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The First Months of Occupation
The First Months of Occupation
Entrance to the Ghetto at Lodz
The persecution of Jews began soon after Lodz was occupied by the Germans on 8 September 1939. The racist Nuremburg Laws of September 1935 which the Nazis had applied to German, Austrian and Czech Jews, were immediately enforced.
From 9 November 1939, Lodz became under the authority of Gauleiter Artur Greiser, who was a resolute advocate of rapid and total Germanisation of the areas, under his command.
In a short time, together with his subordinate Friedrich Übelhör, President of the Kalisz- Lodz region, and Leister, Commissioner of Lodz, Greiser enacted a series of drastic decrees. The Jews of Lodz were subjected to legal restrictions and various orders and bans, many of which were applied for the first time, the laws introduced earlier in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were made more rigorous in Lodz.
Chronologically the first discrimination measures directed against the Jews were orders of the Chief of Civil Administration, 8th Army, published on 18 September 1939, which restricted currency exchange and prohibited trade in leather and textile goods.
The inclusion of Lodz in the Reich intensified the legal terror against the Jews. New instructions constituted typically anti- Jewish legislation. The occupation authorities aimed at the complete separation of Jews from the general population, and limiting their freedom of movement.
The first of these regulations was announced on 31 October 1939 by the Chief of Police of Lodz – an order to mark every enterprise and shop with prominent signs indicating the owners nationality, which made the pillage of Jewish stores and workshops easier by the Germans.
On 14 November 1939 Friedrich Übelhör, announced additional restrictive measures:
“The Jews were to wear on their right arm, directly under the armpit, with no regard to age or sex, an 10cm wide band of Jewish yellow colour as a special sign. Those who violate this order are liable to face the death penalty”.
Übelhör also introduced a curfew, which prevented Jews from leaving their apartments from 5:00pm till 8:00am
Übelhör’s order to mark the Jews was the first of its kind enacted in the Third Reich having no basis in Nazi legislation. Heydrich’s decree concerning the marking of Jews in the Reich was published on 1 October 1941. It did not apply to children under the age of six, and violations were not punished by death, but with a fine of 150 RM or up to 6 weeks arrest.
Less than a month later that directive was amended with a decree published on 11 December 1939, by Artur Greiser the Gauleiter of the Wartheland , Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star of David on the chest and back instead of armbands.
Simultaneously, numerous restrictive police control measures were introduced. Jews were not allowed to walk along Piotrkowska Street or to enter city parks and forbidden to use public transportation. All Jewish workers employed in “Aryan” enterprises were to be dismissed.
Pillage of Jewish property proceeded on a wide scale. In the first days of the occupation the plunder was out of control. On the third day after Lodz had been occupied, armed soldiers and police began to invade Jewish apartments, workshops and stores. Many precious objects were stolen under the pretext of searching for weapons.
These robberies often ended with serious assaults on the owners. The process of plundering was actively pursued by the Germans living in Lodz , who chose to rob wealthier Jews of the best apartments and shops. Jews were often forced to pay a ransom during these actions.
A little later the military, administrative and economic authorities of Lodz began to pursue a policy of officially organised pillage. The military forces authorised the Association of Combing Mills as early as mid-September 1939 to make an inventory of textile raw materials owned by Jewish merchants, and to confiscate them. The plunder amounted to 1.8 million RM in goods.
A few days later on 29 September 1939, according to the degree enacted by the general commander of the Land Forces, all enterprises, workshops and real estate abandoned by their owners went into receivership.
On 1 November 1939 the military authorities rights regarding confiscation and selling of enterprises not belonging to German’s were transferred to the General Receivership Bureau East (Haupttreuhandstelle Ost) established in October 1939.
Pillage and confiscation of Jewish factories proceeded rapidly thereafter, and most confiscated raw materials were transferred to the Reich.
The expropriation of Jewish property in Lodz accelerated in November and December 1939. Raw materials, half –finished goods and products expropriation was from then on joined by the Lodz branch of General Bührmann’s office and the Lodz Trade Society established in the second half of November, which aimed at taking over all the goods in stock from Jewish merchants.
The Nazi authorities aimed at weakening the Jewish population by destroying its financial base. Thus, as well as the pillage of property, Jews were also ejected from economic life.
Harry von Craushaar, Chief of the Military Administration of the 8th Army on 18 September 1939, issued an order blocking all Jewish bank accounts, deposits and safes. Jews were not allowed to withdraw more than 500 zloty a week from their bank accounts, and no more than 250 zloty a week from their savings accounts. They were also forbidden to have no more than 2000 zloty at home.
On 13 October 1939 the same authority ordered all factory owners, shipping and transport companies and store owners to report all raw materials and goods produced after 10 September 1939, to the special receiver dealing with textile raw materials. All reported goods were confiscated, leaving the Jewish workshops and factories without raw materials for production.
Five days later on 18 October 1939, Jews were forbidden to trade in textile goods, leather goods and raw materials by order of the Border Guard Middle Section Commander. Failure to comply was subject to an unlimited fine, arrest or even the death penalty. As a result, Jewish handicrafts, which had flourished in Lodz were seriously undermined and eventually destroyed.
On 2 December 1939 the deputy president of Police issued an order which excluded Jews from work involving road transport, a restriction which prevented approximately a thousand Jews from earning a living.
Intellectuals, lawyers, teachers, artists and doctors were also ejected from economic life. The boycott of Jewish doctors forced 40 physicians who lived in the city centre, to move to the Jewish district – The Old Town – in January 1940.
The Jewish community were thus imprisoned in their own apartments by the above measures, and were thus prevented from supporting themselves. The Jews of Lodz, especially the poor, were left without means to survive.
Already from the first months of the occupation, constant round-ups of Jews in the streets became a massive danger. They were violently dragged from houses and streetcars and forced to do hard work by the Germans.
Jews began to hide in cellars and attics. They sat there from dawn to dusk, often for several days, in constant fear of being caught and assaulted. The streets in the Jewish districts stood empty.
To protect people from round-ups, the Jewish Congregation, who self-governed the Jewish community offered co-operation with the German authorities regarding recruiting workers. The offer was accepted and on 7 October 1939, a Labour Recruitment Office(Arbeitseinsatz 1) was established and located at 18 Pomorska Street – later at 10 Poludniowa Street.
The office delivered contingents of labourers to the occupation authorities. At first the authorities were supplied with 600 workers a day – later the number increased to 2000 a day. Jews received no payment for their work, although they were forced to do the heaviest labour. Until the ghetto was sealed off, tens of thousands suffered from the degradations accompanying forced labour.
From the very beginning of the occupation the Nazi authorities used terror against the Jewish population. Jewish politicians, social activists and intellectuals were seized according to lists prepared in advance, and imprisoned in a concentration camp created without delay in Glaser’s factory in Radogoszcz.
They were tortured and subsequently shot or transported to Dachau and Mauthausen concentration camps.
On 2 November 1939, the Germans executed in Lagiewniki Woods 15 men arrested a day earlier in the Astoria Café. Many others were savagely beaten and tortured. Ten days later on 10 November, two Poles and a Jew named Radner were hanged in public. Their bodies were left hanging for several days.
On the same night all four great synagogues of Lodz were blown up and burned, and on 11 November the Jewish Kehillah premises were surrounded and nearly all members of the Council of Elders were arrested. Of the 30 only 6 councillors were released – the rest were tortured and shot in Lagiewniki Woods.
Simultaneously with organised terror, numerous individual murders and “spontaneous” pogroms of the Jews were taking place. One pogrom took place on 8 October 1939, carried out by the local Germans on the occasion of Josef Goebbbels visit to Lodz.
In September 1939 thousands of Lodz Jews decided to become refugees, some managed to escape to Russia, others especially the wealthy ones, to neutral countries. Many Jews fled to the General-Government.
On 12 December 1939 the occupation forces commenced the deportations to the General- Government, to fulfil the Nazi plans of removing Jews and Poles from the territories annexed into the Reich. These actions were carried out with extreme cruelty and pillaging of property.
Many Jews were shot and many froze to death, according to estimates more than 71,000 Jews either left or were deported from Lodz, during the first few months of the occupation.
The Beginning of the “Closed District”
The policy of building ghettos was set out in a secret memorandum of 21 September 1939 by Reinhard Heydrich to the commanders of the SD Einsatzgruppen and other central offices of the Third Reich. The letter contained general instructions on solving the “Jewish question”, in two main stages.
The first stage was the concentration of all Jews in designated areas, the second stage followed the total annihilation, camouflaged under the term “final goal” (Endziel). Rumours regarding the creation of a ghetto spread through the city already at the end of September or the beginning of October 1939.
The official position was detailed in a confidential circular from Friedrich Übelhör, who wrote on 10 December 1939 that in view of the fact that a complete evacuation of Jews from Lodz was considered impractical at that moment in time, a ghetto would be established.
The location of the ghetto would be established in the northern part of the city, and this was completed by the beginning of February 1940.
The order to to establish an isolated district for Jews was announced by the Chief of Police Johann Schäfer in the Lodscher Zeitung on 8 February 1940. The notice contained a rough map of the ghetto, and a detailed plan for resettling Jews from other districts.
The ghetto was located in the most neglected part of northern Lodz – Baluty and the Old Town with an area of 4.13km. When the ghetto was first established, the streets that formed the boundaries were as follows:
Goplanska – Zurawia – Wspolna – Stefana – Okopowa – Czarnieckiego – Sukiennicza - Marysinska – Inflancka – along the Jewish cemetery walls, and then Bracka – Przemyslowa – Srodkowa – Glowackiego – Brzezinska – Oblegorska – Chlodna – Smugowa – Nad Lodka – Stodolnia – na – Podrzeczna – Drewnowska – Majowa – Wrzesnienska – Piwna – Urzednicza – to Zgierska and Goplanska.
A year later in May 1941, the German authorities separated the area limited by the streets Drewnowska, Majowa, and Jeneralska from the ghetto. As a result the ghetto border was moved eastwards and the ghetto area shrank to 3.82km.
Excluded from the ghetto area were Nowomiejska – Zgierska and Limanowskiego streets, cutting the ghetto into three parts. At first the traffic between them was directed through specially built gates, which were opened at certain hours.
However, traffic moved very slowly through the gates, and in the summer of 1940, three wooden bridges for pedestrians were erected over Zgierska Street near Podrzeczna Street and Lutomierska Street,and over Limanowskiego Street near Masarska Street.
The final enclosure of the ghetto and its total isolation from other parts of the city took place on 30 April 1940. Barriers and barbed wire entanglements were placed around the ghetto and along its two main isolated arteries – Nowomiejska and B. Limanowskiego.
Telephones in the ghetto could be used only by administration officers, and only for official matters. On 13 July 1940, conditions of the mail exchange between the ghetto and the outer world were established.
Only postcards were allowed, which had to be written clearly and in German – only personal news could be mentioned. Unofficial contacts between the Jews and the “Aryan” inhabitants of Lodz were made even more difficult by the fact that the city had a German minority of about 70,000, loyal to the new authorities.
Houses next to the ghetto were demolished. Baluty and the Old Town had no sewage system, so it was not possible to get out of the ghetto through sewage canals. These factors made the Lodz ghetto “tighter” and easier to guard than the other ghettos in the General – Government, with tragic consequences for the inhabitants of the ghetto, since smuggling food and medicines to the ghetto was virtually impossible.
According to official records from 12 June 1940, 160,320 Jews were enclosed in the ghetto, of whom 153,849 were former inhabitants of Lodz and 6471 came from the Warthegau area. A year and half later, between 17 October and 4 November 1941, 19722 Jews from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Luxemburg and Germany were deported to Lodz.
In the period between 7 December 1941 and 28 August 1942 , 17,826 Jews from the liquidated provincial ghettos in Warthegau (Wloclawek, Glowno, Ozorkow, Strykow, Lask, Pabiance, Wielun, Sieradz, Zdunska Wola) were deposited in the ghetto.
In sum, more than 200,000 Jews from Warthegau and Western Europe went through the Lodz ghetto. Two isolated camps for Gypsies – Zigeunerlager and for Polish youths –Polenjugendverwahrlager – were placed within the ghetto area.
The 5007 Gypsies from the Austrian – Hungarian border( Burgenland) were transported to Lodz between 5 and 9 November 1941. A camp was established for them in the quarter of Brzezinska, Towianskiego, Starosikawska and Glowackiego Streets.
Sanitary conditions were tragic, resulting in approximately 600 deaths from typhus and other diseases. The Gypsy camp existed until 16 January 1942, when its inhabitants were transported to the death camp at Chelmno on the Ner.
The camp for Polish youth and children, located at Przemyslowa Street, began functioning on 1 December 1942. Inmates were children between the ages of 8 –16, whose parents were in camps or prisons, children from orphanages, educational institutions, and homeless children. A large group of prisoners were minors accused of co-operation with the resistance movement, illegal trade, refusal to work and petty thefts.
In the years 1943/44, the camp held was 1086 boys and about 250 girls. Conditions in the camp were unhealthy, weakening the young bodies. The food rations were below starvation level, as in concentration camps.
All children over the age of 8 were forced to work 10-12 hours a day. Many children died of hunger, diseases, and from beatings administered by German guards. The camp existed until the liberation of the city.
German Police in the Ghetto
The Gestapo had the leading role in supervising the ghetto and in the subsequent liquidation of its inhabitants. Since the end of 1941 the Gestapo had functioned as a unit carrying out orders of the Main Security Office (RSHA) regarding the final solution of the “Jewish question”.
The Gestapo post in the ghetto was opened at the end of April 1940, in two rooms of a building at the corner of Limanowskiego and Zgierska Streets, occupied by the 6th Schupo District.
Personnel consisted of officers from the Jewish Department of the Lodz Gestapo marked with the symbol llB4, later IV4b.
The Gestapo post participated with the criminal police station of the ghetto in pillaging Jewish property. The Police station was located in a parish building at 8 and 10 Koscielna Street, known in the ghetto as the “Red House”.
In the first period of the ghetto’s existence the criminal police was to fight smuggling and the black market, later a basic task was to discover and confiscate the ghetto inhabitants belongings.
The Police station – The Red House – evoked terrible fear among the Jews. In its cellars information about hidden property was obtained with the use of sophisticated torture. Many of the tortured people died, others became cripples.
The 6th Schupo District was also located in the ghetto, in the same reinforced building occupied by the Gestapo at the corner of Limanowskiego and Zgierska Street.
Schupo posts located every 50 to 100 meters guarded the ghetto borders. Additionally at strategic points sentry boxes were located at intersections of streets – l - Drewnowska and Zachodnia, II – Kilinskiego and Smugowa, III – Sporna and Boya, IV- Inflancka and Zagajnikowa , V- Okopowka and Franciszkanska.
Soldiers from special battalions stood guard. The main task of the Schupo was to keep order within the ghetto. The policemen together with Gestapo officers searched new arrivals in the ghetto and confiscated their belongings, especially jewellery and hard currency. The members of the Schupo were particularly brutal and used their weapons frequently.
Administratively, the ghetto was subordinated to the City Board. At first the Mayor – Karol Marder separated a branch office from the City Board Economy and Food Supplies Department.
It was located at 11 Cegielniana Street – its manager until 5 May 1940 was Johann Moldenhauer, later that function was taken over by Hans Biebow, a commissioned merchant from Bremen.
On 10 October 1940 the branch office was changed into an independent department of the City Board under the name of Gettoverwaltung (the Ghetto Management). The office reported directly toOberbürgermeister Werner Ventzki.
At first, the main task of the Gettoverwaltung was to supply the ghetto with food and medicines, and to administer financial transactions between the Jewish district and the city. After October 1940 the office managed the process of transforming the ghetto into a labour camp, taking over its inhabitants property, supervising the exploitation of the labour force.
Beginning in January 1942 Hans Biebow, and his deputies Joseph Hammerle and Wilhelm Ribbe participated in the selection of people brought from the liquidated provincial ghettos and in deportations from the Lodz ghetto to the death camps.
Soon Hans Biebow came to be appreciated by the central and Warthegau authorities. He performed well with his murderous exploitation of the ghetto’s labour force, and by imposing the idea of financial self-sufficiency of the ghetto.
Using his many years of business experience, Hans Biebow became comfortable and widely accessible to the local bosses as a dispatcher of robbed Jewish goods. Biebow sold valuable objects at considerably lower prices, and sent gifts to dignitaries, such as Artur Greiser.
These activities enlarged the circle of his protectors and allowed him to exercise almost absolute authority over the Lodz ghetto. The ghetto management team developed rapidly from only 24 employees in May 1940, to 216 clerks, officials and workers by the middle of 1942.
Chaim Morderchaj Rumkowski
Rumkowski with his staff
The Jewish administrative body – the so-called Ältestenrat[Council of Elders] reported to the Gettoverwaltung officials.
It was particularly well-developed in Lodz, because the ghetto economy was extremely centralised. In contrast with other ghettos in Poland, private enterprises were not allowed in the Lodz ghetto.
The head of the Jewish administration carried the title of the Eldest of the Jews in Litzmannstadt Ghetto.
Note: Litzmannstadt was the name the Germans gave to "now German" Lodz.
The occupation authorities appointed Chaim Morderchaj Rumkowski to the position on 13 September 1939. The Council of Elders appointed by him was to perform the role of an advisory body, but in reality played no role at all.
Rumkowski became the main go-between for the Jewish administration and the German authorities. The Germans forced him to co-operate in transforming the ghetto into a labour camp and in stealing its inhabitant’s belongings using blackmail threats of further reductions in food supplies for the ghetto.
Rumkowski was given a great deal of independence in the inner organisation of the ghetto. He had authority in police and judicial matters, including the right to arrest and send people to prison. He managed the economy and the administration. He was also entitled to create new offices, departments, labour workshops and various agencies.
The structure of the Jewish administration in the Lodz ghetto differed from the usual administration systems. The administration consisted of departments, headquarters, workshops and various posts, which constituted independent agencies with various degrees of competence.
Some were liquidated, some were created or reactivated, some were transformed in response to actual needs. In the years 1940 –1944, the administration numbered from 27 to 32 agencies, with 13 to 14 thousand employees.
Chaim Rumkowski managed this complex structure through the Central Secretariat commonly called the “The Headquarters”, which was located, as were most of the important agencies, in buildings and barracks at Balucki Rynek (Baluty Marketplace). The Rynek was separated from the rest of the ghetto and provided place of contact with the German management of the ghetto.
All supplies were delivered and unloaded a this location.
From there, stolen Jewish belongings and part of the labour workshops production were transported out. Only persons with special passes and those employed there were allowed to enter the square.
The “Headquarters” opened 7 May 1940. Rumkowski was assisted by Dora Fuchs, who exercised her duties without interruption, until the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944.
Apart from handling current correspondence among the ghetto departments and workshops and with the authorities, the Headquarters had additional functions: it gathered reports on the activity of each agency, completed and kept Rumkowski orders and circulars; was instrumental in handing over to the Gettoverwaltung the stolen Jewish belongings: and dealt with all cemetery matters.
Several departments reported to the Headquarters. Most important was the Presidential Department, also called the Presidential Secretariat, originally located at 4 Plac Koscielny and subsequently at 1 Dworska Street. The Department prepared reports, edited and published Rumkowski’s circulars and orders, distributed passes and food coupons, and issued identity cards.
Other important organisational units of the Headquarters included the Personnel Department at 4 Dworska Street, dealing with employment issues, and the Main Treasury at 4 Plac Koscielny, and Central Book-Keeping at 1 Dworska Street.
From 1 October 1940 Balucki Rynek was also the location of the Central Office of Labour Workshops, directed by commissioner Aron Jakubowicz. This unit managed all production matters in the ghetto and employment in the workshops. Specifically the office acted as an intermediary between the German management of the ghetto and the workshops when carrying out orders.
More than 90% of production was on orders from state authorities – mainly military and police, and paramilitary organisations. The largest consumers of uniforms, coats sheepskin coats, warm jackets, caps, shoes, straw boots, knapsacks, rucksacks etc were the Wehrmacht – Beschaffungsamt in Berlin, Heeresbekleidungsamt in Berlin, and its branch office in Poznan, Marinebekleidungsamt in Kiel and Wilhelmshaven,Polizeibekleidungsamt in Poznan and the Poznan branch of Organisation Todt.
Ghetto production was supervised by the Armed Inspection of the XXI Military District in Poznan and the Arms Headquarters in Lodz.
Approximately 10% of the ghetto’s production was for orders by famous department stores and private enterprises. The customers included:
IG Farbenindustrie and their branch office in Lodz
J. Neckermann - Berlin
Asman and Co - Berlin
Knape & Sohn - Berlin
Henckel & Co – Hamburg
Edward Lingel – Erfurt
Vereinigte Frankische Schuhfabriken und A.G. – Nuremburg
Adolf Heine – Lodz
Karol T Buhle I S.A – Lodz
· They were the main consumers of underwear, clothing, footwear, bags, textiles, furniture, lamps, lampshades etc. State and private orders in 1944 were completed by 114 factories and workshops, which employed nearly 70,000 workers. A profit of 2.2 million Reichsmarks was realised as a result of these goods being produced.
The largest producers and their premises were as follows:
· Tailor workshops – headquarters at 45 Lagiewincka Street
· Shoemaking workshop – 27 Franciszkanska Street
· Straw Products workshop – 79 Brzezinska Street
· Metal Products workshop – 63 Lagiewincka Street
· Carpentry Woekshop – 12 Drukarska Street
· Rubber Products workshop – 9 Zgierska Street
· Textile Workshop – 77 Drewnowska Street
This department was created as early as 16 October 1939, its location in the Ghetto was the building of National Health Service Hospital at 34/36 Lagiewnicka Street. The Health Department was directed in succession by Dr Dawid Helman, Dr Leon Szykier, and Dr Witkor Millier.
Thanks to their efforts and with considerable help from a large group of doctors, they managed to organise an efficient health service. At the height of its development the ghetto had 7 hospitals, 7 pharmacies, 4 clinics, 2 emergency stations, 2 preventative clinics for children and 2 nursing homes for the elderly.
120 doctors worked in the hospitals at:
75/77 Drewnowska Street
34/36 Lagiewnicka Street
37 Lagiewnicka Street
7 Mickiewicza Street
12 Wesola Street
17 Wesola Street
5 Bazarna Street
The hospitals functioned till mid-September 1942 – they contained in total 2600 places for patients. About 10 to 12 thousand patients went through the hospitals per month, the four clinics serviced about 6000 patients a month.
The Jewish health service constantly fought epidemics and gave medical help to tens of thousands Jews, and hundreds of Gypsies, imprisoned in the camp within the ghetto, and to Polish children from the camp at Przemyslowa Street. The results of the health service’s work were negated because of lack of food and medicines.
The ghetto hospitals were liquidated on 15 September 1942 after the so-called – Allgemeine Gehsperre – the patients were either murdered in the hospitals or deported to the death camp at Chelmno, and the hospitals were turned into workshops.
At the end of 1942, with the consent of the occupation authorities, two new hospitals were created – a surgical one at 7 Mickiewicza Street and an isolation one at 74 Dworska Street.
The Education Department
The Education Department was established by Chaim M Rumkowski in October 1939 at 27 Franciszkanska Street.
Elijahu Tabaksblat was appointed director and in a short time a number of primary and secondary was created.
In the year 1940/1941 the Lodz ghetto had 36 primary schools, 4 religious schools, 2 special schools, 2 grammar schools and one musical school. The schools were attended by about 14,800 pupils.
All schools had their own canteens and health care, which was free for poor children. The Education Department also organised two-week summer camps at Marysin for 10,000 children and youths.
In October 1941, the Education Department and the schools ceased to function when 20,000 Jews from Western Europe were resettled in the Ghetto. The school buildings were inhabited by Jews from Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Luxemburg and Frankfurt.
From then on the education of children and youths was conducted partly in secret and in a limited form within the official programme of professional training for workers.
The Supplies Department
The Supplies Department was located at Balucki Rynek and began work in May 1940 under the management of H. Szczesliwy. The main tasks of this department included distribution of food, fuel and medicines received from the German authorities.
It was administered according to the issue of a coupon system.
The department was divided into 7 sections:
Kitchen Section at 20 Dworska Street
Groceries and Bread Section at 6 Dworska Street
Tobacco Section at 24 Brzezinska Street
Vegetables Section at 2 Zawiszy – Czarnego Street
Coal Section at 4 Dworska Street
Meat Centre at 40 Brzezinska Street
Food Coupon Section at 8 Rybna Street
The Kitchen Section and Food Coupon Section tried to fight starvation in the ghetto by establishing 462 cheap public canteens, and from January 1941 73 municipal and communal canteens. These measures managed to keep alive many of the ghetto inhabitants despite a constant lack of food.
Thanks to the rationed distribution of food the rate of deaths caused by starvation was 50% lower in Lodz than in the Warsaw ghetto, which was much wealthier and supported by smuggling.
The Accommodation Department
The Accommodation Department was established on 26 January 1940. It was initially managed by Henryk Naftalin, later its head was Baruch Praszkier. The department was located at 11 Lutomierska Street, later at 10/12 Rybna Street. It dealt with allocating flats to people resettled in the ghetto.
The Registration Department
The Registration Department at 4 Miodowa Street – later 4/6 Plac Koscielny functioned from 10 May 1940. After January 1941 the office was connected with the Registry and the Statistics Department, managed by Henryk Naftalin.
The office’s task was registering the inhabitants, keeping up to date records and a current index of accommodation and addresses. Later, in 1941 the office began keeping record books of births, marriages and deaths and statistics of population movements within the ghetto.
An additional function of that department was to provide addresses of ghetto inhabitants to the ghetto administration and to the German authorities.
The Rabbinical College
The Rabbinical College under the leadership of rabbi Szlomo Trajstman functioned until mid-September 1942, until the office was closed by the occupation authorities. The rabbis were sent to work in various administration agencies.
The College was located in a building at 4 Plac Koscielny. Rabbinical decisions on religious matters and rituals like marriages, divorces, circumcisions were among the responsibilities of the College.
On 17 July 1940 Rumkowski appointed the Rabbinical College a civil institution in order to co-operate with the Registration Department.
The Bank of Issue
The Bank of Issue was established on 26 June 1940, as ordered by Friedrich Übelhör. Pinchas Gierszowski was appointed managing director.
The bank was located at 71 Maryinska Street, and the branch opened on 8 July 1940, at 56 Limanowskiego Street.
The Bank printed and supervised distribution of the ghetto currency- Markquittungen – commonly called “rumki” after Rumkowski.
Rumki became the only legal tender in the Jewish quarter, this was another measure intended to block illegal trade with the “Aryan” part of the city. The Bank also controlled rates of exchange for German and foreign currency and ghetto notes.
The Bank for Purchasing Valuable Objects and Clothing
The Bank for Purchasing Valuable Objects and Clothing was established on 12 August 1940. It was located at 7 Ciesielska Street and its president was L. Szyffer. The bank purchased German marks, foreign currency, golden coins, jewellery, carpets, fur coats, clothes, postage stamps, collections and paintings from the ghetto inhabitants.
The Post Office
The post office in the ghetto opened on 15 March 1940 at 4/6 Koscielny. Three weeks later, on 4 April, an additional branch and a parcel section began functioning at 1 Dworska Street. The mail exchange took place in a special barrack at Balucki Rynek. The Ghetto mail service was managed, in succession, by Herbert Grawe, Maurycy Goldblum, Jakub Dawidowicz and Mosze Gumener.
Lodz stamp with Rumkowski Image
Despite considerable limitations and censorship the postal service provided the opportunity for contacts between the ghetto and the outside world. Through its doors went the correspondence, parcels, and postal orders from occupied Poland and from abroad.
The post office also carried out all deliveries of private and official correspondence in the ghetto, using its own postage steps worth 5, 10 and 20 ghetto marks, only for the internal service.
The Ghetto Trams Department
The Ghetto Trams Department was created in August 1941 in cooperation with the Municipal Tramways Enterprise. Wladyslaw Dawidowicz and Leopold Szreter were appointed as directors.
In May 1943, the department merged with the Transportation Department, located at 7 Dworska Street under the direction of Marian Kleiman. Between October 1941 and March 1942, a tram line was built from Brzezinska Street through Marysinska and Jagiellonska Street to the railway ramp Lodz – Radogoszcz.
Simultaneously several side tracks were built from Franciszkanska to Jakuba Street and at 1/3, 32, 45, 63 Lagiewnicka Street, which connected the most important labour workshops and the railway station at Radogoszcz.
The trams in the ghetto were used initially for the transportation of goods, raw materials food and fuel. The first passenger cars first saw service in the second half of 1943 to transport people working at the Marysin labour workshops between the hours of 06:00- 07:30 and 18:30 –19:00
The Welfare Department
The Welfare Department at 20 Dworska Street and the Community Centre at 3 Krawiecka Street are worth mentioning.
The last one performed an important role in keeping up the spirits of the ghetto’s inhabitants. Music concerts were performed, by a symphonic orchestra, under the direction of the famous conductor Teodor Ryder
The popular music programs and the amateur revue theatre were directed by Dawid Bajgelmam, Bronislawa Rotsztajtowna, a famous violin player and the tenor Nikodem Sztajman held recitals there.
An important role in fighting crime and ensuring peace and order in the Lodz Ghetto was undertaken by the High Chamber of Control, the Jewish police and the administration of justice.
The High Chamber of Control
The High Chamber of Control was established on 6 November 1940. Its first location was a building at 1 Dworska Street, later at 25 Lagiewnicka Street. It was directed by a presidium of 4 members, with Jozef Rumlowski as chairman.
The Chamber was charged with fighting offences and crimes of all kinds, and prevention of potential corrupt practices. As such the Chamber controlled the activities of all departments, administration agencies and associations, was entitled to remove clerks from their posts and to search people, their houses and offices.
The Chamber also had the right of temporary arrest of suspects until the decision on their cases was made by the Superior of the Elders Council or by the court. The Chamber was liquidated on 12 November 1942.
Courts and the Public Prosecutors Office
Chaim Rumkowski established this office on 18 September 1940, and it was headed by Stanislaw Jackobson, and its location was at 20 and 22 Gnieznienska Street.
Sentences were passed according to the rules of civil and criminal procedure enacted by the ghetto lawyers.
On 11 March 1941 Rumkowski appointed the Summary Court, which was located at 27 Franciszkanska Street. Rumkowski also empowered himself to pass sentences without the participation of the prosecutor and defence.
The sentence was passed by a judge in the presence of two assessors, without a right of appeal.
A juvenile court operated at 13 Lutomierska Street.
Persons sentenced by the court were transported to the Central Prison located in a block of buildings at 6-18 Czarneckiego Street.
During the resettlement period the prison functioned as a transit camp, from where people were transported under escort to the railway ramp at Radogoszcz.
The Jewish Police
The Jewish Police (Ordnungsdienst) was created by Chaim Rumkowski on 1 May 1940.
Their headquarters was located at 1 Lutomierska Street and the commander was Leon Rozenblat.
The ghetto police which numbered about 1,200 men in 1943, was charged with keeping order in the ghetto, fighting the black market and taking part in the deportations of the ghetto inhabitants to death camps.
The area of the ghetto was divided into five districts with police stations as follows:
· I – 27 Franciszkanska Street
· II – 56 Aleksandrowska Street
· III – 61 Lagiewnicka Street
· IV – 69 Marysinska Street
· V – 36 Zagajnikowa Street
Ghetto Police -Lodz
The ghetto also had a Special Section of the Jewish police whose headquarters was at 96 Lagiewnicka Street, which assisted the Germans in pillaging Jewish property.
The Commanders of the Special Section were Dawid Gertler and Marek Kligier.
Starvation and Diseases
The most grievous form of the indirect extermination of the ghetto inhabitants was starvation. In 1940, the daily caloric ration in the ghetto was equal that for regular prisoners – about 1800 kcal. By mid-1942 the ration fluctuated about 600 kcal.
The caloric deficit increased from 40% to 80%, which in practice appeared as a feeling of constant hunger and subsequent wasting away, famine tremors and death from starvation.
The death rate due to starvation increased in geometric progression. In 1940, starvation was the cause of only 206 deaths, but in 1942 2811 people died from starvation. In other words, a 10-fold increase.
In subsequent years starvation was still the direct cause of 18% of all deaths
The general weakening of the body caused by starvation added to the danger of contracting diseases.
Tuberculosis increased rapidly due to a lack of vitamins and malnutrition. Officially, TB was discovered in 20% of the population, but as many as 60% of the ghetto inhabitants may have been infected.
In 1940 589 persons died of tuberculosis – in 1942 this had risen to 2182 persons. In the final days of the ghetto in 1944 tuberculosis was the cause of 39% of all deaths.
Altogether 7269 persons died from TB in the Lodz ghetto.
Other contagious diseases were widespread also. An epidemic of dysentery broke out in 1940, which killed 1117 persons of the several thousands infected.
As many as 6431 ghetto inhabitants contracted typhus- 320 died.
The proportion of patients with diphtheria, diarrhoea, scarlet fever, trachoma, and meningitis was three times higher than in the years between the wars
Starvation, heavy labour, uncertain future and constant fear of deportation had a great impact on the increase in the number of heart and circulatory system diseases
These were the most often cause of death until 1942. in mid-1942 3066 persons died from cardiovascular disorders.
