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20. Survivors Tell their Story

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Weary after a day of wandering through the ruins and graves of our destroyed home, worn out by the horrors that we absorbed, upset at what we saw and heard, we went together, the greatest part of the remnant that remains of the Jewish community of Siedlce: a number of wanderers returned from traipsing through the vastness of the Siberian taigas and the steppes of Kazakhstan, dressed in foreign, party Russian and partly donated clothing; some having emerged from underground bunkers and caves in the woods; and some who had suffered through all seven levels of Gehenna pretending to be Aryans on the other side.—Most of them were young men with gray heads, old beyond their years, with creased foreheads and with bulging eyes that glanced around nervously, darting in all directions and focusing on nothing. Each one avoided looking another in the eye, as if people would be embarrassed by them, that they should be called “people,” like those creatures, the murderers of our people and our community; and embarrassed that that we did not take that same journey as the rest of our community.

The sun, which followed our wanderings through the ruins and the graves, was as tired as we were, and it set in a tired, embarrassed way behind the distant tree tops and the nearby ruins. Evening shadows grew over the half-ruined city, swallowing up and filling with fear the emptied streets, so that everything gave the impression of homeless, frightening specters.

We did not sit on the earth, everyone wore shoes, on our heads we had no ashes, but our voices were all like the voices of observant Jews from a hundred years ago

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as they observed Tisha b'Av, sitting on the ground, bemoaning the destruction of their people and their land. Their broken hearts were overflowing with such sorrow, sadness, and mournful feelings that we remained suspended in stillness, and it was difficult to speak a word.

We will pass over that dead silence and allow the survivors to explain how they managed to escape from the angel of death.

 

Melech Halber's Story

On November 30, at the final liquidation of the last Jews of Siedlce, Halaber was loaded together with all the others in a transport headed for Treblinka.

On his way there, Halber took with him a pair of pliers, a small saw, a drill, and other tools that might be useful for whatever might happen.

It was so crowded in the wagon that it was difficult to move. Then, when the train began to move, Halber got to work on the door with his tools. It was not long before the door opened. Without hesitation he jumped from the moving train in the dark night—bruised and bloody from his hasty jump and half-conscious. He saw other people jumping from the wagons and being seized by peasants, who waited for their victims by the train tracks, armed with axes, scythes, spades, and pitchforks, to rob the victims, take their clothing, and kill them.

Coming to himself, Halber got away from the train tracks. Crawling on all fours, he came to a field where there was a stable (a storehouse for grain). He got inside and there encountered Kalman Orszel and Shmerl Feinhaltz who had also jumped from the train. From them Halber learned that he was in the village of Khadaw, six kilometers from Siedlce. His only goal was to get to his brothers, who were hiding in the city at the corner of Stari Rynek and Dluga. On Feinholtz's recommendation and with his help, he hired a peasant who undertook to lead him there for 400 zlotys (80 dollars).

On the horse-drawn cart, the peasant sat in front, Halber in the middle, and in the back the peasant's son.

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In the darkness of the night, Halber recognized that the peasant was not taking him toward Siedlce but in a different direction.

When Halber called this to the peasant's attention, he responded that he was going further, by back roads, in order to avoid the Germans.

The rocking of the peasant's wagon on the soft sand of the road, as well as the cold night wind, cooled and calmed his heated nerves, after his hard experiences of the past several days. Halber fell into a light half-sleep, forgetting reality and conscious of nothing.

Suddenly—Halber continued his story—I felt blows of dull irons on my head. I remained lying unconscious in the wagon, in a stupor. It appears that the murderers thought that I was already dead, so they quickly left the wagon with their spades in their hands and went into the woods to dig a grave for me. As I lay alone in the wagon, I gathered my last strength, jumped from the wagon, and ran across the snow-covered fields. In the blackness of that dark night, I saw that the Liwiec River blocked my way. Feeling the angel of death behind me in the form of the two bloodthirsty peasants who with such alacrity sought my poor life, my shabby clothing, and my few zlotys that they had seen when I had paid them for taking me to the city, I jumped right into the river. Thin thin covering of ice easily broke under me and I found myself half submerged in the water. With my last strength, breaking through the ice, I struggled to the other bank of the river, where I lay inn a faint. I do not know—he continued—if the peasants did not see me and believed that I had drowned or whether they were unwilling to enter the freezing cold river to follow me. I only know that they went away, abandoning their victim, who had escaped from their grasp. Lying there on the snow—Halber continued—I felt terrible pains in my head, my neck, and my face. I felt my head and felt a thick mass of blood that flowed from every side.

My clothing, which had been soaked in the cold water, clung

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to my skin. The terrible cold overcame me. I felt the frost in my bones. This prompted me rise from the frozen ground and start to run as quickly as I could. In a field, I came across a peasant's hut that stood sunken in the sleepy night. I knocked. An old peasant opened the door. He crossed himself and called on all the saints when he saw me standing there bruised, covered with blood, and soaking wet. I answered his questions by saying that I had bruised myself in jumping from a wagon, to which he replied, “That you jumped from a wagon, that I can believe, but from your wounds I can tell that my neighbors did this to you.”

This peasant showed Halber a a moving compassion. He sat him by the warm oven, hung his clothing up to dry, helped wash the blood, and in the morning led him by back roads into the city.

Halber continued—I went about searching for the place where my brothers were hidden. I knocked lightly and quietly uttered our chosen password. As soon as the door opened a little, I saw my brothers standing with iron bars in their hands, ready for action, wanting to be armed for what might come.

It seems that my appearance, with rags binding my head and face so that little more than my frightened eyes could be seen, prevented them from recognizing me. They thought I was an enemy and they were ready to attack me. I quickly reassured them through signs and gestures, whispering in the silence, and I barely managed to convince my brothers who I was and to avoid a fratricide.

Melech Halber, together with his brothers Avraham and Yitzchak, hid for twenty months in that spot on Start Rynek and Dluge, until they were liberated by the Red army.

 

The Story of the Brothers Moyshe and Raphael Kishilinski

At the end of November, 1942, at the liquidations of the small ghetto, the two brothers, together with Mrs. Freida and sister Neche Kishilinski and two children—altogether six people——escaped from Gensze-Barki to the woods and fields outside of Siedlce. For a month

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they roamed around there, hungry and cold, constantly fearing death, not only from the Germans but also from the Poles. They wandered around with other homeless Jews from Siedlce: Yankel and Chaim Ella Dudkewicz, Meir Salzman and his daughter Lola, the Tziglshtein family, Vishnu, and others—altogether twenty-five people. Together they bought a hiding place from the peasant Antony Philipowicz, the village Katun, near Braszkow. This was a covered and hidden mine in the woods for which they paid 6,000 zlotys a month (about 1200 dollars). In time they were joined by another group of Jews from Siedlce who were hidden by the teacher Ashinski in Apala. They had to leave there because they had been detected. These included Dr. Glazowski's Ramek, Dr. Loebel's son Witek, Bracha Ravinsa, Shassenfoygel, and others. They were a group of forty-two and led an underground commune.

For three months they lived “quietly” in the mine. At night, some of them would leave the mine, go to the neighboring villages, buy food and bring water. By chance they had been detected by the Police policeman Marciszewski.

For three months that villain Marciszewski had blackmailed the Jews, extracting money, provisions, and clothing from them by various means and then he sent five Polish policemen after them. Like wild animals they fell upon the mine where the group of Jews were hidden. Aiming their weapons, they ordered everyone out of the mine, then separated the men and the women. The murderers searched each person and took whatever they found: money, provisions, and anything of value. Then they shot all the men, seventeen of them. Among those shot were the Flam brothers, whose father, David, was holding on to them. The murderers left the women and children alive, on the condition that they would go away.

Raphael Kishilinski convinced the murderers that not far away there was gold hidden. They ordered him to get it. He distanced himself from them, leading his twelve-year-old son by the hand. From a distance, he called to his brother: “Moyshe, come help me look for the gold!”—They went into the woods and hid among the thick bushes. There they heard the murderers shooting their neighbors from the mine.

Soon the peasants from the village came to the site of the slaughter

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tore the clothing and shoes from the dead bodies and buried everyone in the mine.

Not long after, the peasant Antony Filipowicz was murdered by a band of peasants. This was an act of vengeance by the “A.K.” (Armija Krajowa [domestic army])—for having hidden Jews.

Moyshe Kishilinski and Raphael, along with his son, met up in the woods with his wife Freida and her child and sister. These six went to the village of Ostrowiec. There they rented from the peasants Wenedik and Bazur a storage pit for potatoes in a field for 4,000 zlotys (800 dollars) a month. They lived there for eighteen months.

In the winter of 1944, when the Red army cautiously neared the Polish border, word spread among the Gentiles that the Jews would be taking vengeance on them when the Bolsheviks arrived—and therefore all the Jews in hiding should be killed. The owners of the hiding place told the police about the Jews who were hiding there.

