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[Page 233]

The Artisans and the Devastation

by D. Koniecpoler

At the beginning of the Second World War, under the rule of German barbarians, the artisans in Czenstochow did everything possible to help their comrades maintain their workbenches when they were driven from their residences into the ghetto. We organized a juridical office that, as far as possible, legally supported the Jewish artisans, created the opportunities for them to buy licenses and so on.

In June 1942 we received an announcement: “Any Jewish artisan who has not paid the necessary sum for his examinations and contribution will be sent out of the city.” We then collected the difficult thousands of zlotes so as to not give the Nazis a pretext [to say] that the Jewish artisans are illegal. However, none of this helped. On the 22nd of September, both the Jewish artisans who worked in the specially created workplaces and the other Jews, were all sent to the gas chambers at Treblinka.

It is impossible to list the names of the thousands of Jewish artisan-martyrs who perished with the 40,000 Jewish martyrs from Czenstochow. Here we can only record the names of the individual activist artisans who miraculously survived.

Yeshaya Granik, Samuel Kac – tailor group; Goldberg – hairdresser group; Dovid Koniecpoler, Yosef Izraelewicz (returned from the Soviet Union) – carpenter group; Avraham Grajcer – painter group; Ahron Dorfgang – shoemaker group.


Orders from the German Regime

Copy of the original notice

CALL TO THE JEWISH POPULATION

On the basis of the 3rd section of the second implementing rule to the ordinance of October 26, 1939 on the introduction of the labor force for the Jewish population of the General Government (Ordinance sheet G.G. P. page 246) I decree:
The Jewish males who are compelled to work, as well as the baptized Jews in Czestochowa from the year of birth 1914 up to and including 1923, must report to the Ältestenrat [Council of Elders] in Czestochowa, Marienalle, no. 9 during the office hours 9-15 for the purpose of enrollment for a work card in the following order:
on 9 March 1940 with initial letters A-H.

on 10 March 1940 with initial letters I-R.

on 11 March 1940 with initial letters S-Z.

Non-compliance with this order will be punished with imprisonment for up to 10 years. In addition, property may be confiscated.

  The City Captain
(–) Dr. Wendler
Czestochowa on the 8th of March 1940
CALL
to the Jewish Population

On the basis of section 3 of the Second discussion paper of the Ordinance of the 26th October 1939 on the incarceration of the labor force of the Jewish population of the General Government (ordinance sheet G.G.P. page 246), I decree the registration of all male and female Jews who are forced to work as well as the baptized Jews in Czenstochowa with birth years 1879 to 1913 inclusive as well as 1924 to 1927 inclusive.

Registration for cards to enter the workforce will take place during the office hours 9-15 at the Council of Elders in Czestochowa, Katedralna 7

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reporting in the following order:
on 18 March 1940 the years 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913;

on 10 April 1940 the years 1900, 1901, 1902;

on 11 April 1940 the years 1897, 1898, 1899;

on 12 April 1940 the years 1894, 1895, 1895;

on 19 March 1940 the years 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909;

on 20 March 1940 the years 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905;;

on 21 March 1940 the years 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901;

on 22 March 1940 the years 1894, 1895, 1896, 1897;

on 23 March 1940 the years 1891, 1892, 1893.

The registration dates for the years 1879 to 1890 inclusive as well as the year 1924 to 1927 inclusive will be announced separately.

The dates are to be observed punctually. Identity cards are required.

The non-observance of this order will be punished with prison for up to 10 years. In addition, the total assets could be confiscated.

  The City Captain
[–] Dr. Wendler
Czestochowa, on the 16th of March 1940.

* * *

Copy of the original notice

CALL
to the Jewish Population

With reference to my call of 16 March 1940 concerning the compulsory work, I have the following:
  1. The further registration for the years 1881-1913 inclusive and in particular:

    1. Commercial craftsmen and technical workers (e.g. particularly bakers, butchers, tailors, shoemakers, locksmiths, mechanics, electricians and the like);
    2. [Registration of] the liberal professions and of the chemists takes place in the following order:
      on 6 April 1940 the years 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913;

      on 8 April 1940 the years 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909;

      on 9 April 1940 the years 1903, 1904, 1905;        

      on 10 April 1940 the years 1900, 1901, 1902;

      on 11 April 1940 the years 1897, 1898, 1899;

      on 12 April 1940 the years 1894, 1895, 1896;

      on 13 April 1940 the years 1891, 1892, 1893.

  2. Registration for the years 1880-1890 inclusive, as well as the years 1924-1927 inclusive, occurs in the following order:
    on 15 April 1940 the years 1889, 1890;

    on 16 April 1940 the years 1887, 1888;

    on 17 April 1940 the years 1885,1886;

    on 18 April 1940 the years 1883, 1884;

    on 19 April 1940 the years 1881, 1882.

    on 20 April 1940 the years 1880, 1924;

    on 21 April 1940 the years 1935, 1936;

    on 22 April 1940 the years 1927.

  3. The enumeration applies to male Jews, including baptized Jews.
  4. The application for registration will take place at the Council of Elders, Katedralna 7, during the office hours from 9 to 14.
  5. Those who must register [born in] the years 1924-1927 inclusive must appear accompanied by a father or mother.
  6. The appointed dates are to be observed on time.
  7. Identification cards are required.
  8. All male Jews, as well as baptized Jews, [born in] the years 1880 to 1927 inclusive, who will, after the termination of registration, continue to be transferred to Czestochowa, are obliged to report immediately after their arrival at the Council of Elders in Czestochowa in order to register for a workforce card.
  9. Non-compliance with this order will be punished with prison for up to 10 years.
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In addition, it should be understood that all of their property will be confiscated.

  The City Captain
(–) i. V. Kadner
Czestochowa, the 3rd of April 1940
Note: Baptized Jews are those who were baptized themselves as well as those whose Jewish parents or grandparents were baptized.

