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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Deponent: Abraham Krakowski
Birth Date September 9, 1918
Birth Place: Katowice
Parents: Szymon and Gina (maiden name: Goldberg)
Residence: Katowice, ul. Mlynska 17
Occupation: Official employed in the Religious Congregation


From time the war started in 1939, I lived in Sosnowiec. On Saturday, September 9, 1939 Germans burnt the synagogue on Dekerta street in Sosnowiec. The Bet-Hamidrash, which was located near the same courtyard, survived. The Germans also burnt (I don't remember the date) the synagogue in Old Sosnowiec on Wiejska street. The synagogue in Pogon survived.

In 1940, 1941 and 1942, the Jews of Sosnowiec as well as other towns of Ostoberschlesien could legally bake matzoth from flour assigned by the German authorities. In 1943, when we were in the ghetto, there were no proper conditions, objective or subjective, to bake matzoth. It was the time of deportations and Arbeitseinsatz, when it was, first of all, necessary to save lives. There was no flour assigned for matzoth. However, a group of Orthodox Jews secretly baked the matzoth for a small number of Jews. Whereas, in the previous years of 1941and 1942, all Jewish bakers baked matzoth in the time before the holiday, in 1943, we baked secretly in the private house at Szlama Tornheim.

In the years 1940, 1941 and 1942, matzoth wasn’t rather expensive and in 1943 one kg of matzoth cost about 100 marks while one kg of bread cost 7-8 marks on the black market. From time the Germans arrived in Sosnowiec, Jews didn't receive meat on ration cards, although there were cases in which some people risked their lives and illegally brought meat, usually from Modrzejow, where the ritual slaughtering was performed. Also ritual slaughtering of poultry, which was possible to buy in the first years of the German occupation, was later done secretly.
There was a case in which the Germans caught, in the Srodula ghetto on the last street of the ghetto, several Jews who performed ritual slaughtering. One person was caught and others escaped. The person who was caught was deported to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

When Germans came to Sosnowiec, they caught all Jews and shaved all of them beards, which, for Orthodox Jews was a terrible tragedy. Religious Jews still grew beards and this is why Germans prepared special roundups to catch them. German police beat every Jew caught with a beard and took these men to Jewish barbers in order to shave off their beards. These persons also had to pay penalty tickets (fines). Religious Jews tried to hide their beards by wrapping their heads with scarves. I remember that my grandfather had his beard until the end.

In the first years, 1940 and 1941, the Judenrat tried to get, and received, permission for Rabbis and several older Jews to wear beards. This permission was for ten persons only. In 1940 or 1941, (I don't remember the exact date), the German Police stopped Jews on the streets and ordered them to show their "tzicith" (fringes). Those who didn't have "tzicith" (fringes) was taken to the nearest police station. After investigation, these persons were either released or held as arrested. People said, at this time, that in this manner, the authorities were looking for Communists, who were identified by the police as being not religious people.

From the time when the Germans arrived, from the first days of the German occupation, it was forbidden to assemble. If more than two Jews were found together, the Germans took them to the police station. Even when there were two people merely talking on the street, the Germans separated them and questioned them of what they talked about. Such interrogations were an "every day" situation. When I met someone, we first agreed what we would say if we were found by German policeman. Usually Jews talked about politics and trade. Of course, the first, as well as the second, subject was illegal. We prayed secretly in private houses. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Äeltestenrat tried to get a possibility to pray in certain selected apartments. When we heard that Germans approached such places, everyone removed his "taleses" and fled.

In spite of this terror, there were secret Cheders (religious schools) active in Sosnowiec. In the first years of the German occupation, 1941 and even 1942, there were many marriages. In 1939 and 1940 there had been almost no marriages because people waited for the end of the war. At the end of 1940 and especially in 1941 there were many marriages because of the fear of Arbeitseinsatz. This occurred, first of all, because there were taken for Arbeitseinsatz only unmarried persons. Religious marriages were performed by Rabbis. The Äeltestenrat performed civil marriages in the City Hall. In the Äeltestenrat, there was even a special Department of Marital Status. In 1943, in the ghetto, there wasn’t even a single marriage.

In 1940 and 1941, there were funerals and the Germans didn't disturb these. In 1942, because of the general situation, the Jewish Police advised that any mournful procession should be small. People were buried in both the New and Old cemeteries. In 1943, people were buried only in the New cemetery. After the complete deportation of Jews, the Germans destroyed the Jewish cemeteries, both Old and the New, desecrating graves and taking tombstones. At the Old cemetery, there remained a small number of tombstones.

In recent days, (1947), it was possible to find at various stone-cutters the tombstones which they had purchased from the Germans. Also in Katowice, we found as recently as last year (1946) and also more recently, tombstones at one stone-cutter’s shop who had bought them from Germans. They were tombstones from the Jewish cemetery in Katowice.

In the Jewish cemetery in Katowice, there are currently not many tombstones since the Germans desecrated the cemetery and removed the stones beginning in 1943 and continuing over the following years. The Germans wanted to create an open field in the place of the cemetery. After the general deportation of the Jewish population in August 1943, a Braune's workshop was organized in the Srodula Liquidation Camp.

In September 1943, by order of the German Oberinspektor Bartsch who worked in the Town Board and directed the liquidation of Jewish property in the ghetto together with the Treuhandstelle, the representative Scheufele, there was organized in the Srodula Liquidation Camp a special "Kommando" whose task it was to collect and segregate examples of the “Jewish cult”: rodals (Torahs), tefillin, etc. In this "Kommando" worked: Berek Ernst, Jozef Abramczyk, Abraham Liberman and others. During this period, about 250-300 "rodal's" (Torahs). Among those rodal's were ours and a few from the Jewish Communities of Katowice, Oswiecim, Modrzejow, Jaworzno and other localities.




 
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