The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/poland/wlodawa/wlodawa.010


Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Life and Fall of Wlodowa: The Destruction        
Summary: from the Yizkor book of Wlodawa
Reply-To: kmcvay@nizkor.org
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Wlodowa

Archive/File: places/poland/wlodawa/wlodawa.010
Last-modified: 1993/04/18

              The Life and Fall of Wlodawa and Surroundings
                   Translated by Shoshana Leszczynski
             (Transcribed by Ken McVay, kmcvay@nizkor.org)

        [Please refer to Wlodawa.001 for transcription comments]

                      THE DESTRUCTION OF WLODOWA
                            Ephraim Tilip

Already on the first day of the war September 1st, 1939, German
airplanes bombed our town. The railroad station was totally demolished
as well as the bridge over the Bug leading to the Nisuk station. The
bridge was reconstructed by Polish soldiers but the station remained
destroyed. Already on this day we felt that Poland had lost its leader.
In Wlodowa the local authority was still governing.

The weeks before Rosh Hashana Jewish refugees from Congress Poland
started flocking into Wlodowa. The town was crowded with refugees and
the flow became stronger and stronger. Most of the refugees, mainly the
young ones went on over the Bug to the east. There were less women
because it was said that the Germans would not bother women so they
stayed at home. Some stopped in Wlodowa assuming that the Germans would
be pushed back and they could return home. The mayor ordered all the
grocery shops to open on the holiday in order to enable the refugees to
buy food and thus to prevent panic among the public.

On Saturday morning the Germans again bombed Wlodowa. The third house
from mind, the house of the wife of Shmuel Bezalel on the Wirka Street
was destroyed and her daughter with a child were seriously wounded. Also
in the house of the harvest merchant Nachum Haf some people were
injured.

At the end of Rosh Hashana we saw great flames rising on the Bug. The
Polish army burned down the bridge and we realized that the situation
was not good.

                           THE FIRST MARTYR

On the first day the Germans invaded in the town without any resistance
from the Polish army who had remained in their army barracks. The
elderly Jossl Geldermann was then visiting his son-in-law Moshe Weiss
and had just stepped out into the street when a German riding a
motorcycle took him away. For some days we did not know to where he had
disappeared until we found him cut into pieces in Tomashowka.

Jossl Gelermann  was the first martyr of Wlodowa. The next day the
Germans drove out the Jews of their houses with truncheons and guns
screaming: Laufen, laufen (run). They rushed them into the great
Synagogue and those who lived in a Christian area into the Polish
church. Though the great Synagogue was a big and high building there
were so many people crammed in that it was impossible to breathe. Pople
were fainting and we were running out of water. The Germans kept on
adding more and more Jews and closed the doors. People were creeping on
each other groaning: "Water!"

To this the Germans only answered by firing bullets from a machine gun
into the Synagogue. Only the next day at 10 o'clock did they open the
Synagogue, demanded hostages from the representatives of the community.
I only remember the names of the two Rabbis: Stashorek and Jeshajahu
Zerwanagre. The Germans explained that they were taking the hostages
because on of the Jews had fired on a German soldier. In future 100 Jews
would be killed for one German soldier. It was also forbidden for a Jew
to be on the street after nightfall.

Silence prevailed on Jom  Kippur.  We did not even see a single
German in town.  People started to peep outside and to leave their house
and were convinced that the Germans were really not there.  Polish
soldiers were also not seen.  The town was without government.  The Jews
began organizing guards on the streets to oppose plunder and assualts.
"Kol Nidre" was said at home and no one attended the Synagogue or the
Beth Midrash.  We prayed this "Kol Nidre" together with the Rabbi Eli
Shochat and nobody could imagine that the "Kol Nidre" would be recited
in more tragic circumstances in following years.  On Yom Kippur a Polish
officer appeared calling the young one to the military barracks 8 days.
Suddenly the army disappeared without leaving any trace. On the third
day the Russians invaded the town. The suppressed inhabitants could
again breathe freely.

Jewish officers of the army of the Soviet Union told us secretly that
the Russians were retreating beyond the Bug and that the Germans would
return. Anyone who so desired could cross the Bug before their arrival.
Many Jews followed them. After a few days the Germans once again
penetrated the town.

