The Trip to Palestine
Shabbos [Sabbath[, the 20th of March 1943, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the chief came to the Judenrat and ordered Kurland, the Judenrat official, to give him the lists of those registered to travel to Palestine.
The chief looked through the lists and said that he would now put together a new list of the first Jews who would travel to Palestine. This would be those who have earned this with their behavior: the doctors, Judenrat
members, lawyers, engineers and others who had higher education.
The chief ordered all men and their wives and children to appear at the small market for the new registration that he would carry out himself.
The Jewish police went to look for all of these people in order to tell them the good news. These families reciprocally found each other and hurried to the lucky gathering.
The chairman of the Judenrat and his wife and son hurried to arrive even earlier for the registration. His sister and her child were just able to receive permission from him so that she could also benefit through the merit of her brother and he took her along to the registration. Pohorila, the lawyer and his wife and two children went to the market; after them came other Judenrat members, Gitler, the lawyer and his wife and two children, Kapinski, the chairman's brother and his wife and children, Borzykowski and his wife, Galster and his wife and their married son and his wife, Rotbard and his wife and a daughter, Kurland and his wife and daughter, Berliner and his wife, Szerke and his family.
The doctors and their families also hurried to the new registration: Epsztajn, the very nice doctor and his wife and two young boys; Doctor Lewin and his wife, Doctor Winer and his wife and two children, Lipinski, the old doctor and his wife and their son, the young Doctor Lipinski with his wife and his child in his arms. Doctor Kanan hurried with his wife and son, the woman Doctor Grunwald, Doctor Falk and his wife and child, Doctor Praport and his wife and son, Doctor Kyan and his wife and son, Doctor Warmund with his wife and son, Doctor Dobraszicki and his wife and child, Doctor Rozen and his wife and child, Doctor Branicki with his wife and child, the lawyer, Bratman, and his wife, the lawyer Wilczinksi, the lawyer Lampel and his wife, the lawyer Wajn-
berg and his wife; the engineer, Firczenpel and his wife and daughter and still others who could obtain permission to be allowed to take part in the registration to travel to Palestine looked for their wives and children and ran to the small market in order that they not be late.
At the exit and near the wire fence of the labor camp, masses of people stood and watched with envy at how the intelligencia of the city were lining up for the registration.
At the market, everyone stood with their families; each man with his family. The chief went through the market and spoke in a very friendly way and at ease to someone here, there with another one. The chairman became bold because of the chief's friendliness and asked if he should ask his officials to put together a list of those present. The chief answered kindly that it was not necessary he had a good memory and did not need any lists.
Meanwhile, those who were late came running, but the Ukrainians who stood guard did not want to let them in. The woman dentist, Bresler, made a commotion: She wanted to join her friend. The chief, hearing the tumult, went to the entrance; Mrs. Bresler apologized for her lateness; she had looked for her husband and could not find him. He was also a doctor. The chief answered that it is a great shame, but he could not wait any longer. He was very kindly and ordered the Ukrainians to permit Mrs. Bresler to enter the market. She immediately stood a lucky one among the chosen. Then, the woman doctor, Wajsberg, for many years the director of the Jewish hospital, arrived. The chief asked her if she had children. No, she did not; the chief ordered that she remain. It was already too late, he said. She would travel with the second group together with the current hospital personnel, Doctors Szperling and Wolberg who had to remain here.
Then the converted Doctor Kon, who now was called Waclaw Konar, came running; his wife had just now searched for him. However, the chief did not permit them to go to the market. Meanwhile, you will remain here he said You cannot leave your remaining Jews without doctors. You will go with the second group.
Those assembled at the market listened to the chief's talk and smiled to each other; they said, We will travel first. Satisfaction poured over their faces as with those saved from a sinking ship.
Chief Degenhardt looked at the assembled and noticed that they were cold. They were lightly dressed they had only come to register, for only a few minutes, they were told. The chief went past everyone, looked them sharply in their faces; suddenly his smile disappeared. He no longer spoke a word to anyone. When he was at the end of the row in which he had counted 147 people, he shouted into the general quiet to his sergeant-major, Ueberschaer:
Alle auf di wache! [Everyone under guard.]All of the assembled, the intelligencia and educated people, suddenly trembled. They felt as if the earth would suddenly open under their feet and they would slide down into the void.
