|In one day, the 10th of October 1942, 15,000 Ostrovtse Jews were sent to Treblinki and there horribly murdered in the gas chambers and in the crematory.|
by Paltiel GeshriBrikman, Toronto
Translated by Tina Lunson
Adolf Eichman may his name be blotted out maintained that he had done nothing, had only transported Jews to the deathcamps. I will tell you how he carried out that transportation, and by all means, you may judge whether for that alone he deserves a violent death.
The torture of the local Jews began as soon as the German beasts arrived, but the liquidation of all Ostrovtse was designated for the Sunday after Sukes in 1942.
On that day they chased all the Jews with their wives and children together in one place and held them there for a few days, without food, without water. The German, Lithuanian, Latvian and Ukrainian murderers sat with rifles over their heads and shot them for any small infraction.
No pen can describe what took place there. The screams reached the high heavens. Children lost their parents and wailed. A community of Jews, among whom there were so many dear souls, herded like a herd of animals being taken to the slaughter.
But one does not bully and deride animals. They do not torture for no reason, and here the murderers spilled blood with particular pleasure, gruesomely beating and laughing about it, making jokes.
My younger brother and I were standing
on a hillock at the factory Zaklaki Ostrovietske where we had worked and wept bitterly, seeing the hellish scenes at the collection point.
From Sunday on they were driving Jews to this point. Lithuanians, Letts and Ukrainians helped the S.S. soldiers and civilian Germans to beat Jews with rifle butts, pull off the boots from some Jews and shoot them, dropping them dead on the spot.
In the Jewish hospital they shot nurses and doctors where they stood, and they hanged the young Doctor Abramovitsh.
About 20,000 Jewish men, women and children, including refugees from Lodz, were assembled at Koniev hill and from there marched to the train cars. This went on for three days. They marched the hungry and exhausted. The entire path was strewn with dead bodies, as the murderers shot left and right.
They stuffed the nearlydead into the wagons much worse than animals and the Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Germans continually chased and beat them. They wanted only broken and unconscious Jews in the wagons.
Jammed on top of one another lay holy men, rabbis, scholars, doctors, attorneys, and they sealed the wagons. Many who had been shot lay on along the sides. The moans, screams and cries for help were indescribable.
The Jewish [ghetto] policemen had known earlier about the Sunday action but they did not say anything. Only two of the Jewish [ghetto] policemen wakened their pity and seeing the hellish scenes threw aside their police hats with the stripes and willingly leapt into the wagons along with the other Jews. They were a son of Avrom Funt and a young man from Lodz, manager of the sanitations command for the Judenrat.
Two years later they also stuffed me and my two brothers into those wagons. Until then I had worked in the A. G. Farben factory near Auschwitz, and in January 1944, on the coldest and snowiest day, they took us through the Yelanker brick factory to Glivitz.
They threw 150 people into an open train car and the same number into a closed wagon and sent all the cars around for twelve days and twelve nights, without even a drink of water. Perhaps two times in that whole period they threw in a couple of hard, frozen loaves of bread. We went through Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany. And when we came to Orenburg, an airplane factory near Berlin, 80 percent were dead.
My two brothers and I remained alive because we were traveling in an open car we had air and mostly, we could lick the snow.
Everyone was pressed together like herring [in a tin] and people had to defecate behind themselves. People became wild and bit one another. If you wanted to bend over you had to kill someone. Or throw them over the side of the moving train. People jumped from one wagon to another and the guards quickly shot them, or they fell between the wheels and were shredded.
We were successful. My two brothers and I were the first into the wagon and grabbed a place in a corner. Two of us would stand while the third sat between their feet, and we exchanged places.
Finally I want to remember the Czechs for good. When we passed through their country, they began to throw us food. I succeeded in grabbing an apple, which I promptly shared with my brothers. But many Czechs paid for this with their lives, because the guards opened fire on them with rifles.
There was also a case when we were going through a large train station and there was a passenger train standing near our train, and the passengers began throwing their food to us. My youngest brother succeeded in grabbing a treasure: a sandwich, two thin pieces of bread with shmalts, which we also shared.
