In the early 20s a Hebrew school of the "Tarbut" (Culture) network was established, and soon became one of the important educational institutions of the community in L. At the beginning of the 30s this school was beset by severe monetary problems, and in 1932 was on the verge of having to leave its premises; the school board, however, managed to overcome this crisis. From 1934 to 1936 the number of its pupils increased, as did the number of its parallel classes, up to the seventh grade. After official school hours there were various social and cultural activities in the building for children and adults, a drama circle, a choir, etc.
After the Great War, the Mizrachi's Yavneh School expanded step by step up to the seventh grade. It taught religious subjects in Hebrew, as well as Polish language and history.
1926 saw the opening of a school for girls within the framework of Agudat Israel's "Bet Yaakov". Its courses, both in religious and secular studies, earned the recognition of the authorities. The school had some 200 pupils.
As is well-known, in the period of Congress Poland there were restrictions on the admission of Jewish pupils to the secondary schools. In 1915, during the Austrian occupation, a gymnasium (grammar school) was founded by S. Szefer, and bore his name. Although the language of instruction was Polish, the fact that the majority of the pupils and teachers were Jews invested the school with a Jewish character, albeit assimilatory. Parallel with the school a "Kupat Ezra" (Help Fund) was established for needy pupils. The Szefer Gymnasium continued until 1930.
Among the Jewish educational institutions the "Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin" was a source of pride to the community of L. The cornerstone of this impressive building was laid in 1924, and it was inaugurated in 1930. This pearl among Yeshivot in Poland was run closely on the lines of a modern university; affiliated to it was a boarding-school, thus enabling Yeshiva-students from all Poland and even beyond to study there.
The Jewish community also registered achievements in the field of Jewish (Yiddish) journalism. Particularly prominent was the "Lubliner Tagblatt" (Lublin Daily), established by members of the Volkspartei (People's Party). Its first editors were S. Stofanitsky and Baruch Zukerman. On weekdays the paper consisted of four pages, and on Sabbath Eve and Holydays of eight. Its political standpoint was close to that of the Bund. The Bund too issued a periodical of its own, the weekly "Lubliner Stimme" (Lublin's Voice), edited by Ludwig Rechtszaft. From time to time the various parties also issued news-sheets.
The "Lubliner Yiddishe Dramatishe Studie" (Lublin Yiddish Drama Studio), an amateur theatre troupe, was established in 1937, and gave several successful performances of Alter Katchizneh's "The Duke".
A prominent personality in L's cultural life was Jontil Hakli-Zemer, who gave virtuoso violin performances, but who was also a composer and a chazan (cantor). His appearances attracted many of L's Jews.
In L, as elsewhere in Poland, the 30s - especially towards their close - were marked by growing anti-semitism. Discrimination against Jews in trade and artisanship was acompanied now by a boycott of Jewish shops and businesses, and the anti-semitic organisations placed pickets outside the shops to deter non-Jewish customers from entering. Jewish pedlars who attended the markets of the provincial towns were often the victims of violence - their wares were destroyed and they were beaten. Particularly malicious was the anti-semitic propaganda of the lawyer Majewski, a member of the Rightist-Fascist ONR Party (Radical National Camp). Majewski distributed virulent leaflets among the populace, some of which called for the expulsion of the Jews from Poland. At the head of the students in the anti-semitic demonstrations in L - and with the encouragement of the Rector of the University - strode Father Kerszinski, he too the author of libellous pamphlets against the Jews. Undisturbed b y the authorities, the students shouted anti-semitic slogans, smashed the windows of Jewish businesses and houses, and often assaulted Jewish passers-by. The local paper, "Glos Lubelski" (Voice of Lublin) was the clarion of antisemitism in the town and the language of incitement filled its pages.
Participating in the boycott of Jewish trade and businesses in L were also inhabitants of the Poznan region, who were experienced in ways of ejecting Jews from economic actrivity; they helped local people set up trade and artisan cooperatives "For Poles Only", which competed with the Jewish businesses. On the eve of the Second World War the number of unemployed Jews had increased considerably, and even those who had been comfortably off were now impoverished and needed help from community funds. The whole atmosphere in the town was tense, and there was a sense of foreboding, of approaching tragedy.
The Second World War
The outbreak of war on September 1st, 1939, took the population of L by surprise, and held it in a grip of fear. Thousands of refugees converged on the town from Western Poland and were settled in camps set up in fields in the vicinity. The authorities and the various organisations issued contradictory statements; mobilisation to the Polish army was begun; masses of troops poured through L towards the battle zone. In front of foodshops and bakeries, and even waterpoints, long queues formed - all under constant bombing by the German air force, from as early as September 2nd.
On September 9th, after a particularly violent bombardment, the Mayor of L left the town, and with him the leading members of the administration, the police and fire brigade - and fled eastwards. The next day, September 10th, the Governor of the Province appointed a new Mayor, Roman Szlanski. A few days later, on September 14th, the Polish forces abandoned L.; and the same day Szlanski formed a defence committee under the leadership of Piotr Bartok, and called upon the populace to rally to the defence of their town. Digging of trenches around the town was begun. Men of all ages were enrolled into two brigades organised by the defence committee, and among them were also Jews. The Red Army did not come to L, even though it arrived at most of the other locations between the Rivers Wisla (Vistula) and Bug.
On September 17th the Germans attacked L from the direction of the road to Krasnik. The defenders returned fire, and fierce battles raged around the Bobolonum Building in Saski Park, the barracks of the 8th Polish Legion, the suburb of Rury Jesuickaja(?), and the area of the cemetery. In the course of the battles two Polish brigade commanders and many of their troops were killed, as were also some 100 Germans. At dusk the Germans withdrew, but at dawn the next morning, after a night of constant bombardment by planes and artillery, the German army entered L.
The battle of L had cost about a thousand lives and many thousands of wounded; houses were destroyed, among them 268 buildings with 2,000 flats - and 6,500 souls were left homeless. In addition, there were 12-15,000 refugees in the area, also without shelter. The water and sewage systems were completely destroyed; public transport came to a halt; food prices rose and obtaining food was a dangerous process. Following the destruction many institutions ceased to function.
On the first morning of the occupation the German soldiers ousted 2,000 young men, Poles and Jews, from their houses, and imprisoned them in the barracks on the Krasnik Road. Some of them died in detention, while the remainder were released after a few days. In the following days the Germans were active in combing houses in the search for Polish soldiers and weapons, and they took people, mainly Jews, for forced labour. This work was often accompanied by humiliation and torture. Even before the end of September the new rulers imposed on the Jews an indemnity of 150,000 zloty.
Officially L was given over to civil administration only on November 1st, but in fact as early as the beginning of October the first civil offices were opened, the most important being the German Labour Office (Arbeitsamt), whose function was rounding up people for forced labour. On October 26th the conquered areas of Poland were designated Generalgouvernement and L became the chief town of the L District. The new region included almost all the pre-war province of L, except for the district of Siedlce and part of the district of Luków, which was incorporated in the Warsaw region. Instead of these latter areas the district of L was enlarged with rural areas from the former districts of Lwow and Krakow - Belzyce , Belz, Cieszanów and Ulanów. The head administrator of the district was the Governor.
