The World War II period, with its holocaust and destruction, left Kolbuszowa with its own story of satanic premeditated murder perpetrated upon its Jewish population by the Nazi criminals.
The first signs of war reached Kolbuszowa on August 30, 1939, when general mobilization was ordered throughout Poland and about one hundred Kolbuszowa Jews were called up. They were assigned to large trucks which transported them to Rzeszow and from there to various points along the border.
On Friday, September 1 the war started. On Monday the first refugees from the western cities appeared, mostly Jews of course, and on Tuesday there began to come the first units of the attacked Polish army. Hour by hour the waves of refugees and soldiers increased, and hunger spread as the wandering masses grew. Wave on wave they arrived, rested a while, and went on until the enemy reached the city. Two days before the coming of the foe, the Polish soldiers fell to looting and robbing the Jewish stores, with t he peasants thronging to receive the booty from them, and many of the officers shouting that demolishing the big warehouses filled with Jewish-owned merchandise was their duty so as to prevent its falling into the Germans' hands--thus bestowing on the looting the cloak of a dutiful national deed.
Very few Jews fled from Kolbuszowa. They were warned against flight by the refugees who after traversing hundreds of miles on foot were caught by the enemy. The local Jews witnessed this, for when the Germans entered Kolbuszowa, there were tens of thousands of Jewish refugees in the town.
On Friday, September 8, the first German tank rolled into town. That night the Polish soldiers vanished, and on Saturday morning German commands already filled the air. German tanks stood at all four corners of the market-square, the swastikas painted on their sides casting terror on us all. The German soldiers led all the Jewish families with hands raised high out of their homes to the main street, passing on the way many corpses of fallen soldiers, civilians, and horses. All the Jews were crowded between the houses belonging to Shlomo Sonntag and David Leidner. The square was full to overflowing because so many refugees were present. Each of us was searched; beside the Germans doing the searching were mountains of our possessions.
Suddenly tongues of flames leaped up in all parts of the city where the fires were set by special German units assigned to this task. As the flames drew rapidly closer, the Germans announced they meant to let all of us be burned alive. We had no doubt they would carry out their intention; those were agonizing moments. On one side, the house of Shmuel Weiss was in flames, on another the home of Hayyim Rapoport, and on the third--the house of "Sokol". Children wailed, adults began to take eternal leave of each other, many recited their confessions, while the entire square looked like a sea of hands, for the Germans compelled us to keep our hands up all the time.
We were held thus for four hours, when all at once we were freed. We were not, however, permitted to go home but into the fields of Szymon Elbaum, Shlomo Nussbaum and the priest, which we were forbidden to leave. Here the scene was no less frightful: mothers looked desperately for their children and children for their parents, and all imagined the very worst; wails, shrieks and sighs came from all sides; the wounded begged for medical help; and some bewailed the death of loved ones whom they could not bury. In the midst of it all, night descended, but the fields were brightly lighted by the city-wide conflagration.
It was the Sabbath of Slichot. The men recited the prayers, weeping aloud as they turned to their Maker. No one knew what the morrow would bring. The next morning the Germans allowed the Jews to leave the fields and go home, keeping five as hostages to guarantee that none of their soldiers would be killed. The five were Hersh Kinstlich, Israel Hoffert, Moshe Binshtock, David Tentzer and Zelig Silber. Only with great effort were they later freed. Needless to say, most of the Jews now had no homes; they were either burned down or completely ransacked and looted.
The streets too were strewn with the broken remains of the escaped Polish army: overturned lorries and disjointed parts were scattered about, and civilian Poles rooted among them for anything useful. Horses gone wild with terror were seized by peasants, some of whom were also observed as they sought and found the bodies of their soldiers whereupon they removed every vestige of their clothing, their boots, and in the case of officers, even cut off the fingers to clutch at their rings. Such was the Polish peasants' faithfulness to their fallen country; what then could we Jews expect from these "noble" neighbors?
As soon as the Jews returned to the city, the Germans began to drag them off to forced labor, first of all to bury the dead: 65 German soldiers and officers, 150 Polish soldiers and officers, 20 Jews serving in the Polish army and 21 civilian Jews, mostly refugees. Among the dead were Shmuel Rosenfeld the tailor, and Pinnie Rapoport the son of Psachya, who came from Aushwitz. Among the wounded were 30 Jews, including: David Leidner, Aaron Birenfeld, David Birnbaum, Rabbi Ben-Zion Horowitz of Majdan, and others. All had to be buried on the Gentile side of the cemetery, Jews and Christians alike, while all the Polish soldiers, including the Jewish ones, were buried in one common grave.
Our suffering was aggravated by the fact that only Jews were singled out for forced labor but soon we learned that our Polish neighbors were obliging the Germans by pointing out where we Jews lived.
At that time German soldiers also entered Jewish homes systematically, claiming that they were searching for arms and, while pretending to fulfill this mission, they pushed into their pockets every object of silver or gold and other valuables.
On the High Holy Days we were forbidden to pray; whatever men were discovered participating in a service in a private home were dragged off to hard labor still wrapped in the tallis. The work was extremely hard--moving by hand 240-pound boxes of food from the bet midrash to the synagogue. Some among us were sick and weak, as Shamshon the Shochet, Moshe Kurtz and his son Melech, and Aaron the son of Nathaniel Silber, who suffered from a lung disease. The Germans butted them with their guns and forced them, bleeding and near collapse, to carry the heavy boxes themselves. Every day we came home exhausted and wounded without even food to sustain us.
On the eve of Sukkot 10 gestapo officers arrived on the scene and at once demanded to have five Jews brought to them. The Polish police promptly brought Osher Dershowitz, Hirsh Kleinman, Leibek Beck, Motl Lampell and Kivche Leistner. Their beards were shorn off and they were sent to inform the Kolbuszowa Jewry that all were to leave the city within six days, taking with them whatever was essential. The penalty for staying would be death by shooting.
This came as a shock. People ran about as though poisoned. Where were they to go, with winter approaching, to start life anew? Meanwhile, as soon as the gestapo left town, swindlers spread the rumor that the orders could be cancelled by bribing the higher echelons of authority. The Jews responded readily: 25,000 zlotys were collected, most of which the Polish mayor, Januszewski, took for himself. But when the gestapo returned and found the Jews had not left, they took 10 Jews as hostages and ordered all the others to leave within 4 days or the hostages would be hanged in the square. The ten were: Reuven Weinstein, Moshe Shapiro, Pinnie Nussbaum, Lini, Melech Wakspress, Leizer Mayer, Moshe Fenichel, Leibush Waldman and two whose names I cannot recall. Now many families took what they could and left the city, getting as far as the river San, where they crossed over to the Russian side. Certain families were sent to Siberia and thus saved.
