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The Economic Situation of the Jews in the Ghetto

In order to have an accurate idea about the economic situation of the Jews in the ghetto, it would be necessary to orient oneself in the economic structure of the Jewish population in Czenstochow at that time. Alas, this could not be exactly established because a considerable movement of the population to the ghetto took place that led to the specific situation of the Jews under the German occupation. Yet, we will try to describe the economic life according to what each of us saw and could observe.

The economic situation for the Jews in Czenstochow was very difficult during the first weeks after the outbreak of the war. Hundreds of families were hungry and waited for some kind of miracle. Little by little they began to adjust to the newly created conditions and began to look for income, not waiting for donated help. The Polish population was permitted to enter the Jewish area. This gave many Jews the opportunity to carry out business, artisans to do certain work and to sell their articles and so on. The same thing took place later in the large ghetto. As was said, the Polish population was permitted to go through the ghetto. This enabled the Jews to carry on an illegal barter trade with the Polish population in the ghetto, too. They sold jewelry, household goods, clothing, linens, furniture and even bedding and lived off this. Secret small house factories arose that made soap, candles, shoe polish, washing soda and so on. There also were those who constructed zharnes (hand mills to grind kernels). The explanation for this is that it was easier for the peasants to smuggle kernels into the ghetto than flour.

[Page 40]

Jews bought the kernels, ground them in the small hand mills, gave it to the bakers to bake and received a kilo of bread for a kilo of flour. The baker received the surplus that remained after baking. The main sellers of the finished goods were children. The Judenrat declared that only 1,194 out of 3,800 boys of school age registered under the notice about the registration of children of school age (based on the decree of the 31st of August 1940 about the school system of the General Government). This was only 31.41%. Of 3,776 girls of school age only 1,249 registered, which consisted of 33.1%. The greatest number of registered children missing were those who were born in the years 1931-1933, and this consisted of 60.1% of the number of boys of this age and 59.2% of the number of girls.[70]  That the percent of those registered was smaller among the older school ages was because the far greater majority of them were the breadwinners for their families.

Several former manufacturers carried on business again through the German-nominated commissar for their former factories (Jewish factories and larger enterprises were, on the basis of a decree from Ridiger, confiscated in the second half of September 1939).[71]  There were commissars who could not cope without the previous owners and the manufacturers made use of this to draw a livelihood from the [factories] and, simultaneously to maintain watch over their possessions. Shops and merchants had their little bit of merchandise “stolen” from their confiscated businesses with copied keys, or under the pretext “airing” the goods from the sealed businesses, they extracted some of the goods in partnership with the German guards. This all was sold or traded with the peasants for food and, meanwhile, they lived. There also were Jews who carried on trade and industrial undertakings legally on a small scale and drew a livelihood from it. A number of Jews who had to live from their work were employed in various “temporary workplaces” and were paid up to four gildn by the Judenrat for a day's work.[56]*

*[Translator's note: “56” is the footnote number that appears here. The preceding number was “71” and the next number is “72.”]

The fact that a certain number of Jews found a way to obtain a livelihood made it possible to help refugees, the sick, the old, orphans and in general, the poor. However, this situation also provided to the Judenrat and all of its divisions the opportunity to seize direct and indirect taxes. The indirect taxes were designated for the hospital, old age and orphans house.

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The Judenrat declared with an unfair perspective that all Jews must carry identical burdens. Therefore, this tax was even extracted from the poorest, who were forced to pay taxes equal to that of the richest. Buying a food card, taking allocations of coal or soap, everyone had to buy a stamp for two zlotes on which was printed: “Utilitati et Soluti [Utility and Health].” [72]. (Lawyer Shimon Pohorille, the organization chief of the Judenrat, had great love of making use of Latin expressions.) In comparison with the General Government area, the economic situation, in general, was bearable here. This gave rise to Czenstochower Jews trying to bring their relatives from other cities and mainly from the Łödź ghetto from which there was terrifying information. Such permission had to be obtained from the city chief who provided each request with an answer, written on the other side of the request to the Judenrat that the request of “Old Testament Believer” so-and-so is refused. No one received permission to enter. However, the news about the Czenstochower “heaven” spread, tore through the ghetto fences and the Jewish population, against the will of the Judenrat and, chiefly, against the will of the city chief, kept growing in the number of illegal and half-legal refugees from cities and shtetlekh.

