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[Page 354]

Chapter of an Era of Horror


The Second Deportation in Zawiercie

by Israel Yitzchak Grinbaum

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Just as a Hasidic rebbe would recite a chapter of Psalms every morning, thus we would look out into the street every morning and listen to hear if it was calm or, God forbid, something bad was happening or if help had come – help that was so hoped for, so yearned for.

However, hope and persistent efforts were our only weapons. Alas, there was nothing good on the horizon.

My father came home and he told us: Children, prepare. A Christian told me he saw Jews being taken to Blanowska Street.

What the Christians had told my father was the sad truth. We began to prepare in to the manner of those days: everyone put a bread and a bit of clothing in their rucksack (fletsak). Several small children had signs hung on their chests on which was recorded their name and family name as well as their exact address.

This was ordered by our Judenrat. This distracted the public. The motive that if a child [was separated from its parents] they would know to whom to give it. And so: as we prepared ourselves, always ready like sheep to the slaughter, we had neighbors speaking to each other in the courtyard, whispering (“Perhaps those working for the Luftwaffe were taken to work”). They whispered this because a large number of Jews were recorded as workers of the Luftwaffe where the Germans were supposed to arrange various departments of work for the Nazi air force; everyone had consoled himself and others that they were being taken to work. Whoever did not have such confirmation planned to hide. Then, my mother and my youngest brother hid in a cellar in our house. I closed the cellar with its door cover and then we, the rest of the household, waited for the order. We did not wait for long until the devilish murderers arrived and shouted: “Outside.” Without saying

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a word, each of us began to tie up packs and went to the market as ordered, leaving the house and the household goods abandoned. It was forbidden to lock the doors.

In the meanwhile, our Christian neighbors ran wild and they began busying themselves in the houses.

The assembly spot for the second “resettlement” was at the new market. Jews came in groups – understandably together.

My father, sister and I walked through Hocza Street, opposite the former Jewish community [building] (in the time described, there was a kitchen for children in this building that was once the Jewish community [building]).

We walked until suddenly a Nazi animal sprang toward us and gave my father a heavy blow on the back with his thick club.

My father fainted. I began to drag him. This revived my father. When he came to himself a little, he quickly stood up out of fear that if he continued to lay, he would receive more such blows.

In such a dejected mood, we went further to the new market. When we arrived there, they stopped us near the butcher shops. We waited there for several hours until the Germans dragged together almost all the few Zawiercie Jewish residents, as well as Jewish refugees who the Germans had brought from Upper Silesia and Zaolzie [Záolží], which had once belonged to Czech Silesia, to the Zawiercie area in 1940 (and then concentrated them in Zawiercie).

We stood that way and we saw the Germans constantly bringing new groups of Jews, among them the old and sick who could barely breathe. The Nazis brought them in wagons. They looked, lehavdil [word used to differentiate between two things one does not want to equate], like slaughtered cattle, defeated, beaten, half-naked. The Nazis placed these Jews under the roof of the butcher shops.

The Nazis also brought similar groups from the surrounding shtetlekh [towns].

At the end, more groups could not be gathered together because many had hidden. Given that they saw that they would

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not be able to drive more together, a Nazi officer arrived accompanied by a large dog and he ordered the entire transport to depart immediately.

I will never forget the terrible image that appeared then at the new market.

I will record that several members of the Jewish community (Judenrat [Jewish council]) earned special praise because they immediately began to run among the various Nazi offices and looked for advice on how to save even a small number of the wretched, exhausted Jews. They ran to the leadership of the Luftwaffe who were a little more decent in comparison with the other Nazi murderers who reigned supreme and rampaged in Zawiercie.

Those Judenrat members were called Merin from Sosnowiec. Merin was the main leader of the Judenrats in all of Zaglembie. Together, they sought advice on how to save even a few Jews.

After long efforts, the leaders of the Luftwaffe removed from the assembly point at the new market all of those who were enrolled with them. They also removed from there all of those who worked at the city hall or for the city hall.

The Nazis did not free the remaining Jews. Even the Jews who had the blue sonder [special authorization] were not freed by the Hitlerist murderers. In general, it was better with the blue sonder than without it, but this time the sonder was of very little help.

