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{577}

From Skiernewice to Monte Cassino

by Moshe Yaakov Grand

(The experiences of a Jewish officer in the Second World War)

A.

I was enlisted three days before the outbreak of the Second World War. At the time, I led the weaver's school in Lodz. When I was drafter, I informed my brother's son in Zgierz (today in Israel) who was studying with me. My father and brother came to see me. I also saw my only daughter. I never saw them again.

I sat in a train and went to Skiernewice. When I arrived, the second reservist brigade was marching by at the time. I quickly began to seek out acquaintances, and indeed I found the Zgierzer Herman Rozenzweig and the tall Yokel, my sister's son.

A few days passed before we were issued uniforms. On Thursday, I and another Jewish officer were called up to guard a group, to be constantly on watch and shoot person who approached. Suddenly, I heard the noise of motors. This was the first time that we encountered the Luftwaffe (I would later call them as “Binen” [1]). Two bombs fell upon the building in which we ate, and one bomb fell at the gate. My eyes only saw a great deal of blood and dismembered limbs. The screaming was terrible. An order came:

“March to Warsaw!”

Our march delayed because of the civilians who occupied all of the roads, and, in the meantime, the “binen” delivered death from above. We hid in the potato fields, but very many did not come out of there. Our military unit ceased to exist.

Along the way, a Jewish soldier, a reservist from Lodz, came to me, and we went on the way together. We arrived in Warsaw in the evening. After crossing the Prager Bridge, we went to a military point, and received the order to go to Garwolin.

We arrived in the afternoon, and along the way, we met some people from our unit. We continued travelling, and the “binen” continued to fly over our heads. We, a small group of four officers, arrived in Tursk, and there we fell into Russian hands.

If I am not mistaken, this was the eve of Yom Kippur of 1939. They brought us to Szepetowka in loaded wagons. They registered us at once, and whatever we had, they took from us. The next day, they gave us a bit of freedom and we traveled further. Not far from Lemberg, we had to build an expressway to Kiev. We widened the highway by a meter and a half on each side. I had to go to a doctor, since I was weakened by the hard work. The doctor, a Jew, gave me a certificate of exemption, and I traveled to Lemberg. From there, I went to Bialystok, where I found many Zgierzer “biezszeniec” (refugees). Knowing that there was an empty cellar on Pierackiega Street, I put myself up there.

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B.

Refugees from the German side arrived via Malkin. They were murderously beaten, and all their possessions had been taken from them. There were some Zgierzers among them. Balek Trocki came from Lemberg. There, he had worked at an airfield. He assisted us a little. With his help, I obtained work.

Once, while sitting in the evening in our cellar, our door opened, and Leon Rusianow of Zgierz entered. He portrayed for us a frightful drama of his experiences. As soon as the Germans occupied Lodz, four Germans went into the Astoria coffee house. One of them shot at the ceiling with an automatic rifle and shouted: “Do not move!” Then, they confiscated everybody's documents and ordered them to present themselves in the morning at a designated place, where soldiers with transport trucks were waiting. They collected the Jews from all sides and transported them to a forest outside of Lodz, where they were commanded to dig pits. The rows of pits became more numerous. After driving the Jews into the pits, they shot them with automatic rifles. Then, more trucks came with Jews. The Germans drove them into the pits that were still empty and shot them. Leon remained alive, as he “worked” in covering over the pits. They told him to come the next day to retrieve his document. When he came to retrieve his document, he found many women who came to find out about the fate of their husbands. They answered the women that their husbands had been arrested, and they would be freed for ransom money. The women ran to bring the ransom money for their murdered husbands. Leon explained that that situation was written about sufficiently, and was sent from Poland to America [2].

{Photo page 579: Yaakov Grand on the Italian front in 1944.}

C.

Election day came in Bialystok. They forcibly ordered us to enter automobiles to go to vote. They drove us to a polling station, gave us each a printed piece of paper to put in an enveloped and throw into the voting box.

At that time, thousands registered for work in Russia in accordance with their trades. However, their disappointment was quick in coming – a tailor was sent to construction work; a weaver to saw trees in the forest, etc.

