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[Page 209]

The German Extermination
of Jewish Klobuck

 

The First Months under the German Occupation

by Berl Yakubowicz, Israel

Translated from the Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

 

The Wandering Path between Death and Extermination

When the war broke out, we were the last Jews to leave Klobuck.

In our apartment we packed our luggage in the morning, and we were ready to carry it on our shoulders. We were ready to leave. Our family had four members: our father and mother, my brother and I. We remained confined in our house. My father, an old soldier from 1914-1918, told us that it was better to stay inside the house than in the fields. He believed that there were Polish soldiers in the fields and the forests around Klobuck. He was certain that there would be a battle around the city.

It was calm, almost four o'clock. Suddenly, we heard a loud explosion. The window glass broke and fell down. We all were afraid. My mother cried “Gevalt” (For Heaven's Sake), and asked if we should take our bags and flee like the other town's people. The explosion was from the railway bridge, which was blown up by the Polish military. Without thinking, all four of us took our packages and left the house. My father kissed the mezuzah several times with tears in his eyes, saying the prayer “Yehe Ratzsone” (Beginning of the traveler's prayer, meaning “May we would”). We were the only people in the streets.

While walking through the streets, I looked carefully at every house separately. The glass windows were broken; the rooms were empty; there was dead silence.

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At the same time I noticed that the Polish “Obrona Narodowa” (National Defense Force)[i] was looting the Jewish shops. They used the long French rifle with bayonet. Many of the “Obrona Narodowa” armed Polish National Defense men were drunk, and they were lying stretched out in the ditches, sleeping with their rifles thrown aside. Others of the “Obrona Narodowa” were busy tearing apart the Jewish shops and carrying off sacks, full of Jewish goods.

We ran in the direction of Kamyk[1], where everybody else was running. We passed in front of the Jewish cemetery. My father, pointing to the cemetery with his hand said: “There will come a time when we'll envy the dead. They have already reached the tomb of Israel, but we, are now just starting our suffering.”

While running on the sandy roads, we were all together and we joined with the Polish military and the Polish population, all with packages on their shoulders, and many with young children. Many could no longer walk anymore, because they did not have the strength to go on.

We kept running, and we arrived in Kamyk. The Germans had already dropped bombs there. Wounded people and dead military horses were lying on the ground. We ran further in the direction of Kocin[2]. When we arrived in Kocin it was Friday evening, and my mother had tears in her eyes, because she wanted to bless the (Shabbat) candles, but unfortunately it was impossible. She told us that it is the first time that she was unable to light the Shabbat candles and say the blessings. My father welcomed the Shabbat and we ate something. It was already dark. We sat on the ground in Kocin for half an hour. People continued to walk in the direction of the village of Klomnice[3].

At 7:00PM we lifted our packages on our shoulders, and again started walking with the stream of people, among their horses, cattle, pigs, goats and dogs. In that way we walked the entire night. Jews with beards and sidelocks (payes) were very frightened. A few covered their beards with a handkerchief, as if they had a toothache.

On Shabbat, around 6:00AM, we arrived in Klomnice.

[Page 211]

Around midday the turmoil intensified. People fled into the fields. There was a rumor that the Germans are closer. We again took our packages and fled into the fields. Then there were rumors that the Germans went past Klomnice, so people were going back into the streets. We took our packages and returned to the village.

Tanks with the German swastika drove fast on the roads; full squadrons of airplanes flew in the sky. The approaching of the German military ground forces was imminent.

Not long afterwards, we decided again to take our packages on our shoulders, and to go back. Many people were on the road. The roads were also full with German armored military vehicles. We were searched every few kilometers; they looked for weapons. They either searched us or told us: “Anybody with a weapon, knife, or razor blade should turn it over to us and no harm will happen to him; anybody found with a weapon will be shot.”

We walked until 3:00AM until we (again) reached Klobuck. Close to the big elementary school we were stopped by German military. We were told to stand against the wall, and the soldiers threatened to shoot us. They accused us of firing at German soldiers. With tears in our eyes we explained that we knew nothing about that. They locked the men in the dark cellar of the school and the women upstairs. In the cellar there were already several Jews and they welcomed us. While being pushed inside the cellar, I received a blow on the head from a rifle. The Germans told us that at dawn they would shoot all of us, because all the Jews fired on the German military.

 

German Soldiers Set Klobuck on Fire.

Meanwhile, more Jews, who had come back “home” to Klobuck, were pushed to the cellar. The cellar was full, and Jews were detained outside. Daylight came, and we sat there full with anxiety and fright. Soon we expected to be shot. It was Sunday, September 3rd. It was already 9:00AM. The door was opened, and we were ordered to go back home. We were searched, and we were ordered to leave as fast as possible, with our hands on our heads. We did not know where the women were.

[Page 212]

We went out onto the street and saw German soldiers throw hand grenades into houses that exploded with a big noise. Houses were burning. The German military watched as the fires burned to assure that the civilian population did not remove anything, or tried to extinguish the fire.

We returned home safely. Our arms and hands hurt from being on our heads. My mother arrived home before us and she impatiently waited for us. .

