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[Page 285]

Days of Hunger in Khazakstan

Cila Stobiecki Krawczyk

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

The writer of these lines was banished as a child to the USSR along with her parents, Augusta and Andzei Krawczyk, her younger sister Regina and her brothers Robert and Bruno (Boaz). Yozek wasn't with the family. They ended up in Badzanarik, Kazakhstan, a godforsaken kolkhoz, where they spent the war years in inhumane conditions. It was due to the father's unusual wit, the mother's devotion and the children's bravery that this family survived, having already left one grave behind.

The entire family had to work in the cotton fields of the kolkhoz. What they went through in this far away settlement is described in the writer's diary, from which the following testimony was selected:

Father kept the small notebook in which the workdays were accounted on himself, and was already happy because in the end of the year we'll receive a large payment, probably a few bags of wheat, and then we'd be able to fill our stomachs and eat our fill of bread. We already missed home, and the food mother would cook for us. The hunger was terrible. Mother had to pull tricks: out of 100 grams of barley she would cook a potful of soup, which we ate every day. Toasted barley was used as mock coffee, but even that was kind of luxurious.

One year of unbearable struggle has ended. We're waiting for the payment. Mom and dad try to calculate how many bags we deserve. We're all in high spirits, as if we have already eaten. But- what a disappointment. Khazakastan isn't Europe, or another country. It is nothing but an eternal lie, it is death. Father rents a wagon from a local man and drives up to the barn, but the barn is closed. Same goes for the following day, and the next one. Father hides behind the barn, standing guard day and night to see when the doors open, but eventually he has to leave. He returns a few days later and walks up to the manager, Andredzak the blood sucker who tells him straight to his face:”There's nothing here, everything was sent to the front.” Luckily, Robert and I were present, and saw father jumping at Andredzak, as though he wished to tear him apart, but I jumped between them and Robert that repulsive Khazak with such strength, that father's temper calmed down a little.

We returned home as though from a funeral and the house was sad and quiet after a whole year of work. “it's over,” father said, “none of us is going to work anymore”. The bastards were deliberately keeping us back at the end of the work day, so that we wouldn't see them steal the wheat and store it for themselves, for the winter. After a time we discovered that every Khazak family had a basement, in which they kept supplies for the winter. They were stealing from the fields. The police weren't informed because there was none in the village. None of them informed on one another, but they definitely tormented our community, since they tried to wear us down until we agreed to sell our children or women to them.

Some of our men then began profiteering to earn income. Families who made good profits from commerce, would come to the train station to buy or sell things, and gradually a local “mafia” was created, on which the poor families depended. The train station was located some 30 kilometers from our kolkhoz, and from time to time people from there offered to be middlemen and help find buyers for me or for Regina; they even wanted to buy Bruno, but were too scared of my father to offer. My father would grab a stick or an axe every time one of them entered our house, and with time they learned to leave us alone.

People had found other ways of making profits out of the trains and the passengers that were in them, but we were simple people, men of handywork, and therefore had to suffer a shameful hunger. Eight kilometers from Timor, there was a village, the center of the district, with the marketplace and the fair, where people would come to trade and to buy produce. The locals would usually get there by carriage, especially on Saturdays. Our men had to walk, and the round trip on foot took several days. People would bring items of clothing from the market, and then sell them straight away. In exchange for a man's shirt you could get a box of spicy green tea, which lasted a long time.

[Page 286]

For a women's shirt you could get a bar of soap or a few kilograms of wheat, but who ever had anything like that? Those were treasures, which often had saved people from death.

I remember how father had bought one day all of the small mirrors in the store. I would go to the train station to sell them, and usually offered them to young people who seemed nice to me. I would ask for some bread in exchange. I was scared of the many soldiers who passed in the station. One time, a soldier snatched a mirror and leaped into the car without paying, but his commander saw it. I stood on the platform weeping as the train departed, when suddenly a loaf of bread was thrown out to me by the commander.

Another time, a group of soldiers tormented me, and tried to drag me into the train car. They intended to throw me out after a few stops, and were already picking me up in the air. I kicked and screamed, and many soldiers came to see what was happening. The convoy commander ordered them to put me down, and called me to come with him. I obeyed, because I thought he'd shoot me.

He asked me: “What's wrong with you? How come your'e so young and still not afraid? There are so many soldiers, you see?” Crying, I told him that my brothers were hungry at home, that we were starving and that all I wanted was to get some bread for a little mirror. We walked all the way up to the engine. Next to it was a car that was full of bread loaves. He climbed up and handed me two big ones. It was literally a holiday back at home when I brought the bread; I couldn't sleep all night from the excitement.

