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Nazi German Occupation

From the end of 1939 the German occupiers ordered that a council of "Jewish elders" was to be established in each community and that it was to be fully responsible for the execution of German orders. According to Dawid’s diary Dawid’s father and other adults elected such a council on 5 August 1940. The Judenrat and the Jewish Police were forced, often under pain of death, to follow the directives of the Nazis and their ever-increasing demands. They had little choice but to act. In normal circumstances, elders were indeed often heads of the Jewish communal organization. However, in Bodzentyn at this time the elderly community leaders, Nus’n Szachter and Icek Szafir, were perceived as being unable to cope with the Germans.

The town elders of Bodzentyn deemed it wise to select a younger man. The committee saw fit to place its trust in Froyim Szachter. Initially, he sought to mitigate German demands for valuables, and to lessen the horror of labor roundups, but in the end he found it impossible to cope with the situation. Szachter was arrested and taken to the Gestapo in Kielce for questioning. Various attempts to pay a ransom for his release failed. He was eventually transferred to Auschwitz where he perished.

German troops in Poland encountering a Jewish man on the street.
© Bodzentyn.net, courtesy of Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Photo 101I-320-0939-15.

Young Dawid begins to sense the escalating danger, but not so much in 1940 and not so much perhaps in Krajno. Henry Krystal, who had come to lodge with his maternal grandparents in Bodzentyn a few months after the outbreak of war remarks that "things were not yet tightened up in the small towns and villages, but it was getting there". On 24 March 1941 Dawid writes: "... we hardly ever see any soldiers in our part of the neighborhood."

Learning about the killing of "another victim" on 13 December 1941 Dawid says "nothing like that had ever happened". This description of events is confirmed by Michael Zelon, a refugee from Płock: "At that time the [whole] situation changed, they were stricter with us: the Germans came in every few days with some Germans inspecting [making searches] and confiscating things."

Bodzentyn had fallen within the jurisdiction of a Gendarmerie post under the command of a man named Dumker, also referred to as Dunkier. He arrested various members of the intelligentsia — both Jews and non-Jews — who were never seen again. Sporadically, he also shot Jews wherever he felt like it.

In her memoirs Goldie Szachter recalls the terror that Dumker incited from the very beginning to the end of the days of the ghetto period. Whenever Dumker was in town he left pools of blood. He was seemingly obsessed with the killing of Jews, "especially the religious [ones] who wore side curls," Rachel Saphir-Einesman recalls. Henry Krystal accounts: "... they started increasingly to kill people and sometimes at random, sometimes at the flimsiest excuse, like if you were running […] they started beating you and they would just do it until they killed you."

Still residing in Krajno in on 12 December 1941, Dawid starts receiving alarming news about the terror of the Germans, and reveals his escalating fear of coming face to face with them. He writes: "... they met a Jew who was going out of the town, and they immediately shot him for no reason, then they drove on and shot a Jewess, again for no reason […] All the way home I was frightened I might run across them ..." From this time on Dawid's reports on such killings and shootings intensifies. There is "another victim", "two more victims", "five Jews killed for hiding furs". Indeed days and weeks pass full of fear and terror and Dawid’s life is fraught with fear from the endless atrocities.

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