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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Name of deponent: Jakub Neufeld

The Town Board in Sosnowiec
The General Department
The Statistical Unit
Nr. 0/III/3a/46

Form
1. The total number of inhabitants in Sosnowiec on September 1, 1939 was 130,000 persons
2. The total number of Jewish population in Sosnowiec on: September 1, 1939 was 28,000 persons
3. The total number of Jewish population living now in Sosnowiec is 2,300 persons.
4. The total number of Jewish pre-war population living now in Sosnowiec is 400 persons

Sosnowiec, March 20, 1946
Manager of Statistical Unit


Jakub Neufeld
Date of birth: 1908
Birthplace: Warsaw
Parents: father: Heno, mother: Estera.
Residence: Sosnowiec, ul. Sienkiewicza 14
Occupation: Merchant


There resided in pre-war Sosnowiec about 30,000 Jews. At the end of 1941, there began the “Arbeitseinsatz” Aktions. Young Jewish persons were mainly taken to forced labor camps. At such times it was tragic when families were separated, children from parents. Such deportations to forced labor occurred several times during 1941.

On May 12, 1942 there took place the first “deportations”. At this time, it was called “displacement to other towns”. The Judenrat claimed that it, too, didn't know the purpose for the displacement. The manner in which it was done was that the Judenrat sent a summons to each individual to report to a designated Deportation Point at an appointed time. At the beginning, those who received such summonses were those persons who had been displaced from other towns, older persons, poor people, people who weren’t useful for the Community and “inconvenient” people.

Those summoned mostly appeared voluntarily at the designated Assembly Points, others were taken there by the Jewish police. Nevertheless, on May 12, 1942 there weren’t enough persons to meet the number of victims demanded by the German authorities. Because train wagons were prepared for May 12 and the transport had to leave by 3 o'clock. the Gestapo threatened the Judenrat that, if the demanded number of Jews weren’t provided, the Judenrat members and their families would make up the shortfall. The Judenrat appeared with backpacks as if prepared for deportation (Moniek Merin, Wladek Behm (Boehm), Motek Birman, Lewartowski). Merin decided, with the Gestapo, to surround three of the largest apartment buildings in Sosnowiec. These were located at Targowa 2, Targowa 11 and Dekerta 14. The buildings were surrounded and all the persons in them were sent to the waiting rail cars. In this manner were gathered about 2,000 persons.
The quota was filled and the Judenrat was saved. On the very night of the deportation, Merin, who believed he had saved the town and the Judenrat from deportation, organized a party at which people played and drank in honor of his services. Merin officially appeared and said that the deported people had been sent to work camps. There were also rumors that the transport had returned. Of course, all this turned out to be a lie and people slowly began to understand what fate the deported persons had found.

Later, (Polish) rail workers who had taken the transports away returned and told of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) as its destination, but people didn't want to believe this. After the deportation, the Judenrat calmed the populace by saying that there would be no more displacements such as this. The Judenrat continued to ask that all Jews should find work. Merin thought that the one and only form of salvation was to form workshops and provide people work valuable to the Germans. In this manner, the people could be saved from further deportations. The Judenrat took advantage of the campaign to organize positions within the workshops since those obtaining those positions depended on favoritism and large money bribes. People believed that such a program would save them.

There were formed various workshops, among others: Braune's (shoe's workshop), Szwede's (leather's workshop), Gorecki's (waste materials and shoes) and many small workshops. Jews worked almost for nothing, even for 20 marks or less per month, though the efforts didn't help in the longer time.

In August 1942, there took place a major displacement. In various communities simultaneously, there took place roundups for the (slave) labor camps of those who couldn’t pay a bribe to be able to work in a workshop near home. The Judenrat announced that the entire Jewish population should appear on August 12, 1942 at different points in the town. The announcement said the assembly was for control purposes and identity papers would be stamped with a certain red stamp. The announcement further stated that only those persons whose identity documents would have this stamp would be exempt from deportation. The Judenrat organized the meeting such that all persons would come to the assembly points, assuring the populace that the purpose was only for registration and that nothing otherwise would happen. Members of the Judenrat campaigned in the factories personally. Those persons who seemed to resist were threatened with “deportation”.

Believing these assurances, almost 99% of the population came to the designated points. On that day, Jews were given permission to walk freely on all streets. The assembly had to take place on August 12, 1942 All factories were required to have separate rallying points where, they were told, that by 9 to 9.30 a.m. they would be finished and have their identity papers stamped. They could then return to work. Thus, everything seemed arranged for this purpose; clearly, nothing bad could happen. Thus the people were calmed.

