by I.M. Sidroni (Sendrowicz)
Translated with Endnotes by Alex Weingarten
It is impossible to comprehend the extent of the huge and terrible Holocaust that was perpetrated upon the Jews of Europe in general and the Jews of Poland in particular, by the German murderers and their allies during the Second World War. Neither the heart nor the mind can understand it or encompass it. The Holocaust has not yet penetrated the hearts and minds of the peoples of the world, but also not the hearts and minds of the Jewish world, in its full significance and terror. We know, from extensively reading the newspapers and the literature of the Holocaust, and from hearing eye-witnesses people who went through the seven circles of hell and survived thanks to thousands of miracles that they themselves have not yet grasped all the events that happened around them and all the tragedies that affected them. It is not surprising then that others, on whom the Holocaust did not leave its terrible mark directly, have not been able to comprehend that awful period.
This chapter describes the effect of the Holocaust on the Jews of Sierpc. We want to present to the readers, both our townbspeople and others, excerpts from newspapers and books that discuss events in the town itself, before the deportation, and outside of the town, after the deportation. We also present some excerpts from the Ringelblum Archives of the Warsaw Ghetto.
The Jews of Sierpc were not mentioned much in the press and literature in all the years of their existence, just small citations here and there. This was not the case during the period of the Holocaust and afterwards. During this time they achieved fame prior to their destruction.
Below are passages that were found in the literature and the press, as they were written, and in their original language.
Intense Battles on the Sierpc-Plonsk Line
The newspaper Davar, published in Tel-Aviv on 23 Elul 5699 (September 7, 1939) contained the following dispatch:
[H] Warsaw, 7 (Reuters). An official Polish announcement states: 20 German aircraft were shot down yesterday (the day before yesterday) and 15 more aircraft today (yesterday). Only six of our Polish aircraft were intercepted and destroyed. There are intense battles going on north of the Torun Sierpc-Plonsk line. The enemy did not advance at all yesterday.
Their aircraft were heard a few times over our positions and over Warsaw.
The Burning of the Synagogue and other Misfortunes
The newspaper HaTsfira published in Tel-Aviv on 19 Kislev 5700 (December 1, 1939) had the following item:
[H] The Horrors of the Nazi Occupation
The synagogue in Sierpc went up in flames, and the man who tried to extinguish them was killed on the spot.
A postcard from Orsha, Russia that was sent on the sixth of November reached here on 29 November, to a family in the Ahuza [neighborhood] on the Carmel. The writer tells (in Polish) that he escaped from the Nazis only by a miracle. After a trip of 200 kilometers on roads full of troops and refugees, he arrived in Orsha, where he wrote this postcard.
Among the other atrocities and insanity of the Nazis, he says that the synagogue in the town of Sierpc, that was built 100 years ago and was among the most magnificent in Poland, had been set ablaze. A young Jewish man, who tried to put out the fire, was shot and killed on the spot by German soldiers.
When the Hitlerist army entered the town, 53 Jews were abducted and their whereabouts are unknown. Residents and leaders of the town were among them. The writer lists three names, and they are: Selik Nemczewko, Yaakov Waldenberg, and Avraham Tac.
The mercantile house of the ‘Tac Brothers’ was plundered and entirely destroyed.
The Suffering of the Jews of Sierpc
The newspaper Morgen Freiheit that appeared in New York on January 3, 1940 contained a lengthy letter written by Beryl Feinberg (the writer of the above postcard) on November 12, 1939 to his uncle Shlomo Feinberg in Brooklyn. We are presenting the sections that pertain to Sierpc below:
[Y] A Moving Letter from Jews who Fled the Shtetl Sierpc, Poland
I will write to you of what happened to us in Sierpc when we found out that the Germans are coming to our town. All the men between 14 and 60 and older were told to flee. We were told that if we succeeded in getting to the other side of the Vistula River, we would be saved.
I took to the road by foot together with Israelken, Yehudan, and Chaiman. You can imagine what they thought about this at home. It was very hard for mother to let four sons go out into the world. Rachel, Rivkah, and Biella were crying. Mother was devastated, and only we did not feel any tears.
We started on our way and traveled to Dobrzyn and from there made our way to the Vistula and crossed it in boats. We had to wait a long time for them,
…It turned out that the on the other side of the Vistula it was exactly the same as on our side, and that we had to go home.
…Mother and the others at home thought that we were already not among the living. You can imagine their joy when we returned home, when many others were killed on the road. But don't think that home had become the Garden of Eden. So listen to what the Hitlerists did to us:
They went from house to house and took out Jews for all sorts of labor. For instance, the old man Yehoshua Goldman had to sweep up the market square in front of the town hall, and on top of this, they lashed him with whips. The old Cantor Scheikes had to sing while sweeping in the middle of the market and afterwards they put a straw on his shoulder and told him to jump. And when the straw fell off, they beat him mercilessly.
A policeman came to Moniak Podskoc's house and when he noticed that he was trying to hide, he beat him so badly that they had to take him to the hospital. He is still confined to his bed.
Three weeks ago the Hitlerists set the synagogue on fire. When a Jewish boy came running with a bucket of water to put out the fire, they killed him on the spot. Afterwards, they stood the Jews in the street and forced them to say that they themselves had set fire to the synagogue. They shot at David Bergson, but they didn't hit him.
