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Chapter Ten – Salvaged Tales

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During the Opening of the Treblinka Mausoleum

(From a letter that was received at the beginning of 1965 from Radomsk, from landsman Heniek Zilbersztajn)

…The 10th of May I was at the opening of the mausoleum in Treblinka. It is very difficult for me to write about what my eyes saw and ever more difficult to report what we, the last Jews in Radomsk, felt at this shocking moment.

Cruel and dreadful is the picture of the multitude of hundreds of simple stones, which serve as the headstones for the annihilated Jewish communities. This is an unforgettable picture; each stone is a city and all together, the largest cemetery in the world, the cemetery of Polish Jewry.

When we, the last Jews in Radomsk, stood by the headstone of our city, one of the few survivors of the city of death, Treblinka, the Jew Guloszewski came over to us. He told us the history of the heroic struggle and death of a group of Jewish Radomsker butchers, which he had seen with his own eyes.

In August 1942 a group of Jewish butchers from Radomsk arrived at Treblinka together with the exiles of other cities. Upon leaving the wagons and seeing that they were being led to their death, they threw themselves on the Ukrainians and S. S. men. The uneven struggle lasted for more than half an hour and it ended with the death of the Jewish fighters. However, together with them, several devils found their death.

In connection with this history, I remember, too, that a short time before the banishment of the Radomsker Jews, a German in the Jewish Worker's office in the Radomsker Ghetto, Kun, sent Jewish butchers to drive, as if it were possible, cows for the German military. Of those sent, none returned.

Their fate – their heroic struggle and death – first became clear to me now.

I write this, in order that this history be immortalized in our Radomsker book. They have earned it. As the martyrs and heroes of the Jewish people are remembered, the unknown fighters from Radomsk should not be forgotten.

Scattered and Spread Across the Whole of Europe

by the Ed. Comm.

Dozens of Radomsker Jews saved from mass death through different means joined the general wave of refugees that was swept across Europe after the end of the Second World War.

In the years 1945/46, Radomsker landsleit groups were formed across the whole of Europe: in Austria (Vienna, Salzburg, Linz); Italy (Rome, Milan); France (Paris); Belgium and Sweden (more sick landsleit were found in the hospitals and convalescent homes of Stockholm, Huskvarna, Borlange, Boras, Falun, Stratenbo-Aspeboda, etc.).

The Committee in Landsberg

After the war, the greatest concentration of Radomsker landsleit was in Germany, in the D. P. camps (refugee camps) of Landsberg, Weiden, Munich, Feldafing, Trikheim, Mindelheim, Bad-Reichenhall, Siznheim, Neu-Ulm, and in hospitals and sanatoriums, such as Gauting, etc. In Landsberg (Bayern), the first center for Holocaust survivors (in 1945/46), a Nowo-Radomsker landsleit committee was formed, which consisted only of Radomsker refugees. At the head of the committee was: Chairman – Yakob Szwarchauer; Vice Chairman – Abraham Ofman; Secretary – Yitzhak Karp; Deputy Secretary – Asher Dikerman; Treasurer – Yosef Kirszencwajg; Inspection Committee – Moishe Mlinkewicz, Abraham Buchman, Eisel Przyrowski; Committee Representatives – Eliasz Epsztajn and Eliasz Wigodski.

The Radomsker landsmanschaft organization in Israel established contact with the Landsberger landsmanschaft committee in January 1946. The first letter from the Landsberger committee to the landsleit in Israel is dated the 20th of March 1946 and reads thus:

The memorial service for the dead in Landsberg (Germany, 1946) dedicated
to the memory of the Radomsker martyrs

From the right: Seni Akrent, Toviah Kalka, Breindl Kalka, Abraham Ofman, Yitzhak Wargan

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“To the honored dear brothers of Radomsk! We, the 168 Radomskers, almost all who find ourselves in Germany and who are survivors from our city, have wanted to communicate with you for a long time. The American Radomsker Jews wrote to us that a Radomsker Committee is present in Eretz-Yisroel and promised to send us your address. We received the first letter from you last night dated the 28th of January and immediately called a meeting of all of the landsleit and decided to turn to you with a fervent request and a lament, help us, dear brothers.

“We do not need your material help; we are already accustomed to eating less. This, the tragic war has already taught us. What we need from you is spiritual help. We have already been liberated for over a year, but we are far from free. Tear us out of this hellish hand. Take us away from this cursed place. We have already wandered around on this land, homeless among murderers, concentration camps and woods. It is already high time that we again should become at least a little human, while completely human we will never again be. We have given the world so much – so much blood, and what has the world given us? The world has remained as quiet about us as before.

“We know that your powers are limited. Still we want to hear some words of hope from you. And if you can help us in the fulfillment of the pusik, it is good to die for one's fatherland,” we will greatly appreciate it. We no longer want to fight for other nations nor do we want to live on cemeteries. Please help us get home soon.

“Receive our correspondence. Send us books to read (Yiddish). Let us know about all of our Radomsker landsleit. We hope that you will not forget us, that you will understand us well and help us as fast as possible. We thank you in advance and wish you full luck in your work. With full blessings.”

