Tragiv Fate of a Jewish Demblin Family
by Chaya Brocha Rozenberg-Urback
I. Chaya Brocha, daughter of Itza Motel Shuchtz, who was the son and mother,
Aydel-Leah Rsenberg, was born in Demblin and I lived there my whole life.
My saintly mother was the first victim in the town. She was shot by Hitler's
murderers. We were 7 children, 4 sons and 3 daughters. My oldest brother, Chaim
Rueben, with his wife, Shendel Rosenberg, and their oldest daughter,
Chaya-Paysel, and son Aleizor, were taken away during the first round-up and
sent to Treblinka. One son, Itche, was in the Demblin camp, after that, they
sent him to Czenstechov, and from there to Germany, a couple of days before the
liberation, during a march, they shot him. The son Moshe also avoided being
deported in Demblin, but the camp director wouldn't let him come into the camp.
He was shot, roaming around outside. One son, Motelah, with his wife, Itkah,
were saved. They are now in America. A daughter of theirs, Hannah, and her
husband, Morchai Rosenveim, have lived in Israel since 1934, with a son,
daughter and grandchildren.
My brother, Yaacov Mindel, with his wife Rachel Rosenberg, who is the daughter
of the Tenenboim family, were together in the Demblin camp. Afterwards, they
were sent to Czenstechov. Three days before the liberation, they sent Yaacov
Mindel to Buchenwald. And on one day they ordered that all the Jews should go
out of the barracks and gather in one place, and on the other side, the other
nationalities should gather. My brother went with he Jewish group and they shot
him. My sister-in-law Rachel, with her two sons and a daughter, were liberated
in Czenstechov, and they all went away to America. In 1951, as a result of all
the suffering she endured during the War, Rachel, my sister-in-law, died.
My sister, Nechomah with her husband, Moshe Specter, had two children. Exactly
how they died or were killed, I don't know. They sent them away to Germany. The
daughter, Friedela, was with me in the Demblin camp. Afterwards, they also sent
her to Czenstechov. From there, they wanted to send her to Germany, but with
money, we were able to delay that, and see that she could remain. Since we
didn't have any money, my husband went to Ita Sahmit, and said to him, that if
we had the money, we could save Friedela, and prevent her from being sent away
to Germany. And Ita immediately gave whatever money was necessary and our joy
was great. But, it didn't last long. Fate followed her, pursued her. Soon after
the liberation in Czenstechov, we went back to Demblin and in a couple of days,
the A. K. murderers shot her.
My sister, Nechomah, also had a son, Itzche, 16 years old. He was employed in
forced labor. A certain day he didn't show up for work and the Germans dragged
him out of the place he was staying, into the woods and shot him. Gentiles said
that after he'd been shot, he ran around for a couple of hours, with the
bullets in his body.
My brother Sholom, with his wife, Leah Rosenberg, who's maiden name was
Nachteilor, had two children, Revkelah and Itzchela. During the deportation
from Demblin, they sent them right to Treblinka. Never saw them again.
My sister, Feiga, was married to Pesach Blustein. They had a girl named
Mindela. They sent Pesach away to Pulaw to work and there they shot him. During
the last round-up, the Judenrat ordered that no children should come out into
the square. My sister went to a neighbor, a gentile, paid her very, very well,
and left her sweet, wise, little girl there. But as soon as my sister was out
of the house, the gentile woman drove the 8 year old child out into the street
and a German shot her to death. The hard and sorrowful things that my sister
endured, can't be described. She remained alone then. There was absolutely no
comfort for her. Today she lives in America.
I and my husband, Itzche Urbach, may he rest in peace, and our daughter
Revkela, were in the Demblin ghetto from May, 1942 until August of 1942. After
that, they put us in cattle cars and sent us to Czenstechov. The overcrowding
was unbelievable. As soon as we arrived, they led us into the camp. There,
there were already people from our city who had come a few days before. The
greeting was a very, very painful and sorrowful one. They didn't even let us
talk. They took everything from us. And the most tragic was when they took our
dear daughter Revkela. They wouldn't let us see her. We weren't even allowed to
cry. We had to go to work. That's the way it was for a few days. And then, they
freed the children, they let them out. And among the children that were let go
was our Revkela. I can't tell you, I can't describe the joy of my husband and
myself. Our daughter said that when they tried to feed them, or give them
something to drink, they wouldn't take it, they were afraid that they were
going to get poisoned. But our joy didn't last very long. After a couple of
months, they sent my husband to Buchenwald. In the last days before the
liberation, during a march, he was so worn out and swollen, that he couldn't
march the way he was supposed to in line, and the Germans shot him. Revkela and
I were already in train cars ready to be sent away, but they liberated us in
Czenstechov, the 1
of January, 1945.
Today, I live in Israel, and Revkela with her husband, Moshe Grossman, and two
children in America.
And I have another brother, Shlomo-David who has been living in Brazil since
From Camp to Camp
by Mindel Shteinbach, United States
In 1936 an anti-Semitic wave spread over all of Poland. I worked at that time
at the air base. In the spring of that year 2 Polish police came to the air
base and took the Jews' work passes away. I just hung around for a couple of
weeks after that looking for some place to work. Then I decided to travel to
Warsaw. I went to work there for a Jewish contractor. I made good money until
the beginning of the War.
When the Germans decided to cut off half of Warsaw, I went back to Demblin. The
life in the town was horrifying. The Germans just grabbed men and women and
took them to forced labor. There wasn't any place to hide. I used to come home
beaten up and totally worm out. In November I was hiding at the house of
Ignatovskeen, in his attic. Suddenly I heard the ringing of bells. That was the
warning to call people and tell them that all men, Jews and non-Jews, had to
register at work. But those who had a trade would be employed at the airfield.
