« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


{514}

The Partisans of Sochaczew

related by Yechiel Silber

Translated by Jerrold Landau


When the war broke out, everyone fled from Sochaczew to Warsaw. When the Germans entered Warsaw, people immediately began to flee back. This happened in my family as well. In the morning when we returned, we and many others no longer found our houses. The houses of the returning refugees had already been snatched by the Poles. The rest of the houses had been destroyed by the bombardment. We had to all live in one room, so long as we had a place to lie down.

The Germans immediately began to capture people for work. I was among them. They snatched men and women, young and old. I was sent to the train station with a group of women, including some Poles. The Germans ordered the women to wash the floors and to bring water. When the women asked the Germans for rags to do the washing, they were ordered to remove their undergarments, use them to wash the floors, and then put them back on. I was the only man among them, and when I saw their embarrassment and shame at the instruction of the Germans to remove and then put on again the wet, dirty undergarments, I decided on the spot: No, I will not remain here.

The next day, I and a group of friends – among them Vove Brzezinski, Gershon Hojker, Yisrael Gothelf, Lichtensztejn, Hollander, and Aharon Fursztenberg left the train, and fled from Sochaczew to Bialystok.

After spending about half a year in Bialystok, the group began to long to return home to Sochaczew. I told them that I was not going to return. The group was afraid to return without me, and they begged me to return with them and then go back alone to Bialystok. I could not withstand their begging, and decided to accede to their request. We went to the border village of Zareby Koscielne. There, we stole across the border.

I could not return to Bialystok, and therefore I decided to go to Stolpce. Skurnik lived there. When I arrived there, I found Mania Brzezinski, and Sara Skurnik with her brother, his wife and children. I worked in a Russian cartel until 1941. All of the residents left the city. It was only we whom the Russians did not allow to flee. When the Germans took the city, they immediately sent me back to my work as a tailor. When the Germans set up the ghetto, they did not order me to live in the ghetto. However, the Jews wanted me to live in the ghetto, because at that time they were organizing a group of rebels. They had found a stash of weapons in the place where I was working for the Germans. The Jews wanted me to help with the underground work. The German boss respected me, so I worked out with him that he would allow me to sleep in the ghetto.

At one time, the boss said to me, “Today you will not be sleeping in the ghetto, for tomorrow they will exterminate all the Jews there”. After hearing the tragic news, I immediately ran to the Judenrat and told them what was to take place in the ghetto tomorrow. Then I went to the German boss and asked for his assistance in saving two families from the thousand who were concentrated there. He went to the ghetto with me and removed the two families.

The next day, the boss came to me and led me to the attic of the cartel, where he apparently hid me. Through the tiny window, I saw how the Germans and Latvians arrived with various weapons, and went straight into the ghetto. They immediately opened fire after entering the ghetto, until nobody was left alive. Finally, they found a few people still alive. They led them to a field and shot them there. After it was all over, the Germans and Latvians left. I then entered the ghetto to search for the bunker where a group of friends were hiding, and I rescued them from there.

A while later, they began to bring articles of clothing to the cartel where I worked. These were the garments of murdered Jews. They were sorted there. Many of them were distributed to the Polish people, who had to bring butter, fowl and other items in return.

At one point, the boss told me that he was going on vacation for a brief time, and that I was to keep things in order. A temporary substitute was appointed as boss. The substitute informed me that he requires 30 people for the work in the cartel. I entered the ghetto and brought 30 people. We decided amongst ourselves to smuggle weapons into the ghetto, and that is what we did. Everyone put weapons in their knapsack. We brought them into the ghetto. At approximately 10:00 p.m., we took out the hidden weapons and went out to set the cartel on fire. As we did this, we swore that we avenge the spilled blood. Then, as the cartel went up in flames, we all went out to the forest.

Only seven people survived from that group. After the liberation, two remained in Lodz and five went to Israel: Rivka Kantorowicz, Notek, Maniek Werthajm, and the writer of these lines. The other 23 did not witness the liberation.


Life in the Forest

The fleeing of the 30 who ignited the cartel succeeded, and all arrived in the forest in peace. At the first consultation it was decided that if the Germans were to find any of us, each of us would know how to take revenge. Whoever would remain alive would come to a designated point in the forest.

We were still new to the forest. We noticed a small house from afar, and we decided that three people would go there to take food. The others would remain at the border of the forest to guard the three. Along the way we shot a few times into the air in order to scare the peasant who lived in the little house. When he saw the three, he indeed gave them a loaf of bread, and he told them to come again the next morning to get a fresh loaf of bread. In the morning they set out again to the little house. As they approached, he opened fire upon them. They threw themselves upon the ground and began to retreat. At night, we all gathered at the designated point and decided to take revenge upon the peasant. Some of us went to set the house on fire.

In August, 1942, we joined up with a group of partisans. However, the gentiles warned us that in this region there is a group of partisans that go by the name Nekrasow, who rob everything from the rescued Jews and then shoot them.

A gentile advised us that we should go deeper into the forests, about 10-15 kilometers further on. There, the forests are larger, and we will be more secure. It became clear that there were some White Polish partisans there, who murdered any Jew that crossed their path. One night, they indeed opened fire upon our group and killed someone. We then took a stand against them, and another of our group fell. We had to move on from there and settle in the region of Humniska, where there were White Russians. We immediately began to dig pits and make dwellings, because winter was arriving. We dug three large pits: two for people and one for all other things. When we finished, we decided to collect food for a few months. We spread out far from our point, so as not to give any hints as to where we lived. Along the way, we took a horse and wagon from a farmer, and took as much food as we were able to. In the meantime, the farmer alerted the Germans about the situation. The Germans spread out along a certain way in order to capture us, but we avoided them by not following the straight path, but rather going by side fields. We hid the food very well, and sent the horse and wagon free far from the forest. That same night, we heard terrible shooting. The next morning, we came upon a nearby farmer and asked him about the shooting that night. We found out that a German patrol came upon the empty wagon that we had set free. They switched routes and went along the route where the second patrol was waiting for us at a certain place. They recognized the horse, and not knowing that Germans were sitting upon that wagon, they opened fire, being sure that they were shooting at us. The Germans sitting in the wagon themselves thought that partisans were shooting at them, so they shot back. 45 Germans from both sides fell.

At the end, they shot the farmer, for they suspected that he was involved in this situation.

When we heard from a farmer that they were preparing to liquidate the Stolpcer Ghetto, we decided to go to Stolpce to rescue Jews.

In Stolpce, we came across Sara Skurnik and her brother, already without the children, as well as Mania Brzezinski. We begged them to come with us to the forest, where they had prospects of remaining alive. Skurnik did not want to, for at the time he was conducting good business. Mania also did not want to, for she was working for a “good” German who assured her that he would save her.

We returned to the forest with great regrets. The Germans had a list of Jews who were in the forests, and from time to time they announced that a certain person had been captured and shot. Of course, we partisans did not trust anyone, but unfortunately, the Jews believed the Germans.

We became involved with a farmer named Karpowicz not far from the forest. We found out from him what was being said about the Jewish partisans. Through him, we also sent letters to Skurnik and Brzezinski in the ghetto, and begged them to save themselves, for the Germans decided to make the entire area of Stolpce Judenrein.

When the farmer returned, he told us that not one Jew remains in Stolpce.

Every evening, two different people of us went to the farmer, whom we called “Legalczyk” [1] in order to find out news. In January 1943, Natan and Maniek Werthajm, two brothers, went. This was on a Thursday. They found out that on Sunday, the wedding of a White Russian policeman would take place, for whom we had been searching for a long time because he had shot a Jew in Rubezhevichi. We immediately decided to take our revenge. One of our group went to Legalczyk, and he sent his wife to find out where the wedding was to take place. We received the news that the policeman we were looking for, along with two Germans and two other policemen, could be found there. When we arrived at the location of the wedding, we found those five people drunk. We immediately took them to us in the forest. We killed them when we reached our point.

The next morning, a group of police came to the village, arrested 200 people, and demanded that they inform them of the location of the Jewish partisans. However, none of them knew.

A short time after that event, the Legalczyk informed us that the Germans were preparing to take control of the forests, and would find all those who are located there. The farmer advised us to move from our point. After a meeting of all of us, we decided to move on and seek partisans. Only one, Leib Walecki and his wife said that we should remain there for the summer.

Every day, we received information from Legalczyk about the situation. We heard that the Germans were deciding to gather up many people for work. In the meantime, our departure from the place was delayed.

