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The English Translation

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Black Tuesday

By Yitzhak Golda

(A chapter from my book, “In the Wolf’s Talons”)

Yitzhak Golda

  It is Monday at dusk, the evening of the aktion of August 22, 1941. This is an unforgettable date to us, scions of Zambrow.

On that very day, immediately in the morning, the sun appeared in the sky. However, it rapidly vanished under the black clouds that covered it like a mask. Silence, silence reigned in the street, not a hint of a breeze, as it was a prelude to a thunderstorm. The air was stifling and smelled of gunpowder.

The Jewish populace was expecting something of a decree; each and every one of us knew very well, and had heard of what had happened in the vicinity, and what had happened to the Jews of Szumowo. The Christian populace, meanwhile, also was looking forward to this, in a similar manner, and they later told us everything, how the Jews were tortured: they were ordered to carry out all of the Torah scrolls from the Bet HaMedrash onto a pyre of wood, and then burned, forcing them to sing and dance around the fire. After this, all of them [sic: the Jews] were frightfully tortured to death.

We would listen to stories like this every day. Some of the people believed them. However, there were many Jews who simply deluded themselves, and they believed that what had happened in their vicinity would not be true for them, but rather that the Christians are trying to panic the Jews. They would especially comfort themselves in the following way: Zambrow is after all a work center, in which the majority of the Jews work for the Germans. Therefore, such a thing could not happen in our location.

People went about harboring these kinds of illusions. They, the Germans, however, looked upon everyone in the same manner, like a butcher looking at a fowl he is readying to slaughter. There were no ‘better Jews’ to the Germans, all of us looked the same to them, one sooner, the other later. We Zambrow Jews were among the later ones. And indeed, during that quiet nightfall, the ‘Black Terrorists’ (S. S.), as they were called, found it desirable to travel to us in Zambrow.

It was still twilight, when first on the Lomza Gasse, a taxi appeared, and after the taxi, a freight truck, covered in a black tarpaulin. As it happens, at that moment, I was returning from a friend, and needed to cut through the ‘Szwenta-Kiszka’ Gasse to reach my house, on the Molishev Gasse (at that time there was not yet a ghetto). Along the way, I was able to observe this. I immediately understood what was up here. They immediately rode to the city gendarmerie, which was formerly the headquarters of the Magistrate. Immediately a German flag appeared with a swastika in the middle, fluttering at the tip of a high pole, which stood beside the gendarmerie. Police, and all of the S. S. troops entered the command post.

I immediately went home to tell what I had seen, and consulted with the family about what we should do. I thought that, in the house, they did not yet know about this new development. However, when I arrived home, my older brother Berel was in the house. At that same time, he had also returned from the street, was also at the ‘Judenrat’ and related that the ‘Judenrat’ had received an order, that the entire Jewish community is to be notified that at 5:00AM the next morning, all Jews over the age of 15, are to gather on the marketplace. As to what purpose – the ‘Judenrat’ itself didn’t know.

Hearing this sad news, it became dark and bitter for us. We began to decide what it was we had to do. Our brother Berel, added something else: Pruszynski the musician, a Christian, told him that one should not go out into the streets on the morrow, because there is going to be an ‘aktion,’ and many men will be taken away to be shot. The Christian told us he had heard this from reliable sources, and was not lying (as happened later on). Therefore, my brother said, my plan is that we will not go to turn ourselves in tomorrow, to the Angel of Death, but we should find some place to hide ourselves. All of us were then of a mind not to go to the assembly point.

My brother-in-law, Zaydkeh was not at home, he was with an acquaintance, but in the middle of this discussion, he happened to arrive, and gave us entirely different news. He related that he was at the ‘Judenrat’ and said that everyone has to be at the assembly point and there is no danger. The Germans merely wish to take people who are able to work. Anyone who does not appear at that place will be considered the same as a political criminal. Well, my brother-in-law said, he said we should trust in God, and what will be – will be.

My brother-in-law’s words affected everyone greatly, and the initiative for everyone to attempt to hide was dissipated. Because of this, we decided, that early in the morning, we would all go to the assembly point. except for my brother Berel k"z, who hid along with those who did not wish to go there.

It is night. My mother k"z prepared fresh undergarments for everyone. We dress in our better clothing, getting ourselves ready, as if for a wedding. We do not get undressed before going to sleep, but rather, lay down in all our clothes. And so, we await 5:00AM in the morning...

On that morning, Tuesday, August 23, is a date that no surviving Zambrow Jew who lived through that time will ever forget, because we, scions of Zambrow, paid entirely too dear a price. The beat and most presentable of our youth torn away from us on that day, never again to return.

The clock struck 4:30AM. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, and reminded myself that in less than a half hour we will be standing before the Day of Judgement. A shiver ran through my bones. I quickly got out of bed. My father, and his brother-in-law k"z had been up for some time already, covered in their prayer shawls, reciting individual prayers.

The early morning rays of the sun were beginning to penetrate through the windows. It will be a nice day... the birds were already singing the praises of a beautiful nature. Everything was normal, as if there was no war even going on. More than anyone else, I envied the birds at that moment, who were so free and fortunate, and don’t know anything about ‘Black Terrorists,’ about any ‘aktion,’ and other decrees that we, the pitiable, sinful Jews, all have to endure.

Time, however, did not stand still. It was shortly before five o’clock, and we have to go to the assembly point. At that moment, we heard knocking at the window, this being a member of the ‘Judenrat’ I think it was ‘Itcheh Pomp’ and the second person with him – one of the Jewish police, I think ‘ Arkeh Bick.’ Both were soaked and all sweaty from running around the Jewish houses to tell everyone to gather at the assembly point. Itcheh Pomp quickly said that we were to depart for the assembly point, because almost everyone is already gathered there.

We all immediately set out for the street, and my brother Berel k"z was going along with us, but midway, he disappeared, away from us. As he later told us, he took a risky chance at that moment. During the entire time of the ‘aktion,’ he stood under a wall to the side, and observed everything that happened from that spot.

When we had all arrived at the assembly point, about 3,000 people already stood arrayed in ranks: the men separate and the women separate, all arranged in straight rows, just like at a military parade. As I learned later on, we came a little too late, because other Jews had been standing there since four o’clock in the morning... because of this, we were that more anxious to quickly fall into the ranks, so the Germans would not notice us. My mother and sister stood themselves in the ranks of the women, and my father and I and my brother-in-law – among the men.

A deathly quiet reigned on the street. All eyes were turned in the direction where the truck with the black tarpaulin stood, and where the S. S. troops in their black, Death’s Head uniforms. All were dressed festively. In total, they were only eight men. All were visibly dead drunk, talking among themselves, laughing, and banging with their rubber truncheons against the shined German insignias on their boots.

On the wooden walk that went around the marketplace, groups of people from the Christian populace began to assemble, to look at what was being done to this small group of Jews. The S. S. troops, however, do not permit them to stand by, and order the Polish police with the white armbands – to break up these small circles. The Christians jump into the gates of the houses, and look out from there, at leisure, at the beautiful spectacle that is going to be made of the Jews. They spoke among themselves, and made signs with their hands, one to another, as if they were carrying on a serious debate, No one, not even their neighbors scrutinized them as carefully as I did: I understood what they had to say very well, and what they were gesticulating about. I understood that they were already arguing over those Jewish assets, and how to divide up that booty.... I saw in their faces, how they took such satisfaction from our misfortune. I understood it all, and entreated God in heaven not to let them live to realize their wishes.

The ‘selektion’ is at its peak intensity. The S. S. troops, with their truncheons in hand, go about among the people, examining each Jew from head to toe, and those with whom they are satisfied, are told to step out into a second line, both men and women. In general, they took one out of every three Jews, and ordered him to also stand among those who were ‘selected.’ At that moment of the ‘selektion,’ the people were so confused, that nobody understood what was going on, and what to do. There were, in fact, quite a number of people who simply ran over to the group that was selected. From all of this, it is possible to see how far the Nazis could go, in deceiving a mass of people, so that there would be no chaos or panic, that they should not perceive that they were not being selected for death, but life, meaning – to go for labor.