On a cold February night the owners, the peasants, opened the pit, created an uproar, and ordered the Jews out.

Outside, around the pit, a troop of bloodthirsty peasants awaited the victims. With murderous ferocity they threw themselves on these unfortunates. Moyshe and Raphael, with his son, in some miraculous way managed to get away from the bloody troop and disappeared in the thick darkness of the woods (Moyshe separately from Raphael and his son. In contrast, the women Niche and Freida with her child were seized by the barbaric peasants and turned over to the Polish police, who were waiting for them. The police seized everything that they had and then shot them.

After losing his wife and child, who were killed before his eyes, and having lost his brother, Moshe Kishilinski remained alone and desperate, apathetic and indifferent. He even went in broad daylight into the city, into Siedlce. He was seeking a Christian whom he knew, a poor shoemaker, Philip Smalenski. Smalenski received him well, gave him food and a hiding place for several weeks without charge.

Having rested for several weeks, Moshe went out to search for his missing brother Raphael and his son. On the road he encountered a band of Ukrainians.

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Out of fear, he hid in a deep bog. He lay there for an entire da. Then he came to the village of Apala and sought some Goyim whom he knew, but no one allowed him in. Lacking any alternative, he went to the village of Katun the peasant Wenedik, whom he knew, the owner of the men where they had hidden earlier. The peasant turned him down, because he had no place to put him. Desperate and resigned, he snuck through the fields until he found a solitary closed up barn with hay. In the darkness of night he climbed onto the roof and lay down for a bit. Through the cracks in the wall he looked out at the darkness. He saw how the peasant Wenedik, from whom he had sought protection and a hiding place for the second time, lay in wait for whom with an iron bar, like hunter trailing an animal. The murderous peasant could not find his victim and left. In the morning he returned with the police. They looked around but could not find him. For three days Moyshe lay hidden under the straw. He heard how the peasant and the police were looking for him. The whole time he had nothing to eat or drink. Miraculously, he also escaped from there alive. Then he met with his brother and his son. They were found another stable in an empty field. They hid there for fourteen weeks. No one, not even the owner of the stable, knew they were there.

On dark nights they would leave their hiding place and go to buy food and water from the peasants. The peasants made certain signs on their wells in order to ascertain whether Jews had come to fetch water. They would lay paper or straw on the surface of the water in the well and then in the morning determine if it had been disturbed. Those in hiding had by this method often been noticed and followed by the bloodthirsty and robbery-minded peasants, who, with weapons and iron bars in their hands, lusted after their miserable lives and poor clothing. Every day these poor people saw death before their eyes.

One evening they went to a peasant whom they knew to buy bread. The peasant told them to come in the morning at a certain time, when the bread would be ready. Arriving in the morning, at the specified time, they were fallen upon by a band from the A.K. who were waiting for them in the peasant's home. They were greeted with shots, In the darkness they were able to retreat and escape.. But

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in the process Raphael and his son were wounded in their feet. A bullet went through the hat that Moyshe was wearing.

The Kishilinski brothers had given a fur coat to the peasant Ferkowski, for which Ferkowski was supposed to pay them in installments with a certain amount of bread. At the time of the transaction, the peasant gave them their first installment of bread. When the Kishilinskis came for the second time, they were met by a group of men who began shooting at them. By hiding behind Ferkowski's, they were able to retreat and escape.

Because some of the peasants in the village knew of their hiding place in the barn, they abandoned that place and went to the neighboring woods.

One Sunday morning when Moyshe, Raphael, and his son were lying with bated breath in the woods, they heard one young punk say to another, “Hey, Janek, let's go to church.” The other responded, “I'm not going to church today. Today our buddies (meaning the A.K.) are going hunting for the Yids who are hiding around here. I want to be in on that game.”

Having heard this conversation and understood what was meant by the “hunt,” the Kishilinskis left their dangerous spot, creeping on their knees through the high, thick forest grass and the trees. They came to a thicker part of the forest. They figured that there were Germans there and the A.K. would not follow them.

Raphael Kishilinski had made contact with the good landowner Lipinska, and she gave them food. Late at night, Lipinska would bring the food to the orchard and put it in a designated spot in a beehive. So it went for several nights, until some treacherous goyim took notice and shot at this idealistic Christian as she put the food into the beehive. They warned her that she could be shot for helping Jews.

They were hemmed in all sides. They had nowhere to go. They could not get out. Hunger tortured them. Filth ate away at them. Groups and individuals threatened them. The Germans were nearby. Having been led to the deepest despair, knowing that they had nothing to lose, all three of them, Moshe, Raphael, and the twelve-year-old son, wet to the city of Siedlce..

But where

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could they go? Moyshe thought of his friend, the shoemaker Smolinski. He received them well, gave them a hiding place and food. But Smolinski had a worker named Kaminski. He saw the Jews, blackmailed them, and took whatever he could. He threatened them with terrible things. Remaining there would be a danger for Smolinski, and also for the Jews, so after several weeks they had to leave.

They had to go “out into the world,” into the hands of blind, savage fate. They headed east, toward the Red army, which was on the march. They approached the front. During the day they stayed in hiding places, in the fields and woods. At night, in the dark, they took small back roads—towards their liberators, who were so near in their desire but so far in actual distance.

They heard that near the Lukower Woods were partisans, and they tried to reach them so they could join them and help them agains their common bloody enemy. A peasant in the village of Szebiszow warned them about the partisans. He told them that they also killed Jews whom they encountered. They had already killed many Jews from Staczek. They encountered Polish partisans, who chased after them in a mob. They barely escaped. They also met Russian partisans, who tried to lure them to a spot where they could be killed. Goyim whom they met on the road went after them, fell upon them, robbed and blackmailed them. When they stopped in a little woods near the village of Semi, they were attacked by a group of A.K., who began shooting at them. Inn this assault, Raphael's twelve-year-old son Leibel was shot when he was several score meters away from his father. The murderers then went after Moyshe and Raphael, wanting to kill them as well, so that there would be no witnesses to their bloody deeds. But they could not find their victims and they left.

There was nothing left for us to live for—concluded the brothers Moyshe and Raphael Kilinski—we have lost everything: our wives, our children, our whole family, all have been killed before our eyes, and we remain alive.

The whole time that we lived in hiding it was a struggle with the angel of death—superhuman sorrow and pain, constant fear of death, trying not to fall into the clutches of the murderous Germans and, even more, of the bloody Poles. Many times were were

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shot at by bandits and by police, chased by individual killers and organized parties of bandits. They would go in groups of 10 to 15, armed with axes, scythes, pitchforks, clubs, and also with guns. Always they were prepared and found our hiding places. We would run from one group that threatened us and we would encounter another. Always we saw death before our eyes. Life for us was horribly ugly, but we always avoided death.

In the village of Ostrawiec, the Poles killed 72 Jews. There was nowhere to hide, so we lay in a swamp, in a deep muddy field. No one approached us there. A little six-year-old shepherd child had pity on us. He brought us potatoes and once a piece of bread. For him we made little cars out of wood and other toys. He kept us a secret, because he wanted the cars. For six weeks we lived in the swamp with the help of the little shepherd. When the Red army arrived, we were swollen and could not move. Pieces of our skin were falling off—so the Kirishilinskis finished their tragic recital—and: nothing. The murderers go free, as if nothing had happened. No one will judge them—“There is no justice, and there is no judge…”. [These are the words of the Talmudic rabbi and heretic Elisha ben Abuya.]

 

The Story of Moyshe Mendel Gora (from Makabid, near Siedlce)

In those days, M. M. Gora found himself in the Wengerow ghetto and was a witness to the killing of the five thousand Jews of Wenegrow.

The liquidation of the Jews of Wengerow was conducted by Germans and Ukrainians, with the full cooperation of the Polish police, as well as the city fire department.

At the time when the Germans and Ukrainians managed and conducted the chief labor, their Polish underlings managed the lesser labor of seeking out hidden Jews and taking them to the slaughter. Not only the police but also the fire department went in an organized manner, under the direction of their chief officer Eichler, to the homes of Jews to find hidden Jews and drag them out. In the bunkers, cellars, and pits, they used their4 fire department tools to blast the hidden Jews

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with water. Then they dragged them out and handed them over to the Germans and Ukrainians, or else they themselves took them to the cemetery and killed them.

Gora was dragged out of a hiding place together with other Jews by the firemen and was taken to the grain storehouse of Yudel Dszewica. When he number of Jews being held reached forty, they were forced to carry a chest of ammunition and machine guns, and thus were these unfortunate victims led to the cemetery.

At the cemetery, a long, deep, broad pit had been prepared. The Jews were lined up alongside the pit and the machine guns were set up. By some miracle, Gore was not struck by a bullet, but when those who had been shot fell into the pit, he, covered with blood, fell with them.

