The Russians liberated us
by Esther Shapiro-Tenenboim, Paris
Demblin wasn't a very big town, but it looms large in the consciousness. We
didn't live in any great riches, but with a great deal of warmth.
There was a great drive and interest to accumulate culture and knowledge in the
town. There was a culture association with a big library. Every week we had a
culture evening and we received answers to the questions that interested us. We
had a drama circle which presented beautiful productions and the proceeds went
for community projects.
To our great sorrow, Hitler cut off everybody's life.
In 1938 we had already seen the beginnings of the enormous tragedy. We were
afraid of the littlest gentile child. They didn't let a Jew walk by peacefully.
They threw stones at him, whistled, and made fun. They used to scream at that
time that Hitler was going to come for us. Later we Jews could not believe the
Hitler fury. Jews aid that we would outlive Hitler.
In September of 1939, the nightmare began. Each day new proclamations, forced
labor accompanied with murderous blows, yellow badges, herding people into
ghettos and camps, torture, hunger and freezing. And above everything the
constant fear of death. In this way Jews believed they would outlive all of the
sorrows and all of the suffering.
On the 6th
of May, 1942, was the first deportation of 2,500 Jews. Of my family suddenly
14 souls were taken away. All of them became martyrs.
Afterwards they began other deportations. This time we're talking about mass
murders. On the streets of Demblin, hundreds of bodies lay. The ground was red
with blood. That was the 28th
of October of 1942. The remaining people were driven into camps. Not one Jew
remained in the city.
We worked in a camp, a few kilometers from Demblin. Everyday, or once in two
days, there was an inspection by the S. S. The terror is something that I
can not describe. The children had to lie hidden in their beds. We were in the
camp in Demblin until 1944. When the Russians approached, the S. S.
deported us to Czenstechov. There in the camp things were even worse. They soon
took away 16 children and killed them. They also took children from us and
after 10 days we succeeded with quite a bit of effort to free 33 children.
My child was the youngest, 1 year and a half old. When the inspection came from
the S. S., I covered my child in a blanket in bed, he was always crying
from hunger, but when the S. S. came, he didn't cry at all. It's
impossible to describe the terror of the parents and of the children when there
was an inspection. The children hid themselves like old people.
Two days before coming to Czenstechov, they sent away 200 families with
children. The children were taken away and killed.
Ten days before the liberation there was a selection. They took the mothers
with the children and the old women. A child of 4 years old begged her mother
that she shouldn't leave her and held her as hard as she could with her hands.
When the Russians came and liberated us we kissed the Russian soldiers. I will
never forget that thanks to them, we were freed.
The Second Expulsion
by Zaheva Amitz
It was during the middle of the day, a sunny fall afternoon. We were taking
advantage of the good weather, because we'd just been doing our washing. We
were hanging it out. We came home to prepare the midday meal and sat down to
Suddenly we heard shooting. Perhaps another action was beginning to happen
because it had already been 5 months since the first one. We were lucky on that
day, we were all at home. My sisters were already at work in the camp at the
airbase. We had tried to bring Grandma and Grandpa home from the ghetto, but we
weren't able to, because old people weren't allowed into the camp. Even young
people had a really difficult time to get in as workers.
We were sitting there and trying to figure out what to do and realized that it
was going to be really difficult to deal with this situation given that we were
such a big family of 9 people. There wasn't any room to hide and it wasn't
really feasible to escape either. There was Grandma and Grandpa, mother and
father, three sisters, my sister-in-law, Sara with an 18 month old child
(Poltzeya). Leijsha, my brother, was one of the first victims who the villains
sent to Sobibor during the first round-up.
Meanwhile the shooting grew more intense. The Christian neighbors told us that
there were already quite a few victims who had escaped the ghetto. They added
that the whole city was surrounded by German soldiers. My father decided it was
senseless to go out of the house, with such a big family. But there was one way
out, to hide ourselves. We lived in a two family house with a Polish family.
From the corridor there was an entrance to the attic. In the corridor there was
also a little cellar. My father told us to pack into the cellar, but there just
wasn't enough room for everybody. So I, my father, and Unka (sister), remained
in the house.
My father's nerves just gave out though. He screamed to us, Maybe nobody
is left now in the town? If they find us, they will murder us. I don't want to
have that on my conscience. I am going to run over to the square and see if
there's any Jews left in town. That way I'll be able to find out what our fate
is going to be of everybody else.
He ran out of the house. I remained with Unka. We were two great contrasts
between us. I was cold-blooded while she was just completely broken up by the
experience. She began to cry and scream that they were going to kill us all.
She opened the door and ran after father.
Remaining alone, I began to think of how I was going to hide myself. I figured
out that the door to the cellar needed to be hidden, covered up somehow, so
that nobody would be able to see it. I went into a room which was off the
courtyard and there I found a big bucket of sawdust which was used for heating.
I scattered it all over the floor, above the cellar. Then I went in the house,
took down the plates with the food on them from the table, cleared out the
rooms, took out two clean covers from a cupboard and spread them over the beds.
My mind worked at this in a very calm, lucid way. I realized if the Germans
were to come into the house they should have the impression that there aren't
any Jews living here. I was young. I didn't have an especially Jewish
appearance. I still remember today, that moment that I thought to myself that I
was capable of saving my family.
Meanwhile at our neighbors, three small girls [Polish] remained. The neighbor
and her husband were at work. The oldest of the little girls was 13 years old.
Right from the beginning she just didn't know what I was doing, she couldn't
figure it out. I wasn't able to foresee that I was going to have a lot of
problems with her.
The Germans meanwhile looked throughout the whole city, not avoiding a single
house. When they found Jews, they shot them or they drove them into the market
place. They also came a lot closer to our street. In the two big houses
directly across the street, where Slovakian Jews had been put up, those who'd
been brought to Demblin after the first deportation, these were old people and
they didn't have the slightest intimation of what it meant to hide themselves.
It didn't even occur to them to take cover. They didn't even believe that the
Germans were capable of murdering innocent people. When the murderers went into
those houses and saw that people were just sitting calmly in their houses, the
Germans went crazy. It was very difficult to describe what happened there then.
As our house was right across the street and the neighbor's children saw all of
this, the biggest one ran into the house and began to scream:
They're taking everybody out of that house across the street. Get out of
here, because if you don't, I'm going to call them over here immediately.
So I was afraid that she was going to run right out of the house. Who knows
what she was capable of doing. Happily, I didn't lose my cold bloodedness and I
ran to the door and locked it. Today I can barely believe how much strength I
had, how much it took me to get through those minutes. I fought with that
little girl as if I was fighting with a wild animal. She screamed, she threw
herself around, she wanted to take the keys out of my hand. I didn't realize
then or think then, that she was really in a very unfortunate situation.
Besides that, she was just 13 years old, without a lot of experience in life.
Her terror got even bigger when the Germans suddenly entered the two houses
across the street and carried out a massacre of the old people. Finally I was
able to calm her down.
Meanwhile the Germans left. It became dark. The bloody massacre was over. From
500 to 600 victims were killed. My father was able to remain with us after that
for 2 weeks. He was sent from the other camp to Maidanek and after a couple of
days he perished there.
To our luck, a small number of people still remained in the town because the
Germans needed a group of Jews in order to clear out the dead.
