by Pesa Chorzewski Zlatnik
Translated from the Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
I fled Klobuck on Friday at dawn, September 1st, (1939), together with all of the other Jews, while the town was under attack by the Germans. Day and night we dragged ourselves through the fields and forests until we came to Jarek (¯arki). The Germans were already there. There were ongoing skirmishes in all of the surrounding areas. I wanted to go back home to Klobuck, but the roads were full of dead people.
After two weeks of wandering, I returned to Klobuck, my birth place. In Klobuck there was a frightening silence. The streets were empty. Armed Germans patrolled the streets, and Jews started to come back to their destroyed and looted homes. (At first) we thought that we returned to the town of Klobuck, as it used to be. But soon the Germans started persecuting the Jews and forced them to work, and endure terrible sufferings.
One day I was taken to work. I was part of a group of fifty Jews, including Yehoshua and Baruch Unglick. We worked close to the bridge on the Krzepice road. The Germans forced us, all fifty Jews, to crawl into a water pipe, which connected the bridge to the canal. The Germans stood on both sides of the pipe with shovels in their hands, and any Jew who tried to lift his head to breathe fresh air received murderous blows.
Near the pipe there was a lot of debris that prevented the water from flowing. The Germans spared no effort to resume the water flow that entered the pipe to its full strength, and where the fifty Jews were suffocating. After working another hour, the sadistic Germans permitted us come out (of the pipe). We came out soaking wet, and still had to work in the water. A cold wind was blowing, and we had to continue working in such conditions until the evening.
We worked the whole week, and on Friday the Germans subjected us to a special persecution day. We worked until noon. Then we were brought to the square in front of the Shul (Synagogue), and we had to clean up the square. Suddenly the Germans searched the men to check if they wore Tzitzit (Tassels or fringes on Tallith Katan). The sadistic Germans gave murderous blows to those wearing Tzitzit and burned all of the Tallith Katan.
After cleaning the square, our persecutors ordered us to lie on the ground with our faces pointed upward, and the sadists trampled us with their boots. They also trampled on those with big stomachs, claiming to make them flat, while they laughed with wild giggles. They cut our hair with big scissors, and by doing so they also cut the skin on our heads.
After this bestial behavior, the Germans rounded up another group of Jews, led by Zisser Lapides. They were forced and dragged into a cellar, and there they were beaten with murderous blows. The cries of the beaten Jews were heard throughout the streets. Women and children came out and wept and lamented. We all were sure that the persecuted Jews would not come out of the cellar alive. In the evening the persecutors (finally) let them go.
For several weeks I was dragged to forced labor, and then I decided to stop going to work. I went to see (the small) Zisser Lapides. He had the authority to send people to various other work projects. While I was in Lapides' apartment, German soldiers came in and forced me to go with them to the half destroyed Shul. There already were many other Jews there that the Germans held as hostages, which accounted for the town's quiet condition.
Among the arrested people were the Rav and Reb Wolff Weiss. We stayed in the synagogue for the entire Shabbat. The Rav asked the Jews to say Tehilim (Psalms). No one slept that night. We said
Tehilim. At 4:00AM we heard gun shots. With a broken voice the Rav requested of everybody: Jews pray to God, a calamity has occurred. With frantic fright we waited for dawn. Around 10:00AM we learned that a man had been shot, and we, the hostages, were being held responsible for that. In the evening I was freed. After a few weeks everybody else was freed.
The Klobuck Judenrat was in charge of the Jews in Klobuck. Pursuant to its orders Jews were assigned to work, or were sent away to the camps, at the cost of blood and loss of life for those assigned to work or sent to the camps.
The Judenrat ordered that one man from every household was required to go to a work camp. Convoy after convoy were sent away. People were dragged from their beds during the night. We stayed in hidden places throughout days and nights. Suddenly it was announced that houses on the Third of May street (Trzeciego Maja), where I lived and where I was in hiding, were going to be demolished. The Judenrat sent an advanced notice to leave the apartments, because the buildings were going to be demolished. I had to move into Yeshaya Enzel's house.
