by Moshe Fajga
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
We entered the Blechhammer camp at night. A group was selected to be sent to Annaberg. I joined the group that consisted of 30 people. I was in Annaberg for about two months together with Lev Mendelowicz, my nephew. We often spoke about our situation and came to the conclusion that we had nothing to lose. If a transport was selected, we would be included. Perhaps we would meet someone in our family. A transport actually was selected almost immediately and we went with it. We were sent to Kletendorf; we met Jews there from the Klobuck camp.
The Klobuckers were considered dangerous people. They were denounced as wanting to escape. Berish, the judenelterster [Jew chosen by the Germans as the camp inmate leader], placed all of them in one barrack and at night they were locked in. The Jew who denounced them regretted his denunciation, but he could not change things.
When I entered the camp, I immediately was warned that I should say that I am from Lodz and not from Klobuck; I answered that I actually was from Lodz. I had lived a considerable number of years in Lodz.
A roll call took place every morning. Several men were called to work in the iron camp. It was difficult for me to carry iron bars. I turned to the judenelterster and said that I could not carry any iron with my broken foot. He told this to the kapo [trustee]; he ordered me to stand in the wagon and pass the iron, but I also could not do this. In addition, I walked several kilometers
to work. Working with me were Pinkhas Niedziela and Lewkowicz. By chance, my situation improved. Mordekhai Frenk once came to me and asked that I make a pair of pants for him. I answered that if the meister [mastercraftsman] in the workshop would permit me to do so I would sew the pants. The meister permitted me to do so. When he saw that I could work, he told me to put aside the pants and ordered me to sew for the work leader. This is how I began to work in the tailors workshop. In the morning I went to work with all of the camp inmates. At night I went to work in the workshop. For my work I received enough to eat. I divided it with Lev Mendelowicz, my nephew. In the end, I was taken on permanently to work in the workshop.
I received a bit of news from Blechhammer that all of the boys were murdered there. I did not want to tell that to Lev, that his brother, Chaskel, was no longer alive.
Another transport was sent from our camp. I was not successful in keeping Lev with me. He said to me: Uncle Moshe, do not worry, fate is taking me. Perhaps I will find someone in the camp, my mother, father or my sisters. After the last transport only 130 remained of 700 people in our camp.
It was not bad for me in Kletendorf. I worked for the quartermaster; we organized a secret group and established contact with two Breslauer quartermasters; the second one was called Zeydele [little grandfather] - an old Social Democrat. They told us that if a malicious edict were issued against us, they would come to our aid; they would set a barrack on fire. That would be a sign that we needed to escape.
Not far from us was a camp, Markshtadt. The camp was liquidated and the people and their kapos - Leibele Bosak and Hershl Muk, both Bedzin louts - were sent to us. The group of artisans, shoemakers, tailors, laundrymen who were employed in the workshops informed the judenelterster that they would take revenge
against the unfamiliar kapos who beat our brothers. He answered us: Do it, I know of nothing. We beat the kapos. They ran and complained to the wache [guard] and then met the Germans with whom we had a connection. The kapos received blows from them and they were sent away with a transport a few days later.
In the Torture Camp (Katzet [Nazi Concentration Camp])
The S.S. men surrounded the camp during the month of October. We were sent to the Waldenburg camp. There, everyone had to undress completely and instead of our own clothes, we received paper bags. They took everything I had with me. The blows I received did not matter to me; neither did the clothes that were taken from me, only that they took the photographs of my wife and child. Because of this I was completely dejected. There was not a great deal of time to think in the katzet. We went to work.
Those who were last were beaten with rifle butts by the guards. We worked very hard. When Shramer [possibly Schramel], the camp leader, came to the construction job, he would take a brick and hit someone in the head. When blood flowed, he asked him, who did this to you, when the victim answered that he did not know, the murderer laughed and went away satisfied.
