« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


[Page 363]
Sons of Bedzin
in resistance activities in Auschwitz

by Dawid Liwer

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld


Auschwitz was the largest of the death camps in which millions of Jews from all over Europe together with Russians, Poles and Czechs were incinerated. Due to the fact that Auschwitz is located not far from Zaglembie, the Jews of this region were the first victims of the Nazi beast and a hundred thousand residents from here, were suffocated in the gas chambers.

Despite the stringent supervision, the oppressive administration and the hard labor, the Auschwitz inmates managed to organize an underground movement. Initially, it took the form of an underground activity for those who were brave enough to run away from the camp – and there were quite a few of these.

However, most of them were caught and brought back, though nonetheless, several managed to survive. Later on, the Underground purchased weapons and prepared itself for a mass rebellion. Not all of the insurgent activity is known, since most of them were discovered, beforehand, by the Germans and the participants murdered. The following is a description of individual activities in which the people of Bedzin, interned in Auschwitz, were involved.

In Block no. 7 in Birkenau the Jews incarcerated there were destined to be gassed. On the 30th of December 1943, as the doors were opened, in order to lead them out to their death, fifteen Jewish inmates attacked the SS men with their bare hands, they injured the Germans and bit them. The murderers called for assistance, and the rebels – were executed.

At the end of October, Jews were brought to Auschwitz from Warsaw, and these had furnished themselves with false American citizenship papers. In the beginning the Germans placed them in the Palski Hotel and the Jews were certain that they would be exchanged for Germans who were citizens of enemy countries. However, their hope was unavailing, since they were expelled to death camps, in particular, Auschwitz.

These “American” groups, that numbered 1750 people, were brought to Auschwitz in October 1943. They were immediately ordered to undress and were taken to the crematorium. One woman refused to undress in front of the SS soldiers and when the parade commander, Schillinger, forcibly tried to take her clothes off, she slapped his face. She managed to wrestle his gun from his hand, shot and killed him. Other women seeing her heroic act also rebelled, and wounded several SS men. After a short struggle these brave women fell from bullets fired from Nazi machine guns.

In 1943 secret cells were established who were in contact with people from outside, who managed to smuggle guns into the camp. In the beginning, these were small groups of Jews, Frenchmen and Czechs, but in September 1944 the Underground numbered 160 activists and 280 organized inmates, most of them Jews.

An open rebellion, however, as was planned by the camp Underground did not transpire, since events moved at lightning speed, the Underground didn't have the capability of carrying out their plans. The “Sonderkommando” carried out the individual cases of revolt that occurred in Auschwitz, those wretched inmates who were compelled to deal with the victims of the gas chambers. The inmates who were taken to carry out this terrible forced labor, participated in this work for three months only, since after that time they were killed in order to conceal all traces of evidence, and in their place came others, and so it continued. They were isolated and locked up to prevent them from coming in contact with people from outside. In every unit of the “Sonderkommando”, there was a desire kindled to rebel and take revenge, however, the Germans always pre-empted them and they were “wiped out” before they could accomplish anything.

When time after time the date of the rebellion was deferred, the Jewish inmates began, seeing that their end was near, to pressure the leaders into beginning the planned rebellion. Even though the Underground leaders knew that the time was not ripe for the uprising, they gave their informal agreement, to the men of the “Sonderkommando” to allow them to act on their own initiative and own risk.

The first plan was to blow up all four incinerators in Birkenau, but their plan was discovered hours only before its undertaking, and as punishment the Germans decided to expedite the execution of the rebels.

On Saturday, the 3rd of October 1944, the SS soldiers took the 300 “Sonderkommando” workers, in order to execute them, however this did not come smoothly, since in the meantime the rebellion erupted. The Number 4 Gas Chamber stokers killed the SS leader and set fire to the crematorium. The attempt to blow up the equipment and the other death machinery only partially succeeded. The workers of Number 1 Furnace threw the German supervisor, Köhl, into the oven, and killed four officers, injured many of them, cut the wires and escaped from the camp.

The Germans immediately sent reinforcements of soldiers, who completely quelled the rebellion. Later an extended investigation was begun: How did explosives and weapons get into the camp? The Germans managed to follow up the movements of four Bedzin women, who worked in the “Onian” explosives factory, and who, every day as they left their work had smuggled out the “stolen” material in the folds of their dresses into the Auschwitz camp. The smuggled “goods” were supplied to the Underground, who passed it on to a Russian expert, whose name was Borodine, and who prepared the bombs for future use.

These brave women were: Ella Gärtner, Regina (her family name is not known), Ruzia and Dorka Sapirsztajn from Bedzin. These courageous women together with the go-between from the Underground, Raza Rovota, were cruelly tortured, since they refused to give the names of the people from outside, with whom that they been in contact. In November 1944 their sentence was determined: these five wretched and tortured women were executed and hung in front of the masses, to be seen, that they would know and fear…

From the many participants in the rebellion we know that these Bedzin people were amongst them: Iszajahu Erlich, a committee member of the Auschwitz Underground, survived and went to live in Erez Israel and fell in Gush Etzion during the War of Independence: Mosze Wiganski, the first to stab the crematorium commander with a knife, a deed which gave the signal for the Number 3 incinerator to be blown up, Beniek Fersztenfeld, Wygodzki, the Cymberknopf brothers, David Gutman, and Golberg from Sosnowiec, who was amongst the leaders of the Poale Zion movement in Zaglembie. There are many other names, which we were unable, unfortunately to determine, and who are worthy of mention and eternal praise for their sacrifice. Even though they knew they were doomed to extinction, that they were engaging into a futile struggle, they still embarked into this battle out of a blessed Jewish obligation.

We bow our heads before them.






[Page 364]

In the Bunkers

Aharon Brandes

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

(Segments from the book “The demise of the Jews in Western Poland”,1945)


When I reached Bedzin, a number of operations had been carried out against the Germans and the “Judenrat”. Hundreds of letters were sent to the German “Reich”, describing how the Germans were annihilating Polish Jews, since in the “Reich” nothing was known about this; Jews were taken from all over Europe via Germany to Poland in order to be settled, as it were, “somewhere” in the East. Pamphlets were also published in Polish on the same subject for the benefit of the Poles.

Propaganda opposing the “Judenrat” took place amongst the Jewish population, pamphlets were published and policemen that had behaved over cruelly were attacked.

The organizers started a defence force. Naturally, weapons needed to be obtained in Zaglembie, and hence we decided to contact our comrades in Warsaw. For this purpose Edzia Pejsachson was sent there. After a couple of days she returned accompanied by a different friend – Astrid (she was Sosia Miller) and with them pistols and hand-grenades; they reached Czestochowa, and at the train station a Gestapo officer arrested them. Astrid snuck away and reached Bedzin. Edzia was arrested holding three pistols and hand-grenades. She was badly tortured so that she would reveal from whom she had received the weapons and to whom she was taking them. She did not reveal anything – and was shot.

