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[Page 41]

To the Holy Souls of Przedecz

by Yitzhak Levin

Translated by Marshall Grant

© by Roberta Paula Books

I Believe

Today, the 20th day of Tevet, 5734, January 14, 1974, at 50 minutes past 1 P.M. in the afternoon, will be the 89th day since you, my dear son, gave your life for the country in a cruel and difficult war.

Today is Monday, the falling rain is accompanied by thunder and lightning and stormy winds. We thought of going to visit you, my dear son, to light a candle in your memory and to lay a wreath on your fresh grave. Forgive us, we are no longer young. You gave your life for us, for our safety, and we were afraid to get wet in the rain.

Eighty–nine days since you left your friends, who continue to protect our country. You were laid on the 26th day of Tishrei according to Jewish tradition (Kever Yisrael). This was confirmed by the IDF's Hevrei Kadisha who handled your burial, and by the municipal liaison officer. I didn't see your body after your painful death, and we also missed your funeral, carried out as an unknown soldier buried according to Jewish law. Until you were identified, and then on the 27th day of Heshvan, more than 30 days had passed from the day you fell until we, the parents, and your sister received the bitter news. I don't know how or why it happened. They promised me your body remained whole and you were traditionally buried and appropriately honored as a soldier who died. Thank G–d for that.

My dear son, what can I tell you? You were six when we arrived in Israel. You loved to sing Hebrew and Israeli songs. Your entire life was one long song. You fell on the day the entire country sang and was happy, on the Simhat Torah holiday. But this year, not one of the Jews in Israel celebrated with song. They mourned the sons who had fallen in heavy combat in a holy war for the survival of the nation.

I believe, and I always will believe, that Jews will continue to celebrate the Simahat Torah holiday with singing and dancing. That is exactly what you fought for, so we could live in our country as a free people, and if there is meaning in your falling, then it is so the people of Israel could live in their own country and build it through song. But our heart, a parents' heart, will always grieve for you, my dear son.

Your life was one large song. You loved to sing while you worked, when you studied, always. For those alive and living, for those who fell for their nation, and for those individuals who died a natural death when their time came.

You loved to read history books, you appreciated the heroism of Jewish warriors throughout the years who sacrificed their lives for the integrity and existence of Israel.

At the local school, you planned to be a pilot, and to this end you were an active member of the aviation club. You built models of airplanes and studied their secrets. And in the army, you went to the armor corps. I remember you, Rami, in the Six Day War. You had yet to serve in the IDF, but you were protecting us? Do you remember how you took care of the sick and wounded?

And when you were older, you told us: until now, my dear parents, you have protected me, provided anything that was lacking, and from now on, it is I who must protect and take care of you, and that is what you did. You helped with every household chore. You worked to fund your university studies, and not just

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for yourself. You helped all your friends in their studies. You made sure that they, too, could fund their studies, to the point you never missed any workdays so you could help them. Because you knew the situation their parents were in.

During shiva people came, mostly to console us. Among them was Ms. Klein, who said, you don't know me, but it is my obligation to get to know you. I am Rachel's mother. She studied biology together with your son at Tel Aviv University. I am sure you heard her name. And she continued, in a few days, I am entering the hospital for surgery and I am uncertain what my fate will be. It is my responsibility to tell you that following an operation I had three months ago, you son donated blood for me. He also took care of my daughter and had long conversations with her to divert her attention from her depression due to my condition.

On January 11, 1974, the 16th day of Tevet a man from Haifa named Yaakov Mile came to see us. He was the age of our late son, Rami. In the beginning, he was unable to say anything. After several minutes he collected himself and told us with teary eyes, my military service was spent with Rami, not in the same tank team, but in the same unit. I was discharged from the hospital a few days ago due to an injury suffered in the war. I was released from the army due to my injuries, which have yet to heal. Thanks to your son I am alive and with you today. He was there for us, the members of the unit, like a brother. He was the one who risked his own life to rescue me, wounded, from a burning tank while under enemy fire. And here again, I must emphasize, thanks to your son, Rami, I am alive, and the tears continued to fall from his eyes.

Days go by and people continue to come. Officers and soldiers from the unit in which my son served. Teachers and students from the university where my son studied, acquaintances and friends. We heard only good things about our late son, Rami, and this all appeared to us as in the singing of a wonderful life.

And we want to believe and hope that Jews will forever continue their lives through song, and they will surely sing on Simhat Torah, and the singing of our son's life will never cease. And the voices of many thousands will echo a great song, the song of peace.

The Father of a Soldier


[Page 43]

Captain Yeshayahu Makovitzki z”l

Translated by Marshall Grant

© by Roberta Paula Books

 

Captain Yeshi'ahu Makovitzky (Shayka), of blessed memory
Son of Shaul and Miriam

Fell in the Yom Kippur War on the southern front,
on 23 Tishrei, 5734,
October 19, 1973

 

IDF authorization of rank, September 19, 1968
Awarded the rank of second lieutenant

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Bereavement

Edna Makovitzky

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Somewhere, date: October 13, 1973

How are you? I am doing very well. Here in Sinai it is cold at night and hot during the day, and I am starting to get used to it and feel at home. Moral is high, and we all hope the war will end soon. We receive food and equipment in abundance, including soap, toothpaste, postcards, sweets, etc. Tell me what's new with you, what is father's exact job in the Emergency National Economy, how he came back from Tivon, how mother feels, and how you are doing in general – what's new in the home front.