This ‘selektion’ lasted until ten o’clock in the morning. The crowd was already worn out from standing so long on their feet. During that time, everyone silently recited their confession in their heart, because no one could know whose fate it would be to remain among the living. Beside me, in the line, stood the Zambrow Yeshiva Headmaster, called R’ Yudl. I can still see him before my eyes (he was later taken away with the other Jews from the ‘barracks’, to Auschwitz and killed there). At that time, he was standing with a bowed head, and murmured something silently. His long black beard was pressed under the folds of his overcoat, in order that the S. S. troops not take him for an old man. But as the S. S. man went by, he rather calmly raised his head and looked the murderer square in the eye. The Jewish police, that wore white armbands during the ‘selektion,’ and who were certain that nothing would happen to them, and because of this their senior, Glicksman ordered them to stand in a separate line. The ‘Judenrat’ also stood in a separate line. The members of the ‘Judenrat’ as well as those of the police, pulled over many of their relatives to the ‘selected’ ranks – at the last moment, when the entire colony had already begun to move in order to leave the location. Thanks to this, they were spared from death. This was also the case with Zaremsky, whom Isaac Sukharewicz ( a ‘Judenrat’ member) had saved. The rest of the people, who had no connection to someone in the ‘Judenrat’ or the police – were taken away, literally like sheep, to the slaughter.

The Rabbi, Rabbi Regensburg k"z, did not go out onto the street during the time of the aktion, because he felt very weak at that time, but despite this, he wanted to be among all of the Jews. However, the ‘Senior Jew’ Glicksman did not permit him to come out to the marketplace, and promised him that nothing bad will happen. However, as it later became evident, even Glicksman’s assurances did not help. One of the S. S. men called over the ‘Senior Jew’ and asked about the Rabbi of the city. He replied that the Rabbi was ill, and cannot come out to the assembly point. They immediately ordered the Jewish police to bring the Rabbi. It did not take long, and two Jewish policemen were seen supporting the Rabbi under his arms, directly to the place where the truck stood that was covered in the black tarpaulin (we later named this vehicle the ‘Chevra Kadisha Wagon’). The S. S. ordered that a stool be brought out for the Rabbi. When the stool was already placed beside the truck, they ordered the Jewish police to take the Rabbi under his arms, and help him get into the truck. The Rabbi thanked them for their ‘helpfulness’ but got into the truck by himself. It is worth noting that, at the time, the Rabbi was 95 years old. At the time, he was counted among the oldest Rabbis in all of Poland, and it was pitiably his fate to be brought down by such murderous hands. Anyone who did not see how the Rabbi took his leave of all the members of the ‘Judenrat’ who stood nearby, since no other people were permitted near to that place, could not have had their hearts torn into little pieces watching his great sorrow from a distance. When the Rabbi was already seated under the black tarpaulin of the ‘Chevra Kadisha Wagon,’ the S. S. murderers gathered together seven other Jews, all of whom were old. Among them was an elderly Jewish man, a melamed from Jablonka. At the time that all of these seven elderly men were standing near the truck, getting ready to board it, this elderly man felt a need to relieve himself. The old man, not thinking, dropped his trousers in front of the S. S. murderer, and they immediately understood what the oldster wanted to do, and he was ordered to quickly get off the street, and return immediately. they did not send a guard with him. The oldster had enough presence of mind to not come back, and to fool these ‘wise’ guys. They paid no attention to the fact that the old man did not return, and together with the Rabbi, they boarded the remaining old men onto the truck, and took them off in the direction of Szumowo-Glebocz. As soon as they had disposed of the elderly, they ordered the ‘selected’ ones to begin moving. As the ‘Judenrat’ subsequently certified, this colony consisted of 1500 people, of which 600 were women. Women who had small children with them – were not taken. The best, and most beautiful of the young people of our city, on that day, were taken away by the Germans to Szumowo. All of them there were driven into the synagogue building, and from there, by truck, fifty people at a time, they were taken to the execution place in the Glebocz Forest. At ten o’clock that night – all of them were already dead. The transport of this colony of people took place in the following manner: at the front and rear taxis rode with two S. S. troops, who were accompanied by four Polish policemen. with rubber truncheons in their hands. In this manner, a group of 12 men led a host of 1500 people to the slaughter!

The tragic moment was when the entire colony was taken from the marketplace on the Ostroger Gasse, down the hill, in the direction of Szumowo-Ostrog-Mazowiecki. Those remaining behind still stood under guard by the remaining S. S. troops on the street. A wailing and a cry went up from the women and children. A frightful panic seized everyone. The S. S. troops immediately took up their arms and began to shoot directly at the people. At that moment, I happened to be standing by the pump which was in the middle of the street. A line of women stood immediately beside the pump. As soon as they heard the shooting, they began to flee. And as they ran, an elderly woman, right in front of my eyes, fell down, not far from me, having been struck by a bullet to the heart. She was immediately covered in blood. The shooting, however, did not last very long, because the crowd became afraid and it calmed down. Once again, the S. S. troops ordered everyone to get into lines, according to age. The first were a group of 15 to 30 year olds. At that time, I wad 17 years old. I put myself into this group. A fat S. S. trooper ordered us not to make chaos or start a panic, and one at a time, we should run home. Our group was close to 500 people. seeing that we were set free, we fled however quickly we could, in order not to stand there, and look into the eyes of the murderer.

Not knowing the fate of my family, I came running home. I felt myself to be fortunate, that I encountered my father and mother, brother and sister, who were also saved in this way from the selektion, as I was. On seeing my sister’s sorrow, who mourned her husband, who had fallen in among the ‘seized,’ all our satisfaction was spoiled. We wanted to comfort ourselves, as did all the Jews in that time did, with the feeling that these people had only been taken away to do labor, and that one day, they would return. My sister refused to be comforted, and cried whiningly...

On that day, it was Tisha B’Av in our house, and this is the way it was in all Jewish homes in which some member of a family was missing. This is how the aktion of the ‘Black Tuesday’ came to an end. This was a day in which we paid with 1500 young innocent martyrs. An unforgettable chapter for those of us survivors from Zambrow.

The Eye-Witness Account of a Christian

After Black Tuesday, after they took away 1500 people, various rumors spread about their fate. Some were comforted and others – were saddened. It must be said that the larger part of the populace allowed itself to be lulled by false hopes: nothing bad will happen to those people that were taken away. They will work for a specific period of time, and afterwards they will peaceably be sent home. They could not grasp, in their mind, how civilized people could permit so many people to be slaughtered. But there were others who understood the situation differently: this was an extermination initiative, and we will never see them again. However, the one thing no one was able to arrive at, was where were all of these people killed. This was a secret. And our family was the only one that was privileged to uncover this secret, thanks to our father k"z, who had many connections with the area Christians.

My entire family was killed, and unfortunately did not live to see the liberation, so that they could personally be able to tell this. The details that I relate here, were the eye witness account of a Christian, Stefan Muszalowski, who does not live far from the place where the butchery took place.

A short time after ‘Black Tuesday,’ a Christian by the name of Stefan Muszalowski came to us, from the village of Glebocz. He came especially to relate the entire story, because he had heard that my brother-in-law had fallen among these hapless people. Before telling us, he made us all swear not to tell anyone, because he was terribly afraid of the Germans. My father k"z, was therefore compelled to assure him that nobody would be told. We took this Christian into a second room, where there were no unfamiliar people, and locked the door. The Christian then began to speak in this manner:

On that same Tuesday, a nice day, the hay in the fields that had been cut for some time, and was as dry as pepper, needed to be gathered quickly from the fields, because if the rains came, it would get wet again. I was therefore hurried in conveying the hay, shortly before sunset. I was riding with my wagon full of hay back home, from the other side of the forest, and it was necessary to cross through a small part of the forest itself. Even before I got to the forest, I could hear heavy machine gun fire, and the loud outcries of people. I could not grasp what was going on here. I thought this to be maneuvers being conducted by the German soldiers. But afterwards, I recollected the large pit, that I, and other people from or village had dug. At that time, the Germans told us, when we asked them, why this pit was being dug, that this was a place to ‘store potatoes.’ Now, while riding along, everything became clear to me: in place of potatoes, they had filled this space with human bodies...

