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[Page 250]

Klobucker Jews in Extermination Camps

 

The Zagórz Concentration Camp

By Dora Wajs

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

The village of Zagórz was located close to Klobuck. There, the Germans established a “free willing” work camp (as explained below) to serve the German economy and the surrounding areas. The work entailed breaking stones, taking apart houses or building new buildings.

The Zagórz camp was established before the “Yamim Noraim” (Days of Awe) in 1941. Its first “inhabitants” were a group of Jews from Zabrze in the Bielsk region, Sosnowiec County. Later Jews came from Klobuck and its surroundings, as “free willing.” “Free Willing” meant that the people asked to be accepted to work in the camp. This was a result of the fact that the Jewish council (Judenrat)

Klobuck Jewish people in the Zagórz Concentration Camp, at work

 

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accepted the German rules. These rules compelled large numbers of Jews to “volunteer” to travel and work in the German camps. In the Klobuck Ghetto people were frightened. The rebellious ones, who did not want to leave Klobuck, were in constant fear of death. That is why the Zagórz camp was seen as a lifeboat for the desperate Jews, who were drowning in blood.

The liquidation of the Klobuck Ghetto occurred on June 21st 1942. “Useful Jews” were permitted to stay, and among them were: Leizer Franck and his wife, a dentist; Petchia Tsintsinatus; Yaacov Aaron Blau; Itzik Elie Besser, with his family; Chaim Mendelewicz; Shalom Unglick; and Yankel Libski. All of them remained in Klobuck and received apartments.

After Klobuck became “Judenrein” (without Jews), the Germans established in the former ghetto a “Service Unit” of workshops for tailors and shoemakers, which was close to a supply room and a kitchen. There the “useful Jews” who remained were employed.

A significant number of Jews fled from the murderous deportation and were hidden in the forest and by peasants. The Klobuck region “Service Units” formed a network of “free” camps to attract the escaped and the hidden Jews, with the intent that those Jews would voluntarily register to work, and then be exterminated by the Germans at a later and determined time.

This diabolic plan succeeded. The most successful camp of the Klobuck “service units” was Zagórz. Not only did the escaped and hidden Jews come there, but also Jews from nearby Czestochowa, who depended of the “General Government”.[1] The Jews from Czestochowa smuggled themselves through the “border” with dedication so that they could reach the “happy” Zagórz camp. In the Zagórz camp were 500 Jews before the liquidation. A few similar type camps like the Klobuck “Service Units” were located in Biala, Werenczice, Wilkowiek, Krzepice etc. The work was hard there, but compared to anywhere else it was “a good place”.

The supposedly “good” time in the camp did not last long.

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During July, 1943 the Zagórz camp was surrounded by SS troops. They ordered everyone to get dressed fast and everybody was dragged to the police station. Jews from the other camps that made up the Klobuck region “Service Units” were also brought there. The police station was surrounded by a special unit of SS troops. Everyone instinctively knew that the liquidation had started, but there was nothing that could be done.

In this hopeless situation, a few audacious Jews tried to save their lives. When the bread was brought for those sentenced to death, Avraham Weiss, Nechama Kitner and Avraham Liberman escaped. Avraham Weiss was caught. A few Jews, Petchia Tsintsinatus with his wife, and Chaim Silberberg ripped off the gate and tried to escape. The Germans chased them. One of them was shot, the others were brought back. They received murderous blows. The murderous SS put all of them against a wall and prepared to execute them. At that moment, an SS officer arrived and said to his “comrades” that they were not worth the cartridges: “They will rot to death (like animals) anyway”. The execution was cancelled.

The next morning, two females and one male jumped over the fence. They were caught. The guard had been fortified with SS people and a trained dog. At the end, all of the persecuted Jews were brought to the train and were sent in freight cars to the Blechhammer camp. A “selection” occurred, during which a few persons and the children were sent to the gas chambers, and those people able to work were sent to work camps. Only a few of those came back.


Translator's Footnote

  1. The General Government of Poland was the part of Poland under German control and administered by a German General Governor. Klobuck was so close of the 1939 German border that it was annexed to Germany. That is why Jews from Czestochowa had to cross the “border”. Return


[Page 253]

Out of Hiding and Away
to the Zagórz Concentration Camp

By Avraham Enzel

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

Three days before the deportation from Klobuck, I was aware of what was going to happen. I informed all my acquaintances about the reports of the impending danger. Within two hours, the frightening news spread throughout the Ghetto, and everybody looked for ways to escape. Young men, women and girls ran to the Zagórz camp. Older people stayed, letting fate decide. A portion of the community ran away and crossed the “border” to the “General Government”[1].

My wife, Karola, and I together with the Unglick family decided to hide in a prepared double attic inside a building next to our house.

On the last evening, when we were ready to enter our hideout, I met Yachet Ripstein. She asked me: “Where should I go and what should I do”? I invited her to join us in our hideout. She told me that she knew a Christian acquaintance and that she intended go to him, and ask him to hide her. We emotionally parted, and I never saw her again…

During a calm and dark night, as the people of the Klobuck Ghetto were being rounded up and the town was empty, we entered our hideout and locked the door from the inside with a bar. In the morning we suddenly heard frightening knocks on the building gate, and the wellknown beastly voices of Germans: “Jews open up”. We also heard gun shots and people screaming and crying as they were being dragged out. From our hideout, we saw Esther Skorupa, standing with her child close to the building gate, crying.

The Germans broke into the building where we were hiding. They searched every room, but they did not find our hideout. The Germans left. We stayed in our hideout for three days without food or water.

During the fourth night we decided to go one by one to the Zagórz camp, because we heard news that in the camp it was possible to manage and survive. We left our bunker and went to the camp.


Translator's Footnote

  1. The General Government of Poland was the part of Poland under German control and administered by a German General Governor. Klobuck was so close to the 1939 German border that it was annexed to Germany. The nearby city of Czestochowa on the other hand was inside the General Government of Poland Return


[Page 254]

The Struggle for Life and Existence

By Moshe Fajga

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

I successfully escaped the Hasag camp in Czestochowa in the year 1943. Czestochowa was then part of the (Polish) “General Government,” and I had to flee across the “border” to reach Klobuck, which was annexed by the (German) “Third Reich”. I left the camp with the other workers to go to work. While going to work in a line, I walked away from the line and onto a side street to a Christian, who was known to be a “smuggler”. With this Pole were several Jews, among them: Aaron Franck from Krzepice, Moshe Tsintsinatus from Klobuck and a few others. Our “savior” hid us in a cellar in the second room. During the night we came out of the cellar, ate something and prepared to go.

At midnight, we started to walk towards Klobuck. We crossed the “border” close to Jabienitz(Żabieniec) without problem, and we arrived at the Zagórz camp at approximately three o'clock (in the morning). The “smuggler” brought us to the pig sty, which was the home of the Jews working in Zagórz. In the pig sty former Klobuck landlords and respectable Jews were sleeping on bare wood plank cots.