Hoping to see you soon,

Yours: Shaika

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The above two postcards were written on the day he was killed

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Certificate of completion of IDF officer's academy

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Minister of Defense

Dearest Mr. and Mrs. Shaul and Miriam Makovitzky,

Allow me to express my sympathies to you in this difficulty time after the loss of your son Yeshi'ahu, of blessed memory.

Captain Yeshi'ahu Makovitzky, of blessed memory, gave his life for his homeland. He fell on the southern front during the Yom Kippur War and was buried on the 25th of Tishrei, 5734, October 21, 1973.

Yeshi'ahu served as an officer in the standing military in the Supply Corps. He was a graduate of the IDF officers academy and supply officers course. Yeshi'ahu was known for taking the initiative, being aware of his surroundings, responsible, dedicated and loved. Under fire he instructed his soldiers how to continue in their mission. He was promoted posthumously to the rank of captain.

The memory of Captain Yeshi'ahu Makovitzky, of blessed memory is holy and engraved with honor in our hearts.

May his memory be blessed.

Sincerely,

[signature]

Moshe Dayan, Major-General (Res.)
Minister of Defense

Tevet 5734
January 1974

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The Plea of a Bereaved Father
to Our Merciful and Compassionate Father in Heaven

“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, oh God. God, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my prayers.” Psalms 130

We are Holocaust refugees, we lost everyone dear to us over 25 years ago. We have gathered here, broken in our bodies, but not in our spirit, to build our future here, to make sure a Holocaust will not happen again, to ensure our children will be free in our safe country. We have turned the country that was nothing but wilderness since the destruction of the second temple into a blossoming heaven for our children.

And here we are again facing a Holocaust, and our children, who we thought would grow up safely in our country, had to go to war, a bloody war. Yom Kippur: while the State of Israel fasted and prayed in synagogues, enemy tanks and soldiers from the north and south penetrated the country. War. Thousands of our sons leave synagogues, do not break their fasts and run to their units to join those defending our homeland. Many continued their prayers on the way to the front, “to recognize the sanctity of the day”, and the sanctity of that day was not violated. The opposite is true, sanctity came from our sons joining as soldiers to protect our country, the country you promised us. Thousands fell in this bloody war.

Oh merciful and compassionate father! Until when? Hasn't the land of Israel soaked up enough blood, haven't we sacrificed enough?

More than 25 years ago we stood, remnants from the Holocaust, and prayed and said Kadish to elevate the souls of our parents, brothers and sisters who died in the Holocaust. And now thousands from those same remnants stand in prayer to elevate the souls of the sons who fell in this cruel campaign.

Abraham our forefather, the father of the Jewish nation, was commanded “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and sacrifice him”, and when Abraham carried out the commandment, a redeeming angel appeared and called, “Do not lay a hand on the boy!!” Merciful and compassionate father, thousands of our youth have been sacrificed on the nation's alter in the Yom Kippur War, where is the angel who calls: Do not lay a hand on the young boys!

Were we not faithful in our beliefs to you? For 2000 years, what haven't we suffered, your nation Israel? Decrees, pogroms, inquisitions, and we remained loyal to you. Haven't we sacrificed enough? Haven't thousands of Jews gone to inquisition alters with Shema Yisrael on their lips?

Please! Merciful and compassionate father!

From the deepest depth of our hearts we call you, oh God. God, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of thousands of bereaved fathers. When we stand in prayer and recite Kadish for the elevation of the souls of our sons, accept with compassion and understanding our prayer, the verse that ends the Kadish:

May he who makes peace in his high places grant peace upon us and upon all of Israel…


[Page 53]

The Last Dance

by Y. L. L. Shlomi

Translated by Roberta Paula Books

© by Roberta Paula Books

G-d of mine, you who promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to multiply your chosen people as the stars in the heavens, as the grains of sand on the earth, the great one that has created this.

I, your small servant and shepherd of your sheep, do not dare to say your name.

You, omnipotent one, who raised the hand of Abraham, your chosen one, to kill the kidnapper of Lot, his brother's son, and through his mouth said that anyone who raised a hand to a Jew must be killed.

How did such a power come into being that strives to destroy your beloved people, whose priority is to offer him prayers and love songs? G-d of mine, did you really turn your face away from your people and allow them to be eaten alive by these soulless beasts? G-d of mine, strengthen my spirit so it will not fall into doubt. G-d of mine, from the flames of Sodom you saved the pure ones, and here you allow everyone to die? G-d, do you not see that the universal leader of the churches blesses the weapons of this murder machine? Dear G-d! Do not abandon your people…

Rebbe … Rebbe … listen to me. Rebbe, listen, it's me, the blond Itche. Rebbe … huh. He looked at me with tired astonished eyes, as if he was returning from a far, difficult journey.

