The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

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Blood, Fire, and Columns of Smoke

By Yitzhak Golombeck


I. Zambrow – My Birthplace


Who among us from Zambrow does not remember our shtetl with its precious young people, with

its synagogues, its Yeshiva, with its skilled craftsmen, and its workers, who brought honor to the

Jewish populace, depriving the gentiles of the canard that Jews are only fit to conduct trade: Jews

in Zambrow plowed, sowed, and also reaped.

While being a shtetl of Mitnagdim – Zambrow also had a reputation from its Hasidim.


In the ‘Red Bet HaMedrash' (called that because it was built out of red bricks) it was mostly the

occupiers of land that worshipped. In the ‘White Bet HaMedrash’ as it was called in the final years,

the Bet HaMedrash of the craftsmen, one could come to hear all the wonderful Maggidim and

orators, that appeared before us in our shtetl. The beautiful Zambrow synagogue was a center for the

town’s intelligentsia. There, on the High Holy Days, one would encounter Jews, who for the entire

cycle of the year, had not sat down in a Bet HaMedrash. The synagogue graciously took in all those

who came to collect funds for the benefit of the Land of Israel. Neighboring the White Bet

HaMedrash, was the so-called ‘shtibl,’ the [sic: spiritual] home of the Hasidim of Zambrow.


The ‘Zionist minyan,’ could be found in Salkind’s house, where the activists worshipped with

Koczor and Rawikow at their head.

The Jews of Zambrow founded a Manual Trades Bank, a Gemilut Hasadim Bank, and a Bikur

Kholim. Zambrow, which had been small, became a city and a magnet for Jewry. Zambrow, the city

of merchants, craftsmen and land leasing, did not know much of the bitter need and deprivation,

which never left all the other surrounding small towns. There was a large military camp here, and

twice a week there were market days.

In the years 1934 and 1935, Zambrow began to feel the heavy hand of the risen Narodowa Party40

they began to boycott Jewish businesses, and beating Jews in the streets. Life became difficult, and

unbearable. Young Jewish men organized themselves in order to offer resistance. Once, on a market

day, it was on a Tuesday, peasants, who had arrived from the surrounding villages launched a

pogrom. They tore out paving stones, and used them to knock out the panes of windows, while

robbing stores. Many Jews were wounded. That day remained in the memory of Zambrow as ‘The

Black Tuesday.’ It was from that ‘Black Tuesday’ that all of the trouble started which Zambrow had

to withstand, in the coming years, until its demise.

The young people of Zambrow began to look for ways and means to flee. With great difficulty and

the expenditure of much energy, a very few managed to get to the Land of Israel. Many other young

people left their ancestral home at that time, and undertook to go all over the world, without any

specific goal in mind.

II. The War Between Poland and Russia



A Market Day


The outbreak of the war between Poland and Germany heralded the destruction of the Jewish

communities. In the year 1939, I returned to Zambrow from the front, as a Polish fighter. It was

difficult to recognize the shtetl. The side, in the direction of Lomza, and the left wing of the

marketplace lay in ruins, gutted by fire. [Also] the Red Bet HaMedrash went up in smoke, the house

of the Yeshiva, the White Bet HaMedrash, and all the surrounding houses. Upon my arrival in

Zambrow, the Germans were still there. We had no roof over our head, but my family was intact, and

I later heard from people that the Germans still held back their hands from murdering, and did not

touch anyone in the shtetl. However, a fragment of shrapnel pierced a store, and Leibl Golombeck

and an additional number of Jews, whose names I do not remember any longer, fell at that time.

After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Germans pulled back to the second side of Szumowo,

meaning to the Bug River, which was a natural boundary between Germany and Russia, after

partitioning Poland.

When the Red Army entered our area, we were overjoyed: the dark terror that weighed heavily on

the burned down and impoverished city, lifted, and there was dancing in the streets, the joy being

so great – we had gotten rid of the Nazi murderers!

Life in Zambrow began to normalize itself in accordance with the Soviet style. It was our communist

youth that had a large part, in the introduction and establishment of the communist way of life. The

gentiles immediately changed their skin, and changed their appellation of the Jews away from shame:

no more would be heard ‘zyd-kommunist’ or ‘zyd-spekulant.’ The communist régime did not tarry,

and it sentenced masses of Jews for the crime of ‘speculation,’ for long years of prison.

Slowly, life acquired a certain normalcy to it. Commerce came to a standstill. The balebatim got jobs

in the government. The larger houses in the city were nationalized. New houses began to be built.

III. The Expulsion of the Jews of Ostrow-Mazowiecki Begins


Like an outpouring that comes from a broken dam, Jews began to come streaming, across the border,

into our city. The Germans, on their side of the border began their work of extermination. Thousands

of people sat in the streets, without a roof over their heads, and Zambrow did everything within its

power to help, and lighten the suffering of the refugees. Meanwhile, the Russian authorities looked

away at those events transpiring in our street. But not for long. Some time later, the Russian

authorities began to look upon the Jews as spies for Germany, and shipped them off en masse to

Siberia. Tens of families remained living with their Zambrow relatives, until they were later

transferred to Slonim. Our young people were mobilized by the Russians and sent to Russia to serve

in the Red Army.

IV. The Russian War in 1941


Soldiers Drilling in the Marketplace  

A Spot in the Marketplace


The Germans had taken possession of our region beginning from the first day of the war. On the

second day, German patrols roamed the streets. In the month of June 1941, the Germans called

together the activists of the shtetl and said, that they want to have a Jewish representation for the

Jewish populace. It was at that time that the first Judenrat was created, with R’ Gershon Srebrowicz

at its head. The first demand, that the Germans put forward, was – a financial levy. It was the

responsibility of the head [sic: of the Judenrat] to provide this ‘contribution’ in the sum of hundreds

of thousands of gold marks, a levy which the German authorities imposed on the Jewish populace.

A failure to provide this contribution at the precisely designated time, placed the lives of tens of Jews

in jeopardy. The demands of the Germans became ever more difficult and oppressive. They began

to seize Jews and send them to work on the digging of trenches near the Zambrow barracks. Among

those seized, on one day, was my father vg. My father told us that, at work, an officer approached

him and asked: ‘Jew, what is your occupation? – ‘I am a tenant farmer,’ my father replied. The

German then screamed at him in a wild voice: ‘You lie, Jew, you are lying!’ He went off, and asked

other Jews about my father. Discovering that my father had told the truth, the German called my

father away to a side, and asked him to stand on a bench. He called together a number of Germans

to look at a Jewish tenant farmer. He questioned my father about his family, about the children, and

wanted to know if the children are also tenant farmers. After work, he gave my father a loaf of bread

and told him never to come back to work on the digging, but to remain at his work on the land. When

our father told this to us, we understood that we needed to hide ourselves...


Living in Zambrow became increasingly more bitter from day to day. One early morning, the

Germans went into the Wander Gasse, and they seized my uncle Leibl Slowik with his son, Moshe,

the old cow-herder and his son-in-law, Leibl Dzenchill, and other additional Jews, whose names I

no longer recall. They were taken away – and we never saw them again alive. We were told that they

were working here, or there, on roads, and similar stories...


After this incident, Jews began to hide themselves, avoiding the possibility of appearing in the streets. The Germans then took to the Judenrat demanding they provide people for labor, most of

them for work in the Zambrow barracks. Regarding the ‘contributions,’ the Judenrat failed, not

having the resources to satisfy the very high German demands. The members of the Judenrat were

beaten murderously more than one time. In the end, the Germans dissolved the Judenrat. They found

a Jew named Gl icksman, and gave him full power to set up a new Judenrat on a completely different basis. Glicksman, a scion of Grudzonc, was an assimilated Jew without any Jewish feelings, and spoke the German language. He verbally abused the Jews, had bad names for them, and raised his voice to them even higher and more sharply than the Germans. His power over the Jews was practically unconstrained. His police – stern and insolent. If it happened that they could not get what they wanted in a gentle way, they knew very well how to extract it with severity.


V. The Sorrowful Tuesday



Tshizev Street


The order was given that on August 19, at 5:00AM, all the Jews in Zambrow were to assemble on

the marketplace. All, except for the small children, have to be in the street. Anyone that will be

encountered in a house, will be shot on the spot. Glicksman issued this order. His police force then

went from house to house to inform everyone about this issued order. There were many craftsmen

that worked in the surrounding villages, so Glicksman’s messengers traveled there and brought them

back to the city. They were told to dress themselves in their holiday finest. Various rumors began

to spread: some said they were to be taken to work; others said that they were looking for



On the day of August 841, at 5:00AM, young and old alike in Zambrow, found themselves on the

marketplace. At about five o’clock, there appeared armored vehicles with S.S. troops in them, armed

with machine guns. They took up a formation surrounding the marketplace. We were arrayed in rows

like soldiers. And then the ‘work’ started. Incidentally, the Poles knew how to keep a secret, that they

[sic: the Jews] were to be taken away and killed. They stood behind the houses, and looked out from

corners towards the marketplace, waiting for the moment, when they could begin the work of

plundering the abandoned city. We, from our places in the marketplace, could see how the company

of Poles was forming itself, with bands around their arms. It became very clear to us, what it was that

the Poles were intending to do.


