We Remember Jewish Wielun!

 

וילון

This web site is dedicated to the memory of the Berkowicz family from Wieluń, Poland, and the Ankielewicz family from Lututów, Poland.

 

A Map 

 

Wieluń

51°13' / 18°33'

(District of Wielun)

 

Population

 

Year

Total

Jews

1777

?

8

1793/94

907

4

1808

1,169

70

1827

2,931

335

1857

3,816

624

1897

7,198

2,732

1921

11,032

4,818

1.9.1939

?

4,200 (approx

Source:

Danuta Dąbrowska and Abraham Wein: Pinkas Hakehilot Encylopaedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Vol. I, the Communities of Lodz and its Region, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1976 , pages 94-98

 


The grand synagogue of Wieluń - the  1930's, burned in the bombings of the town during the first days of WWII

 

The Translation to English  |  The Article in Hebrew

Translation of the article to English in JewishGen Yizkor Books Database

The BERKOWICZ Family History

 

As dictated by Esther Berkowicz, wife of Meyer, in April 2008 and translated by Ori, a grandson.

 

Edited by Ada Holtzman

 


The BERKOWICZ family from Bolków near Wieluń, Poland,
mother Brana & father Daniel seated in the middle, Dorka, Ruth, Berek - back row; Ester - middle row, left; Meyer - middle row, right; seated in the front - Adela, Zygmuś, Abraham; missing - Rubin who was in the Polish army.

 

 

The family lived in Wieluń – Bolków village, Poland, and had 5 boys and 4 girls. The family was a very rich and prosperous. They owned a windmill, cattle and horses flock, farm, land and forests. Their house was of 4 floors. They even owned a telephone which was very rare at that time. All the villagers of Bolków worked for them. All of this was ruined and many members of the family murdered during World War II.

 

The father of the family was named Daniel. His father name was Abraham. Daniel died on January 1939 in Bolków Poland.

 

The mother of the family, Daniel's wife, Brana, was from the nearby village of Sknyńńo. She was the daughter of Dawid & Adela Berkowicz (a cousin of Daniel). She was deported during the war from Bolków to the Lututów ghetto in Poland. In August 1942 she was deported to the Chelmno extermination camp, where she was murdered.

 

1.      The firstborn was Ruben - Jakob, who was born around 1900. He was deported from Bolków to the Łódź ghetto. In 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz - Birkenau, and from there to other German forced labor camps, along with his brother Abramek. He had a wife Brucha who perished in Auschwitz.  He survived. He returned to Poland after the war, he re-married there, and immigrated to Israel in the 1950's. He died in 1967, in the Six Days War.

 

2.      The second son was named Berek. He escaped to Russia in 1940 with his wife Helen, who passed away in Russia. He stayed there for 4 years. Then he left Russia to return to his home in Poland. He married in Łódź, had 2 girls. He moved to Israel with his family, and after a few years left for Brazil. He passed away in the year 2000, in Brazil.

 

3.      The first daughter and third sibling of the family was named Ruth, born in 1911. She lived in Piotrków Trybunalski. She worked for the Germans in a factory during the war. In 1944 the Germans broke into her house, a German officer shot her, and left her husband Allo Berkowicz, and her 9 year old son, named Zygmuś ("Zalman" in Yiddish), in the house, later to be deported to Auschwitz - Birkenau. By some twist of fate, Meyer (who is Ruth's brother), worked in a documentation job "schreiber", that documented all of the incoming people into the camp, and when they were transported to the camp, Meyer found them in the list, and for the next 8 days, Meyer came in hiding to feed this beautiful and talented boy with an extra piece of bread or some soup. On Yom Kippur, 5705 (September 26, 1944), Meyer came to feed the boy, but the boy declined, because he said to him that tomorrow the Germans will cremate all of the boys, himself included and he doesn't need the bread anymore...  That night, on the eve of Yom Kippur, 2000 children were murdered, including Zygmuś. The following day, Meyer went to feed the boy, only to be faced with an empty block.

 


Zigmusz (Zalman), 2 years old in the photograph, perished in Auschwitz while only 9 years old, Ruth, his mother, perished, Dawid, Ester in a rare photograph befroe the war.

 

    4.      The second daughter and fourth sibling of the family was named Dwora - Dorka (Dora). She was married to Goldbart and had 2 children. She was deported with them along with her mother, Brana, to the Lututów ghetto, and along with her mother, they were all deported to their death to Chelmno.    

      5. The third daughter and fifth sibling, Esther, got married at the start of the war. She fled with her husband Dawid Berkowicz, her husband's father and her husband's brother to Russia. She was in Russia for many years, under severe, inhospitable circumstances,     where she had 2 children. At the end of the war, she returned to her home town in Poland, only to leave it after 2 years, in order to move to Germany as a middle station to their final destination of the US and is alive to this day. Esther Berkowicz wrote a book about her war experiences and her family: Esther Berkowicz: Through Siberia with Bed & Babies: A Holocaust Survivor's Joys & Sorrows, with Maryann McLoughlin Ph.D., a project of the Holocaust Resource Center, The Richard Stokton College of New Jersey, ComteQ Communications, Margate, New Jersey 2007.

    

 


Four of the Berkowicz siblings in a photograph before the war, rom left to right: Abraham, murdered by a Pole after surviving the concentration camps, only age 19; brother Rubin who served in the Polish army and survived the war, sister Adela survived under false Aryan papers and the youngest child Zalman, disappeared without traces in ghetto Lodz

6.  The third son and sixth sibling of the family, Meyer, was suspected of sabotaging the family mill, and was sent to a German prison in Papenburg, at the German - Dutch border. There were no Jews in this prison, but because Meyer didn't look like a Jew, he was able to survive. In the winter 1941 - 2, he was released from jail, and was sent to pave roads for the German army in Wielun, under extreme conditions of cold weather. In 1942 he was deported to the Lodz ghetto, which was highly inhospitable in terms of human condition. During his 2 year "residence" in the ghetto, he worked for the Germans in order to scavenge for goods that the Jews left in their homes in the ghetto. He also met 3 of his brothers, Ruben, Abraham, and Zalman in the ghetto, and lived with them, along with 3 other people in a 1 room flat, he also met his future wife, Esther Ankielewicz in the ghetto. In 1944, the liquidation of Lodz occurred, and Meyer left in one of the last transports to Auschwitz - Birkenau for around 3 months, where he worked as a documenter of incoming people, and then from there to Braunschweig, Germany, where he worked in a car factory until his liberation, by the US army. Still in Germany, he joined the Israeli army, and immigrated to Israel along with Esther and his daughter Tzipora, in 1949 and is alive to this very day.

 

7.      The fourth daughter and seventh sibling of the family, was named Adela, born in1921. In 1942 she received forged Aryan documents that claimed that she was Polish, and not Jewish, as was her husband, Jakob Jablonski. They escaped to Germany in order to work there, until the liberation by the Soviet army. 

 

8.      The fourth son and eighth sibling of the family, Abram "Abramek", born in 1924. During the war he was transported to the Łódź ghetto in 1942 till 1944, after which he was transported to Auschwitz - Birkenau for a couple of months, after which he was Germany to do slave labor in various labor camps, along with his brother Ruben. In August 1945, after liberation and surviving the Nazi concentration camps, he desired to visit his old home in Bolków and see if there remain other survivors from the family. When he came to his house, he was greeted by a Polish man who used to be a housekeep for the Berkowitz family, and made himself the owner of the house after the family was deported. The Polish man, former worker of the Berkowicz family, greeted Abramek very warmly, because he thought that all of the family was murdered and he was the only one left. During that night, the Polish man murdered Abramek, in order to keep the property to himself. Today, he is buried in the Jewish graveyard in Łódź, killed at the age of 19, by Polish hands, after surviving the ghettos, Auschwitz, and other German forced labor camps…

 

9.      The fifth son and ninth sibling of the family, Zalman, was deported from Wieluń in 1942 to the Łódź ghetto, along with Meyer, Ruben and Abramek (Esther Ankielewicz was there as well). He remained there until 1943. One day, he was unexpectedly taken by the German army, at the young age of 14, and was never to be heard from again. There are some who claim that he was taken to Auschwitz in order to be a guinea pig in an experimental testing of the cremation technique.

 

This was the tragic story of the BERKOWICZ family, once a prosperous and rich family in Poland, rooted there for hundreds of years. Nothing remained from their estate, most of their sons and daughters, spouses and children murdered brutally in the German Holocaust in World War II. The few survivors created families and restored their lives in the United States and Israel.

 

 

Beyond the worlds hidden to all,

Beyond what the farthest eye can see,

Lies a land of enigma, a land of mist,

The land that devoured me.

 

And in this hidden land,

Of black and red and brown,

Not even the unknown face of god,

Can dispose of his frown.

 

In this sinister land,

Where life and death are one,

The heinous work of the human devil,

Will never be done.

 

The rivers of bullets and blood,

That flow through the earth like a flood,

Awaken us all, from our nightmare infested sleep,

With the casual grin, and nod.

 

And in this forsaken land,

Where even children have no tears to cry,

In this land of doom,

I sit and wait to die.

 

My flesh rots,

My hands are cracked,

And even my dreams imprison me,

Yet, the divine grace,

Of the electric fence,

Has finally given me the key.

 

Ori Oshrov

A grandchild

 

Published after a trip of Ori's highschool of Yehud to Poland, 2005

 

Meyer Berkowicz

Testimony told by Esther, Meyer's wife, April 2008

The third son and sixth sibling of the family, Meyer, was born on September 18th, 1918. He studied in a Yeshiva at Wieluń. During the first period of the German occupation, he was suspected of sabotaging the family windmill. He was sentenced and put in prison for the offence to the German Reich. It was in fact an act of heroism and a very courageous personal protest against the Nazi Rule. He was then transferred to a German prison in Papenburg, at the German - Dutch border. There were no Jews in this prison, but because Meyer didn't look like a Jew, he was able to survive.