On November 9th Odilo Globocnik was made Chief of Police and S.S. in the district. His appointment marked the beginning of a constant wave of terror against the local population - arrests, confiscations, beatings, and executions. The main victims were the Polish intellegentsia, who were regarded by the Germans as a dangerous element that could lead a resistance movement against them. Globocnik, who was a close associate of Himmler, and himself of a cruel nature, achieved a special status in the Nazi hierarchy. At the end of 1941 he was appointed to lead the construction of the extermination camps of Majdanek, Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka, and in 1942 supervised the elimination of the Jews in the Generalgouvernement. The first to be murdered were the Jews of the Lublin District. Globocnik remained at his post until August 1943, when he was followed by S.S. Officer Jakob Spornberg, but by that time most of the Jews in the area had been deported to the extermination camps. From July 1941 the head of the Security Police (Sipo) and the S.D. was Johannes Müller.
The Polish Municipality under Szlanski continued to function under the occupation regime. At the end of February 1941 the Germans confiscated all the funds of the municipality, which of course made its continued work extremely difficult.
The Nazis attached the utmost strategic importance to the L District, both because of its neighbourhood to the Soviet Union and its distance from Western Europe. Moreover, as a rural area, it served as an agricultural reservoir for the whole of the Generalgouvernement. However, Hitler, Himmler and also Globocnik planned to isolate the district from the Generalgouvernement and turn it into an experimental area for "dealing" with the various national groups, the eventual aim being the new demographic order they wished to create in Poland, whereby local populations would be uprooted to make way for ethnic Germans. The L District was thus meant to be a buffer zone against the Soviets, and in it would be concentrated undesirable population groups. It would also serve as an experimental ground for anti-partisan warfare. From the beginning therefore large contingents of police, soldiers, and para-military units were stationed there, all in all numbering between 50,000 and 120,000 men. In February 1941, in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans began to move into the district particularly large numbers of troops, and when the invasion began it served as the transit area for German forces on their way east, as well as the site of prisoner-of-war camps for Soviet soldiers.
At the end of September 1939 the Germans planned to set up in the L District a "reservation" for Jews expelled from Germany and countries annexed to the Reich, such as Austria and Czechoslovakia, as well as from Poland itself. This plan was given the name "Reservation Nisko-Lublin". The Germans intended to clear the region of Poles and Ukrainians and to replace them with Jews, who would be put to work, amongst other things, building defence works along the Soviet border. In October 1939 some 5,000 Jews were brought to Nisko from Katowice, Vienna, and Morawska Ostrawa; the project was, however, cancelled in February 1940 because of "technical problems". In March 1941 the conditions and the technical situation changed, and 10,000 Jews from L were expelled to the provincial towns, as a sort of dress-rehearsal for the general deportation to the extermination camps that was to take place later. At the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940 L was the transit station for thousands of deportees from the western regions of Poland that had been incorporated into the Reich, and distributed throughout the district. During the whole of his time in the area Globocnik and his aides displayed exceptional organisational ability, and were considered by the Nazi leaders as "experts" in this field; their deeds, needless to say, were marked by extreme cruelty.
On October 25th, 1939, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, then General Governor Frank's Deputy, visited L., and disclosed the German plans for the Jews and the Poles in the Generalgouvernement. He explained that the Germans would eliminate the Polish intellectuals, and mobilize suitable workers for forced labour for the Reich; the remaining non-Jews were destined to die natural deaths, as a result of the difficult conditions awaiting them; the Jews would be sent to the extermination camps.
As for the town of L, from the first days of its occupation the Germans had nurtured the idea that it was a German town and should therefore be returned to the bosom of the Reich. To this end it was planned to build a German quarter in the town, and as early as January 1940, a description of the coming boundaries of this quarter were made widely known. Thereafter the plan fell into disuse, but was revived in January 1942, when the settlement in L of 60,000 S.S. personnel was mooted in Berlin. In that same month Poles were forbidden to settle in L on the grounds of overcrowding. In March 1942 Himmler ordered Frank to renovate the old town of L and to place it at the disposal of German government offices.
The Jewish community of L played a special, and even exaggerated, role in the eyes of the Germans; they attributed a special status to it in the Jewish world, in view of the Council of the Four Lands that had convened there for almost 200 years, and of the Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin, that trained rabbis for many communities throughout Europe.
During the last three years of the community's existence radical changes took place in the number of Jews. The frequent movement of people from place to place meant disturbance from day to day. The figures below are based on the data of the Judenrat and the JSS ("Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe" - Jewish Mutual Aid Organisation) , and include refugees who arrived in L and were then sent to various places in the District, and also Jews imprisoned in the Lipowa Camp:
|1.9.39||ca. 40000||January 1941||43195|
|1.9.40||42130||End April 1942||ca. 4000|
To these figures should be added the mortality rate: in 1939 663 Jews died in L; in 1940 this number rose to 1,224: in 1941 to 1,430; and from January 1st to April 20th, 1942 to 1,472.
Unlike other places in Poland, nearly all the members of the Community Council elected in 1936 remained in L - only four fled on the outbreak of war. The Committee thus continued to function during the German occupation, and even increased its activities with the arrival in L of masses of Jewish refugees from Western Poland. When the Germans approached the town and the increasing bombardments led to casualties and damage to property, the community itself abandoned most of its social help work. In October 1939 the first shelters for refugees and the homeless were erected, soup kitchens were opened and medical aid was dispensed. The work of the community was supplemented by members of TOZ, "Centos "(Federation for the Care of Orphans in Poland), and volunteers.
With these activities in mind, the Germans regarded the leaders of the community as the representatives of the Jews of L, and therefore directed their demands towards them - to supply the occupiers with forced labour, money, gold, apartments, furniture, and so on. Through the community executive too the Jews were inflicted with various ordnances, and their leaders made responsible for them being carried out. The executive for its part believed that if it punctiliously fulfilled the German demands, it could save the Jews of L. However, this executive was not long in office. At the end of 1939 the Germans requested a list of 24 persons who would constitute the Judenrat. This list was presented on January 7th, 1940, and its composition was approved on the 25th of that month. The chairman of the Judenrat was the engineer Henryk Becker and his two lietenants were Dr. Mark Alten and Szlomo Kastenberg. Other members of the Judenrat executive were Szlomo Halberstadt and Moritz Szlaf. All the members of the Judenrat had been active members of the community and of various Jewish organisations, such as "Ort" Organisation for Rehabilitation and Training), "TOZ", "Tzisha" (Central Jewish School Organisation), and others, and represented a broad spectrum of the Jewish political factions. The Judenrat continued its function as leaders of the community at the beginning of the occupation. Itrs most prominent personality was Dr. Mark Alten, a Zionist and a former officer in the Austrian army, who from the beginning of the occupation had been the liaison between the community and the Germans. He knew how to speak to them, and apparently in the course of time came to believe in their assurances.
