The Aktsia of the 22nd of September 1942
The assurances from the Judenrat, from the regime and from all other sources could not calm all of the Jews. The bad signs, warning of the opposite, were too clear.
Therefore, many people did not sleep after the end of Yom Kippur, but kept a vigil in their residences. It was a very dark night. As usual, the street lights were turned off because of luft-schutz [anti-aircraft defense]. However, those who were awake were amazed at suddenly seeing through their windows that all of the electrical lights were suddenly so brightly illuminated, just as before the war. Suddenly, anti-aircraft defense became unimportant. A fitter from the electrical institution driving through the streets in the ghetto was in control of the management of the lights.
I went out onto the balcony of my residence, from which all of the Alee could be seen far into the new market. I saw divisions of military formations, short, thick people, dressed in very long coats with guns in their arms, previously unnoticed by us. In addition to them, there were gendarmes. They marched into the ghetto in groups, stopping at each house gate and leaving one or two of their men and in this way placed guards. Under my balcony, at the boundary of the ghetto, two gendarmes with helmets on their heads remained standing. A little farther, on the Aryan side, stood two others. In the middle of the Alee patrols of gendarmes and Ukrainians marched back and forth. In the quiet of the night, various military commands were heard from afar:
Right, left, march!Someone stopped in front of our gate and called to the guard to open it. No one in the residences was sleeping. We turned our gaze to the gate; it appeared that a Polish policeman came to call the Jewish police aides and several policemen who lived in the house to immediately report to the precincts. We did not get any answers to our questions about what was happening. He
was edgy and left immediately to call other Jewish policemen from other houses.
We heard shooting and shouting by Germans at around five o'clock in the morning. The shooting and curses lasted until the day began and, suddenly, we saw that large masses of Jews with small packages on their backs were being forced to the square by the Germans, where last night the gendarmes had held their discussions.
We, the residents of the artisan's house, were enveloped in fear. We gathered together, several families in one residence, and from time to time secretly looked out through the windows. We saw the way in which the Gestapo with the totenkop [skull] markings on their hats and uniforms, with revolvers in their hands, were constantly forcing new multitudes of Jews to the square.
The aktsia accompanied with shooting and curses lasted for several hours. Then we saw a Jewish policeman enter our house. Last night he had left his wife here with relatives. Several of us ran down to him to the residence that he had entered. We saw him standing and crying like a small child. He told us that horrible things were happening in the ghetto: when the Jewish policemen arrived at the precinct early in the morning they received an order from Degenhardt, the chief of the gendarmes, who was leading the entire aktsia, to carry it out exactly according to the instructions they had received. Whoever did not obey the order would be shot on the spot. The first task received by the Jewish police was to enter all of the Jewish residences in the streets they would be shown and tell all of the Jews, men, women and children that they should come out in groups and go to the new market in rows one behind the other. They were only permitted to take along small packages. The residences had to remain open with the keys in the door. Whoever hid would be shot.
The chief's order shook the hearts of the Jewish policemen and their faces became pale; they sensed the sorrowful role they had to carry out, but they went to carry out their task. However, it seemed that this was not completely left to the Jewish policemen. The ghetto streets were full of gendarmes and men from the Gestapo who entered the residences and drove out the people, searched everyone's pockets and yelled: Give money, diamonds! And took everything of value.
The old and the sick, who could not move, were shot on the spot. This was the shooting that we heard from early morning on.
The policeman told us that he led his mother out of the house because her feet were disabled and she could not move by herself. But as he led her through the streets, someone seized him from behind and threw him to the ground. He got up on his feet quickly and saw a murderer with a revolver in his hand pointed at his mother. He only had time to shout out: This is my mother! And three shots echoed, his mother fell down and quickly breathed out her soul. He carried her into a courtyard and hid her in a garden, covering her with branches. The policeman burst into tears and left.
The Jewish policemen, who lived with us in the artisan's house, arrived at around three o'clock in the afternoon. They looked tired and broken. Later, when they had calmed down a little, they began to tell us what had happened in the ghetto.
One explained how small, beautiful children from three to eight, who had been given to Poles on the Aryan side a day earlier, because of fear of the aktsia and
for whom great sums were paid so that they would be hidden, were forced back by the Poles. The children ran around frightened and confused, but the Germans and Ukrainians did not allow them to go back into the ghetto, but chased them to the square, where masses of people were forced together. The children cried and screamed, but no one looked at them. The masses of thousands of people were chased by the German and Ukrainian murderers with sticks and revolvers, so that the children were simply crushed and trampled under the feet of those being chased.
The aktsia involved the streets: Garibaldi, Wilson, Krutke, Kawje and part of Warsawer Street. It was decided that 7,000 Jews should be gathered and deported during the first aktsia.
Degenhardt, the chief, stood in the market with a small stick in his hand like an orchestra conductor and watched the passing multitudes. When he noticed a healthy young man or a beautiful young woman, he pointed with the stick and immediately, the person pointed out was taken from the row and placed at the side. This meant remains. Those saved had to leave those closest to them. This had to happen very quickly. There was no leave taking here. Tears ran over cheeks, but everything happened quickly, quickly. The murderers kept order, pushing and pulling and shouting with wild voices: Quickly, quickly!
The chief ordered the Jewish doctors and their families to be placed in quarantine and that they remain there. He also said that the wives and children of the Jewish policemen should also be taken there. The unmarried doctors and policemen looked for those closest to them or female acquaintances and they
were taken into quarantine as their wives, in this manner saving them from being deported.
