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Desert Island, Burrow, Grave

Wartime Hiding Places of Jews in Occupied Poland


Marta Cobel-Tokarska

This book is an anthropological essay which aims to capture the elusive phenomenon of hideouts employed by Jews persecuted during the Second World War. Oscillating between life and death, the Jewish hideouts were a space of the most diverse and extremely complex human relations – a specific realm of everyday life, with its own inherent logic. Based on different literary sources, especially wartime and post-war testimonies of Jewish escapees, the author seeks to examine the realm of hideouts to develop a novel, interdisciplinary perspective on this often neglected aspect of the 20th-century history.

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2 Hiding place as a space. Perspective of social and individual experience

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2Hiding place as a space. Perspective of social and individual experience

It is equally hard for the researchers of the Shoah and those of ancient cities to look into the world they are trying to describe. Despite significantly smaller time distance, and in case of Polish scientists – spatial proximity, the reality experienced by authors of wartime testimonies and memoirs is as distant to us as the antiquity. It is also harder to understand. Therefore, the scientists find support in various disciplines of humanities suggesting tools for analyses, categories and concepts.

In the introduction, I have invoked primary concepts of social sciences describing space. I have concluded that the humanistic perspective is the most valuable from the cognitive perspective, as it covers relations between human beings and space, and influence of shape of that space on relations between them. We should transpose this exact way of perceiving space to the wartime situation and attempt to analyze the space of a hiding place as a social space (the first part of this chapter) and a hiding place as a space in an individual experience (second part of the chapter).

Therefore, in the first part I am presenting the space of a hiding place from various perspectives, trying to describe its place in a social space. To recreate it, I am making use of Jewish testimonies and fragments of Polish memoirs and journals, which I counterbalance with extracts from a report by Friedrich Katzmann. The second part is an attempt to get out of a hiding place: a depiction of individually experiencing its space, solely from the hiding people’s point of view. I back this analysis with theories of environmental psychology. I am presenting the two main elements of experiencing the space of a hiding place: spatial perception and environmental stress (violation of personal space, adverse environmental conditions). This part of the book is concluded with deliberations on the functioning of a body in the space of a hiding place and a reflection on the role of a biological compulsion in shaping of the social behaviors and individual experiences.

Part I. Hiding place as a social space

Distrust is the idea behind stashes. […] I am talking about trinkets, but they are enough to understand the idea of a stash and I do not have to mention hiding places, which save a life of a human or an animal in an extremely dangerous situation. We build stashes ←113 | 114→in a hostile world. After all, they are always to protect something, no matter how great is the danger.

Jolanta Brach-Czaina212

The war and occupation are a time of chaos and violence, of imposed and dangerous power. The German authorities, according to Leszek Kołakowski, introduced (at least partially) a totalitarian system on Polish territories: “I am using the word ‘totalitarian’ in its commonly used sense, meaning a political system, in which all social connections were completely replaced by a government organization, and where all communities and all individuals have to function solely for purposes, which are both the purposes of the government and that are set by the government itself. In other words, a perfect totalitarian system would mean a complete destruction of civil society, making the government and its organizational units the only forms of social life; all kinds of human activity – economic, cultural, political, and intellectual – are permitted and mandatory (the distinction between what is permitted and what is mandatory is heading toward disintegration) only in the extent to which they are serving the purposes of the government (I reiterate: the purposes set by the government itself). Each individual, including the rulers themselves, is considered to be the property of the government”213. In this system, the Jews had a special place designated for them, in a figurative and literal sense. One can analyze the hiding places as a social space on two levels. On the first level, it is a construct of a social structure, which was shaped in a specific historical moment: during the rule of a totalitarian system imposed by the occupant. A need to create a hiding place is connected with there being a situation of endangerment of a social group “designated” by the Germans. Therefore, hiding places are being created as a product of the reality of the Shoah and this is, at the same time, their broad social and historical context.

On the second level a hiding place is a creation of particular people. We can use the following classification here:

a hiding place as a creation of people hiding, who chose a given place and decide that it would serve as their shelter from that moment on;

a hiding place as a creation of people hiding, who create it in a literal, physical sense, building it from the ground level up or significantly transforming a preexisting construction;

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a hiding place as a creation of people helping by building or transforming a space for somebody (those two perspectives connected with building a hideout will be presented in Chapter 4);

a hiding place as a creation of people helping, who decide to let in a person looking for shelter into their space and therefore to change that space’s meaning;

a hiding place as a creation of people helping by pointing to a preexisting place, which is, however, not owned by them, and therefore they are not including the person hiding into their world (“Go hide there, you’ll be able to spend a night there”).

War (and the Shoah) is a terrifying kind of social transformation, which is a shock in a life of the society. It has all the makings of a traumatogenic transformation: it is sudden, has a broad scope, it is profound, radical, unexpected214. A hiding place as a social space understood in a broad sense is in a sense channeling the tension created in the society by the dramatic experiences of the Shoah. Witnesses of the Shoah have watched how the hiding Jews were vanishing from the face of the Earth on their won, they did not have to look at their horrid fate, as their lives were moving to a hidden sphere. They seize functioning openly, thus resolving the issues the witnesses had: their guilt, helplessness against the harm done to their fellow citizens, conflicted conscience or fear of the consequences for helping somebody. They disappear in a way allowing others to be indifferent. The process of the tormented people descending into hiding places caused a temporal “cover up” of the social trauma experienced by the witnesses of the Holocaust. However, it was not an effective solution, and that is why, according to a number of authors215, an unhealed trauma can keep resurfacing for decades to come.

A hiding place is on a different level of a socially created space – because it is located “somewhere”: in the countryside, in a city, in a forest. It is on a territory of a given country, in an administrative unit. It is a piece of a wider area, created in a process of human activity. It is a social space also in a sense that it is characterized by a specific kind of human activities. It has its place in the functional division of space, it serves people. Those functions can be divided into primary and secondary. The primary function is to save life, to hide during an emergency. It is a function which is to satisfy the most primal human need216 – a need for ←115 | 116→safety. If a hiding place performs that function, the secondary, more complex issues emerge. In almost every text on a long term hiding place, which is not an utterly extreme experience, there are mentions of various human activities performed in a hideout. First of all, this includes homemaking, i.e. preparing meals, tidying up. Another issue is connected with personal hygiene – shaving, cutting hair, bathing, doing laundry, and even exercising. In case of one resident of a hideout falling ill, it was necessary to nurse that person back to health, sometimes a doctor was called to see the patient (however, in the texts there are testimonies of killing sick people, who were a potential risk for the others). People, even strangers, bond with each other in hiding places, romantic attraction is not uncommon. People become couples, have sex, children are born (and die). In face of the vastness of time, boredom becomes a serious problem. An example of endearing innocence in face of this affliction can be a case of an elderly grandmother of Julian Aleksandrowicz. She was hiding in a shelter for the elderly “not realizing the gravity of the situation, she would send us notes saying, more or less: ‘Get me out of here, I’m bored’ […] So the granny had to be bored for a few long months and wait till the war was over”217. Work was a way to be delivered from boredom. Some people hiding had a chance to get a job in cottage industry. For example, Leon Guz was manufacturing paper bags when in hiding, Guta Trokenheim-Szynowłoga and her daughter made brooms. Aleksandra Bańkowska wrote the following on how people used to earn a living while hiding in the woods: “It was not very common, but some Jews hiding in the woods were able to support themselves with work. Sometimes it would happen that the farmers, from whom the forest collective was getting food, would order an applicable service from a member of the group who was a tailor, shoemaker, furrier or a tanner. […] Shoemakers and tailors were employed in partisan divisions as well. Sometimes they would become important figures, like Lejzor Port, who was the only tailor in Frunze division of Kirow brigade and was carefully protected by the soldiers from any dangers. Various services were an important task and sometimes even the purpose of there being civilian camps around the partisans. In Bielski’s camp, people worked in various shops. There were shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, tanners, cold cuts makers, and even weapon repairmen. People were also able to work as cooks, physicians, nurses and even secretaries with the partisans or in the civilian camps”218. Sometimes it was also ←116 | 117→possible to study while in hiding, to read (newspapers with current news were especially in demand), many people wrote journals and even, in better conditions, people would engage in scientific work (Emanuel Ringelblum or Julian Aleksandrowicz). Playing cards (mentioned by e.g. Menachem Katz, Chaim Icel Goldstein) were a basic, safe, and easy entertainment, as well as other games (people in Ignacy Chiger’s hideout used to play City-Country-River). A bond-forming social activity and a good way to pass the time the people would engage in was telling stories – but only when it was not necessary to keep quiet. People would also simply talk, reminisce. There were also more sophisticated ways to kill time, one of which is mentioned by Leokadia Silverstein: “The idea was simple and brilliant – from that moment forward the time between the meals was filled with lectures, which were prepared by somebody else each time. We could choose any subject – and tell true or made up stories”219.

A hiding place is a piece of the world that has to contain the whole world inside itself. It is a part taking up the role of the whole. People sentenced to death, postponing the execution date by locking themselves in a hideout, lose their entire world. They are losing all the other places and spaces. There is an infinite number of places where they cannot go. The one place, those people are in is also branded with “I can’t, I’m not allowed”. I am not allowed here, I am not allowed to live at all. And yet, for some reason those people assume that this particular place can be exempt from that general prohibition. It can be detached from the system, where the prohibition is in force, and transferred to an alternative reality. To the underground. That is what a hiding place is. It is a paradox, if we assume the point of view of the executioner, the legislator who’s sentencing a whole group of people to non-existence, to be binding. A hiding place allows for existence, even though it should not exist itself. It is prohibited as well. It is a scratch on an armor of repression, a hole in the system of total control. It exists through denial – thanks to the fact that people do not know about it, and until they find out. A hiding place is doomed to be destroyed if it is no longer invisible. Due to its fragile status, it is not a guarantee; it is just an attempt and a possibility. It is an attempt to sneak away. A grab for freedom. “Granting a person the right to be present in some space becomes a part of that person’s social status”, wrote Florian Znaniecki in 1938. The Jews were initially granted a right to be present in ghettos. That right was later revoked. Their social status disappeared, as they were destined to die. Jews choosing a hiding place were granting themselves a right to be in there or were sometimes given such a right from their “Aryan” guardians. That ←117 | 118→right was contradicting the occupant’s laws. For Znaniecki a space has value, it is an element of a wider system of values. In this understanding, a hiding place has a value as a protest against the Germans, an attempt to take away a fragment of a space from their jurisdiction. It is a part of an illegal, excluded, and, in some way, free world. The people hiding were resisting by choosing a hiding place. A person giving somebody shelter was joining that fight as well.