Weeks and months flew by this way. I can't describe what it was really like, but merely write of events that were kept in my memory and haunt me. Again, my family had no clue about profiteering, and that's why we suffered more than others.

It was the freezing winter of 1943: there was a fierce wind, our shack was covered in thick snow, and from time to time we had to crawl outside. For three whole days we did nothing but lie down close together in order to warm ourselves up a little. Only father realized that we were at death's door; he forced himself to go outside. We were too tired and hungry to talk. After an hour, he returned with a dry bush in his hand, and threw it into the middle of the room : “Light it on fir to warm us, and we're also going to eat!” Out of the fog I could also see a deer. Somehow I found the strength to sit up and ask how he found the bushes. Father laughed and said that he dug in the snow all the way down to their roots. I didn't want to ask about the deer, for I was certain he had stolen it.

“Come on Genia,” father urged my mom, “get a knife and light up the stoves”. She started crying.” Do you want to die, or to save the children? Tell me, why are you wailing?!” She finally got up, and after taking a long, concentrated look at us replied: “No. We can't let them die! They're young and they have to live and survive, no matter what.”

The deer was roasted, giving us meat, and fat too. We fed on this meat three times a day and after a while we all started to recover. After a few days father and Robert could go outside hunting and look for dogs. They weren't always successful: you needed bread, or something better, to lure a dog. Mom would hide a piece of pita bread for that purpose, but we children would find it and eat it.

Our mother was a nurse, and she had worked to save some of the young boys in our kolkhoz who had no families. Many of them died alone, and were buried only after a week or so. Mother had managed to save the lives of some of them, and was very proud of it. One of these boys, a handsome boy from Warsaw, had fallen very ill. Our mother felt for him, and brought him to our shack to heal. It started a fight at home- father was against it, but our mother insisted. She took care of him like a son, and said: “who knows where my own son is now?”

[Page 287]

There were four of us children. People around us died all the time, with no one one at their side; there was no saving them. Every day we survived was a prize. Mother lost all track of the days, and we didn't know when Friday and Saturday were. She wanted to light Sabbath candles, but we didn't even have candles. Father had made her a candlestick, and we would light some fat with rags for wicks.

By the end of the winter, my father had fallen sick. Mother sent me to pick some bushes for heating, but I insisted that my sister come with me, despite the stormy weather. We walked a great distance until we found something that we could light, and then had to dig in the snow to uncover the roots and pull the bushes out. It took us a very long time, and the wind carried away the first pile we collected. Finally, we made two packs and headed back home. A terrible storm started. We were circled by a tornado, and the fierce wind took us up in the air once every couple of steps, and then put us down again. I could see shacks in the distance. I walked in their direction, turned around in circles by the wind and couldn't stop. The same thing was happening to Regina; seeing her, I laughed and cried at the same time. We both gave ourselves to the wind for a while, and played.

The shacks were already rather close, and all that was left was to spot our house among them, when I realized that it was a different kolkhoz, not ours. We put down our packages of twigs and sat down to rest. I knew the way home from there, and Regina said: “What can we do? If we could at least catch a nice dog it would be nice”. I was scared of dogs and always got bitten. Suddenly, I heard an approaching “meow”. After we had eaten dogs, the notion of eating cats made sense. We decided to try and catch the cat. I called, and one fat, huge cat appeared and started to rub against me till I shivered. What were we to do, with father sick and nothing for us to eat? We tied the cat with our rope and ran home. Mother was already worried for us. That “cat roast” helped father to recover, and he then made us hats and gloves from its fur. He even made us boots of dogs' skin.

 

Mother's Death

Another time of terrible hunger had started, and mom made it to Dzanarik to try and get some food. She left on her own. Father was at the riverside, fishing. A week had gone by, mother hadn't returned, and we were starting to worry. It was a Thursday in June. Mother was mistaken and thought it was Friday. She wanted to hurry and get home before sundown in order to light the candles. She almost ran all the way. She left the kolkhoz early in the morning, and made it to the swamps.

She sat down to rest by a ditch. There were only four more kilometers till home, but she fainted from thirst. She was so tired she lost consciousness, and never woke up. The doctors stated that the cause of her death was sunstroke. When we were told some woman was found dead, we couldn't believe it was her. Her body was brought on a truck from the county two days later. It was very swollen and we could hardly recognize her, if not for her checked skirt. Robert went to tell dad, and I had to guard the body until the county forensic expert came to ensure she wasn't murdered. Father then rented a wagon, and we buried her not far from our shack, in a cemetery.

