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{450}

Dates to Remember

By Chaim Weisz

Translated by Dr. Heather Valencia

Donated by Anthony J. Stern and Elaine Goldman

8 November 1939: Germans march into Sochaczew

12 November 1939: The Germans seized a few hundred Jews in the streets and chased them to the Bzura River to mend the bridge there. While they were working they were beaten, and forced into the river where they had to remain for several minutes. Two Jews drowned on that day: Sheynwald and Chazan.

1 November 1940: The Ghetto was set up in Sochaczew on the following streets: Staszica, Reimant and Ond. The ghetto had no openings.

4 November 1940: Because not all the Jews were able to settle in the few little streets, 5,000 Jews remained homeless. The District Council, however, did not allow the Jews to wander around in the town and evacuated them to Zyradow. A Judenrat was created. Itche Gelbstein became President. The first job of the Judenrat was a terrible one: they made up a list of six thousand poor Jews and ordered that all those who wished to receive their required papers were to line up on the Rynek and take with them packs of up to twenty kilos.

The Judenrat sent out its police, who mercilessly dragged the Jews from their houses into the streets. The local Ukrainians received the Jews who were driven out, wickedly beating women and children and seizing from them all the belongings they had taken with them. When all five thousand were gathered on the Rynek they were loaded onto farmer carts and taken away to Zyradow. They were there for two weeks altogether and after that they were driven out of there and forced to go on foot to Warsaw, to the ghetto.

15 November 1940: The Judenrat gave out an order that all Jews regardless of age had to assemble that day on the Rynek. That morning there was a commotion in the ghetto: Ukrainians broke into the ghetto and, yelling wildly, they ran into people's houses robbing and murdering anyone who fell into their hands. Some Jews died that day.

When all the Jews of Sochaczew were assembled on the Rynek, Gestapo officers arrived, took over the Jews and forced them into the town baths, There they seized their remaining possessions, and chased them half-naked to the Warsaw Ghetto. Sochaczew was "Judenrein" (free of Jews in Nazi terminology).

Caption under photo:Some of the remaining tombstones in the Sochaczew cemetery


{452}

Expiring from Hunger and Cold

By A. Sochaczewer

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Jewish Sochaczew was wiped off the face of the globe.

On the eve of the outbreak of the war between Germany and Poland in 1939, I was mobilized into the Polish army. I was badly wounded on the front and remained in the hospital for a long time. This is the reason that I did leave with my brother Shlomo to Russia. I was released from the hospital one month later, in December 1939, and remained in my brother's residence in Warsaw. Here, I wish to write about the life and death of the natives of Sochaczew, with whom I was connected and together with whom I lived until my brother Immanuel's brother-in-law who lived together with my brother in Czestochowa took me out of Warsaw to join him.

My departure from the Warsaw Ghetto took place on September 15, 1942. Until then I lived with the Sochaczewers, of whom I believe that nobody other than myself survived, and is able to write about their life in the Warsaw Ghetto until their deaths. The main thing was regarding the poor of the Sochaczewers. It is about them that I intend to write the greatest part of what I recall. The first of them in Zeinwil Wyszogrodski (nickname was Zeinwil Chlaiak). His wife Freda, from the Gothelf family – Wolf Tregier's [1] daughter – died of hunger on Neia Dzika 20 along with her two children. In the same house, in the same timeframe, a few weeks later, the wife of Zlotnik the Shamash of the Sochaczew Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) died. A bit later, Gedalia the Melamed (children's teacher) died in the same courtyard where a few hundred families of the Sochaczew poor lived. Somewhat later, Aryeh Leib Brojtman's wife (Yankel Gunner's daughter) died, and a few days later her stepmother Miriam Jablonska died. At the same time, Rachel Gothelf, Gedalia the Melamed's wife, died. Later, after my departure for Czestochowa, Aryeh Leib and his three children were removed from the Warsaw Ghetto and murdered in the village of Szwierczek, near Sochaczew. They are buried in the farmer Wagner's field.

Shimon Krakow's daughter and Leizer Grynberg's daughter were together with me in the camp in Czestochowa, until I was deported to Auschwitz. They survived. I met Moshe Yidel Gingold's son in Auschwitz. He was in the same block as I was. He was together with me until the march to Tyrol. He must have survived. I met Chaskel Holcman, Chaim Hirsch Holcman's son, in Dachau shortly before the liberation. He was liberated together with me and survived.