And yet a hiding place is so very limiting. Basic physical categories are not allowing performance of majority of tasks. Even if a hiding place, which should not exist at all, is exempt from the occupant’s prohibitions, we should note that for safety reasons an internal list of prohibitions and restrictions has to be created. Keeping the state of invisibility is a crucial issue – the state of existence without anybody knowing it is there. A hiding place should be actually located “nowhere”, that would be an ideal position. A person hiding is a Nobody. “No living thing dares to know about Nobody. No man, no authority, not even a good old dog”220. To make it so, a lot more things are prohibited than allowed. That is the first limitation. Above all a hiding place is limiting by itself, as one has to be inside it and cannot go out. That is the second limitation. Therefore, there is no more home, work, street, temple, bathhouse, market or forest for a person in a hiding place. A hiding place becomes that person’s whole world. It has to assume the function of all the other, now inaccessible, places. The functions that cannot be assumed have to be suspended or be carried out in the psyche, in one’s mind. A hideout as a place can be described using various categories. By analyzing location, direction and availability221, we will see that not all of them will be equally useful when applied to the phenomenon of hiding places. Some will clarify a lot, some are not connected with this specific space at all, as they seem to belong to a different order. Only the category of distance will be described in relation to a sociological perspective. It seems that the other ones correspond more smoothly with an anthropological perspective and will be therefore described in Chapter 3.

Location is determining the distance; it is always presented with respect to something else. One can measure that distance in the simplest physical units. It can have a social character. In such a case, regardless of physical proximity, the distance between groups or individuals in a given space can be enormous. “A sense of distance is closely related to an ability to traverse it, which, in turn, depends both on biological and social characteristics of an individual. […] For people with an important position in a social hierarchy traversing […] a few ←118 | 119→thousands of kilometers is not a big deal. Spatial mobility depends not only on social position, but also on other characteristics of an individual, such as gender, age and profession”222. The distance between closed off hiding places and the outside reality was therefore immeasurable. It was not falling into the scope of social status so much, as it was into incomparably sharper categories. One can say that from the Germans’ point of view a Jew sentenced to death had no social status at all. Therefore, abandoning a lawlessly chosen “niche in the system”, where a person had a chance to survive, and going even the smallest physical distance was possible, yet carrying a risk of death. When it comes to individual characteristics, from a rational standpoint, young people, women and those who were not externally “alike”, surely had a bigger chance of safely traversing such a distance. However, even the best set of characteristics was not guaranteeing safety. Therefore – in practice – every distance was infinite for those in hiding.

Isolation of the people in hiding was one of the most difficult elements of their experience. They were not able to freely cross a physical border, but there were ways to cross it in a figurative way. First of all, these included visits of people from the outside, who would bring news about the world and a breath of freedom. Secondly – letters. Chanina Malachi223, who was hiding in a small house outside of Warsaw, described impatiently looking forward to a visit or a letter from his wife Hindzia, who had Aryan papers, or other people he knew and with whom he was able to corresponding for the whole time when he was hiding. Thirdly – reading, especially press, which would make the farthest expanses seem a lot closer. News from the front were especially popular. Books were also helping to forget the tightness of the walls of a hiding place. A universal measure that was available when one could not rely on company or reading, was transcending the limits of a hiding place with one’s mind, trying to remember about what is still there on the outside. Chaim Icel Goldstein said the following in his memoirs: “We were cut off from the world in that hideout… […] What should we do? […] Hold on with all our might to the world which exists outside of our hiding place and over ruins of Warsaw. Imagine that there is a vibrant world that is worth living”224. Such a therapeutic role could have been performed both by stories of fellow people in a hiding place, which would open up spaces unknown to the others, by memories of life before the war, and by plans for the future, which were also exceeding the scope of a particular space.

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One can also perceive a hiding place as a territory. The idea of territoriality derived from biological sciences has functioned in social sciences from around the 60s. “The term of ‘territory’, according to the most representative definition proposed by Sommer, means a geographical area, which, by personalization (personal marking) and physical flagging becomes secured from a breach. As it can be seen from that, a territory is a space that is constant and independent from a human completely, but having influence on behaviors. Both the previously mentioned definition and a number of other ones have a common constant element, which is connected with a defensive behavior. An essence of a territory is therefore an idea of protective separation that is determining specific territorial behavior in a given area (territory)”225. A hiding place is, however, a specific type of a territory – it is a deficient. It is represented by a person’s limited sense of control over the hiding place. In majority of cases the hideouts are defenseless against external threats (partisan camps and hiding places of insurgents are an exception here).

What is more, people occupying a hideout had no rights to such a place. Even if it was built by their own hands and paid for with their money, created in their home or if they were invited to a hiding place by a friend or a family member. It is so because a hideout exists in a scope of illegality. Any potential rights can have a low-level and informal character: the person hiding was granted a right to stay in a hiding place by the owners of a place (Poles) or fellow people hiding (other Jews). This person would not get such a right from the authorities, who were in fact running the whole space of the occupied Poland (the Germans). This is why a hiding place is a space of distrust, as a person occupying it cannot permanently believe in any guarantees or promises.

A hiding place can be viewed as a space for social interactions. In general, choosing to hide meant opting to disappear from the social world. A person hiding cannot by definition, get in touch with other people. That person is pretending to not exist. Such people are excluding themselves from interactions as if they were dead or were never born. They do not want to be considered, wish to be forgotten and unnoticed. A category of invisibility becomes an agent here. It is selective, as situations, in which a person survived as a complete hermit, without contacting anybody, were very rare. Therefore, there were exceptions from invisibility. Obviously, a person was visible for potential co-residents of a hiding place. For the guardians, who were helping such people, who provided them with food and invited them into their home. Yet this was not always the case, as it could ←120 | 121→have happened that a guardian was aware of only some of the residents of a hiding place, and the others would hide from that guardian as well. Some visitors from the outside: a doctor, relative or a friend, a member of an organization could see the hiding people, but they had to be invisible for everybody else. Potentially dangerous interactions had to be postponed to some unspecified “later” – when everything changes.

Moreover, a hiding place is a social definition of a hiding Jew. It determines the Jew’s position in the social structure precisely as this “Nobody” who should disappear, but does not; the unwanted, unsafe, endangering others with his or her presence. From the minute of descending into the space of a hiding place, people lose their previous characteristics. They are no longer workers, as they do not have a job anymore. They are not family members, if their family has not arrived to the same place. Their appearance, personality, interests, talents – everything that defined them as human beings is no longer important. The technical aspects become relevant – do they cough? Are they strong, durable, patient? Questions of metaphysical order, which are unverifiable, but significant – are they lucky or a jinx? The peoples’ past does not matter anymore. From that moment forward the present and the future will consist of waiting and reducing oneself to vita minima226. Hiding becomes the nature of people in a hiding place. And they still remain Jewish. Convicts with postponed sentences. This mechanism is perfectly illustrated in an account by a Pole, Helena Grabarek, who was sheltering Abram Grinbaum (Jan Abram Grymbał wrote about him) in her farmyard in a village near Gąbin. Grinbaum stayed with her from 1942 till the end of the war. He had a hideout in a barn. Here is how the author of the account is describing the sudden change in Grinbaum’s status when the war ended: “Then in the morning of 18th January 1945, at 10 o’clock in the morning, we saw Russian tanks. We were really happy that we lived to be free and Jan Grymbał rejoiced too that the sun shone for him as well, as he was not allowed to even see the sun for three years. And now he’s somebody, just like everybody else, and he can walk about this world”227. In this simple woman’s intuitive perception of social reality, “Grymbał” staying in a hiding place had no rights, and became “somebody” equal to other members of the society only after he came out.

One can wonder to what extent the specifics of a hiding place were influencing the scarce interactions taking place inside. “In direct interactions, not only the distance can be of importance, but also the spatial constraints, shape, form ←121 | 122→of the surroundings, in which those interactions take place. Sometimes those characteristics expedite or, on the contrary, impede contact; they increase or decrease chances for establishing interactions, give them a particular form”228. It is not easy to draw conclusions leading to some rules from analysis of individual testimonies. However, we can note some general observations.

The majority of interactions belongs to the category of direct ones, which require simultaneous presence of their participants in time and space. The exception includes handing over letters, news and items by third parties. Inside a hiding place the interactions are subject to a tense atmosphere stemming from danger and having no way out. Density of the space causes a behavioral sink to form between the people (I shall write more on the issue in the second part of the chapter). Co-residents are keeping each other in check, they are all in the same boat, but somebody can get fed up, stop caring and do something that will endanger everybody. There are also the typical relations within a group, conflicts regarding money, power and so on. In turn, a dependency is created in relation to the outside world (potential people helping). Not being able to fully decide for one can cause a hiding person to become a part of a dominance-subordination relationship with the helping person (I wrote about it in Chapter 1, in the section on assisted hiding places).

From a sociological perspective, a hiding place can be understood as a space for everyday life – in its paradoxical, wartime variety. A place to live in on a daily basis, to face practical everyday challenges, and carry out one’s social roles in extraordinary conditions and circumstances. One could also see a hiding place as falling into a contradictory category, as a space for extreme, boundary229 situations, which rip a person away from normal everyday life. Among boundary situations Jaspers lists suffering, struggle, death, chance and guilt. After all, a hiding place is a space of suffering, death and fear of death. It is an experience of chance – due to its frailty and precarious security, the situation inside it gets out of control. It is an experience of guilt – as the thoughts in a hiding place often circle back to those who were unable to hide. Jacek Leociak in a text on bombings analyzed as boundary situations230 brings up other theoreticians ←122 | 123→working within this area. He mentions Bruno Bettelheim231, who uses a concept of extreme (boundary) situation. In such a situation, a helpless person is highly vulnerable. Such an experience has a devastating effect on a person’s psyche. Another author cited by Leociak, Dominick LaCapra232, calls the Shoah a limit event, filled with violence, making it impossible for old values and structures to survive. In conclusion Leociak, invoking Jan Strzelecki, formulates his own definition: “a boundary experience occurs when a person is unable to bear some situation anymore, but has no other choice – and bears it”233. It would seem that a hiding place has to be perceived as a potentially extreme space. After all, there were various kinds of hiding places, also ones where it was relatively peaceful, where people experienced positive feelings, care, good conditions. However, we have to remember that a wartime reality was characterized by substantial dynamism and a place which was peaceful one minute could suddenly become dangerous, filled with terror and uncertainty. The distance between space of everyday life and the space of boundary situations was therefore very short in wartime conditions; this concerns not only the hiding places, but other places as well.

