by T. Brustin-Bernstein
Warsaw Historical Institute
Before 1939, there were 2,753 Jews in Lanzut out of a total population of 8,700. That is, the Jews constituted almost 30% of the total population.
Lanzut was occupied by the Nazi forces on 9th September, 1939. The occupation authorities, just as they did elsewhere, immediately published orders excluding the Jewish community from the law. The order that Jewish shops should be marked with a Shield of David made it easy for the Nazi hooligans to identify Jewish property and pillage it.
Jewish shopkeepers were compelled to hand over their goods to soldiers without receiving payment. Other savage decrees were also imposed. The Jewish community was required to engage in forced labour. From the earliest days of the occupation, the Jews were compelled to carry out all public works in town, to close safety trenches constructed against air attack and to clean the streets. They worked under the supervision of Nazi soldiers who beat them, maltreated them cruelly and degraded them.
Soon after the occupation, the German civil authorities and police arrived in town. They immediately ordered the Jews to supply furniture and bedding for the private dwellings of the German officials. The police conducted frequent searches for valuables in Jewish homes.
During the first days of the occupation, the Germans burn the Lanzut synagogue. The Jews succeeded in putting out the fire and the burnt part of the synagogue was promptly rebuilt.
On 22nd September, 1939, an Order of Banishment was issued against the Jews. They were instructed to leave the city by 16hrs and proceed eastward in the direction of Jaroslaw. Similar orders were given to the Jewish inhabitants of neighbouring towns and villages. Movement westward in the direction of Zheszow was very difficult as the German police blocked the road leading out of the town. However, the Jews had no alternative. Under the pressure of the authorities, they began leaving the town in a panic. Those with means hired carts loaded their belongings on to them as far as permitted and set out. Others went on foot along the road leading towards Jaroslaw.
On 23rd September, the day after this order was issued, the German police started combing out the Jewish dwellings. They forcibly expelled every family from the town, loading people on lorries and taking them to the bridge across the River San. There they ordered the people to get off and cross to the other side of the river. On the parapet of the bridge were placards that read: Nach Palestina (To Palestine).
At that time, the common frontier with Soviet Russia had not yet been finally established and it was assumed that the River San would serve as the border. It seems that the Nazi wished to transfer the Jewish population from the Jaroslaw region to the presumably Soviet areas. It is not impossible that an order to this effect was issued by the head of the Main Office for Reich Security in Berlin, who was sent with an urgent letter on 21st September, 1939 to the police units operating in occupied Poland. Indeed, it should be remarked that this urgent letter stated that Jews were not to be concentrated in the area close to or bordering on Jaroslaw. At the same time, Jews were also expelled from Lezheisk, Radimno, Przeworsk and Jaroslaw. Before the war, there were more than 2,500 Jews in Lezheisk of whom only a small handful of old people, invalids and poor remained. At Przeworsk about 25 Jews were left at the end of September, 1939, whereas about 2,000 Jews had lived there before the war. At Radimno, no more than a handful of people were left while at Jaroslaw, which, before the war had had some 4,000 Jewish inhabitants, only a few dozen sick, aged and children were left. The Nazi stole everything valuable from those expelled and also from their homes.
Under the Nazi occupation, Lanzut was not a district town as it had been before the war. The districts of Lanzut and Przeworsk were included within the Jaroslaw district. Some of the Lanzut Jews made use of the fact that their town was not far from the River San and did not go direct to Jaroslaw. They stopped on the way, in the various hamlets and villages, wishing to see how things would develop. After about six weeks, some of the expulses returned without any opposition from the authorities.
During the last months of 1939, several dozen Jews who had been expelled from the parts of Poland annexed to the Reich, arrived in Lanzut. They came
chiefly from Lodz, Kalisz, Chozhow and Kattowice. Gradually, a few dozen of the original inhabitants also returned. Most of their former homes had been pillaged and they were not spared additional violence. Once again, the police began searching Jewish homes. They dragged the heads of the most respected Jewish families to the central square and ordered them to dig anti-aircraft defence trenches. These orders were accompanied by blows, torment and suffering. Those who were compelled to do this work included the rabbi's son. They forced him to strip himself naked and jump into a trench that was full of water. The Nazi endeavoured to degrade the Jewish community as much as possible and arranged exhibitions to shame them.
