« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 187]

Czentochow Holocaust

 

 

[Page 188]

The Catastrophe of the Community

by L. Brener

Czenstochow numbered 29,000 Jewish residents at the outbreak of the war in 1939. The first hundred Jewish victims fell on “Bloody Monday,” the 4th of September 1939, when the Germans carried out the first pacification in Czenstochow. Then the permanent torture of the Jews began. Groups of Jews were driven daily to work and, under the blows of rifle butts, women and men, children and young people were forced to fill air-raid trenches, carry bricks from place to place without purpose and carry out other physical labor. Krieger, the then chief of the Gestapo, excelled the most in this work of torture.

 


The front cover of the 1940 Statistical Yearbook published by the Judenrat

 

On the 16th of September 1939, at the order of the city chief Wendler, the Judenrat [Jewish council] of six men, was created, which was to be involved with the creation free kitchens for the poor.

On the 15th of November a [compulsory] contribution of a million marks was placed on the Jewish population. Under the threat of hundreds of Jews being shot, the contribution was to be paid over the course of 10 days. After bribing the city chief with hundreds of thousands of marks, the contribution was reduced to 400,000 marks.

At the end of December 1939, a small pogrom against the Jewish population was carried out under the direction of the gendarmes, which ended with the burning of the new so-called German synagogue.

 


The back cover

 

On a certain Friday in the middle of the night in January 1940, thousands of men, women and mainly young girls, half naked, were driven from their residences. After detaining them for long hours in the snowy frost, the wounded and seriously beaten ones were freed. Those remaining were driven together to one designated point. There, everyone had to undress completely naked. The German officers and soldiers tortured them in a sadistic manner. A number of young girls were raped and then sent to various kinds of labor. In addition to forcing the Jews to work in Czenstochow itself, many were sent out

[Page 189]

to work camps in unfamiliar places that devoured many victims.

Deportations from the entire ghetto began quickly, as well as from individual houses. No one was sure if he would still be where he had created his new home in the morning. After each removal [of Jews], the Germans looted for their furniture treasury, but even more – for themselves privately. All Jewish possessions were confiscated. The Jews became poorer and the need deeper every day.

From March 1940 on, the Jewish population kept increasing with thousands of refugees from the surrounding cities and shtetlekh [towns], which were annexed to the Reich. At the beginning of April 1941, the Jewish community in Czenstochow numbered 48,000 residents.

On the 23rd of April, there arose the large

 


The map of the city with the ghettos and camps outlined

 

[Page 190]

ghetto. While the 29,000 Jews in Czenstochow had inhabited 9,000 houses before the war, now the 48,000 were pressed into 4,529 houses. Infectious diseases began to spread. Typhus and dysentery had their lucrative harvest, mainly among the mass of refugees. The blows were frequent and increased. They consoled themselves even more after each blow and continued to drag the heavy weight of life, awaiting new blows.

There also were some bright rays in the dark life: under the wing of TOZ [Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludno#156;ci #175;ydowskiej – the Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population], which carried on intensive activity from the start of the war. Two hundred newly educated medics threw themselves with great fervor into the fight again contagious diseases. Thanks to the devoted and passionate young people, the feeding-location (œwietlices – lounges) that TOZ ran for 2,000 starving children, quickly was transformed into a warm and bright home for all of the children in the ghetto. The young people with their passionate hearts lit and warmed the life and mood of the poor and lonely children. A choir and a dramatic circle of adults also were active at TOZ. TOZ also published an illegal periodical publication, Rasta (shortening of Rada Starszycz [council of elders]), under the leadership of the lawyer, Koniarski, Y. Roziner, L. Brener, and R. Fobel, as well as with the technical help of L. Kusznir and M. Kusznir, in which

 


The movements of the Jewish population from 1938 to 1940 (percentages for each 1,000 people

 

[Page 191]

were presented the life of the Jews in the ghetto, the activities of the German government organs and of the Judenrat.

The political parties also showed animated activity. The Bund illegally maintained the Medem Library for the entire time, as well as spread illegal literature that was published by the Central Committee of the Bund in Warsaw. On the 16th of July 1941, the work of the Bund was interrupted because of the failure of the illegal printing shop in Piotrków. Several Bundists paid with their lives (Moshe Berkensztat and others). Only two of the arrestees succeeded in slipping out of prison

 


The second count of the Jewish population in 1940

 

thanks to the help of the Central Committee. The communists also carried on intensive activity the entire time. However, their work was interrupted for a time because of the large [number of] arrests on the 29th of April when many of them and their families were deported to Oœwiêcim [Auschwitz]. Hanoar Hatzioni [the Zionist Youth] also carried on some organizational and political work.

