From the archives of the Jewish Historic Institute in Warsaw, AZIH 301/3085
Report of Noma Puterman, a Survivor from Zelow
Noma Puterman, daughter of Moszek Pinkus and Chana Malka nee Uberbaum, born in Zelow in 1912, clerk of the Jewish Committee in Lodz; present address: Lodz, Zachodnia Street No 34, apt. 13.
Before the war a resident of Lodz. During the Nazi occupation, resident of Warszawa, Lodz, village Zadly, Piotrkow, Jozefow.
Contacted the Historic Commission in Lodz on 14 October 1947 and presented this statement. Recorded by the lawyer, Mr. Mosieznik.
When the war broke out in 1939, I was in Lodz. When the Germans marched into Lodz, I was living here. Afterwards I travelled to Warsaw. I travelled to Warsaw several times, and gradually I brought the entire goods of my close and distant family there. There was such a psychosis in Lodz. I went in September, October, and also later in 1939. I took the train “for Reichstdeutsche only”, took off my star, left home after curfew. I travelled together with Germans, Poles, Italians. I remember seeing masses of deported Jews at the Lodz Kaliska railway station. It was in 1939-1940. I do not know where the Jews were brought to; I do not know where they were from, either. Maybe there were transports of Jews who simply were passing through Lodz.
During December 1939 and January, February, and March 1940, I lived in Warsaw on Ryzewska Street No 5 (a cotton factory). There was no ghetto yet. Jews wore armbands; I did not. I had it with me and put it on only sometimes. This factory belonged to my friends. I looked for a job. The Ryzewska Street was on the city outskirts, not in the city. Other than that, I do not have special memories from this time period which would be of interest to the Historic Commission. After March 1040, I was for two days in the Lodz ghetto. I left Lodz on 14 March 1940 and went to Zelow where I had family.
Zelow was a Czech settlement. It is situated 15 kilometers from Lask. The citizens were Czechs, Poles, Germans, and Jews. When I arrived there were about 3,000 Jews in Zelow but still no ghetto (I stayed there two years until March 1942). Jews wore stars on their backs. There was a Judenrat. Its leader was Naftali Mayer (already deceased); the commander of the Jewish police was Hillek Frenkiel from Bielsko (deceased), and a member of the Judenrat board was Hersz Mandel (deceased). The city mayor was a German, named Berger, who was bribable. Financially the Jewish residents were okay. Among them there were also many Jews from Szczercow, and the Judenrat took care of them. There were searches by the Gendarmerie and they confiscated whatever they liked. There were times when Jews were not allowed to eat meat or butter. Payments were demanded, and Jews had to pay. In winter 1940 and also in 1941 all furs were confiscated.
When I was living in Zelow, I did not witness any murders of Jews.
I can remember the following names of Germans who were guilty of crimes against the Jews of Zelow: Berger (I do not remember the given name), rather small with a face like a squirl – I was told that during the liquidation on 12 August 1942 (I was not there any longer) he beat up Regina Frenkel, the wife of Commander of the Jewish police who was hiding in an attic and threw her on a truck. This was told to me by Zosia Calecka, a resident of Zelow.
Berger was insatiable. He constantly demanded money from the Jews, valuables and property for himself and his family.
There was a policeman, Oskar Rube, chief of a German police station. He was a terror for the population. Everyone who saw him fled. There were the Germans, Lidtke and Asschenazy who were much gentler and just for this reason were transferred. Both were elder people.
There were no roundups for laborers. The Judenrat sent people to work on the order of the Germans. There were no “dark blue police” (Polish police). Germans forced the Jews to leave their apartments and gave them to German families. This happened, for example to Dr. Rotensztrajch. He had to leave his apartment which was then given to the German physician, Nimlowitz. Children did not go to school because they were closed. There were no beggers.
In winter 1940/41 there was a typhoid epidemic. There were many deaths. The manager of the Jewish hospital was Dr. Rotensztreich (deceased). The social care was well organized. People deported from Szczercow were well received.
