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{389 - Yiddish} {729- Hebrew}

The Martyrdom of the Elders and the Youth

by M. Rajc

Translated by Jerrold Landau


Fear already enveloped Sochaczew prior to the entry of the Germans to the city. The rumors of their cruelty instilled fear. A group of approximately two hundred youths fled the Soviet Union; others fled to Warsaw, Wiskiti, Zyradow and other places.

The Poles were aware about what the Nazis had planned for us. They hung crosses and icons on their houses at the time of the enemy invasion. The Germans poured out the first of their wrath, with terrible tortures, upon the older people and residents who had not fled, including Yisrael Goldfarb (who was a matchmaker and porter), Sara Yentel the mother of Hertzke Berman, and others. They also burned more than 100 Jewish homes, excluding those that were in proximity to Christian homes.

Those who fled Sochaczew did not find refuge anywhere. Therefore, it is no wonder that they began to return to the town after a few weeks of wandering. However, those whose houses had been burned did not return.

Even those who returned did not find shelter, as their houses had been seized by Poles. They “resided” with terrible crowding in cellars and empty huts which the town had built in its time for the poor.

With all this, refugees from other towns came to Sochaczew. In January 1940, 400 people came. The Jews of Sochaczew absorbed them, and shared their dry bread with them.

Here in Sochaczew, the situation was even worse. The town was on the main route (Warsaw-Berlin, Warsaw- Poznan) that the German oppressors and carnivores wanted. The Jews hid in large numbers in attics and homes of Christian acquaintances. All of their property was already forfeited – and soon enough they were forced again to begin their wanderings.

The local population served the murderers faithfully. Julian Prouza, who was the town secretary, was appointed by them to be mayor. This man, who was a native of Sochaczew and lived all of his life among Jews, became the chief oppressor. A special Polish police force was organized to help the conquerors, especially in the destruction of the Jews.

One day, the German guards gathered several hundred Hassidim in the market place and forced them to dance the “Mah Yafit” dance as they were attired in their Sabbath clothing, with their Kapotes and small prayer shawls[1], in order to entertain the Christians who gathered there after they came out of church. Mordechai Biezanski, Mordechai Kahn, Moshe Tilman, David Eines and others were among those who were forced to dance. After the dance, they beat them and cut their beards. The Christians enjoyed the performance of their Jewish neighbors, and after the band stopped playing, the baker Jan Zhokowski paid money from his own pocket so that they would continue to entertain the bystanders.

However, there were a few Poles who shared in the sorrow of the Jews. For example, Jan Sliwa, who owned the pharmacy, tried to help the oppressed in various ways. The survivors of Sochaczew mention his name with gratitude, and are saddened that he did not survive the war. The daughter of the Christian butcher Balcarska is also noted for good, since she had influence on the German captain Bliastshik, and attempted (even though it was for reward) to lighten the suffering of the Jews of Sochaczew. However, these type of stories are few…

A Judenrat consisting of 18 members was established in January 1940. At first the Jews of Sochaczew placed their hope in it, as if grasping at straws, that it would ease the situation of lawlessness. The members were: Yaakov Biderman, a merchant, was the chairman; Nachum Grundwag was previously the secretary of the community; Yosel Luksztik, who was previously the chairman of the workers' union; Shmuel Libert, a tailor; Monek Libert, his son, a student; Yudel Balas, a builder; Itza Gelbstein, a tailor; Yosel Muney, who was previously the secretary of the peoples' bank and a member of the town council; Shlomo Levin, Velvel Pinczewski, Pinchas Rosenkopf, David Izraelski, Yechiel Bornstein – all who had been merchants previously; and Mendel Eisenstein, who had owned an inn.

With the establishment of the Judenrat[2], the seizure of Jews on the streets for work stopped, and the Jews requested support and protection from the Judenrat.

The work included building a bridge over the Bzura, digging canals, drying marshes, and clearing the ruins of houses and the church which had been destroyed (incidentally, the church was 700 years old). The Jews also worked on enhancing the airport in Bielice, which was 8 kilometers from the city. They used stones from the cemetery monuments for this purpose. The monument of the Rabbi of Sochaczew, the monument of Rabbi Elazar, and others were destroyed at that time. The entire cemetery was destroyed.


The Ghetto

At the beginning of January 1941, when the ghetto was established, everyone was only allowed to bring three kilograms of belongings into the ghetto.

A high barbed wire fence surrounded the ghetto. It encompassed Sarna Street and it alleyways, part of Pitaszica Street, and part of Bozniczna Street with it alleyways. Life here was crowded and pressurized, full of suffering.

Not a day passed without a frightening event.

Two weddings took place in the ghetto – Hersh Gothilf and Bronia Bzozowski; and Chaim Nissan Karo with a widow from Warsaw. The latter invited guests, and the elderly instrumentalist Yisrael Rotstein played his violin. After the wedding, the Germans seized him, forced him to ascend onto a wagon, with his coat against his skin, and play his violin. This was a cold and icy day in January 1941.

At that time they brought groups of Jews into the courtyard, and forced them to strip naked and to cut down trees while they were naked. Yaakov the son of Knott, Yitzchak Zelzoko, and others were part of these groups.

The Jews sold whatever they possessed in order to sustain themselves. This was done, of course, with great danger, since the Germans prohibited any contact between the Jews and non-Jews.

At that time the Joint[3] assisted the Jews of Sochaczew. A committee was set up with Yechiel Stern, the son of the shochet (ritual slaughterer) of Lubice at its head. He was married to the daughter of Itche Meir Zisman of Sochaczew.

The Joint sent packages of clothing, food and money, which were distributed among the poor. A kitchen that distributed free meals was also set up.


