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[Page 117]

Chapter IV

„Ojsrotung” – Holocaust

The German euphemism “Endlösung” – “the final solution” doesn't fully render the tragedy that took place in August 1942 in the Radom district, including Kielce. More appropriate would be the term “Ojsrotung”, which in Yiddish means “extermination” or the German word “Ausrottung”. Out of 27000 people in the Kielce ghetto only about 500 survived the war, including 200 natives of Kielce.

In December 1941 the Head Security Office of the Reich prepared a conference on the future of the Jews in Europe but because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor it was postponed to January of the next year. On January 20, 1942 a conference took place on the outskirts of Berlin, in Wannsee, during which the range of the extermination of Jews and the coordination of necessary steps were finally determined. It was decided that to Treblinka would be directed the Jews from the Warsaw and Radom District and the district of Białystok. The camp in Treblinka was the fourth extermination camp after Chełm, Bełżec and Sobibór. Treblinka was the biggest camp; its crew consisted of SS-men and Ukrainian supporting formations. The Jews that were transported there had to get an impression that it was only a transit station. Therefore ticket-offices were built, a clock and a timetable installed. In order to cover up the murders the camp was divided into several isolated parts: “Only after depositing the documents, money and valuables, undressing, shaving the heads and going to a building with a sign “Bath” did the people realize that they were locked in a gas chamber. After 20-30 minutes nobody was alive.”[1] 10000-12000 people were killed daily. Depending on the size of the liquidated ghetto the trains bringing the Jews had from 40 to 80 cars and in each car there were from 80 to 120 people. According to the report of Dawid Nowakowski, who got to Treblinka, the majority of people transported there didn't believe in extermination: “nobody believed that they were driven here to die. They were sure that they would live (…). The old and children – would be exterminated but the adults would live.”[2]

On June 18 1942 on command of H.Frank a meeting of the GG authorities with the representatives of 5 districts took part in Cracow, at which the plan of total extermination of the Polish Jewry was finally determined. The commander of the SS and the police said that his formations were ready to start the action on condition that necessary means of transport would be provided.[3] On July 19, 1942 at a conference at H.Himmler's it was decided that the Jewish problem should be solved till December 31 at latest. The liquidation of the Jews in the Radom District was directed by Wilhelm Blum, a member of the staff of “Akcja Reinhard”, which had its seat in Lublin. For the whole action was responsible Gruppenführer Odill Globicnik.

The plan and the time-table of the displacement were prepared with typical German precision. The time of deportation of people from different towns, train arrivals and departures, the size of SS units necessary for the action and escorting trains were planned with utmost accuracy.

On August 5, 1942 displaced were the Jews from the outskirts of Radom – Glinice, on August 16 and 17 – the Jews from the ghetto on Wałowa Street that is from the center of Radom. On August 19 to the station on Młynarska Street came a train with about 70 freight cars. The displacement of Jewish inhabitants of Kielce started on August 20, 1942. The action in Kielce was conducted like in other cities. The ghetto was surrounded by a strong cordon of German gendarmerie, SS-men and supporting Ukrainian units. Also the Jewish order service was participated in the action. At night a special group, comprised of the Gestapo policemen isolating the part of the district destined for evacuation entered the ghetto. At the same time a wide gate was cut out in the barbed wire fence so as to make possible for the column from Piotrkowska Street to pass to the embankment on Młynarska Street. The train windows were secured with barbed wire and inside there were no seats or toilets and lime was spread on the floors. The first and the last cars had platforms on the roofs, which made possible to install machine guns. At 2 a.m. the representatives of the Judenrat with president H.Lewi and the Jewish order service were called to the police station on Okrzei Street. They were informed that they would take part in preparing transport of a part of the ghetto residents to the east. At the same time they were assured that the families of the Judenrat and the Jewish police members were safe and wouldn't be transported. Beginning at 4 a.m. the Jewish police started bursting into houses ordering the inhabitants to pack their things and to go out. Everybody could take luggage up to 20 kg. Woken up in the middle of the night suddenly, hustled with shouts, pushed and beaten, people were taking whatever turned up, often useless things. Almost nobody took water, which after a few hours became the most precious thing. At about 5 a.m. a special group of Jewish workers started digging pits on the slope near Nowy Świat Street and the river Silnica. An hour later the first formed columns approached Okrzei Street, where they were selected into three groups. The first group was to be displaced; the second was to stay and to the third one belonged old, disabled people and children. He group destined for deportation was driven along Piotrkowska Street towards the railway platform located between Piotrkowska and Młynarska Street. At the beginning 60-80 people were put into one car. At the end 100-120 were crammed. Between 11 and 12 o'clock the doors of the cars began to be sealed. They were watched by the Germans and the Jewish police; in terrible August heat it was waiting for 7 hours before a signal to set off. Officially, the transports to Treblinka were called “Special trains for displaced people”. They had a very precise timetable. They departed from Kielce at about 6-7 p.m. and arrived at the site of murder at about 11-12 o'clock the next day.