Once, in the month of March, when Rivka Kantorowicz was taking her turn on guard, she saw a woman near her, and close by to the woman a man. She became perplexed and did not know what to do. In the meantime, the two left, and Rivka came to tell us about it. We immediately went to search for the two. We could not find them, and decided to leave the place that night.

At 11:00 p.m., we heard a large explosion. We realized that they had broken into our place, being certain that they would find us there. A short time later, we left the area.

We set out for Naliboki Pushta[2]. The headquarters of the partisans was there. We thought that we might be able to join up with them, but we could not do so because it was impossible to come to within 100 meters of Naliboki Pushta. Therefore, we had to go a different way, to the forests of Rubezhevichi. There, we found approximately 150 Jews of Rubezhevichi.

They told us that partisans always come to them. They were very afraid of us, for we were all armed with weapons.

We found out from them that among the partisans that come to them, there are some who take the weapons and everything that they can find from the Jews. One was called Tolek from Kubinow's Otriad[3]. A second was Minin, a military commander of the high headquarters. They told us to be discrete, as they may soon come to take our weapons. At that rendezvous, the partisans told us that there is also a Legalczyk of Kuninow's Otriad.

I and Werthajm, a teacher from Mlawa went to Rajskie to talk to him. We told him how many people we were and how many weapons we had. We asked him to put us in touch with the partisans. He told us to come back on April 15, and one of the Otriad would be present.

We came at the designated time. There we found a group seated around a set table. We told them of our activities to that point, and they confirmed that they had heard about a group of Jews who were roaming around the area. We requested that they accept us into their partisan Otriad. Their answer was that the men could join, but not the women. We did not accept their terms, and decided to meet with them a second time. However, the second meeting also did not bring any results, for they held to their conditions, and we did not want to leave our women to their deaths. Thus, we departed with nothing.

In the interim, the winter ended. At the beginning of the summer, Jews with weapons began to come to us from the Baranovichy Ghetto. We became somewhat stronger with them. Then we decided to conduct some activities. We decided to go to the small town of Ivaniki not far from Rubezhevichi, we were found about 10 policemen, and finished them off.

On a specific night, we came to the place where the policemen were located. The policeman who was standing on guard perceived our arrival, and he immediately shot into the air. We immediately took up our posts and answered with fire upon the house. The shooting lasted for approximately a half an hour. We were not fired at from that house again. We became suspicious and felt that we were being surrounded. We decided to send a group of 7 people to the other side of the house and throw a grenade. When we saw that they also did not answer back to that, we decided that 10 people should enter the house to see what the silence was about. I and 9 others entered and found nobody. Apparently, they succeeded in fleeing. They left behind everything – products, animals, etc. We loaded everything onto a wagon, set the house on fire, and left.

The next day, a few partisan commanders arrived to seek out the Jews who conducted this piece of work. We introduced ourselves to them. They extended their hands to us, and sat down to eat and drink with us. They said that they would immediately send a notice to Moscow stating that a small group of Jewish partisans is being very helpful, and is conducting such fine work.

We once again presented our request to join their partisan group, so that we could do even more important work. However, they stuck to their condition: only without the women, and we did not want to abandon the women.

We heard that the Germans were preparing to conduct roundups in the entire region. All of the partisans began to retreat from the villages and enter the Pushta, the forests that were located up to Moscow.

We could not go into the Pushta because we were not official partisans. We had to remain in the region. We knew that the roundups would begin at the beginning of June, so we immediately divided into groups of three. Each group of three had to take responsibility for itself, and had to concern themselves with everyone.

The roundups began on July 10, 1943. First, they sent the gentiles[4], and the Germans followed after them. The roundups in the Pushta lasted for approximately three weeks, but in our area it was only for one day. The Germans asked the gentiles about the Jewish partisans, but the farmers were afraid of telling anything, for they wanted to protect their lives.

They left the Pushta after three weeks without any results, for they did not meet up with the partisans who were controlling the Pushta. After that, the partisans began to return to the villages. That night, I and Natan Werthajm went straight to a farmer. As we were eating, a commander of Kalinin's Otriad entered. Given that he had heard about us, he asked us about certain details, and then informed us that they had decided to accept us into the Kalinin Otriad. He told us that in two weeks, he would send to us a partisan with a letter, and he would bring us to the partisans of his Otriad.

Minin appeared during that time. He was somewhat drunk, and he shot three women and one man of the Rubezhevichi Jews. We were two kilometers from the place where the four Jews were shot. We immediately came to the place after we heard the shooting. We removed his weapons and wanted to shoot him on the spot. However, we decided to bring him to us alive, and not take revenge upon him at that point. In answer to our call, a partisan named Kolker, a Polimioczyk, came from the headquarters. He demanded that we turn over Minin, upon whom there was a writ of authorization. We refused to do so, and demanded that he bring a commander from his headquarters to judge him on the spot. We would only give him over if he was sentenced, for Minin warned us that if we were to kill him, his friends would kill us all.

The next day, the headquarters sent to us the Natshalik (official) Sztaba. We told him everything that had transpired. He requested that we turn over Minin and his machine gun, and they would judge him in their headquarters. We could not refuse his demand, and turned him over. We were interested in a trial, for we heard that they had not yet judged Minin. We had also heard that a group of partisans from their Otriad were preparing to take revenge upon us. We were prepared for anything, for we had once encountered their group of partisans. We loaded our guns with bullets so that we could defend ourselves. However, apparently they were afraid of engaging us, for they saw that we were prepared.

Thus did the relations between us become strained until the two partisans came to take our entire group into the Kalinin Otriad. Everyone in the Otriad knew that the “Charny”[5] group was joining them. (This is what they called our group, because of the writer of these lines, Yechiel Silber, who had dark hair.) They were very happy with us and did not believe that we were Jews, for Jews do not conduct themselves in that manner. They believed that Jews did not know how to take revenge, but only to sacrifice themselves in sanctification of the Divine name.

We then decided to inform the commander of the Otriad that Minin the military commander of the high headquarters, was found shooting four Jews. They told us that they would judge him, but we had not heard any news of a trial against him. On the contrary – he had threatened to take revenge upon us. The commander ordered us that the next day, two of us would travel to the brigade. That is indeed what happened. Two of our partisans traveled with him to the brigade, met with the Natshalik Asabavadiela, and told him about Minin. He assured us that in one week, they would arrange a trial about that matter.

On the designated day, we received an order that our entire group must come to the high headquarters.

Minin was already present, and upon our instructions the entire accusation was laid. He confessed, and defended himself by stating that he had been in a drunken state. After the declaration, the commander convened a general meeting of all the partisans of the high command. There, he read the protocol and demanded that those gathered carry out the sentence. The sentence was death. Everyone agreed that he was deserving of the death penalty.

Then, Minin himself turned to “Charny”[6] asking him if he wanted to shoot him. The answer was: “Yes! I am prepared to shoot such a dog.” The order to shoot came immediately, and he shot Minin with 4 bullets – one bullet for each Jew that was shot.

Minin was wearing a fine leather coat. The commander ordered that a certain Zucker (today living in Tel Aviv) who was working as a printer in the high headquarters to remove the coat and keep it as a memento.

The partisans were weak until 1943, for there were many cases where the gentiles turned them in to the Germans. Later the partisans strengthened, and began to take over small settlements. They participated in regional activities and imposed taxes. Thus did they succeed in instilling a bit of fear in the peasant population.

The high command of all the partisans was located in the Pushta, where several thousand partisans were located, spread over an area of a few thousand square kilometers between Minsk, Vilna and Brisk.

Our region was Nowogródek and Nowojelnja. There were still many German soldiers in these towns, for these were two large railway hubs. The first activity of our group was to derail a train from the tracks. Four Jews and two Christians were sent out from the Otriad for this purpose. The Christians went to the Legalczyk when they arrived in the village. Every Otriad had its own Legalczyk. The group was served something to eat, and the Legalczyk went to the train station to find out when a train was coming. He returned and told us that no train was coming that week, because they were being redirected to another point to the right. We decided not to return with empty hands.

We went out into the area of Nowogródek. A peasant told us that he does not know when a train will be coming. However, he told us that the Germans usually arrive during the night. They bring clothing and kerosene, and receive in return butter, eggs, and other products. With this information, we decided to wait until the next morning in order to find out how many Germans come there. We divided ourselves into two groups. One group remained close and the other a bit farther out.

