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Page 1

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 1939-1945
(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 (Auschwitz).

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 Silesia

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 Square).

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 here).

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 roundup.
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 without trace.

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 at Blechhamer.

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.

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