Regarding my martyrology and the suffering that I went through, I am not able to write about in any circumstance. Others are already familiar with everything, with all of the suffering that people went through. The main reason for my writing is to recall the people who were poor before the war, who knew nobody, and who perished from hunger and cold.

A few words regarding Chaskel Nasielski (Yaakov David Wasser-Tregier's [2] son). He was murdered and buried along with his son in Blonie, near the highway that goes into the Sereker Court. This took place in May 1942. The farmers can show exactly where he lies buried with his son, because the Germans captured him when he was working with the farmers as a shoemaker.

Most of the poor people were murdered before they were deported. The rest were deported, already with the first “aktions”…


{454}

The Daughters of Yechiel and Lea Szmulewicz
Tortured by the Germans in France in the year 1942

{Photo top: Beila Szmulewicz; Lower right: Rachel Szmulewicz; Lower left: Chaya Szmulewicz.}


{455}

On the Aryan Side

By Roza (Wajnberg) Goldsztejn

Translated by Jerrold Landau

We returned to Sochaczew, after the capture of Warsaw by the Nazis. However, when I came through the door, I encountered a bitter disappointment: my calling card on the door was replaced with the calling card of the Polish merchant Przedpelski. His house had burnt down, and he took over our house. With a bitter feeling, I returned to the street where my family was waiting for me. (My husband and his brother were on their way to Warsaw a day earlier, and were captured by the Germans.) We set out for our second house on Parne Street, which had been partially destroyed. There the three of us, my uncle, my sister-in-law Bluma, and I, faced a bitter disappointment for the second time: This house as well had been taken over by a Christian who threw us off the steps. We decided to go to Mlodzieszyn with the thought that if that house were also to be destroyed, we would perhaps find a place with a farmer acquaintance. However, fortunately, this house remained in its entirety, and we settled there.

My husband and brother returned a few days later, beaten and robbed. We began to settle down. Here in Mlodzieszyn we had a field with some potatoes, and we received a permit from the military to dig it up. All of a sudden, many Volksdeutchen appeared with red ribbons on their sleeves, heavily armed, and began to persecute the Jews. We saved ourselves by hiding with a farmer acquaintance in a second village.

A few weeks later it became known that a border was created between the village and our town of Sochaczew, in accordance with decisions that were made by the German Third Reich. In order to avoid being cut off from the city, we decided to return to Sochaczew at night. However my parents did not want to go back, because they had their property there, so we returned to the town without our parents. Along the way, we were stopped by the Germans, but after searching us and not recognizing that we were Jews, they let us continue on, and we arrived in the town. Not having anywhere to go, we remained in the market. However we shortly found a dwelling, because many people had fled.

The Judenrat was created a few days later. The cruel decrees and persecutions increased day by day. At the end of 1940 we found out that Jasinski was murdered in some camp. Still later, they murdered Szmelc and Marienfeld. They we were ordered to wear white armbands, and life became increasingly difficult with each passing day. Suddenly, an order came from the Judenrat that a few hundred people must be presented for a deportation, but nobody wanted to present themselves for slaughter. People fled and paid large sums of money to have themselves struck off the list. Obviously, the first victims were the poor, who were not able to pay money to buy themselves off. Some were deported to Wiskitki, and some to Zyrardow. At the same time we realized that ghettos were being created in the cities, and we expected that we would find ourselves in a ghetto.

A ghetto was created in our town in January 1941, in the filthiest quarter of the town, and it was liquidated approximately three weeks later. All of the Jews were expelled to the Warsaw Ghetto. One day earlier, prior to the liquidation of the ghetto, our mother visited us briefly to bid us farewell. She already knew about the liquidation of the ghetto.

