Rescued from the Ashes

Title:Rescued from the Ashes
Writer:Schmidt, L.
Published:Amsterdam Publishers
Published in:2019

"Rescued from the Ashes" is a witness report from the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, in the time of World War Two. More specifically, it describes a period, when the Nazis destroyed the ghetto. The story begins on the 22nd of July 1942, the day when it became clear that residents of the ghetto would be deported. Of course, not the whole truth was told, namely that they would be deported to extermination camps. But, as we can read in the book, the average ghetto resident was well aware that the destination could never be good.

Certain groups were initially exempt from deportations, including the family of Leokadia Schmidt. The family consisted of her husband, herself and their baby son. As a factory worker, Joseph Schmidt belonged to the part of the ghetto population that still was considered useful and therefore needed to stay. It was not easy to come to such a job, because, of course, everyone was after it. Joseph and Leokadia Schmidt, too, needed quite a lot of money and good connections, but they managed to achieve their intended purpose.

In the meantime, the world around this family was rapidly getting smaller. In less than two months time between 250,000 and 300,000 people were deported to extermination camps. Schmidt could see how every day the next group of people to be deported was hunted down. In that period she kept a diary about it, which made the first part of the book. Eventually, the family managed to evade deportation and went into hiding elsewhere in the city.

Schmidt kept up her diary all this time. She stopped journaling only when the uprising broke out in the Warsaw ghetto. After the war, the family left Europe for Venezuela in America. It was not until mid-sixties that Schmidt decided to continue where she had stopped in 1944, by also recording events after that time. It took several years before she got in touch with Oscar E. Swan, who translated the story from Polish to English. And then nothing was done for 45 years, until the oldest son of Schmidt knocked on Swan's door. The latter once again looked critically at his translation and provided it with notes, which resulted in the final book.

It wasn't Schmidt's intention to publish her story as a book ever. She wanted to capture what she had seen and what she had been through, without pretensions about her qualities as a writer. Then again, it is not a book to finish in one session and it can take some time for a reader to get into the story. But it doesn't take away the fact, that Schmidt succeeded in her intention. With a big delay her story resulted into the book, that once again shows, what horrors occurred during the war in and around the Warsaw ghetto.

Rating: Good


Translated by:
Liza de Groot
Article by:
Vincent Krabbendam
Published on:
Last edit on: