Thus was Jewish Demblin destroyed
by Tzvi Eichenbrenner, Tel Aviv
From the material of Tel Aviv, Yad Vashem No. Aleph-191/2681
- 1 -
Winter of 1941. With my wife and child I fled the Warsaw Ghetto. After
traveling the whole night in a darkened rail car together with gentiles on a
cold early morning after a lot of danger, we finally arrived at Demblin. The
city made a very sad and frightening impression on me. The burned down study
house, which the Germans had set afire soon after their arrival, had given the
street and the environment a frightening aspect. The emptied and deadly quiet
of the city, the shut down businesses and workshops, the pitiful and poor
expression of the people who had already suffered so much at the hands of the
Germans, all this worked on me very intensely. From the Jews' eyes looked out a
sense of terror and great insecurity. Every morning they would come out all
worn out, hungry, after a whole day's work, they would return beat up and
bloody. As a result of hunger and terrible living conditions many epidemics
spread through the town, death was lurking in the Jewish houses.
Despite all of this, the hell of the Warsaw ghetto, where I lived with hundreds
of thousands of other Jews in what was for all intense and purposes a living
grave between towering walls of the ghetto, I felt a little bit lighter and
easier like I could breath a little bit easier when I first came to Demblin,
because here at last, you could see the world. You could see all of the land
around, you could see as far as the eye would reach. The fields covered with
snow, the forest of Ryki, the little villages around, the small peasants' huts
with the pointed roofs whose whiteness shown in the distance.
Jews were still able to make heir way around here. There wasn't a formal ghetto
yet. We were even able to travel from one city to another and to go into the
countryside a little bit. There was also contact between the commander of the
city and the police and the Judenrat, whose president, Leizor Teichman, an
honorable and wise man, who knew how to make his way around, how to deal with
the Germans, all of which he did with great responsibility, never dirtying his
conscience. He had an in with the police, the commander of the town. He bribed
them with the most precious goods, with shoes and clothes and in that way, as
much as he could he would make our bitter fate a little bit easier. The
constant dragging people off to forced labor stopped because the Judenrat began
to send skilled workers out anyway according to the lists that were already
When an S. S. officer, or another German functionary would come into town, the
Judenrat had already been notified and they did their best to prepare things.
When there was something unfortunate that happened and a Jew fell into custody,
the Judenrat did everything it could do to set them free.
I lived with my wife and child in a little half sunken house that was extremely
old and that was where my parents lived. That house was situated across the
street from the burned out study house. Right by the entrance by the right side
of the kitchen, in the little narrow place between the oven and the wall, we
were just barely able to get a bed set down with cover to block it off like a
curtain and that was my room. In the same house, besides my father, Ahron
Chaim-Yidels and my mother, Rochma, the baker's wife and also my sister Zlotah,
who was a widow, with her two small children, lived.
In the house they also had with them a Torah that had been saved from the
synagogue when the synagogue was burned down, with two Torah scrolls. Everyday,
early in the morning and before dark, desperate and humiliated Jews would come
in and wrap a scarf around their faces so that their shaven faces, that didn't
have beards anymore, wouldn't be seen. And here with a heavy mood and with
great terror, a minyan prayed together. This was a place where we also talked
about all the news and all the events that were going on.
In our house, the old tailors of the burial society were sitting. They had
pale, fallen faces, swollen eyes and out of those eyes you could see both
despair and apathy. They would sit bent over the old white sheets and they
seemed like ghosts themselves as if they'd just risen from the grave. They
saved shrouds of their sisters and brothers, the martyrs.
The leader of the burial society was an old Jew from another locality who had
come here during the War. Tall with a thick, wide face, kind of grubby payes, a
short little gray beard and he was called "Chubby Chaim". We would
always turn to him about all matters of substance. He seemed like he just never
got tired and even in the most difficult moments he was able to respond and
arrange things quickly and with great facility. And he gave everybody heart, he
cheered people up. If you did find him every once in a while sitting there on
the bench with his big watery eyes closed for just a moment, you knew it was
only going to last very briefly and he'd be back on his feet almost immediately.
We didn't shut the door the whole day. Jews like shadows, broken and worn out,
with their pale faces and eyes the light of which was almost extinguished, in
those eyes you could see the sorrow of the whole world. With their last
strength they would come and tell of the tragedy that had hit them. Here and
there, when the tragedy got worse and was amplified, we were always the first
to get the news. Especially in situations where somebody was in a very
difficult bind, in custody or something like that, where there was a chance of
Jews would make their way, run from one city to another, desperately. In
Demblin, the Germans would pull them off the train. Then, after tormenting them
with the worse possible tortures, they would throw them to savage dogs, which
would tear them apart while they were still alive and then finally the
murderers would finish them off with a shot. The mutilated, battered, dead
bodies, were sent into the town in a wagon.
The way for the Jews was really terrifying, those who were on the road were
fleeing Warsaw and other cities. But even more terrifying and frightful was
what they had to tell about the ghetto. Although in Demblin there still was not
a formal ghetto, these dark tidings foreshadowed something very bad. The
desperation multiplied. Each was terrified of the unavoidable horrors that
Someone told me that they brought a dead Jew from the station, who had been
traveling by train and who had died of fright. Until Sunday in the morning the
Judenrat had been able to put him up in Moshe Abramtsh's house. It was late at
night when I came to Moshe's house and the house had a very Sabbath like quiet
about it. On the table, two small candles burned. They were dripping onto an
old conserve's box. Moshe, with his wife and children, walked around in the
house as if there were nothing special going on. The clay floor was scattered
On the ground near the window, with his face to the wall, the dead man lay,
dressed in a brown suit and shoes, his face wasn't even covered.
- 2 -
Quickly the frightening news spread over the town that they'd murdered the
president of the Judenrat, Leizor Teichman. Our situation got worse from day to
day. Not one day passed where they didn't bring Jews that they'd shot, from the
And it didn't take long before the city once again shuddered and had a new and
savage murder. This time, the Gendarmes ordered the Judenrat that all Jews who
had come to Demblin from other ghettos and cities should within a very short
time present themselves. Police ran around throughout the city with a list of
the unfortunate ones. They were dragged out of their houses. Gendarmes took the
terrified victims and loaded them into sealed vehicles, took them to the forest
of Ryki and murdered them there.
As I entered the threshold of our house one time, I felt that there was again
another terrible event. As always, my heart began to beat furiously. My
mother's thin drawn face was even paler that usual. Some of the tailors had
laid their gray heads onto the table, as if they were snoozing. Even Chubby
Chaim, who always seemed to be impervious to everybody sat there at the bench
with his face between both of his hands and his eyes stared blankly into the
distance. When desperate and overwrought Jews came to ask that their dead
should be buried, they didn't have anyone to talk to.
