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Translation of Konstantynow nad Bugiem chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Ada Holtzman zl
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Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 470-471, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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Konstantynow nad Bugiem
(Biala Podlaska District, Lublin Province)
Konstantynow nad Bugiem is mentioned for the first time in written sources that are dated back to the 17th century, as a village named Kuzyrdzi. In 1744 the village's name was changed to Konstantynow [Nad Bugiem] and the village was granted Town's privileges and permission to conduct market day once a week and annual fairs. In the 1840's the town got connected to the railroad line Lublin Warsaw. This made a positive impact on the town's development. In the 1850's some small textile factories were established.
On September 1939 the town was occupied by the Germans. Two weeks later the Germans retreated in favor of the Soviet Red Army. Afterwards the town became a border town on the line between German occupied Poland and Soviet occupied Poland. The town was under German occupation control.
There is no information about the origins of the Jewish community in Konstantynow. It seems that such Konstantynow Jewish community existed on the second half of the 18th century. Starting from 1751 and onward the Committee of the Four Lands VAAD ARBA HARATZOT convened in Konstantynow . A few important decisions were taken by this Committee including a decision about Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschuetz Talismans, did the talismans contain material for or against Sabbetaianism? Was Rabbi Eybeschuetz a secret Sabbetaian follower or not? Out of Konstantynow came a decision to ban for twenty years printing of the SHS (the six Orders of the Mishnah) in order to avoid competition with the Props brothers, the famous Amsterdam printers.
In the mid of the 18th century, the Konstantynow Rabbi was Rabbi Meir son of Rabbi Jacob Amdan. Rabbi Jacob Amdan was Rabbi Eybeschuetz's greatest rival. In a letter send in 1752 from Rabbi Jacob Amdan to the Committee of the Four Lands which was convening then in Konstantynow, he mentions his son, Rabbi Meir as a Head of a Konstantynow Yeshiva (Jewish Studies Institution). This confirms the existence of such a Yeshiva in Konstantynow in the mid of the 18th century.
The Konstantynow Jews were small traders and owned small businesses. An 1826 census refers to 35 merchants, 17 tailors, 6 bakers and other traders. Towards the end of the 19th century the Konstantynow Jews established some industrial facilities, flour mills and breweries.
The local Rabbis since the 19th century onward were Rabbi Yechezkel Weinberg; Rabbi Pinchas Freidiger; Rabbi Dov Nachman Shapira (in 1893); Rabbi Nathan Weltfroind; and Rabbi Chaim Radzinski (1929).
Konstantynow Jewry grew interest in the Zionist movement after WWI. Branches of Ziyonim Klaliim General Zionists, Hamizrachi The Zionist & religious movement, and Poaley Zion Zion Workers, were established, along side with Youth Movements for each political stream. The Zionists influence in the community and its institutions was vast.
The Konstantynow Orthodox Jews established in 1925 a branch of Agudat Yisrael and in 1932 a branch of the Beit Yacov girl's school.
Four Jewish delegates were nominated out of the eight members in the town's Council.
There were benevolent and mutual help associations, such as the long established Chevra Kadisha (Funeral Service), and the 1920's Gmilut Chsadim (Benevolent Fund), and Ezrat Cholim (Association toHelp the Sick). The Community Rabbi at that time was Rabbi Jacob Szajnkind, who perished in the Holocaust.
In 1929 a huge fire exterminated many of the town's houses most of which belonged to the Jewish population.
A Judenrat Jewish Council was nominated in Konstantynow by the Germans in the summer of 1940. The Judenrat was headed by Mosze Roizman and Rabbi Jacob Szajnkind. Towards the end of 1940, a Ghetto was erected and the Konstantynow Jews were forced into hard labor in the nearby Sieberg Estate, about 1 km south of the Konstantynow market place, and in the village of Serpelice, [coordinates 5217 2303] 20km NNW of Konstantynow, on the river Bug. The Jewish hard forced laborers were exposed to severe most cruel beatings from the Polish local Policemen and the Nazi SS guards.
The winter of 1942 was exceptionally severe. The bitter frost, the hunger and the hard labor cost a high toll of deaths. Gestapo personnel visited the Ghetto frequently and always left behind them murdered Jews. A typhus plague spread in the Konstantynow Ghetto, causing many victims as well.
On May 1942, all Jewish males age 15 to 60 were summoned to the market square (Rynek). The local Polish policemen and the Gestapo herded the Jews by beating, stabbing and abusing them, to the sheer enjoyment of the local Poles and the Gestapo. Thereafter 100 able Jewish males were selected and sent to a hard labor camp in Rogozinica, for slave labor in drainage diggings and forestation.
