by Yitzhak Szperling
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
My brother and I worked in the Niederkirche camp building highways. It was a camp of 250 people from Klobuck, Krzepice and the area. We worked there for three months until the camp was abandoned and we were brought to Camp Markshtadt (Lower Silesia). There were 3,000 Jews located there.
We also worked hard there at various hard labor, building munitions factories.
In January 1943 we were sent to the Funf Teichen [Five Rivers] concentration camp, not far from Markshtadt, where the true suffering began: at four o'clock in the morning, winter in the greatest cold, we were chased into the street. We stood for hours until we left for work. We worked 12 hours a day; we endured various pain at the same work as at Markshtadt. During the same year, 1943, my brother, Ahron Meir, died in the camp. I did not even know what happened to his remains. I remained alone, lonely, not knowing about my family. I was in the camp with other Klobucker Jews.
In 1944 I was sent with other Klobuckers to the
Wieselburg camp. I worked there with the Klobockers: Lipa Birnbaum, Shlomo Birnbaum, Dovid Mass, Mordekhai Wajsman, Nehemia Wajsman.
We worked there breaking stones. The Germans, who guarded us, received their lunch from the military kitchen that was located three kilometers from the workplace. They ordered us to carry the empty casks back to the kitchen. I left to take the casks back to the kitchen. There was a warehouse of potatoes in the same barracks as the kitchen. I went into it and took a few potatoes in a small sack in order to quiet the long-lasting hunger for just a moment. Suddenly the cook, an S.S.-man, entered the warehouse and ordered me to pour out the potatoes. He locked the door and quickly returned with a bayonet. He stabbed me until the blood ran from me Then he unlocked the door and told me to go out. In the street, he again beat me on the head with an iron bar. I ran a few meters and fell on the ground in a faint. The blood flowed from me.
I lay on the ground for a long time. When I gained a little consciousness, I stood up and began to drag myself to the workplace.
My comrades saw that I had not returned after such a long time; one comrade came to look for me. He met me on the way in such a state, when all of my things were covered in blood. He led me to the work place. My comrades gave me clothes to change into and after work took me into the camp. There was a commission in the camp that chose the weakest people and sent them to Oswiecim [Auschwitz]. The selection took place in the following manner: everyone stood in a row; each person had to run past the Germans. In this way they removed the weak, those who could not run. I was not in good condition as I ran, but through some miracle from God I went past their eyes and I entered the camp.
My comrade Lipa Birnbaum led me to the camp doctor. He gave me an injection and said that he had no
place for me in the sick barracks and told to go the barracks in which I lived. I should return early in the morning.
The night was a nightmare for me. I could not find a place, not sitting and not standing, not lying down and not sleeping because of the wounds I had received from the murderer. I was going crazy until I finally saw the day. When the day began I went to the doctor. He sent me to the sick barracks.
I lay for two months and could not move from the spot. I did not receive any remedies to heal my wounds. Yet, I recovered a little. When I could stand on my feet, they sent us further.
We walked from the Wieselburg camp from early morning to late at night, across fields and woods. Late at night we arrived in a German village. We remained there overnight. In the morning we had to go further. We were taken to a second village. We remained there in an empty field in two large empty barns.
We all lay pressed together like herring. We were there for six days. Many died from hunger and cold.
After six days, we again wandered. We were taken to a train station, 15 kilometers [about nine miles] from the village. The Germans told us that whoever could not go further or felt weak could remain in the village.
I was not in a condition to go further, but I knew that they would finish [kill] those who remained in the village. I went further with my last strength until we arrived at the train station. There they packed us in a freight train in open cars up to 70 men in a car. We traveled like this in the frost and cold for several days and nights. Many died from hunger and cold on the way. The Germans threw the dead out at the station when the train stopped.
We traveled through Czechoslovakia. The Czechs threw bread into the cars. The German murderers did not permit
them to come close to us and whoever caught a piece of bread was lucky. One threw himself on another to catch a piece of bread.
After several days and nights of traveling we arrived in a concentration camp near Austria where our hell began. We arrived in the morning. The torturers stood us out in the snow and in the frost under the open sky until the middle of the next day. Many of us died of hunger and cold. They remained lying right on the spot. One of the tortured asked for a little water. The kapo [prisoner functionary prisoner who performed administrative tasks] answered: You are about to die, so why do you still need water? The kapos with the rubber whips in their hands beat the unlucky ones who lay in the snow to see who was alive and who was dead. I did not believe that I would leave this gehenim [hell] and remain alive.
