Various rumors arose that a ghetto would be introduced with separate parts for Jews and a separate one for Aryans, as had been introduced some time ago in Warsaw and other cities.
These rumors caused a panic and people ran to the Judenrat to learn about the matter. The chairman and the other members of the Judenrat calmed and reassured everyone that with us such a thing cannot happen, because we are giving the Germans everything that they demand of us. However, the rumors very quickly turned out to be correct.
There was a German housing office in our city that had the assignment of creating residences for the Germans who came here. The administrator of this office was a German named Linderman. Linderman was a frequent visitor to the Jewish craftsmen who would do various work for him and his wife without payment or at half price as they would do for other German officials from whom they could expect some kind of favor.
And once a Jewish tailor measuring the manager in the housing office for a beautiful suit cautiously asked how things were going with the ghetto. The German answered that they are going very well and that a meeting would need to take place soon with the leaders of the city about organizing a special district for you Jewish residents.
The panic grew when this news became known. In time, people wanted to provide a roof over their heads. Small wagons began to move furniture and things from the elegant street to the poor part of the city, where the Jews assumed the ghetto would be located. Other wagons again went with things from the Jewish streets to the Polish neighborhoods these were Jews taking their things to Polish friends to hide until the times would change.
However, the city leader quickly issued a decree that no furniture or other things could be transported from one place to another without special permission. It became clearer from this decree that the ghetto would soon be instituted. Therefore, there was great confusion. People wanted to save what they could of their possessions. Men, women and children went back and forth to the Jewish streets dozens of times and carried away clothing which they wore and other things that they were able to carry with them to their relatives. In the same way, others would take away their things from the Jewish neighborhoods to the Poles of their acquaintance.
Jewish carpenters received an order to make large wooden signs on which inscriptions had to be made that Jews were forbidden to go farther under the threat of the death penalty.
It was immediately learned that the housing office at the Judenrat would assign residences for the Jews who were moved from the Aryan part of the city into the Jewish housing district. This Jewish ghetto was already decided upon and a period of five days was given for the move.
Polish police were placed at the entrance of the streets that were designated as the ghetto. Jews were not permitted to leave to enter the Aryan streets. The number of residences in the ghetto streets and the number of Aryans who had to leave the ghetto was received. A housing office was created for the Polish population that had to leave the ghetto streets, which allotted residences in the Aryan part of the city in which Jews had lived until then.
There was a great crowd in front of the Jewish housing office. Those driven out of the Aryan side wanted to have a small piece of roof over their head. The assigning of residences went very slowly. Chosen as chairman of the Jewish housing office was a
young man named Kojlnbrener. This Kojlnbrener came from Gdynia and succeeded in making the acquaintance of German officers here, who ordered the Judenrat to give this young man a job. This is how he became the chief of the housing office and in his hands lay the distribution of residences. This housing chief had no set office hours and he never hurried when Jews stood in long lines and waited to obtain a small piece of roof over their head.
In the end the ghetto was established. Jewish workers dug holes in all corners of the ghetto and erected large yellow-colored signs at which Jewish painters stood and painted an inscription in German, Polish and Yiddish: Jews who leave the Jewish housing district will be punished with the death penalty; Aryans who enter the Jewish housing district with the purpose of trading with or buying from Jews will be punished by imprisonment.
In April, two days before the Christian holiday of Easter, all of the Jews in our city, Czenstochow, began living together without Aryans in the ghetto. Yet, our ghetto was still different from the ghettos in other cities. There were no walls and no fences. The Polish population was not permitted to trade with Jews, but they were permitted to go through the ghetto. Our city was built in such a way that the 40,000 Jews could not be enclosed and the Aryan population could not be prevented from entering the ghetto streets. This gave us the hope that our ghetto would not be completely closed in and we would not be exposed to hunger as in the other cities.
When all of the Jews were already living in the ghetto, a small number of Jews still remained on the Aryan side for a short time. These were the Jewish craftsmen who had been chosen, who had
to work for the Germans. And as it happened to be the Christian holiday, the Jewish workers were very busy with work for the Germans. They had to finish furniture for the holiday and moving to the ghetto would have delayed the work. Therefore, the Jewish workshops were permitted for a time to remain on the Aryan side. This way done, it should be understood, for the comfort of the Germans and not as a favor to the Jews. When a gendarme entered a fashion shop, Rena, and ordered that the premises be closed as were other Jewish businesses in this area, the owner wanted to follow the order immediately. However, the German women who were waiting for their hats went to their husbands, high officials in the city leadership and created a stir: What do you mean their hats would not be ready for the holiday! Therefore, an order was issued that the shop should remain open until the Germans provided other premises. The only Jewish business, with a large Jewish star hanging in the window, remained open in the most beautiful neighborhood in the city. It was soon learned that the regime had assigned a special house near the ghetto for the best Jewish craftsmen who were working for the Germans, so that the German clients would not be forced to enter the ghetto.