Our arrival woke them up. They welcomed us warmly, and started asking about their families, who were living in Czestochowa. One of the Jews from the camp, Mordechai Ross-Gelbard, instructed us to lie down, because the “Uncle” would soon come in. “Uncle” was the nickname of the “Kapo,” Reuven Shnieber.

It did not take long and the “Kapo” came in and said to me: “Moshe, you came back again. You want to tease with the commander of the camp. Go away from here”. At the same time, Aaron Frenck[1] received blows from the “Kapo”.

I asked him: “Where can I go at night? I will be caught.

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Tomorrow morning when everyone goes to work, I will go with them, and then I will disappear”.

It happened as I predicted. In the morning we went out to work (with the others). Aaron Frenck, Moshe Tsintsinatus and I left, and each of us went to another place. Aaron Frenck's brother was a “Reklamirter Jew”, which meant that he was a dentist and worked for the Germans and lived in Klobuck. Aaron Frenck went to his brother. Moshe Tsintsinatus and I went to Tsintsinatus' brother, Petchia, also a “Reklamirter Jew”, who worked as a painter for the Germans. We hid there for eight days.

Our hope was that we would be accepted in the tailor camp. There young women worked, and amongst them were my nieces, Libe and Dina. I had already informed them about my coming, and Dina had already visited me in my hideout. She told me that her father and his two sons, Chaskel and Levi, were in the Zagórz camp. Her mother (my sister) was in the Sosnowiec hospital and she (Dina) and her sister Libe were working in the tailor camp, which was part of the “Service Unit”. For the time being it was not possible to apply for a job in the tailor camp, because the young women were accused of stealing laundry. No one was caught, but the camp commander punished everyone by ordering confinement in the cellar for ten days. Since the work had to continue, the workers were confined in the cellar on a rotation basis. Thus, those in hiding had to wait until the punishment was over.

We remained hidden under a closet in Tsintsinatus' brother, Petchia's, apartment. My niece was liberated from the cellar punishment, and she asked the camp commander to accept to the camp two Jews who came out from their hideout. She said they will be “Useful Jews”. The camp commander agreed.

Dina came to see me, and announced the good news that I could work under the supervision of Reuven Feiner, who was involved in tearing down Shlomo Alars' house (see my note at the end). I went to see Feiner to inform him that the camp commander enrolled me. Reuven Feiner demanded that I give him money for the right to work with him.

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Since I had no money, he punished me by having me carry several heavy metal bars over a long distance.

For four weeks, my work was to break stones, until one day a few stones sheared off and hit my foot. I was taken away with a broken right foot in the car that transported the stones and was driven to the Zagórz camp.

The young women, who were busy in the kitchen, came out joyfully towards the car. They thought that a potato delivery was being made, but then saw me lying in the car with a broken foot. I was taken off the car to lie down on a dirty plank cot in the pig sty.

There was a Jewish doctor in the camp, but the Jews did not trust him. They brought a Polish doctor to me, who had previously treated many Jews in the camp. The doctor put a bandage on my foot. Later the Jewish doctor came. He was very upset that the Jews did not trust him, but did trust a “Goy” (non Jew). He re-did the bandage. The Polish doctor told the troop leader, Eldering, about what happened, and asked that I be transferred to the Sosnowiec hospital.

My brother in law, Yossef Mendelewicz, tried to intervene so that I would remain in the camp, but he could not help. The German said that he had instructions from the doctor, and that he had to comply with them. The Jews said their good-byes to me. A few calmed me down, and told me not to be afraid, and that I would come back healed. Mrs. Weinman shed tears.

The next morning I was sent to the Sosnowiec hospital, escorted by two women. I was laid down on the ground floor. I was told that my sister, Tsvia, was there ill on the first floor. She did not know that I was in the same hospital. The nurse told me about Tsvia and how sick she was. I instructed the nurse not to tell Tsvia about my illness. Why should I give her more grief?

The hospital was full of sick Jews, who were brought from the German camps. The Jews worked in coal mines in Silesia and

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were brought with broken hands and legs, and other wounds on their body. I was visited by Mordechai Elia Mass, and he brought me news about my sister.

One day the doctor, Frisher, a surgeon who treated our limbs, disappeared. There was a rumor that the doctor trafficked in identification papers and that he had fled to Switzerland. Two Polish doctors came and they examined us. A few days later “SS” were seen in the hospital, and the people who were seriously ill were taken out of the hospital. I was left alone for the moment, likely because the cars were full. I wrote to my nieces in the Klobuck camp that they should save me.

My niece came to the hospital with the troop leader, Eldering, to take her mother, who was ill in the hospital, back home. On this occasion my niece asked the troop leader to bring back two more people from Klobuck, who had recovered and were able to work. The German agreed to bring us back.

We drove to the train station. With much difficulty, my niece put her mother in the wagon. It was even harder and more difficult with me. I could not walk. My friend Mordechai Mass and Libe carried me. When we arrived at the train platform, we learned that the train had already left. The SS troop leader spoke with the station master to let me go on the next train, which was due to leave in one hour.

I could not stand any longer hanging on with my hands on the shoulders of my friend. My foot was in gypsum. I was weak and nervous. I asked the troop leader to shoot me, because my life was no longer worthwhile. Our death was inevitable. The troop leader answered: ”nonsense”.

It was time to go. Mordechai Mass got a cart and brought the luggage to the platform. Libe and Mordechai put me on the cart and took me to the train. With great difficulty they put me on the train. In Kroleswka Hute I found my sister, Tsvia. The unexpected meeting gave us great joy

We arrived that night in the Klobuck camp. The Jewish

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inmates rejoiced with us. Each of the new arrivals, Mordechai Mass, my sister and myself, went to his own camp. Klobuck was the headquarters of the camps which were located in Krzepice, Wilkowiec, Werenszice etc…

The camps had a good reputation and were a refuge. The Jews, former Klobuck inhabitants, came from Czestochowa, looking for an escape in the camps from the Germans' wild conduct, in Czestochowa . They came to the camps during the night. Since it was known that the “Kapo”, Reuven Shnieber-Feiner, beat the newcomers, the established inmates took the newcomers to the women camp, which was 200 meters away. There they were hidden in an attic.

It is worthwhile to detail the crooked activities of the “Kapo”. He had three children in the camp, two daughters about 8-10 years old, and a 12 year old son, Beniek. The daughters helped their father with his “livelihood.” They showed him where the newcomers were hidden. The “Kapo” then dragged the Jews from their hideout, took their belongings, and threw them out of the camp. In contrast, the son of the “Kapo”, Beniek, had sympathy for the persecuted refugees from Czestochowa. With the well-known exclamation, “Six”, he warned the hideaways that “the father comes,” and that they had to hide.

The father, the “Kapo”, did not like his son. Many times he was beaten and shouted at him that the little (girl) children had more wisdom than the older son.

 

The life in the camp and the role of the “Kapo”

Several young men and women worked in the kitchen, or in the laundry, and the rest of the people, the majority of men, worked tearing down houses, pulling weeds, or breaking stones. While several Jews were breaking stones in the streets, I remember once that a Jew was beaten by Reuven Shnieber, because he was yawning while working.

