Show Less
Open access

Pogrom Cries – Essays on Polish-Jewish History, 1939–1946

2nd Revised Edition


Joanna Tokarska-Bakir

This book focuses on the fate of Polish Jews and Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust and its aftermath, in the ill-recognized era of Eastern-European pogroms after the WW2. It is based on the author’s own ethnographic research in those areas of Poland where the Holocaust machinery operated. The results comprise the anthropological interviews with the members of the generation of Holocaust witnesses and the results of her own extensive archive research in the Polish Institute for National Remembrance (IPN).

«[This book] is at times shocking; however, it grips the reader’s attention from the first to the last page. It is a remarkable work, set to become a classic among the publications in this field.»

Jerzy Jedlicki, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Show Summary Details
Open access

Chapter 4: Ethnographic Findings on the Aftermath of the Holocaust through Jewish and Polish Eyes in the Memory of the Polish Hinterland

←140 | 141→

Chapter 4:Ethnographic Findings on the Aftermath of the Holocaust through Jewish and Polish Eyes in the Memory of the Polish Hinterland

Comments on Methodology

The study reported in this chapter was carried out in Klimontów Sandomierski, a typical small town in central southern Poland. Oral history recorded in the Sandomierz region 60 years after the war,1 and accounts of Jewish Holocaust survivors taken immediately after the war served as its source material.2 As far as possible, this has been supplemented with preliminary archival research,3 although neither this nor the factual conclusions form the main thrust of this chapter.

←141 | 142→

Ethnography, the most direct examination of reality, takes a different approach to sources than history, which values them only inasmuch as they contribute to establishing facts. While ethnographic sources may be of assistance in this respect, the ethnographer looks at them, above all, through the prism of their autonomous value, seeking testimonies of collective conceptions – fears, aspirations, dreams, phantasms, stereotypical reactions and standards. Thus, real values are contrasted with declared values, only the fullness of which produces what sociologists call “attitudes.”4 In criticism of historical and sociological sources, these concepts play a vital role. Painstaking attention to the language used by the informants is of central importance to the reconstruction of these concepts; therefore, extensive citations analyzed by an appropriate set of tools are central to this chapter. In language, “there persists that which has passed, that which, because of language, cannot be discarded once and for all”;5 and that which, for various reasons, is lost in other historical sciences. In ethnography, such language, while apparently comprehensible, is treated like a code that needs cracking.6 Its manifold “incorrectness” is not considered a problem by the ethnographer; on the contrary, it presents an opportunity to pay attention to things passed over by the historian and the sociologist.

In 2005 and 2006, when the interviews cited in this chapter were recorded, people in the Sandomierz region were fairly keen to talk to anthropologists about issues from the war period, and even seemed to have been waiting for such an opportunity. However, unwillingness and barriers surfaced with respect to neighborhood murders. However, although the perpetrators themselves never wanted to talk about these cases, not even for expiation, with others – once guaranteed absolute anonymity – the desire to bear witness usually won through. During one such interview in Klimontów, Helena Tyszka, a member of ←142 | 143→the research team, heard about the murder of several Jews, including a woman in the late stages of pregnancy, ‘on a roof on Sandomierska Street,’ in April 1945, i.e., shortly after the Germans had been driven out of Poland.7 This incident was mentioned a few days later by the President of Poland, Bolesław Bierut, at a press conference in Moscow.8 Thus, this event, which was deep in historical oblivion for decades,9 resurfaced in oral history.

Research Project: “The Excluded Economy”

In a much-publicized essay, in 1945, Kazimierz Wyka wrote:

Anyone who wants to comprehend the social psychology of Polish society on the threshold of the [country’s] third [period of] independence should look back at economic issues during the Occupation…. The claim that psychological effects always persist longer than the factors that caused them is well substantiated.10

←143 | 144→

These opening sentences did not get the attention they deserved, although they pointed to a research direction crucial for the post-war period; this matter itself merits a separate analysis. The ethnographic material collected 60 years after the war near Sandomierz justified a return to the issue Wyka had pointed out. Without examining the ‘economic issues during the Occupation,’ it is impossible to understand the present-day memory of Jews in the Polish provinces and, even more so, the immediate post-war reality, with clashes of interests among players who were not always overt. This would also help to decide between two historical, mutually repudiating discourses: on the one hand, the Communist discourse viewing the entire post-war reality in terms of ‘for or against the people’s power’; and on the other, the independence discourse,11 which was similar, except for a different definition of ‘the people.’12 It is easy to see how these discourses developed another similarity. In spite of numerous declarations to the contrary by the Communists,13 expressed in different ways, there was soon no place for the Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust. Based on Wyka’s approach, this chapter aims to outline, on a microhistorical scale, the causes behind the dematerialization of the Jews in Polish provincial life in the immediate post-war years.

←144 | 145→

Klimontów and the Surroundings

Klimontów, near Sandomierz, was home to 3,100 Jews before the war.14 In June 1942, a ghetto was established there for some 5,000 Jews,15 including those brought in from nearby villages and 200 deported from Vienna. The Nazis began liquidating the ghetto toward the end of October 1942. One hundred sick and weak, including children, were killed on the spot, 300 were sent to Sandomierz for forced labor, and all the rest were sent on foot to Złota, and then to the railway station in Nadbrzezie outside Sandomierz,16 where they were put into cattle wagons and taken to the death camp at Treblinka.

In August 1944, the starosta (head of county administration) of Sandomierz reported that the Jews, ‘during the bridgehead [at Baranów],17 after leaving their hiding places, mostly went to Lublin, [and] after the front moved west, they returned in greater numbers to all the small towns and hamlets.’18 In June 1945, there were 103 Jews among the residents of Sandomierz.19 Also, at about the same time, in a telling report on the situation, the starosta of Sandomierz states: ‘Jews […] are turning up here and there at present in order to let or sell property mostly ruined during the German Occupation.’20 In June 1945, there were no ←145 | 146→longer any Jews in any of the localities in the district apart from Sandomierz (see below).21

In November 1948, Nachman Blumental, then Director of the Jewish Historical Institute, resolved to check out this situation. Toward this end, he sent out letters to urban district starostas, requesting data from all the localities in their regions.22 In the Sandomierz Branch of the State Archive in Kielce, there is a list to which reports from the municipalities are attached. Some of them are worth quoting (the style reflects the original):

[Sandomierz – town, 7 December 1948]

[…] I report that: 1) in 1937 to 1939, the number of Jews was 2,391; 2) on the day of expulsion [i.e. the deportation of the Jews to the death camp], the number of Jews was approximately 4,000; 3) […] At present, 19 people of Jewish nationality reside in Sandomierz.23

[Samborzec, 31 December 1948]

The Municipal Council reports that 125 Jewish people resided in the territory of this municipality from 1937 to 1939 at the time of the expulsion in 1942 a total of 125 persons were expulsed and at present no Jewish individuals reside in the territory of the municipality.

[Staszów, 11 December 1948]

Ad 1. In 1937 – 5,250 [Jews], 1938 – 5,350, 1939 – 5,410.

Ad 2. On the day of expulsion there were 5,410 [Jewish people] in the permanent population of the town of Staszów, plus fugitives from Western countries, larger towns, and displaced from localities around

Staszów, a total of 6,670 persons. […] At present, in the territory of the town of Staszów no persons from the Jewish population reside.

[Klimontów, 31 December 1948]

1) In the years 1937–1939 the number of Jews in the territory of this municipality was approximately 5,000; 2) On the day of displacement approximately 7,000; 3) Date of displacement of the Jews – October 10, 1942, [and] the number of persons displaced approximately 6,000, 4). At present, there are no Jews in the territory of this municipality.

The gist of the reports from Zawichost, Dwikozy, Jurkowice, Koprzywnica, Lipnik, Łoniów, Osiek, Połaniec, Rytwiany, Wilczyce, Wiśniowa, and Strużki is similar.

←146 | 147→

The “disappearance” of the Jews had a marked effect on the economic and real estate situation. This is apparent in the ‘Wykaz użytkowników domów pożydowskich w Klimontowie,’ (Inventory of Occupiers of Post-Jewish Houses in Klimontów) from the 1950s, which lists 125 properties (houses and lots), and – in view of the dates when the sales contracts were signed, the ethnic character of surnames and reports mentioning the absence of Jews in the region – features only Polish owners.24 The sixth item in the inventory form is noteworthy: ‘Is [the property] occupied on the basis of a contract and when […] was the contract signed [?]’ With the exception of three entries from the 1950s, in 122 cases the year 1943 is specified in the inventory. Under ‘First and last name of former owner,’ there are numerous entries with the names cited later in this paper: Zylberberg and Penczyna (both twice),25 as well as names of the Lederman family members, murdered in the spring of 1945 (see below).26

The Story of the Four Mills that Belonged to Penczyna, Pelerman, Kupferblum, and two other Penczyna Family Members

Why did Jews who survived the Holocaust in hiding, and, as notes and archival material show, threw themselves wholeheartedly into rebuilding their lives after liberation, “disappear” from the Sandomierz area in the early post-war years? The first source used to answer this question relates to the fate of the local millers – Szmul Penczyna, owner of a mill in Trzykosy; Aron Kupferblum, owner of a mill in Gory Wysokie; Józef Pęczyna, a miller in the Chwałki district of Sandomierz; and Mordechaj Penczyna, a miller in Klimontów.


Whatever is known about Szmul Penczyna is reported by his friend Zelman Baum, who was in hiding in this area from 1940 onward:

←147 | 148→

Szmul Penczyna, who had a mill in Trzykosy, ceded it to a Pole [in exchange] for hiding him and his family. The peasant took the mill and shot the Jew.27

Documents in the Sandomierz archive confirm the name but distort the surname of the mill owner. It is given as Szmul Pelerman in the testimonies of two people who ‘arbitrarily,’ according to other documents,28 took possession of the mill: Stanisław Skrzek and his son-in-law, Edward Śliwiński,29 a pre-war Polish policeman, member of the Home Army (this is mentioned in the favorable character reference given to Śliwiński by J. Jarosz,30 Superintendent of the local Citizens’ ←148 | 149→Militia station), and a member of the Polish Socialist Party after the war, whom Zelman Baum, in his account cited above, accuses of murdering Jews. Śliwiński reportedly collected ‘a weekly fee from all the Jews of the town of Koprzywnica and from us privately, for not informing on the Jews.’31 Baum also gives a detailed account of an attack on a bunker in which Jews were hiding, incriminating Śliwiński and labeling him as the leader.

In the documents cited above, both parties, i.e., Skrzek and Śliwiński, claim that ‘Szmul Pelerman was shot dead by the germans [sic!] and his family deported, and, to date, there has been no information about them.’32 However, people in Trzykosy remember the murder of Szmul’s family at Polish hands:


[…] did he not take all his money off him? He wanted to get rid of him, because he was afraid that if they caught him, they would kill the whole family. So, so – at night, my wife saw [it] – one of them hauled the Jews out one by one and killed them with an axe. [Silence] And Szmul’s lot were lying there, someone killed them too.


Of Aron Kupferblum, the owner of the second mill, which was built on the River Opatówka in Gory Wysokie, the interviewees said: ‘Kupferblum was the type that even gave to the Church […]. He considered himself a guy who owed a lot to the Poles.’33 They also related that when a road was built through his land, Markus Kupferblum, Aron’s father, would not allow the graves of insurgents from the January 1863 Polish Uprising located there to be destroyed [2166–2167W]. ←149 | 150→Some people in the area remember this to this day. People from the Kupferblum family had been members of Sandomierz Town Council for many years.34

Aron Kupferblum spent the first two years of the German Occupation in prison in the Sandomierz Castle.35 In 1940, he was joined there by Seweryn Małkiewicz,36 a soldier from the Underground, a miller and owner of the mill in Dwikozy, who had been his business rival before the war. After his time in the castle prison, Małkiewicz was taken to Sachsenhausen, while Kupferblum, upon his release from prison, went into hiding in the country near Sandomierz.37 He did not survive until the end of the war.

←150 | 151→


[…] Someone killed him in the pits there […]38

Who was this Kuferblum?

He was a very rich Jew. […] under the Germans, he was in hiding, someone was sheltering him there later on. People are like that: one is like this, and one like that. Someone took revenge on him there.

As an example, the expression with which this informant’s statement ends shows the importance of distinguishing between the Polish commonly used by ordinary people and literary Polish in analyzing interview transcripts. The difference is in the meaning of the expression, ‘take revenge,’ which, as the wider context of this statement shows, was used here in the sense of “be cruel to,” or “torment,” in the sense of taking revenge but not for wrongs committed.39 Such subtle differences in shades of meaning, if they go unnoticed, could be the root of false historical descriptions. There is no evidence that Kupferblum, who Fr. Aleksander Bastrzykowski claims was ‘a Jew of exceptional honesty’ [1043W], had done anything wrong to anybody – on the contrary. Just as there is no evidence that Orenstein,40 a rich Jew who survived the war and had to flee the town for fear of similar “revenge,” had wronged anyone either.

[1018–1019W, Zawichost]

[Husband:] I remember this guy, Orenstein. Orenstein it was.

[Wife:] Which house? By the doctor’s there…

[Husband:] Hang on, hang on.

[Wife:] It was Orenstein who did…

←151 | 152→

[Husband:] No, the one who survived. He traded in horses. The Jew. Well, they soon started treading on his heels. He found out quickly, and right away…

[Wife:] Vanished!

[Husband:] Fled.

Who started treading on his heels?

[Husband:] Our lot. Our lot. He’d obviously been good to some Poles too. Obviously given someone or other a hard time.

[Wife:] Given someone away for wanting to finish him off.

[Husband:] Yes. He got a warning straight away and fled quickly.

The Underground?

[Husband, coughing throughout:] No, no, the Underground had gone by then! This was after the liberation…this was in 1945 or 1946.

Aron Kupferblum had three children, among them a daughter, Ziwa, who, so they say in the Sandomierz area, was rescued by schoolmates from the railway ramp in Dwikozy, from where Jews were transported to the death camps.41

After the war, Seweryn Małkiewicz, freed from the camp, bought the mill from the heirs of the late Kupferblum.42 From the vague words of one informant, it seems they only came forward for the property when the court ordered Małkiewicz to place a notice in the newspaper.43 In his book, Małkiewicz describes how the contract was signed in detail:

←152 | 153→

Władysław Ichnowski, the husband of the eldest daughter of the late Aron Kupferblum, […] was the selling party. Władysław Ichnowski, who was of Jewish origin, had a different name before and changed it. […] He was a decent man, but Gierszon Kupferblum, the son of the late Aron, I knew from 1938, and I didn’t like him […]. There were three heirs: Maria Ichnowska, Gierszon Kupferblum and Ziwa Kupferblum. She had also changed her name to Kwiatkowska. …. At the start of the conversation, to which Ichnowski was also a party, Gierszon asked the question: “Mr. Seweryn, which of the Garbowice people44 killed my father?”

