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[Page 147, Volume 2]

D. The Holocaust

 

[Page 149]

The Road of Pain and Suffering

by Yosef Kornilo, Ramat–Gan

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

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Yosef Kornilo

 

On the eve of war at the end of the month of August 1939, chaos already predominated in Tarnow. A time–bomb exploded at the train station in Tarnow on the 28th of August 1939 at around 11 o'clock at night. Several people were murdered and many were wounded. The train station building was greatly damaged. This was a clear omen of the imminent outbreak of war with Hitler's Germany.

The German Army divisions crossed the Polish border on the 1st of September 1939. German tanks rolled on the Polish highways… Unhindered German bombers bombed Polish cities and shtetlekh [towns].

At the last minute, the Polish Army leadership made the greatest efforts in mobilizing the large reserves in order to stop the raging march forward of the German Army.

I, too, a veteran sanitary officer, needed to appear at the Fifth Sanitary Battalion in Krakow. However, the train was no longer active… Masses of refugees arrived in Tarnow from Krakow and other localities… Jews ran in the eastern direction… [The] Polish

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Army division completely took control of the means of communication during the confusion to more quickly reach the San River.

And when the Fifth Sanitary Battalion arrived in Tarnow, the entire division and I began to run to the east. The soldiers of my sanitary battalion, persecuted by the German bombers, ran away, hiding in the side fields and forest. I returned to Tarnow to my wife and two children through roundabout ways.

The Germans already were ruling the city.

Divisions of the German Army took Tarnow on the 8th of September 1939. A few days barely passed and the organs of the Gestapo began their criminal activities. The Kripo (German criminal police), too. The S.S. and the Polish police, which was called Granatowa policja [Blue police] because they wore dark blue uniforms, immediately began to rule the city.

The first creation of the Gestapo was the designation of a commissariat city managing committee to which only Poles belonged at first and after a time the city managing committee was take over by the Germans.

As Germans moved in, several officials took over the most beautiful Jewish residences in the city.

The “county chief” became the first ally of the Germans. The German occupiers immediately began to persecute the Jewish population. Commissar treuhänder [trustees] were placed in all Jewish enterprises and large businesses. Searches of Jewish residences were carried out daily, systematically, during which Jewish possessions were stolen. The Germans provided for their families in Germany and took everything from the Jews that had value and could be made of use by their wives and children in Germany.

The German rulers stole everything: expensive silver and gold items, crystal, rugs and rare furniture. They dragged me from my residence more than once and harnessed me to working at taking the stolen items of value to the store–houses.

Grabbing Jews in the streets, first from the circles of the Jewish intelligentsia, and forcing them to work at cleaning and sweeping the streets was a daily event. Young German S.S.–members with the totenkopf [skull and crossbones] on their hats

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ill–treated with cruel savagery the enslaved Jewish “street–cleaners” who, in addition, had to sing and dance under murderous blows.

On a cold, frosty winter day, the Germans forced me to work to clear away the snow.

 

– 2 –

On the 12th of September 1939 the first announcements appeared on the walls of the houses about identifying Jewish shops with a white–blue Mogen–Dovid [shield of David – a Jewish star] insignia of 15 centimeters in diameter. In addition, not only the doors of the shops but the various signs also had to be identified that way. There was a very severe penalty for violating this order.

In order to undermine the material existence of the Jewish population, all of the accounts, deposits and safes of Jews in the banks were blocked, according to an order of the 18th of September 1939. In addition, they had to deposit a sum of more than 2,000 zlotes in a “savings account,” from which they could take out at most 250 zlotes a week.

It was the Jewish artisans who met the greatest number of different administrative restrictions, who had to struggle with great difficulties in order to maintain their workshops.

Thus the need in the Jewish neighborhood in Tarnow grew greater every day and poverty and hunger intruded into Jewish homes. Tarnow Jews began to sell their jewelry and other valuable things in order to be able to endure the difficult time. Those who did not have anything to sell were hungry and depended upon the help of their relatives and friends or on the Jewish community, which only had developed a limited range of social activities.

 

– 3 –

On the 23rd of November 1939, a new edict was published that ordered all Jews of both sexes older than 10 years to wear a white band on the left arm, 10 centimeters [almost four inches] wide with a blue Mogen Dovid [Shield of David – Star of David] sewn on it. The members of the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community]

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The armband with the inscription ARTZ [doctor]

 

managing committee wore stiff armbands with an embroidered Mogen–Dovid so that they could be distinguished from other Jewish residents. Jewish doctors were permitted to wear another ribbon on the armband with the inscription ARTZ [doctor].

The German regime organs as well as the Polish police placed great weight on the cleanliness of the armbands and there was a monetary penalty or arrest for several hours for a dirty armband. There was the threat of jail for not wearing the armband.

Converts to Christianity were on a par with all of the other Jews. Conversions were of no help and the converts shared the fate of the entire Jewish population in Tarnow. As, for example – when the Gestapo members [Gerhard] Grunoff and [Karl] Oppermann were in the residence of the convert Engineer Bester at Chopin Street 4, while they carried out the stolen things of value, they had the opportunity to notice that among those present in the residence, only one woman wore an armband. Oppermann did not hesitate… He drove all those present who were not wearing an armband out of the residence

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to the courtyard of the house and there shot everyone. Only the woman with the armband remained alive.

 

– 4 –

The lives of the Jewish population in Tarnow became more difficult with each day. Every cultural and communal activity ceased during the first weeks of the German occupation. Several Jewish schools and unions were closed. At every turn, the German rulers made us feel that our lives were arbitrary. From day to day the violent acts became barbarous. Meeting a German in the street, a Jew had to greet him and take off his hat from his head. Every German had the right to take a Jew for any work, even the most difficult. Day or night he could drag a Jew from his residence or shop or grab him in the street for this purpose. The German subjugator made use of us in carrying baggage, in cleaning their autos, in loading goods and heavy materials, in pulling porters' wagon, etc. In addition, we were pelted with curse words, such as Jew die, pig Jew, tough Jew. The wage for such work was a blow to the stomach or in the lower part of the back.

Jewish women who had learned household management well were allocated as servants to the high Gestapo and police officers.

And when Germans wanted to occupy themselves and ridicule the Jews, they would call two or more Jews on the street and order them to bloodily beat each other.

The torture and torment of the Jews often took on a large scope. At every opportunity the Germans would threaten with shooting those Jews who were grabbed on the street or in their residences in order to watch with a sadistic joy the fear they evoked from their victims.

On a winter day at the end of 1939 – on the eve of the Christian holiday – the German murderers caught several Jews in the street and led them to the former cavalry barracks at Chiszower Street where the S.S. members now lived. There, all of the grabbed Jews were driven into

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a large room where they were ordered to stand with their faces to the wall. Then they were told to kneel and to hold their hands high. An S.S. man immediately came in and ordered everyone to say their confessions and he disappeared with the words, “These are your last minutes.” After him appeared a broad–shouldered S.S. man in a long, white linen coat and with a butcher knife in his hand.

It is easy to imagine the fear that fell on the people when the S.S. man took out the first of the row of kneeling Jews. After several minutes he returned and there were signs of blood on his linen coat and knife. He immediately led out the second of the rows and again returned immediately with a more bloodied linen coat and knife and he continued in this way until he had led out the last Jews in the house.

Each time he led a Jew into the neighboring house, the S.S. man in the white linen coat slaughtered a goose with the long knife and the captured Jew had to flick the feathers, clean and prepare the goose for a large meal that was to take place in the S.S. barracks. After more hours of this work, the Jews were freed. Such horrible cases, whose purpose was not only to make fun of and to deride the Jewish population, but also to debase them and to weaken their morale, were daily phenomena.

 

– 5 –

On the 4th of November 1939 new edicts were published: Jews were forbidden to work in state institutions, to trade with Aryans, to undergo treatment by Aryan medical personnel; Jewish ARTZ doctors were forbidden to take Aryan patients. Jews were not permitted to take seats in the front part of the Tarnow tramway. All Jews employed in the various offices were dismissed from work without any compensation.

