Hell Has Risen to the Surface of the Earth in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume 36:2

Havi Dreifuss Ben-Sasson


“Hell Has Risen to the Surface of the Earth”: An Anonymous Woman’s Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The article examines a fascinating diary written in a bunker on Miła Street by an anonymous young woman during the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Whereas the uprising was a popular uprising that enjoyed the active support of the remaining ghetto population of approximately 40,000, the author notes that the extensive research and literature on it has not adequately addressed those many thousands of Jews whose contribution to the battle was not by taking up weapons. These Jews were part of the “bunkers’ war,” who served as an impediment to the Germans. What these people knew about the uprising, their role in it, their thoughts, and their daily lives during that time are largely unknown. This diary is the only identified “civilian” diary from the bunkers and, as such, provides a rare insight into this central aspect of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The diarist traces the disintegrating situation and growing tensions as the ghetto burned all around them – “the entire ghetto is a sea of flames” (May 10, 1943) – and Germans closed in for the kill.