By Chaim Sheinberg
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
|Clench the fist, tighten the arm,
Harden your heart, suppress your spirit,
Forget your ego look around you;
Do not stand baffled and do not remain motionless.
Remember for a moment
Do not live in dreamland, look around you,
From the Shalker Forest [one hears] shouts and demands
A scream is heard from Kelbazin
To you who hear the screams and demands
From the ghetto's wire fences
In Treblinka's fiery sky
Clench your teeth, devour your pain,
Do not ask, do not demand the reason from heaven, God
Your city vanished in fire and blood
Aim the fist, strengthen the arm,
By Feivel Wolf
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
It was again quiet in the Kelbasin lager (concentration camp), and the Germans turned off the electricity.
I did not remain long in the Amdorer block with my sister.
On Tuesday, November 17th, at 4 a.m. the mud-hut was opened and Gutman along with Kopel Poliachek demanded that we stand up, because the Amdorers were leaving the lager in two hours and we were going to the train station. Gutman ordered us to remain calm.
I had been ill but immediately stood up. My sister Sarake stood and began to fix her knapsack. I had already firmly decided not to go along and to wait and see how things would end here. Finished with her knapsack, my sister saw that I did not intend to go and wondered why I was standing in place this way. I explained to her that I was not going. She cried,
You are leaving me alone with a small child and instead you will travel with strangers?
I further explained to her that I would not be traveling with anyone. She attacked me with sincere kisses and wished that at least someone from the family would remain alive and would start a new generation. These were the last words I heard from her.
All of the Amdorers went to Block No. 5 at 5:30. I remained all alone in the mud-hut No. 14 and I again looked through the little window. Rintzler came back to Block No. 5 exactly at 6 o'clock, went through, looked at everyone and ordered them to go to their death. After leaving through the gate, all of the mothers and children were taken away.
I already knew that after the transport this day would be calm, because Rintzler would not come. And I went to sleep for a few hours in the empty mud-hut where my sister had been for 16 days in a corner, on the ground.
I walked around the lager at eight o'clock to see if perhaps someone from Amdor remained. Turning around I met Frenkle from Druzgenik. I ran to him to ask if he could add me to the people from Druzgenik (they were still in the lager legally). He looked at me, lowered his eyes to the ground and quietly said that he could not help me and advised me to try to go to the Suchowolers; perhaps they would take me in.
After several minutes I heard myself being called. This was Abraham Nyames of Amdor. The first thing I asked him was if he had already eaten. He was the cook. He invited me and gave me, perhaps, ten potatoes.
The day passed quietly. I crawled out at night to join the Suchowolers and slept through the night. Very early, a young man noticed me and began to scream, raising an alarm that a strange Jew was hanging around near them. They began to scream at me and demanded that I leave because I intended to rob them and I was assaulted with such curses that I had to leave.
I went to Abraham Nyames again, and again received potatoes. He could not help me. He remained legal, it turned out, because of the payment of money. He advised me to quickly search for an alternative, because any day he might leave the lager for the Grodno Ghetto with his wife and son, and I would no longer receive any food.
Walking thus with the potatoes in my pocket, I heard someone calling me by name. And I saw that it was Falye Lev from Krinek. He invited me into his mud-hut, where he lived with his sisters Manya and Yehudis, with Betzalel of Padbyaniki and his brother Artshik. Sonya Lev asked me immediately to which city I belonged and I told her about my situation. She told her husband Betzalzel to register me on their list and I would stay with them in the mud-hut and receive my portion of bread.
Haim Zalutski, Meir Kaplan, Motl Patsanski, Motl and Dovid Weisman joined us right away.
It became clearer from day to day that we were being driven to our death. Jews from Grodno, who had been brought to Kelbasin, spoke of this very often. Many committed suicide, cutting open the veins of their arms and their legs with shaving knives. Rintzler asked the leaders of the Judenrat why so few were taking their own lives.
A young man from Ostrin who was sent out with those from his shtetl to Treblinka and jumped off the train and came back to Kelbasin brought back the truth. The story of the young man was thus: after the people from Ostrin were driven out of Kelbasin and were on the way to Treblinka, a Polish railroad man entered the train at the Lapy train station, and whispered into the ears of several young people the secret that they were being taken to Malkin to their death. There, he said, ovens have been built in which the Jews are burned. As a friend of the Jews, he advised them to save themselves. The young man, a blond with a non-Jewish appearance, sprang from the wagon, reached a booth of a railroad man near the train line, crawled into a pile of hay and slept through the night.
In the morning, the railroad man came to take hay for his cows and found the young man there. The young man told him the truth. The railroad man gave him bread to eat, but asked him to leave. The young man traveled during the course of several days, traveling with goyim (non-Jews) and arrived in Ostrin. However, he could not remain there among the goyim. He came back to Kelbasin through Grodno. He told the watchmen at the gate, not bad Germans, that he was coming from a work camp and they let him enter.