A few days after the incident with the rabbi's son, the Gestapo ordered that a Judenrat should be set up in the town. Dr. Marcus Pohorille was appointed Chairman.
The members of the Judenrat were: Luzer Marder, Shlomo Greenbaum, Leizer Fass, Wolf Gutman, Moshe Sigel, David Rosenblum, Hayyim Leib Kornblau, Isaac Weinbach and Israel Gersten. The secretary was Rachel Sapir.
The Judenrat had to supply workers each day to clean the streets, to sweep away the snow and to clean the floors in army barracks, offices, etc. Early in 1940, by order of the Nazi authorities, the Jews required to carry out forced labour were registered. Of the total number of 900 Jews then residing in Lanzut, there were 157 aged between 10 to 60, i.e. 17.4% who had to report for compulsory labour. Of them, 84 were registered as skilled workers and 73 as labourers. At that time at least half of the inhabitants of Lanzut were expulsees from the Western districts of Poland. Fifty men were summoned daily for various kinds of forced work.
The Nazi conquerors restricted the sources of sustenance of the Jewish population to a minimum, excluded Jews from economic life, commerce and industry. The 150 Jewish shops were all closed. The two Jewish factories which had operated in Lanzut before the war were also brought to a standstill. Of the 30 workshops operating before the war, only 5 were left. The economic position of the Jewish community grew constantly worse. The Nazi also ordered all property in Jewish hands be registered. This Order was published on 24th January by Governor-General Frank, and stated that any property not brought to the German authorities would be confiscated as soon as found.
Among the various restrictions imposed on the Jewish population by the occupying power, mention should also be made of the prohibition against using the railway and urban means of transport.
At the end of 1940, the number of Jews in Lanzut was gradually increasing. The new refugees who arrived came principally from Cracow but also included former residents of the city. Cracow had been chosen as the seat of the Governor-General and the Regional General Government. The conquerors permitted therefore only a restricted number of Jews to live there. By the end of 1940, there were already some 1300 Jews in Lanzut which was the largest Jewish centre in the Jaroslaw district.
In December, 1940, according to information received by the Jewish Mutual Aid, there were about 6,000 Jews, or 3.1% of the total population in the entire Jaroslaw district.
The Regional Committee which dealt with Jewish Communal Self-help and which was established at the end of 1940 did not have its seat in Jaroslaw, where there were only a few Jews, but in Lanzut which contained the largest number in the district. The Chairman of this Committee was the Chairman of the Lanzut Judenrat, Dr. Marcu Pohorille. Its members included Leizer Fass of Lanzut and Shmelke Westreich of Kanczuga. The financial and other resources at the disposal of this committee were barely enough for the absolute minimum required.
For some time there was also a Peoples' Kitchen which distributed soup to refugees and the local poor. From time to time, wood, charcoal or foodstuffs were also distributed together with other things.
* * * * *
The war between Germany and the U.S.S.R., which commenced on 22nd June, 1941, gave rise to Jewish hopes for a rapid defeat of the Nazi. Hence, there was a mood of deep depression when the Hitlerite forces were victorious and advanced steadily eastward. Nazi terror grew steadily worse. A wave of pogroms spread through the newly occupied territories. Jews who had fled to Soviet territory in 1939 or those
who had been expelled east of the River San, now found themselves again under Nazi rule. Many Lanzut Jews wished to re-join their kinsfolk but it was not at all easy to get back home. It was necessary to obtain a transit permit from the authorities and the Germans refused to issue them. Some people resolved to run the risk and return to their relatives without any papers. They removed the armlets with the Shield of David which Jews were required to wear and claiming to be Poles, they set out on any means of transport that came their way; or else they went on foot.
In this way, a number of former residents returned to Lanzut. However, difficulties and hardships did not cease with their return to the city. The local German authorities published an order that all Jews from beyond the River San had to be registered separately and pay certain sums of money. Very severe penalties were imposed if the order was not complied with. For example, the death penalty was executed on six Jews who returned from beyond the San. They were shot in the courtyard of the Lanzut Courthouse in November, 1941. Those murdered included: Ulli Popiol and his wife, Joshua Frei, Chantshe Lieberman and Moshe Sonenshein. At the same time, Shimon Walzer and Eliahu Reich also fell.
The sentences were carried out by the policemen: Joseph Kokut, N. Dzibulski, N. Kritzinger and N. Kirschner.
