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Holocaust

 

We Flee From Death

by Israel Itche Korman (Israel)

In November 1939, several Zwolin Jews, in a desperate effort to escape the Nazi hellfire, fled from Zwolin, running wherever their eyes carried them. I and my wife Leah, after much wandering, arrived in Warsaw. There we met Folish Zucker, my wife's brother and his wife Gitl; Hershl Goldstein and his wife; Moshe Lederhendler, and other natives of Zwolin.

After several weeks sojourn in Warsaw, we realized that the situation was growing more perilous from day to day, and began to seriously consider making our way to the provinces, where at least there was food to be gotten – or so we had been told.

Folish, his wife and child Laybele, did go, but quickly returned. The brutal Nazi fist was just as threatening there as in Warsaw.

Folish suggested that we try to get into Russia. The men would go first, and then send for the women and children. Hershl Goldstein and his wife rejected this plan, and so did I: 1) We had heard frightening rumors which made us doubt that

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we could cross the border safely; 2) The road to the frontier was fraught with danger.

But after 6 weeks in Warsaw, I changed my mind about stealing across the border. The inhuman conditions of forced labor, the savage beatings at work, the shooting, finally convinced me that we must try to get away.

I and the others searched our souls: A person should not remain among venomous serpents, and if he doesn't run away and is bitten, it is his own fault. Now, while we still had the opportunity to escape to Soviet Russia, what were we waiting for? We were aware that the situation there was not a happy one either; still, one could walk freely in the streets without constant fear of being arrested and sent God knows where.

Since many of us felt this way, we decided to risk it, and we set out.

A minimum of preparation was all that was needed, for there was no point in taking much with us: no clothing, no linen, no shoes and no money, because the Germans took everything away and left us with 10 zlotys, and sometimes not even that. So we put two changes of underwear into a bag; we threw a little home-made tobacco into our pockets, stuffed a few zlotys (Polish currency) into our clothing wherever we could, and took to our heels.

I went to say good-bye to my oldest sister Chane and her 8 children. Her husband Yehiel Goldberg was dead. We find it difficult to talk through our tears. I also say good bye to my second sister Chave. Who knows if we will ever meet again? My sister's son Jacob begs me to take him with me, but his mother refuses – she ignores his pleading.

She quotes the advice of a pious Jew: “Children should remain with their mother.” They remained – and eventually

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they were all victims of the murderers: my 2 sisters, and Chane's 8 children.

Our first stop was in Sokolow. There we met an old peasant who offered to take us to the River Bug and from there, he told us, we would be taken by boat to the Russian side. Four more Jews had joined our group.

On the way we were stopped by German entries and brought to the commandant's headquarters. We were searched, and then ordered to put everything we had hidden on the table or else we would get a bullet in the head. By some miracle they found nothing, since we had all hidden our money in various places, especially in the soles of our shoes.

When we continued on our way, we were again searched several times. With God's help, we came to a house in a village 2 kilometers from the Bug. The house was crowded with Jews of all kinds, young and old. Some were running back FROM Russia; others, like us, were running TO Russia.

These two factions argued incessantly. T hose who were running BACK told about THEIR Hell. Yes, it was Hell here and Hell there. Which was better? Maybe we were all right. WE had no experience of the RUSSIAN side, and THEY hadn't tasted life under the GERMANS. They made their escape several weeks ago, and had not heard about the German slaughters of Polish Jews.

We are waiting to be taken to the other side, where a Jew is still regarded as a human being; and they are waiting for dawn so they can go home, because it is forbidden to leave at night. They are not aware that for Jews there can be no daylight in the hands of the killers.

The fateful hour struck at midnight, November 6, 1939. A small rowboat swam up. Three Jews and two peasants stepped

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into it. One of the Jews was my brother-in-law Folish. A big group of Jews stood waiting their turn.

Within a few minutes we heard terrified screams from the water. The boat had turned over. Three survivors swam to shore, but my brother-in-law was drowned.

We were all deeply shaken by this tragedy. None of us slept that night. We were helpless against fate. There was no guarantee that we would be lucky. There never is.

The next boat which the peasant brought was much larger, and held almost all the Jews who were waiting. We arrived safely on the other side of the Bug. There I and other Zwolin Jews quickly boarded a train for Russia.

I met natives of Zwolin everywhere; on the train, on my wanderings throughout Russia. It is a mitzvah to mention their names:

Chaim-Israel, David Peretzes' son (his fate is unknown to me); Ezekiel Waksman, Lonye Tsitrin's husband, perished in Russia; Hinde Boymlgrin and her husband… the daughter of Anshl-Zalmens… died there; as did Abraham Bender and his wife; Velvl Bendelman, the son of Fishl Kamashnmacher (boot-maker) with his wife and children, as well as his mother and a brother were killed in Lemberg, Samuel Kaplan, the son of Hersh-Wolf, returned to Zwolin, Simche-Itche, Motl's son, the son-in-law of Mendl Sharfharts, perished together with the other Zwolin Jews. He went to Zwolin to rescue his wife.