* * *

Copy of the original notice

NOTICE

On the Subject of Metal Collection

A metal collection will be carried out in the city of Czestochowa. Every household is obligated [to provide] during the period from the 15th to 30th of June of this year three kilograms of metal (copper, brass, tombac, silver, nickel, nickel silver, lead or tin) in the form of shapeless objects. The supplier will be issued a receipt. Light metals such as aluminum, zinc and iron will not be accepted. The weight of the objects made of tin will be doubled.

Anyone who intentionally retains metal will be punished with imprisonment.

The metal collection from the Jewish population will be carried out by the Judenrat [Jewish council].

This order does not apply to the Volksdeutschen [those considered “Germans in terms of people or race” by the Nazis] in the city of Czestochowa, those who are in possession of an identity document or to the Ukrainian population.

  The City Captain
Dr. Wender
Czestochowa, the 14th of June 1940
Through: Kurjer Czestochowski [Czentochowa Courier – Polish language newspaper issued by the German General Government]

On the basis of the housing ordinance of the 3rd of March 1941, I decree the following for the municipality:

  1. Empty, vacated or newly created residential and commercial premises (these are: residential premises, warehouses, office space, garages, etc.) are to be reported by the owner, the beneficiaries of owners within one day:

    1. Insofar as housing and premises are concerned, which are occupied by German (as well as Volksdeutschen), with my housing office,
    2. Insofar as they are located outside the Jewish quarter of the Polish city administration in the town hall,
    3. Insofar as they are within the Jewish quarter of Jewish residences.
  2. Residential and commercial premises may only be rented with the permission of my housing office.
  3. The rental of residential and commercial premises can only be carried out if a written request with the corresponding substantiation of the vacancy is present. This application must be submitted:

    1. By the German population at my housing office directly.
    2. By the Polish population at the Polish city administration (Town Hall).
    3. By the Jewish population at the Council of Elders.

  4. Rental and leasing conditions may only be concluded and canceled with the prior consent of the landlord and the owner.
  5. Rooms designed or intended for residential use may only be used or altered with the approval of my housing authorities.
  6. Vacant residential or commercial premises may not be publicly advertised.
  7. Borrowed items of furniture may only be removed with the approval of my housing office.
  8. On the basis of my announcement of 12 September 1940, furniture and household items may only be transported with the permission of my housing office in the district of Czestochowa.
[Page 236]
  1. A separate announcement is made on the rental of residential and commercial premises. My announcement of the 2nd of June 1940, concerning the residence permit, is overridden effective from the 4th of April 1941.
  2. According to the 8th section of the ordinance on housing by the administration of the labor division of the General Government, certain buildings, residential and utility areas, with the exception of numbers 6 and 7, do not fall under this announcement.
  3. My notice of the 15th of July 1940 concerning the registration of all vacant dwellings in Polish buildings is herewith repealed.
  4. Cases of violation of these regulations will be subject to mandatory punitive measures according to sections 10 and 11 of the ordinance on housing of the third of March 1941.

  The City Chief
Dr. Wendler
Czestochowa, the 30th of August 1941.
Through: Kurjer Czestochowski

DECREE

On the basis of the ordinance of the general governors (VOBL. GG. page 8), all inhabitants of the city, who have completed their 15th year, with the exception of the Germans of the Reich, the German people and foreigners, are obligated to obtain an identification card issued by my office.

Jews and gypsies are required to possess an identification card even if they have German nationality.

The identification cards are to be requested personally on official form sheets from 8 am -15 pm:

  1. for the non-Jews in the office on Wolnoscistrasse no. 12.
  2. for Jews in the office on N. Marii Pennystrasse no. 12.

The application requires a proof of identity (birth certificate, certificate of marriage, official ID and the like) as well 2 un-retouched photographs of a required size.

A fee of 4 zlotes is payable at the time of the application.

The acceptance of the application for identity card will take place according to the following plan:

Residents with the initials:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J.
Sign in daily (except on Sundays and holidays)
from 1 December until 31 December 1941

K, L, Ł, M, N, O, P.
from 1 January until 31 January 1942.

R, S, Sz, T, U, W, Z. Ż,
from 1 February to 28 February 1924.

The issuance of the identity cards will be announced.

  The City Chief
Czestochowa, the 18th of November 1941.
Through: Kurjer Czestochowski

* * *

NOTICE

Concerning:

Change in the Curfew Hours

For the period from the 20th of June 1942 to the 31st of August 1942, the curfew hours for the city of Czestochowa is fixed.
  1. For Poles from 23 to 5 [11 pm to 5 am].
  2. For Jews from 21 to 5 [9 pm to 5 am].
Whoever is in the city area during the curfew without a pass will be punished.

Simultaneously, a curfew is imposed on the Polish population in the Polish occupied areas starting at 10:30 pm.

  Czestochowa, the 16th of June 1942.
The City Chief
Dr. Franke

* * *

Copy of the original notice

NOTICE

In accordance with the instructions of the Department of Labor in the Government of the General Government, Cracow, all male Jews aged 12 to 60 years [must] immediately report to the registration office for the purpose of re-registering and signing the card
[Page 237]
at the special bureau for Jewish labor at Lindenstrasse (formerly Wilson) with a photo 4.5x4.5 and identity card.

The Jews have to appear as follows:

On the 22nd of June 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter A.

On the 22nd of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter B-Bd.

On the 23rd of June 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Be-Bek.

On the 23rd of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Bel-Br.

On the 24th of June 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Bs-Ce.

On the 24th of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Cf- Cz.

On the 25th of June 1942 from 7:30 = to 12:30 letter D-Dy.

On the 25th of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Dz-Ep.

On the 26th of June 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Er-Fh.

On the 26th of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Fi-Frej.

On the 27th of June 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Ga-Geb.

On the 29th of June 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Gec-Gn.

On the 29th of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Go-Grh.

On the 30th of June 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Go-Grh.

On the 30th of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Hi-Hil.

On the 1st of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Him-J.

On the 1st of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Jak-Jel.

On the 2nd of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Jem, K-Kat.

On the 2nd of June 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Kaw-Kl.

On the 3rd of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Km-Kr.

On the 3rd of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Ks -Kup.

