German soldiers with local children in Mordy (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Mordy is located 67 miles east of Warsaw and 11 miles east-northeast of Siedlce. The Jews who lived there were mainly Hasidim, who were mainly petty agricultural merchants, traders and craftsmen. The Jewish community of circa 1,750 residents which comprised of around fifty percent of the town's population on the eve of the Second World War in September 1939.

In the first weeks of the Second World War, a fire caused by the German aerial bombardment, destroyed a part of Mordy. German soldiers who occupied the town shot and killed Mordechai Laski, a disabled First World War veteran. The Germans evacuated Mordy two days later, under the territorial provisions outlined in the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact. A new German -Soviet agreement on borders and friendship, signed on September 28, 1939, returned Mordy and all other Soviet-occupied territories west of the River Bug, to German rule. In Mordy, the Germans appointed a local ethnic German named Eckhart, as the local police chief.

A Jewish Council (Judenrat) was established in Mordy, during November 1939. In March 1940, the chairman was Mosze Waga. Waga was succeeded by Moshe Gershon Lewenberg, who was head of the pre-war kehillah. Other Judenrat members included Aaron Fajnzilber and Mordecaj Furman, both of whom had represented the Revisionists in the pre-war kehillah.

Initially lightly guarded and located 14 miles south of a River Bug crossing, Mordy served as a way station for Jewish refugees fleeing to the Soviet Union. Local Jews and Poles joined together to form smuggling networks to bring refugees to the border. Those turned away often ended up staying in Mordy, until they succeeded in crossing the Rver Bug. Some abandoned the idea of fleeing to the Soviet territories and settled in Mordy.

Mordy also became a centre of forced Jewish migration, with 172 refugees,mostly from Lodz, deported there by May 1940. The next month in June 1940, another 259 Jews from Lodz, Kalisz, and Poznan were expelled to Mordy. By July 1940, 512 deportees were living in the town. Several dozen more Jews from Mlawa were deported to Mordy during the summer of 1940. Approximately 2,000 Jews resided in Mordy in January 1941.

Initially, the Judenrat's main tasks were to assist refugees and the forced deportees and to respond to demands from the German authorities in Siedlce. During June 1940, the Judenrat provided free daily meals in a community kitchen for 180 adult and 250 child refugees, as well as 50 meals for impoverished local Jews.

In the spring of 1941, the Judenrat also distributed packages sent from Warsaw to 500 workers who were draining swamps at a forced labour camp established on the Przeblucki estate just outside Mordy. That same year, the Judenrat responded to German demands for a monetary 'contribution,' collected by representatives sent from Siedlce. From the summer of 1941, the Judenrat also filled quotas of workers for the forced labour camp on the Przeblucki estate. Beginning in the spring of 1942, Jews from Mordy were sent for similar drainage work at another forced labour camp at Bartkow Nowy, approximately 2 miles form Korczew. This camp conscripted between 400 and 600 Jews, with the Jews from Mordy providing a significant number of workers.

An open ghetto was established in Mordy shortly after the German's invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Jews particularly the refugee element were concentrated in the southern part of the town, in the pre-war Jewish neighbourhood. In November 1941, the Jews of Mordy were confined to a ghetto area, located on a few streets in the southern section of the town. The ghetto was open, it was not fenced, but signs were erected, listing punishments for Jews and non-Jews found leaving or entering the ghetto. Eckhart, the local police chief was placed in charge of the ghetto, demonstrated flexibility in his interactions with the Judenrat, responding positively, for instance, to requests to exempt certain Jews from forced labour.

The population in the ghetto increased significantly as the Germans at the end of December 1941, deported the Jews from nearby local villages, including Jews from Krolowa Niwa, Przemyki, Stok Ruski, and Tarkow. That month, 3195 Jews were concentrated in the Mordy ghetto. In May 1942, the Germans deported 500 Jews from Sarnaki to Mordy and by August 1942, 3,817 Jews resided in the ghetto.

During 1942, the Germans exercised more direct authority over the ghetto in Mordy. After 15 of the town's Jews escaped from the nearby forced labour camp, a group of SS arrived in Mordy and threatened to punish collectively the ghetto's Jews, if the escapees were not handed over. The Judenrat yielded to the German's demands, the escapees were handed over and never seen again. A new Police chief, Pulfer, more stringently enforced the restrictions that confined the Jews of Mordy in the ghetto. Gendarmes executed several Jews caught outside the ghetto, smuggling food in 1942.

The liquidation of the Jews in Mordy, began on Saturday August 22, 1942. That day the Germans executed as many of 100 Jews in Mordy. The remaining Jews, including the refugees, approximately 3,500 people were marched to the market square in Siedlce, where they joined the Jews assembled there from Siedlce itself and Losice. While awaiting onward deportation the Jews were subjected to increasingly random shootings by the SS guards. Deprived of water in sweltering heat, the Jews assembled in Siedlce were marched to the train station there on Monday, August 23, 1942, and then loaded onto railroad wagons destined for the Treblinka death camp.

The Germans liquidated the forced labour camp at Bartkow Nowy on October 22, 1942. The inmates were shot and buried in a mass grave on the grounds of the camp. The Germans liquidated the forced labour camp at Mordy during March 1943, where the inmates met the same fate.

Approximately 20 Jewish survivors returned to Mordy after the Second World War ended. However, during May 1945, partisans from the anti-Communist underground, murdered between 2 and 12 of the town's Jews. After the murders, the remaining Jews left Mordy, moving first to Warsaw and subsequently leaving Poland to settle elsewhere.


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

Photograph - Chris Webb Private Archive

Holocaust Historical Society December 10, 2019