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[Page 661]

Miserable Days and Nights

by Motel Rabinowycz, Ramat Aviv

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Jeannette Gelman

This began right on the first day when the Germans took over our city. A wild German horde assaulted Wlodowa on September 17, 1939. For two days straight the Germans shot everyone who went by, without warning. And after that, when the Polish military activities ended, they slowly quietened down. Then they took Jews as hostages whom they treated murderously, not caring that a large number of the prisoners were elderly people.

On October 24, 1939, a tax of 50,000 Polish zlotys was placed on the Wlodowa Jewish people. It had to be paid within 24 hours.

[Page 662]

They cut the beards off elderly men, tearing off pieces of flesh as well. Every day, people were snatched for hard, menial labor for which they were paid with sticks [beatings] or with gymnastics until they would fall from weakness. On the rare occasion, a German would throw a small piece of moldy bread to them. After finishing work, the Judenrat [Jewish council] had to give these poor people a meal according to their capacity, from their own funds.

The Judenrat had to follow orders from the Gestapo, whose head was Niczke, the orders of the chief of police (Shufa - schutz polizei), and of the commissioner of the border guard. The Germans were given these things for free: money, jewellery, shoes, clothing, and colonial items that were impossible to get on the open market. Within a short time …

[Page 663]

… every Gestapo member possessed clothing and shoes for his entire family for several years, an entire closetful of the best hats, and tailors and shoemakers worked for the Germans without end.

The Judenrat paid for the materials and work. The Judenrat took money exclusively from the wealthier Jews. With that, the monies to be paid always increased, and more frequent arrests were taking place for not repaying the amounts, which were very high. On the streets, there were colored posters that showed a Jew with side curls [peyos] who was making sausages from rats. Other posters showed Jews as dirty, neglected, with a screaming caption: “A Jew is a louse!” He is the “spreader of typhus!”

An order was given to wear armbands. Today, this may not sound so significant, but in those times wearing the “shame bands” was very painful and upsetting. The order from the commandant was clear: Greet every officer. But we had to greet ever German, even though just yesterday he was only a Folk-German [referring to Germans living outside of the Reich] in our area, a homeowner in the village, and when he put on the uniform of the SS, we had to bow down to him. For disobeying, you were punished on the spot, being harassed and beaten until you fell from your feet.

The Jewish youth avoided the main streets so as not to have to bow down to the Germans. When they had to greet them, they did so with their eyes downcast.

Jews began working in different places, without payment, understandably. Daily, the Judenrat brought together up to 1,000 men and women workers to all kinds of jobs for the Germans, so that there shouldn't be any “snatchings” from the streets, so that the Jews could go about the streets freely. But this did not help. Daily, people were snatched at any time of day, randomly, whether the captive was going to his designated job or he was going back home hungry after his day's work. No notice from any doctor was accepted. Even when showing a certificate, the Germans ignored this, saying: …

[Page 664]

… “The only thing that frees a Jew from work is a death certificate.” The supervisors of Shupo (police guards – Schutz Polizei), gendarmes, and the city Kommandant Grim, were masters over life and death of each Jew. The policing hours for the Jews (going out was forbidden) was always an hour earlier than for the Aryans.

In the entire General Government there was only one Jewish newspaper. Using Jewish print, it was called “Yiddishe Zeitung” [Jewish newspaper]. The pages of this monthly paper were filled with the great successes of the German military on the Western front, or with special orders for Jews that have (not all at once but gradually) removed all the rights from the Jews. The abused Jews did not have the right to complain to anyone in the government. A commissioner named Strojholz, who had his permanent seat in Chelm, was assigned over Jewish owned possessions. This was a person – a beast. This office was established in July of 1940, and he ordered the homeowners to pay rent for all their immovable goods from September 1, 1939. They didn't consider that from the beginning of the war, the tenants had in general stopped paying the Jewish homeowners any rent. The commissar from the tax office gave out an edict that all Jews should pay, within one month, all the required taxes, retroactively for ten years.

Slowly, they began to remove the Jews from the …

 

wlo664.jpg
Dismantling the dams of a water-mill where
the Wlodowa Jews were sent to do forced labor in the year 1942

 

[Page 665]

… main streets. The evictions from these houses happened no more than ten minutes after receiving the notice, without any other prior notice. At the same, the best furniture was taken away, linen, and clothing. They did this completely liberally, or through the Judenrat. Jews were brought to Wlodowa from Kalisz, Mielec, Poznan.

A frighteningly terrible impact was made on our town by the unimaginable murder of 120 Jewish prisoners by the Polish military, that took place in December 1939, in the forest between the train stations Bug-Wlodowska and Sobibor. The few hundred freely captured Jews, who were from these territories taken over by the Soviet Union, were taken from Germany and tortured with hunger and cold. After a week long trek, some of the frozen ones died in the wagons, and some froze off their hands and feet. This transport stopped in the forest before the train station Bug-Wlodowska… The SS men ordered the prisoners to get out and take out the dead bodies as well. They were herded more deeply into the forest and then they opened machine gun fire onto the defenseless captives. Some of them managed to run away. Some saved themselves. The Judenrat then bribed the SD [Sicherheits dienst, security service) and got permission to take away the wounded and bury the murdered and frozen bodies. For a full week the Wlodowa Jewish residents were busy burying the 200 prisoners, and during that entire time, Rav Mendel Morgenstern practically did not leave the cemetery for any time, in order to identify and determine who the dead bodies were. He wrote everything down in a book, and he hid the documents that were found which belonged to the martyrs. The common grave of these war victims is in Wlodowa to this very day, in the Jewish cemetery.

In the beginning, as per the orders of the SD, those innocent sounding “sanatorium guards of the Judenrat” were hired. This particular office later became the regular, uniformed Jewish police. Primarily, the task of the Jewish police was for maintenance and sanitation of the Jewish quarter and Jewish homes, and careful control of the Jewish population.