The death rate was particularly high among Jews from Western Europe. Often elderly and formerly wealthy, these people quickly lost their strength and health under the extremely hard conditions in the ghetto.
During only 7 months of their stay in the ghetto between October 1941 and May 1942, 3418 Western Jews died.
The number of births decreased considerably in the ghetto. Many children were stillborn. Within the entire period of the ghetto’s existence only 2306 children were born, less than any single year before the war.
Number of the deceased in the Lodz Ghetto 1940 -1944
Number of People
Terror and Extermination
Ten days after the ghetto had been sealed off, a draconian directive was enacted by the police chief of Lodz on 10 May 1941.
From that day, the use of weapons without warning was permitted against any Jew trying to leave the ghetto area.
That instruction became the basis for “legal” hunting of Jews who approached the ghetto fence. From numerous eyewitness accounts people were occasionally shot for “sport” or from boredom.
Other incidents involved the use of weapons in the context of the so-called control of window black-outs. The windows of Jewish flats were directly shot at, supposedly as a punishment for a light being visible from the street.
A common event was also “hunting for humans” organised by German officers – shooting casual passers- by without any provocation. The statistical reports in the files of the Head of the Council of Elders in the Lodz ghetto, and in the periodical reports of the criminal police indicate that:
Number of People Shot Dead
The Nazis carried out public executions in order to intimidate the Jews. In 1942 two such executions took place at the Plac Bazarowy. On 21 February 1942 Maks Hertz, a fugitive from Cologne was hanged.
On 7 September 1942 the Nazis hanged 17 Jews deported in August 1942 from Pabiance. They were accused of resistance against the German authorities.
In March 1940 and July 1941 the mentally ill from the hospital at Wesola Street were murdered and many handicapped people fell victim to the Germans.
The Germans carried out the most destructive of actions against the ghetto inhabitants during theAllgemeine Gehsperre between 5 -12 September 1942.
In Rumkowski’s speech on 4 September 1942 the Chairman announced, “that by order of the authorities, about 25,000 Jews under the age of 10 and over 65 must be resettled out of the ghetto”.
The children, the elderly, the sick from the hospitals were loaded into 5-ton trucks which transported the Jews to a railroad station outside Lodz. The actual number deported was lower than the figure quoted in Rumkowski’s speech, 15,681 children and elderly people were deported from the Lodz ghetto.
The victims were loaded onto railroad cars and sent via Kutno to Kolo, from whence they were taken to the death camp at Chelmno, where they were gassed in specially constructed, stationary gas-vans.
The genocide of the Jews from Lodz began on the 16 January 1942 with the first transport of Jews sent to the death camp in Chelmno. The action lasted with breaks until the 15 May 1942.
57064 Jews from the Lodz ghetto, including 10943 Jews from Western Europe were gassed at the Chelmno camp. The Jewish victims were described by the Nazis as “dole-takers”, traders and criminals.
By the autumn of 1942 72,745 people, defined as “dispensable non-working element “ had been exterminated – and thus the ghetto had been transformed into a labour camp.
Deportations to the Chelmno death camp began anew in the middle of June 1944. The liquidation of the ghetto was ordered by Heinrich Himmler supposedly as early as the beginning of May 1944.
Albert Speer who was interested in war production in the ghetto, argued against its destruction. Yet he was not supported by Artur Greiser, and the liquidation went ahead.
Between 23 June 1944 and 14 July 1944, ten transports with 7196 people departed from Lodz to the death camp at Chelmno. Supposedly as a result of Albert Speer’s intervention with Adolf Hitler, the liquidation action was ceased on the 15 July 1944.
When the Warsaw uprising erupted on 1 August 1944 , Chaim Rumkowski was notified about the resumption of the evacuation of the Jewish people to the ‘Altreich’.
The appeals of Rumkowski, and the German authorities for volunteers willing to go the Reich went unheeded – only a few dozen people went to the gathering points.
The German authorities began blocking the streets and organising round-ups – this action lasted 20 days.
On 29 August 1944 the last transport of Jews departed from Lodz to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Most of the deported were murdered in the gas chambers of Birkenau.
The Lodz ghetto which still numbered over 72,000 inhabitants in August 1944 ceased to exist.
Only a cleaning –commando and a handful of people in hiding numbering 20 –30 people remained. About 600 people were kept for a short time in collection camps at 36 and 63 Lagiewnicka Street. Those people included Aron Jakubowicz and Marek Kligier, with their families, a large group of physicians, engineers, artisans, and employees from Balucki Rynek.
These people were selected by Hans Biebow himself to be sent to labour camps in Konigswustenhausen near Berlin and to factories in Dresden.
Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski and his family were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 28 August 1944 and murdered.
Liquidation of the Jewish Population – Lodz Ghetto
Number of Victims
Place of Extermination
16-29 January 1942
Chelmno Death Camp
22- February – 2 April 1942
4-15 May 1942
3-12 September 1942
23 June – 14 July 1944
9-29 August 1944
Auschwitz – Birkenau
* Note – About 72,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz – Birkenau at that time. From that number 5 to 7,000 survived according to Szmuel Krakowski.
Dedicated to Arek Hersh (Herszlikowicz)
"Born in Sieradz, Poland in 1928. At the age of 11 he was sent to a slave labour camp at Otoczno, near Wrzesnia. Of more than 900 Jews deported to this camp between 1940 and 1942, he was one of only 11 known survivors.
On 14 August 1942, he was rounded up with his family and the other Jews of Sieradz and held in the town's church. Miraculously, Arek was selected to be sent to the Lodz ghetto. His mother Bluma, brother Tovia, and sister Itka , together with other relatives and fellow Sieradz Jews were transported to Chelmno the following day and murdered.
Arek remained in the Lodz ghetto until its liquidation in August 1944, when he was sent to Auschwitz. He worked in the sub-camps at Budy, Harmeze and Plawy, before becoming a member of a death march from Auschwitz to Katowice on 18th January 1945. At Katowice, the prisoners were loaded into a train bound for Buchenwald. On 7 April 1945, he was evacuated once again, this time from Buchenwald to Theresienstadt in an open goods wagon. The nightmare journey took almost four weeks.
Arek was liberated in Theresienstadt on 8 May 1945."
Dedicated to Arek Hersh (Herszlikowicz)
"Born in Sieradz, Poland in 1928. At the age of 11 he was sent to a slave labour camp at Otoczno, near
Wrzesnia. Of more than 900 Jews deported to this camp between 1940 and 1942, he was one of only 11 known survivors. On 14 August 1942, he was rounded up with his family and the other Jews of Sieradz and held in the town's church.
Miraculously, Arek was selected to be sent to the Lodz ghetto. His mother Bluma, brother Tovia, and sister Itka , together with other relatives and fellow Sieradz Jews were transported to Chelmno the following day and murdered.
Arek remained in the Lodz ghetto until its liquidation in August 1944, when he was sent to Auschwitz. He worked in the sub-camps at Budy, Harmeze and Plawy, before becoming a member of a death march from Auschwitz to Katowice on 18th January 1945. At Katowice, the prisoners were loaded into a train bound for Buchenwald. On 7 April 1945, he was evacuated once again, this
time from Buchenwald to Theresienstadt in an open goods wagon. The nightmare journey took almost four weeks.
Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski
February 27, 1877 - August 28, 1944
Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski
(February 27, 1877 - August 28, 1944)
Rumkowski was a businessman and director of an orphanage. On October 13, 1939, the Nazi occupation authorities appointed him the Judenälteste ("Elder of the Jews"), or head of the Ältestenrat, in ?ód?.
In all other ghettos, the head of the Jewish council was known as the Judenrat. In this position he reported directly to the Nazi ghetto administration headed by Hans Biebow and had direct responsibility for providing heat, work, food, housing, and health and welfare services to the ghetto population. He performed marriages when rabbis had to stop working, his name came to serve in the nickname of the ghetto's money, the Rumki, sometimes Chaimki, and his face appeared in the ghetto postage-stamps.
Some remember him for his haunting and tragic speech, Give Me Your Children.
Rumkowski and his family voluntarily joined the last transport to Auschwitz, and were murdered there August 28, 1944. A family friend (in 1944 a teenaged resident of ?ód? ghetto) suggests the possibility Jewish inmates murdered him.
Rumkowski testing soup
Below: Token money in the ghetto with Rumkowski's signature
Give Me Your Children
Rumkowski's "Give Me Your Children" speech pleaded with the Jews in the ghetto to give up children of ten years of age and younger, as well as the old and the sick, so that others might survive. Some commentators see this speech as exemplifying aspects of the Holocaust.
"A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They are asking us to give up the best we possess - the children and the elderly. I was unworthy of having a child of my own, so I gave the best years of my life to children. I've lived and breathed with children, I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg: Brothers and sisters! Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!"
Lotz In Photos
The synagogue in Lodz, Poland, at Spacerowa (now Kosciuszki) Street
burned down by the Germans in November 1939
Jews of Lodz, forcibly driven from their homes
to the newly established Lodz (Litzmanns Stadt) Ghetto
in the Baluty quarter of the city, February 1940
Jews of Lodz move to the ghetto
whilehe former Polish inhabitans leave Baluty, February 1940
A Jewish family of Lodz on their way to the Ghetto, winter 1940
A Jewish family of Lodz on their way to the Ghetto, winter 1940 (photo Mendel Grossman)
Jewish families of Lodz on their way to the Ghetto, winter 1940
Jewish families of Lodz move to the Ghetto
(Franciszkanska and Brzezinska Streets, respectively), winter 1940
Jewish deported from the liquidated small ghettos in the nearby small towns
arrive in the Lodz Ghetto, fall 1941
Deportations in and out the Lodz Ghetto 1941-1942 (photo Mendel Grossman)
Jews deportated from Western Europe (e.g. from Vienna, Berlin, Prague and Luxembourg) arrive in the Lodz Ghetto, fall 1941
A five mark note in ghetto currency valid only in the Lodz Ghetto
People at the market in the Lodz Ghetto selling goods to survive, 1941.
Trading in the Lodz Ghetto (courtesy of Janina Malisz).
The pedestrian passage bridge over Zgierska Street that was excluded from the ghetto. In the foreground is Israel Lejzerowicz, an artist.
A controlled passage across Zgierska Street open only in some hours.
A Jewish street-singer in the Lodz Ghetto
Forced labor in the Lodz Ghetto.
Jewish women in a lingerie factory
Forced labor in the Lodz Ghetto.
The less fortunate Jewish women moving excrements (photo Mendel Grossman)
A break for midday soup for Jewish slave laborers (photo Mendel Grossman)
Food rations card issued to Mala Maroko, Lodz Ghetto
Weighing bread rations to the Jews, Lodz Ghetto
A more happy time in a summer camp for Jewish boys in Marysin, Lodz Ghetto, 1940
Jewish children of the Lodz Ghetto working fot the Germans (photo Mendel Grossman)
Jewish children of the Lodz Ghetto pulling a cart with cabbage (photo Mendel Grossman)
Identity/employment cards of Jewish child slave labourers issued in the Lodz Ghetto
A hungry Jewish orphan in the winter in the Lodz Ghetto (photo Mendel Grossman)
A more "fortunate" child (photo Mendel Grossman)
A hungry one (photo Mendel Grossman)
Meagre meals distributed at Jewish schools in the Lodz Ghetto
Giving bread to children, Lodz Ghetto
Jewish children scavanging for scraps, Lodz Ghetto
Chaim Rumkowski loved to be photographed with Jewish children grateful to him, Lodz Ghetto
The street poster announcing the Gehsperre, signed by Chaim Rumkowski
The last farewell to children picked up for deportation meaning immediate death
under the Allgemeine Gehsperre, September 1942.
Deportation of Jewish children during the Gehsperre - the curfew action
(photo Mendel Grossman)
Children from the Lodz Ghetto orphanage
being sent to Chelmno death camp
Jews of the Lodz Ghetto being marched to Chelmno death camp, 1942
Jews of the Lodz Ghetto being marched to Chelmno death camp, 1942
The pots and buckets left behind in the Gypsy sector of the Lodz Ghetto
by the Gypsies from Burgenland sent to Chelmno death camp, 1942
Jews were not allowed to take their larger belongings with them
when being deported supposedly to work.
Thousands of Jews of the Lodz Ghetto were marched to Radegast (Radogoszcz) Station to be deported to Auschwitz death camp
Jews of the Lodz Ghetto at Radegast (Radogoszcz) Station
beginning their last journey to Auschwitz death camp
One of the last groups of Jews are being marched to Radegast Station
during the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto in August 1944. The landscape after the liquidation of the Ghetto.
The only Jews left there alive were those who were to do street cleaning.
They were to be executed after they have finished their job.
Graves were pre-dug for them, and these holes are preserved.
Resistance in the Ghetto
The peculiar situation of the ?ód? Ghetto prevented any manifestations of armed resistance, which have become synonymous with the final days of the Warsaw Ghetto, Vilna Ghetto, Bia?ystok Ghetto, and other ghettos in Nazi-occupied Poland. Rumkowski's overbearing autocracy, the failure of attempts to smuggle food—and consequently, arms—into the ghetto, and the conviction that productivity would ensure survival precluded any attempts at armed revolt.
Nevertheless, Swiss sociologist Werner Rings identified four distinct forms of resistance that civilian populations engaged in throughout Nazi-occupied Europe, with offensive resistance constituting the final form of resistance. The other three categories: symbolic, polemic, and defensive, can all be found in the ghetto, and there are even indications of offensive resistance in terms of sabotage.
Symbolic resistance is evident in the rich cultural and religious life that was maintained in the ghetto throughout the early years. Initially, there were 47 schools and day care facilities in the ghetto, which continued to operate despite the harshest conditions. When the school buildings were converted to living space to house the 20,000 Jewish transported to the ghetto from Central Europe, alternatives were established, particularly for younger children whose mothers were forced to work.
In addition to educating the young, schools attempted to ensure that children received proper nourishment despite the meager rations they were allotted. After the schools were shut down in 1941, many of the ressorts continued to maintain illegal daycare centres for children whose mothers were working.
Political organizations also continued to exist in the ghetto, and even engaged in strikes when rations were cut. In one instance, a strike got so out of hand that the German police were called upon to suppress it. At the same time, there was also a rich cultural life, including active theaters, concerts, and banned religious gatherings, all of which countered official attempts at dehumanization. Much information about cultural activities can be found in the ghetto archive, organized by the Judenrat to document day-to-day life in the ghetto.
Photographs such as this served to record the horrors of ghetto life for posterity
The archive can also be considered a form of polemic resistance, intended to record life in the ghetto for future generations. The photographers of the statistical department of the Judenrat, besides their official work, illegally took photos of everyday scenes and atrocities. One of them, Henryk Ross, managed to bury the negatives and dig them up after liberation.
It is because of this archive that we have a real sense of what life in the ghetto was like. Unlike many other images from that period, some of the photographs taken in the ghetto are in color, enhancing the already vivid portrait of ghetto life. As one diarist wrote: "We must observe and protect everything with a critical eye, draw sketches of everything that occurs ..." so that they would be remembered. The archivists also began creating a ghetto encyclopedia and even a lexicon of the local slang that emerged to describe their daily lives.
Although it was illegal, the Jewish population even maintained several radios with which they were able to keep abreast of events in the outside world. At first, the radio could only receive German news broadcasts, which is why it is codenamed "Liar" in many of the diaries from that period. Among the news bulletins spread around the ghetto was the Allied invasion of Normandy on the day it occurred.
Defensive resistance in the ghetto includes avoiding the final transports and helping others to do the same. Some 900 Jews managed to survive in the ghetto from the final liquidation until the Soviets finally liberated the city. Yet even before the final deportation, members of youth movements shared meagre rations with friends who refused to report for deportation, allowing them to survive even after they were no longer entitled to food rations.
Since work was essential to the ghetto's survival, it seems inevitable that sabotage was common. In the latter years, leftist workers adopted the slogan P.P. (pracuj powoli, or "work slowly") to hinder their work on behalf of the Wehrmacht. When a bunker with Jews hiding in it was discovered, one of the people assaulted Hans Biebow, Rumkowski's direct superior in the Nazi administration.
There is evidence in diaries that some form of armed resistance was discussed in the final days of the ghetto, but it never materialized as it did in other ghettos, because of the aforementioned considerations.
December 18, 1902 – April 24, 1947
(December 18, 1902 – April 24, 1947)
I was born December 18, 1902, in Bremen, the son of Julius Biebow, an insurance company director. After graduating from secondary school, I entered my father's company — the district branch of the Stuttgart Insurance Company — as an apprentice, planning on eventually assuming my father's post.
I received thorough training, remaining there an additional year as an employee. Since the insurance business had come almost completely to a standstill during the inflation, I then gave up my position to join the cereal and foodstuff bank in Bremen as a trainee. From there I went into the cereal business and stayed in this trade until I was 22.
I should mention that I managed a large branch of an Eichsfeld cereal company in Göttingen for half a year. When the inflation ended, I became particularly interested in the reviving coffee trade. After a short training period with a business friend of my father's, I opened my own business with very little capital, building it, in the course of 18 years, into one of the largest such companies in Germany. At the end I employed about 250 workers and office personnel.
After working as a coffee importer in his hometown of Bremen, Biebow became the overseer of the ?ód? Ghetto. He realized that the Lodz Ghetto could make a profit for the Germans if it were converted into essentially a slave labor complex.
Under his administration, the 164,000 Jews of Poland's second largest city were crammed into a small area of the city. Communication between the Ghetto inhabitants and the outside world was completely cut off and the supply of food was severely limited, ensuring that many of the inhabitants of the Ghetto would slowly starve.
Over the course of its existence, the population of the Ghetto swelled to 204,000 with more Jews from Central Europe being sent there. The Ghetto Administration remained in operation from April 1940 until the summer of 1944, but there were transports out of the Ghetto to extermination camps (primarily Auschwitz and Chelmno) beginning at the end of 1941.
Biebow was a ruthless administrator, concerned with the ghetto's productivity and his own personal gain. He was directly responsible for starving the ghetto's population beyond limits of endurance, and he assisted the Gestapo in rounding up Jews during deportations.
In the days just before the liberation of Lodz by the Red Army, Biebow ordered large burial pits to be dug in the local cemetery, intending that the Gestapo execute the remaining 877 Jews who served as a clean-up crew in the ghetto. This might have been an attempt by Biebow to eliminate witnesses to his role in the workings of the Ghetto.
Biebow exercised his control in part through a Jewish administration headed by Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Rumkowski believed that the Jews could survive if they produced cheap, essential goods for the Nazis. Biebow profited substantially from the sale of the products of Jewish labour as well as from the seized properties of Jews.
He is also said to have provided less food to Ghetto inhabitants than was paid for, pocketing the difference. The Ghetto factories produced products such as boots for German soldiers and were profitable for the Germans because the Jews, cut off from all resources, worked for wages that consisted only of bread, soup, and other essentials.
The German profits from the Jewish factories have been estimated at $14,000,000 and the productivity of the Ghetto was a factor in its comparatively long survival. The inhabitants endured four years of starvation, illness and overcrowding before being sent to the extermination camps of Che?mno and Auschwitz. Of the 204,000 inhabitants, approximately 10,000 survived.
Among the Nazi hierarchy, Biebow was an early exponent of using the Jews as cheap labor rather than killing them, but he readily adapted to the extermination policy. Survivors report his encouraging the last surviving Jews of the Ghetto in the summer of 1944 to board the trains to Auschwitz with a speech that began "My Jews...” and promised them work in the West.
Biebow was able to escape into hiding in Germany in 1945 after the unconditional surrender, but was recognized by a survivor of the ghetto and subsequently arrested in Bremen. After he was extradited by the Allies to ?ód?, he stood trial from April 23 to April 30, 1947. He was found guilty on all counts and executed by hanging.
Salomea "Sally" Kape
"Sally, come quick to the Anatomy Building."
Selections continued, and always a group of Jews were taken from the morning role call and sent to a death camp.
On the other hand, almost every day a group of people were found in some hiding place and joined us in the camp. There was no need to waste bullets on these Jews—sooner or later the cleaning of the Ghetto would be over. and the final solution for the tiny remnant of Jews would take place as a mass execution by the prepared grave in the Jewish cemetery.
But in one of the hiding places, in a cellar, Biebow encountered resistance.
Dr. Daniel Weiskopf, a Ghetto doctor who didn't have medications for his patients and who looked on with despair as they died of starvation and rampant tuberculosis, wounded Biebow with the only weapon he had in his hand—a knife. Before he was killed he told Biebow, "Murderer, blood of innocent people is on your hands! Your days are numbered!"
Daniel Weiskopf's last hour was his finest; he died a free man. His death shook the camp, and the white dressing on Biebow's blond head was for us like a flag of freedom; a monument to the brave doctor.
Biebow was not the same man after Weiskopf's death. Maybe he was haunted by the murdered doctor's prophecy as well as horrified by the thunder of Russian cannons. He was now often drunk and would appear suddenly in the middle of the night and order some young girls to undress, observing them in a drunken stupor.
He didn't rape them but he took a perverse pleasure in looking at the naked bodies and the fear in the girls' eyes. Here he was, in the middle of the night, the hangman of Lodz Ghetto, finding his life pleasures in the thin, naked bodies of Jewish girls.
We greeted the New Year of 1945 with hope and joy, seeing masses of Germans running west with their belongings. They fled in cars, on foot, in bicycles, pushing each other into the gutter in their "Drang nach Western [drive to the west]." The air of superiority was gone and so was the blondness; an odor of defeat emanated from their bodies.
Panic changed their Aryan faces to a sweaty, fear-stricken physiognomy; also gone was the proverbial German law and order. I enjoyed the winter landscape in Lodz in 1945 very much. The Russians were ante portas [at the gates], but our camp was still guarded and the mass grave was waiting for us.
The thunder of war was music to my ears, a modern, powerful, "1812 Overture." It was also a belated celebration of Christmas with all the lights in the black sky resembling a giant, cosmic Christmas tree. The sky at night was criss-crossed with arcs of fire; we heard the roar of Russian Katyushas, violent explosions that shook the earth, eerie displays of light and sound.
We survived because Biebow happened not to be in Lodz at that moment, and his deputy—rather than executing the mass—was busy taking care of his own life. Biebow would have been much better organized. The spirit of Daniel Weiskopf dominated the camp, his heroic death opening for us a new dimension in life. Thus we knew that in the absence of guns, a knife, a bat, a piece of heavy iron might be a weapon too. We knew that every one of us could defend herself, and nobody—but nobody—was too young or too old to do so.
In 1947, two years after the end of the war, Biebow was caught in Germany and brought to Poland for trial in Lodz. I went for one court session and I saw a pitiful figure alone on the bench, pleading "not guilty."
"Daniel Weiskopf," I talked in my head; "your murderer has been brought to justice, but my pain, the pain remains. Forever, Daniel, forever?"
"I don't want the knife, Sarah. I don't start anatomy until next year," I said numbly to my friend.
I returned the scalpel to her, and, without taking a second look at the corpse of Biebow, I left the building. Revenge is not in my vocabulary, only the pain of moral victory.
Salomea Kape is a retired 66-year-old physician, specializing in anesthesiology. She came to the United States in 1966 and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Yosel Coller Born: Lodz, Poland August 10, 1927
November 9, 1939
One of six children, Yosel was raised in a religious Jewish family in Lodz, an industrial city in western Poland. His father was a businessman. At the age of 6, Yosel began attending a Jewish day school. His two older sisters attended public school in the morning and religious school in the afternoon. Yosel spent much of his free time playing soccer with his brothers.
1933-39: We lived in a modest house in the northern section of Lodz. I went to a Jewish day school and had many friends there. September 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland. Seven days later, I was kicking my soccer ball around the backyard when I suddenly saw German soldiers marching through the streets, some of them riding horses. Later, I heard a single gunshot. The Germans occupied Lodz, and annexed it to the Reich on November 9, 1939.
1940-44: My sister and I waited in line all night at the bakery for bread, only to be kicked out in the morning when a Pole recognized us, shouting "Jews!" On the way to another bakery, we saw three Jews who had been hung in the street. We ran home.
In late 1943 I was deported from the ghetto to the Fuerstengrube labor camp in Poland. I worked in the mines, gathering loose coal and putting it into wagons. I did well because I was short and could fit in the small tunnels. I was fed only bread in the morning and soup at night.
In January 1945 Yosel was one of many prisoners force-marched towards northern Germany. Liberated by the British on May 5, he eventually emigrated to America in 1947.
Paula Garfinkel Born: Lodz, Poland December 3, 1920
Paula was one of four children born to a religious Jewish family in Lodz, an industrial city with a large Jewish population. As a child, Paula attended public schools and was tutored at home in Jewish studies three times a week. Her father owned a furniture store.
1933-39: My brothers, sisters, and I spent a lot of time at the clubhouse of our Zionist group, Gordonia. Our group believed in humanistic values, Jewish self-labor, and in building a Jewish homeland in Palestine. I liked to work with my hands and did a lot of knitting, crocheting, and sewing. In September 1939, when I was in secondary school, my studies were cut short when Germany invaded Poland and seized Lodz on September 8th.
1940-44: In early 1940 our family was forcibly relocated to the Lodz ghetto, where we were assigned one room for all six of us. Food was the main problem. At the women's clothing factory where I worked, I at least got some soup for lunch.
But we desperately needed to find more food for my younger brother, who was very sick and bleeding internally. From the window at my factory I looked out at a potato field. Knowing that if I was caught, I'd be shot, I crept out one night to the field, dug up as many potatoes as I could, and ran home.
In 1944 Paula was deported to Bremen, Germany, as a forced laborer. She was freed in the Bergen-Belsen camp in 1945. After the war, she emigrated to the United States.
Beno Helmer Born: 1923, Teplice-Sanov, Czechoslovakia
As a young man, Beno used his foreign language skills to land small movie roles. He and his family were deported to the Lodz ghetto, where they struggled daily to find food. In the underground, Beno became an expert at derailing trains. The family was sent to Auschwitz and was separated. All but Beno and one sister, whom he found after the war, died. Beno survived a series of camps and later helped to track war criminals.
Wherever you went, you saw bodies dying. And this becomes part of, you know, [the] first two, three or four, you find them as a shock. But later, you find them...it's...you get quite used to them. It's...it's...it's like part of your nature.
I mean, you just see a body and then you disassociate yourself completely from it. It's...it's...it's...it's completely somebody else. It's...it has nothing to do with you. Filth was also tremendous. Filth. It was filthy. It was filthy even in the building where we lived. I mean, in the winter time. I mean, the toilet was...it was...it was ice. It was all ice.
And then the feces and the urine all over, was overflowing...overflowing there. And..and sometime, they took you to forced labor. I mean, one incident happened. They..they took us into a home. The German came and they, they lined everybody up. They lined everybody up. And there was...you know this was like in a semi-circle.
You were standing in a semi-circle. And there was a lady there with a child. And, uh...[sighs] And he ask, "Whose is this child?" And the woman who was the mother says, she did not admit the child. So he took the child by the legs, and he swung it against the wall. And he killed the child.
And I looked at the mother, and it was like somebody else's. It wasn't her child. She completely cut this child off out of her emotions. She cut this child off completely away. And I realized at that time that self-survival is, is the most...more primary in your life. It's more than...than even your own child.
Leo Schneiderman Born: 1921, Lodz, Poland
The Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. Leo and his family were confined to a ghetto in Lodz. Leo was forced to work as a tailor in a uniform factory. The Lodz ghetto was liquidated in 1944, and Leo was deported to Auschwitz.
He was then sent to the Gross-Rosen camp system for forced labor. As the Soviet army advanced, the prisoners were transferred to the Ebensee camp in Austria. The Ebensee camp was liberated in 1945.
The whole ghetto was designed, actually, to starve the people out. Uh, if the, if the war would last another 10 years, they would liquidate the entire ghetto without firing one shot, because the statistics showed that every month more people died and died.
For families that used to be five people, they're only three, because people were dying out, and getting sicker, and getting smaller, and we could see the, the, the, this, they just emaciated up to nothing. People started to look like skeletons. And it came to a point that people couldn't even work.
And the work was compulsive, we have to go to work. If you miss a day of work, you get less food, because the, the, the place of work provided one soup a day. So if you didn't go to work, you get one soup less, you have to just make with what little food that you got from the monthly rations.
Hela Szabszevicz Born: Lodz, Poland 1900
1900~April 4, 1943
Hela was born in the industrial city of Lodz. She grew up speaking Polish and Yiddish, and learned German and Russian at secondary school. After completing school she married, and moved with her husband to a house on her father-in-law's large estate in the nearby town of Ozorkow. Hela was active in planning events for Jewish organizations. She and her husband, Israel, had two daughters.
1933-39: After German troops occupied Ozorkow in 1939, Hela and her family were forced out of their home and moved in with relatives. On the way home from exchanging her fur coat for a few pounds of flour, Hela was searched by a German soldier. He found the hidden flour and took Hela to have her head shaved as punishment. Hela felt humiliated, but when she returned home, she put on a scarf and said, "It's nothing; my hair will grow back."
1940-42: By 1940 the Germans established a Jewish ghetto in the poorest part of Ozorkow. One day Hela and her youngest daughter, Dosia, were taken and locked in a school building along with 1,000 other Jews.
The crowd became hysterical. Hela realized that their lives were in danger, so when the Germans asked for a translator, Hela volunteered, saying, "But I have a little girl and I'm not going alone." Later that day Hela, Dosia and a few others returned to the ghetto. Those remaining were loaded onto trucks and taken away.
Hela and her daughters were transferred to the Lodz ghetto in 1942. There Hela contracted typhus and died on April 4, 1943.
Machla Spicehandler Braun Born: Lowicz, Poland ca. 1886
Raised in Lowicz, Poland, in a religious Jewish family, Machla moved to Lodz when she married Jacob Braun. Her husband worked as a businessman and real estate investor. He became the landlord for an apartment building where he and his family also lived. Machla, a housewife, cared for their five children, who ranged in age from 5 to 15.
1933-39: Machla worked as a volunteer for the Zionist cause. The Brauns were a close family, and Machla's daughters Lena and Eva held their weddings in the Braun's large apartment: they were catered, elaborate affairs with the rooms decorated with flowers. Machla's fourth child married in 1939. Soon afterwards, the Gestapo began coming daily to the Braun's apartment, demanding information about their building's tenants.
1940-45: The Nazis deported the Brauns to a ghetto in the town of Piotrkow Trybunalski, where Machla and her four daughters were separated from the men in the family. In November 1944 Machla and her daughters were sent to the Ravensbrueck camp for women.
At her age, Machla could not handle the back-breaking labor, so Lena did much of her work. Machla and the girls were later transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where Machla was so weakened by starvation and disease that she lay dying on the floor of her filthy barrack.
Two days after the British liberated the camp in April 1945, Machla died at Bergen-Belsen.
Benjamin Bornstein Born: Lodz, Poland April 30, 1930
Benjamin and his younger brother Zigmush were born to Jewish parents in the industrial city of Lodz. Lodz was Poland's second biggest city before the war, and one-third of its inhabitants were Jewish. Benjamin's father, Moshe, owned a candle factory, and his mother, Brona, was a nurse.
1933-39: In 1939, as I began the third grade, the Germans occupied Lodz. Jews were forbidden to ride buses, and were ordered to wear yellow stars. Because the Germans sometimes grabbed Jews off the streets for forced labor, my father wouldn't leave the house. I became our family's "messenger," running errands along with our housekeeper's son. He and I had lived in different worlds before the war--now we were together every day.
1940-44: When the Lodz ghetto was sealed in April 1940, I managed to smuggle all I could from our old house into our new quarters in the ghetto. Then in 1944, when I was 14, our family was rounded up and loaded onto cattle cars on one of the last transports from the ghetto.
One of the first in my car, I saw a message scrawled in blood on the wall: "We have arrived in Auschwitz and here they finish us off!" The message was hidden when the car filled up, but now I no longer had any doubts about our destination.
Benjamin was deported to Auschwitz, and later to a forced-labor camp in Hanover, Germany. After the war, at age 16, he emigrated to Palestine with a group of orphans.
Shlomo Reich Born: Lodz, Poland June 18, 1914
Shlomo was one of seven children born in Lodz to the Reich family. The Reichs were a religious Jewish family, and Shlomo's Hasidic father wore earlocks and a traditional fur hat. After public school every day, Shlomo attended the Ostrovtze Yeshiva, a rabbinical academy where he studied Jewish holy texts. Shlomo's father owned a shoelace factory.
1933-39: The Germans invaded Lodz in September 1939 and began to institute anti-Jewish measures. Jews were not allowed to use public transportation, to leave the city without special permission, or own cars or radios. Eventually, Jewish apartments were confiscated.
1940-44: In the early winter of 1940, the Germans set up a ghetto in Lodz, and the city's Jews were concentrated there. The Reich family was also moved into the ghetto, where they all lived in one small room. Shlomo found work at a clothing factory in the ghetto, where he received thin soup at lunchtime. After four years in the ghetto, Shlomo was deported in the late summer of 1944 for slave labor at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
Shlomo was liberated in the spring of 1945. After the war, he learned that four of his six brothers and sisters had also survived. He emigrated to the United States in 1946.
Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski (with white hair) and SS chief Heinrich Himmler on Himmler's first visit to the Lodz ghetto. Lodz, Poland, June 5, 1941.