They completely emptied out Shmuel Tac's store. Lately they have been taking Jewish girls and women to clean the toilets in the jail. Among others there were Golda Goldman, Rocha Tac, and Rosina.
One time I was in the store selling things, and two soldiers came in and told me to put on my coat and come with them. One of the soldiers went outside, and the other whispered into my ear that I'm going to be sent together with a large group to a place from which I will never return. I immediately caught on, cut off a piece of material and gave it to him, and I immediately left by the back door. Since that day, I have not gone to the store. I have been hiding with all of my brothers in a pantry which is concealed by a closet.
Israel, Chayim, and I have decided to go to the Soviet area. We wanted to go to Ostrołęka, where we had heard that there was a unit of the Red Army. We bought three bicycles, packed a little laundry, and with many tears we left our town for the land of all the workers.
We were the first from Sierpc to leave, and we were very lucky because of that. Others had their bicycles, clothes, and money taken away from them, and they crossed the border confused and naked. They didn't take anything from us, and almost without any incidents we managed to cross to the Soviet side, near łomazy.
It was already evening. The town, in ruins and burned down, was covered with the first snow. A very nice girl invited us into her home, gave us something to eat, and let us sleep over.
…I am now in a town in White Russia, Orsha. My two brothers, Israel and Chayim, stayed in Bialystok.
…I forgot to write to you about something else: When the soldiers came for me in my store, and I managed to get away, they took 53 youths out of the town. Their parents did not know where they were. That day, the Jewish population of Sierpc underwent an indescribable tragedy. Among those that were taken away were: Sallek Nemczewki, Avraham Tac, Lichtenstein, Baruch Nemczewko, Yaakov Rotman, Zhitalni, Granewicz, the Greener brothers, and others. When we got to Bialystok, we met them all…
In the Warsaw Ghetto
I have in front of me five eye witness testimonies by deportees from Sierpc in the Warsaw Ghetto. They are part of the Ringelblum Archives that are now located in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, after they had been extracted from underground hiding places beneath the ruins of the ghetto, where they had been concealed.. One of the testimonies has the initials of the witness, P.K., and another has a date, May13, 1941. The testimony of P.K. briefly mentions the ghetto in Sierpc, and says: At this moment, there is not even one Jew left in Sierpc, because half of them died, and half were sent to Stezhgovo. This proves that this testimony was taken after January 6, 1942, the day that the residents of the Sierpc Ghetto were banished to Stezhgovo. Three of the testimonies are in Yiddish, and two are in Polish. We quote here excerpts from these statements about events and tribulations that were not noted by other Sierpc survivors, or described in general, without details.
[Y]On September 11, a security police force was formed, composed of Volksdeutsch. Their first job was to take the keys of all Jewish businesses. They used the opportunity to beat Jews. They gave the keys back the next day, and used the opportunity to renew the beatings.
…We started to do forced labor. It was very hard work and we were mercilessly beaten while doing it, so Jews started hiding all day and night in attics and closets, under stairwells and beds. This gave the Germans the opportunity for making searches and inbspections, and beating the people there while they were at it. The Poles played not a small role in this. Not only did they show where the Jews lived, but they actively helped in the police raids and searches.
…An edict was issued that merchandise can be sold only by showing ration cards. Jews were not given such cards.
…On the 15th (of September), registration was required of everyone between 16 and 60, under penalty of death. There was a great panic in town; people did not know what this will lead to. Mothers became very distressed, because they thought that they would all be sent away immediately.
The S.S. came to town on the 18th. Their first visits were to the leaders of the community and the sextons of the prayer houses. They immediately sealed the houses of worship and the community center and made the leaders and sextons responsible for collecting the signatures. They had to show up twice a day to declare themselves, in the morning and in the evening. Understand that each time they had to wash and clean the toilets. And when [the Germans felt like it, they took them to a stable and ordered them to face the wall and took out their weapons to frighten them into thinking they were going to shoot them.
…That is when the grief and sorrow began, with the forced labor, beatings, and the taking of merchandise. In order to find forced labor, they would take a few Polish underworld types who would show them who is Jewish.
…That is how the synagogue was burned down to its foundation, without a drop of water allowed inside. Only when the fire came close to the Polish houses did they allow the firemen to start extinguishing it, and then they took the Jews for forced labor. That was on the second night of Sukkoth. The next day, when the Jews came to work, they were told to turn over the person who had set the synagogue on fire. And they immediately stationed military units next to other places of worship to prevent them from being burned down.
…On the 12th of October a regulation was issued that Jews must wear a yellow patch which had Jude written on it. We cannot walk on the sidewalk and must doff our hats to Christians. These regulations were released by the town hall.
On the 14th all Jewish stores were closed, and everyone had to declare how much the business earned.
Since there were a lot of Volksdeutsch in our neighborhood, they allowed themselves a really good time. They took furniture from the Jews, merchandise, whatever any one of them felt like taking. They caused many problems for the Jews.
…After we returned to Sierpc, the Gestapo came, and immediately terrible times began for the Sierpc Jews. All Jewish institutions were closed and their books were confiscated. The batei midrash were sealed shut. They took the tools away from the ritual slaughterers.
