«Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

{Page 432}

Under The Nazi Occupation (cont.)

In the beginning of 1942 the terror against the Jewish people became stronger. It was a prelude to the overall liquidation. In February 1942 the German gendarmes carried out arrests among the Jewish and Polish population, most of them people known before the war because of their political activities. A portion of those arrested was killed on the spot. A portion was sent to extermination camps. It was at that time that Aaron Pinchas Bornstein was killed, an activist from the right wing Poalei Tzion from before the war. It was thrown up to him, that he was a teacher and educator of Jewish children in an illegal school. He was shot to death in the synagogue courtyard. That is where the Nazis arranged the prison for the Jews. Aaron Pinchas Bornstein was one of the nicest figures in pre-war Jewish Belchatow. This was a very modest man. According to his intelligence he could have reached a much higher esteem [importance] and better position in life. He however did not like to “push” himself. He was a Hebrew teacher. He, along with his family, always lived almost in need, even though he did not give up even for a single moment his work as a teacher, and thereby also was busy with communal work. However, with such community work, which always brought positive benefit, one did not see it [a profit]. His image and intelligence held himself up in the most difficult service. His father was a melamed [teacher in cheder] in Belchatow. Until he was 14 years old, he was a belfer [assistant teacher] for his father in the cheder [traditional Jewish primary school]. At night, when everyone was sleeping, he used to drag his books out from hiding, and by a little candle in a can studied until day-break. He was never separated from a book. One always saw him with some sort of book under his arm, both in the times of the Beit Hamidrash [house of prayer and study], when he was condemned by the fanatics of the environment of those times, and in the times of the occupation, when a book for a Jew was life threatening.

A large portion of the Belchatow youth had him to thank for their knowledge. He was also a good lecturer, well read on literary themes. He was a councilman from the Belchatow town council. Even his idealistic opponents were drawn to him with the greatest respect because of his spiritual and moral exaltedness. He remained faithful to his world view ane with his way of thinking, that a person can become better through non-verbal [unspoken] education, and from that came his life's calling, as a teacher and educator. And that is also how he perished – at the post of teacher and educator.

In the beginning of March 1942 the Germans arrested 16 Belchatow Jews, as so-called “plotters”. Ten of them were hanged; the remaining six were let out, while their families had their entire fortune carried off by the Department Commissioner and the gendarmes.

The six saved ones were: Shlomo Szmulewicz, Meyer Zuchowski, Berl Rubenstein, Szmuel Jakubowicz, Yankl Flakowicz, and Moshe Klug. It was because of that, that a large [heavy] contribution was imposed upon the Jewish people. They had to provide 2 kilos [kilograms] of gold, 10 kilos of silver, and a large sum of money in cash. It is easy to imagine how it came about that all of this was put together after the Jews had already earlier been robbed. On the 13th of March the Belchatow Department Commissioner reported to the State Councilor:

“Today the Criminal High-Secretary Walden, with an official of the gestapo, [came] to me, and it was relayed to me, that on Wednesday, the 18th of March 1942, before noon, at 11 o'clock, 10 Jews must be hung in Belchatow.”
Those that observed the said terrible execution have told that on the 18th of March, in the morning, all the Jews were driven from their rooms to the synagogue courtyard. From there they were taken (driven) 5 in a row, to a place that had belonged to Yankl Ber Lieberman, where there was already standing prepared a gallows. At about 10 o'clock the Jewish Police, in the accompaniment of the gendarmes, brought the 10 Jews who had been designated to be hung. They all were with bound hands.

