About the Violated Jewish Cemeteries in Poland
by Mayer Blankman
Translated by Tina Lunson
A short time ago I returned to Poland after an absence of more than six years, during which I was homeless and driven from my beloved home.
Once I had only placed one foot on Polish soil I considered it my sacred duty to travel to my hometown of Ostrovtse, in order to find out the fate of my near and dear who had remained there after my escape from Poland during the German occupation.
To my great pain and sorrow I found out that of my large, manybranched family, and of all my relatives, close friends, colleagues and acquaintances no one had save himself from the horrible catastrophe. All were tragically murdered in the terrible years of the Nazi occupation of Poland.
I went to the graves of my parents at the Jewish cemetery. I wanted to seek out at least the graves of my nearest and dearest, who had died a natural death just before the Nazi devastation.
A shocking scene revealed itself before my eyes: the fence that had once enclosed the cemetery on all sides was destroyed and in ruin. Many gravestones were broken and hacked to pieces.
|The violated cemetery in Ostrovtse
Of the many thousands of gravestones very few remained. Cows, goats and pigs pastured themselves freely in the cemetery and no one disturbed them. The cemetery was abandoned, lawless. The worst part was that the very few remaining gravestones were also ruined, broken, made unclean, desecrated and violated by hooligans.
People told me that the Germans had, during the occupation, torn up the gravestones and paved the sidewalks along the streets of the Jewish towns and villages in Poland. I myself, during my visit in Ostrovtse, stumbled upon gravestones in the sidewalks, from which the square Jewish letters and the traditional PN at the head screamed out. The danger threatened that very soon the cemetery would disappear entirely and that no trace of it would remain!
I decided to intervene in that painful matter which would not let me rest and pressed heavily on my conscience. I went to the town hall, to the town president, Mr. Bushko. I explained to the president that every cemetery in the entire world, no matter what people it belongs to should be protected and respected, and that it was very unseemly in the new Poland for the Jewish cemeteries to be found in such a neglected and abandoned condition after the war…
The town president, Mr. Bushko, listened to me without comment and professed great understanding for my concern about the sad state of the Jewish cemetery. But he declared that the town president can do nothing to help. Putting up a new fence around the Jewish cemetery would cost a lot of money, Poland is in ruins after the war, the state treasury was empty
|The cemetery has been truned into a pasture
and there was no money for the most necessary needs. Plus the Polish youth were very demoralized after the Nazi occupation and they disturbed and abused the remaining Jewish gravestones. He promised me to place wooden signs around the cemetery with warnings that anyone who broke gravestones or desecrated the cemetery would be harshly punished. I do not know whether he kept his promise. I left that Jewclean Ostrovtse and went to Warsaw.
As I gleaned from Jews in many other towns and villages in Poland, the same sad situation reigned everywhere. Besides the terrible desecration of something sacred, our cemetery had important historical significance. Our cemeteries are pieces of Jewish history. Generations upon generations of Jews, among them many writers, poets, scholars and artists who lived, affected, created and died on that very earth.
I believe that Jewish society everywhere, our brothers and sisters in the larger world, are forbidden to remain indifferent and must earnestly interest themselves in the ongoing question of how to rescue that which still remains, if it is not already too late.
A Report of Nazi Crimes in Ostrowiec (Poland)
Evidence Obtained by Police Supervisor Eitan (Otto) Leaf
Translated by Rina Zana
Interim Report #1:
The following eye witnesses presented in our office:
- H. Shaya Vishlitzky (Isaiah Vishlitzky) of #10 Bezalel St., Tel Aviv.
- H. Eliezer Langer, of #21 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv.
The city of Ostrowiec Kiltzki is located in the Kielce District in Poland, and before WW2 numbered at 33,000 residents, of them some 12,000 Jews. During the war years, the number of Jewish residents grew, since the German Occupation Authority transferred Jews to Ostrowiec from other places, including even Vienna.
In 1942 the Jewish population in Ostrowiec numbered at an estimated 15,000.
In April of 1942, 23 Jews were shot, and more than 30 were transported to an unknown destination, never to be seen again.
