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E. Doom

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Holocaust in Będzin

David Liwer

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

We describe here the era of pain and annihilation, when the dark clouds of the cruel Hitler night covered our sky.

Already in 1946, with the arrival of the Holocaust survivors in Eretz Yisroel, the book, Ir haMetim [City of the Dead], by David Liwer was published; this was one of the first books about the ruin. This book gave an exact historical overview about our tragic dead city, Będzin. Even though 12 years have already passed, there is not a great deal to add. We therefore provide here the history of death in a condensed form.

Simultaneously, we have tried to expand the information and provide new sources in [eyewitness] testimonies from the time. However, in order to have a complete and exact picture, the reader must also turn to the Hebrew part of the book. Alas, for various reasons, it was not possible to translate all of the articles from one language to the other.

We also provide several short excerpts from the diary of the historian-martyr, Dr. Emmanuel Ringelblum, which was found after the liberation of Poland and published by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Although the facts are known, they reflect the atmosphere and sounds in the Warsaw ghetto and in the Polish Judenrat [Jewish council] in general during the days of death.

The Editor

Będzin was one of the most important and deeply rooted Jewish communities in Poland as well as one of the richest areas in the country – from the coal and iron industries. Until 1939, about 30,000 Jews lived in the city, during the war the number grew to 30-40,000.

Będzin had a reputation for its great number of toilers, artisans, retailers [and] manufacturers. Hundreds of Jewish factories sent their goods to nearby Upper Silesia. Every half hour, a fully packed train with innumerable Jews and baggage left [for Upper Silesia]. The city was energetic; everything worked. And when a stranger came to Będzin, he was amazed at the terrific energy fermenting the Będziner Jews.

Thus Będzin lived and created many generations and boasted of the impressive achievements of Jewish entrepreneurial spirit, both in economic and cultural spheres. Będzin had one of the most beautiful buildings in which the Jewish gymnazie [secondary school] was located. [The gymnazie] had the distinction to be the only school in Poland that was painted inside by three Jewish artist – [Moshe] Apelbaum, Hanftke and [Shmuel] Cygler. The city had previously been almost free of Christians. Będzin, which was called Yerushalayim d'Zaglembie [Jerusalem of Zaglembie], had a great influence on all surrounding cities and shtetlekh [towns], both spiritually and materially.

Until a great storm arrived – and with all of Polish Jewry, the beautiful Jewish Będzin, which had behind it a generations-long history, was erased by a murderous hand over the course of four years; situated right near the German border, Będzin was the first city occupied by the Germans without [firing] a shot.

The Jewish young prepared to stage a resistance and asked the Polish military powers for weapons. However, the request was not filled. The Polish police and the military had left the city on Friday without a fight and on Sunday the Germans had occupied the city. After Shabbos [Sabbath], thousands of Jews, entire families, left the city and started on the road to the Russian border. However, very few reached it. Meanwhile, all of Poland fell into dreadful chaos. Neither the civilian nor the military powers could control the situation. All of the roads, all of the train lines were crowded with tens of thousands of refugees; there were no trains, no autos. Even the military could not move freely. Thus the majority of the Jewish population had to return home. Only a very small number of people made it to the Russian border.


The Beginning of the Nazi Rule

Immediately on the second day of German rule in the city, they hanged two Jewish bakers – Stawski and Kac.

The third victim of the German terror in the city was Mordekhai Cukerman, Avigdor's brother. This was on the 8th of September 1939. Friday night, the Germans attacked the house at Berek Joselowicz Street, no. 2, and removed all of the men to the water bridge; beat them

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mercilessly and later threw Mordekhai Cukerman in the water. And when he succeeded in swimming to the other side of the river, the Germans shot him.

A day later, the 9th at night, the Germans set fire to the large Bedzin synagogue and the large, old house of prayer, the Synagogue Street and all of the alleys to the Castle Mountain. The two German criminals, Imhof and Piantek, led the “work” of setting fire to the synagogue. Several local Poles helped them.