The large mass of people was led to the coal train station, Warta, and there gendarmes were waiting in railway cars. An order was given that all Jews should take their shoes off their feet and lay them on a side. Immediately mountains of shoes, each pair tied together with its shoelaces, grew. Then came the order: Enter the railway cars. Pushing, congestion and confusion began. The railway cars were greatly overcrowded; there were more than 100 people pushed into each railway car. The gendarmes and members of the Gestapo also created a tumult in the railway cars. They searched for those better dressed and took whatever they found from them.
The chairman of the Judenrat endeavored even harder to have his wife brought to the office of the Judenrat and in this way to save her. But, when he went to bring her there, he learned from the Jewish policemen that she had already been loaded into a railway car. He ran to the gendarme officer, who knew him and asked him to help him extract his wife, citing the permission he had received from the chief, Degenhardt. The officer took him to the railway car and freed his wife. When she left the railway car, a former neighbor tossed a small child into her arms and she brought it with her. Everyone struck out their hands to the chairman pleading Take me with you I am weak My heart will not last in the over-packed railway car. However, the wide railway car doors on small wheels were closed by the gendarme and at once the pleas were silenced. All of the other railway cars were also closed and the train moved from the spot.
The several dozen people whom the chief had ordered to be left were taken to the shop.
The electric lights that had burned for the entire day in all of the streets in honor of the great holiday of driving the Jews out were shut off. The wagons with the 7,000 pairs of shoes were driven away from the railway cars to the German warehouses and Degenhardt, the chief, was informed that the aktsia had ended.
When those in the ghetto learned that those rescued had been taken to the premises of the shop, everyone searched for a means to enter it.
Jews hacked through bricks and cut through fences quietly during the night and created exits to Krutke Street in the houses of the ghetto which bordered on Krutke Street, where the shop was located. There they bribed the Polish policemen who watched the shop in which the Jews were located. If the policemen were honest people, they would allow the Jews in for money and, if not they shot them at the entrance to the shop. Therefore, the road to the shop was bound with great risk.
After the aktsia the streets of the ghetto were guarded by day and by night and the gates of the houses were locked. Often, the Jews behind the closed gates beckoned the passing Jewish policemen and asked that they take them to the shop in order to be rescued from deportations. But the policemen did not have the right to do so. In addition, there was not a large number of Jews in the shop and when new ones were brought there, the policemen who were guarding the shop would have noticed it immediately.
The Jews locked in the ghetto knew that in the German housing office, where the large warehouses of
Jewish furniture were found, the Jewish workers were not permitted to go home after work during the day of the aktsia. It was interpreted that the head of the housing office wanted to protect his workers from deportation. Therefore, people had hacked through walls, climbed over garden fences in order to enter there. Those who after so much hardship arrived there had to hide from the German head. Men, women and children lay on the bare earth and agreed to everything in order to save themselves from deportation.
The Jewish policemen secretly explained that three days after the first aktsia, on the 25th of September, the second aktsia would take place, when the trains that had taken the Jews away would come back empty. They also revealed that of the local leaders of the regime, only one had command over the Jews the chief, Degenardt. The city chief demanded his Jews for necessary work, but the chief did not permit this. The ammunition factory wanted their Jewish workers to remain; the chief refused. The Gestapo also did not receive any Jews for work. The chief was the only leader and commander over the Jews.
The artisan's house on Alee number 14 was also closed and guarded just as all of the houses in the ghetto. The artisans in the house walked around saddened over the fate of those closest to them in the ghetto and also worried about their own fate. None of the Germans who they knew who had earlier consoled and assured them that nothing would happen appeared after the aktsia. None of their clients, German or Polish, were allowed into the house. However, we knew that they came to the house and told the gendarmes who stood guard that the handworkers had materials that they wanted
to take before the Jews were sent away, but no one was let in to us. Through the window, we saw clients moving around in front of the house.
The nights were dark, but the ghetto was brightly lit. Shooting was heard and we knew that each shot meant that a Jew had fallen while going through the street, at the opening of a gate, while climbing over a fence somewhere and so on. No one in the ghetto slept; no one took off their clothing to go to sleep. Food began to be scarce. One helped the other. In general, one was unable to eat because of an aching heart. This lasted until Friday, the 25th of September.
The Second Aktsia
A day before the second aktsia, the Jewish policemen received an order to appear at the Jewish commissariat the next morning at four o'clock.
The second aktsia was carried out exactly as the first. The Jewish policemen entered the residences, giving the Jews the news that they must appear with their small packages at the gates of their houses. Then the gendarmes, Ukrainians and Polish policemen arrived and drove them out of the gates to the market.
Just as the first time, old people and the sick were shot on the spot because they could not walk as fast as the murderers wanted.
A selection took place at the market just as during the first aktsia. The captain pointed with his small stick to vigorous men and young women, whom he said should be left in order to send them to slave labor later. Very often, the
healthy looking men were asked their occupation. Locksmiths, cabinet makers and electricians were quickly driven to the other side to remain. And again tragic scenes were played out during their separation from those close to them.
As earlier, the small number of those chosen for slave labor were taken to the shop and the thousands of those sentenced to be deported were driven like cattle in order to be loaded in the train wagons.
Hunger in the Ghetto
After the second aktsia 25,000 Jews remained in the ghetto who waited for their uncertain fate.
The hunger became sharper. The poor population that lived from their daily earnings and did not have any reserves did not have anything to eat on the day after the aktsia.
The food products from all of the residents of a number of houses were gathered together and cooked in a common kettle. The more wealthy who did not agree to cooperate were forced to do so by the poor.
We in the craftsmen's house that bordered on other houses in the ghetto noticed through a window that the Jews in those houses were showing through signs that they were suffering from hunger. The craftsmen immediately began to organize all the help that was possible.
