(*The work before you was written on the basis of personal observations, experiences, and gathered material. The writer of the article suffered the miseries of Czestochowa Jewry in the camps Hasag-Rakow, Hasag-Peltzery, and, after the forced evacuation, in the German concentration camps Buchenwald, Dara, and Bergen-Belsen. After being freed, the writer was active in the central administration of the Czestochowa landmanshaft [society for people from a town] in the American zone in Germany as chairman of the Culture Commission. He has put out a whole series of publications about Czestochowa Jewry in the Nazi era.
The beginning of the Second World War is simultaneously the beginning of suffering, pain, death, martyrdom and heroism of the Jews of Czestochowa.
In the early morning hours of Friday, the first of September, 1939, Nazi Germany attacked Poland. And already on the third day, at nine o'clock in the morning on Sunday, the third of September, the Nazi motorized units began to penetrate Czestochowa and, one day later, there began the first slaughter which received the name Bloody Monday.
Among the numerous victims in the three day pogrom was the son of the Rosh-Hayeshiva [Head of the Talmudic academy], Yakubovitsh.
The first three days of Nazi rule over Czestochowa were marked by bloody murder and looting. Jewish economic life was completely paralyzed. Cultural, social, and political life, including the entire school system, was completely dissolved.
Falling like hail, there were repressions and decrees aimed at psychologically choking Jewish life, the theft of Jewish property, the exploitation of the Jewish labor force for free, and the placing of Jewish life into a lawless situation.
In order to carry out all of the persecutions and repressions, the Germans appointed a Judenrat [Jewish Council] and, afterwards, Ghetto Police that would be responsible for order.
The Judenrat in Czestochowa consisted of:
|Leon Kapinski, president|
|Zelig Rotbard, vice-president|
|Maurice Kapinski, Workers Office|
|Bernard Kurland, representative of the Worker's Office|
|Dovid Nosen Berliner, Finance Office|
|Natan Gerichter, Finance Office|
|Samuel Katz, member of the Judenrat|
|Shmuel Niemirovski, member of the Judenrat|
|Kanyetzfaler, member of the Judenrat|
|Veinrib, liason with the Gestapo|
|Maurice Galster, member of the Judenrat|
|Leib Bromberg, member of the Judenrat|
|Attorney Shimon Pohorile, member of the Judenrat|
|Dovid Bozshikovski, member of the Judenrat|
|Attorney Yirmiyahu Gitler, member of the Judenrat|
The two attorneys Yozef Brunyatovski and Mendel Goldberg also were members of the Judenrat. However, they resigned from their offices and left the Judenrat after three weeks.
The Judenrat quickly expanded because of the constant decrees of the Nazi authorities. In December, 1940, the Judenrat had 21 departments with a staff of senior and junior officials that totaled 676 people.
Because all of the German decrees were aimed at degrading Jewish morale, plundering Jewish possessions, exploiting uncompensated Jewish workers, murdering Jews through hunger and cold, causing diseases, carrying out arrests, as it were, for investigations of entirely fictitious crimes (those arrested were shot in most cases); to provide Jews to be sent to camps and for resettlement in the death camps. The Judenrat had to carry out the decrees. Obviously, the Jewish population had a negative attitude toward the Judenrat. The Jewish population did not trust the Judenrat and the Judenrat did not represent the [political] movements of the Jewish population.
The difference between the Inspection of Street Traffic and the police was the following: The members of Inspection were not uniformed. They wore only armbands. In contrast, the police were uniformed, wore blue-white caps and armbands, and carried rubber sticks in their hands. The commander of Inspection was Tsederbum, and, during the first period following the establishment of the police, Galster.
The police were established based on the decree of the Regional Chief Vendler and his representative Kadner. After the merging of Inspection with the police, Galster was arrested and Parasol was named as commandant.
The members of Inspection were composed of a better stratum, from the Czestochowa assimilated bourgeois circles, and they carried out their service without pay. The police, on the other hand, received a monthly salary and consisted of unscrupulous people. Many of them received favored treatment from the German authorities. This favored treatment by the German authorities was reserved for suppliers of information, that is, informers and denouncers and they, above all, pursued material interests.
The police were a plague for the Jewish population. It is clear that there were no willing volunteers to go for unpaid forced labor. There were also no volunteers who would allow themselves to be sent away to the camps to be overworked, tortured, beaten, and to bear various afflictions or willing volunteers to pay various tributes. There were also no volunteers for donating their merchandise to the Nazis. This the police carried out with coercion, through house searches, both by day and night, arresting, beating with rubbers sticks, and through other irksome actions.
The attitude toward the police was bitter, full of hatred and rage.
