Jaworow is a small town located about 50 km west of Lwow
. Situated before
WW2 in Poland, today it is part of the Ukraine, just a few kilometres from the present Ukrainian-Polish border.
Jaworow was a typical Galician shtetl
. In 1939
numbered some 10,000 people 2,500 Jews, 2,000 Poles and 5,500 Ukrainians. Most of the Jews were impoverished
merchants and artisans. They lived in the centre of the town, mainly around the market square and in the
Jewish district close to the 17th century main synagogue. In addition to the
main synagogue, there were also three other, smaller synagogues in Jaworow.
The first atrocities against the Jews were organised here as early as September 1939
During the period of two weeks during which Jaworow was initially occupied by the Wehrmacht
Germans, with the assistance of some Ukrainians, terrorized the Jews of the town. The main
synagogue was burned down. Jews who were gathered around the synagogue had to sing religious
songs whilst observing the burning synagogue. Many people were beaten in the streets. German
soldiers cut the beards and carved swastikas on the heads of Orthodox Jews. During that time
about 30 people were killed in Jaworow, mainly in accordance with a special list prepared by the
Ukrainian mayor. At the end of September 1939
, control of Jaworow passed to the Soviet Union,
and the town remained under Soviet occupation until 22 June 1941
. During the period of Soviet
occupation, a group of Jewish refugees from the Generalgouvernement
arrived in the
town and the Jewish population increased to 3.000. The Soviets nationalized Jewish trade, and
some wealthy Jews were persecuted on the grounds that they were "capitalists". The Soviets
deported some of the Jewish refugees and many Poles from Jaworow to Siberia.
The German army entered Jaworow for a second time on 27 June 1941
, and were warmly
welcomed by the local Ukrainians. Only a few Jews had the opportunity of escaping from the town
prior to the German occupation. Others who attempted to escape returned to Jaworow after
several days from Lwow
to where they had fled. A Ukrainian civil administration was very quickly established, with the head of the county,
, in charge. His first order was the establishment of a Judenrat
He also prepared a list of 13 Jews who were accused of collaborating with the Soviets. These people were arrested
and handed to the Gestapo
. Several days later they were executed in a nearby forest.
|Market Square *
Jews were forced to work for the German army, and many were involved in the construction of
the roads around Jaworow. A group of Jewish workers also extended the quarters in the former
Soviet army barracks that were converted by the Germans into a camp for Soviet POWs. The
religious Jews of the town were subject to particular victimization. Amongst other things, they were
compelled to clean the toilets of the German houses with their bare hands. At the beginning of the
occupation Jews were removed from the houses on the market square and the main streets
of the town (Mickiewicz, Aleksandrowicz, Krakowiecka
which were changed into so called "Vormarschstraße". Jews were not allowed to walk
on these streets nor on the market square. Most of the Jews lived in the historical Jewish district,
but until December 1942
there was not a closed ghetto in Jaworow.
The first staff of the Judenrat
in Jaworow consisted of Sender Blum
as the president, Salomon Henner, Leiser Wimmer, Munie Gils
. Jaworow's Judenrat
was also the regional Judenrat
for the Jews of Krakowiec
; however, there were also local Judenräte
towns. The Judenrat
Jaworow was responsible from inception not only for contact with the German and Ukrainian authorities,
but also for the conscription of Jews for labour a special office of the Jewish Arbeitsamt
organised and for the gathering of money and valuables for the Germans. Most of the Germans
in the occupation administration were very corrupt individuals, and Jews had to pay "contributions"
very frequently not only money but also furniture, clothes, shoes, etc. One contribution was organised
solely for the gathering of all alcoholic drinks in the Jews' possession. Because Jews did not have
much alcohol, the members of the Judenrat
had to travel to
to buy vodka and wine for the Germans. The principle
person responsible for the official plunder of the Jews was Landkommissar
from Grodek Jagiellonski
Every week he visited Jaworow with a group of Germans and ordered new contributions. The
historian of the Jewish community in Jaworow described Steyer
as insatiable in his demand for loot. He would force his way into Jewish homes, sweeping dishes
from the table to the floor, smashing furniture and humiliating women. He flogged
. He ordered Polka Cipper
to undress, ground her bare toes with his boots and whipped her mercilessly. He delighted in
striking women with his bare fists until their blood flowed, and chasing them nude into the cold outdoors.
Although there was not initially a closed ghetto in Jaworow, Jews were not allowed to leave the town.
