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Jumping from the Death Wagon that was Traveling to Treblinka

by Mordechai Grand

After my father and older brother Berl (Dov) left their home in Zgierz in haste for Bialystok [1], Russia, the Germans issued completely new ordinances almost every day in order to make the lives of the Jews more difficult.

At the end of December 1939, the Jews of Zgierz were driven from the town towards the “Protectorate”. The border was between Strykow and Glowno. Lowicz, Skierniewice and other places were already full of uprooted Jews. Our aunt Leah, mother's younger sister (nee Sperling), reminded us that we had a cousin in the town of Laszkowice who was a tailor. We all set out from Lowicz on a frosty day, on a wagon hired out from peasants, with a few meager belongings that we managed to take from home. We rented a room in the town with the help of our cousin. We were not able to remain there for long. It was a very difficult winter at that time. We lost our means of livelihood, and the persecutions and restrictions imposed by the Poles and Germans increased. In this manner, we wandered for a year between the towns of Laszkowice, Skierniewice, Lowicz, Glowno, and Lasicz.

Only 400 Jews remained in Zgierz. These were various workers whom the Germans needed. I remained in Zgierz at the time, at the home of my grandfather Reb Avraham Grand and grandmother Hodel, near the castle in the old market. They secretly returned home from Lodz after the expulsion. There, I ran into some people. Since other means of livelihood were lost, and in the house we had hidden a little jewelry and dollars in an iron safe under the wooden floor, we decided who among us should enter the sealed home.

During the time that my younger brother Adam served as a shepherd with a farmer in Lasicz, and my sister Sara, my youngest brother Shimon, and Aunt Leah remained in Laszkowice, my mother and I succeeded in sneaking into Lodz, and from there to Zgierz, to my grandparents. At their home, we planned out how to “break in” to our house, which had been sealed up by the Germans.

On a frosty evening, during the time of the curfew when it was forbidden to go out on the streets, I sneaked out of grandfather's house, accompanied by my mother's blessing and fear. The streets were empty. I crawled through yards and fences. At the beginning of Leczyza Street, near the “Lutina” cinema, an armed German gendarme was wandering around – in and out of doors. During a time when the German was inside, I quickly ran past. He shot at me in a perfunctory fashion when he noticed me. I went into the house on Piontki Street 11, which bordered on the yard of our house.

I went through the fruit orchard, crawled over a high fence, and was already in our yard. I was concerned that our neighbor, the Pole Tomczak, should not recognize me. I decided to wait on the porch of the house on Leczyza Street, even until the middle of the night. Full of terror, hungry, trembling and cold, I counted the hours that were chimed by the courthouse clock. Realizing that Tomczak was certainly asleep, I went along the fence crawling on all fours, so that the frozen snow would not squeak.

As I crawled by the neighbor's window, I heard his loud snoring. This gave me courage. Finally, I stood by the sealed door of the house in which I had spend my childhood and had grown up – a childhood that was so cruelly torn away. Today, I was already an “adult” with many life experiences; I already knew how to avoid people who can be worse than animals in a forest – I was already 15 years old…

There was a small shelter around the door, and over that, an attic hole through which I crawled like a cat. I went down from attic with the stairs. I was now standing next to the sealed door of my house. Unfortunately, I did not have the necessary utensils to break in, so I had to leave empty-handed and return back along the same terrifying route. I had to wait in the house on Leczyza 8 until 8:00 a.m. when the curfew finished. These hours passed like years. My dear mother as well as my grandmother and grandfather did not sleep for the entire night, for they were waiting for my return with fear. Finally, I fell into mother's arms…


A while later, with mother's help, I procured a few tools from a Jewish shoemaker on Krutka Street: a hammer, pliers, and a screwdriver. Once again, on a dark night, I set out along the terrifying route, until I came to the door of my house. Perking up my ears to ensure that not a rustle would be heard, I lit a match, pulled out some nails, and succeeded in opening the door with the screwdriver. I lit a small light, looked around, and only G-d knows what was going on at that time in my heart. My language is too poor to write it down! The portraits of my parents were looking down at me from the walls over their beds. I saw the clothes wardrobe that was carved from oak. On the left was the sofa and on the right the covered oven, which was now so cold and strange to me…

I quickly got down to work. I removed two boards from the floor of the kitchen. I reached the safe, opened it, and took everything out. I closed it again and replaced the boards. I placed the treasure in the “bandages” that my mother prepared for me, and I wound them around my body. As I was doing this, I noticed that someone had already paid a visit here, for the Singer sewing machine and other small items were missing. The place was already in disorder, for someone had ransacked it. Afterward, I returned along the same frightful path. Mother and my grandparents were waiting for me.

