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The Trial of Wilhelm Heinrich Rommelmann,
may his name be erased

The Murderer of Tarnow Jewry

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

The trial of the murderer of Tarnow Jewry, Wilhelm Heinreich Rommelmann, may his name be erased, who was sentenced to death, took place at the district court, during the days from the 17th until the 19th of March 1948.

We have a specimen of the copy of this verdict, which gives us the opportunity to learn in detail about the horrible brutality and criminal deeds of the Gestapo in the Tarnow ghetto.

We are publishing almost the entire verdict without abridgement in Yiddish translation. We provide in the original Polish language only a part of the sentence from the verdict up to paragraph I. We repeat the same section in the Yiddish translation and quote it to the end in Yiddish.

 

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District Court VI Penalty Division
Tribune of the 25th of March 1948
No. 8 1025/47 K.

The Sentence for the Verdict

In the name of the Polish Republic!
The 25th of March 1948

The District Court in Tarnow, Sixth Penalty Division of the following composition: President: County Court Judge Dr. St. Krol; Concessors [jurors]: Wladyslaw Lorenc, Lieber Gottlob; Recorder: Apl. Dr. Piechowicz.

Considering in the presence of the prosecutor of the District Court, Magister [academic degree given in Poland equivalent to a master's degree] St. Szatki, on the days of the 17th, 18th and 19th of March 1948 of the trial of:

Wilhelm Heinrich Rommelmann, born on the 1st of February 1907 in Bremen (Germany), son of Wilhelm and Wilhelmina, née Shene, Evangelical, German citizen, of German nationality, middle school education, married, without possessions, last residence in Bremen, detained by the British occupation organs of power on the 3rd of June 1946, arrested on the 28 of February 1948, now located in the prison in Tarnow, accused of this, that:

I. During the German occupation, he was in Polish territory, namely: in Krakow and Tarnow, secretary of the State Secret Police Gestapo and took part in a criminal organization created by the organs of power of the German state that had as its purpose the crimes against humanity.
II. During the years 1942 and 1943, as a member of the Gestapo criminal organization to accommodate the regime of the German state in certain areas, took part in carrying out murders of the civilian population in the manner that:
A) During the time from May 1942 to autumn 1943, in the Tarnow district as well as in the Brigel and Dąbrowa districts, fulfilling the supervisory functions in the isolation areas for Jews (ghettos) as consultant on Jewish matters, he took part in mass and individual murders of people of Jewish origin, shooting these people or exterminating
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them in another manner, and personally or through his subordinate organs ordering that they be shot and annihilated, thus he would torture his victims in this manner so that before being shot, they were held in a closed room for a number of days without food; they were forced to undress until naked and to lie with their faces to the ground when being shot and gave the order to burn the shot and still living victims in a pyre.

B) In June and July 1943, he took part in the so-called pacification actions against the Poles in Otfinówo, Karsy, Nieciecza, Gręboszów, as well as in other areas of the Dąbrowa district and in neighboring districts, during which he shot a number of people, among others: Stanislav Borduch from Przysławice, N. Lir from Wielople, Jozef Bochenek from Karzy, N. Piontek from the former Polish military, with the pseudonym, Adrowoncz from Gręboszów and Janina Wozniak from Borislaw; in addition, he tortured the latter by taking her to the [non-Jewish] cemetery; he had her undress completely and he wounded her in her hand with his first shot from his revolver and then he murdered her with the second shot to her head.

C) In August 1943, in Brigel (Brzesko), he took part in the shooting of Irena Pyrkowa of Zakliczyn, a pregnant woman in the 6th month, as part of a repressive arrest for hiding her husband Franciszek Pyrek, for whom the Gestapo was searching as a suspect in activities destructive to the German state; before the shooting he took revenge against Irena Pyrkowa, beating her and beating her in a terrible manner.

D) In July 1943, he took part in the mass murder of people of Roma origin in Żabno, personally shooting them with the help of subordinate German gendarmes and this was in the number of about 70 people, men, women and children; in addition, he tortured his victims, ordering them to completely undress and to lie with their faces to the ground.

III. In 1942 and 1943, as a member of the Gestapo criminal organization, he served the regime of the German state, developed activity to the detriment of people who were sought and persecuted by the regime for national, racial reasons, in such a manner that:
A) In 1942 in Tarnow, in the Tarnow district as well as in the Brigel
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and Dąbrowa district, took part in organizing and creating places of isolation, ghettos, for people of Jewish origin with the purpose of having control over these people and to exterminate them through excess gathering of a large number of people in a small area, through systematic starvation and coercing them to do extraordinarily hard labor, creating conditions that caused the loss of health and life among the people there.

B) At the time from June 1942 to autumn 1943, in Tarnow and in the districts of Tarnow, Brigel (Brzesko) and Dąbrowa, he himself with the help of subordinates in the organs [of power] carried out mass selections of the people imprisoned in the ghettos and deported them to places of extermination in various concentration camps.

