To the Memory of Boaz Patt

We Remember Jewish Suprasl!

 
The Memorial in Mount Zion Jerusalem

LIFE AND DEATH
IN SHADOW OF THE
FOREST

The Story of Suprasl -

A Shtetl in Eastern Poland

 

Published with the assistance of "Amos Fund" Jack and Genia Liberman.
(c) All Rights reserved by the Author Printed in Israel by "Murag"

Dedicated with love to:
Haya, Boaz and Hanna, Galit, Maor and Vered, Batia and Avi, Orli-Zehava and Corey-Pinchas

...For man is a tree of the field... its branches grow according to its roots...

The Author

CONTENTS

The War Years................................................................................... 33

Suprasl during the Holocaust............................................................... 42

Treblinka - Suprasl Jewry's Graveyard................................................ 46

Historical Dates during the Holocaust in Suprasl.................................. 48

The War Years

The Struggle and the Holocaust (1939-1945) A living Testimony from Daidush Fine

1. Under Russian Rule 1.9.39-22.6.41.

Everything I have recorded is connected to the terrible events experienced by myself and the Jews, as well as the Christians, of the Polish town of Suprasl, during and after the war, and to the murder of all the Jews of Suprasl and the events that occurred up to my arrival in Israel.

I shall begin with the outbreak of war between Poland and Germany, on 1st, September 1939, when all the men of the town below the age of 50, who had previously served in the Polish army were recruited. There was great confusion amongst the Jews of the village, especially among the families whose relatives had been mobilized, including Shlomo Sear and his brothers Meir and Moshe, Herzl Shturmak and his brother Myram, Zelig Travitsky, Alter Miletsky, and myself. I was sent to Bialystok and thence to Warsaw together with my battalion. However, en route, we were bombed by the Germans and the troops proceeded on foot in a disorganized fashion.

It soon became clear that there was no point in continuing to Warsaw and the battalion began to disperse. Myself and five other Jewish soldiers decided to return in the direction of the Russian-Polish border, not knowing that the Russian army had already crossed into Polish territory. Meanwhile, the Germans had taken Bialystok and large portions of eastern Poland were in Russian hands. Eventually Bialystok became Russian territory, as part of the Molotov-Ribentrop agreement.

At this time, September 1939, we were near the Russian-Polish border and we, of course, were happy to hear that Bialystok was under Soviet control. The Russians rounded up the majority of the Polish officers and sent them deep into Russia, while telling us, the Jews, to go home. I reached Baranowitz from where I planned to travel by train to Bialystok. There was a large crowd of people next to the train station and much commotion. After we succeeded in boarding the train, Russian soldiers appeared and closed all the train doors. In answer to questions about the train's destination the soldiers replied: "To Russia, as prisoners or war". I eventually found myself in a camp near Smolensk, near the Dnieper River. The camp was inhabited by some 15,000 Polish soldiers and officers, there was no food and the prisoners received only leaves to smoke and newspapers. In addition to the hunger, the cold was repressive and it was difficult to sleep.

One day, whilst marching, I met Fishel, the son of Abraham-Jacob Otenstein, from Suprasl we thereafter tried to stick together. One evening, four months later, we were called to a meeting. Fishel didn't want to attend the meeting so I went on my own. The names of about 2000 men, myself included, were read out, and we were taken to a spot 2 kilometers from the camp, and two days later were accompanied by a military orchestra to a small train station and thence by train to an unknown destination. At first we thought we were being taken to Siberia, however, after checking the sun's position, we realized that we were travelling westwards in the direction of the former Russian-Polish border.

After 12 hours' travel we arrived at a small town where we disembarked and were given food and papers and told that we could return to our homes. I reached Bialystok via Baranovitz. Fishel remained in the camp and after the war I discovered that he had immigrated to Australia.

On reaching Bialystok, I found large numbers of Jews from the German - held regions of Poland and the city was almost unrecognizable. Life in Suprasl resumed under Russian control and the Shturmak family was worried about Herzl and Myram who had not yet returned from the prisoner of war camps. Herzl later reached Israel together with the Polish Andrus soldiers and changed his name to Sa'aroni.

The Russians nationalized the factories and businesses; a Russian was appointed manager of the Cytron's wearing factory and the Cytrons fled. The Hirshorn family was sent to Russia, as was the family of Gedaliah Gottlieb and Moshe Danzing, the owner of the local sawmill, was arrested. Gedaliah Gottlieb eventually arrived in Israel together with his family. Following nationalization, the Russian closed all privately owned shops and opened a cooperative shop, which stocked few commodities. The cooperative was managed by an arrogant man called Toleh Kagan who was soon demoted to the lowly position of factory worker. The acquisition of products such as oil and sugar entailed standing in long queues both in Suprasl and Bialystok where the situation was slightly better.

However, overall people grabbed every available commodity in preparation for the hard times ahead. The "hungry Russians" bought anything they could lay their hand on, and even bought prayer shawls, thinking them to be scarves. In Suprasl, the Russians arrested many young Poles and sent them to Siberia. As a result, there were fears of further arrests. At this time I worked in the Cytron factory as a weaver amidst great confusion. There was a shortage of wood and once we were "mobilized" and accompanied by an orchestra to a forest where we felled trees. "White Head" Olshevsky was appointed manager of the Danzig sawmill and, like Toleh Kagan and other communists, was soon sacked.