The leftist parties also organized a professional union that took care of the work and demanded that Judenrat to pay better wages and feed and clothe the workers, who would by sent by it [the Judenrat] to various German workplaces. Quiet strikes took place and more than once the premises of the Judenrat were demolished when the demands of the worker delegation were not filled.

In the spring of 1942, news about the Lublin expulsion tore into the ghetto like lightening and in the summer came the news of the Warsaw explusion. Unease enveloped everyone like an electrical storm. But the unease increased when the German Sondergerichten [special courts] instituted prison sentences to be served until deportation for leaving the ghetto or for a similar “sin”

 


Statistics on the number and percent of those married

 

instead of the death penalty. Everyone's hope turned to the “shops” (identification cards from the shops were to serve as certificates confirming that those possessing them were useful workers); these included the thousands of starving, exhausted Jews driven out of cities and shtetlekh and now located at the refugee areas. To all of those considered useless [the shops] were supposed to be everyone's redeemer…

The lines at the labor office grew longer from day to day. Doctors, lawyers, professors

[Page 192]

students; directors, merchants and just ordinary traders were transformed into shoemakers, tailors, locksmiths and brushmakers.

There were also giant lines at the premises of the Judenrat. Here thousands of forlorn skeletons wrapped in rags with hands eaten by leprosy pushed toward the windows and tried to convince the officials that they were well-to-do and needed no one's help, that they could work, too, and as useful elements they also had full rights to further remain in Czenstochow.

The political parties began to negotiate about a joint armed appearance in case of some sort of “action” on the part of the occupiers. The most decisive conference in connection with this was supposed to take place on the 21st of September with the participation of a messenger from the Warsaw ¯OB [¯ydowska Organizacja Bojowa – Jewish Combat Organization] and a local Jewish captain, Dr. A. Walberg, but itdid not come about. Several delegates from the political parties, who were supposed to take part in the conference, were held by the gendarmes. The same day the unease grew from hour to hour. The police chief, the murderer Degenhart, threatened the strongest repression for spreading false rumors and demanded that the Judenrat and the Jewish ordnungsdient [Jewish police force – order police] end the spreading of rumors. On the 21st of September, at three o'clock at night, Ukrainian and Lithuanian auxiliary police were placed in the streets of the ghetto. Everyone saw that obviously the aktsia

[action – usually a deportation] was beginning.

 

B.

The aktsia began on the 22nd of September, early at five o'clock. Thousands of people ran from room to room, from house to house and from street to street like frightened ants whose anthill had been stepped on. One person dragged a backpack, another a pack of linen and another a few utensils. Everywhere they came up against gendarmes and Ukrainian auxiliary police armed from head to foot. Under a hail of blows, everyone was chased to the metal factory where the “shops” were located. Wives were torn from husbands, children from mothers and woe to those who dared to say goodbye to a wife or a child. Notable among the great mass of those chased were several with hatchets in their hands; others had their fists in the air; as well as those who knelt and begged for pity from the murderers. However, everyone's end was the same – death…

The German hangmen marched them to their annihilation and death among hundreds of murdered bodies. The old, the weak, children and also those who dared not be torn from their wife and child paid with their lives. The streets were full of frightened, wailing masses. Crazy with despair they called their children who had been lost and fell with shattered skulls. The cries and shouts of hundreds of children, who were searching for their mothers, tore through the air and tore at the heart. The contagiously ill escaped from the hospital and fell at the gate. Human shadows with small red books in their hands that should have confirmed the usefulness of their [owners] stood in front of the of the gates to the metal factory and moved along in front, dark in giant rows one pressed against the other. Degenhart, the cruel police dog, the chief murderer, strolled here calmly and indicated with his walking stick: “You to the right! You to the left!” and so on.

The small red books actually traveled to the trash basket and the people to the cattle cars where the packs were taken from everyone, their shoes were removed and they waited to push up to 120 people into a train wagon. Only a small number were successful in being accepted in the “shops,” where a number of members of the Judenrat already were working.

The day ended with 6,000 sent out and several hundred murdered on the spot.

In the morning – all of the ghetto streets were heavily guarded. There was heavy gunfire in the area from which Jews already had been sent out. Jews here who tried to hide were murdered. Shots that ended the lives of those who dared to look out through a window or to appear on a balcony also reverberated in the still occupied streets.

