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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


page 1
Name of deponent: Meryn family of Bedzin

Pre-war residence: ul. Zawale 14
Zawale street in Bedzin:
Zawale street in Bedzin
Dates of Birth: All 6 members of the family, Bedzin
1. Estera Meryn
2. Rywka Meryn, born 11 June 1906
3. Izrael Dawid Meryn, born 1907
4. Lejzor Meryn, born 1909
5. Aron Meryn, born 1913
6. Mojzesz Meryn, born in 1914
Parents names: Tobiasz Hersz. Mother Brajndla b. Paryzer.
Father died at home before deportation.
Mother was deported on September 6, 1943.
Presently (in 1945) live in Bedzin, ul. Malachowskiego 3/4.


During the entire occupation I worked for firms which were deemed to be "Heereswichtig" (vital to the military). In various round-ups, two of my brothers and one sister were already in the Sosnowiec Dulager (transient camp from which persons were sent for slave labor in Germany). Thanks to the intervention of the employer of my brothers and sister and thanks to money paid as bribes, they were returned to our home and remained until the final "Judenrein" Aktion.

On May 17, 1943 we were moved to the Srodula ghetto on Langerweg, presently ul. Poprzeczna. Because there was insufficient living space, our family could find no room, so we had to rebuild an apartment. During this work we decided to build a hiding place (bunker) at the same time because there were continually round-ups and deportations.

We built two cellars, the second next the first, so as to mislead the Germans. They would look in the first bunker and find nothing. The second hiding place was in the corner under a bed. To enter this bunker it was necessary to go through a mattress. No one would notice that there was a hiding place because, by a lucky chance, the floor wasn’t made of long pieces of wood. Instead, by necessity, the entire floor had to be made from small pieces of wood. The hiding place was 1 m. 80 cm. (6 feet) long and 1 m. 20 cm. (4 feet) wide and 90 cm. (3 feet) high. Inside was neither floor nor windows. For an air supply, we could open a cover made from 4 short boards at the entry to our cellar. If we heard some one approaching, the cover was lowered. We remained in that space in that fashion during the deportation Aktions of 22 and 24 June 1943.

Our father was alive at this time, suffering constantly from pains in his bladder. We suffered much in the bunker because of our ill father (there was no medical help). Father died 9 July 1943.

In our house, we had prepared turns of guard duty because we were afraid of deportation. On the first of August in the morning, the person on duty woke us with the news that the ghetto was surrounded by members of the German Army. Quickly we took valises, put a little food and clothing, took our pre-prepared pail of water and placed it in the bunker as a first need.

First to enter the bunker was our mother. When we heard shots, we all entered the bunker. At the same time, a neighbor turned to us with the request that we allow him also to take shelter. We agreed and he entered the bunker. Before entering the bunker we didn’t close the front door to our apartment. On the contrary, we even left the window open so that the Germans might think we had escaped to the garden since the open window went out to the garden’s side.

At 6 o'clock in the morning we heard the Germans break down our neighbor’s door. After that, they came to our house, shouting "Juden raus." When they saw no one, they pounded on the floor with their rifle butts to see if there were any hollow places under the floor.

After that, they lay down and looked under our low beds. We could feel the pounding of their rifle butts. When they left without finding anyone, other soldiers, in turn, entered. Thus, we counted on that first day of the Aktion eleven groups of soldiers having been in our apartment. Each group found the first empty hiding place. They were convinced that prior soldiers had removed the residents from this apartment.

The first of August was a sweltering day. Due to horrible thirst and nervousness we drank all water. We also gave out much urine so the air became more and more heavy. Our tenant, Bine Cukierman, was terribly nervous, because he didn’t know where his wife was. Accordingly, he wanted to light a cigarette but because of the lack of air, it proved to be impossible. There was nothing he could do with his nerves.