 

In the winter of 1941 - 42, he was released from jail, and was transferred to pave roads for the German army in a forced labor camp Ostrówek near Wieluń, under extreme conditions of cold weather and constant abuses. He was engaged in hard work of paving the road between Wrocław to Łódź via Wieluń for the German army. There were also some women in the camp, who worked even harder than the men. They were forced to carry the stones by their own bare hands, while the men hit them to the road using a big hammer. Even in cold days of less than minus 35° Celsius. The Germans stood by and watched every step of the prisoners. They slept in horses stables, after the horses were confiscated by the Germans and shipped to Germany. Every 2 weeks they were allowed to go home to the Lututów ghetto, 14 kms distance.

 

One day when Meyer worked in construction, the building crushed over his body and he was badly wounded, covered by stones. The inspector, a Volksdeutche, helped him to get out of the ruins and be saved. Meyer has a scar on his face until this very day from this fall.

 

They were there until the deportations to the death camp Chełmno lasted, around August 1942.  The Jews were locked in a church in Lututów for a few days and then the final deportation to Chełmno took place. Meyer's mother  and other members of the family were among the victims of the final liquidation. Somehow Meyer escaped the deportations and transferred to Wieluń. From there he was transported to the Łódź ghetto, where he lived under the extremely difficult human conditions. In the Łódź ghetto were the four brothers: Ruben, Abraham, and Zalman, the little brother who was only 13 at that time.  During 2 years, Meyer worked for the Germans in order to scavenge for goods that the Jews left in their homes in the ghetto, after the deportations to the death camps. The goods were packed and shipped to Germany.  Meyer lived with his 3 brothers, Esther Ankielewicz from Lututów, his future wife, her two brothers-in-law and another person, 7 persons in a small room. They slept on the floor as no mattresses were found. There was no toilet and Esther used to climb to the attic and use a corner to relieve herself. Thus they survived for 2 years in the Łódź ghetto, living in one room on 21 Dolńa street. They were subjects to Actions (Aktion, akcja) every week or two, and survived them all. They tried never to stand together, so not all of them would be killed in case selected to death. Esther used to color their cheeks with her own blood so they would look healthier and pass the selections.

 

One night in 1943,  Gestapo agents knocked on their door during the middle of the night and took Zalman, the youngest boy, and only him with them. His fate is unknown ever since.

 

Life in the ghetto was horrible, mainly the selections and transports of the children. Opposite their room sttod the biggest hospital in ghetto Lodz, on the name of Adam Mickiewicz.  They used to watch from closed windows the tragic scenes of children brought by their own parents, as commanded by Rumkowski, to the gathering station in front of the hospital, herded and loaded to trucks which left full and returned empty, from Chełmno.

 

In 1944, during the liquidation of Łódź,  Meyer and the 2 husbands of Esther's sisters Rachel and Miriam, were taken to the transports ground Czarnieckiego from where they were deported in one of the last transports to Auschwitz – Birkenau. Esther asked the Germans to join this transport saying she had family members there. The factory she worked for in Łódź, Telefunken was completely dismantled and transferred to Auschwitz. She was reunited with Meyer and her brother-in-law while already on the train.

 

After many hours in the train they finally arrived to Auschwitz. Upon arrival they saw the huge cloud of smoke but did not understand yet that human beings are burned there. We were separated then. Meyer remained with one of the brother-in-law.  The other one, Israel Jakobowicz was taken to the gas chamber. His last words to Meyer were that he should not forget and should tell what happened to him and his people.

 

Meyer was taken after the selection to one of the blocks, destined for labor. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz around 3 months. He worked as a documenter of incoming people "Schreiber". He used to register the new prisoners. When he was there, no more numbers were tattooed on the arms. He one day found his little nephew Zygmuś and helped him with extra hidden portions of soup or bread. Then one day the child told him to keep the soup for himself as he does not need it anymore, because he knew that  on the following day, they were going to kill him and the other 2000 children in the children block,. And that was what happened.  Zygmuś was murdered on Yom Kippur 1944. His mother Ruth was shot dead in the street of ghetto Piotrków Trybunalski. His father Allo was killed also in Auschwitz.

 

After 3 months in Auschwitz, Meyer was transferred to Braunschweig (sub-camp of Buchenwald), Germany, where he was a forced laborer in a car factory Büssing. This enterprise built big cars and trucks with 16 wheels. Later as the German army was retreating, Meyer and the other inmates were on the move and shifted from concentration camp to another, Lübeck and Neustadt among them. In Neustadt he was liberated.

 


Esther & Meyer at their wedding after the war.

 

After the war Meyer returned to Poland searching for survivors from his family. He found Esther among the lists of survivors in Bergen-Belsen, he took a bicycle and drove on it until Bergen-Belsen. Through the Red Cross – his arrival was announced in the camp and Meyer and Esther were reunited. They were married in Bergen-Belsen, September 1945.

 

Still in Germany, he joined the Israeli army where he served later 15 years. The couple immigrated to Israel with their first-born baby Tzipora on January 9th, 1949.

 


Esther & Meyer with grandchildren Ori (tot he right), Tal (in the middle) and Gal (to the left) 2008.

 

 


Esther Berkowicz: Through Siberia with Bed & Babies: A Holocaust Survivor's Joys & Sorrows, with Maryann McLoughlin Ph.D., a project of the Holocaust Resource Center, The Richard Stokton College of New Jersey, ComteQ Communications, Margate, New Jersey 2007.

 

Esther Berkowitz was born in 1916, on an estate in Poland – Mlyn Bolków. She was the middle child of  nine children, five boys and four girls. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Esther and her fiancé David, married and fled east to territory occupied by the Soviet Union. They lived in Kowel, Poland until the Soviets deported them to Siberia. During their journey, Esther gave birth to her son, Daniel, in Novosibirsk, Siberia, in September 1940. Resuming their journey the couple ended up in the Ural Mountain area until the Soviets released them in1942 and they journeyed to Kazakhstan, staying there for three years in a coal town near Tashkent until the end of the war and after the birth of their second child, Adela (Aida), in March 1946.

 

When Esther returned to Poland, expecting a joyous reunion with her family, she discovered that her mother, two sisters, their husbands, children, and two brothers had been murdered. Her joy turned into grief and horror.

 

In April 1951, Esther and David immigrated to the Unites States, eventually settling on a chicken farm in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Later they bought two properties on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, a guest house and an apartment building, which Esther managed. David opened a restaurant featuring Dave's mile-long hot dogs. Esther is now retired, active in AMIT and the Sisterhood of her synagogue. She enjoys her family, especially her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

This memoir, Through Siberia with bed and Babies, A Holocaust Survivor's Joys and Sorrows, will add immeasurably to readers' knowledge of the Holocaust. In addition they will be inspired by Esther's life journey, her courage and resilience.                             

 

            

Esther Berkowitz

 

Through Siberia with Bed & Babies a Holocaust Survivor's Joys & Sorrows

 

Chapter 1

The Eleven of Us

 

Eighty kilometers from Łódź Poland, is the town of Wieluń. Near Wieluń my father had an estate-Mlyn Bolk6w, about ten acres in size. On our estate was a flour mill that had been started by my father. My two oldest brothers helped him and we had a mechanic and other people working in the mill. We had horses and cows. My mother had a family helping her in our house. Our house was very comfortable we had eight rooms with all the conveniences, hot and cold running water, very unusual at this time.

 

My parents, Daniel and Brahna, had met each other through matchmakers. My father was a gentle man; I never heard him raise his voice with the children. Of course, my mother is the one who had to raise us as father spent a lot of time with the mill and other business. My parents were very religious not orthodox with side curls (payos) but religious and traditional. I had a loving and an organized family. It had to be because my parents had nine children, Rubin, Berek brothers then Ruth and Dora, then in 1916 I was born right in the middle, followed by Meyer, Adela, Abraham, and Zelman. My sisters, Ruth and Dora, helped my mother in the house and with the children.

 

I had finished school. In those years that meant a girl had gone a little bit to the gymnasium (high school). I had gone to Wieluń for my schooling to the Hebrew and Polish school and had graduated. Then I went to a school and learned to sew lingerie so I could sew at home and later for my family.

 

From 1933 to 1939 life had been very tough. Already there was Anti-Semitism. We had heard about Kristallnacht in Germany (November 9 and 10, 1938) from my sister Ruth's brother-in-law. Ruth had married a man named Ali Berkowitz, who had a brother living in Berlin. This brother had a hat factory. The brother's wife had been Miss Berlin; she was a real beauty. However, as soon as Hitler came to power, they were thrown out of Germany because they were Jews who had come originally from Poland. They were expelled with only the clothes on their backs. Ruth and her child, Zygmuś, with her husband, Ali, went to Zbaszyn and picked up Ali's brother and his family, who had been wealthy but had now lost everything. Zbaszyn, a Polish border town, was used as a refugee camp between November 1938 and August1939 for the thousands of Polish citizens expelled from Germany. "Many were taken in by friends and family in Poland [or] aided by Polish Jewish communities. Others managed to leave the country" (Shoah Resource Center).

 

In the midst of this trouble, my father became very ill. He went to the hospital to a private room, and as the middle child, I went to take care of him. Dr. Prentki treated him; however, the diagnosis was wrong. At first my father said he felt like a new man. Then he became even sicker and after a few days they sent him to isolation. He passed away on January 30, 1939, at only fifty-four years old. My father was loved and respected. Many people in our community went to his funeral. They said that because he had died a natural death there would be upheavals in the world, but he would be spared them, for he had been so lucky all his life.