On the morning on August 12, 1942, the streets were crowded with the Jewish population coming to the rallying points. The Jewish district was emptied, apartments were left and the Community set Jewish Constabulary the task of guarding the vacated apartments.

Upon arriving at the points, it transpired that the points were surrounded by German police and all the people were directed to Jahn Street. There, the entire Jewish population of Sosnowiec was gathered - about 25,000 persons. Assembling all the people from various rallying points took until 12 o'clock noon. The day was hot. Women with small children, as with all the others, began to become impatient and each wanted to know what there will happen next. In the meantime, news arrived from Dabrowa Gornicza and Bedzin that in similar assemblies there, segregation had begun.

There, the populace had been divided into four groups, each marked with the numbers: 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Nr. 1 - meant freedom and release from the Gathering Point
Nr. 2 - referred mainly to youths. These were mostly taken to labor camps.
Nr. 3 - meant deportation, with reservation.
Nr. 4 - meant deportation to an unspecified destination.

At one o’clock in the afternoon, the selection began. The largest part of the people were given numbers 3 and 4. Soon, there was a great panic. The selection had been performed by the Gestapo with the assistance of Merin and other members of the Judenrat who had some influence on events. They took away from there their closest family and friends. Families in which all members were working, and who had neither children nor old people, generally received number 1. The selection lasted without break until the morning of the following day. In the evening, heavy rain fell and the people remained wet in the open air, without food or water. Their despair was terrible.

During the night, most of the people lost hope. Children were wet, hungry and crying; the situation was terrible. People "lost their heads". Almost 15,000 persons were set aside and held separately. People tried to change places and go from nr. 4 to nr. 3, but the Gestapo began to fire upon them. Several victims died on the spot. Finally the groups designated # 3 and # 4 were combined and destined for deportation.

Those who were designated # 1 were released that night and the following morning. Those designated # 3 and # 4 were kept all the following day. In the meantime, the Judenrat had several buildings at Targowa 4 and 8 and at Kollataja 6 and 8 emptied. The occupants of the buildings had to leave and, in their stead, were replaced by the persons destined for deportation.

On the evening of August 13, groups of several thousand persons were driven under strong escort to those buildings. The victims were so exhausted that they walked apathetically. On this march, several children were rescued by Polish persons. The people destined for deportation remained in the buildings for 3 days in terrible conditions. From the building at Targowa 10 where a factory was located, some Jews working there dug a tunnel. In this way, several thousand persons were rescued.

The Judenrat organized a kitchen, but in the crowd it wasn’t possible even to use it. There were instances of madness. In this manner, people awaited their fate, fully understanding what was to happen to them. Some of the people were completely resigned and didn't consider any possibilities of saving themselves. Some of those who still had the power to save themselves went through the factory as I mentioned above. Individuals left the building as orderlies in disguise or as service persons, etc.

The concierge of the building on Targowa was bribed to make it possible to dig the tunnel. Also, several persons escaped by way of the roof. Persons, families of those confined within, sought to save their relatives, but it wasn’t possible without bribing the Jewish police.

On August 15, 16 and 17, there were sent from these buildings, in turns, groups of half-dead persons to deportation. People who were able to escape didn't do so since they lacked the requisite “stamps”. It turned out, however, that the "stamping" was a ruse and it was announced that people working in factories would have their identity papers cleared.

At this time, there were entire districts where Jews couldn’t reside such as ul 3rd of May, ul Sienkiewicza and ul Pierackiego. About two months after this deportation, there were no longer further such large deportations. Of course, there were small transports and roundups as penalty for various trumped up offenses such as not walking properly on the street and other similar persecutions. The Community again began to reassure the remaining population that there was no longer any threat.

Merin then formed a plan that Srodula would be given to the Jews and there a ghetto there would be created. A proposal to build a Lager for Jews near Czeladz was put forward, but wasn’t accepted by the German authorities.
In October 1942, the proposal was accepted to create a ghetto in Srodula. Slowly, until the New Year, the Jews had to move to Srodula. The populace resisted but, in fact, the moving began in December 1942 and January 1943.
In the period between October and December 1942, there took place an examination by a Commission in the school building on ul Debicka 17 and later on Targowa 7. Every one of the Jewish population had to appear before this Commission. The Commission worked for the Employment Office (Arbeitsamt) of the Reich. Every person had to prove where he/she worked. Those who weren’t working, but were capable of doing so, were taken to the factories.