Only two days later the decree weakened and the Jewish exodus from the city halted. Five days later came an order releasing the Jews, and many who had left returned happily to their "homes".
On November 15 there occurred what the Jews called the "great revision". The first snow had fallen. The soldiers surrounded the city and at dawn entered the Jewish homes, brought all the foodstuffs and merchandise outside and loaded it into wagons. Hundreds of heavily-loaded wagons carried the Jewish goods away that day.
On December I notices were put up all over the city announcing that every Jew from the age of twelve must wear on his right arm a white badge 10 cm. wide with a blue 8 cm. star-of-David on it. At first, any Jew caught without the badge was fined 100 zlotys, but the punishment became progressively more severe until ultimately any Jew taking a single step without it was arrested, sent to Rzeszow and there shot.
On the day of the decree no one wanted to be the first to put on the badge until at noon Dr. Leon Anderman appeared. Purposely he walked through the main Jewish streets wearing the blue-white symbol on his arm. Although he had previously been rather assimilationist and avoided the Jews, now he deliberately demonstrated his belonging to his persecuted brothers.
January 25, 1940, was the start of a change, when the "green police" (the regular defense police of Germany) left Kolbuszowa and was replaced by the "blue police" (not to be confused with the Polish police which functioned under German patronage, fulfilling its pre-war tasks as before). The new police was composed of young "Volksdeutchen" 17 to 20 years old, who had voluntered (sic) thus to serve the Nazis. They chose for their residence and office the home of Bezalel Orgel in the market-place. Forty was their number and the Jews were ordered to furnish everything: furniture, kitchen-supplies and equipment, linens, clothing, boots, etc. They went moreover into the Jewish homes and took whatever else pleased them.
Before long they instituted a very strict curfew: only from 10 to 12 in the. morning and 4 to 6 in the afternoon were the Jews allowed outside; if caught at any other time, they were cruelly beaten and then fined. But two weeks after it went into effect a new police chief arrived from Vienna and after being approached by a delegation of Jewish representatives, Chief Schroeder relented and cancelled the curfew. The delegation consisted of Dr. Anderman, Hersch Gewirtz, Yossl Nussbaum and Leib Beck.
The decree that was most difficult to bear and that lasted the longest was that of forced labor. The German army and police required 150-200 workers, who had to be Jews, every day, Special units attended to this: every morning they appeared at the homes of Jews, ordering the men off to work, continuing their search throughout the day until they found the number they needed. The hiding and the daily escapes from the places of work made the job so difficult for the Germans that they finally devised a new method--they compelled the Jews themselves by a form of self-government to help the foe carry out his evil plans. Thus began the "Judenrat" (Jewish Council), a bleak chapter in the period of the Nazi conquest.
The first Judenrat in Kolbuszowa was of the best sort; it did not press heavily on the Jews but rather lightened their burden.
Kolbuszowa and some ten other cities and towns belonged to the District of Rzeszow at the head of which was a Jew-hating, sadistic, evil gestapo major, Dr. Ehaus, who visited Kolbuszowa every Wednesday. He was the sole ruler; the life and death of the whole district were in his bands; the gestapo, the police and the civil administration all obeyed him implicitly.
When the command was issued to set up a Jewish Council, the Jews at once became apprehensive lest the worst elements be appointed to serve on it, for what decent man would wish to be such a councilman under the Nazis' patronage? And indeed they quickly learned that the Polish mayor, Januszewski, had a list ready consisting of a chairman and all the members of the Council, all of them of bad or questionable character. After much effort they succeeded in effecting the desired change, with the physician, Dr. Leon Anderman, as president of the Judenrat, who now turned proud and devoted Jew, and had the utmost respect of the Jews; the Polish population admired him too for his fairness and his devotion to the homeland, which he had served as an officer in the Polish army. Dr. Anderman actually gave his life for the Jews. It developed later that he had opportunities to save his own life but lost them due to his position as head of the Judenrat which he undertook voluntarily. His only son escaped to Warsaw where he lived on the Aryan side, later joining the partisans in the forests from which he never returned.
Anderman agreed to serve as president of the Council on condition that he and he alone choose the other members. He selected the following capable young men: Shya Notowitz, vice-president; Moshe Landau; Leibush Saleschutz; Szaja-David Lisha; Shalom Auchhisiger; Don Haar; Reuven Winter; Yosef Nussbaum; Moshe Rosenbaum; Boas Feuer; Leib Lampell; and Hersch Gewirtz, secretary. As soon as he obtained the approval of the district ruler, he called the first meeting.
Leib Lampell did not serve on the Council long, for as a supplier in the German army in Kolbuszowa he was caught in a misdeed and arrested. He managed to escape and later returned to the ghetto where he met his death. His place on the Judenrat was taken by Simcha Rubin.
The Judenrat was organized in March, 1940, in the home of Zissele Krulik. It had a number of duties but the leading one at first was to provide the army and police with the needed number of workers every day. The Council had a list of men and womencapable of working; they proceeded to conscript them in rotation, using workcards which were handed to those who were to report for work the next day at 7 A.M. They reported at the Judenrat, where German soldiers awaited them and took them to various places of work.
This arrangement sustained the poorest families. Those Jews who still had stores or some form of business paid others to work in their place. In the beginning the payment for a day's work was a loaf of black bread weighing 2 kilo (4 1/4 pounds); later, when the price of bread rose, they received only one half or one quarter of a loaf.
The Judenrat also supplied the Germans with all they needed so as to prevent their going to the Jewish homes themselves, with the resulting losses to the Jews. It also managed to free Jews who were arrested for black-market dealing, by personal intervention with the police, and to obtain for Jews permits to travel by train when necessary, as without permits this was forbidden to Jews.
The Judenrat had of course to have funds in order to function. Before the war the shechita (ritual slaughtering) had been the source for the Jewish community funds; now it was forbidden under penalty of death. They decided therefore to tax the householders with a monthly payment which was to cover the administrative expenditures of the Council including bribes to the police and gestapo.
The Judenrat paid small amounts to the rabbi and the dayan, but only unofficially, as officially neither they nor their jobs existed... The shochtim too performed the ritual slaughtering but on their own responsibility and at the risk of their lives; the Judenrat turned its eyes away, seeing nothing of this.
In April 1940 Dr. Anderman opened a clinic; for two hours daily the poor of the city received medical help free of charge. The medicines were supplied partly by the "Joint" and partly by the Judenrat.
The first aid to come from the USA after war had started arrived about Passover 1940 when Kolbuszowa received 1,000 kilo of matzah to be distributed among 1,800 Jews there. As this was not sufficient, Dr. Anderman managed to obtain a police permit for baking matzah, buying flour on the black market.
