At the end of the year in 1939, after the German invasion of Poland and its division into two parts one side of the Bug belonged to the Russians and this side, together with the district of Wlodowa, was the at hands of the Germans. The Germans immediately started issuing directives on the Jews of the little towns and villages of this district. Our little town of Sosnowitz experienced all the persecutions, tortures and agonies which grew worse and worse from day to day.
In the 1940 they started already capturing people for work and also transporting them to Sobibor. Like many others, I was afraid of sleeping at home and so I slept in the cornfields. On the 10th of October, 1940 the Gestapo in Wlodowa required from the Judenrat that every Jew of our town should present himself within three hours at the market place in Wlodowa. The next day all the Jews had to be there at 11hr past this hour every Jew found in Sosnowitz would be shot. A tumult broke out. Everyone felt that this action was connected with the gas chambers. At the same time, I gathered up my courage calling on the Jewish youth to come into the forest and join the partisans who were fighting against the Germans.
My father agreed with me and said: Go go my son and avenge the Jewish blood that is being shed without any reason.
Seven young men joined me. I got hold of two guns which a Polish classmate had provided me.
The next night at midnight I came to say goodbye to my mother and father and to my little brother who was 6 years old. Everyone in the
house was crying. My throat felt like suffocating from the tears that would not burst out. I stopped them with all my power and escaped from the house. Outside, the echo of the weeping of all my relatives haunted me and has continued doing to sever since.
Our meeting place was in the Jewish Milawne. From there we set off crossing fields and bushes to the big Parzawi forest. Along with me were: Jechiel Grinspan, Abraham G, Nissan Zin (who fell in battle), Simcha Levinson (who fell in battle), David P, and Chaim Eliezer Blumenkrantz (who fell in battle). We knew that in this forest Russian soldiers were staying those that had escaped from German imprisonment. The more we penetrated into the forest the more we were lost. It was raining and we became soaked through. There was nothing to eat or drink so we drank from the pools formed by the rain. Out of despair we looked into each other's eyes to guess our moods. The first to inspire me with courage was Jechiel Grinspan: Don't worry, he said. We don't have what to lose. You don't die twice. You are born once and you die once. The main point is not to despair. Suddenly we heard gunshots.
We started to run in their direction and saw two men passing quickly while hiding in the bushes.
They waited until we approached within hearing distance and shouted: Stoi! (stop). Who are you? we answered that we were Jews.
They let us come closed and said: Charasho Towarish! which meant all right friends. They brought us to a thicket and told us to make a fire and dry our clothes promising us that soon
their commander Fiodor would arrive and they then left us.
After some hours they returned with Fiodor. He received us cordially and brought us to their base. There he ordered that they give us something to eat and he told us to rest. He parted from us warmly. Tomorrow we will talk (Sawtra bodim gewarit) he said.
With the Russian Partisans
Though we were very tired, none of us closed an eye all night. All our thoughts were devoted to the fate of our parents, brothers and sisters. The next morning while we were standing for the morning roll call, Fiodor read in our faces our sorrows and despair and he encouraged us by saying that we were not the only ones but that our fate was shared by millions.
After a few months, the group consisted already of some hundred men and we had also some arms out our disposal including two Z.K.M. (heavy machine guns) so that we could defend ourselves. Jews from Prazew came to the forest and it became merry there. They made a synagogue where they prayed. The escape of the Jews was revealed to the Germans and it became very dangerous for the partisans. The commander Fiodor was afraid that the Germans would come to the forest with a big unit and kill everyone. The danger was even greater for the Jews as not one of them possessed a gun. The situation caused the Russians to penetrate deeper into the forest and the Jews remained without protection. It became very sad but we did not have a choice. The next day Fiodor came taking all the youths and we belonged to the first of the fighting unit to be formed. Those who remained were put into Tabor (camp) where whole families and those that were unfit for fighting were kept.
The First Battles
when we were already well organized and in possession of a few arms, the Jewish Partisan
Unit under the command of Jechiel Grinspan started the preparations to act against the Gestapo in Ostrowa in the district of Wlodowa. We were occupied with preparations for several weeks. We sent spy groups to investigate the fortified places and the guardhouse where German and Polish guards stayed.
On December 16, 1942 Jechiel led us to the village of Ostrowa where we started a heavy fight with the Hitlerites and after some hours, we succeeded in conquering the position. German officers fell in our hands and 12 Polish policemen were shot. We captured many arms, uniforms and other things. We burnt down their housing and the town hall. The mayor who had cooperated with the Germans was shot. This was the first act of revenge for the Jewish bloodshed. A little while after this victory, the Germans surrounded us. It was a very heavy attack. For three days the Germans bombed us with planes and tanks. We sat in trenches under the trees and waited until the Germans would approach the forest. We were divided into groups under the main command of Fiodor. When they were about 40 meters from our range of sight, the order came: Fire! And we opened fire from all sides so that the Germans did not know from where the fire came and they were standing in an open cornfield on their way towards us.
In this battle we lost three partisans two Russians and one Jew Simcha Levinson from Sosnowitz. Tens of Germans were killed. After fighting for some five hours, the Germans retreated. 1942 was a year with great snow fall, storms and frosts. Winter was at its peak. Our situation was not delightful at all. We were naked and barefoot. Hunger also left its mark. We started attacking villages, taking wagons and cattle by force. But each time we paid our endeavours with victims. The Germans ambushed us at the exit of the village. We defended ourselves but our arms were too poor to drive away the well-armed Germans.
The farmers reported our attacks to the Germans and that we were taking everything from
from them so that they could not deliver the fixed quota to the Germans. Gradually, we organized the farmers not to report our appearances to the Germans as this would be best for their own sake. Finally the farmers brought food to us voluntarily.
On January 11th we were surrounded in the Parzew forest by a big German unit. But our Russian commander tricked them and we pushed back their attack.
On February 26, 1943 at 11hr a.m. we, a group of ten persons with the commander Smaste, were surrounded by 400 Germans. My comrades were sleeping in the hut of the forest guard and only I, wearing a German uniform kept guard. The Germans approached shouting: Kamarad (friend).I threw myself down on the ground and started shooting at them. The Germans answered with heavy fire by machine guns. I detained them until the group left the hut and I succeeded in withdrawing to the other side. Our fighters, among them were Zipora (now in Israel) opened fire and succeeded in passing and leaving the German encirclement.
In March 1943, the first planes arrived from the Soviet Union with arms. At the same time, we separated from the Russian partisans and formed a Jewish division spread throughout the forests of the district of Wlodowa. We also founded a Tabor where we put all the old women and children. We protected them from the Germans and the murderous Polish underground. We performed many battles and acts of terror with strategic calculation and precision. Thus, a heroic chapter of the history of the Jewish uprising in World War II was written.
We bombed trains near the village of Sarki not far from Sobibor. We burnt down a glassworks factory in Duvazne and in Wirik we burnt the guardhouse. In Kaplinitz we attacked the German army and killed 26 Germans. We destroyed the bridge near Sawin where the railways passed
and on which the trains with soldiers for the front were being transported. In Sosnowitz we attacked a garrison and killed 120 Germans.
One night, we invaded Parzew burnt the town hall and shot the guard. A week did not pass without our removing from the rails a train with soldiers.
At the same time we stopped sleeping in the forest and instead slept in the villages that we now held and where we had sympathizers helping us in the war against the German and Polish murderers. The government of all councils of the entire district of Wlodowa went over to our side. Then, Jechiel Grinspan organized the division which was under the command of the Armia Ludowo (National Army).
One day, a commander of this army, Roleh Smirski, along with some Polish officers came to us. We passed before them in a big parade. Jechiel Grinspan was promoted to the rank of high command. We all were promoted for our battle against the Germans which I mentioned before. In this battle against the Germans, I killed with my gun 11 Germans and the whole group was rescued.
In April 1943 we were heavily attacked in the Kaplinitz forest. In this battle we lost 70 Jewish fighters. Women and children rescued from the Wlodowa ghetto were also killed.
It became known to us that in Adampol there were Jews from Wlodowa and Sosnowitz. I asked for permission from our commander Jechiel Grinspan to go to Adampol and bring the Jews back to the forest. From the whole group, only Nissan Zinn agreed to join me.
In the evening, we both went to a farmer in Kaplinitzki whom we knew very well. We promised him a good pig if he would bring us to the camp. He led us there and remained half a kilometre away from the camp and we continued. Nissan stood at the gate and I, in German uniform, entered the camp. I took two Jews with me and left.
Revenge In Our Blood
The winter months were very slowly creeping away until finally the summer of 1943 arrived. We were informed that Jews were still alive in the ghetto. I learned that my father was the sole survivor of my entire family that were killed in Sobibor. I sent a farmer from the village of Krasivka to bring my father to the forest. The farmer returned without my father but with a letter from him in which he wrote: My son. I don't have anything to live for and it is not worthwhile for me to come to the forest. God shall help you and guard you from all dangers. Revenge all for the Jewish innocent blood which was shed.