Suddenly, the Nazis brought a group of Jews whom the Germans had found in various places where the Jews had hidden. The Nazi animals ordered them to lie down with their faces to the ground. Then, they immediately began to shoot in the air and the group of Jews thought the Nazis were shooting at them. They could not look around to see what was happening because they were forbidden to raise their heads.

After a certain time, the Nazis ordered the group of Jews to stand up. The Jews stood up and they saw that they had all remained alive. However, this was only temporarily.

At the same time, they brought a group of Jews who

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worked in the Ernst Erbe factory. These Jews had hidden for the entire night, but in the morning, someone denounced them and gave them over to the Germans.

Anyone who saw what had happened at the new market, the torture, insults, intimidations of our Jews, was enveloped in terror.

In this horrible situation we saw the Nazis freeing a group of Jews – among them my father, my sister and my brother-in-law.

Around 400 Jews remained at the new market, and a large number of them were strong people (myself included). Among the 400 were also mothers with small children in their arms. We were all supposed to be “resettled.”

None of us knew where we would be “resettled,” but we imagined what could happen to us because several weeks earlier a transport had been sent away and it disappeared like a stone in water.

They brought us, the 400 Jews, among them the sick whom the Nazi had brought in wagons, as well as old, young people and children, as well as a large percentage of healthy, young people, to the house of prayer.

In the meantime, several members of the kehile [organized Jewish community] began anew to run around, to intervene in order to do something to help.

Alas, they did not succeed in saving more than 25 men who were the healthiest and the strongest.

The Nazis looked over, touched and examined the 25 men to see if they were capable of work in the labor camps. The workers at Erbe's factory and other young Jews were among the 25, including me.

We, the 25 men, were led from the house of prayer to the new market, to the premises of Yesod haTorah kheder [Foundation of Torah religious primary school]. We were guarded there by Jewish militia men.

The Nazis led the remaining wretched, poor 375 Jews out of the house of prayer to the deportation factory.

While we were imprisoned in the Yesod haTorah kheder, we waited tensely for what would happen.

In the meantime, we were informed that my unforgettable mother and sister were waiting under the window of the kheder [school] building.

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We could not move freely then. Perhaps I could have watched from the window, but I did not look out because I did not want to cause them any anxiety.

I did not know that this would be our last meeting because since then I have not seen them again, my dearest, most unforgettable ones.

At a certain moment, we heard the Jewish policemen calling in the streets that everyone who was found freely on the streets must go home. They also warned that we would not stand at the window.

Soon after, we heard shooting. After a time, we saw Nazis leading Jews through, The same Jews they had a few hours earlier led to the factory.

The Nazis led these Jews through the new market and the “Jewish” streets to the train station.

When the group traveled through the market, the Nazi animals came for us. With the help of the Jewish militia men, they took us out to the train station. The Nazis took the 375 people (from the house of prayer, who were then taken to the deportation factory) to the Towarower station (station for freight transports). We, the 25 men assembled in the Yesod haTorah kheder, were taken by the Nazis to the passenger station in Zawieriece.

There, we, both groups, again met each other. But there was a difference between the treatment of our group and the treatment of the group of 375 people. The Nazi forcefully pushed the people from the larger group into the freight trains, like one drove and pushed cattle into a freight wagon. The Nazis beat the group and those transported cried and moaned.

We, 25 men, the Nazis arranged in the passenger cars that were guarded by Nazi animals.

The locomotive began to whistle. The train moved from its spot – to an indefinite, fated destination…

We, the 25 men, were transported to Sosnowiec by the Nazis, where we entered the Sosnowiec transit camp (dulag].

The remaining – 375 Jews, old, weak, women with children in their arms – traveled their last road to the crematoria, where they perished in a bestial manner.

[Page 359]

A Beautiful Dream of a Large Aliyah

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In the meantime, between the conclusion of the Soviet-German Pact and the outbreak of the Soviet-German war, the young Jews of Zawiercie searched for a way to extract themselves from the talons of the Germans. They dreamed of escaping to the Polish eastern regions, which were then occupied by the Red Army. The young people thought they could save themselves there. Those who did not want to go there looked for other places. In the meantime, they learned that a large group of Jewish young people were gathering in Vilna and there they were receiving help to go further, with the goal of emigrating to Eretz Yisroel [aliyah]. We began to wander to Vilna. At the same time, there also was a talk that it was worthwhile to smuggle oneself Jews who wanted to go to Eretz Yisroel from there were also being supported there. However, the situation became worse in Poland from day to day. The young people were constantly despairing. The activity of the Zionist groups officially stopped, first


Zawiercie young people at work


out of fear, then because of a lack of income. At the same time, a rumor spread among the young about an order that arrived at the Jewish community [then in Kopl Hendler's house at Marszalkowska Street) that there were prospects for emigrating to Eretz

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Yisroel, but only according to lists from the kehile [organized Jewish community]. Joy enveloped the young, just hearing the news.

