The following text is the abridged version of the book by Edward Kopówka
“The extermination of the Siedlce Jews”, to be published in 2005
occupied by German troops
on 10 October 1939
Before WW2 around 50% of the town's 30,000 inhabitants were Jewish. A few days after the Nazis had occupied
the city, on 15 November 1939
, they began to arrest Jews. After gathering them
together in a prison, the following
day they were marched to Wegrow
. There, during the night, around
50 of those arrested managed to escape from the market square, including
and his father. The others were conducted to
From the beginning of the occupation, the Germans turned their entire propaganda machinery on Polish society
in order to justify their murdering of Jews. For this purpose they made use of posters with texts such as
"Typhus, spotted fever, is one of the most dangerous of diseases, often fatal. Typhus is
very contagious and
therefore it can spread quickly and easily into serious epidemics. In the Generalgouvernement
widespread, particularly amongst the Jews." On
|The former Ghetto
Jewish holydays German soldiers entered synagogues, beat
the Jews who were praying there, tore off their liturgical garments, and fired at those who tried to escape by
jumping out of windows. Josef Rubin
died thus, on the seventh day
. From the beginning of the occupation the Germans plundered Jewish shops and homes.
At the end of November 1939
, soldiers entered the synagogue and the
(House of Prayer),
and threw out the Torah scrolls
. In a frenzy of hatred they ripped them apart and trampled on them.
|The burning Siedlce Synagogue *
During the night of the 24 - 25 December 1939
, the Nazis
set fire to the synagogue. Homeless Jewish refugees who were inside died in the fire.
At the end of November 1939
, the Germans ordered the formation of a Jewish Council –
It included: Icchak Nachum Weintraub
– deputy-chairman; Herszl
– secretary, responsible for liaison with the Gestapo
– health division; M. Czarnobroda
– employment division; J.
, lawyer – social assistance; A. Altenberg
division; L. Grinberg
– legal assistance;
– general matters.
There were 25 Judenrat
members in all. "The members of the Jewish Council were, in general, recognized
Jewish leaders, to whom the Nazis gave enormous power until the moment when they, too, were deported."
The Council managed Jewish property and manpower, and drew up "transport lists" (lists of persons
destined for extermination camps). A Jewish police force kept order, wearing as insignia caps of office, nightsticks,
and special armbands with the inscription "Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst
". There were around 50 of them.
stood at their head. There was also the Sanitätsdienst
– the Sanitation Service. Its purpose was to maintain cleanliness in the apartments, courtyards, and streets of the
Jewish quarters. After the closed ghetto was instituted, the functionaries of the Sanitation Service became part
of the Health Division of the Jewish Council. In addition to their previous duties, its members were ordered to assign
living quarters for Jews who moved to the already overcrowded ghetto. The Judenrat
also had an employment office
), whose director was Izrael Friedman
The chairman of the Siedlce Judenrat
was a man of already advanced age:
who was a worthy local social and political activist. For many
years he had been at the head of the Zionist movement and the religious community. He kept a diary in which he
recorded the important events of the town, as well as stories, told to him by Jewish elders. Unfortunately nearly
all these writings have been destroyed. What has been saved is only that which he had published in the press in the
interwar period. The function of chairman of the Judenrat
was filled not by
, but by Dr Henryk
. Emil Karpinski
"people fought each other, literally fought, gave bribes, and used every possible means to
get a position in the Judenrat or the Jewish police.
By December 1939
, the Judenrat
was already ordered to make a "contribution"
of 20,000 zlotys.
, from spring to winter, the Siedlce Jews were used for land reclamation work on the
. Workers, divided into 15 person groups, worked
under Polish direction. The Germans had overall supervision of the labour, and the workers were supervised by
SS-men, who controlled the progress of the work. Around 1,500 Jews left the ghetto every day and went to
the jobs to which they had been assigned.
In April 1940
, the Germans carried out the registration of all Jewish men between
16 and 60 years of age,
and in November 1940
a census of Jewish people was conducted for those streets on which they
were most numerous. Within the Siedlce city limits, two quarters were marked off. Quarter I included the
streets 1 Maja
(now Ul. Bohaterow
), Browarna, Jatkowa
(now Czerwonego Krzyza
, and Pusta
. It was inhabited by 3,589 Jews
and 369 non-Jews, together 3,958 persons.
Quarter II included the following streets:
Sienkiewicza, Kilinskiego, Przejazd
(now the extension of
), Asza, Kozia
(no longer in existence), Poprzeczna
(now an extension of J.
). It counted 3,306 Jews and 372 non-Jews, together 3,678 persons. Together, according
to the register, Quarters I and II were inhabited by 6,895 Jews. Quarters I and II formed the so-called "open ghetto".