Rescuing Jews from the Camp of Adampol
On May 2, 1943 at night, Wlodowa was encircled by SS men and Ukrainians that were driving out Jews from their hiding places. Tens of men, women and children were shot in the street. My father too was shot in Wirokstreet.
This was the last liquidation action on the remnants of Jews in Wlodowa.
One night I invaded the first barrack of the Adampol camp. The Jews were already sleeping and I woke them up taking along with me more than 30 people. All this was accomplished so silently that nobody noticed what had happened. The farmer led us to the Kaplinitzki forest where Jechiel was waiting with his entire group.
This successful experiment increased our courage and we started expanding our visits, taking out Jews from Wlodowa, Sosnowitz, Kaplinitzki, Wirok and other places.
One day, we made an assembly and decided to take all the Jews from Adampol as we had learned that the last action was going to take place. It was decided that five men with arms would enter the camp, hiding the arms and
organizing the Jews to be prepared to leave camp for the forest.
As I had already been several times in the camp, it was decided not to send me. The following were sent: Jurek P. (living today in America) from the village of Salaszi and four young men whose names I don't remember. Unfortunately, the head of the camp, Selinger, learnt about the presence of the partisans in the camp and of their intention to lead the Jews out of the camp. He phoned the gestapo in Wlodowa and on the same day, some one hundred of them enclosed the camp and drove out all the Jews to the fields and fired at them. The five partisans went the first and when they were in the fields they shouted loudly so that all the Jews started to escape and disperse in all directions.
The Germans opened fire killing all the Jews. Only two partisans survived. One from Wlodowa and Jurek P both wounded in the arm. Also, Jeshajalus from Worek survived. He grasped the gun out of the hands of a SS man and escaped. He was slightly injured in his leg.
One the same day, 600 Jews from Wlodowa and the surroundings were massacred. All were buried in a common grave next to Adampol. In June 1943, we fought against the Germans behind the village of Saheike. Our commander was Jechiel Grinspan who then conducted the battle with exceptional fighting spirit and strategic talent. In the same battle, we lost two fighters. One was Jeshajahu Lichtenstein, son of the Rabbi of Wlodowa.
Thus we lived and fought in the woods of Wlodowa and Parzew. In every place we were ambushed by Germans and Poles filled with the hate of Jews. We fought against them day after day. The victims and the difficult conditions of nature did not let us relax. We fought with much devotion and many of us fell in the battlefield.
There was not much hope in us that we would survive this devastation. There existed in
in us a great force to keep up the fight and to suffer in the battle.
If with my modest memories I enlightened to a certain degree the chapter of the Jewish heroism in the period of its destruction, I would know that I fulfilled my duty.
by Eisik Rothenberg
At the end of August 1942, a part of the SD of Wlodowa moved over to Kosmir. They took with them 20 different draftsmen and I as a constructor was among them.
After we had worked there about three or four months we were sent home. I, Shaja Lampl the constructor, his son-in-law Henich and three others whose names I do not remember. When we returned to our hometown we did not recognize it. We learned about the great Akzia which took place when we were absent and about which we had not heard anything. In town, the ghetto was already closed and the camp sealed. My whole family was transported to Sobibor. My mother, brother and my elder sister were the only ones that survived. Generally, there remained very few Jews from the thousands of Wlodowa inhabitants and strangers that had lived in the town.
Wlodowa suffered a lot from its nearness to Sobibor, the extermination camp. This camp could not absorb at one time so many transports of Jews arriving from abroad Vienna, Holland and the Polish towns of Kalish, Militz and others as well as from the villages. Therefore, Wlodowa became a collection place for thousands of Jews both women and children. From time-to-time they took from here the required amount of people and those who were left comforted themselves with false hopes that one did not think of him.
For about three months, I belonged to the preferred that had a working number and to the lucky, as I could freely leave the ghetto during the day but these days were for the surviving Jews of Wlodowa, months of agony. We were watching through the windows, listening to every noise, fearing a new action which was impending in the air. Sobibor, which was six kilometres away, was continuously demanding its victims.
May 1st, 1943 arrived. It was, if I am not mistaken, Friday morning. All the Jews of the town were always on guard and slept with eyes and ears alert to catch every noise and moment. From outside you could hear restrained shouts penetrating the walls. We understood that something was happening. We started hiding ourselves. My family and I also mounted the loft which could serve as a hiding place. From the street below, terrible shouts were heard followed by gun shots. For nine days, we stayed in the loft and it is difficult to describe what we experienced during these days of terror and agony without food or drink. At night one of us would try to descend in order to bring some water so
that we could moisten our lips. Nearly all the Jews were captured and from time to time we heard shots, screaming and weeping of children falling on their murdered parents they too were shot.
Our blood congealed; the heart wept but the force to remain alive was very strong.
Our hiding place became unsure. In the loft were also neighbours with children who wept because they wanted to eat and drink. At the end, the crying of such children denounced us and we all descended from the roof.
We were separated. The men were imprisoned next to the town hall and the women and children were put in a store house nearby. For days, we were kept without anything to eat or drink. All the time, more and more Jews were brought there. On about 12th or 13th May, the Germans and Ukrainians had collected 300 people: men, women and children. The children were piled on carriages like logs. The screaming of the mothers and children went up to the heavens but who was listening?... Only shots answered the yelling. The men and women were driven by foot along the rails leading to Sobibor.
A German or a Ukrainian guard was stationed at every 3rd or 4th man with a machine gun. There were those who tried to escape and were shot. Those who remained, slackened with desperate glances, approached the place of punishment even though they knew that this was their last way.
In the camp, on the first ground, the murderers greeted us with sticks, beating us where they could. Then we had to run to a second place. The men were ordered to sit down and the women were taken into barracks where they had to strip off their clothes and were then made to run, have their hair shorn off and then go to the Sanitary centre which was the gas chamber The wagons with the children were not brought into the camp but remained standing at the gate for the cars
to come and then the children were thrown one on top of the other and brought into the crematorium.
From the young men, 18 were chosen and among them were my brother and me. We rested until noon. The food they served us was tasteless and impossible to eat. All desire to live disappeared.
We received other clothes and were led to work. Our first work was to fetch sand in buckets. The work was accompanied by terrible blows. The next day we were taken to construction work and we became used to work with this cruel accompaniment and these were not just blows: - here a well-aimed brick was thrown at our heads and there, an axe or something else until it was time to go home, which meant to the barrack and it was then impossible to recognize one that had been beaten like this. And when, as a result of such a blow, a leg or an arm was broken, the sufferer was immediately brought to the gas chamber. Therefore, we made efforts to look like human beings after having been beaten so that nobody would realize anything so that we could go to work the following morning .
The camp was divided into three areas. The first for craftsmen and professions; the second was the assorting houses where victims had stripped of their clothes which were then classified and in the third were the gas chamber and the oven.
I stayed in this camp for about 6 months doing all kinds of construction work for the murderers. Houses, canteens, district houses, heating ovens and baking ovens. All this was accompanied with blows to which we had already become accustomed to as though they were part of the work.
The Preparations for the Rebellion
When I became more acquainted with the Jewish labourers from Isbiza, Krasnotov and other places, they told me that some time before I arrived at the camp, some tens of Jews were organizing and preparing a rebellion. The Germans
heard of this matter and shot about 100 men.
After I had lived some months in the camp, the assorting labourers planned to organize a rebellion. But their plan failed too; the Germans learnt about it and all were killed.
After this event, 2 tree-cutters escaped. And as they were not found at roll-call, every third Jew was taken out of line, collected and brought to the third area .
In the group of the forest consisting of 18 men, the following took place: 2 Jews from Krasnotow went to fetch water. They were guarded by the driver Pornal (from the estate) and they attacked him. They cut his neck with a razor and escaped. In the meantime, the other saw that the two did not return so they fled too. Yet the SS man Klaski and the people of Wlasow enclosed them capturing them. Only two succeeded in escaping. One of them, Josef Freitig, is living in Israel and Eli Kashimacher from the surroundings of Wlodowa was killed by the Polish partisans in the forest.
A Transport of Jewish War Prisoners from Russia
There arrived a transport of Jewish war prisoners from Russia and some of them remained to work in the camp. In the beginning, we started to form careful contacts with them and we gradually became more familiar until we began talking about a Solution whereby we agreed to organize a rebellion.
We had to take great care not to fail like the former rebellions especially not to be noticed during the preparations to avoid infiltration of a provocateur or denunciator.