Later, we returned to Lodz. I smuggled meat from Zgierz to Lodz for a certain period of time. On one occasion, I almost paid with my life – then mother did not allow me to go anymore. Entering and leaving the Lodz Ghetto was becoming increasingly difficult. In order not to remain locked up in the ghetto, mother decided to return to Skierniewice. This was a dangerous route. Grandfather and grandmother remained in Lodz with the remainder of the family. They all died there – whether from hunger or disease.


Treblinka and other death camps were already operating with full strength. From time to time, the German barbarians conducted aktions in the towns between Lodz and Warsaw. They compelled the Jews to concentrate themselves in the ghettos of both large cities. We all went to the Warsaw Ghetto and lived on Ogrodowa 13. This was a period of difficult struggle for existence. The Germans conducted aktions very often, and the ghetto was being liquidated. One time, during a “Lapanka”, they captured and imprisoned our dear and refined mother in “Powiak”. Miraculously, she left there after two weeks.

In October 1942, the murderers drove out tens out thousands of “unproductive” Jews from the ghetto – men, women, children, and the elderly. Our lot was to be among them. The barbarians drove us out by foot onto the Warsaw-Mordi highway. A transport truck with S. S. men drove by. They began to shoot at the Jews with machine guns. This was like an angry dream. I sunk down into a faint. When I opened my eyes, I saw a horrific picture. First, I was bereft of my mother and Sara. They both lay shot, wallowing in puddles of blood. I realized that I was left alone. In the turmoil, I lost my young brother Shimon, who was 12 years old. I could not even find his body. I later met both Adams, my brother and my cousin Rozszalski, in Siedlice. Other martyrs were not even brought to a Jewish burial.

Remaining alive after the slaughter, I decided to avoid large settlements. For a period of time, I lived like a wild animal, wandering around. Later, when the three of us met in Siedlice, we worked together in a German camp, which was completely unguarded. One day, the Germans took us by surprise, loaded us like sardines onto transport wagons, and drove us away with a train that was pulled by two locomotives with a great speed, so that nobody could jump out. I remember that it was evening. Here and there, I noticed that there was snow. I was there with both Adams. It is hard for me to write about what was taking place in the wagon. People looked like specters. Some of them had already given up on life. It was obvious that we were been taken to Treblinka. Young people jumped out of the windows, putting on white shirts over their clothes so that they would not be noticed as they fell into the snow. It was no easy matter to reach the small windows. For a certain time, I was overcome by weakness, and fell asleep from fatigue. When I awoke, I decided to save myself, my brother and my cousin. They were very afraid that people would shoot at those that jumped from the outside. I was compelled to be the first one to do so. We decided upon a point of jumping that was near a farm of a Pole for whom all three of us had worked at one point.

I chose an appropriate moment to jump. Between us, we found a locksmith who was requested to open the inside door. I remember the words he spoke at that time: “This is my last wish, save yourselves if you can. You are young. I am already old and I have nobody in the world. If you survive, I beg of you, remember me.”

The train continued onward to the death camp. I jumped. Then I heard a series of shots. A Ukrainian guard shot at me. I remained lying on my back, and quickly turned myself over. I saw another jumper approach me, who was shouting loudly that he had been wounded in the stomach. However, I was helpless. I could not help him at all. I had jumped into the ditch beside the railway line, and I found there a group of young people who had jumped before I did. We spent the entire night in a barn. In the morning, everyone went on their way. I set out for the designated spot, travelling through fields and forests, in the snow and frost. It was a long way, which seemed endless.


The place at which I jumped from the train was approximately 5 or 10 kilometers from Treblinka. As I have said, after jumping, we were to meet at a farm in the region of Lasicz owned by a good Pole. I, my brother Adam Grand, and our cousin Adam Roszalski worked there some time previously. At the time there was a lot of frost and snow. The journey took about 10 days, as I went by back routes. Along the way I encountered a Jewish woman from the same transport who also succeeded in jumping. She confided in me that she has a large sum of money, and proposed that we go together to Mezherich [2], where her husband was working in a German brush factory. We were very tired and hungry. It was night. We knocked on the door of a farmer, who gave us potatoes with red borscht, and let us spend the night, obviously for payment.

Having fear of hiding Jews, the son of the farmer told us the next day that on the other side of the highway there was a work camp for Jews. I already knew very well the meaning of a work camp, and was not about to be convinced to go there. My endeavors to talk the woman out of going there were not successful. She set out for the camp.

It was evening, and I was not able to remain there, for it was dangerous for me as well as for the farmer. Having no choice, I set out in the direction of the camp. As I neared the place, I heard a shot. With fear, I returned to the farmer and sneaked into his barn, obviously without being noticed. I spent the night there and covered myself with straw to protect myself from the great cold. In the morning, the farmer noticed me as I was sleeping. He gave me some bread and ordered me to leave. Incidentally, he told me that the woman had been shot by the Germans.

I arrived at the farm after a few days of travelling. However, my brother and cousin were not there. Most probably, the youths did not jump from the train, and were murdered in Treblinka, at the ages of 12 and 13.


