EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT
Late summer 1940
“Soon the abusive treatment to which we were subjected was intensified. A new decree compelled Jews to hand over their businesses to trustees. Jewish businesses were then transferred to several hundred Germans newly settled in the area. A few hundred Jewish families had to vacate their homes to make room for “Volksdeutsche”. As the ghetto became forever smaller, the little space that remained became overcrowded with those who had been made homeless yet again as they were forced to find shelter with other Jewish families.”
“Acute poverty and slave labour became the order of the day. We became fair game for the German police and occupying authorities, as each one of them had the power to confiscate Jewish possessions and to round up and abduct Jewish people. We were surrounded by harsh German guards. Our oppressors were eagerly supported by those malicious Poles who had become “Volksdeutsche”.
There were also some Poles who had a good relationship with us Jews. Mostly, they were simple labourers or small farmers, religious and upright Catholics, who seized every opportunity to help us. Admittedly their efforts were not without danger because those willing to help us had to fear the power of those influential Poles who were ill-disposed towards us Jews. Therefore we could not expect vital aid.
Our escape was blocked by an impenetrable wall. We were blockaded by a large section of the Polish population and the occupying forces isolated us from the outside world. Systematic anti-Jewish propaganda, both written and pictorial, filled so many heads with prejudice that when meeting a Pole one never knew if they were well or ill disposed towards Jews. Occasionally, thanks to a fortuitous sequence of events, an individual was able to escape, but never whole families.”
Jew standing among German soldiers in Zawiercie. First days of occupation. [Archiwum IPN Oddział w Katowicach]