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[Page 162]

Chapter V

Germany Attacks Russia

 

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The main market square or rynek of Krosno is renamed Adolf Hitler Platz

 

The Germans lived very well in Krosno; they had special stores, clothing shops, and other facilities. But there was a tension in the air. There was a constant movement of troops and armor at night towards the Russian border. The formations were spread out in the country side but many officers made their appearance in the city. The Judenrat was constantly asked for more workers who were involved in building barracks, roads, tracks, and all kind of military emplacements.

Then the war started. The German armies attacked the Soviet Union across the entire frontier. The German panzers were cutting the Russian armies into pieces. Thousands of prisoners of war soon appeared on the roads leading west. Krosno also received several thousand starving Russian soldiers who were eventually sent to Szbnie where they were murdered. The German armies continued their advance. Nothing seemed to stop the German war machine. According to White, the Krosno air base was very active in supporting the German military drive. The German pilots described the bombings and strafing of Russian cities. Soon the rains started and converted the poor Russian roads into quagmires of mud. Then the winter arrived and froze everything.

The German armies soon faced the bitter Russian winter and the battle–hardened Soviet soldiers. Germany did not provide the German soldiers with warm clothing to protect them from the cold Russian weather. The Gestapo was ordered to collect furs and woolen materials from all over Poland. The Krosno Judenrat was called to the Gestapo office and ordered to collect all furs, fur pieces, woolen items of clothing from the Jews of Krosno. The order was given that anyone disobeying the order would be shot. Becker shot a Jew for allegedly disobeying the order. He also killed Mrs. Furst in her kiosk for allegedly hiding a pair of gloves. Several Krosno Jews were shot by Gestapo men for supposedly withholding woolen goods. A wave of terror began with the collection of furs and woolens. Breitowicz stated in his book that the Gestapo men shot Tolba Pineles, daughter of the religious scribe Pineles, in front of him for wearing a coat with a fur collar.

Worse news was yet to arrive. On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war against the USA. The American Joint operations in Poland came to an official end. The Joint continued to support indirectly the J.S.S. organization in Poland through various illegal connections. But officially, the Joint had to stop all activities in Poland. The J.S.S. funds declined rapidly as did the funds of the Krosno Judenrat.

 

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German photographers force Jews to pull the beard of the other Jew. The couple on the right side is that of Rabbi Shmuel Fuhrer on the left and Nussbaum on the right. We could not identify the couple on the left side. All Jews involved display their arm bands. The event took place in the center of town.

 

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A Krosner Jew with his white armband in the street of the city

 

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The area of the ghetto in Krosno

 

In May of 1942, the Gestapo ordered the creation of a ghetto in Krosno. The ghetto consisted of 4 to 5 houses and it had to absorb about 4,000 Jews. The ghetto extended from the Franciscane Street next to the Franciscan church to the Dym house. The Judenrat had to settle the Jews in the ghetto. The ghetto was terribly overcrowded and several families had to share a room. To leave the ghetto you needed special permission. Hunger, despair and hopelessness affected the Jews of Krosno. Some began to contact non–Jewish friends to seek shelter. Hiding Jews was very dangerous for both the Jew and the non–Jew. Some people saw an opportunity to make money and offered assistance only to denounce the family after they received the money. Still others built hiding places while some Jewish women tried to get so–called “Aryan' papers to be able to volunteer for work in Germany.

At the end of July, or possibly early August 1942 according to others, the Gestapo announced a plan of “resettlement” of the Jews of Krosno to the East. They initially requested a “kotribucja,” a contribution of a large sum of money, and/or an equivalent amount of precious valuables in order to postpone the edict. The Judenrat scrambled to collect the money as best as possible in order to obtain a reprieve. After delivering the contribution, the resettlement was supposedly called off for the time being. This was a Gestapo scheme to extract money from the Jews.

The decision to resettle had nothing to do with the local Gestapo. The Reinhardt Operation that called for the elimination of the Jews proceeded in accordance with a master plan in great detail and did not allow for local commanders to play with time schedules. About a week later a final order from the Gestapo was received for every Jew to appear at 9 A.M. on Monday August 10, 1942, at the Targowica (a large plaza used as the cattle market) Square located near the railroad station on Koleiowa Street. Every person was limited to a 10 kilo suitcase. Everybody, regardless of age, gender or state of health, was to show up at the square. Anyone found hiding or disobeying the order would be shot on the spot.

White's description of the so–called resettlement operation: “Monday morning, the few thousand Jews made their way to the Targowica. A mass of wretched humanity with babies in their arms, in wheelchairs; some on stretchers were making their way as ordered. It was a very sad and depressing sight.” Hivis (SS volunteers), mostly Ukrainian, were already there and cordoned off the Targowica Square with their machine guns aimed at us. Local Poles kept arriving at the periphery to observe this sad and horrible spectacle. Among them I recognized Mr. Bazentkiewicz, in whose building we had our “kitownia” (putty–making shop).

