The Destruction of Jewish Demblin
by Dr. Kalman Paris, Petach-Tikva
- 1 -
At the outbreak of the War on the fist of September, 1939, I, as a veterinary
doctor was mobilized to supervise the slaughter of animals for the military.
There were also butchers from Demblin who were mobilized, Avram Mendel, Chaim
Puterflam, Avram and Simcha Ainshidler and others, and we went to work at the
The first day of the War was very peaceful throughout Demblin. In the afternoon
though, the German airplanes came around. They were photographing the Demblin
In the morning we worked again at the slaughterhouse, but we had to leave work
because of the 2 bombing raids. One bomb fell not far from the slaughterhouse
in an air raid shelter where Poles were hiding themselves and that became a
Of course we worried tremendously about our families, but during the bombing we
didn't have any chance to leave and go back to town.
At 2 o'clock in the afternoon the bombing began again. The bombs hit a gasoline
station, stores and hangers.
In the evening we went home, packed up the few things that we had, and with a
wagon made our way towards Ryki. That same night we traveled on a bus toward
Lublin to my wife's parents. Sunday in the morning I traveled with the bus to
Demblin to my job. The butchers had made accommodations for themselves as well
and it helped.
Friday, the 8
of September, in the evening, riding my bicycle from Ryki to Demblin I saw
artillery fire coming from Ryki mountain on the other side of the Vistula. I
turned my bike around and rode to Lublin through a lot of burned out
destruction. The road was full of retreating Polish troops. Outside Lublin I
had to wait because the Germans were bombing the city. When it became dark I
went into Lublin and I found my near and dear ones. Avrom Guthartz also came to
Lublin with his family. When the Germans took Lublin we went together back to
- 2 -
Since our apartment had been taken over by German soldiers the Guthartz family
took us in.
In Demblin we found Jews who had been wounded by the bombardment of Ryki. After
the bombardment of Demblin, all inhabitants had fled toward Ryki. Some had
remained there and some had gone to Zjelechov. In Ryki, 500 people died as a
result of the bombardment. My wife came to an understanding with the German
doctors at the airfield and they extended help to the wounded Jews. They were
able to transport the wounded people to a hospital and I myself appealed to the
commander of the airfield about this matter. He sent me in a military vehicle
to Pulaw but there the hospital had been damaged. He agreed to send them to a
hospital in Radom, but his officer handed him a list of the wounded. I
understood that everything was lost at that point but I looked at the list with
him. The officer said all of these people were Jews. Nevertheless, they sent
the doctors from the airfield in a military ambulance to the Jewish hospital in
Radom and after awhile the Jews who were there came back and they had been
given treatment and made better. In the meantime the Germans left our apartment
and we moved back in.
At the end of October the Germans destroyed the synagogue in Demblin. Our Jews
began to return to Demblin. When people who returned began to establish some
kind of normal life in the town, Blazjetsky ordered me to resume the activity
of the slaughterhouse. The German military killed cattle for their own use as
well. They organized a military field slaughtering detail which consisted of 22
soldiers with a military veterinarian running it. With these conditions it was
impossible to kill animals through ritual slaughter in the slaughterhouse. The
butchers turned to me asking for permission to slaughter in a kosher fashion
under my supervision. I came to an understanding with Blazjetsky and he agreed.
Later what happened is that somebody stole a cow from a Christian. She went to
the authorities and told them about this and they carried out a search of the
Jewish butchers and they found some meat there. When I learned about this I
went into hiding. The butchers were taken before the police officials, they
were beaten up and that was the end of the matter.
- 3 -
At this time (October 1939), a huge military convoy, a German division, passed
through Demblin. For a whole day and a night, the house shook. In the morning
you could hear shooting in the distance and it lasted for two days. On the
third day we saw four Polish prisoners and many horses which the Polish
division, under the leadership of General Klayberg, had pulled back from the
advancing Soviet military which had taken the eastern part of Poland. So they
retreated, but in the process of retreating, they ran into the Germans in
Kotzk, where there was a big battle, with many casualties on both sides. I and
the German veterinarian looked over the transport of captive men and horses and
he blurted out, "Oh God, what beautiful horses the Poles have."
(We should recall that in Kotzk, in 1794 the Pulawer, Yoselevitch fell. He was
a soldier who led a Jewish regiment during Kotzk's revolt against the Russians
and you can find there a monument to the Jewish hero.)
As an official working for the local authorities I received special permission
to go out at night. Once a military patrol encountered me at night and wanted
to see my papers that described my privilege. I gave it to the guy and the
soldier screamed, "Oh God, it's already dark". The electric lights
had already been damaged so they weren't working.
The soldiers came to town to take Jews to forced labor. A delegation from the
Jewish community made an appeal to the Commandant and were able to work out a
system with him that the Jewish community would provide the required number of
workers. The Jewish community charged them for the work, and from this work
there was a possibility of bringing home a little bread, a little bit of food,
and a little bit of firewood. There were many people who didn't have work.
Those who were active in organizing this work plan were, Leizor Teichman, Yosef
Kannaryenfogel and others.
They opened the schools and Jewish children also studied there. Soon though,
there came an order that forbid Jewish children from going to school.
At the order of the provincial headman from Pulaw, I was relieved of my
responsibilities, I lost my job. Mrs. Yusef and Parotshnik Goldberg lost their
pensions at this time.
There had already been established civilian offices. In Pulaw, the local boss
was a guy named Brondt. His helpers were the ethnic Germans, Geda and Bartel.
The mayor of Pulaw was an ethnic German lawyer named Sheniwosky from Silesia.
