by Y. Y. L.
Translated by Roberta Paula Books
© Roberta Paula Books
Translator's note: Written down by Y. Y. L., as related to him by Sala Goldman Mandlinger. The teenager Sala obtained a written permit enabling her to take a brief leave from her work detail and visit her family. She was allowed to rejoin her work detail, in part because of the written permit and in part, it seems, because one of the German officers in charge was favorably inclined towards her. Thus, her extraordinary eyewitness account.
My uncle came home at five am, drained of color and dispirited, speaking softly: the shtetl is surrounded. We knew what that meant. It was over. What did this mean? This meant that it was finished, that at eight am we must be in the church, there was no way out.
Already several days ago, they had announced that on 24.4.42 all those still clinging to life must assemble in the church under threat of harm. They announced this with the help of Oyfek, as though this world was normalized, like sweeping the streets or raking the grass from between the stones as in Skladkovskiy's times (i.e., when Jews were serfs to the lords). Even before the designated hour, Jews had begun to gather, as though they would soon be at the end.
You saw walking the remnants of families, as though to their own funeral. Mothers carrying small children in their arms, also small children who held onto their mother's skirt. Old women, old men, sick people who were supported under their arm. Not one complete family; everyone already had someone missing. They had been transported out in order to work in the labor camp, tortured to death, killed on the spot. They dragged the remnants of the Jewish families. Weary, starving, beaten down, there were only a few young men among them. This time, the Poles did not laugh or rebuke. Included among them were some men who were supposed to have been deported. Although they were identified, going to be turned in, and captured, clandestine individuals very actively helped. We were some sort of wild beast, their latest diversion. We were permitted to rut without penalty, each time. They even gave us a prize for this. And that was even recognized as virility. Next to the corpses hanging on the gallows, the Nazis took photographs and films and sent these souvenirs home to their parents and their loved ones.
And after everyone was already gathered, they still searched their homes. There was no place left to hide. Yes. Two individuals chose not to show up. Shmuel Abe Abramovitch, who had hidden himself at the home of the Christian shoemaker Ostrushke, who that same day turned him into the SA Mann Henkel (a local follower of Hitler, a criminal and robber), who robbed him of everything he had on him and then shot him. (Translator's note: SA is an abbreviation for Sturmabteilung, a group created in 1921 by Hitler.) The second was Menachem Rufsky, who hid
in the Jakubow forest, and there he was murdered by a local follower of Hitler, Fredrich Henebower.
In the church, those who had been assembled were guarded by members of the SS. Each of those gathered had brought something with them. Maybe a small package, a bit of food, a bottle of water, a bit of clothing. Others also brought a bit of jewelry, a watch. People had reasoned and hoped for perhaps a miracle. To purchase a human spark of pity from the executioner. But no such miracle happened. They took all the packages from the people. The old woman Khava Vayden had brought with her a small basket with a bit of food and also a bottle of water for her yet older husband Mordchai Ber. It could be that she had also hidden
|This photo was in the possession of a German soldier, who was taken captive by our friend Yitzhok Levine|
the 50yearold wedding band, and her entire wealth, and she simply couldn't let go of it out of her hand, and the SS man fought with the old lady and told her you need nothing, none of you need anything. These are your last hours.
The Germans beat them, pushed and beat them: You aren't standing correctly, you aren't sitting correctly. They searched for reasons to justify their cruel habits, their wild instincts.
There were about six hundred Jews for the last walk.
What was collected was a little mountain of packages, and
the murderous eyes gleefully looked at this pile of packages, and beat them with great glee also. They beat them with sticks, with police batons, with whips, with feet, with bare hands, they hit a lot, with joy and laughter, until they were satisfied. But no one cried, no one screamed, not even the children. Not even a groan, not even a Jewish painful groan was heard. Yes, something was heard. A sort of a murmur. Men said their Vidui (confession of sins).
Someone in a corner had dropped something onto the cement floor, and he squashed it, and one of the murderers heard it. He was furious, and he beat this man. Meanwhile, he speculated with great fury. Such a guy you break, but you don't break a watch. And he couldn't calm himself.
And the Jews prayed quietly to Gd. Quietly, without voice. With pale lips. Many had lips that didn't move and very dry eyes raised to the heaven, and they stood like that.
No. No. Dogs did not guard them. Except them, no living creature was guarding them.
Around 12 o'clock, big, heavy trucks, draped with black tarps arrived. With screams and beatings, the remnants of the Pshaitsh (Przedecz) Jews were chased onto the trucks. That is when a wail broke out. A loud, unrestrained cry. This was a frightening cry. I never heard such a cry. Not before and not since. The worst is that no one was in a condition to record this frightening cry.
I don't know what kind of trucks these were. I also don't know how many there were. Maybe they were gas chambers on wheels. I can say no more. They were covered with black tarps.
But from those machines I saw no one come out and never saw them again.
But yes, yes. They were our mothers, our fathers, brothers and sisters. There, had they murdered my heart.
There was my world, my youth, my old age. Everything. Everything.
Written according to the story of Sala (Goldman) Mindlinger
by Sela Mandlinger (Goldman)
Translated by Marshall Grant
© by Roberta Paula Books
Ed. Note: Please see also Sela Goldman's testimony about what she saw in those final hours in the Church, as transcribed in Yiddish from her story, and then translated from the Yiddish in the article The Last Hour, pp. 7375
In this letter, I wish to shortly write about what I have experienced under the Nazi regime during the years of the Holocaust and the unfolding of events that took place in my hometown of Przedecz (Pshedetz in Hebrew).
In order to be objective, I must admit that I did not feel antiSemitism in our town until the arrival of the German Nazis. This was when the bombings started until then things had been completely quiet. There was no panic and no one tried to leave the city. Thousands of refugees who had run away from neighboring towns found shelter with us, and each of us felt the obligation to take in one of the refugee families and help them to the best of our abilities. No one knew what awaited us and what tomorrow would bring; the days of hunger, persecution and smuggling had begun. When we heard rumors the Germans were approaching, the refugees who had flooded the town earlier left. They ran without direction and fell straight into the hands of the Germans. None of us had ever imagined such sadism. We felt on our own bodies. In 1941, the Germans arrested one hundred Jewish girls; they were collected inside the Christian church and from there were sent to forced labor. This group of one hundred girls was divided into three equal groups and each was sent to a different location. I was part of a group of thirtyfive girls sent to a farm near the town of Inowroclaw. We worked there from sunrise to sunset, and we received letters and packages from home. We were later sent to the Lojewo (Lavoye in Yiddish) camp where we were given various jobs, all hard for us, but in that camp, we didn't feel persecution or spite because the guards were Polish. Even the camp director was Polish. One day, two girls and I approached the director and requested authorization to visit our homes. It was understood that this would not easily be approved since this placed much responsibility on his shoulders, but he gave his consent based on his human values. We arrived home and found very few young people in the city and the mood was dreadful. Three days later, we left our families with a heavy and painful heart and returned to the camp. Some time later, several girls were released from the camp due to sores, Esther and Ravitza Frankel, Yatka Goldman and Lavenia Zielienska. They were very happy to be travelling home, and we envied them, but it ended in disaster. One day I received a letter from my mother, sister and brother, saying that they very much want to see me, and I of course did not hesitate and immediately walked, nervous and crying, to the director. I begged him to allow me to go home. He didn't waver and told me that the situation was very tense and bad for the Jews. He waits every day for the Nazi S.S. to come and check if the camp's prisoners can be accounted for and no one is missing, so of course he can't allow me to travel home. But he could offer a proposal. If I had a sister at home that could come and replace me, then I could travel home. I immediately wrote home with the offer. Several days later, my sister, Ronia, arrived at the camp, and I said goodbye to everyone. Who could tell maybe this is the last time I would see them? I travelled home. I am unable to describe the happiness at home when they saw me, but I was sorry to see that all the Jews had been forced to live in the old market and the tension was almost physical. Nevertheless, for me, the fact that I was able to reach home brought me great joy and I appreciated my luck. Unfortunately
this happiness did not continue for long. Five weeks after I had arrived home, one of the camp's Polish guards, who had guarded us at the Loyabu camp, arrived with travel papers for me and the girls who had been previously released from the camp. He tells us they are removing all the Jews from the neighboring towns and transporting them to a death camp, and he has come to take us back to the labor camp. For me, he had individual papers. He came in the evening and told me, Selka, get ready, tomorrow morning we are going. But he didn't want to give me my travel papers, he just told me where he was staying. We left early the next morning.