The Jews of the camp were forced by the Germans

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to dismantle the Jewish cemetery. Berl Szmulewicz came back with a small piece of the tombstone of his father, as a souvenir. I thought: we will be buried, but the tombstones will remain.

The women did the same difficult work as the men. After a hard day of work, a train arrived with a delivery of bricks. Everyone, men, women, children and old people were ordered out of the camp. In the middle of the night we were marched to the train station and ordered to unload the bricks from the train. When we returned from the work, the “Kapo” was standing on a balcony and he threw out a few pieces of bread to a few Jews. In that way he gained the sympathy of the Jewish inmates. “Nevertheless he has a Jewish heart”, argued a few.

I did not go to work because my foot was still in gypsum. When I saw the “Kapo”, I started getting busy in the laundry Rivka Unglick and Yankel Ajzner worked also in the laundry. When the “Kapo” came in the laundry he told me: ”Moshe, if you speak about politics, I will send you directly to Auschwitz”.

The “Kapo” had a mistress in the camp, a daughter of a camp inmate who came from Zduńska Wola. She always said: “I live with him in order to hold him back, so that he will not make trouble for you”. She died in the BlechHammer camp because of her lover.

Reuven Shnieber, the “Kapo”, was from Będzin “underworld”. There was a rumor that before the war he bet for 5 pounds that he could eat a frog. He indeed “swallowed” a frog, and it was said that was the reason why he spoke in a hoarse voice. In the Klobuck camp he usually was drunk, and had a good livelihood, by looting from the dead people as well as from the living.

Our camp was an open camp, supervised by a troop leader, and not enclosed by fences like other camps. We were not allowed to leave. We had to be careful, not to be caught outside of the camp. During work time there was a foreman. We were not watched by Germans. We were always afraid that the “Kapo” Reuven, the “Uncle”, would come by and stop by our work.

In Czestochowa's ghetto the situation worsened. Jews fled to our camp as the only place for rescue.

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The “Kapo” chased and hunted them. They turned to the troop leader, and he registered them into the camp.

We received news that in the Klobuck region, there were partisans. Therefore we called a meeting. The following people participated in the meeting: Berl Szmulewicz, Moshe Feige, Avraham Weiss, Avraham Enzel and Yidl Szperling. We decided that by all possible means we should get money and weapons.

A few days later, on Sunday, we sent Heniek Szilit to Truskolas. In the evening a Pole ran into the camp with a letter from Heniek: “Friends, pity on myself, save me, I am under arrest at the Truskolas police station in a cellar”. The Jews went to the troop leader and asked him to save Heniek. They promised him a reward. His wife did not want him to go, but he wanted to. The question was where could we get a horse and a cart? At that point Reuven Unglick came to the rescue.

Reuven Unglick worked for a Romanian Christian, whose name was Kobiak. Reuven asked him to harness his horse, and the Gentile agreed. Together with the troop leader they went to Truskolas. Once there they learned that the arrested man was transferred to Fashistanie.

The troop leader went to Fashistanie and identified himself to the police. He declared that Heniek Szilit was detained there, and that he had escaped from the camp under his command. He said that he wanted to take him back to the camp, where he would hang him in front of all the Jews. After this punishment and by seeing such a hanging, no other Jews will try to escape the camp anymore.

This trick worked and everybody came back home safe.

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The Romanians prepared themselves for a pogrom against the Jews in camp

I told you about a Romanian called Kobiak, who lived in Klobuck's neighborhood . He was not the only Romanian Christian in this region. For an unknown reason the Germans settled Romanians in this region.

I have already mentioned the Kubiak.Reuven Unglick, who worked as the Kobiak's foreman, was sent from the camp to work with his landlord, the Kubiak. They went to Biale, but they did not come back. Kobiak's wife went to Biale to find out what happened to her husband and was told that her husband travelled back home the same night he arrived. Also no one at the police station knew what happened of him.

The next morning the Christian's wife came into the camp and demanded that Reuven Unglick's parents tell her who had killed her husband. Chava, Reuven's mother, weeped, tore the hair from her head and swore that she did not know anything. The Christian's wife left the Zagórz camp and went to the Romanians. They told her, vehemently, that they would make a pogrom against the Jews in retaliation of her husband killing. So she told them that a Jew from the camp went with her husband to Biale to deliver goods; that the Jew got drunk; killed her husband; and fled with the horse to the partisans. The Christians believed her and therefore they prepared themselves for a pogrom on the third day. In the camp everyone was frightened to death. The Unglick family cried about their missing son, and here at the same time a pogrom was being prepared against the Jews in the camp.

The troop leader was away, and the camp commander in Klobuck was informed about what the Romanian Christians were preparing against us. He sent another camp commander to the camp to “protect” us…

On the third day, just when they were ready to attack, the Christian (Kobiak) returned. He told the people that they got drunk and fell asleep in the cart. The horse, instead of returning to Klobuck, went to Bejenice, and they were held on the border. The Christian was released on the third day. Reuven, his foreman, remained there. Reuven's mother and father cried, and tore the hair from their head.

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They contacted a “Volk Deutsch”[2], and paid him a lot of money in order to go and save their son. The “Volks Deutsch” came back with the news that Reuven was sent to Wielun. The mother again gave money to the “Volks Deutsch” and sent him to Wielun. He came back with the answer that from there he was sent to Auschwitz. The parents understood that they could do nothing about it. They wept about their son who lost his life in Auschwitz.

During the month of August, the woman' Baltshe Żółtobrode[3] (Joltobrode) fell sick. I asked Reuven Shnieber, the “Kapo”: since I cannot work, because I cannot walk on my foot, can I be the night watcher and can I also escort the young women to the Krzepice hospital.” He agreed. At the Krzepice hospital I found my brother in law, Yossel. While I was speaking with him, the “Kapo”, Mendele Bank, came into the hospital and made a list of all the sick Jews. I understood what was the purpose for the list.

 

The liquidation of the Zagórz ghetto

I immediately travelled back to Klobuck and warned the camp that we should be prepared for news. During the night I was at my post as a watchman. I told my friends in the camp that when the Germans arrive I will give them a sign. Berl Szmulewicz and other people prepared metal rods. Mordechai Klapack came to me several times during the night to ask if all is quiet. He could not longer sleep.

Night. The dogs barked. I opened the small gate, I looked around, it was very dark and I saw no one. I woke up my friend Moshe Mordechai Klapack. He told me: “when one dog barks, all the dogs bark. It is nothing”. I stood outside on the road and listened. It was calm. I didn't hear anybody coming and the dogs barked again. I was nervous, and I couldn't calm down. I walked in circle in the street, in the courtyard.

Suddenly Germans jumped over the fence, pointing their rifles towards me. “Hands up”. I told them that I was the night watchman. One of them was ready to shoot at me, and the second told him: leave him alone. He asked me: “where does the camp commander live”? I pointed to the direction with my hand

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and he told me to keep my hands up and to turn around my face to the wall. I counted the minutes, I thought that he was going to shoot me. After a short time, the troop leader came out, he told me to come back inside the camp.

