by Dawid Ajzenberg
Translated by Avi (Abram) Stavsky
The year 1939. Just a few days before the outbreak of war, one already saw a movement of refugees coming from the border area. In ominous lines they girded for the coming of Hitler's armies.
On Tuesday, September 5th, 1939 the German Army came to our town. The situation began badly, as people lined up all night for a loaf of barely edible bread, and no one wanted to return home empty.
The Germans commanded that new ID cards be issued with Fingerabdrücke, i.e. a fingerprint in addition to the added name: Israel for a man, and Sarah for a woman. An edict was issued that everyone had to pay a head tax [called] Ratsteuer [council tax] of 10 Marks. They distributed ration cards. Then came an order for all Jews to be concentrate on the side streets. Jews were only permitted to board streetcars [trams] in those cars which had signs, for Jews only Nur für Juden. In 1942, Jews were forbidden entirely to travel on the streetcars. Every Jew had to wear a white armband on their left sleeve with a blue Magen David on it. After awhile, the white armband was discontinued and replaced with a yellow patch (Magen David). [Jews} were permitted to walk the streets until 19:00, or sometimes until 21:00. Anyone caught on the street after those hours was arrested.
The Germans began to round up Jews for all kinds of work, and also to clean the streets after the snow in winter. I was then working at the municipality in public work. An order was given out to destroy the monument to Tadeusz Kościuszko that stood on the corner of the street near the rail station. We tore up the order and tossed it away.
Every Jew had to be registered as permanent in his [her] place of work, failing which they would be sent to a work camp in Germany. The Germans conducted frequent sweeps, and anyone they caught without a work permit was sent to the Sosnowiec Dulag [Ger. abbreviation for Durchgangslager; Transit camp] and from there to the work camps.
The sweeps were unfair. When we saw the green vehicle of the German police,
we'd all scatter in every direction we could. One of the Germans responsible
for rounding up for labor was a man called Major Lindner. We called him
Majer Lindner. Once, in order to baffle the diligence of the Jews,
he drove around town not in his usual car, but in a red postal vehicle, and no
one expected that this was the guy who grabbed Jews for work.
The Germans ordered that all items of copper, gold, etc. be brought to them. They appropriated the Jews' finest furniture. Once, on a clear day in 1940, the Judenrat was ordered to produce carpenters, who would then construct ten hanging trees. Later we learned that the watchmen of the Huta Bankowa factory arrested ten non-Jews and accused them of betrayal and sentenced them to death by hanging. The Germans forced every passerby to stop and see how traitors were executed.
I remember how the Dąbrowa Jews were selected for transport. All were
assembled in the Great Synagogue, among them Ruwen Lichtcyjer of blessed memory.
|Painter: Icchak Belfer
The atmosphere was very tense but became better when Ruwen Lichtcyjer got up on the platform and began speaking to all the Jews: I thank you, G-D, that I am fortunate enough to go with you towards the coming of the Messiah. After that moment, Ruwen was expelled outside. This was the doing of the Judenrat, and he was sent home. After that, after the great expulsion of August 12th, 1942 we met Ruwen in the ghetto and asked him, Where were you at the selection? He replied: To the first selection I was invited and sent home, so when the call came for the second selection, I didn't bother going. In the end, he died at home in his own bed and was never sent for extermination.
After some time, the Jews in the [smaller] surrounding communities were ordered to appear with their ID cards. They assembled, had their cards stamped and were sent home. Two weeks later, on August 26th, 1942, the order was given to all Jews of Dąbrowa, Sosnowiec and Będzin to also assemble to have their cards stamped. They congregated at the designated place, thinking that they too, would be sent home after the stamping was over, in the same manner as those from the smaller communities. This time, however, the Germans had planned an Aktion and had surrounded the crowd with armed troops. That day 1,200 were taken, mostly older people, parents with children and small children. The Action was carried out with the assistance of the Judenrat, under the direction of the German [called] Kuczinski. He cried out, 1-2-3, i.e, that 3 lines must be formed. Those in the first and second lines were to be sent to the extermination camps, while line 3 people could stay home temporarily. Later on, Jews would themselves prefer to be sent to work camps rather than wait for the roundup to extermination.
In the middle of February, 1943, a delegation came from the Sosnowiec Judenrat (Czarny, the secretary, Moniek Meryn and others) and they announced: In order to save the women and children, it is needed to work in Germany. After this, a transport was sent out on the 3rd of March. This was the last transport and I was among them.