|Mrs. Miriam Sochachevsky, Avraham Goldman, his wife Traina, their late son, Heniach, and their daughter Ronia, a resident of the USA|
At 4 o'clock in the morning, my uncle Yehial Yosef Goldman comes and tells us: You know what? The entire town is surrounded by policemen and S.S. soldiers and they are taking all the Jews to the Catholic church. My mother asked me to run and get my travel papers and return to the camp. I leave the house and tell them I will be back soon with the papers, but when I returned home exhausted, to my dismay, I found no one any longer there. I run to the field, the field where Dacha Zechlinski lived. There was an outhouse there in the field and when I entered, I found that Regina Skovorondkin and Yetka Goldman were already hiding there. We made a plan to escape back to the camp that night, to where I had permission to travel. A short time later, the Christian, Novakovski Fajka arrives, opens the door and says: Ahh! It is you, the Jewish girls, stay here, maybe the Lord will save you. But he was a liar and deceitful, and he went and sent the Gestapo, and they took us to the church, where all the other Jews had already been sent. I was reunited with my mother and brother. My mother told me, Go to the policemen and show them your papers, maybe they will let you go. I didn't want to hear any of this because I was afraid of them. In the church were
five armed policemen who guarded us, made people run and beat them, and I was scared to approach them. But my mother was adamant and pushed me Go already! I eventually accepted her advice because I knew nothing would come of it. Why should they do something like this and release one Jewish girl? This could be a mark against them.
I approached one policeman and showed him my papers and said, I came from a labor camp and I want to return and work there. He told me to go to another person and he will arrange it. I went to the next policeman and he told me that he needed to go to the city's governor to confer with him. He left and didn't return for a long time. A policeman and the governor, Milanvach, later arrived and asked: Who is this Goldman girl? I go out and say that it is me, and he says, You are going back to the camp. I swear that for me this was a disaster, not a stroke of luck to leave my mother and brother who are surely going to their deaths. But my mother encouraged me and said, You are still young, maybe you will enjoy your life.
My heart turned to stone. I asked the policemen if I could stay with my mother until the last minute, and they consented. Cars came and everyone was ordered to stand outside the church. I don't have the words to describe this terrible, terrible moment. Blood simply flowed like a river. I will not forget that picture for as long as I live.
After all I had been through, I am the only Jewish girl in the city, of course with travel papers issued by Milanvach, the governor. Everyone in the city asked me, You aren't scared to come here? They could kill you. The Nazi HaflaksDeutsch approached me and asked me, What are you doing here, Ms. Goldman? Come to the police. I show him my papers and explain. He replies, You really are lucky, so much importance has been given to one Jewish girl! But travel to wherever you want to go. After the devastation I had experienced, and after all the other trying experiences and efforts, I made it back to the camp. I told about everything that had happened there since everyone had someone in the city who had been lost. And that's how we worked in forced labor for days and nights, weeks, months and years, in different camps, my sister and I. We were liberated from BerganBelsen in Germany on April 15, 1945.
by Levy Shveitzer
Translated by Roberta Paula Books
© Roberta Paula Books
Across my thoughts swim images that I cannot forget, and they cause me grief. How could the culture have sunk to such a low level?
In the summer of 1939 (a surreally normal life, full of nervous tension), but still the thinking didn't change and the attitude wasn't that of formulating a plan. Every few evenings, after a hot summer day, people would congregate in those homes that had radios to hear the evening news on Polish radio.
Afterward, a discussion would ensue. The majority of people did not believe there would be a war, and in this fashion August drew nearer. Hitler's Germany made its final preparations to attack Poland. Poland mobilized, and our town of Pshaytch (Przedecz in Polish) wasn't left out. Besides the many Jewish youth who were doing their regular military service, many more Jews from Pshaytch (Przedecz) were mobilized. Many of those who were drafted were married, fathers of small children; accompanied by their families, they all went to City Hall, where trucks were waiting to take them away. They said their goodbyes. Many of them were never seen again. This is when the anxious days and nights began, when life was disrupted. In big letters, the headline of the last newspaper to arrive was Europe Mobilizes. On the morning of September 1st, we heard warnings on Polish radio that they were coming, they were on their way. That was the announcement that German airplanes were bombing Polish cities. Pshaytch (Przedecz) is situated amongst the cities of Woclawek (Yiddish Vlatslavek), Kutno, and Kolo, but it did not have any military or industrial installations. The town was not bombed by the Germans and no military actions took place there. In fact, during the first days of the war, Jews from other towns such as Kolo, Kalisz, Turek and others fled to our town to escape the bombing in their town and because they feared the advance of Hitler's followers.
We received these Jews as brothers. The majority of houses were overly full, including the vestibules. Among those who arrived were many who had spent the First World War living in Pshaytch (Przedecz) and who spoke about the warm reception in that time too.
But unfortunately, this war had a different character. Hitler's Germany was carrying out a war of annihilation of Jews everywhere.
The nights were dark. Our electric current came from the electric station in Woclawek (Yiddish Vlatslavek), which was destroyed after a German bombardment.
The situation was worsening by the day. We began to live in fear as we saw the Polish military retreat from the fronts around Pomerania (??????) and Poznan, marching by Pshaytch (Przedecz) in the first days of the war. Many in the retreating Polish military were also antisemitic and wondered why there were so many Jews. They boycotted Jewish businesses and shouted threats, and this while they had to run away since Hitler's army was chasing them. This was difficult for the Jews. On one side, fear of the threats from the fleeing Polish military, which was retreating from the front, and on the other side, fear of the advancing Hitler forces who were approaching our region quickly.
Meanwhile disorder ruled. Highranking Polish officials, lead by the police, left town. Power was temporarily assumed by a Polish militia comprised of former fighters from the First World War who belonged to the ruling party of prewar Poland. Meanwhile Hitler's armies were advancing. With each day, more cities around Pshaytch (Przedecz) are captured. Large battles take place in Kutno, Gostynin and Lubicz. The refugees who had come to Pshaytch (Przedecz) began to leave. Many Jews who returned home found their homes and businesses plundered. In great panic, nearly all Jews returned to their place of residence.
Each day the situation worsened. Woclawek was captured by the German military. They pushed further in the direction of Pshaytch (Przedecz).
