Voices from the Ghetto

In almost all the major cities in the world you will find a ghetto. A ghetto is a part of a city in which members of a minority group live, especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure.  Ghetto is a place of suffering. A place where people strive to survive by all means necessary. A place for the disadvantaged.

I got the inspiration to write this little article after listening a very emotional podcast “voices from the ghetto” from the BBC. The contemporaneous attempt to preserve the memory of life in the Warsaw Ghetto. Warsaw ghetto is one of the numerous ghettos established by the Nazis to confine Jews and sometimes Gypsies into tightly packed areas of the cities of Eastern Europe during the World War II.

Voices from the ghetto tells the tale of the glorious transformation of the Warsaw ghetto from a place of oppression to a place of revolution. A place where almost half a million people were confined to die in the most unimaginable manner; starvation, disease or worst still extermination camps. And the revolution that followed. Though the revolution was crushed, it remains the largest single revolt by the Jews during World War II.

Poland was at the centre of East European Jewish civilization and Warsaw its most populous heartland. In 1940 they were forcibly separated from their Catholic neighbours and confined by Nazi decree, along with hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees, to an impossibly crammed living space. A deliberate policy of starvation, constant predation, disease and the terrors of occupation confronted all within the Ghetto with impossible choices and reduced many to despair.

But within the Ghetto a remarkable and clandestine project began to document how people lived and died, how they struggled for a better life and to retain their beliefs and culture. Codenamed Oyneg Shabbat (Joy of the Sabbath), the project was led by the historian Emmanuel Ringelblum. A team of 'researchers' wrote detailed surveys on schooling, smuggling, the life of the streets, the bitter jokes, the price of bread and the details of their destruction. They gathered posters, songs, newspapers, pamphlets and even tram tickets that together convey the essence of the Ghetto. All to ensure that should they perish, a people's history would be written to both warn the world and preserve at least the memory of a life on the brink. Nearly all who worked on the project would be murdered, including Ringelblum himself, but in the final days of the Ghetto and the Uprising that followed, the archive would be buried in the ruins to be finally recovered after the war.

In the pages of this document lies the touching and glorious history of ghetto. To get the podcast click here