"In the beginning, it was death by hunger. They squeezed a whole lot of people from smaller towns in a very small area. They had absolutely no means to make a living. They were dying of hunger, Yes. They simply had no chance to make a living. The hunger was terrible," a survivor from the Warsaw Ghetto, Hanna Wehr said in a conversation with Magda Łucyan from "Fakty" TVN.
The series of conversations with the Warsaw Ghetto survivors was conducted to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that falls on the 19th of April.
Hanna Wehr was sent to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940. She was 14 years old at the time. Since 1943, until the end of war she was hiding on the Aryan side.
Ms Wehr remembers that there was a huge congestion in ghetto. The Germans packed the whole district to fullest with relocated families. "The place was awfully congested," she recalled.
She stressed that hunger and death by starvation were commonplace. "They squeezed a whole lot of people from smaller towns in a very small area. They had absolutely no means to make a living. They were dying of hunger, Yes. They simply had no chance to make a living. The hunger was terrible," Ms Wehr told Magda Łucyan.
"There were many beggars," said Hanna Wehr. "Often, people were stealing food from each other. They would just run over and grab the food," she explained. "The hunger and despair made them do it," she added.
Hanna Wehr was a teenager at the time and understood very well what was happening around her. "It was war, persecutions… what else was there to understand? I was affected by it too," she said.
The ghetto survivor also told Magda Łucyan that in 1942, the Grossaktion Warschau began (The Nazi German operation of the deportation and mass murder of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto beginning 22 July 1942). "The decision to basically kill everyone was made. I witnessed that. I saw people being transported to death camps," she said. Ms Wehr also mentioned the people who had volunteered to the so-called relocation, because they had been tempted by the Germans with food ratios. "Hunger made people volunteer to be taken there" (to death camps), she explained.
The memories that Hanna Wehr considers the most difficult are of what she referred to as blockades, during which people "had to gather around for inspections" carried out by German soldiers. "Some got past, some did not. They would take away little children and the elderly," she said. "I saw with my own eyes when they killed someone. A woman tried to run away but they shot her immediately," Ms Wehr recollected.
She was lucky to survive the relocation and the escape from ghetto with her mother.
"The escape itself was organized in such a way that people were essentially escaping over the walls at night. And then you had to take care of yourself. To do so, you needed to find someone who would help. There was no other way, you needed someone to help you," she explained.
"There was this business of making forfeit documents. Once you got out of the ghetto, you could somehow get along thanks to that market, as you could buy the documents," she said.
The ghetto survivor was asked about the message she would like to send to the younger generations. "It’s simply unacceptable that people are at risk of death or persecution because of their identity or any other reason," she replied. "This is a completely extraordinary situation to be concerned with your identity, looks or language. Those who spoke a language that would give them away or had such looks, simply perished," said Hanna Wehr recalling the ordeal she was forced to go through.