The trip lasted, as I have stated, for twelve days, and it is impossible to describe how it looked in the wagons and what happened in there. Frozen from traveling in an open wagon during such a crackling frost, filthy from defecating behind oneself and hungry and thirsty, with the fear of death every moment, because the guards were continually murdering us.
by Miriam GutholzFeldman
Translated by Yaacov David Shulman
It was January, 1943, the year of the death and the might of the final remnant of Polish Jewry.
All of Congress Poland, including my home town of Ostrovtse, had already experienced the mass deportations of October 10, 1942.
About 2,000 people remained in town, many of them illegalmeaning that they did not have jobs. Rumors were going about that the German beast was preparing a new action. They were planning to murder the last remaining, tormented Jews, those who had concealed themselves under the worst conditions in various hiding places at the time of the first evacuation.
At first, people had believed they were being sent to work. The executioner himself thought up that lie. But they immediately realized the brutal truth: that those deported were cruel sacrifices to be gassed in the crematoria of Majdanek and Treblinka.
It was already after the mass deportations and slaughters of the larger Jewish communities in Poland, such as Lublin, Warsaw and many other towns. In the air one could feel that the great, cruel storm was hanging over our heads. The tragic day came. It was Sunday, January 10, 1943. On that terrible Sunday the remaining tormented Jews of the Kielce group were taken and murdered. During the deportation at that time, I went to Treblinka.
At five in the morning, the devil's dance began. The ghetto was awoken by the SS, by Lithuanian and Polish police and other dark forces. To our great disgrace, the executioners did not even lack the help of the Jewish police.
Worn out and frightened, some dragged by force from various hiding places, everyone was taken to the transport, forced to the train station and the waiting freight wagons. It was very cold, the road was slippery, and those driving us forward did so without mercy. If someone fell, whether because he slipped or from exposure, he was immediately shot. The road was littered with the dead. Blood spotted the white snow, Jewish blood of the unfortunates who could not keep up with the driven crowds.
Along the entire way to our death train, the murderers rained down blows, which often knocked their victims unconscious. But the true orgy took place at the train station. As we entered the train, every smallest item of value, not to mention money and jewelry, was taken from us. We were ordered to remove our shoes and coats. And thus, halfdressed, we were pushed in, 120 people to a wagon. The dirty wagons had certainly only carried animals until now. We stood inside, pressed against each other, the small windows covered with barbed wire.
Outside, a blizzard raged and the frost stung. As soon as the wagon doors were locked from the outside, the train moved, and no one could determine in which direction we were being taken. A dead stillness reigned. The wagon was very stuffy, and everyone began to suffer from thirst. Some people fainted. People scratched the frost from the walls and with that rescued those who had fainted. All human needs were taken care of on the spot. We traveled that way for two and a half days in the crowded wagon, in the worst conditions.
On the third day, as the sealed wagon moved forward, the people, tormented to the point of death, noticed a sign, Treblinka, to which the train was coming ever closer. We knew very well what Treblinka meant for us. The
train turned onto a side line, which was close to the death camp. There was nothing more to hope for. Death was all but certain. My only desire was to at least die an honorable death. Many people in the wagon still did not want to believe that our end was coming. The terror that the murderers had cast on their victims was so great that people trembled at the slightest thought of staging a resistance.
I told everyone that this was the time to jump from the wagon. Whoever can must jump, I told everyone. But my words fell on deaf ears. No one listened to me.
With difficulty, and thanks to the help of a family friend, R. Leibish Rosenberg, a Jew from Lodz who was no longer young, I succeeded in fighting my way to the little barred window. Before I jumped out, the martyr Rosenberg gave me courage with the words, You are young. Jump and tell the world about our destruction.
I jump from the train
His blessing was realized. The train was traveling quickly and I leapt as far from the tracks as I could. The guards accompanying the transport shot at me. I ran a considerable distance on the white, snowy field, and then I looked around to see where I was. I wasn't wounded, but I was alone in the endless whiteness. It was a beautiful winter day, and on the horizon appeared a white, snowy forest. Everything shone, but I was in darkness. I felt like the last person on earth. I did not know what to do, and I regretted having leapt from the train. In such an oppressive mood, I was barely able with my last strength to drag myself to a peasant hut, where I asked to be allowed to warm myself a little. The peasants immediately saw that I was Jewish and they drove me from the house. As I ran away from them, I fell into a snowfilled hole and I was soaked through and through.