[Page 666]

The SD carried out all these orders through the Judenrat, whose position was higher than the Jewish police. In May 1940, the Judenrat sent out its first 150 demands [for 150 recruits]. It was exactly on the eve of the holiday of Shavuos. These 150 young men had to go to work in the Czerniejewo camp, near Chelm, to do irrigation work (meloratzia?). In this camp, thanks to the possibility of bribing the SS, there were no great losses of people's lives.

The food rations were very meagre, but everyone still received a package from home. With these packages, they fed the SS officers, young dogs, so that they wouldn't shoot the living, which they actually very much wanted to do. At the requests of the Judenrat, the people were freed from this camp after six weeks of labor. Jews from other cities replaced them.

In July 1940, the SS from Lublin arrived and there was the first “Lopanke” (Aktzia) [roundup]. The captives were sent to the camp in Belzec, where they were kept in horses' stalls for several days in mud, without food, and only after that did the hard labor begin – the digging of anti-tank ditches on the Soviet border. Tens of Jews who just fell out of exhaustion, were shot at the workplace or on the road. Typhus spread as did other diseases, and the Germans cured the Jews with their guns. My brother told me that once he saw with his own eyes how they murdered a Jew with sticks, and the SS men did not beat the Jew over the head so that the torment would go on for a longer time. All the Jews were forced to watch this bestial scene.

There were grim notices for the Jews – these were the daily themes in the news and in the newspaper articles. “Glos Lubelski” [Voice of Lublin], “Krakower Zeitung” [Krakow Newspaper], or the “Felkisher Be'Obachter” [People's Watch], printed anti-Semitic articles more frequently. Many times you would read about unusual evictions and about …

[Page 667]

… an inexplicable decrease in number of Jews in Slovakia and in Germany.

In June 1941, the Germans entered the war against the Russians. At the same time, orders were given to shoot the defenseless Jews. Sharp orders against the Jews were sent out. Jews were forbidden from working with food products (other materials were already forbidden to them earlier), and it was forbidden for them to change their place of living. Rations were, at random times, continually decreased, until eventually they went to 80 grams a day. There were weeks when even this was not given to them. The hunger in our homes grew constantly. The crowdedness and filth in our houses finally had consequences: typhus. This disease spread more and more, people fell from their feet, and the wealth from the richer Jews was also ebbing away. Jews were shot for the most insignificant wrongdoing. Judgement for this did not take even one hour. There was no means to defend or explain oneself.

The majority of the Jews did irrigation work [meloratzia (?)] or other work for the Germans.

The mood of the Jews changed. The successes of the German military in the East removed the Jews' hope of any quick victory of the Allied nations. In spring of 1942, the Jews were ordered to give over all their fur and sheepskin coats to the front. Within twelve hours, the Jews, without complaints or angry words, took all their fur and skin coats, even opening the removing the pieces of fur from the seams of their slippers and gloves. The following morning, the head of the SD warned that Jews should not appear in the streets with coats from which the fur collars had been removed because that made the streets look shabby. Many Jews could not bring themselves to give their fur clothing to the German military cause, so instead they burned the furs in the ovens or gave them over to needy Christians.

A short while later, the Wlodowa Judenrat received an order to collect 150 Jews for ..

[Page 668]

…seemingly innocent construction work in Sobibor, six kilometers from Wlodowa.

From my work supervisor, the German Bernard Folkenberg, I discovered that in Sobibor there was something that was being built that would become famous in the entire world. He did not want to say more for fear of the Gestapo. The point of building such an exclusive structure was not understood by anyone. Part of the forest around Sobibor was enclosed, and none of the civilians ever looked there.

After two months of building, it seems that they wanted to test if the gas worked in the so-called “baths.” The Jewish workers (who built these structures) were brought to these “baths” with the intention of gassing them. Some, however, figured out what was going on, and they tried to run away. Three of them saved themselves, one of them was Shaya, Feivel Zukerman's son-in-law, and the second family I don't remember. Both were from Wlodowa. Half naked, in the dark of night, they stole into the city, and Shaya came to the Radziner Rebbe who lived in Wlodowa at that time. He told him about Sobibor and to what end Sobibor had been built. The Radziner Rebbe then declared a three-day fast and he prayed to the Almighty that He should protect the defenseless Jews.

The news about the death camp in Sobibor and about arresting the Radziner Rebbe made a frightening and depressing impact. The Jewish residents collected a mass of jewellery and money to buy out and liberate the Rebbe. The Judenrat tried using all their protekzia [connections]. The head of the Gestapo, Niczke, heard all of this and he promised to free the Rebbe, but even this time he fooled the people.

After a week's time of building a bridge in Tomaszewka, the Rebbe was brought back to Wlodowa and he was shot near the Wlodowa Jewish cemetery.

In June 1942, they began amassing people from all over Europe, bringing them to Wlodowa; here a transport …

[Page 669]

… from Vienna; here a transport from Czechoslovakia, and from all different cities from the General Government. I must admit that the Jews from Austria, Germany, or Czechoslovakia, had no idea about the German cruelties, and they did not know where or to what they were being taken. After they arrived, these naïve people awaited their baggage that had been taken from them in Lublin to sent to Majdanek.

Wlodowa was the so-called “Jewish city.” The Judenrat was ordered to compile lists of those people who were not working, the elderly, the sick, and those not trained for any type of work. A contest for work began. Jews actually brought gifts to the Germans and added monies [as a bribe] in order that they be taken on for work. But the German institutions had received orders to refuse Jews any work.

As per the orders of the Ukrainian mayor – Vanya Georgi – of our city, all the tombstones in the Jewish cemetery were broken. The stones were used to build new streets that stretched from Solna to the Military Place. On the sidewalks and on the roads of these streets, you can see the letters of the words “here lies…” and others.

It was extremely crowded in the city. Hunger and disease were claiming more and more victims.

Shavuos time 1942, was the first Aktzia, which the Germans called “Aussiedlung” [evacuation]. They said that they were taking the Jews to Kiev for work. The Jews from the other countries, with German precision, went to the cinema “Zakhenta” in Wlodowa. In total, there were about 2,000 Jews. That night, the Germans surrounded the cinema and as they threw grenades into the cinema and into the courtyard, they chased the Jews into the street Czsinastoga Listopoda, through Mostowa and through the village of Orchowka, they herded them to the train station at Bug-Wlodowska where they were loaded into wagons and transported to the death camps in Sobibor.

