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{Page 389}


The Destruction
of Belchatow

{Page 391}

Under The Nazi Occupation

by Leib Podlowski (Layb Podlovsky)

Translated from the Yiddish by Martin Bornstein (pp. 391-395, 432-438)

and by Dr. Khane-Feygl (Anita) Turtletaub (pp. 395-432, 438-455)

(Latter translation donated by Sharon and Samuel Shattan and Shmuel Shottan)

Edited by Roni and Jerry Liebowitz

[with comments by editors and translators in brackets]

The martyrology of the Jews of Belchatow began immediately, starting with the first day of the outbreak of the war. Belchatow, which finds itself 50 kilometers from the pre-war German border, had directly by itself sensed all of the horrors of the Second World War. Already on the second day of the war, Saturday morning, there began to arrive refugees, naked and barefoot, from Wielow and from other small towns from the border pass. They were running away from their burning homes, which had been bombed by the German airplanes and artillery. The refugees settled into the synagogues and the Beit Hamidrash [house of prayer and study], by people they knew, and whoever did not have anyone, they stayed in the meadows and the fields. The entire Sabbath day the Jews of Belchatow were occupied with providing food for the refugees and making arrangements for them. On the same day, in the evening, the Jews of Belchatow, along with the refugees that had come to them from Wielow, Widawa, Szczercow, and other settlements, had to leave their homes. They had to leave behind and abandon their work and effort [what they had toiled for], because it became apparent, that the Germans had broken through the Polish defense line by the Warta and Widawa [rivers]. Everything was running in the direction of Lodz. Old and young people alike ran, Jew and Pole alike. The peasants took everything that they owned and put it onto wagons; they took along their cows and other cattle. The Jews wore packs on their shoulders, a lot transported their possessions and goods on children's carriages. On the way a lot of things were thrown away, since they didn't have the strength to carry on themselves all the packs, because of the great heat that occurred while running by foot to Lodz. The entire highway from Belchatow to Pabianice was packed full with people and returning Polish troops. From the skies, the Germans pelted the people running away with bombs. There began a riot, one person lost the other on the road.

A lot of people perished from the bomb splinters. Such a splinter from a bomb found its way into Chaim Zendel, Welwel Ferster's son in law. When the Belchatow Jews dragged themselves on the fourth day to Lodz, they first found the same scene that they had experienced a few days earlier by themselves while at home. Lodz also began to evacuate itself. Here too all roads that led farther, towards Warsaw, were clogged up with people. The large majority of the Belchatow Jews did not have any more strength to drag themselves farther to Warsaw. Only a small number, about 50 young people, pushed their way through to Warsaw and participated in the brave defense of the capital city. At the defense of Warsaw, Yankel Altman perished, and several Belchatowers were wounded. About 500 Belchatowers broke out and ran away to the Soviet side.

On the sixth day of the war the German army took Belchatow.

While marching in, they lit fire to a portion of the town, especially the Jewish part. They did this exclusively in order to find the Jewish population – there weren't any strategic reasons here, because in Belchatow there wasn't any focal point of fighting, nor was there any Polish military presence.

Where the few Jewish people, that is those who had then remained in Belchatow when the Germans came in, which was on the fifth day of the outbreak of the war, were turned over, the German baker's son, Ertek Lechelt, [was] lying in the meadow that goes to Szczercower Road, and from there was giving signals to the German military. Immediately, as he was doing this, the Germans began to throw firebombs on the Jewish part of town, and it was later said that this was especially organized by the local Germans [Folk Germans – German people that were living in Poland before the war]. Incidentally, it is in comparison with what they did later, that this said little piece of work was child's play. The shrapnel fell so calculatedly that all the Jewish houses in Old Market [Stare Rynek] and on Pabianicka Street, that bordered Wallenberg's house, were burned down, and only Wallenberg's house remained intact. Almost the entire Old Market [district] was burned, from Ferster's Factory up to the firehouse. This went from one side, from Factor's house, and from the other side this continued until Wallenberg's house on Pabianicka Street. Only a few houses survived, on the side of the Gurer shtibl [prayer house of the Gur Chasidim]. In the German documents one finds a list of 123 Jewish families[1]), whose homes and fortunes [worldly goods] were burned on the first day of the outbreak of the war.

Several days later many Belchatower Jews, who were not far away, returned to their hometown.

On the way home they were exposed to many troubles from the German army that was marching through: they stripped off their best clothing, they shaved off their beards, and thereby dreadfully scarred their faces. They were pulled away to the most difficult work. They had to bury the people and horses, which were lying on the road slain. They didn't spare [giving out] any blows. On the way home, the Germans tormented Meyer Franis. Only when at home, did the ones who returned first find their burned houses, and where they weren't burned, the dwellings had been robbed. The robbing of the Jewish homes was carried out by the local Germans [that had been living in Belchatow] unashamedly in the open. They did not even have the patience to wait until the implanted Hitlerites would make this possible for them. One stole everything that one could: furniture, manufactured cloth, hand as well as powered weaving looms [used for home manufacturing of cloth], new machinery, and things of household use. They removed the combined threads [ketn – thicker yarns formed by combining threads, used to weave cloth] from the factories.

In a German document, from the first days of the German occupation, one finds a characteristic exchange of letters, between the mayor and the commissioner, concerning the fortune of Zalman Markowicz, which is found in the factory locale of Epstein. In the document the conflict between the German bodies becomes clearly expressed, concerning who has more right to grab the Jewish fortune.

The fact presents itself thus: a known Belchatow Folk German, by the name Hermel, took the combined threads [ketn] that belonged to Markowicz. The commissioner from the Markowicz firm protested against it, as he considered himself to be the seated natural inheritor of Zalman Markowicz's fortune. The interesting part about the exchange of letters is this – what the mayor answers concerning why they sold the yarn so quickly. It was explained that because it might have been possible that the local Poles could become aware of this, which according to their thinking they would have also had a desire for the goods, and according to what he writes, he didn't want to permit this. The yarn was sold for 9 Marks [German currency] per kilogram, and the town management confiscated the money.

In the course of only one day, all of the Belchatow Jews were transformed into a camp of beggars.

During the several war months, until 1940, the Jews of Belchatow came to suffer all sorts of torments and troubles on the part of different German military formations. Every German sergeant considered it his duty for his soldiers to put forth the Jews as guilty of everything, as war criminals, and the soldiers already on their own knew what to do; they were already well used to it. As soon as the Germans came in, the soldiers were allowed to pursue the Jews. They grabbed Zerach Cymberknopf and tortured him for so long, until he was brought home half dead. They cut off the beard of the gray haired shochet [butcher – ritual slaughterer]. They grabbed Jews on the street and cut out swastikas on their head [cut away hair to leave a swastika]. The Jews were forced to pick up with their hands the manure from the horses, on the grounds where the German military had passed by; with old Jews they had them do different gymnastic exercises. They already from the beginning were doing everything to break the Jews physically and spiritually. The Germans took Yankl Ostrowsky and sat him on a chamber pot [taptshan]. A group of Jews had to carry the pot on their shoulders. A second group of Jews had to follow in procession and beat and clap on platters and on a basin and to shout: that “we Jews are the ones at fault in the war and that 'Moses' should come to help us”... So one had to carry on throughout the whole town, and afterwards, after the procession had filed through all the streets, the German who had arranged this spectacle ordered that we should dump the victim off from the pot. Such sights repeated themselves a few times a day. They had, for example, carried out such a play: on Yom Kippur (concerning the Yom Kippur days there will be more to say later) they carried out Shlomo Jakubowicz and sat him on a ladder dressed in tallis [prayer shawl and tefillen [phylacteries]. Jews had to carry the ladder. Everyone that had to carry the ladder also had to be wearing tallis and tefillen, they had to pray and at the same time make various gestures, singing in a loud voice. The Germans had these scenes photographed and sent home to the “Reich” to show what a wild people the Jews are. When the Jews were good and tired of carrying the ladder, the Germans decreed that the Jew should be thrown from the ladder. Such victims, after the “spectacle,” remained crippled.

