|Administrative area of Krosno since 1945|
Osiek Jasielski, Poland
(District of Jaslo, region of Krakow)
(Osiek is located East of Krakow, south of Jaslo and north
of Nowy Zmigrod. The place is officially called Osiek Jasielski)
Osiek Jasielski Galicia, Poland
by William Leibner, Jerusalem
The hamlet Osiek, or Osiek Jasielski, as it is called in official documents, is located south of Jaslo and north of Nowy Zmigrod, Galicia, Poland. The Jews called the hamlet Osiek. There is another village of Osiek but it is located near Baranow in another region of Poland. This second Osiek also had a small Jewish population. We are concerned with the first hamlet called Osiek Jasielski.
We do not know the precise historical beginning of Osiek Jasielski, but it is mentioned for the first time as a village administered under the Magdenburg law. It formed part of the royal estate of the Polish Kings since 1365 and was granted the status of city already in 1502. In those days, it was an important place since it was strategically located along a commercial route that led across the Carpathian Mountains to Pressburg, or presentday Bratislawa, and Central Europe. A flourishing wine trade existed along this road that provided Poland with Hungarian wines. The fortunes of Osiek declined with the building of modern roads, and the appearance of the railways practically demolished the economy of the region, for it was much cheaper to ship wines or other products via rail instead of horsedrawn coaches. Osiek Jasielski never recovered from the economic blow and continued to decline economically; it even lost its municipal status. During the 19th and 20th centuries, it became well known for its horse fairs.
We do not know when the first Jewish families settled in Osiek, but in 1785 there were 9 Jewish families and in 1824 there were 31 Jews in Osiek. In the second half of the 19th century, there was already a Jewish population of 50 families.
The nearby Jewish community of Zmigrod provided the religious needs of the early Jewish inhabitants including burial services. Eventually, the Jewish population organized a small kehilla that built a synagogue and a mikvah. The community even brought a rabbi, namely Rabbi Aaron Halbershtam, the oldest son of the Zmigroder Rabbi Sinai Halberstam, to administer the spiritual needs of the hamlet. The Jewish population consisted mainly of peddlers, small businessmen, artisans, farmers and horse dealers. Jews began to leave Osiek prior to World War I in search of economic opportunities. Ten to twenty Jewish families left the place between 1900 and 1921, some moved to bigger places and some left during World War One. The Russian army occupied Osiek and the Russian Cossaks had a field day in robbing Jewish stores and homes. The Jewish community was pauperized.
The exodus continued during the war since the area was the scene of bitter fighting for control of the mountain passes. Few of the families that left returned to Osiek. The Jewish population continued to decline and sought better economic opportunities elsewhere. The Jewish population was basically very Orthodox, although there were some Zionist activities following World War One, especially among the Jewish youth. The Zionist activities became more widespread with the opening of a branch of the youth movement Hanoar Hatzioni in 1933 that attracted 40 youngsters. For the Zionist elections in 1935, the movement managed to sell 43 shekalim that entitled the purchasers to vote for delegates to the International Zionist Congress. The voters gave 42 votes to the list of the Palestinian working party and one vote to the General Zionist movement. In the local rural elections of 1939 in Osiek, four Jewish members were elected to the rural council that consisted of 20 members.
The local Christian population was very antiSemitic and made life difficult for the Jews. Jewish children were harassed in the local public school; their peyot, or earlocks, were clipped or they were forced to kneel not far from a cross. During the antikosher slaughter campaign in Poland, the local authorities cancelled the license of the only Jewish kosher butcher shop in Osiek in 1937. Osiek accepted with joy the ban on ritual slaughter that closed the only kosher butcher shop in the hamlet. Thus, the Jews had to bring kosher meat from other places. The Jewish economic situation was very poor and the community could barely afford to maintain a rabbi. Rabbi Aaron Halberstam became rabbi of Zmigrod and Osiek. According to the Polish researcher, Andzej Potocki, the Jewish population of Osiek numbered about 300 souls in 1939.
The Germans occupied the hamlet and started to issue antiJewish orders, namely limiting Jewish mobility to the village itself. Jews were then forced to wear armbands. Their economic situation worsened from day to day. A branch of the J.S.S. (Jewish SelfHelp) was activated that distributed warm meals to the needy and tended to the sick.
The German economic measures against the Jews hardened as the war progressed. The Jewish families were being pauperized while the German demands kept increasing. More Jewish forced laborers, more financial impositions and more edicts against the Jews. Then suddenly, Jews were being forced to leave Osiek Jasielski for Zmigrod, the nearby Jewish community. The process repeated itself several times until all the Jews of Osiek Jasielski and surrounding villages were driven to the ghetto of Zmigrod in the summer of 1942. The Jewish community of Osiek ceased to exist and became part of the Zmigrod Jewish community. This community would also soon disappear. Meanwhile conditions in Zmigrod became very crowded with the arrival of the Jews from the villages surrounding Zmigrod. Most of these Jews were not permitted to take with them but a few items. They arrived empty handed. The community organized help to provide these poor refuges with some basic necessities. The economic situation was hopeless. The younger Jews took on jobs but the elderly refugees were starving of hunger and disease. All the Jews in Zmigrod now shared the same fate. They will all march to the selection place at Bal's meadow and most of them would then be sent to Halbow where they would be murdered.