In October of 1942, the first extermination act of the city's Jews was carried out. An estimated 13,000 Jews were sent to Treblinka extermination camp. After this operation, the ghetto was established.
In January or February of 1943, the second extermination act was carried out and in March of 1943 the ghetto was destroyed.
In their testimonies, the stated witnesses accuse the following position holders:
Kresten Gestapo officer; Nagler deputy officer; Rhodo camp deputy, are responsible for their commanders' actions.
- Peter a Gestapo officer in Ostrowiec, whose description is as follows: Approximately 45 years old, tall, thin, dark blond hair, long face, originally from Vienna. Prior to the war he owned a carriage.
On 28/4/42, 23 Jews were taken out of their houses by the Gestapo, and were killed in the street. Mr. Vishlitzky was an eye witness to Peter's active participation in this act.
According to Mrs. Chana Rachel Shtem, soon after the act described in the previous paragraph, two Gestapo officers, one of them being said Peter, escorted her husband, Chaim Shtem, and 3 other Jews who lived in the same building outside, then killed them. Mrs. Shtem is the witness's cousin, she is no longer alive.
In June of 1942 an exact date could not be established Peter shot dead an unknown man and woman in the Jewish cemetery. Mr. Langer was an eye witness to this incident.
In the summer of 1941 an exact date could not be established Peter executed a Ms. Steinbook by gunshot at her parents' house. The witness saw Peter leave the Steinbook household, and the murdered girl's father informed him that Peter had shot her dead, after having raped her. The witness saw the murdered girl's body.
On October 10th, 1942, the first extermination act on Ostrowiec's Jews was carried out. In this act some 13,000 Jews were transported to Treblinka. During this time, witness Langer was hiding in a warehouse at the train station. From his hiding place Mr. Langer saw Peter loading the Buchner family of 3 onto a cattle car.
In January of 1943, the second extermination act was carried out by the Gestapo and the gendarmerie. Approximately 1000 Jews were sent to German labor camps and the remaining ghetto residents (app. 9000) were loaded onto cattle cars and sent to an unknown destination.
After this act the Gestapo and gendarmerie hunted down Jews hiding in the ghetto, killing approximately 50. H. Vishlitzky was an eye witness to Peter's participation in this act. The Jewish militia informed him that 50 Jews were murdered and the witness personally took part in their burial.
Peter actively participated in the destruction of the Ostrowiec ghetto in March of 1943. Witnesses Langer and Vishlitzky were eye witnesses to these events.
- Bruner A Gestapo officer in Ostrowiec the director of the Jewish department. About 45 years old, short, strong build, brown hair other details missing.
On 28/4/42 participated in the killing of 23 Jews in Ostrowiec. This was reported to witness Vishlitzky by residents of the ghetto. He cannot recall the names of the other participants.
In January of 1943 an exact date cannot be established Bruner participated in the extermination of Ostrowiec's Jews. Witness Vishlitzky was an eye witness to this.
In March of 1943 an exact date is difficult to establish Bruner participated in the destruction on Ostrowiec's ghetto. Vishlitzky and Langer were eye witnesses to this.
In the summer of 1944 exact dates cannot be established 3 Gestapo activists whose names could not be determined, participated in the killing of 4 people in the yard of the Gestapo headquarters.
- Langer a Gestapo officer in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 45years old, tall, standard build, dark hair.
On 10/10/42, Langer participated in the extermination of Ostrowiec's Jews Vishlitzky was an eye witness to these events.
In January of 1943, Langer participated in the killing of the Jews.
In March of 1943 an exact date cannot be established Langer participated in the destruction of Ostrowiec's ghetto. Witnesses Vishlitzky and Langer were eye witnesses to this.
- Michaelsky Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Personal details: Approximately 50yearsold; medium height; dark hair; strong build.
In January of 1943, Michaelsky participated in the extermination of Ostrowiec's Jews. Vishlitzky was an eye witness to this.
- Wagner Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 30 years old, tall, thin, brown hair.