C) During the years 1942 and 1943, in Tarnow and in the districts of Tarnow, Brigel and Dąbrowa, he took part in mass and individual arrests of civilians, for secret and detrimental activities against the German State and that he caused the confining of the arrestees in prisons and concentration camps where they, in the majority, perished and, in addition, he ridiculed these victims, beating and kicking them.

IV. During the time from May 1942 to autumn 1943, in Tarnow and in the districts of Tarnow, Brigel and Dąbrowa, as a member of the Gestapo criminal organization and as a consultant on Jewish matters, as a member of the German State organs of power, he took part in the mass looting of possessions, particularly of clothing, shoes, work tools, furniture, appliances, money and other items of value taken from people of Jewish origin, and with these items strengthened the power of the German Reich and its citizens.

V. During the time from June 1943 to autumn 1943, in Tarnow and in the districts of Tarnow, Brigel and Dąbrowa, using the conditions created by the war, such as the plight of the Jews, doomed by the German rulers, as well his position as a member of the Gestapo – he forced people of Jewish origin to provide ransoms and hard currency and in cash under the threat of deporting all of the Jews from the given area.

The above-described actions constitute: under I the crime

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of article 4, paragraph 3, point C – under II. A/B/C/D crimes of article 1, point 1 – under III. A/B/C crimes of article 2 – under IV. Crimes of article 2 – under V crimes of article 3 of the degree of 31.VIII.1944.

The Court Decided

Concerning the accused Wilhelm Rommelmann for responsibility in the crimes of article 1, point 1 and 2 in connection with article 4, paragraph 1, in connection with article 2/A and 3/C of the decree of 31.VIII.1944, item 46/377 Legal Gazette of the Polish Republic –that during the German occupation in Tarnow and in the area of the counties of Tarnow, Brigel and Dąbrowa from spring 1942 until the winter 1943, he supported the regime of the German state, as a Gestapo official, belonging to a criminal organization, created by the government organs of the German state, whose purpose was crimes against humanity – and personally taking part in carrying out the mass-murders of people from among the civilian population in paragraph II A-D of this accusation closely described – and that he had as Gestapo official and consultant on Jewish matters at the Tarnow Gestapo through his taking part in organizing the ghetto and catching people from the Polish and Jewish population and confining them in the prison and in the ghetto, with collaborating in the selection of people from the Jewish population, designator to various work or to deportation to extermination camps, as well as collaborating in the liquidation of the ghetto in Tarnow and in Zakliczyn and through taking part in the theft of their possessions – proceeded to harm this population, demanding and persecuting them through the German regime organs for political, national and racial motives.

And Sentenced

This Wilhelm Rommelmann on the basis of article 1 of the above decree

To the Death Penalty

And on the basis of article 7 A/B of this decree and article 52 paragraph 2

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and article 47, paragraph A/1 of the punishment decree to lose forever the public and honorary citizen rights and the confiscation of all of his possessions.

Despite the civilian demands of the Jewish district committee in Tarnow, the committee itself will carry the cost of the trial.

Against Exempting

the accused Wilhelm Rommelmann of other points of the accusation and charging the state treasury with part of the trial costs, which have a connection to this point of the accusation and on the basis of article C/581 of the penalty procedures.

Motivation

The accused Wilhelm Rommelmann declared during the trial that he, as a citizen of the German Reich, in 1927 entered service in the German security police after finishing middle school and, in that role, he became active in the city of Bremen until the year 1937, finally in the rank of a security guard (supervisor) of an older district.

In 1937, he transferred to service with the criminal police (Kripo). At the end of 1938, he transferred to the police school in Berlin, where he remained until the outbreak of the German-Polish War in September 1939.

Spring 1940, he was sent from Germany to the occupied Polish territory and assigned to service in the German criminal police in Krakow, at Pomorska Street.

Summer 1942, he was taken from Krakow to Tarnow, being assigned to the German criminal police and, simultaneously, he was given the supervision of the possessions of the Jews deported from Tarnow and its surroundings; he remained in this post until autumn 1943 and then he was sent back to Germany.

Clarifying the course of his service in such a manner, the accused denied that he belonged to the Gestapo organization and that he carried out the criminal actions of which he was accused in the act of prosecution.

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The court based on the results of the testimony presented established that the accused was an official of the Gestapo – German State Secret Police – during his service in Tarnow, where he carried out the persecution of Jewish matters and, finally, from the second half of 1943 until leaving Tarnow, he also was involved in matters that had a connection to the Polish population.

The court supported these decisions on the sworn, steadfast, unquestionable witness statements of a number of witnesses and particularly of: Engineer Jozef Kowalik, Jerzy Kostura, Lean Lezer, Ayzak Izrael, Josef Kornilo, Dr. Jerzy Iwanski, Dr. Henrik Wachtal, Dr. Henrik Faber, Wilhelm Lerner.

The witnesses just mentioned, particularly the former official in the Tarnow ghetto, Jerzy Kostura, knew the accused very well; they observed his activity in the area of the Tarnow ghetto and also, on this basis, they confirmed in an authoritative manner – and the court accepted this as proof – that the accused was a very important member of the Gestapo.

