Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Pogrom Against the Jews in Myślenice
At around four in the morning, when the shtetl [town] was sunk in deep sleep, a horde of 150 Endeke [members of the anti-Semitic Polish National Party] heroes, four in a row, under the leadership of a person whom they called Panie Engineerze [Mr. Engineer]. marched into the shtetl. The horde divided into three groups, which each went to a different part of the shtetl.
One group immediately began the work of making a pogrom against Jews; they ripped open the doors of the shops, dragged out the merchandise and lay it in a heap. Then they set [the shops] on fire with kerosene or benzene. Another group left for the police post, left the only policeman on duty lying on the ground and took 17 rifles and 700 bullets.
The third group went to the chief, but when the servant said that the chief was in Krakow and she said that the person who was in the house (in reality, the chief) was a guest, they believed her and were satisfied with demolishing the residence, destroying the radio apparatus and the telephone. They also stole several hundred zlotes.
Among the suffering Jews were the merchant Goldsztajn, all of whose goods were destroyed; Josef Emer, who having just come with a wagon full of goods, the band burned the wagon and the goods. The merchants Blumensztajn, Mrs. Wajcman and Leib Weksberg also suffered. They beat the baker Ber Kovner until he was bloodied. They did the same, beating until bloodied, the baker worker, Leib Waksberger, with the butts of the rifles they had grabbed.[a]
The leader of the band had a map of Myślenice. The Endekes learned where there were Jewish shops from the night watchman they encountered. The Engineer gave a signal with a whistle and with the shout, Hurry to the Jews, they went to stage a pogrom.
After doing their bit of work, all three groups gathered in the middle of the market and again, at the command of the Engineer, placed themselves in rows of four and singing Endeke songs, they left the city.
In leaving, they did not forget to drag the city night watchman with them several kilometers outside the city so that he could not alert the surrounding policemen
The attackers had cut the telephone wires a distance of 12 kilometers [almost seven and a half miles] from Myślenice before marching into Myślenice.
The police asserted that the leader of the band, who had the title, Mr. Engineer, was the Endeke activist, Adam Doboszyński, the chairman of the Endeke Party in Krakow Poviat [district]. He was an estate owner and the plan of attack was prepared at his Chochowice estate The bandits did their work thoroughly; they had brought with them axes, iron bars and special tools to destroy everything that belonged to the Jews. They chopped the goods from the Jewish businesses in such a manner that they would be of no use The bandits arrived in the shtetl singing religious songs.
Dos Neye Vort of the 20th of May 1937, no. 123
The Trial about Myślenice Begins
Today, the trial of the 48 accused of taking part in the Myślenice events began in front of the Krakow County Court.
Sixteen of the accused were under arrest until the trial. The remainder were free. Defense lawyers brought proposals to transfer the trial to a court with a jury and connect the trial with the trial of the leader himself. Doboszyński, who would, as is known, be tried separately The proposal of the defense lawyers was rejected.
The accusation document says that the 49 accused were drawn into an anti-state action by Doboszyński And during the night hours of the 23rd of June 1936, they burst into the shtetl Myślenice. The band tore out the telephone wires, demolished the police post in Myślenice, took the rifles and ammunition. Then they demolished the residence of the chief, robbed a series of Jewish businesses and escaped in the direction of Dobczyce. Police immediately chased them and there was shooting in the Poręba Forest. The band, therefore, broke into several small divisions.
The leader, Doboszyński, with several members of his band, then escaped to Dobczyce, where they again clashed with the police. After these clashes, Doboszyński left his band and hid in the forest. His accomplices were all arrested. Two were killed and one was wounded.
Moment of the 23rd of May 1937, no. 118
The third day of the trial began with the interrogation of the accused Marian Wąchała. He was a 24-year-old student from Krakow University and one of the most active Endekes in the Krakow
District. He was Doboszyński's right hand in party activities.
His interrogation evoked an interest in the trial; he was the only intellectual among the group. The Endeke lawyer actually tried to make him the central idealistic figure of the trial. He needed to personify the spirit of the young Polish generation.
He spoke clearly, with a great deal of pathos. He often fell into ecstasy and turned with his explanations to the accused and to the public audience. He thoroughly knew his role, his task and he fulfilled it completely
He got together with the Polish workers, who told him that the class unions were nests of communism
Entirely from Dos Neye Vort of the 25th of May 1937, no. 125
Lawyer Pozowski asked the accused, Wąchała: Do the P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party] have a say in the union?
