Recount of the Fate of the Jews of Jałówka
Leib Aronzon, 19 years old, lifelong resident of Jałówka
Together with the Jews of Jalowka, I fell into the Volkovysk concentration camp, where I remained from the 2nd of November until the 2nd of December 1942, when they took me out in a troop transport train. That was the second transport train out of the Volkovysk concentration camp. It numbered from three to five thousand men, 70–80 to a car, mostly freight cars: 70–80 men in each car of the train. What they said was that they were taking us to Koenigsberg to work. In our blindness we believed it. We traveled for about twenty hours. Only when we were arriving in Malkinia did we begin to be oriented, realizing that they had deceived us, and were not taking us to a workplace.
The train left from Malkinia and traveled to the Treblinka station. From there a special railroad line leads to the death camp, ten kilometers from the Treblinka station, in the woods.
We drove into a place that was fenced in with bushes and trees, where they told us to get out of the freight cars. We were received mainly by Ukrainians, and they were assisted by well-fed Jews—volunteers or recruits from the Warsaw or Lodz camps. Those people helped the executioners with their work. For that, they receive very good food and drink. They are constantly getting drunk with the hangmen.
They immediately separated women with children from the men. When people are needed for work, they choose men who are physically well-built, and lead them away to work in a camp near Malkinia.
In that death camp I spent no more than an hour, because they had chosen me, together with 60 or 70 other well-built men for the work camp.
I saw huge piles of all kinds of clothing and backpacks. When we were—after having been chosen—waiting for them to lead us away, we opened the bush fence a little, by bending a few branches, and we saw how they were driving naked people into the bathrooms. As the workers indicated, there was a special electrical floor, where all were electrocuted and then burned in a fire. Jews worked there, to clean up the ashes. There was a fire burning there for entire days and nights.
I was, together with all the other chosen group, led away to the workcamp. We would ride there and back for the work—15 kilometers. The work consisted of pushing a heavy steamroller on a road. About 270 Jews worked on that job. There were also some Polacks in camp. The work was very hard, and the even harder conditions would soon consume the men. Every day there were people who fell victim, because anyone who had become unable to work anymore was either sent away to the Treblinka boiler, or were tortured on the spot by the Ukrainians. Thus, for example, when I arrived in the camp, there were on the list of those quartered in Barrack B, 237 people. A few days
later: there were only 181.
I too had the very same fate, but I was nevertheless saved from certain death. This is how it happened: I, together with another fellow from the camp, had, on the 24th of December, 1942, after having been there for three weeks, attempted to run away from that hellish place. We hid ourselves in a railroad car that was scheduled to leave
from our workplace. The Ukrainians noticed that and they caught us. The other fellow was immediately able to mix with the other workers, but I had to struggle with the Ukrainians who were beating me with their rifle butts until I fell down. They believed I was now already dead. Every day there was a wagon that used to take away those that had been beaten to death and brings them to an empty field where they would bury all of them together. I too, with a few other dead bodies, was put on to the wagon and driven out to the field. It was already early evening, and they were in no hurry to bury us because it was Christmas Eve, so the Ukrainians had gone away to get drunk. Those remaining, when they were throwing me off the wagon, first pulled off my shoes. After a couple of hours, I regained consciousness, and seeing that there wasn't anyone near me, only the dead bodies, and that I was outside the barbed wire fence, I decided to run away. I pulled the shoes off one of the dead bodies, and I left. I came to a secluded farmer's house, where they immediately gave me something to eat and drink. However, I could not stay there for very long, because the farmer had said that the Ukrainians come to his place to get drunk. I went away in whatever direction my eyes took me.
That was how I arrived at the village of Kosow Latzki. I had wanted to make it all the way to Bialystok. As I was trying to get across the border, a Polish policeman caught me. I told him that I was a White Russian who had run away from East Prussia. He took a hundred zlotys from me that I had, sewn into a pocket of my jacket. He also wanted my shoes, but had pity on me, and even advised me on how to get across the border. On the other side of the border I went to a doctor because I had frostbitten fingers and toes. He received me very cordially and bandaged me up, and advised me to take the train; and if I am asked where my travel permit is, I should show my bandaged hands. And that is, in fact, what I did do. A Polish conductor gave me a travel ticket, and while traveling, when the Germans asked me about my travel permit, I showed them my hands. One of them removed my bandages and examined me, deploring my frostbitten fingers; he then bandaged me up again himself, and issued me a ticket for Bialystok.
I had lived through a great many more difficulties before I arrived at the Bialystok Ghetto. But that was nothing compared to what I had lived through before that.
(Translated from Yiddish by Professor Murray Sachs, Brandeis University.) Published with permission by Ghetto Fighters' House, Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum, Kibbutz Lohamei HaGhettaot.)