[Page 139 - Hebrew]
[Page 143 - Hebrew] [Page 460 - Yiddish] [Page 67 - English]
by Eli Fishman
The outbreak of the war all but paralyzed the mainstream of life in the town. The Jews were savagely persecuted, their places of business were pillaged, the males were beaten and shipped off to forced labor.
Worst of all was the fate of those carried off to work on the boat bridge. That was hell itself. The bridge (more than a kilometer long) had to be built in a single day. During the work, the shochet R. Leible Korona was brutally murdered. The Germans seized several hostages, among them the director of the yeshiva. R. Raphael Leventhal. He was killed two days after the German army entered the town, on the Sabbath of Repentance the same day that R. Leible was murdered. The remembrance of that day was eternally inscribed in the history of the community as the bloody Sabbath of Repentance.
Some time later the Jews were forbidden to leave the town. Anyone caught outside was shot on the spot. The town became an open ghetto.
Almost all the Jews of Rachov, male and female, were put to work. The Germans promised them that they would come to no harm; no one would be deported from Rachov, as they were from other towns. The newspaper Krakauer Zeitung printed an official statement that the only place in the Gubernament with 100% Jewish employment was Annopol. No one was deported to the work camps.
One morning in 1942 a police contingent came, with a truck convoy, set siege to the town and burst into the homes of the Jews. Hundreds of Jews were already rounded up; as soon as the foremen in the plants learned about it they sent representatives to extricate their Jews, so as to prevent a labor shortage. The policemen were forced to withdraw without having taken a single Jew. This gave us hope and encouragement to go on. The employed Jews received work cards, which were stamped from time to time by the authorities, leading the people to believe that by hard labor they could buy their lives from the Germans. Their false hopes and illusions were soon to be dissipated.
Selection and Deportation of Rachov's Jews
Hard labor indeed brought no salvation. Came that awesome day, October 15, 1942, and destruction scaled the fate of Rachov's Jews. Our hearts were constricted with fear. Black clouds darkened the entire horizon. Our despair knew no bounds. An order was given for the entire labor force, from the age of 14 to 60, to report to the market square. Those selected for labor, we were told, would remain in the town with their families. About 100 were selected, I among them.
This was merely an SS trick. We were taken at once to the Goshchiradov work camp. It was prepared to receive us. The camp was hard by the road to the Krashnik railway station and was surrounded with barbed wire.
In Rachov the selection of men fit for labor went on. About 300 of them were chosen for transfer to the Janishov torture camp; the others were taken to the cemetery. My father didn't want to wait for death; he broke away and ran, until he was felled by bullets near the synagogue he had helped to build.
My father's death changed matters. The wife of the murderer Lazarchik witnessed the incident and persuaded her husband not to kill the Jews right then and there. The Jews were allowed to go to their homes for the night. On the next morning all who remained men, women and children were ordered to present themselves at the Krashnik railway station.
The Somber March Toward Death
I can still see that tragic scene. All those Jews, my own family among them, were marched past our camp, to their final destination the Krashnik station. We were bent over with grief, our hearts were mute, our eyes wept farewell. We wanted to break out and join them, but the SS bullets kept us from moving. This way we bid good-bye to our beloved.
The Fate of the Sick and the Elderly
A few Jews were still left in the town, my grandparents among them. All of them decided not to leave their homes but remain and await their fate in their own homes. Finally they gathered in several homes Shlomo Goldreich's, Frumetel Feigenbaum's and my grandparents' house. They prayed together, recited the Viduy (Confessional,) and the Psalms, in readiness for the last journey.
Several days later I came to do work in the town. I took the risk and went to my grandparents' home. I found there a live tomb. Candles burned in the sunlight, but there was darkness in every heart. My grandfather, wrapped in his tallit, was reciting the Psalms. My ailing grandmother was on the bed, waiting for the end. All of them were later rounded up by the murderers and dragged to their death. My grandmother was taken from her bed, thrown into a pit, and shot. So were the other martyrs, whose spirit the enemy couldn't break.
Several of us went looking for the bodies. Corpses were strewn about, riddled with bullets, skulls cracked wide open. We buried them.
The aged Frumetal Feigenbaum was too ill to be moved from her bed. She was shot there on the spot. We buried her near the doorway of her home. Such were the Rachov kozes...