On October 13, 1943 it was decided that the following day would be the day of the rebellion. Every group was to kill its guards at the same time. And so it happened! The tailors invited their
German watcher to come the next day to try on the new suit at a fixed hour. The shoemakers invited their German watcher to try on his new boots. When the Germans came, one labourer started fitting and the others also did their work with axes, scissors, razors killing their watchers and covering them up with rags.
We, the construction labourers, were working in a barrack fortifying the floor and one of us attacked our watcher, beating up his head with a piece of iron. The forest labourers also fulfilled their duty perfectly. All the functions which had been imposed on us were accomplished exactly and on time. From this moment we were kindled and our tenseness grew from minute to minute. Yet we were ordered to continue our work in the workshops and in the forest until the end of the working day.
Finally the hour arrived. The horn always announced the end of the work and it was now heard 10 minutes earlier. We wanted this so that during this time the different labourers would gather and thus strengthen our numbers.
When we all stood for the roll-call, a loud shout of hurrah was heard over the entire camp. More than 150 people who knew about the mutiny took out of their clothes, hammers and axes and when we started to run, all the prisoners in the camp began to run after us.
Shouting: Hurrah, we ran to the gate of the camp. On the way we met the Germans and the Ukrainians who, on seeing what had happened, lifted their arms. Some of the people of Wlasow fired on us and many of us were shot but we also killed many of them.
My elder brother, Aharon was holding my hand while we were running and in one instant, I don't know how, he got lost and I did not see him again. The tumult was terrible. The Wlasow men and the SS who, for a moment had been perplexed, came to their senses and pursued those escaping through the wired fences on all parts, breaking through with axes and knives, continuing to the third fence where the mined
Fields were. We threw bushes and all kinds of other things to make them explode. Many of the mines did not and a lot of us were torn to pieces.
After my brother was lost, I returned to the camp and entered the rebellion seizing a hammer and set off for the fences. With one jump, I crossed the first broke through the second and at the third fence I threw myself where the mines had already exploded and ran in the direction of the forest where I arrived safely.
Those who had preceded me were running in the forest and I looked over at their faces as I was looking for my brother and waited for other survivors but in vain. I did not meet my brother ever again. I and some other thirty or forty survivors penetrated further into the forest some turned east to the river Bug and I, with some others, set off to the woods of Lublin.
In The Forest of Adampol
After having wandered for about 2 days in the woods leading to Lublin, most of our little group some 6 or 7 decided to return to the woods leading to the river Bug. They were Jews from White Russia. They said that over the Bug, Russian partisans were living. As I did not want to remain alone, I joined them. As it was the season of the potato harvest, we would steal into the potato field taking some potatoes and roasted them on a small fire. We ate them half baked. We also nourished ourselves with blueberries and wood berries. We lived like pursued animals in a hunt not knowing from where to keep away. And, with a gun, we could be discovered and shot at any moment.
Our mutiny was actually a revolt of despair. We did not know whether we would succeed or not. And if we succeeded, we did not know where we would flee. The Germans did not stop looking for those who had escaped. It was especially difficult for the Jews to go into the forest. There they
Were ambushed by the right-winged Polish and other gangs.
In this desperate situation, we wandered around in the forests of Wlodowa.
One at night we noticed a flickering of fire and when we approached, a shadow of a man escaped into the forest as he thought we were Germans. We ran after him and seized him. He was a Jew from Kalish who had lived in Wlodowa and was later sent to the camp in Adampol. He had already been staying for some months in the forest and he looked much savaged. He was hairy and wounded and was healing himself with all kinds of leaves from the forest. He was nearly naked with only some rags that covered his body.
I stripped off my coat and dressed him with it. He told us that some shepherds had taken pity on him and would sometimes bring him a slice of bread. He also knew a Pole who sold him bread. We gave him some gold coins we had taken from Sobibor and for a few days, he was our financial administrator.
One day, the Jews of White Russia decided to cross the Bug. I as well as Tuvia from Kalish remained. They had just left when something happened giving our life a new tragic turn. Lately Tuvia had been buying bread from a young Polish man called Wiak from the village of Kraliwke and when he saw that our gold coins were running out, he went to Adampol and returned with Selinger, the commander of the camp, and other Germans, guards and dogs. We naturally began to flee. But, they sent the dogs after us and they caught and tore at our clothes. We were placed on carriages and put a heavy chain around Tuvia's and my neck which was closed with a lock. They brought us to Adampol where they threw us into a stable chained like dogs.
About the Chain
The stable contained 20 horses. We were tied up to the wall with rings close to the
Body so that we could only lie or stand on all fours but we could not stand up.
If we slept that night I really don't remember but according to our thoughts at the time here they were coming to shoot us. I am sure we did not close an eye and as daylight grew nearer, the more we were filled with thoughts: Has our end come now? We did not talk to each other as we were afraid the Germans would hear us and beat us. We were frightened of the cruel blows which the Germans inflicted. The murderer Selinger did not intend to kill us. He just planned an amusing spectacle for him and the other Germans. The next day he brought us new clothes as the dogs had torn ours that we had been wearing and all through that night, we laid nearly naked. He loosened the chain while we were dressing and then put them back on again. After an hour, he came with other Germans to look at the wonder. In the entire area there no longer existed any Jews and Selinger wanted to show them how he kept dirty Jews tied to a chain like dogs.
The Germans attacked us, beating us with their whips, striking our heads and faces. I was screaming terribly but Tuvia did not utter a sound and kept stubbornly silent. His silence made them loose their temper and they hit him more and more, striking real death blows, but he continued to remain silent. Thus Selinger returned again and again for several days, every time with other murderers honouring every one of us with his peculiar murderous inclinations.
Officially we were not given food. But from time to time, once a day or every few days, the coachman of the property flung a slice of bread or a rotten potato into the stable. We did not receive water at all and only on the fourth day did they bring a dirty pot with a little water at the bottom hardly enough to moisten our lips
Once a day we were unchained and were taken out of the stable to relieve ourselves.
After 8 or 9 days, they loosened the chains and we were let out. Now I was sure that they were going to kill us but they brought us to a heap of wooden beams and ordered us to cut them up.
From that day on we were taken out once every day or twice to cut trees or to brush horses. In the evening we were chained up again. All day long we were watched over by a guard with a gun. Gradually we got used to our dog's life and began exchanging some words. We became calmer and more relaxed. We realized that for the time being, Selinger did not intend to kill us though we could not know his real intensions other than the fear of death disappeared at least for a while. This situation caused us to think of escape.
Winter passed and spring was drawing nearer. Gradually the snow disappeared. Now they started to take us out of the stable every day. We had gained their confidence and received more potatoes. They had not thought that we could slip away from their eyes and escape. Nevertheless, we were tied up to the chain in the evening. The idea of escape took a deeper hold on us. It would be difficult to escape at night as we were chained up and also the camp was better guarded, so we decided to escape during the day. It was in the beginning of spring. The snow had nearly disappeared. Green began blossoming and the smell of spring penetrated into our limbs, animating our blood with the desire to slip away from the claws of death and escape into the forest. We had to wait quite a long time for this opportunity. At the same time we heard from the Formalins who were discussing among themselves the defeat at the Russian front and the retreat. This filled our hearts with joy and warmed our blood. We thought of one thing only: How to escape from the chains.
by Eisik Rothenberg
When we were deep in the forest, three gazelles jumped in front of us: this is a good sign I said. We will succeed and we rushed on.
In the forest it was dangerous to walk during the day but we did not have any choice.
This was the only possibility to gain distance from the area of the camp. While running, I felt at my neck as if the chain was still there….the feeling haunted us quite a long time even when we had been already sure of our liberation.
Tuvin agreed that the signs were good but implored: Do me a favour, slow down, your rushing and I cannot run after you. I feel as if I'm going to fall. I reduced my speed.
We arrived at the edge of the village of Lubman which bordered with the forest where the forester lived. Tuvia entered and I remained outside. The forester gave him a slice of bread and even for me, he brought bread and milk. Then the forester explained to us the way to go. According to him we knew that there were no Germans in this region and therefore we passed and there we found a farmer with his carriage. He told us to mount and brought us to a hut not far from the village of Podgosi. There we descended and he explained where the place of the partisans was.
While the farmer was still explaining, a carriage with 2 horses approached. In the carriage sat Jewish partisans. They brought us to the partisans and there we found a few of those who had escaped together with me from Sobibor.
At the Headquarter
At the headquarters of the partisans, which was known as Jechiel's group, no one wanted to believe that we had just now escaped and had
been rescued under such circumstances. Jechiel himself interrogated us and looked doubtful at our story of the chain and of Selinger, the camp supervisor. He could not believe that there were still Jews at all in this region. He suspected us to be spies sent by the Germans. I don't know how this would have ended if there had not been some men who had escaped with me and could testify that I had been in Sobibor. After the tiring interrogation and the testimony of the escapees from Sobibor, they still did not believe us entirely. But what were they to do with us? So, first of all, they separated us. I was sent to one group and Tuvia to another. I don't know whether we were watched over or not but at any rate, I neither saw nor felt anything. On the contrary, I felt equal to everyone else on all matters.
