The Ringelblum Archive
Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto
Warsaw Ghetto. Everyday life (Volume 1)
No date, Warsaw-ghetto. [Stanislaw Różycki], A study of "Kawiarnie" [Cafes].
Cafés, restaurants and hotels in the ghetto, descriptions of individual locales and customer profiles
The sweep of issues connected with cafés is so broad that the scope of matters connected with the life of a café that can be of interest to us will, eo ipso, be very wide-ranging.
Due to the lack of clubs, unions, associations, stock exchanges, parks, cinemas, playing fields, dance halls, etc., cafés in the ghetto play a significant role in both social and public life. Hence, they substitute for theatres, cabarets, revues, and cinemas.
Moreover, inside you will find not only cabarets and music, but also groceries and restaurants. Black-market goods are sold here. Smugglers meet here to make their deals. Middlemen feel at home here. Goods are offered and sought after. Lovers come to have their rendezvous. Human trafficking has found a shelter here, not to mention prostitution, which—as always—flourishes in cafés. Hence, matters of art, morality, gastronomy, trade, welfare, the penal code, etc. all mix here alongside each other.
Cafés attract consumers, chance clients, and frequenters. Some are hungry for art, the spoken word, music, humor, and poetry.
Others look for "contacts"—they want to get in touch with prostitutes to satisfy their sexual desires. Some want to drink a real mocha and eat a tasty piece of cake—rare and major treats available to but a few. Some want to have fun, to get away from the bleakness of everyday life, and breathe in a different atmosphere once a week, once a month, just for an hour.
Others have a date with a middleman, or come to close a good deal and then spring for coffee, or vodka, to seal the deal. Others have their office here—they have opened a currency exchange office or a stock exchange. They make payments, collect money, sell, buy, act as a middleman, make offers, and earn, earn, earn.
And everybody has (or wants to have) the illusion that the atmosphere of the café will separate them from the reality of the street, from grim everyday life.