 

I was engaged to be married to David Berkowitz, but after my father's death I had to wait a year to be married; this was the traditional Jewish observance. When the Germans attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, David, age 26 years, was drafted into the Polish army. Within two weeks the Germans and the Soviets had overrun Poland; the Germans coming from the west, the Soviets from the east-in a pincer movement. Poland was then split between Hitler and Stalin. My fiancé was in the east, beyond the new Soviet border.  David had met up with his brother, Sam (Schmuel), in Kowel, Poland. After the defeat of the Polish army, in a couple of weeks, Sam and David decided to return to Wieluń.

 

When David and his brother came back, the people who were running the estate after my father's death told them that the Gestapo had taken my mother and all the children to be finger-printed to the town of Czarnoźyl for the deportations. So David went to find us, ten kilometers away at the office of the Gestapo. The Gestapo was very organized. They also finger-printed David. After they had our information, they let us go home. On the way home, David said, "This is our chance to leave. Tonight we need to pack everything on our bodies. We'll pretend we are going to the neighbors."

 

My mother did not think this was a good idea. We were only engaged. She would not let me go until I was married. So my mother, my brother Berek with Helen, his new wife, David's father, Henoch, and I decided to travel to David's brother's home in Łódź, Poland, where David and I could be married.

 

That evening I could not go to sleep. I thought about my beautiful family: my beloved brothers and sisters, my dear mother, and our comfortable home. Now we had to leave, to go as if we were naked with only the clothes we could wear.

 

When we left, they were crying because we were going away. We were crying because we were leaving them. We cried also because we were going into the unknown!

 

So we first went to Łódź where my fiancé had a brother with a wife and family. My father-in-law and my mother made sure that we married before we left for the east. The wedding had to be secret because we were not supposed to be in Łódź. My father-in-law found a rabbi who married us in the fall of 1939. My mother returned to Wieluń. Our honeymoon was running away-to the east, to the unknown!

 

Chapter 8 (Returning from the Soviet Union to Poland after the War)

 

Joy to Sorrow

 

In Łódź we found my sister, Adela, her husband, Jacob Jablonski, and their little girl, Rena. Adela had survived in Germany as a maid on a German estate where Nazis lived. Her "Aryan" papers had been made by a Polish family, Micholyczyk, a wonderful family. Many times they visited my sister in Israel. They were made "Righteous among the Nations" at Yad Vashem.

 

Before they got their "Aryan" papers they spent three nights and days in high grown corn stalks until the papers were ready and they could travel to Germany. Many Polish people did the same thing looking for work in Germany.                                                   

 

I asked about my mother and the rest of my family. I found this out about my mother from witnesses who had survived. One of these was Estusia (Esther) Ankielewicz from Lututów, who later married Meyer my brother. My mother was arrested a couple of times. The Germans accused her of hiding the leather belts that were used on machines in the mill and the factory. Somehow my sister, Ruth, who was living in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland, with her husband Allo and child Zigmusz, found out and came back to Bolków to get my mother out of prison. Then the Germans made a ghetto in Lututów, a small city, about ten kilometers from home where my mother was put with Dora, my sister and her two babies. Dora's husband, Abraham Goldbart, was deported to Chelmno (Kulmhof, Poland, first extermination camp in Poland, operated by gas vans) not far away, a death camp where they didn't have barracks. Later my mother Brana, sister Dora, and her two children were rounded up and put into a church and from the church deported to Chelmno Death Camp where they were murdered.

 

Ruth, who had very light hair, looked Polish, wasn't taken to the ghetto. She was hidden with a Polish family. Later she was discovered and shot by the Nazis (one of my friends told me this after the war). They shot her in the street. This beautiful woman! Then Ruth's husband, Allo, and beautiful son, Zygmuś ("Zalman" in Yiddish), were together and later in 1944 were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The child, Zygmuś, had curls like Shirley Temple. Whenever I walked out with him people would stop and admire him. He was a smart boy; he could play chess when he was five years old.


Zygmuś and mother Ruth

My brother Meyer was in Auschwitz in 1944 and where he worked he saw the lists of the arrivals.  He learned that Ruth's husband, Ali, was in Auschwitz. Also Zygmuś, about nine years old, had come in a children's transport. Zygmuś was in Birkenau, the death camp, in a block with about 2000 children.  Every day Meyer brought Zygmuś some extra soup or bread. On the last day of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Meyer again took a portion of soup over to Birkenau. The chimneys there were working day and night. Meyer went with the soup trying to get to the child. As it happened, Zygmuś was standing behind the wire fence looking out and they saw each other. When my brother tried to give him the watery soup, Zygmuś said, "No, no, Uncle. I don't want the soup today. I heard that they will take all the children to the crematorium. For me it is too late." The child showed Meyer the crematoria chimneys that were spewing smoke and ash. He said, "Soup will be wasted on me." Zygmuś was only nine at this time. The murder of Zygmuś affects me more than any other I can not talk about him without crying. This is why I have found it impossible to talk with school children. I don't want to make them sad seeing me crying.

 

The next day Meyer heard so many cries. When Meyer went back, the block was empty Zygmuś was gone. His father, Allo, was never seen again.

 

So I found out about my family. Meyer with Rubin, Abraham, and Zelman had been in the big ghetto in Łódź from 1942 to 1944, before all but Zelman were deported to Auschwitz.

 

The Łódź Ghetto, 120 kilometers southwest of Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, was established in February of 1940. The ghetto was surrounded by barbed-wire, and conditions in the ghetto were horrendous. The Germans had established a number of factories in the ghetto (by 1942 there were almost 100 factories inside the ghetto), and Jews were forced to labor in these factories, receiving only meager food rations from their employers; the SS received the wages the companies would have paid them (USHMM). My four brothers worked every day in these factories for the Nazis.

 

One night during one of the periodic round-ups, three policemen came for Zelman during the razzia (roundup). They took him out of his bed. We never saw him again.

 

When the Łódź Ghetto was liquidated in the spring of 1944, Meyer was sent to Auschwitz. By this time Łódź, with about 75,000 Jews, was the last remaining ghetto in Poland. Jews were told that they were being transported to work camps in Germany, but instead in August 1944 all survivors of the Łódź ghetto were transported south, 177 kilometers, to Oswiecim, Poland, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Meyer was one of those transported in 1944.

 

From Auschwitz Meyer had been deported on a death march to Germany from which he almost did not survive. One day longer and he would have died. He was very weak when he arrived at the factory that used him as slave labor. It was a factory that made special buses — Büssing in Branschweig, Germany. He worked there for five or six months until in 1945 he was liberated by the Russians. Meyer was then taken to Lübec to the hospital to recuperate. When he felt stronger, he went to Bergen-Belsen to find Estusia. We met up with Meyer and Estusia later in Mosburg, Germany.

 


Meyer, Estusia, Esther, David - Post War II, Zipora, Danny and Aida, seated

 

Rubin and Abraham survived the Lututów and Łódź ghettos and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, from where they were transported to a concentration camp/ghetto at Terezin (Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia. Abraham, only twelve or thirteen years old at the beginning, had tried to run away from this concentration camp but he was caught, punished, and beaten. Despite all this he survived. Rubin at the end of the war was malnourished and had to be hospitalized (he later went to Israel), so Abraham decided to go on his own to the family home at Mlyn Bolków. He especially wanted to find his mother.

 

A group of survivors living in Wieluń advised him not to return to Bolków. When Abraham returned to the estate, the mill and the main house were gone; they had been removed to Germany. Abraham then went to a good neighbor, one who had gone to school with Ruth

Helena  Teodorczyk, who welcomed him. Abraham slept in the barn. While he was there, the man who was living on our land came and invited him to sleep at his home (a cottage where our guests used to stay). Helena tried to dissuade Abraham but he went anyway. Abraham never returned; he was later found cut up in pieces. He was seventeen years old when he was killed. To think he survived to go home and be murdered by a fellow Polish citizen!

 

Of my eight siblings, four survived. My mother was killed. My nieces and nephews were killed. My joy at surviving Siberia and Kazakhstan was crushed by the tragic and horrible deaths of my family members.

 

 

Mikolajczyk, Zygmunt

Mikolajczyk, Stefan

Nowak – Mikolajczyk Helena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israel Gutman & Sara Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, Poland Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 2004 Holocaust,  pp. 515

 

In August 1942, during the liquidation of the Wieluń ghetto in the Lodz district, Jakub Jablonski and his friend Adela Berkowicz, both former residents of the nearby village of Lagiewniki, managed to escape. Zygmunt Mikolajczyk, also a resident of Lagiewniki and a friend of the Jablonski family, smuggled them into his home in the dead of night, from where the two Jewish fugitives were moved to a hiding place he had prepared for them in a field. Stefan Mikolajczyk, Zygmunt's 13-year-old son, regularly cared for Jablonski and Berko­wicz, watching out for their safety and supplying them with food and clothing. At the same time, Mikolajczyk and his daughter, Helena, went to the population registry office, where they obtained Aryan papers for the fugitives under assumed names. They then took the papers to the offices involved in recruiting laborers and registered Jablonski and Berkowicz as volunteers for work in Germany. Only afterwards did they give the papers to the two fugitives, who then traveled under assumed identities to Germany. There, they were em­ployed doing agricultural work on a farm in Lower Silesia until the area was liberated. After the war, Jablonski and Berkowicz married. They eventually immigrated to Israel and kept in touch with their benefactors.

