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Life in the shadow of death

by Rachel Weinstein

Until the outbreak of World War II, I lived with my family in Lomaz. When the German–Polish War started on September 1, 1939 and the Germans occupied Lomaz, atrocities were committed against the Jews. Jewish life became outlawed and we were in danger of death.

Every Jew in the town was looking for a way to save himself. We were looking for Christian acquaintances who would agree to hide us, naturally for a lot of money.

We found such a Christian who was digging a hideout in a stable. There I hid together with my husband and our children and two other Jews.

Helping and hiding Jews in those dark times of German occupation was a great danger for the Christians because the Germans had warned them that if Jews were found hiding at a Christian place, the Christian would pay for it with his life and his house would be burned.

We were sitting in a dark hole in the stable for several months and suffered hunger as there was not enough to eat. I was slim and

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weighed 30kg. Even though the Christian got from us a lot of money, he gave us little food.

When the German occupied our neighbourhood, people from our district capital, Biala–Podlaska, came to me and demanded dollars, gold, leather and inlets. They said that if we didn't give it to them, the Jews of Lomaz would die.

The murderers and robbers got from us everything they demanded but it didn't save the Lomazer Jews and they were all killed.

Only two of the six children in my family remained alive: David Polosetski was murdered and his grave was found near the chaussee of Biala–Podlaska.

Volt Rudski of Lomaz had helped my family a lot. He was a great Polish patriot who took to heart the collapse of the Polish state. That is why he appreciated every Polish soldier who had fought on the front to defend his homeland and felt a moral duty toward him, irrespective of whether he was a Pole or a Jew. He said he fulfilled his patriotic obligation to help my husband Yitzhak who returned to Lomaz from the front with a rifle on his shoulder and did not throw it away like many Polish soldiers had done in moments of fear and panic.

Nobody else was ready to help and hide Jews. On the contrary, in those times of wickedness, when SS–men and Polish police lurked and searched for hideouts of Jews, many Poles helped them in the murder of Jews, women and children.

Some Christians admitted Jews to their homes, pretending that they would hide them against a good pay, but after keeping them in hideout for some time and when the Jew had no money left, they would kill him so that no living witness would be left. Other Poles would bring the SS–men to the place where the Jews were hiding and the Germans then killed them. The Poles would even get a gift from the Germans for delivering a Jew.

On my long way of suffering and pain, I met various kinds of Poles. Some collaborated with the Germans and helped them find out hidden Jews. There were also others, better Poles that gave Jews a piece of bread, potatoes, water to drink or allowed Jews to sleep a

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a night or two in a stable and thus gave unhappy Jews a possibility to survive the terrible Nazi era and celebrate their liberation.

There were also Poles who perhaps didn't help Jews in their escape from death but warned them to avoid dangerous places and ways where the persecutors were lurking for the hunted Jews.

 

Lomas and the tragical years of ruin 1939–1942

September 1st, 1939, Friday morning, the news that Germany had declared war against Poland and that the German air force had bombed Polish cities shocked the inhabitants of Lomaz.

In the first days of the war, the Jews of Lomaz were wary of the uncertain future. The Germans started soon to use terroristic methods against the Jews in the occupied cities of Poland.

The anti–Jewish legislation which contained many draconic laws legalized various measures that deprived the Jews of their rights. One evil decree followed another.

The following are some of the decrees proclaimed in the District of Biala–Podlaska:

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overnight, give them food or help them in travels. Every Jew found on the Aryan side, on roads on in trains without a proper permit, would be severely punished.

All these measure deprived the Jews of their source of income and even prevented them from earning a minimal amount of money for living. At that time, a large number of Jewish refugees from other cities stayed in Lomaz as well, as many destitute Jews of Lomaz, poor and sick people.

The “Jewish Relief Committee” was formed in those days in Poland. The Relief Committee was established in Lomaz on 17th December, 1939.

 

The activities of the Relief Committee in Lomaz

The “Relief Committee” of Lomaz was led by social activists from the pre–war period. The Presidium of the Central “Relief Committee” was in Cracow.

The Lomaz “Relief Committee” organized its activities in agreement with the “Relief Committee” in Biala–Podlaska. The membership of the “Relief Committee” of Lomaz was confirmed by the Presidium in Cracow.

Its members were: Israel Eliezer Steinkritzer, Chairman. David Polosetski, Vice Chairman. Moshe Szklarz. Ben–Zion Handelman. Shlomo Strycharz.

 

Authorization

The Jewish “Relief Committee” in Lomaz authorizes herewith Mr. Moshe Szklarz, secretary of the Committee and of the community administration in Lomaz, to confer with the “Joint” representatives in Warsaw.

The hard, destitute situation of refugees who are in Lomaz, as well as the local Jewish residents who need support and in view of the catastrophical conditions in which the local “Relief Committee” operates because of the cessation of support from the “Joint” forces

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the Committee to terminate its activities on the 14th of this month, with a deficit of 3,246.20 Zloty.

