by Mosze Ajzenberg (Kibbutz Nir David)
Translated by Avi (Abraham) Stavsky
When I was in Russia during the Second World War, flimsy rumors reached me relating to the German suppression of the various nations they had conquered, and especially of the Russians and Communists in their midst. Among these sometimes were also heard stories about atrocities and murders of the Jewish population. Of course one's heart was anguished to hear about all this, but in envisioning this situation for myself, I had never considered the scope of the destruction caused upon our Jewish brethren who had remained under the Nazi conquest. As soon as the war ended, I dedicated all my efforts to get to Poland to see the proof.
In liberated Poland I found few remnants of Jewry, most of whom returned from Russia, where they had clustered and wandered from place to place, hopefully seeking survivors, though in vain in most cases, of their dear ones and family. The Polish population was largely hostile, some explicitly so, others tacitly, and all wondered at the fact that some Jews still remained alive, and had not been finished off by Hitler. Thus was revealed to me all the heartbreak that had fallen upon us, and the stories I heard of the destruction pained me no end.
In the light of the truth, on my way to Dąbrowa after several days in Poland, I deluded myself. I asked myself if perhaps the Jews of Dąbrowa weren't so badly affected. In my mind remained the image of Dąbrowa when I had left in 1938, full of Jewish people.
Upon my arrival I was attacked by a shock which has remained with me even as I write these lines. Seeing the Dąbrowa Górnicza train station almost empty, though only a few minutes previously, a train from Warsaw had stopped there. I saw no Jewish travelers, though I had been accustomed to seeing them at the station and the surrounding area. I hurried to the town center, as maybe nonetheless...but the reality was even worse. For in my town, as it was in all of Poland, a Jew was not to be found. Not in Old Dąbrowa in the vicinity of the shul [synagogue]. Not in Okrzei Street, 1 May Street, Sobieskiego, with its rows of Jewish shops.
I arrived at a place where I had spent so many wonderful days. A Shomer Hatzair branch, and a little further on, the Dror organization. Most of the city [Zionist] youth groups had assembled here. Every evening we'd enjoy our time in this area, in an educational, Jewish and pioneering atmosphere. Some rallies and Zionist meetings would take place here. From here we'd leave on Lag B'Omer trips, the pinnacle of [our] pioneering and sport activities. And now I stand on this very same spot (a soldier in the uniform of the Red Army), and there is no memory of all those wonderful youth, as though they had never been. My searches took me to the Jewish gymnasium [high school], which was [now] practically bereft of people. There remained just a secretary, who recorded the names of the Jews of Dąbrowa from a list of survivors of the extermination camps. I found there my letter, which I had written shortly after the end of the war, and in which I had enquired as to the fate of family and friends. I had never received a reply, but now it was no longer necessary
The visit to my neighborhood Reden I left for last. I was afraid to see the bitter truth. In this corner, which had once been dear to me, and in which had lived a Jewish majority, here too, the same picture repeated itself, but in colors much more somber. For in every house that I approached, and wherein I had known the occupants, had strange new faces. They were mostly Polish neighbors from all sorts of alleys who were successful in grabbing for themselves a piece of any kind, [even] dripping with blood and suffering. There were even those who continued using the belongings which they had stolen.
Indeed, only in Poland could such things have happened. It wasn't by chance
that the German murderers chose Poland in which to build their camps of
by Miriam Cohen (nee Kożuch)
Translated by Avi (Abraham) Stavsky
As I attempt, after more than twenty-three years to reconstruct the feelings that I had upon my return to the town of my birth, Dąbrowa Górnicza, I come up against difficulties, but I shall try.
At the end of the war I was living in the city of Będzin. It was simply because in Będzin had gathered many Jews. Often I wanted to visit Dąbrowa but I simply wasn't brave enough.
One day I went, but only to Huta. At the municipality I had to show my identity card. To my surprise, the same clerks sat there as did before the war. I returned to Będzin but I really wanted to come to Reden because there was a group the Jewish nature reserve, wherein lived our friends Szymon Rozenblum, Jechiel Plois and Chaim Kristal.
The sister of Chaim Fajgl Kochan encouraged me. We took the streetcar to Mieszka [Street] and from there went on foot. We were immersed in conversation, [as] we continued to tell each other our experiences during the war, when suddenly I realized we had reached the Tema.