The Jewish Police

The Jewish police was set up by the Judenrat in order to keep order in the ghetto and to assist in carrying out its orders as well as the orders of the Germans. The German gendarmes guarded outside the gate of the ghetto, and the Jewish police guarded inside. The following were included among the Jewish police: Binyamin Schwartz, Lipman Diament, Moshe Nabarnik, Leizer Balas, Nachman Tilman, and others. Menashe Knott, the son of the medic, was appointed as the captain.

Nightly, these young men behaved as actual policemen… in particular, they caused suffering for the Jews of Sochaczew, including Nachum Shmaltz the tailor, and Aharon Zelig Marienfeld the carpenter. The Jews had to watch out very carefully in their presence. At the end of the Germans murdered them. This took place on the evening that they ate at the table of Aharon Grossman. They chased them to the hospital, and on the journey, they beat them to unconsciousness. As they were dying, they placed them in a cellar where they died.

After a few weeks an edict was proclaimed that half of the Jews of the ghetto must go within three days to Zyradow. Pandemonium broke out. The Judenrat prepared a list of those that must go. Those who had means were able to redeem themselves at this time.


The Liquidation of the Ghetto

Later (at the end of January 1941) an edict was proclaimed that the Jews of Sochaczew must go within three days to Warsaw. Once again, severe pandemonium broke out. The Germans stirred up the fright. They murdered Menashe Knott, the captain of the Jewish police, outside of his home.

On an ice-cold day at the beginning of February 1941 the Jews uprooted themselves – by foot and on wagon – to Warsaw. Several people were transported by German drivers in return for bribes. Very few went by train for fear of beatings and torture. Everyone was allowed to take fourteen kilograms of belongings. All the rest was left ownerless.


The Jews of Sochaczew in Warsaw

Approximately 1,800 Jews of the Sochaczew ghetto arrived in Warsaw, where they were quarantined. Those who succeeded in smuggling some money or jewelry with them were able to obtain dwellings. The Warsaw Judenrat put up most of them in a “shelter”.

The situation was much worse there. There was hunger, crowding, and a typhus epidemic. The first of the victims were Yosef Warshawski the son of the shochet, and Rabbi Prekal.

Some Jews managed to escape to the Aryan side. Every day people died in that process. Shimon (Chilkile) Frydman and others were shot. Their names were publicized as a warning against escaping.

The builder Yudel Balas appealed to Julian Prouza, the mayor of Sochaczew, to permit at least a few Jews to enter Sochaczew for work. He agreed to allow thirty artisans to enter. The “lucky ones” returned to Sochaczew, leaving their families in Warsaw.


Again in Sochaczew

The mayor put up those who returned in a bunk in the field, next to Stodlona Street. They lived and ate communally. They constructed bunks and repaired public buildings. Among them were the builders Yudel and Leizer Balas; the painters Eli Poznanski and his son, and Yosef Muney – who was previously a member of the town council; the tinsmith Hersch Reitman; the upholsterer Moshe Zelonka; the Klioski brothers who were shoemakers; the upholsterer Goldberg; Yaakov Marienfeld; Yoel Gelbstein; and others.

They dwelled in Sochaczew, but they did not see the city, with the exception of the roads that they traversed to and from work. They were forbidden to leave their bunk.

Those who remained in Warsaw were jealous of them. Those who were strong, as well as children, managed to make way to the villages surrounding Sochaczew. They worked with farmers who they knew in return for food. A few also joined the work camp.

After several months, the thirty were ordered to return to the Warsaw ghetto. The camp was liquidated. A few managed to hide and remain in the place. They were discovered and shot in the nearby forest. Among those shot was the upholsterer Moshe Zelonka.

Sochaczew, like other towns in the district, had become Judenrein.

Even with all the difficulties and dangers, Jews of Sochaczew left the Warsaw ghetto and fled to the forests and villages in the area of Sochaczew. Included among these were Hersch Gothilf and his wife, Goldberg the cobbler and others.

In particular, many children, whose parents were already been murdered or who had died of hunger or disease in the ghetto, were included among those who hid. They were drawn to their childhood homes. It is impossible to describe their pain and suffering. Included among these were the two children of the butcher Jakobovitz, the son of Yechiel Hirsch Reitman, the son of Hollander, the son of Beker, of Washinski, and others. Death stalked them with every step. Most of them were murdered after severe suffering. A few were saved by miracle of miracles.

After the liquidation of the ghetto, the town ordered that several pits be dug in the cemetery, where any Jew who was captured would be taken to be murdered. The Jews were no longer afraid of death – the torture and suffering instilled fear in them. A shot in the head at the bottom of the pit was considered an easy death for Jewish children, since others were murdered with great cruelty. Moshe Biezanski, for example, was tied to a tree, his eyes were put out with a hot metal rod, his tongue was cut out, and they left his dying body for the dogs who tore him to pieces…

The hunger also claimed many victims, such as the case of the shoemaker, the son of Yaakov David the water-drawer. After the murderers stripped him naked, he arrived in confusion to the town hall, and requested a piece of bread. The mayor came out to him, and began a “propaganda speech” stating that Jews were not allowed to be present in the city, and advised him “in a friendly manner”, to leave as soon as possible, for if not he would be shot. However, the shoemaker was no longer afraid – and he did not leave. The mayor telephoned the gendarmes, who chased him to the valley next to the tannery near the jundenrat, where they shot him. Dozens of people were murdered in this manner.

