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[Page 354]

A Letter from the Other Side of the Ocean

by Adela Epstajn–Leszinski

Translated by Pamela Russ

 

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Adela Epstajn–Leszinski

 

Adela Epstajn–Leszinski (Poland)

The letter from the other side of the ocean and the reports about the trial of the Germans murdering the Gostyniner Jews bear witness to the great tragedy. – There are no more Jews living in Gostynin now. When the trial against the German murderers took place in Plock, there were no more Gostyniner Jews left in Poland who could come forth as witness to this horrific murder.

Dear Friend,

When I returned to Gostynin, I found only very few signs of the fact that there was once Jewish life there. More clearly: The only signs remaining from that life – is the opposite of life – the destroyed cemetery of Jewish Gostynin; that is all that remains of the once blossoming community.

For me, this was a tragic and horrific picture. I searched for the graves of my dear ones and close ones. I found them empty and desecrated. Even the “tent” [over the gravesite] of the holy Gostyniner Rebbe was no longer there. Even more: The entire cemetery lay in chaos, with grass growing wildly and neglected. The fence, that once surrounded the holy place, was torn away. The cemetery had been totally destroyed by the dark powers of the German thugs. The graves and tombstones were completely

[Page 355]

 

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A Non–Jewish Tombstone in the Place Where the Shul [synagogue] Used to be

 

The Polish union of former political arrestees in Gostynin, after the war, buried and murdered Gostynin residents (there was not one Jew among them) and in their memory they set up a tombstone in the place where the Gostyniner shul and Beis Medrash [Study Hall] were once located.

broken up and destroyed. A great, wild desert and emptiness could be seen for miles long.

On the ground, you could see goats roaming around aimlessly, calmly eating the tall grass and vegetation that grew there …

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… exceptionally thick. These creatures did not know of and certainly were not moved by the bitter tragedy that had befallen our dearest ones who were torn apart. Quietly and undisturbed, they chewed the grass. It was all forgotten by these around about the catastrophe that the Nazi tyrants brought upon the Gostyniner Jews.

I looked for my father's gravesite. I couldn't find it. I tried to remember the location of the grave, but, sadly, that too was impossible. I did remember that in the center of the cemetery stood the “tent” and near the “tent” was my father's grave, but for naught – I couldn't figure it out.

Along with a few other Gostynin Jews I decided to restore the cemetery. In the centre of the cemetery, we set up a collective monument.

Walking through the Gostynin streets I stopped near the street that was our home. I remembered many things from my youth, but this did not last long. With curiosity, I searched for a few familiar faces, even though I knew that you could no longer find anyone there. I did find a few friends – Polaks, who greeted me warmly and expressed their sympathy for our national misfortune that we had experienced. “Too bad for the Jews,” they said. “Why can those who remained alive not come back and start all over?” …

But for me, Gostynin no longer exists. The memories remain; of a wonderful Jewish inheritance that each of us carries in our soul, an inheritance that many generations labored hard to amass and that so mercilessly was destroyed.

I know that Gostyniner all across the world live with these memories. Jewish Gostynin lives in our hearts and will live for as long as we live.


[Page 357]

One of the Gostyniner Murderers
Is Sentenced to Death
*

by Avrohom Papjerczyk

Translated by Pamela Russ

Recently, the trial of the Hitlerist murderer Yakub Pohl took place in Plock. The accused Pohl, a German from birth, was born in the year 1904 in the town of Gostynin, in the district of Plock. He lived there until Hitler's soldiers marched into Poland. During the occupation, the accused was an active Hitlerist and head of an SS unit.

The accused Yakub Pohl is the executioner of the Gostyniner Jews and the Polaks. As the head of an SS unit, he arrested more than 300 Polaks and Jews in the town during the days before November 11, 1939, under the so–called guilt of preparing an uprising against the occupying powers. During the trial period, Pohl tortured the arrestees in a sadistic manner. During the first days of November 1939, 24 of the arrestees were led to a neighboring forest and were murdered there. Among those who were shot, there were: three priests from the town and from the surrounding area, a list of teachers from the school, a few doctors, the mayor of Gostynin, and the four Jewish councilmen: Leyb Pinczewski, Zajacs, Burak, and Yekhiel–Meyer Keller. Pohl actively participated in the murder of these 24 sacrifices.

In 1941, there were once again arrests made of Polaks and Jews in the town. Forty–two of those arrested were murdered by the SS in the Krasznicer Forest. Pohl forced the Jews to bury the dead and then they themselves were murdered. Pohl was also accused of tens of other crimes, such as sending hundreds of Jewish and Polish residents to death camps. The majority of these people did not return. In April 1941, following the orders of the accused, 105 city residents were arrested. They were shot in the yard of the

[Page 358]

Jewish municipality. Other than that, Pohl also was involved in robbing the dead bodies, forcing monies from the families of the arrestees, and so on.

In the year 1943, the murderer was sent over to France to impose his bloody deeds against the local resistance movement. After the fall of Hitlerism, Pohl settled in West Germany. In the year 1952, the Fascist murderer came with a special “mission” to the German Democratic Republic**, where he was discovered by the security powers who later extradited him with the permission of the Polish Department of Justice.

Thirty–nine witnesses were heard over the period of two days. All as one attested before the judge that the accused was the spectre from Gostynin.

The witness Nowakowski tells: He and his father were among the 300 arrestees. During their trial period, Pohl murderously beat the witness with a gun. The father of the witness was among the first 24 sacrifices.

The witness Bielinski tells the judge that Pohl decided about life and death of all the residents of Gostynin. The witness Lewandowski stated that Pohl took revenge on him because before the year 1939, he made the “Sanatzia” [“Healthy Politics Party”] Police aware of the open Hitlerist activities that were being conducted by Pohl and other Germans who lived in Gostynin. The chief of the Sanatzia Police told the witness at that time that he should “not stick his nose where you don't have to” and immediately proceeded to share this information with Pohl. For this, Lewandowski was immediately sent to Auschwitz and two of his brothers were murdered.

After the statement from the witness, the prosecutor spoke, demanding the death sentence for the Hitlerist. After the presentations from the defendant and from the accused, the judge sentenced the Hitlerist murderer Pohl to death.


[Page 359]

A Yizkor [memorial] Gathering in New York for the Gostyniner Holy Martyrs [those who perished in the war],
conducted by Cantor Yakov Breitman and Shmuel Keller with His Choir

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From right: Helen Bal, under her, half hidden, a choir member, Shmuel Keller, a choir member, Yisokhor Motil, Chana Tremski, Cantor Breitman, Yosef Keller, Moishe Kriger, Hersh Kruczyk, Dovid Kunczman. –
Bottom row: Meyer Gostynski, Yakov Gostyinski

[Page 360]

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A Yizkor [memorial] Gathering in New York for the Gostyniner Holy Martyrs [those who perished in the war]

 

*  The abovementioned report was written by Avrohom Papjerczyk and was reprinted from the Warsaw “People's Voice” [“Volksstimme”] return
** In that part of Germany that was governed by Soviet Russia. return

 

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