Experience: Chmielnik

Nathan Garfinkel
Sonia Nothman
“Prior to World War II Chmielnik had nearly 10,000 Jews, comprising 80% of the town's population. During the first months of the war several hundred Jews, mostly young men and women, fled to the Soviet-held territories. At the beginning of 1940, contact was made with the Warsaw underground leaders and Chmielnik was twice visited by Mordecai Anielewicz, who came to help in the preparations for armed resistance. 

“Because of the lack of arms, the underground could only show passive resistance, for which many were executed, among them the chairman of the Judenrat, Shmuel Zalcman. During 1940 and the winter of 1940–41 about 2,000 Jews who had been expelled from the smaller nearby towns and villages and from more distant regions of Plock andCiechanow arrived in Chmielnik. 

“The establishment of the ghetto in April 1941 drastically worsened the plight of the Jewish population which was greatly reduced by hunger and epidemics. From December 12, 1941, when a death decree was issued against anyone caught leaving the ghetto, many Jews were shot for smuggling food into it. On October 1, 1942, about 1,000 young men and women were deported to the forced labor camp in *Skarzysko-Kamienna. Many succumbed to the inhuman conditions there, while others were deported to the forced labor camp in Czestochowa (Hasag) and to camps in Germany. Only a handful survived.

“On October 3, 1942, about 1,000 Jews from Szydlow and 270 from Drugnia (in the vicinity of Chmielnik) were taken to Chmielnik. Three days later (on October 6, 1942) a special German and Ukrainian police force from Kielce conducted the Aktion in which about 8,000 Jews were deported to the Treblinka death camp. 

“On November 5, 1942, a second deportation took place. This time the remaining Jews, aware of the fate of the deportees, fled into the forests or went into hiding within the ghetto. Only a score of them survived in hiding until the liberation in January 1945. Those who left at the beginning of the war for the Soviet Union mostly joined the Soviet or the Polish army. Some of them rose to officer ranks and won the highest battle decorations, e.g., Capt. Moshe Kwaśniewski, who parachuted into his native Chmielnik region to engage in guerilla activities, and Nahum Mali who commanded a tank unit. 

“A handful of Jewish survivors tried to resettle in Chmielnik after the war but gave up the idea because of the hostility shown by the local Polish population. The last 14 Jews left in July 1946, after the Kielce pogrom in which four Jews from Chmielnik were also killed. Organizations of Chmielnik Jews exist in Israel, the United States, Canada, Argentina, France, Brazil, and England. A memorial book, Pinkas Chmielnik (Yid. and partly Heb.), was published in 1960.”

Accessed on July 19, 2011

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