Name of deponent: Samuel Reifer
Birth date: November 15, 1921
Birth place: Chrzanow
Parents: Abraham and Rywka
Fragments of my experiences during the German occupation
(Chrzanow, Sosnowiec, Blechhammer, Gräditz, Faulbruck,
Markstadt, Görlitz, Zittau)
On the third day following their occupation of Chrzanow,
the Germans drove all Jews into the synagogue and kept them
there all night In the meantime, they conducted a search
in the town and took many valuable things.
However, the Chrzanow tragedy began a day before our doomsday.
The streets were blocked with machine guns and a search
was conducted. The Jewish population was forced to bring
all their property to the market square. The Germans took
everything and didn't leave even a piece of bread.
Moreover, they took 10 hostages. Obersturmbannführer
Lindner, the infamous persecutor of Jews who, together with
SS General Schmelt, had murdered Jewish prisoners-of-war
in Biala Podlaska gave a speech to the assembled Jewish
people gathered on the market in which he said that illegally
coming into possession of food or other items (black marketing)
is threatened by the death penalty for the hostages.
One hostage, a man named Klagsbald, was shot. Among the
hostages was my grandfather. We were able to release him
from there by a miracle after two days of being in prison
in a hot, damp cellar without food. On being released, he
couldn't walk and was carried home.
Jews stood whole days in front of the German headquarter
waiting for allocation of work. There was a need to bury
dead bodies on the Christian cemetery. On the doomsday,
Jews were taken from the places where they were praying
and, still wrapped in their taleses, were driven through
the town. The Germans ridiculed the Jews, shouting "For
what is it that you pray to your God? Do you ask victory
over us? Where is your God?"
They beat and kicked and threw the Jews into the mud shouting,
"Ihr hat den Krieg verursacht" (“You are the basis
for this war”). My uncle, Aron Censor from Krakow, came
home smeared with feces and only by a miracle escaped from
the hands of German thugs who wanted to shoot him.
At the same time, in Trzebinia, the Germans captured 120
Jewish men returning from the East, beating them unconscious
and later driving them naked more than a dozen kilometers.
They then shot some of the victims near a railway station
and the remainder on a sports field.
Symcha Schonberg, from Chrzanow, was wounded and crawled
to a peasant's hut. The peasants called a doctor who bandaged
the wounded man. Among the victims, too, was a family from
Chrzanow, trough makers - a father and his three sons. When
the mother learned of their deaths, she hanged herself.
After two months, the victims were dug up and taken to the
Jewish cemetery in Chrzanow. There, a great funeral was
held and the victims buried in a specially-fenced area.
A member of the Judenrat, Weber by name - a hooligan, betrayed
Jews to the Gestapo. Weber beat his victims, tormented them
and accepted bribes. He had (the deaths of) many Jewish
people on his conscience. Later, the Germans themselves
removed him, likely murdering him.
On November 5, 1940 there was formed in Sosnowiec an SS
institution to organize Jewish persons for forced labor.
This institution was created by SS General Schmelt who had
been appointed by Himmler. A chief of the institution was
a Major Lindner. There appeared announcements on walls of
the town that Jews 18-50 years old must report for labor.
The Jewish persons were examined in Sosnowiec by a medical
commission and 800 Jews were judged capable of working.
They were locked in a former school building where they
were kept a whole week. Jews escaped from there en masse,
some sliding down the gutters. The escapees were hunted
by the German Police. After a week, they were deported to
Sakrau in Upper Silesia. There, the conditions were inhuman.
The men were housed in unfitted, unheated barracks. The
men suffered from cold and hunger. To obtain water, it was
necessary to go 10 kilometers. The work was unnecessary,
it was created just for persecution.
