1. SIEDLCE DURING THE NAZI OCCUPATION 19391944
When on 1 September 1939 the German army crossed the borders of the Second Republic [Poland between the two world warsed.], World War II began. Poles offered a fierce resistance. Podlasie, including Siedlce, was not of particular significance. Only the roads and rail lines that traversed this area were important. The German strike, which came out of East Prussia, threatened Podlasie fairly quickly. Stopping the Nazis on the Bug River did not succeed. On 9 September, they broke through the Polish defenses near Brok. The actions of the Modlin Army and the Narew Independent Operational Group were not able to stop the German army.
Siedlce was bombed from the first days of September. Air attacks intensified on 79 September. Military barracks, railroad stations, roads, especially SiedlceWarsaw and SiedlceBrześć, as well as residential buildings were all attacked.1 German airplanes fired upon people fleeing along Brzeska Street. Father Józef Księżopolski administered last rites to the dying.2 On 8 September, in the towns of Marysin and Groszki Stare on the WarsawSiedlce Road, airplanes fired upon civilians. At the same time, airplanes bombed and fired at a passenger train at the Sosnowe railroad station. Over a dozen people were wounded and six died.3 On 12 September, the SiedlceBrześć Road was again fired upon on the section up to Zbuczyn.
The civilian populations of the city hid from the bombing in cellars and shelters. Some of the residents went to nearby villages, such as Łupiny, or to the fish farm outside the city.4 Others actively joined in the defense of the city, which consisted mostly of putting out fires and removing the after-effects of bombings. Boy Scout Troop 3 from the Hetman Żółkiewski Secondary School distinguished itself in this defense and later took an active part in the underground.5
During the night from 11 to 12 September, the German corps Kempf Panzer Division seized the city, and administrative authority was taken over by the Military Board. The Nazis instituted terror and the death penalty as the basic method of their rule from the very beginning of the occupation. As early as 18 September, they shot 56 people on the road leading to Węgrów.6
On 17 September, the Red Army crossed the borders of the Second Republic, in implementation of the secret RibbentropMolotov pact signed on 24 August 1939. On its basis, the Red Army entered the city for several days on 27 September. A portion of the residents took part in a ceremony welcoming the entering Soviet troops. It was organized by the local Communists, both Poles and Jews. It was not a large group and did not have a lot of support among the Polish and Jewish populations. But it was very active. It was the activists from this group that took part, as members of the civil guard, in the preparation and the ceremony of welcoming the occupiers and subsequently in the many acts of repression. The entering Soviet troops were welcomed on Brzeska Street in front of an arc of triumph decorated with red flags, hammer and sickle emblems, and bilingual PolishRussian banners suited to the occasion. The new occupiers also used terror against the Poles. When they retreated beyond the Bug River, the children from the Jewish Home for Orphans and Seniors as well as local Communist activists went with them.7
After the city was taken over again by the Germans, a Provisional City Management Board was constituted, with Mayor Władysław Ślaski at its head. It was composed of Poles and functioned until the end of 1939. The task of the Provisional Board was to return the city to conditions of normal functioning, thus supplying food and necessities as well the rebuilding of municipal enterprises, roads, and public buildings from the damages of war.8
In October the occupier instituted a German civil administration. In the General Government [part of occupied Poland that was not annexed to Germanyed.] that was created, Siedlce County belonged to the Warsaw District, one of four that arose at that time. At the head of the county was the county administrator, who had a broad range of activity and police powers. The administrative apparatus and the police-military forces oversaw the execution of decrees.
The policy of the occupier, in addition to predatory economic exploitation, was aimed at the extermination of the society of the vanquished nation. The occupier consciously strove to break the will to fight in the nation and to destroy society both physically and psychologically. This aim was served by the liquidation of any manifestation of organized social-political, cultural, or scholarly life. The occupier deliberately pushed Polish society into drinking and carried on preventative terror, which was to squelch and thwart all resistance. All the forces at the disposal of the occupier were used in the realization of this endeavor.
The list of crimes committed by the Nazis in Siedlce is long. A detailed list of them is contained in the Register of Places and Facts of Crimes Committed by the Nazi Occupier on Polish Lands in the Years 19391945. Siedlce Voivodship. This is a publication compiled by the Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish NationInstitute of Remembrance. I will limit myself here to the presentation of several examples of Nazi crimes in Siedlce.
On 27 November 1943, the Nazis shot 10 people. The execution was carried out in front of the wall of the Jewish cemetery near the market hall. The reason for the execution was the accusation of possession of firearms and participation in the resistance movement. Paper bags were placed over the heads of the convicted and their hands were tied behind them with wire. These were Stanisław Cabaj, Bronisław Kondraciuk, Kazimierz Księgopolski, Jerzy Lorkiewicz, Bolesław Ston, Jan Ston, Jan Włodarczyk, Ludwik Zacharczuk, Franciszek Zakrzewski, and Piotr Zakrzewski. Their bodies were taken away in an unknown direction.
On 17 December 1943, another execution was carried out, this time on Piłsudski Street. Again 10 people who were hostages were shot. The reason for the execution, according to the Nazis, was membership in an illegal organization, giving aid to bandits, possession of weapons, and the hiding of Jews. This was retaliation for the killing of the chief of the local Gestapo, Julius Dube. Those who were executed were Eliasz Bartniczuk, Jan Bartniczuk, Zbigniew Kalinowski, Wiesław Kniaziński, Jerzy Papliński, Jan Perycz, Tadeusz Perycz, Zbigniew Perycz, Franciszek Salka, and Zenon Szmurło. This time as well, the bodies were taken away in an unknown direction.
On 4 July 1944, in retaliation for the murder of the commissar of Siedlce, the gendarmes shot 25 of the people gathered in the marketplace. The names of 11 victims have been established: Józef Bułak, Jan Jóźwik, Zofia Kondracka, Teodor Koziel, Bolesław Kwiatkowski, Zofia Myrcha, Piotr Ostrowski, Danuta Stasiak, Natalia Stasiak, Władysław Skolimowski, and Aleksander Żochowski.
In Siedlce during the entire period of the occupation, according to the Register of Places and Facts, the Nazis executed 670 people by shooting, including 298 Poles, 61 Russian prisoners of war, 31 Roma, 26 Jews, and 180 Poles and Jews brought to the city in three trucks.a
Polish society reacted to the repressions of the occupier by forming underground organizations. They were formed on the basis of old political parties or social contacts. As early as 4 October 1939, Julian Ochnik started a resistance organization in Siedlce by forming the Service for the Victory of Poland, which was transformed into the Union of Armed Battle [Związek Walki Zbrojnej (ZWZ)] and then into the Home Army [Armia Krajowa (AK)]. J. Ochnik in his underground efforts relied upon teachers and reservists of the Polish Army, and so on people prepared for this type of work.9
The National Armed Forces [Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (NSZ)] was another underground organization that had a great deal of influence in Podlasie. The headquarters of the following underground organizations were located in Siedlce: NSZ (XII District), National Military Organization [Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa (NOW)] (IX District), and the Secret Military Organization [Tajna Organizacja Wojskowa (TOW)] (subdistrict). The Peasant Battalions [Bataliony Chłopskie (BCh)] had a great deal of influence in the county. The People's Army [Armia Ludowa (AL)] was also active. These organizations represented all the political movements in the country, from the extreme left to the right. They were differentiated on the basis of the strength of their influence and activity. From 1942, a distinct division emerged between the London camp and the Communists.
The main burden of battle in the county and the city rested with the ZWZAK and the BCh. Armed actions concentrated on sabotage and diversion in rail and road transport. It also included the destruction and burning of warehouses and military storehouses, the liquidation of people who cooperated with the occupier and of Nazis who distinguished themselves in their ruthlessness in relation to Poles, and also disarming and the seizure of arms.
Sabotage and diversion took place in various forms. Scouts in the Grey Ranks within the framework of small sabotage destroyed posters, placards, and decrees of the German authorities, painted over boards written in German. The Fascist flag was torn off the county offices, which were being guarded by German sentries, and a white and red flag was hung on the city hall. In direct actions, several dozen tons of gasoline, over a dozen mechanical vehicles, several large warehouses of straw and fodder, a storehouse of uniforms, a storehouse of the Berg Company, and several tons of resin were destroyed. In requisitioning actions, significant quantities of food products and military equipment, as well as legal tender, were captured. Thanks to disarmament operations, over a dozen weapons were captured.10
In April and June 1943, in an all-Poland operation, telephone and telegraph wires were cut on the roads and highways between Siedlce and Sokołów, Siedlce and Mordy, Siedlce and Brześć, Siedlce and Łuków, and Siedlce and Mińsk Mazowiecki.11 Railway sabotage and diversions developed in Podlasie on a large scale. One of the largest armed operations took place on 7 March 1944, when 7 members of an underground organization were freed.
Alongside armed combat, which had to have a very limited range due to disproportionate repressions, a battle was being waged for national awareness.
