Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
[The Occupied Nations]
POLISH FORT-NIGHTLY REVIEW
London, Thursday, July 1st 1943 Issue No. 71
"Slaughter of the Jews in Poland "
Agony of the people condemned to death!
The day the war began I was in Katowice, one of the first towns to fall to the German conquest. In the first few days of the war my parents were left homeless. Flight proved useless, for Sosnowiec, to which we escaped was also besieged by the Germans. My parents took with them a large sum of money and jewelry, which enabled them to support the family. When the Germans proclaimed that Sosnowiec was "incorporated" with the Reich and began to persecute the Jews, my father went to Bendzin, where we remained until the middle of 1940.
Meantime my father heard from his cousin at the little spa of Busk that the situation there was not too bad and it would be worth while shifting to that place. In order to get there we had to cross the newly formed frontier line between the "Reich" and the "General Gouvernement." My father found a German acquaintance who for 1,000 zlotys conveyed us all together with our belongings and jewelry, across the frontier in a military car flying a swastika flag. Naturally, no one at the frontier ventured to look inside the car. Thus with my children I arrived as Busk.
We lived in Busk until June, 1942, when the Germans began their terrible persecution of the Jews. But for the time being the situation was tolerable. Our worst experiences were being pillaged by German soldiers and members of the Gestapo and the forced labor instituted for the Jews. But the Jews managed to get through it one way or another.
Everyone in the town knew that the Germans took bribes. The representative of the Jewish population was the former chairman of the town's Jewish community. He was given the position of Hauptmann and became director of all the Jewish councils in the entire district of of Busk in Chmielnik, Dzialoszyce, Pinczow, Wislica, Pacanow, Nowy Czorsztyn, Staszew, Stopnica and other places. He had a· special office in Busk, where he was visited by the members of the various Jewish councils, and he acted as the intermediary to settle all questions with the Landrat and his assistants. I remember him one day feverishly searching for a woman's caraculs coat, which one of the German officials wanted to take with him when he went on holiday to Germany.
The Landrat did not intervene at all in Jewish questions. A special department of the Gestapo, and the Sonderdienst; which consisted of S.S. men, issued all regulations concerning forced labor. The regulations came to the Jewish Council, at the head of which was the grey-haired shopkeeper (name withheld). The council consisted of twelve members. We knew three Gestapo officials: Lieutenant Weiss, Dietrich, and another whose Christian name was Hans (I can't recall his surname). This last man was the greatest rogue of all the three. In addition, the head of the Sonderdienst was the gendarme Schwenker. The Gestapo-men and gendarmes I have mentioned were regularly engaged in despoiling the Jews, usually accompanying their acts with a ruthless flogging.
Every Jewish craftsman was forced to carry out work to all kinds of German orders. I knew a bookmaker who was famous in the district as a good craftsman. Although there were good Christian bookmakers in Busk the Gestapo-men always made the Jewish cobbler do their boots. They did not pay for the work, but the Jewish Council settled their accounts. The Germans were delighted with the man's work and were liberal in their praise. When once he faked to get an order finished in time one of his German clients beat him with his riding whip till the blood came. For a long time after the cobbler lay in bed, unable to work.
Every Jew was obliged to report for forced labor. Before the war there were 3,000 Jews in Busk. As the Germans had opened a large military hospital in the town, no refugees were allowed to enter it. Only a few Jewish families from Lodz got into the town illegally. Throughout the entire period there was no ghetto in Busk. The Jews were only turned out of two streets in the centre of the town, and notice boards were set up in these streets:
Jews strictly forbidden to pass through
Often it was necessary to take a roundabout route of nearly a mile in order to avoid these streets, which were renamed after Hitler and Goering. Only the Jewish militia and Jews going to forced, labor had Special passes authorizing them to enter these streets. At first the Gestapo men themselves organized round-ups of Jews, seizing them for forced labor.
But Hauptmann T. endeavored to arrange for 'the Jewish Council itself to provide the necessary number of people each day for labor. Every Jew had to present him or her self for labor at least once a week The rule applied equally to men and women. At first 300 persons were taken each day, but later, when many Jews were sent to camps in Wislica and Biala Podlaska, the quota required was increased to 600. In the winter-time they were employed in sweeping away the snow, in the summer they worked in the fields and gardens.
