Angry television, which means Sin Senal

Text and holocaust

Two complementary questions accompany the discussions in this chapter. One question concerns the means and possibilities of expression of the authors, the other concerns the attitudes of the researcher towards the examined texts. So: How is the ghetto to be described and which interpretive tracks should be followed so that the recordings of this experience can be made comprehensible?

Here I would first like to deal with the motif of the window and the situation of looking out. Philippe Hamon, who primarily researches Émile Zola's novels, comes to the conclusion that the window motif is one of many common signals that provide a background for such a description. The realistic discourse is carefully subject to various restrictions, to which Hamon draws attention by calling the introductory situation to this description an “empty subject”. If you fill in the empty topic with a description, this leads to a paradoxical situation, as the text then increasingly refers less to the extra-textual reality than to itself. Therefore, the description must necessarily be built into a certain motivational framework, which in turn creates the network condense intra-textual connections.

The window motif as a narrative device to introduce a description constitutes a gaze situation directed at the described object. The description is thus dependent on the gaze of the descriptor, it is motivated by this gaze. The window thus becomes a symbol for this type of description, the gaze in turn becomes a special vehicle for the description, which it locates and supports in the discourse166. The window motif, which clearly accentuates the eyewitness, can be seen as a special emblem of that area of ​​literature - the literature of the personal document - as we call texts after Roman Zimand, the "world of eyewitness"167 affect.

For the researcher, the formula of looking through a window opens up one of the possible ways in which he can advance to the Holocaust experience inscribed in a text. This formula reveals the organization of the ← 175 | 176 → Text in the matter of language and reveals the type of expression. At the same time, it gives the interpretation process a certain direction, outlines the framework for understanding the text.

The gaze situation that is directed at the described object not only determines the narrative, but also characterizes the cognitive attitude of the author towards the world. It also gives indications of his individual way of perceiving reality and the form in which this is recorded and transmitted. Two factors seem to be decisive here: the emphasis on eyewitness in personal testimony on the one hand and the concreteness of the image, which is to a certain extent empirically - through direct observation - on the other.

A message constructed according to these principles has the highest credibility. After all, one of the general knowledge principles shared by the author and potential reader is the conviction that a sensory testimony cannot deceive; ultimately, our senses are the guarantors of the truth of our knowledge. The "unbelieving Thomas" has to touch before he can believe. The formula of eyewitness can be paraphrased as follows: What I am describing really exists; it is something real that can be seen, touched, measured, that has a definite shape - its own shape; what I'm describing is the truth because I've seen it with my own eyes. After all, looking, touching and hearing are not fooled - to use Czesław Miłosz's words from his poem "Nadzieja" [Hope].

The view through the window can therefore be described as a metaphorical description of a certain interpretive attitude. It directs the interpreter to the representational nature of the world, tells him to pay attention to the layer of the appearance of things evoked by the text, attaches special importance to the concrete. Following this trail, I would first like to dwell on the motif of the window. Selected description sequences will next be discussed. With regard to their content (content), these can be divided into three thematic strands168. To start with, I want the representation of ← 176 | 177 → Look at people, then the death scenes, and finally the corpses.

The window


In the hastily noted reports from the Warsaw Ghetto, the window motif appears on three levels, according to which the discourse is organized - firstly as an element of a, so to speak, "modal framework" of the narration, secondly as an element of the world of the presented text, its representational equipment, and third, as a sign of a certain type of cognitive and existential experience. The question is: What does a person see who, locked behind walls, write down his testimony?

The above-mentioned observations by Philippe Hamon on purely literary material cannot automatically be transferred to the analysis of personal documents. Rather, they have an inspiring value, they provide a certain direction of thought.

As problematic as the demarcation between the two types of discourse may be, the difference between them ensures that the status of that “empty topic” in the realistic novel is different from the status of its counterpart in the diary or in memories. The role of the diary or memoir author is different from the role of the novelist (even if the novel should reflect the form of the personal document) - it is always tied to a specific place and time, determined and determined by biography and history primarily designed to expose the value of their authenticity. It is not only a function of the author's life situation, one of the many roles he assumes in his life, but becomes the subject of a literary game. A change in communicative convention is inscribed in the role of the author: the author no longer hides behind the narrative medium and the narrated world. He takes off the mask and reveals his true face - or rather a face that both the writer and the reader are willing to recognize as maskless.

