« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 241]

The Skarzysko Concentration Camp

by Mordecai Strigler

(Editor's Note: Many Jews from Shidlovtse went through the Skarzysko concentration camp and for that reason some of them survived, despite the worst cruelties of the Nazi authorities in that camp. We therefore believe it is necessary to present a broader description of this camp and we thank the noted writer Mordecai Strigler for permitting us to use parts of his book, In Fabrik fon Toyt (In the Death Factory).
I. Introduction

Among the various concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland and Germany, this writer lived for 15 months in the “Hasag” factory at Skarzysko-Kamienne near Radom. Here he wrote a lot in secret and collected any and all materials that

[Page 242]

could later be used for writing a precise history of this vale of tears. Unfortunately, all these materials were lost.
This book is therefore written from memory and is only a fragment of what actually happened. Here I have to be satisfied, for the time being, with a bare, dry overview of Hasag and Skarzysko.

When the German armies invaded Poland in 1939 they found among the large textile and heavy industry plants also several arms factories in the western part of the country. The Polish government which, by the way, generally produced only small quantities of weapons, abandoned these factories and left them unprotected. The Germans therefore could immediately continue the production of a variety of instruments of destruction. They were also able --- thanks to their organizational apparatus and their brutal speedup of the workers – to expand the factories into major war production centers.

Ready and able to help them were a number of Polish foremen who had managed the factories in the “Polish days” and who, when the Germans marched in, turned out to be long-faithful German spies or “Volksdeutschen” (ethnic Germans). They knew every corner of the factory, all its technical capabilities (which had never been fully utilized) and they knew which workers they could depend on.

For that reason, factories in places such as Czenstochowa, Skarzysko, Radom, Kielce, Blyzyn, Starachowiece, Piantici, Ostrowiec and other arms producers crowded into the “Central Industrial Region”, made a significant contribution to the Nazi war machine in its attack upon the east.

As far as I know, these factories, from the very first moment, were taken over mainly by private enterprises in the German war industry – under Kommissariat direction – among them the Herman Goering Works and the Aktion Gessellschaft of Hugo Schneider (Iron and Metal Works Hugo Schneider, Hasag A.G.) with its main office in Leipzig.

[Page 243]

General Director of all the Hasag factories was Paul Budin. All the orders and decrees were signed by him.

The present overview is limited to the Hasag section of the Skarzysko camp. (The grenade production there was known by the code letter K.A.M.) Again, it should be noted that what I write here and in my other books is only a pale reflection of what actually took place in the Hasag factories.

 

II.

The factory in Skarzysko was divided into three departments, several kilometers apart, that was designated as Works A, Works B, Works C. From the end of 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland, until mid-1941, only Polish slave laborers worked in this factory, except for the “volunteers” who were afraid of being sent to Germany as slave laborers. Every day a certain number of Jews from the Skarzysko ghetto were brought in; they were used only for cleaning up the factory grounds, building barracks in the nearby woods and similar jobs. (In the factory building themselves and at weapons production, Jews were not acceptable. Brought in to work early in the morning and taken back to the ghetto in the evening, they knew very little about the factory relationship.)

It was not until November 1941 that the S.S. permitted the Hasag managers to round up Jews in various Polish cities and towns to work in their factory. This permission was granted as part of a general understanding that the S.S. reached with semi-civilian enterprises of all sorts. According to the rules of the General Governor of Poland – Reichs-Minister Dr. Hans Frank, all Jews were to be “recruited” for forced labor for the German state.

Thus the Jews in the entire area of the “General Gouverenment” (the former Polish district of Warsaw, Kielce, Lublin, Radom, Krakow and later also Lwow), automatically became the slave property of the S.S. and the Gestapo. Only

[Page 244]

those firms, factories and enterprises whose number of Jewish workers was allotted b y the German Labor Office could use Jews as slave-laborers. They were required also to pay the daily wages of the Jewish workers to the S.S.

The Gestapo and the S.S. therefore saw the Jewish workers as a source of income, and the firms that “paid” for the privilege of using them tried to squeeze the last drop of labor out of the work day, knowing that the Jews were no more than beasts of burden which no one was concerned about and whose lives no one would protect. They knew that for every one of them that fell, there would be a replacement. The Jew was utilized in this manner by everyone.

Whenever a Jew grew so weak that he could not produce his daily “quota” or became too ill to report for work, the factory management considered him not worth the wages they had to pay to the S.S. His absence was therefore reported to the proper places. The S.S., for its part, seeing in such a person as object that could no longer yield its daily output, would immediately take him out and shoot him. Every few days a selection took place in the factory. The Jews selected would be taken out to the “firing range” where new products were tested, and there they would be shot and buried. Many Jews were also killed and their bodies hidden deep in the woods area that was part of the factory grounds. It depended on the circumstances of the execution.

Jews therefore exerted their last ounce of strength in order to be “useful and productive,” this system – which I know from personal experience in scores of camps – was most clearly applied in Hasag. But let us proceed chronologically.

Early in 1942 a major aktie was begun to send Polish workers to Germany, where production was in full swing. New factories were opening that needed more and more hands. The Hasag directors too were opening new departments, to which German workers from the main plant in Leipzig were being sent as foremen. There was therefore a great demand for labor

[Page 245]

not only in Leipzig but in the Hasag departments, which they tried to fill with slave laborers from the occupied regions in the east.

Jews, though subject to the law of forced labor, were not sent to Germany, however. The plan to annihilate the Jews of Europe was already worked out to the last detail, and the Nazis did not want to scatter them far and wide; they preferred to concentrate them in Poland, the future mass grave of European Jewry. They therefore selected from the Polish and Ukrainian factories a group of qualified and unqualified workers and sent them to Germany to take the place of the German workers in the military or of those who had been sent out as foremen. The result of this was that many foremen and managers in the Polish factories began to lay a leading role in German war economy.

Hasag therefore started a major propaganda campaign in addition to its forced labor methods – to recruit new workers for their factories. In the special Hasag magazine that later fell into my hands I found glorious descriptions and illustrations of the paradisiacal life led by the eastern workers in the lush regions in which the Hasag factories were located. Most of the ammunition plants were in the forest, an effective camouflage against enemy air raids.

Then came the plan to complement the Polish workers with Jews, so that more Poles would be available to work in Germany, especially when large-scale production began of picric acid and T.N.T. (These poisons ate up the heart and lungs, so that Polish workers began avoiding these jobs.) Afraid of punishment by the Gestapo for this “crime,” many Poles fled to the forest and formed partisan groups. The managers of the factories soon realized that the Poles would work better in Germany, but that Jews could be used for the most onerous and dangerous jobs. It was enough to get the permission of the Radom Gestapo, whose chief (Schippers) considered the Jews

[Page 246]

of his district to be his personal property, and the apparatus of rounding up the Jews for slave labor was put into motion.

 

III.

