Name of deponent: Genia Lewkowicz
Born on 31 December 1909
a daughter of Hersz and Ela (maiden name Wajntraub)
Of the overall population of 30,000 in the city in 1939
there were approximately 5,600 Jews. In the second half
of December 1939, the first sign of racial hate was manifested
in the requirement that all Jewish persons must wear blue
and white armbands. During the year of 1940 there began
the confiscation of Jewish persons of their property, forcing
them from their residences onto the streets, assigning them
to forced labor (Einsatz) allegedly for 3 months time.
During this time the Jewish population in the town increased
to 6,300 people because of deportees from Germany, Austria
and Czechoslovakia. The demand for forced labor (Einsatz)
didn't stop yet no one returned from the camps in Germany.
In the town, the Jews had to perform unpaid labor in public
works. There were many taxes and fines. By the year 1942,
the Jews were already concentrated in the Jewish district
(ghetto) in the following streets: Szopena, Lower Lukasinskiego,
Starobedzinska, Upper and Lower Hieronimska.
With spring came the first deportations, of course from
the poorest of the town’s population. The criterion used
were to deport those who needed the greatest amount of social
services from the Community This amounted to abut 300 persons.
The deportation process was preceded by sending the selected
victims a deportation card with a description of items which
could be taken amounting to 10 kg weight.
Next to be deported were those guilty of administrative
infractions i.e. failure to wear an armband, wearing an
armband too low or rolled, not having the correct street
pass or for any reason whatsoever). Additionally, the deportation
victims included all the ill and old people. They care to
have "Sonder", soon also this was not helpful.
The remaining young people had to hide all the time. When
the authorities encountered a young person anywhere in the
town, immediately thereafter would appear a vehicle and
the youth were taken away to forced labor in Germany.
We received word that the numbers of our workers sent to
work in Germany had been substantially reduced. Hunger,
lack of supplies, the cold had caused a large loss of lives.
Then the Labor Camps were changed to Concentration Camps
with no postal facilities to send packages. From the time
of the German occupation, our situation became more and
more tragic in that it wasn’t possible to receive any information
from the deported persons. However it was difficult to believe
that those persons had been quickly done to death (murdered).
In July 1942 it was announced that on 12 August all Jews
without exception, including children and old persons, must
appear at one point - this is on square near the Judenrat
in order to review and stamp our identity papers. We weren’t
so naive as to believe that the Germans intended merely
to re-certify our identity papers. We expected something
terrible, although the Judenrat promised that nothing new
would happen. On the appointed day there appeared all Jews
- mothers with babies, old persons and all working people,
at 7 a.m. o'clock. The square resembled an ant-hill.
We had surrendered to mass neurosis. There were only 40-plus
people missing from the square. Who didn't listen to Hitler's
order? Tables were set out in rows of alphabetical order.
Hot and sultry air caused many to faint. Doctors and hospital
orderlies gave assistance, but more persons thought only
of saving themselves. As early as 8 a.m. the ruffians appeared.
The Germans separated old persons, children, fathers and
mothers holding children tightly to one side. A group of
younger persons remained in a row at a distance from all
the others. SS-men with whips beat all who merely wanted
to look at the opposite side. We felt that a large part
of the people would be leaving us forever.
Finally it began to rain, but that didn't inhibit the ruffians
who wore waterproof overcoats from continuing to guard and
beat us. The groaning of the old people and the crying of
children, of babies in baby-carriages, is impossible to
describe. The weeping didn’t help and although some people
wanted to go together with separated relatives, the guards
didn't permit it. The selfish urge of the will of life exceeded
all feelings. By noon, only a small group remained on the
field and their papers were re-certified with a stamp. All
other persons had to go in a long, endless column to the
Orphanage in Bedzin. The March to Siberia was nothing compared
with this march which we watched. The marchers were already
half dead. In the eyes of those allowed to remain, the marching
column seemed endless; we wanted to see for the last time
those who were being taken away, but the Germans fired their
weapons and forced us to remain where we were.
In the Orphanage, it was like a beehive. Crammed into this
small building were more than 3,000 persons.
On the following day, again there was a march to the railway
station, 300 meters distant. That was the end. Some people
were able to be saved. Those whose families were taken looked
upon their loved ones with sorrow. Still, the forced labor
and deportations didn't end with this event.
By the beginning of 1943, the ghetto was closed.