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  • Staff of Spark of History

Warsaw Ghetto, Rosh Hashanah

Updated: Mar 7, 2021


Throughout the millennium, the Jewish people have, with serious joyfulness, embraced the new year, Rosh Hashanah, as a time to connect to God and to each other. Below please find a few “Rosh Hashanah” snippets from the drashot/sermons of the Piaseczno Rebbe, The Aish Kodesh, Rabbi Kalonymous Kalmish Shapiro, delivered in the Warsaw ghetto; as well as notes from the emotive Warsaw ghetto diaries of Chaim A. Kaplan and Emmanuel Ringelblum. May we all be blessed with an inspirational Rosh Hashanah, 5781! TIMELINE:

  • September 1 1939 - Germany invades Poland

  • October 1, 1939 - Wehrmacht enters Warsaw

  • April 1, 1940 – Construction of ghetto walls commences

  • November 15, 1940 – Ghetto wall closed

  • July 22, 1942 - The Great Deportation begins

  • April 19 – May 16, 1943 – Warsaw Ghetto Uprising September 14, 1939 / Rosh Hashanah 5700 AISH KODESH/ABRAMSON: Beit Midrash 5 Dzielna Street The essence of fear is derived from the greatness of God. Every Jewish soul feels this, each person according to his ability. [Abramson: “the trepidation caused by the advance of the Nazis was, in itself, a spiritual lever by which the Jews could propel their closeness to God”] KAPLAN: I will write a scroll of agony in order to remember the past in the future… Yesterday was a day of horror and destruction… The enemy mercilessly poured his wrath on the Jewish quarter with incendiary bombs. October 3 1940 – Rosh Hashanah 5701 AISH KODESH/ABRAMSON: [Abramson: The Nazis, true to form, chose Rosh Hashanah to execute a brutal policy of abrupt, forcible evictions throughout the Ghetto] It is possible that the accusers argue that our recent heartfelt repentance… is not something which emanates from our hearts, rather it is due to our tremendous suffering. Nevertheless, God sees our hearts and knows that our intent is truly to repent. … The voice which wells up from my bitter suffering is certainly mine, and how can you hear my anguish and, God forbid, not have mercy? KAPLAN: October 2, 1940 / Erev Rosh Hashanah 5701 We have no public worship, even on the high holy days. There is darkness in our synagogues, for there are no worshipers – silence and desolation within, and sorrow looking on from within. Secret minyamin by the hundreds throughout Warsaw organize services, and do not skip over even the most difficult hymns in the liturgy. But the prayers are heartfelt; it is possible to weep in secret, too, and the gates of tears are not locked. RINGELBLUM: Today, the 3rd of October, the first day of Rosh Hashana,the mood was terrible, the Jews from the house at 31 Dzielna Street were ordered to leave within a short period of time. There are 350,000 Jews living in the quarantined epidemic area; the density there is nine times what is outside. September 22 1941 – Rosh Hashanah 5702 AISH KODESH/ABRAMSON [Abramson, With the arrival of the new year, the Jews of Warsaw braced themselves for special cruelties] We recall the elevation of our prayers on high in earlier holidays… At a time when a person is afflicted with terrible suffering, however, it is difficult not to cry over one’s pain… for people like us, and particularly in this bitterly difficult time, it is impossible to hold back from crying in prayer even on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, over our suffering and pains. RINGELBLUM: This Rosh Hashana, people were seized for forced labor. Jewish informers took soldiers along with them to the prayer quorums during services, and there – in the prayer rooms – people were able to buy their way out of forced labor service. SOURCES:

  • Torah From The Years of Wrath 1939-1943.

The Historical Context of The Aish Kodesh Henry Abramson 2017.

  • Scroll of Agony

The Warsaw Diary of Chaim A. Kaplan Translated and Edited by Abraham I. Katsh The Macmillan Company, New York 1965.

  • Notes From The Warsaw Ghetto

The Journal of Emmanual Ringelblum Edited and Translated by Jacob Sloan McGraw Hill, New York, 1958.

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