Also, the witnesses: the priest, Jozef Kloch, Zigmunt Wczotek, Magister Roman Krzisztopowicz, Eugenia Fyrek – confirmed that the accused during his actions in Otfinówo, Żabno, Brigel, appeared as a member of the Gestapo and, in general, he was known in the role.

In light of these factual statements, the assertions of the accused that he was an official of Kripo and not of the Gestapo are considered completely untruthful.

It is clear that the accused, a routine, professional police functionary, had an exact understanding of the liability made by the connection of his membership in the Gestapo organization and its criminal activity and consequently made an effort – although helpless and in contradiction of the clear facts and evidence – to distance himself from this organization and its activities.

The connection of the activity of the accused during his presence in Tarnow and his service in the Tarnow Gestapo is shown in the first plan, with his taking part in the liquidation of the ghetto in Tarnow and Zakliczyn, then in the mass murder of the Jewish population as well as the annihilation of a group of Roma in Żabno.

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On the basis of the sworn declaration of the witnesses – Engineer Jozef Kowalik, Dr. Jerzy Iwanski, Josef Kornilo, Wilhelm Lerner, Jerzy Kostura, Leon Lezer, Asher Blajwajs, Dr. Henrik Wachtal, Maria Ziskind – the court in reference to the participation of the Tarnow Gestapo in general and the accused (Rommelmann) in particular in the organizing and the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Tarnow, asserted as follows:

The first of the routine, planned actions against the Jews, whose purpose it was to concentrate all Jews who lived in Tarnow and its vicinity in an enclosed living quarter, a so-called ghetto, began in the area of Tarnow on the 10th of June 1942. This action was carried out by a special group of S.S. men from Krakow ([S.S.] Sonderkommando – special units of men from various S.S. offices) with the participation of the Tarnow Gestapo and the German gendarmerie.

During this action, which lasted several days, 8,000 to 10,000 Jews, the majority old people, the sick, children and those incapable of physical labor, were murdered in their residences, on the streets, at the Jewish cemetery and on the Zbylitowska Mountain. In addition to this, several thousand people of both sexes, were loaded into prepared train wagons at the train station and deported to extermination camps, from which none of the deported returned.

The remainder of the Jewish population, survivors of the above actions numbering about 20,000 people, were placed in the ghetto, which was divided into a ghetto A for those incapable of working and a ghetto B for those capable of working. Rommelmann, the accused, took an active part in this action; at that time he had just come to Tarnow from Krakow and as Gestapo consultant for Jewish matters was at the organization of the ghetto and transferred the Jewish population there.

As seen from the further course of events, the action which began on the 10th of June 1942 was only the first step of the plan to murder and annihilate the entire Jewish population. This plan was realized in a cruel manner. In September 1942, they began to make the ghetto smaller by liquidating ghetto A, by deporting several thousand

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people from there who were incapable of working to the death camp and a number of the incapable workers were shot on the spot.

In November 1942, around 5,000 people were deported from the ghetto to the extermination camps, and another group of the ghetto residents were shot on the spot and their bodies were burned on a pyre.

At the end of 1943, the rest of the Jewish population was deported from the Tarnow ghetto – except for a group of around 300 people who were for a certain time to work in the ghetto and [they were] finally deported to the concentration camp in Płaszów and to Szebnie, from which only a small number survived. The Tarnow ghetto was thus liquidated.

As a result of this action, around 40,000 people from the Jewish population were murdered both on the spot in Tarnow and its vicinity and in the death camps.

In addition to taking part in this mass murder and in the general actions of the annihilation of the Jewish population, individual Gestapo members would appear almost daily in the territory of the Tarnow ghetto during its existence and under the smallest pretexts they murdered both individuals and groups of several people and also ill-treated those murdered with beating, kicking and imprisoning them in bunkers.

The Gestapo members Grunow and Rommelmann particularly excelled in such individual murders. On the basis of the statements of the witnesses Leon Lezer, Asher Blajwajs, Magister Franciszko Krisztal, Maria Ziskind, Dr. Jerzy Iwanski, Jozef Kornilo – the court ascertained that the accused, Rommelmann, was a terror to the ghetto and he carried out the murders with much sadism, coldly. This was demonstrated by the accused in the territory of the ghetto – and he was an almost daily guest there – that he threw a deadly fear on everyone he encountered.

On the basis of the reading of the statement of the leader of the so-called “employment exchange” in Tarnow, the Viennese German, Emil Utzinger, the court ascertained that the accused had a reputation as a sadist even among his collaborators, as diligent in murdering Jews, ascertained

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what was characteristic for the evaluation of the person as a criminal type and of his brutal activities.

It was impossible to ascertain the exact number of victims shot by the accused – only because they were murdered in various places; the families of the victims are not alive and also because almost the entire population of the Tarnow ghetto was murdered and there are no longer witnesses to the murders.

However, on the basis of the facts about the shooting at the Jewish population by the accused ascertained from the testimony of survivors, it must be accepted that the accused was one of the bloodiest Gestapo-hangmen.

