Lubartow - German Troops pose
Lubartow is located 15 miles north of Lublin, and in 1939 3,411 Jews lived in the town, approximately one third of the total population. The Germans occupied Lubartow on 19 September 1939, and the vast majority of the Jewish population did not flee. From the start of the occupation, the German forces plundered Jewish shops and abused the Jews in the streets, cutting off beards and side-locks of religious Jews. At first these actions were carried out on an individual basis. But on 12 October 1939, German soldiers carried out an organised mass ‘Aktion,’ in the town. The Germans ordered al the Jews of Lubartow to assemble at the Rynek 1 market square. The soldiers surrounded the Jews, and all day long held them captive, whilst other German soldiers plundered their homes and businesses, and many Jewish homes were demolished.
Shortly after this, the Germans carried out another ‘Aktion’ forcing most of the Jews to leave the town, either on 20 October 1939, or sometime in early November 1939. After the forced removal, only 818 Jews were left in Lubartow, and they were assigned to numerous forced labour projects within the town. Meanwhile 850 Jews were forcibly resettled to Ostrow Lubelski, some 634 Jews were taken to Parczew, and small groups were taken to Kamionka and Firlej, all of these places were not far from Lubartow. The Jews of Lubartow remained in these places until September 1940, although some bribed their German masters and were able to return to Lubartow. Some Jews attempted to return to Lubartow illegally, but the German police checked documents frequently, and whilst some were allowed to return, others were arrested and were sent to the castle in Lublin, which had been converted into a prison. For those Jews who remained in Lubartow, at the start of 1940 a Jewish Council (Judenrat) was established. Mosze Joel Edelman was appointed chairman of the Judenrat, with Szlomo Ber Ciesla as his deputy. The Germans also named other members of the Judenrat, including Moszek Danemark, Jakub Lichtenfeld, Szlomo Rubinstein, Menasze Kassman, Srul Reinsilber, Ber Reichnudel, Pinkwas Duman, Szyja Suchowolski, and Chil Weinberg.
The Judenrat of Lubartow was reorganised several times, for example in November 1941, Vice-chairman Dawid Peretz, resigned. Also in 1940 an 11-man strong Jewish Police force was established. In September 1940, the Kreishauptmann in Janow Lubelski, Henning von Winterfeld was assigned to Kreis Krasnystaw and was replaced by Fritz Schmiege. As a consequence of this, about half of the Jewish families expelled from Lubartow were able to return to their homes. The Judenrat started a kitchen to provide hot meals to the Jewish residents, which was supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) until 1941. The kitchen served not only the local poor, but also many refugees whom the Germans had resettled in Lubartow during 1940 and 1941. On 16 December 1940, 1,028 Jews arrived in Lubartow from Mlawa, and a few months later in March 1941, a few hundred Jews from Lublin were resettled in Lubartow. In April 1942, 250 Jews were removed from Lubartow and resettled in Kamionka, Ostrow, and Firlej. The first mass deportation ‘Aktion’ against the Jews of Lubartow began on 9 April 1942. The local German Gendarmerie seized all the Jews and brought them to the synagogue, where the process of selection began. Some Jews were allowed to remain in Lubartow to carry out work for the Germans. The Germans selected 814 people for deportation and sent them to the railway station. There the Germans loaded them onto cattle wagons all through the night, and sent them to the Belzec death camp, where they were murdered in the gas chambers. Three days later, large groups of Slovak Jews started to arrive in Lubartow. On 13 April 1942, 900 people arrived; on 15 April 1942, 680 people arrived; and on 7 May 1942, 841 people arrived, bringing the total to 2,421 Slovak Jews. Initially, they were made to live in the synagogue, and a military barracks, essentially stables built by the Germans on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery. After their arrival, the Slovak Jews were resettled again, to other nearby places such as Firlej and Ostrow Lubelski. Because the Jews could not leave the town to obtain food, hunger quickly ensued. The Germans organised teams to perform heavy labour within the town. This continued until October 1942, when another major ‘Aktion’ against the Jews of Lubartow was ordered.
This second major ‘Aktion’ took place on 11 October 1942, and it included Jews from Firlej, Kamionka, Ostrow and Tarlo, who were brought to Lubartow. In total there were approximately 7,000 Jews who were deported to the Treblinka death camp, including survivor Chil Rajchman, who was deported with his sister Rivka, who perished in the gas chambers, along with the others. During this mass ‘Aktion’ the Germans continued to murder Jews in their homes and on the streets of Lubartow, and some 300 people, including the elderly and children were shot on the grounds of the new Jewish cemetery. The Jews who were shot on streets and on the platforms at the railway station, were also taken to the cemetery and buried in a mass grave, which was dug by the Jewish Police and sanitation workers. Several days later, in spite of German assurances that there would be no more ‘Aktions,’ another several hundred Jews were deported to the ghetto in Piaski Luterskie and from there they were taken to the Sobibor death camp, where they were murdered in the gas chambers there. The Judenrat members were also resettled at this time into the ghetto at Leczna. In the town of Lubartow itself, a few hundred Jewish craftsmen were spared initially, they worked for the German Gendarmerie, but on 29 January 1943, they too were shot and killed at the new Jewish cemetery in Lubartow. Along with the annihilation of the Jewish community, the Germans destroyed the buildings and all traces of a Jewish presence in the town. The synagogue was converted into a stable and the cemeteries were desecrated. The old Jewish cemetery in the centre of the town became a gallows, where the Germans carried out public executions of Jews from Kamionka and other places. The tombstones from both cemeteries were taken to be used in construction tasks in the school where Wehrmacht soldiers were stationed. Only some 40 Jews from Lubartow survived the Nazi occupation, mainly by hiding in the villages and 5 Jews were hidden by two Polish families in the town itself.
Sources:The Encyclopaedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933-1945, USHMM, Indiana University Press Bloomington and Indianapolis 2012
Y. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1987
C. Rajchman, Treblinka – A Survivors Memory, Maclehose Press, London, 2011
Photograph - Chris Webb Archive
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