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[Page 372]

In the ghetto and in “HASAG”

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.

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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…

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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]:

Aba Winer
Moishe Berger
Abraham Krjsepitski and wife
Telman’s daughter
Eigl Borkowszczik
Szmul Lifszits
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,
Lehman’s wife,
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:

Mordechai Weintroib,
Herszl Herszberg,
Yukl Przyrowski,
Yual Szwerszewski and
Yakub Lehman.

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.

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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.


The three brothers of Zev Sabatowski

(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.

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The “Aryan”

by Halina Forisz

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

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Herschel Grynszpan


The shooting at the German Embassy in Paris

by Dr. Mark Dvorzhetski

Translated by Sara Mages

Already in 1938 the world felt Hitler's terror. The Munich Agreement was a striking sign that Europe did not have the strength and courage to fight Hitler. And after the Anschluss [annexation] of Austria (March 1938), a wave of decrees fell on the Jews: mass boycotts (April 26, 1938), labeling every Jew “Israel” or “Sarah” (August 18, 1938), stamping the Jews' identity cards with the letter “J” - “Jew” (October 7, 1938).

On the day that Hitler's government decreed the stamping of the identity cards the Polish government issued an order that Polish citizens of Jewish origin, living abroad for more than five years, automatically lose their Polish citizenship. The decree affected 20,000 Jews. The Nazi government immediately ordered the deportation of the stateless Jews, while the Polish government announced that it would not allow them to enter its borders.

The sudden deportation of these Polish Jews to Germany was carried out with typical Nazi cruelty. Most of the exiled were put into freight cars in suffocating density, and were allowed to take with them their personal belongings, and only what they could carry in their hands. They were dropped off at the Zbąszyń border station, in the demilitarized section between Germany and Poland.

In those days, the name Zbąszyń turned into a nightmare name. Reinhard Heydrich, who was later the brutal commander of the operation to exterminate the European Jewry (“the final solution”), conducted the work of exile. In Zbąszyń, the Jews lived for weeks (on the cold days of October), the elderly, children and the sick, without a roof over their heads. There, the horrors of the “deportation” were revealed to the world.

The Grynszpan family, who lived in Hanover, was also exiled to Zbąszyń. Their seventeen year old son, Herschel, who lived in Paris, decided to take revenge on the Nazis and shoot the Nazi ambassador in France and awaken the conscience of Europe. On November 7, he came to the embassy and asked to talk with the ambassador. He was brought to the room of the first advisor, Ernst vom Rath. There, the first shot that seriously wounded him was fired. Two days later he died of his wounds.

Every year, Hitler and his men used to hold celebrations in honor of the “Munich Putsch” of 1923. This time, on the 15th anniversary of the “Munich Putsch,” riots were held against the Jews throughout Germany with the slogan: “Revenge for the killing of Ernst vom Rath!” The riots, conducted by Reinhard Heydrich, were named Kristallnacht [“Crystal Night”].in the Nazi documents. On that night, about 7,500 Jewish shops were destroyed, many synagogues were set on fire and Jewish property was looted. Dozens were killed, and dozenswere seriously injured. In those days, more than 10,000 Jews were deported from Germany to the Buchenwald concentration camp. There, they suffered severe torture. It is not known if any of them remained alive.

All the German people witnessed the atrocities of Kristallnacht, but not a single German spoke out in protest. Kristallnacht was a turning point in the history of the German Jewry, while the Nazi leaders realized that they would not be punished for the atrocities against the Jews.

And indeed, at the conference of the Nazis leaders held close to Kristallnacht, on November 12 in Berlin, serious and fateful decisions were made regarding the future of the Jews of Germany.

The days of Herschel Grynszpan shooting, and Kristallnacht, went down in history as a cry of warning to the European Jewry, and the nations of Europe, should the Nazi regime become stronger. The call for help did not fall on attentive ears. Europe rolled into an abyss, and only one glimmer of light survived: Herschel Grynszpan's shooting was later a symbol of calling for revenge on the Nazis in the ghettos, forests and the occupied countries.

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Avenger of his people's honor

Herschel Grynszpan occupies a special place in the ranks of fighters on the Nazi beast, that 17-year-old Jewish youth who, at the beginning of November 1938, entered the German Embassy building in Paris and killed the embassy adviser, Baron Ernst vom Rath, as a sign of protest and revenge against the persecution of the Jews.

This tragic episode shook the world at the time. The Germans used the opportunity to take revenge against their country's Jews - organized pogroms, burned down synagogues, and imposed a collative fine of one billion marks on the German Jews. But, at the same time, Herschel Grynszpan's act served as a protest against the world's indifference to the bloody antics of the German rulers against the Jews, and against completion with the Nazi regime.

Herschel Grynszpan was born to his father Zindel from Radomsk, from which he emigrated in his youth and settled in Germany.