The people there had to cut trees in the forest. They weren’t
accustomed to hard physical work and many died from cold,
hunger and exhaustion. It was allowed to send packages,
but the prisoners received only empty boxes. The head of
the camp, Czaja by name, abused the prisoners. He drove
them at night from their barrack and chased them with dogs
through the snow. Many prisoners remained frozen in the
snow. To go to toilet, it was necessary to report and get
permission. It happened that one boy sat there more than
5 minutes. A Wachmann (guard) beat him so hard that he almost
broke on him a rifle butt.
When Major Lindner came for an inspection, this "wachmann"
complained about the young prisoner. Immediately, the prisoner
was sent, together with 22 other prisoners who were in "Krankenstube"
(sick bay), to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Three days later, the
families of these prisoners received urns with the ashes
of the victims. Each family had to pay 30 Reich Marks for
the urn. In the camp, during an assembly, Head Guard Czaja
announced that such was the manner in which prisoners are
punished in the German Reich for work evasion.
After the Jews of Chrzanow learned of the deaths of the
victims in Oswiecim (Auschwitz), they made a demonstration
in front of the Judenrat, breaking windows and making threats
against Merin (president of all Judenrat's in Upper Silesia).
Prior to the deportations to Sakrau, Merin had spread the
propaganda among the Jews that they should volunteer for
the camps because there they will have a great future. From
the camps, they will have the possibility of helping their
parents and, moreover, in the camps they will eat not only
bread with butter, but butter with bread.
In the Sakrau camp there was, from time to time, a Doctor
König - a German Jew from Gross Strelitz who, at the
risk of his life, treated prisoners. He was probably deported
to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
Beginning in November 1940, every Jew had to perform forced
labor in the amount of 72 hours per week. Payment for this
was 100 Reich Marks per month from which 50 Reich Marks
went to SS fund in Sosnowiec. If someone couldn’t earn 100
Reich Marks monthly, his/her work was considered as unproductive
and such a person was sent to a forced labor camp. In Sosnowiec,
the SS agency created a so-called transit camp (the Durchgangslager
i.e., "Dulag") and Jews were delivered there from
all the roundups.
There was a lame German the so-called: "Judenhändler",
a tall, handsome man. His name was Hausschil. He bought
Jewish victims for work, much as slaves were bought and
sold. He did the selections himself.
In March 1941, the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) prison camp was
extended. From this point in time, the town of Oswiecim
(Auschwitz) was called "Himmlerstadt". All Jewish
residents were forced to leave the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz)
at this time. Young persons were sent to labor camps and
older persons were displaced to Chrzanow, Sosnowiec or Bedzin.
On May 9, 1941 there was roundup in Chrzanow. There were
gathered Jews to the number of 2,500 on the high school
field, but there was a lack of 675 men who had hidden themselves.
In the stead place of these men, the Germans took the missing
men’s wives as hostages. They were beaten and threatened
to be deported to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Major Lindner set
dogs on the assembled people and with vulgar screams: "Verfluchter
Judenbaggage" etc. he ran, as though insane, among
the gathered people, pulling out hair from individuals and
beating others cruelly.
He specially selected those who had an "Ausweis"
because they had already paid 50 Reich Marks to an SS fund.
These persons numbered 1,200 persons. After beating the
holders of Ausweise cruelly, he sent them to their homes.
The rest were sent to RAB (Reichsautobahn) work camps for
construc- tion of highways. The "Baufuhrer" (head
of construction), a man named Rupert and his helpers beat
prisoners mercilessly with metal bars. People died en masse.
In the winter of 1942-43, 500 Jews wearing Organization.Todt
uniforms were sent from RAB to “Osteinsatz” (East Front
labor) close to Leningrad where they had to rebuild railway
track. There, they lived in rail cars without food or water,
freezing. They were guarded by men of the Rumanian army
because the SS-man Knoll placed them under the care of the
Rumanian army. It was so cold that it wasn’t possible to
cut bread with a knife, but rather the bread had to be sawn.
After three months, there returned about 100 persons, all
sick. They reported that the others had died of starvation,
exhaustion, typhus and cold.
