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[Page 798]

Memories and Testimony

 

Medical and Social Assistance
in the Sandz Ghetto

by Shlomo Wolf

Translated by Chana Saadia

Edited by Renee Miller

As the sole survivor of the medical service in the Sandz ghetto, I allow myself to write down the details, or more accurately, to make a short survey of the activities of the people of the medical service during the time of the Nazis in our city. I am not a person of literary ability, and I will try to the best of my ability to give here details of our everyday life in a clear and simple form.

 

Medical Institutions

The ghetto in our city was divided in two. Part was from the beginning of Kazimierza (the Jewish street) until the bridge over the Kamienica River on the way to the cemetery, with its streets, and from the beginning of Lubovska Street to its end, with all the narrow alleys of the “Piekla” neighborhood. Hunger, cold, distress and illness, pollution, lack of clothing and shoes, terrible crowding in the rooms (from six to ten people in one room), lack of heating, this was the general picture of the sanitary and hygienic conditions in our ghetto.

In these conditions the medical people began their war for health. They also believed that guarding the ghetto from epidemics could prevent murders and destruction. Over the bridge on Lubovska Street the German authorities hung a large sign in German and Polish: “Beware! Danger of epidemics. Entrance to non-Jews strictly forbidden!”

The Jewish doctors knew that the outbreak of epidemics and diseases could cause great problems, and that the war to prevent disease was one of the primary things. To this end a committee met in the earliest days in the auditorium of the Jewish hospital, in order to discuss ways to improve the sanitary conditions in the ghetto.

 

The Hospital

The Jewish hospital which was in existence from the time of the Austrians (Israelistiches Krankenhaus Szpital Izraelicki) was on Kraszewskiego Street, in the Paszkowka district.

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This was the only institution in the ghetto that set as its main purpose the provision of medical assistance for the wide levels [of the population], a war against infectious diseases and maintenance of hygiene in the dark conditions of the ghetto.

A committee was founded consisting of several people, namely: Dr Shachne Holzer, Shimon Zigler, Dawid Rozenberg, and at its head was Drilich ob”m, as chairman of the hospital directorship, Haim Holzer ob”m as administrator and Fayga Shprei as secretary. Of all the Jewish doctors in our city there remained in the ghetto only the doctors: Dr. Segal, director of the hospital, Dr. Zupnik, and Dr. Kornreich and his wife the pharmacist. Later there were added two doctors from Krakow: Dr.Kaufteil and Dr. Pirovski. The only laboratory technician was Margolis, the paramedics were Sheinfeld, Rindler and the author of these lines.

A great lack was felt of medical equipment and registered nurses. First of all the administration organized an express course for nurses, directed by the doctors. The nurses, headed by Rozka Eizen as head nurse, performed their difficult tasks day and night with great responsibility, often with genuine self-sacrifice, and thanks to their actions many diseases were prevented. The nurses were mostly high-school graduates, and these are their names which deserve remembering with a blessing: Frankel, Yaffa Zimmer, Fela Wolf, the Altshiler sisters, Lola Sharlip, Einhorn, Karper, Hess, Risha Rosen, Hela Eizkowitz, Lola Green, Amsterdam, Fisch, Bader, Lola Shprei, Manya Meyer, Hela Zomer, Mailer.

 

Diseases in the Ghetto

A. General weakness of the body: From the earliest period of the ghetto the elderly were suddenly afflicted by this general weakness of the body, a feeling of exhaustion and loss of weight, which advanced with giant steps and in most cases ended in death. This was a consequence of the difficult life and poor nutrition. When conditions improved and the unemployed were helped – social help, soup kitchens – this condition mostly vanished.

B. Furuncles [editor's note: (boil) is a skin infection involving an entire hair follicle and the adjacent subcutaneous tissue]: In the early period [this] afflicted the ghetto residents, especially the concentrations of refugees who came to us from Zbasyn, and who lived in the synagogues and in the women's sections [of the synagogues] – furuncles and other skin diseases. Crowding and especially lack of cleanliness caused this when underwear wasn't changed for a long time.

