by Dr. Simkha Hampel and Yisokhar Minski
Before the Storm
There were still hot debates last night. People tried to persuade each other, and especially themselves, that despite all the signs in heaven and earth, war would not break out. In the street and in the home, in the Bote-Midro'shim (houses of study and prayer) and in the shtiblech (small Hasidic houses of prayer), young and old discussed it. An ocean of water poured from all sides, as if we wanted to drown our own unease [and] growing fear, which dominated all limbs and senses. You wanted, at least temporarily, to be freed from the encircling nightmare. You waited for the web into which you would be pushed and the calm and coziness disappeared. All gazes were veiled; the people went around as if without heads. The darkened windows and the emergency food, which was bought for any unseen emergency, had an uneasy effect.
Outside a gorgeous fall day reigned, adorned and painted with the whole richness and abundance of Polish nature. However, in the heart there was only darkness.
In the streets, air raid shelters were being dug against air assaults. All sections of the population dug and among one spade and another the discussion continued. The anti-Jewish agitation, which had been carried out in Poland in recent years, momentarily had been stilled. However, around the city, inscriptions painted in many colors were seen again: 'Death to the Jews,' 'Hitler will go after you, Jews!' The military groups, which for understandable reasons, had been shipped out by train only at night, were now traveling in all hours of the day and night. Infantry formations were going through the city, and the banging of the nails of their shoes resounded in the ears. They had long ago passed by, but the air still carried the thump of their steps.
In the void, the sound of the Jewish community, which was doomed to
ruin and death, still was heard. And then, in the last night of peace,
the sound began to waiver with the flicker of the light that was extinguished
in the powerful attack. A dark, frightening night, which carried in its
foam, tears, pain, ruin and death.
Friday, the 1st of September in the morning, the armed might of Germany, without a fiery declaration of war, began to cross the Polish borders. Death and destruction began to hail down from the sky. In the first hours of the unequal conflict, it became clear that the enemy would not find, in the air at any rate, any kind of serious resistance. The civilian population [would have to] depend on [both] their mercy and their disfavor.
In general, the Germans made no effort to bomb [strategic targets]. Mostly, they were aware that it was more worthwhile for them to capture them without destruction. At first, the whole madness of annihilation was poured out on the head of the general, unfortunate population. The enemy was still on the border and made preparations for its murderous leap, but in the hinterland, death, fire and tears had already celebrated their first bloody harvest.
What took place Friday morning, and throughout the whole day, in dozens of Polish towns and shtetlech, did not spare our city. At five thirty in the morning, the city was bombed for the first time. The first victims fell in the area of the metallurgical factory and near the mill. The air assaults came repeatedly several times during the day on Friday and, although the city had a small proportion of those who suffered that day, the fear of what would happen grabbed all parts of the population. In the evening hours, when the first refugees from the border area, frightened and loaded with small packages of their belongings, appeared in the city, there was a stir in [Radomsk]. There was a confused [exodus] from the city. People ran wherever their feet took them, anywhere far from the enemy, who was coming from the west. The wagons, which traveled to Przedborz, to Kinsk, to the East, were filled with refugees. A sea of people flooded the Przedborz road. It moved through all of the shtetlech and small villages, pulling along the old and the sick, who were carried in small beds or driven in hand-wagons. There was a mixture of the voices of children's lamenting cries, the mooing of cows, the bleating of sheep, the barking of dogs. The refugees told of frightening things. Whole towns and shtetlech were as if erased from the earth. The residents, who were successful in saving themselves from the flames, were shot, without pity, by machine guns. During the night, masses of the wounded were brought to the hospital, which was immediately filled. There simply was no empty space remaining and there was, also, no one to take care of them. Those who brought them [to the hospital] simply left them in the hospital courtyard or in front of the hospital door. There the unfortunate waited until someone would take pity on them.
Slowly the night passed, even for those who had not yet taken [to the road]. The city was dark, but in the pale moonlight people could be seen in front of every house and in every yard, with their helplessness, dispiritedness and deep despair.
On Saturday morning, the bombing began again and the official communiqués from the front were unable to hide the catastrophic collapse of the whole Polish defense system. In the city, the signs of the defeat were already present. The government offices were evacuated, the archives were destroyed and the prisoners taken away. Defeated military divisions moved through the city towards the East.
At twelve thirty in the afternoon, the last representative of the local
administration and the starost (governor of the province) appeared in front
of the city hall building to order the evacuation of the city, which the
enemy would soon be bombing. In the course of minutes, the information
reached into every corner of the city and a confused exodus began from
the city, which was almost emptied of its inhabitants.
An hour later, Radomsk already stood in flames. Thirteen bombardiers descended calmly over the roofs of the houses and during the course of ten minutes spread fire and destruction. Almost all of the houses in the market, Krakow Street and parts of Strzalkowska Street were destroyed. Later it became clear that not all of the houses had been hit directly; some of them were only partially destroyed. The majority were set on fire by members of the Polish underworld and the poor peasants, who carried out looted goods in little wagons the whole night. That night, the baker, Aron Kalka was killed while defending his house from bandit hands. Sunday morning, a 13-year old, Reszke, dug himself out of a bombed and crumbling house on Strzalkowska Street. It was learned from him that some families were buried alive in the cellar, where they had gathered at the house of Szmul-Leib Witenberg. The child ran around among burning devastation and called for help, but [his calls were futile] because there were no Jews in the city and the part of the Polish population that remained was busy with…looting. When people returned after some days to dig out the buried, it was already too late. It is known that the bombings created dozens of Jewish victims, although their exact number has never been successfully established.
