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[Pages 334-336]

The Sheradz Action

by Pinchas Kalushiner

Translated by Menachem Daum

 

October 1939. Thursday morning

Except for minor incidents the first month of the Nazi rule in Zdunska Wola was relatively quiet. But soon the well–trained horror apparatus showed what it was capable of. On a Thursday morning large units of armed soldiers and the notorious Volksdeutsche[1] suddenly started assembling on the streets equipped with sticks, irons and whips. A terrible fear gripped the Jewish population –a dread of the unknown that weighed down strongly on the spirit.

Suddenly in the market near Michalskin's “Europa” restaurant a provocative shot is heard – and a man falls. Immediately the Germans spread the allegation that the Jews and the Poles carried out an assault on a German. The city is immediately closed – there are no exits or entrances. The people who happened to be on the streets at the time, young and old, women and women, are all are driven into the gates – accompanied by fearful blows from clubs, sticks, iron and whips.

In a few minutes the streets emptied and only the frenzied Volksdeutsche and soldiers remained. Soon afterward the last ones appeared in the courtyard and all the men, young and old, healthy and sick, were driven into the ratusz[2]. Entry was limited to one gate, at the petrol station – while the remaining three entrance gates were closed and heavily guarded by SS men. Upon entering the ratusz every one had to pass through a gauntlet, right and left, of the civilian bloodthirsty Volksdeutsche who were wielding the implements in their hands with great force[3] – giving cruel blows wherever and to whomever they encountered.

Torn and bloodied, accompanied by wild fearful screams, we were all concentrated in the ratusz and forced to keep our hands up while standing at the wall. Only after 12 at night were we allowed to sit on the damp and cold asphalt while on all sides we heard silent groans of those beaten, some more and some less.

 

The First Victim

Early in the morning, after a strict search of our pockets, we were escorted by the Germans and brought to the train station. On the way to the train a hail of cruel blows fell upon us for the slightest misstep. As a result of this march those of us who got away with relatively tolerable minor injuries at yesterday's firestorm now felt on our bodies the horror of Nazi barbarians – the proud raging[4] sons of the supposedly cultured German people.

Arriving at Sieradz[5], a new series of screamed commands began – and also occasional shots. We were quickly driven from the train wagons – and taken to the local prison. We became so disoriented as a result of the confusion and chaotic orders – hands high, left, right, – a well–thought out purposeful system the German criminals used everywhere their impure feet stepped – we don't know where to run. And here in the general confusion, the first victim fell, riddled with bullets – Abraham Michalovitz, hy”d[6] when he ran to the left – instead of right.

And so in this atmosphere of barbarism and human humiliation we endured the brutal three–kilometer road to the Sieradz prison.

Arriving at the place we realized just how far the German–trained sadists thoroughly carried out their mindless[7] mission. No one, literally no one passed through the provocation bloodlessly. They spared no one – consistent with a beloved German phrase; equality of torment and pain, – because of an unbelievably wild senseless crazed Jew hatred – with no why or for what.

Many of the victims were so beaten up that they remained motionless in front of the prison and the Germans threw them into the cells. This is what happened to Reb Samuel Zalman Melamid, to the elderly Reb Meir Peretz Sot and to Reb Isaac Moshe Pulvermacher – Reb Hershka Bohm's son–in–law.

Only after 10 days in jail – with a regimen of ceaseless beatings, lashes and other punishments – were we released, exhausted and beaten.

Thus began the first tragic chapter of the Martyrs' Path of our Zdunska Wola Holy Ones.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Ethnic Germans living outside of Germany Return
  2. Administrative building and tower at the town center surrounded by the market square Return
  3. ראזמאך Return
  4. פאריסענע Return
  5. A town about 15km west of Zdunska Wola Return
  6. הי”ד abbreviation for; May G–d avenge his blood Return
  7. נידערטרעכטיקע Return


[Pages 336-338]

The Tearful Thursday

by Michael Deutsch, Bnei Brak

Translated by Menachem Daum

It happened on November 9, 1939, at 1.30 in the afternoon.

