Krasnystaw was not a typical Jewish community of the
Lublin region. Whereas in most of the provincial towns of the
before the war, Jews formed a majority of
the inhabitants, in Krasnystaw they represented a minority. Jews settled in Krasnystaw later
than in other towns of the region. Until the beginning of the 19th century Krasnystaw was the
residence of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Chelm
and Jews were not permitted to settle in the town (a similar regulation was in place in other
Bishops' residences in central Poland, for example in
). It was only in the first half of the 19th century,
when the governance of such towns was changed by the Russian administration from religious
to state jurisdiction, that these anti-Jewish regulations were abolished and Jews could settle in
such places. The Jewish population grew rapidly, but up until the outbreak of WW2, Krasnystaw
was not among the largest Jewish communities of Krasnystaw County.
The most active Jewish community in this region was in Izbica
located only 14 km from Krasnystaw, where the number of Jews was much greater. Shortly
before the war about 2,500 Jews lived in Krasnystaw out of a total population of 10,000.
Krasnystaw was a typical shtetl
and most of the Jews were merchants and artisans.
Not far from Krasnystaw, in the village Borowica
, one of the leaders of the Bund
(Jewish Socialist Party)
in Poland, and during the war a representative of the Polish Government in Exile in
, was born in 1895
he committed suicide on the final liquidation of the
Warsaw Ghetto. His suicide was an act of protest against the
indifference of the world in the face of the annihilation of the Jews of Poland.
|Germans invading Krasnystaw *
|Germans in Krasnystaw
On 14 September 1939
German units captured Krasnystaw after a short battle, and
during the next few days German soldiers looted valuables and goods from many Jewish
families in the town. In addition, 13 Jews from Krasnystaw were executed as hostages
at that time on the grounds that the Jews had organised resistance against the German
army during the fighting in this region. Jews were also forced to work as slave labourers
for the German Wehrmacht
On 24 September 1939
the Soviet Army, which had invaded eastern Poland on
arrived in Krasnystaw and remained there for about two weeks. During the subsequent
withdrawal of the Soviet Army, many Jews, especially younger members of the community,
decided to leave with them. However, it is difficult to accurately estimate how many Jews
then left the town.
The Germans returned to Krasnystaw and new atrocities against the Jews were organised.
Poles were also extensively persecuted during this period of the Nazi occupation. At the beginning
, many members of the Polish intelligentsia in Krasnystaw were arrested and deported
to concentration camps in Germany. Additionally, a number of Polish intellectuals were executed in
, at Kumowa Dolina (Kumowa Valley)
|Destroyed Synagogue *
The first Judenrat
in Krasnystaw was established at the beginning of 1940
of this institution was Lipa Reichman
. Other members were
Issachar Rozenbaum, Alter Katz
Survivors from Krasnystaw did not have a good opinion about their activities. Some members
of the Judenrat
were accused of bribery and collaboration with the German administration.
From inception, the Judenrat
was responsible for collecting the money and valuables that
constituted the contributions demanded by the Nazis. The Jewish police of the town were also
very active during these collections. Most of the members of the Jewish police were friends or
relatives of Judenrat
members. Among the Jewish policemen were
Ben-Zion Rozenblat, Mosze Szmaragd, Josef Zylbercan
In comparison with other towns in the Lublin district
the ghetto in Krasnystaw was established very quickly in August 1940
German administration in the town
(Krasnystaw was the county town for the whole region) decided to remove the Jews from the
town centre, officially claiming that Krasnystaw had been destroyed in September 1939
that German institutions required more space for themselves.
At that time 1,690 Jews lived in Krasnystaw. All of them were resettled to the suburb of
, to a very tiny area in a very poor part
of the town. There were only small wooden houses in Grobla
which is naturally separated from the town itself by the Wieprz River. There was no supply
of electricity in this district and water could only be obtained from the river or from one of
At first the ghetto was not closed, but Jews were not allowed to enter the centre of Krasnystaw.
During the move to the ghetto and later, particularly before the German invasion of the Soviet
Union in 1941
, a group of 300-400 Jews was resettled to
and to the neighbouring village of Siennica Rozana
The official order concerning this resettlement from Krasnystaw stated that the German army
required more space for its troops. Before the invasion of the Soviet Union, German soldiers
attacked the ghetto several times, assaulting Jews on the street (the ghetto consisted of a single,
long street) and plundering their homes.
the ghetto was closed, and surrounded by barbed wire. Simultaneously, a work camp for
Jews was organised in Krasnystaw, close to the Borek Forest
and Jews working for the Wehrmacht
/ ammunition depot for the armed
forces) were initially taken there every day. In 1942
two barracks were built
for the prisoners at the
labour camp, where they lived until the liquidation of the camp.
The next resettlement of Jews from the Krasnystaw Ghetto was on 12 April 1942
the first deportations to the death camps had already begun within the framework of
. A large group was removed from the ghetto to
and later, together with Jews from that town, deported to the
Belzec death camp. As the Kreishauptmann
resettlement from Krasnystaw was necessary because the first transports, containing
deported Czech and German Jews, had already arrived in Krasnystaw County and the Germans
required space to accommodate them. Most of the foreign Jews were settled in
Foreign Jews were not settled in the Krasnystaw ghetto; however, a group of about 400 Czech
Jews, mainly young and strong men, were selected from the transports and were sent to the work
camp near the Borek Forest
On 12 May 1942
, a large-scale deportation from Krasnystaw County to the
Sobibor death camp began. Thousands of Jews were taken to Krasnystaw
town from all over the county. They had to walk many kilometres. All of them were gathered in an
unfinished school building located at the edge of the Grobla Ghetto
and opposite the railway station. In this overcrowded building, which did not yet contain windows,
without food or water, people waited for the transports to the death camp. Pregnant women gave
birth there. The selections took several days. Approximately 600 men Polish, German and Czech
Jews - were deported to
KZ Majdanek. All others were deported on 14 May
. Among them were about 700-800 Jews
from Krasnystaw, 1,000 from Zolkiewka
, 500 from
, 2,000 from Turobin
1,000 from Izbica
, 1,000 from Gorzkow
and some 500 from Siennica Rozana
a total of 6,700-6,800 men, women and children.