Wąchała: No, the P.P.S. (Polish Socialist Party) activists do not have true influence, only the communists.
The Jew Drobner has complete authority. He actually is now imprisoned in jail here behind the neighboring brick building. He is imprisoned for bringing the communists into the circles of the professional union.
To the question of the defense lawyer, of who has authority in the P.P.S., [was it] the old P.P.S. activists, Wąchała answered: No, Jewish young people.
Continuation from Moment, no. 118
The lawyer [Adam] Porowski proposed freeing the 16 accused arrestees from jail. They are all good and devoted Poles he said Poland is their fatherland; they will certainly not run away because Palestine will not permit them to enter and [Leon] Blum will not open the gates of Madagascar for them.
This cynical proposal was rejected by the court.
The accused, [Andrzeja] Galatę, said that Doboszyński had learned that 95% of capital was in Jewish hands. So is it any wonder that they thought to lessen this percent a little They destroyed street stalls and demolished Jewish businesses
His defense lawyer asked the accused [Jakub] Kolasę:
Did you have the impression that the attack on the Jewish stores carried symbolic character? Kolasę did not answer.Therefore, the prosecutor declared that during a search of Kolasę's [house]
several men's jackets from a Jewish business were found. Kolasę also was not satisfied with a symbol. The men's jackets had something of a practical worth
The prosecutor stated firmly that the accused, [Jana] Lelka, had worn new lacquered shoes during his arrest.
The prosecutor asked: Where did you get the lacquered shoes?
Lelka: I always wear lacquered shoes.
Prosecutor: Did you also go to Myślenice in lacquered shoes?
Lelka did not answer. It is clear that the shoes were symbolic, just like the men's jackets
Moment of the 28th of May 1937, no. 123
The Jewish Day at the Myślenice Trial
When we entered the court building early Friday, we saw a new picture. The lobbies were over-flowing with a larger group of Galicianer Hasidic Jews with peyes [side curls], velvet hats and yarmulkes [skull caps], pious Jewish women in sheitlen [wigs] and traditional head coverings. Near them stood bashful young girls. The group came from Myślenice an hour earlier. These were local Jewish merchants and shop owners. They immediately described for the court how Doboszyński's band annihilated and looted their businesses on that June night.
In simple words, they described for the court the scene of annihilation and looting. The defense lawyer really went to great trouble to weaken the impression given by the Jewish testimony. One should not take any oath based on the Jewish witnesses offered Lawyer Gajewicz. To everyone's amazement, the prosecutor agreed with this proposal.
The scene of looting described by the Jewish witnesses said many things. The Endekedefense lawyers could in no way smooth this over. Not for nothing did they end this witness day with loud, harsh questions about Leibl [Leon] Trotsky, Karl Radek and about the secret Jewish state. However, the loud voices did not drown out the quiet voices of the Jewish witnesses
The Jewish day began with a Christian woman witness. This was
Kunegunda Turek, the 52-year-old servant of the former Myślenice Staroste [village elder] Besara. It was around three o'clock [in the middle of the night], began her recitation of the evidence, when I heard a hasty knock in the door. I got up and immediately heard loud voices that called for demolishing the residence. Through the window I saw a group a people, armed with revolvers, rifles, axes and iron bars. I immediately sensed danger and I went to the staroste in his room with a shout: Some kind of frightening delegation has come that is chopping the doors and furniture. I found the staroste in his room already in his clothing.
I immediately went into a small side room with the staroste; a minute passed and two people barged into the room and pointed to me and the staroste with a revolver, asking for weapons and ammunition. The two assailants were Doboszyński and [Jana] Kwintą.
The witness was very nervous during her description of this scene. Suddenly, she fainted When she came to, she spoke further.
Seeing that the staroste was threatened with great danger, I got the idea to save his life with a lie. I told the attackers that the staroste had gone away and that this was a stranger who had come to take care of some kind of matter. Spare his life, I asked, he has a wife and young children.
At that moment, the witness continued, three men came into the room and informed Doboszyński that everything was done The band then left the residence. As he left, Doboszyński said:
When the staroste comes home, 'thank' him for persecuting the nawodowa [national] Jews.
The witness further stated that the band demolished the entire residence, the furniture was broken, the carpets torn, the clothing destroyed and various items were stolen, even the sacred pictures that hung on the walls were destroyed
The first Jewish witness was Khona Beker, a young girl, the daughter of the merchant, Chaim Beker, whose shop was demolished and looted.