Mr. Moshe Szklarz is also authorized to receive from the “Joint” further support for the local “Relief Committee” destined to continue the aid for the destitute local inhabitants who suffer from the war.

We enclose a general report of activities of the Committee from 17–12–39 to 20–2–40.

Lomaz–Podlask. 23rd February, 1940.

Chairman: Israel Eliezer Steinkritzer Treasurer: Shlomo Sztrycharz
Storekeeper: Ben–Zion Handelman

To the “Joint Committee” in Warsaw:

We confirm that we have received from you the amount of 1000 Zloty on 29–5–1940 on the account of the subsidy granted to the “Relief Committee” of Lomaz for the month of May, 1940 in the amount of 4000 Zloty.

The Lomaz Committee informs you that even though the amount received is minimal, the Committee, upon the request of the “Joint” in agreement and with the approval of the honourable inspector of our district, Mr. Kartszem, we have established the kitchen that operates and was received by the refugees with great satisfaction.

In this connection, though it was decided to grant us the amount of 4000 Zloty as a subsidy for May, 1940, we have received so–far no more than 1000 Zloty.

Our Committee does not want to interrupt the aid for the destitute people and is forced to take, like before, loans because in spite of our great efforts, we have raised no more than 400 Zloty from local sources.

To cover our minimal expenses, we need 5000 Zloty each month. This was also confirmed by the honourable inspector. That is why our Committee is in a very critical situation.

We appeal to the honourable inspector with the request to give us an answer as to whether we can continue our activity or if we have to stop it, which means a heavy blow to some 500 destitute people.

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We hope the honourable inspector will advise us how we should act. We thank you in advance in anticipation of your reply.

Lomaz, 4–6–1940

Chairman: Israel Eliezer Steinkritzer
Treasurer: David Polosetsky
Storekeeper: Ben–Zion Handelman

Announcement. 25–7–1940

The Jewish “Relief Committee”: David Potosetsky and Moshe Szklarz.

The kitchen was established only by the end of June. 400 persons (350 of them refugees) benefited from it. We have taken a minimal pay of 10 Groschen for a lunch because the population is poor and they have no source of income.

According to the information received by us, we have sent food to the men in 3 forced labour camps, 7–8 kilometres from Lomaz. Also, the families of those working in the labour camps are exclusively supported by the “Relief Committee”.

The last subsidy of 1000 Zloty was paid to us in May. The report of July is enclosed.

By the end of 1940, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” has got some support that was defined as gifts from America. The aid was granted through the mediation of the “Relief Committee «in Biala–Podlaska. Lomaz received the following foodstuffs:

Corn flour 47kg
Wheat flour 24kg
US dark flour 30kg
Milk powder 18kg
Millet 20kg
Fat 35kg

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The above products were distributed among 487 persons on 10–9–1940.

The above food is not enough so that people should not suffer hunger. The population did not get the elementary quantity of products to nourish the body. A process of physical infirmity and exhaustion started, especially among the children and youth.

The German authorities and their collaborators have not allowed that Jewish institutions to distribute the necessary aid. The Jewish “Relief Committee” of Lomaz showed a great activity and effort to get more food for the hungry.

On 25–11–1940 the “Relief Committee” in Lomaz got, through the mediation of the “Relief Committee” in Biala–Podlask, 252 kilogrammes of wheat flour that was distributed among 645 destitute people. Each person got barely 400 grams.

On 18–7–1941, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” wrote to the Presidium in Cracow that is was absolutely necessary to supply the contingent articles because the people's kitchen would shortly resume its work for the needy.

On 22–7–1941, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” appealed to the district farming commission in Biala–Podlask with the request to allocate potatoes for the kitchen as well as millet and flour for 674 Jews who were employed in the area of Lomaz. The appeal was received by the nominated prefect of Lomaz, Br. Zdanovich.

The appeal of 4–8–1941 by the Lomaz “Relief Committee” to the nominated Prefect asked to allocate for the kitchen the premises of the former proprietor Piekarz near the market street, considering that the premises were vacant and that they contained the boiler of the former kitchen inside its walls. The letter emphasized the verbal consent of the Prefect.

On 22–8–1941, a letter was sent by the Presidium in Cracow to the “Relief Committee” in Lomas which confirmed the change in the Lomaz Committee. David Polosetsky as chairman, Ben–Zion Handelman as member and Moshe Szklarz as member.

The letter does not explain the reason for the change of the

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personalities. From that date on and until 4–5–1942 were all letters signed by David Polosetsky.

On 11–9–1941, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” writes to the Presidium in Cracow that after long efforts, the kitchen started its operations. The kitchen issued 150 meals a day. The “Relief Committee” in Lomaz asked to increase the help because the population in Lomaz had no money and could not bear the costs for the poor and the refugees are some 700 individuals. The local Judenrat can help with insignificant subsidies. The letter points out that Lomaz gets help from the Judenrat in conformity with the money available.

