The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Life and Fall of Wlodowa

The Memorial Book of Wlodawa

The road of bloody battles under the German occupation

At the end of the year 1939. It was after the invasion of the Germans in Poland and its division into two parts. The other side of the Bug belonged to the Russians and this side - together with the district of Wlodowa was at the hands of the Germans. The Germans immediately started issuing directives on the Jews of the little towns and villages of this district. Our little town Sosnowitz experienced all the persecutions, tortures and agonies which grew worse and worse from day to day.

Already in the year 1940 they started capturing people for work and also transporting them to Sobibor. Like many others I was afraid of sleeping at home and so I sept in the cornfields. On the 10th of October 1940 the Gestapo of Wlodowa required from the "Judenrat" that every Jew of our town should present himself within three hours at the market place of Wlodowa. The next day all the Jews had to be there at 11.00 o'clock - after this hour every Jew found in Sosnowitz would be shot. A tumult broke out. Everyone felt that this action was connected with gas chambers. At the same time I gathered up my courage calling on the Jewish youth to come into the forest to the partisans who were fighting against the Germans.

My father agreed with me and said: "Go, go my son and avenge the Jewish blood, that is being shed without any cause."

Seven young men joined me, I got hold of two guns - a Polish classmate provided them for me.

The next night at midnight I came to say goodbye to mother and father and to my little brother who was then 6 years old, all in the house were crying. My throat suffocated from tears that would not burst out, I stopped them with all my power and escaped from the house. Outside the echo of the weeping of all my relatives haunted me and has continued haunting me ever since.

Our meeting place was in the Jewish Milwne. From there we set off assing fields and bushes to the big Parzawi forest. Along we with me together were: Jechiel Grinspan, Abraham G., Nissan Zin (who fell in battle), Simcha Levinson (who fell in battle), David P., Chaim Elieser Blumenkranz (who fell in battle). We knew that in this forest Russian soldiers were staying who had escaped from German imprisonment. The more we penetrated into the forest the more we were lost. It was raining and we became soaking wet. There was nothing to eat and to drink - so we drank from the pools formed from the rain. Out of despair we looked into each others eyes to guess their moods. The first to inspire me with courage was Jechiel Grinspan: "Don't worry, he said, we don't have what to lose. You don't die twice." You are born once and you die once. The main point is not to despair. Suddenly we heard gunshots.

We started to run in their direction and we saw two men passing quickly while hiding in the bushes.

They waited until we approached within hearing and shot: "Stoi!" (stop) Who are you?" We answered that we were Jews.

They let us come closer and said: "Charasho Towarish!" which meant all right friends. They brought us to a thicket and told us to make a fire and dry our clothes promising us that soon their commander Fiodor would arrive and they left us.

After some hours they returned with Fiodor. He received us cordially and brought us to their base. There he ordered to give us something to eat and he told us to rest. He parted from us warmly.

"Tomorrow we will talk." (Sawtra bodim Gewarit) he said.

With the Russian partisans

Though we were very tired none of us closed an eye all the night. All our thinking was devoted to the fate of our parents, brothers and sisters. The next morning while we were standing for the morning roll-call Fiodor read in our faces the sorrows and despair and he encouraged us saying that we were not the only ones but that our fate was shared with millions.

After a few months the group consisted already of some hundred men and we had also some arms at our disposal including two Z.K.M. (heavy machine guns) so that we could defend ourselves. Jews from Prazew came to the forest and it became merry there. They made a synagogue where they prayed. The escape of the Jews was revealed to the Germans and it became very dangerous for the partisans. The commander Fiodor was afraid that the Germans would come to the forest with a big unit and kill everyone. The danger was even greater for the Jews as not one of them possessed a gun. The situation caused the Russians to penetrate deeper into the forest and the Jews remained without protection. It became very sad but we did not have any choice. The next day Fiodor came taking all the youths and we belonged to the first of the fighting unit he formed. Those who remained were put into "tabor" (camp) where whole families and those unfit for fighting were entered.

