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Annihilation of the Jews of Lwów (cont'd)

Translated by Myra Yael Ecker

Edited by Karen Leon

[Pages 693-694]

Chapter 19. Attempts at Defence and Revolt

After the Aktion in August 1942 and the news that arrived from other towns, especially from Warsaw, it was clear to everyone that the Germans were plotting to annihilate all of Poland's Jews. Early attempts were then made to organise an uprising from amongst the Jewish population, but there were very great difficulties. Many of the leaders of the Jewish political parties and youth movements were absent, some had fled to Russia and some were murdered by the Germans. Lwów's Polish underground was very weak, because its population was not purely Polish, but was made up of a mixture of Poles and Ukrainians. The massive migration from the villages and the provincial towns during the Soviet rule, greatly increased Lwów's Ukrainian population. With the Ukrainians' memories of being persecuted and accosted under Polish rule, before 1939, the policies of the Germans succeeded in increasing their hatred for the Poles. In addition, the vast majority of the underground in Lwów were members of right wing parties who rejected any association with the Jews. Consequently, the Jews could only negotiate with the democratic or the left wing Polish underground organisations, whose standing, in eastern Galicia, was inconsequential. The Ukrainian underground organised patriotic groups in eastern Galicia, but they were all affiliated with the faction of Stepan Bandera, who simultaneously fought against the Germans, the Poles and the Jews. During 1942-1943, the extreme nationalist Bandera faction (Banderowcy) eliminated the rest of the Ukrainian partisan groups that were more liberal or democratic (such as the Bulba group of Wołyń). And from then on, the Wołyń and the Galician forests were under their control.

Due to the difficult circumstances, it was impossible to form an organised, concerted Jewish revolt movement, or a mass exodus to the forests. There were only individual attempts of underground acts, including small groups, mostly from among members of the Jewish youth movements.

At the end of 1942, a group of young officials from the Jewish Council (most were members of Zionist youth movements) organised lessons in military instruction and weapon training. The training was conducted secretly in one of the basements of the community's offices but it did not lead to the formation of a military unit. There were also attempts to escape into the forests, but the youths who fled there, did not find partisan groups they could join. On frequent occasions the Ukrainian peasants turned them in, to the Germans. Bandera's partisans murdered every Jew who came their way. A survivor of Janowska camp, described such a meeting:

“From Janowska camp I fled to the forest. There I met a group of 34 refugees who had fled the camp. The Banderists chased us. (We heard) that in one forest there were some eighty Jews. The Banderists surrounded the forest, blockaded the Jews and slaughtered all of them. Later, they dissected the bodies, and placed their flesh on the trees with the notes, “this is Jewish flesh.”[16]

The escaping Jews were often caught even before they left town, and were murdered on their way. Such was the fate of the group which included the poet J[akób] Szudrich. In his report, General [Fritz] Katzmann also accounts about other failed attempts. Most of the Jewish youths who tried to escape to the forests, were armed. Generally they bought all the arms, guns and rifles, from Italian or Hungarian soldiers (the average price of a gun was 2,000 Gulden), who were their principal assistants in organising the escape. Katzmann mentions a group of 20-30 armed young Jews who escaped from Janowska camp, attempting to reach the outskirts of Brody in order to join a group of Jewish partisans operating in the forests. They approached two German drivers and offered them 20,000 Gulden for the drive from Lwów to Brody. The drivers confirmed the reservation, but reported them to the German police, and all the Jews were murdered (the incident took place on 15th May 1943). On 21st May 1943, Katzmann recounted, the Germans destroyed another group of Jews armed with Italian weapons. On the whole, Katzmann commented, “As the number of Jews in the district (Galicia) decreased, their spirit of rebellion increased. The Jews used all types of weapons, some of which were bought from the Italians.” Despite the bitter ending of many attempts, still, some young Jews, on their own or in organised groups, managed to escape to the forests and remain there until the defeat of Germany. Small groups reached even as far the Carpathian mountains (for example, Dr. Borys Pliskin and his group).

[Pages 695-696]

According to one testimony, Goldberg organised a group of youths from among Lwów's Jewish Police officers, which joined a groups of partisans in the town's vicinity. After Lwów's ghetto was declared a Julag, the partisan headquarters sent Goldberg to organise the revolt in that Julag, but he was caught and murdered by the Nazis.

The Jewish underground of Lwów also produced an illegal newspaper. It was typewritten with a very limited number of duplicates. Six pamphlets in all were issued. Abraham Warmann (Bronek), one of the leaders of HaShomer HaTzair, was the newspaper's technical manager, and the person who brought the typewriter into the Julag despite the mortal danger. He managed to camouflage the typewriter and pull the wool over the eyes of the policemen at the gate of the ghetto. He used a horse and carriage to deliver it to the “editorial board.” The newspaper's editor was M.H. The newspaper disseminated political and military information which was secretly collected from radio broadcasts, or copied from the Polish underground press. It also contained local information about life in Lwów's ghetto, together with announcements and editorial articles calling upon Lwów's Jews to courage, war and uprising. The realisation that the Jewish public would pay in blood for any resistance attempt, was one of the major reasons for delaying any preparation for revolt. The Germans resorted to collective, cruel punishment for any private act of resistance by Jews. The terror incident of 1st September 1942, was previously mentioned (see above, Pt. IV; Ch. 13). A similar event occurred on 16th March 1943, in the SS camp at 56 Czwartaków Street. One of the Jewish labourers (the engineer-builder Kotnowski, according to rumours), killed an SS policeman (named Keil according to testimony), who excelled in his cruelty. The following day, the Germans arrived at the Jewish community hall on Łokietka Street, and publicly executed twelve or eleven Jews, including militia officers (the advocate Dr. Mahler and Mendel). But they were not satisfied with that. Grzymek, the commander of the Julag, carried out a roll-call that very day. More that a thousand Jews were “chosen” and sent to the “Sands” to be murdered. An eye-witness described that Aktion,

“The following day, the orchestra played as usual near the gate, the groups marched out (to work in the town). In front of the gate, along the street, stood physicians who injected an anti-typhoid serum. Behind the gate stood Engels, Pugaszewski and Wöbke (Gestapo officers) who orchestrated the Aktion. They jokingly selected men from the groups, be it the blonds, the spectacled, or other characteristics, loaded them onto the vehicle and transported them to the “Sands.” Those who marched towards the gate were quite unaware: here they play, there they inject, and just a few steps away death grips them by the neck. That very hour, one thousand, one hundred men were dragged to the gallows!”[17]

Concurrently, the SS police carried out the Vergeltungsaktion [retributive Aktion] at Janowska camp, where some 200 people were murdered.

[Pages 697-698]

Chapter 20. Liquidation of the Ghetto

The liquidation of Lwów's ghetto started with the blood-Aktion of 23rd May 1943. To comprehend the nature of the Aktion one needs to describe the structure of the Jewish labour. The Germans split up all the Jewish workers still alive, into two large labour centres, the Julag, and Janowska camp. In the camp, the Jews were fully enclosed, while a few “lucky” individuals belonged to the external-brigades (aussen-Brigaden) who left every morning for work outside the camp. Most of the Jewish labourers at the Julag, who resided in barracks, were organised into labour-brigades that left for work every morning and returned to sleep in the Julag. However, the Germans decided to eliminate the external-brigades at the Julag and transfer them to the camp. A terrifying slaughter took place at Janowska camp to make room for the new brigades. That was followed by an order calling for all the labour-brigades to come in the evening to the camp, rather than return to the Julag, as usual. The brigades were locked up in the camp for several days, with no one coming or going, nor were the camp's external-brigades sent for their work in town. During these days the Germans systematically murdered the tightly crowded masses assembled in the camp, and again thousands of people were murdered.

Those who still remained in the Julag, children, women, youths and the internal brigades of the ghetto, now understood the meaning of things, and waited in a state of terror for the horror that still awaited them. They prepared concealed, safe hiding places, and some Jews even obtained weapons. In his report, General Katzmann writes:

“The Jews tried every means to evade the transfer project (!). They did not only try to escape from the ghetto, they also hid in every corner, in ducts, in house chimneys, in the sewers, drains etc. They built batteries in underground passages, they widened basements and turned them into tunnels, excavated underground and created very artfully camouflaged hiding places, in attics, wood stores, huts, in furniture, etc.”

