WE REMEMBER KRASNOSIELC!
RESEARCH OF THE MASSACRE AT KRASNOSIELC AND PROVISION OF A MEMORIAL TO THE VICTIMS
By: David Shachar
Email: sh_david "at" zahav.net.il (replace "at" by @ to avoid spam)
Ever since that day when I saw my father for the last time and ever since I heard the shocking evidence about the murder, the urge to know exactly what happened to my father would give me no rest until I knew the truth.
1965, by chance, I read with great interest, a book by William Shirer "
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" which had been translated into
Hebrew. To my surprise I found in one of the chapters entitled "The First
Day of Terror in
fact that a trial was held for those murderers interested me especially since I
had a feeling, which later proved to be correct, that it was the only event for
which SS soldiers were brought to trial for mass murder of Jews as a crime (in
contrast later there were many trials for SS soldiers for crimes of
disobedience). A short time after this, on 17th of September 1939, it was
decided at a meeting of the highest authorities of the Third Reich not to hold
trials for SS soldier for the murder of Jews, since this would go against the
principles of the Reich. This was published in a regulation issued by Himmler
1988 immediately after the fall of communism when the gates of Eastern European
countries were opened to visits from the West, I made my first trip to
I asked the guide to accompany me on a tour and to talk to the local people in Polish, My accent showed that I was a foreigner. The driver asked them what they knew about the Jews who lived in this place and about the the murder which took place here. Although most, if not all, avoided or refused to speak with us and others said things like, "Thank God we are rid of the Jews who were here." During this same visit I contacted the mayor of the town, a young man named Miroslav Glinka, and asked him if he knew any details of the event. He told me that he knew nothing. I asked him to let me examine the local archives where the history of the residents were documented but I received a firm refusal.
Three years later, in 1991, I again traveled to Poland to search for material about the incident and I again visited KRASNOSIELC and also at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw where the history of the Jews of Poland is documented. I did not find any important material relating to the incident except one report which was issued by the Poles and Soviets in 1945 Among others there was the evidence of Richter, who was appointed mayor by the Germans during the period of the war. He supplied evidence regarding the massacre at the regional court house at Lozmza. No mention was made in the report of where the bodies were buried.
In 1993 I contacted the military attaché at the German embassy in Tel Aviv and related the story and requested that he help me find the file of the trial held for the murderers in the archives of the German government. He promised to take care of my request and turned to various archive bodies in Germany to send him the material on the subject. During the following year various documents relating to the subject began to arrive. Among them were two especially important documents in which it became clear to me beyond any doubt that the murder actually took place as described.
The first document was a report sent from the Third Army to the Headquarters of the Land Forces about the field court marshal which took place against .two soldiers serving in the armored force of General Kempf . Their family names are not found in this file. They were indicted for firing without reason on 50 Jews who were busy during the day repairing a bridge. In the report it says that the prosecutor in the trial defined the deed as murder and demanded a sentence of death for the murderers. One of them argued in his defense that a number of reasons were on their side, such as: the strain caused by the atrocities carried out by Poles on German born residents, the hostile attitude of the Jews toward Germans and the fact that they acted with youthful enthusiasm without thinking and the fact that they were brave soldiers who had never before been punished. At the end of the trial one of the accused received 9 years imprisonment and other three years.
Other documents revealed that a few days after the report was received The Commander of the 3rd Army, General Von Kuchler decided to lower the sentence of one of the murders from 9 to 3 years and the punishment of the other soldier was approved without any change.
The second significant document which reached me was a copy of the Nurenberg Trials file No. 12, which dealt with the proceedings against General Georg von Kuchler, the command of the Third Army, In the course of the trial, General Kempf the commander of the armored division which operated in the area testified that his soldiers attacked the Jews apparently because they constituted a danger, although she stressed he was against that approach. He added that the massacre was carried out by four SS men and another solder and that the soldiers who started the killings belonged to an artillery unit from the same division and in the course of time other soldiers joined in.. Kempf said that the news about the massacre reached him only the day after at dawn and that he reported immediately to the main headquarters of the Land forces and requested them to begin an investigation immediately against them. On the 7th of December at noon, Army Commander General Von Kuchler came to the Divisional Headquarters to meet all the unit commanders under General Kempf's command. Heand condemned the deed severely and unequivocally. He.blamed the commander's actioas immoral and barbaric and dishonorable. and accused them or of having a bestial attitude. He pointed out that their conduct stained the honor of the whole unit severely. From his rebuke one could infer that the main culprits deserved death sentences for what they had done. A testimony of Kuchler's behavior substantiated in the course of the trial by more witnesses like General Herbert von Beckman..