There was also a lack of food in the craftsmen's house; this house was really ragged, but several poor, Polish women lived in the house who understood how to take advantage of the situation and they bought food products on the Aryan side
that they brought into the house little by little and then sold at higher prices. Each artisan bought food from these women and threw part of it over to the neighboring house where the Jews suffered from hunger. The artisans expanded their support and ordered that the food be thrown over from the nearby house to the house farther in the ghetto.
The Jewish policemen, who lived in the craftsmen's house also bought bread and other food products and brought them to the ghetto and to the quarantine facilities or to the shop and saved those closest to them from hunger.
Other Jewish policemen in the ghetto also came to the craftsmen's house and bought food products and then sold them in the ghetto for a higher price.
All of this only alleviated the needs a little for a few individuals, but not for the 25,000 souls.
Just as after the first aktsia, every means was used after the second aktsia in the ghetto to enter the shop in order to be saved. Degenhardt, the chief, understood how to use this in order to extort the last items held by the Jews anywhere in the ghetto. He informed the president of the Judenrat that if there were ghetto Jews who possessed money or things of value, they could enter the shop in exchange for their remaining possessions. The president received permission from the chief to take the things of value from the Jews, to jot them down with the names of the person giving them. This news spread immediately behind the closed doors of the ghetto houses and everyone who owned something was ready to give away their last possessions in order to save themselves. The president took three of his friends to help and all of them
left for the ghetto, each separately accompanied by a Polish policeman. The chief also had several people in the Jewish police to whom he gave the same task. The policemen visited the Jewish houses in the ghetto, even the poorest and took what they had from each one. They gave receipts for the things taken with assurances that the people would be taken to the shop. The chief would drive up with his automobile to the ghetto houses and take the gathered gold and objects.
The Gestapo, hearing that Jews were giving money and things of value, also began carrying out the same pursuit. They also found someone in the Jewish police who carried on the business.
Later, more Jewish policemen took to the same business and joined with the gendarmes, with whom they carried out the pursuit in partnership. The Jewish policemen carried out transactions with the Jews and the gendarmes brought the people into the shop. The transfer from the ghetto to the shop was linked to great risk; the gendarmes were often stopped by a non-commissioned officer or officer. In such cases, the gendarmes declared that they were bringing Jews to clear the dead or they chose other pretexts. But cases would occur where a gendarme leading one or two Jews would meet a non-commissioned officer who made assumptions about what was happening. He would then take out his revolver and shoot the Jews in the middle of the street. The gendarme who was leading the Jew usually did not make any great fuss. The money or valuable objects had already been taken by the gendarme before. At the most, he got even with the gendarme who had shot his Jews when he met the other one leading Jews;
he then shot the others Jews. Then they made up over a bottle of shnapps and remained friends.
Several Jewish factories were located on the same street on which the shop was located, managed by a trustee, where the owners were employed as tradesmen. Jews hid there on the day before the aktsia, hoping that the turmoil would not last long and they would then be able to leave their hiding places when when it became quiet. In the places where no one knew about those hiding, the Jews were protected as opposed to where the trustee learned about it and he reported it to the gendarmery and the Jews were shot on the spot or in the best cases were taken to Katedralne Street, where the Jewish communal kitchen was earlier located and there placed under arrest under heavy police guard until the next aktsia during which they would then be deported.
There was a Polish trustee in the metal factory of the Itskowicz and Guterman firm named Tiszewski, who posed as a former Polish Seim delegate. He did very well in his business dealings with the owners and had good relations with them. However, when he learned that they were in the factory during the aktsia, he drove them out of there and warned his Polish employees and workers that Poles who hid Jews during the war would stand trial for disrupting the solution to the Jewish question in Poland.
The owners were surprised by Czeszewski's* brutality. This person was driven from Poznan by the Germans and arrived in Czenstochow a poor man who did not have the means to live through the day. He became rich with them;
*[Translator's note: The name of the Polish trustee is spelled differently in the two paragraphs above.]
he was their best friend for three years and he had removed his mask and shown his true nature.
The owners barely had time to leave the factory and they entered the train wagons barefooted with the first deportees in order not to be shot in the middle of the street.
Czeszewski remained alone in the Jewish factory as the manager, believing that he himself could lead the enterprise. However, he quickly received payment for his meanness: after a short time managing the factory, he was arrested and deported to Auschwitz.
There were two Jewish factories on the same street, Horowicz and Komp's metal factory and the spoon factory of the Landau brothers. A German who had earlier lived in Poland was the trustee of both factories. This German helped the Jews to hide and they survived the difficult days of the aktsias in safety.
There were Jews in the ghetto who created bunkers in attics and cellars and in all possible places. More people knew about a large number of bunkers. Five, 10, 20, 50 people and up to 100 men, women and children were hidden in them. They provided themselves with food products for several days, thinking that the bad times would pass and then they could return to their residences. No one expected that after the Jews had been driven out of their homes, police or Germans would guard the residences. The fate of the Jews in the bunkers was a very sad one.
Jewish policemen also were not allowed to approach the streets from which the Jews had been driven out. Only Ukrainians and gendarmes stood there and protected the residences from robbery and anyone they met there was shot on the spot. Therefore, the Jews could not emerge from their hiding places. They had no more food; they were without air and the people had to be naked because it was so hot in the holes. Small children were strangled by their mothers because their crying was so terrible. If the mother did not want to do this, others who were in the bunkers did it. No one knew what was happening in the street. They only perceived a silence, but from time to time the heavy steps of military boots were heard and if a number of Jews left the bunkers at night to see what was happening in their residences, they only saw that the houses had been plundered and there was a heavy guard of people with guns, so there was no possibility of leaving the hiding places. They went back into the holes and again remained without food and without air until the next night; then they again crawled out and this was repeated again for several days. The relatives of these hidden people, who were in farther ghetto streets from which the Jews had not yet been driven out, were afraid that the people in the holes would die of hunger because they already knew that the aktsia would last a long time. Therefore, they told the Jewish policemen about the secret places and who was there. For large sums of money the policemen helped move the Jews from the bunkers to a house where Jews were located who had not yet been affected by the aktsia. The policemen left for the bunkers with their gendarme acquaintances and called into the holes: Jews, we have come to save you! They
alluded to their relatives, who had sent them here and the hopeless people emerged one by one from their pits and holes. They shook from fear, looking terrible, unwashed, unshaven, hungry; they could barely stand on their feet. They were led to the farther ghetto street by the gendarmes.