The 10 Jews were:

Yankl Erlich,
Moshe Wolfowicz,
Laybish Feldman,
Mendel Feld,
Yaakov Hersh Statlender's grandson,
Moshe Aaron Taube,
Yechezkiel Szpiro,
Yerachmiel Baum,
Eliezer Rawicz (a Jew from Lodz)
and Laybish Michal Landau


A strong impression was made upon all the indicated Jews by the stance of Moshe Wolfowicz: With a steady step and a head held high, he was the first one to go up to the gallows. He himself put the noose around his neck and shouted to the Jews that they should not lose their courage, that to the Germans will come a bleak defeat, and that one should take revenge for all the crimes that the Germans commit. To the remaining condemned, [he said that] he was depending on their not having any fear and that they should hold themselves straight. The remaining people went after him. For 20 minutes they were standing with the nooses lying around their necks, until the president of the Judenrat, Topolewicz, read the “Accusation Act,” which the mayor Trahner had handed him. In the “Accusation Act” he said: that in the name of German justice these 10 Jews are being punished for speculation, sabotage, and diverse things against the German war economy, for conducting illegal dealing and smuggling, and for raising the prices of products necessary for life. After Topolewicz read the “Accusation Act,” the leader of the Lodz Gestapo, Richter, ordered the platform upon which the condemned were standing to be removed. The platform was pulled from under their feet by Abraham Alter Goldberg (khmal[?]).


The ten people hung in Belchatow on the 19th of March 1942

The Jews around stood frozen, they were afraid to make any movement, because the Germans, who were standing around the community of Jews, with machine guns stretched out, had an order that with the slightest movement in the rows of Jews, to fire into the crowd. Until 5 o'clock in the evening the 10 Jews were [left] hanging on the gallows. The Belchatow Jews returned to their homes with a heavy mood, after that which they had lived through, not being sure what tomorrow will bring.

The 19th of March 1942 the Belchatow Department Commissioner reported to the Town Commander of Lask:

 

  Belchatow, March 19, 1942
The Department Commissioner
of the town of Belchatow
– Lask District –
Nr. 5881/42
Daybook 146/21

To the

Town Commander [of] Lask

In Lask
Topic: Execution

On the basis of the circular from the town commander, I report that yesterday before noon, 11 o'clock, upon the orders of the secret state police [staatpolizei], 10 Jews were hung in an open place. This measure was carried out, as a terrifying example concerning constant crimes on the part of the Jews in relation to the regulations of the war economy.

The Department Commissioner
Trahner

The Belchatow Germans boasted that the hanging of the 10 Jews, right in the Purim days, should serve to remind them that this is paying them back for Haman's 10 sons. [Translator's note: Haman's 10 sons were hung, in relation to the story that is the basis of Purim, in place of Jews that Haman planned to hang on those same gallows.]

From then on, there again began a period of “sperres” [“curfews”], house searches, and other troubles. They whipped, tortured, and killed. They whipped women, whose husbands were hidden, so as not to be sent out to forced labor. I give forth to you a document, which shows what measures the Germans were capable of.

Belchatow the 27th of June 1942

“To the State Councilor [Landrat] Dr. Stiller, service information:

        I report, Mr. State Councilor, the following facts concerning that which was provided me by the chief of the workers division. Party Comrade Zander and his co-worker Party Comrade Kimpfmann. You should not have any doubt about the correctness of the facts, as I questioned each one separately, and both of them told the same [story]. According to the descriptions it goes like this: The workers division needed to put Jews to work. They were driven out at night from the rooms. It appeared that a lot of Jews ran away during this operation, or they hid themselves. Then we took in the wives and daughters, of the Jews who had run away, into the workers division, until they would be searched for by their husbands and fathers. The men did not come forward, and the question posed itself for us, what to do with the women and girls. The party comrades Zander and Kimpfmann put themselves down [on the side of] releasing the women and girls. The government councilor Stram ordered then, that the women should be given the earned punishment, and that should happen in the following form: The women and girls, who numbered 20, had to undress themselves naked and be beaten with whips and sticks, as long as they don't want to tell where their husbands and fathers can be found. The government councilor Stram not only gave the said order, but he also carried out the punishment on his own, with the help of the party comrade Zander, who was beating with a stick, while the government councilor Stram was beating with a whip. Among the Jewish women and girls was also found a pregnant woman by the name Klug. It showed by her stance [that she was pregnant], and nevertheless she received her judgment from the government councilor Stram. Concerning this, it was given over to the Judenrat and to the municipal police. Right after that searches were carried out in all Jewish homes. The searches were carried out by the secret police, and the party comrades Zander and Kimpfmann in this way received the assignment once again to control whether one still recognizes the traces of the whippings received on the bodies of the Jewish women and girls.

