by M. Y. Fiegenboim
Translated by Ofra Anson
On the first day of the GermanPolish war, September 1, 1939, Biala experienced fire and blood. Vollia was bombed early Friday morning, in an effort to destroy the airplane factory. Bombs fell on civilian houses, including a Jewish house where all members of the carpenter, Abraham Itlbaum's family, lost their lives.
It was clear that Poland was not prepared for the war. The airplane factory had not been protected, and no Polish airplanes tried to intercept the German attack. Yet, there was hope that, after that day, which took Poland by surprise, things would change.
There were no signs of any of the government promises, we are united, strong, and prepared. Chaos and embarrassment increased all the time. German bombers flew freely in Biala's skies, wreaking havoc and destruction. People lay on the ground in the fields all day long, and started to move at night, after the German bombers had stopped their work. The first thing they did was to bury the day's victims.
The airplane factory was already in ruins, almost all the Polish army had left Biala, but the Germans kept bombing. Among the destroyed houses were: the beautiful house of Heartglass, the elementary school in Grabanover Street (the house of Motl Mowiness), Shimom Lichtenstein's house on Brisker Street, Papinski's house on Janaver Street, and others.
German tanks entered the town, shooting, on New Year Eve, turned to Brisker Street, and drove to the Brisk Road. A Polish officer, with his small company, opened fire on the tanks by the new market. As a result, most of the huts in the new market caught fire.
Within two weeks, it was clear that Poland had lost the war. Naturally, the future under the German occupation frightened the Jewish population. They found some hope in the information that the Russian army was marching west and that, according the GermanRussian agreement, the border would be at the Wisla, which meant that Biala will be in Russian hands.
Indeed, the Russian army occupied Biala on September 26, 1939, and kept moving west.
Succoth was celebrated heavy heartedly. They were pleased they did not fall into German hands, but feared the future.
The Russians did not bother to make order in town. They left it to the local population. Several committees were established, all by Christians. Remembering their bitter experience of 1920, Jews avoided cooperation with the new regime.
Shops were often closed, and soon there was a shortage of basic ingredients. People started exchanging goods; in front of each open store was a long line, and people bought anything they saw.
Succoth was not a happy holiday. At the end of September, the radio reported that the border would not be by the Wisla River but by the river Bug. The information soon spread among the Jews, and the fear was enormous.
Although the Russian soldiers denied the truth of this information, there were signs that they were going to withdraw to the east. They started to load valuables on trucks. Even from the Jewish hospital, expensive medical instruments were confiscated.
Some thought to leave the town and move to the other side of the Bug River. It was a real possibility, because the Russians did not restricted population movements to the east. Yet, as mentioned, the Jews of Biala had had bad experiences in WWI and in 1920. Then, those who stayed in the town had a fearful time, while the refugees really suffered. Nobody, of course, could imagine the horrible end. They suspected that the times would be difficult; but when had Jewish life in Poland not been difficult?
They knew that life under the Russian regime would not be easy, and everybody lived in hope that Germany would quickly lose the war, and that a free, open, world would lie ahead. On the other hand, moving to Russia would put the refugees in a camp that was vulnerable to a variety of difficulties and hazards.
The greatest fear was that it would be impossible to leave Russia after the war. Those who decided to leave town had one answer to all questions:
We do not want to live with the Germans, and even less with Hitler's Germans! About 500600 Jews probably left town, most of them men who left their families behind, assuming that the Germans will be after men rather than the women and children.
Those who left for Russia came from all social strata. Most of them never had any connections to Communism. Those who were known to support the Communist regime, stayed in Biala.
One cannot blame Biala's Jews for staying in their hometown. If the leaders of the Jewish Federation did not know about Hitler's extermination program, how could the Jews in this small town know about it?
The End of 1939
On October 10, 1939, the Russian army left, and the German army entered town. The Jews were so frightened, that many, who had not decided to leave town before, left now.
A few hours after the Germans entered the town, they started taking Jews as hostages (the head of the town's administration provided the list). Christians wearing white bands were seen on the streets, and their first duty was to capture Jews for forced labor. The Germans were never short of work, and the Poles were happy to provide them with Jewish labor, even with more than they asked for.
The German regime ordered everyone to open the shops, and tried to get the town functioning. For few days, they did, indeed, succeed. There was a curfew the whole time the Germans ruled the town and for Jews the curfew lasted longer hours than it did for Christians.
The local government was, for the moment, in the hands of the army. It seems that at this point they did not have any orders concerning the Jews. Indeed, Jews received traveling permission to go to Warsaw and Lodz to bring merchandise. Trade started to flourish, and, free from the heavy Polish taxes, the Jews felt some relief, forgetting the threatening reality. Yet, the relief lasted a short time. In November 1939 the Gestapo arrived and started the Via Dolorosa which led to the total destruction of the Jews.
The Gestapo settled in the palace of the factory of Raabe in Vollia. Its first contact with the Jews was a demand for a contribution of several ten thousand Zlotys. In order to expedite the contribution, they arrested a number of Jews and tortured them. They were released when the full sum had been paid.
The Gestapo on the street aroused panic among the Jews, who abandoned the streets. Abraham Lubeltzik, the printing house owner, died from a heart attack when he heard that the Gestapo were on their way to him.
In Beith Hamidrash the Gestapo found the janitor, Joel Greenglass, standing alone in his Talith and Tephilin. They forced him to climb on a ladder they had brought, and made other Jews carry the ladder on their shoulders in the streets around the town.
When the Gestapo entered town, an additional several dozen Jews left the town. Leaving town was more difficult now, as the borders were guarded. Among those who ran away was Biala's Rabbi, Tzvi Hirshhorn.
Any Jew that accidentally met the brown murderers was brutally beaten. They robbed Jewish stores, and took money out of drawers. The economic life of the Jews stopped. The Germans started to eliminate Jewish businesses. The big Jewish stores were confiscated, their merchandise taken on trucks, their owners put in jail until a large ransom had been paid. Workshops and working tools of Jewish artisans were confiscated.
In an effort to save their property, some Jewish merchants gave their businesses to Christian acquaintances, ensuring their ownership in legal contracts. Only a minority of these Christians kept the contract, most of them did all they could to get rid of the Jewish owners. There was nothing the Jews, who were already helpless and without civil rights, could have done.
In November 1939, the Gestapo's commissar, Hildeman[a], ordered that each Jew above the age of 6 has to wear a 15cm yellow Magen David patch on the left side of his/her chest. This was later replaced by a white band, with a blue Magen David, on the right arm. Leaving town with no permission from the Germans was forbidden.
One day, the members of the last community committee were called to the Gestapo. They were ordered to organize a Jewish Council immediately. The council, which included more members than the original committee, was based in the community hall on Brisk Street.
The Germans now had an agent to which they could turn with their demands. There was a constant stream of demands to the Jewish Council, which took a lot of resources from the Jewish population. Beside money, they also had to supply hundreds of workers. The workers were never paid for their work, and were often beaten during work. The Jewish Council had to organize the workers and to pay them for their work, knowing that otherwise they would have no source of income to support themselves and their families.
The occupation activated all the local governing institutions, and the Polish administration largely cooperated. The latter took revenge on the Jews for Poland's defeat. They took every opportunity to make the Jews be aware of them.
The tax office resumed work, and started to collect the debts of the Jews. The clerks Gerach and Kunitzki were particularly active collectors. A Jew that did not pay his debts immediately was arrested and tortured.
The head of the apartments office, Bieletzki, used to walk around the streets and confiscate Jewish apartments for Christians, who suddenly found out that their current apartments were too small for their needs. They happily helped the Germans to load the Jews' furniture onto trucks; Tchibulski, the jail keeper, was particularly enthusiastic.
Germans and Poles alike asked delegates from the Jewish Council for presents every time came to the town's office on some errand. The worst were the headofcivilians, Antony Wallawski, his deputy Stephen Shzapan and the head of the apartments' office, Bieletzki.
In addition, these people encouraged the movement of Jews into the ghetto, the smallest and the narrowest possible.
At the end of 1939, Jews from Suwalki and Serock were brought to Biala. These Jews were taken from the market places in their home towns and were taken to other cities in the Lublin Region. They were not allowed to take anything before they were pushed into trains. The refugees told the locals about the inhuman tortures they had already suffered during the few months of German occupation.
About 2,000 refugees came to Biala. The local Jews took in most of them to their own apartments, the rest settled in Beith Hmidrash and the Hassidic prayer houses. Some refugees went to Warsaw and other cities.
At the beginning of 1940, Jewish war prisoners from the former Polish army were brought to Biala from Lublin. They originally came from the far east of Poland.
The road they were taken through was full of their blood and the graves of their fellow Jewish soldiers. They were brought from Germany to Lublin, and from Lublin to Biala they walked by foot. On their way, the Germans shot many of them with their automatic guns. They were locked in Pizitz camp on Brisk Road.
The Germans built Pizitz camp, using the Jewish workers supplied daily by the Jewish Council. When they started building it, the headofcivilians, Wallawski, told the Jewish workers that the camp will host Jews, who will arrive at the beginning of April. The workers felt desperate.
The jail was full of Jews who suffered real abuse. Jews were in jail for not paying the contribution or tax; others because they supposedly hid their merchandise; artisans for supposedly hiding the things they had made. For hiding merchandise, the merchants Josef Gitlman, Fishl Wulos, and Moshe Itzhak Biderman sat in Lublin jail.
Jews started to work a little, and got 2 Zlotys for a day's work. This was not enough for living.
Some turned to illegal trade, and were able to make a living. Although Jews were forbidden to travel by train, some risked their lives and went to Warsaw, dressed as Christians, to bring in some goods.
During the day, until sunset, some shops were open.
Most people could not get anything there, as trade was very limited. A trusted client, however, could get almost everything.
New decrees were constantly imposed on the Jews. Their last economic positions were destroyed by the Germans. Even their small stores were closed and their goods confiscated. Only a handful of shops remained on Grabanover Street, and the Germans often changed the owners. Even the smallest store was marked by a large Magen David, which had to be bought from the local regime for a large sum of money.
Two large placards, hung at the entrance to Grabanover Street from the market side, declared: Epidemic danger! Arians are not allowed in. Jews were not allowed in the Market Square, which made access to the post office difficult. Jews tried to avoid the post in any case, because standing in line exposed them to all sorts of hassles. The Jewish Council managed to establish a branch of the post office, which also had a telephone. Every day two members of the council went to the German post office and dealt with the needs of the Jewish population.
On the eve of the high holidays, the Jews of Vollia were ordered to move to town, and Vollia became free of Jews.
The use of balconies was forbidden. If the balcony was made of metal, it had to be dismantled. Jews had to give the Germans all the metal they had, while the Poles had to hand in only 3Kg.
The refugees that settled in the synagogue and Beith Hamidrash lived in terrible conditions. The cold winter afflicted them bitterly. All the wood from the Jewish quarter had been used, trying to keep warm. The wood from the floor and the windows of the synagogue and Beith Hamidrash, the wooden fences, and even the trees from the cemetery.
They were pleased when the short winter day passed and the long night came. People locked themselves in, told each other the news, and waited for Germany's defeat.
Although the GermanRussian border was well guarded, some succeeded in crossing into Russia. They reported home that many of those who left for Russia desperately want to return to Biala. They were tired of being refugees, and they thought that on the German side of the border the Jews' economic situation was not too bad.
In May 1940, a train from Russia carried refugees who returned to Poland. Among them were many Jews from Biala. They were amazed how well the Germans treated them.
During the war in West Europe, the Germans repeatedly told the Jews that Germany was winning.
One morning, the Gestapo called the Jewish Council in. The stood in line while Gestapo Kot read to them a report from a German newspaper, saying that Weitzmantroop has been recruited in Israel to fight Germany. For that purpose, a Jewish state, headed by the King of England had been established. When he had done reading, Gestapo soldiers came into the room to beat the members of the Jewish Council with their sticks.
In March 1940, all the Jews were ordered to register for forced labor. Many got a note from a doctor that they are not able to work, and brought the notes to the Jewish Council.
The sad, forced labor episode started in June 1940. Jews from Miedzyrzec, and later from other cities, were brought to Biala. Pizitz camp filled with Jews, who worked in construction. Most of Biala's Jews managed to arrange easier work that was still considered as forced labor and at the end of the day they returned to their homes. Only a few of them worked in construction, mainly in the town itself.
The German engineer Greenfield managed the construction. The supervisors were SS police and their helpers, ethnicGermans (I am not sure what the writer means. He may refer to fact that the SS first recruited the unemployed and bandits, O.A.).
Jews were looking for ways to avoid forced labor. It was not too difficult, because every German had already found a Jew who dealt with freeing Jews, and the slave trade of Jews began. Naturally, not everybody could afford to pay the large ransom. Indeed, the poor stayed in the camps until the middle of the autumn.
While on one hand the SS freed Jews from the camps and the work for a handsome payment, on the other, trying to disguise these illegal actions, worsened the conditions of work and in the camps. One day, the SS Shwach came to the worksite, and, with no reason, shot Jewish workers from Miedzyrzec.
One early morning in July 1940, there was a surprise search for Jewish men. They were taken to the camp on Artillery Street. One might have thought that all Jewish men would be taken from town. The women had a hard time; they could not even go out of their homes, because the curfew was still in effect.
When all men were gathered by the big ditch next to the 9th battalion, the Germans inspected their work cards. Most of the men were sent back home, others were taken by train to an unknown place.
Similar searches took place in other cities in the Lublin region the same night. They soon learnt that the men on the train were taken to forced labor in Belzec.
The Jewish Council worked hard to free Biala's men from Belzec. Yet it took time.
Young Mordechai (Motl) Hofer was one of the victims in Belzec.
The Jewish Council established the employment office in the autumn of 1940. The Jews who worked there were: Emil Weinberg, Adek Slobovski (from Warsaw), Tuchshneider, Dova Kreiselman Levi (son of Yitzhak Levi), Chamilevski, Tzimeman (Sulwalki), and a young woman from Serock. Although the Jewish Council hired and paid the workers in the employment office, it had very little influence on them. Slobovski, for example, used his position to for blackmailing his Jewish customers.
The employment office served only Jews, but the German, Lehman, a former worker of the airplane factory, managed it. The Jews used to say that he is not a bad 'Goy'. He used to take money from Jews, but did not inform to the Gestapo or to the Special Nazi Court for misbehavior, and punished them himself. Sometimes he beat Jews bitterly, but they were thankful he did not hand them over to the Gestapo. Sometimes Lehman beat Jews for no reason, but the Jews said the he was nervous and needed to show that the employment office had a real Nazi orientation.
There was a case of young Jewish men who were taken to the Gestapo for not coming to work on time. The Special Nazi Court sent them to jail for years. Young Sigelman from Garnzcarska Street was one of them.
After a while, the employment office did not have to make an effort to recruit Jews for work. On the contrary, Jews were begging for work, they needed the few Zlotys they could earn. They also did not want to be identified by the Germans as unemployed; the work was hard, but it was more convenient than staying in the camps. At least they could come home after a day of hard labor and being beaten.
Those days, Jews were still paid 34 Zlotys a day. In the carpentry factory, a worker could get up to 10 Zlotys a day. The Christians who worked there could not make that kind of money. On top of this, Jews returned home with bags full of wood they could sell. By comparison, the price of bread was still quite reasonable, 0.751.00 Zloty for one kilogram.
Jews were employed mainly by the army or by German firms. Among them were: Benz, Mayer, SeegerWerner, Stuag, and Zid.