“People say different things, but you know that, for five whole years, I wasn’t there. I was in a concentration camp. What people say is not a document. I can’t and won’t pass on what people say, because I don’t know, and I have no proof of how it really was.” Then, Kupferblum’s brother-in-law spoke up: “Our father is dead, you can’t raise him again. If you were to make Father come alive again, go there, find out, and hang the scoundrels. This is still an uncertain time. There’s no knowing what else could happen still. Leave it.”45

No one knows what happened with Ziwa Kupferblum after the war. People recall that she wore a military uniform and held the rank of captain [2172W].46 Someone remembered meeting Ziwa in Łódź:

←153 | 154→


There was this Ziwa Ferblum [sic!]. Małkiewicz bought it [the mill in Dwikozy] from them. Well, I met her after the war in Łódź, and thought I would walk up to her, “Hey, we know each other!” “No…,” she answered[assuming an unpleasant tone of voice], “I am Zosia Kowalska!” And she walked away.

We know that Ziwa Kupferblum did indeed take the surname Kwiatkowska (not Kowalska, as the informant mentions in the above testimony) and emigrated to Argentina under this name.47 However, she visited Dwikozy twice after that.


She was called Kuferblom Ziwa. […] When she came to visit us here, it was from Argentina.

[When]…did she come?

Well, she came…I can’t remember, but it was about ’40-something… after we’d returned from expulsion […]. It was about ’49 or ’50. In the ’50s.

Did she come back again, or [did she] just [come]…once?

She only was here twice. Twice she saw her [property]…she knew it had been sold.

[Her] father had been given money for it,48 and she had nothing against the owner.

Would any other Jews come back here?

Only she did.


The large Penczyna family, whose members left a great deal of information about the fate of the post-war Klimontów, had a mill in the Chwałki district of Sandomierz.49 According to his wife Pesla, it was owned by Jozef Penczyna (who was killed by Poles two weeks before the Red Army arrived),50 and by Pesla herself, ←154 | 155→who survived the war on Aryan papers in Wieliczka,51 and then moved to Łódź with her child.

Pesla Penczyna says that Maksymilian von Kenszycki was appointed Treuhaender (trustee) of their mill.52 He was the one to report the issue of flour outside official rations, which put Jozef Penczyna in Sandomierz prison for nine months and cost the lives of his wife’s brother and two others, who were accused of being Communists.53 In August 1947, Pesla, who was living in Łódź by then, met Kenszycki in Sandomierz and filed charges against him twice.54

In her statement dated 29 July 1946, the widow gives this account of the end of the war:

I was in the manor [in Wieliczka] when the liberation [took place]. I spent another month there waiting for my husband, because I didn’t know he had been killed. […]

←155 | 156→

I went to my husband’s family in Klimontów. I stayed there until the reactionaries started murdering Jews. Two days before the Jews were murdered, I left.55

The list of Jews registered in Sandomierz at the end of 194556 includes 71 people, with Pesla Penczyna as no. 30.57 Nothing more is known about the widow and her daughter; not even whether she kept her husband’s wish, ‘to bring up the child in the Jewish spirit, and sell everything and go to Palestine after the liberation.’58


The last miller mentioned, Mordechaj (Motel) Penczyna, owner of a mill in Klimontów, which was plundered by the Germans who subsequently shipped the machinery to the Reich. After fleeing Klimontów on 30 October 1942, he first hid in the crypt of a collegiate church or monastery, then passed through the villages of Goźlice59 and Przybysławice,60 and ultimately got help from a farmer called Rak in Śniekozy. For a year, he had been hiding out in the woods,61 and in the farmer’s attic, first with his permission and then without it.

Penczyna wrote one of the most shocking accounts of the post-war fate of Klimontów’s Jews. This is how it ends:

On 7 October 1944, Klimontów was occupied by the Red Army. I was still afraid to show myself there. Even after the Red Army entered, there were incidents of Jews being killed, so there would be as few witnesses as possible to what had been happening to us here. Not until the front passed and halted around Włoszczowa did I go to Klimontów. There, I met a few other Jews who had survived: Jechiel and Saul Lederman, Lejbcze [author of ←156 | 157→the diary] and Mojsze Zylberberg, Jechiel Gotlib, Abraham Złotnicki, Szejna Wajsbard, Pesla Goldwaser, Chaim Penczyna and his wife from Wiązownica, and others. We all lived in Fajntuch’s house. I worked in our mill again, milling for the Red Army.62 But it was volatile – there were still incidents of Jews being killed, especially in smaller places (Połaniec and Staszów). Some people decided to move to Łódź, where we heard that Jews were settling. I stayed in Klimontów a bit longer, and then I moved to Łódź too.63 Those who stayed in Klimontów were: A. Złotnicki, Ch. and Sz. Lederman, Ch. Penczyna and his wife (who was pregnant),64 and Tobcia Stecka. On 10 May 1945, they were all murdered in a brutal fashion; they were found with arms and legs severed. Only Tobcia Stecka survived, who happened to have been sleeping at the house of some Christians that night. Afterward, she came to Łódź and talked about it all.

←157 | 158→

Lejb Zylberberg’s Story

Mordechaj Penczyna’s story can be adjusted on the basis of the diary of Lejb Zylberberg, a tailor.65 The Zylberbergs, who were also known in Klimontów as the ‘[H]orensztajns,’66 commanded similar respect to the Kupferblums in town.67 The author of this memoir (from which a long excerpt is quoted)68 does not appear in the post-war register of Jews in the Sandomierz Congregation, dated December 1945. His memoir indicates that as soon as the front passed he moved to Łódź, since the atmosphere in the town was becoming increasingly tense, and many Poles were urging him to leave. The reasons for his decision may be reconstructed on the basis of the story below. It begins the day after the liberation, in Goźlice.

We went into the house of Jan Barański, a farmer we knew. He stared at us. He advised us to leave the area because things were restless. We could be killed there. We go on. […] We enter the town. We’re walking past the church, and residents of the town are coming out. I ask about my debtors […][and] go to the square. From a distance, I see starosta ←158 | 159→Hejnoch [Hajnoch], with two other residents. He says, with affected joy:69 “This is my tailor.” He shakes hands with us, asks us where we [managed to] survive this time. […] We also had an incident with a Pole, who went up to a Russian soldier and said that the Jews had supported the Germans.70 The next day, my brother and I went to see the Public Prosecutor Wieczorek.71 The whole family was embarrassed. The Prosecutor’s son came in and asked if we wanted dinner. I told them to give me back my jewelry and things I had left there. The Prosecutor said that he had agreed with my father that he would give the things back after the war; the main reason was that he didn’t have the things at home and couldn’t give them back to me at the time. From the Prosecutor’s house, I went to the Jewish cemetery. It was a terrible sight. The stone wall had been destroyed and stolen. Almost all the matzevot (gravestones) had been torn down, perhaps 20 percent remained. The ground was dug up. I went to the common graves, looking for the grave ←159 | 160→of the couple killed under arrest by members of the Home Army.72 A Pole, the beadle for the Jewish community, showed me their grave. He told me that some bastards had dug up and stolen the Torah scrolls. They had used the parchment for shoe linings.73 He also said that six months after the burial of 68 people shot dead on 30 November 1942, in the spring of 1943, thieves came, pulled out the bodies, searched for dollars, and pulled out their gold teeth. Czesław Nowakowski was among those who did this.74

←160 | 161→

When I was returning from the cemetery, an elderly Polish woman came up to me and showed me the small grave of a seven-year-old boy, Awner Diamant. Before the deportation, the child’s family had been in hiding in a Pole’s house. Thugs from NSZ dragged the whole Jewish family out and shot them […]. Once, Stefan Bigos from a nearby village, came to us and advised us to leave Klimontów, because he knew for certain that NSZ people wanted to throw grenades through our window. When the front shifted on 12 January and there were fewer troops, we decided to leave the town because the atmosphere all around was increasingly tense. Many Poles were urging us to leave the town.

Toward the end of 1945, we arrived in Łódź. Chaim Penczyna and his pregnant wife were still in Klimontów. His father, Abraham Penczyna, who had been in hiding in Wiązownia with his wife, daughter, three sons and two daughters-in-law, was murdered before the liberation, along with his family.75 Two Jewish women were murdered: Róża Bojm, and her sister, the wife of Izrael Rozenberg (who is now in Argentina), in the same village, also before the liberation.

I also found out that, on 5 September 1943, after I had left Ratkowski, in whose house I had been in hiding, Awner Wal [Wał], Joel Wajcman and Mosze Nisenbojm from Opatów, Jews he knew, came to him wanting to go into hiding. Ratkowski agreed to take them in. Then, Awner and Wajcman went to Klimontów to get their belongings from Jozef Sztenszicki [or Sztęszycki – the name may be distorted, see footnotes 51–53]. When they left his house, Sztenszicki sent thugs after them to Wiązownica, to Ratkowski’s. They beat up Ratkowski and shot the three Jews in his yard. This was a group of 40 armed thugs. I have been told that by Edward Ratkowski, who buried the Jews in a shared grave near the cemetery. Mazur, in the same village, with whom we had also been staying, also got a visit from NSZ after we left, and they demanded that he show them where the Jews were hiding. They went up to the hiding place where we had been concealed. They beat the farmer up and demanded that he tell them where we were. In the end, to scare him, they wound a birch branch around his neck and strung him up. Mazur himself told us that.76

←161 | 162→

On 12 April 1945, the last few Jews, scared of the NSZ gangs, left Klimontów. Only five Jews stayed behind: Abraham Złotnicki,77 the Lederman brothers, Szyja and Chil and one couple, Chaim and Rywka Penczyna. The NSZ gangs couldn’t bear that. On Monday night, 16 April 1945, they came and shot these Jews.

Status of Jewish Ethnographic Sources

Although the accounts by Jews from Klimontów have an undeniable documentary value, they are rather hard to verify. The research on which this chapter is based should be treated as an initial investigation. However, it does show that the last of the accounts cited here is the most useful, complemented with a letter sent to the Jewish Historical Institute from Worth an der Donau (Bavaria), where Zylberberg lived after leaving Poland. This proves that the author of this account had an excellent memory and confirms the details he gave as accurate. Zylberberg also corrects facts that were incorrectly recorded by the clerk taking his testimony. Thanks to this and several other corroborating accounts from Pesla Penczyna, Zelman Baum, Sala Ungerman and Mordechaj Penczyna, to name a few, it is assumed that the Klimontów murder took place on the night of 16 April 1945,78 and a total of six people were killed: Abraham Złotnicki, the brothers Szyja and Chil Lederman, and the married couple Chaim and Rywka Penczyna along with their unborn child. However, further research is needed; first and ←162 | 163→foremost, it is necessary to recover the Citizens’ Militia reports and to analyze the files from the trial of the alleged murderers

A familiar paradox is associated with verification of survivors’ accounts: the victims would be the only fully credible witnesses to murders committed without other witnesses. When survivors start talking, their testimony does not address the situation as a whole, but only a minor part of it, yet, as representatives of the victims, they feel qualified to generalize. Generalizations, in turn, provoke criticism. Questions arise, such as:

How are we to know that this situation actually occurred? Is it a figment of the informer’s imagination? Either this situation never occurred or it did occur, in which case the testimony of the informer is false, since […] he should have been killed […].79

While the historian should always verify his or her sources, the ethnographer may also examine them for their autonomous value. In some cases, however, the sources themselves show the local state of “moral consciousness,” and can contribute to verifying the survivors’ accounts. When informants say: [951W] ‘There were a lot who helped and took [people] in, but there were a lot of others who betrayed [Jews], even those who took property and then were capable of finishing the children off […]. There were Poles who murdered Jews’ – it is hard to question their memory. Wherever possible, the next thing to do is to attempt to place it in the historical context. The problem is that not all ethnographic sources can be anchored in this way, especially six decades after the war.

How does this work in practice? The above accounts of the murder in spring 1945 are based on second-hand information; they must be. With the exception of Tobcia (Toba) Stecka, who was sleeping at a Christian home on the critical night, all the Jews remaining in Klimontów after Zylberberg and the Penczynas had left were killed. Even Tobcia’s account was indirect (incidentally, almost nothing is known of Tobcia herself).80 Four of the survivors probably refer to her (Zelman ←163 | 164→Baum, Sala Ungerman, Pesla Penczyna, and Lejb Zylberberg), while Mordechaj Penczyna actually gives her name. In this situation, ethnographic sources, which serve as carriers of the memory – the memory which spans six decades – of murders of Jews, and which also include the names of some of the victims, acquire fundamental significance.

The Jewish accounts cited above share characteristic features: on the one hand, their use of a particular historical idiom (Pesla Penczyna: ‘I left when the reactionaries started murdering Jews’); and, on the other, the limited information of the witnesses, who in varying degrees lacked the information available to those who had not had to hide. Hence the apparent confusion of the Home Army with the National Armed Forces, already mentioned in note 71 above, and the incompleteness of information as to the consequences of events (one account states that Zelman Baum was killed, whereas it is known that, although he came under fire, he managed to escape from the ambush). In this case, too, the “local knowledge” on the part of present-day residents of Klimontów, who remember who survived, who was killed, who they stole from and murdered, and who took Jews in, is also vital.

One fact worthy of note is the neutral language of the Jewish accounts discussed here, which is different from other testimonies in the Jewish Historical Institute Archive (see e.g. files no. 301/1276, 4830, 537, and the end of 4229) and also from memorial books that came much later.81 This distance is sometimes due to the nature of the testimony recorded by a clerk, and fades with the passage of time. As the testimonies could have provided grounds for prosecution, their rhetoric exhibited a necessary reticence that the oral personal stories and ethnographic interviews lack. On several occasions, transcripts contain notes on how difficult survivors found it to preserve this reticence (e.g., Dawid Nassan’s account, AŻIH, no. 301/3262).

Three Versions of the Polish Story

The “Polish version” of the murder discussed above may also be supplemented with ethnographic sources. In the form most frequently cited, this version features in Eugeniusz Niebelski’s 1999 monograph on Klimontów. Below is an excerpt central to this version:

←164 | 165→

Some of them [i.e., the Jews returning to Klimontów after the front passed – author’s note] immediately started collaborating with the NKVD and the new authorities, casting a shadow over all the others. Abram Złotnik, who had been taken into hiding for the duration of the war in Wola Konarska, started letting the Russians have names of people from the Underground Home Army, openly threatening that he had a whole list, waving a pistol around as he did so. Some activists and former Underground soldiers fell into NKVD hands, and a few even got sent to Siberia. Abram ignored warnings from his Klimontów friends. In March 1945, he was liquidated on Sandomierska Street. Nevertheless, there were murders of Jews in the town that were not justifiable in any way. After these tragic events, the remaining Jews moved away from Klimontów to other places, including Łódź and Sandomierz.82

Radosław Januszewski, a journalist with the daily Rzeczpospolita who wrote a piece about the Klimontów murder83 in 2001, hypothesized that the list which had cost Abraham Złotnicki his life might be the document in the Jewish Historical Institute Archive, Wykaz Żydów, którzy zostali zabici przez bandy lub przez tych, którzy ich przyjęli na ukrycie (List of Jews who were killed by bands or by those who were hiding them).84 In fact, this document, which contains scores of names of victims and murderers, refers to a different Klimontów (near Proszowice).85 It does, however, throw some light on the nature of the alleged denunciations of which Jews were sometimes accused after the war.86 ‘Letting the Russians have names of people from the Underground Home Army’ falls into this category.