The mass deportation of the Jews “to the east” began. Soon every Jew knew that Jews were being sent to the gas chambers. In desperation, Jews in the ghetto began searching for a way out of the trap. A temporary salvation seemed to be the labor camps that were producing for the war. It was assumed that people working in the important jobs like that would be spared.

When the “Jewish resettlement” began in the Radom-Kielce region, the Hasag camp leader, S.S. Sturmfuehrer Infling rode through Jewish towns in the role of a redeeming angel and began recruiting “volunteers.” To a few chosen individuals he confided that the Jews were doomed in any case; the younger people would be sent to the dread concentration camps, but it was certain that if they were working in the factories, nobody could touch them. In Apt, for example, he explained:

“Whoever wants to save himself can register for work in the Hasag factories; there his life will not be in danger…” (Story by Yidl Ornstein, from Apt, and others)
Why this need to campaign for “volunteers” at a time when the Jews were completely without rights, when all Jews without exception were already condemned to death? A look at the further activities of the businesslike S.S. will make that question unnecessary.

The aforementioned Infling told the Jews in Tzoysmer (Kazimierz), when he was registering volunteers for his factory: Certain death waits for Jewish youth and for Jews in general. At vest, all they have to look forward to is a slow martyr-death in a concentration camp instead of a quick death in the gas chambers. Even if they are shipped to a camp they cannot take any of their possessions with them. Whatever belonging they

[Page 247]

Manage to take along, if they don't lost it in the way, will be confiscated, because even when they let anyone live in the camps, they first make him strip to the skin… Those Jews, however, who registered with him as volunteers would be permitted to take along some underwear and their best clothes, even food. And (in secret) even money and valuables. Everything in the ghetto would be liquidated. Only the things they took with them would be safe… They would be permitted to live like human beings. They would even receive a daily wage for their work. His workers would not have to change their civilian clothes for prison garb. As far as he was concerned his workers could even wear their hair long. And if there were any young women who wanted to volunteer, they could do so, and they could live there with their husbands. “It's the only way left for you,” he concluded, “where you can live like human beings.” (Moniek Kuperblum, Yekhiel Zinamon, and others)

At first, this kind of talk did not have much effect. After a small number of Jews were deported from every city, the storm abated for a while. In the ghetto, Jews began coming out of their holes and again tried to earn a living. And since Jews did not put much trust in every word the Germans uttered, especially when life in the worst ghetto was still more bearable than in the best concentration camp, people preferred not to anticipate what might be in store for them. So there were not enough volunteers and Infling had to come down with his Werleschutz (factory police) and round up the required number by force. Here too they used the customary S.S. method of enlisting the Judenrat. The Jewish Police in each ghetto were ordered to provide a given contingent of Jewish men for the Hasag factories.

I know, for example, that from Kazimierz the Judenrat first delivered various underworld characters and adventurers who were considered harmful to the Jewish community. But

[Page 248]

They also included individuals with whom members of the Judenrat had personal scores to settle. The rest were recruited from the impoverished masses of Jews who did not have the money to ransom themselves from the Judenrat officials. Such people had nothing to lose, knowing that in case of any German raids they would be the first to go. So they volunteered or they didn't put up a struggle when the police came for them. This process took place in many towns in that particular region.

Gradually news started coming in from the Lublin region where the rounding up of Jews had begun earlier and in an extremely brutal manner, which put an end to the slightest optimistic doubt about what was soon going to happen to the Jews. This realization congealed our blood. People began sensing the closeness of the death-warrant that would include everyone… More and more volunteers registered for work as a reprieve from certain death.

The center for recruiting volunteers was the German labor office in Ostrowiec, near Kielce. Special busses were assigned to pick up the volunteers, who were permitted to take all their belongings with them to the Hasag. Panic overwhelmed everyone. It seemed that in a few days nothing would be left of all the Jewish towns in the area. Mothers and fathers who could not tear themselves away from their own four walls, or who, because of their age, were no longer “acceptable” for work, watched tearfully as the busses with their armed guards drove away. They no longer had the strength even to cry aloud; only their eyes glistened with the question: “Will we ever see each other again?”

In other homes, people had long discussions and came to the conclusion that they must divide up their roles that the younger ones should go to the Hasag now, and others, for the time being, should stay at home. If the Hasag turned out to be a bad place, then someone should be left behind in the ghetto to send a package of food or a bundle of underclothing to the

[Page 249]

camp. And should anyone succeed in escaping from the Hasag, then let him have somewhere to go… And if things got too hot in the ghetto, let there be someone in Hasag who would already know the conditions there, who would know what doors to knock on in order to get friends and survivors moved or out of the death transports.

In this manner, Jews in all the imprisoned towns passed these days of fear and bewilderment, making sober calculations of how to save at least one person in the family…

 

IV

Around May 1942, thousands of Jews – “volunteers” and those taken by force – began pouring into the Hasag camp from Bodzentin, Rakow, Stopnice, Apt, Poksziwnice, Staczew and similar places. Upon arrival, everyone was subjected to a thorough inspection by the German, Ukrainian and Polish Werkschutz. These guards removed from the packages whatever they wanted, but they also left a lot of things, in order to lure other Jews into coming. They knew that the ghetto people had some sort of contact with their families in the camp – let them bring as much as they could carry. In the end it would all remain in Hasag anyway.

The S.S. and the Werkschutz of the camp had a variety of plans for utilizing the Jews. First came the announcement that families “back home” could send packages of food and underclothing to the camp. All you had to do was write a note to your relatives telling them what to send and give the note to the Werkschutz, who would then deliver the notes in person. The Jews in the camp understood full well the purpose of such “favores.” At the same time, they also had a strong suspicion of what would soon happen to their belongings back home. So whatever could be kept out of the hands of the Germans was “profit.” No one could – or wanted to – look into the immediate future and see that this act itself would result in

[Page 250]

worse trouble for anyone who took advantage of such an opportunity.

Every few days large trucks arrived in the ghetto with Werkschutz guards who picked up everything possible and brought it to the camp. In order to gain the trust of the camp inmates they took with them several Jews from the camp to persuade the people in the ghetto to send more and more things. As a result, the Werkschutz ended up with expensive gifts, given to encourage them “to treat the Jews there better.”

Then the Werkschutz looked through all the packages and took everything of value. The Jews in the camp, nevertheless, had an interest in seeing that these trips to their home towns were made more and more frequently. Even the Jews from towns that had been completely wiped out still wanted to save whatever they could of their meager property. The best way to do this was to go to the ruined house with a member of the Werkschutz and bribe him to let you look for money or gold that the family may have hidden.

At that time there were already indiscriminate shootings, but in general the Germans still treated Jews with less than murderous intent. It seemed that if a person had some money or useful articles, for which they could buy food from the Poles and the Werkschutz, one might hold out until times changed for the better. Meanwhile the Werkschutz knew who the inmates were that owned anything valuable and they kept an eye on them “for future reference.”

