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[Page 315]

Martyrdom, Resistance and Destruction
of the Jewish Community in Kałuszyn

 

1. Life of the Jews under the Nazi Regime; the Ghetto of Kałuszyn.[*1]

By Dr. Yosef Kermish

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

The first German plane over Kałuszyn appeared already Sunday the 3rd of September, the third day after the outbreak of the war; it flew low observing the town; thereafter it bombed the railway station in Mrozy[*2] and hit a Jewish dwelling. After that German planes visited Kałuszyn day-in and day-out from 5 am until evening.

From the first days of the war the peasants stopped bringing their produce to the market and bread was no longer available in the food shops. Refugees soon began arriving from Warsaw, people who escaped to their hometown, hoping more easily survive the war here. Wednesday the 6th, members of the central committee of the Bund[*3] as well as leaders of other political parties appeared in Kałuszyn, on their way to Vilno[*4]. They related that thousands of people were escaping from Warsaw. The following day masses of refugees arrived in Kałuszyn; the highway was virtually choked with people. Among the throng were also people going in the opposite direction – a consequence of the prevailing mass psychosis of fleeing without a definite destination.

The thousands of broken, downhearted, dusty people who arrived in Kałuszyn lay down on the naked ground since the synagogues, houses of study and private homes were already packed with Jewish refugees[1]. There was hardly a Jewish dwelling without homeless Jews from out of town, and the Jews of Kałuszyn displayed the old virtue of hospitality. They slept on the floors and gave up their beds to the refugees. They used every scrap of food that could be salvaged from the fields. The Jewish bakeries worked all day on the Sabbath (the 9th of September) with the approval of the Rabbi in order to feed the hungry. The bakers ran out of flour. In front of the only functioning bakery a long queue gathered on Sunday (the 10th of October). At midday the Germans bombarded the town and a huge bomb was dropped on that spot – on the Kościelna Street, near the water pump, between the dwellings of Layzer Gozhalke and Yosl Obronczka's father. Forty-two people perished and many were wounded. Gozhalke's house collapsed, burying the entire family - Layzer, his wife Chana, daughter Tema and daughter Lola with her child. Among the killed were Yides (Yehudith) Frucht, her married daughter with a three-year-old child, Yona Falifts, his 2 daughters and a grandchild, and others[2]. On the other side of the pump, on the footpath which led from the butcher shops to the house of Avrohom Gordon, Yitzchok Koyfman was killed.

These were the first victims in Kałuszyn among which should also be included those (four men and three women) brought on Friday, the 8th from the road leading to Mińsk-Mazowiecki, as well as the (Yiddish) author and contributor of the “Moment”[*6] the refugee Shimon Horontchik who committed suicide in Kałuszyn Saturday evening (the 9th of September)[3].

The local peasants related in town that there were German paratroopers and spies in the neighbourhood; Jewish young men roamed the environs under the direction of Polish soldiers looking for those spies. A civilian defence was also organised to assist the Polish armed forces[4].

It should be pointed out that on the day of the outbreak of the war (the 1st of September 1939) a great many Jewish young men with rucksacks could be seen on all streets hurrying to join the army. The entire Jewish population came out to farewell the predominantly working-class youth. They were upbeat. “People went, conscious of the need to fight against fascism and to bring about a speedy victory”[5].

Monday the 11th of September, 1:30 pm a German advance unit appeared in Kałuszyn. A German arson squad started fires at various locations and soon the entire town was engulfed in flames. People ran from their homes, notwithstanding the concentrated shooting by the Germans (all the while incendiary bombs kept exploding). Old and sick people, who did not manage to leave their dwellings, were burned alive. People's screams blended with thuds of exploding shells and the crash of collapsed buildings. Whilst the fires raged, the people who lost their homes to the flames ran as if on command via Reb Naftole's street towards the “Glinki”, the big swampy field, seeking shelter there. On the way past the slaughter-house and crossing the river the refugees came under gunfire and some were killed.

In town too, people lost their lives trying to salvage some property (mainly necessities like bedding and clothing). As a result, the streets were full of corpses.

The people who hid in the swampy area witnessed the setting up of Polish artillery batteries the whole width of the new (part of) town, on the very spot where the people were hiding. In fact, firing soon began from these canons, and that prompted many people to return to town. The homeless gathered in the yards of Royzman and Berl Itche Fooks, in the mill of Dovid Ruzhe, in the synagogue and in some other nearby buildings.

The Germans, who entered town from a few directions (mainly via the Węgrów road) fortified themselves in a number of localities around town – near Berman's factory close to the river and in the (Christian) cemetery, where the brick fence provided cover. This enabled them to control the Siedlce-Warsaw highway. Moving through Michlzon's fields they entered Patok (one kilometre from Kałuszyn) securing the road leading to the railway station at Mrozy.

At every point of the town that they entered, (the Germans) came across hiding Jews and immediately committed atrocities, sowing death and destruction. They also placed groups of Jews close to their own positions, using them as human shields.

Late in the evening, the German advance unit reached the swampy field and began gathering the people sheltering there at certain points, having separated the men from the women. The men were collected outside town, in the field which was being lit by German rockets. A witness estimated the gathered mass at three thousand men, mainly Kałuszyn Jews, but also refugees. A group of Jews was forced together with the Rabbi to shout a few times: “Heil Hitler” and “Long live Germany!” The sounds were fed into a radio transmitter and had been broadcast in Wrocław (Breslau) as coming from an enthusiastic crowd. The captives were forced under threat of death to hand over all gold and silver items such as watches, bracelets, ring, and so forth.

