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
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.