A special squad was sent to clean the closets in the villas occupied by German civil and military officials. Jewish girls were sent to, wash the floors and clean the villas. In the hospital, where there were several thousand wounded from the Russian front, Jews were used for all the heavy work. Jewish militia-men were entrusted with the maintenance of order. It. was difficult to get this position.
Struggle for Life
The Jews greatest anxieties consisted in the problem of earning their living and of living at all. There were several smugglers, who bribed the German gendarmerie and made large sums. People who were legally free to engage in trade and to move about freely were given one profession trading in second-hand goods. These people did not even wear the" Jewish badge" on their arm, but had a green band with an inscription. One such second-hand goods dealer came to Busk from Chmielnik. The Germans even allowed him to keep his long beard.
The only means of getting food was by getting into contact with the Polish peasants in one of the neighboring villages. These peasants secretly sold food to the Jews. As I had little children, I had more trouble than others in order to get food. One Polish woman helped me all through my stay there, and I have to thank her for the fact that my children did not suffer hunger. This woman brought me milk, butter and eggs from the villages. and I repaid her with several dresses and other small articles.
One day she found me in despair. I told her I had nothing left with which to pay for the milk. She was greatly moved" and asked me to go to her in the village, where I would get everything I needed for the children without' having to pay for it.
The Jews were strictly forbidden to leave the town. But faced with the prospect of my children' starving. I paid no attention to the prohibition. My acquaintance from the village gave me a kerchief and took me with her on her cart. The larger villages in the neighborhood of Busk are Lagiewniki. Branina, and Zarki. Food was smuggled from these places into the town. My friend lived in a distant village, and on the road we had to' stop at a smith's to get a horse-shoe fixed. One of the smith's assistants recognized that I was a Jewess and ran to get the German gendarme. I saw that there was no help for it, and confessed all the truth to-the
German. To which he. replied that I had committed a double crime: I had travelled outside the town and I was not wearing a yellow band on my arm, the Schandeband, as the Germans called it. The Christian people present began to plead with the German to have mercy on me because I had little children, but it was of no help. I was surprised to hear that this Gestapo-man could talk good Polish, and so I specially began to talk to him in German. It transpired that I could talk German better than he.
He was put to shame, and admitted that he was a Silesian and a member of the Volksdeutsche, and because I could speak German so well this newly made German let me go free. When we reached the village all the peasants welcomed me very warmly. They expressed their sympathy for me. They brought me presents, including the most valuable articles of food. Never in all my life shall I forget the noble character of these people. My husband gave lectures in Hebrew. and we thus managed to exist somehow. He was paid from two to five zlotys a lesson, and in addition I had help from the .Jewish Council. The Jews generally helped one another to an extraordinary extent. In Busk a soup kitchen was !started for two hundred persons. In the winter-time coal and clothing were distributed to the poor.
Shortly before I left Busk I saw Dr. W., who had arrived as a controller from the Central Jewish Self-Help organization in Cracow. Long preparations were made for his arrival. It was considered that he was a persona grata, and it was said that he was one of six Jews in all Poland who were allowed to travel on the railways. A magnificent reception was organized for him. Our guest did not stay long.' He went over the kitchen and promised further help. At that time Busk was one of the most fortunate towns for the Jews. We listened in horror to what was happening in other towns, and how terribly the Jews were being persecuted.
In Busk there were only two cases of Jews being killed by the Germans. . The first victim was a poor fifteen-year-old lad, the son of a fishmonger. Thanks to bribes, the Gestapo-men closed their eyes to the fact that from time to time the slaughterer in Busk illegally killed a fowl or even at·· times cattle; In other towns the slaughterers-had long since been exterminated by. the Gestapo-men. But with us it was not so. One day a gendarme named Schwenker noticed 'a girl in the street carting in a basket a chicken freshly killed. by the slaughterer. The girl was so terrified that without waiting for the gendarme to ask, she cried: "I killed it myself."