In memories of the Jews and Poles who survived we can find a description of what was happening during the liquidation of the Kielce ghetto.

Adam Hefland: “It started at 4 a.m. The whole Jewish district had already been surrounded by a thick circle of the Schupo policemen, SS-men and SD since 2 a.m. The chief of the Gestapo in Kielce, Thomas, ordered the Jewish police to start waking people up and bringing the Jews from the first quarter onto a square prepared for this purpose (…). Great noise and tumult began. Everybody was in a hurry – they had only 30 minutes to leave – and in excitement they were packing their most valuable things into rucksacks or sacks. In our house the tumult and haste were reaching their peak. We were surprised and unprepared therefore we couldn't decide what to take with us (…) We went out or rather ran out. But our departure was preceded by a tragic accident. My uncle, who was living with us, was the first to pack his things and the first to hurry outside. It was late, about 5:50. Suddenly we heard a shot and a scream. It happened near our house. I noticed my uncle fall down (…). He was bleeding heavily from his left side. The injury was as big as a fist (…) the Gestapo policemen weren't interested at all in labor-cards; they only looked at the face and the appearance. Those who seemed intelligent were sent to the group destined for displacement. They created terrible chaos; there were shouts and cries and very often also shots (…). The torturers were holding cow-hides and beating people mercilessly causing painful injuries. They were doing it with characteristic for them cynicism and cold blood. But that was not enough. Again and again a Gestapo policeman or an SS-man dragged an old man or a cripple from the crowd and murdered him or her with cold blood shooting in the face of the frightened victim (…). Meanwhile, other groups of German thugs were searching through empty flats checking if anybody was still there either hiding or not being able to go out, which was mainly caused by physical disability. They were dragging the poor ones, battering them (…) only to put an end to their lives with a shot at the back of their heads. When all the formalities connected with the action were done our group – the chosen ones [to be left in Kielce – K.U.] were put in columns – 10 people in each and counted. The unhappy victims of course had to be battered (…) at last the column set off towards a barrack allocated for them in district that hadn't been displaced yet. The streets we were passing by looked horrible. On the pavements there were dead bodies of old people of both sexes and sometimes even young people. At the junction of Jasna and Okrzei Street a dead woman was lying in a wheelbarrow. Dead (…) and her wide open eyes expressed fear and her mouth had a terrible grimace of pain (…) Next to her was lying a young looking man who facing the ground (…).Later on I found out that it was her son. He didn't want to leave his sick mother without help and paid for it with his life (…). News about the people who stayed on the square began to spread to us brought by the Jewish policemen who were escorting them to the railway platform and helping to load into the cars. The train comprised of freight cars and the windows were nailed up with barbed wire. Steps were attached to the cars through which the people were going inside. They were beaten. With the same mercilessness and brutality the Germans were hitting with whips men, women, old people and children (…). At the beginning they were putting 80 people into one car but later on it turned out that there were not enough cars so they started pushing 100-120 people into one car. Screams, laments and cries were mixing into a sort of a howl (…) A woman couldn't stand the stuffiness and the heat increased by crammed people in the car and, driven by the desire to get cool and moisten her parched throat, almost naked jumped out onto the platform (the people were tearing off their clothes so as to become at least a little cooler). The SS-men jumped at her like a herd of rabid dogs with characteristic for them barbarity and finally threw her almost unconscious into a real whirling crowd in the car (…). Similar things happened very often. In the end, “tired” of beating the victims the murderers started shooting at them like at ducks, having a lot of fun (…). When everybody was loaded the cars were closed and sealed, watched by guards. Crammed in the cars, burnt with merciless heat, people were begging the guards for water. But they were deaf to their suffering (…). The poor people were standing in the cars on the station till the evening…[4]

Another witness of the liquidation of the ghetto, M.Bahn, testified:

