by Abraham Buchman and Yehuda Waksman
On Friday the 26th of October 1942 – after the last selection since the first general aktsia – approximately one hundred and fifty legal Jews and about the same number of illegal Jews remained in Radomsk.
Two days later, in other words, on the 28th of October, a decree issued by the ‘Radom District’ was published in the German press, according to which the city was recognized as one of the four Jewish cities in the Radomer District. The four Jewish cities were Radomsk, Ujazd, Sandomiersz (Tsuzmir) and Szyidlowiec. A second decree was issued along with this decree: all Jews still in hiding under threat of death could settle in one of the four above-mentioned cities within fourteen days. Hereby, it was assured, the death penalty was rescinded for those who would be located in these four points (Jewish cities). The time given to assemble was fourteen days.
According to the decree, all Jewish arrestees in our city were immediately freed, approximately fifty men who were supposed to be sent to Czenstochow, and from there to Treblinka. Those freed from arrest were settled in Feierman’s house, Market 19. And this was the first dwelling of the second ghetto.
Several days later, the Germans began to assemble all of the Jews from all of the areas around the city, who had hidden during the various aktsias. The brutal treatment on the part of the Germans stopped immediately. Approximately three thousand Jews from different cities and shtetlech settled in the Radomsker Jewish city. Thus, the Germans carried out their devilish plan to concentrate the remaining Jews from the surrounding areas in the city of Radomsk, and with one blow to annihilate everyone together.
To house all of the Jews who were in the Radomsker Jewish city, the Germans provided a part of the first ghetto. The second ghetto took up the triangle: end of Market – Sztralkowska to the end of Sztralkowska – Fabienia, then Fabienia to the end of Przedborska near Berl Oleinik’s house and the length of Przedborska to the market up to Szpira’s house, Market number 19. (The furthest houses in the market up to Sztralkowska were destroyed – as is known – during the bombing during the first days of the war.) With the arrival of more Jews, the Germans enlarged the ghetto and added several houses on the second side of Przedborska. The Germans took for their use the area from Przedborska 1 to the church up to the Rabbi’s Beis Hamidresh, including Leibke’s mikvah, the community Beis Hamidresh and the Shul. The ghetto ended near the Strige.
Despite the enlargement of the ghetto, the crowding was terrible. People
literally lay one on top of the other. An average of fifteen to twenty
people lived in one room. All of the cellars and all of the attics were
occupied. The hunger was great. Lice and worms ate people alive. Illness
multiplied and, in general, no medical help was available.
Three or four souls died every day. The dead were laid on a wagon and two Jews accompanied by Germans took them to the Jewish cemetery and the dead were buried there. No sign was placed on the grave and the names of the dead were not recorded.
Exercise was permitted in the ghetto proper. The kitchen, the Judenrat, the police and all of the other ghetto institutions were located in Oczkowski’s house. Those leaving the ghetto to work departed through an iron gate from Oczkowski’s house. In order to return to the center of the ghetto – that is, to Oczkowski’s house – it was necessary to go through a yard in which a special passage had been made for this purpose.
|The old headstones of the dead|
|The new graves of the murdered|
A portion of the ghetto inhabitants worked in the Thonet-Mundus factory. A second group worked with Johan Weinert, a trustworthy businessman – a Folks-Deutsch from Radomsk. This was the place where Abraham Buchman once made tables. Another group sorted the property left by the Jews taken to their death. But, the greatest number of ghetto inhabitants did not work. There was no payment for all of the work; the Judenrat provided nourishment at its expense to the workers, watery soup and a minimum of bread. The gathering point for the workers was in Shul Street.
We in the ghetto could not understand what caused the Germans, at a certain time, to stop murdering Jews. We had different explanations. Some said that England and America had intervened through the Red Cross. Others thought that they needed Jews for work. A number even said that the Germans were again becoming human. But, there were many who said that we should not believe the Germans, that this is nothing more than a means to gather together the Jews. Others argued that the law about the four Jewish cities in the Radomer District was found in the provincial law of the General Government and they would not violate it. With the manipulation of German law here and there, several weeks passed.
On a certain day, several days before the Christian Christmas, the Germans came and said that those Jews who had relatives in foreign countries should register and could be exchanged. The joy in the ghetto was great. Believing the Germans or not, almost every Jew registered. Every Jew who registered had to pay ten zlotys.
It was later learned that the reason for the registration was to determine the number of Jews in the ghetto. But, at the time of the registration, when the Jews who had been hiding looked for relatives in foreign countries, we again did not understand what it was for. We connected this with the defeat of the Germans in Africa, or the pause in Russia in Stalingrad, Moscow and Leningrad. A large number did not believe the Germans and began to talk about resistance and arms. Some could not sit with folded hands and again began to do whatever could be done. And thus, another two weeks passed in waiting.
