by Jacob Binshtok (Australia)
I was born in Wierzbynik, 30 kilometres from Szydlowiec. My family moved to Szydlowiec in 1931.
During the first deportation, I hid in a fake wall along with Abraham Weisbroth and Abraham Rosenfeld. We then hid in the village of Chustek, 4 kilometres from Szydlowiec. The good peasant, Woicek, could hide us only for a couple of days; however, he was afraid of informers among his neighbours. So, we decided to go to the labour camp at Starchowicz. On the way, we ran into a gang of Poles. I barely managed to get away alive but somehow, I reached Wierzbynik and from there to Starchowicz where I worked for 18 months.
Then, a group of us ran away and made contact with Polish and Russian partisans and took part in several battles.
In mid-December, 1944 I was liberated and went back to Szydlowiec. But my heart drove me to countries that are far away from our great unknown cemetery in Poland.
by Rachel Lederman-Tseinicker and Sonia Lederman-Monk
During the deportation from the ghetto, we lost two sisters. When we saw that the situation could only get worse, we took our mother's advice and went to Starchowicz. She gave each of us some money and jewellery.
But, as soon as we got to Starchowicz, we discovered that they were expecting a deportation there too so we turned around and went to Wolonow. With the help of many Szydlowiecers, we were taken into the camp legally and given work assignments. Rachel was fortunate enough to be placed in a laboratory as a dental technician. Not only was it easier for her there but she was able to help us too. Shortly
afterwards, our father also came to the camp and was legalized in the work force. The treatment in this camp was better than in many others but they carried out frequent selections.
During an epidemic in the camp, the Germans shot all the sick people they found in the barracks. I and Sabina (Sheyndl) also fell ill but with the help of our sister Rachel and of a policeman named Kamfbei, we escaped the claws of the executioner.
On the first day of Hanukah, there was a selection in the camp in which 120 Jews were shot. One of them was my father.
In the spring of 1943, the camp at Wolonow was liquidated leaving behind a mass grave of Szydlowiecer and Radomer Jews. The survivors were divided into three groups: one group was sent to Radom; another to Starchowicz and the third to Bliszin. We were in the third group.
In July 1944, they liquidated the camp at Bliszin and sent us by train to Auschwitz. Along the entire way, we three sisters stayed together. At Auschwitz, they took everything away from us and shaved our heads. Then, they sent us into the showers. When we came out, we didn't recognize each other. People became hysterical, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. After the delousing, they sent us to Birkenau where there were the gas chambers.
Four o'clock in the morning, in the cold, the rain or the snow, they woke us up and lined up for roll call. We had to stand there until six o'clock. They gave us neither work nor food.
Then our sister Rochtshe was assigned to work in the infirmary. This made life a little easier for us, except that we were afraid of Dr. Mengele and his entourage who made frequent selections. During one roll-call, eleven out of the 500 women were selected. They were all young and healthy. Here we were lucky again! All three of us were among the
eleven. We were desperately afraid of the operations they might make on us but this time, the fright turned out to be the worst of it. The next day, they took us to Hindenburg a camp with the same rules as in Auschwitz. The camp commandant was the famous Tauber from Auschwitz. The work was hard, but the conditions were better.
At the end of 1944, they again lined us up for a march to the railroad station where the open box cars were waiting. In the bitter cold weather, they dragged us from camp to camp, but no one wanted us. This went on for three weeks. Part of this time, we marched on foot, other times we were packed into trains. After three weeks, we arrived at Bergen-Belsen. There we suffered until April 15, 1945 when we were liberated by the British.
by Leybl Silberman
After a selection at the Hasag camp, they loaded us all into freight trains one hundred to a train, but where they were taking us no one knew. The train stopped at a station. They took out the women, and we started moving again. With us were many policemen and supervisors from the Skarzysko camp. Some of them had the death of innocent people on their hands and they trembled for their lives.
Finally, the train stopped at Buchenwald a name that cast a pail of fear over us. They ordered us to sit on the ground. Kapos from the camp came and told us that we needn't be afraid; that we were only going through the delousing process. They sent us into a building through a small door. We could see people going in, - but no one coming out. This must be the end, we thought.
They examined us thoroughly, shaved the hair off our heads and other parts of the body. With a brush, they smeared
something on us that caused a burning sensation all over our body. And finally, they let us stand under the hot showers. From there, we went into a large room where they threw underwear and some striped clothing at us and led us into a placed marked BLOCK M.
We were not treated badly here although it was already late August or early September, 1944 when the Germans were being badly beaten on all fronts. We were amazed by the humaneness of the kapos and the supervisors among whom were many Jews from our areas. They asked us the names of the supervisors in Skarzysko who had tormented us. We gave them the information and they wrote everything down.
In the morning, they gave us our ration of food. To us it seemed as if we had landed in a hotel. Later, we learned the reason for their attitude toward us: our supervisors belonged to a well-organized underground movement. They gave us light work to do in the camp yard. But, we saw the former cap supervisor of Skarzysko a man named Tepperman harnessed together with another murderer (a Gypsy), pulling a wheelbarrow loaded with earth and rocks. Tepperman was ashamed to meet our eyes.
After several weeks, they took us to Shlibn. There were about 20 Shidlovisers in the camp. We stayed together and tried to be put in the same Block but were not always successful. My brother Yankl and I and Pesach Zagdanski were assigned to a foundry that made the Panzerfaust, an anti-tank device. It was a kind of bottle filled with an explosive (Trotil) and attached to a pipe. The chemical was harmful to our lungs and made our skin yellow. Anyone who worked at this job was given a special fatty soup every day to counteract the poison. It did not help much. You could not last long at this job but the extra portion of soup was a real inducement. Thus we kept risking our lives every day because it was better than starving to death.
We worked in two shifts. Our foreman happened to be a good person named Meltzer. One night, I think it was Simchas Torah, a terrible explosion shook the factory. The flames spread quickly to other buildings. The electric power was cut. The roof caved in over our heads. My brother and I managed to get out.
Who had caused the explosion? No one knew but people said it was sabotage.
Among those who died in the explosion were 14 Shidlovtsers. From our barracks alone, five Shidlovtsers were missing. I remember the names of only four: Abraham Moshe Eisenberg, Yankl Shliski, Motl Kroyevsky and Yankl Paris. Among the wounded who were sent back to Buchenwald and died there was my brother-in-law, Zalman Broman. The Pietrkower Rebbe Yitshok Finkler also perished in that explosion.