He was the first in Poland to drive the Jews out of Pulaw. Some of those Jews
came to Demblin, others to Vonvollitz, Baranov, Opolo. The deportation came
about in December 1939 during an extremely bitter frost. On the way from Pulaw
to Demblin, children froze to death.
Many of the Jewish youth from Demblin sneaked across the border to Russia.
- 4 -
The first act of the civilian authorities vis-à-vis the Jewish
population was to extract a collective tax at the rate of 20,000 zlotys. It was
quite clear that the sum was the same rate that Jews had had to pay for a loan
from the Polish league for air defense from the state.
The winter was a hard one. Snow covered the roads and they rounded up Jews and
made them clean the roads off. The Germans called the Jewish Council under the
leadership of Leizor Teichman and demanded that he produce workers. Through the
Jewish Council one received ration cards for food. A man named Geda, who was an
assistant to the county administrator, Brondt, came to Demblin and acted out in
a very ugly, vicious way and beat a lot of Jews up in a very brutal way.
Teichman had the courage to go to him and he made sure that the man received a
lot of gifts and we never saw again in Demblin.
A proclamation was issued that by March 10, 1940, the Jews would have to
declare on a special form all of their possessions, for instance, houses and
furniture and clothes. But the requested forms never appeared. After awhile,
when the time limit expired, they dispossessed the householders [took title
away from them], and then the Germans started to collect rent from them on
their own houses. A uniformed German together with an ethnic German went to all
the houses and took furniture, jewelry, garments, bedding and other things.
Even before this rip-off, the national commissar of the Demblin area, Lank,
chief assistant to the county administrator, who had been appointed the
commissar for Demblin and Ryki, the Jewish Council had to prepare an apartment
for him. They had to make sure that there was running water and an indoor
toilet and other conveniences. At the request of the Jewish Council I made
available to him a big living room, and Efraim Danovitch's son-in-law let him
have a master bedroom.
Another proclamation came out that Jews dare not take part in the clothing
business and were required to give all of their stock to the state. Bartel,
from the county commandant office of Pulaw, carried out a search at Benjamin
Aronek's and discovered some merchandise there. While this was going on word
was sent to the Gendarmarie [police station] that a drunk was tearing up
Aronek's place. So the police went over and they took Bartel into custody and
they beat him up. Bartel told the county administrator Brondt, what had
happened to him and that gentleman [Brondt] called together all of the
presidents and secretaries of the Jewish Councils in the Pulaw province and
told them about what had happened to Bartel in Demblin. He also accused them of
bribing the police. And for that reason, Teichman and the secretary of the
Jewish Council, Kannaryenfogel, with their families, were sent away to
Vonvolnitz, a little town in the Pulaw province. There, there was a bailiff, an
ethnic German, by the name of Miller. He had already made the Jews in the area
take up quarters in animal dwellings. The Polish partisans killed, in that
area, the German work inspector. And then, after that event, the police went
around to all the dwellings, and whenever they encountered a man, they shot
him. And that is how Kannaryenfogel died.
The national commissar, Lank, asked Blajetsky, who of the Jews did not want to
pay for the Jewish Council. He [Blajetsky] gave him three names: Akiva
Longleben, Hertzka Borkovitch and David Borenstein. And from this he understood
that who ever didn't want to pay what was required, could be taken. He, Lank,
was a very needy person. He called the three individuals to his office, and
ordered Borenstein to present him with a list of 12 Jews for the new Jewish
Council. Among whom was my own self, without my knowledge. All 12 of us
received an order to present ourselves to Lank in the office. He explained to
us that we were the Jewish Council. He wasn't interested in any excuses or
complaints. He ordered us to carry out his order. Myself and Orlovsky were made
responsible for the Jewish Council.
The first decree which he handed out without the slightest justification upon
the Jewish population was a tax of 10,000 zlotys and we produced the sum for
The second act of his was to create a ghetto. True, not one that was actually
fenced off but Jews didn't dare leave it except to go to work. He pretended to
be very concerned about the Jews. He called the Jewish Council together in
order to make repairs on the apartments where the Jews lived. And this of
course at a time when there was an absolute unavailability of any building
materials. He ordered that groups of workers be organized, 50 workers, 25
crafts people and 25 unqualified people and that all of them, together with the
Jewish Council, should show up in front of his office. Two workers didn't show
up and so he beat us with his whip until blood ran. He ordered us to do
gymnastics, knee bend exercises he called them, and afterwards he ordered that
we carried people piggy back and the people who were in the riding positions
were supposed to throw their counterparts off. Whoever actually fell off, got
beaten up by his whip. On my shoulders, I carried Monses Sheinfeld.
When the repairs of the apartments began to be carried out, everyday, in the
morning, I had to read out a list of repairs that had been accomplished. He
also was concerned about the health of the Jews. He gave out an order that all
of the Jews should bathe at a certain local bathhouse over 8 days. In the
bathhouse there were 2 tubs and 4,000 Jews. This would mean of course, that
every day, 500 Jews would havc to go there and bathe and that was physically
impossible. But, I made a report to him and I told him that 500 Jews had gone
to the bathhouse and bathed.
He brought with him from Zavyertshe two young guys, Lipel and Kos, who were his
servants. They were often guests at the Jewish Council office and they brought
their orders with them he had given. Zalman Orlovsky got him whatever he wanted
and provided him with all the gifts that he could. The two boys were all right
and we never had any problems with them. But afterwards someone ratted on Lank
and what they had on him was the fact that he had two Jewish servants and so as
a result of that the two boys were given permission to ride on the train and
sent back to Zavyertshe.