Several young people from Betar [Revisionist Zionist youth movement] met Leibl Rozenberg then and asked about the matter. Rozenberg had very little hope about this, but he promised to meet with the representatives of other groups in order to deal with the matter.

I was at a meeting in the city of several Zionist representatives with representatives from the Judenrat in Zawiercie. The answer was that there were great prospects for emigration for a number of young people, only [requiring] a payment for each who would go. It was arranged that young people who brought a certificate that they had been through hakshore [preparation for emigration to Eretz Yisroel] would pay less and those who had not been through hakshore would pay more.

Young people embraced the bargain, began to register and pay, so that, God forbid, they would not be too late…

The matter ended in nothing because the leaders of the Judenrat had only intended to get a little more money from the pitiful Jews. The beautiful dream of the Zawiercie young people came to an end and evaporated.


Nazis cut off beards

[Page 361]

On the Ruins of My Dear Zawiercie

by Ayzyk Roytmentsh

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

When Hitler's troops occupied Poland, the German holders of power already had murderous plans against the Jewish population. In order not to provoke a reaction among the Jews, they acted according to the Polish saying, “A man should hit his wife over the head immediately in the morning, so that she will walk around stunned the entire day. Then she will leave the man alone.” This indeed, the Nazi murderers actually did.

At first, after occupying a city, they immediately took a few hundred Jews as geyzels (hostages). A large number of Jews were tortured and murdered without a reason and without a cause. This was to serve as a warning that this was how the Germans would act against the community if it dared to raise a hand against a German…

The Zawiercie Jews also did not avoid the fear of death either: on the day they occupied the city, the Hitlerist bandits drove several thousand Jewish men from Zawiercie and its environs. The Germans imprisoned them for a week in the large T.A.Z. [Towarzystwo Akcyjne Zawiercie – Zawiercie Joint Stock Company] factory; they morally and physically insulted and brutally tortured them – this was the first welcome that the “guests” gave us… A second misfortune soon arrived and, perhaps, the greatest one: the Gestapo created the so-called Judenrat [Jewish council], which was transformed into a branch of the Gestapo. The Judenrat had to carry out all Gestapo orders and, therefore, the Jewish population suffered a great deal from the curse of the Judenrat. The members of the Judenrat wreaked havoc on the tortured Jewish population until their [the Jews'] last breath of life. They [the members of the Judenrat], by the way, believed that the Hitlerist murderers would annihilate all of the Jews and they would remain alive… Alas, the rich men were at the head of the Judenrat. Among them was the councilman, Yitzhak Buchner. To his praise, it should be remembered that he was one of the most honest members of the Judenrat. He was a serious intellectual and devoted Jew who had accomplished a great deal in the communal area for Jewish Zawiercie. He could not bear the despicable deeds of the Judenrat in regard to the Jewish population and, internally, at the Judenrat, he carried on a struggle against all intrigues and injustices. He actually paid for his courage:

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one morning, he was ousted from the council and he was deported to Auschwitz with his entire family, where they tragically perished…

The Sosnowiec Jew, Moniek Merin, who had the same bitter end, led the Judenrat [Jewish council] in all of Zaglembie.

The Judenrat was a government unto itself, first in the Jewish neighborhood and then in the ghetto. They even had their own Jewish police with commanders, as well as a jail that was never empty…

The Jewish policemen were not any less ruthless: during the aktsias [deportations], they were just as shameful as the German gendarmes in their brutality. Above all, the Jewish policemen were well-to-do and middleclass young people. The Judenrat would take a nice ransom for such a post. Such a post also was considered as “insurance” to survive the war… Therefore, the Jewish police showed much activity and loyalty at every aktsia. Among the mass calamities endured by the Jews in Zawiercie, it is worth remembering the fact that when the Judenrat placed a high tariff on every head on the Jewish population, there were those who could not or would not pay. The Judenrat, with the help of the Jewish police, gathered together 20-something Jews and handed them over into the hands of the Sosnowiec gendarmery. The Gestapo held these imprisoned Jews in Sosnowiec for two weeks in the fabric factory, where they received the appropriate “lectures.” Returning home, their bodies were black and swollen from the murderous blows from the Germans. Of those I remember among the sufferers were: Yeshaya Borensztajn, Layzer Sztajnfeld, L. Feder and others.

