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[Page 798]

Memories and Testimony

Medical and Social Assistance
in the Sandz Ghetto

by Shlomo Wolf

Translated by Chana Saadia

Edited by Renee Miller

As the sole survivor of the medical service in the Sandz ghetto, I allow myself to write down the details, or more accurately, to make a short survey of the activities of the people of the medical service during the time of the Nazis in our city. I am not a person of literary ability, and I will try to the best of my ability to give here details of our everyday life in a clear and simple form.

Medical Institutions

The ghetto in our city was divided in two. Part was from the beginning of Kazimierza (the Jewish street) until the bridge over the Kamienica River on the way to the cemetery, with its streets, and from the beginning of Lubovska Street to its end, with all the narrow alleys of the “Piekla” neighborhood. Hunger, cold, distress and illness, pollution, lack of clothing and shoes, terrible crowding in the rooms (from six to ten people in one room), lack of heating, this was the general picture of the sanitary and hygienic conditions in our ghetto.

In these conditions the medical people began their war for health. They also believed that guarding the ghetto from epidemics could prevent murders and destruction. Over the bridge on Lubovska Street the German authorities hung a large sign in German and Polish: “Beware! Danger of epidemics. Entrance to non-Jews strictly forbidden!”

The Jewish doctors knew that the outbreak of epidemics and diseases could cause great problems, and that the war to prevent disease was one of the primary things. To this end a committee met in the earliest days in the auditorium of the Jewish hospital, in order to discuss ways to improve the sanitary conditions in the ghetto.

The Hospital

The Jewish hospital which was in existence from the time of the Austrians (Israelistiches Krankenhaus Szpital Izraelicki) was on Kraszewskiego Street, in the Paszkowka district.

[Page 799]

This was the only institution in the ghetto that set as its main purpose the provision of medical assistance for the wide levels [of the population], a war against infectious diseases and maintenance of hygiene in the dark conditions of the ghetto.

A committee was founded consisting of several people, namely: Dr Shachne Holzer, Shimon Zigler, Dawid Rozenberg, and at its head was Drilich ob”m, as chairman of the hospital directorship, Haim Holzer ob”m as administrator and Fayga Shprei as secretary. Of all the Jewish doctors in our city there remained in the ghetto only the doctors: Dr. Segal, director of the hospital, Dr. Zupnik, and Dr. Kornreich and his wife the pharmacist. Later there were added two doctors from Krakow: Dr.Kaufteil and Dr. Pirovski. The only laboratory technician was Margolis, the paramedics were Sheinfeld, Rindler and the author of these lines.

A great lack was felt of medical equipment and registered nurses. First of all the administration organized an express course for nurses, directed by the doctors. The nurses, headed by Rozka Eizen as head nurse, performed their difficult tasks day and night with great responsibility, often with genuine self-sacrifice, and thanks to their actions many diseases were prevented. The nurses were mostly high-school graduates, and these are their names which deserve remembering with a blessing: Frankel, Yaffa Zimmer, Fela Wolf, the Altshiler sisters, Lola Sharlip, Einhorn, Karper, Hess, Risha Rosen, Hela Eizkowitz, Lola Green, Amsterdam, Fisch, Bader, Lola Shprei, Manya Meyer, Hela Zomer, Mailer.

Diseases in the Ghetto

A. General weakness of the body: From the earliest period of the ghetto the elderly were suddenly afflicted by this general weakness of the body, a feeling of exhaustion and loss of weight, which advanced with giant steps and in most cases ended in death. This was a consequence of the difficult life and poor nutrition. When conditions improved and the unemployed were helped – social help, soup kitchens – this condition mostly vanished.

B. Furuncles [editor's note: (boil) is a skin infection involving an entire hair follicle and the adjacent subcutaneous tissue]: In the early period [this] afflicted the ghetto residents, especially the concentrations of refugees who came to us from Zbasyn, and who lived in the synagogues and in the women's sections [of the synagogues] – furuncles and other skin diseases. Crowding and especially lack of cleanliness caused this when underwear wasn't changed for a long time.

C. Contagious diseases: cholera, paratyphus and diarrhea (dysentery). Thanks to the help of the hospital and its apparatus, these diseases were eradicated and only isolated cases were registered.

A plague of lice also caused people great suffering. In addition to all these there were cases such as urinary disturbances and intestinal illnesses.

For the provision of medical help the ghetto was divided into districts. Each district was under the supervision of a doctor and a nurse, who visited the apartments and concentrations of refugees, and who ordered that cleanliness be maintained and advised how to overcome the poor sanitary conditions.

The hospital gave free medical help in the first few months, and afterwards for a minimal fee to the Judenrat account. The doctors visited the sick at their homes too. The doctors and other medical personnel were permitted to walk the streets of the ghetto even after the curfew, but this involved actual risk of life.