The selektion then began. The bandits went about between the rows, and selected the best of the

young men, and women, and took them out of the rows. They were immediately arranged in groups

of five, facing the direction of Lomza, diagonally opposite the Tshizev Street. I was standing with

my father and mother, and my two brothers, Israel and Yankl. My brother Moshe, and his wife, stood

in a second row. A thought dawned on me and my youngest brother: since another row was formed,

selected by Glicksman’s men, we were not to stand and wait for the S.S. troops to come to us, and

we ran over to the second side of the street, and placed ourselves in that row. And this is how I saw,

five minutes later, how my father with my brother Israel, and the brothers Meir and David Bronack,

came to the general row. We stood facing the direction of Bialystok. Later on, it became forbidden

for us to look at the second side. I will recall here, that for the elderly in the city, with Rabbi

Regensberg at their head, the Germans brought a big freight truck, and took them off in the direction

of Warsaw.


Meanwhile the groups were closed. Our group became filled. My brother Moshe, and his wife, were

the last ones that finished out the large row, that was headed towards Lomza. The order came to

march. The first to move was the group facing Warsaw. After them, we went off in the direction of

Tshizeva, The group headed toward Warsaw was guarded by Poles carrying staves, all from

Zambrow, well-known among the Zambrow populace, and by the S.S. troops. The wailing and

keening was indescribable. Mothers ran after children, and children after parents. The Germans

opened fire to drive people off the marketplace. The wailing and crying could continue to be heard

even very, very far from the city. Little children without parents, parents without children. Entire

families were eradicated at one time. A terrible sorrow fell upon those who were left behind. The

little children, who remained without parents, were divided up among families. I took I took Chaim

Kuropatwa’s child. He was called Yankl, and he became our child – until Auschwitz.


VI . Dealings with the Germans about a Ghetto


A Street in Zambrow


The Germans cordoned off the streets that ran parallel to the Tshizev Street, that is, the Jatkewa and

Neben Gasse, which was to include Szliedziewsky’s and Dembrowsky’s factories, and the river

should be a boundary line. The burgomaster of the city was Augus t Kaufmann, the German, who

lived diagonally opposite the cemetery. He confiscated Szliedziewsky’s wealth from Gedalia

Tykoczinsky kz, and from Dembowsky – our yard along with the buildings. It looked like the deal

was done, but something behind the scenes caused them to regret this and walk away from

abandoning their businesses. For us Jews, this change was a matter of great significance. It meant

that we would have more room for those who would be taken into the ghetto. Because of this change,

things all of a sudden quieted down. And since the space on the two small streets was too crowded

for the those Jews who remained, rumors spread that the town council had taken a decision to

approach the Germans, and ask them to take away another couple of hundred Jews, asserting that the

severe overcrowding in the ghetto would endanger the health of the Christian populace, which, by

the way, would be separated from the ghetto by a barbed wire fence. In the meantime, they began

to build a fence, and in the corner of the Bialystok road, near Kaufmann’s house, a tower was

erected. It became clear, that this enclosed area had been designated to be a ghetto.


VII. The New Aktion



The Town on a Saturday


Two weeks and two days later, the Germans again ordered the Judenrat to call all of the Jews

together on the marketplace, with the same warning, that they will shoot anyone on the spot, who

failed to come. Everyone has to appear at the designated location on the marketplace. Everyone,

except children. This notification from the Jewish police, engendered a new outbreak of panic, which

was anticipated, because they no longer forcibly dragged people along. Whoever could hide

themselves did so. I, the rest of my family and the little Yankeleh Kuropatwa, spent the night at our

colony under the open sky. At seven o’clock in the morning, the peasants, who had come to the city,

were intensely amazed, when they found us in the field. They brought us the tidings, that the

Germans had, once again, led off many people, men and women. At ten in the morning, I was already

at the yard on the Lomza Gasse. The Poles had come to see if any of the Jews remained, fully

prepared to seize booty. And when they saw me and my brother Yankeleh, they said to me, in

amazement: ‘You are still here?’


It was harvest time. And since we had just constructed a new barn, small-time peasants came to us,

and asked if they could place their grain in a small corner of the barn. Their intent was premeditated:

since they expected that I would be taken away, they would come to reclaim the grain they had stored

with me, and who would be there to keep them from taking everything?


It was Thursday, September 4. Many people were missing at that time, and to give orders to others

as to what they should do, was not possible. Everyone dealt in a way dictated by their own common

sense. As we were later told, the Germans raised a hue and cry that they were short on Jews. We

thought that the Germans needed Jews to do labor, and therefore, as a result, they would take only

the able and young. Accordingly, everyone made an attempt to appear worn out and old. Women put

kerchiefs on their heads. The intent of the Germans this time, however, was much worse than before.

They seized people randomly, young and old, even pregnant women. ‘They are taking us to the

slaughter’ the terrifying thought stabbed in our minds. That morning, they were led off in the

direction of Bialystok. And as we later found out, they were killed in a forest near Ruti Kasaki. May

the Lord Avenge Their Blood.


VIII. The Preparations to Occupy the Ghetto


‘Now there will be enough space for the Jews,’ the Poles were heard to say. The Zambrow ghetto

was created, but all the Jewish tenant farmers were obliged to remain on their places outside the

ghetto, and work their fields. This was the wish of Kishel, the German land farming inspector. It was

harvest time, when the grain needed to be gathered in, the potatoes dug up, and to get ready for the

winter planting, and he therefore had need of the hands of the Jewish tenant-farmers. The entire

population of the ghetto derived help during that time by this. When a Jew was caught outside of the

ghetto, he would say that he had been working in the fields with a Jewish tenant-farmer – and this

was legitimate.


At the end of September 1941, we were given no more than fifteen minutes of time to go out, that

is, to leave our houses, the barns with grain, the machines, horses and cows – and return to the

ghetto. My mother, myself and my brother Yankeleh, were taken in by the family of Yudl Eusman.

Together, we were in a two-story house – the Eusman family, Alter Dwozhets and we three.


IX. Life in the Ghetto


It was a hard and difficult life. We had many orphaned children. Also, parents that had lost their

children. Fate, however, declared, that there would be some solitary families that remained intact.

The Zambrow ghetto became a place of refuge for Jews from the surrounding towns. The ghetto was

literally the center and gathering point for workers, that the Germans drew from there, for labor

gangs to build and pave streets and roads. Our gang worked at breaking stones, and pouring asphalt.

All of the Jewish workers worked only for the Germans. there was a gang that worked in the

Zambrow barracks, where the Germans had created a camp for Russian prisoners of war.


We lived in the ghetto under a despotic régime of self-governance. Glicksman, the ‘Chief Jew’ has

a police staff under him, and ruled his kingdom with a high hand.


X . A Typhus Epidemic in the Ghetto


The thousands of prisoners in the Zambrow camp fell victim to hunger and typhus. The typhus

disease was carried to the ghetto. It was said that since the surrounding fields had been made filthy

with the fecal waste from the barracks, that the cucumbers that we ate from those fields carried the

typhus bacteria.


Near the river, in the ghetto, we had a hospital. The doctors were Dr. Grundland and Dr. Friedman.

The Head Nurse was Masha Slowik. Their dedication was without limit. But their reach was to

limited to be of help.


Here, in praise, I wish to recall the lady, Elkeh Kaplan kz, a truly righteous woman, who collected

kasha, grits, potatoes, and cooked up a bit of food for the abandoned orphan children.


The ghetto did not know any spiritual life. There was no Bet HaMedrash, no school, and there were

no resources to be found in the ghetto. In the last months, the Germans permitted the transfer of a

new, unfinished house from outside the ghetto. The house was moved, and was set up on the account

of the owner, Sender Kaplan. This house became our Bet HaMedrash.


In the meantime, a variety of news reached us, brought by refugees. They told of Treblinka near

Malkin. The human mind could grasp, and then not grasp what this meant. However, we did grasp

that we, too, were exposed to the danger of extermination.


