Amnon Ajzenstadt was born on April 28, 1918 in Tsoyzmir (Sandomierz), Poland, and raised in a Hassidic household. Until late 1939, he was a student in a religious teachers’ seminary and a music conservatory in Warsaw. He spent some time in Ostrowiec (see excerpt below) but escaped from the ghetto. He was pretending to be a German or a Pole of German heritage at first but later caught by the Soviets and arrested as a prisoner of war as they didn't believe he was a Jew trying to escape.
After the war, he emigrated to Toronto in 1948. He wrote articles for the Idishe Zhurnal (Jewish Journal) in Toronto, Keneder odler (Canadian Eagle) in Montreal, and others. He also authored books with Ostrowiec topics including: Endurance: Chronicles of Jewish Resistance (English- 1989) and Un di erd hot nisht tsugedekt dos blut (And the Earth did not Cover the Blood) (Yiddish- 1962).
Excerpted from: Endurance: Chronicles of Jewish Resistance by Amnon Ajzensztadt
Background: Amnon Ajzensztadt’s father Rabbi Alexander Zisze/Zishe Ajzensztadt was known as the Tzosmerer (Sandomierz) Rebbe at one time. During the late 1920's the family moved to Warsaw. In 1940, after the newly created Ghetto in Warsaw , they joined the Brukierer (Bruker) family in Ostrowiec on 54 Sienienska Street.
...We had taken an immense risk in smuggling out the furs from the [Warsaw] Ghetto, in order to sell them and buy food, fuel, medication, and other necessities. A few days after…posters were put up all over the … all Jews were to hand over their furs…. to the Judenrat premises on Ilzecka Street, after which it would be handed over to the German authorities. Any offender who was caught trying to barter or peddle their furs to the Christian citizens …would be shot instantly …
Abraham Baumstein... was on good terms with his former Polish concierge and the friendly janitor who had worked for him for many years. He contacted them and they agreed to store away a few expensive heirloom fur coats… the S.S. agency responsible for internal security, law and order was accordingly notified …Arrested and interrogated by the … team of Peter and Bruno, the caretaker and his spouse immediately confessed the whole story: how the Jew had contacted them and talked them into committing the …. "Transgression!" …The Poles were slapped in the face and allowed to go free with a mere kick in the behind. Abraham Baumstein was put to the wall and shot.
At the same time the Judenrat's warehouse was rapidly filling up with all kinds of furry articles, from caps to gloves, topcoats, neck pieces, and even earmuffs. As soon as we heard about this, my father and teacher called us together to discuss the situation...
"I gathered you all at this late hour to urge you not to be intimidated by the Governor-General's scaremongering, and, therefore, that you not deliver your fur pieces to the Judenrat."
"Every single scrap of fur which will help to comfort and keep warm a Nazi on the Eastern front is a contribution to the well-being of Satan, the strengthening of evil, and is against the letter and the spirit of our Torah. The present rulers of Poland and most of Europe are unlawful, illicit usurpers, murderers, and torturers. They are absolutely not entitled to our usual obedience, fidelity and co-operation."...
"I suggest that instead of surrendering our furs to the wicked Nazi profaners of G-d and man, we should rather rip them apart and collectively fulfill a good deed, a Mitzvah, by burning them with our own hands." ...
We all felt galvanized into action by the Rebbe's words. Two Jewish families, the Brukirers and the Ajzensztadts were living together in the same house. One family consisted of my parents and me. The other family consisted of Reb Eliezer Brukirer, a close disciple of my father and our host, his wife, and their four children.
The chimney at 54 Sienienska Street billowed smoke through the night...[and about 100] kilometres away, in Majdanek near Lublin, an experimental, larger chimney already billowed smoke all day and all night, fed by the flames not of processed, fashioned animal-skins, but of human flesh from gassed concentration camp prisoners. The final solution was beginning!
...The women were separating and carving away the external materials; they used razor blades and knives. The men were using large scissors to cut the fur skins into smaller, separate pieces, easily able to be stuffed into the kitchen furnace. It was frightening and fascinating to watch the leaping flames. The flames rose and fell as dismembered pieces of mutton, muskrat, Persian-lamb, Alaskan seal, and fox were fed into the fire.
...The fire now became symbolic of Jewish suffering, past and present. I was reminded of many things: a gigantic auto-da-fe of books and Torah scrolls; the Nazi Kristallnacht when so many synagogues had been burned down; the Nazi bombing of Warsaw when the city was ablaze for four weeks; the Crusaders setting fire to a synagogue that was full of men, women and children, a renowned Rabbi, Hananya ben Teradyon, who had been placed on a pyre of green brushwood, his chest drenched with water to prolong the agony of his death; and a burning, desecrated Holy Temple in Jerusalem.