London, Thursday, July 1st 1943 Issue No. 71
In this number of the of the Polish Forth-Nightly Review we give two protocols (A. and B.) of statements made by two Jewish women who in the Autumn of 1942 succeeded in escaping from Poland They had lived in Poland continually since the outbreak of the war, and consequently for three years were witnesses of the tragic situation of the Jews in Poland under the German occupation.
The stories speak for themselves, but it must be added that they do not give the full picture. For the anti-Jewish terror and mass murders were only beginning to mount to a climax of horror in the Autumn of 1942, when these witnesses left. Therefore they only deal with the preliminary phase of the mass extermination of which the world has been witness during the last few months.
Agony of the people condemned to death!
The day the war began I was in Katowice, one of the first towns to fall to the German conquest. In the first few days of the war my parents were left homeless. Flight proved useless, for Sosnowiec, to which we escaped was also besieged by the Germans. My parents took with them a large sum of money and jewelry, which enabled them to support the family. When the Germans proclaimed that Sosnowiec was "incorporated" with the Reich and began to persecute the Jews, my father went to Bendzin, where we remained until the middle of 1940.
Meantime my father heard from his cousin at the little spa of Busk that the situation there was not too bad and it would be worth while shifting to that place. In order to get there we had to cross the newly formed frontier line between the "Reich" and the "General Gouvernement." My father found a German acquaintance who for 1,000 zlotys conveyed us all together with our belongings and jewelry, across the frontier in a military car flying a swastika flag. Naturally, no one at the frontier ventured to look inside the car. Thus with my children I arrived as Busk.
We lived in Busk until June, 1942, when the Germans began their terrible persecution of the Jews. But for the time being the situation was tolerable. Our worst experiences were being pillaged by German soldiers and members of the Gestapo and the forced labor instituted for the Jews. But the Jews managed to get through it one way or another.
Everyone in the town knew that the Germans took bribes. The representative of the Jewish population was the former chairman of the town's Jewish community. He was given the position of Hauptmann and became director of all the Jewish councils in the entire district of of Busk in Chmielnik, Dzialoszyce, Pinczow, Wislica, Pacanow, Nowy Czorsztyn, Staszew, Stopnica and other places. He had a· special office in Busk, where he was visited by the members of the various Jewish councils, and he acted as the intermediary to settle all questions with the Landrat and his assistants. I remember him one day feverishly searching for a woman's caraculs coat, which one of the German officials wanted to take with him when he went on holiday to Germany.
The Landrat did not intervene at all in Jewish questions. A special department of the Gestapo, and the Sonderdienst; which consisted of S.S. men, issued all regulations concerning forced labor. The regulations came to the Jewish Council, at the head of which was the grey-haired shopkeeper (name withheld). The council consisted of twelve members. We knew three Gestapo officials: Lieutenant Weiss, Dietrich, and another whose Christian name was Hans (I can't recall his surname). This last man was the greatest rogue of all the three. In addition, the head of the Sonderdienst was the gendarme Schwenker. The Gestapo-men and gendarmes I have mentioned were regularly engaged in despoiling the Jews, usually accompanying their acts with a ruthless flogging.
Every Jewish craftsman was forced to carry out work to all kinds of German orders. I knew a bookmaker who was famous in the district as a good craftsman. Although there were good Christian bookmakers in Busk the Gestapo-men always made the Jewish cobbler do their boots. They did not pay for the work, but the Jewish Council settled their accounts. The Germans were delighted with the man's work and were liberal in their praise. When once he faked to get an order finished in time one of his German clients beat him with his riding whip till the blood came. For a long time after the cobbler lay in bed, unable to work.
Every Jew was obliged to report for forced labor. Before the war there were 3,000 Jews in Busk. As the Germans had opened a large military hospital in the town, no refugees were allowed to enter it. Only a few Jewish families from Lodz got into the town illegally. Throughout the entire period there was no ghetto in Busk. The Jews were only turned out of two streets in the centre of the town, and notice boards were set up in these streets:
Jews strictly forbidden to pass through
Often it was necessary to take a roundabout route of nearly a mile in order to avoid these streets, which were renamed after Hitler and Goering. Only the Jewish militia and Jews going to forced, labor had Special passes authorizing them to enter these streets. At first the Gestapo men themselves organized round-ups of Jews, seizing them for forced labor.
But Hauptmann T. endeavored to arrange for 'the Jewish Council itself to provide the necessary number of people each day for labor. Every Jew had to present him or her self for labor at least once a week The rule applied equally to men and women. At first 300 persons were taken each day, but later, when many Jews were sent to camps in Wislica and Biala Podlaska, the quota required was increased to 600. In the winter-time they were employed in sweeping away the snow, in the summer they worked in the fields and gardens.
A special squad was sent to clean the closets in the villas occupied by German civil and military officials. Jewish girls were sent to, wash the floors and clean the villas. In the hospital, where there were several thousand wounded from the Russian front, Jews were used for all the heavy work. Jewish militia-men were entrusted with the maintenance of order. It. was difficult to get this position.
Struggle for Life
The Jews greatest anxieties consisted in the problem of earning their living and of living at all. There were several smugglers, who bribed the German gendarmerie and made large sums. People who were legally free to engage in trade and to move about freely were given one profession trading in second-hand goods. These people did not even wear the" Jewish badge" on their arm, but had a green band with an inscription. One such second-hand goods dealer came to Busk from Chmielnik. The Germans even allowed him to keep his long beard.
The only means of getting food was by getting into contact with the Polish peasants in one of the neighboring villages. These peasants secretly sold food to the Jews. As I had little children, I had more trouble than others in order to get food. One Polish woman helped me all through my stay there, and I have to thank her for the fact that my children did not suffer hunger. This woman brought me milk, butter and eggs from the villages. and I repaid her with several dresses and other small articles.
Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/polishforthnigtreviewslaughterA.html
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009