They immediately confiscated all the goods in the shops. They commanded
a "Judenrat" to be formed and every Jew had to wear a "Schand Band" (a
band of shame) with a blue Star of David. The Judenrat together with the
labour office were urged to set up a list of Jews for forced labour. I
belonged to one of these groups sent by train to Chelm and from there we
were driven by foot to the village Zernija. Leaving the train in Chelm
we were compelled to pass "Brand", that is, we had to pass between two
rows of SS people who beat everyone with sticks and those who did not
succeed in running to the right beat was  shot outside the camp. In
Zarnijew we worked draining swamps and mire. In the winter 1941 our town
was crowded with German soldiers. It was forbidden for Jews to leave the
town, nevertheless they were led to the forest to pave streets and to
construct barracks. Around the Bug feneces and other obtacles were
erected. On the morning of June 21st. we heard the noise of cannon fire
and some hours later the Germans were already walking on the other side
of the Bug. In the afternoon wounded Russian and Jewish prisoners were
brought from Tomashka. It was forbidden to talk with the wounded and
with the driver who brought them as we were not supposed to know what
had happened.

The injured had been tortured so cruelly that every day many of them
died.  In the winter of 1941 a new directive was ordered by the German
government.  All kinds of furs had to be handed over by the Jews.
Disobeyment  was punished by death.  Everyone gave in their furs
andN furcoats.  Nevertheless, some Jews were murdered -- one Christian
denuciated  a Jewish family concealing a furcoat. Without
investigating the case the Germans shot Moshe Schwartz and his wife
Hania thus, orphaning their 3 children. The same happened to Peretz the
shoemaker.

On Passoever Eve 1942 the Judenrat had to provide several hundred Jews
for the deportation to Sobibor. Among them were my two brothers in-law.
They met there hundreds of Jews from other towns and even from abroad.
They worked fencing in the camp in the valley of the forest and building
all kinds of strange structures without suspecting that they were
constructing gas chambers and crematoriums, where they themselves would
be the first to suffocate and to burn. At the same time a transport from
Vienna arrived with people dressed elegantly as if they were out for a
walk. They related that the Germans had behaved nicely towards them on
the way and they were promised to be brought to a labour camp in the
east. In the meantime they were to stay in the Wlodowa ghetto.

One day Abraham Ben Shamai and another young man from Matshin came
rushing. They belonged to the group sent for work to Sobibor and had
escaped. They were completely naked.

They told us that the group of Wlodowa and other Jews had built the gas
chambers and the Germans had chosen them to be the first to test the
efficiency of the gas.

Only they both understood the matter in time and by wonder succeeded in
escaping as they were, naked, before being pushed into the gas chamber.

This news sounded so strange to the ears of the listening like sweating
of unsane  brains.

Nobody could believe that people could be killed just for nothing.

                            THE FIRST ACTION

On the Savuoth holidays it was decreed to provide 500 or 600 ailing and
old Jews. Those who found out this in advance succeeded in hiding. My
father Moshe and my mother Freide Malka also hid in an attic and were
saved on that day. Refugees from other towns and villages were also
delivered. Jews from Vienna were picked up as well and as the required
number had not yet been attained people were seized on the street by
SS-men. 

After severe tortures and shooting; tens of them were deported to
Sobibor.

                         THE CHILDREN'S ACTION

In July it was decreed that the parents had to deliver their children up
to the age of 12. My wife, children and I remained undiscovered in an
attic. Rabbi Mendeli the son of the Rabbi of Lakow presented himself
with his children.

It was told that he and his wife drew lots and it was he who drew the
lot to accompany the children. The Germans told him to go back but he
refused and went along with his children to Sobibor. As the number of
children was not sufficient adults too were grabbed on the streets.

With whips and sticks they were pushed into the train and into the
wagons. Little children were thrown like wooden blocks.

It was so crowded in the cars that it was impossible to move even a limb
and many suffocated on the way.

This was later described by one who managed surviving by jumping from
the moving train.

                            THE THIRD ACTION

Some weeks after Succoth 1942 when all Jews living in the villages were
ordered to move to the town the market place became crammed with people,
children and luggage.

Those there were especially Jews who had hidden in the villages without
the knowledge of the farmers. Jews from the camp Osobi and Krichow were
also brought there. Many fearless Jews who had "guts" dared to flee to
the forest.

On Shabbat all the labourers of Falkenberg, about 2000, went to work as
usual. There he directed them to go to the lot next to the ground-school
promising that they would soon return to work. At the same time hundreds
of German soldiers blockaded the streets driving the Jews towards this
lot. Most of the members of the "Judenrat" were captured and brought
there. Falkenberg requested only 400 of his labourers back and these
later reported the events. I hid my wife and children together with the
wife and children of the butcher Zernik (he was killed in Maidanek) in
the corridor behind the kitchen which contained a staircase leading to
the cellar. I closed the door behind them and further sealed it with
wooden beans . I myself hid in the neighbourhood in the attic of
Mendel Orchover's house. In a small part of the roof concealed by a wall
ten people were hiding.