I don't remember if it was in May or June, I only remember it was a beautiful and clear day, as the same sun shone as did before the war It was a weekday but [strangely] quiet in the streets. Our legs were heavy and the walking was slow. And thus I arrived at the first Jewish house, a house which before the war's outbreak was my home, the house of my friend Tehila Lendner. We [had] called the house the palace. Now it was empty. No one, it seemed to me, from this beautiful, enlightened family, was left. I peered through a window at the side of the house, perhaps I would see the comely, pleasant face of Tehila, but no. I stood [there] a few minutes in silence, then left the place.
On both sides of Królowej-Jadwigi Street had been Jewish houses, shops and courtyards full of Jewish life, [and] beautiful children, for whom was prophesized a great future, now hung a heavy quiet on this street.
Gliksman and Liberman's houses, and all the apartments full of Jews; Manela's shop, who had died tragically in the first days of the war; and the house of Jungster. Where were all the Jewish residents?
The house of Handek Szelowski, who had wanted only Jewish tenants, and truly within his three buildings lived Jewish families. In the front lived wealthy Jews, on the sides dwelled the lesser wealthy, and in the last house next to the Hulda lived tenants who could not always afford the rent.
This house was filled with childhood memories, as it was there that I was born. I always remember this house with great nostalgia, in particular the poor neighbors, the good and dear Jews Szlomo and Riwka Bajla Halperin.
For what did I have to continue to stand there but to look around and around and then to continue onward. The houses which but yesterday rang with the Grosfeld and Rozenblum families, with its well-groomed gardens in this city of mining and soot and the good and industrious Jews who struggled financially because of their large families are no longer there.
On the balcony of our apartment sat a group of gentiles happy and cheerful. I did not go up. Why would I go up? Among the columns I suddenly heard: Look at that! Kożuchna is still alive! She was a Polish friend from a school bench. I didn't answer her. I sensed a strangulation in my throat, but at that moment I resolved to leave at the first opportunity [this] accursed Polish soil.
And indeed I was among the first to leave. I wandered another four years until
I reached the shores of Israel.
by Josef Jizraeli
Translated by Avi (Abraham) Stavsky
At the close of 1945 the Kibbutz Hame'uchad [Movement] organized a seminar for emissaries, among the objectives of which were to reach by various ways the concentrations of Jews in liberated Europe. Information reached Palestine that in Warsaw and Lublin began to cluster several tens of thousands of Jews who had been saved in Poland, as well as those who had arrived from the Soviet Union, Lithuania and other places. Warsaw had been liberated in January 1945. Before then, Lublin had been designated the temporary capital, and it was there that began the grouping of the remnants of Polish Jewry. Hope flickered that all the survivors of Germany and the Soviet Union would return. It was told to us in Palestine that the heads of the Jewish Underground in Poland and the Zionist bodies had begun to again organize the pioneer and youth movements in order to send them in various ways to the Land.
I was called to a seminar of for emissaries at Givat Hashlosha at which participated about 100 members who were candidates for emissary work in Italy, France and Eastern Europe. (The areas of concentration of Jewish survivors). The seminar took 6 months. In the winter of 1946 the emissaries were dispersed to different countries and by different means to the areas of Jewish concentration and points for Aliyah. The British Mandate impeded our way, and it was not easy to receive exit permission for such purposes. It was necessary to camouflage our departure by various subterfuges. I was among those chosen to go to Poland, where various emissaries were already at work in conjunction with the remnants of the Jewish youth groups. In a zigzag manner, through France, Germany and Czechoslovakia, via a contingent of repatriates, I reached the Polish border. Here it was possible to see the wanderings of nations. Some returning to their countries, while others, the Germans, returned to theirs. The Jews, too, returned, only there was no place for them to return to. Their homes had been either destroyed or long since occupied by Poles, and the gentiles on trains were surprised to see many Jews. They are still more of them! they cried derisively, singing songs mocking a Jewish manner. Although [ostensibly] anti-Semitism was forbidden by the government, there were attacks on Jews in the trains perpetrated mainly by hooligans, the remnants of the Endekes which rampaged then in Poland.