The German Kuczinski examined the men, and asked me suddenly, Do you want to be sent to Germany or would you prefer to stay at home? I said I'd rather remain home. Later I regretted this decision, as all those who remained behind only had the opportunity for destruction.
I continued to work at various jobs in the city. Conditions worsened daily.
Jews were in constant fear of being rounded up.
The Dąbrowa Community was in telephone contact with the Sosnowiec community in Środula. Because the Środula ghetto faced the German command post Überfallkommando, [flying squad] the minute they left on a raid to round up Jews in the direction of Dąbrowa, the Dąbrowa Judenrat was immediately informed by phone. The news alerted everyone in the ghetto. Night turned into day, [as] everyone sought sanctuary. One of the biggest and worst problems was how to keep the young children calm and quiet while they hid with their families, so that their hideouts would not be compromised. This situation went on daily until the evacuation of the Jews to the Środula ghetto in Sosnowiec. The cramming was huge, with several families [sometimes] in one room, but there was no cause to complain, as there were people who ended up without a place at all and had to make do with staying outside under the heavens.
Once, on a Saturday evening, [we heard] the Germans shooting all night until the morning hours without understanding what was going on. The purpose [apparently] was to kill as many as possible so that the next transport would be smaller. I saw that this Aktion was not ceasing and resolved to flee and return to Dąbrowa. I found the ghetto empty. I stayed several days and was alone. Opposite the ghetto, in Pomsztajn's house on Okrzei Street, lived a non-Jew from whom I used to buy bread on the black market to bring into the ghetto. He owed me money, as I always paid him in advance for the bread. I went over to his house. As soon as he and his wife saw me, she got frightened and asked me to leave because the Germans would kill them as well as me. I asked her husband to come outside with me, and then told him that I didn't come to collect my money but needed a place to hide. He advised me to go to one of the coal bins to hide and not to divulge who gave me permission to go there. I stayed there all night. I heard the firing from the liquidation of the Środula ghetto which was nearby.
The next day I decided to return to Środula because I saw no way out of the situation. I thought maybe the execution campaign was over [by now]. On the way back, a Christian woman stopped me and said don't go this way. The Germans are here and they are killing all [the Jews] they find.
I spread out on the ground near the Jozefow cemetery, but suddenly I heard a horn blowing from Huta-Bankowa announcing the changing of the work shift. I seized the opportunity that this movement of workers gave to smuggle myself back to my hideaway. I sat down on a stone and decided that I could not stay there [where I was] under any condition. I resolved to go on foot to Zawiercie.
The Jews of the town received me and were happy I was able to get to them. After several days the Germans began stopping the Jews of Zawiercie in order to check their identities. I began a new chapter. Again I resolved to hide but didn't know of whom to be afraid and of whom not. The Zawiercie kehila was successful, through some kind of negotiations with the Gestapo, in releasing those imprisoned. [Even] the strangers were given work. There were 32 of us and we began working at a weapons factory. We were all ordered to swear on a Bible and in front of a portrait of Hitler that we would not betray nor divulge how much we produced.
About two weeks later, a bunch of German police descended upon us and began a search. They marched us in the middle of the night to the town square under heavy guard. We were ordered to lie down on the ground with our faces down. Among the Dąbrowa people with me was Israel Loske who had the name Olo and Nayer. From Będzin were Potasz and Plachcinski; from Gołonóg was Klagsbald and Chrzanowski; from Sosnowiec was Sapir and his son, and two additional Jews from Krakow. We lay there and waited for the shots [that would kill us] but the Germans were just teasing us.
After a night of living nightmare, still lying there on the ground, a group of women were brought from Zagłębie in the command of a Gestapo officer named Reuter and his dog. Among the screams of the women, I recognized the voice of Lea Goldsztajn from Dąbrowa, the wife of Lajzer Rechnic of blessed memory.
We lay there until 09:30, when the Germans returned and said here are the escapees from Dąbrowa, Będzin and Sosnowiec. An order was given to take us to the jail of the local police. From there we were taken under heavy guard to the concentration place of Jews from Zawiercie, who awaited a transport. We were then loaded on to freight cars. We stood near the entrance of the car, so that it would appear the car was full and thus we would not be forced in further, as there were already at least 50 people in it.