 

V

The General Director of all three Skarzysko factories was S.S. Standarten-Fuehrer Dalski, who had been a colonel in the Polish army. In peacetime he had been the director of the same state ammunition factory and he bears the main responsibility for everything that happened there. (Together with Budin he was supposed to have been captured by the Americans in May

[Page 251]

1945 in Thueiringen.) The chief of the Werkschutz was Haupt-sturemfuehrer Krause. (Early in 1944 he was replace by Sturmfuehrer Polmer.) Then there was Oberwachfuehrer Batenshleger (up to the last minute he was the Czenstochowa Hasag) and S.S. Lt. Eisenschmitz. Assisting them was Foreman Heinreich, a civilian, as head of the Juden-Einsatz. All of these men together with others to be mentioned later in this narrative committed the worst crimes in Werke A and partly in Werke C.

To help them in their “duties” they organized a Jewish police force with its own Kommandant and camp chief. The first Kommandant of Werke A was a Jews from Lemberg named Saltzman, who was later shot by the S.S. Kommandant, and the Kommandant of the camp of the police was a Jew from Radom named Tepperman. He was executed in August 1944 along with the second Kommandant of Werke A, Klepitski by the underground Jewish organization in Buchenwald.

The Jewish police force in Werke A grew from 30 to 70. Its functions: to act as additional camp guards for night duty, to distribute meals and get the workers to their jobs on time and in the required number; often, they also assigned the work-places. After the S.S. and the Werkschutz, they were the most powerful people in the camp. There were also Jews working in the main camp office; Kommanders of provisions, clothing and similar functions. Their subordinates were the Jewish foremen and lower rank camp functionaries. The S.S. made use of them for their own dark purposes. It should be noted here that the Jewish police and Kommanders were recruited mostly from groups that had come to the camp first. Having been in the camp longer, they were not only familiar with its physical layout, but they also knew whom to butter up in order to further their own “careers.”

As I have already noted, the first Jews to be sent out of the ghettos, in their great majority, were underworld characters from the smaller and larger cities. They were therefore the first

[Page 252]

To volunteer for the police, because they did not mind carrying out orders for the S.S. They were “the right men for the job.” Also, there were a number of assimilated Jewish intellectuals who had always looked upon the Jewish masses as inferior and therefore could, with an easy “conscience,” inflict various tortures upon their fellow Jews and even send them to their deaths. This was a general characteristic of all the police in the various ghettos and camps. There were a few exceptions, however, from both the psychological and moral standpoint, about whom I will write later.

The people who came with the later transports were given a hard time by their own townspeople who had been deported earlier and had, over the course of time, worked their way “up through the ranks.” There were also instances when the Jewish police acted out of frustration, anger or revenge.

To see what the human element looked like in Hasag it will suffice to give a few examples.

Apt, near Kielce, was ordered to send a contingent of 700 people to the Hasag camp. The Judenrat could not provide the required number. The police rounded up anyone they found on the street, but in their zeal they also picked up a good number of children aged 10 to 12. (Some of these children later, by accident, went through a number of camps and survived.) Of that 700, only about 70 were alive in August 1944. And this was a larger proportion than usual only because the Jews from Apt had managed to smuggle in money and had more experience in methods of survival. From other transports with thousands of people, only isolated individuals were left after a short time.

The Apt group, for example, was assigned to Werke A; some of them went to the foundry, where they made heavy grenades, and some to transporting the production. No exceptions were made for the young people. A large part of the Jews were crowded into the half-finished Technical School near Skarzysko. Not all of them could find a place in the bunks that had been knocked together like narrow cages, so a few hundred

[Page 253]

slept on the ground. There was no roof. The slightest rainfall resulted in a flooded barracks where everyone tiptoes around in the mud. The unlucky ones had to sleep in the dirt.

Naturally, a brisk trade went on for these places, and the policeman who was in charge of this could sell them for whatever he wished. The inmates soon became lice-infested, their clothing fell apart. There was no water to wash a shirt. And after a hard day's work of 14-17 hours, there was no time or patience for it. People dropped like flies or grew so weak that they gave up… (Baruch Goldberg, Warsaw, and Hannah Balter, Apt)

On October 3, 1942 the remaining Jews in the ghetto of Skarzysko were “expelled” – they were herded into one place, the healthy or “protected” men and women were put into another place. That same day Batenschleger and Eisenschmitz carried out the first mass selection in Werke A. Of the 4,000 Jews there at the time, they selected about a thousand, most of them worn out by the hard labor. Looking like starved derelicts, they were taken to the forest near Werke C. Along the way, several hundred were machine-gunned by the Werkschutz; the rest were taken to the assembly point in the ghetto. Later that day they were sent, along with the Jews from Skarzysko, to Treblinka. To take their place came the younger and healthier men and women who had been selected. (Yoel Goldberg, born 1926 in Skarzysko)

I have been unable to ascertain if it is absolutely correct that this exchange plan was carried out for large sums of money given to the S.S. by interested parties…

This was the beginning of a series of horrors, one after the other.

 

VI

From that day on, the camp “life” took a turn for the worse. There were strict inspections during which they

[Page 254]

confiscated anything of value from everyone. On more than one occasion they stopped the work, drove the Jews into one large room and inspected everyone individually. No one any longer left anything in the barracks, because in the crowded conditions your personal “belongings” disappeared from under your very eyes. So it was easy for the “inspectors” to take whatever they liked. This particular activity was directed by Heinrich.

Before the inspection he announced that everyone must immediately give up his money, gold and valuables. Anyone later caught with those things would be shot on the spot. After the first shootings by Batenschleger many people turned in their money. “If we survive, there will be other money,” people consoled themselves. Others understood, however, that existence in the Hasag with empty hands means certain death, in a more horrible manner. So they didn't surrender their money… They hid it in the most unlikely places and later were able to buy a piece of bread from the Polish foremen at a high price, but they stayed alive a little longer.

There were also those who, out of envy, spied on fellow inmates who had a piece of bread to eat every day and reported them to the Werkschutz. The “culprit” would be taken to the German guardhouse and beaten until he gave up not only his money but his soul too. Often he was forced to reveal the names of friends who also owned something. In every camp there were such Jewish informants who betrayed hundreds of their brothers. (Some of the Skarzysko informers were later executed by the underground in Buchenwald.)

Among the Werkschutz were some who (with their own hands) murdered masses of Jews. Thus the Ukrainian Ivanko and his friend Kozlowski, during their service in Hasag, killed about a thousand Jews. The pretexts were various, but mostly it was just plain murder. Then there were monsters like Schneider (a German), Chapek (an Ukrainian), the brothers Sawchuk (Poles) and scores of other scoundrels whose name I

[Page 255]

could not verify. The first two mentioned above “officially” shot only those Jews who “looked bad” and were therefore considered unable to work. And in order to “look bad” it was enough to be wearing tattered clothing. But they also murdered many brave, good-looking and well dressed young men because “if they looked so good, they must have money.” A pair of good boots or a good coat became the Angel of Death. You were thus caught between two fires: you were afraid to look ugly and emaciated, but it was worse to look good too. And there were many victims among those who could not strike the right balance.