Until the end of 1940, no atksias or arbeitseinsatz [slave and forced labor] took place. However, the discrimination against the Jews began immediately after the Hitlerist hordes occupied Poland. The Jewish businesses were immediately taken over by commissioners and “trustees.” All Jewish houses were requisitioned and the rents were taken by the German regime.

Jews were not permitted to buy from Christians and contact between both nationalities [the Jews and the Christians] was not permitted to take place. As soon as

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a Jew was caught at such an offense, such as buying a kilo [2.2 pounds] of potatoes from a Christian, he was taken by the Nazis to headquarters. From there, he had to crawl home on all fours because after the blows that he received there he was in no condition to walk. This was a frequent phenomenon; Yosef Urman lived for several days after such a deed; Ziml Rajcher was whipped twice for such a “sin.” After these blows, he was no longer capable of working (he was a tailor); because of this he and his wife and child were sent to Auschwitz where they perished in a barbaric way. Fishl Bizam had to be carried home after such a “lecture.” Yoska Joskowicz, walking from the train, was stopped. The Nazis kept him for the entire night at the Nazi headquarters. When he was brought home in the morning, two doctors barely brought him back to consciousness. Aba Birfrajnd was stopped going to the train by a gendarme who led him to the commander; there he was robbed and murdered. Such cases were limitless. Life was so arbitrary for the Jews…

At the end of 1940, new calamities began: the so called arbeitseinsatz. Every few days, at around four or five in the morning, the Jewish streets were closed. Tens of groups of members of the Gestapo and gendarmes, and including the Jewish police, started for the Jewish houses in a wild storm and, giving a hail of blows, they drove out all of the men, naked and barefooted, to the new market. There, a tragic scene played out – the Gestapo “heroes” agitated their wolf-hounds, who threw themselves at the innocent, unarmed, peaceful men with wild fury and tore living pieces from them. The murderers did not hold back any blows with their iron clubs. After every such aktsia, there would be a certain number of victims – four or five hundred men capable of work after such ferocious deeds were sent to forced labor in Germany, from which, alas, they never returned.

It is worth mentioning that men from the poor strata and workers, who were on the lists that had been put together by the Judenrat, were mainly sent away to forced labor. Those who were more prosperous and richer took care of themselves with so-called sonders [special authorizations] which gave them the privilege of not being disturbed by the arbeitseinsatz.

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On the 18th of May 1941, the German Luftwaffe occupied the large T.A.Z. factory and smashed all of the looms and spinning machines into scrap. The scrap was sent to the ammunition factory. Jews were brought to this work by force. Then, when the factory was cleaned of all of the machines, the so-called Luftwaffe established various workshops in the factory, such as, for example: a tailoring shop, a shoemaking shop, a knitwear shop and still other shops in other trades. The shops mainly served for repairing old clothing, as well as making new. Approximately 4,000 Jews were employed in the workshops.

The arbeitseinsatz functioned until the beginning of 1943. From that date, the deportations took on a different character. The Germans did not send [Jews] to the labor camps, but to the extermination camps. They sent the old and young, women, children and the sick. A number of them were murdered at their job. A number were deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Such deportations were repeated several times.

Alas, it must be remembered that a large number of Jews perished thanks to the bad deeds of a number of Christians – thus perished Levi Haberman, Nusan Garniec, Itshe Krajcer and others along with their families.

All of the above-mentioned were hidden during the aktsia. Their Christian neighbors betrayed them and gave them into the hands of the Hitlerist murderers.

In February 1943, the Gestapo introduced the ghetto. They took approximately 1,000 Jews and threw them into a crowded corner, two to three families in one house. Terrible inhuman, unsanitary conditions existed there. This was preparation for the last great deportation and for the annihilation of all Jews.

