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[Page 436]

Days and Nights Full of Anxiety

B. Bronkacz

Translated from Yiddish to Czech by Michael Dunayevsky

Translated from Czech to Polish by Andrzej Ciesla

Translated from Polish to English by Bronia Bronkesh

The bombing of Ryki on the tenth day of the war caused a great panic in the town. People did not know what to do and where to hide from the bombs. There was no bomb shelter in the town. On that day there were a lot of people from Dęblin in Ryki, because they thought their town was more dangerous due to its military base. Many people were killed during those bombardments. It took the Jews several days before they recovered and buried their dead.

As soon as the German Army arrived, new regulations against the Jews were implemented. It was not enough for the Germans that the Jews cleaned the streets; they ordered them to wash the streets with water. They harnessed them to the fire brigade water-cart and ordered them to bring water from the pond. The Jews had to stand half in the water and then pull the heavy cart out from the pond. The Germans invented new tricks everyday. They wanted us to sing and dance and to ride on one another while they took pictures.

On Yom Kippur of 1939, the Germans dragged praying Jews out of their homes. They were taken into the fields wearing their tallesim where mines had been placed by the Polish Army. They were to dance in order to find out whether there were really mines there.

Polish police helped the Germans

When the German took over the control of the town, they employed the pre-war Polish police. After a while it appeared that everything would be normal again. People started to buy and sell merchandise again. Now and then we heard about robberies of Jewish peddlers who were robbed of their last coins and beaten. Merchants who traveled to Warsaw for different kinds of goods were also often robbed.

It also happened that the German soldiers invaded Jewish houses. Women and girls were dragged out of their homes and raped.

A Judenrat was established, headed by Szmuel Gutwajder. He helped the Jewish people tremendously. He served them day and night, especially the sick and the helpless. He did it from the bottom of his heart and the Jews regarded him as their protector.

Every day brought new restrictions. Jews had to wear a white armband with the Star of David on it, and they were not allowed to walk on sidewalks, only in the middle of the street .They were also not allowed to use horse carts. Finally they were all put in the ghetto .The ghetto was overcrowded. There were many families in one house.

At the Judenrat there was a Jewish police force numbering ten officers. Often at nights the German policemen broke into the Jewish houses and made house searchers and confiscated whatever goods they found there.

Once they entered the house of Jechiel Goldnodl who used to sell leather goods. They asked him where he hid his leather goods and they shot him on the spot. Another time they caught two butchers who slaughtered cows illegally. The butchers managed to escape. The Germans told the Judenrat that if the butchers would not come back, they would kill 20 Jews. When the butchers came back and they were killed.

At the same time they killed Meyer Fishtein who was the town`s hero because he resisted an Ukrainia policemen. And only after a long fight they managed to shoot him. Benjamin Suchodolski, Mendel Taitelbaum and Efraim Fishtein were shot while trying to escape from the ghetto.

In the beginning of 1942, we heard some rumors that the Nazis were taking Jews to work camps. That caused a great panic in the town. A lot of people managed to escape from the ghetto. Many sent their families to farmers in the nearby villages, they were people they knew.

Once we were attacked by Polish hooligans and we were severely beaten. At that time I was with Hershel Machewker and his two brothers Gedalia and Sienia. We fought bravely back against ten Polish hooligans but they outnumbered us and severely beaten, we ran away.

On Thursday, May 7 all the people from the ghetto were called to the market. They mobilized 400[1] wagons from the nearby villages to take the people to the railroad station in Deblin. The cries and shouts of women and children were indescribable.

A few days earlier, I sent my family to the village. I use to know many people there with whom I use to do business. But my wife wanted to be with all the other Jews and so she came back to the ghetto. I had some business to take care of, so I stayed in the village for two more days. On Tuesday evening, a day before the liquidation of the ghetto, some representatives from the village came to me and asked me to leave the their village immediately, or otherwise they would deliver me to Dęblin. I managed to run away from them although they followed me for some kilometers.

On the day of the evacuation, a German inspector ordered Hershel Gutwajder – the son of the head of the Judenrat - to get 60 men for work in the ammunition warehouses in Stawy. When the selected men were standing aside, Pejsach Ajger tried to join them but was noticed by a gendarme and shot on the spot.

The head of the Judenrat Gutwajder died of a heart attack and he was replaced by Mojsze Wajsfisz. He was also soon shot after he asked a gendarme to pass a letter to his family whom he sent to Żelechow. He was shot for sending his family to another town.

After few hours, all the Jews from the ghetto were gathered in the market. The elderly and children were put on the wagons and the rest had to walk. I was among those 60 selected men. We were the last ones to leave the market and we noticed how our Christian neighbors hurried into empty Jewish homes and started to rob. There they found Avrum son of Blumy Gedonken who was hiding in the house and they took him out and gave him to the Germans who killed him.

In the ammunition warehouses

Finally it was our turn. We started to walk towards the ammunition warehouses. On our way we saw dead bodies of Jews lying along the way. We were walked to the railway station where the ammunition warehouses were and there we worked day and night. Often they woke us up in the middle of the night to load a train. If somebody escaped, every tenth person from the row was shot.

After a few weeks, we got to know that on the day of the liquidation of the ghetto there were 400 men taken from the Dęblin railway station to work at the airfield. We tried to get in touch with them some way. But it was Dr. Kestenbaum from Ryki who helped us.

Over 1000 men worked there at the airfield. Their situation was bearable except the heavy punishments they got now and again. One day a fire broke out and 10 Jews were shot.

That is how we survived until 1944. A few weeks before the liberation 80 men ran away from the Dęblin camp. Because they were unarmed, the Polish partisans killed them all.

At the last moment the camp was moved to Częstochowa and there we were liberated.


  1. more likely 40. Return

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