But the gendarmes knew very well the kosher method of killing a chicken, and so they went at once to the slaughterer's house. Hauptman T., who', "by chance" happened to be in. the slaughterer's house, was at once informed. The Hauptmann invited the gendarme to his office and there "settled" the matter. As the gendarme Schwenker left the office and went into the street he exclaimed that he must slaughter a Jew that day. At that moment he met a Jewish lad .without the prescribed armband. The boy' realized that he had forgotten his band, and ran swiftly into a gateway. Two gendarmes ran after him, opening fire·. The emergency ambulance, which functioned at all times at once picked up the lad, who was seriously wounded. All night he fought for life.
Late in the night the second gendarme, Schwenker's comrade, went to the hospital to find out how the boy was, and he declared that he was very sorry he had fired at the lad. While -he was standing by the bed the boy died suffering terribly. "I shall never have peace again," the German said. This older man was in the nature of an exception among the German gendarmes.
We were living, but burdened, with anxieties, half starving. doing forced labor, . and always suffering. The murder of the baker showed that the Jewish Council had no influence whatever, and that; the higher German officials were not in command of the situation. Evidently the Gestapo, leaders had received new instructions, for difficult times began for the Jews. News came from neighboring towns. that everywhere the Gestapo had found Some victim during the holiday. This was so in Staszewo, in Stopnica and elsewhere. Hauptmann T; tried to intervene. but the Germans laughed at him.
A few weeks after the holiday the order came that at least 1,000 Jews were to leave Busk. ·As we were not permanent residents in the town we had to be among the first to leave, and to transfer to the neighboring . little town of Wislica, where there were 'already 2,000 Jews living. The local Jewish Council welcomed all the new arrivals with open arms. Every refugee family was given A living room with one of the local residents. We , were also helped in regard to food, and medical help was given us. But immediately afterward. the news came that preparations were being made to drive the Jews out of the entire district.
One dead of night (it was in July, 1942, two months after· our arrival at Wislica) several hundred Jews arrived! in the town as refugees from the town of Dzialoszyce, some twenty miles from Busk. Before the war Dzialoszyce bad 8,000 Jews, but in the early days of the, war many refugees arrived there from various localities, but especially from Silesia and the Dowbrowa. coal district Now some 12,000 to 14,000 Jews were living there. What these refugees told us, made our faces blench.
The order had been given that an Jews, men, women and children, were to assemble , one morning in the local market-place for the purpose of a check-up. The Jews .already knew' that if a mobilization was announced, then terrible things were in preparation. Several hundred Jews of Dzialoszyce decided not to obey the Gestapo order, and, fled, during the night to the neighboring forest. Some of them took their children with them.
They wandered several days in the forest. It Was summertime, and it was possible to spend the night in the forest. Some peasants brought water and food for the children. Some of these refugees made. their way through the forest to Wislica. Somehow the new arrivals Were provided for and hidden from the Gestapo. for myself, who had only recently arrived as a refugee, took one Dzialoszyce family, consisting of ten people, into my room.
Thus fourteen people were living in the one room. We slept on the floor, and only ten children had beds. I helped them as much. as I could. They wept all day, day after day, for they had left their father in Dzialoszyce, as he could not escape with them. After some days they sent a peasant to Dzialoszyce. for news. When he returned he crossed himself continually in his. horror at What he had seen in Dzialoszyce. Dzialoszyce had been completely emptied of Jews. No one could say where they had been sent to. All the Jewish children up to the age of ten had been murdered on the spot.
The inhabitant! of the town, Christians: eye-witnesses, told of this.. "The Jews had been forced to dig several narrow and long graves in the cemeteries. Single boards were laid across the graves. Each child was ordered to kneel one by one on the board. The gendarmes fired, and the dead bodies fell into the grave."
The peasant added that Poles in Dzialoszyce, acquaintances of his, had sworn that they saw the newly filled in graves of the children. Many children were buried alive. On the graves numerous crosses were visible, but he did not know whether they had been put there by the Germans or by Poles. He brought the news to my companions in my room that the father had been shot in his room by the Germans, like all the other Jews who could not go to the assembly point.
