by Avraham Danziger (Israel)
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The German occupation in Gostynin was a terrible one. The purpose of the Nazis was to take from the Jews everything they had – their property and their life. They did that, as always, in a very organized manner: in order to rob their property they allowed the victims to live for a while. Cheating and misleading, they promised every time that the demands they issued this time will be the last, and that as soon as the Jews would obey they will not have to endure new decrees. The Jews believed them, because deep in their hearts they hoped that wickedness and evil must fail, that cruelty must be defeated and that a day will come when the power of justice will win. They hoped that if only they survived the difficult times, better times must and will come. Most importantly – to survive.
But the Germans had other plans. Their intention was not only to take all that the Jews had; their aim was to take even what they did not have. The contributions that the Germans demanded day after day left the Jews empty of all their possessions. When the Judenrat returned to the Germans with the reply that the ghetto was not able to meet the demands, they sent a delegation from the Gostynin ghetto to Warsaw, to find the means to cover the payments.
A delegation of the Judenrat, accompanied by policemen, went to Warsaw. Members of the delegation were Motel Tzavier, Asher Zweibom, Yakov Zhichlinski, Israel-Meir Russak and Avraham Danziger. The delegation returned with a sum of one thousand Marks.
This sum was immediately taken by the Germans, of course. But even this did not help the Gostynin Jews. In a very short time, Gostynin has become Judenrein
by M. Brustovski (Israel)
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
On a Friday in August 1941, the Germans issued an order that all the Jews report to the transport to be sent to the labor camp. No one arrived, however, since nobody would volunteer to such a project. So the German soldiers began to seize the Jews from the streets, allegedly to take them to work in town, but, instead, all were taken to the church on Kutner Street. Since the number of people did not match the needs and expectations of the Germans, they entered the Ghetto and began calling the Jews and seizing all those who came out. A great panic fell upon the ghetto and people began to run to the hiding places. I fled, with a group of Jews, to the nearby forest, to the pitch-makers. When night came we walked back to the ghetto, from the other side, through the road where the families Alberstein and Librak had once lived. When I arrived home, the Sabbath had already begun. The candles on the table were lit, but the entire house was weeping – my brother Yechiel-Baruch has been taken to the transport. As soon as I reached home my parents hid me in a little secret room we had in our courtyard.
Next day, all the captured Jews were loaded on trucks and driven alongside the ghetto. The Jews inside the ghetto, seeing the sad picture, burst into bitter tears; they cried for their husbands and
their grown sons – who knows where they were being taken and what their fate would be They cried for themselves as well – the livelihood earners and the food providers have been taken away. To this day the desperate words of my dear mother resound in my ears: Who knows if I will ever see you again in my life? Unfortunately, to our great sorrow, her words became true – her heart sensed the danger.
After the trucks departed, the ghetto calmed down and became silent; people began to emerge from their hiding places, hoping that the Germans will leave them alone. But all felt fear in their hearts and concern for those who had been sent away.
Photograph: The body of Yitzhak Kreitzer, who was murdered by the Nazis in Gostynin in 1943, brought to Kever Israel (Jewish burial) in Israel
From right to left: Avraham Hersh Motil, his wife, Leibik Motil, Danziger, Ide Motil, Djiganski, Leibish Bagna, Moshe Goldman, Ribek Motil.
Soon letters began to arrive from the workers, telling us that they were in the labor camp in Posen. They were working at laying water pipes for the Continental company. The feeling in the ghetto improved a little, as the families realized that their dear ones were in a known place, and alive. In the letters they described their journey: From Gostynin they went to Wloclawek, there they were taken to a public bath to wash up – they must be sparkling clean to be fit to serve the master-nation. From there they continued the journey by train.
We tried to make peace with our fate. For us, locked up in the ghetto, one day seemed like a year. Time seemed always longer than it was in reality. And then the German murderers reminded us that they needed new victims.
The scenario repeated itself. Again they demanded a certain number of men for work and I was among the men, too. This time they asked for women as well. It was clear that the same fate awaited us, as the first transport. We were divided into two groups – first the men were taken through the gates of the ghetto, then the women. When the women realized that they were to be part of the transport as well, they began fleeing in all directions, until not one of them remained.
The men were much better guarded by soldiers, on all sides. As with the previous transport, we were taken to the church and we waited there for about two hours, then we were loaded on trucks. While we waited, our families brought us packages with clothes and some food.
The journey from Gostynin to Wroclawek was not easy. Some of the Jews jumped off the trucks
and disappeared in the forest, among them was Yitzhak Kreitzer. It was already night when we arrived at the camp in Emzey. We met the Jews of the first transport when they returned from work. I saw my brother – we met in total silence. Neither of us uttered a word, as if we were made of stone. One of the veterans in camp approached and helped us familiarize ourselves with the routine of the camp.