Jantche Schwartsberg (Zayonts), the son of Miriam, and his wife Hinde Lederman died in Russia. He was very active in the Zwolin Drama Group. He portrayed the role of Shimele Soroker in “Dos Groyse Gevins,” (The Lottery); the role of the buffoon in “Deinacht Oyfn Altn Mark,” (Night In The Old Marketplace); in “Yoshke Musikant” (Yoshke the Musician); in “Dorfs Yung” – (The Village Lad,) and others.

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Simchele, son of Ber and Fayge-Pesse Kuperberg, returned to Warsaw. He couldn't forgive himself for having left his parents and gone on without them. He perished in the Warsaw Ghetto. A brother of Arish Lederman died in Kovel. Arish Lederman was an active Communist, spent 5 years in prison and 1 year in Kartuz-Bereze. He paid a visit to Israel in 1967, a few days before the Six Day War. When I asked him: “How would you sum up your life?” he replied: 'I did some things without thinking. I thought it was day, but it turned out to be night.”

Lederman returned to Warsaw. In the middle of a discussion in which he defended Israel against the wave of rabid anti-semitism in Communist Poland, he suffered a heart attack while sitting at the table, and died.


The Horrors of a Survivor

by Moishe Flumenbaum

It was Sukkoth, the 17th of October, 1942. There was an ominous feeling in the air – a foreboding that all was not well in our town of Zwolin. We spent the entire day in the grip of fear. In the evening, a rumor spread that the town was completely surrounded by SS Men. All night we heard shooting from different areas.

I could hardly wait for day to dawn. At 6 in the morning, the sirens suddenly sounded. Thinking there was a fire, I

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looked out of the window to see where it was. But there was no blaze anywhere – the siren had been a warning to all Jews to leave their homes and assemble in the marketplace. That was the real peril! The very stones under our feet were burning! That night alone 30 Jews were murdered.

Amidst great commotion and tumult, people started running from all sides: mothers with infants in their arms; men and women clutching their meager belongings. Everyone hastened to the marketplace, which was surrounded by a cordon of gendarmes, SS Men and Ukrainians. Those who could not or did not run fast enough were shot on the spot.

Almost the entire town had crowded into one end of the marketplace. The sobs and anguished screams were heartbreaking to hear.

The blackguards lined up people in rows of five: big and little were driven like cattle to the train, in the neighboring town of Garbatke. The Gestapo selected 80 Jewish young men for the Labor Corps.

The town looked as though it had been pogromized. Jewish homes stood abandoned, doors and windows gaping open. Bedding and other household goods were scattered all over the streets in jumbled heaps inter–twined with the bodies of the dead.

When the fiendish deed was over, the selected 80 Jews were ordered to clean up the mess.

It was a hideous, painfully slow task. We loaded wagons with layer upon layer of corpses. Their arms and legs hung down, still streaming blood. The slaughterhouse carts then made their way to the cemetery. There we unloaded the bodies and buried them in a mass grave, while the gendarmes stood with pointed rifles urging us to hurry. They kept shouting, threatening that we would be the last to be shot. It was a dreadful experience:

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Here a son recognized the body of his father; a brother – that of his sister. We were not allowed to weep, to show any sign of grief. Our orders were to bury the children between the legs of the adults.

We had to examine each body for hidden money or other valuables. Suddenly, a gendarme name Krol took Chone Traiman's two small children down from one of the wagons. The played with them awhile, and before we realized what was happening he took his gun and shot them!

At five o'clock in the evening our grim task was finally finished. Exhausted, desolate and heartbroken, we were taken back to town, which itself looked like a cemetery. We – a handful of Jews – were the only ones to be seen in the streets.

Only then did we grasp the great tragedy that had befallen us: each of us was now alone. Each of us had lost his closest relatives and friends.

Our lamentations rent the heavens. We ran about like madmen – back and forth, back and forth – tearing our hair, screaming wildly or muttering to ourselves.

By order of the Burgermeister we were given lodging on Tsietsena Street, in the ghetto hospital. The catastrophe of the previous night and day had left us broken, and we literally looked shrunken. We were so overwhelmed by the suffering of our brethren that we had lost all desire to eat or drink.

At midnight several Jews sneaked into our quarters. They had been in hiding all day. We ran to meet them, our eyes glazed with fear and disbelief. “Itzik, is it really you? You're alive?” Sobbing, we embraced and kissed.