Suddenly, we saw three Germans arriving with sacks. We let them approached. As they came close to us, we opened fire upon them and saw as two fell immediately and the third was wounded. Then, we ordered them to raise their hands. They did so. We brought them to the village. The wounded one gave us important information. Then we brought them to the Pushta to stand trial.

It was clarified that everything that the Germans brought to the gentiles was from the Jews. After the trial, the commander gave the Germans over to my hands to shoot them. I awaited the order of the commander, and took the three Germans to Bielski in the Otriad.

The partisan chief was called Bielski. The commander gathered together all of the elders, women and children from Nowogródek and Nowojelnja, Lida, Baranovichy – Polish Jews and others. Approximately 1,500 hundred Jews whom he took care of and defended were gathered together. The three Germans were brought to them so that they could take revenge upon them. The commander himself gave over the three Germans to the Bielski headquarters as a present.

An older woman, Gittel Barkowski, immediately recognized one of the three Germans as the murderer who took her daughter out of the house and murdered her.

Bielski immediately called together the 1,500 Jews and said to the Germans:

“Here are the Jews with whom you made a great error, intending that you would do to the Jews whatever you want. Now they are here, and they want to take revenge upon you.”

The woman Gittel Barkowski was the first to take revenge upon the German who had murdered her daughter. The other Jews carried out the sentence upon the other two.

A short time later, we received the news that a train was to arrive, and we should go about doing our work. When we went further out from our region, we were informed that a train would come that night along the Molodeczner Line.

In Molodeczno, we immediately got in touch with a Legalczyk, who was to give us all the information. He informed us that during that night, a train of soldiers would pass through on its way to Stalingrad. We began to plant mines close to the lines. Then, we distanced ourselves approximately 30 meters. At 3:00 a.m., we heard the train approaching. Then, we distanced ourselves further from the track and waited.

At that point the train began to slow down for the route was hilly. When it came to the mines, they all exploded. We heard the cries of the wounded when we were already quite far from the site. Early in the morning, we sent the Legalczyk to find out information about what happened, and how many Germans were there. He brought us an answer that the entire train was full of Germans – a few hundred Hitler youth.

When we returned to the Pushta, they already knew about our work. The chief immediately wrote on our chart: another train derailed from the line. For every partisan group had its chart in the headquarters.

The high command from Moscow issued an order not to permit the Germans to obtain help from any place that they had used.

One day they called me to the headquarters and told me: You are a Stolpcer and know the area well. There is a settlement called Œwier¿eñ a kilometer from Stolpce. There, there is a sawmill that works for the most part for the German airplanes. The sawmill obtains lumber from the forests. An order was issued by the chief of the sawmill that only Germans could obtain lumber from the sawmill. A few days later, some peasants came to obtain lumber, and he did not let them. We immediately got in touch with our Legalczyk asking him to find out what is going on with the Germans.

The Legalczyk informed us that there were many German aviators in the sawmill who could not travel home. On Sunday morning, the Germans would be sending three automobiles into the forest to put an end to the partisans.

On Saturday night, three Red partisans, belonging to three different groups, were sent out to surround the Germans with fire from all sides. We designated a point near the slaughterhouse approximately one kilometer from the sawmill, that is the point that we figured would be one kilometer from the place from which they would set out to drive, and they would still have to drive 10 kilometers from there.

At approximately 8:00 a.m., we already began hearing them singing: Germany, Germany… meaning that they still had to drive a long way. As they approached somewhat, the order was issued: Fire! None of them succeeded in putting their gun in their hand. All of them were shot. I finished off those who were only wounded. We removed the military fatigues from 90 Germans. All were placed in a pile, and an announcement was made: “Pardon them, Mr. Boss. The next time, when they will send more, they will come in better packaging”…

We returned to the Pushta was a great deal of arms.


In the Bielski Otriad

I met with Bielski and he proposed that I and a group of young partisans should go over to him, for he is having difficulty eating[7]. He has many older men, and the region in which they are located is quite poor. I approached the commander of my Otriad and told him that I wished to join Bielski's Otriad. At first he did not want to let me go, but then he took into account my great service and agreed.

There were several workshops in the Bielski Otriad, where almost everyone was employed. Through this, they greatly helped the partisan groups. There was a tailor workshop, a shoemaking shop, a hairdresser, a large bakery, various leather works, sausage factories, and a gun workshop. There were also hospitals for various illnesses.

I lived well in my new place. I had the feeling that I would end up in the Land of Israel. In general, Bielski's Otriad was called “Jerusalem”. I co-opted seven people. The first thing that I did was to bring food. Wherever I went, they knew me as an old acquaintance, for at that time, they felt the fear that I instilled upon the population. Therefore, they treated me with all good things.

I was taken to within a kilometer from Nowogródek, where no partisan foot had yet walked. I obtained food from the population. I collected eight wagons of food in a brief period and then went away, for we began to hear shooting in the direction of Nowogródek. With great haste, I set out to the first point of the partisan regime, where the “Orzinikidzi” Otriad was located. We rested a bit, got something to eat, and fed the horses. The Otriad was 50% Russian and 50% Jewish. When we spoke to the Jews of the Otriad, the Russians, asked who is the commander of the group. I introduced myself to them, and then an order came from their commander: Since you took food from our region, you must give it all over to us.

I answered them: If you can bring in one peasant who can confirm that I took the food from him, it will go to you. Not only this, but also double and multiples. However, they were completely unwilling to give in, and they demanded the eight wagons of food.

I issued an order to lie down and load up the guns. I ordered the Jews of the Orzinikidzi Otriad to quickly distance themselves from there. They fulfilled my order because they were afraid of becoming involved or of mixing in to the matter. I ordered the commander of the Otriad to immediately run away from there.

When they saw that we were not “cold” Jews, but rather Jews who knew how to open fire, they began to distance themselves from the entire matter by saying that they were only joking when they demanded the food from us. However, I stuck hard to my decision that they must move away from there, for the Soviet Union did not have the authority to demand such a thing. When they heard these statements, they ran off. We immediately loaded the horses and returned to our Otriad.

I cannot describe the joy in our Otriad when we arrived with the wagons of food.


1944

In honor of the new year, we decided that the Bielski Otriad must not only sit and eat, but must also take revenge.

Karelic was a small town where there were many Germans, and even more police who subjugated the White Russians. We decided to shake them up a little.

We organized a few young forces and set out for a village not far from Karelic. A few of us acted as if we were drunk, and the others surrounded the village. We saw how a peasant went in to town, most certainly delivering the news that drunken Jewish robbers have arrived. Shortly, we saw an automobile with Germans. As they approached the border of the village, we greeted them with a hail of bullets and fire. Approximately 20 Germans were killed. We took their weapons, returned to the Otriad, and immediately organized new groups.

We organized a group whose task was to derail trains from the tracks. The first train was near Nowojelnja. It was full of weapons. The heads of all the regions arrived and began to divide up the weapons among themselves. Because of this, Bielski's Otriad became known as good fighters.

There was a brigade of Poles close to Bielski's Otriad. From time to time, they permitted themselves to exterminate Jews. Later, they even began to exterminate many Russian partisans.

Once, one of our groups entered a village in order to conduct a piece of work, and encountered the Polish partisans. They invited our group into a house, gave them something to drink, and immediately ordered them to put their hands up. They removed their weapons, and took them out into the forest at night to shoot them. Only one of them, Itche Berl, a youth from Rubezhevichi, succeeded in getting away in the following manner: At the time that the Polish partisans returned to the village in order to send peasants to bury those who were shot, he succeeded in escaping. He went to the Otriad and told them everything.

The chief command was immediately told about the matter. They transmitted the information to Moscow. A command was immediately issued from Moscow to remove the weapons from the Poles.

A few partisan Otriads organized themselves, and went out to the Poles to remove their weapons.

A plebiscite was conducted in the morning: who wishes to remain with the partisans and who wants to go home. All had to register. The camp had several thousand people, and only a few dozen chose to remain.

Those of the Poles who registered to remain as partisans were grouped into one Otriad told us that they had a directive to murder all Jewish and Russian partisans. Their headquarters was located in England, under the leadership of Nikolajczyk. The camp which was supposed to remain free was free to go to the other world…[8]

We then resumed our work of derailing trains and providing food for the old people, men and women.


June 1944

When the German army began to retreat, we received a command to remain on guard, for the Germans were retreating through the Pushta.