We also received a variety of false reports. Regarding the people, who were led away on Tuesday,

we were told that they were seen working on a road in Ostrow-Mazowiecki. All of these reports

came from gentile mouths, from Poles, that the Germans put up to this. There is a story about a letter

from David Bronack, which a Pole named Klosak brought. This Pole had worked steadily for Yossl

the Painter, and we knew him well. He demanded 150 marks for the letter from Rivka Bronack. She

immediately came running to tell me the news, that the people are alive. We gave the Pole 150

marks, and he gave us the letter. He told us that David Bronack gave him the letter, and apart from

this, we could not get another word out of him. In the letter the following was written: ‘We are alive

and are working on the roads.’ Sadly, neither Rivka, nor her son Moshe, could recognize David’s

handwriting, but because of the many errors that we found in the letter, we understood that this was

a fabrication, a means to swindle us out of money.


During the time that I still was living outside the ghetto, Poles told us that they heard from other

Poles, who had accompanied Jews along the way, that they were all shot in Glebocz near Szumowo,

in an incompletely built Russian fortification, and in this same mass grave, many other Jews were

also buried, who were from the area, until the substantial fort, intended for the Russian artillery, was

filled up.


XI. Jewish Valuables are Turned Over to be Hidden in Gentile Hands


When life had already lost all semblance of order, all those who remained alive, gave away a large

part of their furniture, bed linen, and clothing, to Poles that they knew. And on another day, it was

already possible to see how displeased they were, to encounter someone from the family, who knew

about these transferred valuables. There were also instances, where Poles immediately refused to

return any item, that someone wanted to sell, in order to buy bread, and it became necessary to look

for help from the Judenrat, meaning from the Germans, to reclaim those items from Polish hands.

The Jews of the ghetto were like a thorn in the eyes of our neighbors, the Poles. They would say:

‘See, the Jews have been settled in the ghetto, and its like nothing, they are alive. If it were us, we

would have died of hunger within a month.’


We began hearing rumors about the liquidation of the ghetto in September. Beinusz Tykoczinsky

and I, once when we went together outside the ghetto, ran into Beinusz’s good friend Szliedzesky,

who, under the Russian régime, held the post of Chief of the Fire-fighters Brigade, with Beinusz as

an assistant. Szliedzesky says to Beinusz: ‘It goes very badly for the ghetto. This morning, we were

given an order to set up a guard over it.’ We already knew what this meant, because we had heard

from refugees that the Germans always call out the fire-fighters when they are getting ready to

liquidate a ghetto. We brought this frightening news into the ghetto, and a panic broke out

immediately. Despite this, a couple of days went by, and nothing happened, and the tension subsided.


In those days, a group of comrades, who had left the ghetto, in order to join the partisans in the

forests, came back home. This matter was kept in extreme secrecy, so that, God forbid, the news not

pass to the Germans by way of an informer. One of the group was Yitzhak Prawda. The group went

out of the ghetto well-dressed, shod, and provisioned with a sum of money. In the fields, they

encountered remnants of the Russian army, mostly Ukrainians. The Russians and Ukrainians beat

them, took away their money, stripped them naked, and barefoot, and drove them away in shame,

back to the Germans.


Immediately rumors about the liquidation of the ghetto started up again. As previously already

mentioned, the Jewish craftsmen worked exclusively for the Germans. Among them were tailors,

shoemakers, furniture makers, and other sorts of trades. One day, the Germans appeared and

demanded of the Judenrat that they gather up all work, whether finished or unfinished, that the

Germans had ordered. The Judenrat police went out to carry out this order. For us, this was the

signal, that the danger of liquidation’ was near. The ghetto residents, in resignation, and terrorized

by fear of death, began to look for stratagems by which to save themselves. Whoever had gentile

acquaintances, carried off whatever remnants of goods they had, to have them hidden, or to plead

for mercy, that they should hide that individual himself. The work gangs marched into the ghetto.

We gathered at the Judenrat, and demanded that Glicksman tell the truth.


XII. Glicksman and His Truth


Glicksman began by addressing his police, and began to shout over the heads of the gathered people:

‘What do they want, the dirty Jews? The Germans took away these things in order to exchange them

for other things.’


The Zambrow Jews, seasoned from their troubles, and knowing their ‘Senior Jew’ didn’t take him

at his word. When nightfall came, everyone took for the barbed wire. The barbed wire was cut, and

we fled underneath to the river, near Dembowski’s and Szliedzesky’s. Men, women, and older

children ran, with packs on their backs, to the extent that they had the strength to carry. We fled to

the nearest forest. I, and my mother and brother, at about ten o’clock at night, went off in the same

direction. In the ghetto, the only ones left were older people, who surrendered to their fate, and

children in cradles, that parents were unable to take along. In the late hours of the night, when

Glicksman saw that he was left without Jews, he, and his entire coterie also fled and hid themselves,

out of fear of the Germans. Those who arrived in the forest later, told that it had already become

difficult to get out of the ghetto, because the Germans had surrounded it.


XIII. Zambrow Jews in the Forest


Fate decreed that one misfortune should be worst than the next. Fleeing into the forest, we knew, was

no salvation. However, people, when exposed to the danger of being killed, will run anywhere in the

world, driven by an inner force, an impetus, that cannot be contained. Having run a considerable

distance, one remains standing, spent, without any strength left, and one asks the other: ‘Where do

we go?’ The only answer that could be was: ‘Into the forest!’ And how will they be able to live, even

if just being able to regain some equilibrium – men, women, and children, hungry, beaten down,

without help, surrounded with a murderous foe on all sides? – To this there was no answer.


My mother, my brother and I, dragged ourselves to the Czeczork Forest. We sought out a hiding

place between shrubs, and settled ourselves there. We hear people running nearby, hearing their

heavy breathing and mumbling. The night was long, and didn’t want to end. Very early, we heard

a great disturbance in the forest, the sound of a struggle. I crawled out of my ditch, and immediately

see in front of me a cadre of Poles, in groups of five, six, or more, with staves and scythes in their

hands, pushing the Jews, and striking out left and right. The Jews cry, begging for mercy from their

beaters, pleading with them to take bribes, ha – money, gold – that is what they want though. Having

gotten rid of one band, we immediately fall into the hands of a second band. With each band, little

shkotzim ran along, from seven to ten years of age. They climbed under every shrub, making noise,

whistling, shouting: ‘Żydy! Żydy! Żydy! I crawled back into my hiding place and sought counsel

with my mother and brother, as to what we should do. I had just begun to get back into our ditch, and

we have a small shaygetz near us, and he is shouting at the top of his lungs: ‘Żydy! Żydy! Żydy!’ He

lets out a whistle, and the adults immediately came running. As soon as they saw us, they remained

standing, and called out, ‘Oh, Jesus, the Golombecks!’ They covered the mouth of the little rat, and

sat down next to us. As beaten down and broken as we were, we burst out in tears.


Who were these shkotzim? A person named Proszenski lived on our street. His sons worked for

us as shepherds. In more recent times, one of them worked for August Kaufmann, the burgomaster

of the city, and sitting on the ground with us, beside the shrub, he told us: in the city placards were

hung about, which carried the notice that for the number of Jews that will be apprehended and

brought to the gendarmerie, a reward of an amount of money and a bottle of whiskey will be given.

I was able to sense that they had already gotten the whiskey. The placard also warned that, whoever

would hide a Jew, will be shot on the spot.


It was under these circumstances that the bandits from the city went into the forest – and after them,

came the bands [sic: of predators] from the village.


They let us go free, and we proceeded further. After each bit of the journey, that we took, they

confronted us. They robbed us, and took away whatever they could find that we had. There were

those among them who did not allow themselves to be bought off. They did as follows: One of them,

who was their representative, first robbed us, emptying what he could of the Jews, after which they

began to beat and drive the people further. The seized a couple of tens of Jews this way, and drove

them into a barn in Czeczork. There, others were waiting, who led the Jews into the city. At first,

resistance was offered to them, struggling with the assailants. In the end, however, it was necessary

to capitulate. We were too weak to defend ourselves against murderous enemies, who only wanted

our deaths, in order that they could have all our assets, which would remain as booty for them to

plunder. There was not a single Christian family that didn’t have one sort of Jewish valuable or

another in their possession.


In this manner, the Poles rounded up hundreds of people that day. When the sun was getting ready

to set, we also were apprehended, and driven into the barn, which we found to be full of captured

Jews. They robbed us of our money, watches, good clothing and shoes. We gathered up money

among ourselves, dollars, and shoved it into the hands of the leader of the Polish band from the city.

It was now clear to us, that they will enthusiastically lead us to be killed.