That Passover a decree was published forbidding any Jew to leave his community without a permit, under penalty of death. The Judenrat was instrumental in obtaining at least one permit for some member of nearly every family.
In July 1940 the Germans set up an employment office in the city with a special department for Jews where every Jew from 12 to 60 had to be registered. Each one received a card in one of five colors, each representing a different trade.
On September 9, 1940 the first inspection of the registered Jews was conducted by German officials from Rzeszow. All the men living in Kolbuszowa and its environs came to the "Sokol" hall for the roll-call. They selected 50 strong young Jews aged 17 to 30 years and the Council was ordered to deliver the 50 men within three days to Rzeszow, whence they would be sent to a forced-labor camp. That week over 1,000 men were selected in the district. After three days all the Jews met in Rzeszow and were taken to a stone-quarry in the village Lipya near Novy Sacz, among them 45 persons from our town. It was back-breaking work: they quarried the rock and then had to carry it on their backs and build new roads. The Judenrat was sending to each of their landsmen 2 packages of food. Two months later they managed to be back in town.
In November 1940 the second inspection took place, conducted this time by an S.S. officer known as a sadistic murderer named Schmidt who was accompanied by his S.S. men. They immediately closed all doors and beat the Jews cruelly as they filed by them, and cut off their beards. Then they chose 80 young men and drove them in trucks to Pustkow, a village near-by, between Dembitz and Mielec, where they had established a labor camp.
(At first it was used for work in lumber, and then it was turned into a fortress where they tested their secret V-1 and V-2 weapons. In 1941 it, became a concentration camp and in 1942 an extermination camp, fully equipped, where thousands of Jews were annihilated.) At this time the Pustkow camp was one of the most dreaded ones: every morning the men went to work in rows surrounded by fully armed S.S. men. Schmidt always greeted them on their way to and from work by shooting into their ranks and killing at least one. A roll-call was ordered every morning and evening. The workers lined up in four rows and were counted. In the center of the square stood a gallows and as the Jews stood in line, winter or summer, in the same prison garb, hatless with their heads shaved, Schmidt would pull one out to be hanged and all of them had to stand and watch until he breathed his last. Moreover, they were forced to sing Jewish songs as they watched.
Within three months all the Kolbuszowa Jews were back; some had escaped and others bought their freedom with money.
In 1940 a person held in a camp received 700 gr. of bread a week, a cup of black coffee in the morning and in the evening upon returning from work, some soup that was mainly cloudy water with bits of beets in it. Once a month they were given 250 gr. of sugar and 250 of jam. The official orders forbade anyone to eat more than the rations handed them. No new clothes were distributed; everyone wore whatever he had brought with him.
From 1940 to 1942 the Jews in the camps used to receive occasional packages of food or some money from their families at home or from Jews in the vicinity who tried to help them. With money they could buy food secretly from the neighboring Poles. But in 1942 the Germans liquidated the Jewish communities and the camp inmates no longer had homes or families to aid them. The camps became concentration camps from which escape was not possible.
Until March 1941 Kolbuszowa had no German civil government. All orders came from Rzeszow and the local German police implemented them. The gestapo of Rzeszow also ruled us and came occasionally to visit, accepting the gifts of the Judenrat and leaving again. Nothing conspicuously out of the ordinary transpired in our city. In June 1941, however, a tyrant, named Commissar Twardon, arrived. He was known far and wide throughout Poland, and the German newspapers, too, wrote about him, pointing him out as an example. He was a sadist and murderer who shed Jewish blood relentlessly in the entire Kolbuszowa district. He it was who brought on our Jewry endless suffering which culminated in our banishment.
On his first day in office, he called the members of the Councils of Kolbuszowa, Majdan and Sokolow before him and introduced himself. Everything must tick with precision, he announced, and immediately issued his first command: for all the Jews of Majdan to leave the city within 24 hours and go to Rzeszow. There, he said, shacks were ready for them, and anyone remaining behind would be shot.
The Judenrat of Majdan returned to their city with the bad news. The same day Twardon sent a "Sonder Dienst" platoon to Majdan, who gathered the Jews together, pushed them into wagons and took them away. Thus was a whole Jewish town wiped out. Now the Jews of Kolbuszowa expected a similar fate.
On June 12, after Twardon had given Dr. Anderman his word that we would not be banished from our city, two trucks were brought into the market place with over one hundred German police. Quickly they scattered and began to pull the Jews from their homes by force. The house keys had to be surrendered to the police; the old, the sick and the weak were not spared but beaten. Running about supervising everything in person was Twardon. In about three hours all the Jews were in the square. Now the peasants' carts arrived from the neighboring villages and the Jews were loaded on to them and brought under heavy police guard to Rzeszow.
The banishment of the Jews who lived in the market square was related to the establishment of the ghetto. It was meant to solve the problem of overcrowding. The location chosen for the ghetto was the poorest part of town where 700 souls had been crowded into tumbledown wooden shacks in crooked alleys. Ninety Poles were taken from there to make room for the eleven hundred Jews, whose homes were in various parts of the town, they intended to crowd into this area. On June 13, 1941, Twardon decreed that within 48 hours all the Jews of our city were to leave their homes and crowd into the newly established ghetto.
The ghetto borders were as follows: the river on the east, Szendiszew Street on the west and the "Golden Row" on the north. The shops facing the market were given to the Poles and the homes in the back were fenced in and joined to the ghetto. The southern border stretched from the little crossing, near the river, across from Yaakov Eckstein's courtyard, in a straight line along the fields on the other side of the city, up to the post office on Szendiszew Street. Eckstein's Street, previously called the Baker's Street, was the main street of the ghetto. It had two gates which were always locked; the keys were in the mayor's hands.
The transfer was not easy; there was no transportation and everyone tried to hurry to avoid being killed. It was done on Friday and Saturday, with the Judenrat assigning several families to each poor hovel. Even the synagogue and bet-midrash were turned into dwelling places. They tried to make order out of chaos. The Germans came on Saturday evening to see how things were progressing and beat up every Jew they saw in the street.
Before the Council had finished attending to this operation, additional trouble befell the dwellers of the ghetto. Late on Saturday night the German police surrounded the ghetto and, following a prepared list, arrested 26 Jewish men and women including many members of the Judenrat, as follows: Leibush Saleschutz, Don Haar, the lawyer Dr. Kleinhaus, Moshe Feingold, Moshe Landau, Szyja Notowitz, Reuven Winter, Shalom Auchhisiger, Chune Groshaus, Boaz, Benjamin, Yudel and Israel Feuer, Levi Glantz, Osher Dershowitz, Moshe Kurtz, David Scherr, Moshe Fenichel, Mendl Shul, Psachja Weiss, Herzl Landau, Sara Insel, Esther Ullan, Tzipa Wagshall and the brothers Yancze and Paszek Rapaport.
