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The Destruction of Kurow
and the Survival of Shmuel Hanisman
From Letters to a Friend (Jakov Gilburt, in Germany, 1948)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

[Text in Hebrew]

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[Text in English]

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First letter

The Goods Buried, My Son Wounded, Poison Bombs

As soon as the war broke out, various versions circulated about the conduct of the German murderers against the Jews in the occupied areas. A great panic arose. Jews began to hide, to close [themselves in], to pack themselves in cellars wherever available.

The majority of Jews had their own houses and everyone found a small place in which to hide. Some called masons and bricked in the cellars, [hid] some goods in the attics, as well as bedding, clothing. Everything was packed, covered with earth. Those who hid under the floors, bricked them over and closed them so that nothing was noticed. All of the work was done at night.

The war broke out on the 1st of September 1939 and on the morning of the 8th of September, the German airplanes appeared and attacked the shtetl with incendiary bombs. The entire shtetl was enveloped in flames and explosions from the heavy bombing that began over the houses. All of the windowpanes were broken. My son, Itshe, was in the street during the bombardment and was wounded. He was brought home completely covered in blood. His right hand was broken in three parts. Despite the fact that the bombs were still falling, my son and I ran to the end of the city where there was a Red Cross site. We met the first wounded gentiles and Jews on the road. The Red Cross doctor told me that my son must be taken quickly to the hospital in Lublin, because the bombs were poison bombs. A military auto took him to Lublin.

Back at my house, I could no longer enter.

My family: mother, wife and two sons, along with the entire population of Kurow, saved everything from their houses that they could and carried it all to the Simiwer fields. I searched for them and found them lying in the field.

 

The Goods Are Dug Up - The Poles and the Germans Divide Them

The entire Kurow population lay outside for eight days. We were attacked almost every day by bombs, which the German bandits threw at us. My family and I moved to the village Bochalowice, to Pioter Gzczegorczik, a peasant. In the course of eight days the fighting grew closer to us and our area was taken by the Germans. When the Germans entered Kurow,

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pogroms began immediately. A number of Polish scoundrels began to show the Germans where the Jews had buried their possessions. The German's immediately asked that the indicated locations be dug out and all of the hidden Jewish things were taken out and divided. The ones who had indicated the locations were given [things]; the remaining goods were thrown around to the gathered Poles. When a Jew came near, the Poles pointed to him and the Germans immediately stabbed him. One night I took everything out of my cellar and took it to a peasant of my acquaintance and hid everything with him. I could not remain with the peasant for long because my mother became sick and we were in a stable. The nights already were cold; I was forced to return to Kurow, behind the community building, at a Christian's [house]. Winter approached; terrible cold and frost arrived. The Jews returned to the shtetl, little by little, some to the Poles and some went into the open cellars of burnt houses.

 

Forbidden to be Healed by a Christian, I Receive the Butt of a Gun in the Head

Various decrees from the German regime began to arrive. A Juden-Rat [council of Jews] was created, as well as police. Abrahmtshe Goldberg was the chairman of the Juden-Rat. The first decree was that Jews must surrender all of their valuable things and foreign currency. If not, there was the threat of death. A Jew was permitted to have 150 zlotes in his possession. Another order was that Jews must bring fur coats, pelts to the Juden-Rat - also, under the threat of death.

The third decree was that Jews were forbidden to be healed by Christian doctors. All Jews had to go to public work. They were beaten without mercy at work. A further decree came: a Jew was not permitted to travel from one shtetl [town] to another - death penalty.

At the same time I received a letter from the hospital that I should come because they must remove my son, it's his wounded hand. Ignoring all of the decrees, I risked my life and went to Lublin. Arriving safely at the hospital, I communicated with the doctor and it was decided that meanwhile the hand would not be removed and they further would try to heal it. On the same day, the 12th of January 1940, I, three Jewish women and another Jew, left Lublin in a peasant's wagon. We had to travel 32 kilometers to Kurow. Having gone 25 kilometers, a taxi approached us with eight German bandits and stopped our wagon. Their joy at seeing that Jews were in the wagon cannot be described. I was the first victim. I was thrown out of the wagon onto the stones

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of the highway and I received a blow in the head from the butt of a gun. I fell covered in blood and was unconscious. They, thinking that I was dead, left me alone and went to the second Jew. I regained consciousness after a few minutes. I gathered all my power and quickly stood up and began to run to the fields. The Germans shot after me, but thank God, did not hit me. Running for a half kilometer in the field, I fell. I could no longer stand up because I had already lost a great amount of blood. They knocked the teeth out of two of the Jewish women who were in the wagon and the third succeeded in escaping in the same direction [as me]. She noticed me as I remained lying and she began to save me. She bound my head wound with her headscarf, stood me up and led me by the arm over the fields to the shtetl, Markuszow. The day was beginning. On the way, she told me that the other Jew had been beaten to death and that they took the two Jewish women with them. One was the daughter of Leibl Josef Melhandler's daughter. She never returned home.

There was a noble-minded doctor in the shtetl, Markuszow. He provided the first help to me. He told that it would be a miracle if I did not get a fever; I would remain alive. I was sent home to Kurow on a peasant wagon. I lay in bed for four weeks. I did not get a fever.

 

Burned the Beard Under a Lamp, Clamped the Fingers in a Door

Three months later, March 1940, five S.S. members, specially trained punchers, came to Kurow and they did great misery. They only beat men. They knocked at Jewish houses in the middle of the night and it was woe to the Jew when he was found in the house. They placed the kerosene lamp under his beard in order to burn it. [The victim] was not supposed to scream; he was shot if he screamed. Then he had to stick his fingers in the opening of the door and they were clamped as in a vise. Then he was taken naked outside into the street and beaten until he fell unconscious. Then they left him. The victims of their beatings were Dan Hanisman, Ayzyk Loberbaum, Chaim Hanisman. They then chose the most beautiful girls from our shtetl Kurow, such as Rayzel Elenbojn's two daughters, Wolf Oberklajd's daughter and others and the took them to wash the floors. They were forced to take off the uniforms that they wore and to use them to wipe the floors. After wiping the floors they had to put them on wet with the all of the dirt.

There was terrible panic in the shtetl. All the

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men escaped to the shtetl Wawolnica. I was there for three weeks. 150 men escaped with me. The five beaters set a condition that if we gave them 200 rubles in gold, they would go away. We collected this sum.

A German, a Polish citizen, lived in Kurow before the war. He was named Urlich. He had his own electrical works before the war. He lit Kurow, our shtetl. After the arrival of the German regime, they made him the mayor. He was an enemy of the Jews before the war. The S.S. deliverers of blows stood next to him. And the money was taken care through him. They drove away. I returned to Kurow for Passover and found my mother in bed, very sick; Polish doctors were afraid to come to help. No pleas helped. On the eighth day of Passover 1940, my dear mother died. We buried her in the usual way. At the beginning of August 1940 my son Itshe came from the hospital. He remained with a crippled hand. This was how we lived in hardship. We always were tortured with something different and thus we dragged ourselves through to March 1942. News from Lublin reached our shtetl Kurow through a loudspeaker, which stood on Lublin Street, that on the 10th of March unexpected news awaited the Jews. We felt that this meant an evil decree for us.

 

Second letter

5.3.48[1]

From that date on Jews who were transported to the train station, were lost and there was no way to learn where they were taking the Jews. The German bandits answered that they had been sent to the Ukraine to work. Horrible information broke through, that the Jews were being gathered, they were gassed and then they were burned. None of our Kurow Jews believed this.

