Notably, Warsaw then, a major centre of Jewish life and culture boasted of more than 3.5 lakh Jews, the second largest in the world after New York City. As Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich puts it, “Jews were almost everywhere, and interacting with non-Jews daily.”

All that bonhomie came to a halt with the Germans invading Poland in September of 1939, which they occupied from October till January 1945. Right from the beginning, the idea was to dismantle Warsaw and build a city for the Germans with no Jews. As Niels Gotschow, an architectural historian, remarks, “It was to reduce Warsaw next to nothingethe intention was to destroy the capital of Poland.” With no capital, the concept of Poland would cease to exist.

Pursuing this objective, the Jews were isolated in a section of the city called Warsaw Ghetto, a settlement surrounded by a wall. The footage vividly depicts heart-wrenching scenes of families with children and individuals, carrying in the hands and carts, their meagre possessions, shifting to the Ghetto. The displacement shattered them physically but also psychologically. Irena Agata Boldok who earlier lived in a decent neighbourhood, says she didn’t want to live there and wanted to return. As a child on seeing a poster showing a Jew as evil, she says, “I didn’t want to be a Jew.” So deep was the psychic impact!

With hundreds packed like sardines, survival in isolation on meagre ration was a nightmare. Those with money or Polish friends managed to survive. Smuggling became rampant. Ziolkowski’s film shows little children with small packets and firewood bundles, passing them through holes in the wall. It has scenes showing a policeman beat up these kids with a broom and baton. A small boy battered mercilessly with the baton makes one revolt in anger!