How the Nazis annihilated a Hassidic Shtetl
by Menashe Unger
Reb Shlomo Schmidt from Frysztak, Western Galicia, recorded in his diary which I have in my possession and described in detail how the defiled Germans bit by bit destroyed the Jewish population of the Shtetl until the judgment day arrived, the 3rd of July, 1942, when the Master Race, may their name be obliterated, finally decided to solve the Jewish Problem as they called it, to kill all the Jews in Frysztak.
The final action by the German murderers was also done with the accuracy for which they are famous for. Every group was ordered to stand separately at the annihilation place, the cattle market. And that is how Reb Shlomo described this black day in his diary.
All night long I could not sleep. I thought about the Judgment day, which was coming upon us. Last night I bathed my children, changed their underwear, trimmed their fingernails, in case they were killed, Heaven forbid, I wanted them to be purified beforehand. Freida Gitel Kuperberg, passed by our house and showed me that she was wearing shrouds. Itzhok and Necha Tepper did the same. Everyone walked with his family. I went to the cattle market accompanied by my eighty-year-old mother, my wife, and children. According to the order of the Gestapo, each group stood separately. Those who worked for the Albert firm separate, the Todt firm separate, the workers in the Judenrat and the Social Self-help workers were also separated. The women and children of husbands who worked for the above firms were also separated. My son Tzvi was with the Judenrat personnel. The policemen checked that no one was missing. The chief of the police, Tepper, came to Samuel Baldinger and told him that Chaim Broner was missing, and gave an order to bring him out, because unless all the Jews were accounted for, all the Jews would be shot. It seems that until the last moments, Reb Shlomo Schmidt and probably all the rest of the people did not believe that this was the end. After five minutes, Itzhok Tepper with Henoch Meisler returned and stated: 'When we came to Chaim Meir's house, he was not there. We went up to the attic and found him sitting and reciting Psalms. His beard and side-locks were still intact. We told him to come with us and he said: I am not going! We told him that if the Germans will find him, he will be shot. He responded: I am not going! It is my wish to be shot while reciting the Psalms. All my life I could not visualize a more beautiful death. Is there a more beautiful death than dying for the sanctification of the Holy Name while reciting Psalms?
Polish policemen surrounded the square. I knew immediately that we were in a bitter situation, that we were not only taken to work, but that our lives will also be taken away.
They arrived at six o'clock in the morning sharp. The District
Commissioner, Dr. Gens, the Gestapo Chief Rachnitz, and the assistant Augustin, with twelve German policemen, equipped with truncheons and guns in their hands.
The Gestapo Chief and the District Commissioner approached the Judenrat and asked Samuel Baldinger and his assistant, Israel Aaron Berglass, if all the Jews are present. The District Commissioner ordered that everyone over sixty should leave the place. My mother also left. I was relieved and thought that they were being released to go home. Suddenly I saw a German policeman grab with his truncheon the neck of Yacov Ressler and drag him on the ground. A second policeman did the same to Reb Bezalel Lev, and so did a third policeman. He dragged the sick son of Feivel Gross. Gitel Gotlieb became paralyzed right there. She was lying on the ground and the policemen stooed there and kept hitting her head until she lost consciousness. Then he took her away, dragging her on the ground with a truncheon. A policeman was standing near Reb David Epstein's mother-in-law, tearing down her headscarf. When the headscarf fell on the ground and she bent down to pick it up, the policeman hit her over her head. She kept putting it on and he kept hitting her until she fainted. The sanctification of the Holy Name by this pious woman brought to mind the story about the Shapiro brothers from Slavuta in Peretz's book, Three Presents.
Reb Shlomo Schmidt continues his story in his diary: Dr. Gens approached the Kehillah leaders, and with his truncheon he grabbed one of them, Mr. Goldfisher, by his neck and dragged him like they drag a dog. He was the cashier in the Judenrat. Dr. Gens ordered Goldfisher's sister with her five children to step out, tore off her wig with his truncheon and sent them to the over sixty group. While the woman with the children passed by the policeman, they were beaten murderously. Wolf Riger's wife and Joseph Sperber's wife with her three children were also beaten savagely.
The Gestapo Chief Rachnitz, took Mr. Brav, Mr Mussler, and Mr. Puderbeitel and put them in a separate group. Then Dr. Gens asked, where is Schmidt with his family?