I had not eaten for three days, but I did not feel hunger. Darkness began to fall, and the night came quickly. Desperate and filled with fear, I barely managed to drag myself to the forest. I sat down to rest, and fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, I felt entirely frozen. I didn't realize that my feet had been frostbitten overnight in the forest. I left the forest and approached another peasant hut, which wasn't far from the forest. I knocked, and a peasant woman opened the door for me. She let me warm myself, and she gave me hot coffee and bread. I warmed myself and began to feel a biting sensation in my feet. I took off my shoes, but I could not put them back on. My feet were swollen, and my toes were completely stiff.
The Christian woman gave me a large pair of shoes with wooden soles, and I gave her my own shoes. I bought from her an old coat with a peasant shawl, and since she had saved me I went on the road to KasavLatzki, where there was still a Jewish ghetto and where I could hide, because it would have been very dangerous for her should I be found on her property. In such a case, the SS would burn down the entire place and kill the owner.
In the KasavLatzki Ghetto
It was about eight kilometers to KasavLatzki. This was the time of a Christian holiday, and from everywhere in the neighborhood, peasants were going into town. I blended among the Christians and in that way I entered the town. It wasn't hard to recognize the Jewish ghetto. I snuck in through an open slat in the fence, and in that way I became a ghetto resident.
In the ghetto, sanitary conditions were very terrible. In addition, there was a typhus epidemic, and people were terrified of the SS men, who would come from neighboring Treblinka and kill Jews with axes in a bestial manner. I contracted
typhus, and the only Jewish doctor there (a woman whose name I unfortunately don't remember) saved me, even though no medicine was available. In the ghetto, I met a few other people from our transport who had jumped from the wagons as I had. I also met the Lublin rebbe's son, Eiger, with a Jew from Lodz. They told me that they were preparing to return to Ostrovtse, where the rebbe's entire family had been since the Germans had entered Lodz. The youth from Lodz had an Aryan appearance. But I was still sick, and I could not go on the road in such a state.
Back to Ostrovtse
The youth from Lodz with the Aryan appearance made his way to Ostrovtse, and told my parents about my condition. They immediately found a Christian, Maian Khamera, who came to KasavLatzki and looked for me in the ghetto. He brought me a train ticket. I disguised myself as a peasant woman, and, although I was suffering from fever and from extreme pain in my feet, I went on my way.
We didn't travel together in the same wagon, so that if I were discovered to be a Jewish woman, no suspicion would fall on him. But he helped me a great deal and showed where I must change trains. To this day, I cannot understand how I succeeded in making my way without any documents and, in addition, so sick with fever, which could also have given me away. Moreover, at every station the SS checked people's documents, and they arrested more than one person.
An interesting episode occurred at the Warsaw depot, where I was waiting for the next train. There was no place to hide. An old Polish woman came to me and after making an apology, she said, You know, you look very Jewish. Yes, I answered her, a few people have told me that. It could be because in my village we all have dark skin.
My heart was pounding, and I was all but certain that she was about to denounce me to an SS man or a Polish policeman, and that I would be taken away. The time until the train came appeared to be an eternity, but the train to Skarzshisk finally arrived. I pushed myself in together with everyone else, and that same evening I arrived in the Ostrovtse ghetto, where my family was waiting for me.
The state of my health was terrible. My feet had to be operated on as soon as possible. To my great good fortune, the wellknown professor of Poyzner University, Professor Drevus, who was famous as a surgeon, was in the Ostrovtse ghetto, and he, together with Dr. Meir operated on me in his home. My return to health was greatly aided by the caring treatment of our informal doctor, Nachman Alman, who helped all of the sick people in the ghetto with great dedication. May his memory be blessed.
From the work camp to Auschwitz
At the end of March, 1943, the ghetto was liquidated, and the remaining tormented Jews were led to the kasharn [type of building] next to the factory. That was a camp guarded by Ukrainians, where we worked 16 hours a day in a state of hunger. At the same time, the overseers and Jewish police lived in conditions of the very greatest luxury. We remained in that work camp until the summer of 1944. When the front came closer, the Germans liquidated all of the camps in the area and sent everyone to Auschwitz. The number tattooed on my left arm is 16922a.