At four in the afternoon several gendarmes appeared and surrounded our lodgings. We heard the terrifying command: “Everyone out!” We were separated from each other with

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vicious force. Everyone started running in different directions. There was a wild commotion. People were trampled upon; some crawled under beds, some huddled under tables – each one desperate for a place to hide. We heard savage shouts: “Everyone out!” accompanied by the sound of gunshots.

“Jews, let's get out fast!” a voice called out. We all ran toward the exit, some jumped through the windows – but it was clear: we were lost! This was the end! There was mad climbing over bodies. The wounded cried out for a drop of water – but nobody paid any attention. All those who could run made their escape and in a few minutes all was still.

We stood shivering with fear, waiting for the next command. Soon we heard the fiendish voice of the much–hated Lieutenant: A few selected Jews were ordered to the barracks, where they disappeared. The rest of us were lined up, and kept standing until 11 o'clock, guarded by the Polish police and gendarmes. In the still night we heard the footsteps of the marchers echoing through the town as they were driven to the cemeteries. In the quiet night we also heard the sound of machine–guns killing off the rest of the Jews from our town of Zwolin.

The writer of this horror story, and four other friends, buried the dead. With trembling lips I whispered the “yisgadal ve'yiskadash” –– my comrades murmured AMEN, our lament piercing the stillness of the black, gloomy, unforgettable night of horror.


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From Radom Through Zwolin
In the Concentration Camps

by Chaim Sharit–Shlwfman (New York)

I

In October, 1939, we settled in Radom, hoping it would be easier to endure the Nazi terror there than in our town of Zwolin.

We were a family of 6: My father, Meyer Shlufman; mother Faygele; sister Ruzhke; my brothers Hershl and Yosl, and myself.

The first thing we had to do was register with the Judenrat, in order to obtain food ration cards. Even with these, there was barely enough food available to keep us alive. In addition, the Nazis started to bombard us with anti–semitic edicts; Jews must wear a white band stamped with a blue Magen–David on their right arms; Jews were forbidden to use public transportation; to be seen in public places such as parks or cinemas. Jews were not allowed to live in certain streets, and they were conscripted for forced labor, etc.

The winter of 1940 brought with it unparalleled hardships. The light of the Radom Jews continued to worsen. Some of us began to make plans to escape to Soviet–occupied Poland, although we were fully aware that if we were caught we would be killed. Some of my former schoolmates, Binem Aratz and Moshe Danziger, urged me to escape, but I refused, mainly because I didn't want to abandon my parents. Incidentally, Binem lost his life in the Battle of Leningrad and Moshe now lives in Frankfurt. Many of those who did run away came back at the end of the winter, 1940, at great risk, and told us that the situation in the Soviet–occupied territories was catastrophic. Sometime later,

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I met Avreml Boymlgrin, one of those who returned from Russia, in Zwolin.

One of the residents in our house in Radom was the Zwolin family of Kopl Mandelbaum, whose brother Naftoli was a member of the Zwolin Judenrat.

From time to time a member of our family made a brief visit to Zwolin, where my mother's entire family was still living: my uncle Moshe Goldstein with his wife Rachel and children; my uncle Ezekiel with his wife Yente and children; my uncle Hershl, who moved from Warsaw to Zwolin during the war. They all perished in the Holocaust.

Another family member who remained in Zwolin was my father's brother Isaac Shlufman, a cereal–maker, with his 3 daughters and 2 sons. The only survivor of this family was my cousin Zelde.

In Zwolin, as in all Nazi–occupied communities, the authorities established a Judenrat, which was compelled to enforce all the harsh decrees handed down by the Germans. It must be mentioned here, however, that despite the stranglehold and pressure upon them, the Zwolin Judenrat did its best to help its brethren in this tragic time.

As though the misery and suffering brought down on us by the Germans was not enough, a widespread typhus–epidemic broke out in Zwolin at the end of winter 1940. It claimed numerous Jewish lives, among them my cousin Miriam Shlufman, Isaac Shlufman's youngest daughter.

The Zwolin Judenrat consisted of the following members: Velvl Kirshenblatt, Chairman; Naftoli Mandelbaum, Nahum Walman, Yosl Goldberg, Zelik Zweigenberg.

* * *

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At the end of June, 1940, my brother Hershl and I were ordered by the Labor Division of the Radom Judenrat to report for 6 weeks of hard labor in Tarle vicinity. Afraid to be seen loitering, we hurried to the assembly point, where we met many Jews from Zwolin. Not until we reached our destination did we find out where we would be working. It was Lipowe 7, a camp in the heart of Tarle. Subsequently, it became known as the place where thousands of Jews lost their lives – victims of the infamous Globotchnik–Plan.