A terrible panic and dread fell on the Tarnow Jews when on the 9th of November 1939, the German barbarians, under the pretext of [the Jews] not having paid the high tax [placed on them], set fire to all of the synagogues and houses of prayer in Tarnow. These various actions made a ruin in one day of all of the synagogues in the Jewish neighborhood in Tarnow. Along with the religious books and the Torah scrolls

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the ancient synagogue, the house of prayer, the Dwoyre Menkes Synagogue and the synagogue at Struszina burned. No trace remained of the small synagogue, of the minyonim [prayer groups of 10 men required for organized prayer] and the shtiblekh [one–room synagogues] that were supported by the Tarnow rabbis. The temple with its organ and the porters' synagogue on Grabowke, where Jewish toilers and men of the people prayed, disappeared in smoke. The heavy brick walls of the new synagogue were exploded with dynamite [and] it was completely burned and only one lopped off column of the magnificent sacred building remained, which today stands in the Tarnow Jewish cemetery as a headstone memorial over the mass grave of the exterminated Tarnow Jewry. On the spot on which the old synagogue stood, near Fisz–Platz, also still stands the Torah reading desk from the synagogue.

All efforts with the Gestapo organs to stop the horrible annihilation actions were without success. On the contrary – it was strongly forbidden to undertake the means to put out the fire.

A feeling of insecurity and confusion entered our hearts after this extraordinary German annihilation action. In addition, the systematic capture of the Jews in the streets and the economic repression affected the spread of poverty into an even larger number of Jewish houses. Yesterday's rich men [today] began to wrestle with material worries. On the part of the social divisions at the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community], efforts were made to alleviate the need in the Jewish neighborhood, but the limited means of the then kehile managing committee did not permit the development of wider aid action on behalf of the impoverished Jewish population.

Simultaneously, a Jewish curfew was introduced. According to the order of the 11th of December 1939, Jews were forbidden to leave their residences as well as appear on the roads, streets and squares from seven o'clock at night until five in the morning. Only the members of the kehile managing committee and a number of ARTZ personnel received permission to be on the street at that time. However, they refused this privilege, not wanting to be exposed to various dangers.

 

– 6 –

On the 18th of September 1939 it was ordered that the armband be worn on the right arm instead of the left arm.

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The same month, the Germans created a Judenrat [Jewish council] with a “Jewish elder” at the head in place of the kehile managing committee. The seat of the Judenrat was located in the building of the kehile at Nova Street 11, with the main entrance on Folwarczna Street, and its task was mainly carrying out the orders of the German regime organs in all matters regarding the Jewish population. As a result, the administrators of the Jewish hospital, of the old people's and orphans houses and of other Jewish institutions belonged to the Judenrat.

At first, at the head of the Judenrat were honest and esteemed communal workers who truly believed that they would be able to blunt the severity of the German anti–Jewish edicts with their influence. Found among the first leaders of the Judenrat in Tarnow were the serious leaders who, immediately sensing the true intentions of the German power holders, refused this dubious “honor” or completely escaped from Tarnow. Or the Gestapo liquidated them at the Auschwitz death camp, as happened to the most devoted Zionist leaders, Dr. Szenkel and Dr. Goldberg and others. From 1940 until the complete annihilation of Tarnow Jewry, Folkman as the “Jewish elder” and Y. Lerhaupt as his representative, were the heads of the Tarnow Judenrat.

Sztub, Frenkel, Y. Fast and Klajnhendler among others now belonged to this Judenrat. Employed in the chancellery of the Judenrat were more officials, such as, among others, the previous kehile officials: T. Laufer, Dora Sztram, the previous kehile officials E. Zauersztorm, Honig the Magister [holder of a university degree] and Reshka Faber.

Even earlier, the Judenrat, according to an order from the Germans of the 4th of November 1939, compiled a list of all Jewish residents in Tarnow. In addition, a separate list was made of the well–off and a separate list of the Jews capable of work. On the basis of such a list, the Gestapo men carried out a search of the well–off part of the Jewish population during which they robbed the expensive things they found. During this plundering, the Gestapo members Pan [Mister] Malutki and Nowak excelled, and in addition they murderously beat the owners of the things they stole.

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A number of Jews were chosen daily from the list of those people capable of work, who were supplied to the Gestapo for various heavy labor on behalf of the Germans. Jews could buy themselves out of such work by paying the Judenrat [Jewish council] a certain sum of money from which [funds] people would be rewarded who were sent to work in their place.

In the courtyard of the house in which the guard of the Judenrat was located stood a wooden cell that served as a temporary jail. I would often come to the office of the Judenrat to take care of various matters and at one such opportunity I saw a member of the Gestapo leading to the cell a Jew whom he had caught on the street, because he undoubtedly was not wearing an armband. And immediately after one heard a shot from a revolver.

In this courtyard there always stood a corpse wagon at which there was always a group of Jews from the Khevre Kadishe [burial society] on duty, whose task was to bring the Jews shot in the streets to the cemetery and to bury them there.

The Judenrat had to take care that all of the desires of the higher Gestapo and police officers and their relevant families were satisfied. For this purpose an economic administrative division was created at the Judenrat whose task was to provide the German rulers with luxurious residences and club facilities, with the most expensive cosmetic articles, with rare delicacies and the most modern furniture. A special Jewish tailor and shoemaker workshop also was active that worked for the Gestapo and police officers. It should be understood that this was without any payment.

Jewish wagon drivers had to be prepared at all times to drive around with these German murderers and look on at their cruelty. Of all the Jewish wagon drivers of that time, [only] Yisroel Izak survives, who today lives in Israel.

The managing committee of the Jewish hospital, which remained under the leadership of the pre–war director, Dr. Eugeniusz Szifer, also belonged to the Judenrat. He fulfilled his task with self–sacrifice along with a group of diligent and dedicated doctors, such as Dr. Lustik, Dr. Marcin Block and his wife, Dr. Tessa, Dr. Chaim Wachtel, Dr. R. Hendler, Dr. E. Szechter and Dr. Zigfrid. During the most difficult occupation conditions the entire medical

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personnel, as well as nurses and all servants, brought many in the Jewish hospital to survival. In an extraordinarily difficult struggle to acquire the necessary medicine for the sick and to acquire everything that was necessary for permitting the activity of the hospital, in addition to the doctors and nurses and with the help of young medics, such as among others Leon Rajch, G. Osterwejl, Chaim Faber, many others worked with complete fervor as medics, and, as has already been said, all of the nurses, who despite great danger, devotedly and courageously stood at their posts.

In addition to the general [medical facilities], a dental clinic also existed at the hospital.

The Jewish hospital received great help from a group of volunteer co–workers who did not spare any effort or strength in the work on behalf of the sick. Among this prepared voluntary auxiliary strength, the nurse Chaim Organd stood out and employed as nurses Mrs. Organd, Royza Wachtel, Langer and Mrs. Krumholc from Krakow.

The leaders of the general city hospital, with a Ukrainian at its head, tried to undermine the existence of the Jewish hospital and in 1941after a series of persecutions on the part of the German power organs, the Jewish hospital was moved to the building adjacent, to the building of the Jewish old age home, which was remodeled with great effort and hardship and made appropriate to the needs of a hospital institution.

After the third deportation action, the Jewish hospital was again moved to a house on Shul Street. In addition, the Gestapo took almost all of the instruments and medicines during the relocation. A primitive Jewish hospital was again barely organized with great difficulty; the S.S. members during the final liquidation of the Tarnow ghetto, shot all of the sick who lay in the hospital and stole all of the medical instruments and medicines.

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– 7 –

Our life was bitter and melancholy in 1940. Pressed together in a crowded residence, with constant insecurity and fear, seized for work or arrested without any reason, we had to struggle under the heavy load of the new decrees.

On the first day of the German occupation, General Governor [Hans] Frank banned kosher slaughtering of meat and in October 1939 forced labor by the Jews was arranged for the entire area of occupied Poland.

Frank banned the use of trains by Jews with the order of the 26th of January 1940.

Jews were forbidden to leave their residences on the 17th of April 1940 in connection with some German celebration. A similar ban was made public on the 30th of April 1940 because of the 1st of May holiday. In addition, Tarnow Jews were not supposed to look out of their windows.

In order to throw fear into the Jewish population in Tarnow, a further group of esteemed Jews, among others the lawyers Dr. Emil Wider, Dr. Yitzhak Holcer, the director of the Hebrew school Dr. Rozenbusz and the industrialist Yakov Szwarc were deported to Auschwitz at the beginning of 1940. Such Jews could be a hindrance for the annihilation plans of the German hangmen in relation to Tarnow Jewry. First, they had to be liquidated and annihilated.