The witness said that the attacker fired a revolver. Several shots entered the residence.
The second witness, Rozalita Goldsztajn, an owner of a porcelain business, described how the band wildly broke the most expensive sets of dishes and porcelains. The damage reached 1,300 zlotes
The witness Josef Hofenberg, a pale, weak Jew, stood before the court with a yarmulke [skull cap] on his head and talked with a stressed voice, speaking about the attack on his shop: several boxes of candies, a few baked goods, a demijohn [large bottle] of soda water and other high-value articles. This was
Hofenberg's shop. Along with the establishment, the value of his entire possessions reached 105 zlotes.
On the most critical night, he heard voices: Murder the Jew. He hid in the house. Meanwhile, the attackers ripped up the shop and demolished everything. Here, the process of destruction was quick. Five minutes were enough to rip out a poor man's shop.
The Burning Wagon
In contrast, it was a little different with the possessions of Nikhe Emer. She had a large wagon standing at the market with manufactured goods worth 3,000 zlotes.
Doboszyński himself led the demolition of the business. Magister [holder of advanced degree from a university] Josef Zanger said that there was an alarm; he stood at his window and saw Doboszyński (he later recognized him) lead the demolition of the business of Rosalita Goldsztajn. When shots were heard, the witness went away from the window.
Setting Fire to the Synagogue
Hirsh Horowicz, the head of the Jewish community in Myślenice who wore a yarmulke on his head, stood before the tribunal. A defense lawyer made a point of telling the witness to take of his yarmulke. However, the chairman [of the tribunal] declared that this matter had already been regulated by law and that the witness had the right to wear a yarmulke.
The gabbai [manager of synagogue affairs] of the synagogue, Yosef Brachfeld, described the details of the setting of the synagogue on fire. He said that on the day after the attack, he came to the synagogue, and he found a bottle of kerosene or benzine on the floor wrapped in paper. He did not know who had put out the fire.
(Dos Neye Vort, 18th of June 1937, no. 148)
Moment of the 1st of June 1938, no. 126
Doboszyński as a Witness at the Trial of His Band
A tall young man with eyeglasses on his dreamy eyes. With quick steps and greeting his comrades with Shalom [peace in Hebrew; used as a greeting when meeting someone] as he neared the accused's bench He answered in a loud voice.
after a long absence, I came to a meeting of the Endeke County Committee in Krakow. Some comrades reported the situation in the Krakow area. I heard that communism had captured a very broad circle in the Krakow area.The president called him to order: I ask you not to speak with such disparagement.
in Krakow, I met someone from Barcelona, someone from Madrid and not the old Polish Krakow. I found public communist demonstrations. Doboszyński here mentioned also the name of the Krakow State President. He called him Dr. Kapelner.
From the communists, the Myślenice hero crept [in his remarks] to the Jews. He connected one to the other. Jewish capital supported communism. The Polish Jews were clients of the Red International. They came to him with complaints that they could no longer endure it. I understood that I could not carry out my activities within the legal framework. He cried out passionately: I had the ideological responsibility for what was happening in this country.
Dos Neye Vort of the 4th of June 1936, no. 126
Toxic Anti-Semitic Agitation Speeches for the Defense Lawyer in the Myslenice Trial
The last day of the proceedings were filled with the speeches of the Endeke defense lawyers, who excelled with a poisonous agitation against the Jews and against everything that has a connection to the Jews.The lawyer Braum did not like that Doboszyński's comrades were being referred to by the name band. He described the situation in western Galicia. Unemployment, lack of land to cultivate. The village, city and shtetl were ruled by Jews. The people in the village wanted to go to the city, but the Jews did not let them. The speaker cited a word from the Frankist leader, [Jakob] Frank, who in the year 1755 said that he would call Poland Eretz-Yisroel and Krakow Jerusalem [because] it was so good here for the Jews.
today we can assure Doboszyński that he is not alone, but it was bad a year ago.The defense lawyer, lawyer Bronisław Kuśnierz spoke against the Jewish
danger. He assured [them] that 75 percent of the real-property estates in the Krakow area belong to Jews. Industry and the artisans' workshops also belong to them.
The Jews began to seed Marxism in Krakow. Here, the lawyer moved to the Marxist danger and emphasized the great earnings of the Doboszyńskis. Their burning of the Jewish shops was only a result of the fact that legal boycotts against the Jews was forbidden.
