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[Page 355]

Polish Murderers

by A. Almoni

Translated by Tina Lunson

After suffering hunger and receiving beatings from the Polacks, a few organized themselves in a group of twelve and decided to run away to the forest. One dark night they hid in a nearby forest with a group of Jews from Kelts. Some peasants from the village Maykov who knew about them attacked them and captured eight of them; the others got away.

While I was at work in the “shtshetnitse” a Polack from the village “Maykov” came and told the German guards that he had caught four Jews, but the business would only give him one kilo of sugar for each one. If the guards would pay more he would bring them more. An hour later he brought another four Jews and turned them over, since the others had fled. The Jews were promptly shot. Before their deaths they had screamed out to us to avenge the spilling of their innocent blood.

Those shot were: Khayim Shotland, Bernard Koen, M. Zoberman. We did not know the name of the fourth man.

Among the great persecutors at shop “C” were Shpadlo who had thousands of victims on his conscience; Vaytshik and Shevtshuk, who helped the German murderers may their names be blotted out to kill six thirty–six thousand Jews who were killed in Skarzshiske Osob and especially at workshop “C”.

There were another several hundred Polacks who tortured Jewish victims. On the bus was a horrible murderer who had many Jewish victims on his conscience. His name is Kotlenga Alshavi.


A People is Murdered – Marcel Yanka


[Page 368]

The Maker of Aryan Papers

by Berish Brikman

Translated by Tina Lunson

After the big deportation of Ostrovtse Jews on the 10th of October, 1942, the remaining Jews, the workers, the “legals” and also those without workplaces, the “illegals”, were taken to a small area near the cemetery where a residence had been designated for them. Also those who had hidden in the town during the deportation and later returned to the Jewish ghetto. The conditions there were inhumane: ten to twenty people to a small room. The filth in that area had grown high and it was enough for the snow to melt a little and the whole ghetto was transformed into one big heap of mud and excrement. Because of the sanitary conditions there some cases of typhus illnesses had already begun to appear and there was real danger of an epidemic.

The ghetto was guarded by Polish policemen who frequently showed their “sympathy” for the unfortunate Jews by shooting without warning into the fence where a Jew was trying to buy a loaf of bread for money or to barter for some edible item. More than one Jew was shot running through the narrow path to buy food in the Polish shop. Such victims fell regularly.

They snatched up young people for work who had just come from their shift of eight or ten hours of hard labor, and the Ukrainians at the factory forced them to go on another ten or more hours loading wagons with iron or coal. People who had slept only through the night shift were dragged from bed to clean the courtyard or carry water for the Jewish police.

Turmoil seized the whole ghetto when it became known that an S.S.–man or gendarme was coming in. Everything was hidden within one minute. One could only hear the wild barking of the S.S.–man's dog, which had more than once sought the taste of Jewish blood… After they left, there were fresh decrees: they were looking for partisans and weapons. They brought out Jews to shoot. Every couple of days they openly shot a few Jews against the cemetery wall.

And over the quickly knocked–together fence of lathing and broken doors from former Jewish houses, which vividly reflected the huge extermination, one could clearly see the free world, the fine winter days, Polish passers–by dressed for a holiday, with gift packages for Christmas eve. Everyone was drawn to that freedom. The decision grew and festered: Not to stay any longer, not just look at the public. Let come what may! As the situation got tighter, all the more the urge and resolve grew to get out. People sought various ways to get false Aryan papers, which were called “;ognieshkies”. How they came to have that name was not known. It is a familiar Polish girl's name. In any case a Jewish girl who went over to the Aryan side named them “;ognieshkies” and from then on the name stuck.

The “ognieshkies” proved to be very effective. When they took Poles to work in Germany, many Jews with those papers smuggled themselves to Germany as Aryans.

The “maker” of those papers was a boy of 17, on whom lay the burden of supporting a family. He did his work very often at the risk of his life. He would go late at night – often in the company of a Jewish adjutant – over to an officer of the local magistrate to stamp the photographs he had brought with him onto the Aryan identification cards. The “maker” filled out the identification card as desired and replicated the signatures.

He was not the only one. Each person who wanted to go over to the Aryan side had to create such a false piece of paper for each case and so it became quite popular.