Moreover, we craved water and it was also necessary to provide water for tomorrow's hiding since there were signs the Aktion was still ongoing. Due to the need to risk life to obtain some water, Izrael Meryn went out through the window to the next yard. There, he entered an apartment formerly the home of Jews now, unfortunately, deported. Luckily, he found a whole barrel of water in the attic, since there, too, had been a bunker. He took from this barrel a full pail of water and brought it to our bunker. During that time, the bunker was kept open and boards were up. During the first night, no one else left the bunker.

On the following day from a neighboring bunker, the Jewish woman, Cesia Dunska, emerged, together with her daughters, because of lack of air. Dunska knew we had a hiding place, but didn’t know where it was. She came to our apartment and called: "Meryn" several times. We felt sorry for her, particularly because her voice was familiar. We opened the boards and recognized her. It was necessary now to let her enter our bunker. She herself couldn’t enter because she wasn’t able to lift the heavy mattress. Because we understood that Dunska and her children now knew where our bunker was located, we decided to let them in even if the air was very bad. Three of us removed the cover to the cellar. We then lifted the whole bed. Dunska first gave the children to us and after that she entered. From this moment, we were 11 persons in the bunker. Five minutes after this achievement, we heard several Gestapo persons enter our apartment. They began to pound the floor. This was their usual trick because on such pounding on the floor children, if they were in a bunker, would begin to cry. But our children behaved bravely and again the Germans left with nothing.

In the evening, while providing water and food for the next day, we made contact with a neighboring bunker. Since in one of these bunkers were two Jews who had been managers of Rosner's workshop, our tenant Bine Cukierman decided to join them and to go to this workshop tomorrow evening. They were certain because of previous discussions with Rosner that there they would be able to survive a longer time. And so it proved to be, though until now, unfortunately, all trace of them is lost. We were now in 10 persons in the bunker.

On the fourth day, Izrael Meryn left the bunker before noon, because he was very nervous and, like all of us, wanted to learn what was happening. Near the exit he found a girl named Spigler who had escaped from a transport column which was being driven from their bunkers to a Gathering Point. She asked our brother for help. Our brother took her and hid her in the attic bunker since it wasn’t possible to take her to our bunker due to lack of air.

Anyway in the attic from this moment was Izrael Meryn with his brother Mojzesz. From the attic, we came into contact with members of the Jewish police who were very helpful in providing us with food. For several evenings, Izrael Meryn came into contact with the Jewish police. One person from the police introduced him as his friend Majer Erlich. He introduced him under the pretext that he belonged to a group of people liquidating the ghetto since there were about 400 persons involved with the liquidation of the ghetto. There, he ate supper and took food and water to us. The Jewish police accompanied him en route to the garden.

This situation couldn’t last long because the commander of the police was afraid of betrayal from among his own colleagues of the police. He was afraid that the Germans would accuse him of giving us help.

So we had to provide ourselves with food. Izrael Meryn and his brother Aron went at night into the apartments of deported persons in nearby buildings.

On the first evening when we entered such a house, inside was dark. Suddenly from another room an indistinct figure approached us. We were very frightened and immediately began to retreat toward the door. When this happened the figure realized we weren’t Germans so that, with a quiet voice he said "Juden". This calmed us and we approached him. It turned out that the figure was a resident of Bedzin named Josef Feldgajer, 64 years of age. He told us that the Germans had deported his entire family. He had escaped on the way to the Assembly Point. He told us, too, that the Germans had badly beaten him. On the way he had lost his hat and, without the hat had managed to escape he return to his own apartment.

This had occurred the previous day. Feldgajer had already spent one night in his own bunker. He told us that he arose at daybreak, about 3 AM and cooked with his stove potatoes for the entire day. He intended to do this each day. He wasn’t afraid that smoke escaping from the chimney would betray him. He even offered to cook potatoes for us, if we would give him raw potatoes. We agreed willingly. We ran to our bunker and ordered our sisters to peel potatoes in the darkness. Because of the lack of water, we wiped them with a towel. Soon we carried these potatoes to Feldgajer.