Another document which was published within the framework of the Nurenberg trial is the War Diary of General Franz Halder who was the Chief of Staff of the Land Forces who also mentioned the massacre of the Krasnoschlitz Jews. The following was stated there "artillery men from the SS armored unit gathered Jews into the synagogue and murdered them there. A court martial convicted the murderers and sentenced them to one year of imprisonment . Von Kuchler did not confirm the verdict because in his opinion they deserved a more severe punishment. It was suggested that the unit be transferred. Following the publication Halder's War Diaries, the event received much publicity and wide repercussion in Germany.
I was excited to read the files relating to that event but a number of puzzles remained unsolved; mainly the question of where the victims of the massacre were buried. .. - According to that document the indication was that the corpses were transferred to an unknown place. I knew that until I found the answer to this puzzle I would have no peace.
I decided to apply to the German Embassy in Israel and ask them for additional financing, which I lacked for accomplishing the project. One of the high officials of the embassy replied "that it is impossible not to respond to my request" and so it was but not so quickly and easily.
the meantime, in 1993, I was lucky to meet two Polish journalists. Gerzina and
Pashmislav. Rayer- who assisted me greatly in the investigation of the affair .
The Rayer couple are the owners and publishers of a business journal in
Rayers returned to
"Now you have a place to go to say Kaddish on your father's grave. We have found one old resident of the town, Mr Zhilinsky who testified that he participated in covering the corpses on the night of the massacre" It turned out that in the course of that year the couple published an article in the press in which they asked people to pass on to them any information relating to the Krasnoschilts Jews. They traveled especially from the own home town Poznan to KRASNOSIELC, a distance of 450 km, met with many residents of KRASNOSIELC, interrogated them about the event until they reached Mr. Zhilinsky. On that bitter and impetuous evening the Germans knocked on his door because he lived near the synagogue and asked him to come and help cover the corpses.
after receiving the letter in 1994 I decided to leave for
On another occasion Mr. Zhilinsky told me how the Germans took the bodies of the murdered Jews out of the synagogue and threw them in the ditches beside it and covered them with Torah books, poured some combustible material and set it all on fire. He added that the Germans called him and his father to help bury the corpses and immediately warned them not to utter a word about what they had just seen, otherwise they and their families might face death. Zhilinsky told the story only after the war had ended, perhaps when he was drunk. Thanks to it the story spread in town and thus reached us eventually.
After I had confirmed the truth about the story that the corpses were buried near the synagogue building, I consider opening the graves and taking the corpses out. I applied to the Polish Ministry of Health and the Pathological Institute in Warsaw presenting the documentation but they refused to approve my request.
I decided to abandon the idea because it demanded a lot of effort. We asked a number of rabbis if we many regard the place as a proper burial ground if we possess all the evidence that the corpses were actually buried there. They responded positively.
In the meantime, Mr Galinka, the Mayor of KRASNOSIELC became cooperative mainly because he saw that I had the support of journalists and that official authorities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health were involved in the matter. So he let me visit the synagogue building and the local archives of KRASNOSIELC although I found nothing about the incident of the murder..
I decided next to erect a memorial for the victims on the site so I applied to Mayor Glinka to cooperate and he asked what I had in mind. I replied that I wanted to build a library or museum . He was against is saying that there were not enough people to visit it and that he did not have the money to maintain it. He suggested that I buy the synagogue and then I shall be free to do whatever I decide. He made a quick evaluation and told me that I can buy the synagogue and the yard for 25,000 dollars. I made a calculation myself and concluded that to repair the building which was very much neglected, I should need another 100,000 dollars. After coming back to Israel I told the whole story to friends and members of the committee. They expressed their doubt about the chances of raising such an amount of money but the last straw that broke the camel's back was the fact that the Israeli engineer we sent to check if it was worthwhile to repair the building said that it was very old and its infrastructure was in a very bad state and it was not advisable to invest in it. So I decided to back off from the idea of buying and repairing the building and decided to erect a memorial instead.. The Mayor of Krasnoschlitz welcomed the idea.