In Brande, there was a so-called "Erholungslager"
(recuperation camp) to which were sent sick persons, not
wanted by Hausschild, to be cured. There lay dozens of sick
people, who were shown to visiting commissions which, from
time to time, came to the "Lager". The rest of
the sick people were murdered in baths of alternate cold
and hot water. In a camp at Cosel, too, sick persons not
needed by Hausschil were murdered.
From among the personnel of the SS Dienststelle in Sosnowiec
I remember the names of the following SS-men: Ludwig, Messner,
Rolle, Hentschel, Kuzcsinski, Knoll, Nowak and Lindner.
Because in Chrzanow searches were carried out daily, we
prepared a hideout (bunker) in a one-level apartment where,
in case of danger, all occupants of the house could be hidden..
On Friday February 19, 1942 there was a search. Fourteen
of us hid in our bunker. The Germans beat with metal bars
on the walls. Women sitting with us became fearful and began
to scream and seek a chance to escape. In fact, almost all
the people there managed to escape except for my sister,
father and one Jew who couldn’t move so quickly.
The Germans were about to shoot everyone when my sister
fell to her knees at the feet of "Oberwachmeister"
(Chief Guard) Lenz , begging for mercy. He beat her and
threw her to the ground, pulled out her hair and trampled
on her. I alone remained in the hideout. I knew that if
they found me there would be a threat of my death. I heard
the screams of my sister. I feared they would beat her to
death. What could I do?
I began to scream that I was ill and dying and that caused
the Germans to notice me. The Germans then entered the hideout
and took me into an apartment, considering me to be half
mad. There, they again beat my sister to force her to tell
them who had prepared the hideout. When I again began to
weep and pretended to be dying, they left. They took with
them my aunt, Brandla Censor and cousin, as hostage for
my uncle. On this day, 150 Jewish persons were taken to
the police station. Among them were the president of the
Judenrat, Mr. Cukier, and Mr. Teichler and Nussbaum, officers
of the Judenrat. After a week, they were sent to Oswiecim
In Chrzanow, there was an active Jew from Katowice, a Mr.
Lederer who worked at the orders of the Gestapo. He worked
in the "Devisenstelle" (currency office) as "Zollinspektor".
In his identity card, on the column "occupation"
was noted: "Zur Verfügung der Gegeimstaastpolizei
in Kattovitz" (acting at the furtherance of the Kattowitz
Gestapo) and further on his identity card was written: "Nutzlicher
Jude" (a useful Jew). He himself wasn't’ as harmful
as his Jewish mistress from Chrzanow.
After a few days urns with the ashes, and telegrams with
information about the deaths of the Chrzanow Jews, arrived.
The families of the victims had to pay 1.20 Reich Marks
for the upkeep for each day the Jewish victims were confined
in prison before being sent to their deaths.
This Aktion was directed by the Gestapo office in Katowice
by persons named Dreier, Kronau, Kaims, Freytag, Peikert
About this time, the Jewish "Arbeitsamt" (Labor
Office) was ordered to deliver 300 girls aged 18 to 25 years
to the "Dulag" in Sosnowiec for Arbeitseinsatz.
Because only part of them reported after being summoned,
it was announced that if they didn’t appear at the appointed
time, hostages would be taken from among their families.
The Germans forced many old women to work at clearing streets
from snow. During the work people were beaten. Daily, dead
victims of such mistreatment lay on the snow. Many daughters
reported to the Dulag to save their parents, but my mother
advised my sister that she (sister) should not report there.
Jewish "Ordner's" (police) arrested all my family:
grandfather, grandmother and uncles and held them as hostages.
Finally my sister, after 12 days of hiding, reported to
the Dulag and was taken to Sosnowiec. She was held in the
Dulag for one week and then deported to ZAL Schomber in
In April 1942, German police went with a list of Jews suspected
of various offenses. If some one had paid a fine for not
correctly crossing a street, or for not properly managing
the blackout, they were reported to police, taken to the
police station where they were held for six days. There
arrived from Katowice the Chief of Jewish Affairs of the
Gestapo, Hans Dreier together with the commanding officer
of the German police, Schindler. The two went to the square
at Swietokrzyskiej 36 and observed the large trees there.
