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The Jewish Ghetto
Losice, Poland


   
           

The Łosice Ghetto
by Daniel Blatman
translated by David Lederman
edited by Ada Holzman

The first period of German occupation was characterized by robbery of Jewish possessions, not only at the hands of the Germans but also by local Polish police and inhabitants. The Jews were limited in their freedom of movement and the food supply was severely diminished. After a few days, these acts of terror and barbarism were prohibited by the Germans, but that did not influence local Polish inhabitants, who continued the disturbances. The Torah scrolls were removed from the synagogues, desecrated, and destroyed. On November 29th seven Jews were taken out of their homes at night and taken to the outskirts of Łosice,where they were executed. Why did they do it? We do not know. Perhaps the reason was that they had not obeyed the Germans' orders.

In 1940 many refugees entered Łosice from other regions of Poland. In March, 960 Jews arrived from Kalisz, Aleksandrow, Lodz, Poznan and Pomerania. There were about 4,000 Jews at the end of the year. In 1941 and 1942, more refugees arrived in Łosice and in May 1942 there were already 6,000 living in Łosice. They lived in cellars and warehouses.

At the beginning of 1940 the Germans named a Judenrat of 10 members. The chief representative was Gershon Lewin and with him Yehoszua Rosencwajg and Elihau Rewiczer. They were instructed to send 200 Jews to the labor camp in Siedlce in order to build the train station. Later, more Jews were sent to the same labor camp. According to the testimony of survivors, Gershon Lewin did everything in his power, without regard for his own security and his life, to convince the German authorities to reduce the suffering of the Jewish population. Probably in December of that year, the ghetto was established. Some Jews could still leave the town in order to get food from other places.

The ghetto was limited to a few streets in the center of Łosice. Later, when more refugees arrived, the Germans added another street. According to Polish claims, the central square was excluded from the ghetto in order to prevent the Jews from continuing to sell their merchandise. The ghetto was not closed, but nobody could leave without the Germans' permission. The Judenrat established some order and social services for the needy, and a post office was opened. The Jews who worked outside the ghetto received a special certificate with which they were able to leave, a document that was precious for them because they could bring back some food to the ghetto. As you can imagine, conditions in the ghetto were awful and very hard, and worsened much more when the new refugees arrived at the end of 1941. It was natural, given the excessive density of the population, which was confined to only a few streets, that many diseases appeared, especially typhoid fever and other infectious diseases.

In the winter of 1941, the Germans confiscated all the furs that Jews had in their possession. Jews preferred to burn their furs rather than give them to the Germans. Of course they were killed on the spot.

During the spring of 1942, when the deportation of Jews began in Lublin and deportations to the concentration camps started, refugees arrived in Łosice who had escaped from other towns during this period. The Jewish policemen who let the refugees into the ghetto were sent to the labor camp in Siedlce. The Germans searched the ghetto and all the refugees they found were killed. In July 1942, rumors that all the Jews from Łosice would also be deported intensified the need to get certificates to leave the town. They thought that in this way they would not be deported. A few weeks before the deportation, the Germans demanded a contribution of 600,000 zlotys. The Judenrat was obliged to collect this sum. Germans thought that in this way the rumors of deportation would be considered a false alarm.

On Saturday August 22,1942, the S.S. and the Ukrainian police sealed the ghetto. They were assembled in the central square of Łosice, near the municipality building, and from there continued walking in the direction of the town of Mordy. On the outskirts of Łosice, the German soldiers started to shoot, murdering especially women and children, about 200 in total. The deported continued to walk in rows in the direction of the train station of Siedlce. During this terrible journey the Germans killed another 800. Fifty-five hundred Jews arrived in Siedlce, from where they were transported by train to the death camp of Treblinka.

After the deportation from Łosice, the Germans reduced the ghetto's scope to a small ghetto where 200 hidden Jews still remained during the Aktion. In November 1942, the number grew to 300.

The Germans did not take any new measures against them, but advised that all hidden Jews should return to the ghetto until September 1st 1942, and assured them that they would not be harmed. Many believed them and came back from the forest to the ghetto. They lived in improvised wooden shacks and worked at different labors, especially the assembling of all the possession left behind by their fellow Jews. On November 27th 1942, the "Small Ghetto" was destroyed. The last Jews of Łosice were deported to Siedlce and from there to Treblinka on November 30.

 

 

 


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