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Thus Was the Sochaczew Community Tortured

B. Jarlicht

Translated by Jerrold Landau

There were no Jews there when the Germans entered Sochaczew. All of them had fled to Warsaw. Some of them were killed, including Chaim Leib Liberman and his son, and Aharon Rozenperl. In Sochaczew, the Germans found the only Jew, a sick person who was not able to flee, and they murdered him. I no longer remember his family name. They called him Zussel the butcher.

The Poles showed the Germans where there were Jewish houses, and the Germans set them on fire. The names of the Poles who helped the Germans were as follows: Wyktor Malinowski, Jan Zokowski, Sabczok who was a former policeman, and Gurski's son Francizek.

In 1940, refugees from Glowno, Zgierz, Lodz, and Janiki came to Sochaczew. Only a few families remained in Sochaczew. The rest were away in Warsaw, for they did not have anywhere to live.

The Judenrat was formed at the end of 1939. It was composed of the following 24 people: Biderman (chairman), Yossel Muney, Shmuel Libert, Velvel Pinczewski, Pinye Rozenkop, Leibish Keller, Brzozowski, Balles, Aharon Zelig Marienfeld, Berliner, Itche Gelbsztejn, Avraham Tilman, Yechiel Sztern, Shmuel Rotsztejn, and Maneh Bresler. I do not remember the rest of the names.

The Judenrat related well to the Jewish population. In 1940, a new Judenrat was formed with Itche Gelbsztejn as chairman, Shmuel Libert as treasurer, Maniele Libert (work office), Nachum Grundwag (secretary). The members of the Judenrat were: Aharon Zelig Marienfeld, Aharon Szmelc. High roles were played by Gelbsztejn, Shmuel Libert and his son. They imposed contributions upon people. When these people refused to pay, they compiled a list of the rebels and gave it to the Germans, who arrested them and tortured them so much until they gave over the money. On account of this money, the Judenrat members reveled with the Germans, and bought furs and jewels for themselves.

The Judenrat also activated “rescues” for Jews. There was an ordinance from the Germans that Jews were permitted to walk only in the middle of the street. The Judenrat worked things out so that Jews were able to go on the sidewalks. Jews worked in the dismantling of the iron bridge. They were greatly tortured during their work and received beatings. The Judenrat worked things out to ensure that the workers would not be beaten.

In the year 1914, at the request of the following Polish residents – Zelankewicz, Zokowski, Ratchimel, Balderski, the younger Balinski and others whose names I do not remember – a ghetto was created. The ghetto existed for a total of four weeks. The chairman Gelbsztejn lived in Sztechler's house, which was called the “White House”. Libert lived in Urbinski's house. His “residence” was called “Belvedere”.

On February 18, 1941, a deportation from the Sochaczew ghetto took place. Libert and Gelbsztejn fled and left the Jews to their own lot. The former “Waszny” of the financial office – Czelaniek – informed the Germans that the Jews were owing taxes, and one must collect the “debts” from them or else the Jews should be deported. The Land Council requested that the “black”[1] Volksdeutschen collate a list of the Jews who are owing taxes, and confiscate all of their belongings in lieu of the debts. At that time, the Jews were beaten and tortured, and their last bit of meager belongings were taken from them.

Balderski's daughter, her married name being Rozepczyk, had a consort who was a German officer called Blashau. She wanted the Jews to give her their jewels. After a long period of torture, the Jews were compelled to give her the demanded jewels.

Jews who had money had ways of surviving, whereas the poor expired from need. When the ghetto was created, half of the Jews were sent to Zyrardow. The expelled people consisted of the poor, who were not able to buy their way. Shmuel Libert wanted that the ghetto dwellers be divided into two groups, who would receive cards of different colors – white and yellow. Those with white cards would remain in the ghetto, and those with yellow would be deported.

The Jews celebrated all of the festivals in secret. These were festivals of tribulation.

