The above photo is one of the most iconic images of the Holocaust. Whilst the identity of the German SS man pointing the machine gun is known, that of the little boy is not, although some of the other people captured in this photograph have been identified. The photo was included in the infamous “Stroop Report – The Warsaw Ghetto no longer exists.”
1. The Boy in the Photo
There are four possible identities for the little boy held at gunpoint.
1.1. Artur Dab Siemiatek
This was advanced as early as 1950, but documentation was first found in 1977 - 78. One source was responsible for making the claim, a woman named Jadwiga Piesecka, who was a resident of Warsaw. According to a statement she signed on 24 January 1977, the boy in the photograph was named Artur Siemiatek born in Lowicz in 1935. He was the son of Leon Siemiatek and Sara Dab, and the grandson of the signatory’s brother, Josef Dab. A similar attestation was signed the following year in Paris by Jadwiga Piesecka’s husband, Henryk Piasecki, dated 28 December 1978.
1.2. Tsvi Nussbaum
In 1982, a 47 year old ear, nose, and throat specialist in Rockland County, New York, came forward with the statement that in 1943, at the age of seven, he had been arrested in Warsaw and ordered to raise his hands by an SS man standing in front of him and aiming a gun at him. Although he could not recall that a photograph was taken, Dr. Nussbaum believed that he might be the child in the picture. Tsvi Nussbaum expressed uncertainty that he was the boy in the photo, whilst others say that it is him. There are indeed two specific factors that weigh heavily against him being that boy.
The first is that although he was arrested in Warsaw, he had never set foot in the ghetto. The second is the date he was arrested. Tsvi Nussbaum clearly remembers that he was arrested on 13 July 1943. This was nearly two months after the “Stroop Report” is thought to have been completed and sent to Himmler and Krüger. In the early 1930’s Nussbaum’s parents emigrated from Poland to Palestine, where Tsvi was born in 1935. When conflict broke out between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, the Nussbaum family returned to Poland, settling in Sandomierz in 1939.
By 1942 Tsvi Nussbaum’s parents had been murdered by the Nazis, and he was brought from Sandomiercz to live with an aunt and uncle, in hiding, in the Aryan section of Warsaw. They looked after him for six months, but were caught in a Gestapo trap. The Nussbaums joined hundreds of other desperate Jews at the Hotel Polski and were put on the Palestine list. On 13 July 1943, trucks came to take them away, not to Palestine, but to the KZ Bergen Belsen. At the concentration camp they were housed together in a special barrack, given better food and not forced to work.
If the boy in the photo is Tsvi Nussbaum, then the picture would have to have been taken at the Hotel Polski, and not within the Warsaw Ghetto, where all of the photos from the “Stroop Report” are generally thought to have been taken. Dr. Lucjan Dobroszycki was quoted in a New York Times article, expressing doubts about whether Tsvi Nussbaum is the boy in the photo, for the reasons set out below: “The scene,” he noted, “is on a street, not in the courtyard in which the Hotel Polski roundup took place. Some of the Jews are wearing armbands that they surely would have shed while in the Aryan quarter of Warsaw. The German soldiers would not have needed combat uniforms at the hotel. The heavy clothing worn by most of the Jews suggests that the photograph was taken in May – the date General Stroop put on the report – rather than July. Moreover every other photograph in the “Stroop Report” was taken in the Warsaw Ghetto."
Tsvi Nussbaum commented:
“I am not claiming anything – there’s no reward. I didn’t ask for this honour. I think it’s me, but I can’t honestly swear to it. A million and a half Jewish children were told to raise their hands."
Finally, with the help of someone trained in photo-comparison, Dr. K.R. Burns, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Georgia, compared the famous photo, with a passport photo of Tsvi Nussbaum taken in 1945, and stated the following: “Having examined the two photographs, although the mouth, nose and cheek are consistent, there is one important disparity; the ear lobes on the 1943 boy appear to be attached, whereas the earlobes of the 1945 boy are not attached. This generic trait cannot change with age and the difference indicates the pictures are not of the same boy."
The entrance of the former Hotel Polski at 29 Dluga Street has been compared to the 1943 photo, but it is difficult to see whether it is the same building.