Mayor: Trahner

Such similar facts continuously repeated themselves until the day of the complete liquidation.


{Page 438}

We are coming to the tragic chapter, which marks the end of Jewish life in Belchatow, a chapter which concludes 150 years of vibrant Jewish life in one of the towns, which with its building and creativity in various fields exhibits the true face of creative Polish Jewry. It is the chapter of the liquidation of the Jews in Belchatow. The first “relocation” took place on the 20th of August 1941.

On the 19th of August, the Head Commissar Trahner sent the following order to the Judenrat:

 

[The letter is translated into Yiddish:]

19 August 1941

To
The Council of Elders of the Jewish Community
Belchatow

Concerning: The mobilization of the Jewish males between the ages of 18-45.

All Jews between the ages of 18-45 are obliged to appear personally on Wednesday the 20th of August in the courtyard of the Kluk [sic] Company [i.e., the Klug Factory] on Horst Wessel Street. At precisely 2 o'clock in the afternoon! The only exceptions are those Jews who are securely employed in the Tailor's Workshop; however, those Jews with other occupations are not excluded and must appear.

The Jewish doctors must be in attendance.

  The Head Commissar,
Trahner

At that time about 500 young men were taken away. It is true that they were not sent directly to the crematoria, but they suffered so much until their deaths that they perhaps envied those who had been sent directly to their deaths. These [young men] were first sent to the camps in the Poznan area. There they were tortured with the most difficult labor in building roads and laying railroad tracks. More than one fell under the heavy loads that they had to pull. They had to work 12-14 hours a day. They were not even allowed to catch their breaths. At the slightest attempt to rest from their work, the trained German gangsters beat them violently with sticks and the butts of their rifles.

These Jewish slaves were kept in barracks in very bad conditions. It was crowded and dirty. They got 24 decas of bread with a soup of rotten rape [a leafy green vegetable, similar to kale, generally grown for animal fodder] for lunch and a cup of black coffee for their evening meal. This was the official portion. In fact, even this was lacking, because half was stolen by the Germans by way of the overseers, the cooks, and the kapos, so that by the time it got to the inmate, there was very little left. If someone got sick or weak at work, they were immediately sent to Auschwitz to be incinerated. That is why, even with a temperature of 40 [°C], they went to work, just not to be considered sick. They never reported to a doctor. They dragged themselves around with their last bit of strength and waited for a miracle. In the years 1941 and 1942, no miracles could happen. It was in those times, when the starved Jewish slave was even afraid to leave his work to get his bit of soup for lunch, because he might be beaten over the head with a piece of iron instead of receiving his bowl of soup.

The Jews of Belchatow were scattered throughout the camps: Nekla, Poznan-Dempsen, Poznan- Wronczyn, Gutenbuk, and so on.

In the Nekla camp, the people [prisoners] slept under the open sky. Out of starvation, they ate worms. Every day, fewer and fewer left for work from Nekla camp. Each night several people died from exhaustion and starvation. In a short time, fewer than half of the 400 Belchatowers remained. Actually, the very youngest died off first. There was a German there, who didn't sit down to breakfast until he had killed a Jew. Another German's method was to hit a Jew over the head with a hammer. After being hit with a hammer in this way, it was rare that anyone remained alive. A few months after the first expulsion, it was relatively quiet in Belchatow, but in the beginning of 1942 it started again. New contingents of workers were required from the Poznan camps, because the greatest part of the former [workers] had already died off. There were “sperres” [curfews] and abductions in the middle of March and April. At the beginning of June 1942, Jews were once again required to gather in the courtyard of Klug's factory. Having learned from the previous “resettlements,” the Jews were not as quick to report. They hid in cellars, in attics, in the woods. The Germans wreaked havoc: they shot a woman named Gliksman; they shot Lewkowicz, Zerach Cymberknap, all to no avail. The Jews did not come out of hiding. If it hadn't been for the Jewish police, who were assisting the gendarmerie [German police] in their search and pointing out the hiding places, the Germans would not have accomplished much on their own. At that time, the Germans succeeded in dragging 400 Belchatow Jews to the Poznan camps. It was seldom that anyone taken away ever returned home. In the rare case that someone did succeed in escaping and returning [home], Jewish informants collaborating with the Gestapo turned him in.