Do you not see, Itche, everything is breaking and falling apart.

I see, Rebbe. I wanted to, I must speak with you. Should we not be removing the Torah scrolls from the synagogue to save them from the flames that await them?

Think it over for a while.

No! Itche, we are not permitted. The synagogue is locked and sealed. Anyone who enters there will be killed. Now under these conditions, we must think differently. Anyone who wants to defend the totality of the Torah will fall. Now we must protect the honour of the Torah as well as protect human life. If we survive, Itche, we will, with G-d's help, glorify the Torah and give it its proper honour.

And you, Itche? – You!

What about me, Rebbe? I feel I am unable to endure this. Is He that strong?

And now, Rebbe, everyone is against us?

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Listen to me Itche. You good, devoted righteous Itche, listen and let others know, that one must also know how to die, and that very often we must defend the honour of man and our people. And as for the Books of the Torah, it may be preferable that the Torah scrolls go up in flames, because they symbolize our spirituality and our exceptionalism. It is better that they do not become a laughing stock.

Summer that year was dry, without rain. The wheat was beginning to yellow, the trees were bending under the weight of the harvest. Life this year was tiresome and stilted, the unrest paralyzed the spirit. Meanwhile the Days of Awe drew nearer, they were here.

In past years it rained on Sukkot, but not this year, as if nature was serving them. The death machine was working. Jews were burdened with taxes. Meanwhile, Jews were being captured on the spot and put to work. They openly mocked the Jews, forcing them to do excruciating gymnastics. They cut off half of a Jew's beard, making his face appear as a deformed grimace or paralysed. Robberies, abuses, cruel humiliation.

And the Jews – and the Jews waited, as if frozen. They felt this was the beginning, while understanding that from the point of pain until the end is a long way, a long way filled with chaotic troubles.

They planned to burn down the synagogue without warning, and in order to heighten the travesty they chose the night of Shmini Atzeret. Even though the Jews comported themselves correctly day and night, this was a terrible blow. Even for those who did not frequently attend synagogue, this was a shocking experience.

The synagogue stood quiet, grey, at the end of the street and looked at the town from its height as though its mandate was unaffected, its door closed until, until.

You enter the synagogue, taken by the hand by your father, and now a shudder goes through your body physically. G-d's spirit lives here. You look around not knowing where to focus your eyes. Father tells you to pray and a change comes over your body. The systematic swaying and gentle ringing of the crystal chandeliers was as if they were praying with us, and the half round ceiling showed the sky with colourful stars illustrating the symbols of the twelve signs of the zodiac. On the south wall was

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a painting of Rachel's tomb. This was the creation of our genius artist Monish Sayka. On the east wall on both sides of the ark were long narrow windows with colored glass. Over the ark was a window with blue and white panes in the shape of a “Star of David”.

The Holy Ark stood silently and housed our holy books, the greatness, the intellect and the purity of our people. The symbol of “we are your chosen ones”.

And when you are called up to read the Torah, you physically feel the connection to the great one-and-only, the highest and oldest and the greatest in the world. You go up on the platform wrapped in a prayer shawl and begin the blessing, and you are so overwhelmed that it never sounds like you would want it to.

Along the length of the west and northern wall, the women's section was built up and covered in artistic carved pillars, where our women would pray on Saturdays and holidays. On those days the prayers took place with a chant that entirely carried you away.

Now the synagogue stands both deaf and orphaned. It is sealed and the great storied key is no longer in the hands of Itche, the beadle (Shames).

A couple of days earlier, a few individuals in grey green uniforms had driven in in a military car carrying some karnisten (קארניסטען) and also some sort of material that had the look of beat up packages. The town waited.

A cold-bloodedness came over the Jewish population. The days lasted forever, a quiet tempo preparing for suffering. A few held a quiet, far away protest.

It was a clear night. The police forced everyone into their houses. Curtains covered the windows, the street lights were dark, and the streets were dead. One could hear only the rhythmic sound of horseshoes. Something happens around the synagogue, the lights are extinguished in the Jewish homes. With uneasiness and caution, people look out their windows.

By the trees and by the gates around the synagogue, darkness. It is the night of Shmini Atzeret and the synagogue showed some sort of light. At first it seemed like something was probing, seeking, a redish blue tongue of a flame. It crawled, it climbed, it searched around the podium. It spread out through the pillars of the women's section. Through the windows of the synagogue, you could now see a red bloody flame with smoke, the flames rise and fall, searching and groping, licking the fruit

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near the Holy Ark. The walls become black and the colours explode. The building trembles, bursting into a wild singing and the chandeliers ring out. A pitiless murmur, the flames crackle in a wild dance and search for an exit.