The letter was accompanied by a list of the 168 Radomsker landsleit, who were at that time found in West Germany. The landsmanschaft organization in Israel informed all of their members of the names of the survivors and of the contents of the letter. A special conference of active members was held concerning the statement of the Nowo-Radomsker Committee in Landsberg. The Committee of the Radomskers in Israel answered the message (the 9th of April 1946) with the a comprehensive clarification, in which was said:

“It is very difficult for us to answer your lament. We would have wanted that our answer would be with actions. However, unfortunately, our hands are too short. We assure you, however, that we Jews in Eretz-Yisroel will not rest until you are together with us. Do not worry. You will be useful people here and together we will yet live and build.

“We will send you books to read. Write to us about what you need. Perhaps, you need help for the children? We will do everything for you that we can.”

The contact with the Radomskers in Germany, as well as other West European countries was maintained during this whole time. The greater number of them came to Israel after the establishment of the State of Israel (1948).

Contact with Radomsk

At the moment when the city of Radomsk was liberated from the German-Nazi occupants (19th of January 1945), the Radomsker landsleit all over the world made every effort to establish contact with the home city. The small number of survivors from bunkers, forests and concentration camps, plus the larger number of the “illegals” and deported (Translator's note: those rounded up by the NKVD and sent to Russia from the newly acquired areas in 1939), who made it through the war in Soviet Russia – those from both categories who had the opportunity, had been drawn back immediately to their old home. In May 1945, a committee of returnees already existed, which was concerned with their material and social restoration.

Among the first messages about the few living Jews in Radomsk, in the first month after the end of the war, was spread the news of the murder of two Jews by local Poles (the 16th of August 1945). The murdered were Yakov Cukerman, an officer of the Security Police, and Yosef Krauze, who had come home six weeks earlier (during the war he had made it through the most terrible death camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mathausen and Gross Rosen).

True, the local government organs of the new post-war Poland arranged an impressive funeral for the two innocent Jewish victims. At the open grave several members of Polish organized society made speeches about brotherhood, equality and freedom for the Jews in democratic Poland and denounced the vile murder. The chairman of the Jewish committee, however, said the following at the open grave:

“We believe in the good intentions of the new Polish regime and in the sincerity of her special representative. However, regrettably we know that in the widest layers of the people there burns a hatred for Jews. It is, therefore, completely clear that in as much as it forms the attitudes in this land – the Jews will leave Poland. The Jews must leave Poland because only graves remain around them and every little bit of earth in this land is soaked with the blood of Jewish martyrs. For the living Jews, this land is the largest cemetery in the history of Jewry and on a cemetery one cannot live. The remaining cluster of Polish Jews will live on, to spite all of their enemies.

“The Jewish people lived through the Egyptian Pharaohs, the Roman emperors, the Spanish Inquisition, Czarist Russia and Hitler's Germany. Enough Jewish blood has flowed for foreign interests. Now we completely agree with the call of the prominent Jewish-German writer Thomas Mann, who a few days ago turned to the German Jews all over the world and warned them not to return to Germany, not to help rebuild the country that brought annihilation to the Jewish people in Europe.

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The curse of the Jewish people should persecute Germany until the end of time and the Polish murders of the Jews know that the curse of those Jews in Poland who by chance survived will accompany them and reach them.”

An accurate account of the murder of two Jews in Radomsk and of the course of the funeral was received by the landsmanschaft organization in Israel and only a short time after it happened. In the interim the number of returning Jews in Radomsk grew larger as a result of the repatriation of Polish citizens who spent the duration of the war in Soviet Russia.

In the period of 1945 approximately 300 landsleit returned to Radomsk who then gradually left the city with the general wave of refugees who were drawn to Western Europe. In 1945, Abraham Ofman, Leah Fanska, Yissachar Minski, A. Buchman, A. Likhtensztajn, Nisen Nest, Benimin Najkron, Yakov Fiszman and Abraham Studenberg were active in the local Jewish committee.

In 1946 the number of landsleit in Radomsk decreased to a scant 50 families, among them only 5 – 7 children born in Russia during the war years. The largest number of them later left Radomsk and reached Israel.

In 1947 Dovid Koniecpoler, at the wish of the Radomsker landsleit in America, organized a Yizkor commemoration at the Radomsker cemetery for the 5th yarhzeit of the annihilation of the Radomsker Jews by the Nazis. Approximately 50 Radomsker landsleit came together from different cities in Poland. At that time 2 or 3 families were found in Radomsk proper. There was no siddur among us.

Placards in the streets of Radomsk about the murdered Yakob Cukerman and Yosef Krauze

The funeral

The funeral of Polya Strawinski (from Radomsk), who was murdered by Polish hooligan bandits
in 1945 (after the war), in Lodz, while she was there at a Zionist conference.

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The First Month of Nazi Rule

by Yeshayahu Fajerman

On the threshold of the Second World War, the anti-Semitic campaign in Poland against the Jewish population grew stronger. Attacks on Jewish students and ordinary Jews in the large cities multiplied. The Sanacja regime sent Jews to the border areas as an unreliable element. The government organs demanded that the Jewish craftsman should present a work-diploma. High taxes were placed on Jewish goods and a rivalry was stimulated with the Polish competition. Specially trained bands of pickets made the life of Jewish shopkeepers difficult.

All of the vexations did not elude our hometown, Radomsk. Life in our city was more difficult each time. The bands of pickets would picket the Jewish businesses every day and not permit any Polish customers [to enter]. Mainly on market day (Thursday), two pickets with thick sticks would stand next to each business and did not allow the peasants to go into Jewish shops. The pickets would literally beat the Jewish market sellers and take away their few goods by force. At night the hooligans would push each Jew and severely beat him. In one such incident, my wife's cousin Abraham Baum, who lived in Bugajski's house on Brzeznicka Street, became a victim. A hooligan stuck a knife in his body in cold blood, cutting an artery in his throat and killing him on the spot. Nothing happened to the murderer; he went around free as a bird, as a hero to the corrupt Sanacja regime.