A very small number of refugees did not need material help. The much larger majority had to ask for such help. However, the activity of the aid institutions in Czenstochow [in this situation] was to alleviate the need in a minimal way in comparison to the need. But this situation did not last long and the possibility of aid decreased. The administrative division at the city chief's office that was led by Volksdeutsch Zawada and by S.A.-man [member of the Sturmabteilung – Storm Detachment, a paramilitary group] Schleecht found their servants in the city itself and acting with them as partners, they “took care” that the confiscated Jewish businesses would be more quickly liquidated. The large Polish commercial firms Trawinski, Majewski and Miszkewicz first made wide use of the “good heartedness' of the German administrative division. Laski, a former auxiliary to Wendler, received the right to clear out all of the Jewish shoe shops, as well the leather and leather haberdashery businesses. Wendler's lover, Mrs. Maszewicz, received the broadest right to empty all of the Jewish businesses that pleased her and even the artisans' workshops.

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She opened a store with the stolen goods, a private “merchandise” house, for which the Jewish artisans had to provide everything that she demanded. Wendler allocated to her the entire building of the former Jewish Merchants and Manufacturers Bank at the Second Alija number 2 for the organization of a “department store.”

One can get an idea about the need that reigned in the ghetto from what the statistical official at the Judenrat stated in the Statistical Yearbook (Rocznik Statystynczny, volume 3, published in 1941) about the number of Jews who turned to the social aid [office] at the Judenrat for help. According to the number given there, the figures in the file are for 14,960 people who turned to it for support. These were 4,058 families, of whom, 651 families originated in Czenstochow and numbered 2,169 souls. Because the ghetto consisted of only a few streets, there was no sewer system; because of the crowding in the residences and because of hunger, infectious diseases began to spread in the ghetto at a rapid rate. Spotted typhus, stomach typhus and dysentery had their fat harvest, mainly among the mass of refugees. The epidemic of spotted typhus first broke in the “asylum” for refugees from Łödź that was located in the artisans' school at Garncarska Street no. 6. The need led to the increase in the plague of robberies of linen and food. Informers also played a significant part in the fact that the Jews were impoverished. Among the informers who carried the information of what someone owned and with what he was occupied was Eliash Szeftel who received a concession to run a tavern that was visited by Germans and particularly German functionaries from the administrative office, who he provided with information about Jewish possessions, Yehuda Meir Beser from Zawiercie and Yakov Rozenberg from Łödź, who also took part in similar denunciations as Szeftel and, therefore, had special certificates from the security police to move freely outside the ghetto without the Star of David armbands.[73] These informers made a fortune both from the portion that they received from the Germans of what was taken from the Jews at their instructions and from what they received from Jews, whom they had earlier handed over to the Germans, to be saved from German hands.

The need kept deepening from day to day, the density kept spreading. This strongly affected the general situation in the ghetto and particularly the natural increase in the population.

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Special Help

After the month of June 1939, after the famous visit by [Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph] Goebbels to Gdansk, when the rumors increased about the nearness of war, commerce in Czenstochow, and particularly in Jewish trade, began seriously to cloud over. The first who began to feel this situation were the Jewish transport workers (wagon drivers, porters with hand carts and porters [who carried the goods on their] backs), who lost the opportunities to earn their poor daily sustenance, and were left without the means to live. Serious need was seen among the same strata during the first days after the outbreak of the war. At the end of September 1939, thanks to the initiative of Yakov Rozine (for many years a leader of TOZ [Society for the Protection of Jewish Health in Poland]) and Mendl Asz (son of the former Czenstochow rabbi, Nachum Asz), interest was inspired in this matter by a large group of former communal workers who worked with true devotion to alleviate the need of a large number of Jewish families who were threatened with starvation. Yitzhak Czanszinski (Pseud. “Doctor”), who gave the first, large sum of money for this purpose, was a particularly active coworker in this area. Natan Rodal, Cesha Kazak* and later Jakob Tempel, also gave their full energy for the aid work. Many Jews responded to the first appeal to help those people who lost property in fires and this made it possible for every family in need to receive its first help in the form of 10 gildn and a meter of coal. The aid activities of the above-mentioned group of workers expanded even more, because every honorable Jew who had the slightest ability to do so willingly taxed himself for this purpose. At the beginning of 1940 a section for aid work was created at the Judenrat that took over the actual leadership of the aid work. Natan Rodal and his coworkers Cesha Kozak and Yakob Tempel were at the head of this section.