- 5 -
Once I had a talk with him about a boy who had walked away from the ghetto. He
said that it was not the job of the Jewish Council to intervene with German
authority, but to carry out the orders of that authority. Still he let the kid
We, the Jewish Council, and especially the secretary Ekheizer, had good
relations with the local Polish council. Once Blazjetsky let us know that an
inspector was coming, Miller, a fat German. He showed up in a combat uniform.
He turned his back to us and that's the way I talked to him. I told him that
the Jews were suffering great hunger, that they didn't even have any potatoes.
He explained that the Jews were going to get potatoes. And it actually happened
a little bit later on that we received them.
Once, a policeman came into the Jewish Council office with an accusation
against the Jewish Council to the county administrator. I was also written up.
That the dentist's wife made gold teeth (and that was not permitted). And it
also said that Rosenfeld and Orlovsky were Communists (this was just more
trayf). The policeman remarked that if this accusation had actually been
signed, he would have arrested us.
I looked for advice on a way out of the whole business. I had presented a
request to the national commissar Lank that he should release me from serving
on the Jewish Council. And I had obtained an excuse from the doctor that said
that my wife was sick and I had to remain at home. Lank kept me hanging on for
awhile. After that he became the administrator in Krajnik. The national
commissar in Demblin became someone named Osternak, who had been the county
commissar in Chelm. He promised to release me from my duties under two
conditions, those were, two cotton blankets. He said that he did not want
bedding from Jews other than cotton bedding because they were full with lice.
He also wanted a complete kitchen set for 3 people as well as other things. He
actually provided written permission for Leibel Brownshpigel to travel by train
to Warsaw in order to obtain the blankets that he needed. I gave him a kitchen
set of our own. He kept his word and he released me from my responsibilities at
the Jewish Council.
- 6 -
The condition of the Jewish population became worse every day. Hunger, need and
sickness spread enormously. The mortality rate grew continually. Typhus spread
and from that disease, among others, the Jewish Council members, Nusker and
Yosef Vanapol died. The latter was very active in public health efforts in the
ghetto together with Doctor Kava, whose father had been a Dembliner. They
carried out spraying in the ghetto against intestinal typhus. Dr. Kava also had
responsibility for the hospital which treated typhus victims where there were
many Viennese Jews who had been assigned to work at the airfield.
After awhile the Germans transported 2,000 Jews from Vienna to Opole, in the
Pulaw province, and a number of them began to work at a camp which was set up
at the airfield. The camp commander was a Viennese Jew, Herman Venkart. The
Doctor who came with them from Vienna also died from typhus.
A lot of Jews also died as a result of German bullets. Among others who were
shot was Alter Apelker's son-in-law, who was a watch maker and the following
members of the Jewish Council: Zalman Orlovsky who was Avram Feldfebert's
son-in-law (he himself originated from Shedletz), he had been active in Zionist
circles in Demblin and was a very able young man and a wonderful speaker. He
had intervened with the police on behalf of Jews when it was still possible. He
also, when they asked him to do something, would oblige them. Most of the time
they asked that he get them shoes for their families, material for coats and
other kinds of things like that that which he was able to provide them. And he
was able to carry out the requests of Lank. He died in November of 1943, during
the liquidation of the Poniatov camp.
The mail in the ghetto was carried out by Avromela Rozenfeld and he died
tragically after the liberation. The accountant of the Jewish Council was
Yitzhak Zjelechovsky. Moshe Kamin carried out the work of producing the list of
workers. Both of them died in Germany. Pinchas Shteinbuch and Moshe Rubenstein
worked with provisions for drawing up lists of people who would receive rations
and taking care of provisions was the responsibility of Sheina Metnus. People
received bread that was divided up and flour and sugar and potatoes and every
once and awhile meat as well. The other members of the Jewish Council were
David Borenstein, Wolf Shulman, Manes Seinfeld, Noscar and S. D. Urbach. After I
parted company with the Jewish Council, Osternak appointed Velvel Shulman as
president of the Jewish Council. After a month he also succeeded in getting out
of his duties. After him, Drayfish became the president. He was somebody who
had been deported from Konin, and somebody who the Germans had attached to the
Reich. Dr. Kava was also deported from Konin. Drayfish was the president just
for a few months, from September 1941 to April 1942.
- 7 -
The winter was very harsh. The Germans gave an order that the Jews must give up
all their furs and pelts. And if they don't give them up, they're going to get
killed as punishment. Some people complied and some other people simply burned
them up. At night in the ghetto you could smell a very powerful odor of burning
Drayfish received a written order from the national commissar Osternak and he
was demanding that he be given a list of the Jews who were not registered. The
Germans had issued a proclamation that all Jews had to be registered in their
dwellings and they weren't allowed to leave places where they lived under the
threat of death. Jews were escaping from the Warsaw ghetto because of the
hunger and were trying to find a place to settle all over the place, in
different communities, including Demblin. Drayfish provided the list to the
national commissar, although he knew what the penalty was going to be. And all
of them, 22 people, were shot, in the Ryki forest.
He [Drayfish] himself didn't have such a wonderful end. The county
administrator Brondt, demanded a list of Jews who had written to him with
various complaints and he [Drayfish] sent him such a list. Brondt had Drayfish
sent, together with those people on the list, to the Kuzmeer punishment camp,
and there they shot him, but all the other ones came back.
After Drayfish, the president of the Jewish Council was Yisrael Weinberg, a
timber merchant. During his term of office all of the three deportations took
place. The first one in the beginning of May. Before that the Polish police
brought a few Jewish families from Bobrownik and they together with the Demblin
Jews were sent the next morning to Sobibor.
