The First Deportation of Ciechanow Jews
On December 11, 1941, the Germans sent 1200 Jews out of Ciechanow to Neustadt, where there was a closed ghetto. We all were very frightened. We knew that this deportation would not be completed without victims.
The assembly point for the deportation was in the castle. The Judenrat brought together a group of people, so-called militia, who were appointed by the Germans to keep order in the castle so that beatings would not take place. German murderers arrived, drunks, with sticks in their hands. They stood at the door where everyone had to pass and they beat every Jew fiercely. Many of the unfortunate ones were incapable of mounting the wagon by themselves, so they had to be lifted on to the waiting wagon. This wasn't enough for the murderers so they shot one of the Jewish militia -- Alba Blum. He fell dead from the murderous shot while he was trying to keep order. Some of the people died on the way because of the beatings. The Germans informed the Judenrat that if one of the deported ones will be found, he, together with the people with whom he would be found, would be shot.
The selected ones, so to speak, those who remained in Ciechanow, attempted to help the deported ones in any way possible, but our help wasn't able to ease the needs of the unfortunate ones.
Some of them returned on foot to Ciechanow. Whoever the Germans caught on the way, they shot. In Ciechanow they caught Aaron Kirshenbaum, who was hiding with his daughter in the loft of his in-law, Aaron Gelbard. They were arrested and a brother, Binyamin Kirshenbaum, was also dragged in. He was the secretary of the Judenrat. They were all sentenced to death.
In the year 1942 the hunger and death increased. People died of hunger and cold. The Germans appointed a new head responsible for overseeing the Jews. He was a murderer. Every day he beat men and women. One evening after a rain, he went up to a place where Jews were living and called out: All Jews must come out. Later he sent one of his men to make sure that no one had hidden. He went from house to house and found five Jews hidden in a loft.
The Jews, who already looked like dead, were brought down. They were terribly beaten. They were arrested and sentenced to death by hanging. With great pomp the Germans ordered a gallows to be erected.
They called the Judenrat out, as well as all the Jews of Ciechanow, and in the presence of all they forced Jews to hang the five Jews.
When I recall this frightful incident my body shivers. Children stood witnessing the hanging of their fathers and they weren't allowed to cry. The murderers looked into the eyes of each and every one. It was prohibited to cry. The five victims hung for three hours, from six to nine in the evening. The names of the martyrs are: Simkha Sodek, Dovid Mlotzker, Teiblum, Velvl Grudover's son, and a young man from Proshnitz. I have forgotten his name.
The destruction of the houses continued. Before long all the houses where Jews had lived were destroyed. The Jewish street, the Bais Hamedresh, the shul, one side of the marketplace, half of the Warsaw Street, the street of the Jewish butchers. No sign remained of human habitation. The Germans also started destroying the old Jewish cemetery that was holy for everyone because of the Tzadik's grave that was there. The Germans destroyed the fence, later the monuments; the Tzadik's Ohel remained and was used as a chamber for storing work tools.
A brief meeting took place and it was decided, with the approval of the religious leaders, to remove the bones of the Tzadik from the Ohel. The opportunity was taken advantage of on a Sunday when no one worked there. Very early a few frum Jews went in. They dug and took out some bones because there were so few, placed them in a container (which the writer of these lines had made) and buried it in the new cemetery.
The following day the Ohel was destroyed so that no trace remained that there had once been a holy place here. More than seventy-one years Jews from all over the world had come to the yahrzeit of the Tzadik.
The same year, Rosh Hashana -- Yom Kippur, The German guard of the Jewish quarter, a gruesome murderer and sadist, gathered all the Ciechanow Jews and went together with them all to the newcemetery. There he commanded them to chop down all the monuments and destroy the fence. The place was transformed so that no one could recognize what had once been there. A case occurred that some Sefer Torahs were rescued and there was no place to hide them, so a few Jews went to the cemetery (before it was liquidated). There they dug a pit and buried the Sforim. The Germans found about this and ordered the Judenrat to bring the people who buried the Sforim. The Jews were arrested and they paid with their lives. Their names are: my brother, Mordecai Appel, Shmuel-Yaacov Pozarek, Yosl Shtifenholtz, Kalman Bagreber.
After Succot we felt a chill in our bones. Rumors started to spread that the remaining Jews would be liquidated. One didn't want to believe that the end is approaching. We convinced ourselves that it couldn't be this frightful. Still, the fear gave us no rest. We felt that our days are numbered. But we were so tired out that the worst decree no long bothered us. We were ready to go to our death with joy. We envied the dead.
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