During the journey we thought about ways of saving ourselves. We decided to
force open the floor of the railcar, and set about doing this. With knives we
began prying up the floorboards around their nails. We wanted to make a hole
large enough for the floorboard to fall through and leave a gap of about a
meter [i.e.] that someone could squeeze through. Our plan was that the train
would [probably] stop in Mysłowice en route to Auschwitz, as there the
train would need to be switched to another track. We resolved to use that time
to escape. Because the railcar stood fairly high over the tracks, it should not
be hard to escape if one lay on the tracks until the train left.
Five boys managed to get through this hole, but then the Germans saw them and fired, killing them. Among them was a Dąbrower [named] Najer. Then the Germans opened fire on the whole transport and there were wounded in the railcar.
We arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Germans ordered us to put down our bundles and emerge from the railcar. Two SS officers immediately came by and began a selection. I was in a group of elderly and children. Opposite me was a group of people certified for work. I realized that this would be a preferable group to be in, but I couldn't join them because of the watchful SS. To my luck, an SS officer asked me my age. When I replied, he sent me to the second group, i.e. those headed for work.
Afterward I learned that the group with whom I had been standing had been sent to the gas chambers.
From there we were moved to the bathhouse at the Birkenau camp. Our hair was shorn and we were given prison clothes. From then on, we were never called by name, only by our number or by the term prisoner. We were then put into confinement. The camp was surrounded by electrified barbed wire and watchtowers. In our confines I met many Dąbrowers and saw their bitter fate. They [the Germans] were continuously doing lineups and selections. I passed through 5 selections.
Around 800 men were taken from the male transport, I among them, and brought to the Fünfteichen camp [a subcamp of Groß-Rosen (located in Lower Silesia)]. I worked there together with some others in the camp building. After some time [there] during a lineup, a Rapportführer [SS man supervising the roll calls] came up to us and selected six Jews including myself. We were informed that from the next day we'd be working in the SS kitchens. They called me Benjamin because I was the youngest in the group.
While working there, we listened to the news from the radio in the SS dining room, and once we learned about the attempt on Hitler's life. This news encouraged everyone.
When the Germans realized the Russians were approaching, they began to prepare for the liquidation of the Fünfteichen camp. On 20 January 1945, we were marched on foot to the Gross Rosen camp. Many fell along the way, either from weakness or from being shot. Our work there consisted mainly in moving the dead to be burned.
After some time, we were again taken away in freight cars, this time to Nordhausen [a sub camp of Buchenwald]. Two weeks later, they took us to Harzungen camp [a sub camp of Mittelbau-Dora (located in Prussia Province of Saxony]. There we worked in a V-2 factory building. I got sick and had a high fever. I was taken to the hospital and thought I was lucky, but I soon found out I was mistaken. I was tortured with hot and cold showers and not given [much] food. Despite this, I forced myself to continue and after a week was transferred back to work. On the way back to work, a distance of about five kilometers, some very weak people were brought on a platform. They were carried there by other people almost as weak.
After a time an order was issued not to go out to work, as the Americans were approaching. I was sent to work at the SS canteen because of my young age (as I had hoped I would be). At the canteen I managed more or less with food and was also able to stealthily listen to the news. When they found out I had lied about my age, I was put into Strafblock No. 7 as punishment. I had to work very hard there from 4 in the morning until midnight, when I was permitted to sleep.
After a time, an order came to evacuate all on a transport. We were jammed into a sealed freight car and taken for 5 days without food to Bergen-Belsen. Upon arrival, none of us could exit the freight car [i.e. we had no strength]. We were put into blocks that had been used by the Hungarian army. The compactness was very tight. I was very weak and [only] found a place under a table. We were there for 2 weeks without bread, until on the 15th of April at 15:00, British tanks rolled into the camp. I didn't dream it was our day of liberation. A large block of the camp suffered from a typhus epidemic and many thousands died during the days of liberation.
All that I have recounted is but a drop in the suffering that happened to all Israel and to me.
May it be our last suffering.
by Hadasa Goldrajch
Translated by Avi (Abram) Stavsky
We lived on Narutowicza Street, at the end of the road, along the way to [such towns as] Strzemieszyce, Sławków, Olkusz, Wolbrom and others. It was the only Jewish house in this neighborhood. Not very far [away], here and there, were a few other Jewish homes, which, likes ours [apparently] blended well into the area and atmosphere that existed between a Jewish minority and a Christian neighborhood. Essentially I never felt that I was among strangers, even though in reality things were rather different. With the changing of the times, despite the tranquil external appearances, the neighborhood became murderous, and especially murderous to Jews.