In various parts of the ghetto the Germans were greeted with shots, grenades and flammable bottles. The Germans no longer dared enter and petrol Jewish homes, and instead poured gasoline on the houses and set them on fire, thus forcing the Jews to come out. The men and women who resisted or tried to escape were murdered on the spot. The children, in most cases, were murdered with utmost cruelty by throwing them alive into the fire, or shattering babies' sculls against walls or lampposts. The young Nazis also participated in this Aktion and they used Jewish children as targets for fire practice.

Some of the men who were caught (nearly 7,000 men) were sent to Janowska camp, where another roll-call took place. The weak ones were sent “to the Sands,” and the stronger ones joined labour brigades, but even these brigades were eradicated within a few days.

The project of liquidating the ghetto was conducted with unprecedented excessive cruelty. This is confirmed in the concluding words of Katzmann's report:

“Extraordinary means were required during the liquidation of Lwów's ghetto, where special bunkers were built, as I mentioned before. We were therefore forced to act brutally from the start of the Aktion, to ensure we did not suffer a great loss (of men). We had to blow up or burn many houses. This incident exposed a strange thing: instead of the 12,000 officially registered, we succeeded in catching almost 20,000 Jews. We were forced to extract over 3,000 dead Jews from different hiding places: they were the people who had committed suicide by poison.”

The two last Aktionen were conducted by General [Fritz] Katzmann who returned to Lwów, probably from his activities in the provincial towns of eastern Galicia, where he also headed the annihilation activities. As General [Josef] Stroop was “busy” in Warsaw from 17th April 1943, Katzmann returned to Lwów to complete his activities. After completing his mission, Katzmann prepared “The final report on the Solution of the Jewish Problem in Galicia [Lösung der Judenfrage in Galizien],” which he submitted to “the supreme commander of the SS and Secret-Police in the eastern territories, General [Friedrich Wilhelm] Krüger, or his deputy in Krakow.” The typewritten report of over 60 pages, including many photographs, was signed by Katzmann on 30th June 1943. After the defeat of Germany, the report was included among the collection of documents of the International Court of Justice in Nürnberg/Nuremberg that in 1946-1947 prosecuted the principal war-criminals. Katzmann had disappeared without a trace. A reporter for the New-York, Jewish-German weekly journal, Aufbau,[17a] published the news, the veracity of which is yet to be verified, that Katzmann was in Cairo under the auspices of the mufti [Alhaj Muhammad] Amin al-Husseini.

[Pages 699-700]

Chapter 21. The Jews in the Aryan side of town

After the liquidation of the ghetto, the area of the Jews' living quarters turned into a wasteland where only ruins remained, in which gangs of thieves and robbers, beggars and suspicious individuals sought refuge. A very small number of Jews still remained in town, legally housed in barracks on tiny, solitary camps of military factories. A strict guard was set on these survivors. In addition, Janowska camp still existed with thousands of Jews.

A few thousand Jews who had managed to escaped and hide, lived illegally in Lwów. Part of them hid in kinds of “bunkers” and hiding-places of Christian families, and a part resided in Aryan neighbourhoods with fake documents as Poles, Ukrainians, Karaites, Muslims, Germans and even Gypsies.

A few, including many converted and assimilated Jews, got along as Aryans immediately when the Germans arrived. In 1942, a mass exodus to the Aryan neighbourhoods took place. An entire industry was established, faking Aryan documents: identity-cards, marriage-certificates, dates-of-birth, registration-cards, work-permits, etc. There were actual certificates (ones that had belonged to Aryans who died in the war, or were kidnapped by the Germans and whose certificates remained), and there were essentially forged certificates (documents known by the traders as “Lipa”). Those who moved to live on the Aryan side, did so with great caution. They concealed their departure from the ghetto from their acquaintances for as far as possible until the last moment. The slow infiltration into Aryan neighbourhoods increased in the Spring months of 1942, reaching a peak after the Aktion of August 1942.

In 1942-1943, the number of Jews who were hidden by Aryans or who masqueraded as Aryans based on false certificates, assisted by non-Jewish acquaintances, reached the thousands. The German secret-police who constantly patrolled the homes of citizens and the town's streets, discovered a great many of them. Many were also caught as a result of Christian informants who had been caught assisting secreted Jews, and who faced death. This caused Lwów's special law-court (Sondergericht) to be inundated with such cases. In a report of 7th October 1943, the secret-police commander of the Generalgouvernement, wrote to the head of Department VII of the SS headquarters in Berlin:

“According to the information from the district of Galicia (for Krakow), the number of pending cases before the Lwów Sondergericht regarding the people who shelter Jews, has risen greatly recently. This misdemeanour, carries only the sentence of death, according to law. Under these circumstances, from time to time the Sondergericht has to issue frequent death sentences. The judges' circles object to it more or less. The principal objection was that the penalty (death) was best executed by the secret-police. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that the death sentence is absolutely necessary, since the sentence of the Jews who are hiding is the same as that of robbers, under the present circumstances.”[18]

This bears witness to the fact that many death sentences were passed on the criminals who hid Jews. If truth be told, during the time this report was written and the proposal to transfer the capital cases from the law-court to the secret police, it happened more than once that the SS and Gestapo personnel did not bother waiting for the trial. Instead, they beat to death the Christians who had concealed Jews. The court's deaths were, however, greatly publicised by the Germans in order to scare the Christians and stop them from helping Jews in any way. A particularly well publicised case was the publicly executed death sentence at the end of 1943, of the butcher Yósefek who concealed several Jews at his apartment in the Kleparów suburb. The execution inspired fear in the Christians and greatly suppressed the rest of the yet concealed slaughter.

Under such an atmosphere, a hiding place within an Aryan neighbourhood was not very safe. There were few Christians who concealed Jews for ideological reasons, sheltering or assisting friends from their political party, or work, in bygone days, out of pure pity, or due to their objection to the Nazi regime. But in most cases Jews were sheltered by people who were after material gain. There were those who received from the Jews all their remaining capital in silver, gold, jewels, clothes, paintings etc., and there were those who demanded a monthly payment for the shelter, which was the usual custom. The Jews paid a decent amount as an entry fee, which was in general at least 2,000 Gulden, besides

[Pages 701-702]

a monthly “rent” that ranged between 2,000 and 10,000 Gulden. The prices in this market varied depending on the place and the time. House owners were known to evict the hiding Jews once their funds ran out. There were incidences when blackmailers (szantażyści) heard of such a hiding place and demanded large sums or “hush money” on a monthly basis.

Whereas a Jew whose appearance betrayed his origins had no option but to hide among Christians, “good looking (who do not ‘resemble’)” Jews could seek a different solution. Many among those who “did not resemble,” masqueraded as Christians based on Aryan documents they had purchased, they lived in Aryan neighbourhoods and worked as Christians. In order to avoid any entanglement with the administrative arrangements associated with accommodation, registration with the secret-police, or with the office of food-cards etc., they too required assistance from their Christian acquaintances who knew their secret. The life of such Aryan Jews was fraught with danger. Walking down the road they were always exposed to peril. The secret-police representatives, civil agents and specialist spies scoured the streets for masquerading Aryans. Extortionists, good-for-nothings and even children who specialised in spotting a masquerading Jew at a glance, be it by his slightly unusual gestures, or expressions loitered in the streets. These hunters invited the suspected individual to the gate of a neighbouring house and ordered him to take down his pants to establish if he was of the Abrahamic faith. Women had an easier time in evading their pursuers. There was however also an “ideological” test in the fundamentals of Christianity, its practices and prayers, by which women were mostly seized. And when all the investigations were unsuccessful, the suspects were taken to the Gestapo's office, for more aggressive methods of searching and examination.

Tens of hiding or masquerading Jews were caught daily in this way. Those who were not murdered immediately upon being uncovered, were taken to a special cell in Janowska camp, known as the “death cell,” and from there were taken to be murdered.

Many of those who masqueraded, believed they would find greater safety if they moved to another town, where the danger of being recognised by acquaintances was reduced. Most of them moved to Warsaw and Krakow. Many were caught on their journey, by the secret-police through the many searches undertaken at railway stations or on the trains. Of those who did reach Warsaw, some were caught later, and some were killed during the 1944 Polish Uprising. Few have survived.

[Pages 703-704]

Chapter 22. Places of Extermination in Lwów; Establishment of Janowska Camp

The three main locations of extermination in Lwów were:

  1. The Castle Mound (Zitadelle) in the centre of town, between Kopernika and St. Lazarus [św Lazarza] Streets. Thousands of the Russian prisoners of war were murdered in that place.
  2. Lesienice [Lysynychi] Forest, a village on the outskirts of Lwów on the way to Tarnopol, east of the Łyczaków suburb. Between 140,000 and 200,000 people, many among them Jews, were murdered here.
  3. The “Death-valley” or the “Sands [Piaski].” A ravine between the hills north-west of Lwów, not far from the foot of Kortumowa Mountain, about half a kilometre from Janowska camp and from the two cemeteries, the Christian and the Jewish cemeteries.
According to the official report published by the “Extraordinary State (Soviet) Commission for the Establishment and Investigation of the Atrocities of the German-Fascist Invaders and their Accomplices,”[19] “Over 200,000 Soviet citizens,” practically all of whom were Jews, were murdered at the “Death-valley” near Janowska camp.

