The liquidation of the ghetto in Majdan Tatarski
At the beginning of November 1942, the officers of the German Security Service (SD) and Security Police (SiPo) in Lublin commenced with the general liquidation of the residual ghetto in the suburban district of Majdan Tatarski. In the course of the operation all the various members of the Judenrat were murdered, including its chairman, Marek Alten. The Jewish informer, Szama Grajer, as well as the commandant of the Jewish police forces, Mendel (Moniek) Goldfarb, were also executed. The remaining Jews were taken to KL Lublin (Majdanek Concentration Camp) where they all perished in the gas chambers. The Nazis continued to plunder and destroy the remainder of the liquidated ghetto for several weeks.
The situation in the ghetto on the eve of its liquidation
By the end of October 1942, as a result of a recent selection carried out in the area of the residual ghetto, morale was very low. As a consequence of the selection, approximately 1,000 people were removed from the ghetto, including the entire staff of the Arbeitsamt (Work Office). The operation caused major unrest among Jews, giving rise to gossip of an imminent general liquidation. The German forces, being fully aware of the atmosphere rapidly spreading within Majdan Tatarski, came up with the strategy of allowing up to 40 KL Lublin prisoners to see their relatives. The meeting was held in the area of the ghetto on the eve of the scheduled resettlement action. At the same time, German authorities announced future meetings to be held every Sunday. Another means of subterfuge designed to calm the inhabitants of the ghetto was to let two pregnant women into the local infirmary where they were supposed to give birth. Additionally, a quota of potatoes was distributed among the prisoners. Simultaneously, the Gestapo initiated the relocation of craftsmen to newly created outposts in order for them to carry out tasks commissioned by the local security forces, or to work for German manufacturers. Despite efforts taken to weaken the alertness of the inhabitants of the ghetto, most people were expecting the worst and began preparing various hideouts in which, however, few of them managed to survive for long1.
The liquidation action
The final liquidation of the residual ghetto was commenced by the German security forces in the early hours of November 9, 1942. It was supervised by the officers of the Lublin branch of SD and SiPo – SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Worthoff, SS-Untersturmführer Dr Harry Sturm, SS-Untersturmführer Knitzky and SS-Unterscharführer Ernst vel Erich Kalich. Guards from the Trawniki camp were employed to secure and search the area2. The operation was carried out in a very brutal way. Jews found in hideouts were shot immediately or taken to the selection square situated behind the fence separating the ghetto from the Flugplatz work camp. When the liquidation action began, there were still approximately 3,000 Jews living in the ghetto3. Many people tried to look for shelter in the previously prepared hideouts.
The Nazis put the Jewish Order Service to the task of searching for people who happened to remain in hiding and bringing them directly to the selection square. When the liquidation action was over, the Jewish policemen were shot, too. The chairman of the Judenrat, Marek Alten, the commandant of the Jewish police forces, Mendel (Moniek) Goldfarb, the “king of the ghetto”, Szama Grajer, as well as the members of their families were most probably executed within the boundaries of the ghetto on the very first day of the operation4. The execution is described by Efraim Krasucki:
“(...) on that day I saw Germans shoot Dr Alten and Szama Grajew [Grajer – J.Ch.]. The men walked along one of the roads of the ghetto, busy talking aloud with the Gestapo agents. After a moment, they reached some sort of a shack, Dr Alten looking perfectly at ease and Grajew laughing loudly, and then shots were fired and two corpses were left behind on that spot. At night a German car arrived and took the bodies. Also Grajew’s entire family, including his beautiful wife, Mina, were killed on that day. The commandant of the Jewish police, Goldfarb Moniek, a favourite of the Lublin Gestapo, was eliminated on the very same day, shot in the back of the head”5.
The Wiesbaden Court of Justice determined that the execution of the most important inhabitants of the ghetto, as well as their families, was carried out within several days of the commencement of the liquidation action. 18 policemen and Jews temporarily selected to tidy up the area of the ghetto were shot, too6. The execution was performed by officers of the security forces: Sturm, Knitzky and Hübner, who were personally chosen for the task by Odilo Globocnik7.
The “resettlement” action did not include the general and epidemic hospitals – their patients were destined for the “special action” which meant being murdered directly on-site. No-one was spared, not even children and newborn babies who had been sent, by their parents, to wards as a way of safeguarding them. Approximately 190 people were killed in this way8. Their mass grave was discovered in the late 1980s when a housing estate was being constructed in Pogodna Street. The remains of the murdered were buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Walecznych Street.