 

On August 27, I997, Yad Vashem recognized Zygmunt Mikolajczyk, his son, Stefan Mikolajczyk, and his daughter, Helena Nowak (née Mikolajczyk), as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

 

פנקס הקהילות

אנציקלופדיה של היישובים היהודיים למן היווסדם ועד לאחר שואת מלחמת העולם השנייה

פולין

כרך ראשון

לודז' והגליל

יד ושם • רשות הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה

ירושלים תשל"ו

עורכים: דנוטה דומברובסקה, אברהם ויין

Edited by Danuta Dąbrowska and Abraham Wein

ויילון  Wieluń

(נפת ויילון)

עמ' 94-98

Coordinates: 51°13' / 18°33'

 

המאמר על ויילון נכתב ע"י : יעקב גולדברג, דנוטה דומברובסקה, אברהם ויין

 

 הישוב היהודי עד 1918

בשלהי המאה ה-13 היתה ויילון למרכז מינהלי באזור והשיגה מעמד של עיר. בשתי המאות הבאות עברה על העיר התפתחות כלכלית, שהפכה למרכז מסחרי בגבול שבין פולין גדול ובין לשלזיה. ערכה גדל במאות ה-15 וה-16 עם גידול יצוא תבואה וצמר מפולין לשלזיה. ביצוא זה השתתפו יהודים, אשר סחרו גם באריגים. הקוניונקטורה המסחרית הטובה הכשירה את הקרקע להקמת ישוב יהודי בויילון, שעל קיומו נזכר כבר ב-1537. ב-1566 העניק המלך לעיר פריבילגיה האוסרת מגורי יהודים בעיר. חרף האיסור המשיכו משפחות בודדות לגור בעיר, אולם בלחץ העירונים גורשו גם אלה מויילון ובשנות ה-20 למאה ה-17 חדל הישוב היהודי הראשון להתקיים.

 אולם סוחרים יהודים היו מגיעים לעיר לעתים קרובות גם לאחר מכן והיו שוהים בה אך ימים מספר. בגלל החורבן וההרס אשר פקדו את ויילון במלחמות של אמצע המאה ה-17 וראשית המאה ה-18 פחתו והלכו ביקוריהם של הסוחרים יהודים. במחצית השנייה של המאה ה-18 חלה התעוררות ביחסי המסחר בין פולין ושלזיה, שנמשכה עד מחצית המאה ה-19. הסוחרים היהודים השתתפו במסחר זה, אך הם לא התיישבו בויילון, מחמת האיסור של הפריבילגיה הנ"ל. בעיירה הסמוכה ביצ'ינה Byczyna, שבצד שלזיה, היה חלקם של היהודים הפולניים במסחר המקומי כה ניכר, שמלך פרוסיה הוציא פקודה ב-1799 שאסרה עריכת ירידים בימי שבת וחגים יהודיים. למרות האיסור, וחרף התנגדותם של העירונים, הרשה הפריץ בעל אחוזה בפרברי העיר לגור שם למשפחה יהודית אחת שחכרה את הפונדק ומבשלה לשכר. בשנות ה-70 של המאה ה-18 חי בויילון יהודי יואכים הרשליק. ב-1791 התיישב בויילון עם משפחתו פונדקאי יהודי שני. בתקופת הכיבוש הפרוסי התירו השלטונות ליהודים להתיישב בויילון. הקבוצה הראשונה שמנתה עשר משפחות הגיעה לויילון ב-1798. הן גרו עד אותו זמן בכפר הסמוך בוגאי Bugaj וניצלו אז את ההזדמנות, כדי לעבור לויילון. היו ביניהם סוחרים, אשר עסקו במסחר בין פולין ושלזיה ובעלי מלאכה. במחצית הראשונה של המאה ה-19 היו בין היהודים בעלי מלאכה מומחים בענפי ההלבשה והמתכת (פחחים). מספר יהודים יסדו מפעלי בורסקאות. בשנות ה-20 של המאה ה-19 הוקם בויילון בית חרושת לטכסטיל, ונעשו ניסיונות לתיעוש העיר, שנסתיימו בכישלון. היהודים עסקו אז בהספקת חומר גלמי לבית החרושת הזה.

 בתקופה ההיא אסור היה ליהודים לקנות נכסי דלא ניידי. כתוצאה מכך השתייכו ליהודים עד שנות ה-40 רק שבי בתים. ב-1823 - 1862 הוטל על היהודים איסור נוסף לגור בויילון ששכנה ברצועת הגבול. התיישנות יהודים בויילון נבלמה איפוא ובשנים 1828-1813 הגיעו לשם רק שמונה משפחות. ביניהן שלושה מלמדים. ב-1840 השלימו עקרונית השלטונות והעירונים עם עובדת התגוררותם של יהודים בויילון. אולם רצו לגרש את אותן המשפחות היהודיות, אשר התיישבו בה אחרי שנכנס לתוקפו האיסור מ-1823. בשנים מ-1820 וכמעט עד ביטול ההגבלות על מגורי היהודים במלכות פולין (1862) נעשו ניסיונות להקים רובע יהודי מיוחד בויילון. התוכנית לא באה לידי ביצוע, בין היתר גם בזכות השתדלויותיה של קהילת ויילון אצל השלטונות המרכזיים בווארשה,

 במחצית השנייה של המאה ה-19 התפתח יפה המסחר שניהלו הסוחרים היהודים מויילון בכפרים הסמוכים. היהודים היו המפיצים העיקריים של מוצרים תעשייתיים והקונים של התוצרת החקלאית מידי אוכלוסיית הכפר, אולם בראשית המאה ה-20 רבו ההתנפלויות על יהודים בודדים בסביבה וכתוצאה מכך נסתם מקור פרנסתם של כמה עשרות משפחות יהודיות. פרנסתם של היהודים קופחה גם על ידי הקואופרטיבים של הפולנים, שהתחרו במסחר היהודי בכפרים.

 קבוצת יהודים, אשר התיישבה בויילון ב-1798, ניגשה להקמת המוסדות הציבוריים והדתיים. ראשית כל ביקשו מקום להקמת בית כנסת. תחילה התפללו בבית שכור של אחד היהודים שעמד בשוק. ב-1799 נקנה בנין לבית הכנסת. ב-1841, כשעמד הבניין הנ"ל להתמוטט, הוחל בבניית בית חדש, אשר נסתיימה ב-1855 בקירוב.

 עד 1848 לא היה לקהילת ויילון בית קברות משלה; המתים הובאו לקבורה בבית הקברות בדז'יאלושין Dzialoszyn. משפרצה מגיפת החולירע וכשגדלה התמותה בעיקבותיה, הוקם בית הקברות במקום. במחצית השנייה של המאה ה-19 היו בויילון כמה חברות צדקה, כמר "מלביש ערומים" ו"האלץ חברה" (חברת עצים), אשר מתפקידה היה לספק לעניים חומר הסקה.

 על כס הרבנות בויילון ישב בשנות ה-70 של המאה ה-19 ר' שלמה סרברניק. ב-1892 נתמנה כרב ר' מנחם מנדל גרינברג. הוא ייסד ישיבה בויילון. בתקופה שבין שתי מלחמות העולם ישבו על כס הרבנות בויילון ר' מ. ה. רוטנברג ור' ה. יוסטמאן.

 במחצית המאה ה-19 החלה ההשכלה לחדור לויילון. גרמו לכך, בלא ספק, המגעים התכופים עם היישוב היהודי הגדול בקמפנו  Kępno הסמוכה, בתחום הסיפוח הפרוסי, שידוע היה ברמת תרבותו הגבוהה. השפעת ההשכלה בלטה במגמה להבטיח לקבוצת ילדים יהודים חינוך חילוני. כבר, ב-1827 ביקרו שלושה תלמידים בבית הספר של הכמרים הפיאריים. בשנות ה-60 של המאה ה-19 גדל מספר התלמידים בבתי הספר הציבוריים האחרים. בעת ההיא ניסתה קבוצת המשכילים בויילון אף להשתלט על ועד הקהילה. מספר מסוים (לא ידוע בדיוק כמה) של תלמידים יהודים למד במחצית המאה ה-19 בבתי הספר התיכוניים, ואחדים אף ביקרו, במוסדות הוראה גבוהים. אחד מהם היה אדולף קאנטורוביץ', סטודנט לרפואה. ב-1863 נאסר, נשלח לסיביר על השתתפות במרד הפולני. יהודי ויילון לא נשארו אדישים למרד ותמכו בו באורח פעיל: קבוצת יהודים השתייכו לחטיבת מורדים מויילון ולחמו בו בצד אומנים פולניים. שני יהודים נלקחו בשבי הרוסי והוצאו להורג בתלייה. גופותיהם הובאו לקבורה בבית העלמין היהודי. יהודים לקחו גם חלק במאורעות הקשורים במהפכת 1907-1905. על השתתפות בפעילות מהפכנית נידון חיים ליפמן בסר לגירוש לסיביר.

 במלחמת העולם ה-1 התארגנה בויילון "אגודת ישראל" ו"המזרחי" (ב-1917). ב-1915 הוקם אירגון-נוער "יוגנט-פאריין" ולידו מועדון ספורט וספרייה, שבה נתקיימו שיעורי ערב ללימודי חול.

