4 September 1942, Lodz ghetto, Poland
Chaim Rumkowski was an elder of the Lodz ghetto, 60 years old, a widower, who perhaps had some delusions of grandeur in his difficult role as go-between with the murderous Nazi regime. This is an extremely upsetting speech to read.
The ghetto has been struck a hard blow. They demand what is most dear to it − children and old people. I was not privileged to have a child of my own and therefore devoted my best years to children. I lived and breathed together with children. I never imagined that my own hands would be forced to make this sacrifice on the altar. In my old age I am forced to stretch out my hands and to beg: "Brothers and sisters, give them to me! − Fathers and mothers, give me your children....[transcribers note: horrible wailing]
I had a suspicion something was about to befall us. I anticipated “something” and was always like a watchman on guard to prevent it. But I was unsuccessful because I did not know what was threatening us.
I did not know the nature of the danger. The taking of the sick from the hospitals caught me completely by surprise. And I give you the best proof there is of this: I had my own nearest and dearest among them, and I could do nothing for them.
I thought that that would be the end of it, that after that they’d leave us in peace, the peace for which I long so much, for which I’ve always worked, which has been my goal. But something else, it turned out, was destined for us.
Such is the fate of the Jews: always more suffering and always worse suffering, especially in times of war.
Yesterday, in the course of the day, I was given the order to send away more than 20,000 Jews from the ghetto, and if I did not – "we will do it ourselves." The question arose: "Should we have accepted this and carried it out ourselves, or left it to others?" But as we were guided not by the thought: "how many will be lost?" but "how many can be saved?" we arrived at the conclusion – those closest to me at work, that is, and myself – that however difficult it was going to be, we must take upon ourselves the carrying out of this decree. I must carry out this difficult and bloody operation, I must cut off limbs in order to save the body! I must take away children, and if I do not, others too will be taken, God forbid.