Legionowo


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German soldiers in front of Balloon Hanger in Legionowo - (Chris Webb Private Archive)


Legionowo is located 14 miles north of Warsaw. Ludwisin, where the ghetto was located, is a south western neighbourhood of Legionowo that borders the gmina of Jablonna. The number of Jewish residents before the Second World War was unknown but it is estimated that it was circa 400.

A 12-man Judenrat was established during February 1940, In December 1940, its members included Chil Rozenberg, who served as its Chairman. Chaim Rozenberg was its secretary and Abram Rozen was in charge of Jewish labour. Dr. Abraham Finkelsztejn, Hersz Finkelsztejn, Efroim Szafraniec, Szlama Sterdyner, Moszek Horowicz, Lejb Brzoza and Motel Nizki.

Chana Ruta Magied wrote about the Chairman Chil Rozenberg: 'I know of one incident when he acted with impropriety. It was shortly before the ghetto liquidation. The son of the Judenrat chairman was caught outside of the ghetto. Rozenberg gave the Germans some other Jew, because he wanted to save his son.'

In January 1940, the Judenrat reported to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) that there were approximately 1,000 refugees in Legionowo benefiting from the local soup kitchen, which was financed primarily by the AJDC. Members of the AJDC conducted an inspection and requested a list of Jews, which was conducted by the Judenrat in March 1940. It showed that there were only 588 Jews in Legionowo and no more than 300 of them were refugees. The inspector established that a 'fictitous register' had been made, falsely inflating the number of family members. The Judenrat was ordered to decrease the number of kitchen meals it delivered accordingly and reconstitute the composition of its self-help committee, led by the Judenrat chairman Rozenberg. At this time, there were refugees from the following localities in Legionowo: Nowy Dwor, Mazowiecki, Serock, Nasielsk, Zuromin, Biezun, Sierpc, Chorzek, Nowe Miastrow, Wloclawek, Bukowiec, Wieliszew, Lipno, Pomiechowek, Ciechanow, Rozany, and Pultusk.

Legionowo's head stated that based on a register dated April 4, 1940, there were 981 Jews living in Legionowo. That same month, the Judenrat stated there were 1,667 Jews living there.

On November 19, 1940, the Judenrat wrote to the AJDC in Warsaw: 'We are reporting that on November 15, 1940, a Jewish quarter was established on the territory of Legionowo, it includes the Jewish population of three gminas: Legionowo, Jablonna- Henrykow and Nieporet - the latter having already been resettled.' There is little information as to how many Jews were transferred from each of these localities, but it is known that Henrykow and Pludy had no more than 200 residents - including 88 refugees - in August 1940.

The ghetto was located on the periphery of Legionow in a neighbourhood called Ludwisin; some sources refer to it only by this name. Other names include Ludwisin- Legionowo, Legionowo, but also Jablonna, due to the ghetto's proximity to that town's border. Hence Magied's description: 'They created the ghetto on Pola Ludwisinskie (Ludwisin Fields), between Jablonna and Legionowo.... it was a pretty neighbourhood, practically half-rural, green, full of orchards. The only reason the Germans picked it for a ghetto was probably because it was so isolated. All the time they had us as if in the palm of their hand, as they could easily surround and shell the ghetto.'

The following streets delineated the ghetto's borders: Sobieski, Mieszko I, Prymasowska, Kozietulski, Pomorska and Zygmuntowska. The Judenrat was located at Chrobry Street 77, and the soup kitchen at Sobieski Street 55. The ghetto was open, not fenced in. The streets leading into the ghetto had signs posted at the ghetto border with the following inscription:  Judische Gegend. Polen und Wehrmacht Eintritt verboten - Jewish Area. Entrance Forbidden for Poles and German Army Personnel.

Jewish policeman and ghetto survivor Nachman Jozef Kazimierski testified that a Jewish police force was established in December 1940, on the orders of the Kreishauptmann Warschau-Land, Regierungsrat Dr. Hermann Rupprecht. The selection of candidates for the Jewish Police was left to the Judenrat Chairman. According to Kazimierski, Rozenberg selected 'serious citizens,; so there were no underhanded tricks.' Feldmann was the commander of the Jewish Police; the police wore special armbands and badges, as well as navy blue hats.

The Jewish Police set up a jail, but allowed the incarcerated Jews to leave the jail during the day and 'trade', reporting back to the jail at night. Because the policemen enjoyed certain privileges and were excused from forced labour, wealthier Jews paid Rozenberg money to get their sons into the force. Every day Legionowo's Jewish Police was required to provide 150 labourers for the Germans and collect them from their workplace in the evening. There was also an arbitration court in the ghetto, conducted by a lawyer named Federman and two other citizens.