C. Contagious diseases: cholera, paratyphus and diarrhea (dysentery). Thanks to the help of the hospital and its apparatus, these diseases were eradicated and only isolated cases were registered.

A plague of lice also caused people great suffering. In addition to all these there were cases such as urinary disturbances and intestinal illnesses.

For the provision of medical help the ghetto was divided into districts. Each district was under the supervision of a doctor and a nurse, who visited the apartments and concentrations of refugees, and who ordered that cleanliness be maintained and advised how to overcome the poor sanitary conditions.

The hospital gave free medical help in the first few months, and afterwards for a minimal fee to the Judenrat account. The doctors visited the sick at their homes too. The doctors and other medical personnel were permitted to walk the streets of the ghetto even after the curfew, but this involved actual risk of life.

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Despite the danger and despite explicit orders of the German authorities prohibiting medical aid to the wounded that they shot, doctors and paramedics gave medical aid in each and every case.

The labor camps in Lipie-Roznow and along the Dunajec River, where several hundred men from Nowy Sacz and the vicinity labored, were constantly supervised doctors and paramedics.

During the last period of the ghetto the hospital served as a shelter for people who escaped there hoping, as sick people, to be spared deportation in the “aktzias”. In contrast to this, there were also times when sick people left the hospital for fear that the sick were going to be exterminated, especially those sick people whose only illness was extreme physical weakness. The panic to save life continued all the time, especially before the mass “aktzias”, until that Black Sabbath of August 22, 1942, the Sabbath of the elimination of the ghetto of Nowy Sacz and its surroundings.

Minor comforts in our grey life in those times were the frequent visits of the chief surgeon of the government hospital, Dr. Stochly, to perform operations in the Jewish Hospital. Among our doctors there was not one surgeon, and we needed his help. Despite the strict prohibition for Christian doctors to give medical aid to Jews, Dr. Stochly did not refuse to perform serious operations in our hospital, under difficult medical conditions (lack of medical supplies) and at risk of his life because of “collaboration with the Jews”. Dr. Stochly is worthy of special mention in our book as one of those righteous gentiles who aided the Jews.

The medical service made a great human contribution to the community of Sandz in the conditions of the ghetto, and of the doctors and nurses it is said, “Alas for those lost, who will never be forgotten”. May their souls and the souls of all of the holy martyrs of Sandz be bound to eternal life.

 

Social Help [Welfare] and the Fight Against Hunger

The people in the ghetto who were forced to request partial or complete public assistance were at the beginning mainly refugees. Afterwards more and more local residents were added to them. In the ghetto there were significant social differences, to the extent of a deep chasm between two classes: the class having wealth and privilege, and the poor class.

The poor and luckless of the ghetto suffered terrible hunger, and soon were afflicted by lice and contagious diseases.

And so they became fewer and fewer. The rich in the ghetto lived a life of plenty, both as regards to food and as regards to clothing. They allowed themselves luxuries such as drink, purchase of gold coins, [and] dollars while the vast majority of the inhabitants of the ghetto found their food with great difficulty.

In order to ease the privation of the needy, the Committee for Social Assistance [Jud. Selbsthilfs Komitet] was founded, at its head was Yehezkel Gotreich, Shlomo Landau as administrator, Alek Wolf treasurer and head accountant, Naftali Waxberger, Berk Hirshtal, Folk Klein, Yisrael Friedman and Sela Ulman – officials of the secretariat.

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The People's Kitchen

The first task of the committee was to provide the needy with hot meals at low cost (ten or twenty groshn). In the soup kitchen that was in the orphanage in the Przytkowice district they served lunches at these low prices to hundreds of people daily. They rarely cooked meat. They instituted also a 4 o'clock meal, a cup of tea sweetened with saccharine and a slice of bread. A more spacious kitchen was installed in the women's section of the synagogue of the Rabbi of Grybow. The food department of the ghetto took care of the supply of the food and its distribution. The institution received only part of the food in a legal manner, and most of the supplies had to be purchased secretly.

