by Zev Sabatowski
The Miracle on the Taficz
On Shabbas afternoons, young people often walked by way of the Zakszewer Road to the Taficz River where they spent so many pleasant times. But in 1941, during the German occupation, the river was transformed into a place of affliction.
The Germans decided that year to regulate the course of the river, so that it would flow together with the waters from the Warta River. The Judenrat had to provide 300 workers for this work. They were placed under the supervision of a Pole from Poznan, an enemy of the Jews.
The workers went out on the river in boats. Twelve men were packed in a boat designated for six men. And in fact the boat turned over and four of the young men drowned. The oldest was barely fourteen years old. Their names were: Kalozinski, Zandberg, Girkewicz (translators note: only three names are mentioned) and only three of the bodies were quickly, and successfully, recovered from the river. Despite all the searching, the fourth could not be found.
The Germans were afraid that the fourth body might cause a plague to
break out among the military. They turned to the Judenrat for help. The
Jews received passes to go to the river, which was outside of the ghetto.
A rabbi also went and they said prayers. When this did not help, the rabbi
put a candle in a challah and placed it on the water. After the challah
with the candle floated a little way, it suddenly stopped in one spot.
The German navy arrived at the spot and started searching in the water.
After several minutes, they pulled out the fourth body. The Germans were
astounded by what had happened as a result of the rabbi’s power.
Executions for a fur coat
At the beginning of the spring of 1942, a large number of Jewish refugees
from Polish towns and shtetlech, which had been incorporated into the German
Reich, came to Radomsk. These refugees, in time, were absorbed into our
city and experienced its later sorrows. Among these refugees was a family
from the town of Dzialoszyn named Til. Like many families at that time,
this family took up the smuggling of various items in order to provide
itself with food. Unfortunately, there was no shortage of informers in
the city, who notified the Gestapo about who was occupied with doing what.
The Gestapo would carry out a search of the denounced, confiscating the
goods or food. Usually, it was possible to buy back the goods with
a sum of money.
The denunciation of the Til family ended in a more tragic way.
When two members of the Gestapo came to make a search of the Til family’s house, they found a fur coat, which it was forbidden to have. (During the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, the Jews were required to surrender their fur coats for the Army, under the threat of death.) The two Gestapo members were known in Radomsk; one was the Folks-Deutsch Szmalc, a watchman for a Jewish landlord before the outbreak of the war. The second was an old underworld person, Staszek Wisamik, who every Wednesday, on market day, would tell fortunes in the market and cheat the naïve peasants out of their money. (During the Hitler regime, he became the chief of the secret police.) Despite all of the pleas, this time they did not want to take any money, although they were offered large sums. They took everyone who was in the apartment, including the old mother and her two married daughters and sons-in-law. By chance, the father with the two youngest daughters and two grandchildren (three and four years old) were sitting in the street and they were not arrested.
Despite much running around, great efforts and exertions of influence, there was no success in freeing the arrested. After a short time, it became known in the ghetto that the two sons-in-law were led out to the woods and shot. Several days later, a droshke was seen riding through Shul Street with five women – the three arrestees from the Til family and two others who were caught without permission outside the ghetto. All five women were led away to the cemetery and, there, shot.
The only Jew who witnessed the execution in the cemetery was the longtime
warden of the cemetery, who was accustomed to dead bodies and had no fear.
This time, however, he appeared at the Judenrat a shocked man. He broke
out in a wretched lament and shook with fear. He demanded to be freed from
his functions, because the laments of the five murdered women were floating
over the cemetery both day and night.
The Last Jew who Died in the Ghetto
By Yom Kippur of 1942, the Jewish community had already dwindled in the enclosed small ghetto. Jews in the street seemed to smell of death. Yet, on the day of Yom Kippur, a number of minyons of tormented Jews came together. From their broken hearts tore prayers, accompanied by a wretched lament. The well-known Gidzeler shokhet led the prayers soaked by a sea of tears.