{P. 395 cont'd}

The Jews of Belchatow lived in constant fear. They had no peace, not by day nor by night. By day, they were caught and forced into labor. By day they were persecuted, and by night they were robbed. The murderous gangs were constantly changing:

When the S. S. left Belchatow at the end of September, the Gestapo, who were even worse, immediately took their place. They surrounded the whole city, [and searched] every single Jewish house ostensibly looking for weapons. In truth, however, it was just another reason to loot. They loaded everything they could get their hands on onto wagons, from kitchen crockery to children's things. They took laundry, plates, any kind of clothing. As soon as they came, there started new episodes of more subtle persecutions of Jews. I will mention only a few of these horribly bestial acts here. They took Mordachai Josef's little son-in-law, Moshe Levi, and tied him to a pole with his own prayer-belt and beat him mercilessly. He was not even allowed to bat an eye, because another German stood over him holding a bayonet to his belly. The Germans left only when they thought he was dead. They were barely able to revive him later. The baker, Moshe Stabiecki, was forced to jump off a roof while singing the “Hatikva.” They threw Yankel Krawicki into the river and threatened to shoot him if he tried to get out.

The local Germans took a great part in these sadistic actions. Especially prominent were the Belchatower Germans, Willer and Bretkreitz, and Dolke from Zelow. Willer had been a skilled workman in Szmulewicz's factory. [Now] he walked around all day with a whip in his hand and violently beat anyone he could get his hands on: women, children, old people, anyone was a potential victim. He kept a special eye on Chaim Yankel Szymkewicz. Every time he beat him, he asked him if he still considered himself to be “a strongman.” “The Germans will see to it that you are no longer a strongman.” It was the same with Yankel Mareyni and others. The Germans considered it their patriotic duty to every day to find Jews whom they could “honor” with beatings.

The persecutions that were carried out on the Jews of Belchatow during the High Holidays comprise an especially tragic chapter. In spite of the fact that the punishment for gathering together and praying was death, the Jews of Belchatow, nevertheless, got together in [small] groups during these days and prayed sincerely.

They were forced to watch as the Germans defiled their synagogue and transformed it into a prison for Jews. The Belchatower Jews risked their lives to remove the Torah scrolls from the synagogue, from the Beit Hamidrash [house of prayer and study], and from the small Chassidic synagogues, and hide them in various places. We know that on Rosh Hashanah 1939 the Germans caught a group of Jews praying at Zalman Krizman's home. They were lead out into the street and violently beaten. All of the persecutions of Jews during the High Holidays were carried out in conjunction with the local Germans and the gendarmes. A special division of Hitler youth, which had arrived a few days earlier, raided the Jewish houses, taking everyone into forced labor. Then they required all the Jews to bring that which they held most dear, their religious books, and bring them to New Market [Square] and burn them in a bonfire. With their own hands, the Jews had to burn their sacred objects. The pyres of Jewish books blazed until after Yom Kippur. The Germans were specially looking forward to Yom Kippur. On that day they broke every preceding record of persecuting and torturing the Jews.

Early in the morning, the Jews were driven out of their homes and forced to do the most difficult and demeaning tasks. Horrible scenes took place in the Jewish quarters. The bonfire was already burning in New Market Square, and groups of Jews, who were continually bringing Torah scrolls and holy books, were forced to throw them into the fire while singing and reciting prayers. And anyone who wanted to [could] beat the Jews; 10-11 year old little German boys, tugged at elderly Jews and beat them. Moshe Szarkowski was placed on a mattress and was carried around by a group of Jews. He held a Torah scroll in his hands, and when he was brought to the bonfire, he had to toss the Torah into the fire himself. Yona Szwaiger and Mendel Sztajer were driven through Pabianicer [Pabianicka] Street, carrying Torah scrolls in their hands and dressed in their prayer shawls and kittels [solemn white linen robes worn on the High Holidays]. They had been caught praying. They were forced to scream, “Our Patriarch Abraham has abandoned us.” Chassidic Jews were lead from somewhere else: Yankel Ber Lieberman, Luzer Szpigelman, and Moshe Stabiecki, the owner of a sawmill, also carrying Torah scrolls. Young German hooligans threw stones at them and pulled their beards. Szaja-Feival Jaskowicz was forced to rake the fire with his bare hands. After he had fainted, he was carried home with serious burns on his hands. Such scenes were played out until nightfall.

On the 15th of September 1939, Pastor Gerhardt was appointed mayor by the German military government and Otto Fray as his representative. The latter was also the police commissioner. The first ruling that they issued was that Jews could not walk on the sidewalks. On the 5th of November 1939, these same newly-appointed officials ruled that every Jew over the age of ten had to wear a white insignia on his sleeve; in addition, Jews could not walk in the streets. They could visit each other between 11 and 12 but even then not via the streets, the back way, through the fields. Jews couldn't buy anything in the market. Jews were forbidden to eat eggs, butter, or meat. They had to make do with what was provided for them by the Judenrat [Jewish Council]. After they wore the white armbands for 3 weeks, the ordinance was issued that they had to wear yellow patches. In November, the ruling also came out forbidding Jews to wear beards, [and] Jews were not allowed to pray in public places. The year 1939 ended with a law about forced labor. In the official German document dated the 20th of December, the Division Head of Piotrkow, who was also the Mayor of Belchatow (Belchatow was not yet considered part of the Reich) was ordered to institute forced labor in his city and to notify the Judenrat that they would be held responsible for any infractions of this law, and every failure to carry out this law was to be reported to the Division Head by the Mayor, in a special report. What this “special report” meant was not difficult to imagine.

On the 1st of January 1940, a law was issued by the Head of the S. S. Police of the General Gouvernement of the occupied Polish territories, Colonel Krieger, that the Jews of Belchatow were not permitted to move and that from 9 o'clock at night until 5 o'clock in the morning they were forbidden to leave their homes.

This is the sad tightrope that the Belchatow Jews had to walk during the first four months of the war.

The number of Jews in Belchatow during the time of the German occupation kept on changing. In general, during the first few months of the war until the ghettos were established, the Jews were constantly changing their residences, moving from one place to another. Later on, in Belchatow there were special local events that helped to strengthen the wandering process, namely that Belchatow was located on the border of the so-called “General Gouvernement” [the German administrative district during the occupation of Poland east of Lodz, which did not become part of the German Reich,] and the “Warte-Land” [Warthegau, the German administrative district in which Lodz was situated], which was part of the German Reich. In the first 3 months of the war, the indigenous Jewish population decreased a thousand percent. Some of them, especially the young people, escaped to the Soviet Union; some escaped to other directions. Some ran to Piotrkow, some to Lodz and other cities, although things were not much better there. Some had to leave, because the German police were looking for them due to their political activities before the war. The local Germans had, even before the war, prepared a list of those people whom they thought should be arrested. Zalman Pudlowski's wife, Ruchel, and their daughter, Rivka, were horribly beaten by the German gendarmes. Ruchel's hair was torn out, so that she would reveal the location of her husband, the head of the “Bund” in Belchatow.