The first morning in the ghetto:
The people went out on the streets very early to look around and see where they were. They began to go through the streets, but there was not much free area. There were boundaries all over; large signs with inscriptions, by which stood Jewish ordnungsmener [police] dressed in red hats with shiny visors. The white juden-band [arm band with the Jewish star] on the right arm, the ordnungsband [police arm band] on the left arm, armed with rubber sticks just as the real policemen. Many passages to the
various streets were not part of the ghetto and the people began to orient themselves, where they could go and where they could not go. Movement became more difficult and the streets narrower. One person pushed another while moving on the sidewalk and the policemen did not permit anyone to go in the middle of the street. The workers hurried to their assembly places. They banged on the stone sidewalks with their wooden shoes and made noise. They marched in groups with their brigade leaders to the new border of the ghetto. The Jewish policemen showed with their rubber sticks that they should remain standing. The brigade leader and his group stood and were not permitted to go through as usual. The same thing happened at all of the borders of the ghetto. The Jewish workers office gave out provisional passes allowing the workers to go outside of the ghetto to their workplaces. The policemen counted every group and let them pass.
The Polish population went in and out of the ghetto and the Jewish police had no authority over them. The Poles were not allowed to stop on the Jewish streets which were only a way of transit for them. They thought over the new situation and had short conversations with their Jewish acquaintances. Each had something to take care of with the other; here and there a Jew asked a favor of a Polish acquaintance, that he obtain something from the Aryan side.
Jews stood at the ghetto boundaries and looked over to the Aryan side, to the lucky people who could move freely, go where they wanted to, to travel by train, by auto, wherever they wanted to go. The Polish population also looked over to us with strange looks. They looked with facial expressions as if we were infected with an epidemic illness and must be isolated, or as if we were half-wild people. We felt how much the Germans had lowered us in the eyes of the Poles.
Jews carried bricks, lime and sand through the streets in order to wall in the courtyards that half belonged to the Jewish side. Walls and gates were opened in order to create new passageways; people
crawled through holes and over mounds so that they could enter their residences.
Long lines of people stood in front of the housing office. They were not satisfied with their new residences; others could not get along with their new neighbors. It was crowded; the house was wet; it rained in and people came there with other such reasons. Merchants, who had lost their business premises on the Aryan side of the city, stood for hours at the Judenrat and tried to obtain premises in the ghetto that the Aryans had left. The Judenrat asked for a great deal of money for premises. There was a clamor, a racket. A merchant yelled, How is it possible? From where would I get the money? I was ruined, gave up my business, I now live in a small room without any economic means, I must pay your taxes and now you demand new thousands for a small shop! If I do not have a shop, I will not be able to pay any taxes. However, the Judenrat was accustomed to such arguments and they were no longer answered. A second person and a third were soon there. The number of shops was limited and those interested in them were many.
Small shops were quickly opened in larger premises in which there were previously large businesses. Now there was a little haberdashery, buttons, electrical things, a few food products, sweets. The former large merchants became used to small stores for which the Judenrat took large payments.
Deeper in the ghetto, farther down near the old market, there was a noise, a stir: Jewish children, boys and girls, yelled out their goods with their already hoarse throats: saccharine, ersatz tea, yarn for sewing, soap, etc. Each child wanted to out shout the others. Passing Jews and Poles bought on the run because trading was not permitted there. A Jewish policeman standing there drove
the merchants away in a relaxed manner. When a Polish policeman approached, the Jewish policeman became vigorous. The sellers ran away quickly through the nearby gate and the Poles continued walking as if they had not bought or sold anything here. Some of the customers took the opportunity to leave without having paid for the goods. The small businessmen chased after them. Meanwhile, the gendarme came and chased the sellers. There was turmoil and running on all sides, everyone escaped. However, when the gendarme caught one, he took all of the goods and paid for them with blows. When the gendarmes left, the dealing started up again. The merchants did not stop for anything. Need and hunger drove them and there were no other possibilities to earn a little bread. Children were stationed on every corner of the selling square who knew each gendarme and Polish policeman, even when they were dressed in civilian clothing. The children had a special nickname for each of the policemen and gendarmes. Once a boy on watch shouted: Gargl geyt, tsi up [The throat is coming, withdraw]! This meant that the tall gendarme who had a long neck was coming and it was necessary to withdraw, that is, escape. After such a signal, the entire square was emptied in the course of seconds. In a short time, the merchants again moved out of their hiding places. It did not last long and again a signal was heard: Der fesele geyt [The little keg is coming]! This meant that the short gendarme with a thick stomach was coming. Later, again a scream was heard: Der veyser kop vert a hoz [The white head become a hare]! This meant that the gendarme with a white head of hair was coming and one had to become a hare, that is, escape. Then again an alarm: Der royter fuks makh fis [The red fox, run]! The red fox was the nickname of a Polish policeman with a red face. The Jewish children had great trouble from him. He hit them with a rubber stick and then took them to the police commissariat where they were tortured anew by other murderers like him.
