Hillel Adler of Ożarów, Poland


Ożarów is a member of the Museum's World Jewish Communities

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Hillel Adler



At the beginning of May 1942, a hundred young Ozarowers were summoned by the Judenrat. They came before a commission made up of SS men and German civilians, then they were packed into trucks to be taken to a labour camp. A system of payoffs enabled those who could afford the going rate of a thousand zlotys to have a substitute taken in their place or that of a relative. No one in Ozarow could have imagined the fate which awaited all of these young people.

German firms set up in Ozarow and its environs in order to pave the local network of roads. Construction of two major axes had been decided: Kielce-Radom in the north, and Kielce-Lublin in the east. The Judenrat had been ordered to supply the labour, so every morning hundreds of people left to work on the roads or on high tension electrical power installations.

On Friday morning, September 3, 1942, the Germans knocked on our door. Within minutes my brother and I found ourselves on the market square in the company of 50 other Jews. In no time at all, our group had swollen to 3,000 men and women, surrounded by the Jewish ghetto police. Then, the representatives of the German firms came to pick up their allotment of workers.

My brother Shimon was assigned to high tension installations, and I managed to sneak into his work gang. I had to take this risk because my "Kenkarte", or ghetto identity card, was no longer valid. Unfortunately, my ruse failed to get by an SS man on duty. He immediately checked my papers, then beat me and dragged me on the ground. (At Hassag I recognized him as the SS man Dumine). I can't remember how long this lasted. Someone picked me up and helped me get on my feet. From a distance, I caught sight of my mother, who threw me a package which contained a few personal effects and a bit of bread. Not being able to get near me, she was resolved to at least do this much. I would never see her again.

My brother, for the time being, was lucky enough to be able to go home every night and spend time with her.

At the market place I noticed a number of people who were dear to me: my brother-in-law Hersh-EI'ye, his brother Meilech, and my old Aunt MaIka who had brought a parcel for the husband of her granddaughter Gittela.

After the commandos had departed for their labour camps, we were ordered to form in groups of five, men and women separately. We were then marched five kilometres to the rail station at Jasice, under the surveillance of the Judenrat, the Polish police and a gang of Ukrainians, all supervised by the SS.

We began by going through Ozarow. On Kolejowa (Station) Street we passed in front of my house. I turned my head and could see my older sister Chava, prudently hiding behind her window, follow our departure with her eyes. Could she have spotted me in the middle of our group? Something told me that it would be the last time I saw her.

We continued our march, surrounded by the SS and their henchmen.

A stifling heat weighed upon us. We reached Wyszmontow. The grain crop was at its peak, and the wheat had already been harvested. I could glimpse fields in blossom. Potato fields. In October, the peasants would pull them from the ground and store them for winter. In October ... but who would be there in October?

The Germans ordered us to halt, then ordered us to parade in front of a group of young Nazis, who with clubs in their clenched fists assailed us with questions: "Are you in good health? Do you want to go back home, or would you prefer to work?" By chance I ended up beside Shloime Goldstein, the brother of my friend Leon, who lives in the United States today. Seeing the rain of blows showered on those who showed any desire to go home, we of course replied, "We want to work!"

The victims of the beatings were also subjected to revolting humiliations. They were ordered to strip, and we thought then that they had come to their end. But no, instead they were told to clear out and to head naked through the fields, back to the ghetto.

At Jasice they crammed us into cattle cars. Among us, there were two brothers, nephews of a member of the Judenrat. Soon they were "inexplicably" let go. On the other hand, the brothers Sender and Meilech Borenstein (a father of four children), the Hillel Adlers, the Shloime Frydmans, and so many others, did not enjoy similar protection. The labour camp awaited us! We had to leave.


Upon our arrival at the Skarzysko camp, there were around 700 men and women in our group. The Germans divided us into three sections: A, Band C. Section A, to which I belonged, was immediately brought to the registration office. I was given the number 4098.

The Germans asked us to indicate our trade, although they made no practical application of this information. In reality, we all became slave labourers in the Hassag factory, (ironically, a work place forbidden to Jews before the war). A few days later there was an assembly. We were forced to surrender all valuable objects: jewellery, silver, leather boxes, etc. The slightest gesture of resistance invited summary execution. Thus, our last memories of home were wrested from us. In this way, Regine (Raca), who later became my wife, had the earrings which she had worn since she was a year old taken away from her. Her older brother Shaul was a member of our convoy. He took the chance of escaping, and actually made it back to Ozarow ... but Ozarow was the beginning of the road to Treblinka.

Ten days later, I was working the night shift. In the absence of supervisors, we stretched out on the ground, behind the large Economat building. All of a sudden, whistles pierced the air, followed by angry shouts. This was followed by the appearance of the SS, flanked by the inevitable Ukrainians. All of the sick inmates, both men and women, were dragged from their pallets and stretched out on the ground. Those who didn't look well, or whose clothes were tom, were grouped apart. I ended up among those who still passed for being in good shape, in the company of two other Ozarowers: Antchel Waksman and Cudyk Weingarten. The Germans came to us and asked us a single question: "Are you in good health?"

Three by three, our group started out to the factory for a night of toil. On the way, we wondered about a new development. Even then, many still hoped to return to the village. As for the sick, what fate could be in store for them? Cudyk regretted not having feigned sickness. It must be said that he had left a wife and five children behind in the village, and his oldest daughter shared our lot in the camp.

But one morning three weeks later, at dawn, as we were leaving the factory, we were ordered to wait. All those who had declared themselves sick had to leave the ranks.

We silently watched Chaim, Moishe and many others as they were marched away. On that day in October 1942, we lost half of our group from Ozarow.

At the factory, we worked alongside free Poles, some of whom we were able to persuade to carry messages to our relatives. In return, our families would, according to their means, send us what we needed to survive. We had to chip in to payoff the Poles who acted as our go-between, and most of the time, they would take advantage of the situation by not delivering us all of the articles or provisions which our families had entrusted to them. MaIka, Chana, Chava and my wife Regine, four Ozarow girls, found a Pole who agreed to go to their parents. This worthy fellow returned from his visit empty-handed, claiming that in the course of his trip, the Germans had checked him and taken everything - a rather transparent excuse, but the Ozarow girls, understandably, had no one to whom they could complain about such dishonesty. Even more intolerable, this Pole could be seen every day wearing clothing stolen from Jews, in particular, the overcoat and shoes belonging to the brother of one of the girls.

I was lucky enough to find a Pole named Blasiak, the head of my work gang, who behaved otherwise. He visited our families in Ozarow several times, and in return they were able to send parcels of food back with him, as well as precious information.

In a letter which my mother was thus able to smuggle to me, she wrote, "Your brother Shimon has been thrown off his work crew and replaced by a protégé of the Judenrat. The situation is very serious. To be in a work camp seems the last chance of survival, but that chance is no longer available for us. You left us six weeks ago. The relatives of the Judenrat and the Jewish police have been untouched by this misfortune, and now they're replacing people like your brother in an attempt at survival. A grim fate awaits us; I fear this is my last letter."


Ożarów 24







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