An order was issued that every “biezszeniec” (refugee) must obtain a Soviet passport. Many Zgierzers indeed obtained such passports. On a certain evening, a Russian in civilian clothing came and said: “Passporta, Pazalusta!” Those who did not yet have passports (including myself) were told to follow him. This arrest took place in May of 1940. They took us to rooms that were guarded by soldiers. Each of us was told to sign a document in Russian, which we did not understand. Afterwards, they loaded us on trucks and drove us to the Bialystok jail. We were 600 people. Each day, we received a portion of bread with water. After registering us, photographing us, and cutting our hair, they loaded us onto trucks. There, I met Yume's eldest son. He gave us each 100 rubles, 25 for each of the Zgierz people, for we were not allowed to carry more than that on us.

They loaded us in a train, which went as fast as a bow from an arrow, until it arrived in… Kotlas [3]. The N.K.V.D. counted us. Only shadows remained of all of us. They put us in a camp, surrounded by barbed wire. On another day, they took me and other Jews to the river. Guarded by the N. K. V. D., we were taken onto a barge, where we received some bread and a little herring. This made us thirsty, but they did not give us any water. We arrived to a camp on the banks of the Dvina. There, I went to the doctor to obtain something for a headache. The doctor, also a deportee, was a very fine person. He told me that healthy people do not come out of the camp. Most of the deportees die.

Once at mealtime, I noticed an unusual face among the Russians. He came to me and asked if Jews are coming. I explained to him that we were Jews from Poland. He greeted me with a 'shalom aleichem' [4] and told me that he was in a government position, and that he works and lives in Odessa. He is a Hebrew writer and poet. His works were published outside of the country, and his honorarium came in dollars. They arrested him for receiving dollars from outside of the country, and sentenced him to sixteen years. He requested of me that if anyone is able to leave, they tell about him. His readers would certainly remember his name – he wrote under the pseudonym of Yellin.

Two days later, they again called me up, and I heard the “zoftik” [5] Russian language. We traveled on further and came to camp number eighteen, in Komi-A.S.S.R. [6]. There was not any time to rest after the journey. They divided us up into brigades during the journey. I met some Zgierz Jews in the camp. However, they did not belong to my brigade, and I was not able to communicate with them. We had to get up at 4:00 a.m. We received 300 grams of clay-like bread and a little water with cabbage leaves. Then, with genuine Russian curses, we were driven twelve kilometers to the workplace. The work consisted of sawing trees. Naiman became ill, did not receive any medical care, and died. The regulation was that we could be sent out to work only if it was above 50 degrees of frost [7]. However, even if it was 50 degrees of frost, the official would warm up the thermometer with his sleeve to show 48 degrees, and would send us out. If we did not wish to go out to work, he would consider it as sabotage. After work, Rosenberg lay down in the “pritshe” and did not get up again [8]. I was very upset after his death. A beam fell on my hands during work, and they become swollen. I was only able to work at 30 percent of the normal speed. They threw me in the dungeon as a punishment.

For six weeks it was only day, for Komi was above the Arctic Circle. The nerves were very strained. More than one person was crushed by a falling tree during work and was thereby redeemed from labor. We were jealous of such people – better death than the dog's life…

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D.

An ordinance was issued that we “Zapadnikes” (from the western regions, from Poland) would be sent to the 18th camp, and from there we would be freed. After my liberation, I presented myself to the Polish group, and after a great deal of difficulty, they accepted me into the Polish (Alternative) army [9]. I removed the rags which I had been wearing for two years, and dressed myself up in the woolen clothing and leather shoes that I received.

We traveled to Uzbekistan on April 10th 1942. On May 5th, we arrived in Gozar, where we were examined by a medical commissar the next day. I was certified, and received a military uniform. On August 13th, we traveled from Gozar to the port of Krasnovodsk. We sailed on the decks of freight ships to Pahlavi, on the Persian side of the Caspian Sea. After an additional five days of travel in cars, through Teheran, we arrived in Iraq.

I was assigned to the 7th Polish division of light artillery, where I found 34 Jews. It was the eve of Yom Kippur. An order was issued that the Jews should go to the synagogue for Kol Nidre. As I was entering the synagogue, I met Akiva Eiger. He was about 50 years old. He served in the third Carpathian Brigage, which was formed in Cyprus. He had taken part in the battle of Tabruk against Rommel's army, in North Africa. We remained together.