Among many others, there was a gendarme of whom the boys shouted: The murderer is here! This was a person dressed in civilian clothes with a truly murderous face. With one hand he caught one seller and with the second another and kicked them both with his feet. Meanwhile, the others escaped.
In this way, the Jewish children in the ghetto protected themselves from their persecutors.
There were various types who were conspicuous in the ghetto streets of our city:
A man in his fifties with a respectable appearance was often seen. He would always go alone with his head down, a white band on his right arm. He was known by the name, Lavendel. He never dreamed he would be found among Jews. In general, he was not a Jew. His connection to Judaism was only through his grandfather, who was a Christian convert. It was not known earlier in the city that he was descended from Jews. This Lavendal was the agent for the Belgian Electrical Society and was always a severe and unsympathetic person in taking care of the interests of his office. And here, he had also been driven into the ghetto with all of the Jews where he had no acquaintances and felt strange and lonely. The tragedy the man was living through was always visible on his pensive and dejected face. It was also said that the officials, who had worked under his leadership for many years, had pointed out his Jewish heritage.
The magistrate of the county court was named Geizler. He was the son of a rich Jewish proprietor. The magistrate, Geizler, and his wife and children had converted several years earlier in order for him to be able to become a magistrate in the Polish court. He was disconnected from Jewish society for a long time and entered the better Polish society. However, the Germans sent him over from the Aryan side to the ghetto, where he walked with quick steps from one border of the ghetto to another and everywhere read the same inscriptions on the large signs. He remained standing in front of the sign for a minute, spit and, again, began to walk back. He gave the impression of a fox that had been fooled into a cage from which he could not extract himself.
With a juden-band [armband with the Star of David required to be worn by Jews] on her arm, the wife of the well-known lawyer, Gruczinski, was often seen going through the ghetto streets. Mrs. Gruczinski converted 20 years ago in order to marry the Pole. When the Germans entered our city, the lawyer, Gruczinski, finally found the right moment to get rid of the Jewish woman and he drove her out of the house He married a younger and prettier real Aryan from a rich Polish family. The lawyer's former wife, driven from her husband and from the Aryan side, went through the ghetto streets lonely and desperate. Sometimes, she stopped her former Jewish women acquaintances from whom she looked for a little sympathy. Her Jewish parents were also here in the ghetto, but she did not live with them, but with a former childhood friend. The once pretty woman had a dejected, gloomy face, with eyes that cried out grief and fear. She carried around a basket with pieces of soap and other trifles, which she sold to Jewish women who had compassion for her and
with the earnings strove to manage in order not to die of hunger.
There was a woman of German origin who led a peaceful family life with a Jew for twenty-two years. They had to leave their residence long ago. Her husband was in the ghetto and she on the Aryan side. She brought him a little food every day. However, she was afraid to go upstairs to his apartment. She turned here and there until an opportune moment appeared; she ran up the stairs that led to her husband's residence. They owned a factory and as there was a danger of it being requisitioned because of its Jewish owner, they formally divorced and she, the pure Aryan, became the owner of the factory and all of the remaining possessions. She helped her divorced husband with what she was able, but she had to be sure that no one learned of it.
The old, grey, but very elegant Abramson was often seen in the street. He was the representative of the large raw material factory for dozens of years. He was very beloved by the Jewish population and by the factory owners with whom he carried on business. He married a German woman from Vienna 30 years ago and she converted to Judaism. They had two sons. Their life was broken after the Germans entered our city. Abramson did not want his wife and children to suffer because of him and he left for the ghetto, leaving his family as Germans on the Aryan side. This also was not easy for them. He wife came every day to the ghetto with pots of food for her beloved husband. Each son also separately smuggled himself into the ghetto for a short time to [visit] his old father, watching carefully to be sure that no one noticed.
On the first tree-lined street near the border of the ghetto stood the
engineer, Fajnkind, every evening after work in the technical division of the Judenrat. He waited for his Christian wife with whom he lived together for many years. Now he was in the ghetto and she on the Aryan side. She came to him every night and they poured out their hearts in the middle of the street. When a policeman neared, they parted as if strangers.
A man of 50 once stopped me in the street with a gut morgn [good morning] in German. I was lucky and saw a familiar face. I remembered that we had met in the barracks when the Germans seized Jews on the street and imprisoned them there.