In mid September 1939, the second day of Rosh Hashanah (Friday, September 15th), in the early hours of the morning, we anticipated that Hitler's men would arrive that day. This brought pain and suffering to the Jews of Pshaytch (Przedecz). The day was rainy, and cried for the fate that awaited the Jews under the barbarian regime. Jews were in the midst of praying when news entered the Houses of Prayer that a German patrol could be seen at the edge of town. Greatly upset by this news, the praying was interrupted and, with half folded prayer shawls in their hands, everyone ran home to his family. Everyone throughout the town now knew the Germans were at the home of Moishe Raukh on Hadetch Street. The German pastor goes to greet them. The Hitlerists [Nazis] order the rabbi of our town, Rabbi Zemelman, to be brought to them immediately, as well as the Christian
clergyman from town by the name of Geyzler. They are both warned against any resistance from the populace.
When they arrived in town, they began to search the houses for weapons and simultaneously hung a swastika from the top of the roof of City Hall.
From the day the Hitler regime began, the pain and suffering of the Jews increased. They took over the new fire station, situated in the middle of the new market. The situation of the Jews in the region became more difficult. Because of the Hitlerists, they were the first ones appropriated and sent to various tasks. One of the first Jews dragged from his home and forced to work by the Hitlerists was Rabbi Zemelman. Also, other well established, wealthier Jewish elders who lived around the new market were sent to work in order to humiliate them in front of the nonJewish population.
This was the goal of the National Socialist German Third Reich.
I cannot skip, and want to mention this: when the Hitlerists caught the Rabbi and forced him to carry planks of wood, the Jewish boy Yakov Yakubovitch approached and asked the military men if he could do the work instead of the Rabbi, and asked them to free the Rabbi. They considered this request insolent and beat Yakov Yakubovitch bloody. People lived in great fear. It was a small town. With the help of the Christians, the Germans soon learned everything about the Jews. They knew each day who to drag out of their house to do various jobs on the streets. The Jews were forced to chop wood, clean the streets, and remove, with a spoon, the grass growing around the stones by the new market.
I, too, was forced to work, with many other Jews, mainly older Jews. The Hitlerists did not forget about Rabbi Zemelman. They made him responsible for ensuring that nobody escaped work.
It is hard to describe how this appeared. Everything was done to humiliate us and gain the sympathy of those Christians who hated the Jews. They showed the local Christians they came to carry out a common goal, which was to harass the Jews. They also wanted to divert their hatred toward them for invading Poland.
The capturing of Jews and sending them to work became a daily occurrence. There was hardly a Jewish home which the Hitlerists
did not find.
There were trained soldiers whose main task was to capture Jews. There was one small elegant soldier that the Jews called August. He was a constant Jew grabber. When small children saw him, they said: Father, hide. August is coming to snatch you for work.
Every day brought new edicts to the Jews of Pshaytch (Przedecz). The Germans ordered all stores remain open. They went into every Jewish store and ordered them to hang a sign saying Jewish Store, and began to implement the Nuremberg anti Jewish laws of Streicher, Rosenberg and Goebbels. The unsold goods in the Jewish stores had to be sold without replenishing with fresh goods. At Leyzer Zikhlinsky's, the largest grocery store in town, everything was sold out, even kerosene. A Christian woman reported to the German commandant that they did not want to sell her kerosene. As a result, accompanied by armed soldiers, Zihhlinsky's son Bunim was led through all the streets in town with a big sign on his chest and back which said, in Polish and German, that this Jewish swine refuses to sell to Poles. Soon, there were more and more of this type of denunciations. Nobody knew what awaited him the next day.
Soon after, the pious religious life that Jews had led up to this point was affected. Thus, the first Jews were seized by the Hitlerists and their beards shaved off. Several Jews who had to go out hid their beards. Reb Shmuel Yamnik, the ritual slaughterer, tied his beard with a colourful kerchief as he secretly went to private homes to slaughter the sacrificial chicken (kaporos) on the eve of Yom Kippur. This was all connected to fear and anguish. Jews did not want to give up their religious life. Despite the fact that the Germans closed all the prayer houses and collective prayer was absolutely forbidden, this was the first Yom Kippur under Hitler's rule, and the Jews risked their lives to organize prayer in private homes. In the midst of praying, the Germans, probably with the help of the local Christian population, managed to capture a few Jews. Still wearing their prayer shawls, they were brought to the commandant and beaten for their transgressions.
This is how religious life was forcefully repressed. Jews had to change their outward appearance, remove their Jewish traditional clothing which they had been wearing for generations.
It was now the Days of Awe. The Germans understood in detail the Jewish holidays and went to great lengths to instill more suffering and anguish during these times. During the first days of Sukkot, the Germans demanded that
the Jews of Pshaytch (Przedecz) pay a high tax of over twenty thousand Polish zlotys. They warned of severe consequences if the Jews did not pay up. Upset by this Hitleristic demand, the Jews tried to find a way to fulfill it. They approached a Polish German resident, the former school teacher in the folk school named Lorentz, who also could not tolerate these Hitleristic deeds. Mr. Lorentz went with the Jewish representative to Woclawek, to the regional board. The Hitleristic regional board told Mr. Lorentz not to get involved and not to pay for them. Sorely disappointed and afraid of the threats, the Jews began to collect the money. But the suffering and anguish did not stop. On the second day of Sukkot, on the night of Shmini Atzeret, the Hitlerists perpetrated a huge crime. They set fire to the Pshaytch (Przedecz) synagogue. It is hard to describe the shock felt by all the Jews in town. The next day, all the Jews in town, young and old, were shrouded in sorrow and there was pain in every Jewish heart. After the holiday, the Rabbi, accompanied by his son, went to the place where the synagogue once stood and the coals were still burning. The synagogue which had taken in several generations of Jewish prayers. The Rabbi eulogized the synagogue. While the community was still mourning the burned synagogue, the military commandant ordered the leaders and other wellknown religious Jews to come to him and mockingly said: I have good soldiers who told me that the Jews burned down the synagogue. With these words, he wanted to increase their pain even more. They were forced to sign that Jews were responsible for setting the synagogue on fire … there was not even one calm day or night.
It is now the end of October 1939. It is starting to get cold, the days rainy. On one of these rainy nights, the Hitlerist soldiers were let loose through the entire town, breaking into Jewish homes, and dragging all the Jewish men from their beds, including the old and the weak. They were gathered together by armed soldiers, taken to an uninhabited part of town, where there were stables, where the roads were not paved, only muddy due to the wet rainy weather. This is where the Nazis began their sadistic pranks. Accompanied by beatings and threats of being shot, they forced the Jews to obey their various commands. They were ordered to lie down and roll in the mud, as well as other sadistic exercises. As if this was not enough
torture, the soldiers brought them to the water pump, where the soldiers poured cold water on them. The Jews arrived home with wet clothes, covered with mud, tortured and bruised. In the hours of late afternoon on the same day, the Hitlerists brought, on a Polish wagon, two Poles from the hamlet of Brunisawa who, according to them, had been shot. They gathered more Jews and forced them to bring the corpses to the fire hall. With that, the Hitlerist military finished their torture for the day. A few days later, they left town. Military gendarmes replaced them temporarily, until a commissar and an adjutant were sent by the socalled Third Reich. They took over the local authority and, through various means, began to eliminate whatever Jewish life still existed. The gendarmes continued to send Jews to work in Katarzyna village [Translator's Note: part of the outskirts of Pshaytch], where they confiscated property and assumed responsibility for administration. And in this way, Jews were brought there, chained in rows, every day to work. The new commissar ordered that the head of the Jewish community, Dovid Zikhlinsky, come to him and ordered him to be the representative for the Jews. He now had to make the Jews of Pshaytch (Przedecz) aware of all antiJewish commands.