“On August 19, 1942 the day started somehow unusually. At the train station there were 60 cars with a board ‘Jude formichtung’ [‘destroy Jews’]. President Lewi went to the Gestapo but he didn't bring any positive answer. He told everybody to prepare luggage. At night between 0:00 and 1:00 Thomas and Gayer ordered them to report to the Jewish police in their office on Okrzei Street. They switched the light off; the Jewish police was surrounded by Ukrainian gendarmes who started beating them. Thomas and Gayer stood in front of them and said cynically: ‘You have been faithful and I think you'll go on serving faithfully (…) You'll stay here, the fate of your children and wives is unknown. They will probably stay’. Later on they told the Jewish policemen to remove all Jews from their homes and concentrate them on Jasna Street. Those who didn't come would be shot. Such an order was given to the Jews in the quarter of Okrzei Street, where lived 6000 Jews. Not everyone left punctually, which resulted in the following scenes – a Jewish policeman didn't know what to do with an ill woman, the Gestapo told him to put her on the street, where she was shot. The wives and children of doctors and the workers of the foundry “Ludwików”, “Hassag” and the quarries were told to step forward and stand aside. Each of them had to pass next to Thomas and Gayer and show them their labor-card. If they noticed that someone wanted to stay with their family they snatched the card from their hands and didn't let them stay. People destined for deportation line up in formations of 10 and if the 11th person was a child then it was parted from its parent. 100 people were put into one car. In this way they escorted 6000 people along Młynarska Street (…) where there were a few carts. If an exhausted old man fell down or a weak person couldn't keep up with the pace then they gave a sign to a Jewish policeman who put the poor creature on the cart and an SS-man immediately shot him. They gave the signals to the Jewish policemen in such a way that the people thought that they were doing it at their own initiative. On Nowy Świat Street pits and lime had been prepared the day before. The murdered ones were immediately sent to Nowy Świat. Szarogreder – a disabled, a known in Kielce Jew, asked a policeman to let him stay in the line. The policeman quickly put him on the cart and he was immediately shot. Among the policemen there was a Zylberszteis, who had used to be a decent man before the war. They gave him a sign to put on the cart zaddik Icchak Finkler, a well-known Mizrachists, who used to be his friend. The policeman approached him and said ‘Rebe, I order you to sit on the cart and say the prayer for the dead’. The zaddik looked at him, called him by his name and said: “What are you doing? Do you want to kill me?” “I can't do anything”, replied Zylbersztein and put him violently on the cart. The zaddik cried (…) and was shot (…)”[5]

A.Mardeusz: “A day came when the gates of the ghetto were opened and from inside a fluid mass of people streamed out like a volcano. Looking at this human tragedy one had the impression that the end of the world had come. People were going slowly and musing. Next to senile old men were trotting little ragged children holding tight their stiff hands. The young and strong ones were carrying bundles and suitcases with their property that they were allowed to take. Other people were carrying wrapped babies who couldn't walk yet. Young women (…), young men with dead smiles and their heads sunk (…) were going (…) humble, obedient, for their last walk because such was the verdict of the masters of their life and death (…). The shivering, frightened crowds were inhaling white lime spread in the cars, which irritated their throats already from the distance. There were no seats; they had to stand (…)”[6]

W.Ceberski: “The liquidation of the ghetto started with making an exit in the fence separating the ghetto from the city, opposite the railway station (…). The Nazis drove the ghetto residents towards that exit. The Jews were loaded on trains waiting at the station. Removing people from houses was accompanied by terrible screams, beating and pushing (…). People lagging behind were baited with dogs. Several dozens of people were loaded into one car rammed with rifles because there were problems with closing the doors. These were roofed freight cars. I saw women with little children loaded into the train, throwing valuables and begging the railway men for some water. However, the Germans supervising the displacement didn't allow that and kept the railway men away.”[7]

S.Wójtowicz: “They bullied most women with little children in their arms who lagged behind the column (…). One Jewess, far gone with child, asked for some water. She was standing in the open door of a car. One of the Germans supervising the loading heard the request, approached her and stabbed her abdomen with a bayonet. She fell out of the car. Her corpse was dragged aside.”[8]

S.Weber: “The Jews were driven from the ghetto along Zagnańska Street towards the railway (…) They were escorted surrounded by the Schupo policemen who didn't let anybody approach them, they didn't even allow anybody to give them water. If someone approached the column they were shooting. With a cordon of Germans surrounded was also the place where the trains were waiting. The action was directed by Hans Gayer (…), the second most active was Mathias Rumpel. Also Gerulf Mayer participated in the liquidation of the ghetto (…) Because the Jews didn't want to go into the cars they were battered and shot so that during that action many Jews were killed.”[9]

Walery Bogdan: “Having loaded men, women and children into the cars I saw a young man jump out of the car when it set off and run away but he didn't run far.”[10]

Loaded trains were standing there for several hours watched by Jewish policemen: “Those young people were standing at attention with their heads slightly leaned forward. And the Jews from the car windows were shouting: ‘Thank you for your devoted help’”.[11]

On writing about the action of transporting the Jewish population railway man K.Cichoń mentions another detail: “Due to terrifying malice of the Germans, when the train was moving the lime dust was rising causing painful irritation of throats and eyes. The journey was (…) a horrible torture.”[12]

It took the train marked with symbol “P.Kr.”, according to the timetable determined by the General Direction of Eastern Railway, 16 hours of killing journey through Skarżysko Kamienna, Radom, Dęblin, łuków and Siedlce.

On the first day of displacements to Treblinka were sent over 6000 Jews. In Kielce stayed about 100 people, mainly old, disabled and ill ones.