From Auschwitz, we were sent in a transport to various camps in Germany and Sudetenland, until we were liberated on May 9, 1945.
I don't have the strength to write about the humiliation, hunger, dirt and pain that we suffered in all of these camps. May our compatriots and readers forgive this gap in my writing.
by Meir Blankman, Tel Aviv
Translated by Pamela Russ
You heavens, high above, looked on when, day and night,The train, that is taking us from Warsaw to Katowice, is running at a mad speed. It is already late into the second half of the night. But I simply cannot fall asleep. Difficult to chase away the thoughts that do not let you rest.
When children of my people were sent
On trains, and on foot, in daytime, in light,
And in darkness, at night, to their death.
Millions of children waved their hands to you as they were dying-
No one touched you.
Millions of fine mothers and fathers could not shake off
Your blue skin's crust.
(Yitzchok Katznelson The Song of the Murdered Jewish Nation;
trans: https://www.yivo.org/cimages/song_of_the_murdered_jewish_people.pdf )
This trip is the most painful one of my life. I am going to see the death camp Auschwitz. The entire night, this thought does not stop upsetting and torturing me: that in those horrific Hitler years, so many transports of people went in this same manner, and so few of these people ever came back home. Also, in this same manner, the heads of the master race in these unsustainable conditions, led a large part of my people to their slaughter.
Around seven in the morning, our train stops in a small station, and the conductor calls out loudly: Oswiecim! [Auschwitz]. You feel as if a piece of your heart has been torn off.
We still have a little way to go on foot. It is not far from here. A strange feeling takes over all of us and we become silenced and frozen. With the deepest fear and awe, we approach the death camp of Auschwitz.
Arbeit macht frei! [Work makes one free!]
We are standing in front of a large, iron gate. At the top, written in German, there is the phrase: Arbeit macht frei! It is difficult to describe what you feel when your feet step on the ground there. It is as if a heavy rock laid itself on your heart and it is difficult for you to speak even one word
We look all around us. Paved roads and huge housing blocks, fenced in with long rows of wired walls, with German inscription: Caution, high voltage, dangerous. These wires were filled with electricity so that no katzetnik [concentration camp inmate] could escape. But many of them would knowingly throw themselves onto these electric wires to be freed from bearing the impossible workload, which would free them.
We are in the place from which the tragic katzetnikes would march every morning in fixed lineups to their labor. And the Germans really took care of this, making sure they would have all the comforts. On the side, there was always an orchestra, comprised of Jewish musicians. They escorted the marching workers with lively Nazi marches. And coming back from the work that makes free, many already did not return, because
they either fell by the wayside exhausted and totally depleted, or in a brutal manner, they were murdered by their Nazi guards.
We are now in the blocks called Canada. We go from one room to the next. You see: mountains of eye glasses, baskets, stockings, blouses, jackets. Valises, scissors, spoons, forks, graters, chopping knives, small machines, matzo wheels, combs, baby powder, lighting machines, buckets, prostheses, and a lot of buttons.
Your attention is drawn to a mountain of prayer shawls and ataras [decoration on the prayer shawl, around the neck], the one memory of our God-fearing grandfathers and fathers, who were in these unmanageable conditions, in the eye of death - just as the Anusim [those Jews forced to convert in 1390s-1490s] in Spain and Portugal, they went to their death as they sanctified the Name of God, and did not forego the faith of their forefathers. Then you are pushed against a sea of shoes. Shoes and shoes. In a nearby room - about two tons of women's hair, which the German specialists would sort, clean, and then make bed mattresses from them. Then you stop and you tremble, unsettled to the depths of your soul; an ocean of children's shoes, blouses, pants, dresses, toys, and orphaned dolls.
Al da'atefet, atfuch
In the Jewish museum. A black aron [ark containing the Torah] with a menorah. At the top, in large writing: Yizkor! On the side, a list of perished Jewish writers, artists, editors, thinkers, and intellectuals. Farther in, a mountain of ashes and gathered up bones remaining traces of our perished brothers and sisters. We think about these various exhibits, pictures of agony and pain. The soles of shoes catch your eyes, put together from the Torah parchments. And if you go farther ahead, you stop at a picture, and you actually shudder. The picture shows how a Jewish mother is protecting her little, depleted, terrified child. The face of this tragic woman expresses so much agony and pain, that you are actually moved to the depths of your soul. You feel as if the tears are choking you and it is so difficult to control yourself A Jewish mother! Your devotion and sacrifice for your children is renowned in the entire world!
