In memory of my Mother and Sister burned at the Belzec Death
Camp; my Father and Brother shot, buried alive by the Nazis
Excerpts from the statement of a witness, Mrs. Chana Lind born Reiss at
"Yad Vashem" in Jerusalem, about the destruction of the Jews in
Mielec (Poland) and the systematic annnihilation (sic) of the Jewish population
by Nazis in 1942. She states as follows:
The Killer in a Death-Camp
With a gun at his hip,
With the knell of a whip,
a grin curling his lips,
The crowd he divided.
His voice hoarse,
His word shrill
"Right, left; kill, kill"
Their fate he decided.
Though Horror around and death, yet lingers,
His hands he rubs,
For the well done job;
The killer with manicured fingers.
My Mother; Burned in the Belzec Death-Camp
Smithen by storm was Mother's home;
Destroyed the fruit of her womb;
Nobody washed her bony chest,
No shrouds on the skinny breast.
No Grave for Mother's rest,
No stone to mark the place;
A scapegoat in the purple haze
she perished; in oven's searing blaze.
In clouds up she went;
In smoke from human flesh;
One of many saints,
On burning auto-da-fe's
I'll light a candle for your soul;
And for the flood of blood
spilled; in this fiendish glut-
kadish I'll say for all.
1, Chana Lind born Reiss, the daughter of Chaim Reiss and Nechi Buksbaum, born
in Mielec on December 9.1919.
1 was, at the time of the described action, 23 years old. My fatherm (sic) 62
years old, was killed in Berdechow which is close to Mielec during the
liquidation of the Jewish population in Mielec. My mother perished at the age
of 60 together with my sister Feiga, 27 years old and her 3 year old baby in
Wlodawa. My brother in law, Elias Reich, 33 years old, was killed in the death
camp of Auschwitz. My second sister, Dora Bernstein, 26 years old, perished in
the ghetto Bochnia and my brother, Feivich Reiss, 18 years old, perished in the
concentration camp Pustkow in Poland. The Jewish population in Mielec made up
about 50% of the total population. there was no ghetto in Mielec during the
Nazi occupation and the majority of the Jews lived in poor condition. Our town
consisted mostly of craftsmen and shopkeepers. There were 3 Jewish physicians
and about 6 Jewish lawyers. There was a public school which the Jewish children
attended and some cheders for orthodox youngsters.
In September 1939, on the eve of Rosh-Hashana, the Nazis occupied our town
Mielec and their first act was the killing of over 200 Jews in the abattoir
where the Jews brought fowl for ritual slaughter before the holidays. They
burned their victims alive in the public bath. Afterwards, they burned the
Synagogue and they forced the Jewish by-passers to watch the Synagogue burn.
On Yom Kippur, the Nazis made a pogrom of Jews in their homes, beating and
killing them. The Jews were forced to do hard labor; collecting garbage,
sweeping the streets and no pardon was given to women and old men. Beating the
Jews was the usual enjoyment of the Nazi tormentors and even more enjoyment for
them was the cutting off of the beards of old orthodox Jews along with a piece
of live flesh.
The Germans organized a Judenrath to whom they had given orders to form a work
force to confiscate jewerly (sic) and furs. The members were Rubin Kurz, a
shopkeeper; Freiberg, a carpenter and Tafler, a lawyer. The last one soon
resigned from this honor. Contributions were extracted from the Jewish
population at will. People were sent to load and unload cargo in slave labor,
dehumanizing the population and starving them chronically. There existed, in
the vicinity of Mielec german villages for almost more than 100 years. The
Germans co-existed with the Jews in time of peace. The youngsters from these
villages joined forces with the Gestapo at the moment of occupation. They
helped the Nazis in the destruction of the Jews, killing and raping. The most
infamous were 2 young Germans, Zimmerman and Jek. On March 9, 1942, Mielec was
to become a model of the first Judenfree town in Poland.
In a well planned action of liquidation' of the town, systematic and massive
extermination was done mercilessly with german precision. It started on a cold
winter night. The SS and SD surrounded Mielec. They ordered the Jews out of
their homes and to gather in the marketplace. Old and sick Jews were killed on
the spot in their homes. The rest of the population were forced to march
towards the village Berdechow where the hangars of the airport were located.