Suddenly we heard a shot. We did not know what happened – however the results were immediately apparent. Screams and curses addressed to Jews filled the air. SS men and Volksdeutsche[1] – “yesterday's friends” – entered Jewish homes and chased all men between the ages of 15 to 50 into the street. “Hands high”, and striking right and left, accompanied by insults, like! “Dirty Jews, run” they drove us to the market square, to the ratusz[2].

Entering inside through the narrow doors, where every one received their share of blows, we were forced to stand with our hands high and faces to the wall.

Around the ratusz, there were SS men with machine guns threatening to shoot anyone who dared to move from their place. In addition to our personal perilous situation we were also concerned for our family members who remained at home. Many of us had exposed bodies and when night fell we huddled together – to warm up our frozen limbs a little in the cold autumn night.

In these endless hours of fatigue and pain from the undeserved blows and open wounds, of fear for ourselves and our remaining families, many broke down and cried bitterly while others spilled their broken hearts to G–d and recited Psalms from memory.

Meanwhile, we learned that a German was shot in the market, number 3, by Singer's store, and that the Germans were taking people over 50 into Kuscos' factory at 18 Lasker Street.

We stood like this a whole night – having no idea what the wild Germans were planning for us. In the morning the Germans searched every one of us, adding, “Jew, where are your weapons?” Not allowing us to sit we stood like this also for a whole day until it got dark. During this entire time the Germans did not allow us to have any food. Nevertheless, some women did succeed in sending in something to eat.

Towards evening the Germans lined us up in rows of five and told us we are being taken to the train station. Under threat of being shot – the punishment for the slightest “sin” on that terrible day – we were forbidden to turn around and look behind us while marching. At the same time we were commanded to scream, “One, two, Jews are going.” And when we fulfilled this command soon came an opposing one, “Cursed Jews. Enough.”

Thus they drove us contemptuously, shame and mockery from one side and threats and disorientation from the other, so we could not know what we should or should not do.

Life in the market completely stopped. All the shutters closed and not a living creature was to be seen.

It was already dark when we arrived at the train station. We were commanded to crawl onto freight wagons and sit with our heads down.

On every wagon there was a German with a stick in hand. For about an hour we were at the station thinking about the Germans' plans and where they intended us to take us.

As the train started to move we saw it was going in the direction of Sheradz[3]. We traveled about two hours. The train stopped about 200 meters from the station. Immediately a command was given, accompanied – as usual – with screams and scorn “Jews, off here.” Falling one atop another we jumped off the wagons in a panic and were driven to the station. There the first victim fell, Avraham Michalovitz h”yd[4] – a young boy of 16.

An SS man stood up on a stool and gave a “speech”! “Jews, your last light has been extinguished. Run to Palestine. You wanted war. Your God??[5] will stand up for you.”

They immediately began ridiculing us. We had to run about 50 meters and suddenly had to stop which caused people to fall on each other while the Germans struck us with rifle butts over our head. There really wasn't one of us left who was not beaten. The beating the Germans gave the cantor was especially horrifying.

Finally, we arrived at the prison yard. Twenty to thirty people were driven into cells without lights, unable to speak because of fear and our difficult ordeals. Thus we lay the entire night.

At 8 o'clock in the morning the Germans informed us that packages with foodstuffs arrived from our homes. We were ordered to remain calm and for everyone to go back to their cell. My call was number 42.

Only when we went to the courtyard in the bright light to take our packages did we see the results of the “humanitarian” German treatment. There were hundreds of people with beaten hands, legs and heads. Doctors and nurses arrived and gave us medical assistance. In light of this fact, we were stunned, unable to understand what is happening here. On the one hand, we are cruelly beaten for no reason, just because… while on the other hand these same sadists concern themselves with our condition, providing medicines to heal our wounds. Yes, already here, in the early days of the occupation and anti–Semitic campaign, the characteristic feature of the German tactics towards their Jewish victims became visible – the tactics of confusion and disorientation, a thoughtfully planned effort to create the illusion that they do not intend to harm us so much and that everything will eventually end well in spite of the humiliations and numerous victims.

A mountain of packages sent from home was in the courtyard. They started calling out names and distributing the packages. This took some time and the SS men got bored so they again beat people – as is their custom – over the heads, and in general wherever they could. Again a panic ensued and everyone quickly grabbed what they could from the packages and returned to their “rooms”.