Several Jews, among them Reb Yehiel Szlezinger and his son-in-law, Reb Yehezkiel Kon, entered the burning synagogue with self-sacrifice to save the Torah scrolls. However, those who started the fire shot everyone and threw them in the burning synagogue. All of the Jews who ran from the burning houses and fell into the hands of the murderers were thrown into the fire alive. The entire area was surrounded by a thick cordon of German military and no one was let out, only a small number of Jews were successful in saving themselves. Six Jews entered the nearby church, where the priest, Zawadzki, hid them.

Fifty Jewish houses disappeared in the fire and several hundred Jews perished in the fire. Of them, only 60 of them could be identified and they were brought for burial in a large mass grave at the Czeladź cemetery.

A short time passed and the German terror in the city did not cease; the Germans attacked Malach's house at Pilsudski Street and all of the men – 17 in number – were taken out and shot and late on a dark night they were buried at the Polish cemetery. Thus the Germans created fear with their constant terror and murder actions. Jews were afraid to walk in the streets. In October 1939, under the threat of death, the Germans looted all of the radio apparatuses from the Jewish population. Then an edict was issued that all Jews must wear a white band with a blue Mogen David [Shield of David – a Jewish star] on their left arm – later the Germans changed this to a yellow Mogen David, with the inscription, Jude [Jew], which had to be worn on the chest.

The German oppressing-machine worked with a precise exactness according to previously devised plans. After the Germans saw that the population was crippled by terror and acts of murder, they ordered that a Judenrat [Jewish council] be created. They understood that without the help of the Jews they would not be able to extract the Jewish possessions and the Judenrat had to provide the Germans with everything that they asked for, and they asked for everything – gold, silver, furs and so on. And when this was not immediately provided, they [the Germans] applied bloody means of terror. Then, the Judenrat came to negotiate – and the Germans received everything they wanted.

At the end of 1939, the Germans placed a tax on the kehile of five kilos of gold and 20 kilos of silver; and when the tax was not immediately provided, the Gestapo arrested 120 Jews and they were beaten and tortured for so long, until the Judenrat provided the demanded tax. It took a certain time until the Judenrat stabilized, not everyone wanted and could work with the Germans. At the beginning, there were members of the Judenrat until Moniek Merin, as the chairman of all of the Judenratn in Zaglembie, succeeded in nominating as chairman of the Bedzin Judenrat, Mr. Chaim Malczacki (he was not himself from Będzin), who cooperated completely with the Germans.

Thus began the systematic economic and physical annihilation of Jewish Będzin.

It began with the taking over of Jewish businesses and enterprises at the beginning of 1940. “Trustees” – commissars, who managed Jewish businesses – were placed in them. All of the houses were taken from the Jews and the rent was brought to “savings” accounts. Then the Germans demanded that the Judenrat provide

Bed-186.jpg - The large synagogue is burning
The large synagogue is burning

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a certain number of workers to clean the city; and the demand became even larger. In January 1940, every day the Judenrat had to provide 1,500 workers, who worked from 12 to 14 hours without any pay. The rich freed themselves from the work by paying a certain sum of money to the Judenrat. The poor had to go to work; later, they asked to be taken to work so they would not die of hunger, because they received warm soup and a piece of bread every day from the Judenrat kitchen.

In order to carry out all of the Gestapo edicts, the Judenrat created its own Jewish police, who later became the rulers of the Jewish neighborhood and caused fear in the entire population.

During Sukkous [Feast of Tabernacles] 1940, the Germans demanded a certain number for the German labor camps. At the demand of the Judenrat, which promised good working conditions, 250 young men voluntarily reported on Hoshanah Rabah [seventh day of Sukkous], who were sent away to the labor camps. The Jewish population still did not know what a labor camp was. In a short time, the first greetings came from the labor camps, in which was written how the workers worked from sun-up to sun-down, without appropriate food, without medical help and whoever lost his strength was sentenced to death. And when the Germans ordered more transports of workers, no one appeared voluntarily. The Judenrat had to turn to strong means in order to fill the German labor quota; at the time, the first two “shops,” the carpentry shop, where the German engineer, Kilaf was the commissar, and the tailoring shop of Rosner, appeared in Będzin.