Suddenly, a sorrowful message invaded like a thunderbolt. The assassins had surrounded Czenstochowa and the aktsia had already begun there. Panic took control of those praying – some ran away and some stayed lamenting the fresh misfortune, which was coming closer to our city. Everyone felt that the knife of the angel of death was closer to their own throats. The prayer leader fell down on the earth in a faint, like a cut down tree. There was a commotion; Jews ran to save him. Several minutes later when he opened his eyes, his first words were, Why did you wake me so I should die at the hands of the Germans? It was already so good for me .
Ten days later, a day after Shemini Atzeret, when the bell of death rang out its sound of massacre over our city, the hand of fate spared the shokhet a violent death.
Six weeks later, when only six houses remained in the small ghetto (in the Shul Street), with a smaller number of Jews, again death came close to the shokhet and did not take his life. The shokhet was then relegated to a deserted house and there became absorbed in learning Torah. On a certain dark evening, the well-known mass murderer Kerber passed by with a revolver in his hand accompanied by a barking dog. He heard the characteristic sound of a Jew studying and ordered that the door of the house be opened. I was by chance also passing by, with my two Jewish neighbors, and we went into the house first. The assassin remained standing by the door, opening wide his bloodthirsty eyes, looked into the face of the old shokhet and remained standing, as if congealed. He saw in front of him an old broken Jew, with a long white beard and tired extinguished eyes, whose lips moved in a holy prayer to G-d. Possibly, at the appearance of only one person, the heart of the bloodthirsty mass murderer shuddered. He was quiet for a few minutes and then roared: Stand up – March. The old shokhet stood up slowly. Then he lost his paleness, put his thin hand to his heart, clapped three times on the heart and with a high voice said: Boruch dein emes (Blessed thine truth). He left together with his capturer, but he again remained alive.
Three days later, we learned that Radomsk had been joined together with three or four cities in Poland, where Jews could still live. The ghetto grew larger because Jews were brought to us who were caught in the woods and from the jail, and with them appeared the shokhet. He again sat down to study, in the same room where his daughter had once lived. When I asked him how he had survived the last time, he answered me this way: Life is in the hand of G-d and only He determines when to take away life.
The shokhet lived the whole time on bread he had prepared earlier. On the 2nd of January 1943, he restored his pure soul to G-d – worthy of dying a natural death. He was the last Radomsker Jew to die in his bed and to be brought to the Jewish cemetery for burial.
Three days later, on the 6th of January 1943, the last annihilation
aktsia occurred, during which hundreds of people were shot on the spot.
They and the rest, who were deported to Treblinka, did not have the merit
possessed by the shokhet
Radomsker Victims in Czenstochow
On the 23rd of September 1943, while the German fires raged in the liquidation of the Jewish remnant in the Czenstochower ghetto, our city had its part there on the Hitleristic altar. The following Radomsker residents were shot [in Czenstochow]:
Abraham Krjsepitski and wife
Aliezer Houptman and wife.
This time the German annihilation machine did not beat with the same accuracy as it had in earlier aktsias, when thousands of Jews were concentrated in the small ghetto market and the degenerates with their bloodthirsty gendarmes carried out the selection. During those selections, the majority of those chosen were young men and they were loaded into waiting vehicles, which took them to the cemetery to be shot. During such an aktsia, my three brothers were found in one vehicle: Haim, Mordechai and Herszke Sabotowski.
Haim had arrived in Czenstochow with a group which had run away from the Skarszisker camp and he then used the name Szmulewicz (the family of our mother, of blessed memory). At that time, the Germans were actually looking for people with the family name Szmulewicz, because of an arms transport that had smuggled weapons into the Czenstochower ghetto under this family name (all Szmulewiczs were therefore shot). Haim was arrested a day earlier, before the above mentioned aktsia, and brought directly to the little market upon arrest.
