I've felt that a great history lesson for school kids would be to make them keep a diary for some other kid from some other time, introduce them to the minutiae of life from another time and perhaps another place. With some guidance they could make interesting entries in their diary for, say, 15 June 1897, writing about chores, the daily schedule, what they studied in school, how they were dressed, how they got food on the table and kept the house clean, how they would spend 25 cents, what they would see from some given vantage point, and on and on. This could take place in their very own home town; it could be multi-generational, requiring them to talk to the scary white hairs, or it could reach far back into history and be of an entirely different place altogether. After they were assigned a particular place in time and space, you could give the kid subtle hints, like this one (below), asking them what they thought it might mean by dialing the phone number 200 80 in Warsaw in 1941. And what did that pair of lightning bolts mean, anyway? I think that once they were made to figure it out for themselves, as though they might've been there, and then could record their feelings and observations in a diary might actually bring history to life (especially once they had their "holy crap" (and probably worse) moment at what these numbers implied).
This is one of the ideas that came home again uncovering this odd booklet, which is a Nazi diary for those stationed in the Generalgouvernment (Tascehnjahrbuch 1941 fuer den Deutschen im Generalgouvernement) , for the year 1941. The General Government (or more fully the Generalgouvernement für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete) was one administrative section of occupied Poland, the country being divided in 1939 after the German invasion of 3 September 1939, with the western section being retained by the Germans and the Eastern given over to occupation by the Soviets via the Non-Aggression pact between the USSR and Germany.
This looks like an every day diary for the period, except for the Nazi (or NSDAP) regalia and German imprint of Generalgouvernment in Krakau. And, all of the annotated highpoints of the year for the most overly voracious parts of German militarism as well as for the hotpoints of Nazi history. Hitler, (above) Goering, Goebbels and other leaders' birthdays are highlighted, not to mention seminal points in the development of the Nazi party and party-adoptees (Richard Wagner has a number of entries for suggested celebrations).
There are also helpful directories in the back pointing to any number of cafes located in a growing number of "Adolf Hilter Platz's" throughout Poland (including three in Radom), as well as fares for the use of the railway and postal system.
We also see the following telephone number: 23075. That's for the Literarische Kaffee Stefansgasse I, Krakau. This is the location that the Reichsminister and administrator Hans Frank (about whom we'll read inb a moment) decided to hold a chess tournament in 1941, to satisfy his own need for chess while freshly in the pursuit of the murder of millions of people.
‘Frank was extremely interested in chess. He not only possessed an extensive library of chess literature but was also a good player, and he even “received” the Ukrainian chess master Bogoljubow at the castle. On 3 November 1940 he organized a chess congress in Cracow. Six months later he announced the setting-up of a chess school under Bogoljubow and the chess master Dr Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine, and he visited a chess tournament in October 1942 at the “Literary Café” in Cracow."--Hans Frank (subtitle: Hitlers Kronjurist und Generalgouverneur) by Dieter Schenk (Frankfurt am Main, 2006) "and quotes a reference to chess on page 177 (given below in our translation)..."[Source: Chesshistory.com., here.]
For the record, the Generalgouvernement was proclaimed in October 1939 just after the invasion of Poland and included most of what was left of Poland, which was gone again, barely 20 years after it returned to the map following WW1. In March 1941 Hitler made a decision to "turn this region into a purely German area within 15-20 years". He also explained that "Where 12 million Poles now live, is to be populated by 4 to 5 million Germans. The Generalgouvernement must become as German as Rhineland". Following the Wannsee conference of 20 January 1942, the Secretary of State of the Generalgouvernment, Dr. Josef Buhler (Warsaw # 222 05, a listed number in this book) began implementation if the Final Solution in Poland; by the time the Soviets entered and took control in late 1944, more than 4 million people—most of them Jewish—had been killed.
The man in charge of it all here in Poland, Hans Frank, has his photographic portrait as the frontispiece, and his number is listed, too. He was an horrendous butcher who was tried and convicted and executed for his crimes against humanity (at Nuremberg on 16 October 1946, aged 46--the decision of the court read, in part, that Frank was "...a willing and knowing participant in both the use of terrorism in Poland, as in the economic exploitation of Poland in a way that led to the starvation of a large number of people, also in the deportation of more than one million Poles as slave laborers to Germany and in execution of a program that had the murder of at least three million Jews. "). In a speech December 16, 1941, Hans Frank said:"We cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews [in Poland], we cannot poison them, but we will take measures that will somehow lead to successful destruction; and this in connection with large-scale procedures which are to be discussed in the Reich, the Government-General must become as free of Jews as the Reich .....We must destroy the Jews wherever we find them and wherever it is at all possible, in order to maintain the whole structure of the Reich..." Frank did his share of annihilation of Polish Jews and Polish citizens--almost as much as any other Nazi official, government or military leader--over the six years (1939-1945) that he ruled over this territory.
Josef Buhler, by the way, was tried after the war by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland for crimes against humanity, condemned to death on July 10, 1948, and executed in Kraków.
This is really a fetid little booklet, its empty pages waiting for some sort of horror, all of which was actually taking place in real life, escaping their record.
|Nationality||Daily calorie intake|
I wonder where all of those conversations went, exactly, after they were ended. Did they sink into the copper wire like auditory signals (very very slightly trapped) in clay pots? I think not of course. But all of those phone numbers in this book to all of the special police and propaganda police and racial police and SS and on and on, all of those calls and conversations about this horrific undertaking, just seem to me as though they should've gone somewhere, caught in the myth of the machine, somewhere in the electromagnetic world, like a primitive internet.
I really can't stand what those simple phone numbers meant.