I remember how Polish youths would attack Jews with thrown stones and derogatory shouts and cries. They'd do this as they approached our area while going to their businesses, workplaces or on their way to the neighboring towns. Whenever this would happen, I would alert my father [may he rest in peace], who would generally quell the disturbances through his fluent speech and his understanding of the situation.
Although we were comparatively few in number, the conduct of our lives left its impact on the neighborhood generally. Despite the dour grayness of weekdays which made our lives into mundane singleness, the coming of the Sabbath or a holiday, with the lighted candles in the Jewish homes, illuminated the whole neighborhood, saying, the Sabbath, the day of rest has come. And those few Jews, with their festive approach, instilled a sense of awe, as though the right to speech was given only to those [whose] activities had some bearing on the whole neighborhood.
I remember the good relations with our Christian neighbors. Today I realize they were relations of jealousy and deep hatred, packed with the tragedy of my people who sought help from them.
In order to illustrate my words, I will describe an episode from a festive dialogue that occurred between my late father and one of his Polish workers (we had a bakery wherein worked eight Polish employees). This happened during one holiday day, as I returned from the synagogue with my father. One of the workers approached us, wished us a happy holiday, and asked very politely: Tell me please, Mr. Zilbersztajn, when will we Poles be in a Diaspora like you [people], and be able to celebrate double holidays (i.e. Jewish and Christian), and you will work for us? I was then about ten years old, and though I couldn't fully understand the barbed sarcasm of the question, I nonetheless realized that this wasn't said to us out of fun, or else it wouldn't be etched in my memory. It's only now that I realize what venom had been spewed.
On Sabbath afternoon, when our parents would rest from the toil of the week, we youth filled the streets going to [the various] youth organizations. Although we were more than once attacked by Polish youths, we knew how to defend ourselves as well as our honor.
As I said, we lived on the end of Narutowicza Street, near Staszica, the last Jewish house. That's where our bakery was. We lived there in relative security, both from the social and economic aspects. Today I find myself unable to believe how we lived in that kind of security among the Christians. And indeed, the year 1939 taught us the folly of this belief. We learned that our secure feelings were built on unsound foundations, which, when the war began and the Nazis came in, vanished into nothingness.
Our peaceful lives were [suddenly] disrupted, and all those among whom we had
lived for generations, and whom we thought were not only good neighbors but
indeed friends, showed their [true] skins in an instant and became vicious.
They partnered with the German murderers in their campaign to liquidate the
Jews of the area.
The invasion of the Nazis into Dąbrowa
In the year 1939, when I was twelve, the Germans conquered Poland. From the minute they entered, they began their treatment of the Jews. We know that life under their regime would be difficult, but no one fathomed nor believed how far things would go with them.
The beginning of their handling started with the confiscation of
radio sets, furniture, bedding and households goods. We thought that these
measures were [simply] due to the capriciousness of the new regime, and that
the requisitioned items were simply a deposit until the storm had passed.
However the rage passed, yet the appetites of the occupiers was but whetted.
Frequently, there were new demands for other seizures: furs, money and gold.
In the meanwhile, individual Jews were being attacked. Just walking about in the street became dangerous, but this is not to say that sitting at home was any guaranty to Jewish safety. Fear, hunger, physical and moral suffering began to permeate the Jewish population. Public places and services began to be proscribed to Jews, i.e. movie theatres, streetcars, even though such places and services had been frequented less and less by Jews because of the danger of venturing out. Signs appeared: Entrance to Jews and Dogs Forbidden, yet in actuality, the danger to dogs entering such areas was far less hazardous than to Jews
The Actions and difficult physical work without [adequate] food under unimaginable conditions, began to take their toll among the Jewish population. Efforts to seek assistance from Polish friends didn't bear much fruit other than in greatly isolated cases.
In the year 1942 began the systematic campaign at the Final Solution. I think it was only then that we fully realized what was happening to us. In the meanwhile, the Germans had succeeded in bringing us to despair and anguish.