In November 1940
, the Judenrat
received a new order for a "contribution" of
100,000 zlotys. In December 1940
the number of Jews living in the town amounted to
13,000. During 1940
, Jews from the Warthegau
were forced to move to Siedlce, and from that year many Jews had to work in forced labour camps within the city.
At the end of December 1940
, the occupation authorities issued a decree requiring
Jews to wear armbands
with the Star of David and the inscription Jude
. It was also decreed that Jewish shops must be marked.
The Germans were also determined not to allow Jews, under the pressure of the existing situation, to change
their faith. On 21 February 1941
, the administrator of the Siedlce diocese, Bishop
, issued a ruling to the Catholic clergy, in which he suspended
permission for the baptism of Jews, Muslims, or pagans. He did so under pressure from the authorities
of the Generalgouvernement
, and in a decree of 23 January 1941
, in order to
prevent the numerous
conversions from Judaism to Catholicism, the Germans decided that it would be the competent
or mayor who would make the decision. The Bishop’s ruling, however, was not too
carefully observed, as the Generalgouvernement
authorities addressed themselves again to the
Diocesal Curia in Siedlce in this matter. In a document of 10 October 1942
that "adults be checked at baptism, to find out if they are of Aryan descent."
|In the Ghetto, May 1941
In March 1941
, the Germans organized a 3-day Aktion
in Siedlce, during the
course of which
many Jews were murdered. On 2 August 1941
, the Germans issued the decree for
the formation of a
. The ghetto encompassed almost the entire area of
Quarter I. All the Poles living in this area were given until 8:00 p.m. on 6 August 1941
to leave the ghetto. At the
same time, Jews who had lived outside the ghetto’s boundaries were ordered to move into it. In particular this concerned
the Jews living in Quarter II. The period indicated for making the move was from
7 - 20 August 1941
. On 1 October 1941
, the ghetto was closed.
Barbed wire fences were constructed on the streets separating the
Jews from the rest of the population. No one was allowed to go in or out without a special permit.
After the closing of the ghetto the food and health situation of the Jewish population suddenly grew
much worse. Every day many people died:
"At the beginning of the occupation people behaved
with compassion towards one another, but with the growth of terror, poverty, and all the "plagues of Egypt",
peoples’ hearts became desensitized and even vicious; for a piece of bread or the shadow of hope
of saving themselves many served the Germans or persecuted others in various ways. Among others,
these included a fairly large number of the Jewish police as well as Judenrat functionaries.
For a certain time contact remained between craftsmen in the ghetto – mainly shoemakers – and their
business partners on the "Aryan" side. The latter placed orders with the craftsmen, and provided food
in payment. The transfer point was a stretch of Sadowa Street
On receiving word of this from an informant, the Germans sealed off the ghetto. In November
Jews from the following localities were moved to Siedlce: Czuryly, Domanice,
Krzeslin, Niwiski, Skorzec, Skupie, Stara Wies, Wisniew, Wodynie, Zbuczyn, Suchozebry
. In March 1942
, 12,417 Jews
within the ghetto precincts.
In the winter of 1941/42
a typhus epidemic broke out. It was the result of the
terrible conditions prevailing in the ghetto. A large number of people were crowded into a not very large area
and the sanitary conditions worsened as the streets of the ghetto did not possess sewers. As
"15 people lived in rooms of 10 sq. metres... There wasn’t room for everyone,
people slept outside, in the corridors... Gestapo functionaries who came into the ghetto asked
us ironically if we were receiving letters from our relatives in Russia on the
Ladoga River, because at first we did not know where
they were transporting the Jewish population.
All contacts between the Polish and Jewish populations were cut off, which resulted in a sudden
worsening of provisioning. The only item that could be acquired without difficulty was the Jewish
, published in Krakow
, and intended for Jewish
readers. It praised the work camps for Jews, which were to be found outside the ghetto boundaries.
In December 1941
, the occupiers required the Judenrat
to provide them with
all the furs in the
possession of Jews. Persecution continued all the time. 1942
was greeted with great
The local cabalists feared it because the year contained the same numerals as the year 1492
the year in which the Jews were driven out of Spain. On 3 March 1942
, the Germans seized
10 Jews and shot them at Stok Lacki
pretext that they had refused to work. Under German pressure, the Judenrat
declaration supporting the sentence. In June 1942
, Nazis required the Jewish Council
to provide a certain
number of craftsmen and their machines. At the beginning, the place to which they had been sent
was kept secret. Later it turned out that it was the camp at
|Gypsy Resettlement Order *
On 23 May 1942
, the Gypsies (Roma) who lived in the powiat
(county), began to
be moved into the ghetto. They were given until 15 June 1942
to move and were required to
wear on their right arm a white band with the letter "Z" in lilac. A part of the Gypsy population that had been deported to
from 10 - 31 December 1940
, had stopped in Siedlce and the surrounding area.