I arrived at the Mezherich Ghetto during my further wanderings. At that time, it was already after the fourth aktion. I do not have the ability and energy to write about the hell in the ghetto. It is sufficient to state that I endured the fifth, sixth and seventh aktions – until the ghetto was liquidated. I succeeded in fleeing from there with my dear friend Simcha (I do not remember his family name), a butcher from Janow Podlaski. After a long period of wandering, we arrived at the partisans on Shavuot [3] 1943. We joined the group of Vladimir Mikhalovich Sinotov [4]. We conducted numerous diverse actions against the Germans in the regions of Brest Litovsk, Terespol, Janow Podlaski, Sarne, Mardi and Lasicz. Our division consisted mainly of Jews and Russians.

Thus did I take revenge against the Germans. I was liberated by the Red Army at the end of June 1944 in the region of Lublin.

{Photo page 599: The furnaces of Majdanek near Lublin, photographed after the liberation in 1944. {Translator's note: the errata adds "with the permission of The Ghetto Fighter's Headquarters (Beit Lochme Hagetaot).}


My Child… My Child…

by W. Ben Shimon

A small monument in memory of our dear, kosher children who were devoured by the Nazi man-beasts – at the time that their fathers, who were sent to the taigas of the white “sever” in Russia, were overcome with grief and longing for them.

When a silent lament rips through in the heart:
My child, my child –

A fright shudders through my lonely bones:
My child, where are you now?

When the day breaks, so dull, so sorry –
My child, my child…

When the sun sets hotly in the west –
My child, where are you now?!

On the desolate bed, during sleepless nights,
My child, my child…

Chopping in an ancient forest, a tree is knocked down –
My child, where are you now?!

When a flower flutters on a path in the forest,
My child, my child…

When one feels like a sparrow after the hunt and capture –
My child, where are you now?!

With a wooden spoon, when the hand shakes –
My child, my child..

Tearing oneself into pieces..
Beating one's head against the wall –
My child, my child!
Where are you now?!

Written in a labor camp in Komi A.S.S.R., 1940. [5]


The Miracle With My Child

by Tamar (Tala) Cincinatus

During the sorrowful Hitlerian war, having already been through the cruelest ghettos in Polish Ukraine, we succeeded in obtaining “Aryan” documents. The initiators and providers of these documents were my two brothers Avraham and Motek. However, they are no longer here – and I was left in that dark time with a young child. We succeeded, as “Aryans” in leaving Poland, together with the Poles with whom we were among. We traveled to Germany for compulsory labor. Along the way, I went through numerous medical checkups. Even though we had to strip naked for these exams, I hid my Witold from the doctors.

He hid under the luggage for eight hours in Dachau. I spent some time in Dachau, and from there our group was sent all over Germany. My child and I were sent to Munich, where I began to work in a brick factory for twelve hours a day. My seven-year-old Witold became our provider who conducted our business. He would go to purchase everything, clean the barracks and cook for us.

The following is one of the countless awful episodes:

On a certain day when I was at work, a man in military uniform turned to me and asked:

“Are you the mother of the child? Of Witold Wiecszarek? My wagon broke one of his feet.”

Is there a limit to Jewish tribulations? In short: my Witold ended up in a German “sickhouse” in Munich. They wished to wash him before placing him in a bed. However, he did not let anyone undress him. He held strongly with his hands and did not allow this [6]. He had his full faculties – however I did not. At first when I saw his large, Jewish, terrified eyes, I remembered where I was holding in the world…

I turned to the nurse.

“Allow me to wash him myself. He is a difficult child, with complexes. His chief complex is that he is ashamed.”

Thus it was. I washed the uppermost parts of his body, took off his long hospital gown and then finished by washing the lower parts of his body. His foot was swollen, and therefore was placed between two boards. Thus did he lie in the hospital for two weeks. He was very popular there. He was considered to be an abnormal child, for he would not let anyone approach him. Each time when I came to him, he would assure me:

“I remember, I remember during the day and night. I do not forget!”

During one of the countless, terrifying air raids on Munich, when it seemed that the world was doomed, I realized that Nusbau Strasse was burning. The hospital in which my child was laid up was on that street. There was no means of communication in such a case. I ran to my child by foot, a good ten kilometers.

In the hospital, there was full-scale chaos. They had to free up beds in order to accommodate the wounded from the air raids that had just taken place. People were dragged from bunker to bunker, back and forth. I realized that this was the appropriate day for my son's cast to be removed. I went to the chief doctor and categorically requested that his cast be removed that very day – and he agreed. The took him to an operating room. A doctor and a nurse were present.

I remained there with my head pressed against the door of the operating room. At one point, I got the impression that they were arguing and wrestling with my son. I heard a raised voice. When I took away my son with his cast replaced, I felt as if a Divine providence existed.

My son told me that he did not allow them to lift up his shirt. Then the nurse requested the doctor that he leave him be, for this is an abnormal child.