They found themselves tensely waiting for four days. Thoughts of hope flew through many: perhaps, perhaps nothing more would happen! Four days – the worried waiting lasted for [what seemed like] four long, terrible years. On the fifth day, the 27th of September, the news that more Jews were being driven from a certain number of streets arrived like frightening thunder. All were chased to the large square at the New Market where “selections” were taking place. Thousands of Jews were arranged in two dense, long rows. Dozens of gendarmes

[Page 193]

and members of the Gestapo and hundreds of Ukrainians surrounded the square. There was a deadly silence. Only the stuttering voice of the cruel police chief was heard: “What is your profession?” and not waiting for an answer, he pointed with his cane over the head. With his characteristic, “you to the right, you to the left!” – he determined life or death for everyone.

The day also resulted in 6,000 deportees and many dead on the spot. Suddenly, a ray of hope: gendarmes brought a group of Jews who had been ransomed for goods, money and diamonds to the “shops.” Based on this, the Jews began to collect ransom money for the security police. Jews parted with their last possessions. They paid in everything they had, even jewelry that had been inherited generation after generation, if only to save their closest relatives, sacks of gold, jewelry and precious stones traveled to the gendarmes and the fooled Jews – to the cattle cars to Treblinka.

A wild hunt began for spoils. The living were cheated out of everything; golden teeth were pulled and fingers with golden rings were cut off the dead. Wagons of Jewish residents' possessions were drawn through the street to the storehouses of the security police. The Jewish gwardia [guards] from the “furniture camp” under the leadership of hard-working and bold Makhl Birencwajg carried secretive cabinets, china cabinets and coal boxes – this was not very easy. Mothers and children were smuggled in these pieces of furniture to the bunkers in the “furniture camp” that had been prepared under the noses of the Germans. Seventy-three children and their mothers were saved in such a manner.

The murderous “action dance” lasted for six weeks. Hunger and death reigned without end. About 41,000 Jews were sent to Treblinka and perished there. Six and a half thousand remained in the “shops” and at temporary labor camps and about a thousand – hidden in cellars and in various bunkers.

The ghetto had been cleaned out. A deadly silence. The widespread, frightening melody of death and destruction was the only thing that carried through the doors and windows. The walls of the day rooms that over the course of 19 months absorbed the soulful warmth of the young people and the cheerful sounds of 2,000 children who had their bright home here cried. The orphan's house that in the course of 19 months fed, supported and warmed 150 young orphans and was now itself orphaned, cried.

The situation for the survivors was cruel. The suffering was most terrible for those who were sent to the HASAG [H.A.S.A.G. is the acronym for a German metal goods manufacturer, Hugo Schneider Metallwarenfabrik Aktiengesellschaft] ammunition factory.

 


Fragment of the HASAG

 

Suffering from hunger and filth was the daily bread here. Only those who had the strength to save a little coffee from their daily half-liter portion could wash their face a bit.

The policemen were triumphant. They completely accomplished their duty in regard to the “Great Reich.” Now they were the true sons of the true “master race.”

The aktsias ended on the 1st of November. Six and a half thousand surviving Jews were taken from the “shops” and from the temporary work camps to the small ghetto in continuing deadly fear and to further “selections.”

 

C.

The “small ghetto” – three small, filthy, parallel-laying, narrow alleys, fenced in with barbed wire, guarded day and night by the security police and the Ukrainians. Six and a half thousand sad shadows that by chance had stolen a little bit of life were locked into a suffocating cage. Six and a half thousand deprived slaves were pressed into 1,200 narrow, small rooms. Those sentenced to life were forced to build their new home here. There were no households of one's own. Everyone had to work and draw their means of support from the kitchen run by the Judenrat.

Everyone was on their feet in groups at five o'clock in the morning, under guard, marching

[Page 194]

to their designated workplaces outside the ghetto where they experienced pain, jokes and mockery. At nine in the evening, the sad melody of the trumpet spread, ordering them to sleep.

A melancholy mood hung like a heavy cloud in the sky. Everyone had lost everything and everyone. Mothers, dying of grief, were cheered up by their children's bright, laughing eyes. Charming Jewish children, saved by a miracle, lay in dark bunkers and cried their eyes out, longing for their mothers' gentle hand.