I arrived in Poland on Pesach of 5706 1946. Warsaw was largely destroyed. In intact Praga [Warsaw's eastern suburb], there was a large concentration of Jewish survivors as well as a training camp for Jewish pioneer youth. The Jewish institutions were centered in Łódź, and there was the center for emissaries from Palestine. The pioneer groups in Poland swelled and expanded in their return to the Homeland, and thus began a growing rush of Jews and youth. Pioneer movements of all the Zionist parties established training centers in the port cities: Szczecin, Gdańsk and others, as well as in towns of Lower Silesia near the Czech border. Through these went Jews without formalities to Czechoslovakia and from there to the beaches of France and Italy. The Polish and Czech governments turned a blind eye to these activities.
After several days stay in Łódź and Warsaw, points for training centers for the Dror organization were established in the border towns of Lower Silesia. On the way to Wrocław my first stop was Sosnowiec. While still in Łódź I had been informed that in Dąbrowa and Będzin were not many Jews, and the largest community was in Sosnowiec. And indeed in 1946, Sosnowiec had the largest numbers of Jews who had returned from Russia, from Germany and from other concentration camps. The progress of returning Jews expanded after the ejection of the Germans. A Jewish leadership organization and foundation was set up and Jews began to seek an income. Many continued wearing Russian Army uniforms, either through habit or because they had no other clothing. Tradesmen opened workshops, while others busied themselves with trade. They bought items cheaply from the Germans and resold them well in Zagłębie.
I went to the community leadership to search family names in their index cards,
but the addresses were illegible. In the town the Dror organization
functioned with about 30 boys and girls. There I met a family member, Obzinski,
Abram and his girlfriend Sima (now in Kiryat Bialik), and from them I learned
my brother was in the city as well as family members of the Baitner family.
After a short time I found my brother Abram and his bride (now in Petach
Tikva), and Riwka and Juda Bajtner (now in Bat Yam) and their brother, Towja
(who later emigrated to the U.S.). All that night we sat together and from the
mouths of each came stories of their hardships, expulsions, abuse and escape.
Their memories were still fresh and their stories brought new nightmares of the
Holocaust. My brother Abram told me about the bitter fate of my parents. My
young sisters, Sarale and Ester (ages 16-18) clung to their parents and refused
to be separated from them.
By the railcars the Germans tried separating them. When they were unsuccessful, they sent them all to Auschwitz. He and his brother Szymon managed to reach the Russian border. Through trouble and danger they came to L'viv [Lwów]. There Szymon reconsidered and decided to return to Zagłębie without giving an explanation to his actions. All petitioning to the contrary were fruitless, as he apparently was more afraid of the Russians than of the Germans. From that point on his footsteps were lost and no more is known of him. Abram arrived in the Soviet Union together with a large stream of refugees and Polish army soldiers. He was mobilized into the Red Army, fought at the fronts, was wounded and finally released at the end of the war. It has now been three months that he returned from there and came back to the old streets. He runs around dressed in Russian Shinel and knows no rest. It was thus that I met in Sosnowiec with the one surviving brother of the Szlomo family.
The story of Riwka and Towja, who had tattooed numbers on their forearms, was similar to those of thousands of those who went to their deaths in stages: Actions, selections, Jewish police, Judenältester [Jewish Elder], and Katzet (KZ's) were common. One's heart shrank from emotional guilt: how did the Jewish Yeshuv [population] in Palestine not know about these Jews, who had drunk from such poisonous cups?
The next day Towja wandered with me through the alleys of the city. The Jewish quarter had been occupied mainly by Poles who were not local. Here lived your Jews from Dąbrowa before the destruction. Here lived uncle Woznica. Here was the shop of your brother, Aron-Dawid. Aron-Dawid was the eldest son of our family. A traditional boy of the Mizrachi people. Father reaped much satisfaction as he was the sole offspring to follow in the ways of our fathers. Upon his marriage, he went to live in Sosnowiec. He built a family and had a daughter. His father-in-law helped him to earn a livelihood in a shop selling writing materials. When the partnership in Dąbrowa broke up, and the sons scattered here and there, Aron advised his parents to move to Sosnowiec. When the Action began in this neighborhood, Aron was not to be found and it was thought that maybe they were successful in being hidden by non-Jews. But the reason was more typical of what happened to the Jews and the hope was false. Who knows, perhaps somewhere a young girl named Madza, age 25, Aron's daughter is still wandering around.