I went right down to the sign-up place. Among the Jews, I was the second one
who got there. The first one was Moshe Beznos. Before the War he worked in the
Pulk. He remained alive.
That's how the paradise at the Demblin airport began. Each day the
number of Jewish skilled workmen increased. We worked and forgot that the Jews
in other cities suffered horribly. I was able to get my father in the group of
painters. He had to shave off his beard and that was a very, very difficult
thing for him to do.
But, we got use to the hardship little by little. Especially because in the
spring of 1940 we were still around. About half of the town's Jews were working
in construction for the Germans. We rebuilt the airfield for the Germans. Until
March of 1941, they actually paid for our work. The German power then gave an
order that Jews weren't allowed to earn any money. They pulled a lot of Jews
off the work. In that way the little paradise was over.
New sorrows began. Germans ordered that Jews from the ages of 13 to 55 would
from now on go to forced labor. Through the Judenrat they sent a list of those
who they needed so that they could be provided. I was sent to the train
station. There was an enterprise work going on that was supervised by the
Shultz company. They were laying down new tracks. A couple hundred Jews worked
very, very hard. Each day, there were accidents and worse. A lot of people were
severely injured. They beat us often. The life there was just unbearable.
I worked there for awhile until on a certain evening 2 Polish police came, took
me out of bed and sat me down and threw me into the Demblin prison. By the
morning, there were 6 men in the prison. They took all of us to the train
station and gave us over to the Commissar from Pulaw. There weren't any Jews in
Pulaw. This was before the German invasion of Russia. They were making
preparations. All of the best Jewish houses had been taken over by the Germans.
The Commissar of Pulaw organized a work camp where there were 400 Jews. 200 of
them were from Austria. From our general area there were another 200. There
were 6 of us painters from Demblin: Yeshy Abenstein, Hersh-Nechemaya
Tzitrenboim, Ahron Boymayel, Moshe Puterflam and a kid from Bobrowniki and
In the Pulaw camp, we stayed for about 4 months. The Demblin Judenrat helped us
with bread and marmalade. We came back to Demblin after the summer. By that
time the Germans were deep into Russia.
The situation in the ghetto in Demblin was quite bad. You got 10 Deca of bread
a day. On the black market, it cost 50 or 60 zlotys. Various diseases spread,
especially typhus. Jews from other places were running to Demblin. The ghetto
was overflowing. The number of strangers was almost equal to the natives from
Demblin. They cleared out animal stalls and put children, sick people and old
people in them.
A new city Commissar came to Demblin. He was a big anti-Semite. He came with 2
Jewish agents, who worked for him. In December of 1941, he ordered that a new
Judenrat be picked and a new Jewish police force as well. The Judenrat
consisted of 8 members. One, the leader, was Drafish. He wasn't from Demblin.
With him in charge we really lived with a lot of danger in the ghetto. He used
to come to our house. He would talk to my parents and he suggested that I
become a Jewish policeman. He promised that he would take care of the family.
That if I became a Jewish policeman, everybody in the family would get an extra
25 deca of bread, 10 of butter, 10 of sugar, 10 of marmalade, 2 kilos of dark
flour and 3 kilos of potatoes. We got that for all of 2 weeks. We were 7 mouths
to feed, all together, at that point. My mother cried so long until I couldn't
stand it any longer and I finally took the job. My number in the police was 13,
which as we all know, is not a lucky number. I just couldn't do the dirty work.
I kind of hung around doing that until the end of February 1942. I never was
able to be strict with people. When they gave me a group of women who I was
supposed to take to work, by the time I got to the work place, half of them had
disappeared, and the Germans beat me. They scolded me for not disciplining
One day in February, I was standing in the Okulna street, and an old Jewish
lady came out with a bucket in order to get a little bit of water in the
square. I made a point of looking the other way so that she could go to the
wall. She'd managed to get half a bucket of water, when out of nowhere, the
German Otto appeared, who was known as the right hand of the Commissar. He
threw the water over the old lady and asked her who let her get through to the
wall. She pointed at me. He didn't need any more. He came over to me and
started smashing me with the bucket so long that he just got bent over with his
great effort. He took me to the Judenrat and ordered that I be punished. They
took away my privilege of being a policeman after a week. They took my uniform
and hat away and I went home.
I later had to go back to Drafish, and the Judenrat, and beg him to let me off.
I apologized. He said that I had to present myself to the German work office. I
went to the German work office and they gave me a number. They sent me to the
Austrian contractor enterprise, Oytoried. They were working on the
forts by the airfield. We worked in groups of 60 Jews. The work was hard. We
hoped that the War would end and we would all survive.
We made it through the winter. Spring came. From the ghetto they continually
dragged people to work. Every grown up man or woman wanted to get a chance to
get into the workplace because they had already begun to liquidate the ghettos
in Poland. Everybody thought that if you had work, you'd be saved. The
construction work at the airfield consisted of building a camp and the gasoline
station. Also, at the fortress, there was another camp, and another one at the
train station. By the lakes there was another. In the ghetto again, the
Commissar had his camp.
In the ghetto we lived on Staromyeiska street. My father worked for the city
Commissar. My sisters at the train station. My mother remained at home with my
of May, 1942, I came home in the middle of the day. In the morning, on the way
to work, I saw that there were a lot of wives of the members of the Judenrat.
They were traveling away on rail cars loaded down with different things. They
were traveling towards the little towns in the countryside. Therefore I went
home and I told my mother that I wanted to go with her, wherever they took her.
She cried and said, my dear child, we shouldn't go together all of us. Maybe
we'll be able to save ourselves better if we're separate. I left the house with
tears in my eyes and asked God, Where are you? Why do you leave us Jews
such a bitter fate?