…On the 18th of October, the civil administration of Sierpc was shut down. New edicts were issued against the Jews: Jews cannot manage their own workshops, cannot use electricity, and everyone must relinquish his properties.
…On the 22nd, they sent a letter to the Jewish Community that within three days they have to pay 50,000 zloty. This meant taking a lot of money from many people. Understand that wealthy Jews did not especially want to reveal how much money they had. Some of them fled from Sierpc. But all their efforts were not enough to reduce the sum. A delegation went to the burgermeister with 40,000 zlotys, and they were given a postponement until the 27th. After a lot of hard work, we finally succeeded in collecting the 10,000 zloty.
Together with meeting that deadline, on the 29th, sums from individuals that totaled half a million zloty were demanded. The smallest amount was 800 zloty, and the largest was 40,000, which had to be given within 48 hours. The whole world started chasing after as much money as they had, but in the magistrat they ordered that it be brought on Monday. That same evening, as soon as it became dark, gendarmes went through the town to certain addresses of individual contributors, and arrested them all, a total of 100 men. They harassed them for the whole night and beat them until they bled. They broke one young man's hand. That is how they treated them until nine in the morning. One of their officers came in the morning and said that whoever gave a thousand zloty would be set free. Some rich men gave 800 zloty or 600 zloty, and the last there gave 20 zloty. One of them was released without even giving a penny.
Two days later, they took over all the Jewish businesses. They came with trucks and removed all the merchandise. This took several days.
At the end of October, baking by Jewish bakers was forbidden.
About the Expulsion and the Ghetto
[Y]…From among all the Jews (who were assembled in the marketplace for deportation) they chose 50 families, most of them artisans: shoemakers and tailors, who were allowed to stay. Also left behind were a few old people, whose because of age and physical condition were not able to walk.
With time, a ghetto was formed there.
The Deportation of About 50 Young Men
The newspaper Davar of 14 Tevet 5700 (December 12, 1939) published the following letter:
[H]They Took Us for Work, but Really for Torture
Someone who was deported from Sierpc by the Gestapo and who is now in Vilnius, wrote a letter to his siblings in Tel-Aviv:
Ever since the Germans conquered Sierpc, the conditions of the Jews there have become insufferable. When they came, the gangs of the Gestapo and Storm Troopers took the Jews from their homes every day and forced them to do any sort of labor. Age didn't matter to them. The abuse during this labor cannot be put into words. Some Jews needed a doctor after finishing work, those that were still alive. They took our father from our house on the morning of Yom Kippur, shaved his beard, and forced him to sweep the street while wearing his prayer shawl. To his good fortune, they didn't keep him there for very long. You can only imagine our Yom Kippur… Some Jews were cruelly tortured that day while working. Thanks be to God on high, they didn't find anyone else in our house except on Yom Kippur. The days passed in this way until the eve of Sukkoth.
That day, the Gestapo men went from house to house and took over fifty young men. I was one of them. They took us for work, but really for torture. But what can we do? We waited for it to end and a chance to go home. Suddenly, a Gestapo man appeared with a piece of paper in his hand and started to read a declaration which said that we have to leave the territory conquered by the Germans, without ever returning. If anyone returns here, he will be stoned and shot. We were forced to sign this declaration. None of us were allowed to go home, not even to get a parting blessing from parents and relatives and take something for the road. They kept us in the jail overnight.
The next morning, the first day of Sukkoth, they took us with buses to Plonsk, and told us to run. We didn't manage to take anything with us. Mothers who apparently heard that we were being deported came in the morning and stood at a distance from the jail. (Men didn't dare to come.) But they didn't let them approach us or talk, or give us a package or something for the road. Wearing just light clothes and without a penny, we went on our way. As we passed through the villages, the peasants took pity on us and from time to time gave us pieces of bread. This is how we wandered until we arrived at the area occupied by the Russians. About twenty of us reached Vilnius.
A Letter from the Refugees in Vilnius
The following letter appeared in the newspaper Forward, published in New York on December 26, 1939:
[Y]Jews who fled the shtetl Sierpc (Plotzk Administrative District, Poland) write to the Forward.
To the worthy Editor of the Forward:
We are a group of refugees from the town of Sierpc (Poland), and we turn to you with a request that you publish this letter in your important newspaper, for which we thank you in advance. In this way, you can save us from ruin.
With great respect, the undersigned refugees.
An urgent appeal to our Sierpc compatriots who are in America!
