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[Page 381]

Nowy–Dworer in the Fight of the Warsaw Ghetto

by Melech Neustadt

Translated by Pamela Russ

 

Hersh Yitzchok Wronski

Hersh Yitzchok Wronski was born in Warsaw, August 1924, into a family where the spirit of working the Land of Israel reigned (his father, an activist from the leftist Poalei Zion, Yosel Wronski is living in Israel). Hirsh studied in a Central Yiddish School Organization (TZISHA) on Krochmalne 36, and was one of the strongest students. He also was voted by the school comrades as class chairman.

 

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Hersh Yitzchok Wronski and his mother

 

His school essays were published in the children's supplements of the “Folkszeitung” [People's Newspaper], and in the publications of the parents' committee of the TZISHA People's schools.

Before that, he belonged to the children's organization “ Skyf” – the children's Bundist organization. After that, when he was more than twelve years old, he entered “Jungbar,” the children's organization from the leftist Poalei Zion. He attracted more children to Jungbar, and with time he became one of the active and managing comrades of Jungbar.

During war time, he was involved in the work of the underground. Bela Elster (Wanda) recounts in “The Free Youth” (Lodz, June 1947), that in Wronski's small room on Nawolipie Street there was an instruction seminar of the leftist Poalei Zion. Three times a week, the future instructors gathered there, and the young Wronski would already always think ahead about an appropriate position.

During the time of the ghetto fighting, he participated in the fighting groups of the leftist Poalei Zion.

In a letter of May 24, 1944, written by the leftist Poalei Zion in Poland to their friends in Israel, his name is mentioned among those who fought loyally until the last minute, and were killed during their guard.

 

Shoshana Jakubowycz

Shoshana Jakubowycz was born in Nowy Dwor. She was a member of the “Freiheit” and “Hechalutz Hatzeiri” organizations [Zionist youth movements].

During the war she went to Warsaw where she worked in the Czerniakow agricultural farm of “Hechalutz.” Later she was in the headquarters of the “Dror” comrades, Mila 34.

She was a member of a fighting group of “Dror.” During the ghetto uprising in April–May of 1943, she fought in the “ghetto center” under the direction of Zachariah Ornstajn. She was among those who remained in the ghetto area, and after May 8, 1943, when the fighting was raging, she was killed there.

Her name is on the list of those who died during the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

 

Yosef Litman

Yosef Litman was born in Nowy Dwor in 1919. His father was a merchant and a Zionist. Yosef studied in Nowy Dwor in a General School [generic rather than vocational school], after which he …

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… entered “Hashomer Haleumi,” but the majority of his activity was with “Maccabee” [pioneering Zionist youth groups].

When he came to Warsaw, he worked as a locksmith, and in the last period in the ghetto, he worked in the Landau shop. He was part of the Jewish fighting organization and fought in the leftist Poalei Zion fighting group under the direction of Hersh Berlinski, among the fighters that were fortunate to make it through the sewage system on the Aryan side.

He joined the partisan groups among the last remaining ghetto fighters who fought in the Wyskow forests.

He was among the partisans who knew well the route from the east side of the Bug River to the west side – so, during a partisan war operation he led a group of comrades to the west side under the leadership of Dovid Nowodworski. When he came to the area of Ostrow–Mazowiecki, the group stopped in the forest and sent a friend to a farmer in a nearby village, who acted as a communiqué between the partisan groups.

Yosef accompanied him and remained outside on guard. During the time that the other person was inside with the farmer, Polish police arrived and began to shoot at him. The comrades who were in the forest nearby were able to run away successfully, but he was severely wounded. Crawling, he was able to reach the forest – after he successfully hid his gun in a haystack – and with great difficulty he found a messenger who could tell the group where he was. The comrades, among them Hersh Berlinski, Eliyau Erlich, and so on, came to him with a doctor, but he was already dead. This was June 28, 1943.

His name is on the list of those who died during the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

 

Zishe Papjer (Zygmunt)

Zishe Papjer was born in Nowy Dwor on May 3, 1907. His father, an owner of a shipping company, was a Zionist. Zishe completed his studies in the local General People's School, and after that he worked in a porcelain factory. He was a member of “Maccabee” in Nowy Dwor.

After the war broke out, his entire family (parents and eight children) moved to Warsaw. In the last period of the ghetto, Zishe worked in the Landau shop. Along with his sister Penina (one of the few fighters that survived; she lives in Israel today), he was pulled into the fighting unit of the leftist Poalei Zion by Hersh Berlinski. He was a brave and devoted soldier of the fighting organization.

During the uprising, he fought in the brushmaker area. On May 3, 1943, when a group of fighters tried to fight their way from their demolished bunker on Francziskan 30 Street to another bunker, Zishe, who had already been wounded from a day before in a fight near the bunker, died in the fight with the Germans. This was on his 26th birthday.


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The Nowy Dwor Rabbi in the Warsaw Ghetto

by L. Feingold

Translated by Amy Samin

The rabbis, heads of yeshivot [schools of religious study], and Torah scholars from thousands of cities and towns in Poland were the first to suffer. They were broken and exhausted, frozen and starving. Their communities were destroyed, as were their livelihoods. The Nazis were especially abusive towards them, tormenting them to the point of death, banishing them, and uprooting them from their homes. Most of them moved on to Warsaw, which became a large collective of the Jews of Europe.

There was a great shortage of food and housing. Only the daring who were capable of risky acts were able to obtain bread. The rest – merchants, craftsmen, workers – earned a living selling their clothes. All the more difficult was the situation of the Torah scholars, who came here from their towns bereft and penniless, wandered among the ruins, starving and freezing. Although the Joint [Joint Distribution Committee] would hand out thousands of meals every day, Tashervinsky from the community organized a “Bread House” – carts loaded with bread and coffee, which were trundled from place to place and the food and drink handed out as a morning meal to those in need – but because of the crowding during the distribution of meals, the rabbis and the Torah scholars were always last in line, and walked away empty–handed. Only those who were assertive, who could open a path for themselves, would reach the soup pot.

One of the exiles was Rabbi Reuven Yehuda Neufeld, known as “the rabbi of Nowy Dwor”, who had been compelled to leave his town of Nowy Dwor. He had been unable to hide from the eyes of the Germans in his town. It was a small place with nowhere to hide, especially when the town was annexed to the Third Reich. Upon his arrival in Warsaw, he sent a disquieting appeal to an association of rabbis in America, demanding help for the rabbis, heads of yeshivot, and Torah scholars of Poland. Together with the Joint, he founded the organization Tomchei Deoreita [Torah Supporters] especially to provide aid to Torah scholars. He brought Reb Y. Nissenbaum, Rabbi A. Z. Friedman, Rabbi Treistman, Rabbi Adelberg, Reb A. M. Rogoboi, and Rabbi Merifin into the organization with him.

The association of rabbis in America sent packages of food to Poland. In the packages were items such as oil, canned milk, eggs, coffee, and tea. The packages were worth quite a sum in the hungry and depleted Poland. In exchange for such necessities it was possible to buy a decent amount of bread and potatoes.