On Sunday, the 3rd of September at eleven o'clock in the morning, the Germans entered the city. Here they found mentally and physically broken Jews, surrounded by a sea of enemies with knives in their hands or with sacks ready to plunder. This wild enemy consisting of Polish neighbors with nightmarish sacks, always at the ready, persecuted and preyed upon the Jews throughout their unfortunate and bloody struggle.
On Sunday, those whose feet had not taken them far away began to return to the city. The return was sorrowful. Those returning found the possessions they had accumulated through generations were now only burned out stones and ashes. The others, whose houses remained whole, sneaked into them unnoticed, driven by fear of a first encounter with the bloody enemy. More tragic was the situation of those who had the opportunity to run further. People were killed by stray bullets (such as the tailor Flububruda). The merchant Adolf Rudal drowned while running away. The fate of dozens of others is not known to this day.
The rapid advance of the German Army prevented thousands of people from
crossing the new Soviet border from their homes. A return march began,
which is engraved in the memory of all who experienced it. On the way,
horrible scenes took place. The wandering people were battered, thrown
in the concentration lagers created on the spot and, without reason, tortured
at every opportunity. Scarcely had the wretched found rescue from the hands
of one band of criminals, they fell into the hands of another. The Polish
roads were splattered with Jewish blood.
The Beginning of German Rule in the City
Immediately, on the first Sunday, the hostile decrees of the German occupiers began to appear about surrendering arms and the hours of the curfew (from 7 to 7), with threats that whoever did not obey the commands would be shot.
On 4 September, two posters appeared in German and Polish, signed by the military city commander. According to the first order, Jews were only permitted to move around the city from 8 o'clock in the morning until 7 at night, Poles from 5 in the morning until 8 at night. For appearing in the city during the prohibited hours, the penalty was death. The second order decreed the closing of all Jewish businesses and stores until a new announcement.
In the evening hours, groups of German soldiers appeared, accompanied by Poles, who led them to the Jewish businesses. The soldiers tore apart dozens of Jewish shops, burned them and divided the Jewish possessions among the Poles. A day later, the first German families appeared accompanied by Polish city officials on the Neiem Weg and the Jews were thrown out of their homes. They were forbidden to take anything with them and the unfortunate [people] were accompanied by bloody blows.
On Wednesday, the 6th of September, the following Jews were arrested: the Mintz brothers, Jakob and Alek, and Romek Rozenboim. Money was demanded from them and they were bloodily beaten.
Tuesday, the 12th of September 1939 is especially engraved in the memory of the entire Radomsk Jewish population, because of the bloody, savage actions of the German Gestapo in the city, who were helped by the Poles.
Early in the morning, the members of the German Gestapo with whips in their hands, accompanied by the Poles, went around to the Jewish houses and dragged out the men. They gathered the young and old together in the market, where they divided all of the Jews into three groups. One group was led away on Piotrkow Street, to the site of the former Greek Orthodox Church. The second group was taken to Reymonta Street to the so-called 'Bobe-Dzjade' (grandparents') site. The third group remained in the market.
The market group was given the order to fill in the defense trenches that had been dug by the whole population of Radomsk before the outbreak of the war in case of aerial attacks. Now, the Poles informed the Germans that it was the Jews who had dug the trenches so that the German tanks would not be able to drive into the city, thereby paralyzing the conquering German onslaught.
The Jews were forced to fill in the air raid shelters with bare hands
and were murderously beaten over the head with the whips of the Gestapo.
|During the aktsia of 'Bloody Tuesday' (September 12, 1939)|
The Gestapo also searched for victims who were not working fast enough. The first victim was the younger Sztrozberg (Manele Sztrosberg's son). At midday, the blood thirsty Gestapo members brought the entire group to Neiem Weg near the tax office. Everyone was ordered to lay down with faces to the ground. They were surrounded on all sides by guards with machine guns and with whips in their hands. The Gestapo members left alone to eat dinner. The entire group of Jews remained spread out on the ground, and anyone who made a move was murderously beaten. The entire Neiem Weg on both sides was filled with Poles who also alerted the Germans to which Jews moved.
Thus did the group lay on the ground until the Gestapo returned, sated and with their thirsts quenched. Then with murderous licks [the Jews] were driven in closed rows to the second group that was tortured on the 'Bobe-Dzjade' site. The same happened with the group that was tortured on the Greek Orthodox Church site. This group had still more luck. For many years, two large kettles filled with rainwater stood on the site. The Gestapo grabbed victims. They took the victim by the feet and by the head and put him in the water, holding him there until he was half-dead. Then tossing him away, grabbed a second victim and did the same 'purifying action.' The group was also driven to the 'Bobe-Dzjade' site with murderous licks and blows. And here on the 'Bobe-Dzjade' site, everything began anew. In order to please our neighbors, the Poles, even more, the Germans found those Jews who had pulled and played with their beards their whole life, and a race began as to who could cut or pull out the Jewish beards the fastest.
