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[Page 463]

My Tragic Experiences

by Abraham Shabason, Tel Aviv

I believe that I am the oldest of the Kozieniceites. I and my family were well known in my birthplace, Kozienice. My father, of blessed memory was called Shaye Zelick's. Quite early, on the morning of September 25, 1939, there appeared on all the streets of the Jewish quarter, black figures with large death–heads on them. These were the SS gangs. They dragged women, men and children from the houses and were not sparing of their beatings. They robbed the Jewish storekeepers of their small hit of merchandise and drove everyone they met to forced labor.

 

A High Command is Established

Later there appeared on the streets an officer of the SS, accompanied by several soldiers and went to the community's headquarters. The headquarters were empty. The chairman and his committee didn't want to show their faces. The Germans commanded that the elders of the community appear immediately. The householders of the city understood what was going on, so they organized a committee with a chairman at its head, to carry the responsibilities of the populace. The same week there came a representative of the city council who proposed the nomination of proper people, and not permit the election of unsuitable persons. A high command would be established with the most important members of the community, and Hershel Perl would be Chairman. The secretary would be the man who had held the post before the war, the honest, religious, Yiddishist, Moshe Goldtzveig.

Various committees and sub–committees were formed. A labor committee, a sanitation committee with the well known, religious Moshe–Leib Dua, of blessed memory, at it's head. There was also set up a finance committee to help the poor. Winter was coming. 75% of all Jews have lost their livelihoods. Hunger and cold become regular guests in town.

 

I Seek Connections

In the morning the Commandant and soldiers come to take Jews for labor. Distribution of work is handled by the labor committee of the community. But mostly the soldiers run around, catch and beat everyone who encounters them. At work everyone receives a portion of bread. The plundering by the SS gangs and the military does not cease. We begin to look for ways to become acquainted with the officers in order to modify their behavior towards Jews. In the morning, while it is still dark outside, I stand and count people and distribute bread. I begin to seek connections with the soldiers, until I'm successful in striking up a conversation with non–commissioned officers, and also with some commissioned officers, and convince them not to run through the streets. I'll see to it that all goes smoothly. It is to be understood that by doing this we had to pay off every one of the murderers. To put it plainly, it meant bribing them. In this way things became a bit quieter. Later, the head of the SS, for a very large amount of money, arranged that the Jews should appear for the labor detail on their own, and not be brought by force. Day by day we managed to push through the winter of 1940.?

[Page 464]

I Become the Delegate to Warsaw

I was called to the community headquarters for an important session. It was springtime. The situation has become more difficult. Decrees and other annoyances were applied to Jews. Among them an order that all Jews, who live on the Polish streets, should move into the Ghetto. The chairman said to me as follows: “We've called you because we know who you are, and your family background. We are all condemned to the same fate. Help, us in a difficult and tragic task. Carry the burden of your brothers. At times like this, informers and underworld characters are active. The situation causes it. We want, therefore, that in our city, one brother should not lift his hand against the other. As much as we can we should prevent this. Your task will be to prevent this. Turn to the proper individuals who will help you in your work. You are therefore delegated to go to Warsaw, in the name of our city, in order to meet with the representatives of the Joint Distribution Committee, to get them to help us, because we are unable to satisfy our needs on our own. But remember, Abraham, first of all to uphold order, and help all who are in need.”

Getting to Warsaw – was not one of the easiest things. First, because there weren't any communications. After a few days, I met with the representatives of the “Joint”. I didn't get too much help from them, but I didn't return with completely empty hands.

 

The Situation Worsened

Meanwhile many Jews worked at the canal. This was a big help, because the Polish engineer used to pay something, from time to time for the work. And so passed the summer of 1940). In the winter of 1941 the situation worsened. First of all, because of winter, and secondly, because of the decrees. As long as the Ghetto was open, Jews were able to help themselves. This one could wheel and deal, another could run to the village and arrange something for himself. But with the arrival of 1941, the murderers issued a decree, that whoever would leave the Ghetto – would be shot! And they carried it out! Not once would someone come to me with a cry of despair that this one or that one had been caught. I would run to try to save them. At times I arrived in time to help deal with the murderers. They would break the Jew's bones, but then let him go. Very often, I would come too late! Then I would be beaten! “You've come again! Don't you know that there is a decree not to leave the Ghetto!” I would accept the beating and return empty handed!


[Page 465]

They Live With Us

by Gershon Bornstein

The hungry holiday was already prepared,
The SS, may their name be obliterated, surrounded the Ghetto,
Lakes of tears wet the night.
Resounding sirens reached the Jews and signaled them:
Out of your homes all together!

There remained dead, still walls,
All trembled and wrung their hands.
Tragic stillness remained in the homes,
Like on the cemetery the quiet covered graves.
Children cried, and cuddled close to their mothers,
Not knowing that they would be poisoned with gas.

Heaven and stars were witness,
As sheep to the slaughter they had to go.
The road was piled with the dead,
Seas of tears accompanied them,
In enclosed and sealed boxcars.
In the town remained those who had been shot.

Barefoot, without water, hungry and needy,
Brought to Treblinka to a gruesome death.
Each one counted the minutes and steps,
Knowing, that no road leads back.
In clouds of smoke their bones disappeared,
May their holy souls enter the Garden of Eden!

Revenge for us! – Was their last request.
Destroy the Nazis, they should cease to exist
In sorrow, with bowed heads,
We feel forever their fright and pain.
They live with us in holy spirit,
For each of us – that is our only comfort!


[Page 466]

In Place of a Tombstone

by Yaakov Shpigelman

Since nobody survived from the family of Abraham–Meir Alperman – I consider it my obligation to mention an episode that took place during the early days of the occupation of our town. First, a few words about who Abraham–Meir (Blachazsh) Alperman was. He was a Nikolaievsker veteran soldier, who was very strong and had received a medal for alone lifting a cannon. He came, with his wife Baile from Russia. If someone in town got sick, or suffered from a chill, and had no money for a doctor or barber surgeon – they would call Abraham–Meir, and he would set his big copper cups, which he alone had made. If someone had a toothache, and had no money for a dentist, they would go to Abraham–Meir, and he would seal the cavity with sour salt. He was a member of the burial society, and was the “general” of the Kozienice Rebbe, R' Arele. Since the Rebbe would call his Hassidim “soldiers”, there had to be a “general”. To do something for his fellow Jews, Abraham–Meir was always ready, day or night, even though he himself was a poor man.

When they drove most of the Jews into the church courtyard, which the Germans had made into a camp, a German officer gave an order for all Jews to line up immediately. Then he announced that because Jews had fired upon German soldiers, 25 Jews, the healthiest and handsomest, should willingly volunteer to be shot. Without waiting, he began to pull out of the line the healthiest and handsomest. 20 had already been chosen, and among them, my brother, Shmelke. But there were still 5 lacking, so the German ordered that 5 more should willingly volunteer. So the first to step forward was Abraham–Meir, and he stood next to my brother. They did not shoot them at that time. They only took them for field labor, cleaning stalls.

According to what I had heard from Meir Zaltzman, who had contact with the 25 until the deportation, they had decided not to let themselves be deported. They dug a bunker under the house in which they lived, at 18 Magitova Street, armed themselves with axes, iron bars, and other primitive weapons, and did not allow themselves to be deported. May these few words be a gravestone over their unknown graves.

 

Simchat Torah – 1939

The Hitlerites burned the Maggid's Shul, the city's House of Study and tortured the Kozienice Teacher R'Yosef Shapiro.?


[Page 467]

The Ghetto in Kozienice

by Chaim Dimant, Paris

The first of September in 1939 fell on a Friday. At first, it seemed it would be a fair day. This one was rushing to work, another to pray, a third to his business. The children were either in school or in Heder (religious school).

 

Mobilization

Suddenly, the frightful word fell: MOBILIZATION. Whosoever heard the word became terribly upset. Mothers and women cried, for their husbands and sons who would have to go off to war. Many Jews fasted and recited the Psalms. But nobody thought then about the bitter fate which awaited our people. The Poles went to defend their country, and we Jews understood that we could not look forward to any good tidings. Immediately, in the morning the bombardment began. A large number of Jews ran off to the villages, thinking that only the cities would be bombed. Eight days later everyone who was able to, came home with his packs and bedding on his shoulders. Many of us were caught by the Hitlerites and imprisoned in the church courtyard. Our Jewish hats were removed and burned. Afterwards, they took us to Radom. At the same time Jews were seized for forced labor and beards were cut off.

 

A Shiver Went Through the Bones

I still remember as if it were today, when they took the old Shochet (Ritual Slaughterer), put his Talis on his shoulders, and harnessed him like a horse to a wagon, and made him pull the wagon through the entire city. As he was doing this, they beat him mercilessly and made fun of him. A shiver passed through the bones, because everyone knew that he can expect the same for himself. The seizure for forced labor became a daily occurrence. Jews hid themselves, because at work the Hitlerites beat them and broke their bones. The Hitlerites looked in every corner. When they found someone, he did not escape them alive. They took elderly Jews into horses' stalls, and ordered them to clean the horses. If the horses didn't break their bones, the Hitlerites did.?

[Page 468]

The Synagogue Burns

At the same time there began to occur terrible things. Once, at night, the entire city lit up. We understood that it was burning. We weren't allowed to go out at night, but we understood that the synagogue was burning, Jews ran with water to put out the fire. Immediately we heard gunfire. Most ran home and hid themselves, because they were afraid. After the fire, the Germans requisitioned the homes, and drove the Jews into the Ghetto. It was forbidden to leave the Ghetto, and there was no work. People's bellies swelled from hunger. Whoever escaped from the Ghetto, in order to get a piece of bread, was shot and brought back into the Ghetto and buried. The Germans organized a Jewish Committee with Jewish Police, and made strict demands. Whoever wasn't able to pay, was sent to a Concentration Camp. To live long in a camp was impossible. If someone tried to escape, he was shot and buried. On the beautiful city of Kozienice, with her cultured youth, there fell a darkness.

A few families lived in one apartment. The people were unrecognizable and the young people had been sent to the camps. This is what happened until the Ghetto was liquidated.