The rabbi of Nowy Dwor was the driving force behind the distribution of food packages. He could always be found in the offices of the Joint, dealing with the dispersal of the packages to rabbis and heads of yeshivot, work he always did anonymously. His happiness was great while he was occupied in this work. He willingly accepted every new name of a rabbi, head of a yeshiva, or Torah scholar that was added to the list of recipients, always with the feeling that with the sending of a package to someone, he was anonymously saving another Jewish soul.

All of his life Rabbi Neufeld wanted to make aliyah [immigrate] to the Land of Israel. During the war, that desire grew stronger, as during that time it became more and more clear that the Nazi savage would trample all of the Jews of Poland. By nature a humble man, he didn't even take the trouble to become certified as a rabbi in the big city. His home was in the world of the Halacha [Jewish law]; he dwelled deep inside the Torah and didn't make many public appearances. But whenever the subject under discussion was related to the Land of Israel, he would come out from his corner and explain the value of the Holy Land to every Jew in attendance. He always stood firm in his opinion that Israel has no right to exist in exile. Jews must leave Poland, sooner or later. He would invest all of his strength in explaining the matter of building the land to every single Jew. His wisdom and moderation were quite influential.

In his youth, he had participated in the founding of a religious youth movement called Reason. The organization was established in Warsaw, and its purpose was self–education. When it opened, he said: “Normal life is divided into different kinds of people, strong and weak, good and bad, wealthy and impoverished. But when it comes to building the land, there is no place for those divisions. A people builds its land as a united force. Strong and weak, good and bad, wealthy and impoverished – everyone builds with a united desire!”

The rabbi tried to influence the first “Great Convention” which gathered in Vienna in such a way that the Haredi Jews would take an active role in the building of the Land. He would often say:

“One Father for us all, one Torah for us all, and one Land for us all. The Land of Israel.”

During the First World War he was among the organizers of the largest meeting of the rabbinate of Jablonna, and influenced that gathering to make a positive decision in favor of building the Land.

During those difficult days he wanted to immigrate to the Land of Israel. He was even sent tickets for travel through Italy via the Lloyd Triestino Company [now Italia Marittima]. But the rabbis, especially the honored teacher from Grodzisk, asked him to remain in Warsaw. There were various reasons. First, the honored teacher from Grodzisk believed that rabbis, in particular activist rabbis whom the public relied upon, should not be permitted

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to leave their people at such a time of bitter adversity. Second, it was clear that the food packages from America were the sole source of income for the rabbis and Torah scholars, and without them all would perish from starvation. That work could only be done by Rabbi Neufeld, who had invested his heart and soul in it. He did everything that they said, so that those who studied Torah could get through the difficult days. Indeed, the rabbis stood before him and, with tears in their eyes, asked him not to leave.

The rabbi from Nowy Dwor could not refuse the request of hundreds of rabbis and Torah scholars. He remained in Warsaw, and more than once he said, “I have a weak character. I felt with all of my being that my remaining in Warsaw meant death for me. A man must save himself insofar as he is able. But I could not refuse the request of the rabbis and the heads of the yeshivot , with whose lives my own is tied with thousands of threads.”

America entered the war and the packages stopped coming to Poland. They tried to send them by circuitous means, but the Germans would confiscate the packages for their own purposes. The organization Tomchei Deoreita [Torah Supporters] was in dire straits. Rabbi Neufeld became ill over the grief and suffering of the Torah scholars. While he was ill, he wrote questions and answers on the topic of Kiddush Hashem [the sanctification of God's name through martyrdom]. His writings were saved.

During the food deliveries, he lay sick in bed. His work with the Joint allowed him to remain where he was, rather than being sent to one of the death camps. But at the end of the first big aktion [action] in September of 1942, he was taken by rickshaw to the Umshlagplatz [the central square in Warsaw under German occupation]. Under his arm he held his writings on Jewish law and legend, and as he was carried along he studied them, leafing through the pages regarding Kiddush Hashem. Then he gave the manuscript to a Jewish policeman, asking him to hide them at a certain address. He stressed: “Please save the long pages, on which is written the answer to Kiddush Hashem.”

The rabbi tried to get up, as if he had in his mind to flee, but his failing strength was not up to the task, and he remained seated in his place. His face was clouded as he sat, immersed in his thoughts. The S.S. man who had accompanied the rickshaw, saw the rabbi's movement and took out his pistol, ready to shoot him. But the rabbi from Nowy Dwor was not alarmed by his action, and told him calmly: “Thus you are leading me to work in the Eastern counties? I am sick, and unable to work. What do you need with sick people who are ready to die? Let me die here in peace.”

The S.S. man returned his pistol to its holster, stared at the rabbi, and said: “All who wish to die here can commit suicide. There is no shortage of poison. Sick people like you are being sent “there” – to places where there are excellent hospitals.”

He nudged the rickshaw, and the driver led the rabbi in the direction of the transport cars. The rabbi said to himself, and to the universe: “I never got the chance to sanctify God's name, I never got the chance…”

The rickshaw stopped by a car of the train. A Ukrainian came running, drew the rickshaw closer to the car, and the body of Rabbi Reuven Neufeld of Nowy Dwor was deposited into the train, which set off in a direction from which six million Jews never returned.


[Page 385]

From Nowy Dwor to the Revolt in Treblinka[1]

by Yakov Domb, Yaffo

Translated by Pamela Russ

When the Germans began bombing Nowy Dwor, my family and I fled to Warsaw. We thought the situation there was better. But Warsaw was afire. Houses were destroyed and demolished. All the fugitives were searching for a place to lay their heads down to rest. And in this storm, I ran, carrying my child in my hands.

In the place I was able to spend my day, I could not spend the night. To feed oneself – there was nothing. The bombs did not stop by day or by night, and with lightning speed the Germans took over Warsaw.

They immediately began torturing Jews. They nabbed Jews for work, and no one knew if they would return from work. Every day, each person said goodbye to his family before going to work as if they were parting forever.

These difficult conditions produced quick consequences – plagues; typhus “ruled like a king.” Soon they had to experience quarantines and bathe in cold water even on the freezing cold days, and many became sick from this and died.

In 1940, when the ghetto was established, the situation became even worse. I went to work in a shop by “Thebenz” – a German company, where I received a little soup once a day, and that's how, in these conditions, I did my work until 1942, when there was absolutely nothing left to eat and people died like flies.

On Yom Kippur, they suddenly took me and some other Jews out of the shop. I was able to escape, and I ran to be with my family.

But sadly, I did not find anyone. They told me that all of them had been sent away to work, but where they were sent I did not know, and there was no one to ask. In this situation, when nothing really mattered anymore, I returned from my home at Francziskaner 30 to Lesne 72, to the group of Jews with whom they had removed me from the “shop.”

They made us all sit down with our feet under us, with the warning that whoever would move would be shot immediately. That's how we sat for four hours. Later they took us away to the umschlagplatz [the square in Warsaw where Jews were gathered for deportation from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp, and with many more amassed Jews, we were loaded into wagons, up to 120 people in a wagon, until the point of suffocation. Many actually did suffocate from the horrific over– crowdedness during the trip that lasted all night.