On September 1942, the Konstantynow Jews were evacuated and transferred to the Biala Podlaska Ghetto (20 KM South of Konstantynow). On the Sukkoth Holiday 5703, October 1942, the Polish police and the Gestapo forces circled the Biala Podlaska Ghetto, herding all Jews in the Ghetto to the Biala Rynek. Most Jews in the Biala Ghetto obeyed the orders and came to the Biala Rynek (Market Square). Few tried to hide. Escape was next to impossible. The Germans warned the local Polish population that anybody that hides Jews will be shot. In the Rynek, the Polish police and the Germans conducted a selection accompanied with horrible atrocities: The elderly Jews were shot on the spot, the young and the healthy were moved to local slave labor camps. All other Jews were marched on foot to the Miedzyrzec Podlaski Ghetto (25 kms west of Biala Podlaska). The Miedzyrzec Ghetto was the area's concentration and transit location deportation of the Jews to Extermination Camps. The non-guarded march from the Biala Ghetto to the Miedzyrzec took about a week. The Biala Ghetto refugees arrived at Miedzyrzec beaten, starving, and exhausted. In the Miedzyrzec ghetto, the Konstantynow Jews were herded into the Synagogue. On 17 October 1942, together with the Konstantynow males that were assembled from the nearby hard labor camps; they were pushed into cattle train wagons, destination Treblinka. The inside of the wagons were then sprayed with white lime chocking powder. Wagons doors were then sealed on their Jewish passengers. A cattle wagon that could barely contain 60 people was packed with 250 people. The congestion was horrible. When the train arrived in Treblinka Extermination Camp, (just a 110 km train trip North West of Miedzyrzec), part of the Jews in the packed wagons were already dead. The ones that got off the wagons were exterminated instantly upon arrival in Treblinka.
During the short train trip, some young men succeeded to jump from the wagons; some were shot, but some survived and joined Partisans units or hid with local farmers. One noted Polish farmer excelled in helping the surviving Konstantynow Jews who jumped from the death train, he convinced his family and relatives to help him on this mission. Close to liberation day by the Soviet Red Army, this righteous farmer was murdered by Anti-Semite partisan members of Armija Krajowa Fascist fraction. Three weeks before liberation by the Soviet Red Army, three young Jews who hid in the forests were murdered by Armija Krajowa members. Only on 3 July 1944 upon arrival of the Red Army, could the few surviving Jews leave their hideouts in the forests.
Yad Vashem Archives: M1/E/3371, 1281; 03/2181, 2230, 2723
Archive: HM/3371, 3377, 3378, 3386, 3574, 3577, 3579, 3579
P. Friedman, Wirtschaftliche Umschichtungsprozesse in der polnischen Judenschaftm - events in Jewish Polish history, 1800-1870 NY 1935
UNDZER TAG (Our Day) 26.2.1929
HEINT (Today), 21 Oct 1928, 30 Jul 1930, 21 May 1935.
PODLISHER LEJBEN (Podolia Life) 24 Mar 1933, 1 Jul 1933,
1 Dec 1933, 19 May 1934, 13 Jul 1934, 31 Aug 1934, 11 Sep 1934.
In memory of all my relatives who were born and lived in Konstantynow Nad Bugiem and were exterminated in Konstantynow, Biala Podlaska, Miedzyrzec Ghetto, Warsaw Ghetto, Sobibor, and Treblinka, between June and November 1942.
Secret Appendix II to the Pact stated that the River Bug will be a divider between German and Soviet forces, Konstantynow Nad Bugiem is situated 10 KM West of the river Bug. Thus the Red Army withdrew east of the river Bug.
German Wermacht Army together with Nazi Storm Troopers, Gestapo, and Ukrainian helpers arrived in Konstantynow in October 1939. They were immediately assisted by local Konstantynow Polish collaborators. At that time there were about 1,500 Jews in Konstantynow, organized in various Orthodox, secular and Zionist organizations. In 1939 there were at least 5 Synagogues in Konstantynow: The Main Synagogue located between the Rynek and the Jewish Cemetery, The Beit Midrash Jewish Studies School, adjusted to the Main synagogue, the Gerer Rabbi Shtibel (Small Synagogue), the Parcew Rabbi Shtibel, and the Shoemakers Shtibel.
