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[Page 320]

A Day of Horror

by Israel Yitzchak Grinbaum

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It was Friday morning, when the first shots from the Nazi airplanes rang out. A worker lay dead on the railway line, near the T.A.Z.[1] factory. The shots were a bloody testimony that the war that had broken out between Nazi Germany and Poland was also raging in Zawiercie. The shots woke the Zawiercie residents from their sleep. Along with the entire country, our city was also caught up in the wartime fever. Within several hours, this event changed life in the city.

The Jewish inhabitants were overcome with an oppressive and upsetting feeling, as if they foresaw the terrible fate that the next day had prepared for them. The city itself changed its appearance, to the point where it was barely recognizable.

Within minutes May 3rd Street was crowded with people. The splendid railway station was packed with people who wanted to escape the city by train. At the same time, the area around Reb Henech (Chanoch) Weksler's house was full of people. Reb Henech was a pillar of the community, a merchant, who would at times leave his business to help someone in need. On this occasion, he organized an auto caravan to Krakow for the Jews. That was the reason Jews were streaming in droves to his house.

That is the way the city of Zawiercie appeared on that fateful Friday, until candle lighting time.

After candle lighting, all of the Jews went to worship – some in the synagogue, some in the Beis Midrash, and others in shtibels. My father Moshe Mendel, an Aleksander Hassid, said, “Children, come to worship.”

I did not go with him, instead I wandered around the Aleksander Shtibel, located on a side alley off of Porebska Street, which led to the cities of Siewierz and Myszków.

After a time, my father returned from services with slow, heavy steps. We saw that many wagons with Polish soldiers, covered with green branches as camouflage, were coming from the Siewierz-Zarki direction. The soldiers were traveling in a long line of wagons in silence. They did not even call out Zydzi[2] in their usual derogatory manner.

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It seemed strange to me, that this time their refraining from using the curse word “Zyd” made me think that this was the beginning of their downfall.

This time, the meal was not as lively, as is customary during Friday night dinner. People ate hurriedly, as they wanted to know what was happening in the street. After the meal, we noticed small groups of people in the old market, especially on Marszalkowska Street near the synagogue, and further on, until Yoel Zwigel's house.

On a normal Friday night, we would go for a walk through the alleys or sit on a park bench. This time, we did not go into the alleys. Everywhere, we saw groups of people discussing the situation. Everyone was asking, “What's going to happen?” It was late. We decided that we would see what the next day would bring, and what we should do. The next morning, the Sabbath morning, the mood of the town became increasingly tense from hour to hour. People began to contemplate escaping. Nobody knew where to escape to. We only heard the word “escape” from everyone. From time to time, we heard a bang or a loud shot ripping through the air. These were shots from the anti-aircraft battery. It was located at Berent's in a courtyard on Siewierz Street, opposite the house of the Kromolower Rabbi. Many women fainted, and children became terrified, when they heard the shots. So, we stood, thinking and discussing, and decided to leave the city and go to Pilica at night. At the same time, there were Jews who did not want to leave. There were people who had businesses in the villages, so they did not want to abandon them. Later, it became clear that those who did not want to leave were correct, for the Jewish businesses of those who escaped were robbed. At night, there was an almost complete panic to escape. Even people who had earlier decided not to leave initially, later decided to join the march. People hid their gold, silver and most treasured possessions in the cellars, for everyone thought that they would be returning shortly. They left everything behind without protection. They only locked up the house in the usual manner and set out.

The more well-to-do families began to think about better means of transportation for the sorrowful march, such as obtaining wagons

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The cost of transportation was great, for the Jewish coachmen also had their own families who they had to take with them. On the other hand, they were in need of money. These coachmen could not take on too many passengers, for their families had to travel on the wagon. They loaded up as many people as they possibly could. The consequences were tragic.

Yissachar Furman (the coachman) lived in our house. He was an honest man who worked very hard for his livelihood during his entire life. He knew that my mother was weak and sick, so he invited my mother and her grandchildren to come along with him. We were happy with Yissachar Furman's good deed.

In the meantime, a rumor spread that the Rabbi was also leaving the city after the Sabbath. A rumor spread, both among the Jews and the Christians, that the Germans were about to bombard the city, since it was a manufacturing city. Everyone, Jews and Christians, therefore prepared to leave the city.

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The convoy took place as follows: The Christians travelled at the front on their wagons. They even led their animals out of the city. Jews in fully loaded wagons followed after them, women, children, other family members, with pillows and bedspreads. The men who traveled with the wagons walked along side holding on to the side boards, so as not to lose their families. Those who did not belong to a wagon, walked together. The children were carried. At times, the children were passed from hand to hand, exactly like one would do with a Torah scroll on Simchat Torah at hakafot.

What else took place on that dark night – aside from the exodus of the families? In the darkness, we heard people calling for family members, whose whereabouts was not known. We were half way to our destination at midnight. It was impossible to rest, for nobody wanted to be left behind. The group continued on. The darkness receded and it became somewhat lighter. People were getting thirsty, and wanted to drink water. All of the wanderers, Jews and Christians, became intermixed as we got closer to Pilica. They did not offend each other, for both were fleeing out of fear of a common enemy. We arrived in Pilica before dawn. Those who had no acquaintances there set out immediately for the synagogue, which quickly filled up with men, women, and children. The Pilica synagogue was large enough to accommodate everyone. I did not rest like the others, and went out to the corridor. There, I quickly noticed two unknown, suspicions men. I quickly told the other Jews about this. I sent Yitzchak Abba, Yissachar Furman's son, to call the police, who were headquartered in the market and were busy burning all the documents. In the corridor, I intentionally acted as if I was just holding an ordinary conversation. Suddenly, four policemen entered and identified the suspicious people. The police found German documents on them. The Germans were immediately hauled to the market and shot. On Monday morning, we found out that the Germans were in Zawiercie. Things were burning in Pilice. Jews began to return home, for their fear of being bombarded had disappeared. However, many Jews, especially the young, ran away deeper into the eastern regions. We said goodbye to our parents and fled further in the direction of Wolbrom, Miechów, and Działoszyce.

We had taken Garnec's daughter with us, and arrived in Działoszyce tired, broken, and penniless. (In Zawiercie, Garnec lived in Sznyderman's house, on the old market.) She was like a mother to all the Zawiercie people. She cooked, even though to this day, we do not know from where she got the money to cook for us.

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A few days after we arrived in Działoszyce, the Germans arrived. They issued an order that all non-residents must return home. We then returned home on foot.