In a few minutes everyone knew about the young man. I ran immediately to the mud-hut, in which he was located and found a crowd around him listening to his stories. Then he asked a question, Who has a piece of bread or a little tobacco? As I had in my pockets both the former and the latter, from what the good Yudl Altschuler would bring me, the young man told me everything for such an important gift.
He thus told me that notices hung in every city and village, according to which everyone who pointed out a Jew would receive five kilos of sugar and everyone who would catch a Jew and bring him to the Germans would receive ten kilos. And I learned very important news from him, that there were goyim who gave food to Jews and I knew many goyim very well.
On Monday, December, 14. 1942, at eight o'clock at night, Rintzler and eight German guards entered Block No. 3, mud-hut 5, where we were located, the remaining Krynkers and Amdorers on one side and families of the Judenrat members on the other. Four Germans immediately stood at one door and four others by the other, to make sure that no one would run away. Rintzler, who entered on the side where the families of the Judenrat members were found, turned on the electricity and, holding a revolver in one hand and a blackjack in the other, pulled down women from the highest plank cots and began asking, From where?
The first answered that she was from Sokolka; he shot her immediately. The second from Ostrin, the third from Grodno; thus he shot six women. The rest said that they were from Sochowola or Kusnica; he did not bother them because their shtetlekh had not yet been sent on a transport.
From there he went to the gate with the Germans and asked that the advocat (barrister) Fridberg of Sokolka be brought to him along with his wife and daughters. First he shot the wife, then the daughters (both beautiful women), and then him. Then he ordered that two young girls, who worked for the Germans of the Wermacht one from Lunna, the barber Fatzowksi's daughter, the second from Ozary, and he shot both of them.
In the end, he left alone for Block No. 1, where the Druzgenikers were, for Frenkle's mud-hut. There he found the advocat Goszanski of the Grodno Judenrat, who had been brought to Kelbasin, dressed with a frying pan on his head and made to dance. The spectators from the mud-hut told how Rintzler went right in there and said, Advocat Goszanski, come with me, quickly.
Goszanski said to him, I will put on my furcoat.
Answered Rintzler, You no longer need it!
He led him to the spot near the gate where the others who had been shot lay and killed him, too.
I hid in the ruin of the remaining Jewish goods, among pillows and featherbeds.
At five in the morning, I heard Falye Lev calling me from nearby. I crawled out, because Rintzler had already left the lager.
Rumors immediately spread that this morning we would be taken out to the forest, 200 meters from the lager, and everyone would be shot on the spot, because no more transports would leave as the place where they had gone was overcrowded. I simply began pulling my hair from my head. I had the ability to escape and I had let it pass!
Jewish policemen ran around nabbing people to bury the dead. I ran to volunteer immediately. My intention was that if two Germans with guns would lead us as usual, I would run away to the forest. If they shot and hit me, that would be their luck; if not, that would be my luck.
We stationed ourselves around the dead (four men would carry two of the dead in sheets or blankets). In the distance I saw that eight Germans with machine guns were approaching us. Before they came near, I had already run away to an empty mud-hut and there, under the plank cots, I thought about how to find a way out.
A woman well-known for her daring, Mrs. Berezowski, was among the Druzgenikers in Block No. One. Her husband, a well-known Grodno merchant, had his own tar business around Oszor and Ostrin. I had been introduced to the wife a few days earlier. She told me that she had already spent 4 months in the forest, but bandits had dragged her out. They would not let her 16 year old daughter rest as far as sexual advances and that now she wanted to run away with a male. Seeing that there was a small chance of a possibility to save myself, I went to the Berezowski woman.
I explained my plans to her and the whole day we kept conferring about how we would run away from the lager. I had 150 dollars, she, three gold watches. We decided to approach at night the German who stood on watch by the gate and propose that for money he let us out.
At nine in the evening on Tuesday, we approached the German. I remained standing a certain distance from her, as we had agreed among ourselves and she turned to the German from afar and motioned to him that he permit her to go to him to talk about something. As he asked what she needed from him, she explained that her husband worked in the Grodno Ghetto in the Wermacht shoe factory and she wanted to go to him.
And to the German's question, who is it that stands near her, she said to him that this one's wife, a tailor, also works for the Wermacht, and that he, too, wants to go to his wife. We will give him a gold watch and gold for letting us go.
The German's answer was that he cannot it. If we were caught and beaten and we revealed at which hour we had gone out, he would be shot. And he, too, had a wife and two children.
At ten o'clock the guard changed and Mrs. Berezowski tried to communicate with the German who earlier had been at the gate. He answered the same, but asked if we wanted to buy six loaves of bread, 3 kg. a loaf, for 60 dollars. We gave him the money. And in two hours, after he finished his service, he did bring us the bread, but only five loaves.
Wednesday passed quietly, Thursday, too.
On Friday, 13 wagons entered to take from the lager the Jewish goods left there after their owners were taken out; featherbeds, pillows, blankets, underwear, pots, pans, etc. Jewish police ran around as if poisoned, catching people for work, cleaning the lager, loading the wagons and, mainly, gathering together the potatoes remaining outside the lager and loading them. I was nabbed for the potatoes outside the lager. Every few hours those who were working at this were changed. At ten o'clock a car drove in from the gate of the camp.