When we arrived at the place, they told us that this was Treblinka. At that time, none of us knew what that meant, but as I got out of the wagon, they “welcomed” me with beatings, hit us with sticks, so that I forgot where I was and even who I was. When I regained consciousness, I noticed a huge pile of shoes, boots, and valuables.

I saw a group of people, one close to the other, hands locked together as in a ring. I wedged myself into the ring, not knowing what was going on there. Then I heard one saying to the other: “Saved for how long, no one knows. A day or two…”

We were led away to an enclosed yard where Ukrainians guarded us. They put us on a ramp, and told us to give over all the packages that we unfortunates had brought with us. They hit us with sticks, beat us with clubs, and we had to run through the rows of Ukrainians, and …

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… be careful that the beatings should not cause blood to run from the wounds, because as soon as the murderers saw blood, they immediately removed the wounded person and took him to the “Lazaret.”[2] The Lazeret was the road to death. Whoever went in there – was shot to death.

In the evening, I, along with the other workers, were set out in rows for an Apel [roll call]. A group of musicians sang and played at the Apel, among whom there was a musician from Warsaw – Gold –and another one – a singer from Warsaw, and other musicians. They sang and played as 17 to 18 wagonloads of Jews were gassed. We sang “Mein Shtetele Belz,” “Gorali,” and then we were all forced to run as if in a carousel, chased with sticks. Whoever stopped was immediately taken to the “Lazaret.”

The “Lazaret” consisted of a large ditch, across which boards lay, and an “eternal flame” of people burned there day and night. They took all the pregnant women there, the elderly, lame, and all others who had committed a “crime” at work. These “sinners” and all the others had to undress immediately. They were shot to death and then burned.

When transports arrived, they shaved the women's heads, and then they all had to undress – men and women together, and then hand over all monies and valuable possessions to a designated box that was found in the hall between the camp of the living and the death camp, a distance of 60 to 70 meters.

Everyone was told that they were being taken to be bathed, but this was the route to the gas chambers where millions of wretched Jews went, and from which no living person ever came back.

And we, in the camp of the living, had to get up before dawn to go to work, and run quickly with a cup in hand for a little bitter water that was called “coffee.” For lunch we were given some soup from unpeeled potatoes, fattened up with bran. They only gave meat when a horse died in the village. For the evening bread, they gave a small bread for eight people, part of which the people kept for the next day.

That's how we lived, day after day, in this camp that was disguised with green trees, surrounded with barbed wire and separated into two sections.

Very often, during the Apel, they would ask for those who were skilled tradesmen, and once, when I said that I was a shoemaker, as if [that were true], they took me over to sort shoes and for a few days I was occupied with that work. According to the orders of an SS man, I had to carry a sack filled with shoes 50 to 60 meters from that place where I worked, and suddenly, I found myself in the death camp. I could not go back from there.

Then they assigned me to different work – I had to carry the gassed bodies on my shoulders to the dug–out ditches. With that work, I cursed the minute I had been born. The dead bodies smelled, and I thought I would never come out of this alive. I tried to end my life, but the person who slept next to me began to scream wildly and did not allow me to do so.

After all these difficult experiences and sleepless nights, I looked for an escape route. I remembered an appropriate place near the wires between the two camps. I went over to the camp of the living and right away began to mingle between the others who positioned themselves for the Apel. An SS man immediately came over with screams and orders, but none of the Jews responded, so that I remained among the living and everything passed uneventfully.

A few days later, during an Apel, they asked who was a gardener. Since my father, of blessed memory, had fruit orchards, I presented myself as a gardener. But they wanted someone to weed and take care of all kinds of vegetables, and since I had no idea how to do any of this, I was in danger. But a Jewish agronomist who was among us, saved me. We began to plough …

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… and sow. We had no horse for this work, but had to do everything with our own energies.

Along with my gardening, I had another function, to clean all the toilets of our workers and of the SS men. Because of the stench of my clothes, all the guards kept their distance from me and therefore guarded me less closely. And that's how I was able to live undisturbed for some time.

The head of the camp was an Obersturmführer [first lieutenant] named “Lialke” [doll]. His real name was Kurt Franz, but they called him “Liakle” because he was very handsome. He had a dog that they called “Bori.” With his huge dog and with a hunting rifle in hand, Franz, the “doll” would go out for his stroll, rile up his dog that was trained to attack and bite [attack] the sex members of the men. Just as the attacked Jew fell wounded, Franz immediately aimed his rifle at him, and the wounded was taken to the “Lazaret.” This gave Kurt Franz great pleasure.

Another torturer of the Jews was someone called the “Angel of Death.” His name was Mita. Quietly, he would call: “Come here! Come here!” And then shoot.

Another SS man by the name of “Dep” – his main goal was to murder children. He would grab children by their feet and smash their heads against the walls.

Another SS man, a fifty–year–old, by the name of Miller. He came especially from America to help the Germans exterminate the Jews. When the transports arrived, he would shoot the pregnant women. If a woman would give birth, first he would shoot the child and after that the mother.

Among all these persecutions and evils, we saw that no one would come out of this alive. We began to think and encourage one another, and then prepare for an uprising.

At that time, the Budnik brothers were also with us. One had his wife and two daughters, the second brother was alone. Both did mechanical work and followed the orders of all the various skilled workers. The two brothers, as workers in the various locksmith shops, had an entry to the ammunition arsenal, and they used the opportunity and hide a key to the arsenal – and thanks to that, we had the opportunity to prepare munitions for the uprising in Treblinka.

The wagon that I used for removing the waste from the toilets became the transport medium for taking munitions from the arsenal. The first transport consisted of hand grenades. With great risk, the grenades were taken from the arsenal to a designated place.

When the day of the uprising was decided, the grenades were checked to make sure all was well, and then it was discovered that the ignition cords were missing. It is impossible to imagine the feeling I had when I took back the useless grenades to the arsenal.

All of this transpired during the days of Passover 1943, during the time of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. We had to delay our rebellion, and our plan only came to fruition on August 2 of that same year.

By that time, the grenades were in proper form, with the ignition cords. We also had other ammunition by then, and each …

 

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By the ovens

 

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… one of us had his designated place and task in the planned uprising.

The camp was surrounded by barbed wire, around the camp – various barriers to impede tanks, and after all that, a weaving of entangled barbed wire. In the camp, the Ukrainians were keeping guard from their watchtowers with machine guns, and by the gas station, several cars were standing all ready.

Under these conditions we prepared the rebellion. We set the day, but everything started two hours earlier than we had planned because of an accident:

Two boys had stolen bread from the Germans. They boys were stripped naked and then beaten and interrogated. So we were afraid that they would reveal our plan of rebellion. We threw grenades onto the gas station and a huge fire spread. The Germans were running around in an uproar. They had not expected such an occurrence. Soon we began to shoot at the boys' tormentors, and also shot at the watchtowers and eliminated the guard; victims fell from us and from the Germans. In this chaos, we climbed over the wires and ran wherever our eyes took us.

The following morning, there were searches and round–ups. I and another Jew from Warsaw hid among potatoes. We waited there for two days until things quietened down. And then we went over to the partisans.

