“Debica” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume III
(Poland)

50°03' / 21°25'

Translation of “Debica” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 119-124, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(pages 119-124)

Dembitz

(Powiat of Ropczyce, province Krakow)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

YearGeneral
Population
Jewish
Population
1765?573
18803,2562,385
18903,5782,153
19003,9912,205
19104,8712,119
19213,9221,564

The village of Dembitz was already the seat of the Church deacon in 1326. In 1358, the king granted the owners of Dembitz the right to set up a city according to the Magdeburg charter. In the subsequent years of that century, the city was granted further rights, such as the right to hold yearly fairs and weekly market days and other such rights. Dembitz is located on the main route from Krakow to Lwow, and its geographic location was a significant factor in its development. Despite the destruction caused to the city by the Swedish invasion of 1655 and the great fire of 1660 which destroyed nearly all of the houses, Dembitz continued to develop, and a marketplace was built in the New City, which was next to the Old City. In the 17th century, Dembitz was known for the widespread business which was transacted there, and also for the multitude of industrial endeavors (shoemaking, weaving, blacksmithing, tinsmithing, etc.), whose owners were organized into guilds.

The decline of Dembitz began in the first half of the 18th century, when bands of soldiers would pass through, and battles were fought in its midst among the Swedish, Russian, and Polish Confederate armies. At that time there remained only 60 wooden houses, and a marked decline of commerce and manufacturing took place. After the annexation of the region to Austria in 1772, Dembitz lost its status of a city. In the first half of the 19th century was a time of great crisis due to fires, floods and epidemics which struck every few years, in particular in the years 1830, 1847 and 1854.

In 1846, the urban residents of Dembitz, along with the neighboring villagers, joined together in a revolt against the landlords. The burnt their castles, killed several noblemen, and divided the spoil (grain and livestock) amongst themselves. The rebellion was put down ruthlessly by the Austrian army, and the residents of the city were harmed.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the development of Dembitz began, primarily due to the construction in 1856 of the Krakow - Zheshev [1] rail line that passed through Dembitz, and had a stop there, and also the construction in 1896 of the Dembitz - Tarnobrzeg [2] highway. The industry and manufacturing began to revive, and the population began to increase. By 1895, there were already 280 houses in Dembitz. In 1914, Dembitz regained its status of a city, and in 1907 a gymnasium was established there. In 1918, the Russian army captured the city twice, and inflicted great damage.

At the conclusion of the first world war, an economic slowdown occurred, however, between 1936-1939, the economy was stimulated again, since centers of economic activity were joined to the district. A large cotton factory and several other smaller factories were set up in the cities, whose purpose was to service the larger industrial establishments that were set up in the entire region.

The first documentation of Jews in Dembitz is from 1471. In an agreement between the owners of the city and the local priest, it is noted that the residents of the city are required to pay tithes to the church "with the exception of the Jews and non-Catholics". Apparently there were only a few Jewish families, who abandoned the city in the wake of the Tatar invasion of 1502 or during the great fire of 1504.

The Jewish settlement apparently took root after the invasion of the Swedes in 1656, as well as after the fire of 1660. At that time, the "New City" was established. However, the first concrete evidence as to the establishment of a Jewish community is from 1690. According to the regulations of the butcher's guild from that year, limits were established for the Jews of Dembitz with respect to Kosher slaughter.

At that time, there were two Jewish communities in the city: one in the Old City, and a larger one in the New City. Levi the son of Yitzchak was Parnas of the Old City, and Hershel was Parnas in the New City. The population growth of the Jewish community in the New City met the disfavor of the general population and the church authorities. In 1701 a committee appointed by the Cardinal of Krakow decided that the growth of the Jewish population in Dembitz should be curbed. The Jews were forbidden to do business during the times of Church services, to drink liquor on Sundays, and to employ Christian maids in their homes. The residents of the New City were commanded to destroy their synagogue, that had apparently been built illegally. The Jews were able to prove that the building was the private property of the Parnasim of the community, who paid appropriate head taxes to enable them to set up a place of public prayer in their homes. The decree to destroy the synagogue was rescinded.

