“Mlawa” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume IV
(Poland)

53°07' / 20°23'

Written by Shmuel Levin & Wila Orbach

Translation of “Mlawa” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Ada Holtzman

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume IV, pages 280 - 287, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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{pp. 280-287}

Mlawa

(Warsaw District, Plock Province)

Translated by Gil Levy

Gil, a high school student, is the grandchild of
Joseph Herman, one of Mlawa's surviving Jews
.

Edited by Ada Holtzman

Jewish Settlement until 1918

A village by the name of Mlawa dates back to the end of the 14th century. In 1492, Mlawa was granted city status and established a weekly market day and 2 fairs during the year. By the 16th century, Mlawa had become an important central city within the province of Mazowsza. The town's economy was primarily based on agriculture and the trade of agricultural products. Following the invasion of the Swedes in the 17th century, many of Mlawa's homes were burned down. Some of Mlawa's residents fled the village after the incursions. In 1692, Mlawa suffered again from a big fire. With the third partition of Poland, in 1795, Mlawa was annexed to Prussia and by 1807 it was included in the principality of Warsaw. In 1815, Mlawa became a part of the Polish Kingdom. In that period Mlawa recovered and developed. An Important role in its development was the construction of the new railroad system that enabled Mlawa, as a growing city, to be connected to Danzig (now Gdansk) and Warsaw during the 1870s. Also during this time, factories for the production of two prosperous industries were erected in Mlawa: alcohol and bricks. In 1915, Mlawa was occupied by Germany and stayed under German rule until the end of World War I.

Jews have been cited living in Mlawa already in 1507. It was one of the distinct communities that had been levied for the inauguration of Sigmund I to the reign of the Polish Kingdom. In a document that dates back to 1543, a Jew by the name of Brachia, a resident of Mlawa, dealt with the leasing of property. In 1561, a Jew named Yona from Mlawa was mentioned for being Icchak Brudawka's right-hand man for the collection of all the lease payments in the province of Mazowsza. In the year of 1584 23 Jewish families lived in Mlawa, who owned five homes. In 1569 the king of Poland, Sigmund Augustus granted Stanislaw Olszewski a nobleman, a piece of land and a portion of the taxes of the Jews of Mlawa. In documents from 1745, Mlawa's community had received numerous complaints against one of the tax collectors, Shmuel Harofe, inhabitant of Mlawa. He went bankrupt and left the town without paying his debts to the community. After having left, the community was forced to take care of the family he had left behind who had no source of income. At first the dispute was brought to the court of Plock (1741), then to the regional court. The verdict is unknown.

Mlawa, like other cities of Mazowsza, had banned Jews from obtaining official residency in cities, when the cities received the privilege “De non tolerandis Judaeis.” Thus the Jews were forced to settle in the suburbs of those cities, which were owned by noblemen of the region, who did not rely on the city's position, nor follow its laws. At this time, the center for Jewish ex-residents of Mlawa was the village of Szydlow. During the 16th and the 17th centuries, there were few Jews living in Mlawa and formed quite a small community. One source of that time stated that Mlawa's community was “dependent on Szrensk”. And from that information we can deduce that Szrensk community was very important.

The Jewish population of Mlawa began to develop only in the 19th century, and toward the end of the century, the community was highly populated. At that time, there were about 1,500 Jewish families living in Mlawa. In 1824, there was an attempt to establish a Jewish quarter. The plans were postponed from time to time until all the restrictions on Jewish inhabitants living in the Polish Kingdom were canceled in 1862. In 1867, several government officials set up their headquarters in Mlawa that prospered and grew tremendously, with more and more people moving in. This especially helped many Jewish merchants and craftsmen who acquired more customers. During this period, the number of Jewish craftsmen grew rapidly, and so did the garment industry (tailors, milliners, shoemakers). Between the Jewish merchants in Mlawa, the textile traders stood out from the rest. These merchants were not only satisfied with purchasing and selling of final products, but dealt also with organizing Mlawa's small textile industry. They began what was considered the first operation made by Jewish industrialist in Mlawa. Amongst Mlawa's Jewish community, there were retail merchants of other products and peddlers that would travel from village to village in the vicinity, and marketed their goods and Jews who sometimes placed stands of their goods in the marketplace.

Early on, Mlawa's Jews belonged to the Ciechanów's community. Only in the 1850's did the Jews of Mlawa form their own community. Despite Ciechanów's community's resistance, it demanded Mlawa's Jews to cooperate with them in paying dreadful taxes and helping to pay off debts. In 1753, Ciechanów's community brought up their grievances against Mlawa's Jews in a meeting of the four different sections of Poland. The district's governor, appointed by the king, was assigned to arbitrate and oversee the jurisdiction of the two parties. The committee's decision was unknown; one is to assume that the Jews of Mlawa, being rebellious against Ciechanów's authority, persisted to be an independent community.

