Translated by Sara Mages
At the beginning of 1941, an anti-Nazi resistance movement was planned. The idea was to organize a small core of activists from various youth movements. The main initiator was the member Alter Eisenberg. The purpose of the initiators was to prepare young people, who were ready to join, and form a fighting unit against the enemy of the Jewish people when time comes. Many obstacles stood in the initiators' way, and they had to overcome them with patience. Here are a few of the difficulties that stood on their way: 1) How to ensure the secrecy of recruiting young people outside the underground circle. 2) How to connect with large resistance movements out of town to get help and guidance or with possible weapon suppliers. 3) Where we will raise funds to purchase weapons, and where we will practice them.
Secret meetings and obtaining weapons
After careful consideration, we prepared a list of possible young people to be accepted to the underground group. The list was limited because of the safety regulations that we had to take to secure the safety of the mission. The first organizers were: Alter Eisenberg, Avigdor Price, and the brothers Avraham and Chaim Borenstein. In the course of time, the group expanded and the following members were added: Ozer Byk, Malka Kraus, Matil Greenblat, Dora Bookit, Losia Herman, Sela Ostrovitz, Itze Ber Diament, Avraham Aharon Kraus, Yosef Kraus and others. The group was able to connect with the P.P.R [Polska Partia Robotnicza], the underground communist party, through Bewislitz, the Polish sawmill guard. He was a devoted communist before the war, and not anti-Sematic. He lived in a small house close to the Nida River not far from the bridge, an ideal location for secret meetings. On dark nights it was possible to reach his house with caution and without being caught by the Germans. I remember a tragic episode that occurred when we were in his attic. Suddenly we heard shots close by. After that, we saw through a crack in the wooden boards a German S.S. squad crossing the bridge
and travelling to Koniecmosty. The guard came over immediately and told us that the Germans saw a woman escaping, shot her and killed her. It was a poor Jewish woman who carried small bags of potatoes food for her children. She panicked when she saw the Germans, and started to run. The Germans saw her and killed her. We started to collect money between us to purchase weapons since no one from the outside was willing to supply them to us without payment. It was also difficult to obtain them with money. Our financial options were very limited. There weren't people with means to give us money for this purpose, and in addition, we feared that the group will be discovered. For that reason we purchased weapons from independent sources. We bought two rifles and a few pistols from the Poles. The weapons were divided and concealed between the members. A rifle or two were hidden by Matil Greenblat in his attic, a pistol was hidden by Alter Eisenberg, and a pistol by the writer of this lines.
On this occasion, I would like to give a typical case of hiding a pistol. Possession of weapons at home endangered the lives of everyone who lived in the apartment. Once, my father May the Lord avenge his blood, was looking for something in the apartment and found the pistol that he had no knowledge of. I anticipated a great scandal, but to my great surprise, my father May the Lord avenge his blood, asked me where I got it and for what purpose. He accepted my explanation quietly as if he himself was a rebel. The weapon was hidden in a safer place. The problem of weapon training was extremely difficult since we didn't have a suitable safe place and enough ammunition. Therefore, there was almost no live practice, only a demonstration to a few members on how to hold a weapon, how to load it, take it apart and put it back together. In addition, the Borenstein brothers tried to produce ignition bombs and activate explosives. The experiment was crowned with success and the explosion took place at the right time.
Attempts to join the partisans
In late summer 1942, we guarded at night in shifts after the liquidation of the ghettos in the nearby cities. We learned that the Germans closed the roads at dawn to prevent an escape from the city. Therefore, the guard had to be on alert before dawn, and once he heard movements and sounds from the Germans, he had to wake the rest of the members who slept two or three in one place. The members had to leave immediately, before the city was surrounded by the Germans and their helpers, and reach the meeting point in a village near the city of Opatowiec, not far from the Wisla River. Indeed, the watch was conducted properly. On Shemini Atzert 5703 [3 October 1942], the day of the liquidation and deportation of Wislica Ghetto, most of the members were able to escape from the town with some of the weapons that they were able to hide on their bodies, and reach the meeting point. The escaped members gathered a day or two later. A contact from the P.P.R central office, who was at the melting point, had to organized the group
into a partisan unit, equip it and put an experienced military commander as its leader.
