by Mordechai Weissfelner
Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
I will recall here a few episodes from the horrible period of Hitler.
When the war started I was enrolled in the Polish army. After three weeks, while retreating from the front, I was captured with my unit by the Germans. I escaped and I hid in the forest. The next morning I came to the village, known as Szidlowcze, which is close to Kielce. The Germans were already there with their tanks, aircraft and horses. They tore open the Jewish shops and threw all of the goods to the Poles. I spent two days in the village and on the third day I left, and returned to my parents. We walked as full units of Polish soldiers, still in our uniforms. The German military came and an officer ordered us to stop. I did not say that I was a Jew.
We were dragged back to the same village where we had come from. We were put in a cellar, where we were almost sitting on one another. After two days we were transported by trucks to Kielce, to the barracks previously used by the Polish army. There were thousands of people there. Then the real hell started for the Jews.
The Germans separated the Jews from the Poles. We were a group of 500 Jews. They immediately started to persecute us. We had to kneel and keep our hands up. With our eyes directed at the sun, they kept us like this for the entire day.
The sun burned us terribly. Representatives of the Polish
Red Cross came and gave us bread and water. The Germans did not allow them to give us the bread, but only one cup of water per person.
That is how 5000 Jews were gathered, and left outside for three weeks. We slept on the ground. For three days we did not receive any food. On the fourth day we received one meal consisting of watered soup with peas. Many died from starvation and exhaustion.
After three weeks I managed to leave the Jewish group, and I joined the Polish group that was being liberated. I registered as a Pole, and escaped from the persecutions. In Kielce a train with carriages was waiting. Another Jew and I wanted to travel to Czestochowa. The Germans who were standing around the train started to shoot at us, but we successfully escaped. We walked for two days and arrived in Czestochowa.
My family's joy was overwhelming, but it did not last for long. My persecuted life began, both in the German camp near Klobuck, and then in the camps in Germany. I was in about ten camps, and I saw a lot of persecution, and I was persecuted myself.
Today it is impossible to understand how people and I survived such starvation. The best was when we found a good garbage can where there were enough peels from rotten potatoes and rotten cabbages. The one who caught such a bargain was the happiest man in the world.
The Mikvenik (mikveh attendant)
I will never forget the German persecutor, by the name mikvenik, who was very well known in the camps. I knew him well from his original way of beating us. He always had (whip) with a knot (at the end), a bukowiece, which he used to hit people in the face; anyone who received a blow, remembered it for a long time. The nickname mikvenik was given to him because he took special
pleasure to beat his victims while they were in the barrack's shower, where people stood nude.
A second German tormentor was nicknamed timtam; he received his nickname because of his appearance: a smooth chin without any sign of a beard. He walked the entire day with a stick, beating and roaring: Jewish swine. He received his reward for all his bestial actions. When the Russians invaded Germany, he was caught and shot.
The Master of Burning Dead People
This was one of my most terrible experiences. After traveling eight days in open train carriages, without food and water, with about 200 persons per carriage, we arrived in the camp on the ninth day. We were divided into groups for different work. I was assigned to carry dead people. The master, that is how we called the German, who was responsible of the work, asked us if we knew what a pyre was. Then he opened a large barrack in front of us where thousands of dead people laid, lying like herrings in a line. We had to take them out to the field, and lay them in layers and then prepare a pyre, in the following manner.
We spread kindling wood on the ground, and on top of the wood we put 70 dead bodies. On top of the bodies we put more wood, and on top of the wood, again 70 dead bodies, until there were a total of approximately 500 (dead) people, layer after layer; and then we lit the fire. We worked like this for four weeks, until we (burned) all of the dead bodies. Every day we made a pyre, in which we burned people from the camp, who died from various diseases, hunger and suffering.
The work of burning the dead people was performed in a very professional manner. The German master, who conducted the work, was very exacting and precise in this trade. In addition to the dead bodies from the barracks, we had to dig out corpses who were buried in very shallow graves in the ground. We used a pickaxes for this work.
The German master told us that we will be the next ones on the pyre.
I have seen several films about war, but none of them displayed the reality of the cruelty of the German extermination. The Germans professionally filmed their extermination work, and then destroyed the films when the liberators entered Germany.
by Yehuda Szperling
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
When they began to say in the Klobuck ghetto that the Germans would send out all of the Jews and liquidate the ghetto, I sent those closest to me my wife, daughter and mother-in-law to Czenstochow. The lived in the ghetto with my brother, Yitzhak Leib. My father and my youngest brother, Pinkhas Menakhem, were hiding with a Christian in a village. Two brothers and a sister were in Germany in labor camps.