However, the last day began with much tension. The Germans again became brutal. Several murders again occurred. At the end of Fabiani-Dluga, a German patrol under the leadership of Gendarme Fuhrleh shot Zelig Wilhelm’s son and Dr. Kirkhawne’s sister. Anyone who had a place to go, began running away from the ghetto. Others again looked for hiding places with Christians. The fear was great.
Thus, we lived through the Christian holidays of the year 1942/43 until the third of January 1943. This is the Christian holiday, Three Kings.
On that day the sad news arrived that through the Judn Commando of the
Gestapo, fifty cattle cars had been ordered.
We already knew from experience what that meant. Although, from the beginning, we did not want to believe that our mournful end was approaching. Whoever had a place to go now ran from the ghetto. People who did not have a destination also ran. Among others, the Judn Eltster (Jewish elder) Gutsztat ran from the ghetto. His deputy Yosef Fanski had already run away a few days earlier. Of the entire Judenrat, only Szmul Szpira remained as representative of the Jews.
On the same night, both sides of the ghetto were surrounded by the German
gendarmerie, Polish police and Ukrainians. In the morning, the entire Jewish
police force with the commandant at the head was placed under arrest.
On the third day of the surrounding of the ghetto, that is Wednesday the 6th of January 1943, the Germans drove all Jews into the Umschlagplatz. The younger ones, among them the entire Jewish police force, were sent to the Skarzysko-Kamienna labor camp. The others went into the cattle cars toward Treblinka (it is believed that the transport went to Majdanek). Twenty-nine people were left to complete construction at the gendarmerie, and also to clean the houses of the Jews.
The Germans knew how many Jews took short trips to other areas, which was described above. According to their calculation, about eight hundred Jews were missing. They joked that the runaways would yet come begging to be shot. Alas, it was so. Because of the great frost at the time, the greatest number of the runaways did not have a place to go and one-by-one they fell into the hands of the assassins.
The Radomsk jail filled with captured Jews – men, women and children. Every day the murderers took the captured Jews to the Jewish cemetery and there shot them. In the same week, Friday the 8th of January 1943, about three hundred Jews, including eighty-four children were shot. The graves were dug by Poles, and as they described it, the Jews had to undress to their underwear and stand facing the pits at the edge of the grave. The Germans shot them in the backs with machine guns. The people, half and fully shot, fell into the pits. The same Christians later related that the earth on the mass grave moved for hours with the bodies of those who had not been shot to death.
That is how the three mass graves came into existence, which later after the war were recognizable because the earth over them had sunk.
With the three mass graves, the hundreds of years of history of the
Jewish community in Radomsk ended.
How the Last Twenty-nine Jews Remained In Radomsk
In order for us to understand how it happened that with the final liquidation of the Jews in Radomsk, twenty-nine Jews still remained in the city, we must return to the history of the ghetto.
After 1942, the German gendarmerie in Radomsk decided to exchange their quarters, which was in the Ukranke, for a new one. They chose Khaskelewicz’s house on Piotrkowska Street, not far from Fanski’s printing shop. But, in order for them to be able to live in this house, they naturally had to remodel the house. For this purpose, they needed Jewish craftsmen from the ghetto. As usual, they were not paid even a groshen for their work. Besides the craftsmen, the gendarmes took other Jews out of the ghetto for the difficult work. The work in the gendarmerie was carried out under the supervision of the gendarme Fuhrleh. Every dawn, Fuhrleh came to the collection point – near the Shul – took the craftsmen and a certain number of other Jews to hard labor, and led them himself to the work in the gendarmerie. In the evening, he brought the group back into the ghetto. This is how several weeks passed, until Monday the 4th of January 1943 arrived. At night, the ghetto was surrounded by armed German strength and no one was permitted to leave. That same Monday, the Germans sent all of the Jews over to Przedborski (which we called the tiny ghetto) for the second time, through Oczkowski’s gate. About one hundred Jews arrived in the ghetto from Czenstochow. In the morning, four boys and two girls were found hung in Berl Oleinik’s house – in the kitchen of the dwelling in which the tailor Kleinman once lived. It was later learned that the hung were from the Czenstochower transport.
All of the Jews who went out of the ghetto every day to work, waited around the entire day at Oczkowski’s gate in the hope that something would happen to save us. We understood what awaited us.
The next morning, Tuesday, we again came to Oczkowski’s gate and wanted to go to work, but we were not allowed to go out. At around ten o’clock, Fuhrleh arrived in the ghetto, looking for the craftsmen, took a group of Jews for heavy labor and took the entire group to work in the gendarmerie. This was the only group of Jews that left the ghetto that day to work. By night the chief lieutenant Kempenik arrived. He hung around among the workers and carefully looked at each one and at his work. He passed out several cigarettes -- we could not understand the meaning of this: How such a devil as Kempenik passes out cigarettes among the Jews? This truly frightened us. Then Kempenik ordered the master craftsman Abram Buchman to make a list of ten carpenters. We were, however, thirteen carpenters; Buchman made a list of thirteen carpenters. In the meantime, two of the thirteen carpenters had run away, Abram Maychrowski and Moishe Szmulewicz. And eleven remained. Fuhrleh took the list of the eleven. That day, twenty people ran away from the group of workers. In the evening, Fuhrleh led those remaining back into the ghetto.
