August 13th. 1943

In view of the tragic existence of the Jews, where the life of the individual depends on chance, and the life of the community as a whole has long been on the brink of cessation, one must, more than ever, see the situation comprehensively. An individual point of view – everyone will surely understand that now – is of no significance today. As individuals, we are all lost. The likelihood of staying alive is minute. Broken and alone there is not much we can expect of life. Dying together with Polish Jewry we must clearly visualize for ourselves the historic character of this time and tell ourselves with courage that our death does not spell the end of the world. The record of humanity and of the Jewish people will continue at its own speed in the future, even after we are safely under the ground.

The numerical balance-sheet of the Jews will be sad when peace finally comes to the world after the historical blood-bath. This is indeed not the first defeat of a defenceless people scattered over the face of the earth. Slaughter, murders, confiscation of property, and the burning alive of people all these have been known to us for generations as the essential elements of our martyrology. But there has never been such wholesale extermination. Never did a situation develop like this, where there is no way out. Never before did great numbers of people armed with the most modern technology move against the Jews. Of 16 million Jews in the world, we shall scarcely reach 9 million after the war. And, most important of all, the Jews of Europe will no longer be there, those who up to now made up the healthiest part of the nation.

Nobody held out a helping hand to the Jews who were being destroyed, nobody made any effort to help them to the extent that they could escape from the danger of extermination. They looked on our destruction as on the death of maggots, and not as the loss of a nation with high cultural values. When the question of the Jews came up even the hatred towards the Germans lessened. There was a solidarity with the enemy in the joy over the fall of the Jews. Only a few retained any degree of humanity, and even they did not dare to give this public expression. The truth of aloneness was again confirmed.

We shall carry the heavy burden of this isolation until the end of our days, and it points to the fact that the only proper approach is that of self-liberation: We have nobody on whom to depend except ourselves. All other political concepts will lead us astray. We have paid the highest possible price because we were lulled asleep by the prosperity of Europe, or guided by false hopes of rescue that would come from outside. We lost our sense of reality and instead of planning our independence we scattered invaluable forces in alien fields. Who knows what would have been the future of the Jewish people if there were no Yishuv (Community) of half a million in Palestine, that built its foundations before the war broke out and which has now reached a million souls?

Only this nucleus of a Jewish State now offers assurance for the survival of the people. It makes us believe that an independent Jewish nation will rise again, a wellspring of profound spiritual values, as always. It is easier to die, therefore, in the knowledge that a genuine Jewish life still throbs there, that in that one small corner of the wide world we were not undesirables, lonely victims. There would be no sense in our death but for the feeling that, after we have gone, they will be the only ones who will think about us with genuine emotion.

Therefore, despite certain death, we join them in their struggle for the future. Every one of our deeds paved the way for freedom, and furthers the building of an independent homeland. Our revolt is a protest against the evil that is engulfing the world. To counter the terror that has crushed our people, we shall stand prepared for the struggle for justice and freedom that should light up the life of humanity as a whole.

We are willing to die in order that the shame of death in slavery shall not burden the future of the Jews, and that these Jews shall not have to recall the Jews of Europe with shame because they allowed themselves to be led unresisting to slaughter, and they had not the spirit and courage to defend themselves against destruction. As we had not been allowed to make our contribution to the creative work of building, we shall at least fulfil our historic duty here: it is we who must raise up the name of the lost people, to wipe away the mark of shame of slavery, and to place it among the ranks of people free in spirit.

The Cracow Fighting Pioneer Underground Newspaper.

The Former Ghetto to the Left.

“.. For three lines in history that will be written about ..youth who fought and did not go like sheep to ..slaughter is even worth dying.” Dolek Liebeskind.

Dolek was a member of the Zionist underground in the Cracow ghetto and uses a term which has a mixed reception from amongst Survivors, Writers and students of The Holocaust. The fact that the Jews of Europe were indeed Slaughtered is a Fact, that the many of them went toward that Destruction resigned to that fate is perhaps a misconception. What could Children do? What could Parents do when to relieve any of the trauma that might face their Children, they cajoled and consoled them all the way toward an end, as a Family united in Life and Death?

“..came to Cracow ..after ..deportations from ..Warsaw Ghetto ..begun. ..a mission .. be in touch with ..leadership then located in Cracow.” Hela Rufeisen.

Look deep into the eyes of these as they enjoy their moments of reprieve. Yes! They are reprieved from gorging themselves upon the blood of innocent Jews who were brought under their jurisdiction for the sole purpose of ending that journey in a Gas Chamber and Krematorium! Not too far away from Cracow, while there was such brutality, terror and horror, at least for the Jews who entered Auschwitz and Birkenau, there was German joy! German merriment!