 

A Memorial Tablet On Mount Zion in Jerusalem

Ephraim son of Yerachmeil Dimant who died on September 22, 1942
Sheva daughter of Menachem Mendil who died on September 22, 1942
Chaya daughter of Ephraim who died on September 22, 1942
Menachem Mendil son of Yaakov Moshe Bandman who died on January 1, 1945
Ben Zion son of Menachem Mendil who died on September 22, 1942
Reisel daughter of Moshe Bandman who died on September 9, 1942
Sarah Neha daughter of Moshe Bandman who died on September 22, 1942
Moshe Eliezer son of Shalom Dorfman who died on September 22, 1942

May Their Souls Be Linked to the Chain of Life

 

The Ghetto is Liquidated

When they liquidated the Pionker Ghetto, many Jewish young people already worked in the factory that manufactured the so–called war powder. 1942. Coming home from work, the ones who distributed the work notified us to take our things with us, because the Ghetto is being liquidated. Older men and women were stood to the side. Those who were capable of working were lined up.?

[Page 469]

Mendl Bandman and His Family

It was appalling, the farewells of mothers and their children. I recall how Ben Zion Bandman fell upon his mother, and tore his hair from his head, and begged that they let him go with her to Zvolin. And from there they were taken to Treblinka. The SS bandits tore him away violently, and put him in line, with those who were considered capable of work. The factory was turned into a Concentration Camp. We could see each other at work, or going from work. Mendl Bandman made boots for the SS. He was considered privileged. He tried to take his son, Ben Zion, with him, and he actually worked with him for a while. Later they took his son away to work with coal

 

Let There Be An End Already

In duly, 1944, a whole transport of men and women, in sealed boxcars, were sent to Auschwitz, without water and without being able to fulfill their bodily needs. All had already despaired of everything. Let there be an end already. How long can a human suffer so? After a few days and nights we were brought to Auschwitz. After going through the procedure of “left and right”, we were left alive. In three more days they took a group of a few hundred Jews, and sent them away to Gana, Auschwitz Number 3. The work, at the beginning, was with cement. Later – with coal – and it was difficult. Mendl Bandman died on the first of danuary, 1945 from an inflammation of his lungs. His son, Ben–Zion said the Kaddish all eight days.

 

In Buchenwald

A few days later they took us away. At first on foot, and afterwards in open trucks, until we were all taken to Buchenwald. Right before the Liberation by the American Army, Ben–Zion Bandman was taken away on a transport, and nobody, to this day, knows what happened to him. May their names be memorialized and remain part of the history of our city.

 

All Died in Treblinka

I allow myself to add that I am a son of Ephraim Dimant, who was born and lived in Kozienice until the deportation to Treblinka, where he perished, together with our mother, Sheva, of the Rochman family, and with my young 11 year old sister, Chayale. The majority of our family: My uncle's sister, Reisel, her husband, Tepper and her son, Yerachmiel, perished in Buchenwald in March, 1945. My mother's sister, EidelGolde, her husband, Gutmacher, her brothers: Moshe, Beryl, Leizer, Leibl, Yenkl and Abraham all perished with their wives and children in Treblinka after the liquidation of the Kozienicer Ghetto.

[Page 470]

Tomorrow – Our Lives End!

On the first day of Succos – 1942, Kozienice Jews knew that on the morrow their lives would end.

Parents bade farewell to their children, and children with their parents.

Crying they said to each other: Tomorrow our lives will end!


[Page 471]

Forgive Me, Dear Parents!

by Shmelke Shpigelman, Montreal

In the camp, which the Germans created from the church and it's garden, they drove the majority of the Jews. Among them, my father, of blessed memory, my brother, Yaakov, and me. My father, even though I tried to hide him from German eyes, with my shoulders, had his beard shorn together with pieces of skin from his face. This happened when they seized us to clean up the mess in the garden that had been left over from the prisoners of war who had been kept there. We had to clean the offal with our bare hands. Old Jews, who couldn't run fast with their hand full of the offal, were beaten mercilessly. These degrading scenes were repeated on a daily basis. Each day a German officer would announce, that if someone would oppose his orders, the entire camp would be shot to death. It is understandable that no one took it upon himself to protect his own honor at the expense of other's lives. A few days later the Germans freed from the camp the elderly and the sick, and on the 8th day there arrived transport trucks which carried away the young. They said that they were being sent to Radom.

 

We Free Ourselves From the Camp

We decided to flee, after we had seen what the Germans did to us during the first week of the occupation. We were able to imagine what awaited us in strange cities and in a real concentration camp. My sister's children used to come to the wall of the garden to bring food. Not once did they receive beatings from the clubs of the German soldiers. I told them that Yaakov and I were going to run away. If we were to die – then better here, in Kozienice. We hoped, that after we had loosened two of the wooden posts of the garden fence, we would be able to get to the other side of the church garden, and again be reunited with our family. When my sister, Rachele, heard this, she ran out to Dr. Abramovitsh, put down her jewelry, cried and begged that he should give her a certificate stating that we were ill. She knew that the church was surrounded by tanks and machine guns, and she was convinced that it was impossible to escape. The doctor gave her a paper, without charge, indicating that we were extremely ill, My sister came with the paper, fainted at the gate, and she succeeded in having us released.

 

We Seek a Way to the Other Side of the Bog River

We remained for another two months in Kozienice. We got a taste of forced labor and beatings. We saw the looting of Jewish houses, the shootings of those on bread lines. We heard the screams from Jewish homes, as German soldiers broke into them. We also witnessed the burning of the Synagogue and the House of Study in the middle of the night. Understandably, we couldn't forsee Hitler's plans for exterminating all Jews by all sorts of horrible deaths.?

[Page 472]

But everything that we did see was enough for me to seek a way to get to a place where Jews weren't the exception. And this place was on the other side of the Bog River. We gathered together a small group: My brother–in–law, Rachele's husband, Nachum Qventshtern, my buddy, Simcha–Pesach Eisenmeser, my brother, Yaakov and myself. My cousin, Shalom Krishpel, and other acquaintances, had already gone away earlier. I left my old, good father, my dear faithful mother, my sister and her three children, buddies and friends, my beloved town – and went on the difficult journey to the Bog. After three rainy days, tired and thoroughly soaked, we finally arrived at the border, which separated Germany from Russia. That afternoon, I'll never forget. The sky on our side was overcast and dull, but on the other side of the border the sky was clear, and the sun warmed the wet trees and small houses of the fortunate village of Drogotshin. Fortunate – because it was on the other side, where Jews were the equals of all others. My brother–in–law's longing for his family was so strong, that at the border he turned back home, where he later perished.

 

On the Other Side of the Border

We hid among the reeds and waited. When night fell, the peasants of the village on the opposite side began their work of ferrying the refugees across the river. Understandably, they were well paid for their trouble. A few minutes later, we were already upon the blessed soil.

 

Free – But Not For Long

Immediately we were seized by Soviet border–guards, who took us to a place, not far from the river, where there were already, sitting on the ground, a few hundred refugees. A few stated that we would be sent back to the Germans. Others said that in Semiatitsh, a nearby village, there were many refugees who were free and being given support. We decided not to wait for them to send us back. Let's flee! I saw that it wasn't difficult to flee, because we were being guarded by only a few Soviet soldiers. I was also certain that Soviet soldiers would not fire upon refugees. It didn't take long before my thoughts were interrupted by a youngster: “What are we waiting for, Jews? To be sent back to the Germans? Let's flee!” A portion of those who were sitting began to flee and we were among them.

In the forest we met a group of White Russian or Polish bandits. They held us and wanted to take us to the Militia. I told them that we are going no further, but remaining right there. They told us to speak softly. We thereby understood who they were. We assured them that we possessed nothing except that which we were wearing, and that they are losing time paying attention to us. They left us alone. We decided to go no further, in the dark, because who knows what sort of surprise awaited us.

[Page 473]

From Semiatitch to Brisk

We sat down to rest, until dawn, and then we went to Semiatitch. I was barely able to walk because my feet were frostbitten from sitting on the ground. In Semiatitch we met many refugees. We therefore went on to Brisk, where I spent two weeks in the hospital. My buddy, Simcha–Pesach, came to me in the hospital, and told me that he's going back, in order to bring his family and other buddies. “I now know the way” he said. I understood that his longing for my sister's daughter, Itke, whom he loved. He went away, stayed there, married Itke, and was later shot by the German bandits.

 

The Soviets Send Us Away

My brother Yaakov and I worked in a tailor shop in Brisk until an order came that refugees were to distance themselves 100 kilometers from the border. The Soviets, who expected the German attack, wanted to clear the border area of refugees. We did not want to accept Russian passports, because we were afraid that with Soviet passports we would be counted as Russian citizens, and that we wouldn't be able to leave Russia. Our dream was, after the war, to return home, and be together again. Therefore we attempted to remain close to the border, where we could from time to time receive regards from home, from someone who would take the risk to smuggle it. The Soviet authorities took all who had not accepted passports and shipped them to the far north. This act, by the way, saved our lives. If we had remained in the western zone, we would have perished together with all other Jews. In Siberia, we were interned for 15 months and then freed. From there we went to Middle Asia and lived for three and a half years in Uzbekistan.

 

The War Ended

The war ended. We went home, but there was no longer any home. The German bandits eliminated my entire family: my good, quiet father, Tuviale, my faithful, observant mother, Chana–Tzime, my devoted sister, Rachele, her husband, Nachum, their three children: Ite, Leah and Tzirele, and the good, Shlomole, who went together with his grandfather to Treblinka. From my Kozienice family, there remained only my brother, Yaakov and myself, who saved ourselves in Russia. In Paris, the German murderers hands reached out to my dear sister, Tzirl, and her children. My idealistic brother, Wolf, his wife and children, except for one sister who saved herself and her children by a miracle in France.?

[Page 474]

Forgive me, dear parents, sister, brothers, for not remaining with you. I know that your only revenge on the Germans is the fact that we were not with you, so that the murderous hands could not reach us. I know, dear mother, how you loved your youngest son, Yaakov. Yaakov and I are alive. We have families and we write about what happened to you. Generations will mention you and generations will remember what happened to their grandfathers and great grandfathers, grandmothers and great grandmothers. They will shed a tear for the town of Kozienice and for the memorial which this Yizkor Book will be for you. Cursed forever shall be the murderers of our people and of all our beloved and dear ones. WE HONOR YOUR HOLY MEMORY!


[Page 475]

And Your Life Shall Hang in Doubt Before You

by Rabbi Yitzhak Freilich

On Sabbath morning, the 8th of September, 1939, we looked – for the first time – upon the faces of the Germans and we were disturbed. Their expressions bore witness to the fact they are Amalekites. (The people who first attacked the Israelites, when they left Egypt). Their deeds confirmed that in murder there is no people like unto them in all the world. Before they came to Kozienice, they poured fire upon the town, without pity, for a number of days. From the 4th of September, they didn't cease to drop bombs on the city and surrounding area. The city emptied of it's inhabitants. A number of houses were destroyed, and there were casualties, and the chaos was great. Men, women and children fled without knowing where to turn. Friday eve the noise abated suddenly, and we understood that “they” are already in the city. In the morning, we were ordered to immediately return home, otherwise Jews were condemned to die. We said to ourselves: From this Ashmodai (Devil) there is no escape.