As early as 23 December 1939, the occupier issued a decree to suspend school activity in all secondary and preparatory schools. In vocational schools, general education subjects were completely removed, and vocational subjects were reduced to the level of courses in the trades. This fact was reflected even in the names of schools; for example, Private Dressmaking Secondary School for Girls was named Vocational School for Girls levels I and II. By order of the occupying authorities, all libraries in Siedlce and the county were liquidated. The teaching of history and geography was banned in primary schools. The reaction to these actions of the occupier was the organization of secret teaching within the framework of the Secret Organization of Teachers.12
The residents of Siedlce became actively involved in saving children displaced from the Zamość region in February 1943. Many orphans found foster families in the city, thereby saving their lives.13
Toward the end of July 1944, the troops of the First Belorussian Front of Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky crossed the Bug River and turned toward Warsaw. The Germans decided to stop the further offensive of the Soviet army in the region of Siedlce and retain the railroad link with Brześć and Małkinia. On the evening of 24 July, the mechanized cavalry group of General V. Kriukov as well as Lieutenant General N. Gusev's 47th Army marched into an attack on Siedlce. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful. On 26 July the city was surrounded from the east, south, and west. The only route of retreat left to the Germans was in the direction of Sokołów Podlaski. A fierce armored battle took place in the area of Borki on 27 and 28 July. The Totenkopf and Viking German panzer divisions were not able to unblock the city, which was closed off by the Red Army. The battle to capture it lasted until 31 July 1944. An active part in these battles was played by the Red Army, whose soldiers thwarted the blowing up of the city's most important structures, such as the cathedral, railway bridges, and the post office. Among the fallen at that time were Roman Gostkowski, pseudonym Wesoły [the Jollytrans.]; Karol Lewandowski, pseudonym Miner; Lucjan Ługowski, pseudonym Luty [February or Fiercetrans.]; Jan Ołdakowski, pseudonym Mętniak [Muddlertrans.]; Zbigniew Pliszka, pseudonym Wrak [Shipwrecktrans.]; and Józef Wołosz, pseudonym Jog [Yogi].
There was a prisoner-of-war camp in Siedlce known as Stalag 366. It was set up by the Nazis in June 1941. It was liquidated in July 1944 right before the entry of the Red Army. It was divided into two parts: Teillager A, located in the southern part of the city on so-called Rozkosz in the barracks of the former 9th Light Artillery Regiment and the 22nd Infantry Regiment; and Teillager B, located near the villages of Suchożebry and Wola Suchożebrska (altogether, there were up to 120,000 prisoners of war here). Stalag 366 was intended mostly for Soviet prisoners of war, who occupied it from 1941 to 1944. Aside from the Soviet prisoners of war, the Nazis also imprisoned French prisoners of war in 19421943 and Italians in 1944. The number of prisoners of war in the camp (Teillager A) vacillated between 5,000 and 20,000. The highest number was noted in December 1942: 19,459 Soviet and 716 French prisoners of war.14
2. THE EXTERMINATION OF SIEDLCE JEWS
Just a few days after the Nazis captured the city, that is, on 15 September, they started arresting Jews. After gathering them in the prison, the next day they were led to Węgrowo. There in the night about 50 of the arrestees managed to escape from the market square, among them Hercel Kave and his father. The rest were taken in the direction of Ostrołęka. This is how Gedali Niewiadomski remembered the first weeks of occupation in the city:
The Germans entered Siedlce on 11 September, and already on the third day they started to persecute the Jews. They dragged all the men out of their houses and put them in prison. They were kept for 48 hours without food or drink, 200300 in a cell;15 they stripped them of their clothing and beat them. After a few days, the order went out for all the men to gather on the square, for if they found anyone in a house they would shoot him; then they were herded to Węgrów. My father, an elderly man with heart problems, knew that he would not make it to Węgrów and that a German bullet awaited him somewhere outside of the city, where he would not even be buried; but if he were killed in Siedlce, he could count on the fact that the Jews would give him a proper burial. When they were in a narrow street, my father ran into the gate of one of the houses. A German shot at him but missed. On Yom Kippur,16 the few men who managed to stay in the city prayed in our apartment.
When the Germans entered Siedlce, we hid in the garden. A German walked into our yard and asked a neighbor if she was Jewish. She answered that she was not. They could not tell the difference, but Polish boys and Polish women ran after them and pointed out the Jewish stores, for which they got whatever merchandise they wanted. The Germans took only chocolate, but the Poles took shoes, accessories, manufactured goods; they drove off with wagons full of merchandise. The Germans drove even eighty-year-old Jews to work. When they did not have anything for them to do, they ordered them to stand for hours with their hands up and photographed them. My father was taken to a labor camp in Węgrów. When we found out that the supervisor there takes bribes, my sister Rachela and I went there and bailed him out for ten zlotys. His beard had been pulled out, and he looked like death, that's how they starved and tortured them. One time my mother sent me to the beit-hamidrash with a bowl of food for a madman she took care of. When I got there, I saw that the Germans were throwing out the holy books and tramping on them, and I ran home terrified. Then they settled Jews who had been driven out of other cities into the beit-hamidrash. They begged on the streets and sang in yards; most were from Kalisz. They ate in the kitchen that had been set up for them by the Jewish community council. One day we found out that the Germans are leaving and the Bolsheviks are supposed to arrive. That morning, when we saw the huge Russian tanks, a great joy prevailed in the city. The Jews opened their stores and traded in what they could, because not much was left after the German robbery. In our store we had only cigarettes and a couple of barrels of herring. The Russian soldiers had a lot of Polish money, they did not haggle, and they bought everything. When we found out that the Russians are leaving Siedlce and anyone who wants to can go with them, my oldest brother took the four of us little ones, and the older siblings stayed with our father. Freight cars stuffed with civilians were attached to the military train.17
From the beginning of the occupation, the Germans used their entire propaganda machine to influence Polish society with the aim of rationalizing the murders perpetrated against the Jews. This aim was served, among others, by posters that read Typhus is one of the most dangerous of diseases, whose course is often fatal. Typhus is very contagious and thus can spread easily and quickly in dangerous epidemics. It is very common in the winter in the General Government, especially among Jews.18 On holidays, German soldiers would force their way into the synagogue, beat the praying Jews, tear their liturgical robes off of them, and shoot at those who were trying to escape by jumping out of windows. Josef Rubin died this way on the seventh day of the Holiday of Booths (Sukkot).19 The Germans robbed Jewish stores and homes from the very beginning. Toward the end of October 1939, soldiers forced their way into the synagogue and the Beit Hamidrash from which they threw out Torah scrolls. In a hate-filled rage they tore them and trampled them.
On the night of 2425 December 1939, the Nazis set fire to the synagogue. Homeless Jewish refugees found death in its interior. The ruins of the synagogue became the place where Germans committed acts of violence against Jewish people; the gendarme Klemens Wieling, among others, acquired a cruel fame there. At the end of November 1939, the Germans ordered that a Jewish CouncilJudenratbe formed. Its members were Icchak Nachum Weintraub (chairman), Hersz Eisenberg (vice-chairman), Hersz Tenenbaum (secretary, whose responsibility was also to be the liaison with the Gestapo), Dr. Henryk Loebel (health division), M. Czarnobroda (treasurer), M. Rotbejn (work division), attorney Józef Landau (social aid), Abram Altenberg (provision division), L. Grinberg (juristic aid), and R. Leiter (general problems).
The total number of Judenrat members was 25. Members of the Jewish council were usually well respected Jewish leaders to whom the Nazis gave great authority until such time as they were also deported.20 The council managed the property and the work force of the Jews, compiled transport lists, that is, lists containing the names of people destined for the death camps. At the beginning of the occupation, the headquarters of the Jewish Council was located in the Jewish Art library building at 69 Piłsudski Street; after the ghetto was closed it was moved to 36 May 1st Street (currently Bishop I. Świrski Street); during the functioning of the small ghetto, the so-called triangle, it was on the corner of Asłanowicz Street and November 11th Street in Głuchowski's house; and in the end in a building on Gęsi Borek [an area outside Siedlcetrans.]. The Jewish police kept order and wore as an insignia of power caps, clubs, and a special armband with the words Judische Ordnungdienst. It had about 50 policemen. It was headed by Gewisser. The policemen were also better dressed than the rest of the population. They wore high-top boots, riding breeches, and well-cut cloth jackets or blazers. There was also a Sanitardienst, a Sanitation Service, whose goal was to keep apartments, yards, and streets in Jewish neighborhoods clean. After the formation of the closed ghetto, the functionaries of the Sanitation Service were incorporated into the Health Division of the Jewish Council. Alongside its previous obligations, their members were ordered to quarter more Jews into the ghetto. The functionaries of the Sanitation Service were dressed the same as those in the Service for the Maintenance of Order.21
The Work Agency (Arbeitsamt) also functioned within the Judenrat. Its director was Izrael Friedman.
The problem of Jewish councils and participation in them by various social activists was very complicated and painful. Some of the deserving leaders of their community in the interwar period contributed indirectly to the suffering and death of their compatriots. But there were also noble people in the councils who tried to do everything possible to protect their nation. This kind of man was the chairman of the Warsaw Jewish Council, Adam Czerniaków. When he became aware of what the Nazis were aiming at by exploiting the councils, he committed suicide in 1942. In his last letter to his wife, he wrote, They demand of me that I kill the children of my nation with my own hands. There is nothing left for me but to die.22 The chairman of the Siedlce Judenrat, Icchak Nachum Weintraub, was already advanced in age. A deserving local social and political activist, he served at the head of the Zionist movement and the religious community council. He kept a chronicle in which he wrote down the more important events in the city as well as the stories told to him by old men. Unfortunately, almost all these writings were destroyed. What survived was only that which he had published in the press during the interwar period. The de facto function of chairman of the Judenrat was fulfilled by Dr. Henryk Loebel, a well-known social activist and member of the B'nai B'rith (Sons of the Covenant) Union of Jewish Humanitarian Associations.
As Emil Karpiński recalled, people literally fought over positions in the Judenrat and the Jewish police; they gave bribes and used every means possible to get into them.23 As early as December 1939, the Judenrat received the order to pay a contribution of 20,000 zlotys. From spring to winter 1940, Siedlce Jews were used for soil-improving work on the Liwiec River. Workers divided into groups of 15 did the work under Polish direction. The Germans had supervision over the project as a whole, while the workers were supervised by SS men, who oversaw the progress of the task. About 1,500 Jews left the ghetto every day and went to their assigned jobs.
