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[Page 569]

The Horrors of the Holocaust

 

Days and Years of Pain and Destruction
My Testimony at the Trial against Niczke and the Group

by Yechiel Greenhaus

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Jeannette Gelman

 

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Yechiel Greenhaus, Venezuela

 

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On July 30, 1964, I appeared as a witness at the criminal trial against Niczke and his group. This Gestapo group operated in Wlodawa and the surrounding areas, from November 1939 until the final evacuation of all the Jews from Wlodawa and the surrounding areas, and then transporting them to the death camp of Sobibor, eight kilometers from Wlodawa.

The final Aktzia [round up] took place on Friday, May 1, 1943. After the last eviction, about 60 people remained alive by Falkenberg, and a few hundred by Selinger and Adampol. These were shot several months later.

The trial takes place in the district court of Hanover, West Germany.

My witness recount and answering the questions of the court members takes two half days. They want to know everything exactly; I have to answer even about personal matters. My feelings about all these so–called anti–Nazi trials, is that all this is taking place with the intention to whitewash the German nation, and to show that only individual Germans, here and there, are the guilty ones. And, they are not that guilty, considering that each one who was guilty was following an order at the time of war. The higher ups gave the orders, and unfortunately, the innocent people carried them out. They are “organizing trials,” they are giving illusory punishments, and so for this story, they are showing that the German nation is not guilty of murdering 6,000,000 Jews. They concede that here and there were a few Germans who were directly guilty and responsible for the destruction, but the large part were guilty only indirectly, and these types of indirectly guilty ones also exist by other nations with other leaders…

At the trial, there were also other Holocaust survivors who delivered witness accounts, from Israel, Canada, and even 100% Aryans, Germans: Falkenberg, Holczhamer, Zelinger, Winkler and his daughter, and others, all of whom delivered accusations. There were some Germans who defended themselves.

In those days, before and after my witness account, I relived the gruesome tragedy of the Jews from our town, from Poland, from Europe, from Jews in the whole world. The demonic behavior of the Nazis will still be echoed long, long, from now among the nations of the entire world.

Their many black and blood–soaked pages in the history of the civilized world left behind the flaming Hitler's blazing fire of 1939–1945… and in order to whiten these black pages, Germany organized these “trials” and pays compensation. Even the entire civilized world has quickly forgotten…

We will not stop remembering and pleading, writing and recounting. I will speak about my town as I knew it, as I see it always and will see it to my final day…

Our city Wlodawa is very old. It rests near the Bug River, a strategic point, and therefore, during wartime, is caught in the middle of the fire. Wlodawa is mentioned frequently in Polish history, and also in literature, in the trilogy of H. Sienkiewycz's “With Fire and Sword,” and because of that, at the entrance to the market there was the [monument of the] horse and rider [cavalryman].

As in many other cities of central and eastern Poland, the center of town was Jewish and around that it was Christian. The center was five sided, with neighbors all around. At Rozhanker Street the last Jewish house was …

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… Chaim Reitler's. Down the mountain, toward the Bug River – Y. Festman's house. To the river – the butcher shops, the ritual baths, and the bathhouse. At the end of Wyriker Street – the rag dealer's house, and then Kalman (Rilinek) Feldman's house.

On the other side of the Bug, was the city Wlodawa, only Jews. It is likely that the Jews came from Wlodowka to Wlodawa. There are theories in history that the Jews lived in Wlodowka long before and only later on settled in the new Wlodawa of the mountain, on Wyriker Street.

Within these five above–mentioned points, until the year 1939, there were about 9,500 Jews and about 2,000 Christians. In the years 1939–1943, the Jewish population grew to about 20,000 souls. The reason was because the General Government declared that Wlodawa was a “Judenstadt” [a city of Jews], a sort of place of refuge for Jews. Ten cities were declared as such, and among these was also Wlodawa. Because of that, in fact, very often new Jews were brought over from Vienna, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Holland, and also from Kielcz and other cities in Poland. The Jews from the villages and towns around Wlodawa were also brought over or were ordered to go by themselves to Wlodawa, and also to the provinces that belonged to the Soviet Union.

At the end of 1939 and beginning of 1940, about 600 souls went to the provinces that belonged to the Soviet Union.

Wlodawa had a magnificent shul, an old one, built by Prince Zamojski. There was an old Beis Medrash [study hall], a new Beis Medrash, and many Chassidic shtiebelech [small prayer rooms designated to specific Chassidic groups] of a large number of Rebbes, and three cemeteries. There was supposed to be one more, but there were no more funds. There was an organization that took care of the sick [bikur cholim], an old–age home, a modern bathhouse and ritual bath [mikveh]. The population –– multi–colored; all directions – Chassidim, a large Zionist movement, Bundists, Socialists, Agudists, and even a few communists. The majority of the Jewish population comprised small merchants, somewhat more than a dozen wholesale merchants, and many manufacturers, a nice artisan group, and the usual workers. Other than a small exception, all were religious. There was a small percent who were non–observant, modern people, a middleclass population of about 25 men, that gave the impression of being a small town.

Wlodawa boasted of the prominent lineage of great rabbis, among whom was the “Bakh” [Rav Yoel Sirkis, 1561–1640, famous commentator on Talmud]. Among the religious books in the large …

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Beis Medrash were gemaras [Talmud] with his own handwritten explications and commentaries.

In Wlodawa, others who held the esteemed rabbinic seat were: the Novominsker Rav and Rebbe, Rav Yoreh and Arieye Perlow; the Lukower Rebbe, Reb Borukh Morgenstern, a grandson of the elder Kotzker Rav; and the last one was the son of the Lukower Rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel, who inherited the seat of the Wlodawa rabbinate from his father.

One Shabbat in July 1942, fate fell upon him to accompany his children and another 108 children from Wlodawa to their final route to Sobibor. I will discuss this more later. From the end of 1939 until Shavuos 1942, the Radzyner Rebbe was also in Wlodawa, Reb Shlomo Leiner, whose life and death in the town of Wlodawa is its own heroic chapter that requires separate mention.

Until 1928, Wlodawa did not have a middle school, only an elementary school. Naturally, there were all grades of cheders, with their fine teachers, Talmud Torahs [religious schools], where the youth learned Torah, and Jewish teachers taught general knowledge. Among them, I remember: Asher Lerer, who taught general studies; the teacher Kipel – Hebrew, Zukhczinski – Polish, and others.

There were also shoemaker and tailor minyanim [quorums for prayers] where they would pray and study Torah. There were also speakers who, every Shabbath, would hold forth speeches for the group in the Beis Medrash. There were also those who studied mishnayos [Talmud], and the Torah portion of the week. There were also studies for the women. In the 30s, Wlodawa also began to have studies for the youth and later on for independent workers.