In wartime reality, a hiding place functions as a new element of social space, as it generates previously unknown opportunities for relations between individual people and social groups. Jacek Kaczmarek wrote: “Changes in ways of life cause transformations in organization of space, and the reorganization of space influences transformations of social reality”234. Even though nobody was supposed to know that hiding places existed, everybody knew. Despite the fact that the majority of society was probably indifferent to the fate of Jews, information about them were generally circulated. Hiding places were ascribed to the category of unwanted space, marked as negative and problematic. Those were the places ascribed to a stigmatized social group and at the same time another transitional phase between prewar presence of the Jews in social space and their complete disappearance. Theoretically, upon going “underground”, the Jews were vanishing out of sight of not only Germans, but their Polish neighbors as well. However, people knew they were there, even often knew where the hiding places were. The hiding people had an unstable status of being illegal, in need of help, deprived of rights and resources, which would constitute their influence and position in the ←123 | 124→social hierarchy. This status would open various perspectives, which were often negative for people living in hiding places.

The issue of German perspective, which could not but have an effect on Polish perspective, is worth deliberating. A hiding place seen from the outside by the Germans had to appear not as something that should be pondered, but simply as a place that had to be destroyed. The hiding places should not exist at all in the German order. Since they already existed, destroying them was another task to perform, which was difficult, unrewarding, and even dangerous for them. In order to do it, aside from engaging their own troops, they were employing local people, by not only threatening to punish them for helping the Jews, but also by enticing them with rewards for discovering Jewish hideouts. A sample of the German perspective on the hiding places is a report by Friedrich Katzmann, a co-orchestrator of operation “Reinhardt”, SS and police Commander in Galicia district. A fragment of that report is worth quoting, as it gives an idea of how objectified the hiding places were and how task oriented were the Germans in regard to them – they saw it as a sign of reprehensible and incomprehensive Jewish resistance. Katzmann wrote the following on liquidation of ghettos in Rava-Ruska and Rohatyn: “The troops taking part in the operation were constantly exposed to physical and psychological exertion. To get inside the Jewish hiding places, cradles of filth and disease, they had to overcome their disgust. […] During the operation, there were truly unbelievable difficulties, as the Jews were trying to avoid displacement with all the means they had. They were trying to escape, and even hid in the most unbelievable recesses, in drainage channels, chimneys, septic tanks and so on. They would barricade themselves in underground passages, basements converted into bunkers, dugouts, elaborate hiding places under floors, in sheds, furniture etc.”235. Later in the report Katzmann describes bunkers “with masterfully masked entrances” and, in much detail, three giant shelters in Rohatyn, which he writes about using qualitative expressions as well (“expertly stamped”). The report is complimented by a large number of photographs documenting the appearance of the uncovered hiding places. The description ends with a statement that at the end of the operation “fire was set [to one of the bunkers] and they [the Jews] were smoked out”236.

In connection to the penalties imposed by the occupant for helping the Jews hide and because of the common animosity of the community, non-Jewish ←124 | 125→caretakers of the hiding places had to see them through the prism of the danger connected thereto, as something like a bomb with a delayed fuse. It would therefore happen that people would suddenly decide to defuse that bomb by getting rid of its residents from the closest proximity, even though the assisted hiding places were often a steady and beneficial source of income. Hence, a hiding place is a space for a relationship of exchange, always more advantageous for the non-Jewish side, which, by having an infinitely more room for maneuver, has control over the situation and dictates the terms, due to having a power over the people hiding. (I wrote in more detail about the aid and various issues connected with assisted hiding places in Chapter 1). It is also a space of risk, fear, potential death, just as many other forbidden and illegal spaces. For others, who were not contributing to helping the hiding people, knowing about a hideout could become a trump card, it could allow one to gain an advantage useful for the purposes of blackmail. Finally, a hiding place was often the space of crime. Article by Alina Skibińska and Jakub Petelewicz entitled Udział Polaków w zbrodniach na Żydach na prowincji 167 ccomp świętokrzyskiego [The Role of Poles in Crimes against Jews in the Province of Świętokrzyski Region]237 sheds some light on this tabooed layer of the past. The authors were primarily drawing on the source material consisting of the trial files of the so-called August decree (from 1944, ordering to punish inter alia “fascist-Nazi criminals guilty of murdering and abusing civilians and prisoners of war”). Among the crimes punishable under this decree the most important ones included denouncing Jewish hiding places, direct and personal participation in hunting the hiding people, direct and personal participation in a murder and denouncing Poles who were helping the Jews. People who committed such crimes were sometimes inspired or even compelled by the Germans, blue police, or simply a certain group which, for some reason, would take initiative. The authors point the motives to include profits (or envy in case of somebody else profiting), scores between neighbors, compliance with the authorities, anti-Semitism, fear for one’s own life.

While analyzing such crimes case-by-case, the authors are trying to decipher their social mechanism. The hiding Jews would often unknowingly get caught in conflicts between villagers and fall victims to them. It would seem that the key aspect was not keeping the existence of a hiding place a secret, but a sort of conspiracy of silence. As long as everybody knew about a hiding place, but not talked about it and pretended not to know, helping the people inside it was not a problem. A hiding place was not affecting the balance of a society as long as it stayed “in its ←125 | 126→place”, i.e. in the realm of secrecy. In contrast, a fact of publicly revealing this inconvenient knowledge would trigger an avalanche of irreversible events, during which even the people initially helping the Jews would cross to the side of the executioners. “A kind of psychological ‘binding’ of the participants of such events would occur. Compelled by fear for their own life, they would give in to blackmail with little resistance and not object to the people initiating actions to apprehend the Jews, rob them and finally take their lives. They would become contributors to those criminal acts themselves. A fear of mutual denunciation or even future blackmail because of defying the orders of the occupant was often a sufficient condition for the people, even the ones who were casual witnesses of revealing the presence of the Jews in a village, to become participants in the events that would play out afterwards”238. Such crimes are social matters; they are almost never committed by individuals. A crowd takes part in them – it is sinister, but still not anonymous. Everybody knows each other in a village, so in a sense everybody is keeping everybody else as a hostage. The authors of the text point to the circumstances enabling committing a crime to be, among other things, the commonly known psychological properties of the crowd (referring to e.g. the classical findings of Le Bon).

Probably, the majority of people not connected with hiding places in any personal way were treating them with the same indifference as they would treat the fate of the Jews in general. It is present in literature – after researching Polish journals and memoirs, Feliks Tych concluded: “We will probably never know in how many cases the disappearance of the Jewish subject from a large amount of wartime memoirs stemmed from complete indifference to Jewish fate, and in how many from a desire to suppress some traumatic experience or from moral discomfort. The silence is in general – in the light of the journals read for the purposes of this research – the most capacious category of attitudes of non-Jewish witnesses of the Shoah […]”239. The author enumerates the texts positively standing out from this indifferent model – testimonies of Monika Żeromska240, Tadeusz Pankiewicz241, or the texts included in Bartoszewski’s and Lewinówna’s repertory242.

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Until this day, the subjects connected to the Shoah are perceived as perplexing, even tabooed. This is mentioned by Skibińska and Petelewicz in their summary of research conducted as part of the project of oral history carried out through interviews with villagers who remembered the wartime. This phenomenon is common and noticed by almost every researcher. Probably, in a course of time, the hiding places were perceived as a natural part of the landscape and were not especially noticed. In Polish accounts and memoirs from the war, the issue of Jewish hiding places is not usually discussed at length, being simplified and perceived only from the perspective of personal participation in some event. I believe that an example from an interview with a Pole, Jadwiga Mach, a resident of Basznia Dolna near Lubaczów, is a classic sample of this way of perceiving the issue. In her story, the whole history of the Jews hiding in the area was concluded literally in a few sentences: “The ones who decided to hide would usually not end up well, i.e. with a bullet in the head in a roadside ditch. […] A friend of my father’s managed to sneak out. He was hiding in the woods. One evening he came to us and asked for something to eat. My father gave him a loaf of bread and something for the road. He would not come inside, he was afraid to bring harm to us. He set off to Piaski outpost and that was the last time we saw him. Later we found out that Haskiel was murdered. […] We had no undertaker in the village or anybody who could take care of the dead bodies. The soldiers would usually pick just anybody who had a horse and carriage. It so happened that they told my father to take Haskiel to his resting place”243.

To conclude these considerations, an issue of Jewish hiding places as a part of the whole gray area present in the occupied Poland is worth mentioning. From the perspective of non-Jewish neighbors, the hiding places did not appear suddenly and out of thin air. For the people of that time they were not a strange, unusual or surprising phenomenon, but – as one could suspect – another variety of something already known. The war, time of confusion, new legal regulations and ever-present danger forced various groups and categories of people, not only Jews, to hide. The concept of hiding can be very broadly understood – the whole conspired activity of Polish citizens was, after all, called an underground state, numerous people (not only Jews) assumed different identities, all activities prohibited by the occupant would to some extent go on in hiding. We can enumerate the following categories of hiding places used by the other citizens of occupied Poland:

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a)universal hiding places:

during bombings in 1939 and at the end of the war, when the front line was moving;

during roundups, after curfew, during transports on the territories occupied by USSR;

in special moments in history (the Warsaw Uprising, Volhynia);

b)hiding places of particular categories of people:

partisans of all groupings;

members of Polish Underground State, emissaries from allied countries, people wanted by the occupant for some reason;

c)hiding places for objects (commodities for illegal trade; everyday objects under seizure, such as skies and furs; radio receivers; agricultural products hidden from the quota or partisans; objects connected with underground activities – documents and printing machinery, weapons; objects of national culture protected from being exported).

Placing Jewish hiding places against this back drop is once again calling to mind a thought of them being marginalized and excluded from the generally accepted order. A fragment of Jan Tomasz Gross’s reflections is worth citing. He considers the biggest threat to Jewish hiding places to lie in the evil eyes of Poles: “a doorman, neighbor, a child playing ball in the yard or any passerby could tip the police”244. Later in his reasoning, Gross has even drawn the following hypothesis: “It might be enlightening to analyze in this respect the differences in reactions of the people to the fact of one being involved in conspiracy and reactions to being involved in helping the Jews. An underground operative was at risk of being denounced as well, the conspiracy also had to operate in the shadows. We probably convey the spirit of the age when we say that aside from Gestapo agents and collaborators, a vast majority of the society, if not directly involved, was at least supportive of the conspiracy. The exact opposite is true for helping the Jews: aside from the people who were actually involved in such activity, a vast majority of the society was against it or even hostile toward it. And so, for ex ample, in the occupation folklore there is plenty of stories and jokes about amateurish conspirators, stories about how youngsters in jackboots and girls with stuffed bags would go to the wrong floor, knock on the wrong door and mumble absurd passwords only for the initially amused […] neighbor to walk them to the den, the existence of which should have been unknown to him at all. But he knew, and he was not the only ←128 | 129→one, and he was covering for it. I cannot recall from the literature I have read but one anecdote with the same pattern about hiding the Jews”.