The Gestapo-men had found them when they went through the Jewish houses. . Similar news ,of the fate of the Dzialoszyce Jews came from other sources also. One of the militia-men; who came on official business to Wislica, said that the Gestapo had been particularly harsh in their treatment of the Jews in Dzialoszyce because many of them had fled. The families of the Council members and the militia had also been punished for this, being ordered to go with the other Jews. The members of the Council and the militia themselves had been spared because several hundred Jewish craftsmen had been left in Dzialoszyce; as they could be useful to the Germans.
This news caused a general panic in Wislica. We saw death ahead of us. It was said that the Judenvernichter (Jew-destroyers) were going from town to town, and not leaving a single Jew alive. During the feast of Succoth one of the lower German officials let out the information that before long it would be the turn of the Jews in Wislica. When Rabbi H. heard the news he ordered a three-day penance during Succoth. He ordered all Jews, young and old, to go out to the cemetery and say prayers. Let the mothers take with them their children. at the breast, he ordered, in order to arouse the compassion of the dead. I was the most happy of all, for a telegram had come from Berlin saying that as foreign citizens I, my 'husband and children had a good chance of escaping.
On Saturday, October 3rd, at six in the morning, there was the sound of shooting in the streets, and shouts we're heard: "The angels of death have arrived" The Jewish militia-men ran from house to house to notify us that punctually at seven a.m. all Jews were to assemble in tile market-square, now' called Adolf Hitler Square. where normally Jews were not allowed to go. Anyone who failed to turn up would be killed. Several lads of my neighbors attempted to escape from the town. Soon they returned with the news, " We're lost. The town's surrounded."
I did not know what to do. My four-year-old son was ill with dysentery. My husband ran to. the Jewish branch to ask whether, as we were foreign citizens, we had also to go to the square. My brother advised us to go to the assembly point, because when the Gestapo men searched the houses they shot everybody at once. My husband put on two sets of underwear and two suits, and we ran out of the house, leaving everything else behind. The streets were deserted. Evidently an order had been given for all Poles to remain in their houses. Nor was it permitted to look through the window.
On Hitler Square I saw about ten gendarmes in steel helmets. At every street entrance to the square were machine-guns. The Germans present were strangers; .no one knew any of them. They shouted in savage voices and made the Jews fall in in ranks, six in each rank. So far as possible families stood together. There were 3,000 Jews. A party of some twenty to thirty youngsters with spades in their hands appeared in the square.
It looked as though they had come to bury us alive.. When I saw them I nearly fainted .. My father gave me a few, drops of valerian. He himself was in a terrible state with fear, and all but fell down. The members of the Council were ordered by the gendarmes to see that all the Jews handed-over the keys to their homes. A card was attached to each key with the name and address of the owner of the home.
The militia-men distributed the cards, which had to be filled up. Then the gendarmes collected all the keys in a basket At the very last moment the rabbi of Wislica, H., who was allowed to wear his beard, came into' the square. Seeing him, one of the Gestapo-men ran up to him and began to beat him with. his whip. One of the Jews took a pair of scissors from his own pocket in order to cut the rabbi's beard and save him the blows. The Gestapo man burst into a laugh and stopped beating the old man. He stood watching as the beard was cut off.
At Pinczow we were taken to the Fire Brigade ground.. The peasant carts drove off, we lay down on the"' ground. I stood by my children, who lay on the damp earth, and watched to see that no one food on them. I had nothing whatever to give them to eat. My sick son was crying; other children were crying, too. It was cold at night. I had nothing with which to cover the sick child, so my husband put his own coat over him. Later a policeman set to guard the Jews came up and demanded that I should give him the coat with which I had covered the. child, as he (the policeman) was cold, too, and had not brought his overcoat with him.
I tried to arouse some compassion in him for the sick child, but in vain. At that moment I saw my brother, who was acting in some official capacity among the refugees. My brother proposed to the policeman that they should go together to the Jewish . Council, where he would get a warm overcoat-Next morning the Jews of Pinczow were to be "checked over," so they were not short of clothing to give. The policeman went off. and later returned in a Jewish coat and asked my pardon. Then he brought several boards so that the children shouldn't sleep on the bare ground.
