Jerzy Rajgrodzki Statement

Memories from Treblinka

It's been 15 years since I was a prisoner in the Death Camp in Treblinka, where I was deported from the Warsaw Ghetto. I could peacefully describe what I had experienced. I tried to ward off these thoughts. However, when the memory involuntarily emerged, I tried to do everything, to forget about that life, about the past. After the war, I started a new life . Understandably, after the war, I hid my Jewish origin, both at work and at the Gdansk University of Technology. 

I read Wiernik's "Death Camp" and Rachela Auerbach's "In the Fields of Treblinka." Wiernik's work seemed weak to me. Auerbach described certain episodes from this camp better and truthfully. The sketches of the drawings in both of these works deviate from reality. Besides, they are on such a scale that they do not give a picture of the situation of this camp, where the most terrible drama in history played out. So far I have not encountered such a work that would present camp life from the inside in Lager II, which was a world closed to itself and where I was (imprisoned) for 11 months. I don't know if I will succeed, but I can say that time has done its job and the memories, although still painful, no longer have such an impact on my psyche that I would have to flee from them. I can even write about them with peace of mind.

On 18 April 1957, I visited the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw for the first time. At the request of one of the staff members, I will try to describe the history of Lager II as I experienced and saw it.

I lived with my wife and child in Warsaw at 50 Dzielna Street. War. September 1939. Armbands with the Star of David. Ghetto. Working at an outpost At the Okęcie airport. Summer 1942-working in Central Spare Parts Depots (Zentralersatzteillager or ZEL) in Praga (a district of Warsaw) as a laborer. August 1942- situation in the Ghetto became increasingly more dangerous. There was hunger. The streets were full of corpses covered with newspapers. The Aktion continued and became more and more violent. The Jewish militia assisted in supplying an adequate contingent. ZEL worked together and concentrated its members in one house on Muranowska Street, where I moved with my family. I lived here for only 3 days and the outpost was forced to vacate this house and occupy a house on Miła Street. It was September 7 or 8, 1942. We no longer went to work. We shared that outside the neighborhood: Gesia, Zamenhofa, Stawki, from which it was impossible to get out. There were still many Jews left in the rest of the Ghetto. On September 10 or 11, 1942 the commander of ZEL called out "ZEL assemble". We went down and, under the convoy of SS men and guards, we went to the Umschlagplatz.  

The first day in Lager I

It was probably September 12, 1942.

When I was sitting with others on the platform, some SS man nodded at me to get up and go to work. Had it not been for this nodding I would have gone with the others to the gas chambers. At the time, I was so stunned by what was was happening that it was all the same to me. Of the 100 people /families from ZEL, only men were selected to work, the rest went to undress (to go to the gas chambers). To the right, men. To the left, women with children. In the middle of the courtyard stood the sign "Achtung Warschauer", Attention Warsaw residents, which stated that one should pack one's clothes well, go to the bath, and then leave for work.

As I passed by one of the comrades from ZEL who was standing naked, he asked me for another piece of bread. I gave it to him so that no one could see.  From afar came the distinctive sound of an excavator in Treblinka. Something was happening there. For us in Lager I, it was a secret. Besides, I was rushed and any moment I could have been struck with a nagaika (Cossak whip). I lost the ability to think logically. I was flustered. I was confused. I walked like a crazed animal, ready at any moment to be slaughtered.

I worked at carrying parcels and sorting them.  Piles of these parcels lay behind the right-hand barracks /Fig. 1/. At any time, for any reason, an SS man could take any of us and escort us to the Lazaret. The lazaret was a deep ditch several hundred meters away. The victim would stand over the precipice and after receiving a bullet in the back of the head would fall down and die there. Those who were lame and exhausted by hunger were sent immediately to the Lazarett after the arrival of the transport. 

On the roll call square between the barracks were a well and a field kitchen. We were given dinner. Soup with unpeeled potatoes. Food was taken from packages. After sunset roll call. Of the entire crew, numbering several hundred, the Germans selected perhaps 30 (prisoners) who were destined for death. At that moment, one of the (prisoners who were) selected, who was stocky and of medium height, jumped out and stabbed the SS man in the back with a knife.  

As they later reported, this SS man (Max Biala) died after two weeks. The stocky hero (Majer Berliner) was immediately killed. A terrible scene ensued. They surrounded us from all sides and fired into the crowd, beating us with nagaikas and clubs. Those who were weak and fell were trampled. The crowd swayed one way and then another. The fence was almost knocked over. This went on for nearly half an hour. It began to get dark. Finally, the carnage stopped. Once again, we gathered in ranks in a square. A lot of corpses were stacked in the middle of the square. They (the SS) selected ten (prisoners) again. The (prisoners) were placed in the middle of the courtyard and, in front of everyone, they were shot from behind. Then the SS-man, Lalka, brought out Deputy Kapo Herszel and hit him several times with a nagaika on the face. Herszel stood unmoved. After this ceremony, they shoved us into the barracks for the night. I began to process where I was and, like the others, thought that it was already my last night. This was the first day of my imprisonment in Treblinka.