[Page 171 - Hebrew] [Page 447 - Yiddish] [Page 63 - English]
by Elazar Goldner
During the first days of September our town was filled with refugees from the other side of the Wisla. The long lines went on day and night, as the refugees pressed on with one purpose in mind to move eastward. Most of them were from the middle and poor classes, frightened to death, worn out, sleepless, backs burdened with sacks and parcels.
Rachov's Jews showed them great compassion. Many of them gave up their beds to accommodate ailing mothers and their children. Whatever food there was in town was shared with the refugees, heart and soul. Who could tell what the next day would bring?
The refugees told the story of the havoc wrought by the Germans in the cities and towns. Jews were dragged out of their houses and put into labor battalions. Synagogues and their inmates were burned down. Criminals were let out of the jails by the Germans and recruited for the sole purpose of making life unbearable for the Jews. No one thought of anything but how to escape this hell. The Jews still believed that the whole thing would blow over, and they would return to their homes. The people were told that the great and decisive battle would take place on the banks of the Wisla. The army commanders explained the disorderly retreat by announcing that the Polish army would reorganize in the vicinity of Lublin.
The Jews of Rachov were confounded. A clash between the Germans and the Poles on either side of the Wisla would destroy everything, and Rachov's people would join the mass of refugees.
The panic began as the first bomb hit the Lipke quarter. Later it was learned that the manager of the Phosphorit company, a German, had signaled to the bomber in the air, above the town. When the town was taken, this man appeared in the uniform of the German Reichswehr. To the Jews, this was the beginning of the end. The German bombers dropped their loads unchallenged. Only once did a Polish plane land in the area. Out of it stepped a wounded lieutenant, dressed in a sparkling uniform tinged with blood. Dog's blood! he cried. Cholera! Everything's lost!
These word, spread throughout the town like wildfire. People went to bed with their clothes on, in case the Germans would come. And when they would, what could the people do flee or stay put? Some Jews didn't wait. As soon as the war broke out, they fled to the Janow area, assuming that since the area had no main roads, the chance, for survival was better. Also, in Janow there were several intact Polish units. They decided to fire their cannon at the Germans. The latter, in retaliation, shelled the entire vicinity, turning it into a mass of rubble.
The Polish officers bragged that here, at the bridge across the Wisla, the powerful Polish forces would make porridge out of Hitler and his troops. Never was a statement more deceitful!
The bridge went up in flames, and an overpowering panic seized Rachov. Almost all of the Jewish residents fled and sought refuge in the homes of peasants in nearby villages and in the forests surrounding them. Only a few Jews remained behind, to guard the property, poor as it was.
The Germans took the town without firing a shot. They replaced the burnt bridge with a pontoon bridge and marched right into town, like on a picnic. On the first day, the Jews were rounded up by the German soldiers and were set to work on the bridge, dragging heavy logs out of the Wisla. Here the first victim fell Leible Korona. This fine, pious Jew, stricken with a chronic heart ailment, couldn't bear up under the heavy labor. He collapsed, and the Nazis finished him off in their brutal tradition.
A few days later Germans claimed another victim the headmaster of the Lublin Yeshiva branch and the Beth Jacob School in Rachov. He was on his way to plead with the town priest to have the Jews released from work for the two days of Rosh Hashanah. His crime was that he ran, instead of walking. To the Germans he looked like an escaping criminal. Wearing his shteiml'' and silk coat, he was shot down at the threshold of his home.
The Nazis and Their Collaborators Go Berserk
The German soldiers invaded Jewish homes, looking for young women to ravish. At any knock on the door, toward evening, the hearts or the mothers stood still. They rubbed their daughters' faces with soot and dressed them in rags, in an effort to save their honor.
As elsewhere, the Germans organized a Judenrat in Rachov, in order to make things easier for themselves. The Judenrat tried to fulfill the demands of the Nazis for a full quota of labor, collected monies from Jews to pay the levies and appointed new policemen. It must be said that, in Rachov, the Judenrat and the policemen didn't deal with their own Jews as in other towns and cities. They quickly understood the character of the enemy whom they were serving. Realizing that, sooner or later, they would share the fate of their brethren, they resigned from their posts. For this they were punished with deportation to the Yanishov camp. Most of them escaped from the camp and joined the partisan hand organized by the Pintele family in Zaleshe.
The Nazis and their helpers used every means of persecuting the Jews, raping the women and committing criminal acts unbelievable of human beings. Such were the Rachov kozes...