At the site of the deportation, the Germans brought a transport of Jews from
Preschov, Czechoslovakia. At the second deportation there were many victims in
the square in front of the destroyed synagogue. And this time the transport
went to Treblinka. The young fellow named Tochterman managed to hide out in a
rail car packed with clothes and he came back from Treblinka to Demblin and
gave us the sad greeting from there.
- 8 -
In the neighborhood of Demblin a number of German firms were operating. Among
them was the firm "Hochtief", which dealt with the Jews who were
employed there in a very brutal way. Once a Jew was brought to Demblin who had
his head cracked open by a German boss with a shovel. He died after tremendous
There were various camps in Demblin, at the airfield, at the railway station
and other smaller ones operated by various companies in Stavy, where there was
ammunition warehouses, and that was a camp where over 100 Jews from Ryki were
working. All of these camps, except for the one at the airfield, were run by
the Gestapo in Poniatov. Jews were also sent there after the liquidation of the
Warsaw ghetto. In November of 1943 everybody in Poniatov was shot.
Natan Vanapol and his family and brother Ahron, a couple of months before the
liquidation were sent to an airfield at Zamotch. There the Germans shot Ahron
and Natan's son, Klimek, a child of 6 or 7 years.
During the liquidation of the camp at Poniatov, the Gestapo showed up in
Demblin and we thought that we were going to suffer the same fate. But, we were
saved for the time being because of the fact we were privileged folk because
our work was provided by the German air force.
The first months in the camp were very hard. A large number of people lived off
of little portions of food and suffered hunger. Typhus again demanded its
victims. Among others who died were Gershon Abenshtein, the son of Chaim. Other
young people who died as well from tuberculosis: Shlome Levin's daughter, young
Noscar and others.
In the camp there were about 900 grown-ups and 60 kids. The camp was run by
lower officers from the Luftwaffer, Kattinger, who was later to become the boss
of the whole camp. After him the staff commander of the air field was Dosy. His
assistant and the person who carried out his orders as a lower officer named
Brown. The last person was Radenmacher.
The internal administration in the camp was in the hands of the Viennese Jews.
The camp commander has already been said, Herman Venkart, his assistant,
Grossman. The person responsible for the supplies was Polyak. The bath and the
laundry was run by Walter. The work assignments were done by De-Mayo. And the
police commander was Engel. The doctors in the camp were Dr. Rafael Kestenboim
and Dr. Rozenblut. The dentistry help was provided by my wife.
A lot of work was carried out there. A large group of women worked in gardens
and agriculture and they picked potatoes and had to take them down into the
cellar where they rotted. On the streets, snow was swept. Young people worked
repairing the runways in the airfield. They worked at the train hook-up and the
coal dump and where the clothes were produced, etc. At 5 o'clock in the morning
they woke us up and at 9 o'clock at night they put us to bed. There was in the
camp a very cramped bridge of barbed wire in which somebody who was being
punished was laced in there and wasn't able to move around at all. A second
form of punishment was getting beaten on the bottom. Upon an order from the
commandant of the airfield, the Germans carried out 2 death sentences. One, a
Jew, was hung for theft, and a second one was shot for having money on his
person. A group of 10 men were shot as a result of a fire which started in
their work place. The S. S. man Peterson tortured to death Shmuel
Shteinbuch and Yoneh Hochman because a German accused them of having asked him
Two groups of Slovakian Jews managed to sneak out of the camp in order to make
their way back to Slovakia, but they were killed along the way. A group of
young people armed themselves and got out of the camp but they fell in battle
with the Polish partisans.
In the dark days of our pain and suffering, it should be said that there were
to be found, true, not very often, rays of light. Among these I must count in
the first rank the radio reports from the BBC which were broadcast from the
Polish regime in London and which we were able to hear in the radio repair
workshop which was run by Chaim Fishfeld. We also received comfort from a few
German soldiers. In 1943, a German soldier called me over and told me that the
German offensive had failed and was turning around the other way. A second told
me that in Warsaw there was an exchange where German soldiers were selling
weapons and ammunition. There are other incidents like that, a few of them,
about which I heard from other Jews.
In the summer of 1944, as a result of the approaching eastern front, the camp
had to be liquidated and people who were in the camp were to be transported to
Czenstechov. The original plan was for 5 transports of 200 people each. The
first transport of 200 people was sent according to the plan, but the rest of
the people had to be sent all at once because the front was getting close and
- 9 -
of July, 1944, on a day when the Russians took Lublin, they loaded us on rail
cars and took us to Czenstechov to the factory called Warta. The majority of
the people who were sent remained there in that factory to work and the rest of
them went to an iron house called Rakov and Czenstechov-Yanko. The children in
Warta were taken away from their parents and the Germans threatened that they
would suffer the same fate as the children who had come with the first 200
people. We returned to the people who were already there to save the children.
The first act was when my wife was able to go and be with the children. She was
with them the whole day and made sure that they had something to eat. Dr.
Trayvish, the camp chief Yoles, and others, through the German bosses, were
able to work on the camp commander Barteshlagger so that he would grant the
children their lives. After three days of effort the children came back to
One of the children was not fated to live to liberation. That was the son of
Mrs. Gilibter (son of Chaim Nodelfodem). Unfortunately, he was drenched with a
bucket of boiling water over his whole body and died in the clinic. In the
infirmary, Dr. Trayfish saved the life of Berel Sherman's wife. She came in
with horrible stomach pains and her stomach had collapsed. Dr. Trayfish ordered
that an operation had to take place immediately and they brought instruments
from the camp clinic where there were 6,000 Jews. (The instruments they were
using actually came from a Jewish hospital which had been located in
He conditions in both camps were very, very harsh, fleas, lice, and bed bugs
ate people alive. The mortality rate was extremely high. In Warta we tried to
carry out an operation to provide more nourishment. We gathered money as much
as possible. We bought bread and divided it among those who really needed it.