The ghetto police were generally an affliction in all ghettos. This point is attested to by all of the books of the Holocaust period that were written about the ghetto police in other ghettos. Shneor Vaserman writes the following about Chelm: For the murderers (the Nazis), it wasn't enough that they alone murdered. For their sadistic pleasure, they instituted that Jewish extermination was also carried out by Jewish hands. That, incidentally, was the devilish tactic in all of Poland, and everywhere their bloody paws reached. The Jewish police were recruited from the dregs of society. (Yizkor Bukh [Memorial Book], Chelm, Johannesburg, 1954, pages 90-91).
Melech Neishtadt declares: Between the broad Jewish masses and the ghetto policemen, a thick wall was set up. The entire population of the Jewish quarter had an attitude of deep hatred to the servants of the Germans (Khurbn un Vidershtand fun di Yidn in Varshe [Destruction and Resistance of the Jews in Warsaw], New York, 1948, page 84).
B. Mark characterizes a ghetto policeman in the following words: He has power, he can rule, he may scream at his brothers, hit them, chase them. He is not armed with a weapon. The German does not trust him. The German only stuck a rubber stick in his hand with which he should teach his blood brothers servility and obedience (B. Mark, Der Oyfshtand in Varshever Geto [The Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto], page 12).
Dr. Mark Dvorzshetzki writes: The ghetto population in Vilna related to the Jewish ghetto police with distrust and hatred. Many policemen were people without scruples, without shame, and without ethics. During Actions, they more than once opened hiding places and betrayed hidden Jews (Yerushalayim D'Lite in Kamf un Umkum [The Jerusalem of Lithuania in Battle and Holocaust], Paris, 1948, page 302).
In Pinkas Mlave [The Record Book of Mlave], we read: As commandant of the Jewish police, the authorities nominated Shalom Gutman who became the terror of the ghetto. With body and soul, he collaborated with the Germans and created great miseries for Jews. He informed on all that was taking place in the ghetto. He murdered and beat. He carried out the German decrees with pleasure. (Pinkas Mlave under the editorship of Dr. Yakov Shatzki, New York, 1950, page 406).
With the best effort, it is not possible to bring all quotations about this in a limited and condensed work. But, the above quotations are enough as a comparison with the ghetto police in Czestochowa to show that the phenomenon was a general one in all of the ghettos.
In Czestochowa at first, there was an area of residence. Afterward, a closed ghetto, or as it was called, the Large Ghetto, the Small Ghetto, and, after that, the Small Ghetto was converted to a slave labor camp.
The various ghetto designations were an expression of specific economic forms, tied in with distinctive forms of repression, persecutions, arrests, banishments, shootings, executions, selections, and deportations.
Just before the liquidation of the Small Ghetto, it was called the Compulsory Labor Camp by the Nazi authorities. The liquidation of the Small Ghetto, or as the Nazis called it, the Compulsory Labor camp, took place in the days of June 26-30, 1943.
Until now, there has not been made a classification of the character of the camps. Were these work camps, forced labor camps, or concentration camps? In order to explain the character of the Czestochowa camps, it is necessary to make the following assertions:
1) The camps in which there was a supervisory organ of the camp inhabitants and a civilian German administration belong to the category work camps and the camp inhabitants are considered forced laborers.
2) The camps in which there was a supervisory organ of the camp inhabitants, a civilian German administration, and a uniformed, armed Werkshutz [camp guard] organ belong to the category forced labor camps and the camp inhabitants are considered forced laborers.
3) The camps in which there was a supervisory organ of the camp inhabitants, a civilian German administration, a uniformed armed Werkshutz organ, and a supervisory authority of S.D. or S.S. belong to the category concentration camps and the camp inhabitants are considered prisoners.
The four camps enumerated above were under a regime that falls under point three of the classification. Therefore, one must assert that the Czestochowa camps were concentration camps.
For the most part, the refugees arrived without any means of living and physically exhausted. They inhabited mass quarters. There stood tiered beds made from boards, but they had no possibility of sustaining themselves. There was no possibility of washing and cooking, and, as a result of constant hunger and cold and bad sanitary conditions, they were the first victims of typhus and various other epidemics. In Warsaw, there were also such mass lodgings, and they were called death houses because their inhabitants died in great numbers from illness and hunger.
Mostly, Jews lived by selling off their possessions. This was a general phenomenon in all the ghettos.
An economic decline took place in Jewish life. The Jewish industrialists and major businessmen were ejected from their enterprises. The wage earners, the employees in trade and in offices, as well as those in professions lost their jobs. Hunger and hardship drove everyone onto the street to sell their last piece of clothing in order to have the possibility of surviving the day.