Several times Astrid brought weapons from Warsaw, and always managed to avoid the border inspections. Hand-grenades and “Molotov cocktails” were made using a pattern that she brought from the combat unit. The bombs that we produced were better than the German ones that we used to buy. We needed bunkers in order to produce and hide these weapons. We began building them.

Cwi Brandes and Baruch Gaptek were leaders of the defence. Cwi looked after obtaining weapons and Baruch taught the correct way to use them. Herszl Szpringer and Frumke Plotnicka were to keep in contact with our comrades, who knew our situation well. Dawid Kozlowski took care of the building of the bunkers. Work was carried out at night. We had trouble disposing of the excavated soil. Our comrades were collapsing from tiredness, but continued to build. They prepared themselves.

Rjwka Glanc, from Kibbutz “Dror” in Czestochowa, came to us with a letter from one of the kibbutz members situated in Treblinka and was working in clothes sorting. “Every day I see with my own eyes how thousands of Jews are brought here, and the following day they are no longer alive. I see how my people are being annihilated. Do whatever is in your power, just don't let them bring you here, for you to be killed by poisonous gas!”

Clothes belonging to the exiled Jews were brought to the labor camp in Katowice, and fifty Jews worked in sorting them out. Various letters were found in these clothes, from which could be learnt from were these Jews were brought from, from all over Europe they were brought, even from Greece. There were weeks in which 15 carriages per day of clothes were brought there.

In the Kamionka ghetto (the ghetto for the Jews of Bedzin), near the new train station, we would hear screams from the carriages piercing through the silence of night: “Hear O Israel, save us!” These were the screams of those taken to be annihilated. 100 to 120 people were stuffed into cattle wagons. Many died along the way, on account of the overcrowded conditions. It was impossible to take out the dead, and they were stood with the living till the wagons reached the extermination camp.

Herszl Szpringer relates: When a column of thousands of Jews were taken from Bedzin and sent to Auschwitz, he urged the Jews to run away. If everyone started running the Gestapo would indeed open fire, would kill several hundred of them, but most would be able to escape. The Jews blocked their ears to his words. They were so despondent that death seemed their only escape.

Immediately after the first “aktzia” the idea of resistance spread, however, we stood alone not only because of the apathy of the Polish citizens, but also through the apathy and even opposition of the Jews, themselves.

A major change began only after they realized, that the intention of the Germans was to destroy every last Jew. It was clear to everyone that the meaning of the deportation was: Death, and the thought of not going to the wagons became everyone's aspiration.

The attitude of the “Judenrat” in Bedzin to the resistance initiative was negative. Even before the deportation Moniek Meryn read an anonymous letter in the “Judenrat”, that Herszl Szpringer had assembled a group of youths, who had decided to carry out acts of rebellion and Meryn suggested that they be arrested. The people of the “Judenrat” opposed this.

After 7500 Jews were deported the mood of the population changed, and there was even a change in the mood towards the “Judenrat”, and there was even a change in mood towards us by the “Judenrat”. Our comrades in Warsaw wrote to us: “If you want to do something, you need to carry out an activity greater than that performed in Warsaw”.

After the Warsaw Ghetto was destroyed, supplies of weapons from there stopped. We sent our comrades to Warsaw and they bought weapons by themselves. Cwi met a Jew, Tarlo, who was living as an “Aryan” and lived in the Polish section of the city. He helped him, for payment, to make weapons. Ina Goldbard, and sometimes also Renia Kokalka, transferred the weapons from Warsaw to Bedzin.

Ina traveled to Warsaw on the last week before the deportation. She was to undertake important missions: To bring back pistols and grenades; to send comrades to the partisan group in Mydlniki near Krakow. Our comrades in Warsaw were in contact with them, and Ina was to finalize the negotiations. She was captured along the way and it was discovered that her Aryan papers were false. She managed to escape, and arrived in Kamionka during the “aktzia” and she had no way of getting in. She was caught again and escaped once more. Tired and hungry, she reached Zawiercie where there were still Jews, and she met up with our [female] comrade. She lay down to rest, when policemen came, brutally arrested her and turned her into the Gestapo, who executed her.


*



It happened on Saturday evening, early on the 1st of August 1943. There was a mood of depression in the ghetto. Rumors spread that something was about to happen. Cwi Brandes was occupied in sending four comrades to Hungary. It was the first attempt to smuggle people over the border. Baruch Gaptak was also going, since a responsible person was required to organize the next groups.

A number of shots were heard. Our bunker, that of the “Hashomer Hatzair” unit had been built to hold no more than ten people, already held more than twenty. Cwi decided, that half of us would go to the Kibbutz “Dror” bunker. I met up with Baruch. They had returned from their journey since the person meant to smuggle them across the border had not turned up.


[Page 365]


Baruch went down to the laundry bunker, in which he lived with Frumke Dolnoroza (Baruch's girlfriend, was killed defending the bunker on the 3rd of August 1943. The bunker was organized suitably and was well planned. There was a bomb factory here, various explosives and also a radio receiver. The bunker was built after tremendous effort; the escape tunnel was literally dug with our bare hands, without any implements.

The bunker had room for twenty people, but 35 were in there already. For food we had sacks of rusks and dry bread that had become moldy. The issue of water was even more problematical. We only had a small barrel and in the overcrowded conditions our thirst was great. On Sunday, in the early morning, we heard footsteps above. There was running in all directions and searching. We lay down in gravely silence. It was already beginning to get dark and they were still searching. A terrible silence reigned. At 11 o'clock at night there was taps on our bunker “Certainly one of us, since he knew the agreed upon knock”. It was Cwi who had come from the bunker in the mine road. The people there did not have the strength to continue. Their bunker had a double ceiling, and between the ceilings there was sand and stones. Had the Germans removed the upper ceiling panels, they would have seen sand and would not have heard any sound from the basement. The Germans found a pile of bread loaves above. “If there is bread here that means that there are also Jews here”. They began removing the floor boards and demolishing the oven, shouting “Juden raus!” The comrades were frightened that the oven would collapse on their heads and they would be buried alive. The Germans finally left. Cwi relates, that the whole ghetto was lit up, there was relentless firing, and in Srodula (the ghetto of the Sosnowiec Jews) as well, everything was lit up. This meant that the “aktzia” continued there as well and it was all embracing and this place was destined to be “Judenrein”. Cwi came to us since all the weapons were in Baruch and Frumka's bunker, and we needed to take them out and distribute them. He came back next evening to the unit's bunker. After he left there was unremitting firing, and we were worried that he wouldn't make it to through.

The Germans continued searching the whole city. In a bunker close to ours there were the apartment tenants and members of the “Poale Zion” movement, Gedalia Sobkowski, Szymon Gutman and others. It was discovered on the first day and everyone was taken out. As an extra precaution we blocked the two air inlets in order to camouflage our hiding place. We were all half-dressed, streams of sweat ran down us. Women feinted and we didn't have water. We distributed small meals to the very weak only. At 11 o'clock at night we opened up the bunker and went in search of water. The Germans had cut off the supply of water to the ghetto on entering.

