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[Page 89]

The Small Ghetto

The northeast part of the former ghetto was designated as the living area for the more than 5,000 legally surviving Jews. Starting in September 1942, the German leaders in Czenstochow marked the area where the surviving Jews would live according to a marked plan for the ghetto, which they had checked with the Judenrat. This area took in several houses on Mostowa Street, the small Kacza alley, a half of Nadrzeczna, a half of Garncarska and a few houses on Spadek. The several houses on Mostowa were the end of the houses on Garncarska and Kacza that belonged to the new ghetto, but which bordered on Mostowa and the houses on Spadek also belonged to the same street, but they were located at the spot where Spadek Street cut through Kacza Street. The ghetto actually consisted of three narrow, dirty parallel-lying alleys that were fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by Ukrainian fascists under the leadership of the security police. This area was given the name “the small ghetto.” The Germans began to move the surviving Jews, who were housed in various temporary workplaces, here at the end of October 1942.

The small ghetto appeared as if after a pogrom. Ripped off doors and windows. All of the window panes yellowed; broken pieces of old, poor furniture, broken children's strollers, torn pillows and featherbeds and broken glasses, single shoes, feathers and simple rags in piles. On each pile was seen human shadows lost and searching for something. Someone hid a knife, someone a spoon and someone another object. Each one showed that he had found a trace of his own home and he hid it as if it was something holy. A woman held a children's shoe and she sobbingly murmured that this was certainly her child's shoe; a woman pulled a child's chair and talked to herself: “My child, my poor child, alas…” Here and there, someone was noticed sneaking through with a hidden object under his coat or kerchief.

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A father or a mother full of dread carried a doll that was found or another toy for their child who lay hidden somewhere in a bunker. Thus began the life of those who were sent from the “temporary workplaces” at Metalurgia or from quarantine to the small ghetto. Little by little those who lived in these streets before the deportation and hid there during the deportation began to crawl out. Many Jews, who had been hiding on the Aryan side as well as a number of those who had avoided death in cellars and attics and could no longer remain there, also began to smuggle themselves into the small ghetto with work groups. Hunger and hopelessness chased them out from their hiding places and, those of them who had the good luck to meet a working group, joined it unnoticed and in such a manner smuggled themselves into the ghetto. Many did perish in such a “trousseau.” However, many saved themselves in such a manner and there already were 6,500 Jews in the ghetto at the end of 1942, of which more than 3,000 were employed in various temporary workplaces, some in the ghetto workshops, which were managed by the decreased Judenrat, and some were illegal and unregistered. Six and a half thousand cheerless shadows, who had stolen a bit of life from their fate, were locked in a suffocating cage.

* * *

Life in the small ghetto took on a new form, without permission to carry on an economic life of its own. Everyone had to work and drew their pitiful means of support from the Judenrat's kitchen that was organized at Nadrzeczna Street. The wage for the work that was paid by the temporary workplaces for each slave was taken by the security police, which was our only boss. The security police turned over a half kilo of bread each day to the Judenrat for one working, up to a liter of coffee for breakfast and evening bread and up to half a liter of soup for lunch. Those who did not work could not register and, of course, they could not benefit from this nourishment.

Everyone had to be on their feet in groups at five o'clock in the morning, where they endured pain, mockery and ridicule, to march under guard to their designated workplaces that were located outside the ghetto. At nine o'clock at night the sad melody of a trumpet, which ordered the going to sleep, carried across the ghetto. All of the groups were counted and inspected when marching out to work and returning.

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From time to time during marching out, a resounding song was heard in the ghetto from the workers, which was not an expression of drunkenness, but joy. This sound of the worker groups masked the crying of the surviving children who were being smuggled from the outside bunkers in large bread sacks into the ghetto, where new bunkers had been prepared. The workers in the temporary workplace in the “furniture camp,” who prepared four well-hidden bunkers in the house at Nadrzeczna 88, especially excelled in this action. This is an example of such a situation. At the beginning of 1942, they smuggled in a large group of children. At the gate of the “Wiliat” ghetto, at the corner of Nadrzeczna and Rynek Warszawski, where the “guard” was located, there was a larger group of security police with Degenhardt at the head [SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Degenhardt]. The workers ordered a wagon with many packs of clothing that ostensibly belonged to them, and Machl Birncwajg, the leader of this worker group, rode on the front of the wagon… The Germans began to examine the packs and meanwhile the “singers” with the mysterious sacks crept into the ghetto and disappeared. Several such cases occurred while smuggling in food.

The number of those working in the temporary workplaces at first is not exact because there were those who did not appear for work. Among those who did not appear for work were: the members of the fighting organization who carried out their work in the ghetto itself, such as in digging tunnels for the fighting organization, the old and children who were hidden in the bunkers and just people who sabotaged the work [being done] for the Germans, although because of this there were victims from time to time. The first victim for not going to work was a Jew named Plat who was shot in the ghetto by Sametkowski, a granat policiant [Blue police – Polish police in the Nazi-occupied area of Poland known as the General Government]; the murder committed by the Germans of a certain Mrs. Cymerman and her 14-year old daughter remains in everyone's memory. The mother did not go to work because she fell into melancholy and the child did not work because she took care of her mother who had attempted suicide several times. A heavy impression was made on everyone of the execution of Wladek Blumenfucht, the former secretary of the commercial employees union. Wladek was very sick and could not work. On the 11th of March 1943, Degenhardt ordered that he be shot. When the security policemen came for him, he swallowed a potassium capsule. The murderers still succeeded in taking him out, forcing him to take off his clothes and shoes and then shot him.

