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"November Night"

Andrzej Wajda


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Talks of creating a ghetto

Marek Edelman - Social activist

After that, they nominated Czerniakow... who nominated him? Fischer, I suppose, he was nominated by Fischer who was the commendant, I don't know what function he held, Hitler's civil representative in Warsaw, I don't remember which one of them it was, Czerniakow was nominated and he appointed the council for the Jewish community because that's a self-governing institution, too, and every party, among others, because Bund had a large number of councillors there with the same proportion as Magistrate in the town council, so one of these councillors, who was Zygielbojm, he was summoned to join the council. I think that was in October, November 1939. Suddenly, there was talk of creating a ghetto. And suddenly, people began to talk about the ghetto, that the Germans were going to start one up. And a huge crowd of people gathered outside of the Jewish Community Council building at Grzybowska Street number 20 something, the courtyard was enormous and both it and the street were full of people, and Czerniakow went to those authorities and started to negotiate and they said there would be no ghetto then. It was going on, someone was meant to address the crowd to tell them to go home, not to stay out there because it was cold. I was standing in a stairwell and could see the whole square, full of people and suddenly a table was brought out and Artur got up on the table and said that Czerniakow had returned from the talks with the Germans and that there wasn't going to be a ghetto, but then he gave a speech saying that this fascism that existed today would come to an end and that things would go well for us and we would be victorious, and then he got down from the table and went home. He went somewhere because after several hours the Gestapo turned up wanting to know where that speaker was, the one who's turning the people against the Germans. So he never showed himself again at the Jewish Community Council building and went into hiding. He went into hiding, he was known, he was a well know figure in Warsaw, he wasn't the sort of person who could pass among the Jews in the ghetto without someone recognising him and pointing him out, because there was no shortage of that kind of low-life. No one knows if that's how it would have been but just in case he went into hiding and it was decided that he can't remain in Warsaw, that he has to leave for Belgium. But he had no documents, no passport, no visa, nothing. So how could he do this? Spaak was the Belgian prime minister. Spaak was related to Estera Alter-Iwińska because her sister was married to a professor from the polytechnic, I can't remember his name, who'd constructed the first aerodynamic tunnel for airplanes. He was very odd but very learned, and he and Spaak were somehow related because she had two sisters in Belgium, one was a doctor and the other was the wife of this professor. She was a great social activist over there. She travelled and did... the Sanacja government wasn't angelic before the war, they refused to give her a passport so she used to travel to Belgium using her sister's passport. They looked alike, so it didn't matter, there was an age difference of 2 or 3 years, the border guard didn't notice this so she travelled. She had her sister's Belgian passport. This was already an underground movement, the photograph in this Belgian passport was changed, it was stamped and Artur was meant to go to Belgium.

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