Leading the Jews through the streets was very dangerous. If they were stopped by someone along the way, the gendarme who led them had to say that they had been in hiding and he had found them accidentally. Then their lives were dependent on who had stopped them. They could be shot on the spot or sent where there were other Jews waiting to be sent with the next transport. But first they were ordered to give up their money, gold and other things of value. Understandably, at such a dangerous time, no one thought about hiding their money and they surrendered everything.
The Jews from the not yet cleansed streets welcomed their guests with whatever they could during these days of hunger. Others newly arrived were envious of the Jews in the locked houses in that they did not have to suffer as much as those in the hiding places and holes, from which not all emerged alive. Many children remained there [i.e. died in the hiding places] and not all of the old people came out of the bunkers.
However, the newly arrived quickly found that there was no one to envy. They learned that everyone expected to be driven into the train wagons the day after to tomorrow. The newly arrived were advised to get enough sleep and to strengthen themselves with whatever was available in order to be able to go with everyone and not be left behind, in order not to be shot on the way by the murderers.
Officers from the gendarmerie attacked the commissariat of the Jewish police and searched for Jewish policemen. The money and things of worth that were found on them was taken. In addition they were badly beaten. It appears that the Germans learned of the business that the Jewish policemen had been lately carrying out. It was decreed that a Jewish policeman must not go in the street alone, but with a Polish policeman or with a gendarme. Thus ended their golden business to which they had taken so eagerly. Three Jewish policemen (Parosol, Rubinsztajn and Rozenberg) received special passes from the chief to be able to go into the ghetto streets alone. They had a special merit with the chief.
The chief sent a gendarme to the artisans' house for his tailor, Josef Gryn. Several hours later the tailor returned alone, but no longer as a tailor, but wearing a hat of the Jewish police. Gryn became a policeman and he received a pass that gave him the right to enter the ghetto streets.
The artisans related to the new policeman with reserve, but they wanted to know what the chief had told him about conditions in general and about the situation of the artisans in particular. However, the tailors did not want to speak to him too much and nothing was learned from him.
Inspector Linderman appeared at the artisans' house several days after the aktsia. He went to the tailor Kac and all of the artisans immediately entered. Finally a German from the city authorities who until then had the artisans under his control appeared. Everyone wanted to know if they were still his artisans, whom he and
all of his people had made good use of until then. He explained that consultations had occurred between the city chief and Chief Degenhardt about the artisans' house and there was hope that the house would remain under the protection of the city chief and in that case nothing would change in the artisans' house. He would know about it very soon. And he asked that it meanwhile be kept a secret. Everyone surrounded him as someone they knew and he expressed his concern at driving out the Jews.
The artisans had strangers living with them who had come into the house during the last few days through walls and fences. They did not appear on the city chief's lists that hung on the walls of the workshops as employed tradesmen. The artisans asked the inspector to add the people to the lists. Inspector Linderman promised that he would come the next day with the city chief's stamp with which he was authorized to place his signature and he would make the arrangements for this in such a way that all of the people who were then in the house would be legalized. However, he warned that no more new people should be allowed to enter because the more Jews who were found in the artisans' house, the more difficult it would be to take care of the matter with Chief Degenhardt.
The artisans were a little excited after the inspector's visit. The hope that they and those closest to them could be saved elevated their mood a little. They warned each other that they should not bring in any strangers. However, someone then arrived who had taken a chance with his life, scrambling by night over fences and walls in order to crawl into the artisans' house no one could refuse entry to this unfortunate person.
Inspector Linderman came in the morning with an official from the city authorities and started to put together a list of every person who was found in the artisans' house with each individual artisan. Linderman taught the artisans how to defend the newly arrived people to the new official that they are needed for work. A list was put together on which 187 souls appeared.
The two Germans declared that the artisans' house remained under the management of the city chief and the artisans would continue to be employed there.
The list was closed. Each artisan received a note on which was enumerated his family and his worker-journeymen. Each note was signed by Inspector Linderman under the stamp of the city authorities. This important paper was hung on the most prominent spot of each workshop and the artisans believed that the extermination commando would not have any power over them.
Chief Degenhardt appeared in the ghetto on the afternoon of Sunday, the 27th of September 1942.
Jewish policemen carried baskets with half-kilo breads. The Jews were led out of each house separately and every one, old and young, received a half-kilo of bread. The chief stood by at the division of the bread and speared everyone with his look. He asked some people their names, with what they were employed; he only looked at others and gave an angry grumble like a dog. Each one took his little bit of bread and want back into his house.
We in the artisans' house were curious if we would be called to get bread. Not because we were waiting for
a piece of bread. Everyone in the artisans' house could buy bread and there was enough money for this, but it was rather that if the artisans were still under the authority of the city chief and not Chief Degenhardt, we did not need to receive any bread. Therefore, we were surprised when Jewish policemen began to call us, saying that we should go down to the courtyard, stand in rows and go out to the street for bread. This signified that we were considered just as the other Jews from all of the other houses that were waiting to be sent away.
However, there was no time to think this through. All obediently went out into the street. Chief Degenhardt looked at the artisans and their children and journeymen very carefully. Each one of us was given a portion of bread and we were taken back into the house.
