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Almost 60 years ago, on Thursday October 15, 1942, Jews were forced to leave Ozarow. On that morning, a shofar (ram's horn) was sounded three times from near the synagogue. The Jews of Ozarow gathered. The Rabbi had been preparing them for this moment for a whole week before. The murderers had lied. They had ordered the Jews, through the Rabbi, to give up all their valuables, with the promise that if enough money was raised, the Jews could stay in Ozarow. Jews had been already brought from Tarlow to Ozarow by carts, very humanely, not to create suspicion and nervousness among the Jews of Ozarow.
Those days are written forever in my memory. I walked back home through the fields from school, so that I would not be mistaken as a Jew, since Jews were being taken away. On that morning of October 15, a policeman, banging a drum, gave notice going through my street, Kolejowa Street, to cover our windows, because the Jews were about to be taken away. "On orders from the German Command," he shouted, "whoever will hide a Jew, the whole family will be slaughtered." Fearful, my parents and I hid in our house.
Posted on each vacated Jewish home, was a six-pointed star. In order to check that no one stayed behind, Germans forced their way in, wearing long green coats and armed with guns ready to kill even small children. We heard shouts "Raus, Raus! Schnell!" coming from the street. They killed old people in their homes, mothers with small children, sick people and those who preferred to stay in their homes and die there.
Cherziek, Ślama, Mosiek and other Jews visited my father on the Saturday before to say good bye: "Stasiek, tomorrow we will be gone, we are being taken away for road work." The Rabbi had told them this. "This is our belief, but we will be back…we are going on a pilgrimage."
Jews were our employers. My father worked for them (with his horse and cart) as a deliverer of goods. The Jews had been very good to us and helped us Poles in hard times, loaning us money or sharing their food. I remember visiting our neighbour Jankiel*. I played there on Shabbos (Saturday). Jews were very religious people. On holy days they did not light fires in their kitchens, so I was asked to help. On Shabbos they went to the synagogue to pray. Then the Rabbi and his assistant would go to the cemetery to pray in the two small burial houses where the great Rabbis of Ozarow were buried.
That was how their Rabbi had prepared the Jews…to act submissively. At the front of the procession, on this their 'last march', was the Rabbi leading his people. The Jewish people were marched in rows of four, because Kolejowa Street was not very wide. Then I heard gunfire starting nearby my home. Jews were being taken from the rows of people, mothers with babies, whoever tripped and older people. In front of my house, a mother and her three children were murdered. The whole street was covered with bodies. We were not allowed to go out. We heard one continuous sound of screaming and crying. To this day, I have never forgotten those sounds. On Monday morning, townspeople with carts and horses were ordered to clean up the streets. When my father came back from this, he was sick. He cried, and we did too.
The Jewish police were forced to help catch all the remaining Jews that had hidden in the nearby forests. They were taken to Ozarow, to the “Koza” – the jail, where they were kept until the following Monday (Monday October 26). On that day they were all taken to the cemetery, given shovels and ordered to dig a hole to bury their murdered brothers. Then they were forced to dig a second hole where all the remaining Jews were murdered by the Germans. They were all shot in the head. A little baby in diapers was also shot dead.
The police and the Germans left for Zawichost to take the Jews from there too. The Jews (of Ozarow and nearby towns) were marched to the train station in Jasice (5 km from Ozarow), where they were forced into cattle cars and taken to Majdanek** to be killed. Those events were hard to endure and they are so strongly engraved in my memory that I will never forget them.
My testimony can be confirmed by fellow citizens living on Kolejowa Street:
Kozakiewicz Janina, Tuznik Julian, Godlewska Helena, Jasinski Jan, Malahowska Leokadia and Cieszkowski Tadeusz. Other witnesses are now dead or have left Ozarow. The following residents of Partyzantow Street witnessed the crime at the Jewish cemetery: Kazimierz Edward Emil Klimiker, Tomaszewska Janina, Mazur Janina, and Pekalski Kazimierz. These people were witnesses to the removal of bodies from the streets and killing of the last Jews on the cemetery grounds.
For a short period of time after the war, Jews came to find their families, fix the matzevos (monuments) and clean the inscriptions written on them.
Known to me are the Jewish names: Mortka, Ślama, Ruchla, and Śimsie. Śimsie was an owner of a firewood store on Kolejowa Street. About those names my father spoke because he transported goods with his horse and cart for them.
From his Roman Catholic faith, my father prayed to his last hours for the Jews: "May they rest in peace and receive final salvation."
Ozarow 14.11.2001 Sunday
Mrs. Franciszka Paniac
Ozarow, Kolejowa 49
*Jankiel may well have been Norman Weinberg's great grandfather, Jankiel Wajsfogiel, who lived at 65 Kolejowa Street.
**Records and eye witness accounts show that before the Germans arrived, 4,290 Jews lived in Ozarow in 1939. By 1942, the population of Jews forced into the Ozarow ghetto had swelled from neighbouring towns to more than 8,000. In the Spring of 1942, about 3,500 were taken to a munitions factory in Skarzysko, a town not far away. Once outside of Ozarow, half of them were told to strip and ordered to go back to Ozarow. As they started to run, they were all machine gunned. The other half were taken to the factory. Of these many survived the war, including Rufcha Mehlhandler, a first cousin of Norman Weinberg. Of the remainder in Ozarow on "The Last March", an estimated 4,500 were taken to Treblinka, not Majdanek, to be gassed.
Note: The words in brackets are added for clarification by Norman Weinberg