 בין שתי מלחמות העולם

 במלחמת העולם ה-1 גדלה האוכלוסיה היהודית בויילון בכמה. מאות פועלים יהודים אשר באו מלודז' עם משפחותיהם. הם התיישבו בעיר ובפרבריה. הקשיים במסחר בו עסקו היהודים, שנתנו סימניהם כבר בשנים לפני המלחמה הורגשו גם בשנים הראשונות אחריה. אף על פי כן נדדו יהודים רבים על פני הכפרים עם סחורתם. הקבוצה המקצועית הגדולה ביותר בתוך האוכלוסיה היהודית היתה של בעלי המלאכה. הם היו 65% של כלל בעלי המלאכה בעיר. פעולה ענפה פיתח איגוד בעלי המלאכה היהודים שהוקם ב-1919 והשתייכו אליו בעלי מקצועות שונים. מחוץ למסגרת האיגוד קמה ב-1929 חברת הספרים, בה השתייכו יהודים ופולנים כאחת. בשנות ה-28 נוסד בנק קואופרטיבי יהודי, בו קיבלו הלוואות בריבית נמוכה סוחרים זעירים ובעלי מלאכה. קבוצת יהודים מצאה פרנסה בתחבורה, אשר בהיות ויילון מרוחקת מנתיבי הרכבת הראשיים נודעה לה משמעות מיוחדת. יהודי ויילון הקימו קו אוטובוסים קבוע בין עיר זו לבין לודז' והערים היושבות בנתיב זה. בשנות ה-30 פעלו בקו זה 12 אוטובוסים פרטיים שרובם השתייכו ליהודים. ב-1935 הקימו בעלו האוטובוסים חברת תחבורה בעירבון מוגבל.

 בתקופה שבין שתי המלחמות נוסדו בויילון מלבד סניף המזרחי אשר הוקם בימי המלחמה, הארגונים הציוניים הבאים: ציונים כלליים, התאחדות (הוקמה ב-1929), פועלי ציון שמאל והרביזיוניסטים. באותה העת הוקמו גם ארגוני נוער ציוני : גורדוניה (ב-1930 ארגנה נקודת הכשרה בספר הסמוך לויילון) ובית"ר (הוקם ב-1930).

 תוצאות הבחירות לקונגרסים הציוניים בשנים 1937-1929 באות להצביע על חלוקת ההשפעה בקרב המחנה הציוני בויילון.

הרשימה

הקולות

 

1929

1935

1937

הציונים הכלליים א'

57

228

216

הציונים הכלליים ב'

98

171

22

המזרחי

161

131

110

הרויזיוניסטים

28

3

הליגה לא"י העובדת

36

600

596

 בהשפעה רבה זכה אגודת ישראל שהתארגנה עוד בימי המלחמה. בבחירות לקהילה ב-1924 וב-1929 השיגה האגודה את מחצית מספר הנציגים. לעומת זאת בבחירות ב-1931 היו נציגי האגודה במיעוט. הציונים הכלליים הקימו אז גוש מאוחד עם המזרחי והיה להם רוב קולות.  

הרשימה

מספר הנציגים

 

1929

1935

1937

פועלי ציון

1

1

המזרחי

3

הציונים

2

9

חסידי אלכסנדר

1

האגודה

6

4

6

הגוש היהודי הלאומי (הציונים)

4

  במלחמת העולם ה-1 (ב-1915) הורכבה מועצת העירייה מארבעה נציגים מכל לאום היהודים, הפולנים והגרמנים. בתקופה בין שתי המלחמות היוו לא פעם חברי המועצה היהודים גורם מכריע בחיכוכים הפוליטיים שהתחוללו בה. היהודים היו נוקטים בעמדה אחידה במאמצים להשיג תמיכה כספית מקופת העירייה בשביל המוסדות הציבוריים יהודיים, תודות להשתדלויות אלה הוקצה בפעם הראשונה בשנה התקציבית 1928/27 סכום מסוים לתכלית זו. מתקציב של עיריית ויילון שהסתכם ב-1930/29 ב-365,000 זלוטי הוקצב בשביל המוסדות היהודיים הסכום הזעיר של 6,000 זלוטי. לעומת זאת גדלה התמיכה למוסדות יהודיים. ב-1931/30 אף על פי שתקציב העירייה בשנה זו צומצם ב-5,000 זלוטי, גדלה התמיכה הכספית למוסדות יהודיים ב-1,500 זלוטי.

 זמן קצר אחרי מלחמת העולם ה-1 נפסקו פעולותיהן של חברות הצדקה מלביש ערומים והחברה "האלץ חברה". גידול האוכלוסיה היהודית והשינויים בתנאי החיים הכלכליים, דרשו הפעלת צורות חדשות של עזרה הדדית. בין מוסדות העזרה הציבורית החדשים היתה קופת גמילת חסדים שקמה ביוזמת עסקני "המזרחי" וארגונים ציוניים אחרים, אשר העניקה תמיכות והלוואות קטנות; הקופה קיבלה תמיכות כספיות קטנות מאת העירייה. חברה ביקור חולים ששינתה את שמה ל"לינת הצדק" ב-1925 הגישה לחולים עזרה רפואית ומזון. היא קיבלה תמיכה כספית מהקהילה ומהעירייה וחלק מהתקציב כוסה על ידי תרומות שנאספו בציבור. ל"לינת הצדק" היו בית מרקחת ומעבדה ובה ציוד מודרני. קבוצת נשים היתה פעילה בחברת נשים לעזרת חולים ("קראנקען פרויען חברה"). הן טיפלו בחולים עניים וגלמודים ועזרו בדרך זו ל"לינת הצדק".

 ממוסדת החינוך היהודיים בויילון נתקיימו החדרים יסודי תורה ותלמוד תורה, וב-1919 הוקם גם "בית אולפנא" בפיקוחה של המזרחי, אשר סופח ב-1930 לרשת בתי הספר של יבנה. בשנות ה-20 נוסד בית ספר לבנות "בית יעקב"; קטן היה מספר הבנות שביקרו בו. בבתי הספר היהודיים למדו כ-500 תלמידים % —30 מהילדים בגיל בית ספר. היתר למדו בבתי הספר היסודיים הממשלתיים הכלליים וחלק קטן המשיך את הלימודים בגימנסיה הממשלתית הריאלית לבנים. הספרייה היהודית שנוסדה עוד ב-1915 ליד ה"יוגנט-פאריין" המשיכה בפעולתה עד פרוץ מלחמת העולם ה-II והיתה למרכז תרבותי חשוב בעיירה. לידה הוקם חוג דרמטי. ב-1924 התארגן בויילון מועדון ספורט חדש במקום דומה, שהתקיים בעת מלחמת העולם ה-I.

 בשנות ה-30 גברה האנטישמיות בויילון והחרם הכלכלי גרם להתרוששות הדרגתית של היהודים בעלי חנויות או דוכנים בשוק. בראשית 1937 חזרו ונשנו המקרים של יידוי אבנים בבית הכנסת. במקרה אחד נופצו כ-100 שמשות בבית הכנסת ופנימו נהרס חלקית. כך נעשו ניסיונות ליצור אווירה של פוגרום על ידי מעשי פרובוקאציה. ב-1937 חיללו שני צעירים פולנים קבר בבית הקברות הקתולי והשאירו במקום זה שני כובעים של יהודים עטופים בעיתון יהודי. הם גם ניסו למכור לחנווני יהודי חלק מהצלב שמעל הקבר. הברנשים נראו חשודים בעיני החנווני; הוא הודיע עליהם למשטרה ועל ידי כך נחשפה הפרובוקאציה ונמנע אסון מהאוכלוסיה היהודית.

מאורע בלתי שכיח באווירה האנטישמית המחריפה והולכת היתה הזכרת זכרם של שני יהודים משתתפי המרד הפולני של 1863. האזכרה נתקיימה ב-1935 בבית העלמין היהודי והשתתפו בה ליד המשלחות היהודיות גם משלחות צבאיות וציבוריות של פולנים.

 השואה 

ויילון נחרבה כליל כבר בשני הימים הראשונים לפרוץ מלחמת העולם ה-II ע"י ההפצצות מהאוויר והפגזת הארטילריה. מספר הפצועים הגיע לאלפים והחוצות היו מלאים מתים. רוב הבתים עלו באש. האוכלוסיה, ברחה בהמוניה מן העיר, עזבוה כמעט כל היהודים. בין היהודים הנמלטים מויילון שהגיעו לפיוטרקוב טריבונאלסקי  Piotrków Trybunalskiוזלוב Zelów היו פצועים רבים. חלק מהנמלטים הגיעו עד וארשה. אחרי כיבוש ויילון ע"י הצבא הגרמני חזרו רוב הפליטים יהודים והתגוררו בחורבות הבתים או בצריפים.

 במסגרת הגרמאניזאציה של העיר גורשו ממנה עד מאי 1941 כל הפולנים ובמקומם באו גרמנים מהארצות הבאלטיות, מוולין ומבסאראביה. ב-1940 הופיעה בעיר חוברת בהוצאת השלטונות המקומיים בשם "ויילון", אשר תכליתה היתה להוכיח את האופי הגרמני של העיר. לחוברת היתה נימה אנטישמית מובהקת. היא כללה בין היתר תצלומי יהודים מושפלים, או העוסקים בדברים נבזים.

 בחודשי הכיבוש הראשונים,  בעיקר בנובמבר 1939 נאסרו יהודים ופולנים רבים, בעיקר בקרב החוגים המשכילים, אחרי כליאה במשך עשרה ימים בבית הסוהר המקומי נשלחו האסירים ביניהם כמה מאות יהודים למחנה בראדוגושץ'  Radogoszczליד לודז'. בנובמבר1 נורו 24 פולנים, בדצמבר 22 פולנים ויהודים, בפברואר 1940 25 (או 27) נפש, ובמארס 15 איש גם כן מבין שני הלאומים. כל ההוצאות להורג האלה בוצעו בבית הקברות היהודי.