The question arises as to whether Polish citizens who had been victims of collaboration and were the rightful owners of plundered property should have approached the new authorities for restitution and punishment of the perpetrators, and whether such actions should be labeled as, ‘collaboration with the NKVD.’ The use of such terminology is often related to the stubborn refusal to ←165 | 166→come to terms with87 the fact that evil against Jews was sometimes committed by the Poles who ‘had taken them in.’88 In this context, it is also worth mentioning that in Wykaz ludności wyznania niekatolickiego, zamieszkałej na terenie powiatu sandomierskiego (List of non-Catholic population resident in the territory of the Sandomierz county), dated 14 February 1945, section ‘Attitudes of Particular Creeds to State Affairs,’ only the populations of three localities – Klimontów, Połaniec, and Wiśniowa – were characterized as ‘not demonstrating loyalty’ toward the new system.89

Radosław Januszewski’s interviewees in 2001 remembered both the post-war murders of the Jews and Abram Złotnik’s (Abraham Złotnicki) murder differently from Eugeniusz Niebelski’s description:

Ms. R. recalls her brother’s story about how the Jews were killed just after the war. “The Poles did it. They stood them against the wall here, ordering them to turn around,” she said, pointing to the abandoned synagogue wall, “and the rest, [were killed] behind my brother’s house…” She talked of Chaskiel,90 who was killed because he had a few dollars: ←166 | 167→“We ate with the same spoon, and you want to kill me?” he […] said to his murderer, a childhood friend. Ms. R.’s brother, an old man, but still “getting around,” was bringing in coal. At first, he doesn’t want to say much. “I didn’t see them shoot, but I saw them lying there. The partisans killed them! They got this kind of partisan gang together.” Among the dead was Abram Złotnik. Eugeniusz Niebelski mentions him as an NKVD collaborator, who disclosed the names of Home Army soldiers. Apparently, he said he would denounce them all, waving a pistol around. Other Jews were killed almost “as an aside.” Ms. R.’s brother gave a different version: “That Yabrom [Abram] ‘ad too big a mouth. ’E was young, brazen, so they took ’im out and killed ’im in a ditch…. Them as did it are still alive. I know ’em, but I ain’t tellin’ now, they’d shoot me.” Ms. R. was terrified. The interviewer told her that these are different times. “I’ve got children, they live here, the others would take revenge. He’d come here, set us on fire, send his thugs round!” Ms. R.’s brother recalled another man who killed [people] and is still alive.

The interviewees in the Sandomierz study also describe the situation in April 1945. Here is a statement from 2006:

[1218N, wife of a former Deputy Mayor]

Later, I remember this scene. After they’d hounded those Jew and taken them, well, and the Germans went away. Only Poles were left. The front moved on…and then these Jews appeared out of nowhere, a few families, even from Sandomierska Street, they came from somewhere. Well, they started to get all belligerent. Oh yes! That this was theirs! That now we’re going to show what we can do, yeah. I remember, that one Jewish woman was pregnant, and they killed her in the attic, too. In one guy’s attic…. Well, they shouldn’t have been like that, and maybe they’d have survived. I think there were four or five families. Yes, they killed them…Poles. Poles.

←167 | 168→

“But after the war?”

“After the war. Because they [the Jews] started to really… that it was all theirs, you know! That now they would show us! They started to come back at us. Well, in any case, the devil only knows how it was. Maybe they had something against them. But, in any case, there were a few families left, hidden away somewhere, but they became all brazen once the Germans had gone, and they were killed.”

“So it was like this, if I understand it correctly: these five families had survived somewhere after the war…? After the Occupation…? They came back for what was theirs. But the Poles had already appropriated it, because they thought that by then…”

“Yes, right after the war. Yes, appropriated, [and] maybe not appropriated. Well,…. of course they…knew whose it was, the Poles, those here.”

“Did a lot of Jews come back? How many more or less – you say five families, but how many were there?”

“Five families, well about 10 persons, maybe 11, something like that. Persons.”

“But were they armed in any way, the Jews, or did they just come, peacefully, wanting…?”

“Well, they thought that they were sure of…”

“They’d come back to their own homes…”

“…They came back to their own homes because the Germans had gone. Well, it was a kind of revenge. Revenge or I don’t know what.”

The term “revenge” returns here first in the context of presumed grievances of the Jews (‘started to get all belligerent’; ‘This was theirs! That now we’re going to show what we can do’), and then in the context of grievances against the Jews (‘Maybe they had something against them?’). In the language of the Sandomierz interviewees, the Klimontów tragedy of spring 1945 could be described, in a rather theatrical form, as a clash of two revenge discourses: the (real) Polish discourse, and the (presumed) Jewish one.

However, this would not be an objective description. As mentioned above, there are no revenge motifs in the Jewish accounts already cited in this paper; their dominant discourse is of mistreatment, mourning, and withdrawal. Only the Polish perception of post-war reality is consistently organized around the word “revenge.” To a certain extent, this is related to the nature of the two types of sources mentioned above – unlike the Jewish accounts, which were recorded at a commission that threatened punishments for false testimony, the Polish stories, obtained by a journalist and anthropologists six decades after the war, gave license to express emotion.

The revenge motif is also clearly present in the interpretation proffered by Eugeniusz Niebelski, taken up unquestioningly from his informants’ ←168 | 169→statements.91 In this version, the murder of the Jews is explained, and subsequently justified, by the fact that one of them92 was allegedly an NKVD collaborator. This motif is echoed in the words of another Klimontów resident, cited by Radosław Januszewski, the author of the article ‘Szkoła tysiąclecia.’ Yet the material collected in the course of his journalistic investigation, as well as in ethnographic interviews carried out between 2005 and 2008, suggests that this angle may be a result of the complex connections attributed to the informant by other witnesses to these events.

[…] a certain P., the one that the ironic phrase, “Hand over more eggs and give up more yard birds,”93 was used to refer to, lives in Klimontów too, and is the president of the local Home Army Veterans’ Club. After the Soviets came in, he went into hiding in the area – so he said. Before that, he was in the Klimontów Supply Corps. He was active in the Home Army. They were rooting out grasses. “Some of the grasses collaborated with ‘them,’” he said. “They” means NKVD. They shot one of them, it was Abram. […] There was a pogrom, [P.] admits, but he and his men weren’t involved. He says they were in hiding in Lublin at the time. Then there were sentences, there was a trial. NKVD and UB were all in Jewish hands. He claims that the people who staged the pogrom weren’t AK people. “They were either people from the Peasants’ Battalions94 or non-allied individuals. It was for looting. Don’t listen to what people say. It was a group of looters. Perhaps they’d asked for what they’d left with the farmers when they’d gone into hiding.” But he did have dealings with the court in the case of the murder of the Jews. In 1961, he was a witness in the Provincial Court in Radom, about the killing of this Jew. They found the ←169 | 170→murderer, who got eight years. This guy G. from Klimontów.95 The court asked why he did it. Because his brother had been an officer in Lviv and the Jews had tortured him to death. Poured tar and hot water from a balcony as the army was marching underneath, after the capitulation. P. is convinced that’s gospel truth. The things the Jews are capable of! He claims that he didn’t see G. actually killing [the Jew]. He boasted about it afterward. He testified to having heard it. He was in prison himself at the time. He was arrested – so he says – for irregularities in the municipality cooperative, but the prosecutor mostly asked him about that murder case. He got a mild sentence afterward.96

The discourse of revenge permeating the Polish memory of the post-war murders of Jews in Klimontów, is reinforced here by the anecdotal thread of ‘Jews pouring tar and hot water [on the heads of Polish officers],’ returning again and again to the concept of “Judeocommunism” (żydokomuna). This concept, which is firmly rooted in the popular thought of the Polish provinces, was based on the assumption of a “natural” link between Communism and the Jews. This theory diverted the antipathy surrounding Communism toward Jews. This antipathy in some parts of the Polish provinces could serve as a sort of declared standard, ←170 | 171→regardless of real behaviors and sympathies.97 The reasoning, in this case, took the form of the following syllogism: we hate Communism, there are many Jews among the Communists,98 so we hate Jews. As the Communist terror intensified, the above implication radicalized. The Jews who came out of hiding would settle in the vicinity of Citizens’ Militia stations for safety, or maintained contacts with Red Army soldiers, militiamen and the security forces99 for similar reasons, and ←171 | 172→also joined the Citizens’ Militia and the army, thus providing the most accessible symbolic representation of Communism.

Fourth Version of the Polish Story

Finally, these versions of the events of April 1945 in Klimontów are compared with excerpts from the interrogation records of the murder suspects in the IPN archives. Although inconclusive, they provide insights into the social climate surrounding the murder, in effect, undermining Eugeniusz Niebelski’s heroic version of the killing. A special verification mechanism is used on the ethnographic source: the language of participants in the events, although distorted by the interrogation report, enables the scholar to discern their intentions and form an opinion about the circumstances of the murder far more rapidly than would be possible on the basis of the language in other documents.

The Fourth Version of the Polish Story

Let us now compare the versions of the Klimontów events from April 1945 cited above with excerpts from interrogations of the suspected perpetrators discovered in the IPN Archive. Although they are inconclusive, they allow us to discover the social climate at the time of the murder, and in effect undermine the heroic version of the murder presented by Eugeniusz Niebelski. This is a specific ←172 | 173→mechanism of verification by the use of an ethnographic source: the language used by those involved in these events, albeit distorted in interrogation transcripts, enables us to realize their intentions and form an opinion about the circumstances of the murder faster than the language used in any other documents.

The picture of the investigation that emerges from these testimonies is reminiscent of a decrescendo: as time went on, the investigating authorities showed decreasing determination to find and prosecute the suspects, who remained at large.100 As a result, none of them were convicted. Also, in the course of the proceedings, none of them pleaded guilty. They gradually retracted certain elements of their accounts, claiming they had been obtained under duress. The nature of their statements also changed, and they evidently consulted with one another. Telling details are gradually removed from the initially graphic descriptions, until the testimonies ultimately become misleading laments on the prosecutors’ violence.101

Below is an excerpt from the testimony of Stefan Wyrzykowski “Siła”, without party affiliation, given at the Regional Military Prosecutor’s Office in Kielce, on 4 July 1950 (the style reflects the original):

A few days later, I went to Klimontów to the shoemaker and the pharmacy. After finishing my errands, I went to Batorski’s restaurant – I don’t know his first name – to eat dinner. […] Batorski offered me vodka. […] While in the square, I also saw Jan Markot, Szymański Stanisław, Białywąs Bolesław and Kalita Władysław. When it was dark, Batorski joined me, gave me a machine gun with a sawn-off barrel and butt, and ←173 | 174→told me to stand on the street and keep watch. […] After about an hour, Batorski came to me again, took the machine gun off me and told me to go home, and I left. Before, when he gave me the machine gun, I saw Jan Markot and Szymański Stanisław walking along the street, [but] did not see any weapons on them. One of them turned to the left side of the street, and the other to the right, while I stood with that KBK machine gun in the street. At that time, I heard ten or more shots from the direction where Szymański and Jan Markot had gone, after which I left and went home. The next day, I found out from people, I no longer remember from whom, that some Jews had been killed in Klimontów, although how many, they did not say. I was not there at that murder [scene], but Kalita Władysław, Batorski and around 10 people from Łownica went…”

After the murder of the Jews, what was looted from them and where were those things taken?

What was looted from those Jews after their murder, I don’t know. Walking home, I heard a cart going there, but whether it was [loaded] with things looted from those Jews or not, I don’t know. I myself received nothing from that attack. According to my understanding, Batorski was the commander and organizer of the entire operation. After that event, I did not see either Stanisław Szymański or Jan Markot at all, and where they went, I do not know…102

Testimony of Stanisław Szymański “Gołąb”, resident of Mała Wieś, Wiśniowa district, member of the Polish United Workers’ Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza – PZPR), given at the Regional Military Prosecutor’s Office in Kielce, on 23 May 1950:

In March 1945 (I don’t remember the exact date), when I was in Klimontów, in the Sandomierz county for one evening, I was in possession of a ‘seven’- system pistol, which I was given by Batorski, his first name I do not know, and where he lived I do not know, which I gave back to the same Batorski.

With what aim and why did this Batorski give you a ‘seven’-system pistol?

[He describes how on the critical day, he went with a friend to Klimontów, to a restaurant owned by one Szcześniak or Sośniak, according to the sign outside]. While we were both sitting at the table, some individuals suddenly started coming into our room, among whom I recognized Stefan Wyrzykowski, a resident in the village of Domaradzice, and I knew Adwent Stanisław from the village of Mała Wieś, in the Wiśniowa district, and Kalita Władysław from the village of Pęsławice, and there were five of them I did not know at all. We all together drank vodka there. [There is a description here of an accident with the gun, caused by Stanisław Adwent, as a result of which someone sitting at the table dies. The people gathered there take the body to the cemetery, and the witness gets a gun from Batorski; after which they return by cart to Klimontów – author’s note] […] We went in the cart along one of the streets in Klimontów, what the name of that street was I don’t know, and we stopped outside ←174 | 175→one house, where there were shots inside. […] After a moment, they started throwing clothes, linen, shoes out of that apartment, which I, together with the others, packed into the cart. After taking those things, Batorski came up to me, ordered me to give him back the pistol, which I gave him, while he designated several of the others to take those things to an arranged place, but where they went with those things I do not know…. There, at that site, in that house, three Jews were shot dead…. But exactly how many Jews were killed I do not know, as for Stefan Wyrzykowski, Adwent Stanisław and Kalita Władysław, what they did in connection with the murder I could not see, because it was a dark night.

What was your aim and with whom did you go to Jan Szcześniak’s restaurant the second time?

The [second] time, I went to that restaurant in order to meet with the restaurateur, so that he would give me some of the things taken from the murdered Jews. But at the time, there were a lot of people and he didn’t want to talk to me […]. In the end, I did not receive anything from the attack and did not go back to him again.

What happened to those murdered Jews later?