The arrests depressed everyone. The only consolation was that they had left Dr. Anderman. But this was shortlived for on the following day he too was arrested and his house was emptied of everything valuable. His arrest left us without a head. "We are fatherless now," people murmured. Many, even Polish dignitaries, interceded in his behalf, pleading that he be freed because of his remarkable fairness and decency. "That is the reason for his arrest--Twardon replied--his extreme fairness!"
That was the end of the first Judenrat.
Dr. Anderman's arrest left the ghetto without a leader, a fact that distressed everyone. Two days later Twardon summoned the two remaining Judenrat members, Simcha Rubin and Lisha, and suggested that one assume the presidency and that together they select a new Council. But they refused, declaring they were not capable of filling the post.
Several days later, the Germans freed Paszek and appointed him head of the Judenrat in Dr. Anderman's place. This was a blow to all the prisoners. The following were now appointed by Paszek: Henryk Mund, to serve as head of the labor department; David Gerstel, to direct the supplies department and the public kitchen; Mechel Feingold, Szaja-David Lishe and Simcha Rubin, of the previous Council; Aaron-Szyja Streiter and Chaskiel Goldklang.
Gradually life in the ghetto became stabilized. 'We grew accustomed to new decrees and limitations. The Jews who had been banished to Rzeszow returned one by one after the Judenrat raised the huge sums necessary to buy their freedom.
The previous Council members, who had been held in the local jail, located in the basement of the Community House, where we would come in the evenings to talk to them through the barred windows and cheer them up, were as everyone knew, innocent of any crime. But after three weeks' imprisonment, Mayor Januszewski told Dr. Anderman that their case was very serious as Twardon was bringing against them the dreaded accusation of those days: that they were members of the Communist Party. The very next morning the prisoners were moved. They went sent to the horror camp of Auschwitz from which no one returned. Telegrams now began to reach the families, notifying one that the prisoner had been shot while attempting to escape, others that they had died of heart failure, consumption, etc. In each case the gestapo invited the widow and forced her to sign a statement that her husband had indeed suffered from that disease, and to pay for the cremation of his remains.
Life in the ghetto was extremely hard. There was no commerce, for any Jew going outside the ghetto was shot on the spot. Paszek alone was able to obtain the permit necessary to venture outside, and it cost a great deal of money. Only the Judenrat members and some friends of Paszek's had permits; they smuggled into the ghetto food, kerosene, soap, wood, and other essentials, risking their lives every time they did so.
Hunger became widespread. Formerly wealthy people now begged for a morsel of food, and many gathered up potato peelings for cooking as a soup. At this time the Judenrat opened a public kitchen where for a small payment many obtained their main or only meal of the day--bean soup or potatoes. Children received also a slice of black bread and what passed for milk in those days.
There were no new clothes to be had; pants were made out of sacks and old rags and bits of wood were turned into "shoes".
The Judenrat was situated in the big bet-midrash for women. The large room was divided into three rooms and a waiting-room. On one side sat the secretary, Hersch Gewirtz, beside the room of the President. On the opposite side was the Jewish police. The jail was in the basement where a storehouse for firewood had been.
Many things were taken care of in the Judenrat: food-cards were distributed there, taxes were paid, workers gathered there and were sent off to forced labor, women came to plead that their sick menfolk be returned from their forced labor, complaints were lodged against the Germans, etc.
As the Jews of the villages were continuously added to the overcrowded ghetto population, Twardon one day ordered the Judenrat to remove twenty-five families to Sokolow and Glogow. The latter had to accept them upon Twardon's command. One freezing night in December 1941, the German police burst into the ghetto and pulling 50 Jews from their beds, placed them under arrest. This was done on the initiative of the local police who then had to be paid 50,000 zloty for freeing the men.
During the winter months the Judenrat had to supply more and more Jewish workers, Every one of its members had one alley as his responsibility. Those who were sent to work outside the city were given pails of soup, sometimes with a few bits of bread. The later as devoured while it was still hot from the oven but it never hurt anyone. Curiously enough, in the ghetto all the different stomach ailments that troubled Jews as a rule disappeared; they snatched and ate anything.
In the winter of 1941 Kolbuszowa heard the first news of the "extermination units," their organization and mission, and of the "einsatz" groups, as they were called, who struck fear into all our hearts. These special S.S. units, known for their extreme cruelty, were composed of criminals from all parts of Germany, Poles from Posen and Silesia, and Ukrainians who spoke Polish. The word spread that these murderous groups took part in the liquidation of many ghettos in addition to their special tasks of shooting, killing, murdering and destroying Jews for no rhyme or reason.
In January 1941 the German police surrounded the ghetto one morning. No one knew the reason, but rumors spread that they had come to collect the blood-sacrifice and would select 20 to 40 Jews as their victims. At ten o'clock the chief of the German police entered and ordered the Jews to hand over all the furs in their possession; anyone withholding a piece of fur would be shot on the spot. The Jews hastened to turn in everything that went by the name of fur and breathed a sigh of relief. The furs of the whole district were brought to Rzeszow and from there sent to Germany for distribution to the German soldiers freezing on the Russian front. But a few days later Twardon announced that he was preparing to execute 50 Jews because Poles had informed him that the Jews still had fifty women's fur coats. To cancel the decree, Paszek promised Twardon two brand new fur coats for his wife. Henryk Mund's wife bought them in Tarnow and Twardon did not repeat his threat.
From the first, Twardon had demanded the organization of a Jewish department as an order-keeping service. Dr. Anderman, however, had managed to evade this, feeling that no good would come of it. Paszek Rapaport also tried but in February 1942 an unequivocal order was issued to set up this department at once. The decrees were by this time coming thick and fast, keeping the Judenrat so occupied with the consequences that they could not cope but had to obey the newest orders--and the special Jewish police department was started, and immediately assumed many of the Judenrat's tasks.
Until then only three of the Judenrat members had worked for a salary: the secretary, Hersch Gewirtz, and two couriers, Mendl Bilfeld and Izaac Silber. The latter two distributed among certain Jews the Judenrat's slips for specific jobs, for keeping order when food was being distributed, etc. Now the police attended to these tasks as well as the following: transporting the workers to their destination, standing guard in the ghetto at night, maintaining order in the public kitchens and in food-lines, and guarding the special entrance to the ghetto. This last was aimed at preventing any Jew from leaving the ghetto without a permit.