That same day, I brought my Witold back to my barrack, where he laid with his case for seven weeks.

Today, my son Witold-Avigdor is in Israel. He completed university in Jerusalem, and is a high school teacher.


My Two Friends from Zgierz in the Warsaw Ghetto

Hirsch Wasser of Tel Aviv

Yisrael Weinik

My memories of Yisrael Weinik center on activities and programs that are connected to the “Oneg Shabbat” (“Sabbath Celebration”) – the underground ghetto archives that were founded by Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum of blessed memory.

The fact of the founding of the ghetto archives gives testimony to two things: first to the efforts and rebellious flame of Y. Weinik; second, to the trust that the leadership of “Oneg Shabbat” placed in the collaborators. For collaborating with the underground archives was fraught with mortal danger, in a literal sense.

Yisrael Weinik, a functionary of the Jewish Socialist Self-Assistance and an inspector of several refugee points [7], had direct contact with the worst of the terrible war-induced poverty in the Warsaw Ghetto. It is no wonder that a person with a social conscience and warm Jewish heart found a reason and a rectification in helping the uprooted Jews whose weeks and days were numbered. Here is not the place to describe the details of the refugee activities, but one thing can be stated: only someone very strong in spirit and ideas can take on the duties of caring for and worrying bout those in need – robbed of their means and hopes.

Given that, among other things, “Oneg Shabbat” collected material about the refugee points, Yisrael Weinik set out to work. He was a man who was not able to merely witness was taking place in the centers of need, but who also had the capability to write down the facts, from which he was able to separate the obvious and the primary points.

Yisrael Weinik's work regarding the refugee points excelled with precision, adequacy, and solid sociological foundations. One could detect the hand of an expert.

I often went to meet with my friend Yisrael Weinik (I was the secretary of Dr. Ringelblum), and we planned a great deal of work in the activities for the Jewish Social Self-Assistance and at the refugee points. We prepared the foundations and the points. However, the commencement of the liquidation aktion (July 22, 1942) put an end to the preparation.

Yisrael Weinik was taken away to the gas chambers of Treblinka along with the rest of Warsaw Jewry.

Leibel Rosenberg

Leibel Rosenberg was a struggler, in accordance with his disposition and upbringing. He would always claim that his Jewish nourishment came from the revisionist path. A toiler with broad shoulders, a resolute stance and an encouraging glance, Rosenberg quickly stood up for his oppressed fellow natives. The activity in the landsmanschaft [8] had a thoroughly Jewish character – the delegates received no payment from the Jew. Socialist self-assistance was certainly not from his own empty account.

I was the secretary of the umbrella organization of the approximately 100 landsmanschafts in Warsaw, and had daily contact with the delegates from the various landsmanschafts. Thus, I would meet with Rosenberg. He did not pay attention to the ideological differences between both of us, and we were friends – possible due to his honorableness, open-heartedness, love of his fellow Jew, and dedication to the saving of Jews from hunger and doom. He dreamed of resistance and struggle.

The realities were indeed cruel to him. He himself, and later his wife, became ill with typhus. After that, the gradual, yet constant, decline began for them both.

I saw Rosenberg when he would come to see the people who were doomed for death. Despite his slow decline, he did not lose his humanity and idealism.

It can be stated without exaggeration that the man of the people Leibel Rosenberg, the righteous intercessor for his fellow natives – went to his death like the rest of them. The Nazi occupiers made sure that hunger, illness and the difficult conditions would oppress their victims until the point that they give up their souls in sanctification of the Divine Name.

The last time we met together, at my dwelling on Moranowska 6, and at his dwelling on Nowolipia 36, he talked incessantly of rebellion and battle. Perhaps that is the reason that his portrait is etched in my memory. Perhaps that is why I have preserved a bright memory of him. Perhaps that is why I searched and found the means of living on, and I have taken the anonymous forgotten ones and brought them to a Jewish grave [9] with the help of the written word.


Our Family and Other Jews Were Saved

Shalom Tzvi Laskier of Paris

After the Germans entered Paris, I fled to Grenoble in the so-called free zone that was under the rule of the Petain regime [10]]. After a brief time, and thanks to my financial situation, I was able to purchase good relations with the police prefects in Grenoble. Those contacts enabled me to help and save hundreds of Jews who, just like me, had fled from occupied Paris to seek out a place of refuge in the free zone.

The Jews who came to the new place first had to declare themselves. Then there was a question of food cards, a dwelling and other elementary needs. Each day at 9:00 a.m., the prefect collected many of such unfortunate brothers who were in need of help. Since I frequented the Vichy police office, I succeeded in accommodating all of their needs, and I thereby enabled the Jews to immigrate. Among them were a succession of esteemed personalities from the present Jewish community of Paris, such as Mr. Aharon Shvartog who was the president of “Chesed VeEmet”, Mr. Shmelke Kahan with his family, and others.