We moved in and started to live on Okulna street. My father immediately began
to build a hiding place, especially for Grandma and Grandpa, who weren't able
to get work in the camp. Not to mention that my father was a very pious Jew,
full of hope. He never stopped believing in miracles. He never gave up that
something would come along and save us.
We were practically the only full family in the town who had lived through
three actions. And all that thanks to my father's great efforts and initiative.
After the second deportation came the third. The city remained without Jews.
During the third deportation, my father was taken away to Maidanek. But he made
a good bunker for his parents in which they remained for a whole week. After a
lot of effort we were able to work out a deal with peasants to bring them
secretly into the camp. Now it's easier to tell about it then it actually was,
to get them from one side of the barbed wire to the other. But we were able one
way or the other to get then inside.
Grandfather died after a couple of months. But Grandma was able to live to see
the liberation, after which she died. In between she suffered no end to
As my sister-in-law Sara was part of the camp, all of us, including her child,
went there. Believe me it wasn't an easy thing to save little children, but we
were able to do it, because we really wanted to stay together. Maybe its
because of our spunkiness, will to fight and our initiative and our will to
live, that almost all of us who went into the camp came out alive.
I don't have the Strength to describe everything
by Yosef Daitsher, Argentina
The first tragedy was when they took our father during a deportation. After
that I went into the camp. We were four Jews lying on bare bunks, covered with
a little piece of torn blanket. There were 4 of us, we were very cold. The four
were: Malkela, Bruchela, Sara, my wife, and I.
I felt that I wouldn't be able to stand it. I was used to my nice bed and all
of my personal bedding and I decided to go with the police into town and get it
all done in a half hour. My sister's son Simek was a policeman, so I asked him
if he should go with me.
I went to my house, everything was there. I got together a little bundle, a
warm covering, and I made a package. Meanwhile a gendarme came in and asked me
what am I doing? I answered that it's my house and that I just came here to
pick up a few things. He answered, you're still in the camps, how do you come
to just walk out and come to town like this? He took out his pistol from his
holster and he was about to shoot me. My sister's son knew him and stopped him.
He grabbed his arm and said that I was his Uncle and he should let me go and he
promised him a gift. I left my bundle that I'd prepared and I just got out of
When I got back to camp, my children didn't recognize me, so deeply had I been
affected by the terror. I didn't go back again after that. I simply suffered
cold and hunger.
I worked in a big hall washing the train cars with a rubber sponge. Once a
German came and he smacked me in the head, more than once. I was almost dead.
He dragged me outside, my Malkela and Bruchela cried bitterly, they laid me on
a garbage wagon and took me away to bury me.
My son-in-law Yosel found out about this, and he came very quickly to the camp,
he went to the Jewish doctor, Kestenboim, and he pleaded with him to take pity
on me and to save me and he cried quite a bit. The doctor opened my veins,
stuck 10 needles and pulled out 2 glasses of blood.
I wasn't able to return to work. In the barracks I wasn't able to lie around
either. It was very bad and very painful.
Something happened with a woman who worked in the kitchen. She'd fallen into a
big pot of very hot water and she was burned all the way up to her throat. They
laid her in a room and just hid her there. If such a thing had happened to a
Christian, they would have taken them to a hospital. But with a Jew, they just
sent them to the camp to be murdered. I was in that room with her for 3 weeks
and what I suffered there is just beyond description.
Later a group of inspectors came. They were able to hide me, but the woman
who'd been burned was impossible to move. Everybody thought they were just
going to shoot her. But the camp commander, a Viennese Jew, a lawyer, came and
with a smile said to the people who were doing the inspection, Gentlemen,
gentlemen. You see this woman here? She found out that there's no meat in the
pot. The way she found out was diving right into it. He told them about
this, exactly how things had happened, and they left, they didn't shoot her.
She lay there for 6 months and they were able to heal her. After that she was
murdered with her husband. They were from Preschov.
I risked my life again. I went into town to get something to cover myself with
because I just couldn't stand the cold. Right on the day that I happened to go
into town, the Ukrainians came and started a search. They wanted to find out if
there were any Jews still remaining in the town. They rooted around every
conceivable corner. The gendarmes came into my house. They dragged me out of
the house and ordered me to go to the market. That's where there were already
thousands of people. I left in the direction of the market, but I changed my
course and started going toward Miyerzantzky. I came to the bridge and I saw
that there were 3 gendarmes there. Now what do I do? I had a little ticket with
me, a little official card, which said that I worked at the camp, so I went
right up to them, I showed them the card, and I said, Look gentlemen, I
work in the camp, and the camp commander sent me into town to buy something.
The gendarmes won't let me into town. Well, they said,
don't you know that there's a deportation today. Go back to camp.
And they let me go through.
[Wife speaking now] I wanted to hide myself at the house of a Christian
acquaintance. I was sure that he would take me in because when my father had
been deported he'd asked me why didn't my husband come to him, he would have
hidden him. This was Kripek, the son of old Trazepsky. It was only when things
were really bad that I came to him with a very terrible pain. It was only
really bad circumstances that brought me there and he said, You have to
get out of here already. You know already they are deporting Jews,
all of the Jews, have pity on me. You've already said that you would hide my
husband. I don't want to go, because they're just going to shoot me right away.
There are gendarmes standing everywhere. You've known me now for 30 years. You
are my best friend. Have pity, hide me. He said to me, You know
that the Germans have hung up signs that say that anybody who hides a Jew will
be shot along with his entire family. I really like you, but my wife and my
children are even dearer to me than you. I cried and I begged until he
screamed. Get out of here! and drive me away.
I ran further until the rail lines. It was impossible to traverse the rail
lines because there were gendarmes standing around. I risked it and went across
a little bit further from where I was, as far away from them as I could. Even
in peace time, one was forbidden to go there. Only with special permission were
you allowed to go there. I don't know where I got the strength to run across
the tracks as quickly as I did. I went towards Mechaline. There I had a good
female Christian friend and I thought that she would hide me. I went into the
courtyard, nobody was there, the door was locked. I went into the stall with
the animals. There was a lot of hay there. I crawled into the hay. The
Christian woman was at that point in another town.
I heard how people were being taken to the train. The screams and the shooting
were absolutely horrifying. I was trembling. The barn was just on the other
side of where the train cars were, which were being loaded up to be sent away.
With each shot my heart fell.
At 2 in the morning the train went away. I heard how the Christian women and
her husband came into the barn and with light from an electric lamp they began
to milk the cows. After that she went out again.
When it was day I came out of my hiding place and I went to her and I said,
Good morning. She looked at me and she said, Where did you
come from? I told her I was hiding in Miyerzontzke and I asked what she'd
heard. And she told me that all of the Jews in the town and from the camp had
been deported. I said to her, Veyes mir. I'm Jewish myself. They're going
to shoot me. What am I going to do? I beg you, give me a little scarf so that I
can hide my face and walk through your field with me so that I can go back into
town. She led me through the rail lines, my heart beat like thunder. I didn't
know what to do. At that moment I saw another group of Jews walking by. They
saw me as well and they came running over to me. They were overjoyed that they
hadn't sent me away. They told me that at my house my children were sitting
around, crying and screaming that their mother had been sent away.