On August 21, 1942, when dusk was falling, the same set of cars appeared on the Kielce station shattering the illusions that there would be no other transports. The second phase of displacement began early in the morning on Saturday 22 August 1943. In the first phase people from the quadrangle framed with Piotrkowska, Starozagnańska, Krzywa and Okrzei Street were displaced and in the second phase they took people from the houses starting on Okrzei Street the to the so called small ghetto that is St.Wojciech Square and Bodzntyńska Street.

Sz. Zalcberg: “…the train that transported the victims returned and on Saturday at dawn another action started. The action cost the lives of 6000 people. They took me with my family (…) removed people from their homes and in the street we were surrounded by the German police that drove us to the main street of the ghetto, where we were put in lines of 10 people. At the end of the street there were several Gestapo policemen who ordered each line to approach the chief and watched carefully the old and disabled who couldn't keep up with the pace. They dragged them into a gate and each time we heard a shot. Apart from them the chief himself was selecting us. 500 people died that day (…). After the second action on Saturday the Germans burst into the orphanage where there were 70 orphans. They made a game (…) shooting the children like hares (…) The displaced people had to turn over all their valuables before they entered the cars. If someone refused they shot him on the spot.”[13]

Wide repercussions had the shooting of the Jewish police commandant B.Schindler. In connection with this murder Józef Zasada testified: “(…) one of the Jews mispronounced the name of the factory where he worked. The commandant corrected him. Then Gayer winked at Rumpel, who told Schindler to kneel down and shot him with a pistol.”[14] The murder was committed in the back room of the Jewish hospital on Radomska Street.

On August 22, 1942 the children from the orphanage were also murdered. A part of the children were shot in the gate of the building at 1 Okrzei Street and a part, together with their teacher Gucia, on the slope at the Silnica. M.Bahn testified:

“…the children with their teacher Gucia were taken from the orphanage to Nowy Świat Street were the pit had already been prepared. They told the children to strip naked but they didn't want to. Then they ordered Gucia to do it. She refused. The Ukrainians started beating her and the children. The children started crying “Mom, help us”. They undressed them violently. They told a Jewish policeman to put them on the verge of the pit and Rumpel started shooting them (…) 40 children were put on one layer and covered up with lime. When all the children were already murdered Gucia approached the pit (…) A bullet reached her and she fell into the pit.”[15]

And here is other information from M.Bahn concerning the second action: “When the SS-men noticed a pretty boy or girl they immediately shot them on the spot. Blood was streaming like water and people were treading on dead bodies. In the second transport went a rabbi from Kielce. Thomas was going about like real hangman on Jasna Street with his people. They really looked like hangmen with rolled up sleeves.”[16] Unsolved is the question of murdering a large group of children in a house on Piotrkowska Street opposite the St. Cross Church, where after the liquidation of the ghetto the Poles found children's corpses, thrown into a well.[17]

Among the driven to death Jews of the second transport was a rabbi from Kielce -A.Rapoport with his wife Sara, his sons Boruch, Boruch Mordka, a student of rabbi's studies and his daughter Zyzla. The rabbi was wearing tallith and saying prayers – the premortal Widduj and the prayer Szma Izrael.

Altogether from 6000 to 70000 Jews were sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka and 500 were murdered on the streets of Kielce on August 22, 1942. The Germans committed another murder. They killed about 70 Jews from the old people's house and ordered the Jewish health care to kill all severely ill in hospital on Radomska Street. M.Bahn:

“Before sending the third transport they liquidated the old people's house with 70 people. They were all shot in the courtyard and their bodies were taken to the pits on Nowy Świat Street. In order to liquidate the hospital with 88 patients came: Thomas, Gauyer, Rumpel with mounted police. They ordered to carry the ill with their beds out of the building.”[18] At the beginning they wanted to shoot them in front of the building but gave up this idea because there was a German hospital near:

“They didn't want to trouble them. Then it was decided to carry the ill back to the hospital and the manager of the hospital doctor Reitter was ordered to liquidate all the ill within three hours. The doctor asked how he should kill them and then Thomas showed him the bayonet. The doctor gave them lethal injections but it wasn't enough for everybody. Then the hospital staff and the doctor started stabbing them with knives. A battle between the ill and the hospital staff started. They were all killed (…)”.[19]

L.Serwetnik wrote about that crime: “There came the chief of the Gestapo Thomas (…) and announced that the next day all the patients had to die. About half an hour later Breiner form the SS came to doctor Reitter and gave him prescriptions for a poison of strong concentration. Doctor Reitter called the staff and showed them the prescriptions”.[20] At risk to himself Reitter discharged a part of the patients from the hospital and the rest got the injections:

“The victims knew what was happening (…) At about 5 p.m. of the same day doctor Breiner appeared to make sure that everything was done properly. There were still patients who received the injections an hour before and were still moving. Doctor Breiner took a scalpel and stabbed them in their hearts, he did it himself. At 6 p.m. came (…) Thomas and checked if all the patients, excluding the staff, were dead (…) The dead were loaded on horse carts and transported through the whole city to the field where they were buried. Doctor Reiner and Thomas were present all the time.”[21]

The third action started early in the morning on Monday of 24 August 1942.