The entire Jewish population was examined by Jewish doctors, who rendered an opinion on the basis of which the Jewish population were assigned either to Srodula or in Old Sosnowiec. There had to be ghettos formed in Srodula and in Old Sosnowiec. People supposed that in Srodula would be placed healthy, working persons. In Old Sosnowiec would be the old and sick people and families in which there were members differing greatly in age. Persons destined for Srodula were given blue cards on which was the letter "A". Persons destined for Old Sosnowiec and capable of working were given blue cards on which was the letter "B". Old people and women with children were given green cards.

Naturally, everyone wanted to go to the Srodula ghetto. Those who were sent to Old Sosnowiec felt unhappy. There was even a suicide because of this housing assignment. Again, the wealthier people tried to bribe and get to Srodula.
On the basis of the medical opinions of the doctors, the Community began to form into two ghettos. The Community, at its own cost, had to move Polish persons into the town and Jewish persons into Srodula. Living conditions in the latter were terrible. In one room, there lived 10 to 12 persons. Sometimes people slept in the open air until they could find a place.

The majority of people deserted their furniture because there was no place to put them. Many people left their furniture in the open air after moving them. The displacement ended on March 10, 1943. After this, the town was empty. Only those who worked in factories could go into town to work. The Judenrat worked in Srodula. It wasn’t permitted to walk in the town and families from Srodula and Old Sosnowiec couldn’t communicate with each other without a pass. Passes were issued by the Judenrat. People from Old Sosnowiec tried to get to Srodula, but for this permission a large sum of money was demanded.

However, a month later in April 1943, the Gestapo ordered all persons in Old Sosnowiec be moved to Srodula .Thereafter, all Jewish persons were crowded into Srodula. The Judenrat had its own prison, set taxes and began to rule as though it constituted its own state. Who refused to pay or couldn’t pay, taxes went to the Judenrat’s prison. During all this time, Arbeitseinsatz continually took people to the (slave) labor camps. The Jewish police carried out searches and roundups, as though hunting with humans as the targets.

People working in the factories were safe only for a short time. Those who were saved from all persecutions had considerable money and “connections”. Slowly, people began to get accustomed to the conditions in the ghetto. However, beginning 1 May 1943, it wasn’t permitted to walk to the factory in the town without a police escort. Every morning at 5.30 a.m., all the persons involved were gathered together and, in this manner, several thousand persons were led by Jewish police to work. Also, from work they had to return the same way because it wasn’t permitted to go alone in the town.

In May, there took place the following deportations: the neighboring towns of Modrzejow and Czeladz were emptied. If these transports weren’t full, additional people were taken from roundups in Srodula. People working in the factories experienced tragedies such as while they worked, someone from their family might have been arrested and deported.

After each deportation, there took place terrible scenes when everyone wanted to learn as quickly as possible if their closest persons still remained. The Community still tried to calm the population by insisting that there wouldn’t be a general displacement from the ghetto. Working people kept assuring themselves that they could survive in the ghetto. The Germans especially persecuted people who didn't go to work every day by arresting them and causing other troubles. A sense of resignation among people grew greater and greater.

People tried various means to escape. They began to attempt the use of Aryan papers; they investigated possibilities of going abroad. In the daily newspaper there appeared an article which said that, in the English House of Commons, a law had been introduced to the effect that Jews living under Nazi occupation in Poland might receive English citizenship.

Such news produced no results, but in Switzerland a committee of various Jewish groups was formed which sought to obtain citizenship in South American countries for Jews in Poland. About 25 persons received such papers and were allowed to go to the French-Swiss border. There, they remained in a camp for interned foreigners. This resulted in a general rush and people began to look for these papers. People turned to overseas family members and relatives for assistance in this connection.

Such documents went through the German Presidium of Police and had nothing to do with the Gestapo. Merin and other members of the Judenrat also sought to emigrate, but their names were on a black list in Switzerland so that they got a negative reply. Thereupon, Merin decided he could get an advantage by telling the Gestapo about these efforts.

The Gestapo then began to call the entire matter into question. Those persons who already had the documents in hand tried to hide and didn't tell anyone about these papers. There was even a case in which the Judenrat, at its own volition, arrested such persons for the Gestapo’s disposal.