{Photocopy page 606: A high French military award for Shalom Tzvi Laskier – recognizing him for his service during the Nazi occupation of France in the Second World War. – Translator's note, dated in 1966.}

I recall how a Jewish communist, for whom I obtained the required papers, wished to express his appreciation and told me that “when the Russians will come into Paris, you will become a great man”. My answer was, half humorous and half ironic, “I have already grown big enough”…

I was fortunate that even during those difficult times, Jews such as Maurice Schwartzman and the aforementioned Shmelke Kahan entrusted me with their estates, and placed absolute trust in me.

On a certain day when I was in the prefect's office, I heard a knock on the door. The police commissioner told me that the Germans have come to take down the addresses of the Jews who were in Grenoble. I quickly grabbed as many files with addresses such as mine as my hands could hold. Those addresses never fell into German hands.

If the Jews knew about my contact with the police, it is most certain that this was also known by some Vichy policemen [11]. A few of them, presenting themselves as Gestapo agents, knocked on the door of my villa on a certain evening, issued threats and demanded money. I realized that they were Frenchmen, and did not pay attention to their terrorizing. I indeed gave them a bit of money, and then rid myself of these unwelcome guests.

The next day, when I came to the prefect office, they warned me that my situation was serious, and they threatened me with arrest. I had to hide. Now I was a persecuted person myself. One night, the police indeed searched for me in my dwelling, but they found only my wife there, who was in her eighth month of pregnancy. This did not prevent the murderers from hitting her when she answered that I was not there, and that she did not know where I was. She even claimed that her husband was lost…

I myself had fled to the villages in Barbizon.

A while later, my wife succeeded in sending both children to me, each separately. She placed my fourteen-year-old son Maurice in a crate, and loaded him on a truck that transported such crates. Then, a second shipment awaited me. In the same manner, but in a different time, my eleven-year-old son Charles arrived. Some time later, when my wife along with Mrs. Schwartzman wished to come to me, they were stopped at the border at Bordeaux and sent to a camp. Mrs. Schwartzman was subsequently deported. On the other hand, my wife succeeded, after difficult endeavors from my side, to be reunited with the entire family.

However, our luck did not last long. In 1943, the German murderers entered Barbizon. We had to once again take the wandering stick into our hands and flee. We found out that higher up in the mountains, it was possible to assure a more certain refuge for a persecuted Jew such as myself. It was difficult to leave the warm home of the secretary of the mayor of Barbizon, who took us in to his house based on a letter of recommendation from the prefect of Grenoble. However, this did not help, and we fled into the mountains.

I will never forget this image: when we gathered together at the heights, at Notre Dame, we ran into two Jewish families who decided to leave Notre Dame and set themselves up in… Grenoble. Later we found out that on a certain day, the order all of the residents to gather together in the market place. The murderers declared that if the Jews do not gather together voluntarily, or the population themselves do not bring over the Jews, everyone will be killed. Those two families were subsequently shot.

Finally, we merited to witness the day of liberation. Our family set out for Paris. The city itself was indeed whole, but almost all of the Jewish homes were occupied by French people. A series of processes to get back the dwellings began. For us, this was relatively easy. After meeting with the police commissar of our arrondisement, I persuaded him that he himself should approach the Christians who occupied Jewish homes and convince them to leave, in order to avoid unnecessary processes and dragging out the situation – for he indeed knows that the law gives the Jews the rights to return to their dwellings. He indeed did this. Thanks to this, many Jews were able to avoid legal proceedings and other difficulties in order to regain the roof over their heads.

A new life began – and I am happy that now, even in my old age, it is possible to perpetuate in our Yizkor Book the experiences of a Jew from Zgierz, who during those difficult times did not forget the Divine image and was able to quietly and modestly help save our Jewish brethren from the Nazi talons.

I believe that this is thanks to Jewish Zgierz, and the years of my childhood and youth in that city, where I studied in a Yeshiva for eighteen years.

Recorded by D. Sh.


With The Germans and Russians, and in Postwar Poland

Dov Grand of Jerusalem

It was August 1939. It was a glorious summer. I was already an older youth. I recall: I had jut returned home in the middle of the day from a walk in the Dombrowski Forest with my two friends, Meir Grinwald (perished) and may he live, Shlomo Slotkowicz. I found my mother in the kitchen. My father had closed the butcher shop and came home in the middle of the day. Something was hanging in the air. We were talking very openly about a war. We all sat by the table. My dear, unforgettable sister wished to eat. She looked at the faces of our parents as if they would be able to read into her.

Mother and father discussed among themselves that which we children did not understand. An oppressive mood pervaded in the street.

Various rumors were circulating around. We heard the Polish Foreign Minister Bek on the radio. Groups of people were standing around everywhere and talking of war. The minister assured us with emotion that “we will drown the Germans in their blood”. Then we heard Hitler thundering: if they do not give him Danzig with the corridor, he will turn Europe into a cemetery.

