carpentry Workshop), a factory in which Jews were forced to work. Praga is a neighborhood on the east side of the Vistula River. The ghetto was on the west side of the river, so Jews had to be escorted from the ghetto to the factory.

 Zł., abbreviation for złoty, a unit of Polish currency.

Gruppenführer, a Nazi rank.

Volksdeutscher, an ethnic German. 

Trade school, in Polish in the original.

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10/11 [November 10, 1942]

Today's issue of the Kurier Warszawski carries Hitler's speech.1 In addition to the political content, it is full of Jewish references. Hitler says: "If the Jews meant to destroy Europe, we will eradicate them from Europe altogether."

10/11 3:10 p.m. During the visit of the SS men half an hour ago, Rosenberg, a member of the labor guard, earned himself a few slaps. The reason was typical.

When the SS men entered, Dr. Jablonsky was on the telephone. He had no armband. When the doctor came out, the officers noticed him and asked him if he was a "Polak";2 as he did not reply, they order him to accompany them. However, the doctor took advantage of a moment of inattention to slip away. When the officers started looking for him, they saw the labor guard Rosenberg standing nearby, and asked him where the man had gone. Rosenberg, who knew nothing of the matter, had no answer and for that reason was slapped.


11/11 [November 11, 1942]

Yesterday's action involved almost 1,000 people.3 From the blocks on Leszno, 600 people, and almost four hundred (386) at Toebbens. According to reports, 2,400 tailors were to have been provided by Friday, November 5. The people were to be supplied by the Hoffmann, Toebbens, Schultz, and Aschmann firms. There were negotiations between the SS and the firms, but without result. The action started at the Hoffmann firm, where, instead of 1,000, scarcely 42 people were found in the two plants; in retaliation, the SS took away 100 machines.

11/11 All unskilled workers who were apprehended and led off to the Umschlagplatz are to be released.4

11/11 Rumor has it that the Americans in Africa have detained the French Admiral Darlan.5

11/11 The report that unskilled workers would be released from the Umschlagplatz proved wrong. At this very moment, 9 a.m., there is an action going on at the Toebbens and Schultz blocks.



17/11 [November 17, 1942]

Posters have been posted on the walls of the Aryan side.6 For a period of 10 days, Jews may cross into the ghetto without punishment. The punishment for hiding Jews will be death. For the first time, the warnings in the notices are directed at Germans as well.



22/11 [November 22, 1942]

Yesterday, November 21, when the group of O.B.W. workers who work over in Praga7 stopped for a few minutes on the way (with permission from their military escort) to buy or sell something, the following happened: Mr. Silberberg wanted to sell a small glass vessel for 50 zl.8 The Christian woman wanted to give him only 35 zl. He refused the price and took back his article. Meanwhile, another Christian woman shoved 40 zl at him. Seeing this, the first woman tried to retrieve the glass. The Gruppenführer Srebrnik,9 thinking that the woman was grabbing something away from Mr. Silberberg, went over to push her off. Meanwhile, a bystander mixed in (as it turned out, a Volksdeutscher),10 raised a hue and cry and was about to beat the Jew. Unteroffizier Wohl noticed this and intervened on behalf of his Jews. When the Volksdeutscher reproached him, Wohl slapped him and drove off with his group to Praga.


25/11 [November 25, 1942]

Near the prison on Gesia this morning lay the body of a Jew who had been shot. Eight Jews were shot in the streets of the ghetto before noon today.


26/11 [November 26, 1942]

Yesterday morning, November 25, a gendarme posted at the corner of Lubetskiego near the O.B.W. block warned Jews wishing to leave the block with the following words: "Don't go, there is an SS man over there, he will shoot you."

26/11 The number of people shot in the streets yesterday, November 25, came to 30. Close to 5 p.m., a Jew was shot near Mila 55.

26/11 The three Suchetsky brothers, butchers were shot today at Franciszkanska 22. They were caught smuggling meat.


30/11 [November 30, 1942]

Yesterday, around 7 p.m., Fürst, the head of the economic department [of the Judenrat], was shot by an unknown hand. Who is the victim? Director Fürst, still a young man, 36 years old, carved out a fine career for himself during his lifetime. Those who knew him in his early years can attest to his powerful ambition to become important and achieve his goals. The son of a small embroidery manufacturer, he broke away, finished high school, finished the V.S.H (Wyższa Szkoła Handlowa),11 fell in love with one of the richest daughters in Kalisz (Reich, the daughter of the owner of one of the largest mills in Poland). Thanks to his ambition, he broke through the obstinacy of the Reich family and achieved his goal. Became the Director of the Jewish Academic House of Warsaw. After the entry of the Germans into Warsaw, he became director of the economic department at the Judenrat and, according to information from a Gestapo man, officially the courier between the Judenrat and the Gestapo. In his private life, a terrible person, striving to set himself up above his friends and acquaintances (from his early years on), he would not recoil from anything, not even from dirty, swinish dealing.

The only pity is that such a man reached such a high position in Jewish life—but this could only happen in such abnormal times as we are living through right now.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
RG Number 15.079M
Date Created
November 4, 1942 to December 21, 1942
Page(s) 9
Author / Creator
Jechiel Górny
Warsaw, Poland
Document Type Diary
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