In the course of more time we began to hear that they had already begun to take out the Jewish residents from around our shtetl. The German bandits had evacuated the group [staged an aktsia [deportation]. We also had begun to anticipate [the same thing] and it actually was not long before this fate fell upon our shtetl. This was on the seventh day of Passover, four o'clock in the afternoon. Our shtetl was surrounded by the German S.S., with Polish Volks-Deutsch [ethnic Germans], with the Pulaw village chief - a Volks-Deutsch bandit, Gedi. An order came to the Juden-rat and to the Jewish police that all Kurow Jews, men, women and children shall in the course of 15 minutes

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Shlomo Finklsztajn. The gabbai [man who assists with the Torah readings] in the beis-hamedrash [synagogue or house of prayer]. The Germans ordered him to take off his talis [prayer shawl] and tefillin [phylacteries] and walk in front of all 2,000 Kurow Jews

stand in the square that was located in the middle of the market. Whoever did not come to the square in the course of 15 minutes would be shot. Shooting by the S.S. immediately broke out. All of the women, with deadly pale, frightened faces, carrying small children, began to run to the square in the middle of the market, dragging packs of bed lines, valises with things that earlier had been prepared. Then a German Volks-Deutsch went to our Meir the Shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] (Zalcman). He was standing in the row with his family, and cut off half of his beard with a knife and with it cut off half his cheek. A shot from a revolver was heard. Borukh Zalcberg (Kanier)'s 22-year old son fell on the ground. He was sick and could not run so fast, so the village chief, himself, shot him. There was confusion, screaming, shrieking by large and small. The shouting of Shema-Yisroel [central prayer of Jewish worship] was heard. Everyone was placed in rows to depart. Then the bandit-like village chief went to the rows, removed Shlomo Finkelstein (Kakeline), ordered him to remove his talis and tefillin and told him to stand in the front. The number of Jews was tallied. There were a scant 2,000 men in total. The village chief gave an order to march to the Pulawer Road. No one could take anything with him. Everything that had been brought out remained on the square. He ordered the Jewish police to go along to guard, to help the German S.S. so that none of the Jews could escape; meanwhile the Juden-rat remained on the spot until morning, until 12 o'clock noon. Its duty was to deliver the remaining Jews, who had hidden, at the exact hour. If the Juden-rat did not carry out the order they would be shot like dogs. Avrahamshe Goldberg, the chairman of the Juden-rat, always walked around with a banged up face and bags under his eyes; he had received this from beatings by the bandit, Gedi, when he came to the premises of the Juden-rat. Everyone

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ran in fear, but the chairman had to appear. After the deportation of our Kurow brothers, everything left scattered on the square was divided among the Poles, who were joyous as they stood and watched the scene. Then, Gedi, the bandit, gave an order that the Juden-rat must accompany him to all of the houses where the Jews had lived in order to liquidate all of the sick who remained in their beds and could not get up. Wherever he found someone sick, he shot him. Shot were the sick:

Alter Josef Goldberg, Chaim Shaya Niderberg, Tovya Wajs (Pojtaszi), Alter Jovic, Avraham Hersh Kartman, Ester Szildkrojt and 10 children. Taking the Jews on the road to Konskowola, they constantly shot into the mass of wailing Jews. Those shot who fell on the road were:

Naomi Hanisman, Sheva Osfis, Wolf Oberklajd, Dovid Tenenbaum.

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Naomi Hannasman[2] with her two sons Hayim (right, killed) and David (Montreal, Chairman of the Kurov Landsmanschaft [society of people from the same town]

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Pious Jews themselves took off their clothing in order to die in white. They remained in their white underwear. Shlomo Tewl Wocenhazer, Moshe Kawe (Lekish) did this. Chaim Hanisman's child was killed with a rifle butt in the arms of his wife. One of the S.S. deliberately put his foot out in front of Mrs. Basha Bubis so that she would fall. When she did fall, he shot her. Whoever stopped on the road was shot. My family and I did not appear for the deportation on the first day because I lived near the Polish municipality with Mikalski, a Christian. The bandits did not come to the courtyard there. My son Josef and I sneaked away to Antek Kordowski and we lay hidden in the attic. All of the houses up to Antek's were burned. At night my son Josef and I returned to my house. My son Itshe also was hidden with a Pole; he also came home at night. By then, no one undressed to go to sleep. Everyone in my family sat in another corner. We lamented the present destruction. But the question for everyone was what do we do in the morning? The period for appearing was until 12 o'clock noon. My wife was very frightened. She constantly placed blame as to why we had not immediately appeared with all of the other Jews. She said:

They are being sent to work. Secondly - what happens to all of the Jews also will happen to us - I sensed the opposite. Prepare myself to not appear for the morning deportation. No one closed their eyes during the night. Each one of us felt that this could be the last night of our life.
The painful night passed unobserved and the day came. We all crawled out confused from not sleeping. Time did not stand still. Twelve o'clock was approaching. We already heard that the Judenrat was running around to the houses of the remaining Jews and dragging them out, so that they would appear to be sent to the overnight transport that was waiting in Konskewolia. They shouted:
Whoever does not appear at 12 o'clock will be shot!
They had such a decree from the S.S. Many Polish wagons that the Christian community provided began to arrive in the middle of the market. My wife almost went crazy with fear then. She began to scream hysterically that we should also appear.

Meanwhile, from minute to minute the empty wagons were filled with Jews. I can never forget how Yakov Yitzhak Goldgewaks, a Kurower carpenter, approached me; he had come from a village to leave with his wife and four small children. The Jew had dragged a sack of tools with him on his back and shouted to us:

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Jews, sit on the wagon more quickly and let us go!
My wife and my two sons, Itshe and Sender, I and Chanala Fridman, a cousin of mine who had come to me as a guest, we all sat on a wagon, On the wagon, my wife calculated and chased me off the wagon. She was motivated by this:
First of all, you have had a stomach illness all these years; you always live on a diet. Where we are going to work you will not be able to work hard and will have to eat rough food; you will die quickly. Secondly, the men and women are being separated. Thirdly, if you remain here, you will be able to send us help.
I descended from the wagon and gave everything to my wife, all of the valuable things. In case she was in need, she could save herself. An order came from the Juden-rat that the convoy wagons should go on the Pulawer Road. The wagons left on Pulawer Road, one wagon behind the other; my son, Josef, and I accompanied our family up to the city. When the wagons neared the cemetery, everyone began to scream and cry, turned to the graves and pleaded that [those buried there] should run to God and ask that our torture end in merit of the accumulated virtues of our ancestors.

Thirty-one Jews had official permission from the German regime to remain in Kurow under the disposition of the German Urich. He was the Kurow mayor. It became very sdifficult for me to remain as the 32nd Jew. But what cannot be done with golden money? I also officially remained. If a Jew was found who was not one of the 32 Jews, he was sent away to Konskewolia. The Jews from Konskewolia, Kurow, Markuszow were deported to Belzec to the crematorium. They again created a point of assembly in Konskewolia of those Jews caught in the area. The names of the 32[3] remaining Jews were:

Shmuel Hanisman, Josef Hanisman, Avrahamtshe Goldberg, Yehiel Goldberg, Pinkhas Goldberg, Moshe Blumels[4], Yitzhak Walersztajn, Motl Openhejm, Note Wajnberg and his son, Welwl, Yankl Goldbaum, his wife, Potshe and their son, Motele, Yehiel Anker, Yakov Hersh Rozenblat, Moshe Leib Mitlman (“Taximeter”) and his son; Avraham Wajnbuch (treger - porter) and his son, Shlomole, Hersh Landman, Hersh Kotlar, his wife, Chaya Toba, and two children, Goldele and Bashkele, Zisha Cukerman, Yankel Rubinsztajn, (Tsaban), and two daughters, Chaim Hanesman, Motl Zalcberg (Kanier), Moshle Kaplan (Chana's son), Hersh Sznajderman, Sholem Sznajderman, Yitzhak Lewenzon, Dovid Lewenzon, Yankl Fajnszmid and two sons and a daughter. There was also a friend of Urlich's from Lublin - Leibel Rozenbaum and two daughters and a son-in-law.
Where the bath had stood a large factory had been erected for the production of butter for the German

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military. The hides had to be thrown off every day because they steamed. Several janitors were chosen, with Motl Berls Openhajm as the leader. My son and I were among the janitors. Every day we cleaned the Lublin highway, Warsaw highway and Pulaw highway. The Kurow Poles beamed with joy when they went through and saw what had become of the Jews.