Friday, September 1 arrived. That same day, German airplanes were seen over Zgierz, heading in the direction of Warsaw. This was the last normal Sabbath eve for us, with the silver candelabrum on the table, with challas, with tasty fish and delicacies. That same Friday night, we already did not sleep with our usually worry-free sleep. The frequent air raid sirens chased us out of bed.

Airplanes flew over constantly, but the Poles were certain that these were “our birds”. The next day, Sunday, “our birds” dropped bombs also on Zgierz. A panic ensued. People thought that the Germans would destroy the city in accordance with “Boruta-Works”. Therefore, many residents fled to the surrounding villages.

Father took us all together, and we fled to a farmer we knew in the village of Rudnik. There, we spent a few days and sleepless nights. On Monday night going into Tuesday, we survived an exchange of severe artillery fire from both sides. Our village with in the middle. As this went on for days, the farmer kept his silence as the Polish positions were being disrupted.

Day and night, refugees streamed onto the highway from the village and headed eastward, as the German airplanes mercilessly bombarded them with machine gun fire. Our Polish hosts, formerly good friends, showed their true faces and unambiguously made us understand that the Germans were already in Zgierz, and that they were going to issue ordinances regarding the Jews.

That same day, Wednesday, September 6 at noon, we left the village. We encountered German motorized columns along the way, which at that time did not have time to bother us.

As we neared the city, my mother gave me the key to the house. I quickly set out and was the first to arrive home. I fell down on the porch and kissed it. I began to get all choked up, and I began to weep silently. I felt that difficult times were ensuing. I opened the shutters and windows and dried my tears, for I was ashamed to be seen with a weeping face.

Then we were all here. Mother, paying no heed to her tiredness, began to prepare lunch [12]. In the butcher shop, father found that everything had been stolen. Someone broke into our butcher shop during our absence, as happened in other Jewish stores. Everything was taken.

The new authorities attempted to open the businesses. They even to operate the weaving plants. This was all done in order to confiscate Jewish property.


The Germans issued new ordinances and decrees every day. They placed a commissar from amongst the Volksdeutschen [13] in every Jewish business, who became the bosses. People began to be conscripted to forced labor, replete with oppression and anguish. The barbarians set the synagogue and Beis Midrash on fire on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The rabbi of Zgierz was ordered to pay a fine of 250 marks for the fire.

The ordinance that required the wearing of the yellow armband was issued. The Jewish youth began to flee to the Russian side. One day, I found out from a Polish official in the town council that the Germans had collated a list of 500 Jews whom they were going to shoot in Lagewnik. My father was on the list. A few days prior to this, two Zgierzer Germans came to the home of my uncle Avigdor Roszalski, may G-d avenge his blood, and took him away to the Radogoczer torture camp. A bitter weeping broke out, and we were all in despair. After these events, a few butchers came into the dwelling of Wolf Szmietanski on Pionter Street near us. We decided to flee to Bialystok.

At literally the last minute, mother dressed me up with a few pair of underwear and sent me with father. It was already night, and we bade farewell with weeping. We silently made our way to Leczyza Street. From there, we traveled with the tramway to Lodz. As we drove through the Jewish street, we still caught a glimpse of the burnt synagogue, and our hearts were filled with deep sorrow. We all felt that difficult happenings were awaiting us. However, nobody had any idea as the extent that the Germans would permit things to go. Consequently, everyone would say: “until the storm passes”… we believed that we were leaving our home temporarily.

We spent the night in Lodz with a family on the Balut, and the next day we traveled by train to Warsaw. We arrived just before the curfew hour, which began at 8:00 p.m. Whomever the Germans would find on the street after that time would be shot without warning. We had nowhere to go. A Jew who noticed that we were seeking shelter took us to a half-destroyed synagogue. It was already the end of November. We spent a sleepless night. Our teeth were chattering from cold and fear. A dead body without a head was lying at the entrance of the synagogue. A stray bullet killed him.

Early the next morning, we saw what the German barbarians had done with Poland's capital. Half of Warsaw was already destroyed by that time. Our group was taken in by a family on Szwjentojerska Street. Three days later, we waited for a train that was going to Malkinia. A few Jews of Zgierz joined us in Warsaw.

It was not so easy to find the means of travelling by horse drawn cab to the eastern station in Praga. German gendarmes circulated around the Kerbedsz Bridge and conscripted Jews for forced labor. From our group, they captured Grand. They first administered to him a pair of enthusiastic beatings, and then forced him to clean latrines. To our luck, they let him go after some time and packed us all in transport wagons. The train started to move. Late in the evening we heard shots mixed in with the horse, drunken voices of the Germans. “Jews left, Poles right”.