By the end of 1939, the Jewish population of Belchatow was beginning to increase. Jews from Lodz were coming to Belchatow. Hunger drove them from there. They thought that it would be easier to survive the war in a smaller location. Jews were coming to their relatives. Jews from Pabianice and Zelow were arriving. Approximately the same number came as had previously left. Once the ghettos were established in Lodz and in Pabianice, the moving from one place to another stopped. In March of 1940, the moving process started again for Belchatow Jews. This is explained by the fact that, in March of 1940, Belchatow became part of the German Reich. Belchatow became part of the so-called Warte-Land [Warthegau].

Previously, Belchatow had become part of the so-called General Gouvernement, but the Belchatow Germans worked very hard to insure that the city would become part of the Reich. They weren't satisfied to belong to the General Gouvernement, which represented the Polish state to a certain extent. Their efforts were crowned with success: Belchatow did indeed become part of the Reich.

In reality, the situation of the Jews in the General Gouvernement wasn't any better than in the Reich, but there was a notable difference in that even the Poles' lives weren't much better. Many Jews were under the illusion that their situation would improve there. It is not possible to say with any accuracy how many Jews left, because no statistical material exists from that time. But according to the opinion of the surviving Belchatow Jews, the number was between 800 and 1,000. People escaped to Piotrkow, because that was the closest town to Belchatow. Jews risked their lives by stealing across the border between the “Reich” and the General Gouvernement, but they did it anyway. When the number of Jews and Poles decreased in Belchatow, the number of Germans, who took their place, increased. According to statistics published by the Germans, there were 1,039 Germans in Belchatow in 1938, and in May of 1941 there were already 1,380, and three months later, in August 1941, that number had grown to 1,450. They came from the destroyed towns of the Reich, which had been bombed by the Allies; they came from the area around Wolyn as well as from the Baltic lands. They were given the nicest residences. The best Jewish businesses were confiscated and given to the Belchatower Germans.

According to official German statistics, there were 5,560 Jews in Belchatow on the first of January 1940, but half a year later, there were 5,050. This is because Jews were beginning to be sent to the Poznan Camps, and from that time on the number of Jews in Belchatow constantly decreased. The numbers did not even increase when the Jews from Kleszczow, Grocholice, Lenkawa, Dobrzelow, and other towns arrived. That was in 1941. Of course, there wasn't the natural population increase either.

This is what the Jewish population of Belchatow looked like in 1941.

The hygienic and living conditions of the Belchatow Jews were difficult, even though there was no official ghetto in Belchatow. There was a Jewish Quarter in which 90% of the Jews in Belchatow lived. The following streets were in the Jewish Quarter: Pabianicer [Pabianicka], Old Market [Stare Rynek], Ewangelicka, Piotrkower [Piotrkowska], and all of the houses which were located behind the synagogue. Although there were some Jews who lived on other streets, communication between them was limited. The reason the Germans did not establish a ghetto in Belchatow was because, technically, the Germans could not push 6,000 Jews into one place and enclose them there, because all the streets in Belchatow were thoroughfares, which connected the various towns. It was not possible to cut off a main road. The Jewish Quarter was extremely crowded. It shouldn't be forgotten that most of the Jewish houses had been burned down at the beginning of the war, and afterwards, when other people began to arrive, the population was increased by a thousand people. The Germans themselves had to admit that the crowding in the Jewish Quarter was horrendous. As proof we have the following German documents:

        On the 24th of November 1941, the State councilor of Lask asked Mayor Trahner of Belchatow to make room in Belchatow for 2,000 Jews, who were going to be deported from Pabianice. The mayor responded that it was impossible to absorb any more Jews; as it was there was the threat of a typhus epidemic due to overcrowding. He suggested three alternatives: 1) that part of New Market Square be added to the Jewish Quarter, which would permit 1,500 more Jews to be absorbed, but the negative side of this plan was that some to the nicest houses in the city would become part of the Jewish Quarter; 2) that it was also possible that Szczercower Street be annexed to the Jewish Quarter via the fields, but the danger here was that the Jews would then be too connected to the outside world. The third alternative was to build barracks for the new arrivals inside the Jewish Quarter.

In addition to the already difficult conditions in the Jewish Quarter, the Germans continued to confiscate the nicest houses for newly arrived Germans. Then the [displaced] Jews had to leave everything that was in the house. The Judenrat was supposed to provide those Jews who had to leave their houses with other living quarters.

In a German document dated the 4th of April 1940, Belchatower Mayor Trahner gave the following Jews, David Szmulewicz and Shimon Eliezer Wolfowicz, who lived on Pabianicer Street, three days to leave their homes, which were needed for German officials. In another document, dated the 10th of December 1940, the Judenrat was notified that Motl Gelbart, who lived in one room and a kitchen at 27 Pabianicer Street, was to immediately make his residence available to the German Waldemar Gutknecht. It is clear that the hygienic conditions in such crowded circumstances were not of the best. Nevertheless, even under these conditions, Jews tried to keep their homes and even the streets clean in the Jewish Quarter.

The Jewish population in Belchatow, which had suffered so much right from the early days of the war, did not lose hope, did not lose its courage. The majority of the inhabitants, especially the proletariat, did everything they could to avoid emotional collapse, something which the Germans were especially interested in seeing happen.

The [former] vibrant social life was not as visible; [but it didn't disappear,] it went underground. In the underground, there existed almost all of the social groups that had existed before the war. The first job of those Jews who had returned from their “journeys” right after the outbreak of the war was to see that the over 300 families whose houses had burned down had a roof over their

heads and clothes to wear. An assistance committee was immediately created, which included people who had had social-work experience before the war. On this committee were: Henech Pigula (who later died in Chelmno), Issachar Przybylski, Lajzer Lewkowicz (Woytls's son), and the lame Goldberszt (all of them later died in Chelmno). In praise of the Jews of Belchatow, it must be said that they responded warmly to the requests of the assistance committee. People shared whatever they had, and all of those who had suffered due to fire were provided with living quarters and all their necessities. In addition, the Jews of Belchatow, ignoring the horrible conditions in which they themselves lived, took food out of their own mouths and even managed to send aid to their relatives in Lodz, who at that time were practically dying of hunger. Thousands of people were dying of hunger in Lodz every month. Typical is the following letter from the Mayor of Belchatow to the State Councilor [Landrat] of Lask. From this letter we can how the Jews of Belchatow made an effort to help their suffering relatives in Lodz. Here is the complete text of the document dated the 17th of May:

Belchatow, the 17th of May 1940
The Mayor
Nr 40/2303
The State Councilor [Landrat]
Of the Lask Region
In Pabianice
Concerning: The collection of a large number of Jewish packages at the local post office.

The head of the Belchatower Post Office told me today that in the last few days, there is an ever-increasing number of Jewish packages being sent, addressed for the most part, to Litzmannstadt [Lodz].

It is strongly suspected that in these packages to Litzmannstadt, the Jews are sending necessities of life. We (the postal gendarme and I) are not able to check these packages which are delivered to the post office. The post office only permits checking [of packages] when there is an ordinance from the secret municipal police.

I request, please, if the State Councilor feels that such checking is required, that he contact the secret municipal police about this matter.

I further bring to your attention that the Jews are providing large sums of copper coins (groschens). The value of groschen today is the same as a pfennig. In this transaction – groschen equal to pfennig, the Jew sees [a bit of] good business and is therefore exchanging the copper coins, which he has thus far hidden.

If the State Councilor should receive instructions from the secret municipal police that checking is possible, I ask that he let me know.

At this time, I permit myself to call attention to the fact that there is a lot of counterfeit money of 2 and 5 marks around. In many cases they have been confiscated.

Perhaps a notice concerning the circulation of counterfeit money would be useful.