In the 18th century, the Jewish populations of the two communities in Dembitz continued to grow. In 1765 the community oversaw also the 338 Jewish residents of the neighboring villages. According to the census of 1864-1864, the professions of the 33 wage earners that were recorded are as follows: 1 retail merchant, 1 cantor, 4 teachers of children, 1 musician, 1 cord maker, 7 tailors, 3 hat makers, 1 silver smith, 7 butchers, 5 bakers, 1 tinsmith and 1 medic. Many wage earners from the city and the outlying areas were not included in this census, in particular merchants, store owners, inn keepers and middlemen. Apparently, these people avoided the census due to fear of "the evil eye" with respect to the governing authorities and the tax collectors.

At the beginning of the period of Austrian rule in Dembitz (from 1772)

{p 120}

a wave of fiscal decrees and enactments came upon the Jews of Dembitz. The declared purpose was to make the Jews "more useful and cultured". In accordance with the decree that required Jews to settle in villages and to take up agricultural work, the community of Dembitz was required to provide 8 families, and to provide them with implements and animals to the value of 250 Guilder per family. The community managed to avoid fulfilling this decree until 1804, and even in the subsequent years, not a single Jewish family from Dembitz was given over. When the school system that were founded by H. Homburg was established [3] , Dembitz was also required to set up this type of school. Meir Kook was appointed as the teacher, and his salary was 200 Florin (ten times the annual salary of the Rabbi at the time). However, this decree did not come to fruition, since this entire school system was closed down by a decree of the Kaiser in 1806. In 1805, a command forbade Jews to purchase buildings or fields from gentiles, but the Jews of Dembitz were able to circumvent this stricture: the bought houses and fields and hid their ownership of them, and only in 1824, after the disclosed their ownership to the government, did their ownership of these properties become official.

The early years of Austrian dominion were particularly difficult for the Jews of Dembitz; however by the 1820s and 1830s their economic situation began to improve due to the opening up of business ties with other provinces of the Austrian empire. In the middle of the 19th century small scale factories and workshops were set up in Dembitz, primarily by the Jews. These included flour mills, liquor distilleries, beer breweries, match and soap factories, and even a small furnace for glass production. To the good fortune of the Jews of Dembitz, the bloody events which took place in the wake of the revolt of the farmers against the noblemen and their estates in 1846 passed over Dembitz itself, and the fear of the community turned out to be for naught.

The establishment of a railway station in Dembitz on the Krakow-Lwow railway line marked the beginning of the economic flourishing of Dembitz. With the annulment of the economic restrictions against the Jews, and with the freedom of residence and movement (the granting of these freedoms took place over a period of time from the revolution of 1848 until the granting of equal rights to the Jews of Dembitz in 1867-1868), the Jews of Dembitz began to conduct their business with greater vigor. The centers of the Old City and the New City became filled with Jewish stores and stalls. The fairs in Dembitz and in the neighboring towns and villages served as an important source of livelihood for the Jewish merchants and peddlers. At the end of the 19th century an army cavalry regiment camped in Dembitz, and many Jewish merchants and workmen made their livelihood by servicing this regiment, in particularly the captains of the regiment. At the beginning of the 20th century, several clothing factories were established which employed dozens of Jewish tailors. The Jewish community of Dembitz was not noted in particular for its wealth. The profit from the small scale trade and industry was quite modest, and the living conditions were quite cramped. In the wave of emigration in the final decades of the 19th century, and in particular in the years of economic depression at the beginning of the 20th century, many Jewish families left Dembitz in an attempt to find better sustenance in larger cities, or in foreign countries, in particular to the United States of America. This exodus diminished the Jewish population of Dembitz, and the eve of the First World War was marked by a decline in the communal and cultural activities of the community.