I pretended that I did not hear him and slowly moved away. In the meantime, I was put among the workers. They added another twenty-five people to our group. They kept taking people off the marketplace. Some people's documents were stamped as workers, and some were sent with the transport. It was eleven o'clock a.m. Trucks began to move in and they were loaded with Jews. The Jewish policemen were throwing children into the trucks like potatoes. They counted how many there were on each truck before leaving, one truck, two, three, four. No crying or screaming was heard. People were stunned. It was as quiet as a cemetery. From time to time a sound was heard of people falling into the trucks, and the sound of beating the people who refused to climb on the trucks. I saw how they threw children on the trucks aiming in such way that they would fall back on the ground. Dead or alive, they were thrown on the truck again.
The District Commissioner appeared on the marketplace. It was already twelve o'clock noon. The heat was intimidating, and we were still standing on the same spot. The four trucks had returned, escorted by a few policemen, and they began loading again. The Commissioner ordered all orphans to step out. The orphans obeyed the order, among them my sister's children, Beila Broner's children. Hersh, Israel, Chana and Sarah. Their father Yacov was standing in our group. Hersh, the thirteen year old, called his father quietly: 'Daddy, I did not pray today. I am also hungry! Daddy, Daddy!' As long as I will live I will keep hearing the lamenting sound in my ears.
Empty tucks returned again. The District Commissioner called out names:
Samuel Baldinger with his wife and chidlren, Yacov Brav, Kalman Wagshal, Wolf Riger, Israel Aaron Berglass.
The District Commissioner asked who is a barber. Feivel Seiden stepped forward. He ordered to cut out a swastika on those heads that had ample and bushy hair. Then he ordered them to hand over silk, rings, knives and pocket mirrors. Everyone put on a pile all the things they owned. Trucks arrived to take us away. We were about one hundred and fifty people. When we arrived in Piskow, the Assistant Chief of the Gestapo, Mateus, said that we arrived too late. We continued to travel. We thought that they were taking us to Warzyce to be shot. We recited the confession and asked forgiveness from each other. However, our trucks returned to Frysztak.
On that day, Friday, July the 3rd, 1942, the German murderers killed three-fourths of the Jewish population in Frysztak.
The Rabbi from Koloszive was killed by the German murderers on the second day of Chol Hamoed Sukkoth, 1942.
Nowhere is it mentioned in what city he was killed and where he was when the Nazis occupied Poland.
However, I have in my possession a manuscript, a rare handwritten diary, written by Reb Shlomo Schmidt from Frysztak, covering the first day of the Nazi occupation until the day when almost all of the Jews of the four hundred families were annihilated by the Germans. Only a few individuals, among them Reb Shlomo Schmidt, his wife and daughter, Chaya Rappaport, miraculously survived.
Reb Shlomo Schmidt was the Mizrachi leader in Frysztak and was a member of the Kehillah committee. (He passed away a few years ago in New York). His daughter, Mrs Rappaport, brought to me this diary which is an important historical document, and there we found the information about the Rabbi from Koloszice, Rabbi Chune Halberstam, who at the beginning of the war escaped to Frysztak where his father and brother served as Rabbis.
Reb Shlomo Schmidt wrote as follows:
September 5, 1940, Rabbi Chune Halberstam, the Rabbi of Koloszice, has arrived from Rzeszow. I went to see him, to hear some news, and to inquire why he came here.
The Rabbi told me that he was forced to leave Rzeszow because he could not stand by and see the afflictions that the Germans kept piling
upon the Jews. They were thrown out of their apartments, their furniture confiscated, and thousands of Jews were dragged to hard labor, hungry, barefoot, and in torn clothes. And not only were they not paid for their labor, they were being tortured and humiliated. 'So I decided that, sine I could not help them why should I stay there? I would rather be in Frysztak, a small town, and I also heard that the situation here was not too bad. Although there is plenty of trouble here too. But you cannot compare this trouble to what the Jews of Rzeszow were going through. Since the days of Awe are approaching and in Rzeszow it would have been impossible to pray with a quorum, at least here I will have a quorum and also be able to use the mikva, and be able to study the Torah....' However, in Frysztak, too, the Germans have began to torment the Jews horribly.
A month later, October the fifth, 1940, Schmidt wrote in his diary, that the Beit Hamidrash and the shul were closed. The Germans had shot many Jews there, so the Jews were afraid to go there to pray. They pray in private houses or in prayer houses tucked away in alleys.