The situation of the children of Sochaczew who hid in the surrounding forests, villages and properties is a whole other story. They had to be wary of the villagers who worked in the fields, or who tended to cattle in the villages. When the villagers recognized a Jewish child, they would fall on him, stone him with stones, and curse him with the curse “leprous Jew”. There were cases where Jewish children who were being hidden by Christian acquaintances had to chase together with their friends after the unfortunate Jewish children, and join in the stoning and cursing, in order to disguise themselves. Nachman, the saved child of Hertzke Tilman, relates that during the time he served as a shepherd for a farmer who had known his father, he was forced to chase together with the local shepherds after Jewish children who were lost, in order to remove all suspicion from himself that he was a Jew. He was heartbroken at that time, however his life was hanging upon a hair.

There were numerous occasions where the Jewish children maintained contact with one another, and gave their lives together. Such an event took place in the fields of the village of Rybno, when the hunger stricken children stole potatoes from the fields, and the oppressors turned them over to the police. One of the children damaged the finger of one of the policeman by biting him.

The Christians knew that many Jewish children were hiding, seeking employment, and camouflaging themselves as Christians – and they were afraid to retain them without a birth certificate. It was very difficult to obtain such a certificate. Eleven year old Shlomo Jakobovitz, the son of Leizer the butcher, succeeded in obtaining a Christian birth certificate by fooling a priest. After some time, the Germans and their assistants who were stalking down the Jewish children, succeeded in revealing the secret as to how Jewish children were receiving forged certificates. From that time, the farmers refused to employ young shepherds who possessed certificates. The more respectable farmers were suspicious of their neighbors, and sent away the Jewish children. Thus did they wander from village to village, from farmer to farmer, downtrodden and hopeless.

The story of the saved youth Shmuel Jakobovitz is hair-raising. Even though his brother Hersch Leib disguised himself appropriately, and spoke Polish like the rest of the village youths, the neighbors recognized him as a Jew and informed the Germans. They came, and without uttering a word hauled the youth behind the barn and shot him. Shlomo heard the shot and fainted, and quickly told the homeowner that he was afraid that he would also be found out by an “official”. He did not know where to go. He did not want to leave the ground that was wet with his brother's blood. He gathered some of the blood with some clods of earth, and buried it. He left, but he did not want to wander far from the village of Kozlow Biskupi where his brother was buried. After he walked 45 kilometers by foot, he returned. However he was not able to remain, since they already knew that he was a Jewish boy.

Can we imagine the fear and suffering of the son of Hertzke Tilman, who was hidden in a village near Sochaczew, at the home of a Pole by the name of Dziwicki, and he overheard his wife saying that she wished that the Jewish boy should leave. She asked her husband to take him out to the forest and murder him with a razor.

This was not an isolated incident. Very few of the youths remained alive. They were killed in a variety of manners. In 1944, the son of Reuven Izraelovitz was murdered. He was hiding with a Christian who lived in the Christian cemetery and looked after him. It is probable that Christian children turned him in.

The situation of the remaining Jews of Sochaczew in the Warsaw Ghetto also worsened. They lived in desperation, stricken with hunger, supporting themselves by seizing bread, potatoes, and even pieces of clothing from the street – and then fleeing for their lives. This lot did not pass over the children. The hunger and epidemics shortened the lives of people without mercy. The victims included the wife of Yerachmiel Gersht, the daughter of Naftali the watchmaker, Yitzchak Bergzin, Berel Oklinski, Avraham Tilman, Yosef Muney, and Yoel Miller (the policeman).

Several Sochaczew natives fled in desperation to other ghettos, including Noach Levin, Simcha Kahn, Yitzchak Tilman, Fleischman, Shlomo Levin, and Shimon Krakov.

A few managed to sneak over to the Aryan side, and sustained themselves by selling the remnants of their belongings. Even there they lived in constant trepidation. Even there they suffered from a variety of tribulations, beatings and pillage. Many of the Jews of Warsaw lost their minds due to the great troubles, including Hertzke Berman and Yantza the porter of Sochaczew. Happenings took place which are beyond the comprehension of the average man, things that are aberrant to the normal order of human relations.

It is very difficult for the natives of Sochaczew to comprehend the actions of their co-villager Leibel Goldberg, who had always been a quiet and upright man, just as his father Chaim had been. He worked on the Aryan side, and made a deal with a Jew to sell him twelve kilograms of silver. In the evening, the seller brought him the silver. He went up with the seller to the attic where the silver was hidden, took it from him and murdered him. He hid the body under a pile of feathers. When this matter became known to the Judenrat, they turned him over to the Germans who killed him.

Those who followed in the footsteps of Cherniakov, who committed suicide, included the actor Aharon Kahn, the son of Meir; and the amateur actor Lipman Diament the son of Itze; as well as others. Hunger drove them to this.

The Jews of Sochaczew were murdered in the death camps, along with the rest of their brethren. A certain Moshe of Sochaczew was in Treblinka. He was suspected of being an informer, and the organizers of the revolt at Treblinka had to be cautious in his presence. (For more details, see: “Treblinka”, by Wernick). However, it is difficult to establish his identity, as there were two people from Sochaczew by the name Moshe.

On the “bloody Sabbath”, (March 1943), many victims fell from among the Jews of Sochaczew. The Germans took revenge for the killing of one of the German oppressors. Moshe Aharon, the grandson of Eliahu Yashinski; the young son of Aldslach; as well as others were killed in this event.

Approximately forty Sochaczew natives were still alive in the ghetto at the time of the uprising, including Moshe Graubard, the sister of Rachel Miller, Yechiel Zand, Yudel and Leizer Balas, the teacher Yitzchak Shapira of the “Tarbut” school and his family, Avraham Deichus, Hela Fein, as well as others.