Meanwhile the Jewish policemen who lived with us in the artisans' house returned from their work and explained that tomorrow before dawn another aktsia would take place that would again involve thousands of Jews.
The Third Aktsia
The third aktsia, which was carried out in the same way as the two earlier ones, took place on the 28th of September 1942.
The residents of several ghetto streets were led out to the market where Chief Degenhardt, surrounded by his accomplices, made a selection of young people and tradesmen who were left and thus separated from their families. The well known heart rending
scenes occurred, as during the earlier aktsias, as several thousand Jews were loaded into the cattle cars.
After the third aktsia, Chief Degenhardt visited the housing office on Wilson Street that was under the control of Inspector Linderman. He asked the Jews who were employed there to stand in rows. There was a panic. The Jews, who were hiding there in the attics and closets, shook with fear. Inspector Linderman showed Chief Degenhardt his Jewish workers who were employed there and declared that the housing office belonged to the city authorities. At this, Chief Degenhardt answered that the time when the Jews belonged to the city chief and to the Gestapo had passed. Now all of the Jews belonged only to him. Then he placed his small crop in front of Inspector Linderman's nose and left.
It was easy to foresee the consequences of this incident. We knew that each conflict about the Jews between the Germans ended badly for the Jews. The Jews in the housing office felt the same way, that their situation had changed for the worst.
Learning of the incident in the housing office, the artisans of Alej number 14 also realized that their position was very shaky under Linderman's protection, despite all of his assurances.
Mrs. Moszewicz, the actual director of the workshops, appeared at the artisans' house. The artisans wanted to learn about the situation from her. She provided the best of hopes and said that the city chief was applying all means
so that the artisans' house would remain the way it was until now and that she was sure that nothing bad would happen here. She again gave out orders to artisans from German clients and said that all of the artisans should continue to work and to help each other in their work in order for the artisans' house to remain active.
The artisans again began to work. However, other clients appeared. Instead of the earlier German civilians, in whose hands the fate of the Jews lay, now members of the Gestapo and gendarmes appeared with their wives and children. The artisans would use their so-called privileged situation in order to learn something from the new customers about the future fate of the artisans. The new clients gave everyone the best hopes. In general, they acted very decently in the artisans' workshops, much unlike their attitude in the street when chasing Jews. But it should be understood that this was to make better use of the artisans and that the turn of the artisans had not yet come.
Chief Degenhardt learned that Jews were hiding in bunkers, in attics and cellars and he declared an amnesty for all who would come out of their hiding places by themselves by a certain deadline and they would be able to return to their houses.
Jewish policemen accompanied by gendarmes and Ukrainians went into all of the courtyards and shouted: Jews, We have come to save you from death! Come out from your holes and nothing will happen!
Many emerged from their hiding places. They were in terrible condition. Starving, faint and neglected. They had surrendered everything that they had of
value. Then they were allowed into their houses, which had not yet gone through the aktsias.
However, there were also others who had good bunkers and food that would suffice for several weeks. These did not listen to the beautiful words of the Jewish policemen and remained in the hiding places.
When the period of the amnesty passed, the gendarmes began to energetically search for those hiding. The Jewish policemen, who had their gendarme acquaintances with whom they would carry out various businesses in partnership, went through the courtyards with the gendarmes and searched for the bunkers of Jews. They shouted in Yiddish that if those hidden would emerge by themselves, they would still be saved. They shouted into cellars and up to attics, until they reached people who were already tired of lying in the hiding places and they came out. When the people were outside, they were first asked to surrender everything they possessed. The Jewish policemen were apparently comforting. They would try to persuade the gendarmes to spare their lives, if they surrendered everything. When they had everything of the victims, the gendarmes shot them on the spot. The Jewish policemen would receive a certain percent of the stolen items.
The Subsequent Aktsias
The fourth aktsia, which played out like the earlier ones, took place on the 1st of October 1942. The aktsia also included all of the Jews who were found in the housing office, which ostensibly remained under the support of the city chief. Degenhardt, the chief [of the gendarmes], ordered to be driven out from there
onto the market, not only those who had secretly entered by climbing over walls and fences, but also the tradesmen. Chief Degenhardt did this to spite the city chief.
A selection was made at the fourth aktsia as during the earlier ones and about 700 young boys and girls were left who were later sent away for various kinds of slave labor. The city managing committee received an allocation of a number of those selected ones for highway work to pave the streets with cobblestones. Others were sent to the Hasag [Hugo Schneider Metallwarenfabrik AG] firm's ammunition factory. There they were first completely undressed and everything of value was taken from them. Then they were taken to a room with a stone floor. This is the place where they were to sleep, but there was not even a little straw to place under themselves. They had to work in this factory for 12 hours a day and they received a piece of bread with a little soup to eat. If anyone succeeded in escaping from there, his two neighbors, that is, those who slept next to him on the stone floor, were shot. The unlucky slaves were beaten for the least thing by the Volksdeutschn [ethnic Germans, living outside Germany] until bloody.
A third group was sent to the Rakow iron-glassworks that also belonged to Hasag, the same firm and where there were the same conditions as in the ammunition factory.
One morning the tailor Gryn reported to the artisans of Alej number 14 that Chief Degenhardt would visit all workshops in the artisans' house. All the men and women who were in the artisans' house were placed with the tailors, shoemakers, corset makers, hat makers and linen sewers
and so on. They received needles and thread or irons or other tools and they diligently applied themselves to the work. All workshops were active, everything worked, good or bad that was not important. The main thing was that no one move around idly without work.