Two hundred carpenters worked in the carpentry shop, all qualified artisans from whom the Germans took the machines and moved them to the building of the Feder brothers' type foundry on Mondrzejowska Street. The number of Jewish workers in Rosner's shop reached to several thousand. Despite the fact that the shop paid a hunger-wage, Jews willingly worked in the shop because that freed them from the Arbeits-Einsatz [labor deployment] to the labor camps. Later, the Jews paid thousands of marks more to be able to enter Rosner's tailoring shop and as the possibilities of Rosner's shop became smaller because of the large number of candidates, there later arose an entire series of shops, such as Rosner's shoemaking shop, Chichacz's tailoring shop, Grzybowski's shoemaking shop, where thousands of Jews gave away their strength without an appropriate reward [wages], only with the hope of finding temporary repose until the storm would pass. During all of the attacks by Germans on Jewish youth who they wanted to drag to the labor camps, Rosner workers with their blue cards were freed.

In May 1940, Rosner opened the shop with several machines. At the beginning of 1941, the shop was already producing thousands of military uniforms a month. From time to time, German commissioners would come who inspected the work of Rosner's shop and they were always full of enthusiasm for the good quality of the tailoring work and of [how inexpensive it was] and which the German factories with the most modern machines could not achieve. And no wonder: because Jews worked almost for free, 15 marks for 14-hour days. Of these, one third was taken for the German official – sonderbeauftragter [special representative]. At that time, a bread cost 25 marks, a kilo of meat [2.2 pounds] 70 marks, a kilo of tea 1,200 marks; Jews lived on what they sold from their house that still remained from the good years or from illegal commerce and, despite the fact that a Jew caught trading was threatened with the death penalty. Jews had no choice and traded everything and with everyone, even with Germans. In order to frighten the population, the Germans actually took the two Jews:

Bed-187.jpg - Jews are led to forced labor
Jews are led to forced labor

Hershl Sztern and Mordekhai Szajnerman, who were in the Będzin jail for illegal trade and they publicly hanged them at the old cemetery at Zawala Street and ordered that the Jewish population attend the execution.

In 1942, over 12,000 Jews worked in Rosner's shop. Children starting at age 12 up to old men of 70 worked there; seeing that Rosner was becoming rich from Jewish labor, other Germans grew envious of him and thus arose, as was mentioned, a series of shops of shoemaking and tailoring that belonged to the Germans Braun, Michasz, Lanz, Hodel, Grabowski – they were satisfied with taking the large profits in their own pockets, leaving the entire administration to the Jews.

However, of all of the Germans who made use of Jewish strength and sweat to become rich, there was only one Rosner who took care of his Jewish workers, did not abandon them and did not permit them to be dragged to the labor camps, was a rare type and an exception from all of the old Germans here in the city; he dealt with respect and honor and appreciated the Jewish workers and before every expulsion, the German, Rosner, warned “his” Jews what was coming and many of his Jews survived because of this. The other Germans

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undermined him for so long until, in January 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo and was hung.

In February 1941, the Germans drove all of the Oœwięcim [Auschwitz] Jews, who had been transferred to us, to Zaglembie; all of the Poles also were removed from the entire Oœwięcim county. The Germans had already prepared a plan to erect the famous gas ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where millions of people later perished. All Oœwięcim refugees in the course of one week were distributed to the Jewish houses of Będzin-Sosnowiec, so that no one remained without a roof [over their head].

In 1941, the Germans began to disrupt the movement of the Jewish population. From the beginning, they did not permit Jews to ride on the trains, only on trains on which was written, Nur für Juden [only for Jews]; later, Jews were only permitted to travel on the platform at the entrance [to the train car]. At the end of 1941, Jews were entirely not permitted to travel on the tramway. In order to carry out the edicts, in September 1941, the Germans ordered that every Jew from the age of 14 on had to take out a pass with a photo and, in addition, to wear the Mogen David [shield of David, known as the Jewish star] on their chest with the word Jude [Jew].