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At the end of November 1942 the S.S. and [Herbert] Boettcher, the police leader from the Radom district, carried out an inspection of the small ghetto and declared it a “labor camp.” From then on, the regimen in the camp became more severe; the control became stricter and the number of those working daily was precisely recorded. The first exact list of those working at the temporary workplaces outside the ghetto was created on the 5th of December 1942. Two thousand eight hundred and thirty-two Jews then worked at 27 temporary workplaces (2,474 men and 358 women).[104] The remainder were employed in the ghetto itself and a smaller number remained hidden in bunkers.[105]

Almost every day during the march to work security policemen stood near the “shuffle” of the workers and, under the leadership of Sergeant Ibersher who became the leader of the camp, pulled people out of the rows and threw them into the former butcher shop at house 7-8. Ibersher himself, with the bent handle of his cane, caught one here, here another by the chest and pulled them into the butcher shop. [Michael] Majznerowicz, the then Polish commandant of the Jewish police, using Ibersher's example, often would make use of his cane and also take part in such aktsias. The Jews who were thrown into the “butcher shop” were sent away to Skarzysko and Bliżyn in larger groups and they did not return from there. Often, large groups were taken from the work places and sent away. Each deportation was accompanied by victims: several fell on the spot, others fell jumping from vehicles or from the train wagons [with bars on the windows].

Clothing from those shot, that did not have any great worth, was sent to the Judenrat by the security police. Such a transport of clothing, in which were found 80 pieces of men's and women's things, one pair of boots, five pairs of slippers and three single shoes, was sent over the 1st of March 1943.[106] The number of each Jew shot (every Jew in the ghetto had a number) would be given to the Jewish labor office so that the Jew who had been shot could be erased from the list of those who were in the ghetto.

The number of workers at the temporary workplace kept growing at the time the ghetto was transformed into a labor camp. Everyone believed that working at a temporary workplace was safer. There were still 2,304 men and 847 women who worked in the temporary workplaces outside the ghetto at the beginning of March 1943, after many Jews had been sent out of the camps to Skarzysko and Bliżyn.[107] The ongoing aktsias that the German would carry out and the escapes from the ghetto with Aryan papers led to the fact that the number of Jews had begun to decrease.

cze092a.jpg (42 KB)

In the cellars of the
Jewish police in the small ghetto
cze092b.jpg (44 KB)

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At the beginning of April 1943, when almost all of the bunkers in the ghetto itself had been liquidated, there were no more than 4,043 people in the small ghetto. (2,663 men, 1,346 women and 35 children of the police and doctors).[108]

Rumors would spread very often about a period of complete liquidation. When one period passed, they began talking about another. The nerves could not bear the constant insecurity and unease. However, the threat to life and to survival increased from day to day and from hour to hour. The determination to save a little money and means to have something with which to escape and survive the time outside the ghetto became even stronger. They stole sacks of things from the police storehouses where the looted Jewish “possessions” were located and they sold them to the Poles whom they would meet at the temporary workplaces. The Jews who worked at the security police at cleaning the destroyed former large ghetto and at sorting everything in the security police storehouses excelled at this. From there the sorted things were sent to Germany. Some Jews really did gather large treasures and with them wanted to expel the terrifying anxiety of the day before and the suffering of today. Life became lawless with these people… They ran wild [with] food and debauchery. There was the impression that the people were living in a thick, dark jungle. However, at the same time a second life developed here – a life in the bunkers and in cellars. Here sat those young people, those men and women who would not forget their feelings of revenge and the drive to continue the fight against dark, Hitlerist fascism. Young boys and girls, almost children, transformed this cellar into a forge of resistance ideas. They worked tirelessly here day and night. They created weapons. With self-sacrifice, they smuggled in bullets and dynamite that was stolen from the German ammunition factories. Individual grenades were made without experience and with bare hands. Large tunnels were prepared with exits outside the ghetto that would be necessary in cases when they had to withdraw from the battlefield. They taxed and they collected money for weapons and they “finished” traitors. The fighting group expanded and became a power that everyone in the ghetto had to take into account. The mood in the ghetto changed little by little because of what was called the fighting organization. The number of fighters grew from day to day and their preparatory work – more intensive.

Little was done in the small ghetto in the area of cultural activity. However, that which was done should be remembered.

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A few dozen men would come together in the evening in various residences from time to time, invite several surviving singers from the former TOZ choir and carry out a concert. Particularly excelling in this area were the two Jakubowicz brothers, who recited and sang their own creations in which they recalled the savage events and occurrences. Several of their songs became so popular that even the Germans sang them. The most popular of their songs was: Vuhin Zol Ich Geyn? [Where Shall I Go?] The religious Jews also carried out certain activities. They would organize minyonim [prayer groups] and collectively celebrate at holiday tables. They did not miss the only Passover that they happened to live through in the small ghetto. They baked matzos and celebrated the Seder [Passover meal] collectively.

A separate chapter was the feeding location for children, which was organized in a house at Mostowa Street no. 9 where the doctors lived. A feeding location was arranged for the 35 legally surviving children of the doctors and the policemen. The wife of Kiak, the doctor of oral medicine, had the domestic [responsibilities] and the educational [responsibilities] were managed by the Froebelist teacher, Helsza Wajnrajch. Little by little, the illegal, starved and emaciated children in the bunkers began to leave their hiding places cautiously and they reported to this place for something to eat. At the beginning of November 1942, this place was visited by over 60 children. The writer of these lines headed this feeding location. The feeding location was turned into a three-class elementary school with pre-school that involved 120 children. In addition to the already mentioned [Helsza Wajnrajch], Mania Bernsztajn and Tenia Wajnman (former lecturer at the Jewish gymnazie [secondary school] worked as teachers there and the two female former teachers at the elementary school: Kajser and M. Zombek. The latter was a daughter of Kiak, the popular doctor in Czenstochow. The worker-activist, Herszl Frajman, the tinsmith, created a bathing room for the children from this school in the same house. Everything went according to plan until the following situation occurred: Degenhardt accompanied by Ibersher appeared on a certain day in the first half of December 1942 in the room of the Froebel [kindergarten] school. Both stopped at the threshold, looked at the children and were quiet. Finally, Degenhardt stammered (he was a little of a stutterer): “Was machen sie denn hier?” [What are they doing here?] Everyone was silent and was sure that a misfortune would occur. One of the doctors informed Kapinski, who came at once and began to clarify for Degenhardt that the legally surviving children were being fed here.

