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  II Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Marii Konopnickiej w Zamościu  
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"To Bring Memory Back" edition 2006-2007

OPOLE LUBELSKIE - Zespół Szkół linia

Who are we

School Complex in Opole Lubelskie

Jewish community in our town

Up to the first half of 16th century Jewish Communities existed only in Lublin and Kazimierz (maybe in Chełm too). Jewish migration to this region was started only by location of new private towns, to which they were brought to develop merchandise and services. New towns competed with the existing so Lublin, Krasnystaw or Urzędów strived to limit Jewish influx. Due to high population growth in 2nd half of 18th century Jews began to dominate in many towns (i.a. in Krasnik, Lubartow and Leczna). At the beginning of 20th century in 11 towns they were over 70% of the population and in Laszczow and Izbica nearly 100 %. Jewish village settlements were very few – individual families working at merchandise, craft or in tap-rooms. On the eve of World War II in lubelskie province lived about 300000 Jews.
The province, as being for over three hundred years a centre of Jewish culture and tradition, delivered (excluding Lublin) many tzaddiks: Mordechaj Josef Leiner from Izbica, Chaim Israel Morgensztern from Puławy or Motele Rokeach from Bilgoraj.  Family of two most famous Jewish writers – Izrael Joszua and Isaac Bashevis Singer also came from Bilgoraj.

Jews in
Opole Lubelskie

Synagogue on
Cicha St.

It was erected around 1880, built from white stone. Nearby there was a one-floor building of Jewish school, also made with white stone. Both did not survive to contemporary times.

Cemetery on
Józefowska St.

2 hectare area, not fenced, devastated, lack of tombstones due probably to stealing performed by local community - they built farm buildings with it. In 1931 In Opole Lubelskie lived 4193 people of Jewish origin, in 1939 – 4325. There were 420 Jewish craftsmen workshops and 270 shops. The majority made their lives by working in workshops or by small merchandise. In town there were 5 Jewish tanneries, two oil mills and 3 groats-makers.