We left our houses, and then we received another order, directing that all the Jews were required to work and demolish all of the buildings on the street. Jews had to register to demolish their own houses, and armed German soldiers forced everyone to assemble in the hall inside the Firefighter station. Aaron Szmulewicz, Chaskel Rosen and I tried to escape through a backdoor. When we opened the door, a soldier shouted that he was going to shoot. I was the first one out, and I escaped outside, by standing in the shadows, so as not to get noticed. I stood behind a half demolished wall, and heard the tumult in the Firefighter station caused by my escape. Hershel Weichman and a few Germans came out to look for me. One of the Germans said that they intended to kill my parents if they couldn't catch me. I entered the apartment of Elie Friedman, who was an invalid; he was therefore exempt from the order which required going to work. I sat at the table. Shortly thereafter a German came in and asked for
identification documents. Since I had nothing to give him, he took me back to the Firefighter station, and turned me over to the Germans in charge of the guard, in order to be shot. The highest ranking military man said that it was a pity to waste a bullet on the Juden (Jews), and instead he administered murderous blows on me.
I laid unconscious, covered with blood. I was taken away from there. The Germans who had been looking for me came back. Their leader saw me lying and bleeding. He honored me with a few more boot kicks, and declared that he would finish me in the camp.
I remained in my condition, worrying about my big troubles. Throughout the entire night, transports departed. At dawn trucks came again to take people away. My friends advised me to go, so that the German murderer would not know where I was. If he found me again, he would immediately shoot me. I followed my friends' advice, and I left with the transport.
I arrived in the camp, Klein-Mangelsdorf (Germany). Many Jews from Klobuck worked there. Many died from starvation and hard labor. While there, I also suffered through the difficult hard labor and pain. Many times I felt that my life had come to its end. Yet, I endured and survived until the liberation.
Just before the liberation, the German murderers dragged us from camp to camp. At the end they brought us to Hamburg, and intended to put us on a boat and drown us at sea. However, the Hamburg harbor was no longer reachable, because it was under attack by English fire. For three days we waited, while the bombing continued. Then the Germans marched us to Bergen-Belsen, which was captured eight days later by the English army. That is where we were liberated.
by Adele Unglik, Australia
Translated from the Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
The Wandering Path between Death and Extermination
The kindergarten's teachers were: Natke Granek, the daughter of Mordechai Granek and Chanele from Pabienice. The two young girls founded the kindergarten in 1941 and it lasted until the final liquidation of the Klobuck Jews.
The children, like all children everywhere in the world, were happy and went cheerfully to their children home (the kindergarten), and spent day after day, week after week singing and dancing, without knowing what might happen to them tomorrow. Their little faces were gentle; their stare was guiltless and innocent. Yet they were snatched from their parents and executed by the German murderers.
In this last children home was Chavele, my sister's daughter. She was like my own child, I cannot refer to her otherwise. I saw her play with her friends; how she sang and danced. Then the ruthless devil extended its black wings above all of our heads.
|Last Kindergarten in Klobuck
The teachers are standing on the right and on the left
These children from the last kindergarten of Klobuck have no one to remember them, no one to drop a tear on their unfinished childhood. Their parents and families were exterminated by the Germans.
Therefore, my modest lines should be a Remembrance (Yizkor) for these innocent children of the last kindergarten of Klobuck, who were persecuted by the Germans.
by Tsile Witelzon-Zambek
Translated from the Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
The Wandering Path between Death and Extermination
On the third day after the outbreak of the war, we returned home to Klobuck, aware that there was nothing to be accomplished by running away. The Germans already were everywhere. Five kilometers before arriving at Klobuck, the Germans noticed the long beard of my observant father. They took him away. We did not stand by idly; for 14 days we looked for him, and we finally found his dead body not far from Klobuck.