Later, the group had to move east to an area of large forests which provide shelter and fighting options. When the unit was organized, we demanded that not only Jews will be added to it, but also experienced fighters. To our surprise we were told that only we, a dozen and a half members from Wislica, were members of the unit and we will be given a commander, an escaped prisoner, a professional officer. We were told that at the moment Polish soldiers were not added to partisan units in this area, and when we move east we will be able to connect with other groups. Now, he had to organize the members who didn't have a place to live, meaning, the Jews who escaped from the ghettos. We received as a commander a Russian officer who was hiding in the village under the protection of the P.P.R.
One night, the group was transferred by boats across the Wisla River to a Galician shrub area on the right bank. Before we left a number of young people from our town, who also managed to escape from the Aktzia , joined us. They were: Hershel Zuker and Nathan Papir. Our first day in the field between the shrubs passed with organizational activities under the Soviet officer command. The member Alter was nominated by him as the unit's Political Commissar. During the preparations, it became evident from the commander's statements that he was imbued with anti-Semitics ideas, and that he was a Ukrainian. His first order was to give him all of our money, watches, and valuable before going out into the distance. Our fears grew on the same day, that he will use any opportunity to leave the group under his command, when we were far from meting point and closer to Ukraine. A consultation took place between some members without the commander's knowledge. We decided to contact the meeting point across the river before we left the area. We found an excuse, and the member Alter crossed the river and informed about the commander's tendency. The next night, Alter arrived to our location together with a man from the central office. Much to our amazement, instead of replacing the commander he decided to disperse us and cut off contact with the group. His reasons were not clean and suggest anti-Semitism. We regretted very much that we weren't able to fulfill the idea that we thought of in the ghetto and devoted our souls to. It was not our fault, but the fault of the organizers and those related to them Polish friends from the P.P.R. We had no other way out of the situation that we were in, but to return to the other side of the Wisla River. After a lot of consultations, and to the light of the general situation that we were in, we did not want, and it was not possible to continue as a large group, because the group leadership had to take responsibility for the physical existence of a handful of Jews, without the possibility of escaping from the clutches of the Nazis. It was decided that each one would decide his future, and will be responsible for his fate. People scattered in small groups and individually. Some reached camps, some hid in caves, forests or hiding places. Some left with Aryan identity papers that a few members obtained after a daring burglary to the municipal offices in Wislica.
Now, many years after that terrible period, I'm convinced that our action has an educational value. This is evidence that not all the Jews sat idle and didn't organize against the enemy. If our plan to fight the Nazis was not fulfilled, we can take comfort that the organization helped young Jews to flee from their homes and survive. Among the survivors are: Alter Eisenberg, Avigdor Price, Avraham Aharon Kraus of blessed memory, Dora Bookit, Hirshel Zuker, Malka Kraus, Nathan Papir and Sela Ostrovitz.
|From right to left:
Pela Nozyce, Leah Dzialoszycki,
Beltza Ostrovitz and Malka Miller
Translated by Sara Mages
I am the man that has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath
The Book of Lamentation 3:1
Shemini Atzeret 5703 3.10.1942
Calm before the storm, the town is in constant fear, fear, destruction and danger!
Echoes of expulsions arrive and the atmosphere is gloomy. A very special feeling envelops its residents, despair and disappointment! The feeling of an upcoming destruction! As if a huge powerful typhoon is approaching and a human hand can't stop it so we were confused and helpless when various rumors arrived. Some contradicted the deportations in: Warsaw, Kielce, Częstochowa and more, and the fate of the deportees. But the storm moved closer to us and news of the deportations, which took place in the nearby Miechów districted, arrived. We learned more accurate information about the Germans' methods and the slaughter that they perform during the deportations. But, when the first deportation started before Rosh Hashanah 5703 in Działoszyce and the refugees, who were able to escape from the field of slaughter, started to arrive to us, the matter began to take a more tangible form. We started to understand that also our turn arrived. Działoszyce's refugees hid with us without the Germans' knowledge. These people were bitter and expression of sadness covered their faces, because only yesterday they witnessed the destruction of their city. They walked about like terrible shadows, as if they felt the taste of wanderers on their flesh.
