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[Page 233, Volume 2]

The ADMOR [Hasidic rabbi] of Grudzisk

Translated by Daniel Kochavi

 

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This is the image of your teacher: A picture of the wise and holy Rabbi our teacher Eliezer Horowitz Admor from Grudzisk,The Admor from Klantesh:
He was born in the year 5636 (1875) passed away in purity on 6 Kislev 5703 in Tarnow – may his memory protect us and God avenge his blood.

 

When the ADMOR from Grudzisk and thousands of Jews, men, women and children were taken to the gas chambers in the German death camps, the Rabbi asked permission to say a few words to the assembled Jews. The Rabbi spoke as follows: Brothers and Sisters! A Talmud Sage said “yeti vlo achminia” (Aramaic) meaning the Messiah will come but I will not see it. This wise man did not want to see the great future suffering of the Israelites before the coming of the Messiah. Only he could make that request because, in his time, salvation (i.e. the coming of the Messiah) was far away in time. Today however when we are standing at the threshold of salvation, at this hour when we are bleeding and purifying with our blood the way for our savior, at this hour when our ashes, like the ashes of the Red Heifer, purify the people of Israel so that they will be ready to greet our holy Messiah – we must not say the opposite. On the contrary we must be grateful that it falls on us to pave the way for the coming of our redeemer and accept with love our sacrifice and our martyrdom to the faith (Kiddush Hashem). So, Jews join together and declare with joy “Shema Israel, come let us sing Ani Maamin” ... and this is what happened. All sang “Ani Maamin” with holy enthusiasm and singing they approached and entered the gas chamber......

(told by rabbi A.I. Halevi Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel after visiting camps of the survivors in Italy, published in” Olam”). (from “The Shoah and the Rebellion” - Anthology on the destruction of the European Jewry from 5700-5705 (1940-1945) published by the office of Education and Culture)


[Pages 234-239, Volume 2]

About the Heroic Role
of the Jewish Children During Nazi Rule

by Ahron Szporn (Montreal)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The savage persecutions of the Jews began during the first months after the triumphant entry of the German troops into Poland. The capture of adult women and men for forced labor was a dark, nightmarish plague. The adults were locked in their homes and did not appear in the streets because of the persecutions. The burden of providing income, functioning as providers of food for the family was taken on by the youngest children who were not obligated to wear the sign of disgrace, the [yellow Mogen Dovid – known as the Star of David] armband, and they were not threatened with the danger of being captured for forced labor.

The intrepid Jewish children filled an original, rebellious, function with a rare heroism that was expressed in several forms, such as:

  1. home providers
  2. street bargaining and smuggling
  3. begging
Home providers

It was necessary to stand the entire night in lines in order to receive the distribution of a small portion of bread… and when the sun began to rise, the danger of being captured for forced labor arose… It happened often that they stood in the line the entire night and at the end left with nothing because there was a sudden search and then there was no bread. Therefore, the youngest children were sent to the rows… and meanwhile they [the adults] lived in fear… when would the child return with the small amount of bread?

 

Street bargaining

After the war I met in Tarnow a young girl named Winer, who had lived in the Tarnow ghetto and survived through a miracle.

In a conversation with her, she told me: Everyone was involved with trade, so I also became involved… Did I have a choice?… We did not have

[Page 235]

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Jewish children in the Tarnow ghetto

 

anything to eat and I had to be the provider… I would walk with my friend around and bargain… She was then 13 and I was 11…

 

Smuggling

Life became unbearable after the publication of the ordinances according to which there was the threat of death for leaving the ghetto. It was now almost impossible to smuggle food items into the ghetto and hunger threatened to entirely depress those Jews already physically and spiritually weakened. With such a hopelessness situation, Jewish children began to smuggle food from the Aryan side into the imprisoned ghetto. What moral exaltation… What courage and boldness these children, the only providers of food for their homes, possessed … Unafraid, they

[Page 236]

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On the way to the ghetto with food items

 

risked their lives and many of these young heroes perished here.

This self–sacrifice by the Jewish children and their role as providers of nourishment for their parents, for their brothers and sisters was confirmed by Jonas Turkow,[1] who underlined that the youngest children, who would sneak out to the Aryan side and from there smuggle bread, flour and potatoes into ghetto, particularly excelled in smuggling food items into the ghetto.