Yosel's wife and his little boy have been shot. This just made me
feel terrible. They said, If your children would just know that you're
alive. I said, I just can't go another step. My legs won't hold me
up. They said, Your children aren't going to work anymore, they
say, let them shoot us, what's there to live for? Their father isn't alive
anymore. Their brothers aren't alive anymore. Gitela isn't alive anymore and
neither is Sevek. Meanwhile one of the little boys called out, I'm
going to run into town and I'm going to tell them that you're still alive and
then they'll go back to work. It's still early. Wait here and I'll come back
with them. And that's what happened. They came running together. We went
Another time I had a terrible scare because of a couple of eggs. I went out to
throw out a bucket of garbage in the big garbage can and I saw 4 eggs lying
there. I hid 2 of them in a pocket in my blouse and 2 inside my clothes. As
soon as I walked away from that big garbage can, a gendarme came over and asked
me, What do you have hidden in the big garbage can? I told him the
truth, that I just found two eggs and I showed him the pocket. He took me into
the police headquarters and said to them that I had stolen the eggs. I wept and
I told them that I didn't steal them. I just found them in the garbage can.
They questioned me about whether I had any more. We're going to search
you and if you have any more we're going to shoot you. I unbuttoned my
blouse and showed them that I didn't have any more. My blood ran cold. If they
did a search any further, I'd be shot on the spot. But God had mercy and they
let me go.
Once they brought the mid-day meal with just a little bit of watery soup. I was
just about to faint from hunger. We had a woman there who was a forewoman and
she was a real piece of crap, a sadist. I was sitting with Mrs. Shtamfater when
this woman boss saw us and noticed that we were taking a little bite out of our
meal. She took both of us to the gendarme's headquarters and she said that we
were eating and pigging out during the time we were supposed to be working. She
left and we sat there crying: We worked with our hands but one little
bite of bread in your mouth because we couldn't get any kind of real meal in
time and we couldn't even stand on our feet we were so weak with hunger.
One of the gendarmes ordered another one, Hunt, whip these two, punish
them. And the guy who he ordered to do this, looked at us, it was plain
to see that we were more dead than alive and he said, Please punish them
yourself. I'm not going to beat these women up. And this was the first
time that a German had refused to beat us. Imagine what my children were going
through when they had seen that we were being led into the headquarters.
Once again I lived through great terror during the taking away of the mid-day
meal. The carpentry place where Yosel was the manager was not very far from the
hall where we were. Once we went in there because it was warm in there. The
oven in there was always burning in order to warm things up. On the way to the
carpentry place I saw a couple of potatoes. Now who was going to leave a
treasure like that lying around? I picked them up, found a newspaper and
wrapped them up. I decided when I got the chance I would roast them on that
oven. So naturally a German meets me immediately and asks, What are you
carrying there all wrapped up? I tell him, It's just a couple of
old rotten potatoes. And he said, No, its cloth, its
material. I show him the potatoes and he sees that they're not spoiled
potatoes but that they're very good potatoes. He asks me, Where did you
steal them from? And I say to him, I didn't steal them, they were
just lying here. But this conversation didn't help me at all and he took
me to the headquarters. Well I sure didn't want to but I didn't have a choice.
He led me in right when the mid-day meal was being served. He said, Wait
a minute, I'm going to get the police here. Good, I said, I'll just
wait here. So he went upstairs and I disappeared, fast. I ran into the
carpentry shop, neither dead nor alive, just barely able to catch my breath. I
ask, Where's Yosel? It turned out there was a real tragedy
involving Yosel. He had cut off three of his fingers. He had been taken away
and that was just another supplement to my own terrible fear and trauma.
Once, when we were coming from work, some S. S. men showed up with a big
dog. They were looking for Yoneh Hoychman, son of Dovren, Yosel Chasiyes'
brother. When he heard that they were coming after him, he hid. They ordered
the camp commander to produce Yoneh. They looked for him but hey couldn't find
him. The S. S. said to the camp commander, We're going to wait for
10 minutes, and if you don't produce Hoychman, we're going to shoot 10
men. The camp commander screamed at Yoneh's mother, Where did you
hide him? Give him up immediately. I'm not going to let them shoot 10 people
just because of one. The end is that they did in fact find him and the
S. S. people said to the dog, There, that's a Jew. The dog
jumped on him and tore out living pieces of his flesh. His screams reached
heaven. When they took him out of the camp we still heard screams from far
away. My mother, brother and sister, as well as myself, all of us, saw this
thing. We were more dead than alive.
Now I want to tell you about our deadly terror. Ten Jewish policemen, every day
would lead us to work. On a certain day they all disappeared and never came
back to the camp. In the morning, a group of S. S. came and they said to
us they're going to shoot 100 men, 10 for each of those who had disappeared.
Now just imagine what that did to us. You just can't describe things like this.
The camp commander was a Viennese Jew, a lawyer, and one of his acquaintances
was a Lieutenant, to whom he had given a lot of things. That person was
somebody who took people away, but because of that he could also stop things
from happening. The camp commander said to the Jews, Listen Jews, if you
want to stay alive you better produce everything that you have hidden. I have
the opportunity with this officer who is running things around here to tell him
that if they come around and they start taking people to Auschwitz, he's not
going to get anything from us. And that's the way it was. He didn't let
the 100 Jews be taken. He said, If you want to take my people you should
be taking soldiers, because it's my people who are learning to do the same
tasks as the soldiers because they're fighting on the front. The
Lieutenant said that because of these 10 dopes who escaped, it was these 100
innocent people who were going to be shot. And these 100 people were good
workers. They finally realized that it really wasn't worth it to shoot a 100
people because of them. The end is that they left. We raised our hands to God
and thanked Him for His mercy and that was really a great miracle.
Later on they did catch 6 of them and 4 of them disappeared.
Yet another terrifying tale. In the middle of the night a fire broke out and a
barracks burned down. Ten young men worked there, they were all from Demblin.
They rounded up all 10 of them and while they were still alive, they laid them
in a grave and covered them over. And that's how 10 young guys were murdered.
Their parents were also in the camp. This was done by Poles who also worked in
the barracks. They had squealed that the Jews were the ones who had set things
I don't have the strength to describe everything that I witnessed. They took
away 3 boys from our barracks and shot them so that we could see, because of a
little piece of bread which one had lifted from another.
People ask, Why didn't you run away? And I want to explain to
people that it was impossible.
Six boys cut the fence and got away. They wanted to get to the forest of Ryki
but on the way they were hidden by a peasant who they asked not to betray them.
He said that they could rest in peace. They waited there until it got dark and
then the peasant went and squealed. Before you knew it, the gendarmes came and
shot them down.
The Sixth of May, 1942
by Malka Lederman-Fleck
Who could have foreseen that with the entrance of the murderous Germans into
Demblin that such a hell would commence for the Jews which lasted until the
destruction in the gas chambers, at brutal forced labor or from a brute's
That Wednesday, in the morning, like everyday, we were going to work. Nobody
thought that soon afterwards the deportation would begin of the inhabitants of
the ghetto. Six o'clock in the evening, when we came back from our forced
labor, a horrible scene was revealed to us. The houses of the ghetto were
empty, destroyed, everything around them was exactly as a pogrom. A terrifying,
deathly quiet prevailed in the streets. It was the silence of the graveyard.
