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[Page 401]

Extermination Camps

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.

 

Ostrovtse Jews Are Transported to a Death–camp

by Paltiel Geshri–Brikman, 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 death–camps. 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

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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 nearly–dead 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.


[Page 403]

I “Was” in Treblinka

by Miriam Gutholz–Feldman

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 illegal–meaning 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, half–dressed, 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

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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 snow–filled 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 frost–bitten 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 Kasav–Latzki, 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 Kasav–Latzki Ghetto

It was about eight kilometers to Kasav–Latzki. 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

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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 Kasav–Latzki 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 well–known 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 16922–a.

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.

 

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