One of the main roads leading north-west out of Lwów is Janowska Street, so named due to its vicinity to the small town Janów. The Germans renamed it West Street (Weststrasse). At 132-134 Janowska Street stood a factory for grinding-machines, that had belonged to a machine making company, Steinhaus & Company, owned by Jews. During the Soviet rule, following the socialist law, the factory was confiscated and absorbed into the industrial network of the Ministry of Transport, (Factory No. 56 of the Ministry of Transport). Under the German occupation the factory was at first under the municipal administrative government, and a few weeks later, under the management of the SS in Lwów. SS officer Wolfgang von Mohwinkel was appointed manager of the factory, but he was soon replaced by a young man from Berlin, SS officer Fritz [Gotthard] Gebauer, a clerk from the Berlin firm Siemens-Schuckert. Gebauer had a pleasant appearance and seemed like a man who was “cherished and polite in words and manners.” The workshops on Janowska Street began to produce products for the SS and the German armed forces.

The Jews believed the Janowska workshop work-card was “good,” for whoever would dare abduct or manhandle a Jew who had a work-card from the SS itself? Consequently, many tried to find employ at these workshops, in addition to the labourers sent there by the work department. Polish “criminals” were also sent to work there. By the end of September 1941, there were nearly 350 Jewish workers at the workshops. By the end of October 1941, there were 580 Jews and 320 Poles. At the end of September 1941, the perimeter of the entire factory was surrounded by barbed wire, and sheds were erected, but the labourers were still allowed to go home after work. At the beginning of October 1941, a fundamental change took place. Gebauer convened all the Jewish labourers, held a roll-call and informed them: “From today onwards you will remain here!” From that day the factory turned into a labour-camp, known by the name “Janowski camp.” Several guard towers were erected, adjacent to the barbed wire, manned by SS men with automatic rifles. The SS guard was headed by the officers Schlippe, Stellwerk and Soernitz. Soernitz was habitually accompanied by his hound “Aza,” trained to attack people and devour them alive, at the command of its owner.

From then on, all communication between the Jewish labourers and the world outside, ceased. The camp was split into two parts. The larger part was occupied by the labourers' accommodation huts, the offices, the SS apartments and also by the transit-camp (Durchgangslager; Dulag) designated for those dispatched to the Bełżec death-camp. A new SS officer, Gustav Willhaus, was appointed commander over that part of the camp. A young man, a printer by trade, Gustav Willhaus was born at Saarbrücken, and according to witness testimony, he took up his job on 2nd March 1942. Soon after, probably on 1st April 1942, his deputy, SS officer Richard [Robert] Rokita, arrived. Around 40 years of age, Rokita was a violinist before the war, and director of a Jazz orchestra in one of west Poland's towns (probably Katowice). Willhaus's second deputy was the SS officer Adolf Kolonko, around 30 years old, who had been an apprentice whitewasher born at Racibórz [Ratibor], Silesia.

The second part of the camp, where the factories

[Pages 705-706]

and workshops were situated, developed into a particular section under the management of Fritz Gebauer, and titled: “German Armament Factories” (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke – D.A.W.). The workshops' labourers had to be sourced from the first part of the camp, from the barracks, but the existing state of mutual jealousy and hatred between the two officers, prevented any cooperation and work coordination. “There were constant conflicts between Willhaus and Gebauer, wrote one of the Jewish women who worked in the camp-office. On occasion, when Willhaus issued an order, Gebauer overturned the order in order to annoy him. The disputes between these two “tough guys,” always led to harm for the wretched camp prisoners. After a great dispute, the relations between the two commanders were severed. Willhaus even set-up a separate office for the section of the camp under his supervision.”[20]

[Pages 707-708]

Chapter 23. The Hangmen at Janowska Camp

Despite all the differences, disputes and quarrels between Willhaus and Gebauer, they were in agreement over one thing: both excelled in boundless sadism and cruelty towards their Jewish prisoners. Their acts of deception and abuse of the Jews served as a blueprint for all the rest of the German officers at the camp. Much was written about their deeds, in articles, memoirs and witness statements of prisoners at Janowska camp. Rokita, Willhaus's deputy, excelled in a different type of cruelty that was “finer” and more cunning. He was an “aesthete” who enjoyed inventing “refined” tortures for his victims, tortures of body and soul.

“The prisoners remember Rokita,” wrote one of the camp survivors, “for murdering tens of people during the roll-call, and during every visit to the bathhouse. He enjoyed speaking with prisoners, even sharing bread with them, saying that he was a ‘good’ man by nature, who could not bear those who shuddered in his presence. If anyone standing during the command so much as moved, Rokita immediately murdered several people, after which he lit a cigarette, and with a benign smile said: ‘I was so good to you and you annoy me. See what you have brought me to’.”[21]

Rokita appointed his Jewish friend Kampf, with whom he used to play music in coffee-houses before the war, as the camp-elder (Lager-eltester). Kampf's “career” was short-lived, however. It was said in the camp that Kampf was careless with his talk, recounting that Rokita sent large orchestral instruments especially accordions, from the camp to his home. They were not just accordions and instruments. Rokita filled the orchestral instruments with gold and jewels. Rokita heard of it, and murdered Kampf and subsequently, his wife and daughter.

The rest of the SS officers did not fall short of their commanders, in their cruelty. Those who excelled in their wild deeds were, [Adolf] Kolonko, head of the research department; the young (around 20 years old) [Friedrich] Heinen; the Hungarian SS man, Peter Blum, at 17 years old was previously a shoemaker's apprentice; Heinisch, who was Grzymek's deputy at the Julag, before arriving at the camp; the SS men, [Martin] Büttner, Grusshaber and Beneke.

There were rumours that the hangmen of the camp included specialists from the Dirlewanger Brigade, who trained the rest of the policemen in the practice of murder.[22]

The entire Dirlewanger Brigade was made up of criminal felons released from jails and from German concentration-camps, with the proviso that they would volunteer to serve in this brigade. The task of this brigade was to “wipe out” the population in those places where any signs of resistance or revolt were noticed. Members of this brigade specialised in massacring residents, women and children. Consequently, the brigade was also sent to Warsaw during the Polish uprising in August-October 1944.[23] Nevertheless, no explicit evidence has been found, to date, that Dirlewanger men were present at Janowska camp.

During summer 1943, a change of management personnel took place in the camp. Rokita was appointed manager of the Jewish labour-camp at Tarnopol. Shortly after, Willhaus was also moved (1st July 1943), and was replaced by Franz Warzog. Changes also took place among the SS officers. Many of them were moved from service in the camp, to military service within the SS companies on the eastern front (Waffen-SS). The internal policy of the hangmen at Janowska camp, as in all other camps, oscillated between two opposing targets: the desire to murder, on the one hand, and the preservation of their own lives, on the other. While they were trained to “wipe-out the enemies of Germany” with “total dedication,” as the frequent murders led to a shrinking population in the camps, the need for policemen and SS men also decreased, and the superfluous SS men were sent to the front. As the situation on the eastern front worsened, the Germans increased the number of SS men transferred from the camps to the front, and their place was filled by camp policemen

[Pages 709-710]

of non-German origin, SS brigades composed of Hungarians, of men of “Germanic culture” [Volksdeutsche], Ukrainian policemen and of Russian men from General [Andrey Andreyevich] Vlasov's companies. They were known by the prisoners as Askaris (a term used for native assistant policemen, in German colonies in pre-1914 Africa.). The Ukrainian and Russian policemen were also termed “black,” for the colour of their uniforms.

The non-German policemen served only as regular soldiers or as deputies, in the camp, while the posts of high ranking officers and commanders remained in the hands of the German SS men.