We went to sleep on hard wooden boards. Before we could fall asleep after the day's many experiences, we were already awakened by the guards. The first day we were not sent to work; instead, the managers of the firm, together with the well-known sadist Hugo Brasch, came to register us. Our surnames were entirely ignored – they did not exist; we were given numbers and we were registered as 1, 2, 3 etc. One of the clerks who wrote down the details said: people have names, all of you we will have to remember by your numbers – you are not people
We felt beaten and depressed, and in this mood we were sent to prepare the working tools. We were 50 men from Gostynin and our job was to lay water pipes between Goflo and Inowroclaw, a distance of 15 kilometers.
First we dug ditches 60 centimeters deep; some of us were not physically strong enough for this labor, and the stronger among us helped to finish the assigned task. Our food was 300 grams of bread a day and one liter soup – boiled water with unpeeled potatoes. In the evening we returned from work frozen and broken. Not to go to work was a severe crime. Even the sick, with high fever, were forced to leave the camp and go to work. Many men died at the workplace.
At the end of the working day we were tired out, bleeding and full of mud. Washing up was out of the question – there was no water for that. Our clothes were torn. We were miserable and we longed for a letter from home, in which we hoped to find some comfort. But life in Gostynin was not much better – they had sent the women to another camp.
The situation became worse, when, one day a Nazi committee appeared in camp. Their task was to register and control the number of the healthy and the sick workers. Some of us were so naïve, that they imagined that the sick will be sent back to Gostynin, to recover! The truth was, however, that all the sick workers were sent to the punishment camp Blanje and there they were shot. When this sad news reached us, we began to considering a plan to escape from camp, at any price.
The document is located at the Archives of Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot in the State of Israel
Below is a facsimile of part of the document – ed.
by Avraham Seiff
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The document below is the last will of Avraham Seiff, may God avenge his blood. Avraham Seiff was in his youth a student at the Gostynin Gymnasium (High School) and later married a Gostynin girl. For a time he lived in Danzig, where he was involved in extensive Zionist activity.
With the outbreak of the war, Avraham Seiff relocated with his family to Gostynin; his activity in the Gostynin ghetto is described in three articles in the Pinkas. He was deported by the Germans to the forced labor camp in Konin. He was praised, in the Pinkas, for his outstanding devotion to his fellow workers in the camp.
Avraham Seiff wrote his Last will, reprinted here, one day before the uprising in the camp. He gave the document to a Polish man who worked there, and after the war it was sent to his sister-in-law in Eretz Israel.
Konin, 12 August 1943
My last wish:
I request to inform the following persons: 1. My brother Azriel Seiff, high-school teacher in Tel Aviv, 2. My sister Miriam (Marila), the wife of Heinrich Bloch in Jerusalem, 3. My sister-in-law Dr. Tzelina Stadter, nee Matil, dentist in Haifa.
My very dear ones,
I would like you to know how my family and I perished:
On the 9th of March 1942, I was torn out of my home and sent off to this labor camp together with other Gostynin Jews. More than half were tormented to death during the hard work; many were shot for taking a few potatoes, or for other such crimes.
On the night between 16-17 April, my dear wife Minia and my 4 year old Ilana Naomi and my mother-in-law Salia Matil, together with the entire Jewish population of Gostynin were sent to their deaths. We know only that they were taken first to Krasniewic and from there, we assume, they were driven to Chlemno to the slaughter.
I never heard from them again. My dear little children Immanuel and Shulamit escaped from Gostynin and managed to arrive to David and Rivka in Warsaw. My father-in-law Note Matil was in Warsaw as well. He died 4 November 1941.
By the end of July 1942, the tragedy began in Warsaw. On 6 August 1942 Rivka was captured and sent to her death. David was seized on 19 January 1943. However he managed to escape and after three days returned to the ghetto in Warsaw. Then, hoping to save my children, he gave them to a Polish family, and they lived with them until July 1943. In March 1943, David left the ghetto and lived in several hiding places. His last letter was from May. In it he described to me in detail our brothers' heroic battle in the Warsaw ghetto. The ghetto fell on Pesach (Passover) 1943.
On 14 July 1943 I suddenly received news from my children, that they were in a hotel in Warsaw together with some foreigners and they were hoping to leave soon for Eretz Israel. With them were also Binem Matil with his wife and Tasha Bressler. On 17 July I received the last postcard from my dear daughter Shulamit (Zulia). It was from Frankfurt am Oder and she wrote that she will be going to Berlin. She was separated from her brother, my son. She wrote that
Imanuel will probably go with the next transport. Since then I had no news from them. Who knows whether they are alive. If they ever read these words, I would like them to know that until my last moment I have lived only for them.
Here in camp, from 687 men we remained only 60. Our fate is sealed. Tomorrow morning, the Gestapo people will come to lead us to our deaths.
We have decided, however, not to sell our lives cheap. We shall burn everything and commit suicide.
Earth, do not cover our blood!
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