J.Alpert recollects: “… It was our turn. It was organized in that way that the Jewish police was coming to the flats pulling the inhabitants out and then in groups of 6 we went towards Warszawskie Przedmieście Street[22], or today's Okrzei Street. Through about 100 meters we were escorted by the police till we got to a street where there were SS-men watching who was old and who young (…) Older people were dragged out of the crowd and told to sit down on the pavement. Why should you go on foot, we'll give you autos that will take you. When we left they shot them. We reached Okrzei Street where they organized a selection; who had the Meldekarte had to step forward and show it (…) from our family only my brother stayed as a dentist because they left doctors. My mother told me: 'Stay with us'. I was afraid to step forward because I thought they would kill me but finally I moved forward and a young SS-man asked me where I worked. I answered ‘in state saw mill’. ‘And have you got the Meldekarte?’ ‘No, I haven't’ I don't know what came over him – instead of sending me back he said: ‘to Scharführer’. I went to another SS-man with a gun, who looked like a murderer: ‘Wo arbeitest du?’. ‘Im staatlichen Sägewerk’. Gut. He sent me to the right side. In the third action they left about 1000 people. We were organized in groups of 100 and there were 9 hundreds. I was in the fifth one. We are standing and next to us are Jewish policemen. I asked Gienek Guttman: ‘Gienek, why are we standing here?’ He said ‘I don't know’. Then Gayer and Thomas came (…). The Germans started moving people to the other side and I thought that there were too many of us, impossible that they wanted to take so many people to work. What was happening? Gayer and Thomas have already approached us, I can see that they are beating people who haven't taken off their caps or didn't say clearly where they work. I took my cap earlier off so as not to have to do it in front of them. When they came to me they didn't ask about my papers, but: ‘Wo arbeitest du?’ I answered: ‘Im staatlichen Sägewerk’. They left me. Then out of 1000 people left for selection only 200 were left. It turned out that it was another selection. My brother [Szmul Dawid Alpert, a dental technician], whom they took with us after the first selection was also sent then (…). We were taken to the square in front of the synagogue, still surrounded so that nobody could join us or escape. Later on Thomas chased away those who were closed in the synagogue and the barrack and ordered another selection (in the synagogue and the barrack were only people chosen in the first and the second action). We were then altogether 1000 people (…) Afterwards, when everybody went to the trains (…) we were closed in a barrack [on Targowa Street – K.U.] and the following day we were told to go to Stolarska Street.”[23]

This is how A.Birnhak remembers the day of 24 August 1942: “Two transports had already left Kielce in unknown direction and for unknown purpose. The doctors and their families stayed in the ghetto (…) we were standing on the square, thousands of people, in the heat of an August day, waiting. Next to us was the family of doctor Serwetnik, a well-known dentist, who was sent to Auschwitz with uncle Pelc. Their older daughter Liliana, who had done a nursing course with me, was standing next to me (…). A man in uniform, who on the square played a role of the Almighty God pointed at us with his wand and ordered the hospital staff to step forward. The nurses started moving forward. Liliana violently pulled my sleeve: ‘Let's go with them’ For a second I stood stiff. Then I understood that If I didn't leave the crowd of women and children and didn't join the group of young people able to work I wouldn't have any chance to survive (…) I whispered to my mother: ‘Shall I go?’ She replied: “My daughter, it's your decision. ‘Those were the last words I heard from her.’ We stepped forward with Liliana to join the hospital staff (…) The man in uniform still had too many people of the hospital staff. All over 40 – RAUS! Still too many. Over 35 – RAUS (…) A small group of young people stayed. But there were still too many. The god of the Kielce square divided us into two groups: boys separately and girls separately. He lifted his wand and touched the shoulders of ten girls and ten boys. The rest - RAUS. Back to the transport. Liliana and I were touched with his magic wand. We were surrounded by the Jewish police and taken to the barracks. From the distance I saw my mom for the last time. Very pale, she was holding Heniuś's hand and walking in the crowd of exhausted, thirsty and dried by the heat people. They were going surrounded by the Jewish police and the Ukrainians. Behind them were going a few Germans. The Germans had everything excellently organized so that other people, including the Jews, were doing the dirty work. They went to the railway station. They were packed to cattle cars. Displacement to the East. Another big German lie (…) My mother and my aunt were young women, aged 42 and 43. How much life was still ahead of them (…) Heniuś was only 10. They took all his life.”[24]

Some people didn't want to leave their families and wanted to be transported. Attorney Friedman voluntarily went into the train wanting to assist his wife. Some others didn't want to leave their homes knowing that they were surely going to die. It meant an immediate death. In this way died Adolf Mauerberger, a well-known social activist, year long-chairman of the Society of Jewish Real Estates in Kielce: “A connoisseur of a pub life, an unforgettable speaker at a feast table – couldn't be made by the Nazis to participate in the humiliating wandering of a crowd convicted to extermination. He opposed in his flat attempting at a murder in a gendarme's uniform and was shot.”[25]