We went through intensive training the winter of 1942-1943. We arrived in the Land of Israel before Rosh Hashanah 5704 (1943) for a respite. There, I met many people of Zgierz. I and Karol Eiger [10] decided to fight against the Germans – until their defeat.

We traveled to Alexandria, and from there to the front. We landed in Taranto, Italy at the end of January, 1944. At the beginning of March, we traveled to the front in order to assist an American artillery division near the mountain of Monte Marrone (Brown Mountain), which was greater than 2,000 meters in height. We descended into a valley. Opposite Monte Marrone, to the right, was a second mountain; everything was in order, and there were even telephones laid out there. We were shot at by German grenades, one cannonball after the other. Shrapnel fell on the command center of the second division, and everything was wiped out. My group belonged to the second artillery group. According to the order of the general, we changed positions a kilometer to the right. In the night, there was a German assault. The entire artillery opened fire and cut off the way. The cannonballs fell for five hours. First they sent us to the “right” positions, opposite the monastery of Monte Cassino. I remained there with my battery until April 12th, 1944.

One offensive after another, one attack after a counter-attack, that was the way things were.

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E.

Finally, on May 18th, 1944 in the morning, I saw through my field glasses the Polish flag fluttering atop the monastery of Monte Cassino. We shot in all directions – eight cannons shot 30,000 shots during that time. For the first time, on May 26th, we went away from that position.

I arrived in Bari on the Adriatic Sea, where Karol Eiger was together with the censor division. There, I slept in the Jewish brigade club.

I went again to the Poles. The Polish army, which pursued the Germans by the Adriatic Sea, halted for a while, and they were in need of artillery. We began to pursue the Germans. My officer fell past Ancona. I endured all of the battles until Firenze.

On the second day of Passover, we received an order to conduct an offensive by the Siena River. The Germans had become entrenched there, and it was a difficult piece of work. With great difficulty, and indeed with many victims, we held our own, and the Germans were driven away from there.

Bologna then fell. We marched in, and at first took up positions on the Piechota. To the left, the Americans marched in.

That was our final battle against the Germans.

{584}

A Few Words about Yaakov Grand of blessed memory, the Author of “From Skiernewice to Monte Cassino”

by W. Fisher

{Photo page 584: Uncaptioned. Yaakov Grand.}

Moshe Yaakov the son of Reb Henech Grand of blessed memory was one of the few Zgierzers in the Alternative Army, which played an active part in the battle against the enemy, and thereby enhanced the national pride of the Jewish warriors. He did not believed that he reached his objective with his arrival in the Land of Israel, and that he would be able to enjoy personal security and peace. On the contrary, when a friend counseled him to “desist” and take it easy, he asked with astonishment: “What? Now, where there are twenty 'iron fists' that are reaching backward?”

Together with his old friend of over fifty year's duration, Karol Eiger, he endured the march on the front that flared up in Italy.

Many years later, when Grand visited Israel with his wife, he became acquainted with our activities on the Zgierz Yizkor Book. He felt an inner urge to tell over his own war experiences, which are filled with dramatic tension and terrible situations. He undertook the task with zeal and diligence. I received an express delivery that contained a written description of his experiences. These formed a very bright canvas, and could have been a book unto itself. The editor had to distill out its main ideas and principles, for various formal and matter-of-fact reasons. With no small amount of regret, she had to shorten the long narrative to its current form, making sure to transmit the most important of his memories.

Moshe Yaakov Grand also was committed with great dedication to the action towards the Zgierz book. His donations were always given with fondness and responsibility towards this great endeavor.

His premature death was a painful and great loss, not only for his family, but also for the activists and doers of the Zgierz Yizkor Book.

With honor and memory!

V. Fisher

{585}

Hershel – One of the First Victims of the Nazi Murder

by Abu Aryeh

He came from a poor family. His father died when he was still suckling from his mother's breast.

A double yoke fell upon his mother: to raise the young orphan and to toil to earn a livelihood. The widow toiled for sixteen hours a day. Later, she sent him to the best teachers in town and dressed him respectably, so that he need not be ashamed in front of the more well-to-do children with whom he studied in cheder.

At age fourteen, he went to study in the Beis Midrash. He studied Gemara with people who were significantly older than him. He was not beneath them, in fact, he was above them.

Living in poverty, and seeing how his mother worked hard and bitter to maintain the home, encouraged him to study a trade. He qualified as a barber at age eighteen, and he did not permit his mother to work anymore.