Every group was counted precisely and verified when marching out to work and coming back. The mood then was quiet and serious. Yet, a powerful song from a group of workers was heard from time to time at the marching into the ghetto. This was not a song of intoxication and joy. Thus 200 workers from the “furniture camp” deafened the cries of the surviving children, who were being smuggled in large bread sacks from bunkers outside the ghetto into the ghetto where new bunkers had been prepared for them.

The camp leader – the executioner Ibersher – stood at the well-known small Warszawer market square almost every day during the marching out to work and with the bent handle of his cane he caught one here, here another one by the throat like a pugnacious dog and dragged him into the “butcher-shop.” From there large groups were sent to Skarzysko and Blizyn. Entire groups of workers often were taken from the workplaces and sent away. Each “whistle” was accompanied by victims: several fell because slaves needed to be taught a little respect and several [were murdered] when they jumped from autos or from the cattle cars.

There were more frequent conversations about a new deadline for complete liquidation. The nerves could not stand the constant unease and uncertainty. The physical threat to life grew stronger from day to day and hour to hour. Striving to make a fortune to be able to escape from the ghetto grew more strained. Entire packs were stolen from the police storehouses where the looted Jewish property was stored and they were sold. The uncertainty for the next morning grew enormously. One was rich and wanted to drive away one's own suffering from the night and today. Life became wanton. Gorging oneself and debauchery were transformed into a cult. There was the impression of living in a thick, dark jungle.

A second life developed at the same time, a life in bunkers and in deep cellars. Here sat young men and women, without concern for political differences and their feeling for revenge hardened. The heavy burden of ghetto life was loathsome to them. Those sentenced to death threw off the yoke of suffering and doubt and strengthened their will to fight. Young boys and girls, almost still children, transformed these cellars into a wonderful “enchanted land.” The sadness here was overshadowed with gentle love and the despair with hate. Love and hate. Love for the memory of the so tragically murdered and hate for the German hangmen. They worked tirelessly day and night. They bought a revolver and in deadly danger smuggled in bullets that were stolen from the German ammunition factory for dynamite. They made their own grenades with almost no experience, with their bare hands. A large tunnel also was prepared that was to serve in case they would need to withdraw from the fight. They collected money from the rich Jews for weapons and they eliminated traitors. The mood in the ghetto changed little by little, mainly after the great defeat of the German army at Stalingrad. The number of fighters grew from day to day and the work more intensive.

The security police carried out further annihilation work. New edicts kept coming. It became forbidden for men and women to live on the same street. Every day brought new victims. Those on whose cheeks burned a tubercular fever were shot. Men were shot who dared to cross the threshold of their sister who lived on the women's street and the reverse. Those who “hid” in the ghetto and did not go to work were shot. Mothers who lost their minds were shot. Fourteen year old children who did not go to work because they wanted to protect their insane mothers from committing suicide and so on were shot.

At 10 o'clock in the morning on the 3rd of January the ghetto was surrounded from the outside by fully armed Ukrainians and gendarmes. The ghetto was shaken. There was murmuring as in a beehive. The people ran from place to place. They looked at each other with eyes full of fear. The question: “What more would happen?” did not leave anyone's mouth. The ghetto was full of unease. The gendarmes in helmets strolled calmly outside, right near the barbed wire, and looked nonchalantly at what now was happening in the ghetto. Suddenly the ghetto

[Page 195]

was full of Ukrainians, granat police [Blue Police – Polish police in the Nazi-occupied area], gendarmes and Jewish ordnungsdienst [Jewish policemen]. Terrifying voices and screams carried from one corner of the ghetto to another. Old people, fathers with children were dragged out of the houses, from the cellars and the attics. Several let themselves be led indifferently; others threw themselves to the ground and defended themselves with teeth and nails. People's blood froze in their veins watching this tragic struggle. The aktsia was halted at night, but not ended. The aktsia was continued early in the morning. They again dragged entire groups of mothers and children from

 


Memorial tablet at the grave of six shot fighters from the Jewish Fighting Organization (19th of March 1943)

 

hiding places. Terrible despairing voices drifted with the almost constant shooting. Everyone in the ghetto was driven out to the well-known market square. A new “selection” took place. The fighters from the “enchanted” land participated in their first test: Mendl Fiszelewicz shot at the gendarmes. Twenty-five Jews then paid with their lives, among them Fiszelewicz's closest comrade, Y. Fajner, the old Bundist bojowec [fighter] Hershl Frajman and the lawyer, Rozensztajn, the member of the League for Working Eretz-Yisroel [a Zionist organization]. More than 300 men, women and mainly children, as well as young fighters were sent to Radomsk under heavy guard to complete the transport from there to Treblinka.