At the Outbreak of the World War

On Friday, the 1st of September at daybreak (6 o'clock in the morning), a strong explosion woke us up. At first we thought that the boiler in the Metalurgie factory had exploded. At that time I lived in Market #3, in Litmanowicz's, in the last house, which bordered on the garden of the church. I went out to the balcony and saw great smoke on the north side of Metalurgie. All of the neighbors left their houses, but no one knew what had happened. Later, it became clear to all of us that German airplanes had dropped a bomb and hit the Metalurgie factory (8 people were killed and more than twenty wounded). At the same time another bomb fell on Dluga Street, near the “mad house.”

There were also Jewish victims and sadness appeared on the Jewish streets. We began to look for advice, one from the other and those who had a little money immediately left the city, still further from the border (Radomsk was situated not far from the border shtetl Brzeznica). However, the majority could not decide what to do. I was then one of those, who did not have any groshen to my soul and so I decided to remain on the spot, together with my wife and 2 year old child (my neighbor Esel Przedborski, who was in the same situation as me, decided the same thing). In order to calm my nerves, I began to build a hiding place from the air attacks, with all facilities: water, electricity, beds for sleeping, sanitary accommodations and the like. There was space for 20 families and I was chosen as commandant. Many old people and the sick from our courtyard moved to acquaintances and to their families in other houses.

That night we learned that the starost (village chief) and all of the other state employees had evacuated the city. All night Polish settlers from the surrounding villages, who had driven flocks of living inventory also left. The police screamed that the Jews were creating a panic and themselves ran around like poisoned mice. At dawn the police commissariat evacuated [the city], and the city was left lawless.

The residents of our hiding place (“temple”) decided to leave the city until the first storm passed. Esel Przedborski and I decided to leave with our families through Najkron's most distant gate, with the intention of going to Kaminsk, where we had a summer residence. When we reached Staszack Garden, near the Kino, we met Haim-Mendel Ahronowicz with his first wife Bela née Grosman (she was in her 9th month). We suddenly noticed a large goods wagon with people who had left the city and Haim-Mendel stopped the horses. Our three families (with the children) began to climb up on the wagon. However, we suddenly heard an explosion and a group of bombers flew over our heads. The horses scattered with Esel Przedborski's wife and our children already on the wagon. We screamed after them that they should wait for us in Kaminsk in Strawinski's forest and the three of us (I, my wife and Esel, with two empty children's wagon) started on the road. On the way, the bombers shot at us with machine guns. We came across the abandoned bedding, valises and packages of the Jews who had run to save their lives before we did. Many of them did not reach the woods because they fell dead on the way. This sorrowful picture was for us even more sorrowful when we reached the woods and did not find Przedborski's wife with our children there. On the contrary, we came across 2 Polish acquaintances, “heroes” – Arlinski, the commandant of the police and the vice- starost – one with a rifle and the second with a revolver shooting at the German bombers…

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My summer residence in Kaminsk was converted into a refuge for 10 Radomsker families. We searched far and wide, trying to find Przedborski's wife with the children. We searched for 5 days in 10 surrounding villages and met dozens of “illegals” from Radomsk, among them many old and sick women. There was for instance, Abrahamele Shenker's wife, who had lain for years with swollen feet and now she had the impulse to save herself.

The Return to the City

Not having found the children, we decided to return to the city, which the Germans already ruled. We entered the city through Strzalkowska Street from the right side of the cemetery. The Polish hooligans had burned and looted the whole area, whose inhabitants were almost 99% Jewish. We went through Dluga Street through Eichner's house, then onto Przedborska Street. We sneaked into the rabbi's house and came back through Najkron's furthest gate into my courtyard. We were the first to return to the courtyard and found everything destroyed, because a bomb had fallen 4 meters from the house.

I remembered that Abraham Grosman's father-in-law, Yitzhak Klajnerman, a Jew of over 90 years, had lain for many years sick in bed and I realized that he surely could not have run away. I went in to see what had happened there and I found him lying dead on the ground, 2 meters from the bed (it seems that he tried to save himself). Later, we buried him in the cemetery.

We still did not know where our lost children were. Finally, on the 8th day, others began to return to the city. We learned from them that the whole group, with whom Mrs. Przedborski and the children had been on the wagon, was in a village with a Polish peasant. Two days later, they all returned to the city.

The “Black Tuesday”

The Germans made frequent raids for men and caught them for forced labor. We again began to think of how to hide. The Germans looked everywhere during the searches and took the opportunity to plunder. My wife began to build a double wall in the attic (We took the boards from the demolished houses). We hung old things on the wall so that it would be difficult to recognize that there was yet another room. During “Black Tuesday,” several neighbors benefited from the hiding place.

That Tuesday, by 9 o'clock in the morning, 6 searches had already taken place in our house. 30 men in the Gerer shtibl, which was in Najkron's house, knew about our hiding place (“bunker”) – they came to us bringing with them 10 Torah scrolls. (A whole minyon of Hasidim came.) The SS men were in the attic several times. However, they did not find us. The Hasidim said tilim (Psalms) and the others tore their hair from their heads. At each visit, the Germans demolished the attic with rifle butts. My nerves could not take this and I decided to go out to work.