And then we crowd around a small prayer book an old prayer book with half-burnt pages, and if I strain myself, and try to read these words from the Ethics of Our Fathers scream out to me: Af hu ra'ah gulgolet achat shetzafah al penei hammayim. Amar lah: Al da'atefet, atfuch. Vesof metayefayich yetufun. [He also saw a skull floating upon the water. Said he to it: Because you drowned others, you were drowned; and those who drowned you, will themselves be drowned. Pirkei Avot, Chap 2: 6].
Will themselves be drowned! These words resonate here in Auschwitz as a symbol of a stern warning.
Will themselves be drowned! Sooner or later, you murderers and hangmen of our people, will be touched by the hands of justice and you will receive your deserved punishment for the innocent, spilled blood of our brothers and sisters and we are certain of this that not one of you will avoid the judgement of history.
The Katzetnikes [concentration camp inmates] and Their Hangmen
We are thinking about the paintings and pictures which the katzetnikes themselves created. It is really interesting that during these horrific Hitler years, even with the intolerable conditions, many of those tortured in Auschwitz painted pictures in which they mocked and spited their tormentors and expressed their sharpest protest the pain and rage against their murderers and hangmen. Here you find caricatures of all the bigger leaders and smaller leaders. These were the very men who decided between life and death of millions of people, especially those who were exceptional in their cruelty and savagery toward their innocent victims. And these pictures laugh at the cook with the bulging stomach, the cruel Kapo, the staff, and of all those who in some manner helped embitter the intolerable life of the numbered residents in Auschwitz.
Cots and Water Closets [toilets]
We are approaching the Block where there are cots that were used for sleeping. Frau Zukerman-Laskowska, a former officer of the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland, who spent two black years in Auschwitz, and carried the number 48462 shows us with her hand: Here was my cot. And they tell us about worms, mice, flies, bed bugs, and lice; about incessant bites, dysentery, and other sicknesses. We think about the tightness, the terrible filth, and do not stop wondering: Master of the Universe! How did these locked up people survive even one day in such terrible, unbearable conditions? Impossible, actually impossible to understand this with an ordinary mind
Not far from here are the water closets. And don't think that whoever needed to go was able to just go here and stay there as long as they needed. The Germans, as is known, love order and discipline. To satisfy a person's natural needs, there were set times for the katznikes [concentration camp inmates]. And if he hardly used a little more time than the regulations allowed then he was strongly punished. A Kapo always stood there with a spiked club in hand, and continually harassed the people. Faster! Faster! And woe to the katzetnik who delayed in this issue by even one minute
Block #10. Here is the Science Unit. Here, Nazi professors and educated ones would sit for full days and nights, crease their foreheads, and conduct all kinds of scientific experiments on young women, the majority of whom were Jewish girls from Greece. Here, in this Block, they dealt with gynecology, sterilization, and artificial impregnation. Here, they did terrible injections, and rarely did a women come out alive from this science laboratory. And if a woman managed to stay alive, she remained disabled until her death .
The Place of Death
Block #11. In this place, the Nazi judges would gather, and pass judgement on the guilty ones and the criminals and rarely did anyone come out alive from this court.
We view the details of the steibunker [standing bunker]. For the smallest sin, the katzetnikes would be thrown in, then locked up for a long time.
It was a narrow and dark room, without air. The sinners had to stand on their feet the entire time, and because of that, they would suffocate one another in order to free up some space. But the situation in the so-called water closet was much worse, where the sinners would, without air and in intolerable crowding, have to stand in water above knee level And not far from here is the place of death at the black wall of death, where they were cruelly killed. This place which was discussed by eye- witnesses was always soaked in human blood.
Yes, if only this black wall of death would be able to speak about so many human tragedies that took place here, it would have a lot to tell us!
The Camp Model
We view the camp model, which was created by the well-known sculptor from Cracow, Mieczislow Staviarski. This is a beautiful work of art, made from plaster.