The Christian continues his story: I draw near to the forest, and the sounds of shooting and shouting suddenly stop, and it becomes still. Just as I entered the forest, the entire spectacle was yet again repeated: shooting again, and again, the outcries. Along the path through the forest that I was travelling, it was not possible to pass by and not behold the scene that I later saw with my own eyes, because the pit lay about 50 meters to the left of the road. Once again, it became still for a while. I saw nothing. Suddenly, I hear a thick masculine voice, in German: ‘Halt!’ And I had no sooner turned my head to the left, than I saw a German soldier with a machine gun on his back, crawling out from between the trees, coming right at me, and so I remained still. The German approached me immediately and ordered me to get down from the wagon, I debarked the wagon, with my crop in hand. And I then immediately ask him what he wants of me. He motioned with his hand that I should go with him, because he wants to show me something. His speech was a little bit German and a little bit Polish, and because of this I could understand what he wanted from me. I went with him. It did not take long, and we reached the place of execution. A terrifying picture unfolded before my eyes, when I saw the pit full of fresh corpses that lay like herring packed in a barrel, one thrown on top of the other, twitching like fish on dry land. Around the pit stood about 20 S. S. troops, all visibly dead drunk, watching this whole scene with satisfaction. As soon as they saw me, they immediately called me over to them. One of them then asks me, if I am a Pole. I answer in the affirmative. He then indicates that I should go nearer to the pit, and that I should look carefully at the people in the pit. I went over to the pit, looked at the people, and said that they were Jews. As soon as they heard me say this, one of the S. S. men walked over to me, and gave me a slap across the face, on one side, and then again on the other. It immediately became dark and bitter for me, and I lowered my head. But not waiting long, the same S. S. man orders me to raise my head a little, and pay attention to what else he has to say to me. The same question came again: I am to answer whom it is that I see here in the pit, and for the second time, somehow involuntarily, I blurted out that I did not know. I cannot remember these people, because they are covered in blood, and lie one on top of another. This answer immediately satisfied them, and the translator immediately conveyed to me in Polish: ‘This satisfies us. No one knows, and that suffices.’ These people, the S. S. man says, are war criminals, these are Russians. They made war against us, and for that reason, we killed them all. And now, he continues, you now know, you filthy Pole, who these people are. Repeat it, the S. S. man repeated murderously.

A heavenly miracle occurred at that time, that a taxi drove up and stopped. A tall man, who was well-dressed emerged, recognizably an officer, and immediately called over several of the S. S. troops to him, and quietly whispered something to them. What he had to say, I did not apprehend. The officer immediately ordered the S. S. troops to release me. The S. S. troops immediately called me over, took down my name, and also the address of where I live. The same S. S. man that brought me there, took me back, crop in hand, to my horse and wagon. I quickly got up into the wagon, flicked the horse, and galloped on ahead. Meanwhile, the S. S. man had turned to the side and vanished into the thick pine trees. When I came home – the Christian continues to tell – it was already dark. I went into my hut to tell my wife the whole story. We did not eat our evening meal. For the entire night, I could not shut my eyes to sleep, the entire picture from the forest, the S. S. troops and the pit, the dead bodies, stood before my eyes. I lay there thinking about the fact that they wrote down my name. Maybe they will come to take me.

Shortly after the liberation, when I had emerged from the dark pit into God’s free world, I also had the privilege of being able to see this [mass] grave, now overgrown, thanks to this same Christian, Stefan Moszalowski. The grave is about 20 meters long, and 2 meters wide. One length looks like a long rake. All around is a bare parcel of field, surrounded by a thick stand of pine trees. As the Christian told me, shortly before the liberation, in the month of June 1944, the Germans brought a party of Jews from Bialystok, who were especially employed to dig up the mass graves in our vicinity, and to incinerate the bones. The grave of the Zambrow Jews in the Glebocz Forest was also dug up, and the bones burnt...

A Smoking Ember Rescued from the Fire

By Moshe, the son of Berel Lewinsky

(From His Memoirs, recorded by Joseph Yerushalmi)

The Germans occupied our city a month after the outbreak of the war. Before their arrival, they had bombarded the city and burned about half the buildings, among them – the entire Jewish district from the Lomza Road, the synagogue, the houses of study, – to the cemetery. They were in the city for just ten days – after which, according to their agreement, the Russians entered. They took over what the Germans had left, founded professional cooperatives, and sent some of the well-to-do to Siberia. In July 1941 the Germans came back. This time, they immediately began with repressions, confiscating assets, seizing people for so-called forced labor, etc. On one occasion they rounded up 90 men, among them also aged, such as R’ Tuvia Skotzenodek, and they never came back. On a second occasion, they compelled everyone to assemble on the marketplace, and seized 800 people, among them the aged Rabbi – and they were never seen again.  

Moshe Lewinsky

We felt that we were going under. We were advised to build a ghetto. We collected money, about 3 kilos of gold, and obtained permission from the Lomza Gestapo to squeeze ourselves into a ghetto, between the Jatkowa Gasse and Swietna-Kszisa – to the river. About 2000 of us people were gathered into that location, and surrounded ourselves with barbed wire. We were there from July 1941 to November 1942. In November, we were taken to the vacant barracks buildings. There were about fourteen thousand Jews concentrated there. from Lomza, Wysoka, Czerwin-Bura, Jablonka, Rutki and Szumowo. Those were hard days there, hunger and cold, epidemics and death. Until the Nazis began, in January 1943 – to transfer a party of Jews each night, of about 2000 people, through Czyzew to Auschwitz. On the train station at Czyzew, it was easy to escape, but nobody knew where to go. While we were still in the ghetto, I fled, with my entire family, to a peasant, a good friend of mine, but we came back almost immediately, because he was afraid to try and hide the entire family. Also, here in Czyzew, when my feet were almost entirely frozen, a peasant called to me and told me to crawl to the outside of the city, and to travel with him to a village. He said he would hide me. This was a friend of mine from the military, and not only once had I done favors for him. With frozen feet, I crawled, holding onto the hollows in the walls – until I got to the outskirts of the city, and got into his wagon. However, my entire family went off to Auschwitz. I saved myself in order to be able to tell what happened to us. The peasant kept me for only one day, and on the following morning, he told me to travel back to Czyzew, because his wife was afraid to hide me in the house. I went off on foot, through the forest, to the first gentile, who kept me with the family for a day, and he took me in amicably, trusting the secret only to his son, and did not tell his wife, ‘quartering’ me in a stack of hay. For me it was sufficiently warm there. During the day, I lay there, squashed in – at night, I crawled out a bit. I ate dried out bread, and every other day, he stealthily brought me a half portion from his dog...

