Wajsleder Chana- Szpizajren
Testimony of Wajsleder Chana-Szpizajren
Name and surname: Wajsleder Chana- Szpizajren
Born in 1915 in Tomaszow Lubelski
Education: elementary school
Place of residence before the war: Tomaszow Lubelski
Place of residence after the war: Tomaszow Lubelski
Current place of residence: Lodz, Wschodnia St.(reet) apt 2
Experiences in Tomaszow Lubelski
Before the war about 12 thousand Jews lived in Tomaszow Lubelski. After the Germans marched in around 50 families left for Russia In 1940 many Jews from other small towns, even from Warsaw, came to Tomaszow Lubelski. Right after the Germans entered in 1939 they started to beat Jews. Instantly after they marched in, everybody had to put on an armband. In 1940 they started to force contributions from Jews. They took away furs of various kinds. In 1941 they did not let Jews leave the town boundaries. They forbade Jews to walk on major streets, but they did not create a ghetto. In 1940 a Judenrat was created. The president of the Judenrat was Heller, he had been a merchant before the war, (the other members were) Aba Bergelbaum and other from religious circles. There had been no Jewish police at all in our town throughout the whole time. The Jewish people did not have any illusions about the Judenrat. The Judenrat fulfilled German orders, collected contributions and sent Jews to work. Mostly Jews worked the hardest jobs for the Gestapo (in Tomaszow Lubelski there was a Gestapo), in forests, on the roads. They transported stones. They even took the stones from a Jewish cemetery and constructed roads. Camp Belzec was located 7 kilometers form Tomaszow Lubelski. Half of the Jews from Tomaszow Lubelski stayed there at the beginning of 1941. Sent to work, they were living in barracks there, from that place, from Tomaszow Lubelski, and from other towns, 20-30 dying people were brought daily to us. There was no Jewish hospital. There for the Judenrat placed the dying in private houses. Most of them perished. The Judenrat bribed the Gestapo men from Belzec and sometimes succeeded at getting somebody out, or the Gestapo would let them bring in food. Those who returned from work in Belzec told that they were digging huge ditches, a dozen or so kilometers long. Despite the fact that the ghetto was open, there was hunger, because the Poles were forbidden to sell food to Jews under penalty of death. Next to our Judenrat there was a kitchen for the poor, but there were very few products available. In the Judenrat everyone received calculated bread ration- 20 decagrams daily, dark flour. There was no milk. There was hardly any smuggling. Except for work for the Germans (the tailors and shoemakers worked for the Gestapo) Jews had no occupation. Initially they sold things to Poles they could trust; later on even this stopped. Even though there was no closed ghetto,(they were) stifled in small apartments as the better houses were taken over by Germans. There was great and visible poverty among the Jewish people, and this was a concern for everyone. The rich were nowhere to be seen. There were no contrasts between wealth and poverty. There was no contact with foreign countries. A Jew did not have the right to carry on a correspondence. There were no newspapers. There was no orphanage. There were orphans whose parents were killed by bombs at the beginning of the war. The older orphans, 12-14 (years old) received food from the Judenrat or they worked just like the others did, for the Germans. The older orphans lived together in one house, and the younger orphans were placed by the Judenrat with families, and were given absolutely insufficient amounts of food. There were no beggars seeking charity in the houses, because practically all of us were beggars. In 1942 many people, and in particular the young were ill with typhus. There was no doctor. There was a paramedic from Lodz. Whoever fell ill, lay at home. There were no schools. There were no rabbis or secret classes. I don’t know anything about the resistance in the ghetto. Probably, there was nothing that would not reflect the fact that people went to death passively. There were no particular cases of people becoming brutal and no demoralization among the Jews. There was no rabbi in Tomaszow Lubelski, for at the beginning of he escaped together with his wife and children to Russia. He was known as the Cieszyner rabbi. He died in Russia. His wife and eight children survived. His wife is already in America and the children in the American Zone (in Germany). Religious life existed. Prayers were said secretly. During the war a certain convert, an engineer, arrive in Tomaszow Lubelski with his wife and daughter. They did not have contact with Jews and survived as Poles. After the liberation this engineer was killed near Cracow. His wife and daughter went abroad. The (deportation) actions started in Tomaszow Lubelski at the end of 1942. We didn’t know what was happening in other towns. We knew that they transported people to Belzec and burned them there. We saw fired from Belzec. The first action began at the end of 1942. They herded all the Jews (several thousands of Jews were still there) into the square. (They were) ordered in rows. I was in the square with my family. They took women and children and men onto large trucks. There were about thirty trucks. The action was conducted by the Gestapo men from Tomaszow Lubelski and Zamosc. There was Polish police who watched us. Of the names of Gestapo men I remember Derger, a German who was killed later on, when Jews were no longer there, by a Polish underground organization. The German Sierpinski was killed after the actions. The Poles from the underground organization threw a grenade in to the house where he lived, and he burned to death. The German Prokof worked for the Gestapo in Tomaszow Lubelksi, (also) Linkier the Gestapo man, and others that came from other towns, and even from Tomaszow Lubelski, whose names I don’t remember. During the action they killed a lot of the handicapped, the ill and the elderly. My grandfather was shot before my eyes. The people were so listless that they only wished for the easiest death possible. After this action very few people remained, about 300 young men and women, myself among them. The rest, including my family they transported to Belzec. Of the remaining several hundred many continued to work for the Gestapo and German police. A dozen or so were sent to the largest farms of German settlers, where they worked. Every day they had to report that they were there. All the remaining furniture, linen, dishes that used to belong to Jews were collected in an enclosed square. The best things were taken away to Germany. Less valuable objects were distributed among the Poles free of charge. The Jews that remained did not participate in the classification of those things.