Within the Judenrat there were various sections, formed one after the other according to need - sections for housing, mobilisation of forced labour, finance, population registration, health, postal services, legal advice, migration. At the end of 1940 or the beginning of 1941, a Jewish Police Force was formed in L, as in other places. To begin with there were only ten constables. In addition, permanent or temporary committees were established, e.g. for help to the needy, for Jewish prisoners-of-war, for refugees, and for help to local Jews sent to the labour camps. Under the aegis of the Judenrat other organisations and institutions were revived, such as Centos, TOZ, the Jewish Hospital, the Orphanage, and the Old Age Home. Representatives of the Judenrat headed the administration of all these bodies.
For over a year the members of the Judenrat worked free of charge. Some of them were comfortably off; others, such as Dr. Alten, continued to work in their professions and trades. It was only at the end of September 1940 that it was decided to pay them a monthly salary of 300 zloty, to enable them to give full attention to their public duties. They were under constant pressure, both from the Germans, who frequently made new demands on them - and from the Jews, who regarded them as their official and recognised representatives and turned to them for help in their travails. Members of the Judenrat were often dismissed, imprisoned, or even beaten. In November 1940 Aharon Bach, a former member of the Bund, was arrested, and died in prison after being tortured.
The Judenrat Executive, consisting of four members (see above) and the chairman, invested itself with most of the authority and often acted on its own initiative, without consulting the whole Judenrat. This practice sometimes resulted in altercations and threats to resign, but the majority of the dissenters did not do so.
The economic situation of the Judenrat was difficult from the start. German demands for money increased from day to day, while poverty among the Jews was also increasing. Most of the Judenrat's income in the first years came from payments by Jews in return for being exempted from forced labour (in 1940 these payments amounted to 450,000 zloty), from contributions by better-off Jews, to whom requests were frequently made, and from various taxes collected from Jews in general. From time to time sums of money were received from Jewish aid societies, such as the Joint, and afterwards from the Jewish Mutual Aid Organisation in Krakow.
At the outbreak of war the debts of the community amounted to 200,000 zloty; and as early as October 1939 it was obliged to pay to the authorities the large sum of 300,000 zloty, and in November another 342,535 zloty. In December the Jews were obliged to pay a third amount of 280,000 zloty, and in February 1940 another contribution was demanded. In addition to payments to the district authorities the Jews were frequently asked, under pressure and the threat of torture, to pay various amounts to organisations, groups, and even individual Germans. At the end of October 1939 the Jews gave the authorities articles of clothing, shoes, furs and food. In 1940 each Jewish family was obliged to furnish them with four kilos of copper. From September 18th, 1939, to August 1st, 1940, the Judenrat paid the Germans more than 1,500,000 zloty, two kilos of gold and 17.5 of silver, and was left without means to pay wages or cover the costs of social help. As a result hungry Jews often burst into the Judenrat offices and went amok. Members of the community executive, and after them members of the Judenrat, dared from time to time to discuss these matters with the Germans and to put forward requests. From October 1939 to September 1940 the Judenrat presented the authorities with five memoranda, in which it refuted the myth of Jewish opulence, and stressed the fact that most of the Jews were artisans, workers and petty traders in dire straits, and that thousands of them needed social help. The Judenrat also protested against coercion to forced labour and confiscation of property, and about violence against the Jews in some parts of the district. In one of these memoranda the Judenrat demanded that those doing forced labour should not be subject to assault. Another request was for shortening of the curfew hours for Jews and to allow the opening of Jewish schools. On July 4th, 1940, the Judenrat entreated the Germans not to discriminate against the Jews compared to the Poles, to allow the Jews to do business, to stop the eviction of Jews from their houses and confiscation of their shops and businesses, and to return the property taken from them hitherto. The Judenrat also complained of the duplication of German administrative practice, to recognise the existence of the Jewish community, and to subordinate it to one instance only - in order to end the situation where separate German offices made various demands on the Judenrat as they deemed fit. None of these memoranda was of course answered, but they serve to illustrate the courage - or naïvety - of the Judenrat in its dealings with the Germans.
In October 1939 the Generalgouvernement imposed upon Jewish men aged 14 to 60, and women from the age of 15, obligatory forced labour (later these age limits were lowered to 12 and 13). According to a census of the Jews carried out in that month by the German Labour Office, there were 12,244 men and 15,479 women of working age, including 4,739 workshop owners, 3,339 skilled workers, 2,388 merchants of various kinds, 293 owners of houses to rent, 117 members of the liberal professions, and 84 "manufacturers". A later census, in February 1940, stated that 10,330 of the 28,806 that were "fit for work" were in fact ill.
From October 1939 hundreds of L Jews worked on erection of the labour camp in Lipowa Street, and afterwards in the camp itself and in its workshops. The camp was the idea of the Police and S.S. Chief Globocnik, and was administered by the Police and S.S. Headquarters of the L District (see below). From July-August 1940 on the Jews worked in another camp, erected on the site of the former airfield of the aeroplane company "Plaga Laskiewicza" ; in February 1942 this camp was also transferred to the S.S.
The Jews of L were also employed at other places of work, amongst them plants confiscated from the Jews. Some 200 of them also worked on farms in the neighbourhood.
During the years 1940 to 1944 the Germans set up in the L District 161 labour camps, including 117 for Jews from all parts of the Generalgouvernement. Fifty of these camps were erected in 1940, and most of the others in 1941. In 35 of them Jews worked at preparing or improving agricultural land. In seven camps they worked on fortifications along the Soviet border.
In January 1940 the first batch of Jews from L was sent to the area of Hrubieszów; in April-May of that year more than 60 L Jews worked in Chelm ; in June there were some 350 in Tyszowce. The first group was sent to fortification work in Belzec on May 28th, 1940, and in August were joined by another 1,362, most of them rounded up in L and its surroundings. On August 18th, 1940, the Germans also sent to Belzec six members of the Judenrat and 95 who worked in its secretariat - but thanks to the efforts of the Chairman of the Judenrat, Henryk Becker, the six were released. The fate of the functionaries is unknown. The camp at Belzec was closed down at the end of 1942.
At first the forced labourers received a small pittance for their work - two zloty a day. Work conditions were harsh and the attitude of their taskmasters was brutal, and therefore many Jews avoided reporting for work. The Judenrat, as stated, exempted people from forced labour in return for a sum of money, but the Germans scoured the area for Jews and held incessant roll-calls, and even seized persons in the street. In the first half of 1941 two penal camps for Jews were set up, and a third added at the end of July. On the night of December 12th, 1941, the police searched Jewish houses and arrested 320 persons on charges of dodging work. 170 of them were released after their papers had been examined, while the remaining 150 were sent to Majdanek. All of these, less 17, perished there (see below).