I was severely weakened by the bad food, from the lice that pestered me, and from the wounds in my frozen feet. The peasant tended to me, and with a great effort, got a hold of a small bottle of naphtha with which to massage my feet. He decided to reveal my hideout to his wife. She became extremely upset, grabbed her children, and ran off to her father. However, she calmed down, and came back, and began to give me a warm bowl of soup each day, and washed my shirt. I was there for twenty months. Once, German representatives came and confiscated the hay from the peasant. Everything was laid out in wagons, and taken away. I was almost uncovered. My good gentile, however, rescued me, and told me to run behind to the stacks of hay in the fields. There also, I was saved by a miracle, because the Germans there were looking for peasants who had fled from forced labor. I entered a bog, and sequestered myself there, and I was not taken. I came back to my peasant, and I wanted to surrender myself to the Germans, because I had become severely weakened, confused, and isolated. My peasant gave me hope, and comforted me, saying that the Russians were very close to arriving. the Germans began to scour the entire area, and even at that point I experienced a miracle that I was not taken, practically under their noses. As they retreated, they ripped up the entire vicinity. I barely escaped with my life. The Russians found me fainting and like discarded garbage. They interrogated me, gave me food, and told me to run away from this place. There were battles to take place here. I then dragged myself two kilometers to Kolaki and later was able to return to my good gentile. When the front moved on, I went to Zambrow. I found a city that was destroyed. After a great deal of searching, I found one other Jew, Finkelstein from the Wodna Gasse, who had also found sanctuary with a gentile. We took up residence in the attic of Averml Tuchman’s forge, on the Bialystok Road. On the morrow, a few other Jews were found: the three Sztupnik brothers, a son of Zaydl Taback, a couple of Jews from Czerowny-Bur. We founded a ‘Jewish Colony’ and took up residence in the vacant house of Itcheh Mulyar. Together with Finkelstein, we began to till a small parcel of land. The Magistrate helped us out a bit. We saw, however, that our lives were in danger, if we remained here. The gentiles were finishing up what the Nazis had not succeeded in doing, and were murdering the few who had been left living. So we fled to Lodz, where a larger center of Jews existed, but also here, we found no home, despite the fact that there was a way to make a living. Our only home became Israel, and I made aliyah and was satisfied. True, I was orphaned, isolated, without my wife and children.

I remember my good peasant very well, and I write letters to him, and also, from time-to-time, I send him a little money, to help his family.

I have also not forgotten the Amalekites, despite the fact that their name does not cross my lips.

A Letter from the Other World

Under the ruins of the house at Nowolipki 68, in September 1946, and at the beginning of December 1950, there was found parts of the archive of Emanuel Ringelblum from the Warsaw Ghetto.44 The historical documents were largely published by the Jewish Historical Society, and others. Among other items, a letter was found there from our landsman, teacher and leader of Poalei Tzion, Nathan (Noskeh) Smolar, the son of Dovcheh Smolar, dated the 10th of December 1942, in Warsaw. He tells here of his last meeting with his mother, in Bialystok, how the Germans captured his wife, Esther – the well-known teacher in the Zambrow Borokhov School (Poalei-Tzion) – with his three year-old little daughter Ninkeleh. [And] how later, how his sister Ethel was captured and killed, who had dedicated her life in Warsaw to raising Jewish children – orphans and homeless ones.

Nathan Smolar was one of the finest Jewish pedagogues, and directed a municipal Jewish school. During the ghetto period, he was alone – and put forward his struggle for giving a Jewish education, and he was in a fighting group of Jewish intellectuals against the enemy, and as such, he fell – on the barricades, among the first active combatants against the Nazi plague. He was among the first instigators of the Ghetto rebellion.

Being isolated, and torn away from his family, he believed that the only one who remained alive was his sister in New York, in The Bronx, at 1568 Leland Avenue, Pesha Deitchman. He therefore wrote her a letter, his last letter. However, since contact with America was broken off, he buried the letter in the cache of the ghetto archive of the historian Emanuel Ringelblum, his friend. He believed that we would not be exterminated, and that a day would come when Jewry would again unite, and push forward its struggle for a better future. He believed that his letter would reach his siter.

As an aside: he did not know that his younger sister, Esther, the wife of the writer Szlewin, saved herself (is now living in Paris). He also did not know that his younger brother, Hershl, also remained alive, after having fought with the partisans in the Minsk area. (Now, he is in Warsaw, the Chairman of Polish Jewry).

And Here is the Letter:

The Smolar Family

To the Forest, the Forest! With Bow and Arrow!

Zambrow Children from the three heders, and their teachers: Bercheh Sokol, Fyvel Zukrovich, and
Zerakh Kagan, k"z, going to the Forest, with the National Flags at Front, On Lag B’Omer 1918.

My dear sister Pesha Deitchman,

Should I not survive, whoever has the possibility should send over to you this small folio about your family, because here a thousand times more awful things happened.

Your brother Noskeh

The family’s Book of Job begins with our dear mother k"z, in Zambrow, at the end of July 1941. Even a week earlier, she, the good-hearted one, risked her life for the price of a golden watch (from father’s wedding gifts), and set out on the danger-filled way towards Bialystok, to determine if her children were still alive. She took along a little bag of candy, a bit of kasha, and oil for the children, because in Bialystok, Jews were already afraid to go out in the street to procure a bit of food. In Bialystok, she met up only with me and sister Ethel, after we had fled from Zambrow to Bialystok, on the second day of the war. Esther (our sister) had left Bialystok immediately on the first day, and we have no news from her. Herschel (a brother) left on the second day, and has remained somewhere among the malefactors. I received regards from him somewhere in the vicinity of Baranovich. Mother traveled back on that very same evening – having spent altogether one day with us. A week later, the German band of murderers entered Zambrow, called together and then drove out the entire shtetl into the streets, about 1500 old and young, men and women with small children were all gathered together, dragged off to the Czyzewo vicinity in the forest, where large trenches had already been dug, and there, met their end with the others. The news reached us in Bialystok three weeks later. We, especially Ethel, the frail youngest of my mother, so spoiled, took it very badly.

Some time passed, and first I, and then Ethel, left Bialystok and came to Warsaw. Ethel considered herself very fortunate when it fell to me to be able to find her work as a governess in an orphanage. How much heart she gave to those children. How many times did she sit for hours at a time, to find a suitable lullaby, or a game for the children, loving them – like a mother loves her own children. Today, there are no more children, there is no more Ethel. I have gotten off the time line a bit – forgive me, my sister.

It is already some time since the ‘resettlement’ began (this is the name the Germans have given to the mass-murder of Jews), the beginning of the prelude, the preface to the tragedy: shootings have started in the streets, precisely in this fashion: an auto drives by, and from it, they shoot Jewish passers-by. In addition to this, there are organized nightly mass shootings, about fifty or so Jews are taken out of their dwellings, taken away several houses from their own, told to turn around and lie down. Later – a new group of 100 people taken out of arrest houses and shot: through a notification we are told this is punishment for not obeying the demands made by the German authorities, and that we even resist them. And again there are tens and hundreds of murders. Rumors abound, one worse than the next, circulating that they will drive us out of Warsaw, somewhere outside the city. We could not believe it – could it be possible to drive the Jews out of Warsaw, such a city that was a Mother to Jewry, a city of 400 thousand Jews? We learned on our own that this would certainly happen to the homeless, with those that had fled here, but no way would this happen to those who were born here.

That is, until the trouble started. Placards appeared – all Warsaw Jews – except... and except... would that it would have happened this way, so there would not have been so many victims. Perhaps self-defense would have been established, and such a denouement would not have occurred, that over 300 thousand Jews, among which there were tens of thousands of young, should be led like sheep to the slaughter.

Exceptions were listed on the notices: except for all those who work in the municipal institutions, in the provisioning organizations, social institutions (the Jewish Help Committee, Tzentos, TOZ), the manual trades union, and others. Yes, and everyone they take under their protection (and do not have to be sent out) their wives and children.

A stampede began. Until the Jewish police was seen to be sending away all the poorest of the refugees that had fled here; driving the poor from their houses. who had nothing with which they could buy themselves out of this situation, since ninety percent already had documentation that they belong to the privileged categories and are not required to be sent away.

I too, who was employed by the community – took care of myself by joining a shop – I became a carpenter and after many pains, I was taken under the aegis of a shop, including my wife and child, even though she herself was also a community employee.

A panic began: the J. H. K. was no longer recognized: in very short order legitimization by the community will not be tolerated... by contrast: ‘shop’ – that was the talisman, a one hundred percent assurance. In order to verify the rumors, I was pointed out as one., and there another one of the J. H. K appointed by the community, seized, not paying any heed to legitimacies. When I finally got my ID card with the red stamp of the S. S., I was completely secure, and had protected my family, for whom I had acquired a special classification for all the members of my family. To be absolutely sure, and to obtain further protection, I took my wife and child into the factory with me. Other hundreds of shop workers did the same thing. They sat themselves in the yard of the factory (Gensza 30), shoved far into a corner, far from malevolent eyes, and sat there for the day. And when the Angels of Terror – the Jewish police, bands of German S. S., with their Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Latvian accomplices – ended their day’s work, we would go home to lodge for the night. Often, we would not undress, because of the continuous night-shootings and wild rumors about night pogroms.

