Name of deponent: Samuel Brechner
Birth date: 1 June 1910
Birth place: Sosnowiec
Parents: Josef and Rywka (born Pejsak)
Present residence: Katowice, ul. Powstancow 12
Before outbreak of the Second World War, there lived in
Sosnowiec about 28,000 Jews among the total population of
115,000 inhabitants. They Jews worked in trade and crafts
and general manual work. In Sosnowiec, there were many small
and medium-sized industrial plants, where sweaters, underwear,
clothing and shoes were manufactured. Those plants employed
a large number of Jewish craftsmen.
The Jewish population of Sosnowiec originated mostly from
Kielce province (voivodship) since the Jews were able to
find the opportunity to work and trade since the Sosnowiec
area supplied Upper Silesia with goods.
Jewish society was well organized into political, cultural
and charitable groups. There were Jewish banks such as the
Craft Bank, the Smaller Merchants Bank, the Trade &
Industrial Bank, Aguda Bank and "Free of Interest"
Bank. The working world was organized in strong labor unions
within which the Communists and "Bund" people
were most influential. Jewish merchants were associated
in "Union of Smaller Merchants". There was a Jewish
hospital, an out-patient clinic "Linas-Hacholim"
for poor persons, TOZ, an Old People's Home and a Jewish
Orphans Home. Jewish youth attended a newly-built Jewish
High School called: "Merchants and Industrialists"
(trade) school or to the Jewish Girls’ High School on Kowalska
street. There was also an elementary Jewish School called
"Iszo". The center of Jewish culture was "Kultur-Liga".
Sosnowiec during the German occupation
On Monday, 4 September 1939 at 2 p.m. the Germans arrived
On Chlodna street, Jews tried to build a barricades of fences
on the Myslowice road to somehow resist. As a result of
this resistance, the Germans after arriving from the road
from Myslowice shot all the men from Chlodna street. On
the same day at 4 p.m., after occupying the town, the Germans
with machine guns in hands ran through the city streets
and yards and called upon the entire city population to
leave their homes. They chose Jewish men and set them, five
in a row and drove them running to the cellars of the City
Hall all the while shooting. (Those Jews who didn't leave
their home cellars were shot at once).
In cellar of the City Hall, the Germans packed the prisoners
together so tightly that it was barely possible to breathe.
On that hot September day, the Germans ordered the central
heating system be operated thereby increasing the heat and
torturing the tightly-packed Jews. We remained in the cellar
from Monday at 4 p.m. until Tuesday 2 p.m. without eating
or drinking. During the night between Monday and Tuesday,
the Germans demanded the packed victims to deliver their
Rabbi under penalty of executing ten Jews. There wasn’t
a Rabbi among us, but to save ten Jews there responded an
old, religious Jew, Abram Sztyglic, 65 years of age, saying
that he was the Rabbi.
The Germans took him and after plucked out half his beard,
kicked and beat him and threw him again into the cellar.
They ordered him to recite, together with all people, the
final prayer before death. The assembled terrorized prisoners
really believed they wouldn’t go living from this hopeless
situation, that they wouldn’t return to their families and
so they all cried the "Szma Israel!" (Harken O
Israel!) final prayer.
On Tuesday at 2 in the afternoon, we were all taken out
at a run in rows and driven through the deserted, mournful
streets of the city to Schön's factory on the First
of May street. All the while, the Germans took pictures
In the factory, the Germans drilled us, kicked and beat
us. Then the German who managed this Aktion called for the
barbers among us to step forward. They were ordered to bring,
within 10 minutes, the tools necessary for their trade.
They were told if they returned later than in ten minutes,
they would be shot. After returning, they were ordered to
cut the hair of the heads and beards of all the assembled
The cut hair of the heads was the first sign of recognizing
the Jews of Sosnowiec. On that day the Germans permitted
persons among us who were more than 70 years of age t return
to their homes. The Germans next demanded that there should
appear a representative of the presently-existing Jewish
No one responded except Moniek Merin, 37 years old, who
was, in fact, a member of the Jewish Community Council.
The Germans, after beating Merin appointed him president
of the "Judenrat" and authorized the creation
of a new organization called the "Ältesterat"
(Others appointed were Motek Birman, Lewartowski, Wladek
On the following day (Wednesday) all prisoners were again
assembled and those who said they were craftsmen and persons
older than 60 years were allowed to return home. The remaining
Jews who had identified themselves as merchants were taken
to the prison at Targowa street #5 (the infamous Sosnowiec
prison). Every tenth prisoner was selected and taken to
the cemetery. There, they dug their own graves. They were
divided into two groups: the first group was lined up near
the graves and when they were shot the remaining Jews had
to cover them. Then the second group was led to the second
grave and shared the fate of their brothers.