[See PHOTO-C50 at the end of Section C]
From Laibish Bagelman I found out that today they had again brought from the
railroad a family of 9 people. As always, I couldn't control my inner drive to
go see the dead. I went back to the burned out synagogue near the bath where
they used to bring the victims from the train. Before my eyes a truly
horrifying scene was revealed. On the ground, stretched out, were the victims,
one next to the other. Only one, whose face and long thin fingers were blacker
than the earth, had been murdered with the standard shot under the ear. With
the others, under very fine but ripped clothes, one could see that their bodies
were a mass of bloody wounds from dogs teeth, the heads and faces just a mass
of blood. There wasn't any recognizable human feature in their faces. The
children's arms and legs had been broken. You didn't even see a sign of a shot
on the children. They looked like they'd been hacked to death with a very dull
Each day Jews, earlier than usual, came to daven. Each one was sure that
something important happened because the whole night the Gendarmes were
whooping it up. We heard them making great cries of joy, they were really
celebrating, screaming their heads off. The Jews who lived in the Warshavsky
Street didn't close their eyes all night because of terror. The restlessness
grew from minute to minute. Everybody's eyes were turned to each person who
came in the room last, expecting them to tell us something, God forbid, really
bad, and perhaps something really good. Everything is possible from God, even
at the last minute.
The butcher David Yermus came in. He kissed the mezuzah, washed his hands in
the basin. But, before he wrapped a kerchief around his face to hide his shaven
beard he said, "They're talking something about peace in the
The Jews with their pale terrified faces and tallit and tfillin just stayed
there absolutely astounded.
"Thank God!" I heard my mother in the background, who was sick and
was lying in bed. She was talking to God and she said, "With you God
everything is possible, a miracle. But a miracle, only a miracle, will save the
children. Isn't it already high time?"
Two Jews looked at each other. One was the very pious Jew, the one who led
prayers, David Wasserman, who during Sabbath would never say anything secular,
he to the very last minute of his life, in the greatest of danger, kept his
gold blond beard, which had already begun to be gray. The second was David
Fuks, a Hasid, who's beard had just begun to grow back, a gray beard that had
the appearance of a wheat field which was full of stubble.
"In the peace of the villains", a thought David said after a minute.
With the same thoughtfulness he added, "With brutes like these, who have
spilled so much blood, there's never going to be any peace. I hope that what I
say is not true, I'm afraid that their joy is our sorrow."
The last words of the two Jews were like heavy stones fallen in my heart. I
went out to Barryl Sherman. He from the very first moment the Germans arrived,
worked for them at the police station. And he always knew all of the news. I
thought that maybe I'd find out something from him about what was going on.
- 3 -
I was not the only one who was waiting for Barryl. I encountered other Jews
there, thoughtful and worried. Even one of the members of the Judenrat was
waiting there to find something out. The anticipation was so great that we just
didn't say a word to each other. When we saw Barryl through the window my heart
began to pound like a hammer. The seriousness on his face, which was not his
usual expression, wasn't lost on us.
When he came into the house we realized from his glance, which was avoiding us,
that things were not good. Nobody took their eyes off him. Nobody had the guts
to ask him what we all wanted to know. The waiting seemed like an eternity.
Finally Barryl, not looking anybody in the eyes, quiet and desperate, as if he
had to gather up all his strength to do so, said, "Very bad news for
In the house everything became quiet, the only thing that we heard was the
beating of our heart.
"Hitler, - proclaimed yesterday, - the total eradication of all
Jews." The joy of the brutes, of the barbarians, was so great that I can't
even describe it to you. They spent the whole night eating and drinking they
were so delighted. And believe me they pored the absolute best liquors down
When Avramel Rosenberg mentioned that his means us, nobody was able to even
stand on their feet anymore. We didn't say it out loud, but everybody
understood that now the Germans were really going to get to it and set up more
ghettos, meaning here.
The darkest night of all times had fallen. Despair and desperation ate away at
the worn out and used up Jews of Demblin. Each one waited his own bitter fate
with terror. The whole thing was the most terrible for the hearts of the
elderly. It is unimaginable and impossible to describe the sorrow and pain that
we suffered when we looked at little innocent children who understood nothing
and had to die such a savage death so young.
The Juderat instructed that according to an order from the German command, that
practically the whole city with the name Warshavsky street and both ends of
Rynek, all the way down to Sokatzkyega - that none of that was part of the
ghetto. After a very short time all the Jews who lived in those places had to
get out and go into the ghetto which was delineated by half of Okulna with
little half sunken shacks around the burned out synagogue and the old part of
the town where before Jews had not lived.
It became very dark in the city. After work, the worn out Jews ran like you run
in the middle of a fire. Bent over with packs on their backs, terror in their
eyes, the last bit of strength, they pushed themselves. They carried heavy
cabinets, beds, tables and other things. They were stuffed into little houses,
to relatives or acquaintances or to people they didn't know at all.
Richer Jews would bend over, embarrassed, faces found themselves at shabby
little Christian dwellings and suggested an exchange. That in order for them to
be able to have these little Christian houses, they could exchange them for
their own very comfortable dwellings on Warshavsky Street. The Poles, though,
were in no hurry. They had time. There were so many Jews who suggested this to
them. They told the Jews to leave their furniture back in their houses. They
said to the Jews, "It's all the same, you're not going to live through
this war anyway, what do you need your furniture for?"
As much as that galled and tore them apart, the Jews had absolutely no other
option. Everything that the Christians wanted in this situation, they got.
- 4 -
Humiliated, torn apart from the outside world, stuffed together in a terrible
squalor without any air to breath, Jews lived several families to one dwelling.
As if somebody had just winked to him and there was an understanding, the Pole
who used to drive around with a long wooden barrel with which he'd clean out
the outhouses of the town, he just stopped coming into the ghetto. So the
overflowing outhouses began to overflow and run out into the courtyards. The
air stank, mountains of garbage lay outside. From day to day the scarcity
intensified because the peasants, as in every war, were the ones who had
everything that was really essential, and they stopped coming in their wagons
into town to bring products from their fields. Jews didn't dare to venture out
into the countryside because it was extremely dangerous. When they did that,
often a Pole on his own initiative would chase after the Jew and go fetch a
policeman and rat on him. The hunger became very, very great. In many houses
there wasn't a slice of bread for weeks. Even the very, very thin soup that we
did have became very seldom. Most of the Jews nourished themselves with raw
Brikev. They were drawn and swollen from hunger and they'd die off like flies.
"Typhus Danger! Strictly forbidden for Germans to enter!" That's the
way big placards which were nailed up to houses around the periphery of the
ghetto read in order to warn the Germans away.