Those, too, who stood near the wire fence of the labor camp and earlier had looked at the lucky ones with envy that they would tear themselves from the Germans' murderous hands and travel to Palestine also these were struck with fear by the chief's four words:
Alle auf di wache!Everyone now knew that they were going under guard, that they were not coming back.
The gendarmes and Ukrainians immediately went to the
assembled and ordered them to go. With desperate looks, the just recently lucky people looked at the labor camps and were envious of the masses at the wire fencing.
The chief stood in a triumphant pose and derived visible pleasure from the hellish spectacle. He remained like this in place until the gendarmes had brought the 147 victims under guard.
In half an hour, a large empty truck arrived and remained standing 100 meters from those under guard.
The people were immediately chased out from where they were being guarded by heavy divisions of gendarmes and Ukrainians. The trucks received their passengers and quickly drove away.
Everyone in the labor camp was curious about the direction the trucks would take. They were immediately seen going in the direction of Olsztyn. The Jewish cemetery also lay on this road.
The labor camp people looked on quietly. Everyone understood each other without words. Despite their earlier envy of the better people who had awaited a trip to Palestine, now everyone was overtaken by a feeling of dread. The labor camp, confined in the three dirty alleys, suddenly felt as if orphaned; the educated, intelligent people, among whom there were many who would console, calm and soothe the moods during difficult moments, were no longer here.
The labor camp felt as if the murderer, Degenhardt, had chopped off its head.
At 7:30 at night, a group of Ukrainians came closer to the labor camp entrance; they were the same ones who had accompanied the trucks.
It was immediately learned that the 147 people were no longer alive.
The three alleys of the labor camp were full of people. Everyone was out in the street. A sadness enveloped everyone. Not only those who were close to the victims, but everyone cried hot tears. Everyone felt the pain and everyone felt deep grief and perhaps, in a certain way, insulted by the outrageous comedy that the sadistic chief had carried out.
Meanwhile, no facts could emerge because the Ukrainians did not want to describe anything. We only knew that the chief had ordered by telephone that the residences of those murdered be guarded.
The chief immediately came into the labor camp in his auto. He himself made sure that the residences of the annihilated were sealed. He went through the alleys and looked at the Jewish policemen with a cynical smile.
The next day everything was removed from the residences and taken to the warehouse on Garibaldi Street. But the chief himself had earlier searched the residences and as the Jewish policemen explained, found diamonds and gold coins and also great sums of money in the residence of the chairman and some other Judenrat members, which he took.
Jewish policemen who were acquainted with several Ukrainians received facts from them about how the 147 people were annihilated:
They had taken them in the trucks to the cemetery. The victims were shrouded with a fear of death and did not want to exit from the trucks. They were beaten with rifle butts and tossed down on the ground. The children were placed on one side and the older ones on the other. Heartrending scenes took place at the separation of the children from their parents and this, too, did not happen without beatings with rifle butts. The children
|The destroyed Czenstochow cemeteries|
were placed near large pits; a machine gun stood several meters away and shot the children who immediately fell into the pits. The parents watched this horrible picture and tore the hair from their heads, tearing off their clothing in despair. However, they were immediately chased to the pits. Standing at the edge, some hugged two or three people and when the machine guns began to shoot, they fell hugging into the pits.
A Ukrainian ended his description in this way:
A mass of people, dead and alive, were found in the pit. Moans were heard; some struck out their hands; others murmured something. The gendarmes placed the machine gun at the pits* and shot into it until it became completely quiet. After this we sat down in the trucks and came back.On Sunday morning, the 21st of March 1943, two Jews went to the cemetery in order to bury a dead person, who had died in the labor camp. They saw large fresh pits covered with fresh dirt, without a hill, just flat, even with the level of the ground.
Everything looked calm as if nothing had taken place a day earlier.
*[Translator's note: The author uses both the singular and plural of the word pit.]
This book was published
on the 20th of April 1949
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