In April 1940, the Germans registered all Jewish men between the ages of 16 and 60,24 and in November of that year, they listed all Jews on the streets where they resided most numerously. Two districts were isolated on the territory of Siedlce. District I encompassed the following streets: May 1st (currently Bishop I. Świrski), Orzeszkowa, Kochanowski, Old Square (currently Bohaterów Getta), Browarna, Jatkowa (currently Czerwonego Krzyża), Targowa (currently Czerwonego Krzyża), Asłanowicz, Błonie, and Pusta. A total of 3,958 people resided there3,589 Jews and 369 Aryans. District II encompassed the following streets: Sienkiewicz, Kiliński, Przejazd (currently an extension of Kiliński), Asz, Kozia (currently this street does not exist), Poprzeczna (currently Esperanto), Pułaski, and Przechodnia (currently an extension of Kiliński). Residents numbered 3,306 Jews and 372 Aryans, a total of 3,678 people. Altogether, according to this list, 6,895 Jews resided in Districts I and II.25 Districts I and II formed the so-called open ghetto.
In September 1940, Józef Landau, the director of the Division of Social Aid of the Judenrat, presented the very difficult material and food situation of the population in a letter addressed to the central offices of the Jewish Social Self-Aid [Society] in Kraków. He asked specifically to send shoes and clothing for the residents of the center of the city, which had been bombed in September 1939 (to this day, there is a large undeveloped square named after Władysław Sikorski). He also gives a figure of about 1,000 refugees who had arrived in the city already ill and emaciated.26 In November of that year, the Judenrat received another order to pay a contribution in the amount of 100,000 zlotys. In December 1940, the number of Jews residing in the city numbered 13,000.27
At the end of December 1940, a decree of the occupying authorities was issued ordering the wearing of an armband with the Star of David and the word Jude. The marking of Jewish stores was also ordered. On 30 December, a decree was issued regarding behavior in public places. It required Poles and Jews, under threat of punishment, to behave appropriately toward Germans in public places, Poles by making way politely, and Jews by clearly making way to the right side of the street or sidewalk, making way on staircases, and so forth, whereas removing of hats is out of the question.28 The occupiers did not initially differentiate the nationality of the residents of the city in many instances. Situations would often occur when Poles with a so-called Semitic appearance would be punished for not wearing an armband with the Star of David. This occurrence befell Zofia Maryniuk (maiden name Michalik) at the beginning of 1941.29
The Germans also decided not to allow Jews to change their religion under the influence of the existing situation. On 21 February 1941, the administrator of the Siedlce diocese Bishop Czesław Sokołowski issued an order directed at the Catholic clergy in which he suspended permission to christen Jews, Moslems, and pagans. He did so under pressure from the authorities of the General Government and the decree of 23 January 1941. The Germans, in order to prevent numerous conversions from Judaism to Catholicism, determined that the decision in this matter would rest with the appropriate county administrator or mayor. The order of the bishop was not very much obeyed, because the authorities of the General Government once again addressed this matter with the Diocese Curia in Siedlce. In a document dated 10 October 1942, they ordered that adults being christened should be examined for Aryan descent.
On 23 March 1941, an unexplained incident occurred in the vicinity of the burned-down synagogue. As a result of the explosion of a home-made bomb, a German noncommissioned officer was wounded. In retaliation, the Germans conducted searches and arrests on Berek Joselewicz Street and Old Market Square. As a result of these actions, six people were shot and many were wounded. The commander of the SS and the Warsaw District police SS-Gruppenfürer Moder issued an announcement in which he noted that as a redress for the attack on a member of the German army in Siedlce on 23 March 1941 with the aid of explosive materials, a certain number of arrested people were shot to death.30 The Judenrat appeased the situation by paying the Germans a contribution in the amount of 100,000 zlotys.
From the report of the Division of Social Welfare of the Judenrat dated 17 June 1941, we find out that this division cared for children, orphans (including 65 residing in the Home for Orphans), the elderly (including 32 residing in the Home for the Elderly), the ill, those unable to work, those without employment or income, prisoners, refugees, the homeless, those whose houses had burned down, and the families of prisoners of war. The hospital, with 50 beds and an internal medicine ward, a maternity ward, and an infectious diseases ward, functioned in an exemplary fashion. Connected to the hospital was an outpatient clinic, in which medical aid was given to 2025 patients a day. The hospital turned out to be too small, however, because lately no less than 100 people pass through Siedlce daily; these people stay in Siedlce for several or over a dozen days. These passers-by are given meals and often also monetary relief. These people are usually ill, so very often it becomes necessary to provide these people with medical aid. The hospital is overburdened with patients from these passers-by. Unfortunately, Siedlce has suffered greatly from the passers-by because these people have brought typhus to Siedlce. As a result of the decrees of the Authorities, the Jewish Council has commenced an energetic and costly campaign to eradicate this plague (the establishment of a Jewish epidemic hospital, the activation of a disinfector, mandatory baths in the Jewish bathhouse, sanitary inspections of Jewish residences, and so forth).31 Patients were cared for by Jewish doctors Henryk Loebel (residing at 61 Piłsudski Street), Nisan Belfor (2 Floriańska Street), Lejb Głazowski (May 3rd Street), Helena Pfau (54 Sienkiewicz Street), Szol Szwarc (26 Killińśki Street), and Szlomo Tenenbaum (5 Kochanowski Street).
The Division of Social Welfare received funds for its activity from the bakers' fees paid by bakers and amounting altogether to 3,000 zlotys a month, fees from the register of named families paid into the Provisions Division and amounting to about 4,000 zlotys a month, allowances from the Main Fund of the Jewish Executive Committee, and also from contributions for welfare goals. These last were a mandatory levy imposed by the Jewish Executive Committee and collected by it compulsorily from Jews residing in Siedlce; they provided 3,000 zlotys a month.32
Doctor Henryk Loebel and nurses Edzia Alberg, Dora Goldblat, and Bronka Szaferman provided aid to escaped Soviet prisoners of war, who were hiding in the vicinity of Mokobody. They were also aided by Doctor Lejb Głazowski and Doctor Szol Szwarc. The aid lasted from 4 September to 8 October 1941. While in the village of Pieróg in Skórzec Township, aid was given to escaped Soviet prisoners of war by Doctor Szwarc and medical assistant Józef Alberg, also from the Siedlce ghetto. In the village of Wiśniew outside Siedlce, care for former prisoners of war who were already well was provided by Doctor Nisan Belfor. He also provided medical protection in actions of disarming Germans and capturing weapons by the partisans.
On 2 August 1941, the Germans issued a decree on the creation of a closed ghetto. It encompassed almost the entire area of District I. All Poles residing within this area were given time to leave the ghetto up to the day of 6 August 1941 by 8 PM. At the same time, the resettlement of Jews who lived outside its borders into the ghetto was ordered. This affected especially the residents of District II. The deadline for completing the resettlement was designated for the time from 7 to 20 August.33
On 1 October 1941, the ghetto was closed. A barbed-wire barrier was erected on the streets that separated the Jewish population from the Aryan. No one was allowed to enter or leave without special permission. After the closing of the ghetto, the population's situation regarding food and health deteriorated rapidly. Over a dozen people died every day. At the beginning of the occupation, people treated each other with heart, but with the onset of terror, extreme poverty, and all the 'Egyptian plagues,' people's hearts became anesthetized and even degenerated; for a piece of bread or the shadow of hope of saving oneself, many served the Germans and tormented others in various ways. Among others, there were rather large numbers of Jewish policemen and Judenrat functionaries.34
After the ghetto was closed, Poles could enter its territory only upon obtaining an appropriate pass for the purpose of picking up goods ordered from Jewish tradesmen earlier. But this lasted for a very short time.35 In spite of the ban, contact that was now illegal continued between tradesmen in the ghetto, mostly shoemakers, and their trading partners on the Aryan side. They sent orders to the tradesmen and in exchange provided food. The transfer point was a section of Sądowa Street. As a result of a denunciation, the Germans sealed up the ghetto. Noach Lasman gave the following description of his week-long stay in the ghetto:
The narrow streets and sidewalks were so crowded in some places that it was difficult to pass. The whole population of the ghetto must have taken to the streets. There was, of course, no vehicular traffic. Sometimes I would meet a young man in rags, probably a lone refugee from the Warsaw ghetto. Peddlers stood on street corners and offered passersby cigarettes by the piece, flints for lighters, and pieces of used clothing, which they held in their hands. In one alley, small boys were kicking around a rag ball. Everything put together made a depressing impression, and the lack of space seemed greater than in Łosice. [ ] Masza's younger brother, Heniek, came and then her father, a slim man of average height. They both worked at the railway junction in Siedlce, Heniek in servicing railroad tracks, and his father in Reckman's well-known firm as a carpenter. Every morning they went out with work groups and returned in the evening. The father continued to hope that they would open workshops in the ghetto that would make wooden ammunition boxes for the army. Several hundred people worked in the recently activated sheds but only in the garment and leather branches. Work in a trade was paid, and the workers received a better allotment of food there. At Reckman's, he worked without pay and was under the constant supervision of Germans, who often tormented the workers.
The men in the family worked for free, so the microscopic food allotments often were not even realized, and black-market products were bought with money obtained by selling things. The Judenrat assumed that the physical safety of the residents of the ghetto was dependent on the level of productivity and so tried to find work for girls, mostly on local landed estates. That was probably the thinking in all the ghettos of the General Government.
[ ] Soon after, several hundred thousand zlotys were demanded for setting up a German Kulturhaus in an expropriated Jewish house on Pułaski Street; in reality it was simply a brothel for soldiers. Fortunately, Nuremberg legislation did not allow sexual relations with sub-people, so supplying Jewish girls was not demanded. This work was too degrading for German women, so Polish girls were hired there.36
Lasman also mentioned that there were several cheap cafeterias in the hallways of houses on the territory of the Siedlce ghetto, but one could not buy bread there.