During the first weeks, as the Nazi regime slowly consolidated its power in the city, the Jews slowly began to feel the iron fist of the Nazi occupation. First of all, the Germans, acting on information given to them by the Poles of Zawiercie, quickly requisitioned all of the food products and shoes that the Jews possessed. An order was issued by the city commandant that Jews were not to conduct business in foodstuffs. It did not take long for problems of finding a source for livelihood to begin. The entire city economy died. The Germans, together with Polish shikses [3], entered every Jewish shop and confiscated all the merchandise in the shop or warehouse, without paying for it. As a result, the food shortage in the city was exacerbated further. Before Rosh Hashanah, there were very long lines at the bakeries.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. T.A.Z. - In the mid-1800's, a Jew named Mamelok built a cotton mill, which a couple of Jewish bankers from Berlin, brothers Adolf and Bernard Ginsberg, bought from him and began developing. By 1870 there were 3,000 people employed at the mill, whose name by the end of the 19th Century was changed to Towarzystwo Akcyjne Zawiercie. During WWII, the factory produced overalls for the pilots of the Nazi Lutfwaffe. After the war, the Polish government nationalized the factory. Return
  2. Zyd/Zydzi [Jew/Jews] – the word for Jew in the Polish lexicon was used as a derogatory curse word for Polish citizens of the Hebrew religion. Return
  3. Shikse - A derogatory word for a gentile woman. Return

[Page 325]

From Załęże to Myszków and Zawiercie

by Elana Freiberger-Polak

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

I went with my parents in the month of July 1940 from Cieszyn to Myszków with a sonder-transport [special transport] of deported Jews from the Załęże region (Ustroń, Skoczów, Karwiná, Czaniec). The area had belonged to Poland until 1938, when Hitler captured Czechoslavakia and threw Poland a small bone – the Załęże region.

I was interested in going to Myszków, because, since May 1940, I had a cousin there from Ustroń.

The Myszków Jewish kehile (kultus-gemeinde [religious community]) took care of the “resettled” Jews. At the head of the Myszków kehile were: Engineer Hirszfeld (chairman) and the Messers Szmid, Babel and Majtlis. Engineer Hirszfeld was an engineer at the Myszkówer factory. He was from Warsaw. They respectfully provided extraordinary care for we “resettled” from Załęże. The Myszkówer Jewish population yielded their rooms to us without payment. Whoever could afford it rented a money-making residence. The “deported” lived by selling their possessions, partly from occasional work.

Until 1942, the Myszkówer Jewish merchants still could run their businesses and non-Jews could walk through the Jewish streets and buy from Jews. This ceased in 1942 and the businesses were liquidated. There were German custodians (trustees) for the larger businesses. The Jews still remained in their residences for a time, but then they were “resettled” from the center of the shtetl [town].

Myszków was then a border point between the General Government and Ost-Oberschlesien [Eastern Upper Silesia]. Żarki-Zharik, for example, was in the General Government and it was much worse there than in Zawiercie, Będzin, Sosnowicz, which belonged to Ost-Oberschlesien.

The power over Myszków was only by the gendarmerie. The S.S. was only employed with “resettlements.” Poles, in general, behaved decently. There were few cases of Poles

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denouncing Jews. There were no actions of terror against the Jews to record.

The first arbeitseinsatz [work assignment] aktsia [action, often a deportation] was in 1941. The Germans sent young men and young [women] to work camps, to Germany.

I was a [female] kindergarten teacher (ganenet) in a day care center that had been organized by the Jewish kehile. A feeding station (kitchen) for children was created by the kehile. Food was received from Sosnowiec for the feeding station. We taught the children trades.

* * *

In July 1942, the Germans “resettled” older people and children from Myszków. People capable of work were sent on foot to “Wartenau” (this is the name that the Germans gave to Zawiercie), a distance of 12 kilometers [almost seven and a half miles] from Myszków. In general, those in the Zawiercie area capable of work were sent to Zawiercie.

The Jewish kehile took care of we who had been “resettled” from the area. With that initiative, Jews in the Zawiercie ghetto left rooms for us to use. The kehile organized a people's kitchen (the director of the kitchen was Mrs. Sobelman-Goldminc, of blessed memory). Many of us became workers in the factory along with several thousand Zawiercier Jews who already worked in the factory.

When we arrived in Zawiercie from Myszków, there was no fenced-in ghetto, but the Jews were actually not allowed to leave the zone that was designated for them.

The Nazis created a grundstück gezelshaft [shared property society] after they confiscated Jewish houses. Jewish renters paid rent to the society, which was located in Dr. Perlowski's house at the new market. The director of the property office was Yosel-Yosef Liberman. He had a passierschein [pass] and had the right to move around on the Aryan side.

Liberman made use of his good connections with the police chief and helped Jews in any way he could. Thanks to his

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efforts, an arbeiter-einzats [worker unit] was organized of about 20 young men who worked in Erbe's iron foundry. Thanks to this, they were not sent to the labor camps, which were death camps.

Besides this, Liberman created for many Jews the opportunity to work in one of the shops in the factory of the Luftwaffe [German air force]. This was not done for money, although the members of the kehile, as a rule, took money for such favors, placing someone in the worker units at the Luftwaffe and so on. The argument was: they needed money to bribe the Gestapo and the S.S. They did give a great number of bribes. However, a large amount remained for them. Without doubt: they lived a great deal better than the remaining Jews. However, while, many of those saved from the terrible Zawiercie death in August 1943 tell of orgies by the kehile members, I must be objective in saying that it is an exaggeration to speak of orgies.

With the same objectivity, I must also say that the members of the kehile treated every Jew abruptly who had his own contact with the Germans. They did everything to do away with him. Yosef Liberman, was a victim of this practice by the kehile. The members of the kehile wanted to have a monopoly in intervening on behalf of Jews. They acted the most abruptly against the Jews who intervened without money on behalf of their Zawiercie Jewish brothers.

This was in the later period after “liquidating” Buchner.

I can say this with complete certainty because I was an office worker for a time at the grundstück gezelshaft.

* * *

Zawiercie Jews – when we arrived in “Wartenau” – were mainly employed at the Luftwaffe [German airforce]. There was at that time a Jewish foreman in every “workshop.” Every lunchtime and in the evening, we walked from the factory in tight rows, guarded by Jewish militia men. We worked in the factory from seven in the morning until one o'clock in the afternoon; and, after a lunch break, from two until five at night. We could move in the ghetto until eight at night. There were no communal events.

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Given that I assume that others will write about the labor contract, I will restrict myself to what I said above.

When we arrived in Zawiercie from Myszków, Jews were only forbidden to go through the przejazd (train passage). Later, we were not permitted to go on Szewierska (Gurnoszlonska), on the “sands,” on Losznicka (Pilsudskiego). At the end of 1942, the Nazis created a narrow ghetto, which extended to a part of Parembska, a part of Aptetszna, the old market (up to the co-operative), a part of Marszalkowska (up to the new market), and a part of the new market, behind the co-operative. There, where the kultus-gemeinde [religious community] was, the Nazis stretched barbed wire. The road led directly into the factory.

