by M.Y. Fajgenbaum
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The war that broke out between Poland and Germany on the 1st of September 1939 bloodily burst into Biala on the first day. The first bombs from the German airplanes fell on Wolya [a suburb of Biala] on Friday morning; they were targeted at the airplane factory there. Simultaneously, bombs also fell on civilian houses, and among them, a Jewish house in which the entire family of the cabinetmaker Avraham Tajtlbaum perished.
The population witnessed the disorganization and chaos that ruled in all areas on the first day of the war. The airplane factory was almost undefended and no Polish airplanes were seen that would disrupt the German air assaults. However, it was hoped that this was only the beginning and that a radical change would come quickly.
There was no sign of the Polish government, which had trumpeted for the war by bragging that they were united, strong and ready. The chaos and disorganization increased from day to day. The German bombers flew freely across the Biala sky and sowed devastation. The population lay in the fields throughout the day and when the German bombers ceased their work at night, the population began moving and, first of all, buried the victims of the day.
The airplane factory already lay in ruins for a long time; there were almost no more Polish military in the city. However, the German bombers did not stop their rampage. Among the destroyed houses were: the magnificent house of Hartglas (burned and later taken over by the Germans), the Folks-shul [public school] at Grabanower Street (Motl Weine's house), Shimeon Lichtensztajn's house at Brisker Street, Papinska's house at Janower Street and so on.
Erev [eve of] Rosh Hashanah, several German tanks entered the city and while shooting went through Brisker Street in the direction of the Brisker highway. A Polish officer and a small group of soldiers opened fire on the tanks at the new market. As a result of the fight the majority of stalls at the new market were burned.
The Polish Republic ceased to exist after two weeks of war. The idea of life under German rule, threw the Jews into a desperate mood. Meanwhile, Biala was not occupied and remained no-man's land.
On one desperate day, hope suddenly began to glimmer for the Biala Jews that the Russian Army was marching west because, in accord with the German-Russian Pact, the Russian Army would occupy the Polish area to the Wisła [Vistula]. That is, Biala would belong to Russia.
The news actually was confirmed. The Russian Army occupied Biala on the 26th of September 1939, moving further west.
The holiday of Sukkous [Feast of Tabernacles] was celebrated by the Biala Jews with mixed feelings. They were happy that they had not fallen into the hands of the Germans, but they were haunted by an unease about the future.
The Soviet regime did not rush to bring order to the city; a certain restraint on their part was noticed; they left the initiative in the hands of the population. Various committees arose in which Christians were exclusively represented. Meanwhile, Jews avoided any cooperation with the new regime, remembering well the bitter experience of 1920.
The shops were closed more than they were open. The lack of raw materials was felt immediately and an exchange of goods among the population began. Long lines of buyers filled the open shops and bought everything they saw.
The Biala Jews were not destined to celebrate the holiday. At the end of September, the radio news reported that the boundary between Germany and Russia would be the Bug River and not the Wisła. The news spread in the city lightning fast and threw terror into the Jewish population.
Although the Russian military personnel denied the news about withdrawing in conversations with the population, we began to notice signs of their withdrawal to the east: they began to remove from the city everything that was valuable in their eyes and load it on trucks. During this activity, they did not even treat with respect the Jewish hospital, from which they removed valuable medicine, equipment and instruments.
For the Jewish population, the question actually became whether to leave the city and go to the other side of the Bug [River]. This was possible because the Russian regime did not disrupt the exodus to the former Polish eastern areas. However, the Biala Jews had had bitter ordeals in this area during the First World War and in the year 1920. Then, during the era of transition, the Jewish population suffered with fear, but those who left suffered greatly in unfamiliar areas. Understand that no one then, even in their fantasy, imagined the terrible end that Germany would bring to the Jewish population. They anticipated a difficult life, but when had the Polish Jew had an easy life?
They knew that life under the Soviet regime was not easy. Everyone lived with the hope that the war would not last long; it would end with Germany's defeat and they would find themselves in a freer and more open world. However, those who went to Russia would first of all be transformed into a large group of refugees that was immediately exposed to suffering. The strongest were afraid of the idea of being hermetically sealed within the borders of Soviet Russia from which they could not leave after the war. However, those who decided to leave the city had one answer: We do not want to be with the Germans and, particularly, not with the Hitler Germans. It is estimated that 500-600 Jews left, the majority men who left their families in the city because it was assumed that the German persecutions would mainly be turned against the men.
Jews from all strata left for Russia. The majority of them had never had any connection with communism. A number of Jews remained in the city who qualified as sympathizers of the Soviet regime.
We cannot have any complaints against the Biala Jews as to why they did not leave their birth city for Soviet Russia because if Jewish leaders of the largest Jewish world organizations did not know of Hitler's plans of annihilation in regard to the Jews, how should shtetl Jews have known?
The End of 1939
On the 10th of October 1939, the Russian Army left the city and the German Army arrived in its place; this threw great fear on the Jews so that many who could not decide to leave the city earlier now did so.
Several hours after their arrival, the Germans took Jewish hostages (using a list provided to them by the mayor). Christians wearing white armbands appeared in the street and their first task was to grab Jews for work. The Germans had no lack of work and the Poles again zealously provided more Jews, even more than had been requested.
The German regime immediately ordered the opening of the shops and endeavored to have the city return to its normal appearance, which actually happened over the course of several days. A curfew was brought in that lasted until the Germans left the city. The Jewish population had less free time to move in the streets than the Christian population.
|Order for the Biala Jews to report their addresses to the city hall|
Meanwhile, the managing committee of the city was in the hands of the military regime and it appeared that they still did not have any anti-Jewish instructions.
So, the regime gave Jews permission for trips to Warsaw and Lodz, for which Jews left and began to bring back various goods. The trade blossomed. Freed from the heavy chains of the Polish finance regime, the Jews breathed more freely, forgetting
|Prohibition against leaving the city|
where there were. However, the bustle of trade lasted a very short time because in November 1939, the well-known Gestapo entered Biala and a long-lasting era on a road of suffering and terrifying death began for the Jews.
The Gestapo was quartered in the chateau of the Raabes factory on the Wolya. Its first contact with the Jewish population was the demand for a monetary payment of several tens of thousands of zlotes. In order to force the payment to be paid quickly, the Gestapo arrested a number of Jews and threw them in prison where they were continually tortured. The Jews were freed from prison after the payment of the appropriate sum.
The appearance of the members of the Gestapo in the street brought panic to the Jews and they would run from the street. The printing press owner, Avraham Lubelczik, hearing that the Gestapo was coming to him, had a heart attack and fell on the spot.
The Gestapo found the shamas [synagogue caretaker], Yoal Gringlos, who stood forlorn in his talis [prayer shawl] and tefilin [phylacteries] in the house of prayer; they led him out to the street, brought several Jews with a ladder, on which the shamas had to sit in his talis and tefilin and the Jews placed the ladder with the shamas on their shoulders and had to go through the streets of the city.
The arrival of the Gestapo caused several dozen Jews to run from the city. This time, however, it was difficult to smuggle oneself across the border because it already was well guarded. Among those escaping was the Biala Rabbi, Rebbe Zvi Hirszhorn.
Every Jew who encountered the brown [shirt] murderers on the road would be murderously beaten. They robbed the goods from the Jewish shops, even taking the money from the cash drawer.
The economic life of the Jews was paralyzed. The Germans actively undertook the liquidation of Jewish positions. The large Jewish businesses were requisitioned; the goods were taken out to trucks and the owners were thrown in prison, demanding high payments from them. The workshops and the tools were taken away from the Jewish artisans.
A number of Jewish merchants, wanting to save their existence, gave their businesses to Christian acquaintances, assuring themselves with various agreements. A very small number of these Christians kept the agreement, but the larger number of them immediately tried to get rid of the Jews. Understand, this was not difficult to accomplish because the Jew already was without rights and helpless.
In November 1939, the Gestapo Commissar, Hildeman,[a] ordered that every Jew, starting at age six, from the 1st of December 1939 must wear a yellow Mogen-Dovid [Shield of David Jewish Star] of 15 centimeters [almost six inches] on the left side of their chest. The sign of disrepute was later traded for a white armband with a blue Mogen-Dovid that had to be worn on the right arm. Jews were forbidden to leave the city without the permission of the German regime.
One day, all of the former members of the last-elected kehile authority [organized Jewish community] were called to the Gestapo. The former dozores [members of the Jewish community council] were ordered to immediately organize a Judenrat [Jewish council].
Other members who previously did not belong to the who previously did not belong to the kehile were attracted to the Judenrat. The Judenrat officiated at the premises of the kehile at Brisker Street.
Then the Germans had an address to which to turn with all of their demands. The Judenrat would constantly receive orders for various goods, which reached high sums of money that had to be covered by the Jewish population. Orders for hundreds of Jewish workers would be sent to the Judenrat and understand that the workers were not paid for their work, but very often they would be beaten while working. The Judenrat had to organize a labor office so that it was able to provide the demanded number of workers every day. The Judenrat had to pay a number of the workers for their work because they simply did not have the means to live.
The occupying regime quickly assumed the entire state apparatus and the former Polish officials helped them a great deal. These officials let out on the Jews their entire rage at Poland's defeat. Where they had the opportunity, they let the Jews feel it.
The tax office quickly became active again and it began to demand all of the ordered taxes from the Jews. The officials Gerech and Kunicki particularly excelled at this. If a Jew did not pay the tax debt quickly, he was thrown in prison and tortured there.
The Pole Bielecki, who went around every day requisitioning Jewish residences for the Christians whose previous apartments were suddenly too crowded, dealt with the establishment of the housing office. Christians heartily helped the Germans in clearing out the furniture from the Jewish houses; Cibulski, the prison guard, particularly distinguished himself in this.
Every Pole who held the office, who had a connection to Jews and where the representative of the Judenrat took care of various matters, asked for gifts from the Jews just like the Germans. Their requests had to be met. In this area, it was particularly good to fill [the requests of] the mayor Antoni Walawski, his aide, Szczepan Szczepanski and the above-mentioned official from the housing office, Bielecki.
In the ranks of these Christians were found the early initiators and inspirations for imprisoning the Jews in a ghetto and this was a smaller one.
Jews from Suwałki and Serock were brought to Biala at the end of 1939. These Jews were gathered in the middle of the markets in their cities and as they stood, they were taken out of their cities in the Lublin Województwo [administrative district]. The Jews were not permitted to take anything with them and from the market they were driven into the train wagons. We learned from the Jews what kind of inhuman torturing they had already gone through during the few months of German rule.
Two thousand refugees were brought to Biala, of which the Jewish population took a large number into their residences; a very large number were quartered in the synagogue, houses of prayer and Hasidic shtiblekh [one room synagogues]; and a number of refugees left for Warsaw and other cities.
The Year 1940
At the beginning of 1940, Jewish prisoners of war from the former Polish Army who were from the former Polish eastern districts were brought to Biala.
The road that led the prisoners of war to Biala was marked with a bloody harvest [of bodies] and with the graves of their comrades. The imprisoned were brought from Germany to Lublin and from there, on a frosty day, they began to drive them on foot from there to Biala. On the road, the German escorts made the ranks of the prisoners more sparce by firing on them with automatic weapons. The prisoners of war were interned in Poczice's barracks on the Brisker highway.
In these barracks, the Stormists [Sturmabteilung Stormtroopers] began to build a camp with the help of the Jewish workers whom the Judenrat would provide there every day. The mayor, Walawski, decided to inform the Jews that this camp was being built for the Biala Jews, where they would be driven at the beginning of April. Such news, understand, brought despair and dismay among the Jews.
The prison was full of Jews, who were truly harassed. Who was not in prison then? One as a payment, another for taxes; merchants for not willing to say where they had ostensibly hidden their goods; artisans for not willing to show their hiding places for goods that they had ostensibly made. In connection with uncovering hidden goods, they brought from Lublin to the jail the Biala
merchants Yosef Gitlman, Fishl Wlos and Moshe Yitzhak Biderman.
Jews began to work sometimes at forced labor and received a salary of two zlotes a day, which was not enough on which to live.
Oprowizatsia-kartn [ration cards] were implemented, from which the Jewish population would receive almost nothing. A portion of the population found a solution; they traded illegally, looking for income wherever they could. Although it was forbidden for Jews to travel on the trains, Jews would take the risk of a trip on the train to Warsaw. They would dress like Christians and bring goods from Warsaw.
Several shops were open during the day, but since they did not receive anything officially, what were they permitted to sell? However, the trusted customer could receive everything.
Edicts were constantly harming the Jews. The last Jewish economic positions were liquidated by the Germans. Even the small Jewish shops were closed and the goods were taken from them. Several Jewish shops remained on Grabanower Street, where the owners were changed each time by the regime. The smallest shop had a sign with a large Mogen Dovid that was bought at the administrative district for a large payment.
At the entrance to Grabanower Street from the market and from Prosta Street, two large linen banners were hung with the inscription: Plague Danger! Entry is forbidden for Aryans. Jews were forbidden to set foot on the Wolnoszczni Square (market).
With the Jews forbidden to appear at Wolnoszczni Square, it became difficult to approach the post office. In addition, the Jews had, in general, no desire to stand in a line at the post office and be exposed to various harassments. Therefore, the Judenrat made great efforts that it be allowed to organize a post office division. The efforts succeeded and a post office division arose at the Judenrat where there also was a telephone. Every day two Judenrat members would go to the German post office and there take care of the postal matters for the Jewish population.
On the eve of the Days of Awe, the Wolya Jews were ordered to enter the city and Wolya was cleared of Jews.
Jews were forbidden to use their balconies. If the balconies were made of metal, they [the balconies] were taken, along with all of the metal that the Jews had and
|Prosta Street. A sign on Hershl Sznajman's house with the inscription: Jewish quarter
[Photographed winter 1944/45]
given to the regime (Poles had to provide only three kilos [6.6 pounds] of metal).
The situation in the synagogue and in the houses of prayer to which the homeless Jews had been brought was sad. They lived in terrible conditions. They particularly strongly felt the cold winter. Every crumb of wood in houses of prayer disappeared. The refugees tore out the floors, took down the double windows; the fences in the Jewish quarter disappeared and even the trees at the cemetery; everything was devoured in the fires at which the refugees tried to warm their limbs.
We were very satisfied that the cold winter day quickly left and the long night ended.
We would board ourselves up in the houses, where we told the news of the day and waited for the defeat of the Germans.
Although the border between Germany and Russia was heavily guarded, several Bialers succeeded in smuggling themselves across to the Russian side. We learned from them that a large number of Bialers refugees wanted to return home because the life of a refugee became tiresome, particularly as they heard there [in Russia] that the Jews on the German side were living and it was not bad economically.
In May 1940, a train arrived in Biala with those repatriated from the Russian side and among them were many Biala Jews. Those returning were truly surprised by the good behavior toward them on the part of the Germans.
In the course of the decisive battles in western Europe, the Germans did not forget the Jews and they were reminded that Germany was victorious.
On a beautiful morning, the Biala Judenrat was called to the Gestapo. There the Jewish councilmen were arranged in a row and the Gestapo man Kot read the news from a German newspaper that a Weizmann Legion to fight against Germany had been created in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, a Jewish land would be created there with the English king at the head. After reading the notice, Gestapo members with sticks entered the room and severely beat the Jewish councilmen.
In March 1940, the Jews were ordered to register for forced labor. Many of the Jews tried to obtain certificates from doctors that they were not capable of working and placed the certificates with the Judenrat.
In June 1940, the sad chapter of forced labor began for the Jews. Jews from Mezritch [Międzyrzec] were brought to Biala and, later, also from other cities. The camp at Piczic's, at the barracks was full of Jewish workers. The Jews were employed with repair work and lived in the camp in the most terrible conditions. The Biala Jews were spared. A very small number of them worked at the repair work in the city itself. Every day, after the work, they would return home. The majority of the Biala population had
|Notice forbidding the use of balconies|
made provisions for workplaces that were recognized as forced labor by the regime.
The repair work was carried out under the leadership of the German engineer, Grinenfeld, who had his headquarters [in Biala]. The work suppliers and guards for the workers were Stormists, with their aides the volks-Deutschen [ethnic Germans].
Jews did not intend to suffer in the camps and began to look for ways to find their way out of them. They did not have to look for long because every German had already found a Jewish go-between who was occupied with freeing Jews from the camps and a trade of slaves from the camp began. Understand, that not everyone was able to pay such a ransom price, so the poor remained in the camps until deep autumn.
On one hand, the Stormists freed Jews from the camps for a fat reward, but on the other hand, wanting to erase the traces of this commerce, they tried to maintain a strong regimen both at work and in the camps. One day, the Stormists guard went to the meadow and, for no reason, shot several Jewish workers from Mezritch.
On a July morning in 1940, the Jewish population was surprised by an extensive search for the men. From all sides [of the city], Jewish men were led in the direction of the barracks at Artilerisker Street. It gave the impression that they planned to take away all of the Jewish men from the city. The women experienced hours of shock and could not even move because it was still early and because the curfew forbid going out in the street.
When all of the men were assembled at the large pit at the 9th Pulk [regiment], the Germans went to work: carrying out a selection among those assembled. They examined every work card and decided: home or remain on the spot. The majority were freed and those held were led away to a train and from there in an unknown direction.
As on the same night, similar searches were carried out in most of the cities in Lublin administrative district, it was quickly learned that those held had been taken to Belzec for forced labor.
The Biala Judenrat spared no effort to extract the Bialers from Belzec. However, this succeeded only after a certain time. Among the Jewish victims who fell there during the work was the Biala young man, Motl Hafer.