Wlodawa was also lucky with its fine doctors. First Christian: Swirski, Tokazhewski; and then the Jewish ones: Blum, Feldman, and the last one Springer. Also, their good, fine, and respected assistants: Berly Rofeh, Noach Rofeh, Bendler, and others. The wives of these doctors were the “Bubbehs” [grandmothers] who helped all the Wlodawa children come into this world. Interesting jokes would go around about the Bubbeh, Madame Guterman. But this didn't change her character of a real Jewish Bubbeh.

Our city was also written up in the history of the Polish liberation.

The unexpected dealings of a small group of Polaks and a few Jews, who, in 1918, didn't want …

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… to let in the Polish military of Marshal Pilsudski, was a painful episode, particularly for the Jews. The conflict between the small group of revolutionaries and the legions took about two weeks. The episode had its finale in the lawsuit in Lublin, and was known as “Anisewycz, Wysniewski, and company.”

Perhaps this would not have had such pleasant consequences, especially for the Jewish population, but thanks to the efforts of the Jewish community, under the auspices of my father Yakov Zvi Greenhaus, of blessed memory, and the sincere understanding of the then–mayor Jasinski, who was also a legionnaire, this issue passed peacefully.

Already before the First World War, there was a nice group of maskilim [followers of the Haskalah, the Enlightenment]. Among them were: Sh. Barenholcz, Sh. Lemberger, Y. Goldstajn, the later doctor Y. Feldman, Shaul Samelson, Gesuntheit, J. Nisenboim, Sh. Mincz, D. Ojlamuczki, H.L. Epelboim, Avrohom Kohn, Asher Lerer, Dovid Rowner, Yosef Rotenberg, and others.

The Zionst activities were not confined only to education, and other get–togethers. Among the first olim [immigrants to Israel], there were also Wlodawa pioneers …

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… who were outstanding in their passionate ties to the Zionist ideal. One of these was the pioneer A. Y. Samelson, who, until today, lives in the kibbutz Ayin–Charud.

Among the first immigrants to Israel were also: Yakov Barenholcz, Garfinkel, Reitlers, Shmuel Bekerman, Sh. Katz, Szneiderman, a Wlodawa grandson, Zishe Fuks, L. Festman, and their wives.

In December 1924, I made Aliyah [“went up” to, immigrated to Israel], but because of my military duties I had to return to Poland in 1926.

The Zionist movement was born from this group of maskilim. Already in 1917, a Zionist organization (Zionim Klalim) was officially organized under the chairmanship of H. Epelboim. The second president was Asher Lerer, the third Shaul Samelson, and later Dr. Yosef Feldman, and others.

During the time of the second and third presidents, I was secretary and deputy of Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund]. The activities began small, as was customary, but already in the year 1920, thanks to the efforts and commitment of Yosef Rotenberg and a group of devoted young men and women, the movement began to gain in size. They built up a magnificent location, a library, …

 

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Reb Yakov Hersh Greenhaus and his wife Reb Yakov Hersh was a dozor [community leader] of the Wlodawa Jewish community for many years.

 

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… and later also a Tarbut school [Zionist Hebrew language educational system], a drama circle, the sports club Maccabi; Hashomer Hatzair [Zionist youth movement] had lively activities under the directorship of Yosef Mincz, Shepsel Kaminer, with their own orchestra that was at a high standard, and was at the head of the largest parade on May 3, when the Polish military did not yet have its own orchestra.

The Zionist activity was in all regions. In Wlodawa, famous speakers presented, such as: Harav Rappaport, the director of Mizrachi. Bunim and Uri Zislowski from Nahalel [the first workers' settlement in Israel]. They spoke about Zionism and Keren Kayemet.

When our group left, there was a great celebration in the club. They held a farewell evening with music, speeches, and so on. In this group of olim were Rowner, Struzman, Rolnik, Yosef Rotenberg, and the brothers Gershon Henokh and Feivel Barenholcz, Y. Nisenboim, and others. In the earlier years, Mizrachi and other groups were already active in the Zionist movement. Also Agudas Israel, which organized a Beis Yakov school [religious girls' school].

The Maccabi club played football, competing with military teams and traveling to other cities. In 1932, when Dr. Grinboim came to Chelm for a conference, the Hashomer Hatzair orchestra went out to meet the train in Chelm and welcomed him with music. This music brought much joy to the Chelm Jewish population and the festivity lasted for several days.

Here I would like to mention the fallen heroes, the Wlodawa pioneers [early settlers in Israel]: the Rotenberg brothers with the Pharoahs [muftis in 1929 Palestinian riots] in Jerusalem, Friedman in Haifa 1948, through the Irgun Tzvai Le'uimi [National Military Organization; Jewish underground movement founded in Palestine in 1931], as he tried to capture a train transporting weapons; Bekerman, among the hundreds of fallen in Kfar Etzion in 1948.

In 1920, Wlodawa felt the great Jewish pain of those times. The enemy of the Jews, Bulak– Balakhowicz [General Stanislaw Bulak–Balakhowicz – military leader (tyrant) in Belarus] with his staff settled in Wlodawa; even though they did not have civilian power in the city, nonetheless, Wlodawa and the surrounding regions suffered from them. 126 Jewish victims fell from their bloody hands. Among them were: Feivel Lederman's sons – Yakov, and my brother Moshe – both young boys of 17–18 years old.

I remember an event of those days: The colonel, the representative of Balakhowicz, summoned my father, as president of the community, and ordered him …

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… to amass 10 meters of hay for the horses within three hours. If that would not be done, then 10 Jews would be hanged. But a miracle took place and one hour later the Balakhowiczes had to leave Wlodawa.

Slowly, the troubles were forgotten, and life resumed its normal ways. Economically –– sometimes better, sometimes worse, but we lived peacefully. There were arguments about community matters, about the community charities treasury [gemilas chesed], and about Joint matters. The presidents of the community changed, once this one and once the other one, and among them were A. Cohen, Dovid Bekerman, G.H. Zajdman, and others.

Because of the education laws, all the children had to attend school, so all the Jewish children went to public school, to Tarbut school, to Beis Yakov, and also did not forget to go to cheder during the day.

***

At the beginning of the year 1939, in Wlodawa, as in the entire Poland, you could feel that dark clouds were gathering. In the month of September, the Germans attacked and took over Poland. In Wlodawa, the Germans came in and when the Russians came in, they left. A few days later, the Russians left and the Germans took their place, this time without leaving….

Until mid–November, Wlodawa had a military authority, which still allowed you to breathe a little. Later, the SS “Gestapo” came and took over civilian authority over the city and province. At the same time, they took over the great, old shul and the study halls, and made grain stores from them. The Gestapo settled into the house of the school teacher, as well as gendarmes and police; two types – Polish and Ukrainian.