We are a group of refugees from the town of Sierpc, Plotzk District (Poland), with the following request: If you are acquainted with the miserable situation of the Polish Jews, then we can inform you that, unfortunately, we are still among them. It happened in the following way. The Germans occupied our town Sierpc eight days after the war broke out. That is when the suffering of the Jews in the town started. Every day they would drag the Jews out of their houses and take them for the hardest labor without considering their age, and beat them until they drew blood. They cut the beards of all the adult Jews with dull knives and tried to carve swastikas in them. On Rosh Hashanah the batei midrash were shut by the Gestapo and the Torah scrolls were tossed on the ground and ripped apart by the filthy hands of the Nazis. Then all the Jews hid in the cellars, where we stealthily said the Rosh Hashanah prayers, so that they would not be heard in the street. Very early in the morning of Yom Kippur, all elderly Jews were dragged from their beds, and under the watchful eye of the storm troopers, had to sweep the streets with their bare hands while wearing their prayer shawls. All Jewish businesses were immediately confiscated, and the ritual slaughterers were forbidden to work, and their tools were taken away. On the eve of Sukkoth, without being told anything, they took us for forced labor, which was actually like a living hell, so that we wished for death instead of this persistent brutality. After this inhuman treatment, we were forced to sign a declaration that we will leave the German territory, never to return home, under penalty of death. Then they took us to a prison, where we spent the whole night. The next morning, the first day of Sukkoth, they took us by bus to the not yet finally determined German side of the border, not allowing us to take anything with us except what we wore on our backs. We had to walk for a few weeks under horrible conditions, suffering from hunger and cold. As much as was possible, we didn't stay the night anywhere until we reached Vilnius. We realize that our parents do not know what happened to us, and that we do not know our parents' fate. When we were on the road, we heard the tearful news that the Sierpc synagogue was burned down by the Gestapo, and that a Jewish boy was shot trying to rescue the Torah scrolls. In Vilnius all we have is a room where we sleep on the floor and one meal a day. We are suffering from the cold and hunger, and walk around without clothes and barefoot, and have no way of earning our living. We are all ready to work, and we don't want to be a burden to anyone. Therefore we are sending you this urgent appeal to quickly send us material help, and to also get immigration permits to America for us. We believe that you will fulfill our request, considering our current tragic state. We thank you in advance, and send you regards from all our hearts, from far away.
The Sierpcer Refugees who find themselves in Vilnius
Yitzchak Gedaliah Danziger
A Letter from the Refugee Committee in Vilnius
The following letter, though it did not appear in a newspaper, deserves to be in this book and in this chapter.
[Y]Vilnius, January 28, 1940.
To the Relief Committee of Sierpc Townsmen in America.
We have the honor of telling you that we received your letter of the 2nd of this month, wherein you sent through HIAS three hundred (300) lita, for which we are very grateful.
We can inform you that we have called a meeting of all the Sierpcer who are now in Vilnius - 33 people who came on the 25th of this month. We chose a committee of five who will work with you on the matters of concern to the Sierpcers in exile in Vilnius. This committee is composed of the following people:
David Nemczewki a teacher
Michal Lipsker a director of the Folks-Bank in Sierpc
At the meeting it was decided that your grant of 300 lita would be distributed equally to the Sierpcer in amounts of eight lita and eighty cents each. (We decided to withhold 10 lita for necessary expenses.) We are sending a receipt from the Sierpcer in Vilnius.
You should realize that beginning with the deportation from Sierpc, all the Jews in our town were driven out, and they were not allowed to take anything with them. Many found themselves in Warsaw in tragic circumstances, many were in Bialystok and other towns occupied by the Soviets, and their situation was not very good either. They are all trying, with all their resources, to come to Vilnius. From here they have an opportunity to get in touch with the outside world, to try and emigrate.
The Lithuanians are now registering all refugees. A large part of them immediately get residence orders to settle in small towns or villages in Lithuania. The situation is very unclear. This makes it imperative that the outside world should take an interest in the refugees. And it would be very helpful if our dear compatriots in America could actively concern themselves with our situation.
During the above-mentioned meeting, the question came up of how we could support our dear ones in the German occupied areas monetarily, because their situation is critical. We believe that there is a way that we can successfully manage to transfer money to our families.
We can inform you that the following families are in Bialystok: Szmiga, Jurkewicz, Fabian, Rotman, Malowanczyk Zvi, and other individuals. In our town, Sierpc, there are a few Jews whom the Germans allowed to stay: Moshe Yehuda Kirsch and his wife, Henich Tcharnobrodna and his wife, Yaakov Rabinowicz (who managed an iron business together with the Friedmans), and Leibl Gotlibowski, his wife, child, and mother.
We thank you for the sum you sent and ask you to reply to us soon.
Write to us and tell us if it is possible to get residence papers for us in America. This would be the only help in our present critical situation.
We await your answer and remain, with respect
We can be reached at the following address:
Care of HIAS
Konsca q-ve 26-13
A receipt for the money received from the Relief (Aid Fund) of Sierpc townbspeople in America is enclosed with this letter. It is signed by 33 Sierpc exiles in Vilnius, and reads as follows:
We the undersigned hereby acknowledge the receipt of eight lita and 80 cent (8.80) from the Refugee Committee of Sierpc Townbspeople in Vilnius.
In the book Yon-Metzula HeHadash by Moshe Prager that was published in Tel-Aviv in 5711 , page 44 has the following passage:
[H]On the 7th of November a sentence of deportation was issued to the Jewish residents of the region of Sierpc, who numbered almost 20,000 souls. In one day, the Jewish settlements in Sierpc, Racionz, Zhuromin, Biezun, and the neighboring villages were wiped out.
[H]From the Horrors of These Days
The newspaper Davar of 2 Tevet 5700 (December 14, 1939) writes, among other reports under the above headline, the following:
[H]All the Jews of the town of Chęciny received an order to leave town. The Jewish residents of the towns of Sierpc and Zhuromin and some towns in the region of Plotzk were also expelled.