To our sorrow this department for keeping order constitutes one of the blackest pages in the history of our forced unnatural self-government under Hitler. From various cities we heard reports that this department was overrun by underworld characters and refugees who did not know the locked-in ghetto Jewry. They dealt with the ghetto inhabitants without scruples or conscience. To avoid a similar tragedy, the Judenrat of Kolbuszowa appointed to this department seven of the finest, most decent young men in town, who--with Yosef Rapaport at their head--were: Majer Orgel, Lajser Spielman, Leon Gerstel, Avraham Feld, Mendl Bilfeld and Itchele Silber, some of whom were already in the employ of the Judenrat. Soon, at Twardon's command, two more were added: Bynim Rosenbaum and David Kanner.
Our life grew more and more wretched. Our money was gone and every object of value in our homes had long since been sold for food whose cost was continually rising. The ghetto Jews became weak and thin from constant hunger, cold and hard labor. Daily, long queues lined up at the public kitchen for a bit of hot soup. Then, on March 12, 1942, our district experienced the first expulsion. This was inflicted on the town of Mielec whose population numbered 8,000 Jews that had until then suffered less, for they had no ghetto but remained in their own homes and conducted their business--to the envy of the other towns. But suddenly an order came that all of them must leave the city on the following morning. They gathered, as commanded, at the railroad station, loaded down with heavy bundles, where without warning some 1,800 of the children and the aged were shot down. The others were taken to the neighborhood of Lublin.
The Mielec expulsion sowed confusion in the entire vicinity; among the interpretations expressed, the most soothing was that there not having a ghetto was the reason; surely then, the ghetto Jews would be left in peace
Otherwise, conditions in Kolbuszowa went from bad to worse following the evacuation of Mielec. Now, a leading source of supplies was gone; most of it had come from Mielec which was then still doing business. Starvation spread; more and more died of hunger, among them Yossel Zucker who had always been so healthy, Moshe Kurtz and his wife, Pinchas Reich, Sanel Silber, Naftali Plafker and his son-in-law--all during Passover of 1942. Itchele Trompeter was shot to death in Kupno that week because some butter was found in his wagon. He was a very handsome and scholarly young man beloved by all; the whole town mourned for him. But such incidents had become an everyday matter.
On the eve of that Passover, 4 gestapo men had entered Glogow and taken 4 of the leading Jewish residents: a Kolbuszowa man named Hirsch Unger living with his son Mendl, the Rabbi of Glogow, Reb Lazer--who was the grandson of the Kolbuszowa rabbi--the Dayan of Glogow and another very old man. They were tortured all day and then shot to death. Then the four proceeded to Kolbuszowa but instead of killing anyone, they took a long list of valuable articles that the Judenrat gave them, thus preventing bloodshed.
Terror pervaded everything. Even matzah was not baked for that Passover due to fear. The news that reached us from other towns was frightful. We felt the bitter end was unavoidable and near. Hitler's birthday, was approaching and rumors circulated that the party had promised the Nazi idol half a million Jews, with each city and town contributing its share of sacrifices.
The cruel decrees came. in an endless succession; before one was implemented, another was published; life became unbearable. The day after Passover, Paszek Rapoport invited 15 of the oldest, most respected citizens of the ghetto to his office and told them that the tyrant Twardon demanded that they shave off their beards. Disobedience meant instant death. They were: my father Itsche Saleschutz; Yossef-Hayyim Anfang; Hersch Kleinman; Osher Dershowitz; Hendl Ginsberg; Moshe-Yossef Berle; Israel Hoffert; Yaakov Kirshenbaum; Hirch-Yaakov Silber; Moshe Fenichel; Kalman Birenbaum; Shulem Sher; Kiva Schmidt; Kiva Auchhisiger and Hersch Kinstlich. Shaving their beards was for these pious men a "taste of death itself".
A few days later Paszek again had to inform them that Twardon demanded 5 kilo of gold. The Judenrat began to collect the gold. Quarrels erupted, for the few who had a little gold left were hoarding it for the worst emergency. When, however, only 31/2 kilo were collected, and Paszek warned them that Twardon would execute 15 Jews for failing to give him the full five, the remainder was quickly supplied, hard as it is to comprehend where the gold came from after all the suffering and hardships.
But the most terrible day for Kolbuszowa was April 28, 1942, when we were compelled to contribute the one-percent manpower tax levied on every community: 22 Jews were shot to death that day. The list the Germans held named 18; they added 4 more "just so", on the impulse of the moment ...
We learned later that the list had been drawn up by Halicki, a Ukrainian who before the war had served as a secret-service man on the Kolbuszowa police. The Germans elevated him to the position of inspector. He had my father killed cruelly, as well as: Leib Beck, Moshe Nussbaum, Yaakov Kirshenbaum, Yohanan Neiman, Kalman Birenbaum, Hersch-Yaakov Silber, Yossef Geldzeiler, Berish Tiefenbrun, Szyja Weissman, Moshe Fenichel, Hersch Stieglitz, Motte Glantz, Israel Gersten, Nutte Biefeld, Mendele Goldberg, Leib Zuckerbrodt, Moshe Tenzer, Moshe Landau and Mordechai Freifeld. On that day alone 38 Jews were shot.
Twardon demanded that Paszek bring him a report of the dead and wounded. Finding that three whom the Germans had taken for dead--Moshe Landau, Leib Zuckerbrodt and Mordechai Freifeld--were in fact badly wounded but alive and attended by a physician (a Jew who had come to us from Zbaszyn in 1939), Twardon sent his official physician to examine them. The cruel Dr. Nickowski removed the bandages from the severe head and stomach wounds of Landau and Zuckerbrodt and left them untreated. They perished that very day. He dealt similarly with Freifeld, and the inspector of the German police came and personally put an end to the 70-year-old victim's life.
From that frightful day Kolbuszowa was shrouded in an atmosphere of death; there was no strength left to live. "What next?" people asked one another. Three days later, the gestapo executors returned to our Judenrat and presented a bill for the bullets they had used up and for gasoline for their automobile. To this they attached a list of items they "needed", threatening to stage another execution if their demand was not met by evening: ladies' silk stockings and leather gloves, wool fabrics for men's suits, canaries in cages, etc. Such items were non-existent in the ghetto, so several Jews were dispatched to rich Poles in the neighborhood, who sold them the items for high prices. When the gestapo returned in the evening to the Judenrat they were given the money for the bullets and gasoline and all the luxury items as well. A repeat performance of the murders was thus prevented.
They did, however, satisfy their lust for blood, for from Kolbuszowa the gestapo men went to Glogow where they killed 20 Jews in cold blood, among them the Dayan Reb Mendel Rubin. Several days later they perpetrated the same crime in Sokolow.
After that tragic day when 22 of our men were executed, life in our ghetto sank to its lowest ebb: starvation increased; very few people were seen on the streets; new decrees and commands were issued daily; not a day passed without victims being shot on the slightest pretext For example, Yossl Blitzer was caught outside the ghetto and shot on the spot, as was Golda Gross when she tried to bring into the ghetto a bottle of milk for her sick daughter.