Autumn time 1940, the Judenrat was freed of the burden of providing workers because a labor office was created that was occupied with this matter.
|Order to deliver up all mealses|
|Announcement to register for compulsory work|
Working as officials at the labor office were the Jews: Emil Wajnberger, Tuchsznajder, Edek Slobodzki (from Warsaw), Doba Krajzlman, Lewi (a son of Yitzhak Lewi), Chrielewski, Cymerman (from Sulwalk) and a young woman from Serock. Although the officials were sent by the Judenrat, from whom they would receive their salary, the Judenrat had a very weak influence on them. The official Slobodzki particularly made use of his office, and extracted a great deal of money from the Jews.
The volks-Deutsch, Leman, a former worker at the municipal airplane factory, ran the labor office, which was designed only for Jews. Jews would say of him that he was a fair gentile. His goodness consisted in that he took money from the Jews and this already was a good trait. He did not turn over any Jewish workers who had transgressed to the Gestapo or to the Nazi sondergericht [special court] only he alone would teach a lesson on the spot. He often battered Jewish workers until they were bloody. Jews accepted this as love, rather than falling into the paws of the Gestapo. Very often, Leman beat Jews without any reason, but Jews explained it as being a result of his nervousness and with wanting to show that the labor office was a true Nazi office.
There was an instance when several young Jewish men were transferred to the Gestapo for not reporting for work punctually and the sondergericht sentenced them to a year in prison. Among those sentenced was the young man, Ziglman, from Garncarsker Street.
Later, the labor office did not have to strain to force the Jewish workers to work. But the opposite, the Jews themselves demanded employment from the labor office because they needed to have a few zlotes that could be earned while working. They also did not want to appear jobless to the Germans. In particular, after all of the hard labor conditions, the situation became more favorable than in a labor camp. After an entire day of work and after all of the blows received at work, in the evening they came home and had a warm environment.
At the time, they began to pay the Jewish workers for their work. A worker would earn about 3-4 zlotes a day. The Jewish workers would do piece-work in the carpentry factory and earn approximately 10 zlotes a day. The Christian workers who also worked there could not produce such earning. Every night the Jewish carpenters would bring sacks of wood from the work and sell it in the Jewish quarter. The price of bread, in comparison to other articles, was still cheaper (from 75 groshn to one zlote a kilogram).
The Jews were mainly employed by the military and by German firms that carried out various work for the military. Among those firms were: Benz, Maier, Zager-Werner, Stuag and Zid.
The firms Benz, Maier and Zager-Werner carried out their work at the airfield. The remuneration from the firms was little, but the workers would receive plentiful blows. The Benz firm particularly excelled in the area of beating Jews. The leader of the labor office, Leman, would send Jews to the firm who to him had sinned.
At the Zid firm, the Jews were employed in erecting barracks for the security police at the Janower
highway. The reward here also was weak and there was no lack of blows.
The Jews were employed repairing the highways by the Stuag firm. The work was difficult and terrible. The workers would pave the highway with heated tar, which would emit gases that would burn their faces. For this work, the Jewish workers were not given any means of protection and a very large percentage of them would be brought to the Jewish hospital in serious condition.
Jews also worked in the large enterprises that belonged to the volks-Deutschen and to the Poles, such as: in the sawmill and the carpentry shop of Zawidzki that was located in Hercl Czarne's sawmill and the Raabes factory; in the carpentry shop of Hauschild, that was located in Piczic's sawmill.
Summer 1940, when they began to take Jews for forced labor and send them to labor camps, a group of Biala Jews wanting to assure themselves of a workplace to avoid forced labor erected a brush factory at Garncarsker Street under the leadership of the Mezritch tradesman, Munye Sucharczik. At the beginning, the Judenrat led the factory, but it was soon taken over by the German, Wanczura, a brother-in-law of the vice district administrator, Fritsh.
This German Wanczura also took over the soap factory of Sura Gele Goldfeder at the Wolya and turned it into a large enterprise. The professional leadership was found in the hands of the Jewish refugee, Bibrowski, and his helper was Volvish (Volf) Wajcman. This enterprise was not really for the Germans; he requisitioned both Jewish printers, Lubelczik's and Hochman's, and erected a large printing plant at Pulsudski Street.
The Biala Jews had equal rights in the area of work and even received state posts. Thus the Jews worked in the administrative district and other German offices, such as: messengers, mechanics, drivers. Who even speaks of military workplaces? There, they literally could not go without Jews.
Despite the fact that the labor office provided Jewish workers for all German workplaces, they would still grab Jews for work from the street. There were Germans who could not give up the pleasure of walking through the streets and chasing after Jews. These Germans, in general, did not need to have Jews to work, only to bully them.
The Year 1941
At the beginning of 1941, the Germans arranged an expulsion rehearsal in the city. On a winter morning, the gendarmerie and the security police went through the city, grabbed a few old Jewish people, women and men, and took them to the village of Opole, near Rososz. Several days later, all of those taken out came back. It was difficult to understand what the Germans intended with this.
War illness typhus spread widely in the Jewish quarter. It reigned in the Jewish houses where there was crowdedness and where they lived under difficult hygienic conditions. The courtyards also were polluted because their sanitary facilities were not suitable for such a large number of residents. The sanitation division at the Judenrat could not catch up with the cleaning.
The Biala Judenrat also had the Jewish hospital, which was over-crowded, under its control. At the beginning of the German occupation, in general, there were no Jewish doctors in the city and the Jewish sick were forbidden to see Christian doctors.
Summer 1940, Jewish doctors came to Biala: Dr. Bergman (is supposed to have come from Katowice), Dr. Hochman (a refugee from Germany, came from Warsaw) and Dr. Rubinsztajn (came from Warsaw). In 1941, the Warsaw surgeon, Dr. Gelbfisz, came to Biala. The feldshers [traditional barber-surgeons] Chaim Musawicz (the Kabriner) and Berish Wajsman (from Łomazy) were active.
A help-committee existed at the Judenrat under the name, Jewish Social Self-help that would also receive subsidies from the Jewish regional help-committee in Lublin. At the head of the committee was Moshe Rodzinek. The committee endeavored to ease the need of the poor by distributing lunches and distributing medical help without cost. However, the financial means of the committee were too small to be able to free the need on the Jewish streets. The committee was located at Grabanower Street in the house of Yakov Kornblum. The committee kitchen was active in the former bakery of Yitzhak Fogel on Prosta Street.
In spring 1941, the Germans began to rush to build military objects in Biala and its surroundings and mainly air bases. Jews were employed in all of the works and this time their conditions became more favorable in the work camps than a year earlier. It was clear to the population that Germans were preparing for a jump to the east.
In the middle of the preparation for the war, a number of edicts against the Jews again were issued, of which we will here enumerate only a few of them.
Jews were forbidden to leave their residences. Christians were forbidden to permit Jews to enter their houses and, in general, have any contact with Jews. This was motivated by the fact that Jews were covered with lice and typhus would be spread through them.
Jews were forbidden to travel in coaches and by horse and wagons.
All Jewish immovable estates were confiscated and the Jews had to give the rent money to the guardianship that was organized for this purpose. Even the owners of the houses were obliged to pay rent for their apartments. The guardianship collected the rent regularly and the Jews had to remodel the apartments at their own expense and clean the streets and courtyards.
The confiscation law also was valid for the houses of prayer and the synagogue. As the homeless were living in the latter, the Judenrat had to pay rent for them. The Judenrat dared to subtract from the rent the expenses that were connected with cleaning the toilets near the synagogue. For such daring, the Judenrat representative, Yakov Ahron Rozenbaum, received a slap from a German comptroller, who had come specially from Lublin about this matter. However, the Judenrat was stubborn and again subtracted the expenses.
Among the fresh anti-Jewish edicts was an order to pay the Jewish workers 20 percent less than the Christian ones. The earnings of the Jewish workers decreased and the scarcity grew. A kilogram of bread now cost six zlotes and in time the price reached eight zlotes.
After Passover, the city was flooded by the German military, which kept on storming to the east. We saw that the last preparations for a new bloody struggle were ending. It was clear that it was the threshold of the war between Germany and Russia. This feeling of war evoked a hope from the city Jews that the war between Germany and Russia would speed up Hitler's end, although they trembled at the prospect of the fresh, bloody turmoil. Meanwhile, the prices on all goods rose sharply. The price of bread in those days reached 12 zlotes a kilogram.
Shabbos night, the 21st of June 1941, in the middle of the night, the German Army crossed the Russian border and began to push east. The hope of the Jews quickly faded away and the fear of the next day increased.
During the first weeks of the war between Germany and Russia, Russian prisoners of war would constantly be brought to Biala. The prisoners would ask for a piece of bread or matches when they were led through the streets. However, no one filled their requests because the Jews paid very dearly for a piece of bread.
|Announcement about petechial typhus illnesses that mainly spread among Jews|
Moshe Ganski and Akiva Jurberg, arrested for offering a piece of bread to the imprisoned, were transported to the Auschwitz camp where they perished. The Polish Biernacka was arrested for the same sin, but they succeeded in extracting her from the Nazi talons.
The Russian war prisoners were terribly treated in German captivity. However, cruelty was the fate of the Jewish-Russian war prisoners. The German rulers made the greatest effort to find Jews among the prisoners and to annihilate them.
Once, when Biala Jews were working at repairing the Brisker highway, a freight train passed by with Russian war prisoners. Seeing the workers, they began to shout. Suddenly, one began to shout in Yiddish: Comrades! We are being taken to be shot! The Jewish workers recognized one of those shouting, the son of the shoemaker, Goldberg, from Janower Street.
In autumn, the so-called Jewish ordnungsdienst [ghetto police], who were provided with complete clothing and a hat on the pattern of the Warsaw ghetto, was organized by the Judenrat at the order of the administrative district. The task of the Jewish police consisted of: keeping order in the Jewish quarter, which was mainly expressed in not permitting walking on Grabanower Street, which was the central street in the quarter; providing to the labor office Jews who were in no hurry to go to work; watching over the sanitary conditions in the quarter. Later, when a prison was created at the Judenrat to hold arrested recalcitrant tax payers, the ordnungsdienst was busy with arresting the accused and with guarding the prison so that the Jews would not run away.
Yakov Goldsztajn (commandant), Hinekh Bialer, Asher Rozencwajg, Motl Finklsztajn, Moshe Preter, Chaim Fridman, Fishl Lebnberg, Yakov Tokarski, Lajbzon and Chonen (a saddlemaker from the Wolya) belonged to the ordnungsdient. The secretary was M. Hercman (former bookkeeper at the Raabes factory). After the commandant, Goldsztajn, was shot in the summer of 1942, the refugee from Sulwalk, Cymerman, was designated in his place.
In autumn, at the order of the regime, the office of the Judenrat was moved from Brisker Street to Yakov Kornblum's house on Grabanower Street. This was done with the intention of ousting the few Jews who lived outside the designated boundaries of the Jewish district.
On a November day, Thursday, the security police went to the Warszaw highway between Biala and Mezritch and shot every Jews they met. Among the murdered was the flour merchant, Berl Czelaza, of Grabanower Street. It seems this was because of the order that forbid Jews to leave the area in which they lived.
And how could the Jews remain sitting at home and watch how families were dying of hunger? They actually ignored the dangers and started on their way, where a bullet often reached them and they
|Confiscation of immovable property|
never came home. Jewish houses drowned in the sadness and tears.
Christmas Eve, the representatives from the Judenrat were called to the district headquarters where they were given an order to collect all of the furs from the Jewish population. The Judenrat reported this order to the Jewish population and the office of the Judenrat was transformed into a fur camp. Not all of the Jews hurried to give their furs to the Germans and they burned or destroyed them in another way, although they were threatened with death.
A few days after the passage of the period to turn over the furs, the security police set out on a search of Jews. Men and women were stopped and they were taken to the security police. It was learned from the first freed Jews that the search by the security police was for Jewish furs. The search gave rise to a Jewish victim: the security police
|Prohibition on the use of horse drawn coaches|
found a fur under a coat of a Jew, probably someone abnormal, and he was shot.
Rumors reached Biala that the Jews in the occupied eastern area of the former Poland were being tortured and annihilated by the Nazis. And that among the victims were Biala Jews who had escaped from their homes in 1939 and considered themselves saved from the Nazi talons. We learned from Mrs. Sura Khohan, (née Preter), who returned from Slonim, about the frightening slaughter of the Jewish population that the Germans had carried out there. Among the murdered in the slaughter were several Bialers who had gone there in 1939, such as: Moshe Orlanski and his wife and child, Sura Khohan's husband and so on.
The city was full of German officials and they all were busy with the Jews. Woe to the Jew with whom these officials interested themselves.
A division of the S.D. [Sicherheitsdienst] (Security Service) was located on Pilsudski Street (Mezritcher), which the S.S. people, German and Glet, led. In addition to the gifts that the division would demand from the Judenrat, it also demanded reports from the Judenrat about what the Jewish population thought and said. The Judenrat did not hurry to provide such reports. Once, when the S.S. men were insistent in this matter, it was written in short that the Jewish population was full of concern about the oncoming winter, how to obtain potatoes, firewood and other needed things. The S.S. men, hearing such a report, entered a wild rage and began shouting: the Russians have taken back Minsk, Vilna and Riga; are the Jews talking about this? The members of the Judenrat were escorted out of the office with blows.
A volks-Deutsch named Apel was located at the Biala gendarmerie. This gendarme was surely a wagon driver for a Jew because he spoke Yiddish well, constantly adding small bits of wagon-driver curses. The Jews gave him the nickname, Yankl Morde [chin or snout]. This gendarme would apply pressure on the Jews and there was not a day on which he would not catch a Jew in a sin and batter him. If he found a piece of meat in a Jew's house, he would carry on a real pogrom in the room. He broke everything with an axe and threw it out through the window and then beat those in the house. When the Jewish shoemaker, Borukh Frajner, who was friendly with him, asked him: Apel, what do you want from us? He would answer: May you know of cholera! With all of your bag and baggage, there is no end to you!
The Polish police przodownik [leader] Drwencki (came from Pomer), was active at the gendarmerie and he was a privileged person there because he spoke German. This Drwencki had his methods of blackmailing the Jews who he knew were involved in commerce. He was a constant visitor of the Jews, but it was difficult to satisfy his appetite by giving him the most beautiful and best. After everything, he would turn the Jew into the gendarmerie.
The Biala security police, who were housed at Grabanower Street, literally in the heart of the Jewish quarter, rampaged. Among them, those who stood out with their special cruelty were: one Peterson (nicknamed blond murderer by the Jews) and another, with a fat head, whom the Jews would call Psil [idol, graven image]. The security police had a forge at the new market and woe to a Jew who these two security policemen would take to the forge ostensibly to work. Such a person would remember his visit there for long weeks. When the two security policemen were noticed from afar, the street would empty of people.
The Biala security policemen would attack Jewish houses at night and rape the women there. After doing this disgraceful act, they would loot the residences.
A special militia was active at the administrative district, which consisted of volks-Deustchn and was called the sonderdienst [special services]. Their leader for a time was one Grzimek, who caused great problems for the Jews. The sonderdienst would come to the Jewish quarter to grab Jews for work and, in addition, they heavily beat them.
The agents of the Biala Criminal Police also exerted influence over the Jews. They knew which Jews were employed in trading and smuggling and they constantly blackmailed them, extracting giant sums and items of worth from them. The agents Constanti Baldiga, Wolanski and Golenbiowski excelled here. In addition to being a blackmailer, Baldiga also was a murderer. In the winter of 1941-42, he shot the first two Jews in the city, the carpenter, Wajsberg (the son of the carpenter Khanan) and a young man from the former Polish eastern sector.
The Polish police also constantly reminded the Jews of their existence. Here, too, the Jews stood with their pockets [wallets] and paid so that the Polish policeman would overlook [things] and stop bothering them. What Jews then were [considered] legal in regard to German law? What did a Jew still possess in his house after everything had been confiscated? And a Polish policeman knew very well where to look…
The officials at the Biala administrative district would constantly demand presents from the Judenrat, which reached great sums. Their conduct in relation to the Judenrat was cynical. They constantly assured them that no more edicts would come, but actually they themselves created and issued anti-Jewish orders. The Judenrat knew well the worth of their assurances.
Of all of the exterminators, the most tolerable for the individual Jew was the Gestapo. It did not grab Jews for work; it did not come into the Jewish quarter to beat Jews. It was in contact with the Judenrat, sending orders there for giant sums, extorting the last groshn from the Judenrat, which was constantly a debtor. Several Jewish artisans were swamped with work for the Gestapo. In time, the Gestapo arranged a tailoring workshop [in its facilities], where the brothers Nakhman and Yoal Zuberman, Meir Rajc and Ahron Wolkowicki customarily worked. The constant shoemakers for the Gestapo were Borukh Frajner and Nekhmia Dorfman. The materials were provided by the Judenrat.
These artisans from time to time would get a hint of news from the hangmen about Jews and confide it to a few chosen people in the quarter. They would know who had been brought to the Gestapo prison at the Raabes factory or who had been taken out to be shot in the Grabarker and Wulker forests.
One of the first Jewish arrestees at the Gestapo prison was the Biala resident, the apothecary, Michasz Hofer. The Gestapo probably did not know itself why they were holding him, but it did not want to free him. Hofer would be in the city the entire day, but he had to return to the prison to sleep. The members of the Gestapo extorted valuable items from Hofer and after many months they freed him from prison.
The Year 1942
Dejected, resigned and full of apathy, the Jewish population strode into the new year of 1942, which was the last year for them in their city of birth. The suffering before death was even more difficult and the rope around the neck was drawn even tighter.
On a winter night the Judenrat was informed that two young, Jewish men had been thrown into the cellar, where they had worked, by the security police. One of them was the son of Khanan Rajch. It was already known that there was the smell of death [associated with this]. The young people were supposed to have sawed a board there in order to take the wood home. This was
noticed by a security policeman who threw them in the cellar. The Judenrat began its efforts to extract the two young men. The security police demanded a sum of 10,000 zlotes that even at that time was a very serious sum. Yet, the sum was collected and was given to the security police. However, only one young man was freed because in between Rajch had already been shot.
