The Lublin District had a special place in the Nazi's plan to annihilate the Jews. At first, the plan was to establish Lublin as the center of Jewish extermination, but that did not materialize and Lublin's Jewry had the same fate as the rest of Polish Jewry, which was almost entirely eliminated.
The first Labor Camps were built in the Lublin District as early as 1939. The Nazis built three Extermination Camps in the area: Madanek, Belzyce and Sobivor, as well as Treblinka, which was close by. Large Labor Camps were built in the District, including Ponyatowa, Drewnik, Bidziny and others.
Pulawy was the administrative center in the Lublin District, and it included 13 villages and farms around them: Baranow, Deblin-Irena, Jozefow Nad Wisla, Kurow, Kazimierz, Konskowola, Lysoyki, Markuszow, Michow, Nalecszow, Opole, Ryki and Wawolnica.
Further on in this book we include a table showing the extermination of the Jews of Pulawy District, and a map of the district. More precisely, this is the death card of the Jews from the entire Lublin District. We obtained the document from Pages of History January-June 1950, Vol. 3, Sect. 1&2, Warsaw, published by the Jewish History Institute in Warsaw, where methodical work was carried out by T. Brostein-Bernstein regarding the fate of the Jews of the Lublin District.
The table shows that in December 1939 Jews were already being deported from Pulawy. This was the first deportation in the District. They were deported to Opole, Ryki, Nalecszow, Konskowola, and later they were shipped further, as was their fate.
Some joined the long road refugees that reached deep into the
Siberian plains in Russia, and central Asia. Some remained in the Russian occupied zone, where they perished. Many were caught and placed in Nazi camps, from where only a few survived.
In the following chapters we include personal memories, testimonies and documents from the last chapters of the history of the Jewish community of Pulawy. The individuals who witnessed and lived through these events are responsible for the memoirs and testimonies.
The Death Table of the Jews of Pulawy is on pages 336-337.
The writer was a politician in Pulawy, and felt that it was his sacred obligation that he must describe, in a clear and concise manner, what remained from his memories of the wonderful times, and later, the terrible days, so that the destruction of the city of Pulawy will be remembered.
At 10 a.m. on September 1, we saw the first German airplanes. At sunrise Saturday morning, September 2, the few people who were out in the streets were deeply frightened. They walked close to the walls to avoid the falling bombs. People forgot their daily chores and worried about how to avoid this new danger. In the meantime, a succession of bad news followed, one worse than the other. It was already known that the German tanks had defeated the Polish Army and they were over 200 Km inside Polish territory. Soon after it was learned that in the places captured by the
Germans, Jews were immediately rounded up and terrorized, created panic. The Jewish community ceased to exist. The community leaders escaped encouraging the entire community to follow and leave town.
As far as the eye could see, there were long convoys of people on foot, animals, wagons, cars, magnificent limousines, riders on groomed horses, motorcycles, and bicycles. All this took place under the loud noise of rifle fire and choking, thick smoke. While walking, people stumbled over human corpses and dead horses lying on the road, along with abandoned limousines, and motorcycles that had run out of gas. There were hundreds of them. We stumbled and stood again trying to get as far away as possible from the carnage. Finally, exhausted, we arrived in the nearby town, Konskowola.
Eventually a Jew arrived and he escorted us to a barn where we lay down and fell asleep. At first light German airplanes reappeared. It was obvious that we had to keep on running. Hungry and thirsty we marched on and three hours later we arrived in a Polish village. We rested for an hour and marched on. Late at night we arrived in the city, Wawolnica.
Here, we found a local Jew who gave our group a cellar that used to be an apple storage room. It was damp, with the heavy smell of rotten apples, it was very hard to breathe, but still it was better than sleeping in the street.
On September 17 a news message arrived informing us that the Russian Red Army had entered Poland and was conquering many towns and cities. In the meantime, the High Holidays arrived. The Beit Midrashes and synagogues filled with worshippers coming to pray for a good year. That same day we heard about the fall of Lublin in the hands of the Germans, which actually put this town under the control of the Germans, despite the fact that they had not yet entered the city.