At night three fourths of the town was already gone in Demblin. The streets
were empty. You could only hear the crying, and the barking of the dogs. The
whole night we cried together. It took a few days after the deportation for
these who remained in the ghetto to have the courage to go outside again.
After a little while they brought in a transport of Czech Jews and established
them in our ghetto. Very soon after that, about three weeks later, they
surrounded the ghetto and took out all the young men and women for work, the
others, to liquidate. With them, a lot of Dembliners as well were taken to the
camp. One was allowed to go into the ghetto once a week with a little tag from
the work place. After that, people were completely forbidden to go into the
When the work at the Oytoreid company at the airfield ended, they
brought us over to work for another company which was also working at the
airfield. The project was called White billy-goat. The Germans were
frightful thugs. About 6 weeks before Rosh Hashannah, while I was at work, a
Pole with a German in civilian clothes came through. The Pole was a painter and
he knew me. It seemed that they needed workers and he wanted me for a group of
painters. I worked together with the Christians. There were just a few other
Jews in the group. There was a kind of overseer. The German considered our
group of Jews to be better craftsmen than the gentiles. Everything went along
pretty well until a couple of days before Succoth. The German called me over to
one side and he said to me that he was going to send me to another job. I
answered that yesterday I had left my tools at work. This infuriated him to no
end. He screamed that I should go into the office and sit there and not cross
the threshold. I sat there with great fright. I understood that something was
going to happen.
In the middle of the day he came and said that I should give him my name and my
camp number and for what purpose he didn't bother to tell me.
At dusk we left the camp. When the last Jew was over the threshold all of a
sudden, out of nowhere, the S. S. and the Gestapo appeared. They
surrounded the camp which at that point contained about 1,500 Jews. On the
tracks there were rail cars with a locomotive that was all ready. The Germans
had apparently not a lot of time, because they were continually looking at
their watches. They drove all the Jews to one place. From the group of skilled
workers, they took out three workmen and pushed them over to the police
barracks. The picked my name and number from the group of painters. I went into
the barracks, looked though the window, it didn't take very long. From the
1,500 Jews, there only remained 500. The others with blows were packed into the
rail cars and carried off to Treblinka. Demblin was judenrein.
There wasn't one more living Jew in the city. They even liquidated the camp in
My father came back from the camp in the town. At the train station my two
sisters and younger brother remained. I tried to get them into the construction
site, but I wasn't able to accomplish anything. They would only let skilled
craftsmen in there. It didn't take very long after that and the construction
camp was completely filled up. They brought men from other camps into the
construction site and a small number of women. We were al mixed up. People from
Demblin, Ryki, Gniveshov, Warsaw and the Jews from Czechoslovakia.
In the spring of 1943, they liquidated the camp at the railroad and sent
everybody to Poniatov. I alone from my family remained. I didn't know what
awaited me. From day to day life got harder. People were extremely hungry.
November, 1943, I fell from a scaffold and broke my left leg. All I could do
was to lie around in the camp for 3 months. In March of 1944 I went back to
work. The German gave me lighter work until I was able to stand on my feet.
In June of 1944 the Russians liberated Lublin and the Germans liquidated the
camp at Demblin. They sent me to Czenstechov and I worked at the iron works
there. I worked as a painter for 6 months.
of January, 1945, they took the people from the camp of Rakov, where I was, to
Germany. I arrived at Buchenwald but barely had I arrived there when they sent
me to Flosenberg. The Germans wanted to make an underground factory there. We
slept outside without eating. We were filthy, torn up and extremely weak. The
conditions were just indescribable. Every day thousands of people died, and
people of all nationalities. From Demblin I met Chaim Kaminsky, the baker, his
brother-in-law, and a son. My luck was that they chose me with a Russian
prisoner to chop wood for the S. S. kitchen. They cooked for all of the
S. S. men there. They threw the peelings from the cabbage and potatoes
into the latrine. The Russian and I used to gather up this dirty garbage and
hide it close to our body under our clothes. We used to eat it at night. That's
how we were able to get through three and a half months. After that, they sent
us back to Buchenwald, and from there to Shilenborg, near the Austrian border,
where I worked in a stone quarry, packing stone. After that, back to
Buchenwald, and from there they sent us to a camp, but we barely got there when
the allied armies finally were able to cut Germany into two. The closest way
out was to Dachau. They stuffed us into stalls because the camp itself was
overflowing. After being there a week, they stuffed us into rail cars and
carried us to Mitenvold. There in the mountains the Germans wanted to shoot
everybody. But a miracle happened. The 30
of April, 1945, 2 o'clock in the afternoon, the American Third Army liberated
From Demblin there were 60 Jews. The place was called Stalag, not far from
Mitenvold. The names of the Dembliners that were liberated there were Moniec
Ekheiser, Yehusha Schteinback, Chaim Schteinback, Yaacov-Leb Taitelboim, Moshe
Taitelboim and others.
After the liberation I was in the hospital for 3 months. After the War I lived
in Germany for 5 years, then I came to America.
A few words about myself and my family:
I was born in Demblin of fine although poor parents. My father was called Moshe
Malyazh. My mother's name was Peza Frizirke. I had 4 sisters, Libe, Malke,
Rachel, Shendel, and 2 brothers Hershel and Yisrael-Leb.
We lived on Ordenaska street. Our neighbors were Dar Geler Moshe (the yellow
Moshe) who was a butcher, Shmuel Kone who was a shoemaker, and Yosele, who was
In heder I studied with Baruch Zeidele, with Toiven Matas (deaf Matas), and
with Moshe-Daden. I studied in the Povshekner school and finished the 5
grade. In 1931 I began to learn painting. I learned that craft very fast and
became a breadwinner in my household.