At the same time some people quietly opened the rabbi's door. Old and young came from the furthest corners of town, knowing that this deed threatened their lives. Approximately fifteen men gathered. Among them were Monish Sayka, Yakov Yakubovitz, the son of Krel the tailor, Pinkhas Raukh, Hersh Zingerman, Yakov Burnshteyn, the blond Itche, Itche the beadle and his son-in-law, Yekhezkel Mordkhai Lentshitsky, Abel Kora, and a few other established men. Pleading with outstretched arms, Rebbe, permit us, we want to rescue the Torah scrolls. The Rebbe was deeply moved with their devotion and after a long pause gave them the same answer he had given his assistant Itche a few days earlier. However…

Father, how can you. Why? Even when you disagree with us, don't you feel the pain of your people? Even Hershye Bup is calling you.

It hurts Mordkhai, it really hurts. But I'm not ready to die for material things.

No father, no father, you are not right. Dying as a protest without tangible usefulness is better than dying without a protest, and perhaps we will succeed, I can't agree. I am the unnoticed and often laughed at son of Hershye Bup Frankenshteyn.

From Greenblat's house a shadow jumped across the street, and with a cat's assuredness crawled through the shadows of the houses at the old marketplace, passed through, jumped the fence of Kubyiak's yard and from there ran freely through the gardens. He slid like a lion with great speed. No dog barked. He was already in the garden of Lamen Malkovsky. He then feels the heat from the fire in his face. He jumps around the last part and sneaks over to the window of the synagogue anteroom, with open hands he pushes out a pane. Then rings out a single shot …

The flames spread. They surrounded the Holy Ark like a bouquet of fire. They surrounded the podium and bit of the pillars of the women's section. Elijah the prophet's old chair was also burning. The flames were noisy, squirming and writhing, falling and rising. The Holy Ark shuddered. The women's section was about to

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collapse. The windows formed nightmarish figures out of the flames. With a resounding crash, the Holy Ark fell, the tablets shattered. The parchment of the Torah scrolls screeched and writhed, the letters poured out and vaporized. The women's section collapsed with a loud bang. The gases knocked out the windows and fire flew out of the holes with a wild laughter. The burned out ceiling no longer protected the roof, the tin sheets rose and fell, the roof breathed.

Dear G-d, why do you punish us? Do not turn your face away from us. Show yourself and save your people.

G-d of mine, protect me from bad thoughts. It cannot be correct when people say religion does not help the weak.

G-d of mine, protect me from doubt. I want to serve you and be your servant until I take my last breath.

Should I throw away my shepherd's stick and spill blood?

Dear G-d, do not allow your sheep to be persecuted. Perhaps if we did not exist, we would be created?

Dear G-d. Permit me to serve you. Listen to my plea.

 

At the place where the synagogue stood an apartment building is being built
Photographed by Simkha Noymark, 1965

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Tragedy and pain together can break even the strongest.

This is not a punishment, this is general murder. This is not a sentence – I am going. I will die a martyr's death!

With a scream, the tin sheets tear off from the roof and fall to the feet of the patrolling murderers.

Braindl, take a look, whispered the old man Leybke, the water in the lake is red with our blood.

Look children, you too Malke, said Tuvye Burshteyn, they are burning our synagogue. This is the beginning of the end. Our prayers and pleas did not help.

The fire and smoke reach higher, higher and higher. The entire building danced. The last dance. The last Simchas Torah in town. The columns of smoke reach the sky. The flames rise high and spread like a bouquet of red sparks.

They are like laughing stars in the sky, like grains of sand on the ground.

There is no breeze, no rain and no help from anywhere. Only the old moon looks down with a sad face and is silent.

And the whole world is silent as well -


Extermination Camp in Chelmno

Translated by Marshall Grant

© by Roberta Paula Books

Testimony from Andrzej Miszczak (Polish spelling) from Chelmno, 49 years old, a Catholic Polish farmer, taken on June 14, 1945 in Chelmno by the investigator of the District Court of Lodz, Wladislaw Bednarz.

I am a permanent resident of the village of Chelmno, located in the Kolo district. My house stood across from the palace garden (on the side of the Ner River), and when the palace existed you could see its windows through those in my home. I have 55 hectares of land, and I am the manager of a gardening business.

In the middle of November 1941, a group of Gestapo men came to Chelmno, led by Lange. At the same time, the district administrator arrived from Kolo (his name, I don't remember). They thoroughly checked the entire palace, including its basements. At the end of the month, they brought building materials and began to build the camp.

The palace grounds were surrounded by 2.5–meter–high fence made of tight wood slabs; it was only on the side along the river that an area was left with barbed wire. The palace was situated on the hill in a way that prevented a similar wooden fence to be built. Meaning, the hills' slopes were not enough to conceal what was taking place in the palace courtyard.

In addition to the palace, the S.S. Sonderkommando Kulmhof (the name of the Gestapo company that came to build the camp) took control of the pastor's home, the committee building, the hostel and the homes

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Mrs. Mala Brand (Orbach) bows her head
at the Chelmno memorial during her visit to Poland, 1956

 

of Chelmno's farmers. The farmers, whose houses were confiscated, were transferred to other villages or they joined other farms. In the beginning, we did not know why the camp was being built.