|The Halbow forest near Zmigrod where most of the Jews of Zmigrod and Osiek would be murdered|
|The grave site of the Zmigroder and Osieker Jews
killed on July 7, 1942 at Halbow near Zmigrod
Born in 1928 in the Village Of Osiek
|A page of the original text in Yiddish|
The village of Osiek Jasielski is located on the outskirts of Zmigrod and was always part of the Jewish community of that township. We don't know the date of the testimony, although we assume that it was written some time after the war. The document was written in Yiddish. We don't know the specific date when the Jews of the village of Osiek were transferred to Zmigrod. We assume that it occurred in several phases, and by the summer of 1942 there were no more Jews in Osiek.
The Germans entered our village between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (year?). Until 1941, when Germany attacked Russia, conditions remained somewhat calm. Then the Germans began to push the Jews out of Osiek and by July 1942, there were no Jews in Osiek. The Jews of Osiek were forced to enter the ghetto of Zmigrod. The two Jewish communities would now face the same fate.
On the 22nd day of the Jewish month of Tammuz, or the 7th of July, 1942, the Germans ordered all the Jews of Zmigrod (that included the Jews of Osiek and from all the surrounding villages and hamlets), to assemble at Bal's meadow in Zmigrod. Men, women and children were given identity cards which were already premarked. The young and able were marked for survival while the others were to be killed. They lined us up in a row in the big square below the town. The place was big and it was used to feed the animals. The older people and the small children were pulled from the rows and pushed in the direction of the waiting trucks guarded by the SS men. The latter bullied these people into the trucks which drove them to the
|The meadow or Bal's place on the outskirts of Zmigrod where the big selection took place on July 7, 1942|
forest of Halbow where they were lined up and killed. The small children up to the age of ten were killed with sticks. Each row of dead people would be covered with a layer of chalk and chlorine, then followed by another row of dead people. Thus layer followed layer; many people were only wounded or bruised but were nevertheless crushed or asphyxiated by the succeeding falling bodies. This process continued until the last truck with Jews arrived from Zmigrod. Then the Germans covered the pit with a thick coat of chalk, chlorine and then sand. Thus were killed about 1,650 Jews of Zmigrod and vicinity, as well as Jews from Krosno, Lodz and Krakow (Andzej Potocki, Polish researcher in the area, estimates that 1,257 Jews were killed at Halbow. The figure ranges from 1,650 to 1,200, depending on the witness).
The 450 survivors were asked to make a contribution of 100,000 zlotys (Polish currency) or they too would be shot. A collection was made and the sum was presented by the head of the Judenrat or Jewish community, Hersh Eisenberg, to the German Gestapo chief, Genz from Jaslo. The latter demanded more money as an excuse to get rid of the Judenrat head. Eisenberg informed the German that the people were broke and had no more money left.
The latter took Eisenberg and led him to the place where the selection had just taken place and ordered the SS men to work him over. They did their work with relish and blinded Hersh Eisenberg. His body was tossed onto one of the trucks and they dumped beer barrels on his body until he was killed.
All the survivors witnessed this brutal murder. His body was then driven out and buried with the rest of the Jewish community at the forest of Halbow. The entire action lasted from 6 A.M. until about 2 P.M. Two weeks later, all men were called to the same square and those aged 1640 were sent to the death camp of Plaszow near Krakow. Two to three weeks later, the Germans surrounded the town and took all the Jews and sent them to the Belzec death camp.
My friend Yossi Kalb and myself escaped from Zmigrod the night before the final action. We wandered throughout the country until we reached the wooded areas where we met other Jews. Soon our group consisted of about 7080 men. I was then about 13 years old. We remained with this partisan group for about six months. Then we were sent on a patrol to scout the area. Yossi Kalb and myself proceeded with our task and at some point left the forest. We were spotted by Polish policemen who surrounded us and took us prisoner. They removed our belts and shoelaces and took us to the village of Swardzik. Here they tied us and put us onto a horsedrawn carriage that took us to Zmigrod.
The interrogations began immediately as to the whereabouts of the Jews in the forest. The interrogations and the tortures continued daily. We received daily about 50 grams of bread, some black coffee and some soup. This stay lasted about seven weeks. We didn't reveal the location of the partisan group and they decided to send us to the Jaslo police prison.
The Gestapo took over our case and tortured us daily.