It was now a bit easier, now that the Jews were not being captured for work. The number of Jews sent to work was now carried out by the Jewish representative.
Dovid Zikhlinsky got a few Jews to work with him. They succeeded in normalizing [the system] so that old and weak Jews weren't called up for forced labor. The commissar and his Hitleristic assistant, together with local so called VolksDeutche [Translator's Note: people of German extraction but without German citizenship], who supported the Hitleristic party, began systematically to destroy the orderly life of Jews in town. They began to confiscate Jewish homes, giving people just a few hours to leave, requiring that they leave furniture, bedding and all valuables behind for the Germans. The commissar's first demand was another tax of forty thousand Zlotys, demanded with threats. The Jews could no longer assemble this amount of money. Therefore, the Hitlerists let loose through the town, going from store to store until they took every last bit of merchandise. From that day on, Jewish businesses were liquidated and the stores were closed for good.
The Hitlerists made laws for the Jews. Every day, antiJewish edicts were announced, how they had to wear the yellow patch
on the shoulder of their clothing. It was also forbidden for Jews to walk on the sidewalks. They had to walk in the middle of the road.
Living under these medieval conditions had a terrible impact on everyone. A portion of Jewish youth, in various ways, began to run away toward the east to the German Russian border in an attempt to enter the Soviet Union. Many would later join the Red Army or the Polish procured army to heroically fight the Nazis.
Unfortunately many did not make it due to various reasons.
Pshaytch (Przedecz) and the surrounding area was occupied by the Third Reich. They chased out Jews and Poles from the region to the not occupied part of Poland called the Protectorate which spanned from Lyubitz near Kutno until the Lublin region. They began to hear that the Nazis took all the Jews from the nearby town of Lubien and made the town the first in the area to be clean of Jews. They were all sent to the Lublin region. Hearing this sad news everyone wanted to be together with their families in case this happened to them.
People lived with great anxiety, and no one knew what to do. Time passes and everyone remains together under Hitler's rule. No one can leave, and all Jews faced the same fate. The name of the town was changed to a German name Musburg. The commissar announced the Jews of Pshaytch (Przedecz) will not be sent away and could remain. But he still demanded the representative send a set amount of Jews to work every day. The forced laborers were guarded by local VolksDeutche armed with weapons and sticks. They ran the work site. It happened often that Jews were bloodily beaten.
The Jewish representative and his helpers sent Jews to work on a regular basis. They also organized a system that if was someone's turn to work and he wanted to be freed because he had an opportunity to earn some money, he would pay a sum of money and another who needed a few zlotys went to work in his place.
The Jewish representative was often called to the commandant and fearfully had to report to him and return with bitter news. This is how the Nazis sent the order to liquidate the Jewish cemetery and destroy all the tombstones. Some of these tombstones were
hundreds of years old and were distributed among the farmers in the surrounding villages. Jews had to witness this. It pained every Jewish heart to see how the Nazis desecrated the Jewish cemetery. The holy place where the bones of relatives and friends rested. The Nazis took local Polish citizens to carry out this desecration, which they did with sadistic joy. Every time they ripped out a tombstone they shouted insults to those who had found their eternal rest. After they removed all the tombstones, the cemetery was levelled and the commissar ordered two benches be placed under the two tall trees. He would go there every afternoon with his retinue and look at the nearby river.
They were happy to have liquidated the Jewish cemetery and put a stop to religious life. The House of Study was transformed into a shoe factory for the Germans, the Prayer House where simple, good hearted Jewish artisans prayed, such as shoemakers, tailors and hat makers, was confiscated and every vestige of open Jewish religious life was burned.
However the Germans could not take away the inner beliefs of the Jews. Jews risked their lives and gathered in a quorum to pray in people's homes. Jewish parents ensured their children would not forget the Hebrew alphabet and should continue to learn what they had previously studied in school.
The Germans also put an end to all communal and cultural activities that had existed until this time. The two libraries were closed. The Sholem Aleichem Library was closed even before the war by the Polish government. The second one, the Public Library was closed by the Germans. Yet many homes had a lot of books which the children used. Books were passed from hand to hand and were read by many, helping to stay connected to a cultural life the Germans tried to destroy.
Jewish soldiers who were taken prisoner by the Germans when they heroically fought in the ranks of the Polish army were freed and began to return to Pshaytch (Przedecz). They brought with them news of soldiers who fell in battle against the Nazi beasts. Their names were Itche Danielsky, Ezriel Danielsky, Yitzkhak Frankenshteyn, Notte Krel.
We also learned about soldiers who were captured by the Germans and, right after being released, were murdered.
Their names were: Naftali Volf Kladovsky, his brother Khonen Kladovsky and Mikhl Hersh Goldman.
Exact details about the mass murder of many Jewish prisoners were recounted by Abba Buks (Books). He himself had escaped from a prison camp. He told how the Kladovsky brothers hugged each other while being shot by the barbarians. The stories about the crimes committed frightened and shocked everyone.
Life for the remaining Jews in Pshaytch (Przedecz) became even more restricted. They were now starting to liquidate the artisan workshops. The Jewish representative was called and was ordered to tell the Jews they were not permitted to work at their trades in their homes. The Germans then went through the town with a local Volksdeutsche resident. He was a tailor who had trained with Jews. They went into every tailor's home and confiscated all sewing machines and other tools of the trade. If they found a piece of fabric, they took it away. The name of this Volksdeutche was Velder. He took some of the sewing machines for himself, and the Jewish tailors had to work for him without compensation.
The commissar walked around town and, with his cane, pointed to all the buildings that should be confiscated, and the work must be done by Jews for very little pay.
In order to buy a few essentials, Jews had to sell their last few possessions.
Artisans such as tailors and shoe makers sometimes managed to make something for a Christian and would receive some essential goods in return, and hoped to live to see Hitler's end.
By early spring, 1941 there were once again many German soldiers in town. People were saying that many soldiers were heading toward Warsaw. This is eastward toward the Russian German border. The soldiers from our town were also heading east.
On the morning of June 22nd , 1941 we heard that war broke out between Hitler's Germany and the Soviet Union. The situation for the Jews is getting worse. The Germans begin to send Jews from surrounding towns to camps. The local commissar still needed the Jews of Moosburg (the German name for Pshaytch) to work for him and told the representative he will not allow them to be sent away. However, the Jews knew about German promises, and many awaited the same fate,
and no one was sure what tomorrow would bring, although most were sitting and waiting with their families.
A few months later this is what happened. On the eve of Yom Kippur, the elder called me and Daniel Ravsky to him. He told us that the next day, which was Yom Kippur, we had to go to a village to work for a German farmer so that all the other Jews could remain in town, fast and observe Yom Kippur and the holiness of the day will not be disturbed. We appreciated the importance of this deed. We happily carried out our work on Yom Kippur knowing that, thanks to us, the whole Jewish community was free from work on this holy day of Yom Kippur. Only when we returned from our work did we learn what kind of Yom Kippur the Nazis made for the Jews.