In addition to confiscation of property, obligatory contributions, forced labour and penal measures, the Jews were subject to a number of harsh and humiliating restrictions, beginning already in the first weeks of the occupation. On November 23rd, 1939, Jewish shops were marked with a Star of David, and a week later they were shut down and their stocks confiscated. From December 1st the Jews were obliged to display on the front and back of their garments a yellow patch in the form of a Star of David. Afterwards the rear patch was abolished, and the front patch replaced by a white armband with a blue Star of David. On December 4th police burst into the main street of the Jewish quarter, Lubartowska Street, and looted the shops. Jews were frequently seized in the streets and beaten on various and strange pretexts. At the end of 1939 and in 1940 the restrictions were tightened even more. Jews who lived in central streets were evicted and their presence in the area forbidden. It was further forbidden Jews to leave the town, to engage in trade, to go to Aryan doctors, to use public transport, to visit places of entertainment or culture, and so forth. As stated, their shops, businesses and workshops were expropriated, and most of them were left without means of support.
To all these miseries was added the rigours of winter, which in 1939/40 was exceptionally bitter, with temperatures dropping to 36 degrees below zero. There was a serious shortage of food, clothing, coal and wood for heating. In the first year of the occupation the Judenrat dealt with 10,000 cases of Jews in need, apart from the help to the thousands of Jewish refugees from the areas of Poland annexed by the Reich. In December 1939 there were in L refugees from Lodz, Sieradz, Kalisz, and other places. The Aid Committeee set up by the leaders of the community opened 43 shelters for 2,400 persons. The refugees also received some help in the form of food, clothing, money, and warm meals in two kitchens that were opened as early as September 1939. In February 1940 another 1,200 deportees arrived from Szeczin, most of them adults and elderly people, The journey to L had been long and tiring: many had frozen to death on the train, and many others were suffering from the effects of the cold. Every day hundreds of operations were carried out at the Jewish Hospital on frozen limbs, and the death rate among these refugees was seven or eight per day.
In January 1940 the children's aid organisation "Centos" resumed its activities in L, and in February and March opened three kitchens to supply daily hot meals to 2,000 children. The number of meals supplied by Centos from April to August 1940 was 309,587. There was also a TOZ clinic in L. From February to September 1940 32,000 Jews were vaccinated against typhus and cholera, and 44,903 patients received medical treatment at the clinic free of charge. To the Jewish Hospital, which had 100 beds, were admitted in the first year of the occupation (until September 1st, 1940) 2,107 patients, of whom 317 died. The JSS too rendered help to the Jews from mid-August 1940 on, apparently via the Judenrat. The vice-chairman of the Judenrat, Dr. Mark Alten was in charge of JSS's aid activities, and also served as consultant on Jewish social questions to the District Governor. In January 1941 a reorganisation of social help to the Jews took place, and it would appear that the various activities of the Jewish aid societies were transferred to the Judenrat.
In addition to the institutions mentioned above, there were in L in 1941 two hospitals for contagious diseases, an orphanage with 120 children, and a shelter for invalids, opened in September of that year.
The Deportation of March 1941 and Establishment of the Ghetto
As early as the autumn of 1939 the Germans evicted many Jews from their dwellings, and whole families were constantly obliged to change their address. By June 1940 the centre of the town had been cleared of Jews, and in January 1941 85% of the Jews of L were concentrated in the Jewish quarter, in the northern part of the old town. In preparation for establishment of the ghetto, the Germans transferred many of the Jews to other towns and villages in the district, claiming that there was serious overcrowding in L itself.
At dawn on March 10th, 1941, S.S. troops and Ukrainian auxiliaries burst into the houses of the Jewish quarter, dragged the inhabitants from their beds, and gave them ten minutes to get dressed and leave. They were then all taken to the assembly point, put onto carts and trains and distributed among various towns that had been selected as assembly points for Jewish refugees from the whole area - Parczew, Lubartów, and other places. From here they were further scattered to 100 smaller settlements in the region. Many Jews were injured in this evacuation process, and others were shot to death by the police. In the course of four days (March 10th to 13th, 1941) 9,200 Jews were deported from L, and up to the end of March a further 650 families - some 2,300 souls - left L "of their own accord". The greatest concentration of refugees from L - 3,200 persons - was in Sosnowica, near Parczew, a village originally with 412 Jews. 2,300 Jews were taken to Siedlice and 1,250 to Rejowiec. Groups of Jews were also despatched to Miechów, Cziemierniki, and Kazimierz Dolny. Until the end of 1941 there were another 2,000-3,000 "voluntary" evacuees from L, lured by a monetary grant from the Judenrat. The total number of Jews displaced from L from March to December 1941 was estimated at 12,000 to 15,000 souls. A few of them later returned to L.
On March 24th, 1941, the Governor of L District, Ernst Zerner, issued a decree ordering the immediate erection of a ghetto in the Jewish quarter of L. The boundaries of the ghetto were the corner of Kowalska and Lubartowska Streets from the east to Krawiezka Street, then along this street through Sienna Street to Kalinowszczyzna Street; from there westwards to the corner of Fransziskanska Street, along this street to the corner of Unicka Street, along this street to Lubartowska Street, and along Lubartowska Street southwards and back to Kowalska Street. Later, apparently, some streets were added to the ghetto, and its southern boundary was then Grodzka Street to the Market Place (Rinek). There were to be some gates in the ghetto, in Kowalska and Czyrlenicza Streets. Zerner ordered the evacuation of all Poles living in the ghetto area by April 10th, 1941, and Jews living outside it were ordered to move into it by April 15th. A few Jews continued to live outside the ghetto, in the Aryan part of the town, by permission of the authorities. In the winter of 1941/42 a barbed-wire fence was erected around the ghetto, and on December 9th, even before this was completed, the Jews were forbidden to leave the ghetto, and any transgressor faced the death penalty. And indeed, on March 4th, 1942, eleven Jews caught on the Aryan side were executed.
In the meantime a new affliction fell upon the Jews. At the end of December the Germans ordered all furs in their possession to be handed over, on pain of death. Within a few days the Germans received more than 7,800 furs, 1,200 coats, 700 sheepskins, 5,200 fur collars, as well as gloves, hats and strips of fur. Nevertheless, Odilo Globocnik declared that the amount collected was inadequate and, as a punishment, demanded on December 31st, 1941, that the Judenrat collect a large quantity of wool and woollen articles in the course of a single day. Five members of the Judenrat were taken as hostages, beaten, and held throughout the night, barefooted in the cold and snow, in the courtyard of the Lipowa Labour Camp. On January 2nd, 1942, the Judenrat handed over to the Germans 3,776 kilos of wool and woollen articles. Two days later the Germans ordered the Judenrat to supply them with a large quantity of knitware.
Ghetto A was intended to contain 25,000 Jews, but in fact some 34,000 were put into it. The "commercial centre" of the ghetto, Czyrlenicza Street, teemed with pedlars - grown-ups and children - selling anything: matches, sweets, lighters, cigarettes, armbands. There were also fruit shops, but prices were extremely high. There were many shoemakers in the ghetto, mostly living with their families in overcrowded basement flats - four to six persons to a room. Some of these "flats" were in fact airless crypts, without running water or proper sanitary arrangements. Overcrowding and hunger led to the outbreak of sickness and epidemics. In June 1941 a typhus epidemic (spotted fever) raged in the ghetto, and mortality rose from 69 cases in June to 205 in November and 300 in December. Immediately on diagnosis the patient's whole family was isolated, and no one was allowed to leave or enter their dwelling. In July 1941 the authorities ordered the Judenrat to establish in the ghetto a hospital for contagious diseases, and this was at once done temporarily, and in October transferred to the former building of the Y.L. Peretz School.