Money came from the committee to help the Jews in the camps.
In the camp "Warta" we were 3,000 people. The first contingent of 500
people had been brought from Plaschov, near Craw. Afterwards people came from
Lodz and after then we people from Demblin and from the camp at
A day before the liberation at Czenstechov, by the Soviets, the villains
marched out 1,500 people to Germany. Bartenshlager before his escape ordered
that we should all go to Germany, but nobody moved from the spot.
After the liberation, I and my family settled in Lublin.
I will never forget that Day
by Zipporah Schilling, Israel
of Heshvan [October 28th
] was a beautiful one. The sun was shining, but for us, those few hundred Jews
remained in the Demblin ghetto, it was a day of darkness and great sorrow and
tragedy. Very early we noticed a very large and powerful movement of police and
German soldiers, a sign that something big was going to be happening against
It didn't take long before the brutes came into the ghetto. Savagely and
viciously they began to drive together men, women and children to the market
place where there were trucks already waiting. The unfortunate Jews who didn't
go fast enough to the gathering point or didn't have enough strength, were
driven with blows or just shot on the spot.
An order was given and we had to leave the town. From the market place to the
train station, the murderers of the Zonder-Dientz accompanied us with their
insignia, a cross bones and skull. When the first wagons approached the rails,
a train came from Lublin and it stopped. Among the Jews who were gathered,
there was a big commotion and a riot before the guards figured out what was
going on, people started to run away into the fields not far from the
Koshteshelna street. I ran too, until I fell and hid myself among heads of
cabbage. I stayed there as long as I had to until I was sure that transport of
Jews had departed.
But where was I supposed to go then? In the ghetto which had been emptied? Hide
myself with Christians who were ready to turn you in to the Germans for a kilo
of sugar? Nevertheless, the drive to live was very strong and I decided to make
my way to Zjitzjin in the Gutbojitz, where there were several Jewish families
and where there was as well my sister, Naomi Poteshman. I traversed the 16
kilometers with the greatest caution and fear of death along the train tracks.
When I finally arrived there, the Jews looked at me astonished. How was it
possible to escape from the hands of those villains?
It was very hard for me to say even one word about what had happened. My single
worry was whether I'd be able to stay there and have some place to lay my head
down and eat. But it was not I that actually made this decision. I didn't get
that opportunity to stay there. The man in control there was a liberal person
and he pretended to not see the fact that I had arrived.
But it didn't take long because as a result of frequent searches and patrols of
the Germans they would have shot me without the permit of the work office and
the other Jews would have suffered as well. Then my luck played out in this
way: among the Jewish women there was Lotka Abenshtein, who from an earlier
period had prepared Aryan documents. Thanks to theses papers, I ceased being
Tesha Schilling and received another name.
But this good fortune did not last for long. An order came down that all of the
Jews of Zjitzjin had to go to the police station in Demblin. It's impossible to
express our thoughts at that time. We finally arrived there. We were happy
again, though, because they sent us to a work camp at the train station. But
the very hard work conditions and the experiences of the last years sapped the
little bit of strength and courage remained that we still had. Add to that
there were rumors that had started to circulate that the Germans planned to
liquidate the camp.
This was the heavy weight on my thoughts and I began to try to figure out how I
could get to the work camp at the airfield where my sisters Miriam Tzimbrovitch
and Rivka Luxemburg were. After a lot of effort and with the help of money, I
succeeded in my goal and I started a new life, if you can call that a life, in
the hell of the forced labor of German camps.
And in this way the days went by, the weeks, and the years, until the 22nd
of July, 1944 when an order came down to evacuate our camp because the Russian
army had approached the Vistula.
They transported us on specially prepared rail cars to Czenstechov. Before
arriving in the station, when the area wasn't as closely guarded, myself and my
good friend, Gutka Pankevitch took advantage of the moment and we ran away. Our
goal was to make it back to Demblin on foot.
After making it for a few kilometers, we sat down to rest among some trees.
Suddenly, from nowhere, a man appeared, dressed as a civilian and he asked us
what we were doing and what we needed. We asked him to bring us some food. He
promised to come back soon and he kept his word. He came back, as a matter of
fact, with two armed Germans who took us back for an interrogation to the
Czenstechover Gestapo where they beat us up and tortured us. They were very
suspicious that we were aligned with the Partisans. After that they put us in
jail where there were quite a few other people who had been arrested, who
waited for the death sentence to be carried out. After staying there for four
days, on death row, they drove us out of there onto a rail car and sent us to
The life in Auschwitz until the end of December, 1944 and afterwards in the
Weis-Waser Camp in Sudatenland until the end of the War, May 1945, is a story
in itself. I just want to remark that in Auschwitz I went through five
selections which were carried out by the notorious villain, Mengele, and I
wasn't sent to the gas chamber.
I was liberated in Sudatenland. Basically what happened was that I fled from
the camp with about half of the French and English prisoners of war. Another
period of wandering began and my goal was to travel back to Demblin with the
faint hope that perhaps somebody close to me had survived. On the first of
June, 1945, to my great joy, I found in Demblin, my sister Rivka Luxemburg who
survived with her daughter and from them I learned that my oldest sister,
Miriam Tzimbrovitch, with her husband and children, were in Czenstechov. The
next day our brother Shmuel Schilling arrived in town. He had been an officer
in the Polish army and a whole number of other survivors began to show up. But
remaining in Demblin and trying to re-establish a Jewish life there was
something that nobody really thought about seriously. The small number of Jews
began to leave their town which once again remained without Jews as on the 28th
of October, 1942.