Ghetto Market, Lodz.
Szymon Szerman (1917-1942?; perished with his family in the Lodz Ghetto)
Ilona Winograd (left) in the Ghetto, ca. 1943.
Ilona Winograd was one of the 226 children that had not been deported, because her parents worked for the ghetto administration. Ilona and her parents survived.
Carpenter’s Workshop, Spring 1942.
LITZMANNSTADT (?ÓD?) GHETTO:
A Lost Struggle for Survival
Carpenter’s workshop, spring 1942.
The photos of the workshops were intended to give proof of the efficiency of the production at Ghetto Litzmannstadt. However, some of the pictures clearly reveal the poor state of health of the ghetto inmates.
In the ghetto workshops, women, men and children labored to the point of total exhaustion. These workshops had been set up by Chaim Rumkowski, who had been appointed by the Germans as head of the Jewish administration. In an effort to save at least some of the ghetto inhabitants, he attempted to render the workshop laborers indispensable to the Germans by having them fulfill orders for the Wehrmacht.
The German ghetto administration, however, supplied too little food. As a result, one quarter of the 200,000 people in Litzmannstadt Ghetto died of hunger and disease. The SS moreover had the ill, children under ten and old people – all classified as “unable to work” – taken to the Kulmhof (Che?mno) extermination camp. In the summer of 1944, Himmler, the chief of the SS, ordered the deportation of the remaining ghetto inhabitants to Auschwitz, sealing the failure of the strategy of survival through work.
Photo: Mendel Grosman / Henryk Ross; Source: Archiwum Pa?stwowe w ?odzi (Prze?o?ony Starsze?stwa ?ydów w Getcie ?ódzkim 1115, 63_2113_8)
Deportations from the Greater German Reich to the Lodz Ghetto
October – November 1941
October – November 1941
Dawid Sierakowiak wrote in his diary on 4 October 1941:
“Today Rumkowski met with all the teachers in the ghetto. He said that because 20,000 Jews are arriving from all over Germany, he is extending the school recess now, instead of having it during the winter.
I think it’s the end of schooling in the ghetto, at least for me, since I don’t think I’ll be a lyceumstudent, after all. “
On 16 October 1941 the first of twenty trains left Greater Germany “for the East.” By 4 November they had all completed their journey, taking 19,837 Jews to the Lodz ghetto.
One of these trains, with 512 Jews, came from Luxembourg. Five trains, with 5,000 Jews in all, came from Vienna, a similar number from Prague, and 4,187, in four trains, from Berlin. Other trains came from Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Dusseldorf.
Shlomo Frank recorded in his diary:
19 October 1941:
"Today 1,000 deportees from Vienna arrived in the ghetto. Among the new arrivals are physicians, engineers, professors, famous chemists, dental technicians, once prominent merchants, several priests from converted families, and twenty Christian women, who have come along with their husbands and children.
The Viennese Jews have brought a lot of food and other goods. They said that between Vienna and the Polish border they travelled in second –class railway cars. They were treated well. They say that most of the Viennese population sympathised with them.
Some Viennese women cried openly and asked good God to let them see each other again soon. But as soon as they entered Poland, there was a change of guards, and with it good relations ceased.
The farther they travelled the worse their treatment."
21 October 1941
Today before noon 1,050 Jews from Prague arrived in the ghetto. They were all in good spirit and replied with a friendly shalom to the greetings of the Jewish police at the Marysin station. Some comforted us with quotations from the Prophets, predicting an imminent end to the war.
22 October 1941
Today another transport of 1,200 Jews from Vienna and its surrounding towns arrived. Most are old people, many of them sick. They looked like they were taken only yesterday from hospitals and old age homes.
The transport arrived in the evening. The streets were dark and gloomy, and in this darkness the old, broken Viennese Jews marched step by step, with heavy knapsacks on their arms, dejected and oppressed.
One of them, Maurice Kellerbach, told us that among the deportees he saw a Jewish baron from Vienna. Maybe he is already here but has not revealed his identity.
23 October 1941
Today a transport of Jews arrived from Frankfurt. At their arrival four men were found missing.
The transport list showed 1,200 names, but only 1,196 were accounted for. Almost all held up well. They greeted us with a bright “Shalom, Yehudim” (Hebrew – Peace, Jews), joked, patted backs, exhorted us to preserve, not to surrender, not to despair.
“Courage lost is everything lost.”
They described dramatic scenes on the eve of the deportation from Frankfurt. German neighbours brought them cookies and other food. Some women cried. Expressions of sympathy were heard at the farewell.
Some women prayed to God that he protect the Jews and bring them back to their old home.
25 October 1941
Today 560 Jews from Luxembourg arrived at the Marysin station. They were all beside themselves with bitterness, pain and grief. They spoke of bad experiences during their trip.
They rode in guarded and locked cars. Anyone stepping out of the car was immediately punished. There were various kinds of punishment. Some had to run around the train 25 times. Others had to yell “Heil Hitler”, or “Verruchter Jude” (German – accursed Jew). And others were severely beaten.
While still in Luxembourg they were treated quite well. The population regretted that the Jews were being deported. People brought Jewish neighbours apples, dried prunes, biscuits and other food.
Some accompanied the deportees to the railroad station with tears in their eyes.
27 October 1941
New arrivals at the soup kitchens in LodzToday 1,000 Jews arrived from Berlin. Almost ninety percent of them are old people who can barely stand on their feet. Many were bent over under the weight of their knapsacks.
They were allowed to take as much as they could carry. They travelled in first and second class cars up until the Polish border, then they were moved to other cars.
28 October 1941
The recent newcomers from Germany have been receiving letters from relatives still at home.
A Letter from Berlin:
“You should know that Uncle is very sick. We expect a catastrophe any day. The curfew hours have changed: Jews may remain outdoors until 5pm, Christians until 8pm. The situation here has changed very much. Your apartment is still unoccupied.”
The arrival of the “Western European Jews in the Lodz ghetto made a considerable impression: six months later, one of the ghetto chroniclers recalled their arrival:
“We were struck by their elegant sports clothes, their exquisite footwear, their furs, the many variously coloured capes the women wore. They often gave the impression of being people on some sort of vacation or, rather, engaged in winter sports, for the majority of them wore ski clothes
You couldn’t tell there was a war on from the way those people looked; and the fact that, during the bitter cold spells they strolled about in front of the gates to their “transports” and about the city as well, demonstrated most eloquently that their layers of fat afforded them excellent protection from the cold.
Their attitude toward the extremely unsanitary conditions in which they were quartered was one of unusual disgust, though perhaps that was not without justification; they shouted, they were indignant, and beyond the reach of any argument.”
The Ghetto Chronicle also recalled the arrival of the deportees from Hamburg. They had reached the Lodz ghetto on a Thursday evening, and were housed in a former cinema.
On the Friday morning, Rumkowski called on them. “They were spread out on the floor,” the chronicle noted, “sleeping on their bundles, the old people and the women sitting in chairs lining the walls.”
That evening they arranged a Friday evening service, to welcome the Sabbath:
“Dressed in their best clothes, with many candles lit, they said their first prayer to God with uncanny calm and in a mood of exaltation. Those who had left Judaism a long time before, even those whose fathers had broken any connection with their forefathers, stood there that day, festively attired, in a sort of grave and exalted mood, seeking consolation and salvation in prayer.
When their prayers were concluded, they went out into the lobby, the same words on all their lips; “Now we see that we are all equal, all sons of the same people, all brothers.”
This was either mere flattery or, perhaps, a genuine compliment to the old population – or perhaps, a premonition of the not – too distant future.
The chronicler added, in the retrospect of six months:
“Events outpaced time, people changed visibly, at first outwardly, then physically, and finally, if they had not vanished altogether, they moved through the ghetto like ghosts.
The turnips and beets they had at first disdained, they now bought at high prices, and the soups they had scorned became the height of their dreams.
Once it had been others, but then it was they who prowled the “city” with a cup or a canteen on a chain to beg a little soup.”
May 1942 – Deportations from Lodz to Chelmno
Beginning on 4 May 1942 and continuing without pause for eleven days, more than ten thousand Jews were deported from the Lodz ghetto to Chelmno, and gassed, in the gas vans at the Palace.
These were the Jews who had been brought to Lodz from Western Europe six months earlier.
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto recorded the deportations:
“On Monday at around 8.00am the first transport of the Western European Jews, who are being resettled after being settled in the ghetto half a year ago, pulled out of the Radogoszcz sidetrack station.
At the moment, one important detail has been established in connection with the departure of the first transport: all those departing (the transport consisted of one thousand people) had their luggage, knapsacks, and even their hand held parcels taken away from them.
The news has cast a chill over the ghetto.”
The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak
8 August 1943
Dawid SierakowiakDawid's diary begins on 28 June 1939, just before his fifteenth birthday, and comes to an abrupt end on 15 April 1943. Dawid himself died later in August 1943, "presumably" of tuberculosis; however, many others in the ghetto (including his sister) would have to endure another full year of torment before the ghetto’s final liquidation and the deportation of the remaining Jews to Auschwitz.
Although we don’t know why Dawid stopped keeping his diary during the last four months of his life, the entries that he did write reveal the harshness and suffering the ghetto inhabitants faced almost daily. The text presents the reader with a sombre look into what it meant to exist in a community ravaged by never-ending starvation, constant fear, terrible sickness, and inevitable death.
In similar fashion to Anne Frank’s Diary, with which Dawid's diary is often compared, his writing presents events within the context of the times, and also offers the viewpoint of someone who was there when the events really happened, as seen through the eyes of a young boy desperately struggling to become a man.
Dawid was an astute young man with idealist Marxist beliefs of a utopian society, but his entries also reveal his more practical side - one of sharp indignation and protest at the many class divisions that existed amidst the ghetto hierarchy. When Dawid visits with the family of one of the ghetto “Big-Wigs” to tutor their children he comments:
“They eat better in the ghetto than my family did before the war,”
When served a thin, watery soup by that same family he writes:
“I wish I could burn up that whole gang!”
Dawid’s entries reveal his ever changing moods throughout his existence in the ghetto. Yet his writing still reflects his resolve and his determination to report on the plight of his people. In one entry, as the Germans begin deporting those deemed unfit to work, Dawid writes the following:
“Nobody knows what the Germans do with the children and those unable to work”
However soon after, when large numbers of Jews arrive in Lodz from Vienna and parts of Bohemia-Moravia, and they are not added to the labour force of the ghetto but instead are allegedly shipped to work camps near Poznan, Dawid comments:
“We know that they are being sent to Chelmno, to be gassed and buried in pits.”
His words, though often filled with melancholy, soon change to despair when the deportations suddenly end. He writes:
“Now even that way of escaping the ghetto is lost to us”
The Diaries Live On
The diary was discovered by a Polish gentile, Waclaw Szkudlarek, who originally lived in one of the apartments that was evacuated to create the ghetto. Szkudlarek only returned to his home after the Russians liberated the city five years later. It was then, as he prepared to light the iron stove with some paper trash, that he came across the pile of notebooks lying nearby.
Szkudlarek told officials documenting the history of Nazi crimes in Lodz.
“Someone must have been using them to keep the fire burning because many pages were torn out. They contained stories, poems and other notes. ”
At least two of the notebooks that Dawid kept as his diary have been lost. It is believed they were burned by occupants of the apartment during the winter of 1945 when there was no heating fuel available in the devastated city.
The first two notebooks were published in Poland in 1960, edited by Holocaust scholar Lucjan Dobroszycki, himself a survivor of the Lodz ghetto. In 1967 a leading Lodz journalist, Konrad Turowski, purchased the three surviving notebooks and was preparing then for publication when an outbreak of anti-Semitism under the then Communist regime in Poland blocked the publication. Years passed before a full version of all five surviving notebooks was finally published and made available to the public.
Alan Adelson, in association with various Jewish groups in Poland, Israel and the USA, managed to compile and edit a comprehensive version of the texts as translated by Kamil Turowski.
Passages from the Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak:
Wednesday, 26 July 1939-Lodz.
We arrive after six in the morning. I take the luggage, and “under fire” from a terrible downpour, I go to a street-car with my heavy bag. On the way I meet Mom. God, what Joy! At home the same with father and sister. I eat, go to bed, and sleep almost all day.
Tuesday, 22 August 1939-Lodz.
Terrible, interesting, strange news! The Germans are concluding a twenty-five year nonaggression pact with the Soviets! What a turnabout! What a capitulation of Nazi ideology! The Soviets apparently do not want to interfere in European politics…
Friday, 15 December 1939-Lodz.
Worse and worse. Last evening Jews were thrown out of several places in the Baluty district and were deported to the Reich. Nobody knows what happened to them or exactly where they are. Everyone everywhere has their backpacks ready, packed, with underclothes and essentials, everyone is extremely nervous.
Sunday, 6 April 6 1941–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
I’m beginning a new notebook of my diary, and thus dare to express the wish that it will become the start of a new, brighter, and better period in my life than the one I covered in the preceding notebook. That seems just another pipe dream though. In spite of a gorgeous, (and expensive) holiday food ration the situation remains as tragic as before… There is no hope for improvement.
Sunday, 15 June 15 1941–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
The sadist-moron Rumkowski is doing horrible things. He fired two teachers, Communists, from their jobs. The overt reason: They organized resistance among teachers against the installation as commissioner –Superior Principal- Mrs. Weichselfisz. The probable reason: alleged communist activities in the school….
Monday, 18 August 1941–Litzmannstadt Ghetto –Lodz
Our grades were read to us. I got the best grade in the class: all A’s and B’s. But what good are they when I’m still hungry and keep feeling so terribly exhausted?...
Tuesday, 30 September 1941–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
A transport of deportees from Lubranciec near Wloclawek and from Brzesc Kujawski arrived at our former school building. They look great, have luggage, and say they used to live well. What’s interesting is that they know practically nothing about the conditions in this place, and show a considerable degree of optimism.
They are in good humour and even make jokes. They are mostly women of various ages. All their men in their prime or boys are in work camps. Lubraniec residents wear a triangle patch on their backs, while others big Magen Dawids on their left breast. You can see that we have been marked in various ways.
They say they have brought a lot of food with them, but the Jewish police stole it from them. In any case, they’ve been treated like cattle. Of course the sick, children, and old people have been driven to hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged, but the rest are lying in empty houses on straw mats provided by the administration or on their own bedding.
They complain about food and drink, yet if everybody in the ghetto had meals like the ones they’ve been given to eat, there wouldn’t be so many fresh graves in the cemetery and such horrible-looking people. I talked to them for over an hour and came to the conclusion that these people have won two years of the war and haven’t experienced the worst yet.
Wednesday, 18 March 1942–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
Our bread ration has been reduced, and vegetables don’t arrive anymore. Hunger is ever more terrifying. The less there is to eat, the more the people talk about covered tables and reminisce about the good old days before the war. At work the only topic of conversation is: food we had before the war. Nadzia was told to come to Chopin Street to work in the leather workshop. She will probably start on Sunday.
Thursday, 26 March 1942–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
Rumkowski posted announcements cautioning against believing rumours that say the deportations have stopped, because they are continuing. Again total confusion. The deportations are in progress, while the workshops are receiving huge orders, and there is enough work for several months.
Tuesday, 28 July 1942–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
The daily ration of bread has been reduced again! The mood in the ghetto is horrible. To make matters worse, there are no vegetables, and the soup in the workshop is awful. Even though a new ration of sausage and meat (10 dkg per person) has been issued, it doesn’t console anyone. There is no political news. Constant hopelessness, stifling silence.
Tuesday, 1 September 1942–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
The first day of the new year of the war brought horrible news early in the morning that all the hospitals in the ghetto were being emptied by the Germans. In the morning all the areas around the hospitals were surrounded by guards and all the sick, without exception, were loaded onto trucks and driven out of the ghetto.
Because we already know from the stories told by those brought into the ghetto how the Germans “deal with the sick” a great panic has risen in the city. Scenes from Dante took place when the sick were being loaded. People knew that they were going to their deaths! They even fought the Germans and had to be thrown onto the trucks by force…
People are already beginning to fear for their children and the elderly…
Tuesday, 1 December 1942–Litzmannstadt Ghetto –Lodz
The last month of 1942. Dreams of the war ending this year belong to the past now. We are up to our ears in winter, which has barely begun. Father has finally received an official dismissal statement from the Leder-und-Sattler. Tomorrow I will try to get him a job assignment. Maybe this time it will work out?
Wednesday, 24 February 1943–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
Today I was tormented with shame at the office because of my black hands. However I slept well and had no itching all night. The hunger is intensifying at home. We don’t have any food left from the latest ration and our soups are really meagre. I told Nadzia to buy an additional 40 dkg of sauerkraut for 6.40 RM. The hundred RM I received from the Bande have already been used up, and I’ve made the first bite into the 80 from the loan. Father is feeling much worse, and there is no help for us from anywhere. Bande hasn’t yet acted on my application for a food coupon for father.
Saturday, 13 March 1943 –Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
Nadzia bought the rations today, so there is a bit of food to give us a dose of new strength. I limp again very badly because under my right knee I’ve got a lot of scabs with some matter under them. The fever has eased up a bit. I’ve noticed that I feel better outside, getting some exercise, than cooped up in a closed room…
The final entry from Dawid’s Diary:
Thursday, 15 April 1943–Litzmannstadt Ghetto–Lodz
It turns out that, indeed, Moniek had asked Mrs. Wolkow for a job in the bakery for me and she settled it favourably with the president “in a moment of his grace and good mood”. Moniek has promised me that he will try to arrange a laundry coupon for us so that we can wash our clothes.
Meanwhile, I am completely sick, and I have a high fever. I bought a Bayer medication for the flu, fever, and cold, for Nadzia and me. Nadzia stays in bed, and I think she will remain there for another day or two.
Mrs. Deutsch came to see me today. She’s been assigned to cook Matzoh. It is very fortunate for her, since she looks as if she were dead, and she was in seventh heaven hearing about my probable bakery job. I think she is the most devoted friend I have in the ghetto, or anywhere else for that matter.
In the evening I had to prepare food and cook supper, which exhausted me totally. In politics there’s absolutely nothing new. Again, out of impatience I feel myself beginning to fall into melancholy. There is really no way out of this for us.
Dawid died 4 months later on 8 August 1943
12 March 1942
Arrest and Resettlement of the Lodz Ghetto Prison Commandant
The Hercberg affair has made for one of the greatest sensations in the annals of the ghetto thus far. The “Hercbergiada” will no doubt stand out in bold relief in the history of our Ghetto. Who was Hercberg?
A tall obese man of some forty-odd years, bursting with health, splendidly dressed, he was one of the most popular figures among the leading representatives of the ghetto’s administration.
His prison commandant’s cap, adorned with thick gold braid, like the beautiful gold- embroidered armband he wore, set him apart from those around him. He was a child of the Balut neighbourhood. In this neighbourhood he had worked as a projectionist in a third rate theatre before the war.
it is said that he was initially taken on for the post of Order Service commissioner on the basis of documents he presented that showed him to have been an officer in the Polish army. The authenticity of those documents is doubtful to say the least.
In June 1940, he was arrested by the German authorities on a charge of concealing a radio. He was kept in the Radogoszcz camp for several months. After his release in the fall of 1940 he was appointed to the post of commandant of the prison here, which was at the time, in the process of being established.
After some time Hercberg’s authority increased significantly. He became chief of the Order Service precinct in Marysin and, at the same time, head of the administration of Marysin II.
In that manner Hercberg became the lord and master of Marysin, as if he were the governor of that most beautiful section of the ghetto. He was granted great powers: he had the right, for example, to hire personnel and policemen on his own.
Besides directing the prison and exercising the highest authority in Marysin. Hercberg took a lively and active part in various campaigns on the grounds of the ghetto itself. He was charged with special assignments in connection with the rounding-up of the ghetto’s undesirable elements.
And he had often personally organised and directed night raids on apartments, as well as raids that were carried out on the streets in broad daylight. He played a significant role in the execution of the resettlement action, and so on and so forth.
Thus, there is nothing surprising in the ghetto residents’ outright dismay on learning of Hercberg’s arrest. It turned out that Hercberg had been ignobly abusing the trust that the authorities had placed in him. The memorable incident took place on the night of March 12. The arrest was made by representatives of the German criminal police, causing no small sensation in the ghetto.
On the next day, Friday, March 13 Hercberg was released: after a few hours he was again brought to the German criminal police’s branch office on Koscielna Street.
The ghetto was almost immediately aware that searches had been conducted in Hercberg’s apartments, of which he possessed as many as three (at 9 Drukarska Street, on Czarniecki Street across from the Central Prison and in Marysin), and had yielded fantastic results.
As people in the ghetto put it, a regular subsection of the Department of Food Supply was discovered in his apartments. People said – and this seems to be entirely well-founded – that he had cached away the following supplies: 70 kilograms of salt bacon, sacks of flour, several dozen kilograms of sugar, candy, and marmalade (he had been in charge of a candy factory in Marysin), an array of liquors of the highest quality, a box of oranges, innumerable canned goods, a few hundred boxes of shoe polish, 40 pickled tongues, a very large stock of toilet soap and so forth.
Whole sets of clothing and linens – for example, three magnificent fur coats and nine pairs of high boots- were found in his apartment and moreover people in the ghetto maintained that more than 20 kilograms of gold in the form of various objects were found there, as well as a large amount of valuable jewellery, including some genuine stones.
Apparently the most valuable items were found concealed in loaves of bread. It is not hard to guess the source of this lurid booty…..
The raids and night searches evidently provided him with far-reaching opportunities to commit crimes that harmed not only the parties involved, but first and foremost, the populace of the ghetto for whose use the confiscated goods should have been employed.
In addition, according to rumours, which in this case, seem not to be without foundation, over half a million marks in the form of German banknotes were found at Hercberg’s. Where did these astounding sums come from?
Therein lies Hercberg most heinous crime. Out of concern for the fate of the deportees, the Chairman had endeavoured to furnish them with cash for their journey.
We should recall that, at the beginning of the resettlement campaign, each deportee was allowed to take 10 German marks with him. The discretionary fund for that noble purpose, which had literally exhausted the ghetto’s treasury of its reserves of German banknotes, had been entrusted to Hercberg.
The members of Hercberg’s family, which consisted of his wife, his three sons, and his mother in law were arrested along with him. After several days under arrest at the local branch of the German criminal police, Hercberg, his wife and his children were unexpectedly taken to the Radogoszcz train station.
That was on Tuesday, March 17, of this year. A few minutes before the train departed with the deportees, a private car containing Hercberg, his wife and sons , as well as police escorts, drove nearly right up to the train car assigned to the police escort.
The eyewitnesses say that Hercberg’s appearance left much to be desired. His head was no longer graced by his splendid cap, which had now been replaced by an ordinary cycling cap. The next day the former commandant’s mother-in-law was deported under similar conditions.
Since his deportation, there has, of course been no information about his subsequent fate, indeed no precise information has been established about the fate of any of the people who were deported from the ghetto.
The “Hercbergiada” was, however, long discussed in the ghetto, and rumour had it that, shortly after his departure, he took his own life.
Fear began to reign over the ghetto’s inhabitants the instant the news of his arrest spread through the ghetto. People were afraid that the entire population might have to atone for his guilt.
When, a few days after his deportation, the authorities ordered the resettlement suspended and then revoked the decision a few hours later, people remarked that this was the result of the Hercberg affair.
It is difficult to determine whether that rumour accords with the facts. Jakub Tintpulwer had been appointed by Hercberg as his deputy. He was arrested along with Hercberg and incontestably charged with knowing about all of his chief’s sinister machinations.
According to his death certificate, Tintpulwer died of a heart attack on March 18 of this year, in the offices of the German criminal police. Seven prison officials were arrested in connection with the Hercberg affair, they were released after being held under arrest for a few weeks.
One of them, the prison victualler, Kaminski by name died in the hospital shortly after his release.
Transports from the Lodz ghetto went to the Chelmno death camp between the period 23 February to 3 April 1942.
Radogoszcz Police Prison Lodz Ghetto
Before the Second World War Radogoszcz was one of the oldest villages and districts of Lodz. In the early 1930’s Samuel Abbe built the biggest, three storey factory building in the area near to the crossing of the Gen. J. Sowinskiego (modern name) and Zgierska streets. It was accompanied by a single-storey shop floor with a characteristic saw-blade roof and a building serving both administrative and living purposes.
In August 1939 the factory buildings were taken over by the Polish Army and after Lodz had fallen to the Nazis, the Germans took over the buildings as a German sub-unit, which were stationed there till mid-October 1939.
Subsequently the premises were turned into a relocation camp, several thousand people from Lodz and the immediate area were incarcerated there. At first the people were placed in the four –storey building and the adjoining shop-floor. By the end of 1939 most of them were taken to the General Gouvernment, as well as to the Krakow and Nowy Targ regions.
The remaining relocated detainees were moved to the shop –floor, while the main building now became a place of detention for prisoners from a transit camp in the Michal Glazer Radogoszcz factory in 55 Krakowska Street.
Thus, till the end of June 1940, both the transit and a relocation camps were located together. On the 1st July 1940 the transit camp was transformed into the Extended Police Prison, and the last deportees were removed from there by the end of 1940.
Radogoszcz prison took on a more sinister role from the first days of November 1939, it was then that the Nazi authorities began to arrest members of the Lodz intelligentsia – such as teachers, local and state bureaucrats, social and political activists, and artists.
Among the arrested were Polish citizens of German and Jewish origins. The arrests were a purposeful action aimed at depriving Polish society of its leaders. The arrests were made on the basis of proscriptive lists, and after a trial by a summary court, people were usually sentenced to death. They were executed immediately afterwards in the forests surrounding Lodz and the bodies were buried at the site of the murders.
From the 10 November 1939 until early January 1940 about 2,000 people, both men and women, were at some time interned in the camp, of which about 500 were “tried” by a summary court and shot to death.
The factory buildings were not adapted in any way to house people prior to the establishment of the camp, there was no kitchen in the buildings, just a pot from brewing coffee. There were no beds in the rooms. The living conditions were extremely oppressive. The whole camp was surrounded by a barbed wire topped wall in which the corners held watchtowers for the guards.
The prisoners did not succumb to starvation and disease thanks to the Polish Committee for Aiding Those Detained in the Radogoszcz Camp, established with the permission of the Gestapo. The members of Lodz factory –owner’s families, the Bidermans and the Keiserbrechts, among others, played a prominent role in the committee.
At the end of December 1939, the prisoners were moved to the Abbe’s factory building, where necessary works had been done, financed by the Committee for Aiding. A kitchen and baths were prepared, and rooms were furnished with wooden bunk beds.
The last group of prisoners was placed here on the 5 January 1940 at 10.00 a.m. The Polish women remaining in the Glazer plant were set free the next day. A group of Jews might have been detained in the plant till mid-1940.
The Extended Police Prison (Erwetertes Polizeigefangnis) in the factory buildings of Samuel Abbe was the biggest prison in Lodz and the surrounding region during the Nazi occupation. It was for men only, and the prisoners were sent to other prisons, typically in Sieradz, Leczyca and Wielun, as well as to forced labour camps, first in Ostrow Wielkopolski, then in Sikawa in Lodz, and concentration camps – mostly Dachau, Mauthausen- Gusen and Gross Rosen.
It is not widely known that between May and November 1940 a sub-camp of Radogoszcz prison functioned on a farm of the Kons, co-owners of Widzew Manufacture. Men detained here were used as labour for different work done in Lodz. They were housed in a building that does not exist today, situated at the junction of Al. J. Pilsudsiego and Konstytucyjna streets.
The conditions in Radogoszcz were bestial, so much so that those leaving the prison for concentration camps were grateful that they did not have to stay in “this hell.”
Wladyslaw Zacharowicz incarcerated in Radogoszcz prison from the end of 1942 to the beginning of 1943, recalled after the war:
“When we arrived in Gusen concentration camp after leaving Radogoszcz we breathed a sigh of relief.” Prisoners were dying in the Radogoszcz prison every day as a result of starvation, disease, exhaustion, and sadistic practices. The Radogoszcz guards were particularly ruthless, creating inhumane conditions for the prisoners. There were approximately 60 -70 prison guards, armed with guns, whips and wooden clubs. Many of them wereVolksdeutsche from Lodz.
Jozef Jankowski imprisoned in the prison from November 1941 until January 1942 recalled the commandant Walter Pelzhausen: “Pelzhausen was a degenerate, he would brutally beat anybody crossing his path, he would kick you all over your body, even after you collapsed. The beatings were so severe that after a few days people were dying, especially that we also suffered malnutrition.”
Apart from the commandant, the most brutal prison guards were Jozef Heinrich, nicknamed “bloody Joseph,” and Brunon Matthaus, alias Matuszewski, nicknamed “Doctor,” or “Mateus.”
Virtually each prisoner would get the “welcome beating” on entering the prison. Kazimierz Michalski, a prisoner incarcerated in Radogoszcz prison from the 7 November 1940 to April 1941, recalls the tortures, where the prison guards stood on each flight of stairs, beating the prisoners:
“On 11 November 1940 we had a “parade” lasting from 6am till 6pm. We were forced to, in turn, crawl on the ground and run up and down the stairs.” On average there were between 500 and 1,000 people interned in the prison, they were located in three rooms of the main building, covering the whole floor, 500 sq metres each. The factory windows in the rooms were first painted over and later, in mid-1942 bricked up to three-fourths of their height.
The third floor was allotted to people held by the Gestapo; on the second floor there were prisoners of the Kriminalpolizei. The first floor housed the prisoners holding a work post and those of German descent. Also Russian Prisoners of War were detained here, yet they were carefully separated from the rest of the inmates.
The base floor served at first as an isolation ward, acting as the sick ward. After, when a bigger sick ward was opened in the single-storey building, several workshops operated here, producing wood works and shoes, both straw and regular. The prisoners of Radogoszcz wore their own clothes. In 1940, for example, the prisoners wore colourful squares – a red square for political prisoners, a green square for thieves, and a yellow square for black –marketers and smugglers.
At the end of 1942 and in the beginning of 1943 prisoners condemned to death had a yellow “B” letter painted on the side of their trousers, on their backs and chests. The Jews imprisoned in Radogoszcz wore the Star of David on their chests and backs, but Jews were imprisoned in this prison until the 30 April 1940.
One of them was Teodor Wilenski, who lived in Lodz and was an amateur painter, he was imprisoned in Radogoszcz in 1942 and he made portraits of his fellow prisoners in return for food, and some of his pictures have survived.
Prisoners recall that Wilenski attracted the attention of the commandant Pelzhausen, one of them Boleslaw Kowalczyk, recalled the following:
“At the end of 1942 one of the Germans gave him a piece of meat, which was noticed by Pelzhausen. He started a three-day round of tortures, trying to make Wilenski confess who had given him the meat. The man was in a terrible state, all bruised and covered in blood.
The prison doctor Winter sent him to Radogoszcz hospital during Pelzhausen’s absence. However, when Pelzhausen noticed Wilenski was missing he had him brought back and kept beating him. The next day the doctor sent him to the ghetto hospital. Later I was told Wilenski died there of his wounds.”
The sick ward, contrary to what the name would suggest, was not used for treating sick prisoner’s, it was more like an additional torture room. Leszek Kieszkiewicz recalled during Pelzhausen’s trial:
“Pelzhausen once visited the isolation ward. He noticed several people staying here for a longer time. He asked the German paramedic Mateus; “Why are they still alive? Following that, Mateus prepared a cold bath for the prisoners, who died within one week. These were Stanislaw Wozniak, Zygmunt Bartczyk and Leon Nowak. One had kidney problems, one lung problems, and the third had heart disease.
The long list of crimes committed in Radogoszcz prison was concluded by the most hideous one – the Nazis set fire to the prison with the prisoners still inside on the night of 17 January 1945.
Around midnight on the 17/18 January 1945 the prison staff began the extermination of the remaining prisoners. The first to be murdered were the sick prisoners lying in the sick ward situated in the single-storey building, then the functionary prisoners on the base floor of the main building. Next the executioners started killing people interned in subsequent rooms.
After the prisoners had resisted the guards in one of the rooms, they withdrew and set the building along with those still alive in it, on fire. The fire and executions killed about 1,500 people. Only about 30 prisoners survived, some of whom were hiding in a water tank standing on the highest landing of stairs in the building.
Water from this tank had been used in the boiler room, the kitchen, the bath and other prison rooms. Among the survivors were: Stanislaw Jablonski, Boleslaw Poplawski, Adam Sowiak, Antoni Szmaja, Jozef Zielinski, Zdzislaw Skowronski and Franciszek Zarebski
Feliks Blotnicki recounted those terrible events:
“About 4 in the morning (on Thursday) a few Gestapo soldiers came and took a roll-call. They ordered us outside those who did so were shot on the first floor. Then, as we noticed the prison was on fire, some of us, me included, climbed a ladder and a bench to the roof, and when the fire made a hole in the roof, we jumped into the kitchen. There were only nine of us in the kitchen, the others having been shot while jumping.”
Franciszek Brzozowski also remembered that day:
“Some time later we noticed the prison was on fire. My colleagues began jumping out of the windows, to the courtyard, but then the Nazis shot them dead. I escaped to the roof through a squint window. There was a water tap on the roof, so for some time we poured water around and sat there, a dozen people.”