For a certain time, Moshe Mendel Gora lay in the pit among those who had been shot. Then he heard that a group of Polish workers had arrived to cover over the corpse-filled pit. He opened his eyes a little and saw how they searched through the corpses and ripped off their clothing and shoes. He heard the groans of those who were still alive and who were covered with earth, but the groaning became quieter and quieter…

Soon they were near him. He lay immobile, with his eyes closed. He held his breath and waited, knowing that in a few minutes they would be throwing shovelsful of earth on him with the same haste and solemnity that they had used on the others who lay not far from him in the pit. He still lay as quietly as possible in the dark pit—like the others. He heard the cynical counting of those shot by the workers, their obscene talk and joking around; he heard the sound of the shovels that were throwing earth, and he shuddered. He felt it as the men came to him, searched him, pulled the shoes from his feet. He felt strange hands in his pockets. They took out little things, his few zlotys. They took off his jacket, his sweater. They felt his shirt—they were considering whether it had any value. A rough hand moved over his skin. Someone sensed the warmth of his body. Someone cried out: “Are you alive? Run away!” Gora opened his eyes, looked around, and saw everything, everything…

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He pulled himself loose from his dead neighbors. He quickly jumped up and began to run…He thought that they would follow him, seize him, take him back to that pit in the cemetery and bury him alive…He ran across lawns, through fields and woods; he jumped over brooks and swamps. He did not hold still for a minute. He did not look back. He ran for a whole day and a night until his strength gave out. He fell down in a faint, completely worn out, in the darkness of a thick woods. He lay there for he knew not how long until he came to himself. He realized that he was barefoot and naked. Everything had been left behind….ripped off of him. He felt pain in his bare feet, which were filthy and bruised. He saw that he was covered in blood—inn the blood of his neighbors in the massive grave from which he had escaped. He got up and went on. He found a stream in the woods. He washed himself and went on. He went through hidden paths, through fields, swamps, bogs, remote fields, where there were no human beings. Naked, barefoot, and dying of hunger after several days of wandering, he came to his destination—in the village of Chaiczna [?]. There he hoped to find his wife and their three children and his two sisters, who had fled there, as well as a girl from Lodz, sixteen-year-old Natzia Krel, the daughter of Avraham Yakov, who had escaped from Lodz and stayed with him for a year.

But in the village of Chaiczna, Gora did not find his family. He learned that several days earlier, his wife and children had gone to Wengorov looking for him. They had stumbled onto the slaughter of the local Jews and were killed.

At the same time, M. M. Gora met in the village other Jews who had escaped from a variety of liquidated villages. Among them were—his dearest acquaintances, the three brothers Mordechai, Yudel, and Nissen Piekosz, Ben-Zion Vassershtein with his wife and child, three young women from Kolushin—the children of Melech Rimorsz, Yakov Handliosz from Sokolov with his two sisters, Aaronovicz from Kalish with his wife and child, Hershel Jabkowski with his family, and others—altogether about 100 people who were in hiding, some with peasants and some “living” in the fields and woods.

During the period of the High Holidays, people came together at a secret spot in the woods,

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and in quiet, heartrending prayers, punctuated with weeping, prayed God to show pity on his persecuted, unhappy Jews…

Thus did people suffer in fear of death and teetered, for several weeks, between life and death.

On a dark, cold November morning, people learned that the Germans, in pursuit of Jews, had ordered a general search for Jews in a radius of fifty kilometers. The village of Chaiczna lay within that area.

Gora found a place to hide, but one of the murderers' bullets found him. Wounded, he ran from one hiding place to another. It was as if jumping out of a fire, he found himself in another fire. The murderous Germans and their Ukrainian and Polish helpers seemed to be everywhere. They would find the unfortunate hidden Jews and shoot them.

Gora could find no place among the living, so he hid among the dead in the village cemetery. He lay down among the graves and, in order not to be noticed, covered himself with the snow that had fallen. He lay there for three days. He survived by swallowing snow. He intended simply to stay there until the end…but cold and hunger tortured him horribly and he left the cemetery. He went to find something to eat, something with which to warm himself. He met his two sisters and their children Yisroel Eizik and Malkah. From them he learned that from the approximately one hundred Jews who had been in the area of the village, after the raid there remained only a scattered few. Almost all had been brutally killed. There was nowhere to go. The peasants, even those who had been good acquaintances, were afraid to take them in. “For a whole day,” M. M. Gora continued, “we remained in a field and bemoaned the great misfortune that had befallen us.”

In the field was a stack of lupines. We hid there over night and together considered what we should do. My sisters remained there, while in the middle of the night I and the two children went to a peasant we knew, Antoni Karczewski and begged him to rescue us and give us a place to hide. The peasant was very sympathetic, but he had no place to hide five people. He took the two children and hid them.

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He gave me some bread and told me to leave and not return, lest someone suspect that he was hiding Jews.

I returned to the field, to the stack of lupines, where my sisters were hidden. I gave them the peasant's gift—the bread—which we made last several days.

When hunger and the bitter cold again assailed us, I again left our hiding place. I thought of another peasant I knew in Makabid, Waclaw Lisheczki, and although Germans and police were all around, I risked my life and went to him for help.

When Lisheczki saw me in my condition, scratched up, pale, tortured by hunger and by cold, he cried out. First he undertook to prepare for us a hiding place in a pit in his stall, covered with filth. Later on he found for us a better hiding place with a friend, where we hid for six weeks.

On a beautiful morning (but for us it was dark), the police came to Lisheczki, conducted a search and asked where he had hidden his Jews.

When we received this bitter news, we immediately left the hiding places and again for several week we wandered through the fields and woods. That was bitter winter, with heavy frost and snow, which, together with hunger, tortured us terribly. No longer able to bear our troubles, I again went to the village of Makabid, this time to another peasant whom I knew: Jon Gabarek. He greeted me warmly and told me to get my sisters, who had remained in the field. He hid us in a narrow, dark cellar, where we stayed for five weeks. Once, Gabarek came and told us that we had to leave immediately, because Germans and Ukrainians had arrived in the village to conduct searches.

Deathly afraid, we left our hiding place in the middle of the day. Then we realized that from staying so long in the dark cellar, we were half blind. Unable to see the world around us, we ran over the fields and into the woods. We came to the village of Zaliwie. We came to peasant I knew, Jon Dszewalski.

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There we encountered our acquaintances, the brothers Berl and Yudel Vunderbaum. They were wearing decaying rags and were barefoot, with pale yellow faces. Their terrible appearance froze our hearts. Looking at them caused us to burst into tears. They were observant and ate no unkosher foods. They survived on bits of dry bread and water. They consoled us and encouraged us, just as when one sees death before one's eyes, one must not lose the trust that God can help…Even though I had very little, I shared my poor possessions with them. I gave them some garments and a few zlotys. For many hours we sat and talked, speaking of practical matters. We examined deeply the basis of our misfortunes: Did the Holy One, Blessed Be He, intend to annihilate his people Israel? Then who would carry out His commandments, his Torah?—There was no way to understand the ways of God…

The peasant Dszewalski took pity on us and took in my sisters and myself, made a hiding place for us in the attic of his stable, where we remained hidden from February 15 until the end of March.

On an especially cold day, when outside there was a flood of snow, I saw through the window two children approaching. The children were wrapped in torn rags and were barefoot. Their feet were red and swollen as they walked through the snow toward Dszewalski's home. Dszewalski told us to hide. The children must not see that there were Jews with him. The children received something to eat, and they warmed themselves. In our hiding place, we wept over our bitter fate: we saw before us such unfortunate, forlorn Jewish children and we could not show ourselves to them, not offer them a word of consolation. After the children left, Dszerwalski came to us in our hiding place and he, too, wept bitterly. He told us that the children were from Kalushin. They had been in hiding for more than four months in a stack of straw outside the village of Zaliwie. Fromm time to time they came to him for some food.

Several days later, Dszewalski came to us and said that the two children were no more. The chief of police in Makabid, Mashkowicz, found the children and shot them. One child fell dead immediately. The other ran off.

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The police chief trailed him for three kilometers, until the child, worn out, fell in the snow. The murderous policeman fired several bullets into the child and left him lying there dead.

Another time, also on a cold, wet, winter day, we saw coming to Dszewalski's two young women in the same horrifying condition as the unfortunate children. Dressed in torn, rotting rags, barefoot, pale, skin and bones, they came quietly begging for something to eat. As Dszewalski recounted, the two young women were also from Kalushin, from the Zlotnicki family. I do not know what happened to them.

At the end of March, Dszewalksi was robbed. Then neighbors came by, as well as police, and we had to get away.

After stumbling around for a week in the fields and the woods, tormented by hunger and cold, we came to the peasant I knew, Gabarek in Makabid. He hid us in his attic.