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With his cynical, artificial earnestness Degenhardt asked Kapinski why the children look so pale. Then Ibersher spoke up that these were certainly children from the bunkers who were hungry there and had not seen any light for a long time. After a short but severe embarrassment by all, Degenhardt, to everyone's surprise, ordered that special lunches be cooked and promised weekly food allocations for all of the children, even for those who did not come to the feeding locations. From then on, all of the children did receive distributions of flour, eggs, butter, sugar and honey that was given out once a week from the storehouses of the Judenrat and a glass of milk for each child every day. Supervision of the school and the kindergarten was given by the Judenrat to the former director of the Jewish gymnazie [secondary school], Doctor Anisfeld, but this all was a trap. This Gan-Eden [paradise] for the children lasted until the beginning of January 1943. In the morning of the 4th of January 1943 we noticed that armed Germans were stationed in the ghetto. The teachers decided to send the children to their guardians because they believed that every mother or father would surely be able to hide their children better. And that actually happened; the children returned home and hid in the bunkers. However, the majority of them were discovered by the Germans with the help of several Jewish policemen. They were sent away to Radomsk with their mothers; they left for Treblinka from there. The school was liquidated; the teachers no longer wanted to be those who prepared a “more succulent” prey for the wild German animals. Anisfeld also resigned from his supervision of the children. Only 18 of the 35 legal surviving children came to the feeding place. These were the doctors' children who lived in the same house where the school was located. Later, these children also were murdered. This was on the 20th of March when the Jewish intellectuals in Czenstochow were annihilated.

The intensive preparation work for the fighting groups and the small amount of cultural work continued to be carried out and these were the only rays of light that shone in the saddened work camps.

The security police, upon whom the S.S. and police leaders in Radom had entrusted exclusive control over the Jews in the labor camps in Czenstochow, kept “bestowing” upon the prisoners one edict after another.

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During the second half of the month of December 1942 Degenhardt informed the Judenrat that all weddings that had taken place since the deportations from the large ghetto were annulled and if these couples wished to continue to live together, they must turn [directly to him] to again have a wedding ceremony in his presence. From that moment on, every couple that wanted to live together and have a legal wedding, had to turn to Degenhardt with a written request through the intercession of the Judenrat. Those, who received such permission, had to hold the wedding ceremony on the day that Degenhardt designated. Degenhardt would assign several weddings on the same day and at the same time; he, himself, would attend and give his “blessing.” At the same time that Degenhardt gave this order, he also ordered that unmarried women and men could not live on the same street. Kacza Street was designated for women, Nadrzeczna Street for men and Garncarska, which was located between Kacza and Nadrzeczna, was designated for family people. Degenhardt took delight in giving his “blessing” even to those who had been husband and wife for a long time but did not have any marriage documents.

The security police carried on systematic annihilation work in the small ghetto. Every day brought its number of victims. Those who did not go to work were shot; those who were caught on the “Aryan” side were brought to the ghetto to be shot so that all of the Jews would know of this. Mothers who lost their minds were shot. Young children who protected their insane mothers from committing suicide were shot. Men who were caught on the “women's” street were shot. Workers in groups marching to the temporary workplaces were shot because labor security or a gendarme who guarded these groups on the way to the temporary workplaces had some sort of suspicion about them. Those on whose cheeks tuberculosis-fever blossomed were shot. Other seriously ill people were shot and so on. All of these “small aktsias” brought devastation in the already destroyed camp life. The great destruction brought with it larger aktsias that would be prepared with true German precision. Such an action took place at the beginning of January 1943.

On the 4th of January 1943 at 10 o'clock in the morning, the gendarmes and fully armed Ukrainians were placed in large numbers outside of the ghetto. The ghetto was shocked. There were murmurs as in a beehive. They ran from place to place. They looked at one another with eyes full of fear. They hurried uneasily and there was the impression that everyone did not want the guards outside to notice them. There were questions: “What will happen next? What more will they do with us?”

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At the same time, gendarmes strolled calmly with helmets on their heads, right near the wire, and looked with nonchalance at those who were now coming from the ghetto. Suddenly, the ghetto was filled with Ukrainian fascists, security police and granat policiant [Blue police – Polish police in the Nazi-occupied area of Poland known as the General Government]. They divided into groups and accompanied by Jewish policemen began to cross the ghetto. Terrible noises and shouts carried from one corner of the ghetto to the other. Older people, mothers with children and children alone were pulled from the rooms, from the cellars and attics; some indifferent, let themselves be led, others threw themselves on the ground and struggled with their teeth and nails. One of the bunkers at Nadrzeczna 88 was discovered with the help of the Jewish policeman, Lesler, and the children and their mothers and grandmother were led out from there. Terrible cries of desperation carried from almost every house. The great lamentations and uproars were accompanied by the crack from revolvers. Everyone in the ghetto who did not work at the temporary workplaces outside the ghetto was driven out to “Warszawski Ryneczek [central square]” where a “selection” took place. The fighters carried out their first efforts. Mendl Fiszlewicz, who had escaped from Treblinka and, returning to Czenstochow, placed himself under the authority of the fighting group Nadrzeczna 66, shot at the gendarmes. Icchak Fajner, his closest comrade, also appeared. Both fell. Twenty-six more Jews were pulled out of the rows. Twenty-five were shot and one, M. Galster, a member of the Judenrat, was freed. The chairman of the Judenrat [saved] him through pleading. This aktisa [action, often a deportation] stopped at noon-time and then began with a stronger savagery. The director of the Jewish police, the Polish granat policiant Majznerowicz, showed with great zeal that he knew the “craft” no less than his German teachers. All who were chased to the “selection square” struggled with their last strength. Holding her grandson, Rywka Frajman, who in her youth was active in the Bundist militias and in 1906 was wounded and lost a breast, now in despair because her husband was among the 25 men who were shot, was the only one who appeared at the transport to be sent away.