And lo, one day, the talisman of the shop card became voided, and to my misfortune, our shop was the first one where this gate was broken down. It was on a Friday, August 7, a sum total of 17 days after the beginning of the mass-murders. The women and children, and the old folks were, as they were every day, seated spread out, way back, hidden deep into the yard, unseen by the outside world, when the S. S. And Ukrainians broke into the rear through a fence in the adjacent yard. The people were wondrously clam. They ordered everyone to get up, line up and head towards the gate, where only the documents would be inspected, everyone has documents – so they went quietly. They came to the gate – but there is no inspection of documents: they proceed further, and anyone who dared to utter a word, to resist, began being beaten with truncheons, pointed rods, right in the face. A few were shot outright – and everyone then proceeds as ordered. We, the men, didn’t even know what was taking place here, because the factory has to be operating on full steam, and each person has to be at their work station. They did not even look into the factory at that time. They gathered everyone together, and took them to the assembly place – the modern Golgotha, from which they were led to the train cars to the extermination point at Treblinka, where mass executions took place by gas and shooting.

I hurled myself in vain at this, like a wounded animal in a cage. I ran to the assembly point, paid to find out if Esther, my wife, with Ninkeleh are still here. I sent money, a lot of money, to bribe the police, to Dr. R.45 We sent our own factory police. I found out that they were able to avoid getting on the first transport of 6000 people, which had left at 11 o’clock in the morning. But with force and with beating, they were driven out of their hiding places, when the second transport that day left. Nothing could be done to help them. With a child in her arms, it was not possible to avoid the bleak fate. I received news that she was seen with Ninkeleh, wearing her red jacket, on the way to the train cars.

In vain, I expended additional effort, making a telephone call to a person I knew had a business connection to the overseers at the Treblinka camp. He replied that he could provide no help. That everyone there is condemned to death. (He, himself, was later shot there). From that time on, the glow vanished from the shops. It was not only family members that were arrested, but random people – whoever had, or didn’t have a shop ID card. Blockading the shops became a frequent occurrence. It happened in this way: a pair of S. S. men would enter, and immediately after them, Ukrainians, who spread through the entire area of the factory, and after them, Jewish police. Everyone is ordered out into the yard. Women and children hide themselves. The Ukrainians search. [They look] for money, watches or other kinds of jewelry, they can be bought off, but often: after them, come others, and drive people out of their hiding places. Out in the yard, an S. S. man goes through the ranks with his riding crop, pulling out this one and that one, those who are told to go to the side, this means – to death. Anyone who does not go immediately– is beaten with the riding crop, or as was the case with us in several instances, shot on the spot. Those who have been stood aside squirm, making attempts to run over to the ranks of the ones left behind, but the Jewish police does its job faithfully – and does not permit this. You try to pass them, as you did to the Ukrainians, jewelry, or several hundred zlotys. Much is given to obtain this temporary salvation. Many conceal themselves during these blockades in previously prepared hideouts, thanks to which there remains a small remnant of women. Along with the blockade of the shops, there is a blockade of the housing block of the factory. Everyone is dragged out of there, who have not been able to hide themselves properly, or to bribe their way out of the hands of the Ukrainians. I managed, in this way, partly through concealment, and partly through luck, to stay alive until this day.... 12.10.1942.

On the night of September 5 to the 6th, a new form of misfortune arrives. All the shops, all the ‘platzuvkehs’ who go to work for the Germans on the Aryan side are going to be disbanded. Everyone has to leave their residence by Sunday, September 6th at 10:00AM, and come to the sealed streets (Mila, Slubecki, Stawki). There, a fresh registration will take place of all the workers, and those that get through this process will be able to go back to their place. I live on the Mila Gasse, and on that morning of September 6, I stood by the window and looked out. No pen is able to write down a description of the nightmarish picture of that morning.

Tens of thousands of people, faces darkened, all hope given up, unwashed faces, mothers, masses, and masses, wander back and forth. There is helplessness in their gaze. And they go, and keep going. And the segregations take place. One part goes back, and the larger part, in the thousands, as led to the assembly point.

A thousand and one stories of tragedy are told by those who survived that day. Who can retell it all? Each word is reliving a tragedy. Our segregation first took place on the fourth day – Wednesday. Every day, we waited for our landlord, the German Henzl, and in the end he came with the good news: our shop is going to remain. It is permitted for 500 men to stay, and as they remained, after so many blockades, there were less than 500 men, it appears that everyone will get to stay. Notwithstanding this, the elderly, women and children, should hide themselves. The remaining men should promptly present themselves.

We waited for the entire day for the S. S. troops, who were carrying out the ‘selektion.’ They arrived at about 6:00PM, like an angry storm, like a [swarm of] locusts. Leading them was the murderer himself – Brandt. With bloodshot eyes, and a hoarse shout, they quickly, quickly took to their ‘work.’ Alert workers in the factory understood how to utilize the psychology of terror, and hammered out metallic labels with the initials O. B. W. (Ost-Deutsche Bau-Tischlerie- Warschtatten), with numbers, and sold them at three zlotys apiece. These metal labels were called dog tags, and despite this, many bought them, as if they were a real talisman, to prevent any and all misfortune. In order to make these metallic labels appear to be significant, they were not given to the women. It was these metallic labels that the S. S. troops took to be an important credential and anyone who did not have such a tag, was sentenced [sic: to death]. With wild shouting, with truncheons and riding crops, and the senior Brandt, with a board in his hand, they divided the group up into three camps, and anyone that was sentenced, was bestially beaten. Twice, Brandt broke the boards over the backs and the heads of those who did not move quickly enough who had been sentenced to die. Blood ran freely. And in order to inflame his anger even further, or to justify his perverted actions in the eyes of the civilian German shop owners, he shouted out at every blow: enough, enough, for you, three years we are bleeding because of you Jews, and it is because of you that the German people suffer.

My sister, Ethel, was also among these hundreds of men and women. Her children from the orphanange had long ago been taken away to the usual sacrificial altar. I took her into the factory as my wife, and exerted myself to get her a factory ID, a card with the S. S. stamp on it, indicating that she was legitimate according to the rules – and she lived with me. She went to the selektion with confidence. There was no question that she was going to get through. Who could, if not she, a young 22 year-old, fresh, beautiful; especially since the desired contingent for the factory had not been filled. As soon as the S. S. had separated out those with the metal tags, and ordered them to return to the factory, a strict blockade was carried out in the housing, dragging people out of the housing and the hideouts, and afterwards taking them to the train cars, and after that, not a trace of her.

Additional blockades took place afterwards, internal selektions, and seizures – I, in the meantime, remained.

What happened to my sister Chana, and her daughter Belcheh, I do not know. I only know this: The same thing also occurred during November in Zambrow. There, the executions took place in Czeworny-Bor? – I have no news from them.

This write-up was found in the Ringelblum Archive. The original is found in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

All the Jews of Zambrow, as well as the Jews from the surrounding vicinity, were packed in by the Germans into the Zambrow barracks. The Lomza Jews brought the elderly with them from their Old Age Home, and the orphans from the city orphanage. Approximately 20,000 Jews were squeezed into these barracks – without appropriate food, without water, without light or air. There were no sanitary facilities. The overcrowding was frightening. The little food we had taken with us, from the ghetto, lasted about two weeks.

Shortly afterwards, the hunger began to assault us with full force. After much exertion, the Judenrat was able to get a ‘concession’ to gather up the abandoned food that had been left behind in the ghetto, and transfer it to the barracks. When we finally got a bit of food – we immediately opened up a community kitchen, and immediately provided a warm midday meal to the children, and the elderly, and whatever was left over – was distributed to the able-bodied [adults].