Every day, Christians would come and tell of the murdered Jews who lay outside the city. They had been shot by the Germans who saw them there. The record of the carrying out these executions comes from the gendarme, Leon Busch, a volks-Deutsch from the Poznan region.
Thus, the gendarme Busch shot two others at the Wolya, near the church, including Liptshe (Adlersztajn), the son of the [female] butcher. A few weeks later, the wife of Pinyele, the bagel baker from Mezritch Street, perished from one of his [Busch's] bullets at Szidorska Street.
During the first week after Passover, tens of Jews were arrested, mainly those who were once punished for violating the Nazi laws. After spending the night at the Polish police post, the Gestapo took them away on the Janower highway in the morning and shot them there, near the Jewish cemetery. Among those shot were: the butcher, Yudl Jurberg and Adlersztajn (his wife Tsvya), as well as the Sulwalker homeless one, Bernsztajn (a brother of the photographer, Osif Bernsztajn) and so on.
On a June evening, the Polish police carried out arrests among the Jewish population. That night, the arrestees were imprisoned in the Polish police post and, in the morning, they took them out to Wulker forest and shot them there. Among those shot this time were: Chaim Fridman (nickname Beznozek [without legs]), Nakhum Tenenbaum's son-in-law, and Yakov Goldsztajn, commandant of the Jewish ordnungsdienst, who was arrested the day before by the gendarmerie.
The young Moshe Lichtenbaum (Leibe Mednik's grandson] was among the arrested Jews at the Polish police post. He was arrested during the day because of a sharp answer he gave to a Christian who had insulted him. His parents, seeing the evening arrest, immediately understood that fresh executions were being prepared. They began to make efforts to save their child. It is easy to imagine the mood of the parents who had to return home at seven o'clock (the curfew time for the Jews) without their son. They went outside in the morning and learned that the Jews arrested the day before had actually been shot. However, their son remained at the Polish police post. They began to shake with joy. Moshe Lichtenbaum had been arrested by the ruddy security policeman Peterson who was known by the Jewish policeman, Moshe Preser. He asked the murderer for hours that he free Lichtenbaum, but he could not prevail on him. This Peterson, however, it appears, wanted the young man to go through a struggle with death and ordered the Polish police to come to take the Jews to the Gestapo, imprisoning Lichtenbaum in a separate cell. Thus, the young man and the Jews who had been shot went through their last suffering before their death, [Lichtenbaum] not suspecting that he would be saved. This Lichtenbaum said that it was clear to everyone that they were going to their death and they spent their last hours reciting the vide [confession of one's sins].
At the same time, a group of Janower Jews were shot in Wulker forest and among them the Biala resident, Leibl Rodzinek who had made efforts to free the Janower Jews. Rodzinek was also supposed to be helped by the Christian woman, Konopka, but instead of helping him, she handed him into the hands of the Gestapo.
There was a series of shootings. However, German cynicism went so far that they did not stop the court hearings against the murdered Jews. Thus, for example, there was a court hearing for leaving his place of residence for the Biala resident, Noakh Wajnsztajn (from the village of Proszeki), that took place in Lublin. At that time, he had been transferred from the Biala prison to Lublin. His two daughters did not rest and did everything to save their father. They engaged the well-known lawyer, Hafmakl-Ostrowski, who had access to the German courts and, therefore, they were asked to pay really legendary sums. The Jew was not present at the court hearing. With joy, his daughter heard the verdict freeing him and they waited impatiently every moment to see their father. However, there was nothing for them to await. As the lawyer told them, their father had been sent away to the east…
In the middle of the hardships, the Judenrat received an order from the administrative district official, Lipkow, to put together a list of candidates who wanted to travel to Eretz-Yisroel or America. The Judenrat did not issue placards about this announcement, but individuals learned of this and thought: be listed or not be listed. In the circles of the Judenrat this was treated with mistrust for the entire matter. They simply said:
the Germans would not become involved with a Jewish exodus during the full fervor of the war. In general, the Jews did not strongly like to appear with their names on the list that were being provided to the Germans. And as long as the administrative district no longer applied pressure for the list, the Judenrat forgot about it.
The majority of the population lived from their work. A number of Jewish artisans still carried on with their workshops. On the other hand, the official merchants remained an insignificant percent of the employed. Twenty or 30 small shops were found in the Jewish quarter, mainly on Grabanower Street.
Naturally, smuggling occurred on a large scale in the Jewish quarter to obtain even more food. Jewish artisans would work for Germans and for the Christian population and from them they would receive various products. The Jewish workers would also bring various goods from their workplaces.
The main article smuggled was flour. This article would be obtained in the Jewish quarter, along with the flour that was designated on the bread ration card. Nearby, various groups were also dragged along. The agents of the criminal police knew about the smuggling and were well paid for this and, consequently, made sure that the business would not be harmed. Understand that these costs made the price for bread and cereals more expensive.
Potatoes, which were a very important food, were provided by the Judenrat, which would receive the potatoes from the Polish rolnik [farmer] according to the instructions of the regime, but here, too, they had to give gifts.
The butchers would smuggle in meat. However, smuggling was very risky and they did not have the help of the agents of the criminal police, but the opposite, the agents would beat them fearlessly. Very often, the butchers would cut [the meat] very badly. However, it is clear that meat was very expensive and only a small part of the population could permit themselves the luxury.
The Jewish intelligentsia, besides doctors, lived in very difficult conditions because they lost their economic base. The change in status that befell them was not easy, in particular because the adjustment took place under German blows. They sold everything in their houses that they had acquired over the course of years of work. Particularly difficult was the situation for the members of the intelligentsia who were refugees for whom their surrounding was completely unfamiliar. They did not even have any contact with those who had influence at the labor office who would have made it possible for them to receive the appropriate workplaces.
The Filipówer Rabbi, who had been brought with the Sulwalker Jews, was living in Biala. After the death of Rabbi Moshe Utszen (died of typhus in the winter of 1940/1) all of those who had need of a rabbi turned to this rabbi. The Filipówer Rabbi had the reputation of a scholar and also was well versed in worldly knowledge. Taking into consideration that there was no house of prayer in the entire quarter, not one kloyz [small synagogue], not any religious institution, it was understandable that the rabbi's influence on the life of the quarter was minimal.
During the Days of Awe, there were places where large minyonim [prayer groups of at least 10 men] prayed. There were also small minyonim in private apartments that prayed three times a day the entire year.
There was no cultural activity in the Jewish quarter. Everyone was busy with themselves and with coping with their daily hardships.
The large Tarbus [secular Zionist] library was moved from Wolnoszczi Square to the premises of the kehile at Brisker Street. Yakov Ahron Rozenbaum, the chairman of the Zionist organization, carefully protected the treasure. At first, the Bundist library was moved to the apartment of Elihu Hofman (Bubkes [nickname meaning nonsense]). He took great care of the books, but because of the constantly growing crowdedness in his apartment, he had to take the books out to the stall. Only Mrs. Liuba Tuchsznajder's Froebel school [kindergarten] at Grabanower Street existed in the quarter. The school ostensibly had the permission of the Polish school supervisor.
Many young people studied with perseverance at home and prepared to take exams as soon as the German chains were thrown off.
Although it was forbidden for Jews to buy newspapers, they would receive Polish and German newspapers in the quarter. The radio news, which the Germans would broadcast through a megaphone at the market orchard, would be gathered by children and delivered by them in the quarter.
Illegal publications came into Jewish hands very often, but it was difficult to see an organized hand in this. A Jew simply received a page from a Christian acquaintance and would bring it to [other] Jews.
The short, frosty winter days would pass. At night, we sat imprisoned in the houses and
considered Hitler's defeat. The Germans installed a radio location in the Biala city garden that would give political news several times a day. One was drawn to the radio loudspeakers, but Jews were afraid to risk it because if they were caught listening to the radio their lives were insecure.
As the passion to hear the news of Hitler's defeat was great, they had an ingenious idea: they would send small children to the loudspeaker to grab the ether-waves and they would delight the Jews with a little news.
Children stood outside in the frost; their small noses and eyes dripped, but the childish minds strained to take in even more news. When the radio broadcast ended and the children returned to the Jewish quarter, the adults were waiting and overwhelmed them with a flood of questions. However, the children did not want to answer because each of them had a circle of news-takers and they did not want to tell [the news] to strangers.
We will describe one such group here. Among other news gatherers was a small boy, Nota Osnholc, who specialized in catching the radio news near the radio loudspeakers in the market orchard. [He was] a child of about 11 or 12. Before the war he went to a Polish public school and to a kheder [religious primary school]. He was an emaciated child, really skin and bones, with a pair of glowing eyes and a sharp, very sharp, little mind.
Several times every day, this child would leave the Jewish quarter discretely for the radio megaphone. Badly dressed, there he would jump from one foot to the other in the cold and take in every reverberation from the wide world.
So this young boy would give an overview of all of the news he had heard that day on the radio to his group every evening and take part in the political conversations. They would sit and gape, hearing the child relating the war communications. [He] never ate his full; his small voice vibrated weakly, but he enumerated all of the places of the battlefields clear and exact, even from the Far East, with the ringing names so strange to our ears. The child's mastery of politics was astonishing.
In the circle for which the child Nota was the news bringer, people who had no idea about politics would come at night. However, they marveled at the young boy who breathed hard, had no strength to speak and yet how he operated the fighting ships, all kinds of airplanes and other heavy weapons.
When they would call for Nota from his home, it took a long time until the child could tear himself away from the political debates. And Nota's mother would complain: So, Nota, what will be? I do not know how we will get wood or something else for the house and you are busy with politics? And when the child would leave, people would often call to him: so, in fact, is there such a child among the Christians! Who has such a child who can be so clear about all of today's political problems as this child?
The circle to which the child, Nota, would provide the radio news, also had two other news gatherers and very talented politicians.
[One of them was] Chaim Zilberberg, the youngest son of the dentist, Yoal Zilberberg, a young man of 20. Sickly from birth and a constant client of doctors. He graduated from gymnazie [secondary school], where he was one of the best students, just before the war. Chaim Zilberberg was freed from forced labor as someone who was sick. He would diligently study the German press the entire day and would find what was unsaid between the lines, from which he would construct his political theses. His room was filled with maps, on which he would follow the war operations. His mother would often make scenes about the maps, afraid that during a search there could be a bad outcome with such material; how does a Jew come to have maps?
The other one was Moshe Lichtenbaum, Leibl Mednik's grandson, a young man of 18. He studied in kheder [religious primary school] and studied worldly subjects privately. Before the war, he was harnessed in the business of his parents. He was also dedicated to politics with his entire being and was clear about every battlefield. His work was dependent on the German press, which he received through various ruses and shared with the young Zilberberg.
Moshe also was freed from forced labor because he had a problem with a foot from childhood on. However, he gave up his privilege and settled into his work as a carpenter in the workshop of the volks-Deutsch Kraskowski. Entering a workshop had cost him several hundred zlotes and he did this with a purpose. There was a radio in the house of the volks-Deutsch and Moshe was a strong enthusiast for hearing a little radio from abroad; as a result, it was the right decision for him to go for the instruction as a carpenter. He became friendly with the volks-Deutsch, who was an old communist and [Moshe] very often spent time with him in his house. There he would
manipulate the radio and receive a great amount of news from London.
This young man also remained in contact with comrades who worked for prominent men as house workers and in whom the brown [shirt] tyrants had trust, leaving them the keys to their residences when spending time in Germany on furlough. Moshe was the first to make use of these places to listen to the radio from abroad. He would spend entire nights there and what could be a better place for hearing the radio from abroad than in a Nazi's house? Moshe was really stuffed with news from abroad. When Jews would take him into a small group, he spoke for a long time before they let him leave.
Moshe did not want to leave the radio news to the young boy Nuta. Mainly, he did not have the patience to wait until Nuta would give the report. He himself ran to the radio loudspeaker in the municipal garden. He was successful at the beginning, but later he had his bones severely broken for wanting to listen to the radio. When it was very difficult for a Jew to approach the radio loudspeaker, Moshe could be found standing at the gate of Yisroel Shualke's courtyard and one would see how he strained his ears to catch something from the loudspeaker. In the middle of the busiest work in the workshop, he would disappear when it came time for the news from the radio.
The First Expulsion
Shabbos, the 6th of June 1942 (21st of Sivan 5702) a rumor spread in the city that all Biala Jews had to leave the city. We later learned that the county district had informed the Judenrat that on Wednesday, the 10th of June, all of the Jews who were not employed by the labor office had to appear at the train to leave. The order concerned all of the Jews in the county. All of the provincial cities would become free of Jews and all of the working Jews from the entire county would be located in Biala.
Yakov Ahron Rozenbaum, the representative of the Judenrat, dared to ask the consultant, Lipowski: Where are you sending the people? The official answered: To the west. The representative of the Judenrat again remarked that he knew that the Jews from the west were being sent to the east, so why had the Biala Jews become so displeasing that they were being sent to the west? The official remained embarrassed for a while, but he regained his composure and said: You see in what conditions the people are living in the synagogue and in the remaining prayer houses. To this
From the right: Wowtshe Rozenbaum (Lodz), Asher Fajenbaum, Moshe Fajenbaum, Shimshon Justman, Yosef Ejdlman, Shlomo Cyker, Itshe Kanier (Serock), Yakov Brodacz, Chaim Zavl Milbaum, Zilie (Euzial) Fajenbaum, Berl Sznajderman, Moshe Lichtenbaum, Benedict Kraskowski;
From the front, sitting: Frei (Grodna), Yehosha Fajenbaum;
From the back, standing: Szulman (eastern section), Zile (Euzial) Gutenberg
Y. A. Rozenbaum responded: Yes, true, we would not be against bettering the situation of the people, but we know that, in general, this is not in the interest of the government, so why does it bother you that the people will die here?
The official had no right to a place in the discussion. Not having more to say, he answered: You, Rozenbaum, see everything in black; therefore, with that attitude any collaboration with you will not be possible.
The Judenrat began an energetic action to repeal the edict and boarded up all thresholds [houses]. At the Gestapo, they asked why they had not been entrusted with such a piece of work.
The Judenrat succeeded in learning that the edict had come from Lublin, but it did not provide any number of how many should be deported. The administrative district was interested that in the deportation numbers should be more specific.
After all efforts by the Judenrat, it became clear who could remain and who must leave. All of those who had work cards as well as merchants and artisans who were employed by the administrative district had the right to remain, along with their wives and children up to the age of 14. These
women and children needed to receive separately stamped receipts from the labor office and from the captain to legitimize themselves for the regime. Every emigrant had the right to take up to 10 kilograms of hand luggage. For not conforming to this order there was the threat of death.
The regime, for its part, informed the Judenrat that the entire action had to be led by the Judenrat and the Jewish ordnungsdienst [ghetto police]. If they could not control the situation, the regime would be forced to engage with it and that could lead to unwanted consequences.
On Tuesday, the Judenrat, through notices in the street, informed the Jewish population of everything and designated an assembly point at the synagogue courtyard.
On Shabbos, as soon as it was clear that one could escape from the expulsion with a work card, a large part of the population began to make an effort to obtain such a card. Many succeeded by making high payments to receive a card for living.
Young men, who had gone around with young women for years and did not intend to get married during the time of war, quickly got married in order to save their brides [girlfriends] from expulsion and thus legalized their brides as their wives. Fictitious marriages also took place in order to save Jewish women.
There were those who could not legally save themselves; they decided on the spot not to appear and to hide during the time of the aktsia [deportation]. Many ran away illegally in time to the closest villages to Christian acquaintances and to neighboring Mezritch. Those who decided to leave began to prepare for the road and to prepare packs.
In the provincial shtetlekh [towns] of the county, the Jews ran to the forests. In general, they did not have in mind to appear for the migration.
Tuesday afternoon, the taxation office in Biala also showed what it was capable of doing. Almost all of the officials, accompanied by policemen, started going through the Jewish quarter demanding of the Jews the required and also even more unevaluated taxes for 1942. They demanded extremely high sums that had to be paid immediately because if not they threatened arrest and appearing the next day for the deportation transports.
The same day, Yakov Malina went to the administrative district to take care of some matter. At night, we learned that Malina was taken away outside the city in an auto and shot by agent Baldiga.
Tragic moments took place in families; parents could not cope with their children and children not with their parents. No one had the strength to say to the other remain. Because death called out from every order.
On Wednesday, the 10th of June, 700 souls in their holiday clothes with packs of various sizes assembled at the synagogue courtyard. People streamed there from all directions. The Jewish ordnungsdienst, which had been enlarged to 50 people specially for this purpose, went from house to house and reminded people about the obligation to appear at the synagogue courtyard. Those who belonged to the lucky ones and remained in the city moved freely in the Jewish quarter, where no controls were enforced.
The representatives of the regime arrived at the synagogue courtyard and watched the scene. They sent home some of the crippled, sick and nursing women. They ordered that the sick, those not capable of being transported should remain at home. Understand that this strengthened even more the impression that the people were only being evacuated to another city. Many who had decided not to appear, now took their packs and came to the synagogue courtyard.
At around two o'clock in the afternoon when the synagogue courtyard was full of Jews, the group along with Jewish ordnungsdienst, accompanied by several gendarmes, was led to the train where it was turned over to the sonderdienst [special services] of the administrative district. A number of weak Jews were brought to the train by auto.
It is difficult to list all of the Bialers who marched in the procession to the train. Several faces have remained etched in my memory: Moshe Kawa, known and beloved by everyone, went, resigned and prematurely old. Near him walked the good-natured teacher, Yoal Meir Hajblom. Among the lines could be noticed the merchant Yosef Gilman and his family, Pintshe Eidlman and his wife and small son, Hercl Czarni and his wife.