In November, Jews from the following villages were resettled into the Siedlce ghetto: Czuryły, Domanice, Krześlin, Niwiski, Skórzec, Skupie, Stara Wieś, Wiśniew, Wodynie, Zbuczyn, Suchożebry, and Żeliszew.37
In the winter of 19411942, a typhus epidemic broke out. It was an outcome of the terrible conditions that pervaded the ghetto. A large number of people were crammed into a small space, and sanitary conditions worsened because the streets of the ghetto were not provided with a sewer system. As Mojżesz Halbersztadt recalled, Up to 15 people lived in rooms with an area of 10 square feet. [ ] There was not enough room for everyone; people lay outside, in the hallways [ ]. The Gestapo who came into the ghetto would ask ironically if we are receiving letters from our families in Russia around Lake Ladoga, since initially we did not know where the Jewish population was being deported.38 The possibility of contacts between the Polish and the Jewish populations was cut off, which caused an abrupt worsening in food provision. The only thing that could be acquired without restriction was the Gazeta Żydowska [Jewish Newspaper], which was published in Kraków and was intended for Jewish readers. Work camps for Jews outside the borders of the ghetto were praised in it.39
In December 1941, the occupiers demanded that the Judenrat provide them with all the fur coats that were in the possession of Jews. Persecutions continued the entire time. The year 1942 was greeted with great concern. The local kabbalists feared it because it was composed of the same numbers as 1492, the year the Jews were expelled from Spain. In January 1942, ten Jews were caught who left the ghetto without permission and tried to peddle in the market square. They were shot trying to escape. On 3 March 1942, the Germans grabbed ten Jews and executed them in Stok Lacki under the pretext that they were evading work. Under German pressure, the Judenrat made an announcement supporting the verdict of the authorities. In June, the Nazis demanded that the Jewish Executive Committee supply a certain number of tradesmen along with their machines. At first the place they had been sent was kept secret. Later it turned out that the place was the camp at Majdanek.40
The resettlement into the ghetto of Gypsies (Romas) residing in the county commenced starting on 23 May 1942. They were given a deadline of 15 June 1942 and ordered to wear white armbands with the letter Z in lilac on their right sleeves. A group of Gypsies had stopped in Siedlce and its environs, and they were deported to Platerów and Sarnaki from 10 to 31 December 1940. These transports included over 500 people and came from lands that were incorporated into the Reich. During 1941, German Gypsies (Sinti) from Köln and its environs, from Hürth among others, were resettled to Siedlce. The number of Gypsies staying in the ghetto is assessed to have been at least 326.41
The Jewish population in its majority passively accepted what fate gave them. Only a few attempted to escape or to fight. In the winter of 1942, the attempt was made to form an underground organization called Polish Socialists. The representative of this organization, Tadeusz Żelazowski, who came from the vicinity of Węgrów, contacted Dr. Henryk Loebel, who referred him to Emanuel Alberg (Emil Jan Karpiński). Alberg started the effort of gaining collaborators for the organization and distributed the newspaper Polish Socialists. The attempt to form the organization ended with the death of Żelazowski, who fell in a battle with the Gestapo outside Węgrowo in 1942.42 Some of those who were braver tried to escape with wounded Italian soldiers on trains that stopped at the train station in Siedlce. Such a successful attempt was made by Hercel Kave along with Liwerant and Nelkienbojm in 1942. They arrived safely in Italy, survived the war, and left for Israel.43
On the basis of acquaintance, school, social, family, or political contacts both in the ghetto and outside it, self-defense groups started to form. These groups contacted each other; for example, the group of the Jurzyków brothers from the village Kaczory, tailors by trade, had contact with the group of Goldstejn, a tailor in the Siedlce ghetto. The Jurzykóws killed a Pole who together with two Germans robbed sewing materials from the Goldstejn brothers and shoemaking materials from Klejman. The action was carried out 1 November 1939 and reported in the underground publications Komunikaty Informacyjne [Informational Communiqués]. A group from Wiśniew and Grabianów, organized by Ksawery Zdunek, a custodian at the Communal Savings Bank, was in contact with the group of Halberstadt, the owner before the war of a radio engineering firm, as well as with the group of Dr. Belfor and [Dr.] Loebel. Dr. Belfor and his wife, Paja, cooperated mainly with Ksawery Zdunek's sister, Organowa, who was a midwife by profession. Zdunek passed on information from radio interceptions and food for the doctors and their families. Halbersztadt, on the other hand, assembled and repaired radio receivers for Zdunek and the BCh [Peasant Battalions]. The group of Władysław Makaruk, a PPS [Polish Socialist Party] activist, had contact with the group of Chaim Mejer, a locksmith by trade, and with Zalcman's group. Makaruk passed on to the Jewish side radio communiques and the underground press, as well as instructions on the formation of underground groups in the system of so-called fives. Mejer passed on information about the repressions that affected the Jews. He also enabled access to his work group, which worked on the railway, to a member of the underground, who planted a bundle of grenades under the railway track. The grenades exploded in the night on 29 November 1940 without causing much damage. Władysław Makaruk was arrested on 5 April 1941 and this cooperation was broken off. Lucjan Koć, pseudonym Jarząbek [Hazel Grouse], the county commander of the BCh, was friends even before the war with Goldberg, the owner of the printing house on Kiliński Street. At the beginning of the occupation, Goldberg printed orders for the Germans and passed on their content to the BCh. He also printed forgeries of the occupiers' forms and documents. In January 1940 Goldberg was even briefly arrested by the Gestapo. His printing house was a contact and informational point for the Jews of Międzyrzec, Radzyń, Sokołów Podlaski, and Węgrów. Wiktor Somla, a youth who was a peasant activist from Stok Lacki, had a group that was in contact with the house painter Zonsztajn. Aside from food, information and communiques were exchanged. Zonsztajn's group was radically opposed to the orders of the Judenrat and the Jewish police, who were intimidated with the help of Somla's members. On 20 November 1939, the members of Somla's group carried out a death sentence on Eugeniusz Szamfarowski, who had been accused of cooperating with the Germans as well as robbing a Jewish property and raping a Jewish woman. Stanisław Cierniak from Wiśniew had contact with the group of Jakub Kramarz and Lejba Krawiec, who were tailors by trade. They had family in the Łuków ghetto and passed on correspondence as well as articles and food through Wiśniew. The group of Antoni Kosieradzki from the village of Mokobody had contact with the Jews in that locality, and in Siedlce with the group of Bracha Zalcman. The simple peasant Antoni Kosieradzki accounted for his help to the Jews in the following way:
[ ] I see the incursion of an age-old enemythis is none other than the old Teutonic Knights [ ]. They will not leave here voluntarily without a fight, so we have to fight with them in some way. In order to win the fight, we have to join with everyone who is against the Krauts and strike where they strike the most. Those are the points where we should organize our counterattack. Since they are hitting the Jews hard, we have to join with the Jews and help them, whether we like Jews or not, whether we have some prejudice or other against them. On one's own, they will defeat us or even smash us, so that we won't even know when. If they find someone else, we will help someone else. But those whom the Germans help, we have to fight with these people. They organized the navy-blue policeb for their own convenience, so we have to treat these flunkeys as traitors and fight them.44
Contacts consisted mainly in organizing supplies for the ghetto and exchanging information, and they lasted until the formation of the so-called closed ghetto. In the middle of 1940, the Polish Armed Organization, of which members of the peasant party were a part, issued a proclamation. In it was written, among other things: [ ] Wherever the need arises, if at all possible, help should be given to citizens of Jewish nationality. The form of the help should be dictated by need on one side and possibility on the other side, with the goal of surviving our common endangerment and our common enslavement. Let us remember that after the annihilation of the Jewish population, the unpredictable occupier will commence with the complete liquidation of Poles.45 The group of Siedlce Jews who had earlier worked on the estate of Drupie in Skórzec Township in November formed a thirty-strong armed unit. It acted in the forest complex called Jata. This group had occasional contact with other underground units operating on this territory. Only six people from this group lived to see the end of the war: Genowefa Koniak; Necia Goldberg, born Lewin; Szelim Zylbersztajn and his daughter, Miriam, a child of six; Mosze Kawecki; and Ela Gorzeliński. Those who died were Jankiel Gorzeliński, Dawid Figowy, Zofia Zylbersztajn, Regina Gorzelińska, Celina Gorzelińska, Szloma Frejman and his sister and her children, Dawid Gutowski, Regina Gutowska, Mosze Miedziński, Abraham Czysteoko, the tailor Grajoncy and his wife, the two Miller brothers, Szmul Tempeldyner, Adler and his wife and child, and Hanka Kornicka.