What happened to those murdered Jews later, I do not know. In any case, we left them as they were, shot, in the apartment.103

Testimony of Kalita Władysław “Wisła”, born on 1 June 1912, member of the Peasants’ Battalions], resident of Kolonia Pęcławska, given at the District Office of Public Security in Sandomierz, on 30 September 1950:

On arriving to the Soviet Union army site, I asked Witold [Commander of the Peasants’ Battalions unit – author’s note] what to do now, and he answered that anyone who wanted to should start work in a [suitable] job…. I told Witold I was joining the Citizens’ Militia (MO) and he answered, that as long as you have the skills you can work in the MO. […] I joined MO and worked as Station Superintendent in Jurkowice for about four months. I was released on my own request. […] As for the Jews, I shall explain how I did not know that, in fall 1943, the Jews were taken in carts by a group from the Peasants’ Battalions in Pęcławice Górne, and I did not take part and I do not know who took them. I want to state that, in the spring of 1945, I was not in Klimontów and I did not take part in the murder of the Jews. […] I was in hiding because I heard from people I did not know, at the market in Klimontów, in the spring of that year, that the Office of Security and the Militia were arresting all partisan soldiers […].104

In spite of proof that Kalita Władysław was in Klimontów on the critical day, the Investigating Officer from the Regional Military Prosecutor’s Office in Kielce decided to discontinue the investigation against him and not to question any ←175 | 176→more witnesses.105 Similarly, the cases against the five other suspects – Stanisław Szymański, Stefan Wyrzykowski, Bolesław Białowąs, Stanisław Adwent, and Jan Markot – were also dismissed.106

“The Excluded Economy”: A Picture of the Ethnic Cleansing

The discourse of revenge, recoding “antisemitism” as “anti-Communism,” provided justification for the violence experienced by the Jews returning to Klimontów after the Occupation. It was an attempt to disguise something that is impossible to conceal: the gains that some residents in the Sandomierz provinces made from the “disappearance” of the Jews. This is clearly evident in this small town where 125 properties passed into “Polish hands,” along with all the local mills. The murder of Aron Kupferblum and three members of the Penczyna family, Józef, Chaim, and Rywka, at Polish hands, and the subsequent rapid departure of their potential successors, effectively rendered the local mill industry “Judenrein” once again, this time for good.

It would be expedient to consider whether this spontaneous “nationalization” of one branch of local industry, which preceded the official nationalization in 1953 and which, on the surface, looked like a chain of unrelated events did not constitute ethnic cleansing. While a series of individual occurrences apparently does not constitute such process, it is often the end result of an explosion of deeply rooted resentments and tensions ignited under certain circumstances. Only the effects of this process – fear and flight – reveal its intentional nature. Events snowball so that the escalating violence and demonstrative bloodshed provoke panic among the persecuted group and push them to flee. Sometimes, a chain reaction is set in motion by the presence of “ethnic entrepreneurs” (a term coined by David Maybury-Lewis, i.e., provocateurs and beneficiaries of the process). Sometimes, actors on the sidelines unwittingly assume this role.

←176 | 177→

All the Jewish accounts cited above testify to the presence of fear, variations of which are the subject of one of the books by Jan Tomasz Gross.107 Lejb Zylberberg, Sala Ungerman, Mordechaj Penczyna and Zelman Baum saw the murders in the spring of 1945 as confirmation that their decision to leave was right. The murders took place at a point when Klimontów was already almost entirely “cleansed”; nevertheless, in the context of the wider Kielce region, it may be seen as one of the “triggers” of the process that reached its climax a year later in the Kielce Pogrom.

If this hypothesis is correct, the context of the above phenomenon should be broadened to include the following elements, derived from various systems of reference and correlated with the “disappearance” of Klimontów’s Jews:

  1. The most important was the systematic extermination of the Jews by the occupying forces. This dramatically reduced the number of Jews in the Polish provinces, depriving them of the critical mass necessary for self-defense.
  2. The wartime depravation108 of the rural areas around Sandomierz in connection with the removal of legal protection for the Jews, and, if they managed to go into hiding, with their dependence on their neighbors, was a key factor. As various accounts cited in this chapter show, this proved to be an extremely fragile guarantee of survival.109

    ←177 | 178→
  3. The Kielce region was the operating platform for the largest formation outside the Lublin region of the National Armed Forces (NSZ), so called District 5, which, on the pretext of ‘cleansing the territory of subversive and criminal gangs from hostile minority formations,’ gave a higher priority to killing Jews, as well as Russians and Ukrainians, than to fighting the Occupying Forces.110 From the moment that NSZ was incorporated into the Home Army, which put equal effort into eliminating Communist organizations and the Volksdeutsch,111 this tendency was certainly reinforced, especially among rank-and-file soldiers.112 ←178 | 179→This had a critical impact on the morality in the rural Sandomierz region, effectively providing “patriotic” license and pretext to murder Jews.
  4. Among the circumstances intensifying local antipathy toward Jews, it would not be out of place to mention that Charles de Prévôt’s paintings in the Sandomierz Cathedral – legends of the Jewish desire for Christian blood (blood libel) – had a particularly strong effect.113 In the context of the Kielce pogrom, Krystyna Kersten aptly called these factors ‘social dynamite.’114 The force of such dynamite was apparent with almost every pogrom in post-war Poland.

    ←179 | 180→
  5. In comparison with the factors mentioned above, this one seems marginal, but it too had its place in the chain of circumstances surrounding the purge. It is the memory of Polish-Jewish rivalry and the fight for trade in the 1930s, which was particularly intense in the Central Industrial Region,115 as well as the glaring reminder in the shape of the Jewish tenement houses.

It is unlikely that anyone in Klimontów planned a “final solution to the Jewish question,” the desire was merely to exploit a situation created by others – the Nazis, the partisan formations, and common thugs – to secure a beneficial outcome in the rivalry with the Jewish millers and tenement owners that had been simmering since pre-war times. In the feverish few months after the liberation, people simply failed to notice that, in the course of the war, the ground rules had shifted. Thus, the evident gains from economic victory were necessarily accompanied by other less tangible losses in the moral sphere. These were such that by taking advantage of the effects of thuggery and the decline in moral standards, the popular enfranchisement, through the availment of Jewish property, and the “Polonization” of Klimontów’s mill industry, became irrevocably implicated in the aftermath of the Holocaust in the Sandomierz region.

Toward a Macrohistorical Perspective

Klimontów is just one of many small towns and villages in central Poland where Jews were murdered after the Germans were expelled from the region. In his book, Po Zagładzie. Stosunki polsko-żydowskie 1944–1947 (Warsaw: IPN, 2008), Jan Marek Chodakiewicz writes that these murders were often closely linked to the cooperation of Jews with the Communist authorities. In this chapter, the author has shown the benefits that may be accrued from leveling such charges, which, in effect, provide justification for the murders and looting. Similar ←180 | 181→situations are described in testimonies by witnesses from other regions in Poland. Take, for instance, this account from Wąchock:116

After the Occupation, my cousin Binsztok Chaim and I, along with five friends, came out of the woods. We went to live in our hometown of Wąchock. There, three weeks later, a few Home Army soldiers came to our house: Kolczynski [Kolczyński, Kołczynski] Czesiek, Szafrański Witek, Kwieczyński [Kwieciński] (it was on 10th [month omitted – author’s note] 1945). They came in, armed with guns. Chaim Binsztok and Kornwaser fled when they noticed they had guns. Seven people were left in the room. They started talking to us. They asked how many of us there were. We answered that there were nine. They counted only seven, and asked where the others were. We made the excuse that they had gone out for water. I said that so I could go outside and see what was going on. I noticed that there were lots of armed assailants, there might have been about eight, all around the house. I didn’t have the heart to escape, because there were still people in the house. I went back to our assailants and talked to them again. Again, they asked where the others were, so I said I couldn’t find them. They demanded their return, because they wanted to murder all nine of us, so that there would be no trace of us left. I told them to come back tomorrow, and then they would find the other two as well. They said tomorrow would be too late. I went hot and cold when I heard their words. I winked at my [friends] to go out one by one. They did. The thugs didn’t stop them. I stayed there alone with them. When there were none of my friends left, I made my escape too, and they took everything from the house. Lots of valuable things. After that event, on 12 March 1945, I moved to Łódź and rented an apartment. Eight days later, on 19 March, I went back to Wąchock for my friends. That same evening, we had a second break-in, by the same assailants. Two people, Josef Wajsblum and Mendel Brit, who had just returned from Auschwitz, were shot dead. Josef Wajsblum was 32 years old, a merchant before the war, lived in Wąchock, and all of his family had perished in Auschwitz. Mendel Brit, aged 23, lived with his parents before the war, studied in a yeshiva [Talmudic academy], and also lost everyone during the Occupation. After the murders, we left the town and moved to Łódź. Chaim Binsztok still had to go back to Wąchock to repossess the house, which belonged to both of us. While he was in Wierzbnik, eight kilometers from Wąchock [for] eight days, he referred his case to the court. The case was to be heard on Friday, 30 May 1945 in Wierzbnik. Chaim wanted me to come to Wierzbnik. I arrived in Wierzbnik on Tuesday, 27 May at five in the morning, and went to some Jews who lived in Wierzbnik and asked after my cousin Chaim Binsztok. They told me that he had gone to Wąchock on Tuesday at one [pm], to collect files from the municipality offices to present in court. On the same day, at five [pm], he wanted to get back to Wierzbnik, because he was afraid to stay in Wąchock. He went to the station to go to Wierzbnik. His murderers were already waiting for him, and they shot him dead at the station. They also wounded a Christian, a railway worker, Polowiec [Połowiec]. After the first bullet, which ←181 | 182→wounded him, Chaim Binsztok tried to escape, but he couldn’t run far. The murderer went up to him and killed him on the spot.

The reception that Jews experienced on returning to their hometowns is also illustrated by the following excerpt from a memoir of post-war Izbica:

Shortly after we arrived, a few residents started walking behind us. They didn’t say anything, just followed us step by step, as if they wanted to test us. With every minute, the crowd grew denser and we were overtaken by increasing unease. […] I went toward the cemetery. As I came close to the hill with the path leading to an open gate, I noticed one of my former schoolmates running toward me. He was holding a revolver in his right hand. […] I started to run as fast as I could toward the police station, which was half a kilometer way. […] I expected it would now be the Russian military authorities’ headquarters…. We told the Russian officer on duty that we had survived the war and now couldn’t walk around our town safely. The officer explained that he wasn’t in a position to help us […]. “Go to a big city. It will be safer there. No one will recognize you there.” He gave us a few grenades and showed us how to use them. In the end he put us on a Russian truck and told the driver to take us to Lublin.117


Asked today why the Jews left their town shortly after their return to it, the Klimontów residents answer:

[Former Deputy Mayor] What [were they supposed to stay] for? They didn’t have family. But, on the other hand, the thing was that some Poles just didn’t accept the Jews after the war.

To understand what this really means, one needs to go back to 1943. In his notes from the Occupation years, Marek Szapiro cites an article from the Underground press: ‘Rodzi się nowe oblicze Polski’ (The New Face of Poland is Emerging). This article gives some insight into the hope that the “disappearance” of the Jews would provide the solution to the ‘switched-off economy’ problem:

The decline in the number of Jews will fundamentally change the mood in our commerce, crafts, and small industry. Many people who previously jostled for small scraps of land will now find new areas of work after relatively short periods of vocational training.118

←182 | 183→

As early as in 1942, the Polish Underground authorities began to predict that there would be problems if the Jews returned en masse to their abandoned establishments.119 Ethnic Poles felt relief at their “disappearance,” seen as deserved compensation for the suffering associated with the Jews ‘outstaying their welcome.’ Great ingenuity was invested in making the return of the Jews impossible. In Żywiec, for instance, at the turn of 1945/1946, the town’s former de non tolerandis judaeis (no Jew is permitted to reside or stay over) law was evoked.120 Sometimes there were attempts to designate specific places where Jews could settle.121 The measures designed to prevent this indicate a great deal about the provincial authorities’ mentality: in Sanok, the Population Statistics Department of the District Citizens’ Militia Headquarters issued Jews with temporary identification cards bearing the letter “Ż” (Żyd stands for Jew in Polish), modeled on the German Kennkarte (basic identity document during the Third Reich period) marked with the letter “J.” The Municipal National Council in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski ordered the Jewish Committee to send Jews to work in the mine.122 Likewise, a delegate from Białobrzegi to the Conference of Jewish Committees, held on 14 May 1945, reported that seven Jews had been drafted to work in the mine there. At the same Conference, ‘Ostrowiec [Municipal] Officials said that German regulations were binding in relation to Jews.’ The nature of attitudes in ←183 | 184→the provinces may be deduced from the advice given to Lublin Jews – not to talk loudly in Yiddish, not to go around the town in groups,123 and not to rush to readopt their original names (Otwock).124

Anti-Jewish outbreaks were common across the country, like those in Lublin, Zamość, Ostrowiec, Jedlińsk, and Radom,125 where Jews were immediately banned from leaving the town boundaries. The campaign terrorizing Jews on trains increasingly spread to different parts of the country.126

There were many explanations as to why property plundered from the Jews should not be returned, from the formalistic (the property rights imposed by the Germans) to the ochlocratic, such as the following excerpt taken from a report by the Mayor of Częstochowa, in July 1945:

Polish society is unable to understand the Jewish minority’s attempts to increase material possessions, and, in this regard, tends not to take account of the facts in existence since 1939. This minority only stresses its own suffering during the war years. Conversely, ←184 | 185→this minority often fails to realize the psychological changes wrought by the Occupation years in Polish society…127

Analysis of documents collected by scholars, such as Adam Penkalla and Alina Skibińska, demonstrate that post-war Poland was built on an alliance between the Communists and “the people,” who benefited from the Holocaust. In the Sandomierz region, there is one explanation reflecting the attitude in the provinces to the Communists, who in some smaller towns and villages were prepared to accept yesterday’s murderers and burglars into their ranks, in return for turning a blind eye to appropriation of Jewish properties.128 Taking account of the new environment, the post-war looting and killing of Jews was justified as ridding society of its ‘masters.’


When those people suddenly disappeared [the Jews who had come back to Klimontów after the war and who were killed], an explanation had to be found for it, didn’t it? How was it explained?

Well, it was explained by the fact that the system had changed, that Russia came over, Russia came for the second time [with] the Soviet Army, socialism came about, and the Soviet system came about, and quite simply, all the masters were removed. Because, you see, they came from the world of gentry. In any case, to be honest, the Jews were gentry, because they were all rich.129

There were supposed to be no more Jews, so as soon as they came back, all the stereotypes were set in motion, from the most incomprehensible to the empirically entrenched, which were harder to correct. The blood libel legends, which justified ←185 | 186→hatred of the Jews with their murderous tendencies, were among the former while Judeocommunism – blaming the Jews for Communism in Poland – was among the latter. Both deflected Polish attention from an issue that was more difficult to accept: how much certain people in the Polish provinces had enriched themselves with Jewish property. Although these crimes were committed in the name of patriotism, divisions arose in the political preferences of Poles, many of whom saw in Communism, with all its ambivalence and upheaval, the chance of a lifetime.

1 This chapter is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Sandomierz and its surrounding area in 2004–2008, partially discussed in Tokarska-Bakir, Joanna: Legendy o krwi. Antropologia przesądu. W.A.B.: Warsaw 2008 (transl. into French by Małgorzata Maliszewska, Légendes du sang. Pour une anthropologie de l'antisémitisme chrétien, éditions Albin Michel, Paris 2015). The numbers in parentheses stand for two different systems of pagination of the interviews (marked N or W respectively).