At first it was permissible to help out Jews, who were imprisoned in jail, with food packages. However, this also was immediately forbidden. From time to time large transports of arrestees from the Tarnow jail were deported to Auschwitz. It was rare for someone to return alive from there. After a time the relatives would a communiqué from there receive about the death of the deported arrestee. After paying a certain sum of money, the relatives received a canister of ashes of the burned corpse.

In 1940 the Tarnow jail already was overflowing. The Gestapo arrested Jews and Poles for transgressions of the orders from the large number of various edicts that made life difficult.

On the 14th of June 1940, a transport of over 700 arrestees in the Tarnow jail was deported to Oswiecim, which the German

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The monument in front of the mikvah [ritual bath] – designated by the letter “v” – from which the first transport of arrested Tarnow citizens left for Auschwitz

 

rulers gave the name Auschwitz. This was a transport of Jews and Poles from Tarnow and from a series of cities and shtetlekh in mid–Galicia, such as Rzeszów, Nowy Sącz and Nowy Targ; the majority, people who had awakened the least suspicion that they were hostile to the Hitlerist regime.

A train of arrestees, a train of men, many of whom did not return to their families, left at dawn on that day from Bucznic Street near the mikvah [ritual bath]. Among them were young and old, exhausted during the terrifying investigations and horrible rack of torture by the Gestapo organs at Urulanska Street 18 – all from various trades, workers and apprentices, former officers in the Polish Army, lawyers, priests, merchants, peasants and students.

At that time it was quiet and empty on the Tarnow streets. A public warning had gone out several days earlier that on the 14th of June it was forbidden to appear on the street and one must not stand at the window of a residence. However, we were already awake and under the drapes at our window; we watched the train of the unfortunate ones, very many of whom, under the guard of the German police, were going on their last road.

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At the train station in Tarnow before loading of the arrested on the transport to Auschwitz

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The train went from Bucznic Street to Pod Dębem Platz and from there to the freight train station where everyone was loaded into freight cars and the transport left in the direction of Auschwitz.

 

– 8 –

On the 25th of August 1940 a German “labor office” was opened in Tarnow, where all Jews beginning with the age of 12 had to register. The “labor office” gave out work cards with photographs, which one had to have with them all of the time. Every month one had to appear at the “labor office” for a check, which often had a very tragic ending because young, healthy Jews would be deported directly to a labor camp in Pustkow (near Dembitz) or to Stalowa Wola from this office. In general, if Jews returned from these camps, they were broken and exhausted. Invalids, the old and sick, who had been through a medical examination and received a certificate that they were in capable of working, were freed from such forced labor. Their fate was already sealed.

 

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During one of the murder actions in occupied Tarnow

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On the 15th of September 1940, Jews were forbidden to wear fur. All fur clothing, all fur items, mountain climbing shoes and radio apparatus had to be turned into the Gestapo storehouse at the Apollo movie theater. Jewish men and women stood in long rows for hours until they reached the German hangman and gave him the expensive fur clothing and radio apparatus – without any compensation. Those who did not turn in these items were threatened with the death penalty.

After completing the robbery action, searches were carried out in the Jewish residences. Woe to whomever was found with the least little bit of fur items.

In addition to the great wave of edicts, which made life difficult, there was the terrible plague of the constant seizing [of people] on the street, the baseless arrests and the frequent shooting of completely innocent people.

Every day the German murderers under the least pretext would drag Jews into the Gestapo office and after severe torture, they were taken from there, outside of the city, near the power station or to the Lipie forest to the castle mountain and even farther to Zbylitowska Mountain, where they would be shot. For the work of burying the bodies, the German police would seize Jews encountered by chance on the streets and take them to the execution sites to work digging mass graves. The Germans would place the Jews condemned to death along the dug out mass grave, order them to take off their clothes until nakedness. A German murderer would read the sentence. The crack of a machine gun salvo deafened the wailing of the victims. Their bodies fell into the open pit, which immediately was covered with dirt, and the Jews who were employed as diggers and were present during such horrible executions were strongly forbidden to tell what they had seen. So that they would not forget this order, the Germans, like angry animals, would beat them with murderous blows. Then they returned to their homes, bloodied, half alive.

The peasants who lived in the neighborhood of this mass grave would say that after the executions they would hear human moaning from under the ground. The Jews, covered alive with dirt,

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suffered horribly in their death throes until they exhaled their holy souls.

It was very difficult for Jewish children who were suddenly torn from their home environment and with their compassion watched the fear of their parents, instinctively understanding the tragedy of their situation.

My 11–year old daughter Halinka [diminutive of Halina] often asked us various questions, from which it was clear that she had established and understood that it was a question about a war against the Jews. She would always repeat: Sooner or later our turn will come.

My second daughter, Edit, was five years younger than she. Both sisters very willingly stayed together. Given that the public schools were now closed to Jewish children, the older one, Halina, taught her younger sister how to read and to write and told her various stories.

Food cards for Jews for bread, flour, sugar and potatoes were introduced in 1940, although the distribution of these products was minimal, which kept us from starving. The Aryan city residents received separate food cards, which were certified for larger distributions of food.

 

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My two children: Edit, of blessed memory; and may she have a long life, Halinka (today Mrs. Feingold in Paris)

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It was worse with coal because it could only be bought on the black market at high prices. The death penalty was threatened for price gouging.

Therefore, it was impossible to buy life's necessities in the city or in the neighboring area at the free market. Even to appear at a confectionary or coffee house was forbidden to Jews.

Hunger, need and illness now reigned in Jewish houses.

 

– 9 –

The year 1941 began with new anti–Jewish edicts and atrocities by the German occupiers. The German regime became stricter in regard to the Jewish population. The German murderers prepared for the extermination actions in Jewish Tarnow with systematic forethought. At the beginning of February 1941 they accused the Jews in Tarnow, [claiming] that one of them had wounded Pan [Mr.] Malutki, a member of the Gestapo, while he was carrying out a search. Like wild animals, the Germans threw themselves at the Jews who by chance found themselves on the streets of Tarnow and they shot many of them.

At this time, a group of Jews who had escaped from Tarnow to Russian– occupied eastern Galicia at the outbreak of the war decided to return. The Gestapo immediately began [dealing with them] as soon as they arrived, searching their residences, accompanied with murderous blows. In addition, several of them were tortured in a beastly manner and others were arrested. Thus, Engineer Szif, the ARTZ [medical practioner] Dr. Holender, the rabbi of Biala near Bielko, Dr. Hirszfeld who, after the outbreak of the Second World War, returned from Switzerland from the Zionist Congress and stopped in Tarnow, were among the Jews who returned to Tarnow from the Soviet areas and were shot; the iron merchant, Osterwajl, and the owner of the hotel, Meir Wajs, were tortured. Arrested then was the former officer in the Polish Army, Dr. Betsalel Szpajzer, who returned from Lemberg and was imprisoned in the cellar of the Gestapo in Bergman's iron storehouse building at Urshulanska Street. He was murderously tortured during frequent investigations. At every investigation, the Gestapo members (mainly Grunoff and Oppermann) cut off a part of his body (ears, the nose, the fingers) until he was tortured to death.

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Headstone of Betsalel Szpajzer, of blessed memory, who was murdered by the Nazis in Tarnow in the year 1941

 

The Gestapo gave the cut–up body to the Judenrat in a basket.

At the time, Chaim Faber worked as a carpenter in the Gestapo building and, therefore had the ability to communicate with the unfortunate Dr. Szpajzer and also had precise news about the cruelties that took place in the Gestapo building. He actually spoke about the horrible suffering of Dr. Szpajzer and even turned to the Judenrat for help for him. He paid for this act with his life. He also was murdered in the Gestapo cellar. Both martyrs, Dr. Betsalel Szpajzer and Chaim Faber, were buried on the Tarnow cemetery. After the liberation of Tarnow, the Jewish Committee erected a headstone on the graves of both proud Tarnow Jews.

Starting with the 18th of February 1941, Tarnow Jews were not permitted to appear on the Tarnow streets and on the 20th of February the ban was expanded to include the trains and various and sundry other transportation means, such as autos, tramways and even simple wagons. Thus, for every train trip, a special permission from the county chief was necessary but was very difficult to obtain.

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Headstone of Reb Chaim Faber who was murdered at the hands of the Goths [Germans] in 5702 [1942]

 

On the 16th of October 1941 an order was published according to which it was forbidden for Jews to wear full beards and whiskers for “sanitary reasons.” Under the same order, it was forbidden [for Jews] to walk on these streets: Krakower (from the beginning of Komendatur Street), Walower, Breyter, the market, Katerdaler (including Kazimer Platz up to the market), the small and large staircases, Fiszplac and Szlos Street (Zatkowa).