Among the victims was my friend Herszel Romankiewicz, a
trade worker, 29 years old. The Jewish society learned the
details of this crime from Polish people working in the
prison. Part of the remainder of the imprisoned persons
were ransomed by their families and allowed to return home.
Another part of the prisoners was shot.
Grocers’ shops now were opened. All other shops were immediately
were confiscated by the German government and their management
assigned to Trustees by the "Treuhandstelle" (Trustee
Department). The Jewish workers’ intelligentsia were banned
from contact with their Polish counterparts. Jewish stores
had were required to display Stars of David with inscription:
"Verkaufstelle nur fur Juden" (Stores only for
Jews). Jews were banned from buying in non-Jewish shops.
As a result, Jewish society was immediately separated from
Polish society by law.
The mother of Lewin, one of those murdered by the Nazis,
went at night with her husband to the Jewish cemetery, took
their son's body from the mass grave and buried it in an
individual grave. They built for him a monument in the form
of cut-down trees (as their son had been cut down from life).
Jewish persons didn’t leave their apartments during certain
period of time if it weren’t necessary, fearing criminals.
On Saturday 9 September 1939 at 7 in the evening, the Jewish
population was shaken by a new German crime. A glow in the
sky alarmed the Jewish people, but they didn’t then know
its cause. From stories told by Polish neighbors it was
learned that the Germans had set fire to the large synagogue
on Dekerta street #16 and hadn’t permitted people to leave
adjacent houses. On the following day in the place of the
former synagogue lay only ruins. Jewish persons were forced
to clear the debris.
The tasks of the newly created "Judenrat" devolved
into merely carrying out every request of German authorities
to provide a great number of food items, clothes, gold,
silver, diamonds, furs and money. Every Jew had to pay the
medieval "head tax" of 10 marks per person. The
streets Pierackiego, part of 3rd of May street and Malachowskiego
had to be left free of Jewish residents..
The larger part of the immigrant population in Sosnowiec
which had originated in the towns of Wolbrom, Wodzislaw,
Miechow and Dzialoszyce now left Sosnowiec and returned
to their former places of living. A large part of the population,
under- standing that it would not be possible to survive
under German occupation escaped to the Soviet side of the
demarcation line. At the same time the "Judenrat",
by request of the Gestapo, ordered a registration of all
the Jewish population who intended to go to Soviet Union.
The Jews, however, didn't register fearing this to be a
provocation by the Germans who wanted, in this fashion,
to have a justification to murder Jews who sympathized with
In October 1939, 300 Jewish men of the ages 18-35, mostly
poor people, on the basis of a summons by the "Judenrat",
were called and sent together with a transport of people
from Katowice and Chorzow to Nisko, on the Soviet border.
There, they were ordered, under threat of being shot, to
go to the Soviet side of the border. Part of these persons
illegally returned to Sosnowiec.
During this period and until the organizing by the "Judenrat"
of summonses for "Arbeitseinsatz" (forced labor),
Jewish young men and women were caught by the German authorities
in a chaotic way for different work assignments.
Later in that same October, the "Judenrat", under
orders from the German authorities, began an Aktion having
the aim of lowering the number of Jews in Sosnowiec. To
this end, 1,500 young men were summoned and held in Schon's
factory on the First of May street. For some unknown reason
the transport was cancelled. On the same day, a Friday,
a transport of Jews from Czechoslovakia, men of different
ages with bundles on their back arrived in Sosnowiec. Elderly
people who couldn’t walk were carried by younger men. All
these people were held in Schon’s factory, which was changed
so as to become the first Jewish concentration camp in Sosnowiec.
The factory and outer buildings were surrounded by barbed
wire and guarded by SS in black uniforms. The Judenrat was
obliged to give these newcomers food and to have contact
with them. They told Judenrat officials that, before arriving
to Sosnowiec, they had been imprisoned in Slovakia for 6
weeks. All of them had passports with visas allowing them
to exit the country.