We carried out a conversation about the situation and the man strangely heaved a heavy sign. I asked him what was the matter and he answered that his mood was so heavy that he had to speak to someone from his heart.
And he told me his history:
I left our city, Czenstochow, for Germany 24 years ago for the city of Cologne on Rhine. I was a good metal engraver and found work there immediately, earned well and lived very well.[Page 112]
I met a pretty German girl, married her and lived a very nice life. We gave our two sons a good upbringing and we lived happily and content until Hitler came to power. I then realized that I would no longer be able to live quietly with my family in Germany and decided to return to the city of my birth, to Czenstochow. I came here with my family, set up an engraving shop and earned well. I again lived happily with my family until the Germans came here to us.
The man suddenly lost his self-control and burst into tears in the middle of the street. When he calmed himself a little, he further related:
When the Germans carried out the Bloody Monday in our city, my eldest son and I were forced to go to the barracks with everyone else and after two days were freed from there with others. When the decree was issued that the Jews must wear the bands of shame, my sons and I wore them just as all other Jews. This caused a great deal of pain for my wife. My children suddenly felt that they were Jews and that their mother was a German, a child of the people who were exposing them to shame and mockery. When the law about forced labor was introduced, the Judenrat sent my oldest son to a labor camp in Cieszanow. There he was beaten terribly at work by the German murderers and fell dead in the forest. The Judenrat informed us that our son was no longer alive. My pain was great. However, I cannot describe the suffering of my wife, who was shocked not only by the heavy blow of losing a child, but by the strange abyss that had suddenly opened for her: she, a German woman, lost her child because he was a Jew and was murdered by the Germans her brothers. For a short time she found herself in a state that was close to madness. She would go around the entire day and night and scream that she constantly saw her murdered child in front of her eyes and she clung to our second child and pressed him to her heart. Then she fell into a melancholy. A heavy grief settled in our house. We would be quiet entire days and not say one word to each other.[Unnumbered page]
A German gendarme unexpectedly entered our residence one day. It was my wife's brother. He
|Jews with armbands on Warsawer Street|
|In the small ghetto|
barely nodded towards me with his head and he called his sister to his side. They spoke for about half an hour. Then he left, not saying goodbye to me. My wife told me that he was a gendarme and was serving in Warsaw.
From that day on, my wife would go outside to the street. People told me that they often saw her with German train officials. Her brother also began to visit often when I was not in the house. Until one day she declared that she could no longer live with me and that she was going to Warsaw with her brother. Surprised, I ran to her and begged her not to leave me after living together for 25 years. My 11-year old son also could not be pried loose from his mother, the German, and we both fell to her feet and cried. She cried, too, and her tears fell on our heads. She bent down to the ground where my son and I lay and we all heartily hugged, drenching ourselves with hot tears. We rolled on the ground in this way in love and pain until our child fell asleep from exhaustion. Then she suddenly tore herself from the spot with a wild shout, Stay well, and ran out of the house.
I lost my beloved wife and my child lost his mother. Now I hang around here in the ghetto like an animal locked in a cage and do not know what to do with myself and my child.
Individual Jews who were employed by the regime on the Aryan side as decorators, painters, watchmakers and others tradesmen, Judenrat officials and those employed by Aryan firms received individual passes from the city managing committee enabling them to leave the ghetto during designated hours of the day to go to their workplaces. The passes were
valid for one month and then were exchanged for a second month, if the firm that employed the Jews issued a certificate that the holder would continue to be employed there. Later the city managing committee limited the number of passes; soon people were found who procured the passes for a great deal of money. Jews who had to take care of their business on the Aryan side obtained the passes and thus began to revive trade in the ghetto. Jewish merchants secretly joined with Poles, sent them to other cities to buy and sell various goods. They also founded firms with Aryan names outside the ghetto and also in other cities. The Poles became partners in the earnings. On the surface everything appeared Aryan, but actually the commerce was carried out for the most part with Jewish money and Jewish goods. Poles would say that they admired the Jews who despite all of the difficulties and disturbances, carried on their activity with coolness and capability.
The German chief trustee of non-movable Jewish possessions gave several Jews the right to administer the Jewish houses in the ghetto. All the Jewish houses were divided into the hands of the five or six Jews who the chief trustee knew as people who understood business.
The young man, Kojlnbrener, received the most beautiful houses under his administration and also the franchise to remove the garbage from all of the courtyards in the ghetto. Therefore, all of the remaining Jewish administrators were forced to pay him a monthly fee. He set up his office in one of the houses he administered and all of the tenants promptly paid the rent for the residences, for water, for the sewers that they used, for taking out the garbage, although it always lay in the courtyard.
