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[Page 39]

Michael Walzer-Fass (Hod Hasharon)


By a stroke of fate, I was in the Podhale area when I visited Poland, in the summer of 1937, eight years after my arrival in Eretz-lsrael.

I went first to my birthplace, the town of Lancsut. Before moving on to Nowy-Targ and Zakopane, I spent a week in Charni Dunaietz with my uncle and aunt, Eliezer and Rivka Fass.

On Sabbath Eve, as my uncle and I were on our way to the synagogue, I saw a tall woman lighting candles. My uncle told me that she was Madam Zusiya Sobelson of Tarnow, the mother of the Communist leader and journalist Karl Radek. After the death of her first husband, so I learned, she conducted a finishing school for girls. On remarrying, she moved to Charni-Dunaietz, the home of her new husband, Pacenover. Radek visited his mother in 1933 while on an official visit to Poland. Several years later, during the liquidations in the Soviet leadership, Madam Sobelson begged Stalin to spare her son, but was refused.

Of all the scenes from those days that have remained with me, the sharpest is the sight of Karl Radek's mother, blessing the Sabbath candles.

The Beginnings of the Town

Situated close to the Polish-Czech-Hungarian border and about 15 kilometers from Nowy-Targ, Charni-Dunaietz was under the latter's administration. It was founded back in the Middle Ages in 1238 by Theodor Czadre of Crakow. Its church was erected in 1589 and its school in 1750. Its economy was first based on knitting fabrics but gradually branched into several directions.

Near the town there was a huge peat bog, which the people dug up for fuel and fertilizer. The town was the "urban" center for the surrounding villages. It held six fairs a year and carried on a brisk trade with neighboring Hungary. The town was visually exceptionally beautiful.

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The Jewish Community

In the 1930's the town had a Jewish population of 120 families (about 500 souls), engaged in the crafts, small industry, trade and some clerking. The big commercial item was the lumber industry, based on the surrounding forests. Landau of Crakow operated a saw mill there, employing about 200 workers. Jews also operated three bakeries, a carbonated beverages plant and a fuel station.

The town's synagogue and Bet-Midrash drew many worshippers for prayer and for study sessions, conducted, in the final years by Rabbi Lifschitz.

Elementary education was available in the seven-grade school, separate for boys and girls; secondary education existed in NowyTarg and Crakow, too expensive for many Jews. In 1929 a Tarbut Hebrew School was founded, and it soon became the center for the Jewish young people. Also, Zionist organizations came into the town: "Hashomer Hatzair", "Akiva", "Hechalutz" (members of the latter worked in the saw mill and Bot's flour mill as hachshara). A local library was opened in 1930, which also led to the founding of a kindergarten, conducted by Anda Ceisler of Dembitz.

Jews served on the town's surrogate bench. There were two Jewish advocates in town: Dr. Leon Lamensdorf and Dr. Shimon Pacenover.

Notices were given to the townspeople by means of a drum, which summoned everyone to come out and listen to the herald. The area also served the army for military drills, conducted at that time by General Mund, a converted Jew.

The Polish Army Routed

Ten days before the outbreak of the Second World War a large Polish army contingent arrived in the vicinity, but well-armed German troops were already waiting on the other side of the border. On September 1 all the young people, Jews included, were put to work on barricades to stem the German advance, to no avail. Most of the Jews fled to Nowy-Targ but the Germans strafed them from planes and killed many of the refugees. This was the beginning of the end for the ancient Jewish community in Charni-Dunaietz.

[Page 41]

Moshe Aharon Zyskind (Givatayim)


A small, out-of-the-way town in Podhala Province, Kroschenko had a Jewish community well worth memorializing, with the same depth of faith which the townspeople showed in the redemption of their people, even as they themselves were led to their death in the Holocaust.

Kroshchenko's Jews lived modestly, so as not to arouse the envy of the Poles. The latter regarded the Jews as second-class citizens, although they were guaranteed equal rights by the AustroHungarian Empire. The Jews in town numbered no more than 40 families, in a total population of 2,000 souls. They engaged in trade and a bit of farming; the earth was fertile, and the Dunaietz River coursed through the beautiful, mountain-ringed valley. Among the town's professionals were three Jewish lawyers and Dr. Shlomo Riegelhaupt.

Despite its small size, Kroshchenko's Jewish community served the entire area, in such matters as rabbinate service, burials and community registry, Jewish travelers enjoyed communal hospitality, though somewhat makeshift in nature; lodgings were provided in the foyer of the synagogue.

Reb Efraim Halperin was the moving spirit in the community. He conducted the heder, ran the community services, and lived with his family next to the synagogue. This building was built early in the century and replaced the shack used until then. Built of large stone blocks (almost four feet thick at the base) , it had two large chambers, for men and women. Aside from regular prayers, the synagogue was always open to study circles, even late into the night. One of the outstanding lay scholars was Reb Moshe Englander, a Bobover Hassid and cabalist, author of the Or Moshe commentary on the Scriptures. Rabbi Yoel Moshe Boimel was surrounded by many scholars, among them my father, Joseph Zyskind. Another lay scholar, Reb Avrohom Yehoshua Shein, was also a man of means, which he used to help others. Only one of his fine sons, Yehiel Ichel, was able to escape the Holocaust. By devious means he managed to reach Eretz-lsrael.

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Zionism manifested itself in the Community largely through its youth organizations. "Akiva" developed rapidly, to the point that, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, it had quarters of its own, which it shared in a house with "Agudas Israel" youth. Much of its success was due to the devoted work of Boruch Rubinstein. Before going on to the university in Crakow, which conferred on him the Ph. D. degree, he set "Akiva" on a firm course. Later he made his way to Israel and was active in "Bet Rothschild" in Haifa.