As has previously been noted, the Jews of Dembitz were organized into their own community already at the beginning of the 17th century. The community of Dembitz belonged to the district of Zheshev until 1730, and through that district, it paid its required head tax of 500 gold coins. From that year until 1756, the community of Dembitz succeeded in becoming independent of Zheshev for several years, and its head tax quotas were set and paid independently. In 1756 the community of Dembitz again came under control of Zheshev. In 1785 the Austrian government established the communal council of Dembitz which consisted of 3 Parnasim. This council was required to run the community in accordance with the governing authorities of the district, to concern itself with paying the large number of taxes at the correct times, and to maintain the population registries. Synagogue trustees, charity trustees, appraisers and bookkeepers were also appointed in addition to the Parnasim. This composition of the communal council remained in place with minor changes until the standardization of the communal leadership in 1890. It is important to point out that after the initial years when the council was controlled by the tax lessees (in particular by the lessees of the "candle tax", which included corrupt individuals and betrayers), the community of Dembitz, according to the traditions of all Jewish communities, made it its business to concern itself not only with the activities required by the government, but also with general communal matters, such as the support the poor (a trust fund was established), the burial society (Chevra Kadisha), and the visiting of the sick (Bikur Cholim).

From 1891 and onward the communal council had a set budget, which in 1907 reached the sum of 13,000 Crowns.

We do not have much information on the Rabbis who served in Dembitz until the middle of the 18th century. In the latter half of that century, Rabbi Shmuel and Rabbi Eliezer Horowitz, of the renowned Horowitz family, are noted in the annals of the Rabbis of Dembitz. After the passing of Reb Eliezer in 1790, another Rabbi was not appointed. Rabbi Natan Landau served as the Moreh Horaa [4] until 1809. From that year until 1820 Rabbi Shmuel Chanoch Gewirtz served as Rabbi, and his son Rabbi Eliahu took over after him.

Already by the first half of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Dembitz had come under the Chassidic influence of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Ropczyce. With the increase of Chassidic influence, the community appointed to the Rabbinical chair Rabbi Reuven Horowitz, the grandson of Reb Naftali Tzvi. He also served the role of Admor [5] . His son Rabbi Shmuel inherited these two titles after him. In the 1880s and 1890s, Reb Alter Yeshaya Horowitz served as Rabbi of the city and Admor to the throngs of Chassidim. He died in 1895.

{p 121}

Zionist activity began in 1894. At around 1904 the Zionists set up a library and assembly hall. The most organized group was "Poale Zion", which began in 1905. In 1907 this organization arranged a tailor's strike, which was successful. After the strike, the workday of the tailor's apprentices was shortened to 11 hours. In 1911, a youth branch of Poale Zion, called "Yugend" was established. A woman's Zionist organization "Devora" was set up around 1904, which attracted mainly the upper class women. The commonfolk set up their own organization "Chavatzelet" [6] which was associated with "Poale Zion".

In 1907, two additional Zionist organizations were established in Dembitz: "Geula" [7] which attracted the gymnasia students and the academia, and "Hashachar" [8] which attracted the youth of the Beis Medrash. In 1911 the members of "Poale Zion" broke off from the general Zionist library, with the complaint that it did not devote sufficient attention to Yiddish literature. They set up their own "Sifria Amamit" [9] with 200 members. In 1911 the "Tzeire Zion" [10] was established, and upon its foundations "Hashomer Hatzair" [11] was set up in 1918.