[Pages 711-712]

Chapter 24. The Prisoners at Janowska Camp

Janowska camp was designated for several purposes. Its prime purpose was that of a forced labour-camp for Jews, and for non-Jewish criminals. Secondly, that of an extermination camp for the Jews of Lwów and eastern Galicia. Its third purpose was that of a transit camp. Tens of thousands of Jews passed through it. It was the examination and selection station - who for death and who for labour, who for murder in the camp and who for “transport” to Bełżec death-camp. The transports from the provincial towns began to arrive at Janowska camp in the spring of 1942. At the beginning of April 1942, a large transport arrived from Gródek Jagielloński near Lwów. In May and June 1942, from Przemyśl, in July 1942, from Drohobycz and so on. Concurrently, transports started to arrive from south-east Gaclicia, from Kołomyja, Kosów, Stanisławów, Dolina, Delatyn and so forth.

Small groups of Jews were brought from abroad to Janowska camp, from Czech lands, Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Holland, Belgium, Germany, etc. For them, Janowska camp was not a transfer station, but the last stop.

Tens of thousands of Jews passed through Janowska camp. Their number is estimated at between 300,000 and 400, 000. At least 200,000 were murdered in the “Sands” and in the Lesienice [Lysynychi] Forest. In relation to such numbers, the number of the camp inmates was small. All of the official, camp statistical records were lost or were destroyed by the Germans before they fled. The only list which was preserved, was part of the statistical survey of Lwów's town minister (Stadthauptmann), a report of the roll-call conducted by the Germans in Lwów, on 1st March 1943. The list states that there were no Jews in Lwów, and that there were 15,000 Jews at Janowska camp. (The document [is] kept at the Lwów archives of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, economic department). This statement seems exaggerated. According to Jewish witnesses, the number of Jews in the camp did not exceed 10,000, and generally it was less than that. It is possible that on the day of the roll-call, there were a few thousand Jews in Janowska transfer-camp, who were added to the number of the regular prisoners.

Initially, the camp was only intended for men, but after the Grossaktionen of 1942, a large number of women was also moved to the camp, and a section was established for them until a specific women's camp was formed separate from that of the men. The women's camp was adjacent to the death-yard (where the murders took place in the camp), where officially there were 30 women in March 1943. The first inmates were 70 women who were brought after the liquidation of the Żólkiew ghetto. They worked at the weaving factory (D.A.W.) of the camp. Soon the number of women increased and they were used for other tasks, such as in the kitchen, in cleaning jobs, packing, tailoring, etc. The director of the women's camp was SS Officer Brumbauer.

The social structure of the camp prisoners was divided into different strata. In the upper stratum were the camp axillary clerks. The aristocracy among the labourers, consisted of the labour-elders (Lager-älteste), and of the work-divisions' leaders (foremen), the craftsmen, engineers, technicians and mechanics who formed the outside work-companies (the best of them) or the labour-companies inside the camp. Most difficult was the condition of the unskilled labourers. These included most circles of the professional intelligentsia, advocates, clerks, teachers, writers, etc. Only few of the free professionals could work as auxiliary clerks in the camp offices, or as craftsmen. Most had to do hard labour. Generally, they suffered severe beatings. The policemen mocked them, and at times even their “specialist” friends turned them into laughingstocks. They were allocated the worst sleeping places, they were the last to receive their food rations. The new way of life brought down many of them. Rabbi Dr. Dawid Kahane writes that among the rabbis who were brought to the camp together with him, almost all died of hunger, hard-labour, sickness and beatings, after a short period of their arrival.


Original notes:

  1. Testimonial of Moses Erlich. Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw. No. 1247. Return
  2. Maltiel [-Gerstenfeld, Jacob] op. cit. pp. 246-247 Return
    1. Kurt Juster, correspondence from Zurich. [Aufbau] Issue of 22nd February 1950. Return
  3. From the Archives of The Western Institute of Poznań [Instytut Zachodni]. For the full source, (see Pt. IV; Appendix IV). Return
  4. Pravda, No. 307, 23 December 1944. Return
  5. “Memoirs of Irena Schajowitz”, in the book Machanot [Camps] edited by N. Blumenthal. Return
  6. Michał M. Borwicz, Uniwersytet zbirów [University of Thugs, 1946]. p. 38. Return
  7. Vladimir [Pavlovich] Belayev, in his articles “And it Happened in Lwów” that appeared in [the newspaper] Czerwony Sztandar No. 54., Lwów 25.10.1944. Return
  8. Evidence obtained from General and SS commander [Erich Julius Eberhard] von [dem] Bach-Zelewski, at Nürnberg/Nuremberg; document No. 313 of the Russian prosecutor. Return

[Pages 713-714]

Chapter 25. Life at Janowska Camp

During the years 1942-1943, the area of Janowska camp increased several times, so that it eventually encompassed 2-3 square kilometres. It was first enlarged in March 1942, during the first Grossaktion in Lwów. From then onwards, construction continued apace throughout the entire summer until the Aktion of August 1942. The construction was overseen by Griffel, a lecturer at Lwów Polytechnic and a distinguished scientist in his field, who was later murdered by the Nazis.

All of the camp huts were constructed in timber, each forming an elongated rectangle that contained four ledges, one above the other. The huts were infected and dirty; they did not have stoves and so were freezing cold during winter. There were no toilets in these huts. In the entire camp there was one toilet with 12 seats (later on, 40 seats), and a single bathing facility. It was only permitted to use these facilities during the morning and evening break-time, which led to an unbearable congestion. The huts where the prisoners slept were locked up from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., and it was strictly forbidden to leave them even to use the toilet. Some huts did not even contain a chamber-pot, and when they did, it was filled in no time and the air reeked unbearably. Every hut had a shower made up of two troughs connected to a water pipe.

Worse than the housing bane was the hunger bane. The main food was bread. The official daily portion was an eighth of a loaf of bread which amounted to 150-160 gm. daily (1,300 kg. a loaf), however those in charge of the bread distribution knew how to remove slices even from that meagre portion. The bread was fresh and tacky, made of poor ingredients, and when sliced, it crumbled. There were instances when a prisoner received at most 100 gm. bread per day. In the morning the prisoners received a coffee-substitute, the midday meal was a bowl of soup, in fact water in which floated cabbage leaves, some groats, and on rare occasions a bone or a piece of poor quality meat. At times, however, the soup was so bad, that even the hungry prisoners would not eat it. In the winter of 1942, the soup was made of frozen potatoes that were placed on a rubbish heap, where the German police habitually urinated. The soup which was made from these unwashed and unpeeled potatoes had such disgusting odour that most prisoners refused it. On another occasion the soup was made from a horse's carcass, and most of the prisoners who tasted it fell ill and some even died.

The wives, mothers and daughters of the prisoners secretly tried to bring food to their relatives. They stood for hours in front of the camp gates, or near the barbed wire, waiting for an opportunity to hand something to their relative, to an acquaintance or to a bribed policeman. Such standing around the camp was very dangerous, as the police beat the waiting women, rebuffed them and at times even murdered them. in 1943, when every Jew, including women and children, was a candidate for murder, all of the standing near the camp stopped.

The Jewish Council tried to send official deliveries of food rations to the prisoners. In exchange for very costly presents to [Fritz Gotthard] Gebauer and his wife, a permit was eventually granted to send rations to the prisoners, twice a week. This, however, also failed since the rations were not given directly to the prisoners, but rather to the central camp office where the SS men in charge of distributing the deliveries stole the best portions, on the SS confiscated them as punishment for some “misdemeanour,” at times throwing them to the dogs in front of the starving prisoners.

A food black-market developed in the camp. The “goods” were supplied by the police and by the labourers in charge of the kitchen, the bread distribution, the storeroom and of the food parcels from the families. The labourers working outside the camp, brought in a considerable quantity of the goods. There were always a number of Polish and Ukrainian prisoners in the camp (the Poles had a red patch on their clothes, the Ukrainians a blue one, to distinguish them from the Jews' yellow patch). They were not life prisoners, and when the period of their incarceration was over, they were free to leave. They were freer than the Jews during their time in the camp . They went out for outside work and were permitted to meet their relatives. The Christian prisoners acted as mediators in the black-market. However many Jews from among the labourers and external-brigades also engaged in this trade. The Jewish work-companies which left for town, worked on the easterly and westerly railway tracks,

[Pages 715-716]

(Ost brigade and West brigade), at the “Institute for the town's cleanliness” (Reinigungskommando), in the factories and at the different military institutions where they negotiated with the town's Christians, and paid in silver, gold, dollars and jewels for food and medicine which they brought back to the camp. The black-market prices were very high. The black-market was particularly active in the toilet, because it was not as strictly supervised by the police as were other areas.