The "Agudas Israel" group also had the good fortune of dedicated leadership in its midst. Here the moving spirit was Yehoshua Noimel, who went on to become the rabbi of Kroshchenko and Sczyavnitza. He was a student of the Yeshivat Hachmei Lublin, where he became imbued with religious activism. Under his guidance, "Agudas Israel" youth founded its club, library, seminars and discussion groups.

These young people of "Akiva" and "Agudas Israel" were the pride of the community and its contribution to the Jewish future, which was cut short by the murderous hand of the Nazis.

Yosef Geller (Gill)


Rabkah Zdroi was a smaller edition of Nowy-Targ, and its 350 Jewish families spent their lives in very much the same manner. Also a known resort, it offered saline mineral water baths, as well as mineral drinking water. The resort area, which formed the new part of town, also had many fine shops owned and operated by Jews. The town had two high schools, one for boys who came to the town for health reasons. Only a few Jews were accepted; most of them had to go by coach to the high school in neighboring Yordanov, which was communally combined with Rabkah until shortly before the Second World War, and each maintained its own institutions.

Many of the national Jewish institutions carried on vacation activities in the town, and several of its young people, further inspired by Zionist leaders who came there for the summer, made their way to Eretz-lsrael.

[Page 43]

Mordecai Schein (Bnai Zion)


There were only a few score Jewish families in this town. A livelihood and the education of the young were the paramount problems. Since the children attended the public schools, they could go to "heder" only up to 7:30 in the morning and come back after 2:00 in the afternoon. Among the communal institutions was the very fine library, whose budget deficit was made up by the proceeds from the drama circle performances.

The Jews, few as they were, were divided in their views on religion, politics, and world affairs, but their attitudes were positive. Most of the young people were members of "Akiva"; all prepared to go to Eretz-lsrael, but few made it in time.

Gila Knipel-Shprei (Haifa)


My grandfather Arye-Leibish Kleinzahler of Wishnitza and his wife, my grandmother Rachel (Weil) of Nowy-Sandz, settled in Charni-Dunaietz in the second half of the 19th Century. My grandfather came to serve as shohet, mohel and teacher, despite the entreaties of his mentor, Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam, to enter the rabbinate. He was assigned to serve 13 towns and villages, from his own vicinity to Podvilic in Slovakia. When he found that he could not serve this area adequately, he assigned part of it to others.

Four of the great-grandchildren managed to reach Eretz-lsrael. The oldest, Dov Kleinzahler, fell in defense of Kfar Etzyon. In our family, six of the nine children perished in the Holocaust, as did the members of the other branches of our family, scores of men and women and, especially, children.

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Joachim Traunstein


Yankele Schneider, 13 and a half, Yulek Schneider, 12 and a half, and Romek Ribeisen, 12, had this to say about the early days of the war :

"We were still youngsters and didn't understand what was going on. Together with other curious youngsters, we roamed through the streets. We saw many adults leaving the town, but most of them came back.

"The Germans were busy taking hostages and staging roundups. On August 30, 1942, came the general roundup. The Germans asked the Judenrat to supply them with 11 Jews to dig amass grave. All the old and the weak were brought to the spot and murdered.

"We were sent to a sawmill in Charni-Dunaietz, then to the Plashov camp, where we were put to work dragging logs out of the forest and loading them on flat cars. We stole potatoes to sate our hunger and were flogged for it. It was no easier in Ostrowietz. The end of the war found us in Auschwitz."

[Page 45]

Zvi Nir (Gerstner)


Shortly before the deadline for submitting material for this book, I came across a volume of responsa, printed in Lemberg in 1879, by Rabbi Yaacov Yokil Hirsch, then head of the Rabbinical Court in the Nowy-Targ province.

Known as an outstanding scholar while still a young man, Rabbi Hirsch was encouraged by the famed Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam of Tzanz to put his thoughts into writing. He decided to publish a collection of responsa when both of his daughters died; the volume was to be in their commemoration.

Rabbi Hirsch accepted the call to serve in Nowy-Targ after his material state was impaired by adversity. "When I came there," he writes, "I was a stranger in an alien land, for I had there neither relative nor friend, and although its inhabitants were honest and well-meaning and respectful of my person, each had to attend to his own affairs, but the Almighty moved many charitable and prosperous men to befriend me"; he then goes on to list the names of these men, saying that "these distinguished members of our town are my supporters, both in providing for my -household and in refreshing my soul; they are my protection against any foe. May the Almighty repay them as they deserve, and may their years be spent in pleasure and prosperity, in honor and everything good. Amen."

Yehuda Gerstner


He was a remarkable man and one of the greatest Talmud scholars of his day. The early hours of the morning found him bending over his tomes, in the lamp light.

The rabbi's wife sold yeast for baking the Sabbath challas. Thursday was market day in our town, and many people stopped

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in, toward evening, to buy yeast, often paying for it much more than the ordinary price; that was their way of supporting the rabbi.

Once, I recall, there was an eclipse of the sun. A huge throng gathered in the yard of the Great Synagogue to observe this manifestation of the Lord's handiwork. Despite his advanced age, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid danced about in pure joy.

When the rabbi died, a tent was set up over his grave, and on the anniversary day many Jews, also from the surrounding communities, came to pray there.


I was born in Shchavnitza, a famous health spa in Poland but rather weak on the side of Hassidism. Among the vacationers was Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam -of Tzanz who, noting the situation, offered to find an outstanding husband for the daughter of Feivish Krumholz of our town. The young man, Meir Refoel Ziegler, infused the town with the Hassidic spirit. His sons and further progeny followed his course and turned the town into an outstanding center of Jewish life and learning. They sent their young sons to the large yeshivot and thus assured the continuity of scholarship in the family.

Yosef Friedenson


The great-grandson of Meir Refoel Ziegler, Rabbi Yehoshua Boimel was no more than 30 when the Holocaust put an end to his life, and he was probably the foremost young scholar among those who perished at the hands of Nazi Germany.