German rejoicing in the deeds of mass Murder paints a truly awful picture of an indifference to human suffering, it is intolerable. History has not only damned these Auschwitz guards but has expunged their guilt through lack of any Justice to be afforded their victims. They have escaped the jurisdiction of Justice for no other reason than a desire to do prosecute them! They have been enabled by their deceit to enter back amongst honest and War weary Germans, to continue a life as normal as they would make it. What does the picture betray? That these were ordinary Germans who went on to secure ordinary lives. They will have had Children and Grandchildren. But their Children will never know the work that was accomplished by them, after they had filled their days of murderous enterprise, with human enjoyment.

Prior to Hitler’s aggression, when his forces Invaded Poland on September 1st. 1939, there had been close on 60,000 Jews resident in Cracow. For many this was the key to abandon all that they had come to know, and many of them fled. Some toward Russia, where many of them were caught up in the first der Einsatzgruppe ‘Aktionen’ and others fled for the comparative safety of the West. Unfortunately, for any Jews of Europe, there was no escape! They was no safe haven! There was little chance of Survival.

“..Most of ..Jews ..Warsaw ..Cracow ..Lublin ..already dead. ..killed mainly in ..death camps ..built in ..spring of 1942. ..autumn 1942 ..Ostrow Jews probably knew ..vaguely ..terrible facts.” Isidore Last.

For the Jews of Cracow, whose 56,000 Jews remained in situ, by the end of 1942 more than 80% of them had been murdered in the Death Camps of Poland. Some 37,000 of Cracow’s Jews were dispatched toward Belzec and murdered there. Facing the Jewish Quarter of Cracow, Kazimierz, and just across the River Vistula stood a more run down district of Cracow, Podgorze. Here, some 16,000 Jews at any given time were contained within its boundary of old building, wooden shacks and derelict premises. No amount of sanitary conditions were available for all those Jews forced to reside there.

Podgorze Across the Vistula River from The Kazimierz Jewish Quarter.

“..already begun ..end of 1940 ..entry into ..ghetto ..March 1941 ..remained 13,000 ..of 60,000 Jews in Cracow. ..ghetto ..very crowded. ..beyond ..Vistula River ..Podgorze ..belonged to ..poor quarters ..ramshackle houses ..wooden houses ..ruined houses about to collapse. Three or four families ..into tiny flats ..a room ..a kitchen. .. spread very rapidly ..particularly amongst ..children. ..difficult to maintain sanitary conditions.” Rivka Kuper.

As for much of Polish Jewry, choice was not only limited, it was restricted to a design Hitler had ushered in and his foremost administrators adhered to. While Lodz Jews were largely Murdered in Chelmno, Warsaw’s Jews were Murdered in Treblinka and Lublin’s Jews were Murdered in Majdanek, any Camp was designated accommodating for any Jew of Europe. While one might have suspected the bulk of Cracow’s Jews would have found themselves ‘resettled’ in Auschwitz and Birkenau that is not altogether the case. Cracow’s Jews were Murdered in each and every Death Camp within Poland. More than 65% of Cracow’s Jews were Murdered in Belzec alone.

Reyna Sieger.

While I am at it! I do owe an apology to many Polish people I had spoken to who misjudged my assertion as to their being Death Camps on Polish soil being assessed as Polish Death Camps. My aim was merely a geographical reference point. The inception, conduct and idea of The Final Solution was brought about by Hitler who utilised Polish space, due the close proximity of 3,000,000 Jews to destroy the bulk of all Jewry in Poland. While it appears fair to state that Poland is the gravest cemetery of European Jewry, it is perhaps disingenuous for people to see this as a position Poland could do little to avoid.

“..It is so easy to think that you know what something looks like ..what something was like ..and really have no idea at all.” Susan Schaeffer.

What Susan has to say here fits in perfectly with what I maintain, and it is for the Survivor to know, while we must endeavour to know of, attempt to comprehend what we have learned and bring that knowledge to the fore in order to inform and assist the broader Testimony of The Holocaust is better known.

Bedzin Ghetto was in operation from July 1st. 1940 till August 1st. 1943 and had contained some 27,000 Jews. Some of these had been dispersed from Cracow while others had been concentrated in Bedzin from the local areas. Workers from the Ghetto were utilised until their ability to do so was weakened by Slave conditions and lack of food and water.

“..Germans ..surrounded ..whole area. ..not only in Sosnowiec. ..Synagogue was burned down ..Katowice ..Bedzin. Bedzin and Sosnowiec Synagogues were surrounded ..also ..houses in ..which Jews were living ..many of these Jews were burned alive ..Germans shot at anyone who tried to escape.” Frieda Masia

Bochnia Ghetto had been established March 15th. 1940 and remained as a tool of the German administration until September 1943. The Ghetto had contained some 3,500 Jews and many of these had been dispersed from Cracow while others had been concentrated in Bochnia from the local areas.

Sosnowiec Ghetto
was in existence from March 1941 until February 1944 and had contained some 28,000 Jews. Many of these Jews had been dispersed from Cracow while others had been concentrated in Sosnowiec from the local areas. Workers from the Ghetto were utilised until their abiliy to do so was weakened by Slave conditions and lack of food and water.

“..if we were to say 200 Survived ..that number would not be an exaggeration.” Frieda Masia.