Yom Kippur the refugees that we met in the synagogues on Yom Kippur added to the gloomy picture. These people have caused us much grief. Broken and exhausted in their hearts and their souls. These people escaped without their families, everyone escaped where he could, and the worry about their families was great. But, they didn't imagine that they would never see them again. When the cantor sang the prayer El male rachamim [God full of compassion] the whole congregation cried. All the eyes shed tears, and everyone prayed in the secrecy of his heart that he will survive the upcoming trouble. Hearts tore to the sound but the tear gates remained locked. At the end of the holiday they wished each other G'mar Chatima Tova [May you be inscribed in the book of life], but the feeling wasn't good.
Hoshana Rabbah [the seventh day of Sukkoth] The autumn sun rays warmed the desperate town's residents a little. People are walking around whispering to each other. They don't know what to do. They hear, what's new? in each place and in each corner. The unrest greatly increased among the Jewish residents. Another factor to the mental unrest was the sudden visit of the district's German police commander and his group of friends to Wislica. They walked around town and returned the way they came. Later, it became clear that it was a German plan to surround the city so no one will escape on the day of command. Wislica's streets are in mourning. You can't see people outside. Everyone is locked inside as if it can help with something. The unrest is increasing.
The hearts predicted that something might happen. There is little preparation for the holiday tomorrow. On holiday eve the synagogues are empty from their worshipers and you can't see Jews outside. Horror and great darkness fell on us, there was nothing like this in all the years of German occupation. The town is sealed no one is coming or going. Wislica's Jews went to sleep with a heavy heart and deep concern on their last night in town
Shemini Atzert [the eighth day of Sukkoth] The news, that the town is surrounded by Germans, Poles and members of the Polish labor squadron, fell at dawn like a thunder on a clear day. A day of trouble and of crushing down and of destruction [Isaiah 22:5] -
A day of distress, rebuke and rejection! [Isaiah 37:5]. The town rumbled like a scene of an earthquake. Nervous Jews run around, from here to there, as if they lost their mind. It is too late to escape from the town. Lamentation and bitter weeping! [Jeremiah 31:15]. In each home people are getting ready for their last journey and pack the meager bundles that they are allowed to take with, a few belongings and a little food. After two hours of preparation the order was given: The Jews need to appear in the main square.
The death march what a terrible sight - Woe to the eyes that saw! Families start to arrive to the town's main square, families from all of its streets and corners. Men, women and children dressed in their best winter clothes with bundles in their hands. The expression on our Polish neighbors reveals satisfaction. Slowly slowly the town is being emptied from her Jewish residents who arrive to the gathering place in the main square (at the same time a delegate from the community of Nowy-Korczyn arrived to find if the report about the deportation is correct. The minute I met him I told him Run quickly so you won't be killed). Prominent in their presence among the masses of Jews were: Wislica's Rabbi, The Great Rabbi R' Chaim Shlomo Schwartz, and HaRav R' Natan David Hershkowitz the Ritual Slaughterer. They were the only ones who managed to keep their beards to the last moment despite the ban by the Germans.
We start to fall into rows under German command to facilitate the counting. The community leaders and their families stand in front and the head of the community is crying loudly. People are jealous at those who are not here, a sign that they managed to escape or hide, maybe
they will have another hour to live, but still, this is heroic, because they didn't surrender to the German's order.
Wislica's Jews gather together for the last time. Their heads bowed and their faces pressed to the ground from disgrace, sufficient shame and fury. It was frightening to look at the gloomy picture. Families stood next to families with their wives and children.