But here new troubles began. As soon as the partisans discovered that we were Jews, we had to run away into another forest where there was no trace of people.

That's how we wandered in forests and fields, without bread or water, and without sleep. Only at night would we approach a village and steal some food that was prepared for the dogs, and on all the roads, we were threatened to be killed by the Christians.

All the roads and forests and the gruesome images remain before my eyes. There is no more energy to relive the past. Every word reminds again of the horrors that were done to each one of my people.

 

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A group of those who were saved from the death camp Treblinka
From the right: Shimon Czegel, Volf Sheinberg, Henje Tradcz, the Nowy Dworer Yankel Domb, and Mendel Karatnicki


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Yakov Domb revealed all these details about Treblinka as a witness for the investigating trials in Israel, in February 1965. Return
  2. “Lazaret” was a fake infirmary with the Red Cross sign on it. It was a small barracks surrounded by barbed wire where the sick, old, wounded and “difficult” prisoners were taken. Directly behind the “Lazaret” building there was an open excavation pit seven meters (23 ft.) deep. These prisoners were then led to the edge of the pit and shot. (Wikepedia) Return


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Nowy Dworer in the Treblinka Revolt

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

On the celebration of the third anniversary of the Treblinka revolt (the celebration was held in Plock), the fighter and resistor Plotkowycz (pseudonym: Kartoflarzh) described, as a witness to the events, the heroic acts of the Jewish fighters in the death camp of Treblinka. Among other details, Plotkowycz remembered the Nowy Dworer who participated in the uprising:

“The workers who survived and saw everything have sworn to take revenge on the Germans. A nephew of the former Czechoslovakian president Masaryk placed himself at the top of this. The nephew made contact with the Ukrainians and bought a few guns. Because a Jew talked, after a search, the Germans found the guns. The Germans assembled everyone and shot every tenth person. Then the second plan for the revolt was put together with Captain Galewski. The first part of this second plan was carried out by the Plocker Gutman and Tik from Nowy Dwor, who killed the first German in the workshop.

The second order from Captain Galewski was to get the ammunition out of the stockroom. An impression of the key was made out of bread by the Nowy Dwor Jew, Budnik.”

(Excerpt from a newspaper article in Poland.)

 

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Efraim Budnik, a locksmith from Nowy Dwor.
The skilled combatant in the Treblinka uprising, as a Polish soldier before World War II.

 


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Back from the Death Pits

by Itshe Tap, Havana

Translated by Pamela Russ

When the Nazis invaded Nowy Dwor, I and another group left to go to our German friends, the Janczes, and there we hid among the trees. Yisroel Borenstajn was also with us. But it was not long before the Nazis discovered us.

Some of the group ran away successfully, and among those I saw how Yisroel Borenstajn jumped over a fence. In this uproar, my wife and two children were killed. I, and the others that were caught, were tortured without stop and then sent to do all kinds of forced labor. For a short time, I also worked for the Folksdeutch Benek Wendt on Piaskowe Street [“Piasek”].

After that, the Nazi bandits established and cordoned off the Nowy Dwor ghetto. They sectioned off part of Warsawa Street until the cemetery. Near the slaughterhouse they placed gallows, where they hanged, among others, my dearest and best friends.

The fact that I remained alive was only because I was physically strong, and I tried not to stagnate and resolved to survive the hard labor. But in the end, my fate was the same as the others. The murderers dragged me to Auschwitz. The labor there was even harder, and I began to lose my strength.

From time to time, I was able to get a piece of bread from a civilian German who lived not far from my workplace, but these “gifts” cost me a lot. One morning, when I had cleaned away the snow and then received a piece of bread from this good German, the guard noticed this. I froze in fear, but did not lose my head. I swallowed some bites and the rest I quickly buried in the deepest snow. But this did not help, and soon began the most intolerable tortures.

First of all, they began to interrogate the German – my bread supplier. He lied about everything and they let him go, but after that they got a hold of me. They began to interrogate, and broke four sticks over my body in the process. They beat me without mercy but got not even one word from me. I fell faint, and they poured water over me. When I came to, I felt that my heart was still beating. I was terribly cold and I felt globs of congealed blood all over me. It was pitch black around me. I began feeling my way in the dark and felt that I was lying among dead bodies. With my last strength, I tore off some warm things from the dead bodies and covered myself.

When I regained consciousness, I felt that the top part of my skull was open. How long it took to cart me off with the rest of the dead bodies – I do not remember. I tried very hard not to move while we were being transported so as not to be shot on the way to the death pits.

When we got closer to the death pits, where they threw in the dead bodies and covered them with lime, as I was lying in the wagon half dead, I heard the voice of a tall SS officer. This was the son of Albert of Wiesendorf, where my father had always bought milk. Meanwhile, the Jews, whose job it was to bury the dead, approached me and didn't want to leave me alone, even though I pleaded with them for mercy, and that I wanted to live and did not want to undress… A Nazi was guarding with a machine gun and I heard how one of those who were burying and undressing said to the other: “Kick him in his heart and be done with it!” … The German with the …

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… machine gun was ready to do the job, but this Albert's son, the Gestapo officer, did not want to give him the pleasure, so he himself climbed onto the wagon, but here he heard my voice: “It's me! Izak Tap, who bought milk from your father. I don't want to die!” Right away, Albert's son gave an order to take me, the only living survivor, off the wagon and wash off the blood from my body.

Soon, they put me back onto the same wagon, and took me to Jewish doctors with an order to perform an operation. The operation was successful and they found the appropriate medications, until I came back to myself. Through his attendants, the officer also sent me white bread and milk, and then afterwards, he himself came to see me. He apologized to me and asked who had beaten me so murderously. Soon he had this man brought over, and immediately shot the orderly.

That's how my life hung on a hair at that time and that's how I was saved from certain death.


An Encounter in the “Buna” Concentration Camp

by Leibel Kochalski, Cholon

Translated by Pamela Russ

In the year 1943, I was already in the known labor camp of Buna – Monowyze, six kilometers from Auschwitz and the infamous extermination camp Birkenau.

One evening in late fall, completely drenched from rain, I was standing and waiting for a little thin soup. All of a sudden, we heard an uproar, and it was that a new transport of victims had arrived. They were to be kept here overnight – so they said – because of the terrible downpour of rain, on their way to the extermination camp of Birkenau.

Soon the door opened, and a Zakroczyner man entered and informed us that in this [new] transport there were Jews from Zakroczyn and Nowy Dwor, because in our Block, number 51, there were some people from Nowy Dwor. I became frightened. Who knows! Maybe among these, a family member, a relative, a friend? … I grabbed half a piece of bread and some sugar, sneaked into the camp, and went over to that Block where the people from the new transport were held. The Block, however, was locked. They did not allow anyone in. But meanwhile, a group of “old–timers” of the camp gathered, and under the strong rain mixed with snow, we stood and listened to everything that was being said about the new transports.