Mayer, SeegerWerner operated in the airport. Pay was low, beating was frequent. Benz was the worst from this respect. Lehman, the manager of the employment office, used to send those who deserved punishment to Benz.
Zid employed Jews to build sheds for the Sicherheitspolizei (SIPO) on Jonava Road. Here, too, Jews worked for low pay and high suffering.
Stuag fixed roads. Work was hard and dangerous. They worked with boiled tar that gave off a gas that burnt their face. They did not have any safety equipment and workers were often brought to the hospital in a serious condition.
Jews also worked in large firms owned by Polish and EthnicGermans such as Zawudski's sawmill and the carpentry originally owned by Herzl Tcharni in Raabe's factory and in Housheid's carpentry, located in Pizitz's sawmill.
Jews tried to build factories and hand them over to German civilians that came to Biala to confiscate Jewish property. Thus, a brush factory was built on Garnczaska Street, managed by the expert Munia Suchartzik from Miedzyrzec. At the beginning, the Jewish Council managed the factory, but it was soon taken over by the German Wanzura, the brother in law of Fritz, the deputy Head of the region.
Wanzura also got the soap factory of Sara Gele Goldfarb in Vollia, and made it into a big factory. The professional managers were the Jewish refugees Bibrovski and Wolf Weitzman. He did not settle for these two, and took the Jewish printing houses of Lubeltzik and Hochman, and made one big printing house on Pilsudski Street.
Biala's Jews had equal rights in the working sphere, and even got governmental positions. They worked also in the regional administration and other German positions as couriers, drivers, and mechanics as well as working for the army. For the army, Jewish work was crucial.
Although the employment office supplied all the demand for working men, the kidnaping of Jews continued. There were Germans who simply enjoyed walking the streets and chasing Jews. The kidnapers did not need Jewish work, they just wanted to abuse them.
At the beginning of 1941, the German made an expulsion attempt. One winter morning, the gendarme and the police went out on the streets, kidnaped several Jewish women and elderly persons, and took them to Opole, near Rossosz. A few days later all of them returned to town. It was difficult to understand what the Germans were trying to do.
The war epidemic, typhoid, started to spread in the Jewish quarter. Houses were crowded, and sanitary conditions were poor. The yards were also filthy, because it was not suitable for so many residents. The sanitary department of the Jewish Council could not keep up with the needs.
The Jewish Council was responsible for the Jewish hospital, which was always crowded. At the beginning of the German occupation, there were no Jewish physicians in town, and the Christian doctors were not allowed to treat Jewish patients. In the summer of 1940, three Jewish doctors came: Dr. Bergman (from Kattowitz), Dr. Hochman (a German refugee who arrived via Warsaw), and Dr. Rubinstein (from Warsaw). The surgeon Dr. Gelfish came in 1941. There were two medics: Haiim Musawutz (Kobriner) and Berish Weisman (from Lomazy).
Attached to the Jewish Council was the Social Jewish Self Help committee, supported by the regional help committee located in Lublin. Moshe Rodsienek was the chair. They tried to help the poor by providing hot meals and free medical help. Yet, the resources they had could not meet the needs. The committee sat in Jacob Kornbloom's home, on Grabanover Street. Its kitchen used the house where Yitzhak Fogel's bakery used to be, on Proste Street.
In the spring of 1941, the Germans started to build army buildings quickly, mainly air force bases, in Biala and around it. Jews were employed, and the working condition were better than a year earlier in the working camps. It was clear that the Germans were planning an offensive to the east.
New regulations were imposed on the Jews such as: Jews were not allowed to leave their residence. The Christians were ordered to avoid any contact with Jews, because Jews are dirty, full of lice, and spread typhoid.
Jews could not ride carriages or wagons pulled by horses.
Jewish dwellings were confiscated, and they had to pay rent to an office specially established for that purpose. Rent was collected punctually, and the Jews had to renovate their homes and clean the yards and the streets.
The synagogue and the Beith Hamidrash were confiscated too. As refugees and other homeless Jews occupied these buildings, the Jewish Council had to pay the rent. When the Jewish Council deducted the costs of toilet cleaning from the 53 Rent, a German controller that came especially from Lublin
slapped Jacob Aron Rosenboim, the chair, in the face. Still, the Jewish Council kept deducting the costs from the rent.
One of the new rules dictated that Jewish workers will get 20% less for their work than Christians. At the same time, the cost of food increased, and one kilogram of bread was now 6 to 8 Zlotys.
After Passover, the town filled with German soldiers going east. It was clear that they were getting ready for more bloodshed, the GermanRussian war was about to start. The Jews hoped that this war would bring Hitler's end closer, but they feared the new struggle. Meanwhile, the cost of living increased, bread was now 12 Zlotys a kilogram.
On Saturday night, 21 of June 1941, the German army crossed the border to Russia. Hopes died soon, and the Jews feared the future.
During the first few weeks of the GermanRussian war, Russian war prisoners were transported to Biala. When they went through the street, the asked for a piece of bread or for matches. After Moshe Gonski and Akiva Urberg were sent to Auschwitz (and died there) for giving some bread to war prisoners, nobody dared to help them. For the same 'sin' the Nazis arrested the Polish woman Byernatzka, but she was saved.
The Russian war prisoners suffered terribly in the German prison, but the Jewish war prisoners suffered even more. The Germans made every effort to identify the Jewish prisoners and kill them.
One working day, repairing the Brisk Road, a van full of Russian war prisoners passed the Jewish workers. One of them started shouting in Yiddish: Friends! They are going to shoot us! The Jewish workers recognized the son of Goldberg the shoemaker from Janaver Street.
By the order of the regional government, the Jewish Council set up a Jewish police, which the German called The Jewish Police Service. They were decorated with hats similar to those used in the Warsaw Ghetto. The police were responsible for order in the Jewish quarter; to keep people away from the main street of the quarter, Grabanover Street; to bring the Jews who did not want to work to the employment office and to maintain an appropriate level of sanitation in the quarter. Later, after the Jewish Council built a jail for tax refusers, the Jewish police were responsible for arrest and preventing prisoners from running away.
The following persons served in the Jewish police: Jacob Goldstein (commander), Heinech Bialer, Asher Rosenzweig, Motl Finkelstein, Moshe Preter, Haim Freidman, Fishl Lebenberg, Jacob Tokarski, Hana Leibson (a saddler from Vollia), M. Hartzman (secretary, the former accountant in Raabe's factory). Tzimeman, a refugee from Sulvalki, became the commander after Jacob Goldstein was shot.
In the autumn, the Jewish Council moved from Brisk Street to Grabanove Street, to the house of Jacob Kornbloom. The purpose of the authorities was to restrict Jews to a given area of the town.
One November morning, the German Police went out to the MiedzyrzecBiala Warsaw road, and shot each Jew they happened to see. Among the murdered was Berl Jelaza, a flour Merchant from Biala. The shooting may have been connected to the order that restricted Jews to the Jewish quarter.
Many could not keep that law, and see their families go hungry. They tried to go out to make some living, risking their life. Indeed, some never returned, leaving their family in tears and sorrow.
On Christmas Eve, the Jewish Council was ordered to collect all the furs from the Jewish population. The office of the Jewish Council became a fur warehouse. Not all Jews hurried to give their furs to the Germans. A few chose to burn it or to destroy it in other ways, although, if caught, they could have been sentenced to death.
A few days later, the German police searched Jewish houses for more furs. This operation had one victim: a short fur was found under the coat of one man, probably mentally ill, and he was shot.
News came, that in the occupied territories in east Poland, Jews were being tortured and murdered. Among the victims were Jews from Biala who left in 1939, and considered as survivors. Sara Cohen (from Preter family), who returned from Slonim, brought the news about the terrible slaughter the German did to the Jews. This was the fate of Moshe Orlanski, his wife and their children, the husband of Sara Cohen, and others.
The town was full of German offices, and each one of them dealt with Jews. The fate of a Jew that these offices were interested in him was bad.
On Pilsudski Street, there was a station of the SD (the security services). Its commanders were two SS German and Glat. On top of the presents they demanded from the Jews, they ordered the Jewish Council to report what Jews were thinking and talking about. The Jewish Council tried to avoid reporting. When the pressure on the Jewish Council forced them to give a report, they said that the
Jewish population worries about the coming winter, how to get survival supplies such as potatoes, fire wood, and so on. When the SD people heard the report they started shouting: We know: the Russians have reconquered Minsk, Vilnius, and Riga, this is what the Jews are talking about. They sent the Jewish Council back after beating them.
In the German gendarme was a man by the name of Apple. He probably was a carter before the war, employed by a Jew. He spoke good Yiddish, with juicy curses. The Jews called him Yankl Face. He used to pick on Jews, and every day he caught one to beat up. If he found a piece of meat in a Jewish house, he would make a real pogrom there. He would break everything he could lay his hands on, and beat up all family members. When the Jewish shoemaker Baruch Freiner, who was friendly with him, asked him: Apple, what do you want from us? He used to answer: I do not understand. You are beaten and killed and you are still here?!
In the gendarme was a Polish police corporal by the name of Derwantzki, who enjoyed a special status because he spoke German. He had ways of blackmailing Jewish traders. He used to visit Jewish homes, but his demands could not be satisfied. And after he took everything, he handed the Jew to the gendarmes.
The defense police, located on Grabanover Street, used to scream in the middle of the Jewish quarter. Two were particularly cruel: Peterson, whom he Jews called the yellow murderer, and a stupid person whom the Jews called Pesil. The defense police had a smithy in the new market, and if they took a Jew to work there, they would treat him in such a terrible way that he would not forget it for weeks. When these two were on the street, the streets emptied immediately.
The defense policemen would break in at night, rape women, and rob the house.
Next to the regional administration was a special police, named special services. For a while, Gzimek was their commander. They gave the Jews a lot of trouble. They used to come to hunt people for work, and while doing that hit and harmed many.
The agents of the criminal police were also after Jews. They knew who is involved in trade, and blackmailed them. Agents Constantin Baldiga, Wolanski, and Golencyovski in particular. In 1941 /2 Baldiga shoot to death Weisberg the carpenter (son of Hanan the carpenter) and a young Jewish refugee from the former east Poland.
The Polish police also bothered the Jews nonstop. Jews had to bribe them to keep away from them; for the Germans, Jews were always guilty, and, after all the confiscations, they had next to nothing. Yet the Polish police officers knew exactly where to search.
The clerks from the regional administration constantly asked the Jewish Council for expensive presents. They always promised that no new decrees would be issued, but they themselves planned the new ones. The Jewish Council members knew their promises were worth nothing.
The Gestapo caused the least of the problems for Jews. They did not kidnap Jews for work, and did not come to beat up Jews. The Gestapo did contact the Jewish Council to take its last coins. Thus, the Jewish Council was always in deficit. Some Jewish artisans got a lot of work from the Gestapo. The Gestapo set up a tailoring workshop, where the brothers Nahman and Joel Subman, Meyer Rietz, and Aron Wolkowitzki work regularly. The Gestapo regularly employed the shoemakers Baruch Freiner and Nehemia Dorfman. The Gestapo supplied the materials.
Once in a while, these employees got some information from the Germans. The used to share it in secret with people close to them. They knew who had been put in Jail in Raabe's factory, or who had been shot to death in the forest.
One of the first Gestapo prisoners was Michash Hofer, the pharmacist. It seems that the Gestapo itself did not know the reason for this arrest, but did not want to set him free. Hofer used to spend the days in town, but at night had to return to jail. After the Gestapo took all his most expensive belongings, and after many months, he was released.
By the beginning of 1942, the Jews of Biala were depressed, desperate, and without hope. It was their last year in their hometown. Their life became harder before the final deportation.
One winter, in late afternoon, the Jewish Council was informed that the defense police had put two young men who worked there in the cellar. In other words, they were sentenced to death. One of the men was the son of Hanan Reich. The police officer who put them in the cellar claimed that he saw them sawing a piece of wood to take home. The Jewish Council tried to save them. The police demanded 10,000 Zlotys, a fortune. Still, the money was collected and handed over, but only one young man was set free. Reich had already been shot and died.
Everyday, Christians reported about dead Jews lying behind the town. Germans who happened to meet them had shot them. The worst was the gendarme Leon Bush, an ethnicGerman from the Posen area.
Next to the church of Vollia, Gendarme Bush killed the boy who worked for Liptche Adelstein, the butcher. A few weeks later, on Shidorska Street, he shot to death the wife of Pinie, the bagel baker, from Miedzyrzec Street.
On the first week after Passover, ten Jews were arrested. All had been punished in the past for breaking Nazis rules. They spent the night in the Polish police station, and the next morning were taken to the Jewish cemetery on Janeva Street, where they were shot. Among the murdered were: the butchers Yurberg and Adelstein, the Sulvalki refugee Bernstein (the brother of Osip Bernstein the photographer), and others.
Similarly, on a June evening, the Polish police arrested Jews and the Gestapo shot them in the morning in the Vulka forest. Among the murdered were: Haim Freidman (nicknamed Beznosek [noseless, O.A.], Nahum Tenenbojm's son in law, and Jacob Goldstein, the commander of the Jewish police who had been arrested a day earlier by the gendarmes.
Young Moshe Lichtenbojm (the grandson of Leib Mednick) was among those arrested in the Polish police station. He was arrested because he answered back to a Christian woman who insulted him. His parents, who saw the evening arrests, understood that an execution was planned. They did everything they could to free their son, but to no avail. One can imagine their anxiety when they had to return home when the curfew started, without their son. Early next morning they went out to the street, and heard that indeed, all prisoners had been shot, but their son stayed in the Polish police station. Overjoyed, his mother became hysterical. The redheaded police officer, Peterson, had arrested him; the Jewish policeman Moshe Preter knew him. Preter begged Peterson to free Moshe Lichtenbojm, but he refused. It seems that he just wanted Lichtenbojm to suffer, because he asked the Polish policemen to put him in a separate room when the Gestapo come for the others. Thus, with the others he agonized through the night not knowing that he will be saved. Indeed, he said they knew they were going to die, and spent the night confessing.
Meanwhile, Jews from Janeva were killed in Wulka Forest, among then Leibl Rodsinek from Biala, who tried to save Janeva Jews. A Christian woman, Konopka, was supposed to help him, but actually betrayed him.
Shooting became more frequent. All the Jewish prisoners in Lublin were shot. The Germans did not even cancel the discussion of their cases in court. The case of Noah Weinstein (from Prosheki village in Biala region) is an example of German cynicism. He was arrested for leaving his residence, and transferred from Biala jail to Lublin. His two daughters did all they could to save their father. They hired the famous lawyer HofmakelOstrovski, who had connections with the German law system, for an unimaginable sum of money. Noah himself was not present in court; he was found not guilty, but never came home. The lawyer informed his daughters that he had been sent east.
In the middle of all this, the regional government sent the Jewish Council an order to provide a list of candidates to immigrate to Israel and to America. The Jewish Council did not advertise it, but the few who knew about it hesitated to register. The Jewish Council did not believe that the Germans would deal with Jewish immigration in the middle of the war. In general, Jews avoided putting their names on German lists. Since the regional administration did not repeat the order, the Jewish Council ignored it.
Most of the Jewish population worked, and a few artisans still had their workshops. On the other hand, only a few merchants kept their business. In the Jewish quarter there were still 2025 small shops, most of them on Grabanover Street.