Thousands of Germans appeared. The Pushta was full with them, and since all the partisans were concentrated there, the Germans had to content with them.

Not one German left the Pushta alive.

Around July 20, a group of approximately 1,000 Germans suddenly appeared not far from our Otriad. Bielski issued a command to clean out all the Germans. We went out to them and negotiated with them to get them to surrender. Their answer was that they were willing to surrender to the Russians, but not to the partisans.

We immediately responded with fire. Another Otriad came to assist us when they heard our shooting. We and they finished it off. During the shooting, another large group of Germans approached our Otriad. Unfortunately, 10 people fell from our side, including young women.

A few hours later, another large group of Germans arrived. We immediately took up new points, and opened fire upon them. This lasted for 15 minutes. We sent a delegation to meet with a delegation from the Russian army. We were very happy, although our joy was mitigated due to the loss of 10 people, who fell in the last minute before the liberation. The Red Army arrived about 10 minutes later. It is impossible to describe what each of us felt at that time. The first question that each of us had was whether anyone from our families was still alive?

A command was issued that everyone to leave the reason and immediately return to his place. We returned to Nowogródek.


After the Liberation

On the first day, we guarded German captives whom we put to work. Each of us supervised 100 Germans.

A command was issued that all partisans must register. We were going to continue to conduct the war. All were informed that a command was issued to go to the front near Warsaw.

In the meantime, many Germans and White Russians concentrated around the points of the partisans. Then a command was issued that some of the partisans must remain to exterminate the remaining Germans in the forests.

The Istrobitelne battalion remained and joined up with the Otriads, and we began to conduct a battle. Every day, the “heroes” had to be given over to us, and we took captives.

Then they sent me to Vilna as a member of the militia. From there, I went to Kovno. There, I discussed with a group that, as the Red Army leaves, we should make our way to Romania, and from there, we would steal our way to the Land of Israel. This plan did not work out, for we were not able to reach the border of Romania. Therefore, we had to return to Kovno, where we lived until 1945, when Warsaw was taken.

We consulted with some of our group and decided to go to Warsaw. In Warsaw, I immediately met with Antek Cukierman, and we talked about the Land of Israel. “We were already waiting for a long time”, said Antek. I assured him that I would return the week after next, for I wanted first to go to Sochaczew to see if any of my family or townsfolk were still alive.

I arrived in Sochaczew on April 30, 1945. I met Hershel Gothelf and his wife, Pinia Wajnberg and his wife, and a few other Jews. They told me that unfortunately, none of my family is alive. I went to see the yard in which we lived. When I saw that a Pole lived in our house, I immediately returned to the group of surviving Jews. I told them that I am immediately moving on, for the city of Sochaczew is no longer our city.



Translator's Footnotes

  1. This term, used several times in this chapter, seems to refer to a local who served as an intermediary between the local population and the partisans. Return
  2. Pushta is the Russian word for forest. Return
  3. Otriad is a Russian word for a partisan detachment. Return
  4. Probably a reference to local gentiles. Hebrew word is 'goyim'. Return
  5. Charny (or variants thereof) means 'dark' or 'black' in Slavic languages. Return
  6. He is speaking in the third person here, as it seems that Charny is the author himself. Return
  7. Probably a euphemism for 'doing business'. Return
  8. I suspect that this is a euphemism indicating that after this admission, they killed off the Polish partisans. Return




{533}

The Last Ones of a Family

Machla Lewin-Botler

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 533: Maniek, the son of Shlomo Lewin.}

In 1945, when the bloody war ended, I immediately wrote a few letters to my brother in Sochaczew, not knowing if he was living. I also wrote to P. Wajnberg, asking him if he had met anyone from my family on the way. I did not receive an answer. A few months later, I received an answer from Wajnberg's wife, in which she told me what had happened with her husband, and told me that she had seen nobody from my family.

The hope of finding anyone from my family died, and I felt doubly alone.

Some time later I received a notice from the Organization for the Search of Relatives under the auspices of the Jewish Agency, informing me that somebody was searching for me. It is easy to imagine my feelings. I literally shook from joy and expectation. I could barely wait until morning. I then went to the agency and found out that my brother's son Maniek was searching for me. He was the only one that remained alive of the entire family.




However, Maniek was sick, and the Joint [1] sent him to Italy. A different Jew was able to go to the Land of Israel on his certificate.

We corresponded in this manner until 1951. Then I traveled to Italy to bring Maniek to the Land. The joy upon our meeting was indescribable.

I traveled from Rome to Grotta Ferrata, where the institution in which my Maniek lived was located. We were both almost silent for the entire way. Finally, near the end, Maniek began to explain that immediately after the liberation, he went to Sochaczew to search for anyone from the family. However, he found nobody. He did encounter my letter with my address. His mother and two sisters were deported to Treblinka. He does not know what became of his father (my brother). He described how he had seen death before his eyes many times.

There were 360 young people in the institution in Italy in which he was housed. All of them loved him, and everyone was involved with him. He was a handsome and intelligent young man. I will never forget the few weeks that I was in Italy together with him. I loved Maniek with my full heart, just like my own child. He did not return with me, though, as he wished to complete his studies in Italy.

Some time passed. Finally, he decided to embark on his long awaited trip to Israel on July 26th 1952. However his fate was otherwise. I received a telegram on July 10th that I must come to Italy immediately, as Maniek was seriously ill. I arrived in Italy after a six-hour flight.

I was in Rome. I stayed by Maniek's sickbed and watched as he was dying. I watched as he was dying, and could not do anything to help him. I was powerless. I requested a permit from the management of the institution to take Maniek to Israel, even though I knew that I would not be able to take him. He would die on the way. The management refused.

On July 11, Maniek gave up his pure, tormented soul. He left behind a will that I should bring his body to Israel.

Six years have now passed, and this remains with me as a stone upon my heart. His last words that he whispered to me are etched upon my memory: “You see, when I will be able to travel to the land of Israel… to the Land of Israel”.

His last words accompany my every step.

The last of the family.





{536}

From Among the First Victims

Rozka Szmulewicz (Rozenperl)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photos page 536: left: Avraham. Center: Hentche. Right: Aharon. The children of Reb Shlomo Rozenperl.}


From among the first victims of Sochaczew, there is Chaim Leib Liberman, his wife Tirza, their daughter Esther, and their sons Yehoshua and Yaakov (Rozka and her older brother were in Warsaw.}

Since that family did not have time to flee from Sochaczew with all of the Jews, they fled to Kampinos. Shlomo Rozenperl's son Aharon and two Jews from Grodzisk whose names I do not remember were with them.

At the time that the Germans marched into Sochaczew and Kampinos, that group of Jews was taken from their hiding place by the Germans, due to an informant. They were all shot.

The oldest son Yaakov fell down from great terror. The Germans thought that he was dead. After the shooting, the Germans abused the dead -- and even the living Yaakov. He let them do what they were doing and did not demonstrate any sign of life. He lay with the corpses for a long period of time, until he heard that everything was quiet around him. He then stood up and buried his father, his brother Yehoshua, Aharon Rozenperl, and the Grodzisker Jews. He made a marker, and fled to Blonie. There, Avraham Rozenperl and his sister Hentche made every effort to bring the shot people back to Sochaczew for burial. However, all efforts ended with nothing. Later they succeeded – for a large sum of money – to bring them to Blonie for burial. That was in the winter of 1940.

The son who was the witness to this went with all of the Jews to the Warsaw ghetto. There he was captured during a roundup. Where he was taken is not known.

{Photo page 537: Bracha and Avraham Hirsch Libfreund, Rachl (nee Holcman), murdered by the Nazis.}





{538}

A Memorial to our Fellow Native Yechezkel Adamczyk

M. L.

Translated by Jerrold Landau


{Photo page 538: Yechezkel Adamczyk of blessed memory.}

The name of Yechezkel Adamczyk should be mentioned in our registry of martyrs with praise and love for his good character traits and good deeds, which he did with his heart and soul.

All of the Sochaczewers who served together with him in the Polish army in 1920 will never forget him.




Translator's Footnotes

  1. The Joint Distribution Committee. Return




{542}

The “Transfer”

Y. P.

Translated by Jerrold Landau


In the year 1948, the Tz. K. Jewish Historical Institute of Jews in Poland opened up a scientific investigation by T. Brustyn-Bernsztajn called “Transfer in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Time of the German Occupation (1941-1942)”. In that work, one can find official data regarding the number of Jews in Sochaczew prior to and during the German occupation.

