Facts Behind Warsaw Ghetto Decree Bared by Escaped Leader
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Facts Behind Warsaw Ghetto Decree Bared by Escaped Leader

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Grim details of the birth of the Warsaw ghetto decree, which the newspaper Le Temps reports today will go into effect on January 1, were related to this correspondent by Dr. Chaim Szoszkes, a Jewish leader who arrived here last week after escaping from the former Polish capital.

Dr. Szoszkes, who is now en route to Italy to embark on the Conte di Savoia for New York, was one of the three leading Jews who appeared before the Nazi authorities in Warsaw to appeal against introduction of the ghetto.

The actual ruler of the estimated 1,500,000 Jews still in Nazi Poland, Dr. Szoszkes said, was neither Governor Hans Frank nor the military authorities, but the Gestapo, the dread German secret police.

Special Gestapo units known as the “Death Battalions,” from the death’s head worn on their uniforms, have been given a monopoly in the matter of rule over the Polish Jews. While the non-Jewish population remains under the supervision of the other Nazi authorities, the Jews are left to the mercy of these Gestapo units and no other Nazi authority has the right to intervene.

How these Gestapo units deal with the Jews in the occupied provinces is known neither to Dr. Szoszkes nor anyone else in Warsaw, since the former Polish capital is completely isolated from the rest of Nazi Poland. But in Warsaw itself, the Gestapo has set up one of its offices in the building of the Jewish Community and from there is directing its supervision of the Jews.

In the room next to that occupied by the Gestapo is the office of the Jewish Community organization, which, according to Dr. Szoszkes, was conducted during the bombardment by a committee of five, consisting of Senator Moshe Koerner, Engineer Cherniakoff, Deputy A. Hartglass, the famous industrialist-philanthropist Abraham Gepner, and Dr. Szoszkes. Gepner, although taken as a hostage by the Nazis, is nevertheless free and is extremely active together with Hartglass and the other two leaders in the interests of Warsaw Jewry.

Dr. Szoszkes, who is among the first Jewish leaders to have escaped from the Nazi occupation and who asserts he was struck with a whip and in other ways maltreated when he objected to establishment of a ghetto, gave this correspondent what may be considered the first official Jewish account of what happened to the Jews in Warsaw after the Nazis occupied the city.

“The five of us,” Dr. Szoszkes declared, “were sitting in the office of the Warsaw Jewish Community when suddenly the door opened and a Gestapo officer accompanied by several soldiers appeared. Barking the order, “Heraus verfluchte lausige Juden!” the officer forced us out of the room. Later Cherniakoff was called back and was asked how much money the Jewish community had in cash.

“There was 120,000 zlotys ($24,000 at pre-war rates) in the treasury. The officer put this money into his own pocket and when asked for a receipt cynically replied: ‘Applying paragraph zero of the international laws set up in Geneva, I issue no receipts.’

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