The Jews had to wait at the train station until morning because it seems the deportation had been carried out early and no wagons had been prepared for the people. The Judenrat brought bread and coffee to the train several times.
Early Thursday, a freight train arrived and by around 11 o'clock in the morning, the people already were in the closed wagons. The train moved from the spot in the
company of a Stormist and several Ukrainians guards, in the direction of Łuków.
The Judenrat, at any cost, wanted to learn to where the people had been sent. They learned from the Łuków Judenrat that the train left in the direction of Lublin; from the Lublin Judenrat in Majdan Tatarski came the news that the people had gone in the direction of Chelm. And Chelm reported that the train had passed through the city on Friday evening in the direction of Wlodawa. The last news came from Wlodawa, from which they reported that they knew nothing and that they should not be asked such questions again.
At Wlodawa, the thread was torn. And because such an answer was given from there, it was surmised that in Wlodawa they did know what had happened to the people.
The administrative district also learned about the constant rumors that there was news from the people who had been sent away. It, therefore, tried to tap the pulse of the Judenrat, but the Judenrat answered: We called the people to report for emigration and where you sent them, you know and not us.
Actually, the Judenrat learned where the people were being sent. It came to light that the last train station of their wandering was Sobibor, 37 kilometers from Chelm, in the direction of Wlodawa. Before the war, Sobibor was well-known as a small train station between forests in the Wlodawa area, from which wood would be transported.
Later, we heard that many Jews had been brought to Sobibor and they were left sealed for several days in freight cars without food and without a drop of water on a hot summer day on a side train line in a forest. Afterwards, the bodies were thrown out of the train cars and burned there.
Weeks passed and the thinking about the uprooted victims did not cease. It was natural that the German regime became the inheritor of the few possessions that the victims had left in their apartments. The apartments that had been left were thoroughly cleaned.
The month of July passed relatively calmly and the month of August arrived, which was so rich in bloody events.
On Monday, the 3rd of August, in the afternoon, Ahron Brodacz was arrested at the district administration. At the same time, the sonderdienst began to search for Menakhem Finkelsztajn. Not being able to find him, it arrested the Judenrat chairman, Yitzhak Piczic, as a hostage, threatening to shoot him if Finkelsztajn did not appear. After a short time, Menakhem Finkelsztajn appeared at the district administration and Yitzhak Piczic was freed. The news about the arrest of the two Jews made a strong impression in the city because they knew that both had been visitors at the district administration and had support in the person of the officials Engineer Debus and Naulinger. Relatives and friends warned them of the consequence of maintaining contact with the Nazis, with whom they would from time to time have success in obtaining a favor for a Jew for a good reward.
Right after the arrest of Ahron Brodacz, a search was carried out in his residence by the sonderdienst. Consequently, his sister and his wife, Chaya Fajbenbaum, and her two sisters were held.
For an entire afternoon, the families of the arrestees made every possible effort to learn something, but without success. No one knew what to say, but everyone was calmed, believing that this was a misunderstanding that would quickly be clarified. Thus the day passed without any success until the curfew arrived for Jews, seven o'clock at night, and the families of the arrestees had to return home with mixed feelings of fear and hope.
The end was a tragic one. That same night, all of those held, the women and the men were shot. They said in the city that this was the German officials wanting to erase the traces of their contact with these Jews and that the official, Naulinger of Passau (Germany), had a hand in the murders.
In the middle of the night, on Monday into Tuesday of the 4th of August, we suddenly heard heavy military steps in the streets of the Jewish quarter. As soon as the sun began to come up, we heard the wild Gebril: Mener raus [men, out]! The entire Jewish quarter was surrounded by gendarmes, security police, Polish police, Gestapo and Goering's troops the pilots, all armed with machine guns and grenades. Grabanower Street was full of men, who were chased to the corner of the street (in the direction of the new market). Those who were late were accompanied on their way with blows from rifle butts. After a time, the Germans began to check the work cards. The checking lasted several hours and all the men were freed.
However, these almost innocent checks that
|Plan of the Biala Jewish quarter during the Nazi regime|
morning cost the Jewish population 19 victims. Among them were: Zalman Liverant, Yukl Listgartn, Fridman (from eastern Kresy [Eastern Borderlands of Poland], a former war prisoner) and so on. Many of those who returned alive had been severely beaten and bloodied during the check.
Faisker,[b] the Gestapo man, led this aktsia and the volks-Deutsch, gendarme Leon Busch, excelled particularly bloodily.
On the part of the accused, witnesses such as the shoemaker, W. Ivanicki, former Biala vice-mayor appeared. After he gave his testimony, Faisker stood up and gave the following statement: I expected that Jews would appear here against me. I can also understand the appearances of Poles as witnesses against me. But how does Ivanicki come here? This Ivanicki, who was a Gestapo confidant who denounced tens of Poles to the Gestapo and brought about their death how dare he appear in court against me?
Ivanicki was arrested on the spot. The court sentenced him to 10 years in prison, to losing his rights as a citizen for 15 years and the confiscation of his possession on behalf of the state treasury (provided by Yehosha Wajsman Israel.)
The events in the city began to unwind with particular speed.
On Friday, the 7th of August, the Judenrat announced that according to the order of the regime, all Jews had until six o'clock in the evening to move to the smaller quarter, according to how it had earlier been planned.
The Jewish quarter that was located between the streets, Grabanower and the synagogue courtyard alleys (except for several houses bordering on the new market), Janower (only on the right side), Prosta (from the court on) and Cmentarne, would now be enclosed like a four-corned box between the streets (without the synagogue alleys from Wolnoszczi Square to Prosta), Prosta, only on the left side (from Grabanower to Przechodnia), Janower, the right side until Przechodnia and Przechodnia only the right side.
There really was the threat of suffocating in such a narrow cage. Although the quarter was not closed, people already lived in stalls, so that it was an instrument of torture deciding where to go.
The Judenrat still tried to intervene with the S.D. representative Glet, who had promised to try to have the order revoked and it was actually soon withdrawn.
In a conversation between the S.D. [Sicherheitsdienst Security Service] man and the Judenrat representative, Y. A. Rozenbaum, the former blurted out that the order would certainly be revoked because other mass means were being planned against the Jews. However, what kind of mass means these were, they could not learn from him, but time lifted the veil of this mystery.
On Monday, the 10th of August, a rumor spread in the city that freight cars were standing at the train station in which 400 men would be taken from Biala to Lublin. This information was confirmed because all of the German offices were telephoned from the train station and they were asked about the Jews who were supposed to leave. Everywhere they answered that they did not know anything.
Wednesday, in the morning of the 12th of August, a search was carried out for the Jewish men by an unfamiliar security policeman with the help of the Ukrainian militia. The detained Jews were taken to an assembly place on the Wolya. Among those held were many workers from the Wahrmacht [German armed forces] and from the German workplaces, which made efforts
to free them. The S.D. representative, Wida, announced the search to the Judenrat who left for the assembly point at the Wolya and freed all of the Jews.
|Restriction on movement for Biala Jews|
It did not take long and there again was panic in the city because the search for men was resumed. An order came simultaneously from the district administration that the Judenrat, the aid committee and [those in] the disinfection colony should appear immediately at the square of the district administration.
To those assembled at the square of the district administration, the official, Lipkow, asked the assembled women of the aid committee and of the disinfection colony to go home and he disappeared. A vehicle with unfamiliar security police and a few Ukrainians arrived at the square. The Jews were loaded into the vehicle and they were taken to the train.
Despair reigned in the city because it was clear that with the removal of the Judenrat, the city had been abandoned and the end of the tragedy was approaching. We were sure that a search would soon be made for men because many were still missing from the number that had been caught during the morning search. It really did not take long before a new search began.
The catching of 400 Jews was not easy because the majority of the Jewish workers were already at the workplaces. Therefore, the search persisted an entire day. And when the nightmarish day turned to night, a dead Jew with a smashed head lay in the gutter at Narutowicz Street and in a small room lay a woman who had been shot, Mrs. Brukha Adlersztajn (Moshe'e the saloonkeeper's daughter-in-law), who would not let herself be raped by a Ukrainian who took part in the deportation.
It became clear that in the morning the S.D. man again succeeded in freeing a Jew because the unfamiliar leader of the deportation was not on the spot. However, as soon as he arrived at the assembly place and saw that Jews were being freed, he ordered that they be held. He left for the German offices and, it appears, it was his right to carry out the search and he encountered no more interference, but on the contrary, strong cooperation.
Around nine o'clock at night, the freight train left in the direction of Lublin, taking approximately 400 Jews in the sealed cars, among them the majority of the Judenrat and of the aid committee.
Here began all the while, it seems, the exertions of other mass means regarding Jews by the above mentioned S.D. man, Glet. Firstly, they eliminated the Judenrat, from which they had received so many gifts, but at the same time, the Judenrat had been too active and too often asked for the annulling of various edicts. In the process, they [the Judenrat] pulled along the members of the aid committee and of other institutions, helping the foreign security police fill the contingent of Jews who had been seized who he [Glet] had to bring somewhere else.
In August, (the youngest daughter of the well-known Hebrew teacher, Yakov Sztajnman) Godya Sztajnman, the member of HaShomer HaTzair [the Young Guard Labor Zionists] was arrested. It was said that this talented girl had taken part in illegal activities, that emissaries from the movement would meet in her residence. She fell into the hands of the Gestapo because of the arrest of a Polish train official, who was arrested on the
train with illegal literature and he had given Godya's name and address. Godya Sztajnman spent a very short time in the cellar of the Gestapo prison. It turns out that the experienced murderers were convinced that they would get nothing from the physically weak young woman, despite the tortures she endured there. We learned of the severe torture that Godya endured from the Jewish tailors who worked there and from them we learned that Godya Sztajnman had been taken from there in a car in an unknown direction and shot.
At the same time, Glika Lichtbaum (Leibe Mednik's daughter) was arrested and she was shot by Agent Baldiga, which supposedly happened because Glika had demanded [the [payment of a debt] from a volks-Deutsch.
The German extermination machine then was already in full operation and during the first phase of the annihilation of the Jews, it tried to concentrate the Jews in order for it to be easier to be able to exterminate them.
The military regime told the Jewish workers that whoever wanted to work for them must be restricted to the barracks, that is, to sleep in the barracks under German supervision. The military regime also began to give food to its Jewish workers. The Jews did not want to lose their workplaces and therefore were forced to be restricted to the barracks. Every night one could see this scene: the workers came home from work for a short time and immediately were assembled at the synagogue courtyard and standing in military order they were marched away to the barracks. Whoever had a desire to spend the night at home, received the administration of 40 blows over his body in the morning. They were only freed from work in the camp on Sunday so they could see their families.
Meanwhile, one of the 400 Jews who had been sent away in the direction of Lublin, the former war prisoner, Grosman, came running back. A fresh picture of the tragedy unfolded from his words.
We learned that the 400 men had been taken to the camp at Majdanek, several kilometers outside Lublin. There they changed into camp clothing. However, an order soon came to return the clothing. Officials from the train authority came and chose around 350 men for work in building a new train line in Golomb, between Demblin and Pulow, Lublin woyewodztwa [administrative division]. Fifty men remained in the Majdanek camp, the majority older people and among them: Y.A. Rozenbaum, Yitzhak Piczic, Moshe Rodzinek, Moshe Chaim Wizenfeld, Yisroel Bialer, Shmuel Krajzlman, Yakov Shlomo Zajdman, Yakov Velvl Herszberg, Berl Goldberg (pharmacist), Khanan Wajsberg and so on.
The work in Golomb took place in unbearable conditions. Heavy labor, little and bad food. One was shot for the slightest weakness. Perishing there among others were: Fishl Kantor, Eliezer Lerner and Blumenkranc (Yukl Listgartn's son-in-law).
Just before Rosh Hashanah, almost all of the Biala Jews returned from Golomb.
The wives of the members of the Judenrat who had been sent away began to make efforts to bring back their husbands. In the German offices they were promised to have their requests filled, but they did not keep their promise. Meanwhile, Eliezer Celniker was designated as the new chairman of the Judenrat, who with several remaining members of the Judenrat tried to begin some kind of activity.
On Shabbos, the 19th of September, it was ordered that Judenrats of Biala, Janowa and Konstantyn should report to the S.D. representatives.
During the day of Shabbos, they already knew the results of the visit: it was ordered that several kilograms of gold be collected from the Jewish population and be delivered to the S.D. The order was motivated by the idea that the S.D. would defend the Biala Jews to the higher powers. The Janower and Konstantyner Judenrats were told that by Friday, the 25th of September, all of the Jews must move to Biala from their towns.
Around Tuesday, the 22nd of September, the S.D. man Glet sent for the wives of the two Judenrat members, Piczic and Rozenbaum, who had ceaselessly tried to make him bring back their husbands from Maidanek.
When the two women came to Glet, the S.D. man, they found the Judenrat chairman, Eliezer Celniker there. Glet asked the women in his [Celinker's] presence how much their husbands meant to them because there was an opportunity to free them. The women
answered that their husbands were dear to them, but, alas, they did not have any large sums of money. The women tried to speak about bringing back all of the Biala Jews, but from the start the S.D. man did not want to hear about it. Finally, after long pleas from the women, Glet agreed to try to free all of the Jews. Therefore, the women were obligated to provide him with 45,000 zlotes. He emphasized that the money needed to be given to him very quickly because he would probably be going to Lublin either Saturday or Sunday to take the gold assembled by the Judenrat and while there he would make efforts for freeing the men. He observed that everything must be very secret; if not, the women would be responsible for their lives.
Around Wednesday, the first arrivals of the Janower and Konstantyner Jews appeared. Small wagons of Jewish families followed. Only a small group of Jews remained in Janowa, as workers in the Wigoda [horse farm] there.
The arriving 3,000 Jews were partly quartered with their friends and acquaintances. Everyone who did not have a place to go remained on the street with their bag and baggage.
On Wednesday night the refined murderer, Glet, visited the quarter. He promised to give apartments to the immigrants. Meanwhile, he asked Yitzhak Preter, the baker, to distribute the bread among the refugees, promising to give him back flour on Monday.
The Judenrat had already given the assembled gold. Whether the provided quantity, about two kilograms [almost four and a half pounds] satisfied the S.D. members, or not, was difficult to learn.
Around seven in the evening, the women came to the office of the S.D. and delivered the 45,000 zlotes. Glet again told the women that around Shabbos or Sunday he would be in Lublin and he believed that he would be successful in freeing the men. As it already was seven o'clock, he gave the women a certificate that they had permission to be in the street at the later hour.
That there was going to be an expulsion was clear to everyone. All Jewish settlements in the entire Lublin woyewodztwa [administrative district] were included in the expulsion designation. However, the Biala Jews did not expect that their total annihilation was approaching.
Rumors spread from the administrative district that they did not mean the Biala Jews. Only those Jews arriving from the small shtetlekh [towns] were designated for deportation. Therefore, the majority of Biala Jews thought that in general a deportation was being prepared for migrants, among whom there would naturally be transported many Biala Jews. However, there was a solution to this; this had been learned from the first Biala deportation and from the large deportation in Mezritch hide. Therefore, the building of hiding places was in full fervor. No money was spared in this purpose and a hiding place was created in every house.
The Jews arriving from the shtetlekh who were capable of work besieged the labor office and demanded that they be given workplaces because this was a way of rescue during the first Biala expulsion. Now, they spared no money to obtain a work card.
Friday, erev Sukkous [the eve of the Feast of Tabernacles], there was busy and exasperated movement in the quarter. They sensed the closeness of the danger. The news that various officials had taken even half-completed work from the artisans increased the panic.
The Judenrats from Janowa and Konstantyn gathered gold from their landsleit [townsmen] the entire day, which was given to the S.D.
During the day, the workers from many workplaces came to take their things because they were assigned to the barracks. They spoke about the seven camps that would be in the city: 1. at the Stuag firm; 2. at the Zid firm; 3. at the Ostbahn; 4. at the water management inspection (the only place where women would also be); 5. at the air field; 6. in the military bakery and 7. the largest camp would be at the Wahrmacht, when they would also eat and sleep as workers of a private firm, which had the right to employ Jews.
The Jews were divided into three categories: one those quartered [in the ghetto/camp]; the second those who had prepared hiding places; among them a small percentage with Christians. Among those who had prepared to hide, also were men who although in barracks, did not want to leave their closest ones; the third category consisted of every Jew who did not have a place to hide, or did not want to hide and was ready for everything.
The Second and Last Expulsion
On Shabbos, the first day of Sukkous [Feast of Tabernacles] (26th of September 1942), at around 5 o'clock in the morning, rifle fire was heard in the Jewish neighborhood and it was clear that the bloody events had begun.
A. At the Assembly Square and in the Ghetto
As it appeared, the expulsion aktsia began before five o'clock in the morning. When we heard the noise of the rifles, many Jewish lives had been cut short.
Taking part in the action were: Gestapo, security police, the gendarmerie, Polish police and soldiers from the Luftwaffe [German armed forces] who had surrounded the quarter around 10 o'clock at night.
As soon as it began to turn blue [sunrise] outside, began the ousting of people from their residences and driving them to the square, to the pig market, where they were told to sit on the ground.
Doors were broken open in houses where the door was not answered quickly enough. The Germans entered the houses like rampaging animals and beat the people. Whichever one of them had the desire to do so fired his rifle and victims fell. The sick, who lay in bed and could not go to the assembly spot, were shot in their beds.
Glet, the S.D. man, ordered the Jewish ordnungsdienst [Jewish ghetto police] Hinekh Bialer to enter the residence of Chaim Gotlen in the courtyard at Prosta Street to see if Jews were present there. Bialer sentered the residence and found Jews whom he told to hide. He reported to the S.D. man that there were no Jews present. However, Glet did not believe him and entered the residence and found several Jews who had not yet hidden and he immediately went outside and shot Bialers on the spot.