There were many Germans in Suprasl, most of whom returned to Germany during the war, except for Zeidel and Geboyer. A special police force was established in Suprasl consisting of Poles and Jews including Olshevsky, Variblasky, Okorovsky, Boreh and a number of former P.P.S. workers. Some of the Jews including Toleh Kagan, Baruch Gamzu and even Arke Rabinowitz, the Rabbi's son received permission to carry arms. Later, Rabinowitz was arrested and sent to Russia. One day, Issar, the decorator's son Itzik, burst into the priest's house with a gun and stole a radio. When the Germans occupied the town Itzik was one of the first to be killed. At this time the "mayor" of Suprasl was a Russian who was officially appointed. The uncertainty, lack of commodities and feeling that the war hadn't ended, all contributed to the harsh conditions. Nonetheless, the local inhabitants were loath to move away from their homes and hoped for miracles.

2. Under the Nazi Boot 22.6.41-1.11.42

A few weeks before the German army attacked the Russians on 22.6.41, we, in Suprasl sensed that something was wrong. Troops moved under cover of night towards the German border and the forests around the town were full of soldiers.

On the night of 22.6.41 German planes attacked Bialystok and the explosions were clearly audible in Suprasl. We didn't get any sleep that night and the next day, a Sunday, there was great confusion, especially among the Jews, while the Poles were quite happy with the situation hoping that they would soon be rid of the Russians. The Russians, however, calmed the Poles and called everyone to turn up for work on Monday. Throughout Sunday we saw Russian soldiers retreating and many planes passed over Suprasl in the direction of Russia. When I arrivedat work on Monday, we were called to a special meeting during which the Russiamanager informed us that the Germans were suffering heavy losses and that Russian soldiers would sbe entering Berl... However, the scene from tfactory windows was different and depressing. Russian soldiers retreating, including the walking wounded, in the direction of Horodok, via the Suprasl forests and thence via the road which led to Bialystok, Baranovitz Minsk.

As the situation worsened, we the , began to think of fletowards Russia. However, unfortunately, we received military orders to make our way to Bialystok. A few hundred of were rounded up in the yard of the Cytron factory and, without being allowed to take leave of our families, were transported to Bialystok. On the way we could see the devastation... Russian soldiers running to and from disorganized and undisciplined, with many wounded unattended by doctors. After being bombed twice, we demanded from the commanding officer to return us to Suprasl. The officer, however, insisted we continue to Bialystok. On our arrival we discovered that there was no one there to meet us and that the Russian authorities had left their mark, shops had been looted and people were trying to make their way eastward. We decided to return to Suprasl on foot, and on reaching the town we saw that the Russians had evacuated the area and the Germans were speeding on to Russian soil.

After being reunited with our families, I once again thought of moving eastward, but by then, it was too late. One Jewish girl, Hitka Shpitalsky, left with the Russians but her entire transport was wiped out. Those who left on the morning of Sunday 23.6.41 managed to escape; others either returned or died on the road. One who got out of Bialystok was Leibe Semiatitsky who, it is thought, is living in Grodno.

After the Russian evacuation of Suprasl, a Polish committee was set up to receive the Germans. The committee comprised: Zeidl and Geboyer, the Polish Germans who stayed on, Alditovsky the shopkeeper, the butcher Valkavsky, and a number of Poles whose names I cannot recall. The Germans entered Suprasl 6 days after the beginning of the war, on 28.6.41. The German leadership occupied the Buchholtz Palace and the Polish committee received them with flowers and gifts.

A large German military force camped in the town and Jews were forced to do hard labor and were beaten whilst carrying out their duties. Jewish girls were taken into domestic service and treated as housemaids. The Poles, on the other hand, didn't conceal their joy at being rid of the Russians. After they retreated, the Russians left behind clothes, shoes and other belongings. The German officer in charge was a lieutenant and ordered everyone down to the cellar, which was surrounded by soldiers with guns. The lieutenant announced that if the culprit didn't come forward, everyone would be shot. Joseph Goldshmid then confessed and the officer, who was a "humane German" sentenced us to a day and night's work without food. At any other time the incident would have ended with the death sentence.

One day two Germans came to the factory with a list of names including Toleh Kagan, Yankel Novosilker and another name which I can't recall. He was from Bialystok and was married to Hitka Shpitalslki's oldest daughter. The Russians had conducted business with him. The Germans took them to the "German monastery" which they turned into a prisoner of war camp (the Russians had used it as a cinema and theater), to where a 17-year-old girl from Vashilkova, who worked in the Cytron factory, was taken. She lived with her father whose name was "Leibeleh". She was seen walking with Germans. A Pole from the village of Studzianky was also interned at the camp.

Later, they were taken to a forest and were seen by the local inhabitants, being pushed and shoved by the Germans and carrying hoes. Yells were heard as they were forced to dig their own graves and then shot. Others shot by the Germans included my sister's friend, who worked in an important position at the factory, Gittle Shotlander, Itzik, the son of Issar the decorator, Baruch Gamzu who, at first, managed to flee to Bialystok but was turned in by the Poles, Moshe Travitsky's son Asher, was also shot. These were the first victims.