Finally, the Judenrat requested a bribe and then released the individuals. For a long time, owners of such documents didn't sleep in their homes and were hidden so as not to fall into the hands of the Gestapo. The Judenrat even ordered a ban on correspondence with Switzerland. People were threatened with deportation for breaking this order. This, however, didn't stop people who, by roundabout ways and often with the help of friendly Polish friends, sent letters and received replies.
On June 19, 1943 there came to 19 members of the "Hanoar-Hacijoni" organization an announcement from the Presidium of Police that they have become considered to be foreign citizens. They were informed that they must appear on the following day at the Presidium of Police from where they would be sent to a camp for interned persons. It was a happy moment indeed for the group. Friends bad them goodbye and were happy because of this event.

After appearing at the Presidium of Police, the group was taken in a police ambulance, not to the train, but to an unknown destination. An hour after their departure, the Judenrat received a message by phone from the German police that Moniek Merin, Franya Czarna, Bornstein and others should appear at the Presidium of Police. The message wasn’t suspicious because the Judenrat had daily contact with German authorities.

About 2 to 3 hours after this call, people at the Judenrat began to be nervous and commented about the event in different ways since the group hadn’t returned. Nothing definite was known. There was greater and greater anxiety. People began to call different offices but didn't get a satisfactory response.

That evening, there came to our factory a Polish worker who worked voluntarily in the area of Oswiecim. The individual said that, in the previous evening, a vehicle had arrived in which were about 20 young persons well dressed and carrying nice valises. Thereupon, we supposed the group were the 19 missing young men. That was Saturday. During all of Sunday nothing was learned of the missing Judenrat persons. The Judenrat members weren’t heard from again. After 2 or 3 days, the Chief of the Gestapo, Dreier visited the ghetto and asked for Merin, acting as if surprised that Merin wasn’t present. In the meantime, he ordered that Wowek Smietana and Kleinberg should replace Merin and Czarna.

On June 29, 1943 there took place a deportation, but the Jews were prepared. Thinking that something bad would happen, they had all hid in bunkers so that the Germans couldn’t gather even 200 persons. The Germans searched all apartments, but the bunkers were so well hidden that they could find no residents. Because they didn't have the required number of victims for deportation, the Germans organized a roundup in Kamionka.

There, they also didn't find the required number of persons and had to be satisfied with those whom they caught. The Germans began to fence Srodula with barbed wire. The people didn't believe in any calming down of the tension. They were afraid to go to sleep and, in every house, two persons daily kept guard so as to alarm others in case of some suspicious event.

Even the Germans knew that the Jews watched them. In the meantime more and more people were deported from Dabrowa Gornicza and Bedzin. The Sosnowiec workshops were moved to Srodula. In the factories, part of the Jewish employees were released and replaced by Poles. All this harbingered that "something bad was cooking". People went voluntarily to Arbeitseinsatz, foreseeing what was to happen to them. Those who still worked in the factories and old persons waited for further events. Although the owners of the factories became more calm, our intuition, unfortunately, didn't fail us.

On Saturday, August 1, 1943 at 2 a.m., Srodula was surrounded. Every one quickly learned of it and went into hiding in bunkers. In the morning, the Gestapo telephoned the Judenrat and advised that there was no need for Jews to go into hiding because Srodula would be liquidated in any case. Those persons who worked in the factories, together with their families would, with their entire workshops, be moved to Birkenau. There wasn’t any purpose in hiding once the people understood that it wasn’t any longer possible for any Jewish person to remain in the area.

Hearing this, people "lost their heads" and some of them decided to come voluntarily to the Designated Assembly Points, totally resigned. The liquidation of Srodula lasted all week. Transports left as early as the first afternoon. Preparations for the gathering of the Jews took place in the morning. In the afternoon, some people emerged from their bunkers and returned to their apartments awaiting deportation. Older people and children generally were killed by the Germans on the spot.

However, a part of the people didn't appear and remained hidden in bunkers. On the third day of the deportations (that is, on Tuesday), it was proposed to retain some of the Jews alive so as to clean the streets and the area where they had resided. Further, the owner of Braune's workshop asked that some persons be left alive to work in his factory. In this plan, the number to be allowed to continue working was 30 persons, but, of course, hundreds of persons applied for these few places. People who applied had to remain in front of the Gestapo headquarters while those within decided on the lucky few.