On the 4th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Kur-Lib.

On the 6th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Lich-Mak.

On the 6th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Mal-Mich.

On the 7th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Mk-Nek.

On the 7th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Nel-Oj.

On the 8th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Ok-Pik.

On the 8th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Pil-Pz.

On the 9th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Ra-Rn.

On the 9th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Ro-Ros.

On the 10th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Tot-Ryz.*

*[Translator's note: this seems to be a typographical error. It most likely should be Rot-Ryz.]
On the 10th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter S-Sy.

On the 11th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Sz-Szo.

On the 13th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Szw-Szz.

On the 13th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter T-U-V.

On the 14th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Wajs-Wil.

On the 14th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Wilm-Woz.

On the 15th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Wr-Zaj.

On the 15th of July 1942 from 14:30 to 17:30 letter Zaks-Zom.

On the 16th of July 1942 from 7:30 to 12:30 letter Zon-Zy.

On the 16th of July 1942 from14:30 to 17:30 letter ZZ.

Whoever does not obey the notification to report will be strictly punished.

  Czestochowa, the 17th of June 1942.
The City Chief
Dr. Franke

[Page 238]

Concerning:

Changes in Street Names

In effect from today, the Marienalle will be designated as

ADOLF-HITLER-ALLEE.

  Czestochowa, the 28th of November 1942.
The City Chief
Dr. Franke

Copy of the original notice

Report about the health conditions
for the German Regime

Monthly Report: Health Care.

In the month of July, 8,172 [people were] treated, many of whom [had injuries of] a serious nature. There were some serious cases treated such as amputations of fingers, injuries of the eye and wounds on the face.

In the internal outpatient

 


A poster for an exhibition about Jews
[Text on poster: Exhibition of the Jewish World Plague]

 

clinic, medical assistance was provided in 2,183 cases. 1,429 people received dental treatment. 194 people were treated in the surgical department. Of 59 operations, 17 were stomach operations.

[Information about] deaths after surgery was not available. One hundred and two people were treated in the isolation hospital. One person died of lung tuberculosis.

There was one case of abdominal typhus, but not a single case of spotted fever. The medicine we received from the JUS [Jewish Aid Center] was of tremendous importance to us.

Such remedies as calcium-sandoz in all forms and glucose were irreplaceable when treating our infectious patients.

The salves and compounds from JUS were excellent.

 


Tin emblem, worn in small ghetto

 

Wounds healed very well with these salves and the people quickly became able to work.

The food from JUS was very good.

The general nutrition and bread distribution was adequate.

  (signature)
/–/Dr. I. Szperling

Copy of the original notice

Monthly Report: Health Care.

In the month of September, 8,872 [people were] treated, many of whom [had injuries of] a serious nature.
[Page 239]
There were some misfortunes like amputation of fingers and wounds treated on the face.

Medical assistance was provided in 2,978 cases in the internal outpatient clinic. Dental care was provided for 1,477 people.

108 people were taken care of in the surgical division.

Of 56 operations, 19 were stomach operations (very serious cases).

Information about death after surgery is not available. One hundred ninety-two people were treated in the isolation hospital. Two people died of tuberculosis.

There were no cases of spotted fever. The medicine we received from JUS was of immense importance to us.

Such remedies as calcium-sandoz in all forms and glucose were irreplaceable when treating our infectious patients.

The wounds healed well with the use of these salves and the people quickly became able to work.

The food from JUS was very good. The general food and bread supply was adequate.

  [–] Dr. I. Szperling.
Hasag, the 1st of October 1944.[1]

Copy of the original notice

Translator's footnote:

  1. Hugo Schneider AG, a German company that operated a factory in Czenstochow using Jewish slave labor


The End…

by Dr. Josef Kruk (Jerusalem)

Generations and generations of Jews worked, fought hard and often voluntarily dedicated themselves so that “their city,” our unforgettable, dear Czenstochow would develop progressively, would constantly be enriched with all of the new spiritual treasures, would be free, would be beautified and refined.

 


Dr. Josef Kruk and [Yakov] Zrubavel

 

For this purpose they united directly and indirectly with the best and most progressive elements of the Polish population because they understood that despite all of the differences this still was a joint matter in the city for all of its citizens and inhabitants. They were often – too often! – oppressed and maltreated but they fought with dignity and boldly for universal and Jewish national equality and liberation. Therefore, the Czenstochow Jewish masses always supported every useful and progressive city institution and helped them to carry out [their work]. Much of Czenstochow had Jewish support, help and even Jewish initiative to thank – but it was not appreciated. And parallel with the work on behalf of the general institutions, the Jews created a series of exemplary Jewish institutions in all areas of economic, social and cultural life.

Every class, every group, every party evaluated its institutions with pride: children's homes, national progressive schools, the exemplary artisans school, the famous “farm” that later became one of the best, not only in Poland, but also in Europe, in regard to preparing idealistic pioneers [for emigration to Eretz-Yisroel] – hakhshare [Zionist agricultural training]. And the large Jewish gymnazie [secondary school], orphans' houses, the old age home, the new Jewish hospital, artisans unions and a network of powerful professional unions.

[Page 240]

And the party life: they often fought ideologically against each other. But, how great was the self-sacrifice, idealism and refinement they placed in the parties, Zionists of all leanings: Territorialists, Folkists; socialists of every shade and nuance: the Zionist-Socialist Workers party (S.S. and Y.S. [Jewish Socialists]), communists, Hashomer HaTzair [The Young Guard – Zionist-Socialist youth], Independent Socialist Workers Party, even the anarchists for a time.

The old generation still remembered the active participation of the Jews in the Polish Uprising (my grandfather was one of its leaders in the Czenstochow forest). And how great was the support given for the Polish and the Russian Revolutions! How many Czenstochow Jews, workers and members of the intelligentsia, old and young, went to jail and to prison, to Siberia on forced labor, from which some did not return.

And how many were wounded and shot on the streets of Czenstochow when they devotedly and courageously demonstrated under the red flag of social justice, political freedom, human brotherhood and international peace, for unity among people and nations?