Once, when I was in a deep sleep, I dreamed that my mother stood above me and my sister. She cried and fussed over guys and she said that she was going to the old rabbi of Kalebiel to beg that he would pray for us and beg the Holy One, Blessed Be He, to rescue us from danger. I felt my mother's warm breath, her hot tears on my face, and…a thunderous, wild banging on the door of the peasant's house suddenly interrupted the sweet-sad dream of my old mother. A hot stream of blood rushed to my head. My heart beat wildly and nearly stopped. Before we could come to ourselves and figure out where we were and what was happening, we heard a terrible shout in Polish: “Hands up!” A group of police were standing with drawn weapons just where we were lying.

They took us from the attic and guarded us like the worst criminals, putting us under arrest.

This was on a Sunday morning at the beginning of May. Many of the goyim from the village ran beside us, as if at something amazing, and accompanied us with mockery as we we're led to the village lockup.

We looked through the iron bars and saw how everywhere green grass was springing up, flowers were blooming, birds were chirping and singing. Everything was bursting with life, but we, children of a chosen people, had to right to live on the earth. Our mournful hearts

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grieved, and we broke out in a confused cry. We wept for a long, long time…

The door of the jail opened and in cameo a goy whose job it was to prepare pits and to bury the Jews who were shot by the police. He informed us that he had already prepared a pit for me and my sisters. At midnight we would be shot.

We wept over our young lives that would be torn away in a couple of hours. I consoled my sisters—and they consoled me.

And suddenly a thought struck me: one had to try to escape all the time. It was never too late. I lay down on the floor of the jail and began to dig. I pulled off a board and then another. I dug underneath with my hands, and soon my hand was outside. With a little more digging, I was lying totally outside. I pulled out one sister, then the other. We stood up and disappeared like silent shadows in the stillness of the dark night…

Driven on by terror and surprise, we ran through the woods for the entire night. We lay down a bit to rest. Suddenly we heard shooting. We were confused with terror and anxiety—out of the fire and into the flood. We could not decide what to do, whether to run or to lie still. We saw shadowy figures drawing near—human shadows. We looked closely—they were Jews, distraught, suffering Jews bumbling around just like us in the dark, silent night. Surprised, I called our, “Jews! Who are you?” They told us that they were from Lukow. For a third time they were taken from Lukow to Treblinka, and for a third time they had jumped from the death train in which they had been confined for three days without anything to eat or drink. From them we learned that we were not far from the death factory of Treblinka. Completely tired out, they fell to the ground. They begged us for bread, water. We shared our poor provisions with them.

A little rested, we pressed on—in the direction of Lukow—we———we had nowhere to go. Death lurked everywhere. We just distanced ourselves from that spot, from the area of Treblinka.

[Page 157]

We hid in the deep woods. Later, when we reached the fields of corn, we made our “dwelling place in the fields, among the corn. During the day we lay trapped in the field, so that no one could see us. At night I would go 5 or 6 kilometers looking for something to eat. We survived for another month in this way.

Suddenly the sky clouded over. There was a downpour that lasted for three days.

Although it was the month of June, that rain brought with it a bitter cold that tortured us. We were nearly swimming in the water. The tiny bit of bread that we had “in reserve” was soaked and swimming. I was forced to seek help at night. In the distance we saw a fire flickering. I went toward that fire, which led to a peasant's home. We [he changes pronouns] looked through the window and recognized a peasant that we knew. He received me kindly and told me to bring my sisters. He made a fire to dry our soaking clothes, warmed us with hot food, and took us to a stable that stood in the field. There we spent the night.

Early the next morning, the peasant came to us in the stable and, wrapping me in his fur, called me to go outside with him. He took me to his stable, and to my great surprise, I found four Jews there. Three were from Siedlce: Moyshe Bliacheer, Mottel Orlionski, and Chatz from the glass business (at 45 Warsaw Street). The fourth was a young man from Lodz. We were all so happy, and as we spoke, the man from Lodz told how he recently had killed in Siedlce a gendarme with his dog.

He was standing—he said—on Sololow Street with a fellow and explained how to acquire weapons. Then the gendarme arrived. They went up to him and asked him too lend them fifty marks. When the gendarme put his hand in his pocket to take out the money, the Jew grabbed his revolver and shot him. The dog that the gendarme had been leading jumped on him and would not let go, so he received several bullets and lay dead near his owner. As evidence, the Jew showed us the trophies he had taken from the dead German: his revolver,

[Page 158]

his belt, and perfumed, leather gloves.

Three days later, a Christian told us that he had been in Siedlce and had heard that a Jew had killed a German.

We could not remain for long in the stable in the field. The place was not secure, so we again went away to a Christian we knew—Stanislaw Kashkewicz—and he hid us for six weeks.

Having gone once to in the middle of the night to a peasant I knew who lived in a village eight kilometers from there in order to sell my sister's coat, a pack of dogs attacked me. I barely managed to beat them off with my thick stick, but I could not stop thinking: Where did dogs come from in the middle of the night? In deathly terror I went on, and by the light of the full moon that was shining then I stumbled over three dead bodies whose throats had been cut lying there in the woods. I drove off the dogs, who had taken chunks out of them. One of them had its entire throat consumed. Trembling with fear, I looked closely at the three slaughtered men and I recognized my friends and neighbors from Makabid: Yisroel Tandeczorsz and the brothers Gedaliah and Leib Goldfarb.

Darkness shrouded my eyes, and my heart pounded. My body felt spasms. The Goldfarb brothers were rugged men—All of the goyim in the village trembled before them—and there they lay slaughters like calves, being eaten by dogs. Such disasters had fallen on us. Today them and tomorrow—me. Such was the end of us Jews!

Trembling the whole way, I returned to my sisters. I told them about the horrible scene. After that, they would not let me leave my hiding place for several weeks.

As we later learned, the killers of my my friends and neighbors were a band of A.K., who had undertaken to seek hidden Jews in the area and kill them.

We could not long stay cut off from the outside world. Hunger and lack of funds forced me from my hiding place. I went to a peasant I knew either to sell something or to trade for food. On the way, I had another encounter: I

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met a young man with a strange appearance: naked and barefoot, with his entire body smeared with lard. His neck and his head were black as coal. From his face, two burning, terrified eyes looked out. By his side hung a bruised hand that he could not move. His appearance made a crazily terrifying impression and made my heart pound.

To my questions, he responded that he came from Amshinov. He was called Menachem, was 24 years old. When he was young he studied in the Wengerow yeshiva. Later on he was a business agent in his shtetl. During the war, he had experienced all seven levels of Gehenna. Recently he had worked in Warsaw with sixty other unfortunate Jews, cleaning locomotives. Several days ago, they had all been stuffed into a train car and sent to Treblinka.

On the way, he jumped from the death train and broke his hand. With great pain and difficulty, he rose and managed to get to a nearby village, where he begged the peasants for help: a bandage for his hand and a place to spend the night. But no one would allow him in. He spent the night in an abandoned barn. In the middle of the night, a group of peasants fell on him, took his few zlotys, tore off his clothing and shoes, and left him barefoot and naked.

On that day I forgot my own sorrows and became occupied with those of the young man. From Christians that I knew, I managed to get him something to wear and some food. I bandaged his broken hand. At night we departed. He went on the road to Warsaw and I to my hiding place, to my sisters.

Early one morning our guardian came to us and, terrified, told us that partisans from the A.K. had raided the milk cooperative and were planning an attack on the village. Therefore we had to leave.

Again it was bad. There was nowhere to hide. The nearest goyim that we knew would not accept us, some from fear and some from hatred, which had flared up against the last Jews more than it had in previous times.

The fear of death hovered over the neighborhood of the peasant Czeslaw Kishelinski

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from the village of Timianki—a well-known murderer. He had received from the Germans a rifle and bullets and he went around looking in all the hiding places. When he found a Jew, he killed him.

Terrible news reached us from the nearest village, Zaliewa. Three Jewish children were hidden by the peasant Dmowski Lirka: 1) Avraham Kasten from Warsaw. The child had escaped from Treblinka; 2) Tzina Goldfarb from Wengrow, 14 years old; and 3) Mendele from Makabid, 14 years old. The Germans had killed his father before his eyes, but allowed him to live. The three children met as they wandered in the woods around Makabid. They found a hiding place by the aforementioned peasant and they did work for him.

In the middle of the night of May 29, 1944, a group of local bandits (most certainly they belonged to the A.K.) attacked the peasant's house. The three unfortunate children were put into a sack and thrown into the Liwiec, the nearest river. In order to ensure that the children would drown, the murderers weighted down the sack with stones.

And then more terrible news reached us.

We heard that the liberating Red army was making great progress. We could live to see the day of liberation, see vengeance taken on our murderers. Desperate, we had no alternative. It was summer. Everything was green and blossoming. Everything called upon life. We again went away to the fields. Again we made hiding places among the cornstalks. If we were too crowded in one spot, we went to another or to another. And in this way, hungry, thirsty, dirty, and always in fear of death, we survived and awaited our liberators, the Red army.