We learned that the Germans forced him to dig his own grave, and then they shot him. He was one of the first Jewish victims of Klobuck.
My mother was widowed and left with seven children. My brothers were forced to work at various labor works, and they endured terrible persecutions (by the Germans). Often, I picked up their shovel and went to work instead of one of them, because I was afraid that they would be deported. The risk of deportation of women was much less than that for the men.
In the year 1940 we were notified that the Arbeit Einsatz (Labor Supply) was established, and that all of the men between the ages of 18 to 45 had to register (for work assignment). The Judenrat Elder, Moshe Merin, together with Gestapo personnel, arrived from Sosnowiec. Merin demanded that one young man from every family was required to go to the work camp. The Judenrat Elder promised a golden good fortune: going to the camp assured that the worker would receive food, a salary and be able to survive the war. The reality was different: the young people were sent away to suffer from the cold and hunger in the Eichenwald camp in Germany. The (young people) children wrote terrible letters, (begging) that we should have pity for them and send them kohlrabi and carrots, because no other products were allowed to be given to them. The work was very difficult: they cut wood in the forest. Only a small percentage of those who were sent to work in that camp survived the very difficult conditions. From our family, my brother Shlomo was sent to work. He never came back.
Then there was another Arbeit Einsatz (Labor Supply) order. Nobody wanted to go. People were dragged from their beds, beaten, and murdered. Every night we ran to sleep (hide) in another attic; we didn't know what we could do. The world closed in on us. My second brother, Chaim, and my uncle, Niedziela, were sent (into forced labor), and they never came back.
My elder brother, Yitzhak-Wolf, remained at home, and we hid him from the third Labor Supply. My uncle, Pinchas Niedziela, procured a job for him in a German dairy. The Judenrat told my mother that she was covered, and that the (remaining) children would not be sent away. But that good fortune did not last long.
On June 21, 1942 there was turmoil in the ghetto. News came from Sosnowiec that at night there would be heimleich (meaning a comfortable or cozy situation, like being at home).[i] People knew there would be trouble and ran around frenzied, looking for any means to escape.
My mother and her children went to the home of a Pole in the village of Zagorz. From there they wanted to go to Pienczin, where another county administrator lived. Unfortunately it was too late. The deportation started during the night. I wanted to flee to Zagorz, where my sister was. On the way I met my uncle, Moshe Niedziela, and he advised me not to go back to the ghetto, because the road was full of lurking German gendarmes. They were arresting all of the Jews that they came across.
On the way back, my uncle, his wife and I did not return to the (Klobuck) ghetto, but went to the home of a Christian acquaintance of ours, in an attempt to hide ourselves in his barn. In the middle of the night we heard terrible crying and shouting. We understood that it was the end of the Jews in Klobuck. Soon thereafter, the County Commander, the Gestapo, with their trained dogs, and Jewish policemen came from Sosnowiec. We were dragged out and assembled at the gathering point in the Firefighter station hall. All the way, we were beaten and pushed around.
The Jewish policemen calmed us down, and asked us not to become hysterical. They said that no harm would happen to us, and that we would be sent to a work camp. I asked them to let my uncle, Moshe, and my
aunt, Chana Rosa, go because they were elderly people, and that they could not survive the deportation. My request was ignored. We were all dragged away.
At the gathering point in the Klobuck Firefighter hall, there were dreadful scenes, that should never again be seen by human beings. The Germans let their dogs free to attack and bite the elderly and the children. All of the sick and infirm people were shot. At the end, we were forced into transport trucks, which were heavily guarded, and the guards subjected us to unsparing blows. We were driven to Kiznitske. A young man from Krzepice, who tried to escape, was shot by the Germans. He fell wounded. The murderers trampled on his body, and then released the dogs on him.
When the martyrized man was lying unconscious, bitten all over by the dogs, the tormentors threw him in a river.