The Kurow Juden-rat consisted of:

Avraham Goldberg, Moshe Blumels, Motl Openhajm, Yitzhak Walersztajn, Josl Sztajnman (Yat), Jankl Fajnszmid, Ahron Akerman, secretary Shimkhale Ginzberg. The Germans kept them with us in the camp. On the contrary, the police: commandant Moshe Fiszbajn, (Bik), his brother, Yitzhak Fiszbajn, Moshe Openhajm, Motl Berls, Mordekhai Eizenszmid and Yitzhak Sztajnman (Yat) were along to guard the deported Jews so that no one would escape from the road. On the same day, Ulrich, the German, brought us together and declared that the four houses (Itshe Rozen's cellar, Meir the shoykhet's [ritual slaughterer], Moshe Josl Fridman's and Leibl Wajnberg's) - the houses were being fenced in with barbed wire. From today on we are not permitted to go out beyond the wire without permission from him, Urlich. We must go to work four across, in the middle of the highway. Poles were forbidden to come into contact with us. The Germans chose Avrahamtshe Goldberg as president and two more members of the Juden-rat - Yitzhak Walersztajn and Motl Openhajm. Moshe Blumels was nominated as the worker leader. One general kitchen was created. On the same day we received an order from Ulrich to gather all of the dead who had been shot the night before during the deportation and to bury them at the Jewish cemetery.
We happened upon torn pieces of Torah scrolls, which I also buried with my own hands together with our brothers who had been shot. On the same day we could see the feathers from our Jewish bedding flying like thick winter snow. The peasants went through the open looted houses, which remained standing, and removed whatever their hearts desired. Soon we saw many female peasants wearing petticoats made from our talisim [prayer shawls].

In addition to the 32 Jews who were with us in the labor camp, there were also 150 Jews around Kurow hidden by peasants in the villages, who kept in contact with us. They would cautiously come to us in the work camp and we supported them with a little food.

Thus passed several months. We began to hear about remnants of Jews who were suddenly surrounded by the German S.S. and shot. Many of us no longer slept in the labor camp because we heard that such incidents always happened at daybreak when we would not be able to scatter.

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We were in the labor camp like this from April 1942 to the 9th of November. At night a peasant from the village of Plinik came to our labor camp and asked that Motl Openhajm be sent out. And when Motl came out to the wire, the peasant told him:

The Pulawer S.S. was in the village today and confiscated a pig from him. He negotiated with them and they demanded one liter of whiskey to return the pig. While drinking, they secretly told him that they were coming to the labor camp in the morning and would shoot the Jews located there.
In the end, the peasant said to Motl:
In any case, they will also shoot you, sell me your blanket and your suit.
After the conversation with the peasant Motl, came to me and told me about the talk. I shuddered. I immediately confessed to all of our comrades. We came together for a discussion and it was decided to send a delegation to our chief, the German, Ulrich; to ask him if it is correct. The delegation returned that same night with the answer that Ulrich had said that it was a lie. My heart was not calmed by this answer. In the morning, on the 10th of November I went to our labor leader, Moshe Blumels and asked that he free me and my son Josele from work that day. I immediately took him away to a shoemaker acquaintance of mine. His name was Wiancek - in Sadarski's windmill. This was outside of the city. I left him there and began to return on the road to our labor camp. Christians approached me and told me that our camp was encircled by Pulawer S.S. gendarmes and all of the Jews were going to be shot. I ran back to where my son was.

This is how the shooting of our brothers took place:

The workers were at their workplaces. They were brought together. Several men, women and children successfully escaped, such as Hersh Katliacz and his wife, Chaya Toba and their two children, Goldele and Bashkele, Yankl Goldbaum and his wife, Fatshe, and their son, Motele, Yankl Rubinsztajn (Tsaban) and two children and Shaya Cukerman. Then, they found several Jews who were not registered in the labor camp. They were all driven down into the cellar of Itshe Rozen's house, told to undress completely and were led in threes to the wall of Moshe Josl's house and there were shot.
Thus were shot our beloved Kurower Jews in the last labor camp. Avrahamtshe Goldberg, the president, was shot in the hand and he successfully escaped and was hidden in a nearby cellar. He told me how everything had

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happened. His son, Yehiel Goldberg, also lay among the pile of those shot, but he was lightly wounded. He did not reveal that he was alive. After the shooting of our 31 brothers, two wagons of Poles arrived and everyone was thrown naked onto the wagons, covered with two sheets and they were taken to the Jewish cemetery. An S.S. man followed the wagons. The wounded Yehiel Goldberg lay on one of the two wagons. He paid attention to when the wagons were on the Pulawer bridge; then he jumped off the wagon, dragging the sheet with him, escaped quickly and into the Dzike River (where we would go to bathe). From the Dzike, Yekhiel ran to the village of Plinik. The S.S. man shot after him and missed.

Three days later I met with Gajda, a Christian, in the village of Podber, with whom lay both of the wounded, Avrahamtshe and Yehiel Goldberg.

Yehiel Goldberg told me that Motl, Berl's, son grabbed the S.S. by the rifle during the shooting, offered resistance, but fell immediately from a bullet.


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Motl, Berl's son (Openhajm) offered resistance during the shooting

We began to roam in the fields; Josef and I climbed up on the piles of hay in the field and spent the night. The nights were already cold, so we assembled in a small grove near the village of Podber every day. We were then still 148 Kurower Jews, men, women and children. When we came together (? - editor [Tanslator's note: this question mark appears in the text.]) we began to think about where to go. Perhaps as a partisan group or to some Polish acquaintance in one large bunker? Leibl Tropelman and his wife (Moshe Ahron Baier's daughter) brought us word from the partisans in the Lewitower area that they did not want to take in anyone without weapons. It was decided

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we must begin to look for a place to hide, in bunkers. Meanwhile, the Poles brought news to the S.S. gendarmes that Jews were in a group in the Podber grove during the day every day. They slept in the cellars of the burned houses in Kurow at night. Suddenly S.S. arrived from the Miechower road and opened fire on us. We all ran; Motele Goldbaum, a child of six, fell dead. He was shot while running at his mother's hand.

A life worse than death began. No one let us in. Once I met Stanislaw Chaplika, a shoemaker of my acquaintance, from the village of Demba and I asked him if he could hide us over the winter. He said yes, but on the condition that I bring him 10 pieces of chamois leather. I immediately succeeded in doing this. He made arrangements with us and asked us to bring everything we possessed and on Sunday at three o'clock in the afternoon he would wait for us in a corner of the Dember forest. We went out at one o'clock on Sunday. We had to go five kilometers through the forest and when we arrived at the designated place in the corner of the Dember forest there was no one there. I remained at the place and sent my son Josef to the village. I saw how the same Pole Chaplika was running to my son with a loud shout:

Escape, because they want to kill you.
My son began to run back to me. From the distance we saw 10 young Poles running after us. Two men rode on horses. At that moment I was not confused and took my son and went back into the forest on another road, not on the road we had run, the Kurower Road, but on the road that leads to the village of Barlig. I, myself, did not know where the road would bring me out. They chased after us on the Kurower Road. When we came out of the forest at the empty field, they saw us from a distance and began running in our direction. I was running then with my last strength. Our luck was that we were already close to the village of Barlig. I began to shout, calling for help in Polish. True, no one came out to help because they saw that Jews were being chased. But the bandits were frightened by my shouting and stopped the chase after us. Thus, with God's help, we were saved from certain death.

Several days later I met Chaim Tewl Okun in a field near Szumow. He said that he was looking around for us. Bolek Marczak had heard that my son and I remained alive; he asked him to bring us to him. He would hide us. The same Chaim Tewl and his wife and two children were with him. Who is Bolek Marczak? Before the war, a band of bandits rampaged in the area of Kurow. Bolek Marczak was their leader. He lived in

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the village of Szumow. He was a businessman during the day just as everyone else. He had fields in the Podber area. He would come to buy things in Kurow. And he would buy leather for the soles of shoes or quilted bootlegs from me; he had borrowed 30 zlotes from me and did not return it. At this critical moment he wanted to save my son and me. It must be mentioned that the German S.S. also bothered him. We immediately went to him. This was a rarity. He said to us:

As long as I live, you will also live.
In the course of a few days, 16 Jews were hidden with him. This was on the 16th of December 1942. He and his aids dug a hole in the field at night and laid boards on top. On top of the boards they replaced the dirt. This was a bunker for us, the 16 Jews. Balek Marczak also installed a small kitchen for us so that we could cook a few potatoes at night.

There were great frosts and heavy snow. At night, our bunker had to be closed tightly. Balek gave us bread, potatoes and wood (in exchange for money). We each paid 1,500 zlotes a month for rent money for the bunker. He and his band were our guards. Life in the bunker was very difficult. Sixteen people. It was not a big hole.

We lay in the hole until the 8th of February, 1943, unable to wash ourselves and unable to change a shirt. We all became so covered with lice that the piece of bread we ate was crawling with the lice. We could not lie down because we lay one on top of another. It was very crowded. We also could not sleep because the lice bit. The entire body was full of torn wounds. There was a tin pail in the hole that all 16 people had to use for their needs. We did not dare go out of the hole during the day. We looked like living corpses. The conditions were so difficult, but everyone struggled, braced themselves, in order to remain alive.