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In addition to the more than 300 men, women and children who perished on the spot, several young fighters were sent to Radomsk under strict guard and from there to Treblinka. Iberszer, the chairman of the Judenrat, declared immediately after this slaughter that he and his comrades would be on a visit that day in honor of Kapinski's silver anniversary. At the start of the evening, gendarmes with Iberszer at their head appeared in Kapinski's house and demanded the long-promised meal. All of the members of the Judenrat took part in this reception, except for Anisfeld, who declared that he was ill and would not participate. Thus, on the 4th of January 1943, did the German hangmen and the toadies of the Judenrat end the bloody play in the small ghetto.

The ghetto took on a different appearance. Many prepared to escape to the bunkers that had been prepared earlier. Women and men [with grey hair] acquired hair as black as tar overnight – they made themselves look young; young, dark, charming girls and boys suddenly were blond – making themselves look “Aryan.” Men allowed themselves to go through “cosmetic operations,” erasing any “traces” as a Jew, which they received eight days after their birth [circumcision], so that they could smuggle themselves into Germany as “Aryans,” for work in Germany. They escaped to the Polish side with false documents. Children were given to Poles, abandoned in Catholic dormitories as well as hidden in bunkers outside the ghetto. Many of those who left the ghetto were betrayed, accidentally recognized and perished. The urge to escape did not lessen.

February 1943. It was related from ear to ear that Jews who had relatives in Palestine would be traded for Germans who were located in England. No one where knew these rumors originated and no one made an effort to discover how true they were. As [if grabbing at a] straw, they latched onto the ray of hope. The hope was strengthened even more when the Judenrat actually began to register everyone who had relatives in Eretz-Yisroel. They stood in rows in the hours they were free of work and registered, giving the addresses of relatives in Palestine.

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Those who did not have relatives “borrowed” them from acquaintances and also registered. The registration lasted for two weeks and suddenly ended. Hundreds of slaves survived another disappointment. Days of smaller selections arrived. Degenhardt and his devils searched the ghetto again and decreased the number of working people, sending out the “unnecessary ones” to Skarzysko. Both of the Botszan brothers (the sons of the publisher of the Czenstochower Zeitung [Czenstochow Newspaper] – Berl Botszan) and Leib Fogel, the lawyer and his brother Avraham, both sons of the Agudah [Orthodox political party] worker, Mendl Fogel were among those deported. (Leib Fogel escaped from the transport to Treblinka during the great expulsion, stayed in Warsaw for a time and was active in the Polish Socialist Party there. He arrived in the small ghetto from Warsaw in the month of August 1943.) Avraham Fogel also was active in the underground movement in the large ghetto and in the small ghetto. He also was one of the three who took upon themselves the recording of every incident – Jewish members of Degenhardt's entourage tried to convince him [Degenhardt] to release the Fogel brothers and the Botszan brothers; Helenka Tenenbaum, the “Queen Esther” of the small ghetto, tried. No intervention helped. Degenhardt declared that their diplomas were a sufficient crime and they did not have anything more to do in Czenstochow. The greater number of those sent out to Skarzysko perished. The Botszan brothers also perished (one of typhus and the other trying to escape). Avraham Fogel also was felled by a bullet. Leib Fogel perished when he refused to work and threw himself at the torturers with his bare hands. Terribly beaten by a foreman, lying on the ground, he still exclaimed against the murderers with his last strength and was finally shot by Batenschlager, the German camp leader there, who later, at the end of 1944, was the camp leader of the Czenstochower concentration camps: HASAG-Pelcery and HASAG-Warta.

The news of the deaths of these four young men, who were descended from old, esteemed, well-known families, arrived in the ghetto and made the very demoralized mood that reigned without end in the small ghetto even more difficult.

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The 17th of March 1943. The Gestapo arrested a Jewish boy (a son of the Kongrecki family), who was hidden with his mother and small sister in the bunkers in the “furniture camp” at Wilson Street 34. Six Jewish fighters, who had their support location there, were unexpectedly attacked and taken away. On the 19th of March they were shot during a struggle with the armed enemy at the Jewish cemetery. Mrs. Kongrecki and her small daughter were shot on the same day in their bunker and the arrested boy and his father, Jecheskel Kongrecki, were murdered in the cellars of the Gestapo.

