On 17th April on the website of the Instiute of National Remembrance (IPN), Jürgen Stroop’s Report was published. The text was published in a form of a book in 2009 and is the effect of collaboration between the IPN and the Jewish Historical Institute. With reference to the Raul Hilberg’s triad “Perpetrators-Victims-Bystanders”, the report of Jürgen Stroop (the commandor of SS and the police in the Quarter of Warsaw)refers to the perpetrators of the Holocaust and is a priceless historical document. It shows the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from the perspective of the Nazi responsible for its suppression. Andrzej Żbikowski talks about the editing of the report and the value of its content.
“The Polish traslation from the 1960s done by prof. Piotrowski needed editing. After so many years the rules of editing have changed. Becides, today we know more about the Warsaw Ghetto. For all those reasons, Jürgen Stroop’s report had to be published again. For the first time, it was possible to publish the reprint of the original and 52 photographs accompanying the report,” says the professor.
The first part of the report is the evidence of German slyness, a cunning attempt to show their belief in their strength and heroism. Stroop wanted to show off his accomplishments. Daily reports were sent to Himmler, the chief of SS police in the Third Reich.
“Stroop begins his report with information why it was necessary to destroy the ghetto. He describes German problems with Jewish people using the paper on the creation of the ghetto given by Valdeman Schon. The Jews, according to the Germans, were a threat — they spreaded plagues, epidemics. They were responsible for the illegal trade, price rises. Jewish beggars were also a threat and that was the reason why all Jews were supposed to be placed in the ghetto,” Andrzej Żbikowski explains.
After the liquidation action of the ghetto, which, from 22nd July to September 1942, led to the deportation of about 300 thousand Warsaw’s Jews and thier deaths in the gas chambers in Treblinka, in Warsaw there were left about 30 thousand Jews able to work and twice as much were there illegaly.
“Later in the report, Stroop mentiones only the liquidation action. He writes that they could not manage all the work because the ghetto was too big. About 500 thousad Jews lived there. However, he does not give the purpose of “the deportation”. He provides only information on the direction of the deportation: East,” says Professor Żbikowski.
After the liquidation action, the Jews worked in the area of residual ghetto, in so called sheds. The aim of the Nazis was to set up, in the area, “the lungs of Warsaw” after the destruction of the Jewish quarter. The rest of the Jews was peing planned to be sent to Trawniki and Poniatowa in Lubelszczyzna.
“The Nazis knew that Jews had prepared hiding places, but they did not know if they were well-armed, because they did not have good spies in ŻOB or ŻZW. The troops of Frdminand von Sammern Frankenegg entered the ghetto in the morning of 19th April 1943 and immediately encountered resistance. The Germans could have expected it after the action in January. They knew that there were weapons in the ghetto, but they thought the resistance would be only symbolic. The troops went through Nalewki Street and Zamenhof Street. Immediately, German cars were thrown at with bottles filled with petrol which made Frankenegg withdraw. Stroop became the new commander and the troops entered the ghetto again and onace again encountered resistance. The Germans managed to get to Muranowski Square, the edge of the central ghetto, where riots had been taking place for two days. Fierce fighting took place on 20th and 21st April. Part of ŻZW managed to get to the building at 6 Muranowska Street. The Bund’s actions in the shed of the broom makers (Bonifraterska Street/Wałowa Street) were led by Marek Edelman. The weapons of the insurgents constituted of handguns, hand grenades and the Molotov coctails. They had few machine guns,” says the professor.
On 24th April the occupant changed the strategy. They burnt houses, looked for shelters and the Jews found in them were killed or taken to Umschlagplatz and then to Treblinka. We know from the daily reports sent to Cracow and Berlin how mony insurgents were shot dead or kept. From Stroop’s calculation we learn that more than 30 thousand Jews were sent to Lubelszczyzna, 7.5 thousand were killed and the same amount was sent to T2. It is not known how many Jews died in the debris and burnt houses. We assume that it was about 15 thousand people.