 

The Bunker is Bombarded with Grenades

Each day we expected that the German gendarmes would come to throw hand grenades because so many Poles already knew about our bunker. On the 8th of February 1943 our boss, Marczak, came to us in the bunker and breathlessly told us that we must all escape from the bunker tonight and that we should each save ourselves any way we could because the Germans had been informed that 16 Jews were hidden at the spot. He received reliable information from people that they were coming to shoot us tomorrow. The 16 Jews were: my son and I, Avrahamtshe Goldberg (Rabbi Sholem's son) and two children, Chaim Tewl Okun and his wife and two children, Chaya Cymerman (Rabbi Sholem's daughter) and three children; in addition there was a Lublin woman, Ruzshe and two children. In the morning, the German S.S. surrounded the bunker and thinking that we were inside, they threw in several hand grenades. But we were no longer there. In any case, later, all fourteen Jews fell dead, each in another place. When my son Josef and I left the bunker at night, we remained sitting in an empty field that was covered with snow. We thought about where we could go. When day came we had to be hidden somewhere; if not we would be threatened by death.

 

Christian Friends of Jews

I must clarify a small observation: even before the war, two Christian residents - one, Antoni Kordowski and the second, Stach Czelieczniak [alternatively spelled Czeleczniak] - also lived with us in Kurow. Both were shoemakers by trade. They had constant trade contact with other Kurow shopkeepers. When the German bandits entered our shtetl, the two Christians, particularly Antoni Kordowski, always stood with the persecuted Jews in all matters and constantly helped everyone in any way they could. I do not have the words to express how grateful I am to them for what they did for my son and me. On the night of the 8th of February when we remained sitting in the field and did not have anywhere to go, I decided to go to the outskirts of the shtetl. An unfinished stable with half a roof open stood on the Simewer road. The gates were locked. The stable belonged to Stanislaw Czelieczniak. My son and I barely reached it because we had to go five kilometers over the fields. There also was snow that night, a blizzard. Arriving at the stable, not having a ladder, we crawled over the half-open roof and this had to be done very carefully. It was one o'clock at night and the German military post was not far from us; none of the Poles was supposed to notice us. We had to sit in the half-open stable until day began. There was a heavy frost then. When the sun began to rise, we had to seek a new hiding place. On the side in a corner under the half-roof lay 20 bundles of straw. We immediately pulled up the bottom bundle and created a spot and we crawled into it and we disguised ourselves with a bundle of straw, so that we were not noticeable. We had half a kilogram of dark bread to eat. We did not have any water. But now there was the thought: how would the owner of the

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stable react if he saw us? A law already existed that if a Jew was found hidden with a Pole, the Pole and his family would be shot with the Jew, all of his possessions would be burned, but the owner of the stable did not come in that day. We spent a day and a night; our food was half a kilo of bread. We were greatly tortured by thirst. On the second day a wagon rode up to the stable and it was opened. Czeleczniak, our owner entered; I immediately recognized him by his voice. No longer having any bread and equally no water, I crawled out from the straw and he saw me. He was frightened at first. He did not recognize me and when I went to him, he barely recognized me. He hugged me and we kissed and he was sorry about how I appeared. I will never forget his first words:

You did well that you came in here. But you must remember one thing, that my wife and son must not know that you are here - he asked if we had anything to eat and to drink, and he said that regrettably he would not be able to bring anything warm to eat and drink because his wife must not know about us. She was very frightened, but I am going to Antoni Kordowski immediately and will tell him that you and your son are here with me. Together we will do something.
It did not take long until he came running to us with Kordowski and Kordowski brought me a liter of warm milk and bread with chicken fat. He was very happy to see us and regretted the way we looked. We lived in the cold stable for two weeks and Kordowski brought us warm food to eat twice every day; it was not possible to stay in the stable for more than two weeks. There was heavy frost at that time; it simply was impossible to endure. Our feet were already frozen and I discussed with the two Christians what we should do now. Our possessions were only what we wore: a pair of torn pants with a torn overcoat. I told them that I had no money and that if I had money I might find a peasant who would hide us. I also said that I had a small amount of goods in the village of Buchalowice, with a peasant named Pioter Gzszegorczik. I could go to him. They immediately decided that they would go to the peasant in two days and they would exert every effort to get the goods, sell them and bring the money to me so that I could save myself. They went to the peasant twice. The first time he answered that he did not believe that we were alive. The second time they

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threatened to turn him over to the German regime for hiding Jewish goods. He also was afraid of Stach Czelieczniak. He gave them a little of the goods; Kordowski sold them and gave me 7,000 zlotes.

 

Third letter

I had further contact with the two Christians and decided that I would meet with these two friends of the Jews every week.

 

Moshe Oberklajd's Wife Throws Her Child into the River

Antoni Kordowski helped us with food, with money and constant contact for the entire time. When we had to escape from the spot to another place, we communicated with him and with his approval we moved to the second place to hide, so that he always knew where we were. At 10 o'clock at night on the 22nd of February, we left the stable and set off in the direction of Podber. We had to pass a small wooden bridge over the small Dzshike, a small river that flows through the village. When we arrived at the bridge, we came across a horrible picture. We met a woman from our shtetl. She was the wife of Moshe Borukh Oberklajd. I am not able to describe the condition in which I met her. She tore her hair from her disheveled head and screamed so wildly that we noticed immediately that she was losing her sanity. She had been hidden in a bunker in the village of Klodi by a peasant, Kozak; she had a small child of eight months with her. The child could not rest in these conditions, so it cried constantly. The owner went to her and declared that the child was unmasking the entire bunker and he was afraid that it would be discovered that he was hiding Jews. If she could give the child to someone, he could continue to hide her. She decided to throw the child into the Dzshike at night so that it would drown. When the child began to drown and the water took away the child, she could no longer watch and ran after it along the water screaming wildly, terribly. As we later heard the Poles say, the mother went insane and began to go out during the day. The German S.S. caught and shot her.

 

Poles Throw Grenades. Chaim Pesakh Garberman Saves Us

The last time I saw Kordowski, he suggested to me that at night I go to Jan Malendar, a peasant, in Podber. He was a poor peasant and he

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had a small bunker house in a field. It was said that he maintained Jews and, at night on the 22nd of February, after the picture we encountered on the road, we arrived at the peasant Jan Malendar's small house. After enough knocking and asking that he allow us in, he answered the door and allowed us to come into the house. We did not meet anyone except his family. I immediately proceeded to the matter, strongly begged that he hide us. I would pay him whatever he wished because we did not have anywhere to go. He listened to me, opened the door and with a loud shout told us to go out of the house. No pleading helped and we had to leave. After we went 50 steps, we saw that a man was running after us. He ran to us with a cry, fell on me and we began to kiss:

I will not let you and your son leave. I am actually with the peasant, Jan Malendar. I heard everything. Come back closer to the house. I will go in and again ask him and explain to him who you are, that he should not be afraid of you.
This was Chaim Pesakh Garberman from our shtetl, Kurow, with his wife, Hendl and two young sons, Shmuel and Mikhal. A young boy, Shmuel Rochlsman, Manis Lazer's son, was also hidden there with the peasant. It did not take long and Chaim Pesakh came out to us with joy and informed us that he had persuaded the peasant - that as there were five men, we would now be seven men. The peasant had a bunker in a second room under the floor. We will never forget what kind of dear woman, good soul, Chaim Pesakh's wife Hendl was. She gave us underwear into which to change, cooked food for us. In general, we were together a bit, although his house stood in the empty field. But by day we had to lie in the bunker because the Polish secret police and the German S.S. would travel around together to the villages to search for Jews and at night we also had to be careful because the bands from the A. K. [Armia Krajowa - Home Army - main Polish resistance group] were proud of themselves and their task was to search for Jews with the peasants. And when they found Jews, they took them beyond the fences, told them to undress completely and they shoot them. Jan Malendar once came home and told us that a peasant from the village of Barlig had told him today that 10 Jews were hidden in a bunker at the corner of the Barlig forest. At night, when everyone was in the bunker, a local Pole from the village of Barlig had thrown two hand grenades into the bunkers. Jakob Goldbaum, his wife, Fotshe, Leibl Meir's daughter, and Avraham Oberklajd, were among the 10 Jews. The remaining seven were Warsaw Jews. We remained with the peasant Malendar until the 17th of April 1943. A great many German gendarmes arrived in the city and

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a great search was expected in the villages. He simply chased us out at night with great invective.