The master craftsmen pinned a red order ticket on every piece of work with the name of the German client. Suits, fur coats, military clothing were hung up in the tailor workshops; boots and women's shoes were arranged at the shoemakers, all fastened with the red order tickets. Blouses and dresses hung on special hangers at the tailors of women's clothing, adorned with the red tickets; it was the same in all of the other workshops: at the milliners, underwear seamstresses and so on. All the assistants of the craftsmen were dressed in their aprons, the master craftsmen in their best suits and all efforts were made for the guest who had already sent away 80 percent of the Jews in our city in cattle cars.
Finally, an auto drove up to the artisans' house, from which Degenhardt emerged. Accompanied by Onkelsbach, his devoted driver, he went up to Josef Gryn, the former tailor and present policeman, who began to lead the two Germans through the artisans' workshops. His first visit was to Kac, the tailor of women's clothing, and he examined the beautiful fur coats and coats. He read out the names on the order tickets and recognizing that these were women whose husbands were employed in the office of the city chief, he made ironic and caustic comments at their expense. Then he went to Einhorn, the men's clothing tailor, and with the look of a policeman, he observed the women and men sitting at the sewing machines or with needles and thread in their hands. Seeing the tailor's 13-year old son with a needle and a piece of work in his hand, he asked: What is this Jewish drek [filth, excrement] making?
The tailor, confused, answered that this was his son, an apprentice. In this way he went from workshop to workshop, piercing everything and everyone with police eyes and throwing ironic comments and vicious jokes everywhere. At the milliners he took a light woman's hat weighing several grams in his fat paws and tried to blow it away. The chief also looked at the artistic pieces of the old Fajgenblat and he was shown antiques that this workshop, which had 50 years of existence behind it, had produced. He also was told that the most expensive poroykhes [the curtains covering the ark holding the Torah scrolls], which the chief had taken from the shul [synagogue] before it was burned and sent to Berlin, were also the work of the old Fajgenblat.
However, the chief was not impressed by anything. He showed scorn and cynicism to everything and everyone. And he left after looking at all of the workshops.
The chief's visit left an anxiety in everyone's heart.
The Polish director of the Jewish police received a decree from Chief Degenhardt that he should put together a list of 50 Jewish policemen who would remain in their posts and the rest, numbering about 200, would be sent away with all of the other Jews during the next transport.
There was a panic among the Jewish policemen. Each one ran to the Polish director and to the Jewish aid director in order to obtain the privilege of remaining among the 50 who would be left. One tried to out do the other with large sums of money in order to save themselves from being sent away barefoot in a cattle car.
The Polish director of the Jewish police put together a list of 50 names it should be understood that in putting together the list, the director took into account the sums of money that he could expect to receive from each one.
However, when the chief saw the list, his policeman's nose got a whiff of what was hidden behind everything and he ordered all of the policemen to line up in rows with their wives and children. Then, he himself chose 50 and he ordered the rest to take off their boots and their police hats with the bands, said that they, their wives and children should be taken to the devastated synagogue at the old market under heavy guard where they would remain until the next aktsia.
A number of these men sent letters from their detention to their former colleagues who remained in office and threatened to reveal secrets if they did not arrange for their release, but their colleagues were not afraid and left their work colleagues without an answer.
Therefore, nothing else remained for them except to sit in the synagogue and wait for their bitter fate just as the other Jews who through them had been chased and beaten in the course of three years under Degenhardt's regime.
It was learned on the 4th of October 1942 that the Jewish policemen, those remaining, were ordered to take part in the aktsia that would take place the next day at daybreak the fifth aktsia.
The fifth aktsia began like the earlier ones, but it was noticed immediately that a special plan had been prepared for it. First of all, it took place at a faster pace than all of the earlier ones. At daybreak, earlier than before, the Jews were driven to the new market. This time more Jews were shot in the streets than in the earlier aktsias. The chief directed more energetically and with his little stick, and the sticks and
twisted straps fell on the Jewish heads more often. The assistants did not permit anyone to run up to the chief to ask for mercy. The train wagons were filled earlier than during the earlier aktsias and a thousand pairs of shoes grew more quickly into a mountain. At the end of the march of the thousand Jews to the train wagons, Degenhardt ordered his driver to take him and his closest co-workers to the ghetto. First of all, he visited the collection camp on Katedralna Street and said that all of the Jews there should be driven to the train wagons. After this he ordered that the Jewish policemen be brought there with their wives and children, who were being held under arrest in the synagogue.
At the end, the chief and his servants left for the Jewish hospital with his aides and he had the doctors and nurses, who had remained at their posts through all of the previous aktsias, brought to him.
The chief ordered the assembled doctors and nurses to give injections of poison to all of the sick who were found in the hospital in order to make a quicker end of them. The doctors tried to save the situation with the pretext that they did not have the appropriate injections. The chief's answer to this was that if everything was not taken care of in the course of two hours, he would order the sick to be shot along with all of the hospital personnel.
After a long and painful consultation, the doctors decided to kill the sick by injection.
The chief doctor of the hospital, the surgeon Dabczinski, gave out the first order, that his mother should poison her mother, that is, his grandmother. His mother, who lived in the hospital building, had put poison in a glass of tea and given it to her mother to drink. When the old one began to writhe in agony, the doctor, her grandson, gave her an injection, from which she
immediately fell asleep forever. Her daughter covered herself with tears and wished that her hand be punished if she had committed an error, poisoning her own mother.
The sick were forced to be poisoned and permit the injections. Those who struggled were forcefully poisoned. The doctors and the nurses worked at hastening the deaths of the sick with tears in their eyes and when everyone lay dead, the doctors and all of the hospital personnel stood over those who had just been alive and now were dead people and mourned. They lamented their actions and themselves.
It was reported to the chief that no sick remained in the hospital, only the dead. He replied: Yes, it is good!