Leaving the ghetto without permission was punishable by death. Those who were captured were searched and shot to death in a fanciful way: Usually between 10 and 11 at night, the convicted were taken to the gates of the ghetto on November 11th Street or Targowa Street. They were ordered to run to the ghetto gates while they were being shot in the back. Every evening the residents of the neighboring houses heard shots. The next day the Jewish police would collect the bodies of those who had been killed.46
At the beginning of the occupation, Jewish youths organized a field kitchen where the hungry could eat hot soup. The elderly helped in this work, especially providing financial aid. The donors were Ida Gursztejn, Bronka Jabłoń, Andzia Lewin, Parnas, and the universally known Siedlce photographer Adolf Gancwol-Ganiewski. Another form of resistance was the making of forgeries of the occupier's various forms and documents. This was accomplished in Goldberg's printing house on Kiliński Street.47
The contacts of Siedlce Jews with the Jewish leaders of various groupings outside the ghetto, mainly from Warsaw, were maintained among others by Dr. Henryk Loebel, Dorka Krygierowa, [Dr.] Głazowski, Sucharowa, and Jabłoniowa. The contact point was the apartment of Julian Grobelny in Cegłów. He was a PPS activist. All political factions of Jewish society took advantage of this point. The contact point between the county commanders of the Peasant Groups for Independence and Jewish activists in Siedlce was also in Cegłów. Liaisons between them were Ludwik Jarząb, a railway cashier, and Regina Kubalska, a salesclerk at the cooperative there. From May 1940, the road of connection and distribution of all communiques and the press to this place was already well worn. In May of that year, an underground meeting took place in the apartment of Julian Grobelny between Jewish representatives from Siedlce and activists who arrived there from Warsaw. Dr. Henryk Loebel and Dorka Krygierowa came from Siedlce, and Niuta Tejtelbaum and a Jewish socialist who was a friend of Grobelny came from Warsaw. A plan and forms of cooperation were established at this meeting; they were mostly concerned with the resumption of schooling,48 which was resumed, creating self-teaching groups of several people. In the ghetto, there was, after all, a large group of teachers and young women who were occupied with teaching children within the scope of primary school. This action was supported on the quiet by the Judenrat.49
The underground site of the Provisional Committee for Aid to Jews (so-called Żegota, which later took on the name of Council for Aid to Jews) operated in Siedlce, whose founder was probably Julian Grobelny (pseudonym Trojan), the first chairman of this committee. From the minutes of the committee it follows that between 27 September and 4 December two Jews were moved permanently from Siedlce to Warsaw.50 The organizers of this site were intermediaries in the transfer of money, food, and medicine to the Siedlce ghetto. Members of the peasant party played a large part in this aid and in the fall of 1941 organized the transfer of a group of Jewish professors from Warsaw to Podlasie.51 The people of Podlasie helped the Jewish population to the extent that it could, for which the Nazis provided the most severe punishmentdeath. In October 1943, the Nazis shot to death Tadeusz Perycz and his two sons, Jan and Zbigniew, in the market square of Siedlce for hiding Jews.52 In the village of Kolonia Wielgorz on the territory of Czuryły Township, the Germans murdered the three-member Domański family: the father, Piotr, who was over 70, and his two sons, Franciszek, age 36, and Antoni, age 31, on the pretext of having hidden three Jews.53
Several Jews from Siedlce survived the occupation in a dugout near Międzyrzec thanks to the fact that the monk who accidentally found their hiding place brought them food every day.54 Jews also hid in the city itself, on the so-called Aryan side. Aurelia Wierzchoń hid two Jewish women: Cypa Orzeł and Danusia Malinowska. Siekierzyński, a resident of Rozkosz, hid Dawid and Ida Jom-Tow. He obtained false papers for them, with which they volunteered
for work in the Reich as Poles. Thanks to this, they survived the war. Siekierzyński helped other Jews as well, passing on money and information. Regina Kubalska, the chairperson of the People's Union for Podlasie Subdistrict IVa, hid two Jewish women in her one-room apartment at 12a Targowa Street for a long time. Ksawery Zdunek hid a Jewish doctor and his wife for two years. Witold and Maria Kowalski hid Izrael and Rachela Halberstadt; they also helped other Jews. Help was received , among others, by Sara Kruczowa and her son, Cypia Czarnobrodówna, Ita Radoszyńska, Dyna Finkielsztajn-Czarnobrodowa, and Arie Nejman. Many years later, on 19 March 1950, Rachela and Izrael Halbersztadt, in their account given to the Jewish Historical Institute, stated, [ ] We owe our lives to them, and they will forever stay in our memories as models of human virtue. God bless them!55 The Sisters of the Sacred Heart from Skórzec took in two Jewish girls, Barbara and Jadwiga Górska (assumed first and last names) for two years. The prioress, Beata Hryniewicz, showed particular concern for the girls. As Barbara Górska recalls, the convent in Skórzec was at the time the only place where there was love.56 Jadwiga Budna, whom the Germans resettled from Gdynia to Siedlce, hid a six-person group of Jews, among them Izaak Halber, from November 1942 to July 1944 in her two-room apartment in an attic. She was awarded the medal of Righteous among the Nations of the World by Yad Vashem. It has been possible to establish that other residents of Siedlce and its environs also received this medal: Marianna and Andrzej Zawadka, Antonina Helena Biardzka-Kryńska, Helena Kazimierczak-Gruszka, Bogdan Osiński with his parents and brother, Wacława Jezierska-Radzikowska, Janusz Kowalski, and Genowefa and Aleksander Górzyński. It is also known that the Siedlce doctor Zdzisław Szewczyk helped Jews in hiding by giving them medical aid and passing on medicines.57
The AK [Armia Krajowa, Home Armytrans.] did what it could to battle against informers who betrayed Poles hiding Jews to the occupier. In the village of Kolonia Ruda within Bielany Township, Eugenia Gajek, who accused the Karpiński and Rytel families, was shot for such a denunciation. Fortunately, the Jews who were hiding were not found during the raid.58
Unfortunately there were also bad examples. There were instances in which the Polish population would denounce Jews who left the ghetto or the work camp in search of food. Most often they were turned over to the navy-blue police or the gendarmerie. Those who were captured usually faced death. There were also instances of criminal murders of Jews by Poles. Such an incident took place in Opole Nowe outside Siedlce, where in March 1944 over a dozen Jews in hiding were murdered, among them Dr. Loebel's son Witold, Roman Głazowski [Dr. Głazowski's soned.], Lolka Zalcman, Herszko Sygielstein, Leibko Wiśnia, and Romińska.59 In Stok Lacki not far from Siedlce, the Jewish family of Josek was murdered; they had lived in this village before the war and owned a store. After the ghetto was formed in Siedlce, they had to move into it. After a certain time, they left the ghetto illegally and were hiding in Stok Lacki in the barn of Ksawery Pasemnik. When on 24 May 1949 an exhumation was conducted in what was customarily called the stone pit, the bodies of five females were found. All the bodies had broken skulls. Another burial took place in the Jewish cemetery in Siedlce.60 In the village of Trzciniec in 1943, peasants murdered Szmul and Gieniek Krawiec. They feared that if [the Jews] were arrested, they would give out the names of the farmers who had helped them, as happened in the neighboring village of Jagodne. There an arrested Jew indicated 28 farmers who had helped him. They were arrested by the Germans.
In July 1942, the governor of Warsaw District, Ludwig Fischer, conducted an inspection in Siedlce and met with a representative of the Jewish community in front of the main gate of the ghetto. In his speech he expressed satisfaction that the Jewish people were contributing significantly to furthering the German war effort. He also announced that workshops would be formed in which Jews would find employment. This meeting greatly raised the spirits of the Jews. But these were false hopes. Fischer consciously wanted to calm down the Siedlce Jewish community. Operation Reinhard,c the goal of which was the final liquidation of Jews, had already started. Information reached Siedlce about the liquidation of ghettos in other cities, about the deportation of people to the vicinity of Małkinia.
On 20 August 1942, the residents of the ghetto got a serious warning. The Germans demanded the immediate provision of workers who were to unload the railway cars. After they were opened, it turned out that it contained the bodies of women, men, and children who were coming from Radom. The car was part of the train of death with which Jews were transported to Treblinka. As a result of a fire, it could not reach its destination. When the workers opened the car, they saw about 100 dead bodies, crowded together and tangled up with each other. All of them had died from a lack of air, from heat, and from the stench of quicklime, which had been spread on the floor of the car. The workers, guarded by SS rifles, had to empty the cars. The dead were taken to the Jewish cemetery, where they were buried. Radom native Heniek Adler saw many Jewish acquaintances among the dead. The Germans circulated the information that these were prisoners being moved to another prison, but no one believed this.61
The Jews of Siedlce saw with their own eyes that deportations were taking place. They wondered where. Everyone wanted to believe that it was somewhere east, maybe to Smoleńsk. The word Treblinka was also heard. A mood of uncertainty pervaded the ghetto. Cypora Jabłoń-Zonszajn wrote in her diary, Then like a bolt out of the blue comes the information that today deportations were taking place in Mińsk Mazowiecki, 40 kilometers from us. We are the next stage, but we still delude ourselves, we hope that this will pass us by, because the local authorities assured us that we are an arbeitstadt [a work citytrans.]! Many hands are needed for work. The mood in the city is worsening by the minute. I comfort my dear parents, but at the same time, with tears in my eyes, I look at our joy, my beautiful 11-month-old daughter. Dear God, what will happen to the child, and what harm did she do that she should find herself in such a hell?62
On Saturday, 22 August 1942, in the early hours of the morning, the ghetto was surrounded by the Gestapo from a local outpost, Germans from a border police station in Platerów, the local gendarmerie, Sonderdienst, the Polish navy-blue police, the deportation group from Warsaw, and a division of Ukrainians from Trawniki. The action was directed by SS-Obersturmführer Schultz.