The Gestapo assembled a “Judenrat.” At that time, I returned from Gdynia, where I was in prison, and had the good fortune not to go with all the others, Christians and Jews, to the concentration camps. On my trip from Gdynia to Wlodawa, that took more than two weeks, I had the opportunity to see, and feel with my body, the treatment of the Polish population in general and the Jews specifically, in all the cities and places through which I passed.

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The first assignment of the Judenrat was: to get furniture, clothing, food, linen, shoes, drinks, sweets, etc., for all the Gestapo men, the Gendarmerie, and other Germans; to bring workers and donations of money. Every day, the liaison of the Judenrat had to report to the Gestapo and find out what they needed for the next day, because what they needed today they already received yesterday….

The group of tailors, shoemakers, radio technicians, and other skilled workers, were immediately set up to work for the “master race,” naturally with the cost to the Judenrat.

A few days later, came the issue of “ransoming,” and hostages, and the city paid its “contribution,” but more about that later.

The demands became greater and greater each day and created a terrible burden on the people. There were also poor people who had to be helped. And, in fact, from day to day, things became more and more difficult. Until the year 1941, there was support from the Warsaw Joint, but after that it became challenging.

The Jews in Wlodawa led a life of suffering. No one could live from air alone, and life for each Jew hung on a thread. The Gestapo became more vicious every day in their cruelty and methods of punishment. Jews tried to help one another, but the possibilities were almost non–existent. The only possibility of making the situation easier in those days was to relieve one's heart by talking. Fear gnawed in everyone's heart of dying from hunger and of the terror of the Germans. Everywhere – where they showed themselves, people's blood froze in their veins.

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The decrees that the Judenrat received were never delivered in writing, only orally. This and this is what you have to do and complete. About the members of the Judenrat: Some have criticized them and do so until today. I, on the other hand, am far from criticizing those who were members of the Judenrat. Pity them, and suffer with them, yes – but no criticism. There was a very heavy burden placed on them. Everyone wanted the best, but in such a situation, with these conditions, in such a time of difficulty, they couldn't manage any other way. People are not angels. Each of them thought hard and made an effort to help, but the evil Satan extinguished each fantasy. Not everyone could be as strong as the Warsaw president, engineer Czerniakow… Even his strength did not help nor end the situation.

The members of the Judenrat were:
Sh. Zomer – president, A. Kohn – vice president, A. Gruber – secretary, Y. Lichtenberg – liaison, Branstatter and Rikhtman and others whose names I do not remember.

Already in 1939, they brought a group of ….

 

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German police guards [Schutz Polizei] (Shupo) in Wlodawa, when they allowed themselves to be photographed as they carried out various Aktzias [round–ups].

 

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… Jews from Austria, Czechoslovakia, and some from Holland and also from Kielcz. All of them were dispersed among the Jews. Every family received a roof over their heads and also some material help. The Germans always demanded free Jewish labor. On the orders from the Gestapo, the Judenrat organized a worker's bureau whose job it was to compile lists of workers and to distribute them in all areas of labor where needed.

They also established a Jewish post office and sanitation unit.

The mayor of the city was still the old engineer Ber. Later, however, he was replaced by a Ukrainian, a hater of Jews.

Thursday night, the last week of the month of November, 1939.

After the Gestapo arrived in the city and took over the civilian power, a group of 31 men was assembled and taken one–by–one to the Gestapo. The Gestapo were busy removing persons from their homes, doing so with the cooperation of the Polish police, who pointed out the address of each person, exactly according to the set list of the following persons:
The brothers Eliezer Yosef and Dovid Holczman, Sholom Lemberger, Yeshayohu Czewonigura, Moshe Mincz, Gershon–Henokh Zajdman, Hershel Feigenboim (Hershel Tuvia's), Mendel Lipszycz, Yekhezkel Likhtenstajn, Yekhiel Katz, Motel Rajkhman, Moshe Aron – Avrohom Siroka's son–in–law, the brothers Eliezer and Yekhiel Greenhaus. I cannot remember the other names, but all were older businessmen.

When we were all assembled together, they searched those mentioned and afterwards took away all that they had – gold items such as watches, money, and so on, and gave each person 20 zlotys. After completing the formalities, the” exercises” began, the familiar Gestapo exercises. For several hours, they “taught” us how to chop wood and carry water.

When we were already physically exhausted, we were loaded onto a covered cargo truck, and until we arrived to a place, we had no idea where they were taking us. After we got out, accompanied by lashes from whips, we already recognized the place. We were …

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… in Chelm. They crowded us into two cells under police arrest; the police was already ruled by the local Gestapo. After searching all the people, they shut the doors and locked us away.

It didn't take long, when a door opened, they called one of us out, and then they locked the door again. After about 20 or 30 minutes, they brought the person back, just throwing him in, badly beaten and faint. They immediately took out another person. Some were brought back so severely beaten and bloodied, that they couldn't move from their place. This is how it went all night long, until each of us had gone through the Gestapo fire.

With me, the following took place:

They brought me into a large room, where there were ten Gestapo men in their shirts with the sleeves folded up. There was a large table, some chairs, and a dark light fell across the walls with instruments for torture. They told me to undress completely naked, and, accompanying me with beatings, the torturers asked me foolish political questions. My answers did not interest them. Completely naked, they placed a gas mask over my face, put me on the table, and then began lashing me with their whips. I don't know how long this went on. I only remember the beginning, because I lost consciousness.

When I regained consciousness, I felt smacks, as they were putting back on my clothing, accompanied with more beatings, and again I passed out. I awoke in the corridor as if in a fog, and understood in my mind that they were bringing back my brother, and I felt more than saw that they placed him near me, passed out.

This feeling awoke in me the last bit of strength, and I began to attend to my brother. The guard allowed that we both go out into the yard of the place of arrest, to take some cold, fresh air. They did not give us a drop of water.

The hours dragged on, the pain cut through all our limbs.

This went on until …

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… dawn began to appear. They threw us back into one of the cells where the Jews were laying one on top of the other, beaten and bloodied. Each of the cells was made for four people. They threw 31 people into both cells, tortured, passed out people. One actually lay on top of the other, and this was worse than the beatings…

In the morning, a Gestapo officer came in, and innocently asked:

“Who are you? Are you thieves?”

Our answers did not interest him. He left immediately.

We did not feel hunger, but the thirst tortured all of us. In general, the young men, I among them, survived this more easily. It was worse for the older ones, who lay there as if unconscious, practically not knowing what they were saying or what they were doing.