The second day of imprisonment in Lager I In the morning at sunrise assembly. Beautiful morning. September. Clear sky, not a single cloud. You can hear the chirping of birds, the true Polish golden autumn. Among the woods the air was overpowering. I felt that this beautiful world in nature should be farewelled because soon it will all end. They drove us to the square outside the fence and lined us up in fives. In front of us, Lalka began making a speech:" Sie sind unter der deutschen Herrschaft,... "etc. ("You are under German rule.") "What anyone has in his pockets should be emptied, items, documents, etc. If anything is found in anyone's pockets, they will be shot immediately.. They divided us into groups and to work. The work was varied; cleaning up the area, making screens from branches, sorting packages, etc. There were special groups for receiving transports. I worked again with packages. Jewelry, watches, gold coins, dollars, silverware, etc., everything had to be sorted into weighed packages. Gold was deposited beneath the feet. Food separately. Manna porridge,sugar,candy,bread, etc. Clothes, shoes, bedding, coats were packed in special parcels and brought to the wagons. They were transported to Germany. Apparently, some people packed themselves and in this way escaped from the camp. Whether this is true,I do not know.

On the third day of my stay in Lager I, I was accidentally dismissed by the SS man from my work with packages. I was assigned to a group of about 30 people, which was to go to the forest. I entered and could no longer withdraw. To be selected meant that there would be something worse. SS-man and wachmans led us along the fence and at a certain point a gate formed. After passing this gate, I lost consciousness of existence again and walked like a crazed animal. I  was struck with a nagaika on the head and "Fast! Fast!" I grabbed one end of the ladder/stretcher/; to catch the corpses and carry them down to the pits. What I saw was a veritable hell. There were piles of naked corpses lying on the ramp and on the ground next to the ramp. The corpses were thrown out of the chambers, from the old 3 chambers, which faced south. The sun was already setting, and the work was being carried out at a frantic pace. Corpses were sometimes grabbed on the fly, placed on these ladders. If they were smaller they were placed two at a time, and children three at a time, and in various ways.

Almost on the run they were carried to the huge pits. They climbed on top of the corpses which lay in the pits at a depth of about 6 meters. A turn of the ladder and we ran back for new corpses. The day's work continued until late into the night. At the chambers, the SS captain in the area was in charge of the work. They called him:

"Idiot" because he called us so and rushed us with a nagaika, so that the work went faster. I worked for about 6 weeks with a stretcher. Sometimes I managed to receive lighter work, for example, to clean up Himmelfahrt Avenue, to make curtains or to go the forest to get wood. During those six weeks, I had such lighter work on three days. The work of carrying corpses was the worst, tiring and very dangerous. SS men watched, walking on the hills, piled up near the pits. Sometimes they shot at the workers. Next to us along the route stood Kapo and wachmans and from time to time they struck us with the nagaikas on our backs or on our heads.  The worst was Iwan (Ivan), a tall Ukrainian who beat with an iron rod. Our kapos also beat us. However, not all of them were bad. One kapo pretended to beat, hitting lightly on the back. The worst of the kapos was Gustav, this one beat mercilessly. It was said that he was perhaps a German.At the pits stood an SS man , blond, who for any misconduct or for slowing down, hit one in the face with a nagaika. Woe to the one who got hit because in the evening, at roll call, he was chosen as the marked one to be separated from the others and shot.

The cook was Avrejmele,small, short and not stupid. He told the story that he ran a restaurant in Warsaw. The head cook and chief intendant was Heller, a German Jew. He had the position of Kapo over the kitchen staff. He was intelligent, sensitive and good. While I was still carrying corpses, I had some good graces with him. He sometimes gave me an an additional piece of bread. Heller's aide- was Estrajcher, also came from Germany. At the head of the entire Lager II camp was Oberkapo. He seemed to be Viennese, of medium height, black. He was neither bad nor good. He could also hit someone and greeted SS men by shaking hands, but he was as afraid of them as we were. Oberkapo's replacement was Herszel, who oversaw the field work. This one seems to have been from Warsaw. When the work was intense, he would pull someone out of the kitchen to help. Hajcer still worked in the kitchen, but he died at the beginning of winter due to illness. After his death, I accepted Hajcer's position and that of the deputy cook. I specialized in this work, so much so that the wet wood ignited by itself from a few sparks I left somewhere in the corner of the stove. Punctuality in meals, in the later period, when transports were rare, had to be maintained with German precision. When Ąwrejmełe fell ill with typhus, I was worked as Hajcer did and as cook. I performed both functions flawlessly.

One day, Oberkapo assigned me to work on the screens, and in my place, he appointed Estreicher, who was closer to him. Estreicher, however, was not able to work as "high" as me. I complained that the screens were not very high. I complained that the screens hurt my fingers, which interfered with playing (a violin). I returned to the kitchen again and worked as "Hajcer" and washed and cleaned boilers, replacing the cook until the outbreak of the uprising. This was the course of my work in Treblinka during the period from 12 September 1942 until 4 August 1943.

Description of the area and buildings in Lager II 

This was the winter of 1943 (1942).

Transports arrived and were hurried. When the victims were packed into the gas chambers in Lager I, our entire crew was locked in a fenced-off area, so that we could not by any chance harm the (German) executioners. Frightening cries and horrible scenes unfolded from when the victims were driven into the corridor and then forced into the chambers. It was invisible from our side. And inaccessible. The gas chambers were located on the border between Lager I and Lager II. The tasks of these both camps served, as I have already mentioned, one purpose, but the functions of the crews were quite different. Lager I had to deal with victims still alive, while Lager II did not come into contact with the living from the transport, and it only processed the corpses, which had to be either, as in the beginning, buried into the pits or burned later, so that there was no trace. From Lager I it was still possible to enter Lager II, but the reverse route (from Lager II to Lager I) was impossible. And inaccessible. In the beginning, there was no communication between the prisoners of the two camps.

