Letters from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Fate of Tens of Thousands of People

The Fellowship  |  November 17, 2020

Jews in Warsaw Ghetto, 1940
Jews in Warsaw Ghetto, 1940

Born in Australia in the 1800s, Hans Stockmar moved around with his father, a ship’s doctor, finally settling in Germany. Stockmar studied acting before becoming a candle-maker in the German area of Holstein. There, Stockmar befriended and employed Josef Gelbart, a Jewish beekeeper.

Josef dreamed of making aliyah (immigrating to the Holy Land), especially as Hitler began his “Final Solution” against Europe’s Jews. The Nazis soon caught up to Josef, sending him and his mother to Poland and the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. From the time of his deportation in 1938, Josef kept up correspondence with his Righteous Gentile friend. In return, Hans sent packages with food, clothing, and candles – all precious commodities in the subhuman conditions of the Warsaw Ghetto.

While Hans’ letters have been lost, Josef’s letters survived. Writing from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941, Josef said: “The part of the earth where I am has become and will witness the fate of tens of thousands of people.”

But Hans’ packages at least gave Josef help – and hope. “The most basic things are often absent: fire, water, light – one could really despair simply on these grounds. I wish I could just once tell you properly what state of mind your little parcels found us in, and what courage we derived from not being abandoned.”

Hans’ love for his Jewish friend certainly inspired courage in Josef. But sadly, Josef and his mother’s stories ended like six million other stories. After one final letter sent to Hans on May 20, 1942, the two either died in the Warsaw Ghetto or immediately after arriving at the Treblinka death camp. But as an Advocate and Ally of the Jewish people, Hans Stockmar earned the title of Righteous Among the Nations in 2001.