Mass Slaughter of the Jews
Early in the morning we heard the Jews of Pinczow being assembled., They were expecting it, and each turned up with a bundle. Everywhere shots were to be heard. People running and falling. Shouts of' "Shema Israel." When the Pinczow Jews were assembled on the-square with us, Ukrainian Judenvernichterr arrived. They ran up shouting and making such a noise that the Jews began to recite the prayers for-the dying.
Each of them pushed to the middle, to avoid being the first, victim. Children went into, convulsions. The Judenvernichter roared with laughter,' began to talk to the Jews, and showed the hungry people the tasty food they had with them. My brother turned up again and told me to report myself to the S.S. commander who had come to the square, informing him that I was a citizen of a foreign country, for that was my only way of saving our lives.
I stepped out of the ranks and showed the commander our foreign passports and the telegram, from Berlin. He noted down something, said he would check up on my story, and that for the time, being I must go with the others. Immediately we all had to march on foot to Jedrzejow, some 20 miles from Pinczow. Though it was difficult to walk with children in our arms, we, reached Jedrzejow on Sunday evening. We spent another terrible night in the open field outside the town, waiting for the dawn. 'Jews from Bu. and Nowy Karczyn were already there. Jedrzejow was already free of Jews.
They had been driven out two weeks before, and only 200 young Jews were left, in the labor camp. Next morning the German gendarmes with the, Ukrainian Judenvernichter intended to Send the entire mass of ten thousand Jews in trucks from Jedrzejow station. Jews were still being driven in from the district; some of them were barefoot, and had the faces of people who had, come back from the next world these were Jews who had been under arrest. Two Jewish militiamen from WisIica were also brought along. They had been kept behind in order to snow where the rich Jews' houses were.
What those two Jewish militiamen told us surpassed all human imagination The Gestapo-men had brought police dogs to Wislica, in order to track down the Jews hidden in the cellars. The Germans used this method elsewhere too. With these dogs they also discovered any valuables buried. In Wislica the dogs had a good hunt. Many Jewish families had hidden in walled-up cellars, prepared beforehand for this purpose. They reckoned that as soon as the Judenvernichter had finished their work' and departed they would be able to escape with the aid of Christian neighbors. Over 100 persons, men; women and children, fell victim to the dogs.
They were shot on the spot, in the cellars. Ten paralyzed and sick Jews who' could not attend the assembly point were killed in their homes. The militiamen said that the day after we had been driven out a whole horde of Gestapo-men arrived in Wislica in order to pillage the houses. When the militia-men had finished their job and pointed out the richer Jewish houses, they too were condemned to the same fate as the rest.
The Hope of Escape
At the last moment before we were to be driven from Jedrzejow several cars armed with machine-guns drove up. The newly arrived Germans also wanted their fun, and began to fire over the heads of the mass of assembled Jews. The machine-guns were aimed lower and lower, and the Germans shouted: "Down you get, down you get! "
We had to bow right down to the ground to avoid the bullets, which were flying about our ears. Only when we were all lying bowed on the ground did the Germans stop firing., I regarded' myself as lost. I had not seen again the S.S commander whom I had -shown my documents in Pinczow, and no one else wanted even to listen to me. '"We shall get rid of all the Jews," they told us, "foreign citizens and Polish citizens with the rest." I looked at my little children, and my heart broke With misery. A dog ran past us in the field. How envious I felt of him, because he was .free to live. That dog drove me to frenzy. At all costs I wanted to live.
We had been drawn up in ranks in order to continue the march, when suddenly a small car drove up, with several S.S. men in it. The Jewish militia-men began to shout my name. The S.S. men ordered me and my husband and children to step out of the ranks. I recognized the S.S. commander from Pinczow. He said instructions had arrived to withdraw foreign citizens from the exiles. I almost lost consciousness again. I was to be saved, but' my dearest ones, my parents and family were condemned to death. I asked to be allowed to say goodbye to my parents......