On a hot summer day in 1942, all the Jews were called to the town square and divided into four groups, as follows:
Group No. 1: Candidates for continued living. These were people who had trades and experience at their jobs, and whom the Germans needed in Dąbrowa.
Group No. 2: For further examination. These were largely the families of Group 1 people (wives, children and parents).
Group No. 3: Candidates for elimination. Here were young children, the elderly and the handicapped.
Group No. 4: Candidates to be sent to concentration camps and for work outside of Dąbrowa.
There was later a further distribution of Group 2 people into Groups 3 and 4. It transpires that the reason for the additional segregation was to further increase the deception, so that those who would be sent to work in Germany believed that their families would go along with them into the railcars, or be sent to somewhere safe. This was to ensure an orderly evacuation and lessen panic among all the deportees. Thus during the selection, Group 2 gradually disappeared.
My parents, my brother and myself were sent to Group 1. My two sisters were selected for Group 2. They were later re-selected into Groups 3 and 4 and from then on were gone.
I was sent to work in the sewing industry.
In 1943, the remainder of Dąbrowa Jewry was taken [away], and with them, my parents and younger brother. Some days later I too, was evacuated along with the last of Dąbrowa's Jews.
The voice of Dąbrowa Jewry was silenced forever.
In the concentration camps
In 1943, I was taken along with around 200 other girls of my age, girls from Dąbrowa, Sosnowiec and the surrounding area to Golnau [Golęcin]. At this camp, I worked at textile machines 12 hours a day, with inadequate food and clothing under the watchful eyes of German supervision. I became very sick and my suffering was great: as an ill person there was enormous danger to me, as I could be liquidated at any time. But thanks to my friends and comrades who sheltered me, I remained alive. The girls were wonderful. They were united and their commitment to each other and to all of us was vital to our lives. Despite the affliction, the hunger and the awful conditions [under which we suffered], one woman did not abandon another. By this time there were no more Jews left in Poland.
In 1944, we were transferred to the Langenbielau [Bielawa] camp. There we found another 1,000 [or so] girls and our joy had no borders. We also heard that there was a camp for male prisoners in the vicinity. Again, hope arose within us that maybe one of our dear ones had survived, perhaps ?
Our despair gradually gave way to hope, until finally on May 8th, 1945 we were liberated by the Red Army.
My objective, of course, was to return home, back to that place where I grew up and had known the joys of life. I could not and would not entertain the idea that there were none left of my big [extended] family (parents, two sisters, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents).
When I arrived at our neighborhood and to our former home, I was received with great amazement, and every one asked the same question in various tones and in so many words: You're still alive? You survived? I was also prepared for the question, why did YOU survive? They didn't ask that question with their mouths, but with their eyes and expressions.
These questions, by their note and form, astonished me. In my bliss I had hoped they would be happy to see I was alive, but I [soon] realized that I was mistaken in believing I was among friends just as my parents and family had once been.
Of course I found no one alive from my family. The surprise that you're
still alive convinced me that I would keep living but not here.
Painfully, I left my house, the place I was born, and the home of my parents. Burned in my memory was the labor my father put into the building of our house, the efforts he expended in trying to establish neighborly relations between us and the Christians; how much work was done by our Jewish fathers in founding [modern Dąbrowa], but without the knowledge that the foundations were rotten; that their descendants would some day be destroyed and the bones of the [Jewish] city fathers would find no rest. This is how it was in my town, Dąbrowa, and in the rest of Jewish Poland. In sadness I left my house and town of my birth. I didn't return again, as I didn't want to see any more.
Leaving there I reached Sosnowiec. There I met a youth group which was affiliated with the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz movement, preparing for aliyah. I joined them, and was able to conquer my pain, weakness and sadness that this black period had left me with. I began steps to a new life, one better and more honorable. Indeed, as a sole survivor of my family, I began a new family.
My eldest son was born in Israel in 1949, who carries my father's name, Mosze. At the time of this writing, he is serving in the IDF [Israel Defense Force]. How we've changed things around!!!
Let these words be a memorial to those who were unable to survive the murderers and see the birth of Israel. Let my words be a memorial candle to my dear parents of blessed memory, Zysl and Mosze Zilbersztajn, to my sisters Edzia and Pola, to my brother Heniek, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors who were ruthlessly murdered through no fault of their own.
