Izbica - Eyewitness Accounts of Deportations


Kurt Engels - Extract from his personnel file (Bundesarchiv)

The conditions under which the inhabitants of Izbica lived - Poles as well as Jews - under the rule of terror instigated by Kurt Engels and Ludwik Klemm, have been described by Adam Pawlik, a Pole who worked as a mill inspector in the county district of Krasnystaw. In this capacity he traveled all over the region and occasionally visited Izbica and well remembers this sadistic pair:

The notorious Gestapo men Engels and his assistant Klemm, chose Izbica as the place to practice murder. For the arrested Poles, Engels had a special building erected which had small windows and only one door and an opening in the roof. There he imprisoned, maltreated and killed them. No-one was allowed to intervene on behalf of those arrested; not even the highest-placed German. In Izbica there was not one single clase of one of those arrested being set free.

At best, those arrested were sent to Auschwitz, Lublin Castle or Majdanek. Many Poles were killed by Engels. I know precisely of two cases in which Poles were murdered by Engels; these were the cases of Leon Gasiorowski, the miller from the village of Kosany, near Krasnystaw, murdered in June 1942; and the case of Roman (I do not remember his first name) - a restaurant owner in Izbica. Every permanent resident of Izbica is in a position to give complete details of the activities of Engels.

Pawlik testified in 1946, about the fate of Jews brought to Izbica:

The Germans brought to Izbica Jews from all over Europe. Most of the Jews came from Czechoslovakia. The groups of Jews brought to Izbica stayed a few days (sometimes up to 10 days and then taken out), and completely robbed of their valuables, and after some of them had been murdered in Izbica, the remaining Jews were taken to the death camp in Belzec.

Lea Reisner- Bialowitz described the transfer of Jews from Zamosc to Izbica:

In the summer a decree ordered our transfer from Zamosc to Izbica. We walked all the way and the weak were systematically killed. The Jews from Zokiew, Turobin, and Piaski were assembled at Izbica. Thousands of Jews from other countries joined us. The Izbica ghetto was a veritable anthill in which the Nazis enjoyed harassing us. SS-man Engels killed people while they slept in their beds, or were just walking in the streets. He killed small children as well.

Life was a nightmare, and the fear of being arrested was worse than death. We were always hungry, and my mother exchanged her last possessions for bread. When we heard the cry of alarm: 'Die Deutschen:' - The Germans!' we left the streets of the ghetto and hid in the cellars. Exhausted, my mother insisted that my brother and I must run away.

The moment we got to the other side of the ghetto, an SS Officer saw us. He shot and killed my brother. I reached the forest all alone and found some fugitives. We spent the days lying on the ground and at night we stole potatoes in the fields. Desperate, I returned to Izbica, but my parents were gone. I was sheltered by the Bialowitz family. We lived miserably, without food, without clothes, and worked in a factory. In the spring we were deported to Sobibor death camp.

Thomas Toivi Blatt recalled the events in Izbica during June 1942:

Slowly the marketplace filled with a strange mass of people: at one end there were only children; further on, only the elderly. The most miserable sight was a large group of infants lying on blankets, attended only by a few women. The majority, however, were mothers with children, though not all were on their own. The youngsters understood what would happen to them, the horror was clearly seen in their eyes.

It was terrible. The crying of children mixed with the wailing of parents and the devotions the older Jews shouted to God: 'Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Eichad!' My little brother could have been among them, but I had hidden him in Solecki's garage. It was impossible for me to find my cousin and we returned to the garage.

I watched from the sidewalk as the Jews were being led to the box cars. Children passed by. A shot rang out, then another. I caught a glimpse of one girl, about eight years old, running behind a building. She had run out of the escorted column of Jews. She didn't run far, a Catholic teenager caught her and brought her back. My eyes filled with tears.

When all the Jews had been loaded into the boxcars, there were still a few empty ones, so the Germans and Ukrainians set off again, grabbing whomever they could. Finally the transport was nearly full and ready to depart. Suddenly the German Landrat ordered the Czech faction of the Judenrat who had co-operated until this particular 'Aktion' to get into the last car of the train. They shut and bolted the doors, and the transport set off for Belzec, the death camp.

Earlier Abram Blatt, the elder in the Polish faction of the Judenrat, had bribed the German officials to 'resettle' the Czechs. This was his revenge for the Czechs delivering their Polish brothers for shipment to Belzec weeks before. Soon rumours reached us of a newly built death factory, one they called Sobibor.

The Fate of Germans and Jews involved in Izbica

Kurt Engels - Kurt Engels committed suicide in a Hamburg prison on December 31, 1958

Ludwik Klem - Ludwik Klemm also committed suicide in Limburg, during May 1979

Lea-Reisner -Bialowitz - Deported to Sobibor. She escaped during the revolt on October 14, 1943. She married Simha Bialowitz, and they settled in Israel

Thomas Toivi Blatt - Deported to Sobibor. He escaped during the revolt on October 14, 1943. He emigrated to the United States of America. He passed away on October 31, 2015, at his home in Santa Barbara.


M.Tregenza, 'Only the Dead', unpublished paper held in the Wiener Library

M. Novitch, Sobibor, Holocaust Library, New York, 1980

T.Blatt, From the Ashes of Sobibor, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1997

C. Webb, The Sobibor Death Camp, ibidem-verlag, Stuttgart, 2017

Images: Bundesarchiv

Holocaust Historical Society, August 5, 2021