Still in 1942, Jewish food shops, shoe businesses, liqueur businesses were open. In addition, there were municipal shops that sold food with ration cards. There were trustees in confectionary, furniture and manufacturing shops.

The murderer of Zawiercie, [Hans Heinz] Rother, would walk through the streets with his dog, who he would sit on Jews. As Rother would go through the ghetto streets, we would even hide eggs (having eggs was not then kosher [legal]). S.S. members would often beat Jews. The guards at the przejazd would beat Jews.

On the 10th of July 1942, a few weeks after the first “resettlement,” they asked all of the Jews to appear at the “gathering place.” Lieutenant Gerbrecht then came and said: “All Jews who are gathered here, work with me at the Luftwaffe.” These Jews were freed and they carried on with their lives until the last deportation in August 1943.

In August 1943, the “resettlement action” dragged on for one day. The kultus-gemeinde [religious community] tried to intervene with [Moniek] Merin and with the higher officials in Zawiercie. Gerbrecht argued that he would not be able to produce and supply the requested and necessary manufactured goods for the Luftwaffe if they took the good Jewish workers from him. The S.S. members said that they had an order directly from [Heinrich] Himmler. They were ready to delay the “resettlement” for one or two days so that Gerbrecht and the kultus-gemeinde could intervene directly with Berlin. Therefore, the “resettlement” was postponed for one or two days.

However, the order came from Berlin: “Deport.”

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Gerbrecht, even on the decisive day of the 26th of August, tried as far as possible, to “designate” more Jews – directly from the assembly point. In addition to other Jews, he took me from the assembly point – “Alas, not for more than six weeks,” he told me.

Perhaps, this saved me from a certain death. After six weeks, I was sent to a labor camp where I spent difficult days, but I endured and I was saved.

Surviving the Second World War by a Miracle

by Zvi Szpira

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

1939. For the doomed at the various sections of the Polish-German border, the situation was lost.

It was in the morning, around the 15th of August. The war minister, General [Edward] Rydz-Śmigły, spoke to the people via Polish radio. He ended his speech with the words: “Ani guzika nie oddamy [we will not give up a button]. (We will not even give away a button from a uniform).

Right after this speech, the situation became even more exacerbated. The turmoil among the population grew from minute to minute. This could also be seen in the fact that food shops were over-flowing with customers.

On Friday, the 1st of September in the morning, I was very busy in my shop. The shouts of the customers who had besieged my shop reached to the very heavens. It was good fortune that I received a telegraphic order to appear for the military – otherwise, the over-excited customers would have emptied the shop.

In the course of about an hour, I disposed of all of the customers; arranged everything necessary. I said goodbye to my wife and child and immediately ran to the train.

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The war lasted only three days. If someone was a little late – he remained with his family.

The crowds on the highways and roads were indescribable. All ran: military men and civilians were mixed in this tumultuous stampede. Many hundreds and thousands fell on the roads. The Hitler troops charged ahead and occupied city after city.

* * *

Our platoon, which numbered 120 men, was shattered. Only a few Jewish soldiers and I were saved by being captured. The Germans sent us deep into Germany, first to Mühlberg (Saxony), then Moosberg (Bavaria). There they housed us in specially constructed tents.

Well-guarded by regime soldiers, we toiled in the camps at heavy labor. We were only allowed to write [a letter] once a month, only on an official card, which had the [insignia] Stalag [German prison camp], as well as the number of the camp. We would receive packets at this address. The families of the prisoners did not know where they were.

One morning, at the beginning of September, the office clerk reported that all imprisoned Jews should report immediately to the office. There, they should give their exact address because Jews were being sent back to their homes. The joy of the Jewish prisoners was indescribable, that with God's help they would celebrate with their wife, child and family. The Poles were jealous: “Żydzi do domu” (Jews are going home), they said, and we have to stay here…

Later, it was learned that Hilter, yamakh shamoy [may his name be erased], and his advisors, had prepared the plan to annihilate and eradicate Jews.

Before leaving, the Germans took the good Polish uniforms and the boots from several Jewish prisoners. Instead, they gave us torn and patched clothing and, for our feet, wooden shoes.

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German Wehrmacht [German armed forces] soldiers accompanied us on our way. As was said, the Germans in the camp told us that we were returning to our homes. Instead of this, they sent the entire transport to Lublin where we arrived at the end of February – 800 men in number.

The Wehrmacht soldiers politely parted with us and told us: now you are civilians and we are giving you over to the “civilian guards.” This “guard” wore long, heavy uniforms. There was the totenkopf [skull and crossbones] as a sign on their military hats, which we later learned, meant these were the S.S. men.

When we left the train and were walking from the station under their guard, they cursed us: Verflucht Juden, voraus, voraus! [Accursed Jews, ahead, ahead.] In addition, they were not stingy with blows from their clubs, which they held in their hands – in fact, things got bad before our eyes. They led us into an unfinished, large building – apparently a kehile [organized Jewish community] building. Blows and hunger sucked out our lives.

We lay on the bare floor of the building. The blows did not stop. The Germans permitted a bit of watery hot food to be brought in for us. How wildly we attacked the kettle of meager, thin cooked food; everyone wanted to get to the kettle first. A fight broke out. The end was that the kettle overturned and there was no food. Instead of food, we received murderous blows. It was impossible to communicate with the Jewish population in Lublin because of the heavy guard.



On a beautiful winter day, at four o'clock in the afternoon, an order came to go outside and stand in rows of four men. In a few minutes, because of the hail of blows and because of fear, the rows were formed. We were guarded by members of the S.S. We asked each other: Why are they having us march on such a late winter afternoon?

Suddenly, the sky was covered with heavy clouds from which feel wet snow, driven by a sharp blizzard. We barely

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caught our breath. It did not last long – and the night quickly passed.

Thus, we walked – soaking wet from the wet snow.

Suddenly we heard shooting. We became nervous; no one knew what this signified. No one realized that this was the Germans actually shooting at us. What did it mean? Shooting straight at people, at the innocent? Why? – We thought, stamping our feet in the snow storm. We consoled ourselves: probably they are shooting at hares and perhaps just in the air to scare us – so that none of us would dare escape into the darkness.

We trudged in the snow without a purpose, in torn and ragged clothing. They, our guards, were dressed in furs and in fur boots. A sled with all kinds of food, with wursts and with whiskey accompanied them. They got drunk and “lived well.” We if someone bent while walking in order to grab a bit of snow to dampen his thirsty lips, he was quickly shot.