Jews were forbidden to stay and to walk in the area of the entire western part of Tarnow. In addition, at the same time the streets were indicated by which all Jews who still were living in the western area of the city could come to the eastern area of Tarnow.

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The Nazi order of the 16th of October 1941, according to which Tarnow Jews were forbidden to wear beards and to walk on the main streets

 

To carry out these orders, an ordnungsdienst [Jewish ghetto police] was created at the Tarnow Judenrat whose members had to wear armbands with a Mogen Dovid [Shield of David – a Jewish star) with the following inscription: Ordnungsdienst at the Judenrat in Tarnow, with the service number on the left side of the chest. Zigmund Miler was designated as the commandant of the Ordnungsdienst and Herman Waserman as his representative. Flugejzen, V. Lerner, Bajczer, Cymerman, Holender, Cimet, Traum and Gruszow, among others, belonged to the Ordnungsdienst. Cymerman was sentenced to death by the Tarnow Court after the war.

 

– 10 –

The year 1942 is recorded tragically in the history of Tarnow Jewry. The grabbing of Jews off the streets, shooting them without any reason and ordering

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the shrinking of the area in which Jews could live, the robbery actions and the frequent driving of Jews from their residences – all of this brutality were now daily events.

The highpoint of the persecutions and murder actions of the German rulers was reached in the month of April 1942, after the outbreak of the German–American War. The wild members of the Gestapo shot at every Jew they encountered on the streets of the city. The Gestapo members, [Wilhelm] Rommelmann, Grunoff, [Unger Otto] Jek, [Gerhard] Gaa, [Karl] Oppermann. Libor, Ilkow (Rommelmann and [Matthias] Kotruvan were sentenced to death by hanging by a Tarnow court after the war[a] were cruel with their sadistic, murderous strangeness. The Gestapo commandant in Tarnow at that time was [Josef] Palten and the police commandant was the German officer Straus, who took part in all murder actions in Tarnow. His representative was the Wachtmeister [in charge of guard duty] Wunder.

At the beginning of 1942 we worked in the Tarnow Judenrat office with particular diligence. The carrying out of the registration of the Tarnow Jewish population according to which lists of the Tarnow Jews were assembled in great secrecy based on separate groups of those capable of working and those incapable of work, old people, invalids and those who received special help from the social divisions of the Judenrat.

A notation was made on the meldkart [registration card] of those incapable of work and of their families: “Incapable of work.” Meanwhile, this group was left alone. They worked at their employment at home, not having any thought of what threat awaited them.

At the beginning of the month of June 1942, all registration cards were checked. At various places in the city, as well as at the Gestapo office, various commissions stamped the registration cards. A number of cards received a round stamp with the insignia of a swastika, the so–called “national emblem,” and others received the printed letter “K.” The significance of this insignia was understood in various ways.

Some said that the round stamp must signify “needed” for work and “on the contrary, the letter “K” must signify krematorium or kaput [broken].

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The fact was that all who had the comment “incapable” on their identification cards at the new registration now received the mark “K.”

At the same time, the number of acts of terror and murder in Jewish Tarnow rose.

On the 10th of June 1942, announcements about the deportation of the Jewish population of Tarnow began to appear on the walls of the houses. A list, which had been put together by the labor office and contained the names of workers [considered] incapable of working, the old and sick Jews, of women and children served as the basis for the deportation. Everyone recorded on the list of Jewish residents of Tarnow was informed by emissaries of the Judenrat to appear on the 11th of June 1942 at six o'clock in the morning at the gate of the Jewish residences. In addition, they were only permitted to bring with them 25 kilos of baggage.

On the 11th of June, all other Jews, who had not received such demands, were forbidden to leave their residences.

This day was difficult and tragic for Tarnow Jewry. Shooting was heard in the street very early. A German gendarme division, S.S. members and Polish militiamen drove the frightened Jews, who already were waiting at the gates of their houses, in the direction of the marketplace. Jews from all corners of the city walked, confused, loaded with valises and bundles of supplies, with linen and even with work tools. With the butts of their rifles the German murderers beat Jews who had stopped for even a second to catch their breath. The marketplace immediately was filled with Jews. Under the hail of blows with rifle butts and whips, the Jews had to kneel, holding their heads bent to the ground. The Gestapo commandant [Josef] Palten was cruel and rampaged with the help of his bandit–like members of the Gestapo and S.S. The entire murder action was led by Martin Fellenz, the S.S. officer from Krakow, who was sent especially for the deportation action in Tarnow.

The barbarity and the rampaging over the kneeling Jews at the marketplace by the unruly members of the Gestapo and the Ukrainian bandit–like militiamen surpassed any human comprehension.

Jews, who appeared incapable of work in the eyes of the hangmen, all old people, the sick and children, were shot on the spot or were

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Jews, confused, loaded with valises and bundles, came from all corners of the city in the direction of the marketplace

 

taken by trucks to the mass graves at the Tarnow cemetery or at the Zbylitowska mountain. In the course of the day, trucks loaded with Jews who had been tortured and shot traveled back and forth on the road from the marketplace to the cemetery. One victim lay on top of the other [so that] the people on the street would not notice who was being taken.

The fate was cruel for the innocent, still very young, whom the German and Ukrainian murderers, wild animals in human form, grabbed by their small feet and banged their heads on the cobblestones at the marketplace. The wails from women were heartrending when they were forced to tear themselves from their husbands…when they dragged the children from their mothers.

At the marketplace formed transports of thousands of Jews who went on their last road in the direction of the train station under guard by the German gendarmes. There they were loaded 80 to 90 people into one horse wagon, which was then completely closed. As we later learned, all transports that day went in the direction of Belzec.

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However, the bloodsucker Felenc still was not sated by Jewish blood. Several hundred Jews still were lacking in the number of victims who were needed to fill the gas ovens at Belzec. He immediately telephoned the Judenrat to supply a supplemental list of Jews who had not been deported. The employee of the Judenrat, Paul Reiss, a refugee from Germany who came to Tarnow during the Zbąszyń deportation, sat at the telephone. He categorically refused to prepare a list of Jews for the Gestapo.

The murderer Felenc immediately appeared in the Judenrat office and without any reason drove out every one of the Jews found there. Felenc shot the courageous Paul Reiss on the steps. He shot the remaining Jews from the Judenrat in the courtyard of the building. Such dear Tarnow Jews as Meir Rozenbaum, Pinkhas Trinczer, Hersh Eder and Chaim Traum perished then.

Now a bloody slaughter began in every house in the city in which Jews lived. Blood flowed from these residences. Whomever the Germans found there was shot.

The terrible murder action, which the German criminals labeled as aussiedlung [resettlement, actually deportations], lasted an entire week with short pauses. The tragic sum total of this first deportation in Tarnow in the month of June 1942 reached over 12,000 victims. Thousands of Jews were deported to the annihilation camps. Thousands perished in the Tarnow ghetto at the hand of the German and Ukrainian bloodsuckers.

 

– 11 –

After the end of the terrible murder action, the so–called aussiedlung, the German hangmen began to drive the surviving Tarnow Jews to work at cleaning the streets and erasing the signs of the bloody slaughter.

I, too, was assigned to this work, which consisted mainly of loading the dead Jews into peasant wagons that we pulled to the cemetery. Trucks and wagons loaded with dead Jews arrived there. Piles of corpses were placed right near the gates. Then the actual work began. First we removed the clothing from the dead bodies. The

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naked bodies were thrown into the prepared, open pits. The clothing was sent to the storehouses, which were located at the Szacki School.

We often found among these bodies seriously wounded Jews who were still breathing. The Gestapo did a “favor” for these dying Jews and shot them to death.

Thus we worked hard for two days. We barely had ended our work at the cemetery when they gave us other employment: we had to carry out the possessions, the so–called Judenguts [Jewish goods] from the residents after the murder or the deportation of the Jews. Expensive items, carpets, paintings, silver and crystal service… We had to transfer everything to the special warehouses.

 

– 12 –

A feeling of fear and shock now reigned over the surviving Tarnow Jews. No one knew what was happening to their wife, children, parents or sisters and brothers and they looked for each other. There was not one family that had not mourned one of those who had perished.