Twardon demanded the addition of two more men to the Jewish police force and Zerubavel Gewirtz and I were the two appointed. I kept order when food was distributed in the public kitchen, guarded the entrance to the ghetto, and 3 or 4 times a week I was sent to Rzeszow, and Mielec to purchase the supplies for the kitchen. All sorts of requests were added to my official mission by people I knew and I tried to help as best I could. One example was obtaining milk for the consumptive, Mendele Kurtz, from Rogala, a pre-war friend of theirs in Wierzyniec and bringing it back on each of my trips.
Rumors then began to fly that all the Jews of all the towns in our district were to be expelled because they were not productive, adding that if they wished to remain where they were, they must prove their productiveness to the Germans. The Jews therefore set up workshops in the ghettos; Kolbuszowa did likewise.
A cooperative workshop was started in the synagogue. It included all the trades, such as a cobblery, a bindery, a tinsmithy, a tailor-shop for sewing upper parts, a shop for women's underwear, etc. Each trade had its own head and the man responsible for the entire cooperative undertaking was Yancze Rapaport, Paszek's brother, who was also Vice-President of the Judenrat. All available sewing-machines were brought into the synagogue and everybody with the slightest know-how came to work. The idea current among them was that anyone who worked would be able to remain in the ghetto with his family. They sewed clothing and boots for the German soldiers, police and administrative officials, for which they were of course not paid.
Soon a committee, came from the district office in Rzeszow to inspect the workshops in the synagogue. After their visit, the Germans announced that the workers and their families, could remain in Kolbuszowa. They even opened an employment center in our municipality and the Judenrat chose my sister Rechl to work as its secretary.
One day her director sent my sister to instruct the Judenrat to gather all the Jews, male and female, aged 12 to 50 in the market-square for registration. No one knew the purpose of this registration, but the order was carried out in an hour. The director of the employment office then arrived and announced that he must select 200 who would be sent to a labor-camp in Biesiadka, a village about 15 km. from Kolbuszowa. No one wanted to be chosen but the 200 were picked and sent off in trucks. The remaining throng was in a mood of despair and hopelessness. But all at once the trucks returned and the 200 were set free. This " miracle" transpired thanks to my sister Rechl who begged her employer--who was more human than his colleagues--for their freedom.
On June 11, 1942, a summons came from Dr. Ehaus, head of the Rzeszow district, for all the members of the Judenrat to come before him on June 13. Eight other Councils in the vicinity were similarly summoned. On the appointed day they all presented themselves at the main district building without knowing what to expect. Ehaus led them into the large hall and explained, as follows:
Inasmuch as the Jews are dirty and covered with lice, and inasmuch as they made the whole district filthy and were spreading infectious diseases throughout, he had decided to levy a special tax on them, and had prepared a list: the ghetto of Rzeszow, 1,000,000 zlotys; Sokolow-400,000; Blazowa-260,000; Glogow260,000; Strzyzow-360,000; Tyczyn-200,000; Czudec-200,000, and Kolbuszowa-360,000 zlotys.
One week was the time allotted to raise the funds. They were to assemble again in the same place on June 18 with the money in hand. Should any sum be incomplete, the community involved would have a proportionate number of its Judenrat membership shot to death. How to raise such a large sum in so brief a time under the ghetto conditions of poverty and want was a grievous problem. But Paszek, convinced that Ehaus meant what he said and would not hesitate to carry out his threat, hastened to start collecting the required funds. Many quarreled and complained, but people sold the last of their remaining possessions and after much effort and suffering the full amount was ready. Everyone was relieved. On June 18 the Judenrat appeared as a body in the Rzeszow office to hand over the money.
All the Councils assembled as before in the large hall, each president holding his money in his hand. Ehaus entered and at once began calling out the name of each community in turn. The first was Rzeszow; they lacked 25 % of the million imposed on them. Whereupon Ehaus took 25% of their Judenrat members and ordered them to stand to one side. It developed that except for Kolbuszowa every Council lacked a portion of the sum assigned to them. In each case Ehaus placed a proportionate number of their men to one side. All of them were immediately executed in the courtyard. This horrible incident was related to me by my brother Leibish who was a member of the Judenrat and present at the scene with his colleagues. It was only thanks to Paszek's stubborn determination that Kolbuszowa had the entire sum and lost none of its members in the executions.
When the killing was done, Ehaus produced a new document and read it aloud to the survivors. It instructed them to pay forthwith all the government taxes that various Jews had failed to pay from 1914 on, as well as all the debts they still owed to Poles from 1914 on. If the debtors were deceased or without funds, then the Judenrat concerned must pay for them. The deadline for the payment was June 24. The penalty was the same, death in proportion to the sum missing.
This was a heavy blow. No one knew what the total sum approximated or what new sources could be found to provide it. Paszek hurried back from Rzeszow and immediately called to him groups of men who still had merchandise concealed from before the war and black-market operators who earned a good deal. He assumed the sum required would total about 200,000 zloty; as it developed his estimate was wrong: nearly 1,000,000 was demanded to cover the government and private debts. Poles came from all directions with imaginary debts outstanding to them and the Germans confirmed everything they brought in without investigating. This time, therefore, Paszek did not succeed in collecting the whole amount demanded within the brief time limit until he met with some men again and again, pleading, cajoling, demanding and even locking several in his jail to persuade them to part with what money they still had and feared to give up. The final day was the worst.
Meanwhile the Kolbuszowa Poles did an excellent business. The Jewish homes and businesses fell into their hands and they sold foodstuffs to the Jews at exorbitant black-market prices. With this money they bought from the Jews at extremely low prices any valuables they still owned and had to sell to pay the tax.
Early on June 24 Paszek and his entire council went to Rzeszow carrying sacks filled with money. Again the Judenrats assembled in the same hall in the gestapo's central building. Rzeszow lacked 24% of the sum demanded of it; 24 of its members, 40% of its Judenrat, were shot. Glogow, Tyczyn and the other communities of our district likewise failed to bring the full amounts and suffered similar losses of their men. Kolbuszowa again was the exception; it brought in the full sum and saved its members from death.
The execution completed and the money taken by the gestapo, Ehaus sprang his next and most terrible shock when he announced: "In the next three days all the Jews living in the ghettos of this district are to move into Rzeszow. This must be accomplished on June 25, 26 and 27." There were detailed instructions in the evil tyrant's decree, including the fact that we could take with us everything except furniture.