The Jews in the street who had gone to the assembly spot were beaten and many of them were shot.
The three Grodner sister and a young brother arrived at the street and hurried to the assembly spot. Before them appeared the security policeman, Peterson, and when he saw the youngest sister, an amazingly beautiful child, he called out: It is a shame that such child should go to Mezritch; it is better that she remain. A shot was heard; the child faltered and fell on the cobblestones with a shattered head. The sisters and the young brother were chased to the assembly spot.
At the assembly spot, the Jews sat dejected and full of fear. Every second, the Germans chose a Jew, took him to the side and shot him. A long mass grave was created near the house of the Christian, Szidlawski.
Jewish blood flowed in the residences, in the streets and at the assembly point. Everywhere the eyes reached, one saw Jewish corpses.
Peterson, the security policeman, Busch the gendarme, and the commandant of the Polish police, Kuchczewski, rampaged the most cruelly.
|The pig market assembly point during the expulsion
Photographed Winter 1944-45
Many hiding places were immediately uncovered by the hangmen. The people were led out to the assembly place under a hail of blows and many fell dead on the spot.
When there were enough Jews at the assembly place, they began to choose people who were capable of work for the camp at the airfield and for Malaszewicz's former Polish airport near Terespol.
They brought Zushe Goldberg, the Serocker young man (a friend of the above mentioned Godya Sztajnman), who had worked at the security police the entire time, where they had the best opinion of him. A few security police with Peterson at the head were angry with him because he had not permitted them to rob the storehouses where he worked. The suffering that the young man went through, before he parted with the world, are truly indescribable. He was severely beaten with crowbars; afterward, they poked out his eyes, laid him on a concrete well and again murderously, ceaselessly beat, tortured and humiliated him.
The young man acted heroically. He did not ask for mercy, but flung his brave words in the faces of his torturers: You are heroes he said compared to the unprotected Jews. However, the world and also the Jews will see what kind of heroes you will be when you lose the war. This caused a terrible rage among the torturers. The young man breathed out his soul with immense suffering.
It was demanded of the people who sat at the assembly point that they surrender their money and jewelry, threatening them with death for not handing it over. As they had surmised that they would be transported to the death camp, Treblinka, no one had taken anything with them. They then regretted this because they loaded the Jews into wagons and sent them to Mezritch.
The older people and children were loaded into wagons and it was arranged to transport the young people on foot to Mezritch. Because of the large number of wagons that remained unfilled, the young people were also loaded into the wagons.
Wagons stretched out stuffed with Jews, dejected, full of fear, at first not knowing where they were being taken. At the end of the Biala county, where the Woroniecer forest is located, many of the Jews were taken out of the wagons, led into the forest and shot there.
The corpses in the streets and in the residences from which they were slid out of the windows were taken to the cemetery by the Christian workers from the city hall. After several days of lying there, the corpses were buried by the Christian workers.
The Gestapo entered the Jewish hospital where there were 15 sick and two nurses who did not want to leave the sick, and ordered the nurses to feed the sick…
The Christians made use of the darkness of the night and began to rampage in the Jewish houses. They dragged out whatever they could. They
|Prohibition for non-Jews to enter the former Jewish quarter|
even took the clothing off the corpses that lay in the streets.
On Sunday, the second day of Sukkous, all of the Reich's Germans and volks-Deutschn, who had come en masse in holiday clothes, were invited to the Jewish quarter. They wandered through the quarter, looking for hiding Jews. They had already looted the Jewish houses for the most beautiful and the best things.
However, the Germans ascertained that a large percent of Jews had not appeared at the assembly place. They brought bloodhounds to find the Jews in their hiding places. A fresh day arose of bloody work for the murderers. The scenes of the first day were repeated; everywhere lay Jewish victims and blood flowed in rivers.
The district headquarters took Jewish workers from the camps, who began to carry out the possessions from the abandoned houses and brought them to the synagogue and the house of prayer.
|Order of the Mayor, A. Walawksi and his assistant, W. Iwanicki,
after the expulsion, about holding the Jews and giving them to the gendarmerie
Where the Jewish workers entered a residence, they immediately called out: Men, come out! And the men who heard their call joined the work group and at night they went with them to the camps. Wherever a Jewish worker had the opportunity, he reported that Biala was Juden-rein [empty of Jews] and that they must leave for Mezritch at night.
The Gestapo came to the Jewish hospital for a second time and going from bed to bed, they shot all of the sick. The two nurses also shared the same fate as the sick.
A hiding place was also discovered in the hospital and the Jews there were shot on the spot. Among those shot was the Judenrat chairman, Eliezer Celniker.
The Jews who were gathered at the assembly point on the second day of the expulsion were also sent away to Mezritch.
The roads that led to Mezritch were full of Jewish victims. Anyone who desired to stop the wandering Jews did so and gave them into German hands. Thus at the well, the Grobman sisters were stopped and the sonderdienst [special services] shot them there on the spot.
From Thursday on, the fourth day of the expulsion, they stopped shooting Jews. The Gestapo took over the management of the former Jewish quarter. Announcements appeared in the streets that the Jews could freely walk to Mezritch until Tuesday the 1st of October 1942. Every Jew who was found in Biala county after this period would be shot.
And actually, during those days, no Jews were shot. Both those who freely appeared and those who crawled out of hiding places were sent to Mezritch.
The Gestapo chose a group of 50 men from the people, who, since Tuesday, had appeared on their own for the expulsion, to clean the houses in the Jewish quarter. Among them were the two women: Matl Cyker (Froim Cyker's wife) and Masha Gelburd (a daughter of Yosele Wohiner) [and] the men: Yitzhak Eksztajn (barber), Yitzhak Chonen and his son Gedalihu, Khanina Kaszemacher, Noakh Rodzinek, Antshl Bekerman, the Bekerman brother (the sons of Yosef Sanie), Shmuel Liberman (tricot-knit weaver from Siedlce), Yitzhak Grobman, Borukh Fajgnbaum, Polosecki (a carpenter from Łomazy), Dovidl Geltman, Shlomo Cyker (Matl Cyker's son), Shimshon Justman, Shlomo Sztajngart (Motl Arya's son) and so on.
The workers were quartered in the barracks that were located at Shabati Finkelsztajn's spot (the barracks were erected there at the beginning of 1942 and, until the expulsion, Jews, who were constantly removed from the streets that were located outside the outlined Jewish quarter, lived there). At night they would let the workers into the barracks, bar the doors and windows with boards and the municipal firemen guarded them until the morning when they would be let out to work.
The first employment for the workers was to go around and board up all of the Jewish houses. Then they began to go from house to house and clean everything. They took the things to specially arranged warehouses, and the more valuable things were later transported to Germany.
A large part of their work during the first weeks of the expulsion consisted of burying victims right there on the square.
As soon as Tuesday passed, the shooting of every Jew encountered began again. This time, only by the Gestapo, which turned the square in the Jewish quarter into a cemetery.
Actually, there was no difference between the cemetery at the square in the Jewish quarter and the official cemetery because German vandalism also reached there; all of the headstones and brick walls around graves were hacked to bits and used for various purposes.
The 50 Jewish workers at the Gestapo were witnesses to enough awful scenes. Jews were brought every day to the barracks for whom they had to prepare mass graves. At night, the victims, only in their underwear, were led to the pits in pairs and shot. The remaining victims, who were waiting for their turn, would hear the shooting and see what soon awaited them through the cracks in the barracks walls.
When the shooting stopped, the Jewish workers ran with shovels to cover the mass grave.
They brought the Judenrat member Dovid Kantor and his daughter, Sura, to the square. He asked the Gestapo man, who had received more than one gift from Kantor's hand at the time, to let them live because they were young and could still work. Several revolver shots were heard and two lives were extinguished.
Mrs. Szayndl Kornblum, who had been brought there with her husband, Yakov, proposed giving away all of their possessions if they would give them their lives, but the Gestapo man laughed cynically and fired his automatic weapon.
Mrs. Etl Richter asked a Jewish worker that they not tell her son, who was in one of the Biala camps, about her tragic end. That same evening, she was led out of the barracks, just in her shirt and shot.
More than one worker witnessed the shooting of
|The ghetto square (Shabse's Garden) in the middle of the barracks where the Jews were pushed after they were thrown out of their residences.
After the expulsion, they installed the Gestapo workers there. Here, various detained Jews were imprisoned after the expulsion until the they were shot at night there on the square.
On the right Khanina Kaszemacher's house, where the Gestapo workers were later held; to the left: Motl Minc's house.
his own wife, his children and those closest to him, who were discovered in hiding places. He looked terrified and was silent. And thus the victims also were silent because the least hint that a close person was being shot could bring death.
And thus, in front of the worker, Khanina Kaszemacher, they shot his wife, Perl. The worker, Shmuel Liberman, filled in the grave of the squirming body of his son. Noakh Rodzinek watched as they shot his brother, Avraham.
There was a case when the co-worker at the Judenrat, Idl Cymbolist and his pregnant wife, Nekhama (Moshe Szenker's daughter) were brought to be shot. After long efforts by the workers, they succeeded in persuading the Gestapo man that Cymbolist be taken to work. However, in the middle of the work, another Gestapo man noticed him and drove him back into the barracks of the Jews being held to be shot. When the workers asked the Gestapo man for mercy, that Cymbolist should be taken to work, he told them that he could not help because the Jew was brought here with his wife; if he wanted to continue working, what would they do with his wife? They could not and they were not permitted in such a case to separate a man and wife. They actually were not separated, but hurled together into a grave.
There also were cases when Jewish girls were stopped and forced to dance naked in front of the prepared graves, at which time they were then shot.
The entire space there with all of its neighboring courtyards was transformed into a Jewish cemetery
B. In Hiding Places and other Means of Rescue
The hiding places were made at various places, after contemplating the matter for the entire night. Thus in cellars they installed brick walls that divided the cellars in two. One part continued to be as it was, but the second part was entered through a raised board in the house floor. Small rooms in residences were hidden with boards and a secret entrance was made in the wall that was hidden with a bed or with a cupboard. Various plank beds were created in attics and in stalls.
There was great crowding in almost all of the hiding places because people who had not been counted [in the planning for the hiding places] had to be allowed into them at the last minute. In the hiding places that were located in the attics, the people actually lay naked because of the great heat. The worst hardship was with small children who cried constantly and could easily betray the hiding places. There were cases in which such children were simple suffocated.
The Jewish workers at the Gestapo in the quarter later found dead children in the attics and the cellars, in cells and in stalls. There was a hiding place where the woman, Rywka Berzowski (her girlhood name, daughter of Shepsele the carpenter), had labor pains and because of her screams, she suffered the same fate of the previously mentioned children; she was choked (in Chaim the baker's house at Prosta Street).
Food and water were prepared for a short time in the hiding places, but for how long could one lay like this? In general, the Polish firemen, who worked so zealously in uncovering Jewish hiding places, helped the Germans. They even tore off the roofs in some houses where they had a suspicion that a hiding place was located there.
In many hiding places, they lay for long days and did not know what was happening outside. And if one risked going out to learn something, he usually did not return; he was detained and shot.
There were places where people lay for months. In an attic hiding place at Chaim the baker's house; people lay until the middle of January 1943 more than three and a half months. When the Jewish workers in the quarter noticed them, the people were in a terrible condition. This was a good hiding place, arranged with bedding so it was not very cold and there was enough food for the entire time. They were able to use an oven with cholent [Sabbath stew] that was in the house since before Sukkous [Feast of Tabernacles]. They had a hardship with water. When they noticed from inside the hiding place that quarter workers were carrying water, they began calling to them to give them water. At night, the workers provided them with enough water and food. When they were asked why they did not go to Mezritch, they answered that they wanted to wait here until the new year; perhaps a change would come in the situation of the Jews.
Unable to wait for the change, several weeks later they left their hiding place. One by one they left for Mezritch. However, only one arrived there the young man Ekerman (Shayma,
the tailor's son-in-law). The remaining, it appears, met death on the road.
In another hiding place (in the attic in Moshe Yitzhak Biderman's house, Janower Street), they found several dead Jews in March 1943. It was difficult to determine the cause of their death.
The Jews who had hidden with Christians also could not stay there for long. The Christians were afraid to keep them because they were threatened with death. One by one, over the course of weeks, the Jews were drawn to Mezritch. Jews hidden in the villages were almost all detained and shot.
A negligible percentage of the Biala Jews tried to save themselves by obtaining Christian passports, the so-called kennkartes [identity documents], but here, too, they met with great difficulties. Extraordinary sums had to be paid for the kennkartes, and everywhere one turned, they were blackmailed by the Christians, who took the last groshns and, in the end, they [the Jews] returned to the ghetto.
After the war, among those from Biala who had obtained kennkartes and were accepted as Aryans and survived were: Gutsha Goldfeld, Mikhasz Hofer and his wife and daughter, Manya Warm and her brother Leibl, Emil Wajnberger, Berl Sandlarsz and his wife and daughter Hela, Krusa Rozensztajn and her daughters Ida and Chana, Chaim Fridman, lawyer Leon Goldfarb, Bronya Fuks and so on.
Young women made attempts to be sent to work in Germany as Christians, but they did not succeed. Women who traveled on the trains [hoping] to be caught for work in Germany did not achieve their goal, not having any documents with them to show from where they originated, instead of their dream to become slave-workers in Germany they found their death. As it was described, Doba Altbir (Nuta Altbir's daughter), was found among the victims.
Some went to the forests with the hope of joining the Russian prisoners of war who had escaped from the German prison camp, like the family of Eplbaum, the butcher, at Janower Street. Here, too, the end was tragic. The prisoners of war, who did not carry out any partisan actions against the Germans, took everything from the Jews, left them naked and barefoot and drove them away.
Individuals created hiding places in the forests; every night they went to a nearby peasant house and bought something to eat. However, here, too, in the forests they were persecuted by death. The Jews were either murdered by the Christians or by the Germans. Such a case took place in a bunker in Holier Forest, where in the summer of 1943, the Sznajderman brothers (Ruchl Leah's sons, Brisker Street 4), Khanan Tenenbaum (Dovid the baker's son), Hinekh Chohen (Yitzhak Chohen's son) and a young man from Mezritch were shot by gendarmes. A Christian from the village of Selc had reported to the gendarmerie about their bunker.
After the liberation of Biala by the Russian Army in July 1944, coming back from hiding places were: Berish Urbach, Rywka Bachrach, Faywl Buchhalter, Shmuel Gwazda and his wife, Ruzshka Drenczol, Sura Wiznfeld, Ester Wajnsztajn, Avraham Nuchowicz and his sister Rywka, Nekhemia Pocztaruk, Moshe Yosef Fajgenbaum, Chaya Feldman and her two sons, Yitzhak and Shmuel, Yitzhak Fridman, Noakh Rodzinek, Gedalihu Ridlewicz, Moshe Sztajnberg and his sisters Elka and Elda Szliterman.
C. In the Camps
We previously mentioned the belief that there were supposed to be seven camps in the city. During the expulsion, this belief was shown to be correct. The majority who belonged to the camps or to the private firms that were recognized by the regime, were located in the camps at the beginning of the expulsion and were not handed over to the deportation action. During the first days of the expulsion, a certain number of Jews entered the camps, a number of them succeeded in remaining there; others were given to the Gestapo and were shot.
The majority of the Jews were concentrated at the Wahrmacht that was located on the Warsaw highway, near the barracks of the former 34th regiment.[c] The stabszahlmeister [paymaster] was Zeeman and the oberstabszahlmeister [chief purser] was Shilf. They designated as an uber-Jude [chief-Jew], the Jew Sokolowski.
There were workshops in the camps for carpenters, locksmiths, shoemakers and tailors at which a number of Jewish workers were employed.
Every morning a military guard took several hundred Jews from the camp to the Vineta camp that was a division of the camp of the 34th regiment. There, the Jews would work at various heavy labor. And for it they would receive food. At night
the German soldiers brought them back to the central camp. Jewish workers, who earlier had worked in private firms that were recognized as important by the regime, would also be taken to work and brought back at night by the Jewish ordnungsdienst [Jewish ghetto police], a few of whom were located in the camp. The midday food would be taken to them at their workplace.
German soldiers would come into the camp every morning and take groups of Jews to work at the military units. The remaining Jews in the camp worked at various hard labor.
On Sunday, the second day of the expulsion, the camp had a Jewish funeral. The young man, Chaim Hofer, had hung himself after hearing that his wife and child had been deported.
On the days of the deportation, when over the course of several days the remaining Jews in Biala were permitted to freely walk to Mezritch, small, Jewish boys near the camp of the Wahrmacht [German armed services] at the Warsaw highway would sneak around. At night, they would crawl through the barbed wire fences around the camp, sneak into their fathers to spend the night there and, in the morning, they would disappear from there.
At the camp on the air field, where the firms Maier, Benz and Zagar-Werner were active, the Jews worked at building and sewer system work. A large number of workers were employed with loading wagons with wooden beams for coal pits. The regimen there was bearable at the beginning, but later, it became a terrible place for Jews. Day after day, weakened Jews were bound with wire, thrown in a wagon and taken to the Gestapo in the ghetto where they were shot.
In the camp, the saddle-maker, Yitzhak Winderbaum, slit his throat with a razor and suffered in pain for hours until a German bullet made an end of his life.
In the camp of the water administration, the men were employed at reclamation work and the women and children at field and garden work. The German engineer, Grinenfeld, who extorted all of their expensive possessions from the Jews, was the leader of the camp. The regimen there was bearable. The camp was located near the river.
The Jews worked at various jobs in the German bakery. Hanak, the German, ran the camp. He also robbed a great deal of Jewish possessions from his Jewish workers. The small number of Jewish workers lived there relatively well. The camp was located at the mechanized bakery at the Wolya.