I took a shovel in my hand and made my way to a group working in the street. We had to fill in the air raid shelters in the market, which the Poles had said to dig. Approximately 100 Jews worked there, to the beat of the Germans shouting, “Hop, hop.” Those who had no shovels had to jump to the beat, holding themselves by the throat. Those who could not work according to the beat would receive blows on the head. The Germans threw dirt in our faces and we were not allowed to bend or turn away. The beat went faster, tears and blood flowed like water.

Leisurely “Noon hour”

Around 12 o'clock was called “noon hour.” We formed 6 in a row and marched to the bridge. There the SS officer told us that we should quietly stop and lie on the ground, not looking and not raising our heads. We lay almost one on top of the other and if someone's feet stuck out of the row, the Germans gave the row a gauntlet of lashes. They beat with murderous blows, taking Jews with beards out of the rows and pulled out the beards together with the flesh. The whole time they shot in the air with a machine gun and threatened that they would shoot everyone. This “noon hour” lasted until 1 o'clock and then we were taken back to work – to “babe-dziade” (Grandmother-grandfather) garden, where we again had to fill in the air raid shelters to the same accompaniment: Hop, hop.

The Germans brought the Jews, who were caught in the searches, to us through the Radomke River. They would be led in groups to the edge of the river up to the pointy rocks and then pushed into the water from above. They would come to us wet, smeared with mud, bruised by the rocks and completely bloodied. The Germans told several of them to go into the bomb shelters, lower themselves to the neck in order to be buried alive. They were told to sing “Hatikvah” and only miraculously were they pulled out from the holes (one of the buried was my uncle, Yissakhar Martenfeld).

We worked the whole day without food and without a little water. At 5 o'clock p.m., before leaving work, everyone was searched and let out on Kaliska Street. There stood a long row of the folkes-Deitch, with their families and for no good reason the Polish hooligans and anti-Semites. They would hit us again, put out their feet so that we would fall and do different plagues. The same scenes were repeated in all of the remaining workplaces (at Metalurgie, at the market, at Straczacki's garden, etc.). In Straczacki's garden an SS man sent Frejman's son (from the lumberyard) to bring a bottle of lemonade. Later, when the German had drunk half of it, he gave the remaining half to the Jews to drink. However, when the last one took the bottle to his mouth, the German kicked him with his food and the bottle knocked out all of the Jews teeth.

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Three Victims on a Monday

On a certain Monday, my brother-in-law Haim-Ahron Goslawski (a boot stitcher) was caught among others, together with Berliner and Dombrowski and they were brought to work in the Metalurgie. All of the workers were searched at the end of the work and each was asked, “Where did you work last Saturday?” The three above-mentioned answered that they had worked in the Metalurgie last Saturday. However, they did not know that the SS men had directed that all of those who had really worked at the Metalurgie on Saturday should voluntarily come back to work or else they would receive the death penalty. Since the three mentioned were caught on Monday in a search, they were led away to the Kaminsker forest and there shot.

Everything I have told occurred in the first month of the horrible Holocaust era (from the 1st of September until the 1st of October 1939), only one month of the Nazi rule in Radomsk.

In the Nightmare of the Bunkers

by Abraham Gliksman

The word “bunkers” was very popular in the ghetto. In general, imagine that when one says “bunkers,” a “plugged up” place of iron and concrete with prisons in the area from which machine guns look out. However, the ghetto bunkers were simply hiding places, which served the persecuted who hid themselves during the emergency with the Germans.

By that time, during the first period of the war, so-called bunkers were found in the majority of apartments in the ghetto. These were primitive hiding places, such as a disguised closet, a little room or an entrance to a cellar, which had a crate in front of it. Here, one hid when people were caught for work (actions to grab Jews occurred mainly during the night). People were taken to clean the snow off the roads during the winter or to other kinds of forced labor. When the appropriate number of people, which had been set, did not report to the work office, it was accomplished by grabbing people by chance. The bunkers played a roll chiefly during the aktsies.

When the news about the aktsies in the Polish cities and shtetlekh began to arrive in Radomsk, the turmoil here also began with stamped work cards. However, a saying went around the ghetto, “a good 'plugged up place' is better than being covered,” which meant that a good hiding place is more secure than all of the German assurances. It was necessary to hide during the aktsie and to leave later and mix with those remaining in the ghetto. First of all, old people and children were hidden who did not have any chance of escaping from the aktsies. Bunkers began to be built and they were built jointly by whole families or by groups of neighbors. It was necessary to assure the flow of air into the bunkers, to gather food and water and, where possible, ideally to disguise it. The bunkers were chiefly built in cellars or in attics. A wall that was exactly like the other walls was built to separate a section of the cellar or attic. Later one thought about a well-disguised entrance and there was concern about providing the needed things and food for several days for those in hiding. A great obstacle in the cellars was the lack of air, which was a cause of many failures.

There were many bunkers that were very intelligently arranged; one such bunker was in Minszewicze's garden on Strzalkowski Street. It was located deep in the ground and the entrance to it was well disguised with bushes. The bunker was supplied with air and food and many families were there during the first aktsie. In the house at Mickewicza 3 (the second house from the Kehile, in which I lived), three bunkers were built, one in the cellar by the Fiszman family and Zambek and two in the attic (one by us and the other by the photographer Wilhelm).

