After the translocation the building will be renovated and expanded. As a result the Place of Memory and Reflection ”Beit ha Midrasz” will be created. Itwill be an educational and cultural center led by Society.
„Not for the dead” is a title of the film about the activity of Mr. Bogdan Białek and the Jan Karski Society.

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Letters from the Ghetto

lgmale
God is humane, a man is inhumane

Mikolaj Bierdiayev,

“Philosophical Autobiography”,

1940

 

Hitler will pass like a bad dream (…) The world will cease to be a slaughterhouse. The order and peace will return. Many years later a child will ask: “Mom, did they kill a man or a Jew?”

Maria Kann,

“In the World’s eyes”,

1943

 

 

This is the Nation, which itself received from God “thou shall not kill” commandment, yet it experienced killing in a particular way.

John Paul II,

from his speech delivered in Auschwitz,

1979

 

„Letters from the Ghetto” (download)

 

Moshe Meir Bahn, a Jew who was saved from the Ghetto in Kielce, after many years recalls a deportation of Jews from Kielce to Treblinka in August of 1942. The deportation was done in four transports. He said, “before the second shipment, it was decided to liquidate the home for orphans. There were 200 children. The home was located in the Jewish quarter, which was to be shipped out in the second transport. All children along with their teacher Gucia, were lead to a large trench at the Nowy Świat Street, then children were ordered to undress. The children did not want to undress, and then Gucia was ordered to undress the children.

 

She refused. The Ukrainian nationalists started to hit her. The children sobbed, ”Mom save us!”. They were undressed forcibly. One of the Jewish policemen was ordered to bring the children to the trench and Rumpel started shooting them by single shots. Ninety percent of children fallen into the trenches were still alive. They were placed in the trench forty at the time in a single layer and then lime was poured on the top of them.

 

Several such layers were formed.” These children who survived (about 20 kids) were murdered in the bakery courtyard at the corner of Jasna and Okrzei Streets. Germans killed kids from the third isolation ward by pushing them out of the third floor of the St. Alexander hospital.

 

Zygmunt Śliwinski, from Kielce saw what was happening in ghetto through the windows of his flat at 63 Piotrkowska Street. He said: “I also saw during liquidation of Kielce ghetto a happening during which German military police brought to a square at Radomska Street around 30 pregnant Jewish women. They were ordered to kneel on the ground and Germans shot them. I saw this from a distance of about 13 meters.”

 

Another eyewitness said: “Gestapo under the command of a man named Thomas held a contest, which one of them could kill more people. They held their pistols in various unusual positions like between their legs, above shoulders, they were a bit drunk, but not truly intoxicated.” The above mentioned Moshe Bahn describes the first day of deportations: “Six thousand Jews were led through Młynarska Street. Both sides of the street were lined by Poles watching them. Behind the Jews were a few horse pulled carts and if someone fell because of being tired or could not keep up with the column, a Jewish policeman grabbed the person and brought him/her to the carts, where an SS man shot that person at once.  

 

According to a historian Jacek Andrzej Młynarczyk, during the three days of resettlement action, about 15 thousand people were deported from Kielce ghetto to Treblinka death camp. Around two thousand were liquidated as “unable to stand transport. Only about five hundred were able to run away, a part of them attempted to join the local guerillas. Only a few survived. Germans placed around two thousand in local labor camps, later these people were shipped to Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

 

Whenever I walk through Jasna, Okrzei or Nowy Świat Streets, these scenes from years ago, I heard or read about, come back in my mind. One, described to me by a friend who lived in Kielce then as a teenager, especially stuck in my memory, He said that he walked through the street, a few paces ahead of him there was a young couple walking, a tall German in a military uniform and a young elegant Jewish woman, whom my friend knew. The couple talked, laughed, the German held her hand. Suddenly the German pulled out his gun out of his holster, placed the gun to the woman’s temple, and shot her. Then he walked away leaving the dead body on the sidewalk.

 

I, in turn, remember well my childhood years in Białystok, when I saw kids playing on the grounds where bodies of Białystok ghetto Jews were laid. Until this day I can see skulls, bones, and a soccer ball rolling among them. Adults did not react to this. School, parents, clergy and militiamen did not react either, no one did. Children had to play somewhere. But I did not play there. I do not remember what I thought, but I remember my feelings of awe, and shame. I remember the day when bulldozers and laborers appeared to level the place.

 

The purpose was to build a nice playground with swings and sand boxes and I remember the pain I felt then. It was the moment when the last menorah from Białystok sunk into abyss. Soon after, the last Jews from Białystok left the town, these were just a few families that miraculously survived. This happened twenty years after so called WW II. Already or just twenty years? What meaning does time have in this case? How many such happenings occurred in Poland?

 

Take for that example Opatów, not too far from Kielce, there is no trace of the Jewish cemetery and in the place where the ohel (a tomb) of an eminent Jewish clergyman once stood is now a concert shell, and over graves of the murdered Jewish victims, people walk today, shop, listen to concerts and have a good time. The memories of my childhood, things that I saw or heard, come alive whenever I walk through the streets where Kielce Ghetto once was. I see houses, the silent few witnesses of those tragic times. Yet I do not see even the smallest plaque as a testimony to the despair, pain, and suffering of these innocent, defenseless victims. It really is not about building monuments everywhere.

 

Our soil, our nation many of our nation’s sons and daughters deserve to be immortalized in stone and metal. What matters is stopping the memories from dying, for this is the sole thing that we can still do. Especially that we could do so little then and later. We have to look for new ways to sensitize our memory and the memory of those who will come after us. One of these things is a book. And one of them is this one.

 

BOGDAN BIAŁEK

The Chairman of the Jan Karski Society