The Second World War and the Holocaust
by Itzhok Berglass
Friday, September the first, 1939, was the day that the Second World War broke
out. Tension had been felt already in the last days of August, but the tidings
that the war had begun came with the German bombings in our vicinity. In the
first days, stillness prevailed in the town in the absence of reliable news
about the situation. Indeed, the railroad schedule was in disarray as a result
of sabotage and bombings by the German enemy. Nevertheless, people, including
the Jews, believed in the fighting ability of the Polish army. Everybody was
certain in the truthfulness of the government's promises expressed in the
appeal for war bonds that we were "Strong, United, and Ready." We
also were sure that the military would defend with all their might the defense
industry district, located in our area, a triangle bordering the San and
Visloka Rivers. On Monday, September the fourth, and the night that followed we
still saw a military movement towards the Slovakian border to the south but, at
the same time, the first caravans with refugees began to appear in Strzyzow.
They came from places near the German border. On Wednesday the stream of
refugees increased and grew even bigger on Thursday. On Thursday night, and on
Friday, September the eight, Strzyzow joined the main stream of refugees. It
was like a river which on its way to the sea, absorbs all the waters of smaller
creeks and continues to flow with the main stream. But, in spite of the wave of
refugees which included many Poles, government clerks, and policemen, (they all
returned after Poland's surrender,) the number of Jews was small. During the
First World War, the Russians occupied Strzyzow twice. After the Jews suffered
during the first occupation because of a casualty in the Mandel family, many
families evacuated the town when the Russian came for the second time. The
retreat of the Austrian army was slow and orderly, transportation means such as
trains and carriages were put at the disposal of the refugees. This time, the
Poles retreated in disarray; the trains were out of order because of the
bombings by the Germans and sabotage by their agents. To hire a carriage was
Resides, the majority of the town's Jews, including the Galician Jews, in
general, did not think of running. Many of those who ran in the First World War
were still alive and did not try now to do it again. Neither did the rich and
well-to-do who, for much money, could still have obtained transportation. Only
the older people remembered the Germans from the First World War when they were
"allies" of the Austrians.
Nobody in Strzyzow read the book "Mein Kampf," and the hearsay about
the mistreatment of the Jews in Germany, Austria, Chechoslovakia, did not
sufficiently disturb the Jews from Galician cities. Although a few of the
German Jewish refugees who settled in Strzyzow had warned against the Germans
of today, they themselves remained. The Jews were ready to suffer from the
Nazis but they were not willing to live the life of wanderers, especially after
they had seen the suffering of the women and children refugees who passed
Strzyzow. Such Satanic thoughts that the Nazis would annihilate men, women and
children were incomprehensible. The rumors were that they were sending young
people to forced labor camps. Because of all the above mentioned reasons, only
a few families and single men left on foot. Among those who left were the
Rabbi, Kehillah leaders, community activists, several young men, and a few
wealthy people who feared being taken hostage.
The path of the refugees from Strzyzow led through Dynow, a crossroads city.
Thousands of refugees, families who ran out of means to continue their escape,
many who were on foot and run out of energy to go any further, and well-known
personalities who had not intended to go any further to begin with, were stuck
there. (All they wanted was to leave town and be somewhere that nobody knew
Some people who passed Dynow were stuck in Dubiecko. One of the group from
Strzyzow, Reb Yechezkiel Ziebner, was killed in that town on his way from the
morning services. He was carrying the bag containing his talit and tefilin, a
Nazi noticed him, and shot him.
My brother-in-law, Reb Yacov Itzhok Bernstein, remained in Dynow with his three
children. He refused to continue because of the Sabbath. After the German
victory and the Soviet invasion into the eastern part of Poland, everybody
returned to their homes. Again, caravans of refugees, though smaller, were seen
moving in the opposite direction. A small number of returnees recoiled, hearing
about the atrocities of the Nazis, and decided to wait for the Soviet army
which, according to the Soviet-German agreement, were supposed to reach the San
River. But the majority came home. Reb David Lieberman who left Strzyzow with
his whole family, did not flinch from the maltreatment of the Hitlerists he had
experienced, but returned home. On their way home, they prayed with a group of
refugees on Yom Kippur. The Germans assaulted them and, wrapped in their
taleitim, they were taken into a grove, lined up with their backs to the
soldiers, and the soldiers began shooting in the air. Despite such an ordeal,
he and his family came home, and he was among the first to be killed, as it
will be told further on.