We were at home for about an hour. Suddenly the German soldiers came and shouted: “Everybody should get outside and go to the church”.

Once again we ran with our hands on our heads to the church. People gathered outside the church, and then an old German in a uniform with medals came out, and climbed up on a table, watched by the assembled German military. He started to speak in German; a Pole translated his words, simultaneously, to Polish.

The German said that from now on we were under his rule. He was our provisional ruler. People should stay calm and welcome the German military. Those who possessed weapons should turn them in immediately and nothing will happen to them.

The shtetl was burning. The old German ordered the women, the elderly and the children go back home. He ordered the young people to bring buckets of water tools from the fire department, and to extinguish the fire as soon as possible.

The young Jews, including myself, stood in rows of five. Watched by the German military, we marched to the firefighter station. During the walk the Germans caught a few more Jews. We were about thirty young men. The warden of the firefighter station opened the gate. We harnessed ourselves like horses with the buckets and all of the tools and we went to extinguish the fire.

At 5:00PM the Germans ordered us to return all of the firefighters' tools, because there was a state of war and we were allowed to stay outside only until 6:00PM. We, the young ones, who were exhausted from the walking, thanked God that we were free from this difficult work. The fire burned our eyes; we had gone several days without sleep and had little or nothing to eat.

[Page 213]

The next morning German soldiers caught more Jews for work. The Polish children showed the Germans where the Jews lived, and Jews were forced out of their houses and were ordered to work in various tasks. Some of the Jews did not have a place to live, because their homes were destroyed by fire. They and their young children remained without clothes and shoes. A Jewish committee was formed, with the responsibility to assure that everyone has a place to live.

Every day the Germans ordered the Jews to go out to work. Then the committee ruled that every Jew should work only three or four days per week. We worked like this for six weeks.

It now was after Sukkot holiday, and it was raining. The work became harder and harder because the soil was mostly clay. When winter came, the Jews were forced to clean the roads and remove the snow. Jews were forbidden to travel by train. There were no buses, and the Jews were deprived of their cars and horses. Klobucker Jews remained without a livelihood.

 

Forced Labor and German Cruelty

After several months of German rule, the German cruelty came to a higher pick. The German military took out the Torah Scrolls from the synagogue (Shul) and used them to pad their boots. Jews were abandoned. Nobody was interested in their fate. The Cultural Center building, which housed the Jewish organizations and their comprehensive and valuable library, was burnt down. All of the Jewish organizations disappeared. The Jewish youth no longer were permitted to meet. It was forbidden for more than a few people to gather in one apartment. The Jews could no longer go to pray (davenen) in the synagogue. Immediately after taking over Klobuck, the Germans transformed the synagogue into a horse stable. The windows were broken. The military stole goods and food from Jewish shops.

A decree was issued that Jews who possessed a bicycle, a radio, razor blades, or a camera were required to turn them to the German authority, otherwise they would be severely punished. When winter approached, Jews were required to surrender their fur coats to the Germans.

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Every few days a new decree was issued against the Jews: brass door handles, candlesticks, copper dishes, lead, and tin were required to be handed over to the German Authority. If a prohibited item was found in a house, the oldest person in the house would be shot. Silver coins from before the war, in all denominations, must also be turned in.

Poverty spread among the Jews. Winter was very cold. Jews could not get any coal to heat their homes. An announcement was made that Jews could exchange their silver coins and obtain wood from the forest. Day in and day out we were required to work (for the Germans). We worked repairing the roads, cutting down trees, removing whole forests. The wood was brought to the train station and sent to Germany.

Then summer came, and Jews were forced to continue to work. We suffered from hunger and beatings. The Poles rejoiced that the Jews were forced to work hard.

On one occasion we loaded big trucks with straw in the Zagorz courtyard. There were about forty men. When four trucks were full of straw, the Germans brought ropes and harnessed ten men to each truck. We were forced to pull the big trucks uphill, between Zagorz and Klobuck. When we could no longer drag the trucks (from exhaustion) we were beaten with rifles until we arrived to Klobuck.

During the entire summer we worked non-stop in every tough job. Every Jew was required to wear on his chest the yellow Magen David sign, with black letters “Jude” in the middle.

Throughout the shtetl rumors started to spread that all of the Jews will be expelled from Klobuck. The Day of Awe (Yom Kippur) was approaching, but Jews no longer prayed together. Every one prayed alone at home. When my father prayed and wore a prayer shawl (tallit) or put on the phylacteries (tefilins), I would stand close to the door and watched to see that no German was approaching the house. Thus, all the Jews prayed in their houses with tears in their eyes.

Suddenly there was a new decree: Every house must send one or two members to work in Germany for two to six months.

[Page 215]

We understood that there would be no return from Germany. But the Germans with their language of flattery convinced the Jews that they would return after two months and that they would be replaced by others. The method was effective and soon many joined of their own will.

Along with the decree the Germans ordered that the Jewish Committee gather 140 Jews between ages of 18 to 30 years old. If the quota of people was not met, the Germans threatened to expel all of the Jews to the “General Government”. Klobuck was part of the Third Reich. We already knew the consequences of what it meant to expel all of the Jews from the ghetto. In Klobuck we had already received the very bad news from the Lodz ghetto. Although the situation was difficult and cold in Klobuck, people had a Jewish heart. We gathered food and clothes and sent to Lodz. But we never knew if the Jews in Lodz received our food and clothes.