In the morning, I examined the cinema and the courtyard. The walls were splashed with blood, and everywhere were dead bodies, murdered by the grenades. The same was on the entire route to …

[Page 670]

… the station, which was strewn with packages and bags that primarily the German Jews had thrown down.

The Judenrat received an order to collect the bodies and send them in wagons to the station, where they were flung into the crowded, already suffocating people in the wagons. It seems that the SS men wanted to send a larger number of people to Sobibor. The Judenrat also had to wipe away all signs of blood and collect all the bundles, so that the world would not know of these murders.

There came unsettling news also from other cities about mass murders of Jews. This news came from Lublin, from Chelm, from Parczew, and so on, and everyone began to wonder if they would survive the war.

Meanwhile, the head of the Gestapo once again demanded lists from the Judenrat with specific requirements for skilled workers, and about the employment or non-employment of their families, the elderly, and children. Protective measures began by erasing, adding to someone, or making a second list, and as if going to water, the people would hang on to a straw so that at least their names would appear on a list of required workers for the Germans. Maybe these would be saved.

There was no communication with the Jews from other cities. We were stranded as if on an island. Once again they started to bring Jews to Wlodowa from Parczew and from the entire Wlodowa county. Finally, also from the camps in Osowa, Krikhow, Lucia, and others – all unskilled workers. From these camps, there were mainly German Jews who were brought, who had been held over for so long that they were swollen from hunger or sick with typhus and dysentery. This mass of people was placed on Jadka Street in Wlodowa, with fifteen people in one small room. These people begged for a small piece of bread and awaited their liberation through a quick death. I spoke to them. These people were the living dead, broken physically and mentally, and were no longer able to think. We were all going around like …

[Page 671]

… sentenced people with an immutable death sentence, awaiting for that last hit.

In July 1942, the Germans carried out a children's Aktzia in Wlodowa. The Judenrat received an order that they must command everyone to bring their children, under fourteen, to the platform, with the goal of taking them to Sobibor.

 

wlo671.jpg
Wlodowa Jews, men and women, digging ditches in Natolyn, in the year 1943

 

The members of the Judenrat and the Jewish police had to, as an example, bring their own children first, of which some were later freed. Mobilized Gestapo men, gendarmes, security police, Ukrainian police and Jewish, began the Aktzia of snatching children. Children were ripped out of their mothers' arms. The children screamed, wailed, and cried to their parents for help. Many parents did not want to give over their children, so they were taken together with their children. Among those was Rav Mendel Morgenstern, of blessed memory. He went voluntarily with the transport saying that he could not give over his children to these barbarians and he prefered to die along with them. Around 1,500 children, along with parents, were transported to the death camps in Sobibor.

October 24, 1942, the Germans carried out the largest annihilation Aktzia of Jews in Wlodowa. Six o'clock in the morning the city was already encircled and a mass of Germans were mobilized for the murderous Aktzia. The entire population was chased out of their homes, taken right to the sports field. And those lying sick in bed were taken with wagons …

[Page 672]

… to the train station. Within about four hours the Germans had amassed about 10,000 Jews in the field. They were divided into groups of one hundred and were guarded by German and Jewish police.

This mass of Jews was assembled at the Bug-Wlodowska train station where they joined Jews that were brought on foot from Chelm. The Germans began loading them into the wagons, beating them mercilessly. And when the wagons were already full, they also threw children, the sick, and the dead, on top of the other people. There are no words in the human language to describe the gruesomeness of this Aktzia.

After this Aktzia, a few thousand Jew were left in Wlodowa who decided to hide in order to avoid the “lopanke” [raids] or be officially freed by the Gestapo or through the waterworks department.

The waterworks department fenced in part of the workers on Blutner Streets and set up a camp of 500 Jews there. The rest of the Jews now lived on Jadko and nearby streets in the so-called ghetto. The Germans reassured the Jews that there would be no more evacuations and they should go to work calmly.

Barely two weeks had passed. It was November 6, 1942, and once again the murderers gave the order that the remaining Jews, along with the Jewish police and the rest of the Judenrat members, should go to the Targowy place.

Only a small group of Jews gathered. The majority hid themselves, but it did not help.

The slaughter of the last few defenseless Jews lasted four days. Those who were found were immediately shot. They broke up floors, threw down walls, blew up attics and cellars by throwing in grenades, or shooting with machine guns they murdered the last men, women, and children. Those that were captured at night, when they came out of their hiding places, plagued with hunger and …

[Page 673]

… thirst, to look for a drink or a small bite – these were lynched with bars and shovels.

November 10, 1942, the Aktzia ended, and the head of the Gestapo summoned the surviving tradesmen, ordering them to immediately establish a Judenrat, organize a separate ghetto for the Jewish tradesmen to the left of the Wirikowska Street, and a ghetto for the rest of the Jews – on Jadko Street.

Gradually, things calmed down. The surviving Jews from the surrounding towns and villages took to going to Wlodowa. All were placed on Jadko Street where the crowdedness and filth once again was hell on earth. Once again, the new unit of the Judenrat began to work. Again there were registrations of those remaining -- those who worked and didn't work were separate. Again taxation demands, because in these tragic moments the Judenrat had to provide the Germans with such products as wine, chocolate, coffee – and those in significant amounts.

The walled in Jews survived mainly by selling their salvaged clothing and bed linen to the local residents for trivial prices, or they traded these for other products. That way, in the Wlodowa camp, they went daily to work, and were able to cook something for themselves. For one month, the products were: seven and a half kilo bread, 400 grams of kasha, 400 grams sugar, 400 grams flour, 200 grams marmalade, half a kilo horse meat. During winter, the irrigation work [meloratzia (?)] was stopped, and these workers were herded ten to fifteen kilometres on foot, to chop trees and carry out the trees to the road.

In the camp, an underground movement was begun. They started raising funds to buy ammunition. But on April 30, 1943, the final Aktzia began. Shooting was heard at five AM, when we were still in bed. The city was surrounded.