The aid committee distributed monthly monetary support in the form of “matan be'seter” [charity given in secret], food supplies, flour, potatoes and coal – to people who didn't benefit from the general kitchen, such as the impoverished intelligentsia, who were ashamed to come to the pot to receive the portion of soup: every day people gathered from the early morning near the kitchen in order to be among the first to get a portion of soup, since in many cases they “joined” breakfast to lunch.

In the kitchen and in the serving young girls worked as volunteers, and the most active were: Tonka Hennenberg, Henka Flink, and Yosk Berliner.

A special problem of the ghetto was providing help for abandoned and orphaned children. They put these children into the orphanage, opened a children's kitchen and organized educational activities, studies, singing sport, etc.

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The roles of youth leaders were filled by: Henka Eizen, Vania Ulman, Faiga Zimmer, Tonka Sheingot, Naftali Lieber. The Assistance Committee also supplied clothing and shoes for the children.

All those roles were filled by the volunteers with devotion and responsibility, and they tried in all ways even if only with a warm encouraging word and a friendly smile to make [life] easier for these unfortunate people. With self-sacrifice for the welfare of others they observed in full the saying of our sages of blessed memory: “He who supports one soul is considered as if he supported the whole world”. (Sanhedrin)

Kefar Yehoshua, 26.3.57

In case I didn't mention the names of other activists in the ghetto – because I have forgotten their names – I request forgiveness from them and their families.


[Page 845]

The First Great Shkhite [Slaughter]

by Dov Zilbiger

Translated by David Schonberg

The first larger massacre [slaughter] in the Saczer ghetto began in the final days of the month of April, 1942. Into the hands of the Nazi murderers there fell a list of names of those who belonged to the Poalei-Zion organisation.* The Gestapo started looking for the people on the list but since many of them had earlier vanished - disappeared (secreted themselves away) from Sacz, there were dragged from the homes ordinary Jews that simply had similar names and together with these several Jews from the Judenrat. They had all these, approximately several hundred Jews, put in jail where they were beaten up severely.

On Wednesday the 29th April 1942 I found myself upon the roof of the house that belonged to my uncle, R' Yaakov Yehoshua Ehrlich z'l. It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and from the roof I saw, what was going on the streets. Gestapo and Polish-Ukrainian policemen were propelling-driving a group of Jews (amongst them 6 members of the Judenrat) from the jail through the streets: Przetakowka, Zelazna and Kazimierza to the cemetery. On the way the German hangmen snatched Jews, who happened to be on these streets and thereby the number the number grew of those unlucky ones, consigned for death. They were directed to a mass grave, which the Judenrat had been earlier required to prepare at the cemetery. Coming to the cemetery, they were all set around the mass grave and SS men armed from top to bottom surrounded them and prepared for the massacre. And then suddenly… in the middle of the deathly silence there was a shout…this was a protest shout from the holy ones, Ratske Goldberg z'l and Joseph Moshe Zeeman z'l (a dayan in Sacz), a shout in the last moment before their death-throes hurled at the German murderers and like a curse thundered their last words: 'this innocent spilled blood will not rest' 'You will have your black end!'

A rain of bullets from the German guns made an end to the lives of the holy ones, that stood around the mass-grave, which they filled with their shot-up bodies.

Now there had to be concluded the shameful murder action. There needed to be spread- covered over the mass grave, in which there still were in their death-throes innocent Saczer Jews. Indeed there began now on the Sacz streets a new

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'Lapanke'.. [Polish: round-up].. People were snatched and they were propelled-driven to the cemetery for the work of covering over the mass-grave. The shock and fear was great as no one now knew what awaited him there… whether one perhaps was preparing a new blood bath…

I was meanwhile already on the street.. and this time I also fell into the hands of the Gestapo men. They gave me over to the Jewish 'ordnungsman' {ghetto police} Binder, who before the war had a flour business. He knew my parents z'l well and he belonged to the very small number of 'ordnungs-menner' who helped Jews. Binder indeed let me free and I managed to run away and hide till it was quiet on the street.