After that, a very difficult time began for us. They made us clean up the debris from the explosion. Brigades of young S.S. men came. We had to work long hours on the double». The young murderers lined us up in two rows. They each carried a blackjack that had a metal stud fastened to the end of it. Anyone who was hit with that type of blackjack fell to the ground with his head split open. At the end of one particular work-day, we were in such a state of exhaustion that the German foreman, a decent man, berated the S.S. men.
Things continued to change for the worse. The food ration became smaller and smaller to the point where we were afraid we would starve to death. One way to still the hunger was to cook corn. It happened that some of the farmers around Shlibn now had Italian war prisoners working for them. They peasants brought the raw material into the camp and took home the finished material. In this way, the Italian prisoners came into the foundry. When they learned that we had cigarettes for sale they stole sacks of corn, smuggled them
into the camp and traded them for our cigarettes. The corn also came in through other sources.
My brother Yankl and I and our friend Pesach bought a cup of corn. We dried out the grain until it was brown and then we ground it down (using bottles) until it was kasha. We brought wood for cooking to the factory. One cup of corn like this yielded three plates of soup. Mixed with margarine, it was very tasty. We called it manna. Someone even invented a little mill to grind the corn that would cost you two spoonsful of the raw grain. One such inventor was a friend of ours from Szydlowiec Azriel Bergman.
I have written about this to show how Jews found ways to survive even in the worst of conditions. Had the Germans not been such murderers, many more Jews would have survived even in the concentration camps.
It didn't take long before the camp at Shlibn was liquidated too. For our trip to another place, we still had a few cups of corn left. With us was Yerakhmiel Tenenbaum, youngest son of Berish and Beyla Tenenbaum. We tried very hard to keep him alive but when we got to Teresienshtadt, he died.
We were liberated on May 9th, 1945.
by Abraham Tseigfinger (Paris)
In Skarzysko, they assigned me to the karabinuvka. My brother Yenkl landed in the worst section of the camp the bullet foundry. He worked there only a short time before he fell ill with typhus. At the first selection, the murderers in Works C shot him.
Early in June 1943, I was no longer in the camp because, as soon as I learned that Szydlowiec had been declared a ghetto, I
ran back there. Life in the ghetto was much better than in the camp but I didn't think it would last long. The guards were the same cut-throats. One of them was the infamous Bauer. Karpinski was already gone. Bauer shot Fishl Cooperschmidt and several others when he met them outside the ghetto limits.
The winter was a very cold one and it was hard to find firewood. Jews froze to death. One morning, a woman tried to wake her two little daughters one of them was already dead.
On January 13th, the ghetto was suddenly surrounded. They rounded up all the Jews and marched them to the railroad station where the trains were already waiting for their victims. The only things I took with me were a tea kettle full of water and a pressing iron. Thanks to the latter I am still alive.
Whey they shoved me into the train, I fought my way to a little window covered with barbed wire. As soon as the train started moving, I set to work ripping the barbed wire off the window with the sharp edge of the iron. It took a long time. When the train began slowing down, I gave my pot of water to a woman who was running a fever. Realizing what I was planning to do, she put a large sum of money into my pocked and said: may God help you.
I asked a couple of men to boost me up and I jumped out of that rolling grave. Falling into a snow bank, I didn't even bruise myself. One other man jumped out after I did. He was a Volynian named Korman. He too landed safely. We were not far from Demblin. The train kept rolling toward Treblinka.
My plan was to go back to the camp at Skarzysko. Korman decided to go into the villages around his home town. We wished each other good luck and separated.
I walked a long time before I came to Radom where I was lucky enough to catch a train going to Kielce. From there, I made my way to Szydlowiec. I went to the home of a Christian woman who gave me a meal in exchange for some money. At night, I started out for Skarzysko and slipped through the same
hole in the fence that I used when I escaped. The people in the camp stared at me as if I had just come back from the dead.
Miraculously, my punishment for running away was a light one: they sent me to Works C. The usual penalty for such a crime was death.
I stayed in Skarzysko until 1944. During the evacuation from this camp, I was sent to Warta and then to Germany. I did time in Buchenwald, Troeglitz and Teresienstadt where I was liberated on May 8th, 1945.
by Mordecai Richter (Melbourne)
When the Germans occupied Szydlowiec, they declared a state of war. The first thing they did was to order a six o'clock curfew. My brother Notte worked with Moshe Notte Vester. Coming home from work a few minutes after six, he was stopped by two gendarmes near the Talmud Torah and shot on the spot. People heard his cries for help but they were afraid to go out into the street. The next morning we found his body. He was the first victim of Szydlowiec.
I was barely fifteen years old then. My father told me to run away. He advised all his children to save themselves in any way they could. So I went to my friend Leybush and we both decided to run away from Szydlowiec. In the city hall we were given a permit to travel by train and we went off to Radom. From there, we went to Shedlitz and kept on going until we reached the Soviet border where we stole across.
I wandered through Bialystok, Rovno and Kovlo. I made a good impression on people because I was young and energetic. Thinking always of my parents and my family, I worked hard in the Soviet Union, suffered cold and hunger. At times I earned as much money as everyone else there. When the war ended, I went back to Szydlowiec.
A Pole advised me not to stay there, however, because of the anti-Semitism. He gave me some money and took me over to the home of Materek the Drunk who also advised me to get away from there as soon as possible.
I took their advice.
by Shmuel Chustecki
When World War II broke out, I was in Warsaw. I lived through the terrible bombardments and the murderous acts of the Nazi, and I also took part in the defence of the Polish capital. When the resistance of the Poles was broken and the Germans occupied Warsaw, I no longer deemed it necessary to stay there and I went back home to Szydlowiec.
The distance from Warsaw to Szydlowiec is about 120 kilometres. How was I to make that trip in such a dangerous time? All the rail lines were down. On foot, I could be picked up by a German patrol at any time and sent somewhere for forced labour, or worse. But, the need to be home to know what was happening with my family was stronger than the feeling of fear and I decided to make the journey on foot. Luck was with me.
The people in our shtetl were in a state of despair. They didn't know what would happen next. They lived in perpetual fear, though there had been no further acts of violence. Shoemakers and tailors found a little work to do, filling private orders for German soldiers who paid honest money for the work. The rest of the Jews continued quietly to eke out some sort of living.
To the persistent question of what to do next, my answer was that whoever could do so should try to get to the Soviet border. My thought was that the war would go on for years, and that during that time, the Jews here would all die. So Meir
Buckbinder, Esther Pomerantz and I started getting ready for the journey. Our decision to leave Szydlowiec was hastened by the German degree that anyone who had ever served time in prison or been sentenced for communist activities must report to the assembly point at the city hall. There was no doubt what that meant.