This was a refined plan by the Nazi bandits to create a ghetto so that the extermination action would not be difficult.

On the 26th of August 1943, exactly at five o'clock in the morning, over the course of three hours, the murderous Gestapo and the gendarmerie hooligans, after a wild hunt [as if hunting] animals, drove together over 5,000 Jews in a small area, in front of the former cooperative store. This was

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the most tragic day and the last road of Zawieriec Jewry.

The sum of this tragic day was: over 100 dead, murdered during the aktsia. Among the murdered was the 90-year-old communal worker, Samuel Wajc, who during the aktsia lay in the hospital that had been arranged on Porembska Street, in the house of the Kromolower Rebbe, particularly for the sick Jews. (The doctor there was Dr. Lewkowicz, Chaim Lewkowicz's son.)

All of those murdered were thrown in a mass grave at the local [Jewish] cemetery.

The other thousand Jews, half dead, were loaded into crowded, closed train wagons and deported to Auschwitz, from which only individuals, by chance, remained alive.

Thus, was liquidated the Zawiercie Jewish ghetto.

After the great annihilation action, about 400 Jews succeeded in remaining in the Luftwaffe (in the T.A.Z. textile factory). As those recruited, they had to carry out various work under heavy guard. Approximately 100 men succeeded during the large


The [Jewish] cemetery in Zawiercie

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annihilation action in hiding in various bunkers as well as with Polish acquaintances. Over the course of two weeks, these Jews were discovered by bad Poles (Volks-Deutsch – ethnic Germans and by German policemen). The Germans brought together [these Jews] with the 400 Jews who were located at the Luftwaffe.

It is worth remembering the tragic case that took place with Reb Henikh Rajzman (Henekh, son of Yisroelke [the given name is spelled both ways in the text]), of blessed memory, who did not want to fall into the barbaric hands of the Gestapo. He dug a bunker under his bed. During the last, large deportation, he hid there, covered with the same boards [he had removed]. He actually was not discovered during the aktsia [deportation].

Several days later, Poles, who scrounged around in the Jewish homes looking for Jewish possessions, found the grave that Henekh had himself dug out and where he had breathed out his soul. Reb Henekh ended his life so tragically. Reb Henekh was very well-known in our city as a very religious Jew.

On the 17th of October 1943, at 4 o'clock in the morning, the Gestapo murderers attacked the T.A.Z. factory. They deported the rest of the Jews who were located there to Auschwitz. The Hitlerist murderers left seven Jews: Landau – electric installer, Sabalman – bookkeeper-warehouse, Ben-Tzion Brakman – tailor, Ayzyk Roytmensh – knitter, Chaim Cuker – sock technician and two other young men (both 15-years-old: Batan Kornberg and Kempner).

The seven Jews from various trades were left to teach the Polish workers who the Nazis had brought from all over Zaglembie in place of the deported Jews.

We found ourselves under heavy military guard. We worked and slept in the factory and were not permitted to leave the Luftwaffe.

Every day we thought that the murderers would make an end of us, knowing that we had prepared the Poles for the various work and that we were no longer necessary. Meanwhile, on the 12th of January 1945, the great Russian Army offensive began and with the same lightning speed with which the Hitlerist troops had carried out its

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campaign in Poland, occupying city after city, also with such fast steps, the Hitlerist hordes under heavy pressure from the Red Army had to withdraw. We saw how the strong Germans became pale, running around like frightened mice and preparing themselves for the evacuation. We also were depressed – uncertain about tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a rumor reached us that before the military of the Luftwaffe would evacuate, they would first make an end to the nine[1] Jews… We felt that the ground under us was growing even hotter, so we decided that we would at any price and as quickly as possible enter the city and hide with Polish acquaintances. We did hide – everyone in a different place so that we would not all perish if we suffered failure.

On the 17th of January, right in the morning, we, all nine, as one man, through various means (incidentally, the Germans were very unnerved; the guard was no long so heavy) entered the city. We hid with various Polish acquaintances. We had not been wrong: one hour later, after our escape from the Luftwaffe, the Gestapo arrived and wanted to deal with us; however, they had come too late… They no longer had any time to search for us; gnashing their teeth, they grumbled: “It is a pity we waited too long…”

On the 20th of January 1945, three days later, Shabbos at six o'clock in the morning, the Red Army freed Zawiercie from the Hitlerist bandits, who for over five years had looted and murdered the Jewish population. Seeing that the Russian vanguard had appeared in the city, we came out of our hiding places and we again were free citizens.