Let their memory be for a blessing.
|A memorial candle for my blessed family
by Rywka Bajtner
Translated by Avi (Abram) Stavsky
The first thing that the First World War brought for the populace was hunger and disease epidemics. The Jews of the town of Dąbrowa organized, aided by my father of blessed memory, an institution to help those in greatest need. In the committee, besides my father, Reb Chaim Tuwja Bajtner, were: Reb Aron Lemkowicz, Reb Chanoch Gerszon Spzilberg, Reb Herzl Liberman, Gliksman, etc. all of blessed memory.
The outbreak of the First World War severely impacted the city in the realm of medicines and [even] basic sanitation supplies. This caused typhus epidemics to break out in the city. My father, together with Aron Lemkowicz, Jakob Szalom Fizel, Icchak Aks and others created a circle called Bikur Cholim [Visiting the Sick]. [It] sent a doctor to the ill, borrowed medical equipment [where necessary], and sent people to stay with the sick person and give him/her primary assistance. I remember how my father, on a winter's night (the streets were not illuminated), lantern in hand, would visit the sick oblivious of his own weariness from standing in his shop all day so that our income would not, G-D forbid, be [adversely] affected.
The city of Dąbrowa-Górnicza was a worker's town, the majority of the Christian population employed in coal-mining. Jews, because many would not work on the Sabbath, were not engaged in the heavy industries of the town. They were thus lumped together in a poorer middle class that provided foodstuffs and wearing apparel for the [Christian] workers.
We ran a manufacturer's [i.e. grocery?] shop. My father would travel to
Łódź or Zawiercie, and there bought merchandise for his store.
He would travel to Zawiercie and remain there overnight, returning home the
next day. On one such trip, he could not get up the next day, having a bad
fever. He died in 1920 of typhus, leaving a house of small children. As I was
the eldest (12 years), I ran the shop together with my mother until 1939.
The year is 1939. The social and political atmosphere in Poland was very oppressive. The Munich Pact and [the] betrayal of Czechoslovakia told the Jews of Poland that their fate would soon swing between life and death. The cities of Warsaw, Łódź and Lemberg (L'viv; Lwów) were heavily bombed by German warplanes.
My brother Aron was mobilized. His place of service was Lubliniec. There was a heavy Volksdeutsche presence in that town, who betrayed Poland from the first shot.
The Germans concentrated all the Polish prisoners of war in a camp with the
name Stalag 4.
The Jewish prisoners were segregated from this camp, taken to the Lublin forests,
where they were all shot. Among those shot also fell Joskele Takasz's son (Ozszjech [?]
and tens of others from Dąbrowa. The Germans would [sometimes] employ a
murderous trick. They'd abandon the transport [as if leaving the prisoners to their
own fate] and then firing upon them [from a distance].
My brother sprang from the train when it approached the Lublin forest. On Purim eve, 1940, he wandered abandoned and hungry, through unknown [forest] paths and cold winter nights, having escaped the murderous [German] hands, arriving home a shadow of a man.
At the beginning, life continued as normal. But [even then], it was already hard to eat to one's satisfaction. Not long after, hunger became a member of the family in Jewish homes. Bread grew scarce and could only be obtained with ration coupons. Often one returned home without any bread.
A German commissar took over our store. He sold the entire inventory and we worked for him. We received no salary from him. As no inventory came in, everything was liquidated and we were left without anything, similar to the fate of all Dąbrowa's Jewry.
In the meanwhile, the Nazi murderers killed [or deported] increasing number of Dąbrowa's Jews, and our mornings became darker and sadder.
The Jews who worked for German industry received a Sonderkarte but soon began to realize that this protection was an illusion.
My brother worked at a stone quarry at the Warpies and had a Sonderkarte. As soon as he found out that Jews were being liquidated from the quarry, he did not go that same day to work. Later he worked with the whole family in a shop. Tuwje, the second brother, had already been twice through a Dulag (transition camp).
In August 1942, it was announced that every Jew, young and old, including women and children, with or without Sonderkarten, had to assemble at an area near the Kehilla center. Believing that this was just a registration process and worried about not complying, they all congregated [there], not having been warned by anyone that this was the last journey.
The Dąbrowa Jews stood in the hot sun, surrounded by armed troops and watchdogs. Elderly people and children were deported to Auschwitz; people with Sonderkarte were sent home temporarily; and young, workable persons were sent to work camps.
