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The Journal of Holocaust Research

Sarin David / Elementary Educational Processes in Occupied Warsaw and in the Warsaw Ghetto 1939-1942

This article examines the extensive education system, both clandestine and official, that formed in occupied Warsaw and was active from December 1939 until the liquidation of all educational institutions in the Ghetto, in the summer of 1942, as well as the issue of the motivation for play and learning in the context of life in occupied Warsaw and in the ghetto. The first part deals with educational trends in wartime Warsaw, whereas the second part deals with pedagogical methods and educational contents.

A small proportion of elementary school age children attended private lessons or participated in "Komplety", while the majority attended social educational facilities. Due to the growing numbers of poor and orphaned children, clandestine schooling was only made possible by a social support network that was supposed to provide the children, first and foremost, with food and clothing and care for their personal hygiene. These institutions were soup kitchens, boarding-schools and orphanages semi-boarding-schools, day-care ccenters, "chidren's corners" and clubs for refugee children. Some of the children attended ideological institutions - schools managed by the various educational trends that were active in Warsaw both before and during the war. Beyond these facilities, this article examines the issue of children's motivation to play and learn. Despite the chaotic existence of most ghetto children, the various sources indicate that a considerable proportion of the children and youth displayed a high level of motivation for play and learning.

All official educational institutions were liquidated following the Great Aktion, which began on July 22nd and lasted, with a few days' respite, until September 12th 1942. Apparently educational activities in the ghetto after the Aktion were extremely limited and mostly clandestine. In the days between January 18th -22nd 1943' all educational activities with the children ceased, and the ghetto began preparing for armed resistance.

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