On December 9, 1941, the first 900 Jews were brought in vehicles from Kolo. They were brought in the evening and held overnight in the palace. In the morning, they were led to dark–painted vehicles (which were later named the “Vehicles from Hell”) and taken toward the forest near Chelmno. These vehicles would return after about an hour, and they would take additional groups of Jews from the Palace. We noticed piles of clothes beginning to appear in the palace courtyard. That evening a new shipment arrived from Kolo, which remained overnight in the palace, and in the morning, it, too, was taken to the forest near Chelmno. This was repeated again and again for several days.

Later, there was a change. The Jews would be brought by truck to the palace, taken inside, and later taken outside and led to the Vehicles from Hell. There were rumors about the vehicles being used for gas poisoning. Despite the complete lack of contact between the guards and the local population, people began to hear about what was taking place in the palace. The sources for our information were the Jews working in manual labor, Poles (eight in number) brought from PoznaƄ from “the 7th Fort” and who also worked as manual laborers, and local women and girls who worked in the grocery warehouse (canteen) and kitchen.

The guards later changed their attitude towards the population, and much could be learned about what was taking place on the grounds of the extermination camp.

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There were three Vehicles from Hell operating in the Chelmno death camp. One was larger than the other two.

I am unable to describe their construction and dimensions because I don't understand automobiles, and no one was ever allowed to come close to these vehicles. I would often later hear the guards say that 150 people could be put in the large vehicle, and between 80–100 in the small ones. In the beginning, they were bringing one thousand people to Chelmno every day, and guards had a saying, “another day – another thousand”. Some of the Jews' belongings were taken in the camp, and some were taken in Chelmno. The Jews would undress in the palace and enter the vehicles wearing only their underwear – they were deceived to believe they were being taken to showers. After the “Vehicle from Hell” would leave, their clothes were thrown through the window into the courtyard. A company of Jewish workers would then take them to the large mountain of clothes in the garden.

This pile was 3–4 meters high, and at least 10–15 meters long. The guards would cruelly prod and beat the Jews who were arranging the clothes. Only after the area was cleaned was another group of Jews brought to the palace. I saw the Jews who worked with the removal of the clothes many times. The fact that they were deceiving the Jews when they were telling them they were being taken to showers was shared by the guards themselves. They thought it was a great idea because is saved them the trouble of dealing with the victims. The clothes were taken to Lodz. The drivers were Poles and not allowed on the palace's grounds; when they arrived, they were ordered to wait on the road. German drivers would bring the vehicles into the courtyard where they were loaded and then returned to the road and the private Polish drivers.

The S.S. distributed large amounts of booty to the local Germans. In the spring, a committee arrived at the camp that included a fat civilian (Ed. Comment – possibly Chaim Rumkowski, head of the Judenrat), who the Jews said was the commander of the Lodz ghetto. The committee demanded that the Sonderkommando Kulmhof accept larger shipments of Jews. These shipments reached between 1,000–2,000 people, and they always arrived by vehicle.

When it became hot, the bodies in the mass grave began to decay, “the ground moved”, the air was poisoned over a wide area, and the cases of typhoid multiplied. The Germans stopped receiving shipments, and two ovens were quickly built (the chimneys could be seen) and they began to burn the bodies. They dug mass graves and ordered the Jews (from the special enlarged company – “the Forest Company”!) to burn the bodies in the ovens. I heard the ovens were fueled by wood.

After the burning of the bodies (the break lasted about two months), the Germans again began receiving shipments of Jews. I emphasize that I did not only know of the burning of bodies from the Jews who worked there, but also because the ovens expelled smoke and no shipments were brought in.

The Jews began arriving in the summer of 1942. They arrived on a rail line from Powiercie, alighted and were made to march on foot to the mill in Zawadka. They would sleep in the mill and in the morning be led to vehicles that took them to the palace. From this point on, the order of operation was unchanged. I am unable to recall the exact number of shipments that arrived on the rail line; however,

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according to my account, every shipment contained one thousand people. In addition to the regular rail–line shipments, deliveries also arrived in vehicles.

This continued until April 1943.

In April 1943, the Germans began dismantling the camp and concealing any signs of its existence. They took down the fence, removed items, etc. On April 7, 1943, the palace was blown up. Grass seeds were strewn over the graves (they asked me to provide them with the tools to plant the seeds and the Wachtmeister himself borrowed a rake from me. The ovens were dismantled and the bricks were taken away. On April 11, 1943, the S.S. Sonderkommando Kulmhof left. Only a small company of guards remained that guarded the site of murder. These guards were from the local guard, the commander was from Sompolno.

When the S.S. Sonderkommando Kulmhof left, they took the Poles who carried out manual labor. The were seven names mentioned here, and there was an eighth Pole named Marian, who were mistakenly put in a vehicle and poisoned by gas. This was the beginning of 1942. They buried him separately in the palace garden. These were the Poles who first dug the mass grave in the forest. They were later sent to other jobs, such as repairing the vehicles, carrying belongings, unloading the vehicles. I didn't hear they were checking the bodies; I didn't hear about any Ukrainians.

