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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Deponent: Jerzy Olszewski
Birth Date: March 31, 1900
Birth Place: Kalnik
Parents: Lucjan and Maria (maiden name: Wadecka).
War-time Residence: Sosnowiec
Current Residence: Sosnowiec, ul. Modrzejowska 18/29.
Occupation: Teacher in high school


In the middle of September 1939, a Mr. Majtlis and Mr. Oliner approached me with the request that I assume a position of department head in the local Judenrat (Jewish Community Council). At the time, there existed a Committee of the Jewish Community created by the Germans. Merin was given full powers by the Germans to create the Committee. He had already found several persons within the Jewish society who were trusted by the Jewish people.

Members of the first Committee were: Moniek Merin, Majtlis, Lewartowski, Lejzerowicz, Birman, Klajnberg. There were also other persons whose names I don't remember. Majtlis and Oliner came to me as representatives of the Committee and asked that I accept a position as a member of the Jewish Community in Sosnowiec, giving the following reasons: the German mayor of Sosnowiec, Dr. Kirchner, did not want to be in direct contact with either the Jewish population or its representatives, but wanted to separate the Jewish residents from the general Sosnowiec population. He had decided to appoint a representative to the Committee as his agent from among the city’s Aryan citizens. He wanted to organize the Jewish Community Council and maintain contact with both the Jewish community and German authorities.

Dr. Kirchner had communicated his decision to Merin and given him the opportunity to appoint a candidate. Merin had communicated this proposal to members of the Jewish Committee. The result was that Majtlis and Oliner were authorized to communicate the matter to me and to elicit my agreement.
After long conversations, Majtlis and Oliner convinced me of the benefit to the Jewish society in these difficult times if I were to accept the position of a Commissioner of the Jewish community Council. I agreed to accept the position.

After I had agreed to accept the nomination, Merin presented my candidature. Thereupon, Dr. Kirchner called me and, in the presence of Michla (Michel), a Polish citizen who was Commander of the Civil Guard, announced that I had been delegated by the Town Board for a one month’s period to be a Commissioner in order to organize the administrative machinery for Jewish people. My counterpart from the German authorities’ side was the Volksdeutsch citizen, Walter Milke.
My appointment as a Commissioner and as a Polish citizen was closely connected with the German political aim of advancing for this purpose Polish persons who were well-informed in local matters. Mr. Michel was the translator between Dr. Kirchner and myself since I didn’t speak German.

Accordingly, I was apponted „Kommissioner der Jüdischen Kultusgemeinde“. Dr. Kirchner, at the above-mentioned meeting, declared that I would be involved in organizing life in the Jewish Community while financial and trading matters would be the responsibility of Milke. Communication between the Committee Board and the City’s Town Board would be carried out by Milke as the only authorized representative.

I contacted the Community on October 1, 1939 and met with Merin, Lejzerowicz, Majtlis and Lewartowski in the Judenrat’s office at Modrzejowska 22. In the middle of October 1939, the Judenrat was moved to Targowa 12, formerly the Chief Rabbi's house. Other members of the Jewish Community Council attended this meeting.

In the first phase, the Jewish Committee with Moniek Merin as a head (president), there was a Commissioner seated next to the Advisory Body. The group operated in this fashion until the end of November 1939. The second phase lasted from December 1939 until the liquidation of the entire Jewish population of Sosnowiec. In this second phase, specifically in December 1939, Merin was appointed by the Gestapo office in Katowice to be Leiter (Leader) of all the Jewish Communities in the entire area of Ostoberschlesien (East Upper Silesia). As President of the Jewish Community in Sosnowiec in the place of Merin, Wladyslaw Bohm, the former Manager of the Department of Provisions for the Jewish Community, was selected.
In the beginning of this second phase, I was still the Commissioner to the Jewish Community of Sosnowiec and still responsible for organizing the life of the Jewish population. The Committee of the Community was still an advisory body.

I received instructions from two sources: from the Town Board and from Moniek Merin. Merin was given orders by the Gestapo office in Katowice for all the Jewish Communities in Ostoberschlesien. At the Kattowitz Gestapo office, there was a Department for Religious Affairs, which department also oversaw Jewish matters. The head of this department was Kommissioner Hans Dreier. I don't remember his SS rank, though his uniform carried two stars.

The Office of the Commissioner of the Jewish Community in Sosnowiec existed from October 1, 1939 until the end of July 1940. By order of the Gestapo office in Katowice, it was liquidated on that date. After that date, the Jewish Community Council in Sosnowitz existed as an independent unit.

I worked in the office in the Community Council (Judenrat) until the end of 1940.
The following departments comprised the Sosnowitz Jewish Community Council:

1. Social Welfare - Manager: Majtlis
2. Financial - Manager: Birman
3. Tax Collections - Manager: Lejzerowicz
4. Schools - Manager: Dr. Widermann
5. Health - Manager: Dr. Wolkowicz
6. Work - Manager: Wulkan
7. Marital Status - Manager: Lewartowski
8. Provisions - ???
9. Inspection - Managers: Reiner, Diogot,
Zyngier
10. Secretariat - Manager: Mrs. Czarna
11. Cashier - ???
12. Housing - ???

The hospital, headed by Dr. Liberman, was also subordinate to the Sosnowiec Community (i.e.the Judenrat). In all, the Sosnowiec Judenrat employed about 260 persons during my term of work in the office. The Social Department distributed clothing, shoes and food for the poor people from funds supplied by the Judenrat. Further, it provided two free kitchens which furnished, at first, about 500 dinners and by the time of final work for the Judenrat, over 7,000 dinners daily for free. The manager of the kitchens was a Smietana.