These were transports of over 500 people, who had come from the lands annexed to the Reich
. In the course of
, the German Gypsies (Sinti and Roma) of
and its environs, including
, were transferred to Siedlce. There were at least 326 Gypsies in
For the most part, the Jewish population passively accepted the future in store for them. Only a small
number tried to flee or to fight. In the winter of 1942
, there was an attempt to form
organization by the name of "Polish Socialists". The braver people tried to escape in trains carrying
wounded Italian soldiers, which stopped at the railway station in Siedlce.
, together with
successfully made such an attempt in 1942
. They arrived in Italy, survived the war,
and emigrated to Israel.
Self-defence groups began to form on the basis of acquaintance, or of school, social, family, or political
contacts, both within the ghetto and without. In the middle of 1940
, the Polish
whose composition included members of PSL (Polish Peoples Party, called ludowcy
a statement in which it was written, amongst other things, that "Wherever
necessary, in as far as possible help should be given to members of the Jewish nation. The form of help
should be dictated by needs on the one hand, and by possibilities on the other, with the aim of making
it possible to survive the common danger and common enslavement. Let us remember that after the
destruction of the Jewish people, the unpredictable occupiers will commence the complete liquidation
In November 1942
, a group of Siedlce Jews, who had previously worked on the
estate in the district of
, formed a 30 person armed unit. It operated in the forested
areas known as the Jata
. This group maintained loose contacts
with other partisan units operating in the area. Six persons of this group survived till the end of the war.
The penalty for leaving the ghetto without permission was death. The person seized was searched and
then shot in a clever fashion: "Usually, between ten and eleven in the evening,
the condemned person was taken outside the gates of the ghetto on
11 Listopada St. or Targowa Street.
The person would be ordered to run towards the ghetto gate and would be shot in the back. Every day in the
evening the inhabitants of neighbouring houses heard shots. The next day the Jewish police collected the bodies
of those killed.
The Home Army, as far as it was able, fought against informants who told the occupiers about Poles who
hid Jews. In the village of Kolonia Ruda
, in the district of
, Eugenia Gajek
was shot for having informed on the Karpiński
families. Fortunately, during the raid that was organized
as a result of her information, the hidden Jews were not found.
Unfortunately there were also some bad examples: It happened sometimes that the Polish population turned
in Jews who had left the ghetto or work camps in search of food. Most often they were turned over to the
Polish blue police or the German gendarmes. Those who were caught were most often killed. There
were also cases of Polish bandits murdering Jews. Such an incident occurred in
near Siedlce, where in March 1944
over a dozen
hiding Jews were killed. These included Dr Loebel’s
, Roman Głazowski, Lolka Zalcman,
Herszko Cygielstein, Leibko Wiśnia
, and Romińska
In the village of Trzciniec
and Gieńka Krawiec
They were afraid that if the Krawiecs
were arrested, they
would provide the names of the householders who had helped them, as had happened in the neighbouring
village of Jagodne
, where a Jew who had been arrested indicated
28 householders who had helped him. They were arrested by the Germans.
In July 1942
, the governor of the Warsaw District
, conducted an inspection in Siedlce and met
with a representative of the Jewish community in front of the main gate to the ghetto. In his speech his expressed
his satisfaction that the Jewish population were effectively contributing towards an increase in the German
war effort. He also spoke of opening workshops in which the Jews would find employment. This meeting
gave great comfort to the Jews.
It was a false hope. Fischer
deliberately wanted to calm the Siedlce
Jewish community. The Aktion Reinhard
, whose goal was the final liquidation of the Jews, was already
underway. Information about the liquidation of ghettos in other cities and about the transfer of people to
the area of Malkinia
had already reached the ghetto.
On 20 August 1942
, the inhabitants of the ghetto received a serious warning. The
Germans demanded the
immediate provision of several dozen workers for the purpose of unloading railway cars. After the cars
were opened it was discovered that inside were the bodies of Jewish men, women, and children, who
had come from Radom
. The railway car was part of a "death train"
that transported Jews to
. As a result of a fire the car
could not reach its destination. When the workers opened the car they saw around 100 dead bodies –
squeezed together and intertwined one with the other. They had all died from lack of air, from the heat, and
from the fumes of the quicklime with which the floor of the car was strewn. "Under
the rifle butts of the SS-men, the workers had to empty the car. The dead were taken to the Jewish cemetery,
where they were buried. The Germans spread the news that the dead were prisoners being moved to another
jail, but no one believed it.