The first battles

When we were already well organized and in the possession of a few arms the Jewish Partisan unit under the command of Jechiel Grinspan started the preparations to act against the Gestapo in Ostrowa in the district of Wlodowa. For several weeks we were occupied with the preparations. We sent spy groups to investigate the fortified places, the guardhouse where German and Polish guards stayed.

On December 16, 1942 Jechiel led us to the village Ostrowa, where we started a heavy fight with the Hitlerists and after some hours we succeeded in conquering the position. German officers fell in our hands and 12 Polish policemen were shot. We captured many arms uniforms and other things. We burnt down their housings and the townhall. The mayor who had cooperated with the Germans was shot. This was the first act of revenge for the Jewish bloodshed. A little bit after this victory, the Germans surrounded us. It was a very heavy attack. Three days the Germans bombed us with planes and tanks. We sat in the trenches under the trees and we waited until the Germans would approach the forest. We were divided into groups under the main command of Fiodor. When they were about 40 meters from our range of sight came the order: "Fire!" And we opened fire from all sides, so that the Germans did not know from where it came and they were standing in an open cornfield on their way towards us.

In this battle we lost three partisans, two Russians and one Jew, Simcha Levinson from Sosnowitz. Tens of Germans were killed. After fighting for about five hours the Germans retreated. 1942 was a year with great snowfalls, storms and frosts. Winter was at its peak. Our situation was not delightful at all, we were naked and barefoot. And also the hunger left its marks. We started attacking villages taking weapons and cattle by force. But every time we paid with victims. The Germans ambushed us at the exit of the village. We defended ourselves but our arms were too poor to drive away the well-armed Germans.

The farmers reported our attacks to the Germans and that we were taking everything from them so that they could not deliver the fixed quota to the Germans. Gradually we organized the farmers not to report our appearances to the Germans as this would be better for their own sake. Finally the farmers brought us food voluntarily.

On January 11th. We were surrounded in the forest of Parzew by a big German unit. But our Russian commander tricked them and we pushed back their attack.

On February 26, 1943 at 11.00 o'clock in the morning, we, a group of ten people with the commander Smaste were surrounded by 400 Germans. My comrades were sleeping in the hut of the forest-guard and only I wearing a German uniform kept guard. The Germans approached shouting: Kamarad (friend) I threw myself down on the ground and started shooting at them. The Germans answered with heavy fire from machine guns. I detained them until the group left the hut and I succeeded in withdrawing to the other side. Our fighters among them was Zipora (now in Israel) opened the fire and succeeded in passing and leaving the German encirclement.

On March 1943 the first planes with arms from the Sowjet Union arrived. At the same time we separated from Russian partisans and formed a Jewish division under the leadership of Jechiel. His division spread throughout all the forests of the district of Wlodowa. We also founded a "Tabor" where we put all the old women, and children. We protected them from the Germans and the murderous Polish underground. We performed many battles and acts of terror with strategic calculation and exactness. Thus, a heroic chapter of the history of the Jewish uprising in World War II was written.

We bombed trains near the village Sarki, not far from Sobibor; we burnt down a glassworks factory in Duvazne, in Wirk we burnt the guardhouse, in Kaplinitz we attacked the German army and killed 26 Germans, we destroyed the Bridge near to Sawin where the railways passed on which the trains with soldiers to the front were transported. In Sosnowitz we attacked a garnison and killed 120 Germans.

One night we invaded in Parzew, burnt the townhall and shot the guard. A week did not pass without our having removed from the rails a train with soldiers.

At the same time we stopped sleeping in the forest but slept instead in the villages that we now held and where we had sympathetics helping us in the war against the Germans and Polish murderers. The government of all councils of the whole district of Wlodowa went over to our side. Then Jechiel Grinspan organized the division which was under the commandment of the "Armia Ludowo" (National Army).

One day a commander of this army, Roleh Smirski along with some Polish officers came to us. We passed before them in a big parade. Jechiel Grinspan was promoted to rank to high commander. We all were promoted for our battle with the Germans, which I mentioned before. In this battle with the Germans I killed with my gun 11 Germans - and the whole group was rescued.