I recently received a copy of his major work, Emek Halacha, reprinted by his nephew, Rabbi Yosef Mordecai Boimel, once the head of the Crown Heights Yeshiva in Brooklyn and now a resident of Jerusalem. The new edition contains a biography of the remarkable young author.

Rabbi "Yehoshua'le", a favorite of the Lublin Rabbi, was a frequent visitor at our home, which served as the center and

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meeting place for scholars, writers and community leaders. He was the youngest among them, but his deep erudition gained him complete acceptance.

Emek Halacha is important not merely as a work of magnitude in the vast world of rabbinic literature. It is also an intimation of the tremendous intellectual powers which we lost in the Holocaust. To those of us who feel self-satisfied with the new generation they had reared, this work is also cause for repeating the saying, "When will my deeds equal those of my fathers

Yitzhak Hammer


Many have been the young men, in our Jewish world of yesterday, who were ordained to the rabbinate but, refusing to exploit the ordination as a source of livelihood, turned to other pursuits and became talmidei-hakhomim, lay scholars.

My grandfather, R. Shimon Englander, was one of them. He operated a Hebrew print shop, then erected a plant for light beverages and opened a fabrics shop, importing the merchandise from Vienna and Budapest. He was also musical and was' blessed with a fine voice. From his early youth to the end of his days he was the baal-mussaf in the Beth Hamidrash on the High Holydays.

A highly respected member of the community,, he served, on the panel of jurymen. In 1934 he left Nowy-Targ for Eretz-lsrael and settled in Haifa, where he plunged into activity on-behalf of the religious community, studying, writing. He completed, his Shaar Shimon, a commentary on the cabbalist work 'Brit Kehunat Olam. His handwriting was remarkably clear. In 1946, the print shop where the book was being prepared on Ben-Yehuda Street in Jerusalem was destroyed in the bombing incident, and for some time the manuscript remained unretrieved.

In the mid-1930's, when welfare institutions were few and Far from efficient, my grandfather organized Ateret Zekenim, to provide for the needs of the elderly scholars in Haifa. When he died, in 1950, thousands attended his funeral.

[Page 48]

Moshe Rand


The pious segment of the Jewish community in Nowy-Targ wrote much of its important history. The community gained much fame in the rabbinic world thanks to the numerous Torah scholars it produced.

One of these was the Chief Magistrate of the Religious Court, Rabbi Hayyim Dov Berish Storch. Although he did not come from a family of rabbis, he became a great scholar, and of his six daughters, five married rabbis.

The persons appointed to manage the religious life of the community were also fine lay scholars. My father, Arye Yitzhak Rand, served in this capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Community Council. Like all the progeny of the Kuznitz Maggid, he acquired knowledge very quickly. Our home was open to a constant flow of friends, neighbors, and townspeople in quest of advice or to consult with my father on community matters. I recall among them Asher Greenspan, Yaacov Schiff, Hayyim Fertig, Zeev Katz and our uncle, Avrohom Moshe Kopito.

We were a remarkable family. My mother, Devora, was a beautiful and wise woman, but death overtook her at the age of 42. We were seven children.

My brother Yosef, an auto-didact, wrote for Hatzefira under the pen name Wofsi. He was a delegate to one of the Zionist Congresses in Basel, representing the General Zionists. Much to our father's disapproval, he changed his hassidic velvet hat for modern headgear. When the Russians came into Polish Ukraine he was imprisoned and executed as a "kulak". My sisters "married well" and reared fine families, numbering scores of children. But only two of the Rand family survived the Holocaust.

Another such family was Lazarkewich. Of the 14 splendid children of Hanoch and Miriam, only two sons survived. This multibranched family, residing in various parts of Poland, met the same fate. Some managed to reach Eretz-lsrael via the Cyprus detention camps. The Lazarkewich home had always been a center of Zionist

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activity, and the children joined either "Hashomer Hatzair" or "Hashomer Hadati".


I hardly remember my mother and I was only 14 when my father lost his life in a plane accident in Italy. He had taken me across the border and placed me in a monastery in Czechoslovakia, on the eve of Yom Kippur in of one of the most horrible years of the Holocaust. "What will happen to the Jewish people will happen to the Jewish individual," he used to say; one fate for the people and the person.

Nowy-Targ is no more. My family is no more - only the memory.

Hannah Green-Gewirtz


Mama isn't home. This is one of the earliest recollections from my childhood days. Often, at night, I would call: "Mama !" and my father would come to my bed. "Quiet, quiet, little girl. Mama will be back right away." Such a good man, my father - patient, forgiving. At that moment Mama would be trudging in the snow to the doctor. A child in the Fink household is running a high fever. Would the doctor come, at night, in the snow ? Surely not, unless Madame Gewirtz would ask him, and Dr. Mek would put on his heavy overcoat, take his kitbag, and go with her to attend to the sick child.

A Jew was falsely accused of a crime. He was taken to court and sentenced to prison. Would Madame Gewirtz intercede with the town authorities ? She did, and the authorities yielded to her intelligence, her exquisite Polish speech, her very personality.

She had her daily work in the community, and she involved the entire family in it. I was "the provider". On Fridays, as soon as I came home from school I was given a parcel - challas, soap, meat - to take to Mrs. Sofer, in her home, past the cemetery. I used to run by, in great fear. "Do not be afraid," Mama would say.

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"People take to the cemetery only their good deeds." At times I would take similar parcels to the Christian hospital in town, for a Jewish patient who wouldn't eat treifa.

I remember what the Rabbi of Sokolow said, when I told him that my mother was one of the first to be murdered by the Nazis, in 1942 : "If such a righteous woman is put to death..." and his hands, outstretched toward the heavens, gave voice to what he had left unsaid.

She came to me in a dream when I was in the concentration camp. "Do not be afraid," she said. "They will not have power over you." That morning I was "selected" to die, but suddenly the condemned were assigned to hard labor, beatings. But I survived. My sister and I went back, but nothing was left except Mama's spirit, hovering in the air. We met Dr. Mek. He a Pole, had been released from Buchenwald. "I knew that I would survive," he said, "because of the good deeds I performed at Madame Gewirtz's request."