At the beginning of October the epidemic grew worse, and almost half the houses in the ghetto, 130 in number, were quarantined. The "Peretz Hospital" was enlarged, but this was also inadequate, and on December 10th, 1941, a second such hospital was opened. In the preceding July the Judenrat had set up a sanitary service with 400 employees, and a fumigation and delousing unit of 400 employees (the Jewish police also took part in these operations). All the inhabitants of the ghetto were obliged to shower at least once a week in the public baths. In order to pay for the fight against epidemics the Judenrat imposed on each family a tax of 2-20 zloty. The Judenrat and the JSS in Krakow financed some of these special expenses, and Jews of means were also asked to contribute. Despite all these efforts, however, the epidemic did not abate, and the hospitals were filled up to more than their capacity; there were sometimes four patients to a bed, and there was a shortage of drugs, bandages, and medical equipment. The incessant fumigations, the shaving and washing of the sick, and the frequent changes of underwear, and other measures, did not help, and the lice were unconquerable. Only in February 1942 did the epidemic recede.
In the middle of January 1942 a third labour camp was set up in the former "Bet Hachayal" (Soldier's House) in Browarna Street, and 450 women employed there plucking feathers. Most of these women were Jewesses seized during German raids in the ghetto, but there were also among them Jewish and Polish prisoners, and even children of 12. On January 31st some 300 women were moved to huts on the "Plaga Laskiewicza" airfield, and continued their work there. When this was finished, the Germans released some of them, and apparently about 100 detainees remained in the camp. Later the place was used for sorting, cleaning, fumigating, and packing the belongings of victims from Majdanek, Belzec, and Sobibor. In this task women from ghettos in the area or deportees evicted from Austria, Germany and other countries, were employed. In November 1942 some 4,000 Jewish women from Majdanek were sent to the airfield camp and there put to work on fatigue duties and hard physical labour, such as asphalting roads. The airfield area also contained a labour camp for men, through which ran a railway track - and it is reasonable to assume that the workers here were employed in sorting the property of evicted Jews, which was then sent directly to Germany. It is also possible that the airfield was the site of selecting groups of Jews to be sent to the extermination camps at Belzec and Sobibór. The airfield camp was closed in the autumn of 1943.
On February 22nd, 1942, a second ghetto was established in L - ghetto B - running from the streets Rybna, Kowalska, Rynek, Krolewska(?), and Podwale, from there along Podwale to the length of Grodzka, and then back to Rybna Street. Ghetto B was earmarked for Jews working in German plants and institutions. The two ghettos were separated by barbed wire, and access from one to the other was only possible through the gate at Podwale Street, and then only by special permission.
Deportation to the Extermination Camp at Belzec
The Jews of L were the first to be exterminated en masse as part of the "Reinhard Operation", headed by Odilo Globocnik.In the first half of March 1942 the Jewish workers were ordered to get their work permits stamped at the offices of the Security Police (Sipo), On the night of the 17th the Germans informed the Judenrat of their intention to deport the Jews of L (according to some reports the deportation began even before the official announcement). The ghetto was surrounded by S.S. troops and German and Ukrainian police. Before dawn the inhabitants of Unicka Street and the adjacent area, in the northern part of the ghetto, were ordered to assemble outside with their families, to have their work permits examined. Tables had been set up in the street, and German officials examined the permits. Jews from Ghetto A, who held valid permits, were transferred to Ghetto B, which was slightly extended, while those from Ghetto B without such documents were moved to Ghetto A. Every day the Germans assembled some 1,400 men, women and children in the Maharashal Synagogue in Ghetto A, led them to goods wagons in a siding, near the municipal slaughterhouse, and from there sent them to Belzec. At first the transports left at night, but after a while they took place also in the daytime. Among those destined for extermination were also holders of valid work permits who had been rounded up by chance. The confused Jews wandered from street to street in the hope that they might be able to avoid deportation and gain another day of life. Some sought hiding-places, but the Germans combed the ghetto thoroughly, house by house, street by street. The sick and the weak were killed on the spot. As each part of the ghetto was emptied the Germans returned and combed it again and again to make sure that no one remained there. Anyone then found was liquidated at once. Only when they were quite sure that the locality was quite free of Jews did the Germans close it and post sentries. In the shelter in Jacyny Street the Germans murdered 70 old people in their beds; they took 80-100 children from the orphanage, transported them in lorries to outside the town, and there slaughtered them all. A similar fate awaited patients in the ghetto hospitals as well as members of the staff (some of the doctors and nurses were, however, spared).
On March 31st, 1942, the Germans exchanged the "permits of life" that had been given to leading Jews with other documents, stamped with the letter J inside a Star of David. That same day the Germans dissolved the Judenrat, and sent some of its members to Belzec. In their place 12 new members were appointed, and Dr. Mark Alten named chairman, with Isaac Kerszman as his deputy. Nor were the Jewish policemen exempt from deportation; 35 of the 113 were sent to Belzec, and the Germans announced to the new leaders that they intended to despatch more policemen at the end of the action.
On April 2nd the Germans allocated to the Judenrat for that month a mere 2,500 food cards; and in the same month demanded from the Judenrat a contribution of 800,000 zloty, as well as a large quantity of gold - and promised that thereafter the deportations would stop. It appears that on April 7th three members of the Judenrat acceded to the German request, but the deportations to Belzec went on, and the three delegates were themselves murdered. The protracted action only ceased in the middle of April, by which time some 30,000 of L's Jews had been exterminated in Belzec, and around 2,500 in L and its vicinity.
The Camp at 7 Lipowa Street
Before the Second World War there was at Nr. 7, Lipowa Street, opposite the Catholic cemetery, a sports field of the Academic Sports Organisation of L. At the beginning of the occupation the Germans used to select groups there - first, Polish prisoners-of-war, and later Jews who had evaded forced labour and been caught. At the end of 1939, as mentioned, Globocnik set up a labour camp for Jews on this spot, under his own command. Huts were erected and workshops for tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, and watchmakers, installed in them, in addition to small factories making tulle and boxes. To begin with there were only 13 "permanent" workers, inhabitants of L, and a foreman. These employees continued to live in their own dwellings in the town. From day to day Jews seized for forced labour by the Germans or sent there by the Judenrat, also arrived there. To remedy the shortage of workers the Germans also brought to the camp Jews from the vicinity of L, who were lodged in huts on the site. In January 1940 there were some 1,200 Jews working there, as well as 200 Poles serving time for illegal trading or other economic offences.