The Helpless Victims are Driven with Blows

The town was in a great panic. The Nazis had already driven the helpless victims with terrible blows towards the trucks, which stood ready to consume the people. My husband came in from the street and told us what was happening. He said that we must leave the house very quickly, for perhaps we can succeed in placing the child on the truck without beatings [3]. My mother grabbed the child from the cradle, wrapped him up in a kerchief and ran to the trucks. The trucks were parked in the market that bordered on the Aryan side, so it was necessary to take a leap in order to find oneself on the other side. Not knowing how we did it, my mother, my child, and I were on the other side in one instant. As quick as lightning, we ripped of the white armbands so that nobody would recognize us. Since we had an Aryan appearance, we did not draw the attention of the Christians. We immediately hired a horse cab, went to the train station, and set out for Warsaw. We went to the ghetto once we arrived in Warsaw in peace. The next day, my husband arrived in the Warsaw Ghetto with the rest of the family. A few days later the rest of the Jews of Sochaczew came to the ghetto. They told of the scenes of atrocities that took place in the town during the liquidation, and that our best friend Menashe Knott was murdered.

Seeing the Ghetto Burning from a Small Window

A “blockade” was set up in the Warsaw Ghetto in the autumn of 1942. They prodded all of the people to one place and conducted a “sorting”: all of the workers who had work permits were left in the Ghetto, and all of those remaining were taken for deportation. To my luck, my husband received a work permit from an acquaintance. My father and my brother did not have such a paper, but they succeeded in intermingling with the workers and were sent to a workshop. I, along with my mother and my child, succeeded in hiding in the attic of the shop. We remained there for six days and barely succeeded in surviving.

At the same time, thousands of people were dragged from their hiding places and sent to their deaths. My husband bribed a S.S. man with a large sum of money, and he thereby took us out from the attic and took us into his house. It was quiet for three months after the aktion.

Another aktion came in January 1943. We hid for three days in an underground bunker. After the aktion, approximately 30,000 Jews remained in the ghetto. Having the deep conviction that a certain death awaits everyone (the Nazis “assured” everyone that all of those who remained who were workers would remain alive); we began to seek refuge on the Aryan side. We searched for contacts with Polish acquaintances. My husband sent my mother (thanks to her Aryan appearance) to a Polish acquaintance on the Aryan side with a large sum of money, in order to obtain a hiding place for us. The Pole agreed, and rented with that money a four room dwelling on Szliska Street number 50, where we would obtain a bunker. First, the Pole helped to bring over the last bit of belongings that we still possessed. Later, my mother and child were brought by the Pole through a tunnel on Moranowska Street to the dwelling. The remaining family and I were brought out of the Ghetto along with the “Einsatz Gruppen” (Worker-Groups) [4] and arrived at the dwelling where my mother and child were located. There, we were in the last room, and saw the fire of the burning ghetto through a small window.

Informers Chase Us

We did not go out at all into the light of day for several months, with the exception of my mother (due to her Aryan appearance) who would go for a walk on occasion with my child. Once, when my mother was outside alone on the street, she was recognized by a shiksa [5] from our village. However, mother did not notice the shiksa. She came home and did not tell anything. A few days later, while we were eating our evening bread, suddenly some policemen with agents came to us and wanted to take us away. We were able to bribe them with a large sum of money. We realized that the shiksa trailed mother and informed the police, who came to take only mother, but found us all. After that “visit” we decided to leave the dwelling out of fear, since tomorrow others could come, and we had no more money for bribery. That same night, we went over to a second Polish acquaintance on Moranowska Street. In the court there were garages with horses and stables, and the Christian hid us in an attic over a horse stable. My mother succeeded in changing her document to an “Aryan”. She rented a room in a cellar on Twarda number 25 and took my child with her. There, in the attic, the four of us remained: my husband my father, my brother, and I.

Later in the evening, we would go out from the attic into the home of the Christian to eat something, and then we would go immediately back to the attic. Every few days, mother would pass by our home with my child, so that I could at least see the child through a crack in the attic. After some time, father caught a cold, and was not able to remain in the attic any more. He went out to our countryside, and hid with a farmer acquaintance.

Summer arrived, and it was terribly hot in the attic. It was literally stifling, however we had no other option and had to remain there. Around the same time the Christian told us that the Germans were suffering massive defeats on the front. This gave us this gave us the endurance to endure our pain. Later, severe air raids began to take place over Warsaw, and our hope to remain alive strengthened.

One day, after an air raid, my mother came to us in the attic due to her great longing. The child was already three years old, and we were afraid to let the child know about his parents. The child would play with Christian children, and we were afraid lest he say something to them. The same day, after mother left our hiding place with my child, the Polish uprising in Warsaw broke out, which lasted four weeks.