A group gathered for prayer at the home of Yakov Volf Klar, which, was near the Study House. With broken hearts and wrapped in prayer shawls, the Jews chanted the prayers. Many tears were shed over the bitter fate awaiting the few remaining Jews. The Volksdeutsch Velder suddenly appeared looking for a Jewish tailor to do some work. He saw the Jews wrapped in their prayer shawls and ran to the commissar to inform him of this great crime that Jews were committing. The Germans came running, and found the Jews in their prayer shawls, and dragged them out to the new market. The Jews were given brooms and forced to sweep the street. Children were not spared, and leading them all was the rabbi, Rabbi Zemelman.
This was how the last Yom Kippur looked for the Jews of Pshaytch (Przedecz). In 1941, on the first day of Sukkot, two groups of girls, including married women without children, were sent to a camp in Inubrutslav. A few days later the Germans demanded the men be sent as well.
The Nazis let loose in town, chasing people out of their homes. I too was caught then and, together with sixty other Jews from Pshaytch (Przedecz), was sent to camps in Poznan.
by Levi Shveitzer, Kiryat Motzkin Haifa
Translated by Roberta Paula Books
© by Roberta Paula Books
Wednesday the 7th of October, 1941, in the middle days of Sukkos, the town had not yet settled down from the heartache inflicted four days earlier when the Hitlerists took all the girls aged fourteen and up, together with childless women, and sent them to camps near Inowrolaw (Inavratslov in Yiddish). Then a new shock. When most of the Jews in town were on the road coming back from forced labor, where they were required to be, the Jewish spokesperson, Dovid Zikhlinsky, arrived and delivered the disturbing news; the German commissar had told him that they required Jews to be sent away to work. Immediately, the gendarmes and Hitlerists, with swastikas on their armbands, fell upon them with batons in their hands. They chased people out of their homes; everyone had to line up in the market near city hall. Just about everyone knew the fate that awaited them. The turmoil was considerable, and, under the watch of the gendarmes and Gestapo, we were driven into the Christian church. The mothers and the wives of the men who were taken tremble and cry. With grieved and broken hearts, they bring a bit of clothing and, to the extent possible, a bit of food, taken from our mouths. Dovid Zikhlinsky finds us in the church, asking who needs a bit of money.
Outside, the peasants were already waiting with horses and wagons, and in the middle of the night they took us away, accompanied by the shouts and cries of our nearest and dearest, which reverberated throughout the town. This is how we parted from our dear and near ones, for good. We travelled by wagon until the station Szatki (Tseti in Yiddish). From there we went by small train to Wloclawek (Vlatzlovek in Yiddish), and then to Poznan (Poyzen in Yiddish). Arriving in Poznan, at the train station, there were guards already waiting for us, as well as agents of the Gestapo, who took us to the horrible camp stadium (Translators note: Probably the Edmund Szyc Stadium on Dolna Wilda Street in Poznan). This is where the main supervisors over all of the forced labor camps around Poznan were situated. The appearance of the camp left a terrifying impression on all of us; It was surrounded by barbed wire, and a gallows stood in the middle of the mustering place. The Gestapo would bring in Jews from other camps to be hanged, when their only crime was taking a piece of bread from a Christian, or straying too far from their workplace. The camp had already been in existence for half a year when we, the Pshaytcher Jews (Przedecz),
The Germans brought the first Jews here from Lodz and Ozorkow (Ozerkov in Yiddish). Across from the camp was another camp in one building which had been a mustard factory, called Remo. There were Jews in this building from the neighboring towns to Przedecz Chodecz (Pshaytch Khadetch in Yiddish), Izbica Kujawska (Izbitzia Koyabsky in Yiddish), Kolo, Turek, and many others. These young Jews were brought there by the Hitlerists at the outbreak of the GermanRussian war, and we sixty Pshaytcher (Przedecz) Jews were held in the camp stadium. We were assigned one room in a building that had at one time been used for human waste… . Soon after we arrived at the camp, they led us to work every day, very early in the morning, guarded by Polish uniformed watchmen who had a good mastery of the German language and who, before the war, belonged to the anti Semitic political parties Endeks (the National Democratic party) and Nara group. Their leader was the big anti Semite Shlibitsky, an outspoken anti semite, a distinguished person in pre war Poland. Our job consisted of digging channel ditches to lay pipes to a depth of more than three meters connected to the military factories. The factories called it the prakhavnye (Yiddish for the Wonder). There was also a wagon factory, where many English prisoners of war worked. The work was overseen by a German firm named Tsun . This is when terrifying days began. With this work, overseen by German and Polish mining masters. They immediately begin to warn us and threaten us: For not wanting to work well, you know where you belong … The Poles tell us they brought us here to annihilate us. When we returned to camp after our first day at work, we immediately realized that this was one of the worst and most horrible places to work, and how many Jews were beaten bloody here? Meanwhile, the first letters from home begin to arrive. Our loved ones know where we are. This sweetens our lives a bit. The work is becoming even worse. The German master who the Poles called Bambrovitz Bombardier beat us every day with our work tools, throwing punches wherever they landed. Thus, every day Jews would return to camp from work with bloodied heads. The factory was surrounded by a tall fence, closed with concrete fasteners. Outside Gestapo agents are on watch. The murderers beat us at will. One took me inside the barrack and began to mercilessly beat me with a rubber baton. I ripped open the door and with a loud scream ran out. After this, when they let others in to be beaten, they closed the door tightly… . The English prisoners of war,
soldiers who worked there, helped us as much as possible. Once, they lured the man called Bombardier to them and beat him up. He made a lot of noise and ran over to the German soldiers who were guarding us, only he made no fuss over it. It also happened that a Polish woman cried out asking why are you beating us. Right away, a Gestapo agent came and arrested her. We later learned that she received a sixmonth sentence. The situation got even worse when they took us to work at the police target range. The Poles called it the Warsaw Gate. The place was called Malta and had once been a coffee factory. Our lives were now completely unprotected. We were beaten freely and unrestrainedly. Our only comfort was returning to camp and finding a letter from a loved one at home. We received letters again with sad news. Jews were being sent to Inowroclaw (in Yiddish, Inovaratslav) to a work camp. Ten days later, another transport of Jews; that is how the Hitlerists emptied our town of Jews, despite the promises from the commissar that Moosburg Jews would remain. The German name for Przedecz was Moosburg. Our letters are censored, but our fathers, mothers, husbands and wives know our situation is worsening by the day. Our group of Jews from Pshaytch (Przedecz) in the Poznan camp stadium remained together. We did not give up hope and belief that their end will come. We find a German language newspaper on the way home, after a day of work which was always accompanied by beatings and abuse. Khaim Aron Aurbakh sits up until late at night and reads everything thoroughly. Very early in the morning, we go to work in chains and pass the news from one to another. We are happy when we hear they have suffered severe losses on the front. But we often receive bad news from home. We begin to hear about mass abuse and deportations in unfamiliar directions. We begin to hear about a camp called Chelmno, about which none of us believe that all the Jews brought there are being killed. The more news we receive, the sadder it is, and weakens our resolve about returning home. The only ones remaining at home are lonely mothers with small children and elderly parents. They are all worried about their fate and ours. Our dear ones sell off whatever they have left in order to buy and send whatever food and clothing they can, in an attempt to sustain our lives in the camps. Often, our loved ones would stand in line all day at the building of the
gendarmerie, but at the end of the day were unable to send off a package. This is what my dear mother wrote to me.