They drove all of us, numbering approximately 500, off the train and began to lead us in the darkness through a forest. We were accompanied by Germans with malicious dogs, which tore pieces off of us. There was also no shortage of Poles who assisted in the torture. It became obvious that they were preparing to liquidate us in the forest. Many Jews recited their confession. We arrived at a lit up house. There we received the full share of beatings. A cousin of mine was with us, and the Germans broke a thick stick over his head. It was made out of metal, and the German had it hidden. My cousin returned home and later died.


We spent three terrifying days and nights at the border crossing near Malkinia, before we crossed the Russian border. We went by foot through Zarembi Kosztelne and Czyzewo, and we arrived in Bialystok alive. The city was full of refugees. We found a temporary place in a Beis Midrash on Pywna Street number 4. Most of the Jews there were from Zgierz. Later we went on to Dzyka, past Bialystok. This was a summer colony. We spent the winter there. It was difficult. When the snow got deep, we returned to Bialystok and remained there until the Russians took all of the refugees and held them for a few days with the N.K.V.D. Then they packed them onto cattle cars and sent them off. After six weeks of suffering, we arrived in the far north, in Komi A.S.S.R.

They had forest work for us. Uncle Yisrael Yitzchak was taken separately, with “loafers”, and placed in a “correctional” camp. Yaakov was also in one of the camps in Komi.

After Hitler's invasion of Russia, all of the former Polish citizens were freed. At that time, my father and I worked in a slaughterhouse in the village of Kortkeros, 80 kilometers from Syktyvkar. Things were relatively good for us.

One day in Syktyvkar, father ran into Uncle Yisrael Yitzchak by chance. This was a very touching encounter. When both brothers met in Kortkeros, I was very happy. My uncle soon became a butcher. Our cousin Yaakov was wandering around at that time. He was on his way to mobilize in General Anders' Army. Yaakov did not remain very long with us, and soon set out on his way.

This good did not last long, however. With the speedy forward march of the Nazi soldiers, the Russians mobilized us in the work battalion (“Trod Armia”), They sent us, hundreds of Jews and thousands of Russians, to an other region in Komi – Zheshert. There, we had a very difficult time. During the course of 11 months, 40% died from the hard work, poor sanitation conditions, hunger and cold. Uncle Yisrael Yitzchak took ill with dysentery. He died alone in the hospital in Syktyvkar.


In the summer of 1944 all of us former Polish citizens were evacuated to Ukraine, into areas that the Germans had recently evacuated. Father and I came to the Sovkhoz “Petrovka”, in the region of Chernigov. There I worked for approximately two years. The so-called repatriation took place in February 1946, and we returned to Poland.

Shortly after we crossed the border at the Chelm depot, which was at one time a major Jewish center, we received a “warm” greeting. A Pole shouted out: “See now, some Zydes! Did Hitler not stew them all?”

We traveled further and ended up in the new Jewish center of Dzierzoniow (Richbach) in Lower Silesia. I quickly began to search for relatives at the local Jewish committee. Wherever it was possible, I wrote, asked and researched. Wherever I gave the names, they did not show up on the lists. Then I met a young man who had been in Zgierz a short while ago. He lived there with Avraham David, who had recently been freed by the Polish army. Avraham David's son Hertzke was still in Zgierz. I wrote them a letter. At the same time, my brother Mordechai, whom I no longer believed was still alive, returned to Zgierz from Altstein, East Prussia on a short furlough from the Polish army, with the hope of meeting father and I. He also did not believe that I was alive. Mordechai saw my letter there with great joy. Having obtained our address, he set out for Richbach and immediately went to the Jewish committee. There he met a well-known Jew who took him to our address. Mordechai did not tell the Jew whom he was, but only for whom he was searching. They met along the route – Mordechai and father. At first glance they did not recognize each other. The six years had taken their toll. Father had aged greatly and Mordechai had grown up. Moreover, Mordechai was wearing the uniform of a Polish officer. One word followed the next – and they fell into each other's arms… I was at home alone at the same time. Together they came to me. Father waited outside. As he entered, the Jew said “good morning”, and a Polish officer followed after him. At first I had no idea who he was. He asked me in Polish: “How are you? Are you content with your dwelling?” I answered him: “We have recently returned from Russia, Mr. Parotshnik”. At that moment, he fell upon my neck, started kissing me and weeping. I was confused. He told me in Yiddish: “Do you not recognize me, Berl?” Then father entered. None of us could control our weeping. It seemed as if our source of tears would not end. Even the well-known Jew wept with us. He himself was left alone, having lost his dear ones in the war.

We slowly regained our composure. Mordechai began to tell us of his experiences. It is impossible to write everything down on paper, for we would have to write a book of several hundred pages.


Father became ill after our return. He spent some time in the “Oza” Hospital in Rybak. Shortly after the frightful pogrom in Kielce where 44 Jews who had not been beaten by the Nazis were killed, already in the socialist republic of post-war Poland, we decided to flee to the Land of Israel. I came with my sick father to Austria at the end of July, 1946. There, he spent the entire time in hospitals. In that camp of despair, the son shone upon my bitter life – I met my mate, whom I had already known in Swidnika, Poland. We got married n Linz in August, 1948. My ill father was not able to be present at the wedding.

