Moshe Lewinski of Zambrów, Poland


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

     << NEXT   |   BACK >>   |    ROOM 4: FACES OF THE GHETTO

First-Hand Account


From the Zambrów Yizkor Book (abridged English version), 1963
ourtesy of the United Zembrower Society

(Recorded by Mr. Yerushalmi, his informant being Moses, the son of Berl Lewinski)

I was not in an easy mood when I went to interview my relative and friend Moshe, the son of Berl Lewinski of the well-known Kusharer family, and to set forth the rather sad recollections bearing on the tragic martyrology of Zambrów Jewry during the Nazi Holocaust.

Moshe was born in Zambrów in 1897. Up to the outbreak of World War II he been a merchant on friendly business terms with the gentile peasants living in the neighborhood. He had gone through all the vicissitudes of the Nazi Hell until he reached Eretz Israel where he lives at present. The following is his story: About a month after the outbreak of the war against Poland, the Germans invaded Zambrów. Violent air raids were raging prior to this invasion, as a result of which more than half of the Zambrów houses were destroyed and burned, especially the Jewish houses suffered much from German air raids.
                                                                                                                 photo: Moshe Lewinski


The Nazis stayed in Zambrów for ten days only. In conformity with the German-Soviet agreement, the Nazis left that territory soon and the Russians entered there.

During that short period, however, the Nazis were able to steal and rob the town of all its valuable things. The Russians entered Zambrów in September 1939. Their first act was the appointment of Fishman (Kaufmann's son-in-law) as Commissar of Zambrów. All the shops were still closed (since the Nazi invasion). The Russians organized cooperative shops. All the mills were confiscated or nationalized. People got work in the Russian cooperative and Governmental institutions. Some people engaged in commerce illegally. Many young Jews were mobilized for Soviet military work. The regime was like that prevailing in the USSR: many people suspected of belonging to the rich Bourgeois were arrested, and their families were deported to Siberia. Among the exiles there were Sarah Sukharevitch, Rachel Rubin and her children, the Schuster family etc

The real immolation and tragic holocaust started in July 1941, when the Germans invaded Zambrów again (after the outbreak of the Nazi-Soviet war in 1941). The Nazis started confiscating all Jewish property, kidnapping people for compulsory labor and perpetrating other nefarious acts. They employed various tricks in order to create the impression that the deportation of Jews was meant for labor purposes only. The first quota of thirty Jews taken to Tscherwony Boor was returned to Zambrów on the same day. The next day the Nazis took ninety people, including some old men like Toviah Skotchinadek. These were not sent back to Zambrów, but were killed in a tragic barbarous manner. Within a few days other Gestapo selected eight hundred Jews (including the venerable Rabbi of Zambrów) and deported them to Shumovo where they were murdered. After the elapse of a month many people were ordered to assemble on the Rynek (Market). Here the Nazis arranged two types of people, those up to the age of sixty, and those above that age, in order to create the impression that the transports are meant for labor. All the people were led to Rutki-Kossaki, where a deep pit or cave was dug, and all the people were murdered and placed in the pit.

After these tragic events the remainder of Zambrów Jews collected all their property and money and handed them over to the Lomzha Gestapo who promised to create a Ghetto for Zambrów Jews. The Ghetto was erected and it embraced the two streets: Yatkowa and Shviente-Krzyska up to the river. About two thousand Jews moved into the Ghetto which was overcrowded. In each flat there were about three families. Restrictions were imposed on various articles of food, such as white flour, meat etc. Gliksman, the Head of the Ghetto, endeavored to keep these restrictions put. The people struggled with him, continuing to import the restricted food articles into the Ghetto. Some Jews worked on the roads, others engaged in masonry, in stone work, building bridges, erecting buildings and big barracks. Every Jew was forced to wear the "yellow badge" on the breast. In November 1941 many Jews were transferred to the Barracks, where about fourteen thousand Jews from many places (such as Lomzha, Tchervony Boor, Zambrów, Shumovo, Visoki-Mazovietsk, Yablonki, Rutki-Kossaki) were concentrated. Here life conditions were terrible. Since January 1943 the Nazis started transporting people to Auschwitz, about two thousand people each night (first to Tchizhev and thence to Auschwitz), Many tried to escape, but were shot. Few succeeding in escaping.

The informant, i.e. Moshe Lewinski, was one of the few who were lucky enough to find shelter (after undergoing many hardships, evil days, suffering and tragic vicissitudes) in an underground cavern covered with piles of grass and herbage. He describes in detail all his dramatic experiences until he was freed from all pain and suffering by the Russians (when Zambrów was liberated). He found his native Zambrów devastated, without any inhabitants. Then he left for Lodz where other Jewish refugees concentrated. Later he went to Israel where he [now] lives. He has not forgotten his gentile benefactor who helped him to survive the Nazi Holocaust. The deep moral wounds which the Nazi murderers have inflicted upon him have not been healed and will never be cured ....



Zambrów 13

  To continue on the Zambrów virtual tour, click here ►►






Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links






Copyright © 2008-9 Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.  Image Use Policy.