In the camp there was turmoil. People knew that it was the end and everybody prepared himself for death. People threw away all their belongings; money, gold what people prepared for the last minutes in order to save their lives. The Germans ordered everybody to get dressed. They put us in a row outside and prepared to send us away.

Nachele Szilit (née Zigelbaum) said to the Germans: “where are you going to murder me and my child, kill us now”. The men laughed. We are leading you away to Klobuck in the Skorupa house[4]. A few Jews were able to jump over the fence outside and started running away. Among the Christians, immediately somebody denounced them. The Jews were caught, and they were lined up with their faces against the wall. We thought that they were going to be shot. At that moment Ludwig, the “Major”, came out and gave an order not to shoot.

During the time we spent on the Skorupa courtyard, surrounded by police, another group of policemen gathered Jews from other camps and brought them to the same courtyard. In the Werenszice camp, the Jews saw in advance that the Germans were coming and that it was the end of the camp. They ran unfortunately to the forest. We envied them.

Around midday, two Jews came in from the forest and notified the Germans that the Jews from the forest wanted to come back and they asked to be taken back. The Germans drove with the two Jews to the forest. All the Jews that escaped brought back. The Jews understood that they would not be able to survive in the forest for a long time in the forest.

During the night we stayed on the ground. Next morning we were driven to the train station. We were packed inside wagons and the train left for an unknown location.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Must be the same person as Aaron Franck (typo) Return
  2. German people Return
  3. This family name comes from Polish word żółtobrody which means yellow beard Return
  4. Skorupa means crust, shell in Polish Return

General note of the translator

There a few inconsistencies in this long chapter. The writer speaks of an open camp and then he was night watchman and there were fences. I think that the writer was first at an open camp in Klobuck and then went to Zagórz camp which was just on the outskirts of Klobuck and was a camp surrounded by fences. The open camp in Klobuck was the head quarters for all the camps surrounding Klobuck. In the last part of the chapter, all the Jews from all the surrounding camps were gathered to the Skorupa courtyard before their deportation.

Other inconsistency : how could the writer escort a young woman to the hospital while he could not walk because of his broken leg?


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Hunger and Hard Labor

By Berl Yakubowicz

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

We travelled to Germany. In a train station in the Alps, the Germans attached a few additional cars with Jews to our train. The Jews were from Miszkaw and Krzepice.

We arrived at a small train station and the Germans started shouting: “everybody out”. We got out of the train cars and saw that we arrived in a small train station named “Eichenthal”. In front of the train station trucks were waiting; we were crammed inside the trucks and driven to an unknown location.

After about five kilometers, the trucks stopped. On one side we saw a forest and on the other side wooden barracks, enclosed with barbed wire three meters high. It was getting dark. We didn't know where we were. The gate opened and we walked inside in rows of three. Twenty six men were counted out and were directed to go inside the barracks, row by row. Inside the barracks there were thirteen beds, (two persons per bed), a table and a few stools. We were ordered to fill up our straw bags with straw and go to sleep.

The next morning, we were awakened by the Germans, who shouted: “Everybody up” and arrange the beds like in a military camp. We were young men, who had not been in military service, and we did not know what to do.

Everyone was pushed outside into the square, and we were counted, to check that no one had escaped. In each of the four corners of the camp, there was a watch tower

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manned by German soldiers with machine guns. Close to the gate soldiers stood with rifles around their shoulders.

In the morning we got black coffee, half bread, about 400 grams, and about 20 grams of margarine. We were notified that that was all the food we would receive for the rest of the day, and now we should go outside to work, and that when we returned in the evening we would get a meal.

We marched outside in rows of three. The German soldiers watched us from both sides. They commanded us to march in foot steps like soldiers. We marched about four kilometers. From a wooden booth each of us received tools to work with: a shovel, a spade and a crowbar. We were then divided into groups. One group was ordered to shovel soil into little steel carts on thin rails, which allowed the carts to move on. Another group was ordered to do various other tasks.

We started working, shoveling the black soil into the carts. A German civilian stood in front of us and shouted: “faster pace!” threatening us with the handle of a shovel, “anyone who does not fill up the cart will be beaten with this stick”.

After the carts were full, a small locomotive arrived, and was connected to the carts and dragged them away. Immediately thereafter we had to fill empty boxes until the carts came back, so that we were unable to rest even for a minute. We worked this way all day long.

At 4 PM we received an order: “all the tools must be cleaned; they had to be returned as clean as they were received”. We were then immediately ordered again to form rows of three and to march back to the camp. Everybody was hungry and exhausted. In the camp they counted us again to check that no one escaped. We were warned that if somebody escaped, we will be put in a row and one out of ten would be shot. Every time we returned from work we heard the same kind of threats and demands.

We were ordered to stand in a single line, and were marched to the dining room for a meal. Everyone received a plate of food, which was a mixture of water with kohlrabi and very few potatoes. Everyone who still had another receptacle he brought from home ran in order to get some more of the food. But unfortunately it did not last very long.

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Food package from home and migration to a new camp

We wrote letters home. Every letter went through censorship. Any letter that did not please them (the Germans) was burned. We were allowed to write only in Latin letters. It was forbidden to write in Yiddish and that was what we yearned for. We wrote: “we are healthy and we send regards to the baker”. Our parents understood what we meant. After a few days we received from home, bread, meat and various other food like sugar. We understood that our parents deprived themselves and sacrificed for us. They sent us (food) as frequently as they could, but we did not receive everything. The Germans checked for secret things in every parcel. They (the Germans) also mixed sugar with kasha or pasta with tea etc, to anger us, and so that we couldn't use the food we received from home.

Receiving parcels from home was a treat for us. We felt the gentle hand of our mother or father, who thought about us while packing these food parcels: “with this my child will stay alive and, God forbid, he will not starve”. I am sure that a lot of tears flowed while these parcels were sent to the camp.

We worked approximately ten weeks. After a hard day of work in the field, during which the rain and wind chilled us to our bones, we returned to the camp, and we were notified that all the steel workers, locksmiths, ironworkers, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, as well as drivers and carpenters were ordered to go to work in a factory, because there was a shortage of those craftsman. We had no choice but to surrender to the bitter fate. We also had to separate from our friends from Klobuck.

Shortly afterward a military truck came and took about twenty healthy and vigorous people.

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With our luggage in one hand we climbed into the truck. Before leaving, everyone received a half kilogram of bread with 20 deca margarine. We said goodbye to our friends, and the truck got started, while we were guarded by two armed Germans, who travelled with us.

The journey lasted about two hours, and we again arrived at a fenced location. The barracks there were like the ones in Eichenthal. We got off the truck with our luggage, and we were lined up in one row. A German soldier examined us with an electric torch (flash light) in his hand, one by one in particular, and then we were marched into the camp.

We were confronted with new problems. We were given empty straw bags and we were ordered to fill them with straw, which served as our mattresses to sleep on. Everyone was in the same room. This occurred in January 1941.

On the next day in the morning, instead of working in a factory, we were sent to the field to dig trenches. During the work we were watched by German soldiers, foremen and engineers, who supervised the work.