The Grynszpan family was a family rooted in Radomsk and was known by its nickname, “The Cossacks,” a sign of fortitude and courage. In 1906, Herschel's father, Zindel Grynszpan, was among the founders and leaders of the self-defense in Radomsk. He excelled in his courage and prevented the rioters, who at that time gathered in the city, from carrying out their plan.

Young Herschel was educated in Germany. His parents led a quiet life and made a decent living until Hitler came to power. Since then the troubles began. Day by day and its decrees until the Jews were deprived of their livelihood and felt themselves in distress.

When young Herschel finished his studies, he wanted to learn a trade order to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. However, his path to education was blocked for him, and with no choice he left for Paris where his uncle lived. In Paris, Herschel learned a trade and a year later, when he wanted to return to Germany, the German consul refused to grant him a visa, saying: “Jews are not welcome in Germany.”

In the meantime, the situation of “foreigners” in France worsened. Herschel lost his Polish passport and never got a new one. Without papers, and without the possibility to return home, he had to hide from the police.

In this state of mind, he received a letter from his parents informing him that on 28 October 1938, at five o'clock in the morning, they were taken out of their bed by the Gestapo and loaded on a train, into cars intended for cattle without permission to take anything from their home. Without warm clothes, food and money they were brought to the Polish border and in the dark of night were “thrown” across the border. In their letter to their son, Herschel's parents described the torture they went through and their situation in the border town of Zbąszyń.

The letter stirred the young and sensitive Herschel, in his imagination he lived everything that happened to the deportees and decided to take revenge and awaken the world.

He bought a pistol and twenty bullets in a weapon shop in Paris and began to practice shooting.

On 7 November 1938, at nine in the morning, he turned to the German embassy guard and asked for permission to enter the embassy. “I have secret information for the ambassador,” he said. He spoke German fluently and the guard, who thought that he was one of the German spies in Paris, did not suspect him and let him in. The ambassador was absent from the city and in his place he was received by his deputy, Baron Ernst vom Rath.

The Baron invited Herschel to speak his words. Herschel stood up, introduced himself and said: “My name is Herschel Grynszpan. I have come to avenge the blood of my brothers who were murdered and tortured in Germany.” While talking, he pulled out the gun and shot three death bullets at the Baron.

In the panic that arose, Herschel fled from the embassy building, but in his desire to demonstrate to the world the motive for his act, turned himself in to the police that day.

The act of the young Jew stirred up the whole world and aroused feelings of sympathy in the enlightened circles. The organization of liberal writers in the USA sent him a check at the amount of forty thousand dollars, but Herschel refused to accept it and asked to transfer the amount to the Jewish refugee camp in Zbąszyń. The French authorities were sympathetic. He received many letters of encouragement. The two famous attorneys in France, Tourz and Dejafer, volunteered to defend him free of charge.

The trial took place in November 1939 (three months after the outbreak of war between Germany and France) and ended with the jury's decision that Grynszpan was innocent. According to the proposal of the French Minister of Justice, who explained that Grynszpan's release might cause a new wave of pogroms against the Jews of Germany and occupied Poland, it was decided to leave him in jail as a free prisoner under police protection.

A few months later, when the Germans invaded France, Herschel was transferred to Toulouse where he was released. For a long time Herschel wandered alone in France, without documents, without money and without shelter. Only in 1941, he was able to make contact with the French underground and was accepted as a distinguished member. He was given important tasks and participated in daring actions. Herschel was captured together with a group of French underground members by the Germans who managed to discover his identity. He was immediately transferred in a special airplane to the Gestapo headquarters in Germany.

We learned about the fate of Herschel Grynszpan and his bitter end from refugees, residents of Paris. According to them, Herschel was transferred by the Gestapo to the concentration camp in Sachsenhuizen. He was held there for three weeks as the Germans abused him in revenge for his act.

There are different testimonies about his death. According to Mrs. Weil-Godshaw, one of Herschel's defense attorneys, Grynszpan was placed on a speedy trial before a German court and his head was decapitated with an axe. However, there is another testimony which was given by an eyewitness to his bereaved parents. This witness said that Herschel turned to him and said: “I feel that tomorrow morning I would be taken to the gas chambers. If you get out of here, try to tell my parents that I remembered them to my last moment, and tell all the young Jews to respond with pride to every blow and humiliation and it will straighten up their stature.”


Excerpt from a letter Herschel wrote his uncle,
Arye Gelberd, from the prison in Paris


“… I believe that my act of desperation is already clear to you, and I hope that France will consider the reasons why I did it, and not treat me as if I was a murderer. Usually, “I am fine.” How are you doing? Write me something about life in Palestine, because it interests me a lot.”

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From Herschel's letters from his prison, and also from the documents that were discovered in the Gestapo's archives, we can see before us an unusual type, a wonderful character, brave and sensitive for the dignity of a Jew.

