Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
[The Occupied Nations]
POLISH FORT-NIGHTLY REVIEW
London, Thursday, July 1st 1943 Issue No. 71
"What happened in the Radom Ghetto "
At first life was tolerable enough for the Jews of Radom. From time to time people were seized in the street and carried off to work, and Jewish men's beards were cut off. These things were accepted. The people got accustomed to such a state of affairs. The shops were open, and were patronized, the Jews did not do badly. My brother-in-law, had a large shop and spent all his time there, just as in pre-war days.
Truly, from time to time German soldiers came and took articles without paying for them but such things were only details. The Jews thought that they would be able to get through on this basis.
But after some months their situation began to worsen. The Gestapo men began to take over, and the Jews at once felt their iron fist. The order was issued that every Jew must wear a yellow patch, and the Star of David must be painted outside every shop.
During this period the Germans changed thee names of two streets: Zeromski Street was called Reichstrasse, and Third of May Street Was called Adolf Hiltler Strasse. Of course Jews were for-bidden to live in either 'of these streets. They had at once to evacuate their homes taking only handbags with them; they were not allowed to take their furniture.
During those difficult times many Poles helped the Jews by carrying things for them. German families' from the Reich were quartered in the empty homes, and some buildings were occupied by German offices. The Germans set up a Jewish Council of Elders in Radom, consisting of 24 persons. The Council did not, develop any extensive activities until the ghetto was organized. Its chief task was to find new quarters for the evacuated Jews.
As usual, there were many malcontents, who accused the council of favoritism. I cannot say whether the complaints had any justification. It also had to provide new. premises for shopkeepers turned out of their shops. Several shopkeepers had to be accommodated in one shop, and each man had one counter, so that when you went into a shop you got the impression that you were in a market hall, with commodities of all kinds all around you.
The order for the organization of the ghetto in Radom was issued in April, 1941. The Jews were given fourteen days in which to transfer to the ghetto area. But the German patrols stood in the streets and took away everything they had a mind to. The ghetto was not surrounded by a wall.
Guards consisting of a German gendarme and a Polish policeman standing at the entrances to the ghetto streets. Later the Polish policeman was replaced by a Jewish one. Notice boards were set up, with the inscription:
"Exit forbidden on pain of death,"
On the ghetto side, and on the town side:
"Entrance to Aryans forbidden. Beware of infectious diseases."
Certain portions of the exits from the streets were barred with barbed wire. The official exit from the ghetto was at the corner of Zeromski and Wolowa Streets. A pass had to be obtained in order to leave, these passes being issued to Jewish workers employed outside the ghetto.
After the ghetto had been organized, the Germans formed a Jewish police force for the maintenance of order. There were 150 of them. Its head was a certain "G", and his assistants were "W", and "S." There were also several higher ranks of police.
The police wore ordinary civilian clothes with a blue police cap. They were armed with rubber truncheons. The head wore three stars in his cap, and his assistants two..
The police, were paid very low wages, and some of them made up their money by bribes.The Germans forced the Jews, to pay their pre-war taxes. The Jewish Council attempted to intervene, but was curtly told:
"The Jews cannot expect· any sympathy or consideration. "
Everyday Life in the Radom Ghetto
The German authorities introduced a ration card system for the population of Radom. The cards were changed every month. The Jews in the ghetto received on their cards:
During the first winter ten kilogram's of coal were al1:10 issued monthly. Meat was not issued at all. The food obtainable on cards was obviously insufficient. Extra food was bought on the black market, where prices ranged as follows:
* Before the war one British pound equaled 25 zlotys.
Later there was no meat as all to be bought, as the sale of meat was forbidden under pain of death. A small chicken cost over 70 zlotys, and flour went up to 25 zlotys per kilo. A pair of used boots cost 200 zlotys and second hand clothes over 800 zlotys.
The Poles took the food to the factories and work shops where the Jews were forced to labor. At the end of the day the factory yards were transformed into a market, and in this way the ghetto was supplied with food. The electrical power plant functioned in Radom, but the Jews were forbidden to use electricity.