This is the first case when the Judenrat in Lomaz is mentioned in a document.

On 22–11–1941, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” sent a letter in German to the District Farming Commissioner in Biala–Podlask asking to allocate to the People's Kitchen in Lomaz potatoes and millet that would make it possible to nourish 700 poor people and refugees. On 3–12–1941 the District Farming Commissioner approved 3000kg of potatoes for the kitchen in Lomaz.

 

Letter written by the Judenrat to the “Joint” Relief Committee in Cracow

To the American Joint Committee. Cracow, Josefinska 18.

Your request to forward the report of the Lomaz “Relief Committee” for the year 1940 was received by us and we are sending the following information.

The “Relief Committee” for poor Jews in Lomaz has been organized as a special body and is independent of the Judenrat. The chairman of the Lomaz “Relief Committee” is Mr. Steinkritzer, Israel–Eliezer and the secretary is Szklarz Moshe. The Committee of the “Relief Committee” does not inform us about its activity, therefore we cannot send you the report.

If the “Relief Committee” will, according to your regulations, entrust

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us with the management of the economic affairs of the Committee, or involve the Judenrat in the active cooperation and managing the economy of the “Relief Committee”, we shall send you the necessary reports in the future.

With the seal of the Judenrat of Lomaz. Signed:

Chairman: Josef Szklarz. Lomaz, 9–5–1941.

 

Care for the Children and youth in Lomaz

On 24–12–1941, a plenary session of the Lomaz “Relief Committee” took place with the participation of Moshe Szklarz, Beion–Zion Handelman and the invited women activists: H. Friedman, D. Srebnik, H.G. Eiblum, D. Polosetsky and H. Fakula. The representatives of the “Relief Committee” reported on the activity of the Committee and emphasized the need for organizing help and care for the children and youth in Lomaz.

The representative of the chairman of the “Relief Committee”, Mr. Szklarz, told of the contents of the letter sent on 29–8–1941 to the Presidium in Cracow with regard the establishment of an educational hall and necessary food provisions for the children and youth if the necessary funds were made available.

The total number of children up to the age of 14 was 314. Until now, the families had received various additional food items for the children.

Moshe Szklarz asked the women activists who were present to sponsor the project that the “Relief Committee” had declared to carry out. He appealed to the women to cooperate with the “Relief Committee”.

As a result of long exchanges of opinions by all who were present at the meeting, the importance and the aims of the operation were emphasized.

The women activists declared that they were prepared to sponsor the project and cooperate with the “Relief Committee”.

It was decided to form at the start, two groups of 70 children between the ages of 5–8 that would meet each day for 4 hours in the

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appropriate hall. The children would get medical care, education and eat breakfast.

The assembled personalities worked out a monthly programme and a monthly budget for this purpose. The following monthly expenses were taken into account:

Maintenance of the premises: 25 Zloty
Heating the premises: 150 Zloty
Soap for the children 50 Zloty
Baths 4x per month 100 Zloty
Stationery for the children 75 Zloty
Unforeseen expenses 50 Zloty
Breakfast 500 Zloty
Total: 950 Zloty

It was expected that the income from the children would be 150 Zloty per month.

It was decided to send the protocol of the meeting to Cracow with the request to approve the project and advise how to cover the expenses. Until the answer arrived from the Presidium in Cracow, it was decided to start immediately with various preparatory activities.

The protocol was signed by the participants at the meeting.

For the original: David Polosetsky.

The answer from the Presidium in Cracow.

In the letter dated 13–1–1942, The Presidium writes from Cracow that they are satisfied with the initiative in Lomaz to create a sponsorship for the children and youth. But they emphasized that they had no funds to help the new institutions. The Presidium could only support those institutions that were created by local means. If the institution had already existed, the Presidium would also help. But it was desirable to approach the local authorities, through the mediation of the “Relief Committee” of Biala–Podlaska, with regard to the allocation of food products for this purpose.

On 10–3–1942, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” wrote that the project regarding help for the children and youth had been stopped

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because an epidemic had broken out in the city. The schools had to be closed as well as the synagogues and various public places.

The project would again be on the agenda for implementation as soon as the authorities would open the institutions.

On 21st January, 1942, the “Relief Committee” of Lomaz had sent a letter in German to the agricultural office of the Biala District asking for a supply of potatoes for 700 poor people in Lomaz.

On 12–3–1942, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” wrote to the Presidium in Cracow that the nominated Prefect had allocated for the Jewish “Relief Committee” in Lomaz, 6000kg of potatoes.

On 26–3–1942, the District Farming Commissioner of Biala–Podlaska wrote that 5000kg potatoes had been allocated.

From the correspondence, it is clear that thanks to the activity of the “Relief Committee” in Lomaz, the kitchen operated at times in spite of all difficulties to provide the kitchen with products.

 

Medical Aid

In its letter of 16–6–1942, the Jewish “Relief Committee” of Lomaz expressed its deep gratitude for the medicines supplied in those hard times.