*[Translators note: Cesha's surname is spelled Kazak and Kozak in this paragraph.]

Holiday money collections, winter aid collections were carried out in the ghetto and six kitchens were also created where lunches were given out free or for a small payment. The first kitchen was created on the 31st of January 1940 in a house of prayer at Nadrzeczna Street 30. An average of 825 lunches were given out here daily for a payment of 10 groshn for a lunch.

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The second kitchen was opened on the 19th of March 1940 on Katedralna Street in the former premises of the Makkabi [international Jewish sports organization]. Up to 1,000 lunches were given out here daily, also for a payment of 10 groshn. The third kitchen was opened on the 5th of April 1940 in the mikvah [ritual bath] building on Garibaldi Street, no. 18 and gave out 1,025 lunches entirely without cost. The fourth kitchen was opened on the 7th of April 1940 at Aleje no. 12 in the former premises of the artisans. Up to 1,030 lunches were given out daily here without cost. At the same time, the fifth kitchen (intelligentsia kitchen) opened at Piłsudski Street no 11. This kitchen served the officialdom and the members of the diplomaed intelligentsia. Here, up to 450 lunches for the payment of from 70 groshn up to 1,10 gildn per lunch were given out daily. The sixth kitchen was opened in May 1940 on Piłsudski Street no. 17 in the former premises of the Bund. Here up to 1,040 lunches would be given out daily, some for 10 groshn and some free. In addition to this the labor office at the Judenrat managed a field kitchen that would serve coffee and bread to workers at several temporary workplaces where there was forced labor every morning.[74] In addition to the kitchens five and six, which served the intelligentsia and the forced labor, the lunches in the remaining kitchen consisted mostly of turnips with water, but this also was good fortune for the hungry residents in general and for the refugees in particular because in addition to 50 grams of bread that would be distributed daily to men, this lunch was the only additional food for them that was supposed to quiet the hunger.

In the course of the year 1940 the social protection [office] reported giving out more than 90,000 gildn in monetary support. Clothing, underwear, shoes and bedding was also collected from among the Jewish population, from which a part was sent to Radomsko for the Jewish hospital and for those suffering from need there and the remainder was distributed in Czenstochow itself.[75]

From time to time the department for social aid would embark on appeals to the Jewish population about the aid for those suffering from need. On the 28th of November 1940 the winter aid committee sent an appeal to all the Jews in which the following message [appeared] as well as others: “for thousands of Jews there stands the maelstrom of hunger and cold; Jewish society cannot remain indifferent to the exceptional need. The efforts of all of society is necessary to ease the fate of the large masses who are hungry and suffer from the cold!” The purposes of the emerging winter-aid-committee were further discussed in this appeal.

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The appeal ended with the words: “Remember that those who give a donation are always more fortunate than those who are forced to make use of the donation.”

The first time, a number of the better-situated [members of the] Jewish population were drawn to social help with sympathy and willingly taxed themselves for every necessary purpose. Many even voluntarily took part in the collection work. However, the mood and the relationship toward everything with a connection to the Judenrat sharply changed at the end of 1940, and naturally – also toward the provision of social aid that was a program of the Judenrat. In addition to this, the material conditions of the Jews changed for the worse. The people became dejected by the constant persecutions by the Germans and the constant taxes that the Judenrat kept placing on the Jewish population. This all caused an indifference to the need and suffering of others. The voluntary payment for aid purposes kept decreasing. The Judenrat constantly increased the direct and indirect taxes to cover the increasing void at the department of social aid. The indirect taxes fell mostly on the shoulders of the poorest because to redeem their portions of bread, potatoes and coal, each one had to buy special stamps.

A commission for Łódź Jews (Łódź Sub-Committee) also existed for the division of social aid and carried on special aid activities for the poor refugees from Łódź[76]. The Łódź refugees, Jaroczinski and Babiacki, who had a modest manner, were at the head of this committee and did a great deal with limited means for the people from their home.

