Skępe, Poland

Other Names:  Skepe, Skempe (Russian, German) Schemmensee (German, 1942-45)

Location:  52º52 N 19º21' E             131 km WNW of Warszawa                 26 miles NNW of Płock            Nearby cities:  Lipno, Sierpc

The Holocaust and Skępe, Poland

z”l: May Their Memory Be a Blessing

Of Blessed Memory
Survivors' Testimony

Aron Nussbaum

Aron Nusbaum
Photograph courtesy of Yad Vashem
The following testament was written by Jewish prisoners in the Chelmo death camp and found there after the war.

2 April 1943

This note is written by people who will live for only a few more hours.  The person who will read this note will hardly be able to believe that this is true.  Still, this is the tragic truth, (in this) place your brothers and sisters stayed, and they, too, died the same death!  The name of this locality is Kolo.  At a distance of 12 km from this town [Chelmno] there is a 'slaughterhouse' for human beings.  We have here as craftsmen there [illegible word], I can give you the their names.

Pinkus Grun of Wloclawek
Jonas Lew of Brzeziny
Szama Ika of Brzeziny
Zemach Szumiraj of Wloclawek
Jesyp Majer of Kalisz
Wachtel Symcha of Leczyca
Wachtel Srulek of Lexcyca
Beniek Jastrzebski of Leczyca
Nusbaum Aron of Skepe
Ojser Strasburg of Lutomiersk
Mosiek Plocker of Kutno
Felek Plocker of Kutno
Josef Herszkowicvz Plocker of Kutno
Chaskel Zerach of Leczyca
Wolf Szlamowicfz of Kalisz
Gecel of Turek

These are, then, the persons' names which I give here.  these are only a few people from among the hundreds of thousands who died here!

Source:  Kleinman, Yehudit and Dafni, Reuven (Eds.)  Final Letters--From the Yad Vashem Archive, London 1991, Weidenfeld and Nicolson,  pp  119-122

Szymon Pozmanter
Szymon diary

Rabbi's Diary

A page from the hidden diary of
Rabbi Yehoshua Moshe Aaronson,
The Scroll
of the House of Bondage in Konin
from the collection at Beit Lohamei Haghetaot,
Ghetto Fighters' House Museum

Photo by Roberta Fleishman

The following is a translation of the Rabbi's Diary by Ada Holtzman, who maintains a Holocaust Research Website:

Her message about the Diary follows:

The document is called : "Scrolls of the Slavery House", written in hiding by Rabbi Yehoshua Moshe Aharonson while the events took place in Czarkow concentration camp near Konin, Poland.
The diary was found after the war and published in a book "Alei Merorot", by the son, R' Y. Aharonson, Bnei Brak, 1996.

3 January 1943
In the night, the Lager Fuherer commanded to imprison 6 men in the "Oven". These are:
Icchak Grzywacz, Mendel Grinbaum, Szmuel Tiber, Szymon Pozmanter, Meir Laski, Eliahu Wajselfisz. The following morning, he transported them to the town and they were put in prison. As we heard, they were shipped from there as well after a few days, in an automobile.
Where to? Who knows...

CZARKOW Labor Camp

After the Jews of Konin had been annihilated, a work camp was established on the site. In March 1942 more than 800 Jews from the area of Gostynin and Gabin (Gombin) were brought there and employed in harsh forced labour. Many of them died from exhaustion and disease. Forty-five Jews from the camp prison were buried in the Christian cemetery in Konin, but on July 17, 1942, their bodies were removed on the orders of the mayor, and interred in a nearby plot among other Jews.
At the beginning of 1943 many of the inhabitants of the camp were transported to their deaths in Chelmno and other concentration camps. This was the signal for some Jews to band together and carry out acts of sabotage and arson in the work camp. In August 1943 this underground group learned that the Germans were about to kill all the internees, and it set on fire a number of huts. Most of these saboteurs met their deaths in the action, but some survived. Following an investigation into the circumstances of the insurrection, the camp was closed and the captives moved to assembly points, and eventually to Auschwitz.
Among the prisoners in Konin and the group of rebels was Rabbi Yehoshua Moshe Aaronson. While in the camp he wrote a diary entitled “Megillat Beit Haavadim”. This diary and other testamentary documents he hid in two bottles, which he gave into the keeping of a Polish carpenter. Only some of these papers survived, but they bore witness to the life and fate of the internees in the camp at Konin.