However, there was no time for moaning. At once, on another day after the deportation, on the 19th of June 1942, the then county chief in Tarnow, [Gustav] Hackbarth, published the order to create a closed ghetto in Tarnow for Jews. The ghetto area began at the Pilzner gate on the left side and extended along the left side of the Lwowska Street to Widok Street and finally along the right side of the Kozarowa Street.

The internal area of the ghetto encompassed the streets: Folwarczna, Nowa, Bucznic, Szpitalna, the old Dombrowska, Wolność Platz (called Magdeburger Platz), as well as all of the alleys that bordered on these streets, such as Zamknienta, Drukarska, Polna and Josna.

A high fence was erected around the entire ghetto area, which was fenced in with barbed wire. Three gates led to the ghetto: two on Wolność Platz, of these one from Lwowska Street and the second from Szpitalna Street; a third gate was at Nowa Street, near the Judenrat. All three were guarded day and night

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on the outside by the Polish Granatower police [Blue Police – Polish police in German occupied Poland] and on the internal side by the Jewish militiamen of the Ordnungsdinest [Jewsh ghetto police]. There was the threat of death for [leaving] the ghetto without special permission.

Moving to the ghetto had to happen over the course of 48 hours. In addition, they were permitted to bring only the most necessary household items. Therefore, there remained in the Jewish residences outside the ghetto the expensive furniture and household items that, immediately after the transfer of the Jewish population to the new ghetto residences, were taken to the storehouses at the Szacki School and to the house of Moler Haler at Nowa Dombrowska Street.

The remaining Jewish residences outside the ghetto were taken over by German families as well as by the Polish ones that had to leave their residences in the ghetto area.

Thus approximately 20,000 Jews, who remained alive after the first murder action, were pressed into the narrow frame of the Tarnow ghetto. The normal condition was now several families to one house.

These outlandish living conditions, the terrible crowdedness, the cases of primitive sanitary facilities in the residences and, in addition, the hunger

 

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On the road to the enclosed ghetto…

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that spread each day in the ghetto area – these were the causes that created the favorable conditions for the rise and spread of infectious epidemics.

The ghetto was no place for the sick. They were brutally and horribly exterminated. Despite the crowdedness in the ghetto, transports of deported Jews would arrive from the neighboring shtetlekh and villages.

 

– 13 –

The Gestapo criminals Rommelmann, Grunoff, Oppermann, Jek would appear often in the ghetto and from time to time S.S. members would come. They controlled the life and death of the ghetto resident.

The cruelest criminal in the ghetto was Rommelmann. He would coldly carry out his outrages with sadistic anger. His appearance in the ghetto would cause a deadly fear for everyone whom he met by chance. So well, he and his Gestapo friends would ridicule their victims in a horrible manner. Before carrying out a murder action, they would ask the frightened Jews in what position they wanted to be shot. “Ich mache das leicht, ohne schmerzen” [“I do it easily, without pain”], they would make a joke of the unfortunate ones.

Two young Tarnow girls, Rozenberg and Wajsberg, fell as victims of such wild sadism. These gentle, dear Jewish children had to listen to the mocking words of the Gestapo murderer before their death: “You are too beautiful to live as Jewish children.

The Gestapo bandit Jek once caught a group of Jews when they were praying. The murderer asked how many Jews were lacking for a minyon [10 men needed for prayer] and, as it was seen that there were more Jews than were necessary for a minyon, he led out several Jews and shot them on the spot.

The Gestapo member Jek came from a village near Mielec (where a German colony had existed). He was raised in a Jewish environment and, therefore, Jewish religious customs were familiar to him, which was useful to him in searching for Jews at the periphery of the city or in surrounding villages.

Once, he entered a Jewish residence that looked completely empty. Jek quickly put on a talis [prayer shawl] and tefilin [phylacteries] and ostensibly began to

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pray. When the Jews, who were hidden in various hiding places in the residence, heard this, they began to crawl out of the holes. The murderer, Jek, shot them all on the spot.

 

– 14 –

The Jewish residents in the ghetto now lived with one thought: how to save themselves, how to hide before another deportation, which everyone was convinced would come. Tarnow Jews already knew what [was happening] at Belzec. They heard about the cruelties and about the hell in the death camp, from which no one had yet returned.

Therefore, we no longer waited with folded arms for a further deportation. Everyone tried to do something in order to have the possibility of hiding at a decisive hour. There were Jews who took off their armbands and left Tarnow looking for a hiding place with Polish acquaintances in other areas or in neighboring forests. There were those who began to prepare bunkers or at least were satisfied with giving their children to their Aryan acquaintances.

However, on the “Aryan” side, Jews with Aryan papers also were not secure in their lives. That is how the Germans caught the wives of Dr. Salit and Dr. Menderer, who did not wear armbands. Both women were taken to the cemetery in Tarnow by the hangman Grunoff and they were shot there.

Henek Wajs and his wife (family name Brand) and child also were caught. Grunff also shot them at the Tarnow cemetery.

Only one hope now filled the hearts of a large majority of the Tarnow Jews: the work card. A labor office was active at the Judenrat, whose office was located in the building of the autobus station at Wolność Platz. The chief care of the labor office since its opening was to provide the demanded contingents of Jewish workhands for the Germans. No one rushed to work for the Germans during the first months of occupation, but now everyone wanted to give away everything to receive work for the Germans and to become the possessor of a paper, which ostensibly protected one from anything bad. Now work was a privilege, not accessible by everyone.

The work also was important because those who had a

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work location that was located on the Aryan side also had the opportunity to go outside the ghetto gates every day and at that opportunity could also obtain food products, although this involved great danger, and still more: such an “outsider” more easily had opportunities and chances to secure Aryan papers or to find a hiding place outside the ghetto.

The majority of Jews in the Tarnow ghetto still believed that the work card was the best means of security, that by giving their health, their strength to the Germans they were saving their lives, theirs and [the lives of] their families. Tarnow Jews still lived with the hope of the immediate end of the war. The front was not far away. And the German defeat on the front was no longer a secret to anyone. In addition, we had only one purpose…to endure…to work with more than our strength because whoever survived, we believed, would wait impatiently for the defeat of Hitler, may his name be erased.

It is no wonder that each of us dreamed about receiving a workplace and, in connection with it, a work card.

At this time, German enterprises arose in Tarnow that operated both outside the ghetto and on the site of the Tarnow ghetto itself.

Tailor, linen, knitwear, harness–maker workshops, among others, were active and, in addition, the so–called “black” workplaces such as the Ostban, Monatn, Hoch und Tifebau. The “Bershten Central” and the workshops of the Madritsch firm also employed many Jewish workers.

The role and the significance of the tailoring workshop of the Madritsch firm must particularly be emphasized in connection with the importance of these workshops for the Jews in the Tarnow ghetto. Madritsch[b], a genteel German, ran a tailoring workshop in Tarnow in which were employed several hundred Tarnow Jews (women and men), with whom Madritsch was humane and friendly. All of the Jewish workers who worked in the Madritsch workshop survived the Nazi hell, thanks only to the fact that they were employed in this undertaking in Tarnow and later in Plaszow. During the liquidation

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of the Tarnow ghetto, [Julius] Madritsch transferred the entire enterprise with all of the Jewish workers employed there to the labor camp in Plaszow, while all other work places in the Tarnow ghetto were liquidated and the workers employed there were deported to Belzec and Auschwitz.

A close co–worker of Madritsch was [Raimund] Titsch, also a German, who came from Vienna. Madritsch and Titsch – two rare [people] of that era, well–mannered figures, men with a deep in–born humanity. They often, in mortal danger, had to use much effort and daring to not permit the deportation of their Jewish workers to the death camps.

There were other German industrialists active in the Tarnow ghetto who worked for the needs of the German rulers and hangmen. Jews worked in various tailoring and shoemaking workshops for a wage that was absolutely insufficient for stilling the hunger of the worker and his family.

The Gestapo had supervision over all the workplaces. The assembly point for all workers was on Magdeburger Platz (the so–called Pig Platz), from which they went to work in groups, under a convoy of members of the ordnungsdienst, which accompanied them to the workplaces outside the ghetto.

Work discipline was very strenuously watched. The entire work brigade would be punished for the smallest mistake, even on the part of one worker. In addition, the punishments became more severe every day. It is enough to provide the case of 12 young Jews who were shot at the roll–call Platz because they missed one day of work.

With our last strength we showed up for work in the belief that with it we would stay alive and also save our wives and children.