The next day in the morning, that means the 6th of January 1943, the
sad history of the 9th of October 1942 was repeated.
The Jewish police, who had just been released from arrest, went through the entire ghetto shouting ‘All Jews out.’ We put the rucksacks on our shoulders and went out to the courtyard. Instinctively, we again went to Oczkowski’s tower and waited. Suddenly at around nine o’clock, the chief lieutenant Kempenik arrived, and through the iron gate of Oczkowski’s house, he yelled in: ‘Buchman and his people out.’ The gate opened and the rush to go out through the gate was extraordinary. All who had stood near the gate, tried to go out. All felt that this was the moment when they perhaps, could save their lives. Many pushed their way through and the Germans lined everyone up in threes. Then Kempenik, himself, made a selection among everyone who was standing, twenty-eight people, twenty-six men and two women, those whom he had seen working in the gendarmerie the day before. Fuhrleh checked if the people matched the list he had. The gendarmerie pushed those remaining back into the ghetto with bayonets.
There was then a group of twenty-eight people remaining beside the ghetto. Fuhrleh and another gendarme Friedrich, who was armed from the head to the feet, led us away. We did not know where they were taking us. Our direction was to the Umschlagplatz; from Przedborzka Street, they led us from Oczkowski’s house through Shul Street, but not to the right to Mickewicza, to the Umschlagplatz, but on the street past the Kino (movie theater) out onto Piotrkowska. Now we understood that we were going to the gendarmerie. We saw that the road to the Umschlagplatz was heavily guarded. Both sides of the road were lined by the German gendarmerie, Gestapo, Ukrainians, Polish police and special services (these were Folks-Deutsch). They were armed head to feet and stood close together, almost one next to the other. Going through the terrifying road we arrived in the house of the gendarmerie.
The twenty-six men who left the ghetto were the following:
|Joiners / Carpenters|
They did not ask us to work that day. We walked around like mad men, did not talk to each other, each with his bitter heart, each with his bitter memories. Our thoughts were in the ghetto; what was happening there? We had no news from the ghetto. We were separated from all of the Jews and at around eleven o’clock an armed gendarme brought a Jew to us. At first, we thought that this is a meshuganer (crazy person). Little by little, the Jew began to calm himself and he told us the following: While he was standing at the Umschlagplatz together with all of the Jews, the Germans had asked who is a doctor. He, thinking that a doctor was needed to provide help, raised his hand. Then the Germans took him away from his wife and daughters and brought him here. This was Dr. Warhaft of Lodz. That is how we received the first news from there We were now twenty-nine Jews.
Later, a gendarme took Meir Katz, Moishe Truskolaski and Ezekiel Slabiak to the train station to the railroad cars, into which the Jews would be loaded, to tighten the windows with barbed wire. When the Jews came back, they told how the death march of the Jews looked. This death march stretched from the distribution center onto Mickewicza through the Neiem Weg to the train station. The entire way was sown with murdered Jews. Each Jew who fell did not get up anymore. The Germans shot them. Every German guard who went by a Jew who lay in the road walked on his head.
At around two o’clock the chief gendarme came here and took with him the two women whom Kempenik had left to run our household and led them to the train station. There he packed them into a railroad car stuffed with Jews and from there took out two women for whom he searched. He brought them to us. The two exchanged women were Mrs. Enzlowicz (from Zharki) and Zaszia Duman from Budgoszsz. The chief then declared that the first two women were not sympathetic. Therefore, he had taken the other two out of the railroad car. This hurt us deeply because we understood that this was playing with human life.
The whole day we were in the house of the gendarmerie under a heavy guard. At night, Fuhrleh and special service member Friedrich led us to new quarters that were in Przedborska Street No.1, near Kaszczal. We took the last entrance to the house. The entry was heavily guarded.
In the same house but at the first entrance, the Germans placed a group
of two hundred and forty young Jews, including the entire Jewish police
force. They were chosen at the distribution center to be sent the next
morning to the Skarzysko-Kamienna labor camp. The guard did not permit
one group to see the other and contact among the groups therefore took
place through the attics of the same house.
Thursday morning, the chief lieutenant Kempenik added three more Jews, who were supposed to go to Skarzysk, to our group. The three Jews were Aron Grinberg a Radomsker and two brothers named Zuchowski from Belchatow. We were now a group of thirty-two Jews. The Germans placed the others in cars in preparation for sending them away. Included in one car was the tailor Dovid Faljwo, Fichtencwaig’s son-in-law. He had worked as the gendarmerie’s tailor the entire time and was personally befriended by Kempenik. He said something to Kempenik, which we could not hear, for which chief lieutenant Kempenik ordered that he immediately be shot. Then the group left for Skarzysk.