 

My Father Wanted to Sacrifice Himself for the Whole Family

We sat in our apartment for evening after evening thinking what we can do. My father said that he will go to fulfill the German labor quota, and he will sacrifice himself for the whole family, thereby enabling the rest of our family to remain at home. My father was then 52 years old and was torn between the two choices. He believed that the Germans would send him back, but my young brother, who was then 17 years old, argued that he should sacrifice himself for the family. He thought that they would send him back home because he was not yet 18 years old. I was then 20 years old.

My mother heard the argument between our father and the children and could not stop crying, because she had to watch one child go away, without knowing whether he would come back. For myself, as an adult and a physically strong man, after listening to my father and brother, I said that the decision was with me: I would go and I will not let anyone else go other than me. I wanted that everybody else could stay home, and if we lived, we would meet again at home.

We received a notice that on 11.11.1940 one male per family had to be prepared to go to Germany for six weeks or two months.

[Page 216]

Those people had to bring warm clothes, shoes and a razor. I duly presented myself to the place that was given. We were about 140 men, mostly unmarried young men. From the meeting place, we were sent to the synagogue. There, the ground was covered with straw as if prepared for cattle. It was difficult to leave home; we couldn't separate ourselves from our parents, from our families, and also from the whole shtetl, where we spent our youth and from where we built our culture. We had to leave everything all at once.

The whole night we stay dressed and couldn't sleep because of the cold and anxiety.

The next morning, around 10 o'clock, the Germans came in uniforms and with their weapons, and escorted us to the train. Our parents accompanied us with tears in their eyes, unable to get close enough to give us a father-mother kiss.

We were heavily guarded by the Germans. In the train station, empty train carriages were waiting for us. Along with the shouting of the Germans, we were pushed inside the carriages, a few German guards per carriage. We looked at our shtetl, Klobuck, and everyone thought: who knows whether we would survive and come back home, to our wives, and our parents. Among us a few of the men were already married, and they left their wives and children. The locomotive whistled it's sad signal, and we left the shtetl Klobuck.

Writer's Footnote

  1. “Obrona Narodowa”, the National Defense, was a half civilian, half military organization formed to protect the military targets from destruction. Return

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Kamyk located 6 kilometers east of Klobuck Return
  2. Kocin to be pronounced Kotshin probably the reference is to Kocin Stary, 17 km north east of Klobuck Return
  3. Klomnice to be pronounced Klomnitsh 35 kilometers east of Klobuck Return


 

[Page 217]

In the Chase with Death and the German Torture

by Yitzhak Szperling

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

In Klobuck, like throughout Poland, people prepared for the war, although we did not believe that the war would occur. Nevertheless, a general mobilization was implemented. The entire shtetl commenced digging trenches (in anticipation) of the coming of the enemy.

On Friday morning, September 1st, the village did not appear as usual. In the streets, groups of Jews were saying that the war had already started. People spoke about the war with great despair. Jews from Klobuck knew that in a war with the pro-Hitler Germany, they would be the first victims. People anticipated that at any time the town would come under Germans occupation, because Klobuck was located so very close to the German border. People started panicking. Jews left everything behind, and started to run away to save their lives. But no one knew where we could run.

Within our family we also prepared to leave. My mother had passed away three months before the war started. My elder brother, Yehudah, was in the army; my elder sister, Chaya, was in Czestochowa. My father; my sister, Leah; my two brothers, Aaron-Meir and Pinchas-Menachem; and myself remained in our home. We abandoned everything in our apartment, taking only some food and we left the shtetl. We went to Lobodno, and from there even further. At 2:00 PM we arrived in Kocin (Kotshin), where a few Jewish families lived.

In that shtetl many Jews had already arrived from the other surrounding villages. We arrived there on Friday and remained until nightfall; we prayed Mincha (the late afternoon prayer); we prayed Kabbalat Shabbat (the prayer to welcome the Shabbat); we ate something; and then we walked farther. Thousands of people were walking, including women with their small children holding their hands. It was a dark night, and the fog covered everything, but we could still see one another. We wandered the whole night, without knowing where to go.

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On Shabbat at 10:00AM we arrived in the shtetl of Plawno on Gidzel. We stopped and remained there because we did not have enough strength to go on. Around 12:00AM we saw a tank in the village. There was a rumor that the French or the English entered the war to help Poland. Two hours later the shtetl was completely occupied with the German military. There was nowhere else to flee.

We stayed in a Jewish house until the end of Shabbat. On Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), during the night, the village was awakened and shaken by gun fire. By dawn, it had calmed down. On Sunday morning we left Plawno, and started to return to Klobuck. The road-way was jammed with German military, and they detained the hundreds of refugees, mostly Jews. All of the detained refugees were gathered in the square, and were guarded by the German soldiers. We stayed there frightened to death. There was a rumor that we were going to be shot. Other people consoled themselves by saying that we were only going to be deported to a camp.