They told us to stop and remain standing in the street. That we could not go
into the ghetto to our homes. I know that among the group of Dembliner Jews,
they had taken away my mother and father, my beloved, dear parents. A howling
cry tore itself from my heart. I just wanted to them one more time. Why were we
separated? Why was I no longer with them?
I made this complaint to the Creator of the world. Why can you just allow all
of this to happen, that the German devil should do this to our people? The
Germans didn't even let the pious Jews take their tallit and tfillin with them.
Why did the Creator of the world allow them to burn the holy books, the Torah?
Why did He allow so many children to be orphaned and so many women to be
Three years we lived in terrible need and horrible conditions, always
brutalized, tortured, but always with an underlining sense of Jewish hope. We
had some confidence that the sorrows that befell us would come to an end and
that he terrible exile would stop. The end did come, but not like we had
dreamed and hoped that it would. The 6
of May, 1942 cut out the deeply rooted Jewish community of Poland.
[See PHOTO-C54 at the end of Section C]
The only one of two-thousand Souls
who had the Honor of being buried
by Matityahu Zukerman, Haifa
Ghetto Demblin, 1942
In the middle of the room lies the 6 year old Esther-Sara and two
candles burn near her head. With the rising of the sun on that spring, though,
very dark day, her soul had passed away. She died from a throat sickness
because Jews don't get any prescriptions. This is how the Polish
employees of the clinic complained. In an early morning hour that day, my
father, Yisrael-Yitzhak, stood and sewed shrouds for the first grandchild and
from his eyes tears flowed. I warmed up water for the process of washing her
body while the mother, Gitel-Leah, 28 years old, cried at the premature death
of her little treasure, Esther-Sara.
[See PHOTO-C55 at the end of Section C]
The 4 year old Raisela, and the 2 year old, Chaim-Ahron, stood at her side and
shared her grief. Jews from the burial society conducted the ceremonial washing
and soon thereafter we heard an announcement, Everybody, without
exception, every Jew, has to show up at the market place at Rynek, at 12
o'clock. Whoever doesn't show up can be shot on the spot! We were very,
very upset. We didn't know what to do with this little body. Gitel-Leah decided
she was absolutely not going to leave without Estherela. We attempted to get
her out because they said if you didn't show up there, you were going to get
killed, and the appointed hour was closing in. Yosef Shildkroit tore into the
house and he urged us to get out of there fast and make our way directly to the
market place. He told us that according to what he's heard, all of those people
who had a work card could immediately go back, they wouldn't have to be sent
away. Worry about the living and not the dead! he screamed and
We decided to go. My mother kissed Estherel and went away to the market place.
Gitel-Leah cried. She fell to her child. She just couldn't part with her. I
wrote a little card out and I placed it there. Esther-Sara was born in
1936. She died because there wasn't any prescription for Jews. We ask that she
be buried along with her Jewish brothers. We left with the weak hope of
As soon as we arrived in the market place, with great vigor they separated
people. I on the right, my wife with the children and my father, on the left.
But 2,000 souls, children, women, old people, were sent away to the train
station and from there to Sobibor as we found out later on. There were some who
were just killed right there on the spot, because they didn't come at the exact
hour, or in general, just didn't show up at all. I was still capable of
working, and returned home. I found my daughter lying just as we had left her.
In the morning I myself buried her in Jewish fashion.
Only me and my Children
by Esther Kaminsky
Our family was blessed with many children. We were six daughters and one son to
our father Zvi Milgrom and my mother Chana of the Goldfinger family. Until the
First World War, father owned a food and spice shop. He supplied groceries to
the army in Demblin, and later food for courier pigeons in Poland and Russia.
At the break of the First World War, we left our town for Warsaw, but not for
long, for in 1916 we returned to Demblin. Five years later, in 1921, my parents
left for Warsaw and stayed there. I myself was a married in Warsaw in 1920 and
lived in that city until 1926, then returned with my husband to Demblin. He
owned a warehouse and supplied flour. In 1928 he built a bakery. It was quite a
large one, as many troops were stationed in the town, and they were our
clients. My husband was not a professional baker, and therefore we employed
bakers, as the business was doing well. We bought a nice home, which still
exists today. I was rich, had a maid, and we even had a telephone. I lacked
nothing, we lived very well. In addition to our bread bakery, we also opened a
cake bakery and lived in affluence.
As mentioned earlier, we returned to Demblin because my husband's family lived
there. My husband had a large family: a father, mother and sisters. They too
owned a bakery and their home was nice and rich. My father-in-law was also a
supplier of baked foods to the army, the 82nd
Battalion. A large military force was stationed in that town, since there were
many military installations there: a fortress, and airfield and camps. This
meant that the army needed a lot of supplies. In general, Demblin's Jews were
in satisfactory condition. The army, as mentioned, provided livelihood to all
the town's residents. Ten kilometers away was the town of Ryki. Its Jews were
richer than Demblin's, but our standard of living was higher than theirs. It
was said that our standard of living was comparable to that in Warsaw. Our
cultural life was also quite well developed. The town had a Hebrew school,
Tabut, and other schools. There were also parties on Jewish holidays, Chanukah,
Purim, etc. Political life was also very active in Demblin. The town had
Zionist, Revisionist and even Communist parties. One of my daughters joined a
religious youth organization, while the other joined Betar [revisionist].
There were about 4,000 Jews in Demblin, and all political movements were
represented in the community's executive committee. The chairman was Natan
Vanapol, and my husband was his deputy on behalf of the religious. Another
committee member was Shlomo Alenblum, a butcher. I do not remember the names of
the other members, but the committee had some nine or ten people.
Relations with the Polish neighbors were bearable, although not friendly. My
home was on Warshavsky Street, which was predominantly Polish. Jews and Poles
lived together. Their children studied at the same schools and there was also
business between them. But when the war broke out, everything suddenly changed.
Anti-Semitism was rampant; Polish guards were stationed in front of Jewish
shops and tried to provoke us as much as they could. My shop too had Polish
guards. They claimed that our name was not Kaminsky (it's my husband's family
name), as it is impossible that a Jew will have such a very Polish name! Our
argument that my husband inherited the name from many generations ago did not
help. The anti-Semites distributed among the army notices in which they wrote
that my father was a Jew and that Kaminsky is his assumed name. In those days a
Jew was not allowed at all in a military camp. We continued to supply the army
as before, but it was now through Polish middlemen.
The war broke out on Friday, but a general alert was declared the day before.
My father was not conscripted, because he supplied to the military, but our
horses were confiscated. The first air raid over Demblin, which had a large
military base, took place on the Sabbath morning. In the evening of that same
day I fled the city with the children. Only my husband, who had to continue
supplying to the military, stayed in town. With me was my daughter Rozhia, who
was then 17 years old, and lives now in Israel. The third daughter, with whom I
live today, was about 13 then. I also had my sons Yisrael and Yehuda. Yehuda
perished in 1942.