In March of 1943 participated in the destruction of the Ostrowiec ghetto. Eliezer Langer was an eye witness to this.
- Schwartz Deputy commander of gendarmerie in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 45 years old, tall, thin.
In March of 1943, Schwartz participated in the destruction of the Ostrowiec Ghetto. Mr. Langer was an eye witness to this.
- Wieland Gendarmerie officer in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 40yearsold, medium height.
In March of 1943, Wieland participated in the destruction of the Ostrowiec Ghetto.
- Rhodo Camp deputy in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 50yearsold, tall, dark hair, thin. Witness Vishlitzky was informed after the war that in accordance with Rhodo's command, the camp orderly, a Mr. Gutholtz, was shot. He cannot recall who Rhodo's brother in arms was. The witnesses mention the other Gestapo members, without accusing them:
- Holtzer Gendarmerie officer in Ostrowiec. Was sentenced to death in Poland after the war.
- Kresten Gestapo officer in Ostrowiec. Description Approximately 50yearsold, medium height, brown hair.
- Nagler Ostrowiec Gestapo deputy. Description: Approximately 40 year old, tall, normal build, dark blond.
- Tomms Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 40yearsold, tall, brown hair.
- Weiler Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 45 years old, wide build, short, dark hair.
- Senko Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Description: Approximately 50yearsold; medium height; wide build; dark blond.
- Holweig Gestapo member. Description: Approximately 40yearsold, medium height, blond.
- Winkler Gestapo member. Description: Approximately 55yearsold, tall, blond.
- Haier Gestapo member. Description: Approximately 45 years old, medium, height, normal build, dark hair, was of the upper class, originally from Lodz.
- Austman Gestapo member. Description: Approximately 37 years old, medium height; normal build; brown hair.
- Zbizhina camp officer in Ostrowiec. Was sentenced to death in Poland after the war.
Tel Aviv, 30/9/63
Interim Report #2:
Edited by Eitan (Otto) Leaf, Major in the Israeli Police Forces.
Testified: Moshe Lipchitz Tel Aviv. Tzeitlin St. #27. Meir Fox, #1 Yirmiyahu St., Tel Aviv. Pinhas Vider (Vigdorowits) #15 Hirchenberg St., Tel Aviv. In their testimonies, these witnesses accuse the following position holders:
- Peter mentioned in interim report #1.
In October of 1942 an exact date cannot be established raped a Jewish girl of about 23 years. Afterward, he shot her on Broarna Street, causing her fatal injuries. The girl herself testified to this before she died,
On 10/10/42, Peter actively participated, along with Gestapo members Bruner, Austman, Weiler & Wagner in the extermination of Ostrowiec's Jews. Peter and the above mentioned Gestapo members shot at Jews. During this act 300 Jews were shot and some 15,000 were sent to an extermination camp. Mr. Lipchitz was an eye witness to this.
In October of 1942 an exact date cannot be established Peter murdered the Jewish Goldwasser family in Ostrowiec a father, mother & child. Mr. Lipchitz was an eye witness to this.
Mr. Lipchitz states that he frequently witnessed Peter, Bruner & Wagner escort Jews to the police station yard and kill them on the spot. The victims were unknown to the witness, who personally took part in their burial.
- Wagner mentioned in interim report #1.
In February of 1943 an exact date cannot be established Wagner participated, along with Bruner, Austman, Langer & Weiler in the extermination of the Jews. A few hundred people were sent to an unknown destination and many were shot on the spot. Mr. Lipchitz was an eye witness to this.
On 28/4/42, Mr. Vider witnessed Wagner kill his brother, Mr. Shlomo Vigdorowits, on Sinkivitza Street in Ostrowiec. The victim was 18 years old. Witness Vider was an eye witness to this incident. At this time approximately 30 Jews were murdered. The witness saw the bodies in the Jewish cemetery, although he did not witness the killings. When Wagner & Bruner broke into the witness's house in order to kill his brother, the witness's father was captured and sent to Auschwitz along with a group of Jews. Three weeks later the witness's mother received an official notice that the witness's father was declared dead.