But even after the liberation we had no rest. The few surviving Jews were like thorns in the eyes of our neighbors, who desired simply to be free of them. In the neighboring village of Mord, eight Jews who had emerged from the woods and from underground bunkers were murdered. They were preparing to leave their destroyed, ruined home towns. They fell victim to a murderous band of A.K and were all killed.

Those killed were: the brothers Avraham and Shimon Garbasz, Mrs. Farman, two girls from the village of Czelemen, a woman from

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Valsha, and two men from Mord.

Aside from me—continued Moyshe Mendel Gora—there were in the shtetl of Makabid seven other afflicted, worn out Jews who had suffered through the whole Hitler-hell and had escaped from the German axe. They were together in a single room of a Christian whom they knew and were preparing to go to Lodz, where large groups of surviving Jews were gathering. Since the war had come to a halt, communications had improved, so they kept their plan a secret from the village. On the tenth of March in 1945, in the middle of the night, they were attacked by a group of local goyim, who killed them. They were: 1) my sister Leah Gora, who was 26; 2) Yakove Shpodel, 17; 3) Chaim Mordechai Fiatkowski, 25; 4) Eli Piekosz, 18; 5) Chanah Dambak 24; 6) Chashe Szepa, 28; and 7) a man from Wengrow.

During our two years of living in hiding, we had experienced much. We often saw death before our eyes. Many of the goyim betrayed us to the police, many tracked us down, seeking our lives. Bur also many helped us with food and hiding places. Perhaps it is thanks to my profession as a butcher and a dealer in animals that I was often in the villages, where I became acquainted with many of the peasants. The great tragedy of our misfortune its that so many of the Polish murderers, German aides, peasants, firemen, and police who destroyed so many Jewish lives now walk around freely and openly, and there is no one who will bring them to justice.

* * *

Eliyahu Gaszelinski is a young man of 33, but he is totally gray, like an old man, with a wrinkled face, a creased forehead, and dull eyes, the effects of two years of living in the woods.

Goszelinski says:

Until the first aktion, he worked with many other Jews in the village of Drofia, near Siedlce. They did all kinds of hard labor for the Germans. Among other things, they worked by the waters near the city, where Nazi bigwigs, led by Fabish, would go fishing.

On Shabbos, the 22nd of August, Zulof, the head of the criminal police, was with them. He warned the Jews who were in the village that they must not go to Siedlce on that day.

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Later he was working with many other Jews for a rich man in the woods near Lukover. At the second aktion on November 30, the rich man received an order to send the Jews to Gensze-Barki. He released the Jews and told them that by the next day, no Jews would still exist.

There were forty of us—Gaszelinski said. We divided up into groups and hid, some with peasants in that village and some in the woods.

Among those 40, some were from Siedlce: Yenta Gutowski with her husband and brother, Shlomo Freiman, Sholem Zilbershtein with his wife Golde, the two Miller brothers, Esther Goldberg, Yakov Graiantse with his wife, Heniek Adler with his wife Felle, Levin with a child of four, Natke Levin, Moshe Czistaka, Yisroel Dovidkewicz, Eliyahu Gaszelinski with his family of four, and David Figave. The others were people who had escaped from other cities.

In the same neighborhood of the Dominitz woods, there was also a group of Jews, about a hundred, under the leadership of Itsche Rotberg and Shmulke Tempeldiener. Many of them were from Siedlce.

Once, on a cold, frosty morning, when we were huddled in our hiding places, shivering from the cold, that a child was plodding through the snow. A little girl of five or six whom we recognized as a poor Jewish child was seeking a place to hide. We took the child in. It turned out that she was Yakov Vilk's grandchild Chantshele, who had escaped from the slaughter of the recent aktion in Gensze Barki. She had wandered around all by herself in the woods for several days. She stayed with us.

Moyshe Czistoka once went into the village seeking food for our group. He stumbled on a group of Germans. The murderers stripped off his clothing, beat him unmercifully to make him tell where he had been hiding and where other Jews might be. He behaved heroically and gave away nothing, while the killers tortured him to death.

From our sojourn in the woods, we knew about Polish A.K. groups that sought us unceasingly with their attacks and robberies. In order to stand up to them, we had to get weapons. We came in contact with various Christians who,

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for a high enough price, would sell us weapons and provisions.

On May 30, 1943, we were attacked by a large band of the A.K. There was a shootout, in which Avraham Bluestein excelled, shooting the attackers with his rifle. But they managed to steal from us many valuable things. I and several other Jews were wounded. Wounded, I dragged myself to a peasant's home, where I stayed for several days as my wounds healed.

In June of 1943 the Germans, seeking Jews, made a raid in the area where we were. We survived this horror. There were no victims.

Because our hiding places became too well known, we left and went tot he woods in the neighborhood of Kalusz. But after a short time we were set upon by Germans. We had enough weapons then, and our fighting instincts were aroused. We put alp a valiant stand and killed two Germans. Three from our group fell.

The Germans left us alone, but we were often attacked by Polish bandits who robbed us and killed many of us.

Poles tracked young Warshawski from Mord for several kilometers, then grabbed him, tied him in wire and took him to the Gestapo.

Seven Jews paused in the village of Kshimus. People from the A.K. found out about them, then attacked and killed them.

In June of 1944, the Germans again made a raid in the area, and they encountered our group. We made a strong stand. In the battle, several of our comrades fell.

In August of 1944, taking back roads and gong through woods, we came upon a large of Partisans, about 450 people, who were led by Nechamiah Galanski from Mord, by Mottel Huberman, son of Bonim Huberman of Siedlce, and by a young woman from Pruszkow. In that group we found many Jews from Siedlce and from its surroundings.

Our last and most violent confrontation occurred several days before the liberation of Siedlce. We were then back in the Daminicz woods. Leib Bergman and I went to village to get potatoes and we encountered a Russian scout, which greatly surprised us and made us very happy. At the same time,

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we encountered a vehicle with Germans. We abandoned our potatoes, threw ourselves upon the Germans, and killed them. We burned the vehicle.

That same day several thousand Germans encircled the woods where we were. They shot at us for several days with artillery and with airplanes. But their battle showed no results and they had to flee because the Russian army was drawing near. Out of anger, they set fire to and burned down the whole village.

Out of 40 Jews, 16 remained alive: Eliyahu Gaszelinski, Sholem Zilbershtein with a nine-year-old girl, Moshe Kaweczki, Natke Levin and Gittel Kaniek from Kikow. All the others were killed by German killers and murderous Polish bandits.

 

Ziskind Rosenbaum and his Comrades

Hanke and Avraham Halber tell:

Five young men there were who decided not to allow themselves to be led to the slaughter in the Treblinka gas chambers at the time of the liquidation of the ghetto, so they escaped to the woods and the fields. Three of them were graduates of the Tarbus school: Ziskind Rosenbaum, Yisroelik Zucker, Berl Bagagan, Dovid Blustein, and someone from Mezritch ( whose name is unknown).

They conducted bold attacks against the Germans. They killed some, took their weapons, created hiding places for Jews who were wandering in the fields, woods, and villages, led raids of revenge against the goyim who had turned Jews over to the Germans or who had themselves killed Jews.

They made a bold attack on the well-known, in Siedlce, Christian merchant Paciarkowski and on a policeman.

This occurred after Siedlce was totally empty of Jews, in the summer of 1943. The Czibucki family, before they were liquidated, had given their possessions to their acquaintance, the merchant Paciarkowski, with whom they had had many business dealings, with the condition that when they were in need of funds, someone from the family would come to him. From the Czibucki family,

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no one remained alive except for Ziskind Rosenbaum (who was the son of Sarah Czibucki).. One day, Ziskind, using hidden back roads, came to Paciarkowski along with his friend Berl Bagagan and asked him for money. Paciarkowski told the young people to wait and he left. In a few minutes, Paciarkowski returned, but not alone. He was with a policeman. The young men quickly realized what was happening, saw that their lives could end, so they quickly took the guns from their pockets and shot the policeman and Paciarkowski. The first died on the spot and the second on his way to the hospital.

Rosenbaum and Bagagan ran to their hiding places and continued their work as partisans.

Later, during that same summer, driven by heat to refresh themselves with cold water, the group of five friends went to bathe in a stream several kilometers from the city. There they wee noticed by several Poles, who considered it a mitzvah to inform on them in the proper place. (This was one of the well-known Polish righteous women.). The enraged police who came after them opened fire on the young people, who were in the water. The water soon turned red with the blood of these young victims.

Only one of the group remained alive. This was young Blustein from Mord. Shot through the hand, he hid in the thick bushes by the river and later returned to his hiding place and lived to see the day of liberation by the Red army.

 

The Death of Devorah Tuchnitz-Halberstadt

Ittah Radaszinska-Lev tells:

Devorah Tuchnitz-Halberstadt came shortly before the outbreak of the wa with her husband Leib Halberstadt and their child to visit her parents in Siedlce.