The same group of Nazis took out the Torah scrolls from the local synagogue, burned them and forced "Shochet" Meir Patt, Yaakov the cobbler, Zalman-Leib the wagon driver and other Jews found nearby, to dance round the burning scrolls. Later they took the town Rabbi, Shlomo Avigdor Rabinowitz to Krasna near the forest and shot him. On another occasion several scores of men were taken from their homes and led while beaten, through the streets. All were sure they'd be shot but they were transferred to Bialystok, and thanks to Zeidel's efforts were returned to Suprasl.

All this happened during the first three mounts of the German occupation, before the establishment of a civil authority. Meanwhile, Zeidel was appointed town head and Yanek Bogdanovitz, chief of police. The police force consisted of Poles and Germans. A German from Tshernoviesh was appointed to the position of regional commissar. He was the highest-ranking officer in the area and gave all the orders. Jews were forced to wear yellow Stars of David on their chests and backs, they were prohibited from using pavements and had to raise their hats on meeting a German. Poles were not allowed to have friendships with Jews and other decrees were made. A special tax of gold, silver and jewels was imposed on the Jews and collected within three days.

Later the Jews were ordered to appoint a "Juden-Rat" (Jewish leadership) and at a meeting held at the home of Leizer the baker, a resident of Lodz, who was an engineer at the Cytron factory, was elected chairman. The leadership included: Meir Patt, Shaul Goldschmid, Joseph Goldshmid and a doctor from Warsaw who resided in Suprasl. The leadership's "office" was in the house of Joseph Goldshmid. The "Juden Rat's" duty was to discuss or carry out decrees. There was a plan to establish a ghetto between Novi-Shwiat Street and the forest, however following Zeidel's intervention and the bribing of the German commander, the plan was dropped. There was no Jewish police force.

Life in Suprasl gradually took on some form of normal, daily routine. The fear that every new day brought haunted us all but everyday life became somewhat easier. All the Jews were forced to work for the war effort at the Citron factory, the sawmill, and perform other menial tasks. The pay was minimal and essential foodstuffs, such as bread, were rationed out in meager amounts. The Jews traded possessions for food with the Poles. In general though, it can be said, that at this time daily life in Suprasl was easier than in other towns and it was even possible to enter and leave the ghetto in Bialystok. The Poles' attitude to pick berries and swim in the river like in the good old days.

In Suprasl, there lived a family called Sobotnik from Vashilkova whose son converted to Christianity and married a Polish girl, the daughter of Valitzki. He refused to wear the yellow Star of David and was later caught and shot dead by the Nazis.

One day the order was given for all the Jews to gather in the market place with their belongings for transportation to Germany to work. Any family missing a member would be shot dead. All the Jews gathered in the market as ordered. Soldiers arrived and surrounded us with drawn guns. We began to cry and shout and were held like that for 2-3 hours, until the German officer arrived and told us that the Jews were the cause of the war and that they must be destroyed. The soldiers than lined us up and began to fire in the air. We thought our end had come but then the officer addressed us once more and announced that, as we had all obeyed the order to come to the marketplace, we were free to return to our homes. A sigh of relief spread among the Jews and we all felt as if we'd returned from the world to come... no one dreamed for one moment that the worst was yet to come. It was convenient to believe that we were saved. At this time we didn't know forcertain about the killings taking place around us, in other places, and despthe rumours, no one believed that all the Jews would be exterminated.

Meanwhile life resumand although men werperiodically called up special work, this vas for a limited time. Thus I found myself working on the repairing of the road which led from Bialystok to Wolkovisk and Baranovitz, near the old Russian border. The work was hard andthere were beatings and killings, but the worwas changed once a fortnigh. There were rumors that the Germans in charge of the work had been bribed but the system worked until that day of 1.11.42.

3. Escape to the Forest and the Annihilation 1.11.42 - 21.11.42

On 1.11.42 the German commander sent out a rushed order for all the Jews to gather in the marketplace. Any family missing a member would be executed. There was great consternation and panic among the Jews. The overriding feeling was that this was the end. Some of us, myself included, believed that we should disobey the order and flee. And so, at midnight, my father, sister and myself left the town and fled to the forest where we met other families. We gathered in one place, in the heart of the forest, and in the morning we heard the sound of soldiers surrounding the town. I approached a farmer I knew from one of the nearby villages and asked him to see what was happening in the town. He later told me that those who showed up in the marketplace were registered and taken to Bialystok. The Germans noted that families were missing and presumed that they'd fled to the forest.

At first we managed in the forest on the food we had. Almost every family had previously hidden food and other essential commodities with a farmer they knew. The Germans heard about this through informers and threatened to burn down the entire village, if they caught a villager providing Jews with food. As a result the farmers stopped bringing us food. They told us that all the Jews from the towns in the region had been rounded up in the former 10th battalion camp in Bialystok. Meanwhile winter began and conditions in the forest worsened. Children began to get sick, there was no food, and we stole potatoes from the villagers and burned wood for heat. This situation continued for 2 weeks and people started to consider leaving the forest, despite the danger involved. And so, the first family left and returned home. We all wanted to know what had become of them and heard that no harm had come to them and they were given clothes and food.