From the end of 1939 the Germans started to persecute Jews from other towns – Pulawy, Józefów and
Vienna, later from Kazimierz-upon-Vistula and Wawolnica. Ghetto was established in March 1941. It was placed in the western side of the town. The area was fenced primarily with wired fence and later a 2.5 meter high wall made from thick poles and planks. Ghetto life was directed by Judenrat – so-called Jewish Council. Its personnel were 18 wealthiest and most influential Jews of Opole – also with militia group of 30 people. On March and May 1942 Jews were deported to Belzec and Sobibor. The ghetto was finally liquidated on October 24th 1942 and almost 9000 people inhabiting it were deported to Sobibor and Poniatowa. In general in the ghetto there lived over 14000 Jews, around 500 managed to escape and hide in surrounding forests.   At the beginning the Judenrat president was Taj. After March 1942 Judenrat decreased to twelve in number, its make-up was partially changed too. At first Judenrat gathered in a synagogue located on present property of Mr. Gozdur on Cicha St. Opole’s synagogue was a white-stone building, erecter about 1880. Next to it there was a building of Jewish school, made from the same material. Therefore there were two public properties. But from the moment of establishing the ghetto both of them were also residential ones. In the synagogue there were bunk-beds for Jews from Puławy, Vienna, France and Slovakia. Food rations, initially given by Kreishauptmann Brant from Pulawy, were just not enough.  
                      Judenrat, analogically as in other ghettos, was established by Germans’ (Judische Soziale Selbsthilfe) assent as the Jewish Social Self-Help (JSS). The president of the JSS delegacy was (elected on
October 27th 1941) Jakub Goldzamb, and the members were Naftali Rubinstein and Adalbert Adler. After few months JSS administration was changed and Leopold Wulkan and Jakub Engels became its presidents. Opole’s Delegacy of JSS sent many letters to Main Committee pleading for help. The pleading was motivated by simple fact that Opole’s ghetto had to hold Jewish people from all over Europe. And 4000 Jews really needed help (amidst them Jews of Vienna) Answering to the letters the Main Committee of JSS assignated a modest sum of 7300 zlotys – the money was used to make People’s Kitchen to feed the most needing – children, crimples and old. After three months, when the money was gone, the kitchen was liquidated.                   
      In 1942 one could not obtain food from Germans in legal way. Jews living in the ghetto were dependent on buying it from Polish people. Few dozens Jews, including Catholics, received package-help from abroad. Their addressee was
Opole’s rector priest Karol Mares and it was he who handed over the consignments. In 1942 prices of food were higher than before. On March 1942 1 kilogram of potatoes costed 3 zlotys, whereas bread 12 zlotys. Very quickly even wealthy families were taken away their money and valuables. Jewish community became pauperized.                     
Opole’s ghetto the ruler was broad-shouldered, tall and very strong psychopath (if one believes in relations) Landkommissar Horst Gode. In 1940 after his arrival to Opole he had town’s craftsmen restore Lubomirscy palace for his personal use. It was located in Niezdow, 1 kilometer from Opole. In one building in town there was stationing a platoon of 12 military policemen commanded by Leutnant Rudolf who together with Blue Police controlled the lives of Jews and Poles in the district of Opole Lubelskie.                      
   H. Gode together with his comrades inspected the ghetto most often, during when he killed (by gun or hand) over a dozen men. In July 1941 Gode entered Jewish hospital existing within ghetto walls (located in Tuszynski building) and shot to death 30 sick he had found there. The personnel of the facility (mainly Jews from
Vienna) luckily managed to escape from there.
In connection with frequent transportations of Jews from other centres and ghettos to
Opole’s closed district, Judenrat works were very varied and its role in the centred Jewish community - very serious. The Order Service, subordinated to Judenrat, was made form 30 men, mainly young and strong sons or other relatives of the Commission. In 1942 the commander of the Police was Kajzer. Any Jew who opposed his decision was put under arrest which was located in cellars of a building standing on the corner of Stary Rynek and Koscielna St.  
The male inhabitants of
Opole’s ghetto had to work for the Third Reich. By virtue of a bill from January 20th 1940 men above 14 and below 60 of age received registration cards. For every card Judenrat collected 20 groshes - and together with money the cuttings were handed over (by mediation of the Mayor of Opole Lubelskie, Mr. Fiszer) to the Kreishauptmann of Pulawy. The cards were filled in German in presence of a doctor and Judenrat members. Their launch let the Germans plan exact exploitation of Jewish labour and for the Jews - they gave them false sense of security.
Even in 1940 the way of living in
Opole’s ghetto can be known but from January 1941 Odile Globocnik’s (SS and police leader of lubelskie province) prohibitions were on virtue. From 1940 Jews were not allowed to travel but this regulation was not very much obeyed. Not before that on February 15th 1941 lubelskie governor Zorn ordered that Jews, who left the ghetto, are to be killed without mercy.  
On Gode’s order teams of Jews worked on every day. They were employed in a sugar refinery administered by Hanys,  to clean the settlement, in hospital garden, on narrow gauge station, by road works (i.a. on Lubelska St., Nowa St. and near many local estates: Niezdow, Janiszkowice, Górna Owczarnia, Łaziska). Many worked also in forests near Rozalin. People went to work joyfully (especially in estates) because the possibility of being outside the ghetto, in garden or on a field was ensuring opportunity to get food for themselves and their families, to get in touch with Polish people, to discuss food deliveries and so on. Without trading with Poles the life in ghetto would not be possible – because they did not care about German orders and still supplied the ghetto with food. Bags stuffed with potatoes, kasha and flour landed behind ghetto fence. It was not so difficult to accomplish the task – one should only move well-known pale and through the hole jump into the closed district. Polish children were most often making the deliveries. Jewish Order Service and blue police usually did not notice them and the Germans didn’t inspect the ghetto on a daily basis – they were too frightened of diseases. In spring 1941 there was an outbreak of typhoid epidemic and over 500 Jews died of it. In any case even before the spring and the epidemic the death rate among Jews was very high. Every day 50 people died. Disinfection Service removed the bodies to the cemetery and there completed their duties. The greatest death aftermath fell on inhabitants of three barracks. People who settled there were convicted to death from starvation and dehydration – because Jews gathered there were not to receive any food or any water. These inhuman conditions could be endured only by very strong organisms. After every night the Disinfection Service removed at least 10 bodies.