On a beautiful and clear spring-like day, we boarded the streetcar and went to Dąbrowa. I had left the city in 1932, and since then 13 years had passed and what emptiness and depression! We got off at Reden and went by the houses: here lived a Pole and there an unknown person, all now taken, but the stores were open. Stores had been turned into residences. We came to the house of Josef Rozenblum, there my parents had lived. The store was closed. I went through the gate and peered into the window of the middle room. A woman was seeing to her face. I wandered around the yard. Women were busy with laundry and cooking. I went into the kitchen. They asked me: Who is the gentleman looking for? What could I answer? I had mental visions of a familiar face. Perhaps I'd hear the call of a mother for her son in Yiddish. They looked at me suspiciously and I left.
We walked silently along the main road, everyone immersed in his own
remembrances, when we [suddenly] heard a cry in Yiddish: Hey you!
It was Herszl Rozenblum. We recognized each other immediately. We went into a
house, his parents' house, a low house with a large roof. It was perhaps the
one house which had not been seized by the gentiles.
|Mieszka (Szopena) Street without Jews|
We returned to Huta Bankowa. We looked for Jews there. Towja recognized someone on the street and asked in Polish which Jews had survived here in Huta. The man replied Dr. Mitelman and someone else. That was it in total. 4 in Reden and 2 in Huta. I passed with resentment the front of Inger's store. From it emerged songs and voices. It had become the clubhouse of the Polish scouts. Since workers begun to remove old mines from the streets, they filled up with people. Indeed, everything remained much as it was, as things flow with time. Only the Jews were no longer there.
I finished by saying that I would come again, come back once more, to pass over
the streets and find the dreams of my youth. Once more to see my parents house,
the home of my childhood. But this was not in my hands. Work in the movement
and the stream of returning refugees prevailed. An internal force told me,
escape! Get the people out of here! And so I did.
At the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the American Zone
Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal
About Destroyed Jewish Communities and Murdered Jewish People
|Dąbrowa Górnicza. Area Będzin. Country Poland.|
|2.||How many Jews lived there before the war?|
|6 thousand Jews.|
|3.||How old was the Jewish community?|
|50-60 years old|
|4.||What were the main sources of income there?|
|5.||Which and how many community institutions, social cultural positions, unions and organizations were in the town and what is their fate today? (For example, synagogues, study houses, yeshivas, cemeteries; old age homes, homes for children, hospitals, hostels for Jewish travellers, schools, libraries, evening classes, theatrical circles, cooperatives, banks, free loan institutions, professional and artisan unions; political parties, and so on.)|
|A community, a public school, 1 house of study, several Hassidic synagogues, all Jewish organizations, professional unions, 2 yeshivas, 1 cemetery, 3 libraries, evening classes, theatrical circles, cooperative, 1 bank, free loan institution bank.|
|6.||Which incidentals were found in the community seat and in private hands, and what is their fate today? (Such as buildings, monuments, official records, ritual objects like Torah curtains, mantles, containers for spices used in havdala ceremonies [religious ceremony performed at the end of the Sabbath], prayer books, pictures, and so on.)|
|7.||The most important events in the town from the beginning of the war (1.9.1939)|
|a)||3.6.1939: The Germany military marched in. Jews are thrown out of their jobs and businesses.*
* This is a typo. The date should be 3.9.1939 (3 September 1939) HBF
11.9.1939: The first law about white armbands.