Late at night, a Polish military unit had broken through the German lines, and a standing battle took place that lasted until morning. As is related by a reliable witness, the Kałuszyn legionnaire[*7] Krause together with Corporal Matis Laufer gathered the soldiers who were separated from their units, as well as young civilians from among the refugees and organised them into fighting units. They succeeded with a bayonet charge to drive the Germans out of town. This battle caused many casualties.

During the fighting many people among those collected in the field were wounded. Following the German retreat the civilian population returned to town.

The Germans that were forced to retreat during the night with many casualties returned the following morning with a stronger force (including tanks and armoured vehicles) and recaptured the town. In retribution for the resistance and the heavy casualties they had suffered (in excess of four hundred soldiers fell near the mount three km outside town and were buried by the highway to Węgrów), opened fire on the Jews gathered in the market square. As a result, there were dead and wounded. The invading force then put the town to the torch (leaving only a few houses intact). In the flames perished Chaya Sadovski, Sara Loshitski, a daughter of Ruven Michlzon and others.

An order was given that all Jews (including the wounded) must gather in the church. The civilian population was chased out into the street. The ones not running fast enough were shot. The Jews were gathered in the centre of the market square and made to stand in a circle around two big tanks. They had to stand upright without making a move, and were forbidden to talk among themselves. Whoever failed to obey was killed on the spot. Yecheskel Perkal, who tried to say something, was shot dead before he managed to open his mouth.

In the evening, the Jews were taken out to the Warszawska Street, facing in the direction of the church. Germans stood on each side of the street with sticks, pistols, rifles, and delivered blows right and left. They also fired shots into the crowd. Among those killed, was the Chassid[*8] Moyshe Kutchkovski and his only son, a 14 year old prodigy, and Sara Yedvab-Kramarz[*9]. It was forbidden to linger beside the fallen. The smith Yehuda Yosefzon was shot on the spot because he stopped to grieve over his murdered child. It also happened to Mendl Blat, as he bent down to ask forgiveness of three of the dead – Avrohom Gordon and his two sons, Chaim and Motl.

The people were made to stand until midnight in rows, in the street leading to the church and from the church to the town hall, with houses burning on both streets. Afterwards, they forced the people into the church where new ordeals were taking place - with more victims. Before they were forced into the church, the Jews were lined up row after row facing the wall. All the while, the Germans fired volleys over the heads of the benumbed mass. Everybody thought that the people in the row behind were already dead and that soon their own fate will be sealed. They were kept like that for hours, until finally they were pushed inside like a herd of cattle. Then, the Jews saw fire and smoke engulfing the church building. The Germans deliberately torched an adjacent house to terrify the enclosed people. They rained violence on the prisoners for a day and a night. A group of Jews (among them Dovid Grinfeld), who at first tried to hide in the cellar of the Polish[*10] baker Krzywobłocki, and therefore were brought late to the church – were shot on arrival.

Inside the church there was barely any standing room. Among the prisoners was the old Rebbe Reb [*11] Naftole with his son and beadle. On the Rebbe was placed the responsibility for the conduct of the people. At first the Germans would not allow any water and the confined became weaker; some started to faint. In the morning next day, a few people were selected to fetch water from the well near the town hall. (Since the well was drying up they scooped a muddy liquid with a small bucket).

The Jews remained incarcerated in the church for whole three days without any food (the Germans prevented any from getting through), without light and almost without water. Propped up against the walls were the badly wounded, mostly without shirts, which people used for bandages. Four of the injured died, overcome by the inhuman conditions. The Germans prevented the removal of the corpses.

On the fourth day, about midday, the doors of the main entry into the church were shut; not a drop of water was allowed in. Among the confined quickly spread a rumour that the Germans intended to blow up the church. Jews gathered in groups to pray and many began to say the prayer of the dying. However, the threat did not materialise and the locked up people were on that day (the second day of Rosh-Hashanah[*12]) released.[6]

The destruction was enormous, the ruins were still smoking and everything was razed to the ground. A whole town was left without a roof. The township was 90-95 percent burned down.

Crowds of people remained sitting on the ground; some went into the fields to find food (potatoes, beets). Makeshift stoves put together with a few bricks were used for cooking (which was done) in burned utensils salvaged from the ruins[7].

It is hard to estimate the number of victims of the military campaign and the days following the German invasion. Accurate figures were already difficult to come by during the first days after the events due to the mass flight from the town. According to an initial estimate there were during the battles - from the evening of 11 September, the first entry of the Germans into town until the morning of the 12th, the final re-occupation – about 800-1000 Jewish civilians killed and burned[8].

During those three days, the Germans did not allow to put the bodies that lay in the streets to rest. The distress of the survivors at not being able to give their loved ones a decent burial was great; however, any attempt to appear outside carried the risk of death. In these circumstances the Chassid Mendl Blat who for many years was collecting donations for the Talmud-Torah[*15], decided to prevent the shaming of the dead. He was the first to sacrifice self in order to bury the corpses. “He walked amid the ruins, among the dead like the prophet Jeremiah, with tears in his eyes. He carried the dead children like Torah Scrolls, wrapped in his cloak”. He was joined by others; together with Reb Mendl was untiringly involved in this holy work the butcher Gershon Varshav. A Nazi murdered these two Jews whilst they were engaged in giving the martyrs a proper Jewish burial among the graves of generations of Kałuszyn Jews[9].