On the 20th of March 1943, Purim – a sunny, beautiful day. The arrival of spring was felt. Some kind of longing gnawed and the threat to life became stronger. A group that worked in the ghetto appeared outside often and threw jealous glances over the wires in the direction of Warszawer Street which was now on the “Aryan” side. However, the mood was heavy in the cellars of the Jewish fighting organization. They constantly had received so many wonderful reports from their six fighting comrades who had their base at Wilson Street 34 and now they had been murdered. The families of the six who had been murdered did not yet know of their misfortune, were crying, running around, seeking a rescue for their children and people tried to console them that a miracle could happen. The doctor families wanted to bring their children a little bit of a holiday and today celebrated the birthday of one of the prettiest children in the ghetto – of the small Lili Winer. The children played, sang and danced. The small Lili especially celebrated. The black velvet little dress, the white, long socks on her slender little feet and the large, snow-white ribbon in her thick, blond hairs on her head gave her a special charm. Lili then shone completely; today was her holiday; today they celebrated her seventh birthday. The guests could not take their eyes off the delicate and splendid birthday child. The children played without end and did not become tired; they unloaded their until now pent up childish energy. The guests – the doctors – gathered in another room and talked about the fate of the Jews.

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Almost every one of them described everything in dark colors, waiting for another one to brush away his idea with his hand so that in such a manner it would be a little easier on the soul. Playing also changed for the children. Now they stood in a circle and played “amol iz geven a Sorale, a Sorale a kleyn…” [There once was a Sorale, a small Sorale]. All of the children sang and Lili and her little brother wandered in the forest looking for their mother. The children sang further, quieter and quieter: Ryneczek [It is dark in the woods, crying is heard.]

Suddenly, a new order from Degenhardt went through the ghetto: all members of the Judenrat, all doctors, engineers, lawyers and the intelligentsia with diplomas needed to appear at once with their families on the now so sadly, well-known Warszawski Ryneczek [central square], because they had to leave for Palestine today. The ghetto was terribly agitated anew. They did not believe and a thought sneaked in – and perhaps?… The members of the Judenrat, doctors, engineers and their wives and children hurried to the designated place full of unease. Lili, too, with her parents and small brother hurried. Lili's father was then also considered an intellectual. He was a well-known doctor… Hundreds of men, women and children agitatedly moved around the Warszawski Ryneczek. They searched for a salvation in all of the corners with their glances. Large trucks stood in the distance at Warszawer Street. The vehicles did not move and yet everyone began to feel the threatening danger. Several tried various ways to turn away from the net of death into which they had fallen. Doctor Falk tempted his luck. Doctor Lewin also tempted his luck. They tried to hide in a gate where the Germans would carry out executions of Jews [and] to leave the city for the forest from there. They did not succeed. They were noticed and led back. The members of the Judenrat tried to use their acquaintance with the gendarmes, but without success. One member of the Judenrat, Zelig Rotbard, ran from one gendarme acquaintance to another and begged that they at least permit his daughter, the 20-year old Fela, to return to the ghetto. However, he was insulted and ridiculed. Everyone had to enter the vehicles. Armed gendarmes appeared from various hiding places. More vehicles arrived with armed gendarmes and auxiliary police.

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The vehicles moved from the spot and traveled at a great speed in the direction of the Jewish cemetery. The victims obviously saw death before their eyes. The 20-year old Wladek Kapinski was the first to spring from the moving vehicle. Others sprang down after him, but only six men succeeded in escaping from death. Among those escaping, in addition to Wladek, was the leader of the Jewish labor office in the small ghetto – Bernard Kurland. The remaining 127 men [*] – the small remnant of the intelligentsia with [university] degrees – were brought to the Jewish cemetery. The entire cemetery was filled with camp guards and Ukrainian auxiliary police. All of the victims were forced into the room for purifying the dead. Here, they were forced to take off their clothes. The 20-year old Fela was the first to be taken out. She stood in front of a large grave, face to face with two gendarmes. The gendarmes did not dare to do anything. A short opportunity… This opportunity was interrupted by the camp guards. A crack from a rifle and Fela lay in the throes of death, face to the earth. Both gendarmes exchanged glances, turned over the still moving body in its last anguish, looked at it for a time, looked at each other and went on to their further “holy service.” Those remaining in the room for purifying the dead were taken out in pairs. The oldest were “finished” first. The German hangmen had time for the children. They wanted to play with the children a little. But they were children and the gendarmes themselves were still fathers… Children were picked up with one hand by their small hands, by their small feet or by the hair and with the second [hand] they aimed at their small heart or into their bodies. It did not matter that all of the children did not die immediately. No matter, Mother Earth covered even those who could still cry out their last Ma…

The small Lili was the last. All her clothing was removed. Only the large white band on her small head – a vestige of her holiday – was left for her. Lili stood before the grave; her large sky-blue eyes strayed from one murderer to another. It is difficult to characterize what was reflected in the eyes of the small, delicate child. The gendarmes, already saturated with blood, did not move to lift a hand to shoot. Each was waiting for the other to end that day's bloody game.

[*] [Translator's note: the text states that there were 127 men, but the further text mentions women and children.]

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A longer pause… Iberszer, the tall, wide-boned camp leader, strode quickly and cut short the embarrassment of his comrades. He aimed his revolver at the chest of the young Lili with the exclamation: “For the Führer and Fatherland.” The crack of the revolver and Lili closed the chain of 127 victims on her seventh birthday.

One hundred and twenty-seven people filled a new mass grave, where a little later an unknown hand laid a broken stone from a defiled headstone on which he engraved: “Czenstochower Jewish Intelligentsia, Purim, the 20th of March, 1943.”

The ghetto was crushed; no one was seen in the streets. Only the gendarmes were running wildly and robbing the houses of those just annihilated. Every one of them hurried to take even more from these residences before Degenhardt would come to seal them.

Some days later, the Gestapo got a trace of the escapees. Five people were captured in their hiding places. Bernard Kurland was granted amnesty by Degenhardt and brought to the ghetto to continue to head the work and the remaining four, already locked in chains, wrestled with the Gestapo murderers and perished near the grave of the 127.