There was another cemetery not far from us, which was used by the locals. I couldn't tell whether our men were being buried there as well. Human bones were rolling on the ground nearby, since wolves from the desert wandered to this area in the winter. This was a time I cannot begin to describe. Father was a broken and beaten man. He sat at the grave for three days, didn't eat or sleep. We went there and sat down next to him, crying. Only then he felt for us and went home.

The next time he was gone for two days, and came back carrying a huge stone. He worked an entire week to engrave mother's date of birth on it, and then added in massive lettering a memorial writing in Polish.


[Page 288]

Katowicers in the
Anti-Nazi resistance underground

Joseph Chrust

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

Shortly after the Germans had conquered Sosnowiec, members of the city's “Zionist Youth” group branch got together, and decided to continue the group's activity during the war. They were joined by friends from the next city, Katowice, which was left almost “Judenrein” by then, after being annexed to the Reich by Hitler's order of October 8, 1939. The prosecution and conquest had created a new circumstance, in which a profound rearrangement of the group's activity was necessary. The young members of the “Zionist youth” had taken on new responsibilities with devotion and loyalty, and mainly in underground conditions.

The young teachers took on the role of educating the younger members, with virtually no financial means but their own personal funds. They ran regular youth activities. The group even opened a children's feeding station, where over a thousand children were given two meals a day. The youngsters of Katowice stood out in all of these activities, and among them were Jacob Cimerman and Leon Blat. There were other activists as well, such as Aleksander Gliezensztein Hipek), Ruth Landau, Manus Djamant, Lalah Cimerman (Janek's sister), Herta Friedler, Sewek Kurland and others.

Taking care of the youth was only one of the group's activities. Surrounded by an atmosphere of public depression, heads of the Zionist Youth realized the importance of cheering up the Jews and developing their national awareness and sense of national pride. For that purpose they established history, literature and Judaism classes and they published the first illegal pamphlets, which they stencilled on a copying machine and handed out. Frida Mazya, a member of the Sosnowiec group, describes in her memoir the spirit of those days, and the deeds of Leon Blat, AKA “Eliezer”:

“In late fall of 1942, Eliezer drove to Miechow. It was stress and nerve-wrecking waiting all over again, another illegal sneaking across the border, wandering in search of Partisans and weapons. It isn't easy to stay in a totally strange town, looking for a place to stay overnight without any form of identification, roaming the streets and risking yourself, talking to strangers on slippery, dangerous subjects.

“Eliezer's urge to live was strong, a fact he mentioned repeatedly, and thus he explained why he was still willing to risk his life and go: “ I want to live, but I could never live in peace with the things I've seen here. My conscience won't let me. And first, I want to take revenge, to earn my right to live”, he stated in the assembly prior to his trip, when we pointed out the obstacles he was about to face.

“Eliezer returned from this trip with the first gun, and two hand grenades. We were incredibly happy to see that old-fashioned, heavy gun. With love and awe we would take turns in cleaning and checking it. Only now, when I look back, do I understand how hopeless was our faith in that weapon, but back then it was a ray of light and hope for all of us. We had finally started to believe that self defense was possible.”

As the circumstances grew rougher and the rate of transports to Auschwitz increased, the idea of resistance and fighting back against the Germans ripened. The young members knew that the plan had to be kept highly secret, and a committee of three members was elected to be in charge. Its members were Azriel Kuzuch, Jacob Cimerman and Leon Blat; the last two were Katowicers.

Azriel was the authority in the financial field; he raised the funds and was the organization's representative in the community. Eliezer took care of technicalities, such as buying weapons, training the members etc. Jacob was in charge of distributing the work among our people, and of organizational issues such as recruitment of new members.

[Page 289]

He gradually created a defense organization that was divided into unitary groups of three; everything was done in top secrecy. Every person who was invited to join the organization had 24 hours to make up his mind. Those who agreed had to be sworn in, and to commit to follow all orders without argument. None of the members knew more than three other members. The format of the orders was such that none of the recruits could see the big picture and figure out the entire organization.

The organization's activity became more and more daring and dangerous. Among other things, it included collecting blue prints and plans of government and military buildings, buying equipment, oil and explosives, and stealing uniforms for special operations. The group specialized in fake ID's, and was in contact with border smugglers, partisans and the like. Janek Cimerman, publisher of the illegal pamphlet and a man who put his own life at stake many times, was killed in the August 2, 1943, with his weapon in his hand.