XIV. We Leave Our Mother in the Forest


Night fell. Again, I sought counsel with my mother, as to what we should do. One of the members

of the band told us, after he had received money from us: ‘Run!’ So my mother said: ‘Children, if

you can save yourselves, run away from here! Let at least a memory of this family remain.’ The first

one to run was my brother Yankeleh kz. And as soon as Yankeleh went off, my mother said to me:

‘Yitzhakl try to save yourself.’ It was difficult for me to get myself moving. I was suffering from a

broken foot that I had gotten from an accident while working in Szumowo. Despite this, with the

elastic bandage, which wound around my thigh down to my toes, with all of my strength, I undertook

to flee with all of the others. In this way, I reached Bielicki’s garden. There, I hid myself in a field

booth – and had a long bitter cry.


In the still of the night, yet another cry was carried in my direction, the crying voice of someone who

thought they were talking to themselves:’ There no longer is a mother, there is no longer a brother,

alone like a rock.’ I tear out of the booth, and I run to the fence. I call out: ‘Yankeleh!’ – but I didn’t

see him any further. In the morning, my neighbors told me that Yankeleh stayed with them, and left

in the night, and they do not know where he went. Later on, I was also told, that had he not left

immediately, he would have been taken away with all of the others to the Zambrow barracks.


Glicksman, and his men, as I heard it told, presented themselves to the Germans, and he will be the

‘Senior Jew’ in the concentration camp.


XV. My Third Day in the Forest


With the setting of the sun, the Germans surrounded the forest, and opened fire. After that, they

penetrated deeper into the forest, accompanied by Poles. They again trapped a lot of Jews in their

dragnet. The truth of the matter is, that life had become repulsive to these people, and almost all of

them had decided to give themselves up.


The Poles did not permit any Jews to come into their homes. When they sold you a bit of bread, they

demanded that you immediately go away.


In the garden of a peasant, I found a pit full of potatoes, which had a cover with a small door. That

is where I made a place for myself to live. During the day, I wandered about the fields. At night, I

went into the potato pit. I loitered about this way for two weeks, in the field and in the pit. With each

passing day, I saw fewer and fewer Jews. The Poles told me that all are going into the barracks of

their own free will, and they are given food there. the peasants provide potatoes for the camp.

Hearing that the people were alive, I decided to give myself up and go to see if I could help my

mother. After 14 days of living in a pit, I presented myself to the gendarmerie. I was led to the

ghetto. That was the gathering point for all the apprehended Jews, and those who came of their own

volition. The fire fighters escorted the captured as far as the barracks. I asked to be allowed to go into

my home, to take a towel. I was permitted to do this, but not to take any more than fifteen minutes.

I could not negotiate the street in the ghetto, which was covered in mountains of pots, bottles, pieces

of furniture, utensils, shoes, linen, clothing, pillows, books, copies of the Pentateuch, and volumes

of the Talmud. Every home – was barricaded by loose goods, that had been extracted from the

houses. I made a path for myself through this, to our house. The door was broken open, and

everything from the drawers had been pulled out, thrown about on the floor, linens, clothing, shoes,

– the furniture upended.


The Zambrow Jews, who had gone off to the fields, took practically nothing with them. They left

everything behind, abandoned to be plundered. By contrast, the Jews from Lomza arrived in the

camp with bedding, pots and utensils.


XVI. The March to the Barracks


The Jews wore Yellow badges, in the form of a Jewish star, on the front and back. The Jews were

forbidden to walk on the sidewalk, being compelled to walk in the middle of the street, where the

sewer waste ran. Marching over then Zambrow Kosciuszko Gasse, I saw Poles, residents of

Zambrow and its vicinity, workers, merchants, peasants. All looked to the side, but I saw one shikseh

who was weeping, as she went by. This was a woman of the streets in Zambrow whom I knew...


XVII. Entry into the New Hell


A German soldier with a death’s head insignia on his helmet, opens up the stalag??? and lets us in.

Up to then, the Poles had fulfilled their sacred mission – and then left. There is stalag number one,

number two, and tower number 3. Thanks to God, I too, am now in Hell. People are running back

and forth. Later, I found out that this was the day when the peasants had delivered a contingent of

potatoes for the camp. But this is a story unto itself, as we see so later on.


I inquire about as to where Jews from Zambrow might be found. I am told, that block 3 will be

designated for them, and those from Lomza will occupy block 1 and 2. Block 4 held Tshizeva,

Wisoka and Umgebung. In block 5 – Jews gathered up from various places.


When I arrived at the block, I was surrounded on all sides. They began to tell me about the great

extent of the hunger. As previously mentioned, those from Zambrow fled into the forest empty-handed;

no protection for their skin, not a pot to cook in, and a pail in which to hold water was totally out of the question. In order to get water into the camp, it was necessary to let each other down, one over another, into a deep well. The people from Zambrow were eager to draw water, but they had no pail at hand – so, they are suffering this way for two weeks already, slavering for a drop of water.


I immediately began to inquire: ‘Who has seen my mother?’ I was led up to the second story. In the

large chambers, with plank cots in three levels, lost in a forest of people, I found my mother vg.

This is the picture: The ‘residence’ was the middle one of the three levels of cots, running the length

of the wall, cots banged together from boards and poles. Shrunken in there, sat my beloved mother.

Seeing me approach her, she gave her self a push, tearing herself to me, but then immediately falling

back for lack of any strength. I jumped up onto the cot, and my first words were: ‘Mama, forgive me,

for having left you alone.’ With tears in her eyes, my mother said to me: ‘ But I was the one who sent

you away. Do you have any news of Yankeleh?’


In the meantime, my entire family gathered around us: my uncle Slowik’s two daughters, Chaya and

Masha, my uncle Isaac with the children, Rivka Bronack with two daughters and a son, and a little

daughter of my brother Moshe, aged 2 ½ years old. She was called Racheleh. I had brought a couple

of loves of bread with me, and I divided this and in doing so, bought myself into both worlds.


My mother told me, that she is living this entire time on the ration of bread that she receives. She had

not tasted so much as a single spoonful of soup. Once she ascended to her place on the bunk bed, she

no longer stirred from there. And this was also the case with many other women. I sat myself on the

bunk bed. When my mother regained some of her composure, she spoke further:


‘Since I figured that I had lost my children, and that I would not live much longer than another

couple of days, I took my packet of jewelry, and threw it under the bunk bed. Since life has ended,

and there are no children, what do I need it for?’ This packet held the legacy of generations –

precious stones, golden chains, rings and small watches.


The lowest bunk bed was about ten centimeters from the ground. I went underneath, found a stick,

and swept the packet out from underneath.


In the kitchen, they gave out a bit of soup and kasha. So I went down, and got a bit of soup, ‘vashka

in the lingo of the camp, in the pot that I had brought with me.


A little later, I went down again, to see and hear what was going on downstairs. Again a running

around, a movement, with shooting that came immediately after it. I barely am able to become aware

of what had happened, that they are now first carrying dead out on stretchers.


I must say here, that the Jews from Lomza were far more bold than the ones from Zambrow. On that

day, potatoes were brought into the camp, and the hungry, pity them, let themselves loose wildly at

the fully-laden wagons, and began to grab potatoes. The soldiers at their posts opened fire, and about

five or six people fell. Despite this, a number of wagons were emptied of their contents. People fell

on the potatoes and began to gnaw them while they were still raw, as if they were good, sap-filled



Everyone in the camp could not understand why I had come. There is no way back from here. A

barbed wire fence – and then another fence. And such surveillance! Hemmed in, walled in, unable

to penetrate through, and getting close to the barbed wire means a faster death from a bullet in the

back. Death here is sown left and right.


XVIII. Getting Out – And Returning


A long row of wagons, loaded with potatoes, stood outside. The peasants, who had to wait in the line

for unloading, came inside with whips in their hands, to take a look at the ‘òyds.’ In this way, I

encountered a peasant that I knew, inside the barracks, and struck up a conversation with him. And

in talking to him this way, I took off the yellow star from myself, put up the collar of my short jacket,

and took the whip out of the hands of the peasant. The peasant did not catch on to what was going

on. I ask him: ‘Where is your horse and wagon?’ He says: ‘On the other side of the fence.’ So I

gesture to him: ‘Come out of here. Here they shoot. Why do you want to loiter around here? Come

to the wagon.’ We went out of the barracks and continued talking. I passed the first guard tower

uneventfully, then the second tower, and I am now at the main tower. My heart was pounding out of fear, but I steeled myself. And here, I was out free. I am proceeding without my clothes badge, in

the middle of the sidewalk, to spite the Poles. I am stared at, indeed, with wonder, but I continue

along my way, insolently, with feigned haughtiness. I come to the ghetto, do not go in through the

gate, but through the back way, on the side of Dunovich’s fence. Big Tiska, a wall-builder encounters

me. He says: ‘You were led out of here this morning, how is it that you are coming here?’ I say: ‘The

camp commander sent me to bring back wood for the kitchen.’ In the meantime, I grabbed a

neighbor of mine, Litwinsky, with a horse and wagon. He tells me that he works in the city council,

transporting things from the ghetto. I give him 30 marks for him to transport a bit of wood for me.