Similarly, while friends would boast their participation – either real or made up to impress somebody – in conspiracy operations, and therefore boost their image, nobody boasted sheltering the Jews. What is more, the people helping the Jews were expecting the worst from their neighbors even after the war and often their expectations would prove to be valid245. Gross states that the conspiracy was something to be proud of, a testimony to bravery, invention and panache, therefore was an activity that was positively evaluated by the society. Conversely, hiding the Jews, limited by equally strict sanctions by the occupant, was not commanding respect and the people involved in such activities were completely denied support from the society. Gross concluded: “that helping the Jews required exceptional heroism (in other words, that helping the Jews was so efficiently and brutally punished), and partially this is why the ban on helping the Jews – in contrast to other prohibitions, violation of which was punishable by death – was observed and only violated by relatively small amount of people. […] Brutal repressions are easiest to use against a small a small group of people which is isolated in their own society”246. Consequently, a Jewish hiding place existed not only in spite of the norms imposed by the occupant. The existence of a hiding place was also not complying with the unspoken Polish social norms, was not carrying any positive values that accompanied other hiding places. From all of the forbidden spaces, this was probably the least socially attractive, repulsive even, marginalized in the generally positively assessed grey area, almost pushed into oblivion. Not being able to function on the surface, it was unwanted underground as well, which exacerbated the exclusion and the negative assessment weighing over it.

While discussing this subject, I would like to note, in addition, that some places, strategies and situations were not following this pattern and were functioning in a multiplied role. A hiding place did not have to have a “national identity” ascribed thereto; it would then serve not only its creators or discoverers, but people who needed it for a different reason and who were in a different situation. An example of such could be hiding places used by both Poles and Jews who happened to be in the same position, e.g. during bombings in September of 1939. The ruins of Warsaw destroyed in 1944 were a similar hiding place, where both Poles and Jews remained and were equally at risk of being killed by the Germans ←129 | 130→(order by general Smilo von Lüttwitz gave the Germans an excuse to kill every person hiding in Warsaw). I consider an example of a woodland bunker built by a “hermit” Moshe Aron Lajbcygier from Sulejów, later known as Florian Majewski247, to be more interesting. When Moshe obtained Aryan papers, he joined the partisans, started moving around freely, spending nights in villages and not only in the bunker. Soon he became responsible for four Polish boys from Piotrków. Later there were more of them. From that moment forward, the bunker in which Moshe-Florian spent many solitary months became a camp of the partisans. Similarly, a house in Warsaw at 2 Brzozowa Street, where Monika and Anna Żeromski lived during the war with Pola Gojawiczyńska, had numerous types of hiding places inside. “The house at Brzozowa Street was truly a strange anthill. Because it had to entrances, from Brzozowa and Bugaj Streets, it was convenient in many situations. Something different would go on in all of the apartments on three floors. Secret complines, military points of contact, dens of escapees from prisons and camps, hiding Jews and tiny printing works for fake documents, everything was operating smoothly. […] Sometimes somebody would get everything confused and would for example go to Pola Gojawiczyńska to buy light bulbs, which meant there was a meeting of conspirators upstairs”248.

Part II. Individual perception of space

They had to deal not only with fear, risk of losing their life, sense of extreme helplessness, but also with isolation, monotony of existence, need to be silent, weariness, exhaustion, hunger, cold, confined space, pain and physiological needs. Can we imagine what a person depending on others to take out the waste bucket, bring food and water feels? Can we surmise what does such a person feel when the rescuer “forgets” about him or is running late? That dreadful, ravaging boredom? What does a person crammed in a dugout with a few other people feels, haunted by his own entrails, nerves, vertebrae, joints, deprived of his own boundaries, fused together with his partners in misery?

Krzysztof Szwajca249

Using various theoretical angles of environmental psychology, shortly presented in the introduction, I shall attempt to analyze human experience in the space of a hiding place. First, we have to realize to what extent a situation of a hiding place was depriving people of their uniqueness. Defined space is such a powerful dimension of human life that it is virtually impossible not to submit to it. Henryk ←130 | 131→Ogryzko-Wiewiórkowski wrote: “Ecological psychology research indicates that space has a stimulating effect on human behavior. People act in a similar manner in the same space conditions, regardless of their personality traits and life situation. In social life conditions there are places, which, thanks to their characteristics, enable or even provoke some behaviors, tolerate others, allow them, or exclude or even prohibit others”250. The author gives the simplest of examples: it is clear that nobody would dance in a museum or eat dinner in a church. And what about the space of a hiding place? An extreme space with exceptional influence? Above all, it controls people physically, as they have to adapt their actions to the dimensions of the hideout. They have to fit, adapt their bodies to the number of square centimeters given. After stating this fact, one has to perceive a hiding place primarily from the angle of human body. “Human being, irrespective of the epoch, is still a body, the boundaries of which separate the inner and outer spaces. Perceiving space from an anthropocentric perspective comes to mind naturally: space is understood as a basic and most primal cognitive and existential human category”251.

Perception of space

Perception is a human window to the world, a tool, or rather a process, allowing people to be connected with the outside environment, pick up and understand information, and to move in space252. There are a few theories explaining links between physical environment and the processes of perceiving it that take place in a human mind, e.g. theory of James J. Gibson’s Gestalt school, which I am going to present below. Gibson stresses the role of physical qualities of an environment, placing the meaning on a stimulus, which affects human senses in the process of perception. An ecological analysis of physical human environment proposed by Gibson is interesting as well. It makes it possible to structure even the most complex spaces using three categories. Gibson claims that people experience environment as a medium, substance and space. The mediums are objects in liquid and gas states, so for people that would be water and air. The latter can be characterized ←131 | 132→in the following manner: it is transparent, transmits light, and makes it possible to see. It also transfers vibrations and pressure, making it possible to hear sounds. The air transfers the smells as well. People can move in a medium, and receiving the information it is transmitting makes it possible to effectively steer the movement process. By changing a place people also change their observational potential, as different sensorial stimuli are affecting them in each point of the medium. There are no clear borders between various kinds of gas and liquid mediums. Substances are solids, which obstruct the light, movement, and smells, and do not transmit vibrations that well. Substances can have miscellaneous properties, as Bańka listed while citing Gibson: “They vary in chemical composition, biochemical, physical, and behavioral activity. Some are edible, some are poisonous. Some are identifiable at close range, some, like aromatic ones, from a distance. Some are plastic, some elastic. Environmental substances are subject to chemical and structural changes. They can disappear, tarnish, rot, decompose, rust, and harden. Some substances undergo quick changes, some undergo slower ones, and some don not change at all. […] As substances are formations, the components of which are usually connected in a complicated manner, they do not tend to become as homogeneous as mediums. Particular properties of substances give people various opportunities and create different obstacles”253. Surfaces make for boundaries between a medium and a substance, and their existence depends on the existence of a substance. Surfaces are places of direct absorption or reflection of light, they can be touched and they transmit vibrations from the substance to the medium as well. All substances have surfaces. Each surface is located in space, has a given tolerance to deformation and disintegration, specific texture, shape and some level of absorption and reflection of light. According to Gibson, a human living in an environment discovers its meanings as a sort of capacity (affordance) and uses it. For example, when looking at tree limbs, a child sees a ladder hidden therein, leading to the top and can make use of that discovery by climbing a tree.

Environmental psychology points to certain factors influencing perception of environment: attention and cognitive attitude. Attention is an internal pattern allowing people to choose stimuli from an infinite number of information generated by an environment and to concentrate on them. Large, intensive, unusually shaped, colored or sequenced objects attract attention. In monotonous systems, where there are no distinctive objects, the attention fades. Cognitive attitude means being prepared to receive particular information from an environment ←132 | 133→even before they present themselves. A person’s knowledge and experience, as well as the context and personal characteristics influence the perception. David C. McClelland and John W. Atkinson proved in the 1950s that the person’s needs and desires influence the perception as well. People describe objects they need or desire as bigger than they really are. Perception is also shaped by a culture, in which a given person lives, and especially the language used to identify objects. This is the root of cultural differences in perceiving the same objects. Modern experimental research (e.g. Herman’s experiment) indicates that the perception is connected with emotional states as well.

People experience space, i.e. also buildings, rooms, mostly via sensory experience. This observation was not always obvious, and entered the scientific discourse only in the middle of the 20th century thanks to Steen Eiler Rasmussen. In the introduction to the Polish edition of Experiencing Architecture, a work first published in the source language in 1959, Ewa Kuryłowicz wrote: “The ‘experience’ of architecture signaled in the title is interpreted here according to an almost colloquial understanding of the word ‘experience’ – to experience something first hand, really, by touching. Whilst ‘feeling’ the architecture, i.e. only the emotional element, functioned as a conscious element of shaping its expression from the very beginning, legalizing its ‘experience’ had a lot more difficult road to come. The Ancients are at fault. The authors of the first prioritizations of human senses were putting some on a pedestal and ignoring the others. The later philosophers, who – contributing to the shape of the contemporary idea of beauty – were emphasizing its intellectual, not sensory reception, and treated the senses as a source of lesser knowledge, are to blame here as well”254. The above statements concern the architecture of the time of peace, even talk about “beauty”, completely inadequate when thinking about bunkers and dugouts. How can we adjust the thesis of sensory experience of every space to an analysis of the experience of a hiding place?

In hiding, the senses were not oriented toward aesthetic experience. Sensory experience in a hiding place is rather an attempt to survive in a strange, compulsory space, which is perceived by every nerve ending. People experience not only “the architecture”, i.e. the construction of a hiding place itself, but also the whole physical environment of a hiding person. Particular design solutions in a hiding place, its physical parameters are determining the characteristics of that environment, which mean access to oxygen, light, presence of various smells, humidity, ←133 | 134→temperature, noise. The accessibility of the world outside a hiding place and a way in which the information from the outside were reaching the people hiding are important as well.


Sight is the basic sense in the process of perceiving a space. James Gibson, when studying vision, systemized intuitive knowledge on the subject. One of his observations was that the sight primarily detects the arrangement of the surroundings, changes, sequences and movement. People perceive three dimensions of the environment thanks to the sight. They look at particular objects, and not “sensory qualities”, so they see objects with specific characteristics, and not those characteristics in isolation from the object. There are laws conditioning perceiving an object: consistency of color brightness, consistency of shape, size, and location. Perceiving those characteristics can be distorted (e.g. by colored light), and the consistency limited, however, in general those laws cause the perceived world to be relatively unchanging, despite variability of conditions, and the objects create specific and meaningful systems in a human mind.