The visit created a panic in the town.
The following day, the Judenrat received the order to furnish
Jewish workers who were to level the site and build a gallows.
Jews in Chrzanow consoled themselves with the thought that
this act was merely to strike terror. But two days later,
the Jewish "Ordners" entered Jewish apartments
and confiscated all "Kennkarte" (identity cards)
from the residents. On the following day the residents were
required to appear on Swietokrzyski square (Henkerplatz/Gallows
On that day, Germans in autos cruised the Jewish district
and announced through megaphones that today there will take
place the public execution of 7 Jews in the presence of
the entire Polish and Jewish population. Everyone had to
be present, particularly Jews.
Representatives of the German authorities with their wives
and friends assembled at the execution site. They were laughing
while the persons condemned to death were the object of
ridicule. The victims were brought by autos in handcuffs.
From the assembled Germans were heard shouts, "Die
Banditen sind schon da" (The criminals are finally
The condemned persons had been beaten and tortured so that
they scarcely looked human. They were carried out from the
cars, because they weren’t able to walk on their own. With
shout: "Szma Israel!" on their lips, they were
hanged on the gallows. One person from Olkusz shouted: "Jews,
avenge my death!" One of the convicted persons was
a 70-year old Jew, Gerstner by name, a baker, who was hanged
together with his 30-year old son.
Taube Spangelet hid with her children so as not to witness
the execution. In the evening she went to the square and
among the hanged persons she recognized her husband. It
wasn’t permitted to bury the victims in a cemetery. The
corpses of the hanged persons remained on the gallows until
sunset and then were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
People spoke continually of deportation. Merin calmed this
fear by saying that if “contributions” were paid, we would
avoid deportation. After we had paid the contribution, he
made a propaganda speech encouraging us to voluntarily “evacuate”.
It would be a displacement of entire families to the ghettos
in Lodz and Warsaw. Money given as the contribution would
provide a fund for the displaced persons. He urged the people
to bring their property to the Judenrat and he would send
the funds to the displaced persons.
Yet, in Sosnowiec, instead of 4,000 Jews, there appeared
400 persons. Before the transport, the Gestapo and German
police surrounded the Jewish district and took a certain
number of Jews to complete the transport’s quota of victims.
Among those from the first deportation from Sosnowiec was
Rabbi Engelhardt. Those victims disappeared without trace.
On the morning of May 30, 1942 German police surrounded
the town. Jews, including members of the Judenrat, were
driven to Krzyski square. Then the Germans searched the
homes. The house of the Barber family was searched painstakingly
from roof to cellar for several hours. Persons hidden there
were betrayed by a crying child. The German policeman Wiesner
and his assistants removed some 40 persons from the bunker.
The victims didn't have time to dress. Almost all were in
their underwear. They were placed against the wall. Then
Merin appeared begging mercy for the doomed people. The
Gestapo gave him the victims for his disposal. A few days
later they were deported together with a transport.
This Aktion had been stage-managed by Merin. Later, he himself
sent the victims away for deportation to death.
At the square, young persons with work "Ausweise"
were placed separately from the others. Old people, women
with children and young people without working cards numbering
about 3,000 souls were driven to a school building which
was surrounded by police. After three days, they were deported
to their deaths.
When I emerged from my family’s hideout, I found no one
even from my distant family. People told me that my aunt
Hendla Schlesinger had been taken in a wagon with sick persons,
together with my aunt Brandla Censor’s children, had had
a heart attack and died.