This is a translation from: Konin Chapter;  Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume I, pages 235-238, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


Szlama Pozmanter
Photograph courtesy of Pozmanter Family Album

Szlama Pozmanter was born in Skepe, Poland on March 1, 1903 to Chaim Pizmanter and Hendla Gruza.  He married Rywka Zamoskiewicz and they had three children:  Szymon, Fela, and Sarah.  Szlama was a successful businessman and in 1939 paid the fifth largest (175 zloty)“contributions for the community”.  Szlama sold ‘fine china’ to merchants for resale.

Prior to the start of the war Szlama had been thinking of moving to a larger city some 40 miles west of Skepe.  Rywka had been pushing to immigrate to Israel, but Szlama saw a “hard and difficult life there and convinced her to stay in Poland where they could expect a good life with better schools, a better house, and even a maid.” (interview 7/25/2011, Toronto).

With the start of the war on September 1, 1939, the German invasion took little time getting to Skepe.  By the end of December, 1939, the Jews of Skepe were ordered to move out of town.  Szlama and Rwyka took their three children and were joined by Rywka’s older sister, Brania and her family of husband David Flusberg and daughter Sarah.  Brania, David, and Sarah had been expelled from Bad Oldesloe, Germany in 1938, where David was a shochet and moved to Skepe.

Szlama’s family and his sister-in-law’s family traveled to Warsaw.  The youngest sister of Rywka and Brania – Chava, also of Skepe – took her family to Gostynin to live with her husband’s family.  While in Warsaw Szlama would make soap and sell it in one of the ghetto markets.  His daughter Fela would keep watch for German soldiers who would periodically make sweeps of the street.

In October, 1941, the Pozmanter and Flusberg families realized it was time to leave the Warsaw ghetto.  They traveled with ingenuity and chutzpah to make it to Gostynin and be with Chava and her family.

On December 1, 1941, Szlama was arrested in Gostynin and transported to a series of labor camps.  Records indicate Szlama was at a slave labor camp for Jews in Gostyn (called Gostingen by Germans) and in Kostrzyn, both of which are in the Poznan province. 

“Salomon Pozmanter….was sent to KL Auschwitz in August 28, 1943 from slave labour camp for Jews in Kostrzyn (Poznan province).  He received his prisoner’s number 142161.  In January 22, 1945 he was transferred to KL Buchenwald where he received prisoners number 119312.  There isn’t information about his further fate.”  (Auschwitz Museum Archives, March 16, 2011; Ref-I-Arch-i/7834/10)

Family members report that surviving prisoners remember that Szlama Pozmanter gave up hope that he would ever see his family alive and perished a short time before liberation.

Tzadek Cudkowicz
Abram Cudkiewicz was a merchant of fabrics according to the 1929 Polish Business Directory.  He was the father of at least 8 children.


Most of his children emigrated from Poland beginning in 1911 when Mordcha-Leib left for New York City.  Over the next 26 years 4 more sons and two daughters would leave.


In 1939 Abram paid 50 zlotys as a contribution for the community and his youngest son, Tzadek, was studying to be a Rabbi.  Neither Abram nor Tzadek survived the Holocaust.
Ytzkhak Cudkowicz
Tzadek Cudkiewicz
Photographs courtesy of Berg Family Album
Ytzkhak Avraham Cudkiewicz

Rubinsztein Family
Rubinsztejn Family

Szamuel Rubinsztejn
Szamuel Chaim
Photographs U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum,
courtesy of Dora Rubinsztejn Weiner

Abraham Baer
Photograph courtesy of Yad Vashem

The Rubinsztejn family about 1924. Chaya Ester and Hersh Yitzhak hold their sons, Abraham Baer, left, and Szamuel Chaim in Skepe, Poland, early 1920’s.