The situation in the camp is becoming worse and worse. Our food consists of 200 grams of black bread daily. (perhaps eight slices of bread, or about 500 calories) For lunch, we received a little bit of Kohlrabi with water, cooked without a drop of oil or meat. We were very hungry. We were becoming weaker by the day. People were swollen from hunger. A typhus epidemic broke out. They locked down the camp and no longer took us to work, as they feared contaminating the surrounding population. Every day brought new corpses due to hunger and typhus. Every day, a wagon came to the camp, pulled by two white horses. They called it Pirak's wagon. The wagon would be filled with Jews dead and swollen from hunger. The first to die from Pshaytch (Przedecz) was Vova Danielsky, the son of Mikhl Danielsky who lived on Khatcher Street. The winter was very difficult. Lots of snow and frost. It was January 1942. Our work for the firm East German High and Deep Building Company was done. Sitting in the camp in Building 4, we worried about our future. Two Jewish camp police come running in and take four strong men to do a work. They took the brothers Mendl and Meir Kazimiersky as well as Efraim Engel and Tuvia Goldman. A few hours later, they returned in a Gestapo vehicle, their clothes covered in blood. In a dejected state, they told us how they were taken to Gestapo headquarters, where they saw crates filled with guillotined people. They took the crates out to a crematorium to burn. They quickly realized these were highly educated Poles, whom the Gestapo regularly killed. Right at the camp is the office of the camp leader. New orders are issued from there very often. They tell us to write home and say we can receive two German Marks in each letter. Immediately, each person writes home that they should include two marks in a letter and send it to us. The first comes to us, and every family sends several letters with two marks enclosed. But this does not come to us. The leader of the camp takes it all. This is just to squeeze the last of what our dear ones at home still have. After this, when they sent us back to work, our group from Pshaytch (Przedecz) was divided up and sent to different camps such as Shteynek, Lenchik, and others. Among us there were many brothers who wanted to be together. They rode to the camps together. I remained in the camp stadium. I received letters from home that in the small towns around Pshaytch (Przedecz) there are fewer and fewer Jews. There are no longer
any Jews in Klodawa, Kolo, Chodech, Lubien and Izbica, and other towns around Pshaytch (Przedecz).
It is April 1942. The Jews in Pshaytch (Przedecz) are living as if on an island. There is no longer any other Jewish life that exists. The letters we receive from home on different levels become very worrisome, the word Chelmno appears in various ways … the last cards we received, that they wrote to me: it is Passover, we are sitting at our Seder table, and we poured oceans of tears. We are preparing for the battle (khasene the word also means wedding), the battle (khasene) is nigh. Our pained hearts understood everything. My last letter from home said: we are off to battle (khasene). We wanted to see you again…This was my last contact with my home. In the camp, we are determined with every hope to remain living. No one could stop crying, knowing we will no longer have any contact with our loved ones…
War was raging in Poland. The hunger in the camp was great. People were distended from hunger. Every day there were fresh corpses. There are fewer of us from Pshaytch (Przedecz). People are signing up for transports. In reality, these transports were taking people to their death at Chelmno. Nobody believed the rumors that were being spread that people were being sent east to the inhabited regions of Russia. The Germans told us they were sending people back the Lodz ghetto. Many Jews from Lodz and Ozorkov sign up with the hope of greeting their loved ones in their home …
Every day fewer people were sent to work, due to the numbers sitting in camp with swollen feet and bodies. I can also not neglect mentioning the lowdown treacherous treatment by the Jewish camp police, who blew a whistle very early every morning to wake us for work. They poked us with rubber batons, chased us out of the building and didn't pass up the chance to beat our skinny, bony bodies which could no longer feel the beatings. They believed that with such behaviour they will be the only ones to survive the Poznan camps. They did not believe or did not want to understand that the Hitlerists used them against their own Jewish brothers. A Jew remains a Jew. The Germans will not take this into account, and will kill them after they use them.
We, the remaining Pshaytcher Jews (Przedecz), were assigned to a new work unit. We walked a few kilometers to the socalled work place, where a wild Volksdeutche (people whose language and culture had German origins, but who did not hold German citizenship) Stelmanshtsik,
together with his helper, a Polish enemy of the Jews named Shikorsky, would sadistically beat us continuously at work. He would hand out our lunch, which consisted of cabbage cooked in water. While we stood in line waiting for our food, he would pour it into the Cybina River which ran nearby our work place, or he would pour gasoline into our food … and then portions it out to us to eat. Our work consisted of loading small wagons of sand. If the wagons were not completely filled, we would be penalized and threatened and reported to the Gestapo, deprived of food and so on. When we returned to our camp stadium, we would often receive news; the Gestapo brought Jews from other camps to be hanged. The engineer Noyman is the head of all Jewish forced labor camps around Poznan. He brought the hangman's rope (noose), the gallows is a constant which always stands in the middle of the mustering place. That's where many Jews from other camps are forced to watch the hangings of these victims, this is all brought forth under the watchful eye of the Gestapo armed with machine guns.
After the second year of horrible suffering in Hitler's forced labor camps around Poznan, a large proportion of Jews were killed in various ways. All the work camps in the region were liquidated in September 1943. And we, the few who remained from Pshaytch (Przedecz) and Jews from other towns, were sent to Auschwitz. In Auschwitz a new hell began. I was separated from my few townspeople and sent to a concentration camp named Swietochlowice (Shventikhlovitz in Yiddish) near Katowice (Katovitz in Yiddish). When I got there I found Khaim Skubronsky, who arrived there before me. The suffering there was horrific. Every day, the Jewish workers were beaten by the S.S who were helped by the camp Capos. We were bloodily beaten and bitten by their wolf hounds. When we saw these conditions, we realized we could not survive there for long. I decided with two other Jews from the town Ozorkow (Orzukhov in Yiddish) to risk our lives and join another work detail which worked outside the camp. When we returned to the camp in the evening, we were called out during roll call and we were required to report to the head of the camp. When we did not step out of line, the Capos and the S.S. came to us in line and beat us brutally. For a long time, we were unable to return to work.
After two months, we were taken in closed trucks, guarded by S.S. to Birkenau. This was the largest
extermination camp at Auschwitz. I met with several people from Pshaytch (Przedecz) who had also overcome much in many different labor camps.
It is hard to describe my encounter with our Pshaytchers. No one knew who among us would live to see the next day.
There was also here a women's camp with few girls from Pshaytch (Przedecz) who were sent here from the Inowroclaw (Inavaratslav) camps. In January 1944, I went with a group of Jews to work. We walked through the deep snow, which covered the swamps of the death camp Bzezinke (in German, Birkenau). We came to a place where a group of women and girls were standing, deep in snow, bent over from the freezing cold and work. They are taking apart a wooden hut. When I looked at them, I heard someone call my name in a surprised voice. It was Gitl, one of the two Rivnitsky sisters. Immediately, the rest of the girls from Pshaytch (Przedecz) began spontaneously to scream and call out Levi, Levi. From a distance, they began to ask me about relatives and acquaintances who were sent with me to Poznan. Unfortunately, we could not get closer since the murderers were guarding us.
The majority of them, I did not see again. There in Birkenau, the largest portion of the Pshaytsher youth were brought to death by the Hitlerists. Forever, they remain before my eyes. While there, I also saw Hersh Topolsky. He was killed in a struggle against the Germans when he participated in an uprising against the Sonderkommando, November 6th, 1944.
