by Yaacov Szmulewicz
Translated from the Yiddish by his nephew Asher Szmulewicz
From the very first day of the outbreak of the war, Klobuck, located close to the German-Polish border, witnessed and was subjected to German cruelty. On Friday morning, September 1st (1939), the German airplanes brought unexpected death and devastation to our shtetl. The first Jewish victims fell: Gitel Brat, Yossef Meir Langer, Zisser Berkowicz, Yechiel Rosen and other Jewish women, men and children whose names cannot be remembered.
First the German black reign started (their destruction) by torching 200 houses, mostly Jewish ones. The Jewish hope in God was gone with the smoke. The Jewish library was also burned, with (the loss of) almost three thousand books. Immediately thereafter, the well-known systematic German persecution and extermination of the Jews started.
Jews of Klobuck had to wear an armband with a Magen David (Star of David) and were not allowed to be present in various places (or after the curfew). The Polish population was allowed to be out in the streets until 23:00 (11pm); Jews only until 18:00 (6pm).
All of the Jews from the shtetl from age eleven to fifty five had to gather every morning at the market place, and were ordered to perform clean-up work for the Germans. Every day brought new and bitter decrees.
The Jews of Klobuck found themselves oppressed and in a difficult situation. All trade was brought to a halt. Jews did not have the right to travel on trains or to trade (with other towns). The German authority seized Jewish shops and gave them to their trusted people, so called Treuehender.
In this terrible and awful situation the rumor circulated, from and among the beaten Jews, that Merin, the well-known leader of the Sosnowiec Judenrat, was to arrive in the shtetl, escorted with a person named Jasne[i], with instructions from the German authority to organize a Judenrat in Klobuck. Such a Judenrat with Jasne and known elders was established. The former president of the community (kehilah), Baruch Szperling, declined all participation with the Judenrat.
Merin did not occupy himself with the activity of the Klobuck Judenrat, but he alone began to implement the cruel orders of the Germans against the Jews. Suddenly, Merin summoned all the Jews from the shtetl to gather in the courtyard of the mill. All the Jews from the shtetl assembled there and Merin gave them the following speech:
Brother Jews, not one hair from your head, God forbid, will fall. No one will be wischedlet (sent out for extermination), the only condition is that all the men should (must) go to work in Germany. The men will be able to send back (to Klobuck) their wages to their parents, wives and children.The assembled people understood immediately what was intended and started to negotiate with Merin, the well-known elder of the Sosnowiec region, seeking to diminish the number of Jews that had to go to Germany to work. They argued that the decree would ruin the Jewish settlement of Klobuck. The assembled people agreed to deliver only a part of the required contingent. Merin demanded 500 healthy men, that is to say every family head, since Klobuck numbered about 500 families at that time, about 2000 persons.
Two weeks before Sukkoth, 1940, the harassed Jews from the shtetl shivered with anxiety from the news that Merin had arrived in Klobuck, escorted by members of the Gestapo and with a commission of German doctors. The commission was to qualify the free-willing Jews who wanted to work in Germany. Few people turned themselves over to the commission. Among the men taken to work in Germany were blind, lame and sick people.
When the commission finished its work, Merin announced to the Jewish population that if the contingent is not delivered, the entire Jewish population would be expelled from Klobuck and put behind barbed wire.
Eight days after Sukkoth 1940, a group of 65 strong young men, including myself, volunteered to go to work in Germany. We assembled at the Skorupe in the courtyard and immediately we were surrounded by the Gestapo. They took us to the synagogue. Straw had already been put on the floor in anticipation of staying overnight. Although we were under the Gestapo's watch, we were in a good mood. We did not lose our nerve, but our good mood did not last.
At midnight new victims were brought in. The Gestapo searched for Jews and took them out of their beds. In the morning we were brought outside in the courtyard. Gathered in front of the synagogue were the mothers, sisters and wives and close family members of the men who had volunteered, and the men who were dragged from their bed during the night. At the order of the Gestapo commander we lined up in three rows. The wives and the close family members had ten minutes to bring food and clothes to those who were about to be sent away. We marched to the waiting room of the train station. A train was standing ready to take us to an unknown camp.
At the train station, Nowy Herby, we met another transport from Krzepice, (with) Jews piled up in the same train. The contingent had not yet been fulfilled. The SS ordered the Klobuck community (kehilah) representatives to be brought before them: Benzion Swiertchewsky, Israel Lewkowicz, Yechiel Rosenthal and the president, Moshe Weissfelner. In the beginning of November, 1940 we left Klobuck.
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