The only way to salvation was to move over to the Aryan side, which was fraught with difficulties and mortal danger. One of the last was Hertzke Tilman. His son already worked at that time in the Aryan side, and he left the ghetto daily to go to work. At the outbreak of the revolt, Tilman wanted to remain in the ghetto for Passover. Tilman, his wife, Yitzchak Shapira and his family all hid in a bunker of 24 Franciszekonska St., near the border of the ghetto. When the Germans set the house on fire, Tilman moved to another hiding place that led to the sewer system. They were shot several times with gas bombs as they attempted to exit, and Tilman's wife was killed in the sewers. Tilman himself finally succeeded in joining up with a group of Jewish partisans, and today he lives in Paris with his son who survived.

Few of the Jews of Sochaczew survived. The rest perished in the midst of great torture. May G-d avenge their blood.




TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

1. The “Tallit Gadol” or large prayer shawl, is worn primarily during prayers, while the “Tallit Kattan” or small prayer shawl, is a smaller garment worn at all times. Most Orthodox Jews wear it as an undergarment, however, some Hassidic Jews, primarily in Europe, wore it at all times on top of their shirt. Return

2. A Judenrat is a Jewish run leadership committee that was generally established by the Nazis to oversee the affairs of the towns and cities that they occupied. The Judenrat would primarily be responsible for providing Jews for work groups, and collecting money and goods from the Jews for the use of the Nazis. However, whenever possible, they would also concern themselves with the wellbeing of the Jews that they governed. Return

3. The Joint Distribution Committee – an American Jewish overseas aid organization. Return


{423 - Yiddish} {737 - Hebrew}

The Destruction of Sochaczew

by Reizel Rozenberg (Rosenkopf)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

There was no break in the suffering of the Jews of Sochaczew which began with the outbreak of the war. Already from the first day, when draft notices appeared in town, fear overtook the Jews of the town, in particular the parents of the draftees. On the third day of the war the Polish army retreated, and many packed their belongings in order to flee to Warsaw. On the next day the city was bombarded. Two Christians were killed. On that day, a bomb exploded in the synagogue, and several people were buried in the rubble, and were only saved with great difficulty. Almost all of the Jews fled in confusion to Warsaw.

In Warsaw, on 11 Orla Street, several people died: The Gothilf family, Moshe Jakobovicz and his child, and several people from the Shtzitner family, who were buried under the rubble of the bombarded houses. We returned to our town from Warsaw after four weeks, due to the difficult conditions, and we found many of the Jewish homes burned, and in the rest Christians were already residing. We were met with open hatred. The Jews crowded into rooms – several families in each room – however our repose did not last for very long.

The enlistment of Jews for the repair of the destroyed bridge began. Jews were beaten, denigrated, and cursed.

A few days later the town produced a list of 21 men, prominent citizens of the town, and a Judenrat [1] was established with Biderman as the head. The prime task of the Judenrat was to send the Jews to work, as well as providing various provisions to the governing authorities, using the money of the Jews. Itza Gelbstein and Monek Libert were responsible for turning over the provisions to the Germans.

Shortly thereafter, fifty young Jews were sent to the Majdanek death camp. When notice was received that they were starving for bread, the Judenrat decided to send them help, and gathered a significant sum of money for this purpose. The question arose as to who would deliver the money, since this task would entail life threatening danger. Lots were drawn, and Pinchas Rozenkopf and Mottel Bizniski were chosen. They set out for Lublin and found the men in very dire straits. They were engaged in the building of that frightful camp. The emissaries bought bread and butter to leave with the unfortunate people, and left money with the local community for their purpose. The "friendship" between Gelbstein and Libert and the Germans was sealed several days later, for they demanded that one be appointed as the head of the Judenrat and the other as his assistant . . .

This appointment caused a complete change within the Jewish community. Some established business connections with the Germans. The Shmeltz family, Aharon Kloska and Zelig Marienfeld, began to bring carloads of food to Warsaw. They participated in those days in the "good life", and ignored what was transpiring all around them . . .

One day Aharon Grossman arranged a birthday party for his daughter, and invited Shmeltz, Marienfeld, and other such people. Very quickly, the Germans appeared and "invited" the two of them to join them. They were separated from the rest, and the next day it became known that they were shot in the hospital. The rest of them began to regret their actions. Marienfeld's hand was broken. They were buried in the Jewish cemetery.

This murder was the beginning of the systematic annihilation of the community.

Immediately thereafter, it was decreed that the Jews were forbidden to walk on the sidewalks, and that they were required to tie special bands on their right arms. A wave of attacks and beatings on the streets began. Life became a free for all! One day, Yisrael Rotstein was summoned to the house in which the Germans dwelled in order to play and sing before them . . . they also brought several Jews to dance before them. They heard curses and calls for revenge. The situation continued to deteriorate. Nevertheless, nobody could imagine the bitter end that was coming.

In February 1941 a decree was proclaimed: all of the Jews were required to destroy the few houses that remained intact near the river, and the Ghetto would be set up there. The place was not large enough for everybody, so the rest would be expelled to Zyrardow. The crowding in the Ghetto was drastic, however the Jews believed that this was the end of their wanderings.

Two weeks after the establishment of the Ghetto, in February 1941, the decree was proclaimed that the town should become judenrein. In order to accomplish this, a Jewish police force was set up ("Ardenonges Dienst"), with Menashe Knot as the chief, however he was shot on that very day by a stray bullet. That night the gendarmes broke into the ghetto, beat the Jews fiercely, and expelled them all to Warsaw. I, along with other people from Sochaczew, had left for Warsaw previously.

The crowding in Warsaw was very severe. Those who had no other means were housed in warehouses, in filth and with great crowding. The Jews of Sochaczew arrived in Warsaw with the skin on their backs, starving. Berel Oklonski and Avraham Tilman ate at the table of my uncle Pinchas Rozenkopf, and Yaakov Aharon and his sick wife, as well as Eli Wishnia and his wife ate at my table.