In Kiznitske we were dragged inside the Shul (Synagogue), where there were many Jews from Krzepice. There the selection was performed by the Sosnowiec Judenrat Elder, Moshe Merin. No one believed that we were chosen to die in the gas chambers and crematoriums. The Judenrat Elder convinced us that the elderly and the children would be sent to special camps. The food rations would be smaller for them, but they would be able to survive the war.
Twenty five young women, including myself, and one young man, Yaacov Diment, were chosen to go to a work camp. We were sent back to the Kiznitske shul. There I found my aunt, Neche Granek, and her children. Her eldest daughter was 14 years old, and she was not tall. I smuggled her out of the transport, and took her in our group of young girls. I placed a stone in her shoes so she would look taller. In that manner I was able to take the young girl from the (transport) and out of the camp. She came along with us to Sosnowiec, where there was a transit camp (durchgangs Lager Dulag). We were examined by doctors. My cousin was rejected because of her small height. She did not come along with us.
After eight days in Dulag, all of the 25 young girls were sent to the work camp, Grinberg. We worked hard there, and we did not receive enough food to eat. Day by day we became feebler, but we survived.
After a year of work, the camp was liquidated. We were then sent to Neusaltz. We met up with many Klobucker Jews there, from the first labor supply, and among them was my sister, Bela. Other members of our group also found their sisters. Among them were: Feigel Blitz, Chana Unglick and Edga Granek. Mirel Unglick and Edga Granek died in the camp, following a long illness.
My sister, Bela, and I remained together until the liberation. We survived together throughout all of the stages of the German persecution and hell. We worked hard, and we became as thin as skeletons. However, we held on to a spark of hope that we would survive the war, and that hope sustained us and gave us the will to remain alive. Many of the young girls did not endure the terrible situation, and they collapsed.
In December, 1944 we were taken out of the Neusaltz camp, under a heavy guard of Gestapo personnel. The move was ordered to protect us from the Russian bombings. For six weeks the armed Germans dragged us from camp to camp. Every day we were forced to walk 30 kilometers, through deep snow, even though we had only wooden shoes, or were bare footed. Our feet were swollen. Many of the young girls, including young girls from Klobuck, fainted on the roads, and their short lives came to their end.
We walked through the Sudeten region, the Czech region, and the beautiful town of Marienbad. In the end the SS soldiers confined and locked us up in train carriages for three days, without food. That is how we arrived at the extermination camp of Bergen-Belsen. It was our good fortune that we spent only four weeks there, because we could not have survived more than that.
Every day thousands of Jews were killed by the filth and the hunger. The dead corpses were piled up, and the living people wandered around like walking skeletons. We only received some soup once a day, without even a piece of bread. When the soup pot was brought,
there was a scramble; and the kapo, a woman, beat us on our heads until we bled. That is how we got some watered soup. Drinking water was under lock. During these four weeks we could not wash ourselves even once. Vermin were eating us alive.
By April 15, 1945 we were lying among the dead, when we were freed by the Englishmen. In the camp a typhus epidemic outbreak occurred. The Englishmen brought us to an hospital. We were washed, cleaned and healed. After two months my sister, Bela, and I left the hospital, and went to Sweden.
by Karala Benszkowska
Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
My parents originated from Klobuck. When we were small children, my parents moved to Lodz.
My mother often travelled to Klobuck to visit her ancestors' graves. In my youth I did not realize the special significance and deep feelings that were closely connected to the journey to my mother's ancestors' graves. We, the children, rejoiced when we could join our my mother during her trips to Klobuck. I traveled to and visited this shtetl several times, and I have fond memories of it.
When World War II broke out, we traveled back to our parents' old home in Klobuck, and all of us met each other and came together there.
At the beginning of the occupation, men and women were taken to forced labor (nearby), and initially we liked it. We thought that it (the war) would not last long. This happiness did not last for long. The Germans started to send people away to work. Soon
a new decree was issued: it was ordered that all of the young girls had to register, and then would be sent away to work. As was my fate, I was not spared or overlooked.
