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

18 January 1940

Typhoid Epidemic

On 18th January, 1940, an order was published that white badges with blue stars of David must be worn on the right arm. A death sentence was the punishment for non-observance of the order. In February, a typhoid epidemic broke out and as a result thereof, the Jewish living quarters were surrounded with wires and it was prohibited to leave the enclosure. Inside the enclosure one could go out only for two morning hours – from 9 to 11 – and during one hour of the afternoon – from 4 to 5; the epidemic having assumed frightening proportions, gaining momentum daily, it took a considerable toll of human lives. A sanitary commission came into being with the aim of fighting the epidemic. The Beth-Midrash places were soon changed into hospitals under the management of Dr. Mayer. The epidemic lasted till April 1940, and all through it the Jews were trapped inside the enclosure, enjoying fresh air only 3 hours per day.

A fortnight before the Passover holidays, the enclosure was widened and life started returning to a degree of normalcy. Amongst the numerous victims of the epidemic was also the vice-chairman of the Judenrat, Joske Rosenman, whose untimely death saddened the whole town. Yitzhak Rubinstein was elected to replace him. HE was a well-known and active Zionist. Sometime later the lawyer Seidel is removed from his office and Yitzhak Rubinstein takes over as chairman of the Judenrat; the vice-chairman from now on is Moshe Alterman.

Jews are Deprived of their Entire Possessions

Meanwhile the S.S.-men became daily more greedy and keep on Jewish money, chattels, objects of art and valuables. The Jews are required to hand over to the Germans the remaining furniture and bedding. They must also pay over monthly taxes to the Judenrat instead of the things which cannot be removed from the homes. The Jews must also feed some S.S.-men and deliver to them every day special lunches. The go-between who connected us with the S.S.-men was Feinshel Hoffman. But in spite of all the gifts, the hate of the S.S.-men towards the Jews did not abate. Many S.S.-men used to leave Hoffman's house loaded with gifts, which did not prevent them from beating up other Jews met in the streets, against whom they also used to incite their dogs.

Outstanding amongst the S.S.-men in their role of killers of Jews were Peter, Brune and Hollwig When they were sighted in the streets, the Jews would all hide in their homes and the streets would be left empty of people. Anyone who fell into their hands knew his life was in great peril. They used to walk with a dog by the name of Churchill. They would call 'Churchill, hate the Jews' – the dog would then tear the poor victim's clothes and he would be left naked as newborn. The clothes would be reduced to a heap of rags.

14 March 1940

More Refugees Reach Our Town

On the 14th March 1940, a thousand Vienna Jews came to Ostrowiec. A committee of the Judenrat met them at the train and gave them medicines and food, and sent them to the nearby villages, because the Town Committee did not allow them to settle in Ostrowiec proper, except for a small number who could be settled in the town. The Viennese were almost all elderly people, who were unable to get adapted to the bad conditions of life prevailing in the villages, and many of them died shortly after their arrival.

One summer day in 1940, all men were called to the square in front of the Judenrat, allegedly to listen to a lecture. At once the square was surrounded by the S.S.-men, Sonderpolizei and the Polish police. Out of the present men, 150 young people were chosen, who were immediately sent to Lublin, Majdenek and Belzec in order to work on the fortification of the Russian frontier.

During the 1940 and 1941 years, many refugees arrived in our town from Warsaw, Lodz and other big Jewish centers, annexed to the German 'Reich', raising the number of Jewish inhabitants of Ostrowiec to 16,000.