A Martyr or a Hero? Reflections on the Diary of Adam Czerniaków
Czerniakow, head of the Jewish council (Judenrat) in the Warsaw ghetto, remains a controversial figure. He appears to have withheld from the inhabitants the truth of the destination of the deportations. He saw no alternative to death for himself and for the ghetto people. Korczak has been similarly criticized for leading his children to their deaths. Possibly he should have told them to run and find hiding places. Czerniakow was a cultured person and found it difficult to negotiate with vulgar creatures. He developed for himself the image of a passive saint. He was insulted by the Germans and misunderstood by the Jews. At the beginning he did not grasp Hitler’s mania to exterminate European Jewry. He became increasingly aware that his efforts to improve conditions in the ghetto were failing. Following the great deportation of July 1942, his only task was to provide Jews for the consignments. He understood that he had not saved a soul. Before the second consignment left, he took his life.