However, our liberation was tragic – lonely, without our families, without a roof over our heads, homeless – we wandered around among the empty streets on which the life of approximately 7,000 Jews had once simmered. Now fear and longing reigned here; the specter of a familiar face, which had perished so tragically and innocently at the hands of the Nazi bandits, looked out from every window, from every hole and from every corner. These specters screamed, “Revenge our spilled blood.”

Of the approximately 7,000 Jews who had lived in our city, a total of 200 people returned from the death camps. By chance, they

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had remained alive and they did not find any of their relatives or close ones in Zawiercie.

Right after the liberation, several comrades and I, such as Mendl Weksberg, Yehosha Borzykowski, Emos Turner and Zelig Sobelman, arranged a committee that immediately joined the Katowice regional committee. A fund was immediately mobilized from which the Zawieriec committee distributed help to those returned; we immediately created a kitchen where over 200 lunches were given out daily; we provided the homeless with apartments.

The city hall of the city of Zawieriec helped us greatly in every way.

Right after the liberation, correspondence began to flow from all corners of the world: from relatives and friends with inquiries about [our] recent lives.

I made an effort to answer the majority of the correspondence.

After several months, almost all of those returning from the death camps traveled to various countries, mainly to Germany.


In the picture: Those saved from Hitler's fire at the people's kitchen of the Jewish Religious Association (1st of March 1946)


Translator's Footnote

  1. The number given on the previous page is seven. Return

[Page 369]

A Mrzygłód Native in the Concentration Camp

by Shimeon Geldner

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Before the war, I attended a Polish underofficer's school. Antisemitism ruled strongly there. Instead of preparing for defense of the country, the Polish military authorities only thought about how to torment the Jews.

On the eve of the war, Marshal [Edward] Rydz-Śmigły spoke on the radio. When I wanted to listen to his talk, my father drove me away from the radio. He did not want to believe in what actually existed, that is, that war was about to break out.

Shabbos [Sabbath], the second day after the outbreak of the war, when the flames already had reached our region, my parents still did not believe the tragic reality and did not want to leave the shtetl [town]; they were afraid that their possessions would be stolen if they left everything. Many thought like that because they lived under the illusion that the horrible situation would only last a few days. They imagined that it would not result in annihilation, as time would later reveal. Thus my parents remained in their beloved Imziglod [Mrzygłód] until the deportation in 1943.

In 1940, I was in Zorik (Żarki); it was relatively calm there, as in other parts of the country. Once I decided to visit my parents, but I experienced an ugly disaster. The border guard noticed me and shot at me. He succeeded in catching me with the help of his dog. They transported me to a labor camp. At that time, it was good because my fate could have been different if I crossed the border. My two brothers and two brothers-in-law were sent in the same transport in which I was sent. My parents and sisters remained at home, broken and dispirited, without money without income and without any ability to earn what was needed to stay alive. It should be observed that in relation to the Myszków and Zawiercie kehilus [organized Jewish communities], the Hitlerists committed comparable, routine crimes, taking several people from a house when at that time the Germans would send only one man from a family to a camp. The camp to which we were dragged was Eichtat near Opel; we worked there very faithfully on the

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superhighway, in the hope that after six weeks they would send us home. If we had known that this was only a deception, we would not have been so indifferent about the transport.

And so: in those days, we received sad news from the neighboring camps such as Johannesdorf, Karfitz, Gogilin. The leader, Major Linder, sent several of the people to Auschwitz. We already knew what Auschwitz meant and the news actually made a terrible impression on us at that time. Right away, however, we accustomed ourselves to the cruel and frightful news because the same thing could happen to us. Therefore, we helped each other at work in order to prevent this terrible fate for our camp. According to the assurance of the camp leader, we still believed that after six weeks we would return to our homes. We hoped for the day on which we would be freed from the wild animals - the S.S. On a given Sunday, there was a commotion, a murmur, they were cleaning, they were preparing themselves. For what were they preparing... We knew that an order had come to the S.A. [Sturmabeteilung - Storm Detachment] that Major Linder was arriving. We were sure that his arrival was in order to liberate us, but alas, our hopes ended sadly. The “liberator” was a major with a murderous appearance. We stood at a roll call and the murderer looked at each of us with his wild eyes. He began to preach. His first words were: “You gypsy, Jews, if you do not do the work, the same thing will happen to you that happened in Johannesdorf, in Aneraude, as in Karfitz.”