2 The Jewish Historical Institute Archive (Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego – AŻIH), unit 301, see also Relacje z czasów Zagłady. Inwentarz. Archiwum ŻIH INB, vols. 1–5. Żydowski Instytutu Historyczny [ŻIH]: Warsaw 1998–2009. Some aspects of these accounts are supplemented with contemporary memoirs in the same archive, such as those of Leib Zylberberg, cat. no. 302/37. Zylberberg’s account was published as A Yid fun Klementov dertseylt (A Jew from Klimontów Recounts. Centralna Żydowska Komisja Historyczna: Warsaw-Łódź-Kraków 1947), extensive excerpts of which were translated for the author of this chapter by Sara Arm. The author is grateful to Professor Feliks Tych for granting her access to this rare book, to the AŻIH staff for their assistance during her research, as well as to Sara Arm for her countless translations from Yiddish.

3 This research was carried out for the author by Magdalena Prokopowicz, M.A., in the Sandomierz Branch of the State Archive in Kielce, the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej – IPN), and the National Library in Warsaw. The author did supplementary research in the State Archive in Radom and Kielce.

4 See Sułek, Antoni: “How Ordinary Poles See the Jews: Review and Interpretation of 1967 to 2008 Survey Results”. In Tych, Feliks / Adamczyk-Garbowska, Monika (eds.): Następstwa Zagłady Żydów: Polska 1944–2010. Wydawnictwo UMCS and Żydowski Instytut Historyczny: Lublin 2011, pp. 853–888.

5 Arendt, Hannah / Kopacki, A. (transl.): Walter Benjamin 18921940. słowo/obraz/ terytoria: Gdansk 2008, p. 65.

6 The author, head of the Ethnographic Archive at the Institute of the Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, which deals with ethnographic sources on the Holocaust, is working on a project called “Blood Libel Myths and Extermination of the Jews in Memory in the Polish Provinces”, which aims to develop an emic/etic lexicon, i.e., with both intra- and extra-textual categories, as an aid for extrapolating the hidden meanings of interviewees’ words.

7 “On the night of April 16–17, unknown perpetrators staged an attack in Klimontów, where they murdered five people. The co-proprietors of the Klimontów mill were among the victims.” (Probably Chil or Chaim Penczyna and his family.) Report from the Sandomierz District Authorities (Starostwo) Offices to the Department of Supply and Commerce, the Province Offices in Kielce (UWK), June 21, 1945; State Archive in Kielce (APK), Sandomierz Branch, Sandomierz District Offices (APK, OS SS), file no. 579. This report includes two other accounts of attacks on nearby mills, in Kleczanów and Słabuszowice. Referring to the latter, the report mentions that the group of attackers identified themselves as the “‘Ryś’ Independent White Eagle Commander Hit Squad”; Wnuk, Rafał (ed.): Atlas polskiego podziemia niepodległościowego 19441956. Instytut Pamięci Narodowej [IPN]: Warsaw-Lublin 2007, p. 276, mentions a group by the code-name of “Narodowcy” operating in an area nearby; it was led by Eugeniusz Majewski “Ryś” or “Huragan”.

8 This was mentioned in 1999 by Professor Eugeniusz Niebelski, a regional historian from the Catholic University of Lublin, whose ideas are discussed later in this chapter; and in 2001 by Radosław Januszewski, a journalist for the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper and author of the article “Szkoła tysiąclecia”, from which extensive excerpts are quoted in this chapter.

9 “In the Sandomierz region, former members of the Home Army who have gone underground are staging pogroms, attacking villages and small towns, and murdering Jews.” “Press conference held by M. Bierut at the Polish Embassy in Moscow in [sic!] April 23, 1945”. Soviet-Polish Relations. A Collection of Official Documents and Press Extracts. Soviet News: London 1946, p. 30.

10 Wyka, Kazimierz: “Gospodarka wyłączona”. In: Markiewicz, Henryk / Wyka, Marta (eds.): Życie na niby. Pamiętnik po klęsce. Wydawnictwo Literackie: Kraków-Wrocław 1984, p. 138.

11 This chapter expresses indirect criticism of both discourses, treating both the terms “Communist discourse” and “independence discourse” as unclear and problematic. It is necessary to at least briefly mention this issue, which is fundamental to the sociology of knowledge and merits a separate study.

12 See e.g. the following excerpt from an order by Mieczysław Liniarski “Mścisław,” a senior officer in the Polish anti-Communist guerilla group, Propaganda Summary no. 14, issued by the Home Army’s Information and Propaganda Office for the Białystok District, on May 15, 1945: “We represent the entire Polish Nation. We want to create a divide between Poles and Soviets […]. Being prepared to fight means: a) Immediately cleansing the area of all ‘narks,’ because it will be too late once the NKVD arrives […]. b) […] convincing society that the whole nation is with us, and that there are only Soviets and Jews on the other [side],” in Krajewski, Kazimierz / Łabuszewski, Tomasz: Białostocki Okręg AK-AKO, VII 1944VIII 1945. Oficyna Wydawnicza VOLUMEN, Dom Wydawniczy Bellona: Warsaw 1997, p. 145. The Home Army was disbanded on the order of General Leopold Okulicki, the last commander, on January 19, 1945.

13 For a discussion of declarations by the Communist Polish authorities, who claimed to offer equal rights to the Jews in post-war Poland, see Olejnik, Leszek: Polityka narodowościowa Polski w latach 19441960. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego: Łódź 2003, p. 351ff.

14 Data from Grynberg, Michał / Kotowska, Maria (eds.): Życie i zagłada Żydow polskich 19391945. Relacje świadkow. Oficyna Naukowa: Warsaw 2003, p. 194. The total population of the town was 4,500 in 1939.

15 Mordechaj Penczyna adds the following precise information: “During the liquidation of our settlement on October 30, 1942 […], there were 8,000 Jews in Klimontów,” Penczyna, Mordechaj: “Khurbn Klemontov” (The Extermination of Klimontów). YIVO Bleter 30(1), 1947, pp. 147–152. The author is grateful to Mark Web from YIVO for a copy of this article.

16 Penczyna, “Khurbn Klemontov”, p. 149.

17 There was fighting for the so-called Baranów bridgehead (in August 1944; Sandomierz was liberated on August 18, 1944), and then for the Warka-Magnuszew bridgehead. An offensive launched on January 14, 1945 culminated in the liberation of the entire Kielce province.

18 APK, vol. 1336, sheet 149, quoted after: Penkalla, Adam: “Władze o obecności Żydow na terenie Kielecczyzny w okresie od wkroczenia Armii Czerwonej do pogromu kieleckiego”. Kwartalnik Historii Żydow 4(208), 2003, p. 558 and note 2.

19 Penkalla, “Władze o obecności Żydów”, p. 559. According to AŻIH, file no. 301/4821, dated 1945 (more precise date unknown), Celina Grunszpanowa states that, “in Poland, there are around 40 [Jews] from Sandomierz: 17 in Łódź, 3 in Wrocław, 8 in Silesia, and 10–12 in Sandomierz itself.”

20 APK, UWK, vol. 1336, sheet 149, after: Penkalla, “Władze o obecności Żydów”, p. 560, note 16.

21 Ibid.

22 Letter to the starosta of Sandomierz dated November 15, 1948; APK, OS SS, file no. 219.

23 APK, OS SS, file no. 219. Subsequent quotes from the same archival resource.

24 APK, OS, Klimontów Municipality Archive, file no. 82.

25 There is a Zylberberg (Mejr, Ossolińska St) listed under no. 30 on and no. 46 (Bajla-Rywka, Osiecka St.); and a Penczyna (Dawid, Osiecka St) under no. 9 and no. 12 (Henryk, a house on the market square).

26 APK, OS, Klimontów Municipality Archive, file nos. 82, 95, and 111 (Krakowska St, entry: ‘Lederman’ or ‘Zederman’) and no. 118 (Opatowska St., entry: ‘Ledeman’). The inventory also features the names of those Jews who left Klimontów before the murder, e. g., Fantuch (a house on the market square, no. 96) and Weisbrod (a lot in Opatowska St., no. 101).

27 AŻIH, file no. 301/2425. For more information about Baum, see footnote 63.

28 APK, OS SS, file no. 580, official letter from the Superintendent of the District Citizens’ Militia in Sandomierz, dated October 31, 1944, to the District National Council in Sandomierz. Attached was a contract for lease of a mill, signed on August 12, 1944 (i.e., shortly after the invasion of the Red Army, a week before the liberation of Sandomierz) by the Mayor of Koprzywnica, Edward Śliwiński and Stanisław Skrzek, as well as a copy of a document dated November 10, 1943, signed “Superintendant O.S. ‘Lampart’,” who testified to the sale of “millstones from the former Jewish property in the village of Trzykosy […] to Społka Młyńska [sic; the Mill Company] in Bazów by Tajna Organizacja Polska [Secret Polish Organization] for the price of 600 kg of rye” (APK, OS SS, file no. 580).

29 “Prośba do Ob. Wojewody Kieleckiego” [Request to the Kielce Province Governor], November 14, 1944, APK, OS SS, file no. 580. The signatories request the annulment of the plan to nationalize the mill of which they took possession as “abandoned post-Jewish property.” Attached to the request is a statement from the Soviet military authorities, dated November 5, 1944, confirming the supply of flour to the army. On January 16, 1945, Jarosz, Superintendent of the Citizens’ Militia Station in Koprzywnica (see reference to a person of this name who according to Zelman Baum murdered Jews during the war, in Chapter 2: The Righteous Unrighteous and the Unrighteous Righteous in this volume), who intervened on behalf of Śliwiński and Skrzek. The correspondence on this matter continued for nearly a year, and ended with the decision by the starosta of Sandomierz to confiscate the mill from Śliwiński and Skrzek. The enforcement of the decision provoked “violent and resolute resistance on the part of the previous tenant.” See the official letter from the starosta to the Public Prosecutor at the Provincial Court in Sandomierz with respect to bringing criminal charges against Stanisław Skrzek for resistance to authority, dated July 30, 1945 (APK, OS SS, file no. 580). The same letter contains details of Śliwiński’s AK affiliation.

30 Józef Jarosz, born March 10, 1911 in Przewłoka near Koprzywnica, AIPN Ki 6/1462. See “Karta podejrzanego” from 1949: “Jarosz Jan Józef, […] suspected of being a BCh member during the Occupation Period, and there is also reason to suspect that along with his brothers [Antoni and Piotr] they murdered five persons, in addition they were attacking Jewish populace,” AIPN Ki 6/1462, s. 4. S. 5, a note from 1950: “investigation of the above matter closed.” See also, Tokarska-Bakir, Joanna, "Social Portrait of the Kielce Pogrom", 2 vols. (forthcoming).

31 AŻIH, file no. 301/2425.

32 “Prośba do Ob. Wojewody Kieleckiego”, November 14, 1944, APK, OS SS, file no. 580. In other sources, they testify that the mill belonged to “former proprietor Szmul Pelerman, who died, and whose heirs went off in an unknown direction, and, until the present time, no one knows anything about their lives” (contract for lease of a mill).

33 Seweryn Małkiewicz, who is mentioned later in this chapter, recalls that he was even respected by Fr. Bastrzykowski, a regional historian (see Bastrzykowski, Aleksander: Monografia historyczna parafji Gory Wysokie Sandomierskie. Diecezjalny Zakład Graficzno-Drukarski: Sandomierz 1936). See [1066W]: “The Jew was a decent guy! […] When we bought it and moved in, the servants who had worked there for Kupferblum Aron, spoke very highly of him.” See also [1217W]: “It all used to be different, they were more true to their principles, those Jews. But, for example, […] on Christmas Eve, […] this Jew had a Polish cook, so he said: ‘Make them a Christmas Eve dinner like all the Catholics have,’ and so they really felt brotherly concern. They sympathized with them all because they had been resettled, […] so on his small estate, he gave them a place to live […]. Those Poles of ours were [living in his property] for a long time.”

34 After Kotowski, Robert: Sandomierz między wojnami. Zarząd Miasta Sandomierza, Muzeum Okręgowe w Sandomierzu: Sandomierz 1998, pp. 78–79. On the “Lista imienna Ob. Ob. Żydow zamieszkałych i zameldowanych w Sandomierzu, będących członkami Kongregacji Wyznaniowej Żydowskiej w Sandomierzu” (List of Names of Jewish Citizens Resident and Registered in Sandomierz, as Members of the Sandomierz Jewish Religious Community), drawn up on October 15, 1947, two Kupferblums are listed as having no party affiliation: Abram (born in 1903) and Rozalia (born in 1918), both resident on 28 Basztowa St in Sandomierz. The other two with the same surname, Tanchuma (born in 1907, Chairman of the Religious Congregation in 1947) and Mala (born in 1912, address as above), are listed as Zionists; APK, OS SS, file no. 224.

35 His daughter Ziwa claims that this was due to an “inopportune expression of his views”; IPN BU, file no. 0193/2817.

36 [1044W] “When there were no Germans around, they would let me out to walk around the castle, which had a courtyard because it had formerly been a prison […]. Once, when I was out on a walk, this Aron Kupferblum – that was his name – was standing in the doorway. Well, I bowed to him, because I was a lot younger, I was 22 then, and he was already an elderly man. We greeted each other with these exact words: ‘Mr Małkiewicz, a mutual misfortune has befallen us, we are in prison together.’ And as we had been to court over water damming, he said: ‘Those court affairs that were between us, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me who did it, it was that stupid attorney of mine. [He laughs.] So there, we’ve had a nice little conversation!”’ See Małkiewicz’s account of his time in prison in Myjak, Jozef: “Rekietowy dół”. Ożarów. Samorządowe Pismo Społeczno-Kulturalne 2(70), 2005, p. 1; and also the story of his meeting with Kupferblum in his own book, Małkiewicz, Seweryn: Młynarz. Sztafeta: Stalowa Wola 2004, p. 42.

37 Małkiewicz, Młynarz, p. 43, probably in Garbowice; see Małkiewicz, Młynarz, pp. 94– 95; Ziwa Kupferblum said the following about her father’s death: “The next day [after escaping from the Zawichost ghetto on 22 October 1942], I found out about the death of my father, who was murdered in a treacherous way,” IPN BU, file no. 0193/2817. More precise information on the circumstances of Aron Kupferblum's death (he was killed with an ax by Kazimierz Smardz): AIPN, Bu 0418/1185, vol. 1, c. 68.

38 For more information about “the so-called Pits outside Dwikozy,” see Małkiewicz, Młynarz, p. 39. See also [1174W]: “[…] the partisans took him somewhere, or some such thing…. I heard that they killed him somewhere.”

39 See also the expression mszczenie się nad dziećmi (taking revenge on children) in [1257N], which stresses the innocence of the victims even more. This turn of phrase was used by an informant with a degree in Polish to describe the persecution of Jewish children. It is also used intransitively – without an object – with respect to the treatment of Poles: [300N] “Niemcy mścili się.” (“The Germans took revenge.”)