The testimony of another group member, Ruth Judenhartz-Bajuk also contains remarkable details concerning Katowice's Young Jewish people and the great role they played in this organization. She tells us that on February 2, 1943 Lala Cimerman called her, and told her she could join the resistance organization: “She said that I had to think of it very carefully, since it was a life and death matter and involved many dangers. She gave me 24 hours to decide. I gave a positive answer, and signed an oath as follows: The same way I pledged to live in dignity, so I pledge to die in dignity, in order to revenge the wrong that was done to my people. I hereby commit to follow the group laws by all means.”

Lala was an active group member till she was seized by the Germans on August 2, 1942, and was sent to Auschwitz. In her memoirs Ruth wrote that at about the same time Nathan Rozencweig, who was born in Katowice and lived in Warsaw, had returned to the city to stay with his parents. “He confirmed the stories we heard of the area's Jews being systematically executed, and of the horrible conditions in the Warsaw ghetto. His stories drove us to embark on rescue missions, in addition to our defense activities. All of the friendly relationships within the members had been cut. Most of our men are now active in the defense organization and live in secrecy; every one of them has his tasks to attend to.”

The writer describes the work in group of three, when only the head of each of each group was in touch with the others, and he was giving the orders. Ruth, for instance, knew only Lala and Denka Fierstenberg, and of these three only Lala knew people from other groups. That method diminished the danger of being discovered.

kat289.jpg
With the children in the “kitchen” in Yasinya
Bolek Kozuch, Karola Baum
Juzek Kozuch, Fredka Okzhandler and Motek Dancigier

 

Ruth mentions Janek Cimerman in her book one time, regarding his work with others at a workshop in Gortzki, where they made boots for troops. In every pair of boots they hid leaflets calling on the German soldiers to stop the fighting. Thousands of pairs of boots were shipped this way until they were discovered.

Another member of the underground movement who kept a memoir was Karol Tuchschneider, who describes in his memoirs August 12, 1942, the day all of the Jews were ordered to show up in one yard, to have their identity cards stamped. “Ben Zion and Janek were in charge of distributing pamphlets that warned people from showing up. Posters were hung during the speech by Moniek Merin, the community's head. Nonetheless, most of the people showed up, not daring to disobey direct orders from the Germans. About one third of the community was banished to Auschwitz in just three days…” The Jews who supposedly were called to sign their ID papers were surrounded by police officers and Gestapo soldiers, and a selection began. Karol writes that this transport put an end to any illusions there still were regarding the German plans.

An executive committee was assembled, of Azriel, Ben Zion, Jacob Cimerman and Eliezer Blat, in charge of collecting weapons, and preparing a plan of defense for the future. Among other things, they had to try contacting the Polish partisans. They started working immediately. Eliezer was sent to Miechow and managed to buy a gun for 2000 marks.

The young resistance soldiers from Katowice are mentioned again in Fredka Mazya's book, “Mates in Gale”. This is her description of August 2, 1943, the day the Germans thoroughly scanned the ghetto for hidden Jews, in order to send them to concentration camps: “Lala didn't even try to escape. She kept cool but was in fact desperate, all she did was hold unto the capsule of cyanide she kept. “I have enough for my parents too, I will not go to the gas chambers”, she whispered to Ruth before the latter took off. Those who remained after the selection were taken to the “shop”. Janek decided to run away, and called Gortzky, the German man he worked for, to tell him he was saved and would be at his place in a short while. He jumped out of the window and ran out of the ghetto. Polish boys surrounded him and started shouting “An escaped Jew!”. It was near the cadet academy, not far from the ghetto walls, so the Germans appeared instantly. Janek defended himself and shot to kill, but he didn't escape. He was taken down. Janek, the lively young man who never hesitated to risk his life for others, who carried people in bags on his back out of the concentration points and saved them from being expelled, who printed pamphlets and built our undercover 'army' solely with his own strength and will power, was gone.”

Fredka goes on and writes that Leon did manage to escape. He made it to some non-Jewish friends' house, and stayed there for a while. In the meanwhile, he contacted people who were left in the ghetto. Together they managed to sneak out small groups of people and find them hiding places.