The Judenrat returned with the news which spread like wildfire to all the families: Expulsion! The ghetto is being liquidated! Although the real intent of this move was not yet known (we did not at that time know of the existence of concentration- and extermination-camps) it instilled fear in us all. If life in our ghetto was so dreadfully harsh, what could be anticipated in a strange place? Weeping and wailing was heard everywhere. But the preparations went on: the greatest efforts were invested in obtaining food, and the Judenrat used its stock of flour to bake bread which. it distributed to the population, one loaf a head. Despite the air of despair some vestige of hope sitli (sic) remained.
Early on June 25 about 100 S.S. men surrounded the whole ghetto and began to shoot in the air. Confusion resulted as everyone tried to get out for we knew there would surely be casualties. At the ghetto gates the peasants of the vicinity were already waiting with their horses and wagons in accordance with the orders they had received. They were in a jolly mood, expecting to profit by all the tumult. At 12 o'clock the German police opened the ghetto gates and hurried everyone out: Faster, faster! By 4 o'clock the wagons were all loaded, not with people but with their possessions. The families, even the oldest and the youngest members, were forced to walk.
Beside the community-house stood a number of S.S. men. They got into the first wagon and gave the order to advance; behind them rolled hundreds of wagons, with the weary, broken Jewish men women and children walking to the right of them and the German and Polish police to the left of them. The aged walked with difficulty, low in strength and spirit; they felt they would never reach Rzeszow . .
'We had some trouble getting the rabbi of Kolbuszowa out, His name had been on the list of that terrible day, April 28, on which my father, was shot to death. But the rabbi had been concealed and had remained hidden until the day of the expulsion. At Shaul Zaleschitz's request I went to his house and there found the rabbi.
We changed his clothes. Since he was now blind, we led him by hand not through the main gate but across the fields to the river beside the Eckstein house where he waited until his family came by walking beside its wagon.
On Thursday, the first day of the evacuation, approximately 80% of the inhabitants left the ghetto. On that day Herzl Landau was shot to death by a German policeman, the only victim that day. The policeman had asked Landau for his shoulder-bag and as Landau lifted his hand to take it off, he was shot.
A German policeman occasionally let an aged Jew or small child ride in the wagon for a while and rest his feet; not so the Polish police whose cruelty was indescribable. They were vicious all along the way, outstripping the Germans and demonstrating to them that their hatred for Jews was even greater.
In Rzeszow the Jews were forced to pay the peasants for the transport. If they did not receive the sum they demanded, they would take all that was in the wagon, they threatened. It took a long time to get inside the city for the roads were crowded with wagons arriving from the various district towns.
On Friday, the second day of the evacuation, the wagons again arrived at the ghetto gates. Transporting the remainder of the population did not take long. The ghetto gates stayed open and on that very day thousands of peasants streamed into the Jewish homes and removed the furniture and anything else they found. At each gate the Germans had stationed a member of the Rapaport family who had to estimate the value of the objects, taken away in the wagons. This was done to make it look legal I and avoid its being termed looting, for the sums paid by the peasants were almost nil.
Thus the peasants emptied our homes completely. Some of them came 5 times, filling their wagons on each trip.
On Friday evening the police ordered the peasants out. In. the ghetto there remained only the members of the order-keeping unit, a few members of the Judenrat, and the Rapaport family. All of these also left the following morning.
Three men stayed behind: Eliezer Schuster who was in charge of the cobblers' cooperative, Moshe Reich and Yankel Schneider. They worked for the German police, making suits and boots, and for that reason were permitted to remain. Their families were forced to go.
When I walked on the ghetto streets for the last time, I saw broken doors and windows everywhere, while feathers floated in the air. Saturday morning I took my bag with the most essential things and went to the bet-midrash where we all gathered. A number of wagons were waiting. We put our things in and, accompanied by German and Polish police, left the ghetto. We walked all the way to Rzeszow on foot, like the evacuated Jews who had preceded us. At noon we reached the city. The ghetto area looked like hell-on-earth. Into the 12,000 Jews who had been crowded together in the little narrow alleys, an equal number had now been added. People were lying in streets, yards, cellars; it was impossible to cross a street without stepping on someone. People were searching for relatives in this mass, quarrels and fights broke out, and tears shouts and curses expressed the general despair at their grim fare. Whole families sat stunned, without a crumb of food, the parents having been shot to death on the way.
Kolbuszowa suffered only one casualty in the expulsion to Rzeszow; Sokolow suffered wholesale murder. On the eve of the start of the exodus, Twardon came, already drunk, to the Judenrat there, shouting for "Jewish blood". He demanded 30 Jews, or one percent of the Jewish population, but actually he murdered 35. After each shooting he washed his hands and took a drink from a bottle of whiskey, then yelled, "More blood! Give me Jewish blood!" His face was that of a bloodthirsty wild beast. The Jewish police headed by Marcuse commander of the order-keeping unit there, were compelled to hand the victims over to the drunken murderer. In the final ten minutes he insisted on young girls. The 35 sacrifices were piled one on top of another into a mountain of bodies. Matti Hoffer's daughter, who lived in Sokolow, was one of the victims.
On June 27 the last of the Jews of the district, chiefly members of the Judenrats and Jewish police, reached Rzeszow. Rzeszow's mayor commanded the Judenrat to place all the newcomers inside the houses; anyone remaining outdoors would be shot. His name was Pavlo and he was well-known as a sadist and murderer. The houses could not hold 24,000 people. Toward evening the sadist appeared in the ghetto with some of his S.S. henchmen and killed
150 Jews who were on the streets and in yards, most of them refugees without a roof over their heads.
On June 28 Twardon arrived and demanded strong young men to go to Kolbuszowa to wreck the houses in the ghetto. He insisted on Kolbuszowa men. Many were unwilling to leave their families alone; therefore most of us who went were unmarried. I volunteered so as to be able to obtain food for my family in Rzeszow. I shall never forget my sisters as they accompanied me to the square in which we assembled. Most of the Kolbuszowa folk were there to take leave of sons, relatives or friends. We sensed this was no ordinary leave-taking; perhaps it would be the last and final one.
We walked all night with a rucksack on our backs. In the morning we reached Kolbuszowa and settled into the bet-midrash houses which were now called "The Labor Camp of Kolbuszowa".
On those terrible days Rzeszow was a veritable hell. Early on the second day, groups of S.S. men burst into the ghetto and seized men and women, mostly refugees from the nearby towns who had not found a place for themselves. The men were sent to the forced-labor camps in the vicinity. Very few survived these camps; the majority died, chiefly of hunger. Occasionally Jews were needed for work in the city proper, such as street-cleaning, loading and unloading freight-cars, or for work in German businesses or in the P.Z.L. airplane factory.