בדצמבר 1910 היו בויילון 4,053 יהודים (בתוכם 450 פליטים). רוב היהודים היו מרוכזים מ-1940 ברובע אחד של העיר שנקרא בפי כל "גיטו"; הוא לא היה מוקף גדר. יתר על כן, חלק מהיהודים נשארו, לפחות, במשך התקופה 1941-1940, בדירותיהם שמלפני המלחמה, כלומר מחוץ לתחום הגיטו. בתקופה זו מותר היה ליהודים לנוע בכל העיר, פרט לימים מסוימים (בהתחלה, בימי השוק ימי ג', ו' וב-1941 ביום א') בהם אסור היה על היהודים להימצא מחוץ לגיטו.

במשך כל זמן הכיבוש, העבידו הגרמנים את היהודים בעבודת כפייה. חטיפת גברים לעבודה החלה כבר בימי הכיבוש הראשונים. היהודים הועסקו בפינוי ההריסות, בפירוק הבתים החרבים או בבניינם מחדש וכד'. אחרי הקמת הגיטו היו כמעט כל הגברים הכשרים לעבודה יוצאים לעבודות קשות, בשביל מוסדות צבאיים, משרדים ובשביל גרמנים פרטיים בויילון ובסביבותיה. השכר היומי של פועלים היה נמוך מאוד והסתכם בממוצע ב-1.50 מארק. אולם בשים לב לכך, כי מצרכי המזון היו זולים, קנו היהודים באופן בלתי לגאלי ובלי קושי אצל איכרי הסביבה (כיכר לחם של 2 ק"ג 0.70 מארק; בושל תפוחי אדמה 4 מארק; תריסר ביצים 0.70 מארק), ולא סבלו רעב. ומה עוד שקיבלו גם הקצבות קטנות לפי כרטיסי מזון. מספר יהודים התפרנס גם ממסחר בלתי לגאלי ובעלי מלאכה מתוצרתם לפי הזמנות פרטיות.

את האוכלוסיה היהודית בויילון פקדו לעתים תכופות חטיפות גברים למחנות העבודה באזור פוזנאן ובשטחי הרייך גופא. האמידים השיגו מהמשטרה הגרמנית שחרור משילוח תמורת תשלומי שוחד גדולים.

חיי הדת הציבוריים נפסקו. בית הכנסת נשרף עוד בימי הפצצת העיר, וקירותיו פורקו בידי היהודים עצמם לפי פקודת השלטונות. בית המדרש מעץ שימש מחסה לפליטים יהודים; את אוסף הספרים היקר שנמצא בבניין שדדו הגרמנים. עוד בזמן פעולות המלחמה עשו היהודים מאמצים, להציל את תשמישי הקדושה של בית הכנסת ובית המדרש. כך, למשל, הסתיר שמש בית הכנסת שניים מספרי התורה, אולם הם עלו באש בהפצצת העיר. הוא הטמין גם חלק מתשמישי הקדושה במרתף של ראש הקהילה. אחרי כיבוש העיר, נודע הדבר לגרמנים. יהודי, אשר ידע על המחבוא עונה על ידי הגרמנים, והוא גילה להם את המקום. הגרמנים שדדו את כל החפצים. הם הרסו את בית הקברות ועל היהודים ציוו להשתמש במצבות לבניית ברכת שחייה בשביל הגרמנים.

גל טרור שחל בחודשים הראשונים של 1942, היה מעין הכנה להשמדה ההמונית שבאה לאחר מכן. ברבע הראשון של שנה זו (המקורות מציינים תאריכים שונים: 10.1.1942, פברואר, ימי חג הפסח) הוצאו להורג בתלייה בפומבי עשרה יהודים. מי היו יהודים אלה ובאיזה נסיבות נתפסו, על כך מצויים תיאורים שונים במקורות. אולם אין ספק, כי כתואנה שימשה לגרמנים הידיעה של שחיטת הבקר הבלתי חוקית. כנראה שהאחראי הצליח להסתתר ובמקומו אסרו הגרמנים, באמצעות המשטרה היהודית, כמה עשרות יהודים, ומביניהם נבחרו, בדרך הפלת פור, עשרה היהודים. במקור אחד מסופר, שיחד עם עשרת הקרבנות האלה ניתלו יו"ר היודנראט וסגנו והם נרצחו על כי העיזו להביע התנגדות לדרישת השלטונות הגרמניים לבחור בעשרה יהודים לתלייה. אולם לעובדה זו אין אישור במקורות אחרים. את תפקיד התליינים נאלצו למלא היהודים עצמם. התלייה הוקם בכיכר השוק הישן (מחוץ לגיטו) וההוצאה להורג בוצעה לצלילי מוסיקה ובנוכחות המוני תושבי העיר וביניהם יהודים שנאלצו לבוא.

באפריל 1942 בוצע גירוש של כ-2,000 יהודים מויילון. נראה שהגירוש החל ב-12.4. לא ידוע אם היה זה גירוש להשמדה או שילוח לעבודת כפייה  במחנות בממדים גדולים. לפי מקור אחד, היו קרבנות המצוד בעיקר זקנים, אנשים בלתי כשרים לעבודה וילדים. המשטרה הגרמנית הקיפה את הגיטו, אנשיה חדרו לתוכו ובמשך אקציה שארכה מספר ימים תפסו אח היהודים, העלו אותם על משאיות, שהובילו אותם בכיוון בלתו ידוע. היהודים שנשארו במקום שלחו כמה פולנים, כדי להיוודע (תמורת תשלום) באיזה כיוון נוסעות המשאיות. אולם דבר לא נודע אז.

ביוני 1942 נקרא יו"ר היודנראט, ליפשיץ, למשרד הגסטאפו ונרצח. גופתו נמצאה כעבור מספר ימים ביער סמוך.

הגירוש ההמוני השני היווה חיסול סופי לא רק של הישוב היהודי בויילון אלא של כל יהודי הנפה. הוא התחיל ב-22.8.1942. כ-10.000 יהודים מויילון והמקומות הסמוכים נדחסו לתוך אחת הכנסיות בויילון והוחזקו בה בתנאים איומים במשך כמה ימים. הסלקציה נעשתה בכנסייה עצמה ובחצרה; הופרדה קבוצה בת 922 איש, מהם 250 מויילון, ככשרים לעבודה פיסית (ייתכן וביניהם היו גם בעלי מלאכה) שהועברו לגיטו לודז'. את היהודים האחרים העבירו למחנה המוות בחלמנו. את הסלקציה ביצעו אנשי הגסטאפו מלודז' וכן פקיד המינהל הגרמני של גיטו לודז'. בעת האקציה נספו מאות יהודים מאפיסת כוחות וייסורים או שנרצחו בדרך לכנסייה, או במקום הריכוז עצמו.

עם תום המלחמה חזרו היהודיים הראשונים של יהודי ויילון לעירם ממחנה העבודה "האסאג" בצנסטוחובה. הם הקימו ועד שמטרתו היתה לארגן זמנית את חיי החוזרים ולתקן את בית הקברות ההרוס. הוועד השיב לפונים מחו"ל אשר שאלו על גורל קרוביהם; כן טיפל בחלוקת העזרה, שנתקבלה ממוסדות סיוע יהודיים. בין הנשארים בחיים שהחלו לחזור מהשטחים המשוחררים מידי הגרמנים וגם מברית המועצות. הפולנים גילו לשרידי הפליטה איבה והיו אף מקרי רצח. בנו של בעל משק בכפר בולקוב Bolków הסמוך לויילון. נורה, כאשר בא לקבל לידיו את המשק. הבעלים החדשים החליטו להיפטר בדרך זו מיורש בלתי רצוי.

 מקורות

איו"ש (ארכיון יד ושם) 03/2329; 121/49; M-1/E ;  JM2716 (PH.15-1-2); ׂ04/22-3-9.

אצ"מ: S.5-1801

AGAD: KRSW 146, 1943, 1944, 1949; Księgi Grodzkie Wieluńskie Obl. 29a, 30a, 30b, 32a, 33b, 34a, 34b, 36a, 36b, 38a, 38b, 49, 52b; Księgi Miejskie Wielunia 3, 17, 18, 19, 20, 36, 45, 48, 49, 52; KWK 211, 730, 3086.

AP Łódź: Anteriora PRG 1107,1407,2220; Archiwum Potockich i Ostrowskich  z Maluszyna I/272/1.

Biblioteka Polskiej Akademil Nauk w Krakowie: ms. 706

ספר זיכרון לקהילת ויילון, תל-אביב 1971; י. קאמינער חברה גמילות חסדים בוויעלון, אין "פאלקס- הילף" 1937, באנד 7, נר' 11, נר 12, מ. שווארצבארד, נאטיצן פון געטא, אין "בלעטער פאר געשיכטע" 1955 באנד 8, העפט 4-3;

Księga kahalu w Działoszynie z Drugiej połowy XVIIIw., in "Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego" 1965' nos. 53,56; C. Rokicki' Wieluń' in "Ziemia" 1902, no.6.

"היינט" 14.6.1921, 2.7.1929 ,2.6.1924  ,29.5.1924, 27.5.1931, 30.7.1935, 7.7.1937;

"דאס יודישע טאגבלאט" 19.6.1938; "לאדזער פאלקסבלאט" 1.7.1915, 12.8.1915; "נייע פאלקסבלאט" 6.3.1935; "פאלקס-צייטונג" 26.9.1913; 5.7.1917;

"Jutrzenka" 6.12.1861, 28.3.1862, 4.4.1862; "Landsberger Lager-Caitung" 23.8.1946; "Nasz Przegląd" 26.7.1934; "Nowy Dziennik" 25.2.1937, 26.2.1937.

 

  

Wieluń

51°13' / 18°33'

(District of Wielun)

 

Population

 

Year

Total

Jews

1777

?