40 [726N] Zawichost, interviewed by Karolina Walczak and Anna Ossowska, “This żydek Orenstein, he was rich, too, had a wood depot […] came to see my father here. He really wanted [us] to take him into hiding. Well, Father […] said: ‘But where shall I hide you?’ ‘In that barn […]. Hide me in that barn.’ He [said]: ‘Yes, but how will I, how will I then…?’ All this was right during the front, and he wouldn’t have survived. He wouldn’t have survived. He gave [his money], all his fortune, gave it to someone or other for the children, to hide them, and that someone took the fortune, but didn’t hide the children, and handed them over to the Germans afterward. Yes.”

41 40 [563W] “[…] [Kupferblum] had three children there, one was Ziwa, a daughter my age. We were the ones who got her off the ramp […]. She saw us […] there. When I saw that she was standing amongst some Jews, I sort of went a bit closer […]. But really […] the Germans were just giving the orders, and everything was being done by Latvians […]. They were [real] Latvians, and liked their drink. Well, we had this vodka, so we gave […][it] to one or two of them, and they walked off to drink it. We then had the chance to grab Ziwa and get her out of there. Because they waited for three days for wagons to be sent in.” There is no mention of this incident in Ziwa Kupferblum’s short biography, cited in footnote 45. In my personal skype interview with Mrs. Kupferblum, who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she did not corroborate any help received from her classmates in Klimontów.

42 “Lista imienna Ob. Żydów zamieszkałych i zameldowanych w Sandomierzu, będących członkami kongregacji wyznaniowej żydowskiej” from October 1947 includes four other people with this surname, but does not mention either Ziwa, her brother Gerszon [Gierszon] or their sister Miriam; APK, OS SS, file no. 224.

43 [1043W] “After that I put an advertisement in the paper, because there was a court there, for interested parties to come forward. One of those who came forward was a Jew, who offered to let us buy this property. I wasn’t all that keen on taking him up on it, but my late mama accepted his offer and we bought [it] from that Jew […].” “Could you tell us which year that was exactly?” “The year I bought it? In ’47.”

44 Garbowice is a village not far from Klimontów, in Iwaniska municipality, Opatów district.

45 Małkiewicz, Młynarz, pp. 94–95. At the end of the transaction, Gerszon Kupferblum reserved the contractual right for “the little room upstairs with the balcony on the north-facing side… [to be] reserved for [him] every time he came to Góry.” After the contract was signed, Małkiewicz came back to this point: “‘That’s all very well, but you didn’t secure yourself entry to the room, so how will it be?’ We all laughed, […]. ‘Oy, Gerszon, what a lawyer you are […]. Now you’ll have to travel with a ladder and put it up to the balcony, but you’ll only get onto the balcony, because Seweryn will keep the door to the balcony closed. You can’t break in, because they’ll punish you.’ There was lots of fun because of that.” His sister stated in a questionnaire that Gerszon Kupferblum then emigrated to Palestine; IPN BU, file no. 0193/2817. In “Kwestionariusz dla przedsiębiorstw przemysłu spożywczego”, dated September 12, 1945 and regarding the watermill in Dwikozy (at the time owned by Małkiewicz’s mother Lucyna), the fact that the mill had been owned by Jews is omitted: “The mill has been there since time immemorial – improved in 1934,” APK OS SS, file no. 654.

46 The IPN archive contains a file on Ziwa Kupferblum, who was born on August 13, 1926, file no. IPN BU, 0193/2817. It indicates that in October 1944 Ziwa joined the Polish Army, where she worked as a typist in the Military Censorship Department. In December 1944, she was sent as a cadet to the Polish Army School for Political and Educational Officers (the documentation breaks off here). From Ziwa’s resume, dated November 11, 1944: “Two days before the [displacement] campaign on October 24 [1942], I escaped from there [from the Zawichost ghetto], hiding in a friend’s cellar. […] I owe my survival to Jan Mikołajski, the greatest and wisest PPR (Polska Partia Robotnicza) activist in the Sandomierz region.”

47 The website of Biblioteca y Centro de Documentacion del Museo del Holocausto-Shoa in Buenos Aires contain a record of an account by Zofia Kwiatkowska, ref. ARG 39, “Testimonio nina refugiada (Testimony of a girl who escaped). Testimonio tomado por Bejla R. de Goldman. 4 pp., carpeta, adjuntos: Testimonio de la senora Ziwa Kupferblum, nombre actual Zofia Kwiatkowska.” (Testimony given by Ms Ziwa Kupferblum, present name: Zofia Kwiatkowska). To date, the author has not been granted access to it.

48 Aron Kupferblum was dead by the time the mill was sold.

49 Account of Pesla Penczyna, born in Klimontów in 1914, AŻIH, file no. 301/2927, October 21, 1947, Łódź; see also APK, OS SS, file no. 662, “Ankieta dla przedsiębiorstw przemysłu młynarskiego”.

50 Account of Pesla Penczyna, AŻIH, file no. 301/1525, July 29, 1946, Łódź, p. 10 (manuscript): “[Józef Penczyna] went back to the village of Sieprawa and stayed with a farmer, Pietrzyk. On December 31 [1944], some thugs came there at night and took him away, since he was a Jew. There were also two Soviets on the cart. They shot them together and buried them in the cemetery […]. Franek Pietrzyk and Bojda Henryk were among the criminals.”

51 Their child, who had been placed in a village outside Kraków, also survived. This was probably Debora Hana Penczyna, whose name is mentioned in “Wykaz Żydów zarejestrowanych na terenie m. Sandomierza” (“registered before December 14, 1945”) directly below Pesla Penczyna’s. The child was taken in by the Kowalczyk family from the village of Żentary near Kraków. “The child was very happy with Mrs Kowalczyk. They treated her like their own child […]. [After the war], Mrs Kowalczyk didn’t want to give up the child […]. She said that […] [for] 80 liters of vodka (one liter cost 1,000 złotys), she would give the child up […]. We gave her flour worth 30,000 zł. The little one didn’t want to leave her at first, and said this to the farmers: ‘Mamma, what a Jew!’ She would say prayers under the table every day.” AŻIH, file no. 301/1525.

52 Maksymilian von Kenszycki features in Pesla Penczyna’s account (AŻIH, file no. 301/1525) as “Kęszycki”. Mordechaj Penczyna, who also had a small mill in Klimontów, gives “Strzelnicki” as the name of the Treuhaender. After losing his own property, the author of this account worked in the Penczyna family mill, see Penczyna, “Khurbn Klemontov”, p. 148; “For a short time I was employed in one of the bigger mills in the town. Strzelnicki, a relocated Pole, who was the owner of a mill himself, somewhere in the Łódź province. He was sent to Klimontów from there and appointed as receiver of the mill. In accordance with the directives of the German authorities, he removed all Jews from the mill.” A similar name (“Stenszycki”) features in Lejb Zylberberg’s memoir cited below.

53 Pesla also accused Kenszycki of taking furs from her family under the pretence of preventing their confiscation; AŻIH, file no. 301/2927 and 301/1225. Further research needs to be done on the fortunes of the Volksdeutscher Kenszycki.

54 AŻIH, file no. 301/1525, “Back then [in Sandomierz], I didn’t hand Kenszycki over to the authorities because I was frightened.” A month before, in September 1947, Pesla Penczyna reported this to the Province Security Bureau in Warsaw.

55 Pesla Penczyna, AŻIH, file no. 301/1525. The murder in Klimontów is also mentioned in Sala Ungerman’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/1184; “I wanted to go to Klimontów, but on the way I met friends, and they told me not to go, because some Poles killed five Jews there after the liberation.”

56 With the addendum: “registered by December 14, 1945,” APK, OS SS, file no. 223.

57 Documents in the Sandomierz Archive indicate that Pesla Penczyna let the mill in the Sandomierz district of Chwałki to Wacław Sierant and Władysław Budziński for a period of three years. In “Ankieta dla przedsiębiorstw przemysłu młynarskiego” (APK OS SS, file no. 662), however, Adolf Hlawacz is mentioned as the owner.

58 AŻIH, file no. 301/1525, 10.

59 Appears as Kozlice in [MP 149]: “I asked [a Christian friend] whether I could stay a few days. He didn’t let me.”

60 “A few days before the deportation, I gave Skuza, a Christian there, a lot of valuable items for safekeeping. As soon as Skuza saw me, he said: ‘Get out of here fast, or I’ll turn you over to the gendarmes!’”; ibid.

61 “In a woodland thicket, like an animal, I dug myself a hole, where I would hide during the day”; ibid.

62 After the front passed, Penczyna recovered his mill, see APK, OS SS 1946–1946, file no. 58/262/0/325: “O przewrócenie [sic] posiadania – Penczyna Motel” [On the reversal of letters – minor spelling error in Polish changes meaning of word from the intended meaning: recovery of possession], retrieved 14.7.2008, from pl/ sezam/index. php?l=&mode=search&word=Motel&operator=and&word2=Penczy na. Lejb Zylberberg notes: “We worked for a Jew, Motel Penczyna, who had recovered his mill. He milled flour for the Red Army and made millions on it,” Zylberberg, A Jid fun Klementov.

63 The mill, whose former owners are cited in documentary sources as “Jakub Penczyna and Company”, was passed on to Stefan Grudzień to administer, APK, OS SS, files no. 324 and 580.

64 See Zelman Baum’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/2425, 34: Baum, who was born in Sandomierz, on January 20, 1924, was in hiding from 1940. At first on his own in Wiązownica, later with his family (his parents, three sisters, and brother aged 12) in the settlement of Strączkow, and subsequently with his siblings and cousins (including Chaim Penczyna) in the villages of Przywłoka, Powiśle-Chodkow, Krzcin, Postronna, and Byszewo. There he was captured by some Ukrainians and imprisoned in the castle in Sandomierz, and then in Ostrowiec, after which he was sent to the Leitmeritz camp in Bohemia. On his release, he returned to Sandomierz. He cites a conversation with a Pole he met at this point: “He told me that there had been a handful of Jews here recently, but they had finished them off. He told me about what happened in Klimontów, where they killed four Jews shortly after the liberation. Later, I found out that the people who had been killed by Poles in Klimontów were my cousin and his wife [Chaim Penczyna and his wife Rywka], and two friends we had helped find hiding places during the German Occupation [the Ledermans].” Zelman Baum’s parents and brother were also killed by Poles. AŻIH, file no. 301/2425.

65 AŻIH, file no. 302/27. Excerpt reproduced in Grynberg and Kotowska, Życie i zagłada Żydow, pp. 195–201. The excerpt has been translated by Sara Arm.

66 [1759W] “They used to be known as the Horensztajns [Orensztajns], but they were called the Zylberbergs. They had a wood and plank depot.”

67 A story about Orensztajn-Zylberberg, as recorded in Zawichost: [242N] “My father built a house, and very soon afterward, it burned down, because […], someone else’s burned down, and his [caught fire] […] from it […]. This is what my father told me, a Jew was going past, a very rich Jew, and said: ‘Sir, if you want wood, please come, take some, you need to repair your house […].’ ”

68 From Klimontów, Zylberberg and his brother were taken to the Sandomierz Ghetto. Afterward, they were transferred to a camp in the village of Kamień, five kilometers from Sandomierz. They worked in the Metan glassworks there. Next, they were taken to Pionki, 20 kilometers from Radom, where they worked in a dynamite factory. They both managed to escape from there, along with three other men. Their escape route led through Klimontów. The next excerpt from a Sandomierz interview might be referring to Lejb Zylberberg: [203N, Winiary] “I remember one Jew […]. He was a good tailor, I remember, he made clothes for us in our house during the Occupation […]. Once, I went for some beetroots and I got a shock, because there was this man standing there by the door, […]. ‘No, Mietek, don’t be afraid, it’s me.’ Aha, fine. ‘Listen, I’ll go in the house and tell Father you’re here.’ Well, we had to give him something to eat, didn’t we? So Father came and took him into the house. He ate, drank, and I gave him a bit of pork fat, some bread, and onion […]. Father said: ‘Listen, as long as you can, and you’re around here, drop by, […] and you’ll get yourself a bite to eat.’ Well, it was a shame about him […] because he was a good man. But he never came back.”

69 Earlier in the memoir: “The Starosta [Hajnoch] doesn’t even tell us to sit down […]. We tell him we’ve escaped from a camp. He says that we did the wrong thing by escaping, because in the Sandomierz region, we won’t even survive for two weeks. But we answer, we’ve been free for two months now and we even just met an Underground soldier who let us go. From his look, I realized that he wasn’t pleased about this. He advised us to go back to the camp. So I said to him: ‘Should I go make weapons for the thugs who killed my parents?’ He says: ‘That’s stupid. Three million Poles are working for the Germans.” But I said I wouldn’t go back to the camp. He said that Fligelman was dead, Szuldman too, and also said that they had been killed by Poles. He wanted to scare us with his words. He said that there was only one wise Jew. Meloch Wejsblat [Wajsblat], who is in the camp and [does not plan to] escape. Meloch Wejsblat was the Jew who gave him [his] shop in Klimontów. He asked us what we came for. I asked him to give some money to anyone we might send. To which he answered: ‘I don’t want anything to do with Jews.’ When I asked him why, he answered: ‘Because Jews are thieves.’ ”

70 Such incidents sometimes ended tragically; see Bereś, Witold / Burnetko, Krzysztof: Marek Edelman. Życie. Po Prostu. Świat Książki: Warsaw 2008, p. 209: “The National Armed Forces (NSZ) had my Commander, ‘Witek’, finished off by the Russians in January 1945. Shortly after the war, when he wanted to report to the Citizens’ Militia in Częstochowa, he was captured by people from NSZ, who took him to the Russians and said he was a fascist, and [the Russians] shot him […].” See also a similar incident described in Bialowitz, Philip / Kowalik, Piotr (transl.): Bunt w Sobiborze. Nasza Księgarnia: Warsaw 2008, p. 226.

71 Earlier in the diary: “While I was with my host, I sent a letter to the Prosecutor at the court in Radom, asking him to send me money or things. He had my mother’s jewellery and my clothes. But he didn’t send me anything. When I wrote to him asking him to send my navy blue suit, his sister wrote back to me saying that I’d already collected it. I sent someone five times like that, but he didn’t give me back a grosz. After the liberation, he was arrested for being an AK member.”

72 Zylberberg, A Yid fun Klementov, p. 87. The author is inconsistent: he initially mentions AK members, later calling them NSZ: “At […] the farmer’s, there was a married couple in hiding who had left their children in a bunker in the woods. The farmer had gotten a big fortune from them: a hundredweight of pepper, cotton, and other merchandise. To get hold of the assets and get rid of them, he set fire to the barn while the couple were [inside]. They had to flee. They were in such a terrible situation that they turned themselves in to the police on May 15, 1943, the very same day that the Sandomierz Ghetto was liquidated. That evening, members of NSZ attacked the ‘dark blue’ [Polish] police station where the couple were being held. They wanted to take away their weapons, but the police asked them not to do this because they had an order to kill some Jews. The NSZ men said they would deal with the Jews themselves. They went […] into their cell and killed them. This was why the farmer […] was afraid of having anything to do with Jews.”

