Why is your clothing red, your garments like
those of one who treads the winepress? (Isaiah 63:2)

This selection, like the previous, is taken from the narrative "The Travels of Dvora from Kalisz and Letters to Nowhere." Here Shaul describes the Aktion military operation in which the children were arrested and transported to the places of killing.

Selections from the Scrolls

The Diary of Leo der Junge

The Trail of Fire and Jewish Brotherhood

Shaul Returns

Does Birkenau Exist?

Passover in the Seventh Block

Crossing the Sea

Never Say There's Only Death

"This is the story of the Aktion [1] against the children, which Shaul wrote down in his journal as an everlasting memorial: Before nightfall representatives of the Jewish council went from house to house, wherever there were any children living, to give them the good news that there was to be a summer camp for the children. The German authorities were disposed to make a gesture of goodwill toward the working ghetto, and the children of the privileged workers, who were forced to do hard work at military camps, would take precedence. The (Jewish) commander gave orders for all the Jewish children under the age of fourteen to be listed, so that he personally could try to make sure there would be no favoritism.

And Sonia Soltanek had three children. Alyosha, aged eight, and Moreleh and Minaleh, aged five, twins. And she dressed them in the finest clothes they had left, which she washed and patched, and she tied a blue ribbon round Minaleh's neck, and her mother-in-law helped her and stuffed a few homemade sweets in their pockets, for they were expressly forbidden to take with them any real food. Everyone should take just a towel and a piece of soap, and a comb as well, anyone who had one. For there were no shops in the ghetto for the sale of such common things, and a comb without teeth was like a man without teeth; there was no remedy in the ghetto. And the Soltaneks had been clever enough to preserve secretly some necessary things from their previous stock, including combs. Anyone likely to be deported to some unknown place should make sure he has a comb, bread, and clothing. Combs, especially fine-toothed combs, are very good for getting rid of lice, and there is nothing more vital, for lice and exile can drive a man out of his mind, God forbid. That night the mother could not sleep, and in the morning she said, "I'll send the twins and keep Alyosha at home."

The police said, "No, we have orders to take them all."

She told them, "The older boy will come next time." But they would not listen.

And she spoke to this officer and that, and they refused.

Since the police were beginning to urge them to get moving, and even brandishing their clubs, the children started wailing. A suspicion, which had not occurred to the adults, was becoming clear, apparently, to the children. It is written, "from the mouths of infants . . . You have found strength,"[2] including the strength to fear for the future.

The commander saw that there was quite a turmoil, great hysteria among the band of children, and before long it would affect everyone else. He gave permission for the mothers to go with their children, to accompany them as far as the railway station, for the summer camp was to take place outside the town at a resort in a pine forest. And he did not give permission to the fathers. After all, the men had to do their day's work and provide something in return for the board and lodging that their children would receive. So the men left.

And Sonia escorted her children. She held Minaleh with her right hand and Moreleh with her left hand, and Alyosha went in front, carrying the towels and soap for all three. And the Jewish children who went out the gates of the ghetto that day numbered two thousand, boys and girls, well scrubbed and looking good, even in their rags. In a long, long line they marched in the road beside the pavement, for, as is well known, pavements were forbidden to Jews, reserved for the exclusive use of pure Aryan feet. As they passed through the busy streets of the town, which they had not seen for many days, they looked around them in amazement, almost open-mouthed-they had forgotten there were things as shops and display windows and decorated horses harnessed to carts-and the passersby also looked at the Jewish children with surprise, as though they had never seen such creatures before.

A few old women made the sign of the cross, and hurried unsteadily down the street. And the column of children did not go through the main gate of the railway station, but were taken to a siding, far from the eyes of the curious, and the mothers were told to go no further.



[1] AKTION: Military operation. In the life pattern of the ghetto the Aktion was a term for hostile activity by the Germans: arrests, deportations, and transport to the places of killing. [back]

[2] "From the mouths of infants and sucklings You have found strength on account of Your foes, to put an end to enemy and avenger." (Psalms 8:3) [back]

SCROLLS Introduction



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