After three months and surviving various illnesses and selections, I was sent to other camps, Buna, Glaybitz, Flusenburg and Dachau where we were liberated on April 29th 1945 by the American army. There I met Moshe Ahron Yakubovsky, Fishl Goldman and Ezriel Skabransky. Unfortunately Ezriel died after we were liberated from Dachau.
I cannot make peace with the fact that all of this happened, and I can still visualize the wretched truth. When the American army sent a transport of Poles back to Poland, I was among them.
I arrived in Pshaytch (Przedecz) during the middle days of Sukkos. Exactly four years earlier, I was torn away and sent to Poznan with sixty others. Of that group, only three remained living.
It is hard to describe my arrival in town. Beginning on Khatcher Street where we arrived, I walked through the new market, the old market and other small streets. The houses were still standing and before my eyes I still see the Jews who once lived there and
who had their businesses there. Like in every other town, everyone knew every name and every nickname which was acquired through the generations. Not one of them is left.
There were now others inhabiting homes that had belonged to Jews, and other salespersons running the stores that had previously belonged to Jews.
Meanwhile, living in Pshaytch, having returned from the camps, Moishe and Beltsya Yakhimovitch, Yosef Burnshteyn, Mendl Frankenshteyn. Everyone who came back to Pshaytch (Przedecz) stayed with Moishe and Beltsye Yakhimovitch.
A select few arrived who had survived under various difficult conditions. Some returned from the Soviet Union (Raten Farband) where they served in the Red Army and heroically fought against Hitler's murderers and helped to free Poland, and for that they received distinctions of honor.
However, we were received with menacing looks from the Polish population. They saw in us that we were coming to disturb their quiet life in the stolen homes and businesses that once belonged to the Jews.
Everyone who survived and then returned to Pshaytch (Przedecz) fulfills his mission of visiting the graves of his parents before leaving Poland.
Holocaust survivors from Pshaytch (Przedecz) dispersed to all parts of the world, but the majority yearned for Israel and actually settled here. And there remained with everyone the memory of the Jewish life that had once existed in the town of Pshaytch (Przedecz).
by Davidovitz Yehoshua TelAviv
Translated from the Hebrew by Leon Zamosc
and from the Yiddish by Roberta Paula Books
© by Roberta Paula Books
The events in the town of Przedecz during the Shoah.
With reverence and a heavy heart, I sit down to write about the days of destruction and annihilation that befell the Jews of Przedecz when the German Nazis arrived in our town. In doing so, I will contribute to the task of assembling this Book of Remembrance for the martyrs of our town. I will try my best to refresh my memory and put in writing the horrible events of those days and years. (I switch to writing in Yiddish so that I can express myself better).
Pshaytsh (Przedecz) in 1939
The small Jewish town of Pshaytch (Przedecz in Polish, Pshedets in Hebrew) lived in happiness and suffering. The majority of the Jewish population were craftsmen: tailors, shoemakers, hat makers. They worked hard all week to earn a living, travelling from Sunday to Friday to fairs from one town to another, selling their handcrafted goods. This continued until the outbreak of the Second World War on September 1st, 1939. The Germans entered our town on Rosh Hashanah. By chance, it was raining, and all the Jews were gathered in the prayer houses chanting the prayers of the Days of Awe. When the German military marched in, we Jews ran from the synagogue and the prayer houses and hid wherever we could.
On Hoshana Rabbah, the Germans burned down the synagogue. The next morning, they called the leader of the Jewish community, Dovid Zikhlinsky, to them and demanded a tax and accused the Jews of burning down the synagogue. The amount was large, but the money was collected and given to the Nazis. At the same time, the soldiers seized Rabbi Zemelman, of blessed memory. They forced him to clean the street and carry heavy beams of wood from the Engel brothers' place on Khadetsher Road to the new marketplace. It is unimaginable how the Rabbi managed to do this. They also sheared off his beard. I will never forget that scene. They were not yet bothering the young people. Later, a commissar came and took control of the German military. The fact is, from that moment on, life in Pshaytsh (Przedecz) normalized. Three work units were formed, the young under the direction of Efraim Engel, the middle aged under the direction of Binyumin Frenkel, and the older people under the direction of Leybush Ash. The Jews' elder was Dovid Zikhlinsky. It is important to establish that over a brief period of about a year, nothing special
We continued to live in the same place. The Poles claimed that we ruled the town under the leadership of Dovid Zikhlinsky. At this time Rabbi Zemelman, of blessed memory, befriended the commissar, to the extent that he often called on the Rabbi. Fortuitously, I was once present when the two of them were together discussing religious philosophy. The military occupied the house of prayer. They, too, were good to the Rabbi and showed him respect. This world came to an end when an order arrived from the work division to which all the girls had to submit. This was the beginning of 1941. They were all confined in the Catholic Church and at dawn were sent to a work camp in Inowroclaw. This blow was the first tragedy for the Jewish families of our town. Immediately after that came an order for the young men to present themselves, and the same heart wrenching scene was repeated. I will mention that not all the young men obeyed the order, so the gendarmes, together with civilian Germans, went from house to house and searched in every corner, and despite this found only a small number. My brother Avrom Zalman, of blessed memory, and I managed to hide. The transport went to Poznan and hardly anyone from this transport survived. However my brother Avrom Zalman of blessed memory and I were on the second transport. They sent us to Inowroclaw (in Yiddish, Inavaratslav). We were there for two years. We were town workers in a variety of jobs. We also worked with the trains. We didn't know hunger and we were not guarded, but this freedom took a victim. The horrible tragedy happened one Sunday when my brother Zalman went to look for our sister Rokhl in Lojewo (in Yiddish, Layove), eight kilometres from our camp, where there were many girls from Pshaytsh. The Gestapo caught both of them outside the camp, arrested them and brought them to a disciplinary camp. As described by others, they were horribly tortured and accused of smuggling survival supplies, since my sister gave him a lot of food. And they were killed there by bloody Nazi hands. Yakov Prakhovsky was also killed by the Gestapo. He was caught putting a letter in a mail box. Zelig Bornshteyn was also killed there. He was caught in town with food. Hersh Zingerman died a natural death, and they buried him in the Polish cemetery. There were also two selections, meaning selecting people to send to Chelmno (an extermination camp). The first taken
were elderly Pshaytsher Jews that were with us. Unfortunately I don't remember all their names. I do remember Itche Vaydn, Moishe Ravsky, Shimshon Zikhlinsky the boot stitcher, Moishe Plotsker, Pinkhas Romer, Moishe Raukh, Yisroel Khaim Zielinsky, Avrom Ekert, and Mordkhai Pozner. The second selection took place at the end of 1943. Each of us, without exception, was taken to the Gestapo site, as well as people from other camps, so many Jews gathered there. It is a fact that thirty five Jews from our camp were sent back, saying that this was thanks to the Inowroclaw city council, because they needed the Jews to work in the city. All the Jews were taken to Chelmno. It was difficult for me to understand why I and a few others were saved, since they took other tall, heathy, strong men to Chelmno, for example the son of Yekhezkel Mordkhai Lentsitsky and others. They probably went according to a list. The number of Pschaytsher Jews that they took was about forty. Unfortunately, I don't remember their names. Around Rosh Hashanah 1943, the Nazis closed all the province camps and sent everyone, without exception, to Auschwitz. Our group from Pshaytsh was kept together as much as possible, since we rode in one railroad car. The trip to Auschwitz took about twenty four hours in confined train cars without air, without food, without drink. One person could not help the other. Faint, weakened, devastated and broken, we arrived at the hell called Auschwitz, which I cannot describe. Literally hell in this world. At night it was very dark, their huge wild dogs bit off pieces of flesh of unlucky ones, and the Nazis beat us over the head with their rubber sticks. The yells and shrieks of the tortured and torturers were frighteningly loud. After a selection at the train station, we were put in vehicles, and were sure they were taking us to be incinerated. Hershl Vishnievsky, who was coincidentally sitting by me, began to recall his wife and children, each individually. He recited with tears the Vidui (prayer of confession that Jews say before dying) and the Kriyat Shema (prayer professing faith in monotheism, which Jews recite every morning and evening). With great lament, we arrived at the camp of Auschwitz on a grey morning, went through another selection when we were divided into various labour camps. I was sent to the large factory of A.N Farben in Bunah. Very few Pshaytsher Jews were at Buna. Abba Buks (Books) soon arrived, Yakov Fisher who today lives in America, and Mendl Frankenshteyn, who lives in Pshaytsh.