They left us like that until late in the afternoon hours. Then the same Gestapo officer came in, ordered us to stand up, and told us that we would soon go back to Wlodawa by train, but that everyone would have to buy a train ticket. At that moment, we understood why each of us received the 20 zlotys.

Right behind this Gestapo officer, two regular SS soldiers came in and ordered us to go out of the cells, two in a row, and we were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk but only on the stony pavement.

Our unusual appearance drew the attention of the people in the streets through which we passed, or better said, through which we were dragged. Not one of us had enough physical strength to run the few kilometers on foot, but the feeling that we were going back home pushed us. Finally, we dragged ourselves to the train station, bought tickets, and boarded a cargo train.

Everyone pretty much recognized one another. The majority had their faces badly beaten and changed. [The place] particularly badly beaten was under the eyes. My brother and I had clean faces thanks to the gas masks that they put on us.

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After an hour and a half, we arrived in the provisional train station “Bug, where two SS men were waiting for us, as well as horses and wagons. Before we got into the wagons, we had to unload six wagons of cement and other construction articles. Only after that did we leave for the city.

Young and old waited for us in Wlodawa. The already knew that we were coming because on Friday the Judenrat had to collect a large sum of money and pay this as ransom for us.

 

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German gendarmes are organizing a “torture spectacle” of Jews in Wlodawa

 

When we approached the city we got off the wagons and continued on foot. It was already dark and we did not want to desecrate the Shabbath.

Waiting for us in the city was the Judenrat, who took us to the Gestapo office. There, came the chief Niczke and his assistants and he delivered a short speech to us, explaining that we were “retainers,” that means hostages, and if something will happen to a German, we will bear the total responsibility, and then he ordered that we should all go home “calmly and bravely.”

The scars of the beatings lasted months. Each of us had red bloodied blisters under the skin, and Doctor Springer had to treat all of us. By some of the younger ones, there was a quicker healing. But with the older ones, …

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… it took very long. Hershel Fajgenboim did not ever get out of his sick bed again….

This is the “hostage story,” a painful chapter of those torturous days.

The Germans always contrived new torments and decrees. In addition, terrible news arrived that we learned about in our poor cities and towns. In the first days of December, the Gestapo of Wlodawa went to Slowaticz and there attacked the local Jews in a grim night rampage, after which the Gestapo returned to Wlodawa.

A little while later, in mid–December, we in Wlodawa found out about the same type of black night having taken place in Chelm. The Gestapo there herded together 2,000 Jewish men and took them to Hrubeszow, and ordered them to cross the Bug to the Russians, who from the other side, did not permit them to cross over.

The shooting of the Jews began from both sides and a large number of victims were murdered at that time.

This increased the dark mood and confusion among the Chelmer Jews, and many of the Chelm and Slowaticz Jews came to Wlodawa.

In comparison to those other cities, Wlodawa was calm during the month of December. The terrible blow came on January 5, 1940, when a train from Pomozhe brought about 1,000 frozen Jews, Polish soldiers, imprisoned by the Germans. All these were born in the Kressen [part of Jewish Lithuania]. It was thought that they would cross the Bug River to go to their homes. But just as they got out of the cattle cars in the forest near Sobibor, a volley of machine gun fire began to assault them. More than half of them fell dead, the rest ran away.

Wlodawa got a new train station by the name “Bug.” It was actually close to the Bug. The former train station remained in Russia.

In court, I learned that this [the shooting] had not been done by the Gestapo but by those who were the escorts on that train.

Afterwards, the Gestapo ordered the Judenrat to send people to gather up the dead and bring them for burial. That's what they did; …

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… they hired Polish wagons and brought all those murdered victims to the cemetery and buried them in a communal grave.

In total, there were 473 young people buried.

I made a list of all of these, and discreetly gave this over to the Judenrat in Wlodawa, and another to the Judenrat in Warsaw.

When I was in Warsaw, several fathers approached me asking about their children – but I couldn't tell them the truth.

A week later, I was in Warsaw again, and saw the horrors there.

It was Purim time, right after I had arrived home, and my brother and I were arrested. We did not know for what and why. After a few days of sitting under arrest, they demanded ransom money for us through intermediaries, that was in order to pay for two pairs of boots and men's underwear. They paid the demanded sum and we were set free.

Two weeks earlier, the police captured Boruch Shloime's son–in–law and son going with a bag of flour. They were taken to the Bug River, ordered to hack away at the ice, and then they were thrown in alive under the ice.

Jews kept coming to Wlodawa. The need and poverty was increasing, getting worse, and the Germans were always demanding more and more….

Meanwhile, they ordered that the Jews wear the Star of David, not own more than 2,000 zlotys, and not drive, and in general, not leave their homes.

These orders resulted that in the year 1940, some Jews were shot for not having obeyed these above–mentioned orders, or for being caught doing trade. Ignoring this, I traveled anyway, and I kept the symbol in my pocket, and for any situation, a small pass.

On Sukos 1940, a friend of mine from Italy sent some Esrogim [citrons for the holiday] and palm branches to my home address. I distributed them in Warsaw and brought some to Wlodawa. But this created a problem: The Radziner chassidim required that their Rebbe recite the blessing “Shehecheyanu” [blessing recited on a special occasion, something new, or over something done the first time] first. I said to the contrary, that this privilege belonged to the city's Rabbi. The problem was resolved in the last minute, because during the day of the Eve of Sukos, …

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… the Rebbe received an Esrog from one of his chassidim in Lublin.

That same year, in the month of May, a Volksdeutsche [“German folk,” ethnic Germans living outside of Germany] arrived, a former Polak, a good friend of mine, to take over the sawmill from the lumbermen. With him I was able to negotiate that he hire my brother Leon and twenty other Jewish young men as workers in the sawmill, where they actually did work until the last minute, and relatively speaking, things were not too bad for them.

I was lucky to find work by another friend in Warsaw. This made it easier for me to travel, to earn some money, and then I was able to see the difficulties the Jews were having in many Jewish cities.

I traveled like that until May 1942….

At the same time, the construction contractor Falkenberg, who employed about 2,000 workers, arrived. Also, Lesniczuwko Antoniewycz – about 40 workers. Also, other work places employed smaller or bigger groups of workers.

 

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A scene of ripping off beards along with pieces of skin of the Wlodawa Jews

 

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Selinger and Adampol employed several hundred workers.

None of these workers were paid, yet all of them wanted to have a worker's card, a little bit of foodstuff, and at least some “peace” of mind. The main thing was not to worry about being sent to a labor camp.

Several hundred workers had to be provided for another labor camp. These workers, a few months later, were exchanged for others.

With the assigning or dividing up workers, it was always the so–called “Labor Bureau” that attended to this.