The lovely and pleasant, in their lives and in their death they were not divided [2 Samuel 1:23]. The uproot people from the homes where their ancestors lived for generations upon generations, here they were born, here they lived, and here they were buried. The chain lasted for centuries, and here, Alas! They are being uprooted to the ground and the toil of generations is lost.
Destruction and desolation and no savior!
After the roll call wagons started to arrive to transport them to from here to Pińczów. Endless wagons, hundreds of wagons from all the villages in the area, so, as many Poles as possible will participate in the expulsion. The Jews - the victims, climb on the wagons, families after families, and slowly slowly they start to leave the main square. The Jews look back one more time to see their town for the last time, and the Jews leave Wislica crying. At the end we were also cut down! The expulsion was over the town is dead and buried, and Wislica was left mourning without her Jews.
Their last road was accompanied by the pleasant prayer of R' Hertzki Lindin who prayed his last Tefilat HaGeshem [a prayer for rain recited on Shmini Atzert].
|A meeting in the Communal Kitchen yard in the center: Eliezer Baum|
Translated by Sara Mages
The Germans entered Wislica on 8 September, 1939. The day before, the Poles gathered wood to barricade the roads to hinder the Germans' entrance to the town, but of course, it didn't help much. My family, who owned a lumber business, was ordered the day before the occupation to leave the area and move to another location. We fulfilled the order and hid in a cellar of a house in another street. We saw them out of the window and heard loud shots. When they quieted our mother said: Let's go to our house and see what happened there. When we arrived to the place, we saw our house and our belongings going up in flames. Meanwhile, a German soldier came to us riding a motorcycle. He stopped us, aimed his pistol at us, and asked for the reason of our visit to this place. We explained the matter to him and he was satisfied with that. Our whole family hid in the cellar: my mother, three married sisters with their husbands and children, two brothers, and I.
The ill-treatment of the Jewish population began a few days after the occupation. German army guards passed through the town and ordered all of us to come out. Everyone gathered in a large plot near the town, but this time we were allowed to return quietly to town. The Jews were not allowed to leave their homes at night. The local Gestapo, which was based in the nearby town of Nowy-Korczyn, appointed commissars on Jewish businesses. They were Poles or Polkes-Deutsche (Germans, residents of Poland).The Jewish merchants, who wanted to travel localy, needed a special license to do so. Otherwise, they were prevented from going out of town.
Before long, the decree to bear the Yellow Patch was imposed on us, and the Germans also appointed a Judenrat [Jewish council]. Life in town became very difficult and the decrees, mainly on economic background, increased. Also refugees from other cities arrived to our town. A communal kitchen was established to meet the needs of these refugees and the needs of the needy from our town. I worked as a volunteer in this kitchen. Some time later, the Germans started to take Jews out for various force labor in town, and here and there, also occasional murders occurred.
A special license, which was known by the name Bezogsheina, was needed to purchase merchandise. These licenses weren't given to the Jews but to the Poles. Having no other choice, we were forced to use the Poles' help for this purpose, and they have done it for a fee. Once, Gestapo men saw merchandise being delivered to us. I was taken by them for an investigation to the town of Busk, a distance of about 12km from Wislica. Since I was already considered a suspect in the eyes of the Germans, I was taken for an additional investigation a few weeks later. It happened after the sudden disappearance of merchandise that was confiscated by them. This time the investigation was very difficult. The Germans beat me. The beating continued until another German entered and calmed things down. I was sent home again. A few weeks later I was arrested again, but this time my road didn't lead me back home, but through Kalisz to the extermination camp in Auschwitz. I was the first and only woman from Wislica to be sent to Auschwitz. The others were transferred later, on July 1942, to the extermination camp of Treblinka. Since then and until the end of the war, I haven't seen our town again, but I always thought about her in my dreams and when I woke up. I vowed in my heart to do everything I could to stay alive and meet someone from my family. I survived, but none of my family members did. When I left them it never occurred to me that we would never meet again.