  The Mayor
and Department Commissioner [Amtskommissar]
The circular seal:
The Mayor of the city of Belchatow

From the letters that the Jews of Belchatow received from their relatives in Lodz it appears that the Germans confiscated all of the packages anyway. At the beginning of 1942, the post office of Belchatow received official permission from the Mail Minister to detain all the Jewish packages, until the Mail Minister could make a determination concerning this question.

There were also various political party groups active in Belchatow. There was a Bund group, a Communist group, and Poalei Emunei-Yisrael [a religious Zionist Socialist party]. There was stable cooperation between the Bundist and Communist groups. From time to time there would be cooperative meetings with the Bundist, the Communist, and the Poalei Emunei-Yisrael groups. At these meetings, the Bundists were represented by Issachar Przybylski, Gedalia Sztajn (who died in Chelmno), Avraham Binem Sztajn (now in America), [and] Herzkowicz. The Communists were represented by Henech Pigula, Shimon Szmulewicz (who died in Auschwitz), [and] Chaim David Kaufman (who died in the Poznan Camp).

At these meetings, questions of how to help themselves were considered, [such as] the institution of a soup kitchen for the poor. The question of how to set up the illegal schools was discussed. Also discussed were cases of abuse and occurrences of stealing at the Judenrat, since it appeared that some of the money, which had been paid into the treasury of the Jews-Council by Jews buying their way out of forced labor, had disappeared. The Poalei Emunei-Yisrael group was represented by Yitzhak Pigula, a leading member since before the war. A Beis-Yakov group existed, led by Hinde Jakubowicz and Miss Joskowicz.

In the summer of 1941 a demonstration was organized by the Bundists, the Communists and the Poalei Emunei groups against the machinations of the Judenrat. Several hundred people took part in this demonstration.

In 1940, three illegal schools existed in Belchatow; one was organized by the Communist group. Surcze [Surche, diminutive for Sara/Sura] Sztatlender taught there. In 1942, during the resettlements, she was sent to Lodz. From the Lodz Ghetto she was sent away to Czestochowa in “HASAG” [Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft, a privately owned German armaments company that used camp inmates as forced labor], and she died there. Zalmen Bilz also taught there. Ruchel Pudlowski and Dina Winer taught in the Bundist school. Both schools taught Yiddish, Polish, and Jewish History. The children were taught the works of Jewish writers. Poalei Emunei Yisrael also offered courses, but it difficult now to be certain who the teachers there were. And there was also a cheder [Jewish religious school]. There were also secret libraries. Right at the beginning of the war, Mendel Kaufman, risking his life, carried out the books from the Bundist library and hid them. Itche Lejb Goldberszt had a secret library in his house. The place in the Jewish Quarter where Jews used to gather was behind the synagogue, where Yankel Warszawski's houses were. There painful questions were discussed. The front was discussed. Some cheered up those who were there with letters they had received from Russia, saying that soon “Aunt Ruzha” would arrive. That's where they took anything that they had to sell. From time to time, the police showed up and crippled anyone who didn't manage to escape in time. Especially sadistic was the gendarme Rempl. Whatever social life there was completely withered in 1941, when the German-Soviet War began. The terror increased even more. People were afraid to get together. The deportations began. At first only the men were deported. The barely extant social life that had been there died completely. The schools were closed, because the parents were afraid to send their children to the schools.

As was already mentioned above, all sources of livelihood had been taken from the Jews. The factories and the businesses had been confiscated. The tradesmen were not allowed to work in their workshops; their machines were taken away. The Jews couldn't enter the textile factories that the Germans had taken from the Jews. Jews were caught and sent to do forced labor and paid in beatings. Due to the severity of their lives, the problem was – how does one survive? The 30 deca [10 grams] of bread, which were doled out by the Judenrat, without any fat or any other food, were not enough to live on and not little enough to kill. The Jews were left no choice other than to do such jobs at which they risked their lives. And this did indeed cost many human lives. During the dark of night, Jews stole into the village to get some potatoes. If someone was caught doing this, he was either shot, or – in the best scenario – so severely whipped that he would remember it for a long time. But nevertheless, the smuggling continued. Smuggling and illegal dealings grew, because between Belchatow and Piotrkow was the border between the German Reich and the General Gouvernement. Textiles were smuggled out of Belchatow, and leather and other articles were brought in. The persons engaged in this knew that their lives were in danger, but they had no other choice. Starvation forced them into it. The majority of their earning they had to give to the bribed gendarmes. They were dealing with all kinds of extortionists and blackmailers. They too had to be cut in. The Jewish police, Shmuel Jakubowicz's gang, also had to be bribed. Then a battle started between the richer and the poorer smugglers. The wealthier smugglers, who had the greater wherewithal with which to bribe the gendarmes, helped to liquidate the poorer ones. The smuggling took place only at night after police hours. They took a sack or a backpack on their shoulders and, with careful steps, slipped through the fields and meadows to the border. Others would be waiting to get the merchandise from them, Jews or Christians from Piotrkow and surrounding areas. Also waiting for them were German border guards with bloodhounds.

In June 1941, the Commandant of the Security Police announced to the mayor that, on Zelower Road, he had intercepted a wagon with merchandise and had arrested the Jews Avraham Berkowicz and Shmuel Goldberg. In the majority of cases, such an arrest meant certain death. This was certainly the case in the situation mentioned above, when the gendarme was unable to take the goods for himself, which was certainly noted from the sidelines and but couldn't be reported. Moshe Stabiecki, the baker, was chased 5 kilometers by two security policemen. He had contraband goods. They chased him until he jumped into a river. They left him there, having convinced themselves that he had drowned. He, however, succeed in saving himself. The gendarmes tortured [Lajbish] Melot, the butcher, to death. They poured a liter of denaturat [denatured alcohol not for consumption] down his throat. Avraham Nafelyan was also tortured to death. He had been caught with smuggled goods on the road to Szczercow. The following were shot: Yankel Rosental, Lozer Szpigelman's son, the butcher Machabanski, and his son. Another report by the Security Police describes a serious crime committed by Jews: 100 kilo potatoes were found in possession of Jews who were in forced-labor near the road. The police confiscated the potatoes and sold them to the Germans for 2 marks a kilo.

The Jews sold all of their possessions to be able to buy a piece of bread. If ever a peasant had put himself at risk to obtain a piece of bread for a Jew, he asked to be well compensated. There were also, however, known cases where peasants brought their Jewish acquaintances food and did not want to accept any payment.

The Jews in Belchatow tried different ways, tricks, and methods to keep themselves alive. Their instincts led them to various means of finding a bit of sustenance for themselves, their wives, and children.