1. The Generalgouvernement was the central part of three general districts of the divided Poland, and it proved to be the terminal for millions of people deemed as undesirable or threatening. It was particuarly impossible for Jews, the Generalgouvernement proving to be the place where they were collected in ghettos and housed under mniserable and starvation conditions until they began to be shipped out to concentration camps in early 1942. By 1944 all of the ghettos had been liquidated, and with them, their inhabitants. The Soviets did finally liberate the Generalgouvernement (from the Nazis) under delayed conditions in the winter of 1945, initiating Pogroms against the Jews by summertime.
The Wannsee conference (I will not use a capital “C) was a meeting of leading Nazi officials and treacle who formed the decision to implement the Final Solution t the “Jewish problem” in Germany— it was the real beginning of the Holocaust.
The men who made this determination to begin with the wholesale destruction of human beings included:
SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich (Chief of the RSHA and Reichsprotektor of Bohemia-Moravia), presiding
Dr Josef Bühler (Government of the General Government)
Dr Roland Freisler (Reich Ministry of Justice)
SS-Gruppenführer Otto Hofmann (Race and Resettlement Main Office, RuSHA)
SA-Oberführer Dr Gerhard Klopfer (NSDAP Chancellery)
Ministerialdirektor Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger (Reich Chancellery)
SS-Sturmbannführer Dr Rudolf Lange (Commander of the SD for Latvia)
Reichsamtleiter Dr Georg Leibbrandt (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories)
Martin Luther (Foreign Office)
Gauleiter Dr Alfred Meyer (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories)
SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller (Chief of Amt IV (Gestapo), Reich Security Main Office (RSHA))
Erich Neumann (Director, Office of the Four Year Plan)
SS-Oberführer Dr Karl Eberhard Schöngarth (SD, assigned to the General Government)
Dr Wilhelm Stuckart (Reich Ministry for the Interior)
SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann (Head of Referat IV B4 of the Gestapo), minutes secretary
1. “German soldier Heinz Jost strolled through the Warsaw Ghetto taking illegal pictures. Almost 50 years later, they resurface in a disturbing exhibition.”
“An enfeebled urchin lies clutching the sidewalk like a breast. Three people pass by behind it; only one of them, a malnourished woman, looks down at the child. In a second or two, they will be gone and the child will be alone again, even more helpless, if that is possible. Did such dying children (there were thousands of them in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941) know that something was horribly wrong with the world? Or did they think that squalid suffering is all that this disappointing life has to offer? wrote children, Mary Berg wrote in her diary of the ghetto, "no longer have a human appearance and are more like monkeys than children. They no longer beg for bread, but for death." Terribly, the child on the sidewalk cocks its eye at the camera, unable to ward off the final cruelty of being photographed by a German soldier.
“Eerie approximation: Heinz Jost, a small-town hotelkeeper serving in the German Army, had the day off on Sept. 19, 1941. It was also his birthday. For reasons lost to history, Jost decided to spend the day inside the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto. He carried a camera and, contrary to regulations, took 129 photographs of the ghetto and its doomed inhabitants. The pictures lay unseen in a dresser drawer for four decades before Jost rediscovered them. He gave them to the German magazine Stern, which donated them in 1987 to the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem.
“What Jost found in this neighborhood consecrated to death was an eerie approximation of normal daily life that only gradually (especially as the exhibition is arranged) reveals its ghastliness. At first, street life seems no more deprived than that in lower Manhattan earlier in the century. And the jackbooted soldiers relaxing in a touring car appear more arrogant than evil. But surely they must have known, as Chaim Kaplan recorded in his Warsaw diary, that "Anywhere a tree has been planted, or a bench has been placed, Jewish children are forbidden to derive enjoyment." Elsewhere, peddlers hawk bread, grubby vegetables and coal by the individual lump, one woman sells Star of David armbands in varieties from printed paper to embroidered linen. "These armbands are very much in demand in the ghetto because the Germans arevery `sensitive' on this score, and when they notice a Jew wearing a crumpled or dirty armband, they beat him at once," Mary Berg observed. After these images, the pictures of gaunt bodies on morbid rickshaws, the merciless common graves and the catatonic attendants are but numbing epilogue.
“There are those who say that to measure any other barbarism against the Holocaust is to trivialize the unequaled tragedy that befell the Jews. Looking at these pictures, however, it is hard not to be struck by resemblances that suggest that the horror of the Holocaust has not been obliterated, but simply broken up, crushed into powder and raked into the soil of contemporary life. Even in our very rich country, the number of tattered beggars, slumped in despair on city streets, grows steadily greater. The bearded, skull-like heads of the Warsaw Ghetto's interned are remindful of AIDS victims in the last stages of the plague. And it is almost impossible not to realize that we have seen, and still see, pictures of bodies of innocents lying dead under perversely meaningless advertising signs, at the feet of blase soldiers who think they're just doing their jobs.”
And another, shorter review:
Heinrich Jöst's Photographs. In the Ghetto of Warsaw: Heinrich Jost's Photographs, edited by Gunther Scharberg, published by Scalo, distributed by D.A.P. 2001.
“Among the many books released on the Holocaust, the complete set of Jöst's photographs of the Warsaw Ghetto is a valuable resource for scholars. Jöst, a hotel owner and sergeant in the Wehrmacht, took photographs of the Warsaw Ghetto in late 1941, which he shared with the journalist Schwarberg in 1982. Originally exhibited at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, these photographs are now available, along with Jöst's recollections, to a wide audience (Jöst died in 1983). Although the graphic nature of the pictures is disturbing they show, for instance, starving children dying in the streets they provide a record of the Warsaw Ghetto separate from official Nazi propaganda and as such are extremely valuable. Recommended for all libraries.”
--By Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.