Kazimierz Michalak, who used to be sports journalist in the Echo daily before the war, a resident of nearby Zgierz, and himself had been imprisoned in Radogoszcz prison during late 1944 and early 1945, but was transferred to the prison on 16 Sterlinga Street, just before the fire and the massacre.
On the night of the 17 January 1945 he escaped during the prison evacuation, when the prisoners were marched along the road to Pabiance. Despite suffering from exhaustion, when he was informed of the massacre at Radogoszc prison, he visited the site and took photographs of the charred remains of both the inmates and the prison building itself.
On the 28 January 1945 a mass was held next to the walls of the burned prison, to commemorate those murdered at Radogoszcz prison, 2,000 people participated in the ceremony. The prison staff managed to escape from the advancing Russian forces, the vast majority have remained un-punished for their appalling crimes, however the American forces captured former commandant Walter Pelzhausen and he was taken back to Lodz to stand trial
He was tried between the 8 and 12 September 1947 in the District Street in Dabrowskiego Square, where he was found guilty and condemned to death and executed on the 1 March 1948.
Today the former site of Radogoszcz prison is both a memorial and a museum, and it should be recognised as one the most impressive, particularly the museum, which covers not only the prison, but all important aspects of the German occupation of Lodz from 1939 -1945, with many exhibits and photographs.
Mendel Grossman The Lodz Ghetto Photographer
Mendel Grossman was a Jewish photographer in the Lodz (Litzmannstadt) ghetto, born in 1913. He was a slim man of less than average height with sloping shoulders, his coat hanging on him as if it were not cut to his size, even his shoes appearing too large for him.
His eyes expressed goodness, a clever smile played on his lips, his steps were measured and he always carried a stuffed briefcase. That was Mendel Grossman, a young man of a Hasidic family, the type of a former Talmudic student who had left the straight and narrow path. He was avid for knowledge, a lover of literature, the theatre and the arts, a painter, a sculptor, and also an amateur photographer who believed that photography was an art.
His photographs flowers, still-life, landscapes, street scenes, portraits, taken against the background of clouds, were works of art filled with expression, leaving strong impressions on the viewer. Eventually Mendel Grossman began to concentrate on one subject – man in motion. The transition came abruptly, and by accident. The Habimah theatre was visiting Lodz and Mendel hidden in the wings, photographed the performances.
No one asked him to do it he did it for himself alone. Here were men and women in motion, in classical motion there was dancing, varied and strange facial expressions, laughter, fear, pain, as well as make-up, costumes, light, stage settings.
When later he locked himself in his darkroom to develop the films he was astonished by the power of his photographs, he actually succeeded in arresting men in motion. All those who saw the pictures extolled their excellence, but Mendel knew that he was only at the beginning of this particular journey.
Habimah left, and Mendel directed his lens to the street, to the suburbs inhabited by Jews, the slums. He now found motion and expression not on the stage, but in the streets, among children playing, labourers at work in the Jewish quarter of Baluty.
His photographs gained a measure of respect, and Mendel achieved recognition as an artist- photographer. In the beginning of 1939, the management of TOZ, the Jewish organisation for the protection of children’s health, approached him with an attractive proposition – to prepare an album of pictures of Jewish children.
The accent was to be on the poor Jewish child in the streets. Mendel enthusiastically accepted the proposition and was soon ready with a series of photographs. It was the summer of 1939, the album never appeared and the photographs got lost in the war, and at the same time so did their subjects the Jewish child.
The idyllic life of discussions on art ceased with the outbreak of war and the first contact with a brutal occupier, then the Star of David to denote a Jew, and the creation of ghettos. Mendel was ready with his camera. No longer did he photograph flowers, clouds, still life’s and landscapes. In the horror of the Lodz ghetto he had found his mission, to photograph and thus record the great tragedy taking place in the ghetto before his eyes.
Mendel Grossman knew how to photograph, he knew how to observe and perceive what happened around him, and what is most important – he saw the people surrounding him. He photographed them in their suffering, as they sank into the depths of pain, in their struggles, in their illnesses, and in their death.
He recorded with his camera what took place in the tortured ghetto, the Holocaust at its intensity.
He gave up his artistic ambitions of the past, his mission was now clear, to leave to the world – if a world was to remain – a tangible testimony of the great tragedy, of the horrible crime, in a language understood by all nations.
Evicted from his house in the centre of town, Mendel found a flat in the ghetto where he settled with his parents, two sisters, brother –in-law and little nephew. The story of his family is typical of Jewish families in Lodz. Mendel realised this, and intensively photographed his loved ones, so that over the years he created a horrifying record of their slow progress toward death.
Mendel obtained a job in the photographic laboratory of the department of statistics in the ghetto, the office in which all the true information concerning the ghetto was collected. Covered by its official status, the staff of the department accumulated written material.
They did not only record dry facts, as statisticians usually do, but wrote down every rumour passing through the ghetto, every change in the distribution of food rations, every event no matter how unimportant. They also collected photographs, ostensibly to demonstrate models of products of the ghetto workshops, and identification photographs for work permits. The laboratory had a good supply of film and printing paper, and also served as an ideal camouflage for Mendel’s real job.
He spent most of his time in the streets, in the narrow alleys, in homes, in soup kitchens, in bread lines, in workshops, at the cemetery. The chief subject was people. He did not seek beauty, for there was no beauty in the ghetto, there were children bloated with hunger, eyes searching for a crust of bread, living “death notices” as those near death, but still on their feet were called in ghetto slang.
He photographed conveys of men and women condemned to death in the gas-vans of Chelmno, public executions, in one incident, a whole family passed through the street dragging a wagon filled with excrement, a father, mother, son and daughter, the parents in front pulling, and the children pushing from the sides.
Mendel stopped but did not take out his camera, he hesitated to photograph the degradation of those people. But the head of the family halted and asked Mendel to photograph, “Let it remain for the future, let others know humiliated we were.” Mendel no longer hesitated, he gave into the urge which motivated so many Jews to leave a record, to write down the events, to collect documents, to scratch a name on the wall of the prison cell, to write next to the name of the condemned the word “vengeance.”
Mendel had heart trouble and he was forbidden to make any physical effort. The Gestapo was also on his tracks and his friends warned him, his family insisted that he stop endangering his life. But he did not heed any warnings, no event in the ghetto passed without him photographing it. To fool the police he carried his camera under his coat.
He kept his hands in his pockets, which were cut open inside, and he thus could manipulate the camera. He directed the lens by turning his body in the direction he wanted, then slightly parted his coat, and clicked the shutter. This method worked very well.
In one of the stages of the destruction of the Jewish people the Germans deported the remnants of the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Luxemburg, and brought them to the Lodz ghetto. Mendel received the arrivals with camera in hand. Here were characters of a new kind, with a different appearance, different manners. They were well dressed, they carried heavy suitcases, were well provided with food.
They were horror stricken at the sight of the ghetto, they refused contact with the old inhabitants of the ghetto whose appearance repelled them. They tried to swim against the current and quickly gave up, they collapsed spiritually and physically.
Mendel and his camera followed this process which ended when the Germans collected the pitiful remnants and again loaded them onto trains, this time the trains were bound for Chelmno. Mendel after taking a long distance photo, hidden in a room overlooking Bazarny Square of an execution of a Jew from Vienna, who had been arrested outside of the ghetto, was able to photograph another execution close up.
On a cloudy day he again ventured out with his camera this time to an open field on Marysinska Street. Unlike the first time, Mendel did not take up a protected position, but stood behind a German policeman, in the front row of the crowd.
As usual the camera was suspended from a strap around his neck, the coat was slightly parted, and his hands under the coat directed the lens to the scaffold. The condemned young man, was brought in a cart. He still did not realise what was going to happen to him. He noticed at first a large crowd, and then the dangling noose. Now he knew. Without uttering a sound he ascended the scaffold, his head down.
The crowd held its breath, the distant cries of the condemned man’s wife also ceased. The German’s were tense as the hangman tightened the noose around the victim’s neck. Mendel clicked the shutter, the silence was so absolute that even this muted sound reached the ears of a German policeman, and he turned his head.
Pale with excitement, Mendel returned to the small darkroom in his flat to develop the picture. This time the photograph was clear in every detail.
Still Mendel thought that he should change his technique, from then on he climbed electric power posts to photograph a convoy of deportees on their way to the trains, he walked roofs, climbed the steeple of a church that remained within the confines of the ghetto in order to photograph a change of guard at the barbed-wire fence.
Weak and sick, he found it difficult to accomplish all those feats, but he was contemptuous of danger and did not heed the pleadings of friends. Inside the church he discovered a strange world – a surrealistic picture which could be only the product of morbid fantasy – the entire interior was covered with a thick layer of white feathers.
Waves of feathers rose into the air with each step, each movement. Every breeze caused a cloud of feathers to form in the air. The altar of carved wood, the figures of the saints, and the huge organ – all were covered with feathers, all undulated in the breeze.
Amidst all that he saw human figures, also wrapped in white, sitting, running around, standing. A small sign attached to the entrance attempted to explain what was happening inside. It read Institute for Feather Cleaning, but the sign did not tell the whole truth. The Church was the place to which the bedding robbed from Jews who were sent to death from Lodz and surrounding towns was being brought.
There, in the Church of the Virgin Mary, the pillows and featherbeds were ripped open by Jewish men and women, then the feathers were cleaned, sorted, packed and shipped to Germany, to merchants who sold them in the Reich.
Mendel spent many weeks in the church, covered with feathers. He looked for varied angles which would fully explain to future generations what was happening in that church. He created evidence of the crime, the full extent of which was not yet known to him. Only his intuition told him that this must be recorded.
The collection of negatives grew from day to day its contents became richer and more varied. The negatives were hidden in round tin cans, among them a can full of negatives from the performances of Habimah in Lodz in 1938.
Mendel again and again stressed in conversations with friends that he expected those negatives eventually to reach Tel Aviv and be given to the theatre. He did not speak of the plans for the future - he only wanted his photographs to be exhibited as testimony of what took place in the ghetto.
The desire to record, to record at all costs, had become part of the consciousness of the inhabitants of the ghetto. All parts of the community had become permeated by this desire, and Mendel with his camera was received with open arms and with full understanding, in workshops, in hospitals, in orphanages, in offices, in the streets.
In 1942 the Germans announced a new deportation from the ghetto and the Gestapo and members of the Kripo went from house to house selecting Jews for death. Dead bodies were collected and thrown on a heap in the cemetery. Mendel decided he need to record these events, Mendel attached himself to the gravediggers and went to the cemetery, with his camera in his hand.
Carts continued to bring in bodies but Mendel first turned his attention to the open mass grave, inside were deportees from the nearby town Zdunska Wola. They had died of suffocation in the tightly packed trains.
Mendel managed to take photographs before the gravediggers did their job of covering the evidence. Then with his slow steps he went to the hall reserved for memorials but which was now filled with bodies. From the distance the sound of rifle fire was heard, the “aktion” continued.
While photographing, Mendel marked the chests with numbers. The same numbers later appeared on the graves, and thus the families were able to identify the graves by first identifying their dead on the photographs.
The head of each body was lifted by a gravedigger, and Mendel went from one to another clicking, recording the bruised, bloody, crushed faces, faces of old people, of boys, of girls. Some of the eyes were closed, some half open, some half open, some stared with fear, some exuded the serenity of death.
The great deportation “aktion” was about to end, Mendel still managed to photograph the large wagons full of Jews condemned to death as they made their way to the concentration places and from there to the railway station at Radegast. Again the trains rolled in the direction of Chelmno and the gas-vans and crematoria of “Sonderkommando Bothman” worked at full speed.
There followed “regular” days in the ghetto, and one could find Mendel in the streets and ghetto institutions, his lens directed toward the starving and the sick who were not allowed to be sick because there was no room for them in the ghetto, and therefore all medical institutions were liquidated. They remained only in Mendel’s photographs.
In 1943 deportations began again, the inhabitants of the ghetto still did not know to where the deportees were being taken. There were many rumours, most of them pessimistic, but some contained grains of hope.
Mendel sensed that the omens were bad, he suspected the Germans of taking the deportees to a place from which there was no return. He photographed almost exclusively the convoys, the places where the deportees were concentrated, the ghetto jail. Friends warned him against photographing the convoys, because Gestapo men were among the guards, and they would find him out. Again he heeded no warnings. In one of the ghetto workshops, a telescopic lens was being secretly constructed for him according to a sketch he prepared.
When completed, the lens performed satisfactorily, but was heavy and awkward to carry, Mendel was happy, because he could now photograph from a distance and from hiding places. He photographed the convoys from windows, following them until the deportees entered the death trains. He was in great danger when photographing the railroad station with the German police pushing the Jews into the trains.
He took the photographs hidden behind a stack of slabs of concrete belonging to a factory of prefabricated houses. The new lens did its work well. Mendel showed particular interest in recording the activities of youth organisations in the ghetto. He appeared at meetings, photographed events.
Grossmans father (sick) in the Lodz Ghetto
All was open to him, the young people trusted him and Mendel discovered suddenly smiling faces, faith in the future, and care for fellow men. There were no longer orphanages and old people’s homes in the ghetto, and so he photographed the children in the workshops to which the entire population was mobilised.
Mendel infiltrated the parties of the ghetto elite, photographed their shameful mode of living, which was a mockery of the sufferings of the starving population. Many of Mendel’s pictures showed the institutions of the ghetto authorities. They stressed the bitter irony of the “autonomy” given to the Jews within the barbed-wire fence, the empty paraphernalia, offices, police, parades and uniforms.
He generously distributed copies of his photographs, he asked for no payments he let the pictures be kept by as many people as possible. Perhaps some would remain after the holocaust. Mendel spent his evenings locked in his darkroom, working till late at night. In the mornings he distributed prints among friends and acquaintances and kept only the negatives for himself.
He kept next to his enlarging apparatus a little crystal set with an earphone which was capable of receiving only the German radio station in Lodz. Thus he was informed on the progress of the war, but he did not indulge in commenting on the subject. His drawers were full of tin cans with more than then thousand negatives, the result of hard and stubborn work since the occupation. Those cans contained the images of people whose ashes were already scattered in the forests of Chelmno.
In them was the story of the suffering and destruction of a great Jewish community, the most telling proof of the greatest crime in human history. With the Red Army advancing on the eastern front, Mendel knew that he must now hide his precious negatives in a safe place. Mendel made a quick selection of negatives, packed the tin cans in a wooden crate.
With the help of a friend he took out a window sill in his apartment, removed some bricks, placed the crate in the hollow, then replaced the sill. The task was accomplished. The negatives seemed safe for the future. But Mendel retained his camera. The days of the Lodz ghetto final liquidation came, there was chaos everywhere, Mendel continued to photograph to the very end. He could no longer develop the film, the ghetto was almost empty.
Trains left twice a day for an unknown destination, one of the last to leave was Mendel, his camera hidden under his coat. Several days later the Gestapo found out about his activities when they found in some abandoned flats prints of his photographs – the definitive proof of their own crimes. Mendel was sent to the Konigs Wusterhausen labour camp, in the Reich where he secretly continued photographing, but not developing and printing.
When, the war front advanced and came closer, and the prisoners of the camp were taken out on the death march, Grossman collapsed and died with his camera on him. The negatives of his photographs hidden by him in the ghetto, were found by Mendel’s sister and sent to Israel, but most of them were lost during the War of Independence, when Egyptian troops captured the Nitzanim kibbutz.
One of Mendel’s closest friends Nahman Zonabend remained in the Lodz ghetto until its liberation. Although the Nazis kept him under constant surveillance, he succeeded in saving the archives of the Judenrat, and he concealed the documentary treasure, including some of Mendel’s photographs, at the bottom of a well.
After the war this material was taken out of Poland. The archives were collected and are now housed in the Museum of Holocaust and Resistance at the Ghetto Fighters House in Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot Israel.
Also the photographs taken by Mendel Grossman were used in the book With a Camera in the Ghetto, published in America in 1977.
5/05/1894~16 June 1944
died in ghetto on 16 June 1944 - worked in the timber mill- his real profession was textile worker.5/05/1894 Ghetto Lodz Kuperman Michal
14/03/1925 Transported from Lodz Ghetto 14/6/1944 for extermination
Rapaport Chana Laja
Ghetto ID worked as a seemstress in Lodz Ghetto evacuation unknown 10/02/1914 Rapaport Chana Laja
Ghetto ID worked as a handbag maker. On the 23/6/1944 transported for extermination Age 16 18/05/1928
Ghetto ID Worked in the ghetto as a seemstress evacuation unknown
Ghetto ID Worked in Ghetto as a Machinist evacuation unknown 1904
Ghetto ID workertransported for extermination 19/9/1944
1/9/ 1942 registered in Lodz after evacuation from Lask. 1915 DOB-26/12/1942 change of address in Ghetto and again on the 26/6/1943
Dobraszklanka Chana maiden name Greber
Ghetto address Register Born in Grojce reg. into the Ghetto with 4 family members 19/5/1940 30/11/1892
Dobraszklanka Chana maiden name Greber
Ghetto address register Born in Ciechocin-Parents name,Mordka Mendel & Chaja from Lubicz 15/07/1899
Ghetto address register Born in Lodz mothers name Chawa 6/09/1920
Ghetto address register born in Dobrzyn the daughter of Zalman & Malka Hochberg 18/09/1904
Postcards were encouraged to be written but never posted
N. Zmigrad Sosnowitz
t Lodz Ghetto 18/12/1941 J. Markus to her father
N. Zmigrad Sosnowitz
Ghetto Marriage Cert.
Ghetto Marriage Cert. Eric Eisig the son of Juda & Frida Sara nee Engel born 25/4/1907 Berlin to Edith Joseph daughter of Moritz & Roza nee Hoffmann born 3/2/1906 Berlin. Married on 10/1/1942 Lodz Ghetto
Eric Max Israel Eisig to Edith Sara Joseph
21 March 1942~31/3/1947
Kennkarte (Ghetto ID)
This I.D. issued 21 March 1942 was a rarity & validated until 31/3/1947
Szejma Aron Lewin
Polish Passport Passport issued for the purpose of travel
Szejma Aron Lewin
Announcement 394 All evacuees Bread vegetable & ration cards to be returned under receipt
People using the above will be placed on a special list & will be heavily fined
Announcement 313 Children born between 1929-41 will be checked for chicken-pox imunisation
Children that have not been immunised will have their ration cards taken away
Yiddish Ghetto newspaper dated 20/6/1941
Identity card of Rudolf Kohn, deported from Vienna to the ghetto in Lódz.
Born: 1921 Lodz, Poland
Survivor : Lodz ghetto; Poznan and Andrzejewo Forced Labor Camps; Auschwitz and Flossenburg Concentration Camps
“Do not hate, hate will eat you up. Remember the past but live for the future,” says Simon Waksberg, who likes to speak to teenagers.
He was just 16 when Germany invaded Poland. The schools closed, including the Yeshiva he and his two brothers, grandsons of a Hasidic rabbi, attended. Jews were forced into a crowded ghetto. One day soldiers picked up everyone in the street. The imprisoned boy’s father asked him to promise to be a good Jew and a good human being.
Forced into hard labor, Simon dug tunnels for a railway near Poznan, then cleared a forest near Andrzejewo. When he returned to the ghetto, his family was gone. He went into hiding, sleeping nights on a grocery table, and sneaking over the fence daily to eat with the factory workers. In 1944, the ghetto was emptied.
“It was July,”Simon recalls “the sealed train took three days... we stripped off our clothes to cool down... when the doors were finally opened (at Auschwitz), half the people were dead.” Months later, as Allied troops advanced, the weak and starving prisoners were forced on a six-week march into Czechoslovakia and Germany. Out of thousands of marchers, only 150 survived to greet American liberators at Flossenburg Concentration Camp on April 23, 1945.
Simon, whose family had perished, soon married Mina, a Holocaust survivor, and moved into in a confiscated apartment in Regensberg, Germany. They took in Oskar Schindler, his wife Millie, and Czech secretary Marta, and became lasting friends. When Schindler left for Argentina, he offered them passage with Catholic documents, but Simon and Mina resolved to remain Jews.
University Mourns Loss of Rosenfarb
The University of Lethbridge community offers its most sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the late Dr. Chava Rosenfarb, a U of L Honorary degree recipient (2006), noted Yiddish author, Holocaust survivor and mother and mother-in-law of Dr. Goldie Morgentaler (English) and Dr. Jonathan Seldin (mathematics and computer science).
The woman known by her family to have the warmest heart and the sharpest mind passed away in Lethbridge on Sunday, Jan. 30 at age 88.
A survivor of the Lodz ghetto, of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, Rosenfarb transmuted her experiences into fiction, specifically into her major novel, The Tree of Life: A Trilogy of Life in the Lodz Ghetto.Honorary Degree recipient Chava Rosenfarb.
Her novels, Bociany, and, Of Lodz and Love, are also available in English, as is a collection of short stories called, Survivors.
She was the recipient of numerous literary awards, including Israel's Manger Prize and an honorary degree from the University of Lethbridge.
Born in Lodz, Poland in 1923 she married Henry Morgentaler in 1949, shortly before their arrival in Canada. They divorced in 1975. Her second husband was Bono Wiener of Melbourne, Australia.
She is survived by her two children, Dr. Goldie Morgentaler of Lethbridge, Alta., and Abraham Morgentaler of Boston, Mass., as well as by her grandchildren, Maya and Hannah Morgentaler and by her sister Henia Reinhartz of Toronto, Ont., niece Adele Reinhartz and nephew Abraham Reinhartz and their families.
Rosenfarb received an Honorary Degree from the U of L in 2006, delivering one of the institution's most memorable convocation adresses. An excerpt follows.
"My university was the Second World War. My classroom was the Lodz Ghetto, my teachers were my fellow inmates there — and especially the poets, painters and intellectuals of the doomed writers' community, incarcerated between the barbed wire walls of the ghetto, who accepted me at a very early age as a member. So I am a graduate of the Holocaust, of the death camps of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. I have matriculated in one of the greatest tragedies known to man. I have a degree from no other university. At least, not until today.
Ghetto Fighters House
A couple of Lodz ghetto survivors in the kitchen of the assembly camp on Jakuba Street.
Bernard was born in Lodz, Poland. It was the second largest city in Poland. His father manufactured clothing.
After the Sept. 1, 1939 invasion of Poland by the Germans, the military came through Poland, forcing Jews to do their dirty work. Jews were treated very badily, they were forced to clean the streets and many were beaten daily.
When the Germans entered Lodz on September 8, 1939 they came in with many orders for the Jews to follow. These included the wearing of the Yellow star of David by all Jews. Food was distributed in food lines and Jewish children were often sent to bring food and bread home for the family. Jews always had to go to the end of the food lines.
After the occupation a poor area of Lodz was designated as the site for a Ghetto. The Polish people were made to move out of this area and they were given the homes of the Jews who were forced to leave their homes and possessions and move to the new ghetto. Jews were given an hour to pack - Bernard and his family left a comfortable home in Lodz and were forced to walk with their possessions to a marketplace where Jews were gathered to be assigned to a room in the Ghetto. Bernard's aunt - his father's sister - lived in the area of Lodz that became the ghetto. She was able to give his family one room in her home. Each family no matter the size was allowed only one room in the ghetto. Bernard, his parents and younger brother and sister moved into the Lodz Ghetto in May 1940.
In the fall of 1940 Bernard's father became ill. He went to the hospital in the ghetto. The family was notified that he died. When they went to get his body for burial Bernard was told by a man who shared his room that he died from an injection that was given him by a German doctor. His father was 53 years old when he died.
A few weeks later an announcement went up on the walls of the ghetto. There were no newspapers in the ghetto. Jews aged 17-30 were asked to register to work in Germany, building the autobahn (a new German highway system.) Bernard discussed it with his mother and family and he decided that he would register because the money he earned would go to his mother in the ghetto and that would help them survive.
On December 13, 1940 the first group left for Germany. They were put on a regular train, they took their own clothes, but they had few possessions because when they were forced to leave their homes in the city of Lodz they could only take what they could carry. The had to walk carrying their possessions into the ghetto.
The train (which was a regular passenger train) took them to Germany. The camp where they were sent was called Brutz Bri Schwibus. This camp had electric wiring around it, and SS men were the camps security force. The men were assigned to work on the autobahn. Bernard was assigned to building overpasses. His first job was to build a bridge over railroad tracks. He worked 10-12 hours a day. In camp they were given just enough food to survive.
After one year he was sent 10 kilometers down the road to Kroitzbei Rapin, also to work on the autobahn. After three years- with materials and supplies running out- the Nazis sent Bernard to a smaller camp- 30 kilometers from Berlin- Abuswalder beiBerlin. He worked there in an ammunition factory, making threads on covers for big bombs. Bernard was little in stature and he could not do heavy work and survive. The foreman of this camp had been injured at the front and took it out on the Jews even though they had nothing to do with the fighting.
In March 1943, again short on materials the Nazis took a group from the camp and sent them to Berlin. Here at a hotel, the Nazis concentrated Jews from all over Europe . They were loaded on buses and taken to the trains. The cattle trains-with SS guards- were headed for Birkenau- Auschwitz. Upon arrival the SS shouted "OUT, OUT" and the Jews were told to throw all their personal belongings in a big pile along the train.
If you disobeyed you were hit with the ends of guns or shot. Men and woman were separated and Bernard was paraded before Dr. Mengele, who decided by looking him over whether he would live or die. Being sent to the right meant "life" and to the left - death in the crematoria and gas chambers of Birkenau. Those sent to the left were put on trucks and taken away.
Bernard was assigned to build barriers around the camp. This dirt areas separated the prisoners from the barbed wire fence which was electrified at night to prevent escape. At night many people chose to go "to the wires" and in the morning their dead bodies were found . Also at Birkenau Bernard saw "Red Cross" trucks pull up to the crematoria and let off very well dressed men and woman. The SS led them down the stairs to their deaths.
Told not to watch, Bernard observed this happen many times. If seen he would have been shot. When visitors came to Birkenau an orchestra would play near the front gate to give the impression all was well inside. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Birkenau, Bernard was assigned a barrack where he was to sleep. He was given a striped uniform and his own clothes were taken away. After they were dressed his group was taken to get numbers tattooed on their forearm. Bernard's number is 122536.
Bernard made friends with the man who put his number on his arm. His name was Leo. He was a Greek Jew who before the war had been a banker. Leo and Bernard became friends.
In his barracks Bernard had 120 men who lived and worked together. Leo disappeared one day but in the camp that was not unusual. In 1944 after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a group of Greek men were sent to clean up the destruction of the Warsawghetto. Buildings had been burned to the ground during the resistance effort. Men were taken to clean up the burnt buildings, and to load and unload trains that came to Warsaw with food and supplies for the Germans.
From Birkenau the Germans first sent a group of 500 Greek Jews. They did not send any Polish Jews because they feared they would try to escape because they knew the language and they could be familiar with the Polish countryside. The Germans had sent Bernard to Birkenau from Germany. His file in the camp showed him as a German Jew. (They did not realize he had gone toGermany from Poland to build the autobahn).
Bernard was sent in the second group to Warsaw. Upon arrival he saw his friend Leo inspecting the new arrivals. Leo had been sent to Warsaw to run the new camp. He pulled Bernard out of the line and asked him what he wanted to do? Leo made Bernard the secretary of the Greeks.
The Greeks lived in two blocs and it was Bernards job to report if any were missing. Besides Greek, the Greek Jews also spoke Spanish. Bernard had to learn Spanish very fast but since he already spoke Polish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish he was able to learn quickly. Leo protected Bernard and kept him in the camp. He was not sent with the Greek Jews, to work unloading the trains.
Bernard worked very hard to make life easier for the Greek Jews. They gave him food they had "organized" to hide and he always gave it back to them. He dug holes to bury the food so the SS would not find it. He was soon given the job of interpreter in the camp.
Whenever there was a problem with the SS and the Greeks he was called on to translate. He tells of a time when the SS caught the Greek Jews carrying food under their clothes when they came back from work in Warsaw. The SS were very angry.
Bernard remained calm and asked the Greek Jews why they had taken the food. They told him it was because they were hungry. He explained to the SS that the Jews had only taken food that had fallen to the ground. They had not opened new boxes.
It was common for people caught taking food to be hung. Bernard risked his own life many times. In 1945 typhus broke out in the campBernard worked very hard to help others. Many people died that winter. In March 1945 Bernard got sick with typhus. He was taken to a "hospital" where the beds were just wooden boards. No one was allowed near the hospital because it was so contagious.
In April 1945 the camp was to be evacuated. The people in the hospital were to be liquidated. Bernard had developed an abscess on his face and with the help of his friends the medical personnel were made to drain it and save his life. These three friends - one man from France and two older men he had befriended - later broke a window in the hospital and got him out.
People in the hospital who were sick were ordered to climb onto trucks but Bernard knew from past experiences not to go on any truck. His friends brought him clothes, and helped him march in lines of five. When the SS checked the lines his friends made sure they could not see how sick he was. Because he was still sick the SS would have shot him. They helped him walk over 90 kilometers.
At Lowicz, in heavy rain, they came to a forest. Bernard found a tree and laid his head on it - even though his body was submerged in water he was able to survive. From here he was placed on another cattle train. Even though the war would soon be over the train went back and forth with no place to go - the Germans hoped to kill those on board. They were given no food or water.
Ten days before liberation, knowing they were losing the war, the Germans were still trying to kill all the Jews they could. Since they did not want to kill them in the city or heavily populated villages they chose to put them on trains and starve them to death.
On May 5, 1945 the train ended up near Dachau. The German soldiers guarding them told them they were free. Bernard was too sick to leave the train. German air force personnel at a base near the train tracks would not let the Jews leave the train. 200 more Jews were killed as the war came to an end by these German soldiers.
On May 8, 1945 the war was over. The Americans liberated Bernard. Afraid that the Germans would still kill him, Bernard did not seek freedom in German homes.
In a group of six former prisoners Bernard hid in a barn for 3 nights after liberation. Assured by the Americans that they were safe, Bernard started living again when he went to a Displaced Persons Camp near Munich. With no clothes or possessions he had to start rebuilding his life. Bernard had been 19 years old when the war started. Now he was 25.
Lists of survivors were available in the DP camps. Bernard found no one from his immediate family alive. A cousin who survived told him his family had all been killed. Not wanting to return to Poland or Germany Bernard went to Palestine.
He married in December 1945. Bernard had a chance meeting with Leo after the war in Israel. Leo was a Medical Major in the Israeli army. He offered to help Bernard any way he could. Bernard's wife's family had come to the United States after the war. Going from Israelto Italy to Canada, Bernard and his wife and baby daughter arrived in the United States in 1956.
Joe Diamond was born in the eastern part of Czechoslovakia, in the Carpathian Region, in 1929. The first 1O years of his life were spent peacefully in Seredne
(which means "middle" in Czech),
a small town of 15-20,000 people, located between Uzhorod and Munkacevo. After World War I, the Austrio-Hungarian Empire split into many small countries, forming Yugoslavia, Hungary,Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Germany. In addition to the official language, Czech, Joe and everyone in town could also speak Hungarian, German, and Russian.
People of many different religions lived in his town, including Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, and Jews. His country's government was a democracy, modeled after the U.S. Life was normal, probably very similar to the way we feel about life today.
Looking desperately for allies after losing in World War I, Germany began to rebuild itself, and their hatred toward the Jewish people grew. Anytime something went wrong, the German people looked for a scapegoat. They blamed the Jews for everything because they were different. Joe said that at first he didn't pay any attention.
He and his younger brother attended local schools. Since they were Jewish, they observed the Sabbath, and they didn't cross themselves like most of the other people. After being called "a rotten Jew" at school, all Joe did was come home and ask "why?"
Joe lived with his mother, father and little brother, Arie. His family owned a farm, where they grew grapes and made wine. His father, a good businessman, also had a small grocery store and clothing store. In 1939, when WWII began, Czechoslovakia was still an ally to the U.S. and England. Then, Hungary occupied Czechoslovakia and the government became a German Nazi puppet government.
Laws against the Jews began and there were pogroms. Since the Jewish people were Caucasian and looked like everybody else, they each had to wear a yellow star or armband to mark that they were different. Joe was proud to wear a star because he was proud of his country and proud to be Jewish. One of the laws was that Jewish people had to give 50% of their earnings to the new government.
This didn't please them, but they hoped the war would end and things would return to normal soon. Joe went to religious school in the morning, then public school and then back to religious school. Conditions continued to worsen and he had to fight his way to and from school, all because he was Jewish. Even his teachers sided with the German government, which especially disappointed him.
As Germany rose into power, Hitler could frequently be heard making speeches throughout Europe. People thought he was the Messiah. He believed in a pure race and began rounding up Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone who opposed him. In 1943 the German army passed through Joe's town on their way to Russia. He said they looked like "Roman heroes -- tough." One year later they returned "undernourished, and frozen." It was apparent that the Germans were not doing well in the war and the more the Germans suffered, the tougher they were against the Jews.
In 1944, the town crier announced that anyone that is Jewish or has any Jewish descent, must be packed with minimal belongings in the next 24 hours in order to be taken away. All Jewish people were declared a security risk and were told they would be taken to a German farm to work on the harvest. The next morning, Joe and his mother, father and brother were dressed in their best clothes.