Since I was kind of shy as a young man, I didn't involve myself with
organizations. Every once and awhile I used to go to Hashomir
Hatzayir [a left wing Zionist organization].
The Polish military had facilities near Demblin and they employed a group of
Jewish painters. We often worked together. A few of them were able to survive
In 1934, my sister Libe went to Paris. She got married to Saneh Goldshtein, who
was the son of Meir Marteks. With their child, a son of 8 years old, they died
in Auschwitz in the beginning of 1944. My sister Malka was married to a man
from Pulaw, Avram Kleiner, they had a 4 year old son. She and the son died in
Poniatov in 1944. Her husband lives today on a Kibbutz in Israel. My mother and
my youngest brother Yisrael-Leb died in Sobibor in May of 1942. My sister
Rachel and my brother Hershel died in Poniatow in 1944. My father and sister
Shendel died in Treblinka in 1944. Honored be their memory.
The First Half Year of Horror
by Meir Eichenbrenner, Detroit / Michigan
With great terror and uneasiness the Demblin Jews, more than those of other
towns, received the news the first of September 1939 about the outbreak of the
War between Germany and Poland. That's because there was a fortress and other
military objectives which were reasons for a town to be attacked and as a
result there was more suffering, torture and people being driven out of the
Although the first day was peaceful in the town and there was not anything
extraordinary going on, and although the words of the famous speech by
Ridz-Shmiglis, that we were not going to give away one button to the Germans,
was still fresh in everybody's mind, still nobody was prepared for how quickly
the Polish army was destroyed.
In the town, from the first moment, a very oppressive mood prevailed. A heavy
load fell on the heart and never stopped causing great fear. Nobody could lend
a hand to daily work. Nobody could think of business. The economic life of the
town was paralyzed from the first day.
The first night of War fell precisely on Friday evening, when the Sabbath
began. There were Jews in a very oppressed mood who went into the synagogue to
say the prayer welcoming the Sabbath. Also in the morning, early when Jews put
on their Sabbath clothes with their tallisim under their arms and went to pray,
it seemed like with every movement that they made, they expressed their great
Outside it seemed as if there wasn't any war at all. And as always at that time
of day things were quiet and there was a very Sabbath feeling to them.
But, as soon as we started to pray, a terrifying noise of heavy bombers was
heard across the city. Momentarily, there was one after another of ferocious
explosions, which were ear splitting, and the plaster of the ceiling began to
rain over us. We thought that soon the houses themselves would fall down and
bury us alive.
From both sides of the city fires were raging and thick black clouds of smoke
blotted out the sun.
With the greatest confusion the stampede began of the people who were scared to
death. They ran to a big meadow behind the synagogue where there wasn't even a
There we lay the whole day until night. After every explosion, fresh clouds of
smoke rose into the sky. It seemed as if the whole town would soon be consumed
with flames. Desperate parents with heart rending cries called for their lost
From that early morning Sabbath the quiet and contented town of ours was
transformed into and unending, terrifying hell.
When the airplanes went away and it was quiet again, we found out that a bomb
had fallen behind the synagogue near the scron [polish word] and that from that
airborne projectile everybody who had been gathered there at that moment was
killed. A terrible sense of awe and fear fell upon each individual. Nobody
wanted to go back to his house, but remained there in the meadow.
By afternoon the German bombers appeared again. This time they bombed the
region of the ponds and the lakes where there was a big weapons factory. The
whole time not one shot was fired at them.
As soon as the night began to fall, when the German bombers were no longer
making themselves evident, little by little, after a whole day of deathly fear
and hunger, we returned to our houses which we had left in the morning.
But as soon as we started to eat a little something a frightful panic broke out
across the town because horses and wagons had pulled up to some of the houses
and onto them people had thrown in the darkness a few things that they needed
to survive with. The wife and children had been put in the wagons and they
started to ride away to Ryki where there were no military objectives.
Soon there began in the darkness a stampede over the countryside in order to
see if you could rent a peasant's wagon. But peasants weren't in any mood to
risk their lives at a time like that. So everybody just, as best they could,
grabbed their valuables and packed as much as they could carry on their
shoulders. Broken and worn out, the sick and the old, the women and children,
the whole town on foot, began its journey that night to Ryki.
The road from Demblin to Ryki, which under normal circumstances, even on foot,
wouldn't take more than an hour and a half or two hours to walk, now seemed
like an impossible course to run because of the automobiles that were
overturned, the upended wagons and horses that had been killed dragging them.
All of these lay on the highway, which had been repeatedly bombed.
The road was so littered with debris that even the beaten retreating Polish
army was only able to traverse it at night. And so after a whole night of
walking, all the time tripping, falling, getting cut and bruised, dead tired,
and in great despair, in fallen feet, just as the morning was breaking, we
arrived at Ryki.
Although nothing bad had happened in Ryki, at dawn the streets were filled with
Jews, milling around, and from there, in their tired sleepless eyes, you saw
the most extraordinary fear and panic.
Soon the synagogue, all the little prayer houses, the bath house, all available
space was taken up with homeless people. Everybody looked for a little piece of
ground to lay their head on. And nobody even thought of trying to run any
further than here.
In Ryki, we soon felt the bitter taste of being without a home. The Ryki Jews
were in the same danger as us, they simply weren't able to help us, they didn't
have anything to help us with, because what little bit of food or bread there
was to sustain a soul, was simply unavailable at any price. We would look at
the heavily laden airplanes that used to fly overhead. We'd look at them as
part of a routine almost, get used to them, but, although we would stand out in
the street and just stand there looking at them, our hearts still didn't lose
their basic terror for a moment.
On the third day, early in the morning, some airplane, like a crow with its
terrifying noise, flew over the town and before one was able to run away to the
scronos [Polish word], we heard the terrifying explosions, one after the other.