Before the aktsie, every bunker sought a trusted man, mainly from among the police. The police, who were sure that they would still be there after the aktsie, had to contact the separate bunkers after the end of the aktsie and inform them of the situation outside. Only a small number of people, in general, left the ghetto in order to hide with Christians.

Several days before the last aktsie, I was cashiered along with the other workers from Znamirowski's sawmill in Fajerman's house on Przedborska Street. Some of my family was then found outside of the ghetto. Only my father remained in the ghetto and he decided to hide in the bunker, which we had prepared.

The night before the aktsie I came to the Mickewicza Street in order to say goodbye to my father and convince him to go as quickly as possible into the bunker. My father urged me to hide with him. However my calculation was simple. Someone had to remain outside to help those hidden.

The last night before the aktsie approached and the ghetto was hermetically surrounded by SS men and Ukrainians. I was among a large group of sawmill workers who were concentrated in Fajerman's house on Przedborska. The first victim in the house was Mrs. Lakhman, who died in the cellar bunker and was temporarily buried there. We sat the whole night not closing an eye. The aktsie started immediately in the morning according to the plan the Germans had prepared in advance.

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The Jews in Skarzysker “HASAG”

by Moishe Hartman

Two transports of Radomsker Jews were sent to Skarzysko (Skarzysko-Kamienna). The first group, consisting of 150 souls, was sent there on the 29th of October 1942, three weeks before the first “roundup.”

The second and last group was deported two days after the second aktsia in Radomsk, the 9th of January 1943. This group numbered 224 Jews and consisted mainly of the workers from Znamierowski's wood place (sawmill). This was the only workplace during the liquidation of the Jewish city of Radomsk. (Except for the small group of approximately 40 men who worked in the gendarmerie.)

Militiamen from the ghetto and a significant number of Jews from Zarki were included in the second transport, which consisted of only men.

The transports were closely guarded by the work security service from the Skarzysker HASAG. This was a large German firm named after the Hugo Schneider Gesellschaft in Leipzig. After their arrival in Skarzysker, everyone went through an exacting search, which was carried out by Batnshlager, the chief guard leader of the HASAG work security force. He demanded of everyone that they give their money, things of value and gold, threatening to shoot those who still had possessions after the search.

Fear among the arrivals was great and the Jews mainly handed over all of the money and jewelry that they possessed. The German and Ukrainians guards were not satisfied with what was given to them willingly. They carried out another thorough search and, in addition to money, watches, they took clothing, too, and underwear. In short, the last possessions that anyone had. Only a very small number of Jews were successful in hiding a little money.

The HASAG in Skarzysko possessed three factories, which were designated camp 'A,' camp 'B' and camp 'C.' A large number of the Radomskers worked in camp 'A.' The rest were taken to camp 'B' and camp 'C.'

There was a camp, in which the Jews lived, at each of the three factories. The camps were fenced in with barbed wire. Inside, it was guarded by the Jewish militia and on the outside by the work security service. The work security service consisted of Ukrainians, White Russians and folkes-Deitch, who guarded the factory buildings.

Except for the guards, Gestapo and SS men, who were the guardians of the camp, no one was permitted to enter. The management of the camp was in Jewish hands. At the head of the camp 'A' from the beginning (the end of 1941) stood a Lemberger Jew named Zalcman, who later was shot by the Gestapo. After him, a Kielcer Jew named Albirt occupied the position of camp commandant.

The executive power of the camp lay in the hands of the Jewish militia. At the head of the militia for camp 'A' stood Teperman from Radom and Kjepicki from Radomsk. The chief assignment of the militia was to guard the camp day and night and, also, to take the Jews to work. There were irresponsible people, who treated their brothers ruthlessly, in the militia and in the camp management.

The housing conditions in the camp were very bad. The people lived in wooden barracks with plank beds piled three or four high. Two people slept on one bed. Until May 1943, in camp 'A' one lived in big, long barracks, which gave the impression of horse stables. There was only straw on the plank beds and the people did not even receive a blanket to cover themselves.

To be truthful, there was also a brick building there. However, the militiamen and those from the camp management, medics and a small group of the well-to-do, who had paid for it, lived there.

The sanitary conditions were dreadful. The people did not have any change of underwear. Things did not look better as far as nutrition. One received 200 grams of bread a day with a watery soup. The kitchen was very bad and the food did not contain any fats. In the morning and in the evening, black coffee was distributed. No wonder that the people were malnourished and weakened.

The work was not easy for the Radomskers who were employed in camp 'A.' An exception were those who worked in the woodworking shop and in automation. Work lasted twelve hours a day and in certain sections one also worked at night.

The Jews came in contact with Poles in the factory where they worked; the majority of them were hostile to Jews and in order to extort money, they drove the Jews to work with sticks and beat them with murderous blows. The Poles were the section supervisors and had supervision over the Jews, checking whether that had fulfilled their quotas

A separate chapter for me was the camp 'C.' The factory was located three kilometers from the city and picric acid and TNT were manufactured there. The people who worked with picric acid were yellow. The dust was pressed into the faces, in the hair and in the clothing of the workers and, it should be understood, badly affected their health (two sons of Yitzhak Wargon of Radomsk worked here). Shells were filled with TNT and the work took place at a very high temperature. These explosive materials also badly affected health.

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Those Poles who worked in these sections received special portions of wurst and milk. All of this did not exist for the Jews.