Two storm troopers came into his house with guns and fixed bayonets to take them to a local school for processing. The 600 people there, including Joe's family were now prisoners. The soldiers searched them for valuables. Joe recalls an officer sticking his hand in a baby's mouth to check for any hidden gold. Thirty German soldiers surrounded the group as they walked down the streets.
The whole town was watching, like it was a parade, with no concern or anxiety. Joe vividly remembers a man chewing tobacco, spitting on the ground and saying, "It's about time to get rid of these Jewish people." Joe reminds us that these onlookers, and soldiers were college educated people, who had families and children, just like the Jewish people they were persecuting.
Joe, his family, and the other Jews were taken by train to Uzhorod - to a brick factory, a temporary ghetto, where they spent four weeks. Life there was primitive. They went from nice homes to sleeping in tents and no running water. No one knew where they were going. They prayed to the Lord to take them to a better camp.
After four weeks, Joe, his mom, dad, and brother were all called over the P.A. and told to report out front, where they would be transported to a permanent camp. While climbing aboard the truck Joe saw an 80 year old woman having trouble. A soldier threw her on board like a piece of meat. He saw small children being kicked and beaten. If a person fought back, they were shot in the head.
After a 20 minute truck ride, they arrived at the main railroad station of Uzhorod, full of active soldiers and trains. When Joe saw the cattle trains, about 40 of them lined up, he thought, along with everyone else, that they were for cattle and supplies for the war. The long cars had tiny 2 ft. x 4 ft. windows for air.
Then they found out that the trains were for them. The people were packed in like animals, with no room to stand or even breathe. By 3 O'clock that afternoon the train moved, and by nightfall, they realized that they were not heading towards Germany, but to Poland. Germany didn't want to do the dirty work on their own land.
As the trains made their way west through the mountains they stopped in Krakow, Poland to unload the dead. Joe noted it was at least 12 people. Everyone was screaming out for water and Joe saw a Polish woman approaching them with a bucket of water in each hand, but a German officer kicked them out of her hands.
He told her the orders are that these people do not get water. The train moved and at about 4 a.m. arrived at it's mysterious destination, where it's passengers saw an orderly camp with barracks, barbed wire, and even some grass, since it was April. Joe's mom, full of hope, said to him-"This must be the farm for us until the war ends."
When the doors opened they were faced with three German officers, who said, "Good Morning. Welcome to Auschwitz." They had never heard of this place. There was a large sign in German which had the saying, "Arbeit Mact Frei" which meant "Work will make you free."
They were told to stand in line, that they would be interviewed to see what kind of work they could do, which made sense to them. The men were in one line, and women with children under age seven in the other. Joe's family reached the front of the line and the interviewer asked his mother, "How old is the boy?" "Seven years old," she told him." You and the boy go to the residential camp."
Joe and his father were sent to the labor camp. They were told they could visit his mother and brother on weekends. This sounded good to them and they hoped things would get better. They hardly had a chance to say good bye. This was the last time Joe saw his mother and Arie. Later, he learned that within 3 hours they were sent to the gas chambers and killed.
After a week in Auschwitz, Joe and his father were separated in order to do different work. His father was sent to the concentration camp, Buchenwald, where he did slave labor on railroads, carrying rocks and wheeling coal. Joe didn't see him again, until after liberation.
While being quarantined for three weeks, Joe had the chance to take the garbage out of the barrack. As he came outside, he noticed the place was filled with smoke and a terrible smell. He approached a prisoner standing nearby and asked what it was.
The man said, "You are very fortunate. We are in the area where there is the largest German bakery on the Western front. The smoke is from the chimney of the bakery." Joe went back in and told his friends how lucky they all were to be so close to a bakery. He said they would never be hungry. At that time, Joe had never heard of a gas chamber, which is what it really was.
While Joe was in Auschwitz, every day he witnessed 80% of the people go up in smoke. After about 3 weeks they noticed the same situation. Every time people were brought in, the chimney started smoking within 3 hours.
The Germans invented a way to eliminate people quickly. Gas on the stock market was going up because they were using so much, due to it's effectiveness in killing. The German's thought it was a great thing. Joe notes, "Everyone blames it on Hitler, but Hitler alone could not do this. The people supported him; cheered him. They were murderers like Hitler..." Left as an orphan Joe was surprised by how intelligent one becomes when starving and faced with making quick, life- altering decisions on your own.
The camp didn't have vitamins or enough food. The food was brutal. In the morning they were given black coffee, and black, moldy bread. For lunch they were fed thick soup made of rotten vegetables and sawdust. A spoon could stand up in it, Joe said. At night, if they were lucky they got horse salami. At first they hated it, but when starving they ate it. Many people starved to death, but most saw their end in the gas chamber, because once you got too weak you were taken there.
Along with 3,500 other boys ages 14-17, Joe was put to work at Birkenau. He carried bricks and stone everyday, providing labor on a new gas chamber, because the one that was already there could not handle the large number of people rolling in everyday. As he was carrying bricks, Joe witnessed a transport of trains coming in from Amsterdam, and Paris. Each time, the people got off the train, and were separated. Men, who looked like workers, went to the right, and women with small children, or that were pregnant, along with senior citizens, and handicapped people, were sent to the left to be gassed.
After 2 months of work the boys were ordered to report to the main field of the camp. The rumor was that they were going to be sent to brick laying school to learn the trade. All 3,500 of the boys lined up to meet the Gestapo.
Among them was the famous Dr. Mengele, looking like a normal guy, even though he was called the "Angel of Death" because of the experiments and killing crimes he committed. As Joe nervously stood in this line, he thought that the tale of bricklaying school didn't make sense. They were choosing the weakest guys. A total of 650 were chosen, luckily Joe wasn't picked because they were taken to the gas chamber that night. The weak needed to be exterminated in order to make room for newer, stronger people to do the labor.
Another selection was made two weeks later. Dr. Mengele looked the boys over as if they were some kind of animals, in order to see what kind of shape they were in. He was sizing up how much work they could get out of them. The Gestapo picked out at least 800 more, put them in a barrack and then a truck came and took them away, never to be seen alive again. For the last selection there were only a few left - 520 out of 3,500. Dr. Mengele and his colleagues looked Joe over and didn't like what they saw.
By this time he looked like merely a skeleton. Joe knew this meant his time was up. He thought to himself that within 5 hours he would be dead. The people that were selected out were put in two barracks with bunks. Everyone expected to be killed by midnight. "It's the worst feeling in the world when you know that somebody is going to kill you, in a matter of hours," relates Joe.
Waiting in the barrack that night, Joe recalls one fellow who got some of the other Jewish people to start crossing themselves. "They thought that if they changed their religion that maybe G-d would help them. All of a sudden, when you're in trouble, you start talking to G-d," explained Joe. Many people were crying, carrying on. "I was scared, worried. I forgot about my family and just started thinking of myself.
You become very selfish when you want to stay alive.." Some Red Cross officials came to the barrack to take some information from the prisoners. They had a desk and Joe and his fellow condemned stood on line. It is questionable whether the Red Cross knew these people were about to be killed. If they did know, they gave no indication. Nonetheless, in case of inquiry as to what happened to them, the Nazis would say they died of disease. The Germans were prompt, efficient, and thorough. Joe was standing in this line, upset, his whole body shaking. They asked him his name, and where he was from.
All of a sudden there was an unexpected tap on his shoulder. He looked back and this gentleman says to him, "I'm going to save you." "It was like somebody sent from G-d," described Joe in amazement. "I asked him why," Joe recalled, and the man could only reply with, "I don't know." Joe's only explanation for this miracle is, "I just feel like maybe I reminded him of his kid."
The man who saved his life was in charge of the group Joe was part of. He was also a prisoner, because he had murdered two women, but was still put in charge of the Jews. "Even though this guy was a killer, it seems like he had a heart too," says Joe, remembering the moment he was told that his group would be killed by midnight, yet he would be saved.
Joe said the man made him go up high in the barrack and hide, and by midnight he gave him a signal and he had to jump out of a window 20 feet above the ground. Joe didn't get hurt and continued to crawl on his stomach until he got to a row of outhouses. Outside this structure, he saw a Russian prisoner, who was in charge of the latrine. Joe said, "Could you hide me because if you don't I'm going to be taken away." The man told him to get into the hole of the latrine. A fifteen foot hole, where waste is taken care of, helped save Joe's life. Joe went down there and the man nailed the top down in case the Germans came in. Joe was sealed in with no air, and the bad smell, hoping to G-d that the next day, the man would let him out.
He did. Then Joe mingled with the remaining prisoners, and went back to work with the group
Not long after that, they found out that the Russian army was approaching Auschwitz. The Germans did not want to be liberated by the Russians. The Russians were known as cruel people, who would be ruthless and take no German prisoners, because of how many Russians were killed by the Germans in Stalingrad. They were known for shooting their artillery at close range. As a precaution, the Nazis evacuated the camp. There were only around 430 people left out of 3,500.
Once again the prisoners were loaded on cattle trains, and taken by German guards to a new area to avoid the battle. Joe's train headed towards Berlin, but along the way they had to evacuate the train and walk. They began a long, difficult march, with many struggling to even stand up. A fellow next to Joe, who he had known as one of the richest men from his hometown, said, "Joe, please help me. I can't walk anymore. I don't have he strength." Joe tried, but couldn't help him. He dropped out of line and was shot.
They walked through many small German towns, but Joe never saw anybody come out of their house to bring water or show any concern to the emaciated people. In fields, they ate grass, raw potatoes- anything they could find. They crossed water and Joe had stolen a milk can to drink from. As they marched further, a German soldier in a jeep came up and wanted to know who stole the milk can. "I did," said Joe, and the officer told another man in charge to beat him up. "He knocked the hell out of me, but didn't kill me," told Joe.
They arrived at the Sachsenhausen camp near Berlin, and waited there for three days to learn of their final destination. They continued walking through towns and villages throughout Austria and endured many months of starvation. They ended up in Gunzkirchen. Kirchen means church in German. There were around 40,000 people in the camp and not even any room to stand, let alone sit down. They didn't know where they would sleep and were starving. A young guy, a prisoner, took his blanket and tied it to the rafters to sit on it.
Joe saw a German soldier take out his luger, and as if he was target practicing, "saw that guy up there, like a bird, and shot him right down." By this time, all of Joe's friends and people he knew were dead. He felt like he was going to go any day. They heard rumors that the battle was getting closer to them. Within three days they found that the Germans had left the place. There was no food, but guns all over. Shortly after, a Red Cross train arrived and they found food.
As Joe was walking through the fields he saw a truck full of German soldiers who were the prisoners of a group of American soldiers. Joe was liberated by U.S. forces of the Third Army. The Americans. Joe recalls one of the American soldiers from New Jersey, staring at him in disbelief that a human being could look like that. Joe and the other living people were taken by jeeps and trucks to the next town, called Linz. After many months in the hospital, he still didn't know where his family was, or where he was going.
Joe returned to his hometown in November 1945. To his surprise his father was waiting for him at the railroad station. Evidently he had been informed by some of the townspeople who had seen Joe at the stopover that his son was on his way home. It was a shock and a pleasant surprise to see his father alive.
His father's health had not been good before the War and Joe didn't see how he could have survived. Aside from his father there was hardly anybody he knew left. The neighbors thought he was his younger brother because he looked nine, not sixteen. Shocked to see him, they told him they thought they were all killed. His old house was occupied with the same people the Germans gave it to when Joe's family left.
Joe went to the local police, who were Russian, and said that it was his house and he wanted to get back in there. The police said they could get the people out in three hours, but Joe felt they deserved more time. After a short while, Joe moved back in his house and was reunited with his father, who had also survived, but wasn't the same person he used to be. He told Joe to leave and go west in Czechoslovakia or to England. His father felt there was no future for him in his hometown because Czechoslovakia was going to be taken over by Russia. "I'm old," he said to Joe. "Leave here and go west."
Joe moved on. He went to work as an electrical engineer after learning the basics of the trade. He worked with all different kinds of people, of all different religions. A guy at work said to him one day, "I'm shocked that there's still any Jews left. I thought they killed them all." At this point Joe was tired of wandering around and always having to ask people for favors. He felt it was time for the Jewish people to have their own country.
He wanted a land where they could live in peace, but of course, it would never happen without a fight. Joe was eager to fight the war for Israel. He contacted an underground group in Czechoslovakia, who then sent him to England to train for the liberation of Israel. Before leaving for Israel, Joe learned that he had relatives in Buffalo, New York. He contacted them, and found out that he and his father were the only survivors out of 34 family members. A 19 year old girl cousin had been taken to the German troops for their entertainment and then killed.
In 1948, through an affidavit from his relatives he came to New York and to Buffalo with five dollars in his pocket, and very little education. He didn't know what he was going to do. There were no jobs in Buffalo, and after buying a sandwich, had only $3.50 left. After much pleading with the Greyhound bus driver, he was allowed on the bus to New York City without paying. He worked various jobs there for minimum wages.
When the Korean War started, Joe was drafted into the U.S. Army. He went to Fort Dix, New Jersey for his basic training. He felt proud to be a soldier in the United States Army. He loves America because we have a good constitution and a lot to offer. Since Joe could speak German, he was sent to Stutgart, Germany of all places. Joe was glad. He wanted more than anything to get even with Germany for what they had done. When he got there he realized the only way to get even would be to kill. Joe was not a murderer.
After all the atrocities Joe witnessed and endured, including the senseless murder of his family and attempted annihilation of his people, he didn't have it in his heart to take his revenge through killing. Instead, Joe has vowed to get even by telling his story, letting the whole world know what ordinary people are capable of doing. He wants people to realize the dangers that arise when conditions in a country worsen, and the minorities, who can do little to defend themselves, are blamed.
In 1990 Joe returned to Seredne, his old hometown. His family's home was still standing, though his father had passed away in 1963. The town had changed dramatically since the War. All evidence of any Jewish community was gone. When Joe asked around if there were any Jews left, he was directed to a man on the outskirts of town.
Joe eagerly went to see him and he told Joe all about his history, how he had converted to Christianity, married and had a family. He said he had done the best he could with his life after the tragedy of the War. The man did not consider himself to be Jewish anymore, but to the townspeople there was not a moment's hesitation in identifying him as a Jew. He may not have been to a synagogue in over 40 years, but small towns have long memories.
Through his living testimony, and also by building a family, a new generation of Jewish children, Joe is saying that, "Whatever the Nazis tried to do, they didn't succeed, even though we lost the majority of our people."
The photographs of the elite or the "protected class," as the survivors called it, were the most striking in their departure from the stark pictures typically associated with the Holocaust.
'In Lodz Ghetto, Poland, Some Found Food In Trash Containers' (1967). An original etching by David Friedman, a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto. His original notes read: “People are looking for food in backyards, but if you were caught, you were shot. I was able to observe with my binoculars taken with me from Prague.” “Every Friday, one had to go to the food distribution centre and stand in a long line for many hours for the food rations. There would be fights because everyone wanted to be first.”
Yosef Baum's Family
Ruda Rayzla Baum was in the ghetto until her deportation to the Chelmno Death Camp, where she was murdered. From the Page of Testimony submitted in 1956 by her son Yosef Baum we learned that she was a married woman, a mother of three, as well as a resident of Lodz.
After further searching, Yosef Baum was located in Haifa. His family was amazed to discover that Yad Vashem was in possession of an artifact belonging to Yosef’s mother. His daughter, Ruth Einhorn, even came to Yad Vashem with her family in order to see the book. With Ruth’s help, the museum staff was able to piece together the story behind the volume that had lain in Yad Vashem’s collection for so many years, and thereby breathe life into an inanimate artifact:
Yosef Baum was the sole survivor of the Baum family.
His father, Shmaryahu Chaim and his mother, Ruda Rayzla (born 1892), lived in Lodz and had three children: Menachem Mendel Yitzhak, born in 1917, Yosef Shlomo, born in 1920, and Rivka, born in 1926.
Ruda Rayzla and Shmaryahu (Shmarl) Baum worked in textiles. In 1939, the family was forced to move, and live within the confines of the Lodz Ghetto, on Embach Street. Menachem and Yosef worked inside the ghetto in “Schneider Ressort”, a factory where uniforms and clothes for the Germans were produced.
Rebecca worked in the straw shoe factory. In 1942, Ruda Rayzla was deported to Chelmno, where she was murdered. Her husband Shmaryahu perished in Auschwitz in 1944, and Menachem and his sister Rivka perished on death marches from Auschwitz to Germany.
In 1944, Yosef was transported to the Hassag uniforms factory, where he stayed until the liberation.
Yosef returned to Lodz after the liberation, and was confronted there with the enormity of his own personal tragedy. Not one member of his family had survived. Later on, Yosef Baum went to the DP camps where he was active in gathering children and organizing their emigration to Eretz Israel. In 1949, he married Rachel Gerstner, also the sole survivor of her family. Their son was born in a DP camp in Munich, and in July 1950, they emigrated to Eretz Israel. Their daughter, Ruti, was born in 1954.
Ruda Rayzla Baum
Lodz - Ghetto: The midwife from Lodz by Salomea Kape
Former Brzezinska Street No. 30, Salomea Kape’s place
Poland is a country hard hit by the war. Millions were murdered here, both Jews and Poles. On the pages of history books death is anonymous and the victim becomes a mere number in the statistics. Names of dead can be brought by the eye-witnesses, those who survived the genocide.
In my case, victims became humans back again after the birth of my son. Many of them were kids and parents. Perhaps it sounds too pompous, but now, when I read the memoirs of Salomea Kape from the Lodz ghetto, I see my son in every child suffering from hunger and misery, sent to the gas chambers after “allgemeine Gehsperre” or those killed soon after birth.
I also see my son in every child that was saved from the conflagration. Especially a Jewish boy miraculously saved by his parents, who was born in the autumn of 1944 in the hide somewhere in the area of the ghetto that was liquidated two months before.
Today this boy is a 66 years old man and it is perhaps the youngest survivor. We are looking for him by all possible means. Maybe some of you have heard this story from the other sources. If so, please let as know.
This is the story of Salomea’s mother - a midwife from Lodz.
The Midwife from Lodz
In the summer of 1944 the Russian Army halted the offensive and sat passive on the other side of the Vistula River watching the slaughter by the Nazis of the Polish insurgents in Warsaw. Ninety miles from Warsaw the liquidation of Lodz- Ghetto started in July and reached its final stage at the end of August.
The number of “volunteers” for deportation decreased each day and the Gestapo started their “actions,”- the roundups- by removing Jews from their apartments by force. The “actions” always came suddenly and were performed with the precision of a Swiss watch, reinforced by the experience the Nazis acquired with each passing day.
The familiar picture of a swarm of armed Gestapo men in green uniforms standing with their legs wide apart, in battle readiness at the corner of the streets, of the Jewish police dispersed to the buildings in search of Ghetto dwellers, and of the trucks waiting for the victims was a part of the landscape in July and August 1944, the last months of Lodz- Ghetto existence. And the noise! The cries and screams of the Jews removed from their homes together with the barking commands “raus,raus” formed a terrifying cacophony.
It was a warm August in 1944. The pleasant weather facilitated the hunting expeditions and the Gestapo found Jews almost without a miss. On one of those beautiful summer days my mother needed to reconnect with the relatives.
There wasn’t food in the house, not a slice of bread or even the brown ersatz coffee that gave a sense of being sated when eaten dry with brown sugar. Mother avoided the open streets and moved like a cat through the courtyards, cellars and attics. She knew the ghetto like the palm of her hand for her patients once lived here. An old pass from the Department of Health, allowing her to move freely during the curfew, of little help if stopped by the Nazis, gave her some kind of false security.
I was alone. The lonely man who had lived in the kitchen had been deported the month before. Not a trace was left of him, only the narrow, bare bed he had used.
Soon our room would look like his, I thought, and nobody would know of us, of our life, of our struggle, of our death. We’ll have no names, we’ll become statistics. Will future occupants of this building lead normal lives within these silent walls? Will they make love in this room? Will children play in the streets where the Nazis are now dragging people to their death? Will laughter be heard here again?” Such thoughts frequently occupied me.
The empty bed made me aware how little I knew about the man who shared our apartment with us for two years. The Ghetto was a place where friendship was in short supply and hunger admitted no human bond.
I looked at our room with its big closet and the old clock which had stopped telling time. Time was now measured from one roundup to another. Above the unmade bed a huge painting of “Solomon and his wives” covered the wall. The well-rounded figures of the biblical wives with opulent breasts looked obscene in the cluttered and cold room. It was almost too painful to look at them on an empty stomach.
I stared at myself in the big mirror standing between the two windows; my dress hung on me like one on a hanger. Once again I surveyed the room. A heavy couch in the corner showed its wiry interior which made deep marks on my back after a night’s sleep and the old, black stove stood useless and cold. On the table “All Quiet on the Western Front” waited for a reader.
These things will outlast us, I thought. With envy I looked at the table and the closet. When my eyes rested on the painting of Solomon and his wives, I said aloud “No, not you. You’re too Jewish. You’ll be replaced by the picture of Madonna and Christ.”
Suddenly I heard a commotion in the courtyard. The roundup had started. Through the window I saw the familiar sight of the Gestapo at the corner of the street. My blood raced to my brain but my brain was no longer capable of sending signals to the legs.
I wanted to run but my feet were glued to the floor. My heart was pounding ready to explode. I could hear my rapid breathing and fear, a paralyzing fear was oozing from every cell of my body.
I thought: “Should I write a farewell note? What can I write when I am all nerves? Should I take some clothing? Yes, but where is my clothing?” I grabbed the toothbrush from the table and put it in the pocket.
Aloud I said, “They’ll take me and I’m hungry. Not a slice of bread is in the house, nothing.”
My mind raced from one idea to another and I decided, “No, they’ll not find me so easily. Where can I hide? The closet, the big closet. Sally, please-I begged myself- quiet down and move. Take the book with you and read, read. Read till they’ll come to take you.”
In the closet I read All Quiet on the Western Front trying to detach myself from the events in the streets but my sharpened ear heard the heavy stampeding on the stairs. Then I heard the police shout,” The building is clean, nobody’s left. Let’s go.”
I thought I smelled the odor of the people taken to the trucks but it was my own odor of fear. Now all the commotion, yelling and screaming and roaring of the trucks ceased; a deadly silence fell upon the street. In this silence I started to cry and my tears wetted the famous book.
I couldn’t cry for the people who were taken brutally away. I cried for my own life, for my unfulfilled dreams, for the love I might never know, and most of all I cried for my mother.
“They didn’t find you. Good girl.” My mother touched my face as if not believing her own eyes, “ I have some news,” she said “The Nazis are leaving a few hundred Jews to clean the ghetto, and your uncle Mel, who is now a manager of the stable offered us the job to clean the stable and to take care of the horses. Horses are benign animals. We have a chance to be together for awhile, if we’re lucky.”
Before moving out, my father, a hard working and frugal man, smashed his lifework, the sum of his dreams, the furniture. First went the paralyzed clock while I looked with a renewed interest at all the elaborate internal mechanisms, now in pieces.
With a hammer he struck the big mirror and the flying refracting crystals shone like diamonds in the sun on this perfect summer day. With the last force of a blinded Samson he threw the heavy couch out from the third floor window. The flying couch hit the ground with a canon-like blast. My father still hadn’t satisfied his anger and looked for more objects to demolish.
I took on the task of destroying the painting of Solomon while the book, All Quiet on the Western Front, flew like a bird through the window. The thunder of the falling heavy objects didn’t cause any reaction. No one came to the open windows.
No one asked,”Mr. Herschenberg, what happened? What are you doing throwing out a good couch? And books? You must be crazy.” There were no racing steps, no curious faces. The tenants were on their way to Auschwitz. This was my father’s way of protesting against the silence of the world, against the futility of his life’s efforts, against bonding with material objects, against Hitler, against Nazis, against God.
We left the building and went to a newly formed camp to join about six hundred Jews selected as cleaners of Lodz-Ghetto. In that camp my mother approached Mel.
“I’ll not stand for the morning roll call. Look at me; I am so thin, so emaciated that I’ll be the first victim for deportation. Tomorrow is the selection day.”
“The Nazis have a prepared list of people for deportation and your hiding is hopeless. It may endanger our lives too. Don’t tell me what do you want to do; I’ m better off if I don’t know your plans.” Mel was irritated and raised his voice.
“Even so, no power will drag me to the morning roll call.”
I looked at my mother and realized that she was right. Grayish, parchment like skin covered the bones of her face and her black eyes rimmed by prominent puffs sat deep in their sockets. The head was attached to a body of a child. No doubt, she’ll catch the Nazis’ eyes. Mel must have had a second thought for he repeated,”Do what you wish. I don’t want to know.”
It was another sunny morning when we stood in a double row shivering from the first cold and the tense atmosphere in the courtyard. From a prepared list the Germans called out loudly the names of persons designed for deportation. Suddenly the name “Rose Herschenberg.” hit my ear. My mother!
A thousand thoughts moved with the speed of light through my head, “They’ll start a search for her, they’ll find her, and they’ll kill her on the spot”. I whispered to myself. A horror movie of a Nazi hunt with guns and dogs and my mother’s bloody body exposed in the courtyard was rolling under my eyelids.
What to do? Where’s my father? I was blinded by panic for my father was actually close by, totally shocked by the events.
“Mel,” I whispered. “No, he’s of no help.” I saw his stony face.
The rows of Jews on the morning call stirred impatiently like a small wave. You don’t play with the Nazis and you don’t let the Nazis wait. We looked at each other but nobody budged.
This time the German shouted: “ROSE HERSCHENBERG!”
A tall woman with gray hair whose face I couldn’t see walked slowly toward the group of people assigned for deportation. All the adrenaline leaked out of my body leaving me with cotton legs and a buzzing in the head. Now I saw my father, and in his of blood-drained face I saw a reflection of my own.
Later, my mother said, “I would have gone to the front line the first time the Nazi called my name. I didn’t know that there was another Rose Herschenberg in our camp.” I never asked where she had hid but I knew that the safest place was in the stable, between the horses, “the benign animals.”
In late fall a man secretly came to the camp. He and his wife had hidden in one of the abandoned buildings in the ghetto. He had prepared the hideout anticipating the liquidation of Lodz-Ghetto. He came in the darkness of the night, for his wife was bleeding to death after giving birth to a boy.
“Help me,” he begged the Jewish commandant of the camp,”Do you have a doctor here?”
“Yes, he’s a well known surgeon in Lodz. Let’s go to him.” They approached the famous and highly respected doctor.
“You don’t expect me to risk my life” the doctor said, visibly agitated and shaken. “The Nazis are roaming the streets at night with dogs looking for the hiding Jews, like you. In camp I have a fraction of hope to survive. Going with you is a suicide.”
The surgeon’s wife didn’t leave the room; she stood behind the husband and fully supported his position. Finally, the unwelcomed young father left the room.
“He’s right and I cannot order him to go with you,” said the commandant. “But wait. We have a midwife in the camp, let’s try, but it’s a slim chance.”
Rose, my mother, the skinny, scared woman, a far cry from “mother-courage” was the last resort. I couldn’t understand why she agreed to take the dangerous journey. The call of duty? The pained eyes of the husband? My mother wasn’t under normal circumstances a risqué taking person, but there were not ordinary times.
She left the camp with the night visitor and disappeared into the labyrinth of empty streets. The dark, wide-open windows of the abandoned buildings slammed by the cold wind looked like the eye of Cyclops. They walked cautiously but every step could be heard meters away in the empty streets.
In a filthy, well camouflaged cellar my mother examined the heavily bleeding woman, removed the retained placenta by an ungloved and not too clean hand. She waited till the bleeding stopped, checked the baby, and then returned to the camp alone.
“Sally,” she reported, and her face radiated with pride,”it’s a healthy and beautiful baby- boy. I am concerned about the sterility. But in obstetrics one cannot predict the outcome. Sometimes you spit in the wound and nothing happens and another time you maintain one hundred percent sterility and a full blown infection follows. I must see her again.”
“Oh no, Ma, it’s not an after-delivery visit; it’s a dangerous journey. You’re tempting death. The surgeon had enough common sense to refuse. Besides the woman was foolish to go pregnant in hiding. It’s a double ticket to death. I don’t understand how in the midst of hunger, destruction and deportation one gets pregnant? ” I reprimanded my mother as though I were twenty five years her senior and not the other way around.
My mother answered, “The drive of intimacy is very strong even in the lowest human conditions although hunger made a lot of us asexual. The husband is a very courageous and intelligent man and he didn’t follow the herd to the train station for a journey to … who knows, it seems to me like death. He prepared the hiding place to the last detail, he has electric power, water, and even a small radio.The baby has more chances to survive than we have. We are exposed here in camp and are an easy target for a mass execution while the baby, with a little luck, may live. You don’t see something symbolic in this delivery?”
“No, I see a danger to your life and I’m not interested in symbols.”
I wanted to scare and pain my mother, to tell her: You left me alone once to my own fate. Please don’t do it again. Don’t let me die without you and don’t let me survive without you. Don’t go.” I was well aware of my own thoughts but I had to put a clamp on my emotions to stop the out pouring of the resentment for the people in the hideout.
“What?” My mother, as though listening through a stethoscope, was aware of my innermost thoughts, “you have a fixation that I’m risking my life. I don’t run between shooting squads; our life in the camp is riskier. The Nazis took away from us the rights to be pregnant and to bear children. I ‘m fully trained to deliver babies, and babies are the promise of life”
My mother made a second visit, alone. She came back beaming with joy and with a loaf of bread. The mother and the baby were doing well which proved again that the impossible was sometimes possible in Lodz-Ghetto.
“Why did you take bread from the man?” I asked. “We have enough food in the camp.”
“He insisted on giving me something for the services and I took the only thing which in the ghetto had the value of life. The baby is laughing a lot and crying very little, a smart baby he’s. He’ll see a better world without Hitlers and the Nazis.”
My mother delivered another baby in the camp. The woman was so slim that no one recognized that she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.
Her husband came straight to my mother, having learned that the surgeon under the watchful eye of his wife would absolutely refuse to help. In the camp all news traveled very fast. The woman’s bed was put in a dark corner in the hall of the women’s’ quarter. I sat nearby and heard a slight commotion behind the improvised curtain, the husband’s whispers and my mother’s quiet voice “Easy, easy.” No groan or moan.
There were only my mother’s quick steps and latter a weak cry, a chirp. Then there was a total silence behind the curtain.
The women didn’t sleep. The air was heavy with tension and fear and smelled faintly of blood. In the early morning it was no trace of the event and no trace of the baby. The bed was in its usual position and the woman was asleep.
All sighed with relief and no one asked questions. The woman went to her usual work assignment with a deathly face; her husband was silent and a shade paler.
My mother came to me in tears and said, “but the boy, the baby-boy in the cellar, he’ll survive. You’ll see, he’ll survive.”
On January 17, 1945 the Red Army began its final push to Berlin, crossed the Vistula in force and liberated Lodz on January 19, 1945. We, 840 Jews, the remnants of 250.000 Jews of Lodz survived. The Nazis had no time left and ran West leaving behind six mass graves in the Jewish cemetery prepared for us.
Where is the boy of the brave parents born in a cellar on November 1944, in a dying ghetto, delivered by my Mother who never doubted in his survival as he became for her a symbol of the rebirth of our nation?
William Bernheim On William Bernheim:
December 13, 1922
The Passport Photo
"I was born in Lodz, Poland on December 13, 1922.
In 1941, while living in the Lodz Ghetto with my mother, the Nazis separated me from my mother and hauled her away in a truck with others. As I reached for her hand, she pushed her diamond wedding ring, (which I later traded for a month of canned food and bread), into the palm of my hand and screamed, "Save yourself my son, save yourself!" That was the very last time I ever saw my mother, but those words stuck with me and pulled me through the next three years of atrocities.
I remained alone in the Ghetto writing poetry and drawing until 1942 when the Nazis sent me to work in several Polish ammunition factories. Eventually I was sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, (where I had to destroy my drawings and poetry for my own safety), and remained there until I was liberated by the American Third Army on April 11, 1945."
"Living in concentration camps for those years, I was frail and in ill health. It took me years to recuperate from the physical atrocities I suffered during the war.
After my liberation, I lived for a number of years in Austria and Italy, until I immigrated to the United States in the fall of 1949."One year after liberation
Two years after liberation
With his wife Lucille
In 1951, he married Lucille Pitluk, another Polish immigrant.
They had a son, Paul, and a daughter, Gail, who have given them
four grandchildren. After apprenticing as a jeweler, he opened
his own jewelry design firm, which has been a successful enterprise for over 40 years.
In 1966, Mr. Bernheim began painting still-lifes and landscapes in oils. He persisted with his painting by attending the Art Students League of New York, where he studied portraits in oil and figure composition under Robert Brackman, anatomy drawing under Gustav Rayburger and figures and portraits in pastels under Daniel Greene.
Since 1996, Mr. Bernheim has completed numerous Holocaust works of art and has continued to paint on various themes formulated through the impact of his life experiences.Original painting available in a Lithograph
Peering at the pants he wore 55 years ago
at the showing of his art at
The Yeshiva University Museum in 1998.
When asked what drives him to continue with his painting and drawing at this stage in his life, he replied,
"Though I originally hoped to write a book about my life, I realized that an ocean of ink cannot describe the impact of the suffering and torture I saw and experienced, and as most survivors are dying, I remain as one of the living witnesses to the crimes of the Nazis which were committed against us for just being Jews.