[Y]Terrible Information from Wojsławice, Plotzk, Chelm, Hrubieszów, Sierpc and other Towns in Nazi Poland
In the Forward newspaper in January, 1940, the following is written under the above headline:
[Y]Jews are being driven out of their living quarters every day in Wojsławice, Plotzk, Sierpc, Drobin, Lipno, and other towns.
All the Jews have already been expelled from many streets there.
In Sierpc, the Jews were taken to the train station accompanied by band music. They were forced to form three separate columns, and not allowed to take even a shirt.
In all of Poland, husbands, wives and children were separated, one not knowing where the other was headed.
In Plotzk the Jews were once forced to run in the streets chasing after ducks. When they couldn't catch a duck, they would be beaten.
In Sierpc and Plotzk, the Jews were made to wear their prayer shawls and forced to walk through the streets singing Jewish songs.
The same news item appeared in the newspaper HaTzofe of the 9th of Adar A, 5700 (February 18, 1940).
[H]Bloody Incidents in the Towns of Poland
The newspaper Davar, on the 6th of Adar A, 5700 (February 15, 1940) wrote as follows beneath the above headline, among other items:
[H]Our Jewish brethren were expelled from the towns of Sierpc and Zhuromin. Some children got lost on the way, and their parents were not allowed to look for them.
[H]From Eminent People Who Fled Poland:
Jews are Being Driven from Town to Town
In the newspaper HaBoker of 11 Adar A, 5700 (February 20, 1940), under the above headline, the following is written, among other items.
[H]The Nazis are responsible for conditions that have caused the outbreak of diseases among the Jews: they are being driven out, from place to place. Thus 7000 Jews were expelled from Sierpc, Plonsk, Rypin, etc. to Warsaw, and each was allowed to take only a small valise. There was no room for them in Warsaw, and they were forced to sleep in the streets or in synagogues, hungry and dying from the cold
[H]The Handiwork of Eradication in Nazi Poland
The newspaper Davar of 17 Adar A, 5700 (February 26, 1940) contained the following under the above headline:
[H]London (Jewish Telegraphic Agency). Polish officials have received information from the German occupied territory that the Nazi authorities have started deporting the Polish and Jewish populations from the Plotzk district. The Jews have already been expelled from the towns of Wojsławice, Drobin, Sierpc, Lipno, and Plotzk.
[Y]Jewish Life in Nazi Poland
In the newspaper Neiveldt, Tel-Aviv, of April 4 and 18, 1941, Z. Arthur wrote an article with the above headline, which contained, among the rest:
[Y]One day, as I was sitting with another member of the community leadership, we were told that a delegation of displaced Jews from the shtetl Sierpc had come.
We asked the delegation to come in. Two young Jewish laborers were standing in front of us. They looked depressed, with frightened eyes darting from side to side. They did not feel safe even in the office of the Jewish Community. Their clothes and shoes were torn and wrinkled. It took them a long time until they felt enough at ease to say what they wanted to say.
And this is what they told us:
A Volksdeutsch militia group was stationed in their shtetl for some time. These were German peasants who lived in the villages in the area, and were Polish citizens. On the first day they declared that Jewish property was forfeited. They then decreed that the Jewish community must pay a very large amount of money. In this way, the held the Jewish population hostage, since they would be shot if the money was not paid on time.
Then they ordered all Jews to shut their stores. A day later they ordered them to open the stores and went inside by themselves. The Jewish stores were completely plundered. After this they brought wagons with horses to all Jewish homes and thoroughly searched and emptied them, taking everything they could find. Also furniture, and even dishes and brooms. They divided it among the German peasants in the surrounding German villages. In a few cases, the Polish neighbors also took something. They answered when asked about this, You see, they are taking everything; let a little bit stay with ‘your own.’
After that came an order that all Jews, without exception, young and old, should gather in the marketplace. When all the Jews were in the marketplace, the Volksdeutsch militia searched all Jewish houses to make sure there wasn't a Jew squirreled away somewhere.--- They ordered them to stand in rows. The German militia surrounded the crowd, a German orchestra started playing, and that is how they led them to the railroad station. There, they stuffed them into freight cars. The cars were sealed, and the Jews were suddenly robbed of all their possessions, and shipped out of their town.
--- The two boys stole away from the group after Nowy Dwor and made it quickly to Warsaw. The group of Jews that were expelled from Sierpc was still on its way. More than 1700 men, women, and children were deported.
The Jews driven out of Sierpc did not arrive in Warsaw together. Near Warsaw, they were released, and ordered to go there. They were told that anyone who dared return to his shtetl would be shot.
Three days after the two boys came, there were already 1200 Sierpc Jews in Warsaw. More came in the following days. The Jewish Community registered 1600 Sierpc Jews who came to Warsaw.
What would people do back in the destroyed town? We talked it over among ourselves, we went to the head of the Joint, we put the Jews up in synagogues and Hasidic prayer rooms.
In one Hasidic prayer room, on Grzybowska Street, where there was, at the most, room for 40 people, there were 300 Jewish refugees from Sierpc. The people had come sick and broken. They fell on the floors, and they couldn't move for a few days. There was already an abdominal typhus epidemic raging among the Jews of Warsaw. Almost from the first day they were there, it started to break out among the Sierpc Jews. Every day we had to take tens of them from the places they were staying to the hospital, and many of them to the cemetery.