In other words: telling incidents or describing situations is a completely real activity for the diary or memoir author that does not require any additional underpinning within the discourse. The formula of the autobiographical provides her with sufficient and at the same time final motivation: I write about myself and about the world, about ← 177 | 178 → what has actually been experienced and seen. So one could say that in the personal document what Hamon calls an "empty subject" has its natural reference. The writer of a diary “really” sees something through the window, and this something then becomes the object of his description. In the realistic novel, such a situation has to be arranged accordingly - in the diary, on the other hand, the conventionality of the window motif can easily leave the agreed framework and become something real. The window is then not just a narrative device, but more: an element of the described reality itself. A real window through which the author of the diary looks at the world.


The window indicates the particular local situation of the writer in the ghetto. The writer is in a place where two spheres, two symbolic spaces meet: house and street. The house as a private space faces the public space on the street; it becomes the point of reference for what is going on outside. The world to be described can be seen through the window. The attitude of the eyewitness is summarized in the window motif: I see and describe.

When he sat in his apartment at 18 Leszno Street in the evenings, Emanuel Ringelblum could hear starving children screaming in the silence that surrounded him. In its Kronika getta warszawskiego he notes: "Today, November 14th (1941), I heard a little grimace of three or four years crying in the evening" (p. 334)169. At night the street in the ghetto is an inaccessible space - nobody is allowed to stay there after the police hour. Marigold is trapped in his house, helpless, separated from the crying and lamenting that can be heard right next to him. With an alms he can buy a moment of rest: "[S] Finally you throw them a piece of bread, otherwise you will have no rest in your apartment" (p. 301) - but that is only a substitute act. In reality, the world outside the window robs people of peace of mind forever:

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Even though I hear this crying every evening, I can't until late at night - those few Groszy I give them every evening can't calm my conscience (p. 347).

His observations from the window of his apartment at 2 Mylna Street, right by the wall between Ghetto and Przejazd Street, are the source of some of the notes in Avrom Levin's diary. Through a hole in the wall - which was struck again and again and bricked up over and over again - the smuggling took place incessantly. Levin repeatedly revisits that hole in his notes, the smugglers and policemen who are watching it, and the human tragedies connected with it.

Yesterday at 9 o'clock in the evening a Jewish boy aged 13-14 was shot down in front of my window. The murder was committed by a dark blue policeman [a member of the Polish police established by the German occupiers in the Generalgouvernement; Note d. Transl.]. He shot through the hole in the wall and hit the boy right in the heart (BŻIH 19-20, p. 192).

Through her window in Pawiak (more precisely, in the women's section of the prison called “Serbia”), Mary Berg observes the great liquidation operation that begins on July 22, 1942. Her mother was an American citizen. The whole family, along with a group of other foreign citizens, had been interned shortly before the start of the action and were held in the prison building until January 1943. In her diary, Mary only records what she can see through her window on Dzielna Street or what she learns from conversations with people close to her that are also held through this window. Therefore, her pictures of the ghetto from the time of the deportations often begin with phrases like: "[A] ‌ from our window I see ...". It is the same with the description of a scene that, as it turns out, is half report and half imagination. Without a doubt, however, the author saw it all with her own eyes, as the whole thing was literally taking place across the street.

A few days ago we all stood at the window and watched as the Germans surrounded the building. Rows of children stepped hand in hand out of the gate. […] Each child carried a small bundle in their arms. All wore white coats. So they walked quietly in rows of two, even smiling. […] At the end of the whole procession, Dr. Korczak […]. He wore high heels with tucked-in cuffs, a jacket made of alpaca wool and a dark blue cap on his head, and he walked briskly next to a doctor from the children's home who was wearing a white coat. The sad procession of people disappeared around the corner of Dzielna and Smocza Streets. They went towards Gęsia Street, to the cemetery (pp. 186–187).