Sarah Kreis


In Memory of Moshe (Munek) Baldinger

He was about 15 or 16, dark, hawk-nosed and red-cheeked, employed in Singer's store, always courteous and ready to help. After a hard day's work, he would hurry to the "Akiva" clubhouse, to learn Hebrew.

A few months after the outbreak of the war I met him in Lemberg, then in the hands of the Russians. I helped him get across the border to Wilno. A thousand of us lived in a giant "kibbutz" on Sowoc Street, under terrible conditions made worse by the brutal winter. Muniek was on guard duty in the laundry room. The steaming heat, all night, drove him to the cool showers, regardless of the inevitable end. He was stricken with pneumonia. I went to see him - choking, feverish. His look beseeched me not to leave. He died the next day, and a black headstone was added to the others in the Wilno cemetery, a marker for a young soul on its way to EretzIsrael.

[Page 51]

David Goldberg


Ours was a large family, by modern standards - four brothers and three sisters, hard-working parents, My father, though a scholar, was also a liberal, and he carried on a constant debate with the zealots. My mother was the typical Jewish mother, dedicated to her children and siding with them against one and all. On the other hand, we had a hard time with her whenever we wanted to go on trips or picnics. When illness struck one of the children, the others were also affected, and my mother hovered about us, confident that she alone could pull us through.

One of my older sisters was paralyzed from the waist down since childhood, She loved books, and people who came to visit us brought her enough books to stack a library. In the 1930's, when my father lost all his savings, my sister ran the library on a commercial basis. A young Pole fell in love with her and was prepared to be converted to Judaism, but this was not to be. Then came the end for everyone: my father and older sister were shot by the Nazis. My mother and two sisters were put on a "transport" to a death camp, and died either on the way or in the Auschwitz crematoria.

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Dr. Zvi Hermann Kolber


Born in Crakow in 1891, Dr. Berthold (Baruch) Fass was graduated from the Jaglom University Law School. In the First World War he served in the Austrian army, attaining an officer's rank. In 1918, with the restoration of Polish sovereignty, he joined the Polish army, where he was elevated to the rank of Major.

As one of the organizers of Jewish self-defense in the area, he was arrested for possession of arms and treason, but was saved from execution thanks to the intercession of Jewish community leaders Dr. Yehoshua Thon and Advocate A.M. Hartglass.

In 1923, Dr. Fass married Anna Pollak of Zakopane and opened there an office for the practice of law, which rapidly gained an outstanding reputation in non-Jewish intellectual circles, as well. Despite the demand on his time, he was very active in the affairs of the Jewish community, organizing it and later serving as its deputy-chairman and chairman, He was instrumental in the erection of the Zakopane synagogue and the maintenance of its cemetery. When Polish economic anti-semitism threatened to wreck Jewish businesses in the town, he was one of the founders and directors of the Jewish Credit Cooperative. He was also very active in Zionist circles and contributed generously to Jewish national causes.

When the Second World War broke out, Dr. Fass and his family headed east toward "Little Poland", which had been taken by the Russians. In 1940 he was deported to a labor camp deep in Russia and died there in 1943. His wife and children went back to Poland after the war, and are now living in Israel.


Born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Kroshchenko, on the Dunaietz River, in 1885, Yosef Folkman was reared in a "heder" atmosphere. At the age of 15 he left home to work as a clerk in a distant village, where he exchanged lessons in Hebrew for ones in Latin with the village priest. Gradually he became a prototype of the Jewish intellectual.

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In 1910, having acquired knowledge in bookkeeping, he became the bookkeeper of the Jewish Credit Cooperative in Nowy-Targ. His free time went into intellectual pursuits, in the Jewish "Readers' Club" and general cultural circles. Politically he was inclined toward the Left, belonging to several such organizations, the "Bund" among them - but he liked to lecture on the Bible. He drew near to Zionism under the impact of Polish antisemitism, joined the General Zionists and placed at their disposal his consummate oratorical powers. For many years he headed the local branch of the Zionist Organization and the JNF. At the same time, he was a member of the City Council and a member of the Jewish Community Executive. His two sons, Zigmunt and Emil, were no less active.

Yosef Folkman died in 1937. His wife Amalia and son Emil lost their lives in the Holocaust. A daughter, Irena Marcus, settled in Ramat-Gan and died there several years ago. Zigmunt, a retiree from governmental service, lived in Ramat-Gan and died there several years ago.

Joel Braunfeld


Ours was a typical family, but if there was little of the unusual about it, the usual was so rich in content that one recalls with deep pain the fate of so many typical Jewish families at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.
Ours was a traditional home, My father knew and loved the Hebrew tongue, and he taught it as a volunteer, under the aegis of the local branch of the Zionist Organization. My parents owned a kosher pension (our town was a health resort), and my father also worked with my maternal grandfather in his noodles factory.
We were three brothers. The oldest, Yehuda, turned himself in when he learned that our parents were being held as hostages. At night he came to tell us good-bye and next morning he went to the Gestapo. He was shot in Zakopane; however, when six days later the Germans carried out the first roundup, my parents were among the victims. My younger brother and I were taken to Treblinka, and there he too perished.

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Of late, various breeds of antisernites have been attempting to challenge the validity of the Jewish losses in the Holocaust. This indicates, among others, that the story of the Holocaust is continuing to prey on the conscience of mankind, to the extent that the antisernites are worried about its effect, today and in the future.
This evaluation renders the Remembrance Books issued by the townspeople associations tremendously important, since they include not merely the statistics but also names, dates and places, furnished by the survivors, whose accounts are beyond challenge because of their similarity, although the events they describe took place in communities far apart.
This Remembrance Book too carries accounts of the Holocaust in deeply painful details provided by the survivors, whose sole comfort is that their contribution to the volume will help teach the world a lesson it must never forget.