He said that Jews would yet ask him to send them to labor camps.

This was an evil prophecy that, alas, came about with complete cruelty.

* * *

During the outbreak of the Soviet-German war, we knew it would last a long time. The Germans loaded 90 men on to a horse wagon in a number of camps under the structure of the Osten-Einsatz [Eastern deployment]. We traveled through Kovno to the Sebezh border point. There we worked at smelting the tin plate so that the German trains could go right up to the front. We lived either in the wagons or in

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friends' houses. The working conditions were terrible. It was cold; we were hungry. There was nothing to drink. A number of us became ill with typhus from the unsanitary conditions. A few tried to escape. The Ukrainians would kill them or bring them alive to the Germans. Therefore, no one dared to escape anymore. We again began to work. During a short time, 100 men died among us. The Germans decided to send those remaining, exhausted and sick, back to Aneberg (Germany). I was among them. Thanks to my brother, who felt stronger than me, I remained alive. We both were sent to a camp in Freiwaldau, in Breslau County. The work there was difficult.

Thanks to the Pole with whom I became acquainted, we created the means for existing. A soldier guard noticed this and my name was entered in the shwartzn bukh [black book].

After a time, Major Lindner came to visit us again. They told him that I was registered in the black book. At his order, I was taken to the municipal jail, to the police chief. After three days, a special messenger from the S.S. came and he took me in an unknown direction.

I did not know that I was traveling to Auschwitz. There were moments when I could escape.

After traveling for 24 hours, we arrived in Katowice. I was happy that I was not far from home.

Alas, we climbed into another train that went in the direction of Auschwitz. I regretted that I had not earlier jumped from the train when I had seen an opportunity.

Approaching Auschwitz, the soldier-guard became helpful to me. He gave me the news that in 15 minutes we were arriving at the gates of Auschwitz.

I become more courteous, face-to-face with an S.S. man.

* * *

We read the inscription, Arbeit macht frei [work sets you free], over the gate of the Auschwitz camp,

Another S.S. man brought me into the Auschwitz camp. He

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led me into a building that they called the “zone.” There I waited for a transport from Holland with which I was supposed to be transported. I decided to jump out through a window as soon as it became dark to get closer to the electric wire. This would be better than perishing in the gas chamber. The kapo [concentration camp inmate assigned to oversee forced laborers] from the “zone” was a Warsaw Pole, an engineer by profession, with the face of a murderer. In truth, he was not the worst. He spoke with me in German or Polish. He gave me food, but he could not do more than this for me.

A concentration camp inmate entered the “zone” - according to his appearance, not one of the common ones. He greeted the “zone” kapo and told me to get undressed. On the snow, I trembled with cold in the January 1943 frost. I again heard an order: put on the pants and the shoes. I heard that a conversation was taking place in Polish in the neighboring room. I listened eagerly, but could not get anything.

Both the Kapo and concentration camp inmate came to me. The concentration camp inmate asked me my name in Polish and where I was coming from now. After my answers, he grabbed me by the throat and I thought he wanted to choke me. He asked me if I recognized him.

It proved to be that we were both students in a Polish non-commissioned officer school and that his name was Patisznik.

I literally became silent out of fear. I wanted to ask him something but because of the nervousness of his comrade, the kapo, I did not do it.

The two again disappeared into a neighboring room. I heard the Polish words: “This will be for the best.” One of them appeared again. He gave me something to eat. I cried, fell to his feet, and asked him to help me with something. He answered me immediately that they had worked out a plan, but they did not know if it would succeed.

I thought that in any case, I had nothing to lose; no matter what, they would send me to the gas chamber.

Patisznik soon brought me other clothing. I felt warmer and fresher in the fresh clothing. He said to me that I should not panic if an S.S. block leader went past; if he stopped

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me, I should say that I came from the district precinct. He would explain everything.

Patisznik, as an Oberschlesien [from Upper Silesia], was drawn in as a co-worker by the Germans, but since they knew that he had graduated from the Polish non-commissioned officer school, they did not trust him and they sent him to Auschwitz as a concentration camp inmate.