After the liquidation of the Klobuck ghetto, which took place in June 1942, I remained in the former ghetto as a useful Jew, a tailor. I was employed cleaning the emptied Jewish houses.
I learned one day that the last Jews were also being sent out of Klobuck. The shtetl [town] would be Judenrein [free of Jews]. I did not wait until they sent me out and I went to a Polish acquaintance. He took me over the border to Czenstochow for an appropriate reward. I met my wife and daughter and received employment in the ammunition factory, HASAG [Hugo Schneider AG German arms manufacturer]. The deportations of the Czenstochow Jews took place four months later after Yom-Kippur. Our entire family, 30 people, went out at six in the morning and appeared at the gathering point. There we were counted. I remained alone. Everyone was sent to Treblinka. Before sending away the people at the gathering point, the director of the HASAG factory where I worked arrived and he chose his Jews amounting to 500 people. He wanted to take us to work, but the Gestapo office, which was in charge of the deportation, answered him that he could not take anyone for work during the deportation this was the highest wish of the Fuehrer.
The director did not yield. He telephoned the highest authority in Radom and asked that his Jews, who he had to have to work in the factory, be freed. The highest authority yielded to his plea and we were removed from the deportation. We were placed in barracks in the factory. We ate there, we slept there on the hard floor and we worked.
A small ghetto of approximately 4,000 Jews remained in Czenstochow. When a deportation again took place, a comrade from Hashomer Hatzair [The Youth Guard a socialist-Zionist organization] wanted to shoot the leader of the Gestapo. But the revolver jammed. The Gestapo then chose 28 men and two girls, the healthiest and the best looking, and shot them in the presence of all the Jews who stood in the square.
There were still small children in the ghetto. The Gestapo leader, [Paul] Degenhardt, ordered the Jewish leaders to arrange a kindergarten where the children could spend time. Degenhardt made sure that the children received milk. This lasted for several weeks. Suddenly, when all of the children were in the educational home, Degenhardt and the Gestapo surrounded the house and they began to lead the children out. The crying and shouting reached toward the heavens. Armed Gestapo members led the children away to their deaths.
Later the Jewish leaders received an order to register the Jews who had relatives in Eretz-Yisroel. It was mainly doctors and their families who registered and almost the entire Judenrat and the chairman. One day the Germans ordered all of the candidates for travel
to Eretz-Yisroel to appear at the gathering spot with baggage up to 10 kilos and they would be sent to Eretz-Yisroel to their relatives.
Cars were waiting for them at the gathering point. The group was seated in them and they began to go. In the middle of the trip, the Jews noticed that they were being driven to the cemetery. There was turmoil. The Jewish leaders took poison. Two people were successful in escaping. The remainder, approximately 200 Jews, men, women and children were taken to the cemetery. Graves had already been prepared there. The Germans shot the children first, then the women and finally the men.
In the Czenstochow ghetto, Degenhardt chose the leader of the Jewish police as the leader of the community. All of this happened in the winter of 1943. The shooting of the candidates for travel to Eretz-Yisroel took place on the Fast of Ester of that year [18 February 1943].
After the shooting, I received a letter from my sister who was in the Zagórze labor camp, near Klobuck. She wrote to me that I should come to the camp. Although such a trip was full of deadly danger because I would have to go through the border between the General Government and Wartenau, we my cousin, four other people and I decided to turn to a Pole to take us across the border. We bribed the German who took us to work, as well as the Pole. The border smuggler was well paid and we arrived in the Zagórze camp peacefully.
My sister hid us in the attic. We lay there for three days until my sister persuaded the camp leader to register me. Things again were good and I worked there until July 1943.
The Zagórze camp was surrounded on a Friday night and we were led out to German camps.
We were forced by the Germans from camp to camp between death and extermination. I saw how old people and children were sent to Oświęcim [Auschwitz]. The Jewish kapos [prisoner functionaries who supervised the forced labor and performed administrative work] tortured us more than the Germans. One kapo named Akiva Rozencwajg hanged himself after the liberation.
The last camp in which I was until the liberation was called Sportschule [sport school] near Faulbrueck [Lower Silesia]. The women's camp where my sister was located was not far from there.
I was liberated on the 8th of May 1945. A roll call still occurred in the morning of the thousand camp arrestees. The members of the Gestapo told us to sing Hatikvah [The Hope now the national anthem of Israel], which we sang with tears in our eyes. The German guards disappeared around noon. A white flag appeared and later a red flag.
