We Remember Poniatowa Camp and Its Jewish Victims!

My sincere thanks to Serge Rosenblum who drew my attention to the story of Poniatowa and lack of any mention of the Jews killed there on Polish memorials nowadays.

Poniatowa

Source: Robert Rozett & Shmuel Spector: "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust", Yad Vashem & Facts On File, Inc., Jerusalem 2002
Posted with permission of Yad Vashem

Forced Labour and Prisoner of War camp, located in the Polish town of Poniatowa, near Lublin. Poniatowa was established in September 1941 as a camp for Soviet prisoners of war. By December, 24000 Soviet prisoners were interned there. The conditions were so harsh that hundreds of prisoners had died daily; by early spring 1942, some 22000 prisoners had died or had been executed. During that summer the German army gave the SS control of the camp.

Soon' the SS began using Poniatowa as a forced labor camp for Jews.

The first Jews arrived in October 1942. By January 1943 some 1500 Jews were interned there. After the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943, 16000-18000 more Jews were brought to Poniatowa. Ten thousand prisoners were made to work in a textile factory that had been transferred from Warsaw Ghetto. The rest worked at various outdoor jobs. Hundreds of prisoners were executed or tortured to death by the SS staff and the Ukrainian guards.

On November 4, 1943, the Germans began destroying Poniatowa: some 15000 Jews were shot to death in a one-day massacre as part of operation "ERNTEFEST". Prisoners who resisted were burnt alive inside their barracks. Only a few survivors escaped the camp before it was totally liquidated.

Source: Israel Gutman: "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust", Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, Tel Aviv 1990,
PONIATOWA
Volume IV, page 960-961, article written by Szmuel Krakowski
Translated by Ada Holtzman


The administrative division of Poland during the German occupation 1939-1945

PONIATOWA. A camp for Prisoners of War and Forced Labor. Poniatowa is located 36 km west of Lublin, Poland. In September 1941 a camp to Soviet prisoners of war was erected there: Stalag 359. The guard in the camp was given to Landesschuetzenbataillon 709. All together 24,000 Soviet prisoners of war were detained in this camp. Most of them arrived to the camp in November - December 1941. Due to the terror exerted by the German cadre, the horrible sanitary conditions, the hard labor and the severe hunger, the mortality among the prisoners reached hundreds for a day. Until the beginning of the spring of 1942, died or murdered 22,000 prisoners of war and were buried in 32 mass graves in the outskirts of the camp. 500 of the survivors agreed to join the Special Forces of the Nazi police or army. The camp was transferred tot he S.S. and became a Forced Labor Camp for Jewish prisoners.

In October 1942, the first Jews were deported to the camp from Ghetto Opole. In January 1943 there were 1500 Jews in the camp. After the liquidation of ghetto Warszawa following the uprising in May 1943, 16000-18000 Jews were deported from Warszawa to Poniatowa Camp. About 10000 Jewish prisoners worked in the textile factories of the German industrialist Walter Tebens, who were transferred from ghetto Warszawa to Poniatowa. The rest worked in various field works around the camp.

The first commander of the camp was Obersturmfuehrer Gotlieb Hering and after him Otto Hantke. The headquarters consisted of 40 S.S. Germans. The guard was made mostly by Ukraines of 600 men. In Poniatowa prevailed a terror regime and hundreds of prisoners were executed or tortured to death. In the camp was active the ZOB, the Jewish Fighting organization of Ghetto Warszawa, and its main purpose was to organize a resistance in case of liquidation of the camp. The commander of the ZOB in the camp was Meilech Finekind, activist of "Poalei Zion Smol" from Warszawa. In September 1943 the Germans found some of the weapon prepared by the underground' and the regime in the camp even worsened.