Going back into the lager, I saw that Antek Moslowski was standing near the gate with a paper in his hand. He recognized me and so, as he walked, began talking to me and explaining that he had come for the wife of Yankl Shinder and that he had money for us.
I did not stop and did not answer because I would have been shot immediately for doing so. However, when I passed the gate, I ran immediately to the Lev family and explained it to them. They immediately communicated with Moslowski through the barbed wire. He explained that he had been in the Grodno Ghetto many times with Beila Walcht, who Moishel Szpic had taken out from Kelbasin right after she had been brought here. He also explained that he had given her a lot of money for Krynki Jews and that now he had come for the wife and child of Yankl Shinder.
At one in the afternoon I went out again to work loading the wagons that had come from the Grodno Ghetto. This time I decided my fate over life and death. I thus loaded the wagons and in the end I lay myself in a wagon under a featherbed. I knew whose wagon it was. Until today I do not know if the people who worked with me noticed what I had done or if they saw and kept quiet. Meanwhile, the Jews covered me with all kinds of rags.
At two o'clock the Jewish police led the wagons to the gate. The Germans asked if everything was in order; they were answered, yes. The Germans led the wagons out through the gate and gave them to the drivers from the Grodno Ghetto. At three in the afternoon they ordered the wagons to depart for Grodno.
Feeling that we had already gone a kilometer, I began to move to climb out. Yudl Altshuler sprang down from wagon:
Who is there? he asked.
I, Yudl; do not make any noise!, I said to him and was already standing on the highway and was saying goodbye to him Yudl, stay well! and wanted to run away to the fields because it was already dark.
Yudl asked me where I would go. I answered him, in the direction of Krinek. He told me that he had a certificate for 2 people, and if the chiefs of the Grodno Ghetto, the assassins Vise and Streblov, were not standing at the gate, he could drive me through. Meanwhile it was already dark. Near the ghetto, Yudl went down from the wagon and asked how things were at the gate. Everyone answered that it was quiet and that the two murderers were not there.
And thus we rode through peacefully. After the gate, Yudl grabbed a Jewish policeman and asked that he take me to the bath and that I be given clean underwear. The other did everything that Yudl had asked and from the bath, he took me wherever I asked him: to Abraham Bantz in the building on Troytze Street. A good friend of mine, Leibe Adeses of Amdor, lived there. He welcomed me very well with tea, blood sausages and bread. I slept with him.
The next morning, Shabas, I immediately met a good friend, Lola Shtermfeld of Amdor, and through the Judenrat, immediately found a place for me to sleep with Abrahaml Farasha. He found pants for me from a good friend and changed 50 dollars for 13 marks a dollar.
Shabas, in the evening, the last Jew from Kelbasin was brought to the Grodno Ghetto. All of the Krynkers became ill with typhus and I do not know what happened to them in the end, because I ran away.
By Abraham Sofer
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
We, the remaining tanners, were led into an empty building. The walls were wet. Several of us fell on the wet cement floor and a strong cry tore out of everyone's heart.
70 people remained in the lager (camp) factory, several girls and women to cook and the rest skilled workers. No children remained, except Zeidl Filipski's 2-year old daughter. He did not want to separate from his wife and child and the director was forced to agree, because Filipski was one of the best with locks (sluices) and a specialist in water management. In addition, the murderous director needed him to finish his residence.
Communication between us and Grosman's Factory-Lager was most strongly forbidden. Several Judenratnikes (members of the Judenrat) remained with us in the lager, among them the president, Yosl Galtz, and his wife. Their three children were taken out of the ghetto along with everyone.
The leather factory was surrounded by a fence and strongly guarded. The director often came in and maintained very strict discipline. The commandant of the lager was Yakov Kozolchik. His wife and two children also were taken out of the ghetto together with all of the Jews.
In a few days we learned that our families had been expelled to the Kelbasin lager, together with the Jews of the surrounding shtetlekh. However, it was impossible to contact those who were in the other camps. We sent several peasants to take bread and to bring greetings. It was futile; the lager was closed off from the surrounding world.
The temperature dropped to 35 degrees. Every attempt to flee to the forest was impossible. Several young people left, taking hatchets and shovels. In about two days they returned with frozen hands and feet. We knew we would not remain long in the factory lager. We began to work out plans to escape, to hide in a bunker. After several consultations we found a place in the Jewish cemetery and a cement grave where the well-known lay. Only a few people knew of this. Our work had to be very conspiratorial. The initiators of this were Shepsl Kushnir and Yudl Kaplan.
Every night at around two o'clock we would bribe the policeman and tell him that we were carrying bread or other food to the lager. Then we would go to the cemetery, several times in pairs, and take with us what we could: dried biscuits, meat, water and other foods. There was room in the bunker for 20 people. Yakov, the commandant, also knew of this and he helped us a great deal. I went several times with Yudl Kaplan. Everything was organized that needed to be; we even prepared vessels for cooking. The grave was large, with a lot of air, and the entrance was through a headstone.