Who could not walk fast enough was shot on the road. We were pushed into the
hangars. For 4 days we were there without food. Later they divided us into
groups. About 500 men, mostly old and weak, were selected, killed and buried in
a mass-grave in Berdechow which was prepared beforehand. My father was among
them. Another group of youngsters, among them my brother, were selected and
sent to the concentration camp in Pustkow where they were tortured to death. I
and a group of girls were
selected to work at the airport. The Jews who survived the massacre were sent
in freight cars during this harsh winter to the east to an unknown destination
and fate. During the selection, Jews were murdered for no reason and without
mercy. Among them, the only Jewish judge in town, Baruch Pohoryles with his
wife and daughter. We found out afterwards that the transports of Jews were
directed to Parchew, Wlodawa, Niedzyrzec and Dubienka, all in the district of
Lublin, in the eastern part of Poland. Members of families were divided and
were sent in different directions like cattle. I managed to get out from
Berdechow after the selections and I started 3 months of running through the
woods and villages not knowing what to do
next but for the bare survival. I could move only at night since anyone who
could see me during the day would recognize me as a Jew and denounce me to the
Nazis. That was sure death. I was begging to get anything to eat, scraps of
food, hiding in the ditches and woods during the day. Sometimes for I or 4 days
I was starving, having nothing in my mouth. That forced me during the night to
knock on unknown doors in strange places in order to get some bread. If I was
lucky I met villagers who gave me shelter for a short
period of time and that brought back my strength. In the woods I met single
Jews and groups who were runaways like myself from ghettos transports and
extermination camps. After a long time, I reached the town of Wieliczka near
Krakow. I tried to live there, but life in this ghetto was sure death. I left
and went at nights in the directon (sic) of forests around Kielece, I managed
to travel by train to Pacanow where I heard about the fate of my family. They
were transported with other Jews to Parchew where the Germans unloaded the Jews
of Mielec, beating and kicking the weaker, pushing them into a Synagogue. From
there, with the help of the local Jews, they were marched off to Wlodawa which
is located only 3 miles from the extermination camp Sobibor, district Lublin.
They had to wait 7 months for their destruction because the camp was not
equipped yet for mass murder of such big proportion. At the same time, the Jews
from Western Europe were shipped to Sabibor for annihilation and death, My
family died there too,
The organization of the inmates in the camps were regulated by Judenrats with
the help of the Jewish policemen. They were no better then the German Nazis.
When they were not needed by the Nazis any longer, the Jewish policemen were
killed like all the other Jews. Selections of groups to put into the ovens were
made when all were kneeling in dust.
I went first to Pacanow and later to Stopnica in the district Kielec. There I
witnessed the evacuation of the local Jews to the east. Here, with the help of
a local Jew and Jewish woman from Mielec, I got a hiding place in the village
of Zrebin in the vicinity of Polaniec. The Polish shopkeeper, Wojtusiak took me
into her house and selflessly gave me shelter for months, feeding me without
pay. I fell sick with typhoid fever. I recovered from it later but when my
hostess later became sick and hospitalized I was forced to leave the place and
move on. Good people helped me with food and shelter for short periods of time
until I survived to see the liberation of Poland by the Russian Army in 1944. 1
went to Mielec, where a few single Jewish survivors had drifted back. There was
no future for us. I went to Germany and from there to Israel.
Signed Hana Lind, born Reiss
No choice has the butcher's knife
Things have a bloody flavor
It stabs around man or wife,
The old, the weak it favors.
His ax englufed (sic) in sticky flood
Its razor gets baser and baser;
No refuge from the glut of blood
No mercy from the ax, no savior,
Mute is his knife, it never wavers
It pardons none the slash of its razor.
Damned the plea of all savers
Forsake all hope, don't seek no favors.
Cutting of flesh, splitting of bone
Cruel a time for cattle dawned.
Don't blame the ax for the job done,
No mercy, no pardon to. none.
The butcher is guilty, the ax he wielded?
He got orders and orders don't fail
There was a job to be done
The butcher not guilty as well.
The cattle is guilty, the cattle blame.
The butcher was fit, got stronger;
The hangman is alive and swell
The cattle is dead, cries no longer
The victim is guilty like hell.
That is the missal,
In the hardest stone
I will chisel;
In the mind of my son:
"carry a gun, carry a gun."
My home where I am from ...