The other Jewish administrators also set up their offices where Jews at the appropriate time had to present the rent that flowed to the German trustee as a constant stream of gold. The Jewish administrator understood how to influence his German boss so that no one would complain about the earnings. Therefore, although the tenants constantly ran after them with requests that the roof be repaired because it rained into the residence, the ceiling should be repaired because it posed a danger if it fell down on heads, the administrators paid no attention. They had a German boss who protected them and they were not afraid of anyone. Each tenant had to repair his apartment by himself and the Jewish houses thus became even more neglected.
The Jewish ordnungsmener [men who keep order], who in the beginning were occupied with watching the movement in the streets, little by little expanded their activity. They grabbed Jews to work for the Germans and became increasingly strict toward the Jews. The Jewish population, which at first was satisfied with the activity of the ordnungsmener, increasingly noticed that the Jewish ordnungleit [people keeping order] were infected and corrupted by the Germans. The tone of their brother Jews began to change. A number of the better young people, who could not adapt to the new course, resigned from their posts. Since the ghetto had been created, the Jewish population began to refer to the ordnungsdinst [those serving as keepers of order] as Jewish police. Finally, the Jewish policemen reached the point where at each opportunity they let their rubber sticks fall over Jewish heads.
The commandant of the Jewish police, Mr. Galster, put on a hat with a white band around it on which, four white stars were sewn. Leather was sewn around his pants, as those worn by horsemen. The high officer's boots were clean with a shine like lacquer. In his right hand, he always carried a riding crop with which he made a firm rap against his boot after every few steps. When someone in the street heard the rap behind them, he knew that the officer of the Jewish police was coming.
His friend, Kacinel, the lawyer, was appointed as his general-secretary. He received a police hat with three white officer's star.
The commandant had still other of his friends appointed as police officers and organized the entire police list. When everything was ready, the Jewish police commandant, at the order of the German regime, gathered his men and presented them to the representative of the German regime. The German gendarme officer smiled at the Jewish police commandant, as if as one officer to another, with an ironic smile on his lips and immediately, with an earnest facial expression, turned to the Jewish police and briefed them that they must carry out all of their orders. If not, he added and pointed to a Gestapo man who was watching the spectacle, the gentleman with the skull on his hat will take care of you and of all the Jews in the city.
The Jewish police left the spectacle in a not very elevated mood. However, this did not interfere with the arrangements for entertainment in honor of an important event such as the organization of the Jewish police, and they drank and celebrated until late at night.
Two police precincts were opened. One on the First Avenue under the leadership of Commandant Galster, himself, and the second on Kasze Street under the leadership of Itshe Landau. The police stood at all exits of the ghetto boundaries during the hours when Jews had the right to be on the ghetto streets, and controlled whether the passes were in order. They also paid attention so that, God forbid, Jews did not carry on any trade in the street. They took their office very seriously and chased after the poor traders, even beating them with their rubber sticks. Only a small number of the policemen behaved fairly and with compassion toward the harassed people.
The Jewish labor office often sent lists with the names of those who had not appeared for forced labor. The Jewish police would attack the people at night, taking them out of their beds and placing them in the cellar of their precinct. In the morning, these people were taken to the worst labor.
The German firm Waserwirtschaft [Water Industry] ordered the labor office to recruit Jewish workers for it in the shtetl Nidel, Radomsko district. The firm needed many workers, but no one wanted to go because the conditions were unbearable; it was necessary to stand and work in water. The food was bad and there was no place to sleep. Anyone who could brought all means to bear not to go there. The labor office demanded that many young men submit for the work and when the time for leaving came, it was seen that many had not appeared. Therefore, when it was decided to send a group, the Jewish police would catch young people in the street a few days earlier and arrest them. The rich
would make a payment to the Judenrat, which always needed money, and only the poor were sent away to work.
The labor office would often receive a command from the German firms or from the regime to provide workers. Then the Jewish police would go out on a hunt, closing off streets, closing gates and they would gather the required number of people, using their rubber sticks, and deliver them to the German work places.
The Judenrat would use the Jewish police to collect taxes from those who did not pay promptly, or against those who could not afford to pay the Judenrat but who the Judenrat did not want to count as poor and thus free from taxes. And the Jewish police would attack these people at night, take them out of their beds and bring them to the police cellars. There they would sit until their families brought the demanded sums to the Judenrat. If there were obstinate people who still did not take care of the tax accounts, they would be made softer through blows. If this also did not help, our Judenrat was not ashamed of placing these people in the hands of the German police, who coped with the obstinate.
The Gestapo also used the Jewish police to find people whom they wished to have in their hands. They would turn to the Jewish police with an ultimatum that they deliver the persons sought and the Jewish police used every means to carry out the Gestapo order.