All that time I continued efforts in various ways to raise additional money to finance the project. I sent circulars to survivors of our town and received some money from them. Another way was through the German Embassy after the military attaché at Tel Aviv embassy had already supported my inquiry. The German ambassador appointed the cultural attaché of the embassy, Dr Susan Rainer, to take care of my request. She assisted me a great deal. She corresponded with the fund officials in the German Foreign Office who were in charge of the distribution of the money and sent them letters and personal recommendations. She even organized two mewith the participation of the military attaché and the chief accountant of the Embassy. In the end, after much effort I was awarded the sum of 20,000 dollars which was sufficient for carrying out the greater part of the inquiry and the erection of the monument on the site.
since the said project was to carried out on Polish soil, I was informed by the
German Foreign Office that I cannot receive the grant personally because they
had to hand it over to some official body in Poland, i.e. to a council of a
society. I decided not to hand over the matter to the council of Krasnoschilz
which suffered from a lack of money at the time since they might use part of
the money for their own purposes. So, I decided to establish a society in
Poland. I turned to the Polish Consul in
traveled twice to
In the meantime, we planned the erection of the monument itself on the outside of the synagogue wall. We planned to install the tablets in four languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English and Polish. Each would bear a description of the events that took place at the site. In addition, some 200 yards further from the site where the corpses were buried we decided to build a monument in the form of the Tablets of the Covenant bearing inscription in the four languages describing the event and a list with the names of the murdered Jews.
For this I had to prepare a list of the names of those who were murdered. This was not as simple matter since I could not find a precise registration of the names anywhere. Even the precise number of victims was unknown because in addition to the town residents there was an unknown number of refugees from neighboring towns who were also killed. Polish documents mention 41 victims while German sources give the number 50 as killed in the event. Aided by citizens of the town who were now living in America including my brothers and sisters, we succeeded in gathering the names of 31 people whom we knew for sure were killed and a number of names about whom there is some doubt whether they were actually there.
The names were embossed on the tablets aided by the Department of Commemoration of the Fallen in the Ministry of Defense and this was attached later on the monument. The four tables installed on the synagogue walls were designed by a Polish architect Mr. Woizeck Henrikovsky.
June 5th 1996, the ceremony to unveil the monument took place. One
day before the ceremony 25 people lodged at the guest house next to the city
hall; 15 of us Israelis including my brother Michael and 10 others or their
descendents from the
The ceremony took place the next morning. Almost all the residents of the town came and also representatives from the neighboring towns. The Krasnoschilz people considered the event important: Flags of the State of Israel were flown on all the streets and a band was instructed to accompany the event. Many newspapermen and personnel from television and radio were also gathered at the location..
The ceremony itself was divided into two stages: The first was held next to the synagogue itself and a number of speeches were given - one by the Head of the Region, the second by the Mayor and the third by the Deputy Ambassador of Israel. The fourth was by Dina Roth the Chairperson of the committee for the towns in the region. I translated all the speeches into English and Polish and after I also delivered a sspeech about memories of the town during my childhood and about the emotions which drove me to investigate the event. For the second stage, we all went to the memorial next to the burial place. There, my brother Michael said a prayer then Kaddish and Tehillim. It was very affecting for me to finally say Kaddish on my father's grave, 57 years after I departed from him.
During my memorial activities in KRASNOSIELC, I was accompanied by. the journalist and writer Mr Mariusz Bandarczuk from Przasmysz . He documented the event in writing and photography and helped in searching archives at the location and in other places. At the conclusion Mr. Bondarczuk wrote a book entitled "The Fifth Day (Piatego Duia) where he described the relations between the Polish and Jewish populations from the 17th until the bitter end of the Jewish community and especially described the tragic events September 5, 1938. I am indebted to him for the serious document which he wrote.
1. The story which was reconstructed according to the account by Shkopaf and additional evidence heard later, especially that of Yitzak Glant, who heard from his father Abraham Glant who was saved from this event.
2 Later I found
out that my mother sent a letter to
my brother Yoseph, who at that time lived in
3. William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Shocken, .552 pp.
5. Anatomy of the S.S. State, Helmut Krausnick, p 248.
6. The murderers
trial, p. 92 The file is dated
7. Name, P93 (See a photo of the document)
8. Nuremberg Trials #12, #15 Eidesstattlich Erkaerung, General Werner Kempf. At this same trial it was stated that the murder was carried out at the town of Rojan in the Makov Mazobitski region instead of Krasnoschlitz but the matter is based on a mistake.
