By Zadok Zudkevitz
Translated by Allen Flusberg
The year is 1938. Fascism is raising its head and is being rewarded with many successes; its influence is growing steadily in Europe. With it anti-Semitism is on the rise as well, obtaining support, encouragement and a scientific foundation from Nazi Germany.
The anti-Semitic parties of Poland are no longer satisfied with the economic-cultural war [against the Jews] that is supposedly being conducted by the ND party. Instead, they are making an effort to catch up to their Hitlerite neighbors The OZN party is endeavoring to uproot the Jews and expel them from Polandand all this systematically, with a diabolical plan to make the Jews loath their own lives, to bring them to despair. But most terrible of all, there is nowhere to flee to; all the gates are closed to the Jews!
Even in our small town the signs were recognizable, signs portending disaster. Significant changes had occurred in the composition of the city administration: a former general, a well-known anti-Semite, was appointed as mayor. To replace the priest who had passed awayand who had been known for being friendly to the Jewsa new religious leader was sent to the town. This new priest had published in Slovo Pomorskie articles filled with hatred for the Jews, articles in which he tried to blame the Jews for all the failings and shortcomings of the Polish state: the economic crisis, the absence of jobs, the hardship and the poverty. This is how anti-Semites operate, transferring the anger of the masses from those who are truly blameworthy to the Jews
OZN thugs attack unsuspecting Jewish passersby in the streetthey rain down blows, break windows, and scatter the merchandise of Jewish shopkeepers, who stand by helplessly. The situation continues to worsen, with dark clouds gathering in our skies. We are full of trepidation and worry.
But all this was nothing compared to what happened to us on [the day we later referred to as] Black Sunday. That day large crowds gathered in the church, where they listened to a speech of incitement by the priest. Afterwards an incited, aroused mob ran through the streets of the town, going wild and attacking the Jews. A sight like this had never been seen before in our town: the rioters attacked women walking with their babies, tossing them and their baby carriages off the sidewalk; they uprooted fences and broke windows. All this took place under the auspices of the police, who stood by to prevent any attempt by the Jews to fight back.
We were at a loss at what to do. This time [even] the young peoplewho had previously always stood up to rioters-thugswere forced to shut themselves up in their homes. [Meanwhile] a speaker who was supposed to lecture that evening in the auditorium of the Peretz Library managed, with great danger, to finally reach the train so that he could hurry back to his home in Warsaw.
The next day all of the Jewish press was filled with horrible descriptions of what had taken place in the town. Another Jewish community had been struckjoining those that had previously experienced the taste of riots, in Paszitik, in Mińsk-Mazowiecki and others. All the efforts by the Jewish leaders in Poland for help from government authorities ended with absolutely nothing The riots continued for several days. Then, even after they ended, the situation did not return to what it had been before The rift that had opened remained a threat
Even those Poles who had been friends with Jews (and I, too, had several such friends, who had studied with me in school) now tried to distance themselves and to hide their relationship as friends because of their fear of the anti-Semites, who were accusing them of treason to the homeland. Indeed there were here and there Poles with socialist consciousness who attempted to stand by the Jews and to struggle jointly with them against the riotersbut to no avail. Even they were forced in the end to worry about themselves, their livelihood and their safety
This situation continued almost to the start of World War II, when the persecuted Jews were joined by members of the Master Racethe Germans who lived near us. The attitude of the Polish people toward the Germans was no better than their attitude to the Jews. On the insulting signs, hung in front of cafes and hotels in Torun, proclaiming No entry to dogs and Jews, the word Germans was now added Jews and Germans were now in the same boat!
The irony of it! How ludicrous it was to see these Germansthe very same Germans from whom the Poles had received their tenets of racismin their humiliation, as they sought refuge, bowing and begging for their lives
August 14, 1939
Already at dawn Katarzyńska Street is teeming with men. These are the days just before war. Many of the men have already received their mobilization order, while others are waiting to receive theirs. All are conversing and arguing and trying to guess what awaits us They've just called me to come home to tell me that I, too, have received a conscription orderI have to report to my army unit in Torun in two hours.
The recruiting office is crowded with men who have streamed here from both near and far. There is an atmosphere of disorder and panic; things are not organized. Rumors are going around about German espionage taking place from within our ranks.
We are already in our uniforms, carrying arms. Since the barracks are too crowded, schools and public auditoriums have been commandeered to house the conscripts. On that very same night we go out for maneuvers near the German border.
August 30, 1939
Everyone senses that war is inevitable. The men are called up to again take an oath of allegiance to the homeland At night we are stationed near the border, in a state of readiness. Suddenly the air is pierced by the sound of sporadic shooting As morning approaches the firing becomes steadier. The attack is joined by machine guns and cannons, and heavy bombers make their appearance. The attack is now at full intensity. The Second World War has begun! The Nazi army is piercing our lines and enveloping us with all its strength. It is trying to deliver a heavy, overwhelming blow by using the blitzkrieg method that had been talked about all the time. We, who have trained with antiquated tactics, following the rules of the First World War, are beaten back and are caving in under their powerful strikes. After only two hours of standing up to the enemy, our front is broken through, and a panicky, disorganized retreat begins.