It should be mentioned that in the first half of the year 1940, many Wlodawa Jews smuggled themselves across the Bug River. Some successfully reached the Russian side, others were caught, stripped almost naked, and sent right back. Many of these already remained in Wlodawa.

In the second half of 1940, the Gestapo ordered that a Jewish sanitation committee be set up. Later, they ordered that they should change this to a Jewish police.

That meant, that having police we would be calmer and more secure. So, many young men, even chassidish young men, wanted to compete for these important positions … But there were also young men who said: “Better to go work than to be a policeman.”

Then, there arose the issue of a chief of the police. Gruber couldn't, and didn't want to. I didn't even want to know of this position, defending myself with a recommended job post in Warsaw. The Gestapo chief also did not want to force this on me because each time I brought him a nice gift. Finally, the Judenrat put up a Chelmer young man … Rolnik's son–in–law from Chelm. He and his family were killed in the first Aktzia [round up].

Other than the shootings for not wearing the armband, going in the street at night, or trading on the black market, life went along fairly “calmly,” and one hoped things would change. We believed in God, and also in the civilized world….

[Page 587]

In 1941, things were already more strict. Shootings took place more often, every small misdemeanor brought the death penalty. Among others, they shot the Barenholcz brothers. The Gestapo ordered that everyone give over all the fur coats and everything else that had fur, and for not handing these things over, several Jews were shot.

At the same time, Polaks from the intelligence were arrested, sent off to Lublin, and from there to Oszwienczem [Auschwitz]. None of them ever came back. Every time, a card came with some ashes and a note that this one or that one had died.

I was also arrested and sent to Lublin, where I sat for 69 days. There I met all the Polaks from Wlodawa. Yosef Bekerman was also there, and Czerwanegore. Bekerman never returned….

Every week another group was sent to Oszwienczem to their death.

The castle in Lublin was the assembly point for the Lublin military. From all over, they sent to Lublin, from which, each week, a large transport was sent to Oszwienczem.

June 22, in the morning, after the German attack on Russia, I walked out freely from Lublin. Naturally, this took great efforts from my close friends and also a lot of money. Everyone who was brought to Lublin came with a symbol – to life or to death. That meant: Take him directly to Oszwienczem or let him suffer, work, eke out his last strength, and then only later send him over to his last stop. In fact, my friends actually had to change the A sign. .

Right after my release, I went to Warsaw again.

Things “calmed down” a little in Wlodawa. The war with Russia began and the Gestapo was occupied with other issues, so they left the Jews alone a little bit. Also, it was relatively “calm” in Warsaw. Jews worked, others did some trade, and again hoped to God … The housing committees were very active, …

[Page 588]

… helping as much as possible the basics of those in need and the sick. That's how it went until May 1942.

On that awful night, the Gestapo in the Warsaw ghetto ripped out 59 Jewish businessmen from their homes and shot them in front of their houses. This is the well–known Bartolomew Night [Night of Blood] of the Warsaw ghetto.

In Wlodawa, on the other hand, the so–called “calmness” maintained until March 1942. In the days before Passover, the Gestapo ordered 105 workers from the Judenrat. The workers were sent to Sobibor to help the German construction company build the death camp Sobibor. These same Jews were actually the first victims on whom they tested the function of the gas chambers. I can't remember who it was, but one person was successfully able to escape and return to Wlodawa.

 

wlo588.jpg
Wlodawa Jews in forced labor at the border watch, in the year 1941

 

At that time, I was in Warsaw, living once as a Jew in the ghetto, and another time outside the ghetto with a Christian passport. On May 2, after the Bartholomew Night, I returned to Wlodawa.

In Chelm, they already told me about Sobibor. But I did not want to and couldn't believe… “It is impossible to have such barbarism in the twentieth century,” I said as did many others. “Germany will not dare to do such things.”

When I approached Sobibor by train, my confusion and disbelief vanished… Tragically, I saw, felt, and heard the secrets from the passengers about the Dante–like events in that camp.

I left without the Star of David and this enabled me to observe the gruesomeness.

[Page 589]

At that moment, I decided not to watch all this with folded hands, but to do something….

When I arrived home, my mood became more disturbed. The city was demoralized from the terrible news that we had to send people to Sobibor. A special SS serviceman came to Wlodawa, and together with the Gestapo they requisitioned 3,000 from the Judenrat, seemingly for the labor camp in Sobibor. They said that the Judenrat was negotiating and that they believed that with a large sum of money they would be able to buy off that instead of 3,000 the Gestapo would agree to take just 1,500 workers….

This was on Tuesday, during the week of Shavuos 1942. That same day, a few hours later, the president of the Judenrat came to me, accompanied by two other members to deliver the terrible news, and asked that I go to Chelm to the Judenrat there and seek advice, and then maybe try to get something good from them for Wlodawa. At that time, Chelm was the constituent city.

Ignoring the fact that I was not on the community council and did not partake in community issues, I considered that the Judenrat members were not permitted to travel by train, and in such a dangerous time for the Jews, I must, even with great trepidation for this responsibility, take up this task. But I asked that a member of the Judenrat come with me, that he should be the representative, and I his escort.

For my request the Judenrat received permission from the Gestapo who were still amidst the negotiations for the large sum of money, and therefore permitted our trip, and even gave a special travel pass to the Judenrat member Brandstetter, and recognized that I was also traveling with the permit that I had. A Polak had to accompany us, a staff member in the local command.

Wednesday at dawn, we embarked on the train to Chelm, again passed by Sobibor…. My heart was pounding with rage, and there was a beating in my temples as if with hammers, as we went by this place that already from its beginning guaranteed terrible things for us….

[Page 590]

Just as we got off the train in Chelm, they warned us not to go into town because there they were capturing Jews and there was a lot of shooting in the streets. We in fact heard the bullets. After a brief discussion I left Brandstetter and the Christian in the station, took out my armband, went on foot for a short time, then got into a droshky [cab] and went to the Judenrat. My travel pass was valid for the year 1942.

As I arrived to the Judenrat, there was already no one there. I did not have to ask, because on that Wednesday, the first Aktzia took place in Chelm….

I went through the streets and there was no living human being to be found. Fear coursed from every place. I went to the Christian streets, took a droshky there, and went back to the train station. All three of us waited there until nighttime and then we went back to Wlodawa, delivered the horrible news to the Judenrat, and they informed us that for a large sum of money they succeeded in exchanging 3,000 for 1,000, the old and the sick.

This death dance began first thing on Thursday at dawn during the week of the holiday [Shavuos]. On that Thursday, the end of the Jews in Wlodawa began.

On that dark day, all those who had working papers still felt a little secure and were able to help out here and there, this Jew or that Jew, simply to save them from the captured groups. The SS men captured about 1,600 people and herded them all to the market place under strict guard. The Jews from Vienna went on their own. Their representative had received an order and they followed it exactly. All the others were dragged out from their houses.