The local Jewish society sympathized with their brothers
and organized considerable help for the prisoners in the
concentration camp. The prisoners worked in various projects
within borders of Sosnowiec under SS guard. In July 1940,
they were taken to an unknown destination. The Judenrat
had become the organization which represented Jewish society
to the German authorities and was the only contact between
A Jew couldn’t appear in an office of the authorities. The
Judenrat had detailed understanding of the Jewish population
and obeyed all orders of the German authorities. When winter
came, the Judenrat organized a Labor Office (an "Arbeitsamt")
such that every male Jew to the age of 55 years was obliged
to work 7 days per month for the German authorities. In
most cases they worked at cleaning the streets, removing
garbage and so on ("Strassenreinigung").
In the meantime, there occurred the forced collection of
precious metals and silver from among Jewish society. Concerning
the food supply: Every Jew received 200 grams (7 ounces)
of bread daily, and 100 grams (3.5 ounces) margarine, 100
grams sugar and 100 grams marmalade weekly. Poor Jewish
people used the free kitchen organized by the Judenrat from
its own funds. Middle class persons - craftsmen and former
merchants - lived by selling their belongings.
From February 1940, all male and female Jews were required
to wear on their left arm a white band 15 cm. (6 in.) wide
with a blue Star of David on the band. There appeared, the
order that no Jew had the right to have more than 1,000
marks in cash. Jewish houses were taken by the Office of
Trustees ("Treuhandstelle") of the authorities
Curfew for Jewish persons was, in winter, from 6 till 8
p.m. and in summer from 5 till 9 p.m., while non-Jewish
people had right to go about until 11 p.m. Jews were forbidden
to use Pierackiego, Malachowskiego, and Third of May streets.
To get to Old Sosnowiec it was necessary to add 30 minutes
each way because it wasn’t possible to walk on Third of
May street. Beyond the town’s border it was possible to
travel only to Bedzin, Dabrowa and Strzemieszyce. It was
forbidden for Jews to visit Katowice or Chorzow. It wasn’t
permitted to travel by train, only by tramways or on foot.
In the trams there were special sections for Jewish use
which were separated by chain from Aryan use. After some
time, Jews were permitted to travel only on the tram platforms.
In 1941, the Judenrat" was given a separate tram car,
attached as a third vehicle, to the regular tram. This wagon
had a Jewish staff and was marked with a large blue Star
of David with white background, On it was the inscription:
"Nur fur Juden". The tram car, which usually had
enough room for tens of persons, was always crowded because
the Jews had no other means of transportation.
In 1943, because leaving the area of one’s residence was
banned, the last means of transportation (the Jewish tram)
was canceled. For leaving the area of one’s living place,
people were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
At the end of 1940 the Jews concluded that the war would
last a longer time than previously thought. To survive under
Nazi occupation and to avoid deportation (which was used
against the Polish society as well), it was believed that
it would be possible to survive only if one worked. Because
the German authorities thought in terms of organizing manpower
and deportations to Germany, the Jews thought that after
the deportation of young men capable of working, the lives
of the remaining elderly persons and of the women would
be in danger. For this reason they tried to organize places
of work for the Germans in their local areas, where they
would work near their residences.
As a result, there were organized in Sosnowiec many workshops.
Independently of this there were sent in a normal manner
transports of young men and women to Germany to work, from
where most of them didn't return.
Because Sosnowiec became the seat of the Central Jewish
authority in the area called East Upper Silesia ("Ostoberslesien"),
there was organized by the Centrale Judenrat the so-called
Du-Lag ("Durchgangslager") i.e. Transient Camp
in the building of former Jewish High School situated on
Skladowa street. In this Dulag were concentrated all Jews
selected to be taken to German labor camps. Often Jews who
were caught during roundups organized by the German authorities
under management of SS-men Knoll, Ludwig or Kuczynski were
held for weeks in the Du-Lag under guard of Germans. Rich
people were able to buy out relatives for large sums of
In February 1941, there were organized workshops, so called
"Schneidersammellwerkstatte" (concentrated sewing
workshops). The owner of this factory was Hans Held from
Berlin. The factory was located on Modrzejowska street #20.
In this workshop clothing was produced. Soon there was organized
a division of the concern on Sadowa street #10 where military
uniforms were produced. On Pilsudskiego street #70, corsets
and female clothing articles were produced.