{Photo page 459: The daughter of Daniel Moszenberg, Roza.}


{463}

From Aryan Documents

by Leib Lurie

Translated by Jerrold Landau

On the third day after the outbreak of the war, German bomber airplanes attacked Sochaczew and destroyed several houses in the Jewish area. During the bombardment, which lasted several days, Jews of Sochaczew fled to Warsaw and nearby towns and villages. My family and I fled to the village of Oryszew Gora[6]. In the meantime, Sochaczew was bombarded once again, The Jewish houses on Warszawer Street and the Market were destroyed. German military units appeared in the city on September 15. A stubborn battle began. The city passed from hand to hand several times. The bridge over the Bzura River was destroyed. The cannon shots destroyed houses as well as the Beis Midrash.

I came to the town a week later. Many refugees from Lowicz and Lodz arrived and told of the victories of the Germans and their approach to our region. We left for Ilow. Shortly thereafter, a bombardment began there as well. We set out once again on the route to Gabin. Along the way, we saw processions of police and Polish soldiers. The bombardment did not cease. We hid under a small bridge. The battle approached us. We saw the movement of German soldiers. We waited for the passage of the situation in terror and despair.

Suddenly, we noticed Germans with pointed guns who were shouting: “Hands up, come out”. The approached us. We came out. Seven German surrounded us and asked if there were any soldiers under the bridge. My father answered that there were not. They ordered us to go to the other side. We were certain that they were going to shoot us. To our joy and surprise, they led us to an officer who did not ask us about our nationality. We were only brought into a house and told to wait. There were many people in the house, Jews and Poles. At about 6.00 p.m., the officer came in once again, and ordered that those present should go home and the refugees should go to Gabin. We set out for Gabin. We arrived in the city in the evening.

There was massive destruction in Gabin. Dead people, horses and cows lay in the alleys of the suburbs. Here and there, Germans stood at the watch posts. We went through the side streets and arrived at the house of an aunt.

The next morning, the Germans began to capture Jews for work – cleaning the city and clearing away the dead, among whom there were many Jews. On the third day after capturing the city, the Germans set the synagogue on fire. It burned down completely. A few Jewish houses were also destroyed with the fire.

Later, when the battle in Poland died down, we returned to Sochaczew. Jews of Sochaczew returned from Warsaw and other cities. A few set out toward the Soviet Union. My father went away to the U.S.S.R., with the intention that if things were good there, he would return to bring us there. It worked out otherwise: Father traveled to Bialystok, and from there, further on. There was no possibility of returning. My mother, sister and I remained in Sochaczew. We had no news of Father for a long time. Later, when a trade agreement was established between the Soviet Union and Germany, we received a letter and a package. Father was doing very well there, and he intended to bring us over in a legal manner.

Here, our situation under the Germans became significantly worse. The Germans conscripted the Jews to forced labor. We had to wear a special band on our sleeves. Jewish homes were torn down. An ordinance was issued on January 28, 1940 that the Jews of Sochaczew must leave the city and go to Zyrardow. The vast majority left, but approximately ten wealthy families remained, and a ghetto was created.

{Photo page 465: Shimshon (Szamek) Szlosberg, son of Yaakov and Bina. From M³odzieszyn, Sochaczew region.
Killed during a blockade in Warsaw, September 1942.}

My family and I set out with the others to Zyrardow. We arrived in the city in the evening. The Zyrardow Jewish Committee was waiting for us. They treated us very well. We were billeted in the synagogue due to the crowded living situation. We received support from the Jewish committee throughout the entire time. A few days later, the vast majority were set up in private homes. However, we did not remain in the homes for long.

On February 10, 1940, the German authorities drove out all of the Jews who were found in Zyrardow. A great tumult broke out in the city. Jews sold everything quickly. The next day, everyone had to be at the train station. Uniformed Germans enumerated us at the station. We could take with us as much baggage as could be carried on our shoulders. Between the station and the wagons we had to undergo a “brand”. Germans with rifles and automatic guns stood there, delivering death blows to everyone and prodding them onto the wagons. During the great tumult, the Jews left behind half their baggage that they had brought with them. The action ended after a few hours. The wagons were loaded. The wagons were so crowded that one could not move a foot. The train traveled under heavy guard. We arrived in Warsaw at night. At the station, the Germans once again prodded us by shouting, “Laus, schnell”. Women and old men who were not able to hurry in such a way with baggage left their belongings along the way. We were taken to Jewish living spaces, and given over to the Jewish Judenrat.