We passed through the patrols of the enemy who had encircled the city like a “ring” and we came into the city. We trembled with fear because the curse of the Torah had come to pass: “Outside – the sword reigned, and inside – fear!” The cruel enemy took advantage of the opportunity, and with German precision, began on that very day to slaughter Jews, and it increased from day to day, and month to month, until they completely eliminated all Kozienice Jews on the 2nd day of Succos in 1941. On that day, the persecutors took all Jews out on the street and burned the House of Study and Synagogue. With unbearable tortures they forced the aged R' Yosef Shapiro, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, and may the Lord avenge his blood, and some of his neighbors, to throw with their own hands, the scrolls of the Torah into the flames. From that day on there began a period of five years of terror against the Jews of the city. A portion were killed by the sword, and the remainder were packed into boxcars that took them to the hell of Treblinka. There they perished, sanctifying the Holy name.

The “acquaintance” between the murderers and the Jews of the area was not long in coming. Firstly, they began to seize the men for forced labor. They searched and examined every room, attic and basement, every hole and crack, and when they found their victims, they beat them mercilessly. Their unclean hands stole and robbed and about Kozienice the dire words of the prophecy could be said: “And your life shall hang in doubt before you, and you shall dread day and night, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say 'If only it were evening; and at evening time you shall say' If only it were morning; for the fear in your heart which you shall fear, and for the sights which your eyes shall behold.” (Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 28, verses 66 through 67).


[Page 476]

Jews Have No Right To Live

by Zelick Berman, Bat–Yam

A day before the deportation of our Jews of Kozienice, there came to me my friend, the former Burgemeister of the city, V. Sab, and told me that there had arrived at the train station over 60 railroad cars. The supervisor of the railroad station told him that he didn't know what they were for.

 

We Don't Know!

With that information I went to the Director of the Judenraat and asked him if they knew about it. “We don't know about anything that is supposed to happen in the city.” With that answer, I went away.

 

A Terrible Commotion

Early on the morrow we were alerted by sirens from the sawmills and electrical works. The whole town and the Ghetto were already surrounded and occupied on all sides by special SS units, Gestapo gendarmes, and Ukrainians. In the Ghetto police were scurrying, and also firemen, officials of the city council, and the Vice Burgemeister, Miller. Also the Poles were running around like crazy. The order came: All Jews, big and small, old and young, are to leave their houses with a small pack, and line up in a row, five abreast. Whoever doesn't leave his home will be shot! In this way began the deportation of Kozienice Jews to Treblinka in September, 1942.

(The special order of the Railroad Inspector about the special railroad cars for the Kozienice transport)

A terrible commotion. Children and grown–ups cry and scream. Children search for their parents and parents search for their children. Shooting from the Gestapo is heard. Small and big, young and old; all run. The sick, who can't walk, drag themselves on all fours. Miller walks around among the Jews. He helps with the evacuation, and spreads false rumors, that the Jews are going to be taken to a special labor camp. Heart–rending scenes take place, which are impossible to describe in writing: A son carries his old mother on his shoulders and falls near the line, and so on.

[Page 477]

The Elderly Are Shot on the Spot

The old and the sick, among them Berish Krongold (the lame Berish), are herded together in a separate place. They are laid down together in a cart and in this way led to the slaughter. A few of the elderly are shot on the spot, and some on the way to the railroad. Also the old, Mendl Frish is shot. On Koshtshelne and Targove Streets stand our nearest and dearest five abreast, guarded by the Gestapo and beaten murderously and without pity by the Ukrainians. Chaim Klainboim's wife lies sick in bed and can't go out. She buys her life for a small sack of gold. The Gestapo takes away her fortune and promises her that she will remain alive, but she is soon shot by the bandits.

 

A Cat Has the Right To Live, But Not a Jew

At the order of the Gestapo, the death–march begins. All Kozienice Jews march to the railroad station by way of Lubliner Street, five abreast, and closely guarded on all sides by police Gestapo, gendarmes and Ukrainians, who beat mercilessly and shoot many. The Polish populace looks on at this terrible tragedy of Kozienice Jews. Not a shred of help for Jews from the Aryan side. There wander around in the Ghetto SS and Gestapo, and they say to a passing cat: “You have a right to live! You're not a Jew!”

All the workers, who remained in the Ghetto after the evacuation, approximately 70–brow–beaten and broken individuals, mourn their dearest and nearest, who were so murderously taken to Treblinka. Night falls, dark and black. No more Jews in Kozienice. The small Jewish fortune, together with the prepared holiday food remains at the entrances to the Jewish homes. A strong wind blows. The shutters of the windows bang back and forth. A picture of the aftermath of a terrible pogrom, which had no equal in Jewish history. The Angel of Death hovers over Jewish houses.

 

Kutsher Takes Revenge

Among the workers there was a well–built and bold young man from Glovatshov. He was called Kutsher. I don't remember his first name. We often spoke about organizing a partisan group, but we had no weapons. Kutsher said that we should give him money, and he would buy arms. On a specific day he went with the money to Gnievashov, but he didn't accomplish his mission. When he returned he said that he wouldn't deal with the German's any more. Once, at dusk, the Gendarme Zomer, took Kutsher to work and beat him mercilessly without notice. When he returned, bloody, from his labor, he told me that he must revenge himself on the bandit. And that is what he did. He told the murderer, that he saw in a cellar hidden merchandise. He took the bandit gendarme under the synagogue, where there actually was a cellar of a wrecked house. He went down with him to the cellar, grabbed him by the neck, beat him up, took away his revolver and ammunition and ran away. In the morning we all heard about this nice work. We were certain that we would all be shot, but because of shame the gendarme didn't even ask about Kutsher. According to what I heard, Kutsher was hidden with other Jews in a bunker, where he perished. We honor his memory!

[Page 478]

The Hangman, Zomer, Shoots a Jewish Girl

A Jewish family, it seems, had left on the “sand” (this was what we called the part of the city outside of the Ghetto) with some Polish people, a small, charming dark–complexioned little girl. After the evacuation the Polish family threw the girl out of the house and told the gendarmerie that there is a Jewish girl wandering around. On Sunday, the murderer, Zomer, came and ordered that the child be brought to the Jewish hospital. At the door of the hospital the child was shot. He immediately ordered that the body be brought to a different street. A terribly shocking scene, which has no equal, stands before my eyes even today. The child was taken in a small wagon to Lubliner Street. The child was still alive and gasping for breath on the wagon, and her innocent blood was flowing on the streets and sprinkling the road. Poles from surrounding villages, were just then coming out of church. They stopped, looked upon the scene and made fun. I worked with Yehudah Hoffman and with a student from Glovatshov, Albert. At a specific moment, there came over to us a gendarme and a Polish policeman from Radom. They called the student, Albert, away, and shot him before our eyes.

 

Beginning of December, 1942

After a specific amount of time, we were informed that all of the Jewish Ghetto laborers were to be transferred to a separate barracks on Radomer Street, near the electrical station. We have to be there early in the morning and take along our rucksacks. Immediately there appeared gendarmes and Polish police, and the oldest of the bandits said to us: “You're going from here to Radom. Whoever won't keep up or goes out of the line will be shot.” I don't remember the date. It was winter. Snow was falling. I was walking together with Chanale Avenshtern, Shmuel Zavali's wife, who was leading by the hand her little boy, Zeveck. Close by me walked Yehudah Hoffman, Chaim Meckler, Me lech Orbach – approximately 70 men and women. I talked about saving my life by running away. But we are closely guarded, and we have no opportunity to escape. We continue walking!

 

I Run Away

Not far from Yedlnie, Chaim Meckler moves close to me and says: “Zelick, if we're to escape – now is the time, because I am well acquainted with the area. Later may be too late – for the thick forest comes to an end. Don't lose any time and save yourself!” At the moment there drove by a peasant with a tall load of lumber. I run past his wagon on the other side and into the forest. The police begin shooting. Following me, ran Melech Orbach, who was killed near me, and the little Kreitzberg. The police shoot and I run deep into the forest. I feel my boots fill with blood from the bullets which had hit my feet. I stuck myself into a hole in the ground. Late at night I came back to the city. Being close to the city, I asked myself: “Where does one go in such circumstances? Frightened, tired, bloodied and dirty.”?

[Page 479]

It's best for me to go to our close acquaintance, T. Parashinski.“ I knock on the door of their appetizing store.” “Who's there?” I answer calmly: “Zelick Berman.” “Can't be” is the sharp rejoinder, “They shot him yesterday on the way to Radom.” It takes a few minutes. I stand at the door, I show them all the signs of life. They finally open the door, but don't let me in. He and his wife are very fearful. They're trembling. After a few moments they lead me to understand how frightened they are. Too many gendarmes are wandering around. In other words: I cannot remain there. My eyes darken!

 

Don't Be Afraid

I cried and begged that they allow me to remain until morning, because I have nowhere to go. I request that they tell my friend, Sabat, to come to me immediately. He came immediately, and greeted me heartily in front of them. I cried a great deal. “Don't cry”, he said to me, “If you're still alive today, with God's help you'll live. I'll take you out of here and hide you in a safe place, which I've already prepared for you.” At night, my good friend comes to me, takes hold of me under my arms, and leads me over the bridge in the direction of Stara Viesh.

Just at that moment, gendarmes passed. Scared stiff, I ceased talking and stood still. “Calm yourself”, he told me. “My fate is now tied to your fate. If shooting is your fate, we'll both be shot. Come be bold and don't be afraid.”

We go into the house of a teacher acquaintance from the Folkshule, where there had been readied for me a cellar; not a big one, with a few stairs.

 

The First Night in the Cellar

All around me it was dark. The cellar isn't big. There is even a small window with bars, but it is blocked, so that no one should, heaven forbid, look in. The cellar there is a barrel with sauerkraut, old things, bottles and potatoes for the winter. I look in all four corners. Black darkness. The walls cry with me. Water is dripping from the bricks. I seat myself in a corner, and lean my head against the barrel of sauerkraut. And that's how I slept through the first night. Promptly in the morning, my new landlord came to me, converses with me briefly, but plainly and to the point. They give me breakfast. They will also bring me lunch in the cellar. And so it was … It was more difficult with a place to sleep. They had no bedclothes, but my friend provided them for me.?