The situation continued to deteriorate from day to day. Suddenly, the town of Sochaczew demanded the return of 150 from Warsaw for hard labor. Those who returned included: Balas, Diament, Zolonka, Kloska, Chaim Bliachaj, Moshe Soliaj, and Yosef Mintz, who was the leader of the work group. Those people sent from time to time some food to their families in Warsaw, and this lightened the hunger to some degree. They were later returned to Warsaw. Twenty-one workers were left in the town, who were later taken out to be murdered in the Kaziosk forest. At the same time Itza Gelbstein and Libert were sent to a work camp in Warsaw, where they were appointed as foremen. Later, a typhus epidemic broke out in the camp, and all of the people were killed. Gelbstein alone managed to flee and survive. Some died a natural death, such as Meir Tilman, Rabbi Shlomo Goldstein, Aharon Leizer and others.

I remember frightening episodes. One day another person and myself were sitting in the house of Roza Fein (the wife of Pesach Eisenberg) when a poor person entered. We were startled. It was Itzel Bergzin. Mrs. Fein extended to him a gift and covered her head so that he would not recognize her. After he left we started to weep. Once as I was walking on the road with my son Zecharia, we met Meir Lewin, bloated from hunger. We hid so that he would not recognize us, and afterward my son gave him a gift. At first he did not want to accept it since he recognized my son, but he agreed after my son insisted. We also met the son of Gershon Izraelski withering away from hunger.

As the situation further worsened many of the Jews of Sochaczew fled to the nearby villages, including Macierzysz. My father and his family went as well. The first of our victims there were Noach Lewin and Heller, who were shot. Two weeks before Rosh Hashana an aktion took place there – ten thousand Jews were sent to Treblinka, including my father and his family. On that same day an aktion took place in Warsaw, and some of its victims included natives of our city, including Mania Bornstein, Pessi Hershkovitz and her daughter, the two daughters of Biderman, and Bracha Malenberg. Many "volunteered" to be sent away due to despair and lack of any means of existence, including Yisrael Rotstein and his family. My children and I hid for six weeks in the exhaust system of a factory. Aktion after aktion took place, and finally myself, my husband and our children ended up in the concentration area of those who were being sent away. We succeeded in bribing a German with a ten rouble gold coin – and we escaped for the time being, as we were included in a group of workers.

In the aktion of Yom Kippur, Paula Zaltzman and Liza Kahn were killed, among others. One the eve of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising the following natives of our town were sent for extermination, among others: Shlomo Mendel Bergzin and Hersh Nissan Moszenberg . Yossel Rotstein jumped off the railway car and broke his hand. Yitzchak Gringard, Nechama Plonska, David Izraelski, and my husband were also killed. They worked together, and were captured at their workplace. My husband jumped off the railway car at a distance of 40 kilometers from Otwock. He was severely injured and brought to Treblinka, where he lived until the liquidation of the camp.

During the Warsaw Ghetto uprising I did not have a bunker in which to hide. I was holed up in a room on Sczanszliowa St. for eight days, together with my children. I witnessed the frightening happenings in the ghetto from the window. The Germans eventually came to us. We were brought to the deportation grounds on Dzika St., walking over corpses. In that place where we were imprisoned, I recognized Matityahu Graubard (the son of Avraham). We broke out in weeping. His wife and children were also deported. We heard non-stop gunfire. We were finally placed on the transport trucks, with great crowding, without air and water. Thus we arrived at Majdanek. There I met Chana Plonska and David Izraelski. I was separated from my children. After searching for days I found them in a separate block, and they had changed almost beyond recognition.

In May 1943 they began to deport the children from Majdanek. I saw them for the last time on the 15th of the month. A kapo recognized me and beat me brutally. They spoke to me words of support: – "Mother, don't give up hope .. we will survive . . .". Two days later I saw a large bonfire in the field, and the kapo informed me that it was the children who had been deported on the 15th of the month who were being cremated in this fire. . . I broke forth toward the fire together with several other women, however the Germans pushed us back with the butts of their rifles. . .

We were transported to Auschwitz three months later. There was a group of us Sochaczew natives there – Melinberg, Sara Lewin, Golda Rotstein, Yoska Grossman, and Paula Shmeiser. Golda Rotstein became ill in her legs and was sent to the furnace. Paula Shmeiser became sick with typhus along with myself, but we continued to work nevertheless, and we were miraculously saved from the furnace.

With the approach of the Red Army in the winter of 1945, the Nazis began to liquidate the camp. We were brought to Ravensbruk by foot and transport truck. It was a frightful journey. From there were brought to the Radek camp near Berlin. I was there together with Yoska Grossman. There was great hunger there – we were given seven measures of bread and one liter of grass soup per day. There was also torture and backbreaking work.

We left the camp on May 1, 1945. After walking for two days on foot, I escaped to the forest together with Grossman. We starved for three days, and then we met the first soldier of the Red Army –

We were liberated.

We arrived in Sochaczew after wandering for three weeks. It was a rainy, gloomy day.

The destruction spread out before us in its full force. We met Anshel Beker. None of our family members remained alive –




{741}

Thus was I Saved

by Tova Moszenberg

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I did not return to Sochaczew after the conquest of Warsaw, and I remained at my job in the children's house on 124 Laszno St. I did come to my native town of Sochaczew around the time of the erection of the ghetto – and I again returned to my workplace, which was transferred to 24 Dzalona St., in the Jewish area. I witnessed the bitter end of our children with Korczak at their head [2] . Only four staff members, myself included, remained alive. I then went to work in the "shop" on 25 Nowolipki St.