I worked with him for three weeks in the warehouse of old and new clothing, where he was the only one in charge. No one knew about me. I did not even go to the roll call and I did not receive a number. Patisznik brought me food.

Patisznik told me that the transports would constantly arrive, selections would be made at the blocks; the old and sick would be sent further. He designated me to be included in the transport of the healthy, the young ones.

I actually entered the transport for artisans and I received a number for an artisan instead of another number. I received work sorting the things remaining from those transported to the gas chambers. Later, I was assigned to the bricklayers' commando that worked at the Ridl firm.

I quickly worked myself into the new trade. Because we excelled at our work, we received more food.

Once, when we returned from work, we were stopped at the gate by S.S. members. A band was playing for us and the S.S. attacked us like animals. They took note of our numbers.

I went to Patisznik and I told him what had happened. He said to me: When they call your number, you should come straight to me. I no longer slept that night and I waited for the next day. In the morning, the recorded numbers were called. My number also was among the numbers. I could not inform my provider, Patisznik, because we were closed in and could not get past the barrier.

Ten minutes later, we already were in autos. We were traveling to no one knew where. A few said confession, a few laughed, and a few cried.

It seems that we had been transported to the Buna camp at Auschwitz. I entered a block where the Jewish block elder was one Chaim from Lelow, near Szczekociny. He

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demanded from us discipline and the maintaining of cleanliness because his block was known as the cleanest and, therefore, the people there received more food. There were many Poles in Chaim's block, among them lawyers from Warsaw, and a priest from Kalisz. The chief engineer of the Zawiercie poviat [district], Merta, was also there and others whose names I no longer remember.

I befriended Chaim because he knew my father who would travel to Lelow for yahrzeitn [anniversaries of deaths]. This did not last long because Chaim and his comrade Zenik, who was the chef in the kitchen, escaped, dressed in the uniforms of high S.S. officers. The Nazis discovered Chaim and Zenik in Krakow. During the uprising, Chaim succeeded in killing three Nazis. He was shot during this and then hung, already dead. The Nazis caught Zenik alive. They brought him back to Auschwitz, where they hung him alive.

Until the 18th of January 1945, we suffered a great deal from air strikes. One made a ruin the English prisoner camp and there were many victims.

On the 18th of January, they evacuated the camp and we travelled - up to 60-100 men in a train wagon - to Gleiwitz [Gliwice]. Then to Mittlebau-Dora in Nordhausen. From there we travelled to Austerud where ammunition factories were operating in the highest mountains in Germany. A young S.S. officer was our commandant. His attitude was not the worst. From time to time, he would order the local population to give us food. The other commandants, however, were wild and they tortured us barbarously.

When marching through the cities of Gifhorn and Braunschweig [Brunswick, Germany], we were heavily bombed by the American military airplanes. In a forest, edgy nervous forest guards, in uniforms, informed the young, energetic S.S. commandant that 15 minutes earlier, the place had been visited by an American patrol.

Many Poles, Ukrainians, Romani, Austrians, who had rebelled, joined our march through Braunschweig. The S.S. men threatened that they would shoot, but the non-Jews attacked them. We, Jews, had no strength and we did not take part in the struggle. Two men from Zawiercie - Giser and Wajnsztok - and I along with a Romani, succeeded in running deep into the forest.

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I fell into the River Elba and the Romani pulled me out. He told me I should run around to warm myself.

We went to the German peasants who were working in the fields and thought that perhaps we would receive a something to eat. They were very friendly to us and did give us food.

The Romani who was with me, swam naked across the river. I was afraid that the S.S. would capture me. I returned to the forest with the above-mentioned two Zawierciers. The next day we went to the Elba [River] and began to sail a boat to the other side. On the other side of the Elba, we were stopped by an American patrol. They thought we were hostile forces and they pushed us back into the forest. However, thanks to a Black soldier who knew a little Yiddish and thanks to an American who knew a little Polish, we remained alive.

Later, the Americans told us that they had received an order to take people dressed in prisoner clothing because the S.S. men would put on the clothing of concentration camp inmates and, after they were taken as liberated inmates, they would open fire on the Americans.

It does not seem possible that a person can go through as much as we went through.




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