Finally at the end of the day, in the evening, when the roads were free of military traffic, the Germans let us go, and we were ordered to go back to our homes.

We walked through the entire night. The next morning, on Monday, we arrived back in Klobuck and discovered that half of the shtetl was destroyed and burned. Many people were left without a roof over their heads and without any food. Many of the small Jewish properties were burnt, and what was not destroyed by the fire was stolen by non-Jews.

We had to start our lives anew. Every day there was a new decree against the Jews. The Germans forced the Jews to work, and persecuted them and beat them. Observant Jews were taken to work at the Zagorz camp close to Klobuck. There they were forced to eat treife (non-kosher) food from the military kitchen. The Germans ridiculed them and persecuted them by various bestial means.

I was ordered to work in the mill with a group of well to do Jews. We were guarded by Germans from the so called “work troop”. They were rabidly anti-Semitic, and took every opportunity to persecute us and to belittle our humanity and our Jewish dignity.

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Close to our workplace we found a dead dog. The Germans became excited and ordered us to hold a “funeral” for the dog. One of the workers, an old well to do Jew, was sent home to bring a white kittel (man's solemn white linen robe used on Yom Kippur and for his burial). Others were ordered to nail a cross. The dog was laid in a wheelbarrow, which was preceded by a Jew with the cross, and flanked on the side by another Jew, wearing a kittel. Behind them the dog was carried in the wheelbarrow, and the remainder of the Jews followed in procession, like in a “Levayah” (Jewish funeral). Thus the bestial Germans, all the while provoking us with their joyful laughter, marched us around the shtetl.

A few months later a Judenrat was established with a Jewish police force. Jews were forced to leave the central part of Klobuck and move to the ghetto. The Judenrat had to implement the decrees of the Germans and were ordered to provide Jewish workers.

I worked in Klobuck until April 1942. One day, the Gestapo people came to our workplace and took all of the people who were present. We were ordered to go to a room in the firefighter station. We were brought in front of a commission and the next morning we were taken to the train station and sent away to the NiederKirchen camp (in Upper Silesia). My brother Aaron-Meir was sent away with me. We were torn away from our family, who remained in Klobuck. A few weeks later my elder sister, Chaya-Sarah, was taken to a camp.

My brother, Yehudah-Arye, and my sister, Leah, stayed in the Zagorz camp close to Klobuck. My father and my youngest brother, Pinchas-Menachem, along with other Klobucker Jews, were sent away by the Germans and never came back.


 

[Page 220]

Moniek Merin, the Organizer
of the Judenrat [Jewish council] in Klobuck

by Yaacov Szmulewicz

Translated from the Yiddish by his nephew Asher Szmulewicz

From the very first day of the outbreak of the war, Klobuck, located close to the German-Polish border, witnessed and was subjected to German cruelty. On Friday morning, September 1st (1939), the German airplanes brought unexpected death and devastation to our shtetl. The first Jewish victims fell: Gitel Brat, Yossef Meir Langer, Zisser Berkowicz, Yechiel Rosen and other Jewish women, men and children whose names cannot be remembered.

First the German “black reign” started (their destruction) by torching 200 houses, mostly Jewish ones. The Jewish hope in God was gone with the smoke. The Jewish library was also burned, with (the loss of) almost three thousand books. Immediately thereafter, the well-known systematic German persecution and extermination of the Jews started.

Jews of Klobuck had to wear an armband with a “Magen David” (Star of David) and were not allowed to be present in various places (or after the curfew). The Polish population was allowed to be out in the streets until 23:00 (11pm); Jews only until 18:00 (6pm).

All of the Jews from the shtetl from age eleven to fifty five had to gather every morning at the market place, and were ordered to perform clean-up work for the Germans. Every day brought new and bitter decrees.

The Jews of Klobuck found themselves oppressed and in a difficult situation. All trade was brought to a halt. Jews did not have the right to travel on trains or to trade (with other towns). The German authority seized Jewish shops and gave them to their trusted people, so called “Treuehender”.

In this terrible and awful situation the rumor circulated, from and among the beaten Jews, that Merin, the well-known leader of the Sosnowiec Judenrat, was to arrive in the shtetl, escorted with a person named Jasne[i], with instructions from the German authority to organize a Judenrat in Klobuck. Such a Judenrat with Jasne and known elders was established. The former president of the community (kehilah), Baruch Szperling, declined all participation with the Judenrat.

Merin did not occupy himself with the activity of the Klobuck Judenrat, but he alone began to implement the cruel orders of the Germans against the Jews. Suddenly, Merin summoned all the Jews from the shtetl to gather in the courtyard of the mill. All the Jews from the shtetl assembled there and Merin gave them the following speech:

“Brother Jews, not one hair from your head, God forbid, will fall. No one will be “wischedlet” (sent out for extermination), the only condition is that all the men should (must) go to work in Germany. The men will be able to send back (to Klobuck) their wages to their parents, wives and children.”
The assembled people understood immediately what was intended and started to negotiate with Merin, the well-known elder of the Sosnowiec region, seeking to diminish the number of Jews that had to go to Germany to work. They argued that the decree would ruin the Jewish settlement of Klobuck. The assembled people agreed to deliver only a part of the required contingent. Merin demanded 500 healthy men, that is to say every family head, since Klobuck numbered about 500 families at that time, about 2000 persons.