The Jewish police had the special work of driving the people from the streets. 14,000 people were driven together in an area of a few streets. The ghetto was 400 meters in length and width. The passersby bumped into one another and on summer nights, when the workers returned from work and went
out in the streets, in order to breathe more freely, not being able to remain sitting in the small room where they lived with several families, they were driven back to the backstreets, so that they would not be conspicuous. The Germans constantly alerted the Judenrat and the police that the Jews were moving around the streets of the ghetto too much. When the work of urging on the people became difficult, particularly during the summer days, the police found a means of doing it. They took the strollers to the police precinct and from there took them to the train station in groups or to certain factories to unload coal from the railway wagons the entire night.
On Shabbos and Sunday, the coercing through the streets was particularly harsh. The Germans would pay special attention on these two days. Therefore, the police would place a truck and bring the strollers there and then drive them in their holiday clothes away to work. Moreover, this caused people to avoid going through the main streets of the ghetto by any means possible. The people, who were forced to go there because they lived there, would sneak home quickly and unnoticed.
The Jewish police were used by the housing office. The Jewish police intervened if the office had to give someone an order to move to another spot and that person had not done so in time, or if someone did not properly divide a corner in his house with another.
Thus, the Jewish police carried out its work and felt resolute and sure. The leader always moved around in a good mood and was rarely sober. The police precinct looked like a real police office, as if the Jews had autonomy. However, one day the news spread in the ghetto that all of the leaders of the Jewish
police had been arrested and sent to forced labor for the German housing office, such as working on the highway.
A large crowd went to the housing office to see how those who until then had coerced Jews to forced labor were now themselves working. Many people gathered at the fence of the housing office and watched the spectacle.
No one knew why the leaders of the Jewish police had suddenly lost favor with the Germans. They remained at the housing office doing forced labor for several weeks. They lived in wooden barracks. After great efforts on the part of the Judenrat, they were released. However, they did not return to their offices.
The Germans placed two Polish non-commissioned officers in charge of the running of the two Jewish precincts. The Polish leaders established contact with the Judenrat with two Jews as liaisons.
Life Goes On
Ershte Alee [First Avenue], the street going to the train bridge, was allotted to the ghetto. This was achieved through great efforts. All acquaintances of influential Germans were utilized for this purpose. The Judenrat, the best Jewish artisans and still other Jews did whatever they could to have Ershte Alee included in the ghetto because this was of great importance for Jews. This was the only convenient street in the ghetto, where large houses were located that could take in many tenants. The apartments here were also larger. Jews knew that without Ershte Alee the
ghetto would be very poor. The center of Jewish trade was located on this street. If Ershte Alee remained outside of the ghetto two-thirds of Jewish earnings would have disappeared. The Polish merchants and the Polish city managing committee headed by the mayor did everything to assure that we would receive the Alee. Finally, after great efforts and for a very high price, this street was allocated to the ghetto. And the yellow boards that marked the ghetto boundaries were dug in there on both sides where Ershte Alee ended.
The last house on Ershte Alee which bore the number 14 was not assigned to the ghetto. It belonged to the Aryan side. This house was one of the most beautiful buildings in our city. It possessed a large and wide entrance with marble steps; beautiful, large and sunny residences with concrete balconies and other comfortable facilities. The owner of the house, a Folks-Deutsch, Engineer Artur Franke, was called to the city chief, where it was decreed that 23 Jewish artisans would live in his house that stood right next to the ghetto. This house was fit for the artisans because there was an appropriate entry and residences, suitable for the German clients who would continue to visit the Jewish artisans. This house was cleared of its Polish renters and replacing them were Jewish artisans.
Immediately after the German holiday, Easter, when the ghetto was already in its tragic condition, the furniture and all of the property of the 23 artisans was brought over, of which the German took nothing. The large mirrors for fitting their clients and the armchairs for seating them remained, in order that Germans would be comfortable visiting the Jewish artisans.
The German clients immediately placed orders and the Jewish
artisans continued to satisfy them in their new beautiful residences.
Each master craftsman from a workshop received an appropriate pass from the city leadership that enabled him to move through the entire city because the master craftsmen needed to visit the clients in their residences at their request to be measured for clothing. The Jewish residents of the artisans' house and the journeymen who worked there received passes which permitted them to go into the ghetto and back.
The artisans of the house, Ershte Alee number 14, had comfortable arrangements and lived relatively well. Polish clients, who were happily clothed by the best Jewish artisans, came to the house in addition to the Germans. The artisans charged good prices for these clients.
The artisans used their acquaintance with the Germans in order to help individual Jews who fell into difficulties with the regime. Very often they saved Jews in this manner from the Gestapo. The Jews in the ghetto were happy with the artisans' house at Alee number 14.