Soon the whole town seemed to be transformed into one raging flame. From the
burning houses one heard the desperate heart rending cries for help of the
From all sides the people, in the greatest confusion, were running from the
burning city. But as soon as the thick mass of people began to run over the
open fields, the German planes came back, swooped down and shot everybody with
In just a couple of minutes, the whole field was covered with hundreds of
corpses and wounded people, whole families were cut down.
Soon an exodus from Ryki began, people wanted to go any place as long as they
could get out of range of danger. The only ones who remained were those who
were determined to bury their dead, broken people and worn out who barely were
able to walk and themselves seemed like ghosts. The crying pulled their dead in
hand drawn carts and with their last strength pulled them to the cemetery. Some
even carried the dead on their shoulders. Fathers dug graves for their whole
families and young children with their own hands buried their parents.
We escaped towards Boronov, which was in a far off sandy area. On the way we
met a rich Jewish family who owned a mill and estate and lots of fields in the
area. They just left everything behind now, and in a wagon that carried loads,
pulled buy two big strong horses, they traveled in the opposite direction from
We told them that we had first escaped from Demblin because the Germans
bombarded it several times, and for the same reason we had run away from Ryki
Almost at the same time as us, the Germans came into Boronov and soon began to
torture people, Jewish blood began to flow and hell opened up for us. We were
not able to get back to Demblin, and were also afraid of traveling by back
roads, because they were full of danger.
As soon as the murderers gave an order that all of those who had run away from
their towns had to return to them, we began to return, we simply didn't have
any choice. Tired, worn out, with swollen, infected feet. We returned to
Demblin. Happily the roads at that time were filled with thousands of Poles who
were going in the same direction and so we were able to get from Boronov to
Demblin without any big problem.
It seemed that we almost were sneaking back into the town like thieves. The
streets were deserted. It seemed as if we were the only ones who had just
arrived here. We soon learned, though, that almost the whole town of Jews was
already there. But, people were hidden away in their houses. People were
frightened of showing themselves in the streets because of the Germans. Their
torture of Jews was terrifying and savage.
The first day they had grabbed a young Hassid, beat him, and then ordered him
to crawl up the front part of a tank. They stated going fast over the cobbled
streets. They ordered him to imitate different kinds of animals and to
nay like a billy goat, bark like a dog, grunt like a pig and crow
like a rooster. The young man, beaten up, pale, with all of his strength, held
on to the smooth steel of the tank. Finally they began to drive as fast as they
could and the young man was beaten over the head with sticks. He fell off,
bloody, half dead, and remained lying on the ground.
Each day they dragged people off to work, which consisted of carrying the same
load of bricks or wood, back and forth, from the same place. As they did this,
they never stopped screaming, You Jews, you wanted the War and the War is
going to make you all die like dogs.
Every day repeated the one before. At dusk the people would return home,
bloodied and beaten up.
Once, all of the Jews, young and old, men and women, they were driven by the
Germans out behind the town and ordered to pull out the grass with their hands
that was growing in the ditches along the side of the highway.
On the first day in the middle of the market place, the Jewish Council (which
the Germans created), before the eyes of everybody, before the whole population
which had been driven together, was humiliated and tortured. The Germans made
one jump on the other and ride them as if one was a horse and one was a rider.
After seven in the evening no living soul dared to show themselves. At night
they use to knock on the doors of a house, take somebody out, and you never saw
that person again. You never even knew where his bones ended up.
Once on such a night in the first week, we heard the driving in our street of
some automobiles which stopped directly across from our house and remained
there. Some Germans remained in the cars for awhile, but soon some of them
began to get out and walk away. With our hearts beating very hard and our ears
on edge, we listened to the terrible sound of their boots until the sound was
completely swallowed up in the dead silence of the night.
Not long thereafter we heard some powerful explosions. Outside it became a
bright as day. In tremendous confusion we ran to the door but stayed there,
afraid to run out because the Germans were still standing around their
Through the cracks we saw the wild, wild flames with the red sparks jumping all
over the place which lit up the whole sky. The big old wooden synagogue was now
a mass of flames.
In the morning, when not more than a smoky pile of black ash remained of the
synagogue, the gendarmes, with revolvers in hand, came into the Judenrat
offices and ordered that we should tell them who set the synagogue on fire.
Again they demanded more new tributes.
Just as the fall was lovely and dry and it hardly rained at all, with the
beginning of winter, the weather was mild and warm with bright and sunny days.
Soon after the new year though, the really heavy winter began. Snow storms blew
for weeks and weeks at a time. Everything was covered in white. When the snow
stopped, the very long heavy cold spells began.
In this winter, 1940, the German murderers decided that Pulaw must become
Judenrein. In order to cause the Jews more suffering and torture, the murderers
in the course of just a few minutes, with wild sadism and savagery, drove all
the Jews out of that town. Nobody was able to take anything with them at all.
The whole road from Pulaw to Demblin had to be traversed on foot. As the Jews
from Pulaw made their way in the terrible frost and arrived in the town, it was
one of the most shaking and terrifying sights I'd ever seen. Some of the worn
out beaten Jews didn't even have a hat on their head, they had frozen, bloody
hair, that was matted together. Others were bent over, barely managing to move
on their feet. They had managed to wrap their children who were dying of the
cold with rags, they carried them under their arms. The people were resigned.
It was extremely difficult to get to say even one word, they couldn't even cry.
Most of the Jews of Pulaw who had absolutely no means of staying alive, quickly
died from cold and hunger. From then on, Pulaw was the word that conveyed the
most fear to the Jews of the area.
That winter we lived in terror that at anytime the murderers would deal us the
same fate as the Jews of Pulaw.