After this everyone had to go through an immersion in the river Radumka; all were driven into the water. Some had to stretch out the width of the river, creating a living bridge and the others had to go over the living bridge, there and back. And G-d sent our good friend the painter Donski a foolish notion, that just at that moment, he had the desire to create one of his 'figures.' And because of that, the Gestapo ordered that therefore everyone should be whipped over the head to imitate Donski's figures.
To all of this came masses of Poles, our closest neighbors with whom
we had the best of relations all our lives.
Starting with the Notary Public Poradowski, the pharmacist, the teacher from the Niemces gymnasia Walczak, the engineer Polrola, the judge Michalak, the crook Gunera, the streetwalker Helke Zebulka, masses, masses stood and were entertained by our pain.
And if all of this was not enough for our neighbors, they began to point out the rich Jews, and the Gestapo became particularly occupied with them. They found one of the manufacturer brothers Mintz, who for dozens of years employed only Poles in his factory, who earned their livelihood and got drunk through him. Now they all spat on him and threw mud in his face. And, with the coming of night, everyone had already fallen off their feet from exhaustion and pain, broken physically and morally. Then the Gestapo took this Mintz and led him through the streets with whips.
When it was already dark, the murderers began freeing the rows of Jews, one after the other. But, not being completely tired of torturing, they stood in a line and each Jew had to show them everything he had as well as emptying his pockets. Then they had to run through the gauntlet of Germans, who knocked them like hail over their heads. From all sides, the Germans put out their feet, and those who did not fall were kicked by their heavy boots. The Jews went into the street bloodied and cut-up. However, the whole of Reymonta Street was lined with Poles, who began to hit anew from all sides, as if they were, G-d forbid, starved, and had never even once hit a Jew.
In the morning, after this dark Tuesday, it was already known in the city who had voluntarily 'resigned' from the new bitter life, and had thrown himself into the arms of sweet death. The first was Shlomoh Gliksman, then Pinkus Gligeltoib's son-in-law and others and, still earlier, the watchmaker Shimon Jurburski.
Several days later, the Jews were permitted to open their businesses. Obviously so that the Germans and the Poles could storm the stores. The former began taking goods at random without paying. The latter bought goods for pennies, which later could not be replaced. In this way, almost all of the Jewish businesses were emptied of goods and the merchants were, at best, left with useless paper money.
Nabbing Jews in the streets was a daily occurrence. Besides hard work, being caught was bound with torturing. Very often, groups of German solders would cheer themselves up at the expense of frightened-to-death Jews. Among others, the apartment of the Amszinower Rabbi was attacked during Selichot (prayers of forgiveness). The wild soldiers beat the worshippers, ripped the seforim and talisim and stepped on them. Then, the Jews were driven out to the Sports Platz, where they were forced to fill in and then again dig out the trenches. This was all, understand, accompanied by all sorts of torture such as jumping into the trenches, running around the Sports Platz and performing different sports exercises to the great laughter of the gathered soldiers and civilians. Among others, a soldier cut off half of Leibke Donski's beard. A second Jew simply had his beard set on fire, and a third was forced to hold an extended revolver in the direction of the soldiers and he was photographed in this pose.
With the approach of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the situation worsened. The constant snatching of Jews for compulsory work and their fear of moving in the city paralyzed the Jewish population and their ability to earn a piece of bread. In addition, hundreds of families were burned out and robbed. Add to this, the catastrophic economic situation in which the Jewish population found itself just in the first month of the war. The number of homes where hunger was a frequent guest grew from day to day.
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, sensibly, 'davening' was not done in Shul or in the Bote-Medroshim. The nearest neighbors gathered in their own apartments, to daven as a group. Outside, women and children stood and gave warnings if the enemy approached, because gathering in groups was forbidden. In spite of these 'watchmen,' whole minyons were attacked and the worshippers, together with others, were dragged to public squares, where they worked filling in the trenches. During the work, scenes more frightening than usual took place and the wretched screams of the tortured were heard.
On the 9th of October, announcements appeared on the walls of the houses, that all men, Jews aged 15 to 60 must register in the morning on the Stadium Platz. Those who did not register would receive the death penalty. The city commandant signed the announcement.
Registration took place on the Stadium Platz near the 'Wadni Sports' and lasted five days. It was carried out by Polish city clerks under the supervision of the German soldiers. The purpose of the registration was not known or understood, but it created alarm among the Jews. On the 30th of October, new announcements appeared stating that Jewish men aged 15 to 60 must again register the next morning at the city hall, again under the threat of death to those who did not come to register.
On the morning of the 31st of October, young and old began to
assemble in front of the city hall at 8 a.m., waiting in long lines to go in.
Registration took place in the large conference room of the Radomsk city hall. The city
commandant, Ruter, in a brown uniform with a black swastika on a red band,
announced amid one threat and another, that able-bodied men would have
to wear a mark on the left side of the chest.