Later, in the period of preparations for the uprising, as will be discussed later, communication was maintained through those workers who were tasked to deliver supplies to us, which were brought by cart. At the border, there was an exchange of wagoners, since a wagoner from Lager I was not allowed to enter the area.  Around the camp were forests. While repairing the roof over our barracks I had the opportunity to look around in the field. At a distance of about 2 km to the southwest was Treblinka I - the camp for Poles. 

Initially, there were only 3 gas chambers with a ramp facing our direction. When I arrived in mid-September at Lager II, 10 new chambers had begun their death production. They could accommodate as many as 4,000 people at a time. One chamber could accommodate approximately 400 people. The gassing time was about 1 hour. Loading and unloading took a little longer. The pits were located east and west of the buildings.  he new chambers stood perpendicular to the old ones. And there was a passageway between them. The building of the new chambers had solid walls. There was a wide corridor in the middle, from which doors led to 10 chambers, 5 chambers on each side. The doors to the chambers were narrow and contained a pane of glass to ascertain whether the victims were ready and whether it was possible to open the (egress) doors on the other side, where the ramps were.  The (egress) doors were firmly and tightly closed with a wooden beam, a transverse beam that enabled wedging.  

The doors were quite wide, about 2.0 meters, and tightly fitted so that the gas would not escape. Once the victims were poisoned by the exhaust gas from the motors, the doors were opened and the corpses were tossed out.  I worked several times at removing the corpses. They were bundled up, and sweaty, and the layer was about 1.5 meters high.The walls were lined with tiles. The surface area of such a chamber could be 30 to 40 m^2. The floor was cement. On the ceiling, there was an installation as for a shower.  The entrance to the chambers from the side of Himmelstrasse avenue was formal, adorned with what appeared to be a colonnade with the character of a synagogue. In the center above the entrance was a Star of David against the background of the portico.  After a few steps one entered a corridor. 

The gassing apparatus was located in the corner between the old and new chambers. A door led to the machine room from the side of the lower barracks. The staff of the machine room included: Ivan less often, Nikolai more often - Ukrainians, and one Jew, a young man, to whom a wedding was later celebrated.

Lager II was located on the south side, to the north was Lager I. / fig.2/

The old chambers were converted into workshops in 1943. In the first chamber was a tailor's workshop. Mojsze worked there, a young boy who knew my brother David, also a tailor by profession. With this tailor I often talked with. They sewed for the internal needs of the camp, for the SS men and Ukrainians. There were 2 or 3 tailors. A dozen meters from the chambers was a well with a sub-roof. There were 4 people working at the well, sometimes 2, as it was quite deep.  The shaft with the chain was created using two turnstiles. I also worked some days at the well together with Fuchs, when there were breaks in the day while smoking. Near the well to the east there was a wachstube (guard room) for Ukrainians. Rifles stood there, normal Mausers. The small machine gun was positioned in front of our barracks. We did not enter the watch room. Opposite the well at a distance of maybe 20 m. was the entrance gate to the fence, where everyone had to go after work. Or during the lunch break. At the gate stood a sentry with a wooden rifle, a very comical type, short, you only had to look at him to laugh. They called him "Die Fotzen." He had hemorrhoids. He was a half-wit. (Die Fotzen  is a very vulgar word in German.). He once whipped me. My entire lower lip swelled up. I tried as much as I could to hide the swelling by pulling my lower lip into my mouth during roll call.  

The SS man often selected one from those working at the pits. He ordered him to strip naked and descend a little lower. The victim precisely obeyed the orders and lowered himself onto the corpses. In return, an SS man shot him with a blessed bullet in the back of the head and ended his despicable life. Once before noon, I was tasked with carrying a tree. The same group was supposed to perform the same work in the afternoon. However, during the process of setting up, someone else took my place.  This confused me. When I did not stand so quickly in the general line, I was ordered to 20 (lashes) after seating. I lay down on the tracks that were used to transport corpses. Ivan whipped me. The count was up to 20. I endured it. I didn't squeak. I survived. I resumed working after those 20 (lashes).

The period of September and October 1942 was the greatest intensity of traffic. Transports were going non-stop (to Treblinka) from all over Europe. On a daily average 5000 to 6000 people were slaughtered. There was a day when it was calculated that 10,000 victims were sent to the gas chambers.

 In October, when I was carrying corpses from the new chambers, one kapo brought a violin and asked who could play. I reported to him. He relieved me of my job carrying the corpses and ordered me to play in the square next to the corpses. After a while, Oberkapo (Top Kapo) walked by and escorted me to the kitchen. There I played a few tunes that he specified to me. From that day forward, I started working in the kitchen as a Kartoffelscheiler (Potato Separator). There were about six of us to peel potatoes. One of them was Fuchs, a musician from Polish Radio, a clarinetist. Working in the kitchen was safer than in the field. Besides, we cooked a portion of potatoes "nasucho" (dry) and ate this extra portion, which was a luxury. We could also eat more soup than others.