This news, together with the deteriorating conditions as winter progressed, led to the Jews leaving the forest and registering with the German authorities. They were sent to the tenth battalion camp. Thus the Germans succeeded in "drawing the bear out of the forest" and destroying the Jewish community of Suprasl.

At this stage it became clear that only six of us remained: myself (Daidush Fine), Meir Sear, Hershel Gershuni, Haim Gamzu, Isaac Sikora (Joshua Sikora's son), and Shlomo Otenstein (the son of' Shepsil Otenstein). We took on the life of moles - burrowing underground during the day, as a means of hiding and escaping the cold, searching for food at night - stealing potatoes and anything we could lay our hands on from the nearby villages. How does one hide underground? We dug a large pit using timber as supports and cover for the entrance as we built a "subterranean villa". We were concerned by the fact that we were on our own, the partisans had not yet reached our area and we had no arms. One evening we met a farmer who told us that all the Jews of Suprasl had been sent away. We then decided to go to the Bialystok ghetto, armed with axes and saws, which could be used as work tools and weapons, to take stock of the situation.

We reached the ghetto before dawn and waited for the first group of workers so that we could join them with our work tools and march to the ghetto. At one spot, there was a factory next to the ghetto. With pounding hearts, the whole area full of soldiers and Gestapo guarding the entrances to the ghetto, we set off towards the factory. The factory was guarded by a Pole who was known to some of us and he let us in, where from we entered the ghetto. From discussions with the ghetto inhabitants we discovered that there was a resistance movement whose job it was, besides getting hold of arms and establishing resistance within the ghetto, to smuggle Jews out of the ghetto and set up partisan groups.

Myself and Hershel Gershuni immediately joined the partisans and were sure that we could train people from the ghetto with arms. Meir Sear married in the ghetto and decided not to return to the forest. Isaac Sikora preferred to fight from within the ghetto and Shlomo Otenstein found a relative in the ghetto, Moshe Otenstein, the son of Abraham Jacob the cobbler. Moshe Ottenstein's wife stayed in Suprasl with Shapsel, Shlomo's father, and was evacuated together with the other residents of the town. Moshe didn't allow Shlomo to return to the forest as he was certain, as were many other Jews in Bialystok, that the ghetto would not be destroyed and that the work that the Jews were performing for the Germans in the ghetto was of the utmost importance. Thus, instead of the original group of six, only myself and Hershel Gershuni, plus of course, other potential partisan members, planned to return to the forest..

I remained in the Bialystok ghetto one month, after which I returned to the forest, but this time I was armed and had built up new contacts. Hershel Gershuni was to follow me, with a group from the ghetto, but he never arrived and I don't know what happened to him. As for the Jews of Suprasl, whilst I was in the Bialystok ghetto and after checking the events in the Polish calendar of the 10th battalion camp - from eye witnesses and people in the ghetto - I built the following picture: on 21.11.42 they were loaded on trains, together with other Jews from the surrounding towns, who were interned in the tenth and forty-second battalion camps, and taken to Treblinka, where they were gassed to death. This is. Therefore the "Jhorzeit" day of the Suprasl community - according to the Hebrew calendar 11th Kislev. 5703.

4. Suprasl Forest - the Base of the Partisans

There was an underground group in the Bialystok ghetto, which was joined by all political movements in the region. Although all agreed that there should be an organized uprising against the Nazi murderers, there were differences of opinion as to which method should be adopted. There were those who favored armed resistance within the ghetto which, though it stood no chance of success, would make the Nazi's extermination plans more complicated and enable the Jews to die with honour. Others wanted to fight from the forest - less favorable terrain for the Nazis - which would ensure a greater chance of survival.

In March 1943, the first armed group left the Bialystok ghetto for the forests of Suprasl. More groups joined later and a unit called "Kadimah" was established. The unit commander was Sasha Sohashevsky from Warsaw, and his second in command was Rivka Schinder-Viskovska from Krinki. Rivka was active in the Bialystok ghetto underground and was one of the organizers of the partisan movement in the forest. At first there were not enough arms to go round but later new sources were found. There were five Jewish girls in the Bialystok underground who lived as Christians with forged Polish papers. They were associated with the partisans in the Suprasl forests and supplied them and others in the region, with arms, and other essential equipment. As "Poles" they had contacts with Polish partisans and had access through them to essential goods.

From time to time the Germans attacked our bases and we organized reprisals on their bases, roads, and railway lines. We moved our bases every morning to confuse the Germans who operated spies from among the residents of the local villages to try and discover our whereabouts.

One such spy was a Pole by the name of Karbowitz who worked with the Germans and knew the forests well. He was often personally involved in organizing German attacks on us. During a German attack late in 19we managed to kill Karbowitz as well as a number of Germans. However, also suffered losses in the exchange of fire. Our commander, Sasha Sohashevsky was kiland Rivka Schinder-Viskwas woundedalong with others.

During this period we mounted military operations such as the blowing up of the Bialystok-Sokoloka railway line, the laying of mines, and the destruction of electricity and telephlines on the Bialystok-Wlokovisk road. Our gresuccess was the demolishing of theelectricity power station at Krinki.