After the liquidation of the ghetto, they hid somewhere. The time came when their child was about to be born—one of the greatest crimes at that time.—In the place where they were

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a birth was not possible. So she went to the fields and hid among the plants. The goyim heard her groaning from the birth pangs, and because of her “good” appearance they perceived her as a homeless Christian and took her to the city's Marianski hospital. Several days after she gave birth, a priest came to her to baptize her child. As the priest began to say his prayers over the child, the mother, Devorah, jumped up:

“Don't do that, holy Father,” she said to him. “I am a Jewish woman and my child is a Jewish child. Let us be.” The priest left. Soon the police arrived, took the mother and her child, and “liquidated” them.

 

The Apostate Ganzval

Who in Siedlce did not know the photographer Adolf Ganiewski, or, as he was called, Ganzval, with his good-natured eyes, his ever-present smile on his broad face, and his friendly dealings with people? Thus, many Jews quickly forgot his former treachery to his people and went to his studio to be photographed.

But the old apostate, who had converted in his youth and married a Christian, had forgotten that he had a Jewish origins until—Hitler's messengers reminded him.

In view of the greater Jewish tragedy, Ganzval repented: every day he carried packages of food for poor and ailing Jews in the ghetto. He concentrated especially on helping hungry children and gave much aid to the children's committee. Until it was pointed out by one of our always good friends that Ganzval stemmed from Jews and he was transported to Treblinka.

His wife, from generations of Christians, traveled after him to learn of her husband's fate. She thrown alive into the burning ovens of the crematoria.


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21. Non-Jews Tell their Story

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Jan Filarczuk recounts:

On leaving the desecrated and defiled cemetery, we met the old Jan Filarczuk—who lived in a house that stood right near the cemetery. OId Filarczuk, through his window, saw much of what happened in the old cemetery, and with primitive peasant volubility, he said:

After the 22nd of August, 1942, after the liquidation of the large ghetto, there was never quiet in the cemetery. Almost every day the Germans led in victims, sometimes a few solitary Jews and sometimes more. There were days when they brought scores. The usual procedure went this way: first, the unlucky ones had to dig their own graves. Then they had to remove their clothing, and then would begin the beatings with rifle butts, pointed sticks, shovels, and whatever else was at hand. At first one heard the bizarre cries of the victims. But those cries quickly grew weaker, softer. Then came a series of shots and the graves became totally silent. Many times it happened that after the shooting, some victims remained alive, and those unfortunates were either buried alive or burned alive.

The murderers thus often used the labor of the victims themselves, for carrying off the weapons, the shovels, the ripped off clothing and loading them or carrying them off to the storehouse of stolen goods; And they had to bury those who had been murdered.

Then the murderers shot the Jews who did this work.

He remembered well, old Filarczuk, what had been engraved in his memory, and he offered many concrete tragic facts with dates and numbers.

Not long after the liquidation of the ghetto, the Germans brought to the cemetery a young woman with her child, whom she led by the hand. The murderers flung the woman and the child into the grave and shot them. The woman lay there dead, but the child, either through an accident or on purpose—who can know—remained alive.

For several days and nights, the unhappy child cried pitifully and called for its mama. He bit his dead mother's

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hand, her face, her breast, until he gradually became silent and his life departed next to his dead mother.

Old Filarczuk cried and said that for those days and nights when they could hear through the window the pitiful whining of the unfortunate child, he and those with him in the house could nether eat nor sleep.

A little later—continued Filarczuk—they Brough to the cemetery, directly from the train station, a young, beautifully dressed woman. As usual, she was ordered to undress. The woman protested vigorously and threw herself at the Germans. They hit her and beat her. The Germans beat her unmercifully. Their voices could be heard from far away. Finally the murderers killed her insect a bestial fashion that her body that her body lay in scattered pieces.

Once—he continued—the Germans brought tot he cemetery a group of fifty Jews. They stood them in rows and bade them run in such a way that one would not separate from another. As the Jews began to run, the killers opened fire on them from behind. All the Jews fell dead.

Several days later, Filarczuk, continued, sixty well-dressed Jews were brought to the cemetery, apparently foreigners, with expensive suitcases and handbags. The killers ordered their victims to assemble the suitcases and handbags in one spot, to undress, to put their clothing in that spot, and to do it all within five minutes. The unfortunate ones, you understand, followed the murderers' orders precisely. Then he killers murderously attacked their naked victims. They beat them mercilessly and shouted that they took longer than five minutes. The cries of the suffering Jews could be heard for a good distance in the surrounding streets. But soon the killers let loose with their automatic weapons and their victims were silenced. The executioners loaded up the suitcases, handbags, and clothing and carried them off.

Once Filarczuk passed near the spot where the victims—who were living at Start Rynek—were working and encountered someone he knew—that was

[Page 169]
Meir Walnowicz, son-in-law of Baruch Mordechai Rubinstein—and they greeted each other.

For this “sin,” the murderers fell upon the unfortunate Walnowicz, beat him with rods, and threw Filarczuk out of his apartment near the cemetery.

Just before the liberation—several weeks before the arrival of the Russians—Filarczuk said—he was walking on Warsaw Street near Polna, and found on the sidewalk a young, fullly-clothed woman who had just poisoned herself (near her was an empty flask of poison). Several hours later, when he went past the same spot, the woman still lay there, but now she was totally naked. The passing neighbors had taken her clothing and shoes.

* * *

A. Ivanowski tells:

In the summer of 1943, as he was walking down a street, a young Jew approached him. He was decently dressed and asked him to show where the Gestapo could be found.

When Ivanowski asked, “Why do you need the Gestapo? Don't you know that as a Jew what awaits you at the Gestapo?” The Jew responded, “Today there is no place for a Jew in the world. No one will take me in. My life is worse than death. I'm going to make things simple and go to the Gestapo.”

* * *

Michael Karalowicz says:

When they took the Jews from the Umschlagplatz to the death train to Treblinka, he noticed how a Jew, while going down Kilinski Shenkkewicz Street had laid aside in the square a dead child that he had held. A German, who saw this, had pounced on the unfortunate Jew, beat him terribly and ordered him to take the dead child with him in the train—the beaten and worn out father picked up the dead child and carried him under his arm, like a package—taking him into the train wagon.

* * *

A Christian from the village of Skurszec tells:

There was a gendarme in the village who was a big shot
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in seeking out hidden Jews and shooting them. He did this lightheartedly and was always happy and enjoyed his work.

Suddenly he fell into melancholia, went around in despair, sorrowfully, and he told everyone the reason: he had killed many, very many, Jews, which made him quite happy. But one of his victims—a young woman of 18, with dark black eyes and a fair face of read and white—haunted him, would not let him rest, neither during the day when he was awake nor at night when he slept. As soon as he fell asleep, the young woman came, choked him, stifled him, and cried out: “Murderer, why did you take my young life!” He gave up sleeping and fell into melancholia.

* * *

Jashinski from Mord recounts:

In the village of Kukawka Piaski there was a pleasant who throughout the time of Nazi rule was occupied with seeking out the hiding places of Jews, then killing and robbing them. This was his regular “occupation.” From this “profession,” the peasant became wealthy, which aroused jealousy among the other peasants in his village, who followed his example in minor ways. Scores of Jews died by his hand.

The witness once saw a number of victims of his wild killing. These were three young women. One he recognized as the daughter of Yechiel Stein from Mord. Their heads were smashed in and severed from their bodies. Their hair was cut off and their clothes torn off.

* * *

With a friend who had survived in an underground bunker, we sat on one of the benches that had been placed on the site where once the city hall stood. We were steeped in a conversation about the great destruction. Near us sat a middle-aged Pole in civilian clothing.

We did not pause in. our discussion, and our neighbor began to take part in it. He introduced himself as a member of a socialist party (and to convince us, he showed us his identification papers). During the occupation, he was active in an underground anti-Fascist movement (for which he also had papers). Now he was a high functionary in the O.B. [which he does not explain].

[Page 171]

He spoke emphatically with the assuredness of a man who knew what he was talking about:

“I am ashamed,” he said, touching his heart, “that I am a Pole. My fellow Poles played too large a role in the extermination of the Jews. Most assuredly, without their help the extermination would not have been so thorough, so total.”
To our question about why the guilty ones were not held responsible, he answered:
“It would be impossible, because one would have to bring to justice of the Polish population.”

22. Sadism, Ferocity, and Brutality

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

 

The First Rosh Hashanah under German Terror

From the first day that the German hordes took control of the city, different military groups conducted constant ambushes against Jewish dwellings.

There was not a single night when one did not hear doors and windows being ripped off—and then the despairing cries for help from Jews who were being attacked.