They said that in that locked up Block, were the Arbeitsdienstführer [Labor Service Leader –– an official responsible for labor output and performance in a concentration camp] and his SS men, and that this was a sign that some of these people would be selected to remain with us in the camp. After much pleading, and after getting him a package of cigarettes, one German let me go into the Block, and there among the bunks, I found my best friend from my youth, Yakov Evanson. He stood out from among the bunks, tall and gaunt. We hugged and kissed, and tears flowed from my eyes as I looked at my dearest friend, at how he was so thin – a real “muselman” [German term meaning “Muslim,” widely used by concentration camp prisoners to refer to inmates who were on the verge of death from starvation, exhaustion, and despair. A person who had reached the muselman stage had little, if any, chance for survival and usually died within weeks (UCSB Oral History Project)], I looked at him with sympathy. Who knows how long he will survive ….

Also, he cried without stop, and he had one request of me: “Do whatever you can, Leibel, so that I remain together with you.” As he told me, he had come with the transport from Majdanek, and now …

[Page 392]

… they were all being taken to Birkenau to “finish them off.” And had he said that he was a locksmith, he would have had the chance to stay here. We had to part and I promised him to do all that I could so that he would be able to stay here.

I immediately went to my Block–elder Hanz, a German, but actually a good person, and told him everything. Also, the arbeitisverteiler [the one who assigned work] of my Block, a Czech Jew, a very decent person, promised that he would help me, and together we were able to resolve the issue in the Block–elder's room. Also, the barracks orderly, Friedman, a Borislaw Jew, was there. I told the entire story to the barracks orderly on duty, that this involved a first–class locksmith who worked with me, but his downfall was that he had not revealed his skill in Majdanek. The barracks orderly on duty promised me that he would do everything possible.

Meanwhile, I went to my “bunk” to sleep a little. Very soon, I was awoken for Apel [roll call], and I left with my group to work. The day stretched like a year because of the unknown fate of my friend Yakov. I could hardly wait until the day would be over, and on the way back to the barracks, the Block–elder told me the good news that Yakov Evanson would remain here as a locksmith.

When I went into the Block to tell the news to Yakov, we fell into each other's arms. And from that time on, we were always together in the camp Buna, until January 19, 1945, when our camp was liquidated and we were separated.

Both of us survived, my friend in Uruguay, and I in Israel.

 

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On the train tracks to Auschwitz

 


[Page 394]

From Drancy to Auschwitz

by L. Majlekhowicz, Paris

Translated by Pamela Russ

After all the prison tortures, after all the murderous beatings and shooting–threats of the Gestapo men, the information that we would be transported to Drancy the following day – seemed to be good news in my eyes.

On those winter days of 1942–43, in Paris and in other French cities, long lists of names of Jews and non–Jews who were taken from the prisons and were shot as hostages, were made public. Therefore, with the announcement that I would be transported to Drancy, I felt a certain security that I would not be shot as a hostage.

The following morning, I and another Jew in my prison cell were taken into the waiting room, and there, suddenly, I saw my wife and child from whom I had been separated for two weeks. Only now did I learn that my wife was in the women's section of the same prison [as I was], and that our child was somewhere under the supervision of Patton's French Red Cross, and he was brought here to be united with his parents.

My little boy, who was barely ten years old, looked like a little prisoner. His hair had been cut, his face – pale, and you could see on his face that he was taking in with all his senses what was going on here.

Our joy at this reunion passed very quickly. Outside, three other Jews from another prison were already waiting. These three were chained together, and I and another person from our prison were chained to them as well. Now we were chained together as a group of five Jewish “criminals” who shared a double guilt: that we were Jews, and that we had gone into hiding and not gone voluntarily to our death.

That's how we left the prison in Tours, the so–called “École Michelet” [Michelet School]. They took us on foot through the city to the train station. As we went into the wagons, where there were civilian passengers, they removed our chains and the senior of our guards warned us that their guns were ready to shoot at any attempt to flee.

At the Paris station of Austerlitz, close to the metro, I saw masses of people were freely streaming in and out of the metro, and a desire befell me – to be free, to mix in with the flow of people, and then to flee. But how could I abandon my wife and child? The prisoner wagon continued to go through the Paris streets, with the closed, barred window preventing us from grabbing that final glimpse of the city where we had left behind our worldly possessions – a home that we built with hard work over a period of fifteen years.

Very quickly the prisoner's wagon stopped at a gate heavy with barbed wire, guarded by French gendarmes. We entered the tragically infamous camp Drancy, that became the anteroom of Auschwitz.

In the large courtyard, between the two tall buildings, I met many Jewish acquaintances from Paris. Here I also met the wife and two children of my Nowy Dwor compatriot Moshe Gutkind, who was a prisoner of war. Here I also learned about the course of the great Aktzia [round–up], the manhunt of July 16, 1942, one of the most tragic days for Parisian Jews. On that day, they dragged out more than 30,000 Jews – men, women, children, elderly, and sick – from their homes and hiding places. Among these were many Nowy Dwor families, long–time residents of Paris.

[Page 395]

In the discussions about all these events, new words began to emerge, such as “deportees” and “deportation.” Every group in the court of Drancy was talking about this. They told me about many of my acquaintances who had been deported with an earlier or later transport.

The Drancy camp was called the “anteroom of Auschwitz,” but from this anteroom, no one hurried to go further. They knew what this meant: deportation and onwards – this meant death.

When we found out that on February 11, 1943, they were preparing to send off a transport – it became hell in the camp. Out of terror, everyone tried to find a way to avoid the transport. Some ran away and tried to find protection, others tried all kinds of briberies and ransoms, and there were also some who tried to dig an underground means of getting out under the barbed wire fence. But even the brave ones could not avoid the transport; the laws of all the death camps were already in place. No one came out alive from there. People lost their minds and some threw themselves off the highest stories.

I saved my wife at the last minute, when she wanted to throw herself out the window of a fifth story, and I have to confess – as gruesome as it is – that later, in Birkenau, among the tall chimneys of the four crematoria, when I thought about the fate of my dead wife I often regretted that I had prevented her from committing the act then. At least in that way, her bones would have had a resting place in the Paris cemetery.

They took us to Auschwitz. In the early hours of the morning, on city buses, they took us to the small train station of the Paris suburb of Burzhe, where they crammed us in, 120 people to a wagon.

On the floor, lay a little bit of straw. There was a barrel of water and also a bucket for our natural needs. In each wagon, they required that we choose a Jewish elder out of the 120 people.

Among us, in our wagon, there was also a group of children from an orphanage, along with their monitor. All of the children, along with their monitor, were placed in the middle of the wagon so that they would have more air to breathe. They also carried in on a board an elderly, paralyzed man from a senior's home.

The devilish SS ran back and forth and followed the orders of their seniors, who were screaming like wild animals. After they slammed and locked the doors to the wagons, and everyone was left sitting stiffly, with a final, tragic glimpse of Paris.

The February sun was already high. Through the cracks in the wagons, the sun's rays streamed and through the small window we saw the farmers in their fields. The train ran on its death route, and who of the outside world knew that in these crowded wagons there were 1,100 sentenced people pressed together, of which were 46 men and 20 plus women, were fated to labor for some time in Birkenau; who knew that in the crematoria of Birkenau everything was already set to “welcome” this very long wagon?