Forgetting the “humanitarian treatment” our mood improved a bit. It seems that silencing hunger caused this. Yes, filling one's basic physical needs – has a pervasive calming effect.

Every day SS officers inspected our cells. It had to be clean, everything in order, and the eldest of the cell had to file a report on the situation, the number of people, etc.

After five days the elderly among us were released. Two days later, we younger ones who were still locked up were required to sign an agreement that if we are freed we will leave the Third Reich (our area of the country had already been annexed to the Third Reich) and go to Lublin – otherwise we will remain imprisoned. We were given 10 minutes to think about this.

However, we were not harassed about this any further. After 10 days in prison they released us and brought us back home, leaving us in the market square. It was in the late evening. We were given ten minutes to disappear from the street. After that time passes they threatened to shoot anyone who appears on the street.

Thus ended the first agonizing action that the “High Pure Race”, the heralds of the “New European Order” carried out against the defenseless frightened Jewish community of Zdunska Wola.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Ethnic Germans living outside of Germany Return
  2. Administrative building and tower at the town center surrounded by the market square Return
  3. A town about 15km west of Zdunska Wola Return
  4. הי”ד abbreviation for; May G–d avenge his blood Return
  5. אר–ה–בעלישא Herr Balisha?? Return


[Page 354]

Our “Friends” – the Volksdeutsche[1]

by Blume Dubin

Translated by Menachem Daum

Decrees and persecutions, requisitions and confiscations, these were some German methods from among a whole complex of innumerable oppressions and troubles directed at Jews as soon as the Germans occupied our city.

One of the first so–called “beshlagnamte[2]” was our store, which was taken away from us together with our main apartment leaving us only with the attic room.

For the “privilege” to be one of the first affected we can thank our “friends,” the Volksdeutsche who knew us well and who maintained friendly relationships with us. They often used to come to us, drink and have friendly conversations and also bring gifts for the children, just as we used to send them beautiful New Year packages with sweets and the like.

One Friday night, two weeks after requisitioning our business, the Volksdeutsche came into our home and like good friends asked how we are doing, while immediately extinguishing the Sabbath candles because, “The Germans are coming soon and if they notice the Sabbath lights they will beat you to death.” (Werden sie Dich tot schlagen).

Two or three days later our “friends” came again saying to us, “You are a good Jew”(Du best ein guter Jude) and demanded my father should take his prayer shawl and phylacteries and accompany them.

Ignoring our requests and cries they took him with them, ostensibly reassuring us that he will return soon.

Accompanying him stealthily I saw how they led my father to the garden. There were already nine Jews there– all dressed in prayer shawls, which further accentuated the paleness of their terrified faces.

Among the group of Jews one in particular stood out, a tall Jew, with a snow–white beard who looked like an angel. That was Reb Heshke Behm, the religious law judge. Surrounded by tens of Germans, the Jews were made to speak and laugh among themselves. At the same time cameras in the hands of the Germans snapped the laughing “satisfied” Jews. Shortly afterward they began tormenting them.

They ripped pieces of their beards and tore up their phylacteries and prayer shawls. They were forced to engage in various humiliating gymnastics, falling in the mud and quickly getting up. And whoever “sinned” in the slightest, who didn't carry out the orders as quickly as the sadistic Germans commanded, were hounded with blows and whips.

After this “amusement” the Jews barely dragged themselves home, limping, from the pain of the beatings – and mainly from shame over the humiliation and mistreatment of their humanity. Crying hysterically I took my father home. Once home, with my own hands I cut off the other half of my father's beard – the beard that my father used to caress and delight in and be proud of all the years.

I was horribly broken by the crime that had been committed – not realizing that it was only the beginning, a child's play, a small, insignificant repression in the bitter monstrous tragic cup of pain and tears, of misfortune and abnormal death that still awaited our Jews in Zdunska Wola and the whole of Judaism in general, which fell into the unclean German claws and those of their loyal sadistic helpers – Volksdeutsche and other collaborators.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Ethnic Germans living outside of Germany Return
  2. בעשלאגנאמטע probably German for confiscation Return

 

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