Everything was almost ready. We also permitted a woman to join us, who would prepare food. Once, when the comrades came to the spot, they found the grave emptied. We later learned that young gentiles who found our footprints in the snow had cleaned out everything. Our work, therefore, fell through and we took to a new plan: in the event that our lager remained in Krynki, a group of us would flee to the woods.
After six weeks, the sorrowful news reached us that all of our families had been taken away to Treblinka. Now we knew exactly what awaited us.
In the shoemaker and tailor lager a group prepared to escape to the woods. There, too, was plotting and studying how to hide. A few people arranged a hiding place in a boiler in the bath.
Several of us tried to go to a village and arrange with a peasant they knew for a place to hide. However, none of the peasants could and did not want to hide anyone, because the regime had threatened to shoot everyone who helped a Jew.
The new year, 1943, neared. There was no letup in the frost. The spirit of the older workers was extremely crushed. The majority of them would lay the whole night and cry. Every Friday night, Zeidl Filipski would arrange lectures on religious themes and show through numbers and facts that we were already near to the redemption and Moshiekh (the messiah) would soon come to free us. Filipski would bring examples from the Prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a fish and davened (prayed) in the belly of the fish and the fish spit him out whole. On this basis, several workers would sit and recite psalms for the entire night. The young people earnestly struggled against such propaganda.
Our food was good, because we brought in all of the food that remained in the lager. Several women worked with the abandoned clothes, which were collected in the Beis-Midrash (synagogue). The better things would be sent to Germany by the ghetto-commissar. He would sell the rest to the peasants, who would come from the surrounding villages. They would stand in a row to receive our blood-splattered possessions. The girls who would work at the sorting, would, nebek (dejectedly), watch how their families' clothing and pillows were being sold. A group of Jews worked at the fences. Christians from the villages had already moved into several houses.
The frost made it difficult to try to escape to the woods. We hoped that perhaps we would last until Pesakh (Passover) and then we could struggle in the woods. However, the regime authorities were not asleep: an order was issued on January 17, 1943, that Krynki must become Yudnrein! (cleansed of Jews). At night several people escaped from both camps. In the morning, the 18th, the two camps were surrounded by police and gendarmes.
From our camp, 18 men and women had escaped, among them the former president of the Judenrat, Yosl Galtz, and his brother Chaim-Meir, who had hidden in the boiler in the bath. The remaining escapees were: Peretz and Yashke Pruszhanski, Velvel Wolf, Yitzhak Zutz, Moishel Kagan, Abrahaml Wacht, Kushnir, Meir Gendler, Chaim Weiner, Motke Shteinsafir, Sarake Galtz, Sarake Gendler, Leah Wolf, Perl Levi, Fridke Zalkin, Mashke Kaplan and Itche Wolf. Several escaped to peasant acquaintances, some to the woods, and the remaining were later caught and shot.
Later I learned of the fate of those survivors who froze in the woods. My cousins, Peretz and Yosel Pruzhanski, were caught and tortured to death. A Russian engineer, Dimitrov, hid two girls in a room, Perl Levi and Leah Wolf until the day of the liberation.
We, those who remained in the lager, were taken out to the marketplace. Sleighs waited to take us to the train, to Sokolka.
Everyone could take only one rucksack with them. Several Germans came to the courtyard of the factory and ordered everyone to give them their jewelry. If something was found on him, he would be shot.
Our murderers came to the market and set up machine guns around us. Again, our clothes were rummaged through and anything remaining there was removed. Dozens of gendarmes and Polish police accompanied us on the way. People sitting on the sleighs immediately got frozen feet; we all walked. Leaving Krynki, we were accompanied by peasants with tears in their eyes. A girl, Fanye Roitbard, left a 4-year old child who could not speak Yiddish with a Christian. The child had come with its mother from Russia and the Germans shot the mother. When we were already lined up to march, the Christian brought the young child and told him to go together with us.
In Sokolka we were hurled into dirty railroad horse cars with closed little windows; a soldier stood at each railroad car; we were forbidden to look out of the windows and the doors were bolted.
Our shtetl (town) was Yudnrein!
In the same railroad car with me were my uncle Yisroel Skowronek (Africans) with his wife Pesha and two young sons, Lazerke and Hershele; Nyamka Skowronek and his wife Dvoyra Manikhe's daughter; Berl, Blumka and Ruchla Zakheim; Henek Muglas and his daughter Mercha; Yisroel Kalinowitch, his wife and two children; Abrahaml Ofrimzon (Shishka's son) and his wife, son and daughter; Dodya Kirpicz, his mother and little son; Shepsl Kushnir and his son Moishele; Hershl Abramowicz; Motl Kirzhner; Yudl Kaplan and the ex-commandant of the lager, Yakov (Yankl) Kozolchik (Pig).