In the morning we were taken to the wash barracks where we bathed ourselves with cold water. Then they led us into the barracks where we were for two weeks, exposed to terrible pain, chased out half naked into the street every day. We stood in the snow and the greatest cold for hours.
After the two weeks we went out to work where we labored at building a tunnel in the mountain. We worked there for 12 hours a day and also at night. Returning to the camp, they chased us from one spot to another. We received 100 grams of dark bread to eat and a little water boiled with potato peels. These were the provisions for an entire 24 hours. There was no way to avoid the blows. There were dozens of dead every day; the people fell like flies. The crematoria in the camp burned day and night. This was a camp of 40,000 people of various nationalities. We were cut off from the open world. Several Klobucker Jews died there. Although I grew weaker from day to day, I held out until the liberation.
This was on the 6th of May 1945, when the American military
freed us. We did not want to believe our own eyes. I did not know what to do with my great joy. I was a living skeleton and could not stand on my feet. We all became ill when the Americans gave us food because we could no longer digest the food. Many died immediately after eating their fill. I slowly recovered and little by little began to return to being a person.
by Yaacov Szmulewicz, Paris
Translated from Yiddish to English by his nephew Asher Szmulewicz
On November 11, 1940 we arrived in a camp named Eichental in the Alps region. The camp was located in a forest and was comprised of wooden barracks. It is worthwhile to give an accurate description of what it looked like, since it was one of the first German labor camps, that became a tomb for tens of thousands of Jews and non-Jews alike.
At the entrance of the camp the watch-house was situated, and further on the left was the kitchen and in the courtyard there was a bath, as well and other facilities. At first sight it was difficult to imagine that people would come into (the camp), but would not leave alive.
The barracks were not finished (and were barren). There were no amenities (beds or toilet facilities), and the bath did not operate. We slept on the bare floor and we washed ourselves (in the open air), subjected to the severest cold (and weather conditions) in the courtyard close to the well. There were thirty people in each barrack.
On arrival at the camp, everybody was given a small bowl, a spoon and a cup. Each person had to look after these utensils like his own eyes, because if your utensils broke or disappeared, there were no replacements, and (lost utensils) also meant that food for the day was forfeited, and instead of food, 15 lashes on the lower back side were given. Everybody had to watch after his own kitchenware so that another camp mate could not steal it from him.
In the beginning we received food parcels from home. The mood among the camp prisoners was not that bad. Despite the harsh (circumstances and) regime we were joyful and even optimistic. During our free time we organized entertainments. However, the camp prisoners who left a wife or children at home were sad and in a depressed state of mind.
Our work was to build a highway. The year 1940 went by without any eventful shocks. The year 1941 started with special and cruel tortures for the prisoners. One day in January, all the prisoners were gathered on the roll call square. In cold, windy and snowy weather we were forced to stand outside for 5 hours. A whistle was blown by Moshe Weissfelner from Klobuck, who was named as the representative of the Jews, in order to warn his comrades. The German Truppenführer (Commander) appeared and made the following announcement:
The sending of food parcels by Jews to Jewish detainees was dirtying the German trains. Therefore receiving (food) parcels was prohibited from then on.That was the beginning of conditions getting worse and worse.
During the year 1942 the Germans liquidated all of the small camps in the Alps including Eichental. All the prisoners were concentrated (and sent) to a larger camp, named Markstel concentration camp Fünf Teichen (five ponds). We referred to the concentration camp as the hell, because in addition to the hard work we had, we were burned, roasted and tortured (and subjected to) all kind of mistreatment.. Two thousand Jews arrived at the Fünf Teichen concentration camp, and after only one month we were reduced to only 1400 persons. Six hundred (of us) were murdered or died. Among the deceased were Jews from Klobuck like Berl Unglick and others.
The number of prisoners (sent to the camp) increased to the level of six thousand persons. People from various countries were sent. The number of prisoners (at the camp) was to remain constant. (As prisoners died), in place of the executed and tortured prisoners, the German brought in fresh victims. Not all the people died quickly. Weak people who could not work anymore but stayed alive were deported for a healing on the orders of the SS to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). In the transports to Auschwitz were Jews from Klobuck. I remember the following names: Shlomo Kurtzpartsis, Reuven Rosensweig, Pinchas and Reuven Klopak and Shmulik Szmulewicz.