In truth the ghetto was full of other sicknesses like tuberculosis and
dysentery, there were not fewer victims from these diseases than there were
from typhus. The world will never know the magnitude of the sorrow and pain of
the unfortunate and desperate Jewish mothers, who sat by the beds of their sick
children utterly unable to help, except with a cold compress on the brow or
with a little bit of cold water to wet heir burning lips.
It's difficult to convey the terrible barrenness that reigned throughout the
day in the ghetto. Very, very seldom did you see a man in the street during the
day. Very early in the morning the ghetto residents had to go out to work. Even
12 year old children didn't dare remain in the ghetto. Soon, at night, when the
people returned, tired and broken, often bloody and beaten up, outside it was
already dark, the whole day everyone felt behind him the shadow of death. But
even more terrible was the night of the ghetto. After 7 o'clock nobody dared to
appear in the street. Doors and shutters were closed. The people living there
hung curtains up in order that, God forbid, the least bit of light shouldn't
make its way out a window. In this kind of darkness Demblin had never before
had to wrap itself. Little ghetto houses in this kind of darkness became even
smaller and shrunken. You hardly noticed them. It seemed as if a giant devil
hovered above the city with his black outstretched wings which blocked out the
sky and with which he wanted everybody and everything to blot out. The
terrifying funereal stillness reigned in the ghetto. Each step from a military
boot resounded in a frightening way through the stillness of the night in the
whole ghetto. And when you heard it, the heart nearly died from fear. And if
the steps would suddenly stop under somebody's window, everybody would freeze
inside. The way of the nights was just to stretch out endlessly.
Besides the Gendarmes police, the Sonder service ruled in the ghetto. These
people were formidable brutes who wore on their hats the insignia of a skull.
We really did call them "Death Heads". Woe is to him who fell into
Not only with hunger and other sorrows did the Germans torment us, they were
always striving to find new physical and spiritual pain to inflict on us. They
used to let loose savage dogs on their victims, or with big fat sticks beat
people mercilessly on their head and their bodies so that the victim would
finally beg to be put out of their misery with a shot. In order to darken our
lives even further and to demonstrate what a terrible end awaited us, they used
to drive the bodies that had been mutilated and shot around in the ghetto on a
wagon. Every day the Jews who'd been through the ringer so many times received
new blows and new decrees. The days ahead of us were to be harder and harder.
- 5 -
Besides the various work sites where Jews were employed, there was a
construction site in Demblin which belonged to the military airfield. When I
came to work there in the shoemaker and tailor shop which serviced the Germans,
there was already a camp at the airfield surrounded by barbed wire. In the camp
we shoemakers and tailors lived in a separate little room which was partitioned
off from the wooden barracks by a thin wall. When we wanted to we were able to
go into the town, even spend the night with our families. In the camp there
were a couple of hundred Jews from Warsaw. The majority of them were young;
flowers of the people. They were employed at different kinds of work out in the
open. Some of their clothes were in shreds and you were able to see little
parts of their flesh through them. While they worked they were beaten quite
murderously, it really was painful to watch how they were treated.
As long as the camp was run by a simple young man, Yichael Luxemburg, the tired
hungry slaves more or less would lay down and rest, have an opportunity after
their difficult labors to lie down on their hard bunks and they didn't have to
endure quite so many humiliations. But when the Germans brought from Opola the
Viennese Jew, to the construction site, things got a lot worse in the camp.
Among the Jews that they brought were Herman Venkart. Tall and broad, with a
long, red, narrow nose, upon which sat thick glasses. He had a very sharp
tongue. He could tear the world to pieces with that tongue. He wasn't
particularly choosy about the methods that he used. For each German, even those
he didn't demand it, he would stand straight at attention. Never did he turn
back from his plans. That's how he quickly succeeded in taking over the command
post of the camp from Luxemburg. He immediately began to institute a regime in
the camp with all his little fine points. The Germans themselves couldn't have
asked for anything more. He formed a Jewish command structure with Jewish
police, although none of the police were forced into that role. The majority of
them were just heartless youths without a spark of humanity, without shame and
without a conscience. They would flatter Venkart like dogs, always try to
please him, smile at everything he had to say. There a few exceptions, but very
And this Viennese Jew, who came from Gilitsia and who was very fond of when he
spoke, praising and remembering the Lord - every Passover he had a seder
and read the Haggadah. This person, besides other kinds of pain that he
inflicted on people, would also beat them. According to the decree from our
camp commander, Herman Venkart, the Jewish police showed that they could be
every bit as evil as the other brutes. When the victim lay on a bench, his head
covered with a blanket, and just moaned with his sufferings, the Jewish police
had a good laugh and in the way of young men would whistle in mockery. There
were times when the one who had been beaten from the shear trauma and pain
would move their bowels and it would be days before they would be able to sit
- 6 -
From a sudden waking, I was in the first moment completely confused, as with
open eyes I looked at the four white asbestos walls and the ceiling and I
wasn't able to figure out where I was. Only when my thoughts returned, because
of a cry that I heard outside, I suddenly jumped from my bunk, went outside in
the courtyard of the camp and there saw a terrible site.
On a bench, across from the barracks, stretched out with his face down, only in
his underwear, was a young inmate of the camp who they caught a few days before
in Gniewoszow. Near him, surrounded by police, the commandant with a whip in
hand stood and beat the boy. Suddenly the commandant heard my scream that he
should stop beating him, and he turned to me. His face was white as the wall
with rage, like a beast's, it looked like the expression of a beast who's claws
had just been torn out of its prey. He turned to me and screamed, "He
wanted to get out of here, the criminal, and we brought him back from the
It was still very early in the morning. The clock showed 4 o'clock. Everything
surrounding was enveloped in a pre dawn gray summer quiet. The tired slaves
were still in the barracks on their hard bunks lying and sleeping. One inmate
wrapped in a gray blanket limped towards the wooden outhouse, which stood at
the other end of the camp by the barbed wire. He barely was able to drag his
bad foot. The early morning was cool and dismal. The cloudy sky seemed to
suggest that rain was going to come soon. In the field the peasant's white
horse had spent the whole night in a meadow near the camp where he could chew
the grass. The whole day the colt would, in a carefree way, jump around in the
field and the children used to always look at him with envy and curiosity. This
colt was snuggling up to his mother's belly. Both of them stood with their
heads bent down to the moist grass and didn't move. A thick rain shower began
to come down. A world of shame at that moment wept.