Meanwhile it became common knowledge that four “Jewish cities” were being established in the Radom district. All those Jews (the official announcement said) who were hiding in various towns and cities, in villages or forest, could openly report to these special Jewish cities where “the last remnants will be concentrated and will survive.” This sly Gestapo trick was used by the Germans in all areas of occupied Poland to lure many Jews out of hiding and concentrate them all in one place, so that later it would be easier to round them up.

Four such cities were designated: Radomsk, Szydlowiec, Ojezd and Kazimierz. These “Jewish cities” were supposed to be protected from future roundups. Since the Jews who were in hiding had o reason to trust the Gestapo, the meticulous Nazi murderers decided to leave these towns alone, for the time being. But first they set up Judenratn in these cities, with Jewish police and all the appurtenances of a ghetto, like in the “good old days” before the first transports.

The Gestapo and the German police averted their eyes from the newly established cities. Control of the ghetto gates was slackened. Peasants from the countryside could easily slip through with their little store of food. Business boomed. People again began to earn some money and to live a “normal” life.

[Page 256]

Those who had remained alive forgot – or forced themselves to forget – the havoc that had been brought only a month earlier and tried to knock together some kind of habitable place to live.

Around that time General Governor Hans Frank delivered a speech in Krakow reporting on various administrative problems in his kingdom. “One no longer sees any Jews in the General Gouvernement,” he said, among other things. “And where such do exist, it is no longer the usurer-type who sucked the blood out of our German workers. Today they are working…

So the kernel of optimism inside the Jews took over again and began to believe that the conscience of the world must have awakened “out there” somewhere, that the allies must have sent Hitler an ultimatum and that he must have promised them not to send any more Jews to their death. Such rumors and comments surfaced when the “Jewish cities” were founded and the Gestapo deliberately spread and promoted similar “good news.”

There were Gestapo officers who already had “their own” Jews in whom they confided – under threat of a bullet in the head if they dared to tell anyone about it – things “they had heard themselves” in the highest circles… These officers, of course, laughed up their sleeves as they were revealing these “secrets,” knowing that a half hour later even the children in the ghetto would be repeating them and that this would atrophy the newly aroused watchfulness to signs of danger.

And even though at first the Jews in hiding put no stock in such freely circulating “secrets,” they still came to believe, little by little, that something had changed, in view of the undoubted fact that for the past week or two the ghetto had been quite calm.

On the concentration camp inmates, the establishment of the “Jewish cities” had an even more magical effect. If they

[Page 257]

had borne everything up to now with the resigned awareness that there was nothing else they could do, these new ghettos now attracted and beckoned to them like fantasy worlds. People began hearing that there were still Jews in Radom and other cities who were living “freely.” Those who had fallen victim, well, that was past and there was nothing you could do about it. But those who were left – it might go on this way until the war ended. So why stay here?

Starved and exhausted, living continually in dirt and excrement, always under the whip, such news worked in the camps like strong drink. Rumors spread from mouth to mouth, embroidered by the wings of imagination, by the belief that “God had taken pity on the surviving remnant of His people” and that “inside the gates of Szydlowiec He has given them bread in abundance…” So why stay here among the condemned?

A mass “escape” from the camp began, although a great many Jews were caught by the Germans on the way, or turned in by Poles who caught them on the roads and dragged them to the Germans, who promptly executed them. Life in the camp had become so unbearable, however, that many began searching for a way to get through the barbed wire – with one percent of hope that they would reach nearby Szydlowiec or Kazimierz and there “legalize” their status.

In accordance with regulations in all the concentration camps, Batenschleger held ten Jews hostage for every Jew who escaped. After every such incident he lined up the whole camp, selected several of the strongest and healthiest young Jews and without warning shot them on the spot. This didn't work either. It only strengthened the psychosis of escape. Hundreds were shot on the roads and still other hundreds followed them. It was sufficient to hear that so-and-so had not returned to the barracks the night before, and thousands of hearts beat faster the next night with restless longing.

[Page 258]

It reached the point where the Judenrat members became alarmed. Even if an escapee succeeded in reaching the ghetto of a Jewish city, they were afraid to register him officially. There were even cases where the Jewish police returned such individuals to the German authorities, out of fear that “they might, God forbid, bring down a calamity upon everyone else.”

The Werkschutz – Ivanko, Koslowski and Schneider – meanwhile sought out among the Jews individuals who were still a bit better dressed, who were suspected of still having some money hidden away. They would take such people over to the barbed wire, shoot them “while trying to escape,” and steal all their valuables. (To a great extent, they were helped in t his barbarity by the following informers: Mendl Weintraub from Szolin, Yozef Weisbloom and Zenk Milstein from Suchedniew and Moshe Stark from Radom. More about them later.)

Certain Werkschutz guards utilized the psychosis of escape in another way. First they “cultivated” the newly arrived Jews in the camp. The new transports were assigned mainly to the most strenuous work, where they didn't last very long. They were therefore the first to think about escaping. So there soon appeared “dealers” among the Poles (also a few Jews) who found “friendly” Werkschutz members who, in exchange for several thousand zloty, were ready to be helpful in getting Jews through the barbed wire. The escapee merely had to alert himself to what part of the fence his particular guard was watching. Such cases almost ended the same way:

The money was handed to the Werkschutz man. When night fell, the Jew who had paid the money made his way cautiously to the fence and checked whether the guard was satisfied with the payment. They then said goodbye to each other and the guard moved ten paces away from the fence to make sure no one was watching. The escapee, moving excruciatingly slowly, got closer and closer to the fence. At the last moment, however, a bullet in the head dropped him in his tracks.

[Page 259]

Later the Werkschutz guard received a special citation and even a few days leave, plus a reward for catching a Jew “in the act of trying to escape…”

 

VII

The “Jewish city” in Radomsk was liquidated at the end of 1942, most of the Jews being sent to Treblinka. A small number of healthy young people were selected for the Hasag. Several hundred men were brought to Skarzysko and divided among the three places, most of them former ghetto police and their families. The rest included some of the more well-to-do intelligentsia who had managed to survive until the last moment in the ghetto and later “escape” to Hasag. A few of them were “promoted” to the police and other camp functions. One of them, Czepicki, thanks to his own brutal character and his “good relations” with the S.S. leaders, was even appointed Kommandant of Werke A.

The “boss” of Werke A was the German guard Kineman (also known as “The Hunchback”). This sadistic autocrat, finding support among the Jewish underworld characters in the camp, granted them unlimited power over their tormented brothers.