[Page 170 - Hebrew] [Page 65 - English]
by Daniel Freiberg
About 6 kilometers from Rachov, up the Wisla, was the village of Janishov, an average village; its inhabitants were neither among the richest nor among the poorest. The peasants derived their livelihood from their fields and partly from fishing in the Wisla, during the summer.
Almost every year, as the snow thaws at winter's end or following torrential rains in the summer or fall, the Wisla overflows its banks and inundates the farmland. The turbulent river runs level with the fields for several kilometers, sweeps the area and ruins the toil of the farmer.
In attempting to halt the damage caused by the floods and the erosion of hundreds of hectares of fertile soil, the Polish authorities set about putting up a protective embankment along the entire low bank. To accomplish this, they set up a prison camp in the farmland, and put hundreds of prisoners to work raising the embankment; this was several years before the outbreak of the war. When the war began, the prisoners were released and the camp remained empty and neglected. It was quite natural for the Get mans to make use of the abandoned but equipped camp to incarcerate the Jews.
Already in the summer of 1940 we learned that the Germans were bringing Jews to Janishov from towns near and far. At first, when the arch enemy had not yet placed his yoke on the Jews of' Poland and was still pretending that he was interested in Jewish labor, the Judenrats in the towns kept sending around groups of laborers to Yanishov. They were also obliged to care for them. On Sundays the Judenrat men would pass through on their way to Janishov, with wagonloads of food for the detainees, bundles of linens and other necessities. The Judenrats were also allowed to substitute other laborers. Each group therefore spent no more than a fixed period in the camp.
The first commandant of the camp was Peter Ignor, a schoolteacher in one of the large villages in the vicinity. Until the outbreak of the war, no one knew that he was a German.
As the general situation of the Jews worsened, so did conditions in the Janishov prison. The representatives of the Judenrats were no longer allowed into the camp, and they could no longer deliver food and clothing or change the groups. Rumors leaked out about the inhuman torture in the camp, at times ending in death and murder. Not only Ignor and his Ukrainian helpers but even the Jewish Ordnungsdienst and Vorarbeiter tortured their brethren. The hard labor of transporting in wheelbarrows mud, earth and clay, up several yards to the top of the embankment, was prodded with blows and lashes administered by the Ukrainians and the Jewish lackeys. There were also the exhausting roll calls, day and night, designed to harass the laborers. Hanging people by their feet and similar tortures were everyday happenings. There was no medical aid, other than the Sunday visits by our town physician, Dr. Gross; what he was able to do in the course of one morning was but a drop in the sea. From him we learned what was going on in the Janishov camp, but we had no direct contact with it. No one was sent from our town to Janishov or any other camp, since we were a kind of working unit in itself. Only the errant were sent there.
The camp was a fathomless source of income for Ignor. The meager fare assigned to the inmates found its way to him. With nourishment beyond their reach, many prisoners simply died of hunger.
Ignor and his helpers took special pleasure in taunting and torturing the members of the Judenrat, the Ordnungsdienst and others of high status at one time. They ordered them to don their prayer shawls and phylacteries and dance about, as their tormentors prodded them with whips, kicks and butts, as their sick minds pleased. This was the atmosphere, in the first days of the deportation, in which a woman of our town strangled her newborn grandson, lest he get his mother into trouble.
The deportation of the Jews caused Ignor's bestiality to break all bounds, probably because now he could not practice extortion from the Jewish community. The suppliers of the funds, the Judenrat, were now hounded more than ever. The cup of suffering indeed overflowed. Such were the Rachov kozes...
[Page 88 - Hebrew] [Page 66 - English]
by Yaacov Farber
On October 13, 1942, 1 was deported, together with 155 other young men from Annopol, to the Janishov camp. The Volksdeutscher Ignor was the camp commander and a German Jew named Wolff was in charge of the Jewish inmates.
The prisoners were set to work building an embankment on the bank of the Wisla, to protect the area against floods. The work, by quota, was very hard. Mortality was high, and fresh transports of Jews kept coming into the camp.
There was a Jewish guard in the camp, Reuben Pintele of Zaleshe. He escaped and joined the partisans, swearing to take vengeance.
The only ones guarding the camp were the commandant himself and one Pole. The gates were guarded by Jewish policemen. The inmates were taken to work and back under Jewish guards, as well.