In the morning, Sunday, when I went to the old part of town, I suddenly saw
people running by who were looking in the direction of the bridge. I ran after
them and saw in the distance the young man Gemaliel the son of Perla Hochman,
Gemaliel had a half sack of potatoes on his back. Besides him a policeman was
standing with a revolver in his hands. Afterwards the policeman disappeared for
a moment into a peasant's hut alongside the road. He came back with a shovel
with which he began to beat Gemaliel on the hands and over his whole body. His
crying out and trying to defend himself didn't help at all. Finally the
gendarme hit Gemaliel a few times over the head. When he fell down, blood
spilling out of him, he took out his gun and shot him.
A little bit later we saw his head and his body, his head which was hacked at,
hanging down, looked like frozen mass, and he was at that point taken through
town on a wagon, the head hanging over. At that moment we remembered how this
boy's father took him the first day, wrapped in a tallit to heder, to study.
- 7 -
After each terrible news, nobody in the ghetto would show themselves at all.
There was a heavy burden that laid everybody down. It was a burden with a spark
of terror that always glowed in each heart. Suddenly that spark with a great,
terrible flame, would burn up and consume every last hope of being saved or
surviving. Jews, full of desperation, would lament their living children.
Chubby Chaim tried to cheer up the tailors of the burial society who spent the
whole day bent sewing old white sheets into shrouds in order to prepare a body
for a Jewish burial. He reminded them it was a mitzvah to do that, especially
today when the murderous villains would every day leave dead bodies lying on
the side of the road which the dogs and other wild beasts would then start to
As soon as he sat down at a bench with his big watery eyes and began to look
off at some spot in the air, the door slowly opened and a woman came in. She
walked bent over, dressed in an old ragged thick cloak, which she held with her
thin hands. Her half gray hair was in wild disorder. From the pallor of her
face and her tired half shut eyes, one understood that the days of her life
were numbered. As soon as she crossed the threshold, she fell on the half
sunken floor and remained lying there, just passed out, fainted. We revived
her, sat her down on a chair. She cried bitterly. Holding herself, she began to
tell her sad story, to complain:
"Why don't you just let me die?" She complained bitterly in a heart
rendering way. "Why do I have to force myself to live any longer? For my
child, for who's death I alone am responsible? Why does so much suffering have
to come to me? Who have I done anything bad to? It would have been better if I
had been scattered under the ruins with my husband. Then I wouldn't have to see
my only child consumed by fever. For two days he was sick. And now he is no
more. When I went out to work early in the morning and asked Leah to keep an
eye on him, my son just like the day before, sat in bed and there wasn't any
real sign that he was going to get worse. He seemed OK. But, as soon as I
arrived at work, I became very, very uneasy. A mother's heart began to beat
with terror. I just wasn't able to get a hold of myself. I didn't even feel the
blows of the overseers who always like to knock us around. I had one desire
alone and that was to live until the evening. To my distress, the murderers
decided to keep us longer than usual. I just can't understand that after the
whole day of work, how I found the strength to run all the way home. The closer
I came to the house, the greater my fear became. With my heart pounding, I
opened the door. And when I came into the house I saw that my world had come
apart and that my son had been extinguished. In the house there was a
melancholy quiet. The child was the only reason that I had the strength to
endure all the different kinds of pain and torment. He lay in bed, his head
wrapped with a wet cloth. A great darkness fell on me. The little bit of bread
that I left for him in the morning, lay by him, unmoved. His lips were black as
coal. His bright eyes closed. The child was just one piece of fire.
"Mommy's here", I begged him and wanted him to just look at me. But
nothing more than just two tears rolled down from the corners of his eyes and
then just stopped. God, what am I going to do, I said to myself. Where's Leah.
And just then the door opened and Leah, out of breath, came in with Dr.
"Doctor, save my child, I screamed at him."
The doctor didn't answer and went right to the bed. The whole time that
the doctor tended to the child, my heart beat like a hammer. The doctor looked
at his watch and said, "It's already 7 o'clock. One dares not go into the
streets at this hour. There's nothing we can do until tomorrow morning. Don't
let one minute go by without that wet compress on his head."
"He went out quickly, I felt that a bitter fate had snatched me once
again. The fever didn't let up. The child began to burn again. I tore the hair
from my head and cried quietly. Is there anybody I didn't pray to at that
moment? To my father, who the Germans had shot down, in his tallit and tfillin.
To my dead husband. The night stretched out for an eternity it seemed to me. It
seemed like it would never end."
"Suddenly the child, an old man, let out a sigh, opened his eyes for a
moment and then closed them again. The final extinguished glance of one dying,
that's what it was. Everything in me began in a misty confusion, I began to cry
out, what's happening? My father shot, Isaac [husband] under the ruins of the
Warsaw ghetto. And here I am imprisoned in the ghetto. Just two days ago my son
was healthy. Now I sit all alone by his bed. Everybody was sleeping and I
looked and my child seemed like he'd just been consumed by fever. I was quiet
and I did nothing. I stood up, the whole house revolved around me. I went to
the window, looked out again through the cracks in the shutters, outside it was
black night. I didn't see the sky at all. Black and dark, like it was in my
heart. Terrifying, deathly quiet. The quiet of a world that was ending. God,
what should I do? When will the dawn come? I went to the window again. When I
came back to the bed I saw my child lying with his head thrown back and with
his mouth open. I started to tear my hair and scream. Everybody, terrified,
came out from their bed and asked me to calm down because it can create an even
worse tragedy if I don't shut up. Sure enough, very soon, we heard a demanding
scream, "Open up!" They'd already begun banging at the door with
their rifles. Two gendarmes came in. They saw the dead child. One of them made
a little joke about it. "What are you screaming about? You cursed woman.
You're all going to die like dogs, you know." Yeah, yeah, that's exactly
what should happen was a thought that came to my head. "Shoot me!" I
begged them. "I want to die with my child. I can't take it anymore."
I begged them for their mercy."
"What, you want to die?' another one of the murderers asked. "No, not
now. When you want to live, that's when we're going to shoot you." He said
with a smile on his lips."
"Such a terrible loss", the woman said quietly sobbing. "But, I
am guilty for the death of my child. I shouldn't have left him alone", the
woman said, leaving.
When the woman left, I turned to Laibish Bagelman, who the whole time sat at
his bench with great attention and listened to the woman's story of her bitter
heart. I asked him, "How many corpses would show up in this War during the
course of one year?"
"Yeah", Laibish sighed. "I understand Hershel what you want to
know. Once upon a time, during this whole year, there would be like 12 corpses.
And that was a bad year. Today, it's not a day goes by when we don't have 15,
and that's a good day. There's absolutely nothing to which anyone can compare
this enormous tragedy of ours", he said with great sorrow. "Jews are
falling like flies. They're coming to us dead as a result of all kinds of
violent deaths. And for the German villains, it's never enough. A regime like
the Germans, is one that has never been seen before."