From this side there was a single fence. At a distance of about 12 meters from this fence stood a wooden barrack for the prisoners. The windows were waxed, barred, low, and only on the side of the watchtower.  The sleeping quarters were in 2 levels. I slept on the upper level. In the first days of my stay in Lager II, I was constantly being judged for sleeping so that every day I moved towards the center of the barracks, where I could stand more comfortably on the upper bunk. Often in the morning we found hanging prisoners, but that was in the early days, when there were large transports. The kitchen was adjacent to the barrack on the west side. The roof was shared. In the autumn it was just a shed." Inside stood a stove and an open boiler for cooking. When I worked in the kitchen, it was already closed and had a front entrance door and a back door, two windows and one window for serving meals. The main boiler was calculated for about 300 1. Portions were liter-sized. Next to this boiler were two iron cauldrons with airtight flaps in which fried food or meat was cooked.

The Upper kąpo,cook, Heller had separate sleeping quarters in the kitchen. The camp was later expanded. There was a dentist's office with a real dentist /prisoner/,They also gave typhoid vaccines. There were laundries and baths during that period, when women were brought in. After the fall of the Warsaw Ghetto. There were only 2 women from the Warsaw Ghetto,the rest of the women were from Bialystok,There were a total of Lager II I think 12 women. The women's barracks were on the east side and dance parties were sometimes held there. On the south side of the fence stood at a distance of 2-3 m.It was made of barbed wire barbed wire, the height of about 3 m. Behind the first fence was a ditch, covered with barbed wire. Behind the ditch the second fence was the same. Behind this double fence was an alley for guards and again a fence. At a distance of a dozen meters from this fence there were entanglements of the military type,and then the forest and longing for the oxen. Towers in the fence were screens several meters high. Regardless of the fencing of our barracks, the entire area of the camp' was fenced with barbed wire and on the corners were high watchtowers, on which machine guns were set up. I was once on such a watchtower at the time when a plane was circling around the camp. There were no air raids on the camp, although we longed for such bombing. On the south side of the fence stood at a distance of 2-3 m. It was made of barbed wire barbed wire,the height of about 3 m. Behind the first fence was a ditch, covered with barbed wire. Behind the ditch the second fence was the same. Behind this double fence was an alley for guards and again a fence. 

At a distance of a dozen meters from this fence there were entanglements of the military type (Translator's note: possibly an extensive barrier, typically made of woven barbed wire and stakes to impede escapees, soldiers, and/ or vehicles), and then the forest and longing for the oxen. Towers in the fence were screens several meters high. Regardless of the fencing of our barracks, the entire area of the camp' was fenced with barbed wire and on the corners were high watchtowers, on which machine guns were set up, I was once on such a watchtower at the time when a plane was circling around the camp. There were no air raids on the camp, although we longed for such bombing.

Burning of corpses

In the winter of 1943, the excavation of corpses from the pits began. The corpses were burned on a special grill, laid out in a square according to a sketch. The excavator worked again and pulled out several corpses at a time. The crew had a hard job again and a very dirty one. The stench spread throughout the area. The fire was nonstop round the clock. Initially, gasoline or oil was poured, but later it turned out that the corpses burned well on their own. If there was a transport in between, fresh corpses were burned right away. Women burned better than men. The fat melted and dripped under the grill and burned perfectly. From the pits the excavator pulled out corpses and dumped them on the ground. The prisoners carried the corpses on ladders and stacked around the camp. The pits on the eastern side had already been emptied and lupine had been sown to cover the tracks. In the summer of June, July 1943 we worked from 4 a.m. until 12 at lunchtime, and then we were confined to the fence area.  

 Camp life

In the beginning, during the period of increased transports, prisoner turnover was high. The crew was constantly changing with the exception of the kapos and some, employed in special functions such as construction craftsmen, kitchen, camp cleaners

camp, etc. Day in and day out, they were shot while working or during roll call. As the transports became less frequent, the crew stabilized and the prisoners began to get to know each other. This was of great importance later in the conspiracy and organizing of the uprising.

At first I played only with Fuchs, a violin and clarinet without accompaniment. We played only from time to time and only for an assembly. We didn't pay much attention to it.  We heard that in Lager I there was an orchestra headed by Arthur Gold. Lager II was also striving for its own orchestra.  A harmonist was necessary and was sought among all the transports. How many of these harmonists were already in the pits? Oberkapo was most concerned about the lack of a harmonist and intervened with the SS. Finally, a Melodist was pulled out of one transport. A well-known composer of dance tunes, a good pianist, a native of Warsaw, he played equally well on the harmonica. From then on the three of us played. The band was generally good.

With my playing, of course, I could not compare to such professional musicians such as Fuchs and the Melodist, although I went through almost the entire course of the Conservatory. I used to play in silent movies and in various theaters. A professional musician of the type they were, I was not. It became customary that we played to every roll call. We went in front with the march "We the First Brigade," behind us in rhythm walked the whole crew and lined up in fives for roll call. While the SS men were counting, we stood to the side and played various songs by ear.  Later, the "Brigade" was replaced by a march from the film "Swiat się smieje" (translates to "The World Laughs"). Sometimes we accompanied the SS men while they were counting. We stood to the side and played various songs by ear.  Later, the "Brigade" was replaced by a march from the film "Swiat się smieje".  Sometimes we accompanied the singing. Various prisoners sang. One of the women also sang some song, but the professional artist was Szpigel. I knew him for a long time. He performed several times in Parezev, my hometown, where I accompanied him in the theater, before the war.  