The court particularly ascertained on the basis of statements from the witnesses: Engineer Jozef Kowalik, Asher Blajwajs, Dr. Jerzy Iwanski, that the accused himself shot eight men in October 1942 on the territory of the Tarnow ghetto, at the then so-called Magdeburger Platz, because they were not at work. In addition to this, on the basis of the statements of the witness, Engineer Jozek Kowalik, ascertained the fact of the shooting of six women of Jewish origin by the accused in September 1942 on the territory of the ghetto.

On the basis of the statement of the witness, Leon Lezer, the court confirmed the fact of the shooting of eight Jews by the accused in the courtyard of the Judenrat [Jewish council] in August 1942 and on the basis of the statement of the witness, Asher Blajwajs, the fact of the shooting in this courtyard in a close, unspecified time, of five Jewish workers because they were incapable of working.

On the basis of the statement by the witness, Lola Gimpel, the court ascertained that on the 4th of December 1942, the accused shot two Jewish women from among four he employed in the firm, Madritsch.

The witness, Josek Mansdorf, confirmed the fact of the shooting by the accused in October 1942 of the sisters of the witness and the witness, Dr. Henrik Wachtel confirmed the fact of the shooting on Starowolski Street by the accused of two Jews, Miler and Folksman, who he encountered outside the ghetto and three Jews and two Jewish women at Magdeburger Platz. In addition to this, the witness confirmed the fact

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of the shooting by the accused of 10 Jewish boys in the area of the ghetto and a Polish woman near Ochranka Street because she entered the ghetto.

The witness, Hersh Buch, corroborated the fact of the shooting by the accused at an unascertained time, of two Poles because they entered the ghetto.

The statements of witness Wilhelm Lerner, who was a Jewish militiaman in the Tarnow ghetto and, therefore, had the opportunity to observe the activity of the accused, established for the court the following facts about the shooting by the accused of people from among the Jewish population: several days after the first action, the accused shot 12 people incapable of working and at about the same time he shot a Jewish militiaman who was standing guard at the gate of the ghetto wall because he let a woman enter the ghetto.

In June 1942, he shot six men, two women and a child who had been brought from the city; in addition to this, he shot Dr. Lustig and his two sisters and a certain Jew who had asked him to be left in the ghetto because he could and would work.

The witness Norbet Manheimer confirmed the fact of the shooting of a certain woman, Mrs. Beller, by the accused in October 1943, and that he himself had been tortured by the accused and imprisoned in a cellar.

On the basis of signed statements given under oath by the witnesses Rucza Finder, Mina Laub, Dr. Jerzy Iwanski – the court ascertained that on the 21st of December the accused liquidated the ghetto in Zakliczyn, where approximately 50 people were murdered and the rest were taken to the ghetto in Brigel (Brzesko). There, on the day of their arrival from Zakliczyn, they were shot at the cemetery, except for three young Jewish girls who were taken to the Tarnow ghetto, where, except for Rucza Finder, who managed to escape, they were shot.

In addition to the above ascertained murders, the accused also took part in murdering a group of Roma at the cemetery in Żabno. In particular, the court, on the basis of the statements sworn to under oath by Roman Krzisztopowicz, ascertained that the accused

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during his stay in the area of Żabno during the second half of 1942, two young Romas were shot near the mill, one aged 16 and the other 17.

On the basis of the statement of the above witness and of witnesses Stanislaw Przybitek, Stanislaw Sztreng, as well as on the basis of the written statement of the witness Stanislaw Paionk, the court established that not long after shooting the Romas, in around the beginning of July 1943, the accused organized the detention and transfer to the Jewish cemetery in Żabno, in groups of several people, a group of Romas and the women and children – in the number of about 60 people. All were led to the Jewish cemetery by the accused with the assistance of the German gendarme Gustek, shot, ordering them to completely undress and to lay with their faces to the ground. In such a manner, he shot all of the Romas, who were staying in Żabno at that time.

At the same time, the accused also was active in the area of the community of Otfinówo, where he lived for several weeks beginning in June 1943 at the parsonage of the priest, Jozef Kloch.

What did the accused intend in Otfinówo? This is impossible to ascertain, but the accused indicated that he had had the task of observing the airplanes flying by. However, it is a fact that the accused marked his sojourn there by shooting the following people: Boduch, Lira, Bochenek, Piontek, as well as Janina Wozniak; he stood near her, ridiculed her before her death and after undressing her completely, he first lightly wounded her and, then a second later, he murdered her.

These facts of the murders in the area of Otfinówo were confirmed and ascertained on the basis of the statements of the witnesses: the priest, Jozef Kloch, Anna Slowik, Zygmunt Wczostek, Jan Lipinski and Zofia Bochenek.

On the basis of statements given under oath by the witnesses Eugenia Fyrek, Franciszek Fyrek, Leopold Fyrek, the court ascertained that the accused arrested Irena Fyrek, the wife of Franciszek, during the month of August 1943 and took her to Brzesko and the residence of Eugenia Fyrek and there demanded that she indicate the place in which her husband was hiding. He beat her, kicked her – although she

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asked him for mercy, saying that she was in the sixth month of her pregnancy. After he tortured her for several hours, he led her outside of the house and shot her near the toilet.