The Centrale Judenrat in Sosnowiec called upon specialists
- craftsmen in the aim of organizing working places. Among
the organizers were: Chapper, Jablonowski, Romek Kuperminc
and myself, Samuel Brechner
In Held's workshop on ul. Modrzejowska #20, the main management
was held by the Director and a German specialist. However,
all production was carried out solely by Jews. In the factory
were employed 4,000 persons, including many who were specialists,
but who were in training. There was created a so called
"pre-school", where novices were trained. The
work was done in three shifts. Wages were very low, about
20-35 marks per month. From the wage was deducted 30% "Sonderbeauftragte"
(a payment to the office of the Schmelt Organization.) A
similar amount was paid by the enterprise to Schmelt and
a special tax concerning only Jews of 18% was also paid
The Jewish management of the factory had as its head a certain
Berkowicz, who obtained a kitchen for the workers which
provided lunches and coffee for breakfast. The factory produced
men clothes and uniforms.
In the second half of 1941, the persecution of Jews increased
after the outbreak of the Soviet-German war. Mass deportations
to labor camps became something normal. Only working in
a local factory was a defense against deportation to Germany.
The Centrale Judenrat in the person of Moses Merin assured
the population that those deported to labor in Germany would
return after 6 weeks. In reality, many didn’t return in
a healthy condition, but sick and incapable of working who
had to be sent to the hospital. Relatives of such persons
tried to find a place for them after their recovery in local
workshops. The hope was to save them from further deportation.
Nonetheless, later all ill persons returned sent from German
labor camps to the Du-Lag in Sosnowiec were sent to Oswiecim
(Auschwitz) for extermination.
When Jewish women organized a demonstration in front of
the Centrale Judenrat building and demanded their sons and
husbands be returned to them and broke windows with thrown
stones, the Jewish police (Ordner Dienst - O.D. i.e. police)
drove away them from the vicinity of the Judenrat. After
some time, not all the factories could guarantee safety
from deportation to labor camps. Only the large factories
working for the Wehrmacht were safe havens. All others were
All Jewish private craft concerns and shops selling food
items were taken over by the Centrale Judenrat. The entire
Jewish life was directed by the Centrale Judenrat whose
title was now "Ostober- schlesische Kultusgemeinde".
The office of this organization was at Targowa street #12.
Working for the Centrale Judenrat’s administration in Sosnowiec
were more than 2,000 persons.
In the winter of 1941, the German authorities confiscated
from all Jews furs and woolen clothes as well as ski shoes.
In February 1941, the Jewish Community of Auschwitz was
ended and the Jewish residents were transferred to Sosnowiec
and Bedzin. At the time it wasn’t known that this evacuation
was in preparation for what would become the grave site
for millions among the Jewish society of all Europe. Jews
from Sosnowiec and Bedzin with open hearts welcomed their
brothers and created for them temporary living conditions.
In September 1941, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah there
came into the lives of the Jewish population a new sign
of shame in the form of a yellow patch in the shape of a
Star of David with the inscription "Jude" in black
on it. Every male and female Jewish person had to have this
patch sewn on his/her clothing on the left breast. The persecutions
of the Jews continued without cessation.
One day at five in the morning, German police raided Jewish
apartments on Warszawska, Targowa and part of Modrzejowska
streets and plundered Jewish properties taking items and
valuables to the police station on Pilsudskiego street.
Later the Germans summoned each victim for investigation
and issued fines. Among them there was the deponent, ( Samuel
At the beginning of 1942 persecutions of Jews intensified.
The Jewish communities of Olkusz, Slawkow and other nearby
towns were completely liquidated. All Jews from there were
sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz); only individuals were saved
for a while in Sosnowiec and Bedzin.
In March 1942 during the Purim holiday, the Germans prepared
a spectacle for the Jews. In a garden on Modrzejowska street,
where once Jewish children played, two Jewish men were hanged.
They were Marek Liberman and a man named Mangel. They were
executed for helping persecuted Jews by making it possible
for them to live in Sosnowiec. By order of the German authorities,
the Centrale Judenrat had to prepare the gallows. The Germans
forced the entire Jewish population to be present during
the execution. Liberman’s last words asked that regards
be given his wife who was then pregnant and to name his
child with his name. Marek Liberman had been born in Sosnowiec
and lived on Targowa #18.
A short time later four other Jewish persons were hanged
in the same place. They were Nahum Kon and his son, Jehuda
Warmund and a man named Feffer.Their alleged crime was acting
against the German state. In fact, they weren’t guilty and
were hanged because of a provocation by the so-called Jewish
hooligan/ruffian by the name of "Tadek" Boim,
a man later was killed by a German. Again, this execution
took place in the forced presence of the whole Jewish population.