In the space of a hiding place, the sight was often not able to function as it would in normal surroundings. The first problem arose from a limited perspective (connected with confined space, but also with inability to change a position of observation, when stillness was required for safety reasons or was necessary due to the limited space). Consequently, the number of objects one could look at was limited. People could observe their companions, walls of the hiding place, sometimes look outside through a window (in exceptionally favorable cases), through a crack in a wall, etc.

There have also been instances when those scarce views were limited. Janusz Włodarczyk255 noticed that both excess and deficiency of light in a room can make life harder to a great extent. Inside hiding places people would more often face scarcity of light. After spending a long time in twilight or even complete darkness, people would get used to it. This was the case of the hiding place of Klara Falk and her son Michał in Miedzeszyn. They had a very primitive stash that was completely unfit to stay in for an extended period of time. A Polish woman they knew hid them in a shed, where they occupied a corner hidden behind a pile of firewood. When they were visited by Władka Meed (then Fajga Peltel), who was helping the hiding Jews, it turned out that they had not seen ←134 | 135→the sunlight for a long time. “First they asked me to close the door. The daylight was blinding them”256. When conditions were allowing for it, the hiding people were trying to deal with this problem by getting some light (Landsberg – electric, Goldstein – an oil lamp). The light made active ways of spending time, such as reading, possible, which was a blessing in a hiding place.

The dichotomy of light and darkness, highly saturated with cultural meanings, was often provoking reflections on the exceptional situation of a hiding place. Włodarczyk defines the basis for such deliberations: “The stereotype of conviction of the undisputed benefits of light is still present in our subconscious. There is a myth of the good light and bad darkness”257. Reflections on the subject were e.g. conjured by Goldstein, who would leave the bunker at night to see the city, but instinctively hide from headlights: “I used to think then that here, in the ruins of Warsaw, it is the opposite – the brightness can attract wicked spirits to me, manifested by Nazi thugs, but the darkness envelops me and delivers from evil”258.


When it is impossible to make the full use of the sense most basic to a human, the vision, the function of this sense is partially taken over by other senses. The sense of hearing seems to be the most important of them. It allowed for having conversations, feeling other people’s presence, and in a case of solitary hiding places – talking to oneself to at least occasionally hear human voice. There are also unpleasant feelings connected with this sense – for example being forced to hear other people argue, listening to screams and moans of sick or deranged people, and fear, that accompanies a sound inviting disaster despite an order to keep quiet because of the danger. “When I write about knocking, I am thinking about the world of sounds, in which the Jews lived in the bleak seasons. One can say that there were sound signals which were characteristic for the executioners. I do not even mean the slamming of hobnailed boots on the pavement, heralding that the troops are coming to the ghetto to chase the people to the Umschlagplatz, the slamming as sinister, as the marching songs they used to sing. I am thinking about the sounds that seem neutral as such and are not connected with anything in particular in normal times, they are not associated with fear. When I and Mother were hiding in the countryside, a roar of an approaching car would cause a great ←135 | 136→fear, which is hard to imagine. In a way, it meant just one thing, the passing cars were rare, only Germans had them. When a car appeared on a puny back road, it was never a good sign. The sounds of a car could have been beacons of death”259.

First of all, the hearing was transferring the information from the outsider. There were not many hiding places muffled to such an extent that no sounds from the outside world would reach them. Those were both warnings about danger (sounds of people approaching)260, and neutral information which were slightly counteracting the barrier separating the world from a hiding place. A bulk of such information would originate in an apartment of the hosts in case of hiding places “under the same roof ”. Those were not only news about what was going on in the apartment. The aural stimuli would also transfer the moods and emotions. Interpretation of the sounds from the outside could have exacerbated the feeling of isolation and loneliness, or, alternatively, make the hiding people forget about their fate for a while.

Here are two twin situations, in which a sound of a party coming through a wall or from above causes extremely diverse feelings, depending on the behavior of the hosts. The first situation is described by Menachem Katz (a hiding place under the floor, Christmas 1943). The hosts gave the hiding people some holiday treats and thanks to that friendly gesture and the sounds, the people below were in a way taking part in the celebration: “The party in the house above started with the guests stomping their feet, the sound of the chairs being pulled, and kids running about. The noises were fading as the guests sat by the table and started singing carols. Through a rock slightly pushed to the side we could sometimes hear the songs of the dressed-up carolers walking door to door. The bunch of us in a hiding place at Kmieć’s, stuffed after a Christmas Eve feast and with slightly lifted spirits, slept lightly with the melodies coming from afar”261. A completely different situation happened to the family of Marian Berland, who, in case of ←136 | 137→emergency, hid behind a wall that was put up in a room. An opportunity to use the hiding place presented itself on Easter of 1944, when the hosts, Krzeczkowski family, invited a friend. “She won’t stay long, a few hours at best […]. In the meantime, we’ll stay in the stash”262. Sadly, the ill-fated visit stretched to two days, and so the people hiding had to spend a lot more time than expected in a hiding place not suited for that purpose.

The aural sensations repeated multiple times in the same way were making up for a constant of sorts, a permanent arrangement of data allowing figuring out the environment despite the limited perception. A change in some element in this arrangement would cause disorientation. Landsberg describes such a situation. When the snow fell and started muffling people’s footsteps, which were perfectly audible before and which were giving a sense of being a part of the outside life, the residents of an underground hiding place felt cut off from the world.


The sense of smell is also very important in a hiding place. Sometimes it is the only sense that could be fully utilized when faced with limited potential for using eyesight, moving and lack of aural sensations. Wilhelm Dichter reminisced: “I have been sheltered for a few years during the occupation – I was five-nine years old – in Polish or Ukrainian homes: under a bed, in the attic or in a niche dug in a well. I would sit there and wonder when they would come and get me. I lived on my memory. It was dark and only the smell was carrying the signals from the world. This way – if I may say so – I have learnt many interesting smells. It was like regressing to an animalistic state – the world of creatures who know no grammar or language, who are additionally alone, since even a dog will always find another dog to sniff around the world together”263.

In a hiding place, where it is hard to stay hygienic, an overall combination of smells is unbearable. It is the smell of unwashed bodies, sometimes rotting, festering wounds, bucket with excrements, dirty clothes. Sometimes there were different, unusual smells. Menachem Katz264 described a conflict that arose in a collective hiding place, when one of the men staying there wanted to smoke a cigarette. On the one hand, everybody thought about the safety precautions, as somebody could see the smoke coming out of the vent. On the other hand, the ←137 | 138→smoke in a stuffy place would additionally decrease the level of oxygen available. Residents of a hiding place at 64 Targowa Street in Warsaw have created an almost humorous situation, when they had decided to eradicate the fleas that were bugging them. Sadly, the mixture of ammonia and chlorine they have prepared for that purpose became a source of fumes so suffocating, that they were forced to open a window and ventilate the room. Leon Guz commented on it jokingly: “I think we were close to falling victims of this disinfection”265.

Of course, one has to acknowledge that the people hiding were not condemned only to foul and repulsive smells. Sometimes the outside world would manifest itself in a pleasant manner. For example, the nature in May got inside the walls of Maria Koper’s hiding place: “And so the darling May came. But it is not for me, for I am stripped of everything, all is blooming in exaltation and smells, the lilacs, the pansies, the fruit trees, basically the world is as beautiful as it is in May”266. A tomato turned out to be a wonderful gift for Stella Fidelseid. It came to the bunker with bountiful smells of freedom: “Mojsze gave me a small tomato. I sniffed it from every side, it smelled like the sun and the air”267. In turn, a severe, prolonged hunger could cause gustatory and olfactory hallucinations, causing the people to reminisce about delightful flavors and smells, as was the case of Lila Chuwis-Thau: “When we meet other hiding people, the conversation always winds up being about food. Usually somebody starts with ‘Remember how the table was set before the war? And how each dinner had a few courses?’ And suddenly you see the baked geese and other delicacies. You can smell the enticing smell of the meat being cooked”268.

The sense of smell is associated with breathing. One can go without eating for some time, without movement, for a short time – without water, but without air people die in a matter of minutes. The Germans knew about it, and that is why the gas pumped into the hiding places during liquidations of the ghettos (the so-called “smoking out” of a hiding place) was such a formidable weapon. Allowing breathing is the most basic function that a space earmarked for a hiding place should fulfill. It is not that easy, as huddling human bodies use up the oxygen, release carbon dioxide and water vapor. After a few hours, the humidity rises in a locked up hiding place. Lack of air and a feeling of suffocation cause distress and later panic. Hiding places from which one can get out to get some air are much easier to bear. This experience is repeated in many descriptions. I shall cite ←138 | 139→Leokadia Silverstein here: “It was so stuffy that you could see the air. We were breathing in each other’s effluences. The air was dense from too much of carbon dioxide – no wonder we were all having headaches. We felt we were suffocating […] we just couldn’t stay there anymore. We got out of there like if it was a bathhouse. What a delight it was to inhale fresh air again!”269.