We were persuaded that they were shooting at us, since the captives in the rear rows had run to the front of the column. Therefore, those who had previously been in the first rows, became the rear rows. Those who had remained in the rear ran to the front. This running to the front constantly repeated itself and a kind of circle dance was created. The powerful, with strong nerves, persevered. The remaining fell, bloodied. Among the fallen in this fraternal struggle was a Zawiercier, Itshe Zaks, a porter.

The blows and the fatigue apparently had an effect; order was established in the rows. The S.S. members even got tired from the long route.

Finally, illuminating the darkness with lamps, they took us to a ruin, without a roof – apparently an old garage where there were old broken machines. We were driven with rifle-butts, until standing, we fell asleep. Each was pressed to another to warm himself.

At dawn, the S.S. member again drove us out and told us to form a column. The sturmführer [a paramilitary rank, attack leader] announced to us that we were

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receiving “bread to eat” and ordered us to remain in the rows. The word “bread” had an effect on us. It was as if a fresh soul had been breathed into us. Two large sleds with loaves of hard-earned bread arrived, which they sadistically threw into the snow or at our heads. Several [of us] bled from their heads. The bread was grabbed immediately, but it was so hard that many broke their teeth biting into it and many choked in swallowing the lumps of bread because there was no water with which to moisten the stone-hard bread.

Again, an order: “March.” Again, a circular run was created of those in the front and those in the back rows. The wooden shoes stuck in the snow, which was half a meter [almost 20 inches] high. (We were driven through the fields and not along the cleared paths.) Many of us ran barefooted, caught cold, caught pneumonia, fell in the middle of the road or from the cold, spitting blood. I bound my wooden shoes with string that I had previously prepared and thus I made sure they would not fall off.

We were quartered in Lubartow until three in the afternoon in the shot-up, ruined synagogue, where the Aron Kodesh [ark holding the Torahs] had been desecrated. The members of the kehile [organized Jewish community] knew about our arrival and they provided us with food, with the agreement of the S.S. Everyone from the shtetl [town] brought a bit of cooked food to us. However, the Jews were forbidden to bring bread. Bread was thrown to us during our night march by the S.S. members, who stood in the anteroom of the synagogue. Again, there were fights among the prisoners and the house of prayer was even more desecrated.

* * *

At 3:30 in the afternoon, an order came to stand in rows of four men. Again – a night march and again shooting. Weakened and furious, a distant thought pierced me: Dear wife, beloved child, parents – who knows if I will see you again? And I prayed to God that in their merit I would be saved.

Ensnared by such fantasies. I was – along with

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others – in the end returned to some kind of “a courtyard,” in which dogs barked and cows mooed.

The Gestapo warned us: “Whoever sits down will be beaten to death.” Then they quartered us in two barns where we huddled in bundles of straw that were there. Tired and hungry, we fell on the straw. The guards outside, who guarded the barns, received gold fountain pens, watches, rings for a little bit of snow with which we wet our lips. We fell asleep immediately.

Suddenly, at around 12 o'clock at night, the doors of the barn were thrown open and an order was heard that 10 men should come out.

The Germans fumbled with the lamps, but no one moved. Everyone snuggled deeper into the straw. The Germans, with bayonets that they had attached to their rifles, stuck the bundles of straw. They drew out the bloodied bayonets, but no sound was heard from those who had [been stuck].

Using force, the members of the Gestapo pulled up to 10 men from each barn. Shooting was soon heard and, at first, we understood that the 20 men were no longer alive. Then they kept taking up to 10, until they reached 90, whom they shot in the closet grove.

I was sure that I would immediately meet the same fate. However, my luck was that I was the 11th one in the last group; they also let me enter the barn again.

The Germans, whatever they were, they were exact and “according to the rule.” They should take 10; they do not take 11.

* * *

Thus, I was again saved from certain death.

After getting drunk on so much blood, the Germans gathered everyone in one barn. There, in great fear, we could not close our eyes the entire night.

The Germans opened only one barrier of the barn gate.

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The exit was small. Everyone left at the same time out of fear. One pushed over another's head. No one could leave because of the great crush.

Again, a march in total darkness. Again, blows and shooting.

It was Shabbos [Sabbath]. The survivors entered Parczew, in the direction of Podlaska. The Parczewer Rebbe did not consider that it was Shabbos and one is not allowed to fast on Shabbos; he called for a fast so that all of the food that [the people of Parczew] had prepared for themselves could be divided among the remainder of the Jewish prisoners. The members of the Gestapo received large bribes and they permitted us to travel in sleds to Biala Podlaska. If not for this, we would have gone on foot.

* * *

Since the Gestapo was permitting travel in sleds, the Parczewer priest ordered all of the noblemen and peasants from the area to provide sleds at the designated hour.

We entered the sleds in fours – again under a hail of blows from rifle butts. Our feet were frozen like pieces of wood. I, for example, could not lift a foot; I entered with my head and arms first so I would not receive any blows and then pulled the rest of my body behind me.

In Biala-Podlaska, our sturmführer [paramilitary rank, attack leader] in a report to the obersturmführer [senior attack leader] of Biala Podlaska, said that the transport numbered 320 men; the remainder – he said – were sick and “missing” on the road…

The obersturmführer told us that each of us was entitled to have bread and coffee for supper. This was all that remained because we arrived too late. Everyone received a bed and he asked that we keep it clean. We would receive better food in the morning.

With joy in our hearts, we revived. We thought that we were being freed and that they were dissolving our camp. The good news that we had arrived in Biala Podlaska spread everywhere.

Jews were forbidden to travel by train. Because everyone had

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wanted to know if their imprisoned husbands, sons and relatives were alive, they sent the house “janitor” (caretaker), [paying him] a large reward. The janitor took packages of food and other things with him.

Meanwhile, the relatives intervened and we were gradually freed.



At the beginning of 1940, I came home to my family.

As soon as I crossed the threshold of my house, they immediately wished me mazel-tov [congratulations]. The reason – my wife had given birth to a daughter.

I actually arrived not a moment too soon. Day in, day out, I would be besieged by many women who peppered me with questions, asking if I had seen their husbands somewhere. Each of the women said: “He was supposed to be on your transport, too.” Alas, I had no answer for them. I could only tell each one, briefly, about my experiences. The hairs on their heads stood up just from hearing about the hardship and they burst into tears.

We also had news from my father, that he was in Lublin. I knew nothing about him being there.

Gradually, I returned to a normal, human life.