The Siedlce Jews saw with their own eyes that deportations were taking place. People wondered -
to where? Everyone wanted to believe that it was to somewhere in the east, maybe
. The name of Treblinka
also mentioned. In the ghetto an atmosphere of uncertainty prevailed.
|Deportation #1 *
|Deportation #2 *
|Deportation on Florianska Street *
On Saturday 22 August 1942
, in the early hours of the morning, the ghetto was
surrounded by the Germans, the Polish blue police and by Ukrainians. Machine guns were set up on
the two sides of the main entrance to the ghetto. That day 9,300 Jews from Mordy,
, and Sarnaki
arrived in Siedlce. The local
Jews were told that by 10 o’clock all must come to the
by the burned synagogue. In addition
to the police mentioned earlier, the Jewish police also took part in supervising the execution of this order.
The search for those in hiding now began. There were not many of them, since, as
required both courage and the will to live. However, apathy was understandable. People who had lived
for three years without hope, humiliated, were now psychologically exhausted and without any
desire for life.
Some, particularly those discovered by the Ukrainians, were killed on the spot. The others were led
. The events of this day and following days
were described by Cypora Jablon-Zonszajn
|Umschlagplatz - Thirsty Jews *
"The people gathered on the square and forced to remain in a sitting
position were suffering terribly from lack of water. It was a sunny day.
Furman, a member of the Judenrat, as someone who
knew German well, stood and made his way in the direction of the main gate where the German officer who
was directing the whole operation was standing. He did not manage to reach him however. A few shots
rang out and he fell dead. At that moment the crew of one of the machine guns let off a volley, killing
those who had tried to stand or were sitting in an upright position. Around 11:00 a special unit of the
"Vernichtungstruppen" ("extermination groups"), composed of Germans and Ukrainians, arrived. There was a short
exchange of words between the leader of this unit and the head of the local Arbeitsamt. The
former wanted to transport all the Jews; the second, however, wanted to keep a certain number of
young men and experts. Finally, around two in the afternoon, the
Germans ordered the men between 15 and 40 to form a line, because they were going to choose those
suitable for work. From all sides of the cemetery men ran like wild animals, trampling others underfoot,
to the place where the line was formed. In the end, under constant beating by the Gestapo men,
the line was formed and began to move forward slowly. The highest ranking Gestapo officer decided
who was to live and who to die with a wave of his stick. He asked those whom he had singled out for
work about their occupation and looked at their hands, in order that he might not, by accident, let pass
a non-worker. Anyone who showed a paper or document stating that he was a functionary of the
Judenrat was directed without appeal to the left, that is, to death (...). Those who were sent to
death were pitilessly beaten along the way.
On the evening of that day the fire department was brought in, and ordered to pour water on those sitting.
Another eye witness remembered that "the Gestapo men drank beer at a little table placed
on the rubble of the former synagogue. Around them sat the crouching Jews, one next to the
other (...). I saw Dube and other Gestapo men shooting
into the crowd of Jews, while drinking beer (...). The corpses of the Jews that had been shot were
collected by the Jewish police and carried by cart (...) to the Jewish cemetery.
|Umschlagplatz - Waiting for Hours *
The history teacher Wasercug
was shot on the square, since
he spoke to the crowd and asked them to retain their dignity in this last hour. As he was shot he
shouted to the Germans, "Your hour will come, vile reptiles!"
During all of this time, the Germans were shooting Jews at the Jewish cemetery on
. One of the eye witnesses remembers
these days thus:
"When we went into the courtyard of the prison I saw there a group of
Jews – men. They were well dressed, they were even wearing furs ... A Gestapo agent informed
the Jews, gathered in the courtyard, that they were going to the east, that they would work there,
and that they were in no danger. Then the Jews were ordered to get into a vehicle driven by
Domanski (...). A Gestapo man got into the cabin.
I stood on the running board of the car. We went to the Jewish cemetery. There I saw many newly-dug
trenches and the bodies of very many persons of Jewish origin. There were the bodies of men, women,
and children. The group of Jews that we had brought to the cemetery was made to stand in three lines,
in such a manner that the first row stood by the wall, the second kneeled, and the third half lay,
half sat. It gave the impression that the group had been placed for a photograph. These Jews were shot
with machine guns by three Gestapo men and four functionaries of the Sonderdienst (...).
Later, these same Gestapo agents and the Sonderdienst functionaries finished off those
Jews who lay on the ground with pistol shots (...). From the prison we brought a group of thirty-some
women of Jewish origin. All the Jewish women brought to the Jewish cemetery were shot against the
cemetery wall by these same culprits. In contrast to the men, while they were being shot the women
shouted, cried, and even tried to resist.
At this cemetery, those inhabitants of the town whom the Nazis themselves recognized as Jews were
. Marcin Hora
head of the fire department, wrote:
"I personally saw how, at the local cemetery, in August 1941
(in fact, 1942) 180 persons who were brought there in three trucks were shot.