The first synagogue was built at the end of the 18th century. It was made out of wood and was much too small for the ever-growing Jewish community of Mlawa. In 1840, the courthouse was to be built and the Jewish community was able to open a new synagogue in the new building. The building was completed in 1858. Driven by time pressure, the old synagogue was obliterated and hardly anything was preserved. In the beginning of the 20th century a new wing was added to the new synagogue and it stayed in this structure until the Holocaust. The courtroom contained a collection of books and ancient scripts that were very important findings. The old Jewish cemetery stood at the entrance of the nearby city. In 1884, the Jews were forced to relocate their cemetery elsewhere where they could re-establish it; they chose the site of the old cemetery outside the city. They received additional land for the cemetery from a well-respected Christian family that had donated the land to help the community flourish. In the 1930's, the donor's heir claimed that the land was no longer available for rent and demanded that the Jewish community should return the plot to them. The dispute case was sent to court. At the end, the court had no verdict and the case was taken to an appeals court where the descendants of the donors lost, and the Jewish cemetery remained in its place.

Since the beginning of the 19th century, the community had already its own rabbi. The first known rabbi in the community was Rabbi Arie Lieb Katz, also known as “Pnei Arie”, an Hebrew nickname (meaning: face of a lion). Between the years 1814 and 1830, Zeev Wolf Lifszic served as Mlawa's rabbi and head of the rabbinical court, and then moved from Mlawa to Ozorkow. The rabbinical children of Wolf Lifszic carried his family name when they became rabbis. However, the term of their high ranked positions was unclear. During the 1880's, Mlawa's rabbi and the head of the rabbinical court was Rabbi Israel Yitzchak Klinger. The last rabbi to serve the community was Rabbi Isaac Moshe Sagalowicz who was nominated in 1892, and continued serving Mlawa's Jewry until the early days of the Holocaust.

The majority of the children of Israel in Mlawa were taught in “Chadarim” (religious elementary schools). In the end of the 19th century, the “Talmud Torah” community was established. In 1890, a public school for Jews that included two classes was opened, but the majority of Jews kept their children away from attending this school. At the beginning of the 20th century, a young group of Jews who were willing to teach Hebrew and secular studies, was organized. In 1917, Mlawa's first Jewish high school was established.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Mlawa had begun to develop a modern political life. The first Zionistic group in Mlawa started its activity in 1904. In 1906, the political party “Po'alei Zion” had already begun its activities. Before World War I, they founded in Mlawa the “Mizrahi” organization and, the youth movements such as “Tzeirei Zion”, “Hachalutz”, and “Tzeirei HaMizrahi” as well. In 1906, a group of people founded the “Bund”. In 1913, a Jewish library was opened in Mlawa.

Before World War I erupted, Mlawa saw an increase in anti-Semitism. The Jews were accused of assaulting the local priest. In the mayhem that broke out, many Jews were beaten by the mob.

During World War I, the Mlawa community suffered greatly. A Russian Army unit retreated after plundering Jewish Mlawa. The rioters accompanied by the local mob, looted Jewish possessions in shops and homes. During the years of the war, commerce and handcrafters were frozen and extreme shortage felt throughout the city in food and basic industry products. Under this situation, the number of Jews who did not have means of existence. The community tried to ease the distress by establishing a hot meal kitchen for the poor, whom delivered, about 200 free meals a day. By the end of 1918, with the newly appointed Polish governor in power, Jews were tormented by General Haler's soldiers. The pretext for the weapon searches that were conducted in the Jewish homes was to confiscate any merchandise and valuables. There were also incidents of beatings of Jews.

Between the Two World Wars

In the nineteen twenties and thirties most of the Jews of Mlawa were craftsman, small traders, and peddlers in the villages. The majority of merchants had their own stands in the market, while only handfuls were employed as local, young manufacturers (glass factories, metal foundries). There were two flourmills and one sawmill owned by Jews. The Jewish settlement in Mlawa suffered a lot during the stagnation in the Polish economy between the two wars at the time when the economic situation as a whole deteriorated.

The Jewish population in Mlawa reacted to the harsh economic time by creating an institution designed to alleviate the hardship, and prevent impoverishment to many of the residents. In 1925, an “association of small traders' credit fund” was re-instituted (was founded in 1908 but did not survive then). In its first year, 351 persons were assisted by this fund, amongst them 163 were small traders and 131 craftsmen. In 1930, “The Bank of Commerce” was founded, consisting of 78 members. In 1927, merchants and tradesmen founded “Gmilut Hasidim” charity fund. The two funds merged in 1930. In 1939, the fund granted a non-interest credit to 433 people. The community helped the poor (particularly before Passover). The society “Bikur Holim” (Visiting the Sick) provided medical assistance to the needy. In 1928, the society, “Beit Lehem” (House of Bread), was founded to aid the poor. In 1930, the societies united, forming “Bikur Holim” and “Linat Hatzedek” (Just Lodging).