The baker Jan Rzokowski gave a harmonica to a sheketz and ordered the Jews to go out with their kapotes and Jewish caps to the marketplace, and dance to the playing of the sheketz. The Jews danced in the marketplace for a half a day.

{Photo page 472: From right: Nachum Szmelc, Mendel Rozen, Baruch Flejszman, Yechiel Diamant, his wife (nee Segal) and daughter Feiga-Luba, Sheindel Lewkowicz.}

The Jewish police commanded that the Jews not leave the ghetto. The penalty was death for going over to the Aryan side. When the Judenrat fled to Warsaw, there was no supervision in the ghetto. A “black” with the name Meps approached Menashe Knott with a demand that he give him boots. When Menashe did not give him any boots, the Volksdeutsche shot the Jew near Jarczewski's butcher shop.

When the Jews were deported from the ghetto, Poles stood by the highway and took the bags of from the Jews, saying to them that they would need them since they are most certainly going to their deaths. The elder Gorski rejoiced and said: “Finally, this is what we waited for. We have a Sochaczew that is empty of Jews.” In the year 1943, Moshe Biznicki was captured by the “blacks” in the town of Dembsk. They burnt his eyes, chopped off his ears, and cut off his tongue. He gave up his soul amidst terrible torture.

Two months later, Hersch Graubard, the boot maker's[2] son, met a similar death in the village of Altanka. Shamai Flejszman was murdered in the village of Chodkow. The tailor Chudi was hiding in the same village with his wife and children. The “blacks” informed on them, and they were murdered. The three Jakubowicz butchers were murdered in 1943 in the village of Zukow by the A. K. (Krajowa Armie) – the Polish underground army under the command of the Polish government[3] in London. The miller Szpajzhendler was murdered in the village of Rybno in the second half of 1943. At the end of 1943 in the same village, the Germans capture Chaim Brzozowski, Yisrael Kimelman and other Jews whose names I do not remember, and led them to the cemetery. There the murderers cast lots as to which Jew would have to kill which. Chaimel Brzozowski seized the opportunity at that moment, and fled in the direction of the river. The Germans shot after him, but he succeeded in fleeing. Brzozowski hid in the villages. Approximately a half year later, the peasants captured him and turned him over to the gendarmes, for the Germans publicized an announcement that a person would receive a fortieth measure of liquor and a kilo of sugar for every Jew turned in.

{Photo page 474: Szewczyk: From among the number who helped hide the persecuted Jews.}

I was hidden for a certain time with the peasant Szewczyk. That peasant told me about everything. People such as him were very few. I was sent deported to Warsaw on February 18, 1941. I was in the Warsaw Ghetto until the last days of Passover of 1941. I was captured for work on those days. I was sent to Garwolin. I worked at regulating the Wilga River. My brother-in-law Reuven Czemniarski, Asher Herneberg, Moshe Ber and others were also captured.

There were approximately 600 people in the camp. I found a few other Jews from Sochaczew there: Yidel Maszman and his brother, Mechel Marienfeld, Welman's son, Diamant's son, and others. The work was very hard. We worked from 4:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. We were standing in mud until the belt. As food, we received 10 deca[4] of bread, a liter of soup, and pieces of rotten beets. We were beaten mercilessly. Each of us was marked with yellow patches on the shoulders and a number in front. My number was 366.

The company that conducted the work by the Wilga River was called the “Rotszinski Firm”. The chief engineer was Matola, and the technician was Doganski. The commandant of the camp was a Ukrainian named Bilas. All other officials were Polish. If we were 5 minutes late for work, a slaughter would begin. Diamant was murdered in such an attack. The chief murder in such “aktions” was Janek, a low ranking officer in the Polish army.

An epidemic of dysentery spread through the camp. People were swollen with hunger. 20-30 people died daily. New victims from Warsaw were brought to take the place of those that died.