The ghetto received another appearance. People prepared feverishly to escape from the bunkers that had been prepared earlier at great expense. Grey-haired women and men had received pitch-black hair overnight. Young, darkly cute girls and boys were suddenly blond. They escaped to the Polish side with false passports and smuggled themselves to Germany to work with false identification cards. Many of them were identified or accidentally recognized and perished. The impulse to escape did not decrease.

The young did not rest and prepared feverishly. Groups went into the forests. Groups left for various diversionary work. Many of them also perished taking additional victims with them.

February 1943. It was passed from ear to ear that Jews who had relatives in Palestine would be exchanged for Germans who were in England. A new ray of hope began to lighten the mood of hundreds of unfortunate ones. The Judenrat carried out the registration. Those who did not have family in Palestine “borrowed” such from acquaintances and registered themselves, too. The registration ran for two weeks and was interrupted. Hundreds of slaves lived through another disappointment.

The 20th of March 1943, Purim. A beautiful, sunny day. It felt a little like a holiday in the ghetto. It was particularly like a holiday among the doctors' families, who today were celebrating the birthday of the most beautiful child in the ghetto – of the small Lili Winer. All of the doctors and their families were assembled now at Doctor Winer's house. The men carried out animated conversations: Dr. Winer told how he, as a transport worker, in the very fervor of the deportation action on the 27th of September 1942, managed to get into quarantine and there with great self-sacrifice was also ab;e to bring in his wife and their two children. Dr. Blumenfeld drew a pessimistic conclusion about the further fate of the few remaining Jews. The young Dr. Lipinski tried to persuade everyone that the Jewish doctors in Czenstochow would survive the war because the hangman Degenhart had a special weakness for doctors and Dr. Kiak amused the group with his humorous description of the appearance of Germany after the war. However, the majority of the guests were engrossed with the few dozen children entertaining them. Everyone's attention was now riveted on the dance that the children were doing. The children were radiant. The small Lili was particularly radiant. The black velvet little dress, the white anklets on her slender legs, the large snow- white ribbon on her head in her thick black hair gave her a special charm. Lili was now completely aglow. This day was her holiday. This day we celebrated her 7th birthday. The

[Page 196]

guests could not tear away their eyes from the delicate, beautiful and gorgeous child.

Suddenly a new order from the city chief spread: the Judenrat, all doctors and the intelligentsia in general, needed to appear with their families at the sadly famous market square. The ghetto again became agitated. The square was full of men, women and children. The chief declared that they were being sent to Palestine. Large trucks had been prepared and stood unguarded. Everyone had to climb into the vehicles. The vehicles moved slowly. The vehicles stopped on Warsawer Street. Armed gendarmes jumped out of various hiding places. More vehicles with gendarmes arrived. The vehicles then moved quickly in the direction of the Jewish cemetery. The victims felt threatened with danger. The 20-year old W. Kopinski, a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization was the first one to jump from the speeding vehicle. Others jumped after him, of whom only six were successful in escaping from death. The remaining 127 men – the remainder of the professional Jewish intelligentsia – were brought to the Jewish cemetery. The entire cemetery was surrounded by security guards and Ukrainian auxiliary police. The victims were forced to take off their clothes and one by one they were shot. The gendarmerie alone was involved in this “holy” worship. The oldest were shot first. The German hangmen still had time for the children. They had a desire to play a little with the children. They themselves were fathers and there were still children present… With one hand they lifted the children by strands of hair or by their small feet into the air and with the other took aim at their hearts or their bodies. There was no harm in that all of the children did not immediately exhale their souls. It did not matter that the earth was covering those who could still shouted out their last Ma…

The small Lili was the last one. All her [clothes] were removed. Only the white ribbon in her hair – a memory of her holiday – was left. The small one stood in all her beauty and her large black eyes wandered from one murderer to another. It is difficult to characterize what was mirrored in the eyes of the small, delicate child. The gendarmes, already satisfied with enough blood, did not move to lift their hands to shoot. Each one wanted another one to end the bloody game. [There was] a long pause… The tall, broad-boned camp leader Ibershter interrupted his comrades prolonging this. With the call: “For the Fatherland,” he aimed at the chest of the small Lili, who closed the chain of the 127 victims on the 7th anniversary of her birth.