Because of the seriously deficient sanitary conditions, a typhus epidemic broke out. People dropped like flies. With the expenditure of a great deal of effort, we managed to organize a hospital in that place, and with great difficulty, we acquired a little bit of medicine from Skrozhnik’s pharmacy, where I had previously been employed. By whatever means, under these given awful conditions, we managed to run a small pharmacy. It is worth mentioning the dedication and extraordinary relationship of the Jewish doctors, who were with us, as for example -- Dr. Knott from Lomza (now in Israel) and others. They stood at their post and served the sick day and night.

The moment of the liquidation arrived. The Germans mobilized a mass of peasants with wagons, and every night, they transferred about two thousand men from the barracks to the close-by train station at Czyzew, loaded them onto special sealed train cars, and then transported to somewhere. When someone tried to ask: ‘Where are they taking us,’ the cynical reply was: to a labor camp, where each person will be able to work at his own trade, without overcrowding or hunger. I was in the last transport, which left Zambrow on December 27, 1942 (19 Tevet 5703). The camp commandant came to the senior member of the Judenrat with a proposal: he had, in his possession, a kilogram of Veronal46 – he wanted to use the drug to put the children, the old and the sick, to sleep permanently, who were not fit to work, and will not be able to survive the difficult trip. No one took up this satanic proposal. Despite this, they managed to achieve their goal, and they poisoned about 200 of the old and infirm.

At the last moment, when I needed to leave the barracks, I ran through the rooms to see if anyone was still left. To my great heartache, I saw about two hundred children, elderly, and weakened, lying sunk in a deep sleep and a rattle coming out of their throats. This was their last death rattle, that pierced the air. I immediately grasped what was going on here, and from my heart, I tore out the old, sorrowful blessing: ‘Baruch Dayan HaEmet!’ That death rattle followed me for the entire journey, and with weeping and pain, I stuck with the solitary brethren who yet remained alive, who are now going to experience a train journey of unknown nature, over which death was fanning us with its wing.

We were five days taken on this journey, without food or water. Small children, neglected, lay whimpering: they

pleaded for a bit of bread and a bit of water. From time to time, we scraped off the bits of ice from the small train car windows, and gave it to the children to revive them somewhat. We finally arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 3, 1943 (26 Tevet). There we met up with about 10 percent of those who had come on the transports that had arrived to date, that were yet alive. All the others had given up the ghost, and breathed their last in the gas chambers. The ones who remained alive were sentenced to hard labor, in the death camp...

And this is how I got through this gruesome period and was liberated 28 months later by the liberating American army, in Munich, on May 15, 1945.

We Organize a Partisan Group

By Yitzhak Stupnik
(Buenos Aires)

My brother Yankl and I managed to wriggle out of the Zambrow ghetto, and went off to work in the ‘Pniew sheds’ a colony, not far from Czeworny-Bur, near the swampy Pniew Forest. We worked there for a prosperous peasant, Wiszniewski. We figured out, that when our situation would become difficult, we will flee directly into the forest. My older brother Moshe, was in the Lomza ghetto. On one Saturday, we went over to Czeworny-Bur. The Jews there were being harassed minimally, because they were needed there to work. Once there, we remained until Sunday. Sunday, after the noon hour, the news spread with lightning speed that all the roads are surrounded by gendarmes, so that no one could flee, and the gentiles in the area had received a forceful order to come with their wagons, to transfer the Jews from Czeworny-Bur to the Zambrow barracks. We came up with the idea by ourselves... we decided to flee at any price. Riding on horses, the gentiles searched for Jews that had fled, in the fields, and brought them back to the Germans. They received either a half liter of whiskey, or a kilo of sugar for each Jew that they could seize this way. The Soltis of Czeworny-Bur himself got on one knee, and aimed his gun at a Jewish boy that had saved himself and was running in the filed, just as if he were shooting a wild duck, as was reported by other gentiles...

In the dark, we managed to wriggle out into the forest, with a few other Jews. Before dawn, we saw some human form shadows moving towards us. We were frozen: it was our brother Moshe, from the Lomza ghetto. They, too, were confined in order to transfer them to Zambrow. A member of the Judenrat, a young man from Zambrow, Baumkolier, accidentally happened to learn about the aktion, and he quickly let all the Jews know: save yourselves as best you can, flee! Accordingly, certain individuals fled, among them my brother, Moshe. He ran the whole night to Czeworny-Bur, to us.

We then decided not to separate, and to remain together. We decided to go back to the Pniew sheds, at night. At the edge of the forest we espied a peasant’s hut. Moshe, who looked like a peasant, went into it to ask for something to eat. We waited at a distance. He came out quickly, and a band of gentile thugs began to chase him, in order to turn him over to the Germans. We immediately came to the aid of our brother, with sticks, which we had hacked off the trees, and the gentile thugs ran off. We dragged ourselves to the shed at night. The Wiszniewski family took us back, let us spend the night in the loft of the stall, gave us food to eat – but very strenuously encouraged us stay in the forest during the day, and that only at night, could we come to eat and sleep. In the morning, both our lives and their lives were in danger. We remained there for four weeks: in the forest during the day, at night, up in the loft. Our brother Moshe was counted as a friend, not as a brother. We met up in the forest with other remnants from our vicinity, from Gacz, etc., and we decided to form a partisan group at our own risk, in the Pniew Forest.

It was about six months after the liquidation of the Zambrow ghetto. Alone and dejected, we wandered the in the forests, hiding by day, and looking for something to eat by night. We had no connection to Polish partisans, and when we did come in contact, it would be to our detriment – they would have killed us, being no better than the Germans. When we discovered several others, in the forest, that had escaped death, such as Israelkeh Gebel, the butcher from Gacz, his son, Zelik, with his wife and three small children, the two Rudnik brothers, Isaac Burstein (also a butcher), and Yossl Kwiatek, and others, we decided to organize ourselves into a ‘Partisan Brigade.’ procure arms, and fight the enemy. My brother Yankl was nominated as the Commandant, and we found a suitable location in the Pniew Forest for our headquarters. With an enormous amount of effort, we procured some arms, with a limited number of ammunition rounds, from the peasantry. On one morning, a peasant was drawing near to us, with an unsteady gait. We immediately went on alert, because he had become suspicious to us. With fear in his eyes, the peasant got closer, and expressed his feeling regarding our plight, and began to tell us that at his location, under the roof of his barn, a man and his wife are hidden who are Jews, and they need to be rescued, because the surrounding neighbors had sniffed them out, and will turn them over to the Germans. The Polish groups from the A. K. (Armia Krajowa) circulate in the area, and they kill off the remaining Jews.