The following incident is worth noting. Two Jews from Radomsk, attempting to escape, were caught by the Ukrainian Werkschutz, named Katula. As he was taking them to the firing-range in Werke C, they jumped him. Katula shot one of them. The other cut Katula's throat with a pocket knife and escaped.

In retaliation, the Werkschutz picked up three Jews at random in the factory and shot them in front of the factory gate. The same day, the Werkschutz leader lined up all the Jews in Werke A. They expected the worst, but it ended with only a stringent inspection, during which the guards confiscated all the pocket-knives.

[Page 260]

This is the only case I know of active resistance with a knife. I also know about a few instances where Jews who had been shot escaped with only a wound, after the Werkschutz had left them for dead.

In January 1943 a typhus epidemic broke out in the camp. The Jewish overseers assigned a special barrack for the sick and let them lie there without medical help or attention until they died. Since there was no one to carry out the dead, they lay there for days among the living. The stench grew worse and worse, until Batenschleger took it upon himself to end the epidemic. With his own hands he shot more than a hundred of the sick. He ordered the Werkschutz to shoot anyone suspected of carrying the disease. As a result, Jews were shot on their way to or from work. A weakness in a person's gait or even general behavior which they interpreted as lethargic was sufficient for the Werkschutz to diagnose as typhus.

Batenschleger also ordered a record kept of all persons who had been sick and recovered. This duty was assigned to the German foremen, who could easily determine which workers had not come to their jobs for a few days. Foreman Dumin fulfilled this duty with the utmost zeal. All these men, regardless of the state of their healthy at the time, were sent to Werke C, where Batenschleger himself shot more victims than all the Werkschutz guards combined. After this, no matter how sick they were, people continued to report for work until they collapsed on the way.

 

VIII

Among the Jews in Werke A (whose number varied between 4,000 and 7,000) about half were women. Aside from a few “protected” and middle-aged or elderly women (mothers or mothers-in-law of commandants, policemen or functionaries) all the women were between the ages of 16 and 35 and most of them had been through more than one “selection” so they were healthy and good-looking. One can only imagine the

[Page 261]

sexual abuse they were compelled to endure on the part of the German and Polish foremen and the Jewish commandants. One can also understand the demoralization that set in. Here I wish to record only one incident among many.

On January 3, 1943 the “big shots” of the camp had a party where the liquor flowed freely. Around noon Batenschleger and Eisenschmitz appeared in the camp. The women on the night shift were all asleep. The two drunks broke into the women's barracks, woke everyone up and ordered them to line up, half-undressed, for “inspection.” Finally they chose three of the prettiest. One was Milchman, from Suchedniew; another was Silberberg, from Apt. The name of the third woman is not known to me.

Without permitting them to put on any clothes, they dragged the three women across the camp grounds to their own quarters, where they raped them repeatedly. Around four o'clock that afternoon Batenschleger took two of the three naked women into the woods and shot them. He also ordered two men from the camp to bury the women and while they were at it, to dig a third grave… in the evening he brought out the third woman and shot her. (As told to me by my friend Boruch Goldberg. I also heard the story from others.)

This is only one of the scores of cases in Werke A and B. One incident, which I saw with my own eyes, I wish to record here only in general terms:

There were quite a few incidents where Werkschutz guards, foremen and similar functionaries chose Jewish women for themselves, had relations with them for a shorter or longer period, and then shot them or sent them to Werke C. Today, as I write this, my heart breaks all over again with the horrible shame of it all.

One of the foremen in Werke B, for example, attracted to the prettiest young woman in the factory, assigned her to cleaning his office, and used her for a long time until she

[Page 262]

became pregnant. He then waited for a day on which a selection of sick, exhausted and tattered women was taking place, and cold-bloodedly added her to the group. She fell on her knees, kissed his shiny boots and begged him to spare her life. He was only 21, she wept, and in the bloom of health. In her desperation she reminded him that only yesterday he had treated her with tenderness – why did he now want to take her life? He smiled cynically. “You'll be better off there,” he said, slowly pulling out his revolver, and as everyone watched, he put a bullet in the head of “this damned hysterical Jewess.”

The details of many such cases (not all of them ended in death) are known to me.

 

IX

January 13, 1943 the Germans liquidated the Jewish city of Szydlowiec. No one in the camp knew anything about this except the German administrator. Early that morning there was an announcement that as so many Jews were attempting to escape to the ghetto in Szydlowiec, the camp administration had decided, in order to avoid unnecessary killing, to register anyone who wishes to return to Szydlowiec voluntarily. All these “volunteers” would be sent home, thus enabling those who remained to work more peacefully.

Hardly anyone volunteered. No one trusted these peculiar promises that had been offered so suddenly. The Werkschutz therefore had to go out and round up “volunteers” to return to Szydlowiec… From Werke A, 160 men were sent by train to Szydlowiec and added to the transport going to Treblinka.

The Werkschutz also brought back from Szydlowiec about a thousand young people whom they had selected at the assembly point. This was similar to what happened at the “exchange” in Skarzysko, but no one can verify whether

[Page 263]

or not there was an “interested party” involved in the transaction.

At last of the official “Jewish cities” was Sandomierz. (From the fourth city, Ujezd, they sent the Jews elsewhere and I do not know the liquidation date.) By a variety of methods the Jews from Sandomierz had maintained themselves until the early months of 1943. When they heard what was happening in the other Jewish cities they realized that the ground under their feet was burning and they started looking for ways to save themselves. People built deep bunkers in the nearby woods, stocked them with food and fitted them with installations (even radios to keep track of what was happening outside) – anything that would enable them to hold out a little longer. We were still receiving shaky news about such individuals in 1944, but most of them were discovered by Poles looking for an easy reward and were delivered into German hands.

Others registered themselves in a camp with the local firm of “Rolnik” because its German director had assured them that nothing would happened to “his” Jews so long as he was alive. Many people in the Judenrat and the ghetto police, as well as individuals, who still had large sums of money, now put their lives in his hands. They simply could not bear to leave their familiar surroundings and their beloved Vistula River; at least this way they would stay close to their old home town, even though it lay in ruins. From here they could sometimes visit a local farmer who was hiding some of their money and perhaps buy something to eat.

We often received news about these Jews. Selections took place there too, but some of these people managed to hang on until mid-1944. What happened to them during the Russian offensive on the Vistula, near Baranow, I do not know.

[Page 264]

Not everyone could get to Rolnik, however. There were many Jews who felt that in order to save themselves they had to get away from the place where they had been living all their lives -- it was as if they themselves were responsible for their own deportation. (And in this intuitive feeling there was a bit of truth; the Jews whom the German allowed to live for a while longer were sent to other places; thus, we were deported from Zamosc to Maidanek, but later they “loaned” a group of Jews from Maidanek to the camp at Zamosc in order to finish some work that had been interrupted. The Germans preferred not to leave us in our own home towns, where one could more easily find a place to hide while trying to escape.