On May 28, 1941, I discussed with Pinkus and Maszlanka the question of escaping from the camp, where an intolerable death was awaiting us. It was a dark night. We had no tools with which to cut the wire. We bit through the wire with our teeth, and the three of us fled. We went away in the direction of Lukow. We paused in the town of Stanin. There was no ghetto there yet. We found a few Jews from Sochaczew there: Noach Lewin and his son, Simcha Kotton, Necha and Baltsha Liberman, and the former resident Rachel Ajgelfeld. All of them were occupied with begging, for they had no means with which to live.

I went out to the village of Nowa Wroblina and worked there as a “Parawek” (servant) for the peasant Jaroslaw Donski. When the war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out, an ordinance was issued that Jews can only travel on the streets until 5:00 p.m. Noach Lewin was murdered at that time. I remained with the peasant until December 1942. The peasant procured a document for me under the name of Stanislaw Michalski and did not wish to hide me any more.

I went away in the direction of Sochaczew, for I did not have anywhere to go. I arrived in Sochaczew in January 1943. At night, I went to Wyrt Draber, and he enabled me to go away to a village. He gave me 10,000 zloty, which my sister had left behind.

I spent the night in Felicks Koszinski's cellar. During the day, I went away in the direction of Gombin, and stopped in the village of Bibiampol at the home of Francizek Szewczyk. I hid for 18 months in Szewczyk's grove. Without the knowledge of his wife, he shared his last morsel of bread with me, for things were also bad for him. I lived in terrible conditions.

In July 1944, the Germans captured me as a Pole, for I had “Aryan” documents with the name Mikalski. They sent me to dig trenches at the Pilica and Warta rivers, for the front was approaching. Thousands of Poles from different parts of Poland worked there. They sent us to Pomerania when the work ended there. I remained there until February 2, 1945.

When the front drew near, the Germans wanted to send us to Germany. We went to a Pole by the name of Stanislaw Mazal. I begged him to save me, for I did not wish to go to Germany. He sent me off to the Tyrolian forests. There they supported up to 150 fugitives. I remained there until February 12, 1945. That day, in the morning, I was liberated by the Red Army. After the liberation, on July 28, I was wounded by assailants from the A. K.

{Photo page 477 top: Rotsztejn Shaul, Perl, Moshe and their daughter Sheindel – all from Bialymin.}

{Photo page 477 bottom: Moshe Israelewicz and his wife.}


  1. This term “Schvartz” or “Schwartz” (“black” or “black one”) was also used a few paragraphs earlier. Its connotation seems to be a means of referring to a Volksdeutsche – i.e. native German in Poland. Return
  2. Komashen maker – a maker of gaiters or low laced boots. Return
  3. In exile. Return
  4. A deca is evidently a type of measure. Return


A Few Words

By Hersh Gotthelf

Translated by Dr. Heather Valencia

Gradually the Jews got used to their sufferings: to hunger, poverty and to being seized for work.

One morning in January 1940 the Germans posted a proclamation by the local magistrate, signed by the Bergermeister, a Volksdeutscher (ethnic German) from Sochaczew by the name of Prouza, ordering that all Jews between the ages of 14 and 60 years were to appear on Sunday at 8 a.m. before the magistrate. Various rumors circulated in the town. One person says the Jews are going to be expelled, a second says they are all to be taken to work, and so on, with various hypotheses and fears, so that we could hardly get through the days until we all assembled before the magistrate.

Prouza with his German companions appeared, and on their shouted command "Achtung" we all froze. They told us how well they were "looking after" us . Until today we had all been without "supervision"… but from today on we would have a Judenrat which would administer our affairs and look after us. He immediately produced a list and read out the names of the Judenrat. Leaders: Biderman, Borenstein, Lukshtik, Levin, Velvel Pinczewski, P. Rosenkopf, H. Libert and others.

The Judenrat began distributing work papers, but these papers were only sent to those who could not pay ransom money to the Judenrat. Anyone who could pay a zloty per day did not have to go to work.