As long as there was still a little water in the cup, and the bucket for nature's needs was still unused, we were still happy, and here and there you could still hear a word to make the mood lighter. But after riding for a day and a night, the situation in the wagon was completely changed. The cup was long dry now, and no one wanted to sit near the bucket, until it was decided to set aside a corner for nature's needs, and that confined the area even more for the already cramped 120 people in the wagon.

The heat and the stench made everyone crazy. There were arguments when someone tried to straighten out his legs at the expense …

[Page 396]

… of the other's tiny space. At night, in the dark, often you would hear a sudden cry because of a smash caused by the neighbor's outstretched leg. The paralyzed elder showed a great calm that demonstrated wisdom and faith. His baggage consisted of his prayer shawl and his tefilin [phylacteries], and a bag of a few large religious books with beautiful leather binding. He became angry only when someone wanted to sit on his bag of books, and he protected them with his hands: “Oh, my books! My books!”

From the group of children, only the very young were heard many times with their childish naiveté, saying that they were going to their Papas and Mamas, and the older ones – in order to maintain the children's positive moods, asked them if it was far to go to their parents. That's how the Nazi murderers and their helpers, the Judenrat, fooled the children before they left, telling them that they were going to see their parents.

One a side, there sat an old lady, about 60 years old, dressed well, and one could see that at one time she was a devoted mother to her children. She had lost her mind … she shot her eyes to all corners of the wagon, as if she was looking for them here. She called: “Bailtche! Malkele!” She cried: “Let me out of here, I want to go to my children!”

In another corner, sat a woman who moaned the entire time, but all of a sudden she became quiet. At daybreak, when the first signs of light broke through the wagon, we saw she lay dead under packages and valises. This happened at night, as someone, in the darkness and cramped condition of the wagon, was looking for more space for himself, and for his convenience he threw down the packages on top of the dying woman. This was not a one–time occurrence. Even before arriving to Birkenau, there were already a few dead.

On the third night, we felt that the weather had changed. Everyone wrapped himself in a blanket, but no one knew that we were already in the cold Polish winter. Snow began to blow through the tiny window.

I busied myself near the window and tried to block it up so that the snow should not enter, but soon the wagons gave a jolting stop, and a crash open, and soon – wild screaming and beatings over the heads: “Everyone out! Everyone out!” Even the motionless dead bodies were beaten with the sticks.

The wild screaming and the beatings confused all of us. They did not allow us to take our belongings. I went out of the wagon holding my child's hand, and seeing how he was trembling from the cold, I risked getting closer to the wagon and snatched a blanket for my son to protect him from the snow and cold. I got several beatings over the head for that, and when I recovered I no longer saw my son or my wife… They were put onto the cargo trucks that were readied and guarded by many SS men, and they were taken directly to the crematoria.

It was a Sunday morning, and usually on this day we did not go to work. Everyone was in the camp courtyard, and suddenly there was running. They were snatching up people for work. Soon I was surrounded by a circle of Kapos [prisoners in Nazi concentration camps who were assigned by the SS guards to supervise forced labor or carry out administrative tasks in the camps], and I was placed in a lineup. I saw how they were chasing a second group. They were running like sheep being chased by wolves. Among those running, I recognized my cousin Yitzchok Hershfang from Nowy Dwor. It had been fifteen years, since I left my town, that I had not seen him.

The Sunday work was even harder than the work of the rest of the week because we did not know what we would do or where we would go. And the worst – we did not know which Kapo would be ours. They took us out of the camp, and to our horror and astonishment, we saw that they were taking us into one of the four crematoria.

They gave me and another person a large box and then they explained the work to us. We had to fill the boxes with the ashes of those who were burned to death and then dump out the ashes in another place. I looked at the …

[Page 397]

… ashes, and there was a large bone. Here was a palate bone… Was it of my wife? My child?

That same day, after coming back to the camp, I went to search out my cousin. I found him quickly. From him I heard about the massacre in Nowy Dwor for the first time. He told me about his wife and children – and I told him about mine. He also told me about my cousins Zajdenberg, that they died in Birkenau, and then also told me about another Nowy Dworer, Holczman, likely Max Holczman's brother.

I met with my cousin every day until my transport to Warsaw. We said goodbye to each other when I was already in the lineup with all the others from our transport.

In the camp, I also met Alter Kszonszkas's brother. He was thin and frail, detached from everything. Even my comforting words to him did not interest him at all. He spoke to no one and answered no one. I understood [his feelings] from his appearance: “How can you help me, the sentenced skeleton?…” At every opportunity I gave him something to sustain him. But really, we could not help very much. During the approximately four months that I was there, until the beginning of October of that same year, when they sent me with a transport along with 4,000 Jews to clean up the destructions in the Warsaw ghetto after the heroic uprising, I no longer saw Kszonszka. He probably died in the big Selektzia [the “selection” for death] of July 1943, when they took a few thousand Jews from the camps directly into the crematoria.

When we were in Birkenau, we heard that in Auschwitz they had set up a vocational school for the youth under age twenty, where they were taught to be masons, and where there were better conditions. Two from those schools, who stood around the boiler pots, received bowls of good food from me and from my commandoes. After some talk, we found out that they were the Papier brothers from Nowy Dwor. After that, when they heard that I too was from Nowy Dwor – they always came at lunch hour to the pot of my commando. This was until a certain Kapo noticed that I was giving them soup, and he chased them away from our work place. I never saw them again, and I don't know if they survived the hell, and, if so, where they are now.

Always, before my eyes, I see the tongues of flames coming out of the tall chimneys of the four crematoria, and in my sleepless nights I see how they led the Jews to the gas chambers.

Before my eyes there will always be the transport of children from Krakow with the little pieces of bread in their tiny hands, just before they were gassed.

I will never forget this horrific sight when they brought the Leszczyner Jews to Birkenau, already dead, already gassed in the limestone wagons – how they put a small, still living girl onto a cargo truck full of dead bodies, and how this little girl stood on top of the bodies and was trying to balance herself, until the camp director took her down from the truck and shot her near the crematoria. I will not forget the child and how the cargo trucks poured out the bodies as if they were emptying out piles of sand and rock.

That's how it was in Auschwitz. That was my road, which was the final road for tens of families from Nowy Dwor who were deported from Paris.

May their names be remembered here:

Advocate Szikora and his family; the wife of Yosef Pesach Rosenfeld and her two children; the wife of Olman (Wolente's daughter); Yankel Gutkind and his son; the wife of Max Lokecz and her son; (the shochet's son) Avrohom Midler (his brother in Australia); the husband of the woman Modern; Yankel Rosenbaum's wife Moroka and her three children. And with them sanctified together – a memory also of my own dear ones –– my wife Faige and my son Felix Majlekhowicz; my mother Baila and my brother Faivel; my two young sisters Charna and Chaya; my brother–in–law Motel Wluka and his three children.

May they remain eternal and may their pain strengthen us in protest against the Nazi criminals.