The whole ghetto was in flames. From time to time rockets were fired, and it was like daytime. We had to lay flat all the time, so that the Germans wouldn't see us. We found an empty bunker from which the murderers had already taken out the Jews, and in which there was half a bucket of water. Thus we went from house to house, till we collected a few buckets of water.

On the fourth day of the deportation, Cwi and Abram came to us. They told us that they could no longer stay in the bunker, because of lack of food and water. One of the women, Pesia, who had fallen ill, had a high fever and began crying out for Cwi to kill her. A German heard her cries, came to the window and called: “Jews, out!” Cwi went to the window and with his pistol dropped the German. Everyone ran off. No one remained apart from the sick woman. We thought that she was no longer alive, but at 3 o'clock in the morning, she came to us dripping blood.

In Bedzin there was a group of comrades from the “Gordonia” movement in Czestochowa, who had organized themselves in the pioneering farm before the deportation. There a bunker built in the farm, the entrance to which was through the hothouse, and a tunnel led out into a field. The farm was in a Polish neighborhood, and the Poles knew about the bunker. In it there were also members of the local “Gordonia” movement, amongst which there was Hanka Bornsztajn (from the leaders of “Gordonia” in Bedzin and Poland. She was amongst the initiators of the pioneering underground in Zaglembie. She died in the last “aktzia” of August 1943), Szlomo Lerner (born in Bedzin, a “Gordonia” member, a member of the organizational command of the Jewish fighters in Bedzin. He fell on the 1st of August 1943, together with a group of comrades, through the betrayal of a Pole, a Gestapo agent) and others, altogether around 30 people. The Poles exposed the bunker, and all the people in it were captured. As a result, we began building a second bunker, excavating to a depth of one and a half feet, but we reached a water artery and were forced to cover it up.

We heard footsteps close to the bunker, removing the coals from the opening and exposing the entrance. A Jew came down and told us: The German police were coming and we needed to go up straight away. Herszl Szpringer (a “Freiheit” graduate, and one of the outstanding personalities of the underground in Zaglembie. He was one of the organizers of the escape to Slovakia. He was one of the organizers of the Jewish fighters in Bedzin and a member of the command) He quickly began handing out the money we had in our possession. We had three guns, and it was decided to defend ourselves, as soon as the bunker was discovered. Herszel claimed, that it was Beham (a clerk in Rasner's workshop) that had turned us in. We decided to go up, except for a woman and a man who hid under the hammocks. The Germans stood with their pistols drawn. Finding the money really enraged them. They continued searching and found the pistols. They ordered us to lay down spread-eagled and not to lift up our heads. We saw that our end was near. After a couple of moments, they decided to hand us over to the Gestapo. The Germans took out two women, who they believed that the guns belonged to them. They didn't say anything. They beat them and battered them till they were unrecognizable. The women could not sit or lay down.

It was already beginning to get dark and the Germans began burning, in order to light up the ghetto. Cwi asked Herszl if he would agree to run off. Herszl answered “No”. We had run out of strength. “It's now or never” – Cwi cried and began running. The Germans fired at him and began chasing him. Several minutes later they returned and said: “We liquidated him!”

They chained our hands to each other so that we would not run away, and thus we sat confined for a whole night whilst four German soldiers stood opposite us with their guns pointed at us. In the morning, they took three of us youths out into the field. We were taken quite a distance and there we saw Cwi lying there on his back as if he was asleep. The lieutenant ordered us to take him. When we lifted him up, we couldn't carry him: his body was broken up and was flung here and there. His face was riddled with bullet holes. We took him to the wagon, in which a second victim lay, and in Kamionka we buried them both. Eighteen days later, at 11 o'clock at night, Gestapo men came in a lorry, took all the men out of the camp and ordered them to remove all the bodies from the graves, loaded them on the lorry and took them to Auschwitz, to be incinerated, in order that no evidence would remain of their murders.






[Page 366]

The Community Committee

by K. Tzetnik 135633

Translated by Nitsa Bar-Sela


Kazetnik was born in Zaglembie. He shuns publicity and tries to remain as anonymous as he can. However, thousands of readers in Israel and readers all over the world who read him in ten different languages, including Japanese, know him very well by his pen-name Katzetnik 135633 (“I received this name from the Nazi. The Nazi is gone but the world has not yet wiped this name from me.”) His two monumental and very famous books are: “Salamandra” and “The House of Dolls”, which are of the very best pieces of the holocaust literature, and which are praised and lauded by critics. These are great works of human and universal value and he is still in his creative prime.

His gift for writing was revealed when he was young, still safe in his hometown which had not yet been destroyed. From time to time he used to publish poems and essays in the press, which he felt close to thematically. His friends predicted that he would make a great literary career and they were right.

Katzetnik was one of the hundred thousand Zaglembie Jews in Auschwitz, who was doomed to survive, although death had continuously accompanied him wherever he went, in order to tell the world how women, old people, children and babies were brutally gassed, burnt and defiled by the German animal.

As soon as he was released from the death-camp, he immigrated to Israel. Here he wrote “Salamandra” (“Dvir” publication, Tel Aviv, 1947). Into this book he poured what he had carved out from his soul with his gifted pen, the experiences he went through during the war and the holocaust. This is a horrifying, amazing and captivating document which voices the roar of the horrors and the moaning of the human conscience which was defiled, a composition which enables the readers to share the writer's experiences and suffering.

The drama takes place in the towns of Zaglembie and the main figures are Moniek Matrose and Felicia Szwarc, and others known to us by their real names who will be notoriously remembered for their vile services to the butchers, who despite their loyalty, betrayed and killed them too.

He also wrote “The House of Dolls” (“Dvir”, 1953). According to the writer, this book took him eight years and four drafts, which he destroyed one after the other, to complete .We are filled with outrage and are profoundly shocked at the horrifying things described in this book and at the horrendous pictures of indescribable brutality and violence towards Jewish women and girls.

No wonder the writer refused to accept the reparations offered as compensation by the Germans to those who 'attended' concentration camps. I still remember Katzetnik's words which he wrote a few years ago about this subject. He said that the most cherished and invaluable compensation he could have ever wished for were a few personal belongings of his gentle father who was killed, a bunch of golden curls of his sister's beautiful hair and other small objects of his unforgettable relatives.

Don't these prayed for gifts remind us of the three presents of Y. L. Peretz?

*

When the idea of “Pinkas Bendin” was first brought up, I turned to Katzetnik and asked him to contribute from his composition to this book. Here is his answer:

“I was touched by your letter, my friend, but I cannot fill your request. Please, forgive me. The idea of commemorating the Jewry of Zaglembie in a book is a sacred idea, but let everybody do it in his own way. As for you – bless you for anything you have done in their precious memory!”

*

The following is a chapter from “Salamandra” by K. Tzetnik, a Zaglembian that we are so proud of.