The aid work also was carried out by the society, Dobroczynność [charity], with the lawyer M. Hossenfeld at its head. Dobroczynność ran an old age home for 188 men, an orphan house for 150 children and the Jewish hospital during the first years of the occupation.[77]. A refugee aid committee also existed that had to ease the situation of those who suffered the most. The activity of this committee was based on the funds that were collected among the population in the ghetto, on funds that flowed in from special markets. And from the aid from the “Joint” [Distribution Committee] that would be sent from time to time for this purpose. However, the aid from the committee for the refugees was minimal; hunger and dirt reigned there. The only concrete aid from the refugee committee was the kitchen that gave out 250 relatively nutritional lunches for the refugee children up to the age of three.[78].

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Yakov Temple and Mrs. Lipintka ran this kitchen.

A separate chapter in the history of social aid was the activity of TOZ [Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej w Polsce – Society for the Protection of Jewish Health in Poland] in Czenstochow. At the initiative of Yakov Rozine, the former leader of TOZ, and of the writer of these lines as his representative, TOZ began its activity again in the second half of September 1939. At first the two former nurses from TOZ, Hanka Birnbaum and Genya Windhajm, appeared voluntarily without any reward; later Chana Janowska (wife of the well-known Hebrew teacher in the city) was added. The pediatrician Halleman and the internist Dovid Blumenfeld voluntarily reported to work in TOZ. In addition to the former TOZ official Junya Rozen (the daughter of Doctor Rozen), Motek Kusznir and Cesha Czanszinska voluntarily reported as officials without any prospects of reward. A few weeks later, more young people and the young surgeon, Leyzer Glatter, reported for TOZ work. At the beginning, only three dispensaries were active: internist, pediatric and surgical. But TOZ was much better positioned for the difficult tasks. It especially had to take care of the health of those working because only a small number of these were able to carry out the fierce work they were forced to do. Every day brought with it hundreds of battered, mutilated and frozen limbs. In addition, more poor people came to the location along with a large mass of refugees from various cities in Poland who needed immediate and constant medical help. Therefore, TOZ had to quickly increase the scope of its activities. At the beginning of 1940 both former TOZ chairmen, lawyer Mendl Konarski and Doctor Adam Walberg, 19 doctors and five nurses as well as dozens of young people were working. New dispensaries arose, such as: anti-tuberculosis, laryngology, dentistry, oculist, a laboratory and a milk-drop-off point for suckling [babies] and tuberculosis patients. From the end of 1940 to the large deportation, 31 doctors and eight nurses worked at TOZ. In addition, about 200 medics and sanitary workers, who were schooled in sanitary courses arranged by TOZ during the occupation, as well as all Jewish doctors without exception who were in Czenstochow, were active at the sanitary locations of TOZ. They had the task of fighting the plague of infectious diseases.

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Dr. Walberg headed these locations. For a long time TOZ was also in contact with the Jews in the surrounding shtetlech, such as: Klobuck, Krzepice, Truskolasy, Panki, Pristan, Pajczeno, Kamyk, Miedzno, Mstow, Przyrow, Janow, Olsztyn, Lelow, Brzeznica, Poraj, Zarki and Myszkow. A TOZ committee was organized in each shtetl that was involved with aid work there. In addition to medical help, each shtetl received food products, linens, furniture and shoes for children. Later, certain sums of money were sent to the mentioned shtetlech from what was designated by the Joint [Distribution Committee] and the TOZ central in Warsaw. Besides this, a package collection was carried out for the Jews in the Łódź ghetto. Jews in Czenstochow would send certain sums of money through TOZ to the TOZ divisions in Klobuck and Krzepice, which then belonged to the Reich, and [TOZ] would buy food products with the money and send them to the Jews in Łódź whose [names] had been submitted by their relatives in Czenstochow. This all would be taken care of with self-sacrifice through Jewish and Polish messengers who were delegated by the shtetlech. During all the time that the aid action for the shtetlech was carried out, there was only one failure with Chada, the managing committee member from Klobuck TOZ, who also was active there in the work of TOZ. Chada was caught smuggling himself to Czenstochow by the Germans who gave him to the “mercy” of their dogs. By chance, this case did not end in death and Chada perished later with the majority of Jews from Klobuck in the death camps. This TOZ activity in the small shtetlech was interrupted during the month of April 1941 when the ghetto in Czenstochow was created and we were fenced in with a chain by the German murderers. In the field of TOZ aid work in the area of child care, TOZ activity clearly moved forward. The feeding stations for children aged from three to fifteen was the most important work in this area. Breakfast for nearly 600 children was given out the first time. Because the need kept growing as well as because still more new refugees arrived, TOZ had to care for and feed even more children. In July 1940 TOZ fed 2,008 children.[79]. It also ran a “consultation location for mother and child.” In addition to the normal work in the consultation location, it was possible to distribute prepared food portions for 351 nursing mothers.[80]