All of the locksmiths and the blacksmiths carried thin rails. Carpenters carried wooden blocks and the others dug deep trenches. We made friends with the civil Germans, who worked there as professionals. They told us that a bridge for the Reich Highway would be built there. They pointed out the river over which the bridge was going to cross. It was the historical river Neisse[1].

Thus we worked every day from morning to nightfall on the highway bridge from January 1941 to March 1942.

We dug pits 6 meters deep. We stood in water above our knees, and removed the clay and sandy soil. When we came back to the camp after a arduous day of work, we had to clean the camp and throw away the garbage. We hitched up a truck and brought the garbage to a field far away. We washed ourselves and we had to mend our clothes by ourselves. There were about 500 Jews in the camp from shtetls throughout Poland. The majority were from Silesia, Bedzin, Sosnowiec, Klobuck, Krzepice, Miszkaw, etc …

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We lived among ourselves like friends, because everybody was in the same boat. We received letters from our parents and also some food from home.

One summer day, one of us escaped. The Germans who guarded us were very upset. Before the escape they used to guard us only during the night and then disappeared; after the escape they started also to guard us during the day from the towers. They searched for the escapee. After a few hours the person who escaped was found. He said that he was hungry and went to find some food. We, all,were lucky that he was caught, because we were threatened that if he was not found we will be lined up in a row, and one out of ten of us would be shot.

From that escape on, the Germans conducted a “night service” for us. We worked very hard during the day and during the night one of us had to stay awake for two hours in order to prevent escapes.

It is becoming worse, the last letter from Klobuck.

In March 1942, an order was issued to send us to another camp. We were sent to Tarnowskie Góry, which was called Tarnowitz during the German occupation.

In Tarnowskie Góry new problems arose. We were packed together with a hundred men in one barracks, which comprised thirty five beds on three levels. One person slept above the other. We were ordered outside to work on the railroad. The work was to carry heavy rails to enlarge the train station. We worked with shovels and filled carts with heavy soil, some of which was wet and clay. We were not strong enough for this work. The Germans, who watched us, beat us with the wooden handles of the shovels.

In the camp we received less food to eat. Three men were given a kilogram of bread a day, with 2 deca margarin. The food parcels from home became rare and scarce, because the situation also became worse in Klobuck. The Germans were persecuting us more and more.

That was how very hard and bitter we were worked in Tarnowskie Góry, where approximately ten people from Klobuck were from. We rarely received letters from home.

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And when we received a letter from home, we were told that all of the Jews from Klobuck now lived in the ghetto and that they were being deported to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). We already understood what that meant.

During the month of Tammuz (July), 1942 I received a last letter from Klobuck, from my mother, and she wrote:
“My dear son, I write you a letter today, possibly the last letter, because everybody from Klobuck has already been deported. There was an attack (action) during the night on the shtetl, and all of the Jews were dragged to the train. Your father was among them (taken away). Your brother was also taken away to a camp, I think. I can not write anything more precise, because I don't know. Stay well, and hopefully we will meet as soon as possible at home…”

No return address, no signature. I only recognized my mother's delicate handwriting, with which she wrote this last letter.

The camp inmates from Klobuck who learned that I received a letter, came to me, and I read them the letter. Everybody wept silently. We did not know what to do. Each of us felt that everything was lost. Until now, we had parents, some of us were married with children, had family, a home to which we all hoped to be able to go back to once the war ended… And now it was the end of everything.

I took the letter again and read it from all its sides. I saw from the postage stamp that it was posted in Działoszyn[2] (Jaloshin). I couldn't calm down; Why was my mother was in Działoszyn? I kept the letter as a treasure. Unfortunately I could not keep this letter for a long time.

The encounter with my brother in a camp.

In October we received the order to move to another camp. We didn't know where we were being sent. The following morning we did not go to work. We were ordered to pack up and we were marched to the train. Again, we travelled in an unknown direction. Around

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2 pm we arrived at a small train station. We saw a sign board with black printed letters: Markstatt. From the train station we were marched into the camp.

As we arrived in the new camp, I met a friend from Klobuck, with whom I was in the first camp, Eichenthal. I learned from him that my brother was here. I could not leave my place, and I asked my friend to go and call my brother. He left and brought back my brother. We were standing 5 meters apart. We were separated in different barracks. When it came my turn, I asked that I be assigned to the same barracks with my brother. I don't know what effect it had on the block Elders, but they put me with my brother in the same room.

After the full inspection, that lasted two hours, I reunited with my brother. We hugged and kissed and we could not separate from each other, having been separated for two years. I was eager to know what happened with my parents.

We received one bed, my brother slept on the upper level, I slept in the lower level. It was a two level bed. My brother told me everything, and how the deportation occurred. All of the Jews from the shtetl were gathered together, including the children and the old people. The people who could work were taken to a camp, the other ones were taken to the train. We were almost sure that they were deported to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). We stayed awake all night and he told me everything.

He told me how once my mother went to the committee (Judenrat) and broke all the windows, because the committee had promised that people would come back from the camp after two months. Almost two years had gone by and no one had come back. Rejoiced to be with my brother, we went every day to the hard work. We did not receive any more letters from anybody. Also there were no more parcels from anyone. The food in camp became worse and worse. Thus, we worked from October 1942 until March 1943.

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The mutual brotherhood help from the persecuted Jews.

One day in March I became very feeble. Although I couldn't work, I had to go out to work because I didn't have fever -- but I couldn't move and I could not feel my limbs. I was indifferent to everything, my life was not worth anything anymore. I had lost all hope. The German supervisor beat me severely, accusing me of being a “saboteur”, because I didn't want to work for the “Deutschen Sieg” (German victory). I remained lying all day in a closet, with a few other Jews who couldn't work.

At the end of the day when everybody returned to the camp from work, the other Jews carried us four people on their shoulders and brought us back to the camp.

My brother waited for me every day at the camp gate, because he returned half an hour earlier than I, since his workplace was closer to the camp. He saw that I was being dragged, almost as if I was dead, and he did not know what he could do for me. All of the people who were brought back as sick were immediately brought to the “sick rooms”. There were special blocks for the sick people, and from there every week sick people were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). They called it being sent to “recovery”. Not one of them saw the world again.

In the block for sick people, we all received a meal with a portion of bread. My brother also brought me his own bread portion to eat, so I could regain my strength. After a few pieces of bread, I immediately felt vigorous and normal. My brother advised me to go back to my barracks, because it was dangerous to stay in the rooms with the sick people; very often sick people were “sent away” from there. I couldn't yet walk on my feet.

There were approximately 150 sick people. Every day new sick people were brought to the infirmary, -- those who could not work anymore; had swollen feet, or with injuries that did not heal because of the bad food and difficult work. (In a short time) we

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were 300 men, comprising of Jews from various villages, young and old. We were sent to Brand during the month of March in the year 1943.