In the camp of the firm Stuag that was located in Holier Forest, the Jews were employed at highway work. Civilian Germans and Poles governed them. The treatment there was bearable.
At the camp of the German firm Zid, which worked for the security police and was under its supervision at the Janower highway, the Jews worked at building the barracks for the security police there on the highway and at sewer system labor. Life there was unbearable. The German foreman, Bitner, particularly distinguished himself with his wildness.
The camp of the Ostbahn was found at the railway, where the Jews worked at unloading and loading freight cars as well as at cleaning the train lines. The regimen was lenient.
In almost all of the camps they tried to employ the artisans at their trades to have even more use of the Jews who were held in the camps.
The work for the Jews in all of the camps was not particularly difficult, but the inhuman conditions, the belittling them, the mockery of them, had a much worse effect than the heaviest physical labor. The food was meager; with the money they had brought with them, everyone bought food that was smuggled into the camps by various means. The sanitary and hygienic conditions were miserable. All remuneration for work for the Jewish workers ended at the moment they crossed the threshold of the camp.
On the first day of the expulsion, many Jews left the camps for Mezritch where they had their families. They would also try to go the Jewish quarter in the accompaniment of a soldier who would in various ways receive remuneration for going to the Jewish quarter, which was intended, first of all, to take the men from the hiding places and bring them to the camps. They would also remove money and clothing from the houses. Later, it was almost impossible to go to the Jewish quarter. The soldiers received an order not to go to the Jewish quarter and the camp Jews were forbidden under the threat of death to leave the camp. Despite this, at night Jews risked going into their houses in the Jewish quarter which was constantly guarded by Polish firemen who had many Jewish victims on their conscience. Such as: Ayzik Or-
linski (the son of Avraham), Moshe'le Lajbzon's son, Sura Tsirl, the grandchild of the [female] baker (Suszczik).
Shimeon Lichtensztajn and a grandson, who left the camp at the air field and wanted to join a group of Jewish workers in the Wygoda in Janowa, were stopped and shot on the Janower highway.
During the first week of the expulsion, attempts were made with the stabszahlmeister [paymaster] at the camp of the 34th regiment about arranging a bathhouse for the Jews and the carrying out of disinfections. They also tried to have medications brought from the Jewish hospital and from the aid committee. They promised to do everything. At the end of the week, they felt that a different wind was blowing and nothing would come from all of the promises. They saw that the Jews here were held as slaves and, later, it would be even worse.
On Wednesday, the 30th of September, the women and children from the camp at the water administration were taken to Mezritch by vehicle. The women staged a revolt and wanted to leave the vehicles. It resulted in shooting, during which the sister-in-law of Yitzhak Lewi (from Janowa) and the woman, Rywka Nowomiski (M.Y. Biderman's daughter) were wounded.
The first week passed and Sunday arrived when they were free from work in the camp of the 34th regiment. The group stood in circles and talked. In one place they were occupied with politics; the politicians believed in a quick end to Germany. In a second place, they calculated the fallen victims in the course of the week and many of the living were counted among the dead.
The greater number of workers thought about the situation. During the recent days, the supervision of the camp regime was demanding. The question arose as to whether the Jews would be kept here. One noticed that a large quantity of potatoes had been brought there and this was considered evidence that the Jews would remain…
Jews had good noses and detected that the quiet was before a storm, that something bad was being prepared.
On Tuesday, the 6tth of October  (25 Tishrei 5703) at around half past one in the afternoon, Aba Wajsman (the son of Berish the feldsher [traditional barber-surgeon] came into the carpentry workshop and said that there was some news. His father had just returned from the Vineta camp where a gathering of all of the workers was arranged at one o'clock. And further: all of the men from the water workshop had been taken away to the train. Probably, because the Gestapo members from Lublin had come from Lublin supposedly to confer with the local Gestapo. He had just left the workshop and ran to the worker Khanan Cukerman, who had begun to hit his head with his fists and shouted: Already, now we are lost! The Gestapo has come for us!
And immediately after him, the Jewish ordnungsdient Lajbzon entered and called the group of tradesmen to the camp. The camp already was guarded by the Gestapo, armed with machine guns. The carpenters began to leave the workshop, but then the stabszahlmeister came and told them to go back. When everyone was back at the workshop, the director of the workshop, the Pole, Karpinski, closed the door with a padlock.
It did not take long and the Jews were led out of the camp. Where and for what? This no one knew.
At night, the stabszahlmeister entered the carpentry workshop; he told them to stop their work and declared: You are the only 17 Jews who remain in Biala; for how long I do not know; in any case, try to work diligently and do not go outside the camp.
Of the thousands of concentrated Jews, only 17 remained in the city?
When the 17 tradesmen went to the camp after this, they found it locked. According to the instructions from the regime, they were quartered in a small barracks outside the camp. Absorbed in sad thoughts, they noticed the arrival of a small group of workers. It appeared that a group of 16 workers who had worked in the Holier Forest had also been left. The freshly arrived said that all of the workers from Stuag had also been taken away.
Twilight arrived. The 33 workers sat in the barracks in the dark and a disturbing stillness reigned. Suddenly, a shout was heard: Alle Juden raus! [All Jews out]. Yes, the Jews thought; they have not forgotten us; they have come to send us away, too. The Jews went outside and saw in front of them an officer and a soldier who told them to stand in two lines. They counted the Jews and they were sure that the order was coming: march! However, they only told a few to go with them, to take bread, marmalade and kerosene
for the lanterns. Bringing the bread, marmalade and kerosene, the soldier warned that there should be a proper division and a list should be made of the people. Dovid Gelosn was chosen as the group leader.
At dawn, the workers in the barracks began to get dressed. The young Pinkhas Grodner, who had been taken away with all of the other workers, sneaked in. From him we learned this: the Jews from the camp of the 34th regiment had been taken away to the train where there already were assembled the workers from the Vineta camp and the water management camp. They were told to sit down in the garden at the train station and were forbidden to talk to each other. Later, they also brought the workers from Stuag, from the German bakery and from all the other workplaces at which the people at the camp of the 34th regiment had worked. The Jews were not brought from the firm Zid, the air field and from the ghetto.
Stilhammer, the commander of the Gestapo, gave a speech to the assembled Jews and said that they were being taken to another temporary workplace. You, men capable of work, nothing threatens you, do not be afraid, nothing will happen to you. He ended his speech with these words. Stilhammer demanded order and discipline.
A large number received his words as true. Those who did not believe him also could not help themselves. One worker, Volvish Wajcman, who did want to help himself and ran, was shot while running by the Gestapo man, Szimanski.[d]
The Jews sat in the garden until the evening. A freight train arrived and when they began to load the wagons, they learned where they would be sent. Although, there were enough wagons, they only opened a few. The group was driven into the wagons and, at the same time, murderously beaten with rubber batons. The crowding in the closed wagons was frightening. They understood that the people were not being sent to work and that there was another deception here by the sadists. They began to shout from the wagons it would be better if you shot us before we suffocate in such crowding! Shooting is too easy a death for you was the answer from Szimanski of the Gestapo. The train moved in the direction of Mezritch.
In Biala, they had heard a great deal about how during the first deportation in Mezritch, Mezritchers had jumped out of the train cars and so the Bialers began to do the same thing. When a door would be opened, they would jump. If a door could not be torn open, they jumped out of the small window of the moving train.
However, only a small percent jumped, knowing that there was nowhere to go; the majority were resigned and let themselves be led to the slaughter. As soon as they nailed the doors of the wagons shut, the dentist Yoal Zilberberg and his son Chaim poisoned themselves.
Pinkhas Grodner did not know where they had taken the people because as soon as the train began to move, he jumped out and was slightly hurt.
At lunchtime, the stabszahlmeister came, opened the camp and told everyone to take their things. He simultaneously said that each worker was permitted to have only two pairs of underwear and one suit. The tradesmen could have two pairs of pants. A heavy penalty was threatened for not complying with the order. The Jews were ordered to immediately give away all of their documents, photographs, money, watches and jewelry because whoever later had something found on them would be turned over to the Gestapo.
During the next days, all of the things [belonging to] the workers who had been taken away were taken out of the barracks into the ghetto, in the possession of the Gestapo.
During the ensuing days, from great distances, the train-jumpers appeared at the camp of the 34th regiment. Among them: the lawyer Leon Goldfarb, Eyzshe Rubinsztajn, the gaiter quilter, Yakov Fridman, Shepsl Lajbzon, Moshe Szajnberg and Zilberzon. From them we learned that the train stopped in Mezritch and they chased Jews from Mezritch into the empty train wagons. We understood that the people were sent to Treblinka.
Now, it became clear what was intended in the barracks for the men capable of work in the camps. The heroes from the Gestapo did not want several thousand work-capable men and strong men to be assembled at the assembly point who would see the bloody orgies with their closest ones. Who knew what the Jews would do; perhaps, one would suddenly rise up and then another and react to the bloody deeds and Nazi heads could fall as a result. However, when the powerful men were behind the wire fences, then they [the Gestapo] could do whatever their hearts' desire to their unprotected wives and children.
A number of those who had jumped from the wagons decided to come to Biala at night and learn if there were still Jews in the camps. Others went to the forest where their end was tragic.
The leaders of the camp of the 34th regiment and at Vineta tolerated the coming of fresh Jews to the camp. What did it bother them that Jews would work as slaves? It was assumed that the Biala Gestapo also knew of the influx of the Jews into the camps and did not react. For them, perhaps it was better that their victims were concentrated back in the camps and thus it would be easier to annihilate them at the appropriate hour.
At the end of October 1942, the number of Jews in the camp at the 34th regiment was 106 men and in Vineta 47 men. Among the latter were three disguised women: Golda Szapiro (Avraham Goldberg's daughter), Manya Kowarski (Leibl Goldberg's daughter) and Sura'le Gliksberg (Nakhman Gliksberg's young daughter).
The remaining tradesmen in the camp of the 34th regiment received another barracks under their authority. The food was not the worst; however, there was very little. The 30 dekagrams [.6 pounds] of bread did not still the hunger. However, everyone found a solution. They still had a few zlotes and the Christians who worked in the camp would bring the Jews enough bread, despite the ban by the leader of the workshops, the evil man, Karpinski. If they received too little bread, they had ersatz spreads, such as: marmalade, ersatz honey, ersatz cheese of which they received enough. Lunch, which consisted of potato soup with slight fats, would not have been bad if the Christian [female] cooks had wanted to make the effort to prepare them so that we could take it in our mouths. After giving out the lunch, some cooked food remained in the pot and the hungry workers would ask for a little more. The Christians would rather spill out the food in the garbage pails. Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, they would receive coffee that needed to be sweetened, but instead of in the kettle, the sugar wandered home to the [female] cooks. There were several attempts for the Jews to run the kitchens themselves, but they did not succeed.
A tragic case took place in the Vineta camp. Shmelke Szwarc, a worker there, left for the city with a German and in his stall at Sodower Street, dug out a sack of valuable things. This was noticed by a Christian woman (a wife of a prison guard) and she reported this to the Gestapo. Several members of the Gestapo came to the camp and asked that Szwarc be brought to them. Feeling that something was not good, Szwarc gave the sack to a young man. The sack was later taken from the young man by Pinkhas Grodner. Szwarc received heavy blows and he confessed. The Gestapo members stopped the young man and, as soon as he received the first blows, he immediately pointed to Grodner, that he had taken Szwarc's sack. Szwarc was taken to the prison at Prosta Street and the Gestapo took Grodner with them to their headquarters at Raabe's sawmill.
As soon as Grodner arrived at the courtyard, he exited the horse-drawn carriage and disappeared. A search was ordered and he was found hiding among stacks of wood. When he was taken to the Gestapo prison, there at the courtyard, he again began to escape. He reached the fence and began crawling over it. Several bullets threw him off the fence, dead, and he was buried there, near the fence.
Shmelke Szwarc had been brought by auto on an end-of-November night to the ghetto square along with other victims and shot near the Razdiner Hasidic shtibl [one-room synagogue].
Sad news would arrive at the camp of the 34th regiment. At the time when here in the camp only a few blows were received for the greatest sins, in the Zid camp they would be shot for the smallest sin. The sick, who were tolerated in this camp [34th regiment], were shot there in the Zid camp. Thus they shot the worker, Yona Morgnsztern (son of Moshe), because he became sick. The situation in the camps at the air field and in Malaszewicz (near Terespol), where many Biala Jews were located, was very bitter. These camps simply partnered with the Gestapo: every day they would provide a number of Jews, both healthy and sick, to be shot.
Thus passed days and weeks. The workers at the camp of the 34th regiment were not badly treated. However, no one could forget his suffering. Everyone was dejected and a sadness pressed on the heart. From time to time, an evening of singing Yiddish folk songs took place there. However, the Yiddish songs could not cheer them up, but the opposite, they would make them even sadder.
The pious ones would gather for the Minkhah [afternoon] and Maariv [evening prayers] as a group. They had a very good baal tefilah [reader of the prayers]; this was Avraham Gringlos (the son of the shamas [sexton] Yoal), who, during the time of war, returned to Biala from Łodz.
At the end of October, a group of young people left the camp for the forest under the leadership of Zilie Gutenberg. The group succeeded in obtaining a few guns and ammunition from the storehouse at the camp, as well as
clothing. The Biala district captain [Herbert] Kuhl is supposed to have been shot by the group on the Mezritch highway.
In the Summer of 1943, Zilie Gutenberg lay wounded in a village; what happened to him is not known. The same summer, the young man, Lustigman, who also belonged to the group that had left the camp, went through the Mezritch forest with a weapon in his hand.
At the beginning of November 1942, the Jews from the camps at the firm Zid and at the Ostbahn were transferred to the camp of the 34th regiment. With the 47 Jews at Vineta, the number of Jews reached 400. The transfer of the people was motivated by the order that from the 1st of November, Jews could only be held at the camp at the Wahrmacht and only behind wire fencing. As the mentioned two camps did not have any connection to the Wahrmacht, the Jews were taken to the Wahrmacht camp at the Warsaw highway.
Among the freshly arrived people at the camp, the workers from the firm Zid were mostly the neglected, terribly clothed and greatly starved. There also were those sick with typhus among them. A part of the blame for the conditions was due, as the people said, to their group leader, a former war prisoner from the eastern borderlands.
Everyone lived in friendly relationships in the camp of the 34th regiment. The group leader did not do anything on his own and would turn to consult the tradesmen. He did not have the benefit of any privileges. People would often leave the camp for Mezritch to see their families. The people had to report [that they were leaving] so that no food would be taken for them; otherwise at a check this could have a fatal ending. Everyone who had left would be reported that he had not come back at night from the work. However, after a few days, the person would return from Mezritch and he would register in another name so that he would not be turned over to the Gestapo. There were cases where people made such trips several times and they were constantly registered with a new name. However, no one demanded payment from such a person. Consequently, the stories by Jews from the firm Zid about their group leader sounded strange. They said that when it was noticed that someone was wearing a nice garment or an item that pleased him [the group leader], he asked for it. He also was supposed to have plotted in the kitchens so that the nourishment became worse.
The previous camp was reopened because of the arrival of the men. Before this, another barbed wire fence was put around the camp and rings of barbed wire were thrown between both fences. The gate of the camp would be closed at seven o'clock in the evening and opened at five thirty in the morning. The German guard would walk around the entire night in the square outside the camp, coming every time to see if the wire fences had not been torn. Two Jewish guards, who had to prevent escapes from the camp, would walk around near the wire inside the camp itself.
Again, several hundred Jews left every morning to work in the camp Vineta and would return in the evening. The tradesmen worked in the workshops. The remaining Jews were employed at various kinds of hard labor and there were also those who worked in the warehouses.
There was no problem in the camp with sickness until the arrival of the fresh people. Now, in the two barracks, where the people from the Zid were located, lay a very large percentage of the sick. There was no doctor in the camp and they were afraid to demand one. The experience in other camps showed what the visit of a doctor brought. If the doctor determined that someone in the camp was sick with typhus, the sick person would be shot and the camp would be locked for a certain time. Here, we acquired various medicines and several homey old time physicians such as Chaim Rozmarin (dental technician) and Leibl Lebnberg (electrical technician) would go around to the sick…
We constantly argued with the regime that these were influenza illnesses and that an influenza epidemic was now present in the city; it would last a few days and the sick would return to health and begin to work.
Meanwhile, there were also some cases of death. The dead were buried at the Jewish cemetery. Among the dead were the Bialers: Moshe Kornblum, (Yakov Kornblum's son) and Spiwak (the furrier's/hatmaker's son from Grabanower Street 2).
The typhus epidemic began to enter the remaining barracks and also did not skip the Vineta camp. They began to think about isolating them in a separate barracks. However, they were afraid to do this because isolating them in a separate barracks would catch the eyes of the Germans and could give rise to them being handed over to the Gestapo. However, when there were 60-some sick, the healthy began to demand that they be isolated because it could not be permitted that everyone would become sick.
On Sunday, the 13th of December 1942, willingly, unwillingly, all of the sick were isolated in a separate barracks. Matisyahu Czelazni, Elihu Zinger and Grubman, who had been through the typhus, were busy with the sick.
At the beginning of December 1942, the stabszahlmeister, the leader of the camp of the 34th regiment, asked the group leader to inform the workers that he had received permission to further help the Jews. As long as he was here, nothing bad would happen. He would try to better the food and that escaping from the camp made no sense because almost all escapees were caught and shot.
When the group leader told this to the camp Jews, many on the spot immediately responded: it was significant news because when the German murderers began to assure and calm, the opposite happened. Others were inclined to believe the news.
On Shabbos, the 12th of December, the stabszahlmeister [paymaster] left on furlough and the oberzahlmeister [chief purser] represented him.
