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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.