One hundred and twenty-seven men filled a new mass grave, where an unknown hand erected a broken stone from a desecrated matzeveh [headstone] on which was engraved: Czenstochower Jewish Intelligentsia, Purim the 20th of March 1943.

 


Memorial Plaque on the mass grave of those who fell on the 3rd of January 1943

 


The headstone on the mass grave of the Czenstochower Intelligentsia

 


Some of the name on the headstone on the mass grave

 

[Page 197]

The ghetto was closed from the 1st to the 4th of May 1943. No one was allowed out for any work. No workplace was active. “Dos Juden-problem is über alles!” [The Jewish problem is above all else!] The mood in the ghetto was dejected. Various people made comments. Several believed that this was the arrival of the total liquidation of the ghetto. Others interpreted it as a means of protection, that the Jews would not meet with any Poles at the workplaces on the holiday of the 1st and 3rd of May [Constitution Day in Poland]. Meanwhile, there was hunger in the ghetto. The filth was great. People were smuggled out in barrels of filth and bread was smuggled in in the same barrels. On the morning of the 5th of May the trumpet that called us to work was heard again. The mood calmed a little.

A few weeks of a “normal” and tragic life dragged on.

In the second half of June 1943 there was an attack by the security police on the Jewish workers in the furniture camp. There were victims. All small workplaces were liquidated a few days later. The above-mentioned active Dr. A. Walberg was dragged and murdered. Two-dozen workers who were employed in the police storehouses also were murdered. Those in the ghetto sentenced to hard labor understood that the last and decisive action in the ghetto was approaching.

The small ghetto was surrounded and fired upon in the afternoon of the 25th of June 1943. The bunkers of weapons were discovered and the fighters in the bunkers perished. Night fell and the aktsia was suspended.

 


A delegation from the Czenstochower Fighting Organization and members of the Fighting Organization in Warsaw lay flowers on the mass graves in the small ghetto (June 1945)

 

On the 26th of June at 10 o'clock in the morning, all the men were driven out to the well-known market square, which was surrounded with gendarmes, members of the Gestapo, security police and soldiers. There were wagons [filled] with dead bodies in the center of the square. Under the threat of death, whoever had money and jewelry had to give it to the gendarmes. Those who lived in the houses in which bunkers of weapons were found were dragged from the rows. Older Jews and fathers with children also were dragged from the rows. They were loaded onto large trucks under blows from rifle butts. The cries and the frightening laments from the women in the ghetto who were watching and understood what was happening were unbearable. The packed vehicles left in the direction of the Jewish cemetery and the remaining men were led away to the nearby HASAG ammunition factory.

 


Fragment of the destroyed cemetery

 

At the same time, the security guards and Gestapo attacked the exit from the tunnel outside the ghetto. A short and determined fight. All of the young fighters fell, but the security police and the Gestapo also were victims.

The rows of women arrived, mothers with children were packed into the trucks and driven away to death accompanied by the wailing of the remaining women. The remaining women who had no children with them were led away to the ammunition factory like the men had been earlier. On the morning of the 27th of June, the chief hangman, Degenhardt, declared an amnesty for all of those who still were lying hidden in bunkers in the ghetto. The Jewish ordnungsdienst [ghetto police] carried the “news” of the amnesty throughout the ghetto. Eighty-four men, 60 fathers with children and approximately 100 children crawled out of their hiding places. They were permitted to console themselves with belief in the amnesty for two days. On the third day their hopes were broken forever… Mothers with children increased the number of mass graves in Czenstochow.

[Page 198]

House after house was exploded with dynamite. Hundreds of those hiding perished under the ruins. Dozens who left the bunkers after the “amnesty” [was announced] were shot on the spot and burned. Many were thrown into the fire while alive. Magnificent dreams were turned into smoke.

 


The place where the old synagogue once stood

 

Human torches were carried with tongues of flame to the sky and German murderers – the sons of the herren-volk [master race] – danced their cruel annihilation dance in honor of the “Third Reich” in the glow of the flames.

 

D.