73 See Penczyna, “Khurbn Klemontov”: “The Rabbi of Klimontów, Reb Simche Gelernter, buried the sacred books before the deportation. When we returned to Klimontów after the liberation, we could not find the Torah scrolls in the [designated] place. Local farmers, who knew about everything, had dug up the Torah scrolls and used them as lining for shoes.” See the account of Henryk Scharff, AŻIH, file no. 301/17: “Polish shops [in Sandomierz] packed goods in paper that came from the pages of prayer books and holy books.” The Sandomierz Pinkas (Feldenkreiz-Grinbal, Eva (ed.): Eth EzkeraWhenever I Remember: Memorial Book of the Jewish Community in Tzoyzmir (Sandomierz). Association of Tzoyzmir Jews and Moreshet Publishing: Tel Aviv 1993, pp. 543, 553, 565–66) commends the assistance of Father Adam Szymański, Dean of the Religious Seminary at Sandomierz, who stored Torah scrolls safely. He returned them to the Sandomierz Religious Congregation after the war, a fact noted in the minutes of its first meeting in 1945; APK, OS SS, file no. 224. The author is grateful to Professor Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska for granting her access to her translations of memorial books.

74 There were several similar incidents in the history of Klimontów, the last one in the 1960s, when the Jewish cemetery was being liquidated to make way for a school. The gangs responsible were called “miners.” See Januszewski, Radosław: “Szkoła Tysiąclecia”. Rzeczpospolita 27.10.2001. “Fr. Tomasz Zadęcki, then Parish Priest, noted in the Parish Chronicle: ‘After the Jews left, a group of people, known as «miners» formed. They went with pickaxes [and] iron bars […] at night around the post-Jewish houses and smashed walls, stoves, dug in cellars, and unearthed concealed Jewish treasures: money, textiles, leather, etc. Klimontów now started to drink and get drunk – since they could afford to – a plague of drunkenness beset the young people, who now became brazen and vulgar […].’ ”

75 On this murder, see Zelman Baum’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/2425. This suggests that Abraham Penczyna, the author’s uncle, aged 53, after escaping from the Sandomierz Ghetto with his wife Sara, aged 45, probably stayed in the village of Smerdyna near Wiązownica at Stefan Dywan’s, and, thereafter, in a settlement outside the village, at Fortuna’s, where they were betrayed and killed.

76 In a letter from Worth an der Donau dated March 30, 1948, Lejb Zylberberg corrects the details of the transcription of his account made by Klara Mirska: “Pp. 123/24 – also [came] to Mazur, with whom we were staying, in the same village, etc. The affair was like this: The thugs from NSZ hauled the Jew Jankiel Penczyna, who had been born in the same village, over to Mazur’s [place] and demanded that he let on where we were hidden. The Jew took them to the hiding place and when they didn’t find us there, they beat Mazur up, demanding that he tell them where we were. Then they did terrible things to the Jew and strung him up half-dead on a birch tree in the yard,” AŻIH, file no. 301/4169, translated from the Yiddish by Sara Arm. For more about Jankiel Penczyna, see Zelman Baum, AŻIH, file no. 301/2425: “The news also reached us that Jankiel Penczyna had been murdered by the Home Army Summer Squad in Wiązownica […]. They hanged my uncle by his feet, drove nails into the soles of his shoes, and took him down and hanged him up again, until blood spurted from his nose and mouth. They tortured him so that he would betray the family in hiding. He died a martyr’s death, but he didn’t grass on us.”

77 The only mention of Abraham Złotnicki is in Zylberberg’s account: “Some of us prepared to escape. Soon afterward, the first to escape were Abraham Złotnicki, Mietek Apelbojm, and Icze Wajsbrot,” Grynberg and Kotowska, Życie i zagłada Żydow, p. 201.

78 Note from Jewish Press Agency Bulletin (April16/17, 1945): “On April 18 this year, five Jews were murdered in Klimontów: one woman, the Lederman brothers Saul Josek aged 35 and Chil aged 28, Penczyna aged 30 and his pregnant wife, and Złotnicki Abram aged 28. The remaining Jews in the town were forced to move to Sandomierz. After the war, seven Jews returned, five of whom were murdered.” The author is grateful to Alina Skibińska for this information.

79 Lyotard, Jean-Francois: Le Différend. Edition Minuit: Paris 1983, p. 16.

80 For information about Tobcia, who probably worked for an SS-man called Bulion, Commander of the Sandomierz Camp during the war, see Pola Orensztajn’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/3329; see also memoir of Celina Grunszpan, who spent the war in Mokoszyn, near Sandomierz, AŻIH, file no. 302/53. Mordechaj Penczyna’s account in “Khurbn Klemontov” suggests that Tobcia moved to Łódź. Research is hampered by the “cover” surname and her husband’s surname she adopted. Material from Sokolniki (Sandomierz region) mentions a Polish-Jewish couple from this area: [165N] “This [Tosia? Tobcia?] came around and married him. They had a good life – he did his thing, she did hers. They worked and brought up the children, but the children took after her, went in her direction – got an education, and they were very gifted.”

81 See also e.g. “Klimontów” in Pinkas Hakehillot. Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 7. Yad Vashem: Jerusalem, no publication date, pp. 505–508, retrieved 17.1.2012, from

82 Niebelski, Eugeniusz: W dobrach Ossolińskich. Klimontów i okolice. Urząd Gminy: Klimontów 1999, pp. 67–68.

83 Januszewski, “Szkoła Tysiąclecia”.

84 This is one part of an anonymous account the author identified as AŻIH, file no. 301/379 [1789].

85 The author is grateful to Magda Prokopowicz for verifying this document.

86 See e.g. Penkalla, Adam: Żydzi ostrowieccy. Zarys dziejów. Muzeum Historyczno-Archeologiczne: Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski 1996, p. 117: “On March 12, 1945 an attack was staged on the home of Fajgla Korngold […]. There were rumors in the town that she had a list of Poles who contributed in various ways to the deaths of Ostrowiec Jews during the Occupation.”

87 A similar attitude is apparent in the report of the Polish military couriers, on their return to London from Poland toward the end of August 1945: “Therefore, since the Jews benefited from going into hiding on Poles’ property, which enabled over 50,000 of them to escape death, they should undoubtedly have shown…loyalty to the Poles. Yet, from the moment when the Lublin authorities entered Polish territory, the Jews immediately set about denouncing those who had previously hidden them, claiming they were blackmailed by them and money had been extorted from them. Home Army members were denounced and beatings and torture of Poles were carried out in camps run by Jews with Soviet consent.” Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, Archive ref. no. A9 III 2 c/64, Report by military personnel from Poland, London, 2 October 1945, quoted after: Grabski, August: Działalność komunistów wśród Żydów w Polsce (19441949). Trio/ŻIH: Warsaw 2004, p. 32; see Chapter 2: The Unrighteous Righteous and Righteous Unrighteous in this volume.

88 Six decades later, in a conversation with the sołtys [head of the village council] of the village of Wielowieś in the Sandomierz district, the number of Jews saved increases sixfold: see [297N]: ‘Thirty thousand Poles were shot by the Germans just for helping Jews, and, in Poland, 300,000 Jews were saved. In other words, […] [by] saving them, 30,000 of ours died. You see the Germans shot every family that helped Jews. And that’s how they repay us’; see Chapter 2: The Unrighteous Righteous and Righteous Unrighteous in this volume.

89 APK, OS SS, file no. 225.

90 Further on in Januszewski’s article: “W. knows about it all from his father. He was five years old at the time. Chaskiel was roaming about the area, an 18- or maybe 20-year old lad. He’d been staying with some people, but they’d hounded him out because they were afraid. In the end, W.’s father took him in for a night. Then, the partisans came, took Chaskiel out, and shot him. ‘It’s those sons of b…s from P.!’ he shouts. W. says they killed Chaskiel in the barn.”

“I find Ms Genowefa Bednarz, from the same village, in the field, she’s weeding. When she was a child, she saw Chaskiel’s body in the field. He’d been staying the night at her father’s, but some partisans came, shooting, demanding her father’s gun that he apparently had stashed away. Her father was afraid that it could get nasty if they found a Jew in his house, so he told him to go. Genowefa and I go to where the corpse lay. It still lies there. ‘Right here, in L.’s field,’ she points to a high tuft of grass by the roadside.” The words below, recorded during fieldwork in Sandomierz, refer to Chaskiel’s murder: [the speaker is Mr G., former wicewójt {Deputy Mayor of a rural municipality} in Klimontów]: “It’s truly unpleasant to say, but that żydek [Jewboy] who stayed around here, he was 18 years old, they buried him over in Byszówka somewhere – it was in the press, of course. Somewhere out in the country, in ’45, some Poles from the Home Army killed him. The Home Army was the first force that fought, but…” “Where was it?” “Here, in Klimontów.” “Why did they kill him?” “The Klimontów Jew was kept in hiding here throughout the Occupation, the Poles hid him. He was 20-something years old, and in ’45 they came in the night and killed him.”’

91 David Engel in his review of Marek J. Chodakiewicz’s book Po Zagładzie parodied a similar practice with his apt quotation from the musical Chicago: ‘They had it coming!’, in Zagłada Żydów. Studia i Materiały, 1, 2005, p. 326.

92 Although there is only a mention of one Jew, the sentence is in the plural form: “Some of them [i.e., the Jews returning to Klimontów after the front passed – author’s note] immediately started collaborating with the NKVD and the new authorities, casting a shadow over all the others,” Niebelski, W dobrach Ossolińskich, p. 66.

93 Variation on the AK (Armia Krajowa, Home Army) abbreviation in keeping with the original Polish “A Kury, A Kaczki,” as in Januszewski, “Szkoła tysiąclecia”: “‘And the chickens? And the ducks?’ laughs the young man who has just delivered the coal. That’s how they’re known here. The irony comes from the fact that all that their Underground guerrilla warfare [according to some farmers – editor’s note] boiled down to stealing chickens from farmers.”

94 This information is confirmed in the investigation files quoted below. In Klimontów they still say that the same group (including J.P. and D.S.) murdered and robbed a female Home Army liaison officer (information from reports for 2008). The following is a quotation from one of the statements: “They not only murdered Jews, but also a female Home Army liaison officer […] with a suitcase full of dollars.” Email information sent on October 24, 2008.

95 See IPN, file no. 896/228; the material from this investigation, such as that relating to J. P. himself, will be dealt with in another article.

96 Not everyone in Klimontów shares the same view of P.’s distinction. In June 2008, the Institute of National Remembrance and the Jewish Historical Institute received a letter that reads as follows: “I enclose, as a reminder, a photocopy of the article about the murder of the Jewish people in Klimontów. Editor Januszewski was right on the scent of the suspects who came into contact with those acts, in tackling the name of P. – J. P. to be precise. He was a member of NSZ [National Armed Forces, a third Underground armed force during the Second World War – author’s note], and never dirtied his hands fighting the Germans, according to witnesses. In dark alleys, in deathly silence and fear, one can hear about the exploits of that ‘guerrilla’ to this day. Although over 60 years have elapsed, there is some kind of strange fear of talking about this subject. Investigations into the matter by the law failed to bring appropriate outcomes. Both P. brothers bought or built tenements – where did they get the money, I ask? They are people without trade or qualifications. J.P. appointed himself chairman of the Home Army. Passersby look at the plaque by the memorial bearing his name and rank of lieutenant, with disgust and contempt […]. The parishioners go out of their minds at the sight of him entering the church with the standard […]. The facts revealed in the article and heard from witnesses who are still alive and their descendants cry out for vengeance. God, where are you?” Anonymous letter, dated June 11, 2008, signed “Righteous among the Nations,” sent to the addresses of the Institute of National Remembrance and the Jewish Historical Institute, copy in the author’s archives.

97 Distinction between “cultural norm“/ “behavioral pattern” after Jan Mukařovský. See Mukařovský, Jan et al.: Wśród znaków i struktur. Wybór szkiców. PIW: Warsaw 1970, p. 69, as cited in Tomicki, Ryszard: “Norma, wzór i wartość w życiu seksualnym tradycyjnych społeczności wiejskich w Polsce”. Etnografia Polska 20(1), 1977, pp. 43–72. Determining the actual attitudes of Poles to Communism still requires further research.

98 This is often described in the categories of “over-representation of Jews in the Ministry of Security systems.” It begs the question of whether this fixation on the variously interpreted “over representation” (see, for example, differences in approach between authors such as Olejnik, Polityka narodowościowa, p. 394 and note 221; and Kopciowski, Adam: “Zajścia antyżydowskie na Lubelszczyźnie w pierwszych latach po drugiej wojnie światowej”. Zagłada Żydów. Studia i materiały 3, 2007, p. 183), in effect a consequence of the post-war “equal rights for Jews,” is not a symptom of the actual disagreement with these equal rights, similar to that which came to the fore in the form of the pre-war calls for the numerus clausus [the restrictions on number of Jews admitted to certain professions, universities, etc. – translator’s note]; see Žižek, Slavoj: Lacan. Kutyła, Julian (transl.). Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej: Warsaw 2007, p. 84: “While we are prepared to accept the Jew […], there is always some detail that annoys us […]. This […] makes them alien, irrespective of how much they attempt to behave in a similar way to us.” The involvement of some Jews in Communist State systems was an attempt to gain influence on the country’s politics after the Holocaust experience. In time, it transpired that, in the overall account, they would be judged for this far more harshly than ethnic Poles. See Grabski, Działalność komunistów, pp. 33–34 and notes 24–27.

99 See e.g. information from the Jewish Committee in Opatów about the attack on the Jewish aid point there on August 10–11, 1945, prevented by “the deterrent of a Soviet soldier on patrol outside the elementary school building,” Urząd Wojewódzki w Kielcach II 1242. This is followed by information about the murder of the Herckowiczes, a married couple, on September 9, 1945 in Opatów, and of Majer (?) Zylberberg on September 5, 1945. See also the report of the District Jewish Committee in Radom, dated August 31, 1945, which includes information about attacks on: the “Praca” Labor Cooperative in Radom (August 11, 1945), a Jewish shelter there (during the night of August 28/29, 1945), a flat in Radom belonging to a Mr Lewental (August 29, 1945), and Jewish laborer Aron Łęga in the Prędocinek sawmill in Glinice (August 30, 1945). Another report by the same Committee, dated October 25, 1945, describes how “almost every day, unknown individuals break windows in the same [Jewish] shelter, and even stage attacks” and the request for a designated patrol outside the shelter; and the positive response to this by the Commanding Officer of the Citizens’ Militia, on November 3, 1945. Following the next attack, on February 15, 1946, there is a request for “the issue of one automatic pistol and ten hand grenades for our shelter.” After the next attack on the Committee, on February 22, 1946, there was a request for a guard to be posted outside the building, addressed this time to the Province Citizens’ Militia Headquarters in Kielce; and, three days later, a renewed request for the allocation of an automatic pistol, one machine gun, and ten grenades, State Archive in Radom (APR), file no. 20. See also Jakow Chaszkes, AŻIH, file no. 301/2592: “On Saturday, May 15, 1945, at 6.00 in the evening, a Home Army gang, consisting of 50 people in military uniforms, drove into the town and disarmed the police station. They then drove in our direction, and asked: ‘Whereabouts do the Jews live?’ Seeing what was happening, all the Jews, around 50 people, gathered in an attic on Ciechanowska Street and started shooting at them and throwing grenades through the windows. Immediately after the liberation, we procured ten machine guns and ten grenades. The shootout lasted three hours. I was wounded in the arm and one woman was killed. By chance, a few vehicles carrying Soviet soldiers from Bielsko to Warsaw appeared. Noticing them, the gang withdrew. We were saved by a coincidence. The day after this event, some military vehicles came and took us to Bielsko.”

