Miedzyrzec Podlaski was a well known Jewish community in central Poland, where Jews had lived
since the 16th century. In the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, the town was a famous Jewish
centre for the production of brushes and furs. Before WW2 the Jewish population of Miedzyrzec numbered
about 12,000 people, around 75% of the total population in town.
In September 1939
a part of the town was destroyed by the German Luftwaffe
about 25% of Jewish housing was destroyed. The German army entered the town on
13 September 1939
for the first time but after several days the Soviet Army occupied
Miedzyrzec. The Soviets remained in the town until 25 September 1939
, before leaving.
2,000 young Jews joined them.
units again entered the town on 9 October 1939
. Shortly after
the German occupation of Miedzyrzec Podlaski, the Jews were forced to leave the centre of the town. They had to
move to the Jewish district, located in the poorest neighbourhood. Around 1,800 people had to vacate their homes.
"They went into small apartments, already overcrowded. These apartments were without privacy, water
and sanitation. Water had to be carried from the wells in the streets. In 1940
dysentery epidemic broke out." (Fragment of the report by the Committee of Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe
(JSS) in Miedzyrzec, from the beginning of 1941
In the same manner as in other ghettos, a Judenrat
and a Jewish police force were established in the town.
became president of Miedzyrzec's Judenrat
|Postcard from 6 June 1940
|Postcard from 19 June 1940
The awful situation in the Jewish district became even worse when from early 1940
large transports, each with around 1,500 resettled Jews from Nasielsk, Pultusk, Serock,
arrived. Until early 1941
other transports also arrived from Krakow
(740 people) and
(1,400 people). In addition, a group of Jewish POWs from the former
Polish army was sent to the town. Most of the deportees possessed nothing except their own clothes. Hunger and
lack of space became the biggest problems. Around 650 Jews were housed in the unheated synagogue.
According to the JSS
report from early 1941
, 6 - 8 people died from starvation
every day. The daily bread ration was 100 grams (working Poles received 260 grams).
|Working for WWI #1 *
|Working for WWI #2 *
, around 2,400 Jews from Miedzyrzec were sent to small labour camps in
Biala Podlaska, Klody, Rogoznica, Rossosz
. They were forced to work for the Wasserwirtschaftsinspektion
(Water Supplies Inspection (WWI
), installed by the Germans). They received neither salary nor sufficient food.
began, the Miedzyrzec Ghetto became the main
transit ghetto in the northern part of the Lublin
district. From this transit
ghetto, the Jews were deported to the
Before the deportations to Treblinka
began, more Jews were resettled in Miedzyrzec:
around 500 from Mielec
in March 1942
Slovakian Jews on 8 May 1942
. On 2 August 1942
, 17,546 Jews
were concentrated in Miedzyrzec.
Before the first deportation from Miedzyrzec began, the local Jews were ordered to hand over 50 kilograms
of gold within 3 days. To encourage this extortion, the Gestapo
shot 40 Jews in the streets.
|German Police and Accomplices *
|Forced Labour *
The first "action" (German: Aktion
) in the Miedzyrzec Ghetto was organized
between 25 and 26 August 1942
. This brutal "action" was carried out by policemen
from the "famous"
101st Reserve Police Battalion
and Ukrainian guards from
. The Jews were shot everywhere - in their homes and in the
streets. Many people were killed at the main town square, the assembly point for all deportees.
Others were shot on the way to the deportation train and at the railway station. During these
two days around 10,000 Miedzyrzec Jews were deported to Treblinka
. 960 were shot
in the town.
The deportees were crammed into overcrowded cattle cars (120 - 140 per wagon). Most of them died
before they arrived in Treblinka
The first transport from Miedzyrzec was described very well by one of the survivors from
, Abraham Krzepicki
. When the prisoners
special command) opened the cattle cars, they discovered only dead
The bodies of the shot Jews in Miedzyrzec were burned shortly after the Aktion
by a special group of
Jews from the ghetto.
This deportation was the biggest Aktion
carried out by the 101st Reserve Police Battalion in the
district. After this Aktion
the German policemen started to call
(Men Horror) because "Miedzyrzec" was too difficult to pronounce for them.
Within a short time this German expression became a synonym for the cruelties inflicted by the police battalions.
|Ghetto Fence *
|Assembling for Deportation *
After the first Aktion
a closed ghetto was established in the town. All Jews were rehoused in the
district, where only poor wooden dwellings had been erected. The ghetto
was surrounded by barbed wire.