With each passing day, food shortages were felt here as well. I decided to return to my town, but only after finding out the current conditions in Pulawy. How do the murderers treat the few Jews who stayed there ? in the meantime we stayed in Wawolnica. After a week of not hearing anything I left with my son. We arrived at the edge of Pulawy and entered an acquaintance's home to find out the news. Unfortunately, he didn't have good news to tell us. He informed us that the Germans built a concentration camp near Radom and sent a few Jews from Pulawy there, including Moshe Zaifman, a strong man. They were severely tortured and later released.
Through gardens and open fields, avoiding Germans along the way, we arrived at our old house two days before The Day of Atonement. We found all the fabric from our store, which was hidden in the cellar, in perfect condition.
For a few days I stayed in my apartment, which included three rooms and a kitchen, while my wife worked in the store because the German ordered, under the threat of guns, that all stores remain open daily till 5 p.m., including Saturdays and Holidays.
I pasted newspapers on the windows, leaving only a small crack, to be able to see who was approaching the house, leaving me enough time to hide in the attic.
On the Day of Atonement something happened which made me say the Thanksgiving prayer. This is what happened: In my store there were a few
Polish illustration journals left, and one of them had a picture of Governor Back riding on Hitler's back. I didn't know about it. How could I check all the newspapers? A German officer came in and leafed through the magazines. When he noticed this picture he got very angry, kicked the table and screamed, Who is this man?. Luckily my wife realized what was happening and she told him that the man was from the Army. He threatened revenge against the Jews at the first opportunity. When I heard about it the hair on my head stood up straight: How can one avoid trouble?
Jewish citizens were humiliated, men taken to forced labor lasting from 6 a.m. till 7 p.m. Those taken to forced labor were compelled to carry brooms and shovels on their shoulders, march in rows and sing humiliating songs. This was done to degrade the Jews in the eyes of the Polish population, who always enjoyed seeing their Jewish neighbors humiliated. Women captured for forced labor were stripped of their clothes and ordered to clean floors in German offices. Respected old Jewish men draped in their Prayers shawls were taken from the synagogues on Saturdays and ordered to wash toilets with their bare hands.
Every Jew in town tried to evade the kidnapping and they found strange places to hide. There were many different ideas: A Jew would enter the toilet and his wife or mother would lock him inside. People lay in the attic between logs and rags in a virtual self-imposed prison, hungry and thirsty just so that the Germans would not find them. It should be noted that no payment was given for forced labor, except beatings and more beatings. They were beaten before the workday started, during work and after work.
A few days after my arrival, the Germans arrived as well. They established the Udenraht, and I was part of it. School Master, Heinrich Adler was placed as the head of the Udenraht.
He put me in charge of the Jewish kitchen so I had no choice but to escape from the town, since I couldn't watch the way in which the Germans used the Udenraht for their own needs.
As had happened throughout the country, the German governors tried to trick the Jews of Pulawy, as well, into thinking it was for their own good, and in this way force Jewish leaders to carry out their evil deeds.
The Udenraht was given pseudo self-rule, but in reality it was false, since they did what the Germans ordered them to do.
Polish national pride received a terrible blow when their eternal arch-rivals called Schwabs, suddenly ruled over them, but they still enjoyed watching the Jews' suffering and humiliation. Instead of uniting with the poor Jews against their common enemy, they helped the Germans make Jewish life more unbearable. Every morning Polish youth joined the Germans searching for and catching Jews, or going to where Jews lived. They never found it necessary to protest or voice their disagreement over this.
It was a common scene, German soldiers attacking Jewish men and women. More than one Jewish woman was attacked and her jewelry snatched off her neck. Groups of soldiers entered Jewish homes at night, ransacking them and taking whatever they could. Jews where not allowed to ride on wagons and buses. It became clear that by doing this the murderers tried to rob Jews of their livelihood and starve them.
We must mention that, in general the Germans were cruel, but there were a few who showed some emotion and feelings toward Jews. They were the Germans from Austria or the Sudets. I could converse with these Germans and we had good relations - till the Ghetto was built. They visited us, bringing us bread or chocolates, which were considered luxuries at this time. These were the bright spots in the darkness. It suddenly all changed when the ghetto was built.
This news struck us like lightning from the sky, and it was clear that something terrible was imminent, and that we hadn't yet, finished drinking from the poisoned cup.