Dos Neye Vort of the 15th of June 1937, no. 145
Pan [Mister] Doboszyński's Trial Before the Jury in Krakow
the accused, Doboszyński, immediately turned to the nitty-gritty, to the Jewish question. He described the enslavement of the peasants by the Jewish brokers who did not permit the peasants to belong to the EndekeParty. He bragged about his devoted work for the idea, which brought good results He should be thanked that in Myślenice Poviat, the number of Jewish traders had significantly decreased.The regime favored the Jews. Before the war, the population would provide furs for train personnel. Now it was done through the influence of the Jews. The communists partly dominated the P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party], the bourgeois unions. Drobner, to whom he related with respect as a man of ideas, moved to the head in Krakow Large industry, which finds itself in Jewish hands, persecutes the Endeke workers and favors the bourgeois unions.
He asked the judicial tribunal to ask the Jewish correspondents to leave the room because he wanted to speak among his own people. The court rejected the request.
Mendel Becker Givataim
Fear and panic overwhelmed Myslenice's Jews when the Germans invaded Poland on 3rd September 1939. The small town was only about 20km from the Slovak border. The entry of the German army was going to take place at any moment. The Polish army retreated without a fight. The catastrophe happened suddenly. Even a day beforehand we all lived in the illusion that the Polish-German conflict would be resolved peacefully. Now everyone was overwhelmed with one concern, how to save life and no attention was paid to the fact that all possessions would fall into enemy hands.
As early as Saturday, the second day of the War, Myslenice's Jews had already fled chaotically from the town and without any sort of plan. They fled in the direction of Bochnia and Tarnow. All means of locomotion cars, horses were confiscated by the Polish army, and since there was no railway in the vicinity it is easy to imagine the unfortunate situation of the fugitives who, with their wives, children and the elderly, had to escape on foot. Apart from Jakub Baruch Ringler, Jozef Weissberg and Basia Gassner, who stayed in the town due to their poor state of health, all the Jews left the town.
Basia Gassner was the first victim of the war. She was burnt alive in her house during the retreat of the Polish army and their destruction of the bridge in the centre of town. The bridge burnt down and with it her home standing nearby.
After a few weeks almost half the Jews, numbering about 850 souls before the War, had returned back. Those who returned were those who had not succeeded in escaping to the East due to lack of means of travel or had been surrounded by the Germans during their escape.
When they came back they found their shops robbed and confiscated by the Germans and given to Poles who declared themselves belonging to the Volksdeutsche German nationality. Only the bakery of Miriam Kunstlinger stayed in her hands in order to bake bread for the Jewish people.
From the beginning of the occupation the Gestapo kept going around Jewish houses taking Jews to forced labour, clearing the streets, getting rid of snow, cutting wood etc., taking no account of their age or state of health. A cruel attitude was shown to Jews during the work. Michel Rosenthal, the son-in-law of Miriam Kunstlinger mentioned above, was killed during cruel torture in the municipal school. He was thus the first victim of the Nazis in Myslenice.
After several weeks a kahal was organized. The leader became Morris Neiger and the board members were Eliasz Neumann, Moshe Perlroth (the former chairman of the gmina), David Rand and Moshe Weiss. From this time they were responsible for planning the work programme and keeping order when allocating work.
The second victim of the Nazis was Abraham Itchak Goldblum who was sent with 9 others to Montelupich Prison in Krakow. The Germans had the habit of designating 10 people as hostages answering for the safety of the German administration and institutions.
During the period when these people were hostages, a grenade was thrown at the post office in Myslenice by the Polish resistance. Everyone sent to that prison, Abraham Goldblum included, did not return.
In 1940 a group of Jews was arrested during an action to clean the town of communist elements. Some very religious people were among them, such as the chairman of the kahal, Morris Neiger, Moshe Perlroth, and Eliasz Neumann with his three sons. They were also sent to the prison mentioned above and tortured. After a few weeks they all returned except Eliasz Neumann who was tortured to death in prison. However the state of health of Moshe Perlroth was so appalling on his return home that after several weeks he passed away as well.
The material situation of the Jews got worse day by day. They were forbidden to trade. Even everyday food had to be secretly bought from the country dwellers. If they ran low on money, they had to sell all the items they had in their homes to the Poles for whatever price they could get.
The kahal had to give aid to those people who were sent to forced labour and to support the poor who didn't have anything left to sell. They also had to give bribes to the Gestapo. To keep up with this the kahal imposed heavy taxes on the Jews.