It began to get a little bit milder. The Nazis needed a little bit of slave
labor for Pulaw. So they set up a punishment camp there and they used to send
Jews from Demblin to that camp. But, it was very rare that those who had been
sent to Pulaw came back alive.
If it was possible to manage to save one of the victims, it was thanks to the
Jewish craftsman, Avrom Abenshtein, who made boots with great skill and used to
please the local commander of the gendarmes, more than any others. With his
help and great effort the Judenrat succeeded in getting an in with the Nazis.
They bribed them with the most expensive gifts and with money. Whatever
appealed to them, whatever they wanted, the Judenrat tried very hard to make
available to them, and often could.
Although the situation in town became a little bit easier the Jews worked at
various sites and the constant pouncing on people and dragging them off to work
stopped. Still life became sadder and more bitter because not one day went by
in which we weren't struck to the roots of our being by some horrible news
about what had happened to another town. Not a week went by that we weren't
caused the greatest pain in the roots of our soul, by one or another savage and
Survival of Hell
by Miriam Tzimbrovitch, New York
Soon after the first deportation, the 5
of May, they took my parents, sisters and a brother. They were about to send
me away as well, but, through a miracle I remained. The S. S. said that I
was capable of working. During the second deportation as well, I was lucky, and
I stayed behind.
When I went back from the place where everybody was made to gather, I saw that
near the synagogue there lay 200 Jews who had been shot. Among the dead was a
woman, the daughter-in-law of Braindel Laibkelis, with a child of about a year.
The child was still alive and sucking at its mother's breast. His mother was
dead. What became of the child I don't know, because I ran, looking for my
children. I didn't know, should I look for them among the dead or among the
Later I learned that my daughter Poliya was in the Demblin fortress and the
other children in the Demblin camp. My oldest son Avrom was in the town. The
gendarmes had appointed him to be one of those who moved out all the dead
bodies. His pain and grief is impossible to describe.
I and my husband escaped to the train station. While running they shot at us. A
woman from Gniveshov fell from the bullets at my feet.
In Miyershansky we went to a Christian, the train employee, Vidat, and spent
the night there. Early in the morning I and my husband ran to the train
inspection to work. We loaded coal in wagons. We worked there very hard. They
would take care of you somewhat if you worked well.
Once, I and Yenta Seinfeld were standing in a freight car. Along the whole
length of the connected train was a high fence. And behind it stood imprisoned
Russians. Yenta began to converse with a Russian prisoner and afterwards he
gave her a little bit of soap and she gave him a couple of cigarettes. The
person in charge, a Ukrainian, saw this, and ordered her to get out of the
wagon and he shot her. She left behind a husband and two children who managed
to hang on for a little bit longer and then they themselves were killed.
Later on they also took people from the train inspection to Konske-Volya, where
there were only Jews, a kind of Jewish town. Each day they sent whole
transports in that direction. When they got there they would shoot hem. They'd
also chosen me and I was even in line there. But a train employee stuck his
head out the window and said to the S. S., that I was a very useful woman,
that I cooked and washed for the train employees, and saved my life.
I worked for a year in the train inspection during which the children worked in
the Demblin camp. They tried to get the officials at the camp to have us sent
over there, into the Demblin camp, so that we could all be together. Before
Passover 1943, they sent us to the camp. Two weeks later, everybody who still
remained at the train inspection was sent to Poniatow, there they were shot. Of
all of those who worked at the train station, not a single individual remained.
I and my husband and children went to work everyday and together we were able
to make it through the hell. But we thanked God that at least we were together.
Once, in the morning, my dear daughter Esther went out to work an very quickly
she was brought back dead. I'll never forget that day. When I came back from
work my husband, with the camp commander, was there to meet me. The camp
commander told me what had happened and I immediately fainted. Dr. Kestenboim
saved me through use of injections.
One day before the liberation my son Laibel was sent to Czenstechov, there they
sent him to Germany, and after that, he never returned. They took them there in
rail cars, packed in like beasts, with nothing to eat and nothing to drink
until they just died.
I was born in 1938
(The Story of a Demblin Jewish Child)
by Aba Bronspigel
Berlin, Mariendorf, March 19, 1947
(From the material of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem)
I was in a camp and I had stuff to eat. The camp was called Demblin. I was able
to play in the camp. But when a camp officer arrived, my life was put at risk.
I thought that they would take me and kill me. My father worked very hard work
and my mother worked at a lighter job.
In the camp they hung people for nothing. I learned Polish there. The Germans
came often and made searches. These were really, really strict searches. When
the Russians approached the camp, the Germans sent me away to a second camp and
it was very bad there. I had to hide many times during the course of the day. I
worked there very hard at a variety of tasks. Some nights they would call us
out for roll call. A child was born there who lives until today. The child's
name is Hershela. The mother of the child wanted to strangle him. One night
came when they told all the Jews to turn towards the wall and they, in the
morning, took my two brothers and sent them away. It was a day before the
liberation. At night they wanted to send all of the rest of the Jews away. They
took us all into a building where there was storage for gasoline. At night the
Russians came closer and they sent us back to the barracks. When it got really
late at night, the Russians entered the town and there wasn't a German to be
* Today Rabbi and head of the yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York
Tales of a Survivor
by Chaya Zilberberg-Weinberg, Montreal
Until the Outbreak of the War
My father told me that he was born in Bobrownik, 7 kilometers from Demblin. In
the city, there was a fortress where there were a lot of military people and
the Jews used to service them with food and clothes and shoes and that's how
they let them make their living.
In Demblin there were Jewish contractors / undertakers, craftsmen,
storekeepers, butchers and brokers. The older Demblin Jews were very pious
Hasidim and of course Demblin had the Modzjitzer Rabbi who was very well known
for being a great scholar, composer and teacher. But the youth was very
interested in socialism and Zionism.