After the Jews were released from the church, the authorities ordered to clear the streets of the corpses. Even though it was Rosh-Hashanah Jews just freed from a shocking confinement began to move the corpses off the streets and from under the ruins to the cemetery. “Wagons were piled full with bodies, a man harnessed to the wagon and with others pushing from behind, we went to the Catholic cemetery. We buried our loved ones near the fence of the cemetery, close to the highway”[10].

Jews were also seized to bury all other killed (Polish soldiers and civilians) and dead horses that lay in the surrounding fields. On German orders the bodies and carrion were buried in joint graves[11].

The Jews were now concentrated in the few remaining houses on Warszawska Street (on the outskirts of town) as well as in the house of study/worship. Among the few surviving dwellings was the house of Yehuda Arye Slomski (which before the war housed the Bund social club and the Medem[*16] library), where all rooms were filled with people (15-20 to a room); the yard of Shloyme Royzman was also full. In a room at Berl Itche Fooks' stayed the Rebbe Reb Naftole, depressed and broken from pain and grief, his beard and side locks slashed off. Filled with sorrowful Jews was also the synagogue that was left standing – it was believed by the Jews of Kałuszyn - “as a reminder that here lived not so long ago a creative community”[12].

More horrible was the fate of the few dozen wounded that lay on bundles of straw in the makeshift hospital near the church. Among them, with a leg injury, was the writer Mordechai Grodjitsky (all his writings were destroyed in the fire), who was a favourite of Vaysnberg[*17] and the ten year old grandson of Dinah Hersh Hayms, whose arm was torn off by a shrapnel whilst he was escaping the fires (his little brother was killed by that shrapnel)[13].

The persecution began almost immediately, primarily the grabbing for hard labour. On a certain day, for instance, was seized a group of thirteen Jews (Moshe, Noah, Shloyme and Hersh Shtutman, Yankl Gozhalke, Motele Lifsheets, and others). They were forced, on the pain of death, to pull a ten-ton truck out of a ditch.

Then, the sudden departure of the Germans from Kałuszyn brought great hopes. This happened in conjunction with the approach of the Russians and it was rumoured that they will occupy the areas up to the Vistula (Wisła River). However, the news that the Russian have withdrawn from Siedlce and that the demarcation line will be at the Bug River instead, caused (renewed) dismay. Thus, after eight days the Germans returned.

Whilst the town was free from the Germans order was maintained by a citizens' militia consisting of officials of the municipality[14]. During those days the hunger was somewhat alleviated thanks to the provisions stolen from a Polish armoured train filled with foodstuffs and clothing and abandoned at the Mrozy railway station. The Germans broke open the carriages and sold the wares. A sort of market in these goods was soon established near the synagogue yard, at the petrol station of Efraim Shtutman.[15] (See[*18].

Soon after their return, the Germans renewed the harassment: cutting off beards, savage beatings and seizing for forced labour. So for instance was injured Yehuda Obfal while he was queuing for bread outside Tokarski's bakery. Antisemitic Poles roamed around the town together with Germans looting the few remaining Jewish dwellings. In many places they tore up bedding and left the feathers in the street. These excesses paralysed Jewish life. Due to these conditions, many people started to run from this inferno towards the Soviet Army. Using byways groups managed to reach Drogotchyn[*19], where it was possible for a small fee to be ferried across to the other, the Soviet side of the border. The road was full of Jewish refugees, all moving in the same direction. Unfortunately, the Poles which were encountered on the roads were busy robbing the runaways. Dozens of Kałuszyn refugees found a haven in Siemiatycz in the house of their Kałuszyn townsman Shloyme Kuperhand (Siemiatycz Podlaski was then a border town and the refugees tried from there to get over to the Russian side). Some fled to other places (Bialystok, Volkovysk, and so forth)[16].

Escapees from Kałuszyn also went to other towns and townlets – Mrozy, Mińsk-Mazowiecki, Kosów Podlaski, Sokołów, Węgrów, Mordy, Dobry, Rembertów, as well as various villages.

The Jewish exodus from Kałuszyn lasted until summer of 1940. From about July 1940 some of the exiles began to return, mainly due to a ban to reside in the neighbouring towns, like Mińsk, and others. Thus, by the end of 1940 the Jewish population of Kałuszyn reached about 4000 (before September 1939 it was around 7000). According to official Jewish information, which for obvious reasons tended to understate the number of Jews, there were in June-July 1941 - 3490 Jews, including 324 refugees; in April 1942 – 4090 persons[17]. Prior to the annihilation action the Ghetto population had considerably increased with the influx of refugees from Mińsk, and of those expelled from other towns.

In November 1939 the Germans ordered the Kałuszyn mayor Pływaczewski to install a Judenrat (see note[*13]G.G.). The persons nominated were the former dozors and members of the Kehilla board[*20]: Ruven Michlzon, Avraham Gamzu, Yidl Pienknavyesh, Moyshe Berman, Moyshe Kishelnitzky, Alter Moyshe Gozhik, Yankl Goldwaser, Layzer Bornshtayn, Hershl Feldman, Motl Aronson, Shmul Layzer Sadovski, David Batalin.

As chairman of the Judenrat was designated the dentist Gamzu, the known leading Zionist and founder of the Hebrew school and Hebrew library, former councilman and alderman of the municipality as well as Kehilla board member. The entire Jewish community regarded Gamzu with the utmost respect because he carried out the dangerous and unpopular function with dignity; being a proud Jew, he never betrayed Jewish interests.