As mentioned, our group of thirty-two men was quartered at Przedborska 1. Understand that we were under heavy guard by day and by night. We occupied the last entry of the house. We had a storeroom on the ground floor for the things we had brought over from the ghetto. A kitchen and apartments were on the first floor and the same on the second floor. Two Jews lived in a small room on the third floor, too. This was Yehieil Rikman and Sholmoh Gotlib.
After all of the troubles and after we were settled down, we had to proceed to our compulsory work.
As mentioned, we worked at completing the house for the gendarmerie. It is not difficult to imagine the mood in which we worked, knowing that our brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances were being shot by the Germans every day at the Jewish cemetery. We listened with bitterness to who had been caught today, who had been shot today and would be shot tomorrow. The cruel news was brought to us by the Polish police and by the Folks-Deutsch self-defense organization, that guarded us. That week we also knew that the jail was full of captured Jews. We, therefore, made an effort to rescue a few Jews. We kept calling for more workers and thanks to those efforts we were successful in bringing the first twelve Jews from the jail. They were Moishe Klofski, Abner Garfinkl, Sender Zilbersztein from Dzialoczyn, Moishe Klofski’s brother-in-law Fantafel from Czenstochowa, Rutmencz, the father and the son Konja from Lodz, Szpira from Kinsk, and three more Kinskers who ran away immediately. Later we were again successful in bringing out four more Jews, three women and one man. They were Fela Bialistok, née Dawidowicz, Fala Dudkewicz, née Rubinowicz, and her husband Ayzik and Serka Nisenboim from Kinsk. A little later, the gendarmerie freed Szmul Dzencarski, a tailor from Radomsk, from the jail. The group now totaled forty-nine Jews.
At first, the twelve men we had taken out of jail were separated from us by the gendarmerie. Naturally, we all lived in the same house. The twelve men occupied one room on the ground floor and we called them the separate group because the Germans had said that they had only freed this group temporarily and that they would later be shot. The men were assigned to sorting the rags, i.e. the remaining possessions of the Jews who had been taken away. The women were assigned to cleaning the house of the gendarmerie.
In the meantime, Szmulik Szpira, the former commandant of the Jewish police, ran away. Consequently, we were left without financial means because he held the common cash box. After his escape, the Germans strengthened the watch over us and carried out an inquiry as to how he had run away. As the electrician Yekel Winer had been close to Szmulik the entire time, the Germans suspected him of knowing to where Szpira had escaped. Searching him, the Germans found money and valuables. Two days later the Germans shot Yekel Winer.
After Winer was shot, Yohanan Faktor, the son of Meilech Faktor, and Gerszon Eizen ran away from our group.
A while later, four men from the separate group ran away, all of them from Kinsk. One of them, Szpria, the Germans caught on the road. The capture of Szpira had stilled their anger. When we were taken to work in the morning, we saw Fuhrleh taking Szpira to be shot. Passing us, Szpira yelled, Be well, comrades. Take revenge! After the shooting, Fuhrleh told us that he had especially shot Szpira in the stomach so that death would not come quickly, Because he was an impertinent Jew and had escaped.
Understandably, because of all of the circumstances, we lived through that day in great terror, fearing that the Germans would liquidate us in anger. It would surely have happened, if they had not needed us for work; they even said so.
After all of this, our group totaled forty-one Jews and life became
temporarily more normal within given boundaries.
Life of the Last Survivors
Kos’s house at Przedborska 1, where we lived, stood as an island among the devastation. All of the Jewish houses around us were crushed and taken apart by the Germans. They used the wood from the houses for themselves. The house in which we lived was only partly occupied by us. The living conditions were not particularly bad. We gave a lot of attention to the sanitary situation. Our doctor Warhaft got sick with typhus for the first time. We isolated him in the attic room where a Jewish family named Federman once lived. And, without medication, the doctor got well and thanks to our concern for good sanitary conditions, none of us contracted the doctor’s illness. Understand that the Germans were not allowed to learn of the doctor’s illness.
We fed ourselves, at first, with the products that remained after the
second ghetto and with the money collected, until Szmulik Szpira ran away.
With the remaining flour, the Polish baker Jawarski baked bread for us. Every second day, we went under guard to get the bread. The two women, Duman and Enzlowicz, cooked for us. Later, the Germans delivered part of our food to us. But, we had to procure the greater part of our food by ourselves. For this purpose, we took advantage of the fact that we worked sorting rags. We stole some and sold it to the Poles and, with the money that we received, we bought food. Unfortunately, we did not need anything more than food.