When Yom Kippur Eve had arrived, the Jewish Committee leaders persuaded the Nazi Truppen Fuehrer Hantzeldorf, and the chief of the labor office, Radel, that the Jews would deliver one hundred people instead of fifty so the work could be completed by midday and thus enable the Jews to attend the Kol Nidrei services. However, at ten o'clock, ten more railroad cars arrived loaded with steel bars, and the Germans did not allow the Jews to leave until the cars were unloaded. Then Reb Shlomo Schmidt went to the Rabbi of Koloszice to look for Jews to help in unloading the train, and, Reb Shlomo Schmidt wrote: I came to the Rabbi and saw him sitting at the table surrounded by people, eating the final meal before the Yom Kippur fast. I began to complain and said to him: Is this fair? Jews might be forced to desecrate Yom Kippur, Heaven forbid, and you are entertaining people here? Send everyone immediately to help the others unload the steel from the train. Then the Rabbi said: 'He is right,' and ordered his children to go to work. And when the Hassidim saw the Rabbi's children went to work, everyone went.
But the Germans did not free the Jews, Schmidt wrote in his diary.
And, if the jews would have left, the Germans in charge had orders to shoot and kill anyone who dared to try to leave.
The Jews were forced to work all day Yom Kippur. And when Mr. Schmidt came to the prayers, they were praying Mussaf. Reb Shlomo continues his diary, When the Rabbi asked us what was happening, we told him about the dangerous situation in which we had found ourselves. He commented: You can be assured that by not being able to pray, you achieved more than those who prayed all day!
On March the fourth, Mr. Schmidt wrote in his diary: The Sturmführer Erwin Klassen came to him and asked him how much a Torah scroll did cost before the war. I told him five hundred zlotys. Then the Sturm Fuehrer said, that if I will give him five thousand zlotys, he will return the two Torah scrolls, which he had taken away from Joseph Engelhard. I told the German: The community is poor. Nobody has that kind of money. I went to the Rabbi from Koloszice and told him the story that the Sturmführer
demanded five thousand zlotys for the return of two Torah scrolls. The Rabbi said: 'According to the rule, we ought to redeem the holy scrolls. But, in this case, we should not do it because the German would continue to extort money from Jews. It is better not to give in.
In the same diary, the suffering that the Rabbi went through, how he lived in hiding, and also how his son perished, are described.
by Chaim Lieberman
In the chronicle about Jewish martyrdom, there is a story about a yarmulke over which a Jew died for the sanctification of the Holy Name.
Our great poet and writer, L. Peretz, wove the story about the yarmulke into a beautiful poem and, through this poem, did this exhilarating story penetrate and remain with love in many Jewish hearts.
Many Jewish women quietly in their hearts envied the men and their destiny to have been blessed with such a story about martyrdom over a yarmulke because, after all, a yarmulke is an exclusive male affair.
However, now women can be consoled that they have become equal with the men. What happened with a man and his yarmulke, has now in the present Holocaust, happened with a woman and headscarf.
The story with the yarmulke was as follows. In Slavuta, Czarist Russia, there were two brothers. The Shapiro brothers were printers of holy books. They also printed the famous Slavuta Talmud edition among other books. There used to be certain quotations in the Talmud, which were disliked by the Christians. They claimed that there are insulting references to Christ, which showed disrespect for their god. Christian rulers forced the Jews to delete these quotations from the Talmud. These deletions were marked in the Talmud with the word deleted. It so happened that the Czarist authorities accused the Shapiro brothers of inserting the previous deletions in some editions of the Talmud. Therefore, they were punished with a horrible punishment. To march between two rows of soldiers. The punishment was implemented in the following manner: Two long rows of soldiers lined up facing each other, and each soldier held twigs freshly soaked in water. The Jews had to march half naked between the soldiers while the soldiers whipped them with the twigs. One brother marched through and came out with bleeding wounds. Then the other brother began marching and, when he was almost through and only a few steps remained to the end of the agony, he discovered that the yarmulke was missing from his head. Of course, a pious Jew would not walk bareheaded. He returned more than half way to retrieve his yarmulke to cover his head. Meanwhile the soldiers kept whipping his naked body while he marched back and forth in the same track. However, this time the Jew did not make it to the end of the line. He fell dead.