Individual Jews said salms and the women cried. The remaining Jews from Sokolka were attached to our railroad cars, and all together the transport reached 1,200 people. Several were certain that we were going to Treblinka. Yakov broke out the little window and a group of young people prepared to jump. We set up a line. Shepsl Kushnir's son, Moishele, jumped first, and then Shepsl himself.
Thus one after the other they lined up along the full length of the train. A mother moved her two children to jump and she held her young son at the window, at which stood the chief initiator Yakov who helped several jump from the train. Thus jumped: Yosl and Chaim Braverman, Liebl Naliber, Hershl Abrahamowicz, Sonya Funk, Abrahaml Kleinbord, Zeidl Yakobinski, Dora Kirpicz and her little brother Zundl Kirpicz.
When I wanted to lift myself up to jump out, my aunt ran to me and with tears in her eyes begged me to travel together with them and my two cousins. She held me and begged that I not jump. Yakov himself undressed to his shirt and threw his garments out through the window. He tried to jump out through the little window, but his abnormally thick body could not go through, and all his efforts were futile. He then took out a small bottle of poison and drank it up. However, his heart was stronger than the poison he lived and howled like a slaughtered animal. A white foam appeared on his lips, and there was no water. We rubbed the frost from the boards and thus saved him.
The railroad car was now strongly guarded and we could no longer jump. We neared Malkinia toward Treblinka. Several people began reciting Psalms. Zeidl Filipski put on his talis (prayer shawl) and tefilin (phylacteries). The hands and feet of several shook. However, the train traveled further past the Malkinia station and did not remain there. Hearts became joyful. Pious Jews argued that the recitation of Psalms had helped, and now we were being taken to work, as the director of the factory had promised.
We travel further. It is already dark. One hears a heavy sigh and the stamping of frozen feet. There is thirst. Frost is scratched from the walls with spoons and the thirst is quenched by this. The first night on the train passes. There is the torture of thirst and there is no longer any frost on the walls. People beg the guards for a little water. A little watch, a ring is given for a small pan.
On the third day, we passed a train station where several Jews and Christians cleared the snow. Several of them made a sign with their hands under the throat, shouting that we should escape we are being taken to the slaughter! Crying breaks out with and a stronger recitation of Psalms. A shout is heard from outside that we are being taken to Auschwitz the name of which none of us had ever heard. Is it also a Treblinka?
Night falls. Yakov orders that we burn everything we still have. Aizik Brustin ignites the first little pack of money, and after him, almost all who have something of worth. Tears run from everyone's eyes. A dreadful darkness surrounds us.
Early in the morning, Tuesday, January 21, 1942, we arrived at Auschwitz.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
In a Chronicle titled Daybook of Jewish Sorrow and Pain, which was written in the Bialystok Ghetto, according to the information of the refugees who ran here during the aktzias (selection actions) there is information about people from Krynki, who jumped from the transport train to Auschwitz on January 25th, and arrived in Bialystok. The writing of the Chronicles was organized by Mordekhai Tenenboim-Tamarof, the commandant of the Jewish Fighting Organization in Bialystok, and they were hidden on the Aryan side of the city where they were later found with the entire Mersik-Tenenboim Archive, after the liberation of Bialystok from Nazi paws. This Chronicle relates:
Bialystok, Tuesday, 26th January 1943.
Today several refugees from Sokolka and Krynki, who jumped from the train - the transport which carried out the last Jews from the Krynki Workers Camps to Auschwitz - arrived. Among the wounded were 3 Krynki girls with a young man who had been beaten by the Gestapo. The wounded were taken to the hospital.
By Abraham Sofer
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
We were in Auschwitz. Everyone in the railroad cars pushed themselves to the little windows to see what happened here. The women packed their things and cried desperately. The eyes of several older Jews were unexpressive and they shouted, May the Lord answer you on your day of distress. Zeidl Filipski stood in his talis (prayer shawl) and tefilin (phylacteries). His 2-year old child stood near him and held a tsitse (fringe on the prayer shawl) with a shaking hand.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was hastily thrown open and a wild cry pierced the railroad car, Everyone, move on out! Leave the packs! Women, one side; men, the other side!
Several young bandits stood at the door with fat clubs in their hands and beat us on our heads. When Zeidl Filipski appeared at the door, all of the clubs descended on his head and he fell in a pool of blood. Yakov stood in the first row of men wearing his only shirt. The women stood on the other side of us.
After several minutes everyone was standing one next to the other, five in a row. Five autos waited opposite us.
First, several dozen girls up to age 20 were chosen and an older murderous officer, with an enraged pair of tiger-eyes, came over to us and with his pointing finger divided us to the right and to the left, asking each of us our vocation. I stood on the right side together with Yakov and several other young ones. Immediately, we counted off several times and verified the number, and when there were 150 people present, the sorting ended.
The older ones stood on the left side. Blood ran from many heads. A group of young girls stood opposite the railroad car, all the way in the back women with children. Among us stood Pinya Klas and his father was in the second group. The son motioned with his hand to his father that he should run from his row and stand with us. When the murderous officer turned with his back to us, the father ran over to our row.