I think that from the point of view of the space of a hiding place, the touch is the most important of senses. That is why I am going to devote the majority of these deliberations to that sense. As Jolanta Brach-Czaina noted270, it is hard to write about the touch. Nevertheless, when trying to describe experiencing space of a hiding place by people, it has to be done, even if we have to take the long way. For the touch explains the existence of a human being. “Thanks to the touch our presence is not manifested in the void, but against another, close reality. […] Touching means the most direct communion”271. People experiencing a hiding place with the sense of touch are condemned to a whole gamut of sensations from which there’s no escape. The touch told them in the most detail how inevitable and limited was the spatial situation in which their bodies happened to be. Among those sensations, the majority was negative. Hiding places were often connected with extremely bad conditions. People huddled in a dugout, a bunker, shed, barn, pig pen, on a small space, were forced to have direct contact with matter that they would probably avoid in a “normal” situation. “The world touches us when we touch it”, said Brach-Czaina272. What constituted that world in the vilest hiding places (in this description I am leaving out the “luxurious” hiding places at homes, close to regular conditions, in which the surfaces in contact with human body were close to everyday experiences – furniture, clean bedding, carpet, floor)? Its substance could have been the walls damp from condensed breaths (or worse – covered with mold because of that dampness, like the walls in Landsberg’s and Rudy’s hiding places. Soil filled with worms and roots, clay and mud. Rotten and carious boards. Excrements, one’s own or somebody else’s. “The cubbyhole was located in a home they live in, at Kosynierska Street (next to Czysta). They have spent two weeks hiding there in horrible conditions. They had nowhere and no way to go out to the toilet, so ←139 | 140→they were soiling themselves” – says Dina Wajnsztajn about her hiding place in Białystok273. Various objects, which were no longer useful, were accompanying the residents of attics and basements in their “afterlife”: old furniture, rags, potatoes with very peculiar scent, hay, splinter-filled wood, and messy coal. The surfaces were dusty, slimy, wet. The list goes on. The objects, surfaces, especially in “space-effective” hiding places, seem to dominate, push onto the human body, which is now all made out of touch, it has nowhere to pull back, no way to take a break from the physical contact with the tissue of a hiding place. In majority of cases the body has to adapt to the objects, not the other way around. Landsberg wrote down: “I’m still sitting on lime in a barrel. Only my legs and the head are sticking out. The barrel is oval, it used to stand in a shop and there used to be ice-cream in it. […] I wake up with pain in my back and under my knees – sharp edges of the have barrel sunk into my body”274. Gail Hersz, who was hiding in Drohiczyn, wrote about “struggling” with potatoes: “My hideout was under a basement floor. There was a tunnel leading there. The basement was filled with potatoes, which they were generously giving out before the liquidation. I have managed to move back the potatoes with great difficulties. I have pushed my legs into the tunnel and covered myself again with my hands”275. Hay, straw – those were other aggressive substances filling up the hiding places in the countryside. Dwojra Frymet reported: “I once hid in a barn, so they wouldn’t find me. I have almost poked my eyes out with blades of straw”276. “There were no windows in the basement and it was full of straw” – Etka Żółtak mentioned277. Rywka Wajnberg talked about hiding places at forest ranger Mikulski’s in Duża Wola village: “The ranger made a cubby in a barn behind the cow trough, it was covered with that trough and manure. The children would climb into the cubby and cover themselves with hay. […] Mikulski made a hiding place under the hay for the three remaining Jews”278. One can try to imagine the pervasive hay, like a vegetal force of nature, which may smell pleasantly right after being harvested, but later, overflowing with dust and mites, it appears to be choking and viciously biting the people trapped inside it. This sensation is accompanied by the temperature but not only the air, but also the objects. When a hiding place is located in the attic, the tin warmed up on a hot day burns the body. In the winter, the damp walls ←140 | 141→become freezing cold, and when they are also leaking (as they were e.g. in Maria Koper’s hiding place), the cold becomes unbearable.

Clothes, which usually protect human body from constant direct contact with the world, were no longer fulfilling their function in many hiding places. What was it like in woodland hiding places, where the escapees had to survive on a finite number of items they took to the forest with them or bartered with villages, which did not have many items either? Aleksandra Bańkowska wrote: “The lack of clothing items and the clothes and shoes quickly getting worn out was a big problem. People were selling every last bit of clothing to get food. Shoes, clothes and even undergarments were often stolen from the Jews wandering the forests. Lack of clothing was especially affecting the people who slept in the open air. Residents of dugouts were exchanging clothes, giving them to people going out to the village to get food. Sometimes people were able to get (or buy, but it happened less often due to not having much money) clothes from the local farmers, especially from permanent guardians. It would seem, at least in some cases, that this help was significant. One farmer even donated leather coats. Maria Mikułdowa gave the people she was caring for everything from her late mother’s closet. People were also trying to get by differently: if they were able to obtain fabrics they needed, they would sew clothes and knit sweaters and socks in their hiding places. Fejga Frejnkman reported that some people dealt with the lack of shoes thanks to homemade clogs and footwraps. However, in many cases lack of shoes could not stop people from going out to get food, which ended badly – with frostbites.

Clothes would get worn out quickly due to dampness of dugouts or from getting wet in the rain, from walking in a dense forest. Another important reason of their ephemeral nature was using various methods to get rid of lice. “Lice were present in a dugout from the very beginning. It was inevitable when a few people were crammed together in a confined space. Fighting them was necessary, but hopeless”279. The author wrote about problems with hygiene – bathing and laundry were a rare privilege. Those observations can be extended to many other hiding places, not only the ones in forests. The comfort of the sense of touch was the last thing people considered. In the hierarchy of needs the cleanliness and fabrics pleasant to the touch were far behind the needs of security and satisfying the hunger. Although, as the testimonies indicate, one’s own unwashed body wrapped in dirty rags and constantly irritated by touching unpleasant surfaces made for an intolerable torment. This is why some authors of the accounts attentively mention a seemingly unimportant detail such as an even symbolic barrier between ←141 | 142→“me” and “the world” offering an illusion of comfort. Israel Herc, who was hiding near Garwolin, recalls one of the hiding places: “The hideout was in the attic, there were 6 of us there. We had bed linens there”280. Menachem Katz and Florian Majewski also took care of putting clean sheets on mattresses and in lying areas, when they were searching for a place to hide. Katz talked at length about the issue of bed linen and concluded: “The conditions seamed bearable from the perspective of lying on a clean sheet”281. Majewski stole sheets as an article indispensable in his “household” from a farmer from Siucice. In the new bunker, he carefully prepared the “bed”: “I have covered the lying area with leaves and moss to serve as a mattress. I have thrown a linen sheet on it. I have covered myself with another piece of cloth and slept comfortably, happy about my accomplishment”282.

It sometimes happened that the unpleasant, yet harmless touch of the matter would transform into its literal offensive – e.g. a crumbling ceiling could have attacked the inhabitants of a hiding place. Katz described such a situation: “The heat of the fire and our bodies was melting the frozen soil of the bunker walls further and further, until it became a soggy mud. Just before the dawn the silence of the night was shattered by a terrified scream coming out of the corner where Rywka slept. […] At the exact same moment, the roof shook. We could hear the rattle of the land sliding and the creak of the beams grinding against the wall next to the fire. […] – I’m not dreaming, the soil covered my legs! [..] The roof fell on my legs, look, you can see the sky, and my left leg is trapped. Help, help me!”283. Another massive attack of the matter could come from a flood in a hiding place, just like the one Landsberg survived: “Today an incredible thing happened, we almost died. We were sleeping during the day, as we used to do, since we were getting out to the chest at nights, and an awful slosh woke us up at 1.00 PM. Just when I turned on the light I understood that water was pouring out of the chest. Rudy grabbed a trowel and a light bulb and went to the dig, but a wave suddenly crashed in and threw him back to the locker. At the same time the water drowned the bulb and the wire, and a current with 220 V tossed him against the wall. The locker started literally filling up with water. Rudy was pale as death and yelled: ‘We’re dead!’. The falling water was sloshing so much that we were barely able to hear one another. I called out to R. to try and open a dirt box that was covering the entrance to the basement. Rudy dived in, chocked up on the water, got back up and calling out: ‘I can’t’. I shouted: ‘Try again – that’s our ←142 | 143→only hope’. Rudy dived again. Water’s pouring. I’m trying to push back the floating bulb, which is still on. Water’s up to our necks, Rudy’s not back, it’s high time! […] If the hatch hadn’t been opened, the water would have filled the locker up to the ceiling a long time ago. […] We’re waist-deep in water. Everything is floating in the basement. […] Our place is flooded and we don’t know if it’s ever going to be fit to use. […] a cloud burst”284.

The second aspect of the touch in a hiding place is the presence of other people, who, at that point, are treated like additional objects – they are also unpleasant to the body, hot, not budging, and constricting. I shall later discuss overcrowding and its psychological and physical consequences. Here, I am only presenting one short quote showing the hardship of being forced to touch strangers. Stella Fidelseid285 wrote: “It’s really hard to take it in a hideout. It’s cramped, stuffy, dark. People are so tired that they are leaning on one another. Bickering, hissing”.

Ever-present alive bodies are hard to put up with. And the dead bodies? Leokadia Silverstein wrote: “We were struck by a morbid stench. At some point, I have stepped on something mushy”286. It was a corpse that one had to simply step over and keep going. All was well when there was a place to go and people did not have to touch corpses for hours on end. (I write more on dead bodies in hiding places in Chapter 3).

Yet, sometimes the physical presence of the bodies of other people was salutary – for example when the body of the companion was the only available heat source. Menachem Katz talked about a cold October night he spent in a forest, in thickness of the woods, before the bunker was built: “We lay down, clinging to one another, on bedding made of dry leaves, covered with clothes and rags we had. […] Despite the cold, snuggling and warming each other up, we survived the first night in the forest easier than we suspected”287. The touch of another human being was also helping in the most terrifying moments – Stella Fidelseid described how the people crowding in a hiding place, fed up with the presence of others, were clinging to each other when they heard the Germans’ footsteps upstairs. The mothers would tightly hold their children, and Stella herself would clasp “tightly to Ryśka Wi[e]nerowa”. In a situation like that the touch is an instinctive human defense, the deepest human need.

←143 | 144→

Personal space and environmental stress

Personal space is a notion consistently present in environmental psychology. There are two types of personal space:

Robert Sommer’s definition (based on clinical observations) stresses the defensive function. A personal space is an unchangeable “air bubble” with fixed dimensions that nobody can cross;

in Heini Hediger’s definition (animal observations: a distance of combat or escape appear depending on the proximity to another animal), and later in Hall’s – there is a linear space, variable interpersonal distance.

Personal space is perceived by touch, smell, and hearing. A human being is also able to perceive space by sensory proprioception. Interpersonal distance varies for every life function. Categories of density and crowding are closely connected with the notion of personal space. Those categories were used for example by Daniel Stokols and Allan W. Wicker (the latter is an author of a concept of overmanning, which is useful in social sciences and which means a spatial situation where there is more people than there are available social roles).

Density is an objective accumulation of people on a given space and crowding is its subjective reception. It causes a sense of stress – the available space is smaller than desired. A predisposing factor conditioning the feeling of crowding is a set of internalized cultural norms (the sense of interpersonal distance looks different e.g. for a northern European and for an Arab)288. Another factor is the previous experience of density – for somebody who grew up in one room with a few siblings, it is easier to withstand the tightness of a hiding place than it is for a pre-war resident of their own room. The third factor is the motivation. When people have to save their own lives, the instinct for self-preservation is stronger than a feeling of discomfort. As a stay in a hiding place is prolonged, the crowding of the space becomes peskier. External characteristics of the space conditioning the feeling of crowding are the spatial structure of the system of behavior (i.e. the construction of a hiding place) and its organization. When the community of hiding place’s residents is able to work out functional rules of making use of the small space, the feeling of overcrowding becomes less trying. That is also the case when the stay in a hiding place is regulated by some temporal rhythm – for example when a group of people spending whole days cramped in a bunker can go out at nights: “The evening came. It was already completely dark outside, as ←144 | 145→seen through a crack. People in the bunker got invigorated. They were getting up to stretch their tired limbs”289.