During the liquidation action, on the express orders of Worthoff, two groups of craftsmen were taken from the ghetto (about 50-60 in all) and sent to the work camp in 7 Lipowa Street. The remaining were imprisoned by the Gestapo at Lublin Castle. The selected men (among them furriers, tailors, shoemakers, jewellers and dentists) continued to serve SD and SiPo officers9. The selections were not carried out on the premises of the ghetto. Jews were transported to KL Lublin at Majdanek where SS-officers divided them into groups, sending children, the elderly and the handicapped to their deaths. The process of selection is described in detail by Jula Celińska:
“As soon as we arrived to Majdanek, a selection took place in one of the camp fields. People were arranged separately – the elderly, the young, the children. Three of the women standing in the square would not give up their children. One of them was my husband’s first wife, Cukierman Fela, who did not want to let go of her four-year-old son’s little hand; likewise, Bromberg Dora did not want to part with a six-year-old boy; the third, the wife of a furrier from Lublin (...),would not leave her child under any circumstances. All of the above-mentioned women were moved aside and beaten to death in front of everyone. Their children, taken from them by force, shared the fate of all the other children. Older people remained in the camp field, where they were ordered to wait. We – the young and fit for work – were sent to the barracks. After that, all of the elderly were executed”10.
Approximately 300 Jews selected to be murdered were not even indexed in the camp registers but rather sent to the gas chambers straight away. Only men and women deemed “fit for work” were actually registered. After a short period of time Jewish women were transferred to the Flugplatz work camp and men assigned to labour commandos operating on the premises of the camp at Majdanek11.
“Cleansing” of the ghetto
The first stage of the liquidation of the ghetto, which concluded with the resettlement of all of its inhabitants, finished on the 11th of November. A steady action of plundering the area, subsequent to the operation of resettlement, lasted for at least several weeks. All valuables were taken away from the ghetto, among them: furniture, clothes, utensils and the remaining food supplies. In the process, many hideouts were discovered, including some containing corpses. SS officers immediately executed any Jews they found hiding. The area was thoroughly searched for fugitives by the last several dozen officers of the Jewish Order Service (ŻSP) left alive12.
Rachmil Gartenkraut, who resided in the ghetto until the liquidation action, remembers that the clean-up operation in the area of the liquidated ghetto was carried out by no more than 20 Jews. However, Czesław Górniewicz, a Polish political prisoner held in the Gestapo prison at Lublin Castle, who was also sent to clear the ghetto of valuable items, testified that an additional group of Jewish POWs was brought from the work camp at 7 Lipowa Street. When the second stage of the liquidation of the ghetto was finished, all of the Jewish policemen were shot. Polish prisoners, on the other hand, were employed as carters transporting the looted goods to the Flugplatz camp13.
Prisoners reported that the area of the liquidated ghetto was covered with bodies which have not been removed when the resettlement operation was concluded:
“(...) In the entire area of the Ghetto, in the houses and barracks previously inhabited by Jewish families, in the yards outside, on rubbish tips, corpses of the murdered Jewish men, children and women were lying. Walking through a house (...) I would often find bodies of the murdered, mostly children, hidden by mothers in wardrobes, beds, duvets, hoping to save them from the liquidation (...). These children were in most cases several months to several years old (…)”14.
Corpses of the murdered people were later buried in at least one common grave.
Jews left in the ghetto to clear up the area pleaded with Polish workmen to smuggle them outside the ghetto. They also attempted bribing guards, but such cases would generally end in valuables being stolen and victims murdered.
When the looting operation had been completed, some of the buildings were most probably burnt. Up until January 1943, the area of the liquidated ghetto was guarded by watchmen from the camp in Trawniki15. After that time, the German authorities allowed the Polish inhabitants of the district to return to their houses. Appropriate permits were issued by the Municipal Foreman, who simultaneously obligated the Polish citizens to tidy up the properties they were about to take over16.