During the liquidation of the ghetto that is from 20 to 25 August 1942 the Nazis shot in Kielce about 1000 people, mainly children, old and ill people. According to court records shot were among other people: Mojżesz and Rywka Alpert, Izrael Bajbrot, Chil Barankiewicz, Estera and Mordka Bekerman, Samuel Bońko, Berek Chmielewski, Mordka Cymrot, Sara Feder, Estera, Małka and Uda Fisztenberg, Lejbuś Figa, Icchak Finkler, Aron Frajman, Icek Majer Fried, Icek Frydman, Szloma Frydman, Szaja Granek, Dawid Symeon, Jankiel and Hercyk Granfinkiel, Celel Goldgrób, Mindla and Jakub Gostyński, Estera Goldret, Abram and Carka Targownik, Aron and Chil Rutkowski, Hersz Ejzenberg, Jankiel Henoch, Chana Joskowicz, Kaner Mania, Chana and Icek Kanerzuker, Anna Fajgla, Gabriel and Godel Kurc, Cyrla Krajzman, Motel Leśniewski, Joachim Lawensztajn, Lejzor Mincberg, Perla Moszenberg, Zelman Przeworski, Herszel Preis, Lejzor Rozenberg vel Rozenwald, Zelik Rozenblat, Aron and Sara Rubinsztajn, Aron Trajman, Bruno Zindler, Adolf Mauerberger, Chaja Szpiro, Eliasz Wilner, Izrael Waksbaum, Szlama and Rywka Zajączkowski, Chana, Dwojra, Ruth Zagajski, Frymeta and Zelman Zielonedrzewo, Bajla żółta, Josek Dębski, Róża Obarzańska, the Reismans and the Gryszpans couple.[26]

According to the testimony of Józef Mienik the Nazis shot 30 pregnant women on the last day of the liquidation on Radomska Street[27]. Their bodies were transported and buried on the slope between Nowy Świat Street and the Silnica. According to Michaał Biesag another place of mass shooting of Jews was also in the courtyard at 2 Kozia Street, where there were different Jewish institutions. The Jews were murdered and robbed at the same time. Bernard Zelinger, who was made to bury the dead on the slope near the Silnica, writes:

“…two big square holes partly filled with bodies on a sand dune near the river bank. The bodies were put in layers and covered with sand and quick-lime. Between the holes, on a hill two high rang SS-men were sitting on kitchen chairs in front of a big piece of white cloth spread on the ground. On the cloth there were valuables, jewelry and money put separately.”

The liquidation of the ghetto caused great shock of some Poles: “People were whispering that the Jews were taken to death. Oh, God, how can you look at this! I couldn't stand that, I ran home, fell on my bed and cried for a long time.”[28]

During five days the Germans transported to extermination camps in Treblinka altogether 20000-21000 Jews living in Kielce. Among them natives of Kielce, Jews from other Polish cities transported here as well as Jews from Austria, Bohemia and Germany. The numbers don't reflect the enormity of the tragedy, only an analysis of the names of people transported to Treblinka evokes horror. In gas chambers died almost whole families. Here are some of them: the Leśniewski – Perla, Józef, Tobiasz, Chuna, Josek, the Białobrodas – Chaja, Etla, Nusyn, Szndla, Josek, Małka, Kajdla, Estera and Chaim, the Aronowiczes – Hercyk, Liba, Moszek, Mechel, Icek, Bajla, Małka, the Goldblums – Aron, Chana, Dawid, Josek, Zelik, Pinkus, the Finkelsztajns – Cyrla, Szapsia, Josek, Abram, Helena, the Gryszpans – Hersz, Szulim, Bajla, the Gertlers – Idesa, Gitla, Kalman, Hersz, Abram, Bajla, the Könogsbergs – Moszek, Nuchym, Fiszel, Mordka, Boruch, Tauba. Bajla, the Kaners – Icek, Fajgla, Izrael, Sender, Sara, Alter, Nuchim, the Małychs – Fajgla, Becelel, Hersz, Josek, Moszek, Jankiel, Mendel, the Sedrowiczes – Menes, Froim, Abram, Jankiel, Majer, the Wajnztoks – Hersz, Estera, Uryś, Baniamin, Sara, the Bugejers – Rachel, Chaja, Icchak, Chana, Alona, the Ledermans – Szloma, Gitla, Debora, Balcia, Ela, Zjawel, Nissan, Abraham, Chaim, Helena, Jonasz, the Zajączkowskis – Jozef, Idesa, Mina, Towa, Rywka, Róża, the Hochbergs – Alter, Kajdla, Jechel, Raja, Icchak, Becelel, Jakub, Izrael, the Gotliebs – Liba, Lea, Chaim, Bala, Jakub, Michał, Sara, Hendel, the Wakszlakows – Chaim, Mordechaj, Rachela, Lea, Natan, Icchak, the Urbachs – Estera, Jakub, Sara, Lea, the Zilbersztajns – Abram, Mosze, Mordechaj, Józef, Cirla, Chana, Mojżesz.[29] Of the Leśniewskis, a family which in 1939 had 24 members, 21 people died! Out of 3000 Jewish families in Kielce each one lost a relative and some, such as the Rozenholcs, Morgenszterns and Ellencweigs, ceased to exist. Natalia Balicka said: ‘All in all, 20000 Jews were transported.’ In Kielce stayed 1500, including 250 women and 50 children. Stayed (…) the workers of the factory “Ludwików”, quarries and a large group of women working on the farm of Czarnów. Apart from them stayed policemen with their families (…) all doctors and dentists with their families.”[30]