Dworja Raca Rubinsztejn, not pictured, (now Dora Weiner) is the daughter of Hersh and Chaya (Grynberg) Rubinsztejn. She was born February 17, 1927 in Plock, Poland, where her father was a Jewish ritual slaughterer. Dworja had two older brothers, Szamuel and Armand, both of whom were born in Skepe, Poland in the early 1920's. The family lived in Plock until the spring of 1929, when Chaya took Dworja and Armand to Paris to live with her brother's family.

To appease his father, Hersh stayed behind in Plock with Szamuel. After the German occupation of northern France in 1940, Chaya and the children moved south to Grenade sur Adour. Subsequently, eighteen-year-old Armand was sent to the Septfondes labor camp. In 1943 he was transferred to Gurs and then deported to the east by way of Drancy.

In September 1942 Dworja was sent to live in Lacaune les Bains, where she was required to check in weekly with the police. Then, in the spring of 1944 Dworja went into hiding in L'Isle Jourdain with false papers provided by the Maquis resistance. She remained there until the liberation. Dworja then returned to Paris, where she lived until her immigration to the United States in May 1949. She sailed from Cherbourg to New York on the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth. Dworja's mother also survived the war hiding in France, but her father, Hersh, and two brothers perished in Poland.

Explanation from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy of Dora Weiner.

Abraham Baer Rubinstein
, pictured on left, was born in Skepe on November 29, 1923.  After leaving Poland in 1929 he moved with his mother Chaya and sister Dworja to Paris.  In 1940 the family moved to Grenade sur Adour, France after the German occupation.  After spending time in a labor camp Abraham was deported from Drancy, France in March, 1943.  He perished in Auschwitz.

Photo courtesy of Yad Vashem.

Rabbi's Wife
The Rabbi's wife (Zontag)
Photograph courtesy of Yad Vashem

The wife of Skępe Rabbi Jachiel Halewi Zontag.  Rabbi Zontag served in Skępe for nearly 10 years and died in 1932 or 33.  According to a Skępe survivor Rabbi Zontag’s widow married another Rabbi.


Braina Zamoskiewicz Flusberg
Photograph courtesy of Shavit Family Album

Braina Zamoskiewicz (b. Skępe) and David Flusberg (b. Dobrzyn: mod. Golub-Dobrzyn) were married in the early 1900's.  They had two daughters:  Rosa who was born in 1912 in Dobrzyn and emigrated to Israel before the war; and Sarah who was born in Blumendorf, Germany in 1920 and remained with her parents in Bad Oldesloe until their expulsion in 1938.

David was a shochet, and according to a 1938 German Census, he and Brania shared their address with a mother and son in Bad Oldesloe. According to American relatives an effort was being made to bring the three Zamoskiewicz sisters and their families to the United States via Hamburg.  These efforts failed and Braina, David, and Sarah left for Poland and stayed with relatives.  Here is one account.

"Yehoshua Flusberg is the son of Elya-Mordechai Flusberg, who was David Flusberg’s brother and the brother-in-law of Braina. He was born in September 1926. I asked him what he remembered about Sarah Flusberg (David and Braina’s daughter). Here is what he told me:

'When David, Braina and their daughter Sarah were expelled from Germany around 1938, they moved to Dobrzyn, where they moved in with Yehoshua’s family, staying in their house. Yehoshua was 12 years old, and he recalls that Sarah, who was about 18 at the time, brought attention to herself because of her very proper German manners (Yehoshua jokingly referred to her as a “Yeke”, which is the Yiddish expression for someone who is very German-like—not surprising for someone who had been raised in Germany). He recalls their first Friday-night dinner together. Yehoshua’s mother had served gefilte fish, a typical Friday-night delicacy, which Sarah apparently loathed. However, Sarah was too well-mannered to decline the portion she had been served; instead, she pretended to eat it, discretely hiding it, piece by piece, in various places under her dress.