All the captives stood for several hours in the market place. Only a small number were able to save themselves.

Around noon, all were pushed into the movie hall, the doors and windows were locked, and all under strict guard. This time, the guards consisted of Folk–Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and Latvians, who …

[Page 591]

… served in the so–called Sonderdienst SS [auxiliary police forces].

Thursday and Friday night they shot into the movie hall and murdered several people.

The gold did not help. After they got all the gold, the SS men and the Gestapo, on Shabbath morning, again attacked the houses and again dragged out 1,500 people, and again herded them all to the same market place as before. Around 10–11 AM, a different group of SS arrived, and with them farmers' wagons from the villages, and the departure from the market place and the movie hall began. They simply threw the sick, elderly, and those who were shot, onto the wagons. The rest were herded in the direction of the train station “Bug” where they were all pushed into grain cars. The dead were also thrown in and the train left with over 3,000 people who already knew that this was their final trip.

This was Shabbath, the first day of Shavuos, 1942. Each of the captives had naturally taken along a few of their things, but all of that remained in the movie hall, and a day later, Jewish workers under the guard of the Gestapo combed through everything, sorted it all, and the Gestapo took it all away. Whatever they didn't like they gave to the Christians.

This we later called – the first Aktzia….

Sunday, the second day of Shavuos, we held a circumcision ceremony. The father [of the baby] was my brother Leon Greenhaus. The Sandek [the person honored by holding the baby on his lap during the circumcision ceremony] – the Lukower Rav, Reb Menachem Mendel. They gave the baby the name Moshe, and just as they recited the blessing “Zocher Habris” [“…remember the covenant”], we heard the revolver shot from Gestapo member Miller, and that was the end of the life of the Radziner Rebbe, Reb Shmuel Shlomo Leiner…

We are a remarkable nation, we Jews – they torture us, they murder us, but we still do not forget the covenant with God, we drink to life [l'chaim] with eyes dried out from crying, with grieving hearts, darkness all around, and still – “remember the covenant” with a “l'chaim.”

When Wlodawa learned about Sobibor, the Radziner Rebbe decreed a fast. The Gestapo found out about this, and immediately arrested him. They wanted to shoot him, but the people paid a lot of money to ransom him and they were able to change his sentence. The Rebbe …

[Page 592]

… was sent to Tomaszowka to a labor group of the organization “Todt”[1] but on the second day of Shavuos, the murderers brought him back, took him to the cemetery, and shot him there.

The cemetery already did not have its former appearance. All the tombstones had been broken down and were used to pave the roads.

In the days of the first Aktzia, the Gestapo, for a high price, hid [captured] some men and women. The Gestapo was very sophisticated and greedy; although they knew the end, yet all the while each one of them wanted to use the opportunity for himself, and for a captive they would demand money and diamonds. Everyone had the illusion that this is how he would remain alive.

Every extermination camp was connected to a nearby labor camp. Sobibor also had such labor camps in the region. From each transport that arrived, they took out a dozen people and sent them to the labor camps, where they were told immediately to write home, and even gave them prepared postcards. Also, after a few days, a dozen of these cards arrived in Wlodawa. This was done to intentionally fool the people so that they shouldn't believe, or really think that all of these people were really going to work in Russian areas. The postcards worked somewhat, so that some of the Wlodawa Jews who were even close to Sobibor, did not believe the extermination [was happening]. Even more so, [they did not believe this of] farther places.

 

The Heroic Stance of the Rav during the Kinder Aktzia [Children's Round Up]

The first Shabbath of the month of July, the Gestapo ordered that all the children be brought to the shul square. There was a mad running, and everyone was rushing to hide his children. Niczke and his assistants, on motorcycles or on foot, raced through the city and captured children. Almost no one brought their children voluntarily, yet they [the Germans] brought about 107 children there. The city rabbi and Lukower Rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, as an official, could not …

[Page 593]

… contain himself. The Gestapo knew him, and knew of his young children. He and his wife threw lots to see which of them, he or his wife, should lead their children to their “slaughter.” The lot fell upon the Rebbe. He immediately dressed himself in his holiday clothes, the children as well, and they went to the square. The Gestapo wanted to let him go free, but he declined and said: “I want to accompany my children and all the children from the city.”

All the children were dressed in their Shabbath finery, not one of them cried. With great compassion, they helped one another climb into the train cars; they climbed up into the cargo trucks that drove them to the stations from which the trains would take them to Sobibor.

The Rebbe's behavior was extraordinary. As a father, he accompanied his own and the other lambs, told them stories, prepared them for their final journey….

For a long, long time, the guards of the children's transports could not forget the exceptional behavior of the Rebbe.

In the trial against Niczke and his group in Hanover, another witness said the following regarding the children's transport:

“Never in my life will I forget the image of the children's round up [Aktzia]. The proud behavior of the children and their Rebbe. Their strength and careful looks that they threw to their guards. This gruesome picture follows me and will follow me until my final days.”

Along with these children was also Izak Raiz with a child, both of whom were taken out of Sobibor by engineer Holczhamer, who sent them to a labor camp and from there back to Wlodawa. The child later died. Izak Raiz lives in Venezuela.

 

The Third – The Big Akztia

The first Shabbath of October 1942, was the blackest day of a big Aktzia. This time, they didn't announce, did not order. The Judenrat did not know anything either, but the people sensed something and were frightened. Already a few days earlier there were some “Askaris[2] in the city, Ukrainian …

[Page 594]

… and Lithuanian police. They also said that there were many empty wagons in the train station “Bug.” The wagons were painted with Stars of David. Also, some of the above–mentioned policemen were discussing this, and their voices reached us. But we did not know anything for sure.

 

wlo594.jpg
Registering the Jews in Wlodawa after the Aktzia in 1942

 

Friday, in the afternoon hours, the work places received an order that on Shabbath no one should come to work. This news spread right away across the city. People became very nervous and looked for somewhere to hide. Almost all of Falkenberg's workers went to his court, and everyone went to hide wherever he could. My brother and I knew of nothing and calmly went to sleep. At dawn, we were awakened by loud shooting. We went out to see what was happening. It was still a little dark, but we found people running and we immediately understood what was going on. We tried to get our mother, sister–in–law and children to Falkenberg. It was half a street away. We went back into the house and sat down to wait. Anyway, we did not have to hide ourselves in any situation, we knew too much. So we believed that it would be better for us to show ourselves and do everything to help ourselves and others. We did not wait long, and the Askaris came and they began to scream: “Jews, get out!” and then immediately shoot into the air. They were probably afraid to go into the houses. We went out, and again an order: “Hands up!” We raised our hands. Again …

[Page 595]

… an order: “March!” We both obeyed the orders calmly. We comforted ourselves knowing that others dear to us were with Falkenberg and at least they were protected…. With time, more and more Jews arrived, also women and children under the guard of the Askaris. We marched in this way until the sports area of the shul.