We quickly took counsel, and decided to carefully proceed and rescue these two Jewish people, according to the signs that the peasant had given us. My brother Mishka was designated the one to lead the mission. Late at night, with his gun loaded, he came up to the barn. He climbed up to the eaves, and he heard an intake of breath in the straw. Mishka whispered in the dark: I am a Jew, having come to rescue you! Come out and tell me who you are? – I am Mottl Sh. from Miszenic, a male voice responded. – And I am Rashkeh Ch. from Lomzica, a querulous female voice answered. A shudder ran through Mishka’s bones, as soon as he heard the name of Mottl Sh. He was a well-known informer, who had cooperated with the Germans in the Lomza ghetto, and had brought no small number of Jewish lives to an end, and later caused troubles in the Zambrow ghetto. Mishka didn’t lose control of himself and said: I cannot rescue two at a time, therefore let Rashkeh Ch. come with me first. Out of a great deal of grief and joy, Rashkeh forgot to put on her shoes, and ran barefoot with me. When we were on our way, she realized that she couldn’t step on the pointed little stones, and must go and get her shoes. Mishka did not let her go back, told her to wait at the entrance to the forest, and went back alone to look for the shoes. Looking for the shoes in the straw, Mishka noticed persons wearing short leather jackets, besieging the barn, lighting it up with flashlights – they sensed that there were Jews there... Mishka immediately jumped down and stationed himself behind a wagon, with his gun in hand. One of them drew nearer to him. Mishka did not want to waste a bullet on him, he silently gave his a blow in the head with the butt of his gun to the heart. That individual immediately fell to the ground, and Mishka fled to the forest. They shot at him in the dark, but did not hit him. Mottl Sh. also fled, saving himself, and before dawn, found our location. He stood before us with his head down, and said nothing. We decided to try him. After Israelkeh the Butcher, and others told us about the Jewish victims in the Lomza ghetto that fell because of Mottl, also informing on the secret means of procuring food for the Jews, the new refugees that arrived in the ghetto, etc., until the senior in the Lomza Judenrat, Mr. Mushinsky, became aware through a German, that Mottl was a provocateur, and is turning over all this information to the Germans. Mushinsky then allowed him to be arrested and confined to the cellar of the Judenrat.The Germans then let them know that all the Lomza Jews would be held accountable for him. He was released, and he went off to Zambrow... it pained us that millions of our brethren were killed while innocent, and this bandit remained alive here, and was standing in front of us. Our ‘tribunal’ sentenced him to death.

A Scion of Zambrow – Leader of the Minsk Ghetto Fighters

Herschel, the son of Dovcheh Smolar was enthralled with communism as a youngster. He served six years in the Lomza prison. When the Red Army entered Lomza, they set him free. In accordance with party orders, he penetrated the Minsk ghetto – in order to secretly lead the anti-fascist resistance groups. Afterwards, Smolar went over from Minsk to the partisans, and received an array of distinguished medals from the Red Army, and today is the head of the central committee of Polish Jewry. In the year 1946, his book, ‘The Minsk Ghetto’ was published in Moscow in 1946 by the ‘Emes’ publishing company – where all the terrifying deeds of the Nazis are recounted. We bring here, a summary of a long article (800 lines in close penmanship) which was dedicated in ‘Einikeit’ of 28 September 1944 – an organ of the Jewish anti-fascist committee in the Soviet Union.


H. Smolar

... Herschel Smolar, the 35 year-old young man, had no other option but to fall into the paws of the bestial enemy, in the Minsk ghetto. He could have gotten Aryan papers and resided among the gentiles, but he said, instead: I am after all, a Jew, and my place is among Jews. He immediately went to work as the commandant for the underground resistance company which had only one objective: strike the enemy by all means. Smolar was already seasoned at this work: it is already 11 years that he is working illegally in the party, including his 6 years in prison, until the Red Army freed him. He had contacts in the surrounding vicinity by clandestine means. [In the outside world] he was known as Yefim Stoliarewicz. After a few weeks, he needed to arrange for the municipal hospital to attend to the sick with infectious diseases. The location was created for him by Dr. Leib Kulik. The Germans did not interfere in the affairs of the hospital a great deal, being afraid to become infected themselves. It was here that the resistance units were organized, and it was here that poisons, and all manner of other dangerous materials were prepared in order to poison the food and drink of the enemy, by Jewish workers and cooks. It was from here that armed wings would sally forth and assault the German provision trucks, food storage dumps, leather supplies, manufactured goods, sugar, etc., and distribute this booty within the ghetto. When the dangerous Stoliarewicz was being intensely hunted by the Gestapo – Smolar left the area. The Judenrat received an order to turn in Stoliarewicz –- if they failed to do so, they will pay for it with their heads. So, the head of the Judenrat, Joffe, fell upon a stratagem: a night before this, the Nazis had assaulted a large house and killed about 70 men. They then put false papers on the body of one of the dead men, under the name of Stoliarewicz, bloodied him up, and brought him to the Gestapo commandant. At this point, Smolar needed to conceal himself even from Jewish eyes, and he was brought into the hospital on a cot by sanitary workers, concealing him among the severe typhus cases, and his bed became the general headquarters of the underground resistance company. It was here that he organized the plan to send out groups of 150 men at a time, secretly, and to connect up with the partisans in the Naliboki Forests. Everyone began to search for ammunition for these resistance groups. On July 23, 1942, Tisha B’Av, the Nazis made a bloodbath in the ghetto. For four days and four nights, they shot and murdered. Smolar was stuck away in the space between a double wall in the hospital. The Nazis shot and killed all of the sick, and Smolar stayed between the walls, and carried on from there. This was until a messenger came to him from the party central command, from 22 year-old Maria Gorokhova, who worked as a cook in the German kitchen, and together with another girl, who was Jewish, Emma Rodowa, got Smolar out of the ghetto. As a carpenter, he was now living in the most dangerous house, in the Gestapo building, and above him was – the senior German commander Kuba. They came to transfer him to the partisans after six weeks. He traversed 10 kilometers with the ???, and gave no sign of connecting with them. He returned, and hid himself with a woman, a lecturer in medical courses – under a bed, covered with sacks and valises. Later, he was taken to a railroad employee at night, where he slept, and the Gestapo came knocking at the door. Smolar jumped through the window, onto the roof, in his nightshirt. He scrunched himself up on the roof, in order not to be noticed/ When it quieted down – he went back inside through the window. His companions were arrested. The Germans sealed up the house. Smolar gathered up his borrowed papers, and set out on the road. He wandered for 17 days, until he reached the partisan company and became its commander according to the order of the Party. Then, Smolar began to carry out a new accounting with the enemy.

The Third Fire

By Isaac Malinowicz
(The Bronx)

A Banquet on Israeli Independence Day. A Group of Zambrow Landsleit in America, with Mr. & Mrs. I. Malinowicz drink a ‘L’Chaim’ to the Zambrow Survivors.

The ‘Special Cave’ Devoted the Memory of European Jewry on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, is comprised of monuments to the destroyed Jewish Communities. The first one, to the left, is the Zambrow Memorial Tablet, and standing beside it, is the Representative of the Society of Jews from Lomza and Zambrow in Argentina, Ch. H. Rudnik, of blessed memory.

They would say, that when the lovely summer arrives – the fires start. Every summer, entire towns would burn down, with Jewish assets, Jews of means, balebatim, craftsmen, would pitiably be left without a roof over their heads, or a bite of bread for the children.

The fire did not spare our Zambrow either. The first fire, which burned down practically the entire shtetl, broke out on a Friday just before candle lighting.. It was a hot summer day in 1895. Women & Men always liked to tell about the great fire, with the added groan: ‘we should not even think of anything burning today, the way it burned back then...’ Whole stories would circulate around town about this. Some simply told that in the smithy by the river, on the Ostrog Road, there was a shipment of illegal merchandise, which had been bought from the soldiers, and this had been ignited, and spread the fire all over the town, with its straw-thatched roofs. Others said: If God wills it, a straw roof does not burn, and gunpowder doesn’t explode. Rather, the city had sinned against the Maggid R’ Eliakim Getzel and he cursed the city – and his holy words had come to pass. And you can see a sign of this, adds an elderly Jewish woman, with a sigh: the fire broke out precisely after midday on Friday, when the men were taking a steam bath, preparing for the coming of the Sabbath. Others were still out making their rounds through the villages of the vicinity, and those that were indeed home, were working hard to get finished in time for the Sabbath. A garment, a shoe, a hat – not well slept, exhausted by the entire week’s labor, barely able to make it to the little bit of Sabbath, to rest a bit, and catch a little sleep. The womenfolk worked hard to get the Holy Sabbath into their homes, cooking, baking, getting the cholent ready, cleaning, washing,, and here, suddenly, totally unanticipated: a fire from God cascaded over the city...

So, afterwards. two times seven good years went by, the shtetl quickly and beautifully had rebuilt itself, the new barracks that were built, the two divisions of soldiers in the city – provided a source of income, so that in very short order, houses were constructed with tin roofs, or covered with roof tiles, some with shingles, but no longer with straw. A very attractive commercial street was set up, The Kosciolna Gasse, with wooden sidewalks, stone and concrete houses, with balconies. The city was revitalized, but that great fire was often recalled: so-and-so got married ‘after the fire,’ that one was born ‘after the fire,’ there simply was no other point of reference that had comparable significance.

