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Name of deponent: N. Meryn

Transfer of the Jews from Bedzin to the Kamionka ghetto

In 1941 there began displacement of Jews from our town to its suburb in Kamionka, where a ghetto had been created. All who had previously lived on ul. Saczewskiego, Kollataja, Pl. 3 Maja and part of ul. Kosciuszki wee required to move there. When the authorities decided that a ghetto must be established in Kamionka, they also decided that there must be a second part of the ghetto established on Podzamcze street. The Judenrat designated these two into "Judenviertel C" and “Judenviertel D” since in Sosnowiec there were "Judenviertel A & B".

In Bedzin’s "Judenviertel C” had to live all Jews working in Rossner's workshop and those working in the "Judenrat", The remainder of the people had to live in the second ghetto, "Judenviertel D" (Jewish Quarter D). Naturally each Jewish family wanted to get an apartment in "Judenviertel C” because Rossner's people were believed to be safe from deportation. In response to this wish, the Judenrat organized a committee composed of Judenrat officials and Jewish managers of Rossner's workshop. This committee task was to take money from Jews who want to live in "Judenviertel C”. Anyone who paid the requisite fee was accepted into Rossner's workshop. Such a person was added to a special list with marked: “for Rossner”.

Such a person could be even a 70 year-old Jew or an old Jewish woman or someone ill. If they were on the list for which they paid a great deal, they would receive a blue card stamped "Judenviertel C” and written on the card would be that the bearer is a tailor. There was also another mark on a list which indicated to the German or Jewish police that it wasn’t allowed to arrest him (for deportation). Another person would be given a yellow card stamped with the mark "Judenviertel D”. This meant available for deportation.

In Rossner's workshop worked real tailoring specialists, but since they were poor they were dismissed and received a card marked "Judenviertel D”. In the place of a true tailor were the people who paid.

This committee worked from the beginning of November 1941 to the end of December 1942. In February 1943, the Judenrat began to displace Jews again from Kamionka to the town because it was necessary to empty poor people from the apartments in Kamionka. The empty apartments were given for large sums to rich Jews. For this reason, there was created a new Judenrat department called the Housing Department.

The committee began by decreeing that each family had to pay a tax for "Umzug" (a moving fee). Each household at first readily gave money because it thought that now it will receive an apartment in a safe place. Later, it was announced that there would be only one ghetto in Kamionka and it would be joined with Little Srodula.

It was also announced that Bedzin must be empty of Jews beginning in May 1943. The Judenrat also ordered who would move first, according to the street of residence. People ran to the Housing Department to secure an apartment by paying a sum (bribe) of money. Large sums were offered.

Those who paid the most received an apartment on Friedrich- strasse (ul. Zagorska). Everyone knew that on this street only very rich Jews could live. An apartment there cost from 10,000 to 20,000 marks. A person who got an apartment at all was very proud and looked down on those who didn't yet have an apartment. Jews who were poor built sheds on open fields made from old wardrobes. The roofs were made from boards and covered with old linoleum.
Many people also lived in stables, pigsties and jail cells. An apartment, if someone got one, was very small because Kamionka was the poorest working persons quarter with very small apartments. In those apartments it wasn’t possible to put any furniture. The space for each person was only two square meters. Because people couldn't use furniture indoors, they left it still in yards and gardens. On one day the Jewish police came with trucks and took all the abandoned furniture to one pile and burnt them. In one apartment lived 2 or 3 families together. Larger families made double- or triple-story beds of boards.

But all this didn't last long because on May 20, 1943 took place the first deportation from the Kamionka streets. Again on the 22 and 24 of June 1943, about 5,000 people were deported. These sorrows created more living space for the survivors.

On July 20 1943, Jews from Dabrowa Górnicza were resettled in Kamionka and Srodula so that, again, there was little space. However, this situation did no last long, only a few days, because on August 1, 1943 began the general deportation "Judenrein" of all Jewish persons in Kamionka and Srodula.

The first deportation to Germany took place in October 1940. This was accomplished by a summons sent to each selected person. The recipients were told to report to the Jewish Orphanage in Bedzin. Naturally there were many people, who didn't come because they knew what to expect from work in German camps. Then German police with a Jewish policeman went to the apartments of the person who didn't report as requested. If the person whom they sought was not there, they took as hostage a father or mother or sister. In this manner, the person ordered to appear for forced labor had to report.

Later, in 1941, deportation Aktions were undertaken by the Judenrat. Now they didn't send a summons. The Jewish police merely came unexpectedly at night firstly knocking on the door and windows of the apartment. Sometimes there were cases in which the person who opened the door was beaten because the police were forced to knock for too long. The police also took hostages if they didn't find person selected by the Judenrat for deportation to Germany. Thus, sometimes entire families went into hiding sensing that the police might come to take someone of their family.

Then the Judenrat began using sanctions. They sealed apartments. If there were enough Jewish police, they crashed into an apartment, took furniture from rooms in the upper floors and threw it through the windows into yard. They caught members of a family on the street, arrested and held them as hostages in the Judenrat’s jail.

On March 21, 1943 there began a general Arbeitseinsatz. All establishments, even the most important places of employment had to give 50% of workers.
The President of the Judenrat and the more important representatives of the Community called a meeting and spoke to the people about the dangers threatening old people, if young people wouldn’t report for Arbeitseinsatz. The officials said that to maintain an orderly draft they would henceforth send summons according to the alphabet and each person would be responsible for himself. They also described their activity until now saying they wanted to save old people from deportation by the Germans. They urged young persons to volunteer for Arbeitseinsatz, because this was the only way to save the lives of older people as, for example, their parents, from deportation. They said, too, that they couldn’t take responsibility for consequences if no one reported for Arbeitseinsatz.