 

The Liquidation of the Ghetto:

April 30, 1943, the Germans began their final Aktzia with the goal of annihilating the rest of the Jews that remained in Wlodowa.

[Page 674]

With the first shots that were heard at 5 AM, we were still in bed. Part of the Jewish military, along with the Ukrainians, as well as German SS men, herded the Jews into the marketplace. The majority of men, women, and children assembled there.

There were those who hid in the cellars, in the attics, and in specially prepared hiding places.

The city was surrounded and there were many Germans in the streets, armed from head to toe with automatic weapons and grenades.

With axes and iron bars the murderers ripped open the uncovered hiding places and murdered the terrified Jews on the spot, throwing grenades at them or shooting them with a round of bullets.

The shooting went on for hours. The dead remained lying in the streets in pools of blood.

Several thousand Jews were assembled in the marketplace. They were surrounded by gendarmes and SS men and sent to Sobibor.

Horrifically wild scenes of gruesome cruelty played out. The gendarme Luter set his excited dog on the dying Jews who lay in pools of blood. In Saperstein's burning house on Wyrikow Street the SS threw in a living man, the secretary of the Judenrat, Yosele Goldman ….

Spectacles like these or similar to these, were carried out by the wild Germans in many corners of the ghetto.

This bloody Aktzia went on for several days. The Germans, with their Ukrainian and Lithuanian helpers, went day and night to the abandoned houses, looting and searching for hidden Jews.

The murderers left fifty girls to collect all kinds of things that remained behind after the Jews in the ghetto [were murdered]. Some of the girls successfully escaped to Adampol. The rest were shot by the Germans in the work place.

A small number of Jews successfully escaped into the forest where they organized into groups and joined up with the partisan groups.


[Page 675]

Correspondence between the Wlodawa Judenrat [Jewish Council] and the
Presidium of the Jewish Social Self–Help in Krakow (Stradomska Street, Number 10)

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Jeannette Gelman

The following documents were sent to us by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, written in the Polish language.

Whereas, other than Wlodawa, these materials are also relevant to the Jews from Kalisz, Poznan, Lubartow, Bydgoszcz, Pulow, Khelm, Ksziwowierzhbo, Woloska–Wala, Sobibor, Hansk, Wolja–Wereszczynska, Wyrki, and others, and since these materials throw “light” on the dark Jewish life of those years, we are translating this word for word, and are bringing them here without any change or improvements.

Judenrat in Poland
L. Dzh. 15/41

Wlodawa, January 10, 1941.

To the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self–Help (Presidium Zhidowska Samopomoczi Spolecznye)
Krakow
Stradomska Street, Number 10

Wlodawa, that was a city region until the outbreak of World War II, is today, along with a part of the former Wlodawa region, that includes the village municipalities of Wlodawa, Sobibor, Hansk, Wyrki, Ksziwowierzhbo, Woloska–Wala, and Wolja–Wereszczynska – was inhabited by a significant number of Jews who are found in the actual city and in the above–mentioned village municipalities, such as the following:

In the city of Wlodawa there lived 6,000 Jewish residents, already added to those who were evacuated and who were refugees from the cities:

From:

Kalish 375 Jews
Posznan 8
Lubortow 37
Bydgoszcz 4
Pulow 5
Khelm 82
Radzin 7
Lodz 52
Mlawa 22

[Page 676]

Captives 71
Other 284
Various provinces 60

In these above–mentioned village municipalities, live:

In Ksziwowierzhbo 287 steady Jewish residents and 00 evacuees.
In Wolosko–Wala 600 steady Jewish residents and 40 evacuees.
In Sobibor 305 steady Jewish residents, and 70 evacuees.
In Hansk 137 steady Jewish residents and 00 evacuees.
In Wolja–Wereszczynska 315 steady Jewish residents and 00 evacuees.
In Wyrki 130 steady Jewish residents and 00 evacuees.

So, in total, under this particular province of the local Judenrat, there live 7884 steady Jewish residents, evacuees, and refugees.

Wlodawa, that rests near the Bug River, on the actual border of the General Government, and that formerly belonged to the Lublin governance, was never a wealthy city. No tradesmen were ever attracted to the city, and so it never warranted evolving into a trade or industry city.

Whereas, Jewish small business now went completely under, but the craftsmen remained because of their needs and provisions but still are mainly without work, and the evacuees and the refugees also have absolutely no work opportunities, so the physical [material] situation of the Jewish population is very difficult, incomparably more difficult than in other cities.

For these reasons, the work and the framework of [or supporting] help of the local Judenrat is very limited. The Judenrat runs a kitchen for the poor and the evacuated, and gives …

[Page 677]

… medical help, whose expenses are the following:

1296 lunches at 35 groshen each, For about 25 days: –– 11,340. zlotys
250 portions and raw products, For about 25 days: –– 2,187.50 zlotys
Visits to doctors: –– 200.
Medication: –– 200.
Care in hospital: until –– 700.
Support and monies: ––1,000.
Total: 15,627.50 zlotys

Aside from the calculated expenses, there are another 800 needy people, confirmed for help, who are literally starving every day, and anyway, what kind of a meal can we give them, since the supplies that we have at our disposal don't even begin to cover the above–mentioned needs.

Whereas, we receive absolutely no product donations for the kitchen, and we have to buy it all on the “free” market, understandably this increases the price of the meal, and the result is that the meals given out do not soothe the hunger and often, a certain number of people can't even get these modest meals.

To cover these above–mentioned expenses that we incur within the most modest limitations, we have the following resources at our disposal:

900 to 10 groshen, for about 25 days: 2,250 zlotys
For payment to the Jewish Social Self–Help: 2,250
From the monies that the workers are paid for their water improvement work (irrigation and drainage): 1,700
Support from Joint: 1,500
The value of the Joint products: 1,200
Total: 9,150

For the month of December we did not receive the monies from the drainage workers because they did not work, and we received no products from the Joint Organization.

Whereas, we cannot enjoy any other buying resource, we are forced to limit our own help according to our capacities.

We notice with that, that the number of evacuees …

[Page 678]

… and refugees in our city who are using our kitchen are a total of 90 percent. The rest of the users are the local poor and the unemployed.