I said goodbye to my friends and family and embraced my parents for the last time. It was an early autumn morning when I left the house with moist eyes and a premonition that this separation was forever. I headed toward Antetska's building in order to use the back streets to the railroad station. Instinctively, I turned my head and looked back. My mother was standing in the middle of the street watching me walk away.
I continued walking across this soil where every foot of ground was dear to me. Now I was leaving it to the boots of the brutal Hitlerites.
by Shlomo Rosenzweig (Melbourne)
On the day of the deportation, I stood together with all the other Szydlowiecers in the town Haymarket. My fate, however, was to stay behind with the workers who were selected to clean up the ghetto.
I cannot forget the picture that I saw as I came into the home of my brother Akiba's father-in-law Itche Hersh Brivntreger. He was lying dead in his bed with his brains spilling out of his head. The S.S. man who took us in there explained that he had been shot with dum-dum bullets.
Our quarters were at Fishl Garber's tannery. After a hard day's work, full of pain and terror, I fell asleep and then felt that someone was trying to wake me up. When I opened my eyes, I could not believe it, it was my brother Berl. He
Told me he had jumped out of the moving train not far from Treblinka. He had first thrown his coat and hat out to make it appear that someone was jumping from the train. He then waited until the guards finished shooting at the coat.
He had come back here, he said, to take revenge on the Nazi for his wife and three children, for his parents, for his entire family whom he had left behind on the train. He was going into the forest or to the village where he was born.
For three years, he wandered around the area. Only six days before liberation, he was murdered by Poles near the village of Wolonew.
I was liberated from Teresienstadt.
by Yosl Silverstein (Melbourne)
My sister, Esther Kaufman, immigrated to Paris in 1934 and lived a modest life wither husband Leybl. When the flames of war engulfed France, she was a mother of two children. As I was told by Mendl Chamentowski, the Germans deported my brother-in-law to a camp where he died with many other Szydlowiecrs.
When the situation in Paris became too dangerous, my sister and her two children went to Toulouse. She settled her children with Christian families on two different streets and she lived alone on a third street. She thought that if things grew really bad, maybe at least one of them would survive.
But she had not counted on one thing. She forgot that a list of all the Jewish children was in the possession of the Judenrat in Toulouse. This list fell into the hands of the S.S. One day, they rounded up all the Jewish children including my sister's. The French woman immediately came and told her what had happened. My sister ran to save her children, but
instead, fell into the next herself. People had warned her but she said she wanted to share the fate of her children. And she did.
by M. Dreynodl
During the Nazi occupation of France, I lived in Roans not far from Lyons. I took my wife and two children to a village, hid them there with good Christians and joined the French resistance movement. This happened in a strange way.
In the attic of my apartment there was a hiding place. One day, while a friend of mine was visiting me, the Gestapo suddenly broke in. My friend managed to escape through the hiding place, but I was caught. The Gestapo took me to a train where the train was going, I didn't know. I knew only that this as the end so I took a change and jumped out of a window in the toilet of the speeding train.
When I regained consciousness, I was in a French hospital with a broken spine. The Gestapo apparently found my trail and came to the hospital after me. The doctors, however, insisted that according to French law, they must wait until the patient recovers. A few days later, several armed men came to the hospital, whisked me out of there and brought me to a base of the French underground.
After liberation, I re-joined my wife and children.
by Joshua Krantz
I came to Belgium in 1930. Other Szydlowiecers there were Chaim Mandelbaum, Israel Yehiel Glatt, Mordecai Fishman, Cooperschmidt. When the Germans invaded the country, we all
ran to France but they got there ahead of us and we had no choice but to return to Belgium.
Until the end of 1941, the Germans didn't bother us but then came the decrees. In July, 1942 they rounded up all the Szydlowiecers and sent us to Malin, near Antwerp. Then they sent me to a labour camp at Dan, not far from Boulogne in France. Toward the end of September, 1942 a group of high S.S. officers came to Dan. Some of them handed out sugar; others beatings. From some of the young Jewish women who came with them, I learned that they were there to select people for Auschwitz.
The next day, there was a roll call. One German a civilian spoke to us very politely, like a father to his child. I know how you must feel, he said. You have family, children. I have children myself, but I want you to know you are all going home. You'll work a few weeks for the Germans and that will be the end of it.
Some of us started weeping with joy that's how sweetly he spoke. But I already knew that we were going to Auschwitz so while the train was speeding toward Malin, I jumped off.
And that's how I was saved.
by Max Ostro
In December, 1942 the Germans announced that they were setting up four new ghettos. Szydlowiec was one of them. It was a trick to get all the Jews who had been hiding; in the forest, in bunkers, even in labour camps to come back to Szydlowiec. This diabolical trap worked. Thousands of Jews streamed into the ghetto from all directions. Many Szydlowiecers came from the liquidated camp in Lipowa Pola; it had cost a lot of money to get into that camp because it was a safer place.
My dear parents were there and they too returned to the new ghetto in Szydlowiec. (The president of the Judenrat there was Shmuel Weisbrot).
The news reached me and my brothers, Hanaiah-Aaron and Yehezkei-Binyomin in the camp at Zeork. (This camp was called Streicher after a big plant that installed electrical networks all over Poland was present there. In that camp, the Germans shot my friend David Adler because he had an injured leg. They did it out of pity for him, they said. There were other Szydlowiecers with us including Chaim Greenberg and Moshe Zisman (who later were sent to Auschwitz). From Zeork, they also sent people to Hasag: among them: Avromele Dimant and Shlome Goldtreger, J. Futerman and others.
When we discovered that our parents were back in Szydlowiec, my brothers and I ran away from the camp and somehow got to Szydlowiec safely. But the place was no longer recognizable. The houses had no doors or windows, and here we had to live in the middle of winter without heat. But, being together with our beloved parents was enough. The only one missing was our sister Rochtahe who lived in Ostrowca with her husband and children. They all perished in Treblinka.
The reunion with our parents was a joyful one but mixed with sorrow because we could already sense what awaited us. In comparison with others, my parents did not look so bad. My brothers and I found a place to live with my friend Yankele Steinman in Chaim Goldberg's tannery. With us were also Moshe Brika, Moshe Milstein and Pinchas Steinman.
Hanukah was approaching and hunger prevented us from thinking much about the holiday, but we did manage to find some candles and we waited for a miracle maybe God would take pity on the remnant of Jews that had survived.
In the meantime, my father taught us what to do if we were deported. Since there would be little opportunity to leave the line during the march to the station, the only way left was
to get into the trains and try to jump off. He taught us how to leap from a speeding train we must never jump in the direction the train was coming from but always in the direction in which it was going.