Approximately a month after the outbreak of the First World War [12] , Russian army units captured Dembitz. As they entered the city, the Cossacks began to steal Jewish property, to torture Jewish men and rape Jewish women. According to one report, some local Jews attempted to find refuge in the Beis Medrash. The Russians first forced the men out and then raped the women (several of them were shot as they attempted to flee by jumping out of the high windows), and afterward commanded the men to reenter the Beis Medrash, which was then ignited from all sides. The Russians remained in Dembitz for about one week, and to the joy of the Jews the city was liberated by Austrian army units. After two or three days the Austrians retreated again, however this time all the Jews of Dembitz left their cities and exiled themselves to the interior of the Austrian Empire, primarily to Sudetenland [13] . From there some -- not all -- returned in 1915. At the conclusion of the war, in November and December of 1918, ruffians of the city and neighboring villages attempted to start a pogrom against the Jews of Dembitz. The "National Council" that was set up through the efforts of and headed by the Zionists prevented the pogrom in two ways: the bribed the head of the local police and the commander of the gendarme who warded off the pogrom; while at the same time they organized a Jewish defense unit from amongst those who had been released from the army, they provided them with approximately 100 bayonets that were produced by the local Jewish factories. These people were able to stand up against any attempt to injure the Jews or steal their property.

Between the Two Wars

After the conclusion of the war about 600 of the Jews of Dembitz did not return. Some had joined the Austrian army and fell in battle, and others perished in the epidemics that broke out in the city during the war. Still others who did not return went to seek their livelihood in other areas of the Austrian Empire which had now broken apart, in the countries of western Europe, and overseas. Many of those that did return were desperately poor, and they raised the numbers of those who required public assistance. The Joint [14] came to assistance of the needy, and the members of the "National Committee" helped to distribute the food and money. With the funds of the Joint, sewing machines were bought and distributed amongst the tailors, and courses were organized to teach trades.

There were 66 workshops and industrial ventures that were under Jewish ownership in 1921, but this number included three which did not renew their activities after the war. The 63 ventures employed 131 people, including 59 owners and members of their families, and 72 employees, of whom 47 were Jews. 22 of these 63 ventures were involved in the clothing industry (tailors, ready made clothing, and hats), and 19 in food related industries. This number does not included the small scale merchants, owners of stalls, peddlers, members of the professional intelligentsia and clergy.

The Jewish merchants' union which was established in Dembitz already prior to the war assisted their members who were in difficulty, primarily by supplying merchandise on credit. However, in subsequent years this union was not active, and its activities were restricted to the arranging of permits for its members. In its stead, two other financial institutions that also had existed prior to the war expanded their activities: the Gemach [15] fund and the "Jewish Bank". After having interrupted its activities during the war, the Gemach fund only renewed its activities in 1925. From 1927, the Gemach was partially supported by the Joint, and by 1935 its principal had reached 20,000 Zloty. In order to increase its intake, the fund set up a linen workshop which had about 30 sewing machines. This workshop hired girls. The profits of this enterprise were transferred to the Gemach, and thereby it was able to increase the number of loans it was able to give to the needy. In general the loans would be up to 500 Zloty per loan, interest free, with repayments every two weeks. The "Jewish Bank", which renewed its activities at the end of the war, assisted the more well off merchants, who were able to receive loans at modest interest rates.

In the 1930s, the economic situation of the Jews of Dembitz declined progressively. The development of industry in the city and the area between 1936-1939 did not bring an improvement in the situation, for the Jews of Dembitz were not employed at all in those enterprises. The Jews were restricted from obtaining merchandise or from selling their wares, in light of the anti-Jewish propaganda and the boycott of Jewish industry and business, which increased in Dembitz during these years. This caused a decrease in the number of purchases that gentiles would make in Jewish stores and factories. There were many bankruptcies at that time among the Jewish merchants. The well to do only barely found sustenance, and the poor required assistance.

In addition to the charitable fund, two other public assistance institutions helped the beggars and dispossessed, who came to the city from near and far. One organization would gather donations from the heads of households, and from the Gemach, which set up a branch from the beggars. This branch was called "Demei Vitur" [16] , which gave out money in an honorable fashion on the condition that the beggar

{p 122}

would stop bothering the heads of households. The "Chevrat HaMezonot" [17] made sure that the needy would receive hot meals, especially for Sabbaths and festivals. The "Linat Tzedek" [18] organization took care of the chronically ill, in particular by guarding over them at night. Only men belonged to this organization. A similar organization called "Chevrat Lina" [19] had a membership of women, who took care of the ill also during the day. "Chevrat Lina gave out medication to those who required it, and also ran a small pharmacy of its own.