Sh. Tikotshinski characterized the situation with the following words: In the majority of Jewish homes, hunger and hardship began to reign and one saved oneself as one could. Such salvation was mostly sought in the clothes closet in order to later have food for a day. There was a barter of furniture, clothes, footwear and jewelry for bread. A selling off on a grand scale came into being among Jews. (Bleter far Geshikhte [Letters of History], Volume 1, Notebooks 3-4, page 207.)
Life in the ghetto was a constant struggle and a battle. The battle expressed itself in various forms, namely: to keep alive and not expire because of hunger, cold, and forced labor in order to survive until the Nazi defeat, a battle to maintain Jewish honor, the national honor, and the Jewish soul of the ghetto Jew, a battle against Nazi power and its servants of all kinds.
As a clear demonstration that the cultural activities were a component of resistance can be inferred from the fact that nearly all of the songs that were written in the Nazi era in Czestochowa bear a fighting character. Several short quotations will show this.
The last stanza of the song Geto [Ghetto]:
In fists are my hands clenched
to destroy the ghetto gates and walls
to remove the barbed wire
the specter should vanish like a shadow
(B. Orenshtayn, Czestochowa Small Ghetto, March, 1943)
Fragment of the song Nekome [Revenge]:
Like robots, robbed of life and soul,
we stand at work and think of revenge.
(Franya Kornfeld, concentration camp Hasag-Peltzery, 1943)
Fragment of the song Hasag:
A Hasag Jew has no solution,
like a dog, he carries a number on his back,
he is treated just like an animal,
yet he still fights for a new world
(Dovid Zisman, concentration camp Hasag-Peltzery, 1944)
The motif of battle braids itself through all songs.
Among the cultural activities must be considered the illegal, so-called kompleten [a small number of teachers and students who functioned as a school] and individual instruction.
Of special, vital significance is the illustrated publication Rasta of which a large number of issues were published. The name Rasta comes from the abbreviation Rada-starshikh (Judenrat). The newspaper appeared for a long time and was published by the opponents of the Judenrat.
The leading position in cultural activities was occupied by the Workers' Council.
The Workers' Council was established as a spontaneous movement of the forced laborers. The forced laborers belonged to the poor strata of Czestochowa Jewry. The well-to-do Jews ransomed themselves with money, and the poor, not having with what to live, suffering from hunger and want, had, in addition, to toil at forced labor, be vexed, terrorized, tormented and beaten by the masters, foremen, and kapos [short for kameradenpolizei, Jewish prisoners who served as overseers]. Many times, it occurred that forced laborers fainted from hunger and exhaustion during the hard labor.
On the 12th of May, 1940, the forced laborers came to the premises of the Judenrat right from work and held a mass assembly. The speakers were Shildhoz, Shmulevitsh, and Tzvi Rozenvayn. The demonstration of the forced laborers who locked the doors of the premises and did not let the members of the Judenrat leave, made a colossal impression. After a whole series of incidents and negotiations, the Judenrat partly gave in to the demands of the forced laborers for creating kitchens and the distribution of bread. Later, the forced laborers received wages. The divisions of the Worker's Council were presidium, executive board and advisory committee. The executive board consisted of Moshe Lubling - chairman, Moshe Levenhof - secretary, and Tzvi Rozenvayn - treasurer. The executive board consisted of the following: Moshe Lubling, Tzvi Rozenvayn, Yisroel Shildhoz, Yitzchak Rozenfeld, Mendel Vilinger, Mordechai Openheym, Yitzchak Apatshinski, Chaim Birenholtz, Yisroel Shimanovitsh and Moshe Levenhof. The advisory committee consisted of the following: Dovid Shlezinger, Gershon Frendke, Avrohom Brat, Avrohom Shtshekatsh, and Yankel Kofman. Contributing with council and action were influential personalities such as: Yakov Raziner, lawyer Kanarski, lawyer Leib Fogel, the well known writer H.L. Zshitnitzki and many others.
The tasks of the Workers' Council were to carry out political, cultural, and professional activity and to create a whole series of institutions such as the sick fund, mutual help funds, invalid fund, worker kitchens, children's homes, public schools, evening courses, dramatic circles, workers' choirs, and putting out an illegal newspaper.
The Workers' Council conducted multifaceted activities and was the forerunner of the later Jewish Fighting Organization in the Small Ghetto. The Workers' Council existed until the 22nd of September, 1942 when there began the mass slaughter, selections, and deportations of Czestochowa Jews to the gas chambers of Treblinka.
The topic of Workers' Council was treated by a whole series of prominent researchers of the Holocaust literature. Dr. Philip Fridman, the leading scholar and bibliographer of Holocaust literature wrote as follows: A rare institution in the in the era of Nazi tyranny (Undzer Yortseit [Our Death Anniversary], Bamberg, 1948, page 10). Another authority in the field, Dr. Rafael Mahler declared: Like a great beam of light, the description of the activities of the Worker's Councils weaves through (Yidishe Kultur [Jewish Culture], New York, April, 1949, Number 4, Page 9).