The same day, the second brother Mordechai, who worked in the gendarmerie, had gone to intervene to have Haim freed from arrest. Mordechai was immediately arrested, brought to the same market and loaded into the same vehicle in which Haim was already found along with two other Radomskers: Israel Haze and Yehezkeil Elfert.
The youngest brother Herszke was loaded into the same vehicle, because he lived on Najetszne Street, No. 86, where hand grenades were being readied for the ghetto uprising.
While the vehicle, with a load of 45 people, was on its way to the cemetery, my brother Haim beat the gendarme and hurled him out of the vehicle. A panic immediately ensued; everyone began to jump from the vehicle into the field, which was covered with tall grain. Shooting began and one after the other fell dead. Several holed up in the rye. They ran as one and, when they collided with the first gendarme, they threw themselves on him. They choked him with their hands and took his machine gun. After running for half an hour, they met a second gendarme, shot him and took his automatic weapon. With two weapons, they ran further to the woods.
Four of the group, all Czenstochowers, returned to the city. One of them, Haim Khatskielewicz, was recognized by a gendarme and shot on the spot. Two of them successfully reached the Worker’s Platz, Garibaldi Street, No. 28 and later they arrived in the HASAG (work camp), where I was.
With the help of Aryeih Grynspan (who is now in Israel) we have succeeded
in receiving the above-written information from Groinem Furman, who was
a witness to the bloody drama. Eight months later, when I met a Gentile
acquaintance from Radomsk, who worked in the HASAG I learned that my brothers
were alive and were in the woods, where they fought against the murderous
German enemy. On the 20th of January, when I had been freed and returned
to Radomsk, I determined that my brothers had been Partisans. They took
part in the aktsia in which German trains were overturned on the Piotrkow-Radomsk
line. My brothers died at the hands of their fellow Polish Partisans in
the Konsker forest.
In the HASAG
A particular chapter of the bloody martyrology is symbolized by the Czenstochower work camp, HASAG. A large number of Jews from Radomsk were found there. By the first selection, many Radomsker Jewish lives were wrenched from the camp, among them:
Zisman Epsztein and wife,
Haim Szmulewicz and daughter,
Lipa Ofman and
Regina Goldberg and her children, too,
Mikhal Holcberg and child,
Zadok Koniecpoler and others.
There was also no lack of Radomsker deaths due to the difficult living conditions and hunger, which predominated in the camp. The first victim of hunger, who could not carry out the heavy work under steady beatings, was Szmul Feierman. After two days of searching, he was found drowned in a camp waterhole. Then, Jakub Lehman’s daughter, Falja, died. After her, the Starawinski women. Fejwel Haze was shot.
Those who died at the hands of the Poles after running away were:
Yual Szwerszewski and
Because of an unsuccessful act by Monjek Plawner, many people paid with
their lives. Monjek had brought weapons into the ghetto for the Jewish
uprising, using the family name Szmulewicz, which was already stressed
above. This act cost the lives of all Szmulewiczs, including also the life
of their brother-in-law Izrael-Benim Szmulewicz. Monjek and his four sisters
were arrested in the camp by the gestapo and after heavy torture, they
were shot on 24.1.1943 at the Jewish cemetery.