Two weeks before Sukkoth, 1940, the harassed Jews from the shtetl shivered with anxiety from the news that Merin had arrived in Klobuck, escorted by members of the Gestapo and with a commission of German doctors. The commission was to qualify the “free-willing” Jews who wanted to work in Germany. Few people turned themselves over to the commission. Among the men taken to work in Germany were blind, lame and sick people.

When the commission finished its work, Merin announced to the Jewish population that if the “contingent” is not delivered, the entire Jewish population would be expelled from Klobuck and put behind barbed wire.

Eight days after Sukkoth 1940, a group of 65 strong young men, including myself, “volunteered” to go to work in Germany. We assembled at the Skorupe[1] in the courtyard and immediately we were surrounded by the Gestapo. They took us to the synagogue. Straw had already been put on the floor in anticipation of staying overnight. Although we were under the Gestapo's watch, we were in a good mood. We did not lose our nerve, but our good mood did not last.

At midnight new victims were brought in. The Gestapo searched for Jews and took them out of their beds. In the morning we were brought outside in the courtyard. Gathered in front of the synagogue were the mothers, sisters and wives and close family members of the men who had volunteered, and the men who were dragged from their bed during the night. At the order of the Gestapo commander we lined up in three rows. The wives and the close family members had ten minutes to bring food and clothes to those who were about to be sent away. We marched to the waiting room of the train station. A train was standing ready to take us to an unknown camp.

At the train station, Nowy Herby, we met another transport from Krzepice, (with) Jews piled up in the same train. The contingent had not yet been fulfilled. The SS ordered the Klobuck community (kehilah) representatives to be brought before them: Benzion Swiertchewsky, Israel Lewkowicz, Yechiel Rosenthal and the president, Moshe Weissfelner. In the beginning of November, 1940 we left Klobuck.

Footnote

  1. The name Jasne, referred to in the text, has no relation whatsoever with the editor of our Yizkor book, A. Wolf-Jasny. A. Wolf-Jasny is only a pseudonym. The real first and last name of A. Wolf-Jasny is Abraham Wolf Tsiferman. Return

Translator's Footnote

  1. Polish word meaning crust (seems to be a name of a location in the shtetl) Return


 

[Page 223]

The Activities of the Judenrat
and the Battle for Existence

by Moshe Fajga

Translated from the Yiddish by Asher Szmulewicz

The head office of the Judenrat was in Sosnowiec, and a “branch” office was opened in Klobuck, with designated commissioners. The Sosnowiec members were: Berek Jasne; Winer and Shimon Merin[1]; and from Klobuck: Benzion Szwiertszewski; Yaacov Chade, who unfortunately tarnished his former superb Zionist activities with Judenrat work; Israel Lewkowicz; Moshe Weissfelner; Yechiel (Fogel) Rosenthal; Abraham Diamant; Yitzchak Buchweicz and Zisser Lapides.

*

Klobuck was annexed by the Third Reich. During the first year of the war, when people returned to their routines after the fire of the shtetl, the food supply was not too bad. Poles brought goods from Lodz and went back with food products, which sold well there. Jews traded with Poles. That is why in Klobuck it was still possible to make a living. The close town of Czestochowa was dependent on the “General Government”[2] and the Jews there, who had family in Klobuck, smuggled themselves into Klobuck, in order to obtain food to eat. It was these “foreign” Jews that the Judenrat gave special attention to.

One day, the Judenrat sent the Jewish policeman, S. Zacks, to look for the “foreign” Jews from Czestochowa, who were not registered in Klobuck. They were told that they were required to report to the Judenrat or they would be expelled from Klobuck. The Jews from Czestochowa reported to the Judenrat. There Berek Jasne, the commissioner from the Sosnowiec Judenrat headquarters, informed them that they must register in Klobuck and in order to register they were required to pay a significant amount of money. The “well to do” Jews sold some of their belongings and paid the Judenrat the required amount of money. The poor Jews, who couldn't pay, were expelled from the shtetl.

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Remembered here are three of the “foreign” Jews, who were turned over by the Judenrat to the Germans to be deported: my brother Chaim Fajga who was born in Klobuck. Due to personal reasons he settled in Czestochowa before the war. There he was active in the youth organization “Dror” (Liberty). Leib Szperling, also from Klobuck, who lived in Czestochowa and Kopel (butcher) Rosensweig. These three Jews worked as civil servants and they were sure that they did not need to register with the Judenrat and that they would not be expelled.

On a certain day the Jewish policeman, S. Zacks, told them that he had an order from the Judenrat to take them into custody and to turn them over to the German police. The order took place and the three were transferred to the German police Commander, Datczek, and then they were deported. In the year 1941, the wives of the three men received a letter from the SS-Commander, stating that their husbands had died in the camp.