The commander grew very angry and ordered Polish police to take us at once to the prison in Kielce. So I left the square, not knowing whether my parents, of whom I heard' no more, had even learnt that I and my children were saved. Once more the Jews were driven on. One of the Polish police told me that they were to. be driven' to Jedrzejow station, where trains were already waiting to carry them away to be "finished off."
In the Kielce prison one Jewish family consisting ,of eight persons, all of them also foreign citizens, were put in our cell. It transpired that they were a rabbi and al: his numerous family. By a miracle, some two week! before the Jews were deported the rabbi received hi! documents, sent him by his daughter living abroad. The Germans released the whole family at the very last moment. But his older daughter 'was still in despair because of her husband; who had not received permission for release. She told me her husband was a rabbi of unusual ability, a graduate of the Lublin Rabbinical school. As he had not got a foreign passport it was decided to hide him; a walled up niche was prepare for him, with an opening for water and food to be passed through.
Although I was myself in despair over m parents, the despair of that young woman finally brought me down. In her despair she. reproached her father wit not allowing her to remain, she cried that she preferred to share the fate of other Jews rather than leave her husband behind.' Finally her father paid a large sum to a Polish policeman to go to Pinczow and find out whether he was still alive.
It transpired that a Christian neighbor had undertaken to look after the young rabbi but then, afraid of being denounced, the neighbor then advised him to flee from his hiding place, dressed as peasant. All trace of him was lost. We were treated decently in the Kielce prison. T Polish police brought us food supplied by the Jewish Council, and we considered that we were finally safe.
Death faces us once more!
Three days later S.S. men unexpectedly came to our ordered us to leave the prison, and drove us in the direction of the railway station, beating us as we went. We realized that our situation was serious. On a railway line from which goods trains departed, I saw Jews assembled. They said· they had come from the little village of Lagiew and from other towns, and that the e Kielce area was cleared of Jews. The station crowded with Ukrainian Judenvernichter.
Four trucks· were already sealed, which meant they filled with Jews. Gendarmes with whips stood in v before our trucks. 'They whipped the Jews as they boarded the trains, and that was their last farewell to life. Standing the rank once more I saw the angel of death before me. The German gendarmes took off my wedding ring from my finger and noticed my gold teeth. Give us your gold teeth, too Jewess! " they shouted. They took my husband's gold watch from him. My husband held my sick son in his arms, I saw what they did to him. The robbers went off. He said quietly to me no miracle can save us now.
Let happen what is to happen. I shall kill one of these Germans. That one there standing by the train I shall seize with my bare hands around his neck. I shall not go voluntarily into the truck." I trembled. ..A tiny flame of hope still lived in me me. I implored my husband "Have pity for the children, perhaps a miracle will happen. You see don't know what favor we enjoy in heaven, but at that very moment the S.S. man turned up who had saved us twice. I told him about the three Gendarmes who had taken us from prison. He wanted to move us from the station at once, but the man in charge of the train objected; they did not want to let any Jews go.
The commander told us to wait, and after returned with some higher official. Our documents checked. The newcomer was a young man of 26 who knew English. Jewish police in the Kielce Ghetto afterwards told l man was commissary Voig, the real leader of all Judenvernichter activities. This greatest of all anti-Semites told me: "You're lucky, you're not condemned for extermination, you'll return to your' country." Two men with Jewish police came up to us and told us to go with them.
Before we left the station we again thanked the commander who had saved our lives. When I thanked him he told me his name and rank, he was vice-commander of. the S.S. men of a unit in Bavaria. I want you he said, to remember me but we can write to him only after the war. Yet this benefactor" of ours was one of the leaders in the work of exterminating the Jews. Who knows how many women and children he has condemned to death!
After we left the station we were taken straight to the ghetto. We were warned never to say the word "ghetto." The great Kielce Jewish community was already abolished. Over 30,000 Jews had taken to the death trucks a few weeks previously. 5,000 Jews were shot on the spot in the Kielce Barely 1,500 were left alive. Apart from the militiamen's wives and children, there were neither women nor children in the ghetto. The little ghetto consisted of two streets and a few houses in Piotrkowska.