Yehoshua recalls that his older brother (also named David Flusberg) was about Sarah’s age and took a liking to her.

Some time in 1939—Yehoshua thinks it was only a few weeks before the German invasion—David, Braina and Sarah moved to Skępe to join Braina’s family.

When the German invasion began, Yehoshua and family (his parents and brother) fled from Dobrzyn to Skępe in the middle of the night. He recalls walking all night along a shortcut through the forest that his father was familiar with. Because of their fear of being molested by anti-Semites, his father had tied a handkerchief around his face to hide his long beard. They did pass some retreating Polish soldiers, but no one bothered them. They arrived in Skępe, where they stayed with David and Braina for about a week. It was Yehoshua’s 13th birthday, and he recalls his first “aliya”—his bar mitzvah—took place in the Skępe synagogue. As he left the synagogue he observed the very first German soldiers arriving in Skępe on motorcycles.

Story recounted by Allen Flusberg

Chava from

Chava Zamoskiewicz Strikowsky
Photograph courtesy of Shavit Family Album

Moshe Strikowsky

Moshe Strikowsky

Photograph courtesy of Shavit Family Album

Chava Strikowsky was the youngest of the eleven Zamoskiewicz siblings.  She married Moshe Strikowsky who was a tailor and owned a small clothing store in the Skepe town square across from her sister Rivka’s grocery store.  Chava had three children, Avraham (b. 1935), Felusha (b. 1937), and Yekhiel (b. 1938).

In early September, 1939, the Germans arrived in Skepe on their drive to Warsaw.  One night not long after the start of the war many of the Jewish men of Skepe had been taken from their homes.  Chava’s husband was one of the men and he would never be seen again. By the end of the year the remaining Jews were ordered out of Skepe.  While Rywka and her family traveled to Warsaw Chava and her three children were moved to the (Strzegowo) Ghetto.  Avraham writes of the experience:

“The gendarmes walked around with clubs in their hands and rifles on their shoulders, yelling:  ‘Schnell! Schnell!’ There were also many Poles helping the Germans to yell and push the people onto the trucks…There were no benches and we stood tightly packed.  The Germans closed the tarp, leaving no air, (only) the darkness.  Little children cried, the elderly coughed, and the mothers calmed….I don’t remember how long we spent in the (Strzegowo) Ghetto, a year, maybe more. 

One morning two Capos burst into the building and yelled: ‘In one hour all of you are to be outside with your clothes. You are leaving the ghetto!’  Much panic ensued. Rumors were spreading that there were concentration camps, from which no one leaves alive….(When the) truck stopped and the tarp opened we had arrived at the Gostynin Ghetto” where Moshe’s younger brother, Ytzkhak, was a rabbi.

It was to Gostynin that Chava’s sisters (Rivka and Braina and their families) escaped  after leaving the Warsaw Ghetto in late 1941 and met up with Chava.  Not long after their reunion the dissolution of the Gostynin ghetto began in earnest.  Periodic roundups of men were made and they were sent to forced labor camps in places such as Konin and Posen.  The final liquidation of the ghetto took place in early 1942 with many taken to Chelmno. 

Before that date Rivka arranged for a Polish farmer to take her and her three children out of Gostynin one night and Chava and her three children not long after.  After the placement of Felusha by Chava with a childless Polish couple she was arrested along with Yekhiel.  Both were murdered.  Felusha and Avraham survived the war and settled in Israel.

With conditions in the ghetto deteriorating Rywka and Chava escaped from Gostynin in search of a place to hide.  Not long after their departure from Gostynin Chava and Yekhiel were captured and murdered.  Felusha and Avraham both survived the war and eventually made their homes in Israel.