Under these conditions, it was only natural that smuggling flourished. The artisans who worked for the Germans or for the Christians and brought in basic products as part of their pay; the workers brought different things from their workplace.
The most commonly smuggled commodity was flour. Flour was smuggled together with the regular supply of flour with the food stamps. With these supplies, they also smuggled groats. The secret service knew about it, and because they were handsomely bribed, they made sure it continued. The bribery increased the costs of the smuggled flour and groats.
The Jewish Council got potatoes, a most important basic product, from the Polish rolnik. Yet, although the potatoes were supplied by government order, presents were still needed.
The butchers smuggled meat. This was dangerous, and the secret services did not support them. On the contrary, they were looking for them. Often, the butchers' fate was horrible. Meat was thus extremely expensive, and only a few could afford it.
The life of the educated Jews was very difficult. Except for the physicians, they had lost their economic basis. The transition to a lower social class was hard, especially as it was accompanied by beatings from the Germans. They sold everything that they had accumulated during years of work. The educated refugees had it even harder in the strange environment.
They did not know anybody in the employment office, and could not get appropriate working positions.
A rabbi from Philipova came to Biala with the Sulvalkian refugees. After the death of Rabbi Moshe Utshen (died of typhoid in the winter of 1940/1) people turned to him with their Halachic questions. He had a reputation of a great scholar and of a person of the world. Yet, his influence was limited, because there was no synagogue or Beth Midrash in the Jewish quarter.
In the high holidays, there were places where several large Minyanim prayed. On other days, small Minyanim prayed three times a day in private homes.
There was no cultural activity in the Jewish quarter. Each person was completely absorbed in his own troubles.
The big Tarbuth library moved from Wolnosci Street to Brisker Street. Jacob Aron Rosenbojm, the chair of the Zionist Organization, devotedly guarded this treasure. The Bund library moved first to the home of Elijahu Hofman (Bobkes). He cared for it as best he could, but had to move it from his small home to the cowshed as the number of residents in his apartment kept increasing. Mrs. Liuba Tuchshneider ran a kindergarten on Grabanover Street. It supposedly had a permit from the supervisor of the Polish school system.
Many teenagers studied at home, aiming at taking their final exams after the war.
Despite the prohibition on reading newspapers, Polish and German papers were smuggled into the quarter. The Germans used loudspeakers to repeat the news broadcasted by the German radio. Children brought the news into the Jewish quarter.
Illegal publications came into the quarter sporadically. A person got a brochure from a Christian acquaintance and brought it in.
The cold, short winter days, quickly passed. People would sit at home at night, counting Hitler's failures. The Germans built a loudspeaker in the municipal park, broadcasting political news several times a day. The loudspeaker attracted the public, but the Jews avoided the risk of being found listening to the news.
Since there was a lot of interest in information regarding Hitler's failure, they sent the children to the loudspeaker, and they brought in some news.
Children stood in the bitter cold, their eyes and noses dripping, but their brains ready to absorb as much information as possible. At the end of the broadcast, when the children returned to the Jewish quarter, the adults were waiting for them with questions. The children, however, refused to answer. Each of them had his own audience, and only they would get the information.
I would like to write about one such audience circle. One 1112 years old boy, Neta Osenholtz, specialized in collecting news from the loudspeaker in the municipal park. Before the war, he had attended both the Heder and the Polish elementary school. He was very thin, literally skin and bones, with burning eyes and a sharp brain.
He used to sneak out to the loudspeaker a few times a day. Dressed lightly, he listened jumping from leg to leg to keep warm, and take in the information. In the evening, he would repeat what he had heard and take part in the adult's political discussions. People were amazed at his ability. Being weak with malnutrition, his voice trembled, but he remembered in detail all the headlines, including those from the Far East, and presented news of places no one had heard of. His political knowledge and understanding were outstanding.
People that knew nothing about politics used to come to hear Neta. They came to see how such a weak boy maneuvers battle ships, airplanes, and other armaments.
When he was called home, he could not leave the political debates. His mother used to complain, Well, Neta, I am busy breaking my head trying to find how to get some wood, or something else for the home, and you are doing politics?…
When Neta went out of the room, people would say each other, Well, go find such a boy among the Christians! No Christian boy knows so much about current politics.
There were two other new kidnappers and talented politicians in Neta's information circle.
One of them was Haim Silberberg, the young son of Joel Silberberg the dentist. He was about 20 years old, unhealthy since birth, and a frequent a visitor to physicians. Just before the war, he graduated from high school, where he was one of the best students. He was exempt from forced labor because of his health condition. Yet he worked hard. He examined thoroughly the German newspapers, searched for hints and analyzed the information. His room was full of maps to follow the war. Occasionally his mother raised hell, fearing that if the police found the maps in a search, they would punished.
The second was Moshe Lichtenbojm, grandson of Leib Mednick, about 18 years old. He studied in a Heder, and general studies privately. Before the war, he had entered the family business, but was interested in politics. He, too, was well informed on the war fronts. His duty was to get the German newspapers in different ways, and to share it with young Silbeberg.
Moshe had a problematic leg since childhood, and he too was exempt from forced labor. Despite the exemption, he went to work in the carpentry of the ethnicGerman, Krakovski.
He had to pay few hundred Zlotys to get the job, but he did it on purpose: Krakovski had a radio, and Moshe was eager to listen to news from abroad. He got friendly with the ethnicGerman, who had been a communist, and spent considerable time in his home. There he could listen to news from London.
He was also in touch with Jewish young men who served in houses of Nazi officers, who fully trusted them and gave them their house keys when they went on vacation to Germany. He used to spend the night in these houses, as they were the safest place to hear foreign radio broadcasts. Moshe was indeed full of foreign information. When he started sharing this information people did not let him go for hours.
Moshe did not want to rely on the information brought by Neta, and he did not have the patience to wait for Neta to return. He used to go to the loudspeaker in the park by himself. He succeeded at first, but later was beaten up a few times for his curiosity. After the restrictions on the Jews got tighter, you could find him at the gate of Israel Shaulkes, trying to hear something from the park. When the time for broadcasting came, Moshe used to sneak out of the workshop to listen.
The first expulsion
On Saturday, 21 Sivan, 5702, (6.6.1942), a rumor was spread in the city that all the Jews in Biala must leave the city. It was later learned that the Jewish Council had received an order from the district government, that all the Jews who are not employed by the Labor Bureau must be present at the train station on Wednesday, June 10, for transfer. The order applied to all the Jews in the district. All the country towns will be emptied of Jews and all the working Jews from the whole district will be concentrated in Biala.
The representative of the Jewish Council, Yaakov Aharon Rosenbaum, dared to ask the messenger Lipkov: Where will the people be sent? He replied: To the West. The representative of the Jewish Council asked again: We know that the Jews from the West are sent to the East, so why the Jews of Biala were so favored that they are sent to the West? Lipkov was embarrassed for a moment, but immediately came to his senses and said: Don't you see the situation of the people in the synagogue and the other houses of prayer? Rosenbaum replied: Indeed, we would not object at all to the improvement of the situation of these people, but we know that the government is not interested in that, therefore, why do you care if these people die here?
The messenger did not expect such an argument at all. And as he did not have any better answer, he muttered: You, Rosenbaum, see everything in black colors; In this way, there can't be any cooperation with you.
The Jewish Council began a vigorous action to repeal the decree and began to appeal to anyone they could. The Gestapo wondered that such work was not handed to them.
The Jewish Council learned that the decree was originated in Lublin, but they did not set a quota for the deportees. The district government was interested that the Aktz'ya (the roundup of the Jews before sending them to the camps) will be as large as possible.
After all the efforts of the Jewish Council, it became clear who would be allowed to stay and who would be deported. The right to stay was given to all those who had work cards as well as merchants and artisans, that were approved by the district government, along with their wives and children up to age 14. These women and children had to receive tickets imprinted with the seals of the Labor Bureau and the district government to prove their right to remain in place. Each deportee was allowed to take with him a package weighing only 10 kilograms. Anyone who disobeyed the order was subject to a death penalty.
The government instructed the Jewish Council that the entire Aktz'ya be run by it and by the Jewish Order Service. If they do not take control of the situation, the government will be forced to intervene, which will lead to undesirable results.
On the third day, the Jewish Council announced the Jewish population about it through street ads, and set the collection point in the synagogue courtyard.
Already on Saturday, when it was realized that it is possible to be saved from the expulsion with the possession of a work card, many of the Jews invested many efforts in order to obtain such cards. And indeed quite a few succeeded, for large payments, to get these cards of life.
Singles who had been dating girls for several years and did not want to marry during the war, hurried to get married in order to save their brides from expulsion as married women. Fictitious weddings were also held to save the daughters of Israel.
There were those who did not find a way to be legally rescued and decided not show up and hide during the Aktz'ya. Many escaped ahead of time to the villages, to Christian acquaintances and to the nearby Mezerich. Those who decided to wander, began to prepare for the journey and packed their packages.
In the country towns of the district, the Jews fled to the forests. They did not even intend to be present for the transfer.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Ministry of Taxation showed its aggressiveness. Almost all of its officials, accompanied by policemen, raided the Jewish Quarter to collect old tax debts and even those not yet imposed by assessment for 1942. They demanded huge sums that had to be paid immediately, as in case of refusal they threatened imprisonment followed by a transfer to the transfer lots on the next day.
That day, Yaakov Malina went to the district government to settle some matter. At dusk, it was learned that Malina was taken out of the city by car and shot by the detective Baldiga.
These were tragic hours for the families. Neither the parents knew what to advise the sons nor the sons to their parents. No one had the courage to say to another: Stay home, do not go to the lot, because behind every command the word Death cried out!
On Wednesday, June 10, at 5 A.M., about 700 people had already gathered in the synagogue courtyard, wearing their best clothes and carrying packages. People flocked there from all over. The Jewish Order Service, which was enlarged specially for this purpose to 50 people, went from house to house
and mentioned the obligation to be present at the synagogue courtyard. Those who belonged to the happy ones who remained in the city walked freely in the Jewish Quarter, where no inspection was carried out.
Representatives of the government came to the synagogue courtyard and watched what was happening. They released from the courtyard handicapped, sick and women with children, and announced that patients, who were unable to be transferred, would remain in their homes. Such a gesture, of course, reinforced the impression that the people were only being transferred to another city. The gesture convinced some of those who decided not to show up, to take now their package and go to the synagogue courtyard.
At 2 P.M., when the synagogue courtyard was already filled with Jews, the crowd was led by the Jewish Order Service, accompanied by several gendarmes, to the train station, where they were handed over to the special service of the district government. Some weak Jews were brought to the train in cars.
It is difficult to mention all the people of Biala who marched to the train. Some of them are engraved in memory: desperate and very exhausted marched the well-known and beloved Moshe Cava. The good-hearted teacher Hillel Meir Heiblum marched by him. In the rows also marched the merchant Yosef Gittleman and his family, Fintche Eidelman with his wife and child, Herzl Charni and his wife.
The Jews were forced to wait near the train until the next day, since, apparently, the Aktz'ya was carried out before the wagons have been prepared for the deportees. The Jewish Council brought them bread and coffee several times.
On the morning of the fifth day, a freight train arrived and at 11 the people were already locked in the wagons. The train moved from its place accompanied by an S.S. man and several Ukrainian guardsmen in the direction of Lukow.
The Jewish Council wanted to know where the Jews had been sent. The Jewish Council in Lokuw learned that the train had turned in the direction of Lublin. From the Jewish Council in Lublin it was learned that the Jews were sent in the direction of Chelm, while in Chelm they announced that the train passed through the city on Friday evening in the direction of Wlodawa. The last news was received from Wlodawa. From Wlodawa it was announced that they knew nothing and they asked not to be asked again such questions in the future.
Therefore, the information route was cut in Wlodawa. And since such an answer was obtained from there, it was easy to suppose, that the people in Wlodawa knew for sure what happened to these people.
The news of these continuous rumors became known to the district government. So, they tried to find out what the Jewish Council knows, but the Jewish Council replied: We asked the people to be present for the expulsion but we don't know where they were sent, you should be the ones who know about it and not us.
In fact, the Jewish Council finally learned where the people were exiled. It turned out that the last stop of their travel was Sobibor, 37 kilometers from Chelm, in the direction of Wlodawa. Sobibor was known before the war as a tiny station in the forest around Wlodawa, from which trees were transported.
Later on, they heard that many Jews had been brought to Sobibor and were kept there in locked wagons, on side railway tracks in the forest, for a few days without food and without water during the summer hottest days. Later on, the bodies of the dead were removed from the wagons and were burned there.
Weeks have passed and the thought of the displaced victims did not stop. It was obvious that the German government became the heir to the little property that the victims left in their apartments. The abandoned apartments were emptied completely.
The month of July passed relatively quietly, and then came the month of August that was full with bloody events.
On Monday, August 3, in the afternoon, Aaron Brodach was arrested by the district government. At the same time, the special service began searching for Menachem Finkelstein. When it could not find him, it imprisoned the chairman of the Jewish Council, Yitzhak Pizich, as a hostage, threatening to shoot him if Finkelstein was not found. After a while, Menachem Finkelstein appeared at the district government office, and Yitzhak Pizich was released. The news about the imprisonment of these two Jews made a strong impression in the city, because it was known that both of them had influence in the district government, and they had a strong support in the form of the two reporters, the engineers Davos and Neulinger. Indeed, relatives and friends always warned them of the consequences of contact with the Nazis, from whom they had obtained, from time to time, some kind of a favor for a Jew.
Immediately after the arrest of Aharon Brodach, the special service searched his apartment. During the search, his sister and wife Haya of the Feigenbaum family and her two sisters were arrested.
All that day, the families of the detainees made efforts to find out something about them, but without success. No one knew what to say, but everyone tried to calm down the others; They thought that this is nothing but a misunderstanding that will soon become clear. Thus, the day passed when nothing happened, and the time of the curfew for the Jews at 7 o'clock in the evening arrived. The families of the detainees were forced to return to their homes with mixed feelings of anxiety and anticipation.
The end was tragic. On the same day, all the detainees, women and men, were shot. People in the city whispered that in doing so, the Germans wanted to erase the traces of contact they had with these Jews, and that Neulinger, the reporter from Passau (Germany), had a big part in this murder.
At the midnight before Tuesday morning, suddenly the footsteps of soldiers were heard rushing through the streets of the Jewish quarter. As soon as dawn arrived, the wild roar was heard: Mener Reus! (Men get out). The entire Jewish Quarter was surrounded by gendarmerie, defense police, Polish police, Gestapo and Goring soldiers - pilots, all armed with machine guns and hand grenades. Gravanover Street was filled with men who were chased to the end of the street (towards the new market). Those who lingered on the way received blows from rifle butts. After a while, the Germans began to check the work cards. The check lasted several hours and all the men were released afterwards.
However, this almost innocent check claimed 19 Jewish victims, among them: Zalman Levrant, Yukel Listgarten, Friedman (from Poland's country towns, a former prisoner of war) and others. Many of those who came back alive from the check, were beaten there till bleeding.
This Aktz'ya was conducted by the Gestapo soldier Peisker[b] and by the German gendarme Leon Bosch, who especially excelled in this bloody work.
The events in the city began to happen very quickly.
On Friday, August 7, the Council of Jews announced that by an order of the government, all Jews must leave their apartments and move to the small quarter, as previously planned.