A major commotion erupted within the Jewish community. The neglected
neighborhood designated to house the Jews was very small and it now had to
accommodate 6000 lives, since 3000 had already left town. In addition, the
sanitary conditions were appalling. Even before the establishment of the
Ghetto, the following incident occurred:
In the early morning of November 4 reinforced Army companies appeared on the streets, all traffic halted, and Jews were not allowed to leave their homes. We racked our brains trying to understand what had suddenly happened and where it would lead. The puzzle was solved immediately. The new decree was declared in order to confiscate all Jewish stores. The Germans moved from store to store and ordered them shut and took the keys with them. All at once Jews became beggars, and all the effort and work exerted over many years to achieve something, vanished like bursting soap bubbles. Obviously, there was no one to turn to. First thing that morning the Jews started moving their few belongings from their neat apartments to 'new', dirty and crowded accommodations. After two short days it was impossible to imagine that Jews had ever lived there. The Poles spread out all over the town as if in their father's vineyard. The Jews, who had nothing to do, gathered in the courtyard of the Udenraht, which was in Adler's school. Moaning and crying till nightfall, then they had to enter their places; anyone found outside between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. was shot on the spot.
Under the cover of darkness the Nazi robbers broke into Jewish homes and took whatever they could. Sometimes windows were shuttered and desperate screams were heard. These were screams of victims thinking that the shouts would save them, but to no avail, since other Jews could not come to their rescue due to the late hour, while the thieves, it seems, knew that nothing would happen to them.
These so called ushers were partners in the robberies! It must be noted that it was pitch dark in the Ghetto at night. Electricity was cut off during the first days of the war, so Jews sat in darkness all night, with only one candle burning in the corner. The robbers took advantage of the darkness to execute their evil. It is obvious that the Ghetto increased the desperation level that engulfed the Jewish community. Thoughts of escape already entered the mind of this writer.
I started discussing with friends the possibility of getting out of hell. My wife disagreed. Her parents lived in Radom and she didn't want to separate from them. My mother-in-law persuaded her to stay in Poland. I had a tough fight with myself but I couldn't make a decision: should I stay here or leave my wife and go to Soviet-Russia? Other options to leave Poland did almost not exist. Slowly all the roads leading to the Soviet borders filled with young Jews of both sexes. My daughter and son as well sneaked out and left us here: my wife, my 10 years old son Shlomo, my mother-in-law and me. Good news did not arrive from the other side of the border. Those returning from there told about unbelievably dirty halls, Bet Midrashes and schools filled with refugees. Everything was very expensive and making a living was impossible, leading only to hunger. Still, many flocked there knowing that same fate awaited them all; Jews and Christians and if it got worse, it would be worse for everyone, but overall, the danger was not life-threatening. I wish to tell a few episodes that happened to me at that time.
1 a.m. at night. I awoke frightened from my sleep, with a flashlight shining in my face, held by a German robber.
Finally, he got tired, he did not find a gun or any other valuable items which I had previously hidden in the cellar. Suddenly he turned towards me asking:
They had enough of this game when the officer said:
After 5 p.m.. I am in the storage room at the back of the store. Suddenly, loud banging. I did not answer. I realize they are probably cold-blooded robbers. Suddenly, I hear them demand we open the door otherwise they will break it down. Fearing for my life, I open the door. Two Germans appear at the doorway with pistols in their hands. They walk towards the back of the store, one turn on a pocket-flashlight, lights the area and starts filling his pockets with perfume bottles, soap, knives and more. After filling their backpacks they walk away. This happened in many places.
One morning, after leaving my hiding place during the day in order to avoid being taken to work, a young German with a murderous face and pig eyes, approached me. He grabbed my elbows screaming:
I begged him, I showed him a Doctor's note explaining that I had just recuperated from a bad case of the flu. He grabbed the note, examined it from all sides and asked:
especially since I was just recovering from an illness. I was not mistaken. The door opened and in walked that soldier along with a second one carrying a rifle. He pointed me out to the second soldier and told him:
The soldier took me into the office and informed the Officer that he brought a Jew to chop the logs, but he thinks that this Jew can not perform this work, he is not well enough for this hard job.
The Officer glanced at me and replied to the soldier:
We walked further. We met a number of Jews along the way but he said nothing,
so I said nothing, as well. He realized full well that he could use this
situation in which I didn't want to point out a fellow Jew, to get more from
me. Finally, he turned to me, saying:
One fall day, an S.S. Officer passed the threshold of my store, wearing a white cross on his arm. With him were a woman who used to shop in my store during the good days, and a soldier holding a pistol.