In spring 1944 the first Russian partisans reachethe forests of Suprasl and they reorganized the partisans into two mixed units - one unit moved to the Krinki forests while the second, my unit, stayed in the Suprasl forests. Reports from the front talked of Russian victories and the retreat of the German army. The first Russian soldiers reached us at the end of July 1944 and the partisans united with the Red Army to push the German army towards Berlin and the end of the Second World War.

5. The March of Victory

I left Bialystok with a group of Jews to the Suprasl forests - all of us armed. From time to time new groups joined, and within six months we had become a large unit. There were girls among us looked like Christians and who maintained contacts between the ghetto and the forest. The girls were of great help and supplied us with arms and news of events going on outside the forests.

The Germans were aware of our increasing strength and mounted periodic attacks on us, which produced casualties on both sides. As a result we were forced to move our base to different parts of the forest. We obtained our food and other essentials from the local villages and when we appeared, this time fully armed, the villagers were afraid and gave us everything we wanted. Later, in August 1943, after the Bialystok ghetto uprising, many Jews fled to us and we welcomed them with open arms. Others, who jumped off the transport trains and tried to hide in the ghetto ruins, were found by our girl couriers and brought to us in the forest.

It soon became clear that the entire Jewish population of Poland was being wiped out and the forest became the best place in which to hide and from which to mount attacks on the Germans. At the same time, the Germans in Suprasl reinforced themselves and used local informers to try and discover our whereabouts and to plan attacks on us. I knew a number of Poles in Suprasl and through them I kept in touch with developments and heard about a Polish policeman who dressed like a German and whose job it was to spy on us and bring the Germans to us. He came from a small village near Suprasl (Barko) and at night lived with the Germans in the Buchholtz Palace. Eventually we succeeded in catching and killing him. This was an important victory for us.

The Germans didn't venture into the forest on their own as it wasn't a good battleground for them. After the polish spy's death, things in the forest were a little quieter. Meanwhile, small groups of Russian soldiers, who had managed to escape from German prisoner of war camps, began to reach the forest. They organized themselves into groups in the forests, and, as there was no partisan unit as yet, they caused us a lot of headaches. After a while a partisan unit appeared from the Minsk forests and they organized all the partisans on behalf of the Russian army, into para-military units. The general atmosphere improved, as did our self-confidence.

At this time we controlled large areas of the forest and the Germans avoided coming into direct confrontation with us. In summer 1944 the big Russian offensive began. The German army started retreating and it was our job to chase them and cause them losses. When we joined forces with the Russian army we left the forest for the first time and entered Suprasl. The Poles who knew me looked at me as if I had returned from the next world and began to ingratiate themselves and invite me to their homes. I was interested in the fate of the Jews of Suprasl and their homes.

The answers followed immediately - no Jews from Suprasl remained alive. The Germans burned the Cytron factory down before their retreat from the town, the synagogue had been partially destroyed and the adjoining rabbi's house burned down. The "shochet's" house, next to the synagogue, still stood, however, it and other Jewish homes had been occupied by Poles. I felt terrible and decided not to discuss the situation with the Poles.

I left my birthplace with a heavy heart and went to Bialystok. Here too the situation was similar. Only a few Jews survived out of a community of 60.000 which had comprised the majority of the town's population in the 1930's. In my heart I knew that as long as the war was still in progress - and to my delight it had changed direction with the Germans in retreat - my place was with the Russian army. I enlisted in the Russian army and, after fighting as a partisan, I became a regular soldier. I was sent to a military school near Moscow where I underwent a four-mount course, after which I was sent to the frontline near Warsaw.

From there we continued to drive the cursed Nazis out of Poland. There were street skirmishes in Poznan and I was slightly wounded. From Poznan we continued westwards, crossed the old Polish border, and took part in the attack on Berlin. The battle was hard fought and the Germans put up tough resistance in their own capital. Eventually Berlin fell. The Allies met up and Second World War drew to a close.

I continued serving as a Russian soldier on German soil up to the end of 1945 when I was demobbed. I didn't know what to do as a civilian, after six years of continuous struggle, and when the Russians offered me a post as a Russian-German translator I accepted and remained in the Russian-held zone until the Yalta Agreement when the Allied Forces began to leave Germany. I stayed on in Germany until I immigrated to Israel when the War of Independence began in 1948 and joined the Israeli army.

When the War of Independence ended I began working as a civilian employee in the I.D.F. and occupied several positions over a long period of time. I married Leah who had come to Israel from Yugoslavia, and, after she gave birth to our daughter Tova, we moved to Holon where we remained till this very day.

I have attempted to describe, briefly and concisely, the events experienced by a young Jew through the Nazi atrocities and the violence of the war, who survived the extermination of the Jewish community of Suprasl and, what is more important, lived to fight and overcome the most vicious murderers of the Jewish nation and to be among the builders of the Jewish state.

 

Suprasl during the Holocaust

Historical Document No.9, in Dr. Shimon Datner' S "Bleter far Geshichte"

Suprasl was one of the region's few towns which could not be labeled as a Jewish town. Until 1939, only 500 of the town's approximately 3,000 residents were Jews. The non-Jewish population included Poles, White Russians, and Germans who had taken on important jobs in the town, some even serving as foremen in the local textile factories. Before the war, the Jewish population comprised weavers, various professionals, merchants, and relatively few tradesmen. The Jews generally enjoyed good conditions.

