Two unrelated stories of child despair in times of genocide
Since July 8 the desperation of the Ghetto has increased a hundredfold.
... A particularly tragic problem are the children. I have already related
how thousands whose parents had died ... were hunted and killed out like
beasts. Thousands of them attempted to escape from the Ghetto but most
were shot. It is known, however, that about 150 Jewish children were
fortunate enough to escape and are now roaming the streets outside the
Ghetto begging in the houses of Poles. I saw some of these children on
numerous occasions. I shall never forget them. They look less human than
little monsters, dirty ragged with eyes that will haunt one forever --
eyes of little beasts in the last anguish of death. They trust no one and
expect only the worst from human beings. They slide along the walls of
houses looking about in mortal fear. No one knows where they sleep. From
time to time they knock at the door of a Pole and beg for something to
eat. Most of them follow a similar procedure: they knock at a door and run
away to a distance, ready to flee since no one can predict what kind of
creature would emerge from behind the locked door. If a human face appears
they do not beg but without changing their pose they almost all repeat the
same words in bad Polish: "Poles are kind people. Poles do not want to see
human beings die of hunger. I am dying, sir. Long live Poland."
[From Jan Karski's Warshaw Ghetto report written in the summer of 1942
("Voice of the Unconquered", March 1943; New York Times Magazine, January
Sometime after Mother died, we heard a light tapping at the door.
"Go and see who's at the door," Ruth said.
I went to open the door and to my surprise, Cristodoula was standing there.
She looked almost haunted, with dark circles under eyes that darted back
and forth, constantly searching, as if watching for an inevitable blow.
She stood with a stooped posture and a frightened look on her wan face.
Her hand clutched at her side. I put out my arms to embrace her but she
pulled away when Ruth shouted from inside the house at me.
"Who is that girl?"
"Don't tell them I'm your sister," Cristodula said. Her eyes grew larger.
"But why?" I said.
"Just don't tell them," Cristodula said.
"What do you want?" Ruth said, coming to the door.
"Please. Something to eat," Cristodula said. "I am so hungry. Could you
spare something please?"
"Is this your sister?" Ruth said.
It confused me that I should not tell. I would have thought it would help
my sister if the woman knew, but the frightened look in Cristodula's eyes
told me to keep her secret.
"No," I said. Ruth narrowed her eyes, looking first at me, and then at
"She looks like your sister," she said.
"I never saw her before," I said.
"Well we have nothing right now," Ruth said to Cristodula. "Maybe one of the
other neighbors can help you." Then she turned and walked back into the
[From Thea Halo's "Not Even My Name -- From a death march in Turkey to a
new home in America, a young girl's true story of genocide and survival"
(Picador, 2000), p. 168.]
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