An important event that occurred in the lives of the Jewish community took place as World War I ended. In 1919, a bilingual (Polish and Hebrew) gymnasium was founded. The high school that was founded in 1917, was the basis of the new gymnasium. At the beginning, the gymnasium classes were separated by gender, and after a year they united to form co-ed classrooms and the institution was given the name “Co- education of the Jewish community's of Mlawa”. The gymnasium had 150 enrolled students; girls and boys, most of whom were from low-income, middle class families; some came from nearby towns. As time passed, the number of pupils increased. In the year of 1935-36 there were already 209 students. In its last year of existence, the gymnasium had 290 students. Even the number of students who came from nearby cities rose to 36 in 1936-37 and 112 students in the school year 1938-39. The gymnasium received financial assistance from the municipality. In 1930, the gymnasium was approved by the government and granted certification.

Between the two World Wars, the number of Jewish institutions of education in Mlawa grew rapidly. In addition to the school of Talmud Torah (study the Torah) an all-girl school, “Beit Ya'akov” (Jacob's House) and a school “Yavneh” were founded in 1925. In 1927, a Yeshiva (Talmudic college) “Beit Yosef” (the House of Josef), was founded, and young men from other towns also studied there. After a few years, the Yeshiva was shut down due to lack of funding. The Jewish public elementary school had 90% of female students.

During the period between the two world wars, the Jews of Mlawa developed a very active social and political life. In addition to the “Histadroot HaZiyonim Ha Klali'im” (General Zionistic organization) and “Po'alei Zion”, (workers of Zion), which had branches founded in Mlawa prior to 1919, Also “Hamizrachi” opened a branch there. Also the Revisionists founded a branch in Mlawa and youth movements started to operate in the city. In 1922, the branch of “Ha-Halutz” (the pioneer) formed a farm for agricultural training (“Hachshara”). In 1925, the movement of “Hashomer Hatza'ir” was founded in Mlawa. In 1927, “Beitar” was founded. In the elections for the Zionist Congresses, the votes for the 15th Zionist Congress were as follows: total of 391 (“HaShoklim”) entitled to vote, “Al HaMishmar” received 29 votes; “Et Livnot” (“Time to Build”) – 47; “HaMizrahi” – 112; the Revisionists – 26; the “Hitahdut” – 42; “Po'alei Zion” – 52. In the 19th congress elections there were 1,388 “shoklim” entitled to vote, “Al HaMishmar” received 255 votes; “Et Livnot” – 12; “HaMizrahi” – 308; “Habrit Lemaan Eretz Israel Ovedet” (the treaty of working Eretz Israel) – 829; the Revisionists – 1; “Ha-Halutz”– 2. In the elections for the 21st Congress the votes were: “Tzionim Klaliim” – 164, ”HaMizrahi” – 274; “Habrit Lemaan Eretz Israel Ovedet” – 461; “Po'alei Zion Smol” – 17; “Hano'ar HaZioni Ha Klali” (the Zionist General Group) – 31.

Agudat Israel” was organized in Mlawa at the end of the World War I. In 1922, “Agudat Israel” founded other organizations: “Tzeirei Agudat Israel”, (for the youth), “Bnoth Agudat Israel” (for the girls), and “Poalei Agudat Israel” (for the workers).

The “Bund” broadened its activities after the war with its youth movement “Tsukunft” (Future in Yiddish) .The “Bund” also founded sports club named “Morgenstern” and a library.

In the year 1932 a magazine in Yiddish, by the name “Mlawa Leben”, began its circulation in Mlawa. There were other periodicals (all in Yiddish), like “Mlawer Naies” “Mlawer Shtime”, “Undzer Echo”, and “Undzer Kamf” and “Undzer Croyer”.

In addition to the library that was founded in 1916, each political organization or youth movement had a library. The only athletic organization in Mlawa was “Maccabi,” that was founded in 1923, which consisted of 150 members. In addition there was a class for drama and orchestra. A Hebrew printing house was also formed before World War I broke out.

The Zionists and “Agudat Israel” competed with each other for leadership in the Jewish community. During the elections that took place in 1924, the votes were split evenly between “Agudat Israel” and the Zionists (its party was named “Reshima Leumit”, National Party). In the elections held in 1931 “Agudat Israel” won the majority of the votes. In the elections of 1936, the mandates were distributed as follows: “Agudat Israel”– 5; “Zionim Klali'im” – 1; “HaMizrahi” – 2; the “Bund” – 2; “The craftsmen association” – 2.

In the city's council seated an average of 4 to 5 Jews. Only in the elections that were held in 1928 the Jews succeeded in gaining largest number of representatives; among total of 24 delegates, 8 were Jews. The “Bund”, the “Po'alei Zion Yemin” (a more right-wing inclined part of Poalei Zion, the Workers of Zion movement), the Zionist coalition and “HaMizrahi”, the craftsmen and traders' associations, all had a single mandate. “Agudat Israel” received 3 mandates. During this time, the influence of Jews in the municipality grew. This resulted in the city council's decision to build a home for the Jewish elderly (50 old people) and to support the building of a Jewish Kindergarten (that was shut down in 1935). In the elections held in 1936, only three Jews were appointed to the council.

