« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 540]

Our Fate Was Already Sealed

by Abraham Shabason

Hunger and sickness reign in the Ghetto. In order to alleviate the situation, we organize a food kitchen and a hospital. The kitchen distributes hot meals and bread, daily!

I take over the supervision of the kitchen. I organize the personnel, consisting of capable people. Oewish police take care of the order. The work of the hospital is carried on under the supervision of Dr. Abramovitsh, and the head nurse is Salke Bendler. The situation worsened. I, Hershel Popyelnick and Leibel Fleisher provide the needy with wood, in order to heat their freezing homes. The help is but a drop in the ocean of need, hunger and sickness. The end of 1941 and beginning of 1942 were the most difficult months. The epidemics spread. The hungry were swollen, and were to be found everywhere. Those better off tried with their failing strength, to improve things, but what could they do? In 1942 the Germans brought to Kozienice the Jews from Magnishev, Ritshivol, and other towns. For a few days they were kept in Kozienice and then sent away. I spoke to the head of the Magnishev community. He told me that they are being sent to forced labor, but he didn't know exactly where. We handsomely bribed a Pole to find out for us where they were being sent, but unfortunately he returned without any information. He told us that after a day of traveling on the train, they were taken to a forest, but what happened to them there, he didn't know. Obviously this was already the death–camp at Treblinka, which had been prepared. At the time, we didn't know about it yet. This was the eve of Rosh Hashanah, 1942. The Hitlerites had brought to Kozienice all of the Jews from the surrounding towns and villages. We could see that the end was approaching. “On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed; and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed!” Our fate was already sealed. On the eve of Yom Kippur, we already knew, that at the railroad station in Kozienice, the boxcars stand ready. Fear is on every face. Wild running in the streets. We prayed the Kol Nidre prayer with broken hearts. “Why, O'Lord, has this come upon us? Why and for what?”

At the headquarters there is a final meeting. The murderers demand a huge sum of money, obviously fare for the boxcars, which are waiting for us. We decide to go from house to house to gather up the amount. We divide into groups. I'm in the group with Hershl Perl. On Yom Kippur at dusk, we brought the murderers the agreed upon sum of money. No one sleeps. All are awake. Each one is sitting on his pack, ready for the final journey. On the first of the intermediate days of Succos, the sirens sound, from the city towers. The Ghetto is already surrounded. At each end stand armed German killers. Polish hooligans help them. The murderers show up in the Ghetto. They run from house to house. Whoever had not left his house is shot. In a few short hours all of Kozienice is already loaded into the boxcars!


[Page 541]

It's Hell In Life

by Gershon Bornshtein, Bnai–Brak, Israel

In September, 1939, the sky of Polish Jewry became darkened with black clouds. Which one of our families did not suffer this dark Hell? Only a select few, by a miracle, survived. None of the survivors can believe it.

 

My Father and Mother Perished

My father perished in Skarzshisko, where they quarantined a select group of skilled workers from Kozienice, to serve the Germans. By trade, my father was a cap–maker. He was called Moshe–Yitzhak Bornshtein, the tailor, Pesach's, son–in–law. My mother and my two sisters – Sarahle and Feigele – were selected, together with all Kozieniceites on the first day of Succos in 1942. In sealed box–cars, on a floor, disinfected with lime, they were deported. During the action their shoes were taken from them. Their cries reached up to heaven, when they were taken to Treblinka. My twin–brother, Abraham, was killed by the Nazi murderers, shortly before the evacuation. Of seven men in the family, two survived: Shabtai Bornshtein and myself, the remaining twin.

 

Hell in Garbatke

I was married in Garbatke, 14 kilometers from my birthplace, Kozienice. With my wife, Rochtshe Weisbart, and our only child, Sarahle, we lived in Garbatke, outside the Ghetto. Our hearts cried bitterly, longing for our families. But there was the threat that anyone who tried to enter the Ghetto would be shot. With an acquaintance, a Christian, I let my twin brother know that I wanted to come to Kozienice, to see my parents and brothers and sisters, for whom my heart yearned. My brother, Abraham, managed to contact a policeman from Kozienice, and they concocted a plan whereby a fictitious document would state that Gershon Bornshtein is needed in connection with the solving of a police case in Kozienice. For a handsome reward the policeman came to Garbatke and received from the commandant a permit to take me into Kozienice for the investigation. I made an agreement with my friend Sumer Pearlshtein, who lived in Garbatke, and had family in Kozienice, that he would accompany me. He agreed to this happily, and shared the expense, which was involved in this undertaking. On a lovely morning the policeman appeared with the necessary formalities, shook hands with my friend and myself, and took us to Kozienice. Everything according to plan!

 

I Want To Save My Child

The joy of my parents cannot be described. With tears and joy we conversed. The main reason for my coming was to turn over my only child to Christians. No one, at the time under the difficult conditions could forsee that it would be possible to hide. Besides this, my brother made an arrangement with a Christian, Oleshkevitsh, the former chimney–sweeper, with whom we had gone to school.

[Page 542]

Who wasn't acquainted with the city's chimney–sweeper and I gave that Christian my furniture, two new machines, all of my wardrobe and a sum of money. In this way did my wife and I decide to give our innocent child into the strange, Goyish hands. Shedding many tears, I parted from my parents, sisters and brothers, and also from my grandfather, Pesach Mandl, who cried bitterly into his beard, which the Germans had sheared off together with a piece of skin from his jaw. This caused him much sorrow. I will never forget his words: “I have no longer anything to live for. I want to die, because my beard was my adornment!” He took it very much to heart, until his holy, pure soul left his body a short while later, at age 75. He died in his own bed and in his own home. This was a great privilege during the time of the German occupation.

 

We Hear Shooting

On the way back to Garbatke, after sunrise, we heard, in the distance footbeats. With trembling and beating hearts, we lay down on the ground, in the forest, and listened carefully. The policeman suddenly, as if in water, disappeared, saying: “Go slowly! It's already not far to Garbatke. I am following you.” When we neared the town, we heard, from time to time, the echo of shooting. I and my friend Sumer Pearlshtein, had decided to enter Garbatke. We parted, and each of us went to his own home. The few hundred meters to our homes was not an easy task. When I entered my house, my wife and child burst out crying, and told me that they were expecting an “action.” I managed to calm them. Unfortunately it was true. The shooting came closer. This was proof that we were lost. A few minutes later, I heard wild knocking on our neighbor's door. He was Shalom Hoffman, by trade a boot–maker. “Open up! That's an order!” When he opened the door, two German's ordered him to show them where Jews lived, according to various addresses. An hour later we learned that he was lying, shot, not far from his home. When his wife and children learned this, they pulled the hair from their heads, because they couldn't cry.

The Jewish police of the Ghetto took him away to the small woods. No one of his family took part in his burial. In the same woods there was already buried a Kozienicer teacher, black Hava's son–in–law. The Germans had found him outside of the Ghetto, near Garbatke, where he would come from time to time to ask for help. He was also found shot. On the new cemetery there was already buried a certain Simcha Flamenboim, who had been shot near his home, because the German thought that he was wandering about outside the Ghetto. In fact he was at the Ghetto boundary. After a great deal of effort and for a goodly sum, the local Christians permitted him to be buried on the spot since the cemetery was in Kozienice, and how was it at all possible at that time to carry a corpse!

[Page 543]

The Germans Shot 80 Jews

The same morning in July, 1942, there came an order for all Jews to gather in a specific place, and that all Jews found in hiding would be shot. When all already stood in one row, all males and females up to age 14 were stood aside in one place. All of the older men were taken to the sawmill near the train station. At the same time they searched every house and the surrounding fields. Over 80 Jews, elderly and young and also sick, were shot on that day by the Germans.

 

The Gestapo Stomped on Our Shoulders

It was bitter and difficult to part with our children and families. The murderers didn't permit us to say farewell. When the small children stole over, to kiss their fathers. The SS man would beat the child. Till we were transported, we were forced to lie in rows, with our faces to the ground, and the SS men and Gestapo stomped on our backs. With each passing minute, we awaited the sound of machine gun fire. When the Jewish Police intervened in order to obtain a bit of water and piece of bread for us, they received the reply: “Not necessary, and too bad!” But in spite of it we were able to obtain a bit of water and a small piece of bread. The murderers discovered it, poured benzine over it and burned it. We felt then that our end was near. Until the deportation we lived as if in a Hell! Daily we would be assembled near the Jewish headquarters, in order to be assigned to the labor of unloading coal wagons, straw, iron and logs, or for loading. The work wasn't easy. We would pave roads, cut trees and lie in the muddy swamps. Everything moved at a fast tempo under a hail of bullets. When we returned home we had no strength left. We would barely make it home. Aftr the deportation of all men, 15 and over, there remained a few men, the women and children.

The victims who were shot – over 80 Jews – were dragged by hand, by the women and children, into the woods, where they dug a large pit! It was dreadful! The scene cannot be described. Children kissed the bloody clothing of their parents. The cries during the covering up of the dead in the pit, cannot be described. Together with the men who were shot, there was buried in that pit women and a number of children. From that small cemetery in the woods, there grew a large cemetery.

After transporting the men to an unknown destination, they tied our hands with rope and loaded us into freight cars guarded by SS personnel. For the entire journey no one could open his mouth to ask anything. In every car there were at least 40 Jews on each side. In the other half there sat SS men who were armed. If someone wanted to stand, he was struck with a gun. Long hours passed before we, dirty and hungry, arrived in the death–camp of Auschwitz. Together with us there were also transports of Christians.

[Page 544]

In Auschwitz

At the entrance of the camp there hung a sign: “Labor Makes You Free!” Afterwards we added to that phrase the rhyme: “From the crematorium, one, two, three!” Our hands were untied and we entered a reception center of the camp. At that spot we met many people. It was difficult to recognize them. They were swollen, scratched, emaciated and naked as they waited for the gas–chambers. These were the ones who were incapable of labor. They were no longer given even a swallow of water. The only thing which awaited them was the Zyklon Gas. Each one of us had to be interviewed by the Political Department, and had to be photographed. Everyone had to turn everything in; clothing and anything of value, since an order had been given that anyone who hid anything would be hanged. We saw this when we reached the camp: Two men were hanging on a gallows for hiding valuables, or attempting to escape.

After the disinfection, where everyone had to soak himself in chlorinated water, they shaved our heads and each one got a pair of striped pants, a jacket and a cap. We also received a pair of wooden shoes, and a number was tatooed on the left hand. Unfortunately, of those who had gotten earlier numbers, in a short time only a few remained alive. During the day we received another bit of water. Only in the evening, after two days of tribulations, did we receive our first 200 grams of bread, a bit of butter, watery tea, and also a written number, with a Star of David, to sew on the left lapel of the jacket. The edge of the Star of David was red–yellow. In the middle there was a “P” which stood for our country of origin, Poland.

 

Kozieniceites in Auschwitz

In the attic, under the roof of Block 18, where I was assigned to my block elder, Bartkovyak, I met Tuviele Schneider's son, Velvel Shpigelman, who was brought together with Abraham Ring, Yankel Zaygermacher's son, my mother's sister's husband, who had lived until the outbreak of the war in Paris and sent off to Auschwitz. It was supposed to mean that they were being sent to labor camps. They were also told that each one was able to send for his family and bring them to him. Arriving at Auschwitz, each one was able to see that he had arrived at an extermination camp.


How One Brother Saved His
Other Brother's Life Without Knowing It

by Gershon Bornshtein, Bnai–Brak, Israel

The fortunate incident happened in a camp in Poland, named Wolanow–a labor camp for Jews, but there were many incidents of grief that preceeded this event.

The Germans took the Jews out of our city of Kozienice on September 1942. They left a few in a place to drain swamps, but we didn't stay there very long. After two weeks, they took the rest of us to Wolanow.

