ספר זיכרון לקהילת טורק וקדושיה
הוצא לאור ע"י ארגון יוצאי טורק בישראל, תל אביב 1882
A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Turek, Poland
Published by the Turek Organization in Israel, Tel Aviv 1982
Hebrew, Yiddish, English, 468 pages
The Turek Yizkor Book On-line at the New York Public Library
In Those Dreadful Days
Contributed by Felicia Zieff email: tzippy_chs "at" sbcglobal.net (replace at with @ to avoid spam.
Translated by Moshe Shubinsky
Edited by Ada Holtzman and Felicia Zieff
On Friday, the 1st of September, 1939, WWII broke out (Hitler's War, may his name be blotted out!) and the order was given by the municipality to evacuate the city at once (we do not know why this order was given, until now). The inhabitants, in a panic, started to leave, turning toward Łęczyca and Dąbie.
We made our way to Łęczyca only to find out that their Jews had already been chased out of their houses and into the synagogue and so we decided to go back to Turek, and not Dąbie, where the local Jews had also been harassed by the Germans. The news was bad wherever we turned and we felt we were going from the frying pan into the fire. Returning home, we realized that most of the Jews had turned back and returned.
The first week of occupation saw the imposition of forced labor on all Jewish men and some of the Poles, who had to clear rubble, repair bridges and build roads which were damaged due to the bombs. Needless to say, the Poles were much better treated than the Jews.
A few days later, hundreds of male Jews were gathered at the Priest’s house and tormented by the Germans, who humiliated them by giving them all kinds of tasks such as pumping water just to see them suffer. In the end, 15 men were chosen and lined up to be shot against the wall. Amongst those unfortunates to be the first to die were Michael Goldstein, Yehoshua Cohen and Gabriel “The Blind”. Their bodies were buried in an air raid trench left over from the invasion.
The rest of the prisoners were taken for forced labor in the Skawowki’s park, and other places.
As the high holidays approached, R' Pinchas Wajs (the chief Rabbi, R' Pinchas Wajngraub died before the war), asked the Germans to release the Jews from labor on Yom Kippur and, as punishment for his request, the Germans forced him to do all kinds of despised and hard work.
The persecutions got worse and worse. Jews were beaten without reason, just for torment, and this became our daily share.
But, until December 1939, we still had our homes and managed to get food enough to eat in spite of the difficulties. Jewish shops were open, but had “Jude” written all over them.
Our life that winter was harsh and hard; we were dragged off to forced labor in the ice and snow. On the 7th day of Hanukah, (in December), the Germans announced the deportation of 50 families to Bochnia, near Krakow for forced labor. These families were taken to the synagogue and from there the men marched all night to Kolo, with the women and children following in wagons. Their houses were sealed and marked “confiscated by the authorities”. Some Jews, trying to get their possessions out of their homes, were betrayed by Volksdeutsche (local Germans) who informed on them, and they were caught and beaten cruelly. One of the worst collaborators was a man called Bajer. Some of the 50 families were: Aharon Szajnik and his family, Hersz Margulis and his family, Dawid Kiwala and his family, Zomer the tailor, Josef Eliezer Orbach, Shmuel Rosenblum, Icze Meyer Poyara, Dawidovicz, Tewel Rogorzinski, Reuben Ziskind, Herszl Kiwala, Perec Piasek ("der Rotier Perec"), Gabriel Lewi, Josef Hersz Zomer, Yeszaya Lask, Szymon Wajngrat, Mosze Wajnsztajn, Jakob Kiwala and more.
In the same period (up until January 1940), all radios were confiscated from all the inhabitants, Poles and Jews alike, newspapers were closed down except for the German newspaper and maps were posted on a large billboard outside the town hall which showed the German conquests. The post, however, was still working and we could write to our friends and loved ones. At the end of January 1940, all Jewish shops were closed and handed over to German hands. The small shops were totally looted. All the bakeries were taken over. The synagogue was set on fire in January 1940, but, as the fire was threatening adjacent non-Jewish homes, the fire brigade put it out.
We managed to save the Torah scrolls from the synagogue. At the same time, Mordechai Zilber died, having buried the artifacts in the cemetery. We were betrayed and accused of burying treasure. The Nazis caught Eliyahu Stampa and Haim Orbach and forced them to dig out the “treasure”. The Germans rode horses, but forced the Jews to run. Lucky for us, the scrolls were not found and we took them later on to Kowale Panskie after the final deportation.
In spite of it all, we were still in our homes, buried our dead and, apart from the regular torments, lived as normally as we could and all we prayed for was that it would not be any worse.
February 1940 saw the eviction of several Jewish families and their removal to Jewish homes in "Breite Gasse" ("Ulica Szeroka"). Mordechai Srikowski was put in charge of housing. This went on until July 1940 and all that while we were forced to wear the yellow Star of David and were forbidden from walking on the sidewalks.
I must stress that, in spite of all difficulties, we were very united and very keen to help each other. We preferred our own people to arrange labor, to try and prevent the Germans from setting work duties.