A frightful cry was heard outside and with every second just got greater and
more intense and Laibish stopped talking.
- 8 -
When I went out of the house I saw a scene, which could have broken the
stoniest of hearts. Around a narrow wagon drawn by a skinny, half dead horse,
this was the wagon upon which they'd always bring the murdered ones into the
town, we saw almost hanging on with their little hands, 7 or 8 little barefoot
children in torn rags, hoarse from crying. With their last strength they cried
out and sobbed, "Dear mommy, why are you leaving us?" The mother, who
during the war had been the only provider in the house, had just been murdered
when she was coming back from the town with a few potatoes on her back. She lay
on the wagon covered with a rag. All you could see were her thin, barefoot
feet. Their father, Kevela, a small and worn out man with a sobbing face
blacker than the earth, hung on to the last part of the wagon and just barely
was able to walk behind it.
When the wagon came to the end of the ghetto, voices reached heaven. It
absolutely was shattering to watch how they had to tear the little children
away from their dead mother. Christians who were passing by stopped for a
moment and asked who was being carried away. With a little bit of sorrow they
shook their heads and kept going on their way.
Without shelter, resigned and hopeless, surrounded by millions of bloody
executioners, who weren't able to satiate themselves with our downfall and did
everything so that not even one Jew would escape their grasp. In the heart of
enslaved Europe which the barbarians had transformed into a jungle and in which
a terrifying and quick and thorough extermination of Jews had begun, in such a
condition one had no hope of outliving the war, unless as the result of a
miracle or some sudden and unexpected help and quick. But from where would such
help come? Nobody knew. From England? We heard only the most sorrowful news.
And that just made us dark and bitter. Here wasn't anything else but blood and
tears. And Churchill himself had nothing more to say than that to his people.
America needed to be ready at the very earliest in 1943 to prepare itself.
Maybe from Russia? But already for the second time the gigantic convoys of
military vehicles were traveling day and night on all the roads. The word was
that they were going in the direction of the Russian border. Some Poles had for
a while pretended not to even know their Jewish acquaintances, but now some of
them began to greet us. A good friend of mine came to me in a very discreet
way, and said, "Hold on, its not going to be long." We were even
talking to each other at night when it was quiet. When we were laying down, if
you put your ear to the ground, you could hear the dull thud of artillery in
the distance. A spark of hope began to shine in us. Jews foraged in the
newspapers and looked for a trace. It really did not take a long time and after
awhile the military began to travel back in the other direction. Everything
remained as it was before. Darker and more hopeless. Our situation became worse
and every new day there were new victims.
The devilish plan of the villains was so savage in its scope that something had
happened in us and we wanted more than to just stay alive. Everyone wanted
revenge for his death and for his downfall. And so when the Jews heard that the
Germans had increased the numbers of tailors and that they'd begun to black out
the windows with curtains and began to paint over the military buildings in
green, we grabbed at these things as signs like a drowning man grabs at a
floating log in the ocean.
When the worn out, pale, ghetto Jews heard the news early one morning while
praying, their tired, half shut eyes turned to the sky and began to sigh with a
heart that was being torn,
Mah tovu ohalech Yaacov. Each day would come really different news and every time the Jews would sigh
and groan while they were praying.
- 9 -
Suddenly the Germans covered all of their military vehicles and buildings with
gray and green nets to camouflage them. The electric street lamps were turned
off. They gave the order that the windows and houses should be blacked out and
in the courtyards bomb shelters should be dug. Now everybody was sure that
something was really happening. Maybe we were going to be saved. Our hearts
were just very anxious and yet we couldn't believe it. Maybe on the other hand
the Germans were just preparing for normal war exercises, just to prepare
against air raids. Maybe they really weren't preparing to defend themselves
against the Russians. And maybe in fact we'd just worked ourselves up into a
frenzy here and just fooled ourselves with our imaginings. But meanwhile the
normal kinds of torments didn't seize. Soon though, the police at the airfield
began to patrol in the city in big motorized vehicles, they began to run back
and forth among the roads in a great stream and the grinding of their steel
chains was deafening. The highways were torn up. Two weeks, day and night,
these military convoys passed through. The window panes in the little houses
trembled, they almost came apart from the clamor of heavy artillery. Nobody
slept a wink during the night. Nobody could sleep. The tired, stressed out head
just couldn't stop thinking, wondering if this could really be happening. It
was really hard to believe that there still was some help for us left in the
world. Wouldn't a snake before she was consumed and destroyed find a way to let
her poison out? Isn't that why they herded us into the ghettos after all?
When the tanks stopped traveling and became quiet again the Jews terrified and
pale began to move around as if they were crazy. The quietness lasted for two
days. At night big bombers flew overhead, over the city, in the direction of
the east. The whole sky in the area was fill of their roaring. We really saw
very vividly the preparations for war. Any moment it was about to break out.
Jewish technicians, who worked for the German radio center, risked their lives
in order to listen in on Moscow radio, they tried to find something from the
radio about what they would say at this moment before the storm, about what was
happening. But it was as if nothing had happened. Nothing but music and every
once and a while they talked about with great praise a new milking machine. We
became once again quite uneasy and depressed. It seemed that this was fate
after all, there was no getting around it, this was the sad fate of our
generation. If only we could know that sooner or later people would have to pay
dearly for what they'd done.
After a whole night without sleep I got up with a heavy and bitter mood and got
ready to go to work. A Jew came to pray, knocked on the shut door and I came to
the entry way in order to open the door. I was able to recognize that this was
Yisrael Yankl, the baker.
"You're still sleeping?" the Jew said to me quietly, "You're
still sleeping when there's such good news?"
"What kind of good news?" I asked him quickly and shut the door.
"You don't know? They're fighting already." The Jew who had wrapped
the tallit around his coat quietly, with a held back voice and with tears in
his eyes, said.
"Who's fighting?" I asked him astonished.
"Who do you think should be fighting?" the Jew asked me quite
bewildered. "The angel of justice and the angel of death are fighting.
They're saying that after today, the Russians are going to be here." He
told me with a very serious face.
Soon, still more Jews came over. Most everybody already knew the news. We
didn't spend too much time praying and davening. Everyone wanted to get home as
soon as possible. More serious than usual, they stood there, their tallism
wrapped over their heads, deep in their own thoughts. "Oh, great creator
of the world," one after another said with a great groan.