On the 15th of August 1943 the foreseen event took place: The second deportation. Many people, first of all the “illegals”, those who did not have work assignments, were sent for extermination to Treblinka. Youths who jumped off the trains and came back to the ghetto related the gruesome experience of those who were driven to their “last road”.

In the ghetto the workers were disgusted. Their urge to get our to the Aryan side grew stronger. It was the main theme the occupied each person in the ghetto.

Many people began to go over to the Aryan side; but many returned after a few days, pale, weary, with horrible reports.

They said that they were blackmailed on the outside. There were many traitors going around. One person related that near the exit gate, a Polish policeman demanded 5,000 zlotych from a girl. Another said further that, when the police recognized a Jewish girl in the passage–camp among those traveling to Germany he promptly shot her. All these reports held many people back from setting out, but a large number did not look at all that and held to their old decision, out, whatever may happen. And they went out into the dark night in search of rescue.

Despite the large number of “ognieshkies” holders a very small number seemed to leave and a very negligible number stayed out. Life was hard in the ghetto and hard on the outside.

The day arrived for the liquidation of the ghetto. On a certain early morning they – including Ukrainians – deported the people to the barracks. There they lived in an enclosure with guard towers with armed Ukrainians looking down on them. The“ognieshkies” maker was not among the prisoners. He had left with a group of Zionist youths to fight in the Warszawa ghetto. As we later realized, that group of young men and women from Ostrovtse excelled in the fight for the honor of the Jewish people in the Warszawa ghetto uprising.

The imprisonment of the remnants of Ostrovtse in the barracks began a second chapter of troubles for those few remaining Jews…


An S.S.–man tortures an old Jewish woman


[Page 369]

In a German forced labor camp as a Christian

by Helena Pirkawska

Chaya Rosenberg from the Mill

Translated by the Trinquart family

My name is Chaya Rosenberg. My parents' names were Shimon and Dina. We had a flour mill at 18 Mlynska Street, Ostrowiec, Poland.

When the war broke out and that cruel and bitter day was determined that all Jews were to die, I was issued my Aryan papers under the name Helena Pirkawska. With these Aryan documents, I often left the ghetto, and I was able to buy bread for my family, as well as for other poor Jews who were in the ghetto.

One day before they sent the Jews out of the city, I wandered around as an Aryan and for 15 days I wandered without knowing what to do with myself. I traveled from one city to another city without any clear purpose. Until one day the Gestapo caught me in the cellar, and I was sent to a forced labor camp in Germany.

When I got to Germany, we were sent to stay at the Brandenburg school, and the next day everyone was assigned a different kind of work. I had to sew new trousers. To my great joy, I met a Jewish girl from Lodz there. We worked 10 hours a day under the tight supervision of the SS.

Shortly thereafter, we were all taken from the camp and sent to a tank factory. In this factory, we worked 12 hour shifts, night or day. In this camp, 6,000 foreigners from all nationalities worked. Every nation was in an isolated compound surrounded by barbed wire. There were also many prisoners of war. Our salvation was to eat 100 grams of bread and a pint of watery soup per day.

You can imagine how great my fear was, a Jewish child who might be found among so many gentiles. I was very scared that I would speak a word of Yiddish while sleeping, and then SS would appear immediately.

When we were back from work broken and crushed, the gentiles used to “bark” at the Jews. It was a hard and terrible task for the Jews to stay alive. I suffered both physically and morally. I did not know what my future held, and I did not believe that there would be an end to this suffering.

On May 8, 1945, we were liberated by the Russians. They took us out of the camp and we settled with their entire army. They planned to send us to work in Siberia. Later, they assigned us to a French transport, and so I arrived in France. I suffered greatly because I did not know the language, and everything was foreign to me.

I lived in France for many years and then moved to Argentina. In all the countries where I traveled, I didn't feel any warmth. More and more, I felt that my precious home was gone forever.

Today I live In Israel with my son, who came to volunteer to our country. He's a military man and this is my greatest compensation for the hardest things I've been through in my life.


A woman doing forced labor


[Page 370]

A Letter to My Sister

Written while hiding in a ditch

by Shammai Kudlowicz

Translated by Pamela Russ

With blood, tears, pain, and rage,
Let it remain in your memory forever
Wherever you will go or travel.

