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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Name of deponent: Aron Gelbard
Birth date: March 5, 1883
Birth place: Wolbrom
Parents: Szlama Chaim and Szejva Hinda (maiden name Raucher).
Pre-war residence: Czeladz, since 1894
Current residence (1946): Sosnowiec, ul. Modrzejowska 2


The town of Czeladz is located 5 kilometers from Bedzin. It doesn't have a railway station, but is connected with all of Zaglebie by a tram-line. The population of Czeladz numbers 25,000 inhabitants, mostly workers employed in the mines and smelting works of Siemianowice and surroundings. The Jewish population numbered about 2,000 persons before the outbreak of the war. A part of Jews was of the local population and another part were newcomers from towns of Kielce province. Czeladz was a quiet town where Jews worked as traders, craftsmen and laborers. There were Jewish bakeries, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and stall-keepers. There is also a Jewish tannery which employed Jewish workers. Jews also worked as hawkers and sold goods on credit to the local working population and as well as in the Silesian villages bordering Czeladz.

Czeladz, before the war, didn't have its own religious Jewish Community, but for this purpose was joined with Bedzin. In Czeladz, there was a synagogue which was an orthodox house of prayer with its own Rabbi. The Jewish cemetery was held in common with that of Bedzin. It was located 2 kilometers from Czeladz on the road leading to Bedzin. Jewish youth studied in local schools, though the more wealthy among them studied in the well-known Bedzin high school, the Szymonostwa Fürstenberg High School. There was also a Talmud Torah where Jewish youth received both a religious, and lay, education. The Jewish population of Czeladz joined with the neighboring large concentration of Jews in Bedzin so that there was an active, lively cultural life.

An interest-free loan program was begun which gave loans to poor Jewish families and afforded them the possibility of earning a livelihood. There was also an assistance organization for poor, sick persons named "Bikur-Cholim" as well a hostel for poor persons. There were also active various Jewish political parties, ranging from the Aguda to the radical Left.

On September 5, 1939, the Germans entered Czeladz which, until then, had remained in the background. German citizens in uniform as well as Germans from neighboring Siemianowice began to revel in Czeladz. There began a plundering of Jewish homes and the beating of Jewish women and children. Twenty Jews were taken to Bedzin as hostages where they were beaten and tortured for eight days before being allowed to return to their homes. Several hundred men were taken for forced labor. They were required to report daily for work assignments by German authorities. Each day, they returned home beaten and humiliated. With each day, there were new cripples created among the Jewish population.

Jewish men were hidden in special hiding places in various homes, fearing to appear on the streets because to do so, invited a beating. The Germans particularly sought out Jewish men wearing beards and often cut the beards with knives, tearing sections of skin in the process.

The Jews of Czeladz, who until the war had lived quietly in the town, now felt the meaning of Nazi persecutions. Each day brought new anti-semitic ordnances and persecutions.

In October 1939, for the first time in the history of Czeladz, a separate Jewish Council was formed which numbered the most esteemed citizens of the town. Later, the Council became a branch of the Centrale Judenrat, located in Sosnowiec. There was also formed the local Jewish Constabulary (police). As in other towns, the Jews of Czeladz were required to donate all the gold in their possession. Each Jewish person was required pay a “head tax" of 10 marks. In November 1939, there was brought into being the white armband embroidered with a Star of David - the sign of shame - which every Jew had to wear on his/her left arm. Jews had to pay huge, regular and irregular, taxes, which were sent to the {Jewish} Centrale in Sosnowiec.

Simply stated, the Germans looted the Jewish population which was unable to pay the demanded sums. As a result, the Jewish population was forced to sell its remaining property for a small fraction of its worth.

The Jewish Council took upon itself the duty of providing the Germans with a certain quota of forced laborers. By individual summonses, they brought to reality the demanded workforce. At first, the poorer Jewish population who weren’t able to bribe the officials were taken for slave labor. Rich people bought poor people to send in their stead as substitutes.

In 1940, the German authorities confiscated from the Jewish population the homes and shops which they owned. The Germans took control of the nicer apartments, not even permitting the Jewish owners to even take personal items. German authorities ordered the destruction of synagogues.

Jews, who by their own hands and from their own savings had built synagogues, now were ordered, by their own hands, to destroy them, to demolish them brick by brick. Many Jews, with bowed heads, worked at this terrible (for them) undertaking. Not a few worked with tears in their eyes, tears mixed with blood.
It was then forbidden for Jews to use public trams. Special wagons, bearing the yellow inscription, "especially for Jews", were reserved for them though these trams very rarely worked. This was a serious blow to the Jewish population because it made the procurement of food very difficult. The Jewish population was now constantly hungry because bringing food from Bedzin on foot was hard to accomplish, particularly since the journey was threatened with searches, arrests and penalties.

In May 1940, a German was killed by an unknown person. The German authorities threatened sanctions should the perpetrators not be found. Jews, then experiencing difficult circumstances, knew that the responsibility would fall on them. Indeed, one morning in June 1940, the entire town was surrounded by German police and Gestapo who been sent for this work from Katowice. All men - Poles as well as Jews - were taken from their homes and gathered in one place. They had to lie down, face to the ground. Then began great revel of Nazi criminals. They jumped and danced on the prone bodies, especially on Jewish bodies and beat them with rods and iron tools.