And how many – older and younger – had to leave the home city, their families, comrades and friends and leave to wander over distant lands, often working at hard labor in sweat conditions…? They knew what awaited them, but they voluntarily and consciously went on the thorny path so as not to renounce their ideals, which had grown organically in their souls.

And even in the distant cities and nations, in the peaceful Swiss Zurich, in the noisy Paris and romantic Amsterdam, in the “diamond” Antwerp, in the exotic Argentina, in tropical Australia and South Africa and first of all, in the various large and small cities of the United States of North America and Canada and in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, in the various kibbutzim of Eretz-Yisroel – the Czenstochow Jews everywhere often remembered their young years and youthful struggles “there.”

There – at the old or new market, in the First or Second Aleje, on Warszawska Street, Nadrzeczna, Strazacka, Ogrodowa, at the “Three Crosses,” at “Fuszin,” on the Czenstochowka, on Krotka Street, near the old or new synagogue, “Tilna” or “Teatralna,” in the park near the quiet shore of the familiar Warta [River] or near the green walls.

And even a cemetery outside the city, across the old bridge – where their closest ones lay, parents or intimate comrades and friends.

With love and devotion, the Czenstochower, in their new homes, supported all kinds of communal institutions. [These included] the library, the children's homes and schools in their old home [Czenstochow] so that those remaining in the old home would be free to develop a dignified, happy life.

And with warm love, the Czenstochow Jews answered the love of their landsleit [people from the same town] across the sea. And thus the threads of Czenstochow were stretched across the entire world. These characteristic and remarkable threads gave encouragement to the general Jewish population during the frequently very difficult living conditions and increased the strength for a further struggle against the general dark reactionaries, anti-Semitic counter-revolutionary power.

All of this is now gone!

Jewish Czenstochow was completely destroyed. The entire Jewish population – men, women, children – all were murdered by the Hitlerist hangmen.

“Wanting is the father of an idea.” And, therefore, there was the wish not to believe that all of the Jews were murdered. We knew that Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Dr. Goebbels, Göring and the anti-Semites, the German Aryan [Alfred] Rosenberg were murderers. We prepared for terrible times. We knew that many would fall. However, that the entire Jewish population could be slaughtered – this we could not, did not want to believe.

I was in Warsaw at the beginning of the war, when many Czenstochow Jews arrived there. A number of them [came] on foot, carrying children in their arms. Approximately 6,000 Jews, women and men, children and old people “filed by” the clique of blood hounds, snakes and locusts, who lay in wait over our lives. We knew that Czenstochow, near the border, would be one of the first cities the Nazis would occupy. The Czenstochow refugees hoped that in Warsaw they would be able to save themselves and “wait.”

[Page 241]

They all survived a frightful time with us when the Warsaw civilian population with almost no help from the central government heroically defended itself for weeks. Hitler's heaviest cannons fired at the civilian population the entire day without stop. And at night Göring's airplanes [Hermann Göring was head of the Luftwaffe] with black swastika systematically, with Aryan precision, constantly burned the suburbs and the cities with their unprotected populations. Not one Czenstochow Jew perished there.

I remember two moving moments connected with Czenstochow.

When the German airplanes murderously bombed the small but well-known peaceful sanitarium in Otwock and Świder (near Warsaw), they reached a row of small houses and villas and killed defenseless people and small children. During one such airplane raid, Mrs. Renia Kempinska (previously a music teacher for many years at the Czenstochow Y.L. Peretz Folks-Shul [public school] and children's home) ran to the small villa in which we lived then. With tears in her eyes, she asked my wife, a doctor, to save her severely ill child.

The Kempinskis lived in Czenstochow. When the German military neared the city, they grabbed their child and escaped from Czenstochow with a group of Jews. She lost her husband on the road. Finally, she successfully arrived in Warsaw. Many streets were burning when they entered the city.

She again grabbed her child and escaped to Świder-Otwock. Her child caught a cold on the way and was very sick. Świder was almost without a population. Just then I destroyed my archive and I was just about to return to Warsaw. But how does one not help a desperate mother?

Her villa was far away, deep in the pine forest. Her child lay with a high temperature. It already was empty and unoccupied all around them. Even the apothecary already was closed. “What should I do? Where should I go? Can I remain here? And how can I go with such a sick child? And where is my husband? Will he yet be found?”

At that moment there was no one in the entire large villa, as well as in the neighboring villas and sanatoria. The tall pine trees stood in the late, cold autumn wind. The desperate mother and her sick child were helped with whatever we could. We remained with her for several hours. She lamented, “Why did I unluckily come here? It would have been better to remain in Czenstochow. Even death would have been better there!”

Later I left for Warsaw on foot where we survived the entire time of siege and fire.

And I remember one of the most genteel Czenstochower young women, Helencia Fliwacz, who for a long time devoted herself to the Jewish and general working class, to their struggle and cultural striving.

When the official war operations ended in Poland and both Czenstochow and Warsaw lay in Hitler's hands, [Helencia] Fliwacz came to Warsaw from Czenstochow under the greatest difficulties to find out how her sister, a young student at Warsaw University, was.

She was so shocked when she saw that the house in which her dear sister lived was a complete ruin and when she learned that her sister was there when all of the residents were burned alive.

I spent a long time with her, but we were quiet because what could we say in such circumstances? And we knew that now the true bloody war against the unprotected Jewish population was beginning. I helped Fliwacz return to Czenstochow. And such a trip was a difficult and dangerous undertaking then. In parting we warmly and in a friendly way shook hands. “A greeting to all of the comrades and friends; we must remain brave and perhaps we will see each other again in better times!” She had tears in her eyes. I looked at her quiet steps for a long time as this genteel, intelligent girl left Leszna Street for Czenstochow. “Will we see each other again?” She was one of the last people from Czenstochow whom I had seen in Warsaw, since they returned to our city of birth.

We helped a group of people from Czenstochow return to Czenstochow. Warsaw was the most destroyed and most burned city in Poland. Perhaps, we thought, it would be easier to live [in Czenstochow] through the difficult times.