In spring 1942, after adding Jews fom Kazimierz, Wąwolnica,
Józefów, Slovakia and France the total number of inhabitants of Opole’s getto reached 11000. Kreishauptman Brandt insisted on speeding up the final liquidation of Jews, so-called „ Aktion Reinhard”. Gode together with his co-workers realized the directives very zealously. The psychopath wanted Judenrat to send him on almost every night the prettiest girls from the ghetto and organized orgies with fellow Germans in palace in Niezwadow. He appropriated gold also, and was charge with embezzlement and intercourses with Jewish women and put to jail in Lublin’s castle. He was seen there by arrested residents of Opole, serving a sentence in 1942/1932. He was later executed by the Nazis.                        
March 31st 1942 1950 Jews left Opole’s ghetto. They were transported by narrow gauge to Nałęczów and from there by train to Belzyce. In May that year next transport of 2000 men was directed to Sobibor. Realizing the transportation meant death, few Jews gave their children to Polish people to raise. Of course Koźmińscy, Kozłowscy and others received money for having agreed on this. Not always the Poles kept their word. In the town’s community for this day story about Rudka, beautiful daughter of a Jew Golwasser, is widely known. Goldwasser just before transportation managed to give the girl to a Polish family. Few children were given to the Germans and executed by them although earlier assurances.
During one rafle in May 1942 Henryk Geszychter and his ward were caught on the
Old Square. H. Geszychter was commonly known personage in Opole. He had a chemists’ and his wife Zenia was a doctor. Henryk and his ward had poisoned themselves. When it became known, the wife took their daughters Roma and Dora and escaped from the ghetto – they found a shelter with hospital’s administrative director Wieslawa Myczkowska.  After few day of hiding Mrs Geszychter with her daughters were directed to Warsaw where they survived the gehenna of the occupation. Together with nurse Czeslawa Jakubicka W. Myczkowska saved life of a dentist technician – Andrzej Rajchman. Both arranged for him false papers to travel to Warsaw. There A. Rajchman hid to the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising on August 1st 1944, during which he fought with the Nazis and found his death. W. Myczkowska saved also Helena Steslowicz- Jewess who lives in Basel nowadays (Switzerland) – on her request her saviour received a medal “Righteous Among the Nations of the World” from Yad Vashem Institute.
People saving lives of the others while risking their own life were very few. The commander of Special Unit of People’s Army Lublin Branch lieutenant Gustaw Alef-Bolkowiak confirms that information. He was generally known as Bolek, Warsaw Jew, who in 1942 and 1943 fought with Nazis. He has written: “I myself for many times was in gatherings of ghetto’s runaways, commonly called ‘bazaars’. Mainly there were women, elders and small children, because those who could carry a gun joined people’s guerilla […] I remember in village Niedzwiad, district Opole Lubelskie, few Jewish craftsmen familie from Opole were hiding with knowledge of whole settlement. Residents of Kępa Gostecka also hid Jews, among them family of a Medicine Doktor working now in Community Health Centem, Wiesław Lyjak – also received a medal „Righteous Among the Nations of the World”. Family of Wiktor and Julianna Lyjak hid at the time many Jewish runaways from Opole’s ghetto, among them Bram Josek, Cudyk and Adlman from Pulawy. Five Jews were hiding and survived the occupation in Lubomira village near Zagloba.   
After the deportation to Sobibor in May escapes from Opole’s ghetto became more and more frequent. On June 1942 Orentrajcher family escaped to forest near Laziska village and lived there in a wooden bunker. Unknown person denounced their place of stay and they were killed by the Nazis.  
Jews hid themselves in villages of Powisle district. In Kepa Solecka in house of farmer Wasik there was hiding a wealthy Jew from Opole, Szmul Rychter, whose son was a soldier in Home Army (Armia Krajowa). When captured he denounced his father’s hideout.
On October 24th 1942 Opole’s ghetto was liquidated and its inhabitants deported to Sobibor and Poniatowa. Polish residents silently bid farewell to their fellow-townsmen. Jews marched on Lubelska St. and further through Zagrody village to Poniatowa. According to guards’ relations there was a fire in the camp – Jewish barracks where they (having smuggled guns in before) fought with the Germans.
The second column was formed and transported on the same day to Nałęczów. At the place there were waiting goods-carriages poured out with lime. After the deportation the population of the settlement lessened. First list of residents demonstrated 3050 inhabitants. After the liquidation the Germans let Polish settlers move in former ghetto walls.
Generally Opole’s ghetto was inhabited by over 14000 Jews. In Gorna Owczarnia Wladyslaw Szaran from October 24th 1942 to fall 1944 hid in his house a pair of siblings - Jojne and Pese Nisenbaum – today living in Israel, he also helped for a few days the Manasz family. In Franciszkow at home of Franciszek and Maria Lakotowie the Berman siblings found their hideout. S. Katylon, tailor from Opole, survived the ghetto.  In Niedzwiada village, surrounded by thick forest two Jews from Opolskie district, Jan Smulewicz and Marian Gelbs survived the war, partially in Bolkowiak’s unit, partially hiding in peasants’ homes. First of them owes his life to Grodno forester, Stanisław Stankiewicz and the Nowak family from Niedzwiada.
Many young men who managed to escape from the ghetto later joined GL, AL, AK or Polish Peasants’ Battalions.
Jews from Opole who survived Gehenna of Nazi occupation 1939-1944 remember their origins. Many of them visited Opole Lubelskie and keep in touch with its residents.

What we do in the project

- Search and analysis of the materials (pictures, reports, copies of original documents);
- Interviews with living witnesses of Worls War II;
- Reconstruction of the historical Ghetto (today the streets Kościelna and Grabarska, and the Old Square);
- Find material evidence of the existence of the Jewish cemetery;



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