The systematic killing period had not yet begun. But Jewish blood was spilled
freely as soon as Hitler's soldiers arrived. In our vicinity, many killings
occurred. Six hundred in Przemysl, including Reb Moshe Deutch from Strzyzow. In
Dynow two hundred and thirty people, mostly refugees who were passing
through town. The Nazis went from house to house, taking men only. In
sendziszow, on Rosh Hashana, the Nazis selected fifty men from among the
worshippers in shul and killed them. Five men were brought from Frysztak and
killed in Strzyzow. Women and children they did not touch yet. Those who
were returning from the evacuation were in continuous danger. In addition to
the Germans, Ukrainian bands attacked the caravans of the refugees, especially
those who traveled alone. There were even incidents in which these people found
shelter with the Germans while escaping from the Ukrainians. The most dangerous
area was near Lesko. There the Ukrainians killed a group of refugees who were
returning home. Among those killed was a son or Reb Ephraim Kneller. Only a few
survived that massacre, finding refuge in a German field-kitchen unit. Tzvi
Baumel was killed on his way home. He worked in Krakow before the outbreak of
the war. When the Germans were approaching the city, he decided to go home to
his father, Reb Benjamin, in Strzyzow. Passing through the town Preclaw, near
Mielec, he went into the local Belt Hamidrash with a group of Jews. Soon the
Nazis began knocking on the door, when he went to open it, they shot him and he
was instantly killed.
The concentration of the refugees in Eastern Galicia was bigger than in other
places because the Germans expelled all the Jews from the border towns to the
Russian side. However, Strzyzow was forty miles away and had no such luck. The
refugees from Strzyzow who were on the Russian side were joined by a few Jewish
soldiers who remained in the east when the Polish army fell apart. Most people
from Strzyzow were concentrated in Lwow. Help was extended to them by the
Schiff family, the Jewelers from Rzezow, and Reb Shalom Wllach, who owned a big
liquor store before the Soviets requisitioned it. Their meeting place was in
the house of Reb Fishel Goldberg. He was also a refugee from Strzyzow who
arrived in Lwow with his entire family, and had a spacious apartment· In
his house, the refugees who were lonesome, were warmly received. Especially
warm was his wife, Feiga, who was the only mother among the refugees from
Strzyzow. In Strzyzow she also used to help poor Jewish wanderers who came to
Strzyzow by horse and buggy. She took them into her barn yard and the horses
into her stable.
During the nine months that the refugees stayed in Lwow and its vicinity, until
their expulsion to Siberia, many of those who were separated from their
families returned home illegally. The reports which came from Strzyzow were not
bad. Everyone who left his family there was homesick, and it was also difficult
to get accustomed to the Soviet way of life. Those who did not return still
yearned to do so, but they wanted to do it legally. Most of them were saved by
being exiled to where the Nazis could not reach them.
All the returnees to Strzyzow crossed the border safely and arrived home,
except one disastrous, shocking incident involving a young woman, the daughter
of Reb Elazar Loos. She lived in Dynow and was expelled to the Russian side
with the rest of the Jews soon after the massacre. While returning from a visit
to her parents in Strzyzow, she was shot by a border guard as a result of a
Polish informer. It was not clear whether it was a Russian or a German border
The refugees from Strzyzow attempted to cross the border legally, with a permit
from the German-Russian Population Exchange Committee, which was located in
Przemysl. Luckily, they did not succeed. Many Jews did cross to the German side
with a permit by hiding their Jewishness. Those unfortunate ones were happy to
receive a permit and did not know that they were going to a sure death.
The Exchange Committee was transferred later to Lwow, and there they resumed
issuing permits to Poles and individual Jews whose families at home provided a
confirmation from the German authorities that their return would be useful for
Tens of thousands of refugees in Lwow and Eastern Galicia who expressed their
wish to return home on the German side, waited patiently, and were sure that
the aforementioned Exchange Committee came to Lwow to arrange their
repatriation. These refugees wanted their return to take place in an orderly
manner. Therefore, they voluntarily organized themselves into groups with a
central leadership. They invested much effort in this organization, but
luckily, no repatriation took place.