The first thing we saw when we arrived were six long, mass graves filled with 1,000 Russian prisoners of war in each. The marker read: “Here lie 800–1000.”

The barracks had been built for the Russian P.O.W.'s. We found pieces of their overcoats, some of which still contained red star buttons of the Soviet Army. The Jewish townspeople who worked cleaning the camp after the Russians were killed, told us that they even found hidden gold rubles in the ceiling of the barracks. The young people were kept in the camp. Their parents were taken to Treblinka to be gassed and burned.

The first day they took us to work with Polish overseers. These men were more brutal than anything I had ever seen. One overseer asked if any among us were a tailor. I said that I was, so he put me to work making a suit for him whenever we were not busy working outside the camp making an electrical transformer. We also built barracks for the German soldiers who were part of an anti–aircraft battery.

The civilian German contractors were cement firms, which supplied the cement for building the roads. The Jewish inmates worked for the civilians. The contractors used Polish overseers, who were anti–semitic and very cruel. My first day, I was assigned to carry cement bags on the run–two bags at a time weighing 50 kilos each. We were watched over by German and Polish overseers who beat us with sticks. The name of the firm was Vonderveter.

The next day, we met the Commandant of the camp, a German named Bachman, a civilian about “6' 3” tall, and cross–eyed. He couldn't get into the army because of his grotesque appearance, but this rejection made him determined enough that he became a good Nazi. After about five or six days, Bachman made a selection of those unfit to work and told them he would send them back to the ghetto in our city, Kozienice, but the ghetto had already been liquidated. A few hours later, a truckload of Ukrainians and Latvians, who served the German S.S., came with machine guns. The Lithuanians and Latvians killed all those who had been selected as unable to work, and we were forced to watch the killings. The Lithuanians and Ukrainians were volunteers for the Germans and they were the ones who committed the murders.

We worked there for a while and were given little or no food. We were constantly hungry–hungrier than I had ever been in my life.

The Polish overseer found a sewing machine and he put me in a farmhose near the building site, outside of the camp, so that I could make him a suit. It was illegal to do this, and I could have been killed by the Germans right on the spot if I had been caught. He was greedy, and used me to make money for himself. Many farmers were in need of clothing, and since there were no ready made clothes, he had the farmers bring their materials to me and I would make their suits. The Polish overseer was paid by the farmers, and I got food in exchange for my work.

I now go back to 1940 and my home town of Kozienice. The Germans ordered that all Jews aged 16–55 must go to forced labor camps. My brother was five years younger than I. He was sturdy and healthy, and he volunteered to work for me under my name so that I could stay at home and work on tailoring brought in by the farmers. I would make them suits in exchange for food. We had more food than many other ghetto inhabitants.

My brother first worked clearing the swamps. At that time, people began to starve and we saw many swollen from hunger, and many begging house to house, but no one had any spare food to give them. My brother kept working, and when he became 16, he worked building a railroad line with other youths from our city. In 1941, he was taken to Kruszyna to lay railroad tracks. My brother was abused and beaten, but no one in that group was killed.

In September 1942, except for those working in the swamps, all of the Jews were taken to Treblinka by cattle cars. We worked for a Polish firm named Gorczicki at Wulka.

I had three sisters. The oldest who was then married, was Ethel and her husband was David. The younger sister was Sarah, who is now living in Rochester, and Gitl the youngest is married and living in Harrisburg.

Rumors spread that Jews were going to be sent away in cattle cars. A truck came from Kruszyna where Max was working. Sara and Gitl begged the driver to take them to Max. Ethel stayed home with her husband David, who worked at a confiscated Jewish owned saw–mill being run by the Germans. The Germans said they would let him stay there. This turned out not to be true.

I returned home that night and my mother was home alone. My sisters had gone to be with Max in Kruszina. I was despondent, and cried, but couldn't do anything to help save my mother.

The next day was Saturday, and we were told to take our belongings with us to the Gorchicki firm at Wulka. Farmers in horse drawn wagons took us to Wulka. Before I left, I saw my mother near the gate of the ghetto. With tears in my eyes and a pain in my chest, I kissed her. This was the last time I saw my mother.

Ethel came to Wulka. Every man who worked there had the right to bring a wife or sister. After three days, the Germans came and made a selection because there were too many Jews there. They selected quite a few of them to send to Zwolen. My sister gave her wedding ring to the Polish overseer, and he let her stay there. If she would have gone on that trip, she would never have returned.

David, Ethel's husband was an excellent shoemaker. He made shoes for the German S.S. officers. They put all the Jews on one street and took 500 at a time to the railroad station. An S.S. man for whom David made shoes, saw David and pulled him and about 60 other Jews out, so that they would clean up the city. The Germans took the Jew's possessions, some of which had been accumulated through the centuries. Some they kept, and some they sold to the Poles.

In January of 1942, all the Jews of Poland were sentenced to death by Hitler at a conference in Wannese near Berlin. Of course the Jews had no way of knowing about it then. Jews were not allowed outside of the camps, and if found breaking this rule, a Pole had the right to kill him on sight or hand him over to the Germans for a kilo of sugar or a litre of vodka. There was no place for a Jew to hide in Poland.

In 1942, after plundering Kozienice, the Germans sent David and others to a factory that made gunpowder in Pionek. Gitl and Sarah were in Kruszyna with Max. They worked with Max in laying the railroad tracks, suffering unbearable beatings the entire time. By April 1943, this work was finished. The Germans knew that some Jews were hiding in the woods, so they proclaimed that they would make five ghettos where Jews could survive and not be molested anymore. This offer was a lie.

One day, a few trucks came to Kruszyna. The Germans ordered ten men to come out of the barracks. These ten men were put into one of the trucks. Ten more men were then commanded to come out of the barracks. These ten men were shot in front of everyone. This procedure of alternately loading the trucks with men, and then shooting other groups of men continued until the barracks were emptied. A German civilian overseer had some Jews working for him and didn't want these people killed. He gave them a signal when it was safe to go to the trucks. Max was watching, and figured out what was going on, and when this signal was given, he followed this group to the truck and got on too. My sisters didn't know if Max had survived. After the barracks had been emptied, my sisters yelled out his name, and he waived his cap from one of the trucks. They knew he had made it alive. All of the women were then put on the trucks, and none were shot.

The trucks took the Jews to a little ghetto called Szydlowiec. Max knew that the ghetto would be liquidated a few days later. Ethel was taken to a munitions factory in Skarzisko. A truck came from Skarzisko to get laborers, and Gitl and Sarah volunteered so they could join Ethel.

There was a Pole who would deliver letters from one camp to another for money. He risked his life doing this, and eventually was discovered and executed. He had delivered a letter from Max saying that he was in Szydlowiec. I wrote back that if he could get to Wolanow safely, he should come. The next day, he arrived with about ten friends. They came to my camp illegally, but staying in Szydlowiec offered a certain death. They stayed inside the camp even though the Jewish police and the registrar knew about it.

I was still working for a Polish overseer making suits at that time. Since Max was a tailor, I took Max to work with me and we worked together. We both slept on the same bunk inside the camp. This continued for about 7 or 8 months. He lived on my rations.

During this time, Max contracted typhoid fever and could not stay in the barracks. It would be a death sentence if he was discovered ill and unfit for work. A nearby farm girl, who lived on Christian papers, took him in and cared for him. She gave him food and medicine and let him sleep about the stove. If it were not for her, he wouldn't have survived. She may have been a Jewish girl from Warsaw, hiding from the Nazis.

The firm finished work on the transformer, so we were taken to work at other places. We went to work in a big city called Radom–about 15 kilometres away. We went by truck, and as we left the gate, the Jewish police counted how many went out. The German Commandant Bachman suspected that illegals were living in the camp, and the registrar had orders to look for illegals and to keep them in the barracks, and not let them go to work that day.

I had a suspicion, and told Max not to stay in the barracks, but to go to work with me. When we went out, the Jewish policeman counted us, but did not stop us. Coming back from Radom at the end of the day, we saw a truck of Ukrainians coming from the camp. They were drunk and singing. When we arrived at the camp, the illegals were all laying dead on the ground.

Max couldn't go back into the camp anymore after this happened, so he and the others stayed in the nearby woods. They bribed a Polish driver who was going to Radom, and they were dropped off near the ghetto wall. They climbed over the wall, and a Jewish policeman caught them and threatened to hand them over to the Germans to be killed. They were put into a Jewish jail in the ghetto.

A girl in Radom had been in the camp at Kruszyna and knew Max from there. She found out that Max was in jail and because she knew the jailor, she got Max out of the jail. He stayed in the Radom ghetto for a while and then went to a different camp at Pionki.

From Radom, I was taken to Auschwitz where Mengele made a selection and took out the sick. The rest went to a camp near Stuttgart and from there we went to Dachau. The Nazis took 10,000 to 12,000 Jews from Dachau to the Tyrolean mountains near Innsbruck. The Germans believed their own propoganda about the Jews, and thought the Allies would treat them better if they let these Jews live.

Two days later after I left Dachau, Max was brought to Dachau. He had dysentery on the road to Dachau and his clothes were soiled. He threw his clothes on the road, and later found a braziere by the road. He used this to hide scraps of food he found as he walked. He arrived in Dachau with only the braziere.

At the same time, my sisters were brought to a camp near Dachau called Allach. Just before they were liberated, Ethel got hit by a German shrapnel, and the Americans took her to a hospital in Munich. Sarah and Gitl went to Dachau to look for anyone who survived and found Max sick with dysentery. They didn't know about me. They found a non–Jewish man from Kozienice with whom I had talked before i went to Innsbruck. He told them they killed everyone in the transport and brought back the bodies, but he was mistaken because the bodies were from a different transport.

My sisters didn't want to believe that I was dead. A man from Radom came to Dachau and said he had been at the Austrian border. He told my sisters that he knew me and that I was alive. Sarah hitched rides with U.S. soldiers to Garmisch. I was summoned to the American commander of the displaced persons camp and was re–united with Sarah. We returned to Munich and my sister told me that all of us brothers and sisters had survived. After a while, my brother–in–law David found out that we were all alive and came to join his wife and us.

As far as we know, we are the only family with five children and a brother–in–law, all put in different camps, who all survived. Thank God and the U.S. Army for our liberation.


Surviving the War

by Zygmunt Berneman

I was seven years old when the war broke out. In my mind thoughts began drifting to my own childhood. How sorrowful. As a little boy, I remember living with my father, mother, Chaskel and Bacia, my older sister Tema, and my very young sister Mindale. Our apartment was a front store with a door and window facing the street. Near the window stood a sewing machine (my father was a tailor) and three beds. I could still see my father bent over the machine, he could not see well and could not afford glasses, yet he had to make a living for us. My mother helped him and at the same time cared for her children, cooking, and cleaning. In the same large store lived my grandmother with her son Tzalel and daughter Reisel. They hung curtain as a partition so the back of the store belonged to my grandmother. It was dark there. The cooking was done where my grandma lived. There was only one stove for the two families. As a seven year old boy, I did not know any better, many families in Kozienice lived this way. Our lives changed drastically when the war broke out. We feared the Germans' brutal actions. Jews were beaten up, taken to work, and some never returned. My father had very little work because peasants from the neighborhood villages were not allowed to do business with the Jews. We were poor and hungry, but we were still together. In 1942, all unemployed Jews had to be deported from Kozienice, that was an order from the Nazis. A Pole, engineer Gorczycki, employed people to dig canals for irrigation. He told the Nazis that the Jews could do that work as unpaid, slave labor. At this time I was nine years old, and not fit for that type of work. My uncle Tzalel bribed the engineer and he allowed us to take my sister and myself to work. We dug the canals in Wolka, a village. The rest of the Jews from Kozienice, including my family, were sent to Treblinka. Our work in Wolka did not last long, only one month. Then the Germans evacuated us to Skarzysko–Kamienna, an ammunition plant. Here, again, my uncle Tzalel managed to bribe the lager leader of the camp, and my sister Tema and I remained in Skarzysko, as fit to work. My uncle gave away a camera, a Leica, then the best on the market. Tema was working with my uncle in the same factory. I was to young so my work was cleaning the barracks, sweeping the grounds of the camp. I had to prove myself useful. In the same year typhoid broke out in camp Skarzysko. My sister Tema became ill– the Germans killed her. I was still with my uncle until 1944 when the Germans began to liquidate camp Skarzysko, the Hassack ammunition plant, and they sent us to Czestochowa, camp Pelcery. There I remained only a few days and was then shipped to Buchenwald. I now was alone. My uncle was sent somewhere else. After the selection in Buchenwald, where people were sent to crematoriums, I was picked to select clothing from the dead people. In Buchenwald, where people were sent to crematoriums, I was picked to select clothing from the dead people. In Buchenwald, were not only Jews but Russian POW's. They looked even worse than us Jews, human skeletons. I was lucky, the Gestapo gave me some domestic work and I had better food than the prisoners. When I came back from my work to the barracks to sleep, I brought some food for the inmates. In my barrack was a Soviet general. I used to give him food that I brought from the Gestapo.