(Best friend Yankl Gotlib!

Today I have received your letter and I sent you further writing, I thank you very much for your friendly interest about my wife's health. I can inform you that thanks to God, may His name be blessed, my wife is completely healthy.

I sincerely greet you and your dear family.

Your friend, Shmuel Hanisman)

 

Fourth letter

17 Jews Hidden Among the Stalks. 14 of Them Were Caught and Perished Horribly

We all kept together. Chaim Pesakh led my son and me to the village of Krupe, to a peasant of his acquaintance. He was named Wladek Pawelec. He had a bunker in a stable with two men and with great effort he was successful in taking in my son and me. Chaim Pesakh and his family and Shmuel Rochlsman dug a bunker at night in the village of Podber in Siski's field. We remained hidden with Pawelec the peasant until the 13th of July 1943. In general, he was one of the best people. He sympathized with us and always regretted that people had to stay both during the day and at night in a dark hole, in wet earth.

On the 14th of June 1943 a new kind of band of bandits arrived in Kurow. Twenty-two men - Lithuanians, Ukrainians, French, Poles. They were called the Rolne Command, under the leadership of German S.S. These were mostly the worst outcasts from each nation. They had the task of clearing out the hidden Jews in each city and village. They called together all of the village magistrates and demanded that they be told where and with whom Jews were being hidden. The news quickly reached all of the villages, and the Christians who were hiding Jews asked all of the hidden Jews to leave. My peasant also came in to us and told us to leave. There was no place to go. We went into the wheat stalks in the Krupe fields and the remaining hidden Jews from our town, Kurow, did the same thing. We were 17 Jews in the wheat, men, women and children. My son Josef and I, Yisroel Dovid Kenig (Popinik) and his wife, son and daughter, his brother Yitzhak Kenig (Kalike) and his wife and two children, Chama Rozen - Alter Sznajder's daughter and her son Yeshayahu and daughter.[5] My son and I were lying one night [and] I began to really fear remaining in the field because the Poles had begun to notice that Jews were lying in the wheat. As soon as night fell, I took my son and we went to the same stable in which we were during the winter. In the empty field outside the city

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lived my good Polish acquaintance (Antolek Witkowski). I knocked on his door and asked that he go to Antoni Kordowski and tell him that my son and I were in Stanislw Czelieczniak's stable and he should come to us. Here I must mention that from wandering around so much from place to place we had become contaminated, that we had became sick with scabies. This tormented us greatly. Our skin was torn from scratching. Kordowski came running to us in the morning. I told him everything, even about our illness. It did not take long; Kordowski brought a liquid for scabies to us, as well as food. Kordowski gave me the sad news that Stanislaw Czelieczniak was no longer alive. He died of a heart attack. This information was a great blow to us because we could no longer remain in the stable for a long time. Now his son was the entire boss. He would try to talk to him so that he would not reveal that we were in the stable until the Rolne Command had left Kurow. I must mention that before the war I traded rough leather with Czelieczniak's son, so he could not refuse. Three days later Kordowski came and told me that we had great luck in that we ran from the Krupe fields. The information that Jews were hidden among the wheat in the Krupe fields reached the Rolne Command. They arrived in Krupe immediately on that same day and chased all of the women from Krupe and Kloda and told each one to take something with them, scythes and pitchforks and axes and even iron poles. All of the women were placed in a long chain, five steps from one another. Going through the fields they caught 14 of the earlier enumerated Jews. Yeshayahu Rozen escaped. Thank God, he is still alive today. All 14 men were told to undress and were shot. The same Poles buried them in gave in the Kurow court fields, not far from the Lublin highway. A little while later my son and I, crawling on the court fields at night, found their grave. We had a good cry that we had survived because each day we expected that our turn would come. The Rolne Command threw a terrible fear into the surrounding Polish population. Not one Pole wanted to risk hiding a Jew. The bandits rampaged around the Kurow area for two week. We had to leave the stable immediately after their departure.

(A sincere, loving greeting to our comrade, Hersh Feldberg and his family and a sincere greeting to Hersh's brother-in-law and his wife and daughter.

A sincere greeting from my wife and son.

25.6.48 [25 June 1948]

Your friend, Shmuel Hanisman)

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Fifth Letter

One Can Perish Not Only From Bullets – But Also from Moisture, Cold, Thirst, Heat and Fear

The same question again appeared: Where do we go? We no longer had any money. We again consulted with our friend, Antoni Kordowski, and always listened to his advice with full trust. He advised us that we should go out to the field. He showed us a certain spot where a wide field was planted with rye and that we should go into the middle of From Kordowski promised to come to us and bring us food. The field in which we lay hidden was half a kilometer from our shtetl, Kurow. We were very close to the German gendarmerie, in sum one kilometer. Life in the empty field was a hell. The movement of the peasants in the surrounding fields did not stop for the entire day. The slightest movement in the field was heard from afar, so that our lives were in danger even if only one person discovered that Jews were lying here. In addition to this, a German law existed that if a Jew was noticed in the field or if someone was told about a Jew in the field, he must immediately report it to the nearest police post. If he hid [this information] and did not report it, he was threatened with confiscation of his possessions or the death penalty. On the first days it was very difficult for us to accustom ourselves to the daylight, to the brightness of the sun because we had lain in darkness until then. We had to lie on the wet ground in the rye field; we were not supposed to sit or to stand up because someone could notice us. The worst was when it began to rain. There were times when the rain did not stop for from three to eight days. After an entire day of rain, we lay in water. When God finally helped and it became night we were able to stand up. Everything on us was wet from the entire day [of rain], soaked through to the body and we were also without a piece of bread. With the coming of night, we became cold. We began to creep out into the quiet, dead fields; we heard loud steps. Sometimes we met several other unfortunate Jews from our shtetl, such as Hersh Kotliacz, Dina Ricer, Yehoshaya Cukerman, who also crept into the darkness in order to provide themselves with something, for the woman with the two children. We warmed ourselves and returning to the same place, in the same field, we again lay down on the same wet rye, on the same wet ground and fell asleep. When day came again we had to lie as if dumb and deaf. Almost like dead people, without any

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movement. Kordowski carefully looked for us, looked around the spot and assured us that this would not be worse than in the bunker. He brought us food, several Polish newspapers; he came to us every third day, but we had to find our own water to drink. Here I will remember one moment. On the 3rd of July 1943, lying in the field, a rain began that lasted for five days. Josef, my son, was as good as gone on the fourth day. He lay and cried constantly, was envious of his mother and his brothers who


kur257.jpg
Shmuel Hanisman and his son after leaving the bunker

no longer lived, that they had not survived and no long had to exert themselves to the limit. I saw how he was becoming paler and paler and the rain was falling more and more. I saw that I needed to save him from the rain. I lay down on top of him. I remained lying on my hands and on my knees and this covered him from the rain until he recovered. Each day we had to creep carefully toward the villages of Klade and Krupe for water for drinking. Sometimes we asked a peasant acquaintance for a piece of bread, or for a potato. We could never dry out our clothing. Again

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the sunny days came; we became sunburned from the heat. When the sun set, we were besieged by mosquitoes.

 

Several Kurowers Shot Again. We – Respectable Zydkes Are Accidentally Saved[6]

We remained in the field for three weeks. On the 27th of July 1943 at 11 o'clock at night, I sat with my son Josef on a footpath between fields. We had just come from the village of Krupe and brought water and a piece of bread. Now we ate with great anxiety: Wladek Pawelec, the peasant, told us that the night before two Polish bandits had come to his boss, where Moshe Rude's wife, Gitl Ricer, and her son Eli were hidden. They took them out of the bunker in the house shot and them at the fence.

The remaining Kurow Jews became fewer and fewer all of the time. Suddenly we heard that several people were coming in our direction; their steps came closer to us, my son and I quickly threw ourselves down on the ground, but it was too late. Approaching us and seeing us lying down, one of them shouted in Polish:

Stand up! Who are you?

I answered them in great fear: ”Jews!”