When I went outside into the beautiful summer early morning, the sky was clear
and transparent without the slightest little cloud. The surroundings were
wrapped in the pre dawn quiet. The rising sun very slowly climbed over the edge
of the horizon and began to spread her first rays upon the earth. One didn't
see a single German anywhere in town, Jews were standing around in the
courtyard, waiting for the Russians to come. They wondered why everything was
so quiet. The front was after all only 30 - 40 miles away when the siren
began to suddenly sound. The Jews became afraid another way. We didn't run to
the bunkers that we dug but we remained where we were, watched the heavens
because we had a lot more fear of the Germans than we did from the Russian
"Maybe it's better today not to go to work. Maybe if we don't do that it's
better just to stay at home", the Jews asked each other. Nobody knew what
to answer. Afterwards we saw somebody began to walk by and we decided we would
go as well. On the way we continually looked at the sky, we thought that maybe
at work we'd learn something. But at work as well, we saw no Germans at all.
The mood became very, very cheerful. We were even taking bets about when the
Russians were going to arrive. Nobody even put their hands to the work at hand
at all. Suddenly something shattered the mood. All the time we would try to
find somebody to get the scoop from the Germans at the construction site and
tried to spy a little bit or maybe try to figure out what was going on from the
Polish work camp. But we were unsuccessful, we couldn't find anything out. It
was getting to be very difficult to not know anything like this.
We sat around there for about 2 hours. Nothing happened. At that point various
thoughts, each one worse than the one before, began to hammer away at us. Our
nerves got on edge. Nobody was able to rest. It seemed like everybody's
thoughts were turning in the worse direction and our little moment had run out.
It was in the early afternoon when we saw one of the Germans coming towards us.
He was a man over 60. We sat up straight, as if we'd been working. Our hearts
started to beat quite fast because the demeanor of this man's walk and his
little way of whistling to himself suggested that what we were going to hear
wasn't going to be good. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the workshop,
he threw his head back and with great pride said, "Ah, my gentlemen. That
which I'm going to tell you will give you enormous pleasure. The Russians have
already been defeated."
With the bastard's eyes, he looked out from under his thick glasses and
"Yep, I bring you my news today and my uniform for you to make adjustments
on it. You'll do that for me, won't you?" And he quickly left.
My heart was torn up. Everybody was pale, pale as the wall. Everybody remained
sitting at their place. Quick as lightening the dark news the German had
brought spread. Soon somebody from the office came [a Jew] and just roamed
around the room as if he was crazy.
"You hear the news? The Germans took Bialystok." He almost wept. When
somebody asked him if that was really true he almost screamed, "They're
already planning to send a couple of hundred Jews from here to there."
Sad, bitter, dark, was everybody's mood. We were jealous of the dead at that
point. And just at that moment, just as if to spite us, just as before you
couldn't see a German anywhere you looked, at that moment they didn't stop
coming in and out of the door. They brought their uniforms and their shoes to
be repaired. They brought their orders, just as if they were getting ready for
a parade. Just for good measure, they'd stand around and look everybody over a
little bit longer than usual.
- 10 -
Certain of their quick victory, the Germans became even more savage. Jewish
blood flowed even more freely than before. At work, the Germans extracted the
last breath out of their slaves and added to that they would beat them
mercilessly. Broken and desperate the Jews went back to the ghetto after work.
Nobody was asking anymore about the latest news. For whole days the Germans had
signs in all the streets and they would deafen the whole town with their latest
bulletins and news. "We have dealt communism, the greatest enemy of human
kind, a decisive blow. It won't be long before we completely destroy and
exterminate it." A second time the greatest villain thanked all mighty God
because he had been chosen to create the reign of a thousand years of peace for
the world. "Eight-hundred tanks, 1,400 airplanes, a thousand artillery
units, a whole army and we still haven't counted everything that we have, but
these are the things that we've already taken in the first days." The
cripple Goebbles, the German propaganda minister, like a beast gone wild, spoke
spasmodically, screamed on the radio. Each day the newspapers told of new,
greater German victories. Your heart bled to see maps that were displayed in
public which showed the front lines with the conquered cities and towns where
we knew thousands of Jews were living. Once again, despair reigned in the
ghetto. Again life became a hell for us. Frightful nightmares and sleepless
nights battered us. A huge undeniable reality hit us as soon as we opened our
The two of us used to meet in those days on the way to work. We walked the
whole way together. I and Gamaliel Hochman, a cousin from the other Gamaliel
about whom I spoke earlier. Gamaliel was a young man, over 20 years old, with a
full, serious and refined face. From behind his glasses a pair of thoughtful
and pleasant, wise eyes shown forth. Gamaliel's heart could overflow with
bitterness, but you'd never know it by looking at him. His black boots were
always very well polished and all of his clothes were always very clean and
neat. Even the old worn out coat that he used to wear was always cleanly
pressed, spotless, without the slightest stain of any kind. Even the white
linen arm band with the blue Star of David, which every Jew had to wear on his
left arm and we of course always tried to make it as unnoticeable as possible,
as narrow as possible, even that on Gamaliel's arm was very clean and without a
wrinkle. Gamaliel spoke little and understood a great deal. But though he was
by nature quiet, on this occasion he apparently was so troubled and tormented
by his thought that he spoke the whole way about the latest tragedies and the
new hell that had befallen us; about the Russian cities which had fallen and
with them the great numbers of Jews who would now be defenseless, people who
just a few days before had been living peacefully and without fear. When
vehicles with military people passed by on their way to the front Gamaliel
looked after them and said "Go ahead, go ahead, you're going to come back
here in the other direction crippled and mutilated, without hands and
We were walking along that way, Gamaliel and I, when we came to the entrance to
the airfield. There stood an armed soldier with a metal helmet on his head. We
showed him our passes which gave us permission to enter into the work place. We
just wanted to continue on but the German didn't feel like hurrying in
returning our passes to us. He looked at Gamaliel and didn't take his eyes of
him. I became very uneasy and my heart began to beat.
The German was breathing heavily and with a quiet sadism said to Gamaliel:
"You're a Jew, right?"
"Yeah", Gamaliel answered.
"Why don't you take your hat off then? Think you're better than I
am?" The German in a very disdainful and sarcastic way asked him.
At that point for the first time I noticed that Gamaliel was wearing his hat.
Maybe he's forgotten I thought to myself. He will certainly take it off right
away and we'll just go on our way. But to my great astonishment I saw that
Gamaliel didn't make the slightest move to take his hat off.
"What!" The German began to scream and became red with anger.
"You piece of shit. You're not going to take your hat off for a German?
You Jewish pig. You're not going to make fun of me. I'll show you."
He reached for his rifle.
"Listen", he said once again. "I'm going to count to three, and
if you don't take your hat off you'll see what is going to happen."
I looked at Gamaliel. He was pale and absolutely still as he stared at the
German. He didn't even blink his eyes. I saw that Gamaliel was ready for
anything and that he was not going to bend his pride.