[Page 480]

I Become Accustomed To It

I quickly became accustomed to the difficult circumstances. The family consisted of three people: a man, his wife and a little girl of seven. The wife was English, with a fine character. The landlord, a born Pole, did not despise the “bitter drop”. The child resembled her mother. When the landlord wasn't home, the wife locked all the doors of the house, and opened the cellar door, so that I could get some air. As time passed they would call me up from the cellar, converse with me a bit and tell me the news. I would do all of the housework myself. I fixed the tile kitchen and the oven. I had plenty of time, and I was indeed fortunate to be out of the cellar. They were pleased with my work. They gave me some whiskey, which was considered a great gift. I became used to the family, and they became used to me. From time to time they displayed some pity and empathy towards me.

 

Homesickness Befalls Me

On a particular day, sitting in the cellar near the barrel of kraut, I reminded myself of a tragedy, I saw that there was no end to my troubles. I became homesick for my own, who were still alive. I looked at my situation and burst out crying. My landlady heard my crying. She came right down to the cellar and asked what happened, and why I'm crying so bitterly today. Maybe I'm hungry, or maybe I've been mistreated by them? “No?” I answered. I couldn't calm myself and cried again, until I burst out with the reason for my crying. I long for my wife, my son, and only brother. I told her of my tragedy. Together with me she shed many tears and said: I'll help you. I know the camp in Volanov. If I'll be able to, I'll go there and bring your brother, wife and son to us. But you must first ask my husband to agree to this, that I should go there, and that he should watch our child.

I waited for an opportunity, and poured out my bitter heart to the landlord. I told him and begged him to the best of my ability to allow his wife to travel to the camp in Volanov, and maybe succeed in bringing my brother, Chaim and his son, who remained alive after the selection. I talked and begged forcefully, and then cried. Our conversation lasted a while. I noted that his facial expression was changing to pity. He said to me: “Let her go to rescue your brother, Chaim. We knew you all well. Such upright people, as your brother, Chaim, who was beloved by all the inhabitants of the city, need to be helped. May no evil befall my wife, God forbid, and may she return home safely.” It's unnecessary to write about my joy. It was a great day for me and the family. On the morrow, in the morning, my landlady rode off towards Volanov in the wagon. I lay in my cellar, not eating or drinking, only thinking and praying that the female savior would succeed to bring my brother and his son out of that hell!?

[Page 481]

The Situation Becomes Serious

Three days passed. My landlord came from the street in a bad mood. He doesn't know what it means that his wife hasn't returned as yet. The situation in the household became serious. I defended as best I could, the delay in the return of his wife and attributed it to the sorry state of communication in the country, but tried to reassure him that she would return safely. This took five days. My landlord said to me, after drinking a glass of whiskey: “Listen! In my unfortunate circumstance of losing my wife and my child's mother, you are to blame. Too bad, but I'll finish you off today–Besides which, your friend and his family will also pay with his life…” I didn't know what to do with myself. The truth was that I was to blame. I was afraid to speak to him. I had nowhere to hide, and nothing with what to commit suicide. Meanwhile, he took his little daughter and went with her to the city. I was left alone, like always. I understood, that the danger is growing from minute to minute, because he was cleaning the house, so that no one would notice the slaughter as he carried out the murderous act against me.

What happened to me at the time, on that day, I don't know and don't remember. Either I was drugged or I fell asleep by myself? When I opened my eyes, there stood by me in the cellar, my friend, Sabat. He spoke to me, but what it was – I don't know. I answered him, as if from sleep: “I just saw my mother, may she rest in peace, who died a long time ago, and she brought me food and drink and asked me about Chaim and his son, Amos, and then you came and awakened me.” “I know everything” – my friend answered me. “Today, I'll stay with your landlord all the time and watch that he does you no harm.”

 

At 12 Midnight, Chaim and His Son Came

I remember, that it was Thursday. On the same day, late at night, about 12, there came from the railroad Pshilutzki with his coach, out of which there stepped my brother, Chaim, and his son, Amos, and the dear savior – the landlady herself. I became so excited that I didn't know what to do first, or what I was about. I took my dear guests, who were very dirty (as was to be expected, coming from a camp) to my cellar. In the cellar we were all together. Our joy was great. Each one told of his own troubles. My brother, Chaim, told about the tragic death of his wife, Angie, and his youngest son, Danek, in the Volanov Camp. We mourn our nearest and dearest, who died so tragically. Later my brother told me: “You see, Zelick. The fact that in these circumstances you were able to organize all of this, is a sign that maybe we will survive the war.”?

[Page 482]

All three of us cried. A bit later, Chaim wrote a letter to his friend, the Judge Pakusinski, with whom he had left his entire fortune. My brother was full of hope, that the judge would help him. My brother wrote the letter in a very courteous form. He asked to meet with him. My brother, Chaim, got an answer from him on the same letter as follows: “Under the circumstances, our meeting is not possible.” Reading the few words, my brother said to me: “I didn't expect this, that in such a troubled time, he should write to me in such a manner. Lately, I see that I've made a mistake. I don't know if there's a chance that we'll survive the war.”

We had both been born and grew up in the city, and for many years had been councilmen on the City Council. My pension from it was signed over to worthy causes. After so many years of communal work, there is no one in the Polish populace who is ready to help save our lives. We weren't together in the cellar for a long time. Suddenly, my brother, Chaim, became ill with Typhus, and got a very high fever. I immediately contacted my friend, Sabat, and requested medical help. He brought me all kinds of medicines. Unfortunately, he was unable to provide the help of a doctor. My brother had terrible pain. He groaned and screamed with pain. In the meantime, his son, Amos, also came down with Typhus, and had a high temperature. After a few days, Amos recovered, but my brother became worse with each day. For the entire time I nursed the sick.

 

Your Brother is No Longer Alive

I remember as if it were today – it was Friday – my brother was in great pain and groaned vigorously. I couldn't relieve his pain, simply because I didn't have anything with what to do it. The landlord called me and Amos out of the cellar, and went to him himself. It wasn't long before he came out and said to me: “Your brother is no longer alive.” How he murdered him, I don't know, because I didn't see it, but during the exhumation, which took place in Kozienice on the 11th of December, 1945, Mrs. Hese Honigshtok told me that the head had been severed from the body. From this it was obvious how my brother had been murdered. The murderer wanted to place the body in a sack and cast it into the Zagozdzshonka River. I sacrificed myself and Amos so that wouldn't happen. It cost money, strength and health, until we begged that he be buried in the cellar. We together dug a grave and buried him there in a white sheet. In this tragic way, the talented and beloved civil servant, my brother, Chaim Berman, perished. After he died, I remained with Amos in the cellar. It tore my heart to look upon the young man. We lay together upon his father's grave in the cellar, cuddled one against the other. We cry. Together we flood with our tears, the fresh grave and our resting place.?

[Page 483]

Amos Flees to Warsaw

On the morrow, in the morning, my friend, Sabat, came to me. We come to the conclusion that we must seek a way to save the poor, orphaned, Amos. There is only one possibility: Send him to Warsaw. Because here it is terrible. I dressed Amos in his father's clothes, bought a ticket, gave him money, and with a broken heart sent the orphan to Warsaw. There he sought help from acquaintances, and relatives. According to what I was told, the Poles turned him over to the gendarmes and they shot him. We honor his memory!

 

Warning – Typhus!

After Amos' going away my landlady came down with Typhus and a very high temperature. I also got a temperature and couldn't walk around. The landlady was immediately taken to the hospital. I remained lying in the cellar, on my brother's grave. A few days later when my Typhus flared up, and I was lying in the cellar, without help and unconscious, a sanitary commission came, which consisted of a doctor, an assistant and representatives of the city council as well as gendarmes and Polish police. They came into the house, where I was hidden in the cellar. They disinfected the house, sealed it, and nailed a warning on the door: Warning – In this house there is Typhus!

 

Zelick, You Must Leave the Cellar

In this way I lay upon my brother's grave for a long time, all alone, until the day when my friend, Sabat, tore the warning off the door. He came to me in the cellar, looked around, stood still and could not speak, because I looked like a wild animal: bearded, dirty and almost unconscious. “Zelick” he said to me, “You must go out of the cellar. The situation is terrible. If you don't, we'll all perish.” It was the Sabbath. With force he removed me from my brother's grave. I couldn't keep my head up. He said to me: I will change you, buy you a ticket, and tomorrow (Sunday) you travel to Warsaw.

 

I Travel to Demblin

On the morrow, he changed my clothes, cleaned me up, and brought me food, which I wasn't able to eat. At ^:00 p.m. they gave me a valise in my hand, in which they packed a few things. He went first and I followed. There was a great frost at the time. The earth was covered with snow. I approached the railroad, and I fall. I can't get up. I make a mighty effort and raise myself, so that passers–by will not recognize me. “Nu, come a bit faster”, they shout to me from the distance. That way I went to the railroad station, sit down in a coach near a window and travel to Renkowitz. There I get up, go out and down the steps to the pump, and hide myself to keep from being recognized, and wait for the coach to Demblin. It doesn't take long and along comes a crowded coach. I push myself in among the passengers and we arrive in Demblin. The coach stops. All of the passengers get off. I remain for last. I can't get off with the valise. I don't have the strength. One of the passengers helped me. I stand in front of the station.?

[Page 484]

A railroad official goes by. I approach him. I can barely utter a word. My feet are trembling. “Excuse me” I say. “Where is the waiting room for Poles.” Meanwhile there comes a tall German official and asks him what I want. He answers him and tells him that I want to wait for the train to Warsaw. We all three together, go into the waiting room. The German goes in first, and we two remain. The railroad official takes me aside and asks me softly: “Are all of your documents in order?” “Why do you ask, sir?” – I say to him. The Polish official answers me quite calmly: “Yesterday was crazy. They killed a gendarme. Today many Gestapo people came and they are checking everyone's documents. On top of it all, you look awful.” I don't hesitate too long and I say to him: “Sir, it's as you say. Please have pity on me and save my life. I'll pay you well. I have money with me.” “But how?” he asks. “Hide me in a good spot until the train comes.” “That I can't accomplish, but don't lose any time and come quickly with me. I'll show you where to wait until the coach comes.”