The path away from Demblin led to Israel, America, Canada. But many were forced
to pass through cursed German soil. There were established different groups,
parties, societies, institutes. There were a lot of Landsmen and organizations
from different vicinities. The first people to try to gather all those from
Demblin in Germany were Tzaduk and Miriam Tzimbrovitch. The 17th
of Cheshvan was declared as the memorial date for Jews who had fallen in
Demblin. And that date has been observed everywhere. Also in America, Miriam
Tzimbrovitch continued her concern and tried to make sure that this memorial
date was observed each year.
The Year 1942
by Yisrael Bubis
The year was 1942. It seemed it wouldn't be long before Hitler ruled all of
Europe. Under the brute, France and Belgium were already occupied as well as
Holland and Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland, Norway and Denmark. The War with
Russia was in full swing, the Germans found themselves at the gates of Moscow
and Leningrad. And in Poland the machinery of extermination was working full
tilt which brought everyday thousands of Jews to their deaths. In Demblin too
they were already taking people out on transports to Sobibor.
In that terrible year I was 15 years old and I worked in the ghetto as a
mailman. In the cordoned off and tortured Jewish quarter in Demblin there were
about 2,500 soles remaining, but the majority of them were not from Demblin.
There were Jews who had been selected from Ryki, from Preschov (Slovakia) and
from Vienna. While part of them were in the ghetto, the bigger part was
employed in various camps outside of the town, for instance in the train
station, at the fortress and at the airfield. The last ones at the airfield
were put up there on the spot, they weren't allowed to leave the work place,
while at the fortress people left every night and went home to go to sleep in
the ghetto. (My father was also among those people in the fortress, a grandson
of the Rabbi of Korev who got married in Demblin to the daughter of Abala
Bronshpeigl and her name was Chana. Before the war my father worked in a boat
that went up and down the Vistula river. I also had a sister Hadassa, a brother
Yankl, who lived in Warsaw and a brother Yichael, who died in 1935. In 1939 my
brother and sister escaped to Russia but with the outbreak of the German-Soviet
War they remained in Bialystok and there were killed by the German villains. My
mother died in 1941 in Demblin, and in 1942 just myself and my father remained).
At the end of September 1942 the German soldiers from the Luftwaffe surrounded
the ghetto and the gendarmes and Ukrainians began to drive together into one
place the Jews of the ghetto. Whoever tried to hide and was discovered or
whoever tried to get away was shot on the spot. Still I succeeded to get out of
the ghetto and immediately began to run to my father at the fortress. Here
terror held sway and desperation and uncertainty about the fate of the families
who remained in the ghetto. We heard shooting late into the night and after
work the people were afraid to go back to the ghetto. So people actually slept
there in the fortress under the open sky because there weren't any barracks
there. But I was sure that night nobody closed an eye.
In the morning I decided to return to the ghetto. It was apparent that
everybody except the workers in the camps and in the fortress, that all the
rest of the Jews, had been taken away from Demblin.
The little streets of the ghetto looked like a pogrom had hit with all the
attendant slaughter. There were more than 250 people who had been shot who were
lying around who hadn't been picked up yet. Fifty Jews who had hidden out, came
out of their bunker, cellars and attics and didn't want to believe their own
eyes although the tragedy was unmistakable. I felt strongly that I couldn't
stay in the ghetto and I returned to the fortress. But on the way I went by the
camp at the site of the airfield and I heard talk that Demblin was going to
become Judenrein. What the fate of those in the fortress was going to be was
unknown because they weren't people who were actually living there. Through the
barbed wire I spoke with Joseph Ekheiser who during the night had been there at
the camp and since his brother was with me, (his brother's name was Yaakov
Ekheiser) we both came into the camp.
For 200 zlotys they were able to obtain for me a document from the ethnic
German Vishnevsky, which legalized my remaining at the airport. They also
succeeded in beginning to start to get a document for my father.
That day, when the Jews in the fortress finished their work, they were ordered
to clear out of the place. They weren't allowed to stay there and spend the
night. And so a lot of them headed for our camp at the airport which was
surrounded by fences. There were barracks there where people could live. This
camp was run by the Viennese Jew Venkart and the Jewish camp police. Not far
from the camp lived the German supervisor with overall authority over the
place, Kattinger, an under officer in the Luftwaffe. Across from his barracks
was the bathhouse of the camp which was run by the Viennese Jew, Walter Appel.
That evening, when about 300 Jews from the fortress wanted to get into the camp
at the airport, Venkart and his police fanned out at the gate in order to make
sure that nobody could get in. It's interesting that the whole night Kattinger
did not show up at all. Thanks to that, some of the Jewish police did allow
some Jews to hide themselves in the bathhouse, although the bath was actually
outside the confines of the camp itself. Thanks to Moshe Goldberg, my father
got into my camp. There were about 100-150 Jews who were able to get into
Venkart's camp. If Venkart did not during the course of the subsequent day
discover people who were hiding out illegally, it was possible to get their
legality straightened out through Vishnevsky. Of course you had to pay for it.
But you had to wait a day after he was paid for the paper to come through.
Among those who had to wait for this document was my father. They promised him
that they would bring the document right at the beginning of the afternoon. He
decide that in the meantime he should hide out at the bath. But while leaving
the camp in order to go to the bath, Venkart saw him and began to scream at
him. Although my father explained that because he didn't have a document he
wasn't going to remain in the camp for the time being so that he wouldn't put
anybody else in danger and was just going to hide out for a little while in
another place. But Venkart didn't stop screaming and the gendarmes came over
and then my father really got terrified of staying around there. He didn't want
to go to hide in the bath and instead he walked over to the group of Jews who
did not yet have their documents and hadn't been able to get into the camp.