They were both men and
women. Apparently they were accused of being third generation Jews. Among them were the wives
of former high civil servants or Polish army officers. Almost all those shot had a prayer book or other
object of the Roman Catholic religion with him/her at the time.
|Ramp #1 *
|Ramp #2 *
|Cleaning the Ramp *
On Sunday 23 August 1942
, around 10,000 Jews were loaded into railway cars and sent
to the nearby
extermination camp of Treblinka
, through which the columns walked to the railway station, was covered in corpses. From a hiding
place, a Home Army photographer took several photographs of the walking column in order to
document the extermination of the Siedlce Jews. These photos are in the possession of the Regional
Museum in Siedlce. Photographs have have also been preserved of the loading of the people into cars,
made by a Wehrmacht
soldier, Hubert Pfoch
who was passing through Siedlce on his way to the Eastern front. Pfoch
recorded what he had seen in his diary:
“From time to time we can hear shooting, and when we get out to see
what was going on, I saw, a little distance from our track, a loading platform with a huge crowd of people…
all of them were squatting or lying on the ground and whenever anyone tried to get up, the guards
began to shoot… Early next morning… we become witnesses of the most ghastly scenes. The corpses
of those killed the night before were thrown by Jewish auxiliary police on to a lorry that came and went
four times. The guards… cram 180 people into each car, parents into one, children into another… They scream
at them, shoot and hit them so viciously that some of their rifle-butts break.
describes the moment of loading thus:
"Somebody began to shout "Wasser, Wasser!’ (water, water!).
Everyone took up this cry. They took it up in other cars as well and several thousand people
chanted "Wasser, Wasser!" Suddenly the sound of machine gun fire could be heard from
a car. The soldiers had decided to quiet the people. They placed one of the tormentors on the
ramp, who put the barrel of his gun into the window of the car
and blindly shot into the crowd. The shrieks of pain and the death cries of the badly wounded replaced the
’s account continues:
When at last our train leaves the station, at least fifty dead, women, men and children, some of them
totally naked. lie along the track… Eventually our train followed the other train and we continued to see
corpses on both sides of the track – children and others… When we reach Treblinka
station the train is next to us again – there is such an awful smell of decomposing corpses in the station, some of us vomit.
The begging for water intensifies, the indiscriminate shooting by the guards continues….
The entire time the search continued for those in hiding. On 24 August 1942
and patients of the
Jewish hospital on 1 Maja Street
(now the Emergency
Care building on Swirskiego Street
), around 100 people in
all, were killed. All the patients were shot in their beds; over a dozen new-born children were also
murdered. The hospital staff – the doctors, nurses, and orderlies – were shot in the hospital courtyard.
was killed with this group. Miraculously,
escaped, extricating herself from under the
pile of bodies after the massacre and the departure of the Germans.
Two days later, on 26 August 1942
, 29 women who had previously worked at sorting
the clothes of the victims were shot at the cemetery. Estera Spektor
managed to escape from their temporary prison on the night before the execution.
After the liquidation of the ghetto, on 27 August 1942
, the Nazis made the
"As a result of the deportation of the Jews, there are empty apartments and job openings in the
towns of Siedlce
. Hard working and ambitious people, particularly
artisans, now have the opportunity to set themselves up for life in the above mentioned towns."
The liquidation of the Siedlce Ghetto was appended to the report of the United Underground Organizations of the
to the Polish government-in-exile in
, and the Allied governments on 15 November 1942
The report was transmitted to the Polish government-in-exile by the courier
|Boy, interrogated *
After the liquidation, the so-called "cleansing" (the search for hidden Jews) began. Thus in the
bakery on Targowa Street
, belonging to
, a Sonderdienst
patrol under the
command of the Volksdeutsche Backenstoss
a group of thirty people. Piekarz
’s entire family was hidden
there with several of his neighbours. They had been sitting there for five days. After finding the hiding
opened fire with his machine gun, killing
all on the spot. Amongst those killed was Haskiel Trzebucki
fiancée Franka Piekarz
, and the family of
. In the attic of a house on
family was uncovered. They were led to the cemetery and shot. By some miracle,
survived. His mother, mortally wounded, covered him with
her body as she fell. Kuba
lay thus for several hours, and in the
early morning escaped from the cemetery. With the help of friends he hid and obtained false papers.
On the grounds of the Jewish bathhouse 50 persons were discovered and killed; in the offices of the
20 people, including the family of Efraim Celnik
During the "cleansing" process around 200 people were discovered and murdered, including
The corpses were collected by groups of Jews, who themselves pulled a two wheeled cart they
called an "arba
". They pulled it to the gates of the ghetto and loaded the corpses onto a wagon pulled by
horses and driven by Poles. It was they who transported the corpses to the Jewish cemetery.
