Yoshue Perle (1888–1943)

Yoshue Perle was born in 1888’s Radom, Poland and his Father, a merchant sent Yoshue to a Russian School to learn bookkeeping. In 1905, working in a Warsaw, Poland Bank, he pursued his literary career visiting theatres, meeting with other young Yiddish writers and honing his craft amongst Warsaw Jewry. His Shabes work was published in 1908 and he became a known quantity, perhaps through his regular interactions with the monied of local Jewish Society. Yoshue however, never quite sought to fit into the rather strange mix of assimilated Jewry who could never fit totally into Polish society, as all too often Polish Jews were considered outsiders in their own land.

This separation between assimilated and the more Observant Jews was continually expressed in the works of Yoshue at the time. In 1926 Sara, when Yoshue’s Wife took her own life a looming cloud descended over him and in 1935, when his Book, Ordinary Jews was Published, it caused quite a stir amongst the more reserved, conservative and religious Jews in Poland. However, since its entry into the lexicon of Jewish consciousness, it has come to be both respected and well regarded. It is a Book that is certainly one of Yiddish Literatures modern classics, ahead of its time.

It is a glimpse into the facets of Jewish life that was set to fade and there are small snippets of ordinary Jews in small provincial Jewish Towns in Poland which ensure we can reach past The Holocaust. Here, we are directly connected with those Jews still warm and vibrant, enduring hardships of antisemitic hatreds, but living none the less. With what has been taken from the World with the loss of some 3,000,000 Polish Jews, the Jewish World and more specifically the Polish Jewish World has been ransacked from all existence.

With this work intact, Ordinary Jews the novel, becomes in many ways a History of the Jews of Poland before The Holocaust brutally detained them. The Book in itself opens a portal to a Jewish way of life that has been, for all intents and purposes, eradicated throughout all of Poland.Yoshue’s work too has a direct connection with that past which Emanuel Ringelblum sought to source, in order to establish his own Shabes, the Onyeg Shabbes. In March 1936, Yoshue perhaps foresaw the consequences of the mounting hatred for the Jewish People now spreading through Europe.

“..It is bad and bitter here. When they slaughter us all ..there won’t be anywhere to bury us.” Yoshue Perle.

After Hitler’s forces invaded Poland, September 1st. 1939, Yoshue left Warsaw for Lvov and in Novemebr 1939 he worked alongide the Russian Writer’s Union, chairing the Yiddisher section. Then with Hitler’s attack on Russia, June 22nd. 1941, Yoshue returned to Warsaw and filed a report on the Russian occupation of Lvov for Emanuel and the Onyeg Shabbes. Here, Emanuel also managed to secure employment for Yoshue, at the honey factory, which would also employ Rachel Auerbach, and in order for them to maintain the Yiddish framework of the Archive.

“..Korczak’s true value was not what he wrote but that he lived as he wrote.” Wladyslaw Szpilman.

Also, as a part of the archive itself, Jewish life, was worked upon as a microcosm of individual lives that is to be played out as we are transported back to a time of great Jewish vibrancy and creativity. Here, in pre-Hitler’s intervention into Poland, how little could be perceived of what lay in store for all of European Jewry would be more certainly felt and within Poland, almost immediately. On August 5th. 1942, we reflect with Janusz Korczak and the 200 Children of his orphanage as they were marched through the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto to a waiting transport for Treblinka.

“..A miracle occurred ..these 200 Children did not cry ..200 innocent creatures condemned to death did not weep ..not one of them ran away ..none tried to hide. Like sick swallows ..they clung only to their Teacher ..Mentor ..Father ..Brother ..Janusz Korczak ..so that he might preserve and protect them. He stood in ..first row. He protected ..Children with his weak ..emaciated body. ..Hitlerite beasts showed no pity. ..pistol in one hand ..whip in ..other ..they barked ..March. Woe to ..eyes that had to watch this terrible scene. Janusz Korczak ..bareheaded ..with a leather belt around his coat ..and in high boots ..stooped ..held ..hand of ..youngest Child and led ..way. Several nurses in white aprons followed him ..and then came ..200 clean and freshly combed Children.” Yoshue Perle.