On November 6, at 6 in the evening, as we were in our bunks, resting from the day's toil, several partisans rushed into the hut, shouting: Jews, save yourselves! Flee! The hut was in an uproar. Whither were we to flee? The Jews of Rachov who had Christian friends were ready to leave. We broke into the storehouse for whatever supplies we could carry away.
The partisans burst into the commandant's quarters, forced him to give up his weapons and the valuables he had confiscated from the Jews, then led him out to the yard and executed him. The partisans helped us empty the depot. They left about 8 o'clock, taking nine people with them to the forest. The others were told to disperse. They began forming small units, planning to escape to the forests, but they were waylaid and killed by the Poles or handed over to the Germans -- all 133 of them. A few remained in the camp because they weren't familiar with the area. They decided to go to the nearest police post and report the incident, whatever be the result.
We got to the village of Kashin. The farmers told the fire brigade to toll its
bells. The foreman came out to meet us, and advised us to return to the camp
and wait for the police.
They came at 7 in the morning, accompanied by SS men, gendarmes, the fire brigade and a group of Ukrainians. They surrounded the camp and took a roll call of the inmates. At noontime orders were received to transfer us to another camp. We were driven to the town of Annopol-Rachov. On the way we were brutally whipped. Anyone who fell was immediately shot. From Annopol we were transported by truck to Bedzin. Such were the Rachov kozes...
[Page 176 - Hebrew] [Page 69 - English]
by Gregor Korchinski
This deals with the rout of the Nazi camp in Janishov. Several hundred Jews living in the shadow of annihilation in the camp were hoping for rescue by the partisans.
Two escapees from the camp, Yanek and Shloimele, speaking on behalf of the Jews in the camp, described in detail, for the fifth time, how the camp was situated, the approaches to it, and the location of the sentries.
The Janishov operation had to be carried out as quickly as possible. The two escaped men reported that the camp commandant, the murderer Peter Ignor, was about to send all the prisoners to be made into soap in Majdanek. The operation could not be postponed.
That night the fate of the people in the camp had to be decided life or death.
The commander arose. Again he described the situation, outlined the operation and gave the order: Prepare to leave!
The spearhead unit went first, Leon Fitel in charge.
Leon knew the area like a book. He was a native of the surroundings, born the village of Ofuka.
What's the day today?' I asked Henik, a Jew who had escaped from Majdanek.
Friday, answered Tadek of Miloshovka.
The unit moved on. Among the marchers were Vitashek from Ludmilovka, Yenkel of Rechincha, the Russians Grisha and Vasya, the Ukrainian Yasha Yakoblev, and the refugees from Janishov, Yanek and Shloimele, and others Poles, Russians and Jews.
After a long and tiring trek, in dead silence, the unit skirted Dombrova, crossed the Krashnik-Annopol road, then, bypassing Vimislov and pursued by the barking of vicious dogs, it climbed at dawn to the top of the hill, near the old quarries.
Here the commander took leave of Fitel, reminding him to get information about the situation in Janishov and its surroundings.
A quiet alarm sounded. One of the scouting units reported Germans on the road near the hill. It looked like a fight, unless the unit succeeded in not being spotted. Silence and tension.
Also excitement. From the top of the hill, looking out on the plain below, the partisans could see their objective clearly, some 3-4 kilometers away: rows of cabins behind barbed wire fences. A crowd of people was at the camp square.
Fitel returned toward evening, accompanied by a member of the PPR organization in Ofuka. On his back he carried a sackful of bread.
The two reported on the deployment of the enemy. They stressed the need for diversionary action to draw the attention of the Blue Police in neighboring Kashin, as soon as the partisans left the quarries. Kashin was a kind of annex to Peter Ignor's bailiwick.
In the meantime the partisans did away with the bread.
The hour for action was at hand. At dusk another briefing was held, how each man was to conduct himself as he approached the camp, inside the camp, during the battle, when it was over and perhaps in case of retreat. Leon and the man from Ofuka were told to cut the telephone lines between Kashin and Annopol.
Finally it was dark. The wind howled and rain came down -- a marvelous partnership between the partisans and the elements.
Yanek and Shioimele, the refugees from Yanishov, led the way with brave assurance. The night was as black as the fate of Janishov's Jews.
The guides announced that the barbed wire fence would loom in front of the men a few hundred yards away. The unit halted. Yanek, Shloimele, Kushletz, Stashek, Gronchevsky and the commander moved carefully toward the fence. Shloimele went on ahead and returned. He had come to the fence.