Globotchnik was the man who helped organize the Nazi reign of terror in Austria prior to the Anschluss. Later he became Gauleiter in Vienna, and after the German occupation of Poland, he was assigned the task of “solving the Jewish problem in the Terla District.” His plan was to transport the Jews of Austria and Czechoslovakia “Zum Ostn” (to the East) for the ostensible purpose of “colonizing” the Eastern Regions with Jews from the West – who were all subsequently slain, either there or in Maidanek and other Death camps.

Our transport of 500 Radom Jews came to a halt at Lipowe 7. With sticks and blackjacks the SS drove us out of the trucks, herded us into one spot, ordered us to kneel down and sing Yiddish songs. Later we were forced to stand for hours in the burning sun. We were parched with thirst, and Polish workers took advantage of our agony to sell us bottles of water for 250 zlotys each.

Several hours later we were again packed into trucks. One group – Hershl and I among them – were brought to camp Belzec, and another group to neighboring camp Plashow.

Belzec was the largest camp in the vicinity. Its chief was SS Major Dalz – one of the most vicious sadists in the entire territory. It was said that he personally shot down a thousand Jews in Tomashow–Lubelsk.

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We were assigned to digging deep trenches along the border as traps for tanks.

The camp was filthy and crowded. We worked hard, but did not suffer hunger, because the Radom Judenrat had succeeded in obtaining permission to send us packages of food once a week. We shared our rations with those who did not receive packages.

We were exposed to the greatest danger at work. Very often Dalz himself came riding by on his horse, and woe be to you if he took a dislike to you.

Once he ordered me and an Austrian Jew to run after his galloping horse and bring barbed wire from the warehouse.

Fortunately for us, the camp was not efficiently run in the usual German manner. The authorities knew the approximate number of Jews in the camp, but there was no accurate list of all the prisoners. Thus it was possible to escape without the Germans knowing. They would not miss us.

Once I sent a letter with the emissary of the Radom Judenrat who delivered the food packages. In my letter I hinted that Hershl and I must get away from this hell–hole as soon as possible. My father caught the hint. One day, after work, the Hauptscharfuehrer (Section chief) of the SS – Bartechko – called out my name and ordered me to go to Tomashow–Lubelsk for food supplies. I instantly grasped his meaning. When I arrived there, I found a night's lodging in the home of a Jewish woman. I was not the only one, and I saw that there were other Jews as wise as my father. The German who helped us received a substantial sum of money from all of us. The next day I went to Radom with the truck that belonged to the Radom Judenrat. Several weeks later Hershl was brought to Radom in the same way.

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Needless to say, our family and friends were overjoyed when Hershl and I returned home. But in Radom life continued to grow more and more burdensome. In October 1940 SS men requisitioned our house and we were forced to move in with another family. Living with strangers under one roof is a great hardship.

The severest blow was the formation of the Radom ghetto in March, 1941. Then we decided it was time to return to Zwolin and share the fate of the rest of our Jewish brethren.

 

II

Return to Zwolin

When we returned to Zwolin from Radom, I found everyone in our family alive and unharmed. My father believed that as long as Zwolin remained an open city, we wouldn't starve to death, despite all the cruel Nazi edicts.

The gendarmerie had its headquarters in the agricultural school on the outskirts of the city, on the Radom highway. This had certain advantages for the Jews.

The greatest threat to us were the local so–called Volksdeutsche, who knew everyone and kept an eye on everyone. The German family Gedde had always lived among Jews. Old man Gedde was appointed mayor by the Nazis, but he had no influence or authority. Duzgal, a Volksdeutsche, a former blacksmith, always strolled abut in a shining S.A. (Sturm Abteilung) uniform. We had the most trouble from two Volksdeutsche gendarmes, and even more, from the bloodthirsty Chait.

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One day in the middle of June, 1941, we were visited by a special messenger, sent by my uncle Aaron Shlufman, with the urgent message that the Gestapo had come looking for me in his house, where I was registered. They didn't explain why they wanted me, and I still don't understand the reason for their visit. One thing was clear, however: I was in great danger.

That very day I left home and set out for Suchedniew, to my uncle Shmuel and his wife Shandel Singer. The journey took 7 days, and every minute was fraught with peril. In Radom I was put up in the home of a former schoolmate, Bella Szidlowska, and in Szidlowce by my friend Moshe Eisenberg.

I arrived at my uncle's house on June 21, 1941, just at the beginning of the Soviet–Nazi war.

The lives of the Jews of Suchedniew were not affected by this new war, but hope awakened that now there was a change that Hitler might suffer a defeat, since nobody imagined that Soviet Russia was too weak to withstand the Nazis.