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Mary Berg is wrong in believing that she is a witness to the dissolution of Janusz Korczak's House of Orphans. At 39 Dzielna Street, in the former Stanisław Kostka Asylum - opposite the window from which the author observed the scene - was the Główny Dom Schronienia [Great House of Refuge], which was already under occupation the amalgamation of several welfare offices had arisen. The living conditions there were horrific, Korczak only called the house a “child murder facility”. At the beginning of 1942 he even worked there for a month as a salaried educator to improve the situation. Korczak's own orphanage, Dom Sierot, was then at 16 Sienna Street at the corner of 9 Śliska Street, and from there the Old Doctor and his children were taken to Umschlagplatz on August 6, 1942 - not to the Okopowa cemetery. Road. There are some reports from eyewitnesses who observed Janusz Korczak's last journey170. None of them describe Korczak's clothes in as much detail as Mary Berg. They unanimously emphasize, however, that Korczak did not walk behind, but at the head of the children's procession that day. Nor could he have been the man who walked briskly in high heels, because "Korczak dragged himself forward, laboriously put foot to foot, he looked as if he had shrunk, mumbled something to himself from time to time," as it was with Rudnicki171 called. Only at the transshipment point, when the children were being put on the train, did Korczak walk behind them and disappear as the last into the throat of the wagon.

Mary Berg's mistake is, paradoxically, evidence of her actual eyewitness. Almost completely cut off from any information about the events in the ghetto, she only knew as much as she could see from the window in Pawiak. She witnessed the liquidation of the House of Refuge; that the children who went down there were not Janusz ← 180 | 181 → Korczak's protégés, she did not know. The crowd escaped her view as it turned north from Dzielna Street into Smocza Street. From then on, due to the location of the Serbia women's wing, she could no longer see anything. Berg had only caught the fact that the children's way led through Gęsia Street to Okopowa Street and that afterwards everyone was shot in the cemetery, which is why she added the following to this information: "It said that ..." Korczak himself was already in Ghetto a legendary figure. When Mary Berg looked out the window of her cell, she saw an embodiment of that legend because that was what she wanted to see.


The author of a diary speaks - just like the author of a novel - in a certain way selected from many possible ways of speaking to his readers, he decides on a special communication strategy. He inevitably sees the reality surrounding him and himself from a certain perspective. Therefore, the window, which here is undoubtedly more firmly connected with reality than in the realistic novel, could at the same time be an agreed sign of the worldview adopted by the author. It could be regarded as a kind of symbolic abbreviation that denotes the type of perceptual sensitivity of the author as well as the type of cognitive and existential experience contained in the writing.

The two basic types of this experience can be summarized in the metaphors “Window with a view of the Aryan side” and “Window with a ghetto view”.

The window is an artificial structure that arbitrarily divides the space and disrupts its natural continuum. At the same time, however, it imposes a certain order on it, marks spatial semantics. With the first type of experience, the gaze is directed outwards, to the other side. The “window with a view of the Aryan side” is a sign of an impassable border. It opens up to an area that is inaccessible, although it is in close proximity - the proverbial arm's length away. There is no connection between the place where the viewer is and the place that can be seen in front of the window; it is impossible to reach him. There is an abyss between the two places. On the other side you can see - through the limited section of the window - another world172.

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Our second Christmas in the war - Mary Berg notes on Christmas Eve 1940. - From my window on the “Aryan” side I see Christmas trees hung with lights (p. 46).

[20. May 1941:] It's spring on the other side of the barbed wire. From my window I see young girls with bouquets of violets in their hands walking along the “Aryan” side of the street. I even smell the sweet scent of the swelling buds on the trees. But there is no trace of spring in the ghetto (p. 64).

Władysław Szpilman describes the spring-like sight and the scent of lilacs wafting over from the Saxon Garden. After performing in the Sztuka café on Leszno Street, he and the painter Roman Kramsztyk used to visit one of his friends on Elektoralna Street. The small apartment was on the top floor of an old building and had a balcony.

Before darkness fell, we went out onto the balcony to take a breath of air that was purer up here than in the dusty and stuffy streets.The police hour was approaching; the people had each other in their houses ← 182 | 183 → included, the spring sun low in the sky covered the zinc roofs with a pink shimmer, flocks of white pigeons made their way in and out of the blue sky Ogród Saski (Saxon Garden) the scent of lilacs streamed over the walls to us in the quarter of the damned (p. 70).