The witness, Eugenia Fyrek, recognized the accused during the interrogation and confirmed that he had shot Irena Fyrek.

On the basis of statements given under oath by the witnesses Helena Fuzio, Wladyslawa Labendz, Stefanja Ramzowa, the court ascertained that the accused jointly with the member of the Gestapo, Libor, in October 1943 arrested Maria Fuzio, a resident of Tarnow, under the suspicion that she was trading in gold and foreign currency and during her interrogation at the Gestapo, he beat her so badly that she actually died.

On the basis of the statements given under oath by the witnesses, Karol Lit, Maria Lit, Jan Woszczina – the court ascertained and confirmed that the accused had carried out an investigation concerning the matter of the socialist activist, well known in Tarnow Eugeniuz Szit, pseudonym, Sroka – who hid from the Gestapo and in connection with this, in March 1943 the accused arrested Jan Woszczina, Karol Szit and caused their confinement at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

During the interrogation of Maria Szit, the accused undressed her completely and then beat her until she lost consciousness.

The accused did not confess to any of the ascertained deeds and confronted by a particular witness – he in general did not speak in reference to their statements maintaining that they were in error, that they did not pertain to him and they were erroneous in ascribing deeds to him, which he did not carry out.

The court did not believe the answers of the accused, seeing in his denials of the confirmations made by the witnesses' facts, an expression of fear of his responsibility for the cruel crimes that he carried out during his service in the Gestapo in Tarnow.

Analyzing the activity of the accused in light of the above assertations – the court accepted as proof, first of all, that the accused did take part in the organizing of the

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Gestapo – that was recognized as a criminal organization on the basis of the verdict of the International Tribunal in Nuremberg and on the basis of article 4, paragraph 2, letter C of the decree of the 31.8.1944, item 377/46, Legal Gazette of the Polish Republic. No closer explanation of the criminal character of the Gestapo was needed on the basis of the above assertions – which cannot be questioned. And as it was shown that the accused was a member of the Gestapo, it is superfluous to further consider accusing him of taking part in a crime through the organs of power of the German state-created organization.

What subjective relevance there is concerning the responsibility for taking part in this organization, the court's procedures show:

  1. that the accused voluntarily undertook service in the Gestapo.
  2. that he knew the purposes and work methods of the Gestapo.
  3. that beyond every discussion by the court, that the Gestapo had for its purpose to carry out crimes against humanity and that this purpose – concerning the activity of the Gestapo in Tarnow – he consistently understood.
In connection with the assertation under A) – the accused – although he was and is a German citizen and without doubt had the right to voluntarily become a member of the Gestapo, the organization created by the state organs – yet as a member of this organization recognized as a criminal organization by the International Tribune – he was just responsible for taking part in it.

Item B) The accused – possessing a middle school education, knowing of the 25 points of the N.S.D.A.P.[1] knew and was well aware of what the Gestapo – the implementation organ of this party – had as its purpose –relative to the Jewish population and also gave an account of it that the Gestapo in carrying out this program relative to the Jewish population made use of brutal and savage annihilation methods.

Item C) The carrying out of these purposes on the territory of the Tarnow ghetto had such a clear expression that there can be no doubt [Page 210]

about the purpose and the means of realizing his crimes against humanity. The accused not only belonged to the organization whose purpose and methods he knew – but he – as was ascertained – took an active part in realizing this purpose and made use of its criminal methods.

In particular, he took part in the actions of the Tarnow Gestapo – as its member, connected to the shared purpose of the entire collective – in liquidating the Jewish population, in murdering them and deporting them to death camps because of racial, religious and national origin.

Contemplating at the starting point the individual activity of the accused – namely the actual murder of people from among the civilian population, as well as choosing them for racial, national reasons – while these actual murders essentially comprise crimes, they must be accepted as an expression of the consequences of membership in the Gestapo, an organization with shared purposes and methods of activity on the part of all its members. The accused as a member of the Gestapo on the territory of Tarnow, or the Zakliczyn ghetto or outside the ghetto, shot at individual people in the Jewish population, he shot Roma in Żabno and Poles on the territory of the community of Otfinówo and he shot Irena Fyrek in Brzesko. – In all of the cases, he carried out the crimes of murdering these people in connection collectively on behalf of all of the members of the Gestapo, because to realize the principles and purposes of the Gestapo organization – that is, to annihilate Jews as well as Roma, they were persecuted because of their racial affiliation and the Poles for political and national motives.

Everything carried out by the accused and the crimes established above rise to a crime against humanity as a result of the participation of the accused in such a criminal organization as the Gestapo.

The criminal activity of the accused that was proven during the trial to have been done by him includes all of the judicial facts in the case, which was foreseen in article 1, item 1, 2 and in article 4 and paragraph 1 of the decree of the 31st of August 1944. Item 377/46 of the Legal Gazette of the Polish Republic.