As promised, they sent as the first summons to those with family names beginning with the letter "F". For those summons, a very small number of young people reported because they knew that it would save no one. Then the police came at night with summonses for everyone. They took many persons from various apartments at that time. If someone taken had backing from the Judenrat president, he was saved. All the rest were sent to the Durchgangslager (transient camp) in Sosnowiec.

At that time the German Treuhändler (Trustees) went to Sonderbeauftragter (SS General Albrecht Schmelt) in Sosnowiec and asked him to set free their most necessary workers. They did this, in most of the cases, for large sums of money received from the Jews. All the rest of the Jews were sent to Germany.
It was at the beginning of 1942 when the Jewish Community (the Judenrat) sent information about taxes to be paid the Judenrat. Just before calculating the tax to be levied upon a person, the Community sent its own secret agents, who checked on how the citizen seemed to be doing, how he ate, etc. According to their findings they calculated the taxes levied.

An example of one such secret agent who came to an apartment on the pretext of checking the number of residents in the apartment. While he wrote data he took out cigarettes, but lacked matches. The owner of the apartment wanted to give him matches, but he said, “Thanks, but matches should be saved”. He then ran quickly to the kitchen and lit his cigarette from the stove’s flame, all the while looking into the pots to see what the residents were cooking.

The inspectors generally walked in on Thursdays and on Fridays. Jews during the occupation usually didn't have money, but lived from selling their jewelry and clothes which they had had from before the war. A small percentage of people made money during the war. If the agent saw a piece of meat in a pot, he noted this secretly in documents. After some time had passed, the person would receive an enormous tax bill.

Naturally, the Judenrat calculated in advance that they would have to lower by some 50% of the invoiced amount. The Jews would come to the Judenrat office with a complaint, but the officials of the Financial Department were without mercy. They didn't want to listen to the refractory payers, but read from documents what kind of food the payer had bought as recently as the previous Saturday.

The official would read from the document: “Your wife bought a goose for Saturday goose. It sounded like that: "ein toit hind mit gejle fiszlech" (a dead hen with yellow feet). You have 5 kg of wheat flour, 1 kg of sugar, and other products bought on free market”. If the payer still asked for remission or reduction of the appointed tax, the Jewish official replied: "Please don't appeal to my conscience because when I come in the morning to the office, I hang my heart with my overcoat on the rack".

The payer explains farther that he received the food in exchange for the sale of his possessions, his clothes. Then the official would reply: "If you have money for such food you must have money for us too, for the Community". The conversation was ended when the official would say: “If you can't pay, don't pay". The Citizen would leave happy in the belief that they wouldn’t invoke any sanctions against him. After two days, there would arrive unexpectedly at his apartment 4 or 5 porters who declared: "Per order of the Judenrat, we are required to live here in your apartment. You have to keep us and you must leave your beds because we will be sleeping in them". They would sit down at the table and demand food. If they didn't get the food quickly, they went to sideboard and took out food and ate it all.

The housekeeper had to cook for them whole pots of food, otherwise they would wreck the apartment. Naturally, after two or three days like this, the citizen had to sell everything in his home house to cover the taxes asked by the Judenrat so as to be rid of the unwanted parasites. After some time this method of tax collection was changed and the Judenrat used another method:

Sometimes stubborn non-payers received a summons from the Gestapo office in Sosnowiec. Everyone was afraid to report to the Gestapo, they wouldn't know why they had been contacted. However, if one didn’t respond, then the Germans might come for the entire family and deport them. So in such cases people went with pounding hearts to the Gestapo office. The Gestapo official asked only why they didn't want to pay their taxes. The Gestapo didn't want to hear reasons told by a Jew, merely warning him with the threat that if he didn’t pay within seven days, he would face the consequences. This was the best method since for every Jew being able NOT to go to the Gestapo office was a reason for which he was willing to give his last shirt.

At the beginning of June 1943, Moses Merin, president of the Centrale Judenrat called on all the people of the Bedzin Ghetto saying to them that they should give all their gold and foreign currency, all that they possess, to save their lives.
On the day following this speech the Judenrat sent prepared vouchers on which was given the first and last name of the Jew and how much gold he must give to the Judenrat for delivery to the Gestapo. Some Jews knew, however, that this was purposeless, that the gold wouldn’t save them from deportation so they didn't give anything. Furthermore, there were such persons who had gold or currency.
Those people who didn't pay the required gold were taken at night by the Jewish police and held in the Judenrat jail. Those arrested were deported during the Aktion of 22 June 1943.

In the winter 1942-43, SS General Schmelt’s office published an order requiring all Jews to register with the Schmelt Organization. For this purpose, a special German committee operated for several weeks in the building of the Jewish Orphanage performing the registration. They issued two types of cards: blue and green. People believed that those who were given green cards were selected for deportation.

The two groups of cards were divided into subsections: into a group “C” and group “D”. Group C was seen as privileged because owners of this card had to live together with all Jews in the ghetto while owners of group D cards had to live outside of the ghetto.

Not infrequently, there were incidents in which people who were given green cards committed suicide out of despair. Those officials, however, who forecast a general end to the Jewish presence disregarded this color-code division.

The registration lasted more than 2 months. People close to the Centrale Judenrat said that the entire procedure was the idea of “Leiter” Moses Merin for the purpose of delaying the appointed time for creating the ghetto in Zaglebie. For the German authorities who received a great deal of money from this subterfuge, it was also a good idea. In this manner, the Germans could hide behind the pretext of needed administration work o avoid the duty of being sent to the battlefront.