These were not the only executions of those who had returned to their kinsfolk in Lanzut. A few months later, several dozen of those who had only recently returned were arrested and once again, four people were shot in the prison courtyard. It became obvious to everybody that the prospects of hiding people who returned to town were absolutely negligible and those who had been in hiding until then announced their return.
Within a few days, 20 of the returning Jews were ordered to report to the Municipality. When all those summoned had reported at the time stated, they were placed in a line. Bernard Bonnek, the Mayor, turned to them and called for devoted work for the German people. He promised that they would not be harmed if they worked devotedly and faithfully. Then the Mayor asked each of them what he had done in the U.S.S.R. He wished to find out whether any of those present had been a Commissar there, a member of the communist party or the Comsomol. After that, they were all sent to sweep snow in the streets. Thenceforward, they and others among those who had returned were sent in separate groups to various kinds of compulsory labour.
At this point, the Gestapo, whose offices were in Jaroslaw, began to take interest in these people. Gestapo men arrived in Lanzut and arrested 24 of the Jews working in the streets, all of them belonging to the newly returned. They were kept in prison for several months and afterwards, taken out to the cemetery one night and shot. The Gestapo carried out several more executions at the Lanzut cemetery. In March, 1942, several dozen persons were shot including Meir Rosmarin and his wife. The four policemen mentioned above took part in this murder together with a number of Gestapo men from Jaroslaw.
The occupation authorities restricted the freedom of movement of the Jewish population exceedingly. Eisenlohr, head of the Jaroslaw district, issued an order on 18th December, 1941, forbidding the Jews to leave their places of domicile on pain of death. As place of domicile, the district chief specified an urban or village community, a village or lodging place. The order went into effect on 1st January, 1942.
On the 20th and 22nd March, 1942, the Jaroslaw Gestapo carried out numerous arrests in Lanzut. Hostages were taken. Dozens of Poles were also arrested in the course of two days. On the third day, all the members of the Judenrat were summoned to the Gestapo. This invitation did not promise anything good. The members of the Judenrat, with the exception of Shlomo Greenbaum, Eiliezer Marder and Weinbach decided not to report in order not to run the obvious risks but to hide themselves. And sur enough, their apprehensions were fulfilled. When Greenbaum and the others reported to the Gestapo, they were ordered to select ten Jews as hostages. When they refused to give any names, they were arrested on the spot. Six other Jews met with by chance on the street were also arrested. A few days later, the Jewish prisoners were transferred to Jaroslaw. There they were imprisoned for about four months and were shot on 16th and 17th July, 1942.
The occupation authorities then appointed a new Judenrat for Lanzut. The Chairman appointed was Advocate Reuben Nadel. The members were: Moshe Siegel, Joel Perlmutter, Mottel Kern, Benjamin Zilpan, Samuel Sach, Leizer Fass, David Rosenblum,
Hayyim Leib Kornblau and Israel Milrad. Naphtali Reich served as secretary.
* * * * *
At that time, the conqueror was already carrying out his diabolical plan for exterminating the Jewish population in death camps. In March and April, 1942, several tens of thousands of Jews were sent from Lublin to the extermination camp in Belsac. In May, another extermination camp began to operate at Sobibor in the gas chambers of which tens of thousands of Jews from Lublin, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria were exterminated. From the Cracow province, which included the Jaroslaw district and Lanzut, several thousand Jews of Cracow and Tarnow were sent to the Belsac camp early in June, 1942.
At that time, news began to reach Lanzut that it was possible to escape expulsion by obtaining employment in a German labour camp. Lanzut Jews feverishly began to seek work in German factories or institutions. Forced labour was considered preferable to wandering to other places of domicile. Nobody knew yet that the term expulsion actually meant extermination. They thought that it involved sending Jews to work elsewhere. As they wished to stay where they were, many Lanzut Jews found themselves places of employment with German companies which were engaged in public works in the district.
In July, 1942, the tax offices began to collect all the taxes imposed on the Jews, completely ignoring the fact that they were all poverty-stricken, had no sources of livelihood and lived by selling what little property was left to them. All belongings found in their homes were confiscated for non-payment of taxes. On 15th July, Schmidt, the head of the Jaroslaw Gestapo, arrived in Lanzut. All the Jews had previously been ordered to gather at the secondary school sports ground to have a stamp on their identity cards called the kankreta. Schmidt, surrounded by the Lanzut police, put a special stamp on the documents. The right to receive this stamp depended entirely on his personal decision. If he did not like anybody's face, he did not stamp his papers. In almost every family, there were people whose identity cards remained unstamped.
