December 1942

Historical Events from the Holocaust

(Excerpted from Ostrowiec; A Monument on the Ruins of an Annihilated Jewish Community (Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, Poland, translation of  Sefer Ostrovtsah: le-zikaron ule-'edut, Editor: Gershon Silberberg, Meir Shimon Geshuri, Tel Aviv 1971

The Second Deportation

In December, 1942, an order was issued by Frank to establish 4 Jewish towns for the non–employed Jews. The Jews of our town were allocated to Tsosmir. In the beginning people were glad thinking that the order means an improvement in the situation of the non–employed. Jews have started assembling in Tsosmir from all around. Many had even left their work and went together with their unemployed relatives to the newly established center. Also the Rabbi of Ostrowiec, Yehezkel Halevy Halstock, left Ostrowiec and went to Tsosmir (Sandomierz). Immediately after his arrival in Tsosmir, he was shot dead by the murderer, Peter.

The S.S. men went also to Bodzechow and have selected from amongst the working Jews of the Elin Works a few hundred whom they have chased on foot all the way to Tsosmir, under the close guard of the Polish policemen. Hard and bitter was their way. It was very frosty outside and they had to walk on and on without any possibility of getting some rest and catching their breath. Out of an extreme exhaustion they had no choice but to leave all their possessions on their way and throw away their parcels. On their arrival at Tsosmir, they were reduced to camping around in the streets in the open, without a place of refuge where they would be able to warm their tired and worn out limbs.

The Jewish commander of the Elin Works ran from one office to another, and he finally succeeded in obtaining permission for the employed ones to be brought back to the factory at Bodzechow. He immediately took a suitable number of cars and brought the people, to their great joy, back to their factory.

Also, at the same time, about hundred people were ‘freed’ from work at the Ostrowiec factory in accordance with an order of the Stabskapitan Zwierzyna – an order which understandably enough caused a lot of anxiety and fear amidst the ghetto inhabitants, who saw in it a sign of an impending peril; but, officially, the ‘liberation’ from work was justified and becalmed by giving as a reason for it's the establishment of the Jew–town. Still, no one had much confidence in the calming explanations. Life was again full of tension like shortly before the deportation on 11th October, 1942.

As it transpired, the fear was not in vain, and shortly thereafter a new catastrophe befell us, demanding several thousand victims, from amongst those who by miracle survived the first ‘action’. On the 10thJanuary, 1943, the ghetto was surrounded by the S.S., the gendarmerie, the Polish police, and the Ukrainians – and all Jews who were not employed by the Ostrowiec Factory or by the Jeger Works, were at once deported. In accordance with a list have all the working ones been separated from their families, who were surrounded from all sides, while all mansards were searched, as well as all cellars, and if a Jew was found hiding, he was shot dead on the spot. In this way about hundred victims were murdered. At the same time some Jews were deported also from the Bodzechow factory. Thus were deported to Treblinka on that day about two thousand Jews, and the same kind of ‘action’ was perpetrated also in the so–called free Jew–Town Tsosmir, where all the Jews, with the exception of a small number of those employed in the local Lyceum, were deported. At the railway station these miserable deportees were badly beaten up, and in spite of the strong belongings and even deprived of all their belongings and even their shoes were torn off their feet. Some were courageous enough to jump off the train wagons which carried them to Treblinka, and they reached the ghetto.

After the second deportation, the ghetto become much smaller, and the considerable and lively Jewish population of the pre–war times in Ostrowiec shrank presently to one thousand Jews: 600 employed by the Ostrowiec factory, 300 –by the Jeger Works, 30 – by the Room–command, whose task it was to clear the Jewish apartments of all the possessions, and the rest were the Jewish police and their families. In the ghetto there were also a small number of hidden Jews who stayed in various bunkers, and escaped the second deportation. Everybody felt that soon the small ghetto would also be liquidated and they consequently lived in a permanent fear of the impending death. Awful news spread about the Strachowice and Skarzysko camps, where people literally died of starvation, or were shot dead without knowing what for and for whom.