The Last Testament of Szmul Zygelbojm

The Last Testament of Szmul Zygelbojm


On May 12, 1943 Szmul Zygelbojm was found dead in his Paddington flat in London. At the age of 48 he took his own life in anguished protest against a world callous enough to accept as inevitable the extermination of several million Polish Jews. The following letter is his final plea in behalf of his people. It was addressed to, and released by, Premier Sikorski of the Polish government-in-exile.


I take the liberty of addressing to you my last words, and through you the Polish Government and people, the governments and people of the Allied States and the conscience of the world.


From the latest information received from Poland, it is evident that without doubt the Germans with ruthless cruelty are now murdering the few remaining Jews in Poland. Behind the walls of the ghettos the last act of a tragedy unprecedented in history is being performed.


The responsibility for the crime of murdering the entire Jewish population of Poland falls in the first instance on the perpetrators, but indirectly also it weighs on the whole of humanity, the peoples and governments of the Allied States, which so for have made no effort toward a concrete action for the purpose of curtailing this crime. By passive observation of this murder of defenseless millions and the maltreatment of children and women, the men of those countries have become accomplices of these criminals.


I have also to state that although the Polish Government has in a high degree contributed to stirring the opinion of the world, yet it did so insufficiently, for it did nothing extraordinary enough to correspond to the magnitude of the drama now being enacted in Poland.


Out of nearly 3,500,000 Polish Jews and about 700,000 Jews deported to Poland from other countries, there still lived in April of this year, according to the official information of the head of the underground Bund organization sent to the United States through a delegate of the government, about 300,000. And the murders are still going on incessantly.


I cannot be silent and I cannot live while the remnants of the Jewish people of Poland, of whom I am a representative, are perishing.


My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto perished with weapons in their hands in their last heroic impulse.


It was not my destiny to perish as they did, together with them, but I belong to them and their mass graves.


By my death I wish to express my strongest protest against the inactivity with which the world is looking on and permitting the extermination of Jewish people. I know how little human life is worth, especially today. But as I was unable to do anything during my life, perhaps by my death I shall contribute to destroying the indifference of those who are able and should act in order to save now, maybe at the last moment, this handful of Polish Jews who are still alive from certain annihilation.


My life belongs to the Jewish people in Poland and, therefore, I give it to them. I wish that this handful that remains of the several million Polish Jews could live to see with the Polish masses the day of liberation -- that it could breathe in Poland and in a world of freedom and in the justice of Socialism in return for all its tortures and inhuman sufferings. And I believe that such a Poland will arise and that such a world will come.


I trust that the President and Prime Minister will direct my words to all of those for whom there are destined and that the Polish Government will immediately begin appropriate action in the diplomatic and propaganda fields in order to save from extermination the Polish Jews who are still alive. I bid my farewell herewith to everybody and everything dear to me and loved by me.