[Page 242]

And the small, always quiet Hershele Erlich of Kamik-Czenstochow (the Bontshe Shvayg [Bontshe the Silent][1]) whose room was destroyed and who by a miracle survived with one shirt, saved from an explosion, yet in Warsaw he gave ration cards for midday meals at a workers' kitchen to several of the Czenstochow refugees, often formerly rich people or eminent intellectuals. A “midday meal” meant a little soup and a piece of dark bread.

The first kitchen in Warsaw that provided bread for lunch was on Pawia Street and, in part, this was thanks to Hershele Erlich's help. He found an acquaintance in a bakery, a baker from Czenstochow, and through a series of illegal ruses, we received the first 200 rolls for those eating at the kitchen. What a sensation and what pride this gave us that a Kamik-Czenstochower was the first to decide upon hazardous illegal measures and made a fool of the murderous Hitler administration.

* * *

Later, bad news would arrive from Czenstochow, but then in comparison with other cities the situation there was a little more bearable. News of murders came less often than from other cities. And most important: the Jews in Czenstochow were not sent away as in hundreds of other cities. On the contrary, Jews from a series of Jewish cities were sent to Czenstochow where they worked hard, but still were alive. Therefore, we hoped…

However, at the end, what happened to all of Jewry in Poland and the captured areas of the Soviet Union happened to the Czenstochower Jewish population.

Murder, murder, constantly murder – of men, women, the old, the sick and children.

In the summer of 1943 a group of (exchanged) Jewish women arrived in Eretz-Yisroel with a well-known community worker from Piotrkow, H. Kurc. He brought us terrible news from Poland about the Nazi “annihilation commission,” which principally was traveling through the Jewish cities and murdering the Jews en masse. He told us about Piotrkow and Radomsk and also gave us terrible greetings from Czenstochow from which many trains filled with Jews already had been sent to Treblinka. We first learned, thanks to a young Czenstochower tailor whom the Nazis had transported with thousands of other Czenstochow Jews, that Treblinka was a death factory in Poland. At the last moment, he succeeded in escaping from there and he told the terrible, deadly truth, which he knew face to face.

Kurc's stories shocked everyone to the very depths of their souls. A protest day was declared then in all of Eretz-Yisroel, a tanes-tsiber [a communal fast day] and a general strike, with an appeal to the free world, to the parliaments, governments, churches, universities, professional unions, parties – to save the remnant of our unfortunate people.

In the late summer and beginning of fall 1944, two young fighters who had been in Czenstochow and the surrounding areas, such as Zarki, Radomsk. Zawiercze and Bedzin, arrived in Eretz-Yisroel after an extraordinary effort and brought the last greeting from Czenstochow.

They were, Ahron Brandes and Avraham Izbicki. I knew both of them from Czenstochow. They visited me several times and told me…this was the last greeting from the last Czenstochow Jews!

It was not easy for them to talk about what they had experienced. And with great effort they told me one episode after another about the worst hell.

We bit our lips listening to them; our hearts cried and bled. Our fingers twisted together into fists. It was difficult to listen, but we wanted to know more and more, all of the new facts, just as after the death of someone close and dear to one, one wants to know how they lived in their last minutes, what they thought, said and felt, what sort of testament they left for us.

Brandes (now over 30 years old) belonged to the young people of leftist socialistic halutzim [pioneers], Hashomer Hatzair [socialist-Zionist youth movement] and also was active in the movement during Hilter's time. His brother belonged to the general main headquarters of the Warsaw Uprising and fell in an extraordinarily brave manner. Ahron Brandes also took part in underground work and participated in the Jewish anti-Hitlerist uprising actions. He was in Czenstochow, Zarki and Radomsk several times and as he traveled back and forth and again back and forth

[Page 243]

and back, it was an epic for him of the hopes and experiences of the masses of Jews sentenced to death.

Izbicki, the 28-year old, lived in Czenstochow the entire time. He was raised from childhood on in a combative group, in a radical family. His mother belonged to the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party (Zionist-Socialists and Jewish Socialists) and later to the Independent Socialist Party. He, himself, belonged to the Zionist-Socialists, the Poalei-Zion Association [Workers of Zion]. His education helped him to maintain himself longer and, finally, through a series of perilous steps, to visit Bedzin-Sosnowiec where there still were Jews, after the Jews in Czenstochow and the other cities already had been murdered. He and Brandes fought in the Jewish uprising in Bedzin.

When it already was after “everything,” they literally, through a miracle, wandered through villages, cities, borders and regimes and finally came to Eretz-Yisroel.

Both Brandes and Izbicki lost the many branches of their families and all of their friends and those closest to them. It was difficult for them to tell us, but it also was not easy to write about this. I wrote everything verbatim as they related it.[2] I had to interrupt my writing several times because it was beyond my power to keep from crying. I met with them in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in the mountainous kibbutz [communal settlement], Kiryat Anavim, and in the well-fortified young kibbutz, Ma'ale Hahamisha (where mostly Lodz halutzim [pioneers] live) and wrote the official report. It took several weeks until I could finish the writing and they, themselves, signed their historical statements about how the end came to the Jews of Czenstochow, Radomsk and Zarki.

This is their statement at the end of the report: “Thus came the end of the Czenstochow Jews after generations of work, struggle and self sacrifice, of whom only a small remnant remained.”

And just as has happened often at the grave of our closest fallen comrades, swearing devotion to the liberation and revolutionary fight – today we give a threefold oath: not to rest until we take revenge against all Nazi-fascist murderers of our dear martyrs.


Footnotes:

  1. Translator's note: Bontshe Shvayg is the name of a story by Y.L. Peretz. Return
  2. Compare the reports by Brandes and Izbicki. Return


Revenge Is Sweet

(How I caught the murderer and liquidator of the Czenstochow small ghetto and turned him over to the hands of justice)

The feeling of revenge is foreign to us Jews. In the course of our long exile we always venerated anyone who possessed strength. Forgiving all the crimes our enemies committed against us and still commit to this day entered our blood and formed our exile character, our exile psychology.