The Jewish quarter that was formerly located between the streets: Gravanover and the alleys of the synagogue (except for a few houses facing the new market), Yanaver (only its right side), Froste (from the courts onwards) and Tzmentarna, will now be limited, as in a square box, between the streets: Gravanover, without the alleys of the synagogues (from Volnoshchi square to Froste), Froste (only the left side, from Gravanover to Pashkodenia), Yanaver (only its right side) and Pashkodenia, only its right side (from Yanaver street to Froste street).
In this narrow cage, there was a real suffocation, and people housed in barns and pens, because what choice they have in such a horrible situation.
The Jewish Council tried to persuade the representative of the SD Glat, and he promised to work to repeal the decree, and indeed, it was canceled shortly afterwards.
In a conversation between the SD representative and the representative of the Jewish Council A. Rosenbaum, the SD representative said that this decree would surely be repealed, since other measures are being planned against the Jews. He didn't say what is the nature of these measures. However, as time passed, this mystery was solved.
On Monday, August 10, a rumor spread in the city that there were wagons near the train station, that will carry about 400 people from Biala to Lublin. The rumor has indeed been confirmed when people from the train station called all the German offices and asked to know when are the Jews taking off. Everywhere they received the same answer, that they knew nothing about it.
On Wednesday morning, August 12, a search was made for Jewish men by a foreign protective policeman, with the help of a Ukrainian militia. The detainees were brought to a collection lot in Volya. Among the detainees were many workers in government and German workplaces, and efforts were made to free them. The Jewish Council announced about this search to the SD Vida, and he went to the collection lot in Volya and released all the detained Jews.
Only a few hours passed and panic arose in the city again, as the search for men was renewed. At the same time, an order was received from the district government, that the Jewish Council, the Aid Committee and the Disinfection Battalion, should stand in the district government courtyard.
The reporter Lipkov went to those who gathered at this place. He ordered the women of the Aid Committee and the Disinfection Battalion to return to their homes and he immediately disappeared. A truck with a foreign police officer and several Ukrainians stopped there. The Jews were loaded on the truck and were taken to the train station.
There was despair in the city, as it was clear that with the exile of the Jewish council, the city was abandoned and the end of the tragedy was close and certain. They were sure there would be an immediate manhunt for the men, as there were still many missing for the number of people abducted in the morning search. And indeed, the search resumed shortly.
The abduction of 400 Jews was not easy because most of the Jewish workers were already in their workplaces. Therefore, the search continued all day, and when evening arrived after nightmare day, a dead Jew with a shattered head was lying in the gutter on Narotovich Street, and in the room was lying dead Bracha Adlerstein (the bride of Moshe'le, the bartender), who did not let a Ukrainian, one of the participants in the Aktz'ya, to rape her.
It was later known, that in the morning, the SD member Vida managed to free the Jews because the one who was in charge of the Aktz'ya was not in place but when he returned to the collection lot and saw that they were released, he ordered to detain them again immediately. He went to the German offices and presented to them, apparently, his power of attorney to carry out the search, and again he encountered no disturbances. On the contrary, they assisted him.
At 9 P.M., the freight train left for Lublin, carrying about 400 Jews inside the locked wagons, including most of the members of the Jewish Council and the Aid Committee.
Here, apparently, the other measures against the Jews that were mentioned earlier by the SD member Glat, began to be in force. First, they got rid of the Jewish Council, which, although it usually brought them gifts, at the same time this Jewish Council was too active and demanded too often to repeal various decrees. They also dragged the members of the Aid Committee and other institutions, thus helping the foreign protective policeman to fill the quota of abducted Jews, who had to be brought somewhere.
In August, the member of Hashomer Hatzair in Biala, Godya Steinman (the youngest daughter of the well-known Hebrew teacher Yaakov Steinman) was arrested. It was said that this talented girl was engaged in illegal activity and that messengers from the movement met in her apartment. The Gestapo arrested her following the imprisonment of a Polish railway worker, who was arrested on a train after illegal literature was found in his possession, and it is believed that he gave Godya's name and address. She spent a short time in the cellars of the Gestapo prison. The experienced killers seem to have realized that they will not be able to extract any information from this weak-bodied girl, despite the tortures she is going through. The Jewish tailors who worked there, heard about the torture she suffered there, and it was even learned from them that they had taken Godya Steinman out by a car to an unknown direction and there she was shot.
At the same time, Galika Lichtenbaum (the daughter of Leiba Madenick) was arrested and shot by detective Baldiga. It is rumored that this was caused by a popular Germany, from which Galika demanded a repayment of a debt.
There was a panic in the quarter every evening because of rumors that at night there will be a search for men. Each went to sleep in his own workplace, leaving his wife and children to their fate.
The German extermination machine was already in full intensity at the time, and in the early stages of the extermination of the Jews, it made an effort to concentrate the Jews, in order to facilitate its work.
The military government informed the Jewish workers that anyone who wanted to work for it must stay in barracks under German supervision. The military government also began to provide food for its Jewish workers. The Jews did not want to lose their jobs and therefore had to agree to it. Every day in the evening one could see such a spectacle: the workers came to their homes from work only for a few moments, and immediately gathered again in the courtyard of the synagogue, where they were held in a military order and marched to the barracks. Anyone who wanted to spend the night at home, was hit the day after about forty blows with a stick.
Only on Sunday would the workers be released from the camp to see their families.
In the meantime, one of the 400 exiles in the direction of Lublin, the former prisoner, Grossman, returned to the city. A new picture of the tragedy unfolded from his words.
It was learned that the 400 people had been brought to the Majdanek camp, a few kilometers behind Lublin. There they received camp clothes to put on, but immediately afterwards, an order to return their clothes was received. Officials from the train management came and selected from among them about 350 people for the construction work of a new train line in Golomb, between Demblin and Pulaw, in the Lublin district. In the Majdanek camp remained about 50 people, most of them were old people, among them: A. Rosenbaum, Yitzhak Pizich, Moshe Rodzinak, Moshe Chaim Wiesenfeld, Israel Bialer, Shmuel Kreiselman, Yaakov Shlomo Zeidman, Yaakov Wolwell Herschberg, Berl Goldberg (pharmacist), Hanan Weisberg and others.
The work at Golomb was done in unbearably difficult conditions. Hard work, poor and little nutrition. For every slight negligence they would have been shot dead. Among others who perished there: Fishel Kantor, Eliezer Lerner and Blumenkrantz (the son-in-law of Yukel Listgarten).
Near Rosh Hashanah, almost all the Jews returned from Golomb.
The wives of the expelled members of the Jewish Council began to beg for the return of their husbands. The German officers promised them to fulfill their request, but the promises were not fulfilled. In the meantime, Eliezer Tselniker was appointed as the new chairman of the Jewish Council, and he, along with several remaining members of the Jewish Council, tried to carry out some action.
An order has been issued that on Saturday, September 19, that the Jewish Council of Biala, Yanaba and Konstantin, will appear before the SD representatives.
By Saturday afternoon, they already knew the results of this visit: The Jewish Council in Biala was required to collect from the Jewish population a few kilograms of gold. The reason was: thanks to this gold, the SD would be able to protect the Jews of Biala from the government. The Jewish Councils of Yanaba and Konstantin were informed that by Friday, September 25, all Jews in these towns must move to Biala.
On Tuesday, September 2, the SD member Glat invited the wives of the two members of the Jewish Council, Pizich and Rosenbaum, who were constantly urging him to return their husbands from Majdanek.
When these two women entered to SD member Glat's office, they found there the new chairman of the Jewish Council, Eliezer Tselniker. In his presence, he asked the women how much it was worth to them to pay for the release of their husbands because there was a possibility of their release. The women replied that their husbands were worth a great deal but unfortunately, they did not have large sums of money that they could pay for their release. The women tried to convince him to bring back all the Jews of Biala, but Glat did not want to hear such an offer at first. Finally, after prolonged pleas from the women, he agreed to try to help with the release of all the Jews. In return for this help, the women undertook to pay him a sum of 45,000 gold coins. He emphasized that the money should be transferred to him as early as possible, as he would probably have to travel to Lublin on Saturday or Sunday to transfer the gold collected by the Jewish Council, and meanwhile he could start talking there about the release of the people. In doing so, he remarked that everything should remain a serious secret, that if not, the women will be responsible to their lives.
On Wednesday, the first groups of Yanaba and Konstantin Jews were seen. Wagons loaded with Jewish families flocked to Biala. In Yanaba remained a small group of Jews who worked there in Vigoda.
Some of the 3,000 displaced Jews lived with relatives and acquaintances, and some remained for the time being with their packages in the street, in the open air.
On Thursday evening, Glat visited in the quarter. He promised to provide apartments for the displaced, and for the time being ordered the baker Yitzhak Pratar to distribute bread to the refugees and promised him that on Monday he would return him the flour.
Glat saw there the women Boltsha Pizich and Chaya Rosenbaum, who had been waiting for him all day to hand him the money. He told them to come to his office at 7 PM.
The Jewish Council has already supplied the gold it has collected. It was impossible to know whether this quantity of approximately 2 kilos would be considered as satisfying in the opinion of the SD people.
At 7 PM the women were already in the SD office and handed over the sum of 45,000 gold coins. Glat reiterated his promise to the women that he would be in Lublin on Saturday and he hoped to be able to release the men. Meanwhile the curfew began and he gave them permission that allowed them to walk down the street during the curfew.
It was clear to everyone that the expulsion was imminent. In the Lublin district, the expulsion encompassed all the Jewish settlements. However, the Jews of Biala did not assume that a total destruction was about to happen.
The county government has spread rumors that the expulsion is not intentional at all to the Jews of Biala and that only the refugee Jews from the small towns were intended to be displaced. The Jews of Biala believed these rumors, although they knew that the expulsion of the refugees will include also quite a few of the Jews of Biala. But they had a solution for that as well. They have learned a lesson from the previous expulsion of the Jews of Biala as well as from the great expulsion in Mezrich: they need to hide. Therefore, the construction of the hiding places was in full force. They did not save money for this purpose, and a hiding place was created in every house.
Those Jewish refugees from the towns, who were qualified for work, lined up at the Labor Bureau and demanded that they be given jobs. It was known that in the previous expulsion of the Jews of Biala, this was a matter of salvation. Hence, they did not save money to get a work card.
On Friday, the eve of Sukkot, there was a nervous and crowded traffic in the district. The closeness of the danger was felt everywhere. The panic intensified following the news that various officials had come to receive works they had ordered and had not yet been completed from Jewish artisans.
Throughout the day, the Jewish councils of Yanaba and Konstantin collected gold from their townspeople, and in the evening handed it over to the SD.
At noon, the workers of many workplaces came to pick up their clothes because they had been gathered in camps. There were talks of 7 camps that will be set up in the city: 1. At the firm Stoag; 2. At the firm Tzaid; 3. At Ostaban; 4. At the supervision of the water farm (the only camp where there will also be women); 5. At the airport; 6. In the military bakery; 7. Under military rule. The last camp will be the largest. In this camp, all the workers of the private firms who have a permit to employ Jews will also eat and sleep.
The Jews were divided into three types: one type campers; the second type - those who prepared hiding places, among them were few that were about to hide with Christians. Among those who were preparing to hide were also campers, who did not want to part from their relatives; The third type were Jews who had no hiding place, or did not want to hide at all and were ready for anything.
The second and the final expulsion
On Saturday, the first day of Sukkot (September 26, 1942), at 5 AM., gunshots were heard in the Jewish Quarter, and it was clear that the bloody events had begun.
A. In the collection lot and on the streets
As it was later learned, the expulsion Aktz'ya began before 5 AM. When the gunshots were heard, there were already quite a lot of Jewish victims.
The Aktz'ya was attended by the Gestapo, the Defense Police, the Gendarmerie, the Polish police and Air Force soldiers, who surrounded the quarter at 10 o'clock at night.
As soon as dawn began the rise, they started the expulsion of the Jews from their homes and walked them to the pig market. There they were ordered to sit on the ground.
|Order for Jews to leave Biala|
They broke into houses in which the people were not in a hurry to open the doors. Like raging animals, the Germans entered the houses and brutally beat the people, and even used their guns and shot down casualties. Patients who lay in their beds and could not go to the collection point were shot in their beds. The SD member Glat ordered the man from the Jewish order service, Heinech Bialer, to enter a Jewish apartment in Haim Gotel's yard, on Froste Street, and check if there are any Jews there. Bialer entered the apartment and found Jews there and told them to hurry. He informed the SD man that he did not find any Jews there. However, Glat did not believe him and entered the apartment and found several Jews there,
who have not yet been able to hide. He immediately went outside and shot Bialer right on the spot.
The Jews on the street, who went to the collection point, were severely beaten, some of them were even shot.
The three Grodner sisters came to the street with their little brother and hurried to the pick-up point, and here the protective policeman, Patterson, appeared in front of them, and when he saw the younger sister, an incredibly beautiful girl, he said: It's a shame to take a girl like that to Mezrich, it is better that she stays here. A shot was heard and the girl staggered and fell to the stone floor with a shattered head. The two sisters with the little brother were hurried to the collection point.
In the collection lot, the Jews sat depressed and terrified. At every moment, the Germans chose a Jew, led him aside and shot him dead. A long mass grave was created near the house of the Christian Shidlovsky.
Jewish blood flowed through the houses, on the streets and in the collection lot. There were dead bodies of Jews everywhere.
The protective policeman Patterson, the gendarmerie Bosch, and the Polish Police Chief Kukzewski raged with extremely cruelty.
Many hiding places were immediately exposed by the executioners. Those who were hiding were led to the collection lot while being beaten aggressively, which caused some of them to fall.
When there were already enough Jews in the collection lot, they began select people who were capable to work for the camp in the airport, and for Malashowicz (the former Polish airport, near Terespol).
Terrible spectacles took place on the lot: the people were beaten to death constantly and women and children were shot for no reason.
Here they brought the young man from Sarotsek, Zusha Goldberg (a friend of the above-mentioned Godya Steinman) who worked all the time for the protective police, and there they were very pleased with him. Only a few protective cops, that were led by Patterson, resented him for not letting them steal from the warehouses. It is impossible to describe the path of torment that this young man went through until he died. He was beaten and wounded with poles, then his eyes were punctured and again he was beaten aggressively, tortured and abused.
The young man withstood all these tortures with heroism, did not ask for mercy, only hurled harsh words at his tormentors: You are heroes only against defenseless Jews, but the world and Jews within it will still show you your heroism when you will be defeated in this war! This infuriated the torturers even more and they intensified the torture until he died.
The people at the collection point were demanded to hand over the money and jewelry, or else they will face a death penalty. Since they assumed that they were being sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka, they did not take anything with them. Later on, they regretted it, because the Jews were loaded on wagons and were drove to Mezrich.
However, only the elderly and children were seated in wagons, the young people were ordered to line up and walk to Mezrich, and only when many empty wagons were left, the young people were loaded on them as well.
And so, wagons full of oppressed and frightened Jews flocked, without them knowing where they were being led. At the end of the Biala district, in the Voronezh forests, many Jews removed from the wagons, they were led to the forest and were shot there.
The victims of the streets of Biala, and the bodies of the dead of the houses, who were thrown out of the windows, were led by the Christian municipal workers to the cemetery. After lying there for a few days, they were buried by the Christian workers.
At the Jewish hospital, where about 15 patients were hospitalized and two compassionate nurses treated them and did not want to leave them - the Gestapo broke in and ordered the nurses to give the patients good food...