The Jews of Mlawa were proud about the significant number of prominent personalities who were born in Mlawa. Among them the famous writer, Yosef Opatoshu (1883-1954), who commemorated his hometown in his book “Mlawa Stories”, and the writer Yakir Warszawski (1885-1943). Another Mlawa native was Victor Alter, one of the distinguished leaders of the “Bund” in Poland.

During the 1930's, the incidents of anti-Semitism were increased in Mlawa. In 1937, guards were positioned at Jewish stores to prevent Christian customers from entering. With the ever-growing sentiments of ostracism being practiced toward the Jews, several shops owned by Jews were closed down. Businesses and shops targeting Christian shoppers were opened in their neighborhoods in stead of the Jewish closed shops.

During World War II

Several weeks before the outbreak of World War II, many Polish army units took positions in Mlawa, which was near the border with Germany. Nearby farmers quickly swarm the local stores for any available product and leaving them all empty. The atmosphere was tense. Some of the wealthy Jews left Mlawa and moved to Warsaw.

On the first day of September 1939, in the early morning, the Germans bombed Mlawa. The first Jewish victim was the son of Chanoch Zilberberg. Conflagrations spread throughout the town. There was no water left to extinguish the fire and the firemen escaped and thus, the city's center was completely burnt. Civilians hid themselves in basements and as the bombardment on Mlawa came to a short halt, 80% of the Jewish population of Mlawa escaped from the ruins of the town to various destinations: Strzegowo, Przasnysz, Szrensk, and other nearby places. Many of the escapees found their death during their escape and in the refuges. On the third day of September, the Germans had captured Mlawa, and in October of that year, the city became part of “Bezirk Ziechenau” (The District of Ciechanów). The Germans changed Mlawa's name to Milau.

By mid-September, after fighting ceased, most of the town refugees had already returned to their hometown.

Following the personal initiative of one of the German officers, during the holiday of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), the Germans rounded-up all of the town's Jews: men, women, and children, in the town's sqare in order to expel them to the Soviet Union. Some were already loaded onto trucks and begin to ship them off. This mission came to an abrupt end when a German Lieutenant Colonel by the name of Proiter halted the operation and the Jews returned to their homes.

Since the beginning of the German occupation, the Jews, bearded ones especially, had begun to become victims of attacks by the Germans in the streets; being tortured, beaten, and sent to hard and humiliating labors.

In October of 1939, lists of all the male Jews, between the ages of 14 to 40, of Mlawa were made in the municipality of Mlawa. All of those men that had been listed were assigned an identification number tag that they were forced to put on their chests. On, day to day operations, about 200-500 Jews were sent to various forced labors. In spite of this, “private” kidnapping of the Jews in the streets continued. After several weeks, labeled identifications that had been sewed to the men's clothes had been altered to white patches. Once the newer white patches were made, all the Jewish population was forced into wearing them as well. In the end of 1939 or beginning of 1940, the white patches were hanged to the well-known yellow patch. Somewhere between the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, the Jews were forced to wear yellow stars of David with the label “Jude” on their back and on their chest. By October or November of 1939, Jews were banned from walking on the sidewalks, visiting the parks and other public places. At the same time, the Jews were forced to pay the first penalty (“kontrybucja”). On one dark night in November of 1939, Germans desecrated on the town's synagogue and two of the town's Beth Midrash (Jewish house of study) to leave them in flames. German soldiers surrounded the fires of the buildings to keep the Jews away from putting out the fires.

In November of 1939, Germans drove the Jews out from three towns that lied between the rivers Drwecz and Lipno: Sierpc, Rypin, and Dobrzyn n/Drwecz. Hundreds of these expelled arrived Mlawa, where the local Jews took care of them. The expulsion of these Jews raised the fright of the local Jews from similar destiny. Meanwhile, the Germans had requested from the Rabbi of town, R' Icchak Mosze Segalowicz to appoint a Judenrat. Of the first members of Mlawa's Judenrat, there were 6 to 7 members; among them were Natan Mordechai Kolnierz, the Rabbi's personal representative.

The Germans thought that the Judenrat was efficient enough, so at the end of 1939 or the beginning of 1940, they assigned Eliezer Perlmutter, the son of one of Mlawa's gristmill owners, to be head of the Judenrat (Commissar) and to be in charge of the Jews in the district of Mlawa.