In December 1941, the Germans ordered the Judenrat to turn in all furs that were possessed by Jews and, despite the fact that there was the threat of death, a large part of the Jewish population sold pelts to the Poles for pennies, burned or buried them in the ground – it would be better to spoil them than give them to the Germans. However, the Judenrat, which was interested in showing its devotion to the Germans, made sure that Jews did not destroy or sell their furs to Poles and even more Jewish pelts were provided to the Germans.


The First Expulsion

In May 1942, the first expulsion from Będzin took place. And it took place thus: the Judenrat sent out announcements to a number of Jews that in the above-mentioned period they needed to appear at a certain place with 10 kilos [22 pounds] of baggage, in order to be transferred to another residence. Nothing would happen to anyone – they assured – because the secretary of the Judenrat, Mrs. Czarna would accompany the transport so that everything would be in order. A thousand Jews appeared then, quiet and calm. Accompanied by their family members, the Jews were transferred to the wagons, mainly the older people. Obviously, Mrs. Czarna did not travel with them. However much we tried (for gold) to learn from the Germans in which direction they had taken the Jews, we did not succeed.

At the same moment the Germans demanded another transport of Jews. However, they [the Jews] no longer believed the people at the Judenrat and Jews decided not to appear voluntarily. Then Merin called all of the rabbis and religious judges to a consultation, as well as a number of community workers from Będzin and Sosnowiec, among others the rabbis, Reb Mendl Laun and the Rabbi Grausman from Będzin and the rabbis from Sosnowiec. At the consultation, Merin turned to those assembled with the following words:

“Gentlemen! I have invited you here today in order for you to judge a great question. A great responsibility lies on you, rabbis and community workers of the city, and on your answer to my question today hangs the lives of thousands of Jews. Therefore, give me an accounting before you answer my question.

“The Gestapo turned to me as chairman of the Judenrat for the entire county

Bed-188.jpg - The <I>Judenrat </I>and the medical personnel
The Judenrat and the medical personnel
1) Moniek Merin, 2) Fanya Czarna, 3) Chaim Malczadski, 4) Chaim Merin, 5) Dr. Liberman, 6) Dr. Wajnciher, 7) Director Lewkowicz

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with the demand that I give them 10,000 Jews for expulsion. Obviously, I did not immediately agree and tried to persuade them that the Jews were a useful element that was of great use to the German economy. The Gestapo then agreed to 5,000. Based on the conversation with them, I was sure that they would agree to fewer. Now, I ask you the question: Should I take upon myself to carry out the order of the Gestapo? If yes, there is the hope that many Jews will be saved from the expulsion because we would then be able to choose candidates for the expulsion who we believed would be useful [to be rid of]. For example: Informers, thieves, those who do not behave themselves morally, then the insane, sick and defective children, people who are of no use to anyone. And if no – the Gestapo would attack the city and would drag away whoever and how many Jews they considered necessary and it could happen here as it happened in Sosnowiec that the respected people would be the first victims; my opinion – we should accept the proposal.”

The Rabbi Mendl Lewin, who was known as kind-hearted and loved Jews, said: A Jew is still considered a Jew even if he has sinned. Sick and unfortunate Jews also have the right to live. No one can take their right to live. And Rabbi Grausman said that Merin's proposal was against the Jewish religion and the question demanded a careful consideration.

Merin then declared that he was submitting himself in advance to the judgment of the rabbis and he would wait in the other room for the answer. After a long consultation, the rabbis came out to Merin and Rabbi Grausman declared:

“As a matter of fact, Merin's demand stands against the entire Jewish world opinion and against the Jewish religion; but as Merin posed a question to us, it seemed that every Jewish house in the city faced a great misfortune; therefore, we had to and we must choose the lesser of two evils. We hoped that Merin would do what his Jewish heart dictated and we wished that he would have the honor of being the rescuer and redeemer of Zaglembie Jewry.”