The Jewish population of the village municipalities of the part of the Wlodawa county that is included in the Khelm county, finds itself in the same situation.

As we give over the above report, we ask that you think about it and enable the expansion of help to the most extreme limits, for those people who are already using the kitchen and for those people who absolutely must be taken into the kitchen.

Secretary: (illegible signature)
Chairman: (illegible signature)

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)


Judenrat in Wlodawa
L. Az. 14/41

Wlodawa, the 20/1, 1941
Incorporated 24/1, 1941

To the Presidium of the Jewish Self–Help
Krakow
Stradomska Street, 10

For reasons, we ask and request that Wlodawa and her six counties should be an independently, supplied province.

Aside from that, Wlodawa finds itself neighboring a row of towns that really do not belong to our county, in which there are a significant number of arrivals from Mlawa and other cities, and who come to us for help, as is confirmed, among others, in the attached copy of the letter by the Judenrat in Wysnicza. The day before yesterday, we were summoned, by the Wysnicza telephone, to save them, because they are dying out. The previous week, we sent them more than what we could, help and food products, clothing, linen and dishes. We did not turn this issue over to Khelm, because Khelm is too weak for such undertakings. They could not guarantee their own Jews that they would get what they need to live and even what they would get …

[Page 679]

… after death … And therefore they could not be the ones chosen to take care of the Jews' needs in general.

Now we are concerned about Wlodawa and the newcomers who are in Wlodawa and in the part that belongs to the Wlodawa county.

So, if it were possible that Wlodawa along with the section of the former Wlodawa county should receive help in these contexts, definitely through Krakow, we ask that you send it directly [reroute] to Wlodawa so that we shouldn't have to cross paths with Khelm.

This is not the time to explain all the other reasons for our position. This information will come out at the right opportunity.

If our present request would have to remain without answer, then the Judenrat in Wlodawa – other than helping the needy, and especially – for the newcomers, within the frame of our possibilities – would not be able to take upon themselves the moral and material responsibility for every future request for help and provision.

With respect,

Secretary (illegible signature)
Chairman (Illegible signature)

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)


Number 4: Sh. St. 996–41 Krakow, 8/2 1941.

To the Committee for Children's Aid
Wlodawa
County of Khelm

With regards to: Help for the tasks of caring for the children.

We confirm that we received the letter of the third of this month that was given to us on the sixth of this month, and we inform you that in our earlier letter on the 22nd of the former month we explained to you, esteemed Sirs, that we do not have a special fund for the tasks of child care. We asked the esteemed Sirs, to communicate about this issue with our department of child care Centos[1] in Warsaw.

As it is described in your letter, at this time, you are not developing any activities …

[Page 680]

… for children's social needs. In order to get any subvention, you need to show specific activities in that area. Therefore, we remark that the help which we distribute according to our capacity for the above–mentioned purpose will not be a steady one, particularly since we do not have the funds that will enable us to provide a regular subvention. You have to take advantage, dear Sirs, within your own circles, from the local population, to receive the funds that are necessary for the purpose of the children's needs. Our help will be able to be only a periodic subvention for the amount you will identify with your services in the area of children's needs.

The esteemed Sirs, therefore, must step forward to the work, and after achieving results, present us with a report of your activities, providing the exact number of children who will be under your guardianship, which funding you have collected, what your expenses were with relation to your work. After receiving the above–mentioned report, within the parameters of our capacity, we will endeavor to provide you with a subvention for the activities of the children's social needs.

With respect,

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)


Judenrat in Wlodawa

Wlodawa, March 17, 1941.

Number Dz. 41–68
Received March 25, 1941
Number L. 2095

To the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self–Help in Krakow

As it is, esteemed Sirs, certainly known to you, a significant number of people have arrived to Sosnowice, who were evacuated from Lublin.

The Judenrat of Wlodawa sent out a special delegation to Sosnowice.

The delegates left for Sosnowice on 15/3, where they found about 3,000 people having been evacuated from Lublin. These people were quartered with 60 families in Sosnowice.

[Page 681]

Because of the terrible hunger and impossibility to purchase provisions right away, the Wlodawa Judenrat, with the permission of the local government, sent out various products with the esteemed delegates, such as: bread, kasha, coffee, soap, etc. At the same time, Dr. Springer also took medications and bandaging materials for the evacuees.

Immediately, the delegates recognized the people's great needs, an enormous need for food staples and sanitation facilities because of the crowdedness in which the people were living. Dr. Springer distributed medical help to a whole queue of people. The provisions of medications that our delegates brought were given over to the Sosnowice Judenrat with the necessary understanding that it would be given to those who needed.

In completing the report, the delegates made their decision to do everything possible to improve the living conditions, stating that they have to build barracks in Sosnowice for people who need them because of the current crowdedness, spread of disease, and because of their total decline.

The Judenrat in Wlodawa, that also has no financial means to continue helping for the above–mentioned homeless, decided to inform you, esteemed Sirs, that you should distribute help to the urgent matter of the homeless.

Chairman

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)


Wlodawa, the 17th of March, 1941. 8–41 Dz.L.
Received: March 20. 1941. 1917 L.

To the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self–Help, Krakow
Stradomska 10.

With regards to our letter of the 14th of this month, we would like to inform you that on the 15th, our delegation left to Sosnowice – and along with them was a doctor with medicines and food provisions.

[Page 682]

Immediately, the situation appeared completely different than what we described in our letter of the 14th. That means, according to the information received, we were informed of 1,200 people who arrived to Sosnowice, evacuated from Lublin. But right away, it was evident that actually 3,000 people had arrived.

A small number of people were taken back to Lublin by hired taxis, and with the appropriate papers they left a little richer. However, the entire remaining crowd of people, comprised the poor, the elderly, and the sick.

Until now, help was forthcoming from Ostrow Lubelski. Parczew, and Wlodawa. Until today, nothing had come forth from Lublin, even though Sosnowice is only 60 kilometers from Lublin.

We cannot describe the horror of the situation.

We, with our conditions, are incapable of addressing this huge need, where immediate help is required.