* * *

Until the liquidation of the Zawiercie ghetto in 1943, there were thousands of calamities: forced to wear a yellow patch with a Mogen-Dovid [Shield of David, the Jewish star] in the center on the chest, as a Juden-zeichen [sign that one is a Jew]. Every Jew had to work. A sign with a Mogen-Dovid had to hang on the front door of a Jewish business so that gentiles would know that it was a Jewish business. Christians were not permitted to go inside them to buy. Jewish young men were sent by the Nazis deep into Germany to various camps and for various work. The Nazis placed a supervisor (a so-called treuhänder [trustee]) over every business in the larger businesses that belonged to Jews. A while later, the Nazis drove Jews out of certain

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Jews prayed in mortal danger


quarters to other quarter. Christians in the quarters where Jews had to settle moved to the Jewish residences in the “Yidn-reine [cleared of Jews] quarters” that the Jews had to leave. Christians, with this opportunity, occupied the properties of the Jews.

The Hitlerists plan was to concentrate all Jews in one place so that later during the general deportation, they could more easily catch the Jews. Thus were several families pressed together in one house. Then the slow deportations to Auschwitz began.



The quarter, where the Jews were pressed together, was called a “ghetto.”

The Hitleristic beasts rampaged in Zawiercie as in other Jewish communities, although a few thousand Jews succeeded – because of their work for the Luftwaffe – to avoid the annihilation at Auschwitz for several years. At the end, these “lucky” Jews also perished like almost all Polish Jews.

During the “good times” of the work in TOZ [Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności żydowskiej – Society to Protect the Health of the Jews] for the Luftwaffe, the Nazis would also systematically gather at the assembly point the old men

[Page 338]

and women, who were not employed. This meant that they were mobilized for work. The Nazis ordered these Jews to take clothing and food with them for the road. They did this so that the group would think that they really were being sent to work and to not realize that they were being sent to Auschwitz.

Thus, the Nazis fooled the group. In truth, however, they sent these Jews to Auschwitz.

Once, in the middle of a clear day, several large trucks drove up to the Jewish hospital (not far from the Krimelewer Rebbe's court). The Nazis entered and they emptied the entire hospital. They loaded all of the sick and those giving birth onto the trucks. They packed in sacks just born babies, children who were a few weeks or a few months old (just as one packs potatoes in a sack). Two Germans held such a sack, each by one side, and they threw it on the truck. From afar, one could see how innocent, pure babies were thrown in a sack like small kittens.

* * *

Without mercy, the Nazis systematically sent entire transports to Auschwitz. No one staged a revolt.

One night. the Gestapo, with the help of the Jewish militia, carried out searches. They took the young and old from their beds, led them to a certain assembly point and then carried out a “selection.” They sorted out the old, the sick and even young women who had small children with them. They automatically sent to Auschwitz those sorted, “rejected.”

They sent young, strong people to Germany to work. There were cases of mothers who packed their nursing children in valises and left them abandoned in the hope that these young people who were traveling to Germany would, perhaps, take the valises with them and thus their babies would be saved.

When the assembly place was empty, one could see valises lying abandoned in which crying with suffocating

[Page 339]

cries were the nursing children; the Nazis loaded the valises in the train cars and sent them to Auschwitz. It created a horror, hearing the weeping of the nursing children.

* * *

The first of August 1943 was a Sunday. Motzei-Shabbos [the close of the Sabbath] (late at night), the Gestapo rampaged the entire night. We heard only heavy shooting. The was the first “resettlement” of Zaglembie Jews.

Throughout the night, the members of the Gestapo led Jews who they caught in the bunkers where they had been hiding.

The Nazis tore me away from my wife and two children, a boy of six years old and a girl of three years old. I had sent them from Będzin six weeks earlier (where I had lived) to my parents in Zawiercie because it had been discussed that those who worked in the factory at the Luftwaffe would not be “resettled” and they would remain in Zawiercie. My father, Hilel Szapiro, worked there in the laundry shop, as my friend, Ayzyk Rotmensh, had informed me.

Alas, the hope of saving oneself through working at the Luftwaffe was a false hope. Thus, my wife and my children were torn away from me in a devilish tide. It is completely unknown to me what happed to my children. The thought endlessly pierces me: Perhaps they will be found as many children were later found.

On Sunday, the 1st of August, we were driven to the train station in Będzin by the Gestapo, beaten with rifle butts. In the middle of the road, many of those transported were crazed by fear or were shot by the Gestapo. Arriving at the train cars, everyone wanted to enter the cars quickly because the Gestapo were beating them with rifle butts the entire time.

I, for example, was one of the first who went into the wagons. I sat down on the floor right next to the wall because I was completely confused and thought only about my family. In minutes, the wagon was full. There was suffocation. In addition to all of the hardships, the Gestapo threw the very small children and the corpses of those shot into the wagons.

[Page 340]

The shouting was terrifying – as if it were reaching the seventh heaven. We felt that our minutes were numbered.

Many people jumped out through the train wagon window as soon as the train moved from the spot, thinking that they did not have anything to lose. Bullets from the soldiers, who were guarding the train wagons, chased those who had jumped. Meanwhile, very agitated, they also shot into the train wagons. Whoever was hit by a bullet died standing because the great crowding did not provide someone who had been hit by a bullet any place in which to sink to the ground and they remained crushed among the living.

I was hit in the leg by a bullet, sitting right against the wall of the train wagon. With great effort, I bound the wound with my underpants and shirt because I, too, could not move. At least, I was able to stop the flow of blood for a time.

* * *

Arriving at Auschwitz, the Nazis unloaded everyone – dead, old, sick, as well as children. They loaded them on a vehicle and sent them straight to the ovens. They sent young, strong Jews to work in separate vehicles.

I was made lame, but because I stood pressed together with others, the Nazis did not notice my lameness. I struggled so that the Nazis would not notice my infirmity. Because my face looked very strong, I succeeded in fooling the Hitlerists.

They led me, with everyone else, to a large table in a large barrack. Jews registered us, tattooed us with numbers – I received the number 132414.

I entered block 16. There, stood shelves with double beds, hammered together out of boards.

Every morning, one could register for the doctor or feldsher [old-style barber-surgeon], who were themselves interned. My foot was swollen. The doctor registered me for the hospital that was located in a forest across from the crematorium. There they healed (as best they could) the sick. However, at night the Nazis would

[Page 341]

remove everyone who did not find favor with them and such a sick person would be brought in a wagon straight to the gas ovens.

Looking out of a hospital window, we could see the chimney of the crematorium spewing flames and in the air was the choking smell of the burned victims.

A Warsaw doctor, a Jew, whose name I no longer remember, operated on me. He could not obtain the operating instruments for the bullet fragments, which lay deep in soft tissue, or in the muscle tissue of the leg. He sewed the wound in my leg, not removing the fragments. He told me there was no danger present if God wants us to live – and in this he doubted; if we did emerge whole from their hands, I could be operated on later.