Ruwen Lichtcyjer of blessed memory, did not present himself. He said, those who need me can come to me. He died at his own home.
After the August selection, the ghetto was sealed and we were taken to work escorted by [armed] police. We walked through streets which were now judenrein. We worked 12 hours a day and the heavy labor took a great toll on our health.
In the selections, the Germans ensured that entire families would be liquidated.
The closed ghetto lasted until 1943. My family was one of the last taken from Dąbrowa to Środula and Sosnowiec. After a few days, Środula became judenrein. Herzl Liberman and his young daughter hid there, but the Germans uncovered all the bunkers and deported the inhabitants.
Day in and day out we lived in fear of deportation. We resolved to remain in hiding.
In an underground chamber, which was constructed so that the refugees would not
be asphyxiated and fitted with a secret entrance door, we two sisters, Miriam
Dwora and myself, as well as another 10 Jews were hidden. The extreme tightness
of the place caused pain in our bones whenever we would move. [However] our
discipline was very strong. Our meager food was divided up by a trustworthy
person. Suddenly my sister began a nervous hiccup and we were forced to abandon
our bunker. We left and went into a room, where we slept through the night. In
the morning when we began to wash, we were found out by a German. We paid him
to remain silent and find a way for us to continue hiding. However the German
betrayed us and led us to a collection point where people were shipped off to
My sister Miriam Dwora did not have the strength and was seized by the Germans and sent to Auschwitz. I never saw her again.
Through the aid of a Jewish policeman, I succeeded in escaping from the neighborhood. My sister Rajzl, who was blond, was hidden the whole time by a Christian person. She was later betrayed and taken to the Gestapo, where she was interrogated and persecuted. She was able to employ all her fortitude and withstand the treatment, and through the aid of a German, who was one of those few righteous souls, she was sent to work in a shop where she sorted the clothing of the transported. She worked in camps which were later liquidated. She later managed to acquire papers which allowed her to go free. She met up with our brother in Kamionko. Through her help, I too, got to Kamionko.
My sister Rajzl and I were caught later again by the Gestapo and sent to the Annenberg transit camp. From there my brother Aron was sent to Groß-Mycłowice. I never saw him again after that.
My sister and I were sent on again, to Pieszyce [?], where we hungered and were beaten. For taking a few potatoes from the kitchen I was beaten unmercifully. Later I was tried and sentenced to 11 days hunger-sentence in a damp cell. My feet swelled up and my eyes grew weak from the darkness.
From Pieszyce I was taken to Beleramau [?] concentration camp near the town of Oświęcim. There the last bit of strength that a man has was extracted. Three Jews were hung there in the camp center after having been taken from camp to camp. One for having taken [i.e. stolen] a shoelace; the second for hiding a piece of bread; and the third for begging that the first two should be spared. The bodies hung there for several days.
Day in and day out, the Americans bombed the German cities. After heavy bombardment and a hard winter, I was sent to draw water from a well. Because my hands were [almost] frozen, I asked for a few rags to tie around them, and for this, the Bekleidungskapo, a German, beat me mercilessly.
When news came that the Russians were approaching, the Germans made efforts to send us deeper into Germany. However they soon realized that the way was blocked by Russian troops and forced us back. On this route many people fell.
In the camp came a glimmer of hope that the Germans wanted to cover up their crimes. They began destroying the camp with fire bombs so as to burn away the evidence. We were herded into cellars [while above us the fire burned]. When we heard the artillery of the Russians, we went out to greet them, but here victims died from the exchanges of shooting by both sides. This was where the two Wajnstzajn brothers died. The German resistance was futile and white flags soon appeared from German homes showing capitulation.
On the first of February 1945, I arrived back in a Jew-free Dąbrowa. The town was now judenrein, Jewish homes possessed by Christians. When I wanted to move into my home, I was driven out by the Christian inhabitants. The streets were now orphaned and I could not stand being their any longer.
I arrived in Israel in the year 1950.
by Szymon Rozenblum
Dąbrowa's Jewry in the time of the Hitlerite Occupation, September 1st, 1939 October 1st, 1940
Translated by Avi (Abram) Stavsky
On the 1st of September, 1939, the German army attacked Poland. A horror engulfed the world. and especially the Jews of Poland.
Already in the first hours of the war, all roads were filled with fleeing refugees who sought to rapidly escape Hitler's army, but were unfortunately not successful.