A group of young men (and a few young women) therefore offered voluntarily to be sent to the Skarzysko Hasag. Some of them had just been married and the separation was too difficult to bear, so they took along a pillow and a few shirts, sewed a couple of gold pieces into their shoes or boots and entrusted their lives to fate.

So the transports from the Jewish cities to Werke A ended with the Jews from Sandomierz. With each transport there was a double selection: once to select those who would be killed immediately, and once to select those who could still be useful to the German war effort. The latter were sent to Werke C, where the last bit of strength would be drained from them until they dropped.

Werke A was the largest of the three plants and it had the largest number of Jews, between four and seven thousand. Next came Werke C and its poisonous jobs, with an average of 1,500 to 3,000 Jews. Werke B, the smallest, had about 500-800 Jews. (These figures were continually changing because of the killings; it depended on whether new transports arrived or not.)

Werke A was the “paradise” of the three. Everyone

[Page 265]

dreamed of being sent there. Compared to Werke C the conditions there were “fantastically good,” but it was sufficient to break one of the camp regulations and the sinner would be shot, or even worse, sent to Werke C to work with the picric acid and the TNT.

 

X

The camp around Werke A was adjacent to the road leading to the town. Through the barbed wire we could see the horse-drawn coaches, the autobuses, people walking on the sidewalk. This only intensified the yearning for freedom, but at the same time it was also somewhat reassuring – it at least meant some contact – though only visual, with the world outside. Only the barbed wire separated you from it. Werke C, however, was located deep in the forest. Not far from camp A were various businesses, as well as the Hasag bakery, so once in a while you could arrange with a policeman to buy something for you and smuggle it into the camp.

The factory itself was larger and many “civilians” worked there. When the camp administration started sending young Poles to Germany to work, many Polish young men from high aristocratic families registered to work in the factory. Most of them had some sort of “protection” and were sent to Werke A, where the work was easier and cleaner. They brought with them good food from home and at mealtime did not eat the factory soup. So there were Jews who help them at their jobs in exchange for their portion of soup and sometimes even a piece of bread. It helped many Jews survive a little longer. In Werke C this happened very rarely.

In Werke A, since there were better educated people with broader friendships and relationships, it was sometimes possible, through one of them (and for a considerable sum of money) to establish contact with your family in a distant

[Page 266]

place or with a Gentile who was holding some money or valuables for you. This elaborate plan was supposed to result in some desirable item that eventually reached you in the camp, but here too there were provocations and thefts. Still, it helped to keep some people alive.

In Werke A the Polish workers were a little more tolerant than those in C, where they beat up Jews for no reason. In Werke A the Polish element was itself mostly “green” in their jobs. Their main concern was to “cover” themselves. They were therefore more restrained. Some of them brought bread to sell or they would take a letter from you to mail to an “Aryan” name. Sometimes they were caught doing this and sent to a concentration camp. Novak, a Pole from Skarzysko, was publicly hanged for bringing bread into the factory to sell to Jews.

Since no one wanted to suffer the horrible death of starvation, people gave away their last personal belongings to obtain a piece of bread. They utilized every possibility – no matter how unlikely to succeed – to acquire something by these “letters of entreaty” that might serve as a promise of better times.

 

XI

Early in 1941 the Germans had already begun the construction at Werke C to turn it into a mass production plant. For this purpose they used the Jews of Skarzysko. One of the first Jews there – a man named Zayonitz, from Lodz – supervised the construction until the last minute. In December 1941 the Germans brought the first transport of Jews supplied by Jewish community officials. These Jews worked in the forest kommando cutting down old trees in the Skarzysko forest to clear space for the new factory buildings and for the “Juden-lager.

The first few hundred Jews slept in large barracks inside the factory. Meals consisted of 20 decagrams of bread daily

[Page 267]

and three-quarters of a liter of watery soup. As a result of the unsanitary conditions there was an infestation of lice. The factory administration paid no attention whatever to the most elementary needs of the Jews. Their only concern was the production norm. The “inside work” was in Jewish hands – there were only two gendarmes (from the municipal police department) to guard the Jews. The Werkschutz was not formed until much later. Construction manager at that time was an engineer from Leipzig named Schmitz.

The German labor office in Ostrowiec was in charge of supplying Jewish slave laborers for all the factories in the Central Industrial Region. From here the Jewish contingents were assigned to various ammunition plants. The deputy inspector in the labor office, Zeifman, who already knew what was being planned for the Jews, urged the people in the ghetto to register voluntarily in the camps, even for the hardest labor. (I heard about this unique German method only in those particular areas; else where they never “asked” Jews to do certain kinds of work, nor did they even tell them in advance what work they were going to do).

“If any of you still wants to stay alive,” Zeifman would add softly, “it will be only the Jews working in the arms factories…they will be the last Jews.” (According to Engineer Jacob Kurtz, Warsaw, brought from Stashow, died in Buchenwald after the liberation).
A great sobering up process took place in the ghettos. Up until that time, people hid to escape the roundups for slave labor. The political situation showed, however, that the war would drag on for a long time, and events in all the Jewish towns proved that the ghettos would not last much longer. Instead of relying on the well constructed cellars, therefore, people began to see that there was only one way to save themselves – to get out of the ghetto! More people started “volunteering” than were even required.

[Page 268]

The Judenrat became the intermediary between the volunteers and the labor office, and saw in this a source of income. They began “auctioning off” the limited number of jobs for higher and higher prices. Large sums of money began flowing from the ghetto into the pockets of Judenrat officials and the Ostrowiec labor office. It reached a point where Jews themselves kept giving the inspector larger and larger amounts of gold to seek out new “jobs” in which Jews from the ghetto could be settled.

Eventually some well-to-do Jews realized that their “palaces” were built on sand and that their money would be taken from them anyway, so they came to the Judenrat with large sums in hand, but asked that it not be distributed to the needy, because no one would be saved thereby it would be better, they said, to use the money to persuade the labor office to convince the German factories that it was to their advantage to put Jews to work in their plants. This could at least save the Jews for a little while longer. I know personally that contributions of this sort were made in several ghetto towns.

Everyone, however, tried to get the “best” of a bad situation. There were factories, such as the Herman Goering Works in Starachowiec, where the Jews at first lived in the city in fairly human conditions. This was at a time when Jews in Skarzysko were already dying of starvation and filth. Piontki and Blyzyn were therefore “more attractive” than Skarzysko. It is therefore understandable that at that time the authorities had to search for “volunteers” to go to Skarzysko. The labor office did not always permit roundups because – if only for business reasons – they wanted the supply of slave laborers to go exclusively through their hands.