|Jews are not permitted in the streets without the visible identification, and also there is a limit to which streets they can appear. Jews have to provide forced laborers.|
|b)||Under the Nazi leadership: (date of marching in, the first orders against Jews, hostages, tributes, confiscations, ghetto [open or closed]. Afflictions, beard cuttings, markings, forced labor, the deportation of Jews in the town to other areas or reversed, pogroms, executions, robberies. How did the final liquidation from the community occur? date.)|
|October 1939: reorganization of the Jewish leadership. Some of the members are arrested and new ones come in their place.|
|The leadership gets the name Judenrat, which becomes connected to the Judenrat in Sosnowiec.|
|8.||Relationship and treatment of the non-Jewish population. Anti-Semitic mood. Did the Jews in this area organize a resistance?|
|9.||Did the Jews in this area organize a resistance?|
|10.||Number of living from the town?|
|50 men |
|a)||Survived concentration camp?|
|b)||Saved by other means and which ones?|
|40 men by emigration.|
|11.||Illustrious personalities: (names, age, occupation, activities, date and means of death).|
|Dr. Gliksztajn (medicine) and his wife Dr. Szmidel (dentist). Taken away as hostages in 1939 and never returned. The Rechnic family. Owners of mines. Taken in 1940. Klajn brothers, owners of a large metal factory. One brother sent to Mysłowice in the year of 1940. The second one, who tried to run away, was captured, and he was shot in 1943.|
|Jews go to dirty work, with the work led by Poles. The Jews become very vexed by the work. Jewish businesses are robbed.|
|The end of 1939, 20 men are held as hostages and sent to Będzin. When they are In prison, in the start of 1940, a monetary tribute is required.|
|Kaddish over the mass grave of Jews murdered by the Nazis|
|Right after the Jews brought in the tribute, the Germans immediately demanded a second one of 5 kg gold, 30 kg silver and also furs. Jewish life is wanton. The Gestapo people enter homes with dogs and murder Jews in various ways.|
|March 1940: Jewish industrialists and owners of large businesses are relieved of all their property.|
|27.10.1940: The Arbeitseinsatz, the demand for forced labor in labor camps, is created.|
|Beginning of 1941: not one Jew had his own store.|
|August 1941: Many Jews mobilized to Germany for labor.|
|June 1942: the first Aktsia. Men, women, and children were gathered and sent to Auschwitz.|
|August 1942: The Second Aktsia took place in the same way.|
|In the course of these two years assorted recruitments took place for forced labor in Germany.|
|End of 1942, beginning of 1943: the Jewish Ghetto is created on Mieszka Street. From there Jews were further forced to the general ghetto in Środula, which was at the same time the ghetto for Sosnowiec, Będzin and the surrounding neighborhoods.|
|August 1943: a forced labor camp is created in Będzin, where about 50 Jews were given jobs. Then Dąbrowa Górnicza became judenrein, cleared of Jews.|
|Reported in a paper
Heidenheim, Bavaria, 18.1.1948
by Mordechai Szenker
Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal
With the outbreak of the Second World War, when the German military marched into Poland, a fear fell upon the Jews in the town. Friday, 1 September, the armed German beasts marched into Poland.
In the majority of Jewish homes, people were making packages and debating
whether or not to flee. Mothers and young women advised their children and
husbands to run away and save themselves. My family included my parents, of
blessed memory, seven sisters and two brothers with grandchildren and great
grandchildren. We all gathered by my father at home and waited for his word on
what to do next. My father wept. This was the first time in my life I saw my
father weeping, and he wiped his eyes with a rag. With constricted hearts, we
all gathered around him and were silent. Nobody had the courage to question my
father, but with a broken voice, he himself said, Listen, children, I am
already an old Jew. I already survived wars and I know what this means
families are torn apart and scattered in all the corners of the world. Men are
separated from their women, parents from children and sisters from brothers.
Together with the calamity, epidemics and murdered people, wars bring loss of
homes and homelessness. This war, my heart tells me, will be worse than all the
other wars up to now. The Holy name, blessed be He, may He have mercy. I also
want to tell you, children, that
It was difficult for him to speak,
his tears choked him, and his white beard shook. However, he strengthened
himself and continued: You should all remain together as long as
possible, support each other, share your last bite of food, and we will remain
here and we will not leave our home. Where the enemy will hunt us, and whatever
needs to happen, we should all be together here at home, and the One above
should help, that we continue to stay together.
And we, the entire family, remained in Dąbrowa.
Suddenly we heard a running in the street. We looked out through the windows and our blood froze: they are here! No, it is not true. The devil is not as scary as we believe! The devil is 1000 times more frightening than we ever imagined. Here in the entrance, a long row of Germans with helmets on their heads and revolvers in their hands, went through the streets and screamed, Jews! Jews! Jews!
God in heaven! my mother screamed out and wrung her hands. My father stood by the window like a clay figure and could not move from his place. Heavy and terrible days and months began in the time of the war, heavy clouds like before a storm. Such difficult times proceeded for the Jews in Dąbrowa. The struggle for life and livelihood was the main problem. The entire burden fell on my oldest brother Jankel, of blessed memory, and on me, because my father with his long beard could not go out on the street because it was too dangerous.
