Most of those who have heard of the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw during World War II probably think of it in connection with the uprising of a small number of Jewish fighters prior to the final liquidation of the Ghetto by German forces. Dr. Marek Edelman, who led the uprising, died last Friday at age 90.
But before there was death, there was life.
The life of the Ghetto is recalled in fine detail in an astonishing 900-page work of scholarship, “The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City” by Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, newly translated from the Polish and published by Yale University Press (reviewed here and here).
The book relentlessly documents the horrors, the corruption and the tragic choices imposed by Ghetto life. But it also brings new light to the ordinary human striving of Ghetto residents, their surprisingly rich life of the mind and the spirit, and their occasional moments of hopeless grace.