“Stroop’s repot is supplemented by the recollections of the insurgents. Thanks to this combination of texts we can trace the subsequent fightings and the movement of the insurgents, about which Stroop did not know. Such information is included in the footnotes. An example could be the detection of the bunker at 18 Miła Street, where the headquarters of the command of the Jewish Fighting Organization was. On 8th May, 1943, probably due to the denunciation, the bunker was surrounded by the Germans (Stroop writes about the detection of the bunker of the bandits and murderers). Through five entrances they threw gas and self-igniting materials. According to Tosia Altman, about 30 people (including Tosia Altman, Pnina Zalcman, Jehuda Węgrowerow and Menachem Bigelman) managed to escape through the sixth entrance that had not been detected. About 120 people died in the bunker, including the leader of the uprising, Mordechaj Anielewicz. Marek Edelman and Zivia Lubetkin spent that night in a bunker that was detected one night later at 22 Frańciszkańska Street,” says Professor Andrzej Żbikowski.
Before 6th May, ŻOB had sent Symcha Ratajzer outside the ghetto in order to organize evacuation of the survived ŻOB insurgents. Ratajzer made contact with a representative of ŻOB on the “Aryan” side, Yitzhak Zuckerman and a member of Gwardia Ludowa, Władysław Gaik alias “Krzaczek”. On 8th May at night, Sychma Ratajzer found the survivals on 22 Frańciszkańska Street and 18 Miła Street. A group of about 50 people, including Marek Edelman and Zivia Lubetki, came though sewers to Prosta Street, where two tracks were waiting for them. They got on them to Łomianki.
“Stroop did not know about it. The executioner’s report can be combined with the accounts of the victims and hence we can reconstruct each day of the uprising as a location-based game. From the notes in the report we find out who Stroop involved, which areas he followed. On the other hand, we have the escape route of the insurgents,” explains the professor.
The report also includes the biggest collection of 52 photographs from the ghetto. It is also worth paying attention to the language of the report. The specificity of the language of the Nazi jargon adopted by the Germans is based on it being ideologized. Semantic analysis of lingua tertia imperi was done by Dr Victor Kleperer in a book published in 1947 „LTI — the notebook of the philologist.”
The Germans are spoken about in superlatives: the best, the most heroic, distinguished by heroism, fraternal, with solidarity, fighting bravely. The second side, the Jews are: rats, vermins, lice, and in the best case — bandits. These terms dehumanized the people who fought for a dignified death. Stroop story is a dichotomy. He uses words that in the German language are used to determine the technical, rather than social relations. Words such as „resettlement”, „cleannig”, „deportation”, „rat control”, „destroying pests”, „repairing”, „building” — belong to economic and gardening vocabulary. The Holocaust is being concealed, but those in-the-know can see what the words Endlösung, Aussiedlung mean. Stroop hides the truth and the nature of what happened,” says Andrzej Zbikowski.
The report is not the only account of Stroop. We cannot forget about the book by Kazimierz Moczarski “Conversations with an executioner” and three accouts given to JHI. Stroop’s accouts in “Conversations with an executioner” were created based on the notes and memories of the author. After the release from prison, Moczarski read the materials and reported how Stroop-prisoner had behaved in cell and what he had said. It is hard to say what really happened. In three long reports written fro JHI, Stroop refers to the insurgents as “guerrillas” and emphasises their heroism. He mentiones Halutzes, the girls from Halutzes, who distinguised themselves in heroism. They threw grenades at the Germans, but he believed it was the work of the Communists,” explains the professor.
The jargon is the cover for the language in which they communicated. Afetr the war, Jurgen Stroop already used a different vocabulary. He easily confirms that he devotedly executed the orders to the end. He epmhasises that those actions were necessary and essential.
The blowing up of the synagoge was the last act of the destruction of the Jewish Quarter in Warsaw and the suppression of the uprising in the ghetto. At that time, the synagogue was no longer located in the ghetto. No fighting was taking place there, nobody was hiding. The synagogue bulding was serving as a storage. At the time when the uprising was coming to an end, Stroop and his troops were destroying the quarter. Buildings were being set on fire and the synagogue dominated as a symbol of Jewish life. The entry from 16th May, 1943 is a detailed description of how the synagogue was demolished. This act was a sign of the victory even though the Germans were not really succeeding in the battles on the front. The way in which the synagogue was blown up is beyond logic. It was an unreasonable move. It points out how much the Germans wanted to destroy the Jewish quarter of Warsaw, thus the murder of hundreds of thousands of Warsaw Jews. Germany fought unreasonably but effectively with defenceless people. The Jews were the surrogate for the enemy, and the Nazis wanted to show the political and military success. It is not a rational behavior, it is only an expression of revenge. Stroop planned a theatrical show of power. Also the „Aryan” Warsaw was supposed to feel the strength and the power of the Germans,” says Professor Andrzej Żbik.