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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 immigrated 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 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 throughout occupied Poland.1 It is unlikely that this news had reached Najmark, but the situation facing his family was already dire. German forces had begun to shut Jews into ghettos across the Generalgouvernement, and Najmark's family was 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.

The featured letter was mailed from Najmark's home in New York to his family in Warsaw, but it was never delivered. A few weeks after Dawid wrote it, it was opened by German military censors in the Generalgouvernement and "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. The systematic mass murder of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had not developed yet, but German forces frequently killed Jews for small infractions, "crimes," or other pretexts.

The fate of Dawid's family during the Holocaust remains unknown. Most letters preserved in archives are those sent to Dawid. The featured letter was preserved only because it was returned by German authorities.

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 the plan to systematically murder Jews known as Operation Reinhard.

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, providing further traces of the letter's voyage.

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[Envelope front]


Szlama Najmark


92 Pawia st., apt. 33 



Nazi stamp: High Command of the Armed Forces 

Postmark—Opened August 30, 1941 


Nazi stamp: Back to sender 





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
Dawid Najmark
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Reference Location
Warsaw, Poland
Document Type Letter
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