The black-market was a sort of self-preservation for the prisoners, countering the SS's plot to starve the Jews to death. This type of self-protection was also formed in other camps, and throughout all countries which the Nazis had occupied, but it could not breach the overall hunger. The development of this “new economic regime” gave rise to the principle of the bowl turned upside-down. A new “middle-class” thus emerged, opposite to the one which had formed the pre-war Jewish society. The “new social order” in the camp was made up of the black-market traders, the “forceful,” expert labourers among the outside work-battalions, and a few “rich men” of days gone bye, who had managed to retain their remaining wealth in the form of gold, dollars and jewels. On the other hand, a new proletariat was formed, made up of the people unable to adjust to the new state of affairs, including most of those with free professions, and clerks. Whereas the new middle-class knew how to benefit from every strange situation in the forced labour-camp, the camp's proletariat, that constituted the majority of the prisoners, starved and soon perished.

The sanitary conditions in the camp led to many diseases. Not only were the huts filthy and riddled with lice, but the prisoners' way of life was purposefully structured to deplete their health. At first there was no washhouse in the camp, and once one was constructed, Gebauer forbade its use for a long time, under the pretext that its construction was not finished at the designated time. The use of soap was completely forbidden (a product only available on the black-market), nevertheless, yet Gebauer insisted that the prisoners ensure their bodies were clean, and he conducted inspections from time to time. One day in the depth of winter Gebauer held such an inspection in a temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius. The prisoners were made to stand naked in the camp yard during the entire inspection. Gebauer eventually picked five prisoners and ordered that they be punished for their lack of cleanliness. The wretched prisoners were drowned in water-filled barrels and they froze to death.

At times, the prisoners were sent to the washhouse on Balonowa Street, which was equipped to remove lice, but it was a small washhouse that could only hold between 100 and 150 people, at a time. Later, battalions of prisoners were fortnightly sent to the washhouse on Szpitalna Street. The wash served as a novel opportunity for the police to abuse the prisoners. They beat the prisoners for the slightest thing that displeased them, and regularly the prisoners left behind in the washhouse, were victims to the beatings and shooting or to broken limbs.

These dreadful conditions led to the spread of different diseases, especially infectious diseases. The highly infectious and endangering typhus, spread in particular during September-November 1942. In those days, according to the testimony of the physician Dr. Edgard Zwilling, typhus claimed some 50 people, daily.[24]

The principal remedy which the Germans provided for the dangerously sick, was to murder them by shooting. Alternatively, the Germans removed the very sick to the area beyond the barbed wire, a no-man's-land, where they were left to starve. The sick consequently tried hard to hide their condition, and they went to work while the fever consumed them. Such patients managed at times, with help from their friends, to hide their condition from the police, and they managed to recover, nevertheless. After great efforts and much bribery, the Jewish Council and the community's assistance committee for camp prisoners managed to get permission, from the camp authorities, to move the seriously sick to the community hospital in the ghetto. The principal physician, Dr. Maksymiljan Kurzrock, organised a separate ward for these patients and tended to them with great devotion. The situation did not last long, however. After the Grossaktionen at the end of 1942, the community hospital was liquidated and the Germans organised a “hospital” at the camp. The facilities at the medical clinics were primitive. An unheated hut made of planks and with no medical equipments or sanitary assistance, was allotted to the hospital. Twice a month the SS policemen, Brumbauer, and Birmann, burst into the hospital to conduct a roll-call of the patients. During the check they picked the most severely sick, and murdered them. As far as possible, the sick avoided that dangerous place

[Pages 717-718]

that was termed “the hospital.” The medical supervision at the hospital was handled by M. Kurzrock and later by Dr. Z. Rappaport.

To expose the sick and the exhausted who were hiding, the police conducted a weekly check in the form or a race. The prisoners were ordered to run at great speed from gate to gate across the camp, in an orderly fashion, in rows. Whoever stumbled or lagged behind in this death-race, thus indicating his weakness, was sentenced to death. An “advanced” form of the death-race was known as the “vitamins-race,” probably an invention of Willhaus. “Vitamins” was a mocking term for three types of heavy loads, logs (bali in Polish, known as “vitamin B”), bricks (cegly in Polish, known as “vitamin C”) and planks (deski in Polish, known as “vitamin D”). After a full day's labour of 10-12 hours, the prisoners were ordered to do additional work, to carry on their backs logs, bricks and planks, from Kleparów railway station to the camp. This laborious task had to be performed in running. The menacing race, was deeply imprinted on the heart of the prisoners, and in their memoirs several of the survivors provided horrific descriptions of the “vitamin races.”[25]

The following is a description from M[ichal] Borwicz's book:

“The camp's SS police, the Askaris and the Jewish policemen created an avenue on both sides of the road that led from the camp's gate to the railway station. The road was highly lit, the prisoners walked in rows in the avenue, one following one another. A five-men row following the next five-men row of prisoners, one brigade after the other, one hundred after a hundred, one thousand after a thousand…

“All of them, after a full day's hard labour. The legs already heavy as lead one had to march swiftly, because the pace of the march was set by the police and the guns in the hands of SS men, and by the riffle butts held by the Askaris. When the order rang out “race” (Laufschritt), it was not enough to simply run, one had to ensure to maintain the line during the run and the excitement. Behind the railway station, one had to descend the incline to the railway bridge that was a few tens of meter. Here, one quickly had to take the load and return with the freight without delay. The SS men stood above with riffle butts in their hands, ready to shoot, and whips raised in the air, urging us to hurry with their wild shouts, kicks, beatings, shots in the air and shots into the crowded prisoners, thus increasing the confusion with their actions. They loaded the freight without mercy. A weight that under normal situation required at least five men, they loaded at times on two sick, exhausted men. Most of those who fell when transporting the load, never rose again… Those who could bear no more were removed from the line and taken “beyond the barbed wire”… where they were left through the night. In the morning, their half frozen bodies were thrown into the lorries and taken “to the Sands” to be annihilated. On one occasion, after a “vitamins-race” that lasted from 6 p.m. until midnight, 130 men were moved “to the Sands”.”

The way of life in the camp was configured to hasten the progress of annihilation. To crush any thought of resistance or revolt, and to instil the fear of death in the prisoners, the Germans used cruel terror and spectacle punishments. The punishment at the camp excelled in sadism and savagery. These were mostly carried out in the death-yard. There, the SS men executed all kinds of strange punishments. One of the regular punishments was hanging, but even the hanging was unusual. The “criminal” was hanged with his legs and hands tied by ropes, with his head hanging down. Such hanging led to a protracted death of terrible agony. The women were hanged in the “normal” way, but they were hanged by their hair. Another punishment was one where the stripped naked “criminal” was wrapped in cylinders of barbed-wire, and left outdoors for a few days. For every unfortunate “offence,” the Germans beat them 50 to 200 times, and sometimes till death. This punishment was foreseen in cases of escape. The caught escapee was murdered under severe torture, in addition, the rest of the brigade-members were also punished. One Jew escaped from the labour-brigade, and immediately twenty men from the brigade were murdered by shooting.

Among the camp's hangmen were “experts” who excelled at special ways of punishment. One of worst among them was Gebauer. He greatly enjoyed suffocations. With all his force, he tightened the sweater to the victim's neck, until he choked… Another of Gebauer's punishments was the “wash in the barrel of water” as previously mentioned. Another gruesome story about him tells of a man caught stealing a few potatoes. Gebauer made up a special punishment, he ordered to throw the man into a boiling cauldron full of stew, so that the man will be able to enjoy his potatoes straight from the casserole.”[26]

[Pages 719-720]

It was said about the young SS man [Friedrich] Heinen, that he had two ways to murder or to punish prisoners. He stabbed them with a sharp stake (a wooden pole or steel rod), and pulled out women's fingernails.

The policemen developed the custom of murdering people into a pleasurable habit, so that eventually they murdered people for no reason at all, purely for the pleasure and sport. According to recollections of prisoners, bizarre sports were particularly practiced by Gustav Willhaus's family. Gustav Willhaus habitually amused himself by shooting at live targets. Without prior warning he used to shoot into the crowd of prisoners queuing near the kitchen or the bathhouse, murdering and wounding many of them. His wife, Otilia, also had a pistol. When the Willhauses happened to have visitors, and they sat on the spacious balcony of their magnificent house, facing the camp, Otilia was in the habit of showing the visitors her prowess as a shot. She aimed at the live targets, and hit some of them to the delight of the visitors. Heineke, the young daughter of the Willhauses, greatly admired her parents' skill and clapped her hands in awe at the sight. This event was also mentioned by some of the writers. They also recalled a Nazi toddler, the son of one of the policemen, who frequently stood at the camp-gate and threw stones at the heads of those leaving for work, badly wounding them.