The majority of the Radomskers in camp 'C' worked in transport. The work consisted of loading wagons with shells, crates of chemical materials and putting them in the factory halls. This section also sent away the finished product. Especially difficult was loading the Kälber (calves), as the shells were called, each of which weighed 56 kilos. The workers had to pay strict attention and be very careful, because with a strong push, the shell might explode. The section had a fixed day and night shift. If the work was not finished during the set work hours, the people were held longer for 14 and 16 hours in succession.

In the first month of 1943, typhus spread through the camps of camp 'A' and camp 'B.' The epidemic did not discriminate between young and old, weak and physically strong. It should be understood that this life, in compact masses and in bad sanitary conditions, led to the quick spread of the illness and killed a great number of exhausted and malnourished people. The sick were isolated in a special barrack, where they were under the supervision of medics. In camp 'A,' the sick were visited once a day by a camp doctor. His job was to determine whether the sick were unable to work and therefore it was necessary to keep them in the camp. (In camp 'C,' this mission was filled by medics, because there was no doctor there.)

It was tragic in the camp for the sick, who did not have anyone close to care for them. The medics cared little for them. An exception was made for those from whom they received money. Melekh Goldberg, who was from our city, worked as medic in camp 'C' and he cared well for the landsleit and he personally helped several of them in their camp, too. Haim-Mendel Aronowicz worked as medic in camp 'A.'

The Radomskers, in general, showed much sympathy for their friends and landsleit. They made sure that those they knew received something to drink, a cold compress on the head, a warm blanket, something warm to eat, etc. They intervened with the doctor that he should visit the sick, etc. In these conditions this was a lot, but not enough to put the sick back on their feet.

Many of the sick suffered from complications after the typhus – a lung or brain inflammation and then there was no longer any hope that the sick person would live. Those sick, who successfully passed the crisis and were without complications, were immediately sent back to work. It is superfluous to say that these people were weakened and exhausted and absolutely unable to do any work. They were barely able to stand on their feet. In camp 'C' an “easy” job was sought for those convalescing – cleaning the factory area, although even this work was too much for their strength.

Hundreds of people died from typhus in the Skarzysko camp. Still more were shot by the Germans and here are the names of the Radomskers who died of typhus:

  1. Stycki, Sewek ben Berish,
  2. Erlikhman, Yakov ben Dovid,
  3. Cukerman, Ahron,
  4. Ofman, Zaynwel ben Shmuel,
  5. Pacanowski,
  6. Pacanowski's son,
  7. Frentki,
  8. Wojdislowski, Yankel,
  9. Gegelman, Hershel,
  10. Waldfogel, Abraham,
  11. Zajdman, Natan,
  12. Zajdman, Aba,
  13. Okrent, Max,
  14. Rozenboim, Abraham,
  15. Minski, Nehamiah ben Abraham,
  16. Bugajski, Dovid ben Yudel,
  17. Abraham Waksman,
  18. Landau, Haim
  19. Druzidzik, Hershel and so on.
In the summer of 1943, Minski also became ill with typhus. His older brother Nehamiah, who displayed unlimited devotion, took care of him, staying up the whole night and not leaving his brother's bed in order to save the only remaining member of his family. Yissakhar Minski regained his health. Nehamiah fell ill with typhus and died after several days. His death made a strong impression on the Radomskers, who valued him highly for his extraordinary manner. It was a particularly sharp blow to Yissakhar Minski, who lost a brother who was devoted to him with body and life.

The Germans thought of the sick and weak as a superfluous element from whom they could have no use. Therefore, they carried out selections among them and sent away the unfit to the “shooting station” of camp 'C.” The spot was located in a forest and there the manufactured ammunition was regularly tested.

Heartbreaking scenes were played during the selection. The Germans beastly beat the victims who were incapable of climbing fast enough onto the goods vehicles, which were taking them to the execution spot. People made an effort with all of their strength to evade the bitter fate by hiding themselves. During a large selection at camp 'A,' the youngest son of Mendel Yustman of Kaminsk successfully hid under a bed. Unfortunately, the young man later perished. In several cases Jews were successful in saving themselves in such or other ways and they are living today.

Earlier, a large hole had been prepared for those condemned to death. The work security service told them to take off their clothes and shoes and standing around the hole they were shot.

The following Radomskers were shot in Skarzysko:

  1. Grundman, Meir ben Eiliyahu,
  2. Likhtenstajn, Haim ben Dovid,
  3. Fiszman, Abraham-Wolf,
  4. Fiszman, Shmuel,
  5. Rapoport, Yeshayahu ben Haim,
  6. Sztajn, Israel ben Moishe-Dovid,
  7. Waldfogel, Abraham,
  8. Szajewicz, Osher
  9. Gerikhter, Israel.
Knowing what was there, many of the sick with temperatures of 39 and 40 C. (100 and 102 F.) degrees dragged themselves to work, in fear of going to the sick-barracks from which the Germans dragged out the sick to be shot.

[Page 403]

The mass executions in the Skarzysker camps lasted a very long time. Things first changed at the end of 1943, because the Germans no longer had places from which to bring Jews.

Jews from Kielce, Radom, Cuzmir (Sandomierz), Staszow, Opt (Opatow), Czenstochow, Piotrkow, Szidlowiec, Chielnik, Ostrowiec and from Skarzysko proper were found in Skarzysko, in addition to the Jews from Radomsk.

After the liquidation of the last remnant of the Jews in the above-mentioned cities, in 1943 the Gestapo brought a transport of 1,500 Jews from the Majdanek camp. Many men broke down shortly after their arrival, several hundred of them died and nearly two hundred had been shot. The women persevered relatively better.