When we started to march, the autos were already packed with women, men and children. Small, little children waved to us with their little hands and the wives of the men who had first gone with us shouted to us with tears in their eyes and motioned to us with their hands.
We marched into the lager (camp), into Birkenau.
In the Birkenau lager in Auschwitz, we first went through the customary procedure, - giving up our garments and emptying out the remnants of our valuables, announcements of the laws of the lager, registration, tattooing on the left arm by engraving needle (my number fell on 93886), shaving the hair, a cold, freezing shower with murderous blows, putting on ragged lager clothing and wooden sandals and the like.
When we stood on the street near the bath, waiting to be led to a block, we noticed in the distant woods, a tall fire which turned the surrounding sky red. And the air was filled with the smell of burned flesh. Our escorts, the beaters, also arrestees the majority Poles, although also a few Jews among them immediately said to us, You do not know what that is? Burning there are your families, who were taken there today in autos!
Tears appeared in the eyes of each of us, but everyone cried quietly because crying was strictly forbidden in the lager.
In the morning, at twelve o'clock, several of us shared a potato with a little green grass, one plate for four men breakfast and lunch in one. We had to eat with our hands. There was not even a drop of water. Each took a handful of dirty snow and quieted our thirst with it. It was not long before the majority of us developed diarrhea (dysentery), and going to the toilet was strictly forbidden. Only once a day, in a group, we had to empty ourselves. Immediately, people made in their pants and it became a filthy place.
At the first nightly roll call of the night, most of us stood with blackened eyes and some with split heads. All equally had changed in appearance. The diarrhea exhausted us; the air was filled with the smell of death. Everyone felt desperate and many spoke of suicide. This was the easier death; approach the electric wire of the fence and just touch it in one second it it would be over.
On our seventh day in the lager, one from our block, Yasha Zelikowicz, was caught at the morning roll-call trading bread for water with a Russian prisoner of war. His name was called out during the roll call and the block elder along with the S.S. man honored him with 25 blows. His father stood in the same row and watched how they killed his son and threw him to the wall, where lay several who had perished at the wire. This was the first victim from our transport.
After two weeks, of the 150 men who had been led into the lager from our transport 20 were missing. Most had gone to the wire in groups of three and four, arm in arm. In the morning after the death of Yasha Zelikowicz, when it was pitch dark, the first who went to the wire was his father, Milka Zelikowicz, taking with him a young person, Khasriel Engenradt. They fell dead from a shot to the chest, five meters from the electric wire. Again, almost all of us from the transport suffered from diarrhea. Dozens in the lager died every day from this plague.
The ranks of our transport group were sparser from day to day. Forty were already missing. The condition of the remaining was very bad. Every day a group went away to the precinct, an ostensible healing center, from which few came back. When I would return from work, I would not recognize my friends. The mountain of dead near the wall grew.
Yudl Kaplan, Yeshayahu Glezer, Motl Kirzhner, Pinya Klas, Shia Shapiro and two people from Grodno would sleep together with me. Once, coming from work, I did not recognize Yudl; his face was swollen and covered in all colors blue, yellow, green and red. At the roll call he told me what kind of day he had lived through. He did not eat after the roll call. When he received his portion of bread, he received a blow with a club on the hand and fell in the mud. I carried him into the block and laid him in the box (a shared place to sleep, made of cement). In two hours, he got up with a fixed expression and asked for a drink. I got off of the box to see if anyone had a drop of water. Returning, I found that Yudl was already dead. I lay together with him in the box the whole night. In three days, the same thing happened to Glezer.
The majority of us could no longer stand on our feet. At knee-bending many lay drawn out in the mud and no longer felt the blows of the clubs that were lowered on them. Here, the service leaders and block elders suddenly chose fifty men, who allegedly looked better, me among them, and led us to the bath. There we threw off our louse-filled garments and stood under a cold shower, not knowing what they were going to do with us. After washing ourselves, we were given clean shirts and new striped garments: pants, a blouse and a coat, and it was announced that we would work in the cleaning brigade Canada. This brigade was given the name Canada because there was enough to eat and there as if we lived in Canada.
In Canada, only Eizik Tzigel and I were from our transport. The work consisted of sorting the things in the packs that the victims of the transports were forced to leave in the railway cars at the Auschwitz train station. All was thoroughly gone through; good and new garments would be sent to Germany, the remnants would go for rags. The same with the bedding.
Food that was found in the packs was given to the lager kitchen. Jams were taken by the S.S. men for themselves. After work everyone received some bread, under strict control. I would pour out a little tobacco into my pocket, mixed with bread crumbs and bring it into the lager. Among the Krynkers still alive, I divided the tobacco and bread. Entering our barracks was very strictly controlled, and the survivers waited anxiously. The eager smokers, such as Yashka Marglius and others, felt lucky when I would give them a little tobacco.