 

The Coach To Warsaw Came

I sat that way on my valise and waited. It was a dark night. The great frost froze my hands to the valise. Two o'clock at night I heard footsteps. It's my savior, the conductor with his searchlight, tells me that the coach is already coming. “Come with me, I'll put you on the coach.” We go together. He holds me under the arms, because he sees that I can't make it on my own, and leads me into the train. We say farewell to each other. I give him the money, but he doesn't want to take it. He tells me in a loud voice, so all can hear: “Have a safe trip. May God always protect you from evil!” The coach is filled with passengers – smugglers, who are carrying merchandise to Warsaw. I can't stand on my feet, and fall down. The passengers step on me. I shout and beg for mercy in the name of God: “Have pity on me. I'm sick.” Until one of the passengers called out: “People, have God in your hearts. You're killing one of our sick people, on whom you are stepping. Move away from him a bit.” The crowd moved away a bit, so that I was able to breathe freely. We rode to East Warsaw. There all the smugglers embarked. The coach emptied. I remained sitting with two elegant gentlemen, who asked me: “Where are you going?”

“To Warsaw”, I answer. “You are already in Warsaw. Why don't you go out?” “I need the main station.” I turn to the window and hide my face behind my scarf.

 

Stop You Are a Jew

At the main station in Warsaw, I take my valise, and go down. At the exit there are many Gestapo, gendarmes and Polish police. I go among the rows, give my ticket to the controller, and have safely passed through to the other side. My heart beats faster. I'm frightened of falling on the street. I go boldly, with my valise in my hand. Suddenly I'm seized by a Polish minor official from behind. “Stop, you're a Jew!” “What are you talking about? Me a Jew? You're mistaken” I tell him. “I'm sick, as you can see, and I came here to see Professor Pokzshevinski. I see that you want to earn some Zlotys. Take me to the doctor, and I'll pay you.”?

[Page 485]

But I wasn't able to get away from him, and on top of it he stuttered a bit, but I understood him perfectly well. He stated that for turning in a “Jew” he would get sugar from the Gestapo, plus a liter of whiskey and money. I gave him my money. I also gave him my valise and asked him to give it to my cousin, who lives nearby, at a false address. Looking at the valise, I got rid of him for a few minutes and used the opportunity and ran to Yerozolimske Alley, where acquaintances were hiding out.

I rang the bell and as soon as they opened the door for me, I fell and fainted away. I remained without any sign of life. The Polish family, as well as those who were hidden there, were very concerned: How will they dispose of my corpse. They therefore took care of me and I felt somewhat better. It didn't take long and the Polish family feuded with neighbors, who informed the Gestapo that they are hiding Jews and also a small, Jewish boy, Zigmunt. Unexpectedly the Gestapo came at night with Polish police. They undressed the Christian and checked to see that they weren't Jewish. A miracle occurred. They banged on all the walls but not on those where we were hidden. In this way, were five Jews and a child, who is today in Israel, saved from a certain death. From that area all Jews had to leave, so naturally I also had to seek a different hiding place.

 

I Meet My Wife

In 1942, when the situation in Warsaw, was very tense. At the hottest time, Mrs. Helena and her child traveled with me from the Viner train station to Vielkie Demby in the district of Minsk–Mazovyetzki. There I meet with my wife, who possesses Aryan documents, and my sister–in–law, Rachele and her four year old son, Avraham Tzigelman, who survived with his mother, and is in America as a practicing Psychiatrist. In Vielkie Dembi, by a Polish family, where the husband was a rail official, we stayed until the front approached Minsk–Mazoviyetzki. Then we went into the forest. The “Katyushas” banged from one side and the German military from the other side. I'm not in a situation to describe, how our liberation took place. Over 14 days we lay in the forest with the child, until we fell into the hands of the Russian Army, who protected us, and helped us with food until we came to Lublin. Holy be the memory of my children: Malka Chayale and Kalman Berman, my brother Chaim, wife Angie and two sons: Amos and Danek Berman. Also the family of Shaul, Rive, Tobe, Hershl, Yisroel, Sarale and Yehudis Rechtman.


[Page 486]

The Evacuation of the Kozienice Ghetto

by Shabbtai Bornstein, Ramat–Gan

The second of the Intermediate Days of the holiday of Succos, the 28th of September, 1942. Four o'clock in the morning the Ghetto was lit up. The sirens began to wail. This meant that we must prepare ourselves to leave our homes.

 

We Leave the Houses

SS murderers, Gestapo and Ukrainians with black uniforms and machine guns guarded the Ghetto. We received an order to leave our houses and go out on Targova Street, from Yisroel–Avraham Yoskovitsh's house up to Yisroel Shpigel's house, where the Ghetto ended. A Gestapo murderer ordered that we line up in a row, ten abreast, on one side of the street, near Yisroel Yitzhak Frish's house. With us we were able to take only what we could carry in our hands, up to 15 kilo (33 pounds). The outcry of the children and their parents cannot be described. They hold on to each other. They had talked it into us that we were being sent to forced labor, and that we wouldn't lack for anything. After we lined up by tens, the murderers began to choose from the line–up the healthy young men, and also skilled laborers such as shoemakers, tailors, bootmakers and other hand workers. Altogether they picked out about 120 people. Among them, my father, Moshe–Yitzhak Bornstein, the hat maker, who made caps for the German gendarmes. My father didn't want to remain with the 120, so he was beaten with a stick on the head and had no choice but to comply. We stood together, the whole family: my mother, my father, I and my two sisters. My–father. My father stepped out of line and took me along. I was 18 years old at the time.

 

The Evacuation Began

At nine o'clock in the morning, we began to leave the Ghetto. The way, along Lubliner Street, was long and hard. To the railroad it was about 2 kilometers. The murderers shot those who were unable to walk. Afterwards there came along some large wagons, and we put the old and the sick in them. By two o'clock in the afternoon, Kozienice was emptied of those nearest to us. The experiences of the 120, who remained, cannot be described with words. They left us to clean–up the Ghetto and carry out other work among the gendarmes and in the horse stalls. We would work daily until late at night. There were times when the Germans beat us soundly. In the meantime, Typhus broke out among the 120. The gendarmes got word of it, and ordered that a hospital be made of Mote Leibush Aaron's home. We brought the sick there, and at night the Germans came and shot them.?

[Page 487]

Rachel–Leah Vasserman was shot by the SS on the day of the evacuation, near the railroad. Her husband, Simcha, was shot by the Germans on the day of the Liberation.

 

What Could We Accomplish?

We, the remaining 120 people, got an order to ride to the train and distribute water to the evacuees in the wagons. We were given a half–hour for this. What could we accomplish in a half–hour? A long train of wagons (cars). We handed up the water through the small windows. In the first cars they got water. Afterwards the murderers ordered us to halt the distribution. It was a hot day. They pushed the people into sealed cattle cars. Like animals they were pushed in. They took their shoes and baggage away. As soon as they closed the doors of the cars, there was a lack of air. After halting the water distribution, we returned to the Ghetto. They ordered us to move into a few houses situated between the houses of Issachar Shabazon and Veve Kdshemacher, on Targova Street.

 

Living Orphans

In the afternoon of the same day, the train traveled to Treblinka. We began to clean up the Ghetto. We went into the houses, carried out the furniture, bedding and other things, which people had accumulated over an entire lifetime. Poles came with wagons. The Germans permitted them to come into the Ghetto. Like robbers, they loaded everything onto the wagons. Our hearts cried for our huge destruction, which had befallen us. We remained in the Ghetto for two months, and worked for the German murderers, who wandered around and kept on looking, digging in the cellars and banging the walls. Every day they came to search in a different place. Poles sneaked into the Ghetto and searched on their own.

 

The End of December, 1942

We were almost finished with the work. We were notified by the gendarmerie that we were leaving the Ghetto. We went to Radom on foot. We were accompanied by Polish police from Kozienice. About 70 of us left Kozienice. A portion of this number were taken to the ammunition factory in Skarzshiska Kamienna.

 

The Bloody Road to Radom

The road to Radom was difficult and bloody. Our friend, Melech Urbach had bribed the police. 5 kilometers beyond Kozienice, after the Babya–Gura, he attempted to escape. A Polish policeman chased after him and shot him. Unfortunately, we had to bury him in the forest. We went on with trembling feet and pounding hearts. The distance is approximately 37 kilometers. To us it seemed a lot longer.?

[Page 488]

In Shidlovtze

We slept in Radom overnight, and in the morning we were sent to Shidlovtze, where we found a new hell. Cold, hunger, a shortage of water, dirt and Typhus ruled there. People fell like flies, even though the Germans spread rumors that in Shidlovtze Ghetto Jews would be safe. We lived in a house together with other Kozieniceites. My father, Mo she–Yitzhak, and I were connected with an ammunition factory at Pionki, where our acquaintances and relatives worked, and we begged them to save us from the hell!

 

It Fell From Heaven

One day, two autos came from Pionki with Nachman Kaplan, and began choosing workers for the factory from among the few Kozieniceites. My father wanted me to go to Pionki, so a memory of our family would remain. I wanted my father to go with us. Unfortunately, he didn't want to go. He was a broken man. Finally I decided to go to Pionki. But they didn't want to take me. It was dusk, at the end of December, 1942. Cold and snow. The auto began to leave. I leaped up on the roof of the auto. I don't know from where I got so much courage and energy, at the time. On the roof, I got cold, so I tore open the canvas and fell inside. All became speechless. They thought that I had fallen from heaven. That was how I saved myself from the Shidlovtze hell, which two weeks later, in January, 1943, made Judenrein. At that time the remaining Jews from Kozienice, including my father, were sent to Treblinka. We also received information at the time that of the 120 Kozieniceites, no one remained alive.

In the Pionki ammunition factory, we Kozieniceites: Women, men, girls and boys, worked in construction work and unloading arms and ammunition. Conditions were not that good. We hoped that we would survive the evil time and be reunited with our nearest. We were there for a year and a half, until June 1944–, when the Russians approached the Vistula River, and we were sent to Auschwitz. In Auschwitz, I met my brother, Gershon, who had been sent there from Garbatka. From Auschwitz, I was sent to other death camps, until I was liberated by the Americans at Dachau on the 29th of April, 1945.


[Page 489]

Yosl Lederman and Yankl Fligelman

by Meir Zaltzman, Montreal

I take the opportunity to write about a tragic event concerning two Kozienice youngsters, who perished at the hands of the Nazi murderers. It is difficult for me to write, because, first of all, I'm not a writer, and secondly, while I write this I'm reliving it again. The whole scene appears before my eyes. During the somber evacuation, they took out of our city, a small portion of people and sent them to labor three miles from the city. A few weeks later they sent us to hard labor in Volanov. In the camp they sent me and 9 other Kozieniceites to work on barracks, which housed German soldiers. On a nice morning they ordered all ten of us to line up separately. They took us into the Inspector Robi, who commanded the German soldiers. He put his revolver on the table, and instead of asking us he promptly announced that since one barrack had burned down, while we were working on it, we will be shot during the next half hour. He called two policemen and ordered them to shoot us. While being led away to be shot, a miracle occurred. God didn't want us all to die, so the camp commander approached us. Before the war he had been a professional hangman (executioner). He asked the police where they were taking us. They told him everything.