The six men lay on the wet ground, holding their breath, listening for the approaching steps of the sentry. He's heading this way, someone whispered. As soon as he got there, they would jump him.
The animal didn't fall into the trap, unfortunately. The sentry passed by several yards away from the men lying on the ground. Quick action had to be taken. The sentry had to be taken unawares, from behind. Two shadows arose and followed the man ahead. Nerves were taut as a bowstring. Then the release: the cold barrels of a Mauser and a Vi touched the temples of the Nazi guard. He saw nothing and heard nothing there was only the feeling of the cold barrels. But that was enough for him. He threw away his rifle and raised his hands. Methodically, he described the positions of the other guards, inside the building and out. Kushlev and three others were assigned to take care of the sentries on the other side.
Lead on, the commander ordered the prisoner. To the gate. We have to talk to your colleague.
The sentry obeyed without question. Ten yards from the gate they met the other sentry. The first one briefed him: The camp's surrounded by hundreds of partisans. If you call out the guards, both of us will be dead men.
Prodded by gun barrels, the two led the Kosciusko partisans to the third sentry. He, too, made a move to resist, but was persuaded not to do anything rash. What really convinced the sentries was their belief that a vast force of partisans, perhaps even paratroopers, had ringed the camp. The partisans deployed themselves to cover all movements. The camp dogs were quieted by their keeper. In the center of the camp the partisans caught hold of Peter Ignor's redheaded aide. Always self-assured, he now trembled like a leaf in the wind. Finally he recovered sufficiently to tell his captors that the Herr Kommandant was in his office in the administration building. He led the way. At the door, the commander told him to tap lightly, enter, and report that Gestapo brass had arrived from Lublin. A final word of warning: One word of the truth, and you're a dead man!
All the partisans had one thought not to let him escape, to get him alive.
I want volunteers to go inside, said the commander. In the silence, two men attached themselves to the redhead and followed him along the dark corridor. A tap on one of the doors. No answer. A stronger tap. Silence. Could he have escaped?
At the commander's order, the redhead opened the door, slowly. A shaft of light crossed the corridor. He pointed to the sofa and said, almost gloating: There he is! Hearts began to pound with joy; this man was not to see another sunset. Everyone filed in, quietly.
Peter Ignor was lying on the couch in his jacket, riding breeches and stockings. The parabellum on the chair by his side was swiftly removed. Aufstehen!
The corpulent representative of the Master Race made no move, but a yank at his earlobe brought him to. He sat bolt upright. Mein Gott! and his pudgy hand moved like lightning toward his pillow. Stashek and Grunschevsky pinned the hand to the pillow with the barrels of their rifles. Ignor decided not to resist. He had gone to sleep as the sole arbiter over the lives of the Jews in the camp. Now all he could do was to obey, like a good German. The commander asked for the keys to the huts. Asya received them at once. With Adek, he ran out to free the people.
Ignor was a good marksman. Sometimes, during the morning roll call, after the prisoners had stood on their feet for two hours, in all kinds of weather, he would select several targets among them and order them to run. He would then aim at the moving targets and shoot them down. If the bullets did not kill them instantly, they were finished off by the Kapo and his lead-balled cane.
Kushlev's eyes took in the whips, photographs and the bottle of brandy on the table, still to be emptied. Real culture you have here, Hitlerite.
Stashek grabbed one of the whips and lashed the Gestapo man. Orders are orders, wept the Kommandant. Moreover, his camp wasn't the worst, he cried.
Aciek came running. The camp was in an uproar. The liberated inmates were sure that the war was over. They also discovered two cars laden with loaves of bread, and they were ravenously gorging themselves with it, The commander went out to the camp square and told the emaciated inmates that each would got enough food, as well as shoes and clothing. But the war wasn't over, and severe fighting was ahead.
Confronted by the inmates, Ignor confessed to murder by shooting, hanging and torture. Now terrified beyond all measure, he slumped to his knees and tried to kiss the boot of his captors.
Suddenly shots were heard, first sporadic then in bursts. Machine guns. Vitya came running. A car detachment of Germans was on the outskirts of the camp. They kept firing, hoping to draw partisan fire and get some idea of their strength, but they didn't dare come into the camp during the night. The liberated inmates were given food and clothing, then arranged in groups and sent, with guides, to the forests around Lipsko, Janow, Bilgoraj and Goshschiradow, toward Ludmilovka.
Their parting shot was aimed, accurately, at Peter Ignor.
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