With the cry, "Sh’ma Israel" (Hear, O Israel)
on their lips, which resounded to a great distance, they
As a mourning symbol, candles were lit that day candles
in all Jewish homes. Persecutions of Jews and tortures by
the German authorities took more and more terrible forms.
The Du-Lag in Sosnowiec was filled with Jewish fathers and
sons who were taken by violence from their homes and sent
to various labor camps in Silesia, for example, ZAL Markstadt
and ZAL Blechhammer where, under German guard, they were
forced to perform the most arduous and difficult labor.
At the same time, their wives and children remained unprovided
for at home.
In April 1942, by Gestapo order, the Centrale Judenrat issued
a proclamation to the Jewish population. In this proclamation,
the Judenrat demanded that the populace prepare baggage,
blankets and camp-beds because these would be required for
the coming deportation of part of the Jewish population
from Sosnowiec. Among the goals of the deportation they
mentioned the town of Terezin (Teresienstadt). Simultaneously,
the Judenrat carried forward a registration of working and
unemployed persons. Every unmarried working person supported
his parents. Every married person defended his wife and
young children. A group considered to be not useful were
women and children whose husbands and fathers were already
suffering in German "Lagers".
At the beginning of May 1942, the Centrale Judenrat, under
Gestapo orders, sent about 5,000 summons to non-working
older persons and to unsupported women and children, requiring
them to report arrive on 10 May at 10 in the morning at
the building of a former school on Deblinska street #13
with baggage of a maximum of 10 kg for the purpose of “resettlement”.
With this Aktion, there began a new chapter in the history
of Zaglebie Jews. The Centrale Judenrat had by now became
a tool in the hands of the German authorities whose policy
was the extermination of Jews.
A group of individuals, members of various Jewish political
parties such as the "Bund", the "Hashomer
Hazair", "Poale Zion Lewica" and Communists
in reply to the action of the Centrale Judenrat issued a
secret typewritten proclamation to the Jewish populace in
the Polish language. In this proclamation they called upon
the Jewish masses not to appear at the places and times
set out by the Judenrat. The Resistance effort was successful.
On May 10, 1942 there appeared at the Assembly Point only
three persons. As a result of this, on the same night, the
Gestapo with large forces and with the assistance of the
Judenrat, surrounded and floodlit apartment buildings at
Modrzejowska # 23, Targowa #11 and Targowa #2. The Germans
forcibly removed all Jewish persons and concentrated them
in the "Rialto" cinema on Warszawska street #20.
In the morning, SS-man Kuczynski, the Sosnowiec representative
of "Urzad dla Spraw Robotnikow Cudzoziemskich"
(Office for Affairs of Foreign Workers) checked the identity
documents of the prisoners. All working persons were freed
together with their families. Persons who were unemployed
were held, but number of those wasn’t large enough for the
German criminals. In order to fill the transport’s quota
for this day (11 May 1942), the Gestapo at 11 in the morning
surrounded Targowa street and took from there all Jews without
exception, those employed and those unemployed. The Germans
took even officials of the Centrale Judenrat and loaded
them onto railcars. All these people were sent for extermination
to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and not to Terezin as they had been
told earlier. There were all murdered in the gas chambers;
no one from this transport remained alive.
In this transport was the Chief Rabbi of Sosnowiec, Englard
together with his family. In this transport were murdered
some 1,500 Jewish persons. This tragic event caused great
depression among the Jewish people who mourned, not only
those deported and murdered, but also those temporarily
remaining alive. Everyone realized that this Aktion was
the beginning of a general program to exterminate the Jews
people. However, the Centrale Judenrat, with Merin as its
head, seemed unperturbed by this event and prepared parties,
having a good time all night.
In June 1942, Judenrat on its own, undertook a new Aktion
using Jewish police. Each night they took Jews from their
apartments to the courtyards below and checked papers. All
persons who were not working were taken away together with
their family to the Du-Lager at Deblinska #13. Also, all
sick and elderly people and all poor Jewish persons were
taken from Panska and Ostrogorska (Sienkiewicza) streets
and were held at the building on Kowalska street #4 behind
iron bars at the former covered market.
It was Lewartowski and Merin who decided the fate of those
people. Those so selected were loaded onto rail wagons and
taken to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). To this transport were added
all sick persons from the hospital. These were taken with
stretchers to the rail cars. This Aktion was overseen by
Franya Czarna. During this time, small groups were deported
from among those held at the Du-Lager at the Bedzin Orphanage.