I hope that I will never be separate from you
Always share in pain and in joy,
On 11th of Iyar a rage came pouring down,
That is when they shot our father.

We cried for our young father
For his tragic, too early death,
Who tried to diminish our terrible pain
With his struggle for a daily small piece of bread.

But one tragedy hastens after another
The murderous Germans, the vicious cannibals,
Had prepared a place for thousands of dead
A pogrom, a slaughter, even bigger.

The blessing for Rosh Chodesh [first day of the month of] Cheshvan was said on Shabbath day
But the Jews of Ostrowiec already felt the affliction,
You went to Bodzechów on Shabbath night [Saturday]
And all the rest of the Jews waited.

The great tragedy happened
On Rosh Chodesh on a Sunday,
Three days without bread, without water, they were taken into the field,
And only then, almost fainting, taken to the train.

[Page 371]

Then you stayed in Bodzechów
And they took me to Starachowice
I pictured your life
While your entire life vanished
But one thing sustained you, the efforts
To at least safe your brothers,
To keep them alive.

I labored there day and night
Was treated like the worst slave
Harassed, labored, given nothing to eat,
Sick, filthy, the worms feasted on me.

Anguish, pain from the entire world
Thirst, hunger, heat, cold,
But my heart inside me pressured me
To run! I thought of this all the time.

I held out the loneliness, but not any longer.
Prepared to escape. Even against all the ammunitions
I played with my life
Just to be with you – these were my efforts.

I went on the road from Starachowice to Ostrowiec
Trudging day and night
I hoped as if I would be going to the Garden of Eden
But again had no one to shelter me.
I think it rained at that time
Then I met you and your friend.

Again, anguish without an end.
You have to go back to Bodzechów
In order to remain in the institution [establishment, outpost, school?]
To continue pursuing the knowledge of life.

You stood behind the doors
In fear that they should not take you to Tsoyzmer [Sandomierz],
But there was still much destined for me
So, they brought you back to Bodzechów.

[Page 372]

It was a very joyous day
They would not separate us again
It would not be long before we would see one another
It passed as if nothing happened.

On 6th day of Shevat, another rage, a second roundup
Masses encircled us
Ripped away our beloved brothers
We were left as if without wheels.

But there was a miracle for us both
The Nazi devil did not swallow us up
We were both sad
Our hearts bleed for the new losses.

But the goal of revenge gives us strength
Our dream: to break the German neck
Not to differentiate between the best and the worst
Beat them, annihilate them, from the youngest to the oldest.

And then life went on together
Without any dear ones, without a mother,
Shared ever bite,
Doing not one thing without the other's knowledge.

Shared the pain just as we shared the bread
No disagreements between the two of us
But this does not last long.
There is a rumor going around about another roundup.

It lasted only three months
But the devil cannot have enough
There is talk that the barracks are all ready
They did not make them too grand.

It happened two weeks before Pesach [Passover]
One hundred and twenty men were taken away to Bliżyn
You were hiding then
By a non-Jew, someone old but familiar.

[Page 373]

We were counted and sorted out in our place
And later, after our march
Hundreds of dead were taken away.

We were guarded very heavily in the barracks
I didn't really care, I only thought of you.
I went to work only on the fifth day
Got the chance to bring you out of hiding.

The Jewish police rules in the barracks
Their past, my oh my,
Th entire nation later
Considered them as traitors to their brothers.

We went regularly to work
They looked at us like demons and snakes
We worked with all our energies, soaked in sweat
Only one G-d knows of the anguish and slavery.

You got sick while you were working and then got a cough
And I hardly dragged myself with an ailing foot
And then suddenly good news from the other side
They say that the Russians are getting closer.

To flee from the camo to the free world
Oy, for that you need a lot of money,
With your best friend
You came to an agreement.
She took upon herself to pay for all the costs.
This is your friend and good person Yocheved Alter[1]
She also wanted to save her brother[2]
It is really a wonder about her fine deeds,
It is too little to give her a beautiful thanks.

Everything was calculated, done with earnest
It was the 7th of Sivan
All of us three from the brickyard,
Her brother Naftali from the factory,
For us there was no going back.

[Page 374]

We waited for the Christian[3] for a long time
Then he finally came
And he found us trembling with fear in the cold.