That is, until... the second fire occurred.

This, indeed, was on a Saturday night, immediately after Havdalah, when everyone was home, well rested, and having gotten some sleep, still dressed in their Sabbath finery. This was May 1,1909. The workers did not strike on the First of May, because that day was a sort of Sabbath to them, and in general, it was rather quiet in the city, not like the year 1905. Along with another couple of young boyfriends, we were sitting at the ‘booth’ on the Fasek ???? drinking soda water with red syrup, joking with one another, when we suddenly heard a shout: Alert, there is a fire. Where is the fire? – At the barracks, the mangel near the capitan is on fire. So we ran home. The fire was already close to us, the Jews having relied too much on the gentile fire-fighters, because there were no Jews in the fire fighting command structure. One Jew, Gordon the ‘Tiefer’ was a fire fighter, and no other... an anti-Semitic attitude reigned in the shtetl, this being not long after crucifixes had been broken in the cemetery, for which the Jews were blamed, and because of this, instead of throwing water to extinguish the flames, the gentiles threw gasoline on the Jewish houses, and because of this the Jewish part of Zambrow burned for that entire night, taking down the largest part of the city, up to the middle of the marketplace, and about 500 Jewish houses were burned down.

A variety of curious things took place around the shtetl:

One Jewish man, a Gabbai in the Chevra Kadisha, shouted out into the street: ‘Jews, come and help me perform rescue.’ He was dragging a very heavy box. So he was given assistance, and the box was taken away to some place on the Ostrog Road. Everyone thought: there is bedding inside, laundry, jewelry, candlesticks, but it was later found out that the box contained soil from the Land of Israel... He actually permitted his bedding and clothes yo simply get burned...

A second person was storing his daughter’s dowry in his oven, not trusting to turn it over to earn interest. He shouted: ‘Jews, help, the oven is on fire...

On the following morning, wagons laden with bread arrived from Lomza. from Bialystok, and from other neighboring towns. Also, this time, the shtetl was quickly rebuilt. By and large, the homes were insured, and the Jews took on fire protection, borrowed a bit, and built even nicer houses, mostly of stone, concrete construction, with balconies and pretty stores in front. There was a living to be made, and the homeless erected barracks for themselves on the marketplace, and life began to normalize itself. However, there was one thing that Jewish Zambrow won from this fire: many Jews signed up into the fire-fighters’ brigade. While it is true that the anti-Semitic commanders, like the pharmacist Skrozhynski, and his deputy, the Prussian, Baker, looked askance at the Jewish firefighters, but they had no right to forbid it. Accordingly, every Sunday, the Jews would put on their fire fighters’ caps (the satin covered helmets were not made available to them so quickly...) And went to conduct an ‘exercise.’ They would stop the formation at some spot, and drill, or just plain crawl up on a roof, and wield the axes or a hook against the burning roof. In time, the Jewish fire fighters became the best in the shtetl.

Until the third fire came along – after thirty-two years....

The city had changed considerably. Government changed hands, Czarist, German, Polish, Bolshevik, and again German. All of then excelled at one thing: their enmity towards the Jews. At the end of 1941, the Jewish section of Zambrow burned down for the third time, but this fire was the most terrifying. After this, it was no longer rebuilt, and will never be rebuilt forever. It is told that this too, took place on the Sabbath. It was not a summery Sabbath day, but rather a frosty day in December. The Jews that had been held in the Zambrow barracks were brought to Auschwitz before dawn that day, where they were crowded in together with the Jews of Lomza, and other Jews from the vicinity. That Saturday, it was not the houses of Zambrow that were burned, but rather the living souls of the residents of Zambrow....

We counted: the first fire, the second fire, but it is the third fire that will eternally remain in our memory. Our living Zambrow residents were carried off with the smoke and the gas, and they will never come back to us...

Memories of a Yahrzeit

The United Zembrower Society recently purchased $10,000 worth of State of Israel Bonds. Right to Left: Sam & D. Stein, Joe Savetsky, David Stein, Joe Waxman, I. Cooper (President), M. Monkash (representing the Israel Bond Organization), G. Tabak, Isaac Malinovich, Ben Cooper.

On the 18th Memorial Day, dedicated to the Annilhilation of Zambrow ( Tel-Aviv 1961).

Right to Left: M. Bursztyn, L. Golombek, J. Jabkowsky, Ahuva Greenber, Chaim-Yossl Rudnik (Argentina), Zvi Zamir (Slowik), Cantor Wilkomirsky, Gershonovich, Dr. Yom-Tov Lewinsky.

From that beautiful, living Zambrow, all that remained were four mass graves, somewhere or another, without a marker, and without a name. No one knows where to go, to pay respect to one’s ancestors.

The First Grave was at the long military trenches in Szumowo.

This was in the middle of summer, on the 19th of August. All around, things were flowering and growing. As usual, the sun was sending its rays into the world. The German Beat, then ordered us to gather at the marketplace in Zambrow, on a beautiful clear Tuesday. The Germans selected 1500 men, the best among the Jews, along with the Rabbi and the Yeshiva Headmaster, and drove them all off to Szumowo, into a church building, or a church school, divided them up into groups, in accordance with their crafts, by age, and until 10 o’clock at night, the trench in the Glebocz Forest became filled with the dead, and the living dead...

Today, this blood-soaked place is covered in wild grass, and forest trees. Cattle graze there. And who is to say, that late in the dark nights, that the solitary groan does not reverberate about, the echoes of orphaned wailing, the weeping of fathers and mothers, the sighing of sisters and brothers? ... Who knows?

The Second Mass Grave, takes us to Kosaki. Three weeks later, at the beginning of September, an additional 1500 men were driven to that location. This consisted of about 900 from Zambrow and about 600 from Rutki, and they were all thrown alive into a mass grave. The earth at that location heaved for hours on end, like fermenting dough – until those who were buried this way eventually asphyxiated and died, and no longer twitched in their grave. Wild grass grows there today, dogs howl on dark nights. The ‘God-fearing gentiles’ cross themselves, when they travel past this place... Jews are no longer here. There is no one to recite a Kaddish at this terrifying place.

The Third Grave is someplace behind the Zambrow barracks. On December 27, 1942 (19 Tevet 5703) the inhuman Germans could no longer stomach the suffering of the 200 elderly and sick Jews in the ghetto hospital. They were all dosed with Veronal barbiturate, and put permanently to sleep. The last of their death rattle reverberated through the empty barracks for hours on end, until they lapsed into unconsciousness.

Very quietly, the murderers disposed of the dead bodies, and to this day, no one knows where their remains are to be found...

The Fourth Grave, the last one, somewhere in the gas ovens of Auschwitz... Here our Zambrow martyrs were exterminated en masse. Here hundreds and thousands of Jews were burned alive and asphyxiated, from all over Europe. It is here that a world of Jews must come to recite the Kaddish...

And yet, the world continues on its trajectory, the sun continued to bestow its light, and the earth brings forth its fruit.

As to the ‘Old Home’ from that sacred Jewish Zambrow, somewhere or another four graves were created – without a marker, without a name....





The fate of Ringelblum's Archives is only partially known. In September 1946 ten metal boxes were found in the ruins of Warsaw. In December 1950 in a cellar of another ruined house at 68 Nowolipki Street two additional milk cans were found containing more documents. Among them were copies of several underground newspapers, a narrative of deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto, and public notices by the Judenrat (the council of Jewish leaders), but also documents of ordinary life, concert invitations, milk coupons, and chocolate wrappers. Despite repeated searches, the rest of the archive, including the third milk can, was never found. It is rumored to be located beneath what is now the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw.

45   Editor’s Note: Apparently to Dr. Ringelblum.
46   A sedative containing barbiturates used to induce sleep.


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