A Jewish police (order police) was also established under the management of a certain Dembovitch, a refugee from Lodz. The Jewish police, which was responsible for maintaining order in the ghetto, was ostensibly created for the benefit of the Jewish population. In fact, it was used to enforce all the draconian German decrees.

The Jewish sanitary department was tasked with maintaining cleanliness and to administer the Jewish hospital.

Soon after the Judenrat was established, the Germans issued a string of anti-Jewish discriminatory regulations. In addition to the chicanery and excesses of the local (German) authorities, the Judenrat had to put up with Germans that used to come to town with special demands. German gendarmes looted, for their personal needs – furniture, bedding, underwear. When due to an outbreak of a typhus epidemic the German gendarmes moved to Mrozy, the Jews of Kałuszyn were forced to cover all the expense of the move and to provide for all the conveniences and upkeep of the German police office in the new locality.

Jews were also forced to supply the facilities and furnishings of other German offices.

In December 1939 came the order to wear white arm-bands with a blue Star of David. Non-compliance carried various severe penalties. There came also the prohibition of using the railways and other restrictions.

In winter 1939-40 the local Polish police received an order to arrest ten wealthy Jews and shoot them unless they pay a ransom of 10,000 Zł. (Polish unit of currency -G.G.). Left without an acceptable choice, the Judenrat handed over the requested sum in order to save the arrested Jews.

During the first heavy frosts, which characterised the winter of 1939-40 were brought into Kałuszyn a thousand Jews expelled from Pabianice and Kalisz – destitute, half-frozen - among them many sick and small children. This further aggravated the accommodation shortage, which was already quite bad; the (community) squeezed the homeless in by any means and wherever possible; some have camped in the ruined building of the Rayzman factory, others found shelter in the neighbouring villages.

End of summer 1940 Kałuszyn was designated a ghetto (“Jüdische Wohnbezirk” – Jewish residential district) with defined boundaries, at which were placed warning signs. At first Jews were allowed to move outside the confines. Soon, however, that changed; the closure of the ghetto had grave consequences for the Jewish population, which subsisted mainly from goods exchange with the countryside.

Thus, the already hard conditions changed exponentially for the worse, the living standard sank lower and lower and the Jews of Kałuszyn groaned more and more under the oppression and restrictions.

Apart from the gendarmes of the town and its environs the Jews of Kałuszyn suffered from the Warsaw Gestapo [*21], which used to “visit” the town every week. All their orders and injunctions had to be carried out or they would seize hostages and threaten them with execution. Thus was arrested Ruven Kohn with his two daughters and Chaim Milgrom. All attempts on the part of the Judenrat to free them ended in failure: the prisoners were shot in the woods between Kałuszyn and Węgrów. Ignoring the ban to inter them in town, the Judenrat buried the bodies in the (Jewish) cemetery[18].

As a result of the shortage in accommodation (Jews stayed in synagogue, on the Talmud Torah premises, in the {ritual} Bath, on Royzman's courtyard, in the tannery, and so on) and of the growing crowdedness (refugees kept coming from other localities), the sanitary conditions in ghetto became unbearable. (No wonder then that) in winter 1939-40 there was an outbreak of epidemic typhus which lasted two years. Many people died from it in the hospital in Rudki as well as in the (local) hospital established by the Judenrat for big sums of money collected for that purpose. The mortality rate in winter 1941-42 was 40-45 persons a month from a total population at the time of 4000[19].

Jews suffered greatly from forced labour. Men and women, the weak included were seized for various works, like digging channels or felling trees. Often injuries were sustained – people beaten up by overseers, Volksdeutche [*22] and Poles. Whoever was unable to work fast or displayed weariness was quickly removed to be shot in the forest or thrown into the river. In the work camp of £¹ck (pron. Lontsk – village in the Lublin Voyevodeship - G.G.) there were many Jews from Kałuszyn; during Passover of 1940 bodies of the slain were brought back to town daily.

Jews from Kałuszyn worked also in the work camps at Mrozy and between Mrozy and ¯elechów (a town in the Masovian Voivodeship - G.G.). The latter camp was notorious for cruelty. For a Jew to be shot there was an ordinary occurrence; on a certain day a German overseer shot two Jews (one of them was Moyshe Geler)[20].

During Passover of 1940 the Germans demanded that the Judenrat supply150 young Jews for hard labour. Thanks to intercession of that body (Kishelnitzky) the number was reduced to 38, and they were taken for work at Białe Podlaski. In that camp Jews did hard labour at land melioration: digging ditches, drying swamps and regulate rivers. The ruthless working conditions and the torment in Białe shook up the entire Jewish population in Kałuszyn. The Judenrat did its utmost to free the 38 youths from there. It succeeded after prolonged and strenuous efforts, but many of the forced labourers returned sick and exhausted.

The seizing for work became more frequent in the summer of 1940. The “remuneration” for a working day was 5 Zł. (which sum covered the cost of 500 gm of bread).

In the beginning of 1941, in connection with Germany's frantic preparations for the attack on the Soviet Union, there appeared in Kałuszyn German civilians (wearing green hats with feathers) from the notorious firm “Wolff und Goebbels”[*23], whose assignment was to restructure the Warsaw- Brześæ (Litewski) highway, including all the bridges. All Jewish men, including 70 year olds, were forced to do this work. Every Jew found in hiding was brutally beaten. Mention should also be made of the hard work exacted from some 600 Kałuszyn Jews, young and old including members of the Judenrat, who were seized by the Germans from Mińsk-Mazowiecki and taken some 11 km out of town to clear the snow off the road Mińsk-Dobry. They constantly beat Jews up there. There they also shot Chaim Nemen, who was found by Germans outside the town.