1.3. Levi Zelinwarger
Avrahim Zelinwarger, aged 95, contacted the Ghetto Fighters House in Israel in late 1999. He informed the museum that the boy in the photograph was his son Levi. As a result of that contact, the following information now accompanies the well known photograph, in the GFH archives: According to the testimony of Abraham Zelinwarger of Haifa, the boy is his son Levi, 1932 - ? and he suggests that the photograph was taken in the ghetto on Kupiecka Street, near Nalewki Street. The father, a ladies hairdresser by profession, worked at forced labour clearing rubble and damage at a burned out gas installation in Warsaw, and escaped to Soviet territory at the beginning of 1940. Avrahim Zelinwarger was telephoned by Richard Raskin, who was then told that the woman next to the boy is the boy’s mother, Chana Zelinwarger. Avrahim Zelinwarger believed that his wife, his 11 year old son Levi, and his 9 year old daughter Irina, all perished in a concentration camp in 1943.
1.4. An anonymous Survivor
A London business man contacted The Jewish Chronicle in 1978, claiming that he was the little boy, not Artur Siemiatek. The man who contacted the paper asked that his name be withheld. In his statement he claimed the photograph was taken in 1941, and that he remembered he was not wearing any socks at the time; both claims are without doubt incorrect so far as the photograph under discussion are concerned.
2. Other Jews Identified in the Photograph
In a Yad Vashem page of testimony, number 90,540 completed in 1994, the little girl at the far left of the photograph was identified as Hanka Lamet by her aunt, Esther Grosbard-Lamet, a resident of Miami Beach (Florida). The same document lists 1937 and Warsaw, as the year and place of the little girl’s birth while the place and circumstances of her death are listed as “Majdanek - taken to Gas Chambers”.
The USHMM website also indicates that the woman standing to the left of the little girl is her mother Matylda Lamet Goldfinger.
The boy carrying the white sack near the rear of the group shown in the photograph, was identified as Leo Kartuzinsky by his sister, Hana Ichengrin, according to an email from Yad Vashem received by Richard Raskin.
According to USHMM, the woman at the back right was identified as Golda Stavarowski by her granddaughter Golda Shulkes, residing in Victoria (Australia).
3. The SS Man: Josef Blösche
The one person in the photograph whose identity has been established beyond any doubt is the SD soldier aiming his sub-machine gun in the direction of the little boy. He was SS-Rottenführer Josef Blösche, a most feared predator, who was often teamed up with SS-Untersturmführer Karl–Georg Brandt, and SS-Oberscharführer Heinrich Klaustermeyer, to terrorize the occupants of the ghetto on hunting expeditions, randomly killing whomever they chose. Blösche was born in Friedland (former “Sudetenland”) in 1912, and after joining the SS, saw service in Platerow as a guard patrolling the River Bug. In May 1941 he was transferred to the SS post at Siedlce. Following service in an Einsatzgruppen unit in Baranowitchi, he was transferred to the Warsaw Security Police, where he took part in the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943 and the Polish national uprising in August 1944. Upon arrest Blösche made the following statement:
“I have looked at the given photocopy. Concerning the person in the SS uniform, standing in the foreground of a group of SS members and holding a sub-machine gun in firing position and wearing a steel helmet with motorcycle goggles, this is me. The picture shows that I, as a member of the Gestapo office in the Warsaw Ghetto, together with a group of SS members, am driving a large number of Jewish citizens out from a house. The group of Jewish citizens is comprised predominantly of children, women and old people, driven out of a house through a gateway, with their arms raised. The Jewish citizens were then led to the so-called Umschlagplatz, from which they were transported to the extermination camp Treblinka." Signed Josef Blösche.
Blösche provided another statement at a subsequent interrogation:
“I now recall a shooting of Jewish citizens in the Warsaw Ghetto. This took place at a time when there was no transportation to the extermination camp Treblinka. Brandt gave each of us at the SD office in the ghetto a small box of pistol ammunition. Beside me there were Rührenschopf, Klaustermeyer, and other Gestapo members, whose names I do not know any longer today. Brandt led us into the middle of the ghetto. I can no longer remember the exact time, I know the shooting took place in a courtyard, which one entered from the street through a gateway.
Beyond that I still know that during the shooting, a truck carrying Jewish citizens drove by. At that moment, I was standing at the entrance to the courtyard. How many Gestapo members were there I can no longer say exactly, it could have been 15 to 25." Signed Josef Blösche, Berlin, 25 April 1967
For his dedication and zeal during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Blösche was awarded the Cross of War Merit 2nd Class with Swords. During his trial in Erfurt in April 1969, Blösche was found guilty of war crimes, including the participation in the shooting of more than 1,000 Jews in the courtyard of a building complex on the morning of 19 April 1943. He was executed by a shot to the neck in Leipzig on 29 July 1969. Blösche was 57 years old.
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