According to table number 1, the number of Jews in the region of Sochaczew and Blonie was 19,000 in 1939, and 16,818 in 1940 – 16.818.

The data indicates a great change in the territorial division of the Jewish population that started after the completion of the war operations in December 1939, and mass transfer in the Generalgouvernement of Jews out of the province of “Warthenau” in East Prussia, which began in November 1939, and did not lose its momentum until January 1940.

“As a result of the transfer from these places that were incorporated into the Reich, the number of Jews in the Warsaw district grew…”
The author demonstrates the contradictions in the German sources from that time.
“The estimates exaggerated the number of Jews in Warthau Land… The Jewish source, constructed from the Joint material, describes a budgetary project for the assistance activity in the Warsaw district (excluding Warsaw), and the general number of Jews in the Warsaw district (excluding Warsaw) is approximately 250,000.
The author further states:
“One must regard these numbers exclusively in a general manner, and the number of Jews in 1939-1940 remains concealed, just as all previous numbers, for everything was an estimate.”
These estimates will be left for the specialists. We are more interested in the migration, or as the author calls it: the transfer of the Jews from their places of residence to Warsaw, and their life there. It the chapter “The Transfer Politics” it states:
“The Jews from the western districts, that is from the Grodzisk, Sochaczew, Blonie, Lowicz, Skierniewice, and the western portion of the Warsaw district were transferred to Warsaw during the first quarter of the year 1941. For the most part they lived in areas for refugees. The greatest percent of those refugees died from hunger and communicable diseases caused by the meager conditions during their 1.5 years there. Human resources for the work camps were recruited first and foremost from among the refugees, and the first transports of Jews that were sent to Treblinka to be killed were from among the refugees.”
The bitter fate of the refugees in Warsaw was the end of a long death process from hunger and epidemics that the author mentions: The transfer from the borders of the districts in the western area of the Warsaw district and the region of Warsaw-Land; the description of dark ghettos; the emptying of settlements in villages; brick factories; and at the end he also mentions – Sochaczew.
“In the regions of Blonie and Sochzaczew, the populations of five towns were gathered: Grodzisk, Sochaczew, Blonie, Mszczonow and Wiskitki… The Zyrardow Ghetto, which was cordoned off in December 1940, was settled with 900 Jews from Sochaczew (Ringelblum's archive, 353). The ordinance to create a ghetto in Sochaczew first appeared in the city after the time when a portion of the Jews of Sochaczew was shipped to Zyrardow. The remaining residents of Sochaczew were settled in the ghetto on January 24th and 25th, 1941”…




{539}

My Grandfather's Home

by Esther Shoham

Translated by Jerrold Landau


Today permit me to sing
About Sochaczew
The town in which my mother
Took her first steps.
Where my grandmother piously
Lit the Sabbath candles,
And my grandfather uprightly
Conducted his life.

In my grandfather's house
One could hear Torah,
Business discussions
Were also heard from his mouth.
It was noisy with grandchildren
Daughter-in-law and daughter
A joyous intermingling
Of holy and secular.

The twisted challas
Glance forth discretely
They tried hard
To bake them earlier.
The aromas
Of the tasty food entice,
The Sabbath Queen is arriving
She is already standing at the door.

Sabbath in the morning,
The grandchildren are still sleeping,
From the large room
Praying is heard.
The sweet melody of
The Torah reading awakens them,
They pay attention
Enchanted and thoughtful.

But now – where is the kingdom
Of my dear Grandfather?
Disrupted is the house
Which was always prepared
To make a wedding for a poor orphan
And no poor person
Had to leave empty handed.

Disappeared – gone
Like a lovely dream,
My grandmother is not here, my grandfather
Is no longer here.
And my mother had already for a long time
Been with them both,
Leaving me only with
Sadness and a tear.

For the loss
Of the holy purity,
For the heartfelt truth
Jewish grace.
The winds of fate
Blew it all away,
As if it
Never was.

But no – it has been so long
That my mind cannot comprehend
So long that blood
Flows through my veins.
For so long do they
Yet live in my imagination,
Indeed they did not
Live for naught.

Through thousands of miles
And decades of years,
Their voices yet ring to me
Day in and day out –
And sweeter than wine
Are my memories,
The blessing still beckons to me
From my grandfather's home!







{544}

The Publication of the Book Du Prel

Magistrate Blumental

Translated by Jerrold Landau


The county office of Sochaczew-Blonie was composed of the former districts of Sochaczew and Blonie, and also of the city of Zyrardow. Four village regions that were close to the Wisla were included in East Prussia.

The county of Sochzczew-Blonie is approximately 1,690 square kilometers in size. Approximately 235,000 residents live there; including 4,000 Volksdeutchen. It is composed of 5 civic districts and 19 villages. The following are the cities:

Zyrardow with 30,000 residents
Groszisk with 18,000 residents
Sochaczew with 13,000 residents
Blonie with 8,000 residents
Mszczonow with 5,000 residents
Prior to the world war (?)[1] the number of Jews in the town was ¾ of the population. See 355[2].

In the first edition of the official guide to the Generalgouvernement in Poland in 1940: “Dr. Mase Freiherr du Prel: “Das Deutsche General-Gouwernement Polen”, the following statement is made regarding the city and district of Sochaczew.

The area of the district is 2,126 square kilometers, and consists of 5 free cities and 20 village organizations; 233,000 residents live there, including 8,000 Volksdeutschen and 20,000 Jews (See 210).

The county capital of Sochaczew, with 13,000 residents, is the seat of the county chief. At that time, it was Karl Adolf Patt. Branch offices of the county leadership were in Zyrardow (29,800 residents; land commissar was Wilhelm Denk), and in Grodzisk (18,600 residents; land commissar Richard Lisberg) (see 206, 207).

It is interesting that in the second edition of that book (from 1942) the number of Jews is no longer given; apparently the publisher knew that the Jews had already partially “disappeared” and the same fait awaits the few Jews that are still alive.

Regarding the ruins of the church, which was confused with a synagogue building, an official German publication gives the year as 1942, but it was really in 1911!






{546}

On the Ruins

by L. Fursztenberg

Translated by Jerrold Landau


Wherever I was on my wanderings since the time that I left Sochaczew on an autumn September day in 1939, I have always pined for my hometown. It is sufficient to close my eyes for me to see my town with its streets and lanes, even every alleyway, and the houses with their residents. Always before my eyes is the large market square and the new walking path by the Bzura where I used to bathe on summer days and spend time on the Sabbath. I lived there for 27 years and knew every stone. Then the bloody nightmare came. I realized that all those near to me were tortured by the Germans. Thus do I look upon my hometown.

In April 1946, after a seven year absence, I returned to Sochaczew, and I did not recognize the town. I could simply not believe that I was in the town in which I had lived for so many years.

Traveling to Sochaczew with a palpitating heart, visions from yesteryear floated before my eyes. I thought that, if nothing else, something would be remaining there and I would at least find a few Jews – perhaps someone from my family or perhaps a friend.

“Arriving in Sochaczew”, shouted the conductor over my thoughts. I got out of the car. No! He must have made a mistake. I stood there numb, not moving from the place and not uttering a word – for there is nobody to whom to do so. This must be a hoax before my eyes. My head is pounding. Could this be my native town? I was standing in the place where Mendel Ajzensztadt's tavern used to be. All of the cars used to stop there. Now I see only an empty quadrangle there, lit up, sown with grass, even with benches put out – now it is a park. There, in the empty place beginning from the church until Kolejowa Street (Lewkowicz's house), the entire Jewish population was concentrated. Here, there were many fine houses. There was the narrow Shul-alleyway that led to the synagogue. All of the funerals passed by here on the way to the cemetery. Here stood the Beis Midrash with the eastern wall that abutted the mikva (ritual bath). A little farther on was the beautiful building of the Yavneh School, upon which was posted a large tablet with the inscription “Talmud Torah, Founded by the Sochaczew Relief Committee of Chicago”. We then approach a tiny house which apparently had been part of a larger building – the location of the Jewish communal offices which were led for many years by Reb Yosef Wolkowicz. How many houses, how much Judaism had been in this corner of the city! If I was not mistaken, aside from one gentile, a shoemaker who lived in the house of “Yellow Beker”, there are not even any gentiles living there.