Warsaw Ghetto

Jews Move Along a Crowded Street in the Warsaw Ghetto

Photo Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Photo taken by a German soldier in 1941 and
given to Simon Adelman in 1954
The Szaja Gutman family is emblematic of the Jewish twin tragedy in the 20th century: immigration and the Holocaust.  The experience of the Gutmans in Skępe mirrored those of most Jewish families in Eastern Europe.  The Gutmans were not the exception.

Szaja Gutman was a butcher in the town of Skępe, Poland as indicated in the 1939 contribution for the community of 50 zlotys.  Szaja already had witnessed the loss of five sons to Montreal, Canada with their emigration from Skępe beginning in 1920.  A look at ship manifest records provides a skeletal look at this part of the family history.

• On November 8, 1920 Szaja's son, Isek (b. 1895), a tailor, arrived in Quebec aboard the SS Scandanavian.  With $25 in his pocket he was going to his new life in Canada with cousin, Efroim Dvalickis, at 65 Duke St.

• April, 2, 1927 on board the SS Estonia two more Gutman brothers, Szlama Dawid (b. 1905) and Ide Lajb (b. 1906), tailors, arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia from Danzig, Poland on their way to their brother, Isaac Gutman, 1298 Clarke St., Montreal.

• Finally, on May 25, 1929, brothers Szmuel Jankel (b. 1897) and Pinchas (b. 1911) aboard the SS Estonia from Danzig, Poland, arrived in Halifax. Listed as 'laborers' both were going to brother Szlama who lived at 27 Duluth Ave., Montreal.  A cousin of the Gutman brothers - Zalmon Burtkie, a nephew of Szaja Gutman - was also on the same ship.  His passage was paid by William Smye, a farmer in East Flamboro, Ontario.

Before the outbreak of the war in 1939 Szaja Gutman had decided to leave for Canada.  After selling his business in Skępe, Szaja booked passage for himself, his wife and two children for Montreal to be with the rest of his family.  He left for Gydnia (Gdansk) several weeks before the war started, but no ships were leaving the port.  And then at the start of the war on September 1, 1939 the port was closed and the remaining Gutmans in Poland were trapped.

The rest of the story is told by his grand niece, Faye Pozmanter.

"In December, 1939, all the Jews of Skępe were ordered to leave their homes and move to Warsaw.  The Pozmanters ran into Szaja and his family in Warsaw,  They were destitute and approached Faye's father on a number of occasions for help.  Since Szlama Pozmanter had resources hidden when he left Skępe he was able to help Szaja and his family out.  However, the Gutmans had no where to sleep in Warsaw and lived wherever they found space."  When asked about their fate Faye believed "(the Gutmans) never made it out of Warsaw.  With no resources they probably did not survive the early years of the Warsaw ghetto when so many died of starvation or disease."

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Survivors of the Holocaust from Skępe

Seymour Moskowitz.jpg

“It is impossible to extinguish the light of Judaism.”

Rabbi Seymour Moskowitz (2010) whose father emigrated from Skępe, Poland @ 1920

Dora Goldman Reichenbach
Dora Goldman Reichenbach was born in Skȩpe in 1925.  Her father was Avraham Shlomo Goldman, a barber who would also pull teeth when needed. 

Dora was the only one in her family to survive.  She was in Auschwitz in line for the gas chamber when a female guard pulled her out of line and put her to work. 

After the war, she married in Bergen-Belsen which was being used as a DP camp.  They later emigrated to Israel, where they lived in Ramat Gan and raised two daughters.
Dora's Grave
Dora Goldman Reichenbach
taken in or near Płock after the war

Courtesy of the Preisler Family Album

Information courtesy of Julian Preisler
Photo courtesy of the Preisler Family Album

Avraham, Rywka, Fela

Avraham, Rywka, girls
Rywka Pozmanter with Fela and Avraham
Photo courtesy of the Shavit Family Album
Rywka Pozmanter
Photo courtesy of the Pozmanter Family Album
Rywka Pozmanter with Sarah and Fela
Fela and Avraham in back

