Wednesday, November 11, 2015

MAIN IMAGE: Mary Wattenberg (Mary Berg), left, walks down a street of the Warsaw Ghetto with her boyfriend in this undated photo slide. Berg s published
Mary Wattenberg (Mary Berg), left, walks down a street of the Warsaw Ghetto with her boyfriend in this undated photo slide. Berg s published account of surviving the Holocaust was widely read. But only after a man discovered this photo and others in an album won at a Red Lion auction earlier this year did it become clear that Berg lived and worked here in York County for years. INSET: The cover image of The Diary of Mary Berg: Growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto, published by Oneworld Press. (Main photo courtesy of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Lodz, November 3, 1939
Almost every day our apartment is visited by German soldiers who, under various pretexts, rob us of our possessions I feel as if I were in prison. Yet I cannot console myself by looking out of the window, for when I peer from behind the curtain I witness hideous incidents like that which I saw yesterday:
A man with markedly Semitic features was standing quietly on the sidewalk near the curb. A uniformed German approached him and apparently gave him an unreasonable order, for I could see that the poor fellow tried to explain something with an embarrassed expression Then a few other uniformed Germans came upon the scene and began to beat their victim with rubber truncheons. They called a cab and tried to push him into it, but he resisted vigorously. The Germans then tied his legs together with a rope, attached the end of the rope to the cab from behind, and ordered the driver to start. The unfortunate man's face struck the sharp stones of the pavement, dyeing them red with blood. Then the cab vanished down the street.

Lodz, November 12, 1939
Percy, my mother's younger brother, has returned from Nazi captivity. Only a miracle saved him from death. On the battlefield, seeing the approaching Nazis, and realizing that his unit had surrendered, he decided to commit suicide. As he was in a medical unit he had all sorts of drugs on his person; he swallowed thirty tablets of Veronal and fell asleep. He lay thus on the open field when suddenly a pouring rain began to fall. This awakened him. "I don't know how it happened", he told us, "but I suddenly began to vomit, and spat up almost all of the poison". He was too weak to move, and soon the Germans picked him up and placed him in a prison camp Next day, with a comrade, he managed to get through the barbed-wire fence and after wandering for a week in the so-called Kampinowska forest, made his way to Lodz.

November 15, 1940
Today the Jewish ghetto was officially established. Jews are forbidden to move outside the boundaries formed by certain streets. There is considerable commotion Our people are hurrying about nervously in the streets, whispering various rumours, one more fantastic than the other.
Work on the walls -- which will be three yards high -- has already begun. Jewish masons, supervised by Nazi soldiers, are laying bricks upon bricks. Those who do not work fast enough are lashed by the overseers. It makes me think of the Biblical description of our slavery in Egypt. But where is the Moses who will release us from our new bondage?
At the end of those streets in which the traffic has not been stopped completely there are German sentries. Germans and Poles are allowed to enter the isolated quarter, but they must not carry any parcels. The specter of starvation looms up before us all.

January 4, 1941
The ghetto is covered with deep snow. The cold is terrible and none of the apartments are heated. Wherever I go  find people wrapped up in blankets or huddling under feather beds. That is, if the Germans have not yet taken all these warm things for their own soldiers. The bitter cold makes the Nazi beasts who stand guard near the ghetto entrances even more savage than usual. Just to warm up as they lurch back and forth in the deep snow, they open fire every so often and there are many victims among the passers-by. Other guards who are bored with their duty at the gates arrange entertainments for themselves. For instance, they choose a victim from among the people who chance to go by, order him to throw himself in the snow with his face down, and if he is a Jew who wears a beard, they tear it off together with the skin until the snow is red with blood. When such a Nazi is in a bad mood, his victim may be a Jewish policeman who stands guard with him.
Yesterday I myself saw a Nazi gendarme "exercise" a Jewish policeman near the passage from the Little to the Big Ghetto on Chlodna Street. The young man finally lost his breath, but the Nazi still forced him to fall and rise until he collapsed in a pol of blood. Then someone called for an ambulance and the Jewish policeman was put on a stretcher and carried away on a hand truck. There are only three ambulance cars for the whole ghetto, and for that reason hand trucks are mostly used. We call them rickshas.
Snow is falling slowly, and the frost draws marvelous flower patterns on the windowpanes. I dream of a sled gliding over the ice, of freedom. Shall I ever be free again? I have become really selfish. For the time being I am still warm and have food, but all around me there is so much misery and starvation that I am beginning to be very unhappy.