The "Agudat Yetomim" [20] looked after the war orphans and other orphans in Dembitz. This organization established an orphanage in 1927, at first in a rented house, and from 1935 in its own 8 room house. This orphanage took care of about 50 charges that year, and also dispensed food and tuition assistance for dozens of poor children, who were not orphans, but who required assistance. This organization arranged annual summer camps for 30 children.

The Zionist organizations resumed their activities already by the first few years after the world war. In subsequent years, branches of almost all the existing Zionist organizations of the time were set up in Dembitz. The most conspicuous organizations were the "General Zionists", "Mizrachi", and "Hitachdt". The most prominent Zionist youth organizations were "Hashomer Hatzair", "Gordinia", "Hanoar Hatzioni", "Akiva" and "Betar". Many members of these organizations participated in Hachshara [21] camps in the region. In Dembitz itself in 1934 there were two Hachshara Kibbutzim, one of "Hanoar Hatzioni" consisting of 17 members, and one of "Gordonia" consisting of 23 members.

The number of purchasers of Zionist Shekels [22] grew annually. 271 delegates participated in the 1931 Zionist congress: their affiliations were as follows: "General Zionists" 116, "Mizrachi" 65, "Gush Eretz Yisrael Haovedet" [23] 63, and the Union of Revisionist Zionists 27. In the elections for the 1935 Zionist congress, the "General Zionists" received 772 ballots, the "Mizrachi" 192, and the "List of Gush Eretz Yisrael Haovedet" 276. This number of ballots evidently included the electors from the surrounding villages. However, it is also possible that the election results were not completely pure, and various electors may have used more than one shekel to register their right to vote. A branch of "Agudat Yisrael" [24] also existed in Dembitz.

In the communal council elections that took place in 1922 and 1928, the Zionists took the lead, and their delegates were elected to head the council. However, due to the influence of the Chassidim, the governing authorities deposed the Zionist head of the council, and in 1928 they invalidated the results of the elections. Due to the pressure exerted by the government, additional elections to the communal council were held, and Avraham Goldman was elected as head. He received the approbation from the Rabbi of the city and also from the governing authorities, and he served in his position until the outbreak of World War II. After the death of Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz in 1923, his son Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech took his place. He perished in the Holocaust.

In the period between the two world wars, much activity in the realm of education and culture took place in the Jewish community of Dembitz.

In the realm of Torah education, the traditional Orthodox played the leading role. In 1919, a "Talmud Torah" was set up through the efforts of "Agudat Yisrael". In 1923, there were 306 students divided into 8 grades, and 10 teachers in that school. The "Eitz Chayim" Yeshiva renewed its activities in 1923. It had 83 students in 3 classes, lead by 3 teachers. In 1932 a "Beis Yaakov" girl's school was established.

The Hebrew school, which had been established in 1910, renewed and expanded its activities. In 1919 it became affiliated with the "Tarbut" network of schools. In 1926 it had 146 students, which included about 70 girls. It had 6 teachers and 5 grades. The school building served as a center for cultural and Zionist activities, a home base for the youth groups, and a public library. Courses in Hebrew for adults took place in the evenings. For a time, a Hebrew kindergarten functioned next to the "Tarbut" school. The communal council was responsible for taking care of and running the school. The WIZO women's organization provided assistance to the students.

In 1935, a clubhouse was established in the school building, and a reading room next to it. The clubhouse organized lectures, and provided a meeting place for the drama group, and the theatrical groups that would visit Dembitz. The "Bar Kochva" sport organization was founded in 1920, and played a prominent role in sporting activities. An additional sports club "Hachashmonai" was founded in 1931.