During Hanukah, the Nazi surrounded the ghetto with so many armed guards that it was impossible to get out. It happened suddenly. Our food supply was cut off. This situation lasted until 13th January, 1943. On the 12th, the commandos that carried out the deportation - most were Ukrainians came into the ghetto and demanded all the valuables that we still had in our possession. This was a sign that the final action was about to begin.
That night, no one slept and no miracles happened. The murderers proceeded with their diabolical plan. The cattle cars were already waiting at the railroad station. The heart-rending scenes were witnessed that night cannot be described in words.
On the 13th early in the morning, the hated order came: Alle raus! They lined us up in rows of five. The S.S. waited for the Ukrainian guards but they were very busy beating the tormented Jews with clubs and rifle-butts. They selected the stronger among us to stay behind and clean up the town.
One of them was my brother Yehezkei-Binyomin. The rest of us marched to the station. Anyone would could not stay in line was shot. There were many victims on that day.
In the crush, our family tried at least to get into the same car. I looked at the little windows on the sides of the train. They were all blocked with barbed wire. The afternoon grew late and the men started the mincha prayers.
Then, my father appealed to all those in the train: Let us davn this last maariv (evening prayers) with utmost devotion. We all know that the murderers want to destroy us. So let us pray to God for mercy. Everyone men and women alike wept so inconsolably that it should have split all the heavens.
After the prayers, everyone said the kaddish. It seemed that each person was reciting it for himself. The train became a grave on wheels as everyone said the last confession.
Then my father spoke to us privately and warned us that no a moment more should be lost, that we must now try to escape through the windows. One man hacked away at the barbed wire of one of the windows until it was clear. The train was still speeding along the tracks. We said farewell to mother and father. I shall never forget that moment. Father stood at the window directing the escape. We were; I, my brother Hananiah and Yehezkel Gzembo (Shmuel Tsalel's son).
The first to jump was Hananiah. Second was Yehezkel. Third was me. I jumped and fell into a snowbank. I jumped to life, but my brother and Yehezkel jumped to death.
I lay in the snow with a high fever and fell asleep. I was awakened by a Polish policeman who happened to be the son-in-law of a Szydlowiecer named Zaremba who owned a haberdashery shop. The policeman told me that I was not far from the camp at Pionek near Radom and that there were Jews there.
He took me to a village jail to spend the night. In the morning he came to see me and I wrote a note to a Pole in Szydlowiec with whom my parents had left all our money. My father trusted him implicitly his name was Czeczakowkski.
He owned a nail factory and was an honest Christian. In my note I instructed him to give the Polish policeman 5000 zloty.
It was worth it. The policeman took me to the camp at Pionek where there was a munitions factory called Wytwornia Prochu W. Pionkach. He introduced me to the camp boss as a mechanic who wanted to work.
In this camp we had enough to eat. I was able to do the work and it was not hard. This situation lasted until Tish B'Av 1944 when the camp was liquidated and all the Jews
were evacuated to Auschwitz. On the way, I found a chance to escape and wandered in the forest all alone until I came to a village where I happened to meet a friendly peasant. His name was Jagetz Wensdzneski. He made a hiding place in a ditch that looked like a grave. Every day, he would bring me food but I would not have lasted there very long. Fortunately, the Russians came into the village and liberated me.
After the liberation, I went back to our house in Szydlowiec with Moshe Eisenberg and Akiba Liberman. However, on account of the cruel behaviour of the Poles, we left very soon. Akiba was later killed in the Kielce pogrom. My parents and my two brothers perished.
And that's how I was saved.
by Isaiah Henig
In the summer of 1940, the Germans put up large posters ordering Jewish men to report to the newly built nail factory outside the city. This factory had a high fence around it. They were going to select a small number of young men to work in a labour camp for a short time. Everyone had to report in the factory yard where there would be doctors to okay only the strongest. In families where there was no father or where the parents were elderly, the oldest son would not be taken. Anyone who did not report would go to prison for ten years.
The smarter fellow did not report. They merely hid for a day and nothing happened. Israel Milstein and I had special certificates from the Judenrat so we were certain that the Germans wouldn't take us. But, when we came to the nail factory, we saw that we were in trouble. There were no doctors and the Germans laughed at our Judenrat documents.
Once there, we couldn't get out. About 500 people had reported and Ukrainian guards with a few Germans in command
lined us up in rows of five and marched us to the railroad station.
Before we left the factory, they warned us that if one of us ran away, they would shoot ten others. They said that they had counted us and knew exactly how many of us there were.
We rode in trucks to Pulawy and from there to Juzefow where they divided us into two groups. One group went to the labour camp there; the other group was put into a closed courtyard. Again, they warned us if one man ran away they would shoot ten others. In this place they gave us some soup.
Next to the yard were two Jewish homes. While I was eating my soup, one of our prisoners, accompanied by a young woman from one of the houses, came over to me. She told us she could hide two people. I explained that I couldn't endanger the lives of ten of my friends. She told us that she had already done this a few times and that the guards counted the men but that they really did not have an accurate account.
I didn't go with her but the other Szydlowiecer did. He stayed in the house overnight and the next day he was safely back in Szydlowiec. The young woman was right. The Ukrainians counted us a few times but they really didn't know what the total was. And, they didn't shoot anybody.
One night, a caravan of thirty peasant wagons brought us to the camp at Janiczew. All Szydlowiecers were put into one barrack. Early the next morning, the camp commandant lined us up for roll call. He counted us and then divided us into groups of twenty. The twentieth man was appointed group leader. Israel and I were in the same group of which I was made leader.
They first day they didn't give us any work to do so we took a good look around. There were three or four barracks in the camp; some people had already been there a long time. The Szydlowiecers kept talking about how to get out of there and go home.
The next day, they put us to work building a dam to regulate the water in the Vistula. We dragged wheelbarrows full of earth down to the river. The higher the dam grew the steeper the ground on which we had to drag the loaded wheelbarrows. When we got back to the camp, I couldn't stand up.
Israel and I resolved to get out of there. We had noticed a man and woman going in and out of the camp whenever they pleased.
Why couldn't we do the same?
After work the next day, the two of us hung around outside the commandant's barracks. Israel was holding a fancy box in his hand with a beautiful razor. After a while, the commandant came out and asked us: what do you have there? Israel opened it and showed him what was inside. I handed it to him and we walked away. The following day, we went back to the commandant and asked him for permission to leave the camp for a few hours. He didn't give us a pass but took us over to the guards and told them that we could go and come whenever we wished.
