This town or, more exactly, large village, started to become well-known
through books by
Both these authors concentrated mainly on one day in Jozefow -
massacred about 1,300-1,500 Jews there.
Jozefow near Bilgoraj was a typical Eastern Polish shtetl. Before the war its
Jewish population numbered about 2,000, more then 60% of the total population
of the village. The Jewish community was established at the beginning of the
eighteenth century, when the town as a whole was founded. In the nineteenth
century Jewish Jozefow was known for its very famous Jewish printing-house,
which published Hebrew religious books. Before WW2 it was a
poor, very provincial town, with orthodox Jews.
, and a large part of the
town centre was destroyed. At the
the Soviet Army entered
Jozefow, but after a short occupation the Soviets left the town. Together with
them, about 1,000 local Jews decided to escape to the Soviet Union. Only the poorest people stayed in the town.
At the beginning of the occupation life went on for the local Jewish population
without special atrocities by the Nazis. The symbol of the new era was the
. Among its members was the local pre-war
The bad times in Jozefow started in March 1941
. On 18 March 1941
about 1,100 Jews were resettled from Konin
(part of the territory included in
They were mainly very poor people who had lost their property - among them were a
large number of old and sick people. This large number of resettled people soon became
a major problem for the local Jews. The new arrivals had to live together with the
local inhabitants in overcrowded houses. Very soon food supply and hygienic conditions
became the major problems. As one of the survivors described it: "Bread and potatoes were a luxury."
Because of the extremely primitive living conditions, a typhus epidemic spread very
quickly, especially among the Jews resettled from Konin
Jozefow was the centre of this epidemic in Bilgoraj County. It is important to
point out that there was no hospital nor a Jewish doctor in the village, only an "isolation house"
which was too small for all sick people. Among the Konin
Jews were two dentists,
but without medical equipment.
The conditions in Jozefow were described very well in a letter sent in 1941
Jews from Konin
to the Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe
"We are in a small town, destroyed because of the war, among very poor people who in
fact need our help. We are living in very bad conditions. ...We feel mainly the
lack of food, clothing and shoes, because we have lost everything.
In the next letter to the same institution, M. Fürszt
the representative of Konin
ís Jews, who worked in the peopleís kitchen, wrote:
"There is no way for us to earn anything. The majority "are living" on what they can
sell - clothes and linen. And even these things are almost finished. We are the
leading place in the whole Lublin district for the number of people who
have typhus. Death from starvation and hunger is visiting every home. It is horrible to see how
our children, emaciated and pale-faced, are going from house to house pleading for bread.
In August 1941
living conditions became even worse when several houses in which Jews
lived were burned down at night. About 200 people lost the little property they had
and were made homeless. At that time, according to a Judenrat
report, 2,147 Jews lived in Jozefow.
At the beginning of 1942
, official rations for the Jews were 72 grams of bread a
day and 200 grams of sugar a month. Sometimes they got 60 grams of soap and 1 litre of paraffin.
The first Aktion
in Jozefow, connected with Aktion Reinhard
, took place
on 1 May 1942
. The Bilgoraj Gestapo
arrived in the village with the local head
of that institution, Columbus
men arrested 20 Jews in the village
who were on a special list. They were accused of being Communists. In fact, throughout
the county and in the neighbouring Zamosc
County, the Gestapo
SS organised a wave of arrests of people who might potentially have been leaders of resistance
when the deportations took place. The Jews, arrested in Jozefow, were taken to the
prison in Bilgoraj and nobody knew what happened to them. It is possible
that, together with other Jewish men from Bilgoraj and Tarnogrod
, they were
From then on, not a month passed there without "murder" visits by the Germans.
As well as the Bilgoraj Gestapo
, the local Jews were afraid of members
of the Schupo
and the Bahnschutz-Polizei
(railway security police) from a nearby railway
station in the village of Dlugi Kat. Their commander, Werner
, was responsible
for the death of many Jews from Jozefow.
|13th July Massacre Memorial Stone
On 11 May 1942
men (the organisation they belonged
to is not clear) organised a special Aktion
in Jozefow. They shot about 130 Jews
on the streets and in the local quarry. This first massacre in the village was so
horrible that it deeply shocked even the Germans in the civil occupation administration.
