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Wartime Correspondence


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Letter from Gitla to Anonymous Persons

Gitla letter 1942
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw

On December 17, 1942, a Jewish woman named of Gitla threw this note from a train passing through the train station in Częstochowa in occupied Poland. It was written on a simple piece of paper, a few quick words addressed to her "dear ones."

This letter exemplifies the diverse genre of "last letters" written during the Holocaust by Jews who sensed that they would not live much longer.1 Though Gitla announces that she and probably her remaining family members—she uses the pronoun "we"—were being taken "to work," there seems to be a hint of despair in the message. Did Gitla know the fate that awaited most Jews deported to Poland?

Gitla's full name is unknown, as is the origin of her deportation. But there are some clues in the letter and the accompanying archival documents. First, the letter eventually came to Warsaw's Oyneg Shabes archive,2 though it is unclear how this happened.3

The postwar archivist in the Oyneg Shabes archive noted that the transport had originated in Płońsk. Some of the letter's details suggest that they were correct. The letter was dated December 17, 1942, and Gitla wrote that they had been traveling for two days already. This short time window corresponds with the time of the final wave of deportations from the Płońsk ghetto; the last transport that left the ghetto departed on December 16.4 Gitla might have been on that one or the one that was sent off the previous day. Finally, the transport was clearly traveling southwestward, from Płońsk, via Warsaw, to Częstochowa, from which Gitla sent her letter.

The last leg of this journey was some sixty miles long, from Częstochowa south to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the entire transport was murdered in the gas chamber.

For the range of topics and subgroups that this genre encompasses, see the overview in Zvi Bachrach, ed., Last Letters from the Shoah (New York and Jerusalem: Devora Publishing and Yad Vashem, 2004).

Organized and directed by Emanuel Ringelblum, archivists at Oyneg Shabes assembled traces of Jewish life in Warsaw to preserve them in the face of Nazi genocide. For a detailed history, see Samuel Kassow, Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007).

Either the address ("40/35 Marmurowa") was in the Warsaw ghetto, and someone who found the letter in Częstochowa delivered it to Warsaw, upon which the letter was smuggled into the ghetto and found its way to Oyneg Shabes archivists. It's also possible that the intended recipient received the letter in Częstochowa, and they themselves made it to the Warsaw ghetto in the period immediately following this. Two details suggest that the latter scenario was more likely: the address on the note does not state the town, suggesting that the residence was local—perhaps a street address in Częstochowa itself. Gitla also wrote in the letter that the transport had already passed through Warsaw. If the intended recipient had been in the Warsaw ghetto, it would have made more sense to throw the letter off of the train there.

See the USHMM Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. See also a related item in Experiencing History, Anonymous Letter Thrown from a Deportation Train.

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[front]

17.XII.42

My dear ones, we are currently passing through Częstochowa, so we are writing a few words to you. We also passed through Warsaw. We are going to work. Stay hopeful. I am not giving you a new address as I do not know what it is yet. Goodbye, yours with kisses,

Gitla

[back]

(Częstochowa)

 

We are on the way 

for two days already

[address]

 

40/35 Marmurowa [St.]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
RG Number 15.079M
Date Created
December 17, 1942
Author / Creator
Gitla
Language(s)
Polish
Location
Częstochowa, Poland
Reference Location
Warsaw, Poland
Płońsk, Poland
Częstochowa, Poland
Auschwitz, Poland
Document Type Letter
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