The main problem for the Jews was the supply of food for their families. Jews started to sell the
contents of their homes from the very beginning of the final German occupation. Poor people begged
for food from the richer families, but even the richer families very quickly lost the opportunity to buy
food. In 1941 many people died from starvation in Jaworow. Later the situation was to become much worse.
From autumn 1941
, the Germans organised round-ups of Jews for work camps. The Judenrat
was responsible for gathering young men for forced labour. A unit of the Jewish police, with
as its commander, was also established for this purpose.
During the first "action", in deciding which young men should be sent to the work camps, the Judenrat
selected mainly Jews from surrounding villages and towns. 200 men from
Wielkie Oczy, Krakowiec
Jaworow were sent to the work camps in Winniki
. The next "actions" were organised in
January and May 1942
. Because there were no longer any young men in the district,
during the last "action" old men and boys were taken to the camps. In addition, some Jews from Jaworow were sent to the
work camp at
Jews from Jaworow incarcerated in these camps built the road from Lwow
. Many of them died in the camps or at their
workplaces. In total, about 1,000 Jews from Jaworow and nearby towns were deported to the work
camps. Having exhausted the labour pool in Jaworow, the German civil administrator of
requested that the chief of the SS and Police in Galicia district, Fritz Katzmann
arrange for the deportation from Jaworow of non-working Jews and their families because the
administration was not prepared to supply them with food. The first resettlement was in fact not in
Jaworow, but in Wielkie Oczy
. On 10 June 1942
Jews from this town (among them members of the Judenrat
, together with their families)
were resettled in Jaworow. Another group of about 200 people was resettled from
In June 1942 Landkommissar Steyer
ordered the Jews from Jaworow to destroy
the town's Jewish cemetery. Every Jew from the town had to work at the cemetery demolishing
graves and tombstones. Because of this "operation", on that same day the first President of the
, Sender Blum
, died of a heart attack in
's office. The Landkommissar
immediately decided that
the next President of the
should be Dawid Badian
, who had good relations with the
Germans. Survivors from Jaworow professed a very bad opinion about the new President.
He collaborated very closely with the Germans, was as corrupt, and was very cruel towards the Jews.
personally related that he preferred Badian
to the then Ukrainian mayor of Jaworow, Baczynski
A new commander of the Jewish police was also appointed at that time, the artist-painter
. He was similarly considered to be a corrupt and cruel person.
|Jaworow Synagogue *
By September 1942
, the Jews of Jaworow already knew of the death camp at
. Many people decided to build shelters and bunkers in their
homes whilst waiting for the deportations to begin. The deportation to
was in fact organised in Jaworow
later than in many other towns. On 7 December 1942
, SS, Ukrainian police, and Jewish
police from the Lwow ghetto
surrounded the town.
Jewish police from Jaworow were also very active during this "action". About 1,500 Jews
were gathered on the square near the main synagogue. Another 200-300 Jews were killed in
their homes, in the shelters that Jewish policemen betrayed, or in the streets. At the last moment,
members of the Judenrat
and Jewish policemen were added to the group that had
been prepared for deportation. On 8 December 1942
this entire group was sent to
. In the course of the deportation, a young girl,
, caught her skirt in the window of the cattle wagon.
She dangled in mid-air until a Nazi guard "helped" her with a bullet through the heart. Many people decided to escape
from the train on the way to the death camp, among them Badian
The day after the deportation the Germans ordered the establishment of a closed ghetto in Jaworow.
The ghetto was located near the main synagogue and occupied a very small area. The Jews who
survived the "action" had to settle in 80 houses on three streets; part of the market square, part of
and on the so-called "Schilhof",
the part of the town where the synagogues were situated. At inception the closed ghetto contained
600-1,000 people. When Badian
returned to Jaworow, the Germans
once again appointed him to the position of President of the Judenrat
, who had returned with him, remained the commander of the Jewish police.
Altogether, 80 people who had jumped from the train to Belzec
back to the ghetto.
In mid-December 1942
, the ghetto in Jaworow was designated as the main
ghetto for the entire region.
Jews from Krakowiec, Sadowa Wisznia, Grodek Jagiellonski,
Mosciska, Ozomla, Twierdza, Krukienice, Szklo
, and Bonow
were resettled in Jaworow. The ghetto was not enlarged, and 5,000 people had to live together in
the same 80 houses where no more than 1,000 had previously lived. Many Jews, especially those
had no money to bribe the members of the Judenrat
, had to spend several days on the streets.