8

1793/94

907

4

1808

1,169

70

1827

2,931

335

1857

3,816

624

1897

7,198

2,732

1921

11,032

4,818

1.9.1939

?

4,200 (approx

Source:

Danuta Dąbrowska and Abraham Wein:

 

 Pinkas Hakehilot Encylopaedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,

Vol. I, the Communities of Lodz and its Region,

 Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1976 , pages 94-98

Translation of the article to English in JewishGen Yizkor Books Database

Translated by Corinne Appleton

Table of Contents

 I. Jewish Settlement up to 1918
II. Between the Two World Wars
III. The Holocaust

Jewish Settlement Up To 1918

At the end of the 13th century Wielun was the administrative center of the region, and achieved town status. During the two following centuries the town enjoyed great economic development; it became the commercial center on the border between Greater Poland and Silesia. Its commercial importance increased in the 15th and 16th centuries with the additional exports of grain and wool from Poland to Silesia. Jews also took part in these export deals; they also dealt in woven cloth. This upswing in the economy prepared the ground for the establishment of a Jewish community in Wielun, the presence of which was recorded as far back as 1537. In 1566, however, the king granted the town 'privilege prohibiting the residence of Jews' in the town. In spite of this, some Jews continued living there, though pressure from the town dwellers brought about the expulsion of these, too, and in the 1720's this first Jewish community ceased to exist. Jewish merchants still frequented the town, though remained just a few days.

Because of the ravages of war - the devastation inflicted on Wielun by the wars of the mid-17th century and beginning of 18th century ---- Jewish merchants gradually discontinued visiting during that period. In the second part of the 18th century, there came about a revival of commercial dealings between Poland and Silesia that continued right up to the mid-19th century. Jewish merchants participated in the trading but did not settle in Wielun because of the 'privilege' forbidding this. In the nearby town of Byczyna, neighboring Silesia, Jewish contribution to local commerce was so outstanding, that the Prussian king issued an order in 1799 forbidding the setting up of a fair on Jewish religious festival days. In spite of the prohibition and objection of the town dwellers to Jews living in Wielun, a Polish landlord, owner of an estate on the outskirts of the town, allowed one Jewish family who had rented an inn and a brewery, to reside there. In the 1770's, a Jew, Joachim Herszlik, was living in Wielun. In 1791, a second Jewish innkeeper and his family took up residence there. During the Prussian conquest the authorities gave permission for Jews to settle in Wielun, and the first group, numbering 10 families, arrived in 1798. Previously they'd lived in a nearby village, Bugaj, and now took advantage of the opportunity offered to move to Wielun. Among them were merchants who engaged in commerce between Poland and Silesia, and craftsmen. In the first half of the 19th century, among Jewish craftsmen were specialists in tailoring and metal (sheet metal workers). A number of Jews set up a tanning factory. In the 1820's a textile plant was established in Wielun and efforts made to industrialize the town; these ended in failure. At that time the Jews supplied the plant with raw materials.

In those days Jews were not allowed to acquire real estate, consequently, up to the 1840's, only two Jews owned houses. During the years 1823-1862 another restriction was imposed on Jews residing in Wielun - the Wielun border strip. Jewish settlement was therefore much curtailed, and between 1823-1828 just 8 families came to Wielun, among them 3 'melamdim' (scholars). In 1840, the local Wielun authorities and town dwellers came to accept in principle the fact of Jews residing in Wielun, though desired to expel those Jews who'd settled there during the period of the 'privilege' of 1823. From the 1820's and nearly up to the cancellation of all residential restrictions on Jews throughout the kingdom of Poland in 1862, attempts were made to set up a Jewish quarter in Wielun. This failed, mainly because Wielun residents lobbied against it with the central authorities in Warszawa.

In the second half of the 19th century, commercial activities conducted by Jewish merchants from Wielun with nearby villages, were very successful. The Jews were the main distributors of industrial equipment and the buyers of agricultural products from the villagers. However, at the beginning of the 20th century there was an upsurge in attacks on lone Jews visiting the area, and as a result tens of families lost their source of income. Other Jews were also deprived of an income because of Polish cooperatives, now in commercial competition with Jews in the villages.

A group of Jews who settled in Wielun in 1798 set about establishing community and religious institutions. First, a place for a synagogue had to be found. At that time, their place of worship was the rented house situated in the market place, belonging to a member of the congregation. In 1799 a building was bought and converted into a synagogue. In 1841, when this building was almost collapsing, they began to construct a new synagogue, and this was completed in about 1855.

Up to 1848 the community of Wielun did not have its own cemetery - the dead were brought for burial in Dzialoszyn; with the outbreak of cholera and the resulting higher death rate a local Jewish cemetery was established. In the second half of the 19th century there were a number of charity organizations such as 'Dressing the Naked', and a 'Wood Committee' whose function was to supply the poor and needy with wood for heating. In 1870 Rabbi Szlomo Srebrnik was the rabbi in place. In 1893 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Grynberg was inducted into the office of rabbi. He established a yeshiva in Wielun. Between the two world wars Rabbi M. H. Rothenberg, and later Rabbi H. Justman, served the community of Wielun.

In the second half of the 19th century the 'Haskala' (enlightenment) movement began to infiltrate the Jewish community of Wielun. Frequent contact with the large Jewish community in nearby Kepno, in the area of the Prussian occupation, who were known for their high standard of secular learning, certainly contributed to this. The influence of the 'Haskala' was most pronounced in ensuring a group of children a secular education. Already in 1827 three students attended a school of Piarist priest teachers. In the 1860's even more Jewish children were attending other public schools. At that time, a group of secular educated Jews in Wielun tried to take over the community committee.

In the 19th century, a number of Jewish students (it is not known exactly how many) attended high school, and a few even went on to institutions of higher learning. One of these was Adolph Kantorowicz, a medical student. In 1863 he was arrested and sent to Siberia for participating in the Polish uprising. It is a fact that the Jews of Wielun did not remain indifferent to the uprising, and actively supported it: a team of Jews, members of a rebel brigade from Wielun, fought at the side of Polish artists. Two of them were taken prisoner by the Russians and executed by hanging. Their bodies were brought for burial to the Jewish cemetery. Jews also took part in activities connected to the revolution of 1905-1907. For such participation, Haim Lipman Beser was expelled to Siberia.

During the First World War (1917) branches of Agudat Yisrael and Hamizrachi were set up in Wielun. In 1915 an organization called 'Jugent Ferien' was established, together with a sports club, and also a library where lessons were conducted in secular subjects.

Between the Two World Wars

During the First World War, the Jewish community of Wielun grew in size as some hundreds of Jewish workers and their families arrived from Lodz, and settled in the town and suburbs. The commercial difficulties encountered by the Jews, difficulties that had already been in evidence some years before the war, continued for some years afterwards. Nevertheless, many Jews wandered among the villages with their wares. Most of the Jews were craftsmen in fact they made up 65% of all the craftsmen in the town. After much effort the Union of Jewish Craftsmen was established in 1919, the members belonging to various professions. Outside of the frameworks of the union, in 1929 a hairdresser's corporation, consisting of both Jews and Poles, was set up. In the 1920's a Jewish cooperative bank was founded where small-scale businesses and craftsmen could receive low interest loans. A group of Jews set up a successful business in transport, which, because of Wielun being far from the main railway lines, became an integral part of life in the town. A bus now traveled the route between Wielun and Lodz, picking up passengers from the towns in between. In the 1930's 12 private buses, most of them belonging to Jews, were in use. In 1935, bus owners set up a limited transport company.

In the period between the two world wars, apart from the Mizrachi branch, which had been introduced during the war, the following Zionist organizations were established in Wielun: General Zionists, Hitachdut (from 1929), Poalei Zion (left wing) and the Revisionists. At the same time a number of Zionist youth organizations were set up: Gordoniah (in 1930 a training farm was organized in the border area near Wielun).

The election results to the Zionist Congresses during the years 1929-1937 indicate the influence the different parties exerted on the voters within the Wielun Zionist camp.

Election Results - Zionist Congresses -1929-1937

Votes

Lists
1929  1935 1937  
57  228 216 General Zionists 'a'
98 171 22 General Zionists 'b'
161 131 110 Hamizrachi
28  3 The Revisionists
36  600 596 The League of Eretz Yisrael Workers

Agudat Yisrael, whose party was already active in Wielun before the war, was the most influential of all the parties up to 1931. In the congregation committee elections in 1924 and 1929 half of the elected representatives were from Agudat Yisrael. However, in the elections of 1931, they were in the minority. At that time, the General Zionists organized a united block with Mizrachi, and this got the majority vote.

Congregation election results of 1924-1931
Number of Representatives Lists
1924 1929 1931  
1 - 1 Poalei Zion
3 - - Hamizrachi
2 9 The Zionists
- - 1 Hasidei Alexander
6 4 6 Agudat Yisrael
- 4 - The Jewish National Bloc (Zionists)

During the First World War (in 1915), the town council consisted of four representatives from every nationality: Jewish, Polish and German. The Jewish members of the council, on more than one occasion, played a decisive role in council political arguments. Their representatives stood united in an effort to obtain financial support from the council for Jewish public institutions. This endeavor was rewarded in the budget year 1927/8 with funds for this purpose, for the very first time. From the Wielun town council budget amounting to 365,000 zloty in 1929/30, a mere 6,000 zloty were allotted to Jewish institutions. However, in the budget of 1930/1 the sum allotted to Jewish institutions was raised by another 1,500 zloty, even though the council budget had that year been reduced by 5,000 zloty.