M. H.



On the first days of the raids, a little after the release of the detainees from the square of Gotsztajn's factory, there was a notice on the walls of the houses in Metropol (an area in Zaglembie), among the other notices of the special rules and regulations regarding the Jews, the first Jewish notice which was written in German on one side, and in Yiddish, in Hebrew letters, on the other. And this is what it said:

“To All Jews!”

“All the Jews, including children and old people, men and women, have to register in the Judenrat. Those Jews who will abstain, will not receive their bread-cards and will be severely punished.”

On the German side of the notice there was the signature of the German mayor and on the Jewish side – that of the Head of the town elders of the Jewish community, Moniek Matrose (Moniek Meryn).

And indeed, everybody hurried to register. First, because it was a German regulation, and second – in order to receive the bread-cards. As for the Judenrat itself, they didn't think much of it. In the past, when times were normal, the Jews used to fight vehemently against each other over the business of the Gemeinde, (the community). Every party aspired to have as many representatives as it could have there. The party that had the majority could also nominate a Rabbi, a Shochet (the ritual slaughterer) and other officials of its own. Sometimes the elections to the Gemeinde would end up in bloodshed. But this was all in the past. Now people's hearts were not free for such dealings, which looked faraway and petty. People considered them as adults recall their childhood pranks.

However, Moniek Matrose wanted people to ascribe to the community committee the importance which it deserved, in spite of all. If this body were considered important, then he too, the person who headed it, would be respected. Therefore, he used to run from one room to another, alert and full of energy, working hard during the days, and skipping sleep at nights. He recruited an army of clerks, and young girls would sit in a pool, rattling on their typewriters, registering the population, printing and distributing bread-cards with a small Star of David on them. There was an impression that “a big thing” was going on for the good of the community. Moniek sent invitations to the former leaders of the Gemeinde, and also called the town's notables to come and help him run the community committee, but nobody noticed him, nor paid attention to his wish.


[Page 367]


Now, those active in the Gemeinde were people who, before the war, would play cards with him. Limanowski, who used to be a small communal worker, now proved to be a mean, degenerate creature. There were also petty party administrators, whose only purpose was to get for themselves a double ration of bread.

But what Moniek Matrose did not achieve, the Gestapo did, after a few months. The Gestapo put their hands on the community committee and bestowed on it the importance it had tried to achieve without success in the past. In fact, it was given now such supreme power as Moniek himself had never dreamt to get.

And this is what happened:

A few months after the German plague had burst out of its borders, the Gestapo entered Metropol and took the reins of government from the local civil authority. Their main activity focused, as found out later, on the “Yut [Jews] Department” – that is, the one which handles the affairs of the Jews. They appointed Alfred Dreier to be in charge of it.

The main purpose of the Gestapo was to create a Jewish “parliament”, through which, by the help of Jewish brains and hands, the Germans would achieve their final goal regarding the Jews. Moniek Matrose was summoned to the Gestapo offices, to the “Yut Department”. Since he was not fluent in German, he took Felicia Szwarc (Fania Czarna) as his private secretary.

This Felicia, not only was her family name “Szwarc”, that is, black, but she herself was all black as well: her hair was black, her eyes were black, and also her soul was charcoal black. This woman was only twenty five years old, but she had already discovered all of life's secrets.

Well, these representatives of the large Jewish public of Metropoli – Moniek Matrose and Felicia Szwarc – found themselves sitting in the Writers' Bureau of the Gestapo, Yut Department, in front of its head and leader Alfred Dreier.

On the wall was Adolf Hitler standing in full height, and at his feet Dreier was sitting, dressed in a brown shirt, his eyes grey, face oblong, and speech slow, elegant, polite, as befits a loyal member of the great German nation.

I have asked you to come – please, do sit down – to inform you that since according to the law of Great Germany certain restrictions regarding your people who sit in the State of Great Germany and in the countries occupied by it have been set, and because we are forced to carry out this law without any delay, I have decided that, in order to prevent from you any unpleasantness, it would be advisable to hand the execution of these restrictions over to you, that is, to the notables of the Jewish Community Board. However, you will vouch with your life, and I would rather add, with your family's life, that this law be carried out in good faith. I hate to put you in a state of trepidation, but I see it as my duty to draw your attention to the German order… discipline… punctuality …and discretion.

Hitler was looking down from the wall, his lower lip protruding as if he was talking to his moustache: “Never mind, I can count on my people”…

Dreier relaxed himself on his chair, leaning back in such a way that the forelegs of the chair were lifted in the air. He sent his hand forward and with a clenched fist against the edge of his desk to support himself in this posture.

Well, in so many words, it means that I require from the Jewish population that in three days they forward five kilos of gold, a tax which, I presume, is not too high… –Yes – he added – and every one will get from the political secret police a certificate addressed to all German officials that no harm be done to you. You are the “Jewish council” of the Community Board of the Jews, and as such, you are, of course, at my service alone. Do you understand?

– Jawohl! (yes)

Felicia Szwarc expressed it in the right German pronunciation, and Moniek repeated after her in his thin nervous voice, a woman's voice.

Once outside, he walked faster than he usually did. He was conscious of his own importance. It was no trivial matter. He guaranteed his own and his family's heads. This awareness intensified his sense of responsibility for the whole Jewish community.

He stormed into the community offices, entered his room and commanded to send for his people, especially Limanowski, right away. Then and there it was decided to call the town's notables and its rich members.

The people were due to be there at twelve at noon, but none of them showed up.

Moniek ran about like somebody who had swallowed a deadly poison.

– I will not risk my head, no, I will not risk my head! …

He called the people a second and a third time, but nobody wanted to obey Moniek Matrose.

The appointed date drew near and Moniek rushed about like a madman. He really felt the urgency of the time and the responsibility he held now. He felt the danger he was in because of the public, the fire burning around him. And within the flames of this fire he began to transcend to heights he had never known before.

Not so Felicia Szwarc. She was not worried at all. She seemed to have a secret way out of this situation and therefore was calm.

In the morning of the third day she telephoned to the political secret police:

– May I speak to the head of the Yut Department? – Yes, I am here, on the phone. Who is speaking? – This is the secretary of the Jewish community Board, Mrs. Szwarc. May I come for consultation? – Please, I am waiting for you.

Half an hour later, the administrator of the Jews, Felicia Szwarc, found herself seated in the room of the Head of the Gestapo, Yut Department, composedly delivering a detailed account of the state of things.

– Yes, you did well coming to me…

Dreier stood up, put on his coat and prepared to leave.

– Please, – he endowed Felicia with a gentlemanly gesture, bowed to her at the open door and let her out first.

Downstairs, the car had already been waiting, and entering it, again, the gentleman gave the Jewess the respect of a lady.

The vehicle pulled up outside the community offices, and out came the Head of the Gestapo and Felicia Szwarc. The news spread immediately among all the lodgers of the building, the clerks and also the inhabitants of the street. Some very important guest is at the Gemeinde right now.

Dreier entered the manager's room and sat at the table. Nobody was allowed to stay in the room except Moniek Matrose and his secretary, Felicia Szwarc.