Perlmutter was a young man in his thirties. He was energetic, self-attained, very organized, and got along with almost everybody. As a child of a prosperous family, and an intelligent human being, he was able to build up relationships with the new German authority and learned to carry out all the tasks that had been requested from him by the Germans. The Mlawa's district administrators, among them was brother of a minister in Hitler government, Funk, received well the “gifts” and money they got from the Perlmutter and in exchange did not interfere much in the life of the Jews. He knew how to use his ties with the Germans for the benefit of the Jewish community, of whom he became the leader. According to Mlawa's survivors, the town's Jewish population felt safe in his presence and fearful in his absence.

Perlmutter also added a several men to the Judenrat as follows: Aron Jablonowski (perhaps he added his own brother, Benny, both of them were good shoemakers and worked for the Germans), Moszhe Romaner, Chaim Burstajn, and Chaim Zielenko. Herman Mordowicz was appointed to the head of the Jewish court. Perlmutter reorganized the forced labour arrangements and since then the “savage” kidnapping of Jews came to a halt. Wealthy Jews paid other Jews to do the hard work on their behalf. The majority of the labor workers received 1.50 Mark per day from the Judenrat, and with this money they were able to support their families.

Nearby Mlawa's Judenrat, a Jewish police was established, consisting of 10 - 12 policemen. The head was Moshe Davidson. The policemen wore blue uniforms and special hats (Some say that the Jewish police were not formed until after the establishment of the ghetto).

The Jews of Mlawa were only permitted to purchase food and clothing from the Judenrat shops. Due to the limited ration of food and clothing by the Germans, the Judenrat provided also illegal supplies and financed it by taxing all the Jews of Mlawa.

The year 1940 was still tolerable in Mlawa in comparison to other towns. Several of the Jews continued to take part in the illegal trades with German merchants in Lodz and, also, continued to smuggle merchandise from the territory of Generalgouvernement. During the course of the summer of 1940, several dozens of Jews were transferred to Mordy in Siedlce district in the Generalgouvernement.

At the beginning of December 1940, rumors spread saying that the Jews will be expelled from the town of Mlawa. The Judenrat tried the cancel the edict. In prevention from being thrown into exile, the Jews of Mlawa, with the help of the Judenrat, paid 55,000 Marks to the Germans during the month of December 1940. In spite of this, on December 6, 1940, at dawn, hundreds of German policemen arrived to Mlawa. The policemen raided every Jewish house and ordered the residents to evacuate it within five minutes. In great panic, accompanied by beatings, yelling and dog barks, the soldiers herded all the Jews of Mlawa to the yard of one of the gymnasiums in town. From those at the yard, 3,000 were selected and the rest were freed back to their homes. Of those that were selected, most of them Mlawa natives, loaded, by using beatings, onto trucks, and were deported to a passage camp in Dzialdowo. After 12 days of very difficult and harsh conditions in the camp and under strict supervision of the S.S., the captives were deported to the Generalgouvernement. On December 20th, the transports arrived to towns of the Lublin area: Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Lubaczów, and Wysznica. Most of the refugees were housed in synagogues and in other public buildings. Because of the harsh winter, lack of clothing, food and lodgings, within a short period of time, many fell ill and hundreds of the refugees died in a short time. Some of the youngsters and the stronger managed to escape. They dispersed into several of Lublin cities and towns, like Parczew, Firlej and Czemierniki. Some of them dared, by risking their life to cross the border between Generalgouvernement and the Reich and were even able to reach their hometown of Mlawa. Some say that the number of the refugees who came back to Mlawa was roughly close to 1,200 people. The Judenrat in Mlawa tried to issue the returnees “kosher” identification documents.

Within the refugees of Mlawa, was the elder R' Isaac Moshe Segalowicz, with his own family. Before the rabbi was expelled, Perlmutter offered him a hiding place, but he refused telling Perlmutter that his place in was to be with the majority of his community. In Dzialdowo, the rabbi fell ill because of the harsh circumstances, wandering from place to place, and from the beatings he had taken by the Nazi soldiers. At his arrival at Miedzyrzec Podlaski, he was brought to a hospital by the Judenrat of Lublin. In spite of that he died , within a short period of time.

In 1939, the Jewish population did not exceed 6,400 people. The diminutive amount of Jews that had left Mlawa and that had managed to escape during the beginning of the war never returned. In November 1939, however, hundreds of refugees from Lipno, Rypin, Dobrzyn n/Drwecz came to Mlawa. During the year of 1940, other refugees from other towns had also arrived to Mlawa. After the transport of Jews on December 6th, 1940, Mlawa was officially left with 2,450 Jews. The ghetto that was later formed for these remaining 2,450 Jews consisted of the streets south of the old market (Stary Rynek), Zdunska Street (Tepper Gasse), and the empty area along the Serecz River. To the east, the ghetto's border was stretched out along the Warszawska Street almost until Smolarnia Street. The Westside of the ghetto was along the Plocka Street until the intersection with Dluga. The gate of the ghetto was on Borzniecne, near the market. In the center of town the ghetto was bounded by a tall-bricked fence; and in other places the ghetto was fenced off by wood or even barbed wire. The Jewish houses on Warszawska Street and Plocka Street whose windows were facing the “Aryan” side were obstructed and blocked off. For several months the ghetto remained opened, but by May 1941, the ghetto was completely sealed up. In October-November 1941, the part of Warszawska Street that was situated behind the town's water pump and Smolarnia Street had been added to the ghetto. Along with these expansions, Mlawa's ghetto had also made room to accommodate about 1000 Jews from Szrensk, Radazanów, and Zielun. By that time, due to the secret reappearance of some Mlawer deportees, the population of the ghetto rose up to around 5,000 Jews.