In environmental psychology, the conditions of crowding are illustrated by Daniel Stokols’s model290. According to this model, the crowding is caused by an overload of stimuli, limitation of freedom of choice of behavior and scarcity of resources in relation to the number of people wanting to have an access to them. Hence the crowding means too many stimuli generated by other people (their presence, sounds, heat, touch); an imperative of forcibly staying with them in a confined space, in a situation where there is no escaping or remedying that state; and, of course, the scarcity of free space. In his animal studies John Calhoun291 described a concept used henceforth in environmental psychology to analyze people’s behavior in harsh spatial conditions: a behavioral sink. The specimens crowd together in a pre-learned fashion, despite having enough room, creating a secondary density, and, as a result, some react in hyperactivity and some in passivity when faced with difficult conditions. Crowding results in nullifying personal space, which is vital for proper functioning of a human being. Environmental psychology calls the feelings of a person in such a situation a feeling of losing control over access to oneself. When staying in a crowded place, people are constantly exposed to others, even if they do not want it. Therefore, they no longer have their personal space at their disposal.

All the above-mentioned factors could, of course, arise only in collective hiding places.

Aside from fear and tension caused by traumatic experiences and constant danger, people hiding would also exhibit environmental stress connected with a place in which they found themselves. Augustyn Bańka292 distinguishes a stress caused by the parameter of the space and connected with presence of other people. I shall shortly address two models of environmental stress. The first one is the physiological model. Hans Selye describes it as a “general adaptation syndrome”. It is a universal reaction of an organism to environmental distractions, i.e. all the elements of an environment which are in any way irritating and uncomfortable to a person. Those elements are called the stressors. First the organism goes ←145 | 146→through a phase of adaptation, trying to reduce the stress to a tolerable level. When it is unsuccessful despite the efforts, the organism goes into an exhaustion phase, which, in extreme cases, results in death. There are only two solutions in a state of severe environmental stress – escaping a situation causing the stress or adapting to it. When no solution proves effective, the organism reacts in a loss of physical and mental health. The second model is connected with human psychology. Since people are capable of an assessment of situations, they are able to handle stress on levels other than physiological. Cognitive processes and judgments are moderating body’s response to the environmental factors. People owe the ability to survive even in the harshest environmental conditions to the defensive mechanisms of the mind.

Let us briefly list the environmental parameters that can act as stressors (majority of them was mentioned in the subsection on perception). Thus, those are lighting (to little or too much, poor quality), noise (or vexing silence), trembles and vibrations, temperature (ranging from scorching to freezing). All those factors were, with various intensity, present in the hiding places, despite the fact that, when choosing a place, the people were often trying to reduce the risk to the minimum. Protecting oneself from extreme temperatures was one of the most popular measures (lining the walls of a dugout with wood, finding covers, other insulation methods), along with installing sources of light. However, it would often happen that, especially in impromptu hiding places, which were not prepared beforehand, those stressors, especially in case of long-term exposure, were taking their toll. The most extreme form of environmental stress would even lead to insanity.

I shall mention another element causing unpleasant sensations – lack of orientation in space. A hideout, as a place connected with experiencing severe stress, a place with which a person does not identify, especially if it is changed frequently, causes a peculiar state of mind – people can forget where they really are. This feeling can be compared to the situation of a morning confusion we know from everyday life. Stella Fidelseid said: “It was completely dark when I woke up. At first, I couldn’t recognize where I was, the candles were out, I could only hear the sighs of the sleeping”293. I have not, however, came across any testimony, in which the author would talk about getting lost in a hiding place (presumably due to the small size of a majority of the shelters) or losing a hiding place itself after getting out of it. One could imagine that such situations could have happened in a forests or city rubble, where a hiding place would blend in with the homogeneous labyrinth-like surroundings.

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Another important parameter of space generating stress would be its physical size. A person trapped in one place feels discomfort, stillness, tightness, claustrophobia. Hiding places present the whole spectrum of sizes. At one end, there are extremely tight stashes, where it was impossible to move at all (those mostly include temporary hiding places or “hideouts within hideouts”). Those could include a closet, cubbyhole, double wall. Later there are hiding places where people were at least able to change positions from sitting to recumbent, or at least have space for some limited movement; however, the dimensions of such hiding places would usually fall within one cube meter. Landsberg and Rudy, for ex ample, had such a hiding place: “I’m sitting in a den shaped like a cuboid, about 1 meter high, 1 meter wide and 1.6 meter long”294. Next, we can list hiding places in which it was possible to comfortably stand up, walk a few steps, regular-sized rooms or attics, or even great spaces of abandoned tenements and labyrinths of basements. There were also more complex options, like a warehouse, where Baruch Milch was hiding during an action in Tłuste: it was, as he said, “huge, 40 meters long, 10 meters wide”. However, Milch was looking for a secluded little place to hide within this great area – as a result he’s spent over 24 hours in an attic corner, motionless and covered with hay.

Body in a hiding place

The space with unnatural parameters has a powerful effect on the psyche. People in confinement experience ambivalent feelings. Of course, they want to get out, feel that there are other free meters of floors, ground, and pavement, and not only the half a square meter they occupy. They want to feel that there are other rooms than this tight and uncomfortable body case. Perhaps, they dream of solitude, intimacy, wish for walls to appear inside the hiding place to protect them against enemies and to protect them against the intrusive presence of the neighbors. In a normal home, there are two types of walls. Some separate the inside from the outside, the world from home. They let us feel safe. There are also walls determining the internal order of the rooms, separating their functions, sorting them. They allow for another level of separation: an inertial one. We can close the doors to a room, hide in a kitchen or on a staircase, or lock ourselves up in a bathroom. Just to be alone for a short while, to remind oneself about our physical distinctness. It is not a luxury, even residents of tiny apartments can do it. Additionally, the number of the housemates changes throughout the day. They go to work, school, shopping, for a walk, they vacate the piece of space they ←147 | 148→were previously occupying. In the free space obtained in such a manner we have a chance to stretch mentally.

Such a situation could rarely occur in a hiding place. There is a forced stillness. People have to be quiet, they cannot move about. Even if a hiding place has inner walls, everybody gets a permanent place. The luxury of solitude is unknown. There is no choice. We are exposed to a gaze of numerous people in every nook and cranny.

So, if there is a chance to go out, even just for a little bit, people eagerly jump at it to be back shortly. A connection is established between people who spend time together. Perhaps, it is easier to stay and be comforted by the human presence than to look for a better place alone.

We have to note that the biological imperative is the most basic existential experience in the conditions of a hiding place. Alicja Rokuszewska-Pawełek made such an observation when analyzing the trajectory of the fate of Poles after the Second World War. When describing the experience of a concentration camp, she noted that aside from the physical violence and constant danger, the prisoners were severely experiencing “the inability to satisfy the basic biological needs and their simultaneous persistence”295. The author also noted that the prisoners were then realizing the power of biology, which was stronger than their own will and which was stripping them from being able to decide for themselves.

That experience, familiar to the residents of the hiding places as well, in their case closely related to the available space and constant danger, was causing a specific attitude toward their own body to be formed. As it was imperative to hide, the body was treated like an object. It suddenly becomes the most important, it is constantly in the center of attention, the majority of actions concentrate around its needs and risks it generates. A hiding place requires discipline and self-control. “As every human abode, our room also had its own daily rhythm, its own individual life. From 6 AM to 4 PM the life froze in there. The hosts where at work then, so nobody was there, since there couldn’t be. If you have to exist in such a room, you have to in a way renounce your body and your physiological functions. Then you have to become like a motionless object. In that first 9-hour daily phase, our hands, legs and internal organs would freeze. Only the brain and the heart would go on”296. It was a mixed type of a hiding place – “intermittent”, where the people hiding could lead a relatively “normal” life compared to those who were not allowed to live. Only during the hours when the apartment ←148 | 149→was just an apartment, the life of the people hiding could freely mix with the activities of those who were legally living there. It was possible as long it was undetected. However, there were continuous hidings, where people could not afford moving freely even for a second. Stillness of the body, similar to death, yet with retention of residual life, brings coma to mind. “A coma is a horrible cage. The extent of suffering of somebody in a coma, who retained or gained consciousness, is unimaginable. All the information is getting in, but nothing will come out. A person is trapped, captured by own body, suddenly rebellious and unfamiliar. The pain is unbearable”297. A person hiding, aware of the lost opportunities, everything, that he or she cannot do, is also in such torment. That person’s body becomes that “self ”, a burden reduced to its physical size. The act of “hiding oneself” can be seen as a separation of a mind and a body. The mind has to see the body as a package that has to be stored. The mind cannot count on the cooperation with the package – it cannot be compressed, its dimensions cannot be changed. It is hard to control; it can play a dangerous prank. Despite being an object, it has its biological needs, so aside from hiding it from sight, hearing and smell, one has to take care of it, even at very minimum (air, food, water, temperature, excretion). In a hiding place, a human being remains as an integrated whole, but also as his or her own enemy. The person has to save something that is not cooperating, which makes for harsh conditions.

It is hard to say how the residents of hiding places felt about their bodies. The situation was probably dynamic, varying in time and dependent on various circumstances. I will, however, attempt to list a few possible ways of perceiving a body in a hiding place:

something to care about – it has to be hidden;

a nuisance – it has its demands, dimensions, and needs;

a threat – it generates sounds, heat, noises, so it can be a giveaway;

a currency – people would often pay with sex for help;

a burden and source of suffering – illness in a hiding place;

a prison – imperative to hide the body, which cannot be “dressed up” as a non-Jewish. A body is to blame for everything, this is why the texts are full of dreams of e.g. becoming an animal, who is not threatened by anybody and can go wherever it pleases;

←149 | 150→

a blessing – the idea of Kiddush Ha-hayyim, the sanctification of life, i.e. protecting the body, the gift from God, at all costs, is still present in the hiding places;

a helper – when it is in a working condition, healthy, not making any trouble, strong, then people could e.g. manage to remodel of a hiding place or escape; the stronger person can take charge in a group;

a problem – when the natural issues connected with physicality arise. Sex, pregnancy, birth, death – all of that would generate unimaginable problems and practical complications in conditions of a hiding place.

All those limitations are basically impossible to understand for people who have never gone through something like this. To illustrate a profound astonishment of such a complete and prolonged objectification of a body, I shall cite a fragment of an account of the aforementioned Helena Grabarek. She was quoting a conversation between Abram Grinbaum, who was hiding at her farm for three years and her son-in-law, a “Varsovian”, which they had when they could already see Russian tanks heralding the liberation. “Who’s that, that man. Ya clean [sic!] here? Well, yeah, it’s three years since I’ma here, ya been here just five months, youze been here just a year. That’s it, right. How could ya’ll been here, I’ve been here the whole year and haven’t seen ya ever. Ya were not a piece of wood, have ya, to lay ya down and let ya stay there, I was getting eat three times a day, only our housekeep could keep somthin’ like that. Oh, yeah, true. So weird I would never weirded [sic!] ever, such a secret in our home”298. The metaphor of a “piece of wood” used by one of the speakers is accurate and cruel in its simplicity. (The fragment demonstrates a perfect secrecy of the hiding place, since even the housemates kept in the dark had no idea about its existence).