In my personal life, however, there was a change. The day after my arrival in Suchedniew, I and several other Jews were caught by the SS and conscripted to the Labor Corps. I fell into the hands of a cruel young SS man, who nearly tortured me to death. He accused me of shooting his brother during the war with Poland; made me carry heavy rocks, ordered me to run very fast, so that I could hardly catch my breath. Fortunately, another officer assigned me to clean his room, and when I was finished he told me to run home.

Several weeks later I set out for Zwolin once more, but I could not remain there too long. One day, when I saw two gendarmes walking in the direction of our house, I quickly

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jumped out of a back window and fled. They didn't catch me, but they arrested my brother Hershl.

During my flight from danger I stayed for a short time in Gniwishew, then in Riki, where my uncle Moshe and Shevel Weinberg lived.

One day, to my great astonishment, my brother Hershl showed up. He told me he had spent 3 days in prison. My father did everything in his power to get him out, with the help of Berele Kuntsnmacher, the vice–commandant of the Jewish police, and Israel Kaplan, who worked for the gendarmerie. Naturally, the scoundrels would not lift a finger without bribes of money and gifts.

The situation grew steadily worse and my longing for home intensified. The roads became more and more dangerous for Jews, and without a German permit one did not dare take a chance. There were dealers in rags and scrap iron who traveled around buying supplies for the Germans, and they, naturally, had special permits. I became an “assistant” to one of the rag dealers and finally reached Zwolin several days before Succoth.

Winter was approaching. It became increasingly difficult to move from one place to the other, and earning a living was almost impossible. Since we were 3 brothers, we decided that we ourselves, not our father, should undertake to do business across the border.

(Here I must add that before my return my brother Yosl had spent some time in the Pustkov concentration camp. My mother, who was then 41 years old, went to the camp disguised as a Polish peasant, bribed the guard and brought Yosl home.)

Despite all the dangers, the Jews of Zwolin continued to risk their lives so that their families should not starve to death. They established trade with the Radom ghetto, exchanged goods –

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especially foodstuffs: butter, eggs, cheese. This smuggling activity did not always go smoothly. There were victims – and one case especially remains sharply etched in my memory.

It happened in January, 1942. I happened to be in Itzik Lipsman's house, when his youngest brother Lazar–Mayer came in and told us that just a few minutes before Chait – the assassin – had intercepted a group of Zwolin Jews on the Radom highway, carrying a large amount of goods. One of them was Moshe Goldstein, the son of Chaim the teacher and my mother's first cousin. I hurried out of the house to find out what had happened, and was told that everyone except Moshe had managed to get away. Chait ordered Moshe to get into a passing peasant's sled and told the peasant to drive towards the Pilew highway. A short distance beyond the bridge he told the gentile to get out of the sled and leave.

Moshe, realizing that Chait intended to shoot him, attacked him and struggled with him, but Chait's revolver ended Moshe's life.

Moshe was the brother of Meyer–Sholem Goldstein and Yente Goldstein, who are now living in Paris. In his youth he studied in the yeshiva and was a good student there.

Moshe Goldstein's death cast a pall of terror over all the Jews who were still risking their lives by continuing to smuggle goods. They began to look for different methods and hired gentiles to transport the merchandise.

Now a new group joined in the dangerous undertaking of preventing Jews from starving to death: Jewish youth. They were courageous young men, who looked like gentiles. Among them were: Moshele Kaplan, a former Yeshiva student, the son of a Kozker Hassid Yosl Esther–Malke's (who was shot after the evacuation); his cousin Laybl Zieberman, a fiery and brave youth (shot during the first action in Skarzisk CC);

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Nathan Flumenbaum (now in Berlin); Laybl Weissband and Velvl Mandelbaum, son of Chaim–Yoyneh Mandelbaum. Velvl was shot when he was caught carrying leather on his bicycle on the road from Radom to Zwolin.

The situation worsened. Then came an order that the Jews still living in certain streets of the town must move to a specially–designated area. We all moved to my Uncle Isaac's house, and to Isaac's brother–in–law Shloyme Mannela. Later, when the Jews from the neighboring towns were ordered to move to Zwolin, these two dwellings were still occupied by my Aunt Dobre and her two children, and my paternal Grandmother Dvoyre.

My Aunt Malle, Uncle Bunim and their son Chaim Finkelstein were sent to Pionker CC. They survived the holocaust. Chaim died two years ago in New York. My Aunt Shprintse from Riki and her 3 children also lived with us. Her husband Yehiel was shot. One day her brother visited us and told us about the monstrous cruelty in Maidanek. He looked like a Polish gentile and wandered from place to place. A Pole recognized him, betrayed him to the murderers, and he was shot.