At that time too, rumours began about preparations to transfer the Jews from Kałuszyn to the Warsaw ghetto. Instead, the Judenrat was ordered to restructure the interior of the (town) bath. This no doubt was the result of the endeavours of the local doctor Baszczyk who in a number of representations to the district authorities complained about the Judenrat and the anti-sanitary conditions in ghetto.

The rumours about resettlement caused among Jews great panic and fear because of the realization that resettlement to the Warsaw ghetto meant “the beginning of death”. The Jews of Kałuszyn knew quite well what happened to their brethren from the shtetls to the west of the capital that were expelled to the Warsaw ghetto: almost all slowly died there of starvation and epidemics.

As soon as the bath reconditioning was completed, the rumours about resettlement were gradually becoming reality. A sanitation division arrived and immediately began implementing the “cleansing decree”. In the empty school building at the church was installed a “quarantine” (isolation centre); every now and then an entire building was surrounded and everybody found there was taken to the bath for the so-called “entlausung” (delousing).

This action (February 1941) conducted under the pretext of preventing typhus was led by the German doctor Kaman, his deputy the Volksdeutche Neuman, and the antisemitic Pole Z. Janiak. As related by the witness Melech Kishelnitzky, Jewish policemen and sanitary workers took part in this operation in order to prevent the work being taken over by the Polish police, which waited for an opportunity to use it to torment and rob (Jews). It is an unfortunate fact, however, that those who could not or would not pay the demanded ransom were destined by the Judenrat and the Jewish sanitary and order services to be seized from the street and dwellings into the quarantine for 14 days[*24]. In the frosty weather even barefoot and naked children were taken out of the houses into the quarantine.

The opening of the quarantine took place in accordance to a German dictated ceremonial. A number of better-off men and women were brought in, forced to disrobe and to scratch themselves in front of cameras.

During the disinfection process itself the people were tormented physically and mentally; women were shorn of their hair, elderly pious Jews had their beards cut. The few miserable belongings that people managed to take in the rush when they were driven out of their homes were burned in the steam. After having gone through all the seven circles of hell, the disinfected were taken into the school building where hundreds of people were kept for two weeks and longer. Only food was allowed in. No one was permitted to leave. The wife of Dovid Pshenne, a mother of six little children, who suffered an attack of stomach ache and begged for medical assistance, was shot on the spot.

Due to these conditions the Jews who were still “free” began leaving town at night for the neighbouring shtetls and villages.

Around that time the Jews of Mińsk-Mazowiecki brought over to their town the Rebbe Naftole and the Kałuszyn yeshiva-head[*25] Reb Tsvi Dantsiger with their families. Reb Naftole died there soon after; Reb Tsvi perished during the “Aktion” [*26] in Kałuszyn.

Following the typhus operation, a thousand people were sent in two groups to the Warsaw ghetto. The first group numbered 550; the second of 450 was resettled 15 days later. Most of the resettled died there from starvation and epidemics; only a part of the deportees succeeded by various means to return home.[21]

The escapees from the Warsaw ghetto had initially been hiding in the neighbouring villages. The Germans then announced that the Kałuszyn Jews were allowed to return to their homes. Soon after, the Jewish quarter was fenced in and the era of the closed ghetto began. The resettlement greatly damaged the ghetto financially[22].

Now almost all Jews – even women and children were involved in the work process. The Judenrat was ordered to supply hundreds of people for work.

Then soldiers arrived in Kałuszyn from Janów, near Minsk and began taking apart Jewish houses ruined during the initial phase of the war. The bricks were utilised for the airport that was being built by Jews in Janów. For the same purpose were also dismantled the burned down structures of the two (Jewish) houses of worship. The synagogue building was also blown up the 5th of May 1941, around 4 pm. In this work were also employed elderly Jews and women, as well as 10 year old children[23]. “The entire town was converted into a giant factory, where all Jews were harnessed to grinding mountains of stones. You couldn't see beyond heaven and earth and stones and a tormented Jewish mass”. Mainly the work was carried out on highways, bridges and other constructions. The Jewish survivors were keen to work in order to avoid annihilation.

With the outbreak of the German-Soviet war (22 June 1941), a ray of hope lit up the Jewish gloom. But instead of speedy succour and redemption came painful disappointments. The initial victories of the powerful German war machine overwhelmed he Kałuszyn Jews by apathy and hopelessness.

On 7th November 1941, three hundred girl and a few dozen men were taken away for work in Zaleszczyki (now Ukraine). No sign of life came ever back from them.

Winter 1942 an order was issued to hand in within days, under pain of death, all fur articles. Towards the end of winter rumours were heard about the physical annihilation (by gas) of the Jewish population in the Polish territories which were incorporated into the Third Reich[*27].