HASAG [H.A.S.A.G. is the acronym for a German metal goods manufacturer, Hugo Schneider Metallwarenfabrik Aktiengesellschaft] - two ammunition factories, Pelcery and Rakow. Here now was the concentration camp for 3,990 still-living Jews in Czenstochow. Meanwhile the security police borrowed for their disposition 230 men from [the factories]. The mood of the survivors was crushed. Some had lost their last child, some their last friend. Each was unfamiliar with the other. Everyone felt lonely. They talked to each other with bitterness about those who had been preparing to fight and had hastened the new misfortune. The small number of remaining fighters felt a little guilty and strange. Guilty – perhaps they really did hasten the misfortune. And strange because they read painful resentment in the looks from several [people]. The hunger was strongly felt. Twenty deca [numerical value of 10] of bread and a little watery soup from dried beets (viln zup in the language of the HASAG) that was given out daily per man could not satisfy anyone. Yet, they began to accustom themselves to this. The thought sneaked in that perhaps they would at least remain alive here. It was an ammunition factory and they still needed hands to work! Hungry, broken, but with a new light of hope, they lived for three weeks

 

 


Fragments of the destroyed small ghetto

 

and two days. They starved for three weeks and two days, eaten by lice and for three weeks and two days they believed that they would remain alive because the labor force of slaves now was necessary for “victory.”

On the 19th of July 1943, at 11 o'clock at night, everyone was driven out onto the street. Everyone had to march through a small alley where a new “selection” took place. This time, the “selection” was made by the master craftsmen from the factory and by the leaders of the security guards. The security police only assisted. They looked into each face separately and evaluated each one separately as to who, according to their opinion, was too old or too young. Each master craftsman also indicated which of their slaves who were “slaggards” needed to perish. A horrible lament carried through the entire factory. Those who remained alive for now did not cry any less. They were all now convinced that the ammunition factory was less important than the “Jewish problem.”

Two hundred and sixty were thrown into a dark cellar and then experienced their last night of a frightening nightmare. Two hundred and sixty men were waiting for their final redemption – for death. Early in the morning, the

[Page 199]

20th of July, the entire ordnungsdienst [Jewish police force – order police] and their families were thrown into the same cellar. The security police also made a donation of 130 men from its slaves for this “holy” purpose. On the same day at 11 o'clock in the morning, a terrible struggle took place in the cellar. More than 400 of those sentenced to death fought with the master craftsmen who dazed each victim with hammers before throwing them into the vehicles. This time the German hangmen again were victorious.

The survivors were still crying and the dark cellar walls were filled with inscriptions of those who just had perished cried with them:

“Ruwinku Feldman. I part with you son. Keep well!” – Your mother Ch. Feldman.

 


Inscriptions from those murdered to their relatives scratched by the hands of the martyrs on the walls of the cellars in the HASAG and of the ruins of the arrest house of the Jewish police in the small ghetto before they went to their death

 

“Dear Ruwin, I leave calmly. I kiss you.” – Your mother Chana.

“Dear daughter Yadza, I go to my death calmly. Do not lose hope! I kiss you.” – Your mother Moszkowicz.

“I leave calmly.” – Yuzik Yung.

“Zasha Winder says goodbye to her husband Kalman. I leave calmly.” – Zasha Winder.

“I am already tired of constantly running from death. I leave calmly. How will my children live? What will become of them?” – Kh. Sh.

The Jewish cemetery grew larger with a large mass grave of more than 400 men. The master craftsmen, the lame security guard Klem and his accomplice, the 140-centimeter [four foot 6 inches] cripple Sztiglic had shown that they could do the “holy” work just as well as the security police.

Wooden barracks were built quickly in the area of a scant square kilometer surrounded by barbed wire, heavily armed on all sides with security guards. Here was the living place for 3,000 men. Every day had its number of victims:

 

 


Resident barracks in HASAG

 


A fragment of the HASAG

 

someone was shot by a security guard just like that, another by the Gestapo for a transgression of some kind, someone for an attempt to escape and someone by a master craftsman as a “slaggard.” A child was born; it immediately had

[Page 200]

to be murdered. If someone was seriously ill, there was also a solution for him…

The days in the camp were monotonous. Every day at 5 o'clock in the morning everyone had to be ready for the count. The cripple Sztiglic then created a circus: for being late for the count, he forced old women to kiss young boys, and young girls to kiss old Jews [men]. He gave 10-20 or more lashes as a penalty for the same transgression. Every day entire groups were led by the master craftsmen under the watch of the security guards to receive their lashes for not working up to their standard. Some died only with a kratke [Polish – grille shape] (marks only on the lower part of the body in “HASAG language”). Others traveled from the guards straight to the hospital.