The children were saved this time. People were jealous that
she had had a gentle death, not one at the hands of Nazi
ruffians and that she had had a Jewish funeral. It was on
June 4, 1942 - according to the Jewish calendar: 20 Siwan
- a day well known in the history of Jewish suffering. Because
people intended for the transport escaped en masse from
the school with assistance from the Jewish Ordnungs Dienst
(police) to whom they paid bribes, the Jewish police went
from house to house taking people from bunkers as well as
sick persons to fill the quota to be sent to Birkenau.
The most zealous hunter of victims was Weber - the Jewish
commanding officer of Jewish Constabulary. He ordered an
elderly Jew be brought on a bed and sent with the transport.
The man - a religious writer - Leibisz Reichman, was very
ill and had not been taken by the Germans during a previous
Before the departure of the transport, Merin calmed the
condemned persons by showing “letters” from persons previously
displaced from Sosnowiec. We deluded ourselves that the
“letters” were real. Everyone on the transport disappeared
On July 8, 1942, it was announced in Chrzanow that all Jews
must appear at the courtyard of Krzyski Street number 27
in order to have their "Meldkart" (registration
card) checked and for the purpose of determining the number
of Jews remaining after the last deportation. Whoever wouldn’t
appear, would lose the right to remain in Chrzanow. The
announcement was signed by the Chief Mayor, Dr. Grundler.
As a result everyone appeared as ordered.
Punctually at 9 o'clock, the square was surrounded by police.
There arrived the Gestapo from Katowice. There was a selection.
There were taken into consideration cards with violet stamps
issued on the day of previous Aktion and with red stamps
which had been issued as a supplement after the first Aktion
in which the people had been taken to the school. I was
there with my parents and 13-year old brother. My 17-year
old brother had been sent on June 16, 1942 for Arbeitseinsatz
In a moment, my brother disappeared and we didn't know what
had happened to him. A selection took place on Ranker Square
of those persons who had violet stamps. Thus were selected
old people, women and young persons who were selected entirely
by caprice. On the square were gathered thousands Jews.
There was a torrid heat. July 8 was without a drop of water.
People fainted from the heat and from tension. It remained
like this until 3 o'clock. Then Merin arrived. At once,
there was beer and wine. The Gestapo members feasted and
ridiculed the Jews.
Fortunately I succeeded, together with my parents, to pass
the selection. After returning home, we didn't see my brother.
He returned at 7 PM. He told us that at the Krzyski square
nr 27, he had detached a board and hidden in a potato pile.
There, he had been found by Oberwachmeister Lenz who gave
him to the Gestapo man, Freitag, who led victims to a school
building where victims were driven who were destined for
transport to Birkenau.
He had been able to escape, but was caught by a Jewish constable
and returned. He was beaten so badly that he had a livid
back and was stained with blood. In the school, he implored
Chief of Gestapo Dreier to let him go because parents had
violet stamps and they worked in the tailoring workshop.
Before Dreier decided on this matter, Merin had put our
brother again among the condemned persons. However, because
those who were working in tailor's workshop were to be released,
my brother mixed with this group and thereby escaped.
On the following day, the same announcement was issued in
Jaworzno, but because the people there already knew what
had happened in Chrzanow, no one appeared except old people
and some abandoned children. These were added to the Chrzanow
transport. With this transport was deported my uncle Samuel
Gross and wife. My uncle, during the selection voluntarily
went to the side where those selected were going to be transported
to Birkenau. As the Germans there said: "bei uns gibt
kein zurück" (On this side, there is no returning.)
Uncle Aron Censor, with the children who had been saved
from the previous deportation because of the death of Aunt
Schlesinger now went with the transport. Only my father
was able to save Uncle Hirsch Feifer who was, at the last
moment, released in consequence of the intervention by a
representative of the company "Polok" where my
uncle was employed.
With this transport went 1,200 Jews, 800 from Chrzanow and
400 from Jaworzno. In this transport were taken two venerable
persons from Chrzanow, namely: Lieber Jeret and Natan Goldberg.
From Jaworzno, young people escaped to Sosnowiec and Chrzanow.
There were pursued by the Jewish Constabulary which acted
in a manner beneath contempt.