They took us and we were all faint
We arrived at twelve at night.
It was light in the Christian's home, even though it was late
He was waiting impatiently for us – we saw.

We receive a glass of tea, and we go to sleep.
But the Christian is not satisfied,
He figured he would receive more money
We so want to put away our tired bodies.

He demands that we sign over our houses to him
We negotiate a price with him
What can we do, he has to be our provider
And protect us from all evil.

The attic remained our home, or the ditch,
Sometimes at night we went into the house.
There was also a young Jewish boy with us,
He had a glib tongue,
He told us all kinds of things
Also, sometimes we even enjoyed it.

We kept going with life, the difficult one,
Bitter grimaces cover our faces in pain,
We did not think the war would last for years
For so long not to be able to go off and keep moving.

Our bones are frozen, the winds are blowing,
The time is running, it is already time for selichos[4],
Holding ourselves together with energy, the hair is waving,
Remember, we were living with the war for already six years.

[Page 375]

I wish you now, that all should be with blessings and not curses [part of Rosh Hashana prayer].
Let us be free
And finally see the German destruction…

Presented by the sister
Henia Kudlowicz-Sylman, Peru[5]



(On the tombstone in Hebrew:)

Yitzchak Kudlowicz
Who was murdered
On 1st day of Iyar, 5702 [April 18, 1942]
By the German murderers
May their blood be avenged.

A tombstone who, the author of this poem, himself, after the liberation, etched this out on the gravestone of his father, who died in the war. This tombstone was later destroyed by Polish citizens.


  1. Yocheved was hiding with Henia Return
  2. Naftali was brother of Yocheved Alter who also went into hiding Return
  3. Refers to Righteous of Nations Henio Malkiewicz , see https://jewsofostrowiec.com/henio-malkiewicz/ Return
  4. prayers said a week or more before Rosh Hashana Return
  5. Henia later moved to Israel Return

[Page 391]

Survived the Nazi Hell in a Ditch

by Yerachmiel Waldman

Translated by Pamela Russ

With a pen dipped into the blood of my heart, I want to sketch my horrific experiences as one of the “Romer commando,” who hid in an empty grave for a period of six months.

During the first evacuation of the Ostrowiec Jews in 1942, when they sent everyone to Treblinka, the Nazis selected 100 people and called them the “Romer commando,” to which I belonged. The mission of this commando was to clean out the empty Jewish houses, to bring all the possessions to a large camp, sort out all the objects, pack them up, and send them to Germany.

The “Romer commando” also had to bury the dead, particularly those which the Nazis, may their names be obliterated, murdered. Once, they killed 24 Jews, among them Yidel Aibeshitz's daughter and her child. We brought all those who had been shot to the cemetery on Konow Street. Just as we were ready to put the bodies into the graves, two women (one, I remember, was Lola Erlich, she is in Israel) lifted herself from the bloody mass and we saw that she was still alive. It was late at night, and we helped the two women wash themselves off the blood, and sent them to the brick factory, where most of the workers were women. In the morning, they returned to the camp.

There were about 2,000 Ostrowiec Jews working in the camp, the majority of whom worked under the German commando, in the factory Zaklady Ostrowieckie, where they used to unload old steel. They put me to work in the construction area. Every day, when they took us to work, I noticed that there were fewer people among the workers, and I understood that the camp was slowly being liquidated. One early morning, when they were taking us to work, it was still dark outside, I went out of the marching lines and hid behind a wagon. When those marching were already at a distance, I ran into the field and hid among the tall corn stalks.

It was the end of summer, everything was budding and growing in the fields. I stayed like that for a few hours among the stalks, and later started to crawl on my knees so as not to be noticed by anyone. I thought of crawling to the closest village where I knew many of the peasants, and I hoped that maybe I would be able to hide there. I crawled like that for several hours and then became very tired. Then I heard a noise among the stalks. I jumped up in terror, and to my great surprise, before my eyes I saw Yeshiye [Shaya] Zweigman and Hershel Fisz. We cried bitterly over our painful situation, and began to think about where we could go, where to hide. Meanwhile, we decided …


Children hide in the sewers in the Warsaw ghetto

[Page 392]

… to stay in the field and see what we could do to save ourselves.