Now the entire Jewish quarter is overgrown with roots. Even the foundations of the houses have been dismantled, without even leaving a remnant. That area that was once teaming with Jewish life, with many Jewish children, grandmothers, grandfathers, is now calm and peaceful – a square, sown with fresh, green grass…

On the other side of the market, the south side, Jewish mothers would walk with their strollers. There was a great deal of sun there. There was an entire row of Jewish houses, starting from Trajanower Street and extending until the new brick Magistrate building which contained many shops (Izik Waldenberg's house). Where are the houses of the Nelsons, Gerszt, Brot, Zajac, and Velvel Pinczewski Who now comes to the entire row of Jewish shops where Jews used to earn their living? And the last shop of Baruch Mordechai Cohen – a tiny general store – where has everything sunk?

Yes, the Magistrate building is whole, nothing has moved, exactly as it was from those days. It would have been a shame for those German murderers to destroy the Magistrate building. Germans built it during the occupation time of the First World War. In that Magistrate building, Jews were 50% of the council members, and there was a Jewish vice-mayor. And the mayor himself, despite being a gentile, was “one of us”. They would refer to him as “the Zydowski Burmistrz” (Jewish mayor), for he was elected with Jewish votes and had to accede to Jewish demands.

Parne Street led out from the Magistrate building. Today it is empty and vacant. The Jewish houses and their residents were destroyed by the German murderers. They destroyed everything. There are not even any ruins of the houses left behind, they are covered with earth.

Here also are the houses of the Wajnbergs and the Czerwonieks, where the leader of the Zionist movement, the veteran Zionist activist Reb Simcha Grundwag used to live. Further on is Rozenperl's house and other small Jewish houses where Jewish laborers used to live. All of this no longer exists.

I arrived at the Farmer's Market. First I encountered the second building, the “Straszacke Shop”. I recall various images from yesteryear: Jewish cultural events, readings, administrative meetings at which people battled, shouted and ranted, dance evenings, Keren Kaymet bazaars, and workers' meetings where the lofty struggle between the Bund and the Communists took place. The best Jewish actors performed on the boards of the small stage, such as: Ida Kaminska, Wyslice, Orleska, Maurice Lampa, Wladimir Gudak with all the demons, and the half resident of Sochaczew – Jack Lewi. How much Jewish spiritual life, how much esthetic pleasure took place in that very “shop” where the Sochaczew dramatic club was led by the talented Nachum Grundwag until the final days. How many blows did we, the white group of friends, receive from the old gentile Wrubel, the guard of the “Straszacke Shope” for coming into the hall for a performance, a concert or a lecture without a ticket.

Now it is deathly silent and gloomy. One meets very few people here in the market. Not the Jewish Shlomoles, Mosheles, Chanales, who used to cross the large marketplace with their ringing voices as they were playing.

As I was seeking the footprints of the pre-Holocaust Jewish life, I set out for the cream of the crop of Jewry – the rabbis house and the Beis Midrash.

Apparently, fate had it that a tiny remnant should remain as a memorial to the eminent Sochaczew courtyard. The Rebbe's Beis Midrash remained standing, and was not destroyed. However, woe to the state in which I found it. Who lives there and defiled it…

I recall that during those “good” times, we did not give the appropriate respect to those holy places. The Rebbe's Beis Midrash always served as Baumarder's small soap factory. More than once my group snuck into the Rebbe's orchard. There was fruit of all kinds, and there was no guard. We already knew what to do there. However at the same time I used to like to go into the destroyed rooms of the Rebbe. Images of various birds, palm trees and fruit of the Land of Israel such as grape vines and oranges were painted on the walls. Children would sit there and tell various stories. The Rebbe's room would inject a sort of fear mixed with reverence into our group.

Now everything is lonesome, strange and un-Jewish. I left that holy place in a broken mood. Sochaczew Jewry had been destroyed with all of its holiness.

The other half of the city was more alive. However, not like previously. Many people glanced at me. It seemed to me that soon I would encounter an acquaintance. I went quickly, nervously – was it indeed true that Sochaczew was indeed Judenrein, with no Jews left?

Suddenly I heard someone calling my name from a shop. I trembled, perhaps there was indeed someone? I entered the shop. No, this was Tzipora the apostate, the blot on our Sochaczew – she who embarrassed and mocked not only her pious father but also the entire Jewish city. She survived by remaining in hiding. For the Germans she remained a Jewess…

She peppered me with questions. She was interested in every surviving Jew – everything that was connected with Jewry. In our discussion she interspersed a few Yiddish words, as if she wanted to find out if she still knew a bit of her mother tongue.

I quickly left her. I was interested to see if there was any other surviving Jew. I went onto the Warszawska Highway. Nothing much had changed, except that the Jews were missing. I went into the street along which we used to go to the yard of the landowner (poretz) of Czerwonka. The street was as it was. The police building, the “dom Lodawi”, and also the house of the “spole's”, the large new building of the post office and the starosta – everything was as it was except… Now we are approaching Yosef Wolkowicz' house – the Jewish building is no longer there. Michalski's mill functions as before, with the entire apparatus, but they are no longer their own. The mill was nationalized. Now he is a worker there.

A new park was planted right by the mill in 1932. There used to be a horse market there every Tuesday and Friday, and we would play football there every Sunday evening. The oaks in that park have grown very tall, but there is no Jewish youth to admire them.

I did not want to go further on to the hospital on Trajanower Street. Everything was in order there. That was always a Christian area. I do recall, however how young couples in love would walk to the waterfall at Shabtai Libert's mill and watch with romantic glances for hours as the water noisily and powerfully turned the wheels of the mill. I do not want to go farther! Shabtai Libert and his family are not there, and the wonderful Sochaczew youth who used to stroll there are also no longer there. The waterfall continues to noisily spray its frothy waves, but no longer for Jews…

I turn back to Warszawska Street the second half of the street, starting from the Kolejowe. That half of the city was almost as it was. Most of the houses still stand, and are untouched. Just like the beginning – the new house of Czerniewski, opposite the houses of Bajernaczis and Hafenung. Further on is Mone Breslaw's small house, Borensztejn's and Chaikel Kara's house, Yisrael Rojtsztejn's houses, as well as that of the Holc's. That entire length of street was untouched. It seemed to me that I might enter the shops and chat with their Jewish inhabitants Gothelf, Kac, Plonski. Right here was the bungalow of Berl Ogledzki, who would sell anything from a need to a book or a newspaper with a joke, a chuckle and a good word. Opposite it was Zajac's fashion workshop and Biezanski's paint factory. Further on was Skotnicki's house, built in partnership with the gentile butcher Klott. The gentile's house still stands, and he continues to sell his non-kosher merchandise, but the feldscher's (medic's) house was reduced to its foundation. Not a great deal has changed in all the aforementioned houses – only the shopkeepers are newly arrived Polish homeowners, taking the place of the true ones, the Jews.


{Photo page 551: Wolf-Itche Galek with his wife Malka.}

Chil-Meir Talman's three-story mansion, which was like a small village, is missing from the center of Warszawska Street. In this house one could find everything – various shops, a bank, organization, shtibels, all sorts of tradesmen, a shochet (ritual slaughterer), a scribe, a mohel (circumciser). The entire house was inhabited by dear, warm hearted Jews, and one gentile – a superintendent.

The post office. Images again float before me. How much Jewishness was in the post office! It was always full of Jews sending letters, telegrams and packages. They sent and received items from relatives in America, and arranged various monetary transactions with other cities. Boys and girls set the post office as a meeting place, where they would begin their “romantic” alliances. Of course, only gentiles worked in the post office. (I wish to make mention here of the postal official Przybysz, who was a friend of the Jews. He played the fiddle, made friends with Jews, and taught a young boy without means to play the fiddle without monetary compensation.)

It is worthwhile to enter the post office in order to see how it looks without Jews. I ascend the few steps. The post office was quiet. One customer stood there, and three officials looked at me through their windows, considering me as some sort of stranger. A melancholy and hollowness pervades there. I want to explain to them that despite the fact that Sochaczew Jewry was liquidated, a remnant remains, and there remains a great hope of continuity and existence. I order a postcard. I fill it with Yiddish letters and write the address with large clear letters, and I write only one word with Latin characters: ISRAEL.