In the Tabor
After a week, this group which had already contained 100 people went to the woods in Mokoshi. During this time Jechiel became convinced of my loyalty and I received a gun. I went along with the group but on the way I had to join together with Tuvia, the people of the TABOR (camp) and the group then continued. The TABOR was run by Nachman from Krassiwka. 50 people lived here men, women, children and even elderly people. This was a group of unarmed people that was under the supervision of Jechiel. If someone did wrong in any way in his group, Jechiel did not kill him God forbid but sent him to the TABOR. If a lost Jew was brought from the forest and they did not trust him, he was sent to the TABOR. There were a few who possessed weapons and so we could defend ourselves in case of small attacks.
Tabor or we slept under the trees. The armed men stood on guard. During the night they left for the villages to bring back the rations which the village, heads or leader of the village, promised to supply: a cow or a young bull.
The problem of bread was more difficult as we had to pass from house to house gathering slices of bread but finally the village head also took upon him the responsibility for this. For a few weeks the TABOR wandered from place to place. If we learnt that the Germans intended to surround us, we moved on.
One day, Jechiel and some partisans came riding to us to see how we were and then they left. Suddenly, a moment after they had just disappeared, the AKA men (The Polish army organization) attacked us: Rance dogury that is, hands up. We, the armed, were so surprised of the suddenness of this that we handed over our guns.
Some of us who were not in their field of vision, escaped deep into the forest.
At the same time, more or less, the Russians parachuted Jews and Poles in uniforms and started to organize special partisan divisions and since then the formation of a regular army began.
They also parachuted arms into the forest and a military movement was felt. From daytoday, we felt that the ground under our feet began to stabilize more and more.
There were rumours that the Soviet army was approaching. We guessed this also from the tenseness of the Germans. They tried with force to cross the forest and were pushed back. The partisans were already quite strong at defeating them.
Now each day brought news. Everyone felt that liberation day was near. When August 24th, 1944 arrived, we heard that the Soviet army was already in Wlodowa. After the Russian advance, partisans were sent to different woods. The group of Jechiel was located in Lublin. I was then
19 years old and weak so I was told that I could where go I liked. Though I did know that in Wlodowa there was not a single Jew, I went there. I trembled nervously upon seeing the streets where every stone had been familiar to me.
Now I did not recognize anything. Everything was destroyed and ruined. The Germans had cleared the town from Jews; had executed the Judenrein Aktzia precisely and among this devastation, I stood alone the sole survivor of my whole family. My head bowed down towards the ground which had absorbed the blood of my relatives, I fell down on the ruins of our house and tears flowed from my eyes.
Kefer Avoit in Sobibor
Sobibor had fulfilled its duty and was smitten. The Germans made it equal to the ground. There was no sign of the extermination houses, of the cruel bloodshed and other murders. There only remained the pierced barbed wire fences and the barracks where the murderers had lived and feasted.
Mourning and with bowed heads we stood, a little group of Jews from Wlodowa and its surroundings at this horrible place to offer the last honour to our relatives and our dearests. Sobibor had formerly been a naïve name unknown to the world. And now a cursed word. A name of a place that had drunk the blood of 780,000 old men, women and children May this name always be cursed forever. And may these people be cursed that participated in these murders. I could not remain in the surroundings of Wlodowa. The deadly silence destroyed the remainder of the energy I still possessed. The Poles, who did not stop searching among the ruins to find legal booty among the burned Jews, devoured me with their hostile eyes that I had dared to survive. I left this place forever.
On Passover Eve, I arrived in Atlit and this was the happiest day of my life.
During the day we did regular work in the
by Perla Knapfmacher
In the year 1941, father with the family moved to the village of Kalaz where grandfather Szlome Kalaher lived and we stayed there until 1942, the day of the order that all Jews had to return to the town.
I was then 8 years old and I remember that once father went to look for his parents without returning again.
Together with my brother, mother and a glazier, we went to the labour camp Adampol where we worked a little and received food. After work, mother went to the village as she had some beans. While crossing the main road the SS man Lotek saw her and beat her cruelly until he finally shot her.
Sometime after this event, I woke up at 4 in the morning for a roll call. My eyelids were heavy and I drowsed off while standing. I suddenly heard shots and bullets flew over our heads. I fell to the ground face down not to see the terrible spectacle in the field. I was sure that they would shoot me too. After some moments passed I tried moving a little in order to see what was going on around me. Next to me lay my brother dead. All those around me had been killed. I heard the voices of the Germans from far away and was afraid of moving a limb. I remained sprawled out all day.
At dusk I dared to raise my head and I saw the village inhabitants moving around the corpses stripping off clothes and pulling out gold teeth. I did not give any sign of being alive. It was only late at night that I dared to sit and consider what I was to do.
I was a little girl, 8 years old and alone. All my relatives were lying in a pool of blood. I
knew that not far from here there was the village of Sochowi where mother had taken me when she went to exchange a piece of cloth for a slice of bread. I went there. Along the entire way I was tortured by a wild thirst and on arriving at the village, I crept to the well to appease my thirst. Unfortunately the bucket creaked.
Immediately, an old farmer came out of his hut and approached me. All my limbs froze from fear. The farmer bent down and whispered to me not to be afraid. He took me into the hut and told me that he knew about everything that had happened that day in the camp. He gave me something to eat and to drink and immediately he put out the light of the lantern and said: We have to be careful that nobody should know that I let you in. After I had finished eating the old man told me that he was afraid to keep me in his house because of the frequent searches by the Germans for hidden Jews and he continued that the neighbours were even worse than the Germans as they were denunciating every hiding Jew to the Schwaben.
I asked him to let me stay until the morning and to show me the way that lead to the village of Kolatz the village where my grandfather lived. In Kolatz there were some farmed who were acquainted with my parents and I thought that they would provide me with a hiding place. The old man agreed but when the sun rose and I intended to leave, he told me: Now don't go, it is already broad daylight and you can be seen and get killed. Wait until the evening and then set off….
In the evening, the old man gave me a slice of bread in a pouch, a bottle of milk and a box of matches saying: Don't walk on the main road as people can see you. Go through the forest.
Though there are wolves and they are also dangerous but not like man, if a wolf approaches you, light a match and he will not come near you. All through the night, I walked and crossed the forest until I arrived at the village of Kolatz by sunrise. But, as I was afraid to enter the village in day time, I hid in a pit that I had found in the field and stayed there until the evening.
In the dark I approached the hut of the farmer who had been our neighbour when we were living in this village and who was friendly with us but now, when he opened the door, I immediately felt his evil hatred and he said:
I will not give you up to Hitler as we know each other but you have to vanish from here right away.
As I had no choice, I went to the other end of the village and thought I would open a door and ask for mercy help but in front of me I saw the hostile farmer and I was afraid to knock on any door in case I would meet someone who would hand me over to the Germans.
When I was already prepared to leave the village, an old farmer approached me looking at me with warm eyes and saying to me in a friendly tone: food and drink you will get from me. I am ready to do anything for you except to give you a place to sleep at night. The village is near the main road and they make these searches that you have to be afraid.
I went to the field and during the day I found refuge among the plants. At night I found an open barn and I became acquainted with the dog that was watching it. Giving him the last slice of bread, he let me enter the barn. There I slept until sunrise and returned to the field.
Once someone saw me and told Wit (the head of the village) who lived in Hansk. He gathered other village leaders and together they enclosed the field in order to find me. Bit by bit they looked for me among the plants. I saw them coming nearer and felt that these were my last moments.
Suddenly, I felt someone treading on my
foot. I was sure that now, now….but he bent down pretending as though he was looking for some and whispered to me: Don't be afraid… I will not tell them. He withdrew and continued to walk as though searching for me. He arrived at the other end of the field and I heard him saying loudly so that I could hear: I searched the whole field but she is not here, she has certainly escaped. The information about the denunciation also reached the partisans (so I was told afterwards) and one night, they hit the hut of the farmer who had denunciated me and killed him. The partisans wanted me to join them where I would be safer. They ordered me to come to a certain house and from there they would take me to the forest. Unfortunately, a big German attack took place at the same time. The German army enclosed the forest and the partisans had to withdraw. So I continued to hide in the field. In the course of time, I became friendly with the shepherds of the village and they had pity on me and brought me some food. They even warned me of those who would give me away. Among the shepherds was a shepherdess who bore a grudge against me but as she was afraid of the others, she did not hand me over. Once, when I was sitting with the shepherds around a fire roasting potatoes, some Germans passed on a carriage. One of them descended and approached us taking some roasted potatoes and asking in Polish if we had seen Jews or partisans hiding in the field. The shepherdess made a movement as though she intended to speak and one of the shepherds seized her arm strongly making her understand to keep silent.