[Page 398]

In the Fight near Nowy Dwor

by Feywl Karkowicz, Cholon

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

I was mobilized in Kazakhstan, and in November 1943, I was sent to a military camp in Czkalov to be trained as a soldier. By that time, the Hitler armies had already suffered defeats on the fronts, and it was destined for me to experience these battles. Our battalion was sent off to Poland. From there, Russian officers would always come to look for provisions for the wounded divisions. These officers were called “merchants,” and in one of these “businesses” I was assigned to the 176th division in the 47th army, under Marshall Zhukow on the first White Russian front.

We passed through many roads and side roads until we reached the Bug River, and there we finally rested for a while. In October, they took all the carpenters and sent them to a sapper [combat engineer] battalion where they built “mill–courses” to power the Vistula River. After completing the work, they sent us, all the selected carpenters, back to our former battalion, and after new regrouping, we were now sent to Jablonna, not far from Nowy Dwor.

A few days before our departure, in the middle of the night, an officer inspected and made noted of all the soldiers. When it came to my turn, and I said that my place of birth was Nowy Dwor, he asked in surprise if this very city of Nowy Dwor was really only 18 kilometers from here, and was also surprised at my answer, that I was a Jew who had lived in Nowy Dwor until September 1939 when Hitler invaded our city. The officer then asked me: “Do you know, Karkowicz, that tomorrow we will be attacking Nowy Dwor? Are you coming with us?” “Of course, of course!” I replied. The “of course” meant that I would run and take back my city, my dear home, and find my dear ones … and at that moment I didn't even think about what had happened to my dear town, where were my dearest ones, and what could happen to me during the fight against the Hitler murderers.

At that time we were a small group of Jews in the battalion, and we stuck together. Among us there was also someone from Plonsk, Leibel Pilinski. I was together with him until I was wounded and then went to the hospital.

On the front, we were not allowed to reveal that we were Jews. Before we left to the front, a political officer [Russian], a captain, and explained to us how to behave at the front. He asked our group if we were Jews, and when we said we were, I tried to ask whether even in the Red Army we would have to hide the fact that we were Jews, or were we at war really with all nationalities. The captain answered that on the front it was better not to appear Jewish because even among us in the trenches there were some who already were traitors and allied themselves with the Hitlerists in Russia. And they gave us new documents before we left to the front, and my name was now Pavlov Lyontovitch.

We prepared for the front. I am wrapped up in a large coat, and the winter hat with the red star is on my head, weapons and bullets. You pack yourself up with courage, but soon ––– a shiver… There, in Kazakhstan, in Oktiabinsk, I left a wife and two children. Will I ever see them again? … But, once again, we strengthen ourselves. I am going to my city! I will arrive there like a fighter, like a victor, all my dear ones will be able to greet me and embrace me … A longing struck me on that frosty evening. I did not know, and I did not think …

[Page 399]

… that all those from my home town were long gone in the gas ovens.

Before getting to the front, a division general came to us. There was some fear. They quickly taught the newly arrived reservists how to welcome such a general. He gave us a fiery speech: “Enough of playing with ladles. Soon we will attack. Do you hear how the cannons are exploding? Those are ours moving forward!” He gave us courage and we left.

When we, the 16th troop arrived at the place of the shooting, it seemed that everything was in order and they did not need us. So, they sent us to another front section, using the railway line. We are moving in the darkness. Tired, I close my eyes as we go. We stop for a while. The commander calls my name and asks me if I know where we are. I answer, no. He says that we are in the Nowy Dwor station. I look around and search for some sort of sign, a chimney from the packing [dikten?] or starch factories, but I see nothing. It's dark all around. But Nowy Dwor is bright. The city is in flames. The whole sky is red, and my heart trembles. I console myself with total distraction.

We continue on. At the turnpike I say to the officer: “See? This is my city. My home is 200 meters from here.” I beg him to allow me to go there. The officer understands my feelings, but still he warns me: “Tovarishtch [Russian “comrade,” “friend”] Karczowycz, I can let you do that, but you should know that the NKVD [Soviet secret police] are roaming around and they can detain you as a deserter.”

Instead of going to Nowy Dowr, as it was burning, we went to the islet, at Fritz's lake (Fritz was a Volksdeutch [German native], an owner of orchards near Nowy Dwor). After retreating from Nowy Dwor, the Germans hid on the other side of the Vistula. Noticing that we were approaching, they fired heavily at us. Then we strengthened ourselves on Fritz's lake that was heavily frozen, and the walls ofits tall shores were excellent points of protection for us. Lying by these walls, wrapped in cloaks, amidst the shooting, I began to think differently about my city, about my destroyed city. I knew that I would hear about this from my officer.

It wasn't long after this that they led our entire battalion away to the Vistula, and we forced them back. On the other side of the river, cannons were laid out with barbed wire that the sappers had not yet removed. We had to put boards there so we could climb over the wire.

On the other side of the Vistula, we took over the emptied German trenches and when it was daylight we began the attack. The picture of my destroyed city burned within me [and kindled] the desire for revenge, and with that I overcame my tremendous exhaustion.

The Germans began a counterattack and we had to retreat to our trenches. But soon, our Katyushkas came to our aid. They shot heavily into the German positions and once again we went forward on attack. And then, as we were going up a hill, near to Kazyn, some mines exploded, and I got wounded lightly on the hand and more severely in the foot. My foot swelled up immediately and they had to cut open the pants to see the wound.

I had to be taken to a sanitarium [medical point]. With the help of friends, I crawled crossed the Vistula on the ice. At the shore near Nowy Dwor, they took me to Wiesendorf, where I received first aid, and then waited for a car that would take me to the hospital.

I hid in Wiesendorf by Teofil Troczki, a landowner where my father–in–law took care of some orchards. He looked surprised at …

[Page 400]

… the fact that I spoke Polish and was wearing a Russian uniform. He became very excited when he found out that I was from Nowy Dwor, and was the son of the baker Karczowycz. He quickly called his wife and took me into his home. I began to question him about the fate of my city and my home. With that, I forgot about the bloody wound on my foot. Soon Gmyenni came in, the friend from the railroad turnpike, and from him I began to hear the horrifying news, that the city had been completely obliterated, together with the Jews, by the Hitler murderers –– about all the hangings, evacuations to the gas chambers, and about the community graves in the Pomiechowa fields. He also told details about how the wealthy merchant Pinchas Kalworiski shot his boss's son behind the fence, between the [non–Jewish] cemetery and the Jewish cemetery, and that the last Jew, Beryl Cynamon, the refined one, was dragged out from his hiding place in Czarnowa near Pomiechowa, close to the time of the liberation of Nowy Dwor. I remained as if frozen, forgot about my foot, and why I had come to Wiesendorf.

Then a military car arrived and took me to Zegzhe to the hospital. From Zegzhe they took me to a larger hospital to Radzymin. I improved after six weeks (even though the bullet shards still remain in my foot).

As soon as I got off the bed, I did not stop inquiring and searching, to see if anyone remained alive, and I looked for anyone, but in vain.

In the spring of 1945, they sent me to the front again, to the Elba River. I was wounded again, in the hand, a light wound. They took me to the hospital and then sent me to a town, Bernow, behind Berlin.