In January 1945, as the Russians were approaching, the Germans liquidated all the camps around Auschwitz. After fifteen hours we arrived in Gleiwitz. This is where I
found women from Pshaytsh, including the Rabbi's daughter Esther. I'm mentioning her because Esther Zemelman gave me bread which kept me alive. We then wandered, chased by the Germans for about two weeks until we arrived in Buchenwald. We were liberated on the 28 day of Nissan 5705, April 11th 1945 by the American military. To my great surprise, in Buchenwald I found our childhood friend and pal Ruven Yamnik. I don't remember why we did not stay together, but the main thing is we are now together in Israel, we the survivors, gathered together in Israel, let our children and families find consolation …
Translated by Jerrold Landau
© by Roberta Paula Books
Finally, a few words about my parental household and my family of blessed memory. As is known, my father, Reb Mordechai Binyamin, was a watchmaker by trade, a trade that he had inherited from his ancestors in Kłodawa. He was a great scholar, and an endless wellspring of words of Torah and pshetls. One could sit with him for hours and listen to his Torah statements. He was a constant visitor of Rabbi Zemelman of blessed memory. It was a set custom for all the scholars and important people of the town to join him for the third Sabbath meal [Shalosh Seudot], and to participate in all the Torah discussions. He would also study in the Beis Midrash every evening. There certainly still are those who remember my grandmother Herisheshitzerun, as she was called in town. Certainly, they still recall that she traveled to the Land of Israel in 1924 to her daughter Sheindel, who was already in the Land along with my uncle Bunim Berkenfeld. However, to my great sorrow, they did not manage to acclimatize to the Land, and they returned to Lubin in Poland, where they had lived before they made aliya to the Land of Israel. They had a clothing store.
My father Mordechai Binyamin, mother Chava, sister Zelda who was married to Mendel Fiszer and had two children, were in Przedecz until the final liquidation. My second sister Rachel was in the Łojewo Camp near Inowrocław, and was killed along with my brother Avraham Zalman, may G-d avenge their blood, when he visited her in the camp. The S.S. men captured them outside the camp and murdered them. My third sister Gitel (Guta) died around 1933 of an illness due to the lack of proper medical care. My youngest brother Yisachar Leibush went to Poznań with the first transport. There was almost no survivor from that camp. Father was a native of Kłodawa. He had two brothers and two sisters. Not one survivor remains of the large family aside from one cousin whose name is also Yehoshua Dawidowicz. My aforementioned cousin made aliya to the Land in 1934. Relatives from my mother's side lived in Lubin a brother and sister, Aunt Sheindel and David Bunim Berkenfeld. They were in the Land for a certain period, but did not acclimatize at the time, so they returned to Poland, as was mentioned above. Another sister of my mother was Golda, married to Hersh Lipman Perla, who was a scholar. They had five children: two sons, Avraham Zalman and Mordechai, both Yeshiva lads, and three daughters, who studied the knitting trade on machines that were brought to Przedecz. At the end, they sold their house and moved to Łódź after Uncle
Hirsch Lipman suddenly died, around 1935. Around that year, the scholarly man, my teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Hirsch Skobronski of blessed memory, also died suddenly. His only son was my good friend, Yisrael Leib, who lived with me in the Inowrocław Camp, but was not able to maintain himself. The Germans took him along with his uncle Shimshon Wiclinski, Moshe Rabski, and others, and they never returned again.
|Zalman Dawidowicz and his friends of blessed memory at the time of the dismantling of the building of the teachers residence in Przedecz. Among them is Levi Szwajczer, may he live, who lives in Israel.|
In 1937, my parents sent me to study in the Yeshiva in Łódź. I studied there for about two years. I went to the fowl market on Wolborska Street next to the Great Synagogue every week to receive letters from home from Moshe Rauch. The wagon driver was Efraim Engel, for there were no buses to Przedecz at that time. Alter Wysniewski, the son of Yosef Wysniewski, lived next to the market. I ate at his place once a week. His brother-in-law Abba Buks worked with him for a certain period. Isser Morgensztern's daughter Tzipora and her husband Reuven Zielinski the son of Elia Zielinski also lived in Łódź. Reb Yitzchak Yosef Orbach, a scholarly man, moved to Łódź where he served as the shamash [beadle] in the Gerrer Hassidic house. I traveled home from time to time with the wagon driver Efraim Engel. We left Łódź toward evening, and arrived in Przedecz the following morning. There was a group of Yeshiva students from Przedecz. The brothers Moshe and Shlomo Toronczyk, the sons of Binyamin Toronczyk, studied in Warsaw. Yisrael Leib Skobronski studied in Lubicz, through the efforts of the Hassid of Lubicz, Reb Itche Majdan of blessed memory, a precious Jew, the gabbai of the Beis Midrash, who occupied himself with charity and benevolence, and about whom it is worthwhile to dedicate an honorable place in the book. He was with me in the labor camp, but not for a long time. They took him after he weakened. Along with him, they also took Moshe Placker the butcher, Moshe Rabski,
Shimshon Zichlinski, and others. This was about a half a year after we were in Inowrocław. During the latter half of 1938, I returned home from Łódź, and I brought a sock machine with me. I also taught my brother Avraham Zalman. We progressed well, and we bought another machine. We had many plans, but everything was hidden and melted away at the outbreak of the war.
Life was bustling in the city during the years 1938-1939. Almost all the political organizations existed. Brotherhood and unity pervaded among all these organizations. I belonged to the Jabotinsky camp, in Brit Hachashmonaim flank. We received the Heint, Moment, and other newspapers daily. The aforementioned Chaim Aharon Orbach of blessed memory received Heint. We received five copies of Moment and distributed them. It should be noted that Rabbi Zemelman of blessed memory was an enthusiastic reader of Moment, and he identified with the Jabotinsky movement on many occasions. We would visit him almost every day with the brothers Moshe and Shlomo Toronczyk, and we knew the rabbi from up close. He was a very great man in all realms. This is the way the town was with its Jewish life, each person with his activities, thoughts, and deeds my family among them, until the Nazi destroyed rose and annihilated them all, may G-d avenge their blood.
Recall that which Amalek did unto you from generation to generation forever.
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