In the ghetto on the Jewish street meanwhile broke out a terrible panic. The SS men went into every house and began in the houses to shoot at women and children, at old and sick, who they found in the apartments.

Cruel was the night between the 29th and 30th April 1942. As wild animals the German murderers threw themselves at innocent Jews who they found in these apartments. The German bandits rushed [acted with haste].. they shot at left and at right.. they looked in every corner and in every apartment they left innocent victims and a river of blood..

We managed to hide in the house of R' Yeshaya Mandel in a hiding place, in an attic. The following morning I went out to the street and saw the terrible destruction. It is difficult to give over what I saw and heard of the blood-drenched deeds of that night. I knew of several such terrible cases in the houses where families lived, such as that of family Yaakov Kanangieser z'l, from which only one managed to save himself, the son Mordechai Kanangieser (Lustig) who lives today in Israel. In that terrible night, around 10pm, the dwellers in that house heard how the gate-portal was torn asunder and then immediately there were heard in the entire house shooting.. shouting and cries .. the first victim was the family of R' Moshe Hertzberg z'l, then the murderers came into the dwelling of R' Moshe Mendel Reinhald's in laws and shot everyone that was found (around 11pm in the night) in the apartment..

From there, the hangmen went up to the apartment of family Kanangieser. There in the kitchen, lying in bed and covered up over their heads the two children, the 16 year-old Mordechai and the 12 year-old Moshe Joseph. The murderers however moved from the kitchen immediately into the apartment, where there were- the father, Yaakov Kanangieser and his wife and daughter. "What kind of work, do you do", one of the murderers asked the father, Yaakov Kanangieser- and when they

[Page 847]

heard the answer, that he was a book-binder.. the bandits ordered him to turn around.. and then one heard some revolver shots.. the wife and daughter cried out.. the German murderers also shot them on the spot.. then the murderers went back into the kitchen, where there lay the two children covered in the bed-coverlets They weren't lying one next to the other.. Moshe lay with his head to the door and Mordechai opposite him with his head to the window. One of the SS men started to lift up the bed coverings from the side, where the youngest, Moshe Joseph was lying. Another of them said even it was a shame to shoot such a small child.. and in the same moment several revolver shots brought to an end the life of the tender Moshe Joseph.. The brother, Mordechai, who lay opposite covered in bed coverings, felt the warm blood of his brother.. The murderers didn't look any further in the bed.. they smoked cigarettes and satiated with the terrible acts of murder they left the kitchen and with laughter on their faces they said in Polish, 'dobranoc'.

The murderers caroused-revelled in all the other dwellings and killed off whoever they found in these houses.. until they finally left and there was deadly silence…

First now came out the small boy Mordechai from his bed. In the kitchen and in the apartment was a river of blood.. the father.. the mother.. sister and brother dead.. From the entire family he was left alone.. in not a full quarter of an hour he became an orphan…

The German murderers sought fresh victims in houses further afield. In the house of R' Yaakov Yehoshua Ehrlich, in the Fish-lane, they shot Family Neustadt, the man and his wife. From there the murderers went into the house of Family Gross. The murderous shootings started again at whoever they found in the house. There remained there wounded the daughter.. a beautiful young girl. 'Let her live'- one of the Gestapo people said to a friend of his, who had already aimed his revolver at the tender young [girl] daughter. Instead of a reply the first got the bullet that was intended for the young Gross. The murderer then went quickly outside to the street—and looked out for the Gestapo commandant and reported, that in the house of Family Gross a Jewish girl had shot a Gestapo-man. With an animal murderousness these two came to the Gross' house, to take revenge for the shot German. But he was still alive and he explained that it wasn't the Jewish girl but his own colleague that had shot him. There was a silence that dominated the house. Without a word the two Germans went out of the house.. the Gestapo-commandant and the murderer

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who had shot his colleague, in whom there had awakened for a moment a spark of human feeling.

