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Lubartow Ghetto

Last Update 28 May 2006

Lubartow, a town where a Jewish community had existed since the 16th Century, is located 30 km north of Lublin. Most of the Jews resided in the centre of the town, where they dominated local trade and crafts.
Before the war Jews owned the great majority of the 130 shops in Lubartow. The Jewish community supported three synagogues and two cemeteries. The old cemetery was located in the centre of the town but had ceased to be used in the 19th century. The new cemetery was in a suburb of the town. The Jewish population in Lubartow was typical of provincial towns in the Lublin region.
Most of the Jews were both Orthodox and conservative, and it was only the younger generation who were active in modern Jewish political and cultural life. In the years immediately preceding WW2, the Jewish population numbered 3,411 out of a total of 8,121.

The German army entered Lubartow on 19 September 1939. Most of the Jews remained in the town, hoping that the Soviet rather than the German army would capture it. Mainly young people organized the limited escapes of Jews from Lubartow to Soviet occupied Poland after the German occupation.
The first mass persecution of Jews and the major plunder of Jewish property took place on 12 October 1939. All Jews received orders to gather on the market square. German soldiers, armed with machine guns, surrounded them. At the same time, other soldiers robbed all Jewish shops and apartments. That which could not be taken was destroyed. At the beginning of November 1939, shortly after this "action", the Jewish community in Lubartow were ordered to leave the town. All Jews, other than 818 people who had to stay and work for the Germans, were deported to neighbouring towns – Firlej, Ostrow Lubelski and Kamionka. They were only allowed to take with them personal possessions and small amounts of money. The Lubartow Jews were exiled until September 1940, at which time they received permission to return to their own town. Only by bribing the Germans were a few people able to return earlier than the main group of deportees.

For those who stayed in Lubartow, at the end of 1939 a Judenrat was established. The first president of the Judenrat was Jakub Mordko Lichtenfeld who was very quickly replaced by Dawid Perec. The membership of the Judenrat underwent several changes between 1939 and 1942. As survivors wrote in their testimonies, until shortly before the deportations to the death camps, the Judenrat members consisted mainly of people who cooperated with the Germans. The members of the last Judenrat in Lubartow were: President - Moshe Joel Edelman, Vice-President - Shlomo Ber Ciesler. Members: Izrael Ratensilber, Menashe Kosman, and Jechiel Weinberg. Together with the Judenrat the Germans established a unit of Jewish police, numbering 11 members.
The Lubartow ghetto was not closed; Jews could still live in the centre of the town, mainly around the two market squares. After most of the local Jews had returned to Lubartow, the Judenrat had to organize a people's kitchen, since among the inhabitants there were many poor families. Apart from the local poverty-stricken Jews, 1,000 Jews were sent to Lubartow at the end of 1940 from Ciechanow, a town incorporated into the Reich. At the beginning of 1941, a large number of Jews from Lublin were resettled in Lubartow. Most of them were very poor.

The SS organized the first deportation from Lubartow on 9 April 1942, the last day of Passover. All Jews were gathered in the courtyard of the synagogue where SS men made a selection. 800 people who did not possess work cards were sent to the railway station for deportation to Belzec. Three days later, transports of Jews deported from Slovakia to Lubartow started to arrive. Up until the beginning of May 1942, 2,421 Slovakian Jews were sent to Lubartow, mainly old people, women and children. The young men from these transports were selected in Lublin and sent to Majdanek KZ.

A Polish inhabitant of Lubartow described the Slovakian Jews, who had to live in the former German stable which stood on Legiony Street:
"They differed from our Jews. They did not wear traditional headgear and yarmulkes. Their women had wavy hair and instead of wigs, wore hats. They were dressed in fashionable, woollen costumes and their husbands in suits. They did not put on armbands with the blue star, but they had stars made from yellow material on their breasts. Despite being forced to sleep in the dirty straw left by the horses, every morning they went from the barrack clean and neat. The Poles from Lubartow as well as the local Jews were very interested in them. And the Jewish policemen, armed with sticks and quite often brutal toward the Lubartow Jews, lost self-assurance when meeting with the Slovakian Jews. The inhabitants of the barrack on Legiony Street (Jews from Slovakia) were not in Lubartow for very long. Suddenly they disappeared."
After several days in Lubartow, the Slovakian Jews were resettled to Kamionka, Firlej, and Ostrow Lubelski.

The final deportation from Lubartow was organized on 11 October 1942. On that day all of the Jews in Lubartow were gathered together with those from Kamionka, Tarlo, Firlej, and Ostrow Lubelski. In total, this group numbered about 10,000 people. After a selection, a small group of men was sent to Majdanek. All others were deported to the death camp in Treblinka.

"The people were placed in columns of four on Lubelska Street and were led to the train. This procession of Jews, arranged as if in an army, extended from the market square to the railway station. People were thrown into cattle cars, on the floors of which fresh lime had been scattered so that they suffocated. When the cattle cars were so overcrowded that no space remained, the Germans shot at the victims standing on the steps of the train and on the platform. Only a few people were hidden or managed to escape during the march to the railway station."

Among the Jews from Ostrow Lubelski who were deported that day from Lubartow to Treblinka, was one who was to survive that camp, Chiel Reichman. Those Jews who tried to hide were shot, either where they were discovered or at the new Jewish cemetery, where about 300 Jews were executed. Some Jews who were hidden and survived the "action" were arrested during the next few days and sent to the Piaski ghetto. Together with their families, the members of the Judenrat were resettled to the Leczna ghetto, where most of them were shot in November 1942. Officially, only a few Jews who worked for the German gendarmerie remained in Lubartow. On 29 January 1943, they were executed at the Jewish cemetery. After the last deportation the Germans destroyed the town's synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. Jewish tombstones were used as material for the pavement of the courtyard of the school on Cicha Street, where Wehrmacht soldiers were stationed.

Only 40 Jews from Lubartow survived the war. 5 of them were hidden in Lubartow itself; others hid out in the forests surrounding the town. Together with her father and uncle, Raya Weberman had been hidden in Lubartow by a Polish farmer, Adam Butrin:
"For two years we wore the same clothes," she recalled. When liberation came in the summer of 1944, "Butrin joyously told us the good news. Afterwards he returned and announced sadly: 'The Russians hate Jews too'."

In 1945, other Jewish survivors returned from the Soviet Union. Because of anti-Semitic hostility in Lubartow, virtually all of the survivors emigrated in the years 1945-1946. Only one Jew stayed in Lubartow and died there at the beginning of 1990.

Documents from State Archive in Lublin and Archive of the Majdanek State Museum. Churban Lewartow, ed by B. Czubinski. Paris 1947
J. Kielbon: Martyrologia ludno?ci Lubartowa w latach okupacji hitlerowskiej (Martyrdom of the Inhabitants of Lubartow in the Years of Nazi Occupation). Lubartow and Ziemia Lubartowska 1993
Z. J. Hirsz: Lata wojny i okupacji 1939 -1944 ( Years of the War and Occupation 1939-1944). (in:) Lubartow – z dziejow miasta i regionu (Lubartow – from the History of the Town and Region). Ed by S. Tworek. Lublin 1977
M. Derecki: Kromka chleba (Slice of Bread). "Gazeta w Lublinie” (23 April 1993)
R. Kuwalek, P. Sygowski: Z dziejow spolecznosci zydowskiej w Lubartowie. (From the History of the Jewish Community in Lubartow). Lubartow i Ziemia Lubartowska 2000
Gilbert, Martin: The Holocaust – The Jewish Tragedy, William Collins Sons & Co. Limited, London, 1986

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