We, the weakest of the weak, have always looked for a way to live, to continue to survive. We have stifled every felling of revenge in ourselves.

However, when we remember our recent past, those nightmarish days when our most bloody enemy of all times, the Hitlerist angel of death, brandished fire and sword over every Jewish community, over every Jewish home, seeing the life of all of European Jewry abandoned, how elevated, how ethical, how sweet the feeling of revenge became to every Jew who was overlooked by the eye of the reaper, like individual stalks during the harvest of a field.

In those nightmarish days, each of us had one plea, one desire: “to survive.” Not just as a desire to live but so that we could take revenge, Revenge for our parents, revenge for sisters and brothers, revenge for our children, revenge for the prematurely cut lives of our dearest and best.

At the beginning of war time, I, like other Jews

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from my shtetl [town], turned up in Czenstochow, marching through all the seven divisions of hell of the local Jewish community.

At that time, Czenstochow was the place of refuge for “resettled” Jews from all of the cities that belonged to the so-called “Third Reich.” The Jewish community in Czenstochow grew to approximately 16,000 Jews with the newly arrived Jews. The Jews said among themselves that here, in Czenstochow, they could somehow survive…

The time of the ghetto arrived. Life became worse. The Germans took the Jews for various work, as well as constantly taking large tributes [of money]. Even a small child was shot for crossing the designated border of the ghetto. No one spoke of the daily “deportations” of Jews.

However, all of this “was not yet” the most terrifying. They could still “survive” somehow. The saddest news about an aktsia [action, usually a deportation] in Warsaw reached us. The specter of fear and terror began to create pressure in our heads. Jews began to sign up for various work en masse, hoping in this way to save their lives.

Until – until the frightening news of Yom Kippur 1942 arrived, when the Jews felt that their fate had been sealed.[1]

During the morning after Yom Kippur, we saw the strength of hordes of S.S. members and Ukrainians. The aktsia [action, usually a deportation] in Czenstochow had begun. The tragic masquerade lasted for three weeks. Degenhardt, the well-known bloodhound, waved his “famous walking stick” – right and left. This meant: who would live and who would die…

Approximately 16,000 Jews, women and men, children and old people were then “paraded past” for a clique of bloodhounds, snakes and locusts who lay in wait for our lives. We felt powerless. It appeared as if heaven and earth were united against us…

Thus going to the slaughter, I looked into the eyes of the murderers that burned with a passion to destroy us, and from the depths of my heart I whispered a quiet prayer: Raboynu shel olam [Master of the Universe], give me the great privilege to take revenge against these bloodhounds…

Approximately 5,000 Jews, whom the German rulers made slaves, remained alive after the “action harvest.” This was the time of the so-called “small ghetto.”

Every day the Jews went from the small ghetto, which was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by the Ukrainians day and night, to various factories and other work.

“Selections” took place from time to the time. A few Jews were shot then. The entire professional intelligentsia was taken to the cemetery then; every last one was shot. The Jews in the small ghetto felt that this was not the last word from the German rulers. The Jews felt that something still hung in the air; that there were difficult tests ahead for us.

There were some Jews who organized, prepared a desperate revolt. However, the situation did not last long. Because of a Jewish informer and partly because of the irresponsibility of the young people, of the so-called partisans, the matter of a Jewish revolt reached the ears of the Germans and, as always in such cases, we felt the consequences.

A stronger course came with regard to the Jews. In place of “eschewing” and “tolerance,” immediately came the “well-known” two murderers, Leszinski and Kestner.

We have spoken about Leszinski, that he was a “proper butcher.” We spoke among ourselves in Hebrew that for the smallest sin, he “exploded.”

A number of Jews knew that Kestner, his right hand, a few days before he was designated to take over our guardianship, had changed into old civilian clothes like a Jew in a camp and come with a sack for coal to the coal camp of H. Zajdman. Kestner came secretly to Zajdman, who more or less knew him since childhood. Therefore, he [Zajdman] asked him who the coal was for; Kestner, who spoke Polish well, presented him with a note from the Jewish worker group and, in addition, complained about the Jewish police who denounced the Jews to the Germans, adding that he alone also had had to flee from another camp because of harassment on the part of the Jewish police. Kestner turned to the Jews at the ghetto kitchen, who had just taken coal, wondering why the Jews did not create a partisan group as had been done in other camps. The Jews, not knowing to whom they

[Page 245]

were speaking, assured Kestner that there also were active Jewish partisans in Czestochow.

Sodom's judgment arrived: the small ghetto was bloodily liquidated; a few hundred Jews were shot by the murderers. All of the Jews who lived in the three houses at Nadrzeczna 84, 86 and 88 were shot on the pretext that there was a nest of revolt located there; the three mentioned houses were blown up with dynamite. Many Jewish children and old people mostly were harmed in the bunkers that had been constructed and in the hiding places in the ground.

Approximately 3,500 Jews, whom the Germans had shut in within the walls of three Czenstochow factories, “survived” the bloody harvest, where naked and barefoot the Jews had to do difficult and bitter work in dog-like conditions, receiving their frequent murderous beatings. Every one, at the edge of despair, gripped at the naked, worthless life, with teeth and nails, with the hope of taking revenge against the greatest barbarians of all times.

After the liberation, I was in Breslau several times. Walking, fortuitously, on one of the most beloved streets, on Matias Street, the appearance of a passerby who was strolling accompanied by an unfamiliar woman suddenly [figuratively] slapped me in the face. We were walking and met face to face. [Our gazes] met. Instantly, the thought flashed in my brain, this is he! I did not spare any effort; I ran after him in order to again be face to face with him and I was certain that my visual memory had not fooled me: walking by I had recognized – Kestner. I almost had an attack of madness. I really could not contain myself. A flood of thoughts flashed through my brain. Yes, this is he. Yes, this is me who recognized him. This was my dream, our dream, this was our highest vow, the holiest oath; this was our most fervent, most incandescent desire: revenge!