The money collections continued in order to finish paying the taxes and the imagined debts the Poles reported. Half of the Rzeszow Judenrat had already been shot for failing to meet the full payment. Now the Germans appointed Paszek head of the order-keeping force and head of the money collection and payment,
As soon as the Jews were brought into Rzeszow, the Germans dispersed the Judenrats and order-keeping units of the whole district. Only three were promoted to higher positions: Paszek Rapoport and Izak Silber of Kolbuszowa, and Marcuse of Sokolow. Ehaus, whom we mentioned earlier, appointed Paszek as alternate head of the Judenrat of Rzeszow. His task was to collect money, as he had done so expertly in Kolbuszowa. Marcuse was made commander of the order-keeping force in Rzeszow because he had excelled in obeying Twardon's commands. Izak Silber, who was only 16 or 17 years old, was designated Marcuse's assistant. In one week Paszek managed to collect the second half of the last tax.
On the third day, July 7, the entire ghetto area was encircled by Polish and German police and several S.S. units. A special unit of the death-platoon was stationed beside the cemetery, called the "Umschlag-Platz" by the Germans. According to the orders issued, the Jews of Slowackiego, Bluma, Szpitalna, Baldachowka Streets and the adjacent alleys were to assemble there, bringing only a bundle not exceeding 25 kilo in weight. The Jews employed in German concerns were excused from coming.
The Germans had 12,000 Jews in that square. At the entrance stood drunken S.S. men who took every one's bundle away. They divided the square in two: the young and the healthy were directed to the right, the old and the incapacitated to the left. On that day 6,000 were thus selected and brought in trucks to the Glogow forest where the prepared graves yawned before them. The wretched victims were ordered to undress naked and stand around the open graves. The machine-guns then mowed them down and they fell on top of one another into the pits. Many fell in who were wounded but alive, and the corpses covered them. At night the German fiends brought bulldozers to level the graves and pour sand on them. The peasants of the neighborhood later told of groans and cries they could hear for several days as the living vainly attempted to fight their way to the surface. They all died a horrible death.
The Jews placed on the right side remained alive. They were ordered at gun-point to throw into boxes prepared for the purpose all the money and valuables they had in their possessions, Berysz Strassberg and his wife, Mendl Gertner and his wife and daughter, ,and the blind rabbi and his granddaughter who tried to shield him, were all shot to death. Then they took Ichel Hoffert's wife and Rivka Wachtel, undressed them naked and searched them to see if they had anything on their persons. So too with Czarna, David Glazel's wife, on whom they found money. Bluma, her daughter, approached with her two children to plead for her mother. The murderers shot the two women and the two children to death.
They singled out for special atrocities some Jews who were wearing a tallis koton. First they beat them bloody. Then they ordered them to dip the tallis koton in the blood and polish the German boots with them. Then they continued to beat them brutally until they died. Among these victims were Shlomo Blitzer of Lipnica and Pinhas Rosmarin of Kolbuszowa.
Next they turned on a number of beautiful young girls. They undressed them naked and thrust their hands into their most intimate parts. looking, as they claimed, for concealed valuables.
While this was going on at the square, another S.S. unit and some policemen were in the alleys from which the Jews had come. Anyone they met was shot. They thus killed my uncle, Moshe Yossef Berle, and also Avraharn Insel and his wife. On the streets were jewels and money the Jews had thrown aside so the Germans would not discover these on their persons, hoping thus to save their lives. The Germans were not lazy; they stooped and gathered up everything into sacks. They were followed by trucks into which were loaded all the objects left in the homes.
In the afternoon the assembled Jews were commanded to march in the direction of the railroad station. The train stood waiting in Przebyszowka, 3 km. from Rzeszow. They marched row on row, with the S.S. and police surrounding them and shooting into their ranks all the time. The whole road to the train was strewn with the dead. By the time the train was reached, 300 were dead and more than 1,000 wounded.
This entire action was organized by the district head, Ehaus, the city mayor, Pavlo, and the director of the employment center, Ffeiffer.
The following day, July 8, they transferred the Judenrat, the order-keeping unit and the clinic to the new or small ghetto, i.e. the streets from which the Jews had been driven the preceding day. Also transferred there were those who held work-cards, attesting to their being engaged in essential work. On July 10 the second evacuation took place, on the 14th the third, and on the 17th the fourth--all of them similar to the first. After the fourth evacuation was completed they shut down the major portion of the ghetto and, the relatively few Jews still alive stayed in the small ghetto.
Of the large families only remnants remained. They lived with friends or acquaintances, going to work in order to obtain the employment bureau's stamp of being useful. In the morning they left row on row, and in the evening they returned in rows to the ghetto. A German guard-unit stood at the gate and inspected those coming in. If food was found on anyone, he was harshly beaten and the food taken from him.
A number of Kolbuszowa Jews were still in Rzeszow. During the first week they were seized to unload freight-cards (sic) filled with coal and as a result they had labor-cards which enabled them to stay.
A few other young men from Kolbuszowa were taken to the nearby camp, Jasionka. Most of them died of hunger; others were shot. Soon all were dead. These included the following: Motele and Shlomo Grossfater, the son of Shamshon the shochet; Leibush Ehrlich; Moshe Sternlicht; Zeinwil Weitz; Henech Leistner; Yoel and Mannes Spira.
In the Rzeszow ghetto there remained: Hena Trompeter; Andzia Eckstein and her husband; the whole Rapaport family and Izak Silber with his mother and sister. He was appointed as liaison between the Jewish police and the city's commander. In the P.Z.L. camp were: Shmulek Weichselbaum; and Hersch-Mendl Stub. In the fifth evacuation they took the families of the Judenrat members and of the order-keeping force. Marcuse the commander was always drunk; a refugee from Kalisz, he served as the head of the ghetto police in Sokolow. A gestapo man whom he knew shot him in the ghetto in front of the Judenrat members.
The transports originating in Rzeszow were sent to Belzec where an extermination-camp was situated. They were brought in freightcars like cattle; it was so crowded that no one could sit down but all had to stand pressed together. It was summer and in the stifling heat, deprived of air and water, many--especially children--died on the way. The doors were hermetically sealed and S.S. men sat on the roofs, preventing escape. If anyone did succeed in dislodging the bars on the little window and wriggled out, he was immediately shot by the Germans. And if he escaped unharmed by the bullets, he was caught by the Poles who turned him over to the Germans or killed him themselves. The mortality rate in Belzec was very high and yet the gas-chambers and incinerator plants for the bodies were unable to keep up with the endless transports. The wretched victims were forced to experience the added agony of waiting several days for their turn to be annihilated.
None of them knew in advance where he was being sent. No one could have conceived that this was an official government program minutely calculated in every detail, a perfect, satanic plan to exterminate the defenseless Jews. No normal man could have imagined the German death machine and the way it followed even the rare person who managed by a miracle to escape, tracked him down by the devil's own means and put an end to his life ...
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