The largest single massacre, but not the final liquidation of the entire Jewish
population, happened on 13 July 1942
. On that day men of the
101st Reserve Police Battalion
commanded by Major Trapp
, executed 1,300 - 1,500 Jews in Jozefow. These people
were taken from their homes and gathered at the market square. There a selection was
held - about 300 young men were taken to the railway station and deported by train to
, probably to the
. The other people, after a short journey
in trucks, were shot in the forest about 2 km from the village. The execution took
place on both sides of the road to Bilgoraj, at a site which the local inhabitants
called Winiarczykowa Gora (Winiarczykowa Hill)
. Many people were already
killed in Jozefow itself - in their homes or on the streets. As some policemen stated after the
war during their trial: "The bodies of the shot Jews were everywhere - on the streets,
in the houses and at the marketplace.
After the first volley of shots was heard in the marketplace, the Jews gathered there
started to scream, but in a few moments they became completely silent. The people went
to their death in silence, and only in the forest, at the last moment, did some of
them cry and some children scream.
By the evening the massacre was finished. The policemen went back to Bilgoraj, but not
all the Jews had been killed. Some of them still hid in cellars or in the forest.
Some, who were only wounded, came back from the execution site - no mass graves had been
dug, but after the execution the local Polish population was given the task of burying the bodies.
We may suppose that about 200-300 Jews survived the execution, which very quickly
became known in the surrounding towns and villages. As well as those who survived
the massacre, new Jews very soon arrived in Jozefow. They were from nearby villages
and had to move to Jozefow, where, according to an SS order, all Jews from the
surrounding localities had to be collected. This group probably numbered nearly
300-400 people. Among them was Estera Fefer
, resettled from there in
, a village near Jozefow.
She survived, and after the war she wrote in her testimony:
"Jozefow was a town of death. The people were killed
without an Aktion, for no reason. At Yom Kippur they (the Germans) took people according
to a list of names. Officially there were 20 names on the list, but they took 70 people.
They were taken to the fire station where they were beaten horribly, and then they
were shot in the quarry behind the town, near the forest. During this Aktion the local
Polish population was very helpful.
This group of people was shot because Columbus
, chief of the
, ordered a high contribution to be gathered from the Jews in Jozefow. Because the local
Judenrat did not give him the money in time, these 70 Jews were killed as hostages.
This happened in September 1942
On 3 November 1942
the final Aktion
was organised in Jozefow, and
afterwards the village was claimed to be judenfrei
("free of Jews").
Until the end there was no ghetto in Jozefow. The Jews lived mainly near the market
and on the main street. The man, responsible for this last Aktion
, commander of the Schupo
. As well as this unit, railway police and Polish
police also participated in the liquidation of Jozefow's Jews. All Jews who did
not escape to the forest were gathered in the fire station, and then had to walk to the
railway station in Dlugi Kat
. On the way, many of them were shot - their
mass grave is located at Chojniasta Gora (Chojniasta Hill). Others were deported from
death camp. The
group probably numbered about 200 - 300 people. These were the last deportations to
from Bilgoraj County.
|Policemen Hunting for Jews
At this time some of the Jews from Jozefow escaped to the forests. Throughout
November and December 1942
round-ups around Jozefow, looking for hidden Jews. Those they caught were locked up in the village
jail. Always when a group of 10 - 15 people was collected they were executed near the new
school building in Jozefow. Some of the Jews in the forests became victims of bands, organised
by local farmers who wanted to rob these unarmed Jews.
Polish and Soviet partisan units operated in the region, and some
Jews joined them. In the Jozefow region partisan battles took place,
especially after June - July 1943
, when the Germans organised a large-scale pacification
action against the Poles. Some more major struggles took place in June 1944
participation of armed Jews. Finally, in July 1944
, the Soviet Army entered the
region and a small group of survivors was liberated, including Estera Fefer
with her family.
Today it is difficult to say how many Jews from Jozefow survived. The total number
of Jewish victims can be estimated at approximately 2,500 - 2,600 people. Today only one Jewish
survivor who converted to Catholicism after the war lives in Jozefow. Jozefow's
synagogue and Jewish cemetery remained. At the site of the "13 July Massacre" a memorial stone was put up.
Lublin State Archives: Collection of documents, gathered by Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski of
Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw: Documents of Jüdische Soziale
Selbsthilfe; Testimony by Holocaust Survivors - Testimony by Estera Fefer.
Archive of the Majdanek State Museum: 1942 "Death Book".
Z. Klukowski: Dziennik z lat okupacji (Diary of the Occupation Years), Lublin 1959.
Ch. R. Browning: Ordinary Men. The 101st Reserve Police Battalion and Final
Solution in Poland. Harpers Collins 1992.
© ARC 2005