In the night of 3-4 November 1943, large forces of the S.S. arrived from Eastern Prussia (Katowice) and a special guard unit from Auschwitz. These units were assigned to mass killing and the special code given to their operation was: "ERNTEFEST" (The Harvest). The prisoners were driven off their barracks and forced to run groups by groups to pits, which were prepared before near the camp. Over there they were all shot by guns. Part of the prisoners refused to leave their barracks and showed resistance. The Germans then put the barracks on fire, burning the remains of the prisoners alive. The people of the underground managed to set on fire some of the warehouses of the factories. All together, on the day 4 November 1043 - about 15000 of the Jewish prisoners were murdered. The Germans tried to make 200 of the surviving Jews cremate the bodies of the killed, but they refused and so murdered also. Only a few managed to escape from the camp before its liquidation.

Shmuel Krakowski

Bibliography:
Ryszard Gicewicz "Obojpracy w Poniatowej 1941-1943", Zessyty Majdanka, 10(1980); 88-104

The Message from Artur Podgórski

Destruction and Rising, the Epic of the Jews in Warsaw, a Collection of Reports and Biographical Sketches of the Fallen, Compiled and Edited by Meilech Neustadt, Palestine 1946, page 351
Translated by Ada Holtzman

Melech Feinkind

Finekind Melech was born in Warszawa in 1898. He was a worker. He joined the Polish Socialist movement since his youth times (its left wing party) and was the manager of the Muranow region (the Jewish area). In1916 he moved to the Zionist Socialist movement "Poalei Zion". In the years 1925-1931 he was in Eretz Israel, active in his party branch at Petach Tikva. Due to his illness he returned to Poland, where he was activist in the Warszawa Committee and the "Poalei Zion Smol" counsel.

During the Nazi occupation he was active in the Jewish underground and served as the representative of "Poalei Tzion Smol" in all the consultations about the foundation of the ZOB, the Jewish Fighting Organization in Warszawa. He was activist of the two organizations. He worked hard to unite the various movements and for the cooperation within the working Eretz Israel camp. He was deported by the Nazis to Poniatowa and over there he was also among those who organized self social activity and the Jewish Fighting Organization group. He was its leader. He was murdered by the Nazi murderers.


Melech Feinkind (1898-1943)

Destruction and Rising, the Epic of the Jews in Warsaw, a Collection of Reports and Biographical Sketches of the Fallen, Compiled and Edited by Meilech Neustadt, Palestine 1946, pages 64-77

The Liquidation of the Camp in Poniatowa
The Testimony of Ludwika Fiszer who Escaped from the Grave

In the Poniatowa Official Web Site see: http://www.poniatowa.pl/english/index1eng.html under section: "History of Poniatowa", under "Memorial Places" there is no mention of the JEWS in none of the 6 monuments in town.

I have written a letter to the Web Master with the hope he/she will deliver the letter to the appropriate recipient and a change will be made of this falsification of history. 

My letter:

Dear Sir,
I was shocked to see in your web site about memorials in Poniatowa there is no mention of the Jews who were prisoners in the Forced Labour Camp there and executed by the Nazis in the most hideous ways. They were remnants of Ghetto Opole and Ghetto Warszawa.
How, out of 6(!!!) memorials in your town there is NO MENTION of the JEWS!!!???

Please correct this and put the truth on one or more of the memorials.

Sincerely,

Shalom,

Ada Holtzman
www.zchor.org

On December 8th, 2004 I received an email from my friend Serge Rozenblum

Hello,

Hag Sameah,

I don't know if it's because of us but have a look to the web page

http://www.poniatowa.pl/english/index1eng.html

I think we can be proud with the update of the web site.
Bye,

Serge Rozenblum

__________

I was extremely pleased about this change and realized to my amazement that the English official web site of Poniatowa now quotes the paragraph about the Forced Labor Camp from the Holocaust Encyclopaedia, the article written by Robert Rozett & Shmuel Spector and is shown above.

This is a very good sign and a progress in the improvement of the relationship between Poles and Jews in general. I hope that a new monument to commemorate the Germans crime against the Jews in Poniatowa will soon be erected as well.