The connection, in particular, to these crimes of article 4, paragraph 1 and of article 1,

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paragraph 1 and 2 of the earlier decree –according to the above conduct and with the directives of article 36 of the penalty decree, everything was considered as one criminal action that approves both directives of this decree and that corresponds to the qualifications of article 1, point 2/1 – as a directive that contains more severe punitive sanctions, simultaneously the court accepted that the criminal conduct of the accused during his sojourn and activity in the Gestapo carries the character of one continuing crime, which had as its purpose to support the organs of power of the German state and to harm the people of the civilian population, indifferent to whether they were Jews, Poles or Roma. With these particular deeds of the accused being only an external expression carried out in such a manner and with such a purpose of criminal actions, the accused must therefore be held responsible for the entire scope of his activity as a sum of his criminal deeds.

For these reasons, the court recognized the accused Wilhelm Rommelmann as guilty in crimes only from article 1, item 1/2 and connected with article 4, paragraph 1 of the decree of the 31st of August 1944 item 377/46 Legal Gazette of the Polish Republic, which encompasses the total of his criminal activities. In calculating the penalty, the court took into consideration the enormity of the crimes carried out by the accused, each one of which justifies the sentencing exclusively to the death penalty.

In light of the factual evidence brought out, the accused is an extraordinary criminal and dangerous type, so, it is absolutely necessary to eliminate him from a society with a sense of legality.

The accused cannot answer with the assertion that as a citizen of the German state, he must support it because of the feeling of patriotism, that the duty of loyalty and devotion to his own land are fundamental and understandable motives of the activity of every citizen that must be taken into consideration. [These assertions] cannot in any way defend the carrying out of such unnatural crimes against humanity that were exhibited by the accused and were applied in the sentence of the court. These crimes upset the

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basic order of international rights such as the principles of equal rights of all human creatures and their right to develop and exist without distinction as to their racial or national origins.

Whereas these crimes were carried out by the accused within the area of the Polish State and with regard to its citizens and Poland is one of the signatories of the London Agreement of the 8th of August 1945 concerning the prosecution and punishment of the main war criminals and accordingly with the promulgating of international law, it implemented the decree of 31.8.1944 and the decree of 10.12.1944 item 377 Legal Gazette of the Polish Republic – the article 4 concerning the responsibility for taking part in a crime, through the organs of power of the German state-created organization – it has the right to persecute war criminals, to which must be included the accused, on the basis of the above London Agreement as well as on the basis of article 3 of the penalty decree.

The determination concerning the loss of public and citizenship rights, as well as concerning the confiscation of his possessions, is compulsory in regard to the death sentence article 7 A/B) from the decree and article 52, paragraph 2 of the penalty code cited above. Because the accused has no possessions, the court frees him from the trial costs and court charges.

The further part of the verdict deals with the clause of the accusation in regard to the accused taking part in organizing and liquidating the ghettos in Dąbrowa and Brzesko – which were not exhibited, and therefore, we have not considered it.

At the end are the following signatures: the president: Dr. St. Krol and the Concessors [jurors]: Lieber Gottlob and Wladyslaw Lorenc.

 

Editor's note:
  1. National Socialistishe Deutschish Arbeter Parti [National Socialist German Workers Party. Return


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A Mother's Prayer
(A chapter from the memorial book “The Jews of Tarnow”)

Dedication: to the memory of my dear parents Menachem
and Yocheved Ginzberg and my sisters, Batia and Malka
who died as martyrs in Belzec on Rosh Hashana 5703 (1943)

by Nathan-Ari Ginzberg, Bene-Brak, Israel

Translated by Daniel Kochavi

 

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Nathan-Ari Ginzberg

 

The year of 5702 (1942) is almost over, a bloody year when hundreds of Jewish communities were wiped out and millions of Jews died martyred in all manners of death.

The Tarnow ghetto too suffered sacrifices. During the first days of the “action” thousands from various surrounding locations were cruelly murdered in cemeteries by the cursed Nazis. Jewish blood was spilled like water and thousands of ghetto residents were transported in cattle cars under horrible conditions. They died in the gas chambers of the Belzec extermination camp.

But that was only the beginning of the execution of the Satanic plan known shamefully as “the Final Solution”.

Life in the ghetto was one of fear, hunger and hard labor for those condemned to die. “Those who work will live” was the deceptive slogan of the Nazis to delude the Jews. Their ugly aim was to preserve Jewish manpower as long as possible.

Early in the morning, groups exited the ghetto gates to work at hard labor. We worked for 12 hours and returned to the ghetto tired, dirty, hungry, in pain. In spite of this, every man and woman continues to work to survive. Exploited Jews carry out hard and dangerous work. This hard labor and poor nourishment weaken people day by day. This was our life, constantly fearful during work and upon returning to the ghetto, where we suffered from diseases, overcrowding and depression. As the saying goes: “ with fear in your heart you ask in the morning who will see the evening and, in the evening, you ask who will see the morning”.

At the same time, Job-like news about the slaughters of Jews taking place

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all over occupied Poland begin to reach us. We become aware that the entire civilized world has forgotten us and no one will rescue us from our horrible situation. The Gentile neighbors are against us. We become aware of Jews who hid in surrounding villages and, after their money and meager properties were taken from them, were denounced to the abominable Gestapo, tortured and killed.