I left the camp and ran to the women's camp. There I met my sister and a cousin. We cried for the entire time. Later the Russians came and permitted us to go to wherever we wished. I, my sister, my cousin and other acquaintances from Klobuck left for Reichenbach.
In 1946 I went to Klobuck. I mourned those closest to me who were tortured to death by the Germans, and began a new life. I married Chana Benszkowski. We left for Germany and from there, in 1948 to Israel.
by Mordechai Weissfelner
Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
As soon as the Germans entered Klobuck they started to persecute the Jews in a bestial manner. The sadists cut beards, forced men to eat their hair from their beards, and rounded up people and sent them to forced labor. Bitter news came from the people sent to forced labor in Germany: It is unbearable, the work is very hard and there is no food to eat. Thus everyone thought about how to hide.
I also was caught for forced labor, with other Jews. We were confined in the stra¿ak szope (firefighters' shed). My mother came to visit me, and she brought peasant clothes for me. When nobody
paid attention, I put on the clothes, and I escaped from there. I was hidden for a long time by Christians.
When the ghetto was established in Klobuck in 1941, I was caught and put in the ghetto. From there I was sent, together with a group of others, to Gliwice (Germany). Our work was to empty the Jewish houses. We were called the Cleanup Command. We saw with our own eyes what was done with the Jewish belongings, and to the people who were sent away.
I managed to get an authorization to go back home for a few days, and I was able to stay in Klobuck for three days, on the condition that my friends were accountable for my return (to the camp). They guaranteed that I would come back, and I went back home.
I told everyone about the conditions, what was done with the Jewish belongings and with the Jews. My parents tried to convince me not to go back. I did not want to stay. I knew that my friends were responsible for my return, and I therefore returned to Germany. Later, I learned that during the relocation (deportation) of Klobuck, my parents fled to Czestochowa.
Our group was sent back to Zagorz, and to the camp there. In the Zagorz camp I was told that my little sister, Reisele, was in Klobuck, and was being hidden by Christians; and that my elder sister, Devorah, was in Germany in the Neuesaltz camp; and that my parents, together with their remaining children, were sent away to Treblinka.
The twelve year old boy who escaped from Treblinka.
While in Zagorz, I was informed that my youngest, 12 year old, brother, Yitzikl, survived the death camp in Treblinka. He later recounted what he saw in the terrible German extermination camp: large transports of Jews were brought in carriages, locked with iron bars. Chlorine was poured onto the carriage floor. In Treblinka, in a large area, several
gas chambers, and a large oven were located. First, people were sent to be gassed, and then to be burned. Everyone was taken inside a room, and were ordered to undress, so as to take a shower, and then to receive new clothes.
My little brother immediately understood that everybody was being sent to their death, and he hid in the heap of clothes and other belongings. When everything was calm and still (after the group of Jews were dead), several hours later, a group of young men came in to remove the clothes and belongings: separating the men's wear and the women's wear. In that group of men was my uncle, Moshe Weissfelner, and when the group of young men found the boy they wanted to notify the Germans, not willing to pay for the secret with their own lives. But my uncle, Moshe Weissfelner, identified the boy and did not let them notify the Germans.
Within the group a few people wanted to escape. My uncle did not want to escape. He said that he did not care about his own life, he already had lost his entire family. He just requested of his fellow-sufferers that they take the boy with them.
At 5 AM, at the wake up time, when people went to get a piece of bread and coffee, the Jews who prepared to escape, went out through the barbed wire, and they took my little brother with them. After wandering and many difficulties, they arrived in Warsaw. They had a lot of money and gold that they had gathered from the pockets of the murdered Jews. With this money, they saved their lives.
In Warsaw they obtained false Polish identification papers, but I don't know how, and they continued their traveling. They arrived in Czestochowa, where there was a camp with Jewish craftsmen.
I learned that my brother was in Czestochowa, and I obtained the service of a black Christian (meaning from the underworld). For a large sum of money, he was hired to bring my brother to the Zagorz camp. With many difficulties he successfully brought back my brother. My brother did not want to eat or drink, and he did not want to live. He was so shaken by what he lived through. I
told him that now we were the parents of our remaining little sister, who was hidden by Christians, and that you must regain your strength. In 1943 during the liquidation of the Zagorz camp, when people were sent to various work camps, we were separated, I was sent to Fashemacher camp, and my brother with my little sister were sent to Blechammer.
Later I was told that in Blechammer there was a selection, and all the youngest were sent to death, but my brother was able to arrive in the Keltendorf camp. Avraham Weiss was with him. He told me about his experiences. My little brother worked like an adult, and was kept well. Later a typhus epidemic broke out, and many people from Klobuck died; the healthy people were sent to the Falbrick camp. My brother was also sent there. In Falbrick, Wolf Unglick, from Klobuck, worked in the kitchen. He took my brother to work in the kitchen, where it was not that bad for him. He also gave food to other people.