The Jews were in a state of despair on account of the uncertainty as to their future. They sought for ways and means of obtaining the stamp by other methods. Money was paid to the Judenrat to arrange the matter and Nadel, the chairman, promised to do so. However, it was promptly made clear that these stamps were no security at all against expulsion.
On August 1st, 1942, 21st of Ab 5702, the absolute expulsion of all the Jews of Lanzut was fixed. The Jews still believed that what was involved was departure for work in the east. When it was announced that every one might take as much of his belongings with him as he could carry, each did his best to sell most of his goods and receive money in return. The panic-stricken people sold off their belongings for less than nothing to the peasants of the vicinity. There was a great deal of movement in town. The peasants wandered around buying everything that came their way.
Those who wished to escape expulsion tried to save themselves by flight to other places. Some sought for hiding places in the forest or with Polish friends and acquaintances. Not all of them were successful. Some of these Jews were caught on the way before they reached any safe places. In such cases, the procedure was short and sharp. They were shot on the spot.
On August 3rd, 1942, the Jews of Lanzut were loaded onto carts collected from the surrounding villages and sent under police guards to Pelkinia village, fourteen kilometres away. On the way, the convoy guards robbed the Jews. Valuables were extorted from them for promises of liberation and possibilities of flight.
There had been a camp in Pelkinia village ever since the end of 1941. After the commencement of the German-Russian war, the Nazi had kept prisoners- of -war there. In August, 1942, a transit camp was set up in the village for the Jews of Jaroslaw district.
The camp had an area of about 70 hectares. Some 5,000 Jews were brought there from various places in the district including: Jaroslaw, Kanczuga, Pruchnik, Przeworsk, Radimno, Zhulinia and Grodzisko-Dolna. The entire Jewish population had been expelled from all these places. Four families were permitted to remain in Kanczuga. In Pruchnik, a number of families were also left and were transferred later to Sziniawa. The Pelkinia camp detainees were classified there. The old people, the sick and the children were separated and shot within the camp area, or in the Nechczioli forest about five kilometres away.
The children were killed in the forest; their brains being beaten out with wooden clubs. The bodies of the murdered people were flung into lime pits. A few who were not killed by the bullets were buried alive.
Some of the women were sent from the Pelinia camp to the Belsac death camp. The young and strong people were sent to various labour camps.
Shortly after their stay in the Pelinia camp, the Nazi sent a group of fifty youngsters to Lanzut. The members of the Judenrat also returned there. Their return to Lanzut considerably eased the situation of those who had concealed themselves in the town and were not expelled. Now they could leave their hiding places without being noticed together with those who had returned from the camp. They might find employment in the town and receive labour cards. The holder of a labour card was permitted to go back to his former dwelling. Those who hid in cellars and attics could now obtain legal assistance and particularly foodstuffs from the Jews who had permission to live in town. People whose dwellings were returned to them could build hiding places for relations and friends and could attend to them after working hours.
There were no few cases in which Poles of the underworld discovered the hiding places of Jews and denounced them to the authorities. The Jews who were taken out of these hiding places were shot in the cemetery, the prison or on the street. In August, 1942, five Jews were shot in Lanzut near Kraszevski Street and 29, Listopada Street: They were: Sarah and Frimmer Wurm, Kalman Wolkenfeld, his wife and child. In September, 1942, 9 Jews were shot in the Sobieski Square. They included: Simha Sapir and Israel Wenger. In the same month, 8 Jews were shot in Waluba Street and Slowatskiego Street including: Golda Goldman, Mendel Ripp, L. Kornblau and Marcus Weinberger. At about the same time, the wife of Shlomo Greenbaum, member of the former Judenrat, fell together with the Trompeter couple who were taken out of their hiding place. A Polish woman named Niziolowa was also shot for sheltering Jews.