[Page 368]


Dreier ordered that the card-index of the Jewish population be handed to him and asked the manager to approach him. The sheets with the lists were put in front of him on the desk. In these sheets the lives of the whole Jewish population of Metropol were held. Dreier took out of his pocket a red pencil, handed it to the manager and told him to draw a little cross next to twenty names of rich Jews.

Moniek became dizzy and his sight blurred. He held the pencil in his hand and felt it turned into a knife with which he had to carve the sentence of twenty people. The twenty names suddenly got faces of people, not strangers but people he actually knew, with throats and eyes, and the eyes were looking at him in a mute outcry. He was overwhelmed with horror: these eyes were staring at him and at the knife in his hand, and in a minute he is going to cut their throats and a gush of blood will splash against his face and body and hands. How horrible! …

The lists are on the desk. The lines of the names dance in front of his eyes. The letters mingle as if trying to hide the names, the lives, the throats of the people. He cannot read – cannot read at all! He runs his finger on the lines, as if trying to stop them, to keep them in their place, so that he could read them, but the letters jump and dance over his hand, cannot be intercepted, as if made of quicksilver. An evil deed.

It seemed that Felicia noticed it. She approached him to help check the names and while doing so she pulled the pencil out of the director's hand and quickly marked the crosses like an experienced ritual slaughterer.

– It is my obligation to draw your attention to German order… discipline… punctuality… and discretion… Most important: discretion…

He got up and left.

In the morning the town was in panic. At the crack of dawn Aunt Liza rushed to Fania. Her face was not made up and she was wearing a kerchief. She spread her arms, then flapped her hands on her sides like a butchered hen waving its wings: Children, a calamity has befallen me! Fiends came at night and pulled Uncle out of his bed. Children, woe is me! …

Sonja put on the nearest dress she could get hold of, but did not know in fact, where she should go and how she could help.

It was a well-known fact to the whole family that Sonja was a woman of brains and resourcefulness, so they would rush to her for help in times of trouble.

– Sonjaszi! Come to my rescue! They have taken your uncle! Children! Woe is me! … Sonja held Aunt Liza's arm and led her downstairs to the street. Aunt Liza let her lead her, and as she was trying to walk, she looked like the main mourner in a funeral, who is supported while walking after the coffin, her knees bending with each step, like a delicate tree in a storm.

There were many other people in the street, running helplessly, spreading their arms, some wailing openly like Aunt Liza and others with mute pain and anguish.

From afar, Sonja saw Irina Szafran running towards her. At that moment, she felt as if her heart burst inside her, like a blown up balloon pricked by a needle.

Irina approached, her two arms spread out. She fell on Sonja's neck and started crying bitterly. Until now she had not shed a tear, but as soon as she touched Sonja's shoulder, she burst out in bitter tears as if she felt that here she had found shelter and deliverance.

Sonja could not move. She felt the burden of all these people's misfortune on her heart. What should she do? Where can she go? How must she start? She used to be very fast at solving problems, and there was no complication that she could not disentangle. No matter how difficult the situation was, she had a key of her own. She knew where to find the end of the coiled thread which would take her out of the maze into daylight. She was not familiar with helplessness and weakness. But today, God had taken her powers and she could not find the end of the thread; no longer was she confident of the right solution. She was trapped now in a maze of her own. She felt she was committing a crime, which filled her with grief, and the one who grieves cannot be divinely inspired…

Bianka, Aunt Liza's eldest daughter, came running too, and stood in front of Sonja empty-handed. Bianka had a German acquaintance, a manager of “Bet Pkidud Haomanut”. She had hurried to him very early in the morning. He had promised to her to do everything. And indeed, he had gone to the Police offices to try his best, but had returned empty-handed: that matter, regretfully, was in the hands of the Gestapo, and there he could be of no use. If the matter had been in the hands of the Police, or of other offices, he could have taken care of it, but in the Gestapo he could do nothing. They had told him that it was the director of the community committee that could save them. Indeed, it was very surprising…

As soon as Sonja heard that, the whole matter became clear to her. She left them and hurried to the Judenrat offices. Near the gate a notice had been put up:

“At ten in the morning a meeting will be held in the courtyard of the community committee. Everybody must come. The director will speak.”

Sonja went upstairs to the Judenrat offices. There things had changed altogether. The atmosphere was completely different from what it had used to be. Even the lowest official could not be approached easily. Strange people, strange faces were seated in the service box and did not hurry to answer her questions.

– “And a new king succeeded to the throne who did not know Josef”…

Sonja quickly turned her head and saw a young man standing close behind her, his two small eyes jocund. He was the one who had whispered the sentence in her ear. He went off, a sheet of paper in his hand, probably to finish some important matter. As he was elbowing his way out of the crowded and noisy hall, he turned his head to Sonja once again with a smile in his eyes, a smile of wisdom and respect, of sorrow and gratitude to the person called Sonja Schmidt. Sonja sent back a sad mute smile and thought to herself: “There are times when even a man's bile smiles”…

Then one of the Judenrat's clerks who knew her passed by. He greeted her and offered his help. She found out from him that the director was not there, and even if he had been, he would not have been easily available. First, it was necessary to approach his secretaries, then wait until the line of those bearing entreaties ended up, and when it was all over, you would probably be told that the director was, at that very moment, with “the authorities” for consultation.

At ten, the court of the Judenrat offices was filled with people from end to end.

The director, Moniek Matrose, spoke from the terrace, his articulation fast and his voice thin and feminine: “For three successive days I had called you to come to me, and you scorned me… I put my life in danger for you, my life and the life of my family! … I risk death for you! … Because of your underrating my words! … This time I have made up my mind to act differently. The Jewish congregation must not and will not suffer because of certain individuals who make light of my actions! As for these people – I will take the strictest steps at my disposal against them! … I am making now the final attempt. I am inviting a group of people to come to me at noon for consultation. Those who will not respond to this summon – let none of their relatives seek my help in pleading for them when the moment comes…”


[Page 369]


No sooner had he completed his quick announcement than he disappeared from the terrace.

By twelve o'clock the most respected and important members of the Jewish community of Metropol had already been waiting silently in the council hall of the Judenrat House for the director, Moniek Matrose.

The door opened and the director entered accompanied by his secretary.

Awe and silence prevailed in the room. The director speaks: “I have been ordered by the Gestapo to provide them within 24 hours with five kilos of gold. We are in great peril. You know it as much as I do. There is a sacred mission to accomplish: save our lives from the fire burning around us. We are in a cage of death. Let us try and redeem ourselves with our money. Let the money be our ransom. We should be grateful that we can afford to buy our lives for money. Time is short. Let every one of you leave immediately with a written list and start collecting the gold. Don't skip a single Jewish house. I hereby announce: this is not an act of collecting gold, but ransom. You must not eat nor sleep, until the required quota of gold is fully gathered. I will be the first to take this ring off my finger and give it to you.”