At the beginning of June 1940, all single refugees who registered to return
home, were arrested and sent into forced labor camps throughout Russia. At the
end of June, all refugee families were put in freight trains and sent off to
Siberia, and to the northern provinces of Russia. From among the Strzyzow
families, only my family and I were exiled. The Goldbergs and Dr. Frenkel
obtained Soviet passports. Also Dr. Chwal, the only Jewish doctor in Strzyzow,
who at first escaped alone and later brought his family over during a
population exchange, remained in Lwow, and probably perished later with the
local Jews. A few single people including the Rabbi of Strzyzow, Reb Kalonymus,
escaped and obtained passports. All these people remained in Lwow and its
When the Germans attacked Russia in June 1941, and occupied Lwow, all the
people from Strzyzow returned home and shared the lot of the rest of the town's
Jewry. From the Goldbergs, only two sons survived. The younger son, Elazar,
joined the Soviet army. The second son, who studied medicine in Italy when the
war broke out, joined the Italian anti-Nazi underground. Dr. Frenkel, the
lawyer, returned home from work one day and found his house empty. His wife and
two daughters had been taken away to the place of no return. He survived as Dr.
Wierzbicki, with Aryan documents, settled in Krakow and, after the war, served
as lawyer for the people from Strzyzow who returned from Russia.
The refugees from Strzyzow who were exiled to Russia experienced all kinds of
hardships, imprisonment, hard labor, starvation, sickness, and plagues. Some
died and were buried there. These were: Rabbi Naphtali Chaim Halberstam; R.
Alter Zev's son-in-law who at one time organized and headed the Agudat Israel
in Strzyzow; Rabbi Alter Zev's grandson, Reb Menashe Horowitz, who starved in
the labor camp abstaining from eating non kosher food, and on Passover living
on the sugar rations only; Reb Gershon Holles, the scholar, died in an epidemic
outbreak in the South Asian part of Russia after he had been released as the
result of the Stalin-Sikorski agreement. He held onto a gold watch which had
been presented to him on the day of his engagement as was customary then in
Galicia. Ultimately, the watch survived but not the owner; Reb Aaron Taub died
after he was arrested for the second time for refusing to accept Soviet
citizenship which the Soviet authorities forced upon the Polish citizens. He
was afraid that he would not be able to return to his wife and children. He
died from exhaustion serving in a labor brigade; Reb Mordechai Weitman died in
Samarkand; One of Reb Alter Yacov Weichselbaum's daughters and her husband died
from starvation in Dzambul. People from Strzyzow, who lived there could have
saved them, but they found out about them too late; two sons of Reb Feivel
Hauben died in a remote collective farm; an offspring of the Gertner family who
was expelled from Germany and settled in Strzyzow, evacuated from Strzyzow to
the east and, after many wanderings, found his death in a Soviet Sovchoz,
lonely and abandoned; Itzhok Schliselberg, the translator's second cousin, also
died of starvation, after giving away his rations to his young children; Reb
Zisha Hirshfeld's daughter from Lutcza near Strzyzow and her husband also died
Most refugees from Russia returned from Russia to Poland in the years 1945-46.
A part emigrated to different countries, mainly to the United States. The
majority settled in Israel.
Only one returnee from Russia did not lived to reach Israel. This was Naphtali
Roth who, before the war had been an active member in the Zionist Youth
Movement. The climate and life in Russia and the long journey home in the
freight trains weakened even more his failing health. He was hospitalized in
Poland, where he died after having a day of happiness brought on by the visit
of two relatives from Strzyzow.
As soon as the Nazis entered Strzyzow, the maltreatment of the Jews had began.
The Nazis beat them, plucked their beards and sidelocks and, with their savage
behavior, imposed a deadly fear upon the Jews. They looted the Jewish stores
and left them bare. At the beginning the authority was in the hands of the
military, headquartered in the palace of Count Wolkowitzki, and also in a few
private houses, including the houses of Reb Michael Schitz and Reb Samuel Feit.
By Rosh Hashana, the storm had calmed down a little. Nevertheless, Jews did not
worship in the regular prayer houses but in hiding, as the Jews used to do
during the Spanish Inquisition, in basements and attics.