Those persons arrested on the street numbered persons who
were arrested for the smallest offences such as not correctly
walking on the street or being on a street a few minutes
after curfew. All these arrests were done by the Jewish
police on orders from the German authorities. Still the
Centrale Judenrat urged the population to continue working
in a normal fashion.
Then came the historic day in the lives of the Zaglebie
Jews….12 August 1942:
For about a dozen or so days before this date - from the
beginning of August, there took place public meetings in
which famous pre-war social activists who had been trusted
by the people spoke. Among them were Icchak Sztejnfeld and
Baruch Secemski (Cesemski?) who called Jewish people to
appear on Wednesday on 12 August who assured the people
that the August 12 assembly would only be an inspection
and re-certifying of identity papers.
Merin turned to the German managers of the workshops and
asked them to release their workers for 2 or 3 hours on
the 12th of August for this registration. After this brief
interruption, the workers would return to their work. To
build trust among the populace, a similar inspection and
certification of identity papers was done in the communities
of Czeladz, Strzemieszyce and Modrzejow. In fact, in those
communities the entire undertaking was quietly accomplished,
The Germans merely stamped the identity papers and the Jewish
people returned to their homes. By this trick, the Germans
enticed about 70,000 Jews from Sosnowiec, Bedzin and Dabrowa
Gornicza to appear voluntarily at the assembly points on
August 12th. On that date, the Jewish population was permitted
to walk on previously-forbidden streets to get to the assembly
From early morning on Wednesday, August 12, 1942 the three
towns’ streets were filled with Jewish masses who crowded
without exception into the historic “Union” sport field.
All Jews, despite a sense of foreboding, with few exceptions
appeared on the “Union” sports field in Sosnowiec. Old people,
women with children in their arms, working men and women,
numbering in all about 26,000 Jewish persons in Sosnowiec
gathered on the field. Many thousands of them never returned
to their homes.
The Jews, in accordance with an order of the Centrale Judenrat
came to the assembly in festive attire. When all the Jews
were gathered on the field, there appeared a large number
of Gestapo armed with machine guns. These surrounded the
crowded victims on all sides. Then a strict registration
was carried out. Every Jew had to come to the proper alphabetically-arranged
table. First, the entire crowd of Jewish persons Jews were
assembled on the one side of the field while the other half
remained empty. At 12 noon, when all was ready, tables were
set on the empty part of field. Now the Jews had the feeling
that what was to begin was dangerous.
There was great panic. By order of the Gestapo and with
the assistance of Judenrat personnel, families had to come
before a Commission in which were: Gestapo, representatives
of the Schmelt Organization and Judenrat members. This Commission
decided our fate - of life or death - for the assembled
The decisions were that each person was to be assigned to
one of four groups1`numbered: 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each group
was located in a different and separated part of the field.
Families directed to Group #1 were later, after their papers
were stamped by the Gestapo, released and able to return
home. Persons grouped as #2 were sent to Labor Camps. Persons
grouped as #3 were considered as uncertain and held for
a further decision. Persons grouped as #4 were to be deported
to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) for extermination.
During this Aktion there was heavy rain which became heavier
and heavier as though the heavens wept together with the
Jewish victims of German bestiality. It rained the entire
night from Wednesday to Thursday. On Thursday, men, women
with children lay exhausted in the mud and puddles of water,
fearing to go to the tables where the decisions of their
destiny were pronounced. Persons designated as #4 and wanting
to be saved, tried to get to the group #3. Representatives
of the authorities saw this and moved to prevent this.
On Merin's order, there were gathered together groups #3
and #4. On Thursday night, the Jewish police emptied the
apartment buildings on Targowa 4 and 8 and at Kollataja
6. The persons designated #3 and #4 were marched from the
sports field and forced into those buildings under strong
Gestapo and police guard. Persons designated #1 were released
to their homes, persons with #2 were transported to the
Du-Lag. Victims crowded in the mentioned buildings-prisons
knew that they had been chosen for death. Terrible scenes
took place. Because of large number of victims, people suffocated
from lack of air. People leaped from windows to shorten
their suffering and not experience the gas chambers of Oswiecim
The deponent (Samuel Brechner)’s entire family -- mother,
sister, two children and sister-in-law Frania Rozana in
the house on Targowa 8. Only the last-named one survived.