Before we moved in with our Uncle Isaac a great tragedy struck our family. One night a policeman came and told us he was sent to arrest my brother Yosl, who had escaped from Pustkow CC. In vain my father pleaded with him, and my mother wept. We offered him a large sum of money. It did no good. He took Yosl away to a prison in Radom. Ostensibly there was supposed to be a trial. My father engaged a German lawyer through an intermediary, but it turned out that it had all been a lie to squeeze money out of Jews. Several weeks later all the Jewish inmates of the Radom prison were sent to Treblinka extermination camp – among them my beloved Yosl, and Geiger, the former Director of the Jewish Labor

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Corps in Radom; as well as other officers of the Radom Judenrat.

* * *

In May 1942 there was a rumor that the Jews who had been evacuated from our town and others had not been sent to labor camps in “Osten”, as the Germans said, but to the death camps. The realists among us had been saying this for a long time. Gimpl Shlaferman, the barber, told me this more than once. My father asked a Polish friend of his to investigate these rumors. His sons traveled to the town of Malkina, where the local gentiles informed him that camp Treblinka, where the Jews were sent to the gas chambers and crematoriums, was 7 kilometers away.

I had known for some time about Treblinka and the other death camps. I knew a Warsaw Jewish attorney who lived for a while in Zwolin. A Polish woman who was a friend of his and who was active in the Polish underground of the “Armiya Krayova” told him that the London radio often broadcast reports about the gas chambers where Jews were exterminated.

* * *

Early June, 1942, the authorities ordered the Jews of Gniwishew, Pionki, Garbatka and other towns in the vicinity to settle in Zwolin. We were already very crowded, and now another 2,000 Jews made the situation almost unbearable.

The Judenrat issued an edict that all Jews between the ages of 14 and 60 must register with the Labor Corps. Several days after the registration, Zwolin was surrounded by SS and Ukrainians. All those who had registered were told to assemble in the open space between Karmelska Street and the market place. Some tried to escape and were gunned down. Among

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them were Laybl Zibersky; Ketenberg (Shamai Chaltches' son); Baruch Joseph, blind David's son.

About 300 Jews were deported to Skarzisk Conc. Camp, most of them to “Verk Tse” – where you couldn't last more than a couple of weeks without the proper clothing and were not well–fed.

Ten days later a second “Action” transported another 300 Jews to Skarzisk. This time most of them were assigned to Divisions A and B, where conditions were better than in “Werk Tse.”

My brother and I, together with Laybl and Reuben Weisband, managed to hide out during both “Actions.”

The mood in our town after these two “Actions” was dreadful. Everyone was convinced that we were doomed and we felt that we must save ourselves at all costs.

Some had permits proving that they were employed by the Germans, and they felt safe for the time being. Others got jobs – with the aid of local gentiles – in the munitions factory at Radom. A small number hid out in the homes f gentile friends: Abraham–Aaron Teitelbaum, Meyer Birnbaum, both of whom survived; but Abraham–Aaron was later shot by the Poles.

Some tried to join a group of Left Wing Polish partisans but were rejected because they had no firearms. I found this out from my cousin Chaim Shlufman and from Abish Reizman. Chaim had disappeared and was later shot while fleeing the evacuation of the town of Tchepalov.

A popular method of staying alive was to obtain a Polish “kennkarte” (identification papers). The Pole Kaczinski, who worked in the magistrate's office, was helpful. Eventually the ploy was discovered, several Jews were arrested and sent to Treblinka, and Kaczinski was executed.

 

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III

Janowice – The Group of Eight

After the tragedy with my brother Yosl, my mother was in total despair. My father was so overwhelmed by our loss that he was unable to make arrangements to rescue the rest of us. He could not make plans to find a hiding place with a friendly gentile, or go into the Pionker CC, like my uncle Bunim Finkelstein, his wife Malle and son Chaim.

One day, I met Laybl Weisband, who told me that a Polish engineer named Pasek had permission from the District office to hire 8 Jews to work on an irrigation project for 3 months in the village of Janowice. He suggested that I join the group. I told my parents about this and they promptly agreed.

Besides myself and Laybl Weisband, there were 6 more young men: Reuben Weisband, Pinya Zweigenbaum, Avremele Boymlgrim, Chaim Hofmann, Pesach Flumenbaum and Yosl Weintraub.

We left for Janowice with our permits. We were given lodging in the home of a Polish woman. We received no wages, had to pay for our room ourselves – but this was worth a thousand times more because of the fact alone that we were not interned in a concentration camp. Also, our work was not too hard, and they did not watch us too carefully.

Several days before Rosh Hashonah we asked Engineer Pasek for permission to go to Zwolin for the Holidays. He agreed, we rented a cart from a peasant, and set out.