These were not abstract words; this was not a pious wish. We were no longer under a fearful fear of death by the German boot. How strong the experience was, a one-time experience!

And he, the person in question, did not know who was walking with him, going along Matias Street, as if nothing had happened, accompanied by a woman.

Simultaneously I observed him [Kestner] and a Jewish acquaintance, who could help me detain Kestner. I found out that this was a Jew, Baczan, who was in the small ghetto in Czenstochow and escaped from there. He knew Kestner well. Seeing Kestner, Baczan got excited and I had a partner.

After everything, we did not want to risk approaching Kestner. We were afraid that he could, God forbid, escape. We divided the roles. I watched and Baczan ran for other Jews, from Czenstochow, who lived on this same Matias Street. When I saw Baczan coming with the Jew, Layzer Rozencwajg, who I knew from the Czenstochow ghetto, it was clear that my fate was sealed.

I went over to Kestner and asked him if he was a German. Kestner, not suspecting the worst, said that yes, he was. When I asked him if he had been in Czentochow, his ability to speak actually was taken from him. He lost the ground under his feet as if a deep abyss had opened for him. After a moment, he regained his senses and wanted to escape. Then Layzer Rozencwajg and others came and detained Kestner.

We gave him into the hands of justice. The woman accompanying him, seeing that Kestner was going to be arrested, made use of the tumult and disappeared. Arrested and seeing that his fate was sealed, Kestner wanted to make use of a moment and spring from the window. This was noticed. Kestner was bound by the hands and feet.

I looked then in the green eyes of the dull German simpleton, in which I again saw the sadly well-known bloodhound, the liquidator of the small Czenstochow ghetto. I saw before my eyes on [the day of] the new accomplishment that fearful day with all of its cruelties and atrocities. I recognized in Kestner the murderer of our children, this insane bloodhound who had with special joy held them by the hair of their small heads and shot them.

There ignited and burned in me the feeling of unlimited revenge against this evil-doer! Revenge for the martyred death of our dearest, best,

[Page 246]

and most beautiful. Revenge for insulting the human family, the image of God.

I lived through the strongest emotions of my life. I became drunk with good fortune. It seemed to me that this fact would, to a certain extent, improve the chances of my survival of the terrible storm.

Revenge is sweet…


Translator's Footnote:

  1. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. A person's fate for the coming year is believed to be sealed in heaven. Return


The Hitlerist Bandit Will Hang on the Gallows

(Reprinted from the Czenstochower Glos Narodu [Voice of the Nation])

[Heinrich] Kestner was a typical German gendarme, who voluntarily reported to serve in 1931. Born in Mazaniec, Silesia, he spoke Polish fluently. Like all renegades, he excelled with his German obedience and heartlessness. Well-known as a sadist, he was chosen along with another Hitler bandit, Laszynski, to liquidate the so-called small ghetto. His and his comrade's qualifications of cruelty and bestiality exceeded that of Zapart, the until then commandant of the ghetto. When the German regime learned in the summer of 1943 that the Jewish Fighting Organization was preparing for a military revolt, it found it necessary to delegate Kestner and Laszynski, as especially qualified murderers, to “liquidate” the remainder of the Jewish population that had been squeezed into several small alleys of the eastern part of the city. Kestner carried out his task splendidly… In his testimony he declared that he did not exactly remember how many people he had murdered with his own hands. It could be 300 and perhaps altogether 800 people. He was a little modest at the trial and insisted that he had slaughtered “only” 22 people. However, during the course of the trial, it was shown that his modesty

 


The murderer Kestner before the court

 

did not match the terrible reality. We heard the statements and accusations of people who went through the entire hell of the ghetto, the bestial terror of liquidating thousands of brothers and sisters. Iwietszka, Koniecpolski, Szpits, Kramalowski, Delkowicz spoke about the events that they witnessed and experienced with tears in their eyes. They had to watch how Kestner

 


In the courtroom during Kestner's trial.
The witnesses and victims

 

cold-bloodily shot minor children and helpless old people: how the heartless bandit lifted a little girl by her hair and holding her thus, shot several bullets into her heart. However, all of these events were “unimportant” fragments of Kestner's “activities.” Kaszinski, the prosecutor, brought out in its horrible totality his [Kestner's] true appearance and his bloody role. He characterized the entire German people as “slavish cattle” who, without thought, carried out every order inhumanly and bestially, whatever it was. Hitler knew best the psyche of the German people. He, the [worst] criminal in the history of humanity, only continued the doctrine of Friedrich Wilhelm, who believed that the German people could only be raised with a cane. Among the entire German people not even one voice of protest was heard against all of the orders from Hitler, orders that were a contradiction of what constitutes a humane way of [waging] war, if war in general can be humane. One such as Kestner and his countrymen did not even think about not carrying out the orders from their leader, because mainly then there would not have been a war. Everything that served the German people according to the precepts of Hans Frank who was sentenced by the International Tribunal to be hung in Nuremberg (1946) was legal to them.

The Holy Bible of the German people was Hitler's Mein Kampf [My Struggle], the book that is a synthesis of hate and murder. Hitler began to build the German Reich [realm] that would last a thousand years on these precepts. With luck, he did not succeed in this, even with the help of such as Kestner, who without a conscience, murdered hundreds of people whose only guilt was that they belonged to the Jewish people.

If the principles of humanity and humanitarianism have any significance, such murderers, whose entire activity was so terrible, so inhuman, must receive a punishment of elimination from human society – the sentence of death.

After the prosecutor, the lawyer, Idzkowski, whom the court had officially designated to defend the accused, took the floor. He declared that the accused was only a small screw in the heartless Hitler machine that had without scruples murdered millions of innocent people. He firmly stated that the entire world carries the guilt for not stopping in time the gangrene of Hitler's plague in Germany. And also not later when it spread through the world.

Kestner was sentenced to death.


[Page 247]

On the Third Anniversary
of the First Jewish Revolt in the Czenstochower Ghetto

(Printed in Głos Narodu [Voice of the Nation] of the 3rd of December 1945)

by L. Brener

Today is three years since the heroic death of the victims of the openly armed uprising against the savage occupier. Today is the third yahrzeit [anniversary of a death] of the day on which the Jewish fighters took their historic test.

