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[Page 337]

 

The Liquidation of the Ghetto
in the Shtetl Tluszcz

by Michael Kassover (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The Martyr-Death of the Local Rabbi

1942. The ghetto of the small shtetl Tluszcz, Radzimin County, with its one thousand six hundred souls, went through a cold, dark winter. Epidemic diseases claimed many lives that winter. The survivors waited impatiently for spring to come, hoping for better times, but the Germans thought otherwise.

On May 6th at four in the morning, the ghetto was surrounded by German Gendarmerie and Police. Fear and panic spread over the ghetto, turning to despair when the delegates of the Judenrat became aware of the fact that the liquidation of the ghetto was led by the well-known sadist of the Warsaw Gendarmerie, the Oberleutnant Lipsha.

The command came: In one hour, all the Jews must be present in a certain place. Soon the first shots were heard. The following persons were shot immediately: Aharon Goldwasser, vice-president of the Judenrat and Meir Tahb – one of the most important religious-national communal workers in the shtetl and surroundings. Then, by the command of the mass-murderer Lipsha other seventy Jews were shot.

On May 8th in the morning, older women and children – tired, broken, half dead and resigned to their fate – were loaded on wagons. The young women and the men were driven on foot, eighteen kilometers, to the Radzimin railroad and from there to Warsaw. The walk was terrible; the “march” was tragically sad: some three hundred Jews were murdered on the Tluszcz-Radzimin highway. Some of them

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were shot and some were trampled and crushed by the horses of the Gendarmes.

For the execution of this Aktzia, Lipsha chose the well-known Gendarms-murderers, the bandits of the unit: Meister Giza, the Wachmeister Wallenberg, Hoffe, Ratke, and the policeman from the Radzimin Guard, Mendezhinski, who already had on his conscience tens of Jewish victims. Tired, broken and beaten, the survivors arrived in Radzimin. There the murderers conducted a count of the remaining, half dead, Tlust Jews. They were driven through thick rows of Gendarmes and police, who also beat them murderously. After that, the ritual of robbing the murdered Jews began: The robbers took off their clothes, shoes and boots. This action was accompanied by shots by Lipsha, in the direction of the Poles who showed a little sympathy and wanted to hand the doomed people some bread and water.

Barefoot and half naked, the Jews were driven into the wagons. The mistreatment and beating did not stop, however. Bestially Lipsha tormented the remaining members of the Judenrat, asking them to reveal where the rabbi fled and where his hiding place was. The murderer said, cynically: “In a few days the Jews will have a rabbi, but not a living one…” The Jews wept silently, their glances directed toward the Radzimin ghetto as to a salvation: they hoped to be admitted to the Radzimin ghetto by the local Judenrat, but the same day the Radzimin Jews received the order that forbade them to leave the ghetto.

 

The Martyr-Death of the Tluszcz Rabbi

Lipsha began to make inquiries, looking for the Tluszcz rabbi, R'Yakov Brikman. The murderer managed to find out, that the rabbi was in the shtetl Jadow. He arrived to Jadow with his aide Wachmeister Wallenberg with the purpose of seizing the rabbi. But someone from the police secretly revealed to the president of the Jadow Judenrat

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that Lipsha intended to make a visit to the ghetto, and soon everybody knew about that and people hid wherever they could find a place. It appeared as if the ghetto houses were all empty. Lipsha's name threw fear and panic around – his arrival meant destruction and death for the Jews. The Jadow Jews braced themselves for a new tragedy.

The murderer arrived to the offices of the Judenrat and beat several members murderously. He demanded that in in the course of three days the Jews make 9 pairs of new boots for the Jadow policemen, and that in fifteen minutes they should produce the Tluszcz rabbi, who was hiding in the Jadow ghetto. In case the demands were not met, they will shoot five members of the Judenrat. After that he shot several Jews, among them Yehoshua Kaluski from Radzimin. The Jadow Judenrat held a short consultation and decided not to hand over the rabbi, even at the price of five victims.

A delegation of the Judenrat went to the rabbi and told him about the decision. Calmly the rabbi thanked them for their willingness to make the sacrifice, and explained that he will not be the cause of spilling Jewish blood. He will be the one to die for the Sanctification of God's Name [Kidush Hashem].

As the local story goes, the Rav put on his Shabat clothes, took with him his Talit and Tefilin [prayer shawl and phylacteries] heartily said farewell to the delegation and presented himself before the murderer Lipsha. Proudly he said to the German sadist: “I do not want that the Jadow Jews give their lives on my account – I shall be the sacrifice.”

Lipsha became entirely wild in view of this proud and honorable behavior of a small-town rabbi, who showed no fear in front of death. The murderer ordered the rabbi to dig his own grave, near an unclean place. The rabbi refused to execute the command. The sadist became wildly mad and pointed his gun to the rabbi. The rabbi managed to shout Shema Israel and fell, ripped by the bullets.

The wild sadist began to throw stones on the corpse and said to the police, who assisted in the bestial murder, that for the first time he saw such a proud Jew. A policeman had been the one who informed Lipsha about the hiding-place of the rabbi.

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In connection with that informer, it was related that before the rabbi z”l died he said: “The man who informed about me will be shot in a few days” and so it was. According to a decision of the A. K. (Armia Krajowa) in Radzimin, the Commandant of the Warsaw District, the engineer Colonel Rodnitzki issued a death sentence for the policeman for betraying the Tluszcz rabbi and for bad behavior toward the Jadow Jews. The sentence was carried out.

I received all the above information from the Commandant of the A. K. (Armia Krajowa) Engineer Algerd Rodnitzki, a former activist in the Polish Socialist Party, who helped Jews on every occasion. Rodnitzki fell in battle in August 1944, during the Polish uprising against the Germans.

 

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