The food in camp 'C' was worse than in Majdanek and the work was much harder. Thousands of Jews died in the camps from hunger and cold. The mortality was especially great in camp 'C.' There were days when the number of bodies reached thirty.

Five months after the men were brought on the Majdanek transport, there was again a shortage of workers. As before, when the camp in Plaszow, near Krakow, was liquidated, the Gestapo brought all of the Jews from there to Skarzysko. This was the last transport of Jews that was brought to Skarzysko. It numbered 2,200 souls.

At that time, there was a turn for the better in the harsh conditions. The Germans realized that the last reserve of Jews was already used up and it was necessary to moderate the hard conditions, in order to keep a cluster of slaves alive. Therefore, new barracks were built, a hospital was fixed up in camp 'C,' medicines were brought and there was concern for bettering the food supply. Special Gestapo committees, which arrived there, carried out inspections in the barracks, in the kitchen and in the factory halls. An incident even happened then, when someone with an illness of the eye was given the opportunity to visit a doctor in the city. That was something of which one could not even previously dream.

In March 1944, a large transport of footwear was brought to Skarzysko from an annihilated camp in which Jews had been killed. Still earlier, clothing arrived from Poinatow, after the Jews there were killed. The heart bled when one thought of the clothing and more than one person recognized things from a relative of theirs. The clothing and the shoes, which were divided among the people, were very useful, since they were shabbily dressed and in winter often wrapped in paper.

The mood among the Radomsker landsleit in Skarzysko was in general very good. I remember that arriving in camp 'C' I met my neighbors Israel Sztajn, Moishe-Dovid's son (he lived on the Reymonta, the former Kaliska, Station Street). He greeted me heartily and informed me about the situation in the camp. He also arranged a bed for me and when I went to work, I left the things I still had after the inspection with him. Bitter fate, alas, did not spare the quiet and refined Israel Sztajn. He became ill with typhus and he was shot together with other Radomskers in the selection at the end of January 1943.

Many Radomskers were in the militia, among the medics, section supervisors, and supervisors of the barracks. The majority made an effort to skirt the decrees or moderate them. It should be understood that this demanded much effort and a strong will.

However, there were also those, unfortunately, who aspired to find favor in the eyes of the commandants and carried out their cruel orders. Dovid Bugajski, for example, the supervisor over the cleanliness in the barracks in camp 'C,' belonged to this group. In contrast, a second fellow townsman of ours was daring and allowed the workers from the night shift to sleep in the barracks during the day, even though constant commissions came to study if the barracks were clean and in order.

Henrik Fanski must particularly be remembered for the good. He was elected as a section supervisor in hall 51, where the work consisted of sorting shells and placing them in different halls. Fanski was very lenient to the workers and they never complained about him.

As I have earlier remembered, the section supervisors in the halls were mainly Polish and their relation to the Jews – particularly in camp 'C' – was very bad. They had many Jews on their consciences. The Jews, who had the good luck to work with Fanski, breathed easy and they were thought of as a chosen stratum.

Henrik Fanski was an educated and honest person. He came from an assimilated family. He joined the Zionist movement several years before the outbreak of the Second World War. Finding him in Skarzysko was a surprise for every Radomsker. His wife, child, sister and brother-in-law Yosef Fanski were hidden with Aryan papers. He had contact with them and received money from them. They wanted to take him out of the camp and even once sent a Pole for that purpose. However, he was unresponsive and did not trust the Pole.

Once something happened to him that could have ended very tragically for him and his whole family. Fanski received a letter through a Pole, who worked in the factory. Being eager to know how his closest were doing, he sat down in front of the hall and read the letter. A German Meister (master craftsman) noticed and took the letter and investigated Fanski for several days.

[Page 404]

Throughout, the Meister wanted to extract details about Fanski's family and the name of the Christian who had brought the letter.* He alone received a severe punishment for sending the letter, which was strictly forbidden. In addition to this, the life of his family was at stake; they would have been shot if they would have been caught. It was good luck that the investigation was interrupted.

In the end, it must be remembered that other landsleit organized and participated in relief actions with the purpose of helping the needy who were deserving, providing remedies for the sick, and so forth.

Before I end the descriptions of the Skarzysker gehenem, I want to relate several of my personal experiences, which throw a light on the attitude of the Poles to the Jews.

I arrived in Skarzysko in January 1943 in the second transport. In the beginning, I worked in camp “A.” After two months I decided to escape from the camp to Czenstochow. Typhus was raging in the camp and no one believed that they would exit from the camp alive. Attempts had already been made to escape and Radomskers among those were Asher Dikerman, Tuvia Kalka and Rubinowicz. It should be understood that for running away one received death. Those caught were shot in front of the Jews in the camp without an investigation. The Germans shot Moishe Berger's daughter (Zlata) and her husband Chenchinski in camp “B.”

I worked with a Pole in the hall and he promised to accompany me to Czenstochow by train for a certain sum of money. I was outside of factory barbed wire for barely two hours when I became deeply disappointed by my companion. He led me into the woods and together with a friend of his attacked me with guns. They robbed me of everything I still possessed, not even leaving me my boots. After a desperate struggle, I succeeded in freeing myself from my assassins. However, I ran into other Poles in the shtetl Blizin. And these handed me over to the German gendarmerie. I was interned in the Skarzysker jail and from there I was sent under the escort of security guard Sander and the Ukrainian work security guard Ivanienka to camp “C.” I was held in the room of the work security service for two days and I was honored with hard blows. After this I was sent to camp “C” and after sitting a certain time in the jail, I was freed.

