Attack on The Jews of Wloclawek (Poland)
Following the German Occupation*
A few days after they entered Wloclawek, the Germans burst into a private house where Jews were standing in prayer on the eve of the Day of Atonement, and ordered those present to get out and run. Then they gave the order "Stop," but some of the Jews did not hear this order being given and went on running; then the Germans opened fire and killed 5 or 6 of them. On the Day of Atonement itself the Germans burned down the two large synagogues. The fire also spread to several private homes. The Jews threw their possessions out [to save them] and there they were robbed by the Polish mob. These fires were set mostly by the men of the SS. The Jews tried to save the burning houses. The Germans then took all the Jewish men from one of the buildings, 26 persons, and forced them to sign a declaration that they themselves had set fire to the building. After the Germans had obtained this declaration they told the men who had been arrested that they would be punished for committing arson and could save themselves only if they paid a ransom of 250,000 zloty. The Jewish population of Wloclawek collected the necessary sum amongst themselves and the men were released. They [the Germans] began to launch hunting expeditions into the houses. They caught about 350 Jews and put some of them in barracks and some of them in the Muehsam factory. From there they were taken out to work every day, but given no food only their families were permitted to bring them food. After many pleas those who had been arrested were permitted, after many checkings, to visit their homes from time to time in accordance with a special leave-of-absence permit, in order to wash, change their clothes, eat, and so on. The regular work of the 350 who had been arrested did not by any means stop the abduction for work of Jews in the streets of the city. And apart from that there was the Jewish Council (Judenrat), which had been appointed in place of the former Community authorities it would supply a certain number of Jewish workers every day, in accordance with German demands. Those who had been taken away and those who were abducted for work were beaten and abused unmercifully. How they treated the Jews while they were working is shown by the fact that one of these Jews, Jacob Heiman, 52 years old and too weak for physical labor, was beaten and stabbed with a dagger while he was working, and a few days after he returned home, he died of his injuries. In October the Germans decreed that the Jews must attach a yellow badge to their clothes in back, and that they must not step on the sidewalks of the street but walk in the middle of the streets. When they had collected the ransom of 250,000 zloty from the Jews for the imaginary arson, they imposed a new fine on the Jewish population after a short while, of 500,000 zloty, for the imaginary offense of not obeying the ban on using the sidewalk. The schools were closed.
A few days after they moved into the city, the Germans closed and confiscated the factories and stores belonging to Jews. The Jews were required to register all their property, and a Jew was not permitted to keep more than 200 zloty in his home (in Warsaw 2,000 zloty). There were many cases of Jews being beaten and tortured. They used to beat them not only during forced labor and not only when they had some complaint, but also for no reason at all: they would simply go up to Jews passing in the street, cry "Zhid" and stop to hit them....
B. Mintz and I. Klausner, eds., Sefer ha-Zevaot ("Book of Abominations"), I, Jerusalem, 1945, p. 86.
* From evidence given in Israel on June 7, 1940, by a woman who left Poland at the beginning of the war.
Source: Yad Vashem