Here is the account of an eyewitness:
People gather in the street, laments and crying can be heard from inside houses, from time to time a man can be seen running past with a package, from time to time a shot is heard, voices are heardpeople, tell us what this means, what's going on? There is no longer any possibility of leaving the neighborhood. My husband leads us to the police station and from there to the roof of the bathhouse that is next to the station, so that we're close in case they'll honor the families of policemen, as had been the case in Warsaw. I crawl into the attic; I hand my child to a stranger and it cries out mamma. I'm taking you, little daughter! I try to get comfortable in the attic, asking acquaintances to pull a mattress from the table onto the floor, and try to get my baby to sleep. That is stupid, because now it's okay for her to chatter, better that she sleep later, but who remembers about that! It is 5:30 in the morning. There are more and more people in the attic but none of mine. Why isn't Jakub bringing my parents and Dosia [Danusiaauthor's note]?63
Machine guns are set up on two side of the main entrance to the ghetto. On that day, Jews from Mordy, Łosice, and Sarnaki arrived in Siedlce. The local Jews were all ordered to come to the cemetery next to the burned synagogue by 10 o'clock. Aside from those previously mentioned, the execution of this order was watched over by the Jewish police as well. The action of catching those who were hidden began. There were not many of these because, as Hercel Kave mentioned, for that you needed courage and a will to live. But apathy was understandable. People who had lived for three years without hope, had been degraded, were now psychologically exhausted without a desire to live.64 Some, especially those found by Ukrainians, were killed on the spot. The rest were taken to the Umschlagplatz. Cypora Jabłoń-Zonszajn noted:
The hour is 10 o'clock. Individual laments and crying merge into a vast, amorphous wail (we found out later that the Jewish police had received orders, under penalty of death, to empty out all apartments and send people to the rallying point on Umschlagplatz). For now we don't know what these horrible, heart-rending shouts mean. Terrified and listening to these incredible sounds, I take care of my child and engage her so that she doesn't cry. For now she is delighted with my breast, which she has not had so much of in a long time, but what will happen later? (Later I feed her cymbalgina so that she will sleep a lot.) I don't want to think about anything, because I might go crazywhere are my beloved parents? What is happening to them? Now I pray only that they at least have an easy death (it was not until several weeks later that I found out that unfortunately this, too, was not fated for them). Noon is approaching. From the street could be heard the stomping of the feet of out torturers, constant shots, constant lamentation. Suddenly a terrible pounding shakes the attic. It is the demolition of stores located around our hiding place. In a moment they will come closer to usGod, if only my child doesn't wake up. Unfortunately, the noise is so loud that the child wakes up crying out loud. My companions in misery go wild. A certain woman reaches my child and tries to choke it, but with wild strength I push her away and say that if my child is not to liveall of us can die. To muffle the child's crying, they shove me with her into a wardrobe that is in the attic. I undress the child and give her my breast, sing songs, and distract her however I can. Every minute seems like an age to me. Finally she calms down; she has become accustomed to the noise, which had not yet died down. Sweat is pouring from me in streams; the heat in the attic is incredibleDosia hands me a lemon, which revives me. I walk the little doll [Rachelaauthor's note], completely naked (she want to walk), around the whole atticwhile sobs shake me incessantly. If only Mommy were with me, how much easier all this would be to bear. She and the child would amuse each other better. Dosia forces a piece of bread and a little water into me (you have to have milk for the child)how good that she is here! The noise stops (I later found out that the Jewish police purposely broke down the door of the bathhouse to show the Ukrainians that this is not a residential house, so they moved onthis saved us for now). I leave the child with Dosia on the mattress and go to look through the cracks in the roof to watch the street. A terrifying emptiness, from a distance a loud lament can be heard, the screams of people being killed, and gunshots, incessant gunshots. (We thought that these were shots to scare us, but later it turned out the each gunshot indicated that there was one human life less.)65
Those who were gathered on the square and forced to remain seated were plagued by a lack of water, for that day the weather was sunny. A member of the Judenrat, Furman, as someone who spoke German well, got up and headed in the direction of the main gate where the German officer directing the whole operation was standing. He did not manage to reach him. Several shots rang out, and he fell dead. At that moment, those who were manning one of the machine guns set off a volley, killing those who were trying to stand up or who were sitting up straight. Around 11 o'clock, a special division of the Vernichtungstruppen [destruction troopstrans.] arrived, composed of Germans and Ukrainians. There was a brief exchange of opinions between the leader of this division and the head of the local Arbeitsamt. The former wanted to take all the Jews in the transport, while the latter wanted to keep a certain number of young men and skilled workers. Finally, around two o'clock in the afternoon, the Germans ordered men between the ages of 15 and 40 to form a column, because those suitable for work would be chosen. From all sides of the cemetery, men dashed to the place where the column was being formed, like wild animals, trampling those left behind. In the end, to the constant beating by the Gestapo, the column formed and started to move slowly forward. The highest ranking member of the Gestapo indicated with a stick who would live and who would die. The one whom he had chosen for work was questioned about his trade and had his hands examined to prevent a nonworker from inadvertently slipping through. Whoever showed some papers or certificates that he was an official of the Judenrat was irrevocably motioned to the left, that is, to death. [ ] Those slated for death were accompanied by unmerciful beatings.66
That evening, the fire brigade was brought over and told to soak the seated people with water. Cypora Jabłoń-Zonszajn described it this way: 'Watergive me some water''drink''I feel faint''I'm hot'these shouts merge into a huge shout, a shout of despair of innocent, defenseless people being murdered. A policeman who handed an apple to his mother and a little water is told to sit in the crowd and has his 'insignia' removed. Another ducks a bullet at the last minute after trying to communicate with his wife and child. Shouts of 'Sh'ma Yisrael'Hear, O Israelcrisscross from all sides. People, why still call for Godrebel! You are going to a certain death anyway! You all know, after all, what Treblinka is! Unfortunately, that strong, essential drive to live prevails. Every one of these unfortunates hopes that maybe he will be chosen for work, maybe he will survive. This is understandable on the one hand, but on the othernot.67
Janusz Słodkiewicz remembered:
The Jews were gathered within the perimeters of the Kirkut [Jewish cemeterytrans.], where they were sitting or lying (one next to the other); they were very tired. However, the rectangle of the walls was closed on the southern side by a stretch of German sentries facing the Jews (most of them were sitting in chairs). In front of these sentries two large containers meant for water were placed (of different sizes, someone among the guards said that one of them was probably from the oil mill because it was greasy). Our task was to fill these containers with water. After accomplishing this (we had drained probably half a cistern of water), we were ordered to drive back a bit and stop. The Germans moved back [ ]. They signaled and shouted something to the Jews in German. Those poor souls got up in one instant and ran to the containersscooping out water (the containers were no more than a meter and a half tall) with all kinds of vessels. A terrible crowd of men, women, and children and turmoil resulted. After a certain time (a fair amount of the water must already have been scooped out), they started to tilt the containers, as a result of which they were tipped over and the water poured out on the ground. Then the unfortunates threw themselves into this mud, scooping up water with their hands from the puddles that were quickly drying out, touching their lips to the mud, and so forth. The Germans started to shout for the Jews to return immediately to the Kirkut, and when this didn't help they started to fire into the air and then at people. In the end, the Jews withdrew to the Kirkut, while next to the containers over a dozen figures remained, probably dead (whether they were shot or trampled, I don't know). When people ran to the water, this took place over those lying on the ground in front of them. After regaining control of the situation, the Germans ordered us to drive up from the side of the Square (the western wall of the Kirkut) and pour water over everyone, especially the people who were lying down. I don't remember who in the end took over the hose, got up onto the wall, and started pouring water on the people. This caused a commotion and a throng because everyone was running to the hose not only to get wet but to catch water into various vessels, even hats, caps, and even shoes. There were those (made totally desperate) who held money in their hands and waved it aroundas if this could assure getting water for money. All this probably lasted about two hours.68
Another eyewitness remembered, Members of the Gestapo were drinking beer at a table set up on the debris of the former synagogue. Around them squatted Jews, one next to another. [ ] I saw Dube and other Gestapo members shoot into the crowd of Jews, drinking beer all the while. [ ] The bodies of the shot Jews were taken by the Jewish police and driven away in carts [ ] to the Jewish cemetery.69 The history teacher Wasercug was shot on this square, because he was talking to those who were gathered and asking them to maintain some dignity in this final hour. When he was being shot at, he shouted to the Germans, Your time, too, will come, you miserable vermin!70
During this whole time, the Germans were shooting Jews in the Jewish cemetery by Szkolna Street. One of the eyewitnesses remembered those days in the following way:
When we drove into the courtyard of the prison, I noticed a group of Jews theremen. They were well dressed; they were even wearing fur coats. [ ] A Gestapo member announced to the Jews who were gathered in the courtyard that they will travel to the east and will work there, that they are in no danger. Then these Jews were ordered to get into the car that was being driven by Domański. [ ] The Gestapo member got into the cab of the car. I was standing on the running board of the car. We drove to the Jewish cemetery. There I saw many dug holes as well as a lot of bodies of people of Jewish descent. These were bodies of men, women, and children. The group of Jews who had been driven to the cemetery by us was placed in three rows in such a way that the first tow was standing against the wall, those in the second row were kneeling, and the Jews in the third row were either half reclining or sitting down. One got the impression that this group had been arranged for taking a photograph. These Jews were fired at with machine guns manned by three Gestapo members and four functionaries of the Sonderdienst [Special Servicestrans.] [ ], these same Gestapo members and Sonderdienst functionaries later finished off those Jews who were lying on the ground with their pistols. [ ] We drove a group of women of Jewish descent, numbering thirty some people, from the prison to the Jewish cemetery. All the Jewish women driven to the Jewish cemetery were shot against the cemetery wall by the same perpetrators. While they were being shot, the women, unlike the men, shouted aloud, lamented, and even offered resistance.71
Residents of the city whom the Nazis had themselves acknowledged as Jews were also shot to death at this cemetery. Marcin Hora, the commander of the fire brigade, described this in the following way: I personally saw 180 people, brought in three trucks, shot to death at the local Kirkut in August 1941 [1942author's note]. These were men and women. Apparently they were accused of being third-generation Jews. Among them were wives of former high-ranking officials and Polish military men. Almost every one of those who were shot had a prayer book and other objects for the practice of the Roman Catholic religion on them.72 Here also, on 13 May 1943, the final Siedlce Jews who until that time had been working in various labor groups were executed. Twenty Polish policemen assisted.73
In the meantime, the liquidation action continued. Cypora Jabłoń-Zonszajn noted, It is dawnpoor dolly wakes and whimpers with hunger. My breasts are empty and so bitten up that every touch brings me terrible painbut I control myself as best I canjust so the child is calm. I give her a piece of cracker, pour juice on it, juice Mommy had given me at the last moment, and pour a little raw water on my hand. The doll drinks greedily, and when she's done, bites my handshe wants more. Dear God, how can one stand it to watch this torment of a child! It is quiet until 10then the orgies begin again, again the terrible lamentation, again the shooting. The orgy of 'resettlement' was started again.74
On Sunday, 23 August, about 10,000 Jews were loaded onto freight cars and taken to the nearby death camp in Treblinka. Floriańska Street, along which the column walked to the train station, was lined with corpses. Ela Kaselbrener, who was 62 years old, was not noticed as he separated himself from the group walking toward the train ramp. He knelt before a cross on the corner of May 3rd Street and Floriańska. The escorting SS men did not pay attention to him. Before the war, Ela Kaselbrener had a mill in Siedlce, and most likely local millers hid him and aided him. He survived the war.75 A Home Army photographer took several photographs of the marching column from a hiding place in order to document in this way the extermination of Siedlce Jews. These photographs are in the possession of the Regional Museum in Siedlce.76 Photographs of people being loaded onto freight cars, taken by Hubert Pfoch, a Wehrmacht soldier passing through Siedlce on his way to the eastern front, have also survived.77 This is how Noach Lasman described the moment of the loading: Someone started shouting 'wasser, wasserwater, water.' Everyone took up that cry. Those in other freight cars also took it up, and several thousand people were chanting 'wasser, wasser.' Suddenly, the sound of an automatic weapon was heard inside the freight car. That was how the soldiers had decided to calm the people down. One of the murderers was placed up on the ramp; he stuck the barrel of his rifle into a small window and fired blindly into the crowd. Screams of pain and shouts of the dying and the severely wounded replaced the word 'wasser'.78
The action of searching out people in hiding continued the whole time. Cypora Jabłoń-Zonszajn noted:
The Ukrainians are having a good time with the Sonderdienst. They broke down a store (the bakery of a baker at 2 Jatkowa Street), they took out over a dozen people hiding there and shot them to death. We hear in turn shots and the shouts of those being murdered; a few moments of silence, steps, and the beautiful choral singing of the song Volga. I look with horror at Dosia. Volga, that beautiful, sentimental Volga here, during such bestial murders of defenseless people, mostly women and children? How much sadism and cruelty these people have within them! [ ] It is 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The shots do not stop even for a moment, nor do the laments and sobs. The child is asleep, so I stand by the roof and watch the street. A wagon drives by piled high with corpsesthey are being led by our policemen. They look terriblepale, exhausted, dripping with sweat. I marvel at their activity: to take part in such actions and not go crazy when you are seeing those closest to you being murdered! (I later found out that thanks to their actions hundreds of people were saved.) The scene changes in one second. Some Ukrainian or Lithuanian (the same devil) is leading a couple with a child. The child is crying with fear and cannot walk. The escort pushes it with a kick, and when that doesn't help, he starts to beat it with the butt of his rifle. Then the unfortunate father with his last remaining strength throws himself at the perpetrator and slaps him once and again. Within a split second three shots are heard, and three corpses are lying on the street, while the perpetrator walks on whistling merrily. I stand at my observation point frozen with horror, but I'm glad that the pure-blooded Aryan felt the dirty hand of a louse-ridden unfortunate Jew on his face. Would there were as many such cases as possible. Tears fall from my eyes without stoppingwere my dear old ones beaten? My dear ones, how could I have abandoned you! Have you forgiven me that? But I did it for your beloved granddaughter!79
On 24 August the personnel and patients in the Jewish hospital on May 1st Street (currently the building of the First Aid Squad on Bishop I. Świrski Street) were murdered, altogether about 100 people. All the patients were shot in their beds; also murdered were over a dozen newborns. The hospital personnel, doctors, nurses, and medical assistants, were shot to death in the hospital courtyard. Among those murdered was Dr. Henryk Loebel.d Albert Fabisch was in charge of liquidating the hospital.80 Miraculously, R. Landau [Estara Rosa; see editor's note eed.] survived; she dug herself out from under the corpses after the massacre and the departure of the Germans. It was evening when the freight cars were drawn up and took 56 thousand people. They may have arrived at the death camp in Treblinka the following day, because the crew did not murder deportees at dusk.
Two days later, that is, 26 August, a group of 29 women was shot to death at the cemetery; they had earlier worked at sorting the clothing of those who were murdered. The night before the execution, Estera Spektor managed to escape from the makeshift prison.e
After the liquidation of the ghetto on 27 August, the Nazis made the following announcement: As a result of the resettlement of the Jews, apartments and workplaces have become vacant in the cities of Siedlce, Łosice, and Mordy. The possibility of creating a life-long living in the above-mentioned cities is currently opening up for ambitious and brave people, in particular specialists in all trades.81
The example of the liquidation of the ghetto in Siedlce was included in the report of the united underground organization of the Warsaw ghetto to the Polish government in London and the allied governments dated 15 November 1942. The report was delivered to the Polish government-in-exile by courier Jan Karski. After the liquidation, a so-called cleansing began, that is, the search for hidden Jews. And so, in the bakery on Targowa Street belonging to Jankiel Piekarz, a Sonderdienst patrol under the command of Volksdeutsche Backenstoss discovered a group of 30 people. The whole family of the baker and several of his neighbors were hiding there. They had been sitting there for five days. Backenstoss, after discovering their hiding place, opened fire with his machine gun and killed everyone on the spot. Those who died in this group, among others, were Haskiel Trzebucki and his fiancée, Franka Piekarz, as well as the family of Jankiel Dekiel. The entire Lewin family was discovered in the attic of a house on Asłanowicz Street. They were led to the cemetery and shot to death. Kuba miraculously survivedhis fatally shot mother covered him with her body while falling down. Kuba stayed that way for several hours and at dawn ran away from the cemetery. He hid thanks to the help of his friends and obtained forged documents. Fifty people were discovered on the territory of the Jewish bathhouse and killed; twenty people, including the family of Efraim Celnik, [were killed] in the offices of the Judenrat. During the cleansing operation, about 200 people were found and murdered, among others, Przeździeski and Goldblat. The corpses were collected by groups of Jews, who themselves pulled a two-wheeled cart they called an Arba.e They pulled it to the gates of the ghetto and transferred the bodies onto horse-drawn wagons driven by Poles. They were the ones who took the bodies to the Jewish cemetery.
Out of about 600 people chosen earlier, the so-called small ghetto was formed, called the Drayek [Yiddish for triangletrans.]. It was located in the triangle of Sokołowska, Asłanowicz, and November 11th Streets. These people were used for clean-up work after the liquidation of the ghetto. In the following days, after receiving assurances of personal safety by the German authorities, about 1,500 Jews reported to the small ghetto. Some of them had been hiding on the territory of the ghetto and others in the close vicinity. A new Judenrat was formed, headed by Hersz Ajzenberg and two members, Mosze Rotbejn (director of the employment office) and Anatol Goldberg (director of food provision). An out-patient clinic was formed, the director of which was the only surviving Jewish doctor, Balfor. A police force was also created that occupied a separate little house and functioned as sentries and for the maintenance of order. Rubinstein became its commander, and after him this function was taken over by Abraham Gessler.
The Germans left the small ghetto as bait. People started flocking to it, seeing that mass murders were no longer taking place and succumbing to the rumors that the worst has over and that somehow one can survive. Life has its laws, and stalls with food and used articles opened up on the territory of the small ghetto. People peddled whatever they could through the wires. For rags, footwear, dishes, and God knows what, you could get bread, potatoes, and at least some bit to east.82 The number of people crowded into the small ghetto is estimated at 1,5003,000. Not only Siedlce Jews were there but also escapees from other towns wandering around the area as well as Gypsies. Conditions in the ghetto were awful, with an insufficiency of water constantly being experienced. Some of those settled in the ghetto collected abandoned property, which was then sorted. The better things were sent to Germany for victims of bombings, the rest was sold to the Polish population.