Where there were women and children, or women only, as prisoners, these were directed at once for deportation. If parents didn't want to be separated from their children, they, too, joined the transport (to the Birkenau gas chambers). In this manner, were taken a further several hundred persons for deportation. On Wednesday, there was again a selection and several hundred persons were taken to work for the City. From, and to, the place of work, people went under guard. Because of the random shooting and constant German patrols, people who were hidden couldn't resist nervous strain and began to lose their will to survive. They became completely indifferent to the surroundings. The scenes of dead bodies and the wounded didn't make an impression on them. There were cases in which mothers abandoned their children. People used all possible methods to save their lives.

There were several thousand persons (4,000-5,000) who were hidden in bunkers. In every house, was one or two bunkers. Several hundred people remained working in a Lager. Officially, there were held in the Lager were 300-400 persons, but people from bunkers wanted to be saved and several hundred other persons joined those in the Lager. On Thursday afternoon, there was an assembly ordered in the Lager and again a selection was held. At that time, there was taken from the Lager for deportation about 800 persons, including members of the Judenrat (in the Lager, there were at this point some 1,000 persons). People who remained alive worked and slowly tried to bring food or water to persons still hidden in bunkers. Supervisors during the work were Jews and this was helpful in allowing a going out to help the hidden persons.

Life in the Lager slowly became "normal". There was a daily roll call; there was enough food because everything was taken from Srodula to the Lager’s kitchen. We were in the Lager from August 4. In the Lager, were two groups of prisoners. One group worked for the City Hall, cleaning the former ghetto area, collected things. The second group completed work in the factory. People having nothing to lose wanted to escape by way of the Lager. The only way was to leave the bunkers and get into the Lager. From there, one tried to escape to wherever it was possible. The Jewish police were bribed and, at this time, people began to take risks.

They sought Aryan papers, looked for hideouts among the Polish people and some fled over the mountains to the border of Slovakia and Hungary as well as to the Generale Gouvernement. Such escape methods weren’t available to everyone because the Jewish Constabulary demanded huge sums of money. After some time, there were again about 1,000 persons in the Lager, though unofficially there were more persons there, perhaps 1,500-1,600. Of course, this excess number had to be hidden from the Germans.

In the "Lager" there was also a bunker built. Slowly, part of people left their bunkers and escaped into the "Lager", while others left the "Lager".
Within the Lager, people had numbers or identity cards. One person would disappear and their place would be taken by another. Independently of this, there were often general roundups. The Germans called into the general areas of the bunkers, promising that they would legalize those who surrendered. Those Jews who were caught by the Germans were held in the former hospital in Srodula. Once a week, usually on Wednesday, they sent these several dozen victims by vehicle to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

While held, they were given into the care of the Jewish police who, in turn, were controlled by German police. Officially, there was no longer a Judenrat, but some members still formed something like a "committee" in the "Lager". These individuals demanded, for saving the lives of survivors, large sums of money as a bribe. They gave as a reason that the money was necessary funds which were to be given the Gestapo for “various purposes”. The number of persons hidden in bunkers grew less, though in December 1943 and January 1944, there were still about 200 persons surviving in the bunkers. Among them were terrible experiences and suffering in those living conditions in which no one was able to survive.

On December 15, 1943 there occurred a displacement. In the morning, after roll call, no one was released to work. There were, at this time, about 1,300-1,400 persons in the "Lager". About 700-800 persons were deported on that date and the rest were deported on January 14, 1944. In this fashion was liquidated the last Jewish population of Sosnowiec. Among those persons hidden on the “Aryan side”, a part were murdered and a part was denounced to the Nazis.

The writer of this testimony felt, on December 7, 1943, that there would be a final deportation. He escaped from the “lager" and remained hidden until liberation.

Answers to frequently-asked questions:
1. People generally lived from the proceeds of what they sold. Poorer persons were deported to Birkenau in the first transports.
2. At first, many persons came from the Generale Gouvernement area because there, the deportations had begun earlier in 1942. People from there couldn’t legally register in Ostobersilesien. They were caught and sent away (to the gas chambers of Birkenau).
3. Until Autumn 1943, burial in the Jewish cemetery was permitted. After the liquidation of the ghetto, people were no longer buried in the Jewish cemetery, but in holes in the ground within the ghetto. In the second half of 1944, the Germans began to destroy the cemetery and finally everything was completely erased.
4. In December 1939, the Jews were first required to wear arm bands. In April 1941, the Jews were required to wear a Star of David.
5. Contact with the “Aryan” side began in Srodula and mostly in the final year in the "Lager" when there was no other help.
6. First in late 1940, and then during the winter of 1941, some Jews began to try to escape to the U.S.S.R.




 
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