Jedrzejow - German Troops in the ruins
Jedrzejow is located 22 miles southwest of Kielce, and in 1939 some 4,000 Jews lived in Jedrzejow. The first Kreishauptmann was Dr. Karl Glehn, who served in this post until October 1940, when he was succeeded by Dr Fritz von Ballusek from November 1940 until April 1942. The last Kreishauptmann was Bernard Hofer, who served in this post from April 1942 until January 1945.An open ghetto in Jedrzejow was established as one of the first in the Generalgouvernement in the spring of 1940, possibly as early as February and it was located in the eastern part of the town, on Kilinski, Pinczow, 3 Maja, Duch-Imbora and Lysakowska streets. Most Jews living outside the designated ghetto area had to relocate, although more than 20 families were allowed to live outside the ghetto for some time. Guards watched the ghetto exits, but initially the Jews could come and go as they pleased. By this time Jedrzejow already had received 500 refugees and more were planned, the newcomers hailed from Zaglebie Dabrowskie in Silesia, and from the towns of Zgierz, Lodz, Pinczow and Szczekociny.
Dr Hirsz Beer of Glogow organised the Jewish Social Self Help (JSS) committee and opened a soup kitchen. On 16 August 1940, he was appointed a member of the Jewish Relief Committee (ZKOP) for Kreis Jedrzejow, which the Kreishauptmann established to take over the provision of welfare from the Judenrat. A number of Judenrat members, especially Pinkus Teitelbaum, tried to undermine Beer’s activities. Thus began a power-struggle that continued throughout most of the ghetto’s existence. The 14-member Judenrat and their families lived in the largest house in Jedrzejow, while the remainder of nearly 4,200 were squeezed into rooms that three or four families shared. Many of the residents accused the Judenrat of corruption. A Jewish Police of fewer than 10 men was set up to keep order in the ghetto and to assist the sanitation committee which was responsible for keeping the ghetto clean. Their commander was one of the members of the Judenrat, Jakob Mermelsztajn.
On 15 – 16 January 1941, the Germans deported 600 Jews from Jedrzejow to several other locations with the Kreis. The poor housing conditions caused many to return secretly to Jedrzejow over the following weeks. This ‘Aktion’ decreased the number of Jews in the ghetto to 3,600. Within the same month between 400 -600 of the ghetto’s inhabitants, including women, cleared snow daily. By February 1941, 100 were tasked with clearing snow, whilst many also worked at loading wood. Later on, 220 young men were sent for forced labour in the vicinity of Lvov (Lemberg). A few of these men survived by escaping from the labour camp, and they returned to the Jedrzejow ghetto. During June 1941, the Judenrat opened a hospital with 25 beds to serve the Kreis, with the exception of Wloszczowa, which was under Dr. Beer’s supervision. The hospital later treated Poles as well as Jews, although the later bore most of the costs of its organisation. The Judenrat also organised its own postal services at this time, as the local post office was forbidden to handle Jewish mail. On the orders of the Kreishauptmann, the number of Jewish Police increased to 18 in June 1941. The following duties were added such as guarding the ghetto with the Wehrmacht; enforcing the curfew; combating smuggling and begging. In the summer of 1941, the Jewish Police conducted a series of round-ups of the ghetto’s beggars, who were ordered to leave Jedrzejow. During October 1941, the so-called ‘Six’ which comprised the ‘most energetic’ officials of the Jewish Police were assigned solely to rounding up and escorting Jewish labourers, as well as checking the state of the ghetto’s sanitation. In December 1941, the Jewish Police post was moved to 12 Pinczow Street and its members received instructions to tighten their guard at the ghetto exits, as from a month earlier Jews could now be shot for leaving the ghetto without a permit. By April 1942, the ghetto leadership had been informed unofficially of the approaching deportation ‘Aktion’ of the Jews within the Kreis, but it was believed that the deportations might be limited to the resettlement of the larger towns, rather than Jews living in villages. According to Pinkas ha-kehilot, the ghetto was enclosed in March 1942, when it was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Contact between Jews and non-Jews was from then on prohibited. In May 1942, twenty-one Jewish families previously holding official permission from the Germans to live outside the ghetto were forced to move inside it. As of June 1942, Georg Wall had become the commander of the Jewish Police in Jedrzejow, which was now 20 –strong, policing 3,807 ghetto residents. Between 17 -24 August 1942, the labour office within the ghetto conducted the registration of Jewish women aged between 15 and 50. A couple of months earlier in June 1942, the JSS with its headquarters in Krakow, encouraged the Jedrzejow ghetto inhabitants to organise workshops; however, only the shoemakers responded to this call, as other craftsmen believed they could earn more working independently. At the time there were 150 craftsmen and the same number of apprentices in the ghetto. On 28 August 1942, Jews from a number of nearby localities were evacuated to Jedrzejow, including 800 people from Sobkow, 830 persons from Malogoszcz, 152 people from Naglowice, 193 people from Nawarzyce, and smaller numbers of people from Brzegi, Oksa, Wegleszyn, Przaslaw Mierzwin and Rakow. By 4 September 1942, the total number of people living in the ghetto had increased to some 6,000.
The Germans liquidated the ghetto on 16 September 1942. On that morning all of the Jews of Jedrzejow were gathered in the market square. A selection was carried out following the arrival of Gestapo officer Ernst Thomas. Approximately 240 Jews were sent back to the ghetto, this number included members of the Judenrat, Jewish Police and their families. Fewer than 200 able-bodied Jews were selected for work at the Hugo Schneider AG (HASAG) ammunition labour camp in Skarzysko- Kamienna. Also a number of men were selected for the labour camp at the Sedziszow railway depot. The remainder of the Jews were herded to the train station, loaded into cattle cars and these went to the Treblinka death camp, where they were murdered in the gas chambers. By the beginning of October 1942, the ghetto in Jedrzejow was reduced to just three buildings. All the Jews – including women – were engaged in clearing out the former ghetto and the train depot all the possessions of the deported Jews, whilst for the time being they were allowed to keep their possessions, out of the clutches of the Germans. There were rumours that by the end of the year, all Jews would be removed from Jedrzejow. Although the soup kitchen was relocated there, there was nothing to cook, because the Germans assigned only a meagre amount of rations to the ghetto inmates. Dr Hirsz Beer doubted that the ZKOP could continue its existence with less than 1,000 Jews remaining in the Kreis and no help available. Dr Beer and Abram Solowicz were the only remaining staff. Beer however, transferred some of the hospital furnishings into the ghetto and set-up a seven-bed hospital, which he ran with his wife Regina and one other helper.
On 4 November 1942, Dr Beer reported the following remnant ghettos existing in the Kreis: Jedrzejow with 240 people, Wodzislaw with 90 people, Szczekociny with 40 people, Wloszczowa with 250 people, several dozen Jews in Sedziszow, and another 500 or so Jews incarcerated in labour camps. The final liquidation of the Jedrzejow ghetto took place between 22 -24 February 1943, when approximately 200 Jews were evacuated to the HASAG camp in Skarzysko- Kamienna, whilst thirty-five who were unable to travel were shot on the spot.
Sources:The Encyclopaedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933-1945, USHMM, Indiana University Press Bloomington and Indianapolis 2012
Y. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka – The Aktion Reinhard Death Camps, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 1987
Photograph – Chris Webb Archive
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