On 7 August 1943 the Gestapo returned and we understood straightaway that there was to be another 'selection'. We knew well enough what this meant. It meant yet more torture, suffering and death. We decided not to allow ourselves to be led like sheep to the slaughter, and that as the last choice open to us - it were to become clear that the end was near and that we were to be martyred as Jews - we would join together to destroy the camp by fire.
On 9 August the uprising broke out [this date is almost certainly a mistake: there is evidence to suggest that the uprising occurred on 13 Augustl.7 Tabaczinski and Kleinot from Gostynin, and Kamlazh from Gombin, set fire to the sheds and hanged themselves in the blaze. In the main barracks, Seif from Gostynin and Philip from Gombin hanged themselves. The same fate befell Nusenowicz and Shlomo Michelski from Gostynin and Dr Knopf, a Jew from Germany.8 The bloody nightmare of that event will stay with me all my life.
...After firemen put out the blaze, we miraculously remained alive, surrounded by a strong guard. The Germans ordered us to drag out all the dead, the burned and the hanged, and asked me and an elderly Jew from Gombin to deal with the corpses. . . As it happened, the first body was that of a young friend of mine, Shlomo Michelski. My brother cut him from the rope, and kept the rope in order to hang himself - such was the suicidal psychology that swept over us that day. When we cut Shlomo down, he was still alive, and an SS man put a bullet through his eye.
I went up to the dead man, and despite all that had happened to him, the hanging and the shooting - and with it all he had always been a weak lad - he, to my great shock and distress, opened the other eye and recognized me. I could not stand the heartache. I approached the German and begged him to shoot me. As usual, they refused a request . . . The bloody spectra of those hard days in the Konin camp whirls round and round in my head like a demon, wherever I look or turn.
The tragic occurrence made a powerful impression on the people of Konin. We, the fortunate survivors, stood with bowed heads before our heroes who would not allow the name Jew to be shamed.9
1)Theo Richmond, "Konin a Quest", Vintage 1996, UK, chapter 48. The testimony appeared in Yiddish in the Yizkor book of Gostynin: "Pinkas Gostynin, J.M. Biderman, The Gostynin Landsmanschaften, New York, 1960, pages 303-307, as well as in Konin Memorial Book, M. Gelbart, Tel Aviv 1968, pages 623-4..
Notes by Theo Richmond:
7) Eva Feldenkreis, the Director of Archives of the Ghetto Fighters' House (Beit Lochamei Hagetaot), having thoroughly invesitgated all the evidence in her care, believes that the revolt occurred on 13 August. She has shown me the evidence, and it us convincing.
8)The last name is given mistakenly in the Yiddish text as Krapf. The correct name is Dr Hans Knopf. There is also some discrepancy between these eight names and those given by Zvi Szner, On p. 108 (Zvi Szner, "The Records Kept by the Rabbi of Sanniki", Beit Lochamei Hagetaot, 1958) he names seven prisoners who lost their lives by suicide (I have added forenames in brackets): '[Feivish] Kamlazh, [Philip] Zielonka, [Abraham] Seif, Getzel Kleinot the gardener, Kamlazh's father-in-law Abraham Neudorf, Dr Hans Knopf of Berlin, and Zalman Nusenowicz...' Szner interviewed the survivors, including Rabbi Aaronson, and the Ghetto Fighters' House judges his list to be the more accurate.
9)Shmulek Ben Zion Motil, KMB P 623-4. He died in Israel in December 1980.
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