This model shows the entire process, all seven levels of hell, that the Auschwitz victim experienced as soon as he dismounted in the train station, until he was slid out dead from the gas chamber and into the crematoria. All the plaster figures speak in a bold language. You see here the long road of torture, the
total pain and agony of these tragic people and this is etched strongly in your minds forever.
The Small Crematoria
First, the Germans set up the small crematoria an oven with ventilation and with the necessary equipment according to the latest criteria of German technology. On one side they show us they pushed in the gassed bodies, and from the other side, from the back, they would shovel out the ashes
And you stand and think about all this and you do not want to believe that all this could really have happened in reality in the 20th century, the century of culture, progress, and civilization.
But these small crematoria did not completely satisfy the appetites of the Nazi cannibals, because at that time, they were not equipped to manage all the toxins, sometimes a lot, that were emitted from the gas chambers. So, with time, they built four new, large crematoria in nearby Birkenau.
At the Hanging of Rudolf Hess
We find ourselves at the place where, in the year 1947, they hanged the commandant of the Auschwitz camp, the bloody hangman Rudolf Hess, who, in his time, was sentenced to death by the Warsaw court.
Rudolf Hess as far as we know lived in Auschwitz as if in the Garden of Eden, as a married man. He owned a beautiful villa with a lovely garden, had his own orchestra, had all the ease and comforts. Here, in Auschwitz, he even had a child.
Hess used to sit calmly in his beautiful cabin, and like a cold thief, he would sign the death sentences. In his hands lay the fate of millions of people life or death and now we are standing at the gravesite in Auschwitz where this horrific satrap [henchman] received his well-deserved punishment.
We are now in Birkenau. For the Germans, Auschwitz was called the model camp, because over there were the large labor factories. The actual death camp, where millions of people died, was Birkenau.
Birkenau had up to 500 barracks. The four crematoria and gas chambers were set up according to the latest information of German technology. This was the pride of the German science of annihilation. For 24 hours, in various times, they continued to gas and burn, and the smoke and fumes were felt in the distant surrounding areas. And since all four crematoria were not able to burn all the gassed corpses, they had to burn the rest of the bodies in a primitive manner under the open sky
Step by step, we move about here on traces of human bodies, even though the Nazi barbarians tried, with all possibilities, to erase any traces of their horrifying crimes
Now we are standing by the monument which the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland put up. We read a large inscription in Yiddish, Polish, and Hebrew:
YizkorAnd looking at this monument, I think: Who knows how many of my family members, and my dear and close ones from the tragically destroyed Jewish Ostrowiec are found among the deathly punished Jews in Auschwitz!
In memory of the millions of Jews, martyrs, and fighters, who were annihilated in Auschwitz by the hands of the Hitler murderers in Birkenau-Brzezhinski.
We bow our heads in front of the monument, in deepest awe and respect, in memory of our brothers and sisters who perished in the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz.
The Final Road
We come to a large area. Here and there bones and ashes. We see traces of destroyed buildings. Here were the gas chambers and crematoria. The Nazi murderers tried to destroy all of these [buildings] before leaving Auschwitz, so that, Heaven forbid, there should be no memory of their horrific acts.
On this road, they led the miserable katzetnikes to bathe, basically to wash and disinfect themselves. And from there straight to the gas chambers. This was the most tortuous road, filled with pain, agony, and anguish the final road.
The Violated Twentieth Century
In Auschwitz-Brzezhinski, 3,000,000 people, from various nationalities, among whom were 2,000,000 Jews, were cruelly murdered in a means unequaled anywhere in the history of humanity.
In Auschwitz, in an ugly manner, the twentieth century was desecrated.
We Leave Auschwitz
It is a beautiful summer morning when we leave Auschwitz. We throw our final glances onto this death camp, onto the pride of the German annihilation science. From a distance, from the iron gate, the hypocritically seductive phrase, calls out: Arbeit Macht Frei! [Work Makes You Free]. It is very heavy on everyone's heart because of everything that you have heard, seen, and experienced during your lengthy visit.
We throw our final glances onto Auschwitz, and a curse tears itself out of our lips mournful curses onto the heads of all the Nazi murderers and hangmen, who mercilessly murdered and tore apart all our close and dear ones. All those who brutally defiled the word human and cruelly annihilated more than one third of our nation.
|Storehouses filled with shoes of the Jewish children murdered in Auschwitz|
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