For more than a month, we remained like that, among the corn stalks in the field. We sustained ourselves with radishes, carrots, and other greens. We trembled at every sound that we thought we heard. So we decided to go to the closest village Podszkodzie, which was about six kilometers from Ostrowiec.

It was evening. I went to a peasant whom I knew, Sliwka. Zweigman and Fisz remained lying behind the barn, because I thought that if the peasant would see three people he would chase them out. The peasant became frightened as he saw how lost I looked. He helped me wash up and brought me something to eat. It got late. I asked that he allow me to spend the night, so he took me into the barn and told me to go to sleep on the hay. When he left, I opened the gate and told Yeshiye and Hershel to come in.

The following day, I went into the peasant's hut and asked him to let me hide in his place. The peasant Sliwka was willing to let me hide there, but his wife, with tears in her eyes, turned to me and said:

“Mr. Waldman,” she pleaded with me. “You already lost your wife and children. I have my family here, and if the Germans will find you here, they'll shoot all of us…”
The peasant Sliwka tried to calm her down. “So, let Mr. Waldman hide in the barn. You'll see,” he tried to reassure her, “the war will end and the Jews from America will reward anyone who helped save a Jew.” I was able to reassure the woman, that I would hide in the barn unnoticed. But when the peasant came into the barn and saw two more people, he became very angry and told all of us to get out of the barn.

I had left money with the hotel owner, Mr. Radzicki, and knowing that the peasant liked bitter drops [bits of money], I calmed him down by giving him a note to give to Mr. Radzicki, telling him to give the peasant money in my name. That night, the peasant came back from town quite drunk, created a scandal, and we trembled that he should not reveal that he was hiding Jews in his barn.

The following morning, the peasant Sliwka came to us, brought us food, cleaned a place for us in the barn, and assured us a place by him. He heard in town that the Russians were getting closer to Poland, and he said he would save us. We stayed in the barn with the animals for about six weeks, until it became cold. Then the peasant dug up a ditch in the field and took us there at night.

We stayed in that living grave for about six months. It was hot in the ditch, so we sat completely naked. At night, the peasant would bring us food. For that entire time, we did not see the light of day. The top of the ditch was covered so that it could not be noticed that someone was hiding there. We became like savage men, with overgrown hair, and we were terrified at the slightest sound outside over our heads. Very often, the peasant Sliwka would come back from Ostrowiec drunk, and we were terrified that he would give us up. Many times, we heard the Germans come and take animals and other food from him. We heard their shouts and voices over our heads. It is impossible to describe in words how we felt at that time…

In the living grave, we completely lost the ability to feel or think. But some sort of hidden spark burned in our minds, which gave us the hope to save ourselves. There were days when the peasant completely forgot about us. At that time, we would often become disoriented, and we wanted to get out of the ditch and die with the rest of the Jews. But the will to live was stronger, so we would make plans that one more day, and one more day, and we would be saved.

One evening, the peasant Sliwka came into the ditch, brought us food, and told us that the Russians were getting closer, and that in Ostrowiec, you could already hear the shooting. This news

[Page 393]

… created a major upheaval in us, such a small thing: to be freed! We immediately began to think about what we would do. Suddenly we began to feel like people again. Ten days later, the peasant Sliwka opened our living grave and told us that the Russians were already in the village. We washed up and left to Ostrowiec.

I went to the hotel of Mr. Radzicki. The hotel was occupied by the Russian military, but he nonetheless found a room for me. A few days later, some Jews were shot by a Pole, one of these Jews was my cousin Leibel Lustig. He survived but needed medical attention. I knew that there was a Russian military doctor in the hotel, so one day I knocked at his door, and as soon as he saw me, he told the servant to leave. He locked the door, fell onto my neck, and began sobbing. He spoke Yiddish to me:

“I am also a Jew,” he began with tears. “How did you manage to save yourself? I saw the great tragedy that struck our nation everywhere. Flee from here as quickly as possible, the Poles will kill all of you.” Two days later I left for Krakow, from there to Italy, and from there to Canada.
To this very day, we have not forgotten the peasant Sliwka. The three of us always send him clothing, food, and medicines. Two years ago, we brought his daughter over to Canada, and married her off here. She lives in London, Ontario, where I live. We fill all the peasant's requests with joy. We thank him for our lives.


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