 

The Smuggling Trade

Despite the difficult and pressing situation in which the Jews of Klobuck lived, they made strenuous efforts to sustain themselves and to find a source of living. They were forced to smuggle. They smuggled goods from Lodz and transferred them to Czestochowa, which belonged to the “General Government”. The Jews also sewed clothes for Christians with the smuggled goods. If a Jew was caught smuggling by the Germans he was handed over to the German Gendarmerie. At that time there were two “Machers” (Fixers), Bertsze Green and Yitzik Berkowicz. They bribed the German Gendarmerie with big sums of money to free the Jews.

The “Fixers” also had relations with the “Landrat” (Regional council), which was located in Czlachow. With the “Landrat” the “Fixers” arranged for “Passport” for Jews who wanted to travel between Klobuck and Czestochowa. Later, when the “Judenrat” started its activities, there was no need for “Fixers” anymore since the “Judenrat” alone dealt with arranging all the matters with the German power.

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Meanwhile the German power grew. The Commander Datczek, who was nicknamed by Jews “Ober-Eichel” (Big Acorn), took over the management of the village. Datczek had his own police. The life for Jews became more difficult and more painful.

The smuggling of goods was operated by Aaron-Meir Goldberg, Avraham Gelbard, Yaacov Friedman, Avraham Anzel, Berl and Leibish Unglick, Yonah Panower, Fiszel Fajga, Szaya Anzel, Wowe, Elie and Leibish Reich and the writer of these lines. Once we were traveling towards the border during a military exercise. The German soldiers surrounded us and took the goods. Those who were citizens of the General Government were freed, Elie Reich from Krzepice and Moshe Fajga (the writer) were brought back to Klobuck. We were sentenced to ten days of jail. We spent the ten days in Lublin.

After our liberation we went back to the border with back-packs on our shoulders full of goods to smuggle into Czestochowa. The border between the Third Reich and the “General-Government” was around Grabowka, close to the bridge where the small river was flowing. Later, smuggling became harder. The Germans chased the smugglers with dogs and shot at them. Yeszaya Anzel was confined to bed for a while after he was beaten by the Germans.

Once, during one of these “walking on the border” we met a group of Shiksim (non-Jews), who waited for us with knives. Our group included Moshe Hopek, Avraham Staszewski, my brother in-law, Wowe, his brothers, Leibush and Elie resisted with full energy. My brother in-law and his brothers Leibush and Elie Reich were stabbed. But the goods were not lost. Later it turned out that the leader of this group was a Klobucker Jew, Neiman.

Even afterwards when the Germans established a ghetto in Klobuck, and everyone who left the ghetto was punishable by death, the smuggling continued until the end of the year 1941, when people were sent away to work.

[Page 226]

The young people voluntarily reported for the work in the Klobuck's camp. There were a few men that were not accepted. Afterwards the deportation from ghetto started. The Judenrat assisted the Germans to make Klobuck free of Jews - “Judenrein”. The majority of Jews were sent away to work camps in Germany, from where they did not return. Some Jews were forced to work on the “ Reich's AltBahnStrasse”[3]. There they fell like fleas, as a result of the hunger and hard labor. The rest of Klobucker Jews were sent to death camps by the Germans to be gassed and burned.

*

In 1942 I found in Czestochowa the former Klobuck Judenrat members. They ran away when the Germans implemented the final liquidation of Klobuck. Then I told them: “murderers, you helped the Germans to exterminate the Jews of Klobuck and afterwards you ran away to save your lives. If I remain alive I will take revenge…”

During the liquidation of the Czestochowa ghetto they ran away, back to Klobuck. The Germans shot them and they died in the fields between Czestochowa and Klobuck. One of the former Klobuck Judenrat members survived.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. “General Government” zone of Poland directly administered by a German General-Governor Return
  2. Shimon Merin must be Moniek Merin of the previous chapter, Moniek being his Polish First Name and Shimon his Yiddish First Name Return
  3. I think the writer meant Jews were sent to maintenance work on “the old German Railways” Return


[Page 226]

Pain and Self-Sacrifice of the Pious Jews
The Fight against the Judenrat

by Fishl Fajga

Translated from Yiddish to English Asher Szmulewicz

The Germans bombed the refugees, who fled from Klobuck and packed the roads. Near Kocin[1], a German bomb killed Gitel Brat, Zalman's wife. Many people were covered with soil and mud from the German's bombs. Several people succeeded, at the last minute, to pull Pesse Szperling and her child from the soil, which had covered them.

[Page 227]

Outside of Radomsk, Yechiel Rosen, a refugee from Klobuck, was shot. His body was taken to Radomsk, and he was buried there in the Jewish cemetery.

During our return to Klobuck, there was no place to flee from the Germans. We arrived in Lobodno (a small place 2 km NE of Klobuck with population of 9 people). A large scale slaughter occurred there. Many people were shot: Leib Zambek, Yehosha Leizer Gelbard, Gedalia Unglick, Mantshe's son, and his son in law, Simcha Yakubowicz. Mantshe's wife, Rode, had her hand injured. Many other Jews, whose names I don't remember, were also shot there.