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Dr. David Yacobovitz


Like most Jews in Poland, those in Nowy-Targ refused to believe that Hitler would dare attack Poland, in view of the guarantees given to the latter by France and England. No one seemed to realize that the guarantors didn't have the implements with which to make the guarantee stand up. The Jews preferred to believe General Ridj-Shmigli, the Polish Chief-of-Staff, when he boasted that the prowess of the Polish army would halt the Nazis in their tracks.

Nowy-Targ was in a precarious situation because, only six months earlier (March 1939), Slovakia had proclaimed its independence, under the aegis of Nazi Germany. Nowy-Targ's proximity to the border made it a prime, vulnerable target. And, indeed, the Germans entered Nowy-Targ on the first day of the war, as the Polish troops retreated in disorder, commandeering all the vehicles in the area and leaving the population stranded. With the roads clogged, the townspeople set out on foot across the fields. On Friday night they reached Mt. Turbach and spent the night in the sporting lodges. Faced with these difficulties, many decided to return to their homes, unaware that they would be sealing their own doom.
The first command issued by the Germans in Nowy-Targ was to open the shops. The Nazis broke into the homes of Jewish leaders and arrested 12 of them, under the pretext that they had fired on the Germans. The 12, among them Rabbi Nahum Horovitz, were sent to a concentration camp in Germany. Poles were also taken into custody but were later released. Of the 12, only Shlomo Keller survived, thanks to the efforts of his wife. Moshe Shturm of Cracow was similarly arrested. Some time later his wife received a package: her husband's suit, watch and ashes.

Organized Nazi activity began with the arrival of the infamous "Einsatz-Gruppe". This 2,700-man unit, commanded by S.S. General Bruno Starkenbach, was to execute Poles who had taken part in the referendum held in Silesia after the First World War and voted against Germany. But this objective soon gave way to a campaign

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to kill Jews, indiscriminately, pillage their homes and burn down their synagogues. Most of the 2,700 were university graduates.

Nowy-Targ was assigned to the Third Company, commanded by Dr. E. Hasselberger. Notorious as the most brutal in the group, the Third Company murdered 45 Jews in the Nowy-Targ area, before moving on to Jaroslav. On the way, more Jews were murdered in the villages.

Starkenbach was promoted to a high post in Berlin, then sent to the Russian front, where he was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes committed in Russia but returned in 1955 and enjoyed the immunity granted by the 10-year statute of limitations).

The First Decrees

All Jewish enterprises were taken over by a custodian. The larger ones were handed to the Poles who claimed German origins. The others were liquidated and their merchandize sent to Germany. All Jewish assets, business and personal, had to be declared.

Other measures were designed to denigrate the Jews. Every Jew above the age 10 had to wear an armband on his left sleeve with the Magen David on it. Every Jew and Jewess had the name "Israel" or "Sarah" added, in the town registry. Jews had to stay away from the squares and main streets. The men were to cut off their beards and earlocks. The Polish shops and stores were closed to them, forcing them to pay exorbitant prices for clandestine purchasing or to go to the villages for food. Bread was obtainable in one store, by ration cards. The Jews were forced to sell all their belongings to the Poles, at a fraction of their worth. On November 12 all the Jews were placed under the supervision of the Gestapo.

The Judenrat (Jewish Council)

The Germans conscripted the Jews to do the menial work in town - sanitation, snow removal, cleaning Nazi quarters -regardless of their physical condition. In order to regulate the forced labor, the Gestapo set up the Judenrat, a Jewish Council of 12 members. In time it was made responsible for other duties, such as collecting the ransom which the Germans imposed from time to time and acting as the link between the Gestapo and the town's Jewry. Meir Ginsberg was appointed chairman of the Judenrat, and he did his best to ease the plight of his people. Because Nowy-Targ had no closed ghetto, no Jewish police force (Ordnungsdienst) was set up

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"A Jewish Quarter"

The Germans wanted to clear the Podhala district of its Jewish population, and Nowy-Targ was selected as the site to which all Jews would be sent. The area allocated for the "Jewish Quarter'' was far too small to accommodate them, and the houses were bedraggled and neglected - a far cry from the homes which the Jews had to evacuate and which were quickly appropriated by the Poles.

By assigning the Jews to menial and degrading labor, the Nazis achieved their objective of breaking their morale, much to the delight of their neighbors. But soon the Nazis realized that by selling Jewish labor to the industrial enterprises in the area they could earn enormous sums. The Jews were ordered to organize themselves according to vocations and trades - sewing, feather plucking, brush manufacturing. This productive work filled the Jews with hope that they might weather the storm. The younger Jews were set to work in the peat bogs and saw mills, living in labor camps.

Next came the usual prohibitions: no kosher shechita, no practice of the legal profession, no bank accounts, no pensions, no attending movie houses, restaurants and public parks. In the "Reinhardt Roundup" (named after Heydrich, the murderer of Lidice), the Jews had to give up their remaining jewelry and ornaments, which they had been selling to the Poles to keep alive; their furs went to the front for the soldiers. The synagogue was converted into a silo and later into a movie theater.

The Jewish suffering was heightened by the behavior of the Poles. They brought up fictitious accusations against any Jew they wanted out of the way, and the Nazis sent the accused to the Palace Hotel in Zakopane, where they were tortured to death.

While there were no organized roundups of Jews in Nowy-Targ until 1942, the SS men had the right to kill on the spot any Jew who broke any of the decrees. The SS troopers stretched the law and killed Jews as they pleased. Weissmann, a tailor, and his family were murdered because they bore the same name as did the head of the Gestapo in Zakopane, Robert Weissmann. In all cases, the SS men reported to their superiors that they were eliminating elements dangerous to the Nazi regime...

The First Roundups

The situation worsened as Germany declared war on the United States (December 11, 1941) and no longer had to worry about the Jewish influence on the Administration.

