Bedzin - SS Officer surveys the ruins on Zumkowa Street (USHMM)

Bedzin is located approximately 7 miles northeast of Katowice.The Jewish population of the city was 21,625 in 1931. The German Army entered Bedzin on September 4, 1939 and almost immediately the Germans instituted a reign of terror over the Jewish population living in the city. They set fire to Jewish homes and the synagogue, took hostages - some of them they shot - drafted people for forced labour, plundered Jewish property and cut the Jews off from the city's economic life and from its non-Jewish citizens.

Klaus Udo was named Landrat of Bedzin in 1940, and he formally served in this position until 1945. After February 1941, his deputy Hieronymus Wolff oversaw operations. From the end of 1942, Hans Feldman, the mayor of Czeladz, served in that capacity.

In late September 1939, a Jewish Aid Committee (Judisches Hilfskomitee) was set up to replace the pre-war Jewish Communal Welfare Organisation. Several weeks later, a Jewish Council (Judenrat), headed by an engineer, Gustaw Weinzieher, and Lazar Rubinlicht, was established. The Aid Committee opened public kitchens and provided medical care and social assistance for impoverished Jews. On German instructions a labour centre for Jews was established in a local barracks.

In November 1939, Mojzesz Merin, who was appointed head of the Central Office of Jewish Councils in Eastern Upper Silesia by Hans Dreier, the head of the department of Jewish affairs of the Kattowitz Gestapo, ordered the Judenrat in Bedzin to submit to his authority. The Bedzin Judenrat refused, causing Merin to travel to Bedzin accompanied by three Gestapo officers. The Bedzin Judenrat under duress, submitted to Merin, who demanded a heavy 'contribution' from the Jews of Bedzin. He also restructured the Judenrat. Jakub Erlich, who had been on the old committee, became the new head. Chaim Merin, the brother of Mojzes, served as its administrator.

In August 1941, the Judenrat was reorganized again. Chaim Merin became the president; the vice presidents were M. Laskier (economic affairs) and M. Manela (financial affairs). Other members were M.Gartner, B. Graubart, H. Henenberg, M.Lewin, N. Londner, Chaim Molczadzki, Paradistal, L Rottner, C.H. Szpicberg, H. Sztrochlic, Wygodzki, Dr. J. Zylberszac. The last chairman of the Bedzin Judenrat was Chaim Molczadzki.

The Judennrat was divided into several departments, including social services, heath, food supply, economic, finance and budget, labour, forced labour, housing and archival-statistical. A department of transport and a postal service also functioned in Bedzin. The Judenrat maintained a communal kitchen at Sienkewicz Street 19, a children's home, and a home for the elderly. The latter was directed by Dr. Weinzieher, who had been a representative in the Polish Sejm. During 1942, an infirmary was established in the home for the elderly on Podzamcze Street. There was also a steam bath with a disinfection room. The Judenrat issued free passes for haircuts to the poor. The health department exercised strict control over sanitation measures.

The Bedzin Judenrat was subordinated to the Central Office of Jewish Councils in Eastern Upper Silesia. It constituted a separate unit -Stadtkreis Bedzin, which in October 1940, numbered 25,264 people. Beniamin Graubart served as the Kreis Inspector answerable to the Central Office.

On September 10, 1940, a Jewish police force ( Judischer Ordnungsdienst) was set up by the Judenrat, consisting at first of fifteen officers. The first commandant was Kaufman. He was succeeded by Julek Ferszternfeld and then Romek Goldminc. On August 14, 1941, Chaim Molczadzki. took command. In September 1942, Wolf Izrael Buchweitz took over. The last commandant of the Jewish police in Bedzin was Henryk Barenblatt.

In March 1941, there were 25,171 Jews living in Bedzin. On April 5, 1941, the first group of Jews were resettled from Auschwitz town to Bedzin. Initially they were housed in a Jewish orphanage. Four days later, a second transport arrived; altogether more than 1,000 people. Eventually they were dispersed to private apartments. Thus in July 1941, 27,001 Jews were living in Bedzin.