The window on the Aryan side directs the view over walls and borders and thus awakens the bitter awareness of being excluded from space - an awareness that is all the more difficult to endure than the place from which it has been driven forever , after all, still exists, is still there, right next door. The amazement that everything on that side is so normal, but still unreachable for oneself, so close and everyday, only one is no longer there - it is the amazement of a person who has already moved from the grave to the world of the Living looks. For the ghetto residents - who are practically dead during their lifetime - the window seems to be a sign of this very experience.

From the windows on the other side of the wall you can see so many tall buildings that are not residential buildings - notes Stanisław Sznapman. - How many chambers are there. How many hiding places are there. How well you could stay there unnoticed until summer and then go somewhere far into the woods. The world is so big, there is no place in it for us alone (Pamiętniki z getta, P. 206).

The view out of the window arouses longing, offers a substitute for freedom. But all of this only causes more pain, as the open window becomes a paradoxical figure of imprisonment. On May 18, 1942, Avrom Levin stated: "[H] ‌Today is a real spring day", but immediately adds:

I sit by the open window and don't feel any coolness. Yet one cannot enjoy nature, God's wonderful world. We wander around in a prison as mankind has never seen it (B nochIH 19-20, p. 179).


The “window with a ghetto view” is no longer at the border of two worlds. It is not a gateway between this and that side, as both were finally separated from each other. The other side can only be seen from the border. However, life in the closed district was not only concentrated on its borders, even if the transit points, which are so crucial for smuggling and for people, represented a culmination of that closed space. Yet the experience of the ghetto grows primarily from what happened within its walls. Therefore, the view out of the window in the ghetto leads to the center, to the center of the world in which the person looking out is. He sees a woman locked between walls, ← 183 | 184 → tightly sealed off, stand-alone world separated from the rest of the world. As if looking out of the window of a side wing into a backyard framed on all sides by house walls.

The observer and the object of observation are placed in the same space. Nothing directs the gaze beyond the place where the viewer is, nothing frees his gaze, nothing nourishes his longing for an inaccessible horizon. The window on the Aryan side may simulate freedom, but those looking out cannot escape through this window. Escape is certainly not possible through a window with a ghetto view. An event from September 1941, described by Ringelblum, provides a metaphorical image for imprisonment in a room. It takes place on the corner of Leszno and Żelazna streets, in front of the labor office building.

Some battered, battered, bleeding inmates were brought in from a Warsaw suburb in Pinkert's car. [...] A few candidates who were to be brought to the same camp looked out of the window of the college. When they saw the condition [their predecessors] came back in, they protested and shouted, "We'd better kill ourselves than go there!" And started jumping out of the window one by one (Vol. 1, p . 321-322).

This is a desperate escape to nowhere. The window leads into the middle of the world from which one would like to escape. You can only flee from the ghetto to the ghetto.

A window in the cordoned-off district has at least two symbols. On the one hand, it expresses the desire to overcome the abyss, the hope of an encounter with the world, with people. It is a sign of the longing for open space, for freedom. On the other hand, it makes that abyss, that isolation and rejection painfully tangible.

The double symbolism of the window is particularly evident in the last entry in Janusz Korczak's diary of August 4, 1942, two days before the march to the Umschlagplatz. Korczak observes a German security guard watering the flowers, their eyes meet.

He stands there with his legs apart and looks. […] My bald head by the window - a good goal. [...] What would he do if I nodded to him? Wave friendly? (Pp. 117, 119).

In this passage the window means an opening to the world and to people and at the same time a separation from the world, a danger. One cannot get to know the other, approach them without showing oneself, becoming visible. But that is exactly what poses a deadly danger. The window in the ghetto awakens those who look out a longing for a room without ← 184 | 185 → Borders, while at the same time destroying the safe hiding place. It gives the head free to shoot. The window is a crack through which the horror becomes visible; horrific scenarios stretched as far as the eye could see in the ghetto. However, there was one place where one was not allowed to look out of the window: around the Pawiak prison, between Dzielna and Pawia streets - that is, in an area with the most densely populated streets - it was forbidden to look out of the apartment windows to look at the prison grounds.