Then, they began to divide the so-called 'patches.' Each one had to give his name, first name, address and occupation. There were three kinds of patches: violet, red and yellow. They were made of cloth, 12 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide with a large 'J' (Jude) in gold paint on the violet, and black on the red and yellow patches. The violet patches were received by people released from compulsory work, doctors, dentists and those unfit for work. They were later also worn by the leaders of the Judenrat (Jewish Council). The red patches were received by the old and weak men, who were obliged to work only three days a week. Those who possessed the yellow patches were required to do compulsory work the whole week. The Radomskers were the first in all of Poland, to receive their patches, which occurred on the 31st of October.
On the 7th of November at night, five rich Jews were arrested, Yakob Rozenboim, Alek Rozenboim, Shlomoh Fiszman, Yitzhak Szpira and Josef Mintz. They were murderously beaten and immediately a ransom was imposed on the Jews of fifty thousand zlotys, which would have to be brought in during the course of 24 hours, or else the five arrestees would be shot. The sum was collected and the Jews were freed.
On the 9th of November, those with the yellow patches had to appear at 7 a.m. in front of the city bathhouse on Joselewicze Street. Here, the German soldiers and self-defense groups (Folks-Deutsch) divided the Jews into work groups:
On the 12th of November, the Kehile (Jewish community) chairman, Moishe Berger, was called to the city-commissar, where he received the order to organize a Judenrat within 24 hours and present the list for approval at a Kehile meeting dedicated to the [discussion of the] Judenrat. The Judenrat was composed of the following people: Moishe Berger, Dr. Glikman, Motek Behm, Yehuda-Hersz Tiger, Edward Lojfer, Yosef Mintz, Izrael Mintz, Yakob Rozenboim, Eliasz Rozenboim, Romek Rozenboim, Michal Szteinlauf, Yitzhak Szpira and Szmul Szpira.
On the 15th of November, the Judenrat was certified and Moishe Berger was elected as chairman. The job of the Judenrat was to remain in contact with the German regime and its management organs and, of course, carry out all of its orders. After a week's time, the Judenrat received an order from commandant Ruter to take over control of the Jewish worker-groups. In connection with this, the Judenrat established a worker's office in the former Kehile building located at Mickiewicza Street 5. The lists of the able-bodied Jewish workers were completed anew. The German regime requested still more workers from day to day, so that the total reached three thousand people daily. The workers, of course, were not rewarded for their work. Hunger constantly grew and the workers began even more forcefully to request of the Judenrat that they be paid for their work and that help be given to their families. They also demanded that all able-bodied men should be taken to work without exception. They correctly pointed out the fact that the whole burden fell on the shoulders of the poor shift-workers while the rich bought their way out with money.
The pressure from the Nazi administration on the Jewish population grew even stronger day by day. The extortion money became a daily occurrence. Besides money, the Jews always had to be ready to fulfill all kinds of requirements, which grew hour by hour. It was necessary to provide [the Nazis] with furniture, sleeping accommodations, clothing, linen, drapes, feather beds, rugs, jewelry, sets of dishes, radios, pianos, gramophones, etc. Among the other requirements, it was also necessary to provide accommodations and luxuriously furnish a brothel for the German military men. The Judenrat gathered together the required items with great difficulty through purchases from Polish merchants.
Another trouble was an engineer who supervised the work. He was named Tsifser and before the outbreak of the war, he worked for a Czech company that built the asphalt highway between Krakow and Warsaw. This was a sadist, who with particular pleasure tormented the Jewish workers who worked under his supervision. No matter how many workers the Judenrat provided for him, it was never enough and he always required more. More than once, he caught several Jews, ordered them to unhitch a passing wagon loaded with concrete slabs and forced them to pull the heavy wagon to the general laughter of the Polish on-lookers. Tsifser often visited the work sites, where he murderously beat and tormented the workers.
In the end, the difficult situation of the laborers and their bitterness against those they considered accomplices in their suffering and pain brought about a spontaneous demonstration, which took place in front of the office hall of the Judenrat. This was on Wednesday, the 6th of December. The starving demonstrators requested that the leader of the Judenrat receive a delegation and demanded a fair division of labor that would include all able-bodied men from all levels of society. Poor and rich should be assured of receiving a minimum wage and aid for their starving families. Also, they requested that a levy placed on the rich and non-laboring strata be invested for the benefit of those whom fate had brought to compulsory work groups. Embittered that the Judenrat would not receive a delegation, those gathered broke into the hall of the Judenrat and began to demolish the accommodations.
The German regime was informed by telephone by the Judenrat about the
incident. After a short time, dozens of gendarmes came in and threw themselves
like wild animals on those gathered in front of the Kehile building.
They found themselves in front of desperate Jews who attempted to defend themselves. The gendarmes completely lost their tempers and were not satisfied with beating and stabbing the Jews with bayonets, and shooting broke out. Dozens fell wounded. The murderous beatings carried over to other streets and lasted a long time. For weeks, Jews were seen in the city with bandaged heads and limbs.
On the 20th of December 1939, at 6 o'clock in the morning, announcements appeared in Polish and German, about the creation of a ghetto. The ghetto took in the following streets: Shul Street, Kolna, Stodolna, Joselewicz, Strzalkowska, Fabianiego Street, Mickiewicza Street. Leaving the ghetto was strictly forbidden. The Christian population was immediately forbidden entrance into the ghetto.