The conditions in the ghetto were deteriorating: every pigsty, every dairy barn, every granary, all the basements, and all the attics became dwelling rooms.

Even before the closing of the ghetto, typhus had broken out. In response to the epidemic, the Judenrat formed a sanitation committee. The committee took the cleaning and sterilizing of the ghetto into its responsibility, as well as establishing a small hospital that had 40 rooms. The hospital had a vegetable garden, a cow, and a goat. The living conditions within the hospital were satisfactory and the death rate was not high. Due to the fact that most of Mlawa's doctors either escaped or had been expelled, the Judenrat brought a new doctor from the ghetto of Warsaw - Dr. Beno Tiefenbrun who was originally from Vienna. Shortly after his arrival, Dr. Beno Tiefenbrun contracted Typhus and died. After Dr. Beno Tiefenbrun's death, a Polish doctor took care of the sick with permission from the Germans. The Polish doctor assisted primarily with ambulatory care. All the residents of the ghetto were given a Typhus vaccination.

By means of bribing the Germans, the Judenrat was able to make the life in the ghetto somewhat bearable. The Judenrat also managed to organize smuggle of food supply for the ghetto. The Jews who worked outside the walls of the ghetto would bring back to the ghetto some food. The Jewish police within the ghetto were not very strict searching the ones who had entered and exited the ghetto. In the days of Passover 5700 (1940) and 5701 (1941), the Jews were permitted to bake “matzos” (unleavened bread of the Passover holiday). Throughout the Yom Kippurs (Day of Atonement) of year 5701 (1940) and year 5702 (1941), the Jews were allowed to pray in public in their private homes. Within the walls of the ghetto, 'minyans' (public prayer services by ten people) were carried out in various homes. 'Minyans' were also held at the home of an elder rabbi, refugee from Szrensk, R' Yehuda Szraga Lichtig, who arrived to Mlawa's ghetto in November of 1941 and became the rabbi of the ghetto. Many of the ghetto's children studied in small groups that had been organized by the Judenrat. The ghetto had an illegal radio and a library that was organized by R' David Krystal.

The Germans in the area employed some of the Jewish craftsmen. Between 200-500 Jews worked daily in forced labors such as: clean-up of debris, paving streets, demolishing houses, building barracks, city streets clean-up, loading coal onto trains; some worked in German and Polish households and private farms. Jewish women also worked in cleaning of the town and in the households of the Poles and Germans. During those times, when a Jewish man or woman worked outside the walls of the ghetto, they were under German guards. Hundreds of Jews were sent to various labor camps around Mlawa for certain periods. Jewish women from Mlawa worked planting trees as part of a women labor camp in the village of Bieliny (Pultusk District). During the summer of 1941, 120 men paved the roads in a forced labor camp located in the village of Czernice Borowe near Przasnysz. In the years 1941 and 1942, many Mlawer Jews were engaged in forced labour camp at Nosarzewo, building an airport and barracks for a German military base and in maintenance afterwards. Their wages were minimal. There was also a punitive camp in Mlawa's Narotowicz Street, which had approximately 200 Jewish, Polish, and Russian prisoners.. All of the prisoners were engaged in public works in Mlawa and Nosarzewo.

By the end of June or beginning of July 1941, the Germans authorities intended to carry out a search, for “illegal” Jewish residents of the ghetto. The Judenrat was informed of the German plan, then they hired secretly trucks and smuggled in them most of the “suspected” persons. During the night of the searches, Perlmutter put his own life in danger, and went to each group of inspected Jews and delivered documents from group to group. The Germans arrested between 100-200 Jews who had no “kosher” papers with them. Because of the small amount of captured “illegal” Jews, Perlmutter managed to free them and issue them new legal certificates. After a while, the Jews that had been smuggled away returned to the ghetto.

By the second half of 1941, the Germans began to concentrate the Jews in the “Bezirk Ziechenau “ (Ciechanów District) in several big ghettos in the area. As already said, about 1000 refugees from Szrensk, Radazanów, and Zielun. They were accommodated in two wind mills which were in the ghetto area, the mill of Perlmutter in Borzniecna Street and the mill of Fuks in Szweska Street. For the Jews of Strzegowo, who were also candidates of transfer to Mlawa ghetto, a local ghetto in their town was erected, following the pleadings of Perlmutter and the Strzegowo Judenrat. This ghetto was subordinated to the Mlawa ghetto.