The policemen abused the prisoners by mockery and jest. Once, two old bearded men with side locks were brought to the camp, one a rabbi the other a slaughterer [Shochet]. (There is conflicting information about the origin of the two. They were probably brought from Jaworów after the second Aktion which took place there in March 1943). The SS men forced them to daily step onto a raised stage in the camp and dance while holding umbrellas in their hands. (According to the testimonies of Izak Lewin, Farber and of Gerszon Taffet, the policemen held also competitions in murdering Jewish children without any weapons, chopping them in half, crushing their heads, etc.). Every exceptional event triggered novel acts of cruelty by the SS men. On 20th April 1943, Hitler's birthday, Willhaus picked 54 imprisoned Jews and murdered them by shooting, in honour of the Führer [leader]. On 25th July 1943, the day Mussolini was forced to give up his position as ruler of Italy, a dreadful event happened in the camp. An SS man blamed a Jew who passed him, for slighting him. The Jew argued that he had greeted the SS man according to the custom and courtesy of the camp, but the policeman insisted that he sensed a covert mockery and gloating at Mussolini, in the Jew's greeting. The policemen decided to take revenge on the Jew. They hanged him upside down, cut off his genitals put it in his mouth and kicked him incessantly leading to haemorrhage in his head and he died suffering gruesomely. This act of cruelty was perpetrated by the policemen Brumbauer and Bermann.[27]

There was at Janowska camp a Jewish orchestra that included such renowned players as Jakub Mund, Józef Herman, Edward Steinberger, Schatz and others, directed by Leon Striks. The orchestra was created on the initiative of SS officer Richard Rokita. This “music fanatic,” with an excellent pitch, listened to the playing and when he heard an off note he attacked the orchestra and murdered, by shooting, the player who dared spoil the tonal harmony. On Rokita's initiative a special tune, “Tango of Death,” was composed, probably by the composer Schatz. “Tango of Death” was frequently played, especially when work battalions left the camp for work, or when selected groups left “to the Sands”.

Besides frequent “selections” and the mentioned methods of murdering, mass slaughters also took place in the camp. One of the last Grossaktionen took place in mid-May 1943, when several thousands of prisoners were murdered (eyewitnesses give very conflicting estimates, from 2,000 to 6,000 people).

[Pages 721-722]

Chapter 26. Underground Operations and Uprising Attempts in the camp

All the severe tortures, the physical and mental sufferings which the prisoners underwent in the camp had a single purpose, to eradicate any sense of humanity in them, to reduce them to the level of beasts-for-slaughter (dehumanisation). The SS mens' inequity led however to different outcomes from those they had hoped for. In fact, their impropriety converted the SS men themselves, turning the perpetrators of dehumanisation into wild animals, instead. The target they had set in respect of the prisoners, had not been achieved. There were prisoners in the camp who maintained their human spark, affirmed by the many acts of solidarity, amicable assistance and brotherly love described in accounts of the survivors. Other evidence was the cultural activities and the preparations for armed resistance set up in the camp.

The camp underground operation struggled and was intermittent, as at each attempt many of the leaders died or were murdered. Consequently, no complete depiction of the movement is available, butt only fragments preserved by the few who succeeded in escaping the Valley of Death. We know of a self-help which was organised during 1942, led by: Richard Axer (son of the renowned prosecutor), a young man with a sensitive disposition and spirit, and Jakubowicz. Another group operated at the D.A.W. section of the camp, which was organised by the journalist Dawid Frankel, a young leader of HaShomer HaTzair, Abraham Warman (“Bronek”) and others. The self-help prepared the ground for armed resistance, and meanwhile it assisted individuals to escape from the camp. It provided clothes for the escapees, found them shelters and hiding places in town, false papers, etc. A very important area of operation in the camp was also the assistance to the sick and the hungry, which was mainly led the physicians Dr. Boris Feliskin, Dr. Lust, S. Kohn, M. Osman and H. Birnbaum.

A covert literary activity also took place in the camp. Thus, for instance, a singing party was secretly organised by the author, Schlachter, held on 31st December 1941. This was probably the first party at the camp. During 1942-1943, a string of “literary parties” were organised by members of “the company to clean the town,” M. Borwicz (Boruchowicz), Leon Birnbaum, W. Osman, with the participation of Benzion Ginsberg, and Dr. Feliskin. The texts read in these parties were copied in the camp offices by the Jewish clerks, members of the underground, and the copies were distributed among the prisoners. Some writers continued with their literary writings while in the camp. While the writings of Jerachmiel Grin [Grün], Zygmunt Schorr and others were lost, the poem by Halina Grin [Grün] was preserved, as were a few “folk” songs. Many of the camp prisoners kept records and diaries. Most of those were unfortunately lost. Of those that were preserved and published after the war, one need mention M. Borwicz (previously Maksymilian Boruchowicz), who published two books based on his memories of his days at Janowska camp: “University of Thugs” [Uniwersytet zbirów] and the “Literature in the camp” [Literatura w obozie]. He also wrote poems, two of which were published during the war, in 1944, by the Jewish underground in Warsaw, in the pamphlet Z otchlani [From the Abyss], and which later made part of his anthology of poems Ze smiercia na Ty [“Face to face with Death”]. Janina Hescheles (the daughter of the editor Henryk Hescheles), wrote a memoir entitled “Through the Eyes of a Twelve-year-old Girl” [Oczyma dwunastoletniej dziewczyny]; and Leon Weliczker wrote the book “Death Brigade” [Brygada Smierci].

There were different instances of individual resistance in the camp, and besides those recalled by the survivors, there presumably were also those cases that were not written down and are lost forever. The stage is too short to mention all the instances mentioned in the memoirs (compare: memoirs of Borwicz, Szaiawitc, Farber, Lewin, Maltiel [-Gerstenfeld], Weliczker and others. Many incidents were also mentioned in witnesses' testimonials, kept in archives). Here we have to limit ourselves to three typical images:

Once, for no reason at all, SS man Büttner, cold heartedly and with cruel expression, attacked an elderly Jew in the washhouse, systematically beating him. The Jew fell but did not plead with the murderer who continued to beat him. Instead, the old man raised his head every so often and screamed: “Nevertheless, Hitler will not win!” and with these words on his lips he departed this world.

Rokita stood one day and watched Jews who carried bricks. With the whip in his hand, he hit from time to time.

[Pages 723-724]

His attention and his whip were particularly focused on a rural Jew, who was no longer young but was full-figured and sturdy. Several times Rokita aimed his rifle at him and eventually started to beat him. The Jew stopped his work and began to throw bricks at the SS General. While throwing the bricks he shouted: “Ha, go to the bricks. Let's see how you carry bricks!” Rokita was so dumbfounded by this sudden reaction that he turned on his heels and began to run. He soon recovered, however, turned to the Jew and shot him dead.

On a different occasion, Willhaus abused a young Jew, Schajowitz, pushing him to the limit of endurance. Schajowitz then verbally abused the SS and eventually jumped on Willhaus and slapped his face. This slap drove Willhaus wild, so that he jumped and shot the Jew, but as soon as he did so, he regretted the easy death he had meted out and started to kick the murdered body.

At the camp there were several attempts to organise armed resistance. On different occasions the prisoners bought weapons, knives and guns in particular, and smuggled them into the camp. In summer 1943, the camp's kitchen turned into a meeting place for the underground. Here it was possible to negotiate –assisted by the kitchen men associated with the underground– with men from the town who supplied food to the camp. In the kitchen, meetings were also very carefully organised between the author Sanie Friedman, who at the time numbered among the camp's Jewish police, and a group of youths who planned a revolt. The meetings and planning did not lead to any action, however. There were occasions when prisoner groups resisted the policemen who led them to “the Sands.” Rumours spread in town about an armed revolt near Strzelecki Square, led by prisoners transported in a lorry. Groups of camp-prisoners made several attempts to escape to the forests in the vicinity of the town, and some of them succeeded in implementing their plans with the assistance of the Askaris. A lorry once left the camp, filled with Jewish prisoners and their policeman –Askari– armed with an automatic gun. There probably was a secret agreement between the Askari and the Jews, and the lorry disappeared with all its passengers. Small groups occasionally disappeared, fleeing into the forest where they tried to form partisan units or join the partisans active in the forests. In most cases the runaways died in the forest or fell into the hands of the police or the Ukrainian partisans who murdered them. Nevertheless, such attempts occurred time and again. Among the Jews who escaped to the forest and tried to establish patriotic units there, was a Jew named Czermak, who returned to the camp several times from the forest and smuggled out a few people each time, until he was reported to Nazi police. Czermak was executed together with his assistant, Dr. Zimmet. Still, the underground operation did not stop. The Ukrainian policemen (Askaris) who began to track down the secret organisation, were killed by members of the underground (Memoirs of Irena Schajowitz). Other groups attempted also to escape and revolt (recollections of Dr. Dawid Kahane and Michal Borwicz). It seems that there were underground groups that operated in different areas of the camp and at different times, without a joined up, centralised organisation. Many of these attempts were quashed when still in the bud. Significant was the attempt to prepare for the November 1943 revolt. The preparation for this revolt was mentioned by several authors, however the preserved records offer conflicting details and we do not have a full and reliable description of events. From the various versions one can derive that the Germans had uncovered the preparations and decided to precede their execution, by liquidating Janowska camp. The liquidation was set for November 1943. Although the underground was not prepared for the sudden Aktion, when it happened it was confronted with an armed resistance and several prisoners successfully escaped to the forests. According to one version, a group of Jewish prisoners reached an agreement with a group of rebelling Askaris. A few days before the liquidation of the camp, they murdered a few German policemen and escaped to the forest.