In the Zelinka Forest we met a peasant returning from Zwolin, who told us that there had just been a “chapune” action of Jews. (“Chapunes” means catching Jews and dragging them off for forced labor). We decided to remain in the woods. A

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Polish teacher from a Zwolin school rode by, and looked at us with great suspicion. Less than an hour later German gendarmes surrounded us. We stood with our arms raised while they searched our valises and our pockets. We showed them the permits, saying we wanted to rest in the woods. Then they let us go.

The “catchers” sent their victims to Demblin. During the march, several Jews were shot, among t hem the son-in-law of the old rabbi.

After Rosh Hashonah we bade farewell to our families and friends. In the street I met Lalek Breslaw, who was a dental technician. He was tall and blonde, spoke fluent Polish, and could easily pass for a Pole. I asked him how he planned to save himself. Without answering, he took his Polish passport out of his pocket and smiled. With this Polish passport he was later sent to Treblinka with the rest of the Jews.

We returned to Janowice and continued to work as before. One day the gentile woman who put us up told us the dreadful news that on the second day after Succoth, 1942, the entire Jewish community of Zwolin was deported to Treblinka.

We did not weep; a deathly silence descended upon us. We didn't have the strength to utter a single word. We were struck dumb.

We sat there with lowered heads – eight orphans – speechless and paralyzed at the disaster that had struck our nearest and dearest, our town, and ourselves.

IV

“Armiya Krayova” Offers Aid

The next day we received a visit from a Jew who was the

[English Page 52]

last person in the world I would expect to see. This was the lawyer Eichhard, whom I mentioned before. He told me that at the last moment he had fled the deportation. His wife, who was a dentist, and their child, had previously left Zwolin and he didn't know where they were. He did know where we were, and since there was no place else to run, he had come to us.

Our permit listed 8 persons and our names. There was no possible way we could take him into our group. It so happened that Yosl Weintraub decided to return to Zwolin, where his brother Mendl was still the commandant of the remaining 72 Jews, w ho were kept there by the authorities to bury the dead and look for “treasures” in Jewish homes. Our engineer Pasek agreed to let us change the penciled-in name of Weintraub to Eichhard.

One day a young gentile woman came to see Eichhard and talked to him for about 15 minutes. Then she left, he told us she was connected with the Armiya Krayova, who wanted us to work along with them, and they would soon send us ammunition. Several days later a former Polish officer visited us and confirmed this information.

We were not very optimistic that this cooperation with the A-K would be a good solution for us; but by this time we knew what our end would probably be, so we accepted the proposal. We contacted some peasants in the village who promised to help us. The most active were the Krol brothers.

It all came to nothing. Not one partisan came to us, and we did not get a single piece of ammunition.

From time to time, Jews who were still wandering about on the back roads and in the woods would stumble into our village. Among them were Gershon Wassershtrom, Avremele Kuperman, and Zelde Shlufman (who survived and lives in Stockholm).

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Abraham Rosenblat escaped from Klikow CC to visit the surviving 80 Jews in Zwolin, and was gunned down by a Polish policeman.

Our work in Janowice came to an end. On October 15, 1942, we were sent back to Zwolin.

V

My Little Sister

When we found out about the deportation in Zwolin my first thought was for Rochtchele, my 12 year old sister. Had she managed to escape on that terrible day? How astounded I was when one day, upon my return from my job in Janowice, I found her in our room!

How can one express one's feelings at such a time? My heart overflowed with joy, mixed with deep sadness over the fate of our whole family. My sister had not come alone. With her was Ezekiel Taub, great-grandson of the old rabbi of Kuzmir.

Exhausted, terrified, and famished, she told me how she had managed to get to Janowice. On the road of deportation from Zwolin to Garbatke our parents kept begging her to break out of the line and try to reach either Polichne, where our brother Hershl was working or to me in Janowice. She finally yielded to their pleas and ran away. A gentile woman put her up for several days, then told her how to sneak into Polichne camp.

But she couldn't stay there long, either. Since Ezekiel Taub was also in the camp illegally, Hershl helped them both to get away from Polichne and they made their way to me in Janowice. We couldn't take Ezekiel in, because our group was limited to 2 registered Jews. It was easier to make room for my sister. She looked like a gentile, and soon made friends with our landlady's daughters.

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Several days later, our group of 8 was ordered to leave Janowice, and I didn't have a chance to say good-bye to Rochtchele.

Where could she go? I found out later that she went back to Hershl in Polichne. All alone she wandered through fields and woods, exposed to death and danger at every step. But she arrived safely.

This time she remained there, with the help of our brother Hershl, until the camp was transferred to Skarzisk in January, 1943. Rochtchele was not taken along, because she was a little girl.

