Jewish men clearing snow for German troops, Częstochowa Ghetto, Poland c. 1941-1942
Częstochowa location in the Holocaust in Poland
|Location||Częstochowa, German-occupied Poland|
|Incident type||Imprisonment, forced labor, starvation|
|Camp||Treblinka extermination camp|
|Victims||48,000 Polish Jews|
The Częstochowa Ghetto was a World War II ghetto set up by Nazi Germany for the purpose of persecution and exploitation of local Jews in the city of Częstochowa during the German occupation of Poland. The approximate number of people confined to the ghetto was around 40,000 at the beginning and in late 1942 at its peak – right before mass deportations – 48,000. Most ghetto inmates were delivered by the Holocaust trains to their deaths at the Treblinka extermination camp. In June 1943, the remaining ghetto inhabitants launched the Częstochowa Ghetto uprising, which was extinguished by the SS after a few days of fighting.
The official order for the creation of the Ghetto in Częstochowa was issued on 9 April 1941 by Stabshauptmann Richard Wendler. In addition to Jews from Częstochowa, more Jews were being brought in by rail from nearby towns and villages of the Generalgouvernement part of occupied south-western Second Polish Republic, including from Krzepice, Olsztyn, Mstów, Janów, and Przyrów, on top of expellees from Polish lands annexed into the Reich at the beginning of war, mostly from Płock and Łódź. The ghetto inmates were forced to work as slave labour in the armaments industry, a majority of them in the expanded Polish foundry "Metalurgia" located on Krotka Street (which had been taken over by the German manufacturer HASAG, and renamed Hassag-Eisenhütte AG) as well as in other local factories or workshops.
The Nazis began liquidating the ghetto on 22 September 1942 during Operation Reinhard (the day after Yom Kippur). The first wave of deportations concluded on the night of 7 October. The action was carried out by German units together with their Ukrainian and Latvian auxiliaries (Hiwis), known as Trawniki men, under the command of captain of the Schupo police, Paul Degenhardt. Every day, the Jews were being assembled on Daszyński square for "resettlement" and then transported by the Holocaust freight trains – men, women and children – to Treblinka extermination camp: around 40,000 victims in total.
Those who survived the main thrust of ghetto liquidation (about 5,000–6,000 slave workers and their families) were put in the so-called Small Ghetto for the Hugo Schneider munitions factory. There, 850 Jews were executed. Soon, a clandestine Jewish Fighting Organisation was formed by Mordechaj Zilberberg, Sumek Abramowicz and Heniek Pesak among others. The organization consisted of 300 members.
When the Germans moved in to liquidate the Small Ghetto on 26 June 1943 the Częstochowa Ghetto Uprising erupted. Zylberberg committed suicide when the Germans stormed his bunker. 1,500 Jews died in the fighting. On 30 June the resistance was suppressed with additional 500 Jews burned alive or buried beneath the rubble. 3,900 Jews were captured and put to work in labour camps Apparatebau, Warthewerk and Eisenhütte. 400 people were shot following a selection. In December that year 1,200 prisoners were transported to Germany. The men were sent to Buchenwald, the women to Dachau (all perished). However, the much needed foundry camps were revived in the second half of 1944 with around 10,000 new workers sent in from Łódź, Kielce, Radomsk and Skarżysko-Kamienna. On 15 and 16 January 1945, ahead of the Soviet advance, about 3,000 prisoners were sent to the Third Reich; all perished. The remaining 5,200 Jews employed in Częstochowa slave-labor camps were liberated by the Red Army.
There were numerous escape and rescue attempts made during the ghetto existence and its murderous liquidation. In the fall of 1942 Bronisława Kozak née Landau who was already widowed, fled the ghetto ahead of Operation Reinhard, along with her two daughters, Hadassa (Wisia) and Marion (age 8). Helped by Polish villagers they journeyed to Warsaw, where the girls were placed in a Catholic convent temporarily. Just before the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising all three were rescued by the Sitkowski family of widowed Helena Sitkowska recognized as the Polish Righteous Among the Nations in 1995. The two families fled from Warsaw to the south of occupied Poland and luckily survived together thanks to ingenuity of both women, a Pole and a Jew. Also during the ghetto liquidation a Jewish boy, Abraham Jabłoński, run away from the trains with the aid of a Polish Blue policeman and found refuge with Maria and Anna Koźmińska. He survived, and contacted the two Righteous women from Israel after 47 years.
In the face of extreme situation a postcard was sent from Częstochowa to Józefów with no recipient and no street address except for three words: "I’ve fallen ill, (signed) Jadzia." The post-office in Józefów gave it to local alderman who managed to find the recipient only by looking at the stamp. He asked around for people with connection to Częstochowa. It was the Klewicki family, recognized as the Righteous Among the Nations in 1993. Stanisława Klewicka guessed that the postcard came from her childhood friend Jadzia Broniatowska, a Polish-Jewish dentist. She went to Częstochowa and rescued them all with false papers from the Polish underground including Jadzia and her husband Natan Rodał, Adela Mitelman, and his sister Natalia Frydrych with her son, joined by Dr Wacław Konar and his son Jerzy also from the ghetto. They hid until liberation at the Klewicki villa in Radość near Warsaw.
When the Hasag-Pelcery force labour camp was liquidated ahead of the Soviet offensive in 1945, Stefan Sikora from the fire brigade with his son Jerzy and daughter Aleksandra, Polish Righteous from Częstochowa, rescued Kalman Chęciński, Zisla Cholozin née Blajwajs, and Bruria Bajski née Erlich from a death march heading for the heartland of Germany. However, not all rescue efforts were equally successful. Some Christians were punished by death, including Karolina Owczarek, age 38, executed on 2 November 1944 by decree of Częstochowa Sondergericht for helping Jews, and Jan Brust from Żegota, who was shot in the first half of 1944 for delivering food to the Jewish inmates of the slave labour facility.
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Notes and references
- The statistical data compiled on the basis of "Glossary of 2,077 Jewish towns in Poland" by Virtual Shtetl Museum of the History of the Polish Jews (in English), as well as "Getta Żydowskie," by Gedeon, (in Polish) and "Ghetto List" by Michael Peters at www.deathcamps.org/occupation/ghettolist.htm (in English). Accessed July 12, 2011.
- Shmuel Krakowski (translated from Hebrew by David Fachler) (2010). "Armed Resistance". YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
- "Częstochowa ghetto – History". Virtual Shtetl Museum of the History of Polish Jews. p. 4. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
- Polscy Sprawiedliwi – Polish Righteous (2015). "The Sitkowski Family". Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata - tytuł przyznany (Polish Righteous Among the Nations – Titles awarded). Przywracanie Pamięci. Alphabetical listing. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Zuzanna Benesz, Polscy Sprawiedliwi (March 2011). "The Koźmiński Family". Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata - tytuł przyznany. Przywracanie Pamięci. Alphabetical listing. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Polscy Sprawiedliwi (2016). "The Klewicki Family". Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata - tytuł przyznany. Przywracanie Pamięci. Alphabetical listing. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Polscy Sprawiedliwi (2016). "The Sikora Family". Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata - tytuł przyznany. Przywracanie Pamięci. Alphabetical listing. Retrieved February 23, 2016.