The town of Janiczew was on the other side of the Vistula. Every hour there was a primitive little boat that ferried passengers and freight across the river. We paid half a zloty a person and in a little while were in Janiczew. The Judenrat there made us welcome and told us that If we brought the camp commandant to them, they might be able to do something for us. They needed a favour from him. Some time ago, the Germans had rounded up their young men and taken them to a camp very far away. Maybe they could persuade him to have them moved to his camp.
When we returned to the camp we told the commandant that the Judenrat in Janiczew had found a good tailor for him and would he please come to see them. He said he would go there
with us right away. In Janiczew we left him with the president of the Judenrat. What the president told him, I don't know but in a little while, we saw them both walking over to the tailor and they seemed to be having an amicable conversation. Israel and I went back to the camp.
The commandant's relationship with the Janiczew Judenrat helped us a great deal. Every day, a few people left the camp, went into town and returned in the evening.
There were a few Szydlowiecers in the camp who were too ill or too weak to work. The commandant sent them to another camp but there they had to work. Isaiah Mendl Eisenberg, one of this group, could not walk as quickly as the others. The Ukrainian guard who was leading them shot him on the road.
The Szydlowiec Judenrat sent a gift to the commandant enough leather for a pair of boots. A similar gift came from the Janiczew camp where the other half of the Szydlowiecers were interned. This further eased the situation in our camp. Anyone who had a little money went to see the commandant. For a small sum, he would let people go free. My cousin Itche Brandmesser paid a small amount and was released the same day as Israel and I.
Many who had no money simply went out to work and did not return at the end of the day. Most of them got to Szydlowiec safely.
This situation did not last long, however? The Gestapo in Lublin soon recalled our lenient commandant and sent a Folksdeutsch in his place. The new commandant was a murderer.
Conditions in the camp grew very bad. When a few Szydlowiecers tried to escape, two of them were shot and a third wounded. The latter was brought to Szydlowiec by his sister-in-law and survived).
Members of the Szydlowiec Judenrat went to Lublin. With
the help of the Judenrat there plus a considerable sum of money, they succeeded in having all the Szydlowiecers in both camps sent home as well as the six sick men who had been sent to a third camp.
And that's how I was saved.
by Dora Blander-Rosencweig
This was ten days after Tisha B'Av, 1942. We were expecting a roundup of young women to be sent to Skarzysko. The S.S. with the help of the Jewish police went from house to house with a list. I was in bed with a high fever that day but they ordered me to get dressed and go with them. My parents' pleas were to no avail. I cannot find the words to describe the farewell scene between me and my father, Abraham Hirsh and my mother Esther.
The police took us to the city hall. This particular roundup included only young women and girls. The place was already full of people waiting to see what would happen next. We did not know whether we would ever see our homes and parents again. We were locked up until Monday. Then a truck came and took us to the Hasag camp at Skarzysko where they assigned us to various jobs. I was assigned to a machine which a Pole taught me to operate. This machine packed the explosive into bullets. The work itself was tolerable, but the conditions were inhuman. After a hard day's work, they gave us a little bit of soup. Every evening, the factory guards inspected us to see that no one took any bullets out of the factory. That was supposedly the purpose of the inspection but if the guards liked a particular woman, they would detain her and we never saw her again.
One day, they took a Shidlovtse girl, Rachmele Eisenberg, out of line. Rachmele was tall and pretty. She and a few other
girls never came back. After that, many of the women purposely made themselves look as unattractive as possible. This helped.
My brother Menachem, rest his soul, worked in Plant C. There was no place to bathe there so once a week they brought the men to our plant which had a bath. When I saw Menachem the first time, I didn't recognize him. He and all the others who worked in Plant C was yellow from the chemicals that they were putting into the grenades. I was happy to see him, however, and I waited eagerly every week for the moment that we could see each other once more. It gave me reason to live. I felt that I was not all alone in the world.
I made friends there with Bella Rudmanowicz (now Bella Almelech, who lives in Los Angeles). She and I were together in all camps until liberation. The work kept getting more and more difficult. In the camp, each day dragged by like a year but somehow we lived to see the summer of 1944 when the Germans began evacuating the people closer to the German border near Czenstochow. Here we stayed until December 15th, 1944 then dragged by train to Ravensbruck in Germany for two weeks. This was a large concentration camp with a million women of various nationalities. Here our work consisted of carrying wood to the crematoria. Whenever there was a selection, they took only Jews and Gypsies and no other nationalities.
One night, they surrounded the barracks where the Gypsies were. The resulting panic was so great that they gassed them all. No one was left alive. They tried to pacify us by warning us that we were next. Luckily it didn't come to that; the next day they started marching us away from here, further and further into the hinterland until we finally came to Dachau. Two days later on April 22nd, 1944 we were liberated by the American army and taken by truck to the D.P. camp at Feldafing. Here my brother Menachem came for me from Switzerland. He passed away in America.
by Isaac Mistein
I consider April 30th to be my second birthday because on that day in 1944, I and hundreds of other Jews were in a Tyrolean village expecting to be shot by the S.S., but at the last moment, the U.S. army came and liberated us.
Ever since that day, it has been my greatest wish to see Shidlovtse again but it wasn't until May 1980 that my dream was realized. A friend of mine recommended a Polish driver in Warsaw who would take me wherever I wanted to go. This driver was a big help to me as soon as I arrived in Warsaw. His mother, a writer, was a Jewish woman who had converted. She was working on a book about the Holocaust, so she jumped at the opportunity to make the trip with us to Shidlovtse.
When she asked me the purpose of my visit, I told her that first I wanted to see my hometown, that maybe I'd find someone from my family there; and second, I wanted to meet a former Polish schoolmate who had helped to catch Jews in return for a kilo of sugar and who stopped me one day and robbed me of everything I had.
After driving through various towns and villages, we finally came to Shidlovtse. Almost everything there has been rebuilt; there is practically no trace of Jews ever having lived there. The old homes of the Blanders, Schreiberbergs, Silbermans are gone and on the place where the Firschmans, Rosenbaums and Steinmans used to live, there is now a big four-story building. In the fish market, there are still a few of the old houses: Aaron Blumenfeld's, Shmuel Brandmesser's, Mendelsohn's, Lederman's and Guterman's. From Ella Dimant's to the city hall, all the houses are still there. Our house as well as all the houses from Rinek-2 to Platkota's Garden, has disappeared and in their place is a large building.