“Mother”, he said, “You have toiled for eighteen years to support me. Now the time has come for me to repay the debt.”

He had also a second debt to pay, to a completely different character: this took place on the first day of September, 1939. The Nazi troops searched the streets of Zgierz for Jews in order to torture them. When the encountered Jews, they immediately cut off their beards along with a bit of chin, and beat their lungs [11]. Hershel also encountered a Nazi in the street who ordered him: “Jude, get over here”. Hershel refused. The Nazi responded with a strong beating, so that Hershel's blood began to flow from his mouth, nose and ears. Hershel did not let it go; he beat the Nazi in return. The German took his revolver and immediately shot the unarmed Hershel, who remained dead on the street.

He was one of the first victims of Zgierz, who fell in a struggle with the Nazi murderers.

Honor to his memory!

{586}

Drops of Agony from the Sea of Destruction

by Hela Goldberg-Finkelstein

“… And only I escaped to relate…” (Job 1, 15)
I was the only one from my family who remained, alone… everyone else perished and died… My father Leib Goldberg of blessed memory, a native of Lowicz, was a G-d fearing Jew. Simultaneously, he was educated and progressive, wise, and possessing of a good heart. He ran a dye shop, but he had to give it up on account of his protracted illness.

He devoted the best of his time and energy to communal and social work. In 1924, when Eliezer Sirkis served as the head of the community, he served as his deputy. My mother Freida, the granddaughter of Avraham Konski the pioneer of the thread dyeing industry in the city, was a woman of valor. She imbued our home with a warm and hearty atmosphere. I grew up in this home along with my sisters Manya, Sala, and Etka, and my brother Moshe.

I remember my father when he was transferred with my mother to the concentration point in Opatow-Kielcki in October 1942. He attempted to encourage and strengthen my mother's spirit. Immediately on September 1, 1939, at the outbreak of the war, the persecutions and frights began. I ran by foot from Lodz to Zgierz along with my late husband Avraham Kanarcuker, for the electricity was no longer working. The entire way was lit up in a frightful manner by the flames that arose from the thunderous bombardment. We transferred father, mother, our brother Moshe, his wife and two children (Bronya and Czesia), our sister Manya who was pregnant, her husband Geniek Milgram, Sala and Etka, to our home in Lodz on Magistraczka Street #15. We left all their belongings to the Polish neighbors. The men then immediately began to flee in the direction of Warsaw. This was a tragic flight, for many of the fleeing masses died and were killed along the way.

During the fracas of the events that took place, we later fled to Lowicz, and there we were thrown into hell. They put the men to work under frightful conditions at the Bzura River. We had to sell all of our jewelry and belongings that we owned in order to sustain ourselves. When we were expelled to Warsaw along with all of the Jews in the outlying towns, we began to experience hunger in all its aspects. With the assistance of my friend Aharon Atner, I received a permit to live in Opatow-Kielcki, and to find there along with Avrahamek bread and refuge. However, it was difficult for me to swallow the food knowing that the family I had left behind were dying of hunger. I worked to amass a sum of money to bring, with his assistance, to my family (I recall that mother transported it in a jar of salted fish). At that time, I worked in a hospital, and I contracted typhus. Dear Mrs. Anter looked after me and my family with dedication. When I regained my strength, I received a small room to live in. I slept in it on boards, and Etka also joined me in this “home”.

At that point, the family broke up. Moshe, his wife Esther and their children went to her parents in Zadonska Wola. He perished in a tragic manner already in 1941 in a camp near Posen (Poznan). We heard that they would beat the prisoners in that camp until death. I do not know how my sister-in-law Esther and her two beautiful daughters died. Sala, who remained in Warsaw, lived with the Harun family (cousins of my mother). She perished in Treblinka.

I lived and worked in Opatow until 1942. On Yom Kippur, we persuaded father to fast and to entreat G-d to come to our aid and to redeem us from our straits. In the midst of this holy day, all of the Jews of the region were expelled to Treblinka. I asked father a painful question, which I regret to this day. His answer was strained and perplexed. That month, my poor father and the entire family went on their final journey to that death camp.