- Bruner Was mentioned in interim report #1
- Weiler was mentioned in interim report #1
- Austman was mentioned in report #1
- Langer was mentioned in previous report.
- Schwartz was mentioned in #1 report, mentioned by Lipchitz as commander of the Schopp.
In early 1943 one day after the destruction of the ghetto Schwartz ordered the execution of 11 Jews at the Jewish cemetery. The witness and 2 other Jewish girls named Kravitz, were removed from this group and sent to a labor camp in Ostrowiec. This occurred at the cemetery. The witness heard the gunshots but was not allowed to look back and so could not see who else participated in the act. Testimony by Meir Fox.
In February of 1943 an exact date cannot be established Schwartz participated in the deportation of Ostrowiec's Jews. During this act, he personally executed a few Jews by the ghetto gate. Lipchitz was an eye witness to this.
- Schieler Gestapo officer in Radom.
On 10/10/42 Schieler ordered the deportation of Ostrowiec's Jews.
Interim Report #3:
Explanation of Nazi crimes in Ostrowiec.
In connection with the above said, the following witnesses were questioned
In their testimonies, the mentioned witnesses accuse the Nazis as follows:
- Pinhas Langer, #13 Bialik St. , Ramat Gan
- Moshe Lipchitz, #27 Tzeitlin St., Tel Aviv
- Arie Leon Kuliner, #1 Ehud St., Ahuza, Haifa
- Peter served in Ostrowiec Gestapo. In May or June of 1941, he shot dead the Jew Schtechlberg on Sandomirska Street. Mr. Langer, the victim's brother in law, was an eye witness to this.
In late 1942, Peter murdered the Goldwasser family (parents & child) at the police station courtyard. Mr. Langer was an eye witness to this incident. He confirmed the details given in report #1, paragraph 1D.
In October of 1942, Peter shot dead a Mrs. Rachimora in the police station courtyard. He set his German shepherd at Mrs. Rachimora's 2 year old son, and the dog devoured the child.
In 1942, following the first deportation (an exact date could not be established), Peter shot dead a Mrs. Gutterman. Mr. Kuliner was an eye witness to this incident.
In 1941 or 1942 an exact date could not be established Peter, along with Bruner, killed witness Tzuker's father, Shmaya Tzuker. The victim was at his home in #18 Guzhitza St., along with witness Tzuker. The victim was severely beaten by Peter, and then left to be finished off by Peter's hound.
Witness Putzuz saw Peter actively participate in the deportation on 10/10/42, and in January of 1943.
- Bruner Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Mentioned in previous reports.
In February of 1943, Bruner murdered an unknown Jew in a yard on Ilzitzka St. Mr. Langer was an eye witness to this act.
In November of 1943, Bruner shot dead a Polish man in the Gestapo headquarters. Witness Langer was present at the time of the shooting.
Polish citizens announced that Bruner had killed the commander of the Jewish police, Mr. Blumenfeld. He was escorted by Bruner out of camp in Ostrowiec, and never returned.
Jewish police officer testified that Bruner and other Gestapo officers killed 8 patients in a clinic on Ilzhitzka St.
In March or April of 1944, the witness saw Bruner escort 6 chained Jews into camp/ Bruner asked the Jewish police officers if they recognized these people, and upon receiving a negative answer, led them in an unknown direction. Two hours later the Ukrainian police aid officer Boris ordered the witness to send Jewish workers to the Jewish cemetery in order to bury the victims. The witness took the workers to the cemetery and saw the bodies of the Jews earlier brought to camp.
Bruner actively participated in the deportations of Ostrowiec's Jews on 10/9/42, in January of 1943 and in March of 1943 (page 9).c
- Langa Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Actively participated in the killing of 30 Jews in Ostrowiec and in the deportation of 30 Jews to Auschwitz.
- Rhoda platoon commander of Ostrowiec camp. In July of 1944, he murdered the Jewish camp orderly, Guttholtz.
- Austman Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Actively participated in the 28.4.42 act. Actively participated in all of the deportations of Ostrowiec's Jews.