Was he there to see us being taken away and so he could take over the shop? Were the others there for a similar purpose –– glad to see the Nazis take care of their “Jewish problem” and they take over their properties? Didn't the pre–war Polish foreign minister Josef Beck declare to the Polish parliament that Poland's problem was too many Jews? Didn't he try to get the French who ruled Madagascar to get Jews from Poland transferred there? Such thoughts entered my mind at that time. I preferred to give the onlookers the benefit of the doubt that they were there out of curiosity and maybe of concern as to what would happen to us and concern that they might be next.

There was also the Gestapo from Krosno, some from Jaslo, and some that I had never seen before. The Gestapo from the outside seemed mainly in charge. We were ordered to line up in rows of five. One SS–man who was unknown to me had a whip in his hand and ordered some of the assembled Jews to move out of the line to the far corner of the plaza.

They appeared to be the elderly, the handicapped, those in wheelchairs and stretchers. There was crying and wailing as some family members tried to join their loved ones in the corner but were beaten, whipped, and ordered to get back in line. One scene I remember, was where a very pretty young girl from Lodz was stubbornly sticking to her mother in spite of being whipped mercilessly to turn back, but to no avail. There were a few trucks waiting on which they and the stubborn girl were forcibly loaded. The trucks were covered and SS men with machine guns got on top.

Soon two Jeeps with mounted machine guns and SS men in them stopped by the plaza and were dispatched by the SS–man with the whip pointing them to leave in a certain direction. A truck, with SA or sturm abtailung men, German Nazi para military organization, sitting on benches and holding shovels as if presenting arms, came by and was ordered to drive off in the same direction. Subsequently the trucks with the victims were ordered to leave in the same direction. The dispatched Jews appeared to me doomed. The SA men in the truck with their shovels were probably sent to bury the victims after the shooting by the machine gunners in the Jeeps.

German civilians and military officials, including an officer from the Krosno air base with some airmen, arrived with lists of their Jewish employees. The Jews working for them were released and allowed to march off to their jobs and thereafter to the ghetto or to barracks built for them at their workstations. Others working in the oil refinery and those working for other German outfits were released for work to their supervisors.

Then Gestapo man Stengler called out names. They were given blue identification cards and ordered to march back to the ghetto. The bulk of the people on the Targowica were marched later to the nearby railroad station. They were loaded into cattle cars. Each wagon contained 100 people. Even the Jewish prisoners at the Krosno jail were escorted to the train station. The train stood for hours at the station and finally left Krosno under SS guard. The head of the Judenrat of Krosno, Yehuda Engel and his family, was aboard the train.

The Jews transported by trucks were taken to the woods near Brzozow where they were shot. The train transport waited for hours without food or water before it left Krosno. It stopped again in Iwonicz–Zdroi where Dr. Baumring complained to the SS escort through the barbed wired small window of the wagon, begging to allow some water but instead was ordered out of the wagon and shot. There were no survivors from the transport. Considering the death of the “resettled” in Belzec via carbon monoxide (CO) gas from a Soviet diesel tank (cyanide had not been used yet), Dr. Baumring's death by shooting was a blessing. About 80–90 percent of the Krosno Jews perished during this first “resettlement” action.

All day of the action, the Germans searched the city for hidden Jews and shot them on the spot. Their bodies were scattered through the ghetto areas. Some eye witnesses stated that Rabbi Shmuel Fuhrer was amongst the killed Jews. Identification was difficult since many Jews were shot in the head. The same evening, a small ghetto that already existed for several weeks was sealed off from the rest of the city. Moshe Kleiner, who also resided in Germany, was appointed head of the new Judenrat.

The ghetto had between 300–600 Jews. Many Jews were hiding and the Gestapo knew it. Posters appeared stating that blue cards would be distributed to everyone who would appear at the office of the Judenrat. Some Jews came out of hiding and received the blue cards that would permit them to work. A short while later, similar posters appeared and hidden Jews appeared. The Gestapo rounded them up and then proceeded to arrest all the Jews who were just recently issued blue cards. Most of the men were sent to Szebnie camp and the rest to the ghetto of Rzeszow. It was now obvious that the Krosno ghetto was heading toward dissolution. On Friday, December 4th, 1942, the week of Chanukah, all Jews were ordered to appear at the milk and butter market of Krosno. The entire ghetto was surrounded by SS, Gestapo, and Ukrainian Hiwis – soldiers. Those who had working places were sent to the side where the military and civilian German officials took possession of their workers. The rest would be marched to the railway station where they would board a train for the ghetto of Rzeszow. Amongst them would be Rabbi Moshe Twerski with his family. While the selection took place, policemen searched the entire ghetto for hidden Jews. Most of them were shot on discovery. The search for Jews would continue in Krosno until mid–March 1943.

The remnants of the Krosno Jews were led to the railway station by brutal guards who did not hesitate to shoot stragglers. The column reached the train station and the Jews were pushed into cattle cars, with no standing or sitting room and no knowledge about the real destination of the train. Finally the train arrived at Rzeszow and the Jews were forced to march several kilometers to the ghetto.