In 1945, we were evacuated together, to Bergen–Alsterlager, aviation plant. I still did domestic work at the Sturmfeurers office and managed to get food for the Soviet general. We were together for five months, until the war ended. Why I was so lucky, I would not know? (Maybe, my parents watched over me.) The Russian general turned out to be a Jew, which I found out later. His name was Goldberg. After the war, as gratitude for what I did for him, we traveled together to Chechoslovakia – to Prague.

I was alone, not knowing where my uncle was. General Goldberg was a very high rank official in the N.K.V.D. We came back to Germany to a town Baucan, near Dresden. Here, General Goldberg became commander of the town. Not knowing where to go, and being completely alone, he took care of me. He was going back to Russia and took me with him. Still a minor, I was put in a foster home, where I received an education and learned to be an electrician. We lived in Ural and kept very close with my general – whom we called Dziadzia (uncle) with love. Time was passing pleasantly. I became an electrician and was employed in a theatre in Swierdlowsk. I met there my wife and together with her family we were planning to go back to Poland. I still wanted to find out where my uncle Tzalel was. With tears in our eyes, my general and I said goodbye to each other. I found out that my uncle was in the U.S.A. and then he brought me to the U.S.A. We had some very good years together, until he died. Blessed be his memory.


Testimony of Gittel Mantelmacher Weinstock, Etta Mantelmacher
Gutman and Sara (Chaisurah) Mantelmacher Milstein

by Gittel Mantelmacher Weinstock

The Germans arrived in Kozienice in early September, 1939. They created a ghetto in which all the Jews were placed. The young people were put to work either building drainage ditches or other labor. There was no food in the ghetto and everyone was starving.

Later in September of 194–2, we found out from some Poles who worked at the railroad station that the Germans were preparing railroad boxcars to take the Jews away. Our brother Moishe had been taken earlier to a work camp in Krushina. When a truck came from there, my sister Chaisurah and I begged the driver to take us back with him.

We worked in Krushina digging ditches. In December, the work camp was liquidated. Most of the men were killed and the rest of us were transported to the small town of Shildloftze. They put us in the old Jewish ghetto, from where the Jews before us had been taken to the Treblinka gas chambers. None of the buildings had windows or roofs. We met a lot of Jews who had worked on the drainage ditches with us in Kozienice. There were also Jews that had been hidden by the Poles that were brought here. In this way, the murderers fooled our brothers and sisters, saying that this is how we could stay alive.

When we came to the ghetto, we realized that we wouldn't be staying here very long. We found a Polish newspaper that said the Jews who would work in the ammunition factories would be the last to be sent on the cattle–car trains. My oldest sister Etta was already in Skarzhisko, where Jews had been taken to a factory to make bullets.

Two days after we arrived in the Shildloftze ghetto, the Germans came with a truck and rounded up the healthy young people for work. We went of our own free will to the Skarzhisko factory, because we knew that to go on the cattle cars meant certain death. We wanted to save ourselves in any way we could.

We came to the Skarzhisko camp at night. There we met others from our home town of Kozienice. They told us that in a few days the Jews in the Shildloftze ghetto would be liquidated. Sick people and pregnant women who couldn't work were sent back to Shildloftze for execution. Later we learned that the Germans killed a lot of the Jews in Shildloftze by machine guns. The rest were sent to Treblinka to be gassed.

 

Life in Skarzhisko

My job was to make bullets. We worked 12 hours a day, one week on day shift and the next on night shift. The work was rigorous and we were watched constantly. If any defects were found in our bullets, we were given 25 lashes with a whip. They took our clothes off for the beating. My sister Etta once received such a beating.

Once when I came in to work, I went to the bathroom. A young man was next to me. The commandant came in with his gun drawn, yelled something, and shot the young man. I couldn't look. When I opened my eyes, the boy lay dead at my side.

In 1943, typhoid fever swept through the camp. It was very contagious. Etta was the first in the family to catch it and was unable to work. Every week, the Germans wrote the names of the sick on a list. These people were taken out and killed. Even though she was delirious, when Etta saw the Germans' dogs enter the barracks, she knew that she had to hide. She bundled herself in a pile of featherbeds, next to other such bundles. When the Germans came in, they ran their bayonets through all the bundles. Etta was stabbed slightly, but she didn't make a sound, for fear of being discovered.

Later, Chaisurah caught the fever and was put on the list. I learned that the next day all of the sick people would be shot, so I took Chaisurah to work with me. In the meantime, the Germans were looking for her and could not find her. By some miracle, I never caught the dreaded typhus. Life in the camp took its toll on us. People starved daily. We were all emaciated, with sunken cheeks, glassy eyes, bloated stomachs, and stick–thin legs. It was truly a miracle that all the members of my family survived.

In the summer of 1944, as the Russians approached, we were moved closer to the German border. We were in a camp named Chansdeckau, where we did the same kind of work. When the Russians came even closer, in December 1944, we were transported into Germany, to Bergen–Belsen. Later, we were moved to Dachau, where we stayed in a connecting camp called Allach.

The American troops entered our camp on April 29, 1945 and liberated us.


[Page 545]

Memories of My Birthplace

by Gershon Bornshtein, Bnai–Brak, Israel

I was born in a hunch–backed house, on a crooked street in Kozienice.

 

My Teachers

I started my education with the teacher, Yisroel–Mendele. When my mother took me to the Rebbe for the first time, she distributed sweets and nuts to all the children. The Rebbe's (teacher) home consisted of one room. His wife was a sick Jewess, who was always in bed. He lived penuriously, was modest, quiet and with a constant smile on his face. After learning, in the evening, we used to help him drive his two hens into his one and only room. Afterwards the Rebbe would take all of us home. From the Heder I went to a second teacher, who was called “the Warsaw teacher”. This one was an “intellectual”. His beard was always trimmed. He and his wife were well–dressed. The room was a lot more airy and near a large courtyard, where we used to play a few hours each day. When I got older, I was transferred to the teacher, Shlomo Tabatshnick. Until my Bar Mitzvah, I studied with Rabbi Lozer. With him we boys already learned Torah and Mishnah. With him we studied until late at night, because the older boys studied every morning in the Polish school, and cdme to him afterwards. The Rabbi would take us to the synagogue for the afternoon and evening prayers.

When I completed my Heder years, I went to Betar (Zionist Revisionist School) where I studied Yiddish and Jewish history with the teacher, Yoel Weintroib, in the Yiddish Folkshule for the courses organized by the “Bund”. The last time I met the teacher Weintroib was after the deportation. He perished in the Warsaw Ghetto during the final uprising. He had gone from Kozienice to Warsaw, thinking that there he would save himself. His wife, Gitl, of the Shabason family, perished together with all of the others.

 

The Beginning of the End

On Thursday, the 1st of September, 1939, the day of the Polish mobilization, I found myself in Warsaw. The streets were crowded with heavy military traffic. I barely pushed through with my truck, of which I was the driver. The Jewish population was disturbed. I arrived at the highway to Kozienice and it was loaded with the military. As I drived through the darkened towns of Piasetshne, Ger, Vorke, and Glovatshov I saw the entire Jewish populace on the streets. No one was sleeping. In the large market–square of Vorke, Jews fell upon me and asked in a fright: “What's happening in Warsaw?” The large bridge over the Pilitza is guarded by the military. They checked my documents, and I drove on to Kozienice. When I parked on Koshtshelne Street, I was overwhelmed with questions, as had been the case in Vorke.

[Page 546]

In Starostvo and in the city–hall there was a commotion. They were saying that the bridge over the Pilitze has been bombed out by the Germans. Eight days after the mobilization, the bankruptcy of the Poles was complete. The military deserted, together with civilians in an endless stream to the east of the Vistula River. The Jews of Kozienice ran to hide in the forests, and the villages among Goyish acquaintances. On the 9 day after the mobilization, Friday in the morning, the enemy squadrons of bombers appeared in the skies, and chased after those who were fleeing. The planes dive and bomb the streets of Kozienice. After the explosions, I could'nt recognize the place, near my house on Koshtshelne Street.

From Abraham Moshe Aaron Litman's house, a big pile of rubble remained. From under the ruins, they dragged him and his youngest son, badly wounded. His wife and two daughters were dead. These were the first Kozienice victims of the murderous Nazi Army. At night, by the light of a small lantern, they buried the victims speedily on the cemetery.

 

The Initial Days of the New Regime

On the morrow, the first military patrols showed themselves, as they run through the city. The city was like dead. The populace was in hiding. The German military marched all day and night in the direction of the Vistula River. A day later, military personnel in black uniforms, with a large skull on their caps, and others in brown uniforms with swastikas on their left armbands, appeared. These were the Gestapo, the SS and the SD. At dusk, I went out of my hiding place, because I noticed a large group of Poles with sacks both full and empty. The barbaric Poles were accompanying the soldiers in black uniforms, showing them Jewish businesses, which were broken into and looted. Before I was able to orient myself as to what was going on here, I saw a group of Jews being escorted by the military, and the Poles chasing and screaming: “Jew! Jew!” They were helping to drag Jews out of their hiding places. And now they noticed me. Before I could escape, I heard a yell telling me to stand still. If not, he'll shoot. They took me together with the group of Jews. On the way the Germans continued to beat us with the stock of their rifles. I and two other Jews were taken to the train. There a motorized unit was stationed. They told us to tear off branches and cover their pantzer vehicles. When we finished this work they freed us.

The second group of Jews were taken by the Germans to the priest. They drove the priest out of his house, threw his things out and told the Jews to prepare his dwelling for them as quarters. In doing this they beat the Jews mercilessly. Leib Bayer's son, Yisroel Shlomo, they harnessed to a plowshare and told him to pull it. As he was doing this they beat him murderously. There were also a few elderly Jews with beards, which the Germans sheared off, and in doing this they cut up their faces till they bled.

[Page 547]

They Again Captured Me

They again captured me for forced labor. They took me to the SS. There I also met my friends, who were chopping wood and clearing the courtyard. They ordered me to wash automobiles. An officer asked my name. When I answered him, he told me that I'll be his chauffer, and that I should take care of all the automobiles, motorcycles and jeeps. He called me into his office, and told his adjutant to write a note indicating that no one was to bother me, and no one should take me for forced labor, and that I'm permitted to be out during curfew hours. He was chief of the gendarmes, an SS man. Going out, I saw that they were loading cans of gasoline on a small auto. SS men seated themselves in the auto, and drove out of the courtyard. Later, the SS man came out, and told me not to go home, but to wait for him. When it got dark, he asked me if I knew where the synagogue and House of Study were located. I told him that I knew, since I had no alternative. Approaching the synagogue, I saw that soldiers were busying themselves, going out of the synagogue and the House of Study with empty jerry–cans of gasoline. On the street it was deathly still. Suddenly flames burst out from all of the doors and windows of the House of Study and the synagogue. Both buildings were engulfed in flame. Houses in the vicinity caught fire from the flames. Jews ran to and from in great commotion. The enraged soldiers were beating everyone, who fell into their hands. They were shouting that since Jews have set fire to the synagogue they must extinguish it. They pushed the Jews to remove the burning holy books. I also noticed that the soldiers were pulling R' Yosef, the city Rabbi, together with R' Yankele. R' Yosef was carrying a Torah Scroll and was badly beaten.