Photo courtesy of the Pozmanter Family Album

Rywka Pozmanter (nee Zamoskiewicz)

Rywka, the second youngest surviving child of Avraham and Feiga, was born in Skepe on May 3, 1904.  Rywka may have referred to my grandmother as a pioneer in the family for leaving Poland on her own to start a new life in America at the age of 16, but Tante Rywka demonstrated a drive and leadership to survive against all odds unmatched by anyone in the family.  Conversant in four languages and observant to the rituals and mores of Judaism, Rywka could not have known she was preparing for an ordeal which would last her lifetime.

After marrying Szlama Pozmanter, Rywka raised 3 children and cared for her aging parents and a younger sister in Skepe.  While the Pozmanter family lived a ‘comfortable life’, Szlama had dreams to expand his business interests, with Rywka thinking of moving to Israel.

September 1, 1939 ended these dreams and life as they knew it in Skepe.  Within three months of the outbreak of war the Pozmanter family had moved to Warsaw, staying there until October, 1941.  In 1941 Rywka and her sister from Germany, Braina, left Warsaw and traveled with their families to the Gostynin ghetto.  Their youngest sister, Chava Strykowski, was staying with relatives of her husband.  But chaos visited on December 1, 1941 when Szlama was arrested and sent to a labor camp. Rywka’s oldest child, Szymon, was also arrested and sent away.  The two brothers-in-law met a similar fate in those few short months.

By January, 1942, according to a report filed by Rywka after the war, her odyssey after Gostynin (bis Kriegsende illeg. Gelebt – until end of the war illegally lived…) started by hiding in Plonsk (1/1942); hiding between Strzegowo and Mlawa (2/1942 to 11/1942); and then hiding in areas not far from Skepe, until she traveled into Germany to work as a ‘Polish laborer’.

At the end of the war her focus changed to caring for her surviving children and those of her sister Chava.  The history of this journey is provided here.  Rywka’s testimony was conducted in Yiddish on March 10, 1996 in Bnei-Brak for the Visual History of Survivors.  I contracted for a translation from the Yiddish into English to make my Tante Rywka’s story more widely available.

Testimony of Survivors

Rywka Pozmanter

To read the testimony, click here.
Faye Lewkowicz

Faye Lewkowicz (nee Pozmanter) was born in 1930 in Skępe, Poland, to Szlama and Rywka.  Faye had an older brother, Szymon, and a younger sister, Sarah.  At the outbreak of the war Faye possessed two key ingredients that would help her mother, sister and herself to survive:  blond hair and an excellent command of the Polish language.

In a phone conversation with a Skępe resident this past April when I asked her if she remembered my cousin Faye, her reply was - “Oh, you mean the blond girl!”

Faye was called upon many times to sneak out of the ghetto, communicate with local people as they traveled to find suitable hiding places, food, or medicine, and maintaining the fiction of being Polish laborers at a German beet farm at the end of the war.

Faye’s memories of Skępe and the war are available here in a transcript of the 5 1/2 hour video testimony she completed for Yad Vashem in 2011.   
To read the testimony, click here.


Avraham Shavit (Strykowski)

Avraham was born in Skępe in 1935 to Moshe Strykowski and Chava (nee Zamoskiewicz).  He was the oldest of three children that included his sister Fela and a brother Yekhiel.

Avraham survived the war after being taken in by a Polish farmer and his family, following his family’s escape from the Gostynin ghetto at the age of seven.  His life on the farm was marked by subsistence level rations and minimal comforts, until his rescue by Aunt Rywka.

His memoir, Piles of Pine Needles, describes in detail his odyssey from pre-war Skępe to Israel.

To read Avraham Shavit’s Piles of Pine Needles, please click here.

Towns from Rywka's Testimony:



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Compiled by Roberta Fleishman and Mike Smith
Copyright © 2013 Roberta Ann Fleishman

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