The following days were of struggle by those who were left, to reset and hang on. Fredka had contacted men from the Polish resistance movement in Krakow, who didn't know she was Jewish, and they sent her copies of Polish work visas to Austria. This road to escape was terminated after Fredka was arrested. Then, there was another option found to send people to Hungary through Slovenia. Ultimately, Fredka was released. After many tribulations, she made it to Budapest with a few friends. An entire group was already waiting for them at the train station. The smuggling line was open and functioning. Leon Blat is mentioned as one of the leaders of these activities. Fredka writes:

kat290.jpg
Announcement on the execution
of a group of youths in Bedzin

 

“After dinner, when everyone else had gone to bed, the three of us sat down to hear Leon's story of his last three months of struggle, which were filled with events and happenings, dangers and failures, a story of a precious victory that cost many lives. I sat still, and could envision the streets of Katowice, Bendzin and Sosnowiec, which were all sanctified with lives of our beloved ones.

Upon my arrest they realized that it was no longer possible to use the documents we had received to exit to the General Government zone. Many people were still in camp, or were hiding with Polish families, and they had all needed our help. Bolek spent days running between Rossner's “Shop” - where he was given all sorts of produce- and all sorts of dubious middlemen and merchants, who bought them from him. The money collected was meant to fund the rescue mission. Not once did a Polish house owner come up and say he couldn't hide Jews any longer, and we had to either bribe him or find a new hiding place. Koba sent a message, in which he wrote that he had successfully contacted smugglers, who were willing to take groups of people across the border. It was a rescue, and small numbers of people were being sent to the villages near the border. Koba, Samek and Chaim took care of finding hosts for them. They did their best to send everyone with clothing and some money, as well as proper paperwork, but what happened across the border was unknown. Chaim Schinwirtzel returned from Slovakia shortly after that, despite the warnings and requests of the locals. He joined Bolek and Leon in Sosnowiec, and together they coordinated the missions from there. The hiding places in Sosnowiec were gradually being emptied, as small groups of people left from Katowice's train station to the Baskid Mountains.

[Page 292]

Members of the Underground

Nathan Rozencweig

(Born in 1922 - killed together with Jozek
2 Aug 1943)

Yanek Cimerman
(Born in 1920 - killed 2 Aug 1943)
Lokla Pumernzblum-Majtles

 

Cwi Lustig from Bedzin
March 1946
Basia and Cwi Naubauer
Members of the main leadership
of the Zionist Youth in Poland
Mate Szort
Emissary to Vienna

 

[Page 293]

Herta Friedler Hanja Rotner Hipek-Alexander Glizsztajn

 

Lola Zimerman Page from Manja Lederman's diary

 

[Page 294]

One day, Bolek and Leon were interrupted by German policemen. They identified themselves and were almost let go, when another German arrived and decided to arrest Bolek, who he correctly suspected was a Jew. The guys pulled out their guns and shot on the spot. The Germans fell to the ground, and they managed to escape. Excited, they came to Stasha's house, but were still curious about whether they had killed the Germans or not. They sent Helinka Katoner, who came from Zawiercie, to hear what the word on the street was, and she returned with the happy news that the Germans had indeed been killed.

The German guard grew more alert after this incident, but they had no wish to stay in hiding, and didn't have much choice either. “We decided to send everyone away, “Leon told me.”We took a group to the train station every two days, until the police stopped us once again. Halinka and I quietly crept away, but Bolek was arrested. We followed him from a distance, in case he needed help, but he was well guarded. He reached to his pocket for his gun, but they pulled it out before he could respond. He was taken to the Gestapo and was severely tortured. Our attempts to find someone who could rescue him were unsuccessful.

Leon proceeded with his story: “After Bolek was arrested, I decided that Chaim had to return to Slovakia, from where he could coordinate the entire group's movements. He agreed, and prepared to leave along with Ruth Landau and her family, and with Lucia. The police stopped us in the train station, and I was the only one who wasn't arrested, thanks to my fake ID. Chaim tried to escape and pulled out his gun, but unfortunately it snapped and he was caught. I watched from a distance and followed them. Shortly afterwards, I met two German officers, those who had checked our ID's earlier, and they recognized me. I took off, and shot at them from under the bridge. Luckily, my gun did work properly, and they remained lying on the ground. Chaim and Bolek sat in jail together, and on November 10, Poland's independence day, they were both made an example of, and publicly hung as “Polish partisans”.

“Leon returned home broken hearted, and he had none of us at his side to cheer him up. He did receive letters from friends in Vienna, who didn't know what had happened. They asked him to send warm clothing for the upcoming winter, and hinted that a contact with Hungary was established. It helped him understand that not everything was over, and that there were still people out there who needed his help, whom he couldn't let down. He bounced back, filled ten suitcases with clothes for cold weather and decided to take them to Vienna, where people were expecting him.”