After leaving the hospital, I appeared for a work transport of physically strong people. I wanted to be even further from the crematorium.

In October 1944, we arrived at the Fünfteichen camp. I received a new number, 13498. We were divided immediately into blocks and into two kinds of work: half in the Krupps factory and half in construction work at various construction jobs.

After a trip of two days to Fünfteichen, my leg again became swollen. I was immediately sent to the newly opened hospital (previously, there had only been a medical barracks). I was the first patient in the newly opened hospital.

There were many sick from heavy labor and bad food. The hospital became over-crowded from day to day. In a short time, the [following] Zawiercier with us at Fünfteichen died: Shlomo Kalin, Mendl Szpajzer, Yisroel Herman, Yeshayhu Bursztyn (a “Todrosker's” son-in-law), and other Zawiercier whose names I no longer remember.

The Russians began to bombard Breslau. Our camp began to be evacuated in March 1945. The turmoil was very great. The Germans took everything with them – as well as the sick – except the very sick, whom they had no time for when they fell in the middle of the road. A number were saved by the Russians who immediately occupied the region. I remember that among the terribly sick, who were saved

[Page 342]

by the Russians, was a certain Mrowka or Murowka from the Zawiercie region. He lost one leg. He lives in Israel.

* * *

In Gross-Rosen, I met the Zawiercier Rabbi, Reb Elimelekh Rabinowicz. I was told that he had done well the entire time, maintained kashrus [dietary laws] as much as possible. The rabbi perished on the road. I do not know how this happened, because there was great turmoil.

We were transported to Dachau from Gross-Rosen, which they had mined. At the time they considered the mining of the camp because they did not know that the Americans, who were constantly marching in the direction of Dachau, would make a kefitzat haderekh [supernatural travel very quickly between two distant points] through a shorter road than the one that the Germans had thought.

The Germans freed us in May 1945.

It is impossible to describe the feelings of those imprisoned in the camp at the moment when the Americans appeared in Dachau. We, katsetler [German concentration camp prisoners], came out of the barracks, like people who had been lazy for years. The first thing we did was – overwhelm the S.S. guards, who stood at their posts in the courtyard, holding white flags in their hands. The entire camp came to see the wonder of the S.S. members laying on the ground, beaten up – murdered by the hands of the katsetler.

* * *

I moved to Munich soon after the liberation. Through the Red Cross and through the newspapers, we began to search for those who survived. A short time later, I received the news that my youngest sister, Pola, was in Poland and that my wife's sister, Ita, was in Austria. I made contact with them.

Except for them, I had lost my entire family.

I brought my sister-in-law to Munich and we began to reestablish our broken home.

In Munich, I married off my sister. Then I, with special permission from the Munich rabbinate, married my sister-in-law in 1946. In 1948 we, as a couple, came to Eretz Yisroel, where we live today.

[Page 343]

The Hell in Kromołów

by Bronya Landau-Brat

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

With the arrival of the German murderers in our shtetl [town] Kromołów, like all Polish Jews, those in Kromołów were enveloped by a terrible fear. At that time, in autumn1939, I was 13 years old. The following facts were implanted in my memory:


Do Not Buy from Jews

Right before the arrival of Hitler's troops, anti-Semitic tendencies were clearly and publicly evident among the Poles. Jews could no longer peacefully walk in the streets. Jews would also be attacked by Christian children on the roads. Inscriptions began to appear on Jewish houses with the watchwords: “Do not buy from Jews.” “Jews, Hitler is coming” and so on.

We children were forbidden to go to school with the Christian children (Kromołów did not have any Jewish schools). The Jews did not appear in the streets on the first days after the arrival in Kromołów of the German murderers and the Polish hordes pillaged and looted Jewish businesses freely and undisturbed. Everyone who resisted was beaten mercilessly. Thus began the hardships and the edicts against the few Jews in Kromołów.


The Order about Turning in Things of Value and about Yellow Patches

Right after their arrival, the Nazis issued an order to the Jewish population to turn in all items of value and jewelry. In order to monitor this, they would carry out searches and confiscate other things. Then they demanded all metal items and brass things. Our freedom of movement was limited by a curfew; Jews were not permitted to appear in the street from the evening until the early morning hours. Jews with beards did not dare to go outside. The German murderers entered houses and brutally cut off the beards and side curls of pious Jews.

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Soon after came the edict about the Jewish insignias: at first, white bands on the right arm. A few weeks later – yellow patches, in front and behind. This included all Jews from 12 years old and up.


Agreement of the Rabbi and the Kromołów Jews

On the first day of the occupation, Poles turned up as Volks-Deutsch [ethnic Germans]. The policeman excelled among the others. Cziszelnik and the old, well-known Kromołów anti-Semite Reiman tortured and created various hardships for the Kromołów Rabbi, Reb Elkhanan Dovid Szidlowski. To his misfortune, he lived in the house where the policeman Cziszelnik lived. Reiman opened a restaurant that would be visited by the wildest Nazi and Polish murderers. They knocked out all the rabbi's teeth and tore out his beard and peyes [side curls]. They would make fun of the rebbitzen [rabbi's wife]. They inflicted the same misery on the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer], Reb Yankl Erdberg. Their greatest pleasure would be to torture Jews and particularly the rabbi and rebbitzen.

The old, very beautiful Kromołów synagogue was burned during the first days of the occupation. Jews were forced to clean the area and burn all the Torah scrolls and all the religious books. The gentiles looted all of the valuable things in the synagogue.

Just as in all other places in Poland, a Jewish committee [Judenrat] was created in Kromołów, with Moshe Ahron Haberman (chairman) and Simchowicz (vice-chairman) and others. The task of the committee was to take care of the Jewish population regarding to ration cards, with a communal kitchen (in Reb Srulke Szwarc's house) for the children, older people, and poor people in the shtetl [town]. I was among the children who ate and I want to remember with bright memories Miss Ester Szwarc, who devoted herself to the children with heart and soul, organizing presentations during those dark days to cheer up the children a little. Ester was a nurse by trade. She also provided medical help when necessary.

Later, the committee was busy mainly with providing men and women for forced labor, as for example: cleaning the streets of filth and snow, chopping wood, cleaning the houses of the German bandits and much other work, for which, understand, the Germans would pay with a blow and mockery.

[Page 345]

The Commandant Pak

The Germans themselves would grab Jews for work. They made a joke, took photographs of this. Pak was a tall, thick, blond. One of his eyes was smaller than the other.

His mouth was crooked, drawn higher on one side. It was hard to know if he was smiling or if a grimace was pouring over his face. He was seldom seen on foot, always on a small, white horse with a small whip in his hand. Jews would become afraid as soon as they saw him. He would himself search for victims. He and his headquarters were located in the former house of the former school at the market.