It was a pure accident that I was not shot. The Germans did not want to send me to the factory to work, fearing that I would again make contact with the Poles and again attempt an escape. They did not understand that the sad experience with the Poles had taught me not to trust them.

In July 1944 when the Russians entered Lublin, the Germans evacuated all of the Jews from Skarzysko. Some of the evacuees were sent to Czenstochow to the

*This German Meister robbed money from dozens of Jews, later leading them to the barbed wire and shooting them.

HASAG there. The majority, however, were taken to Germany, the women to the Leipzig HASAG, the men to Buchenwald.

The night before the transport to Germany, 245 Jews from camp “C” made an attempt to flee – men and women. Camp commandants, too, and many militiamen were among them. However, the Poles turned almost all into the hands of the Germans for the price of a little bottle of whisky and a kilo of sugar for each head. Among those shot was found Yitzhak Landau's daughter, Rebekah Gwozj. Of the entire group, about 15 people remained and among them was Heniek Zilbersztajn from our city. They hid in the woods and suffered much misery from the A.K. members.

The Germans carried out a selection before the evacuation of the Skarzysker camp and shot the sick and old people. Among the doomed selected to be shot was Shlomoh Krakowski, the oldest among the Radomskers. He had hid during the selection and afterward he was sent to Czenstochow and from there to Buchenwald.

Among those shot in Skarzysko was also the woman dentist Kurkhin-Berkensztat. Those who died there were:

  1. Yudel Davidowicz,
  2. Hersh-Leib Zajdman,
  3. Wargon ben Yitzhak,
  4. Ofman ben Alimelekh,
  5. Bugajski, Feliks ben Shlomoh,
  6. Yitzhak Szchutski, Reb Moishe-Benimin Leman's son-in-law.
In January 1944, those killed at the hands of the Jewish revenge takers were: Yosef Kszepitski, Dr. Zaks and Dovid Bugajski.

Workers were sent from Buchenwald to Schlieben, a city near Ciemnice. During an explosion that occurred there, Yosef Bril and his father (a rope maker from the market) were killed. Shlomoh Rozenboim also died in Schlieben.

Henrik Fanski was in the group of evacuees from Schlieben to Flasenberg. He became sick in Schlieben and one of our townspeople supported and assisted him there. Fanski died in Flasenberg.

Among the Jews evacuated from Buchenwald in April 1945, were the dentist Yakov (Kuba) Markowicz, Yekil Szpira and his son Daniel and, how I am glowing, also the Tajkhner-Tadek brothers and Kuba (the last one Ali Grundman's son-in-law).

For truth's sake, I must add that a significant percent of our townspeople survived Skarzysko thanks to having received money and things from Radomsker Poles, which they had earlier entrusted to them. It should be understood that certain abuses took place and the intermediaries were not always honest enough. However, this does not change the fact that without this help the list of the survivors that we present further on would be smaller.**

And to the end, when we summarize life in Skarzysko, it must be underlined that some people from our city did not bestow honor on our town.

** In camp “C” the Germans murdered a Pole named Nowak for selling bread to Jews.

[Page 405]

However, the Radomskers as a rule had a good name. The majority did not lose their humanity. In our ranks were comrades who carried out extensive aid operations and not only for those from our city. They were the headquarters for community workers, writers and intellectuals, where help and support was received.

List of Radomskers Who Survived the Skarzysker Camp

  1. Aronowicz, Haim Mendel
  2. Urbach, Nehamah
  3. Ofman, Wolf (Witek)
  4. Blager, Manya
  5. Blager, Fela
  6. Bliboim, Ruzhka
  7. Goldberg, Melekh
  8. Gwozj, Haim
  9. Gerikhter, Dovid
  10. Gliksman, Israel
  11. Dombrower, Meir
  12. Diament, Leib
  13. Diament, Sara (née Dombrower)
  14. Hartman, Moishe
  15. Heftler, Stashek
  16. Heftler, Sara (née Fiszelewicz)
  17. Wargon
  18. Wajsberg, Yakov
  19. Zajdman, Gershon
  20. Zajdman, Ruzhka (née Epsztajn)
  21. Zilbersztajn, Heniek
  22. Tajkhner, Shlomoh
  23. Yakubowicz
  24. Lemkowicz (Gerikhter's son-in-law)
  25. Ludkewicz
  26. Ludkewicz, Andzia
  27. Markowicz, Alekhsander
  28. Markowicz, Haim
  29. Minski, Yissakhar
  30. Sobel, Runa
  31. Epsztajn, Eiliyahu (Alek)
  32. Epsztajn, Ruchl
  33. Fiszman, Yakov
  34. Fiszman, Shlomoh
  35. Kornfeld
  36. Krakowski, Shlomoh
  37. Kalka, Tuvia
  38. Rubinowicz, Simkha
  39. Rubinsztajn, Moishe (Maniek)
  40. Szwarcenberg, Natan
  41. Shtrausberg
  42. Szmulewicz, Anja (Hana)
  43. Szmulewicz, Yakov
  44. Szmulewicz
  45. Kirszencwajg, Yosel
  46. Kzhepitski, Hela
  47. Felman, Hela
  48. Krauze, Yosef

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