There we already met several thousand other Jews, guarded from all sides with machine guns by the whole Gestapo and SS and their assistants, the Askaris, who were the Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Latvian police. All this time, they were bringing more and more captured Jews who had been grabbed out of their hiding places. This time, the whole Judenrat was with them. These captures went on until nine o'clock in the morning, and approximately 10,000 men, women, and children – who were hidden and saved from the children's Aktzia – were amassed.

Niczke arrived escorted by superior Gestapo officers from Lublin, looked at everything, and left. Fifteen minutes later, Niczke returned with his assistants, searched out people, and removed them from the rows: the president of the Judenrat, the secretary, Lichtenberg and Brandstetter. (Not the other members.) Then, his shoemakers, tailors and other workmen who worked for the Germans, my brother Leon, myself and others, a total of 70 men, he ordered to go to the court of the Gestapo office, and then locked us up there. Here I found out that on Friday, late at night, the Judenrat received the order to be present early on Shabbath morning, and then all the members actually did show up.

Separated from all the other Jews, we immediately understood what was going to happen. We fell into a state of apathy and depression and did not know what they were going to do with us, but only when we heard the echoes of the marching nearby did we come out of our fog. We saw before us the horrifying picture. Even all the workers who were hiding at Falkenberg's were now also here, and with them was my mother, my sister–in–law and her children, and my bride. This was about 600 people, an addition to the others. A terrible shudder, a trembling, and feeling of faint overtook us.

[Page 596]

We saw that these were practically the last Jews in the city. We wanted to run with them, but the tall wired fence and the guards did not permit us to do so.

After Falkenberg's group, the murderers brought more groups of Jews that they found in all kinds of hiding places. This went on until 11 o'clock, and then some of the guards went to eat.

Meanwhile, Falkenberg arrived, and Lemonczyk, Antoniewicz, all from work places. We spoke to them through the wired fence, pleaded that they save whoever they can, and they promised they would do all that they could.

After eating, we were able to rescue some women and children. We talked and pleaded, and Niczke promised us that they would bring back all the workers from the train. Niczke came to us with his huge dog, and we cried and pleaded again. The dog bit some of us and Niczke said that he would send Miller to the train and the representatives of all the work places would also go and would bring back all the workers.

Under strict guard, the 10,000 people began their march out, marching calmly in rows, knowing where the train was going, without a cry, without a tear, no call of confusion, no plea, going with Jewish readiness to sanctify the Name of God…. They waved their kerchiefs and hands to us and said good bye…

We, the 70 men, were unable to see anything – our eyes were blinded, our hearts stony. Each of us felt guilty and ill–fated. Why does he remain alive and all the other thousands are going to their death? We understood that we had to save anyone we could, but why should we be the ones saved? This distressed us terribly and pained us. Each of us was ready to go march with the others, but there was no strength for this.

After this march of the thousands of doomed people, they sent us 70 home, depressed, empty, void…. That same evening, they actually brought back about 400 people. The vice president Avrohom Cohen …

[Page 597]

… did not want to go back. He said that he had already experienced half the way, and now would not go back. He would only go with the children and with the others. My mother also did not come back. My bride did come back. On the second day, we learned that several thousand Jews did save themselves. They ran out of the city before daybreak, hid well, and were saved. So, of these who worked for Selinger and Adampol and all those who came back, we were in total approximately 5,000 souls.

On Sunday, the Gestapo summoned the remaining Judenrat members and ordered them to finish the working camp, and then marked off the borders of the Jewish ghetto. The working camp was designated for all those who were employed at the work sites, and all the other Jews – in the ghetto. There was a run for working papers. After much rushing and effort, about 500 souls were successfully brought into the camp. Children and elderly were not needed, but still a number of these were brought as well. Naturally, they were hidden.

The camp was walled in. All the workers of the jobs went in. The rest of the Jews moved to the ghetto.

The Germans ordered that the Jews not leave the ghetto, require a permit, and must be accompanied by a Jewish policeman. Also the workers from the camp had to be accompanied by a Jewish policeman when they went to work. There were not many Jewish policemen left, since during the great Aktzia many of them were taken. Once again, there was a struggle for life and survival in the camp and in the ghetto.

 

The Fourth Aktzia

At the beginning of November, there was another Aktzia, but this time only in the ghetto. During the time when all of those from the camp were at work, about 1,000 Jews were captured and some policemen as well, and the remaining members of the Judenrat. They didn't even go into the camp.

This Aktzia lasted for three days.

Even though the ghetto had its hiding places…

[Page 598]

… where they used to sleep, they actually did not get any more people with this Aktzia.

After that, the Judenrat designated a new Judenrat for the ghetto and they left Wlodawa and went to Kuzmir [Kazimierz] near the Vistula.

Months earlier, a group of Jewish workers with A. Gezuntheit as construction supervisor, extended the church on the mountain for usage. The Judenrat also sent furniture and other things. The gendarmerie remained in Wlodawa.

Several days before the great Aktzia, the Gestapo shot Alter Saperstajn and his wife, and took everything from their house. They shot Moshe Likhtenberg and arrested his wife, then took everything from their house. His wife went in the great Aktzia. After the great Aktzia and before the smaller one, they shot A. Samelson. At the same time, others were shot as well, but I don't remember their names.

If one can use the expression, a “more or less” relative calm time settled in. Everyone went to work, and even in the ghetto it was “calm,” and we wanted to believe that maybe …. We tried not to think, did not want to see, did not want to know, and that's how the time passed until May 1, 1943.

I would like to go back and tell about the time right after the great Aktzia. A small partisan group was formed that grew and steadily became bigger. The founder was Moshe Likhtenberg (W. Likhtenberg's son) and another seven young boys. They had no weapons. They began with an old …

 

wlo598.jpg
May 3rd Street. The Jews called it “Milgasse” because the street led to the watermill down the mountain

 

[Page 599]

… gun and an old revolver. Quietly, they would come into the city, get what they needed, speak to other young men, and then go back into the forest. Thanks to this small group, others were also able to save themselves, in large number.

Regardless of this so–called “calm” and “quiet,” every person in the camp had prepared a hiding place for himself for any given situation. Meanwhile, everyone worked hard, prepared meals, and invited the employers. They were always reassured that there would be no more Aktzias, and according to the news from the fronts, people wanted to believe that….