I stood there and to me it seemed like the grave of my
whole family. From this house, my parents were deported along with other Jews to the umschlagplatz including my older sister and her five children; the youngest 2 years of age, my 75 year-old grandmother Gitl had carried in her arms for five kilometres to the railroad station, in the company of her own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The driver's mother asked a Polish passer-by if there were any Jews still living in Shidlovtse and if he missed the Jews. He replied: It's much nicer here with the zhids than with them. We couldn't wait to be rid of them.
An employee in the city hall took me to the Jewish cemetery. The entrance stood open. I asked him to put up a gate that could be locked, that he could hold the keys to and open the gate for tourists and that he could earn a little money from this. He agreed to do so. The Polish government has put a monument at the cemetery to the Jews of Shidlovtse who were killed in the years 1939-1945. The marble gravestones have been vandalized. My brother Israel's grave has no headstone because he was shot by the Germans shortly before the last deportation.
A Pole told us that there were two Jews still living in Shidlovtse. They do not live openly as Jews but everyone knows who they are.
One day, we travelled to Treblinka, the cemetery of hundreds of thousands of Jews, including my family. Of the camp, the railroad tracks are all that remain. The gas chambers and crematoria were destroyed. The Poles have set up a kind of museum here with many stones, each stone symbolizing a town. On one of these stones is the inscription: SZYDLOWIEC.
My last wish was to see the Christian woman who saved my two cousins; they were at the time young children. She lives in the village of Krzenczyn. Her husband worked for my father as a fisherman. This fisherman was also a big thief and during the war, the Germans sent him to Auschwitz where he perished.
But it was through this Polish thief that my young cousins were saved. He left a will containing a warning: if anything happened to the two Jewish children, Partisans would burn down the whole village. This threat worked; the children were saved.
Unfortunately, when we got there, his wife was not at home and I had to leave for the U.S. that same day.
As far as I know, she is still living in that town.
by Michael Pomeranz
After attending the International Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and Their Children, held in Washington, D.C. in 1983, I became obsessed with going to Poland to see what I could see to feel what I could feel. I ended up going in 1984 and again in 1986. What I saw and felt beyond my wildest expectations. The emotion that it stirred in me and continues to stir in me goes well beyond words. What happened during those dark years of 1939-1945 must not be forgotten.
On my first visit to Szydlowiec, with the aid of a guide and maps drawn by Jack Milstein and my father, I was able to find Platz Wilnosci (Liberty Square how ironic). What was once a square known as the Straw Market, it is still a square but with grass and some play items for children. On the corner where my father's house once stood, is now a five-story apartment building with some shops. I had mixed feelings about the house being gone. On the one hand I so dearly wanted to see it; and on the other hand, the thought of seeing it and seeing someone else walk out of it would have been painful.
My first visit in 1984 to the cemetery was one of mixed emotions. As I looked at the rows and rows of headstones, I was extremely saddened that here lived people Jews maybe even
my own grandparents, where because of the immense pain, hardly anyone comes to pay respect. I thought of how in a period of over forty years, virtually no one had come to lie a rock down on the headstone of a loved one. I knew I would return and I did in 1986. I had two specific reasons for going back to soon. I had to go into the cemetery to find my great grandfather's headstone and second, try to locate the Skwarek sisters who had lived next door to my father and whom I understood might still be alive. They were rare exception of non-Jews living in Poland who had helped Jews.
I was checking row by row, stone by stone, for my great grandfather's grave. As I was about a third of the way down the path, I, for the first time, consciously looked at a headstone. I was frozen it read: Fischel Levin in Yiddish. It was my great grandfather's grave.
Prior to going on the trip, my father had given me a piece of paper written in Hebrew. The cemetery was half destroyed and/or its headstones obliterated.
After the shock and a few moments, I walked to the monument in the centre of the cemetery. It was explained to me that it was a memorial to the approximate 14,000 Jews that had been murdered by the Nazi in that area. I took out a large multi-wick Yahrzeit candle and lit it. I recited from memory only the first line of Kaddish as that was all I could remember. The holy words of the whole Kaddish were not spoken but my deep prayers to their souls and to God were there.
I walked back to my grandfather's headstone, placed a rock on it, lit the candle and prayed. I continued to walk around the cemetery. As I walked about, young children did so as well, taking a short cut home from school. Some walked straight through and still others were curious at my presence and loitered nearby or hid behind headstones peeking out from time to time to see what this man with a yarmulke was doing. I wondered what did they know
of where they lived. When they arrived home, surely they would tell their parents of their experience in the old Jewish cemetery. Their parents would have to tell them something. I wondered what it would be. I can't help but think that someday one of these children will have been positively and deeply affected by what they saw and what they possibly learned on that day.
In 1984 I went to the Castle. I crossed over the moat, again into another world within another world, and entered into the centre courtyard. If these walls could talk, if these walls could only talk. It was here that hundreds upon hundreds of Jews women, children, the old and the stricken were kept for days without water before their ultimate transport and death at Treblinka. Beyond the courtyard, the inside of the castle had been converted into a museum for musical instruments. Yet no instrument could drown out the anguish, the screams and the whimpering of young children all those years ago.
In 1984 I continued traveling through the town, taking pictures of old buildings, thinking that perhaps they were pre-Holocaust and that my father would be able to recognize them later. At the time I took them I simply knew that they were old buildings and what significance they had I knew not. When my father saw the pictures, there were two he especially identified: Pinkert's house and Eisenberg's factory and shtibel. When I returned in 1986, I studied these buildings with great intensity having learned their significance since my last trip.
In 1984, I visited Treblinka. The site consisted of a series of stone monuments. First there were large rectangular blocks lined up in a long column. This represented the railroad ties (tracks) that led to the ramp. Then there were about a dozen irregularly shaped stones approximately 15ft tall, each one having the name of a country inscribed on it; countries where Jews had come from and who were killed here.
The, as I entered the main grounds, I saw a huge stone monument approximately 30ft tall on top of which was sculptured a Menorah and of people suffering. There was also a stone plaque stating: Never Again in several languages and then there was the most moving of all thousands of rocks ranging in height from 1-4ft, each one representing a city, a town or a shtetel from where the Jews had come to meet their final destiny. As I wandered, there was a great part of me that could not imagine a stone with Szydlowiec inscribed on it. I burst into uncontrollable tears. There it was Szydlowiec. It would be impossible to say which came first the viewing or the weeping. The rock stood about 2,5ft tall and unlike the others, there was a large weed growing at its base. As I stood and wept, I realized that this was the headstone of my family. I did not have a Yahrzeit candle with me. So I went into the nearby woods, broke off some downed twigs, practiced making as best as I could a Mogen David. Finally I had it. I returned to the stone and reconstructed on top of it, that which had long been the symbol of our life and 40 years ago, our death. As I looked upon it, I felt proud. As I had gathered up the twigs I noticed discarded empty Yahrzeit holders. I though perhaps I could find one that still had wax in it. After frantically looking for several minutes I came across one that had been barely used. The camp was deserted except for three or four people none of whom had matches. I got into my car, drove several miles until I found a local Pole who had some matches. I hurried back, lit the candle and prayed. Sadness yes beyond any expectation. Proud yes, of them of course. They were my family, they were Jews, and they died because they were Jews. If they perished with the Shema on their lips, I do not know. It does not matter. What matters now is that their memory stays alive.