We were billeted in former schools[7]. The cramping and crowding was exceedingly great. A few weeks later we found out that the Sochaczew Ghetto had been liquidated in a murderous way. Some Jews were shot, and the rest were transported to Warsaw.

In the Warsaw Ghetto, hundreds of people died each day from hunger and cold. Typhus and other illnesses spread. My brother and I registered for a work camp in order to get out of the ghetto. It was located near Wiskitki. There were many Sochaczew Jews in that camp. The work was very hard. We dug a river. The guards were civilian Ukrainians, who prodded us strongly. After a few days in the camp, we decided to flee to a village in the region of Sochaczew.

It was Sunday. I do not recall the date. We did not go out to work. It was raining all day. It was already dark before night fell. The Ukrainian guards were sitting in their booths. I was the first one to break through the barbed wire. I broke through and began to run. Thus did I run for about half an hour. Thoroughly soaked, I arrived at a village. I knocked on the door of the first house, and an elderly man opened the door. I told him the truth as it was. He invited me to the table and gave me kluskes[8] and milk. At that moment I felt fortunate – my dream of the last few weeks had been realized. I thanked him and set out again. I spent the night in the barn of a poor peasant in that same village.

I set out again in the morning and stopped at a farmer I knew behind Sochaczew. A few days later, my mother, brother and sister found me. I remained with the farmer, and tended to his cow. My mother, brother and sister went around to the villages seeking bread. A few other Jewish families were in that village, including Hollander and his family, and others whose names I do not recall.

After staying a few weeks with the farmer, he told me one day that I must leave his house, for a decree had been issued threatening the death penalty to those who hide Jews. I had to leave that village.

I knew that there was a ghetto with Jews in Gabin. The city belonged to the Third Reich. I tried to cross the border. The Germans captured me, and found nothing suspicious on me. They apparently did not realize that I was a Jew. I only received 25 lashes with a rubber stick, and they sent me back.

I tried to figure out a way to enter the Soviet Union. Hungry, tattered, and not knowing anything about the whereabouts of my family, I wandered on foot around the villages. From time to time I would beg the farmers for a bit of food. I met other homeless, hungry Jews along the way. I spent the night at the Jewish committee in Miñsk Mazowiecki. There was still a large number of Jews in that city. I set out on my way once again in the morning. I did not know how to enter the Soviet Union. One could not get through. I stayed with a farmer near Luckow, with whom I worked for a few months. Finally when he found out that I was a Jew, I had to move on. Thus did I wander on, with one shirt, torn clothes and boots, without a penny in my pocket. I set out again for Sochaczew. The journey took a few days. I passed through difficult times about which I don't have the energy to write.

I arrived in my native city, however I could not remain there. My acquaintances were afraid to let me into their houses. They told me that a pair of Sochaczew Jews who were wandering around the villages were shot, and the Poles who let them into their houses were sent to Auschwitz. I received a student identification card with the name of Tadeusz Matoszak from a Polish acquaintance. I obtained some trade tools and left Sochaczew. I knew nothing about the whereabouts of my family. I was told that my mother and sister returned to the ghetto, and that my brother was murdered in a nearby village.

I set out in the direction of Lowicz. There, I worked for several householders of the village. I manufactured household implements, including an apparatus for making liquor. I also worked at other household jobs. Thus did I live in filth, under terrible conditions, and with the constant fear of death. I hoped that the war would finally end.

Things again worsened. Several Jews were shot in the region of Lowicz. I spent the entire winter in the city. In April 1942, I set out for a neighboring city. With the recommendation of a farmer, I went to work for an elderly agriculturist who took me for a Pole. I worked for him until December 1942. Nobody knew that I was a Jew. The work was very hard, and the food was meager. I was happy, however, that nobody persecuted me.