In an order, the Jewish population living outside the borders of the designated ghetto, was given one day to leave their homes and pass into the ghetto. In the morning hours of that same day, masses of Jews left their apartments in confusion and began streaming from New Market into the ghetto streets. A deep sorrow poured out onto the faces of the Jews. However, the Poles stood in the streets and with great pleasure watched the Jewish catastrophe. Not one good word, not one comforting word fell from their mouths. The day was wintry. The snow that fell then increased the desperation of the homeless masses. Starving Jews were seen hung with packages, pushing wagons loaded with their wretched possessions in the direction of the ghetto.
Mid-day, SS men, gendarmes, and the Gestapo appeared in the ghetto,
accompanied by the Folks-Deutsch. They began to check if all of the Jews
had already left their homes and had given up their keys to the apartments,
stores, department stores and workshops, as required. As soon as
they found a Jew, they brutally beat him, chased him from the house and
did not permit him to take anything with him. Jews who tried to take furniture
and bedding were prohibited from doing so by the German militia at the
ghetto entrance and they were robbed. Thousands of Jews lay outside in
the cold on the first night. There was no space for all of those driven
out of their homes, because the Polish inhabitants of the present ghetto
had received three days to leave their apartments. Meanwhile, the old,
the sick and the children were taken into the Bote-Midro'shim (houses of
study and prayer) and the synagogues. Later, when the Polish inhabitants
left the 'Jewish residential district,' the Judenrat took over the apartments
and divided the demolished apartments. After this, the Jews lived pressed
together with several families in an apartment. Some had to live in attics,
in cellars, or in stalls. The total number of Poles who had earlier lived
within the boundaries that now constituted the ghetto was smaller in comparison
with the number of Jews who had had to leave their homes. Several days
later, the German regime placed white signs with red lettering in Polish
and German at all of the ghetto entrances with the following content: 'This
is the ghetto. Entering is strictly forbidden. For Jews, leaving the ghetto
without the permission of the city-commandant is strictly forbidden.' Some
members of the Judenrat received permission to travel on the following
two streets, Aleja Kosciuszka and a part of Naturowicz Street, from the
city hall to the beginning of Aleja Kosciuszka.
The winters of the war, and especially the first, are deeply etched in the memories of those who lived through them and whom fate left alive.
The winter of 1940 distinguished itself with its hard frost. Things
were dire for the depressed and exhausted Jews during the city's terrible
snowstorms. The pervasive hunger, which grew from day to day, and the lack
of heating material aggravated the extreme situation for the residents
during the difficult winter period. Often, people in need were seen on
the streets and the cold forced them to stick out their hands and beg for
The Folks-kuk (People's Kitchen)
At the beginning of 1940, the long planned Folks-kuk opened in the ground
floor rooms of the Kehile building. It was run by a special committee consisting
of Abraham-Shlomoh Hampel, Josef Mintz, Henrik Fanski and Eliasz Rozenboim.
Goldberg, the former owner of the well-known confectionery shop on the
Neiem Weg, and workers from the kitchen of Wolf Szpira volunteered as cooks.
Many women and young girls helped with the cooking, serving and distribution
of the food. Long tables and chairs were set up in the large hall. Breakfast
was served in the morning coffee and a quarter kilo of bread first
to the worker groups and the needy. For lunch, potatoes and kasha soup
was cooked. The committee bought produce from Poles with the written permission
of the German regime.
The Police Office
By order of the regime, a Jewish Police Office was established in the city, as in other Polish cities. The duties of the police were
The first police commandant was Natan Winer and his deputy was Chaim
Markowicz. Shlomoh Rozenboim, Dovid Bugajski, Gwozdsz, Kszepitski, Josef
Ahron Cukerman, etc. belonged to the police, among others.
|Two guards from the office serving at the ghetto gate:
Josef Sobol and Welek Kugel
The Jewish Operation
In order to make use of the strength of the Jewish worker, a Jewish
department was created within the general workers' office. This was the
so-called 'Jewish Operation.' An exact registration of Jewish work-strength
was again carried out. Each worker had his own chart in the file, so that
the Germans had complete control over every able-bodied Jew.
Edicts and Persecutions
In February 1940, among other anti-Jewish decrees, an order also appeared forbidding Jews to travel by train.
The savage winter of 1940 brought snowstorms and snow constantly fell on the roads and highways. This created new trouble for the exhausted Jews. A night seldom passed that the Germans did not conduct police raids and drag Jews from their homes to clear the roads of snow.
That year during Christmas, the house of the Amszinower rabbi, as well as others, was attacked. The rabbi, who sat at a night lamp reading, was savagely beaten. The self-defense worker Nedler tore the hair from the rabbi's beard and later set it on fire with matches. The ruffians completely demolished the apartment, broke the furniture, ripped the seforim and trampled them, and at the end demanded of the Jews two thousand zlotys ransom money for the rabbi. Understandably, the Jews quickly collected the sum demanded in order to rescue the rabbi from the torturers' hands. Several days later, the sewing machine at which Nedler worked cut off several of his fingers. The Jews saw this as the punishment of G-d.