The first tragic mass murder of Czestochowa Jewry took place one day after Yom Kippur, the 22nd of September, 1942. On that day, the Czestochowa streets were transformed into rivers of blood of those who were shot. Seven thousand Jews were deported after that to the mass grave of Polish Jewry, to the gas chambers of Treblinka.
Two days later, Thursday, the 24th of September, the second horrible mass murder of deportation took place.
After a short interruption, the third deportation took place with the same gruesome conditions on Monday, the 28th of September, the first day of chol hamoed Succos [the third day of the holiday of Succos].
The fourth deportation took place for the Jews that had hidden themselves in various hiding places at the time of the first three deportations.
The fifth deportation took place on the 4th of October, 1942, one day after Simchas Torah.
The five deportations concluded a whole cycle of events that cut off Jewish life in Czestochowa and, with it, the Large Ghetto ceased to exist, and a new chapter of events began in the Small Ghetto.
All were 100% convinced of the complete defeat of Hitler's Germany. Meanwhile, however, the extermination of the Jews was taking place day in and day out. Meanwhile, the satanic gas chambers and crematories were poisoning and burning masses of Jews on a daily basis.
The Jewish youth of the Small Ghetto took the fate of their people in their own hands and chose the one remaining way, the honorable way of battle!
The Jewish fighting organizations in the Czestochowa Small Ghetto were a union of all political points of view and organizations. In view of the general national catastrophe, all of the former party points of view and ideological differences disappeared, and all of them were now united, with the greatest willingness to sacrifice their lives against the Nazi authorities.
The aim of the Jewish fighting organization were: 1) to train ghetto fighters to protect the population in the Small Ghetto and to prepare themselves to fight against the Nazi authorities in an open armed uprising! 2) to organize partisan groups in the forests to lead the battle against the Nazis with assaults. Ghetto fighters could only carry on a defensive struggle in contrast to the partisans who had the possibility of offensive assaults.
The main tasks of the fighting organization were to disrupt the German assault force and to hasten their defeat. In order to achieve the goal, the following armed actions took place: 1) destroying trains that were carrying Nazi military transports to the fronts; 2) destroying trains with ammunition and food; 3) assaulting Germans on the roads, highways and in the forests; 4) destroying bridges, destroying railway junctions in order to paralyze German communications, destroying machinery that was intended to serve to serve German military production; 6) [sic] taking agricultural products from peasants that were designated for German contingents and distributing them among the population that was suffering from want; 7) sabotaging German commands and decrees; 8) battling against informers and provocateurs.
The commanding group of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Czestochowa Small Ghetto consisted of the following members: Maitek Zilbeberg, Sumek Abramovitsh, Henyek Pesak, Yehuda Glikshtayn and Shimon Mladinov.
The council of the team consisted of Henyek Viernik, Rivka Glantz, Yosef Kantor, Vlodovski and Shildhoz.
The head commander was Maitek Zilberberg.
The leader of the partisans and armed campaigns was Josek Kantor.
In charge of communication with the ghettos and the Warsaw ghetto, receiving couriers from other ghettos, and sending out couriers from Czestochowa Small Ghetto to other cities was Sumek Abramovitsh.
The members of the finance commission were Shimon Mladinov, Leon Zelever, Bruch, Shildhoz and Vladovski.
In charge of grenade production was the chemist Henyek Viernik. Working along with him were his wife Natka Vierkik, Henyek Kofman, Binyamin Mandelboym, Eliezer Shmulevitsh, Ziskind Shmulevitsh, Moshe Ruzshanski, Binyamin Erenfrid, Avrohom Tsharni and Vilinger.
The Fighting Organization carried out a significant number of armed actions. In the days of the liquidation of the Small Ghetto, a heroic armed resistance took place that took on the character of a uprising.
Among the murderers of Czestochowa Jewry must also be included the masters of Hasag-Peltzery who have on their conscience [the murder of] 300 Jews at the time of the selection of the 20th of July, 1943. The masters were Apeln, Franktse and Nitsilek.
The total number of Jews in the Czestochowa Large Ghetto, Small Ghetto, and in the concentration camps was 58,200. Killed were 50,000, and 8,200 were liberated by the Allied armies.
The two tables confirm the given numbers.
Giving honor to the fallen victims, martyrs, and heroes means to lay bare all of these problems that were tied in with their lives, struggle, and death.
Giving honor to the fallen victims, martyrs, and heroes means simultaneously expressing eternal contempt for those who lost every spark of humanity and transformed themselves into strange barbarians, murdering in a brutish manner, with the greatest violence and sadism, the sons and daughters of the Jewish people - the Jews of Czestochowa.
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