July 1940 saw the Ghetto erected in "Breite Gasse", "Schmal Gasse" (small street) and part of "Rusocice Gasse" (now the "3rd of May" street). The Ghetto boundary was formed by barbed wire and a wooden fence on Kaliszi Street. Into this small area, 500 families were crammed. Herszel Zimnawoda was appointed as “Juden Alster”, and Abram Bikowski and Haim Leib Eliasz as his assistants. Ben Zion Kopel and two female assistants, using German stamps, ran a Jewish post.
We had food and we could send parcels to the forced labor camps where some of our relatives were. Even weddings still took place in the ghetto (Aron Jakobowicz’s daughter and the Resler family).
So, life went on until Germany invaded Russia on the 22nd of June 1941 and our situation got worse and worse.
Jews from Dobra and 50 men from Turek were transported to labor camp in Poznań on the first Saturday after the invasion. Two days later, the Germans demanded 230 additional men. The Judenrat had to prepare a list trying not to include men with families.
In Poznań, 10 men were selected and were told that they were going home, but were deported instead on the first transport to Chełmno, as we found out later.
The people remaining in the Ghetto were filled with dread and did not know what to expect any minute.
One day, a senior Nazi arrived in Turek and strict security measures were taken. The Jews were told to stay indoors and not to show themselves even in windows. Israel Malinower’s son was seen at his window and punished by being made to swallow ˝ litre of castor oil. Luckily, he vomited and survived the ordeal.
Later, 40 men were deported to Leszno near Poznań for forced labor.
Yom Kippur 1941 marked the end of the Ghetto. The Jews were sent to "Kolonie" Heidemühle (Kowale Pańskie) where Jews from other towns and hamlets (Turek, Dobra, Uniejów, Władysławów, Pęczniew, Tuliszków, Brudzew and other places.) were concentrated. This “Kolonie” consisted of 17 villages in an area of 35 square kilometres. The Germans argued that Jews had to become farmers and become productive elements.
The Jews adjusted well to their new lives and began working the land, hoping that they would be left in peace, but hopes were not the reality.
One day, the Gestapo arrived and surrounded the "Kolonie". Some people attempted to escape and 12 men and 2 women were kidnapped and detained. This incident ended tragically. Zimnawoda tried as hard as he could to save them, but 10 of the men were hanged and the 2 women were shot. The Jews had to pay 1,500 marks for the executions and these were carried out in public with all Jews watching. Poles and Germans were also present. Those killed were: The Ten Martyrs executed in the "Kolonie" Kowale Pańskie, in public hanging: Zajman Mosze from Turek, Lewkowicz Chajmal from Turek, Noiman, son-in-law of Goldblum from Turek, Liek Icek Yudel from Uniejów, Jakobowicz Marian from Uniejów, Podchlebnik Machel from Dobra, Czoskola Szymon from Dobra, Gelbart from Tuliszków, Klein from Koło, Polkowski from Pęczniew. The 2 women were: Rauer Bela and Krakaczka Ester.
The Germans then demanded a list of children and old people, but, after much pleading by the Judenrat and the Kolonie’s Rabbis and a lot of bribe money, many of these were transferred to other Ghettos or discharged on medical grounds.
Later on, hundreds of SS men arrived and deported all the "Kolonie" Jews to the Dobra church. Some died there, some were buried alive and the rest were deported to Chelmno for extermination.
On Av 14, 5702 (July 28th, 1942), the last transport was deported to Chełmno.
However, very few still remained to clean the houses and pack goods to be sent to Germany before letting the Polish villagers return to their previous homes.
These few were transported later to the Lodz Ghetto, in which 120,000 Jews were still alive, including 80 Turek survivors. By liberation, only 12 Turek Jews remained.
We were in Lodz until its liquidation, working mainly as porters. Our food was poor - just soup and some potatoes for lunch.
In July 1944, with the end nearing, the Germans liquidated the Lodz Ghetto, leaving just a few to work as railway porters. In January 1945, 30 big pits were prepared in the cemetery for all of us, but we escaped and, on the 19th of January 1945, the Russians liberated Lodz. At last, we could enjoy the sight of Germans and Volksdeutsche running away, leaving all behind.
The two of us walked by foot for 3 days back to Turek. We were well received there and a flat was found for us in Ber Szajnik's house. Dr. Sawiczki took care of our health and the local Poles could not do enough for us, plying us with food and drinks. There were ten of us in Turek - Eliezer and Icek Orbach, David Joseph Orbach, Gerzon Alter, Pinchas Zomer, Fajwisz Elias, Fogel Nachman, Szmuel Globa, and Alex and Herszel Jacobowicz. We soon set up a committee and a kitchen, but we did not stay long because of the general atmosphere in Poland. We made our way to the American zone in Germany.
The grand synagogue of Turek - the Poles made it a warehouse after the war, Yizkor Book page 317
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Last updated April 3rd 2006