In 1984, I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The name
Auschwitz is actually a misnomer for it was at Birkenau that millions perished. It was here that the many barracks existed as well as the large crematoriums. Whenever reference is made to Auschwitz, it is really referring to Birkenau, located about three kilometres away. As I entered the information building at Auschwitz, one woman informed me that she worked there. I told her that my father had been here. She said: Come with me, I will give you a tour. She brought me over to the Archive section and searched through various records many Pomeranz but not A19514. When I gave the woman my father's number, she produced a book that was sort of like a camp log and in there, we were able to find my father's number in sequence of others which indicated the day he arrived in the camp, from where, how many women, men, children were on his transport. I also learned from this book that my father had been on the last train transport out of Auschwitz on 17th January, 1945. The next day, there was a death march of 65,000 people; 10,000 of which survived. The camp was liberated on 26th January, 1945.
The next day I returned to Birkenau. As I drew close to the camp, I kept focusing on the entrance building and the tracks leading down the centre. Before entering, I drove the length and width. I was amazed by its enormity about a kilometre square. Finally, I walked through the entrance on the tracks, the same tracks where millions of Jews met their final destiny. I continued to walk alongside the tracks until I reached the spot where the selection took place where good and evil met where the epitome of innocence young children met the epitome of evil Joseph Mengele, the most evil being the world has ever known. I continued onward until I reached barrack number 29, or what was left of it. Actually, what was left of it will always remain, for this was my father's home. What took place in there, to my father and to everyone else, I will not attempt with words. I don't think anyone can let alone
me. I removed a chunk of brick from the smokestack and broke off a short segment of barbed wire nearby and put them in my coat pocket.
After two days of investigating/searching, talking with non-Jews who had always lived in Szydlowiec and relying on information that was ten years old, I found myself at the front door of Tybla 6 in Radom with a bouquet of flowers in one hand. My other hand was clenched as I prepared to knock at the door I hoped would be the home of Ruzka Skwarek. I was excited, optimistic and curious as to her reaction and possible shock. After all, a descendant of Jews from Szydlowiec she could not have ever expected to have seen. I knocked, the door creaked and opened and an older woman appeared. My driver and she began speaking in Polish. I recognized four words; the last of which convinced me that not only had I found the right person but I had actually found a Pole with a heart for Jews. During the conversation, my driver mentioned Szydlowiec and the woman responded: Tag (yes). A moment later my driver said: Pomeranz. Ruzka looked at me with both amazement and warmth and without any hesitation, began affectionately repeating: Yankele, Yankele, Yankele. The few seconds that I was speechless could be marked on a calendar. I gave Ruzka a small picture of my father in his thirties which she cupped in both her hands, fearful as the image was like water and might possibly be lost if not held carefully. I too did not want anything lost so I pulled out my tape recorder. She asked me how my family was now, but I wanted to know how my family was then. Without even asking, I was told of the piety of my grandparents. Ruzka reflected back in time as if it were yesterday, with beautiful thoughts of my father and my aunt Esther. As time went on, my questions went deeper and deeper: What is it like here without Jews? I asked. As my questions began to centre on these issues, the responses through the translation became less clear. I found out
later that my interpreter began suspecting my motive for being there and was adjusting the questions and answers as he saw fit. He later confessed to me that he thought perhaps I was some kind of agent. But dialogue is not the only means of communication for when I was alone with Ruzka (having sent my driver to get my camera), she leaned over, hugged me and said some soft words in Polish as her eyes filled with tears. While there, I learned that her sister, Sabina, was in the next room but was too ill to see me I sensed that she must have been on her death bed. Tis sister is the woman who gave refuge to my aunt Esther when she returned home to Szydlowiec and was faced with threats of death from the local Poles. Both women have since died; my aunt 25 years ago and Sabina last year.
I have not yet marched from Platz Wolnosci to the train station. Those steps taken by my grandparents, aunts, cousins and the Jews of Szydlowiec 46 years ago will be retraced in the year 5748 (1988), god willing. Perhaps some of you reading this will join me. As I sit here thinking about that walk, I realize that I do not know what my feelings will be. Will I cry? I do not know. Perhaps I will sing. If I do, what word will flow from my lips? I do not know. Will it be Hatikvah, Ani Maamim or Sholom Aleichem? I do not know. What I do know is the following: I will walk tall, erect and most of all, proud. I also know that I will not be alone. Along with me there will be at least 14,000 souls but more than likely, there will be six million including one and a half million children. All of them will be whispering in my ear and only then will I know what I feel and what my response to those feelings will be. My past merges into my present and then beyond. The past provides me with the directions I am to follow.
In the year 2448 from creation, Mount Sinai quaked and smoked and the Children of Israel trembled; the Revelation took place. We had all answered together that we accepted the Torah.
In the years 5702-5705 (1942-1945) there was smoke once again. This time it was rising from the chimneys; the ground beneath our parents' feet quaked and they trembled as the world stood by indifferent. Then, in the year 5741 (1981) at the western Wall in Jerusalem, before G-d, we the children of survivors accepted The Legacy.
Since Sinai, from generation to generation, we, as Jews, have individually had to decide to what degree we would follow that which was given to us at Sinai. Now, once again, we as Jews and children of survivors must ask ourselves to what degree we will follow The Legacy. Our parents and other survivors are becoming fewer and fewer; much too soon; all of them all the witnesses will be gone.
Elie Wiesel said: If we cannot imagine the past, then we cannot imagine the future. He accurately points out that anyone who was not there cannot imagine what really took place. Because of this, we as Jews and children of Holocaust survivors, must strive ever so hard to remind the world to come as close as possible to imagining the past. For, if we don't, those dark years will become forgotten and distorted and mankind will be doomed!
by B. Kagan
When the Germans occupied Szydlowiec in September, 1939 there were approximately 8,000 Jews in the shtetl. Immediately, evil decrees began to rain upon the Jews; they were required to contribute huge sums of money, to surrender furs and jewellery, to sew blue Stars of David onto white bands. A curfew was imposed, commerce and crafts were forbidden and above all, there were various types of forced labour in the city and in other locations. There was only one punishment for not obeying a command: - execution by shooting!