A short time after the First World War, the charity organizations 'Dressing the Naked' and 'Haltz Hevra' were disbanded. The increase in the Jewish population and the changes in the economic situation called for a different approach to mutual aid. Among the new public aid institutions were Kupat Gemel Hassidim, which was set up by the Mizrachi Movement, and other Zionist organizations granted support and small loans; their funds were subsidized to a small degree by the local council. The organization 'Bikur Holim' (visiting the sick) – which changed its name in 1925 to 'Lenat Hazedek' (overnight charity), supplied medical help and food. It received financial support from both the community and local councils; part of the budget was covered by donations collected from the congregation. 'Lenat Hazedek' owned a pharmacy and a laboratory with up-to-date equipment. A group of women was active in a women's organization 'Kranken Frauen Hevra' (women's help for the sick). They cared for the indigent sick, and for those who lived alone. They were a great help to 'Lenat Hazedek'.

Jewish educational institutions in Wielun consisted of chaderim: Yesodi (primary) Torah and Talmud Torah, and in 1919 'Beit Ulpana' was set up under the direction of the Mizrachi, and in 1930 was integrated into the network of Yavneh schools. In the 1920's a school for girls, Beit Yaakov, was established; only a very small number of girls actually went there. About 500 pupils attended the Jewish schools: 30% of children of school age, the rest studied at the government elementary schools, some of them eventually going on to the government high school of science for boys. The Jewish library, established in 1915 next to the 'Jugent Ferien', continued its activities right up to the Second World War, and became an important cultural center in the town. A drama group was formed, nearby. In 1924 a new sports club was set up in a similar place to the one that existed during the First World War.

In the 1930's anti-Semitism intensified in Wileun, and the economic boycott gradually brought about the impoverishment of those Jews who owned shops and market stalls. At the beginning of 1937 the act of throwing stones at the synagogue was renewed: on one occasion 100 windows were smashed, and parts of the interior destroyed. Attempts were also made to create an atmosphere for pogrom by provocation: in 1937 two young Poles desecrated a grave in a Catholic cemetery and left in place a couple of Jewish hats wrapped in a Jewish newspaper. These young men then tried to sell a Jewish shopkeeper a cross from the grave, however the shopkeeper was suspicious of them and alerted the police. Thus the provocation plot was uncovered and disaster to the Jewish congregation averted.

One unforgettable event in the darkening atmosphere of anti-Semitism was the remembrance ceremony for two Jews who took part in the Polish uprising of 1863. This took place in 1935 in the Jewish cemetery, and in attendance at the side of the Jewish delegation, were Polish army and civil representatives.

The Holocaust

Wielun was completely destroyed in the first two days of the outbreak of the Second World War by air bomb attacks and artillery shelling. There were thousands of injured and dead bodies covered the streets. Most of the houses burnt down. Masses of the population fled the town, including most of the Jews. Among the Jews who arrived in Piotrkow Trybunalski and Zelow were many injured; some of the escapees reached Warszawa. Following the German army occupation of Wielun, most of the Jewish refugees returned and settled in the rubble of their former homes, or in sheds.

Within the framework of the Germanization of the town, up to 1941 all the Poles had been expelled and replaced with Germans from the Baltic countries, from Wolyn and Bessarabia. In 1940, a pamphlet published by the local authorities called 'Wielun', made an appearance, its aim being to prove the German character of the town. It had a distinct anti-Semitic tone showing pictures of Jews being humiliated, or others behaving in a vile manner.

During the first months of the occupation, particularly in November 1939, many Jews and Poles were arrested, most of them from intellectual circles. After ten days in the local prison, they were sent – including the Jews among them – to the camp in Radogoszcz near Lodz. In November 24 Poles were shot to death; in December 22 - both Poles and Jews – were shot; in February 1940, 25 (or possibly 27) were shot, and in March 15 - including both Jews and Poles. All these executions took place in the Jewish cemetery.

In December 1940 there were 4,053 Jews in Wielun (450 of them refugees). Most of them were concentrated, from 1940, in a quarter of the town referred to by all as ghetto; the place was not fenced off. Actually, some of the Jews remained, at least during the period of 1940-41, in their previous homes, that is, outside of the ghetto area. During this time they were allowed access to every part of the town, except for on certain days: at first it was market days: Tuesdays and Fridays, and in 1941, Sundays. On these days Jews were not permitted to be outside of the ghetto.

During the whole period of the occupation, the Germans used the Jews as forced laborers. The kidnapping of Jewish men began in the first days of the occupation. Their labor was put to use clearing up the rubble, dismantling the remains of the bombed houses, rebuilding, and so on. After the establishment of the ghetto, nearly all the able men were taken to work - for army institutions, offices and for private Germans in Wielun and the vicinity. The daily pay for these laborers was very low and added up to an average sum of 150 marks. However, basic foodstuffs were cheap, and these they bought, illegally, and easily, from the local farmers (a 2 kilos loaf of bread – 0.70 marks; a bushel of potatoes – 4 marks; a dozen eggs – 0.70 marks) so did not suffer starvation, especially since they also received a small ration supplied according to a ration card. A number of Jews earned money from illegal commercial activities, and craftsmen produced goods for private orders.

The Jewish population of Wielun was subjected to continuous kidnappings of men who were transported to labor camps in the region of Poznan, and to the area of the Reich itself. Well-to-do members of the population managed to free themselves from transportation through payment of a large bribe to the German police.

All community religious activities ceased. The synagogue had already burnt when the town was bombed, its walls dismantled by the Jews themselves, as ordered by the authorities. The wooden Beth Midrash (study house) had become a refuge for Jewish refugees; the Germans had already robbed the place of its valuable book collection. During the early days of fighting the Jews made great efforts to save ritual and prayer articles from the synagogue and Beth Midrash. The beadle managed to hide two scrolls of the law, which however did not survive the bombardment of the town. He also hid some holy relics in the cellar of the head of the community. Following the conquest of the town, the Germans learnt of this, and a Jew, who knew the whereabouts of these articles, was tortured until he revealed the hidden place, which the Germans then plundered. They also demolished the Jewish cemetery and ordered the Jews to use the headstones to build a swimming pool for the Germans.

The wave of terror that began in the first months of 1942 was a kind of introduction to the mass exterminations that came later. In the first quarter of that year, (sources indicate various dates: January 10, 1942, February, during the festival of Pesach), ten Jews were publicly hanged. Sources give different versions of the identity of these Jews, and how they came to be arrested, what is certain is that the pretext used by the Germans concerned the illegal slaughter of cattle. It seems that the perpetrator of the crime went into hiding, and in his place the Germans arrested, with help of the Jewish police, some tens of Jews from whom they selected ten, by drawing lots. From one source we are told that together with these victims, the head of the Judenrat and his deputy were also hanged, this because they dared to express their objection to the German authorities' demands to choose ten men. There is however no confirmation of this from other sources. The job of hangmen was forced on the Jews themselves, and the hangings took place in the square of the old market (outside of the ghetto) to the sound of music, and in the presence of crowds, including Jews, compelled to attend.
In April 1942 2,000 Jews were expelled from Wielun. It seems the expulsion began on April 12. It is not known whether those expelled were sent to extermination or to forced labor in the burgeoning work camps. According to one source, victims of the manhunt conducted by the Germans were mainly the elderly, physically weak or children. German police surrounded the ghetto, others entered, and in an action that lasted a number of days, grabbed the Jews and forced them on to trucks that carried them away in an unknown direction. The Jews who remained sent some Poles, whom they paid, to try and find out which direction the truck had taken, but this was never discovered.

In June 1942, the chairman of the Judenrat, Lipszyc, was called to the Gestapo office and there murdered. His body was found a few days later in a nearby forest.

The second mass expulsion effected the elimination not only of the Jewish settlement in Wielun, but included all the Jews in the whole region. It began on August 22,.1942. Some 10,000 Jews from Wielun and adjoining towns, were jammed inside one of the churches, and held there in appalling conditions for some days. A selection was organized inside the church and the courtyard, during which a group of 922 people, 250 of them from Wielun, were separated from the rest as being fit for physical labor (probably among them were craftsmen) and sent to Ghetto of Lodz. The remaining Jews were transported to the extermination camp in Chełmno. The selection was conducted by members of the Gestapo from Lodz, and also by the German administration of the Lodz ghetto. During this selection process hundreds of Jews died from exhaustion and physical and mental agony, or were murdered on the way to the church or within the concentration area.

At the end of the war, the first Jewish survivors of Wielun returned to their town from the labor camp at 'Hasag' in Czestochowa. They set up a committee whose task was to organize temporary living conditions for the returnees, and to restore the cemetery. The committee also replied to those from abroad who were seeking news of the fate of relatives, and took charge of distributing the aid provided by Jewish organizations, among the survivors now returning from liberated areas, and from the Soviet Union.

The Poles greeted the survivors with extreme hostility, and there were even instances of murder. The son of a landowner in the village of Wolkow, near Wielun, was shot when he came to take back his land. This is how the new owners decided to rid themselves of an unwanted inheritor.

 


The memorial monument to Wielun and environs, in Kiryat Shaul cemetery, Tel Aviv.

 


To the memory of the martyrs of Wielun and environs, who perished in the Holocaust: Wiełun, Bolków, Bolesławiec, Brzeźnica, Działoszyn, Wieruszów, Złoczew, Lututów, Pajéczno, Praszka, Sknyńńo

Day of Remembrance: 27 Nisan


Zipi Berkowicz, sucessor generation, near the Wielun memorial monument. In the middle is a brass replica of Wielun synagogue.

 

The names of the families were transcribed by Zipi Berkowicz and Ada Holtzman and will be posted soon in this web site

 

Last updated June 17th, 2008

 

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