The TOZ officies were located in several streets in Jewish territory.

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There were on Berka Joselewicza Street: an internist office for adults, internist office for children of school age, laryngological office, anti-tuberculosis office, dentistry, x-ray and sun-lamp office and an internal apothecary. At the First Aleje 6: internist dermatology office and for venereal diseases, surgical office, sun-lamp, consultation location for mothers and children, consultation location for pregnant women and healing location for those sick with trachoma. At Katedralna Street 6: location to fight epidemic diseases. At Przemysłowa: day-care center and kitchen for children of school age, “drops of milk location” for nursing and milk distribution for children up to the age of three and for the sick.

The TOZ activity was associated with a colossal expense. Therefore, TOZ was forced to borrow money for its purposes from the Czenstochower Jews, to be returned after the war. Czenstochower TOZ borrowed with similar conditions not only for its local needs, but also for the Joint [Distribution Committee] and TOZ-central in Warsaw, which turned to the Czenstochower TOZ workers. Czenstochower TOZ also organized house committees that would collect weekly payments among the tenants of a given house. Smaller sums of money also flowed in from the sale of objects that the children would make in the świetlices [day care homes]. The children would make baskets, slippers, bags, bread plates and other things in the świetlices. All of this would be exhibited in the shop on Warszawer Street where Griliak's apothecary warehouses were located before the war. Here the displays would be sold and the money would be used for club purposes.

A significant donation would often flow in from the presentations of the amateur dramatic group and chorus that existed at TOZ and from the children's performances of those educated at the day care homes (świetlices).

A division of Z.S.S. (Jewish Social Self-Help) arose during the month of May 1941 that was supposed to subsidize all charitable Jewish institutions that carried on certain activities. The result of this initiative was that help from the Joint [Distribution Committee] ceased and the help from Z.S.S.. was minimal. The Z.S.S.. division in Czenstochow took over the direction of the old age home in which approximately 150 young children from the TOZ day care homes were located. Furthermore, the activity of Z.S.S.. resulted in that on the 18th of July 1941 all of the remaining kitchens: the kitchen that served the forced laborers and gave out 1,150 lunches daily; the kitchen at Kwarantanna [quarantine] at Garibaldi Street 18 that gave out up to 600 lunches a day;

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the “intellectuals' kitchen” and the kitchen of the religious Jews almost supported themselves. Of the 2,008 children in the TOZ day care homes, only 1,400 children began to make use of the food supply and from August 1941 – only 1,200 children.

There was no peace between the Judenrat and TOZ during the course of the time of occupation up to the deportation. The first open conflict arose in December 1939. Members of the Judenrat inspired the Gestapo “to take an interest” in TOZ. In January 1941, the specialist for Jewish matters at the Gestapo summoned a representative of TOZ, asked about TOZ activity and admonished him for not being obedient to the Judenrat. A representative of TOZ was called to the Gestapo twice more during the same month, where he heard the same admonition as the first time. The relationship between TOZ and the Judenrat grew even more aggravated. Representatives of the Joint [Distribution Committee] in Warsaw tried to quiet the atmosphere, but without success.

At the end of February 1941, Kander, the representative of the city chief, called the representatives of TOZ, Konarski and Walberg (Walberg received a slap from Kander then in the waiting room “without cause.”) and in the presence of the Judenrat chairman, Kapinski, ordered that TOZ cease its independent activity and become a program of the Judenrat. The TOZ chairman, Konarski, was so upset by this case that he had a severe nerve attack on the same day, after which he became paralyzed. A month later Konarski again began to take part in TOZ work, but only from time to time, because he remained a cripple [paralyzed] in his hand and foot. Konarski suffered to the point of despair by the time he was driven with thousands of Jews to the train wagons that took the Jews to Treblinka. While still in Czenstochow, Konarski received a whip over his head from a German because he could not get into the train wagon, and dying, was thrown into the train wagon.