- Senko Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Participated in the 28/4/42. Actively participated in all of the deportations of Ostrowiec's Jews.
- Wieler Gestapo officer. Actively participated in the deportations of Jews in Ostrowiec.
- Schwartzdeputy. Some witnesses name him the commander of the gendarmerie, others as the Schopp commander. Originally from Vienna.
Schwartz was the commander of the second deportation in January of 1943. In this act approximately 1000 people were sent to an extermination camp
In March of 1943, Schwartz murdered, along with the Schopp members, a group of 10 Jews (men, women and children). This occurred near the Jewish police office on Ilizetzka St. Mr. Langer was an eye witness to this.
Interim Report #4:
The witnesses questioned: Arye Gelerman, #40 Hasar Moshe st., Ramat Gan (page 1); Mrs. Leah Shartzki #13 Dessler st., Bnei Brak (pages 27); Shlomo Ruenstein #21 Usha st., Kiryat Motzkin (pages 814).
In their testimonies, the witnesses accuse Gestapo members as follows:
- Deputy Schwartz Schopp officer in Ostrowiec. In April of 1943 actively participated in the shooting of 7 Jews in the Ostrowiec Jewish cemetery. Witness Shartzky was a member of this group.
- Holtser Schopp member I Ostrowiec. Actively participated in the shooting of 97 Jews in April of 1943 in the Jewish cemetery. Witness Shartzky saw Holtser shoot at her.
- Peter Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. Witness Rubenstein verifies the testimonies given in section 2, ph. 1 (c) of the testimony given on 30/9/63, regarding the killing of the Goldwasser family.
Peter actively participated in the deportation of Ostrowiec's Jews in January of 1943. Approximately 1000 Jews were sent to an extermination camp. Witnesses Heller & Grubner saw Peter during this act.
- Wieland Gendarmerie or Schopp member in Ostrowiec. In late October of 1942, Wieland killed 20 Jews returning home from Yeger factory.
- Bruner Gestapo member in Ostrowiec. During the operation on 28/4/42 in Ostrowiec, Bruner killed Dr. Vachudler.
Bruner actively participated in the deportation in 1943, an operation in which Jews were sent off to extermination camps.
The Hunt for the Criminals
Translated by Pamela Russ
The Ostrowiec unit of the General Committee of the Polish Jews, presented the following letter to Professor Dr. Ehrenpreis, chief rabbi of the Swedish Jews, in Stockholm:
Very honored Professor:
Shalom! We are turning to you about Franz Jaeger and his wife. Franz Jaeger is a criminal of extensive scope. As chief of the German secret service Gestapo in Ostrowiec, he sent Jews to be burned in the crematoria of Auschwitz. He was personally involved with the evacuations in many of the Polish cities, such as Opola, Wolbrom, Czestochowa, where, in the course of action, tens of thousands of Jews were murdered. With particular barbarism, he took to the Ostrowiec Jews. He organized socalled work posts, such as the fishing ponds or brick factories, where Jews could work and stay alive. Before taking them to work, he pressed out legendary sums of money from these tragic victims, and during the evacuation (from 10 to 20 October) he sent all these Jews to the crematoria in Treblinka. As a result of this slick barbarism, about 3,000 victims were killed. In November 1943, he ordered 50 young, healthy people to be shot, as well as those who were incapable of working. Two young boys, the brothers Koppel and Moshe Stein, he himself took over to the Gestapo where they were shot. Because of his huge, killing actions, we do not mention here crimes of lesser worthiness, such as those who eked out monies from the interned Jews in the brick factory.
This criminal and murderer, and his wife, who participated in all his activities, are now hiding out in Sweden.
We know that the verse the voice of the blood of your brothers is screaming out to you from the earth is not strange to you and that you will undertake the appropriate steps for the hand of justice to reach the worst criminal in our region.