The second Aktion
took place between 6 and 9 October 1942
with the ghetto residents, several hundreds of resettled Jews from the entire
county were assembled on the market square and selected for
. The selected deportees were locked in the synagogue for several days.
, a survivor from the Miedzyrzec Ghetto, described the
conditions in this synagogue:
"There was no food or water in the temple. My mother was also there.
I don't know how she could survive there. My aunt told me there were constant screams and people
dying inside that temple. They were dying of thirst and hunger. The screams went to heaven.
During this Aktion
around 5,000 people were selected and deported.
Around 150 women and children were executed at the Jewish cemetery in course of this Aktion
, since there
was insufficient space in the cattle cars...
The whole Aktion
was observed by local non-Jewish Poles. They also witnessed the executions at
the cemetery. Many of them were very interested in this "show"...
Two members of this deportation escaped from Treblinka
and returned to Miedzyrzec.
They informed others about the fate of the Miedzyrzec Jews. From that time the ghetto people started building "bunkers"
and tried to escape to the surrounding forests. The Treblinka
fugitives were finally
denounced by Judenrat
members and shot by the Gestapo
Brush workshops were established in the ghetto in 1942
. The special brush workers
were temporarily released from the deportations. In other workshops the Jews were forced to produce
baskets for ammunition.
|Assembling for Treblinka
In mid October 1942
, 2,000 - 3,000 Jews from Radzyn
were resettled to the Miedzyrzec Ghetto.
These people were deported to Treblinka
during the third Aktion
between 27 and 29 October 1942
A short time later a fourth Aktion
took place: Between 7 and 8 November
about 2,000 - 3,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka
(Jews from Miedzyrzec
were deported together with Jews from Lukow
After this deportation only 1,000 Jews remained in Miedzyrzec. At this time Jews from the surrounding
villages and those who hid in the forests decided to return to the ghetto because they thought that
no more "actions" would be carried out.
According to an order of the "SS and Police Commander in the Generalgouvernement
, Miedzyrzec was to be one of the
in the Lublin
, who survived the Radzyn
Miedzyrzec ghetto selections, gave a good description of the ghetto situation
between the end of 1942 and early 1943
"At this time there was no Judenrat, no administration. Only the brutal Jewish
police force, known as Gestapo helpers. There was no registration, no hygienic facilities, no fuel or heat and
no food. People lived on the reserves of their predecessors, if they found any or they would
smuggle which usually entailed the involvement of the Jewish police. It was said that they would
drink with the Polish police.
Many Jews were still building "bunkers" in the ghetto, knowing that it could be only a temporary
hiding place before the next deportation. On 30 December 1942
the workshops were liquidated.
The Jewish brush makers were transferred to the Trawniki
work camp. In the
summer of 1943
this group was transferred again to the
concentration camp where they had to work for the
, controlled by
and the SS in Lublin
Jewish families from Miedzyrzec found themselves at Majdanek
where they were
located at Field IV, in a separated area. All of them were finally executed at
, during the
executions on 3 November 1943
Relative quiet then prevailed in the ghetto for the next months. But a fifth Aktion
took place on
30 April 1943
. The Jews were gathered on the market square and around 1,000 people
were deported to Majdanek
. During this Aktion
the last members
of the Judenrat
and the Jewish police were executed.
On 26 May 1943
another group of around 700 - 1,000 people were deported to
. Only 200 Jews remained in the ghetto. They had to clean the empty
Jewish houses. Some people from this group later escaped to the forests. The final liquidation of the ghetto
occured on 17 July 1943
. The last 170 Jews were executed at the Jewish cemetery and
the town was declared judenfrei
(free of Jews) by the German authorities.
During 1942 - 1943
, around 24,000 Jews passed through the Miedzyrzec Ghetto.
Only 1% of the pre-war Jewish population of Miedzyrzec survived the Holocaust.
Mezritch (Miedzyrzec) Internet Bulletin Edited By Dr Naphtali Brezniak *
Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw: The collection of Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe
and the testimonies by survivors.
Archive of the State Museum Majdanek: The memoirs and testimonies by survivors.
Rywka Rybak: A Survivor of the Holocaust
. Cleveland 1993.
Joel Schupack: The Dead Years
. Holocaust Library 1996.
Christopher R. Browning: Ordinary Men. 101. Reserve Police Battalion and the Final Solution in Poland
HarperCollins Publishers 1998.
© ARC 2005