When I wanted to enter a hut to ask for something to eat, a big dog attacked me threatening to tear me up. The owner of the hut came out and took me in. He allowed me to warm myself at the oven and even gave me something to eat. But his wife looked at me with hostile eyes saying that she would not allow me to sleep there. But in the middle of the night, I heard the
owner speaking: It is forbidden to send the girl away. She will freeze in the cold. When his wife saw that he would not change his mind, she agreed to remain silent. I stayed there until the summer. I helped them in all kinds of chores but I did not dare leave the house.
Apparently the neighbours became suspicious. One of them started to cover over frequently. When he came, I hid under the sofa. The neighbour sat down on the sofa while trying to find me with his feet. I moved to the wall and remained pressed against it until he left. I told this to the farmer and he understood that the neighbours were suspicious of him. One day he hitched the horse to the wagon. I was placed under the seat and together with his wife, the moved me from the village.
They brought me to another village not far from Chelm. There they had friends. He went to a farmer and revealed to him the whole secret that I was Jewish and looking for refuge. I remained there working as a maid and a shepherd.
Once, while I was working in the stable, a German soldier who lived at my employer's entered: I know you are Jewish. I see it on your face and eyes but you don't need to be afraid of me. I have a girl like you and your age. Who knows if I'll ever see her again? He whispered: Don't be afraid though I am German but I will not cause you any harm.
I pretended that I did not understand what he said and answered him in Polish. But also later on he acted towards me in a friendly way. He gave me chocolate and preserves. But I was filled with fear mainly because I was Jewish. After the Russians had conquered the entire region, I went to the farmer who had brought me here in order to thank him for what he had done though he had endangered himself and his wife. I intended to stay with them and to accept their religion. They were Baptists .I would mix with the life of the village to avoid any further troubles which I suffered as a Jew.
This reached the ears of a Jew named Glanzmann. He was an inhabitant of our town and he came to take me with him. I was afraid that these terrible times would return and again I would be forced to endure these tortures.
Finally someone decided to convince me to remain Jewish and I was brought to a boarding school where everyone treated me warmly and where I felt well.
The family of Abraham Seligmann and also my aunt my mother's sister asked for me and took me to their house. In the year 1948, I immigrated together with them to Israel. Here I got married and raised a family.
by Perla Knapfmacher
(The trial of Sobibor on 80 recorded tapes).
Hagen. The trial of the extermination camp of Sobibor before the Jury that has continued since September 6th, 1965 is already recorded on 80 tapes each lasting more than 2 = hours including the important parts of the evidence in this trial.
The end of the trial, which continued for 15 weeks and which according to plan was to be over before Christmas, is not yet to be seen.
The participants are sure that it will continue until spring or the summer of 1966. The reason for this is that the evidence of Jews of the extermination camp of Sobibor who survived. It is also expected that the judges have to visit Israel and the USA in order to hear those who are unable to come to Germany because of their health.
Testimony Written With Blood
Hagen. The Sobibor trial which is taking place before the Jury of Hagen approaches its jubilee which means on Thursday, December 23 they will meet for the 5th, time. Though two camp supervisors, Erwin Bauer (65) and Hubert Gamarki (54) were convicted in 1949 to life
Imprisonment for the murder of Jews in Sobibor, the Jury is now hearing testimony of 17 Jews who had escaped during the revolt in the death camp and so survived.
Moshe Bahir, a bank clerk in R.G. is an important witness for the prosecution. He is testifying against the two defendants, Karl Frenzel and Kurt Balender.
He only tells what had happened to him and what he saw with his own eyes.
The witness accuses Balender of killing a child on the pavement of the camp and Frenzel of forcing a Jew to hang his son and finally killing himself, the poor father.
He told about Jewish labourers who were brought from the death camp Belsiz to be exterminated in Sobibor and who had hidden documents written in blood. These documents tell of what had happened in Belsiz and warn the Jews of Sobibor that the same fate awaits them they would be killed.
Hagener Rundschau, n°297, December 22, 1963.
Hagen. One of the 11 accused at the Sobibor trial, Erwin Lampert (55) a constructor from Stuttgart is accused of helping to kill Jews in Sobibor. He is accused of the same guilt in Treblinka.
He was convicted in the trial in Düsseldorf on September 3, 1965 to 4 year's imprisonment but because of his appeal, he was released at the moment. In the Sobibor trial, he was again arrested and accused of building and perfecting the gas chamber in Sobibor.
by Shimon Kanz
A jury of judges, prosecutors and defenders who arrived from Germany and headed by the Israeli Judge, Dr. Beniski, heard testimony for 3 days at the court in TelAviv. The testimony was given by Mrs. Ada Lichtmann who survived after the revolt and who had refused to go to Germany in order to testify at the trial of the executioners of Sobibor. Her testimony led to a loud and stubborn victory of the prosecution over the defence. The more she continued her descriptions of the hell she had experienced, the more appeased the noise of the prosecutors and their questions and comments stopped and they lowered their heads.
In the eyes of the Jewish judge, who himself had tasted the camps of Hitler, stood tears and his voice hardly found its way through his throat.
Spectacles of Cruelty
Don't ask me for exact dates said Mrs. Lichtmann to the provoking and torturing questions of the lawyers. At that time no calendar existed, on the other hand, I remember the events of those days which I am describing because they will remain deeply rooted in my memory throughout my life.
The awful depressive mood and atmosphere of the courtroom. Horror accompanied the route from Krakow from where the Germans had openly exiled her, through Miliz, Dubinski,
Charaschow and other places on the bloody road to Sobibor. Physical and mental pains, blows and humiliations. Her husband Mark Weismann was killed with stones during his work in the Postak camp.
The strikes and blows of the SS men and the Ukrainians while passing the Spalier (their lines) before entrance to the concentration points.
Already at the beginning of her simple words, the lips whispered automatically: Is this possible? From where did this woman with her delicate face and blue eyes take the strength to endure these tortures? From where did she have the strength to tell again of her sufferings?
Devilish Laughter Deafens the Screaming of the Dying
She recalls events of Jews being struck and shot in Dobinko. In Dobinko the Jews were loaded on wagon trains that went to Charabishow.
Planes flew over the trains shooting the wagons with machine guns. They lowered the planes so that we could see the faces of the pilots. And when they stopped the shooting, for a while we heard them laughing. The devilish laughter deafened the screaming of those that were dying.
On the way, somewhere near to Dobinko, they were taken out of the wagons and the men and women were forced to strip off their clothes and begin to dance. The voice of Mrs. Lichtmann breaks off.
Her face reflects her feeling of tortures and the inability to tell all. Her words shiver and only an echo is heard of those awful days which had become worse from day to day.
They were kept on the ground for one day. It was fenced in with barbed wire and once again they were loaded on to the wagons like cattle from the slaughter and then brought to Sobibor. Usually the journey from Charobichow took several hours. But then it extended to eternity and no one, neither Mrs. Lichtmann nor someone else
From the survivors, remembers how long they travelled in those closed wagons.
Nevertheless, the journey lasted for a few days and the German soldiers were amused by their victims. There at the station before Sobibor, the Ukrainians broke into the wagons and plundered jewellery and those who did not succeed to take off their ring from their finger in time, had the ring taken off together with the finger….You don't need either the finger nor the ring and more the wild Ukrainians consoled their victims! Soon you will be broiled and soap will be made from you, dist.
The Polish farmers who waited in front of the entrance to Sobibor, shouted at the Jews in the transports: Throw us your money, anyway it will not redeem you from death. You are going to the gas chamber.
The Speech to the Transports
The shouts of the Poles penetrated into the conscience of those weakened from hunger, pains and agony and they started screaming and yelling thus deafening the camp.
The SS man, Michel who was called by the camp inhabitants the speaker as he received the arrivals with a prepared speech, did not have what to say to the Polish Jews. They were received with whips and gunshots. The Polish farmers also shouted at the Jews from Holland, Belgium, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Greece but they did not understand the meaning of their shouts.
At their arrival in camp they were welcomed with a speech by Michel: You have to be disciplined; Strip off your clothes, make a nice bundled out of them and attach them to the luggage in order to recognize them immediately after the shower because you will not receive other clothes here.
Among the transport of 7,000 men with whom Ada Lichtmann had arrived in 1942 and who went on the same day to the gas chamber, only three women survived. They were chosen to work in the
laundry. With an indication of his finger, the SS commander took her out of the line and asked her for her profession. When she answered that she was a teacher he and his assistants broke out in laughter: We will teach you to be a laundress… choose two other girls! her closest friends, Bela Sobol and Sarka Katz were already beyond the gate on the way to the crematorium but she managed to get them out of the line.