Fishl Sherman told me that eventually she made her way to Shidlowce ghetto, made friends with a boy her age, who was the son of Israel Dzabats, and together they “organized” (found) whatever food they could, so as not to perish from hunger.

Two 12-year old children alone and homeless in a world of carnage and death, with mutual devotion and childish love, waiting for the inevitable, horrible end! On October 15, 1942, our work permits in Janowice expired. That morning I went into the village and saw a wagon filled with Polish police coming towards us. I ran into the house to warn everyone. Within seconds, lawyer Eichhard ran out through the back of the barn into the fields. They aimed their guns at him, but missed.

Later we found out that the Kroll brothers put him up for several days. Then he crossed the Vistula, joined the Armiya Krayova, and was very active; participated in the Warsaw Uprising by the Poles in 1944. He fought like a Polish patriot and died like a helpless Jew! One of the A-K members who knew that he was a Jew shot him, because he didn't have any money to give him.

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The remaining 7 of our group were sent to Zwolin to join the 80 Jews who remained there after the deportation.

VI

In Zwolin After the Deportation

The 80 Jews lived in the house of Velvl Kirshenblatt. The baker, who was the chairman of the Judenrat, lived in another house.

Others in this book have described the events of the deportation day. But now, being in Zwolin, I found out more details.

Most of the Jews obeyed the command to assemble in the market-place on the 2nd day after Succoth, 1942. Older people who didn't have the strength to walk were shot in their homes, as wee babies in their cradles. Ezekiel Goldfarb, who worked as a mechanic in his uncle Moshe-Jacob's mill, didn't go to the market-place and was shot in the mill. Hershl and Chone Eichenbaum hid in their orchard and were immediately shot.

My grandmother Gitl-Dvoyre Shlufman remained at home and was slain there.

A total of 150-200 Jews were murdered in their homes and in the streets.

After the dead were buried in the Jewish cemetery, small groups of the 80, under the eye of a police patrol, searched Jewish homes for valuables. When the guard was not looking, we pocketed anything we could. For instance in the house of a poor oil-maker on Kozenice Street we found a gold watch and chain and other Jewelry lying under a stone brick in the floor. We sold these things to a Jewish young man from Warsaw, who traveled about with Moshe'le Kaplan disguised as gentiles, and visited us from time to time to buy whatever we found. Sometimes we received a visit from Zelig Wolman's wife

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--a Jewish girl from Warsaw – who lived in Zwolin during the war. Subsequently they were all caught and put to death.

The group of 80 informed the newly-arrived about the various events after the liquidation and before our arrival.

Two events are important: Right after the deportation a partisan group raided the Zwolin prison and freed all the prisoners. The next night, gendarmes came to the house where the 80 were lodged and took 4 Jews: Ephraim Rosenfeld, Shmuel-Ezekiel Gutman, Florek's son-in-law (from Lodz) and his wife, who had been hiding in the home of a gentile and was visiting her husband. They were found sleeping in their clothes, and the Germans took this as a proof that they were partisans.

Another night gendarmes came, selected several young men, and put them into a truck. We were sure they would be shot. It turned out altogether differently: 2 Germans had been shot not far from the village of Gura-Pulavska. The Germans took Polish hostages and announced that if the guilty ones were not delivered within two days, the hostages would be shot. When the time had expired, the Germans ordered the 2 young Jews to hang the Polish prisoners, among who was a priest. The Germans took photographs of the entire event. The young men were wearing their yellow arm bands. The next day the photographs appeared with captions in large letters: “JEWS HANG POLES.”

VII

The End of Summer

Each member of our group of 80 felt as though he was sitting on top of a powder keg that could explode at any moment. But, we did our best to blot this possibility out of our minds.

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A few days before our group was deported, 2 young men came to see us. They were: Yosl Feldman, the son of Moshe Feldman the baker; and Amek Rotbaum. They didn't know what course of action to take. Subsequently the Poles turned them over to the Germans, who shot them.

One day in November, 1942, the Germans brought trucks, and ordered our group to collect all our belongings and line up in the market-place. Around us stood Ukrainians with loaded rifles and machine-guns. The commander of the gendarmes made a short speech:

“During these past weeks you had a good life here. You were free and we didn't persecute you. Now you are going to work at the ammunition factory in Skarzisk. You will remain there for awhile and then we will send you to join your parents and families.”
We understood all too well what he meant.

But what could we do? We climbed into the trucks, and as we drove off we took a last look at our native town of Zwolin.

Two Zwolin youths escaped from the transport, and managed to survive the Hitler Hell as Polish workers in Germany. They are: Chaim Hoffman (now living in Los Angeles), and Mendele Schwartzberg, the son of Zelig Berishes (now living in Berlin).

 

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