In one of his letters to his friends, which was found in the Gestapo's archives, we read: “At night I dream about the ghetto, about Jewish women and Jewish children who are being chased by SS men armed with whips.”

The letters to his parents are full of emotion and in one of them he wrote:

M… I could not have behaved differently, as a Jew I had to do what I did. I think that the enlightened world will not see me as a criminal, but as a proud Jew who responded appropriately to the crimes the Germans committed against his people….

Such was Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish hero, whose sensitivity to the suffering of his people, and his love for his parents, placed him in the rank of avengers and he was written in the nation's history for the honor of the Jews of Radomsk, his city of origin.

A. S

Herszl Grynszpan

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.

[Page 380]

Monjek Rayngewirc

The Rebel of Radomsk

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)

[Page 381]

Mendl Fiszelewicz

Mendl Fiszelewicz

With teeth and fingernails against automatic weapons

Translated by Sara Mages

The first armed appearance of the fighters' organization, which was poorly organized, was on 4 January 1943. According to Degenhardt's order, all the Jews who worked in the ghetto proper were required to report to the “Small Market.” Only Mendel Fiszelewicz, who represented the Battle Company, “Nadrzeczna 66” in the general headquarters of fighters' organization in Częstochowa, was in the ghetto at that time.

Most of members of the battle company “Nadrzeczna 66” were in the ghetto and several members of the general battle company. After a long consideration, the fighters decided by the majority of opinions to also go to the “small market”. They had no weapons in their hands. The few pistols, which were already in the organization's possession, were distributed among the members of the headquarters who were outside the ghetto for special missions. One pistol was in the hands of Mendel Fiszelewicz. He took this pistol with him, and his closest friend, Isidor [Yitzhak) Fajner, only took a knife with him.

In the days of the ghetto, on 66 Nadrzeczna Street, was a collective of young people from Częstochowa. When the fighters' organization was established there, the collective became a fighting group. Armed with these weapons the young fighters went to the “small market.” Only Polia Szczekac remained on guard in the ghetto. All the Jews of the ghetto had already gathered in the square.

The aktzia, under the command of Lieutenant Rahn, was already in full force. Dozens of elderly, mothers and babies were already imprisoned, under the guard of Ukrainian fascists.

On Rahn's order, the entire group of young people was immediately surrounded, and as punishment for being late, they were transferred to the groups of imprisoned Jews. Immediately, this group of fighters decided to die an honorable death. When they took them out to the square, and began to arrange them in a row to lead them away, Fiszelewicz attacked Rahn with his pistol and Fajner - with a knife on Lieutenant Sapart. Rahn was injured in his hand, and Sapart left the square with a stab wound and his coat and boots were cut off. Fiszelewicz's pistol suddenly jammed - the cartridge of the fired bullet remained stuck in the barrel. Fiszelewicz began to fight with his teeth and fingernails, but his flesh was pierced by the burst of bullets the Germans fired at him from an automatic weapon, and he fell. Fajner also fell, critically wounded. With that, the murderers did not finish their bloody lesson. They removed another 25 people from the row, divided them into two groups and shot them to death in front of everyone.

Only after they all died, the rest of the gathered Jews were allowed to return to the ghetto. The camp, of approximately three hundred arrested Jews, was led to the commissariat of the Polish police on 21 Pilsudski Street. Among these three hundred people was also the group of fighters, who during the tragic struggle was unable to escape from the encircled Jewish camp. Only the young woman fighter, Dosha Szcekac, managed to escape later from the commissariat.

The headquarters of the fighters' organization did not know rest, and sent tools to the members to saw the window grates. The next day, all the prisoners were taken under strict guard of gendarmes to Radomsk. The fighters decided to escape on the way. The first to escape was Sara Gotthold, the second was Yadsza Mas but she tripped and fell during her escape. She was immediately captured and the guard around was increased. This incident ended the continuation of the escape attempt.

But the fighters' headquarters did not remain quiet, and sent two messengers to Radomsk, Yitzchak Windman and Tzvi Lustiger, to t strengthen all the forces there in order to get their members out of prison. The messengers arrived in Radomsk at the height of the aktzia and couldn't do anything. The Ukrainians received the bribe money, but later threatened to shoot those who will try to escape from there. The female fighters decided to commit suicide and not enter the train cars. The first, Yadsza Mas, hung herself. The second, who was about to commit suicide, was Marisa Rosenzweig, but the rest of the Jews, who were with them, opposed it by force and did not allow additional suicides.

For this reason, the female fighters decided to take the last measure - to jump off the moving train. They all got into one car with the tools given to them by the headquarters in Czestochowa. On the way, they broke open the bars of the horse-car, and started jumping out of it, one by one. Other women also used this option. Only a few women, among them also the active fighter, Cesha Borkowska, arrived in Czestochowa. Most of them were shot while jumping from the cars and the rest perished on the way back to Czestochowa.

From “The Book of Ghetto Wars” (pages 333-335),

Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House

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