On both sides of the Pawiak, the windows had to be covered with thick black paper or black plywood. The windows must be closed day and night. For every gap, for every hole there is a death penalty - notes Ringelblum (vol. 1, p. 377).

The window in the ghetto divided the room into a separate room and an unappropriated, unfamiliar room. From your own apartment or from a hiding place you looked - with a feeling of relative security - at the strange, threatening street. However, this separation was only apparent, both in the spatial sense - after all, all of this occurred in the same delimited and closed world - and in the existential sense. If you looked out the window at the horror of the ghetto, you finally saw your own fate, you saw yourself.

Rokhl Oyerbakh tells of a night in a house in which a man was dragged out of his apartment by Gestapo men and shot in the street. The residents of the house, paralyzed with fear, wait until morning as if frozen.

The body could not be recovered from the street until five in the morning. We saw how he was carried through the hallway, then we saw a small train of people moving up through the higher and higher windows to the stairwell (Ring I, 641, p. 30).

The residents of the house can see through the window panes the well-known staircase and the murdered neighbor who is being carried up to his apartment. They know that each of them could have been in his place - killing is not guided by any logic, no matter how cruel any law. So it is almost as if they saw their own corpse being carried up the stairs.

The nightmare happens right next door, encroaches on the observer, seizes him completely. From the balcony of his apartment on the fourth floor of an old building at 38 Muranowska Street, under which a hiding place was set up, Marian Berland looks at the uprising ghetto.

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We go to a room in our apartment. This room has a balcony overlooking Muranowska Street. […] The balcony […] is the main observation point. [...] You must not approach the window. They're just waiting down there. The balcony is shielded all around with plywood (p. 18).

The uprising is reported from two perspectives: from the hiding place in the basement, which is buried under rubble, and from the balcony on the fourth floor. The author alternates between upstairs and downstairs, repeatedly climbs up from the basement to his apartment, and returns to his observation point. What Berland observes through a small opera glass happens very close, right in front of his eyes. He hears the Germans talking, the sound of their iron-shod boots, he smells the smell of burning, clearly sees the faces of the victims and executioners. The terrible path of the deportees leads directly past him to the Umschlagplatz, while - with the opera glasses on his eye - he observes everything from the balcony as if from a gallery of a Dantic theater. A theater that does not distinguish between spectators and actors, between stage and grandstand.

I borrow an opera glass and go back to the window, where the following is presented to my eyes: about a thousand Jews, herded into a block, crammed together unimaginably so that one crushes the other to a pulp. […] The block of these unfortunate people is surrounded by around two hundred Ukrainians who, as if out of their minds, beat those next to them with knocks, clubs and rifle barrels, in their faces, on their heads, on their backs, wherever they hit. At the feet of the flayers, beaten victims pile up in their pools of blood. [...] With their skulls smashed in, with broken bones, the half-dead drag themselves to the wagons. [...] I have strong nerves and am not easily upset. I had seen countless terrible things during this war, but I couldn't stand the sight, I didn't want to look any longer, passed the opera glasses on to the next best and made it all the faster that I got away. [...] I do not want to make myself aware at all that I and my neighbors could be in the same situation at any time as these people there, on the envelope.173 (Pp. 21-22).

The opera glasses in Marian Berland's hand unexpectedly take on the status of a symbolic prop - the situation of an insane "theater without theater" seems to best make the extraordinary of the experience that the observer receives through the window in the ghetto aware. In order to better grasp that peculiar theatricalization of the gaze to ← 186 | 187 → I would like to linger a little longer with Chaim Aron Kaplan's notes.

On the date of July 21, 1942, exactly on the eve of the great liquidation operation, Kaplan writes about the murder of a Dr. Sztejnkolk. Kaplan becomes an eyewitness to the scene that takes place on the street in front of his house; he watches everything from the window of his apartment on Nowolipki Street. In the description, he gives the event an inner dramaturgy - the entry includes the following phases of the event: (1) Dr. Sztejnkolk comes down Karmelicka Street on the sidewalk; (2) he is molested by the four murderers and (3) he is kicked by one of the four; (4) the doctor turns around and asks: "Why are you kicking me, what did I do to you?"174; (5) the murderers order the doctor to follow them into a gate (which causes Kaplan to lose sight of him), where they murder him (6) (which Kaplan does not see, he only hears the shots); (7) The doctor's body remains in the driveway (not visible to Kaplan) and the murderers go their way, wiping their mouths with their hands, as Kaplan notes.