I am driven to put my life experiences on canvas in an effort to decrease the hatred and prejudice that abounds and to share with future generations what must never be forgotten."
This Reisepass was issued but never used. The holder took it with her to Litzmannstadt Ghetto (Lodz) when she was deported there on 15.10.41, and where she perished.
Jerzy Zachariasz: Obituaries
2, 4, 2001
From the Sarasota Herald:
From the Boston Herald:
From the Boston Globe:
Anonymous Girl Diarist from the Lodz Ghetto
Photo credit: USHMMIn July 1945, a partial diary was found in the area of the ghetto of Lodz. The diary had no identifiable author. The only clue to her name comes from a note copied into the diary, which reads, “Dear Esterka and Minia.”
Photo credit: USHMMAlthough the exact identify of the author is unknown, a great deal can be gleaned from her writings. Her family, all of whom were employed in the workshops, including her parents, 17-year old sister, and 16-year-old brother, are mentioned. The fact that the writer does not work perhaps indicates that she is the youngest member of her family. The diary is written in Polish, confirming that the author is either from Lodz or one of the surrounding villages. The entries, dated between late February and March 1942, reveal the author’s daily life and focus primarily on the two overriding themes of the ghetto life, hunger and deportations.
A Child Deported During the “Sperre” in the Lodz Ghetto, Poland
September 5, 1942 | Poland
September 1942 A Child Ceported During the “Sperre” in the Lodz Ghetto, Poland
On September 5, 1942, the mass deportation known as the “Sperre” began - the roundup and removal of more than 15,000 children, elderly and ill Jews in a one-week period from the Lodz Ghetto. This Aktion profoundly shocked the Jews of the ghetto.
Unlike elsewhere, news about the methodical mass murder of the Jews in Europe had not reached the Lodz Ghetto. Although during the deportations of early 1942 there was an illusion that the people were being sent to labor camps, the brutal Aktion of September made it clear to many that deportation meant death.
Internalizing the information was extremely difficult and many Jews in the ghetto were unwilling and unable to believe it. Until September 1942 the Jews of the ghetto had a certain degree of internal "autonomy". Then the ghetto changed; hospitals, schools, the rabbinate and other institutions were closed, and the ghetto became a giant labor camp.
The Portrait was made by Henryk Ross
The portrait was made by Henryk Ross, a Polish Jewish photographer who was employed by the Department of Statistics for the Jewish Council within the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust. Ross documented everyday life in the ghetto while staying officially in the good graces of the German occupier. Before the closure of the ghetto in 1944, Ross buried his negatives in the hope to leave a record of the martyrdom.
Helen (Jachimowicz) Potash
June 26, 1929 ~December 25, 2009
by Arlene Potash
This photo can be found in the book "Lodz Ghetto." My mother is the girl standing on the right side of the photo by the fence. Her younger brother is in the center of the photo. They are awaiting deportation via cattle car to the concentration camps.
My mother, Helen Potash, was born Haya Jachimowicz June 26, 1929 in Lodz, Poland. She was the youngest of 5 girls and had a younger brother Moishe. Her parents named her Haya, meaning life, to prevent an “ayin hora” evil eye for being the fifth girl. They finally got their “kaddish” when their youngest, a boy, was born.
In 1940, at age ten, Haya moved with her parents, older sister Masha, and baby brother Moishe, to the Lodz ghetto. Three older sisters went east to avoid the ghetto. The sisters sent letters until 1942 and afterwards, were never heard from again. Haya’s mother became ill and was unable to walk. Young Haya worked her own 8 hour shift for her ration card, and then did her mother’s 8 hour shift for that ration card. Still, they were starving and her father succumbed to starvation and passed away. He laid in the apartment for a full week until his body was removed.
After five years in the ghetto, Haya boarded a cattle car to Auschwitz with her mother, sister, and brother. There were crammed in that compartment with not less than 100 people and only a small window for air. No food or water for close to a week. Arriving in Auschwitz, there was a lot of screaming and shoving.
Haya and her family lined up with the others and walked up to the inhuman Dr. Josef Mengele, may his name be erased. He pointed his riding crop one way for Haya and Masha, and then pointed to the other line for Haya’s mother and brother. Not wanting to be separated from their mother, the two girls went behind Mengele’s back to join their mother.
Mengele, yimach sh’mo, noticed, and grabbed both of them by the scruff of their necks and threw them to the other direction. Haya remembered then rolling down a small hill. They never saw their mother or brother again. They did not know at that time, but had they stayed in the same line as their mother and brother, they would have immediately be taken to the gas chambers.
After only a very short time, (less than two weeks) Haya and Masha boarded another cattle car to a work camp in Hamburg, Germany. They were woken up at 4 am and forced to stand at roll call for several hours. Then they walked for a couple of hours each way to a train that took them to a knitting factory. Later she was given a job working in the camp kitchen.
One day she was walking by herself to the latrine, and two men walked up to her and said “Shema Yisroel”! No one else was around. Haya was speechless. She never expected to hear those two words in that camp in Germany! They opened their briefcases and handed her several sandwiches! She stuffed them in her pockets and the men left. She never saw them before, and she never saw them again. She shared the sandwiches with her sister.
In August of 1945, Haya and Masha were again shipped out by cattle car to Bergen Belsen. My mother pauses to describe what she saw there. Piles upon piles of skeletal bodies. Those still living looked catatonic, crying out for water. My mother found a small cup and collected water from a leaky pipe in the latrine and gave water to the people there.
One day there was a lot of commotion and all of the German soldiers fled. The inmates ran to the fence to see what was happening. The Hungarian guards that were there opened fire on all of the women and girls with machine guns. People on either side of her were dropping from the bullets. Again, Haya didn’t know how or why she was spared. Soldiers arrived on trucks and announced in every language, “Don’t panic! The war is over! We will bring food! Don’t worry!
After the war, my mom’s sister married another survivor and remained for a time in Germany. My mother came by herself to America on one of the first Children’s Transport. Because there was no one in New York to claim her, she was sent with one other girl to Cleveland, Ohio where she went to live with a foster family. She was 17 years old and attended Heights High School for two years before graduating with honors. She met my father, Bernard Potash, a survivor from Trochenbrod.
My mother was the proudest mother in the world of her three sons and twin daughters. She told everyone she had a full house – Three kings and a pair of queens! She became the proud Bubbe of 16 grandchildren and “Super Bubbe” to her great grandson! I am submitting her story on the date of her first yarhzeit, May it Be a for a Lichteke Gan Eden!
Abuse and Humiliation
A Resident of the Lodz Ghetto is Abused and Ridiculed (1942) Abuse and humiliation was part of everyday life for the Jewish inhabitants of Lodz and other ghettos and camps.
The Lodz Ghetto in Words
September 4, 1942~January 20, 1945
"Friday, September 4, 1942:
The deportation of children and old people is a fact....There is simply no word, no power, no art able to transmit the moods, the laments, and the turmoil prevailing in the ghetto since early this morning. To say that today the ghetto is swimming in tears would not be mere rhetoric. It would be simply a gross understatement, an inadequate utterance about the things you can see and hear in the ghetto of Litzmannstadt, no matter where you go or look or listen. There is no house, no home, no family which is not affected by this dreadful edict. One person has a child, another an old father, a third an old mother....All hearts are icy, all hands are wrung, all eyes filled with despair. All faces are twisted, all heads bowed to the ground, all blood weeps..."
"Son of man, go out into the streets. Soak in the unconscious terror of the new-born babies about to be slaughtered. Be strong. Keep your heart from breaking so you'll be able to describe, carefully and clearly, what happened in the ghetto during the first days of September in the year one thousand, nine hundred forty-two."-- from Days of Nightmare (monograph found after the war) Jozef Zelkowicz, 1897-1944
January 20, 1945 "...Daylight blinded us, but we were immediately deliriously happy, hugging and kissing even strangers. We ran through Franciszkanska Street; the ghetto gate was wide open...Of the entire population of the ghetto, more than 200,000 Jews, probably 800 remain, some of them still wearing the Star of David on their chests. Their pale, emaciated faces are very conspicuous. The Germans did not have time to transport even a single Jew to the cemetery. Nine open graves remain waiting." --from A Diary from the Lodz Ghetto, by Jakub Poznanski, d. 1959
The Story of Dwosia Spektor
March 20, 1885~
Dwosia Dlugacz was born on March 20, 1885. She married Josef Spektor, a Hebrew teacher, and they had two daughters and a grandchild. Dwosia's brother, Benjamin Dlugacz, a pharmacist in Lodz, and his wife, Brindla (nee' Jacubowicz), were both born in Bogdanow (near Belchatow) and had a daughter, Ida, and a son, Adam. Before the Germans entered Lodz in September 1939, Adam escaped to Slonim, still in the Russian sector of Poland. Afterwards, he was never heard and was presumed lost when the Germans took the town.
Ida and her parents were forced to move into the Lodz ghetto. Both of Ida's parents died in the ghetto; her father was shot. After Benjamin's death, Ida was questioned by the Gestapo about hidden stock from his pharmacy. Ida saved her own life by telling the Gestapo what she knew. She managed to gather enough money to have both her parents buried in the Jewish cemetery, despite the desperate situation in the ghetto.
After Dwosia's husband died of disease in the ghetto, she took her own life rather than be a burden to her children. Ida Dlugacz and her cousins, together with one cousin's husband and child, were deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Upon arrival, only Ida and one of her cousins were "selected" to live. The cousin's child called to his mother and she managed to cross over to join him, dying with him.
Ida Dlugacz survived the Holocaust and was somehow able to recover her aunt Dwosia's Lodz ghetto work pass, pictured below. The work pass was signed by Hans Biebow, the Nazi administrator of the ghetto, later executed as a war criminal.
It is a horrific story, but only one among millions.
Image of work pass courtesy of Aubrey Jacobus
Victor, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz, is one of "The Boys," a group of several hundred young camp survivors sent to England in 1945 and 1946. Their experiences have been immortalized in Martin Gilbert's acclaimed book, "The Boys: Triumph over Adversity," published in 1996. Victor arrived in England with the Windermere group and lived in the Cardross Hostel in Scotland. He emigrated to the United States in the late forties and has maintained contact with "The Boys". He is actively engaged in Holocaust education and is held in high esteem by the educational authorities in New Jersey.
Rybna 17, this was our Ghetto address from April 1941 until August 15, 1944, when the existence of the Ghetto came to an end. The building had three floors and a reservoir on the fourth floor. Most of tenants living there, were from before the war. The only dwelling there left for us was a tiny step-down under the stairs; one room, if you can call it an apartment. It was a far cry from what we were used to living in previously. It was all right to live for a short time like this, because the war was supposed to last only six months, Germany would be defeated, and we will return to our own apartment.
As far as I know, there are only two survivors, Morris Pinchewski and myself, from some twenty families. No matter how tired we were, when we came from work, or any free time we had, we played football and other games. I remember the young German Jewish girl who lived next to us. She had a little pug nose and spoke with a slight lisp.
And now 1997, I am back, standing in the middle of the same yard and pointing at the site where the water well is in the center of the yard. I am telling my guide how we hid our children. As I am talking, my mind was going back to the beginning of September, 1942. Yes, we saved the seventeen children for the time being, only later to have them perish in the gas chamber.
This was the hardest and darkest time in the three years of being incarcerated in the Ghetto. Life in the Ghetto didn't improve. Continuously, people disappeared and we never heard of them again. Tuberculosis and starvation took their toll. My position at work continuously improved, and even got better every once in a while because of a special packet of food. The extra food helped to subsidize our family's meager rations.
Also, working in a woodworking factory, I was able to organize some sawdust for heating to keep our small room warm during the winter. It was the end of August, and rumors, good and bad, started to circulate throughout the Ghetto. The good rumors were that the Germans are having a hard time on the Russian front. The bad rumors were that more people will be resettled from the Ghetto; we heard those rumors before. September, German SS and the Jewish police surrounded the hospital and forcibly removed all the patients.
It did not matter if you were just there for a check-up or seriously ill. Anyone who resisted was shot on the spot. They were herded like cattle into wagons and transported to outside the Ghetto. A short time later the trucks returned only to pick up more victims (we didn't know that this was the beginning of the killing machines through carbon monoxide).
The SS went through the list of patients and anyone who was missing, had to present themselves to the deportation center, or another member of their family would be taken in their place.
As if this was not enough, on September 5th, Chaim Rumkowski our Chairman announced that, by the order of the authorities, about 25,000 Jews under the age of ten and over the age of 65 must be resettled outside of the Ghetto.
I was at the place where Chaim Rumkowski made that fateful speech. For the first time I saw tears in the chairman's eyes; he truly loved children. Rumkowski pleaded with us to turn the children and elders over to the Germans for the sake of saving the Ghetto. They are safe, and nothing is going to happen to them. Panic set in the Ghetto. Who is going to be next? Where are they going to send our children and the elders was on everyone's mind.
My mother was appointed to be the superintendent of the building, because she had a small child and couldn't leave her to go to work. This position my father got for my mother, through someone he knew before the war. Normally, before my father and I went to work, we took care of the building. My father, a former military man, started to look for a safe hiding place. Knowing the building well, we had several places in mind.
Are we looking for a place for ourselves, or are we also going to try to save the rest of the children from our building? We went through several places, which were suitable for us, but not for more than ten to fifteen children. On the fourth floor there was a water tank, if we let the water out most probably we could hide a dozen children and their mothers. My father agreed on this plan. Be he felt that we have seventeen children and we also must protect the mothers of those children.
My father looked sick himself. I suggested that he should also look for a safe place to hide himself.
I never gave a thought about myself. I was fifteen years old. I had a special card from the commissar that I was essential for the production at the shop where I was working.
Another place we thought of was looking in the cellar, checking whether we could build an extra wall to hide everyone. We looked every place for other alternatives. In the cellar there was a pumping station to supply water to the reservoir. There was a motor with a belt leading to the center of the yard, which turned a large wheel and was connected to the water pump, which pumped water to the reservoir tank. The opening where the belt was, was approximately eighteen inches by twenty inches.
Many times the belt leading to the tunnel broke. I used to repair it, but I never explored that tunnel. My father removed the belt, I crawled into the tunnel, and immediately I knew that this place might be a safe haven for concealing those children. The tunnel was wide and long enough to accommodate all the children and the mothers. There was enough room in the tunnel to stand or sit down, and enough oxygen.
Next, we removed the motor, pushed the belt back into the tunnel in order to protect everyone. When the last person would be in the tunnel then we will cover the opening with garbage.
Knowing how sanitized the Germans are they will never come near to this place. We got some blankets and sugar water, and other provisions. We felt we were ready.
On September 5th everyone was told to confine in their apartment unless told otherwise, and wait until our building is ordered to come down to the yard for their selection. My father urged me to go to the hiding place too, but I was so sure of myself that my papers would save me, and I also wanted to be close to my father.
For the first time I saw my father kissing my mother, and he took around my sister and my brother and held them close to him for a while. I never saw my father display any emotion towards us before. I looked at him as I never looked before, I was fifteen now, and worked hard, and he knew it.
I carried more than my share to keep this family alive. I was afraid not for myself, but for my father. We nearly lost him twice. My mother begged him to hide, but without success. My sister Sarah was a beautiful child, and in April she just became three years old. We never had a problem with her.
I watched her when she took her step. No matter how tired I was, or moody, when she started to giggle, I forgot about everything; I helped to bring up this child. My father was incarcerated with about five other people for smuggling food into the Ghetto. In 1941 my father was arrested by the Gestapo and convicted for nine months. I don't know why they had to have a trial and to send him out of the Ghetto.
How come they didn't shoot him like they did anyone caught smuggling? Somewhere, there must have been a payoff. Through those nine months, I had to do everything possible to help out. Many days I worked for sixteen hours and brought home bags of sawdust with wood hidden inside. Sometimes the bag was heavier than I was. We invited many children to come into our room so they can warm themselves up.
The winter was severe and when you went to sleep by night and woke up in the morning, the water was frozen. I was fourteen years old then and I was needed. I cannot omit my brother. I was his hero. His name was Favel, in Polish we used to call him Felek. When he reached the age of seven I started to teach him how to read and write Polish. He was smarter than I was, and also eager to learn.
Because my mother was the caretaker of this house, and my father was tall with blond hair and blue eyes he would be the right person to be the spokesperson for the building.
We all were waiting for the German officer to come and inspect us. I rubbed my cheeks to look nice and red, and inside of my shoes I put in some paper to make me look taller. I was scared, but I knew I also had to put up a front for the officer when he came. Since eight o'clock all the children and their mothers were in the tunnel.
Everybody had their documents, and now, we all prayed for their safety. I was worried about the children, that they shouldn't start to cry. In the tunnel we had children from all ages, from one year to eleven. Any mishap and we would lose the children, the mothers, and who knows what would have been the retribution for all of us.
Sometime early, before noon, an SS officer and about ten Jewish policemen were surrounding our building. The officer was young, tall, good looking, and looked at us with contempt. Slowly he looked around, he must have heard our hearts beating, and with a loud, booming command asked, "Where are the children und die alter fafluchten Juden?"
At that point my father approached the officer, with his hat in his hand, and looking straight at the officer said, "Sir, you are the second officer who came to inspect us today, and whoever was eligible was already taken away." For a while there was a silence. Once again he began to swear, "You better not lie to me." I was fighting with myself not to be obvious as to how scared I was.
If somebody says the wrong thing, my father would have been doomed. I noticed even the Jewish policemen were nervous; I also had a feeling that somebody is going to pay a price. He called over a Jewish policeman and told him not to let anybody leave. He took two soldiers with him who were waiting outside in the street and proceeded to look for hidden people.
We all felt that we were in trouble. We looked at each other and you could see the fear on our faces. The officer was gone for about ten minutes. To us it was an eternity. The officer and the two soldiers came down, without finding anybody, and you could see the anger on his face. He turned, abruptly pointing his baton at the stairs leading down to the cellar, "What is over there?"
Once again my father replied that we stored the garbage there, and the garbage was not picked up for the last two weeks. Once again the officer called over some Jewish policemen and told them to search the cellar. He was walking and looking at us, like he was selecting his next victims. We were afraid if the Jewish policemen would suspect that anyone was there, they would report to the SS officer. They were just as scared for their lives as we were, and they had to protect their own families, because their families were unaffected by the selection.
He did not trust the Jewish police and started to walk down into the cellar himself. It did not take too long before we heard him swearing what kind of pigs we are. It worked, it was too dirty for him to venture in the cellar. They were safe. The SS officer told the Jewish policemen to line us up for his selection. Several of my friends were selected to go to the gate where there were Jewish policemen waiting to escort them to the wagon, which was waiting for them outside our building. I was trembling from fear knowing I had misjudged.
The proclamation said that there will be resettlement of children up to ten years and elder people of sixty-five and over. I am fifteen years and I have a special pass, but my friends were the same age as I was. Finally my turn came, I stood straight, and I held my card. He took my pass and with a sadistic smile he threw the pass on the ground and pointed for me to go to the gate; I tried to protest, but at the same time I saw him reaching for his revolver.
I was not going to wait any longer and as fast as I could I ran over to the policeman who took me to the wagon. But, as I was trying to get away from him I heard him laughing. I guess I was his entertainment for the day. I could not believe that happened to me, and at the same time I started to look around. I was not going to leave the Ghetto to be resettled without my family. More people came on our wagon and the others were filling up rapidly. I made a decision I am going to jump when the wagon will turn the corner.
There was one German soldier in the third wagon behind us with one Jewish policeman on each wagon guarding us. I felt the Jewish policeman had his hands full with other people on the wagon and he will not leave the wagon to chase me. It happened exactly as I was hoping it would. I ran through the field and circled back towards our house. I waited until it was safe to return.
I felt proud of myself that I actually outwitted them. I will never trust Chaim Rumkowski or the Germans again. I walked into our apartment and I saw my mother and my two siblings crying. My father came over and held me tight against him. I never remember him taking me around before. Besides, I felt uncomfortable and besides, I didn't know what the whole fuss was about. I knew that they were not going to get me; how naïve I was.
From this day I grew up. From a young adolescent boy who dreamt of football, skating and horseback riding, "They were only dreams." Maybe one day I will be free again but from today on I have to be a man. Yes, I grew up. Weeks passed since September 5th, we all mourned the people who were resettled.
We all went back to work in the Ghetto. And life went on. We all were thankful that we weren't caught. And when Yom Kippur came along, we prayed that maybe next year we will be free. The Germans never got their 25,000 people and had to settle for only 15,000 victims.
My aunt and many other mothers, dressed their children in their best. Made sure that they had all the documents, kissed their children and turned them over to the German soldier for safe-keeping. Because the Ghetto was not a conducive place to bring children up.
My father died on June 18, 1943 at the age of 41. My cousin and I are the only survivors of fifty-four people of our immediate family.
None of the children survived; nor their mothers. August 1944, once again we went through another resettlement for our own good, except this time the destination was Auschwitz. My mother, Felek and Sarah met their maker in the gas chamber of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
It's 57 years later, and as I am writing, I am hovering above all those people.
And I am looking at my father, with hat in his hand, he was once a very proud man.
I am looking at little Sarah, who wanted to live and just maybe.......
And Felek, who just became 12-years-old. What his future could have been?
And my mother, how proud would she have been seeing my wife and me with our children and grandchildren sitting at our Thanksgiving table.
Yes, I am looking at myself and I see a 15-year-old boy and also I see in him a certain determination, he is scared now, but he is not going to be defeated because has to survive.
But one day I will meet my maker, and in silence I will ask, "Why??"
Levittown, New York
Also by Victor Breitburg:
David P. Boder Interviews Jacob Minski; August 23, 1946; Paris, France
Jacob Minski was born in 1907 in Zurich, Switzerland, to Polish Jewish parents. He was raised in an orphanage in Hamburg and always carried a stateless passport, which would make it difficult for him to emigrate once the Nazis came to power.
Arrested at the time of the Kristallnacht (literally, "Crystal Night," also known as the "Night of Broken Glass") pogroms, he spent ten weeks in the camp he calls Oranienburg, the original name of the concentration camp better known as Sachsenhausen.
Minski's story jumps rather abruptly to October 1941 when he was deported to the ?ód? ghetto. He remained there for nearly three years, becoming a member of the ghetto fire brigade that was so important to German authorities worried that a blaze in the dilapidated wooden ghetto structures might spread to the rest of the city. Boder drew Minski out on the barter economy and social life of the ghetto.
Equally interesting is Minsk's account of his deportation with other Jews from ?ód? to Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in August 1944.
His description of a prisoner saving a mother's life by forcing her to give up her child during the initial selection suggests a degree of risk-taking and of prisoner control that is not always well understood. Likewise, his account of newly arrived ?ód? Jewish police being targeted for death by the veteran inmates of Auschwitz demonstrates the existence of a rough and effective system of justice within the camp. The corruption of the block seniors at Auschwitz gets further confirmation in Minski's description of his living conditions there.
Minski was one of the lucky ones transferred to work in an ammunition plant in the German city of Görlitz, where conditions were much better. That lasted until the camp was evacuated in the last days of the war, when he and his fellow prisoners were sent on a westward death march. His release by the SS at the time of Germany's surrender was followed by a wild wagon ride across Czechoslovakia to Vienna.
Boder interviewed Minski at the Paris headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He recalled his experiences in disorganized episodes.
David P. Boder Interviews Adam Krakowski; July 30, 1946; Paris, France
Adam Krakowski was born in 1925 in the city of ?ód?, Poland. ?ód? was at that time the center of the Polish textile industry, and Krawkowski's father worked in a textiles stores. He and the remainder of Krakowski's immediate family—his mother, brother and sister—perished in the Belzec extermination camp.
Not long after the German occupation of ?ód?, Krakowski, along with a number of young able bodied Jewish males, was deported and spent nearly all of the war years in German slave labor camps. He was transferred from one camp to another until his liberation by American troops on May 1, 1945.
As a slave laborer, he encountered cruel and trying conditions and endured great suffering. His survival is owed in part to the pressing German need for slave labor, especially as the war progressed.
There was an ongoing conflict in the Nazi hierarchy between those who wanted to destroy all Jews and those who wanted to preserve some Jews for labor. Unfortunately the former most often prevailed. Nevertheless, Krakowski was among the minority who did survive despite the obsessive, lethal Nazi ideological imperative to destroy European Jewry.
After his liberation, Krakowski, like so many of his fellow Jews, returned to his birthplace to see if any of his family had survived. His search was in vain. He then made his way to Paris where he had a physician brother who had lived there since before the war. At the time of his interview, Krakowski had decided to remain in Paris and rebuild his life. With the help of ORT, he was studying radio technology.
David P. Boder Interviews Mendel Herskovitz; July 31, 1946; Fontenay-aux-Roses, France
Mendel Herskovitz, the son of ?ód? shopkeepers, was twelve years old when the Germans attacked Poland in 1939. He and a younger sister tried to flee their native city but were forced to return when the invaders overtook them. In the ?ód? ghetto he learned metal-working skills that would save his life. Rather than being deported to a death camp, in 1943 he was sent to the ammunition plants at Cz?stochowa and Skar?ysko-Kamienna. His description of conditions there shows that work was arduous and punishments draconian.
At the same time it shows that tenuous contacts with Polish workers in the factories ameliorated the Jews' position to some degree. Note the items confiscated from him and his fellow workers upon their arrival at Buchenwald. Herskovitz also shows that the Jews in Czestochowa retained some power to influence events by bribing German officials, as they did to save one of two transports of Jewish children evacuated from Skar?ysko.
Not long after dumping Herskovitz in Buchenwald, the Nazis tried to move him yet again as the American Third Army approached the camp in April 1945. Indeed, the Germans gave Jews priority in these marches that often ended in the prisoners' death.
Mendel was immensely proud of eluding the guards and finding a place with the minority of prisoners who remained to be liberated. If he embellishes his tale of evasion and concealment a bit, we can forgive him; the outline of his experiences is perfectly credible, and, by any standard, remarkable. His description of the final, ecstatic contact with his liberators should touch the most jaded reader.
The interview took place at the home for young Jewish survivors at Chateau de Boucicaut just outside of Paris. There Herskovitz was studying to become a furrier. When kidded that there would be little call for that trade in Palestine, he expressed no interest in leaving France for kibbutz life. He had had enough, he said, of communal living.
The Life of Natan Abbe
Born 1924, Lodz, Poland
Natan, the son of Carola and Israel Abbe, grew up in Lodz, Poland. His father owned a haberdashery store, where he sold hats, gloves, and other accessories. He had two sisters and a younger brother. A large, fairly liberal city, Lodz was home to over 233,000 Jews. It was a major center of the textile industry. Its diverse population of Jews, Poles and Germans lived together in relative peace.
When the Germans occupied Lodz in September 1939, Natan was a fifteen year-old schoolboy. Anti-Jewish restrictions were immediately enacted. Jews were forbidden to congregate for religious services, they were subject to curfew, their radios were confiscated, and they were forced to wear the yellow star. In addition, Jews were barred from most professions, and all Jewish communal institutions were ordered to disband.
On February 8, 1940, all the Jews were forced to live in a run-down part of the city. On May 1, 1940, the overcrowded ghetto was closed off.
Living conditions were horrendous. There was no heat, little food or medicine, and inadequate sanitation. People fell dead in the street from starvation, disease and exposure. Still, the basic appearance of normal inner-city life was maintained. Schools and hospitals still functioned.
The Germans constantly harassed the Jewish residents of the ghetto, randomly seizing people on the streets, raiding their apartments, and subjecting them to horrendous indignities. People were shot for the slightest reason. Young children often became the sole support of thier families. They would smuggle themselves out of the ghetto in order to find food and bring it back to their starving parents, brothers and sisters.
Natan was shot to death in late 1940 by a German soldier at the ghetto gate. He was sixteen years old.
The Life of Lenka Nadolna
Born in 1936, Lodz, Poland
Lenka, the daughter of Hershel and Anna Nadolna, was a three year-old toddler when the Germans occupied Lodz. Her father was a tailor.
Lodz, Poland's second largest city, had an economy based on industry, especially textiles. Much of Lodz's industry was established by Jews, and more than half of them derived their livelihoods from it. The city was also home to a large Jewish working class. Lodz was a center of Jewish culture and political and social activity.
When the Germans occupied Lodz on September 8, 1939, they began a brutal persecution of the Jews. Curfews, random harassment, riots, abductions, and plunder of homes and stores were common. All Jewish-owned bank accounts were blocked, and most Jewish-owned businesses were confiscated.
Jews could no longer use public transportation and were forbidden to leave the city. Religious services were no longer permitted, and Jews could not own cars and radios. In November, all synagogues were destroyed, and Jews were ordered to wear the yellow star. In February 1940, the 164,000 Jewish residents of the city were forced to live in a rundown part of town.
They were crowded into a very small ghetto where there was inadequate food, medicine and heat. The ghetto was sealed off from the outside world on April 30, 1940. Thousands soon died of starvation, disease or exposure. The Germans moved 38,000 more Jews from areas outside Lodz into the ghetto.
In January 1942, the Germans began deporting ghetto residents to the Chelmno death camp. By September, the ghetto was almost empty. Very few children were left. Only able-bodied men and women were kept alove for forced labor. The Nazis decided to empty the ghetto in the spring of 1944. Clearing the ghetto, street by street, the Germans transported the inhabitants to the death camps at Chelmno and Auschwitz. By the fall of 1944, the ghetto was empty.
We have no information about the fate of Lenka and her family. After moving into the ghetto, they were never heard from again.
The Life of Edzia Abbe
Born 1926, Lodz, Poland
Edzia, one of four children born to Carola and Israel Abbe, grew up in Lodz, Poland. Her father owned a haberdashery store, where he sold hats, gloves, and other accessories. She had one sisters and two brothers. A large, fairly liberal city, Lodz was home to over 233,000 Jews. It was a major center of the textile industry. Its diverse population of Jews, Poles and Germans lived together in relative peace.
When the Germans occupied Lodz in September 1939, Edzia was a thirteen year-old schoolgirl. Anti-Jewish restrictions were immediately enacted. Jews were forbidden to congregate for religious services, they were subject to curfew, their radios were confiscated, and they were forced to wear the yellow star. In addition, Jews were barred from most professions, and all Jewish communal institutions were ordered to disband.
On February 8, 1940, Edzia and her family, along with all of Lodz's Jews, were forced to live in a run-down part of the city. On May 1, 1940, the overcrowded ghetto was closed off.
Living conditions were horrendous. There was no heat, little food or medicine, and inadequate sanitation. People fell dead in the street from starvation, disease and exposure. Still, the basic appearance of normal inner-city life was maintained. Schools and hospitals still functioned.
The Germans constantly harassed the Jewish residents of the ghetto, randomly seizing people on the streets, raiding their apartments, and subjecting them to horrendous indignities. People were shot for the slightest reason.
Young children often became the sole support of thier families. They would smuggle themselves out of the ghetto in order to find food and bring it back to their starving parents, brothers and sisters. Edzia's older brother, Natan, was shot in late 1940, by a German soldier at the ghetto gate. He was sixteen years old.
Her mother died of starvation in early 1941. Fifteen year-old Edzia was seized and sent to forced labor in a German-run textile factory in Augsburg. Conditions there were horrible. There was little food and the workers were constantly tortured. In May 1943, the factory was evacuated. The Jewish workers were sent to an unknown destination and were never heard from again. Edzia was seventeen years old.
The Life of Chaim Blachman
October 30, 1927~
Born October 30, 1927, Lodz, Polanda
Chaim Blachman, the son of a hardware store owner, grew up in Lodz, Poland. He had three brothers and a sister, and they lived comfortably in a non-Jewish area of the city. A large city, and home to over 233,000 Jews, Lodz was a major textile center. Its diverse population of Jews, Poles, and Germans had lived together in relative peace for years. Chaim worked in his father's store every day after school. He helped his father repair everything from shoes to appliances.
When the Germans occupied Lodz in September 1939, Chaim was twelve years old. Antisemitic restrictions were immediately passed. Jews were forbidden to congregate for religious services and they were forced to wear the yellow star. Curfews were imposed and radios were confiscated. In addition, Jews were barred from most professions, and all Jewish communal institutions were ordered to disband.
On February 8, 1940, all Jews were forced to live in a run-down part of the city. On May 1, 1940, the overcrowded ghetto was closed off. Living conditions were horrible. There was no heat, little food and medicine, and sanitation was inadequate. People fell dead in the street from starvation, disease, and exposure.
Still, there was an attempt to maintain normal city life. There were schools, hospitals, and a police force. Chaim was lucky to obtain a job as a page boy in a hospital.
The Nazis began rounding up the Jews of Lodz for deportation to death camps. On September 1, 1942, they raided the hospital where Chaim worked. Arrested with the sick and dying patients, Chaim was thrown into a truck and driven out of the ghetto.
When the truck stopped to pick up more prisoners, Chaim slipped out and ran home. As the search intensified, it became increasingly difficult to hide and Chaim was eventually caught in a boiler room. Fourteen year-old Chaim was sent to work as a slave laborer in a German-run munitions factory in Czestochowa, about 124 miles southwest of Warsaw.
