The Annihilation of a Jewish Community

Detailed Ostrowiec history of the Holocaust years by Leibush Milstein
excerpted from Yizkor Book of Ostrowiec  Editor: Gershon Silberberg, Meir Shimon Geshuri,  1971

16 September 1939

Panic in Ostrowiec

Wednesday, the 16 September, 1939, in the afternoon, a terrible panic reigned in Ostrowiec, growing from minute to minute. The news of the Germans having reached the outskirts of the town, caused a desperate mood amongst the Jews. None knew what to do: stay together with the family, or flee alone to the other side of the Vistula. The secretary of the Jewish community, Dr. Leon Beigelman, escaped, as he was afraid of the new Mayor, the Jew-heater Mrozowski, with whom he used to have frequent conflicts while serving on the town council. Many of the Jewish intelligentsia run away together with him; amongst them were Dr. Jelen, Dr. Shiber, and their families, Yehezkel Beigelman, and others.

Except for Dr. Shiber's wife, none ever returned.

17 September 1939

The First Jewish Victims

Early in the morning of the 17th September, the Germans entered the town – Saturday at 3 o'clock in the afternoon the first victim fell: it was Israel Rosenberg (Putin) who was shot in the morning; later, during the same day, several more were shot. Those first victims were buried at once; later, the Germans threw the dead into a hole on the Sheroka Street where they lay a couple of days before permission was given to bury them.

Everybody was seized with fear; nobody dared leave the house because of the frequent shooting and also on account of the Jews being caught for compulsory work, often accompanied with beatings and humiliations.

Soon the “Judenrat” was established, with the lawyer Seisel as chairman, Joske Rosenman as vice-chairman, and ten other members. The Judenrat had only one task: to provide man-power for the Germans. At the very outset, the Judenrat was compelled to collect a contribution of a quarter of a million zloty. This amount was then reduced to two hundred thousand, to be delivered by the Jewish inhabitants in two installments. Almost daily the Judenrat was made to fulfill new and more and more difficult tasks, like requisition of furniture and linen, bed sheets, jewels and even furs for the SS-men and the German officers. Mrozowski, the Mayor, also became very demanding, and made it difficult for the Jews to settle their matters at the Municipality. He used to incite the German authorities against the Jews, and he also transferred the marketplace to another part of the town in accordance with his wish of old. The Judenrat found it advisable to apply to the S.S. in order to ease the situation of the Jews and to prevent the anti-Semitic Mayor from having his say. Through bribe and expensive gifts we finally succeeded in getting in touch with the German town authorities and somewhat, somehow, help to ease the situation of the Jews.

The go-between who affected the contact between the Jewry and German authorities was Joske Rosenman. On the 23rd December, 1939, refugees from Konin and Glin (Posnan region) arrived in our town. The homeless Jews have been carefully received by the Ostrowtzer Jews and a special committee of the Judenrat undertook to settle them in flats and feed them until every one of them found an occupation.