September 15, 1939
We are near Lubicz. Three divisions in this vicinity have surrendered. White flags are fluttering over the houses in the towns and villages. Here and there some attempts at defense have been made, but with no success. The Germans are scattering fliers that call for the Polish army to put down its weapons and surrender.
On that very day the Germans transport about 20,000 prisoners of war on the road leading to Lubicz. Among them are several fellow townsmen: Avrohom Yizchak Schlachter, Avrohom Kuzak, Leib Ulstein and others.
September 20, 1939
After much wandering and unending suffering, we reached the city of Kalisz. Here we were brought to a synagogue. The synagogue, the adjoining beit midrash and the orphanage were transformed into a prisoner camp, surrounded by a fence, with machine guns stationed at its corners. (This orphanage was large; the contributions for maintaining it had been coming in from all parts of Poland and even from outside it; there had been about 400 orphaned children living there.) Even though prayer verses were still fluttering here and there, it was hard to imagine that there had ever been a synagogue and beit midrash in this place
How terrible the spectacle! Whatever the Germans had left intact, the Poles had completely finished off: they tore up the parochet to use as rags for shining shoes; tallitot were employed as towels Only the Torah scrolls, which the Jews [of the town] had managed to take out early enough, were saved from the unclean hands of the desecrators.
Every now and then we peeked outside from the Ezrat Nashim, and our hearts sank seeing the torment of the Jews of Kalisz as they were being pursued by the Germans, who were humiliating them beyond words and cruelly beating them senseless.
September 30, 1939
After being freed from the prison camp we arrived in Torun in freight trains. From there we set out on foot to our homes via roundabout ways, fearing the Gestapo. Although we were carrying release documents, these had no value in the eyes of the Gestapo; they tended to destroy such documents, in many cases together with those who were carrying them. Leib Ulstein was in the group walking with me; the others in the group were Poles from Golub.
At dusk we reach Golub. We are careful to make our way quietly. We meet a Polish woman and ask her what has gone on in the town. Is it possible to cross the bridge? (The original bridge has been blown up by the Germans; in its place there is now a very narrow temporary bridge.) The woman reveals to us that incidents have already occurred, in which captured Polish soldiers who had been released have since been arrested. What she is telling us is not very encouraging We decide to make our way to one of the Jewish families living in Golub, the Fein family. It is a lucky decisionthey are still in their house. We now realize that most of the Jews of Golub have been expelled to Dobrzyn.
There is an atmosphere of depression in the house. Everyone is fearful, not knowing what will happen next. Shmuel Hersh Riz is sleeping in one of the secluded rooms, but they are not letting us go into that room. They say he has suffered a nervous breakdown after being held for several hours by the Gestapo. Leib decides to spend the night here. But placing my trust in the darkness of the night and in the rainy weather, I quietly make my way to my house, making sure that the enemy does not detect me. I reach my house. But is it still my house?
November 9, 1939
We still don't know about what is actually taking place in the town. We work at dismantling the bridge that had been blown uplabor that has been imposed on all the Jews, five days a week. Our group consists of ten Jews of various ages.
Suddenly one of the children comes over and tells us that they are about to expel all the Jews from the town. Only when we return home for a lunch break do we find out all the details. On that very morning several of the Jews, among them Hershel Linet of blessed memory, were invited to a meeting with the occupation authorities, where they were told that an explicit order had come down to expel all the Jews of the town to Warsaw. Nonetheless, if the Jews would prefer that the expulsion should take place in an orderly, proper fashion, they must bring valuablesgold, silver and jewelryas payment.
The representatives of the Jews naively believed that this order was nothing but an excuse to extort money, and that with sufficient ransom they would have it within their power to cancel the expulsion decree. They therefore worked quickly and brought two buckets filled with silver and gold jewelry to City Hall. But their hopes were dashed. All the Jews were ordered to gather in front of City Hall. Here documents were distributed to them, and they were categorically ordered to leave town within two hours.
And in fact, within only two hours armed policemen made their appearance in the streets. They stood there, urging the Jews to quickly vacate their homes and depart. They accompanied their words of encouragement with blows.
The Jews abandon their homes and set out in one convoy after another, carrying on their backs the few possessions that they could manage to bring along. Most go on the main road leading to Rypin. They take one last look toward their town Is this a nightmare? Many generations lived here, experiencing joy and griefone generation following another Here their days of childhood and youth passed, here they grew up and became adults But the end has come! They are being chased out like dogs, as curses rain down on them, Away from here, you leprous Jews!
The sun has set, and darkness descends on the world. Jewish families find spots for themselves in the ditches along the edges of the road, and sprawl down there on the ground. It was only yesterday that they still had a home, a bed and a slice of bread The men are at a loss. The weeping of the children and of the women weighs heavily on their hearts. A hell on earth!
We continue to march to Rypin in the darkness of night, some of us in vehicles and some on foot (there were some who manage to rent wagons from farmers). I, too, am able to rent a wagon together with David Pienek. We seat members of our families in the wagon. With me is my wife and her relatives; I have lost track of my own parents and my other relatives along the way, just as we were leaving Dobrzyn. There is not enough room for everyone in the wagon. I take our baby carriage, fill it with some possessions and march on foot, pushing it along in front of me.