We were divided into three work groups. One group, which consisted of craftsmen, went to work in the gendarmerie to finish their house. The first time we went under guard by Fuhrleh and later we were accompanied by two German self-defense workers. The second group, which consisted of the separated released from jail, went to work in the Shul and in the Beis Hamedrish to sort rags. The sorted rags were divided among the Folks Deutsch and Polish police and the Germans took the best for themselves. What was left over was sent to Germany. The third group, which consisted of the two women with the doctor and an old Jew, Rutmencz, who helped the women, remained in the house to run the household and to keep the house in order.
The work of the craftsmen consisted of carpentry, painting, sheet metal work, plumbing and gardening. The chief assignment of the expert workers was to complete the house for the gendarmerie. Thereafter when the house was finished and the gendarmerie occupied it, the task was to make their life in the house nicer and more comfortable.
In time the work ended, the house was completed and the gendarmerie had everything there. The work with rags ended, too. The group of craftsmen began to work personally for the gendarmerie. The group that had worked with the rags endeavored to find other work because if they did not work they would have been liquidated. Work was found for this group in the Thonet-Mundus factory. Incidentally, they were paid for their work, and that provided our food.
By the end of January 1943, while working in the house of the gendarmerie and not knowing what the coming morning would bring, the last few dozen Jews in Radomsk wanted to immortalize the events in Radomsk to the best of our abilities. We wanted our slave labor to be known in the future and that at least a trace should remain of the last Jews in Radomsk. Following a suggestion by one of our group, we wrote a megillah of our plight. The particulars and dates about the destruction of the Jewish community in the city, the names of the Judenrat, and the names of all of the murderous Germans in the city were recorded there. The names of all of the Jews who were murdered by the murderous Germans in the last days were separately recorded. The megillah was recorded on a piece of plywood and signed by everyone present. The plywood was used as part of the wall with the written side nailed to the inside. Alas, the house later burned together with the megillah.
When the house of the gendarmerie was finished, and they had occupied their new quarters, we managed to receive a small measure of revenge against the gendarme chief Kempenik. When he no longer had anyone to exterminate, this devil and mass murderer who carried out all of the aktsias in Radomsk, occupied himself with all his energy to finishing the new quarters. However on the exact day when the gendarmerie moved into the new quarters, the murderer Kempenik left Radomsk and in his place came the chief lieutenant Hauer. Thanks to this change, we breathed a little easier for a certain time.
The first thing that we enjoyed thanks to the new chief lieutenant was the removal of the guard in our living area. We were permitted to go down to the yard after work for a short time. Naturally, we were not permitted to leave the yard where we were quartered, as the gendarmerie often came to check if we were on the spot, but we felt a little freer. This gave us courage, so that on Pesach, in a very primitive way and with extraordinary caution, we baked several symbolic matzohs in order to do our duty with a Passover Seder. We carried out the Seder with the wish that we would live to see the German defeat.
It happened once that gendarmes brought a radio apparatus for Abraham Rubin to fix. He was an expert with these things. We thus had the opportunity to listen to the Polish radio station, Free Poland and so we knew about the great defeats the Germans suffered at Stalingrad. This gave us courage and perseverance to bear the difficult conditions and the terrible nervous shocks. Understand that in order to hear the news, we risked the lives of the whole group. We always listened to the news deep in the night with great caution on our side. We also heard about the heroic uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.
During that time, the chief and the vice-chief of the Gestapo were shot by the Polish underground movement in Radomsk in the middle of a bright day. The Germans were shocked by the event. In order to have a scapegoat, the Germans wanted to place the blame on us and to hang our entire group in the middle of market. Miraculously, we were saved. The new chief lieutenant Hauer later told us that we had him to thank for this.
A new Gestapo chief arrived in the city. The Gestapo then began to bother
us. The new Gestapo chief wanted to liquidate us at any cost. Just at the
same time, it happened that an armed German quarter-master was taking a
Polish partisan to an inquiry and the partisan escaped. By misfortune,
Abraham Rubin chanced to pass in that area and the Germans suspected him
of joining with the partisans.
The Gestapo arrested him and after a two day investigation, they freed him. The gendarmerie did not have another radio mechanic. This was after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Germans saw a partisan in every Jew. Because of the actions of the Polish underground movement, the non-curfew hours for the Polish population were shortened by two hours. Until then, the Poles could move freely until eleven in the evening, but now it was only until nine. This decree encumbered the movement of the hiding Jews, who could now not go out into the street. Earlier, the hiding Jews could on occasion stealthily go out into the darkened street to take care of something. Now, when it was still light at eight in the evening, the hiding Jews, little by little, fell into the hands of the devilish Germans. The first Jewish victims of the new law were Dymant with Rosenhalcz’s daughter, who had succeeded in coming to Radomsk from the Warsaw Ghetto. They were discovered going into the home of a Polish acquaintance and two days later they were torturously shot. At the same time, Izrael Benimin Fiszman was hung after he was forced out by the Pole in whose house he had been hiding on Stadolne Street. A short time earlier, Fiszman’s daughter and her husband Aizik Rubinsztein had been taken to the cemetery and then to Auschwitz.