Upon my return to Klobuck, I saw that half of the town had been destroyed by fire. I often went to Mantshe's house to pray. The miserable (grieving) father organized a Minyan (quorum - ten people for public prayer) to say Kaddish for his son and son in-law, who had been shot dead. A silence, full of sadness, filled and spread throughout the entire home. Everyone came to pray with their heads down as though they were all guilty for the death of the two men. Old Mantshe said Kaddish for his son, and little Moshele, in his childish voice, said Kaddish for his father. After the Minyan the people left the apartment with tears in their eyes.

In Klobuck the Germans shot Yossef Meir Lengner, who looked through the window of his apartment, Avraham Rosenthal and Zisser Berkowicz. Berkowicz was hiding in his cellar when the Germans searched the town and dragged people to work. They came into the apartment of the unfortunate Berkowicz, and found his wife. When they asked: “Where is your husband?”, she became frightened and she called her husband. He came out of the cellar. The Germans took him out of the apartment and shot him.

In the village of Miedzno (5 km north of Klobuck), close to Klobuck, a few Jewish families lived. The local Poles reported to the Germans that the Jews were speculators, and impostors. The Germans arrested 14 Jews and deported them. Approximately eight days later, the Jewish community center of Klobuck, received little boxes, full of ashes with the names of the arrested Jews.

[Page 228]

At that time, the community was still being led by the previous management, headed by Baruch Szperling. He took the boxes full of ashes and buried them in the Klobuck cemetery. Two of the fourteen deported Jews - Chaim Buchman and Berl Klug, remained alive.

Everyday Jews were required to assemble in the market place. The Germans persecution of the Jews was brutal. They enjoyed our suffering and pain. They ordered us to perform a drill: “bow yourself, lie down, stand up, sit down”, and so on dozens of times. During this brutal exercise the Germans were helped by Poles and the hairdresser, Shuba, who was appointed Mayor by the Germans.

For Rosh Hashanah the Jews were afraid to pray in a Minyan (public prayer with a quorum of at least 10 men). The awe for God was stronger than the fear of the Germans, and many Jews took the risk, and gathered to pray in various other places. On Yom Kippur, the German murderers ran through the town like mad men, and dragged Jews to work.

My brother in law, Israel Blau, and I hid in an attic. From there we saw the horrible acts performed by the Germans on the Jews. We saw how Reb Avraham Shochat (slaughterer), was forced to sit in a truck full of pigs, and was ordered to hold a pig with both of his hands. A German then stabbed the pig, which tried to rip itself away from his hands, and screamed with frightening sounds. Reb Avraham had to hold the pig with both of his hands, and the German marched him and the pig to the slaughter house, where the pigs were ordered to be (ritually) slaughtered.

During Sukkot holiday the Germans found a group of Jews praying together. The Germans dragged the Jews with their Tallithim (prayer shawls) to the market place and forced the Jews to spread the Tallithim on the ground. The seventy year old Yonah Friedman did not let them take his Tallith. The persecutors violently tore the Tallith from the old man. The Jews were forced to set the Tallithim ablaze, and Reb Yonah, as a punishment for his defiance, had to dance bare footed on the burning Tallithim.

When we were sent to Zagorz to work, we already knew that many of us would not come back. We were hit with blows until we bled. The Germans persecuted us with brutal means that could not be compared to anything. The murderers forced Bunim Dudek, to bite the head of a half rotten pan-fried chicken. The only meat we received to eat was pork, with the order: “Jews you must eat this”.

[Page 229]

After eating, we were forced to say the after meal blessing. Our persecutors said forcefully: “Any one that does not pray will be beaten”.

 

Demonstration against the Judenrat

As previously described in another chapter, the Klobuck Judenrat was organized by three Jews from Sosnowiec, who were sent by the Central Judenrat located in Sosnowiec. In addition the following Klobuckers were chosen to help: Yaacov Chade, Benzion Szwiertszewski and Israel Lewkowicz. They were the governing body of the Klobuck Judenrat.

Once, while I was standing in front of the gate of my house, across from the post office, Yaacov Chade, whom I knew well, came by. He was walking with the Sosnowiec organizer. I called out to Yaacov Chade: “What is the purpose of a Judenrat for you? Are you giving him a tour of all the streets. If they want a Judenrat, they should make one by themselves. We Klobuckers should not help”.

While I was standing and speaking to him, people gathered. Men, women and children were amongst them, including Yossef Szperling, Mordechai Szperling, Mrs Szilit and others. They started throwing stones at the Judenrat representatives. The above persons snatched the briefcase away from the Sosnowiecer, and tore up all of the documents. In front of the post office entrance stood a German policeman, who looked like a murderer, he was nicknamed “the smacker”. The Sosnowiecer and Yaacov Chade appealed to the Germans, asking them to help them to control the Jewish crowd.

The German police did not know why the Jews were fighting, and they pushed the Judenrat members out of the post office. “Let the Jews fight with each other” said the Germans. The crowd became audacious and stoned the Sosnowiecer and Chade. They both fled away.

That afternoon, while I was again standing in front of the gate of my house, two German policemen approached me, and asked: “Does Fajga live here?” I did not lose my composure, and calmly answered that he lived further down the road, close to the marketplace.

[Page 230]

They went away towards the marketplace, and I immediately fled and hid. In the evening, when it was dark, I left the shtetl and went on the Wilkowiecko road (Wilkowiecko is a small place 10 km WNW of Klobuck). I did not know where to go, it was late in the evening and I decided to sleep on a heap of straw.