A group of prisoners dug a tunnel from the cellar of the
building on Targowa 8 to Modrzejowska 16. By this excavation,
a small number of persons escaped, but Jewish police discovered
this tunnel and guarded it carefully together with Gestapo
Then began the deportation of the herded-together Jews which
lasted until Tuesday 18 August. On that day was sent the
last transport. During those several days there were sent
to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) about 10,000 Jews from Sosnowiec
from whom no one returned. There remained only ashes as
a reminder of them. Some days later, the Centrale Judenrat
again called upon the Jewish society to continue working.
Although there remained only the wreckage of each family,
Merin in his speeches repeated the words: that there had
been fulfilled the prophetic words that there would remain
two persons in the city: two from the current generation
and one from a family. But the Nazi Hydra wasn’t content
and persecutions and Aktions continued without cessation,
with total extermination of the Jews as its goal.
The Centrale Judenrat gathered all the remaining Jewish
population of Sosnowiec in the "Rialto" cinema
on Warszawska street #20 and informed them that, in order
to safeguard the remaining Jews of Sosnowiec, it was necessary
according to the Gestapo’s demand, to gather the Jewish
population into one place. For this purpose, Srodula was
chosen, formerly a working class area located as a suburb
Thereafter began resettlements accompanied by many difficulties.
Every Jew had to go through a Commission’s review and receive
an identity card. The cards were of various colors. There
were blue cards stamped with the letter "A", blue
cards with with the letter "B", yellow cards and
green cards. On the blue cards there were also the letters
"T" or "U" what signified: Tauglich”
(capable) or “Untauglich” (incapable).
This was done to designate the persons who were capable
of working and thus to save them from the gas chambers of
Auschwitz. Those who possessed blue cards with letter "A"
were permitted to move to Srodula. Persons who received
other colored cards had to go to the second ghetto, located
in Old Sosnowiec on the streets of Wiejska, Ciasna, Kordonowa
and adjoining small streets.
The Designation Commission work began in October (1942)
and lasted until December 1942. As early as November, Jews
began to move to the Srodula ghetto but the movement proceeded
slowly. Meanwhile, roundups for forced labor didn't stop.
Only those employed in workshops working for the German
Army were saved for a while. But even this protection was
short and transitory.
On 19 November 1942, late at night, Held's workshop was
surrounded on the streets Modrzejowska 20, Sadowa and Pilsudskiego
70 and a large number of women was taken and sent to the
Du-Lager. From there, they wee sent to the forced labor
camps. Thus ended the last hope of the Sosnowiec Jews. The
factories were no longer from forced labor or the gas chambers.
People employed there were in the same danger of deportation
as other people or, in the best case, deportation to the
Amidst continual difficulties and persecutions, the Jews
moved to the Srodula ghetto and the ghetto in Old Sosnowiec.
People moving to the Old Sosnowiec ghetto felt their end
to be close. In January 1943, the deportation Aktions accelerated
and people were able to take only a small part of their
property, leaving the remainder to the mercy of Fate.
In March 1943, the Gestapo issued new orders on the basis
of which all Jews displaced to Old Sosnowiec now had to
move to Srodula. Several days were designated for this purpose.
The situation of the Jewish population was by now catastrophic.
There began a hard fight for any place where it was possible
to stay with one’s family. In Srodula, Jews lived with 15
persons in one small room. Many thousands of Jews wandered
on the streets unable to find a roof over their heads. All
this happened in March during very cold weather. Life in
the ghetto became more difficult with each day. The concentration
of all Jews into one place made it easier for the Nazi criminals
to prepare regular roundups and find more victims to send
to the labor camps for hard work.
On Friday, 19 March 1943 at 3 in the afternoon the SS, accompanied
by Jewish police surrounded the workshops of Held, Gorecki,
Szwedler, Express and others and took away from there all
men and women. The victims were taken to the Du-Lag and
from there forced into the labor camps. Part of SS-men remained
at the factories waiting for the arrival of the second shift
of workers. These were brought by the Jewish police also
to the Du-Lag. Workers fought the police, defending themselves
from the deportation. The fighting lasted a considerable
time, but finally the police overcame them and the workers
shared the fate of their companions.
The meaning of the workshop was totally undermined because
it was now clear that there was intended the total extermination
of all Jews. Now began a time of continuous Aktions and
continuous panic. People who remained didn’t sleep in their
own apartments but hid in attics and cellars without knowing
what would happen the next day.