The Christians took advantage of the darkness of the night and took over the houses
|Jewish cemetery at the time of the Expulsion|
|Christian population ordered to hand over to the Gestapo goods plundered in the Jews quarter|
of the Jews, and took everything they saw. They also stripped off the clothes of the dead bodies that were rolling in the streets.
On the second day of Sukkot, all the Germans civilians were invited to the Jewish Quarter, and they came in masses dressed in holiday clothes. They wandered around the quarter looking for Jews who were hiding. On their way, they looted the best things they found in the Jewish houses.
The Germans, however, noticed that many Jews did not show up at the collection lot. So, they brought in trained dogs to sniff and discover the Jews who were hiding. The horror visions of the first day returned. Jewish victims were rolling everywhere and streams of blood were spilled.
The district government took Jewish workers from the camps to transfer the Jewish property from the abandoned houses to the synagogue and the Beit Midrash.
Immediately upon the entrance of the Jewish workers in every house, they shouted: Men, get up and go out! The men who heard their call came out of their hiding places, joined the working group and in the evening went with them to the camps. Wherever possible, the Jewish workers announced that Biala was clean of Jews and that it was necessary to slip away and go to Mezrich at night.
The Gestapo broke into the Jewish hospital again, went from one bed to another and killed all the patients. The fate of the two nurses was the same as the fate of the patients.
They discovered a hiding place at the hospital, too, and all the Jews who were hiding there, were killed immediately. Among the dead was the chairman of the Jewish Council, Eliezer Tselniker.
The Jews who were gathered on the second day for expulsion at the collection lot were also sent to Mezrich.
The roads leading to Mezrich were full with Jewish bodies. Everyone who wanted, stopped the wandering Jews and hand them over to the Germans. This is how the Grozman sisters were arrested by Stiziniach and the special service shot them to death on the spot.
From Tuesday, the fourth day of the expulsion, they stopped shooting Jews. The Gestapo took over the management of the Jewish Quarter. Ads were pasted on the streets stating that Jews were allowed to move to Mezrich on their own until October 1, 1942. Any Jew found in the Biala district after that date would be shot to death.
And indeed, in these days no Jews have been killed. Those who showed up on their own and those who went out of their hiding places and were caught all of them were transferred to Mezrich.
From among the people who volunteered for expulsion, the Gestapo selected a group of 50 people to clean the houses in the Jewish Quarter. Among them were: two women: Mattel Zucker (the wife of Froiem Zucker) and Masha Gelbord (the daughter of Yosele Voiner). The men: Yitzhak Eckstein (the barber), Yitzhak Cohen and his son Gedalia, Hanina Kashamacher, Noah Rudzinak, Anshel Beckerman, the Beckerman brothers (the sons of Yosef Sanies, who now lives in Eretz Israel), Shmuel Lieberman (a locksmith from Siedlce), Yitzhak Grobman, Baruch Feigenbaum, Polosetsky (a carpenter from Lumaz), Davidl Geltman, Shlomo Zucker (the son of Mattel Zucker), Shimshon Yustman, Shlomo Steingart (the son of Motel Aryeh) and others.
The workers were housed in barracks that were on the lot of Shabtai Finkelstein (the barracks were built there in early 1942 and until the expulsion, Jews, who were occasionally removed from the streets outside the closed Jewish quarter, lived there). At night the workers would be put in the barracks, the doors and windows would be closed with planks and the municipal firefighters would guard them until early in the morning, when they would get to work.
The first duty of these workers was to lock all the houses of the Jews. Then they had to go from house to house and empty all their contents. The objects were taken to special warehouses for this purpose, from which valuable items were later taken out and transported to Germany.
An important part of their work in the first weeks was digging graves in the same lot.
As soon as Thursday passed, they started shooting at every Jew they met. This time it was done only by the Gestapo, which turned the lot in the Jewish Quarter into a cemetery.
In fact, again there was no difference between the cemetery on the lot, which was in the Jewish Quarter and between the official cemetery. The Teutonic barbarism also got there, when they smashed and crushed all the tombstones and structures on top of the tombs and used them for various purposes.
|Section of the Ghetto (garden of Shabtai) where massacres took place at the time of expulsion. In centre, the house of Hanina Kashemacher where Jewish workers of the Gestapo were housed.|
The fifty workers at the Gestapo service witnessed atrocities. Every day Jews were brought to the barracks, and the workers were forced to prepare a mass grave for them. In the evening, the victims would be brought in pairs, with only their underwear, placing them in front of the pit and shooting them. The rest of the victims would hear the thunder of the shots and see through the slits of the barracks what was expected to them soon.
When the shootings ended, the Jewish workers hurried to cover the mass grave with the shovels in their hands.
They brought to the lot the member of the Jewish Council David Kantor with his daughter Sarah. He begged the Gestapo man, who had received gifts from him at the time, to let them live because they were still young and fit for work. But two shots were heard and both of them fell dead to the ground.
Sheindel Kornblum, who was brought here with her husband, Yaakov, offered the Gestapo all their property for saving their lives, but the Gestapo man giggled cynically and activated his automatic machine gun.
Atel Richter asked a Jewish worker not to talk about her bitter fate to her son, who is in one of Biala's camps. That evening she was taken out of the barrack with only her cotton on her skin and shot.
Some of the workers saw in the lot how their wives, children and relatives, who had been taken out of hiding places, shot. They stood in their place motionless and silent, and the victims themselves were silent too, as any slight hint that the victims were relatives of the workers could have brought death on the workers as well.
This is how the worker Hanina Kashemacher saw how his wife Pearl, was shot. The worker Shmuel Lieberman put sand over his son's fluttering body. Noah Rodzinak saw in his eyes the murder of his brother Abraham.
Here is the story of Idel Zimbalist, an official of the Jewish Council, who was shot along with his pregnant wife Nechama (the daughter of Moshe the bartender). After prolonged efforts by the workers, they managed to persuade the Gestapo man to take Zimbalist to work, but while working, another Gestapo man noticed him, returned him to the barrack of those destined to be shot. When the workers tried to ask the Gestapo man to take Zimbalist to work, he said he could not help because he was brought here with his wife. If they take him to work, what will they do with his wife? They cannot and are not allowed in such a case to separate the husband from his wife ... and indeed they did not separate them, but threw them both into the grave.
There were also cases in which Jewish girls were ordered to dance naked on the sides of the prepared grave, next to which they were later shot.
The entire lot with all the yards adjoining it turned into a Jewish cemetery.
B. The hiding places and other means of rescue
The hiding places were made in various places after thinking about it for long nights. Inside basements, walls were built that were divided into two parts. One part remained as it was, and they would enter the other part through a plank board on the floor of the house. They also set up narrow cells near the walls of the apartments, covered them with planed planks and made an opening hidden under the bed or in the closet. Various dens were built in the attics, in the barns, in the pens and in the dairy barn.
Almost all the hiding places were overcrowded, as at the last-minute people who had not been taken into account before had to be taken in. In the dens in the attics, the people lay completely naked because of the great heat. The biggest trouble was the children, who did not stop crying and could easily have discover the hiding place. There have even been cases where such children have been strangled by those who were hiding in the hiding place.
The Jewish workers, who worked for the Gestapo in the quarter, later found dead children in the attics, basements, barns and apartments. There was one woman (Rivka, the daughter of the carpenter Shefsel Barazovski) who was giving birth in a hiding place, and because of her cries, her fate was similar to the fate of the children mentioned earlier: those who were hiding strangled her (at the home of Haim the baker, on Froste Street).
Food and water were prepared in the hiding places for a certain amount of time, but until when they could lay down in the hiding places like that? Especially, when the firefighters joined the Germans and engaged diligently in discovering the Jewish hiding places. Some houses, which they suspected were hiding places, were demolished completely.
In many hiding places people lay down for long days without knowing what is happening in the streets, and if someone took the risk and came out of the hiding place to see what was going on, he never returned to the hiding place because he was arrested and shot dead.
There were hiding place in which people lay for months. In the hiding place in the attic of Haim the baker, the people lay until mid-January 1943 - more than three and a half months. When the Jewish workers of the quarter noticed them, they were already in a terrible situation. It was a good hiding place, arranged with beds, protected from the great cold and even the food was enough for them for the entire period. They benefited greatly from an oven that was in this house and which was full of cholent, which were put into it on the eve of Sukkot. But they did not have water. Once they looked out of their hiding place and saw the Jewish workers of the quarter carrying water, they started calling them to give them water. That evening the workers equipped them with water and food, and when the workers asked them why they were not going to Mezrich, they replied that they wanted to wait here until after the new year, perhaps a change in the situation of the Jews would finally come.
But from the inability to wait any longer until the change comes, many came out after many weeks from their hiding places. Everyone made their way alone to Mezrich, but only one person reached Mezrich - the young man Ackerman (the son-in-law of Sheime the tailor). The rest probably died on their way to Merzich.
In another hiding place (in the attic of Moshe Yitzhak Biderman, Yanaver Street) they found a number of dead Jews in March 1943. It was difficult to determine the cause of their death.
The Jews who hid with Christians could not stay there for long periods either. The Christians were afraid to hold them, because they were facing the death penalty for this sin. The Jews flocked one by one, for weeks, to Mezrich. Most of the Jews who were hiding in the villages were arrested and shot.
A minor percent of Biala's Jews tried to save themselves by obtaining Christian passports that were called Identification cards, but even then, they encountered great difficulties. They had to pay enormous sums for these cards, and the holders of the cards were subjected to extortion by the Christians, who extorted the last pennies from them, and eventually they returned to the ghetto.
After the war, the ones who obtained the identification cards and survived as they were considered Aryans were: Gotsha Goldfeld, Mikhash Hoffer, his wife and daughter, Mania Warm and her brother Leibel, Emil Weinberger, Berl Sandlerz, his wife and daughter Hala, Krusa Rosenstein and her daughters Ida and Chana, Chaim Friedman, attorney Leon Goldfarb, Brunia Fux and others.
Young women tried to be sent to work in Germany as Christians, but were unsuccessful. Women traveled by train to be taken to work in Germany but they missed their target. Having no documents to prove their origin, they found their deaths instead of their desire. According to the rumor, Doba Altbir (the daughter of Neta Altbir) was among these victims.
Few people, such as the butcher family Applebaum from Yanaver Street, fled to the forests, hoping to join there to the Russian prisoners, who had escaped from the German prisoner-of-war camps. But even here the end was tragic. These prisoners, who did no partisan action against the Germans, robbed everything from the Jews, left them with no property and expelled them.
Individuals set up for themselves hiding places in the forests. Every night they would go out to a nearby peasant house and buy something to eat. But also in the forests the death lurked. The Jews were murdered either by the Christians or by the Germans. Such an act took place in Hulye Forest that served as a shelter. In the summer of 1943, the Schneiderman brothers (the sons of Rachel Leah from 14 Brisker Street), Hanan Tenenbaum (the son of David the baker), Heinech Cohen (the son of Yitzhak Cohen) and a young man from Mezrich were shot by the Gendarmerie. A Christian from the village of Saltz handed over their shelter to the Gendarmerie.
After the liberation of Biala by the Russian army, in July 1944, the ones who returned from their hiding places were: Barish Urbach, Rivka Bakrach, Favel Buchalter, Shmuel Gwiazda and his wife, Rozke Dejantshul, Sarah Wiesenfeld, Esther Weinstein, Avraham Nochowitz and his sister Rivka, Nehemiah Puchtaruk, Moshe Yosef Feigenbaum, Chaya Feldman with her two sons Yitzhak and Shmuel, Yitzhak Friedman, Noah Rodzinak, Gedaliahu Ridlevitch, Moshe Steinberg with his sister Elka, and Elka Shlitterman.
C. In the camps
We have already mentioned above that according to the rumor that spread in the city, they were going to set up seven camps. At the time of the expulsion, this rumor was confirmed. Most of the men who belonged to the camps, or to the private firms, that were recognized by the government, lived in the camps at the beginning of the expulsion, and were not affected by the displacement's Aktz'ya. In the first days of the expulsion, some Jews infiltrated the camps, some of them managed to stay there, others were handed over to the Gestapo and were shot.
Most of the Jews were concentrated in a camp near the Wehrmacht (the armed forces) on the Warsaw Road, near the barracks of the former 34th battalion[c]. The camp was managed by the paymaster of the headquarters (stabsalmeister) Zeman, and the main paymaster Schultz. As the chief Jew was appointed the Jew Sokolowski.
In this camp there were workshops of carpentry, welding, shoemaking and tailoring, in which a number of Jewish workers were employed.
Every morning a military guard was leading workers from this camp to the Vineta camp in Volya, which was a division of the camp by the 34th battalion. The Jews worked there in various scutwork, and they received food for their work. Jewish workers who had previously worked for private firms, that were recognized by the government, were brought there every morning and in the evening were returned by the Jewish order service, that part of it was in the camp. They were brought lunch to their working places.
German soldiers would come every morning and take groups Jews to work in military units. The Jews who remained in the camp worked in various scutwork.
As early as Sunday, the second day of the expulsion, there was a Jewish funeral in the camp. The young Haim Hoffer hung himself when he heard that his wife and his children were exiled.
During the expulsion days, when the Jews of Biala were allowed to go freely to Mezrich for several days, small Jewish children would spend the day around the Wehrmacht camp on the Warsaw Road. At night they would climb and cross the barbed wire fences surrounding the camp, sneak up to the fathers and spend the night there, and leave early in the morning.
In the camp at the airport, where the German firms Maior, Bentz, and Zager Warner were located, the Jews worked in construction and sewage. A large number of workers were employed in loading wooden poles into wagons for the coal mines. At first, the regime there was tolerable, but later the place became dangerous for the Jews. Every day they would arrest there backward Jews with barbed wire, put them on a cart and hand them over to the Gestapo in the ghetto, where they were shot.
In this camp, the leather worker Yitzhak Winderboim cut his neck with a razor and died in agony for several hours, until a German bullet ended his life.
In the water farm camp, the men were busy with improvement work, and the women and children - with field and garden work. The camp was managed by the German engineer Grinenfeld, who took every valuable object from the Jews. The regime there was not unbearably harsh. The camp was located on the bank of the river.
The Jews worked in various jobs in the German bakery. The camp was managed by the German Hanak. He also robbed quite a bit of Jewish property from his Jewish workers. The few Jewish workers lived quite well there, relatively speaking. The camp was near the mechanical bakery in Volya.
In the Stoag firm camp, located in the Hulye forest, the Jews worked in road work. They were managed by Germans and Poles civilians. The treatment there was not too bad.
In the camp of the German firm Tzaid, which worked for the Protection Police and under its supervision on the Yanaver road, the Jews worked in the construction of barracks for the Protection Police and sewage works. Life there was unbearable. The German craftsman Bittner excelled in his savagery in the camp.
Next to the train was the Ostaban camp, where the Jews worked in loading and unloading wagons, as well as cleaning the railway lines. The regime there was comfortable.
In almost all the camps they tried to employ the craftsmen in their professions, in order to derive the greatest benefit from the holding the Jews in the camps.
The work was not particularly difficult for the Jews in all the camps. However, the inhumane treatment, the humiliations and the hardening, affected much more than the most difficult physical works. The food was meager, each bought him with the money he brought with him additional food, which was smuggled into the camps in different ways. The sanitation and hygiene conditions were poor. All wages for the Jewish workers were canceled as soon as they crossed the threshold of the camp.