After lying there on this “couch” for about two hours, suddenly I heard somebody coming nearby. I held my breath, and remained lying there for the whole night half dreaming. In the morning again I heard somebody moving in the straw. My curiosity was stronger than my fright. I raised my head and saw Yossef Szperling. I jumped down from the pile of hay, and we hugged one another. Our joy was great: there were now the two of us. Szperling told me that the police also were looking for him. We set out on the way to Wilkowiecko.

 

A committee to fight the Judenrat

When we came close to the forest we went to sleep in the house of the peasant, Dachowski. During the night we heard Poles coming and going. Yossel told me: “Fishel I don't like this business”. We made up our mind very quickly. We couldn't leave through the front door, so we jumped out of the window with our shoes in our hands. We spent the night in a barn, and at dawn we went to Wilkowiecko. There we found a third refugee, Mordechai Szperling, who was also sought by the German police.

Mordechai Szperling told us that he had a friend, a Christian, who lived in a small house in the fields. We went to his friend and stayed there. We sent our savior to Klobuck to tell our families where we were. Our host came back with the following news that my brother in law, Yaacov Aaron Blau, intervened with the Gendarmerie (country police). He bribed them with three gold rings and I was permitted to return back home.

I came back to Klobuck, but I didn't sleep at home.

[Page 231]

During that same week two Germans came at night to our house, looking for me. They arrested Chaim Mass and Herszel Franck. The Germans still looked for me. Then, I slept in the attic in Yeshaya Enzel's home.

*

The Judenrat learned that I came back home. They ordered me to report in their office. I knew they wanted to send me to a camp in Germany and so I didn't fulfilled their request.

We organized a committee, and named Herszel Szperling as the leader. Our mission was: Don't follow the Judenrat orders. Herszel Szperling made propaganda to the whole world. He told everyone not to pay the Judenrat taxes. “When you don't give, you cannot take” thus he said.

The Judenrat in addition to the “regular taxes”, levied money from those who didn't go to work. Those that could not pay or did not work had to pay five marks per day. When people couldn't pay they confiscated all kind of objects from their homes. The implementation of the orders was done with the help of the German Police. They took a new sewing machine and bedding from Herszel Szperling's home. Herszel did not oppose the Judenrat, he just said: “Take the machine, if the world survives, there will be (other) machines”.

The “Parisian”, a so called Jew, who served as a courier for the Judenrat, came to my home. The “Parisian” came with a German and demanded that I should hand over my unique new sewing-machine, with which my wife made a modest living. I put some money into the Parisian's hand. Then he left without the new machine. The German who accompanied the Parisian, didn't care about the courier's mission, he came along just to accompany him. The Judenrat courier came several times to take goods and each time he left with nothing.

Finally, the Judenrat demanded that I show up in their office. I went there. In response to the question: “why aren't you paying the sums that we demanded from you”, I answered that I did not have any money, and that they could take everything which was in my apartment. The Judenrat gave me a deadline of 14 days to bring the money.

[Page 232]

In the meantime the following happened:

Once in the evening, I was outside late after the curfew hours set by the Police. A German and Korkasen, a Pole who liked to quarrel with Jews, walked in the street. The Pole pointed at me and shouted: “Jew, Jew”. The German and the Pole chased me. I ran away, fell, got up and ran away again. I escaped and I arrived home. I had great pain in the hand. Dr Waitszik gave me a short document with a request that I be released from work. Thus I didn't have to pay any money to the Judenrat for not going to work.

 

In a Work Camp

On March 20th 1941 the Judenrat together with the police posted notices calling for all the Jews to report to the courtyard of the Skorupa[2]. Those who wouldn't appear, would have their wives and children deported. The Jews ran around worried. “What should we do?”, “Should we report to the police?” Everyone asked each other, but nobody knew what is the answer.

The day came when we had to report to the place. Only few minutes were left. Everyone looked at everyone else and finally all the men came to the courtyard of the Skorupa, as the Judenrat ordered. We were afraid that our wives and children would be deported.

I also reported. In the courtyard hundreds of Jews had already gathered, including Jews from Dzialoszyn and from all of the surrounding areas, who had “escaped” to Klobuck. The members of the Judenrat counted the “heads”. We stood in a single line. They counted and counted again. Suddenly the German murderers, with helmets on their heads, came. They surrounded us. I saw, that it was the end and I pushed myself close to the meadow, planning to escape. A Klobucker, with whom I attended the Cheder, ran after me. My friend didn't let me escape. He shouted: “stand still”. Being afraid that the Germans would shoot me, I came back to the line.

[Page 233]

Despite the heavy guard of the Germans, a few Jews managed to escape. I was among those who remained in the courtyard. We were marched to the Beit HaMidrash, and from there to the Firefighter station, where we stayed for two to three days. Afterwards we were sent away to a work camp.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Pronounced Kotshin seems to be the actual Stary Kocin about 15 km NE of Klobuck Return
  2. Polish word meaning shell or crust (seems to be a name of a location or a building in the shtetl) Return

 

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