From December 1939 and through 1940 thousands of Jewish prisoners-of-war who had fought in the Polish army were brought to the Lipowa Camp. At the beginning of February 1940 1,367 such prisoners arrived; from this group the S.S. took some hundreds (630 or 880, according to different sources) and ran them barefooted and half-naked through the snow and cold towards Biala Podlaska. Those who flagged on the way were fired on by machine-guns - some were killed on the spot, while the wounded were finished off with revolvers. At one of the overnight stops on the way another hundred or so were murdered. Many of the others died of cold on the way. When the group arrived at Parczew only some 300 were still alive. The Jews of the town saved these by bribing the policement with gold, but despite this were forced to send them to Biala Podlaska, and to this end hired for them horse-drawn sleighs.
Up to the spring of 1940, and in the course of the year, some 3,200 Jewish prisoners-of-war (most of them former Polish soldiers) were sent to their homes throughout the Generalgouvernement. Prisoners from parts of Poland annexed by the Reich were also at first released in the L region, but made to swear, on pain of death, that they would not return to their home areas. Remaining in the camp were prisoners hailing from areas of Eastern Poland occupied by the Soviet Union. Their documents were taken from them, and the Germans refused to recognize them as prisoners-of-war - and they were put into the Lipowa Camp. The upkeep of this group fell upon the Jews of L, who set up two aid committees to deal with the matter - one by the Judenrat and one by the community in general. These committees collected money, clothes, medicine, and other necessities for these prisoners - but first and foremost their efforts were directed at finding Jewish families within the Generalgouvernement who would adopt these prisoners from Eastern Poland, and obtain their release. These efforts were indeed successful, and by June 1940 most of them were freed. Before leaving the camp they were given civilian clothes and a little money.
Of the remaining detainees in the camp some were employed in building huts and barracks to accommodate the camp guards, an administration building, garages, parking lots, and the like. For a brief period in August and September 1940 Lipowa served as a transit camp for thousands of Jewish men from the areas of Warsaw, Radom and Krakow, who had been mobilised for forced labour in the L district. In the course of a few weeks, from August 14th to September 7th, more than 15,000 Jews arrived there, but after a few days they were sent to scores of small camps throughout the district, where they worked under extremely harsh conditions at soil improvement, asphalting roads, and building fortifications along the Soviet border.
Towards the end of 1940 the Germans released the civilian workers in the camp, and only prisoners remained. In December a new batch of more than 500 Jewish prisoners-of-war was brought to the camp, and these were followed in January 1941 by another 2,000 or so, most of them natives of the Soviet-occupied zone of Eastern Poland. From then on the Lipowa Camp was the main repository of Jewish soldiers who had served in the Polish army, and others who had fallen into German hands. In February 1941 the Germans transferred responsibility for upkeep of the camp's inhabitants from the Judenrat to the S.S. and Police Headquarters in L. At that time the camp contained 2,000-3,000 prisoners, most of whom continued to work in the repair-shops and building in the camp area. Some 600, however, were employed outside, for example in preparing ground for a new camp near the Catholic cemetery and - after the invasion of the Soviet Union - in construction of the camp at Majdanek. The Germans then apparently also employed gangs of prisoners in military hospitals in L and its environs. At the end of 1940 the workshops in Lipowa began to produce war material for the German Army, and in the middle of 1941 the camp came under its supervision. From December 1941 the camp was guarded by seven sentinels from Majdanek, and in September 1943 the Lipowa Camp was in fact a branch of Majdanek.
The German camp guards, some of whom had a criminal record, maltreated the prisoners at will, and even thought up cruel ways of causing their death. The camp commandant, Dolf, machine-gunned groups of prisoners at the Piaski Camp. Jews were often taken out and hanged. One witness account tells of killing prisoners with electric shock. Globocnik used collective punishment: when prisoners escaped from the camp, groups of ten others were killed for each escapee. From time to time the Germans carried out "selection" - in December 1942, for example, 300 prisoners were picked out and sent to their deaths at Majdanek.
As mentioned, most of the Jewish prisoners at Lipowa at the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941 were former inhabitants of Eastern Poland (now Russian), and were denied the status of prisoners-of-war. The prisoners, however, refused to accept this decision.They chose leaders from amongst themselves and contributed to a common fund. Their first chosen leader, Dr. Kreut, was sent to a concentration camp for refusing to obey German orders. The next leader, Brandl, could not stand up to the German demands, and fled to the partisans. In the spring of 1941 a third leader, Roman Fischer, was chosen. He displayed qualities of leadership and stood firm before the demands of the camp authorities. Fischer organised the prisoners into three brigades, which were again divided into 13 companies of 100-120 men each. At the head of each brigade and company was an officer. In the spring of 1942 two additional companies - of civilian prisoners - were formed; these were skilled German-Jewish workers taken from the transports on their way to the extermination camps in the district. Later again, civilian Jews from the area were added. The prisoners cleaned the camp and instilled order in it. Despite a clear German order to the contrary, they refused to take off their army uniforms, and tried to keep up as disciplined a military appearance as possible. Members of each company strove to live together in the same hut and appeared in one collective group at roll-calls. Their request that the Judenrat should not interfere and leave them to manage their own affairs led, however, to friction with this body. They petitioned Camp Commandant Dolf to recognize them as prisoners-of-war, refused to wear armbands with Jewish symbols like the other Jews, and until the Lipowa Camp was shut down marched to work through the streets of L in military formation, like Polish soldiers, which earned them much respect from the Polish inhabitants of the town.
In the spring of 1942 the Jewish prisoners in the Lipowa Camp obeyed German orders and took part in rounding up Jews in L for forced labour.
On August 17th, 1942, the Germans suddenly deported hundreds of prisoners from Lipowa to Majdanek. When the shoemakers among them realised where they were going, they took knives from their workshops, attacked the guards, and succeeded in wounding and even killing some of them. The Germans then opened fire, killing some 80 souls, and cowing the others. The survivors of this incident went on to their deaths in Majdanek.
Shortly after the above event a group of about 40 persons, led by Resler, armed themselves with weapons and money, and succeeded in escaping to the forests of Janów, where they tried to make contact with Polish partisans, and prepare the way for the flight of other prisoners. Unfortunately, they stumbled on anti-semitic Polish partisans, who persuaded them to enter a bunker, where they were then butchered, with the exception of two, who escaped to L.
At the end of October and the beginning of November 1942 another three groups, numbering 55 fighters, fled to the forests. One of their commanders, Kaganowicz, was killed in a clash with the Germans. Leaders of the prisoners in the camp planned a mass break-out. This was fixed for November 14th - but was not put into effect, as, since the last flight the Germans had reinforced security in the camp. As a precautionary measure they returned to the camp 200 prisoners who had been working outside it. On the way, however, a few managed to flee, but most of these were caught and shot. In December 1942 another 15 prisoners fled, but all of them were recaptured on the 14th of that month in the vicinity of Krasnik, and killed.