On the second day of Rosh Hashana, a shocking incident occurred, which made the
Jews of Strzyzow realize that their lives depended on the benevolence of each
Hitlerite. The Germans brought five Jews on a truck from Frysztak whom they had
taken out from a prayer house, still wearing their taleitim. They were killed
in a nearby grove, a place where the town Jews used to stroll on their Sabbaths
and holidays. Among the slain was one from the Puderbeitel family whose father
was among the two hundred and thirty victims previously murdered in Dynow.
There was also one of the Kracher family who owned a stone quarry. They were
buried on the same place where they were shot. Later, after the intercession of
the Jews from Strzyzow, they reburied the victims in the Jewish cemetery.
People said that the main credit for the intercession belonged to Reb Michael
Not to let the Jews forget even for one moment the trouble they found
themselves in, another ugly incident occurred on Yom Kippur Eve which,
fortunately, ended without a tragic result. Wanting to take advantage of the
existing relaxation in the last few days, some Jews rushed over to the
bathhouse to immerse in the mikva for the holiest day of the year. At the same
time, a truck full of German soldiers arrived in town. Apparently, they had the
desire to amuse themselves by bullying the Jews. Either they noticed, or
somebody had told them that Jews were in the bathhouse, and they surrounded the
place. The majority escaped half naked and hid in the area, but a few were
caught by the Germans and brought to the marketplace. By then, a group of young
Jewish girls came out and implored the soldiers to let the captives go. At the
end, the Germans released the captives.
Days passed filled with fear and worry. The military command was replaced by
civilian authorities and the troubles changed to a different format. Instead
the savage and wild torments, oppressive decrees started coming, one after
another, denigrating the Jews and turning them into dust. The German Commandant
Keller was not especially bad, and perhaps he did not add to the decrees that
came from above. But there were enough of them to torment the lives of the Jews.
When the administration took over a "Judenrat" was appointed as in
all of the cities in occupied Poland, and other countries of Europe. The
Judenrat consisted of eight to ten members and served as a liaison between the
Jews and the German authorities. Reb Abraham Brav, the Zionist activist, was
appointed as head of the Judenrat. The members were: Reb Yacov Rosen, Reb Aaron
Deutch, community activists who were members of the latest Kehillah Committee,
Reb Elimelech Waldman, the man from Mizrachi, Sheingal from Gorlice, who had
moved to Strzyzow and was the brother-in-law of Dr. Samueli, the lawyer.
(During the German occupation, many reputable Jews moved to other cities where
they were unknown.) A few more were appointed, including two from the exiled
Jews from Kalisz who had been brought to Strzyzow. In all the days of
existence, the Judenrat in Strzyzow behaved decently. It always stood up for
the Jewish people and did all that was possible to ease the Nazi decrees.
Reb Yacov Rosen was killed in Strzyzow and Aaron Deutch was deported from the
ghetto of Rzeszow with his family to an annihilation camp. Reb Elimelech
Waldman was one of the most active intercessors who negotiated with the
Germans. He continued to intercede for his brothers in the ghetto. He believed
as the others did, that by intercession, he would be able to annul the
oppressive orders. When the Nazis selected his wife and children to be deported
to the annihilation camp, they wanted him to remain in the ghetto. But he
refused and went with them.
Reb Abraham Brav and Sheingal became active members of the Judenrat in the
Rzeszow ghetto. They remained there until the last of the Jews from Strzyzow
were gone. They were also the last to be sent to their deaths.
Among the first anti-Jewish decrees was the prohibition to travel by train and,
later, the prohibition to leave the periphery of the town. A permit from the
local commandant Keller was required to leave town, and during the "good
days" of that commandant, it was not difficult to get such a permit. To
travel by train, a special permit had to be obtained from the regional
commandant in Rzeszow, and could be obtained only through the Judenrat. The
Judenrat secured such permanent permit for Itzhok Leib Rosen, who was the only
official freight deliverer in town. He could travel unhindered. Later, he was
also permitted to get in and out of the ghetto in Rzeszow which had been
established earlier, at the time when the Jewry of Strzyzow were still in their
homes. In general, Jews traveled only when they were compelled to travel,
because traveling was deadly dangerous.
