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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Name of deponent: Mrs. Auerbach
Present residence (1946): Katowice, ul. Warszawska 11

Before the war there lived in Olkusz 6,000 persons of whom 3,000 were Jews. The Jewish population of Olkusz worked in crafts and small trade. The Jewish population was mainly of local origin. People from Olkusz, unlike other towns, stayed mostly in place and didn't try to escape when the German-Polish war began. When the Germans came and the front moved farther to the east, Olkusz was a scene of great vexations and persecution of the refugees from Bedzin and Sosnowiec who attempted to return to their homes. On the bridge leading from Olkusz to Slawkow terrible events took place. The Germans plundered and beat Jewish refugees who attempted to return to their homes.

In 1939, a forced contribution was levied upon the Jewish population and Jews were ordered to give up all their gold to the Germans. In December 1939, the “Judenrat” was created. In 1940 Jews were required to wear armbands.

In June 1940 a German gendarme was killed in the house of an Aryan doctor by unknown persons. In that instance, the home was burnt down and 17 persons were killed. In July 1940 the Germans surrounded the town and all men (without regard for ethnicity) were forced from their homes and beaten. The victims were forced to do strenuous exercises. Two of the men were killed. The Germans searched nearby houses on the pretext of arresting and sending to "Lager" (concentration camp). In the house of one accused person, the Germans found carpets and accused the resident’s father of illegally trading. The Germans beat him and took to the "Du-Lager" (transient camp) to Sosnowiec from where after intervention he was released after 3 weeks.

In the spring of 1941, the ghetto was established. It was situated at the end of city. It wasn’t fenced, but nonetheless the Jews carefully complied with the order of not leaving the ghetto because of the rigorous penalties for any small offence. In the winter 1939/1940, the Germans forced Jewish people to clear streets of snow. In 1941, they sent young men and women to labor camps on the province of Silesia. Before the outbreak of the war about 400 Germans lived in Olkusz. They were Nazi sympathizers. In the first days of the war they helped the German air force by giving signals. As it was stated later, in Westen's factory was there was a transmitter station from which local Nazis sent secret messages. Olkusz was situated on the border of the Reich and the Generale Gouvernement which is why the Germans were especially strict. At the same time that Jews from other towns could still travel by train, Jews from Olkusz had to use other means of travel (carts, going on foot) because of the strictness of the German customs officials.

In June 1942, there was a complete deportation of Jews from Olkusz. The Aktion lasted three days. At 5 o'clock in the morning, the Germans surrounded the ghetto. Police and the military forced all Jewish men, women, children, old persons and even the severely ill and drove them all to the local high school and the adjoining square. There, a selection was held. The Jews deluded themselves by believing that if there were a selection then not all the people would be deported. The ill and elderly were placed separately. When a group from the Jewish Central Judenrat in Sosnowiec with Merin as a chief arrived, the Jews plucked up their courage. Then the separations began. First the young men and women were selected and sent away. Then, the craftsmen were sent to Sosnowiec. On the third day at 6 o'clock, an entire transport of Jews from Olkusz went to the extermination camp. Only 160 Jews, among them some members of the Judenrat and their families, members of O.D. and their families and some specialists were sent to Sosnowiec.





 
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