In March 1940, a section of German soldiers from the so-called 'tatn-khamf
trupn' ('action-fighter' troops) arrived in the city, where they excelled
in their savagery against the Jews. At the head of this section stood the
commandant Fichtner, a blood-thirsty beast who had one occupation, savagely
beating the Jews. He had every opportunity during his walks in the street
and in his room, too, where he called victims to come to him. After every
such 'visit' with the assassin, the Jews returned with broken bones and
The Typhus Epidemic and the First Medical Decree in the Ghetto
In the winter of 1940, a typhus epidemic broke out in the city. Both the Poles in the city and the Jews in the ghetto were felled by the illness. The major causes of the epidemic, particularly among the Jews, were the crowded, terrible living conditions and the malnutrition.
The spread of the epidemic alarmed the German regime, which was afraid that the disease would be caught by the soldiers, and therefore, they began a fight against the illness.
The murderer Fichtner summoned (the only doctor in the ghetto until 1940) Dr. Hampel. Later, Dr. Hampel was called to the offices of the German doctor, Dr. Joachim Hopman. An argument developed between the two doctors about how to combat the epidemic. The Nazi doctor, first of all, blamed the Jews themselves for spreading the epidemic. Dr. Hampel turned aside the argument, showing in fact, that typhus victims were present among the Poles in the city, too. In addition, he pointed out the specific conditions in which the Jews found themselves crowded and malnourished as weakening their power of resistance. The German doctor ordered that a delousing 'aktsia' be carried out and the Judenrat took control of the 'aktsia' the morning after the argument.
A part of the public baths on Joselewicz Street was put at the disposal of the Jewish population. The ghetto was divided into precincts and the Jewish police made sure that the 'aktsia' took in the entire population.
Upon entering the bath, everyone received a piece of soap and gave their clothes to a medic, who hung them on an electric disinfector. After bathing, each received their disinfected clothes with a certificate. Only with this certificate could one receive the 'bread card.'
The 'aktsia' lasted three weeks and, as had been foreseen, did not have a great effect, because the living conditions remained the same.
At the beginning of April 1940, the Judenrat received vaccination material
against stomach typhus and dysentery and, in the course of two weeks, the
population was vaccinated twice.
The vaccinations were carried out in the Kehile infirmary, and assisting the doctor in this work were Nehamah Minski and Shlomoh Wiezszbitski.
The first Passover under the German yoke was sorrowful. As anticipated, the baking of matzohs was not permitted. The religious segment of the population, which would not eat hometz, of course, starved.
The Judenrat, and the office apparatus it used, appeared in time to be inadequate. In the end, the ghetto was a separate administrative unit with many different departments and activities, with which the pre-war Kehile had no experience. At the time, it became apparent that a complete reorganization of both the council and the office apparatus was required.
In the month of May 1940, Berger, the chairman of the Judenrat, proposed at a meeting of the council the following list:
Members: Motek Behm; engineer Samuel Bernsztein; Victor Gutsztat, dentist Glikman; Abraham Hampel; Moishe Wainrajch; Yakob Witenberg; Hersz Zaydman; Leib Znamirowski; lawyer Manele; Josef Mintz; Izrael Mintz; Henrik Fanski; Yehuda Kopl; Stanislaw Kirszenboim; Leopold Kleiner; Dovid Radal; Alek Rozenboim; Romek Rozenboim; Yitzhak Szpira; Yakob Szpira and Szmul Szpira.
It was decided to create six divisions:
The tax office was charged with taxing the well-to-do Jews and collecting the needed money for supporting the kitchen, the office apparatus, the infirmary and mainly to cover the growing day-to-day demands of the German rulers.
At the head of the tax office stood Leib Znamirowski and his members were Matek Behm, Moishe Wainrajch, Tiger, Josef Mintz and Stanislaw Kirszenboim.
The works office had the responsibility for carrying out the registration of workers and craftsmen, dividing them into groups and sending them to the required work sites. The leader was Natan Winer.
The police division had to keep order in the ghetto, not permit Jews to leave the ghetto without written permission, escort the workers' groups to the work sites and in some cases, collect taxes. At the head of the forty policemen was Chaim Tarkowicz.
The sanitary division was concerned with health conditions in the ghetto, bettering the sanitary conditions and combating the epidemics through vaccination of the population. Heading this division was Dr. Simkha Hampel and he was helped in the work by having medics on the council such as Yakob Witenberg.
The food provisions office procured food for the kitchen and for the population, which received monthly allocation cards. The manager of this division was Yosef Fanski. The members were Henrik Fanski, Abraham Hampel. Hersz-Leib Zaydman, Izrael Mintz, Yehuda Kopl and Yakob Szpira.
The post division was a go-between for the secluded ghetto and the outside
world. The leader was Andzsza Krawe and the letter carriers, Yitzhak Tiger
and Izrael-Ahron Kupersztakh. They had the right to go to the main post
office every day in order to deliver and receive letters and packages for
the ghetto inhabitants. Telephone calls and telegrams were forbidden for
the Jewish population.
Four Hundred Jewish Cooking Stoves
At the end of May 1940, the Judenrat received a message that shortly, foreign Jews would be brought to the ghetto. Preparations were made for them in the Shul and in the Bote-Midro'shim. Indeed, after several days, the Jews evacuated from Ozorkow and Zdonska Wola arrived in sealed freight cars. They had been dragged away to Lodz and there they were thrown into a freight train together with Lodz Jews and taken away to Radomsk. Without food and drink, and without the ability to go outside to take care of their natural needs, they traveled several days from Lodz to Radomsk, where they arrived half-alive, unconscious and exhausted.