In the morning, Feldgajer woke us because the potatoes were already cooked. Aron Meryn went with him and brought potatoes to his bunker. We divided them among all of us. Because we were still hungry we decided that Feldgajer should heat them in his stove in the evening and at daybreak. Anyway he, too, wanted to do it that way.

We maintained this trade so that even in the evening we baked wheat - cakes on sugar and ammoniac. This was all we had in reserve in our apartment. These foodstuffs we also sent to neighboring bunkers. Finally, Feldgajer’s stove failed so we decided to go over to neighboring bunker. We had learned that there was hidden there a certain woman named Joskowicz with three children. We didn’t want to bake in our room because our house was located on the way to the German post.

Usually this woman Joskowicz cooked food in the evening for all day. Because the weather was quite hot, the food spoiled and became inedible. Because of that problem she decided to cook at daybreak, asking Feldgajer to wake her. However, in the morning, she arose earlier, had lit the stove when Feldgajer went to wake her. In the meantime, somewhat earlier guards from the German post noticed smoke coming from a chimney. They quickly moved in the direction of this house and saw Feldgajer on the doorstep of the apartment who had gone to wake up the Joskowicz woman.

At the sight of the Germans, Feldgajer tried to escape by hiding in his own bunker. The Germans in a fury and as a deterrent began to shoot into the apartment. The shooting woke us. We had lately slept in the apartment because in the bunker because of the torrid heat and lack of space, it was very stuffy in the bunker. On hearing the sound of shots, we quickly dressed and entered our bunker. There remained only brother Izrael Meryn. He concealed and observed through a window what was happening outside.

What he observed was two Germans standing, not entering the apartment of Feldgajer since they were afraid. They shot unceasingly and shouted "Jude heraus". but Feldgajer didn’t emerge. Then one of them went to the Jewish police and returned with several of them. These entered and found Feldgajer and led him out.

The Germans began to beat and kick him in a most horrible manner. One even beat him with a board, continually asking "Wo sind die Anderen Juden?" They assumed that there were more Jews hidden because they had noticed our large pot of potatoes intended for 11 persons for a whole day. However, the courageous Feldgajer only replied: "Ich weisse nicht". They still searched because, after all, at Feldgajer’s the stove was cold and from somewhere smoke had emerged. Joskowicz’ apartment was adjacent to his apartment and Joskowicz, had in the meanwhile escaped to her own well-prepared bunker. Since in her apartment the stove still burnt and on the stove stood a pot with potatoes, it was proof for them that there was some one still hidden. The Jewish police were forced by the Germans to continually pound on the walls and floor until they detected the hiding place of the Joskowicz woman. They led her out, together with her three children. They also questioned her as to whether there were Jews still hidden, but she answered that there were none else. The police took them all away.

From that time forth, we did not heat a stove. Fortunately, we received an electric stove from a Jewish policeman and from this time we cooked in Feldgajer's apartment because in our room there was no electricity. We cooked every day from 8 to 9 in the evening at 3 o'clock in the morning. This continued until 2 Sept. 1943.

We learned to use rain water. We had a cask intended for rain water built in the ground near a certain house in a garden. We hadn’t taken water from this cask until now because was intended for a needy time. This needy period now occurred. There was a lack of water in our bunker, so Lejzor and Aron Meryn with a kettle and two pails went to this cask to retrieve water. They went barefoot, so that one would not hear their steps. They had to traverse three gardens to get to the cask. In spite of their bare feet, because in the garden were shrubs and they inadvertently struck these shrubs and caused a rustle.

Across from the cask stood a policeman. He heard the rustle and investigated our side of the cask. We didn’t try to escape, but only went farther to the side of the cask. He wanted to mislead us and began to pretend that he hadn’t seen us. He turned round with crossed hands on his back. Likely he wanted to observe to where we returned with the water, to which bunker. We reached the cask silently, filled our containers and noticed another exit. We turned aside and escaped by using various streets which we could manage because it wasn’t very dark. We went to Feldgajer's apartment where brothers Izrael and Mojzesz Meryn fried potatoes.