July 10, 1941
I am full of dire forebodings. During the last few nights, I have had terrible nightmares. I saw Warsaw drowning in blood; together with my sister and my parents, I walked over prostrate corpses. I wanted to flee, but could not, and awoke in a cold sweat, terrified and exhausted. The golden sun and the blue sky only irritate my shaken nerves.

July 29, 1941
The typhus epidemic is raging. Yesterday the number of deaths from this disease exceeded two hundred The doctors are simply throwing up their hands in despair. There are no medicines, and all the hospitals are overcrowded. New beds are constantly being added in the wards and corridors, but this does not solve the problem, and the number of victims is growing daily.

September 20, 1941
The Nazis are victorious. Kiev has fallen. Soon Himmler will be in Moscow. London is suffering severe bombardments. Will the Germans win this war? No, a thousand times no! Why do not the Allies bomb German cities? Why is Berlin still intact? Germany must be wiped off the face of the earth. Such a people should not be allowed to exist. Not only are the uniformed Nazis criminals, but all the Germans, the whole civilian population, which enjoys the fruits of the looting and murders committed by their husbands and fathers.

December 9, 1941
America's entry into the war has inspired the hundreds of thousands of dejected Jews in the ghetto with a new breath of hope. The Nazi guards at the gates have long faces Some are considerably less insolent, but on others the effect has been exactly opposite and they are more unbearable than ever. Most people believe that the war will not last long now and that the Allies' victory is certain.

February 27, 1942
Shootings have now become very frequent at the ghetto exits. Usually they are perpetrated by some guard who wants to amuse himself. Every day morning and afternoon, when I go to school, I am not sure whether I will return alive. I have to go past two of the most dangerous German sentry posts: at the corner of Zelazna and Chlodna Streets near the bridge, and at the corner of Krochmalna and Grzybowska Streets. At the latter place there is usually a guard who has been nicknamed "Frankenstein", because of his notorious cruelty. Apparently this soldier cannot go to sleep unless he has a few victims to his credit; he is a real sadist. When I see him from a distance I shudder He looks like an ape: small and stocky, with swarthy grimacing face. This morning on my way to school as I was approaching the corner of Krochmalna and Grzybowska Streets, I saw his familiar figure, torturing some ricksha driver whose vehicle had passed an inch closer to the exit than the regulations permitted. The unfortunate man lay on the curb in a puddle of blood. A yellowish liquid dripped from his mouth to the pavement. Soon I realized that he was dead, another victim of the German sadist. The blood was so horribly red the sight of it completely shattered me.

July 5, 1942
Fewer and fewer students come to our school; now they are afraid to walk in the streets The Nazi guard Frankenstein is raging through the ghetto, one day he kills ten persons, another day five ... everyone expects to be his next victim. A few days ago, I too, ceased completely attending school. Today I boldly removed my arm band. After all, officially I am now an American citizen.
The inhabitants of the street looked at me with curiosity: 'That's the girl who is going to America'. In this street everyone knows everyone else. Every few minutes people approached me and asked me to note the addresses of their American relatives, and to tell them to do everything possible for their unfortunate kin.

December 17, 1942
Dita W., one of yesterdays arrivals, told us last night what she had heard about the camp at Treblinki. During her frequent visits to Gestapo headquarters at Aleja Szucha she became acquainted with a German who was an official in this death camp. He did not realize that she was Jewish, and told her with great satisfaction how the deported Jews were being murdered there, assuring her that the Germans would finally "finish off" all the Jews.
At the Umschlagplatz the cattle cars are loaded with one hundred and fifty people each, after their floors have been covered with a thick layer of lime. The cars have no windows or other openings. The people lie on top of each other without sufficient air to breathe, and without food or water. The cars are often left for two or three days at the Stawki station. The locked-up people must perform their natural functions in the closed cars and, as a result, the lime dissolves, filling the cars with poisonous fumes The survivors are unloaded at Treblinki station and divided according to  their trades. Shoemakers, tailors, etc., are grouped separately in order to make the victims believe that they are going to be employed in workshops. The real purpose is to make them go to their deaths more obediently The women are separated from the men.
Mary Berg (pseudonym) Poland, 15 years old

Children in the Holocaust and World War II, their secret diaries -- compiled by Laurel Holliday  c. 1995

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