I arrived at the town of Ryki and stayed there a week. My husband also went
there, because Demblin was bombed very badly. He left everything behind, the
flour warehouse, the bakery, and joined us. But it was impossible to stay even
in Ryki for a long time. The war was coming closer to us. Ten kilometers away
was the town of Stavi that was bombarded heavily, for it had armaments and an
ammunitions depot. Therefore, we decided to keep fleeing. We had no
transportation, as our horses had been confiscated. My brother went to
Zelechov, hoping to get us horses so that we all could go there. The bombing
continued without a pause. That day 600 people died in Demblin from German
bombs. We escaped to a farmer in a nearby village. There we stayed until after
Rosh Hashanah. After the holidays the Germans arrived at Demblin and occupied
it, and we decided to return to our city. We worked again. We started the
bakery, because we had to supply bread to the Germans, and they sent German
soldiers who baked at our bakery.
In 1940 my husband was imprisoned by the Germans. Polish neighbors informed the
Germans that he was a Jew, that his name was not Kaminsky, and that he
continued to bake. The Germans probably thought that the name Kaminsky is only
Polish. My husband sat at the Lublin prison for eight months, after which he
was released. I could not help him at all during his incarceration. The Jews
were forbidden from applying for anything or consulting with any attorney. But
he was released and came home. This was a short time before the first
deportation of May 1942. But when my husband was away, they confiscated my
bakery and my home and drove me to the street. This was on the day in which I
went to visit my husband, despite the prohibition. Only the children stayed at
home. Then came the Germans, with a Polish man, and confiscated the flour
warehouse, the bakery, the house and everything in it. The children sent me a
telegram and I returned immediately. I pleaded that they leave one corner in my
house for my family, but it was in vain. Nothing helped. I was forbidden to
stay even in the stables. I had stables, and horses, but all was taken.
This happened in winter 1941, when the Jews were moved to the ghetto, Starovka.
There I received and apartment of a Pole. My husband, who was released from
prison, came to this house in the ghetto. We stayed in the ghetto about a year.
The conditions there were unbearable. Corpses were on the street. Any Jew who
tried to leave the place to get some food was shot, and that was the reason for
so many bodies. Even a walk was forbidden for Jews. Every step, to a bakery or
any other place, was done carefully. The Jews were taken as slave labor, and so
were the children. If the children were not taken, the parents would bring them
to work. I still had some means of livelihood. But, as mentioned, my father
returned a short time before the first deportation. In this deportation my
sister Lova Preiss was taken, to the annihilation camp in Sobibor, with all the
other Jews in the transport. Only her little child, Yehuda Preiss, survived
from her family. It happened on May 6.
On September 1942 the Germans brought to the ghetto Jews from the Czech
republic. Among them were many wealthy Jews who thought that they would spend
the war years in Poland, but they did not survive for very long. Many of them
died quickly. They too were taken to work. On September 28 an order was issued,
according to which all Jews must leave Starovka and move to Bankova Street. All
of us had to move there. In fact, by that time there were not many Jews left in
the ghetto. We stayed there only a few days. On November 28 a general hunt was
done for the rest of Demblin's Jews. It happened suddenly, in the afternoon.
The German army, with many Poles and Ukrainians, surrounded the city and
ordered that within twenty minutes all Jews should stand at the
slaughter square. The Jews were in a panic. Most of them obeyed the
order, and a few fled to the nearby labor camp, in which my children were
registered. Only I and my little son Yehuda and my daughter, who was sick,
remained at home. Then my son Yehuda was killed. I sent him to his father, who
worked for German dentists. They knew that a deportation was planned, and
therefore offered my husband that he bring all his belongings to them and they
would give him a room to stay in until after the deportation, when he would
return to his home. My husband was there, and I sent my little son to him
hoping that he would find shelter there, since my son's face looked Polish. I
filled his pockets with gold and everything else that I had, and sent him to my
husband. But he could not find his father, and could also not return home, and
therefore was expelled with the rest of the Jews. My son Yehuda was then just
twelve years old.
This was the last slaughter. Those who could, fled to the labor camp. Only the
Czech Jews did not grasp the matter. They thought the situation was not as bad
as it was.
Suddenly my little daughter Rachel appeared at home. She escaped from the labor
camp, and said: Mother, for God's sake, what are you going to do now? The
Poles will rob you of everything you have and then turn you in to the Germans.
Come with me to the camp! She took me, and my elder daughter, who was
sick with measles, and my second son, to the camp. Walking in the streets, I
saw innumerable dead bodies. But I was not registered as a worker at the camp.
The list was closed. That night I slept in the fields; Dr. Preiss slept there
too. I had nowhere to hide and therefore went there, although only death was
expected there. But I was lucky. I slept there several days without having any
I stayed there for several days with my little children, my daughter and my
son. Every once in a while I found shelter: in the fields, in hotels. Only my
husband and older daughters were in the camp. Then my husband asked the work
commander, who sent people to work, to accept me and the children to the camp.
The man's name was Vishnievski, a folksdeutche [an ethic German] from Selesia,
who spoke Polish. The camp commander was Venkart, and Vishnievski was just a
foreman. My husband promised him much. We did not have money, but my husband
believed that all that he had given the Germans would be returned to him, and
therefore promised Vishnievski all kinds of promises. I will give you an
affidavit that everything that the Germans have will be yours, my husband
told him. The man agreed and I was accepted to work at a mill in Demblin. I
worked there for thirteen weeks with my children. I faced death every day. The
Germans established there a general camp, and they brought there all the things
that they robbed from the Jews. The Jewish homes were given to the
folksdeutche, and they came everyday to choose furniture and other articles
that were taken from the Jewish homes in which they lived. The mill was owned
by Germans. Three months later, a decree was issued that forbade Jews from
staying in Demblin, not even in a labor camp, in which I was not even
registered. Then I was led to the camp I knew. I walked. I left the line one
time, and a German soldier kicked me at the waist. I still feel pains there.
But when I arrived at the camp, I felt happy.
There were several hundred people in this camp. There were Jews from Pulaw,
Ryki and the area, but most of them were from Demblin. The camp commander was a
German Jew from Berlin by the name of Venkart. There was also a German
commander, but I do not remember his name. They lived outside the camp. The
camp had Jewish police, and no German or Ukrainian guards. But the camp was
surrounded by German guards. Despite the presence of Jewish police in the camp,
the orders were given by the Germans. They passed them through Venkart. For
example, a bathhouse was built in the camp. The order was issued by the
Germans, but this Venkart was the one who ran the entire camp. The German
soldiers were those who issued the orders.
The tasks in the camp were various. We worked in the garden, laundry, and when
trucks arrived with bricks, sand or coal, we unloaded them. The Germans were
building there constantly. They also arranged workshops and tailor shops,
shoemaking shops etc. They sent the Jews to do all the hard labor. We were
often searched when going to work or returning from work. Once they ordered us
to strip naked. Until then people had some valuables with them, but then they
took everything. The Germans kept us all night, women, girls and men, all naked.
Many women worked peeling potatoes in the cellars. I was not assigned this
work, but some of the people who worked there managed to smuggle some potatoes.
We worked mainly in the military work. After building a military building, I
was sent with other women to do house cleaning. In fact, I was
happy doing that work.
The children also worked. All went to work. No one was exempt. All the children
worked, including my little ones.