The mobility of Jews in walking around Zelow was limited. Jews were not allowed to walk on the market square, only on side streets. We sent food parcels by post to the Lodz ghetto. Some people from Zelow received parcels from West Ukraine and West Belarus.
I worked as a head nurse at the Jewish hospital. The medicine came from Germany. Concerning food, farmers brought it to the apartments because Jews were not allowed to show themselves at the market. There was no ghetto. Czechs were favorized by the Germans. We were cut off from the rest of the world.
In December 1941 we were informed by escapees from Kolo about black cars in which Jews were being gased. But these people had managed to escape when the Vernichtungskommando arrived in Kolo and they were able to save themselves. They were 11 persons altogether. Among them the president of the Kolo Judenrat, former lieutenant in the Polish Army, very intelligent guy (I forgot his name). He opened our eyes to reality. According to him, this annihilation would take place in the entire Warthegau, but not in the General Gouvernement (GG). He was convinced that Jews from Zelow should move to the GG. Since then the entire situation changed. Everyone thought how to flee. One resident from Zelow, a Polish woman, Hela Bloch (see information below), was a real scoundrel. We were a group of people in Zelow, including those from Kolo, officials from Judenrat, physician Rotensztreich, me and some others, that Bloch should bring to the border. It was on 20 March 1942.
We came to Bloch on Saturday evening: the doctor, Mrs. Frenkel, wife of the police commander (Mr. Frenkel had already been arrested by the Germans and died in the jail in Lodz). Bloch told us that to bring the entire group across the border was impossible, just one by one. Bloch had parents in Zelow, she lived however on the other side of the border in the village called Zadly with the farmer family Tucholsky, very good people. She was in contact with the Germans, she collaborated with the Germans. She betrayed Jews and Poles. Everyone was afraid of her (but we did not know all of this at that time).
On Sunday, 21 March 1942, at 2 p.m. I went out together with Bloch, without my documents and any belongings. We arrived at the village Zadly (about 10 kilometers from Zelow) walking on small paths. I paid her later 100 marks. I then found out what kind of a person she was and I fled. She stole my money. She had promised me new Arian documents, but she left me without a cent instead. Four to five weeks I roamed between Piotrkow and Zadly. In Piotrkow I finally left Bloch and travelled secretly to Warsaw. It was 24 April 1942. My sister Sara lived at that time on the Arian side in Warsaw (now she lives with me in Lodz). But I did not know her Arian family name or her address . I arrived in Warsaw together with Mr. Kowalski, a Jew whom I met in Piotrkow. He was very nice to me. We arrived at the Main Railway Station. By a miracle I found my sister. She was not working at that time and ate what she was able to find. The living conditions were a catatrophe. New documents were waiting for me because I had been in contact with my sister. I got a birth certificate with the name Halina Zwierzykowska, born in Buczacz. Using this document, I applied for a Kennkarte. I lived together with my sister as friends in an apartment of a Polish women. She had no idea that we were Jews. It was quite a comfortable apartment, but it was not advisable to stay together for longer. To find a apartment at was very difficult. I wanted to work because having a job meant security. Finally I got a job at the Linum company in Wola (district of Warsaw). I manufactured camouflage nets. I got an apartment in Zoliborz with Mrs. Michalak who did not know about me being Jewish. But that was not until March 1943.
(The rest of this report does not have anything more to do with Zelow.)
(the report was found by Mr. S. Kopka, Warsaw 2010)
Halina Sobczak- Bloch, a Polish woman and former resident of Zelow, betrayed Jews promising to bring them across the border to the General Gouvernement. She demanded a fee for this and secretly informed the German police. She was a colaboratuer and cooperated with Germans continuously. She used her connections from before the war, gained the trust of many people, and swindled money from them. Since 1940 she lived in the village of Zadly near Szydlow, just across the border between the Third Reich and the GG. After the war she was brought to a Polish court and sentenced for colaboration and denunciation of Polish Jews. (translator’s note taken from the book “Zaglada Zydow na posksich terenach wcielonych do Rzeszy”, IPN, Warszawa 2008)
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