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Slave Labor

In the beginning of the occupation, mainly men were singled out to perform forced labor. Shlomo Fish recalls: "We were forced to do different kind of jobs. Sometimes we got home in the evening. We were to clean, collect wood […] At one time I was taken to Słupia Nowa [Nowa Słupia] for months in a row […] and sometime later to a stone quarry." There were instances when men were taken away; nobody knew to where, Irene Szachter recalls. Rachel Saphir-Einesman remembers that slave laborers were also taken to Bieliny and that they never returned from there.

Jewish slave laborers transported on a truck in Nazi German occupied Poland.
© Bodzentyn.net, courtesy of Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Photo 101I-380-0069-34.

Nathan Smiga describes that the Germans used to come and take the men to work in trucks. There was a call for workers in the synagogue where Nathan was staying with other Jews from Płock who had not been assigned a place elsewhere to stay: "The committee from that town came in: 'We need a hundred men for today.' We had no choice, we went. There was a Jewish police already; they would take you down to the places, wherever you would have to go. They were very responsible; every day you had to go." Nathan Smiga recalls that from time to time it happened that people who had means hired a replacement: "I went for them and I made a few dollars, a few zlotys. With them, you could buy bread." Seizing the opportunity to reunite with his brother, who had been deported elsewhere during the expulsion from Płock, Nathan attempted to escape from Bodzentyn: "[My brother] came and the Jewish police caught us. They put us in the jail, in the mikveh [a bath house used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Orthodox Judaism]. The mikveh was [used for] the jail. We broke a window […] walked out from there and fled, ran away, fleeing on foot to Częstochowa."

On 15 January 1942 Dawid writes from Krajno: "... They chased us out into the snow, but we didn’t know we were supposed to go and shovel snow. We wondered where on earth they might be taking us. My brother, Auntie and I ran off into the village while the militia were still standing outside the shop, but Uncle, Mother and Grandma went away […] Mother had gone without gloves, Grandmother too […] While I was having my dinner I saw the same militiaman who’d been at our place, walking along the street. I ran out into the fields, fleeing because I thought he was coming to fetch us." When the Jews were sent to forced labor, the overseers from time to time were people of their own neighborhood. In Krajno it was the village constable who ordered Dawid and other boys to go and shovel snow on 16 and 19 January, taking them right up the hill where the worst frost and driving snow was. There — weeping from the cold — everyone had to stay until sunset.

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