Pak would take Jews to the middle of the market and German soldiers would stand around the market and local Christians with their household members would be delighted, lose their breath in laughter at how the Germans tormented the half-dead Jews who had to run around and around the market and perform gymnastics. The Germans would hang insulting inscriptions on the Jews as we see in the picture below. This was one of the many hardships endured by the Jews.

A Silesian named Mitske tortured


In the picture (left to right): Reb. Y. Erdberg (shoykhet) [ritual slaughterer],
M. Pomeranc, Sh, H, Fogel, M. Haberman, M. Rotman, Y, Dimant, Sh, Brat.

The blackboard says: Jude, city's number one betrayers 3.5.40 [May 3rd, 1940]

[Page 346]

Avraham Haberman (a very tall man). He would drape him with rags and incite a large dog, ostensibly to train [the dog] to catch border smugglers (the border with the “General Government” was at the border of Kromołów. Kromołów was, as was Zaglembie, territory of the Reich). The Germans would photograph such scenes and similar ones. They also filmed the brutal cutting off the beard of the respected Reb Chaim Danciger, a man of stately appearance. Reb Chaim looked like a corpse during this base action. He did not move from the spot and did not react to his pain and his small grandson's sobs. His grandson Hartskele stood not far from the spot where they tortured his grandfather and he sobbed, seeing what they were doing to his grandfather.

The wild animals also caught Reb Srukle Szwarc and set fire to his beard.

* * *

The First Transport to Germany

In 1940 the murderers ordered the Jewish committee to provide transport of men for forced labor in Germany. A difficult question faced the committee members; not carrying out the order meant their ruin. Carrying it out meant giving a hand to the separation of young Jewish men and their closest ones whom they never again saw.

The list was put together. On the 20th of November 1940, the first transport left with about 20 young men, among them my brother Hersh Leib (now in Israel).

The families of those deported were enveloped with deep sadness. The mothers with tearful eyes would wait futilely for letters from their deported children.

It was felt that it was not over with these first victims. Jews lived in further dread and fear of searches and misfortunes that the Germans would cause after the deportation of the 20 young Jewish Kromołów men.

* * *

The Trade

The times were bad. Not everyone was employed at his trade. Jews began to buy and sell things.

[Page 347]

Jews did not succeed in buying and selling because Christians were afraid to meet with Jews. That which Jews possessed they finished eating. In addition, the Nazis also decreed that every Jew who was caught trading would immediately be sent to Auschwitz.

The majority of trade was between Kromołów and Zawiercie. Its volume was small: a little flour, sugar, eggs, oil, potatoes and so on, what could be carried on one's person, under their clothing. They would go through Losnicka to Zawiercie, where everyone had their buyer of their goods. Private women of the house also would buy the food products. For example, that is how my mother traded. The earnings were very small, barely enough to live through the day. Patrols of gendarmes would go along the roads. My mother came home more than once half dead because of fear.

On the 21st of March 1941, a terrifying search took place in the shtetl during which the 25-year-old Chaim Goldszmidt fell a victim. That night, Goldszmidt had wanted to hide in the straw barn of Foliak Gocila, who lived not far from the Jewish cemetery. In the morning, the Christian saw Goldszmidt in the barn. He sent his children to tell the Germans that there was a Zyd [derogatory Polish word for Jew) hiding in his barn. The gendarmerie, which came immediately, shot Goldszmidt in the barn.

That same night, the Germans went house to house to pull out all Jewish men – young and old – from their beds. They were driven to the marketplace in front of the headquarters. There the Germans beat them bloody. My father and my oldest brother were among those beaten.

At the second search of our residence by the German bandits, they found my brother Berl under the made bed. One of the murderers, he was named Viktor, pulled Berl out from under the bedding and beat him without mercy. My mother asked the murderer to leave the boy at home because his father and his brother were already at the assembly place. Viktor hit her in her face. I saw everything and thought: When will the time finally come when I will be able to take revenge for the pain and for my mother's blow.

The Germans also took Berl to the zaml-platz [assembly point] (he is in America today), - despite the request of his mother.

[Page 348]

In contrast, she succeeded in hiding Yankl Diamant's two sons. One of them today lives in Israel and often remembers this event. After that time, they succeeded in remaining at home for six months, but they, too, were later deported to Germany.

Satisfied with the results of the police raid, the Nazis sent the very old people back to their homes. They sent the remaining Jews to Zawiercie and with the Zawiercie Jews from there to the concentration camps.

My father and three brothers languished in the camps, while my godly mother and six sisters struggled for their bare existence. The situation was tragic. Only women, old people and children remained in Kromołów. The committee was powerless and continued in charge to satisfy the Germans. Therefore, the Germans left the leaders in their homes.

Thus, it was very bad in our house with the six daughters. My mother was physically and morally broken. We suffered from need, perhaps more than other families because my mother was afraid to risk trading because if she was caught, that would have meant death for her children.

So, this fate fell upon me, and I became the provider. I would drag sacks of potatoes and other food products on my back. My mother would wait for me every evening with tearful eyes and always thank God when I came home safely. I did not understand then that I was playing such an important role in my family's survival. However, I liked that they related to me as and considered me a grown person.


My Father is Freed

At the end of 1941, we learned that the Germans were freeing men over 50 years old from the Grünheide camp, where my father and other Kromołów residents were held. And actually, a few weeks later, my father did come home, and a month later, Shimeon Hurgin, one of the brewery owners. My father and several other older people received work at the slag pile at Hultszinski's factory at taking away the slag, the foundry dregs, that was used in repairing the roads. For this work

[Page 349]

they would receive a monthly salary which would be paid by the Zawiercier Jewish workers' council.


A Gallows in the Middle of the Market

And then there was this episode on a terrible day that cannot be forgotten, shortly before my leaving for the camp: one day tens of black vehicles arrived at the Kromołów market with members of the Gestapo, gendarmes, and Wehrmacht who erected some gallows in the middle of the market. Understandably, Jews were no longer seen in the streets, although no one knew exactly what would happen. Jews had a reason to imagine the worst in every case. In the afternoon, the murderers went from house to house and drove all of the Jews and Poles to the market.

Everyone stood with bated breath and waited with great fear of what would happen here. The murderers walked around with clubs in their hands. Suddenly, a black enclosed vehicle arrived, from which the Nazis pulled out three civilians guarded by members of the Gestapo. We immediately learned that the three were Christians and that they had been sentenced to death by hanging. The translator asked those sentenced what they had to say before their deaths. All argued that they were innocent. The Nazis still hanged them. Later, the murderers took Jews to bury them.