As already mentioned, I was with Eizik Tzigel, working together and sleeping together in one bed. After five days of working, he received 25 lashes for trying to carry five pieces of sugar into the lager. In the morning he was sent to a block, from which everyone was transported away to a place undisclosed.
Now I, among the Krynkers, remained alone. I was given a man from Grodno as a bedmate. We were good friends; however, this did not last long. Once I decided to bring a little box of sardines into the lager for the person in charge of the block, so that he would bring Yashka Marglius and Yehosha Shapiro to our brigade. I was searched at the gate and the sardines were found, and in the morning terrible lashes were executed on me. When my feet and hands were untied, I fainted to the ground. I no longer could go to work and my period of Kanada ended.
I was taken to one of the worst and dirtiest blocks, where those returning from the precinct and those who were incapable of working were found.
Opposite us stood the women's lager. We would look from afar at how the shadows without hair, without shoes, in torn shirts moved around. It was strictly forbidden to stand near the wire and talk to the women, and the women were forbidden the same.
A group of young girls from 17 to 20 years old from our transport had entered the lager, but none of us knew if any of them still lived. I would often stand on the side, straining to look at the women; perhaps I would see an acquaintance.
Only several dozen people remained from our transport, and their number diminished more from day to day. Several were sent away to Boba, a nearby lager, and one of them was taken into the sonderkommando (special commando brigades of Jews working in the camps) however, we did not see him because the sonderkommando was separated from the surrounding lager. Carrying sacks of food, they would often throw bread to acquaintances, and thus our Krynker would throw some to one of us, and we would share it.
Once we succeeded in speaking through a hole which someone had chopped in the wall. From him we learned that Shlomoh Avnet - Abnet , der geler (the blond) - from our shtetl worked in the crematorium. He had been brought three months before us from another shtetl. Through the hole, I would often receive a little water and a piece of bread, too. I would wait a moment, when no one would notice and we would speak together. From him I learned precisely how the gassing and cremating of the victims was done and about the fate of our own people.
Several Polish civilians worked with us. It was forbidden to speak a word with them. Pinya Klas worked together with me on the brigade. He quickly became acquainted with a Pole and began to trade quietly with him selling a shirt, a pair of civilian pants without the lager stripes, and so forth, which we would get from those who worked in Canada and in the sonderkommando. Pinya had a cousin, Asniel (Etniel) Leibowicz in the sonderkommando; he would support him with things. I formed a partnership with Asniel and what the Pole would bring once a couple of eggs or what else we would divide among us. Once, however, I was caught with five eggs in my pocket and I was punished with five nights standing in a narrow dark chimney with very little air, filled underneath with water, into which a little fluoride had been poured.
From our transport, only ten people remained in Birkenau. The master craftsman sent a group from our brigade, among us Pinya and me, to dig foundations to the ovens in the women's lager. We were warned that it was forbidden to speak one word with the women, even our own sisters. There we looked for the familiar face of a woman and did not find any. However, I did not lower my eyes from every passing woman: perhaps I would yet meet someone from Krynki.
Our small group again became even smaller. This time it was the end of Yehoshua Shapiro. He no longer had any strength to stand on his feet and go out to work. One day he was taken away to the crematorium.
Here the unexpected happened to me. As on all days, I observed the passing pale, blackened women. Suddenly I saw a young girl in a torn shirt, feet bound in paper and blood running out from underneath. The head was shaved, the face small and pale. She draged a large bucket to pour out. The eyes, so familiar; was it not my school friend, Ruchla Zakheim?!
I shared my conjecture with friend Pinya. We decided to call her by name, when we went back. We both stood impatiently. And she appeared like an unfortunate 10-year old child. I remained standing in my place in the open door. Pinya went up on the side and as she neared the barrack, he quietly called out: Ruchla! Abraham! an answer was heard and she fell in a faint to the ground.
S.S. men walked around past us. I was not supposed to move from the spot. If I had gone to her, we both would have lost our lives. I stood steadfast and I saw before me Ruchla, my friend from my sweet school years. Later in SKIF (pre-war Bundist youth organization), now, in the camp at first glance a shadow of the always laughing Ruchla.
We decided, Pinya and I, to help her, the last surviving girl from Krynki here. I bribed my Capo (prison supervisor). He brought to me her arm-number and informed me of where she was located. According to her block, she had only a few more days to live. The Capo joined us; he carried my first few words to her she should hold out, we would help her. He brought me back a little piece of paper from her she wrote that she was the last remaining one from the entire transport.
She needed considerable help. First of all to have a better appearance so she would not be one of the first candidates for going to the crematorium. We secured attire for her. We had to pay the Capo well for him to provide it for her. We had to pay him again to prevail on the German women who stood at the head of the lager, to let her out of the block. We bought them off with good cigarettes, silk stockings and other luxury articles, for which we would risk our lives carrying them to the German women.
We succeeded in bringing Ruchla to work in Canada. Here, her situation improved; we saw her very often from afar and wrote letters. She washed dress-shirts for me so I would look clean and be taken care of. It did not last long; as we were led from the women's lager. Mute and with many tears, Ruchla accompanied us from the site.