Among the Radomskers who were in the HASAG until the last deportations were: Alihu, Ruszke and Rukhl Epsztein, Shlomoh Krakowski and daughter, Yakov and Daniel Szpira, Guta and Szifra Eikhner, Dovid Gerikhter, Mikhal Rozenberg, Moishe Rozenberg, Sura and Tema Hofman, Wolf Hofman, Feierman, Moishe Szwarts, Dovid Koniecpoler and wife, the Koniecpoler sisters, Yitzhak and Tuvia Kalka, Eidl Berger and sisters, Manya Hopman, Franya Szmuliewicz, Aryeh Grinspan, Yohanan and Chaia-Rukhl Faktor, Simcha Faktor, Eidl Keselman and wife, Tsele Keselman, Kalman Kornfeld, Dora Telman, Kszepitski, Mendl Alibeida, Abraham Gliksman, Moishe Gliksman, Gliksman-Fralnik, Yakov Weisberg, Chaia-Rukhl Pelman, Krojsz, Ruszke Hampel and sister, Haim-Josef Wigotski, Haim and Latke Szmuliewicz, Genja Szats and daugher Hela, a son of Haim Szmuliewicz, Bunim Strosberg, Shlomoh Dyament, Gatsek Zeidman, Sura Fiszlewicz, Chaia Fiszlewicz, Mikhal Ganszerowicz, Mikhal Sztinlouf, Przedborski brothers, Kleynerman’s daughter, Szimeon Hopman, Haim Ekiva and Alek Markowicz, Haim Aranowicz, Dovid Yakubowicz, Kina Kufitlowski and wife, Mendl Haze and wife, Hela and Ahron Bialistok, Myedved, Maneta, Sura Elpert, Rubinowicz, Moishe Szwiatowski, Gita Rabinowicz, Mair-Dovid Goldberg, wife and 2 sons, Ita Eizen and children, Chana and Gita Lidkewicz, Feigl Blager, Sura Aurbach, Slabiak, Cukerman, Moishe Rubinsztein, Shlomoh Fiszman, Yakov Landa, Wuliek Ganszerowicz and brother, Zev-Wolf Sabatowski and Yehieil Goldberg.
There was no lack of terror and harassment by the German side and their helpers in the HASAG. The Radomskers felt a certain relief, because one did not forget the other and they helped each other. We can take pride in Szimek Hofman who with great effort, together with Dora Telman, created a kitchen especially for the sick with many Radomskers taking part. A large part of the placement of people in housekeeping areas lay in the hands of Radomskers. In organizing service in the kitchen, as the fire janitor, in the warehouses, everywhere, Radomskers were represented. Whoever could buy bread, a herring, an onion, a little sugar, a potato roll, a pot of black coffee, a piece of soap – it was bought from the Radomskers. Anyone who had something to sell, a pair of pants, a suit, a shirt, a pair of shoes – he went to the Radomskers.
Despite all of the mentioned benefits, a larger number of Radomskers worked hard and were hungry. Those who were not ashamed of their hunger, and told an acquaintance about it, were taken care of by someone from the city.
Many assisted Mendl Aleberda (translator’s note: this surname is spelled differently in two different places), who worked in the kitchen. If it was said that a Radomsker was hungry, he did not spend time thinking, he said, He should come with a large pot and he will no longer be hungry .
This stroke of mutual Jewish readiness to help a landsman was the only
ray of light in the thick darkness, which was everywhere. These were the
most horrible days of death, in the whirl of painful hate, when man was
a beast to man, when every spark of humanity was extinquished, when everyone,
if he had the strength and courage to think, thought only of how to ease
the hunger and the pain. In the inferno and nightmare, a small fire of
human feeling would suddenly ignite when one met a landsman and was able
to help him in some way. At certain moments the feelings of collective
responsibility for the flimsy life, the same feeling of Jewish mutual assistance,
which clearly characterized the pre-war Jewish life in all of Poland, strengthened
in the face of death, which the Germans inflicted upon the Jews.
(From the left: Haim, Mordechai and Herszke), who were in the Czenstochower Ghetto.
Later, fought with the Partisans in the vicinity of Piotrkow-Radomsk
and fell at the hand of their fellow Polish Partisans in the Konsker forest.
by Halina Forisz
The author of the song, a daughter of Szmul Forisz, went through part of the Holocaust period in Radomsk and Czenstochow as an Aryan on the Polish side under the name Helena Samborska. As such, she was later mobilized for work in Germany and spent time in a work camp in Munich (1943). After the war, she emigrated to Argentina. From there, she sent the song and the two pictures to us, which we publish here. The song is in a free translation to Yiddish from the original Polish. (Ed.)