From November until May 1943, several hundred more Jews arrived to the ghetto. They came from the villages where they had been hiding, from towns, from forests; they thought that Wlodawa was a “Judenstadt” [Jewish city], and they wanted to find a city of refuge. Sadly, that was not to be….

Chanukah passed, Purim, and we celebrated the holidays. Passover was coming. We baked matzos, whoever was able to, and prepared according to what was possible. The holiday was festive, because it was already clear that the Germans were going to lose the war. Everyone really hoped and hoped. Everyone made efforts to obey the employers, Germans and Folk–Germans, and lived with the gendarmerie in peace. That's how the time passed until April 1943.

 

The End of Passover – The Fifth Liquidating Aktzia

May 1, 1943, early Friday morning, the shooting awoke everyone. Again, the Askaris under the supervision of the Gestapo who a day earlier secretly came to Wlodawa, surrounded the camp and the ghetto with machine guns, and it began, house after house: “Jews, get out!” And everyone was taken to the square. They grabbed up a group and left. Motel Rabinowycz and I were among a group of this sort of over 30 men. But we ran away, Motel in one direction and I in another direction.

They shot after us, but it seems that the bullets …

[Page 600]

 

wlo600.jpg
Overall view of Wlodawa at the “Stav” river. The German Hitlerists forced the enslaved Jews of Wlodawa and other driven Jews in Wlodawa to dry out (melioraczia), the river. This was forced labor. In the front, one can see Sholom Lemberg's water mill. The German murderers used this route to herd the Jews on their final road to Sobibor…

 

… were not yet meant for us, and we were successful. I went up to the attic of the grain mill on Wirker Street. Behind me, was also a doctor's wife (the doctor and his wife were from Vienna). We lay in the attic from Friday until Shabbath afternoon. We heard gunshots which killed a Jewish boy. Through the shutters, we saw how they were taking away people until it became quiet. Then wagons arrived and they loaded up everything from the houses and also captured the people who were hiding.

It was nighttime, and volleys of shooting were heard from time to time. I wanted to go out of my hiding place and find my Aryan pass and leave, but the woman begged me not to do that. She was right, because the camp and the ghetto were being very carefully guarded.

That's how we lay until Shabbath afternoon. Also on the Shabbath they worked at emptying out the houses, looking for those who were hidden, and all the while stuffing their own pockets.

After removing everything, they once again began to search house after house, until they found us too. They ordered us to strip naked, searched the clothes, then ordered us to get dressed and get out of the attic. At the bottom there were other Gestapo officers. Falkenberg's wife was discussing with them. He, Falkenberg, was ill. She negotiated with the officers that they should leave some workers for her.

[Page 601]

Right after that, the Gestapo men went from house to house and screamed that the Jews should go out and that they would go to work for Falkenberg…

The doctor's wife and I were immediately employed by Falkenberg's wife. Slowly, there gathered more than 50 women and 30 men. There I found out that a significant number had escaped into the forest and to Selinger and Adampol, where we were still working.

Sunday morning, Falkenberg, still sick, approached me and told me that I should leave quickly. Just as I was leaving, I already saw the gendarmerie approaching.

From Falkenberg's place, I went back to my mother's house to hide within the pieces of wood until it became dark. Then I went back to Falkenberg and found out that the gendarmerie left 50 women and 5 men to work for Falklenberg. The rest were taken away and shot. Among those who were shot were Gruber and Chaim Fishman. Motel Rabinowycz remained in the group with Falkenberg.

Until Wednesday I stayed with Falkenberg, then some people from the partisan group arrived and I left with them into the forest.

Of those Jews from Falkenberg, Selinger, and of those who ran away into the forest, very few remained alive. Some remained with the partisan groups, all the others were shot. This is the tragic sum total of our city of Wlodawa.

How my wife Shaindel, Moshe Motel Lederman's daughter and I survived, is a chapter unto itself. From the partisans, then into a farmer's attic, then as a Christian back to Warsaw. With the Warsaw uprising, again as a prisoner to Germany, naturally with Aryan papers in Lower Silesia. March 23, 1945, the Russians entered, and my wife and I were liberated. The hiding and the working as a Christian in Germany went easily. Other than one episode, everything went in order. After being liberated by the Russians, they also detained us for a night and then wanted to send us away, but we were able to successfully fool the NKVD [People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs in Russia, known for its political repression during Stalin's time], and we were able to get away. Thus began our return to Wlodawa.

[Page 602]

Freeing ourselves from the Russians and getting back to Wlodawa is also a chapter unto itself.

In the first days of May 1945, we arrived in Wlodawa. In Lublin and in Wlodawa I did not find any of my relatives, but thank God, in Wlodawa I found a few quorums of Jews. I didn't stay long in Wlodawa, but left for Warsaw, then Lodz, Gdynia, Szeczin, Berlin.

After arriving in Wlodawa, I received a postcard from Ch. Feldman from Argentina, who told me that the local Jews there sending out packages of clothing to my name. Before we left Wlodawa again, I gave a power of attorney to someone else so that they could take the packages.

From Berlin we went to Frankfurt, then Munich and Paris, and finally, November 26, 1946, I and my wife and my young daughter safely arrived in Venezuela.

Today, July 30, 1964, in the city of Hanover, Germany, I and others participated in the tragic epilogue of the bloody history – of the Wlodawa Jewry….

Mock trials, mock negotiations, and mock, spiteful “materials,” … more trials, more negotiations about punishments, and once again, in almost all countries, fresh Nazi swastikas are being painted on streets and on Jewish homes. New Nazis of all colors and shades, and again rumors of the murderous Horst Wessel song [“Die Fahne Hoch,” “The Flag on High,” was the Nazi Party anthem] in tens of languages…

I permit myself to ask our God – until when?? How much longer?? … All you Wlodawa Jews, Jews of the entire world, I want to say: Keep your eyes open. Do not, do not let yourself be fooled, do not be fooled by a smile. Call without ceasing to the free world not to permit the Nazi snake to grow. At the very beginning you have to chop off its head, uproot it to its very depth. And we Jews, other than using the Kol Yakov [voice of Jacob in Book of Genesis – soft voice of reason] should also use more of the “yadaim” [hands of Esau in Book of Genesis – more aggressive], because in today's civilized world the “voice” without the “hands” doesn't work!

 


Footnotes

  1. The Todt organization was a Third Reich civil and military engineering group in Germany named after its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi figure. The organization was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects both in pre–World War II Germany, in Germany itself, and occupied territories from France to the Soviet Union during the war. It became notorious for using forced labour. Return
  2. The Germans used the term “Askaris” for Red Army deserters who formed units fighting against the Red Army and in other action on the Eastern Front. They were largely Ukrainians and Lithuanians. Return

 

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