The letter emphasized that “the medicines allocated are for us a sunray in the darkness because there is no Jewish doctor in our area and so the medicines are the only medical aid”.

 

Financial Aid

An important chapter in the activity of the Lomaz “Relief Committee” was the organization of financial help for the Jewish population in Lomaz.

The letters and documents of those days confirm that in the time between 7–4–1941 and 20–3–1942, the Presidium in Cracow sent 6500 Zloty to Lomaz with the instruction that the money be destined to buy food for the kitchen. In localities where no people's kitchen existed, the purchased products would be distributed between the poor people.

At the same time, the Presidium in Cracow asked that in the receipts, 50% of the amounts received should be credited to “Zytos”

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(Zydowske Towaqrzystwo Opieki Spolecsznej) and 50% to be written to the credit of the “Joint'.

On 4–5–1942, Moshe Szklarz writes to the Presidium in Cracow that since 7–4–1942, David Polosetsky is not alive any more. The letter informs about the changes made in the “Relief Committee” in full agreement with the “Relief Committee” in Biala–Podlaska.

The letters asks the Presidium to send to Moshe Szklarz, who so far was Vice–Chairman, all correspondence and money.

It follows that the “Relief Committee” was probably active until the tragic end.

On 9–4–1942, the Presidium write to the Lomaz “Relief Committee” who is looking for a Jewish doctor, asking if it is possible to create for him in Lomaz the necessary conditions for medical practice. No answer to this letter can be found among the documents of that time.

On 10–5–1942, the Lomaz “Relief Committee” appealed to the nominated Prefect, Br. Zdanovich, with the request to allocate a garden for the Jewish population of Lomaz with the aim of cultivating it by themselves and planting vegetables for the Jewish peoples' kitchen.

The prefect is asked in this letter to put at their disposal the garden situated near the house of A. Mandel near Malobrzeska Street, 22.

The last letter is dated 8–7–1942 sent by the Lomaz “Relief Committee” to the Presidium in Cracow.

The Presidium in Cracow sent an answer on 8–7–1942 to Lomaz. The envelope shows that the letter arrived in Lomaz on 10–11–1942 and is returned.

Thus ended the activity of the Jewish “Relief Committee” in Lomaz during the years of ruin – 1939/1942. In this period the Lomaz “Relief Committee” made efforts to improve with modest means the hard conditions of the poor and destitute Jews of Lomaz.


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The Trial of the Nazis who tortured
and murdered the Jews in Lomaz
*

The brain of the big Nazi crimes was the battalion of Nord–Seite, Lublin District. The operation of extermination of the Jews in Lomaz was carried out by the Second Company whose staff headquarters were in Biala–Podlaska under the command of the well–known murderer of Jews, Oberlieutenant Gnade.

The second force was under the command of the accused Lieutenant Kurt Dreier of the Schutzpolizei Reserve, with the active participation of some of the officers of the Second Company.

The third force was led by the accused Henryk Backer who was stationed with his unit in the place of the general school in Lomaz.

The principal leaders of the extermination operation in Lomaz were:

  1. The S.D. Dienststelle in Biala–Podlaska.
  2. Obersturmführer of the S.S. who, together with Oberlieutenant Gnade conducted the liquidation of the Jews in Lomaz.
To strengthen the Schutzpolizei, a unit named “HIVIS” was mobilized as an auxiliary force of some 40–50 Lithuanians, Latvian and Ukrainian Nazis.

The area where the mass murders took place was the yard in the “HALI” forest near the death holes. The “Hivis” received their military training in the death camp of Trawniki. Because of their cruelty, they were called “Trawnikis”. The platoon of hivis used German uniforms with black collars.

At the beginning of the operation, Oberlieutenant Gnade informed the company of the aims and the functions of the force that would carry out the assignment. Gnade declared that the aim and the task were to liquidate the Jews of Lomaz.

The operation was scheduled for 18–8–1942. That day, the Jews of Lomaz were forced to gather at the place of the massacre. All our dearest relatives, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers,

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brothers and sisters, children of various ages, young mothers with their babies in their arms – all of them were candidates for the death sentence.

Oberlieutenant Gnade and the SD–officer assigned the tasks and gave the orders. The Second Company got the assignment to close the Jewish areas and carry out “cleaning operation” of the Jewish area: old, sick people and small children to be shot on the spot.

The executions in the houses were carried out with the strictest punctuality. The Schutzpolizei had to search the Jewish houses. Each group consisted of 2–3 policemen that from one house to another and searched all houses in the Jewish area. Wherever they found a living individual, they shot him on the spot.

The witness Alter declared, in his testimony that their task was to search the attics and cellars for Jews that were hiding there. He saw with his own eyes 15 Jews that had been shot in some houses.

After two hours of thorough search, the Jews were driven out of their houses and assembled on the place of the general (Powszechna) school.