The gentile permitted himself to deal. I entered my own home, and began to pack up some things

with which to cover myself, grabbed a blanket, a bit of underwear, a couple of towels. More to the

point, I wanted to take some pots, bowls, plates. And this was mostly to be retrieved from the street.

Also, I found small sacks of food, that the peasants felt was not worth taking away, lying in the

street. I filled a wagon with pots and pans and utensils, with kasha flour, with everything that came

to my hand. On top, over all of these things, I put wood that the gentile through out through the gate;

I went out, the way I came in – through the back way. I went into a bakery, and bought ten old loaves

of bread, literally dried out, for which I was charged a high price. With everything loaded onto the

wagon, I am now traveling with a great deal of merchandise. I had made up with the gentile, that at

the gate, he should say that he was sent from the ghetto for the Jews, with me as the interpreter. And

that is the way it was. I said that I was coming from the forest, and that the bread was for my family

in the camp. With luck, I got through the first gate. And they then permit you to go on further,

because they know that there is no way back. I ride over to the third block. I was greeted with great

astonishment and tumult; from whence did I bring all of these things? Previously, I had not entrusted

my great secret to anyone, so they would not know what I was thinking. I recall the elderly

Chaimsohn falling upon by neck and beginning to kiss me.


When the wood was taken down from the wagon, and they saw the pots and pans and utensils, there

ensued such a melee of grabbing, that if I had not grabbed a pot for myself, I would have been left

with nothing. Also, all the sacks of food were taken up, but the people, afterwards, brought back part

of it for me. On that day, I brought life back into that block, and one could now see people standing

by the kitchen with plates and pots.


On that day, Donkland, a man from Zambrow, approached me, who had been a former police-lieutenant in the ghetto, and wearing an official armband in the camp, and he asked me, if I wanted

to come and live with him in his room, designated for a couple of families, since it was within his

discretion to pick whom he wants, and since I am a ‘sidekick’ he wants to include me in these couple

of families. I was taken into this room with my mother. We got a corner, and in a couple of days

time, my brother Yankeleh arrived in the camp.


They were a few tens of Jews near Sendzjawa in a barn on a field (also Chaim Kaufman was in this

group). The Poles turned them in to the German gendarmerie. From that time on, Yankeleh was with



XIX. The Bread of Hunger


Life in the camp got progressively harder and harder from day to day. The little children that were

with us, began to die off. Also, our child, who remained after my brother Moshe & Sarah Bronack,

died. The typhus epidemic grew more intense, spreading death and desolation around. A sort of

hospital was set up, in a large and cold barracks. Using straw as the bedding, like in a horse stable,

and covered in rags, the sick expired from the cold, in pain, and agony beyond human capacity.


It was the months of November-December. Tortured by hunger, strategies were sought for how to

get bread brought in from the outside. Those who have survived must surely remember how we used

to drain the effluent from the latrines in the barracks, and take it away in large barrels as the refuse

with which to fertilize the fields. It was believed, as previously already mentioned, that it was this

waste material that was the cause of the typhus epidemic in the camp. Using these very same barrels,

the carriers of the typhus plague, they were employed for smuggling bread into the camp. We struck

a deal with a certain gentile, a latrine worker, that on the way back from the field with an empty

barrel, he should fill the vessel with a sack full of bread loaves for the camp. We paid for the bread,

with gold and precious stones, which not only once, had traces on it of having been in that barrel.

We literally fought with one another, almost like a war, for this bread. And indeed, this war led to

the revelation of this ‘conspiracy.’


The Germans would never have thought that these vessels would be used to conceal food. And when

the fighting broke out in the camp, an open war, the Germans investigated, and discovered the reason

for it. They beat up the latrine barrels, but there was no one that was willing to take the cover off the

barrel and stick his head inside – well, the Germans then used long tongs ????...


There were a group of ‘toughs’ in the block that wanted to seize the ‘monopoly’ over the bread. The

police in the block oversight were partners in this endeavor. On the other side, stood people starved,

totally spent, furiously impelled to buy a morsel of bread for themselves. Who were these ‘toughs?’

The ringleaders were Arky and Barky. The police had to get involved in order to make a

compromise: on one day, the ‘toughs’ will get the bread, and on the next day – the remainder of the



About the camp, there straggled people who were mere shadows, who begged for their own death.

The block became infested with lice. The lice crawled all over the clothing, those items that were

already worn, but had to be worn during the day, and slept in at night. With the coming of the day,

some of the clothing was taken off, first the overcoat, and put out on the snow, in order to freeze the

lice. This aired out coat was then put on again, and some other part of the clothing was taken off to

be frozen.


XX. The Lomza Refugees Plan to Escape


The Lomza Jews had organized themselves to plan a breakout from the camp. And one out of every

ten of the group volunteered to crawl through the barbed wire, and to reach the fence. The post watch

opened fire on them, but nobody was hit, and the group escaped. At a second time, a group of

Zambrow and Lomza residents also attempted an escape. Once again, they were fired upon.

Shmulkeh Golombeck’s son who had blundered into the barbed wire, and was wounded, was

captured, this being the younger one from Dobczyn and another young man from Zambrow, whose

name I do not remember. The third one captured was from Lomza. The executioners carried out their

vengeance in a very basic way, in front of the people as witnesses. All the Jews in the camp were

driven together on a large plaza, and the three young boys were brought there, one of them crippled

in the feet. Four S.S. troops stepped forward to do whipping, holding nagaikas.42 All three were

stood up, and one after another, were whipped with the braided nagaikas. Two of the beat them as

if they were threshing wheat with grain in them, and each one was given thirty lashes. After the

whipping, they were taken to the hospital and they died there.


I had previously told that the peasants used to provide potatoes for the camp. Two of the young men,

who has gotten away in the first escape, from the Lomza group, bought a horse and wagon, and

brought potatoes, pretending to be peasants. Hidden under the potatoes, they would smuggle meat,

butter, and other sorts of foodstuffs. Young men, from Zambrow and Lomza, worked in the

commissary of the camp, and they knew how to conceal these provisions. One time the boys dealt

with this stuff in an unguarded fashion, perhaps out of too much confidence in themselves. They

came into the camp with a wagon load of potatoes, at a time when there was no one else with them,

real peasants. The guards inspected these ‘peasants’ and they were not satisfied. A patrol was sent

after the wagon. An investigation and search was conducted in the wagon, and they found what they

found. For this crime of bringing food to the hungry, the Germans sentenced these two young men

to death. They were hung in the barracks. If I am not mistaken, they were called Itzik and Yudkeleh.

I knew them from the labor camp at Szumowo. We were there together, both people from Lomza

and Zambrow.


Once again, all contact and dealing with the outside world was broken off. We literally expired from

hunger. Death hovered over our heads.


The dead from the camp were interred in the Zambrow cemetery. There was a small wagon in the

camp, on which, day-after-day, the dead were placed, and under watch, taken to the cemetery. The

graves were dug to a depth of forty centimeters, and lightly covered with the earth. On the way back,

usually we bought a bite of bread, onions, and potatoes from the residents that lived beside the

cemetery. On time, Schaja Henoch’s son-in-law came along. He stepped away from the funeral

procession to buy bread. When he returned, the soldier shot him. He was shot, and we were ordered

to bury him immediately. People told that when he was lain in his grave, his still showed signs of



XXI. The News


It was the middle of December, 1941. Seeing that the typhus epidemic grew more intense, and people

were dying on a daily basis, either from typhus or from hunger, the commandant of the camp, on one

day, called our representatives to him and said to them as follows: ‘I see that you are all going to die

here, and I have decided to convey you ‘further to the east,’ near Odessa. There you will work and

remain alive. Here, we have no work for you. Tell you brethren, that they should comport themselves

quietly and in an orderly fashion, and we will deal with them in a good way.’


When the representatives came back to the blocks, and relayed the news to us, there was no doubt

in any mind that this means – Trebl inka! The exhausted ones were shaken, and the spirit of

rebellion rose in the blocks. This was true with the people from Zambrow and Lomza, as by those

from Tshizeva and Wysoka. Voices were raised that said: ‘We will be killed here, but not to go to

Treblinka!’ Talk began about a rebellion. With bare fists, however, nothing could be done, and there

could be no talk about having arms and ammunition. And even, at the price of hundreds of victims,

we were to break through the gates, where would we go? We had already fled once – and come back,

or having fallen again back into German hands.