Every few days draconian new regulations came along, such as preventing Jews from going out of their homes on certain days, e.g. during markets, imposing a curfew, forbidding people to leave their home by the front door, forbidding the wearing of beards and sidelocks, praying in the synagogue etc.
Destiny of the Kahal Institutions
When the Germans arrived in town they turned the synagogue into a stable for the rural police who had established a based in Myslenice, and when they left the synagogue was turned into a warehouse for the corn that the country people brought to the town for the Nazi authorities. The Jews were forced to burn all the Torah scrolls and holy books with their own hands.
Unlike other small towns, the Nazis didn't destroy the synagogue structure and after the war it was used by Poles for different purposes.
Immediately after the War broke out, Poles broke into the Talmud Torah building and converted it into a residential home, and it serves this function to this day.
From the moment of the outbreak of War until mid-1942 several transports were organized from Myslenice to forced labour in Krakow and Debice. Only a very small handful managed to escape from these and return to town.
In August 1942 there was the final deportation to the transit camp in Skawina and from there to Belzec. There was a compulsory contribution demanded from the victims of the deportation to cover the costs of transporting them.
On a particular Saturday they procured wagons from the surrounding area and gave an order for Jews to appear at a given place. There they forced them to get into the wagons and under police escort armed with firearms, took them to Skawina where they stayed several days, after which they took them to the extermination camp in Belzec by train. In the Yizkor Book of Kalwaria is a note that on 3.9.1942/21 Elul, a train with Jews went from Skawina via Krakow Plaszow station to Belzec.
It therefore seems certain that the Myslenice Jews were found in this train and this date has been taken as that of their final deportation.
Furthermore I received the last news on this transport from my father on 25th Elul, via a postcard sent from Basznia Dolna, the last railway station before Belzec. My father knew the address of my brother who was in a work camp in Krakow and addressed this postcard to him. This had a postmark of 5.9. 1942 (23 Elul) and therefore I have taken this last date as the date of my family's yahrzeit.
In this transport there were 400 Jews from Myslenice. Not one of these was saved. They all died.
I alone was saved by a miracle. The order for the deportation was already known by the municipal authorities at the beginning of the week and an official I knew who was employed in the town hall revealed the secret to me, and the risk of death threatening those who were captured trying to attempt to escape.
I wrote straight away to my brother who was in Krakow. He bought off an SSman who sent a lorry to the edge of Myslenice. I and several other people went to the lorry and hid in it under the tarpaulin until we reached Krakow. They didn't examine documents along the road as the Gestapo man was wearing Nazi uniform. In Krakow I entered a work camp and this saved my life.
At the end of the War it turned out that from those people who were in work camps and those who had succeeded in escaping before the final deportation, altogether about 20 people survived.
Apart from these, a small number of people survived from those who in Sep. 1939 managed to escape to the East and were dispersed among different places in the USSR.
As a result, from 425 people who were there at the outbreak of War, the claws of the Nazis destroyed about 400 people.
Beno Richtman, Kiriat Motzkin
Thousands of refugees who in the latter half of September 1939 were returning back from the East to the West into their regions and houses already knew and talked about the horrors that the Waffen SS had prepared for the Jews of Myslenice. Nowhere in the Krakow region had such Dante-like scenes taken place as in this tragic little town. The town had not yet recovered properly after the March on Myslenice by Doboszynski, famous all over Poland, during which a group of peasants led by Ing. Doboszynski had robbed, damaged and trampled on the possessions of the poor merchants who were the Myslenice Jews.
On the way to my native Bielsko I stopped in Myslenice because my father came from the town. Unfortunately all the stories about what had been happening in Myslenice turned out to be true. Jews were being tied to cars and asked to run. Whoever could not sustain the speed was dragged until he gave up the ghost in horrible agony. There were the most refined methods of sadism through which tens of people died. Even Polish people, who watched those performances themselves in the beginning with satisfaction and internal contentment, were terrified by these horrible things later on. The second time I came to Myslenice with my father to stay for longer. This was when we returned from the famous Eichmann transport to Nisko in October when the Russians put us in jail in Rawa Ruska and returned us to the Germans. We couldn't go back home since in the meantime Bielsko had been annexed to the Third Reich and the border followed the River Skawa. There were already regulations covering Jewish life in Myslenice, there was already a Judenrat, and there were already occupation authorities. Administrative life in the town was governed by a Myslenice citizen of German origin, called Ziegler. His position was Deputy Starosta. The Starosta was a German called Haman. Ziegler, a longstanding inhabitant of Myslenice who knew all the inhabitants perfectly well, issued draconian anti-Jewish regulations. Jews could not be found in the morning either on the Market Square or in its vicinity, and obviously it was only here that you could find food, a difficult problem at that time. Therefore Jews were left to the mercy, or lack of it, of old lady street traders who were in any case scared of having any contact with Jews. Jews could not live on the main streets; they had to move to the side streets and courtyards.