Men and women were separated. The unfortunate Jews stayed long hours under the burning sun.

50 victims were picked up out of the masses of Jews and were led to the place of killing under strong escort. There they had to dig graves in the forest not far from Lomaz.

After the “cleaning” of the houses was over, the Second Company took over the guard at the school ground where the Jews had been assembled. Later, they led all the Jews away to the assembly point on the outskirts of the forest.

Groups of 50–100 Jews were led away to the forest under strong escort by the Schutzpolizei.

The way to the forest was guarded and closed. The whole place of the massacre was surrounded by guardsmen.

After the majority of Jews were taken away to the holes to be shot, a large group of some 200 Jews remained on the school ground. The Schutzpolizei fenced then in brutally with ropes and drove them to the forest.

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The Jews within the rope–fence were unable to walk as fast as the Schutzpolizei wanted them to go. The accused Henryk Becker saw that the Jews could not march any faster so he gave orders to take off the rope–fence and the Jews were then driven to the forest under a hail of blows, gun–butts and rubber sticks. The weak and sick who could not run, were shot on the spot.

The new assembly point for the Jews who had been concentrated between the trees was at a distance of 40–50 metres from the graves of the massacre.

 

The execution

The blood–thirsty murderers ordered the Jews to lie down with their faces turned to the earth – men and women separately. The gunmen who had to carry out the death order were masked and stood in the shadow of dense trees.

At the same time, a Jewish work commando of 80–85 men was brought to the place. They were employed at that time in the “Szeneika” camp to clean the dirt. The group was brought to the assembly place of Henryk Becker's company.

After all those that were doomed to die had already been driven together to the assembly place, they were ordered to undress down to their underwear. Before the execution, they had to go through a control. In the minutes between life and death, they searched the Jews for valuables: money and golden objects had to be put into a box.

The control was carried out by the Schutzpolizei under the command of Gruppenfuehrer Bergman. The robbers did not renounce the smallest things that were found in the pockets of the victims.

After all preparations were completed, the Lithuanian “HIVIS” took up their positions near the graves and the cruel massacre of the Jews of Lomaz began.

The murderers did their job with sadistic pleasure. Like wild beasts they attacked the Jews who were exhausted from hunger and thirst.

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Each 10 victims were driven to the slaughter holes, beaten on all sides with clubs and whips on their naked bodies. The executioners were cursing them with the worst words.

The company commander Gnade and the SD–Officer, who were in an especially high mood under the influence of alcohol, were the first to start killing.

Standing near the dig–out, Gnade ordered Jews with beards to lie with their face turned to the earth and to crawl on their belly to the hole. He was beating each Jew who was unable to craw with his club and whip on the naked bodies. Gnade ordered the “HIVIS” and the Schutzpolizei to do the same.

The victims were forced to lie down in the death hole and the executioners shot at them from above with their machine guns. This was the procedure for each group of victims – dead and wounded one layer above the other. The company of executioners were standing on both sides of the earth walls dug from the grave and shot the fresh victims that crawled to the death hole.

At the same time, the death hole was filled with water which came out of the ground half a meter high. The water was red with the blood of the shot victims. The wounded in the hole drowned in their own blood.

The Lithuanians of “HIVIS” had drunk alcohol before they started their murderous job. They were shooting with bestial zeal, without any order, so that the Schutzpolizei standing nearby, were afraid that they would get hit by the bullets of the “HIVIS”.

When the murderers of “HIVIS” were tired of their bloody job, the Schutzpolizei was sent to continue and end the massacre of the Jews of Lomaz.

The Jewish Arbeitskommando was ordered to cover the graves and when they had finished, they themselves were shot and covered with earth.

This was the end of the martyrology of the martyrs of Lomaz who died for Kiddush Hashem in the forest of Lomaz. So ended also the glorious chapter of the Jewish community of Lomaz.

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World War II was over and with the big wave of repatriation of Polish Jews from the Soviet Union to Poland, there also arrived some Jews from Lomaz in the years 1946–1949. They visited Lomaz and found out that all Jews who were in Lomaz in the horrible days of 18th and 19th August, 1942 were murdered in a barbarian and sadistic manner. The murdered victims were thrown into two big graves in a forest called “Hali” behind the city.

The number of Jews that were killed was about 2,300 including 1800 women and children. The mass graves were overgrown with wild grass, nobody had fenced in the graves and horses and beasts were treading on them. Thus was the honour of the desecrated death. No inscription on the mass graves reminded that Jews from Lomaz were buried there after the massacre by the German murderers.

We could not get reconciled with the thought that our martyrs of Lomaz lay anonymously in these mass graves.

We, the living, had the sacred duty to carry out the exhumation, open the graves and transfer the martyrs to the Jewish cemetery in Lomaz for eternal rest.

A group of Jews who met in Wroclaw decided to carry out the exhumation and to arrange a funeral according to the tradition of the Jews and the Halacha.