On the 17th of February 1942, the Commandant of the German police gave the Mayor the following report:

 

[Letter translated into Yiddish follows:]

Belchatow the 17/2/1942 Protection Police [Schutz-Polizei] – Service Department
Belchatow
Diary no. 77/42
Stamp:
The Mayor
Belchatow

Received 20th Feb. 1942
No. 120/03

Annoucement

Matter: The violation of walking in the street after the permitted time by the Jew Chaskil Zwierzynski, 25 years old, resident of Belchatow, Breslauer St. 3.


On 2/16/1942 at around 9:10 p.m., the above-mentioned of Breslauer Street was discovered wandering around on the south side behind the houses above the German cemetery. When he was asked to halt, he began to run away. He was shot escaping.
  Roys
Master of the Protection Police
 
– 0 – [sic]
 
Book – no. 227/42
Original

To the Mayer and Head Commissar

In Belchatow

 
     Sent as a courtesy, on 2/17/1942
 
Ballerstadt
District-Lieutenant
and Division Leader
– 0 –
 

In fact this matter presented itself differently: the abovementioned Yecheskel Zwierszynski escaped from the Poznan Camps, returned home and hid in various places. On the evening that he was shot, he was actually at home. Someone let the Germans know, and they came right into his house. He was not shot in the German cemetery, but while he was trying to jump out of the window.

In the Poznan Camps, the Germans utilized a group of Belchatower criminal youths. They were installed as “kapos” [inmates in charge of work teams in a camp] and “stube-dienst” [“chamber-service” – inmates in charge of a chamber]. Because of their cruelty, these underworld people were absolutely no different than the German beasts. The Belchatower hairdresser, Szwarcberg, worked as a “feldsher” [an old-time barber-surgeon] in the Nekla Camp. He was the expert on all illnesses. He has hundreds of deaths on his conscience. He is guilty in the death of Fradl Wolfowicz's youngest son, who died at work. He is also guilty in the death of old Szjtnicki and his son Moshe. He sent people to work with broken ribs, with bones broken in two by beatings. A second kapo, Berish Fila, beat people violently. He broke people's hands and feet and then turned his victims over to the Germans to be sent to Auschwitz. He himself survived the war and wound up in Germany in the American Zone… [The following] distinguished themselves as murderers: Mayorek Nus, Melech Krawitski, Berish Grinberg, and Avraham Pila. They took everything that they owned away from the Jews of Belchatow, every package of produce that came from home. The unfortunate camp prisoners had to share every bite with them. They were the masters of the inmates' lives and deaths. Whoever tried to oppose them was reported and recommended for transportation to Auschwitz as having sabotaged the work effort. These louts broke the bones of Avraham Lipsycz and Asher Jakubowicz, because they didn't want to give away their food. Asher Jakubowicz died of these wounds while at work; Avraham Lipsycz was turned over for transportation to Auschwitz. The starvation in the camps was so impossible to endure that, ignoring the fact that people in the camps knew that stealing was punishable by shooting or hanging, they nevertheless tried to steal whatever they could and at least once be sated. For stealing a few potatoes in the Poznan-Wronczyn Camp, Yerachmil Szwarcberg, Welwel Walder, and two other Belchatower Jews, whose names are uncertain, were hanged. One of the four hanged succeeded in extricating himself from the noose on the gallows and was still alive, but the Germans shot him. Also hanged for trying to escape was Avraham Liszczanowski.

In the year 1942, three Poznan Camps were dissolved. The small number of surviving Belchatow Jews was sent to Auschwitz and Majdanek. There practically all of the 1,000 Belchatow Jews who had been transferred from the Poznan Camps died. Only a few people survived and they can be counted on one's fingers.