Working day and night, Chaim somehow survived the brutality, disease, and lack of adequate nutrition. The factory was closed on January 16, 1945, after a typhus epidemic broke out, and Chaim was sent to a concentration camp near Munich, Germany. He was liberated in April 1945.
The First German Jews Arrive in the Ghetto
October, 19, 1941
Jews deported from Prague, Czechoslovakia, move their belongings through the streets. Lodz ghetto, Poland, November 20, 1941.
The ever tightening persecution of Jews in the west and in ‘Greater Germany’ reached a new stage when they began to be forcibly deported to established ghettos in Poland. The fiction that they were merely being ‘re-settled’ in the East was maintained to ensure their compliance – and to reduce the objections of the local German population watching the departures. They were allowed to leave with personal luggage, although all their other possessions were confiscated by the German Reich as soon as they left.
This was not a ‘new life in the east’, it was effectively a death sentence, given the levels of starvation and deprivation that the Germans enforced in the ghettos.
In the Polish ghetto of Lodz Shlomo Frank recorded in his diary:
19th October 1941
Today 1,000 deportees from Vienna arrived in the ghetto. Among the new arrivals are physicians, engineers, professors, famous chemists, dental technicians, once prominent merchants, several priests from converted families, and twenty Christian women, who have come along with their husbands and children.
The Viennese Jews have brought a lot of food and other goods. They said that between Vienna and the Polish border they travelled in second class railway cars. They were treated well. They say that most of the Viennese population sympathised with them.
Some Viennese women cried openly and asked good God to let them see each other again soon. But as soon as they entered Poland, there was a change of guards, and with it good relations ceased.
The farther they travelled the worse their treatment
Resistance within the Lodz Ghetto
A group of boys taking part in Jewish religious practice even though it was banned with the Lodz ghetto. © 2011 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.
Despite the poor conditions and tight control by the Judenraat, inhabitants managed to develop a number of ‘underground’ organisations. There was a wide range of political parties and many active youth groups. These organisations ran cultural, educational and religious events within the ghetto.
In spite of the horrors surrounding them, the Jews tried to live a normal life with theatre groups, concerts and a lending library. Many illegal political meetings were held and publications produced. The ‘Chronicle of the Lodz ghetto’ was one such underground publication that today provides evidence of life within the ghetto.
Quite often the children took on the responsibility of smuggling in extra food to supplement the meagre rations of the families, despite the danger of death if they were caught outside of the ghetto.
The BERKOWICZ Family
The BERKOWICZ family from Bolków near Wielu?, Poland,
mother Brana & father Daniel seated in the middle, Dorka, Ruth, Berek - back row; Ester - middle row, left; Meyer - middle row, right; seated in the front - Adela,Zygmu?, Abraham; missing - Rubin who was in the Polish army (photo was contributed by David Berkowitz).
The family lived in Wielu? – Bolków village, Poland, and had 5 boys and 4 girls. The family was a very rich and prosperous. They owned a windmill, cattle and horses flock, farm, land and forests. Their house was of 4 floors. They even owned a telephone which was very rare at that time. All the villagers of Bolków worked for them. All of this was ruined and many members of the family murdered during World War II.
The father of the family was named Daniel. His father name was Abraham. Daniel died on January 1939 in Bolków Poland.
The Mother of the family, Daniel's wife, Brana, was from the nearby village of Skny??o. She was the daughter of Dawid & Adela Berkowicz (a cousin ofDaniel). She was deported during the war from Bolków to the Lututów ghetto in Poland. In August 1942 she was deported to the Chelmno extermination camp, where she was murdered.
1. The firstborn was Ruben - Jakob, who was born around 1900. He was deported from Bolków to the ?ód? ghetto. In 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz - Birkenau, and from there to other German forced labor camps, along with his brother Abramek. He had a wife Brucha who perished in Auschwitz. He survived. He returned to Poland after the war, he re-married there, and immigrated to Israel in the 1950's. He died in 1967, in the Six Days War.
Ruben Berkowicz in the Polish Army unifom (photo was contributed by David Berkowitz).
2. The second son was named Berek. He escaped to Russia in 1940 with his wife Helen, who passed away in Russia. He stayed there for 4 years. Then he left Russia to return to his home in Poland. He married in ?ód?, had 2 girls. He moved to Israel with his family, and after a few years left for Brazil. He passed away in the year 2000, in Brazil.
3. The first daughter and third sibling of the family was named Ruth, born in 1911. She lived in Piotrków Trybunalski. She worked for the Germans in a factory during the war. In 1944 the Germans broke into her house, a German officer shot her, and left her husband Allo Berkowicz, and her 9 year old son, named Zygmu? ("Zalman" in Yiddish), in the house, later to be deported to Auschwitz - Birkenau.
By some twist of fate, Meyer (who is Ruth's brother), worked in a documentation job "schreiber", that documented all of the incoming people into the camp, and when they were transported to the camp, Meyer found them in the list, and for the next 8 days, Meyer came in hiding to feed this beautiful and talented boy with an extra piece of bread or some soup.
On Yom Kippur, 5705 (September 26, 1944), Meyer came to feed the boy, but the boy declined, because he said to him that tomorrow the Germans will cremate all of the boys, himself included and he doesn't need the bread anymore... That night, on the eve of Yom Kippur, 2000 children were murdered, including Zygmu?. The following day, Meyer went to feed the boy, only to be faced with an empty block.
Zigmusz (Zalman), 2 years old in the photograph, perished in Auschwitz while only 9 years old, Ruth, his mother, perished, Dawid, Ester in a rare photograph befroe the war.
4. The second daughter and fourth sibling of the family was named Dwora - Dorka (Dora). She was married to Goldbart and had 2 children. She was deported with them along with her mother, Brana, to the Lututów ghetto, and along with her mother, they were all deported to their death to Chelmno.
5. The third daughter and fifth sibling, Esther, got married at the start of the war. She fled with her husbandDawid Berkowicz, her husband's father and her husband's brother to Russia. She was in Russia for many years, under severe, inhospitable circumstances, where she had 2 children.
At the end of the war, she returned to her home town in Poland, only to leave it after 2 weeks, in order to move to Germany as a middle station to their final destination of the US and is alive to this day.
Esther Berkowicz wrote a book about her war experiences and her family: Esther Berkowicz: Through Siberia with Bed & Babies: A Holocaust Survivor's Joys & Sorrows, with Maryann McLoughlin Ph.D., a project of the Holocaust Resource Center, The Richard Stokton College of New Jersey, ComteQ Communications, Margate, New Jersey 2007.
Four of the Berkowicz siblings in a photograph before the war, from left to right: Abraham, murdered by a Pole after surviving the concentration camps, only age 19; brother Rubin who served in the Polish army and survived the war, sister Adela survived under false Aryan papers and the youngest child Zalman, disappeared without traces in ghetto Lodz
6. The third son and sixth sibling of the family, Meyer, was suspected of sabotaging the family mill, and was sent to a German prison in Papenburg, at the German - Dutch border. There were no Jews in this prison, but because Meyer didn't look like a Jew, he was able to survive.
In the winter 1941 - 2, he was released from jail, and was sent to pave roads for the German army in Wielun, under extreme conditions of cold weather.
In 1942 he was deported to the Lodz ghetto, which was highly inhospitable in terms of human condition. During his 2 year "residence" in the ghetto, he worked for the Germans in order to scavenge for goods that the Jews left in their homes in the ghetto.
He also met 3 of his brothers, Ruben, Abraham, and Zalman in the ghetto, and lived with them, along with 3 other people in a 1 room flat, he also met his future wife, Esther Ankielewicz in the ghetto. In 1944, the liquidation of Lodz occurred, and Meyer left in one of the last transports to Auschwitz - Birkenau for around 3 months, where he worked as a documenter of incoming people, and then from there to Braunschweig, Germany, where he worked in a car factory until his liberation, by the US army. Still in Germany, he joined the Israeli army, and immigrated to Israel along with Esther and his daughterTzipora, in 1949 and is alive to this very day.
7. The fourth daughter and seventh sibling of the family, was named Adela, born in 1921. In 1942 she received forged Aryan documents that claimed that she was Polish, and not Jewish, as was her husband, Jakob Jablonski. They escaped to Germany in order to work there, until the liberation by the Soviet army.
8. The fourth son and eighth sibling of the family, Abram "Abramek", born in 1924. During the war he was transported to the ?ód? ghetto in 1942 till 1944, after which he was transported to Auschwitz - Birkenau for a couple of months, after which he was Germany to do slave labor in various labor camps, along with his brother Ruben. In August 1945, after liberation and surviving the Nazi concentration camps, he desired to visit his old home in Bolków and see if there remain other survivors from the family.
When he came to his house, he was greeted by a Polish man who used to be a housekeep for the Berkowitz family, and made himself the owner of the house after the family was deported. The Polish man, former worker of the Berkowicz family, greeted Abramek very warmly, because he thought that all of the family was murdered and he was the only one left.
During that night, the Polish man murdered Abramek, in order to keep the property to himself. Today, he is buried in the Jewish graveyard in ?ód?, killed at the age of 19, by Polish hands, after surviving the ghettos, Auschwitz, and other German forced labor camps
9. The fifth son and ninth sibling of the family, Zalman, was deported from Wielu? in 1942 to the ?ód? ghetto, along with Meyer, Ruben andc Abramek (Esther Ankielewicz was there as well). He remained there until 1943. One day, he was unexpectedly taken by the German army, at the young age of 14, and was never to be heard from again. There are some who claim that he was taken to Auschwitz in order to be a guinea pig in an experimental testing of the cremation technique.
This was the tragic story of the BERKOWICZ family, once a prosperous and rich family in Poland, rooted there for hundreds of years. Nothing remained from their estate, most of their sons and daughters, spouses and children murdered brutally in the German Holocaust in World War II. The few survivors created families and restored their lives in the United States and Israel.......
Testimony told by Esther, Meyer's wife, to daughter Zipi and Ada Holtzman April 2008
The third son and sixth sibling of the family, Meyer, was born on September 18th, 1918. He studied in a Yeshiva at Wielu?. During the first period of the German occupation, he was suspected of sabotaging the family windmill.
He was sentenced and put in prison for the offence to the German Reich. It was in fact an act of heroism and a very courageous personal protest against the Nazi Rule. He was then transferred to a German prison in Papenburg, at the German - Dutch border. There were no Jews in this prison, but because Meyer didn't look like a Jew, he was able to survive.
In the winter of 1941 - 42, he was released from jail, and was transferred to pave roads for the German army in a forced labor camp Ostrówek near Wielu?, under extreme conditions of cold weather and constant abuses. He was engaged in hard work of paving the road between Wroc?aw to ?ód? via Wielu? for the German army.
There were also some women in the camp, who worked even harder than the men. They were forced to carry the stones by their own bare hands, while the men hit them to the road using a big hammer. Even in cold days of less than minus 35° Celsius.
The Germans stood by and watched every step of the prisoners. They slept in horses stables, after the horses were confiscated by the Germans and shipped to Germany. Every 2 weeks they were allowed to go home to the Lututów ghetto, 14 kms distance.
One day when Meyer worked in construction, the building crushed over his body and he was badly wounded, covered by stones. The inspector, a Volksdeutche, helped him to get out of the ruins and be saved. Meyer has a scar on his face until this very day from this fall
They were there until the deportations to the death camp Che?mno lasted, around August 1942. The Jews were locked in a church in Lututów for a few days and then the final deportation to Che?mno took place. Meyer's mother and other members of the family were among the victims of the final liquidation.
Somehow Meyer escaped the deportations and transferred to Wielu?. From there he was transported to the ?ód? ghetto, where he lived under the extremely difficult human conditions. In the ?ód? ghetto were the four brothers: Ruben, Abraham, and Zalman, the little brother who was only 13 at that time.
During 2 years, Meyer worked for the Germans in order to scavenge for goods that the Jews left in their homes in the ghetto, after the deportations to the death camps. The goods were packed and shipped to Germany.
Meyer lived with his 3 brothers, Esther Ankielewicz from Lututów, his future wife, her two brothers-in-law and another person, 7 persons in a small room. They slept on the floor as no mattresses were found. There was no toilet and Esther used to climb to the attic and use a corner to relieve herself.
Thus they survived for 2 years in the ?ód? ghetto, living in one room on 21 Dol?a street. They were subjects to Actions (Aktion, akcja) every week or two, and survived them all. They tried never to stand together, so not all of them would be killed in case selected to death. Esther used to color their cheeks with her own blood so they would look healthier and pass the selections.
One night in 1943, Gestapo agents knocked on their door during the middle of the night and took Zalman, the youngest boy, and only him with them. His fate is unknown ever since.
Life in the ghetto was horrible, mainly the selections and transports of the children. Opposite their room sttod the biggest hospital in ghetto Lodz, on the name of Adam Mickiewicz. They used to watch from closed windows the tragic scenes of children brought by their own parents, as commanded by Rumkowski, to the gathering station in front of the hospital, herded and loaded to trucks which left full and returned empty, from Che?mno.
In 1944, during the liquidation of ?ód?, Meyer and the 2 husbands of Esther's sisters Rachel and Miriam, were taken to the transports ground Czarnieckiego from where they were deported in one of the last transports to Auschwitz – Birkenau. Esther asked the Germans to join this transport saying she had family members there. The factory she worked for in ?ód?, Telefunken was completely dismantled and transferred to Auschwitz. She was reunited with Meyer and her brother-in-law while already on the train.
After many hours in the train they finally arrived to Auschwitz. Upon arrival they saw the huge cloud of smoke but did not understand yet that human beings are burned there. We were separated then. Meyer remained with one of the brother-in-law. The other one, Israel Jakobowicz was taken to the gas chamber. His last words to Meyer were that he should not forget and should tell what happened to him and his people.
Meyer was taken after the selection to one of the blocks, destined for labor. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz around 3 months. He worked as a documenter of incoming people "Schreiber". He used to register the new prisoners. When he was there, no more numbers were tattooed on the arms. He one day found his little nephew Zygmu? and helped him with extra hidden portions of soup or bread.
Then one day the child told him to keep the soup for himself as he does not need it anymore, because he knew that on the following day, they were going to kill him and the other 2000 children in the children block,. And that was what happened. Zygmu? was murdered on Yom Kippur 1944. His mother Ruth was shot dead in the street of ghetto Piotrków Trybunalski. His father Allo was killed also in Auschwitz.
After 3 months in Auschwitz, Meyer was transferred to Braunschweig (sub-camp of Buchenwald), Germany, where he was a forced laborer in a car factory Büssing. This enterprise built big cars and trucks with 16 wheels. Later as the German army was retreating, Meyer and the other inmates were on the move and shifted from concentration camp to another, Lübeck and Neustadt among them. He was liberated in Neustadt.
Esther & Meyer at their wedding after the war.
After the war Meyer returned to Poland searching for survivors from his family. He found Esther among the lists of survivors in Bergen-Belsen, he took a bicycle and drove on it until Bergen-Belsen. Through the Red Cross – his arrival was announced in the camp and Meyer and Esther were reunited. They were married in Bergen-Belsen, on September 1945.
Still in Germany, he joined the Israeli army where he served later 15 years. The couple immigrated to Israel with their first-born baby Tzipora on January 9th, 1949. In Israel the second child Danny was born. He is married to Orit and they have two grown-up son Gal and daughter Tal.
Esther & Meyer with grandchildren Ori (tot he right), Tal (in the middle) and Gal (to the left) 2008.
Esther Berkowitz was born in 1916, on an estate in Poland – Mlyn Bolków. She was the middle child of nine children, five boys and four girls. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Esther and her fiancé David, married and fled east to territory occupied by the Soviet Union.
They lived in Kowel, Poland until the Soviets deported them to Siberia. During their journey, Esther gave birth to her son, Daniel, in Novosibirsk, Siberia, in September 1940. Resuming their journey the couple ended up in the Ural Mountain area until the Soviets released them in1942 and they journeyed to Kazakhstan, staying there for three years in a coal town near Tashkent until the end of the war and after the birth of their second child, Adela (Aida), in March 1946.
When Esther returned to Poland, expecting a joyous reunion with her family, she discovered that her mother, two sisters, their husbands, children, and two brothers had been murdered. Her joy turned into grief and horror.
In April 1951, Esther and David immigrated to the Unites States, eventually settling on a chicken farm in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Later they bought two properties on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, a guest house and an apartment building, which Esther managed. David opened a restaurant featuring Dave's mile-long hot dogs. Esther is now retired, active in AMIT and the Sisterhood of her synagogue. She enjoys her family, especially her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
This memoir, Through Siberia with bed and Babies, A Holocaust Survivor's Joys and Sorrows, will add immeasurably to readers' knowledge of the Holocaust. In addition they will be inspired by Esther's life journey, her courage and resilience.
Dawid Berkowicz of blessed memory, in the Polish Army uniform
(photo was contributed by David Berkowitz)
Through Siberia with Bed & Babies a Holocaust Survivor's Joys & Sorrows
The Eleven of Us
Eighty kilometers from ?ód? Poland, is the town of Wielu?. Near Wielu? my father had an estate-Mlyn Bolk6w, about ten acres in size. On our estate was a flour mill that had been started by my father. My two oldest brothers helped him and we had a mechanic and other people working in the mill. We had horses and cows. My mother had a family helping her in our house. Our house was very comfortable — we had eight rooms with all the conveniences, hot and cold running water, very unusual at this time.
My parents, Daniel and Brahna, had met each other through matchmakers. My father was a gentle man; I never heard him raise his voice with the children. Of course, my mother is the one who had to raise us as father spent a lot of time with the mill and other business.
My parents were very religious — not orthodox with side curls (payos) but religious and traditional. I had a loving and an organized family. It had to be because my parents had nine children, Rubin, Berek —brothers — then Ruth and Dora, then in 1916 I was born right in the middle, followed by Meyer, Adela, Abraham, and Zelman. My sisters, Ruth andDora, helped my mother in the house and with the children.
I had finished shool. In those years that meant a girl had gone a little bit to the gymnasium (high school). I had gone to Wielu? for my schooling — to the Hebrew and Polish school and had graduated. Then I went to a school and learned to sew lingerie so I could sew at home and later for my family.
From 1933 to 1939 life had been very tough. Already there was Anti-Semitism. We had heard about Kristallnacht in Germany (November 9 and 10, 1938) from my sister Ruth's brother-in-law. Ruth had married a man named Ali Berkowitz, who had a brother living in Berlin.
This brother had a hat factory. The brother's wife had been Miss Berlin; she was a real beauty. However, as soon as Hitler came to power, they were thrown out of Germany because they were Jews who had come originally from Poland.
They were expelled with only the clothes on their backs. Ruth and her child, Zygmu?, with her husband, Ali, went to Zbaszyn and picked up Ali's brother and his family, who had been wealthy but had now lost everything. Zbaszyn, a Polish border town, was used as a refugee camp between November 1938 and August1939 for the thousands of Polish citizens expelled from Germany. "Many were taken in by friends and family in Poland [or] aided by Polish Jewish communities. Others managed to leave the country" (Shoah Resource Center).
In the midst of this trouble, my father became very ill. He went to the hospital to a private room, and as the middle child, I went to take care of him. Dr. Prentki treated him; however, the diagnosis was wrong. At first my father said he felt like a new man. Then he became even sicker and after a few days they sent him to isolation.
He passed away on January 30, 1939, at only fifty-four years old. My father was loved and respected. Many people in our community went to his funeral. They said that because he had died a natural death there would be upheavals in the world, but he would be spared them, for he had been so lucky all his life.
I was engaged to be married to David Berkowitz, but after my father's death I had to wait a year to be married; this was the traditional Jewish observance. When the Germans attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, David, age 26 years, was drafted into the Polish army. Within two weeks the Germans and the Soviets had overrun Poland; the Germans coming from the west, the Soviets from the east-in a pincer movement.
Poland was then split between Hitler and Stalin. My fiancé was in the east, beyond the new Soviet border. David had met up with his brother, Sam (Schmuel), in Kowel, Poland. After the defeat of the Polish army, in a couple of weeks, Sam and David decided to return to Wielu?.
When David and his brother came back, the people who were running the estate after my father's death told them that the Gestapo had taken my mother and all the children to be finger-printed to the town of Czarno?yl for the deportations.
So David went to find us, ten kilometers away at the office of the Gestapo. The Gestapo was very organized. They also finger-printed David. After they had our information, they let us go home. On the way home, David said, "This is our chance to leave. Tonight we need to pack everything on our bodies. We'll pretend we are going to the neighbors."
My mother did not think this was a good idea. We were only engaged. She would not let me go until I was married. So my mother, my brother Berek withHelen, his new wife, David's father, Henoch, and I decided to travel to David's brother's home in ?ód?, Poland, where David and I could be married.
That evening I could not go to sleep. I thought about my beautiful family: my beloved brothers and sisters, my dear mother, and our comfortable home. Now we had to leave, to go as if we were naked with only the clothes we could wear.
When we left, they were crying because we were going away. We were crying because we were leaving them. We cried also because we were going into the unknown!
So we first went to ?ód? where my fiancé had a brother with a wife and family. My father-in-law and my mother made sure that we married before we left for the east. The wedding had to be secret because we were not supposed to be in ?ód?. My father-in-law found a rabbi who married us in the fall of 1939. My mother returned to Wielu?. Our honeymoon was running away-to the east, to the unknown!
Chapter 8 (Returning from the Soviet Union to Poland after the War)
Joy to Sorrow
In ?ód? we found my sister, Adela, her husband, Jacob Jablonski, and their little girl, Rena. Adela had survived in Germany as a maid on a German estate where Nazis lived. Her "Aryan" papers had been made by a Polish family, Micholyczyk, a wonderful family. Many times they visited my sister in Israel. They were made "Righteous among the Nations" at Yad Vashem.
Before they got their "Aryan" papers they spent three nights and days in high grown corn stalks until the papers were ready and they could travel to Germany. Many Polish people did the same thing looking for work in Germany.
I asked about my mother and the rest of my family. I found this out about my mother from witnesses who had survived. One of these was Estusia (Esther) Ankielewicz from Lututów, who later married Meyer my brother.
My mother was arrested a couple of times. The Germans accused her of hiding the leather belts that were used on machines in the mill and the factory. Somehow my sister, Ruth, who was living in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland, with her husband Alloand child Zigmusz, found out and came back to Bolków to get my mother out of prison.
Then the Germans made a ghetto in Lututów, a small city, about ten kilometers from home where my mother was put with Dora, my sister and her two babies.
Dora's husband, Abraham Goldbart, was deported to Chelmno (Kulmhof, Poland, first extermination camp in Poland, operated by gas vans) not far away, a death camp where they didn't have barracks. Later my motherBrana, sister Dora, and her two children were rounded up and put into a church and from the church deported to Chelmno Death Camp where they were murdered.
Ruth, who had very light hair, looked Polish, wasn't taken to the ghetto. She was hidden with a Polish family. Later she was discovered and shot by the Nazis (one of my friends told me this after the war). They shot her in the street.
This beautiful woman!
Then Ruth's husband, Allo, and beautiful son, Zygmu?("Zalman" in Yiddish), were together and later in 1944 were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The child, Zygmu?, had curls like Shirley Temple. Whenever I walked out with him people would stop and admire him. He was a smart boy; he could play chess when he was five years old.
My brother Meyer was in Auschwitz in 1944 and where he worked he saw the lists of the arrivals. He learned that Ruth's husband, Ali, was in Auschwitz. Also Zygmu?, about nine years old, had come in a children's transport. Zygmu? was in Birkenau, the death camp, in a block with about 2000 children.
Every day Meyer brought Zygmu?some extra soup or bread. On the last day of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Meyer again took a portion of soup over to Birkenau. The chimneys there were working day and night. Meyer went with the soup trying to get to the child. As it happened, Zygmu? was standing behind the wire fence looking out and they saw each other.
When my brother tried to give him the watery soup, Zygmu? said, "No, no, Uncle. I don't want the soup today. I heard that they will take all the children to the crematorium. For me it is too late." The child showed Meyer the crematoria chimneys that were spewing smoke and ash.
He said, "Soup will be wasted on me." Zygmu? was only nine at this time.The murder of Zygmu? affects me more than any other I can not talk about him without crying. This is why I have found it impossible to talk with school children. I don't want to make them sad seeing me crying.
The next day Meyer heard so many cries. When Meyer went back, the block was empty Zygmu? was gone. His father, Allo, was never seen again.
So I found out about my family. Meyer with Rubin, Abraham, and Zelman had been in the big ghetto in ?ód? from 1942 to 1944, before all but Zelman were deported to Auschwitz.
The ?ód? Ghetto, 120 kilometers southwest of Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, was established in February of 1940. The ghetto was surrounded by barbed-wire, and conditions in the ghetto were horrendous.
The Germans had established a number of factories in the ghetto (by 1942 there were almost 100 factories inside the ghetto), and Jews were forced to labor in these factories, receiving only meager food rations from their employers; the SS received the wages the companies would have paid them (USHMM). My four brothers worked every day in these factories for the Nazis.
One night during one of the periodic round-ups, three policemen came for Zelman during the razzia (roundup). They took him out of his bed. We never saw him again.
When the ?ód? Ghetto was liquidated in the spring of 1944, Meyer was sent to Auschwitz. By this time ?ód?, with about 75,000 Jews, was the last remaining ghetto in Poland. Jews were told that they were being transported to work camps in Germany, but instead in August 1944 all survivors of the ?ód? ghetto were transported south, 177 kilometers, to Oswiecim, Poland, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Meyer was one of those transported in 1944.
From Auschwitz Meyer had been deported on a death march to Germany from which he almost did not survive. One day longer and he would have died. He was very weak when he arrived at the factory that used him as slave labor.
It was a factory that made special buses — Büssing in Branschweig, Germany. He worked there for five or six months until in 1945 he was liberated by the Russians. Meyer was then taken to Lübec to the hospital to recuperate. When he felt stronger, he went to Bergen-Belsen to find Estusia. We met up with Meyer and Estusia later in Mosburg, Germany.
Meyer, Estusia, Esther, David - Post War II, Zipora, Danny and Aida, seated
Rubin and Abraham survived the Lututów and ?ód? ghettos and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, from where they were transported to a concentration camp/ghetto at Terezin (Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia.
Abraham, only twelve or thirteen years old at the beginning, had tried to run away from this concentration camp but he was caught, punished, and beaten. Despite all this he survived. Rubin at the end of the war was malnourished and had to be hospitalized (he later went to Israel), so Abraham decided to go on his own to the family home at Mlyn Bolków. He especially wanted to find his mother.
A group of survivors living in Wielu? advised him not to return to Bolków. When Abraham returned to the estate, the mill and the main house were gone; they had been removed to Germany. Abraham then went to a good neighbor, one who had gone to school with Ruth —
Helena Teodorczyk, who welcomed him. Abraham slept in the barn. While he was there, the man who was living on our land came and invited him to sleep at his home (a cottage where our guests used to stay). Helena tried to dissuade Abraham but he went anyway. Abraham never returned; he was later found cut up in pieces. He was seventeen years old when he was killed. To think he survived to go home and be murdered by a fellow Polish citizen!
Of my eight siblings, four survived. My mother was killed. My nieces and nephews were killed. My joy at surviving Siberia and Kazakhstan was crushed by the tragic and horrible deaths of my family members.
In August 1942, during the liquidation of the Wielu? ghetto in the Lodz district, Jakub Jablonski and his friend Adela Berkowicz, both former residents of the nearby village of Lagiewniki, managed to escape.
Zygmunt Mikolajczyk, also a resident of Lagiewniki and a friend of the Jablonski family, smuggled them into his home in the dead of night, from where the two Jewish fugitives were moved to a hiding place he had prepared for them in a field.
Stefan Mikolajczyk,Zygmunt's 13-year-old son, regularly cared for Jablonski and Berkowicz, watching out for their safety and supplying them with food and clothing. At the same time, Mikolajczyk and his daughter, Helena, went to the population registry office, where they obtained Aryan papers for the fugitives under assumed names. They then took the papers to the offices involved in recruiting laborers and registered Jablonski and Berkowicz as volunteers for work in Germany.
Only afterwards did they give the papers to the two fugitives, who then traveled under assumed identities to Germany. There, they were employed doing agricultural work on a farm in Lower Silesia until the area was liberated. After the war, Jablonski and Berkowicz married. They eventually immigrated to Israel and kept in touch with their benefactors.
On August 27, I997, Yad Vashem recognized Zygmunt Mikolajczyk, his son, Stefan Mikolajczyk, and his daughter, Helena Nowak (née Mikolajczyk), as Righteous Among the Nations.
(Dov in Hebrew, born in 1909 )
Berek ( Dov in Hebrew, born in 1909 ) married in Lodz with Frida Trajtengertz Chalfin in 1947, he stayed in Lodz with the purpose of taking the family fortune to Israel, but this was impossible and they had to stay in Lodz until 1957 when he left to Israel with his wife Frida, his 8 years old daughter Hanna Brana (name given in memory of his mother-in-law Hanna and his mother Brana ) , and his 1 year old daughter Dora - Dvora (name given in memory of his sister).
In 1958 , Berek with his family immigrated to Brasil , where they lived until 1993 when Berek deceased. Frida deceased later in 2003.
As of today, their legacy is composed by 6 grandchildren and 7 greatgrandchildern
Andre Roitman July 29th, 2008
The Lodz Ghetto Archive
October 1946 Discovery of one of the hiding places of the archival materials of the Lodz Ghetto Archive at #13 Lutomierska Street, the former site of the fire department of the ghetto
The Lodz Ghetto Archive was established on November 17, 1940, by order of the Chairman of the Judenrat, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Originally tasked with preserving archival material of the Jewish community from before the war and of the communal institutions established in the ghetto, the archives eventually began to collect information on the history of the Lodz Ghetto.
Their guiding principle in this task, as stated by their director Henryk Naftalin, was “creating a basis for future scholars to study Jewish society in one of its most trying periods.” In addition to conducting interviews, collecting materials, and producing historical monographs, the archives produced the Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, regularly documenting for over three years the events and life of the ghetto. Along with the other materials of the archives, the parts of the Chronicle were hidden in different locations before the liquidation of the ghetto in 1944.
Lodz resident Nachman Zonabend, who managed to escape from the ghetto and remained in the city until liberation in January 1945, took one large section of the archives, including the Chronicle, out of the ghetto.
The second set of archival materials was discovered in October 1946 at #13 Lutomierska Street, at the former site of the ghetto fire department. A third cache of archival materials was hidden in the Jewish cemetery, but was subsequently discovered by the Germans and destroyed.
Model of Lodz Ghetto
Leon Jakubowicz and his wife Rachela holding the model of the Lodz ghetto that Leon created. The model recreates, on a small scale, the physical appearance of the ghetto, creating the shape of the model to mimic the exact boundaries, streets, and buildings that had a major impact on daily life in the ghetto. Lodz, Poland, between 1940 and 1944.
“Something about Horticulture in the Ghetto”
We are not writing about something like the elder’s extensive plantations, which would like to expand in Marysin. We just want to say a few lines about how the little man in the Ghetto acts, if he has had the special luck of gaining a little parcel of field or a share in a group. . .
If one has thus overcome dangerous obstacles then the horticulturalist’s path of suffering in the ghetto really begins. The provision for seeds was actually well organized. Pretty much everything to do with useful plants was on hand and the quality of seeds was relatively good.
One part of the seeds comes from the ghetto’s own production.
The larger part, however, was brought in. Upon request, the economic department distributed rather promptly an amount suitable for the soil. Yet it was already very late and so many a cultivation program was messed up/thrown out. For the main part, however, it worked. There were sufficient quantities of seed potatoes, peas, beans, onions, spinach, radishes, red turnips, carrots, parsley, horseradish and various herbs.
Since it was already somewhat late, only a few experts could raise plants in their hotbeds. Early-ripening plants had to be obtained from these gardeners. Indeed, the small gardeners try to raise their plants in a free bed; one sees quite many such attempts. But the insufficient knowledge of the ghetto amateurs leads to small results. One often sees really grotesque seeds. Having a consultant’s office in the agricultural department is probably just an expression of very good will.
Two elements dominate in the negative side of this cultivating work: the miserable physical condition of the people, who do not tolerate extended heavy labor well, and the unimaginable technical difficulties. Both of these components of the way of working in the ghetto leave the low level of expertise completely in the shadows.
We are not speaking about the commercial gardeners, who work larger areas themselves and with paid labor, but about the small tenant farmers, who want to cultivate up to 500 square meters per family. These people work almost without exception in an office or in a department; these people have only their free hours available. What can fruitfully be done in this time?
The people of the ghetto, who have been reduced to skin and bones, can extract only a minimum from themselves physically, even if spades and rakes were not entirely foreign to them earlier. The consequence is that only in the rarest cases is the ground thoroughly prepared.
Everything is focused on the quickest completion of excess work. One sees very few tenant farmers at work in the early morning hours. What results from this? If people do not water plants in the early morning hours, the seedlings burn up. Evenings, however, these people are even more worn out, if that’s possible.
One can observe very well that people do what is really necessary only with the utmost expenditure of their strength.
The second negative side is the technical one. There are almost no tools available. Just a few spades, and only sometimes can even a rake be bought.
The ghetto has in this regard only a very small amount of primitive tools available. And the prices are correspondingly high. They ask 15 to 20 Marks for an old spade, the same for a rake. You have to have luck to find something, for the agricultural department does not make any tools available. Very much depends on good neighbors. For instance, a watering can is almost a luxury item.