I began to cry and begged them that they give us our lives. No, they did not want to hear. There were six men, four were dressed in Polish police uniforms. The other two wore Polish military uniforms. Five men stood, aimed their guns at us. And the sixth came over to us and searched us for weapons before shooting. He approached me first. With one hand he placed a revolver to my heart and with the second hand he began to search me. After he searched me he carefully looked at me with an electrical lamp and recognized me. His relationship to me immediately changed. I also recognized him immediately. This was one of my customers, a shoemaker, who worked for me before the war and also sold things. He lived in Plinik, was named Jan Krak. He no longer looked at my son and immediately went over to the five men and he told them that we were well known to him and strongly asked them that they not shoot us. He was the commander of the group. He came right to me and told me that he was very happy that he had recognized me at the last minute. He said to his comrades:
Come, let them fall into other hands.
I am unable to describe how we felt after their departure. We immediately moved to a second field for the night and in a few days

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we returned to the same spot because we did not want to lose further contact with our friend Kordowski.

8.7.48 [7 July 1948]

(Best friend Yankl Gilburt)

I received your letter and I am writing an answer to you immediately. I will clarify the fact for you that Chaim Pesakh and his family and Shmuel Rochelsman, this was Manis Lezer's son, dug out bunkers side by side in the village of Podber in Jan Siski's field. I send you further writings. God willing, you will receive them next week. With greetings for you family.

Your friend Shmuel Hanisman

I do not have the address for Moshe Szifman, only for his brother Yankl which I send you.

 

Sixth Letter

Some Peasants Hid Jews – To Rob Them and Murder Them

Kordowski came to me in the morning and we told him about our experience of the night before. I told him exactly how it had happened and how we were saved from certain death. Kordowski rejoiced greatly at the outcome. He immediately showed me where his field was located and told me to move to his field at night. Simultaneously he brought us food, bread, a liter of warm, sweet coffee and several Polish newspapers. Warm, sweet coffee was a luxury then. Lying in an empty field and living only on a little water, the sweet, warm coffee was a dream. Kordowski gave us hope that the Russians had begun a counter-offensive and the German murderers had begun to retreat and if we were alive we had to hope. I have to say that always after his visits to us our hearts remained full of hope to remain alive, to be able to see the end of the accursed Germans with our own eyes. When the rye in the fields was cut, bundles were bound together and the bundles were stood up to dry. We lay in the bundles. Later, when Kordowski had to take them home, he took us to his potato field. We would often risk our lives at night creeping out of the fields to peasant acquaintances, to look for a place to spend the winter. It was very, very difficult for us to find such a peasant. We did find such a peasant. He was a very poor one. First we gave him 1,500 zlotes and stayed for a few months. He had never seen such a sum. Two peasant bandits, for whom the Germans were searching, also were taken in to hide. The majority of these sorts

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of peasant bandits had killed their hidden Jews in order to take their money. Tore out the gold teeth from their mouths. Avrahamtshe Goldberg and his 17-year old daughter and his young son of eight years and his sister, Chaya Cymerman and two children, a girl and a boy, perished at such murderous Polish hands. The youngest girl survived. She had given the child to a certain Pole – Maczewicz. After the war Hersh Kotliacz took the child from him. Then Yankl Rubinsztajn came in (he was called Yankl Tsaban) with two girls. We remained without a groshn of money. I turned to our friend Kordowski and then he gave me 1,500 zlotes to pay for the bunker. And he would give us dry produce to eat twice a month. Not far from the shtetl in the empty field near Miechower Road stood a small house and nearby a stall. The owner was named Gutek Witkowski. He was a shoemaker by trade, but a very poor peasant. In Kurow he was not considered an honest man. He was capable of easy earnings. He had no cows or pigs. One chicken and several rabbits. He had a wife and two children. With Kordowski's approval, we went to him on the night of the 21st of October 1943. We paid him 1,500 zlotes right away and he led us into a farmyard enclosure. He had no bunker for us. I will never forget the joy that night after so many months of lying outside in the fields. I said to my son:

Here we again felt a roof over our heads. – After being hidden with the Pole, Witkowski, for three weeks, all three of us men made a bunker, two meters long and one meter wide. The depth – we could only sit. The entrance was made out of the barn, a hole into the bunker. When the owner, his son or his wife needed to call us up to give us food, they gave three taps in the wall with a stick. This was an arranged sign because one was not supposed to utter a Jewish name as insurance because the German gendarmes were not far from us. At night we heard them all talking and their commands. We always had to be careful so that, God forbid, we did not fall into their hands. Twice a month, 12 to 1 at night, we would quietly and carefully move along through the fields to our shtetl, Kurow, to our friend, Kordowski, to receive the food products. We had to be very careful when we went to his house. No one could know that he had any connection to Jews. When we neared our shtetl, we had to cross the Miechower highway where German night patrols constantly went.
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(Best friend Yankl Gilburt and his dear family!

I received one letter and I answer with a few words. The reason for the interruption in my writing is, may it never happen to you, because I have been sick. Now I am a little better, but I cannot work. You can imagine that what I have been through has an effect.

Now, dear friend, I have a request for you: send me Kawa's address; I will write a letter to him myself. Write to me if you have spoken with the man from the Historical Commission in Kasel and what he answered you. Now, what you write to me about Chaim Rochelsman, about his suggestion that the brochure should be entitled Khurbn Kurow [Destruction of Kurow], I must tell you that it hurts me a little, this not appreciating the other's efforts and labor. It is easy to have an opinion. My wish, Yankl, my friend, is that the writing should carry the name, The Survival of Shmuel Hanisman and his son, Josef, during the Destruction of Kurow.

I sincerely greet you and your dear family. A sincere greeting to my friends Hersh Feldberg and Hersh Sobel and their dear families.

What do you think of Eretz-Yisroel?

9.7.1948 (July 9, 1948)

 

Seventh Letter

Polish Policemen Who Overlooked. Leibl Rochelman's Wife Wanted to Pay to Have Her Child Killed

We were very careful and we lay on the highway and laid an ear to the stones and the moment when we heard that the steps of the patrolling gendarmes were going from our direction, we carefully moved one by one to Kordowski's house. We were not supposed to go into the house because a stranger could be there. As usual, we crept to the stall. The stall was never locked. When we arrived and Kordowski's dog began to bark, he immediately came out with a lighted lantern and came right into the stall. He was very happy to see us. We had to speak among ourselves quietly. He gave us food products for half a month: a few potatoes, two kilos of bread, 100 grams of fat, 100 grams of sugar, mushrooms, candles and a few Polish newspapers. Kordowski asked how our relations were with our present host, Witkowski. I told him everything exactly and he always designated a day when we should again come for food products. He left carefully and listened for where the patrol of gendarmes was located. When he found that they were far from our house, he let us out one by one. When we survived to enter the field

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we lifted our hands to God that again we had come through the day in peace. Twice we ran into the Polish police. Once, the policeman, Sadurski. He had a gun in his hand at that time. We were very afraid. After the liberation, he told me that when he recognized me he gave me the chance to leave immediately. The second time we met the policeman Filant Kitam and he also looked away. We quietly moved to our bunker. We counted how many potatoes we had and calculated that we could use eight potatoes a day. One day our host, Witkowski, came to me and told me this story:

That night at one o'clock, a Jewish woman knocked [on his door]. She was Moshe Ahron Bajer's daughter, Leibl Rochelman's wife and proposed to him this propostion: She has a small daughter of 12 months. The child does not rest, but cries constantly. She is hidden with the child in a bunker with the Pole, Zarichte. He wants to chase her out because of the child. So, because she does not have any other alternative, she wanted to give me 300 zlotes so that I would kill the child. She also told me that she had undressed the child completely and keep her outside for two nights and the child had not been harmed at all.
Witkowski told me that he had chased her out of his house and told her: In Kurow I am considered the worst, but I cannot kill anyone.

In contrast, his wife could have been a murderer. Once I heard through the wall that she was trying to convince him not to believe that we are poor, but we must have buried a great deal of dollars and gold. She tried to convince him to kill us.