We all wept during the journey. We were saying goodbye to the world of the living. Almost all of us were young men between 15 and 40 years old. After a few hours of travel, we arrived in the camp named Brand. There we were “welcomed” with sticks and blows from murderous hands. Those of us who couldn't walk by ourselves were immediately thrown into special barracks where their fate was sealed. Those who could walk by themselves were divided in group of 39 men per barrack room, with three level beds and more. We received food and bread, clothes to change into, and a small piece of soap on which was written “RJF” (Reine Juden Fett)[3].

After ten days in the camp, our strength returned to us. Every day there was a roll call of the healthy ones. At 8 o'clock in the morning we showed up in rows of three. We had to be clean, shaved with a short hair cut, our clothes not torn and shined shoes. Under our nails had to be clean, and our pockets empty, except for a handkerchief, and no cigarettes (were permitted) whatsoever. The handkerchief had to be clean; it could be a piece of rag (schmate), but a clean one. The roll call lasted two to three hours. It did not matter if it rained or snowed, or even if it was in the greatest cold.

*

Since I was sick I was lying in one of the sick person rooms. I felt “happy”, because I didn't have to stay outdoors for so many hours. The healthy people didn't have the right to enter the sick person block. The healthy persons (those who recovered) worked only inside the camp which was a rally camp (for the sick people) from all the camps. The sick people from this camp were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

We also had a Jewish Elder, like the other camps. The Jewish Elder had somewhat better relations with the people since he dealt only with sick people. The Jewish Elder was

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allowed to visit the sick people. He came every day. One day, he came in our room, where 39 people were lying. He spoke to each of us separately and asked us: “Who of you wanted to stand up and join the healthy people?”

It was understandable that we believed it was better to rest, having suffered two and half years of hard labor, rather than again subject our bodies to the German blows, and return to forced labor. But the Jewish Elder told us that in several days the SS would come, and will send all of the sick people to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Every person who remained in bed, would be registered and sent away.

We didn't consider the issue for a long time, and we reported to the Jewish Elder that tomorrow morning we would appear at the roll call and we would remain among the healthy persons. The Jewish Elder immediately sent us clothes, trousers, jackets, shoes and socks and other various things. While we were sick, we only had the clothes we wore, and not even a pair of shoes.

The next morning, we all stood straight at the roll call. We stood in rows of three, and we attentively were observed by the Germans. We stood this way every day. In the afternoon, all of the healthy prisoners had to work in the camp. I was unable to do the difficult work, so I got beaten by a German soldier. He beat me on the head with the handle of a shovel, and as I protected my face with my hand I received a severe blow on my left hand; the bone was immediately broken.

I could not move my fingers and I went in the ambulance to the doctor, who treated the sick people. I told him the whole story about my hand. He examined me and diagnosed that my hand was broken. They had to put my hand in gypsum. The doctor, about 45 years old, was a French Jew, and he like us, the Polish Jews, was locked up in the camp.

With no choice, I let my hand be set with gypsum, and a sling around my shoulders held my hand. I was immediately registered as sick, and every day I could be sent away to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). I had no other choice.

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The next morning I did not go to the roll call.

One day in April 1943, we were notified that on the following day the “Sturmbannführer” (major) from the German SS would come, and that he ordered a roll call. All the prisoners found lying in the “sick rooms” would be sent away to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Of course it was better to have as many healthy persons as possible, and as few sick persons as possible. Not knowing what to do, I ran to the doctor and asked him for his advice, because I didn't want to be sent to Auschwitz.

The doctor, a person of feeling and compassion, because he was imprisoned like
all of us, told me that tomorrow, when the SS came, I should go out with the healthy persons, with my hand without the sling around my shoulder, stand straight with my hands along my body and nobody would pay attention. I thanked the doctor and left his room.

The next day in the morning everybody was pushed out of the rooms. We were told that everything had to be clean, because a controller was coming. We already knew who was going to come; we nicknamed him “the angel of death”. About 400 men stood in rows. Everybody was shaved and clean, as if it was a great holiday for us. I stood in the middle of everybody, with my broken hand. My heart was beating like a heavy hammer. Thoughts knocked around my head: either I stay among the living, or among those who would be sent away to die.

We stood from 8 o'clock until 11. I watched the SS man; he was a man around 50 years old, and limped slightly from one foot. Slowly by slowly he came in front of me, escorted by a German, the Jewish Elder and the Jewish doctor. All the ones who didn't look good, and all the ones who displeased the SS where taken out of the row. He looked at me and asked the doctor, “what happened to him?” The doctor said “in about 10 days, I can go back to work.” “If you lie ,doctor, you will go to Auschwitz” the SS man grumbled. The doctor snapped his heels, like a soldier in front of a general, and shouted with a frightened voice “Jawohl”! (Yes Sir).

The Jews' murderer made a list of about 200 sick people

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and ordered the Germans: “All of the sick people I chose put in one barrack”. During the night we heard cars coming by. We saw through the window long carts with horses parked in front the barrack of the sick people. At about 2 o'clock in the morning, the door of the barrack was opened and all of the sick people were ordered to climb into the carts. Those who could not climb in were thrown inside like a potato bag, one on top of the other.

The cries and the shouting filled the entire camp. The Germans shouted: “any one who is not silent, will get shot”. It did not help, not the shouting, nor the blows. The people knew that they were being sent to Auschwitz. The carts with the heavy horses moved slowly out of the camp, one after the other.

 

A camp: a “paradise”

The night ended. Again we heard shouting: “Everyone out of the beds, stand up, straighten the beds, polish your shoes, in one hour outside to the roll call!”
We came out into the big square. Looking at the sick people block, we didn't see any of the sick people, everything was empty. Everybody knew what had happened, but everyone was afraid to ask anything about the sick people. During the roll call a German civilian showed up, he was the camp commander. He asked who among you want to go outside to work. My hand felt better, I made a step forward and I registered to work outside. About twenty men also took a step forward. The German shouted that he needed thirty people. Another ten people stepped forward. We were now thirty men standing one step ahead, three in a row.

At the gate a civilian truck was waiting for us. We passed through the gate, escorted by two Germans, and we drove in the direction of the train station. On a side track there was a wagon full of coal, needed to be unload. The Germans told us that when we finished unloading the coal we would return to the camp.

Across from us, about twenty meters away, a closed carriage stood by, on which was written Oswiecim (Auschwitz). From inside of the carriage we heard weeping, we understood immediately where these people came from – from the sick block.

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We couldn't believe that they could pack two hundred men in one carriage. The carriage stood in the Brand train station, closed and locked up. How these young men souls exhaled and how they suffocated together. This happened in March 1943.

One morning, during the roll call, we were asked who wanted to be sent away to work. I stepped out as the first one. A few others did the same. The number of candidates to go away increased, we were thirty five Jews, all young men between twenty and thirty years old. We were soon registered. We receive bread, double ration, also clothes, shoes, trousers. We got everything in double, towel, shaver.

In the afternoon, the thirty five persons who registered were called to depart. In front of the camp, at the gate, waited a truck with two soldiers serving as escorts. We drove in an unknown direction. We drove through Breslau (Wroclaw). A few kilometers after Breslau, we came to a warehouse of the “Deutscher Luftwaffe” (German Air Force), and inside the warehouse was a smaller camp, enclosed like all other camps. It was a Jewish camp with a Jewish Elder. The place was called Gintebrick.