Bad tidings began also arriving from Jewish communities in the General Government[*28] itself, where the S.S. shot a number of Jews picked from a previously prepared list. With despondency was received the news of the “Aktion” in Lublin (March 1942). Although the fact of the “expulsion” itself was known, the locality to which the Lublin Jews were sent was not. In Kałuszyn the people immediately became aware of the bloody events of the night of 17/18 April 1942 in the Warsaw ghetto, where among a considerable number of murdered Jews was also the leading Kałuszyn Bundist Moyshe Goldberg and his wife Ruchtche Lis, also a native of the town (see page 470 of Sefer Kałuszyn - G.G.). The S.S. came to Kałuszyn too, took Ruven Kohn (“Katchke”), his 2 daughters and Chaim Milgrom outside town and shot dead all four.

In May 1942 there were persistent rumours that all Jews will be sent for work in the (German) occupied territories of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile the stone factory in Kałuszyn was in full swing. Stones were hauled from every direction; even the dead were not left in peace: the stone fence of the old Jewish cemetery was taken apart; also the tombstones were pulled out. The empty field was sown over with potatoes. Tombstones were also removed from the new (Jewish) cemetery[24].


Author's Footnotes

  1. Chaim Rayzman: “Der Onhayb fun Chorbn” (The Beginning of the Destruction), Yad Vashem[*5] Archive, Collection of Testimonies No. 0-3/506; Yaakov Gozhalke: “Azoy hot zich es Ongehoybn” (Thus it began). Return
  2. From the ruins of Gozhalke's house were extracted alive a little boy, Chaim Dovid and his younger sister. Gozhalke: ibid; Comp.: Kałuszyn Chronicle of the first days of the War, Ringelblum Archive Nos.823, 1142. Return
  3. Horontchik committed suicide because he could not find his son who got lost. – The victims were buried Sunday, the 10th September. Moshe Zoyerer: The Horror in Kałuszyn, “Notes of a Refugee” – “Nayvelt”, Tel-Aviv, 9th May, 1940; Comp.: Yaakov Kener: “Kvershnit” (“Cross-section” – G.G.) Return
  4. Rayzman: ibid. Return
  5. Rayzman: ibid. Return
  6. Kałuszyn Chronicle: ibid. Comp. David Felner (Ben Avraham): 'The Resistance following the German Incursion”. Moshe Kurtsboym: “The Candles Remind (us)”. Rayzman: ibid; Gozhalke: ibid; Arye Lavan (Dr. A. Boyminger): “War, after all” (in Polish), A Bundle of Memoirs, From the Yad Vashem Archive. Comp. Testimony of Alter Zaydman, Yad Vashem Archive, Perlman Collection and “ספֿר הזװעות” (Book of Horror{s}), Vol.A. Edited by Binyamin Mints and Dr. Israel Klauzner, Jerusalem; and ועד ההצלה Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency for Eretz Israel, 5702 (1941-42). qv 102-“01 Return
  7. Felner: ibid; Kałuszyn Chronicle: ibid; David Felner: “The Kałuszyn Commune in Białystok”, The Kałuszyn Judenrat [*13] to the Presidium of the Social Self-help (dated) 20 January 1941. Return
  8. Kałuszyn Chronicle: ibid. Comp. Kurtsboym: ibid. Yehuda Obfal (“5 days during the Destruction of Kałuszyn) mentions 800 victims. – According to one of the first estimates there were 175 families that have not suffered as a result of burning down the town. Yechiel Granatovitch (“Resistance and Kidush Hashem” [*14]) estimates the number of killed at “almost a quarter of the residents”. M. Zoyerer: (ibid.) estimates those killed at 530, almost all Jews. Return
  9. Granatovitch: ibid. Comp. Kałuszyn Chronicle: ibid. Also Zaydman: ibid. Return
  10. Gozhalke: ibid. The group (comprising) David Felner, Avrohom Yankev Gelbard (Yechiel Gelbard's son) and a third young man (whose name we were unable to establish) dug on the order of the Germans a mass grave along the brick fence of the Christian cemetery, near the highway to Siedlce. In it they buried about thirty bodies of men and women collected in town and from the environs. Among the dead were: Nechama, the vendor of vegetables (aunt of David Felner), who was killed in the dwelling of Moyshe Kishelnitzky together with Pelte Koval when a Nazi threw a grenade into the house; Avrohom Faygnboym's youngest daughter who was killed near the river close to the pelisse factory of the Bermans; and others. David Felner: “The Burial”. Return
  11. Gozhalke: ibid. Return
  12. Obfal, Gozhalke, Zaydman: ibid. See also Chaim Popovski, “from Kałuszyn to Lands'hut” Yad Vashem Archive, collection ג”ע, No.0-3/505. Return
  13. Obfal: ibid. Return
  1. (See [*17]G.G.) Obfal, Zaydman, Gozhalke: ibid. Shloyme Kuperhand: “In the Bunkers and Forests“. In the Shtutman group were eight persons (Noah, Hersh, Leah, Boruch, Brayndl Shtutman, Yecheskel Feldman, Noote Visipki and Yankev Gozhalke. On reaching Bialystok a group of Kałuszyn refugees (Shmul Lev, Yisroel Tayblum, Hadassa Zhondjinsky, Hadassa Rozenfeld, David Felner and others) established a commune (and opened a few workshops) where other refugees from their town found assistance. Felner, “The Kałuszyn Commune”, ibid. Return
  2. T. Brustin-Bernshtayn: “The Expulsions and Destruction of the Jewish Settlements in the Warsaw District”. Papers on History, April-June 1951, B iv, H 2. Charts 10, 11. Comp. Bulletin (in Polish) of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland No. 13, June 1952, Chart No.9; the refugees and exiles from Pabianice and Kalisz (in the Lodz and Wielkopolskie voyevodeships respectively – G.G.) numbered the 15th February 1940 – 624, the 1 June 1940 – 210, ibid. See also Avrum Goldberg: “Shmul Layzer Sadovski, in the Kałuszyn Chronicle (ibid) is the Jewish population before the war given as approximately 1500 families. About Kałuszyn Jews in Rembertów see E. Ringelblum, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto, Warsaw, Yiddish Buch 1952, Pg 138. Return
  3. Kishelnitzky: ibid, Mendl Berman: “Kałuszyn in the Latest (Final? – G.G.) Destruction”, David Felner: Avraham Gamzu. Return
  4. The Kałuszyn representation of the Jewish Social Selfhelp to the Presidium of that institution of 17 May 1942. Documents of the JSS in the Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Return
  5. Rayzman: ibid; Laybl and Efraim Shtchapovitch: ג”ע Yad Vashem Archive No.8.0 - 3 /842. Return
  6. Kałuszyn Chronicle: ibid; Memoir of Adam Kamienny (Yad Vashem Archive No. 0-3/842; Berman, Kishelnitzky, Shtchapovitch: ibid. The cost of setting up a disinfection unit was estimated by the Judenrat in its submission of 20 January 1941 to the presidium of the J.S.S. at 6000-7000 Zł., however the chamber erected by the Judenrat in the summer of 1940 cost a few thousand Zł. – According to the data of the Statistical department of the Warsaw Judenrat there arrived the 5th and 6th March 1941 from Kałuszyn 532 Jews. Return
  7. Shtchapovitch: ibid. Return
  8. Kishelnitzky, Kamienny: ibid. The 5th may 1941 gendarmes came to Kałuszyn in connection with the destruction of the synagogue. Around 2 pm the military arrived. Then the gendarmes began to remove people from the town. First, the people who lived on the premises of the synagogue were expelled. Then the street traffic was stopped. Around 4 pm a terrific explosion shook the rest of the town. The synagogue seemed to have risen into the air and then collapsed into a pile of rubble. Related by the Pole Sieradziński. Return
  9. Berman: ibid. The Kałuszyn representation of JSS to the presidium of that institution in Cracow, 19th June 1942. Return