I was among the last to be deported to Majdanek, after I had experienced all of the tribulations of the Warsaw ghetto. I was separated from my sister and her two children at the camp, who had been deported together with myself. At the camp, I worked in backbreaking labor.

From there I was brought, together with Roza Rozenkopf and others, to Auschwitz. Our block was next to the furnaces, and I went through five "selections", from which I was saved by a miracle of miracles. There were diseases, beatings, torture and horrors. On one occasion I escaped from the car which was taking me to the furnace, when I was only 20 meters away from it, and I hid under the wagons for an entire night in the freezing cold. One of the S.S. men recognized me. When I told him about my selection, he took off his tunic and coat, covered me with them, and brought me to the block of the sick. There I was beaten severely by one of the supervisors, a woman from Slovakia. She was the meanest of the gentile supervisors.

After I was moved to another block, I decided to escape. I escaped and hid among the dead bodies. I ended up in the hide factory, where I spent six months.

Afterward I was transferred to the Ravensbruk camp. We walked on foot in the snow, in hunger and thirst. The entire route was marked with stains of blood.

I was deported again to a camp near Leipzig. There, the situation improved slightly. However, the battlefront approached and we were sent away again. We were starving, and we slept in the open field. Later, most of our S.S. guards fled after disguising themselves with the clothing of the camp inmates.

I decided to escape along with my companion. We entered a German house, washed up, feasted to our hearts' content on bread and potatoes. This was the first night in weeks that we were able to fall asleep without beatings and being forced to arise at the break of dawn for roll call. We did not mention our Jewishness to our hosts. We explained that we were refugees who fled from a city that was conquered by the Russians . . .

Finally we were liberated by the Red Army. We returned to Poland.


{742}

In the Skarzysko Camp

By Zeev Sheynwald

Translated by Laura Yoffe

Donated by Anthony J. Stern and Elaine Goldman


After our dramatic escape from the Warsaw Ghetto, I, my brother Zvi (Hirsch) and Aharon Goldfarb, ran in the direction of Wyjarow Kalcki  (a small town next to Opatow), where Shimon Krakow's family had escaped to before the explosion of Sochaczew. When we arrived in the shtetl it became clear to us that no one there would be able to help us.  It would be impossible for us to remain in the shtetl, and so we had to hide in the surrounding area.  We spread out into nearby towns.  One day we learned that our mother had died in the Warsaw Ghetto and my brother decided to go there to bring out the rest of the family.  He went.  After some time he returned and a short time later my father Moshe, and three other brothers and sisters arrived. My father remained in town.  After several days the Jewish police of the ghetto arrested my father.

After some time I was sent with 70 other Jews to Skarzysko Kamienna, where a work camp had been established for Jews to be put to work in munitions factories. There I worked for 27 months.

After a bout of typhus I was  moved to the new camp which was located close to the munitions factory and not far from our neighbor camp ''Markcza'.  There  were 4,000-5,000 people there.  I was informed that there were 4 people from our shtetl who had arrived from Majdanek camp, namely: Yechiel Zand, Joshua Zevadski, Paula (Gittel Cohen's daughter) and Isaac Jelozko's daughter (Cohen's wife).  The camp was well-known for its severe conditions: sixteen hours work a day producing explosives (day and night shifts), and everyone was yellowed with the yellow dust that covered their bodies and faces.  Many died or lost the ability to work.

I made every effort to meet up with the people from my shtetl when they came to  the shower.  First I met with Zevadski.  I also did something to help them insofar as I could,  for I was already a veteran  –  27 months in the camp.  He told me of their bad situation, of the expulsion from the Warsaw Ghetto, of the suffering in the ghetto and afterwards, until he reached this camp.  Later I met Jelozko's daughter, and she told me amid bitter tears that she was not going to survive, and so it was.  Some time later she died of typhus.  Zevadski told me this and he claimed that it would be his end as well.  He weighed only forty  kilos.  Paula told me he died of starvation.

However, in spite of our dreadful condition there were times when all of us met together (five in number)

{p 743}

and we would speak together.  We would reminisce and we had a  'homey feeling' at every such snatched meeting, remembering home and even the ghetto.  Our sorrow was great when we learned that only three remained (in the end only two).  And thus ends the chapter 'Skarzysko Kamienna' with people from Sochaczew.  Before the final release I met Paula once more and then we parted ways, until I met her after the end of the war in Witlib.



{743}

In the Villages and Forests

By Hirsch Gothilf

Translated by Laura Yoffe

Donated by Anthony J. Stern and Elaine Goldman


Gradually the Jews adjusted to troubles – to hunger, to dispossession, to forced labor. One day in January 1940 the Germans put out a poster on behalf of the council, signed by the head of the council the Volkes Deutsch (ethnic German) Prouza, that all Jews between the ages of 14 and 60 must present themselves on Sunday at 8 am at the council.  There was fearful talk in the community.

And then Prouza and his German escorts said that from this point on they would "take care" of us and "keep an eye" us …For a Judenrat had been established whose leaders were: Biderman, Borstein, Lokstik, Levin, Velvel Pinczewski, P. Rosenkrantz, H. Libert and others.

Then the Judenrat began its official work –  it had a secretary, attendants, and a door guard with a rubber whip in his hand.  Immediately, messages and commands were sent to appear for work.  Of course, only to those lacking in means to pay the ransom (five guilder a day).

I worked in a group dismantling the previously destroyed bridge over the Bzura.  Gelbstein was the foreman, aided by the two sons of Shmeltz the tailor.  Later he was appointed the head of the Judenrat.