It was now also quiet in the streets. The shootings in the Jewish houses had also ceased. In that terrible bloodied night there were murdered in the Saczer ghetto 70 Jews.

After the terrible destruction my first concern was as to bringing the bodies to burial. A certain Beirish Nort from the Chevra Kaddisha {burial society} had a horse with a wagon, on which lay a box. Together with other young Jews we gathered together in the box the victims of the last night and under guard of the Jewish Ordnungsdienst [editor note: ghetto police] we went over to the cemetery.

A month before Rosh HaShanah 1942 there was carried out the liquidation of the Saczer ghetto, where there had already come-assembled- the Jewish population of the of the entire Sacz region. It was said that one was going to Germany. People were ordered even to bring food with them for the journey. Thus were assembled three transports of Jews from the entire Sacz ghetto, who indeed believed, that they were being taken to Germany. Later, when they were locked in the wagons, when the windows of the wagons were covered – then they understood the bitter truth. The transports took them [rolled to] to Belzec. From that death-factory no one came back.. All of those there, our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, died al Kiddush haShem [editor note: a martyr's death].

And amongst the holy martyrs can be found also my dear parents.. my father Israel Yakir and my mother, Frumet Zilbiger z'l.. and my dear younger brother Wolf z'l.. On leaving me my dear parents ordered me.. that if I would live that I should live a Jewish life as I saw it at our home.. that was their last wish..

The last transports of Sacz Jews to Belzec left and from the Sacz ghetto there only remained 'the Jewish street' with several hundred inhabitants. Amongst these I was also. We belonged to what was called the 'aufräumungs kommando' [clearing-up unit] whose task it was to gather together and sort Jewish goods, that remained from the Jewish families that had been sent away. The better things were sent off to Germany and that of lesser [editor note: inferior] value was sold off in Sacz.

Together with me in the clearing-up unit also was my cousin Shmuel Gottfreund, who sorted and packed the better books for transport to Germany. With the sorting work we were finished by the end of November 1942. All the Jewish houses in the ghetto had been emptied out. Now the entire group of the clearing-up unit was put into arrest in Sacz, where we stayed for a day and

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a night. We were told that we would be shot but in fact they took us to the train station from where we were taken to Tarnow. There we were again assigned to the clearing-up unit, which dealt with gathering together the things that remained from the Jewish houses after the 'relocation-actions' carried out in Tarnow. I worked 6 months at this, in Tarnow. From there I was sent to Szebnie and from there to Rymanow and then to Auschwitz. My luck was that I was allocated to hard work in Auschwitz and thus I did not find myself amongst those that were sent to the gas chambers. Thousands of Jews were daily sent to their deaths in the Auschwitz gas chambers. Such a death came also to the commander of the Sacz 'Ordnungsdienst' [Jewish ghetto police], Folkman, who carried out grave deeds in the Saczer ghetto. This devil had hundreds of Jews on his conscience. With his cruelty he went further than the Gestapo murderers.. when the Germans once wanted to practice shooting and asked Folkman that he should for this purpose supply 100 Jews, to whom they could aim at.. Folkman provided 200 victims.. They took the Jews to Rabka, where they were all killed. The same German murderers didn't spare Folkman, even though he so served them so doggedly.

When the Soviet army drew near, in 1944, to Auschwitz they sent us away to Buchenwald where I met my elder brother Zalke. Sadly later, a month before the liberation, he died in the camp. On 11th April 1945 at 4pm the entire Buchenwald camp, with 20,000 inmates from different lands, were liberated by the allied armies. I was merited to live to see Hitler's downfall and to come out healthy from the Nazi gehenna [editor translation: hell]. Just a short while later I came, in July 1945, to Israel. Here I met my brother Abraham, who had in 1942 escaped from Sacz and stayed in Hungary with Aryan papers.

From our entire, large family only the two of us had remained alive.


* What is meant is that of the sports association 'Gwiazda' under the influence of the left Poalei-Zion; See, report by S. Laufer (editor). Return

 

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