From the people previously chosen to survive, numbering around 600 persons, the so-called "little ghetto",
, was formed. It was located in the triangle formed by the streets
. These people were used for "clean up" work
after the liquidation of the ghetto. In the following days, after being assured of personal safety by the
German authorities, around 1,500 Jews appeared who had survived the liquidation in hiding.
A new Judenrat
was formed, with Hersz Ajzenberg
at its head, and two members: Mosze Rotbajn
(director of the
employment office) and Anatol Goldberg
A health clinic was opened, headed by Balfor
, the sole
Jewish doctor to have survived. A police force was also established, which took care of individual houses
and acted as guards and maintainers of order. Its commanding officer was
, and after him, Abraham
"As a lure, the Germans left the little ghetto alone, and people, seeing that
there were no more mass killings, began to be attracted, swayed by the rumours that the worst was over
and that somehow survival is possible. Life goes on and within the grounds of the little ghetto stands
began to open with articles of food and junk for sale. This trade went on through the wires. For rags, shoes,
vessels, and Lord knows what else, one received bread, potatoes, and, in general, something to eat.
The number of those squashed into the little ghetto is estimated at between 1,500 and 3,000 persons.
These were not only the Jews of Siedlce, but also escapees from other small towns who had been
wandering in the Siedlce environs as well as Gypsies. Conditions in the ghetto were terrible; there was
a constant insufficiency of water. Some of those who were settled in the ghetto collected the remnants
of people’s property, which were sorted. The better things were sent to Germany for the use of those
affected by bombing raids, the remainder were sold to the Polish population.
The functioning of the "Jewish residential quarter" in Siedlce was confirmed by a ruling of
28 October 1942
of the leader of the SS and the police in the Generalgouvernement
"We are sitting in horrible conditions in a dirty, lice-infested quarter,
full of Gypsies, who have become our heirs, in a quarter where death hangs in the air. The mood
is almost constantly one of panic. Every day new people arrive, escapees from railroad cars
coming from other towns: Lukow, Wegrow, Miedzyrzec, Kaluszyn,
Sokolow and many, many others. Every day we hear that here the liquidation action
was repeated a second time, there for a third time! Why haven’t they touched us yet? This time,
however, we do not delude ourselves. We know that it will not pass us by.
Both Jews and Poles understood the hopelessness of the situation. Many years later,
, characterizing that time, said:
"I went to work after eating lunch. I saw a Jew with whom I was
acquainted, the son of a shop-owner, Jankiel Zylbersztein
from Kazimierzowska Street, who was sweeping the
street by the district office. I said to him 'Jankiel, run
away because they will kill you.' Then he said: 'Fine, but where to?' It was only later that I realized
how apt his reply had been.
The first order the German authorities directed to the new Judenrat
was to pay the fire
department for pouring water on people during the deportation. There was a guard detachment
composed of two Jewish policemen and a Polish blue policeman at the gate of the little ghetto.
The ghetto received a daily ration of bread amounting to 250 g per person. It was also
allowed to bring in candles, matches, coffee, and camomile.
There was a group of Hassidic Jews in the ghetto, followers of the Tzaddik
. They differed from the rest of the inhabitants
not only in their traditional clothing, but also by their behaviour. They helped each other, and they
considered the collection of holy books, in which no one else was interested, their most important
task. They helped believers to celebrate Rosh Hashanah
(the New Year) and Yom
(Day of Atonement). The Hassidim formed an "island amongst a sea of inhuman
behaviour", where it was considered normal to strip a corpse of everything that might be useful.
describes those days thus:
"In Siedlce the entirety of the Jewish population was resigned. No
escape was seen from the noose. People were starving, exhausted, in rags, lacking sleep, harried,
and they were awaiting death as if it were salvation. Resignation was that much the deeper in that
no kind voice was to be heard from anywhere. Without help or kindness from someone outside it was
impossible to dream of survival. For those who had jumped from the death trains, the ghetto in Siedlce
was now the nearest place of asylum. The autumn rains chased people out of the fields; the management
of the work camps got rid of those who were unable to work by sending them 'home'.
|A Siedlce Boy in his Hiding Place *
Over a dozen children were in hiding illegally on the terrain of the ghetto. On 25 November
all of the ghetto inhabitants were moved outside of the town, to the so-called
). The pretext was a supposedly serious outbreak of a typhus epidemic,
which might spread to the rest of the town. Those moved were allowed to bring with them only as
much baggage as they could carry. The sick and older people were allowed to be carried in carts.
The appearance was created that the settlement there of the Jews who had been saved from
deportation would be permanent. All the members of the new Jewish Council were given permits
entitling them to stay in the place for a period of three months.