The Tax Department collected taxes from the Jewish Community. Taxes were set extemporaneously; that is, according to the needs as they appeared to be. The Financial and Tax Departments were later consolidated.

The Schools Department began a kindergarten for children on Pilsudskiego Street, a basic school on Skladowa Street (which was later transformed into the Dulag) and offered various vocational courses. Organization of Jewish educational system was planned to begin with kindergartens and progress to basic and vocational schools. After the elimination of Jewish children from Polish schools was begun by the Germans, the organization of Jewish educational system was begun in 1940. I myself visited a school on Skladowa street and a kindergarten on Pilsudskiego street.
The Health Department opened a clinic for poor Jewish people on Targowa street 7 or 5. The clinic was managed by Dr. Wolkowicz. The Health Department carried out a precautionary vaccination of the entire Jewish population against typhoid fever. Administratively, the hospital was subordinated to the Health Department. In the hospital were the following divisions: surgical, obstetrical and internal. Later there was also an Infectious Disease department, located in a separate building.
The Employment Department registered unemployed people and delivered workers - Jews - to the Town Board and other German institutions.

The Department of Marital Status performed the registration of births, marriages, deaths and cemetery matters.

The Provisions Department distributed food for the entire Jewish population on the basis of ration cards. Distribution was made through food shops which were the property of the Judenrat (the Community). Officials of the Judenrat worked in those shops. The Community had one wholesale firm, which distributed goods to the Community’s retail shops.

The Inspection Department improved management and inspected preventively to protect against abuses.

The Housing Department had the most work to do because of constant shrinkage of the living space allotted for the Jews. During my work at the Judenrat, letters and telephone calls continually arrived concerning the forced removal of Jews from apartments or from entire apartment buildings. On Pilsudskiego street, for example, Jews were allowed to live in certain buildings, but were forbidden to walk on the street. This is why Jews had to frequently break exits from buildings onto side-streets. The Housing Department had to find lodgings for Jews forcibly removed from apartments. Now, in each apartment, there lived several families.

In 1940, the Town Board announced that Jews would have to perform farming tasks and, for this purpose, gave on Jagiellonska Street an area of 20-plus morgs (a unit of land measure) on which the Judenrat organized allotments. The manager of this department was Oliner. Those who received allotments paid the Community for the lease and the Community paid the Town Board.

In the spring of 1940, the Sosnowiec Town Board set a forced contribution of 200,000 RM (Reich Marks) for the Jewish Community . The Finance Office called me and announced that the Jewish Community would have to pay 200,000 RM (Reich Marks) as a contribution. I asked him where would I find such a sum money for this purpose. He replied that I would have to set a tax upon the Jewish citizens. When I returned to the Community Office, I found a letter concerning this matter already awaiting me.

I contacted Merin, who had bribed Dreier. Dreier annulled the decision of the Town Board. When an official from "Magistrat" (Town Hall) ccalled up9on me for the money, I called Merin, who was, at that moment, with Commissioner Dreier. Dreier arrived immediately and with raised voice told the official: "Sie haben hier nichts zu sagen" (You have nothing to say (no authority) here) and that the Town Board couldn’t set contributions without agreement with Gestapo.

In February or March 1940, Merin told me that he had been ordered by the Gestapo that all the Jewish Communities should collect a certain amount (I don't remember the exact amount) of gold and silver. Because of that, Merin, as Leiter, formed in every town a Collecting Commission. In Sosnowiec, he collected at this time 2 kg of gold and 117 kg of silver. All of this material was taken by the Gestapo. The Community still had the warehouse, in which it possessed different articles (drinks, coffee, tea, cameras, suitcases, furs, textile materials and leather) destined for bribes for Germans. During my work at the Judenrat, orders were received by the Community that Jews weren’t allowed to possess cameras, binoculars, irons, stoves and electric heaters.

By order of Dreier, there was formed Jewish Order Service (Jewish Police force) during my work in the spring 1940. It was headed solely by Merin.
Beginning October 1, 1939, Jews could not leave Sosnowiec. There were posters with announcements forbidding Jews to leave the town under threat of death. After I was given work with the Judenrat, certificates were issued, confirmed by the Mayor, which served as passes. Jews from Sosnowiec could go with the passes only to other Zaglebie towns.

The bridge over the Brynica river, (the Szopienice Bridge) was the border with the Old Reich. This wasn’t allowed to be crossed by the Jews of Zaglebie, only officially by the Judenrat officials. When I came with Bohm to confer with German department managers, they shook my hand, but not his hand. Those Germans who were given bribes when they met representatives of the Community, without witnesses, were greeted by them by a shaking of hands. In the middle of September 1939, there was given to the Civil Guard working in Town Hall, a list of persons killed by the Germans in a street skirmish on Modrzejowska street. The list contained 70 descriptions. There were no names given. At this time, I worked with the Civil Guard and had the list in my hand. It was a paper on which were given 70 consecutive numbers. Near each number was a more or less detailed description of the dead person and his clothing. They were Jewish victims killed by the Germans during their arrival in Sosnowiec. There were no papers found near the dead persons. Later, members of families who tried to recognize in their relatives from these descriptions came to me.

Additional Comment:

At the beginning of the German occupation, there were no Jewish barbers. After much effort during my work in the Community, permission was given to open four Jewish clients. For their services, they took money according to a price list set by the Community. They had to shave poor people on the basis of Communtiy-set pricing - free of charge for poor persons.

In addition, the Germans collected past-due taxes from Jews - even up to ten years backwards.





 
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