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On January 20, 1942, Heydrich proposed at the "Wansa Conference" a final solution to the Jewish problem - the death camps. Until these were organized, the Nazis continued with the earlier procedure, breaking into Jewish homes, shooting the occupants, and assigning other Jews to cart the corpses away to the cemetery. On June 8 a squad of the murderers went into a feather plucking plant where many pious Jews, young and old were working. Provoked further by the traditional Jewish appearance of these laborers, the Nazis ordered them to walk in a procession to the cemetery. Many of them wrapped themselves up in their prayer shawls, knowing that these were their last moments. In the cemetery they were first beaten brutally then shot. Some were still alive when the earth covered them. Next came the turn of the grave-diggers.

The third roundup was of Jews charged with trading in foreign currency. They were taken to the SS cadet training school in Rabka and brutally murdered.

The first deportation took place early in the summer of 1942. About 100 Jews were shipped in boxcars to the BeIzetz death camp.

In July and August Robert Weissmann came to Nowy-Targ and personally directed the murder of the sick, the disabled and the elderly.

The Nazis worked according to lists, which they compiled with the help of the Poles. They knew that the wife of Rabbi Baumoel and her daughter were in the home of Marian Dralich. The Nazis forced the daughter to take her mother out into the yard, and shot the elderly woman. They broke into the home of Hananiah Gnevich, reputed to be a rich man, tore up the floor boards and smashed the furniture. On each of their visits, they murdered one or more members of the family - the two sons, the mother and the grandparents. Gnevich himself was sent to Zakopana and killed there.

All this time, more and more Jews were brought to Nowy-Targ from the neighboring towns and villages: Zakopane, Shchavnitza, Ohotnitza, Habubka, Mamanova, Manioba, Caminitza, Shaflari Hoholov. The congestion in Nowy-Targ became unbearable.

The Last Days

The Judenrat made known a Gestapo proclamation, that if the Jews paid a certain amount in ransom, they would not be deported. The Jews brought whatever they still had. Late in August, cattlecars arrived, ostensibly to take people to the Ukraine for a "new,

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productive life". Many Jews believed the story; they still thought that Germany would bring about law and order. Had they, as well as other Jews in the hundreds of thousands, known the fate awaiting them, they would not have allowed themselves to be herded into the transports. Because of the long distance from Belzetz, no survivors returned to Nowy-Targ to tell the true story.

On August 30, 1942, all the Jews in the town were ordered to report to the Pilsudski Stadium. A barrel was placed at the center of the field, and the Jews were ordered to drop in the last of their ornaments - heirlooms, rings, bracelets. Robert Weissmann ordered the non-workers to proceed to the left; he saw a mother and her child walking too slowly to his liking and he shot both of them (for these acts he was tried in court after the war, and the charged was dropped to aiding and abetting because of "insufficient evidence").

The young people - 600 of them - were sent to the labor camps; the others, including the members of the Judenrat and their families, were taken to the cemetery. There they were placed against the wall, and the Gestapo men went from one victim to the next, shooting them in the temple and pushing the bodies into a huge grave, dug earlier. Weissmann himself helped drag the bodies. Marian Dralich, who was there and later gave his testimony to the court in Freiburg, estimated the number of victims at 500-600. The only one to escape was David Grassgreen. Having leased land in the area, he knew about a hidden trail leading out of the cemetery, and managed to slip away, hide in the nearby forest, and make his way to Slovakia. After the war 'he return to Poland, only to be murdered by Polish rightists.

After the slaughter in the cemetery, the Germans gathered in their clubhouse and celebrated their victory over the Jews. One of them, Schmidt, boasted that on that day he had murdered "his 1,000th Jew". To celebrate the achievement, he wrote the number on the cork of a beer bottle and put it around his neck. Later Schmidt committed suicide.
All these facts were given by SS men in testimony in the post-war Freiburg trials.

The Jews of Nowy-Targ went to their death without a trace of hope, unlike their brethren a year later, who felt that, despite their own fate, the war was turning against the Nazis. In July-August 1943 the Russians scored a major victory near Kursk and went on

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a general offensive. The Allies landed in Sicily, Mussolini fell, and the Badoglio government surrendered to the Allies.
A year earlier, however, it seemed that all of Europe's Jews would be annihilated. Hitler was at the peak of his triumphs. Leningrad was under siege. The Nazis had launched a major offensive in the Caucasus. The fall of Stalingrad was to be the climax of victory.

No Jew of Nowy-Targ survived the Belzetz camp. Conditions in this camp are known from the writings of Rudolf Reder, in his two books published in Buenos Aires. Unlike the other camps, from which the inmates were sent out to do forced labor and therefore had some chance of escaping, Belzetz served only one purpose murder of Jews. The camp was surrounded 'by a fence charged with a high voltage of electricity, and there was no escaping from it. Since there were no survivors to testify, the prosecutor in the Eichmann trial could only read from a report on Belzetz, drawn up in 1944 for the U.S. Army by Gestapo Officer Gerstein, who had served in the camp.

In August, 1942, the camp was operating at full steam. Each day, three trains arrived - 60 boxcars with 100 people in each. Everyone was told to leave his clothes for safekeeping. The women were directed elsewhere, to have their hair shorn and put into sacks. Naked, they were forced to enter a building marked "Here is the Bathhouse and Inhalation". The stench coming from inside told the story. The SS men forced them, with canes and whips, to go into the six gas-chambers. The sick were taken in on stretchers.

It took about 25 minutes for each batch to be gassed to death. Other Jewish prisoners dragged the stiff corpses, in their upright position, to another spot, where they opened the mouths of the dead with prongs, separating the corpses into two piles - those with gold teeth and those without. Bodies were butchered in quest of money and other valuables. Since Belsetz had no crematoria, the bodies were cast into huge pits.