For the last time in Sochaczew, I sent a postcard to my friend in the Land of Israel. I presented it to the window, and asked how many stamps I need. The employee, a woman whom I remembered from former times, was confused. She took the card and ran to ask the official. She did not know the price for it had been many years since such a strange postcard had passed through her hands. She returned, looked at me apparently without recognizing me, and told me the price without lifting up her eyes. I did not know why she did not look at me. Perhaps she understood something of the crime against our Sochaczew Jews, or perhaps she regretted that someone survived who writes Yiddish and was irritated with the fact that despite everything, Jews still remain and have their own place on the globe where they write with their own language. Secondly, I was wondering if my final letter from Sochaczew would reach its destination, or would the anti-Semitic officials destroy it. I left the post office without even saying “good day”, and went on my final walk through the streets of Sochaczew. (The postcard arrived and can be found in Israel today.)

I had already almost walked through the entire town. To my great dismay, I found no Jews. Sochaczew was indeed Judenrein. The dream of the Sochaczew anti-Semites was indeed fulfilled. What they had not accomplished through various political and economic struggles against Jews, they achieved via the Hitlerist murderers. With fire, swords and gas ovens, the Germans actualized the ideals of the Polish nationalists.

Indeed, there was still one place in Sochaczew where one could find a memorial to the Jews – the Jewish cemetery. Binyamin Greber was certainly no longer there with his cemetery hut, but the monuments and the canopies of the Tzadikim of Sochaczew would certainly remain. What could they have against the dead? Thus was I thinking as I walked along the way to the place of eternal rest of our ancestors. However, there, an image unfolded before my eyes that remains etched in my memory forever, and that will always evoke hate and wrath against the desecrators of the graves of generations of Sochaczew Jews. I saw before me a field overgrown with wild grass, no grave markers, no monuments, and not one brick of the canopies over the graves of the great Sochaczew Rebbes. However, it was not empty. On the contrary, it was noisy and joyful, with horses running around and cows and goats grazing, defiling the holy ground in which the bones of our dear ones lie.


{Photo page 553: Animals graze in the destroyed Sochaczew cemetery.}

I poured out my entire bitter heart, my great agony, and my great pain that has been building up all day on the shepherd girls. They did not say very much to me, but muttered something under their breath. However, on my command they had to round up the flocks and leave the holy place.

One marker remains indeed remains in the Jewish cemetery, like a bloody blot on the brow of the anti-Semitic Polish murderers. The monument over the grave of the youth, Pinchas Wajnberg, who was murdered by the Poles, remains. It is hard to describe the agonizing experiences and tough perseverance through which a Jew was able to remain alive during the bloody Hitler days. This happened with perhaps 30 Sochaczew Jews, among which was the young Wajnberg. His murderers were practicing more than homicide, more than Hitlerism. It is hard to comprehend what it means to lose one's life and suffer so many other tribulations in a terrible fashion on the day when the war ended.


{Photo page 554 top: The Survivors – Survivors from Sochaczew in Germany.}

{Photo page 554 bottom: Sochaczewers who returned from Russia.}

I bow my head over the fresh grave. I left the cemetery physically broken, agonized, and with great feelings of revenge.

Evening was falling. The sun was setting over the other side of the Bzura River. I must flee from Sochaczew very quickly. How terrible it sounds: to flee from my Sochaczew for which I had pined and waited for the moment that I could return. I decide to leave very quickly, not only from my hometown, but also from the land with its people, from the soil that soaked up the blood of our parents, brothers, sisters and young children…




{557}


9. Sochaczewers in the Land of Israel

Sochaczewers in America


{558}

Sochaczewers in Israel

by Yerucham Ejnes

Translated by Jerrold Landau


The thought of the return to Zion strengthened greatly after the First World War and after the Balfour Declaration. In our city as well there were many more adherents, not only from among the youth, but also from older, well-established householders. From the pulpits of the synagogues, emissaries from the Land of Israel appealed to the crowd to help build up the Land of Israel. The audience did not remain indifferent. The idea was spun in the hearts about a future in the Land of Israel, if not for themselves, then at least for their children.

Aharon Frydman Ish-Shalom of blessed memory traveled to Israel in 1920. His brother Yaakov of blessed memory also became involved in Zionist activities and traveled to Israel in 1921 together with his wife Rachel. My revered father Hertzke Ejnes left Sochaczew at the end of 1921 and made aliya to the Land of Israel. Machla Lewin-Butler and Miriam Lewin went in 1922.

The life of the new arrivals was not easy. The land was desolate. It was hard to find work. The prime work at the time was paving roads and draining swamps. People worked in terrible swamps and contracted fever. Cheap Arab labor worked in the orchards, and it was not easy to compete with them.

.Zalman Albert's wife Tauba Leah and her children, Fishel Wajnberg (Yisrael Karmi), Yosef Grundwag (the son of Simcha Grundwag of blessed memory), Moshe Frydman, Yitzchak Wajnstock, the Ejnes family, Bluma Wajnberg, Mendel Zaonc, Yisrael Balas, Eliezer Zalcman, Wolf Itche Geller, Yaakov Zadkoni (Rechtman) Moshe Brzezinski (Levanon), Rachel Wajnberg (Levanon), Moshe Ber Czerwank, Baruch Zalcman, Noach Walman and Itche Frydman all made aliya from Sochaczew to the Land of Israel in 1924, together with the so-called fourth aliya.


{559}

Gathering of Sochaczew Jews in Israel

{Photo page 559 top: Founding meeting, 1945.}

{Page 559 bottom: A gathering of Sochaczewers in Israel with their fellow native Fleischman from America.}

{Photo page 560: The first building group organized by Yaakov Frydman of blessed memory.}


A larger aliya did not take place. The burden of earning of a livelihood was heavy for our Sochaczew Jews, and unfortunately, they did not have the energy and courage to leave…

Furthermore, not all of those who did come were able to adjust to the climate and the difficult living conditions. Those who had come earlier made efforts to help the newcomers. Yaakov Frydman organized the first work group, composed solely of Sochaczewers. The group existed for a long time, and when it disbanded its members went to Afula. Machla Lewin-Butler lived there with her husband, and she concerned herself with finding work for the Sochaczewers.

The following live in Afula: Moshe Levanon, Mendel Zaonc, Yisrael Balas, Frumowicz, Yosef Grundwag, Wajnstock, Czerwank and others. They lived together, they cooked together, and they took care of those who were unemployed. When the work in Afula finished, they turned to Aharon Frydman the head of the Y.R.Ch. group in Jerusalem to provide them with work. Aharon wrote that they should come to Jerusalem to take part in the work. They traveled to Jerusalem, and worked for Y.R.Ch. It was said that this should have been called the Sochaczew group.

Nevertheless, not all of the Sochaczewers were able to acclimatize themselves to the conditions, and some left the Land. There were approximately 80 Sochaczew families in the Land at the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. None of us was oblivious to what was going on with our families who remained in Sochaczew.


{Photo page 561: The Audit Committee of the Organization of Sochaczew Natives in Israel, 1957-1962.}

Sitting from right to left: Committee members Elchanan Katz, Shlomo Frydman, Yosef Grundwag.
Standing from right to left: Leib Fursztenberg (Audit Committee), Golda Kirshbaum (Administrative Committee member), Shlomo Swiatlowski, Nathan Kipper (Audit Committee).
Missing from the photo is the Administrative Committee member Hertzke Graubard.



{561}

The Organization of Sochaczew Natives in Israel

It was September 1939. Tragic news came to us from Poland. Every day, the radio brought us news of Polish cities that fell to the Germans and of battles that were taking place near Sochaczew. On September 27, when Warsaw was taken, the Jews of Poland found themselves under the Nazi talon.

Dreadful news came from occupied Poland. New, terrifying concepts came from there: ghettos, aktions, roundups, Umschlag Platz, crematoria… The human mind cannot conceive of such horrors.

With the first call for help that came to us from the afflicted people, the Sochaczewers in Israel gathered together. The gathering took place in the home of Moshe Levanon on the intermediate days of Passover of 5705 (1945). From the news that was told to us, the extent of the terrible misfortune and the need to create an organization to help those in need and ease the pain of the survivors became clear. The “Organization of Sochaczew Natives in Israel” was founded. The first committee consisted of the members: Yaakov Frydman, Moshe Levanon, Yerucham Ejnes, and Moshe Eliezer Bornstein.

The organization made efforts to get in touch with the survivors who were scattered across Poland, Germany, Russia, etc.

