Władysław Szlengel was a popular Polish Jewish writer before World War II. Born in 1914 in Warsaw, he became known for his satirical pieces in Polish newspapers. Szlengel continued his work as a humorist even after the Germans sealed the Warsaw ghetto in November 1940, reading his satires on ghetto life from the Café Sztuka on Leszno Street. Some of his poems from the period of the ghetto have been preserved in the underground Oneg Shabbat archive. This work, however, is far from humorous.1
"Final Exams" is one of two Szlengel poems featured in this collection, and it was written at about the same time as "Bread" in the fall of 1941. In "Final Exams," the speaker is a Jewish student who can hardly believe that a former classmate is preparing for her final exams, or "matura." Szengel's narrator compares prewar memories of school tests with the daily realities of ghetto life. Adversity and hunger dominate life in the ghetto so much that "l i f e" (with letters spread out graphically for emphasis) has itself become a teacher and a test.
Both "Bread" and "Final Exams" reflect upon the harsh conditions of life in the Warsaw ghetto. Like "Bread," "Final Exams" also suffers from preservation issues. Water damage to the paper has made the last several lines of text unreadable.