In 1943, sensing that their defeat was near, the Nazis closed the camp. The bodies were exhumed from the pits and burned by other Jewish prisoners, but enough bones remained scattered over the area to arouse the wrath of world opinion. In 1962, Meir Yacobovitz, head of the Cracow Jewish community, took a group of men with him to Belsetz, gathered huge mounds of bones, and buried them in a common grave.

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The Nowy-Targ Labor Camp

The 35 skilled workmen spared in the last roundup were ordered to build a camp, behind the railway station, surrounded by barbed wire, and to set up inside workshops for carpentry, plumbing, tinsmithing, shoemaking and sewing. All the Jewish belongings in the town were brought here for classification.

Already on the first day a truckload of clothing arrived, much of it bloodstained. The camp workers sorted them and recognized some of the attire worn by the murdered members of their families.

The classification was done by Gestapo men from Zakopane, who stole all the valuables they found. Things of little value were thrown on to the junk pile. The workers laundered and ironed the clothes before classifying them.

On one occasion, several workers were taken to the cemetery to uproot gravestones. They saw there an open pit and thought that they were to be its occupants. Later they learned that the real victims were the "Gurales", descendants of Jewish converts in past generations. The Germans had thought that the Gurales - sturdy and Aryan in appearance -came from some pure German stock. When they discovered the truth, they proceeded to murder them, as well, overlooking the fact that many Gurales were staunch antisemites (their leader, Watzlav Casheftovski, a notorious antisemite, was later killed by the Polish underground, Armeia Krajowa).

The camp continued functioning until a Gestapo group came from the Plashov camp and, without asking permission from headquarters, took the 35 workers to Plashov, as they did with the Jews working in the Nowy-Targ sawmills.

The Nowy-Targ Townspeople in the Plashov Camp

The Plashov camp, during this period, was a vast concentration compound (200 units, 40 observation towers, surrounded with 4 kilometers of barbed wire). The inmates worked inside the camp -Jr in various enterprises around Cracow.
The food was poor - a watery soup and a small slice of bread. Any work not done well was considered an act of sabotage. Inmates were shot for not taking off their hats in front of an overseer or for pausing at work. The slightest misdemeanor was punished by public flogging. From time to time the old and the weak and those stricken with typhoid, a very prevalent disease, were taken away and liquidated. Since Flashov had no gas chambers, the

[Page 63]

accumulated corpses numbered into the thousands, in 8 huge graves. Among them there were found to be several from Nowy-Targ. When the Russian front moved closer toward Cracow, in the summer of 1944, the Germans closed the camp and sent its inmates to camps in the west; the Nowy-Targ people went to Gross-Rosen. Many perished on the way.
Of the 335 Nowy-Targ townspeople selected for the labor camps, only a handful survived, estimated at 3% of the town's Jewish population.

Why the Total Annihilation of Nowy-Targ's Jews?

In the roundup of Nowy-Targ's Jews, including some from surrounding villages, there perished almost 1,000 persons, in the town itself; another 2,200 were deported to Belsetz, so that the percentage of survivors was below the national average. The reasons for their failure to make a stand against their enemies were spelled out at the Eichmann trial, as being the following

1. Physical exhaustion and mental stress.
2. Apathy and lack of a desire to go on living in utter misery.
3. Collective responsibility, in which the escape or resistance by one member the family endangered the others.
4. Fear of the brutal tortures inflicted on those caught escaping.
5. Poor prospects of finding shelter elsewhere, due to the inimical attitude of most Poles.
As far as Nowy-Targ was concerned, there were additional local reasons.

In neighboring Vadovitza, for example, 10% of its Jews saved themselves. The town was annexed by the Third Reich early in the war. When the German factories lost their workers to the German army, many Vadovitza Jews were sent to work in Silesia and the Sudetenland and escaped the atrocious roundups. The Jew in NowyTarg had no such opportunity.
Moreover, the Podhala District had no major plants or heavy industry, so that there was no need for workers, who would have enjoyed certain benefits. Also, Nowy-Targ had no closed ghetto as did other localities, where the Germans organized the ghettos as production centers for the German economy. But the outstanding reason was that no word reached Nowy-Targ Jewry from the death

[Page 64]

camps, and it continued to believe the Gestapo tales about transfer to the Ukraine.

Nor would it have helped the Nowy-Targ Jews to have obtained documents testifying to their "Aryan" origins and thus enabling them to leave the area. Podhala's Polish inhabitants were permeated with antisemitism, and it was hopeless to expect that they would provide escaping Jews with food and shelter. To seal the fate of the Jews, the area was infested with Poles belonging to the Armeia Krajowa underground, which fought the Germans but also made it its business to murder Jews, without bothering to hand them over to the Nazis.

The Jews in Yordanov and Makov didn't put any faith in the Gestapo stories. Realizing that "deportation" meant death, 200 eluded the roundup. Still, only a few survived; the peasants in the area avidly informed the Gestapo of their hiding places, after having extorted bribes in return for the promise not to do so...

Destruction of the Nowy-Targ Jewish Cemetery

The Jewish cemetery, on the road to the village of Gronov, was in existence for many centuries, according to the inscriptions on the tombstones. The ordinary stones were used by the Nazis in building an airstrip nearby, and the smooth granite and marble stones were shipped to Rabka for sidewalks and for paving the plaza in front of the St. Theresa Theological Seminary, which the Nazis converted into an SS cadet training school. After the war the Jews made desperate efforts to retrieve the tombstones, but only a comparative few were rescued. These were used to cover the mass grave of the Jews in the forest near the school.

There are eight mass graves in the Nowy-Targ cemetery, which the Polish authorities subsequently surrounded with a wire fence. Only a small tablet tells the story of the horrors which took place there. The local Jewish Council, set up after the war, was to have built an adequate monument, but its chairman and other Jews were murdered by the Poles, and no Jews were left in Nowy-Targ.


