Nowy Dwor

modlin - nowy dwor873

Nowy Dwor - Modlin Fortress (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Nowy Dwor is located approximately 19 miles north-west of Warsaw. On the eve of the Second World War, some 10,000 Jews lived in the town. Following the German aerial bombardment that destroyed large parts of the town and killed dozens of Jews, most of the Jewish population fled to Warsaw, leaving only approximately 1,500 Jews behind. As living conditions in Warsaw deteriorated with hundreds of refugees from Nowy Dwor also falling victims to the brutal German aerial onslaughts, many Jews returned back to Nowy Dwor.

The Wehrmacht occupied Nowy Dwor at the end of September 1939. One of their first edicts was to forbid Jews from re-opening their stores, and immediately Jews were seized on the streets to perform forced labour tasks, such as cleaning toilets with their bare hands, as well as clearing rubble from the streets and during the winter months clearing snow from the streets.

On October 26, 1939, Nowy Dwor was incorporated into the German Reich and two months later conducted a census, registering 2,800 Jews. During this period the Germans also burned Jewish books in the marketplace. At the end of December 1939, the leaders of the Jewish Community, Nachum Neufeld and Baruch Tick, were informed by the German authorities that the Jews would have to leave Nowy Dwor within four days. During this time Jewish property, including furniture, and clothing was confiscated; twenty Jews were arrested of which six died at the hands of the Nazis.

In January 1940, owing to the harsh treatment and the imposition of a 'contribution' of 50,000 zloty on the Jewish community by the Germans, many Jews again fled Nowy Dwor, some reaching the Soviet-occupied regions to the east. Only a few, mostly poor Jews remained and at this time the German authorities introduced identity cards for the Jewish population.

During the course of 1940, a number of Jews who had fled Nowy Dwor decided to return to the town from Warsaw, owing to the deteriorating conditions such as hunger and disease in the larger city. The Gestapo, which had its headquarters in the house of Myer Muntlak, near the Polish cemetery, arrested some of those who had returned for leaving their registered place of residence. These Jews were cruelly tortured and 41 of those who had returned from Warsaw, were sent away and never heard of again. The Germans continued to exploit Jews daily for forced labour tasks, making them perform physically demanding work accompanied by brutal beatings.

In June 1941, the German authorities ordered the creation of a ghetto in Nowy Dwor, giving the Jews until the date of June 17 to move into it. The ghetto was located in the 'Piaski' quarter from the house of Moshe Bermann up to the synagogue, which lay outside the ghetto. A wooden fence surrounded the ghetto. There were two gates, and German guards watched the external perimeter. Once the ghetto was created, only a few Jews were able to continue working outside of the ghetto boundaries, which gave them opportunities to obtain extra food. Within the ghetto there was terrible overcrowding and initially no food supplies were provided.

A few days after the establishment of the ghetto, the German authorities ordered the creation of a Jewish Council - Judenrat. The first head of the Judenrat was Rotstein, an honourable man who, for this reason, did not stay in office long. He was succeeded by Israel Tischler, who was acquainted with Wendt, the ethnic German mayor of the town. A Jewish police force was also established, headed by Jakob Baranek. His deputy Shlomo Soszynski,became particularly notorious in the ghetto. In time a ghetto prison was created which was run by the Jewish police.

Another key post in the Judenrat was Head of the Supply Office, held by Israel Skrobanek, which he ruthlessly exploited to make money at the expense of the starving Jews. The rations in the ghetto consisted of only 330 grams of poor quality bread per day and 120 grams of horse flesh per month, which was not always supplied. These rations were at fixed prices, but smuggled goods could be obtained for much higher prices. The Jewish Police took over internal guard duty at the ghetto gates. Chaim Jacek who was in charge there, obediently carried out German orders.

When the German forces attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, this initially brought joy to the ghetto, as people expected they would soon be liberated, but these hopes were quickly dashed as the Germans rapidly advanced deep into Soviet territory. At this time there were approximately 3,000 Jews living in the Nowy Dwor ghetto. Shortly after the creation of the ghetto a typhus epidemic broke out, due to overcrowding and the terrible hygienic conditions there. Almost half of the ghetto became infected and many people died. In response the German authorities forced all Jews to take a bath in the river, but many fell sick as a result of this 'treatment'.

On July 4, 1941, the Gestapo resettled up to 2,000 Jews from Nowy Dwor to the camp in Pomiechowek, where approximately 4,000 Jews were collected together. The German authorities informed the Judenrat that only 750 Jews could remain in the ghetto, that is, those who were employed by the Wehrmacht. Living conditions in the Pomiechowek,camp were terrible, and many people perished there from beatings, hunger and typhus. People who fell ill, were shot on the spot, and those who were healthy were marched towards Legionowo. Only a few managed to reach the Warsaw ghetto alive. Some 800 or so Jews remained behind in Nowy Dwor; they were working in various businesses in the town and also in the nearby fortress of Modlin. Periodically, the Germans murdered some of the surviving Jews in the Nowy Dwor ghetto.

At the end of November 1941, the German authorities ordered that all the Jews from the surrounding area, including approximately 1,000 Jews from Wyszogrod should relocate into the Nowy Dwor ghetto. In order to accommodate these people, the ghetto area was expanded to the railway lines.

Daily the Jewish Police rounded up 350 Jews to work in Modlin, where they rolled up barbed-wire ready for transportation to the Eastern Front. The work was very demanding, and the pay consisted only of a piece of bread. One day in the spring of 1942, when only 300 people turned up for the work assignment, a group of soldiers entered the ghetto and rounded up 50 more. These men were tortured and more than 30 of them were shot for 'being late.' Jews in the ghetto, especially the families of those who were murdered, blamed the Judenrat for failing to protect them.

During the summer of 1942, the Judenrat was forced to hang 18 Jews who had been caught outside the ghetto, illegally, trying to cross the border into the Generalgouvernement, or who were engaged in smuggling food. A few months later on October 28, 1942, all 2,600 Jews from Czerwinsk were brought to the Nowy Dwor ghetto, which resulted in terrible overcrowding with five or six families sharing one room.

The start of the ghetto's liquidation on November 20, 1942. First those that were unfit to work, or unable to pay a bribe were deported. The ghetto was then completely cleared in two additional transports to the Auschwitz death camp. 1,000 people were deported on December 9, 1942, and a further 1,500 on December 12. When this transport arrived at Auschwitz, 580 men are admitted to the camp and the remaining 920 people are killed in the gas chambers. The 12 members of the Judenrat, along with their families, were placed in a separate wagon and taken to the Warsaw ghetto.

Some Jews from Nowy Dwor participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during April and May 1943. It is estimated that only approximately 30 Jews from the ghetto in Nowy Dwor survived until the liberation, and the few that returned to Nowy Dwor found only desolation and a ruined cemetery.


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

D. Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle, Henry Holt & Co, New York 1989

Photograph:  Chris Webb Private Archive

Holocaust Historical Society, September 23,  2019