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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Deponent: Helena Zmigrod

At the end of 1941, the German Rudolf Braun, on behalf of the Office of the Trustees ("Treuhandstelle" that is, the office which confiscated Jewish properties and took ownership control on behalf of the German Reich) took possession of the shoe manufacturing firm in Dabrowa Gornicza called "Bracia Kalisz" ("Kalisz brothers"). Originally, the three Kalisz brothers and all their family had established and worked in this firm. Probably in consequence of the location of the former owners and following the successful development of a factory by the German person Alfred Rossner in Bedzin, Braun established the firm as a shoe manufacturer in Dabrowa.

Braun took Jewish workers into this factory partly from Bedzin and partly from Dabrowa. Those taken in were almost all specialists who provided their own machines and other tools and shoemaker's accessories. Because this factory developed well, Braun founded an independent branch of the factory in Sosnowiec.

To manage these two factories Braun created a Main Office ("Hauptburo") in Bedzin, on Akazienweg 9, formerly ul. Sobieskiego with a partly Jewish staff. At this point the factories ceased to be independent and were subject to instructions from the Main Office. In June 1942, Braun founded a shoe manufacturing factory in Bedzin in the Ksawera , the former Polish school. Jewish specialists applied for employment in this workshop and furnished machines and different tools. Jews were eagerly attracted to this shop because they knew Braun had personal relations with the Gestapo. At first, however, his friendship with the Gestapo wasn't advantageous for the Jewish workers because the "Sonderbeauftragter des Reichsführers SS und Chef der Deutschen Staatspolizei für Fremdvölkischen Arbeitseisatz in OS" ("Special Emissary of the National Leader of the SS and Chief of the German Regional Police for Employment of Foreigners in East Upper Silesia") wasn't in agreement with the Gestapo. These two institutions mutually detested each other. This was a disadvantage to Braun's workers because Sonderbeauftragter officials often took workers to labor camps (in Germany).

At the beginning of the establishment of Braun's workshop in Bedzin an emissary of the Sonderbeaftragter named Kuczynski, using the pretext of checking the workers' documents, ordered all employees to assemble in the courtyard of the workshop. Then Kuczynski made a selection.

He took many of the young men and women right off by truck to the Dulag in Sosnowiec. Braun made sincere efforts to secure the release of these victims because he needed them for the success of his workshop. However, he succeeded only partially by securing the release of only some of the workers.

This factory worked mainly for the Wehrmacht. The wages paid at the beginning were very little, as a matter of fact, next to nothing. In spite of this, people sought to work there for the Wehrmacht because such work seemed to be protection for workers against being sent to labor camps in Germany.

During the deportation Aktion of August 12, 1942, Braun lost only a few persons because the Judenrat's Deportation Committee honored his firm as "Heerswichtig" (vital to the military). It must be said that Braun, during this Aktion, saved Jews from being deported to Auschwitz, in most cases by acting disinterestedly.

After Braun's success during the August deportation Aktion, many Jews applied to work in his factories. For the acceptance of unskilled persons into a Braun factory, money was paid through the mediation of a Jewish man. However, this middleman was soon sent to the concentration camp. No one knew for what reason or in consequence of whose intervention this was done. It was known only that chief of "Abteilung J" of the Gestapo himself, a Hans Dreier (a friend of Braun), arrived abruptly and took this Jewish intermediator into a vehicle and whisked him away, probably to Auschwitz.

It should be stressed that Braun himself directly also took bribes from Jews. As a result, his private bank account increased, while the account of his firm decreased more and more. He often gave drinking sprees and parties for various members of the German authority. He often lacked the funds and all these costs had to be covered by the firm's cash. Jews contributed money eagerly because they believed in Braun as if he were a God. They believed that he would save them from death.

At last, things came to such a point that there was no more money in the firm's cash account because Braun, together with his colleagues, drank day and night. As a result, there began again to be threats of greater deportations from among Braun's workers. Because it seemed that the Gestapo now had the decisive voice in the feud between them and Braun, the Sosnowiec Centrale Judenrat Office (in Polish: Centrala Sosnowiecka) intervened to assist Braun. Money began to come to him from the Centrale.