The initiative group included: Jacob Berman, Moshe–Nahum Berman, Efraim Appelboim, Simcha Appelboim and Hayim Schwarzleder.

Carrying out the exhumation was very difficult and complicated. First, it was necessary to apply to the central Polish authorities in Warsaw to get permission to open the graves and do the exhumation. It was also necessary to approach the Central Committee of Polish Jews in Warsaw that it should grant the adequate material help for this purpose.

The committee of the Jews from Lomaz in Wroclaw decided to send Simcha Appelboim to Warsaw to arrange for the necessary formalities in the name of the Wroclaw committee.

My absence from my working place caused some difficulties. But

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I found full understanding for my motives among the friends of my working team and especially the chairman of the cooperative Jehuda Platz who understood my sacred mission and grated me their full support.

I met the leaders of the Central Committee of Polish Jews in Warsaw and reported to them on the decision of the Lomaz Committee to carry out the exhumation of the martyrs of Lomaz. At first, their answer was negative and they rejected the idea categorically and asked us to abstain from the exhumation. Their argument was that there were very important reasons and might arouse heavy repercussions among the local Polish population.

. There are many dangers of anti–Semitic feelings among part of the Poles that found an expression in the murders of Jews in various places in Poland and the peak was the pogrom in Kielce.

. In the neighbourhood of Lomaz too there were cases of murdered Jews. There are even anti–Semitic elements in the police who support the murderers of Jews.

. The local authorities would not allow opening the graves because it might cause an epidemic among the local population of Lomaz who would surely protest against the exhumation.

But I did not give up. I demanded that the victims of the German Nazi in Lomaz had to find their eternal rest in the Jewish cemetery of Lomaz – this is the debt that the survivors of Lomaz owed to the sacred memory of the martyrs of Lomaz.

We demanded categorically that barrels of chlor should be put around the graves and that the Polish police had to protect the safety of the Jews at the time of the exhumation. The police should be armed with machine guns which could restrain obscure elements who might dare stage anti–Semitic agitation against the Jews and use acts of terror.

I declared categorically that the Jews of Lomaz would not renounce under any circumstances the exhumation.

The Central Committee took note of our motives and decided

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finally to give us every possible support when the exhumation would be carried out.

The Jews from Lomaz in America made an important contribution and provided material help in connection with the exhumation. The same can be said of the Jews from Lomaz in Argentina who gave their moral and material support.

I came to Lomaz with a better feeling and satisfaction that at last we would redeem the honour of our martyrs. Now we had to begin the practical work.

When I came to the graves in the forest, they were already open. The chaverim Jacob Berman, Moshe–Nahum Berman, Efraim Appelboim and Hayim Schwarzleder had carried out the hard and responsible physical work.

The exhumation took place with the help of some Christian workers too. The drivers transferred the martyrs in carriages to the Jewish cemetery in Lomaz. And we, the repatriated Jews, a handful of survivors of the glorious community of Lomaz – accompanied our martyrs to their eternal place of rest in the Jewish cemetery of Lomaz.

There were also victims from Lodz, Rossosz, Serock, Wiszniowa–Gora, Suwalki, Domaczewo, Slawatycze, Podworze, Warsaw, Otwock and Jews from neighbouring camps in the two graves.

With the help of Christians from Lomaz, we also found a brother–grave of 30 Jews who were murdered in Szeneika and some other joint graves. All these victims were also transferred to the two mass graves in the Jewish cemetery in Lomaz.

The burial ceremony of these martyrs of Lomaz took place on 18th August, 1949. The cantor, wrapped in a Talith, carried out the memorial prayers according to the Jewish religion and law.

With a heavy heart, we heard the tune that made the air tremble – a tune that had not been heard in a long time. The Jews who were present said the Kaddish prayer and commemorated the dearest victims.

Though it was raining all day, many local inhabitants came, including school children with their teachers. Wreaths were laid on the mass graves with flowers and appropriate inscriptions.

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Speakers at the mass graves at the cemetery were representatives of the local Polish authorities and of social organizations, the special delegate of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and the representative of the Lomaz Committee in Wroclaw.

The local authorities pledged to protect the whole area of the Jewish cemetery in Lomaz. Now remained the urgent task of erecting a tombstone on the mass grave and to fence the entire cemetery area with a concrete wall.

* The trial took place in Hamburg 1967/1968. The material is based on the protocol of the Landgericht (the German court) – translated from German return


The campaign for erecting the fence
and the Memorial Monument on the cemetery in Lomaz

Many years have passed since the end of World War II and the survivors of Lomaz could not be satisfied with the conditions at the cemetery in Lomaz that had been neglected. The tombs were disgraced and dispersed, the tombstones had been dismantled from the graves and the whole area of the cemetery was overgrown with wild grass and unfenced.

Neither could we accept the idea that no memorial was erected on the grave–site of our martyrs – the victims of Nazism. However, it was necessary for more favourable conditions to emerge in order to carry out such a great and important task. In 1984, the Federation of Polish Jews announced that an agreement was reached with the Polish Government on the restoration and preservation of Jewish cemeteries and other Jewish historical sites in Poland.