On August 6th. 1942, and along with 15,000 other’s of Warsaw Jewry, were those of the Orphanage that had been directed by Janusz Korczak, also known as Hersch Goldszmit. Amongst these were his assistant, Madame Stefa otherwise known as Stefania Wilczynska standing at the head of a column of orphans, and as Korczak walked them toward a more consoling end in Treblinka, where all were murdered in the Death Camp Treblinka, Poland and history recalls the loss alongside their 200 charges, All Polish Jewish Children.

“..We could have defended ourselves. ..Had all Jews ..run into ..Streets ..climbed over ..Ghetto walls ..flooded ..Warsaw Streets carrying knives ..axes ..stones ..maybe they would have killed 10,000 ..20,000 ..but ..never ..300,000.” Yoshue Perle.

These small, often times fragile Jewish Children, orphaned on the Streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, were among approximately 50,000 Jewish Children from the Warsaw Ghetto who were murdered at Treblinka, and this in a period of less than 2 months. While Ghetto life had gravely marked Yoshue, reeling still from his Wife’s death, he was left wondering more and more about why life could have much meaning without those they had loved ever still being present in their lives.

From then on Yoshue would become deeply concerned for their Son and he was overly cautious with him in their life together. In words, often critical of those who administered the Ghettos for the Nazi’s, and his critique of them is a slamming indictment of a bitterness he reserved for them, his words are somewhat poignant given the escalating attempts being made to eradicate all of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto..

“..Today I saw Janusz Korczak,

As he walked with the children in the last procession.

And the children were in really clean clothes,

As if they were going in a walk in the gardens on Sunday.

Someone dashed up with a paper in his hand,

You can go back there’s a card from Brandt.

Korczak shook his head silently,

How could he get into those unfeeling heads

What it means to leave a child alone.” Wladyslaw Szlengel.

Luck remained on Yoshue’s side as he evaded deportation from the Ghetto and he finally decided to escape to the aryan side, which he managed in March 1943. Living under false identities and with The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising fullly engaged, the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began on April 17th. 1943, and on May 10th. 1943 the Jewish Uprising came to an end, Yoshue was still on the wrong side of Jewish Poland. Polish Jews, always expecting to Survive but never surprised that Survival was hopeless, had nowhere to go and no one to look to for immediate assistance.

Monday May 17th. 1943 “..Warsaw Ghetto is free of Jews.” SS Obergruppenfuhrer Jurgen Stroop.

Meanwhile, rumours abounded that privilieged status could be afforded those Jews with exit visas and for these to be obtained from the Nazi’s at the Hotel Polski. The sham was not to be discovered until the doors of the Krematorium closed behing all of them who were misguided enough to believe anything the Nazi’s had said. It is certain that Yoshue, given some form of protective status with a highly paid for visa to the America’s, was placed on a transport which took him and his Son to Belsen and from there toward Switzerland.

While I have never wished to enter into why some Jews behaved so deliberately badly toward their fellow Jews, I have no desire either to place myself in their shoes. Knowing full well, as I do, no Jew was the arbiter of what was to befall all or any Jew, it was Hitler and his cronies who were. However, there is a certain stain which presents itself in all the searching research I have done, which is mentioned by those like Yoshue, and I mention them. For instance though, and this is the infamous transport of 1,800 Polish Jews that was redirected to Auschwitz and on into Birkenau.

Here, where Yoshue Perle was to be Murdered and with his Son in Krematorium III, Birkenau, Poland on October 23rd.1943, this is and was regardless of whether or not any Jew was ever present at any seeming point of influence of confluence along the way. What Yoshue is Not privy to, as History has surpassed his very life, is the amount of retaliation that was being conducted as he sought to save his own and other’s lives. Yoshu is also unaware that even in Birkenau, resistance would see more Jews take a knfe to the captor’s and strike deeply for more than a wounded pride, and for 6,000,000 lost Jewish existences that was Never a deserved fate.

“..If community of 300,000 Jews did not try to resist ..exposed its own throat to ..slaughterer’s knife ..if it did not kill one German ..maybe this was a generation that deserved its fate.” Yoshue Perle.