The soldiers pushed R' Yosef deeper into the fire, and ordered him to dance. At this the soldiers sang their song: “When Jewish blood spurts from the knife …” The soldiers then jumped into their vehicles and drove away. The Synagogue of the Maggid, of blessed memory, and his House of Study burned to the ground. R' Yosef fell in a dead faint, and later died as a result of the beating. A short while later the Rabbi, R' Yenkele also died. On that day the murderers also set fire to the Palace, as it was called. In this way they celebrated their victory over Kozienice!

 

The Difficult Winter of 1940 Approaches

The Germans issued a decree, that all houses, in which Jews live, were to be designated with a red Star of David. Jewish houses were broken into and robbed. Pain and want ruled. Epidemics and sicknesses spread. I remember the first victims of hunger and sickness. Later an order was issued that all Jews, who lived among Christians, must leave their homes, and go over to the Jewish side. A workers brigade of all classes was organized. Life was regulated by the Jewish Council, at whose head stood the leading householders of the city. The section of the city where Jews lived, was encircled by barbed–wire, and a Ghetto was formed. Jews smuggled themselves out of the Ghetto, in order to obtain a bit of food, to sustain their souls. Later there came an order, that the Ghetto is sealed. Anyone who leaves will be shot.

[Page 548]

Once, at noon, there began a run. Jews were running to hide. I saw that the gendarmes were accompanying Abraham Litman and his son, Yechiel. They were going in the direction of Koshtshelne Street. They come to their house, which had been bombed. It didn't take very long before we heard several shots. First, the son, Yechiel, fell and shortly thereafter – Abraham Litman. From afar I saw my father and my younger brother. The murderers noticed them and gave them an order to bury the dead on the spot, where they were shot, near the mound of grass. My father brought several Jews with lanterns and they buried the two victims. Two days later, my father took several Jews, and late at night, with lantern light, they speedily exhumated the two martyrs, and reburied them on the cemetery.

 

The End of 1941 – The Beginning of 1942

Jews died of hunger and of Typhus. There was not a house without a victim. A hospital was established, with Dr. Arnold Abramovitsh at it's head. Brigades of nurses worked day and night, but there was a lack of medicines. Hungry and swollen Jews wandered through the streets, and others became beggars. A folk kitchen was set up, but where do you get produce? The communal leaders approached householders, to help with whatever they can. And they did help! I remember the long lines at the kitchen: half swollen, barefoot, in tattered clothing, bent over Jews, who had been merchants and prominent householders. My father would stand for long hours distributing the food and worried over the fact that people were being embarrassed and insulted. Once there was a commotion: The gendarmerie was holding a group of workers, who went from their work at the canal. They beat them mercilessly and then shot them.

My father ran in that direction. Perhaps he could save someone? The Council used to bribe the murderers with money, or with very valuable merchandise, but this time, unfortunately, he was too late. Jews would trade their last possessions for a bit of corn in the nearby villages. These Jews were discovered with the bit of corn, and they were shot near the Dombrovker Bridge. At the time the following fell: Leibl Fishboim, Yosl Tentzer and the third victim – I don't remember. My father wanted to put them in a wagon and take them to the cemetery, but the murderers didn't allow it. They were buried not far from the bridge. Leibl Fishboim's wife, Feige, together with her three children, were sent to Treblinka.

 

The End of the Kozienice Community

The Jews of the surrounding towns, were driven into Kozienice. This was shortly before the Holidays. On the last Yom Kippur, services were held at the lame Berish's home. The Cantor for the last arrived to tell us that boxcars had arrived at the train station. According to what we heard from them, and what had happened in other cities, we understood tht the boxcars had been brought in order to remove us. The murderers also decreed that in 48 hours, we should deliver to them a sum of money, meaning that the Council should pay the travel expenses for everyone. My father, together with others, ran around to collect the money.

[Page 549]

On the second day of Succos, at night, the Ghetto was surrounded by Gestapo, Ukrainians and Polish fire–fighters. Large trucks came from the Pulver Factory in Pionki. They loaded on tens of workers and drove off to the camp, which was being established there. A Ukrainian soldier pushed me aboard one of the trucks going to Pionki. Early in the morning, the murderers drove all of the Jews from their homes and stood them in rows, on Koshtshelne Street. Whoever tried to get out of line, was shot. Afterwards they robbed the homes and searched for hidden Jews. In Kozienice they left behind a group of Jews, among them – my father, and my older sister, Feige. My younger sister, Esther, and my mother, Chaya–Neche, went with the transport. Feige had a nervous breakdown. A Polish fire–fighter informed on her and they removed her, so to speak, to the hospital. There they shot her, and Poles buried her there. On the morrow, my father and a few other Jews, went there, removed her, and buried her in the cemetery. That day they killed in Kozience more than 30 victims: the sick and old, who couldn't go off their beds. Among them was the Glovatshover student, Albert, who studied in the Kozienice Gymnasia. With this the evacuation ended. Being for a few days in the Pionki Camp, I came back to Kozienice, thinking that I would be able to remain there.

 

The End of 1942

A whole night I went through the forest, until I came to Kozienice. Patrols guarded the approaches. A few Jews helped smuggle me in. In the Ghetto, on the streets, could be found all sorts of valuables. The Germans were selling them for next to nothing, to the Poles. The Poles were standing around the Ghetto with sacks in their hands. My father took me to the Maggid's small synagogue. In a corner stood a stool and a high bed, where the Maggid used to sleep. My father carried out the stool, broke the bed and together with the scraps of the library and old holy books, he burned it all in the courtyard. My father found books written in the hand–writing of the Tzaddik. We took them with us, and quickly left the spot. We put the books and papers in a box and buried them in a nearby courtyard. A few days later, the Germans rounded up the remaining Jews and a division of the Polish police was supposed to accompany them to Radom. On the way, they shot Elimelech Orbach, when he tried to escape. He was buried near the railroad tracks, which lead from Kozienice to Radom.

[Page 550]

1943– 1944

I ran away to Warsaw. A day later, my father also arrived. We met in a place where my younger brother had already been from before. We were hiding by a Christian girl, who had worked for my mother's brother as a saleslady. She had taken upon herself to save whomsoever she was able to. A few days later a few Jews from Kozienice came, whom she had brought out. The number of people, whom she saved: 3 children and 18 adults, for whom she had arranged several shelters. Polish hooligans betrayed us, but bribery money helped us get away after a good scare. All the time we would move to a new place. We experienced the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. We found ourselves near a fence of the burning Ghetto. We also awaited the Polish uprising in 1944–. The battle broke out and blood flowed; this time not Jewish blood. Jews came out of their hiding places. After 6 months of heavy fighting, the uprising was quelled. We hid ourselves again.

 

In January of 1945 We Were Liberated

In January of 1945, we were liberated by the Red Army. Warsaw was in ruins. We were completely exhausted, swollen, sick and ruined. Father said that we must return to Kozienice. We went on foot, because there was no other way of transportation. In the streets there were still battles. The Russians were chasing the Germans. We went along the highway that leads to Kozienice. We reached Ger. The city was empty. Once Ger was filled with Jews from all over the world. We met Jewish soldiers, who were marching with their units. In two more days we arrived in Kozienice. We did not see a living human being. We were the first Jews. The patrols told us that the Poles hid themselves during the battles. At the home of the family, Shitshek, only the old Christian woman remained in the house. We slept there overnight. On the morrow we became aware of the fact that the commandant of the city is a Russian Jew from Odessa. We went to him. He spoke Yiddish to us. We went with him out on the street. The entire Jewish neighborhood, from Koshtshelne Street to the train was destroyed, torn up by its roots. As the Poles related, the Germans, with the agreement of the City council, sold, or gave permission to dismantle the houses, so that there would be no memory of them. Besides us there came to Kozienice, my wife, Bayle–Gitl (maiden name, Kelmanovitsh) from Lentshno, my father, Abraham, my brother, Gad, his wife, Miriam and my father's sister's child – Yeshayahu Shuch. A few days later, there began to arrive individuals, who were saved from the camps.

[Page 551]

We Leave Forever The Cemetery

I went with my father to the cemetery. Not a single tombstone remained. They were used for paving sidewalks. The fence had been dismantled. The Poles took away the bricks. There was no sign of the Maggid's tomb. My father recited the “Lord full of mercy” prayer and we said the Kaddish. We left the cemetery forever. A few days passed and the old priest sent to call for my father. We both went. He took us into a cellar and said: “This is what I hid away!” There we found tens of Torah Scrolls, prayer books, and bibles. A cellar full. My father took a Torah Scroll, which was still in good condition, and arranged for a prayer quorem (minyan). I found my Tallis at the home of a Christian, where we had hidden our things. This is the only Tallis, which was left in Kozienice after the Holocaust. On the holiday of Pesach (Passover). Shiele Becker led the prayer service, wearing the Tallis on the first day of the holiday. A few days later we bade goodbye to our destroyed town of Kozienice, and set out on our way to the Land of Israel!

 

The Difficult Martyrdom of Kozienice Jews in the Camps

Kozienice Clews, who were not evacuated to Treblinka went through a difficult martyrdom in various camps in Poland. They crushed boulders in the stone quarry at Blizshin; they dried swamps at Gortshitzki on the Vulke River; they built barracks in Valanov; they worked in the munitions factory in Pionki; worked in the factories of heavy industry in Starachovitz, Shidlovietz, Skarzshiska and Pulavi. Blood and sweat accompanied them in their martyrdom!


[Page 552]

We Buried 34 Jews

by Yosef Chlivner, Paris

After the arrival of the Jews from the neighboring towns, they began to spread rumors in Kozienice, that they would send us for forced labor to the Russian areas, but we didn't know any details. All of the news came from the Judenraat. We would always see groups of Jews at the Judenraat, discussing it with each other, but no one actually knew anything. This was driving us crazy. We consoled each other, by saying that they couldn't possibly arrange it, and supervise us, such a large city full of people.

 

Regards from Radom

As we wandered around so absorbed, there came regards from Radom, saying that there, a portion of the Jews had already been removed from the Ghetto. They took them to the train, sealed them into boxcars, and transported them to an unknown destination. This struck us like a cold shower. Our Ghetto looked like a boiling cauldron. Jews ran around and don't know what was happening to them. I don't have the strength to write about the last two days in the Ghetto. My writing doesn't contain even half of what actually took place. You could see that the people were running around and didn't know what to do. A portion of the Jews wanted to be sent to forced labor, because maybe they would be more secure there. Others wanted to pay money, so that they would be allowed to work in the fields around Kozienice. But the supervisors of the work, the Poles, chose only younger people.

 

Whatever Will Be – Will Be

I, Yosl Chlivner, a son of Betzalel Chlivner, was chosen to cast my lot with all Jews. Whatever will happen to them will also happen to me. I couldn't leave my mother and an ill sister. My father died 8 days before the evacuation. He was the last Jew to be buried in the Kozienice Cemetery. I decided to remain with my family, and suffer the same fate as all other Jews. The last Shabbas, when I looked into the Judenraat, I could already see that everything was already emptied, and no one was there. The gendarmes had seized all documents and all the members of the Judenraat had been sent to forced labor in a Camp. Only then did I really understand that they would also send us away. I came home, but I didn't say anything. On the last Shabbas my brother, Simcha Chlivner, came home. He was drafted for labor. He said that he wants to go with us during the evacuation. Even then we didn't know that we were going to be sent to our deaths. We believed that we were going to be sent to forced labor. But, unfortunately, the opposite turned out to be the case.