The Second World War

The city was bombed on the first day of the war, September 1, 1939, and there were human casualties and property damage. Many residents, Jews included, fled the city on account of the bombing and the advance of the German army. A stream of refugees fled eastward, across the San [25] toward the Romanian border. In the city itself, the Polish local government collapsed and anarchy prevailed. The property of the Jews who fled the city was plundered. Due to the disruption of the roads by the Germans, only a small number of the Jewish refugees managed to actually reach Soviet territory; the remainder returned to Dembitz after a short while.

Dembitz was captured by the Germans on September 8, 1939. The Jews immediately suffered from the full severity of the Wehrmacht soldiers. They broke into homes, stole property, and conscripted the Jewish men for hard labor.

In November 1939, the Judenrat was set up, headed by Tovia Zucker. The Judenrat was responsible for providing a daily quota of men for hard labor, turning over household effects and valuables to the Germans, and collecting contributions. In 1940, the Germans required Jewish men to work on the roads and to maintain the railway lines. Jews were also employed in factories which repaired locomotives and railway cars. The work conditions were replete scheming and maltreatment.

With the worsening of the situation in the city, in 1940 young Jews began

{p 123}

to escape to Soviet territory in the hope of finding refuge. However the difficult living conditions of the refugees and the constraints in obtaining Soviet citizenship forced several of them to secretly return to their families in Dembitz.

In the spring of 1940, the Germans conducted a census of the population of the city, including Jews. This census served as the basis for the issuance of papers for the Jews who were conscripted for hard labor. The surveillance of the Jews increased. In June 1940, Jewish men were conscripted to Postokov. They were involved in constructing the labor camp that opened in November of that year, and served until 1944 as a place of torture and murder for Jews of the area. The Dembitz Judenrat attempted to free some of the conscripts from the Postokov camp, or in any case to lighten the working conditions. In return for a large bribe, the heads of the Judenrat of Dembitz reached an arrangement with the heads of the camp that the kitchen would be run by appropriate people, and the food would be supplied by representatives of the J.S.S. In the first months of the existence of the camp this arrangement made life much easier for the prisoners.

In the winter of 1940-1941, the economic situation of the community deteriorated. The Jews of Dembitz suffered from restrictions of movement, theft of property and monetary obligations. At the end of 1940, a communal kitchen run by the J.S.S. was opened in the city. It served hot meals to hundreds of needy people. That year, changes took place in the leadership of the Judenrat; due to internal disputes Tovia Zucker was pushed aside, and Yosef Taub was appointed in his stead.

At the beginning of 1941, the Jews were concentrated into a specific area of the city that surrounded the "Potter's Circle", one of the worst areas of town. The Polish families that lived in this area left, and Jews were moved in to replace them. The houses in this quarter were not able to house all the Jews, so wooden huts were erected that would each house 20 people. The Judenrat was responsible for the allocation of housing in the quarter. The sanitary conditions were quite poor due to the overcrowding. In order to prevent the outbreak of epidemics, medical services and a sickroom were set up.

After a short time, this area became a closed ghetto. Only people with special permits were permitted to leave its boundaries. The disruption of communication with other areas of the cities made it very difficult for the residents of the ghetto to obtain food. The Germans viciously put down any attempt at smuggling of food into the ghetto. Anyone who was caught outside of the ghetto without permission, or who was caught smuggling food into the ghetto, was brought to the Jewish cemetery for execution.

In the latter half of June 1942, Jews that were expelled from Sedziszow, Ropczyce, Wielopole Skrzynskie, Pilzno, Radomysl Wielki, and other neighboring towns were brought to the Dembitz ghetto. The population of the ghetto at that time was about 4,000. This large increase in population in the small area of the closed off ghetto made the economic distress more grave. In addition, the perplexity in the ghetto increased due to the knowledge of the massive expulsions in the neighboring settlements. The suspicion that an expulsion aktion was imminent in Dembitz caused people to search for hiding places both outside and inside the ghetto. Families who had maintained good relations with their Christian neighbors attempted to seek refuge with them. The workers in the enterprises outside the ghetto prepared hiding places in their workplaces and also within the ghetto itself.