XXII. Glicksman Feigns ‘Making an Effort’


As we understood it, Glicksman, along with the senior from Lomza, Mushinsky, again made a deal

with the camp commandant. Now the commandant no longer spoke of Odessa, but only about a labor

camp. I am not certain if he actually called out the name of Auschwitz. At this time, that name was

not familiar to us. The commandant said that in this labor camp there were factories, and he

promised that we will have the same seniors and leaders there. That is what was communicated in

that hall, that after long negotiations, that Glicksman engaged in, that we will not be sent ‘to the east’

but rather to a second camp.


XXIII. The Preparations for the Trip


life has become repulsive, and it is not possible to continue this way!’ – You could hear this in every

conversation. People, who were half-dead, for whom there are no words to describe their misfortune,

gave up on everything, making peace with their dark fate. In the meantime, news reached us, all

manner of rumors. First the Lomza block would travel. The transports will depart by night. The

extraordinary situation will be clarified. The people in all the other blocks will remain confined, not

even permitted to stick their heads out from their confinement, and it is forbidden to light candles.


Between the eighth and the tenth of January 1942, the ‘work’ began. In the middle of the night,

movement began in the first block. Immediately short shots were heard, and there was no lack of

victims. The same took place on the second night, in the second block. And now comes our turn:

block number three. I think it was about eleven o’clock at night. A fresh newly fallen snow shone

in the window with its pristine whiteness. We began to drag ourselves out of the barracks to a rear

gate. There was a deathly silence all around. We felt like we were going on our last walk. No one

brought so much as a word to their lips, as if everyone, simultaneously, had turned to stone. We go,

and fall in the snow. One person helps another. Each one has a pack on their backs. On the other side

of the gate there was a long row of sleighs and wagons waiting for us. One way or another, we got

on board. The entourage moves. There are a hundred sleighs and wagons. I was among the last. I am

not among those who are in any hurry. It didn’t matter to me if I was the last one to die. We are

traveling in the direction of Tshizeva, to the train station. On the way, once again, I spoke my

thought out loud: ‘Perhaps we should flee?’ My mother was silent and didn’t utter a word. This time

she didn’t say ‘yes’ and not ‘no.’ She was mumbling with her lips as if she were reciting the Tehilim.

Yankeleh said: ‘I no long will flee. I have nowhere to flee to. The Poles drive you out, turn you over

to the Germans. There is no Jewish settlement. Where am I going to go?’ I myself lacked nimbleness

on my feet, and I had decided to stay with my mother. And Yankeleh added: ‘Whatever happens to

you, will happen to me.’ And so we traveled. The road was strewn with frozen people, who had

fallen off the wagons. Sleighs came up from the rear, and collected them. I will never forget this

terrifying trip.


XXIV. On the Train Station at Tshizeva


Dawn began to break when we arrived at the Tshizeva station platform. A chain of about 50-60

freight cars stood there. We were driven across the icy stretch. Those who were frozen, were dragged

by the head, and the feet, and thrown into the wagons. As to the living, about 50 were crammed into

each car, and the doors sealed from the outside. And this way, we stood and froze for long hours. In

the end, the train moved. After riding for a couple of hours, we again remained standing. We are

expiring from the cold, oppressed by hunger and thirst. We lick the ice from the rivets on the sides

of the wagon, that had grown up on their large steel heads.


In my car were: Velvel the Fisher with is wife and little daughter; Elkeh, Meir-Yankl Golombeck’s

daughter with children. We still harbored the thought that, despite all, we were being taken to

Treblinka. When we arrived at the Malkin station, and the train stopped there, a frightful panic

immediately broke out. We knew that from Malkin, one rode into a forest, and the distance is not

more than from ten to fifteen minutes a ride. Velvel’s little daughter began to tremble and spasm

over her entire body, and she screamed that she did not want to die. Following here, everyone broke

out into bitter wailing. I sat stonily in a corner, and looked at my watch. Five, six, seven minutes...

ten minutes...fifteen minutes. We are proceeding to travel further. Who can convey the agony of that

moment. ‘Yes’ – Velvel says to me – ‘Glicksman didn’t deceive us after all. Indeed, we are not going

to Treblinka, just as he said.’ Velvel, who belonged to the police staff, knew Glicksman and his ways



XXV. Not to Treblinka!


We are happy with our newly won life. Not Treblinka, well, then it can be whatever it will be. And,

lo, once again we remain standing at a station platform, parallel to our train. My Yankeleh sticks his

head out. ‘Yitzhak, it is a military train,’ he says to me. And the kitchen stands exactly diagonally

opposite my little window. Since Yankeleh ad worked for the Germans, he spoke German quite well,

and so he says to the cook: ‘We are refugees, can we ask for something to drink?’ The cook says:

‘Give me a pot, and I will give you coffee.’ I had a small bowl with me, that we used as a urinal in

the train car. It was quickly wiped out, and Yankeleh stuck it out between the grating on the little

window, that went up and down, and in the blink of an eye, we had a bowl full of black coffee (at

the time that the bowl was on the way from the kitchen to our little window, a soldier shot twice in

that direction. However, the bowl came into our hands intact). We divided the coffee by drops, and

everyone got a taste of it. We were happy: not Treblinka, and to that, we even got a bit of black

coffee – well, there must be a God in heaven! But this joy did not last for long.


After two days and two nights of travel, we finally came to a junction. Taking down the covering

from the grated window, we saw a lit up area with large excavation machinery. The snow had

covered hills and vales. These were the chambers of Birkenau, Auschwitz.


And if so, are these the machines used to dig graves? Is it here that we will come to our eternal rest?

Meanwhile, a variety of ideas came to us. Velvel says: ‘If they let us take our packages, this will be

a sign for life; and if, God forbid not – it means that we need nothing anymore, it will be a sign of

death.’ We hear a noise, and it sounds Jewish. Yiddish is being spoken. What a joy, we are among

Jews. A wagon platform arrived with pickaxes and spades, Several tens of people in pajamas, who

speak Yiddish, led by Germans in uniform, and it was about midnight, going from Friday to

Saturday. They immediately went to work. The locks on the doors were covered with ice, and they

were hacked apart with the pickaxes. They began shouting ‘Everyone out! Everyone down!’ They

began to hit us with batons over the head. In a minute an entire movement started, and an alarm

broke out. Around us,, there stretched a long line of freight trucks, covered in black brezenten ???

We hear the command: ‘Into the trucks, up!’ The unloading was hellish, like out of a nightmare. You

immediately saw a pile of people. Frozen, fainted, half-dead. And I saw one, who had pulled his

overcoat over his head to protect against the cold, and he was beaten with batons, and thrown onto

the huge pile of people. Another command: ‘Women separate! Men separate! To the Trucks!’ And

the freight trucks are soon overfilled. I remain with my mother and brother, locked and impoverished

in the great trap. We see how men and women are picked off. They are set out in rows of five. The

job of the selection was being conducted by German officers. A significantly large number were

picked out. The Germans don’t let anyone through. We see the way people tear themselves away to

come into the ranks of those selected, and they are driven back. And here my mother said: ‘Run

children, maybe you will be able to save yourselves.’ We exchanged kisses with our dear mother.

She remained standing with outstretched arms, and tears were flowing from her eyes. In a moment,

we no longer saw her.


We get closer to the row which is very strongly inspected. The big German shouts at us: ‘No more

room, locked!’ We force ourselves over to him. We present ourselves anyway. He takes us in with

a glance. Two handsome young men. He asks me: ‘ What is your occupation?’ I answer:

‘Construction workers.’ And Yankeleh says: ‘ I am a gardener.’ ‘Remain here!’ the German says.

And in this fashion, we were the last two who had the privilege of being in that group.


When we left that place, dawn had already begun to break. God had begun to look down upon his

great handiwork. On the killing field, the mountain of the dead, frozen, beaten, and half-dead

remained. They waited for new freight trucks to arrive and take them away, because they could not

walk under their own power. I remember that Chaim the Harness Maker wanted to push himself into

that line. But everyone had received the order to lock [arms] and not let anyone else in. Pitiably, all

he got was a whack in the head with a baton, and he was driven away. A minute earlier, before the

lined were closed, Bendet Fekarevich the watchmaker smuggled himself in. We begin to march. That

is, those Zambrow Jews able to work, approximately a hundred in number. What the number of the

women was, I do not know, but I gathered that it was much less. The remaining Jews of the Sacred

Congregation of the Jews of Zambrow, were killed that same night in the gas chambers.