In 1905 all the big cities in Czarist Russia had experienced a revolutionary
outbreak. Workers went on strike and marched with red banners crying out
Down with the Czar. Also in Demblin the work places shut down and
the workmen demanded their rights.
The strike was organized by Dembliner students who fought for human rights.
They found their way to prison quite a bit. And some of them were sent by the
Czar to Siberia. The Jewish students were Barrish Eisenmesser (his daughter
Feley Puterman lives today in Israel). He was a student of medicine and after
he became a doctor and worked in Leningrad. My Uncle Shlomo Zilberberg had two
doctorates and today is an instructor in Leningrad in the University.
Schmelzstein was a student who died young of Tuberculosis.
During the First World War, the Russians retreated and the Germans took over.
Then after that, Poland of course became independent. The Germans left. I was a
little girl at that time and just beginning to go to school and since there was
no Jewish school to go into, I went into a Polish school.
There were quite a few of us Jewish students and we suffered a lot at the hands
of our gentile schoolmates. They hated Jews and they made us feel it and hurt
us quite a bit.
But aside from the anti-Semitism, the life of Jews between the two World Wars
was quite rich with social activity. Demblin had all the different Jewish
parties, a Jewish school, two banks, free loan service, a free clinic founded
by Yarme Vanapol and he gave a lot of effort and care and worry to this
This is a good time to remember the very wonderful friend of the Jews, Dr.
Zochatzkt, who worked along with Vanapol in his clinic.
Yarme Vanapol was a very dear and caring Jew. He cared for people free, without
demanding any money. Anti-Semitic Poles squealed on him and accused him of
being a spy for the Russians so that at the beginning of September, 1939, when
the Second World War broke out, he and his wife Anna were sent to the horrible
Polish camp of Kartuz-Bereza where they perished.
Bitter Times for Jewish Demblin
When the Germans came into town that's when the really bitter times began for
Jews. I and my child, my parents, sisters and brothers went into the Sobyeshin
forest in order to try and hide. However, the Polish bandits made a practice of
attacking and robbing the Jews that they encountered in the forest. So we
decided we better go back to Demblin. The city then was completely under the
control of the villains. The Jewish businesses had been taken over by gentiles.
The Germans managed to appropriate everything that was worth anything, any kind
of valuable objects or merchandise. They made people go to forced labor.
A little time later, in one of the narrow streets, they created the Jewish
ghetto. We went there one rainy day. My child (daughter) became very sick,
diphtheria had arrived in the camp and everything got a lot worse. I risked my
life, left the ghetto, and went to bring a doctor. Things like that were
absolutely forbidden. If they caught you outside the ghetto they would just
shoot you on the spot and that's exactly how a son of Meir Aranyak was shot to
death. I didn't care about the danger, and I was determined to save my child. I
made my way to the gentile doctor Gelber and he agreed to come back with me and
thanks to Dr. Gelber the child was saved.
Two years later, when we were in the camp by the station, Dr. Gelber risked his
life again by coming into help Nesan Vanapol who was extremely sick. I remember
that then on that occasion, the Ukrainians and German gendarmes surrounded the
barracks. We were sure that now we were going to die. The doctor himself was
quite desperate. I'm going to be shot like a dog. My wife and my child
won't even know what happened to me. I saw Dr. Gelber again in the camp
at Shultzen, he was helping a sick Avrom Shilenger. Later, he died. The wife of
Dr. Gelber was terrified and she went to the barbed wire to wait for her
husband. The doctor was a great democrat, a great friend of Jews, and a
wonderful physician. The anti-Semites though, ratted on him, said that he was a
Jew and the Nazis murdered him.
The situation in the ghetto became frighteningly bad. There was a terrible
hunger. People were dying from typhus and other kinds of diseases. The Nazis
emptied all of the Jewish houses in the ghetto of everything they could get
their hands on. Any valuables, any possessions, any clothes. And sadistically
they beat and murdered Jewish women, old people and children. In this brutal
work these people really distinguished themselves: the folksduetche, Edec, and
the vicious German Peterson and Knophadayder.
of May, 1942 was the first round-up of Demblin Jews. They drove hundreds of
hungry, sick Jews out of their houses, beat them, pushed them into overcrowded
rail cars and sent them to the death camp in Sobibor. They never came back from
The young men were driven to forced labor at the Demblin airfield and the train
station. I and my family succeeded for the time being in hiding ourselves. The
ghetto in Demblin during the first round-up was emptied of many Jews, but later
on the city was fully packed again because in the place of those that they
deported, the Germans brought in thousands of Jews from Slovakia. The situation
was absolutely horrible, the overcrowding and lack of sanitation caused lots of
typhus and death.
The second round-up came on the 15
of October, 1942. During the second round-up, they murdered hundreds of Jews,
young and old, men and women.
I, my child, my mother and a few other women succeeded in getting into Mayontek
Vientshkov on a temporary basis to work. But we didn't remain there very long
because on the 28
of October, 1942, very late at night, the S. S. man Wagner let us know
that he needed to take us to the Jewish town of Konske-Volye where we would be
safe. I understood at that point that he was trying to hoodwink us.
I jumped through the Window
When the villains encountered a woman or mother with her child, they would
regularly, in a bestial way, murder the child before the mother's eyes, and
then they would kill the mother. This I was never going to let myself live
through. And so, leaving my dear mother, Shayndela, I threw myself out the
window and being sure that we would both be shot. But after me, the children of
my husband's brother, Sonya and Nachman, jumped out after me and also
Tzertzah's fiancée. Luckily under the fence there, there weren't any
gendarmes around. All that we had, we had left behind us in the courtyard.
