Reading

Rabbi Shimon Huberband’s Account of Jews Being Executed for Leaving the Ghetto

Shimon Huberband was a historian and rabbi who was a central figure on the Oyneg Shabes staff. He documented religious life during the war, in addition to many other topics, including the fate of various shtetls and towns and their inhabitants, synagogues, and religious treasures. The following is an excerpt from an account he wrote and included in the Oyneg Shabes archive, a record of eight people who were executed by the Nazis for leaving the Warsaw ghetto to find food to supplement the death rations supplied by the Nazi:

. . . Notices appeared on the walls of the Ghetto announcing that eight Jews had been shot for crossing the border of the ghetto. Among the martyrs were:

Yosef Peykus: Born in Galicia in the city of Tarnow, married there; recently lived in Warsaw; worked as a small merchant; had a wife and a small child. On Wednesday, November 5, 1941, he set out for a hole in the ghetto with the intention of smuggling himself over to the other side. He did so successfully. He bought a few loaves of bread, and returned to the same hole. There he was detained by two military policemen. Peykus tells of this in his letter.

My dear and beloved wife and son,
They gave us written sentence for the eight people; it was very hard. May the tears and prayers reach G-d. [ . . .] I understand well your pangs of pain and I know your fear. We must pray to G-d that our son will grow up to be a mentsh, that he will know how [to] say the prayers. . . . Perhaps, my dear, you can sell some things, make some money, and go home. If you'll be in Warsaw, you could make some purchases, and acquire some nourishment to keep the child alive. [. . .] Things haven't worked out well; for young blood to go to dust so early. I could still have lived a bit, and instead to be buried in the ground. To be a young widow so early, with a sweet son whose father lies in the ground. I can't write on paper all my pain and tears. [. . .] This letter is made of blood, not words.

Feyge Margolies: A mother of two children, one of them three months old. She went over to the “other side” to buy some goods, to sell them in the ghetto and thereby be able to feed her children. She was caught, convicted, and executed.

Dvoyre Rozenberg: Her father died and her ailing mother was left with several small children. Dvoyre, the eldest daughter, became the provider for the whole family. Her livelihood consisted of smuggling a few kilograms of meat each day from Otwock to the Warsaw ghetto. The earnings were modest. A few months before the issuance of the law concerning the death penalty, she was caught and spent a number of weeks in prison. She then decided not to smuggle anymore. But the hunger and poverty of her ailing mother and the other children forced her to renew her work as a smuggler. She was caught, convicted, and executed.

The Sum Total

The summary of this saddening incident is as follows:

  1. Not a single one of the Victims had reached the age of forty; some of them were under thirty.
  2. Seventy-five percent of the victims were women (six women out of eight victims). This was a result of the wartime situation, in which the men were persecuted and the women had to provide for the families.
  3. The majority of the victims were refugees.1

Citations

  • 1 : Rabbi Shimon Huberband, trans. David E. Fishman, Kaddush Hashem: Jewish Religious and Cultural Life in Poland during the Holocaust (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav Publishing House, Inc; New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1987), 157–158.

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