They decided collectively to return to the fortress. My father said he just was
not going to stick around while Venkart was there, it was too dangerous.
From the fortress he sent me word that I should come to him there at the
fortress so that we could be together. Of course I wanted him to come to me and
be with me at the airfield because I thought we had it all panned out and that
I was going to be able to get the right papers for him. But he never really had
a chance to take advantage of that document. The Nazis took all the Jews from
the fortress and sent them to Treblinka.
Circling in Memory of the Martyrs
in the Rabbi of Modzjitz House of Learning in Tel Aviv
by Arye Albert
In the House of Learning of the Rabbi of Modzjitz, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Taub,
on Dizengof Street in Tel Aviv, much happiness took place during the second
circling [In Sukkot, one of the ritual seven circlings of the Torah], that was
attended by thousands of people, who came from far away and from nearby and
filled the synagogue and the yard, and blocked the entire street's traffic.
The circling, which lasted two hours, brought Torah happiness, Hasidic joy and
uplifted the soul.
The yeshiva boys, dressed in their traditional Hasidic garb, and a large heredi
crowd, were swept into the celebration, which intensified by the moment and
swept everyone nearby. They were not tired.
The ritual circling was headed by the Admor of Modzjitz, may he enjoy good,
long life, who served also as the "master of ceremonies" and the
"conductor". It brought honor to the Torah and Hasidim. No doubt, the
crowd from all walks of life, who came to feel the joy of the Torah, was
installed with strong holy spirit, which will not be lost. The holy joy filled
their hearts with pure flame of Jewish sources.
Very impressive was the "Ozzer Dallim" [helpers of the poor]
circling, in memory of the martyrs, mat God avenge their deaths.
The lights were turned off. The Torah scrolls were put on the stage at the
center of the House of Learning. The Rabbi and the crowd circled the stage
singing and dancing, as joy and agony mixed. Sad nigguns, of pleading and love,
accompanied the verses, "Helper of the poor, please help", "Act
not for us but for you", "The Temple shall be built" and "
Please come, redemption".
When the singing of "I believe in the coming of the Messiah" was
sung, you could imagine the last hours of the martyrs, who sanctified the name
of God in their myriads, believing that Israel shall prevail and the days of
splendor will come to the People of Israel.
When the lights were turned on and the dancers again expressed their joy, the
people's eyes were filled with tears.
I saw among the dancers many Holocaust survivors, remnants of the fire, who had
gone through seven wards of hell and their faith was forged in blood and fire.
Their faces expressed the storm in their hearts.
Hard experiences that cannot be forgotten.
From She'arim Daily [Orthodox], Tishrei 24, Tel Aviv
Account of the Activities of the
Demblin-Modzjitz Émigré Organization in Israel
by Arye Buckspan, Tel Aviv
The official activity of our Landzmenshaft [the group activity of the people
from the home town] dates from the year 1939, when we gathered together in the
dwelling (barracks) of our fellow townsmen, David Rozenfeld, who is no longer
with us. Then a little directorship was chosen in the following way: David
Rozenfeld (Chairman), Mordechai Rozenwein (Secretary), Simcha Berent
(Treasurer), Benyomin Zilberman, Yaacov Rozenberg and the author of these lines.
Notice for a Memorial Service for the Martyrs of Demblin
Geiselhering (Germany) on the Way to Israel, November 21, 1948
[Picture of Newspaper Ad]
[Translation of notice]: Attention Jews in Demblin and vicinity! In connection
with the sixth anniversary of the liquidation of Demblin Jewry, we are preparing
a memorial prayer (service) Sunday, November 21, 1948, 3 p. m., in
All people from Demblin and vicinity are invited to come and take part in the
service. The Organizing Committee.
[See PHOTO-D56 through PHOTO-D61 at the end of Section D]
Five years later in 1944, during work on Tel Aviv port, our Chairman had a bad
accident, he had a blow to his head, and as a result of a terrible headache the
doctors decided to operate on him. During the operation, David died. This was a
terrible loss for our group.
In that epic our treasury was completely empty. The directors, Yaacov Rozenberg
and myself, turned to the then secretary of Tel Aviv Workers Council, Mordechai
Namir (afterwards he became the Mayor of Tel Aviv), with a request to help us
financially to carry out the funeral of David Rozenfeld. Mr. Namir was able to
get a special bus rented for us and he took care of the funeral, he did it in a
very respectful way. The Secretary of the carpenter's union and myself were the
ones who eulogized the person who had passed away. In our talks we underlined
and emphasized his energy, his activity and his sacrifices which David made for
Demblin and for those who were from Demblin. David was a conscientious worker,
he belonged to the Labor Zionist organization and was active in the Histadrut.
Our Treasurer, Simcha Berent (he was our Treasurer, although it was really his
wife Rachel who came from Demblin) did a lot for our fellow towns people. In his
barrack, in the Shechonet Harochebet [train settlement], in Tel Aviv, we
used to hold our meetings, our celebrations, our gatherings. Simcha was one of
the most active and everybody would receive his help if he was able.
* * *
The first tragic news from our town came in 1944, when some Demblin towns people
came to Palestine with the Polish army from General Anders. We helped them as
best we could to get them settled in the land. We tried to take care of finding
them some work and a place to sleep and to guard them from the evil eye of the
After receiving letters from the Demblin survivors of the Holocaust in Poland
and in Germany as well as a list of those who had survived Hitler's hell, we
began to gather together money and clothes for the people in need. In the Jewish
newspapers in America we made a public appeal to our town's people to help the
suffering sisters and brothers in Europe and make it possible for them to come
to Israel. Unfortunately there wasn't much of a response to this appeal.