Blood flowed in streams. The victims couldn’t utter a groan. This ferocious “play” lasted until late night and when the Nazi beasts had had enough.They ordered the victims to return, running, to their homes. There returned to their homes about 300 seriously-beaten and ill Jews. Many of them had to treat their injuries for months.

Twenty of the victims were transported to Bedzin and held there several days before they were released. Most of these died because of their wounds. In this manner, the Germans celebrated each day, tormenting the Jewish population every step of the way. In October 1940, the Judenrat sent summonses to several hundred Jews requiring their appearing for forced labor In camps for a three-month period.

The Jews didn't know the meaning of the word “camp” yet and believed this meant they could return home after three months. The first group to leave consisted of about 200 men from Czeladz. Their letters told of their life in the camps with hard labor, building highways, suffering hunger, many seriously depressed.
In 1941, living conditions became more difficult. It was no longer permitted to leave the city at all, or only with special passes. When factories ( "szops") were established in Bedzin, such as Rossner's, Braun's , Loidz's or Michatz's, many Jews sought to work there because, in this way, they could go to Bedzin and obtain something (to eat) from there.

In the workshops, mostly young men and women worked. The income was minimal, from 15 to 30 marks per month, but the work in those factories temporarily saved the indivicdual from deportation to the forced labor camps. About 50 Jews worked in Czeladz in a factory producing ceramic and porcelain products as well as various building materials. In October 1941, the yellow patch in the form of Star of David with inscription: "Jude" in its center was introduced. Every Jewish person -- men and women -- had to wear this mark of shame on his or her chest. Jews were evicted from many apartments and preparations were begun to create a ghetto. For this purpose, a district outside the city occupied by a non-Jewish population was selected. The inhabitants there were moved to the apartments which, until now, had been been occupied by Jews in the city center. At night, there were roundups of unemployed Jewish young people who were subsequently sent to German forced labor camps.

In 1942, there took place a displacement of the Jewish population to the ghetto. There, several families had to live in one room. Shops for distributing food among the Jewish population were taken over by the Jewish Council (Judenrat). Jews could not appear outside the district except for those who were employed in Bedzin. These persons had special permission. In May 1942, the Judenrat summoned people, mostly unemployed, to appear with personal effects to a maximum of 10 kg., at the Community Center for deportation. When the summoned persons didn't appear at the appointed time, the ghetto was surrounded at night by the Jewish Constabulary and Gestapo. Everyone was removed from their homes to a square. There, a selection was carried out for the unemployed, the sick and those poor persons who required assistance from the Community. These were taken to Bedzin where a transport of Jews from Modrzejow awaited them. The total group was packed into rail cars and sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. This was the first act in the extermination of the Zaglebie Jews.

In this transport were sent away for extermination about 800 Jews. In the city, there was weeping and mourning by those Jews who remained and whose relatives -- their fathers and mothers -- had been deported. But life went on. Jewish society had to continually send its daughters and sons to factories for work in military-oriented companies. Such assignment temporarily saved the youth from the danger of deportation.

In July 1942, representatives of the Centrale Judenrat from Sosnowiec came to Czeladz and ordered all Jews to be prepared for a registration (census) which would take place very soon. The registration would provide stamped identity papers. The Jewish citizens were required to appear in their best clothes, being assured that everything will be quite normal. In fact, a few days later, there appeared at the appointed time the same persons together with a representative of the Sonderbeauftragte (Himmler’s Special Emissary). The entire Jewish population was forced to assemble in one place, their identity papers were stamped by the Gestapo and they were released to their homes. Later, it was seen that the matter had been a ruse to gather, in the same manner, all Jewish people of Zaglebie who, in naivite, would suppose that the same method and purpose would be used for registration in other towns.
This perfidious ruse was, indeed, successful.

The Jews of Czeladz vegetated in the ghetto and performed the work demanded by the Germans. They suffered terrible hunger because, from their earnings they could afford to buy little food. To bring food (illegally) from Bedzin was very dangerous. Many Jews had been caught while bringing food for their families and were arrested, taken to the Orphanage in Bedzin and, from there, to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

This vegetation and suffering of Jewish people lasted until May 1943. On that date, the ghetto was surrounded at night by men of the Gestapo and Jewish Constabulary. All Jews, without exception, were forced from their apartments and driven like sheep all the way to the Bedzin Orphanage. There, in the Orphanage, fifty persons were selected to work in Rossner's Bedzin factory and 37 persons working in the Czeladz factory were released. All the remaining Jewish population of Czeladz was sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Those chosen to remain alive as slave laborers, in number the of 87, had to live in Bedzin. Those working in Czeladz commuted to work under guard by the Jewish Constabulary. Also, a small number of Czeladz Jews who had hidden in bunkers moved to Bedzin where they lived with relatives and friends.

Since this time, Czeladz has been without Jews (Judenfrei). During the deportation of the Jews from Bedzin on August 1, 1943, there were sent to Auschwitz that small number of Jews from Czeladz who, until now, had saved themselves.
At the present time (1946), the town of Czeladz, which had had a Jewish population of 2,000 persons, is a town without Jews. Of the former 2,000 Jewish residents who had lived there, there remained alive about 40 persons. These are dispersed in Europe and the world.




 
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