Right in the beginning of the German occupation, in the year 1939, the German bandits enslaved Polish Jewry. Jews had to carry out the most difficult and the dirtiest work. The work that the Jews were forced to do was not always necessary. Very often the goal of this work was to oppress and humiliate the body and the spirit of Jewry. And the Dąbrowa Jews were no exception in this bitter fate.
In the second half of the year 1940, the law regarding forced labor became operative. Then the Jewish Culture-Community originated (Judenrat) and a work office. Whereas I was the youngest brother, I registered for work. I was assured that this would take only 3 months and then I could return home. That was in the year 1941. I said goodbye to my nearest and dearest, whom I never saw again.
Being in the camp, my dear parents struggled in various ways to help, knowing that we were hungry and worked hard.
Camp life flowed like a river of tar and pitch, like the mythical Sambation that throws stones and never rests. Dawn and dusk we stood for hours in the frost for the roll call. We were counted like jewels, as not one could be missing, counted again, recounted. The oven burned without stopping. From every corner in Europe, where the Devil set his foot, transports of Jews were brought continuously. An unending stream of Jews to the crematorium building, and a frightening smell from the chimneys.
From time to time Selections were made among our campmates who goes to the oven, and who to work. Going tired and broken from the labor, we had to sing German songs. At the camp gate we were counted. The oven blazed. Black-red fire-tongues wrangled from the oven that later became choked in the thick smoke which also choked our breath.
Being in assorted camps, it was very difficult for me to work and additionally to be so hungry, but I also was lucky. In the lager Fünfteichen I was taken to work in the kitchen. My desire was to help my nearest and my acquaintances, in whatever way I could, although this was not so easy and even could have cost me my life.
Everything I went through in the war years, I took for good with the thought
and hope that the war would end, and I would yet be privileged to meet members
of my family. As soon as the war ended, I began to travel to all the camps to
Maybe I would be lucky, and somebody would still be alive from my family. Fate wanted that the only survivors would be my brother-in-law Josl Dawid Tekel and his son Abram Ber, and also Lejbusz Lezorgen, the son of my oldest sister Tajbele, and my brother-in-law Szlomo Neuman, who died immediately after the war. I learned from my brother-in-law Josl Dawid that after my departure to the camp, my father became sick and died in Dąbrowa during the holiday of Lag BaOmer in the year 1942. In the year 1943 was the general deportation, and that is how the rest of my family shared the fate of the other Jews from Dąbrowa.
While I was in Fünfteichen, my brother-in-law's son Abram Ber suddenly came in a transport, and my brother-in-law Josl Dawid Tekel, and another brother-in-law, Szlomo Neuman. We stayed together until we were evacuated to Dachau, and there we were freed together.
From slave camps, from death factories, from Siberia, from partisan forests, from bunkers, half tortured but not murdered not burned, from under the hangman's hands, only we came out, with others from Dąbrowa saved by miracles. In the DP camp Landsberg there were some from Dąbrowa. The Joint and UNRRA distributed laundry, clothes, food and cigarettes. They tired themselves to provide the proper number of calories, so the tortured could come round. Doctors came, nurses, and hospitals and pharmacies were founded. Schools for children and vocational schools, camp committees and even political parties. The trains are overly full with Jewish travelling survivors who travel from camps searching for family and neighbors. They meet each other and become still lonelier, because for every Jew asked about, comes the same answer murdered or went into the oven. The world, meanwhile, is closed. We receive inspiring letters from Palestine and we need to decide what to do further. There is already a Palestine Office, but we do not receive any certificates. The British do not let us in. Messengers in UNRRA uniforms come from Palestine from the Haganah and from the Brigade. Young men also work from the Bricha. They organize and prepare youth for Aliyah bet, to the general Aliyah through Austria and Italy, to which also my wife and I and other friends set out, with the goal to come to Palestine.
DP Camp life had already become monotonous. We wanted to begin an independent, normal human life. So we packed up rucksacks and crossed borders illegally. We moved over snow-covered mountains, hoping the hour of salvation would strike. And after long wanderings we reached our goal.
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