Marek Edelman

Unpublished Notebooks from the Warsaw Ghetto Publication date : April 20, 2022

Marek Edelman (1919-2009) was a Polish Jewish militant socialist. He was one of the instigators and leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943, a member of the Polish Bund (primary union of Jewish workers), and opponent of the Polish Communist regime in the 1970s and 1980s. He was an important historical figure of resistance to Nazism and to all forms of oppression.

Introduction by Constance Pâris de Bollardière, Ph.D. in history (EHESS [École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales -- School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences]), adjunct director of the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention, American University of Paris.

Marek Edelman, a hero of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, was up to now the author of one book, The Ghetto Fights, written in 1945 (published in France in 1983, under the title Mémoires du ghetto de Varsovie – Memoirs from the Warsaw Ghetto), and of various interviews. On the day he was buried in Warsaw, his family found in his apartment notebooks written at the end of 1967. These texts, which remained unpublished, are assembled in the present work, whose publication coincides with the anniversary of the start of the ghetto uprising, 19 April 1943.

As Constance Paris de Bollardière, a specialist in the history of Jewish socialist movements, points out in her introduction, these notebooks “bring together snippets of Marek Edelman’s personal memories of the first three years of the war. The first notebook describes aspects of the clandestine work of the Bund and daily life before and after the creation of the ghetto; the second looks back more briefly at memories of moments shared with his comrades in the party. The last notebook has a different tone and concentrates solely on the beginnings of the ‘Great Action’ of the summer of 1942.”

That cohesive collection of about 30 pages comprises a remarkable historical document. It completes our knowledge of the ghetto, from its creation in November 1940 to the “Great Action” of the summer of 1942, which led to the deportation of around 265,000 Warsaw Jews to the death camp of Treblinka. Edelman, due to his position as courier for the Bersohn and Bauman hospital, was familiar with both the daily life of the ghetto and what was happening on the “Aryan” side of Warsaw, and as such, he was a particularly well-informed witness.

The text appears as a sequence of fragmentary memories, written, according to a later piece by Marek Edelman, as a tribute to the Jews who died to defend their values, and in memory of the Bund – the union of Jewish workers. It presents a somber tale, very factual and simple, that describes a horrific reality.