With respect

Jewish Social Self–Help
Delegation in Wlodawa
(––) A. Kahan

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)


Telegram

Wlodawa 1942, 20/3, 15th hour
Jotses Krow

783 people arrived from Mielice. Quarantined. Terrible situation. Absolutely essential need for financial help by telegraph. Detailed letter to follow.

Note from translator: “Jotses” are the initials for Jewish Social Self–Help [Judishe Soziale Zelbst Hilf]. The Krakow address, abbreviated for telegrams is “Samopomocz,” meaning [in Polish], self–help.

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)

[Page 683]

Wlodawa, 7th of April, 1942
Incorporated 19th April, 1942
L. 7313

Jewish delegation in Wlodawa, Solna 20.
Gr. Dzh. 102–42.

To the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self–Help
In Krakow

Report

On March 15 of the current year 1942, a transport of Jews came to us from Mielce. This comprised 783 people, healthy and sick, and six deceased. Of these 783 people, there were 60 sick, of whom three died right away. Other than that, there were many full and half orphans.

After receiving the news that the transport was on the way, we sent out drivers and people to meet them with the goal of take in the sick and rescued ones, and also their bags. After arriving in the city, the transport was organized in six points of the city that were warmed and set with the prepared straw. After that, within about five days, the newly–arrived were quartered in Jewish homes. The largest part of the transport came poor, barefoot, and naked. Their bags, however, remained somewhere on the road.

We did whatever was possible for us to do for the arrived. We made 75 beds and distributed boards for another 25 beds. We needed another 300–400 beds but we couldn't get any more because of the shortage of boards. We prepared straw, urgent first aid, and we took away 800 lunches from our own needy to give to the Mielcers. We gave them coffee and bread twice a day, we distributed a significant amount of firewood, and we gave them medical help and medicines.

These efforts went on until Passover, April 1, 1942.

On the first day of Passover, we gave out half kilos of matzah to each person, and 10 kilos of potatoes for each family. We organized all the Mielcers, but then all the Wlodawer who received support, were now short potatoes.

[Page 684]

During these days of Passover, the kitchen was busy only for the children, for the hospital, and for the orphanages, distributing 450 meals with matzah that was eaten on the spot. The sick received their food at home.

We organized an orphanage for the total orphans, exclusively for those from Mielce, meanwhile providing 15 beds for 15 orphans, arranged with whatever necessities were required and with two nurses for an entire day, under the care of a woman–of–the–house in a proper place. There still remains a significant number of half orphans, but for them we already do not have a possible location. We had to set up only for the most urgent situations.

But now the situation becomes very difficult because the question of products has become much more serious. We received no allocation for March. In the same way, the people received absolutely nothing. The district committee of Khelm sent nothing at all. Miraculously, we were able to acquire some provisions that lasted until the first of April of the current year.

So, the situation is tragic. With that which we distributed for the holidays [Passover], one couldn't be overly satiated. But aside from that, we were unable to give any financial help. We had no possibility for that. In any case, with only a few zlotys, we could not have quietened the needs.

We are presenting all our urgent needs and requirements so that the presidium will be able particularly to extrapolate from the above–mentioned contents [of this letter].

For the treasury report for March, the sum of 1,016 zlotys is still outstanding. We owe this to the pharmacist, and we couldn't pay this by April 1, but only after this very date. Therefore, you will find it in the report of the month of April.

We received 3,000 zlotys by telegraph on the first of April of this year.

Enclosed, we are sending a report for the activities of the month of March of this year.

With respect,

The Jewish Social Self–Help
Delegation in Wlodawa

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)

[Page 685]

Jewish Social Self–Help
Delegation in Wlodawa
Sokolna St. 8.
Number Dz. 227–42

Wlodowa, 2/10, year 1942.

To the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self–Help
In Krakow

Incorporated the 6th of October, 1942
L. 18021

For certain reasons,[2] we have not approached you for help for a period of three months, but now we are forced to ask for help, and this for the following reasons:

The number of those seeking help from us is now beyond the number 2,000, and these all need help in all forms, especially since the winter is approaching, and we cannot help them.

The second and more serious reason: Our city has recently become a point where, from the first of October, all the Jews from the Khelmer region who are not fit for work are being evacuated. These are the elderly, the sick, and in addition, the very poor. And these have to remain with us for total care.

The first transport, now just eight people, …

[Page 686]

… has already arrived from Sawin, and that's how similar transports are due to come here within the next few days. The total number of those who will be coming is still unknown to us, but in any case, the total number will be large.

Also, the sick from the labor camps will also be sent to us.

Other than that, we request from the Presidium financial support for our town, also to fill our request for medicines. The request was sent with our letter of the 14th of August of the current year, Number 208–42, because these are urgently required.[3]

With respect,

Jewish Social Self–Help
Delegation in Wlodawa

(The authenticity of the original is confirmed by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, with their stamp.)


Footnotes

  1. In 1923, the Organization for Child and Orphan Care (Centrala Opieki nad Sierotami; CENTOS) was founded in Poland under the American Joint Distribution Committee. Return
  2. “For certain reasons,” was for the reason that, in a period of three months, there were two evacuation Aktzias – extermination roundups for Sobibor, the first, on Shavuos 1942; the second – a children's roundup. Return
  3. October 24, 1942, there was a big Aktzia, in which 10,000 Jews were transported to Sobibor. Because of that, this was the last exchange of letters between the Wlodawa Self–Help and Krakow. Return


[Page 689]

The Death of the Radziner Rabbi

by Motel Reichman

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Jeannette Gelman

In 1939, or at the beginning of the 40th year, the Radziner Rav [rabbi], Reb Shmuel Shloime Leiner, came from Radzin. He was in Lublin for one day, but it wasn't to his liking, so he and his Yeshiva, “Bais Yosef,” left for Wlodawa.

That same 40s year, they came to Wlodawa, saying that in the Sobibor forest lay hundreds of dead Jews, shot and frozen. The Rav then organized, along with city activists, wagons to bring the dead martyrs to the cemetery. These deceased were partly captives and partly Jews from the surrounding towns, whom the Germans brought back from work in Germany, exhausted, and actual skeletons. They took them into the forest and then shot them. A very small number were able to run away from under a hail of bullets, and some came to Wlodawa alive.