One morning in the month of May, the Germans attacked two houses in Modrzejower Street, a house at Czeladzer and on the Synagogue Street and took out all of the Jews and dragged them to the orphans' house, to expulsion. It appears that this action was taken with the knowledge of the Judenrat because those whom the members of the Judenrat wanted to save were told a day earlier about the aktsia, that they should not sleep in their homes. In the morning, the Germans again attacked at Podramcze Street, the so-called Untern Berg [under the mountains], where the poorest of the Jewish population lived and the greater majority of them received support from the social divisions. Six-hundred Jews were dragged out of their houses.

On the same day, all of the Jews from Grojce, a small shtetl near Będzin, were driven from their homes and brought to the “island of tears” at the orphans' house, for expulsion. All of the Jews were held there for several days, a few were freed through the Judenrat and since, according to the Gestapo, the quota was not filled, the Judenrat removed all of the old from the old-age house, as well as the insane and defective people. One thousand two hundred Jews were sent to Auschwitz. The last tears of the deported had not yet dried and the Judenrat came with new demands – for new victims – and it simultaneously allayed fear: now it would be quiet; nothing would happen to the Będzin Jews. Everyone still worked and the German recognized the importance of the shops and of the production that they generated. Only one trifle – they demanded that the young people go to the labor camps.

At the end of June 1942, Merin called a meeting of the young people at which he ordered them to report voluntarily to the Arbeitseinsatz [labor deployment] at the German camps. And when the young people made this sacrifice, the older Jews could remain in the city. Merin brought as help the Rabbi Grauman, who was to prevail upon the young people to listen and believe Merin's promise. And when the rabbi expressed, From Moses to Moses [Maimonides] there was none like Moses, a storm began; the young people protested. “It is a disgrace and shame that a rabbi would speak this way, at a time when hundreds of Jews are being tortured by hunger and are falling from the heavy work in the camps. How can we believe Merin's assurances when he has never fulfilled them? The meeting did not bring Merin the hoped for results. The young people decided not to go to the labor camps. Everyone looked for various ways to free themselves from the order. However, Merin did not give up. He turned to the German leaders of the shops, asking them to free a number of Jewish workers to send them to the labor camps. And a paradox – the Germans declared just the reverse, that they could not free any workers. On the contrary, they needed more workers. Then the sonderbeauftragter [specially commissioned one], who was the actual leader over all of the commissars in the shops, demanded that they provide their workers for a check. And it did not help; the Jewish workers appeared for the check at the designated time. The end was that 500 Jewish young people were dragged to the German labor camps.


The Second Expulsion

On the 8th of August 1942, the chairman of the Judenrat, H. Malczadzki, called the respected residents of the city and the rabbis, Lewin and Grauman to a meeting at which he gave a fiery speech about saving the Będzin Jews. Among other [news], he reported that, as the Gestapo had ordered a count to be made of the population, he, therefore, asked those assembled to help carry out a campaign so the Jewish population would respond and no one would remain in their homes on the day of the count but would appear at the designated place. On the 10th of May, Malczadzki called a meeting of all of the employees, officials of the kehile and he demanded that they appear with their families at the designated

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point. He promises that nothing bad would happen to the officials, since, the Judenrat would know in that moment on that day to support its officials. Whoever was not present in their home at five o'clock in the morning would be dismissed from their work.

On the 11th of August, the Judenrat issued an appeal to the population under H. Malczadzki's signature: “Jews, put on your holiday clothes and go with joy to the designated assembly places, let no one remain at home. Whoever is not at the count will later be unable to remain in Zaglembie county.” This was it succinctly.