We start desperately to look for hiding places in basements, attics and warehouses. Young people who look “Aryan” obtain phony Polish IDs and escape from the ghetto. Then, two days before Rosh Hashana, sleep eludes Jews in the ghetto. A bitter rumor spreads like a storm, started by the Jews who live at the edge of the ghetto, that heavy guards from the police force and the SS armed with light and heavy weapons are stationed around the ghetto to prevent any escape. No one sleeps in the ghetto. A terrible panic spreads among the unfortunate Jews.

The Judenrat (Jewish council) officials announce that every worker must surrender his work ID to be stamped by the Gestapo. Workers who receive a special stamp will remain alive because they are considered essential to the war effort. A large crowd gathers near the Judenrat to obtain the special stamp on their worker permit. However only a few workers get their permits right away. After several hours a riot breaks out when thousands of workers, including myself, are left without permits since they are never returned. Some forged stamps are used but, unfortunately, I am left without a permit after it is taken by the Judenrat police.

Later that night I return home. On the way I encounter families with children and bundles - running away terrified, like animals caught in a trap, in order to hide in bunkers prepared earlier. Here and there the hiding places are further improved, well-hidden and stocked with some food and water to wait out the storm. Everybody looks for ways to save their life and their family.

When I arrive home, all are ready to hide in the bunker. Each has a bundle and they also have prepared some food and warm clothes for me. I join my family and we all struggle to enter the small storeroom that is already crowded with 15 people including small children. It is terribly hot and suffocating, making it hard to breathe. Any light sound that can be heard outside causes great fear of discovery. We especially must strictly keep the young children quiet.

The children are asleep early in the morning. But the adults started to recite Slichot prayers. I am standing next to my dear mother who is reciting her Slichot prayers (note: special prayers before Rosh Hashana) with heartbreaking sobbing. Her tears are flowing on her prayer book. Standing so close to her, I can make out parts of her prayers recited with sublime devotion.

Her eyes are closed and her lips recite a silent prayer. She pleads for mercy: Our God who is in heaven...I know that we are in great danger...who knows what our fate will be....if it is so decreed

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I am ready to die a martyr's death...I plead that a remnant of my family be spared and children survive..that at least a small memory of ours remains...

Her holy and pure lips murmur the last prayer that I heard from her and will never forget it, “a mother's prayer” said simply and with utter belief that the last hour has arrived and the end is near.

In the east dawn has broken. The men wrap themselves in the Tallit and put on the Tefillin. Who knows--this may be their last prayer? They recite it with great devotion. I also join the prayer. Afterwards I come out of the bunker to escape the suffocating air inside and breathe some fresh fall air. Other people are afraid to come out, but I gather my courage after listening to my mother's prayer that instilled in me the belief that I would be saved.

That morning, Jews who returned from the assembly ground tell me that the Nazis have started to round up and deport ghetto Jews who did not have “stamps”. I also found out that young people's work IDs are stamped.

I return to the bunker to consult with my parents about risking a return to the assembly ground. This would be extremely dangerous, practically submitting to the jaws of the Nazi lion not knowing if I would survive. My parents advise me to go, kiss me and hope that I will return alive.

Approaching the square, I see from afar young men returning holding work certificates stamped by the Gestapo. I finally decide to enter the ground and am initially seized with fear when I see a large number of Germans running around the ground. Work permits are stacked in a corner. I quickly find mine and stand in line for the table where a Gestapo man with a murderous face is sitting. He asks my age and my work place. After looking me over from top to bottom he finally stamps my ID card thus keeping me alive. I quickly leave the ground. Nearby I see Jews on their knees with their heads to the ground, unfortunate Jews caught by the Nazis to be sent to the extermination camp in Belzec. Germans armed with weapons and sticks surround and guard them. Anyone trying to raise his head is beaten to a pulp.

To this day I cannot understand how I survive. A real miracle since, after several hours, I found out that I was among the last people to obtain the stamp. People arriving after me in the yard were caught and deported.

The Germans, knowing that Jews were hiding in bunkers and were hard to find, realized that when they found out about the stamps people would come out on their own. Hundreds of Jews were thus caught and sent to Belzec.

I return to my family and tell them about my stamped ID. My dear father encourages me and me tells to remain strong when facing hardships. My dear mother tells me

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that her prayers and pleas the previous night brought this about. My parents bless me that no evil will happen to me and that I will be saved from the impure hands of the cursed Nazis.

This is the last night of the year. I give up my place in the hideout to ease the crowding since I am “privileged,” having received the stamp on my work card. Most young people live in the apartments since they were certified by the Nazis as laborers worth saving. Their parents and small children hide in the basements, the attics and closets.

In the morning I return to the bunker to check on my family and to bring them and other people food and water. I find very tired and sleepy people. The small children sleep a sweet sleep, not knowing of the terrible danger they are in.

In the morning I leave my precious family with wishes that we meet again in the evening. I close the bunker tightly and use a cabinet to hide the entrance. I then step outside to see what's happening.