A.Birnhak: “They left mechanics and different technicians who worked in important for the German war industry factories as well as doctors and the whole Jewish police.”[31]

The liquidation of the Kielce ghetto went together with plundering of the murdered Jews' properties. The Germans were taking from their homes all that had any value. A special group of Jews was created which collected and selected stolen things. The feathers were stored in the industrial plant “Plumapol” at 35 Okrzei Street, machines, tools, clocks, sewing machines and the equipment of shoe top, shoemaker and purse makers' workshops were stored in the south wing of the former bishop's palace, furniture, paintings, house equipment, books, works of art – in Właysław Kosterski's house on Adolf Hitler Platz. Jan Nosek, a cart driver from Bilcza, arrested by the Germans on August 22 1942 and directed to the ghetto testified: “We had to load on our carts the Jewish property: bedding, carpets, clothes, utensils and different house equipment and transport them to the square near the synagogue or to the building of the former Voivodship Government (…).[32] ” Jan Bandrowkski: “Jewish working groups emptied the Jewish houses (…) We were transporting them where we were told by the policemen.”[33] The plundering lasted for the whole week. The Germans tried to sell some things to the Poles: “…the Nazis organized sale of Jewish things near the synagogue (…) on a square that doesn't exist now, on the back of the synagogue, next to the mikveh I saw chairs and kitchen utensils, etc. spread on a dozen or so meters and the German policemen were acting as salesmen.”[34]

A.Hefland: “… we were used to clean the houses (…) Of course ‘Herenvolk’ was looking in these flats for gold, jewelry and (…) money. They were collecting great amounts of feather beds and for this purpose they mobilized everybody who survived the action. They were storing them in the feather factory in the Jewish district (…) According to the order(…) we thoroughly cleared the blocks of flats on Piotrkowska, Jasna and Stolarska Street.”[35]

During the liquidation of the ghetto the Germans killed in that area seven Poles, including Franciszek Nosek, Stanisław Jarosz, Jan Pyszczyński from Bilcza and Szczęśniak from Domaszewice, who had been used to transport plundered things. On the day of the Jewish tragedy Jews many Germans were taking pictures, a part of which were developed in photographer's studio of Tadeusz Rylski. In 1967 the submitted 7 saved prints to the OKBZH in Kielce. He gave a few photos also to Zdzisław Jędrzejewicz.[36]

We know more about the last transport of the Jews thanks to Abraham Krzepicki from Warsaw, who got to Treblinka a few hours after their arrival. This is an extract from his memories, including a description of a long journey in a cattle car.

“It was worse and worse in the car. Water! We were begging the railway men. We wanted to give them a lot of money (…) We were lying almost on one another in stench and fug. If someone managed to get some water couldn't, however, use it all. Someone was crying that his father fainted, another that his mother lost consciousness and someone else's child was swooning. Although a human being becomes an egoist in such situations they had to share the water (…) After the station Treblinka the train went a few hundred meters further towards the camp (…) The door of the cars were opened by the Ukrainians. Around stood SS men with whips. Many people were lying on the floor. Many of them were dead (…) When I calmed down a little I went with others to a barrack. I intended to break a plank out of the wall and escape. When we entered the barrack we were stunned – there were a lot of dead bodies inside. Those were corpses of shot people (…) Later on I found out that they were Jews from the Kielce transport brought to Treblinka that morning. There was a mother with a son. When they wanted to separate them the son wished to say good bye to his mother for the last time. He wasn't allowed to. Then he produced a pocket knife and stabbed a Ukrainian. As a punishment all present in the camp Kielce Jews were shot on that day.[37]

After the liquidation of the ghetto the Polish inhabitants were allowed to go back to their flats, which they had had to leave in 1941.