One winter day a group of us went to work. Among us was Itche Gelbstein. The work was at the Bzura. We had to dismantle the bridge that the Germans had bombed. The Germans appointed Gelbstein as our supervisor, and from that day on the Germans did not come to fetch us, but instead Gelbstein took us to work. As his helpers he took the two sons of Shmeltz the tailor.

In the Judenrat there were beginning to be tensions with Libert's son Moniek who was the secretary. Biderman saw how the wind was blowing and resigned. With the agreement of all Judenrat members Gelbstein was elected President and the Gestapo then co-opted the elder son Nachem Shmeltz onto the Judenrat.

This was the beginning of the first tragedy in the work of the Judenrat. The flower of our youth is sent away to Belzec. Naturally only those who have no money were sent, and they were the majority.

The first sad letter from the camp arrives in Sochaczew: Hershel Yashinski (son of the tall Bendet) is dead. There is commotion and uproar, the others must be rescued. Money is collected, and the people who travel to Warsaw to get them come back with only eighteen out of the twenty, because Berish Katz's son had been shot on the very same day they were rescued from the camp. This was related by Avram Nashelewicz, my best friend, who was the leader of the group from Sochaczew.

The situation of the Jews was getting worse from day to day. A new "proclamation" signed by Y. Gelbstein and M. Libert announced that the town needs accommodation space, because it is overcrowded. Gelbstein, Libert and Shmeltz command all the Jews to assemble and announce that the Germans are going to help to evacuate the Jews to Wiskiti, near Zyradow. But we were given to understand that if we gave the Germans a large sum of money we could prevent the evacuation.

Every Jew began to bring to the Judenrat everything he possessed: money, diamonds, gold, jewelry, karakul sheepskin coats, and so on. Unfortunately there were among us some Jews who were living it up as never before. During the time of the evacuations and cruel decrees they organized entertainment at which the Germans were all present. One such entertainment was held to celebrate the birthday of the child of a certain Jew of Sochaczew who invited the "shishkes" (bigshots) of the Judenrat and Germans as well. In the middle of the celebrations two Germans rush in, the best "friends" of Shmeltz and Aharon Zelig Marienfeld. The Germans summoned both of them out and murdered them in a mysterious fashion.

Their murder shocked everyone. It was said that they ended up in this way because of the contributions they had taken for themselves. Shmeltz, Zelig and Gelbstein were the masters over the Jews of Sochaczew. They did whatever they wanted. There was no way of approaching them.

At night the Germans used to search for weapons among the Jews and threaten that they would do whatever they wanted to with us, the same as they did with "those Jews". And meanwhile they stole everything that came into their hands.

And so it went on until January 1941. Then the final decision came that the Jews of Sochaczew had to leave the town within 24 hours. In the announcements to the Jews it was said that if they did not leave within 24 hours they would be handed over to the Gestapo.

The Judenrat wanted to show that it was doing something and provided carts. For 2,000 people 10 carts. Can you imagine how much one could take along when 8-10 families were packed in each cart?

There was a tumult. People who had received the evacuation notice had to leave the town. Since there were not enough vehicles, most of the people went on foot. They were walking along with tiny little children, old people, and ill people, all were hurrying to leave the town, because they were afraid of being late. The town was emptied of its Jews. Only the chosen few remained. It should also be mentioned that while the ghetto was being created, Jews who lived outside the ghetto had to leave their homes and the Christians took them over. But not all the Jews could get into the ghetto, because there were not enough dwellings. While the ghetto was being formed a Jewish police force was also created, in which the following served: Menashe Knott, and Lipman Diament. The most comfortable accommodations were taken by the members of the Judenrat. That house was called "The White House". The ghetto was opened on 24 January 1941 and it existed until the middle of February 1941. The people had not yet managed to get properly organized, when the order came that all the Jews from the town and the Sochaczew area had to leave the town within 48 hours. They were being evacuated to Warsaw. And so a new tragedy began.