At the beginning of 1943 the leaders of the prisoners in the camp told them to prepare for an uprising, as there were rumours that the camp was to be removed from Globocnik's jurisdiction and put under that of the Commandant of Majdanek. For six or seven weeks the prisoners were geared for action, but in the end the above transfer of authority did not take place. At the beginning of March 1943 the Germans arrested some of the leaders of the prisoners, including Fischer, and interrogated and tortured them. Again, the prisoners stood ready to act, but changed their minds when their leaders were released that same night. On the 30th of the month 30 prisoners escaped from the camp, but only half of them reached the partisans. Roman Fischer was among this group, and he reached Warsaw, where he contacted the Polish partisans of the "Armia Krajowa". Nothing concrete, however, resulted from this. In the camp weapons were again being collected and hidden, but at the beginning of October the Germans carried out a surprise search and the stockpile was discovered. Ten members of the underground escaped from a tannery workshop, but only a few of them armed. When they reached the vicinity of Belzyce they met armed Poles, who said they were members of "Armia Krajowa". Suddenly, the Poles opened fire and killed six Jews. The other four managed to escape, and later joined Jewish partisans.
The camp at 7, Lipowa Street, was closed on November 3rd, 1943. On their way to Majdanek the prisoners broke through the cordon of guards and began to flee, but most of them were killed on the spot. The others perished in Majdanek.
Some of the Jewish escapees from Lipowa, who succeeded in joining the partisans - Yechiel Grynszpan, Szmuel Jeger, Mijatslev Gruber, Chaim Wolf, and a few others - became audacious fighters and commanders of renown.
The Ghetto in Majdan Tatarski
On April 14th, 1942, S.S. Commander Sturm, then responsible for the Jews of L, informed the Judenrat that the last of the Jews in the town would be moved on the 17th to the suburb of Majdan Tatarski, where a "model ghetto" would be established. Some 7,000 Jews, half of them without papers, were then transferred to Majdan Tatarski to the south-east of the town, from where could be seen the extermination camp of Majdanek, a few kilometres away. There were at Majdan Tatarski only a few wooden, one-storey houses, and most of the Jews were without shelter and had to spend the nights under open sky. On the evening of April 20th the Judenrat held a roll-call, and in the morning the Germans ordered all the Jews outside the ghetto area and assembled them in the courtyard next to the former aircraft company "Plaga Laskiewicza", for inspection of documents. About 3,800 document holders and some of the others were returned to the ghetto. The remainder, some 1,200, were taken at the double to Majdanek, and there squeezed into a few wooden huts. According to the evidence of a survivor, Eva Bach, the overcrowding in the huts was so great that people felt they were suspended in mid-air. The internees were given neither food nor water. They were all full of lice, and soon began to behave like wild beasts. For five days the Germans came to the huts each morning and removed the dead and the living from the huts and took them on trucks to the forest near the village of Krepiec, where the survivors were shot to death.
According to the lists of the Judenrat, some 3,300 Jews remained in Majdan Tatarski at the end of April 1942. Only 1,800 of them lived in wooden houses; the others found shelter in attics, storerooms, stables, barns, and the like. It so happened that in that year there was particularly heavy and almost incessant rainfall, and many of the Jews were at the mercy of the rain and the cold.
The number of Jews in Majdan Tatarski may be gauged from data on the number of ration cards issued to them. In May 4,042 were given to the inhabitants of the ghetto, in June 4,316, in July 4,323, in August 4,396, and in September 3,957. However, apart from the recipients of these cards there were in the ghetto an unknown number of "illegal" Jews, most of them survivors of the actions in L and nearby, and also some refugees from Warsaw. The Jews interned at Majdan Tatarski worked at various places in L and in the ghetto itself. The streets of the ghetto were clean, the houses orderly, and attached to most of them were gardens. Some employers erected huts for their workers. There was a local general hospital, a hospital for contagious diseases, a pharmacy, and even a kindergarten. A committee was formed that received some help from the JSS in Krakow. There was even a private restaurant in the ghetto, whose owner, Szamaj Grejer, was a German informer, and who even helped them in their actions.
At night the Germans, under the command of Herman Werthof, in charge of Jewish affairs in L, searched the houses for "outside" Jews - survivors of actions in other parts of Poland.
However, the comparative calm that was the lot of the Jews in Majdan Tatarski did not last. On September 2nd, 1942, the S.S. surrounded the ghetto, assembled the Jews in the square, where they selected some 1,000 persons, from whom they again took 500 women , children and old people to send to Majdanek. These were in fact exterminated on the way, near the village of Krepiec. The remainder, men, women, and young people "fit for work", were employed in various tasks. On October 25th, 1942, another action took place in the ghetto, and this time about 1,000 were sent to Majdanek, amongst them holders of work permits from the German Labour Office in L.
On November 9th, 1942, the "model ghetto" of Majdan Tatarski was closed down. All its inhabitants, 2,350 in number, were taken at the double to Majdanek, where all the children, the aged, the ill and the weak, were exterminated. The younger ones were set to work. On the day of deportation the Germans executed the Chairman of the Judenrat, Dr. Alten, the Jewish Police Chief, Moniek Goldfarb, and also Szamaj Grejer. They left in the abandoned ghetto some tens of Jews, who were ordered to clean the area and to collect and sort the possessions of the deportees and put them in the S.S. warehouse. Immediately after the deportation of November 9th the Germans combed the ghetto and Jews found in hiding were liquidated on the spot. At the end of November 1942, when the collection and sorting Jewish property had been completed, the Jews who had been engaged in this work were also taken to Majdanek and killed.
Closure of the Labour Camps in L and the Vicinity
After liquidation of the ghetto at Majdan Tatarski there were still in L a few labour camps, large and small, with Jews in them: such as the camp in Lipowa Street, with Jewish workers, prisoners-of-war and Polish soldiers captured at the end of 1939; the camp at the former plant of "Plaga Laskiewicza"; and the camp commanded by the S.S. officer Siegel, with workshops for cosmetics, tailoring, and making brassières. Jews also worked in the rag factory of a German called Kremin, in tanneries (formerly owned by Jews), and in a tobacco plant (a government monopoly). Small groups of Jewish workers were also to be found in other places. In the workshops of the prison inside the L fortress some 300 Jews were employed, brought there from the Majdan Tatarski ghetto, and under the supervision of highly skilled craftsmen. These workshops were the province of Globocnik, and their products were destined for the leading members of the German administration in L.
In May 1943 the Germans closed down most of the small camps and sent the Jews who worked there to Majdanek. Only a very few managed to escape and survive.
On November 3rd, 1943, the S.S. and their henchmen murdered the remnants of the Jews of the L district in the camps of Trawniki, Poniatowa, and Majdanek. In Majdanek 18,400 Jews were killed on that day, among them prisoners from Lipowa 7 and the S.S. camp at the former airfield. This wave of killings was dubbed by the Germans the "Harvest Feast".
Even after the last orgy of murder at Majdanek there remained Jews working in the workshops of the L fortress. Their number decreased, since many died in prison (according to the records, from 1940 to July 1944 more than 150 Jews and many others were killed there or sent to Majdanek). Deportations to the death camps multiplied at the beginning of 1944, as the Red Army approached the old eastern frontier of Poland. In February 1944 150 Jewish citizens of the Soviet Union were despatched to Majdanek. They may have been the craftsmen from Lipowa who worked in the fortress workshops.