The next decree was forced labor. The Jews and, to some extent, the Poles were
forced to work, each men a few days a week. Sometimes women were forced to work
too. The Jews were sent by the Judenrat· Two German companies were active
in Strzyzow: "Todt" a military contracting firm, and
"Kirchof." Both used to feed the workers and also paid some wages.
There were incidents when poor Jews volunteered to work, knowing that they
would be fed. The Todt Co. treated the workers better than the Kirchof Company,
where workers were beaten and tyrannized. The work was hard labor, paving
roads, building tunnels, stone quarrying and unloading freight.
The Jews were also forced to do jobs, which were a part of the Nazi oppressive
system. They were forced to remove the gravestones from the cemetery, bury them
in the ground and prepare the Land for public parks. The gravestones from the
rest of the Jewish cemeteries were removed after the expulsion of the Jews. The
better stones were used for paving the marketplace, and the fate of the older
stones is unknown.
The worst jobs which were forced upon the Jews were jobs not needed for the
German war economy, but were created to humiliate and denigrate the humanness
of the Jews. The Nazis made the Jews sweep the streets, do jobs in the quarters
of the German soldiers and functionaries to disgrace the Jews. Jewish men and
women were nabbed for these works mostly on the Sabbaths and holidays. During
these works, the Jews were maltreated, their beards and sidelocks shorn off,
and disgraced as much as possible.
Besides the workers from Strzyzow, a thousand young Jewish men from Warsaw,
Radom, and Kalisz were also employed in our vicinity. They were organized in
labor brigades supervised by Jewish supervisors and escorted by Jewish
policemen. They lived in barracks outside of town in temporary labor camps. The
Jews from Strzyzow were forbidden to mingle with them.
At the beginning, one of the slave-drivers of the Jews from Strzyzow was the
Christian Sabbath Goy, Sibirca, who served the kloiz and the Beit Hamidrash. He
was a Petlura man who escaped to Poland after the Bolshevik Revolution, where
many of his kind found refuge. He had setted in Strzyzow, and the Jews with
their forgiving nature had given him a job and a small house which originally
was built for the sexton. Now his time had come to repay the Jews with evil
deeds for their good deeds, and to torment them. After some time, he fell into
disfavor with the Nazis. He informed that a certain Pole had expressed a
dislike for the Nazis, and the Pole, wanting to protect himself, attributed
this criticism to Sibirca, and according to Nazi justice, both were sent to a
concentration camp. They never returned from there. They were the only two from
among the Polish population in Strzyzow who were sent there. The city of Kalisz
in northern Poland was annexed to the Third Reich, and its Jews were forced out
and some were resettled in Strzyzow. They were housed temporarily in the prayer
houses, in Jewish homes or abandoned stores where they lived together with the
local Jews. At the beginning, they were supported by the local Jews, and later
worked for the Germans and received rations for reduced prices.
Of course, all the orders which the Germans bestowed upon the local Jews were
also applied to the Jews from Kalisz. They shared the same fate.
Until the expulsion to the Rzeszow ghetto, only a few of the young men from
Strzyzow were sent to labor camps. These young men were snatched from the
streets for this purpose,
During one such action, Itzhok Leib Rosen was caught in Tarnow. Since he had a
travel permit, he was released. He also produced a document from a German firm
in Sanok, approved by the General Government, stating that he was buying cattle
for the German military. Most laborers were sent to Pustkow or Bieszadka, in
Western Galicia. The Jews with their vitality pulled themselves together,
despite the oppressions and decrees. Although the stores had been looted and
abandoned by the owners, still everyone adjusted to the conditions and made an
effort to find some livelihood and existence until the storm would pass.
Tradesmen kept working and merchants sold merchandise which they had succeeded
in concealing from the Germans during the looting, or they brought new
merchandise from near and far by endangering their lives. The Jews barely
survived. Many bartered household items and valuables for food, which the
peasants brought to town, since Jews were forbidden to go to the villages.
The tradition of charity which was always deep-seated in each Jewish heart,
expressed itself even more in those very troubled times which the Jews,
including the Jewry of Strzyzow, had never before experienced, Everyone who was
able to help, helped the needy. However, charitable activity was scaled down to
a minimum. It was done in secret because any organized activity except the
Judenrat was forbidden, and for violating the Nazi Rule, there was only one
Informers who would benefit from their brother's misfortune did not exist in
Strzyzow. There were two Jewish policemen who helped the Nazis execute their
ordinances through the Judenrat and, understandably, did not enjoy the sympathy
of the Jews in Strzyzow. It was known that one of them used his position to
extort money from different people. In spite of that, he was not considered to
be like those known disgraceful Jewish "Kapos." Ultimately, they were
sent to the Rzeszow ghetto with the rest of the Jews and found their sanctified
deaths as the others,
Besides the two policemen, there were a few helpers who worked for the Germans.