The functioning of the Jewish residential district in Siedlce was confirmed by the decree dated 28 October 1942 issued by Krüger, the chief of the SS and of the police of the General Government. Cypora Jabłoń-Zonszajn wrote, We are sitting in horrible conditions in a dirty, louse-ridden neighborhood filled with Gypsies, who have become our heirsin a neighborhood in which death constantly hangs in the air. The mood is almost incessantly panicked. Every day new people arrive, fugitives from wagons from other cities: Łuków, Węgrów, Międzyrzec, Kałuszyn, Sokołów Podlaski, and many, many more. Every day we hear that in one place the operation was repeated a second time, in another a third time! Why are they not moving us yet? This time, however, we have no illusions. We know that this will not pass us by.83 Jews and Poles were aware of the hopeless situation. After many years, Czesław Ulko, in characterizing that time, said, I was walking to work after lunch. I saw a Jew I knew, the shopkeeper's son Jankiel Zybersztein from Kazimierz Street, sweeping the street by the county offices. I said to him, 'Jankiel flee because they'll kill you.' Then he said, 'Okay, but where?' Only later did I reflect on the aptness of his answer.84
Wiktoria Śliwowska noted an incident from the environs of Siedlce, where a young boy had escaped from the ghetto and was trying to survive, living in such a way as not to be noticed by anyone:
Hunger was becoming worse and worse in Warsaw for the average resident. To say nothing of the closed ghetto. When I was ten years old, I went for the first time to a village outside Siedlce. I went there several times during the war, where by working very hard I could eat my fill of potatoes and milk. From time to time, something better would come up, such as fruit in the summer. One time, I'm standing under a tree, looking for the ripest cherries. And there were many cherry trees there covered with fruit. Suddenly, a Jewish boy, a little older than I, appears noiselessly in front of me and shows me how to eat cherries so that no one can tell whether a person or a bird ate it. He took a ripe cherry into his mouth in such a way that the fruit stayed in his mouth but the pit was left attached to the stem. I do the same, turn around, and he's gone. The next day toward evening, he appeared unexpectedly in front of me and handed me some wild berries on a large leaf. I understood that very early in the morning he goes into the woods with the cows of the farmer who is hiding him. The Germans at that time had conducted several roundups in the village at night. At first I did not understand but later it became clear to me why every time I saw him, even on a sweltering day, he was wearing his coat. I understood that he always wanted to be ready to run and have all his belongings with him. I found out from my brother, who sometime visited me from Warsaw, that the name of my acquaintance was Abram. I also understood that he often observed me, he knew me, and he heard my conversations with others; that he himself, in hiding, trusted me and appeared to me, seeking out contact with people. Unfortunately, I don't know whether by some miracle he survived. I fear not.85
The first order given to the new Judenrat by the German authorities was the command to pay the fire department for pouring water on people during the resettlement. A guard stood at the gate of the small ghetto consisting of two Jewish policemen and one Polish navy-blue policeman. The ghetto received a daily ration of bread, which came to 250 grams per person. It was also permitted to bring in candles, matches, coffee, and chamomile.86
A group of Chassidim, followers of the tzadik from Radzyń, ended up in the ghetto. They differed from the rest of the residents not only in their traditional garb but also in their behavior. They helped each other and considered their most important task to be the gathering of holy books, in which no one was interested. They helped believers celebrate Rosh Hashanah (New Year)87 and Yom Kippur (Day of Judgment).88 The Chassidim formed an island amidst the sea of inhuman behavior, where stripping corpses of everything that could still be useful was considered something normal. This is how Noach Lasman described those days: The general public in Siedlce was resigned. No escape from the trap could be seen. People were starving, exhausted, ragged, sleepy, overworked, and they awaited death as a salvation. The resignation was all the deeper since even a kind word could not be heard from anywhere. Without someone's help or kindness from the outside, you couldn't even dream of surviving. For those who had jumped out of the trains of death, the ghetto in Siedlce was now the closest place of refuge. The autumn rains chased people from the fields, and camp managers got rid of those who could not work by sending them 'home'.89
Over a dozen children were staying illegally in hiding in the small ghetto. All the residents were taken outside the city on 25 November 1942 to what was called Gęsi Borek [goose woodstrans.] (the B. Limanowski colony). The pretext was supposed to be the threat of an outbreak of a typhus epidemic, which could have infected the rest of the city. The displaced people were allowed to bring with them only what they could carry. The sick and the old were allowed to be driven in carts. The pretense was that the settlement there of Jews who survived the liquidation was of a permanent nature. All the members of the Jewish Executive Committee were given passes allowing them to stay in the city for a period of three months. Ida Jom-Tow wrote, Not far from Gęsi Borek was a glassworks, in which several dozen Jews worked. They lived close to the glassworks. Things that were smuggled from the ghetto were also brought to them. During the last two days of the functioning of the small ghetto, several wagonloads of goods managed to be brought. The Gestapo and the gendarmerie 'turned a blind eye' and pretended not to see what the Jews were moving. Naïve people were happy that they had managed to trick the Germans. On the last day before the move to the new ghetto, several dozen people were secretly taken to the glassworks, among them the old and the sick. They were hidden in the neighboring barn.90
One of the blocks of this ghetto was occupied earlier by Gypsies. After three days, on 28 November, the Nazis liquidated this ghetto.91 The area was surrounded during the night. In the morning people were driven out of the houses, positioned in a column of five people, and herded to the train station, where freight cars were already waiting. Some of the marchers were preparing for death in prayerful moods and clothing. At the head of the procession walked the aged Icchak Nachum Weintraub. People already knew what awaited them. As soon as the train moved, people in many cars started energetically breaking openings. The well-known Siedlce master locksmith Szymka Wilk had taken his tools with him and could use them to open the locked car. When the train was at full speed, Wilk opened his car and a large number of people sentenced to death jumped out. Many also escaped from the car that contained the Jewish police. But many were shot on the spot or captured.92
This is how Samuel Willenberg, a prisoner of the death camp, described the arrival of this transport to Treblinka: Mitte shouted for the freight cars to be opened. A child's hand slid out of a crack in the door. Suddenly we saw that all the cars were filled with corpses. Intertwined bodies of adults and children. Stripped and completely naked. One solid mass of human bodies with signs of beating and bullet holes.93
3. LABOR CAMPS FOR JEWS
Labor camps for Jewish should also be mentioned. These camps had as their goal the destruction of the Jewish nation through hard physical labor. There were several camps within the city limits in which only Jews worked.
CAMP IMILITARY PROVISION DEPOT NO. 6 (A.V.L.)
This camp was set up in the beginning of 1940 and closed down in 1942. It was located in military barracks. The area of the camp was about 5 square kilometers. The prisoners were housed in a two-story brick building on the site of the old barracks of the 22nd infantry regiment. On the average, about 100 people worked in it. Altogether, about 5,000 Jews went through this camp. The prisoners worked on the territory of the camp in unloading freight cars containing food. During the liquidation of the camp, the prisoners were settled in the small ghetto.94
CAMP IIRECKMANN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
The name comes from the last name of the owner, Richard Reckmann. It was established in the fall of 1941 and liquidated in March 1943. It was located in the depot and two barracks next to the train tracks. The camp encompassed about 5 square kilometers. On the average, about 500 people stayed in it. Altogether, 15,000 Jews went through the camp. The prisoners worked in the Reckmann company building tracks and in the railway workshops, as well as on construction sites. There was an epidemic of typhus and dysentery in the camp. There was an infirmary. For their heavy, almost superhuman work, the prisoners received 200 grams of bread, half a liter of black coffee, and one liter of soup made of chestnut puree, rutabaga, or beets. Many Jews were shot to death by the Nazis; many died as a result of beatings. There were instances of burying prisoners alive on the construction site. The seriously ill were sent back to the ghetto. The camp was essentially intended to destroy the people who worked there. The testimony of Srul Mejer, a prisoner of this camp, attests to this: A dentist from Siedlce, a Litwak, was shot by one of the Germans guarding us for walking slowly to work.95 An eighty-year-old ritual butcher was beaten and trampled on by the German guards because he was not able to unload coal. Severely beaten, he soon died. When the camp was liquidated, almost all the prisoners were shot to death. Three people managed to survive: Srul Krawiec, Izaak Rafał, and Morl Orlański.96 The barracks burned down during the battle for the city in July 1944.
CAMP IIIKISGRUBE (GRAVEL PIT) GERMAN CONSTRUCTION INSPECTORATE NO. 8
It was established in the fall of 1941 and liquidated on 14 May 1943. It was located behind the SiedlceŁuków railroad track by the Łuków road. It occupied an area of about 2 square kilometers. About 300 people on average stayed in it and lived in two wooden barracks and railway cars. The prisoners worked in the gravel pit, where the norm was loading 150200 wagons of sand a day. Food consisted of 250 grams of bread and 1 liter of soup. The director of the camp was inspector Hoppe. There were instances of deaths due to beatings as well as during loading work. During the liquidation of the camp, some of the prisoners died in buildings that were set on fire by the Nazis, and the rest were shot to death at the Jewish cemetery. The only survivor was Leon Kapłan.97
CAMP IVWOLFER UND G&OUML;BEL ROAD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
It was established in the fall of 1941 and liquidated in October 1942. It was located on Brzeska Street. About 2,000 people on average stayed there, including about 100 from Łosice. The prisoners lived in ten wooden barracks. The director was a certain Wasilewski, a Volksdeutsche. The leader of the Jewish police was Mosze Hubermann. Altogether, 20,000 Jews went through the camp. The prisoners doing roadwork in the Wolfer und Göbel Company labored, among other things, on the roads and railroad tracks between Siedlce and Brześć and Siedlce and Warsaw. This company acted within the framework of the Todt Organization. A dysentery epidemic raged in the camp. During the liquidation of the camp, the prisoners were settled in the small ghetto.98
CAMP VBAUZUG [WORK TRAIN]
It was located next to the railroad station. The camp was occupied permanently by about 100 prisoners, who lived in train cars. These prisoners worked on repairing train tracks on the SiedlceBrześć line on the Bug River. The director of Bauzug was Walter, a railway man from Wuppertal.
Camp VIGerman Construction Inspectorate
It was located in a barrack connected to the Railway Houses. It functioned from 1942 to 14 May 1943. It was occupied by 60 people, who were engaged in unloading construction material. The director of the camp was the German Schefner.99
In addition to the above-mentioned camps, Jewish units of about 30 people worked on the territory of the Agricultural Syndicate, about 60 worked in the glassworks located in Gęsi Borek, and about 100 people worked at the military airport located in Nowe Siedlce.
The number of Jews who passed through the Siedlce labor camps should not be connected only with local Jews. Jews from neighboring cities, towns, and villages could be found in the labor camps, as well as those displaced for other localities. Altogether, 17,000 Jews died in Siedlce or were removed to Treblinka. They came not only from Siedlce but also from ghettos in Łosice (from Łosice, Huszlew, Olszanka, and Świniary), Sarnaki (from Sarnaki, Górki, Kornica, and Łysów), and Mordy (Mordy, Krzesk-Królowa Niwy, Przesmyki, Stok Ruski, and Tarków). Only a small number managed to hide, but even they continued to be in danger. The Siedlce dentist Stanisław Gilgun died during the Warsaw Uprising. Antoni and Stanisław Górka, hiding in Warsaw, were discovered and tortured to death in a Gestapo prison.
In 1944, the Germans tried to wipe out the traces of their crimes. [Wilhelm] Koppe, the Superior Commander of the SS and Police in the General Government, issued an order to the commanders of the Security Police and SD [security servicetrans.] in specific districts to form special 1005 units (Sonderkommando 1005). They were given the order to exhume and burn the bodies of Jews murdered in the General Government so that the Red Army would not be able to find traces of the extermination of the population in occupied territories. In the Warsaw district, this operation was directed by Kurt Nicolaus. He had at his disposition several functionaries of the Warsaw security police, a commando unit of the [Jewish] police service, numbering 60 people, as well as a Jewish labor group from the Łódź ghetto. As he himself testified, special unit 1005 under his command exhumed and burned hundreds of bodies in the regions of Siedlce, Sokołów Podlaski, and Węgrów alone.100 The clean-up procedure took place in the following manner: the German police would surround an area, a Jewish commando unit would dig up the bodies, place them on wooden or steel grills, pour gasoline on them, and burn them to ashes. The human ashes were then poured into the former places of burial, and the whole thing was covered with soil. During this operation, the stench of burning bodies drifted over the city for several days.101
Editor's Notes, Chapter 10
Estera Spektor was with the group of 30 women jailed before the execution, but she escaped. The name of one woman is not included in the list of the 29 who were executed. Return
Author's Notes, Chapter 10
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