It is difficult for me to explain the secret of how I was saved. Perhaps it was by some coincidence. My friend helped me a lot. I was saved during the time of the expulsion of the remnant of the Jews from Sandomierz. I came to Avramek in Skarzysko. He was the only one of my family left alive. We lived together in the camp and suffered from pressure and tribulations. To our ill luck, we were separated one day prior to the liberation. With the approach of the Russians to Czestochowa, where we were imprisoned, the Germans succeeded in removing the men. Avrahemk was shot on the route from Buchenwald to southern Germany, literally in the final hours before the approach of the Americans. It was told that he was shot for the “sin” of extending his hand to take a potato. My friends Aryeh and Stefan Atner, who were like brothers to me during the years of suffering, also perished there. There are no words in my mouth, or on the lips of mankind, to describe the tribulations and torture that we endured during the dark years of our lives, between 1939 and 1945.

Thirteen!… I was bereaved of thirteen members of my family, and I was left alone. My husband's family also perished, and the end came to a traditional, wide branched family, as happened to myriads of other families of our people. When my time comes, the last shoot will also disappear, without a remnant and a memory… how painful and heartbreaking!…

Translated from Polish: A. Wien

{588}

The Destruction of Zgierz

by Rabbi Szymon Huberband

Footnote at the bottom of the page: From his unpublished writings, transcribed by W. Fisher[a], with the permission of Yad Vashem which obtained the material from the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw, number 108/1 (from the Ringelblum archive).


… They entered Zgierz on Thursday, September 7, 1939[b]. They stabbed a passer-by to death. On the way into the town they met the wealthy notable of Zgierz H. Zusman, who was coming in a pull-carriage with four other Jews from the nearby shtetl of Strykow after fleeing the bombardment. They took everything that the Jews had on them. They took 600 gold dollars from H. Zusman. Afterwards, they literally cut the five Jews into pieces, limb by limb, and threw them into the water. Later, the Jews collected some of their limbs and buried them in Zgierz. (Editor's remark: this case is not known to us.)

That same Thursday, they arrested all of the Jewish men and imprisoned them in the Catholic Church. A few thousand people were arrested. There, those arrested were beaten with death blows, and not given any food or drink. It was not permitted for their wives to bring them even a drop of water. They were not permitted to attend to their personal needs. Every hour, people came in and declared to them that they should be prepared to be shot. On Saturday, September 9, 1939, the prisoners were freed.

On Friday the 8th, a young German came to the rabbi. He presented himself as a low ranking officer who came from Nuremberg. He expressed the desire to become acquainted with a Jewish rabbi and a rabbinical home. Prior to leaving, he expressed his gratitude for his visit with the elderly Jewish rabbi. “But listen, you Jews, it is going to be bad here!”. The rabbi expressed his doubt about this, for Germans, as bearers of culture, would certainly not conduct themselves badly with innocent people. No answer came to the rabbi's remark.

On Sunday the 10th, searches began among all the Jews with the purpose of finding arms and ammunition. Naturally, they did not find any arms among the Jews, however they took everything that the Jews had – money, belongings, gold, silver, products, bedding, clothing, and furniture. They took everything that they were able to.

During the searches, they also took from the Jews Torah scrolls, tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzas, tallises (prayer shawls), and ordinary books. Bitter and anguished were those Jews in whose homes they found some of the abovementioned items that were connected to Judaism. They would beat the owner with deathblows. The Torah scrolls wee cut up and torn, and afterwards burnt in the middle of the market along with the other books, tefillin, and mezuzas.

That same Sunday, they began to capture Jews, both men and women, for work. The men were terribly beaten at work, and they were tortured in a terrifying fashion. They were forced to make somersaults in the middle of the streets while dressed with kittels [12] and tallises – and they were afflicted with other tortures. They were given tallises, small tallises [13], and parochets [14] to clean up the filth. Women were forced to remove their dresses, and to wash the floors of the German barracks and offices with their dresses while dressed in their underwear. They commanded Jewish women to clean toilets with their hands, and they were given – along with the men – tallises for that job.

As much as possible, people tried to hide, but there was not the opportunity to do so. They conducted operations, and the men and women were removed from their hiding places. Women also were enlisted to cook for them. When Yom Kippur arrived, some of the Jews wished to form minyanim (prayer quorums) in their own homes in order to conduct the public prayer service. However the rabbi warned them that he was issuing a ban against worshipping in public [15].

Immediately after Sukkot, they imposed a contribution of 10,000 zloty on the Jews, due immediately.