There was even a composition "Treblinskaya " Lager Zwei ist unser Leben aj ,aj,aj (Translates to "Camp Two is our Life") . A dentist created the hymn, but in my time he did not finish it. In the spring, when it was warmer, the SS men came a little earlier, especially "Black"-"Der Schwarzer." He sat on a chair next to the well and sought entertainment (tunes from the orchestra) for himself. The crew would get dressed or eat breakfast and get ready for work. We would bring the chairs out in front of the barracks and start the morning concert. Sometimes he would bring us cigarettes,chocolate, etc. articles of value in the camp. The concerts were also at the request of the wachmans in the afternoon "after work" when everyone was already locked inside the fence. We would then stand by the fence and play Soviet songs to these sniffers.Ivan and Nikolai liked these songs and it had a serious effect on them. Once Ivan pulled out a handkerchief and wiped away his tears. The fact is that at that time none of the crew was beaten, mistreated, unless someone was specifically at fault.

Wachmans brought various things, cigarettes, sausage, and sometimes even newspapers. "Novoye Vovo"",Russian I knew well still from home. Newspapers were especially appreciated by the prisoners. In the evening, in the barracks, we would read and learn what was going on at the front. We hid it from the Nazis and pretended that we did not know. It was a period when Kharkiv changed hands.  One time we noticed that something must have happened, because the Germans had a sad look on their faces. It was sometime in February, we didn't know what the reason could have been. Later, when we read these newspapers, we learned about the defeat at Stalingrad, which had such an impact on the physionomics of the SS men. In any case, reading these newspapers can be considered the beginning of the conspiracy in Lager II.

Music was also used at the request of the inmates. On New Year's Eve, we played in the kitchen , in our own group. There was an Oberkapo along with other kapos, all men. They brought some vodka from there, and danced.  There was no melodist then. It was a sad New Year's Eve for us. It did not seem to please anyone.  Later, when there were already women, somewhere from April, May, parties were arranged in the women's barracks.  Wachmans and Germans did not come to these parties, but they did not forbid them. Parties were sometimes arranged on Sundays.

During the winter there was a typhus epidemic. One was infected from another, as lice and fleas could be transmitted by the handfuls. It was a period when hygiene was not yet addressed. Every so often a group of sick people were taken to be shot. What a terrible sight it was for those who were selected and knew where they were going. They were led by SS men and wachmans. They walked without protesting, in fives, Sometimes some begged for their lives, so that they were not led to the pits.  

When the dentist died, they arranged a formal, ritual funeral. They carried him to a dug grave. Everyone went to the funeral. One said a prayer. The grave was filled in and even a matzevah, a Jewish headstone, was placed,which later disappeared. However, there were some sick people,whom they did not execute.They became ill, recovered, and were again ordinary prisoners and went to their original functions. Such an illness claimed Awrejmełe,Fuchs and others. I slept next to Fuchs,who was sick and I never contracted typhus from him.

For a period of time the morning assembly was held in the fence on the west side. Each group stood separately with its kapo. One by one they went out to work. We were kitchen staff, led by Heller. The food in general was poor, with almost no fat. For a period of time, people ate bread soup-water with crumbs of old bread for breakfast . For dinner there was a soup- grits with potatoes and margarine with marmalade and black coffee. Later, the dinners improved. They brought veal, sometimes beef, sometimes black coffee, and sometimes bread. The food was served in bowls. Each prisoner went to the window, took his portion, and ate it. Bread was brought fresh daily.

On Pesach, we baked with kosher flour. Wheat flour was delivered,rolled out on the tables, and baking took place in the oven under the boiler for cooking. The amount of matzah was symbolic. In the evening, when everyone gathered in the barracks, groups of prisoners with different interests were formed. Some prayed aloud as in the synagogue. Others smoked cigarettes and talked about their daily experiences. Later, when it was already a conspiracy, plans of action were laid down and special functions were assigned. There were very few insiders.

As I mentioned above, 12 women came to the village. They were employed in the laundry partly, and in peeling potatoes. Fuchs and Melodist worked at the well at the time,I stayed in the kitchen as Haizer. A bathhouse was set up and everyone was able to wash properly. Underwear was changed, everyone had a few shirts each, some hid spare clothes, thinking about escaping.Organized escapes took place throughout my stay. Tunneling was done at night and some even succeeded, but this was an exception. Often these escapees were captured and brought back to Lager II either alive or dead, killed and shown to us.

Once one kapo escaped,I forget his name, he was one of the more important kapo, he once handed me a violin. He had certain favors with "Black" "Der Schwarzer". They brought him back alive on a wagon. After work there was an execution during roll call. We were all standing in fives. There was Doll (Lalka)/ Franz Kurt/ and he led the command. The victim was pulled from the cart, he was already badly beaten, but was still on his feet. He was hung upside down on a special gallows, The victim was tortured in a bestial manner. Lalka was saying something, scaring us. The victim was beaten in the most painful, sensitive places. Finally Black gave him a blessed bullet.