In the first days of the expulsion, many Jews went from the camps to Mezrich, where their families were. They even tried to go to the Jewish quarter accompanied by a soldier, which they achieved in different ways and for a fee. The purpose of the trip to the Jewish Quarter was first and foremost to get the men out of hiding and take them to the camps. In addition, they would take money and clothes out of their houses. Afterwards, walking to the Jewish Quarter became impossible. The soldiers were ordered not to go to the Jewish Quarter, and the Jews of the camps were warned, and threatened with a death penalty, not to leave the camps. Despite all this, Jews risked intrusion into their homes at night, in the Jewish Quarter, which was constantly guarded by Polish firefighters, who murdered quite a lot of Jews, such as Isaac Orlansky (Abraham's son), the son of Moshe Leibzon and grandson of Sarah Chirel the baker (Sushchik).
Shimon Lichtenstein and his grandson, who left the camp at the airport and tried to infiltrate the group of Jewish workers in Vigoda which is in Yanaba, were arrested and shot on the road to Yanaba.
Immediately in the first week of the expulsion, they tried to persuade the paymaster of the headquarters (stabsalmeister) to arrange a place where the Jews could wash themselves and to carry out disinfection. They also tried to persuade him to transfer the medicines of the Jewish hospital and the Jewish Aid Committees. It was promised that everything would be arranged. However, at the weekend they felt that there was a different spirit and it would carry away all the promises... They understood that the Jews were being held here as slaves, and the situation would only get worse.
On Wednesday, September 30, the women and children were taken out of the camp near the water farm and led to Mezrich. The women resisted and wanted to get out of the cars. This resulted in gunfire, in which Yitzhak Levy's sister-in-law (from Yanaba) was killed and Rivka Novominsky (M.Y. Biederman's daughter) was injured.
The first week passed and Sunday arrived, the day in which they were free from work in the camp next to the 34th battalion. The people stood in groups and talked. In one group they discussed about politics, and the politicians promised that the end of Germany was near. In another circle, they listed the victims of last week one by one, and in the process included the live people as well.
Most of the workers would reflect on the situation. What was important to them was the behavior of the camp government in the last few days. The question that arose was whether they will continue to detain the Jews here. One commented that they had brought here a large quantity of potatoes which is evidence that the Jews will stay here.
Jews With a developed sense of what was happening, felt that this silence is like a silence before the storm, and that a great evil will come soon.
On Tuesday, October 6th (25th of Tishrei 5703), at 2:30 in the afternoon, Abba Weissman (the son of Berish the medic) entered the carpentry workshop and said that something changed. His father just came from the Vineta camp and said that a meeting of all the workers was called for 1 o'clock. Also: all the men of the water farm were led to the train. Gestapo men had probably come from Lublin and were meeting with the local Gestapo. Abba Weismann had just left the workshop and the worker Hanan Zuckerman entered and began pounding his fists on his head and shouting: Already now we are lost! The Gestapo is coming to take us!.
And immediately after him came a man from the Jewish Order Service, Leybzon, and called the professionals to the camp. The camp was already surrounded
by a guard of Gestapo armed with machine guns. The carpenters had already started to leave the workshop, but during that, the paymaster of the headquarters arrived and ordered them to return. When everyone had returned to the workshop, the director of the workshops, the Polish Karpinski, closed the door and put a lock on it.
Not much time passed and the Jews were taken out of the camp. Where and why - no one knew.
In the evening, the paymaster of the headquarters came in, ordered to stop the work and declared: You are the last 17 Jews left in Biala. Until when - I don't know, in any case try to work diligently and not go outside the camp.
Is it true that of the thousands of Jews who were in the camps, only 17 remained in the city?
When 17 professionals returned to camp after they finished their work, they found it closed. By order of the government, they settled in the small barrack, which stood outside the camp. As they stood engrossed in contemplation of sadness, they noticed a small group of workers come. It turned out that they also left a group of 16 workers who worked in the Hulye Forest. They said that all of Stoag's workers had also been taken.
Twilight time arrived. The 33 workers sat in the barrack in the dark and there was sad silence around them. Suddenly there was a scream: All the Jews, come out! Yes, the Jews thought, they did not forget us either, they had already come to pick us up. The Jews went outside and saw an officer and a soldier in front of them. They ordered them to line up in two lines. They counted the Jews, who were sure that soon they will hear the order March! However, they only ordered a few of them to go and get bread, jam and oil for the flashlight. After bringing the bread, jam and oil, the soldier ordered that there be a fair distribution and that a list of the people be made. David Gelassen was elected as the head of the team.
Early in the morning, when the workers in the barrack began to get dressed, the young man Pinchas Grodner, who was led here yesterday with all the other workers, entered into the barrack. The following was known from him: The Jews of the camp next to the 34th battalion were taken to the train, where the workers of the camps Vineta and of the water farm, were already gathered. They were ordered to sit in the garden next to the train station and not to talk to each other. Later on, they brought the workers of Stoag, the German bakery and from all the other places where the people of the camp near the 34th battalion worked. They did not bring the Jews from the firm Tzaid, from the airport and from the ghetto.
In front of the gathered Jews, the Gestapo commissar, Shtilhamer, spoke and said: You are being transferred to another temporary workplace. For you, men who are capable of working, there is no danger hovering over you, do not be afraid, no evil will befall you. He ended his speech with these words, and called for order and discipline.
Many accepted his words without question. Those who didn't believe him couldn't help themselves either. One worker, Wolwish Weizmann, who wanted to save himself and ran away, was shot during his run by the Gestapo man Shymanski[d].
The Jews sat in the garden until the twilight time. A cargo train arrived and they started loading them into wagons. Only then did they grasp where they were being led. Although there were quite a few wagons, only a few of them were open. The crowd was pushed into the wagons while being vigorously beaten with rubber bumpers. It was clear to everyone that the people are not being sent to work, but there is some new trick of the sadists here. They started shouting from the wagons: It is better that you shoot us than let us suffocate in this crowd! A death by a gunshot is too easy for you - was the answer of the Gestapo man Shymanski. The train started moving in the direction of Mezrich.
In Biala they had already heard a lot about the jumping from the train during the first deportation of the people from Mezrich. And here the people of Biala also started to do the same. Wherever it was possible, they broke down a door and jumped. Where it was impossible to break the door, they jumped through the small window of the galloping train.
However, the jumpers were very few. Knowing that there was no shelter and refuge, many reached the point of giving up their will to live and letting the murderers to lead them to the massacre. As soon as the wagons' doors were closed, the dentist Yoel Zilberberg and his son Haim poisoned themselves.
Pinchas Grodner didn't know where the people were being taken, because as soon as the train started moving, he jumped from it and was slightly damaged.
At noon, the paymaster of the headquarters came, opened the camp and ordered everyone to take their clothes. At the same time, he announced that each worker is only allowed to take with him two pairs of underwear and one suit. Professionals were allowed to take two pairs of pants. Disobeying this order was subject to severe punishment. The Jews were required to immediately hand over all their documents, photographs, money, watches and jewelry, knowing that whoever will later found to have any of these, would be handed over to the Gestapo.
In the next days, all the belongings of the expelled workers were removed from the barracks to the ghetto at the disposal of the Gestapo.
In the following days, all those who jumped from the train in territories that are far from here began to be seen in the camp next to the 34th battalion. Among them the lawyer Leon Goldfarb, Aizasha Rubinstein, the tailor Yaakov Friedman, Shepsel Leibzon, Moshe Sheinberg and Zilberzon. It was learned from them that the train was delayed in Mezrich and Jews from Mezrich were pushed into the empty wagons. It turned out, therefore, that the people were sent to Treblinka.
Only now has it been clarified what were the intentions in the concentration of men, who are capable of working, in the camps. The heroes of the Gestapo did not want that in the collection lot there would be several thousand men capable of working and with physical strength that would see with their own eyes the horrible acts that they were perpetrating on their loved ones; Who knows, maybe at the sight of such a vision, one of them will burst out and the others will follow him to react to their bloody horrible acts, and then, Nazis will be killed as well. But now, when the men with physical strength are imprisoned behind barbed wire fences, they can do in their defenseless wives and children everything they desire...
Some of the people who jumped from the wagons decided to sneak into Biala at night and to check whether there were still any Jews left in the camps. Others turned to the forests, to their bitter end.
The directors of the camps next to the 34th battalion and Vineta tolerated the arrival of new Jews to the camps. Because why should they care if these Jews will work as slaves. It can be assumed that the Gestapo of Biala also
knew about the addition of Jews in the camps and did not respond. It was more convenient for them that their victims were again concentrated in the camps. In this manner, it will be easier for them to exterminate them when the time comes.
At the end of October 1942, the number of Jews in the camp next the 34th battalion was 106 people and in Vineta - 47 people. Among the latter were three disguised women: Golda Shapira (the daughter of Avraham Orlansky), Mania Kowarsky (the daughter of Label Goldberg) and Sarahle Glicksberg (the young daughter of Nachman Glicksberg).
The professionals who remained in the camp next to the 34th battalion received one barrack at their disposal. The food was not the worst, but it was too little. Ten kilograms of bread could not satisfy the hunger. However, everyone found a way to do it. They still have their gold, and the Christians who worked in the camp would bring the Jews enough bread with the money they received from them, despite the prohibition of the director of the workshops, the evil Karpinski. And if it was hard to get enough bread, then a kind of spread, such as jam, substitutes for honey and cheese they managed to get quite successfully. Lunch, which was potato soup with a dash of fat, wouldn't be so bad, if the Christian cooks didn't take so much trouble to prepare it in such a way that it would be impossible to eat it. Although after the meal was distributed there would still be enough stew left in the pot and the hungry workers would ask for a small addition, it was convenient for the Christian cooks to pour the rest into the garbage can. Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, they would get coffee, which should have been sweetened, but instead of reaching the boiler, the sugar was stuck at the cooks. Several times they asked that the Jews themselves will run the kitchen, but with no success.
A tragic case happened in the Vineta camp. One worker named Shmelke Schwartz, went with a German to the city, dug in his pen, on Sadova Street, and took out a small package of valuables. A Christian woman (the prison guard's wife) saw it and informed the Gestapo. Some Gestapo men came to the camp and called Schwartz. Schwartz immediately felt the evil that is coming and shoved the package into the hand of a young man. Later on, Pinchas Grodner took the package from that young man. The Gestapo beat Schwartz and he confessed. When the Gestapo arrested the young man and began to beat him, he pointed to Grodner, and said he took the package from him. Schwartz was taken to the prison on Froste Street and Grodner was taken by the Gestapo to their headquarters in Raaba's sawmill.
When Grodner arrived at the yard, he jumped off the carriage and disappeared. A warrant was issued for his arrest and they found him hiding among the wooden planks. When he was taken to the Gestapo prison, he started to run away again. He reached the fence and began to climb over it, but several bullets hit him and knocked him dead from the fence, and he was buried there.
They heard about Shmelke Schwartz, that one night at the end of November, they brought him in a car, along with other victims, to the ghetto lot, and he was shot next to the Shtibel of the Radzins Hassidim.
Sad news from other camps would be received at the camp next to the 34th battalion. While in this camp there were punishments with a few strokes of the cane for a serious sin, in the Tzaid camp they would shoot for every offense.
Even sick people, who in this camp were tolerated and stayed alive, would be shot in Tzaid camp. This is how the worker Yonah Morgenstein (Moshe's son) was actually shot there because he was sick.
The situation was extremely bad in the camps near the airport and in Malashevich (near Terespol), where many Jews from Biala were. In the camps, the superiors made a partnership with the Gestapo: every day they would provide it with a quota of Jews, both healthy and sick, to be shot.
Days and weeks passed in this manner. The workers of the 34th battalion did not behave badly. But no one can forget his suffering. Everyone was depressed and sadness pinched their hearts. From time to time a singing ball of Jewish folk songs was held there. However, these songs did not make people happy, but on the contrary, made them even sadder.
The religious among the workers would pray every day Mincha and Ma'ariv in public. They had a very good prayer leader, Avraham Greenglass (the son of Yoel Hashamash), who returned during the war from Lodz to Biala.
At the end of October, a group of young people, led by Zilia Gutenberg, left the camp to the forest. The group managed to get some weapons, ammunition and clothes out of the camp's warehouses. According to the rumor, this group is the one that shot the district general of Biala, Kiehl, on the road to Mezrich.
In the summer of 1943, Zilia Gutenberg laid wounded at the house of a Christian in the village. What happened in the end is unknown. That summer, according to the rumor, young Lustigman, who also belonged to the group that left the camp, was walking in the forests of Mezrich.
At the beginning of November 1942, the Jews from the camps of the firm Tzaid and Ostaban were transferred to the camp next to the 34th battalion. Together with the 47 Jews from Vineta, the number of Jews now totaled 400. The transfer of the Jews was justified by the fact that from November 1 onwards, no Jews are taken in except in camps controlled by the Wehrmacht, behind wire fences. And since the above-mentioned two camps had no affiliation to the Wehrmacht, they transferred the Jews to the Wehrmacht camp on the Warsaw Road.
Among the people who had just come to the camp, the most neglected workers were of the Tzaid firm, dressed in tatters and starving. Among them were also typhus patients. The leader of their group, who was a prisoner of war from the eastern provincial towns, was somewhat guilty of this situation, according to the people.
In the camp next to the 34th battalion, friendly relations prevailed among the people, the head of the group did not do anything on his own and would consult with the group of professionals about everything. He did not enjoy any privileges. From this camp people would often escape and go to Mezrich to see their families. These people had to be deleted from the list of workers, so that they would not be given food, or else - it could have led to a disaster. Anyone who went would be deleted from the list, if he did not return in the evening from work. However, after a few days the man would return from Mezrich and they would register him under a different name, so that he would not be handed over to the Gestapo in his absence. There were cases where people held such parades several times and they were always registered
in different names. But in no case did they demand any compensation for such an act. Therefore, it was very strange what the Jews from the Tzaid camp talked about the manager of their groups, who ordered them to give him any good clothes or objects he saw with them. He would even perform tricks in the kitchen, which would worsen their nutritional status.
Because of the arrival of the new people, the previous camp was opened again. Meanwhile, another barbed wire fence was added around the camp, and rolls of barbed wire were placed between the fences. The camp gate was locked at 7 in the evening and opened at 5:30 in the morning. The German guards would patrol the area outside the camp all night and would check the barbed wire fences every time if they were not damaged. In the camp itself, two Jewish guards were walking by the barbed wire fences, and their role was to make sure that no one will run away from the camp.
Once again, every morning several hundred Jews would go to work in the Vineta camp and in the evening they would return. The professionals worked in the workshops, the rest of the Jews were employed in the camp in scutwork, and there were also Jews who worked in the warehouses.
Until the new people came, the problem of morbidity did not exist in the camp. Now many sick people were lying in the two barracks, where the Tzaid men were housed. There was no doctor in the camp, and they were afraid to ask for a doctor. The experience in other camps showed what the results of a doctor's visit were. If the doctor made sure that there was a typhus patient in the camp, the patient would be shot and a quarantine would be placed on the camp for a certain time. What did they do? They bought various medicines and several local doctors, such as Haim Rosemarin (dental technician) and Label Levenberg (an electrician) used to take care of the sick...
Before the government, they always claimed that these were flu patients, since the flu was also spreading in the city now; The sick people will recover in a few days and will go to work.
In the meantime, several deaths also occurred. The dead were brought to the Jewish cemetery for burial. Among the dead were found the people of Biala: Moshe Korenblum (the son of Yaakov) and Spivak (the son of furrier from 21 Gravanover Street).