He moved towards the closets, opened them and threw out various suits and coats. He finally chose two new, nice, English suits, handed them over to Fritz, saying:
Thank you and good bye. With a polite, ironic motion he left the room, followed by his two companions.
One evening, a few men and myself sat by a lamp in my room discussing the latest events. Suddenly, loud steps made by heavy shoes were heard on the steps leading to my place. It was obvious that they were Germans. The door was locked. They tried opening it, but when it didn't open, they tried breaking it down. Ber Green, who later died tragically, opened the window facing the street and shouted in a shaky voice: 'Help! Fire!. We hoped they would be frightened and leave us, but they did not. They continued banging on the door knowing that our screams would not be answered by the patrols on the street. They banged louder and louder causing the door to start cracking. We had to open it, and then invited them to join us at the table and share what was left to eat. They asked why we were screaming. We told them that we thought there was a fire, and were shouting for help. They didn't like our answer, but didn't say anything. They drank, ate and walked out reassuring us that they had no intention of harming us. Our screams must have helped, after all.
One day a few soldiers entered my store. Immediately, one of them turned to me and in an unfriendly tone said:
One day in October 1939, I traveled to Lublin to meet my uncle, brother and sister, and to discuss my plans to leave Poland. My uncle, a true Jew, learned and smart, didn't recommend it, but my brother and sister had no objections. On the contrary, she said she would like to join me but her husband refused. On my return I heard that Jews were no longer allowed to use public trains and buses. My daughter and niece, who happened to be in the train station, managed to obtain tickets, and we sneaked into the baggage car. Slowly it filled up with people. I, always a pessimist, started worrying that the Germans might search all the wagons for Jews. Very soon it became a reality when we heard the question: Are there any Jews in here? I sat down, lowered my hat over my face pretending to be asleep. I noticed the Poles talking among themselves, but didn't say anything and the Germans walked away from our car searching for Jews in other cars. Shortly after, we heard the terrible screams of Jews who were pulled off other cars by these murderous Germans.
Long Lublin Street was almost completely erased off the face of the earth by the battles of war, but a few dozen stores remained standing and were now occupied by our lovely neighbors. If one left the Ghetto, during the two hours in which it was allowed, the scenery pinched the heart. Is that Naomi? Is that our sympathetic hometown, Pulawy? It ached even more when you saw Addes Avramek sitting in Favel Manek's Soda factory, or Josek in Yankel Mashiach's garment store, as if they were in their fathers' vineyard. There was nothing one could do about it. To avoid sadness, you forego the pleasure of leaving the ghetto for those two hours. People walked aimlessly in the ghetto, hungry, looking at the sky and wondering: Why? For whom? What will happen at the end? While gazing at the sky I wondered too: Is the sun shining on me, or only on Janeken and Baleken? Is there hope for the future? How? From the thin air? These thoughts went through the mind and burdened the soul. The cruel winter was fast approaching bringing bitter cold and snowstorms. It was impossible to get wood or coal for heating. It was no wonder that no one was smiling. Those thoughts lead Jews to total despair, saying things which were never heard before, - that there was no sense in staying alive, and the only solution was to end it. The youth didn't accept the notion that their fate was sealed, and they fled eastward through the border, which was not hermetically sealed. Small groups started moving eastward, towards Soviet Russia. A few grown-ups were lucky to make it through, as well. A few were not as lucky and they did not return, including Shlomo Scheinberg, Heinoch Recheles, Fawel Menikow, Judel Kleinwakseler, Itche Ber Scheidenfish, Dr. Davidson and others.
They were completely wrong. Mostly the youth went to Soviet-Russia and I decided to escape there. I knew Russian and bookkeeping so I believed I could manage there. I joined a group of about 20 people. For a considerable sum we made a deal with two managers of a German transport company to take us to the border.
When it was all arranged, my son suddenly returned from the other side of the border, after enduring a few weeks of hunger and dirt, and after staying mainly in train stations. He refused to go back there and decided to stay here, under German occupation. All my efforts to persuade him to join us were to no avail until he went out on the street and a German officer passing by, kicked him for no reason. This changed his mind and he decided to leave the occupied zone, and this saved his life.