The camp did not like the prisoners who were policemen in the ghetto. They did not last long. One such prisoner was the administrator of house No.50 on Dzielhej Street in Warsaw, where I lived. He was the son-in-law of the landlord of that house, a tenement house owner, who sometimes threatened me with eviction. Former policemen had to go to the worst jobs. They were teased with various slurs, expletives, so that they morally could not stand it and most often committed suicide.During the day, Lalka sometimes dropped by. Everyone trembled before him. He was in the kitchen a couple of times. Standing up! Everyone stood still and the fear was incredible. The SS men were also afraid of him. I once saw, when I was standing at the well and turning the water, how one SS hid from Lalka and stood behind the barracks to avoid his gaze.

Women were destined for various capos. They were young, pretty ladies with intelligent appearances. So it worked out that one went with one and always with the same one. Heller had one black (haired female). She was quite large. He was also tall. They sat in their corner at the table and made love. Sad was the love of people destined to die sooner or later. You could see them sighing. Perhaps a true love developed between them. I also knew another couple more closely. She was a young, short, and black (haired) girl, who went with one non-kapo prisoner. This couple escaped together during the uprising. I saw them already far from the camp. The women slept separately, but the "fiancées" walked to them (there) and certainly lived with each other. I certainly wanted to "marry" one Warsaw woman. Awrejmele persuaded me, but nothing came out of it. I did not feel the absence of a woman at the time and preferred to be alone. I felt great pain after the deaths of my wife and child, and nothing in the world could console me at that time...  There was another pair of brides. The bachelor was a motorcycle mechanic of gas engines. The bride was a maiden.  A wedding was arranged according to all of the rules of the Jewish faith. The reception was held in the kitchen in the evening. Rolls were prepared. Sausage, wine, and sweets were served. Tables were set and guests were expected. Even a few SS men came. At that time, there was already some talk about the preparation of the uprising, but it was all the more peaceful. We played at this wedding and led the young people to the chuppah under the canopy. We played at this wedding, and how, and led the young people to the chuppah under the canopy. There was one who could write T'naim (the official agreements, terms, and/ or conditions between the bride and groom) and say prayers. The guests in uniform left. The guests from the crew enjoyed themselves. Good foods were eaten. The newlyweds remained and were prepared to sleep together on a bunk in the kitchen.

In the summer, in June and July, we worked from 4 a.m. to 12 p.m., then closed (?) into the fence. Only the wachmans remained to watch over us. After lunch we took a nap. There was plenty of time and there was already something to think about. In order that our thoughts were not diverted in the wrong direction, the Germans and Oberkapo ordered the preparation of a theatrical performance.This was also to our advantage, because in this way their attention was directed to these preparations. Human thought is vast and wide , and can go in two directions. One direction was official, and the other was strictly conspiratorial.


After work, the theater was prepared, Artists were found. The main director was Oberkapo himself. A not insignificant role was played by Szpigel,an actor by profession. The band, as is usual in such cases, is highly appreciated. The tailors sewed the costume.  Rehearsals were held in the corridor from the gas chambers. And then I had the opportunity to look at the architecture of the building. Oberkapo taught the dancing Minuet by I. Boccherini-ego -Allegro non troppo.In the program, there was also a Czardash as a dance. (Czardasz is a Hungarian dance that starts slowly and ends quickly.) Women also had their roles. Finally, on some Sundays, stands were set up in the outdoors. There was some kind of makeshift stage on planks. The guests came. SS men,took front seats and the show went on. Most of us were already fed up with this clowning around and awaited the torturers. How about pouncing on one and attacking him? Such was the feeling in many of us at the time only this would have been an unplanned act and would have been associated with failure for us. Outer guards would then be reinforced. Besides they did not sense that this "Shit" could have such thoughts.

Somewhere in the middle of June, preparations for the rebellion had already begun. Not everyone was initiated. The main organization was in Lager I. They were set to start. They had more capabilities. They had access to the storage depots of weapons, where Jews also cleaned. I suppose under the supervision of an SS man. In response to their signal, we were also to start implementing our plan. The plan was not written,but everyone had a designated function to perform at the moment, when the signal was given. The operation was to begin only in the day at work, at each site, and at any place where it was possible.

Those in the workshops were to rush into the guard room and grab their rifles, which stood on racks. They were visible. The guards only carried short weapons. Those on the job were told to throw themselves at the SS guards with shovels and pitchforks, which were required for digging up the corpses. Some were to climb the watch towers and overpower the guards who operated the machine guns there. There was one guard on the tower at the back. The prisoners were to prepare themselves for the road, spare underwear, anything to eat, clothing, money, etc., things that are necessary for the journey. There were several trials. What did they consist of? They said, for example, that today at such and such time there will be a signal. It is necessary to be on alert. We work as normal and not betray each other. It was observed how the crew was holding up. I once stood at the well and turned the water. We said to ourselves, "Today is the last day of life." There was no signal and again it was miserable life in the camp. The appointed date arrived, and, strangely, I wanted to live.

Finally, on August 4 (2 August 1943) at noon, when everyone stopped working for the day, a password was given to be prepared. We did not believe it We complained to Lager I for these delays. We explained that the the pits were emptied out and that soon there would be nothing to do in Lager II. Then they would execute us. We threatened that if they do not start, we will be forced to act on our own and let the chips fall where they may.