It took a month to bury these holy martyrs. I who was, and still am a Radziner chassid [follower of the Radziner Rebbe], was included in the burial process of these meis mitzvahs [burials that the community is obligated to perform]. We dug actual ditches, and buried them together. The Rebbe himself worked very hard as well, until all the bodies were buried according to Jewish law.

The Rebbe did a lot for the city. He set up hand mills in the cellar of Motel Dubeles, so that Jews could grind a little corn, some buckwheat, so that they could sustain the souls of their families. He would give away whatever he could of his own belongings.

I was with him every day, almost like a boarder. Once, I remember, in my usual manner, I went to him, and saw that a Jew was wearing the Rebbe's overcoat, one that I well recognized. I knew that this Jew was not a thief, so I was actually very surprised. How did this Jew get this overcoat?

As I came in, the Rebbe said to me: “I'm sure you saw the Jew with the coat?”

[Page 690]

“Yes,” I said. “I was surprised, since the Rav has only that one coat and it's already winter and cold!”

The Rebbe opened his hands and said: “Motel, what should I do, I have nothing else to give, and I have to give to every Jew who comes with his troubles.”

The Rebbe's minyan [quorum of 10 men for prayers] was held at Moshe Zigelman's on Wyrker Street. I would go there for prayers every Shabbath. There was also a minyan at Gershon Henokh Liderman's. And there were others that I do not remember, but the prayers were set for life.

When the Rebbe found out about Sobibor, on Shabbath he told me to come to him on Sunday. There he explained to me and told me that he sees that according to how the Germans are acting, first they would abuse and then murder all the Jews. Therefore, he told me to gather up 50 chassidim [pious followers of the Rebbe], and together we should run away into the forest. Not hide, but really fight. And then later, take out even more Jews into the forest.

I actually looked at him in shock and asked, is it possible? What would we do in the forest? And how would we do it? He answered me, that I didn't understand the horrors of the situation and that we had to save as many as we could, and that the only way we could do this was to flee into the forest.

After thinking about this, he later said: “Listen, Motel. Go out into the street and tell this to people close by, that I am calling for a three–day community fast. This message should go from mouth to mouth.”

This was on the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Iyar [May], 1942, two weeks before the holiday of Shavuos. He told me to come to him on Monday.

The Rav always prayed at night, and on that Monday, he told me to collect a minyan [ten men] of Jews and he prayed in the morning. He declared this day to be like Yom Kippur, and told everyone to recite Psalms.

That same day, the Gestapo ordered that the Rebbe be arrested.

[Page 691]

The following morning, Gershon Zeidman and I were summoned to the Gestapo and were asked what had transpired the day before. We said that we were praying that God should help that the war come to an end. The Rebbe had said the same thing since this is what we had discussed a day earlier when I had gone to see the Rebbe when he was arrested.

But it didn't help. They did not want to release him. The Jews gave over a lot of money and their gold to have the Rebbe sent to Tomasawka for work. The Judenrat did everything possible to save the Rebbe.

They kept him there for eight days or more. Once, on Shabbat, we learned that they were bringing the Rebbe from Tomasawka to the Gestapo. The Gestapo found itself at the end of Rozhanker Street, so I went over there and hid behind a tree. I actually saw how they brought the Rebbe from the train. They took him into the Gestapo, but not long after that they brought him out again. But instead of letting him go in the direction of the city, they took him to the Jewish cemetery. He did not want to go, and argued with them. They kicked him and shoved him. At one point, he turned around, and spit into the gendarme's face. The gendarme beat him murderously, and pushed him closer to the cemetery. I was sitting and trembling, my heart …

[Page 692]

… was locked in agony, but I could do nothing to help.

The end was, as I saw from afar, that they finally pushed him close to the cemetery fence and then shot him there. Later, Mendel Khilkes told over that he and another person buried the Rebbe right away.

That's how the Radziner Rebbe died, sanctifying God's name, after having lost his entire family by the hands of the German thugs, may their name and memory be erased. May God collect the spilled blood of the great Radziner holy man, and of all the 6,000,000 holy martyrs.

When everything became Judenrein [cleansed of all Jews], and after losing my family, I fled into the forest. Together with me, also fled the Radziner Rebbe's's brother–in–law, Avrohom Yissochor Englard. We were about 30 men, roaming from forest to forest, and every day we searched for new hiding places. Once, I said that I was going to look for a new place. He [the brother–in–law] wanted to join me and all the rest stayed behind. At night, when we returned, all those who had remained behind were shot dead. We buried them and went to look for a new place to hide. The Rebbe's brother–in–law later became sick in his feet, couldn't walk, and I carried him more than once on my shoulders. After the liberation, they removed him from a ditch, very sick, and they cured him. Today, he fills the place of Radzin in America.


[Page 693]

The Radziner Rabbi among the Wlodawa Martyrs

by Shimon Kantz

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Jeannette Gelman

Among the martyrs of Wlodawa, the Rebbe, Reb Shmuel Shloime Leiner, who founded the great holy Radziner, also died sanctifying God's name.

The Radziner Rebbe was one of the greatest spiritual leaders that remained with the Jews in the ghettos, went with them to the camps, went through the horrors with them, comforting them and encouraged them until the final minutes of their deaths that sanctified God's name.

Reb Shmuel Shloime Leiner was a Rebbe over thousands upon thousands of chassidim in Poland, and since he was in Wlodawa he stirred up his chassidim for a three–day fast. It is worth pausing here and describing who was the Radziner Rebbe. Reb Shmuel Shloime Leiner, born the 18th of the Hebrew month Shevat, 5669 (1909), was of the most famous Radziner ancestry in Poland. He was known as the “Baalei Hatecheles,” because all his chassidim wore techeles [trans: a blue string woven into the strings of the tzitzis. The blue dye was extracted from a particular shellfish as defined in the Talmud, but over time this fish has become unknown].