"Not far from Gesi Borek was
a glass works in which several tens of Jews worked. They lived in the vicinity of the works.
Things were brought to them as well that had been smuggled out of the ghetto. During the last two
days of the little ghetto’s functioning several carts of items were carried out. The Gestapo and
gendarmes 'turned a blind eye', pretending that they did not see what the Jews were carrying out.
Naïve people rejoiced that they had managed to trick the Germans. The last days before the
move to the new ghetto several tens of people were moved to the glass works, including the
old and sick people. They were hidden in a neighbouring barn.
" – wrote
Ida Jom–Tow (Tenenbojm)
One of the apartment buildings of the ghetto had earlier been occupied by Gypsies. After three days,
on 28 November 1942
, the Nazis liquidated the ghetto. During the night they
surrounded the area. The
following morning they chased the people out of their homes, placed them in rows of five persons
and drove them to the railway station, where the wagons were already waiting for them. A number
of those marching were preparing themselves for death by donning prayer garments and adopting
a resigned frame of mind. At the head of the procession walked the elderly
Icchak Nachum Weintraub
. People already knew what
"In many wagons people began energetically to break the windows
as soon as the train moved out. The well-known Siedlce master-locksmith
Symcha Wilk had brought his tools with him, with which
he could open the closed wagons. When the train was in full movement
Wilk opened his wagon and a large number of condemned
persons jumped out. Many also escaped from the wagon where the Jewish police were. However,
a large number of people were shot on the spot or caught.
, a prisoner of the
extermination camp, describes the arrival of this transport thus:
"Mitte (Miete) shouted
for the cars top be opened. A child’s hand slid through a crack in the door. Suddenly we saw that all the cars
were filled with corpses. The bodies of adults and children were mingled together, torn and entirely
naked, one compact mass of human bodies with traces of beatings and holes from bullets.
Because people started to escape from the cattle cars, the whole transport was killed in transit.
The same transport also contained many bodies of Romanies.
The work camps for Jews should also be mentioned. These camps were aimed at destroying the
Jewish nation through hard physical labour. Within the environs of the town there were several
camps in which only Jews worked.
Camp I – Army Food Storehouse No. 6 (A.V.L.)
This was formed at the beginning of 1940
and liquidated in 1942
It was located in the army barracks.
The camp’s terrain covered around 5 square kilometres. The prisoners lived in a two story brick
building on the grounds of the former barracks of the 22nd Foot Regiment. On average, around
100 persons worked there. In all, around 5,000 Jews passed through the camp. The prisoners
worked on the camp’s grounds, loading wagons with food. During the liquidation of the camp,
the prisoners were settled in the little ghetto.
Camp II – The Reckmann Construction Firm
The name came from the owner, Richard Reckmann
The camp was established in January 1941
and liquidated in
. It was located in the fire-station
and two barracks by the railway tracks. The camp occupied around 5 square kilometres.
On average around 500 people were living there at any time. In all around 15,000 Jews passed
through the camp. The prisoners worked for the Reckmann
firm, building railway lines,
working in the railway workshops and at construction sites. An epidemic of typhus and scarlet
fever raged in the camp. There was a health clinic. For hard, inhumanely hard, work, the
prisoners received 200 g of bread, 1/2 litre of black coffee, and 1 litre of soup consisting
of chestnut flour, brukiew
(very poor quality vegetables, used as cattle fodder) or beets.
The Nazis shot many Jews, and many died as a result of being beaten. There were instances
of burial alive at the construction site. The seriously ill were returned to the ghetto. The camp
was intended to destroy the people working there, as is proven by the testimony of
, a prisoner of this camp:
"Litwak, a dentist
from Siedlce, was shot because he walked too slowly to work by one of the Germans supervising
An eighty-year-old ritual butcher was beaten and trampled by the German guards because
he could not manage to unload coal. The badly beaten man died soon after. During the liquidation
of the work camp almost all the prisoners were shot. Three prisoners managed to survive;
they were Srul Krawiec, Izaak Rafa (?)
. The barracks burned down during
the struggle for the city in July 1944
Camp III – German Building Inspectorate No. 8 "Kiesgrube"
This camp was established in 1941
and liquidated on 14 May 1943
It was located behind the
railway line, by the
road. It occupied a territory of around 2
square kilometres. On average around 300 people, who were housed in two wooden barracks
and in railway wagons, were living there. The prisoners worked in gravel quarries, where the
norm was the loading of around 150-200 wagons with sand a day. Food was 250 g of
bread and 1 litre of soup. The director of the camp was Inspector
. There were cases of death by beating or during
the loading work. During the liquidation of the camp some of the prisoners died in buildings that the
Germans set on fire; the remainder were shot in the Jewish cemetery. Only
Camp IV – the Wolfer and Göbel Road Construction Camp
This camp was established in 1941
, and liquidated in October 1942
It was located on
. On average around 2,000 people
were imprisoned there. The prisoners lived in 10 wooden barracks. The director was a certain
. In all
around 20,000 Jews passed through the camp. The prisoners were engaged in road construction
work for the Wolfer and Göbel
firm, including work on the
roads and railway lines. This firm was
working within the framework of the Organisation Todt
. There was an epidemic of scarlet
fever in the camp. During the liquidation of the camp the prisoners were moved to the little ghetto.