After Bernard Kurland was brought to the ghetto, Iberszer turned to him to provide for him an evening meal because of the “mercy” that he [Kurland] had been allowed to live. Iberszer became drunk and boasted of his “humanity.” He related that he had seen how they sprang from the vehicles and escaped. Other gendarmes shot at them. Adults fell on the spot; children fell; however, he had not fired. He saw Kurland spring from the auto and also did not fire at him. He remembered then that he also had a family, that he also was a father of children and he could not raise his hand to shoot. He became more drunk and spoke about the execution of the 127 that took place after this at the cemetery, about the “game” with the children and about the death of the small Lili Winer. He said that it “hurt” him in his heart, but what could he do, that it was a war and everything was being done for the Führer and fatherland.

[Page 104]

Iberzher became more drunk and related that at the order of the other doctor, [Herbert] Boettcher from Radom, similar aktsias had taken place against the Jewish intelligentsia on the same day in Radom, Piotrkow and Tomaszˇw Mazowiecki.

23rd April. Nadrzeczna 66, the youngest fighting group, sent several young people out to carry out diversionary actions. They left the ghetto with the workers at the Ost-Ban, were stopped on the way and three of them perished on the spot. The Gestapo and security police came; they took every second worker from this temporary workplace and shot them.

The first of May, six o'clock in the morning. The groups assembled according to the temporary workplace, stood, as always, in rows and marched to the gate of the ghetto. No one was permitted to leave. [Those in] the rows moved, moved back and remained standing, waiting for a further order. The group had a strong feeling of anxiety. The official order that everyone should remain in the ghetto and wait for further orders came an hour later. Even the workers at the ammunition factory remained in the ghetto. The temporary workplaces at which only Jewish workers were employed were completely inactive. The “Jewish problem” was everywhere. These events were observed in various ways. Several believed that this was the arrival of the liquidation of the ghetto; others waved this idea away with their hands and consoled themselves that this was no more than a means to assure that no Jews meet with Poles at the workplaces on the 1st and 3rd of May [May Day, a worker's holiday, and Constitution Day in Poland]. This was the first time all of the fighting groups got on their feet and deployed in an organized manner at their designated locations. The anxiety grew from minute to minute. They could not remain in the houses. No food was being smuggled in and only that which the Judenrat's kitchen had arranged was given out. However, no one was worried about this because everyone felt that a danger was approaching. Doctor Walberg, who was now outside the ghetto, let them know that he had precise information that this time nothing would happen. Mechl Birncwajg, who was outside the ghetto, gave the same information in writing. The mood did not ease and several people smuggled themselves out in garbage cans that were removed from the ghetto. They began to smuggle a little bit of potatoes and bread in the same cans.

[Page 105]

On the 4th of May in the morning the trumpet that called the workers was heard again. The mood was eased a bit and the days began to drag with their “normal” and tragic path of life.

The regimen in the ghetto became stricter. Kestner and Laszinski, the camp leaders, were designated as supervisors over political matters at the security police. Both knew Polish very well and thus had better opportunities to hear and orient themselves as to what was happening in the ghetto. It was known that their assignment was to find out all threads of the fighting organization. The fighting organization strengthened its vigilance, carried out frequent roll calls of the groups and observed the conduct of the Jews who met with the two camp leaders. The situation of the Jews on the Aryan side also became more difficult. The hunt for Jews who were on the “Aryan” side as well as Jews who were hiding in bunkers outside the ghetto greatly increased. Many of the captured Jews were shot outside the ghetto or brought to the well-known Ryneczek “central square” and murdered there. There were also cases when such Jews were allowed into the ghetto without any punishment. Such cases occurred during the last weeks of the liquidation of the small ghetto. Jews from the bunkers and from the “Aryan” side began to smuggle themselves into the ghetto with the marching workers from the temporary workplaces. The soil under their feet burned and they did not want to perish alone. The number of Jews in the ghetto thus began to increase in a significant way, but the danger of death in the ghetto also increased.

The 8th of June 1943, an attack of the security police on the Jewish workers in the “furniture factory.” Degenhardt led this action himself. Mechl Birncwajg particularly felt the danger personally and disappeared at the last minute. A security policeman found his mother, Bajla Birncwajg, in the second courtyard near the toilet and shot her on the spot. Ferszter, the carpenter, also was shot and another worker in the carpentry workshop we later found with a smashed in skull among the boards lying around in the first courtyard of the “furniture camp.”

[Page 106]

Lazinski, the camp leader, showed best the “art” of reaching a target with one shot. A security policeman in the other courtyard of the “furniture camp” recognized Mechl's wife, Hania Birncwajg (the daughter of the Zionist worker, Avraham-Lozer Szajnfeld), and stopped her. A false “identity card” was found in the cabinetmaker's workshop. A girl, Saba Rozenzaft, to whom the “identity card” belonged, was found out. She was also placed separately. We all stood in a long row and shook everything out of our pockets into a basket that had been set up for us by the security police. The searches ended. We stood after everything in a long row in uneasy waiting for further events. The wagon on which Hania and Saba sat ringed by security police traveled along the entire row. Mechl hid in a bunker in the “furniture factory” and only a few of his closest comrades knew where he was. They advised him to leave Czenstochow because he had had a certain “cosmetic” operation and, in addition, he still had “Aryan” papers. Therefore, outside Czenstochow he could pass for a Pole. Mechl did not want to leave Czenstochow until he saved his wife from murderous hands. Hania and Saba were held in prison for two days and then shot. Later, Motek also perished. A second misfortune came a few days later; a bunker was discovered with Jews in the Horowicz and Partners factory. One group of them perished and a second group was taken to the ghetto.