On June 8, 1946, the Ostrowiec unit of the General Committee of the Polish Jews sent the following remarks to the Vienna chief of police, about the activities of the stabskapitan [staff captain] Zwiezhina in Ostrowiec in the time of the German occupation:
The person mentioned here, during the time of the Hitler occupation, held the position of chief of security in the Ostrowiec factories where there were 9,000 workers employed, of which were 2,000 interned Jews. The treatment of the arrested Jews was bestial. Their food consisted of one portion of watery soup, no bread, after an 18hour work day. All the personal belongings of the Jewish internees were taken away, and they slept on the naked earth of rotting barracks. Aside from there, there were constant searches of Jews, which ended in killing several of the Jews without reason. In November 1942, Zwiezhina shot the following Jews: 1) Gutman, 25 years old, a Hebrew poet; 2) Zalman Greenberg, 20 years old; 3) an unknown Jew from Krakow. At the next search, the two Zakhcinski brothers, ages 18 and 25, were shot. It is worth noting, that the chief of the Ostrowiec Gestapo, Winkler, stated that Zwiezhina, without any right, shot two young boys saying that they had hidden foreign currency. He [Winkler] had asked him [Zwiezhina] to spare their lives, but he replied: An order is an order! And then he commanded that the death sentence of these two innocent brothers be carried out.
On November 7, 1943, he sent out 50
young Jews to their death in the camp Firlej near Radom. The other victims of his bestial murders were the Kupel brothers and Moshe Shtein. The list of Zwiezhina's murders is [to be] further expanded. At the time of the government hearings, we will present more lists of his murderous killings. We admit that during the Red Army liberators approached Ostrowiec, the murderer interrupted his vacation time and he did not respect the regulations of the German government organizations. He surrounded the camp with Ukrainian police, and evacuated about 2,000 Jews from there, 90% of whom were exterminated. In Ostrowiec, it is known that Zwiezhina comes from the Sudetenland, spoke Polish, Czech, and German well. According to information received, he was captured by the Viennese police. We ask that Zwiezhina be brought to Ostrowiec, where there are witnesses who can help in a way that the criminal will get his rightful punishment.
Ostrowiec Hangman, Zwiezhina, Sentenced to Death
Several days ago, and before the Radom crossexamination in Ostrowiec, the trial took place, of the chief of staff, Captain Zwiezhina, liquidator of the Jewish population in Ostrowiec.
During the time of the occupation, the accused managed the camp Zakladi Ostrowieckie [the Treasure of Ostrowiec] (the Germans changed the name to Hermann Goerring Works). He was directly responsible for the killings of 2,000 Jews in the abovementioned camp.
In October 1942, this murderer, with the goal of terrifying the Jewish population in Ostrowiec so that they would give over their monies and valuables, selected three victims and shot them on the spot.
In November 1943, the accused sent 45 Jews out of Ostrowiec to the camp Firlej near Radom, where they were all killed.
In March 1944, during a house search, the murderer shot the two Zakhcinski brothers.
It is interesting to note a particularly cruel act that the accused did: During work time, a Jewish young boy was injured by a machine that cut off his legs. They quickly took him to the hospital, where Dr. Dreves operated immediately. But the operation was interrupted by Zwiezhina, who intentionally sent in a Ukrainian SS man, with the order to remove the wounded boy. He was immediately taken to the local cemetery where he [the boy] was shot…
Zwiezhina went to Vienna, where, in the year 1946, he was recognized by several Ostrowiec Jews, who helped get him arrested. But he was able to escape successfully.
In the year 1947, he was recognized in Munich by some Ostrowiec Jews, and they arrested him immediately. Finally, he was returned to the Polish government officials.
The plaintiff in the trial was prosecutor Sokol; defendant Zapolski; trial chairman [judge] Savicki. As witnesses or the trial, there were: Shamai Kudlowycz, Itche Meir Birenzweig, Pintche Langer, Chaim Langer, and the author of these lines. The witnesses recounted the good deeds of the accused, and uncovered the entire, horrifying tragedy of the Jewish population in Ostrowiec during the occupation.
After the trial, Zwiezhina was sentenced to death and to lose all public and civil rights.
Dos Neue Leben [The New Life], Warsaw, September 28, 1948.
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