We had nothing to lose. Since they said it was to be today, so everyone made preparations. I had my backpack loaded. I was ready mentally and physically. Since almost the entire crew was locked inside the fence,and this was not to our liking, a number of volunteers volunteered to work in the afternoon that day. There were about twenty of them. They were all young people determined to do everything. They went with 2 SS men and some kind of a guard. I saw how they prepared themselves and I was sure that they would fulfill their task. Mojszele, the tailor, also did his job 100%. They told me to keep the gate open as long as possible to carry water, because there was an occasion when a few were at the well, and some carried water for dinner and to wash the pots.I washed the pots myself. I already had so much water; that I did not know what to do with it. I poured it into the canal outside and still stung my nose. A guard, who was standing at the open gate, came to the kitchen to check if I already had enough water. I said that one more pot should be filled. Then there would be enough and he could go and close the gate. Just then we heard gunshots in Lager I. The signal was clear. I dropped my pots and ran to the barracks to get my prepared backpack. The area of our camp was in an upheaval. Single shots could be heard, Away from Lager I came clear shooting.

Communication with the world was cut off as planned. Some set fire to buildings. Neither SS men nor guards were visible, I noticed, as one guard did not know. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. The weather was clear. It was a beautiful August day. A large group of prisoners gathered on the square outside the fence,where roll calls were held. There were several with carbines (type of automatic rifles). We went out through the gate. I now entered Lager II for the first time. However, not everyone was determined to make the trip. When I turned around, I saw many prisoners remain at the barracks. What happened to them, I do not know. Our group passed the gate, then they started running through the entanglements. We jumped over and soon we found ourselves in a field. We ran in a southern direction among the fields. Behind us bullets whizzed from the tower, from the machine gun, where the watchman stayed at the post. The plan apparently was not carried out in every detail. There was no longer a compact group. The prisoners ran and fled scattered as widely as possible. I even saw one guard fleeing at a gallop on horseback. Peasants were fleeing from the fields.The run was exhausting. Others overtook me with a vicious pace. I exerted all my strength not to be left behind. There were also quite a few people behind me. I saw many fleeing from Lager I, as they were unknown to me. Our people I knew all of them by sight.  Not far from me ran this young couple, a black haired maiden with this colleague, with whom I knew in the camp. In my hand I had a razor,ready at any time to use it on someone or on myself. We were on the run for about two hours. I had two watches with me.One on my wrist and one pocket watch. We reached some forest. The larger group was to the left from me. It was said that the group was headed in the direction of the Bialowieza Forest.It was more to the east, maybe rather northeast. We stopped in the forest for a rest. There were maybe 8 of us at this point. With us there was Mojszełe - a tailor. He had a Rifle, but there were no more bullets. He was wounded near the heart. I took out a spare shirt from my backpack and used it as a bandage. One of the companions,who was more capable, wrapped the wound, which was bleeding heavily.  The wounded man was almost unconscious by now. He probably remained in that place. Honor his memory!

The rest of the comrades held a sort of war council. There was one with us who served in the army as a cadet.  He was a lawyer from Warsaw. He advised that some should stay and that I was to go with him separately. If we did not return, everyone was to go where he wanted. He took the rifle and we went as a pair. We walked quietly. It was already getting dark. In a certain place we were to cross the road that led to the camp. From a distance we saw cars driving towards the camp. It was already evening. We fell. On this clearing we lay so long , until the column passed. I had a piece of paper. Earlier, I drew an approximate map of the of the area from memory. We walked toward Siedlce. At night, we knocked at the door of a farmer to provide us with something to eat.

There was only a woman, an old woman and a little boy. They didn't give us anything. They only gave us carrots. I stuffed my rucksack and we went on. On the way we met other Jews who were just going in the opposite direction. We stopped somewhere in the forest. The sun was rising. We hid in the bushes where we huddled together all day in one place. During that day, we heard shouting in the distance. I thought that someone was caught in the chase. We could have been a dozen or so kilometers from the camp. We waited for the evening with anticipation. We started to march. We exited the forest and entered the rye, which had not yet been reaped. It was still too light to walk with a rifle in civilian clothes. Once it was very dark, we entered the village. We chose a hut that stood on the edge. We placed the rifle in a corner and begged for some cooked potatoes. We ate, paid the host and went on. I had money stashed away for a long time. I found a bundle of dollars in the barracks behind the rafters and stored them. We stored some zlotys. Knowing the psychology of the peasant, we knew that if he was given a dollar, the lines would blur between us. Otherwise he could say; there are quotas, the partisans take, etc.  We said, of course, that we are from the Polish Army, which operates in hiding. We were not recognized as Jews. I was dressed so casually and my appearance was not suspicious. Anyway, the rifle accomplished its job. A long weapon did its part. The backpack was stuffed. Maybe they have grenades?

We roamed this way for several nights. We approached various peasants for food.  We also approached in the wilderness: to cottages, which stood next to the forest. Usually my companion stood at a distance with a rifle. This way, he was visible,while I approached alone and asked for bread.  We exchanged a few words, asked what's up, and then we went on. Once we sent to the host, we gave money to buy us cigarettes and candy. We'll stay with him home, he went to the store and brought us some vodka as well. For a moment we were concerned that maybe he will return with the police. However, the peasant was decent and drank with us. We moved on.