On Sunday night, when the camp gate was closed, the Jewish guards who stood inside the camp let it be known that the oberzahlmeister [chief purser] Shilf and the zahlmeister [purser] Behme had entered the camp.
Both began to carry out an inspection of the barracks. The oberzahlmeister Shilf was very drunk. It seems that he had come to train his dog on Jewish bodies. He placed his cane on every Jew he encountered; the dog immediately was up on the Jew, tearing the last bit of clothing and also tearing a piece of flesh. After reveling with the dog and satisfying himself with blood, the drunk left the camp. The incident evoked a very oppressed mood because until then we had not seen such a thing in the camp.
On Tuesday, the 15th of December, the group leader from the Vineta camp was called to clarify a matter of evidence. When he arrived at Vineta, the workers there asked him if he knew where the 40 workers with shovels were being taken. They had also been given bread because they would work there at night. The group leader answered that he knew nothing about it.
When the group leader sat there with several Jews of his acquaintance and ate lunch, he asked the local group leader, Kaze, about the story of the 40 workers, but he also said that he knew nothing about it. Meanwhile, the leader of the Vineta camp, a military official, the so-called Balman from Hamburg who played a two-faced role in relation to the Jews came in. He took the most expensive gifts from the Jews, promised to save them, but during the deportation action from the camp on the 6th of October, he himself gave the Jews into the hands of the Gestapo so that they would not hide. The tailor, Yosef Tiszl, had sewn many diamonds in his [Balman's] suits and the shoemaker, Borukh Frajner, had hidden enough gold rubles in the heels of his boots so he could take them home with him during his furlough trips. Balman carried on a conversation with a sick young man with whom it appeared he had been a very good friend and whose father was in the camp of the 34th regiment. This conversation lasted a long time. Meanwhile, a rumor spread in the Vineta camp that the 40 workers who had been taken away had been shot. The group leader had suspected that the conversation between Balman and the Jewish young man had a connection with the case of the 40 workers because he had seen that the young man had gotten up from his bed and had gotten dressed. However, the young man assured them that he knew nothing.
In the evening, when the workers returned from the Vineta camp, we learned that 38 of the 40 men had been shot. Among them: Hershl Wajsman (Dovid Wajsman's son) and Rozenberg (Nakhumale Sender's son-in-law) succeeded in escaping on the way.
The escapees were so confused that it was difficult to learn something from them. However, more or less, we understood the following: military guards had taken them from the camp. A Gestapo man on a bicycle arrived on the road and showed where the men should be taken. The two young men realized that the gesture from the Gestapo man was a bad sign and they began running and near the Graborker Forest they ran into the woods. They were shot at, but they entered the forest and hid. In a short time they heard heavy shooting and shouting.
A fresh sadness poured out over the camp. Fathers cried over the death of their children and children cried over the death of their fathers. Before the camp gates were closed, the leader of the group went up to the oberzahlmeister [chief purser] and reported to him that 40 workers had not returned from their work at Vineta and that they were not at Vineta. What could this mean? The oberzahlmeister with his retinue around him remained somewhat puzzled and he asked the group leader if he knew where the men were. The answer was that he had no idea. After thinking for several seconds
the oberzahlmeiter said: They probably are located at the camp at the airfield. Tomorrow I will phone there early. His answer confirmed the sad truth.
Wednesday was a normal workday; everyone in the camp was at work. The workers who also would work in the Vineta camp were taken to the camp by the German soldiers at the Wolya early in the morning.
In the afternoon, the paymaster, Behme, came to the camp. He went through the camp with a group leader who gave him a report about everyone. The paymaster was satisfied that the number of sick had begun to decrease. The group leader asked him about the 40 workers. The paymaster was unruffled by the question and answered that they were working at the air field and that they would return home in the coming week.
In the evening, the workers from the camp Vineta returned and they said that the Jewish camp leaders were not there. They were supposed to go to the Christian, Smietanka, who lived near the camp. Among those who had left the camp was also that young man with whom Balman had spoken to last night for a long time and who had a father in the camp of the 34th regiment. Would a son not want to save his father? Would he not have told his father to escape from the camp? However, the father remained in the camp as if nothing had happened…
It was a serious matter that everyone leave the camp at the same time; particularly, as there was a large number of sick in the camp and there was nowhere else to go but the Mezritch ghetto. Yet, if the camp [inhabitants] would have had the information as the young people did in the Vineta camp of what danger threatened them, everyone would have decided to leave the camp on that winter night. However, they speculated on the attitude of that worker at Vineta regarding his father, and alas, cruelly disappointed themselves. On that cruel day, family bonds were loosened; they first tried to save their own souls, not thinking of their closest and dearest ones.
This worker from Vineta woke up and began walking away to Mezritch, leaving his father at the camp of the 34th regiment.
After the news about the escape of the Jewish camp leaders in Vineta, the mood on the Warsaw highway became tense. Groups were created that began to prepare to escape. Many did not want to hear of it because they felt firmly established here and where would they now go during the winter?
On Thursday, the 17th of December 1942 (9th of Tevet 5703), around 4:30 at night, the Jewish guards at the camp let it be known that the camp was being surrounded. They noticed that outside, in front of the camp gate, two trucks were waiting and the camp square was illuminated by spotlights. Fully armed military guards walked around the barbed wire fences.
The camp Jews thought: Yes, the tragic finale was coming.
In the barracks, the workers stood angry and resigned. It was clear to them that they were going to do the same thing to them here that had been done on Tuesday to the other 38 workers at the Vineta camp. They spoke among themselves about acting dignified during their last hours because the several hundred workers would not be any exception among all the Jews. While, it was clear to everyone that the march to death would begin soon, several workers began to prepare packs for the trip, which evoked sarcastic laughter from the others.
An opinion was heard about throwing themselves at the murderers. Some demonstrated that such an action could be organized in advance, particularly, because the barracks were isolated, but such a thing had to take place spontaneously, by oneself.
The Gestapo commissar, Shtilhamer and two members of the Gestapo, Faisker and Derm entered the barracks. The commissar called to the workers and ordered the men in the barracks to line up in rows of five and then to translate for the workers what he, Shtilhamer, would say. The commissar began by saying that, since cases of escape were happening in the camp, he believed that the regimen here was too easy. Consequently, the men would be transferred to another camp. Nothing would happen to the workers, but he demanded that there be order during the march. Whoever escaped would be shot and, as a penalty, another 20 men would be shot. He pointed to his wolfhound which he held near him, that the dog also would have something to say and would not let anyone escape.
In the barracks we heard vehicles driving into the camp and driving back out. It was clear that the sick had been taken out. Later, it could be seen that in the trucks that were in front of the camp gates were the Jewish workers from the camp, Vineta.
The dark night still reigned. Those already sentenced to death stood in the barracks and waited to be led to the execution.
Several shots were heard in the nighttime quiet. Later, it was learned that several workers who had approached the barbed wire fence had been shot. In one barrack, they found the worker, Moshe Lajbzon (Yehiel Prondik's son), ripping out the floor, under which one could hide and he was shot at the camp square. They also shot a worker at the toilet pit where he had tried to hide.
An invasion of the barracks took place on the last morning before the death sentence. The doors opened and the Jews were ordered to go out to the camp square. There, seven men were placed in a row and warned not to escape.
The zahlmeister [paymaster], Behme, worked with all of his power to show that he, too, did not trail behind in the sacred work of annihilating Jews. He brought the worker, Pinkus Czarni (Shlomo Stop's son), who had hidden in a garbage container and placed him in the hands of the Gestapo commissar. The commissar led the worker among the barracks and ordered him to stretch out on the ground. However, Pinkus Czarni did not want to carry out the order. The commissar pushed him to the front, aimed a revolver shot at his neck and the Jew fell on the ground dead.
You see, the commissar mentioned, I not only speak, but I also do. He ordered the counting of 20 men and that they be shot, but in the middle of counting, he called out: As an exception, I spare you now the shooting of 20 man as a punishment.
They counted the columns and it appeared that 231 men were ready for the slaughter. They told the group to hold hands. It was forbidden to look to the side or behind or to speak among ourselves.
With heads down, the condemned began the march to the execution spot accompanied by five members of the Gestapo and 10 soldiers. Leaving the camp gate, on the left near the storehouses, they saw a corpse. Near the German house block, they saw two Christians with two wagons, filled with shovels, clear as to their purpose.
The column left on the Warsaw highway and began to walk in the direction of Mezritch. Although it already was the second half of December, the day was not cold, but a dampness hung in the air. The walking Jews turned from the highway to the small Slawaczinska alley that was full of deep mud and made the walk difficult. Suddenly, they were told to sing. The melody of a sad Polish cavalry song was heard and the procession marched further in the mud.
When they ordered us to stop singing, the chords of the death-spreading machine guns carried to those marching. We guessed that this ended with the men who had been taken away by trucks. Among those who perished there were those from Biala: Yakov Wajsman (Arka Wajsman's son), Manya Kowarski (Leibl Goldberg's
|Sketch of the execution place where the Jewish workers from the Wahrmacht camp were brought to be shot on the 17th of December 1942|
daughter). Also, the coach driver Botshkele (nickname), the quilter Yakov Fridman and his young son, Surale Gliksberg, Elihu Zinger, Matisyahu Czelazni, Grubman and so on.
The death sentence was delayed. The Jews had seen their grave. A long and deep grave in the meadow that was called Kolichawa. On both sides of the grave lay the dug-up earth. The later covering for the grave.
As soon as they detained the Mezritch Jews, the worker Yisroel Rodzinek tore himself away from the row and began to escape to the right. Soon, there was shooting at him from all sides, but he ran further. The dog did not want to obey his orders and did not want to move from the spot.
This scene took a second and Senior, the worker, a former prisoner of war, gave the order: Run! With wilds shouts of hoorah! the group ran in all directions. The machine guns and the rifles opened a deafening barrage and shot a hail of bullets at the escapees.
Almost all of the escapees from the execution field went to the Mezritch ghetto; among them was the hero, the first escapee, Yisroel Rodzinek. Among those from Biala arriving at the Mezritch ghetto were the wounded: Yehoshale Wajsman, Yerakhmiel Lichtenbaum and Asher Fajgenbaum (carpenter).
Later, we learned that a number of the escapees from the execution field left in another direction and that, on the road, many of them perished, such as: Yitzhak Kaufman (grain merchant, Yanower Street), Alter Plat (tailor), Yakov Rozenker (painter), Chaim Shimeon Rozenblat (watchmaker), Avraham Gringlas (Yoal the son of the shamas [synagogue caretaker]), Blumenkranc (Yeshayahu Blumenkranc's son) and so on.
After shooting the workers from the camp of the 34th regiment and Vineta, the workers at the Gestapo in the Biala Jewish quarter, prepared themselves for the same end, because the group leaders, Yitzhak Ekstajn, Shlomo Sztajngart, Shimeon Justman and the Sznajderman brothers had escaped from there.
At dawn, they assembled all of the ghetto workers at the courtyard of the Gestapo, near Raabe's factory. They brought out a badly beaten Eksztajn and the Gestapo commissar demanded of the Jewish workers that they kill Eksztajn. The commissar, Shtilhamer called out If you are afraid of the Jewish neighborhood, we will kill him. Several members of the Gestapo smashed their victim with crowbars. Eksztajn was buried near the fence at Raabe's factory.
The Jewish workers worked at the camp at the airfield until November 1943, and then, according to the Christians
|Destruction of the synagogue|
they had been shot. There was a group of Janowa Jews there who worked at the Janowa Wygoda [horse farm] and later they were brought to the camp at the Biala airfield.
In a testimony at the Katowicer division of the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland (number 290), Jerzy Rozenbaum of Warsaw, who was in the Poniatow (Lublin region), said that in October 1943, 10,000 (ten thousand) people were sent from the camp to the Biala Podlaska airfield.
Biala Christians would speak about the Hungarian Jews who were supposedly brought to the airfield. It seemed to be in connection with the people from the Poniatow camp. However, the number of 10,000 seemed exaggerated.
Supposedly, the news from the Christians about the shooting of Jews in November 1943 at the air field was correct because on the 3rd of November 1943 a so-called sonderbehandlung [special treatment] took place in the Lublin region during which a large number of Jews in the camps were shot and the remaining were taken out to Majdanek.
A group of Jewish workers at the Gestapo who after cleaning up the former Jewish quarter, were employed removing every sign of Yidishkeit [a Jewish way of life] in Biala that supported the vestige of Jews in Biala. They demolished the synagogue and the houses of prayer.
In May 1943, another 17 Jews from the Mezritch ghetto joined the group.
This group remained in the city until April 1944. With the approach of the Russian Army, the last handful of Jews were taken from Biala to Lublin. A small number of the group survived.
We have previously mentioned that one day (in November 1939), the Biala Gestapo summoned the dozores [members of the synagogue council] of the previous kehile [organized Jewish community] and ordered them to organize a Judenrat [Jewish council].
A number of former dozores entered the created Judenrat and people from all strata of the Jewish population were admitted with them. Its composition was the following: Yakov Ahron Rozenbaum, Yitzhak Kantor, Avraham Stricher, Yitzhak Lewi, Moshe Chaim Wajznfeld, Yisroel Bialer, Dovid Wajsman, Shmuel Krajzlman, Menakham Finklsztajn, Yehosha Goldrajch, Khanina Kaszemacher, Yehosha Eidlsztajn, Yehosha Rubinsztajn, Berl Goldberg and so on.
The Judenrat benefited from the complete sympathy on the part of the Jewish population and no bitterness reigned in the city in relation to it. Even the refugees who were brought to Biala by the Nazis did not reproach the Judenrat. As far as was possible, the Judenrat was tolerant to the homeless brought here, particularly the fact that a large percentage of homeless Jews were employed in its office, headed by the secretary, Rubinsztajn. Many homeless were sent to the labor office as administrative officials and to other German workplaces.
Everyone in the city knew that the members of the Judenrat had gone to great lengths in their offices to help but, in addition, there were demands from the Gestapo and it was clear under what difficult conditions the Judenrat carried out its work and how risky it was to have contact with the prominent Nazis. And if one of the rich Jews in the city expressed his dissatisfaction because higher taxes were demanded of him, the Judenrat let him know that it was ready to accept him as a member of the Judenrat. It should be understood the wronged Jew immediately excused himself and apologized because there were no volunteers for Judenrat membership in the city.
In the winter of 1941, the Judenrat recruited several fresh members and among them was Chaim Rozmarin. Because the latter did not have any desire to be considered by the [German] regime as a member of the Judenrat, he ransomed himself for a considerably large payment to the treasury of the Judenrat. Yoal Zilberberg, the dentist, also was a large payer so that he would not have to be a member of the Judenrat.
There were cases where Jews (among them Avraham Jamnik, son-in-law of Yehosha Gliksberg) brought valuable jewelry to the Judenrat; perhaps, thanks to this, he said they could ease the conditions of the Jewish population. The Judenrat categorically refused to take the jewelry and answered: If it becomes necessary, we will use this idea with an appeal to the population.
We need particularly to record the courageous and devoted activity of the Biala Judenrat, which literally sacrificed itself on behalf of the Jewish population. Its members were the first to bear all the suffering and torture, of which the Jewish population did not even have any idea.
The Judenrat constantly stood on watch to have revoked the edicts that fell without end, and once they succeeded.
The daring conduct of the Judenrat in relation to the
Nazi rulers was shown in the conversation of the Judenrat representative, Yakov Ahron Rozenbaum, with the official, Lipkow, which is described in the chapter The First Expulsion.
During the first deportation from Biala to the death camp in Sobibor, the Judenrat members gave strong hints to the Jewish population not to hurry to the place of assembly, although they could pay for this with their lives. The hints were to remember that the first deportation in Biala (they did not yet know then about the death camps. And they were sure that they were being deported to another city) had not torn out from the city all of those who, according to the order, needed to leave Biala.
The Judenrat knew how to make use of the antagonism among the German rulers. The Gestapo often annulled an edict that came from the administrative district. Thus, the Judenrat was in a quandary that the Gestapo did not have any idea about the first deportation edict. The Gestapo took umbrage then that the information reached it from the Judenrat. Perhaps, this was a sign of the passive attitude of the Gestapo during the days of the deportation and why the action took place bloodlessly.
The proud and vigilant attitude of the Biala Judenrat certainly gave rise to its members being the first victims in the city. A month before Biala became judenrein [emptied of Jews], the members of the Judenrat were taken from the city and they were tortured in Majdanek.
The Bialers in Mezritch Ghetto
The Biala Jews who were taken to the Mezritch ghetto during the second and last expulsion (from the 26th of September to the 1st of October 1942 really could not find a place to stay. There was barely room in the crowded ghetto for the Mezritcher and here they had brought thousands of Jews from Biala and the Biala poviat [district]. In such cases it was clear to the ghetto where they were taking newly arrived Jews, that they were thinking of a fresh expulsion. And as in every ghetto, they went around with the illusion that this did not mean the local Jews, only those who had been brought in. In any case, they did not want to mix with the freshly arrived in the same situation.
However, the Mezritch Judenrat did not have any choice and it distributed the few houses for the Biala Jews. Also here, in the Mezritch ghetto, Biala Jews made efforts to be given work to lengthen their lives. Perhaps, some convinced themselves that they would save themselves from death. A number of Bialers succeeded through various recommendations to be given workplaces.
The Biala S.D. [security service] man, Glet came to Mezritch for the deportation and asked where were the women Baltshe Poczic and Chaya Rozenbaum, from whom he had swindled 45,000 zlotes with the promise that he would bring back the Biala Jews from Majdanek. It was said later that during the deportation, all of the Jewish women who had worked in the field at Potocki's farm, Halas, where the women B. Poczic and Ch. Rozenbaum, also worked, were taken from the field in the middle of their work and they were taken to train cars at the Mezritch train station. Thus the S.D. man Glet was sure that he was rid of the two women.
