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The Last Fighters in the Częstochowa Ghetto: “We are prepared to resist with our weapons”

“Monday, 21 September 1942, Yom Kippur. The atmosphere in town is heavy with tension; the Torah study halls are more crowded than in previous years. Rumors abound. There will be a big roundup today… The optimists are trying to explain it away…The wails from the study halls grow louder. The faithful are thinking: But today is Yom Kippur; perhaps the evil decree will be averted.” With this description of the impending aktion [deportation] from the Częstochowa Ghetto, Bolek (Dov) Gvirtzman, a member of Hashomer Hatzair and a leader of the Jewish Fighting Organization in Częstochowa, opens his diary (a diary written in 1944 while in hiding with a Polish family).

Two months later, in December 1942, a branch of the Jewish Fighting Organization formed in Częstochowa, which maintained contact with the headquarters in Warsaw and its commander Motek (Mordechai) Zilberberg, a member of Hashomer Hatzair. On 4 January 1943, another aktion took place in the ghetto. Dorka Sternberg-Bram – later one of the founders of the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz – was present in the town square that morning: “Suddenly we heard one or two shots, the screams of Germans (who were hit) – mischief-makers, and I didn’t see what was happening. I was short and even though I stood on my tiptoes to appear taller and not young, to save myself from being deported, I didn’t see what happened. Suddenly we saw the Germans choose 25 young men and women from the Jews who remained behind after the transport to Treblinka (all those who remained were young) and shoot them one by one before our eyes.” The murder of these people was the response to the assault of the two German officers by Mendel Fiszlewicz and Yitzhak Feiner, members of the Jewish Fighting Organization, who were shot on the spot.

After the liberation, when the bodies of those murdered were moved to their final resting place, a note was found inside a buried bottle on which was written, “Mendel Fiszlewicz died the death of a hero at the hands of the brutal soldiers on 4 January 1943. Honor to his memory.”

 

A note placed in a bottle near the grave of Mendel Fiszlewicz, one of the leaders of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Częstochowa Ghetto

A year and a half later, in late June 1943, the Germans discovered the bunker of the Częstochowa fighters and killed everyone in it, including Zilberberg, the commander. In September 1944, the aforementioned Gvirtzman had written to the Jewish Agency from his hiding place: “Dear friends! In these most difficult days, we wish to convey to you this last testament, that of a group of Jewish partisans, who spontaneously organized from among the remnants of the defenders of the ghetto, the members of the Jewish Fighting Organization…We write this letter when death may come at any moment. We are prepared to resist with our weapons.”

From a letter by Bolek Gvirtzman to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, September 1944

 

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