[2015] DJ Brooks: Milkweed

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[2015] DJ Brooks: Milkweed

MilkweedBy Jerry Spinelli




Smuggling in the Warsaw Ghetto occured day and night, because it was the only way that some people could survive. Smuggling began the very moment the Jewish area of residence was established. The age range of ghetto smugglers was extremely diverse. Some smugglers were young children, while others were adults. There had to be an extremely diverse range of smugglers, because there were many different places to get to the other side of the wall, and each was suited best for a different body type. It was much easier to smuggle for children, because they were small enough to fit through holes in the wall and crawl through sewer pipes. Young smugglers only had to worry about getting caught by the guards. On the other hand, the adult smugglers got under the wall by going into the sewers then returning back the same way. The sewers were extremely dirty, containing dirt, rats, and waste, but the adults still managed. Most smugglers smuggled food into the ghetto. Residents of the ghetto lived on 180 grams of bread per day, 220 grams of sugar per month, 1 kilogram of jam per month, and a half a kilogram of honey per month. This doesn't even cover ten percent of normal food requirements. Only being provided ten percent of the food you need is a real struggle, so that's why it was necessary for people in the ghetto to smuggle. People needed the food for their family and themselves to survive, and without smuggling they wouldn’t have that. This drove many of the ghetto citizens to smuggle, no matter what the risks were. Smugglers in the Warsaw Ghetto faced many risks each day they continued to smuggle goods. The ghetto walls were guarded by Polish Police, Jewish Police, and Nazi soldiers. Jewish Victims of smuggling were given many different consequences, and some of these were quite extreme. Some guards would only beat the smugglers, but most guards would shoot the smugglers. If the guards didn't shoot the smugglers, they sent them to part of the ghetto called “The Wild Ghetto.” This was the wrecked part of the ghetto, which showed the destructive marks of war. Thieves, smugglers, and those who failed to report for deportation lived in this section of the ghetto. The Warsaw Ghetto itself is an extremely horrible place to live, due to the lack of privacy and cleanliness, so if you are forced to live in the worst part of the ghetto, it must be torture. German killers shot great numbers of people by the ghetto walls. Tons of children from ages 5-6 years old were shot by the guards. This impacted many families in the ghetto, because it is not easy to deal with the loss of a loved one. Also the family member that died, could have been the family member that smuggled food. This would have left families dieing of starvation. The way the Nazis treated the smugglers in the ghetto was horrifying to the ghetto citizens, which caused them to take a stand.Warsaw Ghetto residents never gave in, and fought back in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising took place in April and May of 1943. This was the first and largest general urban uprising against the Germans. The ghetto smugglers smuggled weapons into the ghetto to fight against the Germans. At the time of the uprising the Jews were very unhappy, they followed this motto: Brothers don’t die in silence! Let’s fight! Because of all the outrage in the ghetto, the Germans left the ghetto alone for 2 months,but then returned to surprisingly find themselves in a real fight. The Jews held off the Nazis for about a month until they finally fell. 7,000 Jews died from the uprising, and 30,000 were shipped off to Treblinka. The outcome of the uprising had a large impact on many of the Ghetto residents. The loss of loved ones was one of the main impacts. Families mourned the deaths of their loved ones, and still had to try to survive on their own, because the war hadn’t ended. Also, life for those Jews that got sent to Treblinka ended very quick, because Treblinka was a death camp. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising may not have been as successful as planned, but it showed that the Jews still had heart and strength.

Smuggling greatly affected Misha’s life, and changed the way he lived forever. While smuggling had a very large impact on the people of the Warsaw Ghetto, for Misha it was a positive impact. While reading Milkweed, I really wanted to investigate and learn more about smuggling in the Warsaw Ghetto. The information that I gathered really helped me understand smuggling further. While searching, I noticed that smuggling almost never stopped for an instant. I discovered how risky it was to smuggle items into the ghetto. Lastly, from my research and book, I learned how smuggling led to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and how most Jews never gave up on their faith of Judaism. Smuggling is an art that came naturally for Misha, but for other people living in the ghetto, they had to work at it to help themselves survive.

The novel Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli, takes place in Warsaw, Poland, in the late 1930’s, during the beginning of the Holocaust. Misha, the protagonist, is a Jewish foster child, who lives on the streets of Poland. The only way Misha knows how to survive is by smuggling everything he needs, and he is very good at it. Once the Nazis came to Warsaw and put all the Jews in the ghetto, it was a struggle for Misha to smuggle food into the ghetto. Misha had to find ways to get to the other side of the wall and get the food that he needed to survive. The problem Misha faced was a real life problem for many of the Jews living in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. Once people found ways to get to the other side of the wall, a lot of people started to smuggle. Smuggling had a very large impact on the people of the Warsaw Ghetto.

DJ Brooks


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