I Leave My Kromołów

The above-described took place until February 1942. On the 19th of February, notes were again sent about arbeitseinzatz [work assignments] for women. Things became dark for my parents: receiving two mobilization notes for two daughters (I and my sister, Malka, who later perished). My father intervened with the committee and he succeeded in freeing my sister. Concerning me, my parents believed that as much as I was very skinny and looked bad, the medical committee at the Sosnowiec dulag [prisoner of war transfer camps] would free me. In truth, I did not want to appear before the doctors' committee because the Nazis sent the sick to extermination

[Page 350]

camps. Therefore, at a roll call by the Juden Eltester [Jewish elders who supervised the camps] for the dulag [German transit camp], I voluntarily appeared at the holding pen as the first among hundreds of girls to report. Therefore, I also was the first on the list. I – despondent over the situation in Kromołów and particularly with us in our house – did not want to think if I was doing the right thing or not. My dead, unfortunate parents never knew the truth about my appearance.

More women were called to the arbeitseinzatz from Kromołów that day. However, only I had to go to the camp. As I later learned, the other women were freed because they had been ransomed with money.

On the 10th of February, I saw my shtetl Kromołów for the last time. Three months later all the Jewish families were deported from the shtetl to Zawiercie. One and a half years later, on the 25th of August 1943, they were transported to Auschwitz during the large, general deportation of the Zawiercie Jews.

Only a few Kromołów men survived the death camps. They are now in Israel and a number are abroad. Of the Kromołów women who lived in Kromołów during the time of the deportations, I am the only one who survived.

These are the families – as far as I remember
– who lived in Kromołów until 1942 (alphabetical)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Rabbi Elchanan David Shadlauski; Avigdor Banker; Avraham Brott; Shlomo Brott; Mendel Brauda; Avraham Goldmintz; Zalman Goldshmidt; Yechezkel Goldshmidt; Shalom Grinstein; Shlomo Grinstein; Rabbi Chaim Danziger; Tovia Dovlin; Yankel Diament; Itzik Haberman; Esther Haberman; Leibish Haberman; Moshe Haberman; Shalom Haberman; Shimon Horgin; Moshe Molman; Natan Tiefenberg; Chaim David Telner; Israel Markovitz; Hershel Manto; Refael Manto; Avraham Simchovitch; Yankel Erdberg (the ritual slaughterer); Tovia Fogel; and their families. Eliezer Fogel; Riva Fogel; Rivka Freidberg. Mendel Rottman; Refael Rottman; David Rozmarin; Yaakov Leibish Rottman; Litshe (Lea) Rothstein; Beila Rosinek; Mendel Schwartz; Srulke (Israel) Schwartz; Baruch Wolf Shtibel; and their families.

[Page 351]

I Will Never Forget

by Mania Fajgenblat (Brat), Montreal

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

I will never forget that Wednesday, the 26th of August 1943, when Zawiercie became Juden-rein [free of Jews].

A day earlier I had said goodbye to my parents and sisters and to my three-and-a-half-year-old son, Simek, seeing that the Nazis had concentrated us at the new market.

They held us there for a few hours. Suddenly an order came that we should go back home.

According to an old aphorism: “Returning from a cemetery, we live long” – we who returned home interpreted this as something good.

However, the “good” did not last long. The S.S. again began its dark, brutal deeds. Again, Jews began to run to the Judenrat [Jewish council] to “complain.” There the people were pushed here and there. Whoever had power or influence entered the Judenrat building safely. They went there until shooting at the masses was heard. Many fell dead. And still more were wounded. While one division of the S.S. shot, another opened the food warehouses in the ghetto streets. Since the Jews were truly suffering from hunger, they began to run to the warehouses. They grabbed whatever they could. They slipped on margarine, on butter and marmalade on the sidewalks around the warehouse. The few Jews in our city did not know what awaited them when they ran in order to grab food. Those who remained at home, crying, hoping and letting themselves rely on God that He would support them and lead them on the road to mercy, did not know what awaited them. They had to leave the streets immediately and stay in their houses.

I had prepared Aryan papers and chose a time for leaving the ghetto. I already stood at the gate of the ghetto in order to leave. A thought began to bore into my head: What would I do? Leave my whole family and, in addition, my small child and I would save only myself?

I decided that I would not do this. What would happen to everyone would happen to me, too.

[Page 352]

I went back home.

We did not sleep the last night. One looked at the other and was quiet, but our hearts cried because they sensed what the morning would bring.

In the morning, at five o'clock, we heard shouting: Heraus! Heraus! Ale Juden heraus! [All Jews out!] Take all of your things with you! This was the beginning of the end. Like a flock of sheep, we were driven and went to the assembly place. We stood there for a few hours. The Germans at the assembly place at first “claimed” the workers from the Erbe factory, then the leaders of the city managing committee as well as the leaders of the local community and their families. In the meantime, we heard the painful shouts of people at whom the Gestapo shot. From the community building, at 11 o'clock in the morning, they took us to the aktsie [action, often a deportation] factory. On the road, everyone had to give all of the valuable things they had with them. When we sat at the factory square, the guards consoled us and told us that young people would go to a labor camp and the older women would be taking care of small children. At two o'clock in the afternoon, the Nazis told us to enter the freight cars. The order was accompanied with blow from rifle butts. It should be said that as the freight cars showed, we were not the first ones. Those transported earlier had left a great deal of filth, which we were forced to remove with our clothing.

The train moved in the direction of Upper Silesia. Arriving in Katowice, Mr. Senderowicz shouted: “People, we're going on Kiddush haShem [sanctification of God's name – martyrdom]. They are taking us to Auschwitz.” Everyone shouted and cried. The Kartacz family began to recite Psalms and everyone joined them. After two hours, we were at the Auschwitz station. They segregated those arriving: men separately, women separately. The Nazis immediately put the women and children in vehicles. I soon found myself in a vehicle, with my child in my arms. Near me was my mother. At the last moment, my mother said: Tokhtershi [diminutive of daughter], you are still young, you can save yourself. I will take care of your child. Go with your sisters.

I jumped up. I did it not thinking about what to do.

The vehicle left immediately.

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I have had this image before my eyes since that time. I constantly see how my closest along with my child travel away. I also see my child looking at me from the vehicle and how the vehicle disappears forever from my view, little by little.


Suffocated, Murdered, Burned…


We were led into the Birkenau camp. The Nazis tattooed a number on our arms. Then they took off all our clothing and shaved our hair – so much that our own sisters would not recognize us. In such a state, the German murderers led us to shame and mockery. During the 20 months, we survived terrifying things. I lost my entire family, along with thousands of others from Zawiercie. Of my entire family, only I and my two brothers survived.


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