In a short time, a captain took me in as a translator, then set me up as a manager in a bakery that he had confiscated and where those who had returned from hospital, worked. They had no idea about how to do any of this work. When I began to work in the bakery, many of the concentration camp survivors came to ask for bread. They knew immediately that I was a Jew. Starved, emaciated, they came, and among them also a group of children. I, together with my Russian friends, went out to meet them, gave them bread every day, also milk, meat, and cooked soup. Within about one month, this showed on their faces. These were mainly youth from Hungary, who looked like children.

Then I returned to Russia. I received a pass for five years and I had the right to live in Moscow along with my family, but along with all the Polish “fugitives” we went back to Poland in March 1946.

 

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Feywl Karkowicz with Russian soldiers in Germany,
after leaving the hospital

 


[Page 401]

Among the Partisans[1]

by Moshe Shulman, Canada

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

From spring 1942 until the fall of 1945, I was an active fighter in the partisan camps. I started as a regular partisan, and in a short time I advanced and became the commander of a detachment of 600 armed partisans.

I put together a plan to strike at the murderers of our nation with all my means, directed slaughters, blowing up trains, placing mines on roads, surprise attacks (ambushes), and so on, in order to take revenge for our murdered martyrs. I dedicated my life to this, and went out to meet death that miraculously missed me.

I would like to tell about one of my battles with the Hitlerist enemies.

It was September 1943. As the head of a large unit of partisans, I selected a group of 30 well–armed men, and we set off in the direction of Bobruisk. Our goal was to find the few groups from my detachment who were sent there to carry out all kinds of tasks, and to see if they had followed orders as was required, and also to provide help as needed, and bring back some German prisoners.

We spent the first night in a large village Zielenkiewicze. The residents of the village were very sympathetic to the partisans. The village lay on a crossroad, so our patrols were always on guard there that the enemy should not suddenly capture this important partisan center.

It was a very dark and foggy night, we, exhausted from the long march, all fell asleep, other than two guards who would have to wake me up in case it was necessary.

Because of my frequent fighting with the Germans in and all around the village, I made many friends among the local residents. And just as they found out about my presence, they came to invite me for breakfast. They came very early, about five in the morning. To decline their request – would have been insulting. So, I quickly took my pistol, put away my automatic, and I left with my friends for an acquaintance's home where the table was set with a variety of village foods.

We sat ourselves comfortably around the table, pleasurably inhaling the aroma of the corn pancakes, and the host took out a bottle of home brewed whiskey from under the table for a toast [l'chaim]….

The toasts were interrupted by sudden shots. I did not pay them attention, but soon the shots became heavier. Now we heard machine guns and mortar explosions. There was no longer a doubt that the village was being attacked by the Germans.

When I went out, I noticed through the dense fog how the local residents were fleeing, lugging their cattle behind them. From the reports I understood that Zielenkiewicze was surrounded from the north and west. My group found me immediately and waited for my instructions. Also, the local patrols had left their places, taking with them a heavy machine gun. Immediately, I ordered them to join up with us and take up a position south of the village, right by the convoy.

We now totalled 40 not badly wounded partisans. The shooting got heavier and then came a deadly silence. The rising sun began to dispel the fog, but still we could not see what was going on in the village. I understood that …

[Page 402]

… the mob of Germans and their helpers were looting the village. I took three automatics with me and went to the village, and ordered the machinegun operator to open fire when he would hear the shooting from the automatic begin – and the others, that they should wait for an order. I also sent an order to the brigade's headquarters to send me help.

As I approached the first cabin, using all kinds of side roads, I overheard a group of Germans speaking among themselves and asking where the cattle were hidden. And soon – a complainant's reply… The blood rushed to my face, a feeling of rage and revenge ignited in me, and I immediately opened fire into this group of thieves. Until they figured out from where these bullets were being shot, I closed their eyes forever.

I sent an order to the others that they should immediately come to the village to chase off the German thugs. The fog suddenly thinned, and to my great surprise, I saw how a German with a gun on his shoulder was walking around freely, searching with his eyes. I went directly towards him with an automatic drawn straight out, and I said to him in German: “Come here!” He approached me, and thinking that I was a German commander, he began to deliver the order that the Germans were to pull back from the village. In answer to my question about how many Germans were involved in the fighting, he replied, about 800. On my signal, he was immediately “freed” from his gun and taken prisoner. The other partisans arrived, and with a shout of “Hurrah!” we entered Zielenkiewicze, shooting when a German hat merely appeared. They soon realized, according to the shooting that we were doing, that we were only a small number, and they concentrated themselves in the north of the village, also opening mortar fire.

Then the commander of the brigade arrived, with the single, small tank that we once captured from the Germans, along with another group of partisans. After a heavy attack from us, the Germans began to retreat. I quickly took a troop, and with back roads that only the local peasants know, I went to cut off the roads from the retreating German units.

I didn't have to wait long. Quickly, but in an orderly fashion, they stopped, concentrating their full attention in the back, where the commander of the brigade was active. How surprised they were when I and my group appeared in front of them and began cutting them down with guns wherever we could. Their panic was indescribable. They threw everything down, raised their hands, and pleaded for mercy. I showed them exactly the same mercy that they showed to my dear ones….

The results were – 108 dead Germans, 20 prisoners. We captured 5 machine gunners, 3 machine guns, and a lot of guns. They tried to kill ten ordinary peasants, saying that they were partisans.

The commander of the brigade ordered the entire village to assemble, then he embraced me and thanked me for the successful operation, and then kissed me. Also, the peasants of the village expressed their gratitude by lifting me in the air. But, amidst this tumult, I heard the familiar “compliment” that “this sort of Jew was a rarity”….

I am certain that now, after the establishment of the State of Israel, where Jewish men and women have shown so much self–sacrifice and have chased off the enemy that was greater in number and more heavily armed, maybe now the world understands that “these types of Jews” are no longer a rarity.


Footnote

  1. Moshe Shulman – One of a widely branched–out family in Nowy Dwor, connected to the Goldpfennigs. Return


[Page 403]

Nowy Dworer in the Russian and Polish armies,
in the fight against the Nazis:

Yakov Brodski
Shia Zamiatin
Leibel Topp (Zelig's son)
Moshe Magid
Avrohom Sakowski
Anshel Fried
Avrohom Karkowycz
Feywl Karkowycz

Those who died while fighting:

Avrohom Olsinka
Yisroel Leizer Borenstajn
Avrohom Brodski
Leibel Topp (Shloime's son)
Feivish Top
Aryeh Tukhband


At the Eichmann Trial

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

One of the documents, which is now in Polish hands, is a message that Eichmann sent on May 23, 1942, to the Gestapo headquarters in Tshekhanov, outside Warsaw. In the message, Eichmann orders that the Jews Shmerl Goldberg, Elihu Tashemka, Rafoyl Broyn, Mendl Rubinshteyn, Moyshe Levin and Dovid Zamyatina, from the town of Nowy Dwor, be publicly hanged in the presence of Jews to be assembled there. Eichmann further orders that a report of the execution be sent to him.

“In a message of April 17, 1942, Eichmann orders the same “special treatment” for the Jews Zalmen Lieski, Moyshe Boymen, Dovid Tsimerman and Avraham Itskovitsh.”

(From the American Jewish press)

 

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