He chose a large number of the personnel and sent them to the train wagons. The doctors and the rest of the youngest and prettiest female personnel he sent to quarantine.
Then the chief made a visit to another hospital of epidemic diseases. Dr. Kagan, the director of the hospital, had tried to have all of the sick standing up for the duration of the aktsia. But now, during the fifth aktsia, all of the sick and the greater number of hospital personnel were sent away to the train wagons. Only some of the personnel were taken to quarantine.
After finishing with the hospital, the chief went to find all of the Jews who had contact with the Germans. He found Kolenbrener, the well known, elegant young man, the director of the Jewish housing office, who had been hiding in a factory for a few days, and said that he should be taken to a train wagon. Then he asked that Wajnrib, the Judenrat member, who was well known among the Gestapo members and who had hidden him, be found. The chief's
people did find him and brought him. The chief then ordered that all Jews who were named Wajnrib women, men and children and Wajnrib's entire family, his wife and children, his brothers, sisters and their families be immediately brought and everyone was sent away to the wagons.
Furthermore, they also looked for all the other lesser well known men and women who had some connection with the Gestapo and all were deported.
At the very end, the chief and his driver and close assistants left for the artisans' house, Alej number 14. There they first created a great tumult in the courtyard and shrieked that all Jewish residents should quickly go down to the courtyard and leave their residences open. The artisans and their wives and children descended, each with their papers in their hand. The men were ordered to line up according to their individual workshops. Each master craftsman with his family and the people registered on the paper of the city chief stood apart. But the chief did not look at the papers. He asked each one how old he was and what his occupation was. He ordered the very young men and women to line up separately and the old ones and the children also separately. I and my wife and child and three women, who were registered on our paper, stood together. The chief asked me how old I am - I answered him, 40; a factory master craftsman by profession. Then he looked at my wife and child and said, You must separate. My wife was so surprised that she could not utter a word. I said for her: My wife is a master craftswoman in the hat workshop. He said of this, That does not matter to me now! He went on to another family and my people were placed in a group of the old and children by the gendarmes. We saw that he was choosing very young people and the mass of artisans and
their families would be sent to the train wagons.
After inquiries and sorting out young and old, he said to everyone:
You come away! The old people are going to a camp and you, the young, will work. You work will not necessarily be tailoring and the making of sample clothing. Other work will be found for you.
Everyone's faces grew pale and no one could utter a word. It became deadly still. But in the same moment steps were heard. We saw Mrs. Moszewicz arrive. She remained standing for a while, until the chief went to her. They remained standing in the distance for several minutes and talked. Then the chief came back to us with slow steps and began to search the rows for old people. They were tense, tragic seconds. We saw that fate had fallen only on the old people.
After the selection of the old people in the rows, he again turned to everyone and said: go back to your residences, help the people to dress and they should be here in the courtyard with their things in 10 minutes. They are leaving.
He told all of the young, earlier chosen men and women to return with everyone to the residences. Everyone departed and only the gendarmes and their chief remained in the courtyard.
Heartbreaking scenes occurred in the residences of the old people on which the bitter fate had fallen. We saw through the windows that the chief was looking at his watch and then in the window. A gendarme immediately shouted: Herunter [Down]! And we saw the first two old people coming down to the courtyard - the master craftsman from the knitting workshop,
Fajgenblat and his wife. They wiped their tears and made hand movements to the window of their residence, where stood their two sons and their wives and beautiful grandson, who screamed: Zeydeshi! Bobeshi! [Grandfather, grandmother] Stay here with us! Do not go away! The child cut through the atrocious stillness of the courtyard, where the chief and his servants were moving about, with his sharp voice.
Brandlewicz, the tailor, joined the old couple, with his wife and 10-year old grandson, whose parents had been deported during an earlier aktsia. They also looked up to the second story to their dear daughter and beautiful grandchildren. From another exit came the pious seamstress, dressed in her sheitl [wig worn by pious married women], and her husband, the son of the rabbi in Klobuck, with their packs on their shoulders. They walked and cried. They were still young people; what did the murderer want from them? He did not like their appearance.
The old Frank, who had come to his son here, moved closer to the unfortunate people. Also a sturdy, tall man of 51, the husband of Wolfowicz, the corset maker. The chief asked him what his occupation was. He answered: My wife makes corsets. Everyone knew that he was a locksmith. What had happened was that he became afraid and did not know what to say. The chief did not like his answer and he was chosen to be sent away.
A little later, through the window we saw that opposite the third story, the furrier, Goldsztajn, and his wife, the tailor Gryn's father-in-law and mother-in-law descended to the courtyard with packs on their shoulders. It seems that it did not help that their son-in-law, Gryn, the tailor and policeman, had such a good acquaintance with Chief Degenhardt.
|The fenced in work camp, HASAG|
The group of people in the courtyard kept growing larger. Lensinski, the tailor, arrived with his wife and the best journeyman tailor from the woman's tailoring workshop, Haimke - an older Jew with his pack on his work worn shoulders. Everyone lined up in a row. Their children still wanted to talk with them, but the gendarmes did not permit it. The children only were able to give them money and food, which they had forgotten to take with them.
Suddenly there was a tumult. Several gendarmes ran down to a cellar and screamed. In a short time they led up four women and a young boy of 12 from there. Those who had been caught were brought to the group that stood ready to leave. As it turned out, the women and the child had arrived in the house after the list of the additional people had been closed and it was no longer possible to add them. Because they were afraid of remaining during the aktsia, they had hidden in the cellar. At the last minute, someone must have denounced them and they were found. The gendarmes wanted to shoot them immediately in the cellar, but because the mother-in-law of an assistant to the Jewish police was also there and she had strongly pleaded that her life be spared, citing her son-in-law, the gendarmes agreed to also bring them up to the courtyard and send them away with the group.