Konstantynow was predominantly Jewish with a Jewish majority of about 75%. All houses in center town around the town's Rynek are Jewish property.
An open Ghetto was created in Konstantynow in the summer 1940, and all Jews were forced to wear the Yellow Star badge. A Limited number of Jews were allowed to roam the streets of Konstantynow at any given time. Jewish property was confiscated. Jews could recover back some of their very own property by paying high ransoms. The local Konstantynow Poles in collaboration with the Ukrainians helped themselves to Jewish property.
Men were taken to forced slave labor camps in nearby forests. Many of them got murdered there, in the first days of the Nazi occupation. The situation got worse after 22 June 1941, when the Germans invaded the USSR staging Operation Barbarossa.
Many Jews from Konstantynow ran away and hid in nearby forests, in order to avoid forced registering to the Biala Death Transport.
Alas, the Sobibor transport contained 3000 Jews from Konstantynow, Biala, Sarnaki [coordinates 5219 2253], and Losice [coordinates 5213 2243].
Families were split apart; one part was forced on the Sobibor transport, the other part was in hiding. After the Sobibor Aktzia, the Germans pacified the Jews, announcing there will be no more transports to the East, and that Jews should come out of their forest hideouts back to their homes.
When the Konstantynow Jews came out of the forests, the local Konstantynow Poles killed some of them on the roads and robbed the others of their last belongings and cloths.
The Jews that returned to Konstantynow, found that their homes were robbed and furniture, parcels, utensils and cloths were stolen by the local Konstantynow poles.
Within three days; Tuesday to Thursday, 22 to 24 September 1942, Konstantynow Nad Bugiem had become Judenrein, cleansed of Jews, and stayed Judenrein ever since. After 500 years of Jewish massive presence in this Shtetl.
Some Jews were deported from Konstantynow by the local small train that ran between Konstantynow and Biala. Most were moved by foot.
The Jew Town in Biala Ghetto was already overcrowded much over capacity, with Jews from Biala and the seven neighboring Shtetls. When they arrived in the Biala Ghetto they lay down on floors, courtyards, wherever they could find free space. Big pits were already dug by Jewish slave labor in open lots nearby the Biala Ghetto to accommodate bodies of exterminated Jews.
The Biala Ghetto Judenrat Jewish council was ordered by SD Commandant Glatt to pay ransom of 45,000 Zlotys. Women had to surrender their jewelry to the Germans and they obeyed. Family Jewelry that had been passed from generation to generation was confiscated by brutal force.
It looked like a scene from Dante's Inferno: A pack of wild wolves attacking a helpless flock of sheep. Mothers begged the Germans to kill them right there, so to spare them the sight of their kids being murdered.
10,000 Jews were gathered in the Pigs Market Square. All units took part in this Aktzia: Local Biala Poles, Ukrainian collaborators, Gestapo, German Reserve Gendarmerie, German Reserve and Police Battalions 101 and 306, German Air force Luftwaffe soldiers, Low rank Wermacht soldiers, SS Men, Commando Men, and Special Jew Hunting Units.
On Sabbath, 26 September 1942 the Germans started a Selection in the Biala Pig Market separating women from children, elderly from the young. Families were torn apart.
While separating families by force the guards killed anybody who resisted. The young able men were sent to Slave Work in Malaszewicze Airport 10 km W of Terespol. The old and the sick were forced to dig their own pits and were shot into them. The Jewish hospital in Biala had on this day 15 sick and 2 nurses. All were executed in the hospital.
The Jews of Biala, Konstantynow and surrounding shtetls arrived in the Miedzyrzec Ghetto after a few days, in the last days of September 1942. They were put in the Miedzyrzec Ghetto, Biala section.
Miedzyrzec had a centrally located Train Station, comfortably connected with most all Death and Concentration Camps. The German cruelty excelled in this town. Responsible for the extermination and the Aktzias was German Battalion 101 that consisted of Reservists and policemen drafted in the Hamburg area in Germany.
The Germans named Miedzyrzec Menschenschreck Human Horror. This nickname was fully justified.
The commander of Battalion 101 was Major Wilhelm Trapp. Under his command were 500 soldiers. Company A was headed by Captain Julius Wohlhauf; Company B was headed by Uberleutenant Hartwig Genada. SD Commandant responsible for the transport operations from Biala Podlaska was Glatt. The Aktzias were controlled from the Lublin headquarters of SS General Odilio Globochnick.