Sitting there in deathly fright, barefoot and half naked, I heard how they led
out my mother and the other women. I went back to get something for my child
and already there were some Poles standing around there and they warned that
the S. S. man wasn't very far away and if I hung around I was going to get
shot. In terrible fear, I grabbed the child in my arms and began to make my way
to Demblin, not knowing if I'd find one Jew left in the city. My child fell
asleep in my arms, my heart wept with pity each minute death threatened us
because the Poles knew and could have turned us in to the gendarmes. I was
very, very preoccupied with the fate of my poor mother.
I came to a farm stall and I met there a peasant who I didn't know before. I
laid my child on the ground, I was extremely afraid that he peasant would
discover us. It was dark when I set out again, trembling at the barking of the
dogs, and hoped that hey wouldn't wake up the peasants.
A good peasant who lived not far from Krukovke in a little colony took my child
in his arms and led us to a windmill in an old suburb. We went into
Weingelechen, and from there Robert took us to the gates of the camp, not far
from Dr. Zochatzky. At the gate there were corpses of several Jews lying
around. It seemed that they wanted to get into the camp, the gate was locked
and they shot them. We succeeded in getting in. My child and I were able to
sneak to the train station where my family was. The barracks at the station
didn't have any windows or doors and it wasn't heated and any Lithuanian,
Ukrainian, Pole or German all had the right to kill us on the spot. Winter was
horribly cold, and they use to come in with wagons, and load up all the sick
people and send them to Konske-Volye. Rudolf, Zygert, Peterson and other
sadists used to manage to shoot quite a few people every day. We were terribly
hungry and sick there. On one bitterly cold day they took my two little
sisters, young, blossoming children. I wanted to go to them, but the children
started to cry and begged that I should go away because the Ukrainians would
shoot me. In Koske-Volye they kept them in open, unheated houses.
And soon, all kinds of diseases started to break out. My little sisters became
sick with typhus from lying on the bare ground. The older one, Perla, who was
16 years old, died. The younger one, Esther, was lying hugging her, not even
knowing that her sister was already dead. Later on, we succeeding in getting
Esther back to the strain station and she told us hideous things that happened
Besides my personal suffering, I saw terrible pain and cruelty at the station.
of July, 1943, there was a deportation to Poniatov. At 12 noon, the S. S.
came with machine guns, gave an order that we should get ready to travel.
Knowing that my son, Yuna was more threatened that I was by death, within
eyesight of the S. S., I tore through the barbed wire and I and my child,
both covered with blood, succeeded in getting into the house of a Christian
acquaintance near the station. We weren't able to stay there very long because
the gentile was afraid that the gendarmes would find us and kill them for
hiding Jews. Not having any place to go, I decided to go to the rich peasant,
Stachorsky, who lived in the same town as my family, the town of Tsherniov not
far from Lugov. He had helped Jews, given them food to eat without demanding
anything in return. The anti-Semites squealed on him to the gendarmes who hung
him with his family in Demblin.
Stachorsky's address was given to me by the leader of the public school,
Skovransky, who was a great democrat and a friend of Jews. Later, he, two weeks
before the liberation, was murdered by the A.K. in the sight of his wife. This
was told to me by Vladeyslav Yarashek, a poor bricklayer, who gave his last bit
of bread from his own mouth to Jews. Later he died in 1945 of tuberculosis.
I went away with my child to the Katlavneyah, near the camp, actually, to the
airport. And there I was able to meet with my husband and my brother Feivel who
had succeeded in running away from the station. My two sisters, Revkelah and
Esterlah, and my brother-in-law, Baruch Perelman, from Pulaw, along with all
the Jews from the station, had been sent away to Poniatov and they never came
back from there. The 3
of November, 1943, Poniatov and Travneykey were destroyed.
Good People Help Us
In the camp, at the airfield, we didn't dare remain very long, because we
weren't legal. The same night we spent in the field of rye and we were shot at
by Ukrainians. Luckily, the bullets missed and before dawn, with our hearts
beating, we went back to the Katlavneyah because we had a place to hide. I
remember that the woman, Edjsha Ekheizer, brought us something to eat, but
because of our great sorrow, we couldn't eat knowing that each minute death was
The wife of Doctor Paris came in. She wanted to calm us down and said that
people in the camp asked the director of the camp to intervene with the German
authorities an let us come in. She also gave me the address of the Pole who she
said would take us in if it really got bad in the camp. She, with her husband
and daughter, if they were able to, would also go there. At the same time, the
director of the camp came with good news that we were going to be allowed to
come in. In the camp in Demblin we stayed for a year, we didn't have any money,
we were half naked and barefoot, but good people helped us. And a deeply felt
thanks comes to the wife of Chaim Teichman for her humane treatments.
In the Dembliner camp, we stayed until the 18
of July, 1944. When the Soviets approached the Vistula, the camps inhabitants
were moved in two groups to Czenstechov. In the first group, were 15 children,
and these children were murdered, thanks to the brutality of the German
Bartenschlager. And a great deal of culpability in this event rests with the
director of the camp, a German Jew by the name of Yoles. The second group, in
which there were 30 children, they took away to liquidate, and for two days and
nights the children were in terrible fear, but after that, they gave them back
to us. And why the Nazis didn't kill them and return them I don't know until
In Czenstechov we remained until the 15
of January, 1945, when the Red Army liberated us. A day before that, the
Germans deported 800 Jews to Buchenwald. Among those deported, were my husband,
my father and my brother.
In the last days of the War, they sent my father on a death march, and along
the way, they drove the Jews into a river. And coming out of the river, my
father died. My husband and brother avoided the death march, because they were
so sick and swollen with hunger. They remained in Buchenwald until the
Americans and English soldiers liberated them.
And finally the end of the horrible War came. My husband and brother came back
from Buchenwald. We lived in Lodz, and after that we left Poland. Now we live
in Montreal, Canada.
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