On the 12th of August 1942, five o'clock in the morning, children and the old, men and women, even the sick and children in cradles, everyone started for the two assembly points of Hakhoah [The Strength – a Jewish sports organization] and Sanacja [Sanation - Józef Pi³sudski's movement]. Thirty-thousand Jews left their houses believing the promise of the Judenrat that nothing, God forbid, would happen to anyone. At the entrance to the assembly points, everyone received a lauf-nummer [running number] and officials of the Judenrat sat at a table recording the number of everyone present. At nine o'clock, the count ended. It was established that 90 percent of the population had appeared. At 10 o'clock, the first information arrived. The entire sport place [Hakhoah] was surrounded by a chain of policemen and S.S. men armed with machine guns. No one was permitted to leave the assembly place, not even the high officials of the Judenrat. Hour after hour passed and everyone waited with rising fear for what was coming. At two o'clock in the afternoon the two representatives of the sonderbeauftragter, Kutszinski and Szmelt, arrived and proceeded with the aktsia. Everyone had to appear in front of them with his family, with the work card in his hand. The population was then divided by them into three categories: a) young, capable of working; b) families with two children; c) older, incapable of working and families with many children. At nine in the evening the Gestapo arrived and freed the first category. The rest remained for the entire night in the open field in the rain, guarded by the German police and military.

In the morning of the 13th, the Gestapo freed another group, so that at noon it became known that 10,000 Jews remained in place for expulsion. And as this was Friday, and they were to be deported on Shabbos [Sabbath] morning, those sentenced for expulsion were distributed among three large premises: in the orphans' house, in the premises of the Agudah [Orthodox organization] and in the house of the Judenrat. The young people decided to make use of the time and through various means to free the arrestees. Tunnels were made under the houses; they broke through the roofs and also turned to the old methods of bribes; they made the German guards drunk. Thus they succeeded in freeing half of the group.

On Shabbos afternoon, the remaining 5,000 Jews were dragged to the trains to Auschwitz. Rebbe Szpira (the Brikewer) was in the group. My hands shake and my heart beats with agitation when I remember the group of children who were the last led to the slaughter. A number of children aged a month to a year old whose parents had gone to the train remained. They had abandoned the children; they thought that perhaps in this way to save them from death. Then, two vile members of the Gestapo came. They were named Fekkert and Freitag. They took sacks and threw the children in them and sent them this way in the train wagons to Auschwitz.

And it again became quiet in the city. Life continued; actually, it had never been so quiet. Between one expulsion and another, the Germans found a way to darken life through various persecutions. So, for example, the so-called small deportations. Every Wednesday, a “hearse” of Jews would go to Auschwitz. And, thus, for 10 months without a pause

Bed-190.jpg - The sick are brought in wagons to the deportation
The sick are brought in wagons to the deportation

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the Moloch [deity to whom children were sacrificed] demanded a sacrifice: unimportant [if it was] five or 20 Jews, a transport had to leave on Wednesday. And a representative of the Judenrat would sign the official report that these were “criminals.” Among these “criminals” on one Wednesday was the Miszkower Rebbe.

The Judenrat continued to assure that our situation was better, a sign that the Germans had increased the portion of the distribution of foods for the Jewish population. Meanwhile, the Judenrat again demanded that the young people report to the Arbeitseinsatz [labor deployment] at the labor camps. The young people hid. It did not help; their parents were arrested; their food rationing cards were taken away and so on. Whoever could hide did so because the labor camps meant certain death. And the Germans demanded even more work victims. In October 1942, the Judenrat ordered all men from 15 and women from 14 to appear for work. The Germans attacked the streets and, with the help of the Jewish police, the children were dragged to the transit camp where the German manufacturers came and bought the “goods” [the workers], who were later transferred to the weaving factories of Guterbrik-Ginberg and other places.


In the Ghetto

In January 1943, the Germans ordered the Jewish population to leave the city and move to a ghetto; for this, the Germans designated the suburb of Kamionka, which was always inhabited by the poorest part of the Polish population, where the Romani, the underworld and so on lived. In addition to several workers blocks, only small, old huts were located there that could absorb only a fourth of the remaining Jewish population. Later, the Germans also allocated to the ghetto the “small Œrodula,” which was a purely peasant area, and this really helped a little to relieve the need for places to live. We then lived in very severe overcrowding, two families in one house, up to 10 and more people in one room. There were cases where they shared the beds: some would sleep during the day, some at night.