The women lived in a barracks of their own. We were some 280 women there. We
slept in bunks. The bunks were cushioned with sawdust and not straw, and we
slept very close to each other. It was cold, and we had to use the toilet many
times at night because the food was watery. When coming back to sleep, a woman
had to go to the toilet again. That is how the nights passed. Our food
consisted of coffee and two hundred grams of bread for breakfast
and soup for lunch. Actually the situation in Demblin's camp had not been that
bad. People somehow survived. The tailors and the shoemakers were essential to
the Germans: they sewed and made their boots and managed to get some food. But
our thoughts were mostly with my children. We left for work at five in the
morning and returned in the evening. All we asked for was some more food and a
few hours in the bunk.
The camp was supervised by the Wehrmacht [the German army] and not the
S. S. Only when the deportation was executed did the S. S. men
appear, but usually they were not seen at the camp. But even without them we
saw much blood and murders. Jews were hanged in the camp for various excuses.
One Jew who looked in the garbage hoping to find bread was shot on the spot.
Another found a piece of soap and was hanged. He was a young boy. The boy
remained hanging for three days. His father, watching his son's body, prayed
for his soul before going to work. Once a very respectable Jew from Czechia was
hanged. His crime was that he was caught having money. He tried to
reason with them, saying that his son sent him the money for dental treatment.
But the excuse did not help. He was shot and his body lay near the gate for
three days. covered with snow. And we, on our way to and from work walked by
his body. On his chest they put a note that said that they found money on him
and therefore he was shot. Once a Jew from Demblin was shot for taking a piece
of bread that a German soldier threw from the window.
In this camp, Demblin, we were incarcerated for two years. But when the battles
on the Vistula river began in 1944, and the Russians were nearing, we were
moved to a camp in Czenstechov. Four camps were there: Rakov, Czenstechovjanka,
our camp and another one. During the transport some people who refused to be
moved were shot. They tried to flee to the forest, and some were shot while
running. The Germans arranged two transports for the move: one for children and
the other for adults. The second transport left ten days after the first. The
S. S. man ordered them murdered in the cemetery. The children were no
longer small, but they were not old enough for work, the Germans said.
Therefore they murdered them and saved their bread. But in our transport there
were still some children, including the son of Venkart's sister-in-law. Among
the women that were brought to Czenstechov was a woman by the name of Sonia
Leberbaum. When people were asked about their professions, she said that she
was a midwife. The S. S. man in charge ordered her to come to his wife,
who was pregnant. Sonia Leberbaum had much influence on this Gestapo's wife.
Thanks to her pleading with her, a few Jewish children were spared. Among them
was my sister's son, Yehuda Preiss. Bu the children were not rationed any food.
We, the prisoners, saved our little bread from our mouths and gave it to the
children. They were very young. The mothers did everything they could for their
The conditions in this camp, in which several hundred Jews were incarcerated,
were many times worse than at the former one. This camp had many Ukrainians,
from Vlassov's army [They served in the Russian army and joined the Nazis when
captured as POWs]. We worked at the laundry, myself and three other women. We
washed clothes pressed them and cleaned their houses. Their chief was the
Ukrainian Garman. He was the translator and the laundry's manger.
Here, in Camp Czenstechov, I spent eight months. On the last day, January 15,
1945, when I came to clean Garman's home, I found him there. It was the first
time that he was home when I came to clean. He asked me, Woman, which
city is closer, Radom or Keiltz? I did not know what to say, because I
was frightened. Therefore I replied: Why are you asking me this, sir? But
I think Keiltz is closer. He answered, I will tell you something,
but if you tell it to anyone, you will be killed! We must run away from here,
because the Russians are coming. This is the last attack, and we are running
away. I am going away, but you will not tell this to anyone!
This was on Sunday. After my work, I returned to the barracks. It was quiet all
around, because all the murderers went to drink in the town. My husband, who
worked at a bakery in town, waited for me at the barrack. I asked him,
Chaim, have you heard any news? No, he answered. He had
not heard anything, and added that the stabfeldfabel did not come to work
today. I then told him Garman's words, that the Russians are near and the
Germans are running away.
Prepare dinner, my husband told me.
When I went to the bunk to take the bread, I heard much noise outside. There
were shouts and screams, and the two hundred and eighty women filled the
barrack in a second. The door was shut. I did not see my husband anymore. The
rumor was that the chief commander arrived at the camp. There was much disorder
in the camp all night. It seemed that they decided to transport us to another
camp. We were awakened at five o'clock and the first transport had already
left, with my husband.
I managed to arrive at the home of my employer, maybe he could help. But I
could not find him any more. The floor was strewn with things. When I returned
to the camp, I heard that my son and Yehuda Preiss' father were taken with the
transport, in addition to my husband. I went to work at the laundry and told
the women that I wanted to wash my shirts, because there were rumors that we
would be taken to Lipsk. I washed my shirt and my hair, and while doing so saw
my husband from the window being led in the transport. It seemed that he
noticed me too, because he waved at me. I broke into tears. Then one of the
German murderers cane to me and said, If you don't stop crying, I will
kill you here! The women around me tried to comfort me. They
said, Mrs. Kaminsky, tears will not help, and there is nothing to feel
sorry about. Not you, not your children, not your husband and not us will
continue to live. This is our last hour.
At noon I went to the police and told a Ukrainian that the iron was out of
order and therefore I had to return to the camp. There, women were already
standing in lines, ready to go. But disorder was all over. When the children
saw me, they were very happy, at least we would go together. The murderers were
no longer in the camp. They had fled, and only the Jewish police were in force.
The time was now three o'clock in the afternoon. We heard shots in the
distance. The Russian army was coming closer to the city. Someone returned from
work in the city and said that battles were raging in the city between the
Russians and the Germans.
At 11 P. M. the Jewish policemen came with some murderers and ordered us
to the yard. They said that they would take us to the old border. One transport
of women was on the way, but it remained in the train station for lack of
trains to take them further. We stood and waited. They said that they wanted to
save us from the Russians. We answered that for us it doesn't matter who will
be our killers, they or the Russians. But they themselves were frightened, and
therefore thought it sufficient to pass the orders to Jules. This Jules was a
Jew, but the worst abomination of humanity, and he was appointed commander of
the camp. Venkart, who was commander at the camp in Demblin, was here just
another prisoner and held no special authority. Here Jules the monster ruled.
He ordered us to leave the barracks, but we already knew that Czenstechov was
burning. We remained where we were and the Germans escaped.
At dawn we arrived at the city from the camp. It was freezing cold. I held
little Yehuda Priess in my hand and the doors were closed to us. The Poles
locked their doors and did not allow us to enter their homes. We walked the
streets until we arrived at a street that was populated by Germans. We found an
empty house and entered it. It had all the best things, everything the heart
could want, packed and ready to go. It seemed that the Germans did not have
enough time to take their things when they suddenly fled. The pots in the
kitchen were still warm and the cupboards were full with food. I did not pay
too much attention. I thought only about my husband and children. I wanted to
be with them. I took only bread for the children. I stayed three weeks in
Czenstechov, because there was no possibility of going home. I arrived at
Demblin in a freight train, in bitter cold. The Poles, our neighbors, thought
that no Jews were left, and when they saw a few Jews, they wanted to kill them.