In addition, all synagogues and Hasidic shtiblech were shut down. Praying collectively was also strictly forbidden. Nevertheless, Jews would risk the consequences and, particularly during the High Holy days, assemble in Minyanim quorums of ten men to unburden their souls of their bitter troubles.
In order to lighten their task of coercion and annihilation, the Gestapo immediately appointed a Judenrat which was to direct the Jews of Szydlowiec and be responsible for all their activities. To decline such an honour was impossible. At the Judenrat, there was a Jewish Arbeitsamt established, a sanitation committee and a Jewish police force, which was responsible for enforcing all the orders of the Judenrat, which, in reality, meant the orders of the German authorities.
Szydlowiec was one of only a few Jewish communities in Poland where there was a so-called open ghetto a ghetto that was not surrounded by barbed wire. This was an
exceptional advantage because it made it easier for the Jews of Szydlowiec to come into contact with the countryside and to obtain food in spite of the drastic punishments that were involved if they were captured. It happened more than once that Jews were shot to death of meat or butter was found hidden in their garments, if they were found baking bread, etc. But hunger often grew stronger than danger and Jews risked their lives to support themselves and their families.
People had to care not only for their own families. Since Szydlowiec was an open ghetto, a fact that had many advantages, it attracted many Jews not only from surrounding areas but even from distant cities such as Warsaw, Lodz, Cracow and others. There were approximately 8,000 Jews in the city at the outbreak of the war and at the time of the Holocaust, this amount grew to approximately 15,000. Many of the Jews who sought refuge in Szydlowiec were without means of support and the local Jews had to provide them with food, shelter, etc. A large public kitchen was established where many hundreds of meals were distributed each day.
Why did Szydlowiec merit being declared an open ghetto? This came about because the Jews in that city made up approximately 87% of the shtetl population and, therefore, it was perhaps easier for the Germans to declare the entire shtetl a ghetto rather than to isolate the Jews in a restricted area.
An important factor, and indeed perhaps the most important, in creating an open ghetto in Szydlowiec was not so much the statistics as something else: the relationship between the Judenrat and the various national municipal offices in the shtetl and in the district. The members of the Judenrat attempted during this period to establish good relations not only with the local German authorities but even
with the heads of the Gestapo in Radom, under whose jurisdiction Szydlowiec found itself. Thanks to that the relationship which was, to be sure, not due to the love of Israel, many Jews were rescued from death and on one occasion, over 400 deported Jews in the Yanishov camp were even freed and sent back to Szydlowiec because of such influence.
Because of this relationship between the Judenrat and the local German authorities, the situation in the Szydlowiec ghetto was much better than in most ghettoes in Poland better only in comparison because here too, many Jews were shot over the most trivial things. These better conditions, however, lasted only until the end of 1941 when the boundaries of the ghetto were officially declared. Even then, the area was not confined with barbed wire.
From that day on, the situation became increasingly worse and soon the terrible day arrived. Wednesday, September 23, 1942. At six a.m. Jewish policemen and Christian firemen came into Jewish homes and announced the German command that at exactly 8 o'clock, all Jews must assemble in the Straw market. It was permitted to bring along a parcel weighing 20 kilos. Whoever remained at home would be shot to death. Many Jews took refuge in prearranged hiding places, but the majority went to the Straw market.
This was the first deportation of the Jews of Szydlowiec. The promise of the Radom district-murderer Schipper that for 1,000 zlotes one could buy one's freedom was a hoax. Those who gave 1,000 zlotes were separated from the mass of Jews and taken to the Castle where they were held without water for three days and were then taken to the trains. They all were sent directly to Treblinka. Other Jews tried to escape during the march to the railroad station but were shot.
There remained a work group of about 150 Jews and the Jewish police. They had to remove the Jewish corpses from the roads and houses and collect Jewish belongings that had been left behind. The Jews who remained were concentrated in Pinkert's factory. Then, all those who had been in hiding during the vents of September 23, also arrived a total of a few hundred Jews. On October 2, the SS took most of the Jews out of Pinkert's factory and sent them to Skarzhishk where a few days later, most of them fell into selection for Treblinka together with the local Jews of Skarzhisk. This was the second deportation. There remained only some 70 Jews. Then several more Jews stole into this group.
On the 11th November, 1942, the third deportation was carried out. It included the groups of Jews that had worked at removing the Jewish corpses from the streets and had collected Jewish belongings including the Jewish police and their families. They too were deported to Skarzhisk camp.
In December 1942, the Germans officially proclaimed four new ghettoes, promising work and security in them. One of these new ghettoes was Szydlowiec. The plan was just a diabolical trick to lure Jews from their hiding places with Christians and in the forests. Thousands of Jews, most of whom were not from Szydlowiec, once again allowed themselves to be misled or acted out of great desperation and came to the new ghetto. Many people from Szydlowiec even risked being shot to death and escaped from their camps and ran to the new ghetto. The number of Jews that flocked to the new ghetto reached some 5,000.
In the new ghetto there was even established a Judenrat. But, the ghetto existed for only five or six weeks. On the 13th January, it was disbanded and its nearly 5,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka. This was the fourth and last deportation. With this, Szydlowiec became Judenrein.
The main camp of the Jews of Szydlowiec was the Skarzhisk Hasag. Many of the Szydlowiec Jews were shot to death here or perished of hunger and sickness. After the liquidation of Hasag in August of 1943, the Szydlowiec Jews were dispersed to various concentration camps, the majority to Dachau, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Tereseinstadt.
Here, we could say a few words on the attitude of the local Christian population towards the Jews in the time of their great catastrophe. It is clear that without the Germans, such a holocaust would not have taken place. But, working with the Germans were very many local Christians who actively helped to exterminate the Jews of Szydlowiec; they tortured them and shot them or gave them over to Germans to be shot. They majority of the local Christians showed no compassion and rejoiced in the tragedy of the unfortunate Jews.
Out of this background of criminal collaboration with the Nazi murderers and the open satisfaction of the Jewish tragedy on the part of the neighbouring Christians, we must set apart those instances in which Christians did help rescue Jews from death by giving hiding places at the risk of their own lives. One outstanding example is the Antoniaks one of whom was imprisoned and the other executed for hiding two Jewish children.
The number of Szydlowiec Jews who remained alive out of all the hell camps is approximately 300, the remnants of a deeply rooted Jewish community that had endured for over 400 years.
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