Along with overcrowding, the biggest single problem in most ghettos was lack of food because the Nazis provided insufficient rations. Thousands of people died each month in the Warsaw Ghetto as a result of starvation and the population relied on smuggling to provide food. Most of the smugglers were children; the photograph shows one being caught by a German policeman. In this poem, Henryka Łazowertówna paid tribute to these child smugglers and the huge risks they took to support their families.
The Little Smuggler
Over the walls, through holes, through the guard posts,
Through the wire, through the rubble, through the fence,
Hungry, cheeky, stubborn,
I slip through, I nip through like a cat.
At midday, in the night, at dawn,
In snowstorms, foul weather, and heat,
A hundred times I risk my life,
I stick out my childish neck.
A rough sack under my arm,
Wearing torn rags on my back,
With nimble young legs
And in my heart constant fear.
But you have to bear it all,
And you have to put up with it all,
So that tomorrow you
Will have your fill of bread.
Over the walls, though holes, through bricks,
At night, at dawn, and in day,
Cheeky, hungry, crafty,
I move as quietly as a shadow.
And if the hand of fate unexpectedly
Catches up with me one day in this game,
It is an ordinary trap of life.
Mother, don't wait for me anymore.
I will not be coming back to you again,
The voice will not be heard from afar;
The dust of the streets will bury
The fate of the lost child.
And I have only one request,
And the grimace is set on the lips:
Who, Mother, will bring you
Your bread tomorrow?
Henryka Łazowertówna was murdered at Treblinka extermination camp in August 1942.
Photo: a boy caught smuggling in the Warsaw Ghetto by a German policeman; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Leopold Page Photographic Collection
Poem: Michał M. Borwicz (ed.), Pieśń ujdzie cało... Antologia wierszy o Żydach pod okupacją niemiecką (Centralna Żydowska Komisja, 1947)