The author of the diary looks out into the street like a spectator of a play. A drama is taking place in front of him: exposure, complication, peripetia (this can be the situation that arises when Dr. Sztejnkolk directs his question to the murderers), climax - that murder scene that is invisible to the eye and offstage - , and finally the resolution of the situation. But the window in the ghetto is not a theater box from which the audience can safely watch even the most tragic events. There are neither actors nor spectators in this theater. And there is no exit. Everyone finds themselves in the same game - and this game doesn't end when a curtain falls, but when the line between life and death is crossed.

I would also like to discuss an entry by Kaplan dated July 28, 1942. The diary author observes the blockade of a nearby house:

Through the window of my apartment near the "driven hunts" I see those who were going into the traps, and I was so upset that I almost went mad. The thread of his life is cut in a single moment for the arrested person, and the work of a whole life in which he has invested his strength becomes an abandoned property.

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Before my eyes they arrest an old woman who is walking with a stick. Her steps are measured and she walks with great effort. She cannot straighten up. Her face bears the marks of nobility and a now faded family of rank. She too was arrested by a wicked Jewish villain. He needs clients, and even this old lady still counts, "so to speak," with no clothes or linen, even no food. It is sent "to the east". She will be happy when she doesn't live long (Book of Agony, P. 390).

In this short excerpt from the text, the author emphatically emphasizes his eyewitnesses twice. He sees the great human hunt taking place on the street, but only focuses on a certain detail of the whole action. He focuses his gaze on a specific person - an old woman with a collection can in hand. This restricted view places the observer and the observed directly next to each other, almost face to face, in the common space of the same drama. Those who watch the scene from their window today can be on the street tomorrow. The observer can become an observer at any time.

Kaplan, watching the scene, is shocked. What has happened that the author, who is already used to the horrific scenes of ghetto life, almost goes mad at the sight of this concrete occurrence? Or, in other words, what did Chaim Kaplan look like on July 28, 1942 from the window of his apartment?

It seems that that accidentally observed scene gives him a deep insight into what is happening in the here and now before his eyes. As if he suddenly saw everything in a clearer light, almost like in the splendor of an epiphany. The old woman, whose noble facial features seem to conceal a portrait of the whole of humanity, is seized by a hunter, an official of the security service - a "Jewish rascal". For a while, the police officers had a daily minimum number of victims whom they had to personally bring to the transshipment point in order to save themselves from prison. The old woman is just another "head" that the hunter still lacks for his daily norm. That single deportation episode has universal status in Kaplan's eyes. It reveals part of the truth about the Holocaust. About its terrible absurdity. About the randomness of the irrevocable judgment and the arbitrariness of the ultimate downfall, when everything is decided with a single gesture. It reveals that all without exception are condemned. That everything is taken from the victims, even the name, that they are turned into an abstract number, a statistical element. That the line between executioner and victim is blurring. It reveals the triviality of violence. The banality of evil. ← 188 | 189 →


Let us now summarize the reflections made so far: Marian Berland's opera glasses suggest a theatrical metaphor by means of which the phenomenon of the window to the ghetto can be grasped. Like the stage structure in a theater, the window frame delimits a certain space on which the viewer's gaze is concentrated. The framing of the room is a significant semiotic act. It gives a certain shape to what extends in - so to speak - anarchic, disordered manner before the eyes of the beholder. The window gives shape to the amorphous space in front of its "naked" eye. What the viewer sees through the window becomes an image and thus something internally organized that - without his intervention - has its own structure. There is always something in the center of the picture, something is on the edge of the picture and something goes beyond the frame, is outside the field of vision. The window gives, so to speak, a preliminary order to the reality to which it opens. The viewer, who sees reality through the window, already reaches it in a frame - as a picture.

The window separates and places the viewer at a certain distance from the viewer, it organizes the view - similar to the place on the auditorium from which we watch a spectacle. Looking out of the window, we don't choose the image we see.We are even more likely to be chosen to see this picture and no other picture in the window frame. The view out of the window is not innocent - it is an icon of reality that submits to our interpretation.

Thus, the window is first of all a sign of eyewitness - that someone sees an event with their own eyes. Second, the window is a gap through which reality reveals itself to the viewer as an image that demands to be understood. From a window in the closed district the viewer sees a horror that he cannot bear until he finally has to avert his eyes. Sometimes, however, a terribly beautiful existence shimmers through that crack. Then the window in the ghetto gives a clear view of one Mysterium tremendum. A holy horror captivates the gaze and does not let the viewer avert his eyes. For example, Marian Berland observed a gigantic fire in the ghetto from his balcony:

Individual houses are on fire on all sides. A truly terrifying and poignant sight. [...]

Until the end of my life I will not forget what I saw then. As far as the eye could see - one huge sea of ​​flames. It seemed like the end of the world had come. Now it is no longer individual houses that are burning, but entire streets, ← 189 | 190 → whole quarters. Everywhere I look the same thing. Only our side of the street is not on fire. I think I'm sitting in Noah's Ark with a flood of fire all around me. I lie there looking and cannot avert my gaze. […] A night of horror and the Last Judgment (p. 32, 38).

The view through the window confirms that the viewer is trapped in a closed room, condemned to a fate predetermined in this room. In the end, he brings the viewer to the verge of madness (like Kaplan) or forces them to avert their eyes, to pinch shut (like Berland). Thus, looking out of the window at the ghetto leads in a certain sense to not seeing, to blindness. A window with a view only of the ghetto is blind in the sense that it is only open on one side - inward. Nevertheless, one can sometimes see more through such a window than one is able to grasp. In the splendor of the epiphany, a truth about reality, about his own fate, may be revealed to the viewer.

The human


Seen from above, the people in the ghetto are a teeming crowd that throng the streets and backyards. Such representations can be found in descriptions of daily life, general hustle and bustle, the condition on the streets and the behavior of passers-by. If the author of a diary or memoir is out and about in the ghetto, he is always in the thick of the crowd, the apartments are also overcrowded, and the contact points for refugees are full. The omnipresent crowd sometimes becomes a topic of its own, sometimes just the background of the recordings. The masses of people are also mentioned in reports about the great liquidation operation or the uprising: in a block formation on the way to the transshipment point through deserted streets or sitting on the pavement waiting for the selection, or when loading into wagons. In all cases, the crowd remains faceless and anonymous, unless the beholder's gaze pauses at a specific person, outlines their appearance and makes them stand out from the crowd - sometimes just by a single sentence or even a single epithet.

I would like to start looking at the figures with the portrait sketches of people from certain social, professional or informal groups. These can be officials of the community (as with Stefan Ernest), ← 190 | 191 → SS men from the Command post [in original German] (as with Ber Warm or NN “Pamiętniki”, Sign. 129, archive of the ŻIH), people who hide together in the bunker (as with Leon Najberg) or simply the authors' groups of friends (as in Chaim Aron Kaplan's diary). Such a community portrait is composed of the representations of the individual figures; a sequence constructed in this way has a chain structure: the chain links contain the portraits of the individual persons. If such a sequence of descriptions occurs, it interrupts the flow of the narrative and thus gives the author the opportunity to introduce the characters around whom his story revolves. Such series of portrait sketches become independent units, the length of which depends primarily on the type of discourse. If the narrated plot is more in the foreground, the group portraits - if they occur at all - are short, superficial and fragmentary. In contrast, they are detailed in a largely descriptive discourse. This is particularly the case in the diaries of Stefan Ernest, Stanisław Adler or the unknown author whose text is kept in the ŻIH archive with the “Pamiętniki” under the number 129.

In the scope and system of the explanations, they differ from the aforementioned notes by Emanuel Ringelblum Sylwetki [Silhouettes] which its editors as an integral part of the Kronika getta warszawskiego incorporated. The Sylwetki