[Page 553]

The Sirens Began to Sound

It was our last Shabbas, the 23 of September, 1942. I well remember our last hours in the Ghetto of Kozienice. That night we already didn't lie ourselves down to sleep. We waited to see what would be. Sitting like that, sunken in thought, we heard the sirens begin to wail. We took our shoulder knapsacks and prepared to embark. At the time our neighbor, Chaim Eisenmeser, came in with his wife, and.–a daughter–in–law with a small child. That scene I cannot forget, My mother went out, kissed the Mezuzah, and cried. Our neighbor, Chaim, said to my mother, that he hopes we will live to return. He finished his words in a sad demeanor. We went out on Magitova Street. I don't know where we had gotten the news, that when the sirens wailed, we must go outside, and not lock our doors. Everyone just seemed to know that it must be so. On Magitova Street we could already see Jews from all the streets with their packs on their backs, and their children on their arms.

 

We Were Far From Realization

How terribly sad it was for us then! We didn't realize ourselves of what kind of situation we were in. In this way we entered Targova Street.

Here, many people were gathered. We happened to stand near Pesach Mandel's door. We stood by fives. Our five consisted of myself, my mother and sister, my brother and Chaim Eizenmeser's daughter–in–law with a small child in her arms. On the other side of the street, Jews were also lined up the same way. The middle of the street was empty. In the empty space, the Jewish police and the gendarmes paraded.

 

Whoever Has 1000 Zlotys – Remains

We stood this way and waited. Dead silence! No one spoke. Afterwards the gate of the Ghetto opened. Then we heard an announcement: Whoever will pay 1000 Zlotys – will remain in Kozienice. I didn't even dream about it because I didn't have that amount. It wasn't a very large amount at the time, but I didn't have it. The gendarmes went to and from. When they came to us, stopped and ordered us to step out, because we were still young, and we will remain here. I told them that I don't have the 1000 Zlotys, but they didn't converse with us, but pulled us out of–line, so that we couldn't even bid farewell to our families. We stopped at the intersection of Lubliner and Targova Streets. We beheld a tragic spectacle. In groups of 600 the Jews went out of the Ghetto to the train. And so it was until the end. Who could imagine that Jews are being led to their deaths. If someone lost a pack, the gendarmes picked it up and returned it to him, so he could take it along, since he would need it.

[Page 554]

Back Into the Ghetto

I stood, looking, and didn't know myself, what is going on. In a short while the man in charge of the transport, came, opened the gate of the Ghetto and told us to enter. We sat down on the steps of acquaintances. Yisroel Yitzhak Frish's house. We didn't speak, because our hearts were heavy. The day was hot, and the sun burned. I stood up and looked around. I'm on Magitova Street. What a deathly silence; like on a cemetery. Here, not long before, it was bustling with Jews in every corner. Now I'm wandering alone on the street, and do not see any of my acquaintances. I couldn't remain there long, and they came into the Ghetto and counted us. It was correct; 60 men. Afterwards they wrote down our names. Yoel Weintroib was also with us. In the midst of their writing, we suddenly hear shots. We sensed that the shooting was not far from us. We became restless, because we didn't know what this meant. We thought that the shooting was on the street that we were on. The man in charge of the transport calmed us. In two weeks we'll also be taken to the same village, to our families. After writing our names, we were able to sit down. We were both hot and cold.

 

We Go To Dig A Pit

Sitting like this, a gendarme came along. He picked 15 men and ordered them to go to the Jewish cemetery, to dig a pit. I was among the 15, and commandant was Yisroel Tenenboim. We went to the cemetery and began to dig a pit, not knowing for whom or why. Soon we saw that from all sides wagons were approaching. We began to understand that corpses of dead Jews are being brought to us. And so it was, unfortunately. As the first wagon arrived, the peasant told us that all of the Jews who were in the Jewish hospital, had been shot. Now we knew what the shooting that we had heard, meant. Then there arrived more and more wagons filled with the shot victims. We removed the corpses and lay them on the ground. We had to bury women, together with men, because we had no alternative.

We already had about 20 corpses in the grave, and were ready to cover it, but a gendarme came along. He was the greatest hooligan in Kozienice. He told us that there were 34 corpses and the grave is too small. We had to remove the 20 corpses, and make the grave bigger. The victims had been so horribly shot that it was difficult to recognize anyone. One of them I did recognize. He was one of our 60 who had remained behind. He was from Glovatshov.

 

We Leave the Cemetery

On the morrow, in the morning, I saw notices on all of the doors, in Polish and German: Whoever Opens a Door Will Be Shot! Imagine my Kozienice, where I spent my best years. Kozienice, where I felt that everything was mine, all the fields and the woods, all the lakes and stones. But now, when I look around and see no one, I feel like a stranger in my birthplace – Kozienice. All doors are closed. Packages roll around on the streets. When I returned to Targova Street, I met the remaining people from our group sitting on Yitzhak Frish's stairs.


[Page 555]

Candles – Your Father Lights

by Gershon Bomshtein

It cries for you thy father His holy victim, who perished at the Nazi Holocaust.
Extinguished forever your bright eyes, where does one find your grave, to weep over you?
Gestapo, SS accompanied you to Treblinka, shrouds for you – no one sewed.
Your holy ashes wild winds scattered, among stones, thorns and wild grasses.
After you nothing remained of the torn clothes (at death) your holy soul should rest in Eden.
Shameful and terrible was your torture, no mother no father – heard your cry.
Father, mother, where have you disappeared? I, your child, seek you, and can't find you.
Tragic, for Auschwitz, was the road of your parents dark nights and tortured days.
The hands bound, tied with rope, looking from afar, to see your last glance.
Not skipping a day or a night, always dreaming of you, about you, my child, I thought.
The nights – in terrible dreams enwrapped. Your father's heart bleeds, from the eyes tears drop.
In the dream having seen your beautiful blue yes, how you, my dear one, sucked your mother's milk.
I wanted to caress you, pull you close to my heart, to still my hunger, thirst and pain.
Praying to God, for your holy soul, that the day should come to take revenge.
With memorial letters, printed on paper, is the only memorial – which has remained after you.
The memorial candle – your father lights, for you, my dear beloved, unforgettable child.
May it be glorified and sanctified your great name, wait, my child, for the world–to–come.
Forever, in my memory – you will be, my dearest child – Sarahle, the daughter of Rachel and Gershon.


[Page 556]

On the Occasion of the
22nd Memorial Anniversary of My Little Town

by Shmelke Shpigelman, Montreal

Kozienice was a small town like other small towns. But it was nicer and I loved it more, because it was my little town. On Magitova Street, the Street of the famous Kozienicer Maggid, our house stood and there I was born.

 

Everything On Our Street!

I loved the street. There stood the Synagogue and the House of Study, the Rabbi's house, the small House of Prayer (Shtibel) where Mishnayos was learned, also the Maggid's Shtibel, and the house where the famous Maggid used to live. To us on that street would come Jews from all the cities and towns. They would bring their slips of paper (kvitlech) with requests on them, to the well–known Kozienice Rabbis. They would also visit the Maggid's Shtibel, or look in through the window at the Maggid's high bed, where he used to sleep. On our street, Jews, who had come to visit parent's graves, or the graves of the righteous on the ancient cemetery, would stop off. They would place their “kvitlech” among the old moss–covered tombstones and request the righteous should pray to the Almighty on their behalf.

On our street brides would be led to the canopy. Musicians (Klezmer) would play and cause the town to rejoice. Funerals would also pass through our street. When we would hear the wailing from a distance, and the sing–song voice of the old beadle (Shamas), R'Mosheh: “Charity will save you from death!”, my father would put aside his work, put on his kapota (long black coat) close his shutters, and accompany the funeral procession. When I was a small boy, I would stand by the window, and listen to the cries of the deceased's relatives. Sadness would overcome me as I would think that such a thing could some day happen to my own dear parents. I only prayed to God that he not let this happen, and that I should die in their stead.

Through our street, observant women, with heart–rending cries, would run to the House of Study, to the Holy Ark, to beseech on behalf of a seriously ill relative, who could no longer be helped by a human doctor. Everything on our street!

 

A New Generation

But our town did not consist only of Magitova Street. Into the lap of our town was born a new generation, a worldly one, that was in conflict with the old ways, which did not carry “kvitlech” to the graves of the righteous, which did not cry into the half sunken tombstones of the deceased Rabbis. This was a new generation, which broke loose from the cramped House of Study walls, and began the learning of worldly studies. It was a generation, which saw it's future in the struggle for progress. It established worldly schools, produced theatre plays, arranged readings, and occupied itself with physical culture.

[Page 557]

We had all of the political parties, which existed among Jews at that time. Our town had a small lake and a beautiful larger lake, where the young people would bathe and sun themselves on the shore. In the quiet Pine woods, with which our town was surrounded, our young people would spend their free time, enjoy the good fresh air, and dream their youthful dreams. On the north side of our town there was a courtyard with a park. From the courtyard there led a path which was called the “hinter courtyard”. This was the “lover's lane” where lovers would walk by the light of the moon and bright stars. On the bridge over the stream they would swear eternal love. These were two worlds, which were often in conflict, but still united.

How natural it was, when our fathers were celebrating the 3rd Sabbath meal in the House of Study or the “Shtiblech”, we would at the same time be promenading back and forth on Lubliner and Radomer Streets, conversing and flirting with our girlfriends. A Jewish town, a Jewish life, a Jewish Street, once – you were! Oh how close you are to me! You live in my heart, and in my heart you were not destroyed!

 

If He's a Jew – He is Abandoned!

The German hordes tore into our town on the 3rd day of the war and took the majority of the Jews into the garden surrounding the church. They sheared off the beards together with pieces of skin of our grandfathers and fathers. They forced us to do the most degrading and dirty work, in their effort to kill in the Jew – his humanity. The Fascist bandit did not distinguish between the observant and the free–thinkers. If he's a Jews – he's abandoned!

Later they made a Ghetto for all of the Jews, and surrounded it with barbed wire. Many died of hunger and epidemics. Jews were shot when they stuck their heads through the Ghetto barbed wire, in order to beg a piece of bread from the Christian passers–by, in order to still their hunger. The town was spread throughout with graves of Jews who had been shot, when hunger drove them outside of the Ghetto to gather a bit of food for their hungry and swollen children. They were sent to Auschwitz and other concentration camps, the most beautiful sons and daughters of the town. But all this did not satisfy the German beasts. In their plan to exterminate all Jews, the German murderers did not make an exception of the Maggid's town.

 

The Evacuation

On the 2nd day of Succos in 1942, early in the morning, all Jews were driven from their homes. The sick were shot in their beds. The murderers stood us in rows, and took us to the train. They were told that they were being sent to forced labor. The Jews were packed into boxcars, like herring in a barrel (many suffocated from the crowded conditions even before the train started to move). They were all taken to Treblinka and on the 2nd of the intermediate days of Succos were led into the “showers” (gas chambers).

[Page 558]

The German murderers fooled them even before their deaths. The gas chambers were set up like real showers. They were all gassed and then cremated in ovens. Only one managed to survive the Kozienice transport. This was Shimon Rozental, who was attached to the “infamous Sonder–Commando”, and later during the uprising fled. He is now in Israel.