On the May 1, 1943 while men and women were at work, the
Gestapo gang attacked Srodula and took from the apartments
all those found there. Children left at home alone and non-working
others numbering about 1,000 were captured. They children
were taken to a transport of deported persons from Modrzejow
who were being taken to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). When mothers
returned from work and saw that there were no children and
that they had fallen victim to the Nazi criminals, they
began weeping and screaming. The tragic situation is beyond
all description. No one remaining alive now had the strength
or will to go on living and even less to work, which now
hadn’t saved them from danger.
In June 1943, a group of persons from Srodula received foreign
documents allowing them to go to a camp for interned people
(“I-Lagers) and take with them 40 kg of baggage and 2,000
marks. It was great good fortune for this people, but their
joy lasted only a brief time. On the following day the persons
were called to the police station and kept there until the
arrival of the entire Centrale Judenrat with Merin as leader.
The whole group, including Merin, were deported to Oswiecim
(Auschwitz) where after great torment, they were murdered.
In the places of former Centrale Judenrat’s leadership,
there were nominated Gidi Czarny (husband of the murdered
Franya) and Ussher Kleinberg. But even this wasn’t the end.
The liquidation of the Jewish population continued without
pause. On June 22, 1943 there began again a deportation.
The Gestapo surrounded the ghetto and the Aktion started.
This action lasted 3 days and nights and several thousand
more Jews were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and several
hundred victims were shot on the spot.
From this time forward, no one slept in the ghetto. Every
night, in front of each building some one stood guard, watching
if there were any changes. Jews prepared bunkers (hiding
places) underground and moved there with their families.
At this time rumors were spread that the Germans intended
to move all workshops working for the Wehrmacht to the ghetto
and this would provide the possibility of the survival of
the remaining Jews in the closed ghetto. And in fact there
were some things which suggested that the Germans wanted
to move workshops to the ghetto.
Some workshops, for example Braune and Goretzki were moved
into the ghetto. To accommodate the new workshops, some
residential buildings were emptied. Then a number of Jews
from Dabrowa Gornicza, who were also employed in workshops
were moved into the ghetto. As a result, the situation quickly
calmed down, but only for short time.
Now a new rumor was spread that all Jews, together with
the workshops, would be moved to Birkenau near Oswiecim
(Auschwitz) and a central workshop area would be created
there. But all those rumors were intentionally spread for
the purpose of diminishing the power of resistance of the
Jewish population and to mislead the surviving Jews. On
Saturday July 31, 1943, the Jews noted that close to the
railway line, a large number of German police were gathering.
They Jews suppose naively that this is for protecting the
line against a sabotage action, but as it appeared later
it was preparation for the final act of liquidation of the
On the night of July 31 to August 1, 1943, the ghetto inhabitants
were shaken by shooting for which they didn't know the reason.
Soon, however, they could see hundreds of German policemen
with machine guns surrounding the ghetto, preparing the
final act of the extermination of Jews. That day, August
1, 1943, was according to the Jewish calendar precisely
on Tisha-B'Av, Av 9. It was truly a day of mourning and
fasting for the Sosnowiec Jews.
People attempted to escape from their apartments to bunkers
and open fields where one who could escape might be saved.
But unfortunately it didn't help. This time, the ghetto
had been planned to be liquidated and Sosnowiec had to be
made "Judenrein". Every house was searched, every
pad and every hidden place. German criminals with rolled-up
sleeves ran about with machine guns and shot left and right.
The ghetto was changed into shambles and was covered with
Hundreds of bodies lay on the ghetto streets. Children running
were shot like ra0bbits without mercy. This bestial work
of the Nazi criminals lasted until August 6. All those who
escaped being shot were deported to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
Only a small group of a selected few remained to liquidate
(clean) the ghetto and these for only a few days. After
a short time, they too were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
Only small group of people remained to January 1944 and
after that they, too, were taken to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
In this way, the Nazi bandits destroyed the Jewish population
which originally numbered some 30,000 persons.
Of this number, only a few individuals survived.
Post Script to “Sosnowiec” Deposition of Samuel Brechner
The Sosnowiec Ghetto at Srodula was joined to the Bedzin
Ghetto. From Srodula so that it was possible to walk without
passes to Small Srodula and Kamionka.
The Sosnowiec Ghetto consisted of Big Srodula and Zuzanna.(St
The most famous and active Gestapo people were (Konrad)
Peikert, Hans Dreier, (?) Kat, (?) Freytag.
The Sosnowiec Dienstelle of the Kattowitz Kripo station
was staffed by; the following SS-men: Ludwig, Knoll, Messner,