Ada Holtzman

 

I'll be glad to post any other material about the Forced Labour Camp Poniatowa, testimonies, articles, links etc.
Thank you in advance,
Shalom,
A.H. Tel Aviv, 17 April 2003

The Liquidation of the Camp in Poniatowa
The Testimony of Ludwika Fiszer who Escaped from the Grave

 

The Honorable Mayor of Poniatowa
Mr. Zbigniew Kania
Poland                                                                         Tel Aviv December 3rd, 2003

Dear Sir,

            Poniatowa is an historic site, important in the history of Poland and the world, and is a place that people throughout the world think of because of the significant events that occurred there sixty (60) years ago.  During the German Nazi "ERNTEFEST", harvest festival, the German Nazis executed over 15,000 Jewish prisoners in their forced labor camp which they established on Polish soil in Poniatowa.

            Yet it is shocking that the world has been denied so much information about the suffering of the people who were in the German Nazi Forced Labour camp established there.  We hope you will agree that the Poniatowa web site which contains information about memorials should be supplemented and enhanced to make mention of the historic events that occurred in Poniatowa region and how 15,000 Jewish souls were executed by the German Nazis in the most hideous ways.  These Jewish souls were the remnants of Ghettos from Opole and Ghetto Warszawa.  Attached is a summary about the history of the camp which is published in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

             Poniatowa has done well to establish six (6) memorials for historic events that have occurred there.  Establishment of a memorial and the recognition of the suffering of the Jews that took place in the forced labor camp under the domination of the Nazi Germans is most appropriate at this time.  We use this opportunity also to encourage the erection of a memorial recalling these tragic events, mentioning the Jews executed there.  Such a step would be a gesture of good will and cooperation and would be completely consistent with 21st Century Poland and the policies of the Republic of Poland as part of the European Union, Nato and the Western world.  The Republic of Poland today has been a great friend to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people.  We believe it is very important for the younger generation living in Poniatowa and everywhere to learn and remember the crimes that took place in the town. 

"Poniatowa
Source: Robert Rozett & Shmuel Spector: "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust", Yad Vashem & Facts On File, Inc., Jerusalem 2002:

Forced Labour and Prisoner of War camp, located in the Polish town of Poniatowa, near Lublin. Poniatowa was established in September 1941 as a camp for Soviet prisoners of war. By December, 24000 Soviet prisoners were interned there. The conditions were so harsh that hundreds of prisoners had died daily; by early spring 1942, some 22000 prisoners had died or had been executed. During that summer the German army gave the SS control of the camp.

Soon' the SS began using Poniatowa as a forced labor camp for Jews.

The first Jews arrived in October 1942. By January 1943 some 1500 Jews were interned there. After the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943, 16000-18000 more Jews were brought to Poniatowa. Ten thousand prisoners were made to work in a textile factory that had been transferred from Warsaw Ghetto. The rest worked at various outdoor jobs. Hundreds of prisoners were executed or tortured to death by the SS staff and the Ukrainian guards.

On November 4, 1943, the Germans began destroying Poniatowa: some 15000 Jews were shot to death in a one-day massacre as part of operation "ERNTEFEST". Prisoners who resisted were burnt alive inside their barracks. Only a few survivors escaped the camp before it was totally liquidated. "

 

We thank you in advance for your consideration and cooperation.

 

Sincerely,

 

1) Ada Holtzman
10/5 Korazim St.
Tel Aviv 69185
ISRAEL

2) Howard Orenstein, Ph.D.
Hampstead, Maryland,
U.S.A.

3) Warren Grynberg
Essex,
U.K.

4) Herschal Grynberg
Essex,
U.K.

5) Joyce Field
West Lafayette,
 U.S.A.