The Jews believed the Germans and in an astonishing order, they packed their belongings and after an hour, not one was alive! Only a few craftsmen were allowed to survive.
Shouts Going Up to the Sky in the Night
We three organized the laundry in the camp. Until then, the German officers too were dirty and liceinfected. In the course of time, the laundry was enlarged and women from other transports arriving daily were distributed to us. The Judges realized how Mrs. Lichtmann hesitates in her narration and speak to her kindly: Talk, remember as much as you can.
The tension in the hall extended also to the memory of the woman. She feels the good eyes of Dr. Beinski on her and that of the steno typist a lieutenant in the police, Mrs. Hela Koslowski, who dries her tears while writing every word that comes out of her mouth.
The Germans do not want to hear about what she knows or to tell about what she has seen with her own eyes. But how can she not tell about the shouts of women who arrived with the night transports. The heartbreaking shouts and screams ceased for only a moment and then once again began to penetrate the limbs and soul. The SS men boasted the next day that they had raped the most beautiful women in front of the whole transport.
Generally the transports arrived during the day. Once on a hot summer day a transport arrived with thirsty people as it had been for several days since they had tasted a drop of water. The
SS officer allowed some to go and fetch water but there the Unterscharfführer Michel was already waiting for them and he made them run to a dugup hole which served as a privy and forced them to smear their body and face with excrement! And thus he brought them back to the thirsty people of the transport. From another transport, young men were forced to beat each other to death. The last one remaining from this terrible battle was shot by the Germans.
Heroic Deeds in Sobibor
The stories of Mrs.Lichtmann and her husband whom she met in Sobibor after the revolt are horrifying.
They tell how the semialive victims tried to maintain to the last moment not only their human faces but also their human souls. They tell about women who tried to save their children and were desperately driven to perform heroic deeds. About young mothers who attempted with their own bodies to cover and to defend their children. They tell about the Jewish officer of the Spanish Civil War who immediately, after his arrival tried to organize a revolt. The Germans found out about it and they chose 72 men which they sent to the crematorium. The men rebelled with bare hands and finally all were shot outside of the crematorium. This massacre was supervised by the Oberscharfführer Frenzel whose trial is taking place at the present interment. Returning from the scene of the murder he ordered the quick erection of a temporary stage out of some plants; called for the orchestra; gathered the women and told them to sing and dance.
This Frenzel once caught a boy redhanded eating sardines. He gathered all the Jews from the barracks and in front of all, he shot the child. Sobibor did not become at once a concentration of plants and workshops. The camp gradually expanded, developed slowly, erecting all kinds of workshops. There the work was done only for the German officers and guards. Coats, dresses, and furs
were sewn for them, their wives and mistresses. Very few Jews were sent to the forest to chop trees. Once the Jews of such a group attacked their guards, killed them and escaped. The Germans took revenge on other Jews. But all considered the heroism of the escapees as a miracle and dreamt of doing the same.
The Rebellion Committee
Sasha Pizurski, who was brought to the camp with a group of prisoners of the Russian army, immediately formed a committee to prepare a revolt. To this committee belonged the heroes Leibl Feldbendler, Shaul Felischmann and others who strongly detested the Germans and had decided to revenge.
In the barracks, weapons started to appear there: axes and knives. How dangerous this was! How much courage, cunning and patience you had to use in order to conceal this. Many efforts of the spirit and mind, the will and courage had to be used to take guns, rifles and bullets from the storehouses. The participants of this operation were divided into groups. The plan was worked out to the smallest detail: Every group had its duties really imaginative tasks. Some had to assault the guard towers where the guards sat with machine guns; some had to tempt the officers into coming into the workshops; others had to attack the guards that were wandering about. Special men had to cut off telephone and electricity lines and tear down the barbed wires to make passage ways.
The Malignant Blood of the SS Men is Shed
The revolt was fixed for October 14, 1943. 700 condemned to death enthusiastically took their fate into their own hands. Until the prearranged sign was given, every group had to perform its tasks well. Nevertheless, things which had not been expected in advance did happen. Guns
started firing from both sides; axes and knives greedy for blood shone in the air and the whole camp changed into one battlefield. On this day, October 14th at 17hr, there began on the hellground of Sobibor the shedding of the malignant blood of the SS men and their Ukrainian assistants. Those who had been so sure of themselves when millions of innocent women and children were led to their deaths seemed now anxious and inferior. They became confused and ran like mice into the trap looking for a hiding place.
The SS men and the police pursued the escapers. They mobilized airplanes and the Polish farmers of the area to help them pursue the fleeing Jews. Only a few pitied the victims and did not hand them over to the Germans. Out of the 700 escaping from Sobibor, only about 30 survived. Mrs. Ada Lichtmann and two of her friends, one of them a Polish woman called Alina SternSofermann who is living in Israel, succeeded with the help of some young Poles in arriving at the partisans in the woods of Parzew and continued their war against the German army. But until they reached the forest, they had wandered around the camp day and night living off tree leaves and poisonous mushrooms that burnt their intestines to the extent they wished to die.
They lowered their eyes and one of them was turning his head from side to side replied: No, we did not easily agree to accept such a mission. It was forced upon us officially. And the second added: It's a good thing that you did not agree to come to Germany….so we were able to come to Israel, a wonderful journey.
One of those present in the hall heard this conversation: The blood of the Jews shed by the Germans flowed like a river. Don't you think that by defending the murderers you emphasize the responsibility of the German people of what took place? The two defenders ignored the question, avoided answering and the question remained unanswered.
by Misha Lew
We the organization of the survivors of Wlodowa in Israel, together with the survivors of the death camp of Sobibor, declare herewith our recognition and our thankfulness to the Jewish Russian officer, Alexander Zerski, the courageous hero, the organizer of the revolt in Sobibor and his three friends of the mutiny that survived: Arkadi Weispapir, Simion Rosenfeld and Ipis Litbonowski. God bless also the memory of those who fell in the battle during the revolt.
In this death camp, 68km from Wlodowa, all the Jews of the town and its surroundings were suffocated and burnt. Thanks to the heroism of the organizer and participants of the revolt, the honour of the Jews was saved and their revolt against the forces of their tortures marks the courage and heroism of the Jews. May the shortened fragments of the essay of Misha Lew on the four heroes and the description of the course of the battle that we bring in our memory book be a document for the generations of the Jewish history.
Alexander Kazarski, lieutenant of the Soviet army captured by the German army near Viasma in 1941.
Arkadi Weispapir was imprisoned near Lazernigow.
Simion Rosenfeld, not yet 19 years old bombed, together with Soviet soldiers, vans loaded with weapons. He was wounded and imprisoned near the border.
Ipis Litwinowski was also wounded and captured.
For two years, they were dragged from one camp to another until they arrived in Minsk. There they were shut up in a cellar together with other Jewish prisoners. Every day, corpses
Were taken out of the cellar and the guard would ask: Do we have to still wait a long until all of you die? and a voice always answered: Yes, you will have to wait a long time!
Together with them was a Jewish communist from Poland, Shlomo Leitmann and someone from the Soviet Union, Boris Zibolski.
On September 19, all these men that had declared that they were craftsmen, carpenters, constructors and others were taken away from Minsk. They were loaded on to 25 wagons, always 70 per wagon. For 4 days and nights the train crawled to Sobibor. During this time, they did not taste a slice of bread or a drop of water.
The Oberscharfführer ordered the craftsmen without family to leave. Among those that descended were Pazarski Leitmann, Rosenfeld, Weispapir, Litwinowski, Schubejew and others. They were led to an enclosed area surrounded by barbed wire, where people of the camp were arranging logs of wood. It suddenly became so difficult to breath that one could nearly suffocate. In the area of about half a kilometre, a dense smoke dispersed and you could see flames of fire and a terrible noise was heard. Hundreds of geese were making noise. When they were already in the barrack, someone entered and told them to stand with their backs to the train. He asked: From where are the Jews coming? From Minsk he was answered and was also asked why nobody had answered their greeting. This is an order because not all the people of our train have been burnt yet. You were left to finish the northern camp.
That same evening they learnt that the camp was built according to the order from Himmler. This plan was worked out by the SS engineer Tomol. The supervision of the construction was
in the hands of the chief supervisor of the death camp, Holdheimer and the engineer Maser. Himmler himself visited the camp in July 1943 and after his visit they started to burn 15,000 Jews per day.
Sobibor consisted of three camps actually. In the first the workshops of the shoemakers, tailors, carpenters and two officer domiciles were situated.
From there, there was a passageway to the second camp. There the belongings of those who were moved over to the third camp through the Himmelsstrasse (skystreet) were classified and packed. Already half a million Jews were exterminated. 15002000 Jews a day arrived at Sobibor from Poland; Czechoslovakia, Holland, France, Austria and other countries. The first train was from the Soviet Union.