The Judenrat was collecting contributions again, people were running round in confusion, horrified by the terrible decrees of the recent weeks. Jews were being mistreated, beaten to death, robbed and tortured. Farmers came in from the villages with carts and "bought" for a few groszy the Jews' furniture and their last remaining possessions.

The members of the Judenrat were the first to leave the town in this evacuation, in a big vehicle onto which they loaded their possessions. Only that worthy man Menashe Knott of blessed memory remained to supervise.

Gradually everyone escaped however he could. Some on foot and mostly at night. Priver the Gestapo leader called the Commandant Knott, and gave him an order that within the few remaining hours he was to provide him with a pair of boots. Knott went to Graubard the shoemaker and told him plainly that if he did not provide the boots for Priver by the next morning (by twelve midday no Jew was supposed to remain in the town), all the remaining Jews would be shot.

When the Gestapo leader Priver and Menashe Knott went to Graubard's house the next morning to get the boots they found that he and his family had fled. Leaving Graubard's house, Priver shot Knott and he fell dead on the spot.

In the Warsaw Ghetto

In the Warsaw Ghetto there was no contact among the people from Sochaczew. No one knew each other. There was no question of earning a living. Whoever had a little protection and a sewing machine could work in Teben's shop. I brought my machine in and began to work. There everyone got a serving of soup, which in the terrible conditions of the ghetto was a great thing. Money was paid every three months, there was terrible hunger. People with swollen-up bodies lay in the streets dying of hunger. Such were Hertske Moshke, Wideletz and others. But there were also Jews from Sochaczew who traded on a large scale on the Aryan side, yet it never occurred to them to help one of their townsfolk. At home they hadn't dreamt that something like this would happen to them. These were Moshe Bruker, Broitman and the brother Moshe Wiedislawski. The first who died was Hersh Wolf Warshawski. A few days later the Sochaczewer Rabbi also died.

But life went on. Some festivities took place. A son of Sheynwald's was married to Frieda Biezanski.

Working in Teben's factory was a very great advantage because each worker received an identity card. Everyone was jealous of me, because rumors were going around that those who had these identity cards would stay alive.

At the end of 1941 a transport of furs arrived in the factory which were to be made up and delivered to the Russian Front. The Germans promised that if the work was done by the deadline, they would reward us well for it.

At that time an underground movement was functioning in the factory, which didn't believe in German promises any more. When the transport was nearly finished the warehouse was set on fire and eighty percent of the furs were burned.

The next day when work was continuing again, the workshop, which was at 14 Prosta Street, was suddenly surrounded by the Gestapo, who immediately arrested some of the leaders, yelling that the Jews had carried out sabotage and threatening to burn us all as we had burned the furs.

The workshop became quiet. The work went on. Every day more people became ill from the soup that we were being given. I felt very ill and went to the shop doctor, who was on the spot. He gave me a note to go to the hospital, which was on Niska Street. There I lay sick for three weeks with typhus, under the supervision of Dr. Landner. The patients there were existing in terrible conditions. After lying there for three weeks I was "healthy". I left the hospital and not having any money for a rickshaw, I went on foot. This was in the middle of Passover 1942. On Zamenhof Street I met David Vishnia and asked him to help me home. He supported me under the arm and we went slowly. On the way he noticed in the distance a woman carrying matzos. He left me standing, ran quickly to the woman, snatched the matzos from her hand and ran away. With my last strength I dragged myself home to 58 Nowalipki Street.

At home there was terrible hunger. But there was no means of earning a livelihood. There was nothing to lie on. Everything had been sold. The only thing remaining was the tallis. Then my mother-in-law sold the tallis and for the money she cooked a meal.

After I had been at home for four days, I decided it would be better to die from a bullet than from hunger. There wasn't a zloty anywhere. My wife then took out the gold teeth from her mouth, gave me half of them, and I still feeling pretty ill went to the wire at the edge of the ghetto with my wife and brother. I bribed the police guard on duty and there we were on the other side, where human beings lived in freedom.

