On the door there hung a note
legible only up close -
"Doorbell in order - please ring"
and three names:
To Mme. L. once,
to Mr. K. twice,
and to the Doctor three times…
The note was hung there
so people would know
then there was a selection
and - they took....
Mme. L. (once)
Mr. K. (twice)
and that Doctor (three times…)
The note "Please Ring"
hangs on the door
but the doors are open
and beyond the doors - terror…[…]
Documentation of extermination
"The German invasion of the Soviet Union added the most terrifying link in the unending chain of suffering Jewish masses, the Ausrottung, the physical extermination of the Jews "responsible" for the war, to an extent unknown in previous centuries. This second stage strikes with ruthlessness and unprecedented thoroughness."
Report by Oneg Shabbat for the Polish Government-in-exile in London, April 1942
Slaughter of the Jews of S?onim: description of the Soviet and German occupation; author unknown, recorded by Daniel Fligelman
(A?IH Ring I/469)
Paper, manuscript, ink, in Polish. 20 x 26 cm (A?IH Ring I/938). Typed copy also exists.
The Nazis murdered the majority of the Jewish inhabitants of S?onim on October 15, 1941.
Report from Szlamek ("Jakub Grojnowski") about the death camp in Che?mno on the Ner, elaborated by Bluma Wasser in February 1942
Paper, typescript, in Yiddish. 20.5 x 28.5 cm (A?IH Ring I/412)
Szlamek was one of three escapees from the Che?mno death camp. He gave Oneg Shabbat a report about the murder of Jews and Gypsies in mobile gas vans. His report covers the period from January 5-19, 1942.
"On Monday, January 5, 1942 the gendarmerie in Izbica summoned the members of the Judenrat
, demanding people for labour; they asserted that this order had to be carried out without delay, as opposed to previous orders from the Arbeitsamt
which, as they put it, the Jews had ignored. That same day approximately 40 men turned up at the police station, whose names were on a list drawn up by the gendarmes. The gendarmes took away their documents and ordered them to report the next day with shovels or spades and a supply of bread for one or two days. They were told that they were supposed to return home after a couple days. I was among them. I know the names of some of the gendarmes: 1. Lieutenant Johanne; 2. Meister; 3. the gendarme-Volksdeutsch
Schmalz. There were seven of them altogether. I'm certain that they knew what we would be used for. I repeat once again: they knew perfectly well, one hundred per cent, what was going to happen, and yet they didn't warn any of the Jews. Quite to the contrary, we were painfully deceived.
Truthfully speaking, I didn't want to show up for work. Nevertheless my parents urged me to, thinking that I could thus avoid going to a labour camp. I had already managed to avoid going to a camp three times. Fifteen men showed up on Tuesday morning. We waited until eight o'clock, but no one else appeared, so the police carried out a random round-up. From the streets and from house searches they took additional 19 people, five of whom were released since they were either debilitated or children. There remained 14 of them, and together with those who appeared by themselves, 29. The gendarmerie made a list of these 29 names. Meanwhile an auto with gendarmes arrived. They counted us once again and loaded us onto a truck. Each of us had a knapsack containing his things. Our truck attracted widespread attention; our parents were convinced we were being taken to a labour camp. Polish passers-by reacted in a variety of ways; some of the young people sneered and mocked us, while older people were crying.
We drove off in the direction of Ko?o. Then we turned into a road towards Che?mno. That town was already notorious in the surrounding area, since four weeks earlier there had been a resettlement from Ko?o and D?bie on the Ner. Various odd rumours were circulating that no one sent to Che?mno ever returned. Yet we didn't know exactly what was happening there. We had heard rumours from messengers, but we hadn't found out any details. The truck stood on the road in Che?mno about half an hour, then we drove to a palace. It was now an uninhabited hovel left from the last war; it was on the right side of the road, while the church and village were on the left side. The Gestapo had requisitioned for themselves all the buildings around the church.
We had arrived in Che?mno at twelve-thirty. Gestapo guards stood at both gates of the palace, while the gendarmes stood guard elsewhere. At the second gate we were led out of the truck, ordered to put down our packs and form a line. From then on we were given orders by SS men in black uniforms, high-ranking Reichsdeutsche
. They ordered use to turn over all the money and valuables in our possession, then counted out 15 of us, myself included, and led us under guard to one of the cellars. I later learned that there were more than a dozen such underground cells. The 15 of us were locked in one of them, while the remaining 14 were locked in another.
Although it was still light out, the cellars were dark. We received a bit of straw from the Volksdeutsch
workers; at night we received a lamp. At about eight in the evening they gave us black, unsweetened coffee and nothing else. We were in a desperate mood, prepared for the worse. Everyone was crying, kissing and saying good-bye. It was very cold, so we nestled close to one another and that way we survived that freezing night. We kept talking about Jews who had been previously been driven out of Ko?o and D?bie. Based on what we knew, we became convinced that we would never get out of there.