The liquidation of the rest of the Jews who remained in Belchatow began on the 11th of August 1942, at 6 o'clock in the morning. The whole town was locked in and surrounded by newly arrived killing squads and the local German gendarmes and police force. All of those who had tried the previous night to escape to Piotrkow were, for the most part, shot. The women, Zuchowski and Pilakowicz, were killed as they tried to escape into the woods. Hans Biebow, the hangman of the Lodz Ghetto, led the liquidation. He brought with him a division of the Lodz Jewish “Special Police” [SonderPolizei]. The local Jewish Belchatow police also helped. First thing in the morning, Itche Winter came into the tailor's factory and removed the Jewish policemen, who guarded the factory, and gave them the job of gathering all the old and sick people together on Zelower Road. There cars with Gestapo were already waiting for them and took them immediately to the Chemno death camp. These were the first victims. Thus started the final liquidation of the Jews in Belchatow.

When the Lodz Ghetto was liquidated in 1944, practically all of the Belchatow Jews who were in the Lodz Ghetto perished in Auschwitz. A large number of the thousand Belchatow Jews who had been in the Lodz Ghetto had died previously of starvation. In the Lodz Ghetto, Henoch Liberman, the well known Bundist activist and advisor on the Belchatow City Council, [also] expired from starvation. The evacuation in Belchatow lasted three days. The people, who it had been decided would go to Chelmno, were packed into the synagogue almost to the point of suffocation. In these overcrowded conditions, the Chasidic Jew, Avraham Yitzhak Farber, died. These people weren't given anything to eat, not even a sip of water. The cars went back and forth to Chelmno all day long. Even on the third day, Jews who had been discovered hiding were still being sent over. A group of Jews was left in Belchatow in order to clean out the Jewish houses of the possessions they had left behind. Afterwards, they were taken in an unfamiliar direction and every trace of them was lost. A small number of Jews succeeded in hiding during this time of liquidation and later escaping to Piotrkow, but very few of them remained alive.


After the Jews had been transported out of Belchatow, the Germans divided up the remaining Jewish possessions. The greatest part fell to those who ran the Lodz Ghetto, with [Hans] Biebow at their head. In the lawsuit against Biebow, which took place in Lodz after the war, it was actually shown that Biebow sent millions of dollars worth of Jewish possessions back to his “homeland.” Whatever Jewish possessions remained were divided among the local Germans. This “master race” fought among themselves over every Jewish scrap. In a letter from the Mayor to the Land Office, he complains about this –– how difficult it is for him to accomplish this apportioning due to the squabbles among the Germans, and he requests that the Land Office relieve him of this duty. We have the following characteristic document from the Department Commissioner of Belchatow

 

20th of August 1942 no. 7455/43/3
510/40
      To Herr
      Reinhold Oberman – Wholesale Business of Products

      In Belchatow

      T/K

Regarding: Distribution of laundry products found in the warehouse of the Jewish Council of Elders.

In connection with a personal discussion with Herr Oberman and Herr Zemler regarding the distribution of the articles, which were found at the Jewish Council of Elders, – I want to ask that this distribution be accomplished on Saturday, the 22nd of August, from 3 o'clock in the afternoon on, according to the enclosed list. The comrades have agreed to this. Everyone on this list will be handed the following products:

2 boxes of Vim [dry cleanser similar to Ajax or Comet], 5 packets of Safoni, 3 pieces of Gamma Fix, 4 pieces of Gamma Rex, 1 packet of Eidchlor, 1/2 kilo of malt-coffee, and 1 kilo baking soda.

The rest of what remains, according to your records, will be disposed of by NSV [National Socialistische Volkshilfe, which was in charge of welfare, collection of clothing, etc.]. The other things remain, according to our agreement.

The 100 kilo of carbide, I will remove when I have the opportunity.