Right after the Nazi takeover, Zakopane was turned into art entertainment spot for senior officers of the Gestapo and the German army. The director of the GeneraIgubernement bureau, Dr. Waechter, ordered the town cleared of all Jews. This was done by the end

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of November, 1939, but two years later (according to the Ben-Ami report on the activities of the Zakopane Judenrat) 47 Jews were still in the area. The Nazis had set them to work uncovering hidden Jewish "treasures" in the town.

The Palace Hotel Headquarters

Zakopane's largest hotel, the Palace, was converted into the headquarters of the Gestapo. Part of it served as the "labor bureau", whence Jews were dispatched to forced labor. Its cellar served as the torture chamber and prison for Jews accused of disobeying the Nazi laws. The main hall of the first floor was reserved for dances and entertainment of the Nazi officers. and often the shrieks of the tortures mingled with the music of the orchestra. When the entertainment did not suffice, the Nazis would drag Jews out from the cellar prison, particularly mothers and their children, and beat them to death. Witnesses at the Freiburg trials estimated the number of the slain at 300.

The local populace gave the hotel a new name, the Death's Head Resort.

The Stuag Labor Camp

Immediately after the Nazi invasion, young Jews from NowyTarg were sent to work in the stone quarry of the Stuag concern, breaking huge stones into gravel. The working conditions were the worst imaginable, eroding the labor force to the point that fresh young workers kept being sent in, from Nowy-Targ, Yordanov, Limanova, Mishane Dolne, Shchavnitza, Ohotnitza. Salptza, plus reinforcements from the Plashov camp. The heads of the Judenrat didwhatever they could to ease these conditions.

David Ernst and Yitzhak Spitz managed to escape from the quarry, thanks to a Polish friend, Josef Guzik, who had worked with them before the deportation in the print shop owned by David's father, Robert Ernst. They sent him a message, through an unknown woman, asking him to be at a certain spot in the camp, at a set time. When they met they asked him to arrange with a friendly Pole in Cracow for a hiding place. Guzik fulfilled the mission, and several of the laborers were able to escape. Josef Guzik is now a clergyman in Poland.

The Court Verdict

The trial of Robert Weissmann, head of the Gestapo staff in Zakopane, and his aide Richard Samish, was held before a jury in

[Page 66]

Freiburg and lasted five months. Many of the prosecution witnesses fainted in the course of the proceedings, as they gave detailed testimony of the murderer's crimes. Weissmann was sentenced to 7 years in prison for having taken part in the murder of Ill Jews.

The court ruled that every Nazi was personally and individually responsible for his deeds. It rejected the argument of the accused that they had been forced to do what they did as a matter of discipline. The court further said that there had been no pressure on the accused; they had simply acted as beasts and savages.

A local newspaper, Badische Zeitung, noted the efforts made by the court to bring the Murderers to justice and to impress the community at large with the collective shame which it should bear.


Rabka was known throughout Poland as a health spot for people suffering from cardiac ailments and hereditary diseases. Its pre-war Jewish population consisted of 600 souls. When the war broke out they fled eastward. When they returned, they found that their homes had been robbed. At the end of 1939 they were set to work in menial jobs, cleaning public buildings and latrines.

In 1940 the SS converted the children's camp into an academy for its "cadets". As the number of the latter increased, the institution was transferred to St. Theresa's Church; the lot next to it became a shooting range.

No one except the cadets and their teachers was allowed inside the building; even the cleaning and laundry was done by the students. Jews were brought in and quartered in four shacks surrounded by barbed wire. Their job was to keep the outside premises clean and do outdoor work, such as unloading coal at the railway station and carting it to the school, building a road to the school, paving the plaza with marble and granite tombstones taken from the Jewish cemetery in Nowy-Targ. The work had to be done quickly; anyone failing to keep up with the others was beaten severely. The beatings were the favorite sport of Commandant Wilhelm Rosenbaum.

The Roundups of Rabka's Jews

In May, 1942 all the Jews of Rabka and those who had come there for safety from Cracow and elsewhere were ordered to gather in the school yard. Rosenbaum drew up lists, which later served

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to select the Jews scheduled for slaughter. Witnesses place the number of the murdered at 300, 46 of them from Nowy-Sunch. They were taken into the forest, to huge pits, ordered to disrobe and seat themselves at the edge of the pit, facing it. The Nazis, at an order by Rosenbaum, turned machine guns on them. Mothers who begged that their children be spared saw them murdered, and the guns were then turned on the mothers.

The Rabka Town Clerk, Cheslav Triboski, was told to register the deaths as "victims of heart attack".
The last of Rabka's Jews were liquidated in August Rosenbaum checked off their names as they climbed aboard the boxcars to their destination of -death.

Roundups in the Forest Near the Cadet Academy

The idea of executing Jews in the forest near the SS Academy appealed to the Gestapo: for the cadets it was good practice. All forms of murder were used - shooting, hanging, beatings. Thirty such roundups were held in this forest, and the victims came from all over the area. Among them was a group of 60 Jews from Nowy-Sunch, dispatched by the notorious Ubersturmfuehrer Heinrich Hamann, known for his murder of 881 Jews in nearby Mishana Dolne. The arrivals brought Scrolls of the Law with them. They were told to walk to the forest and, on the way, cut the scrolls into shreds. They fell into the pit crying "Shema Yisrael".

The determination of the Jews to adhere to the tradition of uninterrupted Torah study is described by Mordecai Zanin in his hook "Boundaries to the Heavens". He tells about a yeshiva headmaster and his students who fled toward Russian territory. On reaching the Bug River, they and the author had to wait several days in the home of a Christian farmer before they could cross.

As soon as they entered the farmer's home, the headmaster told the students to take out the Talmud tomes from their valises and to go on with their studies. It was a strange sight - the young men in their traditional clothes, sitting on the floor of a room whose walls were hung with icons and church objects, and raising their voices in the Talmudic melody. When it was found that the crossing point was under patrol surveillance, the young men went back to their studies.
After the war (1967) Wilhelm Rosenbaum and Heinrich Hamann were sentenced to life imprisonment.

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