The first large scale aktion in Dembitz began on June 29, 1942. The ghetto was surrounded by S.S. units and the Polish police. The Germans ordered the Judenrat to gather all work permits that were in the hands of the Jews for recertification. The Jews were informed that signed work permits would only be returned to the most essential workers for the German economy, and the remainder would be sent to "work in the East". A selection took place in the public square, and the Gestapo agents gathered together those who possessed appropriately signed work permits. The remainder were transferred to a second gathering point that was known as "Kashinza Lunka". While the enumeration at the gathering points was taking place, the Germans thoroughly searched the houses of the ghetto to find those who had hidden. Whomever was found hiding was brought to the Jewish cemetery and murdered there.

The holders of permits and there families were returned to the ghetto. A group of about 200 of those who were selected for expulsion were taken to Lisa Gora, near the village of Wielice, to be murdered. A group of men were separated from those gathered at "Kashinza Lunka" and sent to work in the aircraft factories of Zheshev and Mielic. Another group was sent to the Postokov labor camp. After these selections, approximately 2,000 people were sent off the Belzec death camp.

After this aktion, those who had succeeded in hiding outside of the ghetto began to return secretly. The Polish populace was warned by the German authorities to refrain from providing shelter to Jews: those who went against that order would be punished by death.

After the June aktion, the survivors of the community that remained in the ghetto attempted with all their effort to find employment in industries that were vital to the Germans. They believed that only that type of employment would save them from further expulsions. The railway industry was considered one such vital workplace, and great sums of money would be expended in order to secure work in such an enterprise.

In the autumn of 1942 the ghetto of Dembitz was classified as a labor camp: at the time it was populated by about 600 people. On the 8th of Tevet 5703 [26] there was a further aktion. The Germans, with the aid of the Ukrainian gendarmes, gathered all members of the camp into the area of "Kashinza Lunka". There was a selection, and the workers in the railway factories were separated from the rest of those gathered. However, this time, the workers were not permitted to remain with their families, who were sent together with all the remainder to the Belzec death camp.

Even after this aktion, people who had succeeded in hiding and saving themselves from the expulsion returned to the camp. There were also instances in this final transport to Belzec where several of the Jews of Dembitz jumped off the train. Whomever did not meet their deaths under the wheels of the train or from the bullets of the guards

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returned to the camp in secrecy. However the Jewish directors of the labor camp did not agree to allow them remain in the camp, lest the matter become known to the Germans and the camp be liquidated completely. The head Jewish superintendent of the camp at that time was Imarglik, and the Jewish survivors of Dembitz subjected him and the other Jewish guards of that time to a severe inquiry [27].

At the beginning of 1943, groups of Jews who survived in the neighboring Jewish communities were brought to the camp, and the number of number of prisoners increased to about 1,600. At that time, in one day 52 Jews who were in the camp "illegally" were captured and taken out to be killed. Others who lived in the camp without permits fled to the ghetto of Bochnia, where they met the same fate as the other Jews of that ghetto; most were sent to Auschwitz in September 1943 to be murdered.

The prisoners of the Dembitz camp continued to work in the railroad plants and in construction until the liquidation of the camp in April 1943. The last prisoners were transferred to other labor camps near Krakow. After a time, when these camps were liquidated due to the approaching front, the prisoners, including Jews from Dembitz, were transferred to other camps on the conquered lands of Europe.

Several Jewish families managed to hide in the city and in nearby towns with the aid of their gentile acquaintances, others managed to find hiding places in the surrounding forests. Many were uncovered due to the spreading of rumors, and were taken out to be killed in the Jewish cemetery. The Polish police assisted in these searches. From among the righteous gentiles who expended effort to save Jews of Dembitz, it is important to mention the doctor Dr. Alexander Mikolikow and his wife Liukadia, who hid 13 Jews in their home.