Farbman, the owner of a sawmill, was discovered with his daughter at a Pole’s house and shot on the spot. The Pole was sent to Auschwitz by the Germans.
Chenchinski, his wife and Grajtzer were denounced by a Pole and discovered on Strzalkowska Street and were shot on the spot.
Fishele Heftler and his wife wandered around in the woods for a long time. They became so exhausted that, seeing a gendarme patrol on the highway, they approached it and declared that they no longer had the strength for more suffering. They were ready to be shot. Naturally, the Germans did not let them ask for long and shot them on the spot.
Emanuel Rubin and his wife came into the commissariat on their own and surrendered to the Germans. Yakob Szpira and his daughter were also shot. Rulnitski was caught in the Gszebiner forest and he and his heroic bearing saved our group from a certain death. In order to understand this, we must tell the story of the bunker, which was in the Gszebiner forest.
Between the first and second aktsia, a young Pole named Zenek Szluchowski who was a member of Andekes (the Polish anti-Semitic party) and a great Polish patriot, and an acquaintance of Moishe Ofman, suggested the following plan to him. He was ready to take a group of young Jews and hide them in the forest, on the condition that when the time would come, he would lead the group in an attack against the Germans. Obviously, the group needed to be armed. He was prepared to acquire the weapons himself for which we would provide the money. We needed to establish that he did not have the material means [to do so] because he was a poor man. He was also a devout Christian. Near the time of the last aktsia, such a group was created. Every afternoon, Zenek took several members of the group and led them to the Gszebiner forest through various streets. In the course of the night, he and they dug hiding places, solely by the light of the moon. A pit several meters deep was dug, and inside wooden planks were prepared for sleeping. The pit was covered with earth and wood and a small camouflaged opening was made for entering. This hiding place was created in a young dense forest. Zenek knew the forest. He realized that in the winter every time someone left the bunker he would need to carry a broom with him in order to sweep his footprints from the snow. The date was set for the group to leave the ghetto for the forest. The bunker would have to be completely finished. However, the second aktsia occurred a few days before the group intended to leave the ghetto and most of members of the organized group could not leave the surrounded ghetto. Besides, the bunker was not yet finished. A small group of people successfully made it to the forest. They were Rulnitski, Alter Gancarski, Kribus and Ruchl Stopnicki (Sheindele, the baker’s grandchild). At the time, strangers, who did not belong to the organizing group, knowing about the bunker and its organizers, turned to Zenek for him to save them. Zenek, wanting to save Jews, believed that it did not matter if the group of young people accepted a few older ones, too. He led them to the forest. They were Mrs. Landner and a daughter, the widow of Moishe Kalka, her son Yosef Kalka and his wife and two children and Berl Gwudsz. Later, Szmul Leib Waksman, Jadzia Buchman and a three-year old child and Fela Szmulewicz arrived. At the end, Gnat arrived. Zenek partly provided food for them, too. Our group, which was in Radomsk, supported them, too, for about a week, as long as we were able. We kept steady contact with Zenek and many times the bunker occupants sneaked into our quarters.
In the spring in 1943, Zenek had not brought food to the bunker for
two days. It was decided that three men should go to a village to look
for something to eat. Rulnitski, Kribus and Gnat went. Some time before,
the Poles in the village had talked among themselves about the Jews who
could be found in the forests. When the three entered the village and the
Poles recognized them as Jews, they started chasing after these three.
Gnat and Kribus successfully ran away. Rulnitski was caught by the Poles
and they turned him over into German hands. No matter how terribly the
Germans tortured him, as they were capable of torture, Rulnitski revealed
nothing, not where the bunker was located, not the names of those hiding
and not those who were helping those who were hiding.
If, G-d forbid, Rulnitski had been broken and revealed something, a larger number of our group would have suffered. And suffering with the Germans, we know, was death.
The Germans took Rulnitski to the Jewish cemetery and shot him there.
A woman was shot together with Rulnitski.
The life of our group dragged on in fear of every coming day. On one side, the Gestapo required our liquidation and on the other side, little by little, work for us began to become scarce. It was very handy for the gendarmerie to hold forty idle slaves; in order to make use of us, they found work for us. Five carpenters went to work in the city carpentry workshop, which was located in the city baths. Six Jews went to a certain city to load bricks at the train station and a group of the separate group went to work in the Thonet-Mundus factory. The Germans paid a minimum for all of this work and we provided food for ourselves with the money. Food was already a problem for us. The rags had ended; there was nothing to sell. We provided food for ourselves only with what we received from the Germans, but they were hunger rations.
As the gendarmerie were already living in their house, we were assigned to work in the cellar of this house. We put carpentry benches there and did work for the personal use of the gendarmes.