The group consisted of 19 people. The gendarmes counted them off and ordered them to leave the house. Their sons, daughters, grandchildren, relatives, acquaintances and all of the artisans stood at the windows. Everyone took leave from afar with tears in their eyes.
On another day, Mrs. Moszewicz told the artisans that the aktsia passed in the artisans' house for the best. She assured them that right in the courtyard, at the last minute
she convinced the chief that he should not take more than 10 percent for deportation. As there were 190 registered people, he took 19. If she had not arrived, he would have taken 90 percent and he would have sent 10 percent of the young people to the metallurgy workshop as they wanted to liquidate the artisans' house. At the last minute she convinced him that the artisans' house should continue to be active.
The New Ghetto
The ghetto remained empty after the fifth aktsia, a result of which 35,000 Jews were deported from our city. The houses were empty, the shops closed. From my second story high balcony in the artisans' house, I saw the guards going through the ghetto streets. They were guarding against looting by the Polish population of the belongings that were left behind by the deported Jews.
Chief Degenhardt ordered the creation of a new ghetto, smaller than the previous one, that would take in the Jews who still remained after the aktsias. He assigned the former Judenrat president to create a new Judenrat, smaller than the earlier one, and he ordered the assistants from the police to create a police precinct from the remaining 50 Jewish policemen.
All of the slave laborers from the factories and all of those in quarantine the doctors and their families and the nurses and the remaining personnel from the hospital had to be brought to the new, smaller ghetto.
The chief discovered three small streets, dirty, without plumbing and without sewers and ordered the newly organized Jewish representation to create a new ghetto here.
The Jewish workers buried tall posts of wood around the three ghetto streets under the supervision of the Jewish police, shoving in the blocks every three or four meters and enclosed them with barbed wire. A wider area was left over for a gate.
Thus, the new ghetto was created.
The Judenrat organized anew again. The agile influential people allotted themselves offices and they proceeded to their activities.
The Judenrat allocated residences for six to eight people in a room or for three or four couples together. Furniture was also apportioned old broken tables and chairs because anything that was still good was removed by the Germans to their warehouses.
A kitchen was set up. The chief appropriated products for it from the managing committee and thus again was organized the new wretched life.
During the cleaning out of the residences on the three new ghetto streets, hiding places were found from which Jews emerged - men, women, young people and children. The people there had lived in the worst, most terrible conditions, but they were hidden. They were lucky because here they would be in the ghetto again and they would be among Jews. They would still need to hide from the chief and his gendarmes who still came here, but it was easier for them. Death no longer hovered before their eyes as before and they would receive food and they could wash themselves.
The dead were also taken out of the hiding places those who had not endured the terrible conditions and also
children, some who had died and others who were suffocated so that they would not betray [the hiding place] with their crying.
Still more people began to emerge from the bunkers that were found on other streets in the earlier ghetto. The food reserves had been finished off. These people were shot on the spot. When the emergence from the holes took on a mass character, the chief ordered that the people be brought to a collection camp on Katedralne Street. This caused suspicions that the chief again was organizing an aktsia.
Several days later, the chief did order the deportation to Radomsko of 800 Jewish souls who had been gathered in the collection camp. They were to be sent farther from there with the local Jews.
After the emptying of the collection camp, the chief gave an order that all Jews who were found in the bunkers be shot on the spot. After the order, each day brought fresh victims.
From Ghetto to Labor Camp
The new, smaller ghetto did not exist for long; the designation of ghetto was abolished and it was given the name Judenarbeitslager [Jewish labor camp].
The white bands with the Mogen Dovid [Shield of David, usually referred to as the Star of David] on the right arm were abolished in the labor camp and also in the artisans' house on Alej number 14. However, simultaneously, the names of the Jews were abolished. Everyone became nameless and every Jew received a tin number, which he had to wear
on his chest. The Jews felt still more degraded and dejected.
At the beginning of the month of December 1942, Chief Degenhardt ordered all of the Jewish doctors to appear at the large square of the former ghetto. The doctors became anxious because of the order, but all appeared at the spot indicated. The chief explained that there were many Jews in Radomsko and there was a lack of doctors there. Therefore, the German regime located there requested six doctors from the Czenstochow labor camp. And since there were too many here, he would send them there. It should be understood that he did not ask anyone who wanted to go, but he himself chose six doctors and notified them that they and their wives and children should be ready to leave for Radomsko in a few days. The chief was very polite during the conversation and smiled considerably. He said that the six doctors who would go there would be grateful to him in three weeks because it would be so good for them there. Naturally, no one asked why they would be thankful to him in three weeks.
Several days later the chief exchanged two of the earlier chosen doctors for another two. It was said that it smelled of someone's hand from the Judenrat because everyone believed that it was better to remain here in the labor camp than to go somewhere to an unknown fate.
The doctors were sent away in the middle of December. They lined up with their wives and children on the square where trucks were waiting for them.
The Judenrat came out to take leave of them and to give them food and warm clothing. The remaining doctors and other Jews stood in the labor camp this former ghetto right at the wires, from where they said goodbye to the departing doctors with tears in their eyes.
Everyone had a bad premonition; at the last minute, the chief came to the square and again said that in three weeks the doctors would be grateful to him.
The residents of the artisans' house were not supposed to leave the house. However, they could declare to the Jewish assistants from the police who lived in the same house that they needed to go to the doctor. Then they were taken to the labor camp and back by a Jewish policeman. In addition, the artisans from the house could spend time with those closest to them and their acquaintances in the labor camp. After the first visit to the labor camp, each of the artisans returned from there broken. I also wanted to see the labor camp and, therefore, on a certain afternoon I went with the others.
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