German directors of the local textile factories, who were also clothed in the house, had need of tailors to sew men's and women's clothing of paper fabric. Therefore, large quantities of goods were supplied that were divided among the poor Jewish tailors in the ghetto. Later those who were not tailors also started working and earned their livelihood. Hundreds of Jews who had already sold all of their possessions and had no means by which to live were employed in this work.
The New War
On the 22nd of June 1941 we saw thousands of cars with cargos of weapons pass by from early in the morning until late at night going in the direction of the German-Russian border established in 1939.
The news was published in the press that a war had broken out between the vast and strong German Reich and weak communist Russia, to which all Jews in the world belong, including, of course, we In Poland.
We immediately felt the war between Germany and Russia in a special way: several days after the war's outbreak, the Gestapo attacked the Jewish residences at night, searching for people based on a prepared register of names of those who belonged to socialist parties before the war. Many of those being looked for were long dead, others were in Russia. However, the Gestapo was not very meticulous with the names or addresses of those found in the attacked residences. Hundreds of people were arrested in this way on that day. After gathering a large number of people, they sent them away to Oswiecim [Auschwitz].
Large posters were nailed up in the ghetto on which it was said that Russian prisoners would be brought through the ghetto and no one should go near, no words should be shouted, nothing including food should be offered them and that whoever violated this would be shot on the spot.
During the course of several days, we saw
small groups of the German military accompanied by large dogs arriving by train. It became known that this department would guard the Russian prisoners who were arriving here.
Thousand of prisoners arrived by train during the hot summer days. Large units of the German military proceeded in front, driving away all Aryans passing by on the sidewalks. All passing Aryans were forced to wait until the large mass of prisoners passed through the Aryan streets.
However, the ghetto streets looked different when the same prisoners were taken through the ghetto streets. Before the march through of the prisoners, the German military units drove the Jewish passersby into the houses. The gates were closed and, if anyone appeared in the windows, shots were fired inside. The streets were empty when the prisoners entered the ghetto; the windows were closed, the gates were locked and it looked like a dead city.
Then, hidden behind the window drapes, several Jews looked out and saw the terrible appearance of the prisoners who passed in long rows. They looked astonished by the emptiness of the streets, while several minutes earlier they had gone through animated streets. They wore wooden shoes on their feet, which banged loudly on the stones as they went. It could be seen on their faces that they were exhausted and starving. Those who fainted and the weak were supported by their colleagues in the rows. Those completely worn out fell down on the stones and those who did not stand up immediately received blows with the butts of the guns and were slid onto wagons that came after from behind.
A German soldier suddenly shouted at a prison-
er who walked barefoot and carried his wooden shoes in his hand. The soldier ordered him to put on the shoes. The prisoner using defensive gestures pointed to his wounded feet. A blow with a rifle butt forced the prisoner to put on the shoes.
A while later the following scene played out: A man, who was hiding in a small passage between two houses and thought that he would not be seen by anyone, threw out a small package of food to the prisoners. However, a soldier saw it and stabbed him with his bayonet.
The situation for the Jewish population in the ghetto became more difficult during the winter of 1941-1942. The largest part of the population was badly dressed and did not have the means to buy coal and potatoes. Hundreds of half naked poor people stood in the streets and begged for donations, but no one looked at them.
The winter turned out to be very difficult. There were harsh frosts and deep snow. The thousands of poorly dressed workers would run to their workplaces in their wooden shoes early in the morning. Naked body parts looked out from their torn clothing. The young ones, still children, who worked the entire day in frost and wind, bound their heads with torn kerchiefs. The parents, wives and children of those working remained at home in their lairs, where they starved and froze. The homeless people sat in the asylums on their dark cots, covered with old sacks and rags. In the streets
the sellers froze and did not see any customers for their poor little bit of goods. In addition, they were chased and harassed by various persecutors, civilian informers, German, Polish and Jewish policemen.
The aid committee made every effort to alleviate the need, but the need was so great that it was impossible to help everyone.
At night the gendarmes would attack the Jewish houses, taking out the men, beating them and taking them beyond the city to clear the highways of snow. They were held there the entire day without food and they came back late at night tired, hungry, bloodied and dispirited. Attacking men at night and dragging them away to clear the snow lasted the entire winter.
In addition to this, fresh troubles appeared: the houses that were at the very edge of the ghetto were attacked at night by German gendarmes who drove out the Jewish residents so quickly that the residents barely had time to get dressed and take something with them. This was done in such a way as to enclose the houses that had been made Juden-rein [cleared of Jews] on the Aryan side and to make the ghetto smaller. Hundreds of the newly homeless arrived and had to be squeezed in among the Jews in the already crowded ghetto. There was always a new list of needy poor and several liters of water had to constantly be poured into the kitchen kettles.