And up to the last moment, Jews kept looking for a better alternative. “For the same money,” they thought, “I

[Page 269]

can at least live like a human being.” There were many, however, who did not want to leave the ghetto under any circumstances; here they had only recently been leading a “carefree” life as condemned prisoners. “Whatever is going to happen to me – let it happen right here, in my own bed…” Others said: “I don't want to be shot in a forest somewhere with lice-infested rags on my back.” And there were plenty of other candidates for the factories.

In order to illustrate the situation at that time, before my arrival in Werke C, I want to record here stories that I heard from the lips of my friend Jacob Kurtz. I recall only a few details of what he told me, but may they serve as a memorial for this extraordinarily interesting Jewish personality.

 

XII.

This is what Kurtz told me.

When “things” started happening in Stashew too, we started looking for ways to save ourselves from the inevitable Jewish fate. First we decided to get to Starachowiec. Aside from the fact that a large sum of money was already in the hands of the Judenrat for this purpose, we – a group of 20 “prospective customers” – each put in an extra hundred zloty. After this fund was raised, they assured us in Ostrowiec that we would be sent there. The next day, three large trucks drove into the ghetto, each of them with a big sign: HASAG. None of us knew exactly what that meant. We didn't even catch on that something in the plan had changed.

Not until they loaded us and our bundles onto the truck and started driving in the direction of Apt, did we learn that they were taking us to Skarzysko. We were terrified. Could they be taking us to Werke C? It was too late, however, to do anything about it.

[Page 270]

At Skarzysko they brought us to a big factory building and left us there to wait. Toward evening the General Director, Dolski, came in with his cynical little smile. With him were Werkschutz leader Krause and 20 to 30 men of the S.A. Group 102, which was stationed near the factory.

“So, you are finally here!” Dolski exclaimed triumphantly. He removed his browning from its holster and added: “You have three minutes to turn in everything you own: gold, money, dollars, watches. I know you have plenty. When the three minutes are up, we will inspect each one of you individually. I don't have to tell you what will happen to anyone on whom we find the least thing of value. And don't think death is the worst thing that can happen to you here.”

With a theatrical gesture he waved the gun around and walked out, his eyes still on his watch. Then Krause said something to the uniformed thugs and they started bellowing at the top of their lungs. We could make out the words “Money! Gold! Dollars! Shoot you like dogs!”

In a few minutes a basket full of gold and currency was collected from the 280 men from Stashew. People threw money into the basket as if they had gone crazy. They hurled the gold pieces away from themselves as though they were poison. The mere presence of the uniformed executioners made this understandable. Others made a lightning calculation: keep the beasts satisfied, let them have a full basket, maybe then they wouldn't search everyone individually – and the piece you had hidden away in your shoe or your underwear would stay there.

But they were badly mistaken. The Germans then conducted an inspection that last for hours. Every bundle was opened. When the inspection was over, they took us into another big room where the regular Werkschutz had their turn with us. For several hours we ran, dropped to the ground, got up, ran again, dropped again. Anyone they saw

[Page 271]

wearing a better suit or boots was ordered to take it off. Finally they herded us into another factory room across the way. Through the windows we could see the marching groups of Jews in various directions. Thousands of men and women were arriving. Half-undressed, they were being shoved into large halls. After an hour, some of them were marched out and others marched in. Later we learned that this was only “normal” procedure when they searched the Jews in all three Werke.

Somehow we got through the night. During the night the Werkschutz had come in frequently and selected victims. Brutal beatings were also “normal.” In the morning Dolski arrived again with his crew and the game began all over again. Finally he barked an order to his underlings:

“Take two hundred of them out to the veranda!”
Not until the last moment did we know that we were being sent to Werke C.

This account is a description of everyday that took place in September 1942. It reflects the uprooting of the last Jews from various ghettos in that region and of their “initiation” into the Hasag. That was how the Jews entered the maw of the tremendous killing-machine.

 

XIII.

As I have already noted, up until that time the Jews were not taken into the “interior” of the factory. One group of Jews worked at constructing the barracks. A larger group (about 900) worked in the forest kommando. Not until September 1942 were the first forty men selected from the Stashew group to work at very dangerous jobs. These were the youngest and strongest, whom they put to work on trotyl, an explosive used in grenades. When this “experiment” proved “successful” and they found the Jews qualified to do the work, they began placing more and more of them into the “manufacturing”

[Page 272]

departments of the factory. Only small numbers of Polish workers were left there as supervisors, foremen and technicians.

For a short period of time the guard Schneider was head of the camp. He was a “good-natured” German who let people talk to him. Whenever he grew angry, however – he had a quick temper – he would not release his victims until they fell dead at his feet. Beating people was a kind of sport to him.

Overseer of the forest gang was Zimmerman (known to the inmates as “the green shirt”). It is estimated that he himself killed more than a thousand Jews. His method: to stand at a distance and watch people work at their jobs. It didn't help if you caught sight of him and speeded up your work with your last bit of whatever strength you still possessed. He was determined to find a few victims every day. He would select his victim and before the eyes of all the workers order him to bow down. Then he would calmly begin beating the man with a tree limb. Only rarely did he shoot his victims; he preferred to watch them writhe in pain.

Frequently he would appear in the camp, pick out a few Jews, take them out to the firing-range and shoot them. Later he would come for another group, whom he tormented with questions as he led them to the firing-range. “Are you afraid of me?” He would ask one of the group. Neither a yes nor a no answer would mollify him; either was likely to provoke his wrath – a pretext to torture his victim. Mostly he used the second group to bury the first, but you never knew whether you were digging the grave for someone else or for yourself.

His greatest pleasure was the feeling that people were mortally afraid of him, that he was master of life and death for all these people in the camp. A diabolical smile played over his lips when he saw people shrivel up on his arrival at the factory.

A particularly bloody chapter was written by his Polish subordinates and foremen. His “aide” – Kotlenga – whom he assigned to distribute “meals” to the group – was responsible

[Page 273]

for hundreds of killings. The following is according to the testimony of several of my friends:

Twelve o'clock. The lunch whistle. The skeletons crawl out of their graves and from a long, serpentine line. Kotlenga walks around with a big blub in his hand. Nine hundred pair of starved eyes stares at the kettle of hot, watery kasha. Finally Kotlenga takes the ladle in his hand. After spooning out the first three portions he puts down the ladle and picks up the club. A powerful blow on the head fells someone in the line, another person, a third, a fourth. Then Kotlenga goes back to ladling out the soup.

One after another the workers silently shuffle past him, holding out the rusty tin bowl. Finally – STOP! Kotlenga measures the man in front of him from head to toe. “Throw away your bowl!” The man silently obeys the order. Kotlenga: “Take off your hat!” Like an automaton he man takes off his hat. Another order: “Hold it out!” Mechanically the man holds out his hat. Kotlenga pours a portion of hot soup into it. And then the last order: “Now put your hat on!”