The move to the ghetto lasted four months. At the end of April, no Jew lived outside of the ghetto. Quickly, a number of cities in which the ghettos were located attained a different appearance. Jews created roads and sidewalks that until then had not existed; they rebuilt houses, added new wings to the old ones. The ghetto worked at a tempo as if they were preparing to live there for an eternity…


The Third Expulsion

In May 1943, the Jewish population was ordered by the Judenrat to turn in its gold and silver. The Judenrat carried out the aktsia and Merin made an example of himself at a public meeting of the central [committee] and gave away his gold cigarette case, watch and ring; and Jews had no choice. Maybe it would help as the Judenrat thought. Tens of crates of silver candlesticks, candelabras, spice boxes, Chanukah candlesticks and so on were delivered to the Gestapo by the Judenrat. A short time after the aktsia, Merin traveled, accompanying a group of Jews whom the Germans were ostensibly taking to the urlag [transit camp] for foreigners; and when he did not return immediately, Mrs. Fanie Czarna, his secretary, telephoned the Gestapo in Katowice. They told her and the secretary, Dr. Lewensztajn, to immediately come to Katowice, too, for a consultation. No one could imagine that something could happen to those who had so devotedly served the Gestapo.

Bed-191.jpg - Bedziner Jews marching to forced labor
Bedziner Jews marching to forced labor

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However, Chaim and Moniek Merin, Mrs. Czarna and Dr. Lewenstajn, who during the last four years had played such a sad role in the life of Zaglembie Jewry, did not return from their trip. Their usefulness was over… >< Looted the Jewish possessions, helped carry out expulsions, handed over the young to the German labor camps. The dark ones had done their evil deeds…

Thus the Gestapo compensated those who so devotedly served it. It was clear that the Germans also no longer needed their closest coworkers, a sign that we were in the last days…

On the 22nd of June 1943, at five in the morning, the Germans again attacked the ghetto and dragged all of the Jews to one collection point. All of the streets were full of the S.S. members who dragged the Jews from their houses. Then came the great criminal, Commissar Dreyer, the one actually responsible for the annihilation of Zaglembie Jewry. Dressed in white gloves, a walking stick in his hand, everyone had to approach him and he divided the population – one to the right, one to the left. The German police urged them on – quickly, quickly. One right, one left. A man to the right, his wife to the left; a child right, the parents left, and so on. Then the group on the left was driven quickly to the train and straight into the train wagons to Auschwitz. Four thousand Jews were then dragged away during this aktsia [deportation]; no family remained whole after the expulsion. Here a father was lacking. There a husband, here a son, there a daughter. Children remained without parents, parents without children… Many then jumped from the trains, but only tens succeeded in saving themselves and returned to the ghetto. The entire road from Auschwitz to Będzin was covered with the dead who had jumped out of the moving trains.


The End

It appears that the Germans had decided to erase every sign of Jewishness from Będzin, from the city that was built by Jews. Not only the living but the dead were also disturbed in their eternal rest.

In 1941, the old cemetery at Zawala was leveled even with the street by the Germans. Now they also decided to liquidate the large cemetery near the train. The Judenrat tried to be permitted to move the bones to the Czeladźer cemetery. Many Jews came with boxes in which to gather the bones of their relatives, to move them to the Czeladźer cemetery. Apathy reigned in the city. No one thought about work; they searched for ways to save themselves, but there was no place to run. Surrounded by a hostile world and population, only individual Jews succeeded in hiding with their close Christian acquaintances.

Not having any other way out, the population began to build bunkers. There was no house without a bunker. Alas, it was later shown to be a weak weapon against the final deportations.

On the first of August 1943, the last act was played – the total deportation of all of the Będzin Jews. At two o'clock at night, the ghetto was surrounded by large German military groups and as soon as the day started to dawn, with shouts and shooting, they attacked the Jewish houses. Doors, windows were broken open by force and the Jews were driven out of the houses. The bunkers were blown up with dynamite. The last Będzin Jews were dragged to the train wagons, to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Thus did Yerushalayim d'Zaglembie disappear.

Bed-192.jpg - Because of a scarcity in apartments in the ghetto “meanwhile” they live in the street
Because of a scarcity in apartments in the ghetto “meanwhile” they live in the street

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