 

The Jewish Nation – Lives

There are no graves for our martyrs. There are no tombstones for our nearest and dearest. There are no Jews and no Jewish life in our little town. There is no memory of a Jewish house. The Jewish streets were burned. Jews no longer pray in the Houses of Study and Shtiblech, because they no longer exist. Jews will no longer come to parents' graves and shed their tears on the moss covered tombstones of the righteous. The German bandits damaged and destroyed them, and burned the Jews together with their Rabbis. They will no longer learn in the Jewish schools; no longer will Jewish theatre play, because both the audience and artists perished. No longer will they converse and promenade on my town's streets. Dead – are the people! Dead – is my little town! But the Jewish nation is not dead. Hitler and his helpers did not accomplish their task. My little town, together with hundreds of other cities and towns are dead. Six million Jews perished, but the Jewish nation lives on! We, the survivors, will fight on with all democratic forces for a world without cruelty. We strive for a world, in which all nations will live at peace!


[Page 559]

An Unusual Lady

by Yechiel Shabason, Ramat–Hasharon, Israel

I'd like to present here an overview of the life of a young lady, who was torn away from us in the full bloom of her life, and who sacrificed herself for Jews during the time of the Hitler war. Few people helped save our sisters and brothers from extermination. This type of woman was found in Kozienice, an exception to millions of Poles. She put her life in danger, in order that more Jews could tear themselves out of the claws of the Hitlerite death machine. Not daunted by any difficulties, she began a rescue operation at the time we were incarcerated in the Ghetto, and surrounded by fences and barbed wire. When a stranger's foot could no longer tread in the Ghetto, she came from Warsaw, and waited for the moment to enter the sealed off Ghetto, to visit the Shabason family. This was the blond girl, Marisha, who was born in Warsaw to not wealthy, but respectable, Christian people.

There were four children in the family. Marisha was the youngest of three sisters and a brother. After graduating from elementary school, she began working for a member of the Shabason family, who before the war had a butter establishment. She came to work as a sales–helper. During the day she worked in the establishment, and in the evening she used to study in the business school. During the summer she would come for vacation to Kozienice. She would feel very much at home with the Shabason family.

 

Marisha Helps

The bloody war came. The murderers rob Jewish businesses, and drive the Jews from their homes. Marisha saw what was happening to the business and home of the Shabason family at number 7, Aleya–Yerozolimska. There was no lack of pogromists and hooligans, who waited for the opportunity to rob. With all of her womanly strength, she protects the business, arguing that everything belongs to her, and in this way saves the entire fortune. When the Jews are driven from their homes into the Ghetto, she also takes over the Shabason home. From time to time she runs down to Kozienice, to find out what is happening there, to the Shabason family. She would spend a few weeks in Kozienice, and then return to Warsaw. In Warsaw, she was acquainted with a Jewish tailor's family on Dzshelne Street. The tailor would sew cloaks for the business. She would, at great sacrifice, enter into the Warsaw Ghetto, in order to help sustain them, putting her own life in danger. And this tailor's family gave birth to a little girl. Now the question arises: What is to be done with the new–born babe? After smuggling herself out of the Ghetto, through cellars and underground passageways, she consults with her brother, Yozef, about rescuing the child. They decide to use the Transport facilities, which are removing Jewish possessions from Warsaw, and where her brother works.

[Page 560]

On a beautiful day, when a large wagon of the Gestapo drives into the Ghetto to bring out Jewish goods, Marisha already finds herself in the Ghetto, by the Jewish family. She brings the child wrapped in a sack. The parents stand in a corner, and gaze upon the tragedy. At that moment she hands the child over to her brother, and he hides it in the storehouse where the feed for the horses is kept. The large flat wagon moves from its spot. Marisha loses no time. By various ways she gets out. On the other side of the Ghetto, her brother waits on the flat wagon. She takes the child from him and takes it home with her. But in her home she cannot keep the child, for fear of her neighbors, who know that she isn't married. A few days later the child is moved to a safe place.

 

The Last Summer

This was the last summer for Kozienicer Jews. They already knew that their fate was sealed. Every one would ask himself the question about how he could possibly save himself, but no one could see a way out.

This was a few weeks before the liquidation of Kozienice. With self–sacrifice, she began to save whomever she could, and as speedily as possible, because time was short. She already knew what evacuation means, and to where the Jews would be taken. In Warsaw she had connections with the Jewish Underground, which already knew of the Final Solution for Polish Jewry. She provided false documents for both women and men. In this way she would each time bring someone to Warsaw, where she had a place for them in her home. On dark nights she would skirt through field and forest, bringing a man, a woman or a child to the nearest train station. For 20 kilometers she would travel on foot, and from there she would go by train to Warsaw.

She would be afraid to take the train in Kozienice, and in order to avoid having people inform on her, she would go by foot to the nearest train station. Once when she was bringing a six year old boy who today lives in Israel, and already has his own children, she was nearly discovered at the train station in Demblin. Fortunately she was able to convince the gendarmes. The train arrived, and she was able to save herself from them. In this way, during several weeks, day and night, she was able, by not wasting a moment, to rescue from the murderous hands, tens of Jews and bring them to Warsaw.

 

What More Can Be Done?

But here the question arises: What more can be done? In 1942, the Germans had already looted all of Europe. Death hovers over Jews in every corner. The ghettoes are being emptied and liquidated. The uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto is suppressed with fire. And on top of it all, the Polish hooligans allied themselves with the German murderers, and helped them in their work. They go from house to house, not to mention streets, to search for hidden Jews. And here, she had assembled about 20 Jews, among them small children. How can they be saved? They are living human beings. You have to worry about feeding them. But it is obvious that her luck doesn't leave her. She manages.

[Page 561]

Four Groups

She consults with her brother, Yozef. The people are divided into four groups, in different places. One group, of eight people remains with her and her brother. The second – is taken out of Warsaw, to her cousin, where she makes room for them. The third group she takes to a suburb of Warsaw, and the fourth group, not far from her own house. If one group is caught, at least the others will be saved. One group was protected with a double wall, so that in case of knocking, they would have a place to hide. A second group dug for itself a cellar, so that if someone knocked at the door they would all go down into the basement. She maintained contact with all the groups, and used to come from time to time to see them, and find out if everything was all right. When she would visit the groups, she would disguise herself in various outfits, so that she wouldn't be discovered. But as was said, her luck held. Her father and mother used to visit us from time to time in the evening hours, so they wouldn't be noticed. Unfortunately, they couldn't help us with anything, except with a kind word, and with the devotion of their daughter and son. In this way we sat until 194, when the Polish uprising broke out.

 

Where Do We Go?

Marisha lost contact with the remaining groups. Warsaw was heavily bombarded, and burned. The uprising was quelled, and the population is driven out of the city. Marisha decides not to part from her group. She could have left with the Polish populace, but she decides: “I'm remaining with you! Whatever will happen to you, will also happen to me! We've held on until now, let us hope that we'll live through it!” Yes, but where do we go? She doesn't meditate too long, and goes out among the burned houses. There she meets a Polish Colonel, Kovalski. He now lives in Israel. He is wandering around with several other Jews, whom he had saved. He is also seeking a way out!

They decided to seek out a cellar among the burned–out houses, and there to dig a bunker, in order to hide until the Liberation. But when will Liberation come? No one knows. And will we survive? Also no one knows this. But, as was said, there is no other way – time is short. We gather some food and containers of water. We go down into the cellars under terrible conditions, because among us there are several wounded. We live this way for more than six months in a dark bunker, until the 17th of January, 1945.

 

We Crawl Out Of The Bunker

After a short offensive of the Red Army, we crawled out of the bunker at 22 Shenna Street, broken and ill. We dragged ourselves behind the military that had liberated us. We lifted our eyes to heaven. Have our sufferings ended? We search for the first groups, but who knows if they're alive? After a few days we are made aware that the other groups live, and no one is missing. Marisha gathers together her survivors. She goes to Kozienice. Maybe she'll find someone alive? But unfortunately no one is alive!

[Page 562]

Miriam Daughter of Abraham and Sarah Our Matriarch

Marisha wants to leave this bloody soil. She no longer belongs to that nation, which helped exterminate so many millions of Jews. “Your people – is my people; your God – my God!” (from the Book of Ruth, in the Bible). After months of wandering with the remnant of the Jews, she arrives illegally at shores of Palestine in 1946. There she marries a Miriam Shabason, daughter of Abraham, our Patriarch and Sarah, our Matriarch, according to the laws of Moses and Israel. Her husband is one of the survivors. After a few years in Israel, she was invited by her family to come to Columbia, but she longed for Israel. In 1966 they decide to return to IsraeL They settled in and made a fine living, but unfortunately she was torn from us in the full bloom of her life. She died on May 22, 1966, and was buried on the cemetery in Holon, Israel. There stands on her grave a tombstone with her unforgettable name: Miriam. She was born for the Jewish People and was taken into the bosom of the Jewish People! WE HONOR HER MEMORY!

 

Drops of Humanity In a Sea of Cruelty

In the years 1939–45, so many had helped the Hitler gang torture and murder Jews. For many it was almost a national obligation: to get rid of the Jews. Let there, therefore, be recorded again and again the few exceptions among the righteous of the nations, who sacrificed themselves in order to save Jews. The unknown author of the Kozienice Holocaust book tells us on pages 324–329 of our Yizkor book about the heartfelt attitude of Dr. Noiman, a German military doctor, towards the Jews of Kozienice. Our friend, Yechiel Shabason, tells us on pages 414–416 of a noble Polish woman, who later attached herself to the Jewish People, and helped, with so much self–sacrifice save Jews.

Our friend Leibele Fishtein tells on pages 424–426, of a humane act on the part of three Germans: Gustave Hartmann and Milka of Kassel and Heintz Baumbach of Dresden. Our friend Zelick Berman on pages 355–363, tells of a simple, Polish peasant, Sabat, who sacrificed himself for a friend in a time of trouble. Our friend Rivke Pearlstein on pages 438–441 tells of an unknown Polish peasant, who stretched out a helping hand to unknown women in time of stress. They and tens of others were but rare drops in a sea of cruelty!


[Page 563]

Kozienice on the Threshold of Destruction

by Leah Gelbard, Tel–Aviv

At the beginning of September, 1939 the Germans bombed our town. It was the first sign of what was to come. I don't think that our town was bombed because it was a strategic point. But I'm sure that we were bombed because we were a Jewish town. The Germans had another reason, and that was to convince the Poles and the antisemites, that their hearts' desire is drawing close, and the “Jewish Problem” was to be solved forever.

 

The Town Reacted With Fear

The bombings continued for several days. The first victims fell, and the town reacted with fear. The faith: that the Lord would help – seized many, and it became the support of the masses. The Jewish mind began to seek ways: From whence will our help come, and how to flee from the Holocaust? On the first night of the German conquest the sun sank amidst streaks of flame – a sign of what was to befall us. Night fell. Fear seized the House of Israel. The town sealed itself behind lock and bolt. But the piercing question: What to do? – did not give us any rest. How to save the soul from the approaching Holocaust? Shots pierced the air. The judgement has reached every Jewish home. Who was wounded by the bullets of the enemy? Who is next? Eyes do not close. The mind doesn't stop seeking a gate of hope, and so it was until the light of morning. After a few days had passed, the tanks and armored cars arrived. The tooting of the horns was like salt strewn on death dealing wounds. The murderers did not cease, and displayed their strong arm tactics. Every Jew who was caught in the street was seized. Among them also my father, R' Yaakov Sherman, of blessed memory. The prisoners were assembled by the murderers in the square of the Catholic Church, and there they were tortured for 6 days. My mother, Tsharna, of blessed memory, remained in the house with 6 small children, among them, myself, the oldest. Our mother bemoaned secretly, and was careful not to reveal to us her fears concerning father's well–being. During the imprisonment the murderers confiscated all of father's money, his jewelry, his watch, his ring, and in this way our source of livelihood was broken.

