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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Name of deponent: Samuel Brechner
Birth date: 1 June 1910
Birth place: Sosnowiec
Parents: Josef and Rywka (born Pejsak)
Profession: Corset-maker
Present residence: Katowice, ul. Powstancow 12


PART 1

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".


PART 2
Sosnowiec during the German occupation

On Monday, 4 September 1939 at 2 p.m. the Germans arrived in Sosnowiec.
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 of us.
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 Jews.

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 Community Council.

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 Boim).

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 Communism.
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 them.

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 ("Grundstückgesellschaft".

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 money.

THE WORKSHOPS:

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 to Schmelt.

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 liquidated.
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 Brechner).

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 died.

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 points.

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 Jews.
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 (Auschwitz).

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 members.

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 of Sosnowiec.

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 labor camps.

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 Sosnowiec Jews.

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 bodies.
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 Anna?)
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, Kuczynski, Hentschel




 
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