 

– 15 –

The Jewish hospital now was arranged in the building of the previous old age home outside the ghetto. The doctors and nurses created a separate labor brigade that went to work accompanied by a German militiamen guard. Active at the hospital also was

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a disinfection division. Every day during the morning hours, all of the sick people in the ghetto were taken out to the hospital.

At first the Jews could make use of the baths in the building of the former mikvah [ritual bath], to which there were two entrances: one from the Aryan – and the second from the ghetto side. Jews and Christians would meet at the baths and it was possible to communicate with the outside world. However, as soon as the Gestapo learned of this, Jews were forbidden to make use of the bathhouses.

Jewish old people and invalids from various hiding places were smuggled into the ghetto daily. Understand, this was done very secretly and the Gestapo could not learn of this. Therefore, the Judenrat arranged a separate support area for this group, a sort of asylum in the previous egg warehouse of the Witstum firm at Szpitalna Street 6, where daily approximately 70 such older and sick Jews were assisted. Later, when the Gestapo learned of this, they attacked this asylum and murdered all of the Jews who were found there.

With the arrival of the ghetto in Tarnow, it was very difficult to provide food for the Jewish population. The efforts of the social divisions of the Judenrat to relieve the need that seized so many Jewish homes did not help. Old and dedicated communal workers, such as Meir Rozenbaum, Hirsh Eder, Pinkhas Trinczer, Chaim Tram, belonged to these social divisions. In addition, also active in the ghetto were other community workers who spared no effort and sacrifice to help their needy brothers. Four communal kitchens in the Tarnow ghetto, which gave out several thousand lunches every day, were supported with great effort and exertion.

They helped with buying food products on the black market, risking their lives. Those who went to work outside the ghetto walls received food products from the Christians through barter, which they brought back, to the ghetto in secret. Often the German and Ukrainian militiamen carried out searches of the Jews returning to the ghetto from the workplaces, and the punishment was carried out on the spot when they found the least bit of food on them…beatings and often the death penalty.

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Jews lived in the Tarnow ghetto under such conditions, with hunger, pain and illness. Individuals succeeded in leaving the ghetto on the basis of purchased Aryan papers. There also were those who escaped to other areas to hide with Christian acquaintances.

However, the majority of Jews imprisoned in the ghetto lived in scarcity, in fear, not knowing what the morning would bring.

In addition, the news reached us like thunder that an announcement of the 9th of September 1942 had been placed on the houses outside the ghetto

 

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The notice of the Tarnow County Chief about the deportation of Jews from the Tarnow ghetto on the 10th of September 1942

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about the deportation of Jews from the Tarnow ghetto, which was designated for the 10th of September 1942 and that the German county chief in Tarnow had threatened the death penalty for every Pole who hid or helped a Jew.

We also learned that in this notice the county chief ordered all of the Poles to report about Jewish possessions that were in their hands and forbid the Poles from appearing in the streets of Tarnow that led to the train station when the “deported” Jews were being led there.

On the 10th of September 1942 at dawn, the Gestapo and German gendarmerie surrounded the entire Tarnow ghetto. All of the ghetto residents, including those with work cards had to leave their residences and assemble at the roll–call Platz (Wolność Platz). Afterwards, when all of the Jews stood there according to their workplace, a selection began. Worker groups that the Germans still considered necessary for the German military machine left for work belatedly. On the other hand, others remained on the spot and then the actual selection took place, which was carried out by the German headquarters of Gestapo and gendarmerie officers in the presence of the ghetto commandant and members of the Judenrat.

This selection was frightful and cruel. Men were torn from their wives, children from their mothers.

Old people and women with children were concentrated in one place and young people in another place.

The moans were heartrending; the cries and laments. The children screamed, “Mama.” And mothers called, “I want to be with you.” Voices could be heard from fathers, “Do not leave me [here].”

There were parents who were desperate to give away their children to save them. But there also were parents who lamented and screamed, “Give me back my child. You can kill me with my child.”

There also were parents who resisted the gendarmerie and did not want to give up their children. There also were those who threw themselves at the Gestapo bandits, who mercilessly beat them with whips.

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There were several heroes among the parents who during the selections showered the German murderers with curses, not being concerned with being obedient.

In the course of a day we had to kneel thus under the open sky while the sun burned us and we were dying of hunger and thirst.

When the sun set they opened the gates of the ghetto and the entire transport of parents with children and children without parents was led out of the ghetto.

My wife and I and our two children were in this group. Our older daughter, Halina, went with me. My wife led the younger one, Edit, by the hand. We were determined to not be separated from our children and to share their fate.

Before we began to march, a member of the Judenrat, who was standing near me, whispered that at the moment I was near the spot where the Gestapo headquarters was located, I should shout, “I am a medical professional!” I did so, but after my words I received a blow over my back with a thick whip and I heard the words, “Ein schwein bist du” [You are a pig].

We walked standing four people in a row. We were accompanied on both sides by German S.S. members and Granatowa militiamen. They beat us murderously with the butts of their rifles, whenever someone could not keep up with our marching, fell, could not bear the heavy blows. Thus we went through the streets, Koszarowa, Mickewicza, Seminarska, until we arrived at the military firing range that was located outside the Sports Platz of the Jewish gymnastic union, Shimshon. Old wooden barracks stood there, which the Germans now were using as horse stalls. We were driven into these barracks. It was almost completely dark. A little air entered from outside through a small window, covered with boards. A terrible odor of filthy straw battered us.

Tired and weary, we fell on the gnojówka [liquid manure]. In the darkness we did not see who lay nearby. We only heard the crying and lamenting of people who literally were suffocating on the stinking straw from the lack of a little air.

The next day, first thing in the morning, the Judenrat provided us with

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bread and a warm drink. We received such provisions twice a day from the Judenrat. From time to time, a member of the Gestapo would appear who according to a list called out several people and led them from the barracks. The majority were shoemakers and tailors who worked for the Gestapo in the ghetto, and other Jews would take their place.

An acquaintance, Mrs. Leibel, the wife of the cabinetmaker Leibel, who had left a daughter in the ghetto who tried to extract her mother from the transport, was with us in the barracks. I asked this woman for mercy, that she not forget us when she left the barracks and was again in the ghetto. They promised to help us.

The next day Mrs. Leibel actually was led out of the barracks. I now had a spark of hope of being saved. But would Mrs. Leibel keep her word? Or would her efforts help me in some way?

On the third day, a Gestapo member appeared at our barracks and called my name, as well as my wife's and my two children. We quickly left the barracks, holding the meldkart [registration card] in our hands and the identity document from the gesundheitsamt [health department].

At the same time, the German S.S. members led the entire group from the barracks. Groups were formed to march. A number of the sick and those incapable of marching were shot on the spot. Only a small number of the sick were placed in wagons.

My wife, children and I walked in great haste in the direction of the gate that was farthest from the barracks. On the way we had trouble with the Gestapo, who checked us and, only by a miracle, did we succeed in approaching the exit gate and leave the military firing range.

We again walked along the same streets and alleys through which we had been led to the shooting spot. The Gestapo man, who led us out of the barracks, now led us into the ghetto through a back part and gave us to the Judenrat.

My first task was to find Mrs. Leibel; thanks to her we had been saved. She told me that she had given the Gestapo member who led us from the barracks everything that had been

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found in my residence. Alas, the refined Mrs. Leibel perished during the third deportation.

The entire transport of Jews from the horse barracks near Shimshon Platz was deported to Belzec. Approximately 8,000 Jews perished during the second deportation action in the Tarnow ghetto.

 

– 16 –

Several days passed after the terrible slaughter. Jews began to crawl out of the bunkers, from the cellars, attics and other hiding places. Their appearance was frightful…starving…exhausted, they searched for those closest to them.

The area of the ghetto again grew smaller. Several workplaces were liquidated or made smaller. Life in the ghetto was as if [we were] deceased. The mood of the surviving Tarnow Jews consisted of only one thought: preparing a hiding place, building a bunker or escaping at any price because no one doubted any longer that the Tarnow ghetto was on the eve of liquidation. Individuals succeeded in sneaking out of the ghetto and hiding with Polish acquaintances, particularly with Polish workers, who in several cases did not refuse to help and permitted Jews escaping from the ghetto to hide in well–prepared hiding places. They dug out an entrance to a cellar in ground floor residences, under the bottom of a sideboard. Or they would dig out a simple, deep pit in the kitchen, which would be covered, and thus accommodate six to seven people, pressed together one near the other. Double walls would be built in bathrooms.