In the meantime, there began again in March and April 1943 frequent round-ups for Arbeitseinsatz (slave labor in Germany). Again Kuczynski, the representative of the Sonderbeaftragter, opposed Braun, probably because Braun rarely entertained Kuczynski at his home using Jewish money. Kuczynski took many of Braun's workers, especially shoemaker-specialists. Because of this, the prestige of Braun's factory once again fell and the firm again had no funds.

Now, officially, the involvement of the Sosnowiec Jewish Centrale in matters of money payments to the Braun factory became known. It was published that recently the acceptance of people to work for Braun's workshops involved the payment of money.

However, during this time Braun again became very important because there had been deportation Aktions and persons working for Braun were, in general, saved proportionately more than from other firms. At that time, too, there was ended the so-called private "Sonders" (that is the certificates carried by Jews who were employed in private German firms) and these people applied to Braun's workshop. Then from other workshops, even from the until-now important factory such as Rossner's, people began to escape to Braun's firm. Thus, Braun again grew very rich.

On June 22, 1943, there took place the first part of the general deportation. At this time, many employees of Braun were sent to Arbeitseinsatz, while workers from other firms, such as from Rossner's factory, went straight to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. At that time, Braun's Bedzin factory had been moved to the Ghetto in Srodula, where Braun's Sosnowiec workshop was already working. This move was done by order of the Gestapo. Thus the two workshops were merged: that is, the one from Sosnowiec and the other from Bedzin. At the end of July the other factory in Dabrowa was also combined (in Srodula). The Gestapo had ordered that the entire Jewish population from Dabrowa be transferred from that ghetto to Srodula. In spite of considerable decrease in persons available to work, production in the factories didn't stop.

In July of that year (1943), a specially-formed military committee from the Heeresbekleidungsamt (Army Clothing Office) in Erfurt arrived in Sosnowitz. This Committee, together with Gestapo, decided that none of the Jews from Braun's factory should be touched until completion of the current military orders. The time necessary to complete current orders was considered by the managers of the Jewish workers to be at least one year.

Braun now was the greatest figure of the region to the Jews. Monic Merin, leader of the Judenrat's Central Office, had been executed in Auschwitz. The Gestapo no longer took account of any of the other representatives of the Jewish Centrale Judenrat. Thus, the Jews saw their only salvation in the person of Braun. Thanks to him, the Jews were certain that the danger of deportation had been clearly staved off. Unfortunately, on the first day of August 1943, all were tragically disappointed.

On that day, there took place a general deportation Aktion to make Zaglembia Judenrein. Braun was surprised by this act. He learned that Dreier - manager of "Abteilung J" of the Kattowitz Gestapo - had lied to him. Dreier had even deliberately deceived Braun since he had telephoned Braun on Saturday, the 31st of July, during dinner time, and had asked for advice. The advice sought was what Dreier should wear, whether uniform or civilian clothes, since Dreier was to arrive in Bedzin on the following day for the opening of an art exhibition (which in fact did take place on the first of August). The Jews learned of Dreier's plan to be at the exhibition opening from Braun. Accordingly, no one suspected that on that day (the first of August) would occur the final deportation Aktion.

All Jews were deported from Bedzin. There remained only few persons hidden in bunkers. In the bunkers, too, there remained hidden a very small number of Braun workers. After several days it transpired that all Jews couldn't be taken away (to Auschwitz) at one time either because of a lack of transport or because the Jews succeeded for a time in hiding in bunkers. Accordingly, a "Sammellager" (a gathering camp) was created by the Gestapo in the buildings of Braun's factory in Srodula. Braun now went about in Srodula, leading Jews from their hiding places (bunkers) to the Sammellager. There were now empty shoemaker's workshops, naturally almost without production personnel. Braun promised to help the Jews held in this Sammellager. In fact, he did save several persons, notifying them when was the best time to escape.

The remainder of the persons in the Sammellager were deported in several groups. The last group left in January 1944.



 
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