It is easy to say… leave the ghetto for the Aryan side… Yet the walls around the ghettos were guarded from the inside by the Jewish militia and from the outside by the Polish and German police. Often such a

[Page 237]

Jewish child had to wait for many hours until they could go unnoticed through to the Aryan side past three such guards. Hundreds of Jewish children fell during this work from the bullets of the guards.

Dr. Hilel Zajdman[2] writes about the heroic role of the Jewish children as providers of food and nutrition for Jewish homes in the ghetto, commenting that the most interesting and equally the saddest chapter of the Jewish children's martyrdom was the smuggling that was carried out by the children, small children from five to eight years old, with small emaciated little bodies who would push themselves through narrow openings in the ghetto walls, through holes for the drainage of water, and go to the Aryan side. There they bought a little food for tens of zlotes, mostly potatoes and bread and then with these “goods” underneath their clothing they would wait in a crouch near one of the ghetto gates until it was possible to sneak into the ghetto. Woe to the child when they with their “goods” fell into German or Polish hands.

These small children, merchants, smugglers, writes Dr. Hilel Zajdman,[3] “were very clever… They were raised in difficult and the most dangerous work; they sharpened their minds with complicated transactions of the ghetto businesses. Many fell during this difficult struggle, fell as heroes, in devotion to their closest ones and in love of the family and many helped other Jews with a piece of bread…”

 

Beggars

Begging was not a successful occupation. Thus were educated a new level of “takers” who would above all take food and immediately eat it on the spot. In the Warsaw ghetto, taking was a daily phenomenon. The ghetto police carried on an unsuccessful, embittered struggle against these takers. Instead of giving the hungry children something to eat and fight the taking in an educational manner, the ghetto police applied a system of beatings with rubber sticks… However, this did not satisfy the hunger of the child takers. The beatings had the opposite effect. The takers became accustomed to the lashes and blows as the price for quieting their hunger for several hours.

[Page 238]

Bernard Goldsztajn[4] describes the following as an eyewitness: “A stampede, voices, shouting: ‘Catch him!’ a barefoot boy in rags, his pitch–black dirty feet trudge in mud, get entangled in a laying corpse, falls down, holding a loaf of bread in his hand and he gnaws it with his last strength…

The owner of the loaf of bread struggles with him, wants to get the bread which was so difficult for him to obtain and which is now gnawed, dirty with spit from the “taker,” perhaps it is infected with typhus…

“'Takers” were a special category,” writes Bernard Goldsztajn. “Those, who in their desperation and anxiety about hunger still possessed a little strength and boldness to break the sacred law for property rights for a piece of bread. They would be beaten murderously, by both the ones who had been robbed and the police… However, it was impossible to eradicate the ‘takers,’ just as it was to eradicate the hunger…”

 

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Memorial tablet in the Buczyna Forest near Tarnow in memory of the 800 children murdered in 1942

[Page 239]

The Tragedy of the Children During the Deportations

Consistent with their systematic savagery, during the first half of 1942 the German hangmen began to speed up the murder aktsias [actions – usually, deportations], the so–called “deportation actions,” and the rope tightened around the necks of the exhausted Jewish population sentenced to death in the Polish cities and shtetlekh [towns].

The first victims during these murder aktsias were the Jewish children. The Germans murderers slaughtered hundreds of them on the spot during a deportation and still more were sent to the concentration and death camps.

Rywka Kwiatkowska[5]. provides such a sad and horribly cruel picture of the tragic fate of the Jewish children during one of the deportations to the Lodz ghetto, a picture that was repeated in all of the ghettos in Poland during the entire era of extermination:

“[They stood] near their parents, lost and afraid, the confused hidden children saved by a miracle; quiet and afraid, they followed their parents, in dirty suits of clothes, washed, with hair combed, with small wooden shoes on their small feet, small tags with addresses and family names hung attached on the shuddering, depressed–by–fear childish chests.”

From these heroic Jewish children, only individuals survived. Here and there, individual Jewish children hid on the Aryan side and survived all seven levels of hell in their Aryan hiding places.


