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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Name of deponent: Genia Lewkowicz
Born on 31 December 1909
a daughter of Hersz and Ela (maiden name Wajntraub)

Dabrowa Gornicza

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.





 
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