To play the role of an Aryan exactly to the beat
When the heart beats without end from fear.
They clown happily, while tears stick you
It is necessary to joke and laugh, the pain to suppress.
In one body, two souls were tangled
The first with longing through grief and pain;
The second thrilled, but cold like ice
To salvage this life for any price.
I have told lies and, at the same time, laughed
One soul therefore laughed and thought;
The second said – you foolish girl
Have you already seen the mockery of death?
I did not look death in the eyes once
I have even consciously searched for it;
In the days when the ghetto was destroyed
I turned my steps there.
I have gone through woods forlorn as a stone
Came to towns and remained alone;
Met there strange people, not mine
Not Jews, not brothers, not yours, not his.
I stood with Poles together
Heard in the ghetto how bullets blaze;
The heart cried and the face laughed
Since as an Aryan it was necessary to laugh
Suddenly I think I see my father there
The heart begins to beat like large cannons;
I see my nearest, they call, they beg
They beckon and whisper I should not give up.
A real Aryan hand drew me back
You flew there for Jewish gold
But there is nothing to search for in the shadow of death.
I am again an Aryan with pain and with hunger.
|Photo of Lagerausweis (camp identity papers) for Helene Samborska|
by Moishe Szwarts
The Revenge of Jewish Honor
Herszl Grynszpan is the name of a new hero of Jewish history. Although his action brought with it much criticism, I admire his heroic struggle for Jewish rights and I am proud of him as a landsman.
He was born in Hanover, Germany, seventeen years ago. His father, Zundel Grynszpan, was a son of Yankel Grynszpan, who was a Nowo-Radomsker resident (the family had the nickname Cossacks). In his youth, Zundel was carried away by the storm of emigration and was forced to leave his dear home environment, his family, comrades and friends and emigrate to the wider world, to look for greater opportunities. Many of his comrades went successfully to America, but fate threw him to Hanover. There Herszl came into the world. His parents gave him a good Jewish education and planted in him love for his relatives, landsleit and of the Polish Jews, in general, who were grouped [in Hanover] in a certain part of the city.
This was the time of the Weimar Republic. Herszl as a child was already involved in the political struggle, which was played out in the city in which General Field Marshal Hindenberg had decided to live out his last years after the war. Herszl saw how a new reaction was beginning, how Hindenberg became a follower of the Socialist Ebert and moved to Berlin as the President of Germany. While Herszl was still in school, the storm troopers had already begun to organize. Hitler’s brown-shirted Army was already marching through the streets, singing anti-Semitic songs of murder, with the refrain: When Jewish blood is sprinkled from the knife. They wore badges on which was written in large letters, yudn fareke. More than once, his young hand came together in a clenched fist and he would burst into tears, not being able to bear the wild wantonness of the Hitlerists.
His parents led a quiet life. The father, a tailor, who was not at all involved in politics, was satisfied that he could provide for his family through his trade and did not have to rely on charity. And that is how the Grynszpan family lived until the Hitler regime became rampant. Every day brought a new edict, and with each decree, hundreds of Jewish jobs disappeared. The ejection of Jews from all of their economic positions led Herszl to see that it was not possible for him to have a role in Germany. He, therefore, took the wanderer’s stick in his hand and emigrated to Paris, where there was already a colony of Polish Jews. Here, he hoped to find his purpose.
On the 28th of October, 1938, five o’clock in the morning, the malek-khaboyle (evil angels who torture the sinners in Gehenem) from the Gestapo attacked the Jewish inhabitants of Germany. They were pulled out of their beds, sent out of the country, not permitted to bring any warm clothing, underwear, food or money with them. Husbands were ripped away from wives, children from their parents. They were led like hardened criminals by the police through the streets of Hanover to the train station, without regard to family membership. The Jews were loaded into freight cars like cattle and they were sent to different Polish border towns. Certain trains traveled several days until they reached a border and people died of hunger, thirst and fear. Several trains did cross into Poland itself, and the travelers were able to travel to their home cities. But the largest misfortune happened to those who arrived at the border town of Zbaszyn. Here, the Polish regime refused to allow its citizens to enter, although they all had valid passports. A special bundle of misery is bound to the name of this border town Zbaszyn.