Caption under picture: The common grave (literally "brother-grave") of the Sheynwald, Gotthelf, Berg, Kutnovski and Erlich families - who died during a bombardment in Warsaw on Orle Street in the first days of the war.

I went to the railway station. Hundreds of people were standing in queues. I stood among them. The trains were packed full, and I was too weak to push and shove. The train left and I remained in the station. I wandered around on the platform with my pack under my arm. Trains from abroad and from inland arrived and departed and I did not know which train is going to Sochaczew. It is already twelve o'clock. I notice that opposite on the other platform people are assembling. I drag myself over there and stand in the queue with the others. I notice that I am being observed and I begin to tremble. I stand impatiently with my heart fluttering. At last the train arrives. I am relieved, and in few minutes later I am in the train. Not knowing where it is going.

The train goes. Suddenly I hear "Get your tickets ready. Inspection". I give a start. I go hot and cold. I start shaking with fear and agitation. What shall I do? But at that moment a Christian woman turns to me (who probably saw my unease and understood what was going on) and asks me if I have a ticket. She takes my ticket and whispers to me that I should turn to the wall and look out of the window. When the ticket inspector comes, she gives him my ticket and hers. I am saved. We go on. I find out that the train is not going to Sochaczew, but to Bieliny. When the train stops, all the smugglers run on along the rails to avoid the inspection, and I do the same. But I haven't the strength to run like them and have to stop for a rest every few minutes. The smugglers laugh at me, saying that I won't get anything to buy. But I just pray that I shall have the strength to get to the village of Topolow near Sochaczew.

To get to the village of Topolow one had to go past the village of Szymanow in which there was a church. I sat down to rest not far from the church and wondered what I should do now. A koliazh (not sure of the meaning, but apparently some sort of Christian religious official) came up to me and asked me where I was coming from. He saw that I was a Jew. There was no point in denying it. I told him that I had come from the ghetto. Then he told me that the Gestapo was there in the church and advised me to leave and showed me the right way to the village of Topolow.

In the Village

In the month of April 1942 I arrived in the village of Topolow, which is situated seven kilometers from Sochaczew. There I met many people from Sochaczew. But I could not stay there for long. I found work as a tailor with a certain Pietczok with whom I worked at home.

Once a commission came to his house to look at his inventory. Seeing a tailor, one of them came over to me and asked if I was a Jew. And immediately blows started raining upon me. They bound me up with a rope and laid me on a cart. Seeing this, the farmer's sons quickly took their horses and went away to the field in order not to be there. The farmer, my boss, made every effort to rescue me. He invited the entire commission into his house for a schnapps. He said "let's have a drink" to them "before we take the tailor to the city". When they stopped to drink, one of his sons ran over, cut the string, and shouted "Flee quickly!".

I fled to the forest not far from Piaseczno. After a few days, I returned to the same farmer. He put me back to work. I worked for him for a few weeks when, as luck would have it, the same thing happened to me with the farmer. In the interim, they conscripted men for labor. Once when I was sleeping in the threshing-floor, I suddenly felt a brutal hand grab me. Several Germans stood near me and announced that I, along with the other Christians, must immediately go to work.

They crammed me into a Polish vehicle filled with Christians. I turned around and saw that the farmer's three sons were also in the vehicle. One of his sons announced in a loud voice that it would be best to inform the driver that there was a Jew in the vehicle. He spoke loud enough, and the driver immediately turned to me and placed his hand upon my head. I defended myself. He requested my documents. I handed him my documents. He read the name Gotthelf, and repeated it ten times. Then they turned me to face the car, with my hands raised, and in a moment they were going to take care of me. They informed me that there were Volksdeutschen and Reichsdeutchen (local ethnic Germans and Germans who are natives of Germany proper) in the area, who would certainly shoot me. It is difficult for me to put into writing what happened to me that night.