In the town the first “Action” began. Young men were recruited for forced labor in Radom. We had no doubt about what the work would be. Every one, who had the courage and opportunity to part from his family, tried to flee, and escape to the Russian Zone. But generally only a few succeeded, and the majority made peace with their fate, and waited for the bitter end. In the meantime father returned home exhausted, hungry and depressed. In his heart flickered a spark of hope. He hoped that for the meantime, perhaps he could help us. Our joy was great at his coming, but it didn't last long.

[Page 564]

Does Yaakov Sherman Live Here?

On Shabbat eve, we sat around the table. Father recited the Kiddush, and each word that he pronounced pierced the hearts of the youngsters. We were seized with fear and also joy. Suddenly, heavy footsteps were heard. The door opened with a noisy bang. Seven policemen entered. At their question: “Does Yaakov Sherman live here?” we answered: “Yes!” The policemen ordered father to stand, turn his face to the wall, raise his hands, and if he disobeyed they would shoot. We stood like turned to stone, without uttering a word. The policemen began their search. They overturned the entire house. Everything that they found they confiscated. The leather skins, that father had kept as our security, the murderers loaded onto a wagon. After they emptied our house – they arrested father. From then on, we never again saw father. He was swallowed up in prison in Radom, in very difficult conditions, and if not for the bread which we smuggled to him, father and the other prisoners would have long before perished from starvation. The murderers put father on trial. It lasted for 6 months. He was convicted of concealing merchandise, and sentenced to 2–1/2 years imprisonment. From the time of his sentencing, all traces of my father were lost.

 

Famine Plagued the Ghetto

At the end of 1940 a Ghetto was set up in Kozienice which was fenced in by barbed wire. All of the Jewish inhabitants were concentrated by the murderers in the Ghetto. Famine plagued the Ghetto. Whoever tried to escape was shot. We felt that the noose was tightening around our necks. People became swollen with hunger, and died before their time. The anticipation of complete destruction seized all of us and wasn't long in coming. A few hours before the elimination of the Ghetto, the truck for those forced to work, arrived. Among them, also I was taken for labor. After traveling they brought us to Camp Pionki, to work in the munitions factory. We were divided into three shifts. Each one worked 8 hours. Our salary was a pittance: 200 grams of bread a day (2 slices) and watery soup. The management of the factory was cruel; beatings, hunger and torture were our lot. One day we were witness to a disturbing occurrence. We were gathered in the central field of the Camp, where the murderers, this time Ukrainians, had set up a gallow. Four Jews were hanged because they had hidden a small can of alcohol.

For hours the bodies swayed in the wind, that pushed them to and from, and we were forced to stand and watch this fearsome sight which we would never forget. We knew our days were counted. Daily we waited for the bitter end, and if it was slow in coming, we felt it would come and we wouldn't escape it. In the meantime the crematoria in Treblinka and Auschwitz worked full blast. The pressures on them prolonged our days. Each day a new atrocity was revealed to us. Whoever felt sick for a day or two was eliminated. They would find signs of Typhus, and ordered him taken to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, the sick were told to dig a grave, and were shot to death.

[Page 565]

These incidents occurred daily. I'll never forget that bitter and disturbing day, when a group of the SS chose 100 Jews, whose faces didn't please them – and they were shot to death nearby, before our eyes. One day at the order of the commandant we were assembled. He asked that any of us who wanted to return to the main camp, volunteer and raise his hand. Three times the commandant repeated the question. Each time I raised my hand, and in spite of it I wasn't chosen among the volunteers for that camp. BECAUSE FATE WANTED IT THAT WAY!

As time passed we learned that the volunteers for the main camp, disappeared, and no one knew where they met their death. So we continued to live in the Nazi Hell until June of 1944, with dangers stalking us daily. In this month the murderers transported the remnants to Auschwitz. The trip to Auschwitz lasted 2 days, in sealed boxcars, accompanied by SS, and we received no food.

Exhausted and broken we finally arrived at Auschwitz. After de–licing, and the gift of two hours, standing naked, without anything, we were given new clothes. When we were dressed, we couldn't recognize each other for our appearance had changed so much in but a few short hours. 100 women were gathered in each Block, and we were there for about 6 weeks. During this time we weren't forced to labor, but we were starved for bread. Every morning, between 3 and 4:00 a.m. we were lined up and counted, and it lasted until 8:00 a.m., until the SS man was sure that no one was missing. The columns of smoke rose into heaven from the chimneys before our eyes, 24 hours a day. Through the barbed wire fence, we were witness to the infamous selection process: Left, right. Our eyes beheld dreadful scenes of how children parted from their parents, husbands from their wives and wives from their husbands. From Auschwitz we were ordered to go to Bergen–Belsen. An invisible hand watched over me during that time at the gate of Hell. From Bergen–Belsen they took us to the munitions factory “El–Sting”, near Leipzig. There we were tried and tested with hunger and back–breaking labor, until we were again transferred to the death–camp, Bergen–Belsen, where hunger and Typhus reigned.

 

We Were Like Dreamers

Sick with Typhus and unconscious, I lay, when the English burst into the death camp, in March, 1945. The joy of the Liberation cannot be expressed in words. We were like dreamers. Who was like unto us? Who could compare to us? Immediately after liberation, we found a bread storehouse. Our joy knew no bounds. Everyone grabbed bread according to his hunger, feeling that the days of hunger were at an end. But it immediately became clear to us that the murderers had deceived us. They had poisoned the bread. When we fed it to one of the camp dogs, he died. In this way, thanks to our caution – many were saved, and we prevented poisoning. Slowly I recovered, and my strength returned. Among the survivors I met my future husband, Shlomo Gelbard. His determination to leave the despoiled soil of Germany, and go up to the homeland, the Land of Israel, was strong. Here, in Israel, we built a house, and established a traditional family. Our children: Yaakov, Ephraim and Ruth, who were born to us in Israel, received a Jewish education, traditional, and the words of the Prophet were fulfilled in us: “And I brought you to the land of Israel, and I gave you the spirit – and you lived!”


[Page 566]

The Wind Rocked Them Like Hanging Laundry

by Leah Gelbard, Tel–Aviv

First I want to introduce myself. I'm the daughter of Yenkl and Tsharne Sherman. I was born in Kozienice. We were 6 children: Moshe (the oldest), Leah, Devorah, Rivke Pinyek and Feigele – the youngest sister.

 

A Few Words About Kozienice

Kozienice was a prominent city. To us they would come from tens of surrounding towns and villages to take care of various affairs in the government headquarters. The population was about 8000. Like in all of the cities and towns in Poland, the populace was mixed – not all of one class. The most prominent positions were held by the small businessmen and merchants of all kinds, beginning with textiles, manufacture of shoes and food to the restaurants, bars and other establishments which suited the different classes.

 

All Worked Hard

Jews made their living, not only from the city's population, but also from the villagers, who used to bring life to the city during market days and fairs, when peasants would bring their produce: potatoes, eggs, apples, pears, milk–products (butter and cheese) and wagon loads of wood. After standing with their produce, for a few hours outside, and selling their products they would immediately enter the bars, in order to warm themselves with a shot of vodka, some good food, and then end up buying food products. Also the handworkers occupied a prominent place in the economic life of our city. Can you imagine a town of tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, tinsmiths or smithys? Although the handworkers worked from early morning to late at night, to support their families – there were no really wealthy in the city: Not among the merchants and certainly not among the handworkers. All worked hard in order to support their families. But in spite of the daily economic situation, our city possessed a beautiful, intelligent youth, which gave our city courage and honor.

 

Parties and Schools

The varied economic activity also influenced the political and spiritual life. We had members and adherents of all of the political parties and youth organizations, beginning with Zionist youth, to which I belonged, to the Revisionist Party, and its Youth Org., Be tar, Hashomer Hatzair, Poale Zion, Freiheit, Scouts, Bund and Communists. The organizations had larger and smaller libraries in order to enrich the knowledge, the party activity, and affiliation and devotion of the members. Also as far as schools were concerned, we were not backward. Besides the two elementary schools, there was a business school and a Tarbut (Culture) school.

[Page 567]

Thanks to the Maggid of Kozienice

Our city also had a unique reputation in Poland and in the entire world thanks to the Maggid, whose name had become a legend. Still during my time there lived two Rabbis of Kozienice Maggids descent: R'Arele and R'Elimelechel. Hassidim from all the ends of Poland and also from overseas came to them. R' Elimelechel died 2 years before the war.

 

Kozienice Rebels Fell in Treblinka

In the heroic uprising of the Jews against their German hangmen and their Ukrainian bootlickers, which broke out on the 28th of July, 1943, in Treblinka, the following Kozienice Rebels died:

MOSHE SHERMAN
ALTER KOHN
ISSACHAR KOHN

WE HONOR THEIR MEMORY!


[Page 568]

This is the Way We Saved Ourselves

by Chaya–Rivka Shildkroit, Haifa

My maiden name was Chaya–Rivka Kestenberg. Now it's Shildkroit. I was born in 1904– in Kozienice, and got married in 1926 in Demblin, where I dwelled all the years, and lived nicely. My husband was shot by the murderers in Buchenwald. I, and my children remained alive in the Demblin Camp from which I, and my 3 daughters: Rachel, Andziya and Blume, were liberated. My son– was liberated from Buchenwald.

 

We Flee

When the war broke out, I and my family found ourselves in Demblin. The first bomb fell not far from us, on the airport. The bombing continued. All fled, to wherever they could. We ran to Riki. Also in Riki the bombing caught us. So we ran again from the city, under the mill, near a swamp. The planes swooped low and fired their guns at several hundred people, who were lying on the ground. Many perished. We had nowhere else to run – everything around was burning. By a miracle we got out of there, and ran in the direction of a village, about 12 kilometers away.

 

We Began To Be Miserable

After a few days had passed, we returned to Demblin. There, we already met the Germans. It is to be understood that we found empty homes and businesses. We began to be miserable. We were sealed into a Ghetto, and driven daily to forced labor. In this way we lived, suffering until the end of 1941. During the first selection, we were all forced into the market place. The Gendarmerie and the Judenraat picked out those capable to work. I sneaked in among them, and in that way, for the meanwhile, saved myself. A short while later, the 2nd selection took place. For money, I was able to get my husband and my son work at the railroad. I, and my two daughters, age 5 and 11, were sent out. We began our march from the market–place in the direction of the railroad. It is to be understood that we were surrounded by patrols, and marched in rows of four. I began to plan how to run away with the children. We couldn't run away all together. My older daughter didn't want to flee first. I arranged with her, that I would flee first with my little girl, and that she should follow. In this way, we managed to flee.

The opportunity came when a large number of Christians happened to be near our column. We took advantage of the opportunity and squirmed out of the line. We ran to a Christian acquaintance. After me ran a woman who was being chased. I thought that I was being chased, so I re–entered the line. I got close to my daughter and told her that she was to go first now, and that I and my young child would follow her. She obeyed me and ran from the column.

[Page 569]

We Hide in a Toilet Shack

By the side of the road there were Christian houses, but no one wanted to hide her. She went past the houses and hid herself in a pit in the field. Later I managed to flee with my small daughter, and again a woman ran after me. We also ran to the Christian homes. We asked a Christian to hide us for a payment. He was afraid. He told us to run deeper into the fields, where he showed us a toilet (shack), in which we could hide ourselves. We all went into it. Through the cracks, I noticed my older daughter looking for a place to hide. I began to call her, and she joined us in the shack. I arranged with the Christian, that when nightfall came, he should come for us and take us back into the city. All of this for a good price, of course. We had learned that the Germans had left 200 Jews in the city, who had ransomed themselves for a large sum of money.