Baruch, who had already been in the camp for a year and a half, told us: In the spring a couple tried to escape. They were seized and killed together with another 150 people. Two communists, who worked with some of the camp inhabitants in town, suffocated the guard and escaped. The others were brought back and shot, but Pazarski acted towards him with suspicion.
In the northern camp there was work for a month only. On the same day, 25 men who had approached were beaten. They were beaten with a whip coated with rubber and the one being hit had to count in a loud voice and if he made a mistake, the beating started from the beginning again. The next day 25 others were beaten.
On the third day, Franz the camp leader shot the cook because he did not succeed in distributing the water soup within the time allotted to him i.e. 10 minutes.
On the fourth day, Pazarski was lucky and escaped from sure death. He stood with other camp inhabitants and was cutting woodblocks with an unsharpened axe. His working partner, a Dutch notary, was cleaning his glasses and was contemplating on how to cut the bloc. Franz approached him and with all his strength struck
his head. The Dutchman's glasses fell off and broke into thousands of pieces, strewn with blood he started hacking with his axe on the tree and Franz was hacking at his head with his stick until he collapsed on the earth drowning in his own blood.
Pazarski stood looking at both until his glance met with that of the murderer and this one shouted: Russ komm her! (Russian come here!). Baserski, the Kapo told him that the Oberscharfführer gave him 5 minutes to cut the piece of wood and in return he would get a pack of cigarettes and if not, he would be beaten to death. Alexander spread out his legs, rubbed his hands, lifted the axe and turned his head towards the German who had drawn his gun and quickly put it back.
After four and a half minutes the block was cut. When he gave him the cigarette, he refused. I do not smoke he said. Franz said something to the Kapo and he went and returned with bread and a package of margarine. This Pazarski refused to accept. I am not hungry he said.
And, oh wonder! The Oberscharfführer put his gun back into his case and went away. In the course of time, Baruch gained the trust of Pazarski and one day he told Baruch about the underground group that existed in the camp and to which the following belonged: Leon Feldhendler, who worked together with Baruch in the second camp and the manager of the tailor workshops; Jusek the shoemaker; Jacob and the carpenter Janek.
Do you know in which places the field is mined? Alexander asked him. Yes answered Baruch. It is like a chessboard for me. I myself dug the holes for the mines. Afterwards, Baruch was brought to the women's camp where he was introduced to some girls and one of them, Lioka who was breeding rabbits, told him that from her place of work, she could see through cracks in the wood on about 300 geese were moved
to the third camp and behind the geese there followed black and naked people for hours. They were driven to the brick structure and then passed through the metal gate. Then the Diesel was operated which infused the poison into the cells.
Pazarski and Leitmann came frequently to the locksmiths and the smith. Once they met Bazatski there. Leitmann pulled Alexander away: Let's go! Go alone said the Kapo. I have to clear something up with Sasha. After Leitmann had gone, Bazatski said: You are not careful at all. The event with Franz, your frequent visits to the women's camp. You think I do not understand that Loika is nothing but an excuse? Your righthand is Leitmann. I only want to tell you. If I were a dog I would have handed you over long since but I understand that I too will be burnt, they don't want to leave witnesses.
It's good that you understand. But why do you tell me all this? Sasha, why should we lose time in vain? Remember that together with us you can gain a lot. Let us join with you. Me and the kapo Zapik from the train headquarters. Of the kapo Schmidt, I myself am afraid. Think it over and the sooner the better for all of us.
On October 12th in the evening not only the fascists but also the Russian prisoners were standing on guard. Arkadi Weispapir inspected the ground and Simion Rosenfeld did not stop watching the gate. They had received the order to announce immediately if they had seen something suspicious.
But they did not know that when the guard beat 9 times with his iron stick on the railway, nine people gathered in the carpenter's workshop to discuss whether to invite a tenth man or not. What would Arkadi Weispapir have said if he had known that this tenth man was the Kapo Basetzki?
Sasha sent for Basetzki and when he appeared he said: We are starting with consultations. What, Sasha. You want to try me or to warn me?
There is no time for reproaches now, you
really ought to be judged, nevertheless we are entrusting you with the lives of 600 Jews and why should we warn you? You know yourself quite well what is to be expected if you betray us.
The next morning Basetzki came to the carpentry workshop and shouted at Janek that the doors in Kasrektin did not close and open as they should. How should I know this? replied Janek. I never go there. You always have an excuse ready. Give me someone from the workers and I will bring him there.
The labourer who took the tool box was of course, Pazarski. He acted as if he tried out the locks in the empty rooms of Kasrektin, closed the doors and quickly opened the closets and saw for himself that the gun magazines and the girdles were empty. In the afternoon he and Shlomo ascended the loft observing for a long time the forest to the right of the gate.
They decided to cut the barbed wire next to the officer's house. They knew that the mines around it were only warning mines and it was possible to explode them with stones that they had long since prepared. Also ready was the dry sand to throw into the eyes of the guards.
On the loft it was finally decided what everyone had to do the next day. Thursday, October 14th at 16hr in the afternoon when the officers would come to try on their suits. Everything had to be ready up to 17hr the hour of the rollcall. Tonight, 70 men had to be equipped with arms, sharp knives and axes which the locksmiths and smiths had secretly prepared for them.
Rest a little bit Sasha. Immediately, but I am contemplating the advice I am going to propose to Finkewitz who will lead the line. After all he is a lieutenant in the army and experienced. Don't dare, he is frightened. A few days ago I hinted to him that he has to do something; he answered that he would not participate in adventures. Perhaps he does not trust you?
Nonsense, in Minsk he had already said:
under Pilsudski it was still possible to be communist but under Hitler it is impossible. Very rarely has this region experienced in October such warm and beautiful days. Basetzki burst out coarsely and let the rubber hose run freely in his hands. The supervisor Grelschutz called him and gave him a packet of cigarettes for his nice work.
Basarski went with 7 men to the little carpentry workshop. From there you could look at the first camp as if it were on the palm of your hand. The head of the great workshop was Leitmann on that day and not Janek. With him were 20 men of the Red Army and under their shirts they had hammers and knives.
At 3:30 Basetzki had to lead Zibolski and two others to the second camp and kill the four Fascists that were there. But at 2:00 o'clock' one SS man came and ordered Basetzki and three others to come with him. Bazarski's face was bathed in cold sweat. He went to the great workshop of the carpenters and told Janek and the Kapo Zepik to go and see where they were being led. They were only taken to arrange the wood logs in the northern camp.
Bazarski called Zublski and told him: Zapek will bring you to the second camp. This does not come into account! shouted Sapek. without a permit I am not allowed to go there. We have to postpone everything until tomorrow.
What! You refuse? Zibulski answered. Everything will be alright.
The German officers were told to come at a fixed time for the fittings of the suits or boots. The executioner Neumann had to be the first to come to the workshop of the tailors. At 4:00 o'clock.
He came riding in 20 minutes before the time. The main tailor, Jusek and the tailors Shubajew and Rosenfeld asked him to take off the coat. He took it off together with the girdle and the gun and put it on the table.
Please said Jusek as he gave Neumann the coat. Please turn to the light.
At the same moment, Rosenfeld seized Neumann's weapon and Schubajew took the axe which was hidden near the table.
They covered the corpse with rags and the blood stains with sand. Schubajew went to Bazarski to tell him the news. At 4:05 o'clock Göttinger, the vicehead of the camp and responsible for the Himmelstrasse came to get his boots. He was killed by Arkadi Weispapir.
At 4:10 o'clock the head of the Police, Greischütz opened the door and fell down to earth. He was killed by Simion.
From far, the SS man Gaulstick was seen going to the second camp, of which Bazarski did not know what was going on. Leitmann came towards him and said: Mister Officer. We were ordered to finish the bed planks and we don't have exact instructions. The carpenters don't do anything. Perhaps you can come for a moment? Shlomo made the way free for him to the beds and from the first hit, he was dead.
At 4:20 Zibulski came to Bazarski and told him: The four officers are dead, their weapons taken and the telephone connection cut. The leaders of the second camp are now Lion and Baruch. To the courtyard came some tinsmiths with zinc cones in their hands and brought 6 German guns with bullets.
At 4:30 Basetzki returned with his group and told that the smith from Lodz, Henrik Hengel, had killed Unterschafführer Beckman with an iron bar and had taken his machine gun.
It was time to give the signal for the general action but Bazarski was waiting. Franz, the supervisor of the camps was still alive. It was promised that too would come to the little carpenter workshop to see the new closets. Why did he not come? Nevertheless they had to begin. Bazarski told Basetski to give the signal and to stand them all in line. In the first line stood 70 war prisoners of the Russian war who had to attack the weapon storehouse. Leon brought from the second
camp 150 men. It became noisy, crowded and everyone guessed that something was going on and wanted to be near to the gate.