In May, there was a shortage of wood for our work. The Germans remembered that several trees could be found at the Jewish cemetery. They took several workers from our group and told them to cut down these trees, which had grown there for many years. We later made shutters for their windows out of the wood and a fence for the garden in their yard.
During that same month, we heard a gendarme shouting one night, ‘Stand still.’ Then, there were two gun shots in the yard where we were quartered and heavy banging on our gate with the gendarme Fuhrleh shouting ‘Open up.’ The fear was great. We opened the gate and Fuhrleh ordered us to take in the body of the Jew whom he had shot. According to his promise, she would be taken to join us. In the morning we recognized the person who was shot, Ruszke Bugajski, the daughter of Eidl Bugajski. We later learned that she had been hiding with a Christian, whose daughter was Fuhrleh’s lover. The mother, wanting to be rid of Ruszke, denounced her to the German, Fuhrleh. Fuhrleh was ready to do a favor for the mother of his lover and removed Ruszke, so that no one would know that until then a Jew had been hiding there. He promised her that he would bring her to our group. While taking her to us, he shot her, declaring that he had happened upon her when she had wanted to sneak into us. Thus, he has performed a mitzvah for his fatherland, killing a Jew, and at the same time saving the good name of a Christian.
On a certain day in June, we received news about two Jewish girls (one of them Manye Witenberg) who were raped, stabbed and shot by two Poles. The case was such a brutal one, that even the Poles complained The story was thus:
Two young Poles fell in love with the two girls mentioned above. The love began in the ghetto. The first time the girls rebuffed them, but when the extermination aktsia approached and the two young Gentiles came into the ghetto to save the girls, they could not resist the temptation and went with them. The plan was that later they would travel to Germany to work together with the Christians, as their wives. Meanwhile, the young Christians rented a house and the two girls hid there. Two other Poles who knew about this wanted to use the circumstance and rape the girls. Understand, the two grooms did not permit this.
On a certain day, when the girls’ two guardians were at work, the two other Poles broke into the room where the two girls were hidden and there raped the girls, stabbed them and slashed them. After the vile outrage, they opened the window and called together the Poles in the vicinity and cried out, Look people; Poles are hiding Jews. It is necessary to mention that these two murderers received their punishment. After the war, they were found with the help of the Jews and sentenced to death by the Polish regime.
During the same June, we were shocked by still another case. While working in the cellar of the gendarmeie, we saw the gendarmes bring a group of young Jewish boys and girls and imprison them in the cell that was in the cellar. The young Jewish children were Meilech Faktor’s two children, a sister and a brother (the same Faktor who, with Gershon Eisen, ran away from our group five months before, after the Germans shot Yakob Winer), Issachar and Rina Witenberg, the children of Yakob Witenberg and Freiman. They were taken to the forest near Kamiensk and shot there. In this case, too, a miracle happened that we were spared.
The story of this group of young boys and girls happened like this:
Wanting to save their lives, they gave money to a Christian so that
he could buy a little house on Kawalowiecz in his name. This little house
was given to the Christian on the condition that the group would live hidden
there and would thus survive the war. They lived by selling anything they
had. Throughout this time, they were supported by Hela Waksman. They dug
a tunnel under the ground so that they could escape in case they were discovered.
The entrance to the tunnel was through a drawer in a closet, which stood
in the room.
Once passing Poles noticed that smoke was coming out of the little house. Seeing for certain that no one lived in the house, they understood that Jews were hiding here. They advised the gendarmerie of this. At night, the house was surrounded by the gendarmes. The children had time to flee through the tunnel, although barefoot and only in shirts. They ran through fields and forests with the intention of reaching the Czenstochowa ghetto. Hela Waksman, knowing of the ambush by the Germans, at the same time knew where those fleeing would stop. She immediately took money and clothes and traveled in that direction. Unfortunately, she did not find them at the earlier agreed upon place. The gendarmes caught the children in the forest. During the investigation, the gendarmes promised the children that they would be pardoned if they would reveal who had supported them the entire time. The children endured and no one revealed anything, but when they began to be severely tortured, they could not bear it any longer. They broke together and named Hela Waksman. Because of this Hela Waksman ran away from Radomsk, leaving her apartment and everything in it and also her husband Szmul Leib Waksman who was hidden under a double wall in the apartment. She was able to take along only her child. Simultaneously, a lot of Jews suffered who were hidden in bunkers and with Christians who were supported by Hela Waksman. Until now, Hela Waksman had been able to live outside the ghetto and was able to help the helpless Jews. As a result of her fleeing, contact with the needy was interrupted.
Understand that the Germans did not keep their promise and the children were not allowed to live. They took the group of young boys and girls to the woods near Kamiensk and there shot them. We watched as the gendarmes sat the children down in the automobile. The two girls kissed each other
We can not omit telling about the heroic bearing of a group of young people, which also happened during the same month.
