Name of deponent: Jakub Neufeld
The Town Board in Sosnowiec
The General Department
The Statistical Unit
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
Date of birth: 1908
Parents: father: Heno, mother: Estera.
Residence: Sosnowiec, ul. Sienkiewicza 14
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.