His father was the famous Rebbe, Reb Mordechai Yosef Elezer Leiner, author of “Tiferes Yosef” [“The Splendor of Joseph”], and was a son of the renowned genius and Rebbe, Reb Gershon Henokh Radziner, author of the famous religious book “Sidrei Taharah” [“The Order of Purity”], and discoverer of “Techeles.” He was a grandson of Reb Mordechai Yosef Izhbizer, the “Mei Hashiluach” [“Living Waters”].

The Radziner Rebbe, Reb Gershon Henokh, caused a storm in the chassidic and scholarly worlds, with his introduction of the “Techeles” and with his organizing a gemara [commentary on Mishna] to the mishnayos [compilation of Oral Law] on the tractate [order] of “purity.” The Rebbe, Reb Gershon Henokh, was born in Tomasawka, Lublin, in the Hebrew year 5599 (1839), and died in the Hebrew year 5651 (1890).

Besides this gemara that the Radziner Rebbe authored on the book of “The Order of Purity,” he also published the following books: “Sefunei Temunei Chol” [“Treasures Hidden in the Sand”], “Dalsos Shaar Ha'ir” [“Doors to the Gates of the City”], “Pesil Techeles” [“The Source of the Blue Dye”], “Orchos Chayim” [“Paths of Life”], “Minchas Todah” [“Offering of Thanks”], “Tiferes Hachinochi” [“The Beauty of My Learning“], and “Yesod Yesharim” [“The Source of Truth”]. When he enforced wearing techeles [blue interwoven string] in the tzitzis [fringed garments], thousands of chassidim began …

[Page 694]

… to do the same. But there were others who were sharply opposed to this. There were many opponents. A greater disagreement arose when, in certain places where the Radziner chassidim wore the techeles, the burial society did not permit the deceased to be buried in tzitzis that had techeles. This sort of incident, the author of the book “Pinat Yikrat,” [“Precious Cornerstone”] writes, took place in the town of Tomasawka, until a great scholar arrived and decreed that the deceased be buried in his talis [prayer shawl] that he wore while he was alive. After that, Radziner chassidim everywhere were buried in their prayer shawls that had techeles.

The Radziner Rebbe's gemara [commentary] on the tractate of purity, was published in Josepow, in the year 5633 (1873). On the title page, it was written that the author had compiled all the discourses from the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud, with a longer explanation and a shorter explanation.

The Rebbe, Reb Mordechai Yosef Elezer Leiner, lived in Warsaw, and had very friendly relationships with all the other Rabbinic courts in Poland. Among his chassidim, there was a large number of Torah leaders, and he organized that the chassidim should have a study session from his “Order of Purity” each day. He had a huge library with thousands of books. He was a Rebbe for 30 years, and died in Warsaw on the 27th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, 5689 (1928). After his passing, the chassidim elected his son, Reb Shmuel Shloime Leiner [as the next Rebbe], as from childhood on he had demonstrated genius. chassidim tell that when he was all of three years old, his father put before him several book titles, and the child repeated all the names and pointed out each book by title. When he was to start going to cheder [religious school for young children], his father took on a special teacher who later testified that: “He was not my student; he was my friend.”

When he was twenty years old, he sat beside his father …

[Page 695]

… and studied both by day and night. Then he became the son–in–law of the Rebbe, Rav Yosef Kalish of Amshinow, a grandson of the Rebbe Reb Yitzchok Wurker. Reb Shloime'le had his set eating “days” for years at the Amshinower Rebbe's house, and it cost the chassidim a lot of effort that after the passing of his father, he should agree to become the new leader.

Reb Shloime'le continued to spread the techeles among his followers. They brought the “halzon” fish from Italy, and from those fish they made the dye to color the tzitzis. Among those who wore the techeles were also many scholars. In his own Bais Medrash [study hall], Reb Shloime'le revealed the secret to his followers – of how to extract the techeles blue color from the “halzon” fish. He told them: “You have to know this secret so that if some …

[Page 696]

… of you remain alive, you will be able to teach others. And that's how the chain will not be broken…”

The chain was in fact not torn, but not one of the young men of that quorum in Wlodawa who heard this secret about the dye for the techeles remained alive. They all died along with the Rebbe.

The Radziner Rebbe constantly warned his chassidim that as soon as the Nazis would enter Poland, and this would not just be by chance, the Jews shouldn't delude themselves in thinking that the Nazis would do them no harm. He forewarned them that the Nazis would abuse the Jews to the maximum and then they would take to exterminating the Jews.

**

The Rebbe, already being in Wlodawa, confided in those close to him that his desire was to collect tens and hundreds of chassidic young men and fight the Germans. Reb Aaron Halberstat delivered the Rebbe's words, that reached him through one of the rescued Radziner chassidim. “Do you know what is the greatest test for the Jew in the ghetto? Not to lose the image of God, to remain a human being. A time has come for which they did not prepare us. There isn't even such a curse in the “tochacha” [that part of the Torah that discusses rebuke]. So we have to do everything to conquer the fear. The Hitlerists are the Amaleks [enemies of Jews], and their devilish ways are to confuse the senses and drive you into a state of hopelessness, so that you should think that everything is lost and there is no hope. Therefore, we have to tell ourselves: ‘Either companionship or death.’ It is difficult to fight the devil alone, but with the strength of a friend, you can conquer him. Not to give in, not to lose the spark of Godliness in the person, not to sink in the mud of despair, not to lower your human dignity.”

It seems that the Gestapo men sensed the atmosphere that the Rebbe created around him, and because of that they began to persecute him. Ignoring them, the Rebbe did not cower, and to those close by, he explained that whoever would merit to show pride and deep faith, and whoever would know how to hold himself strong in front of the face of death, before such a Jew, death loses its strength. A Jew that has decided for himself to sacrifice his life in the name of God, is elevated and lives in a sphere of great heights, where no one is afraid of pain, and one doesn't become confused by great trial. Especially when one knows that the terror is not only for the one person, but for the entire nation of Israel.

 

wlo696.jpg
The Radziner Rebbe, Reb Shmuel Shloime Leiner (third from left), on a visit in Wlodawa before World War Two

 

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