Concurrently, a revolt broke out by a Jewish brigade that operated at Lesienice camp. In mid-June 1943, the Germans assembled a brigade from among Janowska camp prisoners, known as the “Brigade of Death.” At the same time, the Germans started to eliminate all trace of the horrific slaughters they had perpetrated. A special German battalion (Sonderkommando 1005) was created, tasked with collecting the murdered corpses from all the slaughtering-areas near the ghettos and camps, and burn them without leaving a trace. The officers of the Sonderkommando 1005 also assembled a “Brigade of Death,” in which 150 men from the camp were engaged. The Jewish prisoners plotted revolt, and on 19th November 1943 they suddenly attacked the German policemen, killed some of them and started to escape from the barbed wire surrounded camp. The sudden attack was not wholly successful. In several places the police were not surprised and responded with shots and grenades. Nevertheless, a few tens of prisoners managed to escape and hide in the forests and in the town. Most of them were captured and murdered a short time later. Fewer than ten persons survived.

After all the Jewish camp prisoners were slaughtered,

[Pages 725-726]

Janowska camp still served as a forced-labour camp, and a detention camp for non-Jewish criminals. It held a few hundred Polish, Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche. In 1944, the Germans reintroduced a small group of Jewish labourers and craftsmen. They were mostly Jews caught in the Aryan side of town, whose death-sentences the Germans altered to incarceration in the camp, because they required tailors, shoemakers, tanners, electricians, gardeners, laundrymen, etc. During the Soviet air attack on Lwów in April 1944, there was a great commotion at the camp, and 15 of the prisoners took advantage of the situation and escaped. The Germans moved the rest to a safer place, but in the turmoil during the transport several Jews managed to escape and hide in the vicinity of Dobromil [Dobrómyl] and Grybów in western Galicia. The Germans continued to burn the victims even after the liquidation of Janowska camp and the “Brigade of Death.” They concluded this task in January 1944.

[Pages 727-728]

Chapter 27. The Survivors

During 26-29 July 1944, the Soviet army liberated the town of Lwów from German occupation. Immediately after the liberation a Jewish Committee, housed in a small hall on Jablonowskich Street, was spontaneously formed and it started to register the surviving Jews. Not all Jews dared openly declare their Jewishness. Some of the Christian townspeople did not take kindly to the Jewish survivors. There were even cases of Jews murdered by members of the nationalist Polish or Ukrainian underground. That was the fate of Dr. Bartfeld, the teacher of religion who was murdered after he had come out of hiding.

The Jewish survivors fell into three categories:

  1. The first category was formed by those who had disguised themselves, who had false documents. Many of these never divulged their identity even after the liberation. Among them were also Jewish children who were taken in by Christian families during the Nazi period, and who for several reasons never rejoined the Jewish community and the Jewish faith. At times the Christian families were so attached to the children that they did not wish to part from them, and at times children found out that their parents and families had perished, and that they had no one.
  2. The second category was formed by the “forest people” who emerged from hiding in the forests, or from roaming the land with the partisans, most of whom remained naked destitute.
  3. The third category, colloquially known as “mice,” had hidden in caves, ducts, ditches and bunkers, and when they emerged they were weak and exhausted from lack of movement and lack of fresh air in their hiding places. Their legs staggered and their eyesight was faint, their faces were pale and their bodies swollen.

Besides the Jews previously from Lwów, Jewish survivors from provincial towns also chose to settle in Lwów rather than return to their homes, whether because they felt more isolated and lonely in their small towns where everything would remind them of the destruction from which they sought refuge in the large, remote town; or whether because they felt greater personal security in a large community.

Indeed, Lwów remained the only “large” [Jewish] community in eastern Galicia. While Jewish survivors in other towns reached at most a few hundred individuals (as at Boryslaw, Drohobycz, Stanislawów, Tluste), the Jewish population of Lwów numbered a few thousands.

Lwów's Jewish population-count does not truly reflect the number of the Jewish survivors from Lwów proper. Of the survivors who registered with Lwów's Jewish Committee and who settled at Lwów after the liberation, the overwhelming majority were Jews from provincial towns. The Jewish Committee on Jablonowskich Street had no technical means nor experts to undertake a reliable census. Up to 21st September 1944, around 3,400 Jews had registered at the committee office. While the value of this list is questionable, because it was impossible to collect and critically scrutinise all the data in those days, nevertheless, it is the sole source from those days. For this reason, we present here the statistical details (we received the statistics from members of Lwów's Jewish Committee at the end of September 1944). The 3,400 Jews were made up of:

 

Women aged 20 - 60 2080
Men aged 18 - 55 1215
The aged over 55 20
Children & youths up to 18 85

 

60% of those who registered, recorded their occupation before the war as craftspeople, traders and clerks. Of these, 15% were professionals, teachers and artists. Among the surviving professional intelligentsia the precise numbers were: 32 physicians, 8 dentists, 42 advocates, 27 engineers, 16 teachers and 9 actors.

The Jewish committee also began to organise assistance for the survivors. The support given by the town authorities, together with the financials means available to the committee (donations of wealthy Jews), were very meagre, and the aid provided up to 21st September 1944, consisted of: 13,000 lunches; 8,000 loafs of bread; 20,000 Rubles in cash, and a small quantity of lightweight clothes.

Subsequently, a new local Jewish committee was formed, managed by experienced public activists (the committee was led by Dr. Dawid Sobel for several months). The town's authorities offered to the new committee the only synagogue still extant after the Nazis' departure. It was the synagogue on

[Pages 729-730]

Weglana Street, which the Germans had tuned into a warehouse and stable, and was not suited for an office. Nevertheless, the temporary offices of the Jewish committee were moved there, where prayers were also held during the Holy days. In November 1944, the [Jewish] committee conducted a new count, and registered 2,571 Jews, including 134 children between the ages of three and sixteen. It appears that many of those who registered at Lwów in the first days after the liberation stayed only temporarily in the town, on their way to Poland. A more thorough investigation by the committee showed that among the survivors only 823 were Jews who were born in Lwów or resided in the town at the time the German invasion. These figures were given to us by Dr. Dawid Sobel, head of the Jewish committee. The Jewish committee was not officially sanctioned by the Soviet authorities who did not want to legitimise a religious community. The authorities only tolerated the committee in the early months, after which the committee resigned. The departure of Jews from Lwów continued. (Following the accord between the Soviet Union and the Polish Republic, the residents of Lwów could choose between a Soviet-Ukrainian citizenship and a Polish citizenship. Lwów was annexed to Soviet Ukraine). The majority of the Jews opted for Polish citizenship and left Lwów. The repatriation to Poland lasted from October 1944 until the end of 1945. Those leaving Lwów practically cleared it of its Jewish residents. Lwów's [Jewish] survivors wandered to various towns in Poland (Warsaw, Lódz, Kraków and others), from there to the displaced-persons camps in Germany, Austria and Italy, and finally to Israel and to countries in the Americas.