Following the entry of the Red Army, there was little change in their economic situation. Most of Suprasl's Jews were engaged in productive employment.

The rate of deportment to the heart of Russia was relatively low (two factory owners) and many refugees arrived, mostly from Lodz, none of whom remained. Suprasl's Germans, with the exception of three or four, were traded in an agreement with Russia and transferred to Germany. Meanwhile, war broke out between Russia and Germany. On June 26, 1941, the Germans entered Suprasl. Fear ran high among the town's Jews, most of whom hid behind locked doors and shutters. Four Jews hung themselves. Slowly, the Jews began to go outside. The Germans established a local Polish Council.

Corruption and elimination were not prevalent at first, and in those cases where it did occur, it was for general reasons or in the name of stamping out communists, including one Jew. Later on, an additional six Jews were killed in keeping with that ra.

On July 29,1941, the Germans killed Jews outright for the first time. rounded up 40 Jews, includithree elmen, a Rabbi and two others. The Germans separated the three from the group and shot them to death. The others, younger and more able taken to Kribilan, an airfield near Bialystok. Folefforts by their families and the Bialys"Judenrat", they were returned to their homes three days later. They were subsequently fin600 rubles by the local council, a practice common in other places as well.

The Jews of Suprasl turned to "Shohet" Meir Patt and other prominent citizens. The fine was collected immediately and submitted to the authorities. Following this incident, Patt organized the "Judenrat", the body which represented the Jewish population and served as liaison in the confrontation with the authorities. Its activities manifested themselves in defense of basic rights, representation and cancellation of measures through various payments.

The "Judenrat" was subsequently chosen and included Gliksman as its Chairman, Patt as its Secretary and three additional members. Throughout its existence and representation of the Jews of Suprasl, the committee's activities were fair and honest in comparison with similar representative bodies in other places. Committee Chairman Gliksman was the right man in the right place. He was intelligent, took initiatives, knew languages and commanded respect.

Negotiations were conducted with various organizations, from the local council to the SS and the police, requiring a wide range of talent and generally concluding with the spreading around of funds. Gliksman was not a long-term resident of Suprasl, however he shrewdly established a wide range of connections, and even the authorities visited his home. Upon stepping down from the post of Chairman of the "Judenrat", he returned to his job as an engineer and foreman in the painting division at the Cytron factory.

For the time being, life in Suprasl went on and materialistically things weren't bad. There was no ghetto and ties with the Christian population continued, but not in the open. All men aged 16-60 had to do the dirty work in the factories, carpentry shops, and forests. Work measures were also enacted on the women. In January 1942, the "Kirchof" edict, well-known in Bialystok and the surrounding area, was enacted.

The "Amts Commissar" demanded 21 workers for the Kirchof project, which involved the paving of roads, oppression and beatings. Kirchof was known to be a forced labour camp. The Kirchof Edict affected many towns in the region, however the quota for Suprasl's Jews was reduced to five men on a rotating basis following Gliksman's negotiating efforts and the greasing of a few palms. Sleeping accommodations were reasonable (on local farms) as was the food, in comparison to other places.

The relatively tolerable life continued until November 1, 1942, when the active extermination of the Jews began in the province of Bialystok. In Suprasl, people reacted with disbelief and even scorn. Even those who took the rumours seriously were convinced that it could only happen in Suprasl after the destruction of the Bialystok ghetto and not before than.

News of the imminent evacuation of the Jews of Suprasl on November 2, 1942 was brought by a messenger, the chief mechanic in a shoe factory on 9 Kupietzka Street with relatives in Suprasl, sent by Birger. The messenger went to Bialystok and the Jews of Suprasl went to bed as usual, not overly concerned. Only when the messenger returned to Birger's house in Suprasl at 5:00 in the morning did they begin to take things seriously, hurrying to pound on doors and shutters and sound the alarm. All of the town's Jews woke up, prepared packages, and entire families headed for the forest. Of 450 Jews, 270 escaped to the forest that morning. In the morning, it became clear that the evacuation was to take place. It was decreed that all Jews were to report to the marketplace between 7:00-9:00 a.m. Meanwhile, tens of wagons were commandeered from local farmers to transport the Jews toward Bialystok. 180 Jews reported in accordance with the order and were loaded onto the wagons, guarded by German or Polish policeman.

I, my father and my mother and my two sisters, decided to escape to the forest and not to report for evacuation.

My father was manager of the Turpentine Incinerator (Maydan) on the outskirts of Suprasl. The incinerator belonged to a German from Tshernovish. In addition to my father, the guard and the fire tender were also Jews who lived in a small house adjacent to the incinerator. In the middle of the night we departed with other relatives and neighbours, a total of 18 persons, and headed for the Maydan. Upon arrival, my father opened the warm building and we went inside. We had taken with us enough food for a day or two, and planned to weather out the storm.