In the dark days and empty nights of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succos, German ferocity reached its highest state. Throughout the nights, barbaric bands went from house to house, not missing a single Jewish dwelling, breaking doors and windows, pillaging and raping, destroying and plundering. They terrorized the defenseless, unarmedJews with weapons and with terrible beatings. Despairing voices of terrorized children, of raped women, of beaten men robbed of all their possessions, everywhere and unceasingly pierced the dark night and resounded like a voice calling in the wilderness.

Gentiles displayed crosses and religious pictures in their windows and on their doors.

On Rosh Hashanah the Jews felt what was called the Nazi paws. Only a few days after they had taken the city, all of Jewish life was disrupted, empty, and dark. A Jew could not not be seen in the streets. People were seized for forced labor. To all

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manner of hard work. Jews were seized and sent to Wengrow to the concentration camp. They tortured those who had been seized with hunger and thirst, with ferocious beatings and with terrible humiliations. People sought to hide whenever they could.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, a small number of Jews dared to go to shul to pray as a congregation. Soon the shul was surrounded by a troop of Germans. Some went in and threw themselves upon the horrified Jews, tore off their taleisim and dealt them murderous blows. Others assembled by the door and formed a wall. With the greatest ferocity they attacked those who were running out. The Jews who had jumped through the windows were terribly beaten by the barbaric Germans who were waiting outside. The most badly beaten was Rabbi Shlomo Eichenstein. They stripped him naked, led him out into the street and forced him to sweep the street with a broom and with his hands. The ailing Yosef Rubin, who had jumped through the window, was shot.

Around two thousand Jews were seized on the streets and in their homes during the two days of Rosh Hashanah and were sent to the concentration camp in Wengrow.

 

Wengrow—The First Act of Collective Barbarism

Unending hardship filled the hot days and long nights in the second half of September, 1939. In the first days of Nazi rule, people went into hiding, but lying in hiding was unbearable on such hot days, so people decided that they should voluntarily go to work, before the Germans could seize them.

A group of about sixty or seventy of us went out to the ruins at 7 Shpitalna where the three-storied house of Jagodziinski had stood. It was hit by a German bomb on the first day of their attack on the city.

We figured out that under the ruins of the house, several score of people were buried. As we dug through the debris, we pulled out several buried bodies and laid them out in a row so that their surviving families could mourn their deaths.

Before noon, as we were deeply involved in this labor, we suddenly heard shooting from all around, accompanied by wild crises of “Out!…with your hands up!…”

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Before we could look around, we were surrounded by a group of fierce Germans with guns and revolvers aimed at us. For a moment the Germans stood and looked at the bodies, but then they shouted with loud voices, making a commotion, and distributed blows, moving us into the street.

On Shpitalna Street we encountered many hundreds of people. They were arrayed in long columns, with hands held high. From all sides Jews, and Christians, were added to the columns. They were forced to run quickly with their hands held high, while frenzied Germans ran after them, hitting them from behind with rifles, revolvers, clubs, belts, and other weapons.

There was the Byala rabbi R. Yechiel Rabinowicz, and there they ran after old Dr. Ostrowski with his “Red Cross” armband; there was a sick old Jew, half naked, who had been dragged out of the sickbed where he had been lying, and there was the priest Kabilinski with several other young priests. All, without exception, were forced to run quickly while being hit from behind. The Jews who had been found in hiding places were beaten most severely.

For several hours we stood in those columns on the street with hands high in the air. Anyone whose hands were lowered because of fatigue received blows on his hands and head. Several times the people were searched by the Germans. Whatever they found in people's pockets, they took.

In the evening, we were ordered to march.

When we—several hundred of us—came to the corner of Warsaw Street, we saw large groups of people coming from other streets, mostly Jews, but also some Christians.

It appeared that the Germans had given the order throughout the city and the neighboring area to close off the streets and comb all the houses, take all men 14 years and older and lead them to the prison.

The prison door stood fully opened, and on both sides, from the outside to deep inside the prison, stood many Germans armed with rifles, clubs, iron bars, and belts. They fell mercilessly upon their marching victims, who were followed from behind

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by other fierce Germans. Many fell under their blows and remained lying on the road, under the stampede, in a pool of blood. Among them I saw the grocery merchant Melech Srebrenik—he lay in a broken heap, smeared with blood, showing little sign of life.

They sent us into the prison cells, 20-25 people in a cell that was intended for 4-6 people. We were held in such crowded conditions for two days. Only once during that time were we allowed into there courtyard, again in columns, and given a piece of bread.

In the middle of the night we heard a commotion in the courtyard and soon thereafter shooting. In the morning we learned that the Germans had shot several Christians who had been found with weapons. The Germans sought out several older Jews with beards and sidekicks and forced them to dig graves and bury the Christians who had been shot.

When day began to dawn, R. Nachman Lev and R. Berish Yom-Tov, who were with us packed into the cell—complained loudly—that they had no taleisim and tefillin with which to pray.

R. Baruch Ridel assured them—if God is kind, it won't matter.

On the third day of our confinement, we were taken to the courtyard, and in the street in front of the prison we were ordered to form rows of 5 and we were informed that each of us was a guarantee for the others. If anyone tried to run from the columns, the rest would be shot. We therefore had to assure that no one would run away.

Some high-ranking military man rode alongside the unending long column of men and ordered: “Hats off.” At that instant, people were hit over their heads with the usual weapons: rifles, clubs, belts, iron bars, and so on. Woe to anyone who did. Not immediately remove his hat.

Next to the column ran women, young girls, and children. They were seeking their husbands, fathers, brothers. They wanted to give them food or clothing for the road; but the guards would not allow it and drove them away with blows and shots.

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The people marched with bare heads along the Sokolow road toward Wengrow. How many people? Who can tell? But people tried to estimate: The marching column extended for two kilometers, and each row of five people took up 1 meter, so the marchers must have numbered about 10,000.

Nearby marched several young Christians. They tried to get people to throw things at the several score of Germans who were leading and guarding the marchers prodding them and showing their weapons. From their great desire to carry out their plans, they spat on their palms and rubbed their hands together.

It was almost as if they had to calm down and convince themselves that it was a risky undertaking. We ourselves wanted to be liberated, but the Germans would have taken a terrible vengeance on the whole area.

An old, gray-haired Jew was standing in the road, lacking any further strength to go on. He fell to the ground, trying to proceed on all fours. Soon a German ran up to him, shooting at the Jew. The old man lay day on the road in a pool of blood.

There were many instances in which men who were exhausted from hunger, thirst, and pain fainted on the march. Knowing that such people would be shot, their neighbors, who were just as weak, took them under the arms and dragged them.

We marched by fields in which grew carrots, beets, and other vegetables. Some bold fellows dared to run and pick a carrot or a beet. The Germans shot such “criminals” and many paid with their lives.

In a village that we marched through, we saw no one. Farmers tried to bring us water and bread, but the guards shot at them and drove them off.

When we marched through the village of Makabid, there was a great tumult. Many of the men ran off and went into the woods, where they tried to hide in the homes and barns of farmers. The guards began shooting at the escapees. Some started pursuing. Several of the escapees were shot.

In the evening we arrived at Wengrow. At the corner of the shtetl, an armed military unit awaited us. They were arranged on a number of vehicles and gave us an excellent “welcome”: for a long time they shot over our heads with

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machine guns. This was so we would listen and fear. It was to frighten the large mass of people.

We were horribly worn out from the long march (40 kilometers), starving from over two days without food, but mainly tortured by the terrible heat and thirst. I greatest longing was for a taste of water. And when the women of Wengrow tried to bring us pails of water, the guards shot at them and beat them unmercifully. The tinsmith Arlantczik took from a woman a little water and he was beaten so badly that he was left there half dead.

In the camp at Wengrow—a large place surrounded with barbed wire and guarded by armed Germans, we found several thousand prisoners—a mix of civilians and Polish soldiers. All had pale yellow, hungry faces and lay on the ground under the open sky.

Tired and fainting, we fell onto the cool, evening ground. But hunger and thirst gave us no rest. We learned that there was a well in the area of the camp, but the Polish soldiers had seized the well and were selling cups of water—20 groschen per cup—but it was hard to get a cup of water because of the congestion, so there were middle-men, toughs, who had the chutzpah and the toughness—young Poles—to push the Jews away from the well, buy cups of water from the soldiers, and sell it to the Jews for 50 groschen. With one cup of water, several Jews were satisfied.

For a whole night the Germans were horribly frenzied. They went among the Jews dealing out murderous blows, seeking Jews with beards and and used knives and shears to cut the beards along with pieces of flesh from their faces. The Polish soldiers helped the Germans in this job.

In the middle of the night there was a rainstorm that soaked everyone. Many became ill and lay on the ground with fever and aches.

The people had to eat—but the Germans would not give in. Still, the Jews of Wengrow, mostly women, who at that time were allowed some movement, disked their lives to bring food and throw it over the barbed wire for the prisoners. This was the only possible nourishment in

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The camp. The food that was thrown over was seized by the strongest and most chutzpadik, mostly Polish soldiers who took “first place” in the camp grounds. The Jews and the weak went hungry.