We started making aliya in November 1949, my wife my father and I. In Italy, my father's health took a turn for the worse. After spending two weeks in the hospital in Bartletta in the region of Bari, father died at the age of 56 years. I gave him a Jewish burial in Trani.

I arrived in Israel with my wife in December, 1949. A few weeks later our son Moshe Zvi was born, who was named after my father.

The storm was over. However, it had torn away our beloved ones.

Our town of Zgierz was left without Jews.


Encounters With Zgierzers in Russia

Yitzchak Gotthelf of Ramat Gan

I, Avraham Gotthelf, was born in 1899. I left Zgierz in December 1939 with my wife Esther, nee Ziprowi, and our daughter Miriam. Fleeing the city was the cause of my arrest. They arrested me and accused me with placing a placard in the town square on November 11 upon which was written: “Down with Hitler!”. When I succeeded in being released from arrest, I left Zgierz and went to Bialystok.

I was sent together with my family to the Archangelsk Oblast Kargapolskaya region, “Lespunkt” Pervomayskiy.

After the liberation, we were brought with a troop transport to central Asia, in Karaganda. Weinberg was also with us. Wachs traveled to Tashkent.

After returning to Poland, I found my family in Kokand, working in a hospital where the tailor Rotenberg from Zgierz died. I also found Baum there (I do not recall his first name). He was formerly a master craftsman with Eiger, and lived in the New City.

After the liberation in Russia, while traveling with the troop convoy to central Asia, we stopped over in Turkestan. When I went out of the station and went into the large waiting area, I saw someone dressed in rags who was calling my name. When I approached him, I recognized Mr. Wachs, Glicksman's son-in-law. He told me that he had already gone for three days without bread. With Weinberg, we tool two loaves of bread from the wagon and gave them to Mr. Wachs. He told us that he had been working in the magistrate in Grodno, and had a good position. He showed us letters with photographs that he had kept from his wife. She wrote to him that the family had been able to take the children from Paris through the Red Cross. They were evacuated when the Soviet-German war broke out. At a certain station, when the train was stopped, a group of hooligans opened the door and took everything from the wagon. The people were left naked. Therefore he remained in the station wrapped in a blanket. When we first opened the wagon, we realized our blunder. We had to take him with us, in our wagon. This took place in October, 1941 [14].

I arrived in Israel in 1958.


Sad Memories

Esther Gotthelf of Ramat Gan

As I was going home from my Uncle Nachum Glowinski with my young daughter (today grown up and living in Akko) through Strikower Street, I was afraid as I went through the market. I noticed that the Gestapo was standing in front of the home of the rabbi. I quickly went up on a porch.

A short time later, the Gestapo took out the rabbi. I quickly went home – I lived on Pilsudskiega 14. I noticed that they were taking him to the New City. A German named Reich lived in our house. I give him five Zlotys and asked him to go find out where they were taking the rabbi. The German later told me that they took the rabbi to the barbershop. He said: “Mrs. Gotthelf, what they were doing with the rabbi – it was difficult to figure out”.

After a long while later they brought the rabbi back and compelled him to pay for the cutting off of the hair of his head and beard.

One night, they gathered up about one hundred Jews, headed by the lawyer Jochwed. The Germans conducted a “masquerade”. The lawyer Jochwed was dressed up with a tallis, and held a lamp in his hand. As far as I remember, Motek Szrowka was there, dressed in a woman's housecoat. They were forced to shout out: “Jews are great swines!”. They took them to the magistrate. What they did with them there – I do not know.


1. Although Bialystok is in Poland, it was in the area under Russian control at the time. Back

2. Mezherich is a well-known city in Ukraine, however, it is probably here referring to the town of either Mezhirech''ye (Miedzyrzec Podlaski) or Maziarze in Poland. Back

3. The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, in late May or early June. Back

4. I chose the Russian spelling here, due to the information regarding the composition of the group a few sentences later. Back

5. An autonomous region in Russia near the Arctic Ocean and bordering on the European side of the Ural Mountains. Back

6. Obviously, this was to hide his circumcision. Back

7. I assume that this refers to points of gathering or points of concentration. Back

8. A society of fellow natives. Back

9. Figuratively obviously. Back

10. Henri-Philippe Petain was the ruler of the Vichy regime. Back

11. Laskier evidently had contact with the local police force, who were different than the official Vichy police which was evidently more closely connected with the German authorities. Back

12. Literally, “prepare for noon”. Back

13. The term for German nationals in Poland. Back

14. There are seemingly some inconsistencies in the dates of this story. Perhaps the 'liberation' referred to here is the liberation from the camp in Arkhangelsk. Back

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