Translator's Notes

*1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of
דאָס לעבן פֿון ייִדן אונטערן נאַצי־רעזשים; דאָס קאַלושינער געטאָ -
the first chapter of
,מאַרטיראָלאָגיע, װידערשטאַנד און אומקום פֿון דער ייִדישער קהילה אין קאַלושין
a historical account in “Sefer Kalushin” published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961. Return
*2. A neighbouring town. Return
*3. Abbreviation of Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland - (“General Jewish Workers' Union in Lithuania, Poland and Russia”), Jewish socialist party founded in Russia in 1897 (Encyc.Judaica). Return
*4. Vilnius, Polish: Wilno - then part of Poland. Return
*5. Yad Vashem (Hebrew: יד ושם “Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority”) is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by Israel's parliament. The origin of the name is from a Biblical verse: “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off”. (Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5). It is located at the foot of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem (Wikipedia). Return
*6. An independent Jewish (Yiddish) newspaper that was published in Warsaw, Poland, between 1910 and 1939. (http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/604852) Return
*7. A veteran of the Polish Legions, which at first were under the command of the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) in World War I, but subsequently fought for Polish independence. Based partly on Historical dictionary of Poland, 966-1945 by George J. Lerski, and others). Return
*8. Chassid (pl. – im) - Follower of Chassidic Judaism - from the Hebrew: Chassidus, meaning “piety” is an Orthodox Jewish religious movement. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
*9. Wife of translator's uncle Itche Kramarz. Return
*10. In this work (as indeed in the entire Sefer Kałuszyn), nationality is not used in the Western (mainly New World) sense of a country of birth or citizenship but in the narrower usage of Central and Eastern Europe which refers to a person's ethnicity/religion. Thus the words “Pole”, “Polish” mean an ethnic Pole, a Gentile, Christian (in majority of cases - Catholic) person. Return
*11. Rebbe - Master, teacher – a leader of a group of Chassidim. Reb – an honorific. Return
*12. Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: literally “head of the year”,) is a Jewish holiday commonly referred to as the “Jewish New Year”. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holidays or Yamim Noraim (“Days of Awe” - the Ten Days of Repentance) that conclude with the holiday of Yom Kippur. Return
*13. As the German army swept through Poland and the Soviet Union, it carried out an order of S.S.* leader Heydrich to require the local Jewish populace to form Jewish Councils as a liaison between the Jews and the Nazis. These councils of Jewish elders, (Judenrat; plural: Judenräte), were responsible for organizing the orderly deportation to the death camps, for detailing the number and occupations of the Jews in the ghettos (enforced separate Jewish residential districts), for distributing food and medical supplies, and for communicating the orders of the ghetto Nazi masters. The Nazis enforced these orders on the Judenrat with threats of terror, which were given credence by beatings and executions. As ghetto life settled into a “routine,” the Judenrat took on the functions of local government, providing police and fire protection, postal services, sanitation, transportation, food and fuel distribution, and housing. The Judenrat raised funds to create hospitals, homes for orphans, disinfection stations, and to provide food and clothing to those without. (From www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/)
* S.S. - Schutzstaffel (German for “Protective Squadron”), abbreviated SS was a major organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party... (T)he SS was responsible for the vast majority of war crimes perpetrated under the Nazi regime and was the primary organization which enacted the Holocaust. ..(T)he SS oversaw the isolation and displacement of Jewish people from the populations of the conquered territories, seizing their assets and imprisoning them in concentration camps and ghettos where they would be used as slave labour, pending extermination. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
*14. Kidush Hashem (Hebrew: קידוש השם “sanctification of the name [of God]”) is a precept of Judaism … any action by a Jew that brings honor, respect, and glory to God is considered to be a Kiddush Hashem. The ultimate act of Kiddush Hashem is when a Jew is prepared to sacrifice his life rather than transgress any of God's three cardinal sins: Serving idols (belief in another religion), committing certain acts (such as incest…), or committing murder (Based on Wikipedia). Return