"One", the German began to count. "Two", he drew out the
word and looked at Gamaliel. After waiting a minute he screamed out
"Three!" And Gamaliel, who was standing there frozen, threw his hand
up and took the hat off his head. The German gave us our passes back and said:
"Get out of here, you swine!"
The whole way after that we practically didn't say a word. When we came into
the work place we told about our encounter with a heavy mood and sat down to
work. At that moment a soldier opened the door (who was by trade a tailor) and
came in. He often used to sew with us for the German officers. Half a day with
us and he wouldn't say a word the whole time he was there. But this time when
their joy over their victories was so painful to us, just for spite he came in
a little bit earlier than usual. From his booming good morning which was hardly
his style, we understood that our warn out nerves were going to be subjected to
another onslaught by his visit.
He sat down without being asked, and very cheerfully told about the colossal
victories of the Germans on the eastern front. "We're going to do Russia
in very quickly", he said.
The whole time that the German spoke, Gamaliel did not sew. His face became
paler than usual. He looked at the German without moving. The German's face was
full of color and joy, a great happy light in his eyes. Everybody saw that
Gamaliel had passed through something quite horrible and that he had committed
everything with great precision to his own memory. You could see that from his
face, but it wasn't until a lot later that we learned what it was.
It's not possible to describe the pain that we endured in those sorrowful and
terrifying days. The further Germans went forward, the deeper the bloody wound
went into our hearts.
- 11 -
In a matter of weeks Hitler's army was already at the gates of Moscow.
Certain of their victory, the two-footed beasts revealed themselves in all
their savagery. From the punishment camp, which they built for Jews in the
city, at night we heard heart-rendering screams of the tortured. In the first
days they brought to us the first victim, the Jew Tzezek, who they beat to
death. His whole body was a mass of blows and mutilation. There was also talk
about deporting the Jews from the regions that had been taken over in Russian
territory. We were completely cut off from the world. We didn't know what was
happening in other cities. As if in a locked cage, the Jews ran from one city
to another, most of them from the big cities, Warsaw and Lublin, just trying to
find someplace else to go. When it was bad in Lublin, one tried to escape to
Warsaw. Most of them were rich families who wanted to save their lives. You
could see them there, recognize them at the Demblin station. Because there
they'd be pulled off the trains, robbed, tortured and murdered.
After awhile the placards about Germany's victories on all fronts slowly began
to disappear. The newspapers began to write about difficult battles and Great
Russian losses. The Germans became more savage. They beat us at work and
screamed that the Jews started the War.
Again we became interested in the latest news. Once again our nerves which had
hit rock bottom began to waken a little bit. We hoped that if nothing happened
until winter and if it hit really hard, the Russian winter, with long
unrelenting frosts, with enormous snowfalls, that the Germans would get stuck.
And so our joy became great when it began to snow and the Germans still stood
at Moscow. We knew that the Germans weren't used to the Russian brand of frost
and cold and that they wouldn't come back completely victorious from that
Every bit of fur for clothing the Jews were required to give away, and for not
giving it up you could face death. Furious for not having succeeded with their
blitzkrieg, the murderers, with a great deal of sadism, threw themselves on the
Jewish population, and did everything that hard winter to torment us. They even
ordered the destruction of all of the stoves in the ghetto where it had still
been possible to bake a little something.
The winter was hard with long deep frost and cold and snowfalls. When it was
still possible to grab a little bit of wood from one place or another we
immediately chopped it up and burned it. First one piece of wooden furniture
and then other kinds. The coal, which the Christians had been able to steal
from the rail cars, they were too afraid to sell because they already caught a
Pole like that and forced him to confess who he had sold the coal to. He did
so, he said that he had sold it to Yichtzakal Daitsher's wife. They arrested
her, beat her with sticks over her naked body so that she found herself for
three days between life and death.
Hunger and cold made our hands reach out and made the work of the angel of
death quite easy. The tormented Jews were quiet without a groan, fallen asleep
forever. We began to run out of sheets for shrouds. How a Jew on the most
dangerous of journeys had been able to make it from Warsaw to Demblin was
something I couldn't understand. I asked a man like that, who was swollen, his
feet wrapped with rags, somebody who was paler than the wall, how he had taken
such a hazardous journey, going on foot, when every step exposed him not only
to Germans, but also to the Poles. He answered me with a weak voice"
"Is anything worse than dying of hunger?"
Two days later, when a deep cold had locked in for over a week, we took this
Jew away to the cemetery at Bobrownik.
- 12 -
In those difficult winter days, the Germans suddenly decided that all of the
craftsmen should stay at the construction site, the airfield. We didn't dare to
go into the town anymore. For over 6 weeks we were cut off from the town and
worried terribly about what was going on at home. It was very difficult to live
with. The Poles were constantly speaking of a deportation. We decide to sneak
out and find a way to go home and to see what was going on and then come back
We decided to do that one night when everybody was walking out of work. Outside
in the dark maybe we'd be able to avoid the watchman because of course we
didn't have any permission to do this. We made our way on side roads and half
the time right through the snow. We didn't say a word between us the whole way,
for fear. We kept our mouth shut until we had made our way into the ghetto.
We opened the door and went into the house. Our sister was crying terribly. She
hadn't seen us for so long. And a lot of bitterness had accumulated in her
heart during that time. There was no heat in the house, there was a thick,
frosty whiteness on the window pains. The ceiling was black with cold and
dampness. The house, half-lit, was full of sadness and didn't have any of its
normal, familiarity or coziness. My mother, who suffered from asthma was in
bed, dressed up in rags. Her pale face was blue and black from coughing and the
deep cold. When she saw us she didn't say a word, but with a great deal of
sorrow looked at us with half open eyes.
When she heard that we'd left the camp without permission she became even paler
and began to cough very hard. She asked us to go back immediately. She couldn't
rest. This great, great fear reigned in the town. There were rumors going
around that the devils were preparing deportation right in the middle of the
worst cold of the year. We were able to just leave few little pieces of bread
in the house.
When we went out I barely said more than, "be well" to them. I
couldn't say anything more, because the tears stuck in my throat. My mother
with her skinny hands wiped her tearful eyes until we left the house when she
didn't take her helpless eyes off of us until we left. It was the glance of a
sick, feeble mother in the most brutal and frightening of times.
In the military hospital at the fortress which was full of the wounded, they
brought German soldiers everyday with frostbitten hands and feet. The smile on
the face of the German military tailor had long since disappeared. Once again,
as he used to, he would sit there with us for half a day sewing uniforms, with
a serious face and not a word passed his lips. We were also sitting, lost in
our thoughts and very frightening ones. The cold which we'd hoped would be the
turning point continued and even intensified. At that point they told us that
we would not be put up at the camp anymore and we could sleep once again in
town. In the morning, while praying, I saw the Jews, worn out, in rags
shivering from the cold. I hardly recognized them. They'd changed so much in
such a short time. Their pale and thin faces. They looked like ghosts. With
such an utter annihilating cold that night, we had never seen anything like it
in our house. The thick layers of snow on the window panes, the frost which had
settled on the walls and ceilings, shimmered like silver. The water in the
bucket was frozen.