He wanted to show the former murderer that he was boss, so he ordered us back to Robi. He came along with us and told Robi that he is not in charge of the Jews. He asked who of us had worked in the barracks that had burned. The two Kozienice heroes, Yosl Lederman and Yankl Fligelman stepped forward and said: “We were there alone, and no others.” Their intention was to save the other eight of us. They were shot and we were chased to work. Their bodies lay a whole day unburied, for us to see. We looked upon the faces of our two dead friends. I'll never forget that scene.

May my words be a memorial, and may children and children's children remember our two quiet Kozienice heroes! We honor their memory!


[Page 490]

Frightful Days and Years

by Chaim–Meir Zaltzberg, Toronto

In 1938 the Polish Government began to regulate the Zagozdzshonka Stream, which flowed along the east side of the town and formed a natural boundary. On the opposite side, to the east, there no longer lived any Jews. There was the village, Staraviesh. As soon as it would get warm, and the snow and ice melted, the stream swelled its banks and flooded large areas.

 

The Huge Melyoratzie–Project

The bridge, which led to Demblin, became flooded, and many villages were cut off from the city. This flooding caused great damage to many people who lived near the stream. They had to leave their poor hovels and be put up with relatives. The situation changed when the regulatory work was done. The city no longer suffered from flooding. It meant that the project had been carried out, thanks to the efforts of the Seim (Polish Parliament), initiated by the Deputy from the Kozienice area. A similar project, but on a larger scale, was planned by the government in the area called “Povishle”. Many years before the Vistula had flowed there. Surprisingly the largest river in Poland had changed it's course, leaving good fertile soil, and also large areas of swamps. The objective was to cut canals which would draw off the water, dry up the swamps and make the land fruitful. For this objective, outside laborers were brought in from an area of chronically high unemployment.

The few hundred workers, who were employed on this project, brought some life to the town. When the “Viplate” (payment) took place, they would appear on Radomer and Lubliner Streets, where they bought food and on Koshtshelne Street where they bought clothing, and Jews earned a livelihood from them.

In 1939, when the war broke out, the workers went home. In brief, the Polish Government also fell, and the work ceased. A larger number of German military settled in the city. The condition of Jews was poor. They knew what to expect from the so–called “Bearers of the Western culture.” Jews were seized for all kinds of labor: Chopping wood, building barracks, grooming horses, etc. Jews were beaten very often. In spite of it, many had contacts with German soldiers, and they would daily come to work hoping to bring home a bread to their families. The majority of Jewish workers were unemployed and didn't have the means whereby to live. The production of shoes for export to Galicia ceased. Other industries, such as the manufacture of boards and glass works ceased to exist.?

[Page 491]

The Two “Platzuvkes” (Work Places) at the Water

Nature was also cruel: It snowed a great deal, combined with sever frosts. In a word: 1940 was a severe winter for Kozienice Jews. The engineers from the two firms that had been carrying out the draining project, tried to convince the German authorities in Radom (the Germans didn't recognize the Kozienice authorities, and the district was administered from Radom) to authorize continuation of the project. Their attempt was crowned with success. The Jewish authorities received an order to provide workers. A notice was posted about the work, and the major condition: That an extra bread would be given! In spite of the low pay, many willingly volunteered. Every morning the workers would assemble, and a Jewish policeman would accompany them. This was the beginning of the two “platzuvkes” which was called by that name according to the engineers, who carried out the work: “Gortshitzki”. I maintain that this gave a few hundred Kozienice Jews a chance to play the “lottery”, whose big prize was surviving the war. For two years, a large number of Jews carried out the slave labor under horrible conditions: In water, hungry, fearful of the morrow. In the winter the work ceased for a few months.

The gendarmerie would make searches and take away a few potatoes, or a beet, etc. There were cases when they would shoot someone for no obvious offense. When I think of it there arises before me the puzzle: What interest did the Germans have in carrying out this project? It was only useful for the immediate region. Did they really believe that the area would remain a part of their imagined 1000 Year Reich, or was this but another way to torture Jews? In 1942, a few weeks before Succos the news spread that the end is near. Panic increased. People ran to sign up for labor. I was among them. A few days later the volunteers were assembled in the horse market, where about 20 horses and wagons were already waiting.

 

We Fool Ourselves

Representatives of the Jewish establishment and the German gendarmerie took us in the direction of the village of Vilke, where we were duped. Everything was carried out with German efficiency. Midway, two gendarmes ordered us to stand still. They had realized that they had let slip by the opportunity to rob a few Jews. They searched us thoroughly and whatsoever pleased them, they took. At dusk, we came to the place. It was an unfinished village schoolhouse, without windows, and doors, standing by itself. Here we had to accustom ourselves to a new life. It was already fall. When it did not rain, many of us slept out–of–doors. It was much worse when it rained: Everyone had to sleep on the floor, where there wasn't any room. After such a night, we would get up in the morning, barely managed to eat something, lined up, and marched a few kilometers to work. The overseers were a better class of gentiles. We were divided into groups of 10 and the work assigned accordingly. My group consisted of my relatives: My brother Yakl and cousins.?

[Page 492]

Not once did we think to ourselves: This is how the Chalutzim worked in draining the Hula swamps (in Israel). I envied them. They had an objective, an ideal. My heart clamped with pain, that so many Jews are being forced to lend a hand in bettering the conditions of the Poles, who so readily cooperated with the Germans, in order to exterminate Jews. On Sundays the Polish overseers didn't work, so we also had a day off. Some would bathe; others made their beds, and some cooked outside.

 

The Terrifying News

Suddenly there was heard in the neighborhood the whistle of a locomotive. To Kozienice there ran a narrow track which existed thanks to the Jewish shoe workers, who had sent shoes to Galicia. On the morrow we found out that the deportation had taken place. A special train with many cars had carried away our dearest and most beloved to extermination, to Treblinka. That was on September 27, 1942. The second day of the Intermediate Days of Succos they perished. That was the tragic end of Kozienice's Jews. To this day the whistle of a locomotive and a train remains for me a nightmare. All were strongly affected by the horrifying news. Many collapsed. On the morrow all had to again get up, and march to work as “normal”.

 

How I Saved Chantchele

A few days later, there came to us the rumor that in the women's camp there had been a selection and that those selected were to be sent away. Chanatchele, my sister's little daughter, was also among them. I, my brother, Yakl, and my cousins were beside ourselves. She was the only member of my eldest sister's family, Mirl and Yosef Zaltzberg, who had so far saved themselves. We decided that I should go see the architect, Taras. I told him, that I can't remain here, if they are going to send away my sister's child. He shrugged his shoulders. He cannot help at all. Then I offered him money.

He thought it over a while, and then he called out: “You know what, come in at 12 o'clock to the office. The cashier will be there.” The cashier played the chief role in all transactions. I quickly ran back to my group and told them of the results of my interview. We worked on, pushing wheelbarrows full of mud, but our thoughts were concentrated on the bad news about the selection. The time passed very slowly. Finally the clock showed 11:45. My brother, Yakl, gave me a sign that it was time to go. All gave me encouragement.?

[Page 493]

Soaking, I opened the door of the office, where there were to be found already the cashier and other officials, all Poles. I immediately announced why I had come. I was very surprised, when he told me that he knows. The architect, Taras, had told him about my money. I gave him the money, and he wrote out an order: “Chana Zaltzberg is immediately to be freed, and the Jewish police are to return her to the women's section”. When he gave me the “document”, he added: “See to it that this gets to the Jewish police, who are guarding the women, quickly.” Encouraged by my success, I ran back to my group. I showed them the paper. We consulted about what to do next, and decided that I should take a shovel in my hand and remove my shirt, a sign that I work at the canal. All of the laborers worked almost nude, because we stood in water.

Armed with the “document”, I ran swift as an arrow, along the canal, in the direction of the camp. It was approximately 4 kilometers. The entire way, I only thought about not being too late. I had no time to think about the danger that I myself was in, if a gendarme or some other German would meet me. Finally, I approached the camp. Here I met a boy named Shtecker. He worked in the kitchen. He told me that the gendarmerie is in the camp, in order to carry out the selection. I became fearful that maybe I was too late. With my heart pounding, I approached closer. I looked in and saw that there were no Germans. I went to the barracks where those who had been selected to be sent away were assembled. They were resigned to their fate. Unfortunately, I remember only a few names, which I want to enumerate: Gitele Zilberberg, Baile Korman, Esther Mandelboim, Angie Flam and her mother, Frimet Rappaport and others. I told my sister's little daughter, Chana, that I had come to take her out, and I went with her to the two Jewish policemen.

I showed them the note from the cashier. After reading it, they shook their heads and said that they couldn't free her, and they certainly can't take her back to the women's section. Meanwhile there came in a jeep, the camp commandant, Zolech, a Pole. I showed him the letter with the cashier's signature. He carefully read it and ordered: “Take her out of here!” We left hastily out of the camp and headed for the men's quarters. We were thoroughly afraid that some Germans might notice us. Finally we arrived. My brother and cousins were overjoyed to see that we had returned safely in the evening when we returned from labor, they didn't let us into the camp. They told us to wait outside the gate. We discovered that the gendarmerie were there, in order to remove women and men, who had been selected to be sent away.?

[Page 494]

A Father with a Great Deal of Courage

Not far from us there was a former neighbor. He had been one of the wealthiest Jews in the city: Eliezer Itshe Zilberberg. He had heard that his little daughter, Gitele was among those who were to be sent away. Suddenly he said: “No, I won't allow my child to go out in the world alone!” Quickly he went to the headquarters of the camp and requested that he go along. His act made a strong impression on me. When I recall the incident, I come to the conclusion, that he was not only an outstandingly good father, but also a man of great courage!

In a few days we found out that all of the people, including the Jewish policemen who guarded them, had been sent to Zvolin.

 

We Are Taken to Skarzshiska

On a nice autumn day, the sun reflected brightly from the fluids which we drank. The warm weather revived us. The surrounding fields were already bare. The peasants had already harvested their grain. A light wind blew the falling leaves from the trees, which remained bare. The entire surrounding panorama bore witness to the fact that winter was coming. Suddenly our eyes darkened. A gendarme approached us and ordered to cease our labor and line up in a row. Yisroel Tenenboim's little boy did not line up quickly enough, so the representative of the “master–race” beat him mercilessly. His eyes glazed and he began to faint – this partially stilled his cries.

