Adam Czerniaków - the Man and his Supreme Sacrifice
Czerniakow grew up in a neo-assimilationist Polish family, but returned to his Jewish roots and his Jewish loyalty was clearly evident. He was an engineer by profession and during the 1920s was active in the Jewish artisans’ organization. In the 1930s, he represented the Jewish nationalist camp in Poland’s semi-Fascist parliament — a difficult, unrewarding task. When the Nazis invaded Poland, he was appointed leader of the Warsaw ghetto. He remained at this post for almost three years not because of servility to the oppressors but because of boundless devotion. The discovery of his detailed diary after the war strengthens this knowledge. He refused the Nazi offer to continue living in his apartment outside the ghetto. He never considered flight from impending death, believing that as “commander of the sinking ship” he should be amongst the last to leave. He was a decent, even noble individual who worked long hours every (losing) day to care for all the needs of the ghetto’s inhabitants. On occasion he had to suffer insults and slander from jealous or unsatisfied fellow inhabitants. He was offered a visa to Palestine for himself and his family, but refused to abandon his charges. He committed suicide probably related to tragedy within his family and to depression brought on by the looming destiny of Jews remaining in the ghetto. He had aimed at the impossible — relief from torments unprecedented in the history of civilization. Unfortunately, he did not live to witness the heroism of the ghetto fighters.