 

A Christian Takes Us to the City

We impatiently awaited nightfall. The Christian came to us, when it was already quite dark. He proposed that he take us two at a time. I sent my older daughter and the woman as the first pair. He told me and my small child to lie in a furrow, where we covered ourselves with leaves, so that no one would notice us. We arranged for a signal, which he would give when he would return for us. He finally came to take me and my child, but he didn't know how much to ask for, so he requested that I give him my child's fur coat. He took us to the outskirts of the city and left us standing there. That's where the woman and my older child were supposed to be waiting for us. I got myself into a courtyard of a family, where I found the woman and my daughter.

 

In the Demblin Camp

This way I saved myself and my two youngest daughters. The oldest daughter, on the day of the selection, had been at her forced labor. She wanted to flee from the labor and come to the city, but the man in charge was one of my customers, and he wouldn't permit her to go out of the door. All night she tore the hair from her head. Before dawn he let her out, and this way I was reunited with my three daughters. My husband and son, Abraham, were detained during the railroad inspection. Afterwards, as soon as the train was emptied of Jews, I brought my husband and son back to the city. Before we went into the camp, we were all stuck in a cellar, at the home of the gardening supervisor; understandably, for a large sum, until we were registered for the labor camp legally, to join all of the other workers. I want to mention the searches in the Demblin Camp. If anyone was found with money or other valuables, he was shot and the body was left with a sign as a warning to others. At that time, I worked in a bunker with rotten potatoes. We left the bunker in rows of four. Standing in line, with my middle daughter, Chana, I took off my belt with the gold pieces, and buried it in the sand under our feet.

[Page 570]

When my oldest daughter, Rachel, who worked in the payroll office, went to the shack to dispose of the belt, an officer followed her. Two other officers were in the vicinity. She also had with her, a $20.00 American gold piece and 10 gold rubles. For a good bribe, the officers let her go. Between the boards of my bed, with the help of a knife I hid the gold pieces, in order not to have them with me. In this way we all saved ourselves. After two years, we were transferred from the Demblin Camp to Tshenstochov. I, and my three small children remained alive. One day before the liberation of Tshenstochov, the Germans sent my husband and my son to Buchenwald. There my son was liberated and my husband was killed.

 

My Family

I'm listing the names of my family members, who perished during WWII: My father died in 1942 in his own bed. In Kozienice, Yechiel Kestenberg was an upright man and a devoted friend of the Rebbe. I remember how he ran a decent Hassidic household. Our livelihood came from a food store and from dealing in grain. My brother, may he rest in peace, perished, together with his entire family. His name was Moshe–Yosef Kestenberg. His wife's name was Sarah; the oldest daughter, Rashke, and two sons: Yitzhak and Alter. My sister was married to Shmuel Epstein. They had a daughter, Rivkele and a son, Yehoshua. My aunt was named, Chaya. Her husband was Moshe Shapiro, their daughter, Yehudit, who had a husband and two children. My father's brother was named Chaim–David, and four children. One daughter was named Chaya–Devora Kestenberg, and the other Rachel. The two sons were named Shmuel and Yisroel.


[Page 571]

A Humane Deed

by Leibele Fishtein, Ramat–Gan

 

Radom

On the 2nd day, after the arrival of the Germans in the city, a small Gentile boy pointed at me. He indicated that I was a Jew. The Germans immediately took me away to the post office, and there turned me over to the district “Fuehrer11”. The “Fuehrer” wore a military uniform with four stars on each arm. He stretched out his arm in the “Heil Hitler” (may his name be blotted out) salute, and told the Germans to leave the room.

 

Good–Day, Little Jew

The “Fuehrer” approached me, extended his hand and said: “Good day, you little Jew.” At that moment I was confused; should I shake his hand or not? Perhaps he'll hold my hand with one of his and with the other take out his revolver, which was in his leather holster. I extended my trembling hand to him. In either case he could do with me as he wished. “Don't tremble,” he said to me. “Don't be afraid. I'm fond of Jews. My best friends were always Jews. Are you hungry?” He doesn't wait for my answer. He goes into the adjoining room and brings out 2 rolls, a chunk of salami, a pot of coffee, and puts them down near me, on the desk. I stand in the same position as before and think: Am I perhaps condemned to death? Before carrying out the sentence, the prisoner is well fed! He even put a pack of cigarettes into my pocket, without even asking if I smoked.

He went to the door, turned the key and locked it. Afterwards he lowered the black paper curtain on the window. “Sit, little one”, he said to me – giving me a stool at the desk. “Drink your coffee, and take the salami. Have you got a wife, children? It'll be for them.” I sit myself on the stool, but I don't touch the food. I think: Maybe it is my last meal? It is also possible that there is poison mixed into the coffee. “Why don't you eat?” “I don't have an appetite!” “Don't be afraid. I'm friendly to Jews.” With those words I noticed the truly sympathetic expression on his face. The doorbell rang. Before he answered it, he said to me quietly: “There in the adjoining room, there are various things lying on the shelf. Put everything in order, similar things together.” I went into the room, where there was a huge pile of military clothing. I put each one in a separate cubby. It didn't take long. The “Fuehrer” came in with another, also in military uniform, with 3 stars, about the same age, 52. He shook hands with me and says to me: “I'm named Milkah, I am also friendly to Jews, like my fellow townsman here, the “Fuehrer”, Gustav Hartman. We're both from Kassel.” He took out a pack of cigarettes, and gave it to me. They saw how nicely I had arranged everything in the cubbies, and they called out enthusiastically: “Wunderbar! Wunderbar how you've arranged it all. You will remain with us till the end of the war!”

[Page 572]

The Situation Got Worse

From day to day the situation of the Jews here in Radom got more difficult. It was impossible to get bread. The lines at the bakeries were very long. A Jew would stand in line, and the Goyim would point him out to the Germans, who would throw him out of the line and also hit him a few times. You couldn't appear on the streets. When the Goyim would point out a Jew, the Germans would take him for forced labor. Many would come home bloodied and even crippled. Many never saw their homes again. Either they were sent away, or they were beaten to death at their forced labor. I had a wife and f children. At my work, I had enough to eat, but to take something home to my wife and children was impossible. In my home they suffered from hunger. I decided to tell my chief that my wife and children are starving. As soon as he heard this, he said the following to me: “We will remain here longer tonight, until everyone leaves.” When all had already left and the place was empty, he took me into the food storage, where they kept what parents and wives had sent to their soldier sons and husbands. He felt all of the packages, put one of them aside and said to me: “In this package there is a lot of food.” He tore off the label with the address, opened the door of the burning, pot–bellied stove, and burned up the address label. On the morrow, in the morning, as soon as I arrived at work, he told me to take the package, and ordered the other German to take me home, and also to turn over the package to me at my home. In the sack we found: Salami, chocolate, coffee, sugar and preserves. The German, who had helped us unpack the package, said to us: “When you'll finish eating everything in this package, I'll bring you another package of food. The accursed SS dogs can eat dust.” This same German took me home a number of times with packages of food like this. To his credit, it is worthwhile mentioning his name: Heintz Baumbach of Dresden.

 

How We Were Saved

At about the third selection which took place in the Radomer Ghetto, we knew nothing, but it seems that our Germans knew all about it, and exactly when it would take place. Our German called together all of the Jews, who worked at that post and said to them: “Today, all of the Jews will work the night shift. None of you is to return to the Ghetto.” At that military post there worked more than 20 Jews: Shoemakers, tinsmiths, painters, cabinet makers, joiners, and decorators. In the Ghetto, we almost had no one left, because during the first and second selections, our wives and children had already been sent away to Treblinka. We would sleep at the homes of acquaintances, or with strange families.

The night shift had to work at #7 Kilinskego Street, but instead of working, Hartman told us to go to sleep, only that it should be quiet, so that no one would know that Jews are in hiding there.

[Page 573]

On the morrow, after the 3rd selection, Hartman told all the Jews to line up, and ordered that two of the Germans on the post take us to Shvarlikovska Street, to those who had been selected as “fit for labor!” Before we marched away, Hartman called the SS men, who stood guard at the gate of the camp, and said to them: I'm sending you a group of Jews. For a few nights they've been working the night shift. Let them into the camp, and let them come out every morning to come to me to work. “This is the District Fuehrer of the Defense Post, Hartman, speaking.” In this way we were saved from being evacuated to Treblinka!

 

I Went to Kozienice

My wife and children went to Treblinka. The only ones left to me were: my mother, and 3 sisters in Kozienice. I developed a terrible urge to see them. But how do I get to Kozienice? (Kozienice had not yet been evacuated). I went to Hartman, and poured out my heart to him, and begged him to let me go to the Ghetto in Kozienice. He thought awhile, took paper and wrote out a “permit”, indicating that I was traveling with military post letters to the post in Kozienice. He called in Heintz Baumbach, told him what we had been talking about and said to him: “Heintz, you are going with him to Kozienice. You are to take him to the Ghetto, and you go to the post. On your way back, go past the Ghetto, and bring him back with you.” This was a risky business for both the German and myself, but we succeeded!

On the very same day I entered the Kozienice Ghetto. At the gate stood Abraham Shabason, and he let me in. After my first steps into the Ghetto – I became mixed up. I knew the Radomer Ghetto very well, but something like the Kozienice Ghetto, I had never seen. Skeletons were sitting by the gutters in torn clothing. They were picking up something from the ground and putting it into their mouths. Gloomy children with yellow faces lie on the bare ground, and search for something in the sky. I wondered to myself: Where has their childhood gone?

I see people, but recognize no one. And I had known them all so well, and now they're not the same. All so aged, dried up – living skeletons. They walked and did not look around. Their heads were bent. Even the houses, which were always so well kept, now look crooked and dirty. The once beautiful town, now looks like one big mess!

 

This is My Sister, Rachel–Leah

I came into the home of my oldest sister. One room. She's alone! All of the 18 people, who lived here were now at work. As soon as she saw me, she cried out: “Leibele!” We fall into each others arms, and cried spasmotically. When we recovered, she lifted her head. “My God! This is my 35 year old sister, Rachel–Leah?” She looks like an old woman, gray and yellow. Her flesh hangs, and her two cheeks sunken. “Where is your Sarahele and the children?” She didn't know, that it was already over a month, since they'd been swallowed up in Treblinka. But I didn't want to tell her this. They still didn't know that Jews were being taken away to be exterminated. So I told her, that they were at home, in Radom.

[Page 574]

My Mother's Last Tears

By my 2nd sister, who lived in a wooden chamber by the water “Flowing Plimpl” – I also didn't meet anyone. Only a bed stood there, in which my abandoned, beloved mother was laying. I bent over the bed and kissed her face. Feeling the kiss, her eyes opened, looked at me, and a few tears, like pearls, rolled down over her sunken cheeks. She couldn't speak a word. I again bent over her and kissed her tearing eyes. When I lifted my head, her eyes were already closed. I began to shout: “Mama, Mama!” But the eyes did not open, as if she had suddenly fallen asleep. I remained standing motionless, not knowing what to do. With my hand I touched my face. The wetness of her tears reached my lips. I felt the taste of my mother's last tears.

The door opened, and my two sisters came in. They fell upon my neck, and together we cried bitterly. One sister told me that the Germans had shot her husband for bringing home a piece of bread. The second, the youngest sister, told me that her husband had been sent away to Shitshki for forced labor, and that there he was shot on Yom Kippur, when the Germans caught him praying, wrapped in his Tallis (prayer shawl). In the midst of my “enjoying” my nearest and dearest, the door opened and a Jewish policeman came in and told me that a military vehicle was waiting for me at the gate. I went over to the bed and gave my mother a farewell kiss, which, it seems, she no longer felt. I bade farewell to my sisters and went out. At the gate, I turned and took a last look at my birthplace, Kozienice. Going back to Radom, there stood before my eyes: The Ghetto, my mother, my sisters, and my birthplace. Three weeks later there didn't even remain a trace of what I had seen. They were all taken to Treblinka.

MAY THEIR MEMORY BE SACRED!

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Kozienice, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2021 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 08 Sep 2014 by JH