The two German soldiers ordered us: “fast, step down from the truck!”

We arranged ourselves in three rows. A German civilian, about 40 years old, with a big belly, showed up. He called the Jewish Elder. Everyone was inspected by the German. The two German soldiers turned us over to the civilian and said that the Jews had been in the sick person camp at Brand. All of them were sick, but now they are again healthy and able to work. The two soldiers saluted the civilian with a “Heil Hitler” and went away.

We were received by the Jewish Elder. The whole camp consisted of one barrack with four rooms. The total number of Jewish inmates was around eighty. We were well received, and with great compassion from the other Jews because we were sick. The majority of the Jews in the camp were young men from Poland: Upper Silesia, Będzin, Sosnowiec, Dombrowe and from the surrounding towns. We, the thirty five new comers, were also from various villages around Poland. I was the only one from Klobuck.

We were divided among four rooms and received a double food ration. The next morning, we went out to work. The work was not far

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from the camp. Everyone was courteous. There was no shouting at the Jews, nobody was beaten, everybody was obedient. There was more or less enough food, at least more than in the other camps. We received clean clothes every Saturday. We almost weren't watched. Only one German soldier sat at the gate, without a rifle, but he always kept the gate locked. The whole camp was inside a bigger area that belonged to the “Deutscher Luftwaffe” (German Air Force). Our work was to load and unload trucks with various military goods. The work was not too difficult.

We woke up at 6:00AM. We got breakfast and we walked a few steps to go to work. We worked from 7:00AM until 12:00. The hour from 12:00 to 01:00PM was lunch time . We went back to the camp to have the lunch. We received a fresh soup. I must say that the food was cooked cleanly. Afterwards we worked from 01:00PM until 04:00PM. From 04:00PM we had free time, and we could lie and rest.

During June, 1943 it was announced that the camp would be closed and the first thirty five men who came in would have to go away. The Jewish Elder finalized a list of the thirty people to be sent away. I was on the list. We had to pack, and I together with the 30 other people, did not go to work. We received clothes, trousers and a shaver. In the afternoon we went out to the big square with our packages. A military truck stood In front of the gate.

Again we travelled to an unknown location, nobody knew where. Our fate was in the German hands. After a two hour journey we arrived in Gerlitz and stopped in a big square. In the place there was a car factory. Not far away from there, were three long barracks with Jews.

We were received by an old German man. He arranged us in rows. Soon the German guard showed up with the Jewish Elder of the camp. He told us that this was a new camp, and that if we were good workers and behaved ourselves, he would be good to us.

We marched inside the camp. The Jewish Elder registered us,

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and we received food. In the entire camp there were only fifty Jews. During the following days new additional groups of Jews came, with the total number was three hundred Jews, all of them young people.

The construction work and the plumbing were shared every day by seventy, fifty and thirty people per group and other smaller groups. The work was conducted inside the camp, where there was a factory. We were enclosed twice, once by the camp and once by the factory. In the camp there were also Russian, French, Polish workers and workers, from other nationalities. All of them were prisoners of wars. Thus we worked hard and had bitter life from June 1943 to March 1944.

Again there was an order that tomorrow we weren't going out to work. We all go away to another camp. We stayed in the Reich AutoBahn (German Highways) camp until March, 1944, a forced labor camp. In March 1944 onward we were in the K. Z. camps, (Konzentrationslager Katzet[4]) concentration camps.

 

The penultimate stage of the events taken place before the effective liquidation of the camps.

March 1944

Again we were sent to an unknown location. We drove for about 3 hours until we came to a forest, to a gate to an area enclosed with barbed wire. Every four meters a sign was posted: “high voltage!” There were two rows of barbed wire, and between them armed German soldiers were on patrol.

We arranged ourselves in rows of three, with our “baggage” in hand. The Jewish Elder came out with a stick in his hand. He wore a “prisoner suit”, of blue and white stripes with a triangle sewn on his breast; the triangle was red and had a serial number on it. We were counted and anyone who did not stand straight or moved his head immediately received a blow from the stick on his head.

Amidst blows and shouting from the Jewish Elder, and rushing out of fear, we were pushed inside the camp. The blocks were empty. We marched inside one block, and the Jewish Elder gave an order: undress and put your clothes aside.

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We received prisoner clothes: underwear, a shirt, trousers, a jacket, a round hat, a pair of shoes and a pair of socks.

Hairdressers showed up. Everyone had their head shaved except for a strip (in the middle) of two fingers wide. We were ordered to stand in a row, and everyone received a serial number. My serial number was 19266. The belongings we brought from the former camp were taken away from us. Everyone received the same clothes, without any exception. We were divided into groups of 90 men per block, with three stories beds. The floor was concrete. Everyone received a straw bag with two blankets. We all looked alike, like we were disguised.

The next morning we marched to the roll call square. We stood five in a row. We were counted, there were about 1230 men. We were divided into groups, received bread and black coffee and escorted by armed guards, we were marched to work. After about an hour we arrived at the work place.

We were inside a forest where entire blocks were being constructed. In the forest there was an armament camp. Thus we worked every day in the camp. Our work was hard and bitter.

Here in this camp we felt our insignificance. Whoever died was not buried, like in the other camps. There the dead were buried in a wooden coffin, not far from the camp. In the K. Z. camp, where we were, all the dead bodies were sent to Gross-Rosen to be incinerated. Our camp was a part of Gross-Rosen, where people were incinerated in several furnaces.

From March, 1944, when we entered the K. Z. camp, we were not called Jews anymore, but “prisoners”, or “detainees”. When one of us had fever, he did not have to go outside to work. Every day there were a few hundred sick people, who became candidates for the Gross-Rosen furnaces. In May, 1944 a transport from Oswiecim (Auschwitz) arrived, about 800 men, and they told us about the atrocities that occurred there. We could not believe their stories. We suffered through many troubles, but compared to what they told us, we remained congealed like fish in water.

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The attitude of the civilian workers on the construction site changed. We became aware that the war was not going as well for the Germans as it had when the war started. We learned about the great setback of the German on the west front from the civilian workers who worked with us. Every day complaints were heard that the war could end anytime. The belief that any day we could be free gave us courage to survive. Construction materials started to be in short supply. Also due to various reasons, the work was interrupted.

Thus we lived throughout the summer, 1944, with the joyful hope that the war was going to end. Often there were alarms. The sirens started to sound. The lights were turned off, sometimes for an hour or even more. We stayed inside the barracks during the alarms. We also heard the noise of the airplanes, full squadrons. We knew that they were the airplanes of our liberators, who flew to bomb Berlin.

The summer went by. The winter came. We did not have any winter clothes. Almost every day the sirens were blowing. The German towns were being bombed more and more. During the alarms, for security reasons, we remained in the camp, without going out to work for many days. Thus we lived in hardship and cold weather until February 9th, 1945.

February 9th, 1945 at 7:00 AM, during the morning call, the healthy people were put on one side, and the sick ones on another side. The healthy ones received the order to pack because they had to leave the camp. The Russian Army was 20 kilometers away from the camp. The sick ones were ordered to stay.