- Go back to the reference Archiwum Państwowego Muzeum na Majdanku [dalej: APMM], Relacje nt. gett, więzień i obozów położonych na terenie okupowanej Polski, sygn. VII/O-20, Pamiętnik Idy Gliksztajn-Rapaport-Jarkoni, k. 62–64, 69–70; Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego [dalej: AŻIH], zesp. 301, Relacje. Zeznania ocalałych Żydów, sygn. 6671, Relacja NN, k. 2–3; Kina Morgenstern przebywała w schronie około 3 tygodni. APMM, VII/O-221, Relacja Kiny Morgenstern, k. 8. R. Kuwałek, Żydzi lubelscy w obozie koncentracyjnym na Majdanku, „Zeszyty Majdanka”, t. XXII, Lublin 2003, s. 103–104; J. Chmielewski, Likwidacja getta szczątkowego w Lublinie, [w:] Wiek XX wiekiem kryzysu? Kryzys człowieczeństwa, czyli ludobójstwa w minionym stuleciu, red. J. Gałuszka, Kraków 2014, s. 68.
- Go back to the reference APMM, VII/O-20, Pamiętnik Idy Gliksztajn-Rapaport-Jarkoni, k. 67–68; tamże, XXI-162/55, Relacja Czesława Górniewicza, k. 4.
- Go back to the reference R. Kuwałek, Żydzi lubelscy, s. 105; J. Chmielewski, Likwidacja getta szczątkowego, s. 69.
- Go back to the reference Archiwum Akt Nowych [dalej: AAN], Delegatura Rządu RP na Kraj 1949–1945, sygn. 202/III/8 t. 1, Departament Informacji i Pracy. Aneks do raportów, k. 162.
- Go back to the reference Yad Vashem Archives [dalej: YVA], zesp. O.3, Yad Vashem Testimonies [dalej: YVT], sygn. 1335, Relacja Efraima Krasuckiego, k. 8. O egzekucji Grajera wspomina również Dwora Doner. Tamże, O.3/1324, Relacja Dwory Donner, k. 6.
- Go back to the reference Oddziałowa Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu w Lublinie [dalej: OKŚZpNPwL], sygn. S.27/08/Zn, Akta Główne Prokuratora w sprawie zbrodni nazistowskich, w tym zabójstw na ludności żydowskiej, popełnionych w trakcie likwidacji wiosną 1942 roku w Lublinie na Starym Mieście getta dla ludności żydowskiej oraz tzw. Ochronki dla sierot żydowskich, t. 3, k. 464; tamże, t. 7, k. 1224–1225.
- Go back to the reference Tamże, t. 5, k. 929.
- Go back to the reference APMM, VII/O-18, Pamiętnik Idy Gliksztajn-Rapaport-Jarkoni, k. 66, 69; AŻIH, 301/6671, Relacja NN, k. 2; R. Kuwałek, Żydzi lubelscy, s. 105; J. Chmielewski, Likwidacja getta szczątkowego, s. 69.
- Go back to the reference APMM, VII/O-18, Pamiętnik Idy Gliksztajn-Rapaport-Jarkoni, k. 61; R. Kuwałek, Żydzi lubelscy, s. 104–105.
- Go back to the reference YVA, YVT, O.3/2347, Relacja Julii Celińskiej, k. 15.
- Go back to the reference R. Kuwałek, Żydzi lubelscy, s. 104–106; APMM, Relacje nt. obozu koncentracyjnego na Majdanku, sygn. VII/M-676, Relacja Etli Wolberg, k. 4; tamże, VII/O-18, Pamiętnik Idy Gliksztajn-Rapaport-Jarkoni, k. 69; AŻIH, 301/1442, Relacja Rywki Grynwald, k. 8; tamże, 301/1816, Relacja Estery Kerżner, k. 18–19.
- Go back to the reference APMM, VII/O-19, Pamiętnik Idy Gliksztajn-Rapaport-Jarkoni, k. 36; tamże, VII/O-220, Relacja Efraima Krasuckiego, k. 8–9; tamże, VII/M-221, Relacja Kiny Morgenstern, k. 8; tamże, XXI-162/55, Relacja Czesława Górniewicza, k. 5–8; AŻIH, 301/2934, Relacja Rachmila Gartenkrauta, k. 4.
- Go back to the reference AŻIH, 301/2934, Relacja Rachmila Gartenkrauta, k. 4; tamże, 301/6260, Relacja Ignacego Wieniarza, k. 74; APMM, sygn. XXI-162/55, Relacja Czesława Górniewicza, k. 2–3, 9–10.
- Go back to the reference Tamże, k. 3.
- Go back to the reference Tamże, VII/O-19, Pamiętnik Idy Gliksztajn-Rapaport-Jarkoni, k. 36.
- Go back to the reference OKŚZpNPwL, sygn. S.27/08/Zn, Akta Główne Prokuratora w sprawie zbrodni nazistowskich, t. 2, k. 234.