We told to them all that had happened. Our brothers calmed us, saying that perhaps the German hadn't seen us, but we were convinced that he saw us, so we decided to escape from here. Simultaneously we heard in our yard a German voice, calling to a Jewish policeman. Several policemen responded and looked in every cranny of the apartments. They passed near our apartment and left. After this search, we decided to escape from here in groups because we ascertained that it was dangerous to remain here. First our sister Rywka with brothers Aron and Mojzesz left. They went during the dark of night to the city, crawling on all fours through the ghetto to a field. Aron Meryn went in front. Suddenly we heard some one cough. We guessed that this is German guard. We stopped for a moment. After a quarter of an hour, we crept farther. When we were about 500 meters away from the ghetto, we cast away the rags which we had tied to our knees so they would not hurt as we crept so far. All in all, we had gone in this manner for one and half hours. We directed our steps to the city and returned to our own apartment which, unfortunately, now was devastated. We made do on the floor. In the morning, we went to our former neighbor, the Christian Piotr Czdesz who had lived across from us. He had been a friend of our father. We asked him to hide us but he was afraid and refused. So having no other ways the brothers Aron and Mojzesz went into the garret while our sister went to a friendly Polish person who lived far enough from us. She was as far as ul. Jasna 16 while our apartment was on ul Zawale 14. She left about 7 in the morning. This friendly Polish person named Michalska also was afraid to take us in. She did advise us to hide in the back annex, a building completely devastated and uninhabited. She promised to deliver food to us. Our sister returned to us with this news. She brought half of her bread and a bottle of coffee. We gathered major new strength from this because for five weeks we hadn’t eaten any bread. This was also a good omen for us for the future. In the evening we visited Michalska because she had had a day to consider our request and would give us an answer in the evening.

There in the apartment we found strangers who immediately recognized us as Jews because we were dressed in extra winter jackets and each of us carried a package of clothing. After a long time, Michalska arrived but didn’t seem to recognize us because she was afraid of the other people. Soon her neighbor learned that we were present and warned her not to take in any Jews because the Germans threatened to hang anyone doing this.

Finally when her guests bid her goodbye, we began our negotiation with her. The result was that she agreed to hide us. We went to the third floor where there was a room and kitchen. Her son brought us straw (with which to make mattresses) and we lay down in our clothes to sleep. We had eaten supper earlier in her apartment.

In the morning another three of our family visited Michalska. They were to await a message from us, but because constable Erlich told them that they were in danger (if they remained) they soon left going into town for the evening. They, too, were to be accommodated in our quarters in the attic. At daybreak, they also came to visit Michalska. They understood that we were in the building.

Unfortunately our mother still remained with Mrs. Dunska and her children in the bunker since mother, as a weak 70 year old person, couldn’t proceed as had we. We had to consider a method which would enable us to transfer mother and Mrs. Dunska with her children from the bunker to us. At this time, the Jewish police came to our former apartment in the ghetto and informed mother that she must leave because the building would soon be liquidated as a residence. Within it would be a German Commission’s office.

Dunska came to Michalska that evening, but Michalska kept her and her children in Michalska’s apartment and told her nothing about us though Dunska asked about us. Michalska also didn't tell us that Dunska was in her home. So we believed our mother was still under the care of Dunska in the bunker.

Also other Jews from neighboring bunkers should have been looking after mother because when we were leaving we had given these persons a great deal of food. Only after two weeks had passed, during which time we couldn’t manage to return to the ghetto (because it was surrounded by armed Germans), we learned from Mrs. Dunska that mother had remained in the bunker. On this very day, that is the 6th of September 1943, the Jewish police had had to liquidate this hiding place. There was now no reason to return to the ghetto because mother on this very day was taken from the bunker and deported.

After a week of our stay with Michalska on ul Jasna 16, we sent our brother Mojzesz and sister Rywka into the town to contact Kazik Gruszczynski. Mr. G knew our brother who had since been deported because the two of them had engaged in business dealings since the outbreak of the war. Our brother kept many items with Mr.G. and, at all times, Mr.G. had behaved scrupulously honestly.