This agreement has also created a favourable atmosphere for resolving the problems of the cemetery in Lomaz. In this context, the Lomazer Landsmanshaftn in Israel has sent the following letter to the municipality of Lomaz (District of Biala–Podlaska).

Tel–Aviv, 21–01–1986.

To the Municipality of Lomaz, District of Biala–Podlaska. Copy: Ministry of Religion, Warsaw and World Federation of Polish Jews, Tel–Aviv.

Dear Sirs,

We, former year–long inhabitants of Lomaz, who are now citizens

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of Israel, America and other countries, approach you with the urgent demand and request to fence the whole area of the Jewish cemetery in Lomaz.

On that holy site were brought to eternal rest our dear parents, brothers, sisters and children who were murdered brutally by the Hitleristes.

All Jews who have been found in Lomaz on 18th and 19th, August, 1942, were driven out from the houses and chased under strict control into a forest behind the city where they were brutally murdered and their bodies thrown into the graves that were dug in advance.

In those tragic days, over 2000 Jews from Lomaz and other places were murdered. A group of surviving Jews from Lomaz have carried out, in 1949 with the help of the local Polish authorities, the exhumation. The graves were opened and more than 2000 victims were transferred to the Jewish cemetery in Lomaz. Our ancestors – working people

 

lome064.jpg
The Jewish cemetery in Lomaz

 

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and intellectuals – who had lived in Lomaz since generations, were laid to eternal rest in that cemetery.

The German criminals have also disgraced and robbed the tombstones from the graves but the ashes and bones remained in the graves and these must be protected. We know they are dispersed on the vast area of the cemetery in Lomaz.

This was the burial place until the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939. To this cemetery were also added the graves during the period of occupation and the two big mass graves from the exhumation in 1949.

A group of Jews from Lomaz who live in America visited the Jewish cemetery of Lomaz in 1983. After this visit, we prepared the necessary funds to erect a memorial monument.

We asked the municipality of Lomaz to present us the proposal of an agreement, costs and technical problems connected with the execution of this project that would contain the following details:

  1. Fencing the entire area of the Jewish cemetery as it existed in 1939, as described in the land registry records.
  2. Determine the length and width of the area; the price per cubic metre and the total price of the work to be executed.
  3. The fence had to be made of concrete and metal. It should be 1.20metre high plus an additional depth in the earth and with the necessary thickness to secure the solidity of the fence.
  4. Erecting the iron door at the side turning towards the city as it was until 1939.
  5. State the time needed for the execution of the technical work and the dates for remitting the money.
  6. Search for tombstones and transferring them to the cemetery in Lomaz and keeping the area in good condition.
Respectfully yours,
In the name of the Lomazer Landsmanshaftn in Israel, signatures:

Mandel Meir Appelboim Simcha
Mandel Sara Appelboim Efraim
Spokojni Abraham Berman Moshe Nachum
Spokojni Shifra Polosetzki Arye

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A short while after our letter was sent; we received an answer that the Ministry of Religion had decided to deliver the execution of the project to the Federation of Jewish Communities in Poland.

From that time on, a repeated exchange of correspondence had started as a result of various difficulties in the realization of the project. But, we refused to give up and stuck to our deep belief that we would finally overcome all hardships. We were determined to do everything possible and were convinced of the importance of our mission which was sacred to us and to realize the project.

Upon our request, the Association of Religious Communities in Poland appointed a representative who measured the length and width of the cemetery in Lomaz as it existed until World War II, i.e. until 1939.

In a letter dated 10th July, 1987 the Association of Religious Communities in Poland wrote to our Landsmanshaftn to send a delegate to Poland to discuss and decide the work programme as well as the terms and dates of payment.

The Association of Jews from Lomaz had sent our member, Efraim Appelboim, to Poland. He would deal with the project on the spot. Efraim Appelboim was in Poland from 13th to 18th August, 1987. He got a letter of support from the Jewish deputy of the Polish Sejm, Shurmey, written to the district commission in Biala–Podlask. He also met the commissioner in his office and presented to him the plan for the project.

The district authorities of Biala showed a positive attitude toward our project and promised their help. E. Appelboim went to Lomaz together with the representative of the district and visited the bridge of Shenejka on which the German had laid most of the tombstones from the Lomaz cemetery and had covered them with a heavy layer of cement.

An understanding was also reached in Warsaw with the Association of Religious Communities to start immediately with the work in the spirit of our letter of 18–1–1980. Both parties agreed that the payments would be made according to the advance of the work. The last amounts would be paid when the representative of the Lomazer Landsmanshaftn

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From Israel and America would inaugurate the fence and the monument. An advance payment was made.

In February 1987, Mendel Berman and Dora Schwarzieder of the American Landsmanshaftn had sent a letter to the director of the Polish Ministry of Religion and asked his help for the realization of the erection of the fence and the memorial monument.