On Wednesday, January 7 at seven in the morning the gendarme on duty banged the door shouting 'Get up!' But none of us had slept on account of the cold. An hour later they brought us bitter black coffee and bread from our packs. That raised out spirits a bit, and we whispered that were still under God's mercy and would be going to work. At eight-thirty (nights were long at that time of year, so that's why it was so late), we were led out into the courtyard. A few were made to stay behind and were led to an adjoining cellar in order to carry out two Jews who had been hanged (I don't know their names). They were prisoner-gravediggers from K?odawa. The bodies were thrown on a small truck. We rejoined the remaining prisoners from Izbica. We had barely come out of the cellar when we where surrounded by 12 gendarmes and Gestapo men with machine guns. In the truck were 29 prisoners, along with the two bodies and six gendarmes. A car with ten gendarmes and two civilians drove behind us.
We drove along the road in the direction of Ko?o. After driving about seven kilometres, we suddenly turned left, deep into the woods. There was a beaten track a half-kilometre long, at the end of which SS men stopped the vehicle, ordered us to get out, undress and line up in twos (we were in our boots, underwear, trousers and shirts). We had to leave our coats, caps, sweaters and gloves on the ground in spite of the extreme cold. The two civilians brought spades and axes, distributing them among us. Only eight of us didn't receive tools; they were ordered to pull the two corpses from the truck. There were 21 of us with axes and spades, in the rear eight men with the two corpses, and encircling us were Germans with machine guns.
As soon as we had reached the woods, we immediately saw prisoners from K?odawa who had arrived before us. They were working in just their shirts. They were also guarded by about 12 policemen, so in all we were surrounded by 30 gendarmes.
As we got near to the pit, the men from K?odawa greeted us in whispers, asking 'Where are you from?' We replied, 'From Izbica'. They asked, 'See what a misery it is here? How many of you are there?' We replied, 'Twenty-nine'. We spoke with each other without interrupting our work. We threw both corpses into the pit. They had been carried over by those who still hadn't received spades. They didn't have long to wait however, before the next truck arrived with new victims. The truck was specially constructed; the size of a normal truck, grey-coloured, hermetically sealed with two rear doors. The interior was covered with metal, and there were no seats. The bottom was covered with wooden boards as in a bathroom, and covered with a mat of straw. […]. There were two such trucks; the driver was always the same. He wore an SS uniform with a skull and crossbones, and was probably around 40 years old.
The truck stopped at a distance of about eight metres from the grave. The leader of the guard team, a high-ranking SS officer, was exceptionally sadistic. He ordered those eight men to open the truck doors and immediately there was a sharp, strong odour of gas. Gypsies from ?ód? had been killed in the truck. Their belongings were lying in it: accordions, violins, quilts, even watches and gold jewellery. After waiting at the open doors for about five minutes, the SS officer shouted: 'Ihr Juden, herein und schmeisst alles raus'. The Jews ran up to the truck and removed the bodies. Since at first the work wasn't easy and went rather slowly, the supervising SS-man pulled out a whip and yelled out, 'Helblaue, ich komme sofort zu euch!' - lashing heads, ears, eyes wherever the whip landed, until everyone had fallen to the ground. Whoever didn't manage to get up was immediately shot to death with a machine gun. Seeing that, the others tried with what remained of their strength to get up and finish the work.
The bodies of those who had been gassed to death were thrown from the truck like rubbish onto a pile. They were pulled by their feet or hair. Two men stood at the top and threw bodies into the bottom of the pit, where two others stood arranging the bodies in layers with their faces in the ground in such a way that the head of one body lay at the feet of another. A special SS man was in charge of this. If there was a small open space, a child's body was crammed into it. The one at the top stood with a pine branch in his hand, indicating where to place a head, feet, children and things. Everything was accompanied by mad shouts of 'Du Sakrament!' There were about 180 to 200 bodies. After every three loads, about 20 of the men were gathered to bury the bodies. At first it worked out to two times. Later, when the number of truckloads reached nine (with 60 bodies each), they were buried three times.
At noon the SS commander ('The Whip') ordered: 'Spadel stehen lassen'. He aligned us in twos and counted us, then ordered those at the bottom to come up. Guards still surrounded us, not leaving us even when the call of nature required us to relieve ourselves right where we were working. We approached the place where our belongings were lying. They ordered us to sit on our packs. We were constantly under guard. They gave each of us a mug of cold coffee and a piece of frozen bread. That was dinner. We sat like that for half an hour, after which we lined up and were counted, then led back to work.