Three weeks after Sukkot, they suddenly arrested twenty prominent Jews of the city, including the rabbi. After several hours of nervous suspense, the commandant and commissar came into the room, and asked each of the prisoners to given an accounting of his means. After taking care of this, they decided to impose a contribution of 250,000 zloty upon the Jews. This must be paid by the next morning at 10:00 a.m., and the prisoners must sign for this. All of the prisoners signed for this.

Since it was past the curfew, each Jew was accompanied to his home by a soldier. The sum was paid the next day by the deadline.

Over and above the payment of the contribution, further searches were conducted daily on the Jews. They tore up floors, dismantled ovens, dug up cellars, and took everything from the Jews.

Eight days after the payment of the contribution, at approximately midnight, the synagogue was set on fire and completely burnt down with all of its contents, with the exception of the Torah scrolls, which were rescued in time and hidden in the canopies of the cemetery.

At 3:00 in the morning they knocked on the rabbi's door. Numerous soldiers, volksdeutschen and firemen entered the house. They declared the following to the rabbi: Since a fire broke out in the Jewish synagogue, they were required to rescue the entire street so that it would not burn down, for there was a threat that the houses would burn down because of the fire in the synagogue. Therefore, he must pay 250 Zloty in return for their efforts.

The rabbi did not have that amount of money, and begged that they wait until the next morning, when he would collect the required sum. They did not wish to hear about that proposal. Rather, they insisted that he go together with them to the head of the community. Even though there was a different route to the home of the head of the community, they led the rabbi to the burning synagogue, and forced him to remain there for a long time, watching the synagogue burn. The head of the community paid the sum on the spot.

The next day, they set fire to the Beis Midrash and once again, they were required to pay 100 Zloty in return for their efforts. A Jewish tin worker by the name of David Gotlieb lived in the Beis Midrash. He was arrested after the fire in the Beis Midrash on the pretext that he had set fire to the synagogue. Afterward, he was set to a concentration camp, where he was imprisoned for six weeks.

They removed all of the monuments from the cemetery and flattened all of the canopies. The cemetery was ploughed over and turned in to pastureland for cattle.

From time to time, Jews were expelled from certain houses. The Jews had to leave their dwellings, leaving everything behind.

On Tuesday, December 26th, 1939, a soldier came from Krakow and ordered all men, women and children to assemble at Sokol Platz on the next day, Wednesday, the 27th. Each person was permitted to bring 25 kilo of belongings, and 50 Zloty.

Rich people attempted to escape from the town that same day, taking with them whatever was possible. However, not everyone succeeded in doing so, since for the most part, they grabbed people on the route, administering cruel beatings.

The poorer members of the Jewish population assembled at the designated place at the required time. There, they took everything from the Jews, included the permitted 25 kilo and 50 Zloty. Then they were murderously beaten. Even the baby strollers that mothers used to transport their young children were taken. The mothers were forced to carry them by hand.

The entire Jewish population of Zgierz was expelled to Glowno at one time. They beat them murderously along the way. The guards informed them along the way that if more than the permitted amount was found upon any Jew along the way, he would be immediately shot. Those Jews who succeeded in smuggling items such as gold and jewels out through various tricks during the time of the search threw everything away along the way. An impoverished, downtrodden, tortured camp of hungry Jews arrived in Glowno.

{591}

The Germans of Zgierz Showed their Faces

by Yaakov

… Everything that I am now going to tell over about Zgierz, I saw with my own eyes. Zgierz suffered an air raid already in the first days of the war. It was particularly strong on the 5th and 6th of September in the afternoons. My parents fled to Lodz, abandoning everything. They only took a bit of jewelry. The next day, the Germans entered Lodz. That very day, towards evening, the S. S. men went from house to house on Pilsudski Street, taking gold, silver and money from Jews. They took everything that my parents had, and beat my father as well. The next day, on Thursday, my parents returned to Zgierz.