In addition to the S.S., there were guards and criminal police; there were between 120–150 Germans operating in Chelmno. This number later grew to almost 180, and for the first time Lange was appointed commander (I don't remember his rank or name).

In spring, change came to the camp's headquarters. Hans Bothmann was appointed as the camp's commander, as acting commander in place of Lange. I remember the names of the Germans who worked in “the Camp of Death”.

  1. The Wachtmeister (his name I don't remember) managed the economics department. (Ed. Comment: Watchmaster, an NCO rank, possibly Ernst Burmeister)
  2. Lenz (he was called the cruelest of all the German doctors in Chelmno. This sadist had to kill at least one Jew every day).
  3. Burstinger oversaw the jewelry and valuable items.
The members of the S.S. Sonderkommando Kulmhof initially treated the local population harshly. They were forced to work under the threat of beatings, etc. However, relations later improved and became completely civil.

The S.S. first used the telephone belonging to the village's committee. This meant that the village committee's chairman Stanislaw Kaszinski apparently knew too much, so he was imprisoned and executed. Kaszinski sent a letter to diplomatic legal representation in which he described what was actually taking place. It seems the letter was intercepted, and Kaszinski and his wife were the only residents of the village executed.

I did not hear that the S.S. Sonderkommando Kulmhof took Polish lovers from the local population. Their lovers were Germans from Kolo or from nearby villages.

The first Jews brought to the death camp were Jews from surrounding villages, and later from the Lodz ghetto. Jews from all over the world were brought here: from Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, France and Greece. After one of these shipments would arrive, the guards would have cigarettes from the country the shipment originated from. In most cases, the Germans would pay

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for food with cigarettes, so we could know where the shipments were coming from. By the way, the guards didn't conceal these facts. I remember they would say that a shipment of “rich Jews from Vienna” and “rich Jews from Hamburg” had arrived. The people in these shipments had more belongings and were dressed better.

The Jews being led to death would sometimes drop notes. I once picked up one of these notes. The first words were “We are Jews from Lviv”. The Jews would tear bills of money and bonds and throw them on the road, they didn't know the truth until the last minute, which is why there was no disobedience. There were also shipments of Poles. We knew when shipments of Poles were about to arrive because the shifts during those days were enlarged. This happened often. I think they once brought a group of nuns, once a group of twelve Polish officers, a large group of Polish children, and more. I, myself, never saw these shipments. I was told about them by women who saw them (Helena Kroll and Victoria Kocznica). After the palace was blown up, there were crosses, medallions, etc., found in the rubble.

The Germans would outwardly display the cross on the palace balcony.

In addition to these large shipments, they would also bring busses carrying individuals to the palace. These people would be added to the other shipments.

The Poles were brought until 1942. I remember that “Tony”, the driver, once said, “The Polish vehicle is ready”. It appears that there was a relatively larger response to the Poles than expected. I also saw gypsies who were brought in automobiles from Kolo.

In the middle of 1942 (I am unsure), the committee from Berlin came and three or four Gestapo officers joined it. They were welcomed with respect and shown the entire area. Kazipszinski, a Polish man, told me that while he was putting gas into the vehicle, one of the Gestapo men made fun of him. The next day we found out that they were not Gestapo, they were from “Foreign Espionage”. The guards said, “We thought they were one of us, but they certainly were not”.

The Germans kept a precise list of those who were murdered in Chelmno. The Jewish communities were required to pay four German marks for every Jew sent to Chelmno. Every driver had a list of Jews he had to bring. In the winter of 1942, Shalk's apartment caught fire. After the flames were extinguished, they ordered me and M. Lodviski to guard the burnt area and make sure the flames did not reappear. That was when I found the bag (Lodviski didn't see this) belonging to the driver who was called “Tony” and who we called Kolonizacja (idiot). The bag contained various documents concerning the transport of Jews. I don't know German, but I understood what was on those lists. I burned the bag because I was scared the Germans would find it in my possession.

In March 1944, the S.S. Sonderkommando Kulmhof again came to Chelmno. They were the same Germans who were here for almost all of 1942, from the spring until the razing of the camp. Many of them did not return. The commander, like before, was Bothmann. Hapla (?) (הפלה) said he was “somewhere in Greece”. High wood–slabbed fences were again erected around the entire garden area. Shacks were brought. Two barracks were built in Chelmno (where the clothes were stored) and two were built in Chelmno's forest.

This time, they would bring the Jews directly to Chelmno and hold them during the night in the church. In the morning, they were taken by vehicle to the Chelmno forest, where they were put into one of the barracks that had a sign hung up that said “doctor” and the word “Pub” scrawled on it.

[Page 63]

This is where the Jews would undress. Then they would be put into the killing vehicles while being told they were being led to the third barracks. The doors would be locked, the motor would start and the vehicle would travel towards the ovens. There the bodies would be removed, and the vehicle would return for an additional shipment.