The next day, on the 9th of July, after the events at the “furniture camp,” Franke, the city chief, turned with a confidential letter to Kundt, the governor of the Radom District, with a request to deport the remaining small number of Jews. In this letter Franke indicated that after the 4th and 5th of June, he brought to their attention that the presence of the few thousand Jews in Czenstochow was, in his opinion, unwanted by all of the national groups. In this letter Franke cited two justifications for why the continued presence of the Jews in Czenstochow was impossible: 1. “The Jews are an element that spreads dissatisfaction in every sense among the non-German population.

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In the cellars of the
Jewish police in the small ghetto

[Page 107]

Even when they could isolate the Jews according to all of the rules, they would not be able to prevent the Jews from coming in contact with the non-German population. Franke underlined at the end of this statement that he had a strong suspicion that the Jews carried a great guilt in the unease that recently had held sway in Czenstochow. “The Jews wanted to disturb the public calm through agitation and through active measures.” Thus Franke ended his statement. 2. “As for the belief that the Jews were necessary as workers for the war economy” – the city chief wrote, “I state that the talent of the Jews is minimal because the strength of the Jewish worker is one third of that usually shown by the Polish worker. Naturally” – the city chief further wrote in his second statement – “for the [labor] manager, the Jewish worker was better than nothing, but I believe that our labor office would provide other non-German strengths in a short time.”109. The fate of the rest of the Jews in the small ghetto teetered on the scale. There was a quiet but bitter struggle between the city chief, who since the great expulsion had lost his power over the Jews, and, therefore, wanted the complete liquidation of the Jews in Czenstochow so “his” city would be judenrein [clean of Jews] and the [labor] manager and the security police, who were interested in keeping a few Jews here so that they could show that they themselves were needed in Czenstochow and in such a manner “protect themselves” and not have to go to the front. (In September 1942 during the deportation action, we witnessed an argument between Linderman, a representative of the city leadership, and Degenhardt, who was triumphant in that he had the exclusive right to control the Jews. Now again, everyone knew that the city chief wanted to make Czenstochow Judenrein and Liht, the leader of the ammunition factory, HASAG-Pelcery, intervened in Radom that they leave him the Jews because the Jewish strength was needed here for the war economy.) Meanwhile the permanent destruction of the Jews took place.

[Page 108]

On the 18th of June the Gestapo uncovered the bunker of the Soyke family. Those found in the bunker perished. Boruch Baum's daughter, the young Guta, who worked actively in the cultural area of TOZ in the large ghetto also perished here. At the same time, the hard-working Adam Walberg was dragged away and murdered. Almost two dozen workers, who were employed in the storehouses of the security police, were arrested and murdered. Doctor Walberg was called from the sanitary location in the ghetto, ostensibly to give quick medical help to a Jewish worker who had become ill in the police storehouses. He was shot on the way there. A group of workers was shot under the accusation that they “stole from” the police storehouses. They were buried with Dr. Walberg in a mass grave at the Jewish cemetery.

Death floated day and night across the small remnant of Jews in the small ghetto. Yet Jews smuggled themselves back into the ghetto from the “Aryan” side. Fathers and mothers also brought back their children from the Aryan side and from bunkers outside the ghetto. The parents felt they were nearing death and did not think it was right to leave their children as orphans in an environment unfamiliar to the children. The convicts in work camps understood and felt that they were on the last leg of their journey.

At night, on the 25th of June 1943, the small ghetto was surrounded. The bunkers of the Jewish fighting organization at Nadrzeczna 86 and 88 were attacked with grenades. Almost all of the fighters who were located there perished. The workers from the temporary workplaces, who were returning from work, were held on the Ryneczek “central square.” Security police, members of the Gestapo, as well as Germans and Ukrainians from other police formations murdered everyone they met in the street, who they found in the houses where bunkers were located. People sprang through windows on high floors, from balconies and fell like birds shot in flight. From the bunkers, the Germans pulled out long and short weapons, grenades, various tools as well as German uniforms. Night fell, the Jews held on the Ryneczek “central square,” were permitted to enter the ghetto. The workers from the ammunition factories were held there and they were told that they would no longer be allowed into the ghetto.

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[Page 109]

Work police from these factories came to take a new group from the ghetto for the nightshift in HASAG. People scrambled to go voluntarily to this work. Several did this because those closest to them remained there, others because they already saw the terrible danger that had arrived and they were searching for a means to remain alive. This aktsia was carried out by the recently nominated camp leaders, Laszinksi and Kestner, under Degenhardt's supervision. They knew every little corner of the ghetto; they knew of every hiding place and of every bunker. They knew the entrance and the exit of every tunnel and of every bunker built by the fighting organization. Their confidant, the Jewish policeman Yakov Rozenberg, had taken care to make sure they knew of this. This evildoer and traitor did not come from Czenstochow. But as soon as he appeared in the ghetto, it already was apparent that his role was secret. At first he played the role of a deaf-dumb person and wore a special yellow marking on his arm. Later he wore a band as a “useful Jew” and had the right to move outside the ghetto with a Mogen Dovid [Star of David] marking. He became a policeman again before the great expulsion. He gave the impression in the ghetto of an innocent person and simultaneously served in the police and was Laszinski's and Kestner's informant. A death sentence was carried out on him by the fighting organization; the sentence was carried out, but too late. The German police already had all of the threads of the fighting organization in its hands.