What did the dead look like? The bodies were by no means scorched, nor were they black. The colour of their faces remained unchanged. Almost all were covered with excrement.
We finished work at about five o'clock. The eight who had carried the bodies were ordered to lie down on the corpses with their faces down, after which the SS man shot each one in the head with a machine gun. 'The Whip' shouted. 'Helblau, flink sich anziehen!' We got dressed quickly and took our spades with us. They counted us and, under the guard of gendarmes and SS men, led us to the trucks, where they ordered us to leave the spades. They counted us again and packed us into the trucks. We drove back to the palace. The trip took about 15 minutes. The men from K?odawa were also with us, and we talked with them quietly. I told them that my mother had always dreamt of leading me under the white wedding canopy, but now she wouldn't even be able to accompany me to my final black marriage. Everyone burst out sobbing, but in a way that the gendarmes sitting behind us didn't hear. We spoke very quietly...".
Letter from Szlamek to Hersz Wasser about Be??ec, sent from Zamo??, early April 1942
Paper, manuscript, ink, in Polish and Yiddish (in Roman alphabet). 11 x 18 cm (A?IH Ring I/596)
"....it is as freezing as in Che?mno. Are we next in line? The cemetery is in Be??ec, which has already eliminated the shtetlach
(small towns) I mentioned in this letter."
Because they were afraid that the Gestapo would find him, the leaders of Oneg Shabbat
sent Szlamek to Zamo?? in the south of Poland, where he had family. This letter to Hersz Wasser is one of the first reports to reach the Warsaw Ghetto about the Be??ec death camp. The camp was in operation from March 1942.
Postcard informing of the death of Szlamek, send by his relatives in Zamo??, April 24, 1942
Postcard, print, manuscript, ink, in Polish. 10.5 x 14.5 (A?IH Ring I/596)
On April 11, 1942 the Nazis deported 3,000 Jews from Zamo?? to the death camp in Be??ec.
List of those shot on April 17-18, 1942
Paper, typescript, in Polish. 21 x 30 cm (A?IH Ring II/158)
"On the night of April 17-18, from Friday night to Saturday morning, fifty-two people were murdered in the Jewish district. Among them were a couple of good, talented social activists, a few youths organised in a union, a couple of wealthy bakers, the plutocrats of the district and a few random victims. None of these individuals anticipated death at the time. …Thirty-year-old Menachem Linder, a superb economist, popular activist and expert on Jewish folklore, was killed at the square on Mylna Street…. The neighbourhood grew numb. … These April murders were presumably intended to destroy those individuals capable of leadership, in order to prevent the organisation of any kind of defence." Gustawa Jarecka
Announcement, July 22, 1942
Paper, printed, in German and Polish. 48 x 69 cm (A?IH Ring II/186)
From July 22 until September 21, 1942 approximately 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were murdered by the Nazis in the death camp at Treblinka. On July 23 Adam Czerniaków, chairman of the Jewish Council, committed suicide, unable to prevent the transport of people to their death.
Armband worn by the Jewish Police
Linen, printed with blue and black ink, in German. 10 x 38 cm (A?IH Ring II/293)
Summons by the Jewish Police to report at Umschlagplatz for "resettlement", July 29, 1942
Paper, printed, in German and Polish. 45 x 58 cm (A?IH Ring II/188)
On July 28, 1942 Abraham Lewin noted in his diary, "The Aktion
continues at full speed. Many volunteer. Two families have left their flats and turned themselves in. Reason: terrible hunger." It was not until August 9 that he wrote, "We found out that 99% of the resettled people are murdered". (A?IH Ring II/202)
The people taken from Umschlagplatz were unaware that their journey would end in immediate death. This information did not reach the majority of the Ghetto residents, or they did not want to believe it.
Armband from the Czyste Hospital, adjoining Umschlagplatz
Heavy paper, averse with print in German and Polish; reverse with manuscript in crayon, in Polish. 10 x 38 cm (A?IH Ring II/293)
On the back of the armband its owner recorded when relatives had been brought to Umschlagplatz
: 9/9/42 6:00 am - sister; 9/10/42 - parents.
Report by Abram Jakub Krzepicki about Treblinka. Recorded by Rachela Auerbach
Paper, ink, manuscript in Polish. (A?IH Ring II/295)
The first to escape Treblinka probably reached the Warsaw Ghetto on August 7 or 8, 1942. Abram Krzepicki was taken to Treblinka on August 25, 1842, and escaped 18 days later. Description of his arrival at the camp
15.5 x 19.5 cm; Plan of the camp and key to the plan
20 x 31 cm
List of tenants of the abandoned flat, autumn 1942
Paper, ink, manuscript in Polish, 7.5 x 22 cm (A?IH Ring II/492)