There were always forty Jews working in the forest; they were called the Waldkommando (Forest Company). They were the ones who told us about the methods the Germans were most recently using. They would send Jews to me to bring vegetables, so I was in constant contact with them. The Jews lived in a barn, which was also where the workshops of tailors and cobblers were located. The Jewish tailors were confined with handcuffs on the second floor of the barn. Lately there were forty–seven Jews in Chelmno, before there were eighty to ninety. They were then leasing the small mill to grind the bones and also from Locomobile from Powiercie.

Several months later (around July 1944), efforts to raze the camp began. The Jews said that this time 15,000 people were exterminated in Chelmno. It is hard for me to say if this number is correct. Now there were shipments coming from abroad, from across the Czech border, possibly through the Lodz ghetto. This time they treated the Jews humanely so there wouldn't be any resistance. The clothes, which were in better condition, were shipped to Lodz; worn clothes were shredded in a special machine that was brought there for that purpose, and the shreds were shipped to Lodz. The ovens were destroyed and the bricks thrown into the forest; the mill was returned to Powiercie.

In the beginning of 1942–43, the bones were crushed by hand.

The Poles that had worked before in the camp didn't return this time. The guards told me that three of them (names are mentioned here) are no longer alive, and three (here, too, names are mentioned were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

When the Soviet troops were approaching, the last Jews were to be executed. They were taken out in groups of five. One of them, Mieczyslaw (Mordchai) Zurawski was armed with a knife and broke through the guards and escaped. The guards were unable to find him. The tailors broke the door that led downstairs and when two Germans entered (among them Lenz), the Jews killed them. The Germans pointed their machine guns at the barn door and opened fire while others set it ablaze.

This is the way the last Jews were destroyed. In addition to Zurawski, another Jew survived, Szymon Srebrnik. The Germans shot him in his forehead and left him for dead, but the wound was not critical and he survived. I am unaware of Srebrnik's address.

I did not see the vehicle found at Ostrovsky's factory, the (הרטנר) from Powiercie would often come to Chelmno, and suitcases full of belongings would be removed. In 1944, a supervisor named Greiser came to supervise Chelmno. I think he also came in 1942. The grounds of the Chelmno death camp were meticulously guarded. The password was changed every day and sent from Poznan.

This hereby ends the protocol, and after reading it, I have come to sign: –

(–) Andrzej Miszczak. (–) Wladyslaw Bednarz, investigative judge.


[Page 67]

Chelmno Cries to the Heavens

Translated from the Yiddish by Jamie Respitz

© by Roberta Paula Books

A heavy sadness lies in our pained hearts. This sadness is called – Chelmno. This singular word conveys so much cruelty, so much pain and suffering. Innocent blood was spilled, young lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews ripped apart, young and old, women and small children in this isolated place between Kolo and Dombia, where the German murderers killed three hundred and fifty thousand Jews.

Here is where hundreds of Pschaytcher Jews (the town's Polish name is Przedecz, its Hebrew name is Pshedetz) were murdered by the Nazi criminals, and their innocent spilled blood cries to the heavens.

Chelmno was the first death camp for Jews in Poland. This is where the murderers tried, for the first time, the new method of mass killing by gas. This was the beginning of a methodical preplanned action to totally wipe out European Jewry. At first the murders were carried out in a very primitive way. They brought a group of “criminals” in trucks

[Page 68]

to the forest. They told them to dig their own graves, lie down facing the ground, and shot them with one shot in the head. Soon the German executioners turned to more “cultured” methods. They transformed the magnificent mansion in Chelmno into a “bathing establishment”. Three modern gas trucks were provided to serve the “bathing establishment”, beginning this devilish game … then they began to bring transports of Jews from the surrounding area. They brought them to the mansion where a large sign hung with the words “bathing establishment”. An S.S. man explained to the newly arrived Jews that before they can go to work, they must bathe. Once the Jews had undressed and stood naked, the S.S. beat them pitilessly and sent them to the other side of the mansion where the gas trucks were waiting. Around 80-100 people were shoved into one truck. Once the doors were hermetically shut you could hear the heartrending screams, which lasted a few minutes. As the motor ran, a large quantity of benzene was produced. The poisonous burning gas entered the floor of the sealed truck through two pipes, poisoning the air which those stuffed in the truck had to breathe. The people started to choke … after a short time all was quiet.

After driving a few kilometers into the forest, they reached the “Death Brigade” whose job was to bury the dead. The trucks were unloaded quickly so as not to waste any time. The dead were laid en masse in the graves. This method proved to be impractical, since the corpses began to pollute the air. So, in a large clearing, they built two primitive crematoria where they began to systematically burn the corpses. The crematoria were nothing more than long iron rails which served as furnace grates upon which they placed a layer of wood and on the wood a layer of the dead, poured benzene on everything and set it on fire. The bones which did not burn entirely were ground in a special mill. The ground human bones were put in bags and sent to be used to build the walls of guard posts and as fertilizer. The clothing of the deceased were brought to a church in Dombia. The off loading and sorting was done by Jews, who were brought there every day

[Page 69]

from Chelmno to work. To prevent them from running away, their feet were shackled in chains.