The day after Kander's demand, TOZ sent out a leaflet in Polish. This leaflet was written in the form of a death notice and was spread in great numbers among the Jewish population in Czenstochow itself and from there sent to Jewish communal institutions in Poland. In this way TOZ made known the abominable act that the Judenrat had committed against an institution that carried out aid work among the Jews. The contents of the leaflet were more or less this:

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Czenstochow, 28 day of Shvat, year 5701 [21 February 1941]
Protection Station for the Orphaned in Czenstochow

“When God abandons people
To cruel pain,
He then gives them into their
Brothers' hands.”

The Holy Memory of Dr. TOZ

On the 28th day of Shvat in year 5701, 7:30 at night at Sobieski Street (seat of the city chief – L. B.) Dr. TOZ, well-known to us in the city, well loved and highly valued by all sections of society, suddenly died at a time of flourishing.

In the last moment of the agony of death, he found himself in full consciousness, taking account of the reasons for his premature death. The chairman of Rasta [Rada Starszych – council of elders] (chairman of the Judenrat – L. B.), who gave his last Judas-kiss on the lips of the dying person, who still tried to whisper his strong urge for life for the good of the tens of thousands of poor and sick Jews, to which he always hurried with aid in their moments of suffering, as well as for the thousands of hungry children for which he did not spare any spoon of warm cooked food.

He went through life quietly, calmly, honestly, happily and did not waiver in his deeds, proud of his actions, always with thought for the poor, hungry and sick.

Characteristic of his young life was the serving of those in need without any concern for himself.

He left at a time when he was most needed – when thousands of the sick yearned to find themselves under his protective wings, when hundreds of children stretched out their pale little hands for a piece of bread.

Jewish society painfully feels this loss!

The city, in which he was born and became beloved, will long hold his activity in its grateful memory!

Information about taking out the remains and burial in the pantheon of most deserving was shared by the chief of the Rasta, the Herr Pocholera (Pohorille – L. B.).

Hypocritical and ostensible friends of Doctor TOZ in Czenstochow are asked not to express any sympathy.

Honor the untarnished memory of Dr. TOZ!

“Those closest”[81].

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On the 22nd of March 1942 the presidium of the Judenrat decided to take TOZ into its hands. The next day, the 23rd, Borzykowski, Kurland and Gerichter, the members of the Judenrat, reported to the TOZ office at Katedralna Street 6 and took over the TOZ agenda. On the 25th of March the former teacher at the Jewish gymnazie [secondary school], Dr. Mering, reported and declared that he had been designated by the Judenrat as commissar of TOZ. The TOZ managing committee was disbanded.

cze052.jpg (112 KB)

  1. Statistical Book of Judenrat [Jewish council] Volume II page 178. return
  2. [Jewish council] Volume II page 178. return
  3. Statistical Book of Judenrat [Jewish council] Volume II page 225. return
  4. Official letter from the Exchange Office in Krakow to the security police in Czenstochow. return
  5. Statistical Book of Judenrat [Jewish council] Volume III pages 373, 391 395 and 417. return
  6. Statistical Book of Judenrat [Jewish council] Volume III pages 373, 391 395 and 417. return
  7. Statistical Book of Judenrat [Jewish council] Volume III pages 373, 391 395 and 417.
  8. Statistical Book of Judenrat [Jewish council] Volume III pages 373, 391 395 and 417. return
  9. Letter from TOZ [Society for Safeguarding Jewish Health] to the Judenrat [Jewish council] and to the Provisions Commissar in the City Hall. return
  10. Letter from TOZ [Society for Safeguarding Jewish Health] to the Judenrat [Jewish council] and to the Provisions Commissar in the City Hall. return
  11. Letter from TOZ [Society for Safeguarding Jewish Health] to the Judenrat [Jewish council] and to the Provisions Commissar in the City Hall. return
  12. From the archive of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. return

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