Later they were relocated to the building of the Beth-hamidrash
, but in the meantime many
children and old people were frozen to death.
, a survivor from the Jaworow ghetto, described the conditions of the
Jews at that time:
"There, like bees in a beehive, in terrible congestion, dirty, without water, clothes, linen,
without food, in unspeakable fear and panic, Jews started their "new ghetto life". When somebody
wanted to go to his former home to fetch necessities, he was shot in the street. Every day was
more horrible and more overcrowded.
At the same time the members of the Judenrat
and Jewish policemen lived in a separate
house in very good conditions:
"While people lived in this squalor, the gentlemen from the Judenrat lived comfortably,
even luxuriously. In pyjamas, in clean, beautiful linen, they played cards as if in the old good times.
They lived lavishly. The denied themselves nothing, dressing elegantly.
There was also a café in the Judenrat
building that served only the "elite" with the best
alcohol and cakes. At the same time about 1,500 Jews in the ghetto died from starvation.
After the establishment of the ghetto, the Germans divided the Jews in Jaworow into two groups.
A small group of 80 people marked with the letter "W" working for the Wehrmacht
outside of the ghetto in a special block on the market square. They worked in the local Heeresamt
and benefited from better conditions than the rest of the Jews in the ghetto. Among them were the men
who began to organise a resistance movement. Another resistance group arrived in the ghetto in
from the liquidated ghetto of Lubaczow
Neither of these
groups planned for armed resistance, but they prepared themselves for a mass escape at the moment
of the ghetto's liquidation. Both groups bought weapons from Ukrainian policemen, and several days
before the liquidation they escaped to the forest, where they organised a partisan unit.
The final liquidation of the ghetto in Jaworow took place on 16 April 1943
Before the liquidation,
about 500 men were deported to the camp on Janowska Road
. During the liquidation of the ghetto, the SS set fire to
houses that included shelters and bunkers containing hidden people. SS men and Ukrainian
police shot whoever attempted to escape. Other people were gathered in the synagogue and
after a selection, following which young men were sent to various work camps, the other people,
mainly the elderly, women and children, were taken to the forest in Porudenko
and were executed there. Many people were only wounded in the course of these shootings and were
buried in mass graves while still alive. About 2,500 people were shot that day. Only the Jews from "W"
block survived the liquidation, but two weeks later those who had not managed to escape from there
were also shot.
Before the liquidation of the ghetto some people escaped from Jaworow to villages in the vicinity,
where they tried to survive among Polish and Ukrainian peasants. On liberation, only 12 people from the
Jewish community in Jaworow had survived. Others who had been in hiding were in many cases
denounced, mainly by Ukrainians. Engineer Izrael Manber
, one of the few survivors,
described the situation of the hidden Jews:
"Most of the Ukrainians were cold and impassive. The Poles were more helpful. When Ukrainian
Bandera partisans removed the Poles, the position of the Jews was hopeless. Mrs.
Rath came back from the forest to Jaworow with her daughter. They looked for help from
Professor Sadowski but they were arrested. The daughter committed
suicide in prison and the mother was executed at the Jewish cemetery. When he found
out about it, Mrs. Rath's husband also committed suicide...
Help from the Polish side could not be greater since the Poles were themselves a minority
whose number had been further reduced because of Ukrainian attacks. Before the entry of the
Soviet Army, the headquarters for Bandera units, which was located 2 km from Jaworow,
gave an ultimatum to all Poles. They were to move from the region within a period of 5 days,
so that the Poles had to look for hiding places as well...
Several days before the liberation, Ukrainians denounced Wiwakowna,
who was hidden by Rozak, her Ukrainian fiancé. She was probably denounced by
Rozak's brother. Wiwakowna, who was then pregnant,
was shot by a German policeman at the Jewish cemetery.
After the liberation, the Soviet Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes investigated the
site of the mass execution in Porudenko forest
They found 4 mass graves there in which more than 2.500 people had been buried.
Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw: Testimonies and memoirs by survivors
T. Sandkühler: Endlösung in Galizien. Der Judenmord in Ostpolen und
Rettungsinitiativen von Berthold Beitz 1941-1944
, Bonn 1996.
K. D. Majus: Wielkie Oczy
, Tel Aviv 2002.
Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust The Jewish Tragedy
, William Collins Sons & Co. Limited, London, 1986
© ARC 2005