At the prison, we met other Jews from our group in the forest. They told us that the entire partisan group was eliminated; some were killed in battle, others wounded and still others taken prisoner. The daily beatings, tortures and interrogations lasted for several weeks and then they stopped. Most of us were sent to the Ostbahn camp in Krakow, where I remained about 23 months. We were about 250 Jews divided into groups of four. Each group loaded four car loads of stones a day. The stones weighed between 1050 kilograms. The pace of work was very fast and we were hardly fed. The exhaustion rate was alarming. The weak or sick workers were soon sent to Ghetto B in Krakow where they were shot. My turn soon came and I too was sent to this ghetto but I managed to escape. I wandered in town without papers for several days and returned to camp with one of the labor brigades that returned at night to camp Julek I in Krakow. Here, I met an acquaintance who introduced me to the SS commander of the base, named Miller. He gave me a job that lasted 14 days. I was then sent on a special work detail under the command of Kraus. We worked on the rail lines and built a bridge which still stands. We received a kilo of bread per week and some cabbage soup. I worked for several months until I became infected with typhus. I was too weak to work and rested. I was caught and received 25 lashes with a leather whip for each day that I was absent. The beatings were administered by Jewish kapos. They then sent me to the death camp of Plaszow.
At the camp, I was assigned to a work gang that laid rails. Each crew of four people carried rails weighing about 300 kilos. We finished the rail work; then we were assigned to build barracks. We formed a formation and marched in the direction of the work site. At the gate stood an SS man named Krakow, and he told me to step aside. I was lined up with the weak and sick workers. We were about 60 Jews and the day was Yom Kippur [the holiest day in Judaism]. We were led to the famous hill called Huyawa Gurka. Or cursed hill We were always threatened with the name but we never saw it. Now the black Ukrainians (Ukrainian guards wearing black uniforms) assisted by Jewish kapos like Finkelstein who was later shot trying to escape and Kerner who was arrested after the war and sent to a Krakow Polish prison. On the hill, already stood Amon Goeth, sadistic commander of Plaszow, and Wahn. They told us to undress and proceed to the other side of the hill.
While the group undressed, I escaped and ran in the direction of the camp while bullets chased me. I was lucky, I entered the camp. One day later, Finkelstein appeared at 1 or 2 P.M. and called my name. He led me to the room of the kapos where Wahn waited for me. They tied my hands and feet to a bench and gave me 75 lashes. They used 910 buckets of cold water to keep me alive since I kept passing out. I managed to return to my barrack where I remained for one month without being able to sit or lay on my back. I then saw Dr. Gross, a Jew, and asked for an exemption from work. He chased me out of the office and threatened to send me to the Hill. I refused to work and hid under the sleeping shelf in the barrack that accommodated many sleepers. Once, I even saw SS men searching the area for people to fill their quota for the killing list, but I was well hidden. I had been told that there would be an action and took the necessary precaution. Wahn walked about with his dog and his pistol but didn't get me.
Shortly thereafter, I heard that a work group was forming of 210 men for work at the enamel factory in Krakow. I went to register but the Jewish camp leader, Hilewicz, refused to accept me since I was on the death list. I stepped aside, waited until he left, then presented myself again and was accepted.
We left the camp and headed to the factory where I rested 14 days. When I arrived at the factory I was a musulman, a candidate for the cemetery. The rest enabled me to recuperate. I then started to work on plane parts and regained my strength. That enabled me to survive the war. We were about 1,100 Jews and conditions were very good. I worked there about 89 months. Later in 1944, I returned to Plaszow where I remained four weeks. I was then assigned to a work group that went to the quarry in Bierzanow near Krakow. Meanwhile, we heard that the Plaszow camp was closed (about December 1944).
We were soon sent to Germany in a boxcar that contained 110 bodies. We traveled three days and on the fourth day arrived in Shachwitz near Dresden. More than half of the inmates were sick and the other ones had fainted. We were immediately sent to work and many died of typhus and related diseases. The weak inmates were sent by rail to Leitmeritz near Prague, in Czechoslovakia; the healthy ones marched for two weeks until we reached the camp. Many marchers, especially weak ones, were shot along the way or killed in wooded areas. We arrived at Leitmeritz and were ushered into the barrack like a bunch of sheep. We fell one on top of each other and remained there for eight days. Then we were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp to be killed. The Jewish leadership bribed the SS commander of the camp and he sent all the SS men to the front, which gave him free rein in the camp. The Swiss Jews promised him that on their liberation they would take him, his wife and children to Switzerland. Indeed, following the liberation of the camp, they fulfilled their promise.
Thanks to this arrangement, we survived until May 9, 1945, when the area was liberated by the Russian army. On May 8, 1945, the camp was shelled and fired upon by a unit of retreating German soldiers. Many Jews were killed by the fire but the Germans didn't enter the camp. We were finally free and many inmates went on a food binge, which caused many of them to become sick and even to die. We were issued weapons by the Russian army and I took my revenge on the Germans. My vengeance, however, did not pacify me, for my pain was deep. My entire people, my entire family parents, sisters and brothers consisting of about 80 people were killed. I was a sole survivor, a total orphan since the age of 13. I am now aged 18.
A copy of the testimony was given to me by Shimon Lang of Zmigrod who was a friend of Shmuel Rosenhan. I translated it from the Yiddish script to English.
Below is a partial list of Osieker Jews that we managed to obtain from Yad Vashem files
and from the
list of residents in Plaszow labor camp and from interviews with Jewish survivors, including Shimon Lang
|YA||Yad Vashem Testimony|
|JSS||Jewish self help|
|P||Personal research, letters, family interviews|
|JG||JewishGen list of Zmigrod|
|Family name||First name(s)||Maiden name||Birth
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