In the Synagogue in Warsaw
In the newspaper Di Voch that appeared in Paris on December 22, 1939, the journalist S.L. Schneiderman published an article with the heading [Y]This Is How the Jews in Warsaw Live, a conversation with Dr. H. Shoskes, who relates, among other things:
[Y]The last Saturday before I left Warsaw, I prayed in a synagogue on Rinkowa Street near the Iron Gate Square. We prayed in the women's section, while beneath us, in the men's section, there were Jews from Sierpc lying there. They were hungry, abandoned, without any change of clothes.
[H]Exiles from Kalisz, Sierpc, Racionz, and Others
In the book Yon-Metzula HeHadash by Moshe Prager, Tel-Aviv, 5711, page 96, there is the following passage:
[H]On 5 Rinkowa Street, in the little building of a small synagogue, 350 souls found shelter. They were the most miserable and unluckiest of the refugees from Kalisz, Sierpc, Racionz, and other places. Within just a few weeks, there were 35 cases of typhus here.
In the book Mlawa Notebook, published in New York in 1950, on page 400:
[Y]There were then in the city (Kislev 5701, December 1940) 6000 Jews, many of them from Sheps, Rypin, Zhuromin.
The book One From Town and Two From the Family edited by Binyamin Tanenbaum, Merhavia, 1947 contains the following excerpt
[H]Yitzhak Dygola, 16, (nine years old at the outbreak of the war), relates:
---We had relatives in Sierpc, so we went to that town and lived there for a year. I would go to work until we were deported to a ghetto of 200 Jews, where we were crowded together, 15 or 20 to a room. There were many diseases, and many died of hunger. There too, I worked hard to earn my living.
The above book, Mlawa Notebook, says on page 405:
[Y]Again after much pleading, the authorities consented to leave the Stezhgovo Jews where they were, and to bring there the Jews from Sheps, Racionz, and Biezun.
In the Stezhgovo Yizkor Book, that was published in New York in 1951, on pages 93-94 of the article by Ben-Zion Bagen:
[Y]This time we again were successful in bribing the authorities and it was decided that the ghetto in Stezhgovo would be enlarged. We would take the Jews from Sierpc and Biezun, who were previously supposed to be expelled to Warsaw. On the sixth of January, 1942, military vehicles brought over a thousand souls from Sierpc and Biezun, with their meager belongings, to the gates of the ghetto.
It is hard to describe the terrible suffering of the newcomers, frightfully beaten and bloody. They had managed to drag themselves out using their last ounces of strength. Our Stezhgovo Ghetto keepers of order went outside of the ghetto, and under a rain of beatings with clubs by the S.S., managed as quickly as possible to bring in the people and their parcels.
The Schutzstaffel (S.S.) did not come into the ghetto because they were afraid of contracting diseases. We had told them that they were rampant among the Jews.
It is hard to imagine the great compassion and devotion that the Stezhgovo Jews showed under these circumstances. During that night, living quarters were found for all the newcomers. A public kitchen was set up that served 400 dinners every day. The crowding was unbearable. There were on the average more than 10 people in a room. Everyone accepted this with love, knowing that they were fulfilling a humanitarian duty of the first order.
In the same book, in the article by Fishel Marantz on page 98, it says:
[Y]The majority of the Jewish police consisted of youthful deportees from Sierpc. The police commissioner was also a Jew from Sierpc, who was shot by the Germans in the Mlawa train station during the deportation of the Stezhgovo Jews. Unfortunately, I cannot remember his name.
The Hanging of 20 Jews Including 3 from Sierpc
The same article in the same book relates the following:
[Y]The sixth of August was a dreadful day for all the Jews in the Stezhgovo Ghetto. On that day, the Judenrat received an order to assemble all the Jews. When all the Jews had gathered, a Gestapo man, apparently an officer, stood up and read out a prepared list of 20 people who must immediately be arrested and executed. He read out the following:
Leib Finklestein (age 65)
Avigdor Goldstein (age 38)
Gedaliah Tyk (age 30)
Reuven Ozarowidz (age 43)
Eliezer Ozarowidz (age 48)
Yaakov Goldstein (age 25)
Avraham Binem Margolin (age 60)
Yechiel Platt (age 28)
Simchah Rybek (age 30)
Nachman Grynbaum (age 25)
Feibl Brieftreger (age 19)
Chayim Chodek (age 30)
Hersh Gurfinkel (age 27)
Yehezkel Zochlinski (from Mlawa, age 60)
Yehezkel Pas (Pesa) (from Sierpc)
Ephraim Yosef Lelonek (from Sierpc)
Toviah Zhitalni (from Sierpc)
Malewiak (from Bieżuń)
And two more Jews who are anonymous
Altogether twenty people.
All the Jews were shut up in a small and dark tomb. The Jewish police received a firm order to guard those arrested and not permit any relatives to contact them. It is hard to understand how they were able to hold on there without food or water. All 20 Jews were sentenced to death by the Germans in the basement of the prison. They assumed that none of the victims would be capable of any resistance during the execution. The Germans stood guard along with the Jewish police. But there was a moment when the Germans were not paying attention, and it was possible to approach the prison. It was not possible to throw them any food; they could only sing the Psalms. Others recited prayers for the dead. Heartbreaking scenes took place near the prison. Mothers slit their veins. The victims suffered in that basement for four weeks. From time to time, Hitlerists from Mlawa would go down to the basement and see if the Jews were still breathing, because for the hanging so say the hangmen they must be alive.