Footnotes:

  1. Jonas Turkow – Azoy is Es Geveyn [This is How it Was]… p. 127. Return
  2. Dr. Hilel Zajdman – Togbukh fun Warszawer Gheto [Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto] – pp. 157–158 Return
  3. See above Return
  4. Bernard Goldsztajn – 5 Yor in Warszawer Gheto [Five Years in the Warsaw Ghetto], pp. 253–254. Return
  5. Rywka Kwiatkowska – Fun Lager in Lager [From Camp to Camp]. Return


[Pages 240-247, Volume 2]

Children Accuse

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

A book was published in 1947 in Poland under this name, edited by Maria Hochberg-Marianska and Noakh Grim, about the martyrdom of children during the Hitlerist occupation. The testimony of the child, Josek Mansdorf[1] (born on the 21st of December 1931 in Tarnow), submitted by the Historical Commission in Tarnow, also is published in this collection. The testimony (no. 14) is found on pages 100-108 and carries the title, “Tarnow – the defeat of the family. Trading through the fence. In the village. The farmers, bad and good people.”

(Translated from Polish)

Once, when the Germans were in Tarnow, a car stopped in front of our house on Widok Street. Three S.S. men got out of it and came into our residence with a question – who lives here? When my father said that Jews live here, they beat him and ordered everyone to go out of the apartment to the courtyard. They took away all of the best things from the room.

Another time, when we already were wearing armbands, I walked on Lemberger (Lwowska) Street carrying several boxes of candy to sell in a shop. A German policeman grabbed me by my armband and wanted to take the candies. Because I was crying hard, he led me to the starostwe [district office] and, there, after they asked where I had gotten [the candies] and where I was taking them, they permitted me to go home. I then was afraid and no long carried any candies.

Four days before the first deportation, I heard the neighbors talking about a resettlement. My oldest brother was in Wola Lubecka near Jaslo. My mother and father told me to travel to my brother to tell him to come to Tarnow. There were various disturbances and we could not return immediately. Therefore, we sent a Pole to Tarnow

[Page 241]

to learn what was happening in the city. He brought us a note saying we should not come home. There was a deportation. He went again and learned and brought the news that my mother, brother and my six-year old sister had been taken for deportation. My oldest sister, 19-years old, had been shot in her bed where she lay sick. My brother had been standing near her: “We do not need any Yidishkes [Jewish women]” – and there was laughter and a shot echoed. My brother was taken to the marketplace where he stood an entire day. He later received a stamp and he was permitted to go home. I was told that my brother traveled to me and my father had escaped to a village during the deportation.

I returned to Tarnow and my two brothers both arrived, but my father did not return to Tarnow. He remained in the village. Later the labor office sent one brother to the airplane factory in Mielec as a metal worker. My other brother was shot by Rommelmann, a member of the Gestapo. My brother was 20 years old. I remained alone. I still had one sister; but I did not know what had happened to her during the deportation because she then was supposed to go to Krakow. I reported to the labor office, received a work card and I was ordered to report twice a week.

When the ghetto was created, the tinsmith Wajzer and his family of six people lived with us. I asked him to try to have the labor office allocate me to him for work. We left to see the director of the labor office, Miller, and asked him about this. He refused. I was too young. Wajzer told me to go to work without the allocation. I did this for three months. He told me to remove my armband and to buy butter, eggs and lard outside the ghetto and I returned to the ghetto in the evening with everything. When the workers would return to the ghetto I would put on the armband and come in with them. This lasted three months. Then I reported personally to the work office twice a week. Once I was taken away to work for a week in the mieszczanke [village]. Meanwhile, Wajzer looked for another boy for work. Unexpectedly, my sister returned to the ghetto. During the entire time she

[Page 242]

had been sick. She had never reported. Thus we lived until the second deportation.

With Wajzer we prepared a hiding place under the room. The entrance was through the balcony. One part was open; we sat in the second part. During the second deportation the Gestapo men ripped up the boards of the first part of the hiding place where a great deal of wood was piled. They moved several beams, but did not see anyone because the hiding place was dark. Then one of them did see me. He then stuck his head and his hand, holding a revolver, into the hiding place and then removed his head and said to the other one: “There is a great deal of wood, but there is no one there.”

We left the hiding place two days after the deportation. Our residence had been completely looted. There was nothing on which to live. I thought about what to do. I borrowed 500 zlotys from an acquaintance, left for the Polish area, bought cigarettes and sold them at night in the ghetto. I dealt with cigarettes until the third deportation. A Polish police secret agent once noticed me when I was standing with the cigarettes. I escaped. I scattered the cigarettes. He shot after me three times but I entered another house where there was an exit to another street. Then I came home without cigarettes and very frightened. I stopped dealing with cigarettes.