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Alef Shin Tzadi; (1)71.2.1.
AJDC Archives: Countries -- Poland, Cult. Rel. 344a, 349; Localities 220; Medical Report 374; Reconstruction 399.

Sefer Dembitz , Tel Aviv, 1960.

"Yudisher Arbeiter" 28.2.1908, 30.12.1910, 14.2.1911, 3.4.1914, 15.6.1918, 15.7.1918, 27.12.1918; "Yudishe Arbeiter Yugend" March 1912, July 1912, September-October 1917. "Hamagid" 9.11.1848, 31.7.1867, 14.2.1895, 23.10.1903; "Mamitzpeh" 2.9.1904, 9.1.1914; "Hatzfira" 12.8.1904, 31.5.1905, 15.6.1916, 4.1.1921; "Hashomer" Elul 5679.

"Chwila Wieczorna" 2.4.1937. "Diwrej Akiva" 3.4.1936; "Hanoar" (Lwow) styczen 1932, "Hanoar Hacijoni" 25.2.1935, 15.5.1936, 15.6.1936, 15.3.1938; "Nowy Dziennik" 1920, 1922, 1925-1937; "Przeglad Zydowski" 27.7.1929; "Slowo Mlodych" listopad 1938; "Trygodnik Zydowski" 24.7.1928, 30.2.1930, 14.3.1930, 24.4.1931, 26.8.1932, 18.11.1932, 11.2.1938;


Translator's Footnotes

1. According to the Shtetl Seeker on Jewishgen, Zheshev is an alternate name for Rzeszow, which is a city east of Dembitz. Back

2. A city about 50 km north of Dembitz. Back

3. See the article in the Dembitz Yizkor book. These were schools that were meant to acculturate the Jews to the Austrian culture. Back

4. Moreh Horaa is a title for a adjudicator of Jewish Law. The implication is that here is that he would have served as Rabbi, perhaps even the head of the Rabbinical court (Beis Din), but not the official Rabbi of the city. Back

5. Chassidic master. Back

6. Lily. Back

7. Redemption. Back

8. The dawn. Back

9. Public library. Back

10. Youth of Zion.Back

11. The Young Guard. A socialist Zionist organization still in existence today. Back

12. This would be around the beginning of September 1914. Back

13. Sudetenland is the Germanic areas of what used to be known as Czechoslovakia. It is of course quite famous as the lands given away to Hitler by Neville Chamberlain in the 1938 Munich pact. The entire area of what is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia used to be part of the Austro Hungarian Empire. Dembitz is perhaps 50 miles north of the Polish Slovak border. Back

14. The Joint Distribution Committee: an international committee for helping Jewish poor and dispossessed. Back

15. Gemach is an acronym for Gemilut Chasadim, which means an organization for the doing of good deeds. This generally refers to a charitable organization or free loan organization, or other such organizations of public welfare. Back

16. Money for concession. Money given in return for relinquishing a right. Back

17. The food organization. Back

18. Lodging in righteousness. Back

19. The organization of lodging. Back

20. Orphan's band or organization. Back

21. Hachshara is a term used by Zionist organizations for preparations for aliya. Back

22. Seemingly a term for membership in Zionist organizations. The purchasing of a shekel would register one as an affiliate of a Zionist movement. Back

23. The Labor Bloc of the Land of Israel. Back

24. The Orthodox, non-Zionist organization. Back

25. A river in near the south-eastern tip of the present day borders of Poland. Back

26. Wednesday December 16, 1942. Back

27. It is not entirely clear what this means. It probably means that after the war, the survivors of Dembitz took these people to task for not coming to the aid of those who jumped off the train. Back


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Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
Emerita Yizkor Book Project Manager, Joyce Field
Contact person for this translation Marc Seidenfeld
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Updated 5 May 2006 by LA