Nobody really wanted to move, thinking it was better to stay in place for a few hours until the Red Army arrived. About 200 sick and feeble people stayed.

Simultaneously we realized that the Germans were burying something in the ground at the four corners of the camp. We understood that at the last minute they were going to blow up the camp together with all of the sick people. We struggled with our thoughts and dilemma - leave the camp or stay with the prospect of being freed and helped. But in the end we had to follow the order.

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The bestial means the Germans used to kill the last inmates in the camp

After we received a half loaf of bread and some margarine, about 1000 people marched away from the camp, escorted by armed Germans on all sides. Our hope, to set ourselves free after four and one-half years of being enslaved, was beyond description. During all the time that we were imprisoned, we never had been so close to freedom. It was like hanging on to life, until the last moment, because we already knew that the Red Army was only 20 kilometers away and behind us.

We marched farther and farther and received very little to eat. Days passed; we were lead away hungry, without rest for even a moment because the Red Army was behind us. The Germans dragged us this way for days after days. The people who stopped and could not march anymore were taken aside to a field and shot.

Together with us, German civilians ran away because they feared the Russians. The Germans ran away with horses and carts, and with their young children. At night we slept sometimes in the fields, sometimes in a shed. We did not wash for weeks. We wandered from February 9th until April 4th when we arrived in Buchenwald.

We arrived at 2:00 PM in the camp. We were sent to the wash room where we waited until 7:00 PM. We were told that we were going to have a shower. We had a look at the camp barracks, which were spread over a very large area. At that time there were about 70,000 men in the camp: Jews, Russians, Gypsies, Englishmen, Finnish, Belgians, Dutchmen, Norwegians, Italians, and Spaniards etc…

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We did not have a shower. We saw that in a barrack naked people stood, enwrapped in a blanket. Everything was taken away from them, and they did not get clothes. Three thousand Jews were standing barefoot on the concrete. During the same time, Jews from all of the other barracks were pushed outside. There were already five thousand Jews gathered outside. Nobody knew what our fate would be now.

The prisoners from the other nations were let back into the barracks. Only the Jews were gathered under the open sky. Most of the Jews that were pushed outside were those who were in the barracks with the Poles.

We were in Buchenwald under the open sky, staying that way from April 4th until April 9th, five days without receiving any food to eat. Every night many airplane squadrons flew above our heads. We prayed that they would drop a bomb on us. We would rather die than suffer so much from cold and hunger, or die from a German bullet. Unfortunately our prayer was not fulfilled.

The number of dead people was growing. There was a mountain of dead bodies close to the crematorium that were not incinerated during the last few days. The living took the clothes from the dead to wear for themselves in order to get some warmth. People became insane from hunger. They cut the ears of the dead people to satisfy their hunger. Some people hid between the dead during the night to get some warmth. Some hid between the dead not to be dragged again. There were rumors that we would have to walk again during the coming months. There were tragic scenes when the persecuted people recognized a family member among the dead. The vast majority of dead people were Jews.

Shabbat morning, 9 April 1945, we again were arranged five in a row, and guarded on both sides by Ukrainians, with big German shepherd dogs. Those who didn't stand straight were attacked by the unleashed, wild dogs, that jumped on them, and brought them down by their trousers and biting. We were counted. I heard that we were about 4,500 Jews. We were divided into three transports: 1,500, 1,650 and the third one about 1,350. I was in the second transport with 1,650 Jews.

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We marched out of Buchenwald, without receiving any food or water whatsoever. We were almost barefoot, with no shoes. For months we didn't wash our clothes. We walked out of the camp. Dead bodies were lying on both sides of the road. These were people who were on the first transport, the one that preceded our transport. They were shot. In our transport, the shooting continued.

Those who didn't march straight or those who looked inside the woods, thinking to escape, were immediately shot. Every day 40 to 50 Jews were shot. Our transport dwindled every day. Around 100 Ukrainian SS men and 10 big German shepherd dogs were guarding us. The dogs kept biting and the “dogs” with two feet kept shooting. While we walked, the weapons were firing. During the night we were lying in the fields guarded by a dog.

We marched about two weeks. On April 22nd 1945 we arrived in the Flossenburg camp. Out of the 1,650 Jews at the start of the march, only 800 Jews remained alive. We thought that we would stay in this camp. But after a few hours we left the Flossenburg camp. We were again gathered, and counted. We were only 750. Some were kept in the camp.

We marched away from the camp. We were shot like animals in the forest. Every day we were fewer and fewer. Also the Ukrainian guards became fewer. They fled from us every day. At last, we received a piece of bread and some water.

It was April 25th only 500 Jews were left. Every minute seemed like a year' we couldn't see the end. Thus the days went by. On April 29th only 200 men were left. The murderers shot 70-80 Jews every day. The weapons worked all day long. On April 30th only 150 Jews were left… May 1st, May 2nd the number of people who remained alive diminished. We were less than 110 and still not freed… We witnessed how the Germans shot 1,500 Jews during 4 weeks. Those thoughts didn't let us rest…

We marched again and carried the German murders' bags, in each of which there were civilian clothes, which they intended to use to escape.

[Page 284]

Thus we walked between fields and forests, between two Ukrainian bandits who were watching us. There was a rumor: “tomorrow May 3rd there was nowhere else to go. During the night we will stay in a village, and the next morning each SS man will take 3 or 4 Jews in the woods and kill them. Then the transport would be over. Every soldier will change from military to civilian clothes and will no longer be a soldier”. One of us over heard this rumor from two SS men. He stood still, without showing any interest to what they said.

We went into a peasant's house and we were locked up with 5 bandits, who guarded us with weapons. Our friend, who heard the conversation between the two Ukrainian mass murderers, told us what was going to happen tomorrow… We decided that we had to escape, no matter what happened. We didn't sleep the entire night, thinking only how we would escape.

It was dawn. We heard one SS man asking the other SS man what time is was. We heard the answer: “4:30 AM, we will stay here for another half hour”. We saw the daylight coming through the cracks, and decided to break open the door, and that anyone who wanted to should flee. We decided not to run out together in case they will fire their weapons at us, and to shoot all of us to prevent us from fleeing. We spread out as wide as we could on the sides.

Without thinking, with a friend I opened the door, and with the speed of lightning we ran out, not knowing where. My friend took a blanket and he threw it over the SS man standing in front of the door, and pushed him to the ground. I even didn't pay attention what was on the floor, I stepped on him ran away. Thus we 11 Jews escaped. The remaining ones were all shot in the morning. One of us was slightly wounded, but without paying attention to his wound, he continued running. The two Jews running in front of me thought that I was chasing them and I thought that the two Jews that were running behind me were chasing me. Five of us arrived at the edge of the woods and felt free…


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The river Neisse is part of the post 1945 border between Germany and Poland known as The Oder-Neisse border Return
  2. Działoszyn is about 20 kilometers north of Klobuck Return
  3. Pure Jewish Fat Return
  4. Katzet abbreviation for Konzentrationslager Return

 

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