The Jewish Committee Judenrat
At the head of the Judenrat stood Morris Neiger, the owner of a glass workshop , an extremely fair and decent man, but unfortunately of a weak character, a marionette in the hands of Weiss, a refugee from Germany, a monster and German agent. He was short, fat, balding, always with a cigar in his mouth, and without blinking fulfilled any regulation.
There were several local people like Perlmutter, Sachs, Wynd who were decent people but extremely fearful and all submitted to the directives of Weiss. The Jewish Committee provided people to clear the streets of rubbish and during the winter to clear them of snow, to clean the army garrison etc. Every Jew when meeting a uniformed German was obliged to remove a head covering, bow deeply, and step out from the pavement, 3 steps before and 3 steps after him. As is already known, from December 1939 there was an obligation to carry a wide white armband with the Magen David sign on the left forearm so that Jews could be recognized at a distance.
There were antagonisms between us in relation to the work. There were native Jews and there were refugees: two families from Cieszyn, several from Krakow, my father and I from Bielsko. The refugees felt disadvantaged because the locals had better contacts and opportunities, moreover the refugees were not religious fanatics which was a feature of the local Jewry. And that is why the contacts between us were limited to the meetings at work.
The refugees used to meet in the flat of Mrs. Korngut from Cieszyn whose maiden name was Faden and who originally came from Myslenice. Here the youth used to meet for discussions, among them the young and extremely bright Magister of Philosophy from Krakow, Eda Gassner with her sister Dola, Tosia Korngut from Cieszyn, Halina Faden, Lermer, Noë Heitlinger, Perlmutter, all from Krakow. There were discussions about self defence, sabotage at work, about acts of diversion, but unfortunately all ended in discussion. There was no contact with the outside and the local Poles had an unfriendly attitude towards us. I met twice with Stanislaw Molek, former Polish Army officer, in which I asked him to provide help to some Jewish youth, some real help. He was not ready to give me any answer. The same was the case with the second professional officer. Both were leading members of the A.K..
In March 1941 all the Jews living in the countryside and not owning land had to live in town on the orders of the authorities so that they had more precise control over these people.
An unusual and warm attitude to the refugees was shown by Szlomo Silbering and his sisters Genia and Mania who opened their doors to the homeless.
Myslenice's Jews lived through a heavy time in Spring 1941 when, as the result of an act of diversion, 10 hostages were taken to Montelupich Prison in Krakow. After sterling attempts to get them back, 3 Jews returned. I only remember the name Perlmutter, the other two I have already forgotten.
The economic situation was becoming dire. You could not buy or sell, you had nowhere to work, people were selling their clothes off their backs, hunger and poverty started staring most inhabitants in the face. There was only one inhabitant who could work and earn, Jozef Stemer who had a blacksmith's workshop together with his brother and he supported 5 young siblings and an ill father, and he even married a girl from Myslenice's prewar elite who preferred to marry a worker rather than to die from hunger.
From the moment of the outbreak of the German-Russian War the Jewish problem stood out again in all its acuteness. On the market square in Myslenice, an enormous map was installed with little flags showing the victorious march of the Germans on the front running from the Crimea to far-away Finland in the North. And again the fencers of slogans about Judeo-communism triumphed; in each Jew they saw a communist, an agent of Comintern. People were allowed to attack, hit or torture us, we were put outside of the law. The awful Polish newspaper Goniec Krakowski, issued in Krakow by the prewar company IKC, Illustrated Daily Courier, of Prof. Marian Dąbrowski, with its venom, poisoned even those decent Poles. This newspaper published heartbreaking stories about Jewish Commissars who hit and murdered all anti-communists and raped women.
Leningrad was still defending itself, the elderly prayed in secret and created a minyan on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Each was the last one in Myslenice because they did not survive to the next year's high holidays. But we, the young ones, rebelled. We could not put up with the idea that God had abandoned us because every German carried encrusted on his belt the words Gott mit uns.