XXVI. The March to the Birkenau Camp


The march began with beating and kicking, with pushing and hitting with clubs and rifles. We came

to a large tent. We were taken inside, and turned over to the hands of the camp people, dressed in



This was the dress in the camp. We were arrayed in two rows. Those who were occupied with us,

were Jews, big, strong young men. They shout like the Germans, and also hit like the Germans. My

Yankeleh says: ‘See, it is possible to make a German out of a Jew.’ One, the senior among them,

gives his speech. The first greeting was accompanied by a hail of curse words. listen up! Do you

know what Auschwitz is? You came here by yourselves, you were brought here in chains. So, damn

your father! Turn over your dollars, gold and precious stones. If any of these things are found with

you after the bath, he will go directly to the ovens. That is a ‘K.L.’ Kein Leben.43’ You go in through

a gate, and you go up to God through the chimney. You understand, that here, you need nothing!’

He goes through the row this way, stops at an individual and asks: ‘What, you are not pleased?’ –

raises his hand and delivers a hard blow to the face.


A blanket is spread out – and immediately a sum of money fell on it, along with watches, golden

chains, and rings. Who could take the risk of trying to conceal something valuable on his person?

After this welcome, a number of us were granted a small dish of hot kasha. In this time, less robust

five or six men had fallen down from lack of strength, lying by the door, lacking the strength to get

up on their own. After eating, the procedure began of etching us with a tattoo number on the arm.

when this was over, we were told we would be taken to bathe.


XXVII. Into the Bath!


They lead us out of this barrack and bring us to a second barrack. This is the location of the baths.

We are given the order: ‘Undress!’ To strip naked, immediately outside at the entrance to the

barrack. We strip off our lice-filled, but warm clothing, and we stand naked as the day we were born

in the frosty outdoors. ‘Wait a bit, another party is bathing right now. They will come out soon.’ We

wait this way for about a half an hour, frozen, contracted from the cold. Our clothing was cleaned

off. Finally, with luck, we are going into the bath. Barbers were waiting for us with hair-cutting

machines, and they took to us, to shear off the hair from our heads. After the haircut, we went and

stood under the spigots. Water is pouring onto us, water as cold as ice. A number of us first take to

having a drink. Imagine if you will, how great the thirst was, that oppressed us.


After the bath, we were driven to a disinfection station. We were made to sit on benches, like in a

bath house, no comparison intended, and released a bit of steam onto us. After this, regardless of

how wet we were, we were driven into yet another large barrack. Here, we were allocated clothing.

‘Fall out into rows!’ – the order was given. And again a speech, with the same theme: ‘anyone who

might steal an extra shirt, or a legging for the feet, will immediately go into the oven!’ Shirts are

given to some, drawers, pants a jacket, a pair of shoes with leggings. Shivering from the cold, we

donned these rags. Some got three-quarter trousers, others shoes, that could barely be put on the feet.

There was no covering for the totally shorn heads.


Now, Polish guards take us over. We are told, that we are going to Block 21. Again, we stand,

petrified by the cold. under an open sky. We wait until everyone gets dressed.


XXVIII. Block Number 21


Finally, the ‘party’ begins to move. We wind through, in a serpentine path, through small streets of

barracks. We come to Block 21. ‘Remain standing!’ – the block senior orders. We remain standing.

And another order: ‘Undress, and enter the block one at a time!’ We undressed on the snow, and we

waited. We are allowed in, one at a time. I happened to be among the first. Inside, near the entrance,

there was the camp doctor, not a German. He begins to examine me. As previously mentioned, I

wore a bandage on my right foot. I had already torn off the lower part of it, but the top part still

adhered to me, even to the point of having melded with my skin. ‘What is this?’ – the doctor asks

me. I explain to him that I received a blow to my leg, when I worked for the Germans, and this was

put on me then. He asked me to sit down, and to raise myself fifteen times, and when I did this, he

let me through. And this is how several went through the examination, and if someone displeased

the doctor, he made note of the tattoo number on his arm.


Now we go to sleep. The bunks are concrete, with five people to a compartment. And on the concrete

there was a blanket and two coveralls. We arranged ourselves on the hard bunks, and immediately

fell asleep. [After] a couple of hours of deep sleep, and they are shouting already: ‘Get up!’ We tear

open our eyes, and bandits are already standing there with irons and shovels and they are banging

on our feet. The feet stick out of the bunks, because we lay stretched out straight, like herring in a

barrel. We jump up from our sleeping place, but they don’t permit you to get dressed. Nobody

indicated doing more than pulling on one’s trousers. We ran barefoot, and completed getting dressed

on the snow. We received an order to fall in by pairs and straighten the line – and remain standing,

not to move from the spot. We stand, and stand, shivering from the intense cold. After standing like

this for two long hours, we were allowed inside and given a meal. It consisted of a soup made from

green leaves with kasha, and a potato in it. Barely having swallowed the bit of food with the ardor

of the hungry, and another order resounds: ‘Out!’ Once again, we are standing outside in the cold.

Clutches of people steal up to us, curious. ‘Where do you come from?’ – they ask. We hear that the

new transports are being taken for work in the factories and coal mines of Buna. ‘And if not, you will

have our fate.’ It is superfluous to say that we envied those who were already dead.


When night fell, we were admitted into the barrack. We were given a bit of black coffee – and to

sleep. And do you think we are allowed to sleep? In the middle of the night – an alarm. ‘Get up!’ We

raise our heads. An order: look at the number on your arm!’ The senior of the house calls out

numbers. And since the group knew what this implied, nobody replied when his number was called.

We also knew who they were looking for, because they themselves told us that the doctor had taken

down their names. From what I can remember, among the listed were: Bendet Fekarovich, Kozatsky,

Konopiata, and a Finkelstein, who lived with an American widow on the Wodna Gasse, and the

widow’s son, and a few others whose names I no longer remember.


Since calling the names out was proving futile, the guards, who were mostly Poles and Ukrainians,

grabbed the shovels and began beat people on their heads and feet. Again we were chased outside

naked. Outside, a very frightening snowstorm was raging that night. Half-dead, not one of us was

able to utter a single word. The block chief took up a position, and began anew to call out the

numbers, but the numbers that he was really looking for, he kept until last. all of us were let back

into the barrack and they detained those sought out of doors. Now the guards took themselves to the

job of killing out in the street. The frightening screams from those being tortured, which reached us

in the barrack... Kozatsky’s plaintive whining.. slowly grew still, and still they kept hearing the dull

thud of the shovels, and the tired breathing of the beaters, We never again saw our beaten and

tortured brethren again. The block chief ordered the dead to be dragged to Block Five, which was

the last station to the crematorium.


XXIX. We Travel to Buna


We stayed in Birkenau for seven days, several days with the same tribulations and severe tortures.

A piece of bread with marmalade – and then driven out of the barrack to stand until the meal of a bit

of soup with kasha was served. After this meal, again, having to stand on one’s feet in the cold. In

the evening black coffee brewed from leaves. We never got more than one piece of bread a day. This

is how we lived for seven days. Every day, and every hour, was more than we wanted, being not

more than a delay from dying, because we had already seen the dead. Hunger and cold began to

devour people. One spark of hope possibly remained with part of us: perhaps we will be sent to

Buna. There, we heard, people worked, some in a factory, others in the coal mines, and food was

given. One morning, when we were driven to stand out in the street, the Block chief arrived with a

smile in his moustaches. ‘Well, you have luck,’ he said. ‘You are going to Buna. My block has been

selected for this purpose.’ Well, good, a joy. It doesn’t matter what else will happen, so long as we

get out of this Hell. On the second day, they brought us to the barrack with the bath. There, we were

examined by the camp doctor. After this, we were given new clothing. When we came out of the

bath, we were turned over to the hands of an S.S. command, and we went out to travel. The distance

from Birkenau to Buna was about 40 kilometers. After two hours of marching, we were brought into

a fine building. This was a bath house with the best and newest appointments. Here, we bathed

ourselves, and went through a thorough disinfection. We also were given a portion of bread, and set

out on our journey again.


Coming out of the bath, I started to get sharp pains in my foot. My brother Yankeleh and Moshe

Bronack propped me up from both sides, otherwise I would not have been able to continue. Late in

the night, we came to this new Garden of Eden. Again we were driven to the bath barrack, and again

we went through a disinfection. Finally, we were led into a large barrack, a hall, which had rows of

beds, three-tiered, with two blankets on each bed. After a lecture, which was given to us by a

German Jew with a thick club for splitting heads, we were finally, allocated beds. It was the first

night, in many long months, that we slept like people, covered with a blanket. A new spark of hope

stole into our hearts: who knows, maybe they will give us something to eat... when we go out to

work, it may be possible to go on living. Here, we are told, we will remain for two weeks time,

meaning, until we regain some of our strength, and after that, we will go to work.