One of them was a son of the better families in town. They were only simple
messengers who obeyed the requests of those who were in charge.
As it was said before, the Jews adjusted to the oppressive life and edicts,
hopeful that it would eventually pass. Because of those so-called "quiet
days," the Jews did not prevent their family members who were on the
Soviet side, from returning home. Some even urged them to come home.
Homesickness was a strong factor among the refugees as was the inability to get
used to the Soviet way of life. Nevertheless, even in the quiet days, all kinds
of incidents occurred which did not let the Jews forget what a mean situation
they were in. Worst of all were the killings of people for the smallest
violation of the oppressive rules.
Every incident that occurred shocked the population for a while, but they
thought that it was only an isolated incident caused by special circumstances,
and whoever would succeed to stream through between the wicked waves, would be
safe. Even during the expulsion to the ghetto, they still thought that,
although the situation was difficult and burdensome, their life of suffering
had reached its ultimate point. They did not imagine the possibility of total
destruction, which had been already decided at the higher Nazi echelon.
The first killing incident had already occurred in 1940. The German Commandant
who replaced Keller while he was on his vacation, encountered Reb David
Lieberman on the bridge which led to the village Godowa. The Commandant ordered
Reb David to report to him at his office. According to hearsay, Reb David
wanted to reach Count Filipowicz, with whom he ha done business before, to ask
him for food for his family. Reb David vacillated whether to report or not. At
the end he concluded that there was no escape. He went and did not return. The
Commandant's office was in the house of the Notary Banski. The Hitlerites took
Reb David to a nearby field, where he was shot in the neck while he was
walking, his body was handed over to his family, and he was given a Jewish
The excesses became stronger after the United States joined the Allies in their
war against Germany. On Passover Eve, 1942, eighteen Jewish prisoners were
taken out from prison in Rzeszow and executed in the Jewish cemetery, which the
Hitlerites turned into a killing field. The victims were all American citizens.
Among the killed was Moshe Rosen from Strzyzow, a brother of the Rosen brothers
who survived the Holocaust. In that same period, the fur action took place. The
Jews were ordered to hand over all the furs in their possesslon. A short time
later, a fur stole was found in Reb Samuel Saphire's house. He was killed on
The worst incident occurred on May 4, 1942. When a Gestapo unit arrived in town
to punish those Jews who escaped East in 1939, before the occupation, but were
not exiled by the Soviets, and returned home after the Germans conquered the
region of Eastern Poland. Dr· Rosenthal Oas the only one who was found in
his home. The Gestapo took him to the churchyard and shot him using their modus
operandi, a shot in the neck while the victim walked with his back to them. The
rest of the returnees, Yechiel Rosen, Moshe Gertner, and his brother-in-law,
Reb Hersh Lichtman, went into hiding as soon as they heard about the arrival of
the Gestapo. Then the Gestapo killed six other Jews instead. Some of the
victims were found in the house of Reb Samuel Moshe Groskopf, where they had
been meeting to discuss charity problems, and the rest were caught in the
street. On that day were killed: Dr. Rosenthal, Reb Samuel Moshe Groskopf, Reb
Yacov Rosen, Reb Moshe Schefler, Reb Pinches Eisman and one unknown man.