  Department Commissioner:
Trahner

A few days earlier, on the 17th of August, a communication appeared signed by the Mayor:

“Enamel and zinc dishes will be for sale at the Catholic Church. The sale will take place on the 21st of August from 8 o'clock until 12. First choice is given to emigrated Germans and only afterwards to native [Germans].”

On the 19th of August, the Head Commissar told the Land Office what he had done with the furniture that had remained after the removal of the Jews.

“I am letting the Head of the Land Council know that I have decided, little by little, to sell the furniture that remained after the Jews' [departure], and to use what was unsuitable for sale as firewood, and to divide the rest among the National Socialists.”
Another document of the same date lists precisely what furniture he divided among the National Socialists:

1. Kitchen cabinet 11. Three sugar bowls
2. Three serving plates 12. A soup bowl
3. Four cake plates 13. Five tin plates
4. Five small bowls 14. Nine cooking pots
5. Six soup plates 15. A samovar
6. Ten supper plates 16. Two stone pots [sic]
7. Twenty-eight cups and saucers 17. Two large bowls
8. Twenty-two little plates 18. Three pails
9. Five milk cans 18. [sic] One grater
10. Three coffee pots 20. One egg beater
  21. Two ladles

The Land Office then issued a special order that the Department Commissioner also be given furniture from Widawa, because unfortunately, a terrible pity on him, he didn't have the opportunity to procure any furniture, because there were practically no Jews left in Widawa. The Jews had been transported out of there as early as 1941.

The following Germans in Belchatow received furniture:

  1. Pilts, Tatiana – a table for 5 marks;
  2. Wizner, Emil – a bed for 5 marks;
  3. Gut, Josef – a water bench [wasser bank]
  4. Kubisch, Gustav – an armoire with two doors for 12 marks;
  5. Krieger, Anan – a mirror for 6 marks.
  6. Turbanski, Alfred – a box of coal for 2 marks

This is how they plundered, how the Jewish possessions, earned with blood and sweat, were given away or sold.

After the Jews had been transported, their synagogue was turned into a warehouse for straw. Later, the synagogue was turned over to the German peasant collective also to be used as a warehouse, and then, as is shown in a document dated June 19, 1944, issued by the financial office, permission was given to turn the synagogue into a sports gymnasium.

Belchatow was renamed – Belchetol.


After the Red Army liberated Poland and the war ended, the few remaining surviving Jews returned to Belchatow. Individuals came from the various camps, which were widespread across Germany and Poland. Individuals came from Auschwitz and Birkenau, near Auschwitz, from Theresienstadt, from Buchenwald, from Bergen-Belsen. They came tattered and torn, swollen from starvation and illness. Practically all of them wore the infamous “pazhakes” (striped garb), weak and sick, some of them even leaning on sticks. But in Belchatow they couldn't even find a roof over their heads. It is difficult to be certain about the number of Belchatow survivors: not all of them returned to their home town. A few remained in the camps in German in the American and English zones. There are a few Belchatow Jews even in Sweden. Others succeeded in smuggling themselves into Eretz Yisrael after they had suffered the seven levels of hell in the last camps of Germany, Italy, and the like. In general, no more than 200 Jews of Belchatow survived Hitler's occupation. Perhaps another 200 Belchatow Jews returned from the Soviet Union. All told, no more than 500 Jews survived. That doesn't even amount to 10 percent of the former Jewish population of Belchatow.

There are now ruins in the place, where there such a lovely life blossomed. The synagogue lies in ruins. The land where the Jewish cemetery once was is destroyed – the land has been plowed under, and it is even difficult to see where the Jewish cemetery once was. With the headstones, the Germans paved the streets. Today, there is not even one Jew left in Belchatow. Several have settled in Lodz; the rest have dispersed across the world. This is how the 150-year-old Jewish settlement in Belchatow came to an end –torn out with its roots by the Hitler beast.


The Jews of Belchatow also contributed their share in the fight against Hitlerism. Belchatower Jews took part in the struggle against the Germans in the year 1939. Belchatower Jews took part in the heroic defense of Warsaw. They fought in the Red Army; they fought in the famous Kosciuszko Division, and they were also active in the partisan movement.