At the order of the gendarme, we went to the camp. On the way the gendarme noticed how a Jew was leaving the home of a peasant. He probably had been buying some food from the peasant. He drew his revolver and immediately shot the Jew for his terrible “crime”. The one who was shot was Fritz Rozen, the husband of Dina, the son–in–law of Issachar Shabason from Kuzmir. During the war, he and his family had come to Kozienice. In the courtyard of the camp they lined us up and again counted us. Suddenly a Jew stepped backwards and began running. The gendarmes and their helpers chased him. In a few moments they disappeared among the trees. A few shots were heard, and the Jew fell dead. He was a son of Mote Shvartzberg.

They gave us 10 minutes to take our possessions. In our great hurry and excitement we left more than half. A few months later, we would become aware of the fact that an undershirt or some other piece of clothing was an unreachable fortune.?

[Page 495]

In four rows they led us to the main road, which was pitted, and there waited for us large transport trucks. During the two kilometer march to the main road, we were guarded by the Polish overseers. Many used this opportunity to flee. I remember a few of them: Yerachmiel Tepper Shalom Vasserman and others. The Polish overseers were helpless. They shouted: “Ya poviem!” which means: “I'll tell on you!” You can ask: “Where was there to run?” We were surrounded by enemies. Those, who ran away,.were afterwards, together with all the women, and a few tens of Jews who worked for the firm “Tsharnota”, were taken to the Skarzshiska Concentration Camp. We passed through our city. This was a last chance to catch a glimpse of the place where we and also our parents, and grandparents had been born. With great longing and sorrow we looked at the Jewish houses and places of business, that stood empty and orphaned.

 

The Camp Volanov, A Second Babi–Yar

The camp was located about 10 kilometers from Radom and a few kilometers from Volanov. Here the Germans had confiscated from the peasants a very large area, and had set up a city of barracks for the military. A few kilometers further along was located the camp for Jews. At the entrance we saw a few large mass graves of Russian prisoners. They had died of hunger, or were shot for bringing a bit of water. In the camp itself, there was no water, even though there were wells at the surrounding homes of the peasants. For the guards it was sufficient excuse to shoot, when someone approached the fence. I want to answer the critics who ask: “Why didn't the Jews put up any resistance?” My answer is a typically Jewish one: “Why didn't the Russian prisoners put up any resistance?” They were actually starving to death. They were also only young military men. They would have also gotten more sympathy and help from the surrounding Polish population than we Jews. The Commandant of the camp was a German named Bartman – a murderer in the full sense of the word. He had a characteristic figure: very tall, with two cross eyes – one never knew where he was looking. He was dressed in civilian clothes, I would say Tyrol style. At all shootings and mass murders he played the leading role. At the head of the Jewish camp administration stood Zygmunt Immerglick. With his strictness and use of force, he could be compared to the SS. He came from Radom. The Radomites said that he was actually from Cracow. He and his chief helper wore on their hats three and two stars.

A professional policeman wore a special hat with a red stripe and a pair of better boots. Their sidearms consisted of a rubber hose, which they often used. The official language was Polish. I wondered: “Why Polish?” Because the highest posts were held by the so–called Jewish “Intelligentsia”, whose fathers were a bit wealthier and they were able to obtain more education. Or, maybe because the Polish language is so rich in banalities, which flowed so lightly from their tongues.?

[Page 496]

Not once did I grit my teeth, when such a person would “sing out” about an upright Jewish woman, who had not lined up fast enough, or for being tardy in coming out of her barracks. I must say that we are an exceptional people, “chosen by You.” In all the countries the Germans arrested the intellectuals, because they knew that the intellectuals are the kernel of resistance. Among us Jews, exactly the opposite: the intellectuals were the first to collaborate. In the Volanov Camp there were Jews from Volanov, Radom, Shidlovtze, and Kozienice. We lived in the worst barracks, worked at the most difficult labor. The firm “Vunderveter” was a very bad place to work. There they poured cement. The German overseers were a gang of criminals. They would beat us mercilessly. After a difficult day's work, when we returned to the camp, we had to line up in front of the kitchen and wait, because our privileged “goodhearted” Jewish women, who worked in the kitchen had not managed to have every thing cooked in time.

In 1943, there broke out an epidemic of Typhus in the Camp, and almost all Kozieniceites “danced at the wedding” (meaning they came down with the disease). We were afraid to inform that we were ill, because there had been a case, when all of the sick in the infirmary had been shot. Every morning, when they chased us out to work, the rows were filled with sick who had temperature, and could barely stand on their feet. I once worked next to Yakele Shpigel. He was burning up with fever, probably about 104– degrees, and was shoveling snow. A few other Kozieniceites died in the camp of natural causes. Among them were: Yoachil Huberman, Velvel Zaltzberg and Shmelke Rozentzveig. Half, about 60 men, died in the various executions.

 

A Frequent Appearance

Slaughters were a common occurrence in the camp, and were carried out in the camp itself. It was not so common in other camps. The first shooting which we experienced, was carried out against the patients of the so–called hospital. They told the sick to go out. The murderers stood at the door and shot. A few Kozieniceites were among those shot. Unfortunately, I remember the name of only one: Rachel Leah Vasserman. The second shooting that we experienced, was carried out against Jews who were removed from the small Ghetto at Shidlovtze, and had come to Volanov. The Germans employed a ruse. They proclaimed a few towns as Jewish towns, in order to fool Jews into leaving their hiding places. The Jews that were left in each town after the evacuations, to clean up the Jewish homes, saw in this a spark of hope that maybe they would allow this small remnant of Jews to remain there. Unfortunately, the disillusionment soon followed: All were led away to extinction. One of these towns was Shidlovtze. Twelve Jews, who had escaped the small Ghetto there, came to the camp, and among them were a few Kozieniceites, who went daily to labor. They didn't have any ration cards because they weren't registered. In this way they lived illegally for a few weeks.

The mass murders were carried out by a special group from Radom, which consisted of Ukrainians, may their names be blotted out!?

[Page 497]

Two Kozienice Victims

There is a suspicion that one of our Jewish helpers reported to the authorities and I maintain that as a result, he is responsible for the deaths of Yakl Fligelman and Yoske Lederman, both from Kozienice, who were the victims of a false accusation that they had set fire to barracks number 117. Ten of us from Kozienice, and I among them worked on the “Plaza”. We helped the bricklayers, who set up the clay kilns. So that the clay shouldn't freeze we heated small iron stoves. It often happened that a stove with live coals was brought into a second room. When we went to work and saw that a fire had broken out, we felt a bang on our hearts. Before we had a chance to turn back Bartman appeared and ordered us to follow him. He was our judge. In just a few moments he decreed the death penalty for Yakl Fligelman and Yoske Lederman: shooting for sabotage.

My brother, Yakl, and Meir Shalom Luxenburg, intervened with the Jewish authorities, thinking that perhaps they could do something to repeal the decree. The condemned were put in a wooden prison far from the sentry who guarded the camp. We would converse with them and comfort them. They knew that this was their end. The next day, as soon as we came back from work, we went immediately to see them. Unfortunately the chamber was empty.

In the autumn the largest mass murder took place. All was prepared in accordance with German efficiency. At two o'clock we were ordered to stop work and return to camp. We were lined up in rows. The murderer, Bartman, accompanied by the boorish Pole, Banak, made the selection. Those to whom he pointed with his finger, were separated. Some others went over to that group, because they didn't want to be separated from their brothers. I remember such a case with the Halbershtat brothers.

They ordered us to run into the barracks. The Ukrainian murderers, who had sprung up from the earth, opened fire on the second group, until all had fallen. The murderers ran among the victims, woorie that none should remain alive. The camp yard looked like a battlefield. Unfortunately I only remember the following names of those who were massacred: Chaim Berman's wife, Chana, and her young son; Moshe Goldtzveig; Issachar Frish; Moshe Fuks; Yoel Weinberg; Itshe–Meir and Hershl Weinberg; Eliezer and Hershl Halbershtat, Yisroel Lichtenshtein and many others.

 

A Miracle Took Place

Even so a miracle occurred – three Kozieniceites were saved from the Angel of Death's hands: Gedalya Lichtenshtein and M. Rappaport, two young men, who hid behind the barrels. Gedalya lives in Belgium and M. Rappaport in Israel. It cannot be understood how come the children didn't die of fright. The third one was Itzik Fuks. When the shooting started, he fell, and on top of him some of the dead. As soon as the murderers rode away, the Jewish police counted the dead. Suddenly they heard Itzik Fuks' voice. They asked him if he was alive. They helped him get up and brought him to the barracks. He wasn't even wounded, but covered with blood. With a weak voice he called out: “This must not be forgiven!” This scene I'll never forget. Unfortunately, he perished later in a different camp.?

[Page 498]

How Mrs. Berman Perished

I want to mention an event which happened to the woman, Chana Berman. She was working once with other women shoveling snow, not far from “Yunakan–Camp”. This was a work camp of young Poles, only men. They would wear uniforms and go home on leave. They were treated a lot better than were Jews. Their commandant was a Pole, named Banak, who went around dressed up as if he were a general. This boorish character would pass through when the Jewish women were working. He stopped and turned to Mrs. Berman, and with his boorish tongue said: “Come, I will have sexual intercourse with you!” She looked at him and said that she hadn't come here for that. At the big selection, this vile one pointed to Mrs. Berman and the murderer, Bartman, placed her on the left side. This meant

 

Guests Visit Us

In spite of the intense week, we had a few guests from the “Aryan side”. Tzeche Frilich came to see her father, Pinchas. She told us what was happening on the Goyish side. She had dyed her hair blond and obtained Aryan papers. I admired her for her courage and daring. Reizele Shvartzberg also came to see her father, Mote, and helped him a bit. Every word, which came out of her mouth we held on to with great eagerness. Another woman, Sarah–Leah, a sister of the woman, Starovshtshik, came to see her brothers, Yisroel and David Rozen, from Glovatshav, who were friends of my brother Yekl. We wondered how a woman with Semitic features could hide her identity with Aryan papers. She came to give regards to the Rozen brothers from five members of their family, who were in hiding. They were: Yakl Rozen, their father, and the brothers, Yehoshua, Yoel, Meir and the wife of Yisroel, Rachel. Also four members of the Eliezer Starovieshtshik family, his wife and her sister, Sarah–Leah.