Camp V, the so-called "Bauzug"
This camp was located by the railway station. Around 100 prisoners lived in the camp, residing in
railway cars. These prisoners worked repairing railway tracks on the Siedlce to
line. The director of the "Bauzug
, a railway man from Wuppertal
Camp VI, the German Construction Inspectorate
This camp was located in barracks by the railway houses. It functioned from 1942 to
14 May 1943
. 60 people, who were engaged in unloading building material, lived in it. The director of the camp was
a German by the name of Schefner
In addition to the camps mentioned above, a Jewish crew of around 30 persons worked on the
grounds of the so-called "Agriculture Syndicate", around 60 worked in the
glass works, and around 100 at the army airport located in "New
The number of Jews who passed through the Jewish work camps should not be linked solely with the
local Jews. Jews from the city’s environs, from little towns and villages, as well those moved to Siedlce
from other places, also found themselves in the work camps.
In total 17,000 Jews died in the town or were transported to Treblinka
They came not only from Siedlce, but also from the ghettos in the Losice
area (from Losice, Huszlewo, Olszanka
), the Sarnaki
area (from Sarnaki, Gorki, Kornica
), and the Mordy
area (from Mordy, Krzesko-Krolow Niwa, Przesmyk, Stok Ruski
). Only a small number managed to hide, but they were in
constant danger. The Siedlce dentist, Stanislaw Gilgun
who was hiding in Warsaw
, perished during the
and Stanislaw Górka
were discovered and tortured
to death in a Gestapo
the Germans tried to cover the traces of their crimes in Siedlce. With the
help of a 40 person
group of Jews from Bialystok
they disinterred the bodies of the
murdered and burned them in piles. For several days the stench of burning bodies hung over the town.
After the driving of the Germans from the town, a number of Jews who had survived returned to their homes.
Within the territory of the Siedlce powiat
there were barely 200 of them. The departing Jews
went first to Lodz
and then later left for Israel or other countries.
After 1968 the children of those who had escaped extermination also left.
DDR Case Nr.1035
War Crimes, Other Mass Extermination Crimes
Richter, Willi Life Sentence
LG/BG Potsdam 740718
Country where the crime was committed:
Siedlce, Sarnaki, Losice, unknown
Crime Date: 1940-43
Jews, Civilians, Prisoners of War
Platerow (Frontier Police)
Subject of the proceeding:
Arrest and mishandling of Polish
civilians. Shooting "while trying to escape" of three Polish
prisoners. Individual shootings of 6 Jews and Soviet prisoners of
war. Participation in the mass shooting of 100 Soviet prisoners of
war. Participation in the liquidation of the Siedlce, Sarnaki and
Losice ghettos, part of whose inhabitants were shot on the spot
while the others were deported to the Treblinka extermination
camp. Shooting of a Jew who had gone in hiding after the clearing
of the ghetto. Participation in the shooting of approximately 3,000
Jews at the Jewish cemetery in Siedlce as well as of 15 Jews of
the remaining ghetto at Siedlce.
DDR Case Nr. 1038
War Crimes, Other Mass Extermination Crimes
Langer, Edmund Life Sentence
LG/BG Potsdam 740228 Ob. Gericht der DDR
Country where the crime was committed:
Siedlce, Sarnaki, Losice
Crime Date: 1939-43
Jews, Civilians, Prisoners
(Frontier Police) Siedlce, Grenzpolizei
Subject of the proceeding:
Individual shootings of altogether 10 Jews and Polish civilians.
Participation in two mass shootings in the course of which 30 Jews and 80 Poles were killed.
Participation in the deportation of an unidentified number of Jews from the Sarnaki and Siedlce
ghettos to the Treblinka extermination camp. Mishandling of prisoners during interrogations.
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, t.2 ;
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latach 1939 – 1945. Województwo siedleckie
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s. 1. Ksero odpisu maszynowego w posiadaniu autora. Pamiętnik ten został opublikowany przez Agatę
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Justiz und NS-Verbrechen
Yivo Institute *
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State Archives in Siedlce *
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, Random House UK Limited, 1995
© ARC (http://www.deathcamps.org) 2005