A tragic new chapter of our lives began, which started with the sending of the best of our youth to the Belzec camp.  And again, only those who could not afford the ransom.  The first letter that arrived from the camp was from Herschel Yashinski, son of tall Bendet.  A collection of money was initiated to save the tortured inmates.
Then a new notice appeared, signed by Gelbstein and Libert, that the city was in need of living space due to overcrowding.  It was decided to transfer the people to Wiskiti near Zyradow.  The Jews understood what was expected for them, and started bringing valuables to the Judenrat office: money, diamonds, jewelry, fur coats – life ransom.

At night the Germans would carry out searches for so-called weapons, at the same time robbing anything that came to hand.

{p 744}

In January 1941 it was decided to expel the entire Jewish population –   all within the space of 24 hours.  In the edict, it was said that anyone who refused would be handed over to the Gestapo.

The Judenrat (which was situated at the 'White House') got carts together – 10 carts for 2,000 people.  Many walked by foot, their children and their babies with them, also the old and the sick.

Sochaczew was emptied of Jews.  Only those of status remained.

It should be noted, by the way,  that in the time of the ghetto that the Jews who lived outside the ghetto were also moved out of their dwellings, which were taken over by Christians.  Then the Jewish police was also established.

And then came the time for the last of the Jews to be cleared.  The expulsion was carried out with blows, with cruelty, with robbery.

The first to leave the city were members of the Judenrat, in a large vehicle, loaded with their luggage.

The head of the Gestapo, Priver, called the commander Menashe Knott and ordered him to provide him with a pair of boots in the few remaining hours before the expulsion.  The latter came out to obey the order, turned to Graubard the shoemaker, but he [Graubard] answered that there was not enough time.  The next day, the two of them went to the shoemaker's house – and he wasn't there.  He had fled with his family.  Priver shot Knott dead on the spot.

In the Warsaw Ghetto there was no contact between those who came from Sochaczew.  I put a sewing machine in Taban's well-known shop, and I was accepted for work.  Hunger and dread.  In spite of this, many were envious of me.
Some of the people from Sochaczew were trying to establish trade links with the Aryan side - Moses Broker, Broitman, and Moshe Wiedislawski.  The first to die and be buried, was Wolf Warshawski.  Then the rabbi from Sochaczew died.
But life continued even under those horrible conditions.  Sheynwald's son married Frieda Biezanski. The 'Jewish underground' operated from Taban's shop (14 Prosta St.). There were incidents of sabotage and arson.

I was taken to the hospital on Niska St. on account of illness.  For three months typhus held me in its grasp.  I came out in the middle of Passover, frail, and immediately bumped into David Wishnia on Zamenhoff St. and he asked me to help him home, for he was weaker than I was.  On the way he snatched Matzoth from the hand of a woman who was passing ... hunger had made him go mad.

I also was hungry.  I was compelled to sell even my Tallit.  And my wife took out the gold teeth from her mouth, and together with her and my brother, we walked to the wire fence at the border of the ghetto, to bribe the guards to let us cross to the other side.

I arrived at the train station and amid the confusion I jumped up on to one of the trains that were just leaving.  An unknown Christian woman saved me from the danger of the ticket inspection.  At the station in Lewna I went with smugglers and later I continued my way to the village of Topolowa which is close to Sochaczew.

On the way I had to pass the village of Szymanow, in which there was a monastery, and I sat by it to rest and to consider the rest of my journey.  There happened to be there a railway worker who noticed that I was Jewish.

{p 745}

He advised me to flee for my life for there were Gestapo officers in the monastery and he showed me the right way to Topolowa.

April 1942.  I was staying in a village which lies seven kilometers from Sochaczew, where I there many people from our city.  I found work as a tailor in a farmer's house, named Piatczak.

Once an official committee came to the village, asked me if I was Jewish, and a shower of blows came down upon me.  They tied me up and put me on a cart.  My landlord, the farmer, tried to have me freed.  He invited all the members of the committee to a drink of brandy.  At the same time, one of his sons untied me and told me to flee.

I fled to the forest, not far from Paszniki.  After several days I returned to the same farmer who asked me to work for him.  For several weeks I worked at his place and I withstood several trials.  Once, at the call-up when I was sleeping on the threshing-floor, German hands, thinking me a Pole, grabbed me and ordered me to join those being sent for hard labor.

So there I was sitting in a vehicle with the rest of the Christian laborers, among them the three sons of the farmer in whose house I had found refuge.  One of them told the foreman that I was Jewish, and immediately I felt his blows descending on me.  It is difficult for me to describe the trial that I endured that time, as I stood, arms raised, awaiting my judgement.

Suddenly a German approached me and asked me if I knew him.  I answered in the negative.  I was very afraid.  Then he said that we were old friends, his name was Engelbrecht, and that we had been at primary school together.  I asked him to save me and he did.  I hid in a cornfield.  I lay there until dawn broke, then I made my way to the farmer's house.
The farmer crossed himself in shock.  'Thank God you were saved!' he exclaimed.  I told him everything that had happened to me.

The next day I left the village.  To where?  I didn't know.  I remembered that in the army someone from a nearby settlement had served with me, and his name was Kojawa.  I went to him.

He was happy to see me but advised me to flee because it was not safe there, and gave me his father's address, in whose house I could stay for a while.  So I stayed with his father for a certain time, and worked for trading food,  which I set aside also for my wife who was in the ghetto.  Finally my wife Bronia and her sister came to me.

In 1943 posters were published from the Germans that anyone who hid a Jew along with his family, could expect to die.  On the other hand, anyone who handed over a Jew would receive a reward  – a liter of brandy and three kilograms of sugar.  This greatly aggravated our problems.  We went from village to village, but no farmer was prepared by hide us.  They would not even give us a drop of water to quench our thirst.  We wanted to take our lives.  Then we came to the village of Wyczolki, populated by rich farmers, and there, miraculously, I found work as a tailor.