Terrified, the man “puts on” his hat. A wild, desperate cry of pain pierces the air. But the next man in line must move up. The eyes of the men in the back of the line search frantically for a way out of this trap. They would rather starve to death. But a green silhouette among the trees warns them with the terror of a thousand Angels of Death not to leave the line. The demonic laughter of the “green shirt” welds them to the ground.

Kotlenga glances at his watch. The half-hour for “lunch” is over, but a large part of the line has not yet received its portion of food. As scores of eyes stare, Kotlenga tips over the kettle with one shove of his hand… The line dissolves. Men throw themselves to the ground, scraping to get a spoonful of the soup, now mixed with dirt. Once it is in the mouth, they can separate the soup from the dirt.

[Page 274]

And Kotlenga stands over them, beating them with a tree limb. Blood mixed with the soup and the dirt.

This is only one of the horror stories I heard about this Kotlenga. I saw some of them myself in various forms – they were a daily occurrence in Werke C. Later he grew a bit more restrained and even “negotiated” with Jews. One day we sat at a table in the barracks. He was drunk enough to unburden himself.

“I know the Russians are coming closer. If they ever get here and any of you are still alive, I'm sure you'll hand me, and maybe I deserve it. I only want to tell you one thing: everything I did, I had to do. I am from Posen – a Polish patriot. For them, however, I'm a Folks-Deutsch, especially for 'the green shirt.' You can hang me – if you live that long. But remember this: after Zimmerman left, my behavior toward you changed.” (We later learned that he had cooperated with the Polish underground, like a number of other Poles who murdered Jews.)

 

XIV.

Werke C swallowed up one transport of Jews after another. They came from the most distant places: Plotsk, Pyotrkow, Klimentov, Radomyzl, Bilic, Lodz, etc. The work in Werke C soon devoured them. Wherever the camp administration could find a transport of Jews they dragged it to Werke C. Even the youngest and healthiest soon succumbed. How could they not? People never changed their clothes. Whoever could manage it washed his shirt with some cold water. Most of the inmates, however, weren't so lucky, so they soon became incredibly filthy. Sleeping on a handful of moldy straw, or a hard board, not taking their clothes off for months, lice and typhus were a natural result. There was no medical help. Two untrained but well protected young men serves as the official “medics,” but their work consisted more of keeping lists of the sick for the

[Page 275]

selections. They had no bandages, nothing event o cover minor wounds. Everything was left for Nature to take care of.

Those who didn't succumb immediately, who exerted their last bit of energy to get to work, still could not avoid the sharp eyes of the guard leader Kisling, who collected groups of sick Jews fort the weekly shooting spree. A great many tried to save themselves by escaping and trying to get to another camp, to Kielce or Ostrowiec, or at least to Werke A. Almost always these attempts ended in death. I know of very few cases where people saved themselves by going to another camp.

Here I want to illustrate only how Kisling reacted to such attempts to escape, as told to me by friends from Sandomierz.

A spring day in Werke C. The night shift is getting ready to go out to work. Everyone gobbles down his piece of bread and bitter “coffee,” trying to finish before the guards come. Suddenly – a loud series of whistles. Something new has happened. Could it have anything to do with the group of Tsoyzmer Jews who escaped the previous night? All the groups are lined up, but everyone senses that they are not going out to work yet. Something else will happen first.

They could see Kisling approaching with Sonder, the interrogator, accompanied by several of the Werkschutz. He says something to the Jewish Kommandant Eisenberg, who then, with a bewildered look, says something to the Jewish police. All the police start yelling at once:

“Everyone from Sandomierz line up separately!”
Now everyone knew what will happen. A wall of young men line up in perfect formation, some distance away from the other Jewish inmates. The Tsoyzmer are the strongest and best looking group in the camp; they had managed to hide a little money and they still maintained some contact with the surviving Jews in the Rolnik factory, from whom they occasionally received money and necessities.

Kisling, standing stiffly on one spot, is counting: “…eight…nine…ten.” His finger stops at the tenth man, a

[Page 276]

heroic figure, as if chiseled from granite. “Three steps forward!” Kisling commands. The young man steps forward and remains standing like a statue. “Eighteen…nineteen…twenty!” As though a magical force were directing his hand to stop at the finest sons of Tsoyzmeer…

Clack! Clack! Clack! Like cloven marble columns they tumble to the ground, one after another…

“To work!” All the groups on the way to work must march past the ten still-warm bodies – the last, proud remnant of a murdered Jewish youth.

As happens every day, the Jewish policeman at the gate counts the groups marching out to work. One – two -- three --. Today, however, the heads are bowed even lower than usual…

 

XV.

The Kommandant of Werke C was an unusual complex type of a Jewish woman. Her name was Markowitz. Assisting her was her brother-in-law, Eisenberg, whose wife and child were also in the camp. A third brother-in-law was the manager of the food supply. He too had his wife and two children there, as well as the mother of the three sisters they had been able to save. They all lived together in a separate barracks and were the only family in the camp. The inmates referred to this family barracks as “The White House.”

Across from the “white house” was the headquarters of the police and the various sub-kommandants. There was a unit of internal police, whose duty was to keep order in the camp. The other unit was the factory police, which was divided according to the various locations in the factories. The leader of each police unit wore a cap decorated with special stars. All these people had unlimited power in the camp. They were better dressed than the other inmates and they lived better.

There were other privileged groups who had better jobs where they could “do business” and make extra money. Some

[Page 277]

of them had the special protection of a German foreman and could obtain various things through him. Such people lived in separate quarters, kept aloof and avoided contact with the starving and exhausted inmates, unless they were buying the last gold tooth from such a person.

This class, plus the police, added up to no more than two to three hundred people. They lived in a degree of safety. They were protected against selections and they never went hungry. Some of them even lived in wastefully extravagant circumstances, compared to the general camp condition. Some of them even allowed themselves to “fall in love,” to find women who also wanted to live better; they bought them for a piece of bread or meat, a dress or an easier job in the factory.

 

XVI.

Since I was not among the first in the Skarzysko Hasag, I cannot say for certain how many Jews were killed there “slowly.” Mr. Markowitz, the camp kommandant, told me in the final days before the camp was liquidated, that 50,000 Jews had died there (including those shot while trying to escape). Based on my own research, I believe that figure to be a bit exaggerated. David Anulewicz, the last secretary of the Werke C office, told me that he had counted the list of names (before the last massacre) of those who died or were shot while trying to escape. His figures show an official list of 21,000 dead.

While I was in the camp I found only isolated survivors of scores of transports. (I lost the exact number of these groups.) Not until mid-July, when all the Jewish reservoirs had been exhausted, did the factory administration turn to its last possible source: Maidanek. Thus, on June 28th, we were brought from Maidanek to Skarzysko. This was one of the few transports to be taken out of Maidanek alive. On November 3, 1943 the remaining 22,000 Jews in Maidanek were taken out and shot.

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Szydłowiec, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max G. Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2021 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 14 Oct 2014 by MGH