Naturally, we wanted to know what was happening in Suprasl and so we split into three groups. I took the largest group with me to the depths of the forest. My mother and my little sister remained at Maydan, and my father and my other sister went with others to find out what had become of the Jews of Suprasl. We decided that my father's group would meet us in the forest later and we would decide what to do next.

We waited for them impatiently in the forest until sunrise, but they didn't come. I decided to return to Maydan to find out what happened. With a pounding heart and a bad feeling I reached Maydan. Everything was deathly still, and the silence increased my fears. I entered the fire tender's house and no one was there, not my mother nor my sister. I called out their names and was heard by some peasants who had come to work. They told me the following story: Two SS men from Tshernovish had arrived at 6:00 a.m. to take the Jewish fire tender, who was from Tshernovish himself. When they entered the house they found my mother and my sister. Soon thereafter my father arrived with the group from Suprasl. Some of the farmers tried to signal him not to enter the house, but he did not pay attention to them knowing his wife and daughter were inside. A few minutes later, the entire group came outside and was escorted by the Germans to an unknown destination. After my father realized the severity of the situation and understood that he had led the group into a trap, he signaled to my older sister to escape to the forest. She took advantage of a moment when the Germans were not looking and ran away. The farmers told me that she ran off in the direction of the village of Studianek on the way to the town of Vashilkov. At that moment I comprehended that I had lost both my parents and my sister, and many other friends who had gathered together to escape to the forest. My only hope was for my sister and I decided to do everything possible to locate her. I went to Studianek and entered the house of a farmer who had been close to our family. His wife was surprised to see me and crossed herself in fear. Oh g-d! You are still here? She exclaimed. She put a bowl of hot soup on the table and I began to ask her about my sister. Yes, your sister was here yesterday and left in the direction of Vashilkov, she said. I suggest that you don't go there today because there too they are gathering up the Jews and the roads are swarming with policeman and German gendarmes. I left her and entered other houses. My father knew many of Studianek's farmers and had done much for them. In each house I felt the same reaction. Quite, apologetic, willing to give you some food for the road, but don't stay because it is too dangerous for us all... Others added, you know, we wouldn't mind if you stayed on a bit, but the neighbours... and the threats of the Germans... I decided to return to the forest where my group was waiting impatiently.

Meanwhile, the group in the forest had increased to 22 persons. Three days had passed and the food had run out. The cold began to sink into our bones and our fears for the future increased. We shared all that we had, clothing, food and paid special attention to the women and children among us. In orderto obtain food and news, we decided to send 6 men into Suprasl, myself included. We entered the town in the evening so as to avoid di. From conversations with friePo, it became clear that the Jews of Suprasl and nearby towns had been transported to the camp of the 10th Brigade iBialystok. Nothing more was known of their fate. They atold us that many Jews have been coming out of hiding places, including the forest, and turning themselves in to the Germans, who were not punishing them but merely sending them to the 10th Brigade. Some of the Poles suggested we do the same, other suggested we wait.

We decided to continue to hide for the time being, and having gathered food, even including provisions we had stolen from the homes of Jews which had been left open, we returned to the group in the forest. The food lasted until the end of the week, and with the increasing cold, the hunger became increasingly difficult, especially for those families with children. Meanwhile, there were increasing reports of Jews in other parts of the forest who had returned to town and turned themselves in to the German gendarmes. The doubts among our group began to grow. In the end we will either freeze to death or die of hunger! Complained the mothers of young children. Let's go to the camp in Bialystok. At least we won't die of cold and hunger. Serious disputes broke out between those who were in favor of going back and those who wished to remain in the forest, the majority of whom were young and without families. In the end, we had to accept the departure of families and the parting scenes were very emotional. For me, it was particularly hard to see my young friend Patt, strong, healthy and full of life, leave for the camp with his family.

Eight men remained. Our hearts were bitter and we were lonely. Yet we felt a sense of relief that the families with young children were no longer our burden. We hoped to meet up with a group of partisans and fight with them against the Germans. Meanwhile, the winter grew harsher and we decided to build a "Zamlianka" an underground cave. At night we went to one of the farmers and claimed that we needed to bury a dead child, thus obtaining the needed tools. We constructed an underground dwelling two meters deep within 8 hours. We later managed to build a heater, which although it smoked a bit, was tolerable.

At night, we returned to Suprasl to gather food. We were able to obtain a good amount, which lasted for two more days, during which time the first snows fell. We were confronted with a new problem. In order to obtain food, we had to walk outside, and the tracks in the snow would divulge our whereabouts, and we didn't even have any arms with which to defend ourselves.

We reached the conclusion that we could not go on this way. One possibility was to search for a group of partisans in the direction of Bialoviesh. However, we had no idea where to look and the forest was vast and dense. The only way to obtain any information on the situation was to go to Bialystok. And so we decided to go to Bialystok. Several hours later we were there, and entered the ghetto via the first Kominat fence, 22 days after the commencement of the elimination of Jews in the province of Bialystok.

May we have the strength to succeed and fulfill our plans for the future.

Written by L. 1.3.1943

________________

* The document carries the official stamp of Marsik-Tamarof (M.T) Archive no.137. The original was transferred to Bronia Vinitzka, now Klibanska.

* The document was found among the Bialystok Ghetto papers which were hidden in 2 crates underground and were discovered after the holocaust.