Almost immediately I hear savage voices of Germans approaching with terrifying sniffing dogs yelling “Raus”! They order every person to come out to the yard and from there transport us under heavy guard to the deportation square. Other Germans with dogs stay behind and carry out a thorough search.

In the square there is terrible uproar dominated by yells of the Nazis who are gathering Jews from every corner of the ghetto. Men, women and children, old women and old men crouch in the center of the square. Poor Jews arrive without pause desperate, terrified and beaten as they are subjected to shoving and horrible shouts from the murderers. They are transported in groups of hundreds to a central place located in a school outside the ghetto. The sick, elderly and disabled who cannot walk are immediately murdered by the hundred of Nazis scouring the deportation square. Those who are able to work and allowed to remain in the ghetto are moved to the edge of the square. We remain there for hours in the burning heat without water and unable to move anywhere. Not far from us the selected Jews crouch. Seeing these poor Jews is heartbreaking as we are powerless to help.

At 3 PM the last transport leaves the ghetto to the assembly station outside. The action is about to stop until the cursed Nazis realize that the count of Jews to be sent to Belzec does not meet the target of their Satanic plan. They decide to choose the needed hundreds from those remaining in the camp.

A fat German, one of the Gestapo officers, is standing in the center of the square holding a stick. All the Jews who obtained the stamp by various means and believed they were safe, have to go in front of this German who decides in a blink of an eye “who shall live-and who shall perish”. The first victims are the elderlies and anyone

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holding a child by the hand. Parents, realizing this, cut an opening in the fence and smuggle the small children through that opening. The children escape and hide in the yards and the houses near the square. By now the German murderers realize what's happening and start chasing the escaping children. A shocking and nightmarish sight. Like wild beasts the Germans catch up with the poor small children and kill them in cold blood. Very few children are able to escape and save themselves. A hair-raising spectacle occurs in the center of the square. A father does not want to be separated from his young son and both are murdered right there by a Nazi.

It gets dark outside. The “action” nears the end. The remaining Jews, families with children and all those with stamps chosen nevertheless for deportation leave the ghetto. The Nazis have completed their criminal tasks and let us return home.

5702 (1942) ends, a bloody year of martyrs, including Tarnow martyrs. A new year, 5703, is about to begin. Those remaining in the departure square, mostly the youths who left their families in their hiding places and bunkers before going out, run quickly to find out what happened to their loved ones. I, among them, quickly reach our house where our bunker is located. The silence in the house is a bad omen. My heart tells me that a terrible disaster has happened. The bunker is completely empty. I only find some pieces of clothing and holy books strewn on the floor. I run like a mad man to our apartment to see if my loved ones are home. But, sadly, I find no one in the apartment. I burst into heartbreaking tears as do hundreds and thousands in the ghetto who today lost their dear ones. All walk around out of their mind, shocked and numbed by the immense pain.

That night we observe the beginning of the New Year ( Rosh Hashana). But in the ghetto, it feels like “Tisha B'Av” ( day of mourning to mark the destruction of the Jerusalem temples), loss, destruction, mourning and tears caused by the enormous disaster. Who could have imagined this? Only that morning I talked with and left my loved ones hoping to see them again after the storm. But the separation was forever. I am sentenced to never see them again and I walked mindlessly all night wondering and asking why? Why are we condemned to lose our parents and families and become orphans in a single day?

I then recall Rosh Hashana evenings before the war. Prayers in our synagogues full of people, the festive and elated spirits of the congregation. The streets crowded with Jews returning from synagogues and greeting each other with “Shana Tova” blessings. The house full of light and joy. A white tablecloth on the table, candlesticks lit up and festive foods with the entire family around the table.

The next day (in the ghetto) is the first day of Rosh Hashana. Here and there small groups of Jews gather for holiday prayers. In basements and well-hidden closets with a lookout

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posted to warn the worshipers should the Nazis approach.

The “Eicha” melody [translator note: the melody that is used on the holiday of Tisha B'Av to read the book of Eicha] is sung for the Rosh Hashana prayers. All the worshipers weep bitterly over the loss of their loved ones who were taken so cruelly from us. The “Unetanah Tokef [ Note: a major prayer recited on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur] has a special meaning for us as we, the condemned to death by the cursed Nazis, recite the verses “ who shall live and who shall die, who by water and who by fire, who by strangling and who by stoning”. In dread we recite the prayer quietly and our hearts weep. Who knows whether at this very moment our martyred beloved are being strangled and burned and what our fate will be? Who knows what bitter fate awaits us? We picture thousands of holy and pure Jews being led to the altars of extermination in Belzec. Thousands of Jews who in life and death are never parted.

In those hard moments I suddenly remember my dear mother's prayer and the last words of my wise father who told me to be brave and strong and to struggle courageously to stay alive.

I continue my prayers and pleas and my heart is filled with faith and certainty that, in the next world, I will be rescued from the killing hell and that my mother's prayer will come true.

 

tar2_218.jpg
Monument to the memory of the victim of the Nazi regime in Tarnow who were murdered in 1942-1943

 

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