In Auschwitz Camp
Life in Auschwitz was difficult in all aspects. I don't have the strength to describe everything that happened to me or to other prisoners. Hard labor, life of hunger and degeneration, insults and cruel beatings were our share, and the weak among us fell one by one. Block number 25 was famous in Auschwitz. It was the Death Hut. The sick, the weak, and the elderly were concentrated there. They left for work from there and usually never returned.
Immediately after I was brought to Auschwitz I was sent together with other women to an attic. A roll call was held in the morning, our heads were shaved, and we were ordered to dress in prisoner uniform. They were a stripped-dress and wooden clogs. We really didn't recognize each other. They employed us loading sand on Lares (small carts that were used for this purpose), and also by bringing bricks and digging pits. Gestapo men and their dogs accompanied us on our way to work, and not once the Germans set the dogs on us. Quite a few prisoners fell on the way or brought back to camp in a state of dying. The prisoners were beaten until the bled and many fainted. Indeed, it was necessary to be an expert so as not to be beaten by the hands of the Germans. Selections were held among the prisoners almost every day, and sometimes also twice a day. It was only by chance that a person
survived or sent immediately to the gas chamber. It is difficult to describe the brutalities of the Kapo. These positions were filled by Germans and Poles, and to our shame, sometimes by Jews. The women, who were assigned for this duty, excelled in their cruelty. They were German and Polish women.
Roll calls were usually held in the morning and in the afternoon, and in exceptional cases also at noon. I remember that a rumor spread around the camp that a Belgian woman by the name of Male suddenly disappeared. The search for her began immediately, and she was found sitting in a restaurant in a nearby town. She was brought back to Auschwitz and the prisoners were ordered to come and watch how she was led to her hanging. Male tried to cut the veins in her wrists. She shouted Murderers!, Take revenge on these murderers! Later on, she was led to the gas chamber where she found her death. I also saw how men and women were executed or brought into the gas chambers and Zyklon gas was turned on them. I remember that in 1944 we suddenly heard the news that a revolt is going break in the camp. It became clear that weapons were stolen from the Union [ammunition] factory. Three young Jewish women were captured by the Germans and executed before us. At that time, a depressing mood prevailed in camp and we didn't know what the day will bring.
Transports to the sound of music
New transports arrived to the camp almost every day. The music played and the newcomers didn't know what was waiting for them. There were those who believed that they came to work and will be able to rest from the horror of the Ghetto. Not ones we heard the shouts Shema Yisrael and God this is my end coming from the gas chambers. This situation continued until January 1945, when rumors started to arrive to the camp that the Germans' end is near, so our hope increased that we will be able to go through the horrors of the war. Suddenly, we were ordered to pack our belongings. We were led for six days and six nights to Ravensbrück Camp [Germany] where we stayed for a few weeks. From there our road led us to Neustadt-Glewe Camp [Germany]. This camp was captured by the Soviet Army and we were released after the hardship that we endured for a long period of time. We didn't believe that we were allowed to enjoy freedom or normal life. We were broken in body and soul and full of worries for our future.We will never forget our life in Auschwitz, life of hunger and sufferings, the acts of murder and abuse. We will never forget the sights of hangings, and I remember the gas chambers even today.
When I returned to town I found a few Jews there. Among them was Ester Weisfield who is now with us in Israel. The Poles were surprised and asked me Are you still alive? and Why did you come here? The Germans desecrated the cemetery and used the gravestones
to pave the town's sidewalks. With difficulties I found the burial place of my father Avraham. He passed away short of the age of 40, before the war and the horrors. These lines will also serve as a memorial candle for him, my mother Sara, my sisters Chana, Elka and Mindel and their family members, and my brothers Yisrael, Meir and Eliezer David, who were sent to Treblinka and never returned. May the Lord avenge their blood.
Fate wanted that I will survive, be rewarded to continue my life in Israel, and establish a family there. My heart will never forget the memory of those days, days full of anxiety, grief and sufferings.
|From right to left: Tovtza Kazimierski, Leible Kazimierski, Yakov Miller, Tova Kleinplatz, Saka Obzenski and Bella Szidlowski|
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