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Adam Czerniaków (30 November 1880 – July 23, 1942) was a Polish-Jewish engineer and senator to the Polishmarker Sejm (for Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government), born in Warsawmarker, Polandmarker. He committed suicide in the Warsaw Ghetto on July 23, 1942.

He studied engineering and taught in the Jewish community's vocational school in Warsaw. From 1927 to 1934 he served as a member of the Warsaw Municipal Council, and in 1931 he was elected to the Polish Senate. On October 4, 1939, a few days after the city's surrender to the Nazi, Czerniaków was made head of the 24 member Judenrat, (Jewish Council) responsible for implementing Germanmarker orders in the Jewish community.

German forces began preparing for mass deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka extermination campmarker in July 1942 and the Jewish Council was ordered to provide lists of Jews and maps of residences. On July 22, 1942, the Judenrat received instructions that all Warsaw Jews were to be deported to the East. Exceptions were made for Jews working in German factories, Jewish hospital staff, members of the Judenrat with their families, members of the Jewish Ghetto Police with their families. Over the course of the day, Czerniaków was able to obtain exemptions for a handful of individuals, including sanitation workers, husbands of women working factories, and some vocational students. He was not, however, despite all his pleading, able to obtain an exemption for orphans from the Janusz Korczak's orphanage. The orders further stated that the deportations would begin immediately at the rate of 6,000 people per day, to be supplied by the Judenrat and rounded up by the Jewish Ghetto Police. Failure to comply would result in immediate execution of some one hundred hostages, including employees of the Judenrat and Czerniaków's own wife.

Realizing that deportation meant death, Czerniaków went to plead for the orphans. When he failed, he returned to his office and took one of the cyanide capsules he had been keeping for just such an occasion. He left a suicide note to his wife, reading “They demand me to kill children of my nation with my own hands. I have nothing to do but to die,” and one to his fellow members of the Judenrat, explaining: "I can no longer bear all this. My act will prove to everyone what is the right thing to do."

Czerniaków kept a diary from September 6, 1939, until the day of his death. It was published in 1979 and has been translated into English. Adam Czerniaków is interred in the Okopowa street cemetery in Warsawmarker.

In the 2001 Warner Bros. motion picture, Uprising, actor Donald Sutherland portrayed Adam Czerniaków.

See also


  • Raul Hilberg, The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow: Prelude to Doom, Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 1999, ISBN 1566632307.

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