However, this is not yet the high point of the difficulties. One needs only to imagine that in many places irrigation is an insoluble problem in general. Either there is no pump or no well in the vicinity at all or, if so, the pump is not usable, like most of those in the ghetto. The first hot days of May showed the consequences of this shortcoming.
Many young and thus still very sensitive plants burned up. That is both a loss of money and time. There are cases of bitter quarrels between neighbors when a well is used too much and gives only a little water. The original owner of the parcel of land, as well as the owner of the house, naturally has to fear that the neighbor’s thirsty earth is taking the last drop of usable water away from him. The metal department cannot meet the numerous demands for repairs despite its best will. Und – horticulture…without water!
However, if it ever occurs to a gardener to lay out his hotbed himself, what kinds of problems arise? There are plenty of bricks, but where should he obtain lime or even cement in order to make the frame of the hotbed? And if that is already solved, from where should he take the frame for the glass cover, and if that is successful, how does one conjure up glass? The person outside the ghetto will never understand that the kinds of things a gardener takes for granted, which otherwise have hardly anything to do with money, were almost insoluble in the ghetto-
Just imagine that beans, peas, tomatoes are really thriving. Where does the gardener get the stakes for the climbing plants and vines? How are the beans supposed to climb up, if there are no beanpoles? The peas, how are the poor things supposed to support themselves, when there is not a dry branch far and wide that could give some twigs? And how should the good tomato become strong and fruitful, if there is no stake to support the plant?
The person in the ghetto is certainly inventive, and he always finds some old iron material somewhere to replace what can still be replaced. Where that succeeds, it is still pathetic amateurism in comparison to a halfway-equipped gardener beyond the wires.
The last little board, the last piece of picked-over wood must be saved, indeed wrung from the oven at home, for wood is also currency in the ghetto. If yields should be recorded under these circumstances, then one must testify that the small farmers in the ghetto are great poets.
Waiting For Food
This is a moving photo of children in the Lodz Jewish Ghetto in NAZI-occupied Poland, pronably taken in 1941. The Jewish boys are lined up with kettles and cups for their daily rations, which were pitifully minimal--usually only one skimpy meal a day.
Virtually all of these boys would be transported to the death camps, in this case Chemo. None of these children probably comprehended what the Germans were planning to do. The boys are shabbily dressed because new clothes for Jewws weee generally unobtainable after the German invasion (September 1939).
Most of them wear short trousers or knickers with long stockings, sometimes rolled down, or with short socks. Notice the various types of headgear, which include flat caps and caps with bills. The ages vary of course from small boys of 8 or 9 years old to teenagers.
It is not quite clear to me why the boys are separated from the girls or why the children are alone in this group without parents or elders. Jews wwere able to retain family units in the ghrttoes.
We suspect that the distribution was made at a school. Notice that here many of the children wear the Jewish star badge. Regulations varied throughout NAZI-occupied Europe, but usually younger children were not required to wear the star.
Three Generations of the Kochberg Family (picture is from 1912)
Top row from right to left: Syma Kochberg (Herszel Litwak's daughter) – perished
in the annihilation, Szmuel-Dawid Kochberg (Toronto, Canada), Chaja-Sura Ranis (Los
Angeles), Jakob-Szlama Kochberg (Toronto), Sura Kochberg (Toronto), Elka Milner
(Toronto), and Aszer-Zelig Kochberg (Toronto).
Second row: Aron-Lajb Kochberg (perished in the annihilation), Icek-Majer Kochberg
(perished in Lodz Ghetto), Hersz-Mendel Kochberg (died in 1924), Jerachmiel Kochberg
(Toronto), Ita Kochberg (died in 1937 in Toronto).
Third row: Rutcia Kochberg (perished in the annihilation), Abraham Kochberg (Toronto),
Ester Szafman (Toronto)
878 Survive in Lodz Out of 250,000 Jews
The End: June 1944
On June 10, 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto. The Nazis told Rumkowski and Rumkowski told the residents that workers were needed in Germany to repair the damages caused by air raids. The first transport left on June 23, with many others following until July 15. On July 15, 1944 the transports halted. The decision had been made to liquidate Chelmno because Soviet troops were getting close. Unfortunately, this only created a two week hiatus, for the remaining transports would be sent to Auschwitz.
By August 1944, the Lodz ghetto had been liquidated. Though a few remaining workers were retained by the Nazis to finish confiscating materials and valuables out of the ghetto, everyone else had been deported. Even Rumkowski and his family were included in these last transports to Auschwitz.
Five months later, on January 19, 1945, the Soviets liberated the Lodz ghetto. Of the 230,000 Lodz Jews plus the 25,000 people transported in, only 877 remained.
German Persecutions Are Related by Doctor from Ghetto
by LEIGH WHITE
Lodz, Feb. 6 (Delayed) -- "Good morning, gentlemen, we are from the Ghetto here. There are only 878 of us left."
Thus, did Dr. Albert Mazur, a nose and throat specialist, introduce himself and two companions as they came into the hotel dining room to tell us about what had happened to the 250,000 Jews who had formerly lived in Lodz.
Dr. Mazur spoke enough English to tell us that he had visited America and had many relatives there. Then he lapsed into Russian.
The doctor explained that he ad been one of 160 Jewish physicians in Lodz, out of which only a dozen had survived the occupation. He had done what he could, he said. But without medicines, without adequate food and clothing, and with the excessive labor which the Germans demanded from Jews, it had been a hopeless task.
At least 70,000 inmates of the Ghetto had died of tuberculosis, he said.
Sent to death camps as soon as they became unable to produce their daily quota of the sort of work demanded by the Germans, the rest of the 250,000 Lodz Jewish casualties had died there.
Only those Jews qualifying as heavy laborers, tailors, cobblers, carpenters, technicians or engineers received rations sufficient for subsistence. Engineers and technicians, willing to collaborate, got jobs in German war industry. The others stayed in the Ghetto to produce shoes and uniforms for the German Army, or were taken out to dig fortifications or build temporary houses to replace those destroyed in bombings.
Every few weeks, at night, there were "deportations" of dissidents and physically unfit, to Majdanek or Oswiecim, where they were gassed.
A Ghetto police force, composed of Jewish collaborationists, was organized under the command of an SS officer from Bremen, named Bibow, who was known to the Jews as "the vampire" because of his insatiable desire for girls. Bibow ran the Ghetto under the order of a man named Bradtfisch, the Gestapo chief of Lodz.
Before the Russians came, Dr. Mazur said, both Bradtfisch and Bibow came to the Ghetto and made speeches calling on the Jews to go to Germany voluntarily in order to be spared the suffering caused by "Russian bombings."
When all the Jews they could prevail upon to accompany them had left, they had set fire to the Ghetto with incendiary bombs. The 878 survivors are those who refused to go to Germany and who managed to escape from the Ghetto in time to avoid being burned to death or shot by the retreating Germans.
Dr. Gaspari, an eminent cancer specialist and personal friend of the late Field Marshal Erich von Ludendorff, and Baron Hirsch of Vienna, a well-known Jewish philanthropist died of starvation in Lodz, Dr. Mazur said.
The Lodz Ghetto is one of the most hideous spectacles this correspondent has ever witnessed. The Germans constructed a 10-foot brick wall topped with broken glass, around the Jewish quarter, as they did in Warsaw. Several highways ran through the Ghetto and they could not keep it hermetically sealed. So they erected barbed wire fences between sidewalks and streets in order to prevent Jews from "contaminating" Aryans passing through.
Often the despair of the Jews reached such a point, Dr. Mazur said, that they would approach the barbed-wire stockades and slowly begin to climb to the top. The bored German sentries, would not even shout a word of warning. When the Jew had reached the top of the stockade they would pick him off with their guns.
Thousands of Lodz Jews died this way, Dr. Mazur added. It was the simplest way of committing suicide.
March 25, 1972.
Jankiel Herszkowicz, a tailor with a gift for lyric writing, chronicled life in the Lodz ghetto in a series of ballads that earned him fame—and needed income—as “Yankele, the street singer.” Herszkowicz's irreverant wit and love of wordplay are evident in his best known song, rumkovski khayim, a broadside aimed at the ghetto's dictatorial chairman, Chaim Rumkowski. (The title puns on Rumkowski's first name, which means “life” in Hebrew.)
In the summer of 1944, Herszkowicz was deported first to Auschwitz, then to a labor camp in Braunschweig, Germany, from which he was liberated in May 1945. After the war he returned to Lodz, where he worked at a variety of jobs and actively participated in the cultural affairs of the city's Jewish community.
Herszkowicz was deeply anguished by the mass exodus of Jews from Poland following the antisemitic purges that began in 1968. Increasingly isolated and insecure, yet finally unwilling to join his friends in emigration, the 61-year-old Herszkowicz ended his own life on March 25, 1972.
Zeew Kibel was deported from Turek in July 1941 and sent to the Eichwald Labour Camp near Posen. After Posen he was in the Lodz ghetto. Bronia saw him in Auschwitz as he arrived. He survived Auschwitz, Dachau and Sachsenhausen...
He returned to Turek in 1990 and I believe the book has a section about his visit there when he was searching for Torah commentaries by R' Pinchas Weiss, the last rabbi of Turek. He did not locate them. He said somewhere in the book that he owed his life to God and his sister Brucha.
Zeew Kibel wrote a book about his experiences in the German Concentration and death camps:
Arriving at Lodz Ghetto
The train carrying our transport stopped at Radoswicz station and we, the refuse of Poznan labour camps were led towards the Lodz Ghetto, arriving at the Ghetto which was as large as Bnei Brak (near Tel Aviv), we were locked up in a place called Tzarchkago which served as a prison before the war and was surrounded by a high fence. A small scale camp spread over a relatively large area and was used to house transports and was guarded by Jewish policemen.
The Ghetto management committee did not know what to do with us-we were sick and our fate hung in the balance, they had no wish to receive 1000 unfit men-“do we not have enough musselmans in our Ghetto already that we have more from Posnan?”. But they had to have us until such time that the “Kripo” (the German administration) told them otherwise.
First a list was made by the Ghetto administration and they asked each of us as to their personal details and if they had any relatives in the ghetto. That was how they prepared themselves in case they have to send us away-each to wherever a place was available.
The Ghetto dwellers, hearing about this transport, stood outside the fence to see if there were anybody they knew and that way I discovered four of my cousins living in the Ghetto and they gave me their address-this I passed to the Ghetto administrators when they asked about my relatives and I was allowed to visit them once.
After four days, Haim Rumkowski arrived. He was an especially cruel Jew who runs the Ghetto together with two Germans-Bibow and his deputy Fuschs... They looked us over from head to toe while we stood on parade and said-“why did they bring this rubbish here?” Rumkowski immediately ordered that we be locked up in one room and were not to be let out to visit friends.
The room we were locked in was small and cramped, and only a bucket was provided for toilet. The food was brought by Jewish policemen who locked the doors as soon as it was delivered. Once a day we could see the light for half an hour, when we received our lunch as we stood in the yard to receive our soup.
I felt things just could not go on like this and that something is bound to happen and then, while standing in the soup queue one day I heard a child calling “Zeev!”, I turned my head and saw a small girl, a neighbour from Turek standing by the fence (it was the granddaughter of Rabbi Mendel, the father of Rabbi Gezel Golomb may he rest in peace who moved with her family to Lodz before the war). She asked me to come near and this I did –feeling that she was sent by god and was one of the people sent by the almighty during the war to save my life.
Approaching her, she whispered to me: “Zeev, somebody will do something, please do not despair, but do the right thing” and she run off immediately.
And what actually happened? One of the prisoners organised an escape with his brother who was in the Ghetto as a free man. This brother bribed the Jewish policemen to turn a blind eye to a specific place in the fence. On the allotted time, he loosened the board on the fence and let his brother out.
Everybody was dumbstruck and I took my chances and run after the escaped prisoner and trough the hole in the fence before the policemen had a chance to close the break. I run with the escaped prisoner and his brother into a hiding place prepared beforehand in a house in Marsynzki Street and closed the door. We lay there till four in the afternoon waiting for the searches to stop, when the others came back from work the brother opened the door and told us that they were not looking for us at all anymore.
I left and went to my cousin’s place, a small room where they all lived while working as tailors. I begged them to take me in spite of the lack of space as I was the only one remaining out of my family and they agreed although I was still ill with my frost injuries. They agreed and made room for me in the small room. In the morning at seven, all the legal workers had to leave for work and I remained in the room alone with the door locked from the outside. I was afraid I will be found out as I gave that address as my relative’s place.
This was the first time since the beginning of the war that I has a proper quilt to cover myself with and I decided to make up all that I missed –in the hours when my relations were at work by covering myself with all the blankets in the room, I slept-every day-until they returned from work. I slept at night as well. And so I managed to get up to 12 hours sleep a day and that helped me to finally recover from my injuries.
A week passed and I found out that all the transport from Poznan was sent away to another place after a few dozens managed to escape and I could not stop thanking god for giving me the courage to run away when I did. The following day rumours started circulating that all those who escaped the transport must report at 3 pm in the Tzerzenkago offices where they will be given ration cards and a place of work will be found for them, As it was the rule that with no work-no food : there was no option but to work.
I kept the appointment at the right time and many came with me. In a room, around a table some of the Ghetto elite were seating-all Jews! The head of food supplies, the head of work assignments etc. They asked for details of all those who reported-what occupations they had and what experience so they could find them appropriate work.
When I entered the room, I was still limping somewhat and the delegation looked at me and suddenly burst out laughing until I thought I was in a madhouse.-“how did this Klapsadra remain alive?” wondered one of them when he stopped laughing-“are we short of such people in the Ghetto?!”
At that moment I felt I was fighting for my life and so I answered: “I the klapsadra, a remnant from the fire, the sole survivor of my family, can start a new branch again! You will not determine the future! How can you not be ashamed as Jews to talk like this? What if you will come to my position (as eventually happened,), what do you know about what there is behind you? Is this Jewish!” I shouted loudly.
The members of the delegation were stunned; they did not hear anything like that from any other prisoner. And then one of them asked me-“what do you intend to do?” I remembered that I had a relative in a factory making “Zatlerim” (Zatler in German Zoitel in Yiddish. In Hebrew it means the sewing of the harnesses for horses and this was done with two needles so that the stitching will be good, and the work was called “Koza”), so I replied : “Zatlerim..”
When the delegation heard this they laughed out loud but to test me if I knew about harness making, one of them asked me-“how many needles would you need for this work?” and me, without knowing anything about the work answered: “with two needles!” (I did not know that Koza meant the sewing of the bridle, as I always thought that Koza was a goat walking on all fours...). “So, you are an expert Zatler!” he said and immediately gave me a permit to work in the harness workshop with a food card and all, by the grace of heaven, under individual supervision.
Liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto
August came and rumours started circulating that the Ghetto was about to be liquidated. One day the commandant Bibow, responsible for all the Ghettoes in our part of the country arrived in Lodz and told the assembled Jews of the Ghetto-“As you know the Russians are approaching this area but as you are hard workers the Reich decided to transfer you to Germany with all your equipment where you will continue to work in much better conditions as you had here”
People were happy to hear that and every day 8,000-7000 willingly arrived for transport to “German work” but, in reality they were all sent to Oswiecim and only a tenth survived after the cruel selection of Dr. Mengele. The rest were sent directly to their death in the gas chambers. I left in the penultimate transport and with me were the Jewish policemen and the firemen. After us, in a separate transport, the Ghetto committee and their families were deported and they, who helped the Germans so much and had an easy time of it so far-were led to their deaths in the crematoriums of Oswiecim!
Even before the final evacuation of the Ghetto, Bibow, who was in charge of all the Wartegau area Ghettos sent sealed envelopes to the heads of the Judenrat organisations and told them to only open those in case of emergency as these will save them and their families. Rabbi Herschel Zimnovoda (head of the Judenrat) received one such envelope, but he and all the other envelope holders were transported to Oswiecim, where they were taken on a “tour” of the Gas chambers the Crematoriums the torture chambers and other facilities. The Kapos of that camp laughed at them and tormented them until they were all burnt alive.
For now only 300-400 people remained in the Ghetto tasked with clearing up and sending any possessions to Germany. The Germans watched those people closely to make sure they could not steal anything. One clear day a rumour surfaced that the Russians were only a few dozens Km away and they were ordered by Bibow to dig holes in the ground, thinking that when they did so he will shoot them dead but it was not to be. The Russians forestalled him and took the city and so all those Jews were saved.
The Russians, on entering decided to take revenge for what was done to the Jews and grabbed all the Germans they could find and promptly hanged them. The bodies were left to swing until they rotted and only then did the Russians let them be buried in disgrace and amongst them was Bibow the head of the Gestapo may he be cursed forever.
So will all you enemies perish oh lord!
“At the ghetto of Lodz (Poland) […] none of the 5,000 gypsies survived.”
- born in 1925 in Lodz, Poland
- family: parents Chaim (d. 10 Jul 1942 from Unterernährung, i.e. malnutrition)and Jentla (d. 14 Jan 1943 from Urämie, i.e. uremia) Pisarek; sister Manya, fate unknown
- address in Lodz pre-war: ul. Kamienna 10
- addresses in Lodz Ghetto (German):
Sulzfelderstrasse 100 Flat 12;
Mühlgasse 31 Flat 27 (10 Jan 1942-3 Nov 1944)
- inhabitant of the Lodz Ghetto
- inmate at Buchenwald Concentration Camp
Voices of the Shoah~Survivors
Shlomo (Saul) Berger
Born October 28, 1919, in Krosno, near Krakow, Poland
Berger worked in his father’s tailor shop until he escaped the oncoming German front and joined the partisans. He married Gusta (Gertrude) Griedman in Romania prior to coming to America in 1950. He found work in the U.S. as a factory worker and is now retired. The Bergers have two children and four grandchildren.
Born 1927, Lodz, Poland
Bernstein lived in the Lodz ghetto before she was sent to the Ravensbrück and Auschwitz camps. Via Dachau, she was sent to Ravensbrück again, then Millhausen and Bergen-Belsen. She moved to England in 1948, where she married and had two children.
Born 1927, Prague, Czechoslovakia
Birkin also lived in the Lodz ghetto before being deported to Auschwitz in 1944. She was sent to a work camp and munitions factory; in 1945 she was sent on the death march to Flossenbürg camp, then to Bergen-Belsen. She arrived in England in 1946, where she married and later adopted three children.
Born 1933, Prague, Czechoslovakia
Sent by train and boat on the Kindertransport to Wales in 1939, Collins was officially adopted by another family at age 14 after of the deaths of her parents had been confirmed. She married and has two sons.
Born August 27, 1924, Brooklyn, New York
In 1942 Cheslow, the son of a kosher butcher, was inducted into the U.S. Army; two years later he arrived in Europe, serving in Holland, Belgium, and southern Germany. On April 29, 1945, he was with the first tank group to enter and liberate Dachau. Upon his return from the war in 1945, he married Anne Robbins, with whom he had two children and two grandchildren. He has been a docent at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and devotes time to telling school groups about his experience as a liberator.
Born 1898, Vienna, Austria
In 1939 Fischl and her husband sent their two children to England. In 1942 she was deported to the Theresienstadt camp, where her husband died two years later. After surviving the Auschwitz, Oederan, and Theresienstadt camps, Fischl arrived in England in 1946, where she was reunited with her children.
Born 1922, Lingen an der Ems, Germany
Deported to the Riga ghetto in 1941, Foster was sent by ship to Gdansk in 1944, then to the Stutthof camp. She survived forced labor in Sotienwalde as well as the death march to Chinow. She subsequently moved to England, where she married. She has a child and two grandchildren.
Born 1926, Bekescsaba, Hungary
Groves’ family moved to Romania in 1927. Following Hungarian occupation in 1940, the family was taken into slave labor. Groves then lived in a ghetto during the German occupation before being sent to the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps and then to Hornburg (a munitions factory), and the Porta Westphalia, Luneberg, and Saltswedel camps. After liberation in 1945, she moved to England, where she married and has two children and six grandchildren.
Siegfried (Siggy) Halbreich
Born November 13, 1909, in Dziedzitz, Silesia, Austria
Halbreich studied pharmacy before serving in the Polish Army. He was active in Zionist activities, particularly the Akiba organization. He survived six concentration camps before being liberated from Dora-Mittelbau by American soldiers on April 13, 1945. His sister also survived and emigrated to Palestine. He now shares his memories of the Holocaust with college audiences and with individual students of all ages. He has two children and two grandchildren.
Born 1922, Szombathely, Hungary
Heimler lived in the ghetto before his deportation first to Auschwitz, then to the Buchenwald and Troglitz camps, then back to Buchenwald. During the death march to the Czechoslovakia border, he escaped and was taken to the partisans fighting the Nazis. He moved to England in 1947. He has two children and one grandchild.
Born 1929, Novogrodek, Vilna, Lithuania
Kagan lived in the Novogrodek ghetto, which was liberated by the Soviets. In 1945 he was sent to a displaced persons camp in Poland. He is married with three children.
Born January 12, 1926, Lodz, Poland
Two of her four siblings, Nadzia and Abram, survived the war; Salek and Hadassah, born in the ghetto, did not. Kingston was sent to Auschwitz, after which she was sent to Stutthof. After surviving a forced march to Danzig/Gdynia, she was liberated by the Soviets. She returned to Lodz after the war, where she met and married her husband, Morrie. They made their way to Germany and then to the U.S. She is an active member of the survivor community in Los Angeles and is the founder and past president of the Lodzer Organization.
Born April 22, 1915, United States
Klausner graduated from the University of Denver and Hebrew Union College, from which he received rabbinic ordination in 1943. He was inducted into the army in June of the following year. Klausner played an extremely important role after liberation in establishing services to help the Jewish survivors start new lives. He was also instrumental in bringing their problems to the attention of American Jews and the government. He served congregations in Boston and Yonkers, New York, for many years. He is married and has two children, and he now lives in New Mexico with his wife.
Born 1924, Szombathely, Hungary
After living in the ghetto, Levi was taken to Sarvar, then to the Auschwitz/Birkenau camp and the Hessich-Lichtenau/Buchenwald camp. After surviving the death march to Riesa, she was liberated in 1945. She lived in France for many years, before moving to England in 1957. Levi is married with children.
Sonia Meyers (Also Idelson)
Born December 6, 1921, Kovno, Lithuania
Before the war, Meyers’ father was a rabbi, while her mother ran a textile goods and clothing business. Meyers married when she was 19 years old, while still a university student. Invading Nazis killed her new husband and sister, Chaya.
Her parents and brother survived war in Siberia. Meyers survived the ghetto, Lithuanian work camps, Stutthof, and other smaller work camps. She was liberated on January 23, 1945, by the Soviet Army. After remarrying in Germany, she arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1949, where her son and daughter were born. After her second husband died, she and her children moved to Los Angeles. Now widowed from her third husband, she has two grandsons and loves to folk dance.
Born March 8, 1918, in Los Angeles
A first-generation Japanese-American, Mori was drafted in 1941, while his family members were held in an internment camp. After serving in Europe—and witnessing the horrors near Dachau—he returned to the U.S. and reunited with his recently released family members. He is now married with one child.
Born October 23, 1930, in Vienna, Austria
Rauch escaped with his mother and siblings to New York before World War II began. His father, who was trapped in Europe, survived, joining his family in the U.S. after the war. Rauch moved to Los Angeles in 1941, where he studied law at the University of Southern California. He is married with two children and six grandchildren. Now a real estate and corporate planning consultant, he is also the current president and director of Los Angeles’ Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, an organization he founded with his wife, Ruth.
Born 1930, Klatovy, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia
Schaufeld was one of the children rescued during the Kindertransport to England in 1939. After living with a foster family in Bury Saint Edmunds, she moved to a kibbutz in Israel in 1951. She married a concentration camp survivor and had two daughters. She returned to England in 1954.
Born on March 20, 1959, in Los Angeles, California
Schiller is the son of survivors Liesa and Frank Schiller, from Vienna and Prague respectively. He works at the University of California, Los Angeles, as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in Hematology and Oncology. He is active in his synagogue and president of Second Generation, an organization of sons and daughters of Jewish Holocaust survivors dedicated to remembering the victims and to keeping the images and the lessons of the Shoah alive for the Jewish community and all Americans.
Born January 30, 1935, in Lvov, Ukraine
Schwartz survived the war in ghettos and various other locations in Poland. After liberation, she moved to Sweden, eventually coming to the United States in 1949, where she is married and has three sons. A psychotherapist in private practice, she works as a school therapist and devotes considerable time to Survivors of the Shoah Foundation.
Born 1921, Hamburg, Germany
In 1938 Sinclair was sent to Middlesex, England, on the Kindertransport. Her parents escaped to Shanghai three years later. She is married with three children.
Born 1927, Alexandrow, Poland
Stimler is a survivor of a camp in Kutno, the Lodz/ Litzmannstadt ghetto, the Auschwitz camp, a work camp at Pirshkow, and the death march to Odra, which was liberated by Soviet troops. She is now married with two children.
Born 1920 in Garden Grove, California
A first-generation Japanese-American, Yasukochi was drafted into the army in 1941 and served in Europe, where he helped liberate the death camp at Dachau. After the war, he moved to Los Angeles. He has five children and nine grandchildren.
WAJSKOPF Daniel (1899–1944), radiologist. Born 26 April 1899 in Radomsko as son of Szlama and Ruchla née Dykierman. He began the study of medicine in Warsaw, then interrupted for two years, joining the Pilsudki Legionnaires.
After finishing his medical studies (1925), he practiced in Lodz. His wife was Pauline (Perla) née Lewi (1901–44), specialist in internal medicine and gynecology, member of the Chamber of Physicians. Before the outbreak of World War II, they lived at 101 Piotrkowska Street.
In February 1944 he joined a group of several individuals intending to organize armed resistance of the ghetto inhabitants.
He was shot to death on 6 November 1944 by Hans Biebow [German administrative chief of Lodz Ghetto], while defending the hiding-place in which he was staying together with his family. Daniel was buried in the cemetery on Bracka Street (Left side, Section A). Next to him lies his brother Bernard.
(Daniel Weiskopf, Doctor of Medicine, born 26 April 1899, murdered by the Nazis in 1944 - A salute to his memory)
Living together with him in the ghetto were his mother Ruchla (1879–6 October 1943) as well as his sister Regina (born 23 April 1910). His brother Bernard (21 August 1905–24 August 1945), a lawyer, who was also in the Lodz Ghetto, became, after liberation, the first president of the Jewish community in Lodz.
Benjamin L. Sieradzki
Benjamin L. Sieradzki, a Holocaust survivor, husband, father of two and grandfather of three, died July 1 at his home in Berkeley. But those who knew him well say his legacy will thrive for years to come — both in his family and in the local survivor community he held so dear.
Born 84 years ago in the industrial town of Zgierz, near Lodz, Poland, Sieradzki was the youngest of five children. His parents ran a small textile plant, and his childhood was generally comfortable.Benjamin Sieradzki In 1939, when he was 12, the Germans invaded Poland, and his father was among the prosperous Jews in town dragged from their homes, beaten and held for days in the basement of a local Catholic church. The family spent the next five years on dwindling rations in the Lodz Ghetto.
In September 1942, his mother was beaten by Gestapo agents who had come to the ghetto during the night. Afterward, both his parents were loaded into a truck headed for the Chelmno extermination camp. “This scene will be forever indelible in my mind,” he told j. in a 2007 interview.
Sieradzki and his sister Anna were deported to Auschwitz in August of 1944. There, Sieradzki stayed alert for opportunities to be put on labor teams. He succeeded in getting sent to Stoecken, Germany, to work in the Continental Rubber Factory, but a few months later, all the men working there were sent to the Ahlem concentration camp.
In April 1945, when American soldiers liberated the camp, Sieradzki was 18 years old and weighed 80 pounds. After recuperating in a German hospital, he traveled to Sweden, where he lived for eight years, training as a mechanical engineer.
In 1953, he traveled to the U.S. on a visa, and while studying and working in Los Angeles, he went on a blind double date with a friend and fell in love with his future wife — his friend’s date. It was the beginning of a relationship Sieradzki’s son, Michael Sarid, calls “extraordinary.”
“Even as his own health began to fail … he went to the ends of the Earth for my mom,” said Sarid, who legally changed his last name in 1999 in honor of his father: “Sarid” is Hebrew for remnant or survivor.
Ben and Gloria Sieradzki were married in 1955, and Ben became a citizen in 1957. Soon after, they moved to Berkeley and had sons David and Michael. Sieradzki worked as a mechanical engineer in the food industry.
Sieradzki was known as one of the most outspoken survivors in the Bay Area survivor community. He served on a board of Holocaust survivors organized by Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay, managing emergency funds provided to survivors in need. He kept in touch with a tight-knit network of other survivors in the East Bay.
“He went to every meeting, every event,” Sarid said. “He’d be the one driving other survivors who were in worse shape than he was.”
Sarid — now the Los Angeles–based Western regional director for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — added that his father’s proud identity as a Holocaust survivor had an obvious, undeniable influence on his children.
“He raised his kids as strong Zionists and members of the community … and he certainly wasn’t one of those survivors who never talked about it. I give my mom a lot of credit there, too,” said Sarid. “From their early days together, she really encouraged him to talk about it at a time when no one was.”
After he retired, Sieradzki decided he wanted to know more about his family’s history, and began researching artifacts from the war. That work led him to Vernon Tott, a soldier from Iowa who was 20 when he helped liberate the Ahlem concentration camp.
Sieradzki remembered that he and other survivors had had their pictures taken as the camp was being liberated, and he wanted to know what had happened to the photos. In 1995, he put out an inquiry in an army newsletter, and Tott responded. The photos — which showed groups of emaciated prisoners in clothes just given to them by the American soldiers — had been in a shoebox for 50 years. Eventually, Tott and Sieradzky located nearly 30 other Ahlem survivors in North America.
Tott and Sieradzky became friends who talked frequently on the phone and researched together, until Tott’s death from cancer in 2005. Sieradzky and other Ahlem survivors were honored in 2004 at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. “It was a real high point for him,” said Sarid.
Sarid said anyone who knew his father describes him as a deeply caring, loyal friend, and that his spirit absolutely lives on in his children and his granddaughters.
“We grew up with him telling us bedtime stories about life in Poland before the war, and I know my brother told those stories to his own kids,” said Sarid. “His life, his stories are a permanent part of our family lore.”
Ben Sieradzki is survived by his wife, Gloria; sons David Sieradzki of Bethesda, Md., and Michael Sarid of Santa Monica; and three granddaughters. Contributions in his memory may be made to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Western Regional Office, 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035; Young Judaea; or the Berkeley chapter of Hadassah.
by emma silvers, staff writer
Leon Zelman OBM
12 June 1928~11 July 2007
Leon Zelman was born on 12 June 1928 in Szczekociny, Poland. He survived the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and theMauthausen-Ebensee concentration camp where he was liberated by American forces on 6 May 1945. Leon Zelmanlost his entire family in the Shoah.
After hospital and convalescence in Bad Ischl and Bad Goisern, Leon Zelman came to Vienna in 1946. He obtained his university entrance qualification at a tutorial college and began studying Journalism in 1949, obtaining a doctorate in 1954.
During his studies Leon Zelman was an officer of the Jewish Students' Union, first as social secretary and then as president from 1953-1959. In 1951 he helped found the Das Jüdische Echo (The Jewish Echo) magazine.
In 1963 Leon Zelman took over the management of the City travel agency from the Austrian Travel Agency in order to build up tourism to Israel.
Leon Zelman was the long-serving editor of Das Jüdische Echo, which grew from a small information sheet issued by the Jewish Students' Union into an influential cultural and political publication read overseas as well as in the German-speaking world. His autobiography "After Survival", co-authored with Armin Thurnher, the editor of Vienna listing magazine Falter, was published in 1995 and also appeared in the USA.
In 1995 the Leon Zelman Hall was opened at the Rehavia Gymnasium, the oldest secondary school in Jerusalem. A meeting place for Jewish, Muslim and Christian youth, it was co-financed by Leon Zelman's Dr. Karl Renner Prizemoney.
Leon Zelman received numerous awards and honours. Among other accolades, he received the Ring of Honour of the City of Vienna in 2001, the Grand Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria and theHumanitarian Achievement Award 5764 of the Rabbinical Center of Europe in 2004, as well as the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold of the province of Styria in 2007.
Leon Zelman passed away on 11 July 2007.
On 11 July 2008, the President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer unveiled a memorial plaque to Leon Zelman at the Palais Epstein in Vienna, in the presence of Vice Mayor Renate Brauner, Councillor for Cultural Affairs Andreas Mailath-Pokorny and the journalist Ari Rath. Leon Zelman had long campaigned for the establishment of a"House of History" in the palace, which is an annex of the nextdoor parliament building.
The "Epstein Lectures", initiated in 2006 by Leon Zelman and the historian Brigitte Hamann are continuing. The lecture series is aimed at illuminating aspects of history associated with Palais Epstein from both personal and academic perspectives.
The memorial to Leon Zelman OBM at the Palais Epstein in Vienna (Photo: © Carina Ott)
Leon Zelman presenting Das Jüdische Echo (in his office on Stephansplatz).