In Belchatow as in other cities, the Germans set up factories and workshops where Jewish workers had to work. They labored in these workshops from sun-up to sundown, expending their last ounce of energy with nothing in their bellies. Anyone who refused to toil in these workshops was subject to another fate – deportation to the camps. The largest factory using Jewish labor was the tailors' workshop, which had been established in Dzialowski's factory. The Germans had taken out the looms and replaced them with sewing machines, which were owned by Jewish tailors or had been found in Jewish homes. Six hundred and fifty Jewish workers were employed in the tailors' workshop. Szlama Jakubowicz was named technical overseer. The real manager appointed by the Germans was Alfred August, a sociopath and a sadist. He would beat someone half to death for the slightest infraction. The reason which made it possible for him to occupy such a position was that he had divorced his Polish wife, and during Polish times the Poles broke his hands when they suspected him of spying for the Germans. When the Germans entered Poland, they appointed him mayor of Grocholice. It was there that he earned a reputation for his sadistic acts. His [constant] scoffing at the civilian population went so far that the Germans themselves were forced to remove him from this position. And it was this thug that the Jews got as head of the tailors' workshop. There was also a shoemakers' workshop with 50 workers. The shoemaker's shop was located in Hersh David Szwarcberg's house. A carpenters' workshop was already in existence, run by Itche Winter. In addition, there was a factory which produced things made of straw. The number of Jews officially employed in all of these workshops is estimated to be more than 1,000. These workers were the worst off economically, since they had no time to earn anything on the side. The only food that the workers received consisted of 30 decas [10 grams] of bread in a soup, which was doled out to them from the kitchen in the Judenrat. After this, the Judenrat established 2-3 kitchens, which served 1, 200 lunches. The people didn't receive any fuel, so they sat with their wives and children in the unheated rooms. For water, they had to go from Pabianicer Street to Old Market Square [Stare Rynek]. “Zalman Pudlowski's pump” broke down. Because of a lack of fuel, the bath house was not used, and if someone became ill, he had to wait several days for medicine, because people were allowed to go to the pharmacy only one hour during the day. There was no hospital. There were practically no doctors either. Dr. Jakubowicz went to Piotrkow and played a shameful role there. He collaborated with the Gestapo. He sent hundreds of people to the crematoriums, among them many Belchatowers. In 1939, Dr. Payewski was taken into the Polish Army and never returned. He probably died in a German prisoner of war camp. The non-Jewish doctors were not allowed to treat Jews. There were Jewish doctors in Belchatow: [one of them was] Dr. Basier, one of Josef Lejb's sons-in-law. He later died in Chelmno. There was another Jewish doctor from Warsaw, whose name was Tifenberg. One of them had been appointed to treat Jews as early as 1942, when the typhus epidemic broke out in Belchatow. At that time, the Mayor requested permission of the Land Council for a Jewish physician, Dr. Hart of Wlodzimierzow, to come to Belchatow. He said that his request was motivated by his not wanting non-Jewish doctors to examine Jewish typhus patients, because they might infect non-Jews with the disease. At the beginning of 1942, even Jewish doctors were forbidden to practice. Their instruments were confiscated and given to Germans. And under such conditions, the Germans demanded that all hygienic measures be taken, after having done everything to make it impossible to do so. Of course, the Jewish population's health deteriorated greatly, due to hard work and unsanitary conditions. People began to die in droves. Many suffered from lung disease. Many of the older people died of exhaustion. The small number of children who were born at that time had rickets. Of course, the first to suffer were the Jewish poor and, along with them, those who toiled in the workshops and in the factories.

The role that the Judenrat played in Belchatow during the German occupation was the same in all the cities of Poland: they obediently fulfilled all the German commands and even, in certain cases, collaborated. Often, they voluntarily told the German officials and the Gestapo what was going on among the Jews. The majority of those in the Judenrat and the Jewish police were people with no integrity, who sought a way to make a living by selling out the impoverished masses.

For the bone that the Germans threw them, they did the dirtiest jobs, helping to liquidate even their own families. It is true that among them there were some who would not have been in the Judenrat if they had not been forced to do so. But there were also those who didn't care what kind of mission they carried out. In Belchatow's social life, such people as Shmuel Jakubowicz and his ilk would never have attained any prominence. Any efforts they may have made before the war to attain social positions in Belchatow did not meet with any success. The culturally developed Jewish population of Belchatow always decimated their power. Only under Nazi occupation were they able to get a leg to stand on. It is not by chance that when Ehrlich later went to the gallows, he tried to find merit in the eyes of the Germans by reminding them that even during the First World War, he had made money for the German occupying powers.

Immediately after the Germans marched into Belchatow, a Jewish “delegation,” not empowered by anyone, approached the German military commandant to request permission to bake bread for the Jews. This “delegation” consisted of M. Jakubowicz, Shmuel Jakubowicz and Yankel Ehrlich. Their main motivation was not to help the Jewish population but to ingratiate themselves with the Germans and to receive from them permission to dominate the Jews. Their later actions entirely confirmed these intentions. They received from the commandant a mandate to form the Judenrat and to provide the necessary personnel for the work in the Judenrat, according to their own vision. They conscripted people from all over for the Judenrat in order to make the impression that all of Jewish society was represented there. Those whom they approached to be on the Judenrat found themselves in a difficult situation: refusing might carry with it serious consequences. So they had to agree. his is how the following came to belong to the first Judenrat that had already been formed in September, 1939: Michal Jakubowicz as Chairman, Shmuel Jakubowicz as Vice-Chairman, Yankel Ehrlich as Secretary, and Aron Liberman, Issachar Przybylski, Binem Hendeles, [and] Melech Galster as members of the managerial board.

The real power lay only in the hands of the first three. The Judenrat did not have any special activities. It was thoroughly corroded by corruption and abuse. It was hated by the Jewish population. They feared the members of the Judenrat. With their actions, they created a net of intrigue around the Judenrat.

There were those who conspired to depose the Judenrat leaders. They were the ones who were upset that they hadn't been selected. The Mizrachi activists, Sholom Feder and Mendel Lipman turned against the Judenrat using both legal and illegal means. If Shmuel Jakubowicz and his clique had on their side the police and the Gestapo, with whom they made mutual deals, Sholom Feder's and Mendel Lipman's group had the Mayor on their side. These activists, known as communal workers from before the war, now got involved in such an ugly thing; they explained, first of all, that they were enraged that their group was not represented in the Judenrat. It is, however, also possible that they sought to eliminate the thievery and the corruption in the Judenrat, but the means that they used toward this end were, unfortunately, not entirely respectable. Let the facts speak for themselves.

On the 18th of October, the Mayor announced that Michal Jakubowicz, Shmuel Jakubowicz, and Yankel Ehrlich must be removed from the Judenrat and replaced by Sholom Feder and Mendel Lipman, Shamai Grinberg, Melech Galster, and Issachar Przybylski. The two last mentioned were from the old Judenrat and remained. They had not taken part in any of the disputes of the clique. That Sholom Feder and his people did not use completely straight means is evidenced by the fact that a month after Shmuel Jakubowicz was removed from the Judenrat, he was arrested. The police did this at the behest of the Mayor. They accused Jakubowicz of being in cahoots with the smuggling gangs, of having also been in jail for six months before the war, and of forging artisans' cards. Of course, the Mayor could not have found out all of this by himself. This was a piece of work done by those who had taken Shmuel Jakubowicz's place on the Judenrat. Shmuel Jakubowicz also did not take this lying down. On the 20th of October 1940, two days after the new Judenrat took over, the Mayor gave Shmuel Jakubowicz notice that if he didn't stop slandering the new Judenrat, he would incur dire consequences.

Here is the actual text of that document:

“To the Jew Shmuel Jakubowicz, barber in Belchatow:
I am letting you know that the strongest means will be used against you and against other former members of the Judenrat, if you will not stop [spreading] your lies and agitating against the work of the newly formed Judenrat, for which you want to create difficulties. Rest assured that this can have the direst consequences.”
(---) Trahner
20th October 1940

On the 21st of October the head of the Judenrat, Sholom Feder, was arrested along with Mendel Lipman and Yechiel Marczak. All three were sent to Lodz. There the Gestapo accused them of belonging to the illegal Zionist organization. They were accused of giving anti-Hitler speeches. They were even told the title of the given speech. It was supposedly called: “Thoughts about Hitlerism“.