The committee, and especially the chairman Yaakov Frydman, spend a great deal of time until they were able to make contact and establish a correspondence with them. Every letter told of the difficult experiences and tribulations that each person had experienced. It became clear that we should not only provide them with moral support, but that they also require material assistance to bring them to the Land, for they had lost everything. First and foremost they require a roof over their heads, and the means to set their lives in order.

The first sum of money came to use from the relief organization of our American townsfolk. The term “gemilut chesed” (doing of charitable deeds) was also well known to our Israeli townsfolk. The gemilut chesed cassa that was set up collected over 7,000 pounds, and obtained significant loans without interest and without the need for guarantors.

When the survivors started to arrive in Israel, it became clear that we must create a warm atmosphere for them. Various festivities were organized at which all of the natives of the town gathered together. A bond between all of us was forged. It is also worthwhile to note that we all participated in any joyous occasion of one of our townsfolk, or, Heaven forbid, a tragedy.


{Photo page 562: The presidium at a memorial gathering.}

The organization also organized receptions for our Sochaczewers who came to visit Israel. Among others, the following people visited over the years: Itche Fleischman of blessed memory, Yisrael Brafman and his wife, Aryeh Muney and his wife, Moshe Schwartz, Pesia Fursztenberg and her husband, Shlomo Schmeiser, Chaim Nelson and his wife, David Wolrat and his wife, Speishendler and his wife and daughter. Recently our friends Chazan and his wife, Landau and his wife and Zabocki and his wife came to visit.

The ceremony to memorialize our martyrs takes place every year on the 29 th of Shvat. On that day, all of the Sochaczewers in the Land come together in order to publicly remember the destruction of our community. It is also timely and necessary for us to collect all the facts about the destruction of our community with its thousands of people. It was decided to found a historical committee which will collect everything that is connected to the life and destruction of our community in order to publish a book as a monument that will inform future generations of our life and our tragic destruction.


{Photo page 563: Sochaczewers from throughout the Land at a memorial for their martyrs.}

{Photo page 564: The Rebbe Rabbi Henech, the son of the Shem Mishmuel, who continues the tradition of Sochaczewer Hassidism in Jerusalem.}

Over time the Committee of Sochaczew Natives has requested several times that we not neglect our duty imposed upon us by fate to relieve the pain of those who endured the Hitlerist hell.

The life of the survivors in Israel was not easy. However the feeling that they are among our own has helped them to slowly lay down roots and organize themselves.

The spark of mutual assistance was not extinguished in the Jews of Sochaczew. It came to expression with the Organization of Sochaczew Natives and also through the activities of our committees that guard the memory of our martyrs and maintain the contact among our townsfolk.

As well, Rabbi Chanoch (Henech) Bornstein, the son of Rabbi Shmuel (the Shem Mishmuel) continued the traditions of Sochaczew Hassidism. His Hassidim travel to Jerusalem to their Rebbe, hear from him the Sochaczewer style of Torah, and continue on with the golden chain of Sochaczew Hassidism.





{566}

A Monument for a Dear Soul

by S. Swiatlowski

Translated by Jerrold Landau


{Photo page 566: Moshe Aharon Widelec of blessed memory.}


Moshe Aharon, the son of Yechiel Widelec, had to start working already before his Bar Mitzvah.

In order to help with the livelihood in the house, he joined the ranks of the leftist circles.

During the time of the Spanish Civil War, he hid with a friend of his in the international Warsaw-Berlin-Paris train, with the intention of enlisting in the international brigade that fought on the side of the Spanish revolutionaries against the Dictator Franco. However, he was captured at the German border and shipped back to Poland.

He spent the last war under the Nazi talons and in Russian Siberia.

He came to the Land with his family broken and tired out from all of his wanderings. However, this did not deter him. With newfound strength, he set up a home for his family. He would express his contentment to all natives of his town. He was always prepared to help anybody in any way he could.

As he was driving his bicycle, he unfortunately slipped and lost his life at the age of 43.

A true lover of his fellowman and of the Jewish people passed away.




{568}

Yizkor

Translated by Jerrold Landau


Hertzke Ejnes, Chana Jalow (Ejnes), Sara Kaszman (Lewin), Reb Hershel Brzezinski

When one builds up a land such as the Land of Israel, every person who dies naturally or falls victim to the building of the Land is very precious.

Even though the group of Sochaczewites is small, they already have four graves in the Land of Israel.

It is our duty to perpetuate their names in our book, for they came to the Land of Israel and participated in its upbuilding in accordance with their powers. Not wishing to enter into an analysis of what brought them to the Land of Israel, the main point is: they indeed came to the Land of Israel and participated. “Even if only one brick in the wall was built”, it is considered as if they participated. The bitter fate shortened their life and they died. It was certainly difficult and supernatural that they could not overcome physically.

When I arrived in the Land of Israel 25 years ago, to create, liberate and build the homeland, the Jewish home for its people, I did not think about death at all. When I arrived in the Land of Israel it was as if I was reborn. I was like a newborn, a child, who had just entered the world. The person who must now begin to reorder a new life under completely different circumstances, difficult and more strenuous life circumstances. First of all, he must become a worker, and endure difficult work conditions. As a chalutz (pioneer) and a Zionist, he accepts everything with love. Even if the new life breaks his body, the spirit of the Land of Israel encourages him and strengthens him. This is what the Land of Israel demands of its sons.

We know that we must bring sacrifices. We were educated with the concept that we must sacrifice for the Land of Israel; however, did we think that we would die a natural death? No. Such a thought did not even enter our minds, because we did not have time at all to think about extraneous matters. We lived constantly with one thought: that we are the pioneers of the Jewish people, and that we must go ourselves or send our children out on guard to protect Jewish life or participate in the creation of the Land of Israel.

However, the years run by, we get older, our strength slowly ebbs, the nerves weaken, our state of mind often becomes broken due to various circumstances, then we began to ask and press one another… whose heart is struck with despair, and whose eyes began to see things upside down… and we begin to cast doubts on that unnatural point in our lives, or when a person cannot comfort himself and begins to think only about what is broken – then he becomes completely broken physically and the end is – death before his time.


{Photo page 569: Reb Hertzke Ejnes of blessed memory, from among the first of the Sochaczew Jews who came to the Land of Israel.}





{571}

Sochaczewers in America


{572}

Eliezer Meir Libert

by Yaakov Frydman

Translated by Jerrold Landau


Eliezer Meir was born in Sochaczew to fine, upstanding parents. His father Elchanan Libert wrote requests to the government authorities. It was difficult to earn a livelihood for the large family. When the children grew up, they learned various trades. Eliezer Meir left for London before the First World War. He returned to Sochaczew in 1919, then once again left for London, and then traveled to America. There, he became involved in the benefit organization for our townsfolk with his entire heart and soul. After the Second World War, he even hatched the idea of creating a colony for Sochaczew natives in the Land of Israel. He introduced me to the idea of creating a plan for such a settlement. However, the plan was too grandiose for him to actualize. When Eliezer Meir saw that the townsfolk in Chicago were distancing themselves from a large-scale assistance effort for their fellow townsfolk in Israel, he distanced himself from all of them. He once wrote to me: If people do not care to help their own townsfolk after the great destruction because Sochaczew is no longer for them, one can only regret it. Then people such as I have nothing more to do. Throughout 40 years, I never tired of giving of myself to help them. It is true that we no longer have the city, however the survivors who were saved from hell – for them it is still our duty to do something… We could have been in their place… He did everything. Immediately after the liberation, he sent 2,000 dollars to the Land of Israel in the name of the Chicago Welfare Organization. This concluded the activity of Chicago.

He displayed his warm feelings for the benevolent work of the organization in the Land of Israel from 30 years previously, when he arrived in America. He called together and encouraged things in Chicago, and the would have been prepared to receive the greatest help if only he would bring the small number of Sochaczew natives there. During the last part of his life, he stood with me and discussed the several hundred dollars that remained in the bank after the liquidation of the welfare organization in Chicago. He wished that this money would be used for the similar organization in Israel.

He was the president of the Sochaczewer Welfare Organization in Chicago for 30 years. At the same time, he was active in the Federation of Polish Jews. He was also active in and had an office in the General Clothing Union for the poor, and was involved in other organizations.



Translator's Footnotes

  1. The question mark appears in the text. Return
  2. This, and subsequent numbers of this nature in this section, are direct translations from the text and do not refer to the Yizkor book itself. Return

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »





This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Sochaczew, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max Heffler and Osnat Ramaty

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 01 May 2008 by OR