At the same moment the supervisor of the guards appeared as though from the earth. He did not understand what this noise meant before the roll call and his whip started to work from right to left. He succeeded in standing up all in lines of 5. He turned around and saw that not only Basetski as usual was going after him but also other camp inhabitants.
Look Kapo that they should stand immediately. He shouted and drew out his gun. Rosenfeld and some others drew their axes. It was now impossible to stop the mass. Suddenly Bazarski's order was heard: Friends to the house of the officers to cut off the wires!
Now those in the watchtowers understood that something was going on and they opened fire. Pinkewitz and others were running to the main gate. But they did not reach the forest. They were killed on the mines. The Russian prisoners with Bazarski ran to the weapon storehouse but the fireshots laid them down to the ground. Also, the fascist set off for the storehouse. The uprising had only a few rifles and guns; nevertheless, they were enough to force the Germans to creep on all fours but not enough to conquer a weapons storehouse.
Bazarski saw Franz arriving almost at the gate of the storehouse and when he tried to get up, he shot him.
One after one to the house of the officer Bazarski ordered. Tear the wires and quickly go to the forest. He himself would remain with some men with arms in order to prevent the enemy from pursuing the unarmed rebels.
Commander someone addressed him. It is time to withdraw.
Commander, his heart fluttered. It was the first time in two years he was thus addressed although he was still in the death camp; he was no longer its inhabitant.
He stood at the edge of the forest to get a
breath of fresh air and he saw some more people running. Bullets whistled felling one here and another tread on a mine and there fell a woman who was already close to the forest.
They were going one after the other. At the head was Bazarski, after him Zublski and the last was Weispapir.
To leave the forest was like abandoning a fortress behind which was an open field with a moat full of water.
Weispapir had heard something and one transmitted to the next: Beware! There is still someone here. They heard Kaukasian it was Schubejew with his group. All had already passed towards the second bank of the moat and again the forest spread out before them. Only Bazarski was sad. Schubejew had told him that Leitmann was serious wounded. Shlomo, Leon and Baruch had to find the Polish partisans. Now he was lying on a stretcher seriously wounded. Who could tell if he would live until the morning?
Pazarski was walking and thinking of those days when he had been together with Leitmann and he had not realized how he loved him. It was enough that Leitmann would lay down his head and Bazarski would know that he could not live without him. Shlomo sent his last farewell and thanks with Schubejew …whom he had to thank first if not Shlomo as they were free now. Bazarski would never forget him.
But to further entertain sentimental thoughts, he was not allowed. He had to take care of 60 men following him. He knew that it would be difficult to hide with such a great group and impossible to escape without it being realized.
A rustle and all held their breaths. Again, silence. Good that it had been a false alarm. They continued and there a woman was crying: Moishe, wo bist du? (Moshe, where are you?) True, no one heard Moshe's answer but it seemed as if her voice did not spread only in the forest but once again she cried: Moishe, wo bist du?
What were they to do? To send her away? Shlomo would have shaken his head: No! The
Scouts went and returned announcing: sparse woods, field, and railway. What should we do? Should we stay in the forest? Here they would certainly look for us. They crept to the railway and hid between the bushes. Lucky for them the wind did not disperse the clouds and a thin and dull drizzle trickled since the morning. Only in the afternoon were some planes to be seen. And from the surrounding forests, shots and the barking of dogs could be heard. The Germans and the police were searching there. At night they crept across the railway and continued.
They met other escapees from Sobibor in the forest. Are you going to the Bug? Return as it is full of Germans there. Bazarski and 8 others decided not to deviate from their course. In a little cave in the forest they all gathered for the last time. Bazarski said: Friends. We will divide into 6 groups. I wish you all a good journey. Succeed and revenge!
They hugged him, kissed him and whispered: many thanks to you Sasha. We will never forget you.
After 4 days, 9 men sneaked into a yard in a farm and they waited some hours there until the evening.
Alexander then knocked at the window. Someone moved the curtain and the door was opened. Bazarski, Zibulski, Schubejew and Weispapir entered. The rest stood outside on guard. Here, in the farm, far from the border of Poland and White Russia, you heard that in Chelm or Maidanek, a miracle had taken place.
They say said the farmer, that from the ovens where the fascists were burning people, the deadliving had suddenly started to jump and seize the Germans by their necks, suffocating them. They say that not far was situated a division of Germans who at first grabbed their guns and then threw them away from fear and escaped.
Help us to cross the Bug whispered Bazarski. The owner adjusted the wick of the burner,
covered the window with a cover and said: God himself helps you. How can I refuse? he addressed his children: Adja, serve to eat and you Tadek, slip into your boots and prepare for the journey.
In the night of October 20th they already stepped on the earth of White Russia. After 2 days and not far from Brisk, they met the first partisans. 8 men were accepted in the Kotowski division. Bazarski went to another camp called Shazar because there he was promised to be put with a group of saboteurs who were due to bomb a train.
Boris Zibulski and Alexander Schubejew fell as heroes.
Alexander Bazarski and Arkadi Weispapir succeeded in joining the Red Army. The red ribbons on their hats were changed into stars and again battles.
At the end of August, Bazarski was seriously wounded and Weispapir rushed to the West. Bazarski did not cease to inquire of the fate of his friends the rebels during the 4 months that he stayed in the division hospital and later as a citizen in Rostow.
He learnt that on the same evening they escaped, the Germans sounded the alarm. And on October 16th, a special division of excavators arrived and exploded all the buildings and the guard towers. They pulled out the pillars of the barbed wire, loaded them on to vans and together with the bulldozers that had excavated the pits for the ashes of the burnt, took them away. They also took the transport of wagons on which there were still corpses as well as the diesel engines that had operated the flow of nitrogen. They even killed the geese and rabbits.
Many of the escapees were captured, others escaped to the partisans. Jaftim Litwinowski was at the first in the division of a Polish partisan division. Afterwards he met in the woods in Skoporodniza a group of Russian soldiers who had also escaped from the German camps. Their leader was Fiodor Kawakiow. Together, they
joined the famous partisan union under the leadership of Fiodorow, a hero who had distinguished himself twice in the Soviet Union.
Simion Rosenfeld felt sharp pains in his right leg an hour after they had escaped from the camp. He and two young boys, the brothers Monik and Jusek, left the group and went southward to the woods in Sawin. They were told that a partisan camp existed here. They wandered for two weeks in the forest until, close to the Janow farm, they found an extinguished fire on which stood a big round pot covered with leaves in which boiled peas were found. Obviously someone was there. 100 meters away they found an excavation where 5 people were living. They had come 10 days before from Sobibor as well as 3 Jews from Czechoslovakia (Schnabel, Karnischauer, Silbermann) who had escaped from another camp.
At the end of December the first snow fell. With the snow there came an armed group of 6 AKA men who did not succeed in entering the ditch in time. 5 were killed (one escaped) from the grenade that had been thrown into the ditch. Another man was killed and they started pulling boards over the ditch.
Rosenfeld tied up the 3 gun bullets he had in his pocket and laid them on a board under them. He put a burning candle and the bullets exploded and caused the murderer to flee.
4 people remained in the ditch. They had been hiding for 7 weeks and they then moved to a farm of friends between Lublin and Chelm. In the second half of July 1944 the Red Army liberated Chelm. Rosenfeld's wound had not yet healed but he went to the Soviet General and demanded: Send me immediately to the front!
In the region of Lodz a soldier at Posen, a sergeant also wounded in his right leg and right hand and back to Lodz to the hospital. But this time not for long. When the Reichstag was burning enclosed by smoke there stood a man like thousands of others at the walls and moved for a moment the machine gun to his left hand. This was Simion Rosenfeld, not yet 23 years old, who had already white hair and a wrinkled forehead. In a splinter he inscribed the name of Baranowitz Sobibor Berlin.
Such has been the custom of our fathers and forefathers for many a generation: on old book pages they would note down the memorial days of ancestors and relatives who had passed away.
During the holocaust, the books were destroyed, the names disappeared from the face of the earth and those memorial days, sacred to every family, sank into oblivion.
We've supplemented our memorial book with additional pages through which we wish to carry on with the great tradition of remembrance. Thus, so that our ancestors memory shall forever dwell in the hearts of their offspring. In those empty pages, may each and every one of the remnants of our community, note down in memory of those holy ones of his family who passed away, their names, age and where and how they died or were killed and where they were buried.
And cometh the day, after 120 years when our children shall continue to write in the remaining empty pages the memorial days of their loved ones that have passed away fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers; and all those dear souls whose memory shall forever be carried in our hearts.
Other empty pages are intended for noting down important events such as marriages, etc.
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