When we arrived in the camp, Schramel, the camp leader, told us to fall. We fell with our faces in the snow. He ordered us to stand up and again fall and we lay like this for a long time and he pressed our heads into the snow with his heavy-booted feet. Then he ordered us to stand up and to fall on our backs. Thus the torturing was constantly repeated. There was no day and night. We had to toil without food and without sleep.
He brought in prizes that were the greatest misfortune for a person. The prize consisted of a watery lunch and five cigarettes. There were passionate smokers. They
gave away their piece of bread for the entire day for one cigarette. The people became swollen from not eating. The miracle was that it already was close to the liberation.
A friend came to me and said: he did not know what to do; he had succeeded in arranging a little chopped straw with bran that he had taken out of the horse sacks while they were eating. He took a can of water and set this to cook and now he had to leave it and return to the camp. He could not find a solution; they were having the roll call and they would see that one was missing. If they caught him, things would be miserable. I advised my friend that he forget about the food and go to the camp.
We were afraid that we would be sent away with a transport because we had heard that they were murdering those on the transports along the way. It was said that the Russians were nearby. We would survive the hardships and live to see the liberation.
On the 4th of May the camp leader came to the electrified entrance. He threw the keys into us and said that the judeneltester would soon tell us everything and the Germans escaped along with the guard who watched over us at the electrified wire.
This was on the 5th of May. At a quarter after four, the chief kapo gathered 30 of us men. I broke into the middle. He told us that the oberscharfurher [senior squad leader] had been good to the Jews and that we would take him into the camp and hide him. He lived in a wagon room not far from the camp.
I turned to the tortured men: Comrades, the camp leader and the guard are not here; do not be afraid of the chief kapo, Berek from Jaworzno.
I tore off my black shirt that once had been white. I made a white flag out of it that I placed on a stick. I went in front. The camp prisoners followed behind me. The kapo trembled for his skin. The Russians came with tanks. A tank stopped. A member of the Red Army asked what kind of people were we? There was among us one who knew English, Spanish and Russian. He informed them that we were
concentration camp inmates. They threw us bread with chicken fat and traveled on. Men immediately ran into the streets. The Germans, the great heroes had run away before the Russians [arrived] and had left everything unguarded.
The liberated prisoners entered the stores, quenched their thirst and returned to the camp. The food to which they were unaccustomed immediately was bad for their health. Many became ill, many died. I escaped right away. I took a bicycle from the Germans and rode to Breslau.
In Breslau I met a friend of mine and he told me that he had a room and that I should live with him because it was impossible to travel to Czenstochow. I accepted his invitation. In the morning I went out into the street and saw a sign with the inscription, Committee of P.P.R. I went into the committee and offered my cooperation. I received a rifle and, later, a revolver. Two Germans, Weiss and Frentsel, who declared themselves as communists showed me where the Nazis were hiding. I pulled them out of their hiding place and stilled my thirst for revenge.
We received food in the Soviet stolowke (canteen). I had no money. People began to conduct business. All of this did not matter to me. I protected the premises of the P.P.R. and searched for Nazi-Germans.
I met an acquaintance from Czenstochow; he delivered a greeting to me from my brother Fishl and sister. I wrote a letter to them. My brother came to me. I gave him the rifle. He took my place at the P.P.R. and I traveled to Czenstochow to see my sister, Leah, a cousin and a sister-in-law.
In Czenstochow I met a woman who with great difficulty took her five-year old child from the Poles. She became my wife.
All of us - my sister, my wife, the cousin and sister-in-law - came back to Wroclaw [Polish name for Breslau] and we settled into an apartment together in the same house in which my brother Fishl lived. To him came
Bluma Razin, Mendl Razin and Yakov Ahron Blau. Thus a homey environment was created.
A year after the war we learned that our brother Yankl was alive in Germany. We decided to travel to him. I occupied myself with Zionist activity in Germany and in 1948 I came to Eretz-Yisroel.
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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