W. Zimoląg-Szczepańska recollects:

“The district between Warszawska, Piotrkowska, and Zagnańska Street as far as the railway looked like a battle field (…) broken plaster statues, colorful plates, pots, rests of furniture, piles of thick, lather bound books (…) were lying everywhere, the wind was blowing the pages (…) Apart from rubble, broken glass, furniture and utensils – the pieces of human existence a very depressing impression evoked the Jewish synagogue. Out of the broken windows I could see red as blood pillows, feather beds (…) in great amounts, from the floor up to the high ceiling (…) Those signs of somebody's life, house and intimacy grieved my heart as if they had been calling for vengeance with that redness.”[38]

Particular responsibility for the crimes committed on the Jewish inhabitants of Kielce during the first years of occupation, especially at the liquidation of the ghetto, should bear Captain Hans Gayer, the chief of the Kielce Schupo, Lieutenant Erich Wohlschuluger from the same formation, the chief of the Gestapo Ernst Thomas and Mathias Rumpel. The work of the Judenrat directed by H.Lewi, wasn't praiseworthy, either, as well as the Jewish order service, which was often too officious in executing the murderous orders of the occupier.

 

Footnotes
  1. Najnowsze dzieje Żydów w Polsce w zarysie (do 1950 roku), edited by J.Tomaszewski, Warsaw 1993, p.325. return
  2. R.Sakowska, Archiwum Ringelbauma – ogniwem konspiracji warszawskiego getta, „Biuletyn ŻiH 190”, No. 3-4, p.155. return
  3. A.Rutkowski…,p. 107 return
  4. AŻIH, A.Hefland, Testimony, call No. 301/1309, p.2. return
  5. ibidem, M.Bahn…, pp. 9-11. return
  6. A.Mardeusz…,p.7. return
  7. OKBZpNP, W.Ceberski, Testimony, call No. 21/68, v.1, pp. 6-7. return
  8. Ibidem, S.Wójtowicz, Testimony, call No. Ds. 21/68, v.1, p.29; the Jewess’s name was Sanderska. return
  9. Ibidem, S.Weber…, p.67. return
  10. OKBZpNP in Kielce, W.Bogdan, Testimony, call No. Ds.21/68, v.1, p. 21. return
  11. T.Popiel, Zagłada kieleckiego getta, „Słowo Ludu” 1987, No.255. return
  12. K.Cichoń, Zwrotnice…, p.44. return
  13. AŻIH, OKBZpNP in Kielce, J.Zasada, Testimony, call No. Ds. 21/68, v.1, p. 37. return
  14. OKBZpNP in Kielce, J.Zasada, Testimony, call No. Ds. 21/68, v.1, p. 37. return
  15. AŻIH, M.Bahn…,p.11. Kielce ZDPGRP, call No. 47; also Jankiel Proszkowski witnessed the murder. return
  16. AŻIH, M.Bahn…,p.11. return
  17. Kulisy kielckiego getta. Kto był świadkiem tej zbrodni? „Echo Dnia” 1992, No. 134. return
  18. AŻIH, M.Bahn…,p.12. return
  19. ibidem. return
  20. Yad Washem, L.Serwetnik, Testimony, call No. P.III,n, (Kielce) 676. return
  21. Ibidem. return
  22. Should be: Starowarszawskie Przedmieście. return
  23. Yad Washem, J.Alpert, Testimony, call No. 2725/197-C, pp. 9-11. return
  24. A.Birnhak, Getto…, pp. 34-35. return
  25. J.Jerzmanowski, W starych Kielcach, Cracow 1975, p.107. return
  26. AP Kielce, ZDPGRP, call No.:4, 42, 318, 336, 561, 797, 1131, 1234, 1518, 1544, 1569, 1584, 1671, 1965, 2187, 2670, 3354, 3486, 3930, 4419, 5096; OKBZpNP, W.Zimolag-Szczepańska, Nikt nie znał prawdyreturn
  27. OKBZpNP, J.Miernik, Testimony, call No. Ds.21/68, v.2, p.28. return
  28. W.Zimolag-Szczepańska, Nikt nie znał prawdyreturn
  29. About our house…, p.213-346; AP Kielce, ZDPGRP, call No.: 5-5100. return
  30. AŻIH, N.Balicka, Testimony, call No. 301/3012, p.1. return
  31. A.Birnhak, Getto…, 35. return
  32. OKBZpNP, J.Nosek, Testimony, call No. Ds 21/68, v. 2, p.10. return
  33. Mibidem, J.Brandowski, call No. Ds. 21/68, v. 2, p. 130. return
  34. Ibidem, S.Białek, Testimony, call No. Ds.21/68, v.2, p.131. return
  35. AZIH, A.Heflang…,p.4. return
  36. OKBZpNP, Z.Jędrzejwicz, Testimony, call No. Ds.21/68, v. 2, p.117. return
  37. A. Krzepicki, Treblinka, „Biuletyn PIH” 1962, No.43-44, pp.87-90.return
  38. W.Zimoląg-Szczepańska, Nikt nie znał prawdyreturn

 

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