In the morning, we made our beds. Since I was a veteran soldier, I made my bed, and my brother

Yankeleh’s bed, which was next to mine, like I had learned to do in the army barracks. The report preparer, an S.S. man, came for inspection in the hall, and he stopped by our beds. He called over

the house chief, and ordered him to bring the two who occupied these beds. We were presented to

him, and he designated us to do the work of making the beds and keep all the beds in the hall in

order. This was a big deal for us, because every morning, we would be driven out into the street to

march and sing German songs, as if we were in the military.


On the third morning, very early, the S.S. man came again to us for an inspection. We were not yet

finished doing our work on the beds. I immediately hear ‘Come here!’ I run over to him. He begins

to shout in a wild voice: ‘Is this how you make a bed?’ and delivers a blow with all his might , with

a fist to my face. I immediately spit out two of my cheek teeth. With this comes a second shout:

‘Stand at attention!’ Like I have a choice here? I remain at attention, bloodied, and he hits me again

with his fist, in the second cheek, and knocks out two more of my teeth. I am missing these teeth to

this day.


XXX. The Typhus in Buna


Already, in the first days in the new resting place, the result of the physical deterioration to which

we were subject, began to manifest itself among the survivors of the Zambrow Jews. Many instances

of sickness occurred, headaches, sore throats, congestion, and we had no way to deal with it. To go

to the doctor in the hospital meant – ‘going into the oven.’ One girded one’s self to overcome the

symptoms, and hid them so long as was possible to conceal the signs of illness. Among the first of

our sick was Chaimsohn’s son-in-law, who when he arrived in the camp was a healthy young man.

When he was bedridden by fever, he had no choice, and was compelled to go to the doctor. He did

not return. This was the way several tens of people went away from us.


As for me, my vision began to blur. One day, I was holding myself together with all my might, and

then another day. This lasted until I ended up lying on the floor between two beds (it was forbidden

to lay down on a bed during the day). I said goodbye to my dear brother, and with all my friends and

townsfolk, with the thought that they will never see me again. My brother and Moshe Bronack

escorted me to the hospital. There they took my temperature – and no longer permitted me to leave.

They established that everyone that had arrived on our transport , that came to the hospital, was sick

with typhus. Every day, from the hospital, nine out of ten of the sick were taken away into the ‘oven,’

and only one – to the hospital in Auschwitz. After an examination by the S.S. doctor, we were

divided into groups. When the hospital attendants gave us portions of bread, they didn’t fail to

remark thereby:’ this is the last bread you will ever eat.’ We are standing and waiting in groups of

three and five. My group consisted of three. I no longer remember who the other people were, I only

know that they were not from Zambrow.


Transport trucks came to the hospital, and the sick were chased outside, naked and barefoot, in a

meager shirt. The S.S. troops would grab people by the head and feet, and throw them into the

trucks. My group was last. After an hour of waiting, came our row. We are driven out, like all the

others, naked. We were standing in Dutch Sabots, and we were forced to leave them behind and

proceed barefoot. Not far from the door, was a Red Cross car. An S.S. man alights, opens the door,

and lets us in. He takes the papers and asks: ‘This is all the shit?’ We bid Buna farewell.


XXXI. In the Hospital


The truth was, that it was all the same to us, wherever they were taking us. We all were running a

high fever, and we were badly affected by the cold. We bundled ourselves together and jumped like

a ball. After a fifteen to twenty minute ride, the automobile came to a halt and stood still. The door

opened. I look around. It is literally a city. Red walls. I read on the big sign: ‘Hospital.’ We are taken

into a long corridor. There is a cement floor. Doors open one against the other. After a long wait on

the cold floor, we were taken into a washroom. Here, we were taken over by Poles. The first greeting

we received was: ‘Clients for the oven.’ And they began to ‘work’ on us. They let a stream of ice-cold

water on us from a water hose, until we lay unconscious. Two Poles, took hold of me by my

head and feet, carried me into a house. The house chief took note of the number on my arm. I was

thrown onto the middle bed of a three level bunk bed. The bed was not more than 65 centimeters

wide, but I was not, God forbid, on that bed alone, but with another sick person. I remember enough

that my neighbor was as hot as fire, and I was a cold as ice. We embraced each other, and in this

way, I fell asleep. In the morning, when I awoke, I was immobilized as if I was held in iron pliers,

in the arms of my bed companion, and with great difficulty disentangled myself from him. The

young man was dead...


As to medicines, they didn’t know about such things in this hospital. The ill were kept there until

they either got through their disease, or gave up the ghost. After three weeks of torture and suffering,

I was able to leave the hospital – and go back into the camp. It was the camp of Auschwitz.


In the year 1943, a person, meaning a Jew, could expect to endure in Auschwitz for at most three

months time. The camp had twenty thousand people in it – Poles, Russians, French, Germans, Jews,

Belgians, Dutch. The principal spokespersons in the camp were the Poles. The human stock was

turned over continuously. New transports full of Jews kept on coming. A large part of the people

were sent to work, and the rest – into the gas ovens. At all times, the camp held the same number of

people. Those that fell, were replaced with newcomers. After two weeks of work, all that remained

of a person was skin and bones. Added to this, people were beaten with staves unto death. Auschwitz

produced thousands of dead every day. Non-Jews there were able to get packages from home, and

letters once a month. Only on us, the Jews, did that great anger fall. Death stood ever ready behind



In Auschwitz, factories were constructed to make arms. I worked on building the ammunition

factory. We were about 600 workers, mostly Jews, and Christian ‘Kapos.’ Germans, Poles, and in

part also German Jews, worked in the good commands, as in the camp, in the factories, under a roof.

Approximately in May 1943, I met up with Bendet Sosnowiec in my division of a hundred that were

carrying bricks to the building. He told me that in Auschwitz could be found Koszcewa, Plotki the

??? of Ostrow-Mazowiecki. There was a son-in-law of Zelig from the brick works. From them I

heard that everyone from Buna was taken back to Birkenau, and there all the Jews from Zambrow

gave up the ghost.


XXXII. The Murder Combination Auschwitz-Birkenau



The Unforgettable School Students, Beloved and Pleasant in Life


Auschwitz (called Ashpitzin in Yiddish, Oswiecim in Polish) lies between Weisel and Salto.

Birkenau (Brzezinka) in one large swamp, and in 1944, when the German army retreated from the

east, I worked there in erecting barracks for the German Air Command. On the swamp, was built the

great death factory with four large chimneys, which in one day, could cremate between 40 and 50

thousand people.


As previously told, men and women were held in Auschwitz from every nation in Europe, but only

the Jews were killed without stopping. All manner of bizarre deaths were visited on people in

Auschwitz, as was the case, for example in Block 10 and 11, where the most beautiful women were

held, on whom to perform experiments; torturing them, cutting them, sterilizing them, after which

they were either shot or gassed. There were also hospitals in Auschwitz, where Jews were brought

every two weeks for examination. and from there led off in light shirts to the gas chambers. Every

month, each block had a quota of 50 men on transport, this means to have them cremated after they

had been tortured by hunger. No Christians were taken in such aktionen. In 1944, in the course of

several days, it is estimated that up to 50 thousand French Jews were transported to Auschwitz, and

they were gassed. The ovens could not cremate that many. and so they dug pits in which they were

cremated. In the factory where I worked, at a distance of five kilometers from that place, it was

necessary to shut the windows because of the stench, that was not possible to stand. Some time later,

Hungarian Jews were brought, and others, in the same number. A Jew that remained alive after 6

months of being in Auschwitz, was an exception, one out of a thousand. Over one million Jews were

exterminated in Auschwitz. Their ashes were spread out over the fields around Birkenau, and

saturated their swamps. The black road that led to the crematoria is pressed with human ash and

bone. The clothes of a million people, their shoes, gold teeth, glasses, not to mention jewelry, money,

valuable papers – everything was precisely sorted and taken off to Germany. that is the way the

Germans conducted their war.


In the year 1944, there really was an uprising in one crematorium, but regrettably, not one young man

was able to save his own life. Allied airplanes bombed Auschwitz, but no bomb ever struck a

crematorium. A bomb fell in the block where Bendet Sosnowiec was, and he was wounded in the



This murder combination operated this way until January 1945. On January 22, I left Auschwitz

through the gate that had on it the inscription ‘ Arbeit Macht Frei ’...




40   Narodowa Demokracja ND ("Endecja") - National Democracy (nationalist). This party had an overtly anti-Semitic platform. They are also referred to as the ‘Endekists.’
41   The difference in the two dates is not immediately explainable.
42   A nagaika is a short braided leather whip favored by Cossacks.
43   No living.


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