Who is that Boy in the Famous Warsaw Ghetto Picture?
Everyone in the picture has been identified – but who is that child in the middle?
This perhaps is the most iconic image of the Warsaw Ghetto:
The image of a boy coming out of the burning bunker with his hands raised up, while the soldier standing next to him is pointing a rifle in his direction with a sadistic grin distorting his lips. The picture was taken by a high-ranking Nazi officer named Franz Konrad. It was taken from an album that was specifically created by Jurgen Stroop; the officer who was in command against the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in order to present it to his superiors. The eyes of the subjects are scattered in all directions. Following an unknown period in which they were staying in a dark bunker, they were suddenly exposed to a panoramic image of death and destruction.
Despite the chaos that surrounded the ghetto, researchers were able to decipher the identity of almost all of the 23 people in the photograph. For example, the soldier pointing the rifle is Josef Balsha - Jurgen Stroop’s bodyguard. Balsha was a member of the Gestapo and an active participant in human-hunting practices. He was involved with the Ghetto during the final year of its existence. After the war, Balsha concealed his identity. His face was mutilated beyond recognition in an elevator accident. Twenty-six years later, he was captured by East German authorities.
In absolute contrast to the above findings, the identities of the Jews in the picture were also revealed. The little girl peeking from the side is seven-year-old, Hannah Lemet who was murdered shortly after at Majdanek. The woman standing to her right is her mother, Matilda Lemet, who ends up surviving and immigrating to Israel. The boy holding a white bag is Aaron Krotoszynski, 14, who perished in Auschwitz.
But most mysterious of all, is the identity of the child in the center, for which seven versions have been noted, but none proven with certainty. Some argue that this is Arthur Domb Smiontk, but it turns out that he died six months earlier. Others identified him as Levi Zylinwerger, Zvi Nussbaum or Israel Rondel. All or none of these versions may be correct. It is hard to say and hard to establish.
Ultimately, the child's identity remains a mystery. It is not known whether he lived or died. No one knows what happened to him. His anonymity symbolizes the one and a half million children who perished in the Holocaust and were reduced to ashes.