Jewish landlords drew no receipts from their property. On the order of the Gestapo the Jewish Council collected the rents, which were frequently raised by fifty percent. The basic rents went to the Germans, while the increases went to cover the requirements of the Council. As there was terrible overcrowding in the ghetto, the German authorities gave permission for a new one, the "little ghetto", to be organized.
It was situation on Glinicka Street, and some twelve thousand Jews lived in it, surrounded by barbed wire. The Jewish Council and police had departments there, and these were the one means of liaison with the larger ghetto. The living and sanitary conditions in the "little ghetto" were terrible, the houses on Glinicka Street were small, old and had little room.
The Jewish Council was responsible for the two public kitchens, one for adults and the other for children. The food issued consisted of soup and bread. There was always a very long queue at the kitchens, and it was necessary to wait for hours for a plate of soup. Several thousand Jewish families availed themselves of this public assistance.
An orphanage was also opened, in which the children received full board. For breakfast and supper they had bread and black coffee, for dinner soup and bread. The Jewish Council also maintained two hospitals. The hospital for infections diseases was outside the ghetto. The philanthropic organization "Ezra" provided medical aid.
The German authorities several times deported people from the ghetto, two hundred peop1e at a time. Some of them were sent to work on the Soviet frontier area, others to nearby towns. Several of them ran away and returned illegally to Radom. These people were swollen with hunger and said that the Jews were dying wholesale from hunger in the labor camps.
A Tragic Night
The following incident happened one Sunday in September, 1942. The inhabitants of the ghetto were in the streets, for Sunday was a day of rest, and the factories were closed. Suddenly they noticed that Germans had arrived and had set up great searchlights in the middle of the streets. Among the numerous Gestapo-men there was an unusual activity.
The entire ghetto was seized with panic. There were those who said that it was now our" turn, for we knew what had been happening in other towns. But no one wanted to believe this. They declared that the Germans would not willingly lose the work of the workers employed in war industry. Others said that the local power station was making certain tests, and there was. nothing to fear.
A little group of people got out of the ghetto and hid in the factories where they were employed. After a few hours all permission to leave the ghetto was. stopped. A ring of German gendarmes guarded all the street exits. At eight o'clock a military guard arrived in the ghetto. At one in the morning all the street lamps were lit at once. A cannonade began and terrifying whistles.
I and several other Jews were hidden in the factory where I worked. I knew nothing of what was happening, I heard only shouts and shots. The screams were so terrifying . that we who were .hidden felt we would go out of our minds, This went on for some hours. When all was quiet we asked the Polish watchman to go as, near as possible to the ghetto and find out what had happened. When he returned he said the Germans were not letting anybody inside.
At dawn, through chinks in the window shutters, we saw the Germans driving crowds of Jews along. It was a terrible sight: women, children, men, driven like cattle towards the railway station. Among them I saw my own sister. With my own eyes I saw a German tear her two-year-old child out of her arms and fling him away. Those who could not run were shot through the head. My factory was not far from the station.
I saw the Jews packed into trucks, and they were ordered to throw out the bundles they had taken with them. This went on until seven am. The trucks were sealed and left standing. All day it was quiet, but at midnight it began again. This extermination of the Jews at Radom went on for four days. The bundles of things were carried off to special warehouses.
Those shot were-buried in. a common grave in the park.. There were 400 killed altogether. . The Germans did not permit anyone to identify the bodies, so to this day no one knows who was shot. I myself do not know what happened to my sister and brother-in-law, and their children.
Among those driven off were members of the Jewish Council. After the deportation of the Jews the two old ghettos were-closed down. The remaining 3,500 Jews were transferred to two small streets, Zytnia and Brudna. It is difficult to describe the conditions in which these Jews lived. They were not allowed to take their furniture with them. They were compelled 'to work twelve hours a day.
The Germans stopped calling us by our names, and referred to us by numbers. Woe to him who failed to answer to his number! I did not work long in these conditions. I found a means of escaping. I must add that during the period of the deportations many Jews fled to the forests and joined the Polish underground organization.
* Protocol A of Issue No. 71 can be read under the title: "Slaughter of the Jews in Poland"
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