Another testimony of Leon from the time he spent in Vienna, is Carola's story, which is mentioned in Fradke Mazya's book as well: On Friday, Yom Kippur eve, I heard that Leon had arrived. I met him the following day; he was pale and didn't talk much, and kept looking around him with suspicion and fear. He told me that the other day he had sensed a cop following him in the train station. He fooled the officer by attacking first: he came up to him and started screaming in German that some Polish guy took his seat and he, the German, couldn't sit down. The officer got confused, and minutes later the train took off with Leon and his ten suitcases on it.”

There was yet another dangerous adventure in store for Leon: his arrest on Yom Kippur,1943. It happened while he was waiting for his sister Henka by the Opera house, right after he was interviewed by a journalist, Mrs. Bendik. Carola, who was arrested a little earlier that day, tells the following story: we were closed in a room, and Leon was brought there that same day. We were accused of being Jewish and of having contact with that Mrs. Bendik. We denied everything. From time to time, Leon would jump in his seat as though eager to break out, but we were surrounded by bars and locked doors…”

“We were separated. Leon was taken to a different chamber as a political suspect, and the rest were taken as “Jews”. We, the three women, were believed to be Polish and were imprisoned with other women, who did time for being late for work, leaving work, breaking curfew etc. Leon escaped. He crept between the bars of the 6th floor window, and slid all the way down to the ground. His success was a source of strength to all of us.”

[Page 295]

In jail, Leon got in touch with two Jews who were planning to break out of prison. They took him with them in exchange for his promise he'd provide them fake ID's once they were all outside. in the evening, the three of them had managed to get to the bathroom, bend the window bars and slide outside. Ironically enough, their first hiding place was at the police garage, where one of them knew the guard.

Leon called Bozedaj to Vienna, and he showed up with some money and different documents. Leon returned to Sosnowiec, where he was welcomed by “Wanted” posters offering a reward on his head. Lonely and prosecuted he wandered the streets with nowhere to hide, except for the Bozedaj family's little warehouse. His only chance was “General Government” citizen identification.

After much effort, the Polish man had managed to get hold of a visa that allowed its owner to cross the border; itwas valid for up to six months. He went to the police station to sign on it, and the officers had no idea that their “dangerous criminal” was nearby, and was getting away. It took them a day to identify these two- the wanted person, and the civilian who took the visa. The visa was announced to be canceled immediately, and Stasia Bozedaj and the friend who helped her get the visa were called to the station. They all had to hide, but while the Polish girls found shelter in a friend's house, Leon had nowhere to go. He had no ideas this time, and no one to help him. He even considered going into the ghetto, never mind the consequences, just to have a meal and sleep normally in a bed. Then he accidentally met a former friend of his family, a Polish man named Domansky, who took him to his house without asking questions. After so much distress and despair, once again, a hand reached out to help him, out of simple human understanding and compassion.”

“It took Leon a few days to recover, and his urge to live grew strong again. He was once again capable of fighting. He was worried for his friends in Vienna, since he assumed their entire project was revealed after his escape. He did tell them all to stay low and lose their current jobs before he left, but didn't know how things really had worked out for them. He was the last man standing from the older members of the group, and still had a strong sense of responsibility for his friends. This sense drove him to travel to Hungary again, in order to bring his friends there undercover. If Mrs. Bendzik did it in one way, he could do it the other.”

“Leon called up Bozedaj once again and convinced him to contact the smugglers once again. The Polish man agreed, and returned several days later with news of success. It was once again possible to smuggle people across to Slovakia. Leon searched for people left in Rossner's “shop” and in the ghetto, and found Ruth Landau, who was released in the meanwhile. He connected her with Bozedaj, and crossed the border himself.

Upon his arrival in Budapest, he managed to help all of those who were still in Vienna pass through to Hungary. There he continued, along with members of the Zionist Youth and other youth movements, to arrange for small groups to escape to Romania, and from there to Israel; dozens of members were transferred to Romania. Leon himself was arrested near the Romanian border, by Hungarian officers who turned him in to the Gestapo in July 1944. He was sent back to jail in Katowice, and from there to Auschwitz in early 1945, escaping during the death march from Auschwitz to Germany.

 

kat295.gif
Rescue routes, in which members of the
“Zionist Youth” in Sosnowiec in the second half of 1943

 

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