Among the victims who were dragged away by the Hitlerists to Zbaszyn were the parents of Herszl Grynszpan. In a letter to him, they described the heavy torture they had experienced since they had been driven from Germany. Reading the words from his parents, he relived their tragedy in his imagination. His blood boiled. He could not endure the misery that not only his parents, but also all of his friends and acquaintances in Hanover had met. He wanted to startle the world with a mighty protest. And the shot, which met the secretary of the German embassy, Fornat, is a fierce protest against Nazi bestiality. He had so wanted to demonstrate the pain, which his young soul felt because of Hitler’s Gehenem. His pain aroused all humane hearts, which had kept quiet about the Hitleristic atrocities.
We Radomskers are close to him – he is our landsman. His shot was a
revolutionary shock from Jewish youth who cannot keep quiet while the enemy
ruins Jewish lives and belongings with bestiality. With honor, we will
always remember the name of Herszl Grynszpan.
Monjek Rayngewirc was born in Radomsk, the only son in a well-to-do family. When he was twelve years old, his mother and he moved to Lodz. There, he joined the children’s organization, Free Scouts, the youngest level of the Po’alei-Zi’on (Ts. S) youth organization Freiheit. Monjek was a mobile, tall and able boy, with a nice forelock and his lively eyes looked out from his small face. As an only son, he was very pampered and, therefore, sensitive, but he quickly adjusted to his new surroundings and became accustomed to the collective and disciplined way of life. He was active in the Freiheit organization and carried out responsible tasks. He had a great influence on the young, and was able to find a common language with them, and to attract them to the movement. As a leader in Free Scouts, and later in Freiheit, he dedicated most of his time and energy to the children of the Jewish poor, from the Lodz Balut. These children, who did not know of childhood, of conviviality, who would stand on the street corners at night and shiver from the cold, crying out with tired and hoarse voices about their goods. He recruited these children and brought them into the Freiheit organization. The influence of the new environment was seen immediately. On Shabbosim and Yomim Toyvim, he would regularly go out with a group of youngsters, walking in the suburban woods. He would spend the rest hours with them talking about the fate of the Jewish proletariat youth in galus (exile), its role in the revival of the people and the building up of Eretz Yizroel and the struggle for world liberation. When it became a normal occurrence for anti-Semitic waves to flood the Polish cities and fall upon the Jews in the middle of bright days, he would often appear at Freiheit meetings and conferences. He [issued a challenge] that the comrades should receive military training and each young boy and girl should be prepared for resistance. He left his mother and his good post at the Lodz Deposit Bank in 1938 and left for a kibbutz with a whole group of organization members who had simultaneously belonged to Hehalutz. There he perfected his knowledge; he learned Hebrew and Jewish history and deepened his understanding of the problems of the movement. Furthermore, he was active in the local Freiheit organization, was a member of the district council, and took part in the land seminar and in the association conference of Freiheit and Hehalutz Hatzair. A short time after this, he was sent in the name of the movement to work in Krakower Dror (a youth movement).
During the German occupation, he went to Warsaw and found a group at Jelne Street 34. He worked in the underground of the movement, where he fulfilled significant assignments and completed important missions. He organized the young and constantly cheered them up and encouraged them to take action. He was a member of the combat section of Dror. During the difficult times in the Warsaw Ghetto, he showed his organizational capabilities, his strength of will, and his intellectual power. He fell in the autumn of 1942 at the age of 27, together with his group of partisans, who were sent from Warsaw to the Hrubieszow forests. His name is found in the list of fallen Warsaw Ghetto Fighters. Pesie Fumanowicz, his friend, also fell with the group.