This killing incident depressed the spirit of the Jews, and they never
recovered until the expulsion which came soon after. Trains loaded with Jews
from Biecz, Jaslo, and Gorlice passed Strzyzow on their way to the
extermination camps. They traveled in locked, very crowded cattle cars. The
floors were covered with whitewashing lime for disinfection. The women with
their babies on their hands all tried to be near the small window gasping for
By then, the Ghetto in Rzeszow was already established. Besides the Jews from
Rzeszow, all the jews from the vicinity were brought to the ghetto. The Jews in
Strzyzow thought with dread what they could expect. Despite all the troubles,
their situation in town was still better than in the ghetto. There, the Jews
were hungry for bread and nobody knew what was coming. Like the drowning person
who grasps at a straw, so did the Jews. They tried bitterly to escape the
expulsion order. The Judenrat did whatever they could, they traveled to the
German District Headquarters hoping that their intercession would result in
The Nazis, seeing that the Jews lived in illusion, decided that was an
opportunity to be the inheritors of their victims. Although Jews were permitted
to take all their possessions to the ghetto where their wealth would anyway
fall into the Nazi hands, each individual preferred to be the inheritor, nor
somebody else. There was also the possibility that the Jews might conceal
valuables in their homes, and the Nazis would not get it. Therefore, with their
characteristic cunning, they promised the naive Jews that they could remain in
Strayzow for the price of a few kilograms of gold, despite the fact that the
Germans themselves were well aware of their intentions.
Despite of the savagery of the Nazis, the Jews believed that perhaps this time
the truth came out of their mouths, and a member of the Judenrat, Reb Aaron
Deutch, came to the town with an immense and bitter outcry, despairingly
appealing to them to extend a helping hand for own rescue. "Jews! Save
yourselves, have mercy upon yourselves," he cried. He asked them not to
hide the gold articles which were still their possession. When despite all the
efforts that were made, the collected gold in Strzyzow did not meet the quota
and was not enough to satisfy the Nazi demand, Itzhok Leib Rosen, the only
person with a travel permit, was sent to the rich Krosno, a nearby town, with a
plea for gold donations to rescue the Jewry of Strzyzow from expulsion.
In Krosno the annihilation process had not began yet. Apparently the Nazis
could not possibly create their inferno everywhere at the same time. The Jews
there still lived their oppressed lives working, and a few Jewish stores were
still open. Only later did the Nazis come around to set up a ghetto in Krosno
for the local Jews and for the Jews of its vicinity. The Jews were all murdered
in the forests of Udzikan near Rymanow. Upon arriving in Krosno, Rosen turned
to Reb Ever Klagswald, the shochet, who was the son-in-law of Reb Chaim Felt
from Strzyzow. Despite the fact that the Jews of Krosno were not much better
situated, Reb Ever, with the help of other people, succeeded in collecting a
considerable number of gold articles and brought it to Itzhok Leib Rosen who
was waiting in Reb Ever's house. As soon as Rosen brought the gold to Strzyzow,
and when all the gold was delivered to the Hitlerites, they immediately set a
date for the expulsion to the Rzeszow ghetto.
In the days of June 26, 27, and 28, 1943, hundreds of peasants with carriages
arrived in town. A part were recruited by the Germans to transfer the Jews, and
the others came voluntarily, expecting to benefit by plundering the expelled
Jews. The Germans set a price of twenty-five zlotys for a one-horse buggy, and
fifty zlots for a two horse carriage.
They allowed the Jews to take with them everything to the ghetto. They knew
that everything the Jews took with them would fall in their hands anyway.
In total, one thousand and three hundred men, women and children were expelled
Filled with despair, the Jews loaded all their belongings on the carriages
believing that they would live in the ghetto a long time. Some took with them
the leftover merchandise, which they had succeeded to hide from the Nazis to
barter for food, and the tradesmen took their tools.
The exodus to Rzeszow lasted three days. S. S. men escorted the caravans and on
the way killed all the incapacitated, especially the invalids. Mordechai Russ
was among those killed. He was an invalid from the First World War, and his
legs were amputated. Reb Aaron Borgenicht, the sick and semi-paralyzed, was
also killed. It was reported that Reb David Wiener who, during the German
occupation, had not left his house but studied the holy books continuously, did
not respond to those who came to expel him. Whether they were Germans or their
helpers the poles, he did not pay attention to them. They shot him right there
in his room.
On the third day, the last day of the expulsion, when almost all the Jews were
gone, Reb Itzhok Leib Rosen arrived in town from the Rzeszow ghetto under the
pretext that he had to hand over a storehouse of empty barrels which he
managed. In truth, he came to retrieve his uncle Reb Chaim Rosen who remained
alone in his room and refused to come out, claiming that he preferred to die in
his room rather than in a strange place. Rosen reported that all the Jewish
homes were broken open and looted for whatever there was left and, in the air,
the wind carried feathers from Jewish beddings which the pilferers tore
searching for valuables. The Polish collaborators kept tab on each Jew in town.