 

Chaim Pesakh Garberman and His Family Shot by Young Gentiles

From this moment on I began to be careful. This was communicated to me by my friend Kordowski and he advised us to escape from this place because anything was possible. We began to crawl out at night to other villages to look for another spot. On the night of the 13th of December, we met Chaim Pesakh Garberman, Moshe Rozen and Shmuel Rachelson in the village of Krupe at the [home of the] peasant Pawelec Wladislaw.[7] There was always great joy when we, the few remaining Jews, would meet somewhere at night. However, in any case, we had to accept our dark fate that from one moment to the next meeting there were always fewer of us. Yeshayahu Rozen was hidden in the village of Klode with a peasant who had a daughter, a young girl, and she loved Yeshayahu very much. This young girl did everything and with all her

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strength to maintain Yeshayahu. Chaim Pesakh Garberman and his wife, Hendl and two young sons and Shmuel Rachelson were hidden in a bunker that they themselves had made in a field in the village of Podber near Siski's mill. The field also belonged to the peasant, Siski. Chaim Pesakh, a tailor who no longer had any money then, would secretly work for his peasant acquaintances at night and receive food products for it. With this he supported his wife and two children, as well as Shmuel Rachelson. That particular night, Chaim Pesakh worked for the peasant where we were coming together, at [the home of] Wladik Pawelec. Our meeting was in Kurnik, in the stable. We had to speak Yiddish very quietly. As it seemed that we were having a talk with Chaim Pesakh and Shmuel Rachelson for the last time, that night we said goodbye. Yeshayahu Rozen left for Klode and I and my son, Josef, returned to our bunker at Gutek Witkowski's. In the morning my boss came into the bunker and told me that today in the morning five Jews were found murdered on Podber fields near Siski's mill. It was said that this was the tailor, Chaim and his family. The news reached me as a bullet in the head. From distress, we could not rest for the entire day. When night fell my son and I went out to Krupe to Wladik Pawelec to learn if the news was true because Chaim Pesakh had sewn for him. Pawelec told me that at 12 at night Shmuel Rachelson came running to Chaim Pesakh and said that he had been in the bunker with Chaim Pesakh's wife and two children. Five young gentiles approached them and crawled into the bunker. Not seeing Chaim Pesakh, they asked where he was. His wife said that he was sewing for Wladik Pawelec in Krupe. They asked that he be called quickly; they had to tell him something. Chaim Pesakh immediately threw down


kur263.jpg
Hendl Lerman (Chaim Pesakh Garberman's wife, shot

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his work and ran into the bunker with Shmuel. When Chaim Pesakh arrived at the bunker, they were all taken out of the bunker and all were shot on the field.

 

Eighth Letter

“Rather Two Jews, Before Five Poles…”

A few days later my host, Witkowski, came to us and secretly told us that a certain assailant, a Pole, his name was Gelde, was looking for us with his band in order to kill us. He had information that we were hidden with [Witkowski]. By night we were no longer with Witkowski. On the 25th of December 1943 we escaped to the village of Plinik to a certain Pole, Kolodzej; this was with the agreement of our friend Kardowksi. Kolodzej, our recent host, was also a poor peasant, but a very frightening man. With our help, at night he dug out a bunker in his stable and, at his categorical request, we had to be completely covered in dirt during the day and at night. Once every 24 hours, before sunrise, he dug us out and gave us food. A kilo of black bread, a half liter of black coffee with 3 saccharine tablets, he poured out the dirty pot and then he recovered the hole with dirt. However, without our host's knowledge, I stuck a stick through the dirt in several places so that some air would come in, because we could not breathe. The unclean pot, which had to be with us always for human needs, also made it difficult for us to breathe. For two months we lay in the dark hole; we did not see any light for the entire two months. I became very sick. I lay with a high fever. On the 27th of February 1944 at 10 o'clock at night, our present host, Kolodzej, dug us out and told us that the German S.S. had taken the entire village and that they were conducting searches. They also were using bloodhounds and terrible shooting was being heard. Therefore he asked us to leave the hole and leave his stable. I began to beg him that I lay in a high fever and could not even stand up; secondly, it was daytime now; he began to shout at me:

You are only two people and my family consists of five people. And in addition you are Jews. It is more acceptable that you two Jews be killed, rather than we five Poles.
Although having a high fever, I was not flustered in such moments. I made it clear to the Pole that he could not chase us out now because we would definitely be caught and if the S.S. demanded that we tell where we had been hidden, we would have to answer, then we would all be shot and the possessions would be burned, but there is a possibility here that perhaps the search would not take place because his house was out of the way.

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For Killing a Jew – a Reward of 5 Kilos Sugar, 3 Kilos Salt. Chanatshe and Her Child Are Murdered. Her Husband, the Partisan, Takes Revenge and Also Perishes.

In fear, my host agreed with me and again buried us until the night. With luck, the German bandits bypassed our house and on the night of the 27th February 1944 we had to leave the bunker. We had to leave Plinik for our shtetl four kilometers [away] because we had to go on back roads, along the Lubliner highway and near the Kloder fields. I, being sick with high fever, could not walk and every few steps had to lie down on the ground. We did not have anything to carry with us except for our torn overcoats, a small sack, a stick and two spoons. These were all of our possessions. We lost our way in the village of Luen. We thought that we were going to Kurow. There were many Polish murderers in the village of Luen who excelled in their murderous ways against Jews. At this opportunity I will describe two murders through which three souls from our shtetl perished.

Chanatshe Buchszrajber-Elenbogn[8] (“Kaza”) and her daughter were hidden with a peasant in the village.

The bandits from the village of Luen learned that two Zydowkes [Jewish women] were hiding in the village. At that time they received five kilos of sugar and three kilos of salt for killing a Jew. One day the bandits took Chanatshe Kaza and her daughter from the peasant where she was hidden; they led them into the forest between the village of Luen and the village of Kloda and they killed both of them. Chanatshe was tied to a tree and shot and a murderer took her little girl by the feet and killed the child with a strong swing of her head into the tree. A short time after the liberation, September 1944, when we, the few Kurow Jews who survived, found ourselves in Lublin, I, Hersh Kotliacz and Hersh Cukerman, lived in one room. Shimeon Elnbojgn (Ryfka Yerohim's son) appeared – Chanatshe Kaza's husband. He came to us with a gun. He told us that he had lived with the partisans in the woods for the entire Hitler occupation. He went through a great deal. He asked us if, perhaps, we knew where his wife and his daughter went. We told him everything, what had happened to his family. He stayed with us for a few days and decided that he must go to the village of Luen. Perhaps he would learn something about his dear wife and daughter. I strongly warned him that he not go into the village because it was a murderous village. Hersh Kotliacz and Hersh Cukerman also warned him that he should not go. It later appeared that his fate was that he would perish at the hands of the same murderers who

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who murdered his wife and child. He left but he no longer returned. To this day there is no trace of him.

When we arrived in the village, we ourselves did not know in which village we were. We did not see anyone outside who we could ask where we were. We were afraid to go deep into the village so that we did not meet any of the German or Polish murderers. But after stopping for a time we had to decide that we would approach the first house, knock and ask what the name of the village was. However, when we began to enter the village, dogs began barking at us in the deadly silence and informed their owners that unfamiliar people were in the village.

(Honored Friend Jankl Golburt and your family!

I have received your letter with your greeting card. We thank you very much and we wish you the same. I also thank you for the few words from our friend Kawa. Others made money in the camps and I had to eat from that which I brought from Lodz, because what can a worker make with his 10 fingers? And, in addition, it should not happen to anyone, I always become sick. I cannot trade.

I heartily greet you. A hearty greeting to your wife and children.

Your friend Shmul Hanisman)

 

The Murderous Village of Luen. If One Holds Jews – One Must At Least Eat White Cake and Much Kielbasa [Sausage].

Although the hordes of dogs were very large, we did not see any peasants come out from any of their houses. We went to a small house and knocked. The peasant did not want to open [the door]. But through the closed door he asked who was knocking and what we needed. We answered that we were strangers. We had gotten lost and asked the name of the village. The peasant replied that the village was called Luen. Hearing the name of the village was enough for us. A shudder went through my body. At that moment I had in my mind all of the murders that already had been carried out in the village, both of our Kurower and also Markuszower Jews. I said quietly to my son, Josef: “We must escape from this village very quickly,” but we did not know in which direction our shtetl Kurow was located. We shuffled to the edge of the village. While standing for a bit, a young Pole from a second village arrived. We asked him to show us the direction to Kurow. He showed us a shining light burning in the distance; that is the Kurow gmina [municipality].