The Krosner Jews in the ghetto of Rzeszow would slowly die of starvation or sickness, amongst them Rabbi Moshe Twerski. Most of the Krosner Jews would be sent to the Belzec death camp or Szebnie labor camp where they would be worked to near death and then sent to Auschwitz–Birkenau.

Some young Krosner Jews like Yaacov Breitowicz managed to survive all the labor and deah camps and slowly resume life following liberation

 

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Index card of Yaakov or Jakob Breitowicz during the war

 

He started in the ghetto of Krosno where he lived before the war. He was then sent to the ghetto of Rzeszow and then to Huta Komorska labor camp, a sub branch of the Plaszow labor camp. Later he was sent to Misloce labor camp. In June 1944 he arrived at the Plaszow concentration camp near Krakow. With the approach of the Russian army, he was sent to the Flossenberg concentration camp in Germany. He was liberated by the American army. January 1, 1947 we find him at the Cham D.P. in Germany.

Another survivor was Josef Lang, son of Chaim and Feige Reisel Lang, a native of Krosno. He was arrested by the Gestapo in June of 1940 and sent to a forced labor camp in Frysztak near Krosno where he remained until December 1940. He was then sent to Dukla where he worked until

 

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Josef Lang

 

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Josef Lang's German war record card

 

December 1942. He was then sent to Plaszow where he remained until January 1944. He was then sent to Skarzysko forced labor camp where he remained until November 1944.He was then sent to the concentration camp of Buchenwald where he remained three weeks and was transferred to Schlisban forced labor camp that was soon evacuated to the Theresienstadt concentration camp where he was liberated on May 5 1945 by the Russian army.

Below is Dr. White's ( formerly Bialywlos) index card during the war.

 

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Alexander Bialywlos residing at 84 Ordinacka Street, Krosno. The index card is barely legible so we decided to print the context. The original text is in English since it was typed at the D.P. camp following the war

 

The Bialywlos family was in the glazing business. When the Germans entered Krosno, they used the facilities of the family to repair the broken car and truck windows. The store was soon “aryanized” or confiscated and given to a German who let the Bialywlos family work in the store. Business declined due to all the anti–Jewish regulations and Alexander and his father, Mendel Bialywlos, were soon forced to look for work.

 

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Official index card relating to Alexander Bialywlos and his status

 

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Alexander Bialywlos was a resident of the Landzberg D.P. refugee camp. He applied for emigration to the USA

 

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After the war a tombstone was erected in the memory of Rabbi Shmuel Fuhrer, other rabbis, and unnamed Jewish people. Here is buried in a brotherly grave the great scholar and saint Rabbi Shmuel Fuhrer, son of Rabbi Asher Zeelig Fuhrer, may he rest in peace. Rabbi Shmuel Fuhrer was the head of the Jewish religious court in Krosno and authored the scholarly book “Har Shefer.”

Buried are also Rabbi Zwi Demrez, Rabbi Zwi Herzfeld, Rabbi Ze'ev Nussenbaum, and the son of Asher Bogen. All were killed as Jewish martyrs. May they all rest in peace.

Dated the first day of the Jewish month of Tevet, the year Tashag–or 5703. The exact conversion date is December 19, 1942. (The date is confusing since there were no longer Jews in Krosno at this date. According to some people, Rabbi Fuhrer was shot by Oscar Baecker during the round–up of Jews that took place on August 10, 1942. There seems to be another problem, namely Krosno had three rabbis: Rabbi Shmuel Fuhrer, Rabbi Moshe Twerski, and the so–called Reishpoler rabbi. The stone seems to refer to other rabbis of Krosno that we have not been able to substantiate. Buried with them were men, women, and children whose names are unknown. They were killed on the 4th day of the month, the first day of Hannukah in the year Tashag – or 5703. The exact conversion date is December 4, 1942.

They worked at various places until the the big selection in Krosno when most of the Jews were sent to the death camp of Belzec. They were assigned to work at the Krosno military air field. They worked at the base until January 1944. Alexander was then sent to the Szebnie labor camp. In March 12, 1944 he was transferred to the Plaszow concentration camp and attached to the Schndler compound. With the advance of the Soviet army, Plaszow was being dismantled and Alexander was sent to the Gross Rozen concentration camp on October 15, 1944. He was then sent to the Schindler camp at Brunlitz, Czechoslovakia where he was liberated by the Soviet army.

The German officials took their assigned workers and led them to their new quarters. The air force led their assigned workers to the base. Many saw the city for the last time. The city was not officially “Juden rein,” or free of Jews. Of course, there were some hidden Jews namely Stefan Stiefel, Helena Stiefel, Pinkas Thaler and family, Stiebel and family, Lieber Wolf, Jozef Guzik, and a few Jewish children like Batia Akselrad, the daughter of Bendet Akselrad, and Benjamin Nussbaum.

The Jewish community of Krosno ceased to exist on December 4, 1942, during Chanukah, the festival of light and resistance. The relatively young Polish Jewish community was thus totally erased.

 

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