On November 28, 1942, the German authorities in that area started sending Poles to work in Germany. One day, a neighboring farmer came to me and told me that he had received two notices for his son and daughter to immediately come to be sent to Germany. He suggested that I go instead of his daughter. I agreed to the proposal. I saw in this a means to save my life by obtaining Aryan papers in Germany. I made an agreement with the farmer for 2,000 zloty. I took the notice of his daughter, and that same day set out for Lowicz. I purchased a pair of boots and some clothes, and was left with 1,500 zloty.

The next day I went with another farmer's son to the work office in Lowicz. I was overtaken by fear when I saw the Germans there. I took hold of myself, and bravely entered the office. The officer treated me very nicely. I gave him the work notice and my student papers. He did not ask for any other documents. He registered the personal data, wrote me a card with “my name” Tadeusz Matoszak, and issued an order that the enlisted person should be taken to the camp. They took us to a work camp where there were smugglers and other criminals. There too, they treated us very well.

On December 7, 1942, when they had collected a transport of 1,000 people, they sent us under guard to Skariszewska Street in Warsaw, where the collection point was. We spent the first night in a cellar. The next morning they sent us back upstairs, where there were about 4,000 people. There were many thieves there, who stole even the hat from the head. We waited for a medical committee. Fear once again overtook me. When 30 of us were put into one bath, I made sure I was the last to get undressed. I waited until it filled with steam. After bathing, I got dressed immediately and went out to the corridor. I thought that I might be able to squeeze my way out of there. The next day, we went to the doctor's committee. There too, they saw 30 people at once. The doctors were mainly German. They examined us very superficially. It went very quickly. I put on such a “performance” that is hard to describe. The doctor thought that I was suffering from scabies, and sent me to the unit for infections diseases. I spent 3 days there. After the quarantine, they sent me again to the general unit, and a day later, I was sent off with a transport of 1,500 people.

We traveled for a full day. At about 7:00 a.m., we arrived in Stargard near Stettin. We were placed in a transit camp where we bathed and got haircuts. Two days later, we were sent to a medical committee to see if we were sick. There, I was afraid once again as I was in Warsaw. However, to my fortune, I came out unscathed. The food in that camp was worse than in Warsaw. For breakfast we received 200 grams of bread. For lunch – kohlrabi soup. For supper – black coffee. The work office then sent me to work on the telephone system. I was in a small camp near the post office. Until the end of 1943, nobody persecuted me. The camp grew. Ukrainians, Czechs, Frenchmen, Italians and Poles arrived. There were approximately 2,000 people there. My neighbor was a Ukrainian who caused trouble for me. I suffered from him for 4 months, and then he disappeared.

Thus did the days pass. New groups came to the camp directly from Poland. They told of the slaughter that had been perpetrated against the Jews.

With the approach of the front in 1945, bombardments began over that region, which often lasted for entire days. At the end, we were in the midst of the air assaults. The post office was taken over by the S.S. men, and we could not leave the camp under any circumstances. The entire city was destroyed. Houses went up in flames, and I had to fix the broken telephone lines.

A tumult broke out of February 15, 1945. The Russians began to attack Stargard. The Germans evacuated and led us to Stettin. We remained there until the Russians arrived. After all the years of tribulations, pain and fear of death, I was finally liberated.

I traveled to my native city of Sochaczew in January 1946. I found nobody from my family there. With deep sorrow in my heart, I left the city for Lodz, where I joined up with a Kibbutz. I left Poland a few weeks later.


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

  1. Tregier is 'porter'. Return
  2. Water carrier. Return
  3. This is a very curious statement, and I am not sure exactly how to interpret. I suspect that the husband gave up, and just hoped to save his infant any suffering, whereas the resourceful grandmother had plans of how to escape. Return
  4. This refers to a group of workers who go out for a specific task. It does not refer to the einsatzgruppen in the Nazi sense of the term (the groups of roving killing bands that rounded up Jews in the Soviet occupied areas and shot them – responsible for a full 25% of the Holocaust deaths). Although the more specific Nazi meaning is certainly derived from the more generic “worker groups”. Return
  5. A derogatory term for a gentile. Return
  6. This village was not able to be identified on modern day maps. Return
  7. Or synagogues. The Yiddish word is identical. Return
  8. Kluskes are square noodles.. Return

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