 

Speech by Mendel Berman, President of the Lomazer Landsmanshaftn in America during the solemn inauguration of the Monument in the Cemetery of Lomaz, 5–5–1989

Dear audience,

I, Mendel Berman, was born in Lomaz. My father died as a young man and left 10 children. A heavy burden fell on my mother who had to raise and educate the children, including myself.

It was urgently necessary to learn a profession and I started learning the tailor business when I was only 8–9 years old. My mother had a hard time getting food for the family from the village.

In 1929, I was called up to serve in the Polish army in the 30th field artillery regiment in Wlodawa.

At that time, the Jews, who were majority in Lomaz, lived in difficult conditions. The Jews in Lomaz were working as tailors, shoemakers, saddlers and in other jobs. These craftsmen worked for the population of Lomaz and the neighbourhoods. A small portion of Jews were small traders and all of them had to fight hard for their existence.

I saw no future for me in Lomaz and in 1934 I immigrated to America. All the time, I longed for Lomaz and dreamed to visit my birthplace where my cradle stood. I spent my youth there and my memories did not allow me to forget.

Since then, I visited Lomaz three times: The first time was together

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With my wife who was also born in Lomaz and with my two sons who are already born in America.

The cemetery in Lomaz was fenced at that time with wire. When I made my second visit, the wire fence didn't exist anymore.

 

lome068.jpg
A group of former Lomaz citizens at the statue in the cemetery of Lomaz – 1989
Standing from right to left: Abraham Mandel, Fruma Berman, Gershon Mandel, Mendel Berman, Sarah Mandel and Shalom Zukerman

 

The Jews in Lomaz have been loyal citizens and have developed a spiritual, religious and cultural life. Various religious and social institutions existed in Lomaz and the Jews of Lomaz contributed to the development of the town in the course of its long history.

On the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, I came to Poland as a member of the American Federation of Jews of Poland and I visited the cemetery in Lomaz. And now, in 1989, I came to the inauguration of the monument and the building of the wall around the sacred place.

A good relationship of coexistence prevailed between Jews and

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Christians, even if some deplorable incidents occurred from time to time, but such mishaps used to pass quickly.

The great tragedy started immediately after the outbreak of World War II, on September 1st, 1939 and we know how it ended for the Jews. Our generation witnessed the tragic annihilation of the Jews in Poland.

Today, Christian youth come here to demonstrate their respect for the dead Jews of Lomaz, murdered in a bestial way by the blood–thirsty Nazi beasts.

Among the murdered Jews were also young boys and girls of their age who wanted, as you do, to grow up, to become productive people, to get an education and like you, children, they had plans for the future. The Jewish children were also dreaming of their future, but a murderous hand cut off their young life.

I appeal to you, Christian children, not to forget the Jewish children who died, the Jewish parents, grandfathers and grandmothers, and to protect the Jewish cemetery – the place of their eternal rest.

I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the Polish authorities in Lomaz, Biala–Podlaska and Warsaw and all who had a share in the building of the wall around the cemetery in Lomaz and the monument in memory of the dead Jews of Lomaz. This deed will always remain in our memory and we shall never forget it.

Honour the memory of the Jews of Lomaz who died!


The Children of Lomaz remember

by Mishka Hauser (daughter of Joseph and Dvora Zuckermann)

I have no literary or other pretentions, but I wish to write a few words in memory of Lomaz, the town where I was born and where I grew up until the age of 14; the cradle of my childhood that doesn't exist anymore.

Lomaz was a typical Jewish town at a time when Poland was blessed with many like it. A poor population, most of them craftsmen and small traders who made a decent living with a great deal of toil.

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Wandering beggars say that the inhabitants of Lomaz had an especially kind heart and showed mercy to the underprivileged.

Also, between them, there was mutual aid at times of distress that was a sacred duty. Always, somebody could be found to support a sick person, an orphan, a widow or some hungry family.

Who doesn't remember a prominent figure such as Esther Goldstein who used to go for many years, each Friday, from one house to another to collect Halles, Pletzel, cookies, a few pieces of sugar and other items for those who might stay without food over the Shabbat? Who doesn't recall the local “bank”?

“Bikur Holim” was a fund for charity, distinguished by secret donations for those who needed help. Who doesn't remember the joyful family events like weddings, Brith Milah and Bar Mitzvah parties in Lomaz in which many inhabitants of the town participated? And what I mean is not only participation in the party but in the extensive preparations.

Who doesn't remember the crowds who accompanied every person who left the town or the receptions for those who returned to it from distance? And, lehavdil, who didn't pay the last honour to those members of the community who passed away and who didn't come to comfort the mourners?

All these were long ago and, unfortunately, were erased from the earth forever?

My parents, my brother and I were lucky to leave Poland before the war but the rest of our dear family died during the Holocaust and not a single survivor was left. Blessed be their memory.

 

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