I did not have a penny. Russian soldiers lived in my home, but because
everybody knew that the house belonged to me, I pleaded with the soldiers to
spare me one room. I lived there with my children and with people whom I did
The Pole who received my bakery from the Germans knew that he would have to
turn it back to me, and therefore incited the Russians, by intoxicating them,
to murder me. Indeed, Russians came at night and started giving us trouble. We
were unable to defend ourselves, because the room had no door or lock. The
situation was worse than in the camp. In the morning, my daughter Rachel
decided to go to the N. K. V. D. [Russian security services,
later K. G. B.] and tell all. I was afraid, but she was a brave girl
and feared nothing. Indeed, her request helped. The Russians arrested the
soldiers that broke into our room and ordered the Pole to return the bakery.
But then again Poles started threatening me. They sent letters demanding 10,000
zloty. I did not have such a big sum. Therefore I decided to run away to Lower
Silesia and from there emigrate to Israel.
I was saved, but my husband perished. After being led in the transport for 17
days without food and rest, he died when he reached Camp Mauthausen. Only my
son, thank God, was saved. When he was with the transport at a train station,
he asked an S. S. man to let him go and fetch some water. He was allowed.
He fled and on his way someone felt pity for him and gave him a potato.
Mother, he told me, this potato tasted like the best I ever
had. He was then 16-17 years old. He returned alive from this transport,
but his father did not, and also Yehuda Priess' father. My daughter's
fiancée also perished. They died in the last transport. My family in
Warsaw was also murdered and I don't know even when or how. When the war broke
out, I had brothers and sisters in Warsaw. They were all murdered. My parents,
brothers and sisters and other relatives, some one hundred persons, all were
annihilated by the murderers. Only I and my children were saved. We are the
only ones left from the Milgrom family.
Survived with my Daughter
by Chaya Goldfarb-Rozenberg
In 1939, when the German airplanes began to bombard our districts, I and my
family ran away from Demblin towards Ryki. My father David was an invalid, and
he lived with us. With great effort and stress and strain we took with him with
us to Ryki with the Germans shooting at us from airplanes. We escaped from
there to Adamov.
When the Germans marched into Adamov, we traveled back to Demblin which was
already under the rule of the Nazis. My father was very religious, he had a
long beard, and the Germans constantly tormented him. The Christians pointed
out where the Jews were living as well as where father was hidden.
My husband Hershel had escaped to Russia. In 1940 he came back to Demblin. And
then after, they made a ghetto and drove us from our apartment. We had to get
out. We lived two families in a room on the Stavruka. We were there until the 6
of May, 1942, when the first deportation happened. They drove us into the
gutter. I stood there with my child of 9 years, who was sick with measles and
diphtheria. I saw that the work office was selecting people for work. I
understood that those people would remain and work in the city and with my sick
child, Nachomai, I ran to those who'd been chosen to work. On the way, while I
was running, I got beaten up but I didn't think of that, I just kept on
running, and in the way, we were able to save ourselves.
At the same time they sent my husband away, as well as my father, and my whole
family. That transport went to Sobibor. We paid Christian acquaintances and
sent them to see what had become of the people on the transport. The Christians
told us that they weren't able to get to where the people had been taken, but
they heard that every one of them had been slaughtered. That was the first
transport of Demblin Jews.
In 1942, the time of the Purim fast, my Uncle Mendel, the son of Motel the
Shochet, died. My father envied him that at least he'd been able to have a
Jewish burial. The same day they took out my cousin Itchek Speckter and three
other Jews to the forest of Ryki and they shot them there for no cause at all.
The second deportation came on the 15th
of November, 1942. I and my child and sister Shifre, were hidden in a cellar.
Afterwards, when we heard people talking in the street, we went outside and saw
that the streets were covered with corpses. It wasn't even possible to find a
way to walk among them.
of November 1942, I was working in the fortress. I had a premonition that that
day something was going to happen in the town. After work, I didn't go back to
town, but I got my child and went to the camp by the airfield. There an
acquaintance let me in to sleep. Two of my sister's daughters also worked
there, Teshorne and Chana, and a third, Golda, worked by the railroad.
My sister was with us. Afterwards she went away to the partisans in the forest.
Afterwards they let us know that the Poles had killed her.
At the railroad, my brother Boaz also worked, as well as his wife Itel with
their children Golda, Tshorna, Sheva, Yitzhak, Nechoma, Motel and Chaim. When
the Germans transformed Konske-Volye into a Jewish town, they sent
them all away, all those people who had been working at the railroad. The
oldest daughter of my sister came then, from Konske-Volye, to Demblin, and to
us at the Camp. The German camp commander wanted to let her in to work, but the
Jewish camp director drove her away. She had to go back to Konske-Volye.
Afterwards the Germans took all the Jews, put then in rail cars and sent them
to be burnt. On the transport was my brother with his children and my sister's
children. Traveling through Demblin, my sister's daughter Golda threw a letter
out of the rail car where she said her farewells to us. At the same time her
sister Teshorne was also killed in the Demblin camp.
We lived in the camp until July of 1944, suffered quite a bit and went through
quite a bit of anguish and sorrow. We watched as people were hanged and as Jews
who had been shot were just left lying on the ground. We got hardened to
everything, even to our own fate.
When the Russian army approached our district, the Jewish camp commander sent
away a group of Jews to Czenstechov. I and my child and my niece were in the
first transport where there were 30 children. When the Germans came to inspect
and check the children, my daughter Nechoma stood on her tip-toes in order that
she should appear to be older. She was only 11 years old then, but she said
that she was already 15. And in that way they sent her away with all of the
adults and we all went together to the baths. When we came out of the baths
there weren't any children left. They'd killed them all.
In Czenstechov we remained until the 16
of January, 1945, when the Russians came. They wanted to take us into Germany,
but there weren't any rail cars left for that at that time. And that was our
luck. The Germans fled and shortly thereafter the Russians liberated us.
I succeeded in saving various Jews
by Avrohmele Abenshtein, New York
of September 1939, the Germans bombarded Demblin. The whole Jewish population
ran, some to Ryki, some to Zjelechov and some to Kotzk. In Ryki, 30 Jews fell
from German shooting.
I and my family ran away to Zjelechov.
The first day of Rosh Hashanah the German murderers gathered together all of
the invalids in Zjelechov and they put them all in the synagogue and they threw
in hand grenades and they blew them all up.
The Jews in town were driven into a mass grave surrounded by soldiers with
weapons. The Jews fainted and said their last prayer. Toward night an
S. S. officer came and gave us a little talk that we Jews were now in his
hands and must do what he orders. Afterwards they ordered us to go home. In the
morning the Germans started to go from Jewish house to Jewish house. They
gathered up several hundred young men and ordered them to run into a camp. Some
of them fell on the way to the camp, among them was a Demblin lad by the name
of Lipa Shtamler (Hallel Shtamler's son), he was shot.
There was a lack of food and one had to stand in line for many hours in order
to get one little piece of bread. We saw that it was bad and so we decided to
go back to Demblin. They ordered us to wear a Star of David so that all the
Jews could be recognized. Dressed up in the tallis, they ordered the Jews to
dance and fall down in mud puddles.
We had a business that produced shoes and boots. The Germans came into the
store and they took anything that they wanted.