In September, 1942, there were only 50 Jews legally left in Lanzut. At the time the Gestapo men arrived daily from Jaroslaw and it was rumoured that the Lanzut Jews would be transferred to a ghetto being set up at Szeniava. On 17th September, sur enough, they were all transferred to Szeniava which lies on the other side of the River San. At the time, it was the only place in the Jaroslaw district where there was a Jewish centre. In the vicinity were several labour camps in which a few Jews from Lanzut were to be found. Mr. Leizer Fass, the member of the Lanzut Judenrat and of the District Committee for Jewish Self-Help, was also to be found there. He was later appointed Chairman of the representation of Jewish Self-Help and also chairman of the Judenrat in Szeniava, more details of which will be found below.
The last Jews from Lanzut fell in the Szeniava Jewish concentration camp in May, 1943 together with those who had succeeded in escaping death at the Pelinia transit camp or the Belsac extermination camp. Szienawa had been annexed to the Jaroslaw district at the end of 1941 after the Nazi armies had taken the districts beyond the River San following the outbreak of war with the U.S.S.R. There is a letter written on 2nd June, 1942 by a member of the Szeniava Judenrat named Osiasz Potaszer (document JUS 358 in the Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw). From it we learn that close to 1800 Jews were to be found in the town. Most of them were living in indescribable squalor and were on the verge of starvation. Eli Gross, the chairman of the local Judenrat was then appointed District Chairman of the Judenrats in the Jaroslaw district. The meaning of this appointment was that the occupation authorities were preparing the final destruction of the Jews and their steps were connected with the personality of Gross who had 15 Judenrats under him. Gross remained at his post for a very short time only. Meanwhile, the Jewish centres in the Jaroslaw district were liquidated.
On 19th July, 1942, one day before the greatest action conducted at the spot, the representation of the Jewish Self-Help was established it Szeniava. The afore-mentioned Judenrat member, Osiasz Potaszer, was chairman and the members were Shalom Mellon and Joseph Gross (who was apparently related to Eli Gross, chairman of the District Judenrat). The representation in Szeniava wrote a letter on 26th August, 1942, to the presidium in Cracow, stating that Szeniava was to be the only place in the entire Jaroslaw district where there would be a Jewish population; whose numbers, however, could not be ascertained at the moment. In a letter of 11th September, 1942, to the Presidium of the Jewish Self-help in Cracow, Osiasz Putszer stated that in accordance with the demand of the Nazi authorities, a Labour Camp had been set up at a distance of 10km from Szeniava, not far from the forest. There were 200 people in the camp including 30 young women. These were Jews from Lanzut, Kanczuga, Zholinia, Lazhiesk and other places in the Jaroslaw district.
The Jews had arrived at the camp without clothes, underwear or shoes. Two more camps were set up near Szeniava, the inmates of which worked in the forests. One of these camps was at Kari, about 4km from Szenieva and the other was at Mielniki, about 8km away.
Osiasz Potaszer was murdered in October, 1942 apparently together with other members of the Judenrat. A new representation was organized at the end of 1942.
The chairman was Leizer Fass and the members were: The widow of Osiaz Potaszer, Francisca Potaszer and Bronislaw Friedwald. As a result of the continuous murders by the Nazi, the number of Jews in Szeniava steadily declined. At the beginning of June, 1942, there were still 1800. Their number had fallen to 1300 by the end of October and there were only 1100 in the early part of November.
In May, 1943, the majority of the Jews in the Szeniava Ghetto were shot to death at the cemetery and a small group were sent to concentration camps.
In the spring of 1944 when the Germans were being defeated on various fronts and the Red Army was advancing towards the frontiers of Poland, the Nazi organized special units which engaged in obliterating traces of their crimes. At that time, the corpses of Jews shot in May 1943, at the Szeniava cemetery, were also removed from their graves.
No more than a small handful of Lanzut Jews survived the Nazi occupation period. The Nazi searched murderously for hiding places and those who were found in them were shot on the spot by their police. Executions were carried out from December 1942 to March 1943 in Lanzut. In December 1942 and January 1943, 24 Jews of Lanzut and the surrounding villages were shot at the Lanzut cemetery including Leizer Besymstock.
In March 1943, the wife of Marcus Pohorille, first chairman of the Lanzut Judenrat, was killed when her hiding place was found. A girl and a woman who had hidden together with her were also shot by the police.
The handful that remained alive succeeded in escaping thanks largely to Aryan papers. They went to other towns where nobody knew them and where they could therefore hope that they would not be recognized as Jews. Individuals went as far as Warsaw. Those saved were: Dina Greenbaum and Dr. Adam Meir.
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