 

Treblinka -Suprasl Jewry's Graveyard

As we know there was no cemetery in Suprasl and the town's dead were buried in Bialystok. The rounding up of the Jews of Suprasl in the tenth division army camp, and their transfer, on November 21 1942, to the gas chambers of Treblinka made the concentration camp the only cemetery of Suprasl's Jews. The "advanced" death camp was built behind the Malkinia train station and was well camouflaged so as to deceive the incoming Jews until the minute they were led to the gas chamber from which they never returned.

After the mass expulsion of the Jews of Warsaw to Treblinka between July and September 1942, many Jews used to chant a tragic tune:

Treblinka

A graveyard for all the Jews

Whoever comes stays

Here is the end

Yes, indeed, in Treblinka three hundred and twenty thousand Jews from Warsaw perished, and five hundred and thirty thousand more Jews from other parts of Poland, and from other countries also met their deaths. The Treblinka death camp was built in July 1942. Here there was no process of selection in which some were killed immediately while others worked for a while.

Here, as part of the "final solution" all were sentenced to the gas chambers. At first the Germans tried various means to trick the expelled Jews into believing that they were entering a labor camp. There were several signs at the camp entrance and elsewhere giving the impression that Treblinka was only a transit camp, but the camp's true identity was soon revealed. News of what was happening in Treblinka came to light in August 1942 when Jews who had escaped from the concentration camp reached Warsaw and told of its horrors. The Jewish underground printed bulletins, which were stuck to houses in the ghetto calling Jews not to go to Treblinka as no work awaited them there, only death, not as the Germans announced.

There is no doubt that the Jews followed the underground's advice. Although the Germans' "Coarseness" was well known, it was inconceivable that they were killing hundreds of thousands in their gas chambers.

In the martyr literature much is written about Treblinka and its terrible conditions. However, it seems that the uprising in the death camp has not been adequately described. Whoever discusses the topic must be knowledgeable about the special conditions, which existed in the death camp, which left no hope at all for the rebels, most of whom were Jews.

In summer 1943 the mass transportation of Jews temporarily ceased, either due to the fact that the Jewish communities of Poland, had being directed to Auschwitz. The Jews who remained to perform various services did not delude themselves that the Germans would leave them alone, and knew that their time would come sooner or later. The preparations for the uprising were, of course, made in the utmost secrecy and the sign to put the plans into operation was given on August 2nd 1943. The rebels succeeded in killing S.S. guards and Ukrainian policemen and breached the barbed wire fences, reaching the forest, which were located many kilometers away. Out of the eight hundred and fifty inmates about one hundred managed to escape. Some fell on the way or were killed by anti-Semitic partisans - and there were not a few of them - but others survived to this very day.

After the uprising, the Germans began to destroy Treblinka. The camp operated for just over one year, about four hundred days, and its terrible "yield" reached eight hundred thousand victims - about two thousand a day. If the Allies had dropped one small bomb on this murder factory, after its existence had become known, it is reasonable to assume that the "industry" would have ceased. But, to our great misfortune, nothing was done. The uprising of August 2nd 1943 forced the murderers to destroy the camp.

Today the site of Treblinka is strewn with thousands of sharp-edged stones of different types, which comprise disorganized monuments, which scream out for revenge. A small portion of the stones are engraved with the names of cities while the rest cry out in their nakedness. The Poles operate the site and many people of all creeds make pilgrimages to it. Documents show that Treblinka was the place in which Hitler planned to carry out his final solution to the "Jewish problem". Although he succeeded in destroying six million Jews he and his philosophy have vanished from the face of the earth together with his murdering accomplices. But the People of Israel live on! And the State of Israelhas risen and gathers to it its sons and daughters.

 

HistoricDates during the Holocaust in Suprasl

22.6.1941

attacks East Poland and Russia

2.6.194

The Germans enter Bialystok and Suprasl.

29.7.1941

The Synagogue is destroyed by fire and explosion. Rabbi Shlomo Avigdor Rabinovitz and five otherprominent citizens are murdered.

25.9.1941

The establishment of the "Yudenrat", initially under the leadership of MPatt and then Engineer Gliksman. Other members include Saul Goldshmid, Joseph Goldshmid, and a physician from Warsaw who resided in Suprasl.

5.1.1942

"Operation Kirchof" begins with forced labour.

1.11.1942

The annihilation of all the Jews from the Bialystok region begins. Two-thirds of Suprasl's Jews (300) defy the German order and escape with their families to the forest.

2.11.1942

One-third of Suprasl's Jews (150), those who did not escape, were taken to the 10th army camp in Bialystok.

21.11.1942

The majority of the Jews who had been held in most terrible conditions (as well as others who left the forest because of hunger and cold) were loaded on trains and taken to Treblinka where they were executed in the gas chambers. The only exceptions were a few who managed to sneak into the Bialystok Ghetto or jumped out of the trains.

1.3.1943

First group of ghetto fighters leaves Bialystok for Suprasl forest, where they join the nucleus of the partisans.

16.8.1943

Outbreak of Bialystok Ghetto Rebellion under the leadership of Mordechai Tenenbaum.

20.4.1944

Arrival of the first Russian partisans in Suprasl forest.

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