Josef Reich, a well-known community activist in Belchatow during the First World War, someone who had a hand in the development of cultural life in Belchatow, was exiled to Stolpce during the Hitler occupation. There he worked in the underground camp organization. He was in the partisan movement and fought in the partisan camp under the leadership of the well-known partisan, Hershl Pasesarski. Despite his age, he took part in all the heavy battles, which took place in the Stolpce region.

Now he is in Australia.

Moshe Levi, a Chassid who never had the slightest idea of how to hold a rifle, went into the woods during the liquidation of the Jews of Belchatow. He and another partisan went through Belchatow in 1944. The police noticed them and opened fire. Levi was critically wounded in a foot, which made it impossible for him to escape. He was captured alive and sent by the Gestapo to Lodz. For a while, he was kept in the hospital and then sentenced to be hanged.

A group of Belchatower [Jews] fought in the partisan camp behind Bialystok. They were known by the name: “The Suprasl Group.” That was the town [Suprasl] where they were under the German occupation during the second half of the year 1942. This group earned a lot while organizing the partisan movement in the greater Bialystok area. The following belonged to this group: Hinde Kon, Chaim Kon, Moshe Kon and Lejbl Pudlowski. All three Kons distinguished themselves by exhibiting extraordinary bravery and heroism. All three come from poor, proletariat parents. Hinde, who as a child was very weak, actually exhibited the greatest endurance as a partisan. It appeared that she had a strong spirit in her weak body. When the liquidation of the Suprasl Jews took place on the 1st of November, she was the only one who escaped into the surrounding woods. She hid in a hay silo for two months during the worst frosts. If it weren't for the peasants of the hamlet Konno, who brought her some food, she would have died of starvation. She is among the first of the Bialystok region who went into the woods to fight the occupying forces. One had to have extraordinary strength to remain all alone in the woods during that time, without any contact with the partisan movement. Danger dogged one's every step. It was pioneering work, and it had to fall, of all people, to the weak, feeble soul, Hinde Kon. She looked around slowly; little by little she made contact with the neighboring peasants, who sympathized with the partisan movement. She made contact with the Russian partisan, Alexander, who also was very helpful in saving Jews who were hiding in the woods. For a time, he was the commander of the Judith Group (Judith was a famous heroine of the Bialystok Ghetto uprising). Thanks to Alexander and Hinde, the first Jewish partisan group was formed in the Bialystok woods. She procured the first arms by going into a deep lake and extracting a rifle, which came from the conflict between the Russians and the Germans, back in 1941. She blew up a train, and the locomotive was destroyed, and 12 tanks, and a great number of Germans soldiers were thereby killed. Another case shows her heroism, her cold-bloodedness, and her daring: one time, the Germans had surrounded the Suprasl woods, and a skirmish ensued between the Germans and the partisans. Since, according to their count, the Germans greatly outnumbered the partisans, the latter had to draw back. In the process, one of the partisans lost his rifle. Hinde Kon noticed this, and even without asking the commandant's permission, she returned, under a hail of German bullets, to the place and retrieved the rifle. However, she had to return alone by another way. This battle took place in the 15th district of the rugged “Bodzisker” woods. She stole out of the woods and ran across the field. The Germans shot after her. The partisans loved her very much because of her sincere goodness. During the hardest times, the winter of 1944, when the Jewish partisans in the Bialystok area were blockaded by the German soldiers, and there were casualties every day, it seemed already to be the end, and that no way out of this situation could be seen, Hinde Kon would come with warm, motherly words [of encouragement]. Indeed, that's what she was called: the mother of the Jewish partisans. She washed the partisans' laundry, cooked for them, darned and mended their clothes. When the partisan, Rivka Weiskowska was wounded with a dum-dum bullet [a soft-shelled bullet that expands inside the body] during a fight with the Germans and she couldn't move from where she lay, Hinde Kon did not leave her side for one minute. At one time, they were under heavy fire. Their deaths seemed imminent. Weiskowska pleaded with her to at least save herself. Hinde would not hear of it and did not leave her side. For her bravery, Hinde Kon was awarded the Grunwald Cross, one of the greatest distinctions in the Polish State.