6) Bianca Schlesinger
Tel Aviv,
ISRAEL

7) Dr. Pnina Meislish
Jerusalem,
ISRAEL

8) Adv. Michael H. Traison
Detroit, Warsaw
U.S.A , POLAND

9) Viktor Lewin
Winnipeg,
CANADA

10) Serge Rozenblum
Paris
,
FRANCE

11&12) Beth & Sam Mandell,
Las Vegas,
U.S.A.

 

13) Edyta Gawron
Krakow,
POLAND

14) Théo Hoffenberg
Paris,
FRANCE

 

 

 
Copy: 
·               Director of the State Museum Majdanek, Mr. Edward Balawejder.
·               Mr. Andrzej Przewoznik, sekretarz generalny, Rady Ochrony Pamieci Walk i Meczenstwa, Warszawa.
·               Mr. Jozef Krzyzanowski, sekretarz Wojewodzkiej Komisji Walk i Meczenstwa w Lublinie.
·               The Polish-Israeli Society in Lublin Poland.
·               Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem Israel.
·               Mr. Benjamin Meirtchak, General  Secretary of the Association of Polish Jews in Israel  (Center of Organizations).
 

 

No Reply received within 3 months! 27 February 2004, AH

Yad Vashem sent the enclosed letter:

Click to read the original letter:

December 29,2003

 

Dear Ms. Holtzman,

 

Thank you for the copy of your letter to the Mayor of Poniatowa, Mr. Zbigniew Kania.

 

On behalf of Yad Vashem, I would like to express my appreciation for the important work you and your colleagues are doing in trying to establish a memorial to the Jews murdered in Poniatowa. Please accept my best wishes for your success in this most worthwhile endeavor.

 

Yours sincerely,

             

              (-)                 

              Rachel Barkan

Director, Commemoration and Public Relations

Remembrance Ceremony, First Time after 61 Years November 4th, 2004

 

Robert Kuwalek, director of Belzec new Museum and historian in the Majdanek museum sent me the following message on December 11th, 2004.

 


Mr.  Kurowski, Lublin`s viovode (consevateur). In back are the Israeli ambasador David Peleg and Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

 

On 4th of November this year, first time after the war, in Poniatowa was organized a commemoration ceremony. The main organizer of this event was Artur Podgórski from Poniatowa but he could do it only with the hug support of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and Austrian Embassy in Poland.

 

The Israeli ambassador and Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Rabbi of Warsaw and Lodz participated in the Remembrance ceremony. There were about 200-300 people who attended the ceremony.

 


The people who attended the ceremony standing  in the place of the execution.

 

The speech by the head of Lublin voievodeship, Mr. Kurowski, was very impressive.

He said openly that it has been a scandal that until today in Poniatowa doesn`t exist the special memorial commemorating the Jewish victims from the camp in Poniatowa. He promised also all possible help if the local authorities will wish to built this kind of memorial.

 

During the event the idea to establish a special committee for the building of the memorial in Poniatowa was created.

 

The "main brain", Artur Podgorski is still in Warsaw, in the Jewish Historicla Institute

I saw him last week and I told him that time is passing and the people who are interested in the idea are still  waiting for the meeting with him.

 

After the ceremony there was an exhibition of the photos from the camp which Mr. Artur Podgórski  prepared.  Also a there was held a conference on which the presentations about the different aspects of the history of Poniatowa camp were presented.

 

 


Memorial Candles in Poniatowa lit by local Poles, 61 years after the crime.

Partial List of Holocaust Survivors from the Forced Labour Camp Poniatowa

Source: USHMM – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and others.

Lolek Lein Arnfeld

Jakub Cwajbaum

Miriam Cwi

Awidjor Cynamon

Ludwiga Fiszer

Lonia Goldfeld

Gustava Goldzweig

Samuel Hoffenberg

Ignac Milchberg

Gina Rachman

Jerzy Ros

Mery Rosen

Menash Taubenblatt

Last Updated January 3rd, 2004