Larger bunkers also were built for around 100 people in particularly inaccessible areas. Such a bunker was located in the Tarnow ghetto in an attic of a house at Lwowska Street 4. This bunker was built by a member of the Tarnow ordnungsdienst, a certain Plocki (he did not come from Tarnow), who had to be well paid for a place in the bunker.

A similar bunker was located at Nowa Street, under the ruin

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of the new synagogue, where special underground activities were carried out. Bunkers were also built at Garabaska Street and in other places in the city.

My greatest care now was to hide my two children. I would take my two children with me every morning when I left for work in the hospital. In addition, my wife, who was employed in the dispensary establishment, also went to work. I would leave the children not far from this establishment. When the Gestapo members appeared in the hospital building, my wife would hide the children in the delousing facility because the German heroes never would open the door there and, therefore, this was the best hiding place for the children.

 

– 17 –

Three months had barely gone by after the last murder action. The wounds had still not healed after the last slaughter and already on the 15th of November 1942, at eight o'clock in the morning, divisions of the Gestapo and S.S. surrounded the entire area of the Tarnow ghetto, only letting out the individual labor brigades. All of the Jews who remained in the ghetto had to appear at Magdeburger Platz.

My wife focused herself immediately on what the threat was and in the blink of an eye she and the children entered a bunker, while I left for the hospital with my work group. We were completely cut off from the ghetto area and we had absolutely no news from there.

A Jewish militiaman came to the hospital in the afternoon and brought me the news that my wife and both children had survived through miracles. When I returned from work in the evening, they already were waiting for me at home.

Later, when we had calmed ourselves after the most recent events, my older daughter began to describe the wonderful way in which all three had survived. She said that in the bunker in which they were bricked in, 50 more people had been hidden, the majority women and old men, without any contact with the outside world. Several hours had barely passed and the bunker was opened. They

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heard the barking of the dogs and the voices of the Germans who shouted that we should leave the bunkers quickly.

One by one – one after the other, everyone crawled out of the bunker. My wife and the children were the last. Halina, the older one, went first. When she came to the exit of the bunker, the militiaman from the ordnungsdienst, who stood there, asked her name and when she said her name he asked about her mother who had arrived with the younger Edit in her arms at just that moment. The man lightning–fast hid all three – my wife and two daughters – in the boxes that stood nearby and reported to the Germans that all of the people in the bunker had already gone to the roll–call Platz. The brave man, a certain Cymet, knew my wife from Josla, from which he himself came.

Approximately 3,000 young Jews capable of working perished during the last deportation action in the Tarnow ghetto. All of the bunkers and hiding places were found in the ghetto with the help of dogs and denouncers. Whoever was caught was shot on the spot.

After this murder action, the area of the ghetto again was made smaller. We went to work earlier, in groups. Our older daughter, Halina, worked as a helper on the Aryan side in a tailoring workshop.

Now there only remained the security of our younger daughter, Edit, and we decided to arrange for her to be with an Aryan family.

I became acquainted with a Pole at the hospital, about whom rumors went around that he had taken many Jews to Warsaw. I searched for this Pole and entrusted him with the fact that I was looking for a hiding place on the Aryan side for my Edit. He immediately sent a Christian woman to me, who was ready to hide my little daughter Edit with her. She lived not far from the Lipie forest, about two kilometers [a little over a mile] from Tarnow and, after discussing the conditions, she came the next day in the morning to take our Edit. Although our child still was very young, she already had a great deal of common sense, so she understood the conditions in which we found ourselves and that we were giving her from our home for her good. In addition she did not show any opposition and wished us

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much health and strength to persevere and immediately to see her after the war – she came out of the house quietly, with tears in her eyes.

 

– 18 –

The Judenrat tried to calm the surviving Jews after the last deportation from the Tarnow ghetto with assurances that no more deportations would take place in the Tarnow ghetto because the remaining Jews were necessary for work for the German military.

In addition to this, rumors now spread in the Tarnow ghetto that all surviving Tarnow Jews would be deported to a labor camp in Szebnie, near Jaslo, or to Plaszow. These rumors were spread by the German murderers who tried even more to disturb the mood of the exhausted Jews in order to make it easier to torture and annihilate them. Meanwhile, they grabbed Jews who were searching for hiding places in the neighboring village. Jews, who were caught in the bunkers were taken to the cemetery and shot there.

No one was secure in their life. Hunger and need reigned in Jewish residences. The German terror grew stronger every day.

Our Christian woman from the Lipie forest now returned with our small daughter in her arms. She brought the child back to us because, as she explained to us, she could no longer keep her because of fear of her neighbors.

Thus our daughter Edit again was with us. We now had to heal her because she returned with frozen feet. As she told us, she lived with the Christian woman in terrible conditions. The Christian woman's residence consisted of two small rooms and a kitchen. Behind the oven in the second room were baskets in which our Edit sat through the entire day and where she slept at night. The room was not heated and it is no wonder that the child left there with frozen feet. She did not cry. She told us that she suffered very badly from hunger, from the cold, but still more from longing for us.

 

– 19 –

We were very uneasy when we noticed that the Gestapo members

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were often guests in the office of the Judenrat. Their appearances in the ghetto always evoked a general panic. Therefore, as soon as they saw them they began the search to prepare hiding places. Whoever had the opportunity quickly hid in the bunkers, in cellars or in other holes.

In 1943 the commandant of the Tarnow ghetto was the S.S. member Hermann Blache. At the beginning he lived on the Aryan side in a house that bordered the ghetto near Lwowska Street near the “New Apothecary,” from which there was only one exit into the area of the ghetto where he would stay for the entire day.

He was a cruel, true animal in human form. He was present at every roll call; he controlled the forced labor of the Jewish slaves; he stood at the distribution of the “meals.” Blache did not rest in the ghetto. He raged, shot, pillaged whatever he could take from the Jews.

Rommelmann, the chief of the Jewish division in the Gestapo, and his bandit–like aides Grunoff, [Josef] Kastura, Iklerf, Jek, Oppermann and others did not remain behind the times and came to the ghetto almost every day and under various pretexts, murdered, ransacked Jewish possessions.

In August 1943 a division of wachdienst [security guards] composed of Ukrainians, with the German gendarme, [Johann] Kessler at the head, came to the ghetto. One section of this division surrounded the entire ghetto area on the third side and manned the entrance gates and the other [section] searched for Jews in every corner of the ghetto itself.

We had no doubt that we were on the eve of a new murder action. My daughter Halina, who was then 12 and a half years old, decided to hide on the Aryan side. She was tall and had an Aryan appearance. Our difficult experiences up to then had strengthened her character. She tried to convince us that without a doubt if we were together, we would all perish. When each of us was hidden in a different place, there was a possibility that she and all of us could be saved.

The decision to separate from Halina was difficult, but we understood that there was no other way out. In addition to a few

[Page 189]

zlotes, she had a certificate, which we had prepared earlier, and a notebook with the addresses of relatives who lived abroad. We agreed that after the war – God willing – if we survived – we would meet in Tarnow.

In the morning of another day our Halina went with her group to work on the Aryan side. Now our greatest worry was to find a hiding place for our Edit.

 

– 20 –

On the 2nd of September 1943, the fourth deportation action began in the Tarnow ghetto. This was supposed to be the last expulsion of Tarnow Jews. After the action, Tarnow was supposed to be Juden–rein [free of Jews].

This bloody murder action was carried out by Amon Göth, the camp commandant from Plaszow, whom the Germans had specially sent to Tarnow with the task of finishing the slaughter in the Tarnow ghetto, to thoroughly slaughter the rest of Tarnow Jewry, so that there would not remain any trace of a Jewish community in Tarnow.

The brutal murderer appeared in the Tarnow ghetto accompanied by higher S.S. officers and Gestapo divisions and immediately announced that the Tarnow ghetto was being liquidated and all of the residents would be deported to the labor camp in Plaszow.

It is difficult to describe the confusion and turmoil that arose in the ghetto when the news spread about the new expulsion. Now there was a race on all sides to prepare bunkers and hiding places.

On the same day, at dawn, the entire ghetto area was surrounded by the Gestapo and S.S. divisions. By order of Amon Göth, all of the Jews had to assemble at Wolność Platz (roll–call Platz) and arrange themselves in groups according to their particular workplace.