Yakl Rozen knew a forest ranger, Tomashevski. He dealt with him. When the situation became unbearable, the family made an agreement with the forest ranger, and with his consent they came to the forest. He made a cave for them among thick woods and provided them with food. Understandably, the Goy was well paid. These Jews slowly settled in, and hoped to survive the war. After a few visits to the camp, Sarah–Leah went back to the cave. She related how the situation was in the camp.

 

The Horrible Death of the Rozens

A number of months passed, since the brothers Rozen last received regards from their hidden families. With great effort they located a Christian woman whom they trusted. They wrote a letter and sent it to the forest ranger. She was supposed to bring back a letter. Understandably, for her effort she was well paid. Days went by. The Rozens were very impatient. Each day seemed like a year. Finally the woman returned and brought tragic news. With tears in her eyes she told how one time, at night the forest ranger and his sons had placed straw on the door of the cave and set fire to it. They stood with guns so that no one could escape. One brother, Meir, succeeded in crawling out of the burning cave and ran.?

[Page 499]

They chased him and shot him in the leg, but he escaped. He maintained himself in a neighboring village and healed his wound. A few days later peasants caught him and brought him to Soltis. He locked him in a chamber, and went to call the German gendarmerie. When the murderers came, they found him dead. He had cut his veins with a razor. Thus, alas, the prominent two families came to a tragic end. The Rozen brothers in our camp collapsed. We were also besides ourselves, because of the bitter news.

 

We Arrive At Strachovietz

In 1943, the building of the barrack came to an end. The liquidation of the camp began. The first group was sent to Radom, in the “Vitvurnie” (ammunition factory). That is how I parted from my brother Yakl. I never saw him again. He perished in Germany, in the Alach Camp, a branch of Dachau. A few months later the second group was removed. I was among them. We came to Strachovietz, where we worked at heavy industry. People told us that we had arrived in a Paradise, in comparison to what it had been previously. The commandant was a bandit, Altaf. He used to shoot Jews in the courtyard and the barracks. For him this was some kind of sport. The total of Kozienice people was about 20. Here we were called Volanover, because we had come from that camp. A few months later they took the remaining ones out of the Volanov Camp and ordered them to march. On the way they were driven along and beaten. They came to the Blizshin Camp where they were employed in a stone quarry. Life in Strachovietz Camp was like in all other camps.

 

They Shot Me in My Foot

I will here tell about an unusual accident which befell me. A Ukrainian shot me in my left leg. It happened while going home from the second shift in the factory. Because it was already dark they would take us back by truck. Since everyone could not be taken at one time, the truck would make a second trip to take the remainder. I saw how people were shoving to get into the truck quickly. The guards were “having a fling”; shouting and beating with the butts of their rifles. A friend remarked to me: “Chaim, we'll go on the second trip.” We stepped aside. All of a sudden we heard a shot. The Jewish policeman came running and asked who had been hit. I wanted to take a step and felt heat in my leg. I was brought to the camp hospital. My cousin, Yakl Shapiro, and my good friends, the three Lenga brothers, were awaiting me. For eight weeks, I lay in the hospital. Too much medical help, I didn't get, but I didn't go to work, and the food was a bit better. The head of the hospital was a Jewish doctor from Starachovitz, a good, upright person. Unfortunately, I can't say this about the hospital aides. They were a privileged group, who had bought their positions for money.?

[Page 500]

A Selection in the Hospital

One time, in the morning, I heard a commotion outside. When I looked out through the window, I saw that we were surrounded by armed Ukrainians. A bit later, the German administrator of the camp came in and a selection began. All of the sick people were driven out of the barracks and ordered to run. In the middle stood the boor. To whomever he pointed with his finger, his fate was sealed. The Ukrainians would immediately push him onto the truck. This procedure took place in each barrack separately. Then the fat German entered the hospital and commanded: “Everyone out!” The camp administrator questioned me, since I was first in the line of the sick, while the doctor and other hospital personnel were lined up on the other side. I yelled out: “I'm healthy!” And with that I stretched myself out like a string. He immediately went to the second one and made a motion with his hand; then to the third, and so on. In short, I was left all alone. The murderers had pushed all of the rest onto the truck. Among those from Kozienice, was one in particular called Huberman. He had injured a finger and went around with his hand bandaged, that's why he was in the hospital. He asked me to watch over his things. That same day, the murderers brought back the clothing of the victims to the camp warehouse. As to the question: “Why was I left behind?” I can give but one answer: “A miracle!”

 

I Flee to the Partisans

At the beginning of the summer of 1944, I, together with a group of Jews, escaped. Our goal was to join the Partisans. We were under the impression that all those who were fighting against Hitler were our friends. Without mishap we entered the forest and began making contacts. Alas! We discovered that here, too, we are Jews…no one wants us, and our lives are in danger even from the Partisans. We had experience with the A.K. (a Polish Partisan group) which was large and armed with British Sten guns. They were supported by the Polish Government–in–Exile in London, and possessed English pounds. The Poles were more occupied with killing Jews than with fighting the Germans. A second group, the N.S.Z., were also armed with British weapons. They collaborated with the Germans. Their main task was the killing of Jews. We succeeded in making contact with the so–called “friendly” group, B.C.H.A., a peasant party that was supported by Russia. Their leader heard us out and his answer was: “We don't take in Jews!” We were the oldest inhabitants in Starachovitzer Forest. Our numbers increased. Every Jew that we found in the forest and in the surrounding villages we took in. Larger Partisan groups would not remain for long in one place. We would intervene with every Partisan group to take us in. The answer was always a negative one. In the area was a Russian intelligence group. Among them was a pair of Jewish youths from the Lublin area. They were sincere Jews, who came to us, bringing news, and also giving us instruction. Once we became very excited. An armed messenger came to tell us that we were being summoned to headquarters where they will give us 10 weapons. Very cautiously, we followed the Goy.?

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General Motshar Gives Us Ten Guns

Finally, we came to a large Partisan camp. Everyone wore Polish uniforms. These were units of A.L. (Armia Lyudova) also supported by Russia. A tall Pole came out, whose name was Motshar; the present well–known General in Warsaw. He spoke briefly to us, and then we were given ten rifles with two rounds of ammunition. Among us was a Galician Jew, a certain Meizlitsh, who had been an officer in the Austrian Army, and he became our military leader. He quickly organized a military drill for the Pole, in order to express gratitude. We marched past him and saluted. The bystanders accompanied us with shouts: “Moishy! Moishy!” We parted and went away to carry on with our own “kingdom”. At the time we were overwhelmed by the noble treatment that we had received from the “staff.” Later on we understood their intentions: We were stationed a few kilometers away from them. They gave us the weapons, so that we could serve as their advance–post. If the Germans attack, they'll hear the shooting and be able to flee in time. But there is a Jewish God in this world, and exactly the opposite occurred: The forest was surrounded and attacked from the other side, where the large Polish Partisan camp was located. Later we were attached to a different group of Partisans.

 

We Want to Cross Over to the Russians

The winter began, and the neighboring villages were inhabited by the German military. Survival in the forest became very difficult. The leadership decided that we should steal across to the other side which had been liberated by the combined Russian–Polish military forces. Not far from Sandomiezsh–Tzuzmir the Russians had crossed the Vistula River and occupied a small bridgehead. It was our goal to reach that point. We were separated from the front by 70 kilometers. For two nights we traveled in snow and cold. Finally we reached the German trenches. Because of a misunderstanding we failed.

The Germans opened fire on us. The Russians heard the shooting and thought that the Germans were going to attack, so they also began shooting, and we found ourselves in the middle. We quickly withdrew, suffering casualities. We wandered for a few days until we reached the forest. Two weeks later we again attempted to penetrate the front; this time led by a Georgian, Hatshek. We strayed, and when we reached the trenches, dawn was already beginning to break. We were uncertain, and didn't know what to do. Hatshek gave the order to advance, but he and his helpers, stayed behind.?

[Page 502]

Understandably, no one moved from his place. We, the handful of Jews, took counsel about what to do, since we very well understood our situation. We decided to reach the nearest village where there lived a civilian population. We went on our way. We noticed a large stand of straw in the middle of a field. I suggested that we hide ourselves in the straw, because it was risky to proceed during daylight. A few people agreed, and we went into the straw. The others went on their way. It just so happened that the snow covered our tracks.

A whole day military trucks passed to and from. This was actually at the front, and we were literally “in the lion's mouth”. Suddenly, a wagon stopped. Somebody pushed aside a bit of straw. I noticed a woman. Seeing us, she also became frightened and said: “O la boga!” She went away, and we heard as she said to the Germans: “No, no potatoes!” Apparently, they were looking for potatoes. As soon as it got dark, we again set out in the direction of the forest. On the way, we learned that there had been a “hunt” (search) in the first village. Our fellow Jews and other Partisans fell into German hands, and all perished!

We tried a third time to cross the front. This time we were better organized. A portion of the underground leadership was also with us. We also had better information about the way, yet there was no lack of excitement. As dawn began to break, we already found ourselves on the other side. We sent out a reconnaissance patrol They returned with two Russian officers. Yakl Binshtok, from Shidlovtze, fell upon me and we kissed each other. “Chaim, we are free, free!” he said. We put aside our arms, and remained a few days with the army. They permitted us to use their bath, and we felt actually revived. A Polish officer arrived with a truck, and he took with him all Polish citizens to Lublin.

 

A Meeting In Lublin

The truck stopped on a beautiful, wide street. The officer entered an office to take care of the formalities. We were cold so we descended to warm ourselves. We eyed the passers–by with curiosity. Many looked like they were Jewish. I didn't have the boldness to stop anyone. Suddenly an elderly person approached. He was carrying a small package under his arm. He remained standing and looked at us. I screwed up my courage and asked if he were a Jew. “Yes,” he answered and we began to converse. When he found out that I was from Kozienice, he pointed to the package, and said that he was bringing Kosher meat to Kozienice. “I don't remember his name, but I know that he had a movie theater in town,” he said. “Oy, Zelick Berman!” I shouted. I asked him for a pencil and paper, and I wrote a few words to Zelick.

They conscripted all of us into the Polish Army, which was still fighting. After two weeks of intensive searching in various military units, Zelick Berman found me. I was besides myself with joy. I believe that the lines that I have written, will shed some light on that terrifying epoch, that Jews had lived through, during Hitler's occupation of Poland, and will serve as material for future historians.

ON OCTOBER 17, 1939, THE HITLERITE MURDERERS BURNED THE PONIATOVSKI PALACE IN KOZIENICE.?

 

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