On the 26th of June 1943, 10 o'clock in the morning. All of the men were driven out on the Ryneczek “central square.” The entire square was surrounded by guards, members of the Gestapo, Polish policemen, air raid soldiers, Ukrainian fascists and work security from the ammunition factories in Czenstochow. The Germans with helmets on their heads stood fully armed. All of the remaining formations stood around the Ryneczek “central square” and held their guns with their gun-sights turned toward the surrounded Jews. Wagons full of corpses partially covered with sacks approached the square. Old men and fathers with children were taken, pulled out of the rows and placed separately under a special guard of the security police. The fathers stood quietly, broken and the children cried.

[Page 110]

From the crying children's small voices was heard the small voice of Asher Szmuliewicz, an eight year old boy, “Rafalek, do not go with me, you can still stay, why should you perish, too?” Many of those who lived in the houses at Nadrzeczna 86 and 88 where the bunkers of the fighting organization were located were pulled out of the rows. They were loaded on the trucks by groups under the blows of rifle butts. Pleading cries, curses, threats came from the vehicles and there also appeared fists raised in the air. The Germans already were “working” on the vehicles with their rifle butts. The horrible uproar that came from the vehicles was mixed with the lamentations of the group of women who still stood at the wire in the ghetto. The packed vehicles traveled in the direction of the Jewish cemetery and returned sprinkled with blood for new servings.

Meanwhile, the Germans demanded of everyone under the threat of being shot to surrender everything that they had with them. Money, jewelry, gold and watches were stamped with the feet and thrown into the baskets especially provided by the security police.

The aktsia against the men ended. The lives of a group of young boys aged 12-15 whom Degenhardt wanted to send to their deaths still [hung in the balance]. Liht, the director of the ammunition factory, at the application from Bernard Kurland, declared that such young boys could be of use to him. Degenhardt filled Liht's request and gave the young boys into his jurisdiction.

The surviving men were sent to the ammunition factories: HASAG-Apparatexbau and HASAG-Eisenhuta. Then came the rows of women. Accompanied by the weeping of all of the women who stood on the Ryneczek “central square,” old people and mothers with children were loaded into the same bloody vehicles and taken to their death. Mothers lost their children; children ran around on the square and burst into tears, called their mothers who had already been taken away to their deaths and had left their children here, thinking that although they were dying, some kind of miracle would happen at the last minute for their child…

[Page 111]

Until the vehicles returned, the women were dragged into the “butcher shop” where they scratched on the walls, just as the men who had been imprisoned there earlier, their last thought: “I am curious if I will survive this murderous day” – Mietek Goldsztajn, or “My star is extinguished, it is very bad for me,” or: “Bold bunker residents, the time of vengeance is coming.” Children also were thrown in here. In the middle of the Ryneczek [central square] they lay a child on the ground, trembling with its hands and feet, crying and ceaselessly calling for his already deported mother. A tall, thin woman, the well-known to everyone Doctor Horowicz who held the hand of her own child approached the crying child. She lifted up the crying child from the ground, calmed it and leading both children by their small hands, she walked calmly and with an uplifted head in the direction of the bloodied autos. Degenhardt stopped her, advised her to give up the children and she alone should go to the HASAG. The doctor – now the mother of two children – did not react at all to his “mercy,” did not abandon the children and went further. The murderer paid no more attention to her actions. Only the crowd of Jewish women on the “deportation” square accompanied with laments the tall, proud woman and the two small children, who were walking on their last road… The deportation of the women ended. All of the surviving women, as the men earlier, were taken to the ammunition factory of HASAG-Apparatexbau and HASAG-Eisenhuta.

After the deportation the Germans started the liquidation of the sick in the hospitals that were active in the small ghetto. In addition to the sick, children were hidden in the hospitals. The female Doctor Wajsberg and Doctor Szperling hid a few children there. Security police surrounded the hospital for infectious diseases and two went inside. They “quieted” the pleas and cries of the sick women with blows from rifle butts and riding crops and drove them out to the courtyard in their underwear. A series of shots from machine guns interrupted the lives of the unfortunate women. The men were driven out one by one. The crack from a revolver was heard as soon as a sick man crossed the threshold of the hospital, which made an end to his life.

[Page 112]

One was a tall, young man, who proudly shouted out to the murderer, “Our innocent blood will not let you rest and always demand revenge! You, yourself, will perish in disgrace.” The security policemen did not find all of the sick in the internists' hospital. The auxiliary to the labor security in the ammunition factory, HASAG-Eizenhuta, auxiliary who had always shown a human relationship to the tortured Jewish workers in their workplace anticipated [what would happen] and rescued a certain number of the sick from there.

In the morning Degenhardt declared an “amnesty” for all of those who were hidden in the ghetto if they came out of the bunkers by themselves. The Jewish policemen carried the “news” of the amnesty through the deadened ghetto. Eighty-four mothers, 60 fathers and approximately 100 children crawled out of the hiding places and reported. They were let in to the cleaned out hospital building. Here they were watched. They were permitted to console themselves with belief in the “amnesty” for two days; on the third day, the “amnesty” was broken. Thus, the Jews were again deceived.

House after house was exploded with dynamite. Hundreds of those hidden perished under the ruins. Dozens, who now emerged from the ruins were shot on the spot and burned. The Jews who sprang from the moving vehicles and did not fall from the bullets shooting after them on the 26th also met the same fate. Those rescued did not know of the fate of the remaining Jews in the ghetto. Moving around aimlessly for several days, they did not find any other way out than to penetrate back into the ghetto and, there, to be with the surviving Jews. Having escaped from death, they sneaked into the ghetto and here found death on the bonfire pile with all of those caught during the “amnesty.”

The terrible life in the small ghetto ended and the cruel life in the camps of the HASAG ammunition factory began.

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The small ghetto after the liquidation
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Kestner – the liquidator of the small ghetto before the Polish People's Court
Zajnwel Weksztajn is giving evidence

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