The Jewish population had no idea that any of this was happening. All of this happened in the offices of the Gestapo and the Mayor. In the Gestapo in Lodz, it seems that they were convinced that these accusations were groundless. It could be that they asked the Mayor of Belchatow. The fact is that all three were once again freed. The lawyer, [Yitzkak] Bogdanski, Avraham Laskowski's son-in-law, who came from Piotrkow, was confirmed in the place of Sholom Feder as Chairman of the Belchatower Judenrat. He was the Chairman of the Judenrat until the 21st of July 1941. His term in office was, perhaps, the quietest time that the Belchatow Jews had under the German occupation. We don't know a lot of details about that time. It is only known that, in Bogdanski's time, the kitchens were set up. He also tried to improve the hygienic conditions for the Jewish population. Whatever reasons arose for removing Bogdanski from office were not real. We can only imagine that it was a bit of underhanded work, because the already familiar Yankel Ehrlich was confirmed in his place as Chairman. Peretz Altman and Itche Winter were confirmed for the Judenrat along with Yankel Ehrlich. All three were not very popular figures among the Jews of Belchatow. In the Mayor's announcement the function of each member of the Judenrat was precisely indicated.

According to a document that was found, the offices were apportioned in this way: president – Yankel Ehrlich, his two assistants: Peretz Altman and Itche Winter. For the other members of the Judenrat, he suggests the following work divisions: employment: Szlama-Hersh Topolewicz; social services: Binem Hendeles; bread allotting: Mendel Lipman; food distribution: David Pakertreger; milk allotting: Moshe Pakertreger; treasurer: Beryl Zuchowski.

The Judenrat aided the German government in a series of actions against the Belchatower Jews. This was in the effort to deport Jews to the camps in Poznan in August 1941, as well as creating a list of very sick people, who were also deported.

It could be that one of the things that led to changes in the Judenrat was the fact that the Mayor wanted to have as many of his own people there as possible. It is, perhaps, also not by chance that Issachar Przybylski and others left the Judenrat. Peretz Altman started a business, taking 500 marks from someone not to send him to the camps. Of course, this discriminated against the poor, because those who couldn't pay were sent out [to the camps]. On the 24th of September, the make up of the Judenrat changed again. The star of President Yankel Ehrlich was extinguished. In his place, the lawyer Bogdanski was once again installed.

The Judenrat consisted of 9 people. In addition, 12 officers were appointed to various positions, and [there were] 8 errand boys. The following is a list of the positions of the Judenrat at that time and those who held them:

Chairman: Itzik Bogdanski, his two co-chairmen: Itche Winter and Peretz Altman; workshop department: Moshe Klug; finance department: Meyer Feder; food distribution: Avraham Weintraub; social welfare: Yankel Machabanski; employment department: Mendel Sapirsztajn; person responsible for the sewing factory: Szlama Szmulewicz. The offices were: technical secretary: Josef Lejb Gelbard; evidence: Regina Galster; in the workshop department: Moshe Wolf Starowinski; social management: Ziskind Klug; means of life apportionement: Szaja Zertzl and Hertz Lejb; treasurer: Avraham Szmulewicz; work department: Moshe Buchman; mail department: Szlama Gnatik; bread apportionment: Aharon Lieberman; in the kitchens: Ezra Stabiecki and Chana Rozenberg; the messenger boys were: Daniel Gerst, Avraham Alter Goldberg, Itzik Sztern, Meyer Szymkowicz, Moshe Baum, Motel Gelbard, Berish Piula, Itzik Handelsman.

In the new Judenrat, exactly as in the previous one, the first three had all the power. The others were no more than figureheads.

In April of 1942, at the time of the “barricade,” when the whole city was surrounded by the Gestapo and the Jews of Belchatow thought that their end had come, the president if the Judenrat tried to escape to Piotrkow. He had an agreement with a German driver, who, for a large sum of money, was supposed to drive him to Piotrkow. But instead of Piotrkow, he drove him and his whole family to the police. From the police station, they were taken to the prison with the worst reputation, Radogoszcz Prison, where they were all killed. Those killed were: Avraham Laskowski, his wife and all of their children, his son-in-law, [and] the president of the Judenrat, Itzik Bogdanski.

In Bogdanski's place as president of the Judenrat, Szlama Hersh Topolowicz was confirmed.

On the eve of the liquidation, Topolowicz was shot upon order of the mayor, who was taking revenge on him.

The other members of the Judenrat, who remained until the end, assisted the Germans in the liquidation of the Jews of Belchatow.        

The role of the Jewish Police in Belchatow was absolutely no different than the role of the police in other occupied cities. The Jewish police obediently fulfilled all the German decrees.

The Jewish Police in Belchatow was created and confirmed by the German government on the 15th of October 1940. A young criminal element found its way into the Jewish police, which blackmailed the smugglers, and squeezed sums of money out of the Jews by beatings, persecution, and the like. Also to be found in the Jewish police were young citizens, who had the money to bribe the individual members of the Jewish police. From [others'] misfortunes, they made an easy living for themselves and wangled their way out of forced labor camps. These were people with weak moral resistance and who, of course, did everything precisely as the German government told them to. Among the Jewish policemen, there were almost no proletarian elements, except for someone like Note Szpigelman, who, even before the war, had been thrown out of the proletarian ranks for embezzlement. The Jewish police in Belchatow consisted of 33 persons. These are their names: Yisroel Baum; Avraham Bogdanski; Hershl Bram; Yakov Galetski; Yechiel Fishl Dichtwald; Leybish Zuchowski; Szame Grinberg (who for a certain time was also on the Judenrat); Avraham Meyer Goldberg (khmal [?]); Moshe Goldblum; Shimon; Josef Goldberg; Hershel Jakubowicz; Moshe Klug (who was also a member in the Judenrat); Yankel Lipszyc; Moshe Mendel Lipman; Fishl Levi; Kive Lipmanowicz; Yakov-Mendel Lejb; Tuvia Machabanski; Yitzhak Miller; Wolf Przemyslawski; Lejb Rozencwajg; Itzik Sztrauch; Note Szpigelman; Moshe Wielniwicz; Itik Wishniewski; Henoch Zuchowski; Ber Markowicz; Melech Galster (also a member of the Judenrat); and Berish Grinberg. The latter was the wagon worker in the Poznan Camp and distinguished himself by beating the Jews and taking their food away from them. In addition there were: Jakob Sztern, Mendel Dzialowski, and Berish Piula. The latter, along with his brother, played a shameful part in the Poznan Camps. He was a camp “kapo” and beat [the Jews] black and blue. Many Jews became crippled because of him. He was responsible for the deaths of many people, who were sent to the crematoria because of him. The Belchatower police distinguished itself by assisting the Germans in the rounding up of Jews in the aktsion [action] of April, 1942. Together with the Germans, they went down into the cellars and up into the attics to search for hidden Jews. At that time, they succeeded in dragging another 400 Jews out of their hiding places. These Jews were sent out to be liquidated.

The Judenrat also helped in this evacuation.

But it didn't help the scoundrels themselves, because they also could not escape their fate, [the same fate] that awaited the Jews of Belchatow.

In the beginning, when the Germans first arrived in Belchatow, all the positions were filled with Folk-Germans, [Volks-Deutschen, ethnic Germans living outside of Germany], the majority of the local population. They filled the positions in the city administration, in the police force, and as commissars over Jewish fortunes. In time, however, Reich-Germans [Reichs-Deutschen] took their places.

In March 1940, the Germans replaced the local mayor, Pastor Gerhardt, with the Reich-German Trahner, an old member of the National-Socialist Party. He was the real liquidator of the Belchatow Jews. He strictly obeyed all the anti-Jewish ordinances, and not only those that were ordered by his superior, but he himself added many things that helped make it so that a large part of the Jewish fortunes should wind up in his own possession. Soon after Pastor Gerhardt was removed from his position as Mayor, he was accused of “sympathizing” with the Jews. The German government accused him of protecting Jews. As proof they showed the State Councilor [that] the Pastor asked the commissar of the tailor's factory, August, about hiring the Jews, Idel Lejb and Lipman Walosczowski.