The Germans of Zgierz, who had always lived in peace with the Jews, began to show their true face towards their Jewish neighbors shortly after the Nazis occupied the city. They became the de facto rulers over the downtrodden Jewish population. The Jewish of Zgierz suffered great tribulations from the local Germans: Straubach, Miele, Kerner and others, who robbed and tormented. Many Jews were driven out of their homes. They drove out all of the Jewish tenants of Taubert's home in Pilsudskiega with one hour's notice, without permitting them to take anything. Yaakov Meir Kupfer, one of the largest and richest textile manufacturers, was evicted from his dwelling, and then went to live with Yosef Meir Harun. Later, they drove everyone out from Harun's house. Karol Eiger, the chairman of Maccabi and the son of the prominent Zionist Activist; as well as Yosef Pantel and Leibish Srebnik (the Revisionist [16]) were sent to the Radogoszcz Concentration Camp.

… The well-known lawyer Jochwed (the son-in-law of Eliezer Shlumiel) was dressed up with a dress, a wig on his head, and a broom in his hand, and was paraded through the streets of the city in that manner. At every intersection, he had to sing Russian songs and dance.

Dr. Kaltgrad and his sister committed suicide, not being able to bear the oppression. Almost all of the Jews of Zgierz participated in their funeral. The two Freilins (from Przemysl) who worked in Rozenberg's drugstore also committed suicide. Rozenberg's drugstore was taken over.

Many of the youth of Zgierz fled. The greater number fled eastward and went to Russia. It is not possible to tell everything over in a letter. The catastrophe was so great that one remains dumbfounded.

… Only thing did I forget to bring down: the synagogue and the Beis Midrash were set on fire by the Germans, and were burnt down completely. The Rabbi of Zgierz was compelled by the barbarians to pay 250 Marks for the firefighters. They threatened him that he would be sent to a concentration camp if he does not pay.

Shimon Zusman's brother (who owned a colonial store on Piantker Street) was forced by the Germans to dig a grave for himself. Then, he was shot.

(Morgen Journal, New York, March 12, 1940)


Translator's footnotes

  1. “Binen” means bees – seemingly a nickname for airplanes. Back
  2. This sentence is rather cryptic. It probably is a hint to early information of mass murder of Jews during the war being sent to America. Back
  3. Kotlas is a city about 500 miles northeast of Moscow, towards the Arctic Ocean. It is the site of several 'gulag' style camps. Back
  4. A Jewish greeting of welcome. Back
  5. A Yiddish term for sweet or succulent – here most likely used as sarcasm. Back
  6. An autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, several hundred miles northeast of Kotlas (in fact, Kotlas is about halfway between Moscow and Komi A.S.S.R.) It is adjacent to the Europe Asian border at the Ural Mountains, not far south of the Arctic Ocean. Back
  7. Seemingly 50 degrees below zero, but it is not clear which measurement scale was being used. Back
  8. I am not sure what “pritshe” means. Perhaps some form of punishment cell. Back
  9. Seemingly, and army in exile. Back
  10. Probably the Polish name of the aforementioned Akiva. Back
  11. Probably a way of saying "beat them in the chests", or "beat the wind out of them". Back
  12. Kittel is the white ritual garment worn by Jewish men on Yom Kippur and the Pesach Seder, and worn by the prayer leader on some other occasions (such as Rosh Hashanah, the prayer for rain on Shemini Atzeret, the prayer for dew on Passover, and Hoshanah Rabba). Back
  13. The tallis is the ritually fringed prayer shawl worn by Jewish men during prayer. The tallis katan (small prayer shawl) is a fringed undergarment worn by Jewish males at all times. Back
  14. The parochet is the cloth decorative cover of the Holy Ark in the synagogue. Back
  15. Out of concern for the safety of the Jews, presumably. Back
  16. A member of the Revisionist Zionist faction – i.e. the right wing Zionist group that followed Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky. Back

Notes:

  1. Additional information has been provided by Professor Avner Falk, as follows: This is an excerpt from Huberband's important Yiddish manuscript דער חורבן פון שולן, בתי-מדרשים און בית-החיים'ס(The Destruction of Synagogues, Talmudic Academies and Cemeteries) in Ringelblum Archive 60, Manuscript I/108, ŻIH 776, USHMM 7, and the transcriber was Welwel Ze'ew Fiszer. Back
  2. Professor Avner Falk provides the following additional information:  The Germans who entered Zgierz on September 7 were murderous S.S. or Einsatzgruppen, while those who occupied the town the next day, September 8, were regular Wehrmacht soldiers of the Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung 545 (anti-tank artillery unit 545), who were less murderous, as the third paragraph reveals. Back

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