In 1942, came the end to the relatively calm which prevailed until then in ghetto Mlawa. On January 23, 1942, the Germans arrested 25 Jews and accused them of being smugglers. Those Jews were imprisoned and later sent to the various concentration camps in the area where they all eventually found their deaths. Iccak Alter, a Judenrat member that had been in charge of smuggling food into the ghetto, was among those who were deported to the concentration camps. He had been imprisoned in Köenigsberg for roughly 10 months then sent to Auschwitz where he died few days after his arrival.

On the same night between the 23rd and 24th of January 1942, the Germans arrested Eliezer Perlmutter, brought him to Mlawa's municipal court and there they murdered him. The day after, the Jews were permitted to bury him in the Jewish cemetery.

Perlmutter's murder signified aggravation of the Germans treatment to Mlawa Jews. The Germans became much more vigilant of what went on inside the ghetto. In effect the Jews' organized smuggling of food, as well as their private smuggling through the gate of the ghetto, became much more dangerous. However, when the Germans were absent, the Jewish policemen turned a blind eye to the smugglers.

The first public execution in Mlawa took place on April 18, 1942. Before the crowd of people, the Gestapo from Ciechanów, hung 4 young men for their treason of smuggling. Their names were Mosze Boiman, Abram Icckowicz, Kalman Lipski, and Dawid Cymerman.

The following day, April 19th, 1942, the Gestapo arrested several of Mlawa's Judenrat members and most of the Jewish policemen. Probably, among those that were arrested that day was the head of the Jewish police, Dawid Dawidson. He was deported to Auschwitz where he perished. In the ghetto, a new Judenrat had been formed headed by Paltiel Ceglo. Ceglo pleaded the Germans to free several Jews that had been arrested. His attempts were futile, and the arrested men were held in prison for 2 months.

On June 4th, 1942, the German forces stationed in Mlawa gathered all the residents of the ghetto in the town's square behind Zdunska Street. At this square several scaffolds were set up. The Germans led 13 handcuffed Jews tied with the noose around their necks to each of their assigned boxes. The Jewish audience was ordered to be silent, and watch the show. Everyone stood tensely waiting for the Gestapo officers to arrive. Once the officers arrived, they announced the verdict: “Men will be hung because the Jewish policemen and the Judenrat did not fulfill German orders completely”. The Germans directed members of the audience to remove the boxes under the victims' feet. The audience could not restrain themselves from silence any longer and outbursts of cries and screams were heard through the town's square. The order was breached and then the German fired at the crowd. Those gunshots left several people wounded or dead.

Among those hung at the town's square were 8 policemen: Hersz Boimgold, Gdalyahu Lichtenstajn, Chaim Solarski, Chaim Solczanski, Kalman Perlmutter, Symcha Cwajghaft, Hersz Szmuel Korzny and Lajb Romaner. Other 2 names of the executed are known: Israel Gutman and Mordechai Wolowski. At the same day, 4.6.1942, Rachel Lipszyc née Zylberberg and Sara Pultusker née Yunis were shot, witnessed by all the Jews.

Several days following the murder, the Germans arrested 100 Jews that did not have legal working permits and divided them into two groups according to their appearance, youth and elderly. These two groups were both tortured and beaten and then brought forth to a field that had been an abandoned leather factory and they were forced to dig a wide trench. Subsequent to the completion of the task, the Germans, once again, separated the people into their earlier groups and sent the youthful group to the Judenrat's building and the elder group to the town's prison. On June 17th, 1942, they brought back the two groups to their trenches (the young group came in with their hands tied behind their backs) where the rest of the ghetto's people were already assembled. A Gestapo officer announced, “On June 4th, during the execution, the Jews presented an arrogant and aggressive behavior,” and in response to these actions, they intended to execute a total 50 more Jews. The Germans appointed ten of their drunken soldiers and set them up, armed with rifles, on one side of the giant ditch and at the edge of the opposing side they brought in groups of five young Jews to be shot at a time. Their eyes were uncovered. The soldiers fired, and the dead, along with the wounded, fell into the massive trench. When the massacre ended, the Germans, then, directed, under strict supervision, the elder group to bury the ones who had lain inside the ditch, dead or alive. Once the burial was completed, the people were freed to go back to their homes.

After the execution of the 50 young Jews, the ghetto's residents lived with constant fear for their lives. The smuggling of food came to a halt as people chose to stay on the safe side, and as a result of that, hunger lingered through the ghetto. On October 13th, 1942 7 more youngsters were executed, most of them under the age of 20: Szai Ajzner, Abraham Altman, Fajwisz Goldman, Szymon Tobiasz, Mosze Flam, Aharon Kac and Josef Rotman.