Once a commission of doctors came, and my brother was categorized as unfit. He was sent in a transport to his death, and he was finally murdered by the Germans.
That is how he ended his struggle with death.
by Moshe Fajga
Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
The German, Holschud, the horse dealer, as the persecuted Jews secretly called him, was the main inspector for the Zonder Kommando(special commando) work. During the deportation of the ghetto, he separated people with his stick: left and right, which meant who went to (continue to live) a temporary life, or who went to their death.
I was introduced to him in Klobuck, and in the work camps in which I was persecuted. Holschuld came to the camp workplace, and the exhausted, starving slave workers, who did not please him, were sent to Auschwitz, to the gas chamber. In the camps, Jews called him the horse dealer or the lame, because he had a limp.
On the seventh month of year 1947, which was after the liberation, I was walking on Mathias street in Breslau (today's Wroclaw), which was already under Polish rule. A limping German passed in front of me; he was well and smoothly groomed, had a cheek beard, and I seemed to know him from somewhere.
Being a member of the local militia, I stopped the German, and asked him: who are you and what is your name?
The German took out Russian documents and showed them to me. I could not read Russian, and I asked him what the documents were? He answered that his documents confirmed that he was a freedom fighter (during the war). While he spoke I recognized him, as the murderer of Jews, Holschud. I took out my revolver, and shouted at him: hands up.
The German, livid and afraid, followed my order. I took his documents and dragged him to the Polish headquarters. On my way to the headquarters I found an old, muddy, top hat, and I put it on the German's head, the murderer of Jews, and laughed at him, the way they (the Germans) laughed at Jews.
In the headquarters, another militia man joined me, and together
we brought the criminal to the Russian headquarters. There I was ordered to present two people who were in the camps with me, to testify that he was the same German that persecuted Jews. I immediately went to R. Grochowine (who today lives in Israel), and to Motel Berliner from Dombrowe, and told them about the captive, Jew murderer, the lame German.
The next day we went to the Russian headquarters. We were introduced before a large room, full of Germans, and we were asked to wait until the German, the one we recognized as the Jew murderer, came in.
We waited for four hours. Germans were brought in and out of the room. At some point we saw the lame, horse dealer, as we called him in the camps. I immediately gave him a slap. Motel Berliner came close and raised his hand to hit him, but his hand became stiff, and he couldn't bring it back down. The interrogation soon started. The Russian officer asked me how I knew this German. I answered: the first time I saw him he was in Klobuck, and then in Zagorz. When the camp was surrounded, and the Jews were taken out, the German hit the blind, Yeshaya, and he wanted to send me to Auschwitz. In the Direnport camp, he ordered that Jews be brought to the bathroom, where he put a water pipe in each one's mouth, opened the faucet, and let the Jews suffocate from the water flow. R. Grochowine and Motel Berliner confirmed this.
The German understandably denied everything. He declared that he was only an inspector in the work command-room in the camps, and did not do any harm. He asked to verify (his account) with the Jewish Elder, Berish Welner, and said that if he was brought to the investigation, he would speak differently, about the alleged the lame German, the Jew murderer.
Later I left Germany and went to Israel. My friend Goldhammer, who I met in Israel, told me that in Wroclaw the lame German was convicted and he died in jail.
by Avraham Enzel
Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz
The nightmare of murder and extermination, implemented by the Germans, was unable to successfully suppress the humanity in the Jew, or the Jew from humanity. The example for me was Yossef Meir Kurland.
I was with him in the Zagorz camp. There Reb Yossef Meir, as we called him, established a kind of committee to help the hungry. When the Germans liquidated the camp and sent us to Auschwitz, I was with Kurland in the same (train) carriage. While on the way to his death, he demonstrated his courage and humanity.
Several young people cut a hole in the carriage, and prepared to jump out. Several Jews became angry at us, because they said that everyone would suffer (by reason of our escape). Reb Yossef Meir Kurland to the contrary, encouraged us and gave us his support and said: Children save yourselves, if you still have living blood in yourselves. He just asked us to wait until we passed the railroad's crossroad. From there, one track went to Auschwitz, and the other one went to Gliwice. He said if the train goes to Auschwitz, then we should jump.
Jump with Mazal (good fate), and God should watch over you, and take revenge for our sufferings, said Reb Yossef Meir.His cheering strengthen us. We jumped from the train, which was heading to Auschwitz, and I saved myself.
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