Never say that you are going on the final path,
Though leaden skies eclipse a blue day.
The hour we yearn for will yet arrive,
A drum will mark our step; We are here!
(Partisan song by Hirsz Glik)
by Izrael Waksman
The Heroic Death of Mendl Fiszelewicz
Mendl was born in Radomsk on Reymonta Street. His father was Menachem Wolf Fiszelewicz (Pitsele). There were three children in the house, he and his two sisters. While in school, his strong capabilities were already in evidence; he was one of the best students and the leader in different games. The children did not start any game unless they had consulted first with Mendl.
From his earliest youth, he belonged to Zionist youth organizations,
but he never was a member of one organization for more than several weeks.
He always changed to another and took with him many of the young people. At the end, he found his place in Betar. While studying in Wejntraub’s Jewish gymnazie, he undertook strong Zionist work there and convinced many of his school friends to join Betar. When Masada was created, Mendl stood at its head. He was full of energy, never could sit idly, always looked for something to do. He created courses in modern Hebrew. Every day he gathered young people together, not only friends from Masada, but whoever had a desire to learn, he led into his room and there they studied modern Hebrew. At first, he sought out an adult, who was the teacher; later, he taught his friends himself.
Mendl never relinquished his Jewish self-respect; he never lowered his head, but with pride reacted to another anti-Semitic performance. In the last years, before the outbreak of the Second World War, when anti-Semitism raged in Poland, Radomsk was plastered with anti-Jewish slogans and anti-Semitic appeals. Mendl gathered the members of Masada and demanded that they cheerfully report to go out at night and smear the slogans. Thirty members came; Mendl divided them into groups of four. Each group was given a bucket of tar and a brush. Two smeared and the other two stood guard and warned if the police were coming.
The group came back from this action smeared in tar and without the [buckets and brushes] because the police had chased them. They had had to throw away the gear, but they remained full of daring. Mendl always argued to his comrades that they must not leave, they must fight back; it was not important who it was. It was the same when strolling on Czakczewer Street or at Babre’s when they bathed. Every Shabbos, the Gentile boys waited for the Jewish boys who went to bathe, and provoked a quarrel. Many ran back home, but not Mendl. He came home more than once with a lokh in kop (hole in the head). But the next Shabbos, he again went and again fought with the Gentile boys.
Mendl’s main goal was to travel to Eretz Yizroel. That is why he studied Hebrew and shooting. He joined F. W. (the youth organization of militant Zionism) and every Sunday he spent the whole day learning to shoot. When illegal immigration to Eretz Yizroel began (1938), Mendl did everything possible to be permitted to go, but he was too young and he was not permitted to go. When the war started, Mendl was sixteen. His parents went to Czenstochow and he went to Kolomyja, but he returned from there to the Czenstchower Ghetto.
Mendl Fiszelewicz was the first young person to join the resistance movement in the small ghetto in Czenstochow. In November 1942, at Nadrzeczna 66, a collective with six young girls was organized with the purpose of creating a resistance group around themselves. These six girls enlisted into the collective their young friends with whom they had worked before, in the large ghetto, in the TOZ [Society for the Protection of Health], and in spreading illegal literature. Among the first four friends, who joined the above-mentioned collective was Mendl Fiszelewicz. Later, the number of members of the collective grew to twenty-three young people, aged from seventeen to twenty. They began to prepare for the resistance. They were satisfied with eating just dry bread, saving and collecting money for weapons. After they acquired two revolvers, they declared themselves a fighting-group, dividing themselves in ‘fifths’ and voted for a commander. This was the second youngest fighting-group, which arose in December 1942 in the small Czenstochower Ghetto. This group called itself Nadrzeczna 66. It became known in the ghetto a month later during the first armed appearance of the fighting organization, in which Mendl Fiszelewicz played the main role.