We already approached Siedlce. We avoided roads. We walked through fields and where there were woods along the way. I knew the Siedlce area well. I went there to the High School, Boleslaw Prus in Siedlce (I Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Bolesława Prusa), which I graduated from in 1931. At one place at night where we walked through a meadow, headlights cast a light on us. It was dangerous. We passed outside the buildings of some manor. At night, a sentry turned his searchlight in our direction. We escaped his attentions, or maybe he preferred not to approach, since he saw the gun. After a week of such wanderings,we were already a few kilometers near Siedlce. It was pouring rain. We were wet and cold. It was morning. It was Saturday. We approached the farmer, Mr. Lęcicki. His house stood about 50 meters from the road that led from Siedlce to Mórd. He hid us in the barn, high on the hay. He brought food. We were able to sleep.

Gimnazjum im. Królowej Jadwigi. I was concerned about the exchange of dollars. She was frightened of me. She refused to help me. 

I went to Mr Mrówczyński , but I was unable to arrange anything. I returned empty-handed to Lecicki. When I walked down Pilsudski Street past Florianska Street, the Germans were checking ID's on the other side of the street. I happily passed. We were unable to remain with Mr. Lęcicki for a long time. We did not want to endanger him. The two of us went without the rifle. I went to my friend Kempka, with whom I used to play when I was in gymnasium. I sat on one bench. He was very happy to see me alive. We ate and moved on. Where were we to go?...

I took the direction of Parczew, my hometown (in eastern Poland). We traveled in the day, along side roads, through forests, and at night. We slept at the house of some host. After a few days we arrived at the Milanowski forest. Mostly we walked near the railroad tracks. It was a good orientation. We left the Milanowski forest. We drew closer to Krolewski Dwor (a village near Parczew). It was still too early to go to Golacki. This one stood by the highway separately. When it was darker, we went there. I was in this house before the war. I knew it as a native. I played with Staszek for 16 years. Heniek Gołacki played also with us. He was a cornetist. Staszek was no longer there. He died in Oswiecim. We stayed there overnight and the next day we went to visit P. Pajewski, with whom I also used to play.  We spent the whole day at his place. At night we went to Chmielów. In Chmielów I lived the winter of 1942 (in winter 1941 he was imprisoned in Treblinka) at Mr. Zelazko's place. I taught Herk Zelazko how to play the violin.

In Chmielów we spent all day at the home of Wladek Makowka. We were able to eat to our heart's content. Old Zelazko was scared of us and ran away from his own house. The old woman was not afraid. We did not want to endanger people. We spent the night in a field of wheat. What were we to do ? We returned to Siedlce. In Milanów we asked to spend the night with strangers. They refused. We hid behind a barn in some large shed. At night a sentry poked around with a long rod, but somehow he didn't detect us and left. In the morning we got on the train and went to Kownatki. There, through the forest, together with the smugglers, we passed Luków.  We came again to Siedlce. When we entered Kempka, we were told that, 10 minutes after we left, a week earlier, there was gendarmerie. They searched all the corners. There was nothing to do. We went one by one, one by one one by one to the train station and got on the train to Warsaw. On the way we caught a glimpse of one of the SS men who was in Treblinka. He did not notice us. In Warsaw, a friend of mine went to his friends on Sw. Krzyska street, We agreed that in case he didn't leave right away, we were to meet at one of my friends, who lived on Naczelnikowska Street.We agreed that in case he didn't leave right away, we were to meet at my friend's place, who lived at Naczelnikowska Street, No. 50. He was Pajewski's cousin.  

I stood on the street for quite a long time. I already ate all of the bread roll and my cousin ate all of his bread roll. My friend never returned. I never knew what happened to him. I was left alone and curfew was approaching. I went to Marków, to our former neighbors on Dzielhej Street. They moved out during the creation of the Ghetto to Chlodna Street. I visited them several times when I frequented the Aryan side at the time when there was a Ghetto. The family warmly received me. Warek was a Czech; his wife, a German . They had 2 daughters. One married a Pole, Czeslaw, Cieszlikiewicz. He was an officer in the reserve. I knew them well.They allowed me to bathe. They gave me clean underwear. I slept in a bed for the first time since... Czeslaw had two Kennkarts. (Kennkarte was a type of identity cards that was in use from 1941 to 1943 by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland (General Government).) He gave one to me. I removed the photographer's photo. I tore off his likeness. I glued my own photo. I forged by hand part of the stamp. I went as Babinicz Jerzy to Warsaw street.

It was already September 1943... The gendarmerie checked my identification several times. Twice I was blackmailed by anti-Semites. I avoided friends, unless they were well acquainted. I also had those. I had several apartments. I survived the uprising in action.

Source: Statement by Jerzy Rajgrodzki, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, April 18, 1957

Translation by Sandy H. Straus 

© Holocaust Historical Society March 25, 2024 


A lot of people went to Church for worship. I went to a friend of my wife's friend. She graduated with her from the Gimnazjum im. Królowej Jadwigi. I was concerned about the exchange of dollars. She was frightened of me. She refused to help me. 


A lot of people went to Church for worship. I went to a friend of my wife's friend. She graduated with her from the Gimnazjum im. Królowej Jadwigi. I was concerned about the exchange of dollars. She was frightened of me. She refused to help me.