The roll–call Platz immediately became full of the working groups. An identification board stood in front of each group, which gave the name of the work spot, as, for example, the Ostban, Madritsch, tailoring workshop and so on. A number of Jewish militiamen stood with each group. Göth went to each group with his accompaniers, asked questions and pulled out individual people from the groups, whom the militia immediately took away to Staro–

[Page 190]

Dombrowska Street, where men and women were placed separately.

Everyone awaited their fate with a trembling heart. The murderer Göth decided everything about a person. When a woman approached him and asked that she be assigned to the group in which her groom was located, he drew out his revolver and shot the poor woman on the spot without answering.

When the group of men at Staro Dombrowska Street reached the number 200 and the group of women 100, both groups were taken to two separate wooden barracks that belonged to the “Zege Factory” Zinger firm. Both barracks were now guarded by an S.S. division and completely sealed off. I was assigned to the group of men and my wife to the group of women and she succeeded in hiding our daughter Edit. I had the ability to see everything that later took place there through the small window of our barracks, which looked out to roll–call Platz, such as Göth and Blache shooting at children and women. The terrible details of this last slaughter in the Tarnow ghetto have already been described in the first volume of the memorial book, Tarne [Tarnow].

I was assigned to the group whose task was to clean Wolność Platz of the corpses, the victims of the last slaughter. We took them to the cemetery and buried them in a shared, mass grave. Among the corpses then, I recognized Mrs. Klapholc (Khizkal's wife) and her children, Mrs. Mesinger and Mrs. Getsler.

One transport of Jews, which was designated for deportation during the selection on the first day of the fourth deportation action – around 5,00 Jews – left for Auschwitz and the second transport with trade workers – approximately 3,000 Jews – left for Plaszow. Just as during the previous actions, all the severely sick and people incapable of being transported were shot.

Göth even had liquidated the temporary, small hospital. He shot the eight sick people he found there. And thus the bestial murdered Amon Göth finished the liquidation of the Tarnow ghetto.

After the war, the bloody hangman was sentenced to death by the highest Polish national tribunal on the 5th of September 1946.

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This murderer had the audacity to turn to the President of Poland with a request for clemency. It was not given and on the 13th of September 1946, the mass murderer Amon Göth went to the gallows.

 

– 21 –

Our group (200 men and 100 women) were designated with the name Säuberung–Commando [cleaning commando] and had the task of cleaning up the ghetto of signs of the last murder action. [S.S. Oberscharführer – senior squad leader – Hermann] Blache locked us in two houses at Wolność Platz numbers 10 and 12. We left for work at seven o'clock in the morning and the gates from the two houses were closed immediately after we returned at night, at six in the evening. We were guarded by Ukrainian guards for the entire night.

Our work in the ghetto emptied of Jews was difficult.

We first cleaned the bloodied streets and at the storehouses located at the Szacki School, we gathered the things remaining in Jewish residences, the so–called Judenguts [Jewish possessions] and there we sorted everything and packed and prepared them to be sent to Germany. In all of the ghetto residences, in all attics and cellars we had to search through all corners and clean and erase the signs of the German crimes.

One day they brought to me at the Szacki School the registration card of my brother Chaim, which had been found in his jacket. A postcard addressed to me was attached to the registration card, on which my brother, of blessed memory, had given me the news that he was located in the Szacki School and that our parents were somewhere else.

The murderer Blache made use of various criminal means to entice the few Jews who were still in hiding, from their various hiding places. For this purpose he published a call to the Jews who were hiding, that they should return to work and, when this did not help, he ordered the water system to be shut off in all the houses and the electrical current to be cut off. The exhausted, sick Jews now had to leave their hiding places and came out into the daylight. In the second half of September 1943 an entire transport of approximately 700 such illegal, ghetto residents were deported to

[Page 192]

tar2_192.jpg
A transport of Jews being led to be shot in the forest near Tarnow

 

Szebnie. The entire transport did not perish in this camp. On the way, around 600 people were shot and their bodies burned in the forest near Tarnowice. Around 100 people arrived in Szebnie from this transport.

Blache himself ran around like a wild animal in the emptied ghetto and searched. Perhaps there was still a victim hidden somewhere? Thus, he shot the young Sztum when he suddenly came out of his hiding place wanting to jump over the wall of the ghetto.

Blache's son excelled in shooting Jews – the young 15–year old murderer. Blache would brag to his Gestapo comrades that his son had quickly learned the trade of shooting Jews.

Blache would imprison every Jew who was pulled from a hiding place, in a dark cellar in Koch's house at Wolność Platz and when 100 Jew had been assembled there, they were all driven out to the so–called “garbage heap” at Stara Dombrowska Street and there they were shot. Those executed had to take off everything.

[Page 193]

tar2_193.jpg
Tarnow Jews being led to their execution at the cemetery in Tarnow

 

They ripped out the gold teeth from the corpses and poured kerosene and benzene over the bodies and burned them. In a short time, around 500 Jews were annihilated there. ARTZ Dr. Lustik and the nurse Chaya Argand also perished there because they were taking care of an older Jew who lay in a bunker and became sick there. When Blache learned of this, he immediately ran there with his helpers and the entire group was led out of the bunker to the “garbage heap” and brutally shot there.

Meanwhile, our group from the “cleaning commando” worked hard at sorting and packing the remaining possessions of the murdered and deported Jews. Everything had a value to the German murderer – bedding, linen, clothing, shoes. We sorted everything separately and separately packed it and sent it away to the freight train, by which approximately 10 freight cars with such goods left for Germany every day.

From time to time at the morning roll call Blache would remind us that we should give the gold items, such as money or jewelry to the guard

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room at Wolność Platz. At the delivery of these things we stood in rows…men and women separately. We went up to the room one by one with small steps, where Blache, the commandant of the guard division, Kessler, and a guard sat. And the bundle of gathered “treasures” was given to them. Then Blache himself would carry out a body search.

During such a search, Blache shot the young Goldberg, a son of the owner of the soap factory at Lwowska Street, because he ostensibly found a dollar on him.

Meanwhile, there was less to do in the storehouse. We trembled at the simple thought that we would soon be without work and what would become of us then?

My wife and I had no doubt that our fate was sealed. However, we wanted at any cost to save our daughter Edit, who we had only kept alive until then by a miracle.

Our former servant, Basha, who remained devoted to us, lived on the Aryan side and would help us in any way she could. We communicated with her with great difficulty and she was ready to help us by hiding our Edit. On a designated day, Edit hid in a wagon that would leave the ghetto to bring food products. Our servant Basha waited on the Aryan side and took our Edit from the wagon.

The work of cleaning the ghetto and taking away the stolen Jewish possessions was almost finished. Suddenly on the 3rd of November 1943, several trucks arrived in the ghetto from Szebnie with S.S. members led by the camp commandant, [Josef] Grzimek, and took 150 people from our liquidation group. The entire transport left for Szebnie.

The Gestapo now ill–treated the handful of surviving Tarnow Jews, looking for new tortures for the city. They tormented us daily with long–lasting investigations under the suspicion that we were in contact with Aryans and were preparing to escape. During a roll call, they would pull individual people from the row, take them to the “garbage heap” and shoot them there.

At the end of 1943, when the liquidating work already had ended,

[Page 195]

the Gestapo murderers annihilated the members of the Judenrat who still remained in the ghetto in a savage way.

We, the 115 Jews from the “cleaning group,” under guard by the Gestapo, left the Tarnow ghetto for Plaszow. Tarnow was Juden–rein [free of Jews].

In May 1945 I was liberated from the terrible Mauthausen camp by a victorious American Army division. In August 1945 I returned to Tarnow in the hope of finding someone from my family. Then I learned that my little daughter Edit, who had been hiding with a Christian woman, had died. Rumor went around that she had been poisoned.

After long searching, I learned that my dear wife, Rywka, of blessed memory, was deported from the labor camp to Auschwitz and from there to

 

tar2_195.jpg
After the slaughter in the Tarnow ghetto

 

Bergen–Belsen, where she perished on the 15th of April 1945 – right on the day when Bergen–Belsen was liberated by the American Army.

Several months later, my older daughter, Halina, returned from forced labor in Germany. She is now 15 years old and already has gone through the seven circles of hell.


Original footnotes

  1. Detailed report from the proceedings against Rommelmann is given in another place. Ed. Return
  2. There is a detailed article about this personality in another part of this book (Ed.) Return

 

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