The Jewish officials from the Judenrat, who came to receive those arriving, had to carry many of them from the train because they did not have the strength to move by themselves. The sick and weak were placed in wagons and cabs and the stronger ones were led into the ghetto under a strong German guard.
The Judenrat had prepared for the incoming wounded: the rabbi's Beis Midrash (barrack A); Kopl's Beis Midrash (barrack B); and the Shul (C). Plank-beds with fresh straw were prepared in these three places. The women's committee assembled many things for the refugees. Upon arrival, the refugees were taken into the Judenrat building, where warm food had already been prepared for them. In the infirmary, the sick and weak received first aid. In the morning, they were taken to the public bath and after bathing, delousing and registering they were taken to the barracks.
In June, innoculations against stomach typhus, parasitic typhus and dysentery were again given to the whole population. Mrs. Aronson, the nurse from Lodz, assisted in this 'aktsia.'
In June  1940, an order was issued in the area of the General Government, that Jews must change the badge used until now. Jews from twelve years old and up had to wear a white armband sixteen centimeters wide with a blue Star of David of eight centimeters. There was a severe punishment for not wearing the band. The Judenrat immediately ordered fabric and had the Star of David printed in Fanski's printshop.
 The order for the entire General Government (covering
central Poland) was published on the 15th of December
1939. In Radomsk, first in June 1940.
The workers-groups received the bands free and the rest of the population was required to pay fifty groshen for the band.
On the 13th of July, two cars with Gestapo men drove to the premises of the Judenrat at night and immediately ordered the police on duty to call all the members of the Judenrat. After a short time, when all of the Judenrat members were in the Kehile building, the Gestapo announced that they had come to arrest forty Jews accused as communists. They declared that they had received the names and addresses of the accused from the city council.
The Gestapo took the members of the Judenrat with them to arrest the forty Jews. In the morning, thirty-four men and six women were brought to the Judenrat. They were placed in a row and a Gestapo man read a report stating that they were communists and requested that they sign the report.
When the arrestees refused to sign, they were forcefully pushed into trucks and driven away.
Among the arrested were: Eiche Milyoner, Herszl Witenberg, Romek Rozenboim, Engineer Gabrial Winer, Luba Rozenboim, Goldsztein (in place of his brother who ran away to the Soviet Union), Mrs. Kalka (née Truskolaski, instead of her husband), M. Bugajski, Kzhepitski, Yehuda Koziwoda (instead of his brother), Feifkifh, Kahn with his wife (née Pszepiurke), Sz. Rozencweig, Gitl Haze, and old man Goldberg. The Gestapo went into Hana Birncweig's apartment, among others, and when they did not find those being sought, they savagely beat the old father, who died several days later. The arrestees, we later learned, were driven away to Auschwitz and there they all died.
On a Sunday morning, a group of German reporters from Stirmer and other German journalists came to the ghetto, accompanied by soldiers, and began to photograph the ghetto. They forced the Jews to sit around tables and play cards. The Germans lay piles of money on the tables. Among others, a Jew was photographed who wanted to embrace a woman, as it were. They arranged different scenes with the intention of defiling and belittling the Jew in the eyes of the onlooker. That is self-evident, as the scenes were organized under a hail of blows and cruelty. Later, photos of the Radomsk ghetto, in which Jews were presented as a disgraced race, thieves, card players and members of the underworld, appeared in German illustrated newspapers.
At the end of 1940, the bad health situation in the ghetto intensified and worsened. The ability of the hungry and almost homeless people to resist disease became harder day by day. A larger number began to fall from typhus and other epidemic diseases, because of the lack of the most basic means with which to fight the epidemics. The only Jewish doctor in the ghetto turned to the Judenrat countless times, both verbally and in writing, pleading for help. He demanded the initiation of a medical assault as well as medications, or else the situation would worsen. After considerable effort, the Judenrat received permission to bring another doctor into the ghetto. Dr. Mieczyslaw Zaks came from the Warsaw Ghetto. Before the war, he had practiced in Turek near Kalisz. Dr. Zaks was an assimilated Jew without sentiment and compassion for the suffering of his comrades. A third doctor arrived, too. Dr. Hersz Rozewicz was a resident of Radomsk before the war, who returned from the Soviet Union.
The increasing reach of the epidemic diseases had forced the Germans to demand of the Judenrat the opening of a Jewish Epidemic Hospital. The Judenrat, which did not have the means for this, turned to the German regime. After receiving unprecedented permission, Leopold Kleiner left for Czenstochow  in order to secure help for the Radomsk Hospital, as well as to obtain instruments and medications. His mission was carried out successfully.
 (Translator's note: Throughout, the spelling 'Czenstochow' is used for the Polish city Czestochowa to reflect the Yiddish pronunciation of this name.)
The Judenrat then decided to open the hospital in Blumsztein's house, where Chaim Kreindler's Jewish Folks-Shul had been before the war. The residents of the house were taken to other apartments and the premises were thoroughly restored.
