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'Roche'le, sing something'

7.12.23

For mum, the following story of 'Roche'le', the little girl in the soup kitchen, is a symbol of the great tragedy that befell humanity in those days.


Recounting Mum's story from 80 years ago



It was winter 1943 and there were very few small children left in the Łódź Ghetto. Nearly all of them had been selected for deportation or had died from starvation or disease.


The Ghetto had so-called ‘communal kitchens’ with gas burners where women queued up to put their little pot on the stove. They were always nervously looking around, suspecting that someone might grab their precious piece of potato from their pot, which sometimes happened. The room was chilly and the floor was covered with slushy, icy water. The atmosphere was full of misery. A little girl covered in rags stood next to her mother. Out of the bleakness, the mother said to her child, ‘Roche'le, sing something — recite something.’ The little girl spread out her arms, rags hanging from her body and recited a poem in a sweet, clear voice:


Di velt iz azoy groys

Ikh ken nisht farshteyn.

Mayn muter ruft mir meyn velt

Aun ikh bin azoy kleyn.


The world is so big.

I cannot understand one thing.

My mother calls me my world

And yet I am so small.


This happened 80 years ago. There are not many days in my life when I do not remember this small child and her outstretched, little thin arms. For me, she is a symbol of the great tragedy that befell humanity in those days.

A black hole.



The soup kitchen, Ghetto Lodz, 1943 (Illustrated by Sid Sledge 2023)

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