In that epic the Secretary Mordechai Rozenwein was especially active. He did
everything in order to gather together money and clothes. Those who came to
Israel, we tried to cheer up and to help with good work and practical help as
well. The new arrivals told us about the destruction, the brutality, the crimes
and the suffering the Jews underwent in Demblin-Modzjitz, in the years 1939 to
1945. The great deportation came in the month of May 1942. This very day we have
marked as the one in which we carry out our yearly remembrance for our murdered
Jews. Later, from year to year, the number pf people who attended our
commemorations got smaller and smaller.
In 1962 in Jerusalem we had a memorial stone for the martyrs of Demblin made. On
the 10th of July we unveiled it.
In 1963 at the yearly commemoration gathering, we decided on a committee:
Chaim-Meir Goldberg, Yaacov Ekheiser, Moshe Wasserman, Hershel Eichenbrenner;
together with the previous committee members: Benyomin Zilberman, Andje
Shmeltzstein and Arye Buckspan. These people dedicated themselves with renewed
energy to the holy task of bringing out this Yizkor book. We sent out appeals
and letters to Dembliners in the world as well as in Israel. We also made
contacts with he city officials in Demblin, from which we were able to receive
very important material.
In 1964 one of our Landsmen visited Israel, the author Benyomin Taitelboim,
who's pen name is B. Demblin. He came to visit with his wife. For them we had a
great welcome party and there was a special literary evening and he was able to
sell his books.
In 1966 in the house of Andje Tishman-Shmeltzstein, there was a reception for a
number of honored Landzleit guests, people from Demblin who lived in other
countries, Miriam Tzimbrovitch, Rivka Shilling, Esther Potik – from America,
and Weinwurtzel from Paris. The guests promised to help and showed great
interest in the activity of the Dembliners in Israel.
But our main task and sacred goal was to bring out a book of memories, a Yizkor
book, which would serve forever, for the generations to come, as a monument to
Jewish Demblin and her dynamic development and tragic end. With the commitment
of the editor, our friend David Stokfish, to the sacred task, the preparations
were intense as was the planning. After several years of gathering together and
editing, we were finally able to realize our plan.
In the introduction of the book, we tell a little bit about the difficulty and
the struggles and the effort involved in bringing out this book. With the
publishing of this Book of Memory, we consider that our task of Lanzmenshaft, of
being members of this community of Demblin, has not ended. There is still a
broad field of work for the Demblin-Modzjitzer folks in Israel and beyond.
The Demblin Society in France
by Wolf Tenenboim, Paris
After the First World War, many Demblin Jews made their way to France looking
for employment, for bread, for a roof over their heads in the new land, and also
a different political climate than that which had been holding sway in Poland.
The majority of the new immigrants settled into traditional crafts or
occupations, like being a tailor, making hand bags and working on these long
laced boots (gaiters). Others went to southern France and worked even in
factories at manual labor.
In the 30's the stream of immigrants to overseas, out of Poland, became much
stronger. The Jewish youth in Poland, also in our Demblin, felt that they were
constricted, that their whole situation was hemmed in economically, politically
and that Polish Nationalism worked against them. Coming to Paris after the first
weeks of looking around and getting themselves settled, a portion of our people
from back home followed the kinds of activities that were engaged in the
occupations in the old home, they began in Paris to keep up the kinds of things
they did at home.
In 1937, in the capital of France, the first reunion of people from Demblin took
place. At that time the subject was helping the Jews of Demblin who that year,
1937, had suffered a terrible fire. If my memory doesn't fail me there were
about 80 people who came to that gathering.
After the great destruction of European Jewry, during which a lot of the Jews
from Demblin who had been living in Paris, were deported, the size of our group
was reduced substantially. But one thing was clear to us; that after such a big
tragedy, it was necessary to renew the activity of our Landsmanshaft, (which in
our language is called a Society), in order to bring help to the needy here and
in other countries, and of course especially in Israel. In 1960, we officially
founded the Society. We consist of 25 Jewish families from Demblin. Each year we
have a memorial to the memory of our lost ones, our martyrs, the victims of Nazi
barbarity. We take part in many of the normal Jewish activities in France.
We also get together to celebrate and to honor Landzmen of ours and the events
that happen in their families, like Bar-Mitzvahs and Weddings and other
occasions. The committee of our Society consists of 7 members. A special
commission worked on the Yizkor book, gathered material and money for the sacred
For our description of the activity of the Demblin society in France I submit an
invitation which was sent out in the year 1960 when we had our first memorial
To the people from Demblin and surrounding communities!
You are invited with your families to come to the memorial evening which we're
going to have on Wednesday, the 11th of May, 9 in the evening, in
the hall of the monument of Jewish Martyrs, to commemorate our murdered parents,
sisters, brothers and children, who were so terribly tormented in the death
camps of the Hitler murderer.
The evening will have a special character because this is the first time that
the Jews from Demblin in France have organized a separate memorial evening, and
at the same time because it falls on the 19th anniversary of the
first deportation in Demblin camp.
Some friends, who miraculously survived the Demblin camp, will tell us about the
torments that those close to us had to suffer before their deaths.
It's therefore a duty for all Dembliners and for those who come from around
there, so that together we can honor our martyrs.
Honored be their memory!
In the last years we have had memorial evenings in the month of October on the
anniversary of the liquidation of the Demblin ghetto.
[See PHOTO-D62 and PHOTO-D63 at the end of Section D]
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