The doctors made the decision to divide the work among themselves as follows:
The warm and generous contributions on behalf of the hospital at Strzalkowska
23 from the impoverished Jewish population should particularly be remembered
The month of January 1941 passed under the burden of the severe typhus
epidemic. Every day brought new victims and the barracks were especially
hard hit the Shul and the Bote-Midro'shim.
Among the dozens of victims of the plague in January 1941 were the devoted business lawyer Manela, Jozef Fanski's son-in-law and Herszl Krojze. Then, the dentist Glikman died of typhus, too.
Those responsible for the fight against the epidemic undertook a further step in order to control the situation. The ghetto was divided into six districts; a doctor and a medic were appointed over each district. Their responsibilities were to send to the hospital all those with typhus, to control cleanliness, to carry out the disinfecting of the apartments and furniture, to distribute fresh straw and to burn the old, and to send the people to the public bath, and the like.
Each house, where there was a case of typhus, was closed for a certain period and the inhabitants were provided with food. After the quarantine, it was again opened. The room where the typhus case had lain was thoroughly disinfected (the windows and door were sealed, a pan of sulfur was placed in the middle of the room and it was set on fire with alcohol. It was left burning for forty-eight hours. After this, the room was given back to the inhabitants).
The districts were divided as follows: the first district Shul Street from 1-23 and from 2-22, Dr. Rozewicz; the second district Shul Street from 23 up to 57 and from 22 up to 58, Dr. Zaks; third district left side Strzalkowska (1-29), Fabianiego Street (1-23 and 2-24), Dr. Furtszpigl; fourth district Stodolne 1-25 and 2-44 and a part of Rolna, Dr. Sz. Hampel; fifth district Wonwozowa Mickiewicza (1-25 and 2-24), the dentist Setsemska-Gil; sixth district Joselewicz Street with the barracks A, B, C, dentist Markowicz.
A day did not pass in which the districts were not searched and checked.
Until then, the Jewish population was forbidden to bathe in the public
bath. The Judenrat, therefore, started to restore the old mikvah (ritual
bath), the so-called 'Leibke Donski's mikvah,' and to adapt it to the new
requirements. Disinfecting equipment was required in the restored mikvah.
The Changes in the Judenrat
It was already known for a long time that relations among the members
of the Judenrat were strained. First of all, relations between the chairman
Berger and the member Victor Gutsztat and his brother-in-law Szmul Szpira
became more strained. Rumors went around the city about changes in the
management of the Judenrat, which were implemented. In the month of May,
Gutsztat was officially nominated as chairman of the Judenrat. Berger,
who was afraid that he would be arrested, ran away from the city. (He was
killed in Czenstochow.)
The Decrease in the Size of the Ghetto
At the end of June, an order arrived from the German regime concerning
the reduction of the size of the ghetto. According to this order, the Jewish
inhabitants had to leave their apartments immediately, The houses after
the hospital at Strzalkowska 23, number 56 on Limanowski Street and the
small church on Krakower Street [were no longer part of the ghetto]. The
people were distributed among the barracks, the Shul, the Bote-Midro'shim
and private homes.
Among the countless hardships that the worker-groups in the ghetto encountered
was the work of regulating the Warta River near the so-called Bobres. The
conditions in which the workers carried out their labor must have led to
the saddest obedience. They worked standing an entire day in water without
rubber boots and unprotected from the scorching sun. Of course, many fell
here from lung and joint inflammation, sunstroke, and thirst. Among others
who died then were Kluzinski, Zandberg, Sztitski (the son of Moishe Sztitski).
All attempts to obtain rubber boots for those working were unsuccessful.
The Plaszower Tradegy
In August, the Judenrat received an order to choose two hundred Jewish
workers for the Plaszower Camp (near Krakow). There was no way to cancel
the decree, not even with money and the like. The two hundred young men
that the Judenrat had chosen were taken away, and for a long time there
was no news about them. After several weeks, the first cry for help came.
It was learned that the young men arrived, starving and exhausted, at the
Plaszower Camp after traveling for several days in a closed freight train.
The system that ruled there was the familiar regimen of the concentration
camps: hunger, hard work, severe beatings, barracks without even the most
elementary sanitary conditions. And understandably, the usual companion
of the above-described plague infectious diseases. At the end of November,
a small number of the unfortunate men came home. They looked frightened.
Their eyes were full of terror and their mouths were closed because of
fear. After considerable time, the details were learned from them, one
by one. The camp was surrounded by electrified barbed wire. They were led
in groups to hard labor in coal and stone mines and to various forms of
work. They were chased from the barracks at five o'clock in the morning
and chased kilometers to their work. Those who stopped on the way from
exhaustion or for other reasons were shot on the spot. The food which they
received consisted of a small piece of bread in the morning and evening
and a little bit of watery soup at midday. They slept for the entire time
on wooden planks. They were shot on the spot for going out at night in
order to take care of human needs.
The Fall of Kleinerman
In November 1941, a young man went to a small village in order to buy a little flour, a young man named Kleinerman. The Strzalkower Poles denounced and delivered him into German hands. No one helped him in his trouble and the list of the victims of the German Holocaust was increased with still another name.
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