*15. Talmud Torah schools were a form of public primary school for boys of modest backgrounds, where they were given an elementary education in Hebrew, the Scriptures (especially the Chumash or Five Books of Moses), and the Talmud (Based on Wikipedia). (Talmud - a record of rabbinic discussions of Jewish law, ethics, customs and history – Based on Encyc.Judaica). Return
*16. Named after Vladimir Medem (1879-1923) a leader and theoretician of the Bund. Return
*17. Yitzchok Mayer Vaysnberg (1881-1939), Yiddish writer in Poland. (Encyclopedia “Izreel”, Izreel Publishing House Ltd., Tel-Aviv, Israel 1951). Return
*18. There seems to be a gap in the author's footnotes in the original – reference numbers 14 & 15 in the text do not have corresponding footnotes/endnotes. Return
*19. Drohiczyn - a small town situated on a bank of river Bug. (Based on Wikipedia) Return
*20. A member of the Kehilla board. From Polish “dozór- inspection, oversight, supervision”, hence: overseer, custodian. Kehilla - In Yiddish the word was used for both the instrument of Jewish denominational autonomy (an institution) as well as simply for “community”. Return
*21. GESTAPO (Abb. GEheime STAats-POlizei, “Secret State Police”), the secret police of Nazi Germany that persecuted Jews at the outset of the Nazi regime and later played a central role in carrying out the “Final Solution”. (Encyc.Judaica). Return
*22. Volksdeutsche is a historical term which arose in the early 20th century to describe ethnic Germans living outside of the Reich. In a 1938 memorandum of the German Reich Chancellery... the Volksdeutsche were defined as “people whose language and culture had German origins but who did not hold German citizenship. However, for Hitler and other Germans of his time, the term “Volksdeutsche” also carried overtones of blood and race not captured in the common English translation “ethnic Germans”. According to German estimates in the 1930s, about 30 million Volksdeutsche ... were living outside the Reich, a significant proportion of them in Eastern Europe - Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states and Romania. The Nazi goal of expansion to the east assigned the Volksdeutsche a special role. (From Wikipedia). Return
*23. A search did not yield any references to this firm. Also, I'm not certain of the correct spelling: the original Yiddish transcribes it as
“װאָלף אונד געבעלס”. Most likely, it was a civilian subcontractor associated with the Todt Organization.
Harriet Scharnberg has brought to my attention the following: Noah Lasman in his autobiography, translated into German by Danuta Dombrowska as Die Straße (Waxman Münster, New York/München/Berlin, 1999) states that a firm “Construction Enterprise Wolfer & Goebel” was engaged in the building of a road from Siedlce (Shedletz) to Międzyrzece (Mezritch) using Jewish inmates from the forced labor camp situated on the outskirts of Siedlce. (Die Straße: see Forword, author's Biography, pages 23, 35 and Epilogue on pages 172,174). A firm by that name now (y. 2010) exists in Stuttgart, Germany (http://www.wolfer-goebel.de/ ).
(“The Organisation Todt (OT) was a Third Reich civil and military engineering group in Germany named for its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi figure. The organization was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects …in Germany itself and occupied territories from France to Russia during the war, and became notorious for using forced labor. By the end of 1944, of approximately 1.4 million laborers in the service of the Organisation Todt overall, 1% were Germans rejected from military service and 1.5% were concentration camp prisoners; the rest were prisoners of war and compulsory laborers from occupied countries. All were effectively treated as slaves and existed in the complete and arbitrary service of a ruthless totalitarian state. Many did not survive the work or the war.” – From Wikipedia). Return
*24. The structure and (lack of) clarity of this sentence in the original leaves one in some doubt as to its precise meaning. For those readers who have no access to the book I provide here the Yiddish text of the sentence: אַ פֿאַקט אָבער איז, צום באַדױערן, אַז די יעניקע, װאָס האָבן נישט געהאַט אָדער נישט געװאָלט געבן די געפֿאָדערטע פּרײזן (אױסקױף־געלט) זענען געװען באַשטימט דורכן    יודענראַט װי אױך דער ייִדישער סאַניטאַרער און אָרדענונגס־דינסט צום כאַפּן פֿון גאַס און פֿון די שטובן אין דער קאַראַנטין אױף 14 טעג. Return
*25. Yeshiva is an institution for Torah study, the study of Talmud, Rabbinic literature and Responsa. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
*26. Aktion (German) - Operation involving the mass assembly, deportation, and murder of Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/wiesenthal_glossary.html#1). Return
*27. Nazi Germany and the Third Reich are the colloquial English names for Germany between 1933 and 1945 (Wikipedia). Return
*28. The “General Government” refers to a part of the territories of Poland under German military occupation from September 1939 (Based on Wikipedia). Return

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