In one of the ditches along the way I found my mother, may she rest in peace, and my sister-in-law, Zelda Krajank (my brother Aharon's wife), together with her little children. I discovered that my father and brother Aharon had gone on ahead to one of the villages to look for a wagon [to rent]. I followed after them, but was not able to find them. I have never had the privilege of seeing them again. In the end they apparently managed to get to Plock while I wound up instead in Warsaw.
On November 30th I crossed the border into Russia I went through many hardships there, getting a taste of Russian prison and of an internment camp in the remote north Only after joining the Polish Anders army and then, after much wandering on the byways of Russia and in the Arab countries, did I reach Palestine in the year 1943. Of all the members of my family I am the only one who survived.
|Yehuda Rosenwaks, representing the Jews of Dobrzyn, lights a candle in the Chamber of the Holocaust in memory of the martyrs|
|On the ploughedup earth of the Jewish cemetery (of Dobrzyn)|
|Zadok Zudkevitz (author of this article) together with his friends |
By Yehoshua Flusberg, 1969
Translated by Allen Flusberg
It was now two weeks that the Germans were in our town. First, even before they entered it, we had fled, following the retreating Polish army, and we had reached Skempenu. But then the Germans also came there.
I remember that it was the time of Selichot, and my uncle, Mr. Getzel-Meir Horowitz, poured his heart out in prayer, asking Almighty God to have mercy on his people And there was at that time a special meaning to his request.
I was very young then when the first German soldiers appeared, only 13 years old, but to this very day I have not forgotten the fear that seized us all. We felt that the Day of Judgment was indeed near Those days outside our town were very hard on us, particularly with Rosh Hashanah approaching. So we decided to return to our home in Dobrzyn, and we got back on the eve of the holiday.
We were afraid to pray communally in the synagogue, and so we gathered on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in the home of the Moreh Horaa. But the next day we discovered that a communal service had taken place in the shtiebel of the Ger Hassidim, and all had passed quietly. My father was filled with courage, and he decided to that he, too, would pray in the shtiebel, come what may This walk to the shtiebel had become an expression of great devotion and a kiddush hashem.
Even in ordinary times a great fear enveloped those praying on Rosh Hashanah. But this time the fear was even greater. A heavy silence descended on everyone at the moment Mr. Yehoshua Rosenthal, who had a chazaka on leading the shacharit service, raised his voice in prayer.
Suddenly an alarmed whisper swept through the congregation: the Germans had surrounded the shtiebel. The great silence was torn by a sharp command: Come out!
We were surrounded by German soldiers. A light rain began to fall. I slipped away from the Germans and ran home to bring coats for my father and my brother David. When I returned as quickly as I could to the shtiebel, all the women of the town were already there, carrying coats and bundles, and trying to press close to their loved ones and hand over to them what they had brought them. I, too, pushed my way through and was able to hand the coats to my brother. Afterwards I got away from there and began, for some reason, to walk through the streets of the town.
After some time had passed I found myself again standing near the shtiebel. The sight that revealed itself to me was shocking: the Holy Ark was broken into, and the Torah scrolls were rolling on the floor, torn and defiled. With tears in my eyes, I gathered the books and put them back in the Holy Ark.
That day the men were ordered to assemble for muster. The order was brief and concise: Every Jewish man who does not appear in the next ten minutes will be shot!
How sad was the look of the men who began to come out of their hiding places to obey the order. I remember how my aunt Chana pleaded with her husband, Mr. Mendel Gurfinkel, the shochet and bodek, that he should not put his life in danger, God forbid, but rather that he, too, should hurry to appear. And Moshe Rudzink ran as fast as he could after the buses, begging that they should agree to take him, too
On that day, Jewish Dobrzyn was emptied of all its men.
A period of anxiety and anticipation descended on us. When it became clear that the men were in Bydgoszcz, Mrs. Stoltzman gathered up her courage, rented a wagon and went there, carrying many packages with her. But when she got there she was unable to find them.
The men had indeed been there for about two weeks, but then they disappeared. The (much later) investigations and the requests for information from the Red Cross turned nothing up.
The only one who came back from there was Mr. Yisrael Miller, who was freed by the Germans in return for a huge sum of money, and was brought home ill in an ambulance. But the Reaper descended even on him: after several days the heads of the 35 wealthy families, with him among them, were sent to a place from which they never returned
A single regards from the heads of the families reached us via a German newspaper that was published either in Torun or Bydgoszcz. In the newspaper there appeared a picture of Jews who were quarrying stones. The picture was accompanied by the headline Jews Being Trained for Work. In the group of four Jews, all with beards and peyot, and appearing to be holding each other up, was my father.
Except for this regards, no additional information on their fate ever reached us. They disappeared and are no more.
But the forests of Bydgoszcz hide the secret within them, a secret of days of terror and atrocities.
|Family of Eliyahu Flusberg|
|And cursed be he who says: Avenge!
Vengeance of this sort, blood revenge for a small child
The Devil has not yet created
| H.N. Bialik|
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