The typhus epidemic began to infiltrate the other barracks and did not miss the Vineta camp. They began to think about isolating the sick in a special barrack. But they were afraid to do so lest this isolation open the eyes of the Germans and they would hand the patients over to the Gestapo. But when the number of the sick reached more than sixty, the healthy began to demand that they be isolated, or else they would all get sick.
On Sunday, December 13, 1942, all the patients were isolated, willingly or unwillingly, in a special barrack. Matityahu Jelazny, Eliyahu Singer and Grubman, who had already recovered from typhus, treated the patients.
At the beginning of December 1942, the paymaster of the headquarters, the director of the camp next to the 34th battalion, ordered the group leader to inform the workers that he had received a permit to continue holding the Jews. He said that as long as he is here, nothing bad will happen to the Jews. He will try to improve the food, and they should know that there is no point in escaping from the camp, since all the previous fugitives have been caught and shot.
When the group leader handed these things over to the Jews in the camp, many immediately responded and said: There will surely be news, because always when the German murderers start to reassure and calm down, the opposite happens; while others tended to believe the things they were told by the camp director.
On Saturday, December 12, the paymaster of the headquarters went on vacation and his place was filled by the main paymaster of the headquarters Shilf.
On Sunday night, when the gate of the camp was already locked, the Jewish guards inside the camp announced that the main paymaster Shilf and the paymaster Behme had entered the camp.
Both of them started checking the barracks. the main paymaster Shilf was very drunk. He probably came to train his dog on the flesh of the Jews. He placed his whip on every Jew he met in the barracks, and immediately his dog jumped up and climbed on top of the Jew, tore off the rest of his clothes plus a piece of flesh. After his wild behavior with the dog and seeing some Jewish blood, the drunkard left the camp. This case caused a lot of depression, because so far, they have not seen such visions in the camp.
On Tuesday, December 15, the head of the group was called to the Vineta camp to inquire him about some matter there. When he arrived at Vineta, the workers asked him if he knows where the forty workers equipped with shovels had been taken. They were also given bread because they would have to work there at night as well. The head of the group replied that he had no knowledge of this.
While the head of the group was sitting there with some Jewish acquaintances and eating lunch, Dehatm Koze asked the director of the groups about the act in the 40 workers. But he also said that he knew nothing. In the meantime, the director of the Vineta camp entered, a military official named Balman from Hamburg, who acted in a duplicitous manner towards the Jews. He took the most expensive gifts from them, promised them salvation, but during the Aktz'ya of the displacement from the camps, on October 6, he handed the Jews over to the Gestapo himself, so that they would not hide. The tailor Yosef Tischel sewed many diamonds into his suits and the shoemaker Baruch Freiner placed gold Rubles in the heels of his boots, so that he could take all this home when he will go there for a vacation. Balman started a conversation with a sick young man who was apparently very friendly with him, and whose father was in the camp next to the 34th battalion. The conversation lasted for a long hour, and in the meantime a rumor spread in the Vineta camp, that the forty workers had been shot. The leaders of the group realized that Balman's conversation with the young man related to the case of the forty workers, since he saw that the young man got up from his bed and got dressed. However, the young man promised that he knows nothing about this case.
In the evening, when the workers returned from the Vineta camp, it was learned that indeed 38 of the forty workers had been shot. Two of them, Herschel Weissman (the son of David) and Rosenberg (the son-in-law of Nachuma'le Sanders), managed to escape.
The fugitives were so embarrassed that it was difficult to get anything out of their mouths. But one thing was more or less understandable: army guards led them from the camp. On the way, a Gestapo man on a bicycle approached them and showed them where to lead the people. These two aforementioned young men immediately realized that the appearance of
this Gestapo man is a bad sign, and near the forest of Grabarka they began to run towards the forest. The Germans shot after them but they managed to hide in the thick of the forest. Then they heard the sound of gunshots and screams in the distance.
A new mourning fell on the camp. Fathers mourned the death of their sons and sons mourned the death of their fathers. Before the gate of the camp was locked, the head of the group went to the main paymaster and informed him that the 40 workers had not returned from their work in Vineta, and that they were not even in Vineta. He asked him how this is explained. The main paymaster and his staff pretended to be surprised. He asked the leader of the group if he did not know where the people were. He replied that he had no knowledge of them. The main paymaster pondered for a few moments and said: They are probably in the camp next to the airport. I will call there tomorrow morning. This answer confirmed the terrible truth.
Wednesday was a normal work day; Everyone in the camp was busy with their work. The workers who were working in the Vineta camp were also led early in the morning by German soldiers to the camp in Volya.
In the afternoon, the paymaster Behme came to the camp. He walked across the camp accompanied by the head of the group, who gave him a report on everything. The paymaster was satisfied that the number of patients was decreasing. The head of the group casually asked him about the 40 workers. The paymaster was not confused and answered that they work in the camp next to the airport and will surely return here next week.
In the evening, the workers of the Vineta camp returned and said that the Jewish group managers were not there. They seemed to have gone to the Christian Shemietanko, who lived next to the camp. Among those who left the camp was also the same young man, with whom Balman talked for a long time yesterday, and whose father was in the camp next to the 34th battalion. Is there a son who doesn't want to save his father? Wouldn't the son advise his father to run away from the camp? But his father continued to stay in the camp just as he did until now...
True, it was very difficult for everyone to leave the camp, especially when there were many sick people in the camp, and there was nowhere to go, except for the ghetto in Mezrich - nevertheless, if the people of the camp had known, just as the young man did, about the danger that awaited them, they would all escape on time from the camp in the long winter night. However, all the assumptions revolved around the attitude of that worker in Vineta to his father, and they were deeply disappointed. In those terrible days, the family ties also loosened, and everyone tried, first of all, to save his own life, without thinking of the dearest and most loved ones.
And indeed, that worker of Vineta got up at night and went to Mezrich while leaving his father in the camp next to the 34th battalion.
After the news of the escape of the Jewish leaders of the groups in Vineta, the mood in the camp on the Warsaw Road became very tense. Groups that were preparing to escape were organized. Many did not want to hear about an escape, since they already felt organized in the place - and where will they turn now in the winter?
On Thursday, December 17, 1942 (9 of Tevet 5703), at 4:30 in the night, the Jewish guards in the camp announced that the camp was surrounded. They saw that outside, in front of the camp gate, two trucks were parking and lighting with their spotlights the entire camp area. By the barbed wire fences patrolled army guards with full ammunition.
Yes, the tragic end is here - thought the Jews of the camp.
In the barracks the workers stood angry and helpless. It was clear to them that their fate will be similar to the fate of those 38 workers from the Vineta camp. They talked among themselves that in the last hours one should behave with self-worth, since these hundreds of workers cannot be exceptions to the entire Jewish people. Although it was clear to everyone that soon the march to their death would begin, there were still some workers who started to prepare packages to take with them, which caused sarcastic laughter from others.
An opinion was expressed that the murderers should be attacked. Others tried to prove that such an action cannot be organized in advance. Especially when the barracks are separate and isolated; Such an action should come naturally, spontaneously.
The Gestapo Commissar Steilhamer entered the barracks with two Gestapo officers, Peisker and Darm. The commissar called one worker to approach and ordered him to line up every 5 people in a row and translate for them what he, Steilhamer, would say. The commissar began by saying: Since there are cases of escape in this camp, it is a sign that the regime here is too easy, therefore, the people will be transferred to another camp. Nothing will happen to the workers, but order must be maintained during the march. Anyone who tries to escape will be shot, and twenty others will be shot with him. He also pointed to the wolf dog, which was by his side, and stated that the dog too would watch the people and not let them escape.
In the barracks they heard cars coming to the camp and leaving again. It was clear that the sick people were being taken out of the camp. It was later found out that in the trucks that awaited in front of the camp gate were the Jewish workers from the Vineta camp.
The darkness of the night still prevailed around. Those condemned to death stood in the barracks and waited to be led to the gallows. The silence of the night was disturbed by several shots. As it was later known, some workers who approached the barbed wire fences were shot. In one barrack they found the worker Moshe Leibzon (the son of Yechiel Frondik) breaking through the floor to hide under it, and took him out to the yard of the camp and shot him. They also shot a worker who tried to hide in the pit of the toilet.
The last morning of the condemned to death began to infiltrate the barracks. The doors were opened and the order was given to the Jews to leave the barracks and to go to the camp's yard. There they were arranged in rows of 7 people and they were again warned lest they escape. The paymaster Behme worked with all his might to prove that he was not lagging behind in the holy work of exterminating Jews. He brought the worker Pinchas Charni (the son of Shlomo Stop), who was hiding in a trash can, and handed him over to the Gestapo commissar. The commissar led the worker to the barracks and ordered him to lie down on the ground. Pinchas Tcharni refused to fill the order. Then the commissar pushed him forward, aimed his pistol at the back of his neck and shot him. The Jew fell dead to the ground.
You see - exclaimed the commissar - I keep my promises. - He ordered to collect 20 people and shoot them, but in the middle of the collection, he announced: exceptionally, I now waive you the penalty of killing 20 people. announced: Exceptionally, I waive you the penalty of killing 20 people for now.
They counted the rows and found that 231 people were ready for the massacre. They were ordered to cross their arms, look only forward and don't talk to each other.
The condemned to death started marching towards the place of the massacre with their heads down, accompanied by 5 Gestapo officers and 10 soldiers. When they left the camp gates, they saw a dead body lying to the left of the warehouses. Near the homes of the Germans, they saw two Christians with two carts full of shovels. It was clear what they were for.
The people went out onto the Warsaw Road and started marching in the direction of Mezrich. Although it was the second half of December, it was not very cold, but the air was soaked with moisture. They diverted the marchers from the road to the narrow Slavachinska alley, which was full of slush and mud that made the march difficult. Suddenly an order was given to sing! The sad melody of a Polish cavalry song was heard and the parade continued to march through the mud. When they were ordered to stop singing, the marchers heard the last sounds of the machine guns. It turned out that these shots killed the people who were taken out of the trucks. Among the dead there were these Biala's people: Yaakov Weissman (the son of Arka Weissman), Mania Kovarski (the daughter of Leibel Goldberg), the coachman Butchkela (a nickname), the tailor Yaakov Friedman and his little son, Sarahle Glicksberg, Eliyahu Singer, Matit'yahu Zilazni, Grobman and others.
The death parade stopped, and the Jews saw their grave. A long, deep pit in the ground, known as Kolikava. On both sides of the pit was piled up the dirt that was removed from it and that will later be used to cover the grave.
As soon as the marchers stopped, the worker Israel Rudzinak broke out of the line and started running to the right. They immediately started shooting at him from all directions, but he kept on running. The dog did not obey his master and did not move from his place.
This whole spectacle only lasted a moment until the worker Senior, a former prisoner of war, shouted the order Run! and the crowd began to run away, while shouting wild Hora. The machine guns and guns began to fire continuously and aggressively at the escapees.
Almost all those who escaped from the killing field headed to the ghetto in Mezrich. Among them was also the hero, the first one to run, Israel Rodzinek. Among the people of Biala who came to the ghetto in Mezrich were the wounded: Yehoshua Weissman, Yerachmiel Lichtenbaum and Asher Feigenbaum (a carpenter).
Later it became known that some of those who escaped from the killing field turned in other directions, and that many of them perished on the way. Among them: Isaac
|Order of Gestapo chief following expulsion to intercept and hand over Jews to the Gestapo|
Koifman (a grain merchant, Yanaver Street), Alter Flatt (a tailor), Yaakov Rosenker (a painter), Haim Shimon Rosenblat (a watchmaker), Avraham Gringlas (the son of Yoel the Shamash), Blumenkranz (the son of Yeshayahu Blumenkranz) and others.
After the camp workers next to the 34th battalion and Vineta were shot, the Jewish workers next to the Gestapo knew that they were also expected to end their lives in this way, so the group managers Yitzhak Eckstein, Shlomo Steingart, Shimshon Yustman and the Schneiderman brothers fled from there.
Yitzhak Eckstein immediately came to Mezrich. Someone told, apparently, to the Gestapo in Biala about Eckstein's arrival at Mezrich and it demanded that he will be returned to the Gestapo in Biala. The Jewish Order Service arrested him and handed him over to the Polish police, from where he was transferred to the Gestapo in Biala.
One morning they gathered all the ghetto workers in the Gestapo yard, in Raaba's factory. Eckstein was taken out to them beaten and wounded and the Gestapo commissar demanded that the Jewish workers kill Eckstein. The Jewish workers stood still. - If you fear the God of the Jews - said the commissar Steilhamer, we will kill him. Some Gestapo officers crushed their victims with rods. Eckstein was buried near the fence of Raaba's factory.
In the camp next to the airport, the Jewish workers worked until November 1943, then, as the Christians told, they were shot. Among them was also found a group of Jews from Yanaba, who worked in the Vigoda of Yanaba, and were later transferred to the camp at the airport in Biala.
In collecting testimony of the Katowice Department of the Central Jewish Historical Committee in Poland (No. 290), a man named Yazi Rosenbaum from Warsaw, who was in the Poniatow camp (near Lublin), told that in October 1943, 10,000 (ten thousand) people were transferred from this camp to the airport in Biala Podlaska.
Christians from Biala would talk about Jews from Hungary who were brought to the airport. It is assumed that this is related to the shipment of people from the Poniatow camp, but the number 10,000 is certainly exaggerated.
It seems that the information given by the Christians about the killing of the Jews at the airport in November 1943 is true. On November 3, 1943, an Aktz'ya was held in the vicinity of Lublin, which was called special treatment, in which many Jews were shot in the camps, and the rest were taken to Majdanek.
The last surviving remnant of the Jews of Biala was a group of Jewish workers near the Gestapo, who, after cleaning up the former Jewish quarter, were employed in eliminating every trace of Judaism in Biala. This group destroyed the synagogue and the midrash houses.
In May 1943, 17 more Jews from the ghetto in Mezrich were added to this group. This group existed in the city until April 1944. With the approach of the Russian army, they moved the last handful of Jews from Biala to Lublin. Only a small part of this group survived.
|Map of the roads leading to the death camps
The Jewish Council
It has already been mentioned above, that on one day in November 1939, the Gestapo in Biala invited the previous community leaders and commanded them to organize as a Jewish council.
Several of the community leaders joined the Jewish Council that was being established, and people from all strata of the Jewish population were added to them. The composition of this Council was as follows: Yaakov Aharon Rosenbaum, Yitzhak Pizich, David Kantor, Avraham Streicher, Yitzhak Levy, Moshe Haim Wiesenfeld, Israel Bialer, David Weissman, Shmuel Kreiselman, Menachem Finkelstein, Yehoshua Goldreich, Hanina Kashemacher, Yehoshua Eidelstein, Yehoshua Rubinstein, Berl Goldberg and others.
The Jewish Council enjoyed the full support of the Jewish population and no indignation arose in the city against it. Even the refugees, who were brought by the Nazis to Biala, had no claim on the Jewish Council. The extent of the tolerance of the Jewish Council
to the refugees can be evidenced by the fact that among its office employees was a considerable percentage of refugees, headed by Secretary Rubinstein from Subalak. Many refugees were sent by the Jewish Council to important positions in the Labor Office and other German workplaces.