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We should go in that direction and cope. We had to hurry because it already was past midnight and when day began we had to be somewhere we could hide. Josef, my son, took me under the arm so that we could go faster. We barely dragged ourselves to the first house in Kurow, our shtetl. Here in a small house, we had once been hidden; the Pole was named Gutek Witkowski. We knocked carefully. He immediately opened the door. It was very difficult [for us to get him] to agree to hide us. He gave as a condition that we must pay for 12 months in advance, 3,000 zlotes because he did not have any pigs. From the money he received for helping Jews, he could at least – buy a pig. I cannot describe my joy at that moment when the Pole agreed to take us in. He immediately told us that the bunker was destroyed. It was full of water. He gave us a little straw to put underneath us and I had to lie in the wet hole while I was sick. I got better after a few days of lying down. We carefully came out to visit our friend Kordowski in the dark night. We told him that we had to return to Gutek Witkowski. As always we took a little bit of food and money from him so that we could pay for the bunker. We suffered greatly staying with Witkowski for the second time; he asked me to give him the boots I was wearing on my feet. He often said to me:

In any case, you will not survive. Do [the boots] need to fall into the hands of the Germans; it would be better to give them to me.
We suffered even more from his wife. She cursed us constantly with the vilest expressions, calling us parszywe zydy [rotten Jews]. Your money – she said – that you gave us for being here is accursed. I bought a pig with that money; his feet do not grow, the pig has short feet. She then again complained that their chickens that once layed large eggs were now laying small ones. Their 12-year old gentile boy only wanted to go to denounce us to the police. He constantly shouted that if they kept Jews, they needed to have white cakes to eat and many kielbasa [Polish sausages].

 

A Machine Gun Over Our Bunker. Fear of Death for the Thousandth Time

We lay in the bunker from the 27th of February 1944 until the 13th of May 1944. On the 13th of May at 3 o'clock in the morning we slept in the small attic of the stall because we could no longer bear lying in the cold, wet, dark bunker. I asked Witkowski to permit me to climb into the small attic for a few nights, to be able to breathe a little fresh air. He permitted us to do so. Suddenly I heard that not far from our little house

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several women had arrived and I heard that they were speaking German. I, not losing a minute, quietly woke my son Josef. We never took off our clothing and we knew only to spring into the stall because from the stall we could crawl into the hole that led into the bunker. In his house, our host, Witkowski, had also heard that the Germans were coming close to his house. Quickly, unnoticed, he came running into the stall. He had a large box in the stall with several potatoes; wanting quickly to mask the hole in our bunker he pushed the crate over the hole. In fear, he covered half of the hole and the other half remained open. When we crawled in the bunker, we were very frightened. We thought our lives would soon end. Someone had probably denounced us to the S.S and they had come to carry out our execution. Perhaps we would still successfully save ourselves? We had potatoes with us in the hole that Kordowski had given us to eat for two weeks. I carefully moved to the hole and quietly I told my son to give me several potatoes and I put them in the hole until the hole was stuffed. The S.S. came to the house. We heard every word clearly. Our bunker was outside, that is, on the other side of the stall, very near the wall. I heard how they began to come closer, onto our bunker. I immediately showed my son that he should do what I did, because speaking was dangerous because the footsteps of the S.S. were close to coming down to our bunker. We placed our shoulders on the boards so that it would not feel that it was hollow when they walked through. Although, from the outside the bunker was sealed and enough dirt had been spread so that it was not recognizable. We heard them place a machine-gun on our side bunker at the end of the house. After a short time the machine-gun began to shoot. I pressed my son to me. We hugged and quietly recited the vide [confession of sins recited on Yom Kippur and before death]. So there, they threw a grenade into the bunker. At the same time we heard several S.S. were with us in the stall. They saw the half hole from which the potatoes looked out. One showed the other one that there was a cellar with potatoes here. We heard the dog begin to bark at them; they shot him. Then we heard how they cooked the pig. We did not hear our host, his wife or his children. We lay like this for as long as they stayed, 12 hours in our last deadly fear, with frightening heartbeats, until suddenly it became quiet as in a cemetery.

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(My beloved, dear friends Hersh Goldberg and family and Hersh Sobel and your dear family:

Your letter crushed me a little. Hearing the news from our friend, Hersh Sobel, poor thing, about how he suffered trouble and pain from our enemies. Dear friend Hershl, I empathize greatly with you and I wish you, with God's help, a quick recovery. At the same time I wish you and your dear wife a mazel tov [congratulations] on the birth of you dear little son. I wish that you will be healthy parents to your children.

Now, my dear friend Hersh Goldberg and your dear wife and your dear circumcised little son. You have fulfilled your fatherly and motherly duty according to the tradition of our Jewry. I wish you a hearty mazel-tov; may you live together to bring up your son, to the khupah [wedding canopy] and to good deeds.

Your friend Shmuel Hanisman)

 

The Last Days – the Most Difficult Days

An hour later, after their departure, we again heard the voice of our hostess in the stall. We heard her grievously crying. She knocked on the path three times with a wooden stick; this was our agreed sign that we were being called out of the hole into the stall. I pushed the potatoes away from the hole and crawled out. The stall looked as if after a pogrom. They even took the only chicken away with them. The Christian woman told me that they had taken her husband and he had been led away; they did not know to where. They did not let them out of the house and when the S.S. moved around the stall, they grabbed the children from the house and saved themselves and ran to a neighbor across from their small house. She was sure that we were being taken out of the hole and were being shot and that the small house and the stall already were burning – as a punishment for hiding Jews. She told me what great triumph we had had that we could bear sure death for 12 hours; simultaneously, she demanded that as soon as night fell we had to leave because the S.S. would come again. No pleading helped that we not be chased out because we had nowhere to go. When night fell and she saw that we were not leaving, she ran out of the house, saying that she was going to the Polish police to denounce us. We had to escape quickly. But the eternal question: where? Our situation was that at this stage we remained standing in the empty field because no Pole wanted to allow a Jew inside. Only one possibility remained – dig out a grave and lie down in it alive.

We again crept to our friend, Kordowski and told him of today's events and together we searched for a solution. Where would we go?

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Kordowski advised us that near Janek Pajarek's house in the nowyrynek [new market] stood his stack of straw. Although there was no more than half a stack, we should [bury ourselves] completely under the stack, make a deep hole and we should crawl into it and mask the entrance very well. One o'clock at night we carefully approached the half stack of straw, made a hole and we crawled in. We lay in the straw for four weeks. Every other night at midnight we crawled out and had to creep to a Polish acquaintance to beg for a little piece of bread. We had two liter bottles; we took water to drink for two days. We crawled back into the straw before [the day began]. It was a very beautiful day on the 12th of June 1944. Christian children playing on the street decided to crawl on the half stack of straw and to play at hiding and began to dig in the straw; we felt that we were in danger from the playing, although they were children. They kicked deep into the straw until they saw our black coat. There was immediately a riot and children and adults began running together. We heard the children screaming bandzczores, this is what the Russian partisans were called who had attacked the villages at night as well as the German gendarmerie. As many children as could get up on the straw did theirs in the hole that they made. Our clothing was completely wet, but when they saw that we were not moving from the spot, they began to throw stones on us. First small ones, then larger ones. We began to feel the blows from the large stones. Some of the Poles who were present at the scene ran to call the owner of the straw and to tell him what was happening with his straw. That Russian partisans were hiding in it. I, feeling that we could be killed by the stones, quietly said to my son that we had no other choice but to crawl out of the straw. When I stood up first and then my son after me, many Poles were already gathered around the straw. There was a shout of “hooray” and at the same time the owner of the straw came running. This was Janek Pajarek. He was a good acquaintance of mine from before the war. When he recognized who my son and I were, he quickly chased the crowd and took me under the arm. Night had begun to fall. He led us down under his stall. He almost cried looking at us because we no longer looked like living beings. He brought us half a bread and a bottle of milk and said to me that he could not help me more than this.

 

Translator's notes:
  1. Here in the middle come several unnumbered letters to Benyamin Wajnrib - Editor. Return
  2. Hanisman is the spelling used throughout the text. Return
  3. More than 32 people, including wives and children, appear in this list. Return
  4. The apostrophe is not used in Yiddish to designate possession. Several of the names above may actually be indications of relationships - i.e. Moshe Blumels may indicate that Moshe is Blumel's son; Motl Berls may indicate that Motl is Berl's son. Return
  5. Only 13 of the 17 Jews are listed. Return
  6. Zydke is a derogatory word in Polish for Jew. Return
  7. The author refers to the peasant as both Pawelec Wladislaw and Wladik Pawelec. Return
  8. This surname is spelled Elenbogn above and Elenbojgn below. Return

 

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