On July 20th, 1944, the head of the S.S. and Police in the Generalgouvernement ordered convicts to be sent to the concentration camps, and with the Red Army approaching, to liquidate immediately both the prisoners and the Jews who were still working for the army. In conformity with this order, on July 19th-21st, 1944 - the last days of German rule in L - 1,150 souls from the fortress were taken to Majdanek and put to death on arrival. On July 22nd there were still some 1,400 prisoners in the fortress. On the morning of that day the Gestapo, on Werthof's orders, killed more than 450 of them. The first to die were 60 Jews, mainly craftsmen, but also five children aged 4 to 5. Two hours after their execution the Germans began to withdraw from L.
The Death Camp of Majdanek
Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the German authorities decided to set up near L a large camp for Soviet prisoners. In August 1941 detainees from the Lipowa camp were sent to build the camp in the south-eastern L suburb of Majdanek, on the road to Zamosc and Chelm. In the autumn the camp was enclosed with doubly electrified barbed wire, and along its boundaries 18 watchtowers and 130 large searchlights were set up. At the beginning of September 1941 the first batch of S.S. arrived at the camp to form the cadre of the personnel. They brought with them experience from the camps of Buchenwald, Gross-Rosen, and others. In October the first prisoners arrived - some 2,000 Soviet soldiers. They continued construction of the camp under inhuman conditions of hunger, extreme cold, filth, and disease, and were also cruelly beaten by the guards. Within five weeks of their arrival most of these prisoners were dead.
On December 12th, 1941, the first group of Jews were brought to Majdanek - 150 seized during the curfew in the L ghetto (see above). By January 6th, 1942, only 17 of them were still alive, and they were released from the camp by order of the German Labour Office in L. Between February 22nd and November 9th, 1942, at least 4,000 Jews from L were murdered in Majdanek.
At the beginning of 1942 Majdanek was chosen to be a concentration and death camp for "enemies of the Third Reich" and for Jews. Seven gas chambers were constructed, together with two incinerators, a large and a small, designed to cremate 1,000 corpses a day. Besides Jews and Soviet prisoners thousands of Poles from all walks of life were also imprisoned there, as well as deportees from Zamosc and its environs - chosen for settlement by ethnic Germans. There were, in addition, political and other prisoners from Western Europe and the Soviet Union. At times the number of inmates of the camp numbered 40,000; and it is estimated that half a million persons passed through Majdanek, and that 360,000 of them met their deaths there - about 40% executed on the brink of trenches, and others in the gas chambers or gas vehicles. It is likewise estimated that 130,000-200,000 Jews perished there - 85% of them inhabitants of Poland, and the remainder from other European countries. The exact number is not known, as at Majdanek the batches of Jews were not registered upon arrival.
Of the community of L, which on the eve of war numbered more than 40,000 Jews, only 230 in the German area of occupation survived, a few of them with the help of Poles who risked their lives to save them. Thus, for instance, the wife of the engineer Sawicki hid in her house in L four Jewish children; Gwidon Sokolowski and his wife helped save the couple Goldberg and some others; Manczina, a woman of a village near L, hid in her house and saved a jewess and her daughter, the Fajerszteins. The Pajkotowski family, who lived near the Lipowa 7 camp, helped Cypora Fischer. Riszard Postowicz andStefania Farszinska saved Ida Gliksztein-Jarkoni and her four-year-old daughter. Two children of the Lind family were saved by a young woman named Sofia Molodowska, who succeeded in smuggling them to Warsaw when the ghetto in L was closed, and brought them up there until Poland was freed. Poles also saved the daughters of Dr. Haberberg and the lawyer Szlaf.
On the basis of the partial information at our disposal, some tens of Poles were caught helping Jews, and were taken to the fortress at L and condemned to death. There were probably other rescuers of whom we know nothing. One Pole, Boleslaw Dombrowski, from the village of Samokleski, was executed in January 1943 together with 27 Jews he had attempted to save.
Some Poles from L and the vicinity were honoured after the war by Yad Veshem in Jerusalem as "Chasidei Umot Haolam" (Righteous Gentiles). Amongst them were Stefania Farszinska, Sofia Molodowska, Kasimierz Bogocki, the Dodziak family from the village of Kiejtanówka, the Podsziadlo family, Helena Broda and her husband, and others.
After the Liberation
On July 24th, 1944, L was liberated by the Red Army, and until the liberation of Warsaw in January 1945 it served as the temporary capital of Poland. L was the seat of the Provisional Polish Government and the "Polish Committee for the Liberation of the People"; and from August 1945 also that of the Jewish Committee, headed by Dr. Szlomo Herszenhorn of L. On its first day in office, August 8th, the committee drew up a list of Jews in the area, namely 300 souls, but only 15 of them former inhabitants of L. By the end of August the number of Jews in the town had risen to 1,200, including 200 children; on September 17th this figure was 2,000, and on December 31st 4,553, including 200 refugees returning from the Soviet Union. On June 30th, 1946, there were 6,662 Jews in L, 824 of them back from Russia. Most of the Jews were in poor health, hungry, barefooted, without adequate clothing or money, and homeless. The Jewish Committee's main concern was with local people. In November 1944 the "Central Committee of Polish Jews" began its operations in L. It was composed of representatives of all the political trends among the remnants of Jewry in Poland. The attitude of the Polish Government towards the Jews was encouraging, but its ability to proffer aid was minimal. Some help with food, clothing and money to the Jews was forthcoming in the days following liberation, and in October 1944 a public kitchen was opened that supplied them with 500 meals daily.
Shortly after its inception the Jewish Committee in L began gathering evidence on survivors and collating other historical material on the Jews during the German occupation and on their destruction.
In the months following liberation very few Jews succeeded in finding proper places to live in; most of them had to do with temporary shelter - in the flour mill at Piaski, in the hospice of the Polish Red Cross, and in Peretz House. Beds and bed linen were not to be had, and people slept on the bare floor, under bad hygienic conditions. Many wandered about the streets and slept where they could, each night somewhere else. Promises that the housing problem would find its solution by February 1945 did not materialise. One apartment plus two rooms were placed at the disposal of the Jews for housing orphans. In the middle of 1945, however, there was already an orphanage with 140 children, but in the same year the institution moved westwards.
By the middle of 1946 Jewish life was better organised. A Jewish school with 55 pupils was opened, as was a kindergarten with 24 children, and a day nursery with 25. Minyanim for prayer gathered in private apartments. The two cemeteries in Sienna and Unicka Streets were tidied up. In Bet Peretz cultural and social events began to take place.
Two Jewish cooperatives in the town were functioning - the tailors and the brushmakers, together employing 42 persons; and there was a bakery with 15 workers. In addition there were 20 self-employed craftsmen in the town, some dentists, and a number of Jewish lawyers.
In this same period Polish nationalists in L and the vicinity murdered some Jews. For fear of these nationalists the Jews fled from the small settlements to the larger towns, and there was a growing interest in leaving Poland. Nevertheless, until 1968 there was still a Jewish colony in L, with a branch of a Jewish cultural organisation. After 1970, however, only a handful of Jews remained and there was no Jewish communal life.
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