Konin Refugees

The Ostrowiec Aid Society for Konin Refugees
Written by Eliezer Langer

Translated by Libby Raichman
(from Konin Yizkor book , 1968)

At the beginning of December 1939, the Ostrowiec Jewish committee was called to the head of the “Gestapo” to inform them that a transport of Jews was passing through Ostrowiec who had not eaten for a few days, and that they were given permission to distribute food to them. With Jewish enthusiasm, we threw ourselves into the task of preparing food for the Jews, as much as was possible in those days. We delivered tables with food to the train station and waited for the train to arrive with the Jews. We were taken aback to see Christians coming out, with “shynen” [permit] directly to Ostrowiec.

The Gentiles were starving and asked the Jewish representative to sell food to them. We managed to satisfy their hunger. Our representatives turned to the head of the Gestapo, asking him what had happened – he asked us if we were ready to receive the Jews in Ostrowiec. Approximately four minutes after 4pm, the train with the Jewish victims appeared. When we saw them, and they saw us, the scene at that moment was indescribable; their pale faces, and their eyes – frightened. Trembling and in great fear, they began to stammer these few words: "where are we, and where are we being taken?"   We answered them, telling them where they were, and brought them food and drink.

We immediately began to distribute food and drink to the train carriages. Soon we learned that these were Jews from Konin. While we were speaking to the Jews, our chairman [of the Judenrat] Dr. Zeisel arrived with [vice-chairman]  Yoske [Joske] Rozenman with a certification from the head of the Gestapo, that the transport with Jews is permitted to remain in Ostrowiec.

When Dr. Zeisel turned towards the leader of the transport, a folk-German, with the certificate permitting the Jews to leave the train, then in anger, he attacked Dr. Zeisel. We had to take him home in a horse-drawn coach. As it turned out, the transport leader saw that his plan to rob and kill the deported Jews failed. We took the 1200 Jews into the Ostrowiec Mizrachi “Yavne”” synagogue and immediately issued an appeal to the Ostrowiec Jewish community, that whoever is in the position, is obliged to voluntarily take Jews home, and provide them with food and sleeping accommodation. Our plea was accepted. The first to respond was Dr. Wacholder , who immediately took an elderly couple. After him everyone took home Jews from Konin, so that by 1am, everyone had been allocated a place to stay.

We managed to make it possible for the Konin Jews to live in the community under the same conditions as the residents of Ostrowiec. They were allocated positions on the committee, the German labor department, the baker’s co-operative, and in all other kinds of work, so that they would not be sent away to other places. At the same time, we established a folk-kitchen for the most needy. About 2000 lunches were provided daily. We also managed to enable as large a number of Konin Jews as possible, to be employed in the most well-known Ostrowiec factory “Zaklady Ostrowiecke, and at the German “Hermann Goring Factory”. With enormous effort, we managed to bring in up to 2000 Jews in the middle of 1942, among them, also Jews from Konin.

At the request of a German woman from the village of Bodzechów, near Ostrowiec, we managed to send six Jewish workers to dig a pit. We sent a representative from our committee with them, who brought back happy news, that there was a possibility of employing a larger number of Jewish workers. We managed to employ approximately 700 Jews there. Jews also found work in the Tzegyelniye [brick factory] owned by Jaeger, as well as 300 Jews at the firm “Trees and Shingles” owned by the Shosseye family.

Approximately 300 Jews worked in the German warehouses with food products. We also saw that Jews were employed in other smaller workplaces.