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Letter from Dawid Najmark to his Family

Najmark, David letter 1941
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw

Though born in Poland, Dawid Najmark had emigrated to the United States before the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Najmark kept in touch with the part of his family that stayed behind at home—his mother, sister, and brother in Warsaw as well as other siblings and many other relatives in Poland—even before the war. As Germany occupied the country, correspondence and communication took on new urgency. Najmark was certainly aware of the German policies against the Jews in occupied Poland, and particularly in the area known as the Generalgouvernement, where his family lived.

Around the time that Dawid wrote this letter, the Nazi campaign to murder all European Jews was already underway. In August of 1941, German units were conducting mass shootings of Jews in the Soviet Union and had begun plans to systematically deport and gas the Jews of Poland.1 It is unlikely that this news had reached Najmark, but the situation facing his family was already dire. Germans had begun to shut Jews into ghettos across the Generalgouvernement, and Najmark's close family were now forced to live in the Warsaw ghetto.2 It may have seemed to Dawid that things could not possibly get worse, as suggested by the dread and alarm that emerge from the pages of this letter.

Mailed from Najmark's home in New York to his family in Warsaw, the letter was never delivered. A few weeks after Dawid wrote it, it was opened by German military censors in the Generalgouvernement, and subsequently "returned to sender." This may have been because the Najmarks had "moved" from their apartment in Warsaw or were not living at their address for another reason.3 Many Jews in the city had been forced from their residences to new, "shared" quarters inside the ghetto when the ghetto was sealed off in November 1940. Pawia Street, where Dawid’s family lived, actually was in the part of town that became the ghetto, making it likely that they had been forcibly relocated elsewhere—or had fallen victim to Nazi violence. While there had been no planned mass murder of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto at this point, Germans frequently killed Jews for small infractions, "crimes," or on other pretexts.

The fate of Dawid's family during Holocaust remains unknown. Most letters preserved in archives are those sent to Dawid; the one here was preserved only because it was returned to him by the Germans.

See the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's Holocaust Encyclopedia for more on mass shootings of Jews following the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and Operation Reinhard, the Nazi blueprint for the mass murder of Polish Jews.

For a history of many aspects of 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).

In addition to German stamps, the envelope features markings of the United States Postal Service, which provide further clues about the letter's voyage.

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[Envelope front]

Address:

Szlama Najmark

Warschau 

92 Pawia st., apt. 33 

Germany-Poland

 

Nazi stamp: High Command of the Armed Forces 

Postmark—Opened August 30, 1941 

 

Nazi stamp: Back to sender 

 

 

[Letter]

 

Brooklyn, August 4, 1941

 

Dear mother, sister, and brother,

I've had no news from you for a long time already, and I simply don't know what to think. Well, truth be told, I have put off writing lately, thinking that maybe some sort of letter would arrive from you; but unfortunately not. I don't have any news from Aron lately either—if you know anything about him, I would kindly ask that you let me know. I have also not received any notification about the money I sent you recently. And yet I know that people are receiving letters from Warsaw and other cities, and this worries me even more, and you know, my dears, once you start thinking you think all sorts of things, so I ask you, my dears, not to stop writing, if one letter doesn't come then the second or third will come. Write to me how Mama, Aunt, and generally how every person in the family is doing. Don't worry about me, everything is more than fine with me, and my one desire is to see you as soon as possible. Aside from that I have a small favor to ask of you: if it's possible, find out the date that Dawid's father died and write to one of us because he is concerned about the anniversary and would be very grateful. I would like to write a few words on the subject of sending assistance, but it is simply very uncomfortable for me to write about it. I can only write, and be certain that on my end I would not stop sending, but it doesn't depend on me, and I'll send you assistance as soon as I can because I'm at my post and waiting for the smallest excuse.

Brother Szlojme, why have I no letters from you for such a long time? Put a couple of words down on paper, so I get some sort of news from you. I end my letter with heartfelt regards to Mama, Guta, Szlojme and Fela and their daughter, Moses, Uncle David, Aunt Fajga, and everyone in the family. 

Your son and brother, Dawid.

 

Regards from Aunt and Uncle, the cousins, and David Solana. 

Please answer as quickly as possible.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
RG Number 15.233
Date Created
August 4, 1941
Author / Creator
Najmark, Dawid
Language(s)
German
Polish
Location
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Reference Location
Warsaw, Poland
Document Type Letter
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