I stayed a whole winter in that place.  In spring we continued our way through other villages in the Sochaczew area.  In the village of Biely I met some Jews from our town - Samuel Leib Gothilf , Hershel Roitman (my relative), Tindal and his wife and children, Tzalka Jakobowicz and her brother, Hershel Sheynwald, Rachtsha Skurnik and her child, the son of Pinchas Kahana, and others.  All were murdered by the Germans in that village.

In one of the villages, a farmer by the name of Zaioncz asked me and Mendel Moiskit, the shoe-maker to supply him every Sunday with a roasted goose and a liter of brandy.  Otherwise he would hand us over to the Germans.  We fled immediately from that place.  We joined up with Tzilka Jakobowicz who was working then in one of the nearby estates.
I was hidden in the loft, and there also lay my injured wife.

During the second half of 1943 the situation in that area worsened unbearably.  And then my wife's sister arrived (Esther Bzozowska) who had hidden in the nearby forest, and she brought us to her.  Mendel the shoemaker from Wiskiti, whose sister had also hidden in the forest, also joined us.

We arrived in the forest on the 17 of July, on Shabbat.  It was raining.  In the forest were Jews who had fled from various towns, including Sochaczew.  After the rain, farmers came to the forest to collect mushrooms, some of them came close to us.  It turned out that they knew of the Jew's hiding place.

Shortly, thereafter, machine-gun fire was heard.  My wife began to flee.  I wanted to flee after her, but I encountered a German aiming his gun.  I leapt into the bushes.  Crawling, I arrived at the village of Nowa Wies.

A manhunt had been carried out against Jews in the forest.  Alone I escaped to my last hiding-place, and luckily I found my wife, wounded in the arm.  Persecuted like dogs as we were, I couldn't help her.  A farmer had pity on me, and in lieu of payment, he let me lie her down in a pile of potatoes, and later in the loft.

Thus our wanderings and torments continued until January 17th, 1945, the day when the Red Army entered the village.
After several days we arrived in Sochaczew, there we found A. Pinczewski's family –  the only Jewish family.


{747}

Pinchas of Blessed Memory (Pinia)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Photo on page 747:  Pinchas Weinberg
 

My dear brother, you were sixteen when I left my childhood home, when I went to the Land of Israel.  You were energetic, enthusiastic with life, beloved of your fellowman, and known for your honesty.

You struggled within the walls of our small city due to your many talents, and you did not succeed in freeing yourself from it even in your final moments.

The evil winds that swept through took you away as the last victim of our town.

Perhaps as a reward for your great suffering, they brought you back to our town so that you can rest in the bosom of your mother [3] who loved you so.

In her arms you are not forlorn in the great and wide field, as if we abandoned you.

Raise up your dust that is dipped in blood, demand justice, and let your blood cry out from the land which swallowed you up in the midst of your life, and mercilessly forgot about you.

   There is justice!  There is a judge!  Answer him!!!

  Your sister,

   Rachel
 

photo on page 748:  The grave of Pinchas Weinberg, murdered in Sochaczew in May 1945 after the conclusion of the war.


{752}

Who Would Make it that my Head Would be Water…

 by Chana Frydman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

 January 18, 1945.  A notice in the newspaper appeared:  Warsaw was liberated by the Soviet army.  The paper adds:  Warsaw that no longer has any Jews, and afterward, Sochaczew was liberated.

Yes, Warsaw was a city and a mother in Israel, and Sochaczew was one of its nearby daughters.

From the time of the war of destruction against the Jews of Europe, this was the first mention of Sochaczew, my hometown.  How many memories are etched in my mind, and torment the soul without pause.

The bereft city!  The hand of fate touched it already during the First World War, when it was almost completely destroyed.  However, what a difference there is between then and now!  Then Warsaw was saved from the battles which took place for a prolonged period near the town, and Warsaw, as if in a sign of gratefulness, later saved the residents of Sochaczew who found refuge there, as they fled while they were still alive.  When they returned, they restored the destroyed town anew.

And now?  My heart is not in pain over its destruction, but rather over the destruction of its Jewish residents, for our many relatives and friends who drunk from poisoned cup until it was emptied.

My heart, my heart goes out to you, my hometown!  You, who were so full of life, how you have now turned into one large grave?  Perhaps you don't even have a grave left anymore?  You, who were so given over to the idea of the Land of Israel, and you expended great energies for it, how you have fallen without being able to rise up again!  How hard is it to believe and to come to terms with this bitter and violent idea!

We here in the land, the few survivors – how great is our distress!  Oh who would make it that my head would be a reservoir of water and my eyes a source of tears, for I would weep day and night for your victims along with all of the victims of the house of Israel… [4]




TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

1. A Judenrat is a Jewish run leadership committee that was generally established by the Nazis to oversee the affairs of the towns and cities that they occupied. The Judenrat would primarily be responsible for providing Jews for work groups, and collecting money and goods from the Jews for the use of the Nazis. However, whenever possible, they would also concern themselves with the wellbeing of the Jews that they governed. Return

2. This is the same Korczak referred to in the Kampelmacher article. Janusz Korczak was an author and educator, who published several books on caring for children. He ran an orphanage for children in Warsaw, and as they were being deported in 1942, he was offered his freedom, but he refused, preferring to be taken to his death along with the children he cared for. Return

3. 'Mother' here seemingly refers to the hometown.  On the other hand, it may refer to Pinia's actual mother if she had died in Sochaczew prior to the war, and Pinia was buried in close proximity to her grave. Return

4. A paraphrasing of a verse from the Book of Lamentations. Return




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