On Saturday at dusk I went down to see how my wife and children were.
When I found the cellar empty I nearly went out of my mind from despair.
It was only two hours later that I saw them again safe and sound. They
had nearly suffocated in the cellar and had thus been compelled to go
out. It took them two hours to pass 4 houses until Mendel's house.

All the time they were forced to conceal themselves from the eyes of
strangers. This situation lasted several days until things calmed down
again. From the rood I could observe the whole proceeding of the action.
I heard the screaming of the children snatched from the arms of their
parents, the heartbursting howling of fathers and mothers fighting
against the kidnappers and being beaten merciless  or shot. In this
action move than 10,000 Jews were massacred.

                            THE FOURTH ACTION

After the great action the labour camp and the ghetto were inclosed by
high fences with barbed wire. Those who worked were compelled to live in
the camp and others -- in the ghetto. Housing problems were now over as
many houses stood empty.

The shortage of a large number of people marked the atmosphere. Even
those who remained knew that their time was short. Sooner or later they
would be slaughtered.

At that time a group of partisans was formed and they even succeeded in
buying some weapons and escaping into the forest.

Moshe Lichtenberg was the leader of this group. Peace had not returned
to the ghetto. Again kidnapping of people in the street and again an
action lasting 5 days. Hiding-places were discovered and there was
shooting in the streets and houses.

In the camp on the contrary nobody was touched. After 5 days of "action"
they announced that there would no longer be kidnappings in the ghetto
and nobody has to fear anything.

A new "Judenrat" was founded for the remaining Jews and Nitschke
promised there would be no further harm to the Jews.

                        THE LABOUR CAMP ADAMPOL

Some days after this action my sister-in-law came from Adampol -- the
estate of the Earl of Samoiska to find out how we were. She proposed to
us to move to Adampol where she and her fiancee were working. She told
us that about 1000 Jews were living there with their families. The
distance between the Adampol estate and Wlodowa was 8 km. One dark night
we set off. In return for a gold clock the administrator of the estate
included us in the list of names. It was very crowded and extremely
dirty. Swarms of lice crept on everyone. The administrator of the estate
constantly received "little presents" and allowed all those seeking
shelter to enter. We dug pits and chopped down trees, our livinghood
 we earned by seeling  our belongings. In this camp many were
starving looking like skeletons. But as German strangers did not come
here the place seemed to us like a real paradise.

We had already spent some wintermonths in the camp. During this time
many arrived of those who had escaped to the forest, as they did not
posses  weapons and were unable to stand the frosts and cold.
Gradually the winter came to an end, the snow melted and with the
spring, Pessach was approaching.

The Jewish partisans used to come here during the night to visit their
relatives and returned to the woods. The Germans found out about this
and they enclosed the camp, checking up who is registered and who not.
The latter were shot on the place. Among them was also the son-in-law of
Slikel Harb.

In those days I lost my wife. She had gone with some other women to the
town in order to sell and to buy some things. When they returned to the
camp a German caught them and all were killed. This happened on Adar A
16th and this is the memorial day of my wife (may she rest in peace),
the daughter of Anshel Melamed who was the Gabbai of the Rabbi of Minsk.
She was the first victim of our family.

I remained sad and depressed with four little children.

                             THE FIFTH ACTION

After this event I went back to the ghetto which I found in ruins. I
collected broken windows and doors to prepare a hiding place where I
could bring my children. Because of the late hour I was forced to sleep
in the ruins. In the early morning hours I heard familiar noises and
shots, I understood their meaning and climbed up the destroyed roof
stairs. I remained lying there throughout the day terrified, shocked,
seeing what was going on in the streets and remembering my poor little
children. At night it became silent. Only the 'Blacks' as we called the
Ukrainians patrolled the streets. One of the  was walking around
the ruined hut where I was hiding. As this hut was located on the border
between the ghetto and the camp, I took off my shoes and stood
barefooted at the hidden passageway and when the Ukrainian had moved
some steps away I escaped into the night. I reached the station and from
there I continued through the fields to Adampol. But also here I did not
find anyone. Here too an action had taken place and those who had been
able to had fled into the forest. At sunrise I set off into the forest
to find out about my children. To my big joy and happiness they had
hidden together with my sister-in-law and her fiancee under the stock of
pine-tree pins. We thought over our situation and came to the conclusion
to return to the Polot camp S.A. back to the Samoiski estate.

Many did the same and the camp filled again. Wlodowa was "Judenrein"
(free of Jews).

We were afraid to go there because of the danger of new actions. There
existed a possibility to join the partisans in the forest but only those
without children and with much money could dare this as you had to
provide yourself a gun. Without one, it was impossible to live in the
forest.

Therefore the most remained in the camp.

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