, a survivor of Sobibor
who was amongst those deported from Turobin
described this deportation:
"(...) On 12 May, SS-men and Ukrainians surrounded the town.
Early in the morning, they announced that we were going to be deported and that by 9 o'clock
all Jews should be in the town square. I came there with my aunt. My uncle and their children
went into hiding. I was so fed up with the life we had been leading that I decided to go, but
it didn't occur to me that we were going to be sent to a death camp. At the square were
carts for the children and for the bundles. All the rest were compelled to go on foot. Many
people, the elderly and sick and those found in the houses, were shot on the spot.
Close to me was a paralysed man in a wheelchair. An SS-man approached him, put his
gun to the man's head and pressed the trigger. No shot came. The man's face convulsed,
his eyes filled with tears, but the SS-man continued his 'game' and finally shot him. I stood
close by, frozen, unable to cry.
After some hours came the order to move. We left the town, mainly families with their old,
their babies, and their bundles. On the way we were joined by Jews from
Wysokie. We marched silently, guarded by Germans and
Ukrainians on horses and bicycles. The weak fell and remained behind. From time to time
we heard shots; those who had remained behind were shot. We marched for two days and
two nights about 30 km. We passed through villages. People stood and watched us.
Some of them laughed, others closed themselves into their houses, but there were also
some who gave us water.
When we passed through Zolkiewka and
Gorzkow, the local Jews joined our marching column,
and our number increased to 4.000. We continued walking. The sky became cruel to us.
After the burning sun, which weakened us and caused deaths, came a storm with torrential
rain, thunder and lightning. We were soaking wet and the marching column became part
of the mud. It was hard to walk.
We arrived at the railway station in Krasnystaw, where we stayed for a few hours.
Then the Ukrainians pushed us into the train, about 150 to each car. We were told that we
were going to the Ukraine to work. On the other hand, there were people who were told that
we were being sent to Majdanek camp. But when
we looked through the small window, we realized that we were not going in the direction of
Lublin. That meant that our destination was not
Majdanek. We were delighted. After a few hours of travelling,
we arrived at Sobibor.
Among those deported to Sobibor
on 14 May 1942
, the President of the Jewish Social Selfhelp
(Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe
for the entire Krasnystaw County. In the first period of Aktion Reinhard
, members of the
JSS were released from deportation as privileged people. However, in Krasnystaw something
different occurred. Szolsohn
was in effect deported because of the conflict
between himself and members of the Judenrat
and the German administration. His
deportation to Sobibor
was an act of pure revenge.
, in opposition to the Judenrat
, tried to help poor Jews
not only in Krasnystaw but also throughout the entire county. Jews held him in high esteem
as an honest and modest person. His children tried to help him and sent a telegram to the
Central Office of the JSS in Krakow
In this message, the name of Sobibor
mentioned for the first time as the destination of the transports from Krasnystaw. The children of
knew where their father was deported to, but they did not know
exactly what transport to Sobibor
hoped that their father could be released from this camp. Of course, it never happened. The
of Krasnystaw and Izbica
explained in a letter to the Krakow
JSS that it
would be better for everybody to not become involved in this problem. It would be interesting to
know the source of Szolsohn
's children's knowledge of
. At that time even the Polish underground were
unaware of this death camp.
After the May deportation from Krasnystaw, only a very small number of Jews were left in the
ghetto mainly the members of the Judenrat
and Jewish policemen, together with their families.
This last group cleared the ghetto of Jewish possessions. In October 1942
the ghetto was finally
liquidated. Most of the Jews were sent to Izbica
which was then the main transit ghetto for Krasnystaw and
. From there most of them were deported to the
A small group of Jews from Krasnystaw were executed at the town's Jewish cemetery or in the
, where some Czech Jews who were in the
work camp, which was liquidated at that time, were also executed. Selected, healthy men from the
ghetto clearing commando were deported to the work camp in Trawniki
Among those deported to Izbica
in October 1942
, his wife
and his sister Estera
has been befriended by a Pole from Krasnystaw,
, who visited him in the
and offered help.
refused aid, unwilling to part with his family.
then organized false documentation for
and her departure for work in Germany. When
for assistance, he rented an apartment for her at Krupe
took her into his home. He also cared for the Honigman family
of four people, placing them with a farmer, Karol Olecha
Thus seven persons were saved from certain death. For his bravery and compassion,
was recognized by Yad Vashem as a
Righteous Among the Nations.
Tomek Wisniewski *
Bogdan Lisze Collection *
Archive of Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw: Collection of the documents of Jewish
Social Selfhelp from Krasnystaw county and Collection of the testimonies by survivors.
Archive of Majdanek State Museum in Lublin: Collection of the Majdanek camp documents.
Archive of Institute of National Memory in Lublin: Collection of the documents of Regional
Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Lublin, 1966-1967.
Y. Arad: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. The Operation Reinhard Death Camps
and Indianapolis 1999.
© ARC 2005