In order to hone the memory of the tragically fallen and clearly provide the facts of the last days of their lives, I will give a short portrait of the “small ghetto.”

The “small ghetto” consisted of three parallel, small, dirty and narrow streets in the poorest part of our city – Nadrzeczna, Garncarska and Kozia – fenced in with barbed wire and always guarded by the gendarmes and Ukrainian fascists.

Six and a half thousand tragic shadows of people who succeeded in grabbing another little bit of time from their tragic fate were held under lock in a crowded cage. Six and a half thousand slaves from whom everything had been taken were packed into 1,200 crowded rooms without any sewer system. Here, the condemned had to build their new lives.

The day in the ghetto began at five in the morning. Everyone had to be ready then to leave the ghetto in groups for their designated workplaces where they had to go through the terrible procedures of torture, degradation and mockery. At nine o'clock at night the bugle to go to sleep sounded sadly. The streets were as if dead.

The melancholy mood hung like a heavy, lead cloud over the ghetto. Everyone here had lost everything; those closest to them and everything that gave significance, worth and content to their lives. Mothers grown lonely lost themselves in their sorrow, thinking about the bright, laughing eyes of their slaughtered children. [Some children] saved by a miracle, lying in a dark bunker, longing for their mother's tenderness and

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bursting into heartbreaking sobbing, they called their mothers who would never again come to them…

Almost every day during the march out to work, the chief murderer, Iberszer, stood at the “workplaces,” at the sadly famous Warsaw Market. He grabbed individual people from the group by the throat with the bent handle of his cane and dragged them like dogs to the so-called yatke [butcher shop]. Entire groups were sent to Skarżysko and Bliżyn [forced labor camps] from the “workplaces.” Each deportation brought victims. People were murdered for attempting to escape or from the bullets of the gendarmes who shot into the packed vehicles for no particular reason: to amuse themselves or to evoke fear and for discipline. The idea of total liquidation lay over the ghetto like a nightmare. It was a constant theme in all conversations. We speculated about the time of the end. Our nerves could not handle the constant strain and the next day's insecurities.

However, there were also those who did not wait passively with folded arms. These were the young from the fighting organization who were carrying on underground work in the bunkers and cellars. Here were young girls and boys, with no consideration of political beliefs and hardened in their hate. The terrible [feeling of] vegetating in the ghetto oppressed them. However, they, the condemned, hurled away their helplessness, despair and pain and with a powerful will strengthened their actions. Girls and boys, almost children, created an enchanted world in the dark cellars and holes.

The gloom changed to a clear, deep love and the desperation into a boundless hate.

Love and hate! Love of those who had fallen so tragically; hate for the German murderers and bandits. The work was carried out day and night: they buried revolvers and in deadly danger smuggled bullets and dynamite that was stolen from the German ammunition factories into the ghetto. Inexperienced young men experimented clumsily with making grenades under the constant shadow of death. A tunnel was dug with an exit far outside the ghetto to provide an opportunity for escaping to those who were forced to pull back from the fight.

The mood in the ghetto gradually changed, particularly after the great defeat of the German Army at Stalingrad. The number of fighters grew day by day. The underground activities became more active, more intensive. The gendarmerie continued its extermination work. New contacts appeared more often, [there were] more severe restrictions. As, for example, women and men were not permitted to live in the same street. Every day brought fresh victims. The sick, anyone whose face carried a trace of tuberculosis, were shot. Men were shot for visiting their sisters. Mothers, who went insane under the pressure of the events and misfortunes, were shot. Thirteen-year-old girls who did not go to work to prevent their mothers from committing suicide [were shot]. We paid with our lives for remaining in the ghetto for even one day [and not reporting for work], for leaving work and so on.

At 10 in the morning on the 3rd of January, the ghetto was surrounded by a large division of gendarmes and Ukrainian fascists. The ghetto was agitated. It hummed like a beehive. The situation was feverish and despair escaped from everyone's eyes: what was going to happen? What kind of devilish plan did they have for us now?

The gendarmes, prepared in iron helmets, strolled calmly near the wires and simultaneously they looked at what was happening in the ghetto.

Suddenly a division of gendarmes and Ukrainian fascists invaded the ghetto. Gevald! [a statement of alarm], and shouting filled the air. From the cellars and attics they dragged out old people, mothers with small children. Several, resigned, let themselves be led without any resistance. Others fought bitterly and defended themselves with all of their strength against annihilation. The blood congealed in the veins and in view of the tragic struggle.

The hell on the streets of the ghetto lasted for an entire day. The aktsia [action, often a deportation] was suspended at night, but not ended.

The morning brought a continuation. And again they dragged mothers and children from hiding places and again heart-rending screams came from almost every house. The moaning, the screaming, the lamenting and crying were accompanied by heavy gunfire. All residents of the ghetto were driven to the market where they were segregated.

The fighters of “the enchanted world” took their first exam.

Fiszelewicz shot his revolver at the gendarmes. Fajner, a very young one, threw himself at the murderers. The others followed him. After a short

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struggle, 27 Jews paid with their lives in the defense of their human worth.

The young did not rest. They left the ghetto in groups and took part in various acts of sabotage and fighting. The youngest group of fighters as well as 25 Jewish workers was annihilated when taking part in the actions near the so-called Ost-Ban [East train]. The second diversion group, which fought near the area of Wilson Street 32, fell. . The partisan group in the Olsztiner forest was slaughtered. Of the 15 partisan groups in the Olsztiner forest, only seven remained.

The remaining fighters in the ghetto carried on their intense work and prepared for their final armed appearance on the 22nd of June 1943. The majority of them fell in the cruel, uneven fight.

Now, on the day of the third yahrzeit [anniversary of a death] of the first armed fight against the Hitler bandits, when we bring the 27 fighters to their graves, we stand, a handful of survivors, with aching hearts and bow our heads in reverence in sacred memory of the fallen heroes.

 

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