A precise description about this armed appearance appears in L. Brener’s book, Resistance and Death in the Czenstochover Ghetto (published by the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland), where the following is told:
The first armed, but weakly organized appearance of the fighting organization, occurred on the 4th of January 1943. On Degenhart’s order, all of the Jews, who worked in places within the ghetto proper, had to appear on ‘Rineczek.’ Only Mendl Fiszelewicz of the fighting-organization ‘Nadrzeczna 66,’ which he represented in the general command of the fighting-organization in the ghetto was in the ghetto. Of the fighting-groups in the ghetto, the largest number were from ‘Nadrzeczna 66’ and some members of the miscellaneous fighting groups. After a long deliberation, the fighters decided by majority vote to go out on ‘Rineczek..’ They had no weapons with them. The few revolvers, which the organization then had, were distributed among the members of the command, who were found outside the ghetto with special assignments. Mendl Fiszelewicz had one gun. This revolver, he took with him, and his closest comrade, Izidor (Yitshak) Feyner, had taken only a knife with him. With these weapons, the young fighters went out onto ‘Rineczek..’ While on watch in the ghetto, only Felia Szczekasz remained.
All the Jews in the ghetto were already assembled on the Platz. The
aktsia, which was carried out by Lieutenant Rohn, had already occurred.
Dozens of old men, mothers and children were already separated under
the watch of the Ukrainian Fascists.
On Rohn’s order, the entire group of young people was surrounded and, as punishment, which they later received, as did all Jews, they were taken to the group of Jews who were already confined. Here the fighting group decided on the spot to die with honor. As they were being led out to the Platz, and were being placed in rows to be taken away, Mendl Fiszelewicz threw himself with the revolver on Rohn and Yitshak Feyner threw himself with the knife at Lieutenant Soport. Rohn was wounded in the hand and Soport suffered a stab wound. He retreated from the Platz with a cut uniform and boots. Mendl’s revolver jammed while the casing from the fired bullet remained stuck in the barrel of the gun. Mendl Fiszelewicz began to fight with his teeth and nails and fell pierced with holes from a series of bullets, which the Germans fired at him from an automatic weapon. Yitshak Feyner also fell, severely wounded.
The murders did not stop with that. Twenty-five more men were removed from the rows, divided into two groups and shot before everyone’s eyes. Twenty-seven more young lives were annihilated. Among them: the two young fighters, Mendl Fiszelewicz and Yitshak Feyner; also – Herszl Fridman, the well-know militant since 1905, the lawyer Natan Rozensztein, Vernik, Radal Szeltser, Trambatski, Haptke, Szmalp, Vigodski, Zilberszats, Eksztein, Goldberg, Rodoszitski; and thirteen unknown men. Not all of the fallen died immediately from the bullets. Some of them, including Yitshak Feyman, suffered for hours in death convulsions. Immediately after this, when all had breathed out their souls, the remnant of the gathered Jews were let back into the ghetto. The assembled Jews, of an estimated three hundred men, were taken away to Pilsudski Street 21, where the commissariat of the Polish police was found In the morning, all those being held were taken to Radomsk under heavy guard by the gendarmes, where the expulsion of the last assembled Jews took place.
On May 1st, 1945, ten days before the official end of the Second World War, the Jewish weekly, Dos Neie Labn (The New Life), which appeared in Lodz, published a list of fifty heroic ghetto fighters. Among them is found the name of Mendl Fiszelewicz. These fifty Jewish ghetto fighters were given the gift of a military awards address by the Polish General Headquarters on the second anniversary (April 1945) of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising for their heroic struggle against the Nazi occupier.
Mendl Fiszelewicz gave his young life in Czenstochow as a hero, in the fight for Jewish honor, in accordance with the ideas, which he had earlier breathed and proposed among the young in Radomsk.
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