In the middle of the night, I was ordered out of my bed. I shivered from fright, because it was the first time in my life that I was torn away from the thing I held closest and most dear my home.
I did not know where I was being taken. However, I thought that my going away would spare the rest of my family from the worst. I was therefore ready to sacrifice myself for my family. I could not imagine that I had hugged and pressed my dear parents to my heart for the last time.
To this day I remember the image in front of my eyes of how the Germans brought us to the station. My mother ran after me, through the field, in her attempt to, at least, see me from afar. I saw my mother fall in the field, exhausted from running after me; yet she got up again as fast as she could, so that she could see me for the last time. She instinctively knew that it was the last time she would see me.
During 1942, when I was in the camp, I received a few letters. Shortly thereafter the deportation of Klobuck started. Everyone tried as best as they could to escape from the deportation. Everyone rushed to get into the work camp at Zagorz. My mother's only concern was for her children, and she did not think about herself; she agonized over how she could save them, and how to secure their lives. She brought my young sister, Marile, to the Zagorz work camp, and returned to her home alone. At home she was with my grand-mother and with my sister, Frimet, and her child, and waited for the coming fate of her sad life.
Indeed, on the very same night, the deportation of Klobuck occurred. My sister, Marile, knew that our mother, our grand-mother, our sister, Frimet, and her child were hidden behind the closet (in our apartment). Marile tried to find a means to travel to town, and find out what happened to our family.
Marile and Edge Epstein travelled to town with the
food caldron for the workers. They were detained by armed Germans, who checked their identification, and were told to sit in a truck. Three men were already sitting in the truck: Yechiel Mass, a father of 7 children; the 14 year old, Unglick; and the 13 year old, Dzialowski. They were all brought to the Jewish cemetery to be shot.
Marile and Edge stood facing the cemetery wall, while the men were digging a mass grave. When Marile tried to turn around, she received a blow to her head with a rubber stick. Her eyes were covered with blood. She wanted the pain to be over, because waiting for death was too much for her. But often redemption comes at the last moment before death. The town commissioner arrived and saved Marile and Edge (Chana) from death.
As soon as they walked a few steps away, they heard the shots. The Germans took the lives of three innocent victims the Jews.
After two days, all of the people who remained in the Zagorz camp were brought to town (Klobuck) to clean up the houses of the Jews who were deported to the death camps. Marile and Chana were also in the clean up committee, and by chance she happened to clean up our apartment, where our mother was still hiding, with our grand-mother and our sister, Frimet, with her child.
Marile asked the troop leader for permission to take them with her to the Zagorz camp. As a reward she promised to show him where our grand-mother hid her treasure. The troop leader accepted the deal, but as they were about to leave, the Gendarmes came, with their sniffing dogs, and ( the hidden Jews) were taken away.
A Polish neighbor, named, Dgizba, asked that he be allowed to take the child, Chanele, Frimet's daughter. He offered to bribe the Germans, but his efforts were useless. The Gendarmes took away the arrested persons.
Not long afterwards, the last Klobucker Jews were deported
to work camps in Germany. Among the deported Jews were my father, and my two brothers, Yitzek and Alek. My father did not reflect on the difficult moral and psychic experiences of his life: he lost his wife, a daughter and a grandchild, yet he was determined to go on with life, and work for the German murderers, believing that he would survive Hitler's hell.
Yitzek and Alek did everything they could in the camp to facilitate our father's survival, by helping him with his difficult sufferings. Often, they gave him their food portion. He wanted to survive his bitter fate, but several months before the liberation there was a decree to remove all of the old people from the work camps, including my father.
One of my brothers volunteered to take my father's place, but it was impossible. The German murderers tore my father away from my brothers' arms, and sent him to the gas chambers.
Where are our dearest (and departed loved ones)? Where are their graves? How can we travel to our ancestors' graves, like my mother did for her parents' graves?