9. Nuremberg Trials #121, #10 , Eidesstatliche Erklarung, General Herbert von Boeckmann.
The judgement regarding the murderers
Following his appeal, the punishment of the military policeman was reduced from 9 to 3 years in prison. No change was made in the sentence of the SS man.
The memorial tablet at the site where the victims of the massacre were buried next to the synagogue. A list of names of those murdered are on the tablet.
The writer and members of his family near the memorial tablet which was fastened to the wall of the synagogue at Krasnoschlitz
From page 42 of the article
The Judgement Regarding the Murder
Record from 14.9.1939 regarding the judgement against the SS man and militrary policeman for the murder of 50 Jews in the synagouge. The first was sentenced to three years imprisonment and the second nine years.
The Murder of Jews of Krasnoschilz
Record from documents;
(Translated from the German)
The head of the military court announced by telephone: A field court of the armored division Kempf sentenced an SS man from the SS artillery to 3 years imprisonment for murder and 9 years imprisonment with hard laborfor a corporal of the military police
Both murdered about 50 Jews who were taken for a day to repair a bridge. After finishing work they were confined during the evening in the synagogue and there shot to death without any reason.
General Alder wishes to know the judgement of the 3rd Army command.
The judgement was passed on to the commander of the 3rd Army for approval. The demand of the representative of the prosecution: Sentence of death for murder.
The judgement on the day after the trial.
Headquarters of the Land Forces,
Headquarters of the General Staff
The observers are SS men
The Head of headquarters of the Land Forces requests that the document H 14/9 be returned to the Headquarters of the Land Forces.
From Page 43 of the article
The Appeal of the Judgement
Following the appeal the sentence of the military
policeman was reduced from 9 to 3 years. In the case of the SS man there was no
(Translated from the German)
Telegram : HD1H 403 - 14.9. 39 - 1905
To the consultant to the Higher Military Court at the Head of the General Staff in Berlin
General Staff room 3 Headquarters of the Land Forces No 1204/39
We recognized in the discussion relating to the SS soldier mitigating circumstances because passing the rifle by an officer into his hands deviated him from taking an active part in the execution by rifle fire. He was in an emotional state due to the many terrible deeds carried out by the Poles toward Germans. He, as an SS man, in seeing the Jews felt especially the anti-German attitute of the Jews and in youthful excitement acted without thinking in advance. He is a good soldier and has no previous convictions.
The councillor of the Higher Military Court of the Lands Forces
Approves the correctness of the document
Lipsky Advisor to the Military Court
To: General Staff of the 3rd division
Note: By telephone from the Head Advisor of the Military Court the secretariat at The General Staff- apparently will not approve the two judgements.
Ra (?) ......
Summary: The sentences were cut after the pardon.
The punishments before the pardon and after
9 years in jail with hard labor to military police corporal, was reduced to 3 years in jail.
3 years in jail for SS man. Not changed.
Approved by the General Staff
THE BOOK OF HORRORS
The appalling testimony in Hebrew of
the mother of the author in Sefer Hazvaot -
Book of Horrors, Certificates, testimonies, reports about the destruction of the Jewish people during WWII
Edited by Benjamin Mintz and Dr. Israel Klausner, with a preface by Itzhak Grinbaum
published by the the Rescue Committee of the Sochnut in Eretz Israel, first volume, Jerusaelm 1945, page 94-95. AH.
David Shachar: INTRODUCTION
This story is taken from "Book of Horrors" Vol 2 which is a collection of testimonies. of the horrible deeds committed by the German invaders against the Jews of Poland in the first month of the occupation.
The woman mentioned is my mother Hinda
Himmelfarb (of Blessed Memory) who wrote this from
The collection was edited by Benjamin Mintz and Dr Israel Klausner with an introduction by Yitshak Greenbaum The collection was published in 1945
THE HORRORS IN KRASNOSIELC
From the Slaughtering Fields of the Nazi Conquered Areas
How the Martyrs of Krasnoshiltz, Poland Were Tortured and Murdered
One of Four Refugees Tells Details of the Atrocity
In a letter from a mother to her son in Haifa, details of the death of the father, a shochat in the town of Krasnosielc in the extermination during the Nazi conquest how with another 33 Jews were shot and killed in a synagogue by the Nazis.