The two drivers played their role perfectly. After a few hours of fast driving we arrived at a small village, next to the border. The streets were covered in mud. There was no pavement on the streets or sidewalks. We, more than 20 people, spent the night on the filthy floor of a laundry. Two S.S. men arrived in town during the night, visited a few Jewish homes and showed what they could do. Terrible screams were heard from all around. We got up in the morning and decided to flee this place faster than from hell.
After long negotiations we were supposed to cross the Bog River, but we only did it the following day.
All day we lay in ditches trying to hide from the Germans. The smugglers arrived with a wagon early that morning. We loaded our belongings, and the wagon started rolling through side streets, with us running behind, over broken lumber lying on the streets, always watching the wagon with the smugglers. One member of our group, Leibel Bergerin disappeared at the last minute, and his whereabouts remains unknown till today.
Tired and broken we arrived at the Bog River next to a place hidden by big, old trees. First our packages were moved across, then our group which now consisted of 19 people. Usually the Bog was about 50 meters wide, but now, after the rainy season, it was wider. The noise of gushing water made it impossible to hear one another. Foam covered the water giving it a mysterious look. We crossed in small boats with groups of 5-6 men, the tall waves seeming to swallow us. It looked as if the boat was just about to tip over with its precious cargo. I did not know how to swim, so my fear had some basis. On top of it all, the smugglers stopped the boat in the middle of the gushing river demanding the agreed upon payment, or they would tip the boat over.
We had no choice but to hand over the payment. We were lucky they did not demand that everyone hand over all he had; we would have done that, too, to save our lives.
When we arrived on the other side we confronted a new situation. Ukrainian children, and 15-16 years old boys, came running from all sides demanding money, otherwise they would call the Soviets who patrolled the area. We gave them whatever we had, but they were not satisfied. We all ran towards the forest, and they left. We were lucky not to come across any Soviet patrols. Finally, from a grain barn, came a signal for us to approach, there we found our packages. This was a sign that the Gentile was cooperating with the smugglers from across the river. He suggested that we should hide among the grain sacks and piles of hay in the barn. In the meantime, he loaded hay onto his wagon, hid our packages and a few men from our group in it, then he headed to an unknown destination. He suggested that we follow him at a distance in small groups of 5-6 people.
Slowly, two groups left, leaving me in the last group. We left the hideout and followed quickly after the other group. After a short while, the youngsters of the second group started running as fast as they could. I started running with them till I had no energy left, and the gap between me and them, kept growing.
|Town||Number of Jews||Transfer|
|Prior to the War||1940||1941||1942||XII-X 1939||1941|
|Deblin Irenan||330||3750-III (3185 locals + 565 refugees)||3943-I 1200-13.V 5800-15.VIII (4000)|
|Jozefow n/Wisla||1424||1269-III (131+1138)||XII-50 families to Opole|
|Kurow||2751||1254-III (40+1214) 1700-till XI||2785-IV|
|Kazimierz n/Wisla||1800||1649-IV 1815-VI||1400-III||III-500 refugees & residents to Josefow|
|Lysobyki||500||490-III (100+390) 600-IX|
|Markuszow||1250||1320 VII||1643-III (133+1510)|
|Michow||1807 2100||2000 IV||2250-III (450+1800)||2387-III|
|Opole||4000 4325||5300 X (1200)||8000-III (3500+4500)||6000-VI,V 5712-15.VIII (4096)|
|Pulawy||3600||XII-Opole & other|
|Ryki||2895||3500 III||2935-III (161+2774) 2960-XII,XI|
|Wawolnica||895 1070||1750-III (683+1067) 1310-VII,V||1250-II||IV-to Kurow & Opole|
|Partition||Expulsion & Annihilation||Town|
|8.V-1,500 to Sobivor, 500 fled.||Baranow|
|15.V-2,042 Fr. Slovakia (Preszow)||6.V-2,500 to Sobivor. 15.X-To Treblinka, 2 camps were left||V-1 camp to Panya-tow||22&23.VII- 2nd camp to Czenst- echowa||Deblin Irenan|
|III-Residents & refugees fr. Kazimierz||7.V-To Sobivor||Jozefow n/Wisla|
|16.IV-14 40 families Fr. Lublin & Wawolnica IV- Fr. Kazimierz||8.VI- ?? VII-The camp 13.XI- Work camp||Kurow|
|III-To Opole 30.III-Through Naleczow to Belzacz, stayed at work camp. X-The work camp||Kazimierz n/Wisla|