In spite of all the problems, pain and destruction we always thought about our close relatives, who were left in Klobuck. Then the Yov Bessoreh (terrible news) arrived in the camp, although I don't remember how:
On June 22, 1942 the Klobuck ghetto was liquidated.
We took the news very hard. During the liquidation of the ghetto, the Germans shot and killed with cruelty a great number of the Jews from Klobuck. They dragged them out from the shtetl. Sniffer dogs and local Germans looked for people that went into hiding. A lot of people were bitten by the dogs. Other unfortunate Jews were forced to dig their own graves and then were shot dead. The small number of Jews from Klobuck who were still alive in the camp already knew that their home was destroyed, eradicated and wiped out.
by Yaacov Szmulewicz, Paris
Translated from Yiddish to English by his nephew Asher Szmulewicz
In the beginning of January 1945, when the Russian Armies entered Germany, the Germans took steps to evacuate the concentration camps. The unfortunate prisoners were dragged (from camp to camp) in a cruel manner. The feeble ones, who could not walk, were left in the camp to die from hunger.
In deep snow and frost the healthy ones were dragged toward (concentration camp) Gross-Rosen. The weak ones who (could not march and) stayed behind were shot by the SS guards. Chilke Weissfelner was among the killed ones from Klobuck. He was always comforting us by saying we will survive this tragedy and his body remained in the impure (tameh) soil of Germany.
Thousands of prisoners were gathered in one block of the Gross-Rosen camp by the Germans. We slept on the bare ground, (and forced) to sit with our legs stretched out, and intermeshed with another prisoner sitting in the same position in the opposite direction because there was not enough space for everybody. After (spending) such a painful night, we had to stand at the roll call in the morning. In the snow and the frost, dressed in our light concentration camp clothing, we were forced to stand for a few hours until they sent us back to the cold barracks.
In this abyss of pain and hardship I suddenly had a great surprise. Among the thousand prisoners, I recognized my elder brother, Berl. He told me that his transport came from a camp named Blech-Hammer. He told me that he wanted to end his life several times, but he did not have the (emotional) strength to commit suicide. During our long journey we became separated, and my brother Berl Szmulewicz was shot by the Germans in Buchenwald together with six thousand (other) Jews.
We were also sent to Buchenwald. There was a roll call before departing with the transport, and during this roll call the Polish Kapos selected from the rows (of prisoners) three victims: a Pole, a Russian and a Jew. Those miserable (ones) were crushed to death in front of everybody. I will never forget this image of bestial murder. The martyred Jew was Itzik Zaks from Klobuck.
After these bestial murders, the painful journey started. We travelled in opened trucks, (suffering) from hunger and the cold. We arrived in Buchenwald after four days. However, because of overcrowding we were sent further to Dachau.
In the meantime the Allied armies advanced. The German SS criminals disappeared and ran away. As they (the Germans) realized that it was close to their end, they started liquidating the camp and its inmates. We were dragged from place to place. We learned later that there was a German SS plan to blow up the camp with all the prisoners inside. The fast advance of the Allied armies prevented this bestial German plan of (additional) mass murder to be implemented.
April 28, 1945, Dachau, with all its detainees, was liberated. The healthy ones (immediately) started to look for the SS criminals in order to have them account for their crimes. During the first two days the situation turned into anarchy. Afterwards the American soldiers became our caretakers. They restored order and we were again confined in the barracks. Those who tried to escape through the fence were shot, and a few people were wounded. This situation lasted only a few months. Thereafter we asked for the intervention of the American military rabbinate, and we received documents that allowed us to move freely.
After the liberation, everybody started to look for their relatives. I looked for my younger brother Yossel. He was liberated from the camp named Staltack nach Feldafing. We met in the former SS barracks in Schlossheim close to Munich, and a few other Jews from Klobuck were also there. My brother travelled back to Poland to visit Klobuck to see if any of our relatives remained alive (in our town). I was unable to travel because I was ill at that time. My brother wrote to me and said that he did not find any of our close family or relatives. The Germans had desecrated the Jewish cemetery. The matzevot (gravestones) were ripped out and used to pave the roads. The tombs were plowed under.
Only a few Jews from Klobuck survived. They scattered around the world, including Israel. There are no Jews living today in Klobuck . As a remembrance of the days when Jews lived in Klobuck, the Shule (synagogue) was left, but standing orphaned without doors and windows.
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