My name is Leo der Junge, and I was an errand boy for the firm Klein und Krever, and I am leaving this notebook here in the cellar as a memorial. Whoever finds it is requested to send it to the following address: Cherna Morgenstern, 3 Chopin Street, Vilna, Poland. Or else to Erik Bader, Somewhere in Palestine. Thank you, whoever you are. [The following is a short selection.]

Zbaszyn,[1] December 28,1938

Selections from the Scrolls

The Diary of Leo der Junge

The Trail of Fire and Jewish Brotherhood

Shaul Returns

Does Birkenau Exist?

Passover in the Seventh Block

Crossing the Sea

Never Say There's Only Death

Dear Cherna,

You must already know from the newspapers what happened here on the night of November 9th. Let me describe to you what my fate was. I intended to go back to the orphanage at Dinslaken, but I never made it. I was arrested at a friend's house in the Third District. Everyone was taken outside at six. All the way to the police station on Jochgasse young people, and not so young, ran behind us shouting "Hep! Hep! Jude Verrehke!"[2] throwing garbage and stones at us. In the police station courtyard many Jews from the Third District were assembled. What happened there is beyond description. Blows and screams of women and children. Then we were loaded on trucks. They beat us as they packed us in. A gang ran all the way behind the truck, violently cursing and abusing us. The Viennese had suddenly turned into wild animals. Wet and crowded together we stood there most of the night. Before dawn I managed to escape. I hid in all kinds of places.

I reached the warehouse where I used to work for Klein and Krever and hid the diary I had started keeping. Uncle Arthur has been taken for deportation. Aunt Rita drowned herself in the Danube. I was told she was seen jumping into the river and no one tried to stop her. Such sights can be seen every day. On November 27th at ten in the evening the SS came to my apartment and arrested me for the second time. I was by myself with them, and I shall never forget that moment. My words stuck in my throat. I could hardly get dressed. Outside a cold wind was blowing. At the railway station to which they took me there were hordes of Jews rounded up from all the districts. Again we were loaded into wagons, this time on a freight train. Sounds of weeping from children and adults. With heart-rending cries, children sought their parents. I looked for no one and I didn't cry. I acted like an automaton and did nothing except keep close to the wall of the wagon where there was a barred window. The next morning, on the Sabbath, we reached the frontier. For two whole days we stopped at some junction. Trains came from all parts of Germany. I heard the names: Leipzig, Cologne, Berlin. Even Dinslaken. My heart is on fire. I met the famous Professor Hermann. They were searched at the frontier and all their money and valuables were taken. Each one was left with just ten marks. They were told, "You had no more when you arrived in Germany and you won't take any more out." The jest of fate. Professor Hermann's father was one of the greatest builders of railways in Germany.

When we arrived here in Zbaszyn, or Zbonshin, there were many dead bodies in the wagons and even more people who were lying unconscious. I too must have lost consciousness since I found myself lying in a but with a sister of mercy taking care of me, a Jewish woman from Warsaw. The Polish government will not allow us to enter Poland; there are tens of thousands of us here in terrible conditions. I have joined a class to learn Yiddish. The teacher, a volunteer from Warsaw, knows your father and I am sending this letter with him. His name is Ringelblum. In class they hand out meat soup, and it's not so cold as outside. Every day fresh trains arrive with deportees from Germany and Austria. They write down who has relatives in Poland. I gave your address. Maybe we'll meet soon. Yesterday it was my birthday. How they found out I don't know. Mr. Ringelblum gave me a present, a book by Sholom Aleichem, with illustrations. It's still hard for me to read the language. I'm twelve years old. I'm afraid you won't recognize me. Must stop now. Sudden shouts. Went to look. A new transport has arrived. A woman paralyzed in both legs. They took her from her home in pajamas, and brought her like that to Zbaszyn. She was howling from cold like an animal.

Leo Morgenstern

The letter was finished, and apparently folded and placed in an envelope that the teacher from Warsaw had provided, but Leo couldn't sleep. Curled up in a rough blanket, he sat by the window and added the following:

Dear Cherna,

Heavy snow has started falling and covers the ground in no-man's-land. The wind is howling outside and all my bones are shivering with cold. I got out of bed in order to finish the letter with some lines of verse, since I hear that you yourself write poetry. A student from Berlin whose bunk is near mine brought with him a book of verse, and I read two or three poems by an anonymous woman poet.

The murderers go about in the world all night long O my God, all night long!'[3]

These lines fret away at my brain and give me no peace. In another poem I found this sentence: "I have loved thee, my people, dressed in rags." I'm not sure if I have fully understood the poet. The truth is that until now I didn't know exactly who my people were. And here I am among them and they are so frightened, humiliated, lost. My God, if only I could say as she does: "I have loved thee, my people, dressed in rags."

I've just remembered. The name of the poem is "The Cry Falls into the Eternal Abyss."


Name? Asked the interrogator.
I told him my name.
I said: yes.
I mean when!
I gave the date.
That's not your concern.
So, a Jew!
                (from a poem by Erich Muhsam)



[1] ZBASZYN: A border town near Poznan. About 3,500 Jewish refugees were transported there and set down in no-man's-land between Germany and Poland. Among the first of the deportees were the parents of Herschel Grinspan. [back]
[2] "JUDE VERREHKE!": A German curse-literally, "Drop dead, Jew!" [back]
[3] The words "The murderers go about in the world all night long/ 0 my God, all night long!" were written by the poet Gertrud Kolmar. [back]



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