May their souls rest in eternal peace.
by Pesa Chorzewski Zlatnik
Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
One day before the deportation of the Klobucker Jews from the ghetto, my mother and sister, with the help of a Christian, left their home and left the shtetl. They intended to smuggle themselves across the border and into Czestochowa, where my brother, Emanuel, already was living. During the journey, the Christian had regrets, (changed his mind), and no longer was willing to help my mother and sister.
They were left alone, approximately half way from their destination. They decided to go back to Klobuck. On their way back, Germans shot at them. Peasants warned the two women not to go back to Klobuck, because the Germans were shooting Jews.
My mother and sister went to another village. There a Christian took pity on them, and for a large amount of money, arranged with a peasant to smuggle both of them into Czestochowa.
My father's painful wanderings were very different.
My father did not want to leave his home. At the beginning, when the German murderers behaved bestially in the ghetto streets, my father successfully escaped to the home of a Christian acquaintance, called Pierchowski. The good Christian hid the Jew (my father) in his attic from the evening until 11:00 PM. At that time Pierchowski went to my father and asked him to immediately leave his house, because he was afraid that the Germans would shoot his whole family. That was how the Germans were punishing Poles who were hiding Jews.
My father had to wander again. He went to the home of another Christian acquaintance, called Zmielnick, from village of Zakrzew (Zakshew). Once he arrived there he received the same answer. This was the almost universal response that was given to the hunted and desperate Jews from his Christian acquaintances. My father wandered through the fields and woods, and broke into peasant barns or attics during the night to find a place to sleep. In the end he came back to Klobuck, because a Christian acquaintance told him that there was a Jewish Committee in Klobuck.
My father went to the Committee, and met the Judenrat leaders Wiener and Jasne. The Judenrat elders became afraid when they suddenly saw a Klobucker Jew in the shtetl (after the deportation). They gave him a piece of bread, and advised him to hide in an attic. They told him that they would take him to the camp the next morning. My father did not hide in an attic, but again he left the shtetl, because he was afraid that the Judenrat elders intended to hand him over to the Germans.
On his long journey, my father encountered drunk German railway workers, who held him prisoner. After many arguments and the payment of 10 marks, the murderers let my father go. My father was left in a field; he was physically and emotionally exhausted. A Christian passed by, and my father asked him
to take him to Czestochowa. The Christian saw that my father had a gold pocket watch, and he asked that my father give him his watch as a reward.
My father gave him his pocket watch, and the Christian took him to the border, but then told him to go the rest of the way alone. My father had no choice, and he dragged his tired and swollen feet until he arrived at Czestochowa. But then, there was another problem: how to get into the ghetto?
The Jew (my father) went into a Christian shop, where he bought a glass of soda water. After drinking the soda, he asked the shopkeeper to ask someone to bring him inside the ghetto. For two Zlotys a Christian boy brought him to the Kadafsker Bridge, and on the other side there was the large ghetto (In Czestochowa were 2 ghettos: a large one and a small one).
Jews on the other side, (in the ghetto), saw my father. Risking their lives, they rushed to bring my father into the ghetto, so that the murderers would not notice him. After all of his long wanderings, my father finally arrived at his son's house, and we remained together until Sukkot eve.
On Sukkot's eve there was a second Action in Czestochowa. My parents left their (son's) home, and went to a bunker, where they stayed for six weeks. Afterwards, when things calmed down for Jews, my parents came back to the ghetto. But the situation had changed and things were much more difficult. People were afraid to permit old people, or people who were unable to work, to remain.
After long and strenuous efforts, my sister, Ite, found a cellar room for my parents. They lived there for three months, suffering with their fright, and from hunger and the cold. Then there was another Action. With the help of Jewish policemen, the Germans searched for and arrested my parents, and they were sent from the Czestochowa ghetto to Treblinka. This happened in January, 1943.
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