This chapter was fully dedicated to social and individual perception of a hiding place. In the beginning, I was trying to establish the place in the structure of social space which was taken up by this new, unusual construct of a Jewish shelter. How its existence is received by individual social actors? That analysis led me to conclude that a Jewish hiding place was isolated and marginalized on the map of underground Poland. It can be therefore described as an unwanted, dangerous, cursed space. The subsequent part of the chapter presents deliberations on the space of a hiding place from another point of view.

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Thus, I describe sensory experiences of the hiding people, troubles of a body trapped in a cramped, uncomfortable place, often filled with other bodies. A thought about objectification, and at the same time of absolute domination of a body in a hiding place, brings me to the Chapter 3. Not deviating from the perspective of the authors of the testimonies, so an “inside” look, I write about senses and meanings ascribed to hiding places by the authors of testimonies. The metaphors recurring in the texts allow us to notice other characteristics of hiding places and to reflect on to what extent the way in which the people hiding see the place they are in is shaping their sense of identity.

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212 Brach-Czaina J., Błony umysłu [Mind Membranes], Warsaw 2003, p. 53.

213 L. Kołakowski, Czy diabeł może być zbawiony i 27 innych kazań [Can the Devil Be Saved and 27 Other Sermons], London 1984, p. 246.

214 L. Kołakowski, Czy diabeł może być zbawiony i 27 innych kazań [Can the Devil Be Saved and 27 Other Sermons], London 1984, p. 246.

215 J. Tokarska¬Bakir, Rzeczy mgliste [Misty Things], Sejny 2004.

216 A.H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, New York 1954, especially pp. 95–105.

217 J. Aleksandrowicz, Kartki z dziennika Doktora Twardego [Pages from Doctor Twardy’s Journal], Cracow–Wrocław 1983, p. 61.

218 A. Bańkowska, Las jako miejsce przetrwania… [Forest as a Place of Surviving…], p. 55.

219 L. Silverstein, Tak właśnie było… [That’s What Happened], p. 168.

220 J. Aleksandrowicz, Kartki z dziennika… [Pages from Doctor Twardy’s…], p. 54.

221 See B. Jałowiecki, M. Szczepański, Miasto i przestrzeń… [City and Space in…].

222 Ibid., p. 310.

223 AYV 03/3379, Journal of Hinda and Chanina Malachi.

224 C.I. Goldstein, Bunkier… [Bunker], p. 28.

225 A. Bańka, Społeczna psychologia… [Social Psychology…], p. 161; reference to: R. Sommer, Personal Space…, p. 33.

226 See J. Aleksandrowicz, Kartki z dziennika… [Pages from…].

227 AJHI, 301/5149, Testimony of Helena Grabarek.

228 P. Sztompka, Socjologia… [Sociology…], pp. 70–71.

229 See K. Jaspers, Philosophy of Existence, trans. R.F. Grabay, Philadelphia 1971.

230 J. Leociak, Bombardowania miast jako doświadczenie graniczne [City Bombings as a Border Experience], in: Wojna. Doświadczenie i zapis. Nowe źródła, problemy, metody badawcze [War. Experience and Records. New Sources, Issues, Research Methods], eds. S. Buryła, P. Rodak, Cracow 2006.

231 B. Bettelheim, Individual and Mass Behavior in Extreme Situations, “Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology” 1943, No. 38; Surviving, and Other Essays, New York 1979.

232 D. LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma, Baltimore 2001.

233 J. Leociak, Bombardowania miast…, [City Bombings…] p. 183.

234 J. Kaczmarek, Podejście geobiograficzne…, [Geobiographical Approach…] p. 49.

235 F. Katzmann, Rozwiązanie kwestii żydowskiej w dystrykcie Galicja. Lösung der Judenfrage im Distrikt Galizien [Solution to the Jewish Question in Galicia District], Warsaw 2001, pp. 43, 50.

236 Ibid., p. 60.

237 A. Skibińska, J. Petelewicz, Udział Polaków… [Participation of Poles…].

238 Ibid.

239 F. Tych, Długi cień… [Long Shadow…], p. 27.

240 M. Żeromska, Wspomnień ciąg dalszy [Memoirs Continued], Warsaw 1994.

241 T. Pankiewicz, Apteka w getcie krakowskim [Pharmacy in Cracow Ghetto], Cracow 2003.

242 Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej. Polacy z pomocą Żydom 1939–1945 [This One Is from My Homeland. Poles Helping Jews 1939–1945], prepared by W. Bartoszewski, Z. Lewinówna, Cracow 1969, Warsaw 2007.


244 J.T. Gross, Upiorna dekada [Ghastly Decade], Cracow 2001, p. 49.

245 See A. Bikont, My z Jedwabnego… [Us from Jedwabne] – The Story of Antonina Wyrzykowska.

246 J.T. Gross, Upiorna… [Ghastly…], p. 51.

247 F. Majewski, Pustelnik… [Hermit].

248 M. Żeromska, Wspomnień… [Memoirs…], p. 37.

249 K. Szwajca, Kłopotliwa “świętość” [Troublesome “Sanctity”], “Midrasz” 2007, No. 1.

250 H. Ogryzko-Wiewiórkowski, Od proksemiki do socjometrii [From Proxemics to Sociometry], in: Przestrzeń we współczesnej nauce [Space in Modern Science], eds. W.A. Kamiński, G. Nowak, S. Symotiuk, Zamość 2003, p. 172. (K. Koffka, W. Köhler and M. Wertheimer), or “New Outlook” (E. Brunswik). The theory of perception by James is the most interesting from my point of view.

251 J. Gądecki, Architektura i tożsamość… [Architecture and Identity…], p. 13.

252 To understand physical and biological aspects of perception and senses – see R.L. Gregory, A.M. Colman (eds.), Sensation and Perception, London–New York 1995.

253 A. Bańka, Społeczna psychologia… [Social Environmental Psychology], p. 64.

254 E. Kuryłowicz, introduction to the Polish edition, in: S.E. Rasmussen, Odczuwanie architektury [Experiencing Architecture], Warsaw 1999. [For an English edition of the book, see S. E. Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture, Cambridge, Mass 1982 – translator’s note].

255 J.A. Włodarczyk, Żyć znaczy mieszkać. Dom mieszkalny na granicy stuleci [To Live Is to Dwell. Residential Building on Turn of the Centuries], Tychy 2004.

256 W. Meed, Po obu stronach muru. Wspomnienia z warszawskiego getta [On Both Sides of the Wall. Memoirs from the Warsaw Ghetto], Warsaw 2003, p. 236.

257 J.A. Włodarczyk, Żyć znaczy mieszkać… [To Live…], p. 151.

258 C.I. Goldstein, Bunkier… [Bunker], p. 178.

259 M. Głowiński, Czarne sezony [Black Seasons], Warsaw 2002, p. 87.

260 Stella Fidelseid described voices and footsteps of German soldiers, “Kwartalnik Historii Żydów” [Jewish History Quarterly] 2003, No. 2(206). She was hiding in a bunker during Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: “In silent tension, huddled together, we were listening to the footsteps of thugs walking above our heads. We clearly heard them shouting, talking. Suddenly we hear shuffling from the side of the yard, hollow bangs against the pavement, rocks being thrown. God, don’t let them find us. […] Hours are dragging. […] We can still hear the Germans searching the yard. We finally hear steady footsteps underneath, march off, shouts and voices trail off, it’s quiet, they are probably gone”.

261 M. Katz, Na ścieżkach nadziei [On Paths of Hope], Warsaw 2003, p. 192.

262 M. Berland, Dni długie jak wieki [Days Like Centuries], Warsaw 1992, p. 383.

263 K. Janowska, P. Mucharski, Rozmowy na nowy wiek [Conversations for the New Century], vol. 1, Cracow 2001, p. 71.

264 M. Katz, Na ścieżkach… [On Paths…].

265 L. Guz, Targowa 64… [64 Targowa Street], p. 158.

266 AYV, 033/334, Testimony of Maria Koper.

267 S. Fidelseid, Pozostałam w gruzach… [I have stayed in the rubble…]

268 L. Chuwis-Thau, A jeśli Cię zapomnę [And if I forget you], Warsaw 2002, pp. 66–67.

269 L. Silverstein, Tak właśnie było… [That’s What Happened], pp. 155–156.

270 J. Brach-Czaina, Błony umysłu [Mind Membranes], Warsaw 2003.

271 Ibid., pp. 68–71.

272 Ibid., p. 59.

273 AJHI, 301/1472, Testimony of Dina Wajnsztajn.

274 AYV, 033/1099, Journal of M. Landsberg.

275 AJHI, 301/6640, Testimony of Hersz Gail.

276 D. Frymet, Relacja… [Testimony…], p. 608.

277 AJHI, 301/545, Testimony of Etka Żółtak.

278 AJHI, 301/1437 I, Testimony of Rywka Wajnberg.

279 A. Bańkowska, Las jako miejsce… [Forest as a Place…], pp. 52–53.

280 AJHI, 301/1496, Testimony of Izrael Herc.

281 M. Katz, Na ścieżkach… [On Paths of Hope], p. 127.

282 F. Majewski, Pustelnik… [Hermit], p. 68.

283 M. Katz, Na ścieżkach… [On Paths of Hope], pp. 161–162.

284 AYV, 033/1099, Journal of M. Landsberg.

285 S. Fidelseid, Pozostałam w gruzach… [I have stayed in the rubble…].

286 L. Silverstein, Tak właśnie było… [That’s…], p. 177.

287 M. Katz, Na ścieżkach… [On Paths of Hope], p. 145.

288 See E.T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension, New York 1990.

289 S. Fidelseid, Pozostałam w gruzach… [I have stayed in the rubble…].

290 D. Stokols, The Experience of Crowding in Primary and Secondary Environments, “Environment and Behavior” 1976.

291 J. Calhoun, Population Density and Social Pathology, “Scientific American” 1962, No. 206.

292 A. Bańka, Społeczna psychologia środowiskowa [Social Environmental Psychology], Warsaw 2002.

293 S. Fidelseid, Pozostałam w gruzach… [I have stayed in the rubble…].

294 AYV, 033/1099, Journal of M. Landsberg.

295 A. Rokuszewska-Pawełek, Chaos i przymus… [Chaos and Compulsion…], p. 185.

296 J. Aleksandrowicz, Kartki z dziennika… [Pages…], p. 54.

297 E. Błaszczyk, K. Strączek, Wejść tam nie można [You Can’t Go in There], Cracow 2005, pp. 180–181.

298 AJHI 301/5149, Testimony of Helena Grabarek.