As a matter of fact, as soon as Rosen arrived in town, the mayor Wladislaw
Gornicki, inquired about his business and also mentioned that his uncle had not
left yet. Itzhok Leib Rosen succeeded in convincing his uncle to go with him,
and he also witnessed the expulsion of the last Jews, Rabbi Nechemiah Shapiro,
who was forced out from his house together with his family, to the sound of the
wailing women and grandchildren. Al this did not effect the murderers. Nobody
saw the Shapiros in the ghetto. They never arrived there. They were probably
killed on the way.
The Nazis were helped by the Polish collaborators, headed by mayor Wladislaw
Gornicki. His father, Peter Gornicki, the blacksmith, had always befriended the
Jews and, for many years was elected as mayor with the help of the Jews. But
the hatred for the Jews had been nourished in his house and passed on to his
sons. Gornicki's helpers were all from poor Christian circles who always
participated in the pogroms. The wealthy of the town this time had also stood
aside, and it was hard to determine their position. The truth is that in the
whole town not one Jew was saved. The only one who did hide was sent from place
to place until he reached Gornicki's helpers. Ultimately, he was killed when he
ran out of means to pay those who were hiding him.
Moniek (Moshe), Reb Aaron Borgenicht's son, was found by a farm worker in Jan
Patryn's farm hiding in a stack of straw near the Visloka River. From there he
went to Patryn's relative, Ignac Patryn, and afterwards to the house of Mrs.
Maznicka. Soon somebody informed the police and when they began to look for
him, he moved to the house of Wladislaw Uszlicki. He kept paying for the hiding
places with valuables which his parents left with their neighbors, Polish
intelligentsia. They had handed him only a part of the valuables, retaining the
rest for themselves as a safekeeping fee. After he spent all that he had, he
was found killed in a water puddle not far from his hiding place.
In 1948, with the new Polish regime, Uszlicki, Maznicka, and a third man by the
name Stare, were arrested and brought to trial on murder charges. Mrs. Maznicka
died during the trial, and the two others were freed for lack of evidence.
After an appeal by the prosecutors, Uszlicki was sentenced to life imprisonment
but after his appeal, he was freed again for lack of evidence. A few years
later, one murderer was sentenced by Heaven, and his head was severed when he
fell under a train.
According to my supposition and my knowledge, the Christian citizenry in
Strzyzow could have been divided into three categories. The first category
comprised of those who were hurting for the Jews but were powerless to do
something about it and lacked the moral force to help them. The second category
consisted of those who were happy about the Jewish calamity, thinking to
themselves, "They got what they deserved." Many of these people
collaborated with the Nazis and helped them to hunt for Jews in hiding. The
third category were the apathetic who worried only about themselves and did not
care what happened to their neighbors with whom they lived for many
generations. Nevertheless, these people also benefited from the misfortunes of
the Jews. They took advantage when they bartered with the Jews, exchanging
valuables and merchandise for food, and subsequently they inherited their
stores, homes, and their belongings, which were abandoned by the Jewish owners
after the expulsion.
The hatred for the Jews had not ceased even after the expulsion. In 1943, a
group of young Jews, natives of Strzyzow and its vicinity, came to Strzyzow
from the Rzeszow ghetto. They were the remnants of the ghetto. They were used
for different jobs before their deportation to forced labor and annihilation
camps. The Rosen brothers and Elazar Loos were among the group who came to
dismantle barracks in the suburbs of the town and, on this occasion, they
exchanged clothing and other articles for food to take with them to the
starving ghetto. The people from Strzyzow reported them to the Germans and they
barely escaped with their lives, never to be sent to perform such jobs again.
The Jews from the ghetto who worked in the vicinity and returned daily to the
ghetto were sent from time to time to clean homes, which were vacated by the
owners after they were sent to their deaths. During such cleaning, they found
articles of clothing, which they later bartered for food. They took this food
into the ghetto with the consent of their German foremen who kept a
considerable portion for themselves. This time when the local Poles reported
the Jews, the German foremen were also arrested. Later it was discovered that
the informers and the local police had also not reported what they confiscated
from the Jews but kept it for themselves.
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