Suddenly, as I was standing with my hands raised, afraid to move at all, a Volksdeutscher approached me and asked me if I recognized him. I told him that I did not. Then he told me that we were friends. I was shocked. A German is my friend? However I soon recognized him, and remembered that we were together at the Volksschule in Ilowa Glaw, near Sochaczew, were we had previously lived. The German's name was Engelbrecht, and I did indeed remember him. I begged him to do something to save me, since they wished to kill me. He went away, and returned a few minutes later and told me that when I hear a shout I should immediately flee. That is indeed what happened. A few minutes later I heard a shout and I began to run with all my might. I immediately heard that they were shooting at me. I ran further. I was in a field, and hid in the grain. I remained there until sunrise. When it was light, I returned to the farmer with whom I had worked.

When the farmer saw me, he crossed himself three times. "Thank god that you are alive. We were certain that you were finished when we heard the shooting." The farmer's joy was very great, since I did not tell him from where they had taken me.

I left the village the next day. To where should I go? All the paths were locked with a hundred locks. I remembered that I had served in the Polish army with a friend who lived in Witoldowo. His name was Kojawa. I decided to go to that village.

He was happy to see me, and welcomed me warmly. However I could not stay there for long as nearby there was the town of Dembowko, which had only Volkesdeutschen. He advised me to leave shortly. He gave me the address of his father, where I would be able to stay for a certain time. That is what happened. I began to work for his father. I let myself be paid with food, and my wife found out where I was, and sent her sister from the ghetto in order that I should send them food.

The hunger in Warsaw was terrible. The atmosphere was tense. There were rumors of the uprising. I asked my wife Bronia and her sister to come to me. This was in June.

My sister-in-law Leah Bzozowska's children went to the ghetto every week with food. Thus passed the sorrowful days. There was no day and no night. Summer was easier, since we were able to hid in the grain fields.

My wife and I wandered around hopelessly. Then came the year 1943. A new year with new decrees. The Germans put up posters which stated that whomever harbored a Jew would be killed along with his entire family, and that whomever would hand over a Jew would be rewarded with one liter of vodka and three kilograms of sugar. This aggravated our suffering. No farmer would allow a Jew onto his threshold. They would not even let a Jew cross their fields, nor would they give a drink of water to a Jew, since they were afraid that this would upset the Germans. The situation worsened. We wanted to take our lives, however the will to live was stronger than the desire for death. Perhaps, perhaps it would be possible to be saved?. We must search for new ways. Then we came to the village of Wyczolki. This village was populated by rich farmers, and all tailors found work immediately.

So I stayed there the whole winter. Spring came and we went to a second village. All these villages are in the area around Sochaczew. In the village of Bieliny I met a lot of Jews from Sochaczew: Shmuel Leib Gotthelf, my cousin Hershel Roitman, Tendl with his wife and children, Tzalke Jakobowicz with her brothers, Hershel Sheynwald, Yitzchok, a son of Zalman Rakhtshe Skulnik with a small child, Pinchas Cohen all of them perished later in the village at the hands of the Germans.

Once, when I was working for a farmer in the village, a farmer came in by the name of Zaioncz, calls me and the cobbler Mendel from Wiskiti, and tells us that since the Germans are demanding from them a contribution of food, he is demanding from me a roast goose to him and from the cobbler a liter of schnapps. We are to supply this every Sunday, otherwise he will hand us over to the Germans. We decide to flee. By chance I meet Tsalke Jacobovitch. He tells me that he is in a bunker in Skotniki and there is no lack of food, but it is embarrassing for him. He has heard, he says, that there are a lot of Jews in Bieliny. So he plans to rescue someone and take him with him. Hershel Roitman's son Yosef goes with him.

When I met Yosef again a little while later, he was talking to me but I could only hear his voice. I could not see him, because I was lying in an attic with my wife who was wounded. Yosef had come back to ask for his ring that he got as a present from his mother and he asked the farmer if he would give him back the ring, because it was very precious to him. It turned out later that Yosef left Jakobowicz because he had stolen various valuables from him. But the two Jakobowicz brothers did not manage to get back into their bunker. They were killed by the Germans when they were trying to get back to their bunker at night. That was in 1943, not far from Skotniki.

