Early 1943

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 Ostrovtser Camp

Shortly also the place for an Ostrovtser camp was fixed; it was to be placed near the Czenstowice Sugar Factory – the same place which served as the point of assembly for the first deportation. Suddenly, feverish work began for the construction of the barracks, and we could imagine that the camp would be ready very soon. The Jews started looking for ways to join the partisans in the woods, in order to escape the imprisonment in a camp. For this purpose they got in touch with the Polish underground movement. The sad fate willed it that the contact was made with the murderous Armja Krojowa (A.K. = Land Army). The first group of 20 which joined them, lost immediately 12 people, shot dead by the A.K., and the others wounded. In a terrible state have the wounded come back to the ghetto. Naturally, nobody tried to reach the forest from now on. Instead some have gone to Warsaw, or to other bigger cities, but unfortunately the Arian papers were difficult to get, and many who tried to escape thus were handed over to the Gestapo by blackmailers whom they trusted. Some went in hiding with Christian friends in their cellars and even in dug–outs, a few of these have even somehow managed to survive there till the end of the war. But those who did not have the financial means necessary, have met the fate awaiting them in the camp.

In the end of February, or in the beginning of March, 1943, the Bedzechow Camp was closed down and the remaining internees were sent to the Strachowice Camp. Only the Jewish camp leader Kierbel, and a few more persons, who learned about the dissolution of their camp a few hours ahead of time, managed to escape. The fact shook all the remaining inhabitants of the Ostrowiec ghetto, especially those who had relatives in Bodzechow. They all understood that a similar fate was in stock for them in the coming days.

Soon thereafter we learned that the day for the deportation to the camp is fixed – the 1st of April. On that day a torrential rain fell and when the Jews were closed–in in the camp, it seemed to the last Ostrovtzer Jews that the skies were crying with them…

It is noteworthy that when we were still in the ghetto, a registration was performed of ‘specialists’ not aware of the purpose.

On the day of removal to the camp, 150 of the registered specialists were deported to the Belzec concentration camp, and most of them were killed. The removal to camps went on under the supervision of the Ukrainians, who also immediately manned all the 4 watchtowers, which were specially built to spy on us day and night. In the camp we were faced with the Werkschutz–Fuehrer, Goldsitz, whom we have well known from before. He ordered us to call loudly ‘Hoch’ when we heard ‘Achtung!’ and as soon as we saw him; and also that we have to remain standing as long as the report is being made. He allocated sleeping places to each of us accompanying this with beating with his rubber whip.


The Authorities

The Jewish Bureau, which was in charge of order in the camp, like, for instance, check that everybody should come to work, take care of the provisions, clothes, linen, and also be in contact with the German authority in the factory, i.e. with the Stabskapitan Zwierzyna and Wehrschutz–Fuehrer, Goldsitz. At the head of the Jewish Bureau were Efraim Shafir and his second–in–command, –– Abraham Seifman. The next authority was the Jewish Police, who had to transport the people to and from work. The police also supervised the sanitary conditions of the camp, and executed the orders of the Jewish Bureau to arrest or beat the non-conformists; also they executed the orders of the German authority as to delivering to them people wanted by them. The commander of the Jewish Police was Ber Blumenfeld and his second–in–command, –– Moshe Puczyc.

In the beginning the life in the camp was not quite as bad as anticipated. The Ukrainians were not allowed to enter the camp and no revisions were undertaken. Everybody got 300 gr. Bread and a liter soup daily. Those who were employed at the Jeger Works in town, used to bring with them into the camp all the good things, even live chicken. In short, those who had money did not suffer hunger. Those who had no money, used to deal in food, or worked for others as their replacements and earned thereby 20 to 30 zloty per day. The factory work was easier than at Jeger's, because the working day only lasted 8 hours. But at Jeger's there were other advantages, since work in town enabled one to meet the Christians with whom the Jews left some things prior to the deportation. This also offered an opportunity to buy and sell various things.

In the camp there was a hospital, directed by Dr. Picker from Vienna while Nachman Alman was the ‘feldsher’ (an assistant doctor, not fully qualified, who provides medical treatment in rural areas – translator's note) – there was also a bathroom there, in a rather good state of repair.

Efraim Shafir and Ber Blumenfeld took care of the order in the camp and were on good terms with the German leaders of the factory.

The good news of life in the camp reached also those on the Aryan side who lived in a permanent state of panic. Many of them came back to Ostrowiec and into the camp; they were immediately given work and registered, in view of lack of man power.