After description of the retreat in panic from the town, two days before the Germans arrived, the mother describes in detail the murder of the forty. The writer escaped to a nearby village by the name of Gonsowa and the Germans came to the town the next day . On Monday of that week she returned there, and told her husband who escaped to Makov, that the town was quiet and he could return to his work. He returned on Tuesday and immediately on the morning of the next day, all the residents were taken to enforced labor to repair a bridge that had been bombed. In the city the women and children stayed at home for a while. In the evening, a terrible panic broke out in the city because the men did not return People living near the synagogue said that during the night they heard shots from there periodically. Then a terrible running around the synagogue began, but Nazi soldiers guarding the place did not let the crying women and mother get close. Only on Friday the guards were removed. No one was in the synagogue, nothing was found except blood stains on the floor. They said that many Jews who were captured while running away, were returned to the synagogue where they were murdered. But no one knew for sure.
three weeks, on the evening of Succoth, an order was given to all the Jews to
leave the town for two hours. To the question "Where?", the
Nazi hangmen answered "to
In the evening of that same day an order was given to leave work and to line up; the Jews separately and the Poles separately. Some of the young Jews succeeded in getting out of it. But those who were dressed in traditional Jewish dress and with beards, 40 in number, were taken to the synagogue where they were tortured to death. They were pulled by their beard until blood flowed and than were shot one by one. The bodies were put on a truck and were taken to an unknown location.
The names of Peretz Orlinski, Chaim Goldenkranc and Jakob Mlawer who were among the murdered, were mentioned in the letter. May God avenge them! The person who testified, Mosze Albrisz survived with other 5 men who were covered with the bodies of the blessed ones and were not noticed by the murderers. The six were taken afterwards to Germany as prisoners, but the witness succeeded in escaping on the way and reaching Russian occupied territory.
On this night, the terrible deeds and cruel murder at the synagogue as described above, many of the population of the town escaped with their lives to the regional capital nearby - Maykow (30 kilometers away) before it fell into the hands of the Nazi in the two days mentioned. But to their pitiful disappointment the city fell into the hands of the oppressors. Because of this situation the refugees from Krasnosielc saw no good in staying in that city and slowly began to return in their tracks and return to their homes in their town. They did this in groups of two or three people lest the Nazi patrols notice them and kill them. But it didn't turn out this way, to their bad luck. Many of the groups were notice and them were murdered on the road without mercy. During that same night many of those who returned from their way to Maykov or local children were killed.
On this night, the terrible deeds and cruel murder at the synagogue as describeabove, many of the population of the town escaped in a hurry with their lives.
David Shachar adds, December 2000:
During my memorial activities in Krasnoschiltz, I was accompanied by. the journalist and writer Mr. Mariusz Bandarczuk from Przasnysz . He documented the event in writing and photography and helped in searching archives at the location and in other places. At the conclusion Mr. Bondarczuk wrote a book entitled "The Fifth Day" (Piatego Duia) where he described the relations between the Polish and Jewish populations from the 17th until the bitter end of the Jewish community and especially described the tragic events of September 5, 1938. I am indebted to him for the serious document which he wrote.
Mr. Mariusz Bandarczuk's book translated to English will be published in year 2001.
Email: sh_david "at" zahav.net.il (replace "at" by @ to avoid spam)
PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE
October 11, 2000
Mr. David Shachar,
In accordance with the authority vested in me by Paragraph 11 (a)1 of the Yad Vashem Constitution, 1968, and amended by the authority provided in the Law for the Memory of the Holocaust and Heroism Yad Vashem, 1956, I am honored to appoint you as a member of the Yad Vashem Council.
I would like to wish you all the success in fulfilling this important duty.
Copies: Professor Shevah Weiss, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council
Mr Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate
Mr. David Shachar dedicated a lot of
his life and resources towards commemoration of the Jewish Polish Soldiers who
fought the Nazi enemy in WWII and fell in battle.
He found wonderful great donors to the project The result is a grand memorial monument in
November 13, 2000
Dear Mr. Shachar
Thank you very much for sending us your article in English on your research regarding the murder of the Jews in Krasnoslitz in Poland.
Without doubt your great efforts to discover the details regarding the event and memorializing the victims, one of whom was your father, of blessed memory, provides an important and educational message to the coming generation both in Israel and abroad.
I have passed on your article to the Pedagogical Director of the Central School for Teaching the Holocaust so that teachers and students from various countries in the world can learn from your person story.
Dr. Motti Shalem
First posted December 2000!