In the meantime people returned from the East, Jews who preferred to go back to the Germans rather than run away with the Russians. The family of my father the Goldbergs and my cousin Lola and her husband Feliks Keller together with their three small children happily returned from Brzezany to the home fires of Myslenice and unfortunately didn't last even one year.
A heavy winter arrived once more, and again we had to clear snow off the roads and under pain of death give furs to the starosta's office under Zeigler because the German soldiers were freezing on the front. A Myslenice citizen, Korn, was arrested when they found his daughter in law's slipper lined with fur in his flat during a search. For this crime he was sent to prison in the ghetto in Krakow and from there after a few months to Belzec. The Judenrat was being ground down under the heavy weight of demands. A contribution of an astronomical sum was imposed on the town and it had to be collected. People escaped from their homes, hiding in the fields and forests, and in the end they did a deal. The Germans accepted as much as had been collected but the leader of the Judenrat was terminally ill.
The Polish police known as the Blue Police persecuted Jews at every step. Searches took place in homes, cellars and attics. For hiding provisions there was a high penalty, for a dirty or crookedly worn armband, a penalty. The Commandant of Police was Otto Kepa, a prewar inhabitant of Bielsko who deserted to Germany before the War and persecuted us in an awful manner. His wife together with her close friend Mrs. Lew, owners of a shop in Myslenice on Stradom St. (now Niepodleglosci St.) used to go with a large Alsation to the Jewish dwellings and seize the most valuable things. Mrs. Lew became the owner of a large shop after the War in the centre of Bielsko, by 3rd May St. in the Bialik Centre (now Banialuka Puppet Theatre), the prewar Jewish People's Centre, which was entered from Mickiewicza St. but the front of the shop opens onto 3rd May St.
Afterwards Kepa also held the positionsof Meister Gestapo in Kalwaria and Miechow. After the War he was arrested and the authorities requested that whosoever knows anything about Kepa's activities should testify. I delivered my testimony in which I said that he was of Polish origin and lived in Bielsko before the War. He was sentenced to death.
We were emotionally broken. This liberation which we craved for was not coming from anywhere. My mother and sisters were in the ghetto in Wadowice to where they had been transferred in May 1940 from Bielsko. I and my father were just 36 km from them but we never saw each other. Our hopes in the Red Army were disappointed. The English were not hurrying to help and we wanted to live. I worked on the farm of this officer Stansilaw Mollet with whom I once negotiated acceptance of the Jewish underground. I was digging potatoes, I was threshing corn, I was doing all the work in order to have food for my father who was lying in bed at home after having been heavily beaten. Using false papers in the name of Antoni Owczarkiewicz he used to go to provide food for the Krakow ghetto. A Pole from Myslenice betrayed him and turned him into the hands of the Gestapo in Krakow at Zamoyskiej St.. He was arrested and heavily beaten. Thanks to the intervention of the family Englander, the owners of the paint factory E. Lutz, he was bought out. He returned home ill and broken.
The first recruitment for the labour camp Julag I in Plaszow took place on 1st May 1942. The town was in shock. From each house someone was taken. At that moment the instinct of self defence appeared for the first time. Two brothers Tiefenbrunner from the village of Rudnik near Sulkowice escaped to the forest. They were young boys, horse traders, who hoped to manage in any situation.
Sixty days later there was another transport. I found myself in this transport which was almost completely formed of children taken from their mother. One could feel the beginning of the end in the air. After a few months in the Julag another two of the Tiefenbrunner brothers escaped to the forest. All of us in the Julag who came from Myslenice worked in the Klug company.
Then came a quick finale. A regulation was issued to concentrate all the Jews into one place where they will be under the close supervision of the authorities. This was done for the security of the state as Jews were considered as enemy elements opposed to the government of the Third Reich. The authorities chose Skawina near Krakow. Kalwaria, Izdebnik, Sulkowice, Myslenice, Dobczyce, Gdow were the communities which met in Skawina. In the second half of August 1942 the road from Krakow to Zakopane was full of wagons loaded with duvets, suitcases, saucepans moving slowly along and by them staggered broken human skeletons along the highway from Krakow to Zakopane, Jews, the last Mohicans of their birthplaces walking into the unknown.