Though it had already become light outside for quite awhile, everything was
quiet, even the crows who used to come into the town and go at the big piles of
frozen garbage and pick stuff out from under the snow, had long ago stopped
trying to find anything to eat there, because except a little bit of dirty
water, there wasn't anything to throw out anymore. In the fields, by contrast
there was no shortage of corpses from those who had been murdered, upon which
the crows could feast. "No", I said to myself, "The Germans
aren't going to be able to stand up to this frost on the Russian front. I'm
sure it's going to break them." My mood at that moment was quite good.
As soon as it became light outside I dressed quickly and went outside. A real
heavy duty frost, the electric wires were covered with white snow, the red
rising sun was finally showing itself after this cold. Very cheerful, I rubbed
my ears which were feeling a little bit cold. "Aye, this is good! This is
exactly the kind of cold we're supposed to have today", I thought to
When I came to the highway that goes to the slaughter house I stopped in my
tracks, shivering. On the wooden bridge near old Optayk's orchard, I saw Meir
Bartek standing, with his hat in his hand. He was an old man and really worn
out. Near him stood the infamous gendarme, Edec, who was well known for his
savagery and murderous ways in the whole area. His mere appearance could make
people tremble. After he had ripped out Meir Bartek's tallit, pulled it out
from under his shirt, thrown it in his face, he turned around and ran into a
little shack nearby. After a little while he came out with a hatchet and a
bucket. "What's he going to do?" I thought.
Before I could even move from where I was, the brute ran down to the frozen
stream and began to chop some ice with the hatchet. Then he came back with a
full bucket of freezing water and poured it over the beaten down Jew who was
already trembling with cold and the water went right down through his open
collar onto his body. The Jew all bent over began to run and then very soon he
just fell over. When the murderer left we were able to carry the man into a
- 13 -
The deep cold and snow lasted a lot longer than usual. Everybody waited for the
first rays of the sun in the morning to warm their frozen bodies. Meanwhile the
Germans carried out more brutalities which froze the blood in your veins. They
caught the son-in-law of Yellow Moshe in his courtyard just as he was about to
leave his house and beat him savagely, broke his arms and his legs. The
screaming was so murderous that it seemed that the murderers were taking living
flesh out of their victim. As soon as the terrifying noise stopped a resounding
shot rang out through the night and the ghetto was once again silent.
Sad news reached us. In all of the places where the Russians had fallen, the
Jewish population had been deported. And of course add to that the savage
crimes that the Germans were well known for. The old and the sick were often
shot on the spot, the young and the healthy were robbed and beaten murderously.
Afterwards, under hail of bullets, they were driven in a stampede into locked
cattle cars with barred tiny windows, packed in so close together that even
standing up it wasn't possible to move the slightest, with nothing to eat and
nothing to drink, no air to breathe, whatever needs they had, they had to do
right where they were, in the locked wagon. Often they would be that way for
days on end, on a side track. And the murderers, as if they had absolutely no
hearts at all, would listen to the crying of the women and children who were
locked inside, and listen to them beg for water. With great sorrow and pain,
the Jewish mothers, before they'd die, would have to watch the suffering of
their tormented children. When everybody had in one way or another suffocated,
when all the crying had ended, when the silence of the grave had descended on
the car, when there wasn't a peep coming out of it anymore, at the time, a
locomotive would lock onto the car and take it further.
A letter that a Christian had brought to a Jew from Demblin, from a relative of
his in the Ukraine, sent shivers down our spines. He wrote to his uncle about
truly terrifying things, things that were really unbelievable. "It's the
end of the world, when people are capable of things like this. I wouldn't have
believed it myself had I not seen it with my own eyes. A whole city of men,
women and children were led into the forest, stripped naked and shot down in
enormous graves. What happened there, let God take note of and punish. The
screams and cries could have cracked heaven. Wounded, I was able to push my way
out of the grave. I hid for three days, naked, behind a gravestone, in a
cemetery. Save yourselves, as soon as you can. Think of God, don't believe
The closest little town, Kurow, Markuszow, and others, the Jews had already
been deported from those places and there weren't any more Jews there. The
conflagration was coming closer all the time. The last days of Demblin were at
hand. The brutes would roam around with fat batons in their hands and beat us.
Everybody would come back from work bloodied and wounded. Shmuel Nachmias was
carried back from work with his head nearly hacked off.
We had a little more trust in the Germans who would come regularly into our
actual workshop, and we wanted to see if we could find something out about the
people who had already been deported. But we got the same answer from
everybody, that they were sent to Austria to work. They said that they needed
the Jews from Demblin here. The last words that the Jews wrote in his letter,
that we should not believe the Germans, served as a warning for us. Our hearts
were always looking with great terror at the moment that was approaching.
- 14 -
It was a lovely spring day the 6th
of May 1942. We'd just begun to eat breakfast at work, a little bit of black
bread, when the door opened and one of our own who had to transport something
to the Germans at the construction site came and with great desperation said:
"We're lost. There's a deportation in the town."
"How do you know?" we asked him terrified.
"Trinishevska told me. She just came from the town."
Although the dark news wasn't unexpected, we nevertheless were plunged into
confusion. Through the window we saw Trinishevska, an old Christian woman at
whose hands we were always looking for some reason. Her little boy was also not
any great sage. As soon as she came in and we hadn't even had a chance to ask
her what was happening in the town, she burst out with a great cry and began to
tell about it:
"Oye, Panovya, what's going on there, you won't believe it! There's a lot
of rail cars gathered together. The whole town is full of Gestapo and police.
All the Jews are being driven into the market place. They're beating them,
they're killing them, they're shooting from all sides. I just managed to get
out of there alive myself. Oh God! Oh God!" she sobbed a few times.
"Terrible things are happening there. Oye, Panovya", she said
hurrying. "Forgive me, I must run back. I just came here to tell my son
that he should stay away from work today. I need to have him at home."
She left quickly. We didn't know what to do. We sent somebody into the offices
of the construction center to ask what we were to do. The supervisor, a young
German acted as if the whole thing was just completely incomprehensible to him,
not even happening, not even true. "Just yesterday", he said,
"we got an order from the S. S., from Lublin to make the living quarters
ready for a thousand Jews." In this situation, he said he would
immediately try to make contact by telephone with the commander's office. He
told us to come back in 20 minutes.
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