Transports of Jews began to arrive in Chelmno. First from the surrounding area, and then Jews and non-Jews began to arrive from abroad. Due to the influx of transports, they used all the surrounding churches to contain the people until their death.

The 7th of Iyar 5702, April 24th 1942, was the saddest day for Pschaytcher Jews. On this day, the barbarians sent more than 600 of our closest ones, the last remaining Jews of our town, to Chelmno to be gassed and burned.

When this annihilation action was completed in Chelmno, the German criminals destroyed the mansion so no remnant of their deeds would remain.

They also destroyed the crematoria in the forest.

From all the Jewish transports, forty-five specialists were kept alive to work in the tailor shop. When the Red Army approached Chelmno on the nights of January 16-17, 1945, the Germans confined all the workers to the shop and began, in groups, to shoot them. When one worker tried to stab two of the Gestapo, the Germans poured benzene and set the shop on fire with everyone still inside.

As in all the other death camps, the German barbarians in Chelmno attempted to wash away all traces of their crimes after their great defeat, but they did not succeed.

Besides surviving witnesses, the local Polish population saw and knew a lot, and there were also silent witnesses to the German atrocities.

One of the silent witnesses was the ruined castle the Germans destroyed when the Red Army arrived.

Another witness was the mill which ground the human non-burned bones. It remained standing near where they made bonfires.

The willows near the small river were also silent witnesses of the horrific, bloody murders. The same river where they threw the ashes of burned people.

The fields fertilized with human ashes of our martyrs also stand as silent witnesses.

[Page 70]

Also, the fruit trees soaked with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Another silent witness is the empty mansion in the forest where the secret of hundreds of thousands of gassed and buried-alive Jews lies deep. Everything extracted from there was handed over to the bonfires.

Chelmno will remain one of the saddest chapters of Jewish martyrdom.

Chelmno will remain as all the other extermination camps like Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz, an eternal stain of shame on the conscience of the German people.

 

Mrs. Khave Musman (Zielinsky) with her husband and daughter at the memorial monument at Chelmno

 

Excerpt from the Book “Destruction and Uprising” From the Jews From Warsaw

Chelmno was a village on the Ner River, approximately twelve kilometers from the city of Kolo (Koyl in Yiddish) on the road from Warsaw to Poznan, where it appears the first large extermination camp in Poland was built in 1940, where the Jews from western Polish regions were murdered, and from Kalish and Lodz regions – the region the Germans called Warthegau.

[Page 71]

The extermination system – gas poisoning in large special trucks. The Jews sent there were taken to the nearby forest. According to the numbers of the Central Commission of Investigation of German Crimes, 330 thousand people were killed in Chelmno. Jewish sources say 300 thousand Jews were murdered there.


[Page 72]

The Murders in Chelmno – 1944–1945

Translated by Marshall Grant

© by Roberta Paula Books

In March of 1944, the Gestapo came to Chelmno and again began to prepare the camp for groups of workers, such as tailors, cobblers, and more. They later built two structures: one was used to store gold and valuable belongings, and the second was for clothes and various items that were stolen from the people who arrived.

Two huge ovens were built in the forest to burn the bodies along with two additional structures. In one of the buildings the people who arrived were made to undress, and the second was used as a bathhouse and on the third was writing stating the doctor was examining patients inside.

The first shipment of prisoners arrived in Chelmno in the month of June. They were transferred to the local church where they remained until the next day. They were crowded tightly into the church, tired, hungry and thirsty. They almost suffocated.

The next day, the trucks arrived and they began taking people to the forest, to the shacks, to the doctor; they deceived the people and told them that they were being taken to work. The people were taken into the structure where they were ordered to strip off their clothing. They were told they were being taken to a bathhouse. They were made to write postcards to their families and friends that said:

We have arrived in Munich. The journey passed peacefully. We are very good. Life is very good. We are working at dismantling houses that were bombed.

Others were ordered to write letters with similar content and indicate in the address that they were in Leipzig.

The families that received these postcards were happy and willingly registered for upcoming shipments.

This is the way that almost 15,000 people were poisoned with gas for three consecutive months. There were reports of people being cooked alive in Chelmno. Everything but the skeleton, which was sent to Berlin, was discarded.

The Red Army stopped this. The Nazis began razing all the facilities they had used for the murders. They left 87 Jews for this task.

On the night of January 17, 1945, when the Red Army was approaching Chelmno, the Nazis killed the last of these Jews. The Nazis took them out in groups of five, five of those who lived in the same building. They ordered the Jews to lie down and they were shot in the head. Twenty had been killed when the Jews resisted after understanding what was happening to those who had been taken. The resistance killed two Gestapo soldiers. The resistors were burned alive in the barn. One Jew, Macislav Zurawski, succeeded in escaping the barn and survived. Another Jew, Shimon Srebrnik, 15 years old, lay outside amongst the dead and he too was able to escape. Following the murder, on January 17, 1945, at 10:00 in the morning, the Nazis left Chelmno.

 

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