Chaim Kon, who also played a large role in the history of the partisan struggle, was born in 1916. He was raised in the traditional Jewish way. From his earliest years, he exhibited a strong inclination to learn. The impoverished conditions of his family did not permit him to fulfill his dream. As a 12-year-old boy, he already must earn his own livelihood. He comes to Lodz in the year 1932; there he works in a store, but studies at the same time, preparing himself for matriculation exams. From 1933 on, he belongs to the Communist Youth Organization. He is also active in the Business Employees Union. He is arrested in the winter of 1935 for taking part in an illegal demonstration and is sentenced to one and a half years of prison. At the same time, his first literary efforts are published. He published his first poem about the hard life of a weaver in an anti-Fascist magazine “Levar. He also exhibits great talent in drawing. The outbreak of the war destroyed all of his plans. When the Germans marched into Lodz in 1939, Chaim and his sister and brother went to Bialystok, where he visits the textile school. During the German invasion in 1941, he escapes from Bialystok and hides for a time in the surrounding woods. From there, he goes to Suprasl and becomes the organizer of the Suprasl partisan group. When the Germans began to liquidate the Suprasl Jews, the Gestapo caught Chaim as he was trying to escape. He is sent to Bialystok with a group of Jews. On the 19th of November, the Bialystok camp is liquidated. Ten thousand Jews from the towns around Bialystok are loaded onto two trains and sent to Treblinka. On the way, near Lapi, Chaim and his brother, Moshe, and his wife, Ita Grosskop, jump off the train. His wife was killed on the spot. He and his brother drag themselves, cut up as they are, back to the Suprasl woods. On the 1st of January, Chaim steals into the Bialystok Ghetto and leads out a group of friends, 15 people. They were, however, attacked by the Germans and beaten. He and a few survivors manage to get back into the woods. In the woods, he is part of the leadership of the Suprasl partisan group. He takes part in all the hard fights, and fulfills his sister's mission. In the spring of 1943, he becomes a member of the partisan detachment “Foroys” [“Frontline”]. There, he edits the partisan newspaper along with Lunski of Bialystok. He led the operation in Ogrodniczki. He went to Suprasl, killed the provocateur, Karabowicz, and didn't want to throw a grenade into the house, because there were small children inside. During the days of August, when the Bialystok Ghetto was in flames and every day the Germans attacked the partisans in order to prevent them from coming to the aid of the ghetto fighters and also to prevent them from giving asylum to the surviving ghetto fighters, in one such battle between the partisans and the Germans, Chaim Kon was hit by a bullet. He fell at a moment, when he had to man a machine gun in place of a fallen comrade. He was buried right on the spot where he fell in the Bialystok woods.

In 1947, his body was exhumed and was brought to Lodz, where he was buried near his father, who died of starvation in the Lodz Ghetto.

Moshe Kon was a martyr just like his brother Chaim. He was still practically a child when he left Lodz in 1939. He matured in the woods. The woods were his element. He almost became one with the woods. He never got lost. He had a marvelous sense of orientation in the woods. In general, that trait was something all three Kon children had in common, but Moshe Kon could find his way around the best. He moved freely about the woods without a map, without a compass, as if he were walking city streets. He looked as if he had been born in the woods. It was enough for him to walk a path once to know it well and for it to be permanently etched in his memory. In the woods, he was able to unearth the kinds of paths and trails that German feet would not find. He would carry out the most difficult spying assignments. It was known that if Moshe Kon was handling a surveillance mission, it would be successfully accomplished. In addition, he was an excellent machine-gunner. When the Red Army entered the Bialystok woods in July of 1944, Moshe led them over the river to a place which the Germans never expected them to be. This enabled the Red Army to enter the town of Suprasl almost without any casualties. The Jews of Belchatow, wherever they may now find themselves, can be proud that their shtetl [town] produced such heroes.

«Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Belchatow, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Lance Ackerfeld

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 24 Mar 2007 by LA