I was 12-years old. I went to the ghetto fence. There I became acquainted with Poles who began to bring me butter and eggs. I bought underwear and goods in the ghetto and I exchanged the things with [the Polish acquaintances]. Thus it was until the third deportation. We again hid in the same hiding place, but there was no deportation. We waited [in the hiding place] for a whole week. Sunday I heated the oven, began to cook coffee, while my sister had to wash clothes and clean the floor. A minute later a neighbor came running [with the news] that the deportation was occurring and they already were in the third room. My sister woke up quickly and we barely succeeded in hiding ourselves. We barely had been able to arrange the wood in the hiding place and they were in our residence. We had not taken anything to eat. We sat hidden for five days and had nothing to eat. We came out after five days. The Wajzers had been taken because they had not succeeded

[Page 243]

in hiding. I went out to the street and saw no one. I went into our residence, took bread and butter and returned to the hiding place. We were there for many more days until we went back into our room.

My sister wanted me to leave for the Polish area without an armband and to travel to Jaslo to learn if our father was alive. When I went out I met an acquaintance from that area. I learned from him that our father was alive. I returned to the ghetto and told my sister everything.

She told me to go again in order to find someone who would take us to our father for a good reward. I did not meet anyone and I returned. My sister left for the Polish quarter, but she did not return because there was a guard at the wall. I contemplated everything over two days; how to leave the ghetto. I finally decided that when the workers went to work I would put on torn village clothing and go with the group. I changed my clothes, placed my hand in a hand towel, ostensibly as if it were hurting me, so that it would be easier for me to take off the armband. The Poles as well as Polish and German police were standing on the sidewalk when we arrived at the factory. I took off the armband and hid it in my fist. In one step I moved out of the ranks [of workers], turned and then with my face to the group, loudly asked if anyone had anything to sell. The Jews entered the factory and I left with a small package in my hand. Poles ran up to me and asked if I had something to sell. I said no.

I left for Jaslo through nearby villages and arrived [in Jaslo] and went to Polish acquaintances and asked them about my father and sister. They answered that they did not know about anyone and let me stay overnight. In the morning I left for Wola Lubecka. I went to a peasant and suddenly saw through the window… my sister was walking. I went out to her and we walked together. We did not know where we were going. Night fell. I told my sister that I would go to Tarnow, buy various trifles there, such as needles, thread, combs and stay with another Pole. She agreed and was supposed to wait for me in the woods.

I left, bought everything and returned to her.

[Page 244]

This lasted for four days. I went without interruption, without rest, day and night. When I returned I said that I would go to the Poles and if I found a good person I would confess who I was and ask if he would let me stay with him for a good reward. I could not find such a person. One asked if I knew something about a servant. I answered that I knew about a resettled woman who was working for a person, but she was not being paid. Her clothes were becoming torn and she could not buy any other [clothing]. She would want to be a servant in order to buy something. He ordered me to bring her and promised to give me 100 zlotys. I went to my sister and we went to the peasant. She pleased him and remained there. I went further in the direction of the city of Jaslo. There I met a very good peasant. I confessed to him who I was. He said he would take me. I was with him for a month. I told him about my sister, that she had various valuable objects and asked him if he would take her in. This was not true, but I wanted to go to Tarnow in order to buy something and therefore I told him this. He agreed because he was cunning and wanted me to give him something. I told my sister everything and she praised me for finding such a peasant, because she could no longer remain [where she was]… They had discovered that she was a Jew.

By night I was in Tarnow, crawled through the fence in the ghetto and bought goods for all the money I had. Acquaintances gave me things and money to help us. The same night I left the ghetto and went to my sister and we went to the peasant together. I hid a few things in the stable, I left a little and we gave the remainder to the peasant with the pretext that every week or two I would bring him something. He agreed and we remained. Two weeks passed and I said that I was going to bring something. I went to the stable at night, took out a few things. Every two weeks I gave him something and thus we were hidden for a year. I had nothing left but 50 zlotys. I asked the peasant to lend me 250 zlotys so I could go to Tarnow and during that time he would keep my sister until I returned and I would bring him many things. In Tarnow I bought

[Page 245]

a small box of blotting paper, went through the villages with it, sold each paper individually and earned twice what I had paid. Then I bought butter and eggs and returned with them to the ghetto. I sold everything in the ghetto and I earned 500 zlotys. With the money I bought underwear, left for another village and sold everything. I bought butter and lard; again, I brought it into the ghetto through a fence, sold it and again bought underwear for 1,800 zlotys. And again I went to the village, sold it and again bought food. This was repeated eight times. After two months I had 5,000 zlotes. A blanket then cost 100-120 zlotes. I went to my sister to find what the situation was. My sister said that she wanted to leave the village because people knew [that she was a Jew]. Without the peasant's knowledge she left for another village. I searched for a spot with another peasant, again bargained and I paid for her. I took lard, but no longer into the ghetto, but to a tailoring factory where Jews were working. There I again sold food and bought various things.