On that day the Jews took off their wedding rings, women removed their earrings, collected the family jewels and delivered the first offering to the Nazi golden calf.

They weighed and counted and there was still not enough of it. The lacking amount was completed by the families of the twenty Jews who were in prison. Moniek Matrose promised them that at this cost they would be able to see them again safe and sound.

(An excerpt from “Salamandra”)







[Page 369]

The Academic Intellectuals

(Doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers in Bedzin)

by Attorney, Dr. Reuven Rechtman

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The destruction of the city will be remembered for thousands of years and the annihilation of the people will harden our hearts.

Y. L. Gordon


States, countries and people were created over generations, through the labour of many dedicated people that devoted their lives to their development. Every nation and every country dearly preserves the memory of the founders and builders, who contributed to their progress and glorified their names. History books, monuments and memorials perpetuate their memories.

And then came the blow to the Jews of Poland, heart of the Diaspora, the terrible Holocaust, which destroyed all its achievements, its material and cultural values that had been developed over generations, and the lives of millions were decimated over a period of five years. All those who had devoted their lives, souls and talents to Judaism were wiped off the face of the earth: religious leaders, scientists, educated and intellectuals, who for generations had participated in the development of the Jewish people.

The holy duty of perpetuating the cities and the towns of Poland that were destroyed and the memory of the great builders and creators of this Judaism, of every discovery and every revelation, is incumbent on those who survived and were witness to the destruction, and retain in their memories the greatest of Polish Jewry that was completely destroyed.

The community books will join, without a doubt, the history books of Polish Jewry and will serve as a source to historians and writers of the future and will serve as a warning to the whole world, not to forget what is liable to be carried out by a nation with a murderer as the leader to other nations, and a warning to the Jewish people so they won't forget “What Amalek did to you”; a warning to the Jews of the world to organize themselves, to build a homeland and do everything to prevent a reoccurrence of the mass murder, that was carried out by the wicked Nazis in sight of the humanity of the twentieth century.


*


The history of Jewish Bedzin is printed in the pages of this book, and also the names of individuals and families connected with it, and I will outline the personalities of her builders and her intellectuals, and how they caused Bedzin to be – albeit on a small scale – “a Jewish metropolis” in Poland, a thriving center of Jewish life amongst the gentiles.

The name of Dr. Szlomo Weinziher is connected with Jewish Bedzin, the first Jew to appear during the Russian-Czarist government in Poland in the name of the Jews and demand their rights. When Poland was re-established he was the Jewish representative in Bedzin and environs vis-a-vis the Polish authorities. In the first elections for the city council he led the Jewish representatives, was elected and held an important position in the running of the Bedzin city council. He was a teacher for a generation of young activists in the city, did not abandon the city even during the Nazi period, even though he had this opportunity, and preferred to die with his people.

Dr. Maksimilian Wasercwajg, a senior doctor in the city, who was connected to the Jewish life in it, was dedicated to his profession, assisted all those that needed it, the health of the people was his daily concern. He passed away before the war, and fortunately did not see the loss of his people.

Dr. Ferber, one of the best women's doctors in Bedzin and its surroundings, was renown as a man with a good heart. He contributed a great deal to the maternity hospital of “Linat Haholim”, an institute to be proud of. Under the difficult conditions during the war he continually help the ailing of our city, without noticing the dangers that he could entail. With the destruction of the city and the exile, he gave up his profession and worked as a guard and a labourer. He died suffering and tormented.

Dr. Dunai came to Bedzin as an army doctor. When he finished his service he settled there, and devoted his time and efforts to helping others. He was renowned as a dedicated doctor and a specialist in his profession.

Dr. Rechtszaft, was an excellent pediatric physician. He was also very active in Jewish public life and was involved in several institutions: The Friends of the Hebrew University, “Hakoach”, the Union of demobilized Jewish soldiers and so on.

Dr. Chaim Perl, an outstanding doctor, “people's person” and active in “Bund” and various cultural institutions. In the final years before the Holocaust he was a member of the city council representing his party. Due to the fact that he was a socialist and Jewish, he was exiled by the Nazis to the concentration camps – from which he never returned.


[Page 370]


Amongst the lawyers, Natan Rider had been active from the Russian period and, in fact was “qualified to appear as defense in a magistrate's court”. He was the only Jew to practice in this profession during the Polish period. He was only active for a short period.

After him came: Attorney Paradistal, a talented man, who achieved an important place amongst the attorneys in Zaglembie. During the war he served as an advisor to the “Judenrat”. He passed away following a serious illness.

Attorney, Dr. Reuven Rechtman, the writer of this article, was a member of the “Hitachdut” party and which was for many years represented in the Bedzin city council. He was active in public life. Survived. After the war he settled in Israel and continued to practice law.

Attorney, Dr. Icchak Sztajger from Lwow, gained publicity in the twenties in the case famous in the history of the Jews in Poland who were blamed for bombing the president. Some time after the case, whilst echoes from it reverberated around the world, he settled in Bedzin and practiced as a successful attorney. He was active in the Zionist movement. He was also killed.

Attorneys, Dr. Goldberg and Dr. Zilberszac, the son of a well-known family in the city, and was a former Hebrew teacher in the “Tarbut” school. After the death of Attorney Paradistal he took on the position of legal advisor of the Jewish community, he was exiled to a concentration camp – and he never returned.

Amongst the Jewish engineers was Gustav Weinziher, the brother of the doctor, Dr. Weinziher. He was known during the Czarist regime and especially during the Polish period. He participated as a representative of the Jewish residents in all the political activities that took place there. In the beginning, he was appointed by the authorities to be the Jewish representative in the city council. Later, he was elected several times to be the Jewish representative. Later on, he was appointed as city engineer and ceased his public activities.

Engineer Goldsztaub was one of the factory builders in the city: the electric company, the steel-wire and cable company and others. He was a well-known activist and worked a great deal for the benefit of the city.

Engineer Ze'ev Erlich, a graduate of the “Yavne” gymnasia and the “Technion” in Haifa. He was a young activist and well liked by everyone. He was active in “Tarbut”, and was exceptional in his talent and vigour. He was exiled to the concentration camps and was lost.

We will not forget the contribution of the schoolteachers to the cultural development of the city: Yoshua Rapaport, Mrs. Szancer, Mrs. Brojda, the Olga sisters and Mirjam Bojarska and their parents, Szlomo Sobotko, Sala Rotenberg, Rozia Hamer, Ada Banach, Dora Holland (née Brukner), Eva Traub (née Brukner), Lola Glick, Lucian Rechtman and his sister Hermenia, Icchak Rotenberg, Mosze Grosman, Lutka Erlich (née Glick), Sala Wolf, the Levi sisters, Wajcenfroid and his wife Ancze (née Rozenscwajg), Sztajnbrecher and his wife Jadzia (née Klajner), Mrs. Podlinski, Mrs. Pawlowski (née Goldberg), Blima Szental and others.