We announced to those from our shtetl in the lager that Ruchla Zakheim was here and that it was our duty to keep her alive as long as we ourselves had life. Pinya and I took upon ourselves the duty to do everything to save her from her present situation. I explained to the Capo that I had found a sister in the lager and that she was in danger that any day she could be taken in a selection. He promised me to help with protection from the German women, who stood at the head of the lager. We obtained and brought to the women's lager all that we were able to get hold of, to encourage Ruchla to feel that she was no longer alone.
The first two crematoria began to burn just before Passover. Here, at first without stop, day and night, thousands of unfortunate human souls were spit out of the chimneys. A barrack was built on the courtyard and our brigade worked there. Every day I would meet Asniel Leibowicz and Shlomoh the blond and they would tell me about the dreadful scenes that they saw near the crematorium.
In the middle of 1943, we succeeded in again working our way into Canada. Ruchla, too, worked in Canada's women's brigade. Here she was considered my sister. It was strictly forbidden here, too, to speak with the women, although I succeeded in holding a short talk with Ruchla. She explained to me that all of the remaining girls who were with her had perished, until there was one other, and the last, Mercha Yaglom. Ruchla was with her in the death block, from which they were supposed to take her also to the gas chamber. Mercha was so exhausted and weakened that her strength left her and she died before they had time to take her to the crematorium.
After working two months in Canada, I became sick with typhus. I lay six weeks in the precinct [previously described as an alleged healing center] and became healthy. However, I was extremely weak and they no longer wanted to take me back in Canada. I went to the komande tzimere [people who helped him recover]. However, I worked very little. Every day I would come into the sondercommando and receive a piece of bread from Asniel and Shlomoh. I felt terrible and could no longer go out to work; Shlomoh hid me in his bed, where I would lay until before the nighttime roll call. I would get food from him. I lay like this for two weeks.
On the first of May, we only worked until mid-day. We assembled next to Shlomoh on the box and sang workers' songs. A guard stood at the gate, who was supposed to give us a sign if the S.S. came in. Asneil would often sing Russian songs and was very joyful. Shlomoh was just the opposite. He was always lost in dreams with a quiet sad look. He would argue that we needed to free ourselves or fall as heroes in the struggle. He was always busy with plans about how to blow up the crematoria, so that there would be no more gassings.
In May 1944, Asniel Leibowicz, the other one in addition to me who remained in Birkenau from our transport, was taken away with another 200 sondercommando workers. They were taken to Lublin on the pretext that they would work there. However, as soon as they got off the train, they were taken to the bath. There, they were taken into another room five at a time and shot.
Shlomoh, who now had steadfastly begun to work out a plan to blow up the crematorium, remained in the sondercommando. A former major, a Russian, who had been brought from Majdanek to the sondercommando with a group of Russians - together with Shlomoh - worked out a plan. Shlomoh confided in me that they were working on a bomb. The women who worked in the gunpowder factory would bring the gunpowder. Ignoring the fact that there were strong controls, individual women would take a little bit of gunpowder each day in their shoes and this would reach Shlomoh.
The plan called for four crematoria to be blown up all at the same moment. Then the barbed-wire would be ripped off the women's lager and everyone would scatter. One day crematorium number three was blown up and the German capo and the obersarfuhrer (German military rank) were thrown into the fire alive. The crematorium was crushed. Then everyone ran out on the courtyard and ran to the guard tower. Several guards were defeated with bare hands, their guns were taken, the barbed-wire was ripped off the women's lager and the majority escaped.
The S.S. realized what was happening and raised an alarm that a battle had broken out. The majority of the brave fighters escaped. The entire courtyard was covered with red bodies, among which was found Shlomoh, shot in the stomach.
Crematorium number three no longer gassed. Shlomoh fell in the struggle for respect for the Jewish people.
At the time of Hitler's great defeat and as the Russians neared, an order was issued to evacuate our lager to Germany. We were taken to Shtuthof near Danzig. Here, too, the crematorium worked, although fewer people were gassed here than in Auschwitz. Among the Poles, who were the majority here, I met one from Krynki, a former assistant policeman with the Germans. And I asked him: Ejik Czarnyecki, you are in the lager, too?! he lowered his head and asked, Jeszcze zyjac?, meaning, You are still alive?
He related to me what had happened to those who had run away from Krynki to the woods, and how they caught those who hid in the boiler of the bath and how they were all shot in the market. When Krynki was Yudnrein (cleansed of Jews), he explained, the former ghetto commissar gathered in the Beis Midrash (synagogue) the clothing and underwear that the Jews had left. He, Czarnyecki, was one of the Polish policemen who stood there on guard. The ghetto commissar caught him taking out several pieces of clothing from there and, therefore, sent him to Shtutof-lager.
We were liberated on April 23, 1945. After a while I met my friend and fellow survivor, Ruchla Zakheim, and after many difficulties we reached Uruguay.
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