A day before the execution, they put barbed wire around the prison, and let the Jews out of the basement. Standing behind the barbed wire, they could see them building a gallows about five meters from the prison. The Jews in the ghetto were forced to bring wood and stones for the gallows. Some Jews were beaten and made to rehearse how to pull the stool out from underneath the hanging man. When they were given a special order, they had to put the stool in its place, and when given another order, they had to very quickly pull the stool out from beneath the feet.
On September 2, 1942, while it was still dark, all the Jews men, women, and children had to come to the gallows site. The Jews were also forced to set up benches for the Volksdeutsch, who came cheerfully and brought their wives and children. The Germans laughed loudly, as if they were at a show, and told their children that when they grow up, they will also be able to order the destruction of Jews. At about eleven o'clock, three Gestapo men came from Mlawa to carry out the execution. Each Jew that had been arrested had his hands and feet bound, and a noose was placed around his neck. One Gestapo man gave a speech where he explained why they were hanging 20 Jews. For one Jew, it was because he had sneaked out of the ghetto. A second one, because he had smuggled food. About Yaakov Goldstein, he said that he had played a Polish song that called for freedom.
---The souls of the 20 martyrs departed from their bodies in just a few minutes. They had all been hanged by six in the evening. Later they took them to Calvin's Wood, where a large pit had already been prepared.
(January 22, 1948, Thursday Shevat 11, 5708, the bodies of the 20 martyrs were exhumed, and were taken for a proper Jewish burial)
The Destruction of the Ghetto
The same book and the same article states on pages 102-103:
[Y]From that miserable day onward, no Jew in the ghetto had any doubt that all the Jews would perish. Everyone's nerves were frayed, so nobody could fall asleep. Everybody waited, since the worst could happen at any moment.
On November 20, 1942, the Jews received an order at night to assemble in the ghetto. The Germans separated the older men and women and brought peasants with carts to take them to the Mlawa Ghetto. When they came to Mlawa, Gestapo men were waiting for the victims and started beating them. They added a tranbsport of Mlawa Jews to the Stezhgovo Jews, and took them all to the railway station. With the wild yells of the Hitlerists mixed together with the screaming of little children, they were hastily driven to the train. Anyone who fell would not get up anymore. They immediately shot him. The peasants said that the whole way from Mlawa to Wieliczka was covered with dead Jews. That tranbsport of the 20th of November was taken to the most horrible of all the death camps, to Belzec, and brought to the gas chambers there.
Four days later, on November 24, 1942, the final liquidation of the Stezhgovo Ghetto occurred. This time all the Jews in the ghetto were assembled, and were taken in peasants' carts straight to the Mlawa train station. They were forced into the freight wagons under a hail of blows and bullets. These cars had been sprayed with chloroform, which tore at their eyes.
Up to 240 people were packed into a wagon. The crush was so great that people were pushed out of the moving train. There were wild Germans in the station who ‘for the fun of it’ fired into the wagons. The train came to Auschwitz, but only a small number of those in the wagons were still alive. The greater part suffocated from the crowding and lack of air. There were also some, the lucky ones, who had a little poison with them and put an end to their lives quickly.
Ben-Zion Bagen writes on page 99 of the above article, about the liquidation of the Stezhgovo Ghetto:
[Y]When the Stezhgovo Jews arrived in Auschwitz; I was already a senior resident there. I already had a lot of experience. I had an inkling of which day the Stezhgovo Jews were coming because the tranbsports arrived in a certain order: from Ciechanów, Mlawa, Plonsk, and so on. I hoped with all my heart to see the Stezhgovo Jews just once before I died. But the dark destiny would not allow it. The Stezhgovo tranbsport of women, men and children were almost all shipped directly to the gas bunkers. Only four or five people made it to the camp.
All the others were immediately gassed, and their souls left them with the most frightful and terrible suffering. ‘May their souls be bound in the bundle of life.’
The newspaper Davar of 26 Heshvon 5702 (November 16, 1941) contained the following item:
[H]Germanizing the Names of Towns in Poland
[H]The Germans changed the names of quite a few of the towns in the occupied areas of Poland. For instance: Brodnica (Pomeran) Strasburg; Ciechanów Zichenau; Przasnysz Praschnitz. For these names, the Germans at least attempted a phonetic resemblance. But here are some more changes: Maków Makheim; Plonsk Plöhnen; Ostrołęka - Scharpenoiza; Mlawa Milau; Plotzk Dettersburg; Pułtusk Ostenburg; Sierpc Zichelberg; Rypin Ripan; Lipno Lipa.
The following announcement appeared In the newspaper Des Neie Leiben, No. 43 (68), that was published in Lodz, on 27 Heshvan, 5707 (November 21, 1946:
[Y]The Jewish Committee in Sierpc extends its heartfelt thanks to The Sierpc Relief Committee of America for its unfailing help to the Sierpcer Jews in Poland.