Original notes:

  1. Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute at Warsaw, No. 858. Return
  2. [Izak] Lewin, [Aliti MeSpezia], pp. 139-140;
    [Isaac] Farber [“Cronika Shel Ish Lwów…” Reshimot], p. 24;
    [Michał] Borwicz, Uniwersytet zbirów [University of Thugs], Kraków 1946, pp. 34-35. Return
  3. Three survivors of Lwów's camp mention this incident in their testimonies:
    [Isaac] Farber, op.cit. p. 24
    [Irene] Szajowicz, p. 44
    [Michał] Borwicz, op.cit. p. 58. Return
  4. I was told this event by eyewitnesses, a few days after the event (P. F.) Return

[Pages 731-732]

Chapter 28. References

The author of this article resided at Lwów during the entire Nazi occupation, from 1941 until July 1944, and after the liberation, until November 1944. In addition to the material he personally collected through daily experience and conversation with many people during the period of the Nazis and after their departure from Lwów, he also used the following sources:

  1. The daily German Newspaper: Lemberger Zeitung, 1941-1944.
  2. The daily Polish Newspaper: Gazeta Lwowska.
  3. The daily Newspapers in Ukrainian: Ukraïns'ki Shchodenni Visti from 1941; and Levovski Visti.
  4. Verordnungsblatt für das Generalgouvernement 1941-1944.
  5. Amtsblatt des Gouverneurs des Distrikts Galizien, for the years 1941-1944, the official magazine of the German authorities.
  6. Official manuscripts of the German authorities:
    Die Bevölkerung des Distrikts Galizien am 1. März 1943 (manuscript [about the Population of Distrikt Galicia] in German and Ukrainian);
    Die Landwirtschaft des Distrikts Galizien nach der Lage am 1. Juli 1943 (manuscript in German).
    (All the manuscripts are kept at the Archives of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; Department of Economics; Lwów.
    The newspapers and magazines are kept at the Political Archives on Podwale Street; and at the Library of the University of Lwów.)
  7. Reports of the Extraordinary State (Soviet) Commission for the Establishment and Investigation of the Atrocities of the German-Fascist Invaders and their Accomplices:
    Testimonies of the atrocities perpetrated by the German criminals in the District of Lwów. Pravda, and Izvestia, 23rd December 1944.
  8. Manuscripts of the testimonies and memoirs of 25 Jewish survivors, collected by the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, and by its branches at Łódź, Kraków, Warszawa, Lublin, Przemyśl (The Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute at Warsaw.)
  9. Manuscripts of 21 testimonies collected by The Central Historical Commission in Munich (nowadays in Israel).
  10. Manuscripts of 24 testimonies by eye-witneses about the Holocaust period in Lwów, kept at archive of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.
  11. Very important documents –amongst them the report by [Fritz] Katzmann – are kept in the protocols of the International Criminal Court of War Criminals. The most complete existing edition is the American edition:
Trial of major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal Nuremberg, Nov. 14, 1945- Oct. 1, 1946. Nuremberg, Germany, 1947 (Washington D.C. Superintendent of Documents. U.S. Government). 42 Vols.

[Pages 733-734]

Bibliography:

Hebrew and Yiddish

  1. Unger, Israel [Eliezer]: Zechor [Remember] (In the days of Death Wagons). Massada, Tel Aviv (5705) 1944/5.
  2. Gutwirth, Jisroel: Articles in Jidisze Cajtung, Landsberg [am Lech] Nr. 36 (16 Mai 1947); Ibergang [Organ fun Pojliszn Jidntum in Dajczland; München], Nr. 16 (30 März 1947).
  3. Gruss Noé [Gris, Noah]: Kindermartyrologie [Zamlung fun Dokumentn Yiddish Bikher-serie dos Poylishe Yidntum], Buenos Aires 1947; pp. 101-102; 141-145; 186-194; 220-221.
  4. Weissbrod, Abraham [Avrum]: “Ven die Ert kukt mit roiten Oygen [When the World looks on with Red Eyes]” Oyf di Vanderungen, München 1947, pp. 51-59.
  5. Zaderecki, Tadeusz: Articles in Dos Naje Łebn Łódz Nr. 289; 338 . (1949).
  6. Yudka: “Beterem Niftecha HaRa'a [Before the Evil broke out]” MiBifnim, June 1947, pp. 457-469.
  7. Lewin, Izak: Aliti MeSpezia -Oud Muzal MeGhetto Lwów [I migrated to Israel from Spezia -An Ember retrieved from Lwów's Ghetto]. Translated by Dov Struck from the Polish manuscript. (Sadan) Tel-Aviv, Am Oved, 1947.
  8. Mayer, Szlojme: Der Untergang fun Zloczów Munich, 1947.
  9. Maltiel [-Gerstenfeld], Jacob: Be'ain Nakam… [Without Revenge…], Te-Aviv, Am Oved, 1947.
  10. Niger, Schmuel: Kidush HaShem [Martyrdom], New York, Cyco, 1948, pp. 317-333.
  11. Fuks, Tanja: A Wanderung iber okupierte Gebitn [(Dos Poylishe Yidntum); A wander over occupied territories]. Buenos Aires, 1947, pp. 49-107.
  12. Farber, Isaac: “Cronika Shel Ish Lwów- Yesurei Kehila BeYemei Kibush HaNazim” [Chronicle of a Lwów Man- A community's sufferings during the Nazi occupation], Reshimot, New Series, Vol.1, [Tel-Aviv] (1946), pp. 33-5.
  13. “Pletat Sridim [Surviving Remains].” From Lwów via the Ukrainian front to Eretz Israel, Reshimot, New Series, Vol.2, pp. 48-59.
  14. Friedman, Filip: “Megilat Lwów [Lwów's Scroll]” Tav Shin Hay [5705; 1945] Tel-Aviv, Davar. 1945, pp. 220-233.
  15. Dr. Reifer, Manfred: Masa HaMavet [The Death Trek], Tel-Aviv, Am Oved, 1946, pp. 92-105.
  16. Schnek, Fela: “Ech Hushmedu Yehudei Lwów [How the Jews of Lwów were annihilated]” Davar [Newspaper], Tel-Aviv, 5 November, 1946.

Other Languages

  1. Belayev, Vladimir Czerwony Sztandar [Red Banner; a Polish language daily newspaper], Lwów, 25.10.1944.
    Vilna Ukraina [Ukrainian language newspaper] Lwów, 28.9.1944.
    Ogoniok [Sparks; Russian Illustrated weekly magazine] Moscow Nos. 14, 15, 17, 1945.
  2. Blumental, Nachman: Obozy (Dokumenty i Materiały [a czasów okupacji niemieckiej w polsce] vol.1).
  3. Borwicz, Michał: Uniwersytet zbirów, [Rzecz o obozie Janowskim we Lwowie 1941–1944 (wspomnienia)] Kraków, 1946.
  4. Borwicz, [Maksymilian] Michał: Literatura w obozie, Kraków, 1946.
  5. Borwicz, [Maksymilian] Michał: Ze śmiercią na ty, Warszawa, 1946.
  6. Borwicz, Michał; Rost, Nella; Wulf, Józef: Dokumenty Zbrodni i Męczenstwa [; Ksiazki Wojewodzkiej Komosji Historycznej W Krakowie Nr 1], Kraków 1946, pp. 122-131; 171-173.
  7. Broszkiewicz, Jerzy: Oczekiwanie, Warszawa, 1948.
  8. Eber-Friedman, Ada: “Z galerii moich Zyciodacow” Nasza Trybuna, New York Nos. 109-118; 1945, 1950.
  9. Friedman, Filip: Zagłada Żydów lwowskich, I ed. Łódz, 1945; II ed. Munich 1947.
  10. Heszeles, Janka [Hescheles, Janina]: Oczyma 12-letniej dziewczyny, Kraków 1946.
  11. Reder, Rudolf: Bełżec, Kraków 1946.
  12. Silberschein, A[braham] Dr.: Lwów-Śniatyn-Sandomierz: L'Extermination des Juifs en Pologne, Serie 5. Genève 1945.
  13. Śledziński, Wacław: Swastyka nad Warszawą. Edinburg, 1944, p. 104.
  14. Sobieski, Zygmunt: “Reminiscences from Lwów” Journal of Central European Affairs, Vol. 6, 1947, pp. 351-374.
  15. Szende, Stefan: Den siste juden från Polen. Stockholm, 1944;
    Der letzte Jude aus Polen. Zürich, 1945.
  16. Taffet, Gerszon: Zagłada Zydów żółkiewskich. Łódz, 1946.
  17. Weinberg, Józef: Tam gdzie śmierć była ulgą. Katowice, 1946.
  18. Weliczker, Leon: Brygada śmierci (Sonderkommando 1005), Łódz, 1946.
  19. Zaderecki, Tadeusz: Opinia Łódź-Warszawa No. 11, 12, 13, (1947).
  20. Zvirstva Nimtziv na Lvovshchini [The atrocities of the Germans in the Lwów region; in Russian]. Lwów, 1945.

 

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