This group of young people consisted of Sane Grosman and his brother Yakob-Hersz, Koniecpolski, Blager and Chaim Beser. The group was hiding on Stadolna Street in a bunker in the barn of a Pole, who was known as an amateur watchmaker. Sane Grosman and Koniecpolski were watchmakers by trade. A Polish watchmaker named Ratke lived in the city. Once, a Polish policeman came to Ratke with a watch that needed to be repaired. Ratke could not repair the watch and the policeman, looking for someone to repair the watch found the same Pole with whom Sane Grosman and the rest of the group were hiding. Understand that he, too, could not repair the watch; he was only an amateur, not a professional watchmaker. Sane Grosman who was a good tradesman, did fix the watch. The Polish policeman evidently did not know that the watch was repaired by a Jew. He took the watch to the first Polish watchmaker and asked him how it was possible that the other Pole could repair the watch and he not. Ratke, who knew the capability of the host of the hidden group, suspected that Jews were hiding with him. On a beautiful clear day, the gendarmes surrounded the house in which Sane Grosman and his group were hiding. They carried out a search and found nothing, but they did not give up. At another time, they came again and again carried out a search and this time they succeeded in uncovering the bunker. The group of Jews did not want to leave the bunker. They destroyed all of their money and worldly possessions. The Germans were afraid to go into the bunker. They thought that the Jews had weapons. They, therefore, threatened that they would cover the bunker and the Jews would be buried alive. After a long time, the Jews lost their nonchalance and began to come out. Once outside, Sane Grosman began to curse the Germans that their blood would yet run in the gutters and Hitler’s defeat would shortly arrive. One gendarme began to beat him, but Sane, his brother and Koniecpolski threw themselves on the gendarme and they beat him severely. The Germans shot Sane Grosman, his brother Yakob-Hersz and Koniecpolski on the spot. Beser and Blager were temporarily successful in escaping. Beser was caught several days later and he was shot. Blager hid with other Poles for more than a year, until Sukkous 1944, when he was caught and shot.
Blager related all of these facts to Jews with whom he was hidden by other Poles.
Despite all of the events and occurrences, our group carried on with our lives. We numbered forty-one people at that time. At eight thirty in the morning, Gendarme Brand came for us and led us to work. There, he guarded us until twelve noon. Then, they led us home to eat lunch. At one o’clock, they again led us back to work and at five o’clock in the evening they led us back home. We spent the evenings eating dinner, washing ourselves, cleaning the rooms and thinking, thinking, thinking
Sometimes, we all gathered in one room and altogether began again thinking, thinking, thinking
Work ended and except for the work, we had almost nothing to do. We felt that with each day, we were becoming more superfluous. We also knew that the Gestapo wanted to liquidate us. Therefore, we lived in great fear and did not know what the morning would bring.
At the end of June, we again lived through a miracle. A member of our
group, Leibish Epsztein, ran away. After his escape, the Gestapo, which
had always been looking for a reason to liquidate us, made use of this
opportunity and carried out an exact census of our quarters. Such a precise
examination had not taken place during the entire six months. The Gestapo
chief grabbed Abraham Rubin by the hair and shot him through the ear.
Rubin could not hear with that ear for many months. Then [the chief] called away from work, the master of the group, Abraham Buchman, and during an inquiry savagely beat him until he passed out. Abraham Buchman still suffers today as a result of the blows. The Gestapo chief demanded that Buchman reveal where Epsztein had run to and where the hiding Jews could be found. He promised that if one hiding Jew were found, the whole group would be shot. Buchman was saved from the hands of the Gestapo chief by the chief lieutenant Hauer. One can imagine our fear during this time when we knew that Moishe Yehieil Rikman’s twelve-year old son was then hiding with us. Two days earlier, the wife of the same Abraham Buchman and the wife of Chaim Szmulewicz left the same hiding place where they had been hiding for two months. A miracle happened, that the Gestapo did not find the child. It is worth mentioning that Rikman’s son was later murdered by a Pole with whom he was hiding.
The suspicion of the Gestapo originated because they knew we were giving help to those Jews in hiding who turned to us. Through the entire time, they could never catch us doing so. In addition to this, they suspected us of having contact with the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Thus we lived through a period of six and a half months with fear and miracles, until the 21st of July 1943.
That day repeated for us the sorrowful day of the 9th of October 1942, the first aktsia and of the 6th of January 1943, the second aktsia.
Our house was surrounded by the armed gendarmerie. The gathered all of we last forty Jews and informed us that we were being sent to the Pionki labor camp. Understand that we did not believe them, but what could we do?
At the same time, they brought the last thirty-two Jews from Zharki and they loaded us all into two trucks and, under heavily armed guard by the Pionki works security service, sent us away to the Pionki labor camp.
Pionki is found twenty-three kilometers from Radom and there is a factory where gun powder and explosive materials are made.
And Radomsk on that day was in reality judenrein (free of Jews).
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