100 IPN, file no. Pr II 390/50, IPN, file no. Ki 30/542, Władysław Kalita’s file, arrest warrant from September 29, 1950, “From March to April 1945, Kalita Władysław, together with others armed with unidentified firearms in Klimontów, Sandomierz county, murdered four Polish citizens of Jewish nationality.” The warrant was issued in view of “a justified fear that the accused will go into hiding.” Kalita and Bolesław Białowąs, both in hiding, were arrested together with other suspects, including Stefan Wyrzykowski, Stanisław Szymański, Jan Markot, and Stanisław Adwent. They were all released in January 1951. Among Adwent’s case documents is a motion from his wife requesting the release of her husband, dated January 17, 1951.

101 Testimony of Stanisław Adwent “Śmieszny”, November 8, 1950: “[…] I signed this record because I feared being beaten, as the man who questioned me shouted at me,” IPN, file no. Pr II 371/50; IPN, file no. Ki 30/529. IPN, “Notatka urzędowa” dated November 8, 1950, signed by Jerzy Lichacz and investigating officer Jerzy Jaskólski: “Jaskólski Jerzy declared that suspect Adwent Stanisław retracted his testimony given on September 14, 1950, because […] the testimony has been obtained under duress. To my question as to whether he had been beaten at that time, for he was questioned in my presence, he stated that he had not been beaten, and had testified in accordance with the truth and the […] facts.”

102 IPN, file no. Pr II 312/50, IPN, file no. Ki 30/503.

103 IPN, file nos. Pr 311/50, and Ki 30/502.

104 IPN, file no. Ki 30/502.

105 Decision dated January 25, 1951; see also “Notatka urzędowa” by the Investigating Officer from the Regional Military Prosecutor’s Office in Kielce regarding the decision by the Head of Section III at the District Office of Public Security in Sandomierz not to question “witnesses [who could] provide evidence in the case of Stanisław Szymański and others,” dated January 26, 1951, IPN, file no. Pr II 371/50, IPN Ki 30/529.

106 IPN, file no. Pr II 313/50 IPN, file no. Ki 30/530. The investigation concerning J.P. (IPN, file no. Zh. Ko 393/91.) and M.G. (IPN, file no. 896/228) will be discussed separately.

107 Gross, Jan T.: Fear. Antisemitism in Poland after Auschwitz. An Essay in Historical Interpretation. Random House Trade Paperbacks: New York 2006.

108 In writing about “wartime depravation,” the author is certainly not claiming that anomic behaviors of Christians with respect of their Jewish neighbors did not occur also before the war. This issue is discussed in detail, with regard to the dynamic relation between anti-Judaism and antisemitism, in my book Legendy o krwi, p. 59 ff, and also in Chapter 2: The Unrighteous Righteous and the Righteous Unrighteous in this volume.

109 See AŻIH, file no. 301/2425, Zelman Baum on the reaction of Jews to the German announcement of an “amnesty” for those who escaped from the Sandomierz ghetto: “Seeing that the Poles were robbing and murdering them, [the Jews] returned to Sandomierz […]. Over 10,000 Jews from the surrounding villages gathered together.” See e.g. the account by Dora Soberman, who witnessed the attacks by local farmers as a child; and the accounts of Basia Goldsztajn, AŻIH, file no. 301/2793, Chaja Szafran, AŻIH, file no. 301/3084, and Henryk Scharff, AŻIH, file no. 301/17; see also the statement of Lejb Zylberberg, who walked from Zwoleń [85 km to the north of Sandomierz – translator’s note] to Klimontów: “In the Sandomierz county our situation got worse. The farmers didn’t even want to give [us] a little water,” Zylberberg, A Yid fun Klementov, op. cit.

110 Order by Col. “Czesław Oziewicz,” NSZ Commander-in-Chief, date unknown; Hillebrandt, Bogdan: “Brygada Świętokrzyska NSZ”. Wojskowy Przegląd Historyczny 9 (1/30), 1964, pp. 117–118, quoted after: Drabik, Rafał J.: Wydarzenia pod Borowem z 9. sierpnia 1943. Rzeczywistość i oblicze polityczno-propagandowe. Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II [KUL]: Lublin 2002, p. 7. For information on NSZ policies regarding Jews, see Chodakiewicz, Marek J.: Narodowe Siły Zbrojne. “Ząb” przeciw dwu wrogom. Fronda: Warsaw 2005, pp. 89 and 319–320, and note 204, in particular.

111 “Every worker, peasant, and intellectual who succumbs to Communist propaganda, collaborates with the Communists, becomes a traitor today, just like a Volksdeutscher […]. Poles must not be Communists, lest they cease to be Poles.” “Biuletyn Informacyjny [of the Home Army]”, no. 38 (193), November 23, 1943, quoted after: Nazarewicz, Ryszard: Drogi do wyzwolenia. Koncepcje walki z okupantem w Polsce i ich treści polityczne 1939–1945. KiW: Warsaw 1979, p. 361.

112 See Chapters 3 and 9 of the present volume for more evidence of its occurrence. See also Szapiro, Marek / Tych, Felix: Nim słońce wzejdzie… Dziennik pisany w ukryciu 1943–1944. ŻIH: Warsaw 2007, p. 505 for Szapiro on the union of the Home Army with NSZ: “To me it is incomprehensible how NSZ could be incorporated into the Home Army. If one is to believe the organs of the People’s Party, at least until March [1944], they were an instrument of tacit collaboration in eliminating peasants, Jews, etc. […]” See also Urbański, Krzysztof: Zagłada Żydów w dystrykcie radomskim. Wydawnictwo Naukowe Akademii Pedagogicznej: Kraków 2004, pp. 231–232. See, in this context, Basa, Michał: Opowiadania partyzanta. Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza: Warsaw 1984, p. 128, 167.

On the differences in attitudes to Jews between rank-and-file Underground soldiers and the Home Army leadership, see the account of Henryk Scharff from the Koprzywnica area, AŻIH, file no. 301/17: “The commanders of units subordinated to the Home Army, the Union for Armed Struggle [Związek Walki Zbrojnej], and the Peasants’ Battalions, in spite of the guidelines from the Polish Underground authorities, carried out death sentences on Jews they caught.” See also Salomon Reis’ account, AŻIH, file no. 301/1791; the reaction of two Home Army partisan soldiers on meeting two Jewish fugitives in a wood near Pionki: “‘What, you are Jews? We’ll finish you off before the day is out.’ They bound us up with cords and led us off. We were sure we were going to our deaths, and we tried to convince them that our death would be of no value to them, that we had gold hidden far away […]. Two officers, a lieutenant and a second lieutenant, came up to us […] ‘Huragan’ was the pseudonym of the lieutenant, Commander of the unit. They called us over, and the Company Commander…said: ‘The Polish government in England doesn’t pay us for Jews. So if you want to look after yourselves, you can stay, and we won’t do you any harm.’ After that, they received us well, gave us food, and work in the kitchen […]. About 10 km from Pionki, there was another group of partisans, Marion. They didn’t accept Jews, and explained to our Commander that they shouldn’t be keeping us, that these [Jews] are people who should be annihilated. Their Commander, Marian, said: ‘Give them to me, I’ll do them in.’ The doctor [who later turned out to be Dr. Julian Aleksandrowicz; and on parting from the author [Salomon Reis], asked him ‘not to tell anyone he’s a Jew, because they’d be sure to kill him’] stood up for us and cited higher authority.” See also Zawadzka, Halina: Ucieczka z getta. Fundacja Karta: Warsaw 2001, p. 121; Aleksandrowicz, Julian: Kartki z dziennika doktora Twardego. Wydawnictwo Literackie: Kraków 2001, pp. 61–70; and Abraham Furman’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/4716. On the role of the Peasants’ Battalions and the “Lotna” unit of the Home Army in the murder of Sandomierz Jews in hiding, see Zelman Baum’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/2425; see also Bańkowska, Aleksandra: “Partyzantka polska lat 1942–1944 w relacjach żydowskich”. Zagłada Żydów. Studia i materiały 1, 2005, pp. 148–164.

113 See the account of Rózia Unger (AŻIH, file no. 301/3699), who was taken in by peasant farmers near Sandomierz: “I was afraid to go back to the Jews; whenever I played with children I was always told that Jews murder children to make matzos (unleavened bread).” Likewise, the account of nine-year-old Ludwik Jerzycki (AŻIH, file no. 301/2755), “I cried, I didn’t want to go to the Jews, because they’d told me that Jews kill children.”

114 Krystyna Kersten’s introduction to Szaynok, Bożena: Pogrom Żydów w Kielcach 4 lipca 1946. Bellona: Warsaw 1992, p. 21. Both successful and unsuccessful attempts at inciting unrest on the basis of ritual murder rumors occurred, among other places, in Kraków (August 11, 1946), Kalisz (July 22–23, 1946), Lublin (September 18–19, 1946), Kolbuszowa (September 24, 1946), Mielec (October 25, 1946), and Szczecin (autumn 1946). Rumors of children disappearing that did not provoke pogroms were also reported in places, including Otwock (Skibińska, Alina: “Powroty ocalałych 1944–1950”. In: Engelking, Barbara et al. (eds.): Prowincja noc. Życie i zagłada Żydów w dystrykcie warszawskim. Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów, Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk: Warsaw 2007, p. 569), in Chełm and Zamość (Kopciowski, “Zajścia antyżydowskie na Lubelszczyznie”, pp. 182–183). See also my book Legendy o krwi. Antropologia przesądu. Wydawnictwo WAB: Warsaw 2008, on the blood libel motive behind the post-war Polish pogroms.

115 See Kotowski, Robert: “Obraz Żyda w społeczności małomiasteczkowej na przykładzie Sandomierza”. Dialog dla przyszłości. Ten Inny w pamięci zbiorowej. LGD Lot Partnerstwo Ziemi Sandomierskiej: Sandomierz 2007, pp. 31–32.

116 Testimony of Efraim Wajnsztajn, Łódź, April 4, 1945, ŻIH, file no. 301/215, b. in Wąchock, July 16, 1909; translated from Yiddish by Sara Arm.

117 Białowitz, Bunt w Sobiborze, p. 228. The author describes a similar attitude to returning Jews in Zamość.

118 Szapiro, Nim słońce wzejdzie, op. cit., pp. 576–577.

119 “Across the country there is a situation, quite separate from any critical points, whereby the return of Jews to their establishments and workshops is quite out of the question, even in significantly reduced numbers. The non-Jewish population has taken the place of Jews in large and small towns, and, for the most part, this fundamental change is absolutely final. The en masse return of Jews would be considered by the population not as a restitution, but as an invasion, against which they would defend themselves, even physically”; Knoll, Roman: “Uwagi o naszej polityce zagranicznej nr 1”, Archiwum Akt Nowych (AAN), file no. 202/XIV–9, 135, quoted after: Steinlauf, Michael C.: Pamięć nieprzyswojona. Polska pamięć Zagłady. Cyklady: Warsaw 2001, p. 46. Roman Knoll (1888–1946) was a high-ranking diplomat before the war, and a high-ranking official in the Government Delegation for Poland during the Occupation (see his life story in Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. XIII).

120 AAN, MAP, file no. 218, “Sprawozdanie ze zjazdu starostów powiatowych województwa krakowskiego”, held January 17, 1946, quoted after: Olejnik, Polityka narodowościowa, op. cit., p. 382.

121 Dęblin-Irena, Biała Podlaska, after: Kopciowski, “Zajścia antyżydowskie na Lubelszczyźnie”, p. 204.

122 Olejnik, Polityka narodowościowa, op. cit., p. 382, see also Penkalla, “Władze o obecności Żydow,” p. 563. The information in the next two sentences is from the same source.

123 Kopciowski, “Zajścia antyżydowskie na Lubelszczyźnie”, p. 179, see the end of Dora Soberman’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/3743: “We told everyone we were going to get christened, because that is what daddy advised us […] although the Russians were here, daddy didn’t trust our farmers. So a year passed. We were about to get christened, but then our aunt came […] and took us to Kraków, to a children’s home.”

124 See Gross, Fear, p. 72; Skibińska, Powroty ocalałych, p. 515. See also [361W] “The war had only just ended, so the Poles did not know exactly whether to be afraid or not to be afraid, of having hidden Jews, because it had not been announced yet…”

125 Penkalla, “Władze o obecności Żydów”, p. 570. See also the letter dated January 21, 1946 from the district Jewish committee in Radom to the county starosta’s offices in Radom (signed by Dr. Seweryn Kahane, inter alia, who perished six months later in the Kielce pogrom) reiterating that representatives of the Committee had twice attempted to contact the addressee of the letter regarding the matters connected with the safety of local Jews, following the publication of anti-Jewish leaflets in Radom: “After a wait of two hours, the delegation was informed that time was up and told to come back the next day […]. Despite […] requesting to be seen, the next day they were told by the secretariat that citizen starosta had gone away, and seeing him was out of the question,” APR, file no. 20.

126 See AŻIH, file no. 301/1357, the account given by Mordko Berger, Dawid Grinbaum, and Sara Grinbaum to the Historical Commission in Kraków, concerning an attack on a train carrying repatriates from Lviv. The attack took place in Tarnów; there was a robbery and the Jewish conductor was thrown off the train. There is mention of the defense mounted by the Citizens’ Militia in Bochnia and the indifference at Płaszów station. The attitudes of Polish passengers were varied. See also Kopciowski, “Zajścia antyżydowskie na Lubelszczyźnie,” pp. 195–197 ff.

127 Quoted after: Penkalla, “Władze o obecności Żydów”, p. 568.

128 See Kopciowski, “Zajścia antyżydowskie na Lubelszczyznie,” p. 204; Skibińska, Powroty ocalałych, p. 573; see also Samuel Goldberg’s account, AŻIH, file no. 301/1251 about how a farmer from Korycin, who was unwilling to return a house, hired some militiamen to get rid of the Jewish owner, paying them with two liters of vodka; and about the murderers of Jews working “in [the Office of] Security in Kraków,” AŻIH, file no. 391/1908; likewise AŻIH, file nos. 301/379 [1789]; 301/3054; 301/1945, 301/2425, and 301/1908.

129 See Kumor, Andrzej: “Interview with Jerzy Robert Nowak”, retrieved 26.5.2008, from (minor Canadian antisemitic periodical, Głos): “Some Jewish circles look upon Poland as the Jews’ European anchor, a jumping-off place should the situation in Israel come under intense threat; Poland is the one country to which the Jews could return, settle, reclaim their lands […], in the role of ‘gentry,’ [since they] have connections and capital.”