Gradually people began to seek and also to find ways to escape from the camp. Some dared to jump over the wire fence at night in the dark, when the watchmen turned away. In this way, some were shot or wounded (among them Yenkel Tabakman), some managed to get out as they fussed with a barrel of water: several times in the day, people went with a barrel to get water from a well that was outside the camp. Ten men went out with a barrel, but only four or five would return. They were not carefully watched. In this way, every day several score of men would get away.

Some would escape by bribing the local German mayor. He would come and take people to work in the city, and they, more often than not, did not return. But the greater majority were sent to East Prussia to work camps, where they went through the seven levels of Gehenna. Over all, the camp in Wengrow gave the impressions that it was created only to torture the twenty thousand people who were imprisoned there. In this, the Germans were totally successful.

Wengrow was the first link in the chain of suffering for the Jews of Siedlce.

 

The Germans Enjoyed Themselves

Yosef Jablonowicz says:

In the winter of 1940, when the lawyer Rubinstein was walking on Pilsudski Street in Stari Rynek, he was noticed by the Germans. They told him to stand still. They took the hat off his head, filled it with snow, put it back on his head, and Rubinstein was forced to stand in this way for an hour until the snow melted, getting him all wet. And the sadists enjoyed themselves, were delighted, as Rubinstein stood there shivering from the cold.

 

Gymnastics in the Snow

Quite often, bands of Germans would come out into the streets

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to amuse themselves with Jews. On a cold snowy day in the winter of 1940, one such band came out into the streets seeking thrills, but they could not find a release, for there were no Jews on the street. All were in hiding. Suddenly two young women appeared, Sabka Benkowicz and Stesha Burstein. The Germans stopped the women and forced them to do gymnastic exercises and ultimately to crawl on all fours—on their hands and feet. This lasted for several hours.

 

Digging a grave and Shooting for Terror

David Lustik tells:

At the end of 1940 it was forbidden for Jews to travel on the roads. At that time, , Leibl Lustik and another Jew were traveling from Siedlce to Warsaw on a cart. In Milosna, the Germans stopped their cart, took the Jews and led them into the woods, giving them shovels and ordering them to dig a grave. When the grave was finished, the Germans ordered the terrified Jews to stand facing the grave and from behind they opened fire. The Jews felt the burn from the bullets that flew over them but which did not hit them. Then the sadists ordered the Jews to go back and resume their journey.

 

They Amuse Themselves with Old Jews

Zvi Liverant recounts:

Seizing Jews for all kinds of hard work, or even to torment and abuse them was nothing new. German raids in the Jewish quarter were “normal” daily things under that devilish regime.

But making a raid and seeking specifically old, gray-haired Jews with beards and sidekicks and old women with wigs and caps on their gray heads, that was indeed something new even in those insane times.

Such a raid was conducted by the Germans in the summer of 1941 before the closing of the ghetto. They assembled only old Jews, men and women, and excluded the younger ones whom they encountered every day. They led the old ones to the courtyard of the Szemianski Bank (on Warsaw Street) where the headquarters of the gendarmerie was located.

Germans with sharp rods and whips and shovels forced these old people to crow like chickens, to bleat like goats, to dance,

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jump around, pray kiss their tzitizs. They forced old men to kiss old women and perform other bizarre stunts.

This “social event” was organized by the gendarmerie and was closed to all of the Nazi bigwigs, including the chief sadist, city commander Fabish. They rolled with laughter for several hours.

 

The Death of Binyamin Hertz

Moyshe Halberstam says:

The Germans showed their greatest ferocity and barbarity to Jews on Shabbos and holidays. On Shavuos in 1940, bands of Germans went out into the Jewish streets to go after Jews. A particular group went around in a truck. On Pienkne Street, before number 41, the iron merchant Hertz and his wife were walking. The truck stopped, several bestial Germans jumped out, and shot at Hertz, who soon fell down dead. The murderers cold-bloodedly got back into their vehicle and drove off.

 

Desecrated Torah Scrolls

Leon Gliksberg was a witness to this wild act:

At the beginning of October, 1939, a band of 30 German officers came to the great shul of the city. When they found that the should was locked, they sent for the keys, which were under the control of community secretary Herschel Tenenbaum. They opened the shul, and the vandals tore apart the Holy Ark, threw out the Torah scrolls, and with wild ecstasy ripped apart the Torah covers, systematically tore through the curtains and stomped on them.

 

The Song of Crooked Jews

One evening in the late summer, after the liquidation of the large ghetto, a group of about forty Jews was struggling back from their work on the highway toward Lukow. They were going in columns led by Tzvi Liverant and Lolek Benkowicz. Worn out from a day of slave labor, they longed to go “home” to rest on their cots in the small ghetto.

On the way, they were stopped by armed Germans, highway

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police, who ordered them to sing.

The group sang “Hatikvah” as a choir.

This song did not please the Germans. They flew into a rage at the Jews, cursing and screaming: “This is trashy music, caterwauling,” and they ordered them to sing “The Song of Crooked Jews.”

The group did not understand what the deranged German meant and they began again to sing “The Song of Crooked Jews” to the melody of “Hatikvah.”

The Germans were now furious, burning with anger and fury. One stood there like a director and declaimed “The Song of Crooked Jews”:

The Jews go hither and yon
The war will last longer.
The Jews have all the gold.
They wanted this war.

 

The Death of Henya Kleinman

Wolf Goldfinger says:

Mrs. Henya Kleiman [sic] was found in her hiding places by gendarmes who were seeking a thief. For eight days she was terribly mistreated by the Gestapo to force her to reveal where other Jews were hidden and where she had hidden her possessions. During the whole eight days they gave her no food or drink. Out of hunger, Mrs. Kleiman [sic] bit her finger and sucked her own blood. Finally they took her to the cemetery, forced her to her knees, and shot her from behind.

 

Forced to Hang a Child and then—Himself

Young Hershel (Shinyu) Klleiman (son of Baruch Mordechai) was hidden in the city by a Christian. In the summer of 1943, such concealment was risky, and he had to move to another place. Going down

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Flarinski Street, a Christian recognized him. She then notified a Ukrainian policeman, pointing out the courtyard into which Kleiman had gone—after searching for him for two hours, they found him in a garden together with six-year-old Livfferant (Shloyme Liverant's grandson). At Gestapo headquarters he was tortured murderously and then he was forced to hang the unlucky child and then—himself.

 

A Bullet in a Child's Mouth Instead of Chocolate

Yontel Goldman says:

In the winter of 1942, after the liquidation of the small ghetto, the German murderers with their helpers encountered in the village of Yigan (near Siedlce) 90 Jews who were hiding out in various places in the area. Among these unfortunates was a woman with a small child in her hand who was crying bitterly from hunger and from the cold. One of the Germans who was guarding the victims held a piece of chocolate to the child's mouth. When the starving child opened its mouth, the German shot a bullet into the open mouth and left the child dead in its mother's arms.

At the exhumation of the 90 dead in Yigan in n1946, Goldman recounts, they found in the open communal grave a young woman, a mother with her small child in her arms, held tight. The child still had its mother's breast in its mouth. They also found a couple of young children who held fast to each other. From the documents that people had found, they recognized that these were the sister and brother Wiczkowski from Kalish, Fabriczna Street number 1.

Near a body with a smashed in head, they found a document with the name Kellman from Prague in Warsaw, Torgowa Street. The majority of the martyrs were beaten with dull weapons and had split-open skulls. They had also been shot.

 

The Bestial Deaths of Thirteen Jews

Tzvi Liverant says:

In July of 1942, some weeks before the liquidation of the large ghetto, the Gestapo accused the Jewish Council of sabotaging its orders to assign Jews to all sorts of forced labor., After a check of the Jewish Council's lists

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of laborers, the Gestapo ordered them to select thirteen Jews who they claimed had been exempted from going to work.

After several days of being tortured in captivity, the thirteen Jews were led back to the ghetto one dark night, taken through the opening in the fence on the side of New Siedlce that served as the entrance into the ghetto reserved for Gestapo personnel, whose headquarters were in New Siedlce (at 4 Prussa).

They ordered these unfortunate Jews to go home. lAs they started to go, the executioners shot at them from behind. Twelve Jews fell dead. The thirteenth was struck by a bullet, but he remained alive and dragged himself to the ghetto hospital. The Gestapo ordered the Jewish Council to locate the thirteenth Jew. When they heard that he was in the hospital, wounded, they made thew Jewish Council responsible for putting him on their list and exempting him because of his wounds.

The executioners, however, would not wait for their victim. Several days later they ordered him to be brought to their area in New Siedlce, there he was shot in the sick bed on which he had been carried.

(The names of the thirteen victims are not appropriate nor reveal, but people know that they were among the poorest and weakest and therefore lacked the strength to work.)

 

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