T.O.Z. [Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia the Association for the Protection of Health, known as the Jewish Health Organization] played a great part in providing help. This organization, under the leadership of Roziner, a well-known Czenstochower aid worker, tried to obtain permission to arrange several theatrical events in the ghetto, with the help of the Judenrat. After many difficulties, the theatrical ventures were finally carried out, which brought
in a certain sum of money for the aid fund. Amateurs who once acted in the theater took part in the performance. The homeless khazan [cantor] from the Poizner [Poznan] area organized a mixed chorus of former musicians performing solos. The poor children from the orphan house also appeared. A great deal of effort was made that the clothing and equipment for those taking part be pretty. Jews rushed into the theater. Firstly, everyone wanted to contribute to the aid fund and, secondly, the theater in the ghetto was actually an attraction because it was now three years since the ghetto inhabitants had been permitted to visit a movie theater, any theater, to hear a radio. Therefore, the room was overfilled each time a performance took place and each program had to be repeated many times.
On the day of Weihnachten [Christmas Eve] in 1941, gendarmes were placed in the streets at all corners of the ghetto. They stopped every Jewish man, woman and child and took off everyone's fur coats and, in general, every coat that had a piece of fur on it. Mounds of furs were quickly collected on every corner of the streets: expensive Baghdadn, Astrakhans, foxes and other cheaper kinds of furs. Later, this was all taken away in trucks. The Jewish women and children were left standing in the harshest frost without coats, in light clothing. They quickly ran home. The men were also left in light suits, some without hats, if they had fur on them. The fur was the last thing of worth for many people that they had hidden until a dark hour.
Early the next morning announcements were nailed on all of the gates of the ghetto from the Judenrat that the German regime
had ordered all of the Jews to hand over all of the furs in their possession during the course of the day and that if items of fur were found with a Jew after that period, they would be shot.
The announcement caused great confusion. Many Jews sold their expensive furs to the Poles for very small change; it was thought better something than nothing. Others again gave their furs to their Polish acquaintances to hide until the bad times were over. However, the greater part of the population was afraid of the threats and presented their furs to the Germans. Two people were chosen in each house to take the furs from every renter and bring them to the Judenrat. The large rooms of the Judenrat were immediately filled with the sacks of the collected furs and German and Polish police were placed on watch. The things were then taken over to a large hall on the Aryan side where all the Jewish furriers whom the Judenrat had been required to provide were seated. The Jewish craftsmen worked for months remodeling the furs into various clothing for the German soldiers who were fighting on the Russian front in harsh frosts.
The Germans were very pleased with the work of the Czenstochower Jewish furriers and large transports of Jewish furs arrived from other cities and they were remodeled here.
However, the Jews went around in their light summer clothing. On some clothing, from which the forbidden fur trimmings on the collar and sleeves had been removed, the stiff lining showed through and later a piece of some sort of cloth was sewn on so that in the course of one day there was not one Jew in the ghetto, man, woman or child, with the smallest piece of fur on them. If there was
a piece of fur found in the possession of a Jew during the various searches, the owner along with others who knew about it or had any connection were taken away to the cemetery and shot there.
At the same time, when there was need and want in the ghetto, a restaurant was organized in the first house near the ghetto border by several tradesmen and gastronomic workers where one could obtain fine, delicious foods, almost as in pre-war times. It was not understood how the owners were able to make such good foods from products that could not be obtained anywhere. The prices were higher and the premises were visited by those Jews who were able to indulge in paying out a large amount of money. Poles, who wished to meet their Jewish acquaintances in order to carry out various business, also began to come in. The Jewish police would enjoy themselves in the nearby little rooms of the premises, but always after eight o'clock in the evening when all of the Jews had to be at home and only they alone had permission to be in the street. There were also other Jews who had night passes members of the Judenrat, several higher officials of the Judenrat and other Jewish young people with privileges that no one knew how they had been acquired. All of these people would pay large sums in the new restaurant and the owners had a good business.
In time the premises also became known on the Aryan side; one received such meals at the ghetto restaurant that were not even available on the Aryan side. Polish guests, therefore, also began to come. They sneaked in at night through a back door and ate there and got drunk as in former times.
A new coffee house quickly opened opposite the restaurant where one could receive the best baked goods and the best cakes with good coffee. These premises were very well visited and in time developed regular guests. The gendarmes would come into these Jewish premises from time to time and carried out to their autos roasted geese and hens, other foods and alcohol and wine. The owners were cursed and beaten. The Germans could not understand where the Jews were getting all of the good things. They arrested one of the owners and put him in jail. His partner and good friend succeeded in arranging for his freedom after a few weeks. The restaurant continued to exist after the arrest. The police would also seize Jews for work in these premises. However, this did not scare people and immediately after the people were taken away to work, other guests would arrive at the premises.
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