Apart from the localities mentioned above, Jews from the following villages were ordered to move into the Legionowo ghetto: Dabrowka, Lomianki, Bialoleka Dworska, and Wisniewo. In December 1940, the Judenrat reported in January 1941,  'circa 2,500 Jews living in the ghetto. Almost half of the residents -1,200 , were in need of support. Nonetheless, the soup kitchen was now closed for several months. The Judenrat reported, 'They live in accommodation under construction which are located on a wide-open field and exposed to terrible winds, asking for money to buy fuel.'

One month later in February 1941, the ghetto was declared closed, and Nachman Jozef Kazimierski wrote about life in the ghetto:

'We lived well in the town. Officially, we received 210 kilograms of bread and 100 grams of sugar a week, but nobody ever paid attention to the ration coupon. In the ghetto we had 50 small bakeries and two large ones. One of them baked rationed bread, the other was mine... There were 50 ritual slaughterers. People were taking a risk by going to villages, buying cattle and then herding it to Warsaw, for ritual slaughter, where it was supervised by two slaughterers and a Rabbi from Henrykow.'

During April 1941, Jews who were ill with typhus were sent to a hospital in Wolomin. Despite the danger of an epidemic developing, 400 deportees from Nowy Dwor were sent to Legionowo on May 14, 1941. Initially they were housed in the ghetto's isolation ward, consisting of five rooms, equipped with only two beds. Sixty of them left for Warsaw, the next day. The local committee had no resources to help these newcomers, aside from distributing some coffee to the elderly and children. As of June 1941, the committee was ordered to feed dinners to 300 labourers working for the German Army in Legionowo. In July 1941, 3,000 Jews, of which 1,300 were refugees, were reported to be living in the ghetto. The soup kitchen was closed. A typhus epidemic broke out in October 1941, although at the time, the ghetto had its own epidemic hospital with 30 beds. The soup kitchen re-opened on December 8, 1941, serving only 400 meals a day, but by February 1942, the worst of the epidemic was over.

A number of Jews from the ghetto worked in nearby labour camps, including those at Piekelko and Zeran. There was also a camp in Jablonna, where approximately 400 Jews from the ghetto were taken in the summer of 1942, to work on the embankment of the River Vistula.

The first reports of Jews being shot for leaving the ghetto in Legionowo appeared in the summer of 1942. A man and a woman were executed on August 4, 1942, two more Jews were shot on August 11, 1942, and a Jewish woman was shot on August 22, 1942.

Following the mass deportation Aktion from the Warsaw ghetto that commenced on July 22, 1942, many escapees from those round-ups started to arrive in Legionowo. Nachman Jozef Kazimierski testified that the Jewish Police would take bribes of 5,000 zloty per head to legalise the status of the fugitives in Legionowo. He also recalled how some Jews tried to save themselves by joining the Jewish Police. There were 40 Jewish policemen in the ghetto, at the time of its eventual liquidation.

The liquidation of the ghetto in Legionowo took place on October 4, 1942. This was largely unannounced, although some Polish Police, known as the Blue police, because of the colour of its uniforms, had warned some residents that the end was nigh. Karl Georg Brandt, who was the Judenreferat of the KdS in the Warsaw District, and who had played a leading role in the mass deportations in Warsaw. Upon arrival at the Judenrat's office, Brandt announced that the Jews would be resettled to the east, where they would get land and work in agriculture. Following this, all but 10 Jewish Policemen were dismissed. The Judenrat Chairman was included in this group, after he handed over a 'sack of gold,' recalled  Nachman Jozef Kazimierski, who was selected as one of the ten Jewish Policemen. These policemen were ordered to go around the ghetto and call for all the residents to assemble on Chrobry Street, in front of the Judenrat building. The 400 labourers regulating the River Vistula remained in their barracks. Approximately 70 people, including the Judenrat Chairman Chil Rozenberg, and the Jewish Police chief Feldmann, were killed.

From the assembly point, the Jews of Legionowo were taken to the Radzymin train station, via the village of Struga . The entire community was deported to the Treblinka death camp, along with Jews from Wolomin and Radztmin, where they were murdered in the gas chambers.

Sources

The Encyclopaedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933-1945, USHMM, Indiana University Press Bloomington and Indianapolis 2012

Photograph - Chris Webb Private Archive


Holocaust Historical Society November 26, 2019