The second half of 1943. The situation is grave and hopeless. No farmer will now allow Jews to work for him. There is only one way out: to hide in the forest.

Not far from Bieliny there is an area called Wiskiti. There is a big forest, where Jews were hiding. Among them was my wife's sister, Esther Biezanski. As soon as she heard that things were getting very bad in the village she came to get us and took us into the forest. Mendel the cobbler from Wiskiti also came with us, because one of his sisters was also in the forest.

On Sabbath 17 July 1943 we arrived in the forest. During the night rain was falling. Together with us there was a man who had escaped from Bialystock , one from Treblinka, from Radomsk, people from Warsaw, Wiskiti and Sochaczew. After the rain Christians came into the woods to gather sponges. Some of them sat down beside us. They pity us because we are living more miserably than dogs. I ask my sister-in-law if she knows them and she answers that she does, and that we don't need to be afraid of them. The cobbler Mendel says to me: " Hershel, if to-day was not Sunday I would go back to Bieliny. I have a foreboding that there is danger here."

I negotiate with someone from Warsaw about a bunker, because they have a bunker and food. Suddenly we hear shouting and machine gun fire. My wife starts running. I try to run after her but I see a German aiming his gun. I throw myself down into the bushes. There is a deadly silence. I don't know my wife's fate. I hear footsteps. I decide to move. I start crawling on my stomach and on all fours until I come out into the village of Nowo Wies. That was on 18 July 1943. Then we knew that in the forest there were raids on Jews. The next morning I went back to Bieliny alone, sad and lonely. But the farmers gave me some hope they said that my wife was alive. And so it was. My wife, Mendel's sister, and the boy from Warsaw had remained alive. My wife was only wounded in her left hand. On 23 July 1943 I met up with her again. It is difficult to describe our meeting. Apart from my wife all the others had died.

Despair seized me. My wife got a fever. The wound was open. There was nowhere I could even lay her down to rest. I pay a farmer money and he allows me to lay my wife in a heap of potatoes. There it was very damp and her fever got worse. Then I asked the farmer if he would allow me to take my wife up into the loft of the stable, where it was drier. The farmer's wife brought various leaves and the wound healed.

There were to be many hard days in our bitter time of waiting, until at last we lived to see the day, 17 January 1945 when the Red Army marched into the village.

A few days later we went to Sochaczew where me met only one family, the Pinczewskis. In the year 1951 we arrived in the Land of Israel.


Recall me – Remember

by Esther Shoham

Translated by Jerrold Landau

A Jew stands by an open book
In Israel's largest bustling city
It is his merit to praise the Creator –
The giver of life and the living law..

He begins, before the blessing, the words
Are stuck in his mouth;
He sees a personage approaching
He looks – and a shudder falls upon him!

It is a dead person in a white sheet
He waves to him with his hand,
He looks – his blood is congealed,
The man – he recognizes him!

“You know me – don't be afraid of me”
The words calmly emerge from him,
I am not a relative – but I beg this of you,
A good deed – the final one – do for me:

From my own, my dear ones, there is nobody
To recite Kaddish or to observe Yahrzeit;
The murderers did not leave behind anyone
To split open the heavens through tears.

As long as the shtetl still remembers
The people, the life, all together;
As long as the past is awake in the imagination –
Write, write, and omit nothing.

This Yizkor Book should be my monument
Its pages should be covered with tears;
They should call out the significant events
That the world, the deaf ones, did not hear.

This book shall remain for future generations
The murder and the terror are described therein
Not omitting the smallest taste
Not distorting the truth – this is a holy task!

My final request, I beg, do not forget!
He is now hovering over the bench
And the dead person vanishes from my eyes
One still hears: “Recall me, remember!”

{Photo page 492: Treblinka.}

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