The Jewish Committee in Sierpc:
Y. Sakowicz, M. Skornik, Moshe Grapa
In the newspaper Der Amerikaner, that was published in New York in 1947, there appeared a series of articles by the singer Emma Scheiber titled Mir Zeinen Doh (We Are Here) about HaBreicha or Aliyah B ([The Escape Movement] the illegal immigration of the Holocaust survivors [to Palestine]). In the issue No. 43, 29 Av, 5707 (August 15, 1947) of that newspaper, the following excerpt appears:
[Y]We came to a town. There Mr. Escape awaited us, a certain Ephraim, from Sierpc, Poland. We immediately knew that we could totally rely on this youth, that he has everything well in hand. He organized the groups, and gave the group leaders their orders.
In the newspaper Unzer Veldt that appeared in Paris on 26 Adar B, 5708 (April 6, 1948), there was an article titled;
[Y]A Stroll Through Ten Once-Jewish Towns Which Do Not Have a Minyan of Jews.
This discusses the towns of Plonsk, Zakroczym, Wyszegrod, Ciechanów, Sochocin, Mlawa, Rypin, Dobrzyń on the Drwęca River, Plotzk, and Sierpc. About Sierpc, it states:
[Y]There are now a total of eight Jewish families inn Sierpc, or Sheps as the Jews called it, including two greengrocers and two shoemakers.
In the newspaper Davar of 11 Tishrei 5709 (October 14, 1948), there appeared the following item:
[H]German Prisoners of War Will Return Gravestones to Jewish Cemeteries
Warsaw (P.A.P. [Polish Press Agency]). A new order issued by the Polish Justice Ministry requires German prisoners of war to collect all the gravestones in the town of Sierpc, and return them to the Jewish cemetery. During the German occupation, the gravestones were removed from the Jewish cemetery and used for paving the sidewalks.
In addition, the Polish government acceded to the demand of the Jewish Committee of Lublin, and ordered the return of the tombstone that was removed from the Jewish cemetery in Zamschatz.
[Facing Page 528]
|[The banner states: Remember the Souls of the 5000 Martyred Jews of Sierpc that were Destroyed by the German Murderers 1940-1943]
Holocaust Survivors of Sierpc at a Memorial Meeting in Munich, Germany, on the Anniversary of the Expulsion of the Jews of Sierpc 8 November 1947
|[The tombstone shaped sign states: In Memory of the Souls of the 5000 Martyrs of the Town of Sierpc that were Killed by Various Means by the German Murderers in the Years 1940-1943. God Will Avenge their Blood.]|
[Facing Page 529]
|Holocaust Survivors in Sierpc - with Lewis Segal, Secretary of the National Jewish Workers' Organization of America (Yiddishe Natsionale Arbeiter Farband) - Visited Poland and Brought $200 for the Holocaust Survivors in Sierpc from the Sierpcer Relief Fund of America.
Because of the Dangers in the Period Immediately After the War, He was Accompanied by Bodyguards.
Right to Left, Row 1, Sitting: Tula Rapatzki (Biezun), Yaakov Skornik, Mintcha Kirshenbaum (Bieżuń), Malewiak (Bieżuń)
[Facing Page 536]
Right to Left, Row 1, Sitting: Avraham Bergson, Pnina Bergson, Batya Ben Ari, David Ben Ari (Dobroszklanka)
Row 2, Sitting: Avraham Ben David (Mlawa), Tovah Valuka, Avraham Yerushalmi (Fried), Yeshayahu Friedman, Yitzhak Bergson, Sara Bergson
Standing: Gustah Berman, Moshe Berman, Ephraim Talmi (Valuka), Menachem Avni (Shtinhoz), Mordechai Rosen, Yechiel Moshe Sidroni (Sendrowicz), Mnucha Ben David (Niza Mlawa)
[Reverse of Facing Page 536]
The Names of the Teachers from Right to Left: Row 1 - Kratuszinska, Row 2 - Mizails, Reich, Feigel
Right to Left, Row 1, Sitting: Esther Kadecka, Chibka Dobroszklanka, Sara Gorna, Frania Papierczyk, Mania Podskoc, Golda Skovitz, Esther Leah Pukacz, Zaltzer
Row 2: Tziporah Rozynek, the Teacher Revtcha Bukat, the Teacher David Maniamchevka, the Teacher Broniah Laska, the Teacher Shinvitz, the Teacher Nachman Eichler, the Teacher Altman, the Teacher Shmulik Valuka, Roza Lelonek, Helena Kasiarz
Row 3: Simtchak, Tovah Lelionek, Esther Leah Schlachter, Gongola, Sara Klin, Fela Lanter, Avraham Meir Dorfman, Ganiah Bukat, Mendzha Podskocz, Yaska Arpa
Row 4: Tzippa Bukat, Blumah Nejszaten, Sheina Openchaim, Hanna Atlas, Juzelewski, Tovah Szmiga, Bizel Gunsher, Malkah Tcharnotchepka, Esther Frankel, Yetta Grappa
[Reverse of Facing Page 537]
[A photocopy of the receipt for eight lita and 80 cent from the Refugee Committee of Sierpc Townbspeople in Vilnius described in this chapter in Section B A Minor Deportation, A Letter from the Refugee Committee in Vilnius]
[The following is a list of endnotes. The translator's endnotes are inside of square  brackets to indicate that they are not part of the original text; the footnotes that were part of the original text are listed here as endnotes, without the square brackets.]
|Translation - Jewish Publication Society (1917 Edition)
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