In their occupation the German barbarously attacked, bombed, burned, shot and murdered helpless civilians, and especially Jews.
Thousands streamed along the roads hungry, frightened and disoriented, not knowing what tomorrow might bring. All sought to return home, to where they had left their vulnerable nearest ones.
Coming home [however], Jews immediately began to feel the pain of their suffering. Our good friends, the Poles, let themselves hear that the cause of war's outbreak was the fault of the Jews. Various provocations soon began, with the result that many Jews were killed, not having received protection of any sort. Our parents greeted us upon our return home with tears in their faces. They wanted to comfort us, but didn't have the means to do so.
Summer came to an end. Every morning the sun would shine, but not [it seemed] for the Jews. The houses in Dąbrowa were not destroyed, yet great changes came into Jewish life. All available houses that belong to Jews [or wherein Jews lived] were requisitioned, as were Jewish-owned shops. One no longer even saw Berels and Majers running around the streets.
In front of [various] houses were posted signs by the Germans. Some of these included:
For their convenience, the Germans established a Judenrat, which had the task of facilitating the edicts against the Jews. Adding to our pain, their dirty work was supported by nefarious elements of the Dąbrowa Jewish community. With the onset of autumn came wind and rain that filled Jewish hearts with bitterness, so that even our [normally] joyful High Holidays were sad times for us.
Winter arrived with total fury. The unheated rooms produced only despair and
cold. Hungary and cheerless, we went to bed, hoping to quickly forget the
appalling world. But instead the nights were endless and mornings brought new
terrors. Every morning people would run to buy their 400 grams of bread.
[However] sometimes Jews would return home, not with bread but with the advice
that for Jews and dogs there is no bread available. At 06:00 Jews
would be found marching in columns, [often] young and old, carrying shovels
over their shoulders, [some] barefoot and hungry, through rain and snow, to
work under the direction of a Volkdeutsche, who would march them to the tune of
a Hitlerite song. Meanwhile our old neighbors, the Poles, would rejoice over
the fate of the shydes [Żyd = Jew].
Spring approaches. The trees burst forth with new green leaf cover. The fields sprouted new green grass and colorful flowers. The fresh breath of spring calls out to life, but within the broken hearts of Jews grows only the loneliness of despair.
In order to prevent our lives from being monotonous, the Germans would occasionally shoot various Jews under the pretext [that] they were not obeying orders or edicts. They also ordered the Jewish community to frequently pay sums of gold and money in order to further make bitter our lives.
For the Germans now in Dąbrowa, one had to provide furniture, clothing, various goods and sundries, with the assistance of the Judenrat and the Jewish police. These groups did everything possible to see that the German masters would be pleased.
It was thus that we survived the Pesach and Shavout holidays as well as the whole summer, which was accompanied by much fright and woe. The situation brought the feeling that better days would never be seen by us again.
The terrible summer of 1940 came to an end and again the High Holidays approached. During Rosh Hashanah we looked for secret places to say the prayers. With heavy hearts, the hungry faithful pray for a better tomorrow. Yom Kippur and again we assembled secretly and pray, from the depths of our hearts, that there should be an end already to our suffering. But it becomes apparent to us that the gates of heaven are closed and the prayers of innocent Jews are not heard.
In town word spread that after the Sukkot holiday, Jews would be taken to work in Germany. The understand was that the first to go would be those the Judenrat had no use for. Even during Sukkoth we had to work.
Over Simchat Torah, the Judenrat was hard at work sending summonses to those who must report for work duty. Those who had money or [otherwise] had protection could buy themselves out of this necessity.
In every room beat the hearts of parents and their children. We listened at the door for a brutal knocking by the Jewish police, who would grab people for deportation with the warning that if those sought were not found, anyone in the house would serve in their place.
That night the Judenrat and Jewish police had a lot of work. The next day some 200 Dąbrowa Jews were taken to the train station for shipment off to German work camps.
The Judenrat and Jewish police filled their quota, but in those 200 homes from which young persons were taken, tears flowed from elderly parents, who realized that this was probably the last time they would see their children. They wanted to again seize their loved ones and heartily kiss the doleful faces of their beloved kindred.
It [later] became apparent that those left behind suffered worse fates than
those sent off. They had to deal with deportations, selections, ghettos,
concentration camps and many other hellish situations, and most came to a
barbaric end in the ovens.
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