It is difficult to tell what I suffered and what I heard during our three weeks' stay in the Kielce ghetto. I knew that we had been saved, that we had been grant a miracle, which would win us from hell and take us abroad. So much the more did I lose my health as I saw the last Jews of Kielce left in the land of the living. They all were praying for a speedy death, they called· themselves orphans, for apart from the handful of militiamen. and a few doctors, they had all lost their families.
What was their life worth living? I opened a cook shop and sold dinners, in order to have something to live by. During the day the ghetto was deserted. Everybody was on forced labor. Even the sick went to work, for anyone who lay longer that three days in the dispensary which had been turned into a hospital was killed. ' Everybody had thin potato soup in the soup kitchen. Some who were living by the sale of what articles they had left allowed themselves a better quality dinner in my house.
The' people seemed to be half crazy. Once I managed to buy some smuggled curd cheese and to make some curd cakes. It caused a great sensation. The curd cakes were sold out in a trice and the diners, greatly agitated, began to complain of their fate. They told stories of the great slaughter, and listening to their stories one might well have gone mad. The memory was like poison in their blood and· as I listened to them I felt that I had lost all desire to live.
I remember that one day a regular diner in my house came to me accompanied by a young man. "He's returned from the next world," my acquaintance said. After a glass of vodka the stranger grew more talkative, and told how he had fled from Treblinka, where the Jews were being "finished off." The train with the deportees dragged on and on for two nights and a day.
More and more deportees were added along the road, until the train reached the station of Treblinka, lying between Warsaw and Minsk Mazowiecki. The trucks were taken on a siding to a brick building, with no windows. The S.S: men and the Ukrainian Judenvernichter men opened the trucks and shouted that those wino were left alive were to come out to bathe. The unfortunate wretches were driven to a long corridor, where they were ordered to strip and were told that the bath would 'be taken by groups. Despite his weakness, my narrator noticed that the first group which was taken to the bath did not come back.
He realized what was in the wind and that this bath meant death. The SS men ordered that the clothing and underwear left by the bathers were to be carried to the trucks. It fell to the young man with several other Jews to carry the parcels of clothing to the trucks. When the job was ended he hid in the truck and lay low under the parcels of clothes. After some, time the truck was dragged off. went some distance, and then stopped again. He heard the sound' of Polish police outside the truck, and came out of his hiding.
Two Polish workers helped him escape. These workers told him that the brick house Was a crematorium with furnaces for cremating human bodies. The Jews taken there are stripped and then burnt alive in the furnaces. One Polish worker said he had .more than once helped to remove enormous quantities of ash from the furnaces, as they had continually to be cleaned out.
With the aid of these Polish workers, who risked their lives to help him, the young man escaped from the cargo at Treblinka and dragged himself to the Kielce Ghetto in order to find out whether any of his family were left alive. I don't know this man's name. I saw him only once in my life, he was afraid to remain in the Kielce ghetto, where none' of his family were left. He slipped away and I saw him no more. There were individual cases where, by good fortune, people were saved.
The day. before my departure, when it was known in the ghetto that I was leaving Poland, a certain Sarah E., an elderly woman, once very rich, called on me. As the Germans robbed her of her property, she learned a trade and became a milliner. She turned old hats into new, and so earned a livelihood. At the time Jews were being deported several Germans came to her home, with an older officer in charge. Several finished hats lay on the table. The officer' asked whether she was a milliner.
When she said yes, he praised her work and said he would leave her alive, as he wanted her to make him several hats. The officer gave her permission to live in the ghetto. There she was the only older woman left living. She asked me to tell her story to her brother, who lived abroad. She gave me a bag, in which was her letter to her brother. After my lucky escape from Poland I gave the letter to her brother (Zygymunt was his name) When he read it, he fainted.
The letter was brief: "I am the only one left alive of all our family. -Sarah."
This is the news which I brought from Poland.
* Protocol B of Issue No. 71 can be read under the title: "What happened in the Radom Ghetto"
The National Archives KEW
The Chris Webb Archive
Public Records Office, London
Polish Museum in the United Kingdom
Holocaust Historical Society
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010