Here are a few sample documents concerning this matter:

Herr Commissioner August

If it is possible, employ Chil Walosczowski and Litman [sic] Walosczowski.


7/12, 1940
Heil Hitler


To Herr Commissioner


If it is possible? . . . as a worker Yudel Lejb?. . . who will surely do his work for the future for his superiors.

Belchatow, the 4th / 1/ 1941


Belchatow, the 5th January 1941

To Herr
Pastor Gerhardt

The manager of the Jewish tailor's workshop has received several notes from you in which you recommend or ask that Jews be hired in the Jewish tailor shop.

I must, therefore, make you aware that you, via these recommendations, are in danger of being considered as a friend of the Jews. It might perhaps be necessary to advise you as someone in a prominent position and as a German to show more restraint.

The Mayor
And Department Commissioner


It is difficult to determine whether Pastor Gerhardt was indeed that friendly to Jews as it appears in these documents. The fact is that Pastor Gerhardt was the founder of the National-Socialist Party in Belchatow and the founder of the German Choral Society as well as the German Sports Club before the war, both of which were Nazi nests. The fact is also that the Germans appointed him Mayor as soon as they entered the city; and the most convincing fact is that during his term of office, he never reacted to the terrible anti-Semitic acts that the Folk-Germans committed.

The case against Pastor Gerhardt shows the various mini-intrigues among the Germans – one German pitted against another.

It is worthwhile here to mention a case in which a German was victimized because his father was sympathetic to Jews; they were the German weaver Pyetrik and his wife.

Both of them belonged to the Baptist sect. They helped both Jews and Christians in any way they could. Quietly, they carried food to the houses of the poor. They conveyed news from the fronts; they agitated against Hitlerism; they openly said that the anti-Christ, Hitler, must be defeated. That is why in 1944 they were sent to the concentration camp Dara [?]. [And] the possessions of the Pyetriks were confiscated.

From the very first day he took office, the new mayor showed that he was capable of doing the job. He immediately threw the Jews out of the best residences and watched over not only his own city but neighboring cities as well. In one of his letters to the mayor of Zelow, he asks if it is true that the two Breitsztajn brothers were part of the football [soccer] team of the German sports club in Zelow.

He was interested in every triviality. He was doing his utmost to please his superiors, and one way to please was to persecute Jews even more. And nevertheless, even against him infractions vis a vis Jews were found, that is, leniencies, insufficient brutality. On the 20th of November 1940, the Commissar of Lodz came to the mayor of Belchatow, Trahner, and demanded that he explain several things about the relationship of the Germans to the Jews of Belchatow. Here is the complete text of the “crimes” that the Jews of Belchatow were committing against the German Reich:

  1. “I found out from a confidential source about the following situation, which exists in Belchatow: one Jew was given the responsibility to buy poultry from a Folk-German who had the poultry concession. Some of the poultry were slaughtered and sold to Jews.
  2. Until today there are one or two Jews who have their own wagons.
  3. In your security police there are employed Jewish women, and they are permitted, after the security police [do so], to bathe in the same bathtubs in which Germans bathe.

    I ask that you confirm if these things are correct and to report back to me as soon as possible.”

According to the Mayor's answer we can see that only one of the above-mentioned “crimes” is correct. It seems that the Jewish woman, Langnas, had indeed bathed in the same bathtub as the Germans, but she had already been fired.

Regarding the wagon, that is, the horse and wagon, which belonged to a Jew, it turned out that according to the announcement of the Mayor of Belchatow, that the Jew with the horse and wagon was carrying the wood of the disassembled synagogue, and it was immediately confirmed that as soon as the Jew was finished with this job, the horse would be given to a Folk-German, but no one wanted to take it, because the horse was not worth the feed. It was an old and sick horse …

As soon as Trahner took over the office of Mayor, there began, in Belchatow, the legal, official plundering of Jewish property. The Jews were made to furnish the residences of the arriving German officers. There are documents, official requests to the Judenrat. In a document dated the 20th of January 1941, from the Head Commissar of the city of Belchatow, the following is said:

“To the Elders of the Jewish Community in Belchatow:

The Gendarme of Belchatow, Gen. Litzman-Gas, needs various kitchen tools for his kitchen. You must be in contact with the head of his kitchen in order to take care of this.
  Mayor and Department Commissioner
Trahner []

Or another document dated the 25th of January 1941:

To the Belchatow Judenrat:

Please deliver to the police department, [which is] under the leadership of Commandant Fisher, mattresses for sleeping.
  Mayor: Trahner

There are also documents, which speak of delivering [Jewish] possessions via the Germans which were demanded by the police.

It says in a document dated the 12th of February 1941 that the peasant, Rudolph Kiel, must deliver to the magistrate the velvet blankets that he took from the Jew Jakubowicz. Among the documents of the same month, there is also a letter from the Police Commandant to the Mayor:

“This past month I delivered a full list of the thinin my possession. I behaved in the way that you, Herr Mayor, desired of me. I gathered all of these things, which were almost lost to private ownership that various people had taken for themselves. In so doing, I myself suffered a great loss: I was ordered to sell my own things, which were at my mother's house in Pabianice, and sent her others. Some of my things I gave to my acquaintances. Two sets of beds, with your knowledge, I exchanged with Jews. Is it possible to buy these things? You ask for my advice as to what to do now so that as an officer I should not suffer any losses because of the Poles and the Jews, who hate me. In addition, I would like to let you know that various people still have certain things, things that were taken from the Jewsillegally. I beg of you not to believe everything that you will hear about me. There are a lot of people, who hate me. I stand before them with a clear conscience. The truth can be brought out into the light. I am someone, who has done everything for you and am ready to continue to do everything. I ask that you not deny my request; otherwise, I might think that I am being treated worse than the enemies of the German Reich.”

In a document dated the 2nd of January 1941, there is an order from the Mayor that Jews should deliver a closet for the leader of the Hitler youth, Jansen. On the 20th of November 1941, the Mayor gives the Police Commandant Bloch permission to confiscate a clothing closet and a mirror from the Jew, Hershel Granek. Worse were the decrees by the Mayor, which made the Jews' lives more difficult. He completely forbade communication among the Jews. This detail made the conditions of the Jews of Belchatow worse than those of the Jews in the ghetto. The latter could at least move freely within the bounds of the ghetto. Here [in Belchatow] the desire to visit another Jew, to walk from one house to another meant risking one's life. If on the way, one happened to meet a German or a policeman, it could even cost one his life. In the best case, one could escape with only a bad beating or by bribing them with large sums of money.

Until the 18th of February, the Jewish policemen could still move about the streets freely. After that date, it was forbidden for even Jewish policemen to move about in the so-called “curfew hours.” The German police were ordered to watch carefully, and any Jew who was caught in the street during the “curfew hours” was to be severely punished. The “curfew hours” were all day. Jews were permitted to walk in the street for only one hour a day. And even this hour was fraught with difficulty. One had to be careful not to go out a minute earlier or stay out a minute later.

Pursuant to a decree by the Mayor, on the 10th of June 1941, all Jewish religious books and religious articles were to be gathered for the German Eastern-Institute for research into the Jewish question.

On the 10th of June 1941, the Mayor of Belchatow announced to the Land Office of the Lask District in Pabianice that he had finished the collection.