Amongst the teachers that survived: Chaja Klajnberg (née Rozenker, now Rozenblum, in Israel), Hela Chaim (in Israel) and Mrs. Ancze Szwarc (née Rechenfeld).

These were teachers in the primary schools, and I have not mentioned the teachers of the Jewish high schools and the “Agudat Israel” and “Mizrachi” schools, since their names appear in other sections of our book. In addition, I did not mention the names of the writers in Bedzin, her journalists, her artists and the other intellectuals, since they are mentioned in another section of the “Pinkas”.

Quaking, we will remember all the forty thousand martyrs of Bedzin.





[Page 370]

“Are there Germans there?”

Mosze Benjamin Kleinman

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld


Thirteen years have passed since an end was brought to the evil shenanigans of the wild beasts, that terrified Europe and cast a shadow – a shadow of death and murder – on the whole world. However, those that survived will never forget the memories of those days.

1941. Cattle wagons, their windows barred, 600 people crowded into each. The train weaves its way from the Finef-Teichan camp in an unknown direction. The people are tired and weary. They haven't eaten for days. They haven't even received sufficient water. They stop at a station bustling with German soldiers. Then, the citizens at the station, glance in jest and despise in the direction of the death train. A group of generals and high-ranking officers approaches our wagon. One of them asks in fluent German: “Where are you going, men of the Soap Battalion?” Wild laughter saturated with murderous desires echoes in the expanse of the station and our blood congeals in our veins. A second officer throws a slice of bread through the wagon's window, which converted the wagonload of wretched people into a battlefield. The sobbing cries that reached the generals' ears amplified their joy. Jews fighting Jews…

Suddenly an explosion sounded in the wagon followed by the voice of a German general speaking to us in a rhetorical tone: “Hey, you – the Jews! G-d is in heaven, and we will facilitate the way to Him, we will launch you to Him through the chimney pipes…”

And not only one of us thought at this time: We are weak and helpless, kept in captivity and under duress and You, sitting on high, why are You silent?

1942. Saturday morning, in Modrzejowska Street in Bedzin. In the yard of my house there were 600 Jews waiting together to be “exiled from their residence”. The yard empties gradually, accompanied by beatings and mournful weeping.

Suddenly, a young woman bursts through the door of my room on the second floor. Her face shows terror, and she is holding a young girl, pale and skinny, aged two and a half.

The mother asks for shelter and help for her daughter: – “I am leaving, but save my daughter! Take my wedding ring and leave the child with a memento of her mother”.

My wife barely had time to hand an apple to the young child when an armed soldier appeared at the door and looking at the girl, he asked: “Who brought that filth here, and who gave her an apple? (a Jew found with any fruit paid with his life). He kicked the girl with his boot and she hurtled through the window out onto the street below. The girl's innocent soul was extinguished.

Thirteen years have passed and much has gone on since then, but this horrendous scene and the countless atrocities that I witnessed – I'll never forget.

1942. I am walking in the streets of Bedzin with my young son, Yoshua (may the Lord revenge his blood), who was then aged 4. Suddenly the information circulates, threateningly, that the “Great World” is prepared to save a million Jewish children from the hands of the Nazis, in order to transport them to Erez Israel, to absorb them in Red Cross camps under Red Cross supervision. I tell my son that he has a chance of reaching Erez Israel. The boy asks me: “Father, are there Germans in Erez Israel? Do only humans live there…?






[Page 371]

On a mission to Bedzin

by Sara Erlichman

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

(Excerpts from "Held by foul hands", 5710)



Accompanied by the brush factory engineer I leave the ghetto's gate. Here a wagon is waiting. The Polish wagon-driver asks what I was doing in the ghetto, since I wasn't Jewish. I reply to him that I needed to buy something from one of the Jews. The Gentile didn't know me. Near one of the gates I step down, and as the wagon moves off I leave through the gate and ponder: Where to? The time – one in the afternoon, and the train to Czestochowa leaves at seven. Indeed, Leah had given me the address of a Polish family – good acquaintances – at 21 Jalicka Street, but I don't know where the street is and I don't trust Polish acquaintances. I prefer to wander the streets. Here there are loads of German soldiers. It seems that he liked the look of me, since I was a “charming blonde”.

– “Panionka, spazieren?” (“Young lady, you are going for a walk?”).

– “Ja” (“Yes”).

– “Wohin, nach Hause?” (“Where to, home?”)

– “Nix verstehe Deutsch, Popolsku verstehe” (“I don't understand German, only Polish”)

Thus the conversation continued. The German walked with me for around two hours, and I do this willingly, since escorted by him I am not afraid of the Poles hunting down Jews. We part and make a date for 9:00 in the evening. I promise him that I will come.

At 9:00 I went to the station, bought a ticket and went out into the square. I immediately picked up conversation with some Poles. The main thing was not to stand by myself, not to cause suspicion. Would this first journey, filled with dangers, succeed? Would I accomplish the mission placed upon me?

At dawn we reach Czestochowa. My companion on this trip, a Pole, introduces himself to me as we get out. I reply without thinking: Erlichman. I was frightened by my slip of tongue and quickly disappeared.

I went to our senior instructor who told me that Eliezer Geller (an activist in the “Gordonia” movement in Poland) is unable to leave his place, since the Germans knew that “Eugenius Kowalski” (Eliezer Geller's Polish name) was Jewish. He expertly scrutinizes my face, and I leave him the Polish money that I have with me. He brings out a young girl who will accompany me, and we make our way to the “General Government” border. What a glorious day, the first day of Spring! A person feels so young! Everything is alive and blooming, and only we have been sentenced to death. For what and why?

We passed over the border. We wait for the train. I remember very well that my name is Natalia Stszalczyk, living in Bedzin in a Polish street, I was born on such and such a date and so on. To my trepidation, the Poszka inspector is at the station at the same time, approaches me to check stamps. I was not warned about this beforehand. The stamps didn't match up. I had fallen foul.

He insists that I tell the whole truth. If I confess I will be sent back over the border and back home. I told him: “My real name is Genowefa Pawlowaska, I was born in Wlodzimierzów, in the Piatrakov district, I am the daughter of Yossef and Elena nee Krulikowski, and live in Warsaw, 21 Waliska street…

He continues to interrogate me, asking where my real Polish papers are. I point out that there is no point in holding papers for two different names. I had purchased my pass by a man I had met in Warsaw, and my papers I'd left at home. He accepted my claims. I discreetly handled my glove, and couldn't find the Cyanide-Kali tablet. I asked him to let me take my purse, in which I keep requisites for the trip. He agrees, and I found the poison – I was relieved. Now I would no longer be seen!

Fortunately, he never raised the question of my background. Simply remarkable, since women that were Polish from birth were incarcerated on suspicion of being Jewish.

– “Du, mein Liebling, wirst ein ganzes Jahr ins Gefängnis kommen“ (“You, my dear, will sit for a mere year in prison.”)

– “Nix verstehe“ (“I don't understand anything”)

Poszka, himself, takes me to the Police prison. With murderous eyes I am inspected from head to foot by the prison guard.