Battalion 101 was supported by a company of Ukrainian and Polish collaborators. They were named Trawnikis after the name of concentration camp Trawniki [coordinates 5108 2300] (40 KM ESE of Lublin) where they were trained for their Aktzia's missions. Their nickname was HIWIS derived from the German language word Hilfswilligier willing to help.
The Miedzyrzec Ghetto was erected to be Transit Ghetto for all Jews in the nearby Shtetls.
This was the second out of seven Aktzias transports shipped from the Miedzyrzec Ghetto to Treblinka. Some Konstantynow Jews jumped off the train of the 2nd Transport and returned to the Miedzyrzec Ghetto.
A total of 7 Aktzias were conducted in the Miedzyrzec Ghetto during a period of 11 months from 25 August 1942 to 17 July 1943.
Miedzyrzec was before the war a center of the brush production industry, production that was predominantly concentrated in Jewish hands. After Aktzia #1 the local Jewish population was almost eliminated, thus, space became available in the Ghetto to out of town Jews, as from the Biala's Jew town and Konstantynow.
In Aktzia #1 the Miedzyrzec Jews were ordered to the Rynek and sat for long hours in the summer beating sun with no water supply. Anyone that got up, got shot. Many fainted. German Reserve Battalion 101 was responsible for the atrocities. Captain Julius Wohlhauf was the commander of Company A of the Battalion. He recently had gotten married in Hanover, Germany and brought over his pregnant newly wed wife Vera Wholhauf, to brag to her about his work. She wondered around the Miedzyrzec Rynek with a bunch of German Red Cross nurses watching the brutal killings of 1,000 Jews before the transport embarkation. This was the way Frau vera Whohlhauof had spend her honeymoon, and she enjoyed every minute of it.
As the extermination process proceeded the Death Transports became smaller in volume. Less Jews remained in the Ghetto. Directly responsible for the Miedzyrzec territory killings and Aktzias were notoriously cruel German Reserve Police Battalions #101 and #306.
The Miedzyrzec Synagogue was a four stores massive brick building. It was renovated and inaugurated in a big ceremony in 1937, two years before the war. The famous cantor Gerszon Sirota from Warsaw, came to chant for the big Jewish crowd assembled then. In 1942 this inauguration seemed like ancient history.
The guards blocked the Synagogue's gates and windows, and supplied no food or water. The thirst was terrible. The sanitary conditions and smell were horrible. People had to use every corner in the synagogue for their basic human needs.
Some Konstantynow young men managed to jump from a third floor sealed window that they managed to break. Miraculously they survived the 7 meter jump with no severe bone breaks.
On this #5 Aktzia the Germans blew down all Miedzyrzec Synagogues and Shtibles. 2,000 Jews were transported to Treblinka on this transport. A few Konstantynow young men jumped from this train.
A selection in the Miedzyrzec Rynek separated the able men. They were shipped to Majdanek [coordinates 5114 2236] Concentration Camp near Lublin [coordinates 5115 2236]. Most all were exterminated on the Harvest Day Massacres conducted in Majdanek on November 1943.
Konstantynow survivors, few young men and women that escaped the Miedzyrzec Podlaski Ghetto transports to Treblinka hid in the forests near the village of Koszelowka [coordinates 5207 2259] (about 10 KM west of Konstantynow). They assembled in small groups of Jewish Partisans. They dug Bunker holes in the ground in order to survive the winters.
Some nights they slipped away into Konstantynow to check for Jewish survivors. They found no single Jew in Konstantynow. Their houses and real property were stolen by the Konstantynow Poles. The risk was high. Some known Polish collaborators in Konstantynow were murdering every Jew on sight. Some nights they slipped back into the Miedzyrzec Ghetto. There found some other Konstantynow Jews survivors hiding in underground holes in the Ghetto's backyards.
A few Konstantynow survivors escaped to the local Miedzyrzec Catholic cemetery, afterwards they fled to the forests around Konstantynow.
One survivor dared settle back in his own Konstantynow home but was murdered shortly there after by a Konstantynow Pole. As a reprisal, A Konstantynow Jewish Partisans group entered the Polish murderer's house in bright day light and executed him in front of his family.
The survivors settled and raised families in Israel, USA, Canada, and Australia.
Daniel J. Goldhagen: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust 1998
Moshe & N. Brezniak: The Birch Trees Stand Tall, Yad Vashem 2003
|Members of the youth movement Freihajt Konstantinow 1930
(courtesy of the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv)
|School girls of the Beth Yaacov school, Konstantinow 1930
(courtesy of the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv)
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