The Education of Jewish Children in Warsaw during the Nazi Occupation

  • Dalia Ofer


As part of a wider project investigating the lives of Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, this paper will concentrate on the origins, initiatives, and structure of Jewish formal education in the city of Warsaw, and that of the ghetto period. I will begin with some introductory remarks on the Jewish educational system and its goals in Poland between the two world wars.


Jewish Community Jewish Identity Jewish Education Interwar Period Jewish Tradition 
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  1. 1.
    This paragraph is generally based on the following articles: Shmuel Rosenhak, ‘Al ma’arechet hahinuch hayehudi bepolin bein shtei milkhamot haolam’, in Beit yisrael bepolin: Torah, haskalah, shelukhot, ed. Yisrael Halperin, vol.2 (Jerusalem: Hahistadrut Hatzionit, 1953), pp.142–155. All the numbers cited here refer to this article, unless otherwise stated;Google Scholar
  2. Shimon Frost, Schooling as a Sociopolitical Expression (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1998), idem, ‘Khinuch le’arachim bekhevrah yehudit pluralistit: hakhashivah hakhinuchit vehatechanim hakurikulariim bereshatot hakhinuch hayehudi bepolin bein shtei milkhamot haolam’, Iyunim bakhinuch hayehudi, vol.6 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1992), pp.95–105; idem, ‘Khinuch le’arachim bemosdot hakhinukh bepolin (1918–1939), Iyunim bekhinuch, No.57/58 (September 1992): pp.83–91;Google Scholar
  3. Chone Shmeruk, ‘Ivrit, Yiddish, Polanit: tarbut yehudit tlat leshonit’, in Bein shtei milkhamot haolam: perakim mekhayei hatarbut shel yehudei polin leleshonoteihem, eds. Chone Shmeruk and Shmuel Varses (Jerusalem, Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1997), pp.14–18.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Specific information on Jewish education in Warsaw is based mostly on Shimon Frost, Schooling, and the following articles: Shmuel Rosenhak, ‘Hatnuah haivirit vetarbut’, Encyclopedia shel galuiot, Vol.1: Warsaw (Jerusalem: Encyclopedia Shel Galuiot Press, 1953), pp.329–340; Itzchak Lev, ‘Batei hasefer shel tzisho’, in ibid., pp.341–350; Mordechai Halamish, ‘Beit hamidrash tachkemoni’, in ibid., pp.351–355.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    ibid., pp.335. On the Yehudia school, see Avraham Levin, Mipinkaso shel hamoreh meyehudia: ghetto warsha: April 1942-January 1943 (Tel Aviv: Hakkibutz Hameuhad and Beit Lohamei Hagetaot, 1969), pp.5–15.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    On education in Poland in general, see Kiryl Sosnowski, The Tragedy of Children under Nazi Rule, (Poznan: Zachknia Agencja Prasowa, 1962) pp.153–163. In a report on Jewish education that was apparently written in 1942, it was stated that the Jews believed that the fate of education in Poland would be like that of Germany and Czechoslovakia, where Jewish schools were able to function. See Anon., ‘A Preliminary Study in Teaching People during the World War II’, in To Live with Honor and to Die with Honor: Selected Documents from the Ghetto Underground Archives ’O.S. (Oneg Shabbat), ed. and annot. Joseph Kermisz (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1986), p.468.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Yad Vashem archives, (YVA), ARI M10/74. I wish to thank Professor Nechama Tec for her help in translating the Polish document. Kermisz, To Live with Honor, pp.500–515, contains an English translation of a large portion of the document. I shall use and cite both translations. Yisrael Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw 1939–1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), p. 109.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    This word for clandestine schooling was used in Poland during the major school strike against the Russians in 1905, Sonia Levin, Prakim betoldoth hahinuck hayehudi bepolin bameah ha-19 ubereshit hameah ha-20 (Tel Aviv: Diaspora Research Institute, 1997), pp.182–211;Google Scholar
  9. Chaim Aharon Kaplan, Scroll of Agony (New York and London: Macmillan, 1965), p.54.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Adam Czerniaków, The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniaków: Prelude to Doom, eds. Raul Hilberg, Stanislaw Staron, and Joseph Kermisz (New York: Stein and Day, 1979), pp.277, see also pp.78, 84, 86, 88, 98, 145, 201, 205, 206; Chaim Aharon Kaplan, Scroll of Agony, pp.195–196, 198–200. For example, he cites the debate on the schools’ cultural character and also mentioned that the teachers in the komplets feared that their work would suffer.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    On the crisis in the Jewish family, see Dalia Ofer, ‘Between Cohesion and Rupture: The Jewish Family in East European Ghettos during the Holocaust’, Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Coping with Life and Death in the Twentieth Century, ed. Peter Medding, vol.14 (1998), pp.143–165.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    YVA, ARI M10/74; See the essays of Emanuel Ringleblum on the dedication of teachers and other educators in the ghetto, Emmanuel Ringelblum, Ketavim aharonim: yanuar 1943-april 1944 (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1994), pp. 133–147.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    ibid., p.108; Mary Berg, Ghetto Warsha: Miyomana shel Mary Berg (Tel Aviv: N. Taberski, 1946), pp.43–44; see, for example: ‘Unfortunately, the pupils are chosen according to their connections. In the beginning, I tried to oppose this, but when I saw that my chances were slim, I also decided to use my connections.’ She emphasizes that most of the pupils were boys and the community preferred it to be that way since the girls were deported to forced labour camps (p.45).Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Plomania, October 1941, Itonut hamachteret, Vol.3, p.296, n. 8, cited in Zivia Lubetkin, Bimei kilaion vamered (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad 1979), p.464;Google Scholar
  15. see also Yitzhak Zuckerman, A Surplus of Memory, trans. and ed. by Barbara Harshav (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1993), pp.62–66.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Dalia Ofer

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