– “Was, sind die Schweine wieder über die Grenze gegangen?“ (“What, the pigs have crossed the border again?”)

The thick prison walls, the heavy gates and my spirits plummet within me.

Poszka enters the inspector's office, and I remain in the waiting room overseen by the guard. Thoughts provoke me: what are my chances in this prison? Let's suppose that I will not be recognized as the Jew I am, and perhaps I'll stay alive, but my place is not here! I need to reach Bedzin – no matter what, or get back to Warsaw, to friends.

Poszka and the inspector come to write the protocol. Once again: What is my name, where do I live and so on. In the section ”Juda” Poszka initially writes “No”, but he decides to ask” “You're not Jewish?” I answer him confidently: No!

They ask me why I tried to cross the border, and I make up a story on family matters. I ask Poszka permission to go out. He agrees, escorts me at a distance, his gun loaded. I begin to run.

“Halt, halt!” (Stand, stand!”), but I continue running. A shot is heard and a whistling sound passes by my ear, a small flame sparks and the smell of smoke rises from my punctured neck. My heart doesn't quiver and I continue to run, however my pursuers catch up with me.

– “What made you run?”

– “What's difficult to understand? – I replied – everyone wants to try his luck”.

– “I'll now indicate in the protocol that you tried escaping and you will receive two years”

– “One is mine! I am not afraid. It is better to die than to live here”.

I had remorse in my heart for Poszka who had missed the target…

A car came and we get in. Hot. I tremble from cold, hungry and weary. I have a strong urge to sleep forever. We arrive at a former village schoolhouse that was now a prison. Poszka puts me into a cold solitary cell. The cold penetrates my bones. With the scraping of the key in the lock a cover descends over my face. I look here and there. I have no way of escaping. The events of previous days, the wandering journey over the last two days, an entire day without food – all these brought me to a state of exhaustion. What would be my fate? I am incarcerated and I can't do anything either for my life or for the memory of the dead. How will my friends receive the news of my disappearance?

The first night passed sleeplessly. The next day Poszka came to take me away from there. I shake myself from the restless night and, once again, I put on the “mask”. I was taken to the customs office. Once again the interrogation and the questioning begins: Why did you cross the border? I tell them different stories about the death of my mother, about debt I owed to relatives in Bedzin and so on. I signed the protocol and wait till my matters are dealt with.


[Page 372]


Poszka intentionally leads me along roads that are difficult to walking on. I have no strength to leap and bound over the trenches. However, I don't reveal my weakness. I was taken into the Gendarmia and Poszka immediately declares, that I have already eaten. After he leaves, the cook asks me if this is true, and I tell her, that I haven't had a bite of food for thirty hours straight. She serves me bread and coffee. Later the Gendarmes arrive and take me back to the prison, that I had been locked in during the night.

The following day they lead us, the inmates, to Lublinacz. Here we wait in a small cell till we are called to the courtroom. The walls of the cell are covered with various writings: “I am going to die, aged 20. The Germans are executing me. They will receive the revenge of G-d!' and so on. All the people sitting in the cell left a few words as a memento and signed their names. I even left the words: “On the 23rd February, 1943, I was captured on the Polish border during a smuggling operation – Genovefa Pavlovaska from Warsaw. A day will come and the torturers will pay for our suffering.”

Clarification of our affairs is a pure formality. The judge wears civilian clothes. The court secretary is also the translator. A young German man appears – the prosecutor – adjusts his tie, puts his hand behind it and eloquently accuses us according to a Polish law of illegal border crossing and so on. In around an hour the sentence is over. They explain to me that I have been sentenced to three months in prison and a fine of 100 gold coins, which is exchanged for ten days in prison.

The courtroom doors open wide before me. The female guard, Kowalik, receives me, a typical Volksdeutsch female from the district of Silesia.

– “Do you smoke?” – she asks on seeing my cigarette case.

– “I finished smoking all the cigarettes. I know that in prison it is forbidden to smoke”.

– “It's good thing that you know this. Remember this well: If you hide anything from me you will get it in the face!” – and with a wave of her arm she displayed how she'd carry it out. Afterwards came a string of vulgar jokes that don't bear repeating.

The inmate, Chachaiova, a very attractive woman with an aristocratic appearance, is a “supervisor”. In a swift movement she hides the money I gave her. The female guard doesn't see anything, but the woman's heart weakens from fear. In the shower room I hand her a cigarette. She described where she had hidden the money and testified that I had been lucky that time, since the guard usually severely beats the inmates. The supervisor promises to place me in the sewing room that is under her supervision.

She has been here 10 months: a German by birth, who had received Polish citizenship when she had married her husband, an officer in the Polish army, who had died two years earlier. She refused to be registered as a “Volksdeutsch“ and serve the Gestapo, and for that she had been sentenced to imprisonment.

After showering we were given an “elegant” prison uniform and placed in a large cell, in which there were 60 women working. All eyes look up from the table used for plucking feathers and inspect the new visitors. They know everything already, that I am from Warsaw, and I had come to see this “wonder”…








[Page 372]

Bedzin in the annals of the Holocaust

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld


In volume V of “Divrei Yamei Am-Olam” [“Chronicles of the Eternal People”] by Szymon Dubnow and published by “Dvir”, Tel Aviv 5715 [1954-55], “Yediot Achronot” [“Latest News”] edition, at the end of the book there is a historic review written by S. L. Kirszenbaum called “Divrei Yamei Am Yisrael beshnot 1936-1951” [“Chronicles of the People of Israel in the years 1936-1951”].

Bedzin is mentioned a few times in this article and we hereby present some sections from it.

In the second chapter headed “1939-1943” it is written ”The report by Emanuel Ringelbaum, sent on the 1st of March, 1944 (a week before he was murdered by the Nazis) to the YIVO in the USA, there is a full description of the life in the ghettoes in Poland. The motto of an activist member in the ghetto was – “To live in honor and die in honor”. The poet Yitzhak Katzenelson sang about the ghetto. Baruch Gaptak, the commander of the Jewish fighters in the city of Bedzin and many others sang their ghetto songs with all their hearts…”

And more: “Amongst the fighters who fell in the battle was the commander Mordechai Anielewicz (he spent time in our city – the editor). The Warsaw Ghetto Revolt was greatly reported amongst the few who remained in the ghettoes of Poland. Report of the revolt reached Bedzin, Bialystok, Vilna and other places, and it inspired a new spirit amongst the people. In each of these ghettoes organized Jewish fighting units were created, however, the units weren't able to actively fight in all places. The “Jewish councils”, who believed, that they could ensure their lives by loyalty to the administration, opposed them and the organization did not have sufficient and suitable weapons. The activities in Krakow and Bedzin failed and their members arrested, however these failures do no belittle the importance of the ghetto revolts, since these uprisings returned the honor to all those, who were led silently to the extermination furnaces…”


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »



This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Bedzin, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Lance Ackerfeld and Osnat Ramaty

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 20 Jan 2007 by OR