During the summer of 1942, Paltiel Ceglo was removed from his office as the head of the Judenrat, and was placed in prison in Ciechanów. After his imprisonment, Mendel Czarko took over as the head of the Judenrat. They also formed a new police squad headed by Szhalom Gutman, a man of the underworld.

By the end of October or beginning of November of 1942, All the Jews that had been working at the labor camps or on private farms were returned back to Mlawa's ghetto. All of the work that had been done by Jews outside of the ghetto, at that time, had also been stopped. German policemen patrolled the ghetto's perimeter constantly. The Judenrat was forced to prepare lists of 2000 people; one of which should contain only the elderly, sick, and single.

On the 2nd of November, many elderly and sick people were brought in from Stzegowo's ghetto. On the 6th of November, 1,000 more Jews from Ciechanów were brought to Mlawa's ghetto. Among the last 1000, 300 of them originated from Maków Mazowiecki who had been working at labor camps in Ciechanów.

On November 10, 1942, the first deportation of Mlawa's elderly and sick was carried out. Of those deportees, were the Rabbi Lichtig and the elderly and sick from ghetto Stzegowo and Ciechanów. They were not allowed to bring any carry-on luggage with them. It is assumed that they were all deported to Treblinka. It was the only deportation to Treblinka from the “ Bezirk Ziechenau” (the Ciechanów District).

On the 13th and 17th of November, there were two additional deportations of Jews from Mlawa Ghetto and inhabitants of Ciechanów to Auschwitz. Before the deportations were carried out, the Germans conducted a “selection”. The “candidates” for deportation who were crowded at the flour mill inside the ghetto, forced them to run by the gendarmes. Those who did not run as quickly as they wanted, were shot on the spot or executed near the mill wall. During this selection process, the Germans stripped and robbed the Jews of all their valuables and money which they hid.

After the third deportation, (17.11.1942), Mlawa's ghetto was left with several hundred Jews only. But already on the following day, 18.11.1942, about 5,000 Jews from Maków Mazowiecki were transferred to Mlawa's ghetto. On November 24th, 1942, over 1,000 Jews from Stzegowo were transferred to Mlawa's ghetto. All of the them, around 6,000 to 7,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz within probably in three transports. The last deportation took place on December 10, 1942.

By the end of 1942, majority of Mlawa's Jews and its environs was exterminated in Auschwitz. The few who left alive in Auschwitz until 1943 took part in the organization of a group for self aid of formers residents of Ciechanów and environs, as well as the resistance movement of in the camp Among those, the prominent figures were Moszhe Bajlowicz (“Hillel”) of Mlawa and Arie Braun (“Lajbek”)of Rypin. Arie was a student of the Jewish gymnasium and a member of “HaShomer Hatza'ir” in Mlawa. Becalel Mordowicz, born in Mlawa, and Rozyn a Jew from Slovakia, managed to escape from Auschwitz on 27.4.1944 and informed the free world what was happening in Auschwitz.

By the time the war ended, only 40 Jews from Mlawa survived the camps. Thanks to the aid some Poles in the “Aryan” side, Hynda Rozenberg - Krawic with her daughter and her brother Joel Rozenberg were saved. Together with the Mlawer Jews who fled to the U.S.S.R, no more than 150 Mlawer Jews survived the war.

The first Holocaust survivors returned to Mlawa several months after the liberation of Mlawa. By the second half of 1945, there were at most 60 Jews in Mlawa and some of them even came from different origins. The mayor of Mlawa, Wladyslaw Charzan, member of the party P.P.S., allowed them to stay at a two-storied building on Dluga Street. The Jews lived in a commune and worked at a cooking oil factory, barley mill, and two cooperatives of tailors and shoemakers which they founded. That small community had an elected committee, which was in close touch with the central Jewish committee in Warsaw. There were anti-Semitic Polish gangs wandering around Mlawa that abused and threaten the Jewish community. The Soviet Army was stationed in Mlawa protected them from the Polish nationalist gangs which were raging in town. Among the army unit there were two Jewish officers; Ilya Gincburg and Peled. After the Polish gangs killed several Holocaust survivors in the nearby town of Raci¹z, those two officers provided the Mlawer Jews with two trucks and an escorted them out of town. In these trucks, by the end of 1945, approximately 30 Jews left Poland to East Berlin and carried on westward. Several of them even managed to settle in Israel.

The two Soviet officers were accused of being Zionist. Ilya Gincburg was fired two months prior to his initial retiring date. His right to military pension was waived, and he continued to live in the U.S.S.R. with his family, in poverty and misery until his death.

By the year 1946, there were still 10 Jews living in Mlawa. These 10 men and women felt that it was of their duty to take out the corpses from the scattered graves, and buried them near the common grave of the 50 young victims of the execution of 17.6.1942. At this place they built a memorial monument and, a fence enclosed the area.

In August of 1946, the last Jews of Mlawa left the town.


Sources


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Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
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Contact person for this translation Ada Holtzman
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Updated 25 Aug 2005 by MGH