The second and last action began at the end of 1943, when the Jews on the farms dug out potatoes and prepared everything for winter.
All the Jews from the farms were taken to Tomazsow Lubelski. The Jews understood that it meant. From Tomaszow (Lubelski) they led everyone to the forest (outside the town) to kill them. Some tried to escape but they were shot while running away. Everybody was shot in the forest, and they had to dig their graves themselves. They were buried in one collective grave in the forest which still exists. Of the Jews who were living in Tomaszow Lubelski during the occupation, there was left only me and one elderly woman, Pesle Goldsztejn, who had been hiding with Poles in the countryside. She lives in Lower Silesia at her son’s, who returned from Russia.
Twelve days before the first action, I was taken to a Polish prison. The reasons were as follows: In Tomaszow Lubelski a Pole named Matuszkiewicz, who was at the Germans’ service, had been killed. He was very cruel towards Jews as well. On the day of his death I talked to him because he wanted to evict us from our apartment. Because it was not bad, he wanted to take it for himself. I begged him not to make us go because my father was terminally ill. I promised him things that I had from my father. He agreed. A young Polish girl saw me talking to him. When he was killed, I was arrested right away and sent to a Polish prison. During the action I was sent to the market square under the supervision of the Polish Police, and after the action I was sent back to prison and this saved me. I had been in prison for some time. Polish female prisoners treated me quite well. An order was sent to the prison to have me sent to Majdanek(camp). I was to go there in three days. In the same cell with me was Elizbieta Wazna whom I had met in prison. She was there for illegal animal slaughter. She came from Tomaszow Lubelski, she lived 2 kilometers outside the town in Majdanek village. She saw how much I despaired. Because I already knew from the Poles that Majdanek meant death. Wazna was to be released in two days. I gave her my three rings, which I wore. I had them from my mother. She also sold a lot of her wheat. She handed the guard quite a pretty sum to let me out. When she paid the money one guard unlocked my cell and ordered me to go. And then I went straight to her home. At home there was her husband Szczepan, her old mother, five children and her sister’s daughter with three children. There were twelve people in this house. Her husband and mother treated me very kindly. As far as the rest was concerned, they were not in the way of her wanting to save me. During the first days, they were afraid that the people from the prison would be looking for me. They were looking for me in our former town and other localities, so she took me to her sister Katluni(?) in Podhorce village- 7 kilometers from Tomaszow (Lubelski). Her sister hid me in the attic. Elzbieta asked her sister to treat me well. She left food for me, cans so they would not have to cook for me. Her sister had children who also knew I was hiding in the attic. They brought me food to the attic. She brought me an eiderdown, blanket, and pillows so that I wouldn’t be cold. I was there 2 and half months, until they stopped searching for me. During this time Elzbieta used to come to me every Sunday, sometimes she came by on a horsewagon. She brought barrels with her and in a barrel she transported me home. I stayed in her house until the liberation. She made a shelter for me in the attic and I sat the whole day there, in winter I would come down to the apartment and sleep there… I wasn’t hungry because she fed me well. All of this she and her family had done disinterestedly. Throughout my stay with her, several searched took place in connection with the obligatory quota of products the peasants had to deliver to the Germans. During these searches she worried terribly that they would find me. As a result she started to suffer from liver illness and continues to suffer from it even now. She told her children and husband that the Ten Commandments say that we should love other people like ourselves. They were very religious people. They prayed for us all to survive, and even on liberation day, when they saw the Soviets in the field, they started to pray and thank God for the fact that their suffering had not been vain. After the liberation as I did not have anybody, I stayed with them for some time. Generally the village (people) accepted the fact that she had saved me quite favorably. Some even said that they had known about it. However there were scoundrels who thought I had given her a big fortune, and they started to steal from her farm. They would come to her (did not harass her husband nor the children) and threaten to kill her, wanted her to give the gold which she had taken from the Jewess. We were forced to leave for Tomaszow Lubelski, and she left her whole family on the farm. For some time we were in Tomaszow Lubelski . The Jews who returned from Russia were selling their properties and started to convince me to leave. I left his place at the end of 1947. Elzbieta had been with me all the time. After my departure she returned home to her family. From time to time she visits me in Lodz and stays with me for several months.
Lodz January 31, (19) 49