With this collection, the first period of persecution of the Belchatow Jews ended. Then the second period starts, the worst one: the Liquidation.

With the outbreak of the German-Soviet War, the German administration received an order to intensify the course of action they were taking regarding the Jews. Raids and requisitions start once again. The Jews of Belchatow felt that something was hanging over their heads. They became even more frightened of meeting one another. Victims were killed arbitrarily. All movement stopped in the Jewish quarter. Cultural work ended completely; the illegal schools closed down, because the parents were afraid to let a child out on the street. Suddenly the Germans began to tamper with the political rectitude of a whole slew of people, both Jews and Poles. On the 1st of August 1941, the Land Office in Pabianice sent a circular to Belchatow concerning the “feeding” of the old and infirm Jews.[2])

This German document is the height of cynicism and perfidy, because it didn't take long to be convinced that the abovementioned category of persons [represented] the first victims of the Nazi extermination plan. Soon a second order arrived, which was that it was forbidden to send very sick Jews to the hospital in Lodz. It was decreed that a whole house should be cleared of its Jewish inhabitants and isolated for patients with infectious diseases. The Germans wouldn't tolerate a house with infectious patients in their city unless they knew that this was just a gathering point for a short time; that the people of this house would soon be transported [elsewhere].

As early as the 7th of August, the Commissar of the Land Office in Pabianice announced a whole list of infirm and crippled, which had been sent to him by the Belchatow Judenrat.

This document is as follows:

“In connection with the request of the 1st of August 1941 concerning the infirm and crippled Jews residing in Belchatow, I send you the following list:

  1. Szwarcberg Tovah, Hindenberg Place 5
  2. Wojdyslawski Chana, Evangelishe [Ewangelicka] Street 4
  3. Landau Sura, Litzmannstadt Street 18
  4. Goldsztejn Yitzhak, Freiheit Street 15
  5. Goldberg Shimon, Breslauer Street 7
  6. Frajman Yitskhok, Evangelishe [Ewangelicka] Street
  7. Krzhepicka Sura Feyge, Evangelishe [Ewangelicka] Street 13
  8. Sztepnitska Sura Ruchel, Horst Wessel Street 24
  9. Kalman Bejnish, Horst Wessel Street 31
  10. Warszawski Szlama, Adolf Hitler Street 2
  11. Szpigelman Yisroel, Litzmannstadt Street 11
  12. Berkowicz Reuben, Litzmannstadt Street 9
  13. Piaskowska Nache, Horst Wessel Street 25
  14. Przybylski Yisroel Gershon, Freiheits Place 9
  15. Baum Yechezkal, Horst Wessel Street 20
  16. Szmulewicz Ester Ruchel, Litzmannstadt Street 43
  17. Szwarcbard Rafael, Evangelishe [Ewangelicka] Street 4
  18. Klug Benjamin, Evangelishe [Ewangelicka] Street 7. [”]

On August 1941, they began to transport the Jews of Belchatow out and the strictures against the Jews become ever stronger. It is forbidden to employ Jews for any kind of work. In a special decree of the Land Office (this is a function of the former governor of the province) [it is mentioned] once again that special attention should be paid, and the local administration should take good care to see, that the Jews should not leave their residences… And so one harsh decree follows another against the Jews of Belchatow. One decree doesn't even have time to take effect before another is issued. On the 19th of August 1941, the Land Office sends a map to the Commissar showing the number of streets and residences in which the Jews should be concentrated. The Jews of Belchatow are further concentrated in order to make place for the Jews of smaller towns, who are being brought to Belchatow. The Jews of the surrounding area had only one week in which to vacate their living quarters and move to Belchatow.

The Germans used the same means here as everywhere else: concentrating the Jews from the smaller places into the larger [town], so that it would be easier for them to be liquidated all at one time.

The decree sent from the State Councilor [Landrat] to the Department Commissioner [Amtskommissar] contains the following contents:

“You should discuss with the Mayor of Belchatow the transporting of the 7 Jews from the Village of Przyrownica to Belchatow. Their move must be accomplished quickly in order not to give the Jews time to orient themselves and escape. The Jews are permitted to take their household items with them, [and] prepared food products. They are also permitted to take with them coals, wood, peat. The county must provide wagon drivers for this purpose. Please let me know if the relocation was carried out according to the above instructions.”

No one would believe that the same State Councilor, who had already carried out a whole series of actions in his region, would suddenly begin to worry about the 7 Jews of Przyrownica. All of this was done with one goal: to fool the vigilant Jews, so that the victims should not catch on to what was going to be done with them and not escape in time.

On the 16th of September 1941, the Jews of Kleszczow received an order to move to Belchatow. On the 30th of September, the police announced that they had transferred the 8 Jews of Dobrzelow to Belchatow. Those 8 Jews were: Yankel Winer, Ella Winer, Moshe Winer, Sura Winer and Rivka Winer. The second family consisted of: Chaim Gliksman, Rivka Gliksman, and Avraham Gliksman. To Belchatow were sent the Jews from Grocholice, Belchatowek, Lenkowe and elsewhere. How else but as preparation for the liquidation of the Jews can the following request from the Land Office to the Mayor of Belchatow be explained. It is dated the 13th of October and concerns a specific list of Jews, which he must have for the secret police. This is how the text of this order sounds:

“To the Mayor of Belchatow:

For the secret police I must have a specific list of how many Jews live in Belchatow. It must state exactly how many men and how many women. Special attention must be given to the children under 6 years, who are not required to wear the Jewish insignia.”

It is clear that by this they meant that when the moment comes to liquidate the Jews of Belchatow, the children should not be hidden. On the 22nd of October, the Judenrat received instructions about this from the mayor. This is its text:

“To the Elders of the Judenrat in the Jewish District in Belchatow:

I order that in the next three days a true list of all the Jewish inhabitants in Belchatow according to sex be delivered to me. Special attention should be paid to children under 6. These lists must be delivered to me by October 26th at the latest.”

The Judenrat sent the list of the Jewish inhabitants of Belchatow to the mayor on the 25th of October. There were 2,067 men, 2,519 women and 536 children under 6. The document of January 8th 1942 is even clearer and more explicit concerning the plans to exterminate the Jews. The Belchatow Department Commissioner sent this to the Land office. Because of the importance of this document, I reproduce it exactly.

Belchatow, the 8th of January 1942

The Department Commissioner
of the city of Belchatow

– Lask District –
No. 4998/42

To the State Councilor
of the District of Lask

–– Department of Syndicate-District [Kreissyndikus]        142/02

In Pabianice

Concerning: The List of Jews

According to the enclosed list the whole sum of sick and unemployed Jews [is] 3,425.

I repeat in order to avoid being unclear:

  1. The Jews indicated in blue are artisans and employed in handwork.
  2. Those indicated in red are unemployed, including old men and women.
  3. Those Jews without any mark are ill [and number] 1,597 souls, who can be quickly transported away.
  4. The children under 8 can not be indicated by any mark lest I run the danger of telling the Jews more than is necessary.

The Department Commissioner:

The document does not require any commentary. It not only shows that the Gestapo was, even at the beginning of 1942, ready to destroy the Jews of Belchatow. It also shows something else: that all minor German officials were informed of this—that they were getting ready to annihilate the Jews, and they did everything in their power to assist in this [matter].

{This chapter is continued on the next page}

  1. The list can be found on page 479 [in the chapter “Documents of the Holocaust and Destruction” in this Yizkor Book]. [It indicates that it was made on September 7, 1940.] Return
  2. See the document on page 490 [in the chapter “Documents of the Holocaust and Destruction” in this Yizkor Book]. Return

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