The few Jews here were turned into a large, numbed, melancholy mass. The hard labor, between grey factory walls, murderous master craftsmen and heavy machines at which they had to work up to 12-14 or more hours a day standing and the hunger brought the result that one met dried out men whose skin barely kept their bones from collapsing. One also met those who could barely drag their feet, which were swollen by hunger. Typhus and tuberculosis had a rich harvest here. Clothes of rags and wooden shoes brought from various camps that had been closed were the usual clothing here. Apathy and resignation began to spread even more and wider.

However, the political parties began to revive again. Cells were created by: members of the Polish Workers Party, the Bund, left Poalei-Zion [Marxist Zionist] and other Zionist groupings. They came to an understanding with political workers, who smuggled food for the Jews and various legal and illegal newspapers for the cells. The comrades outside made contact with us. They sent in letters, bulletins and brochures. (A Year in Treblinka; by [Jankiel] Wiernik, bulletins from the Bund with the last letter from Artur Zygielbojm[1] and so on). They also sent literature and letters from abroad. We also began to receive help in the same way. Two illegal kitchens immediately were created: one for the sick and the second for children and young people. Individual help also was organized for everyone about whom we could be certain. The comrades on the outside informed us abut the liquidations of various concentration camps (Trawnik, Pianko and so on) and warned us against having illusions. A second party commission of five men arose that concentrated in its hands the organization of all of the activities. Plans for revolt were prepared in case of an aktsia. Three plans were prepared: 1. Organize groupings in the barracks that would prepare the tools that they would need to begin a fight, 2. Blow up the factory by igniting the dynamite warehouse, 3. Organize 125 men who would be ready to sacrifice their lives and attack the security guards, disarm them, control the factory for a time in order for a larger number to be able to escape. The masses in the barracks began to come to life again. The cells increased from day to day. On the 22nd of July 1944, a separate revival was noticed when the press brought the news about the assassination attempt on Hitler. The Peoples Workers Party and Bund cells were particularly active.

One day the security guards attacked the bunkers and confiscated all of the collected tools. The workers' plan failed. The dynamite warehouse was ignited twice. However, the firemen were successful in keeping the fire from spreading both times. However, courage did not fail in anyone. The victorious march forward of the Red Army strengthened the will to fight. Therefore, they prepared their third and [most] determined appearance. The group of 125 was doubled.

Meanwhile the number of Jews in the Czenstochow camps kept increasing. Jews were brought from Lodz, Skarzysko and Plaszow. The Czenstochow camps numbered 11,000 men. The mood imroved and little by little began to change. The constant assuring, “I will not go into the forest anymore,” was no longer heard. The majority was convinced that if people were being sent to Czenstochow from other camps and [not killed], then they would not exterminate the Jews in Czenstochow. The will of the people to fight lessened. The interparty commission came to the conclusion that in such a situation an attack would result in certain failure. However, the aid work was carried out further. The comrades from Warsaw and Krakow did not remain aloof and, after a short interruption because of the Warsaw Uprising, made use of every opportunity to continue to help us. They also demanded that the active comrades escape if we did not fight because the danger now was no less threatening than before. The activists from all parties

[Page 201]

decided not to escape, to not cause danger to the lives of everyone in the camp.

The mood in the camp kept changing. The daily news about the victories of the Red Army from the smuggled in press encouraged everyone and strengthened the belief that everyone would soon be liberated.

On the 15th of January 1945, when the Red Army began to approach the gates of Czenstochow, the members of the S.S. and the security guards succeeded in evacuating almost 6,000 men from the Czenstochow camp. The evacuation of the remaining 5,200 men by the security guards and the S.S. members was not successful. The majority escaped from the barracks and left the factory. The directors, the master craftsmen, members of the S.S. and the security guards began to withdraw from the factory, dragging only a few dozen Jews with them. On the morning of the 17th of January 1945, 5,200 men opened the gates of the camp and went out to freedom.

Five thousand two hundred slaves with death sentences in their pockets. Of them, 1,518 were Czenstochow residents; 1,240 born in Czenstochow and the remainder were from various cities and shtetlekh [towns] won back their lives in freedom.

Five thousand two hundred were liberated – 5,200 living headstones in an endless cemetery of our tragic reality.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. (Shmuel) Artur Zygielbojm was a Bundist leader and a member of the National Council of the Polish Government in exile. He committed suicide to protest the indifference of the Allied nations to the plight of the Polish Jews. He left a very moving letter explaining his suicide. Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Czestochowa, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Max G. Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 8 Feb 2018 by MGH