|XII- From Pulawy||V-1,025 Fr. Slovakia 2.VI-2,500 from Slovakia||8.V-To Sobivor X- ?||Konskowola|
|V- ? 7.X- ?||Lysobyki|
|9.V-To Sobivor The camp remained. X- The camp.||Markuszow|
|II-400 From The countries annexed by the Reich. XII-fr. Mlawa||14.III & ?? From Lublin||10.V-To Sobivor||Michow|
|XII-146 Fr. Pulawy, Kurow & Markuszow||Naleczow|
|XII-50 families Fr. Josefow. 29.XII 2,500 Fr. Pulawy||15.II-1000 From. Wein 26.II-1,000 from Wein||End III-Fr. Kazimierz & Wawolnica V-From Slovakia V-from farms||31.III-Residents of Kazimierz& Wawolnica to Belzac V-To Sobivor X- or IX||Opole|
|XII,XI- 92 Fr. Kurow & Garwolyn||15.V-2,000+ fr. Czechoslo- vakia||7.V-To Sobivor V-in Deblin Camp 15.X-An 'Action' 28.X-An 'Action' 30.X- ||Ryki|
|III-To Opole, from there to Belzac. V- ?||Wawolnica|
When the gap grew to approximately one kilometer, I noticed they were surrounded from all sides by a group of horse-riders. I realized that this was a Soviet patrol, so I lay on the ground, but noticed one of the youngsters was running in their direction, probably to tell them about us. I crawled backwards on thorns and tall shrubs till I found a hiding place. It didn't take long before two of the riders, with the youngster, arrived at the exact spot I had been before. They searched among the shrubbery but when the horses became irritated by the thorns they left and took the youngster with them. I was saved then, but for how long?
I stayed lying there, surrounded by tall thorns, wondering what to do next. I decided to wait till dark and then take it from there. I waited till the sun set, it was very dark without any stars; it was very cloudy.
Slowly, I pushed my head up from the ground, looked around and noticed a few flickering small lights. They were probably from farmhouses in the area. Should I approach one of them, or not? I decided against that idea because I remembered hearing that the Ukrainians were big anti-Semites and they would probably hand me over to the Soviet patrols. What should I do? I was starving, exhausted and freezing in the cold December night. I shivered trying to find a solution to my predicament. Finally I had a bright idea which turned out to be the answer to my situation. I put my ear to the ground and listened. I soon heard the heavy stomps of horses and heavy trucks, and concluded that there was a road to my right, which probably leads to some town. It pumped new hope into me and I knew I
was not completely lost. I started walking in that direction. I had to be very careful, due to the flooding which filled all the trenches and pits with water.
I finally made it to the road. Now, which way should I turn? Right or left? Immediately I found the solution. I walked in one direction till I found a road sign. On one side it said 9, on the other 15, so I chose to walk towards the town that was only 9 kilometers away. I threw my backpack in the mud despite the fact that it contained the few items that I took with me. I was afraid that I would encounter a patrol and they might see what I have in the backpack and probably send me back. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my pants and hummed a popular song. I walked swinging from side to side like a duck or a goose. I wanted to look like a local boy, slightly intoxicated, strolling along. Indeed, it was not long before I met two Soviet soldiers from the Border Patrol who stopped me, shined a flashlight in my face and asked where I came from. I pointed towards the lights. My appearance was far from that of a local farmer. I started whistling the International.
They looked at one another, laughed, and then one of them tapped me on my shoulder and said: Go to hell! What are you doing here, you son of a bitch! Go to sleep, you rotten boy! If we see you once more, your life will not be worth much
I did not give them much time to ask any more questions. When told to go, just go! I started towards the village, but as soon as I saw that they moved farther away, I turned around. I did not see them again, but I did see a second patrol a few kilometers down the road. I walked upright and wished them: Good evening friends. Come with us, one of them muttered. We want to see what kind of a friend you are. My eyes turned dark, I shivered, but walked alongside them till we arrived where hundreds of miserable Jews gathered with drooping, sad faces.
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