Not one word of support sees them off. None of those with whom the Jews lived their lives, with whom on 3rd May they used to sing Witam Nam Majowy Jutrzenko (Welcome our May dawn) standing under a red and white flag, had any tear of compassion in their eye. Why should they have any? Did the parish priest have any? And where was he when the march of condemned Jews was passing? Obviously here walked the murderers of Christ. And those remaining were busy rummaging through their leftovers to search for their treasures.
In Skawina people were accommodated in stables, courtyards, and where-ever well paid for, flats. On Sunday 30th August the brothers Zygmunt and Bernard Tieffenbrunner smuggled themselves out of Julag camp to go to their father and sisters in Skawina. They came back completely broken. Skawina was surrounded by many cordons of police so nobody could go in or out. Those days I received 2 postcards (photocopies of which are in the Hebrew version). One dated 29th August was posted in Skawina by Dola Gassner. Here are its contents.
I did not write, I didn't have the patience. I assumed that the situation would somehow settle, that we will perhaps stay here for certain. It happened otherwise. Tomorrow we are probably leaving this temporary living place. Bye Beno, look after yourself. Maybe we will see each other sometime, sometime again. I am begging God for it. I am not even stressed. I must have courage, we have to be strong. Bye, kisses, Dola.
And here are the contents of the second postcard sent from Krakow on 25th August 1942.
Darling Beno,The stamp on the postcard features the face of Hitler.
Although I just wrote a letter to you, here I am writing again. I am in terrible despair if they will save themselves. Tosia is writing postcards asking us to save them. But how can I help when my own hands are tied. Dreadful days are passing and I am passing with them. Whether this, whether that, we all are finished. A day earlier, a day later. And still we so much desire this lousy life. How are things with you; is everything all right? I hope you will be at my place on Sunday so we will talk about everything. Kisses. Halinka.
The author of this first postcard, Dola Gassner, together with her entire family, her parents, her sisters Eda and Bianka were in this transport from Skawina and perished together with my father, his sister Berta Baldinger from Jawornik, his brother Leopold Richtman, cousins Lola and Feliks Keller with their three children and my father's sister-in-law Fryda Goldberg.
The author of the second postcard Halina Faden from Krakow, who uncle Dr. Rosenzweig was a president of Krakow ghetto, is currently living in Australia (later in USA).
Around 4 or 5 p.m. on one of those tragic days, when we were in Prokocim camp beyond Plaszsow, we saw tens of wired cattle wagons under heavy guard speeding to the East. We were signaled to from behind the wires. They managed even to throw us messages: we are coming from Skawina, we are going to our deaths. Don't forget us.
The train was heading in the direction of Belzec or Treblinka. In Skawina, many elderly and ill people were loaded into lorries and taken behind the town into the forest and there shot. And I have continuously in my ears the words of the Polish poet Wladislaw Broniewski Zydom Polskim (To the Polish Jews).
Z polskich miast I miasteczekIn the camp Julag 1 I met citizens of Myslenice. From there remain in my memory the following surnames: Aftergut, Bucheister, my friend Lermer who died from exhaustion (actually survived lives in Melbourne Australia), Roth and Krumholz from Kalwaria who were shot.
Nie slychac juz krzykow rozpaczy
From Polish towns and villages
No more shouts of despair
It is worth also mentioning the surname Tiefenbrunner. Two brothers who were in the camp escaped and joined their brothers in the forest. They operated near Rudnik, Izdebnik and Sulkowice. I personally remember their attack on the mansion in Krzyzkowice . They attacked, they robbed, they took revenge for Jewish suffering. Currently they are in Nebraska State in USA.
I managed to escape on 3rd August 1943. I wanted to get to my mother and sisters in Wadowice, but in the meantime the ghetto there had also been liquidated on Tisha Be Av 1943. I hid in the vicinity of Myslenice until liberation on 19th January 1945. I volunteered immediately for the Polish Army and I fought all the way to the West.
After the War I came twice to Myslenice as an officer of the Polish Army. I walked along the streets looking for Jewish traces, although I knew that I will not meet Jews. Shops and kiosks, purely Polish. From everywhere there were surprised glances at me. I walked and tears were coming to my eyes. I was biting my lips in silent pain. Just a couple of years ago there was lots of movement and noise and Jewish life spilling out. But today everything looked like after a historical cataclysm.
Before dusk I quickly jumped into a car going to Krakow because a Jew was not supposed to stay overnight in small towns as at night boys from the forest used to come to finish off those not already finished off by the Germans.
Let these few sheets of paper covered with writing become my praise for those with whom and at whom I lived through my heaviest and most tragic years.
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