In April 1943 we were heavily attacked in the forest of Kaplinitz. In this battle we lost 70 Jewish fighters. Women and children rescued from the ghetto Wlodowa were also killed.

It became known to us that in Adampol there were Jews from Wlodowa and Sosnowitz. I asked for permission from our commander Jechiel Grinspan to go to Adampol and to take the Jews from there and to bring them to the forest. From the whole group only Nissan Zinn agreed to join me.

In the evening we both went to a farmer in Kaplinitzki whom we knew very well. We promised him a good pig if he would bring us to the camp. He led us there and remained half a kilometer away of the camp and we continued. Nissan stood at the gate and I in German-uniform entered the camp. I took two Jews with me and left.

Revenge of our blood

The wintermonths were slowly creeping until the summer of 1943 arrived. We were informed that in the ghetto Jews were still living. I learned that from my whole family which was killed in Sobibor only father survived. I sent a farmer from the village Krasivka to bring my father to the forest. The farmer returned without my father but with a letter from him in which it was written: "My son, I don't have anything to live for and it is not worthwhile for me to come to the forest. God shall help you and guard you from all dangers. Revenge all, for the Jewish innocent blood which was shed."

Rescuing Jews from the camp of Adampol

On May 2, 1943 at night Wlodowa was encircled by SS-men and Ukrainians driving out Jews from their hiding places. Tens of mem , women and children were shot in the street. My father too was shot in the Wirokstreet.

This was the last action liquidating the last remnants of Jews in Wlodowa.

One night I invaded in the first barrack of the camp Adampol. The Jews were alrealy sleeping and I woke them taking along with me more than thrity people, young men and girls ordering them to pass the fence while I jumped after them. All this was accomplished so silently that nobody noticed what happened. The farmer led us to the forest of Kaplinitzki where Jechiel was waiting with his whole group.

This successful experiment icreased our courage and we started enlarging our visits taking out Jews from Wlodowa, Sosnowitz, Kaplinitzki, Wirok and other places.

One day we made an assembly and decided to take all the Jews from Adampol as we had learned that the last action was going to take place. It was determined that five men with arms should enter the camp hiding the arms and organizing the Jews to be prepared to leave the camp for the forest.

As I had already been several times in the camp it was decided not to send me. The following were sent: Jurek P. (living today in America) from the village Salaszi and four young men whose names I don't remember. Unfortunately the head of the camp Selinger learnt about the presence of the partisans in the camp and about their intention to lead the Jews out of the camp. He phoned the Gestapo in Wlodowa and on the same day some hundreds of them enclosed the camp and drove out all the Jews to the fields and fired at them. the five partisans went the first and when they were in the fields they shouted loudly all the Jews started escaping and dispersing in all directions.

The Germans opened fire killing all the Hews. Only two partisans survived. One from Wlodowa and Jurek P. both wounded in the arm. Also Jeshajahu from Worek survived, he grasped the gun of the hands of an SS-man and escaped. He was slightly injured on his leg.

On the same day 600 Jews were massacred from Wlodowa and the surroundings. All were buried in a common grave next to Adampol. In June 1943 we fought against the Germans behind the village Saheike. Our commander was then Jechiel Grinspan, who then conducted the battle with exceptional fighting spirit and strategic talents. In the same battle we lost two fighters. One was Jeshajahu Lichtenstein the son of the Rabbi of Wlodowa.

Thus we lived and found in the woods of Wlodowa and Parzew. In every place we were ambushed by Germans and Poles filled with hate for the Jews. We fought against them day after day. The victims and the difficult condtions and the nature did not let us relax. We fought with much devotion and many of us fell in the battlefield.

There did not exist much hope in us that we would survive this devastation. There existed in us a great force to rise up to fight and to suffer in the battle.

If with my modest memories I enlightened to a certain degree the chapter of the Jewish heroism in the period of its destruction I would know that I fulfilled my duty.

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