The sound of Torah and Tehilim reverberating into the street as we passed by
the Shul on our way to school early in the morning still rings in my ears.
The vitality and warmth of a group of people sitting in my parents home
discussing some "Klall" problems is still pictured in my mind.
The house was a virtual melting pot of all segments of the population. From the
Prince travelling in to conclude some major business, to the "Shames"
registering some grievance, to the "Orchim" coming to receive much
needed nourishment and money all were treated with the same warm dignity and
congenial hospitality by Father, Chaim Friedman , MAY HIS MEMORY BE BLESSED,
Mother, Henci Friedman, MAY HER MEMORY BE BLESSED, and the household. How many
times did I see Mother taking some chicken soup and nosh under her wrap and
carry it to the sick person who needed it so badly, and Father up and around
most of the night with a problem in the Kahal".
I can well remember my in-laws' home. Father-in-law, Reb Nechemia Brodt, MAY
HIS MEMORY BE BLESSED, being busy collecting money for the poor, always with a
smile and friendly word for all. Mother-in-law, Layci Brodt, MAY HER MEMORY BE
BLESSED, serving food, or both of them preparing the beds for those unfortunate
who did not have where to rest their heads for the night. And who can forget
their Melave Malka for the poor every Motzei Shabbos.
One can get a thorough picture of Mielec by observing it for a little while.
During the week people were busy trying to make out a meager living, and during
their spare time rushing to the shul and shiurim.
But on Friday a dramatic change could be seen. In the morning there was a
hustle and bustle. As the afternoon approached we could see the little children
all clean for Shabbos and with the time for candle lighting everything quieted
down. As one looked out, one could see candle lights flickering through the
windows and Fathers all bedecked in their Shabbos best, serenely walking to
Shul with their young ones.
And this is no more ... Just a painful memory.
Brodt, the righteous Jew from Mielec
A person seeking to understand the Jewish soul could find its personification
in the character of Nehemia Brodt MAY HIS MEMORY BE BLESSED,. A businessman
with a family of eight children and a modest home in Mielec, MAY ITS MEMORY BE
BLESSED, was the symbol of the Jewish culture in the shtetl. The doors of his
home were always open to welcome poor Jews who wandered from town to town
collecting alms for a living. Out of his own means, he established a special
dwelling for the poor to sleep overnight or longer. Often, he would wait, greet
and guide the weary poor travelers to the
. His devoted wife, Leah MAY
HER MEMORY BE BLESSED, on her part made sure that the linen was kept clean and
that the "guests" had a full meal every day during their stay.
He was an outstanding personality in Mielec as a result of his charitable
activities. Yet, his public service did not end with this. He "served as
one of the twelve councilmen in the municipality of Mielec. He MAY HIS MEMORY
BE BLESSED, established two factories in the town one to produce brushes and
the other to manufacture soap. Both Jews and non-Jews were employed in these
factories. He also opened a store to sell these products.
Those who knew him MAY HIS MEMORY BE BLESSED, personally could not help but
feel the spark of Judaism eminating (sic) from this man. In public as well as
private life, he MAY HIS MEMORY BE BLESSED, conducted his affairs according to
the litter of the Torah. His eight children received a strictly orthodox
education and upbringing. The values they learned at home guided them through
the hardest times of World War 11 and on to a more peaceful life in America. He
had the fortune to keep his family together throughout the Holocaust and lived
to see his children and grandchildren follow in his footsteps.
After the war, Nehemia Brodt MAY HIS MEMORY BE BLESSED, the Jew from Mielec,
lived in Brooklyn, New York. All his energy was spend on charities. He gathered
funds to marry off poor girls, to heal the sick and other charitable causes.
From his own finances, he established a free loan fund to lend interest free
money to those who needed it. He heartily welcomed Jews who came to him for a
loan and took special care not to hurt anyone's feelings or G-d forbid to
In the last three years of his life he lived in Bnei Brak, Israel. American
Jews who visited him there relate that his home was a "beehive of
charity". The light of the Torah and the warmth of kind deeds shined far
beyond the confines of Nehemiah Brodt's apartment. There is a Jewish ethical
maxim: "By three things the world exists: by the Torah, by the (Temple)
service, and by the deeds of lovingkindness." (Ethics of the Fathers, 1,2)
Nehemia Brodt's life epitomized these Jewish values. May his memory be blessed.
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