Everyone in the city knew that the members of the Jewish Council did not want their jobs, but were required to do so by the Gestapo, and it was clear to everyone that under these difficult conditions and circumstances, the Council had to conduct its work, and how dangerous it was to negotiate with the superiors of the Nazis. When one of the wealthy Jews would complain about the high taxes that were demanded of him, the Jewish Council would inform him that it agrees to add him as a member of the Council. It goes without saying that the complainer would have immediately apologized and justified himself, as no one in the city wanted to be a member of the Jewish Council...
In the winter of 1941, the Jewish Council annexed several members, among them Haim Rosemarin. Since the latter did not at all desire to be considered by the government as a member of the Jewish Council, he released himself from being a member by providing frequent large sums of money to the Council. The dentist Yoel Zilberberg also paid large sums of money to release himself from being a member of the Jewish Council.
There were cases when Jews (among them Avraham Yamnik, the son-in-law of Yehoshua Glicksberg) brought to the Jewish Council expensive jewels to be used to perhaps alleviate the situation of the Jewish population. The Jewish Council refused to accept the jewels and said: - If it becomes necessary, we will appeal to the population.
The brave and dedicated activity of the Jewish Council in Biala should be especially noted. They literally sacrificed themselves for the benefit of the Jewish population. Its members were the first to bear all suffering and hardship, which was something that the Jewish population sometimes had no idea about.
The Jewish Council was constantly on guard to cancel the decrees that were imposed on the Jews, sometimes with success.
The courageous stance of the Jewish Council towards the government occupiers can be learned by the conversation of the head of the Jewish Council, Yaakov Aharon Rosenbaum, with the reporter Lipkov, which is presented in the chapter the first expulsion.
During the first expulsion from Biala to the Sobibor death camp, the members of the Jewish Council gave clear hints to the Jewish people not to hurry to go to the collection lot, even though they might be killed for it. Thanks to these hints, the first expulsion from Biala (at that time they still didn't know about the death camps and were sure they were being transferred to other cities) did not uproot many Jews who, according to the decree, were obliged to leave Biala.
The Jewish Council knew well how to take advantage of the contradictions and disagreements
of the German rulers among themselves. The Gestapo more than once canceled a decree issued by the district government. This is how the Jewish Council embarrassed the Gestapo, which had no idea about the first expulsion decree. The Gestapo was then very hurt by the fact that the news of the first expulsion reached it from the Jewish Council. Perhaps this is the reason for the passive attitude of the Gestapo on the day of the expulsion and that it passed without bloodshed.
The proud and active stance of the Jewish Council must have been the reason that its members were the first victims in the city. A month before Biala became clean of Jews, members of the Jewish Council were taken from the city and tortured to death in Majdanek.
The people of Biala in Mezrich ghetto
The Jews of Biala, who were brought during the second and last expulsion (from September 26 to October 1, 1942) to the ghetto in Mezrich, did not find any place for them there. In the narrow ghetto, the people from Mezrich found themselves a place with difficulty, and here they brought thousands of Jews from Biala and the Biala district. In such cases it was clear to the residents of the ghetto, that Jews were being brought there and that a new expulsion was coming. And since in every ghetto they fostered the illusion that they did not mean to harm the local Jews, but only the immigrants, they did not want to interfere with the new residents.
However, the Jewish Council of Mezrich had no choice and allocated several houses for the Jews of Biala. Here too, in the ghetto in Mezrich, the Jews of Biala made efforts to obtain work, in order to prolong their life, or perhaps others advised them that in this way they would be saved from death. Some of the people from Biala managed, with the help of various protections, to get work places.
The exiles of Biala have not yet had time to get to know the maze of alleys of the ghetto in Mezrich, and the decree about the second expulsion of Biala's Jews has already reached Mezrich. On the same day, October 6, 1942, when the men were displaced from the camps in Biala, they stopped the train in which they were transported at the Mezrich train station and filled the empty wagons with Jews. The first victims were the Jews of Biala and its district. The people of Mezrich had already managed to prepare good hiding places and workplaces for themselves, and therefore, their part in this expulsion was small.
Before the expulsion, the SD member of Biala, Glat, came to Mezrich and asked where were the women Boltsha Pizich and Chaya Rosenbaum, from whom he fraudulently took 45,000 gold coins, in return for the promise to return the Jews of Biala from Majdanek. Later it was told, that during the expulsion, all the women who worked in the field at Pototsky's estate, Halas, among them were the women Pizich and Rosenbaum, were taken from the field during their work day, and led to the wagons at the train station in Mezrich. This assured the SD member Glat that he got rid of these two women.
During this expulsion, David Weissman (who came to Biala from Warsaw), who was a refugee from Biala in the Mezrich ghetto and the brother of the medic Berish Weissman, refused to leave the house and in no way wanted to obey the Nazi order to go outside. He was shot at home. It was typical that the Jews of Biala would say: I will not be taken to Treblinka. This place is enough for me to die in, why should I trouble myself all the way to Treblinka to die there?
After this expulsion, the number of Jews originated from Biala in the Mezrich ghetto decreased greatly. With each displacement from the Mezrich ghetto, people from Biala were taken away and their number dwindled. The women Hama Kalichstein and Lidzbarski (Moshe Lidzbarski's wife) died in hiding places during the expulsions. Between
expulsion to expulsion, the life of the Jews of Biala was similar to the life of the Jews of Mezrich, a life of fear, overcrowding and filth (typhus ruled in the narrow and dirty houses and a number of Biala people died of this disease), a life of constant struggle with death, a life full of sorrow, grief and longing for the loved ones who perished - and hope for the downfall of Hitler.
The Jews of Biala would risk going to Biala, in order to get something valuable out of the hiding places there. Some of them did not return from such a walk to Mezrich. This is how: Moshe Yitzhak Biderman, his grandson (the son of Rivka Novominsky), Yehoshua Englander, Polya Rybak, Eija Rubinstein and others, went to Biala and were never seen again in the ghetto.
After the fourth expulsion from the Mezrich ghetto, in November 1942, only a few of the people of Biala remained. Some of the people of Biala engaged in trade in the ghetto, others would go to work outside the ghetto and would try to smuggle things in order to make a living. There were few people from Biala who still had money that they took with them when they were deported from Biala. There were also Jews who needed the help of the social department of the Jewish Council in Mezrich.
The people of Biala would meet in the narrow ghetto, and like the people of Mezrich, they were not engaged in any public affairs. Everyone lives their own life.
In the long list of the Jewish victims in the ghetto in Mezrich, who died between one expulsion to the other, or during the expulsions themselves, the part of the people of Biala was very material. We will list here the names that were engraved in our memory:
For leaving the ghetto, in order to make a living, the following were shot: Itke Platt, Miriam Listgarten and her daughter, Leah Kenizshnik, Asha Friedman (her husband was a tailor on Gravanover Street his origin is from Lumaz).
In the bloodshed that was held by the Gestapo in the Mezrich ghetto on the New Year's Eve of 1942/3, most of the victims were women and children from Biala. On this night, the following were shot with Dum Dum bullets: Zissel Rosemarin (from Sircus family), Slava Cohen, Asha Sheinberg (from Wiernitki family), Asha Rosen (from Rosenbaum family) and the two children of the painter Haim Yosef Kenizshnik.
During the search for the fugitive from the police, Israel Lazer Yazshimovski, the former commander of the Jewish Order Service in Mezrich, Avraham Ezra Handelman and Bluma Preter were shot.
During the expulsions from the Mezrich ghetto in May 1943, victims from Biala died inside the ghetto, mainly those who were in hiding places that were discovered.
In one hiding place, into which the gendarme Franz Bauer threw a grenade, among the rest were killed: Monia Lustigman (the son of Iser), his wife (from Yurberg family), her sister, the brother of his wife and two sisters of Monia.
From a hiding place in the butcher Lempert's house, the people were taken out into the street, placed against a wall and shot. Among them were the following people of Biala: Moshe Feigenbaum (the son of Zilia the carpenter) with his wife Bluma (from Gershkop family), their little son and the wife's sister; Toyvale Lustigman (from Rubinstein family) and her little son. Elsewhere in the ghetto, Meir Orlansky with his wife and the baker Yitzhak Fogel were shot.
In the Mezrich forests, Yosef Elboim (the son-in-law of Yaakov the Slaughterer) was murdered by the Poles. His little daughter managed to return to the Mezrich ghetto with a bullet-holed hand.
Young people from Biala also tried to escape from the Mezrich ghetto into the forest, to escape the Nazis, but the attempts did not succeed.
In one group that went to the forest were found the following people of Biala: Fayvel Buchhalter, Moshe Steinberg and his sister Elka, Shefsel Leibzon, Nachka Gershkop and David Rosenberg. This group managed to purchase several pistols. At a meeting in the forest with Russian prisoners of war, who had escaped from German camps, the Russians, being armed, surrounded the Jewish group, unloaded their weapons and robbed them. The Jews returned to the ghetto.
In a second group that went to the forest, were the girls Sarah Wiesenfeld and Bass (from the butchers) from Biala. During a large search by the Germans in the Mezrich forests, the group managed to escape from the forest and returned to the ghetto.
In July 1943, the Mezrich ghetto was completely liquidated and together with the handful of the Mezrich Jews, the few remnants of Biala Jews disappeared from there.
After the liberation of Mezrich by the Russian army, it was discovered that a group of young people from Biala was the only one that had a hiding place in the center of Mezrich, and it managed to stay alive. In this group were the sister and brother of the Steinberg family, Buchhalter and the girls Wiesenfeld and Bachrach.
* * *
At the end of these bleeding lists of happenings, we will bring two stories from the Nazi camp, which have a relation to Biala, as well as two lists of Jewish real estate in Biala.
In the official government newspaper of the General Government Krakuer Zeitung, dated October 17, 1942, it is said that according to an agreement between the district authorities of Biala and Radzin, all the Jews of Biala were transferred to Mezrich and that after the expulsion of all the Jews in the city, all the prices were cut to half. The craftsmen who had previously been pushed aside by the Jewish craftsmen, now performed their work more diligently.
What was the form of transfer of the Jews - nothing is said about this, of course.
In fact, it was impossible to get anything in the city. The Christians themselves would say that the Jews must have taken everything with them... Every Christian was afraid to trade with another, since a large part of the trade was illegal. When the Jews left the city, the trade stopped completely.
To what extent the Christian craft flourished can be demonstrated by the fact that when the rulers of Biala needed good work they would come to Mezrich to the few Jewish craftsmen who still remained there. The Christian craftsmen in Biala sat without work as they also lacked the materials for work, which had been provided to them earlier by the Jews.
As it is known, after the war, 21 of the greatest Nazis were tried by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg (Germany), and Goring was the most senior of them.
In the stenographic report of the trial, the testimony of Dr. Pritscha, who was the chief editor of the German News Agency (D.N.B. - Deutsche Nachrichte Beyuro) and the head of the news departments of the German Radio, is given. In his testimony, among other things, it is also spoken about the district of Biala (volume 17, page 177), in connection with the following matter:
Dr. Fritz, the defense attorney of Dr. Pritscha, presented questions to him during his investigation about the fate of the displaced German Jews. When asked by his defense attorney, if he, Pritscha, was interested in the conduct with the German Jews, who were sent to the Jewish pens in Eastern Europe, came Dr. Pritscha's answer: Of course. For example, I learned various things from my former assistant, who was sent to the General Government, and was appointed to an administrative position there in the Biala-Podlaska district. He told me that the area that was under his supervision had become a Jewish area. He would often describe to me the appearance of the displaced Jews and their housing. He also told me about the difficulties in employing the Jews as workers and their work in the plantations. His whole description testified to his humane attitude. He told me that at his workplace, the Jews are treated better there than by the Third Reich.
To the defense attorney's question, what was the name of this man, Dr. Pritscha answered: Chief Government Adviser Hubert Kiehl.
In connection with this statement, it is worth noting this:
There were not found at all any Jews who were displaced from Germany in the Biala district. The aforementioned Hobert Kiehl was the district general who was shot on the Mezrich Road (probably by the group of Jews who went from the camp next to the 34th battalion under the command of Zilia Gutenberg).
Already in the announcement of the district general of Biala dated January 15, 1941, it was talked about the expropriation of Jewish real estate.
From the certificates we received from the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, it is proven that back in September 1943, when the German front in Russia had already been breached, Rommel's African Division was crumbling and the Allied armies had already invaded Italy - the Germans were still engaged in making lists of Jewish houses, whose owners were perished by them.
These certificates are of interest to us first of all, to get an idea of real estate of the Jews that were remained in Biala.
From the letter dated September 22, 1943, whose photograph we include in our review in Yiddish, we can see that there are about 317 real estate properties in Biala as of August 1943. It is difficult to say that this number includes all the Jewish houses and lots in Biala. From the list we publish in our review above, as been edited by the Germans, we see that it includes only 194 units and is missing a whole row of streets. Some of the names are neutered and distorted. On Gravanover Street, the houses of Ahrale Slavatitshor and the Rudzinek family are missing. In Volnoshchi square, the houses where the shops of Hanna Rachel Reich, Sarah Gele Goldfeder, Winograd, Sapir, Yontel Lipiats, Mendel Tokarsky and Sarah Leah Tornheim are missing. Apart from these, the houses of Avraham Orlansky, Shmuel Fishman and Tila Berlin are missing from Volnoshchi square.
There were rumors about Shmuel Fishman's house during the Nazi era, that the Germans sold it to the German firm Golinker from Bremen.
Due to the discovery of the German list of Jewish real estate and in order to complete it, we provide in our review in Yiddish a list of Jewish real estate, that was edited according to memory and that is not included in the German list. The list contains 98 units and also this list is not complete.
* * *
After the liberation of Biala by the Russian army, on July 26, 1944, about 26 Jews who emerged from hiding places and from the forests returned to Biala. Among these were also people who were not from Biala, but rather were in Biala during the Nazi occupation. The Christian population viewed the return of this handful of Jews with an evil eye. In the first days of their arrival, they refused to sell them anything, and the Jews were forced to ask for bread from the soldiers of the Russian army.
|Exhumation of the Kedoshim who were shot during the Nazi regime in Biala and buried in various places. After the war, they were interred in a Communal Grave in the destructed Jewish cemetery.|
With the return of the Polish citizens from Russia, dozens of former Jewish residents returned to Biala. They took out the bones of the Jews shot in Shabtai Finkelstein's lot and brought them to be buried in a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery. With the help of the Jews of Biala that now live in North America, a memorial pillar was placed on this mass grave. However, this pillar stood there only for a short time and was blown up by an explosive. Even this tragic sign of the Jewish destruction has disappeared.
The handful of Biala Jews realized that it is no longer welcomed in its hometown, and it left Biala.
* * *
In our descriptions of the Jewish Biala in the last generations and destruction and devastation, we reviewed the life of the Jews in Biala from the end of the nineteenth century until the tragic end.
We saw a voluntary confined life in the ghetto, and the struggle to get out of this ghetto. We accompanied the volatile social life that trickle with intensity, which grew precisely during the years of the First World War. We followed the hopes and expectations for a better tomorrow, which were nurtured and dreamed at the end of the First World War, but faded away quickly and their place was taken by the struggle for daily existence, a struggle that continued until it reached us, the people of the philosophers and the poets. And again, we saw the Jews of Biala shut up and confined within a ghetto, but this time not in a voluntary ghetto, but in a ghetto that was forced upon them by brutal force, and from this ghetto, the road led to the terrible destruction.
We broke out into the light of the culture of the West, we longed for its education and science, and now, a part of this West came and brought upon us extermination.
Translated from Yiddish: A. L. P.
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