During the deportation, the Biala refugee in the Mezritch ghetto, Dovid Wajsman (came to Biala from Warsaw), a brother of the feldsher [traditional barber surgeon] Berish Wajsman, refused to leave his house and in no case wanted to obey the order of the Nazis to go outside. He was shot in the house. Characteristically, as the Jew would constantly argue in Biala: They will not take me to Treblinka. Why is death on the spot bad, but one must go to Treblinka [to die]?
Before the deportation, the number of Bialers in the Mezritch ghetto shrunk sharply. Bialers were transported in each deportation from the Mezritch ghetto and their number constantly decreased. These Biala women died in their hiding places during the deportations: Khema Kalichsztajn and Lidzbarski (the wife of Moshe Lidzbarski). Between one deportation and the next, the Bialers carried on the same life as the Mezritch Jews. A life of fear, crowding and filth (typhus raged in the crowded and dirty houses and a number of Biala died of the illness),
a life always in a struggle with death, a life full of sadness and longing for those closest to them who had perished and with hope of Hitler's defeat.
Biala Jews would risk walking to Biala to remove something of value from a hiding place there. Many never returned from such a walk from Mezritch. Moshe Yitzhak Biderman, his grandson (Rywke Rubensztajn's son), Yehosha Englender, Polya Ribak, Ayzsha Rubinsztajn and others left for Biala and they were never again seen in the ghetto.
After the fourth deportation to the Mezritch ghetto, in November 1942, the number of remaining Biala [Jews] was very small. Several Biala Jews were involved in trade in the ghetto; others would go to work outside the ghetto and try to smuggle something in to earn a living. There were Biala Jews who still had money that they had succeeded in bringing with them during the expulsion from Biala. There also were Biala Jews who would still come to the social division at the Mezritch Judenrat for help.
Bialers would meet in the crowded ghetto and, as those from Mezritch, they carried on no activity. Each one lived for himself.
On the long list of Jewish victims in the Mezritch ghetto, those who fell between one expulsion and another, or during the expulsions, the participation of the Bialers was very dignified. We will here record the names that remain in our memory.
The banished Biala Jews still had not become acquainted with the labyrinth of the Mezritch ghetto and the heavy sword of the second deportation had already descended on Mezritch. On the same day, the 6th of October 1942, when the men were led out of the Biala camps, the train in which they had been on was held at the Mezritch train station and the empty freight cars were filled with Jews. The first victims here were the Jews from Biala and its county. The Mezritcher had already prepared hiding places and good working places and, therefore, a small percent of them left in the deportation.
Shot for risking leaving the ghetto to earn some support for the soul were: Itka Plat, Miriam Listgartn and her daughter, Leah Knicznik, Mrs. Fridman (her husband a tailor from Grabanower Street, came from Lomaz).
In the orgy of blood organized in the Mezritch ghetto by the Biala Gestapo on New Year's Eve of 1942/3, the majority of victims were Biala women and children. Shot with dum-dum bullets that night were: Zisl Rozmarin (née Sirkus), Sluwa Khohan, Mrs. Szajnberg (née Wiernicki), Mrs. Rozen (née Rozenbaum) and the two children of the painter Chaim Yosef Knicznik.
During the search for the escapee from the police, Yisroel Layzer Joczimowski, former commandant of the Mezritch Jewish ordnungsdienst, Avraham Ezra Handlman and Bluma Preter were shot.
Biala victims, mainly from discovered hiding places, fell during the deportation from Mezritch in the ghetto itself in May 1943.
Killed in a hiding place into which the gendarme, Franz Bauer, threw a grenade were Monya Lustigman (son of Iser), his wife (née Jurberg), the Fraus sister and brother and Monya's two sisters.
The people were led out into the street from a hiding place in the house of Lempert, the butcher, stood at the wall and were shot. Among them were the Bialers: Moshe Fajgenman (Zilie the carpenter's son) and his wife Blume (née Gerszkop), his small son and his wife's sister; Toybele Lustigman (née Rubinsztajn) and her small son. In another place in the ghetto were shot: Meir Orlanski and his wife and the baker, Yitzhak Fogel.
Yosef Elbaum (the son-in-law of Yakov the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer]) was murdered in the Mezritch Forest by Poles. His young daughter then succeeded in returning to the Mezritch ghetto with a gunshot through her small hand.
Biala youth also tried to escape to the Mezritch Forest from the Mezritch ghetto to free themselves from the Nazi talons, but these attempts were not successful.
In a group that left for the forest were the Bialers: Faywl Buchhalter, Moshe Sztajnberg and his sister, Elka, Shepsl Lajbzon, Nakhke Gerszkop and Dovid Rozenberg. The group was able to obtain several revolvers. At a meeting in the forest with Russian prisoners of war who had escaped from the German camps, the Russians with weapons in their hands surrounded the Jewish group, disarmed and robbed them. The Jews returned to the ghetto.
In a second group, that left for the forest were the Biala girls: Sura Wizenfeld and Bas (from the butchers). During a heavy German search of the Mezritch Forest, the group succeeded in leaving the forest and it returned to the ghetto.
In July 1943, the Mezritch ghetto was completely liquidated and the last few Biala Jews there disappeared together with the handful of Mezritch Jews.
After the liberation of Mezritch by the Russian Army, it appeared that this group of Biala young people was the only one that had had a hiding place in the very center of the city of Mezritch and it, the group, succeeded in remaining alive. This was: the Sztajnberg sisters and brother, Buchhalter, the Wizenfeld girls and Bachrach.
At the end of this bloody chronical, we provide two reactions from the Nazi camps that had a connection to Biala, as well as two lists of the immovable Jewish possessions in Biala.
In the official government newspaper of the General-
Government, Krakower Zeitung [Krakow Newspaper] of the 17th of October 1942 it is said that according to the pact between the Biala and Radziner kreishauptmannschaften [administrative districts], all of the Biala Jews were transferred to Mezritch [Międzyrzec]. That after the removal of the Jews from the city, everything became half as expensive. The Christian artisans, who had previously been pushed out by the Jews, now took to the work with zeal.
Understand that it appeared that the moving of the Jews was not mentioned.
Actually, nothing could be obtained in the city. The Christians themselves would say that the Jews must have taken everything with them… One Christian was afraid to trade with another because the majority of goods were illegal. When the Jews had left, trade had died out.
How much the Christian artisanship revived can be seen from the fact that when those in power in Biala needed to have a good piece of work, they came to the Mezritch ghetto to the few remaining Jewish artisans. The Christian artisans in Biala were without work because they did not have the material on which to work that would previously be provided to them by the Jews.
As is known, after the war, 21 prominent Nazis with [Hermann] Goering at the head, were tried in Nurenburg (Germany) by the International Military Tribunal.
In the stenographic report of the trial is found the witness testimony of Dr. Fritshe, former chief editor of the German news agency (D.N.B. Deutsches Nachrichtenbüro) and head of the news division of German radio. This statement speaks of, among other things, Biala county (volume 17, page 177) because:
Dr. Fritz, the lawyer for Dr. Fritsche, during his examination of his client, asked him questions about the fate of the deported German Jews. To the question from his lawyer, if he, Dr. Fritsche, had taken an interest in the treatment of the German Jews who were sent as Jewish refugees to eastern Europe, came the answer from Dr. Fritsche: Certainly. For example, I learned various things from a former co-worker, who was sent to the General Government and he occupied an administrative post in the Biala Podlaska region. He told me that the area under his control was a Jewish area. He would often describe the appearance of the deported Jews and their housing. He also had reminded me about
|Correspondence concerning Jewish immovable property in Biala|
difficulties, about the employment of Jews as workers and about their work at plantations. His entire description gave evidence of his humane viewpoint. He told me that Jews were better treated by him than in the Third Reich.
To the questions from his lawyer, what was the name of the person, came Dr. Fritsche's answer: Oberregierungsrat [senior government counsel] Hubert Kihl.
In connection with this statement, it is worthwhile to comment that in Biala county, in general, there were no deported German Jews.
The above-mentioned Hubert Kihl was the Biala kreishauptmann [district captain] who was shot on the Mezritch highway (probably by a group of Jews who left the camp of the 34th regiment under the leadership of Zilia Gutenberg).
The appropriation of Jewish immovable property was announced in the report of the 15th of January 1942 by the Biala district captain.
|German list of a part of Jewish immovable property in Biala (annex to letter)|
From the documents that we received from the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, it can be seen that in September 1943, when the German front in Russia had already collapsed, the African Corps of Marshal [Erwin] Rommel was smashed and the Allied armies were standing on Italian territory, the Germans all sat and made lists of Jewish houses whose owners had been murdered.
First of all, this document interested us because we could learn the extent of Jewish immovable possessions that remained in Biala.
From a letter of the 22nd of September 1943, of which we provide a photo here, it can be seen that it speaks of 317 Jewish immovable possessions in Biala, in the month of August 1943. It is difficult to say if this number encompasses all Jewish houses and sites in Biala. From the list that we are publishing here, as it was assembled by the Germans, we see that it contains only 194 entries and an entire series of streets are missing. A number of names are garbled and erroneous. The houses of Ahrele Slawaticzer and of the Rodzineks on Grabanower Street are missing. The houses at Wolnoszczi Square are missing where the shops of Khana Ruchl Reich, Sura Gele Goldfeder, Winograd, Sopir, Yontl Lipiec, Mendl Tokarski and Sura Leah Tornhajm were located. In addition to these, the houses of Avraham Orlandski, Shmuel Fiszman and Tila Berlin on Wonoszczi Square are missing.
Characteristically, rumors went around during the Nazi times about Shmuel Fiszman's house that the Germans
|German list of a part of the Biala Jewish immovable property (insert to a letter)|
sold to the German firm Golinker from Bremen.
Because of the discovery of the German list of Jewish immovable possessions and in order to complete it, we provide here a list of the Jewish immovable possessions that we created from memory and which do not appear in the German list. This last list contains 98 entries and it also is not complete.
|1. Inheritor Rozenszwajg||1 Brisker Street|
|2. Abik Rozenblum||2 Brisker Street|
|3. Stores of the kehile [organized Jewish community]||3 Brisker Street|
|4. Yitzhak Berman||4 Brisker Street|
|5. Mordekhai Yosef Goldsztajn||5 Brisker Street|
|6. Kehile house||6 Brisker Street|
|7. Moshe Zajgermacher and Gerszkop||7 Brisker Street|
|8. Benyomin Leib Mandlbaum||8 Brisker Street|
|9. Inheritor Gerszkop||9 Brisker Street|
|10. Inheritor Rozenbaum||10 Brisker Street|
|11. Nakhum Libman||11 Brisker Street|
|12. Berl Sandlarcz and Yitzhak Fogel||12 Brisker Street|
|13. Leibe Bornsztajn||13 Brisker Street|
|14. Zavl Najsztajn||14 Brisker Street|
|15. The Wajnes||15 Brisker Street|
|16. Shimeon Lichtnsztajn||16 Brisker Street|
|17. Inheritor Piczic||17 Brisker Street|
|18. Lewin (Koczemainik)||19 Brisker Street|
|19. Benyamin Natanzon and Yosef Feldman||Brisker Street|
|20. Piczic's barracks||Brisker Street|
|21. Radziner shtibl [one-room synagogue]||Wonska Street|
|22. Shmuel Kligsberg||Wonska Street|
|23. Space of Elihu Piwo||Wonska Street|
|24. The Eidlsztajn brothers (blacksmiths)||Wonska Street|
|25. Misnagdim shtibl [one-room synagogue of the followers
of the Enlightenment
|26. Ponczik||Wonska Street|
|27. Grodner Grobman||Wonska Street|
|28. Wajnberg (inheritor of Avraham Mendl)||Wonska Street|
|29. Ajzenberg Shmerl||Wonska Street|
|30. Space of Shabati||Wonska Street|
|31. Yosef Yuwale (wagon driver)||Wienczenne Street|
|32. Fayge Firme's [daughter]||Warszawer Street|
|33. Ajzenberg||Witoroska Street|
|34. Yehoshua Kop [head] (nickname)||Witoroska Street|
|35. Avraham Tajtlbaum||Witoroska Street|
|36. Yitzhak Droczkorcz||Witoroska Street|
|37. Moshe Hajblum||Witoroska Street|
|38. Inheritor of Chaim Beker-Murowiec||Prosta Street|
|39. Moshe Kuropotwe||Prosta Street|
|40. Yeshayhu Rajzwaser||Prosta Street|
|41. Talmud Torah [religious school for poor children]||Prosta Street|
|42. Moshe Glezer [glazier] Fajgnbaum||Prosta Street|
|43. Shmuel Fajgnbaum||Prosta Street|
|44. Shmerl Pep (nickname)||Prosta Street|
|45. Moshe Szajman||Prosta Street|
|46. Getsl (dorf-geyer [men who bought and sold goods in villages])||Prosta Street|
|47. House in which Avigdor Richter lived||Prosta Street|
|48. House in which Shmuel Ruvin Wajsbrot lived||Prosta Street|
|49. Shimkha Rozenfeld||Prosta Street|
|50. Liba Zusman||Pocztowa Street|
|51. Inheritor Eidltuch||Pocztowa Street|
|52. Ahron Kasztenbaum||Pocztowa Street|
|53. Gerer shtibl||Pocztowa Street|
|54. Rozenszajn||Pocztowa Street|
|55. Avraham Goldszmidt and Dovid Kligberg||Pocztowa Street|
|56. Avigdor Fridman||Pocztowa Street|
|57. Sura Gliksberg||Pilsudski Street|
|58. Yosef Bradacz||Pilsudski Street|
|59. Mendl Goldfarb||Pilsudski Street|
|60. Moshe Rudl's [son] (nickname)||Pilsudski Street|
|61. Chaim Mordekhai Goldszmidt and Finkelsztajn||Pilsudski Street|
|62. Inheritor Rozenberg||Pilsudski Street|
|63. Yakov Libman||Pilsudski Street|
|64. Lewi||Pilsudski Street|
|65. Gerszkop and Pinyele Beker||Pilsudski Street|
|66. Dovid Leib Grinsztajn||Pilsudski Street|
|67. Avraham Urmacher (annex)||Pilsudski Street|
|68. Rubinsztajn (near the pump near Dr. Zita's house)||Pilsudski Street|
|69. Yitzhak Rozenszajn||Pilsudski Street|
|70. Piczize's barracks||Pilsudski Street|
|71. Yehiel (a stablehand near Moshe Glezer)||Przechodnie Street|
|72. Shmuel Fiszman (shopkeeper)||Reformacka Street|
|73. Moshe Lebnberg||Reformacka Street|
|74. Avraham Lubelczik||Reformacka Street|
|75. Yisroel Makowski||Reformacka Street|
|76. Yitzhak Fajgenman||Sadowa Street|
|77. Zalman Zak||Sadowa Street|
|78. Eidlman (Moshe Ayzyk's son)||Sadowa Street|
|79. Khanan Eliezer Nauczni||Sadowa Street|
|80. Yosef Man (Terebiler)||Sadowa Street|
|81. Kalman Szejnberg (where the community center was located)||Sadowa Street|
|82. Eidl Zylbersztajn (Praszekier)||Sadowa Street|
|83. The location of the oilpresser||Sadowa Street|
|84. Hershl Szchur||Sadowa Street|
|85. Mendele Fridman (Sitniker)||Sitnicka Street|
|86. Yakov Rajz||Sitnicka Street|
|89. Idele Cukerman (Łomazyer)||Sitnicka Street|
|90. Chaya Hofer||Sitnicka Street|
|91. Inheritor Finkelsztajn||Sitnicka Street|
|92. Synagogue||Szkolna Street|
|93. House of prayer||Szkolna Street|
|94. Zakasner house of prayer||Szkolna Street|
|95. Shimkha Plat and inheritor Zuberman||Szkolna Street|
|96. Chaim Musawicz||Szkolna Street|
|97. The house where the laundry wringer was located||Szkolna Street|
|98. Hakhnoses orkhim [hospitality for poor Sabbath guests]||Szkolna Street|
After the liberation of Biala by the Russian Army, on the 26th of July 1944, about 26 Jews returned to Biala from hiding places in the forests. Among the 26 Jews were those not from Biala who found themselves in Biala during the German occupation.
The Christian population saw the return of the handful of Jewish with no particular sympathy. On the first day, they did not want to sell anything to the Jews and the Jews were forced to ask the soldiers of the Russian Army for bread.
With the repatriation of the Polish citizens from Russia, a few dozen former Jewish residents returned to Biala. They exhumed the bones of the Jews who had been shot at Shabtai Finklsztajn's place and from other places in the city and they buried them in a communal grave at the former Jewish cemetery. With the help of the Bialers in North America, a memorial was erected at the communal grave. However, the memorial stood for only a short time and it was blown up with dynamite. This tragic record of Jewish death also was erased.
The small group of Biala Jews felt that there was no longer any place for it in its city of birth and it left Biala.
In the dissertation, Yidish Biala in di Letste Doyres [Jewish Biala during the Last Generations], and Khurbn un Farlend [Destruction and Annihilation], we looked at Jewish life in Biala at the end of the 19th century to its tragic end.
We saw a life locked in a voluntary ghetto and the struggle for tearing oneself out of the ghetto. We accompanied the sprouting communal life that arose precisely in the years of the First World War. We followed the hopes of a more beautiful tomorrow that was dreamed at the end of the First World War that disappeared and its place was taken by the struggle for daily existence. A struggle that lasted until until the arrival of the people from the dichter und denker-land [the land of the poet and thinker]. And again we, the Biala Jews were in the ghetto, but this time not voluntarily, but forced with brutal strength and from there, from the ghetto, the road led to a horrible death.
We tore toward the light of Western culture and to civilization. A part of the West came to us and annihilated us.
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