J. L. Peretz tells in his poem, Three Gifts of how a sinner was sent down from heaven to be a wanderer in order to atone for his sins. He found the above-mentioned yarmulke and carried it with him to heaven. And for that he merited being let into paradise.
Times have changed but Jewish suffering does not change. A similar story happened in our days. However, this time the martyr was a woman not man. It happened not with a yarmulke, but with a headscarf.
It happened in Frysztak, in a small, pious shtetl, located between Sandz and Krakow. This town consisted of many Hassidim and scholars.
When the bloody Nazi wave had spread all over Poland, it also flooded this kosher little shtetl, Frysztak, of approximately two thousand souls. The gruesome Nazis inflicted horrible vengeance everywhere, but in every place in a different manner, according to the individual fantasy of the murderers. In Frysztak, the judgment day was on July the 3rd, 1942. An order was issued by the Gestapo that all Jews with their families must appear on that morning, at six o'clock sharp in the cattle market, and whoever did not appear, would be shot.
And the selection began. It was a selection of who should live and who should die. The ones who were selected to live should work and die later.
The ones who were selected to die were ordered off the place. They were dragged by their necks with hooked canes. Before that no one was allowed to move. For every turn or move they were murderously beaten. This scene was described in detail by an eyewitness, Reb Shlomo Schmidt, in a previous chapter. Reb Shlomo Schmidt, a community leader survived the Holocaust and told this story in a letter to his landsman in New York, Mr. Samuel Mussler from Strzyzow.
Among the victims, there was an eighty-year-old woman whom the Germans had beaten murderously until she lost her consciousness, while she was trying to put her headscarf back on her head. The Germans dragged her away from the marketplace, threw her body on a truck, and she was taken to the woods with others to be killed. The headscarf remained on the ground. The Germans have won.
And, if such a Jewish soul was hovering at that time over the marketplace like in the story of J. L. Peretz, he would probably have picked up the holy headscarf and delivered it to Heaven, and would have earned entrance to paradise.
However, this old woman was not the only saintly woman on that day in Frysztak. The whole community was holy. As much as each German was brutal and defiled in his own way, so were the Jews of Frysztak holy, each in his own way.
There was a Reb Chaim Broner who insisted on dying while reciting Psalms in the attic. His last words were: In all my life I could not have imagined to die a more beautiful death. That is exactly what happened. The police came and found Reb Chaim Meir reciting Psalms. They cut his beard and sidelocks, dragged him out to the marketplace and, like Rabbi Akiba was killed by the Romans, so was he killed by the Germans. They killed him and his five sons.
The martyrs, Samuel Last, his wife, Chava Leah, with their six children. Chava Leah came to the marketplace and said: During the night I bathed all the children, trimmed their fingernails, gave them clean underwear to wear, in case, Heaven forbid, they were killed, they will be
purified beforehand. Chava Leah gave her six children, like Chana gave her seven sons two thousand years ago for the sanctification of his Holy Name. She had no more to give. And another woman who overheard Hava Leah's statement, said: Me too. I also purified myself and put on shrouds. In case they will kill us, let us die in shrouds. The German District Commissioner noticed that Mendel Schmidt was talking with Reb Fishel Beigayer. He called over a Gestapo man and ordered him to give each of them twenty-five lashes on their naked body. They were whipped until they were bleeding but not a groan came out of them.
This story and thousands of other details, to the shame of the Germans and dignity of the Jews, was told in that long letter which was sent by the surviving community leader, Mr. Schmidt, from Frysztak.
That is how this pious, righteous shtetl, Frysztak, perished for the sanctification of the Holy Name.
Some day when a Jewish writer will write about the martyrdom of the shtetl Frysztak, like Peretz wrote about the Slavuta brothers, he should write that righteous souls from heaven came hovering over the marketplace in Frysztak on that day and picked up not only the headscarf and the hair of Reb Chaim Meir's beard, but also the souls of the entire shtetl, and flew with them to heaven, and put them before the chair of the Almighty.
|BRONER||Yacov||& Beile and children Hersh, Israel, Chana and Sarah|
|HALBERSTAM||Rabbi Chune||(Rabbi from Koloszice)|
|LAST||Samuel||& Chava Leah, and 6 children|
|RAPPAPORT||Chaya||daughter of Reb Schmidt|
|TEPPER||The chief of the police|
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