Meanwhile, I met a Jew with whom I went to the woods where we built a bunker. During the day I went to the city, at night I went to the woods. It already was autumn. Thus passed three months. I only thought about how to provide myself with papers so that I could go to work in an unfamiliar village. I had an acquaintance, a 15-year old Polish boy. I went to him. I asked him what his name was, when he was born, what were the names of his family. He told me everything. The next day I went to the priest, told him the name of the boy and asked him to give me a metryka [birth record] because I wanted to receive a kenkarte [identity card issued in areas occupied by Germany]. He gave me the document. I paid five zlotes. The next day I went to the community of Ryglice, gave them the metryka. They asked me to have a photograph taken and gave me a kenkarte. When I returned, I learned that one peasant was looking for a boy to help with his work. I reported and he took me in. He asked for my papers. I showed them to him. He left with me for the slotis [village magistrate], registered me as his farm hand. I was with him for a year and tended the cows. I got up early, cleaned up. The peasant was very satisfied with me. My father once came to see me in the stall unexpectedly when I was asleep. I did not know anything about [where] my father [was], but he learned about me from people. We talked the entire night. At around

[Page 246]

three [in the morning] I asked him to leave so that the peasant would not see him. He left, but my boss saw and recognized him. He guessed who I was, but said nothing. Then the entire village learned about me. But the peasant did not drive me away and people did not denounce me [to the Germans]. In the month of July when the Germans withdrew, the Gestapo moved into the convent in the village. They were quartered there. One of the members of the Gestapo once was walking by and saw a person in the distance who did not stop at his demand and he [the Gestapo member] shot three times. The “someone” escaped. The member of the Gestapo did not notice in the dark that this was a girl who entered our house and asked about a 12-year old boy. I was then in the attic and heard everything. In the evening I made a hole and hid myself. I fell asleep and slept until morning. When I went down, my boss asked me to finish eating and to leave because the Gestapo was looking for me. I went to my sister. The military also was housed there and she worked in the military kitchen. A boy was needed to carry water for the kitchen. I worked in this German kitchen for two weeks. Then the Germans left. I returned to the peasant for whom I had worked. There they already knew that it was not me who they [the Gestapo] had meant [were searching for] and although I was afraid, they asked me to remain. I again tended the cows. On Sunday I would tend the cows and go to church. I was there until September 1944. Then when they began to deport the Poles in the village of Czarna, [the Poles] came to our village. Whoever had room took them in. There was no room with us because there were many people and the peasant did not take anyone in. The deported Poles learned that he was housing a Jew; they came to him and argued that so many people were without a roof over their heads and he was housing a Jew instead of someone else. He insisted to them that this was not true and took no one in and continued to house me.

In the autumn we had to go to dig trenches. The boys in the village told the German that I knew German. He was looking for such a person and summoned me and asked how I knew German. I answered

[Page 247]

that I had learned from a dictionary while I was tending the cows. He designated me as his translator. I was with him constantly and things were good for me. Someone told him that I was a Jew. One boy warned me that I should no longer go to dig because the German knew that I was a Jew. I thanked him and did not go anymore. The peasant asked me why I was no longer going; I answered him that a translator was no longer needed. I continued to live and to work there. I put on different clothes so that I would not be recognized because they were searching for me. One day one of those who were searching for me came and asked for such a boy. The peasant said that there had been such a boy but he was no longer here.

I began to be afraid and asked that he [the peasant] keep me in hiding for a certain time. I gave him an overcoat [in exchange]. I asked him to take in a deported peasant, one more-or-less like me so that in case he was asked he would have someone to show. He took in a deported family and hid me in a hiding place and no one knew what had happened to me. People asked about me, but he said that he did not know. I sat in a cellar. The cellar was fenced off with a board. There were potatoes on one side; I sat on the other side. Thus I sat until the arrival of the Russians. Then he [the peasant] told me to leave. I went out and left for Tarnow.


Footnote:

  1. Today in Israel (Ramat-Gan). Return

 

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