They demand that with my own hands I kill children of my nation. I am left with no option but to die.’ These words, from Adam Czerniaków, chairman of the Jewish Council in the Warsaw ghetto, in a brief suicide note to his wife, presaged the next stage in the tragedy of the Jews of Warsaw. In a note to the Council Executive he wrote: ‘I have decided to go. Don’t take it as an act of cowardice, or flight. I am powerless. Sorrow and pity are breaking my heart and I can no longer take it. My action will draw everyone’s attention to the truth and maybe will lead into the appropriate course of action.’ Did this act of despair of a man who learned the truth have any meaning at the time? Gustaw AleiBorkowski, commander of the Peoples’ Guard in the ghetto, wrote that Czerniaków’s suicide was ‘a shock and warning’. Dr Emanuel Ringelblum assessed Czerniaków harshly: ‘His duty was to call upon the whole of Jewish society to offer the enemy active and passive resistance. This type of defiant call could have torn the Jewish masses out of their lethargy. Czerniaków’s personal sacrifice proved useless and was lost in the stampede of events.’ But could it? Could the Chairman of the Council count on the support of the outside world? Certainly he tried. On 15 November 1942, a report entitled ‘Liquidation of Jewish Warsaw’ was compiled by the united underground organizations in the ghetto for the Polish government in London. The tragic timbre of the dossier, supplemented with a tabulation of deaths, plans of the ghetto and Treblinka, ended in the pathetic plea:

What is left of Polish Jewry demands of the Polish government and the governments of Allied states: (1) the immediate dispatch of a neutral international commission to Treblinka to verify the facts given in the report; (2) immediate reprisals against those guilty of the tragedy visited upon the Polish Jews; (3) immediate retributive action against Germans living in Allied countries.