[Page 800]

Despite the danger and despite explicit orders of the German authorities prohibiting medical aid to the wounded that they shot, doctors and paramedics gave medical aid in each and every case.

The labor camps in Lipie-Roznow and along the Dunajec River, where several hundred men from Nowy Sacz and the vicinity labored, were constantly supervised doctors and paramedics.

During the last period of the ghetto the hospital served as a shelter for people who escaped there hoping, as sick people, to be spared deportation in the “aktzias”. In contrast to this, there were also times when sick people left the hospital for fear that the sick were going to be exterminated, especially those sick people whose only illness was extreme physical weakness. The panic to save life continued all the time, especially before the mass “aktzias”, until that Black Sabbath of August 22, 1942, the Sabbath of the elimination of the ghetto of Nowy Sacz and its surroundings.

Minor comforts in our grey life in those times were the frequent visits of the chief surgeon of the government hospital, Dr. Stochly, to perform operations in the Jewish Hospital. Among our doctors there was not one surgeon, and we needed his help. Despite the strict prohibition for Christian doctors to give medical aid to Jews, Dr. Stochly did not refuse to perform serious operations in our hospital, under difficult medical conditions (lack of medical supplies) and at risk of his life because of “collaboration with the Jews”. Dr. Stochly is worthy of special mention in our book as one of those righteous gentiles who aided the Jews.

The medical service made a great human contribution to the community of Sandz in the conditions of the ghetto, and of the doctors and nurses it is said, “Alas for those lost, who will never be forgotten”. May their souls and the souls of all of the holy martyrs of Sandz be bound to eternal life.

Social Help [Welfare] and the Fight Against Hunger

The people in the ghetto who were forced to request partial or complete public assistance were at the beginning mainly refugees. Afterwards more and more local residents were added to them. In the ghetto there were significant social differences, to the extent of a deep chasm between two classes: the class having wealth and privilege, and the poor class.

The poor and luckless of the ghetto suffered terrible hunger, and soon were afflicted by lice and contagious diseases.

And so they became fewer and fewer. The rich in the ghetto lived a life of plenty, both as regards to food and as regards to clothing. They allowed themselves luxuries such as drink, purchase of gold coins, [and] dollars while the vast majority of the inhabitants of the ghetto found their food with great difficulty.

In order to ease the privation of the needy, the Committee for Social Assistance [Jud. Selbsthilfs Komitet] was founded, at its head was Yehezkel Gotreich, Shlomo Landau as administrator, Alek Wolf treasurer and head accountant, Naftali Waxberger, Berk Hirshtal, Folk Klein, Yisrael Friedman and Sela Ulman – officials of the secretariat. [Page 801]

The People's Kitchen

The first task of the committee was to provide the needy with hot meals at low cost (ten or twenty groshn). In the soup kitchen that was in the orphanage in the Przytkowice district they served lunches at these low prices to hundreds of people daily. They rarely cooked meat. They instituted also a 4 o'clock meal, a cup of tea sweetened with saccharine and a slice of bread. A more spacious kitchen was installed in the women's section of the synagogue of the Rabbi of Grybow. The food department of the ghetto took care of the supply of the food and its distribution. The institution received only part of the food in a legal manner, and most of the supplies had to be purchased secretly.

The aid committee distributed monthly monetary support in the form of “matan be'seter” [charity given in secret], food supplies, flour, potatoes and coal – to people who didn't benefit from the general kitchen, such as the impoverished intelligentsia, who were ashamed to come to the pot to receive the portion of soup: every day people gathered from the early morning near the kitchen in order to be among the first to get a portion of soup, since in many cases they “joined” breakfast to lunch.

In the kitchen and in the serving young girls worked as volunteers, and the most active were: Tonka Hennenberg, Henka Flink, and Yosk Berliner.

A special problem of the ghetto was providing help for abandoned and orphaned children. They put these children into the orphanage, opened a children's kitchen and organized educational activities, studies, singing sport, etc.

[Page 802]

The roles of youth leaders were filled by: Henka Eizen, Vania Ulman, Faiga Zimmer, Tonka Sheingot, Naftali Lieber. The Assistance Committee also supplied clothing and shoes for the children.

All those roles were filled by the volunteers with devotion and responsibility, and they tried in all ways even if only with a warm encouraging word and a friendly smile to make [life] easier for these unfortunate people. With self-sacrifice for the welfare of others they observed in full the saying of our sages of blessed memory: “He who supports one soul is considered as if he supported the whole world”. (Sanhedrin)

Kefar Yehoshua, 26.3.57

In case I didn't mention the names of other activists in the ghetto – because I have forgotten their names – I request forgiveness from them and their families.

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