I saw that many Jews were being killed by the brutes and I wondered how I could
save them or myself. When the Germans came into Demblin they forbid the Jews to
have businesses. Yaacov-Laib Buber, Yichzakel Shulman's son-in-law, had a
printing shop. He gave it to a Christian but the Poles went around spreading
the story that he was really a partner and so they sent him away to Pulaw.
Velvel Shulman came to me and he pleaded with me to do something for his
brother-in-law, so that he would be able to get back to Demblin. Now, I had
acquaintances among the Germans because they came to my place to get shoes and
it cost me a lot of effort and a lot of health until I succeeded in seeing that
this young man was indeed able to come back to Demblin.
It got harder and harder to find anything to eat. You received very, very
little and you had to buy stuff on the black market which cost plenty. My wife
went to the baker, Yeshayela, for a little bit of bread. She saw that there was
a German standing there with a big stick who wanted to beat Manisel and
Yeshayela Bakers, because they were baking a little bit of bread. My wife went
to the German and said to him that I have to see him immediately. She knew this
German because he used to come and get shoes from me. He came to my place
immediately and these two people, the bakers, were saved from death. At night,
Yeshayela's daughter came to me. You saved the German a couple of pairs
of shoes in order to save our parents and I wanted to return the favor to you
and I'll pay you anything that you want. Understand that I didn't take
anything from her.
Once a German caught the son of Yosel Puterflam (the butcher), a little boy who
had hidden a little bit of meat. He beat the hell out of him and sent him away
to Pulaw where they regularly murdered Jews. His mother cried terribly and each
day she would show up at the Jewish Council and beg for help. At the Jewish
Council, they answered her, he's already in Bartel's hands. And
that was the one who had shot Kannaryenfogel as well as Leizor Teichman. Bartel
was a brutal murderer and everybody trembled before him. His mother came to me,
she cried and begged that maybe I could do something to help.
I went to the Jewish Council's offices and I asked them for permission to
travel to Pulaw in order to rescue him. They advised me against traveling
because I would never return alive. Still, I did, I went and traveled there, I
went to see Bartel, I said to him that this kid was my cousin and he should
give him to me so that he could go back home with me. Bartel had taken lots and
lots of shoes from me, as many as he wanted. And it was because of that he
wanted to return a favor and he let the kid go.
Once, I went by the Jewish Council and I noticed that Chaya-Aidel Fooks was
sitting there and she was crying. I asked here what was going on and she said
that they were going to shoot her son Shmuel. They'd sent a bunch of people
into the fortress to do work and among them was her son. They worked putting
together trousers and she said that at night the Germans came and they stole a
whole bunch of pants and then they said that it was the boys who had done it.
The Germans came into the town, they grabbed a young man, they beat him and
they ordered him to say that Shmaiya was one of the ones who had stolen the
pants because he worked there. And so they threw Shmaiya in prison. The Jewish
Council couldn't do anything because the Germans said they had a witness, this
kid who had been beaten up, who had seen how Shmaiya had been the thief.
Listening to this story I couldn't think of a way out and I thought, what am I
going to do for this kid? A half hour later a German walked into my store and
he asked for 2 pairs of shoes for his wife. I packed them up very, very
beautifully, so that he could send them back to Germany. I told him that in the
prison there was a cousin of mine and I assured him that he was not a thief
because I knew him very well and the whole thing must have been a mistake. I
pleaded with him to help me get this kid out. The German went to the prison and
he let Shmuel Fooks out, thanks to me, he's still alive and he's today in
A lot of times, though, I pleaded on behalf of people and everything that I did
came to absolutely not.
One time I ran into Mates Sherberg in the street. He told me that they'd taken
his wife and children away and that he remained along with his son Hersh-Velvel
who was in one of the camps where everybody ended up getting killed. He cried
and he begged for me to do something on his behalf. I just couldn't rest. I
went to the work inspector and I convinced him to let Hersh-Velvel out of the
camp. I went back to my house in the ghetto and he remained there like our own
child. When there was an order given by the county chief of Pulaw to the local
Demblin authorities that we should be sent away to Pulaw, Hersh-Velvel came
along with us.
We were in the camp in Pulaw. There were Pulaw Jews there and Jews from
Konske-Volye. Everybody there was just waiting for death. We suffered much. My
wife got sick with hepatitis. My mouth got swollen. I saw that I didn't have
anything to lose so I went to the county headsman and in the process risked my
life, because no Jew dared go into the street. But I was lucky because this
official was not there, just his assistant, and I asked him to send me with my
family back to Demblin, to the ghetto, in order that I and my wife could
recover. He allowed us to do that and said that if we were called, we would
have to come back immediately.
I arrived in the ghetto, there was a Dr. Kava, the Jewish doctor who took care
of us ad made us better.
Once, traveling to Pulaw, I learned that there was a little boy in prison
there, for many days already, and he was hungry. I risked my life and sneaked
to the bars and threw in some bread to him and saved him from a death from
hunger. The little boy's name was Mendel Federbush and he lives today in New
York. When we meet he says that the bread was like an image before his eyes and
that, on that dark night, the bread shined like a brilliant sun.
We organized a hospital in the ghetto, in the house of a Christian, by the name
of Pominansky. We brought 5 boys from Pulaw who were sick from typhus in order
that they could be healed in our hospital. They were very, very ill. I and my
wife cooked for them a couple of times a day, something very light to eat. In
that way we were able to get them back on their feet. They didn't know how to
thank us. They were happy that somebody would interest themselves in their
welfare. They got better but later when the deportation from Ryki occurred, the
German murderers with a local official by the name of Oystriyak and his helpers
came into the hospital and viciously shot the young boys in their beds.
I remember how my sister's daughter Leah Yamovitch, on a beautiful, bright day,
walked by my store and she carried a little bit of a potato in her basket. She
had a husband, a son, and a daughter. The ethnic-German Blumkin saw her. His
murderous blood got worked up and he began to beat her with the butt of his
rifle until she lay at his feet half dead. We sent her away to the hospital in
Pulaw and I sat by her deathbed. She took me by the hand and said, I'm
dying, and she squeezed my hand. He husband, Chaim-Yitzchak Yamovitch,
and their son David, were killed. Just a daughter, Aida, who lives today in
Ramat-Gan in Israel, remains alive.
Murdered after the Liberation
by Avrohmele Abenshtein, New York
The family of Shmuel-Nachum Luxemburg was a well-known family in Demblin (there
were three sons and two daughters). It was a family of substance. Shmuel-Nachum
was a tailor. He sewed things for the military.
Before the War, the oldest son got married and a child was born to him. When
the War broke out, the child was 3 years old.
The family did not remain together long. A part of the family was sent away to
Auschwitz. After being tormented in various camps, the mother, Latshe, and
daughter Gitel, the son Avram with his wife Frieda, came to Demblin, after the
liberation. They thought that they could get settled.
They lived in a tiny room. But they didn't live there long. On a certain
occasion at night when the son had disappeared just for a minute from the
house, in came the A. K. They murdered the whole family. When he came
back, he found his family lying dead on the floor. One can not imagine what a
horrible blow that was for him.
Jews were even afraid to go to the funeral, because their terror of the
A. K. was so intense.
Soon after the funeral, the son left Demblin. For a long time afterwards, he
was sick. But, time heals all wounds. He is now in Sweden with his wife and
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