Brother and sister didn’t find Mr. G. at home, but his wife said he was at work in a local factory. He always worked night shift. So our brother Mojzesz went to find Mr. G. at the factory where he was now a forced laborer.

At the first moment when Mr. G. saw brother Mojzesz he was quite angry and told brother that by such a visit to his work area, Mr. G. could have many problems. When brother told that he had come only because he wanted to sell a few gold coins, Mr. G. quieted down.

They arranged to meet the following Sunday, the 19th of September, on Zawale Street at building # 37. When they met it was dark and Mr. G. accompanied Mojzesz. Because our brother knew Mr. G. to be an honest and dependable person, he told him of the circumstances in which we now lives. Mojzesz asked him if he could locate somewhere any good apartment for us and help us.

Mr. G promised that he would try to do this. Our brother gave him a gold coin, told him the number of zlotys wanted for the coin and arranged to meet the following Sunday at the same time and at the same place.

On Sunday Mr. G. arrived punctually, but declared that the price asked for the coin was too high. So brother answered that, in this case, he would have to talk with his brother and sister. They arranged to meet the next Wednesday at the factory at 10 o'clock in the evening. At that hour, there would be no manager in the factory, The two could converse and reach another agreement. .

Brother appeared and asked Mr. G. for 4,800 marks in currency. On Sunday, Mr. G. brought the money to the prearranged place. At the same time, our brother Mojzesz offered to sell a gold man's watch for 8,500 marks. Our brother also mentioned that a woman who lived with us would sell a diamond and a man's gold watch. They arranged to meet again. Mr. G. was to bring 8,500 RM and Mojzesz would deliver the diamond and gold watch.

Because on the pre-arranged day it was raining and Mojzesz felt poorly, brother Aron kept the appointment instead. After greeting one another, they commenced to talk of the political situation. Then Mr. G. asked if Aron had the diamond because he had a good customer. Aron didn’t have the diamond or watch because we were prudent. Then Mr. G told us he didn’t bring our 8,500 marks. He calmed Aron who had become angry saying that everything would would be carried out as agreed. Mr. G. would deliver the money owed the next week, Sunday, the 4th of October.

Mojzesz appeared on time at the pre-arranged place. After greeting each other, they began to discuss business. However, our brother noticed that on the opposite sidewalk an individual seemed to be loitering. The individual seemed suspicious to our brother so that he began to pull Mr. G. aside. The suspicious individual now crossed over and approached them. He grasped Mojzesz by the hand, put straight valve from his jacket and introduced himself saying that that he is from Kriminalpolizei. He demanded to see and Mojzesz’ "Ausweis". To this demand, Mr. G. responded, “I have mine”.

Mojzesz suspected that this was a pre-arranged trick and tore free and began to escape. The “Criminal Policeman” didn’t pursue him, nor did he shoot at him from behind as was normal for the German police in similar instances when someone tried to escape. After a short while brother Mojzesz emerged from his hiding place in a field because he wanted to see what was happening behind him. He observed Mr. G. walking with the second person and searching in the direction from which he had escaped. This was proof to Mojzesz that Mr. G. was a traitor. From the behavior of the two, he recognized that they were good friends because if the second man were really an official from the Kripo, then when Mojzesz escaped the Kripo would have arrested Mr. G. and taken him to the police station.

As it was, they quite calmly walked together smiling since they believed they had succeeded in this "trick" and didn’t have to pay Mojzesz the 8,500 marks.

Mojzesz, half alive, returned to our residence. Because he had been injured, he fell several times further hurting his hands and feet. When Mojzesz told us what had happened we decided, in spite of all, to send Rywka at dawn to G’s apartment to demand our money. Although we knew that this would be futile, we wanted to accomplish something else. Namely, we wanted in this fashion to show that we believed him because we wanted that he should see us as not like people who would be his accusers. G. knew where we hid, so we were afraid that he would give us up to the police.




 
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