The following piece on Demblin was submitted by Adam Luxemburg as an addition to the Demblin-Modzjitz Memorial Book
Demblin (Demblin-Irena) is located in central Poland, 90 kilometers south-east of Warsaw, at the northern side of the inflow of Wieprz, a tributary river of Wisla, district Lublin. Until the Russian occupation of Poland 1795, Demblin was called Modrzyce. In 1842 the Russians started to build three defense fortifications in Demblin of which the largest was named Ivangorod. The two smaller fortresses were Stavy and Balony. In 1846 the Russian governor Paszkiewicz took up residence in Ivangorod. He called the settlement for the civilian population Irena, after his wife's first name.
Among Jews, both within and outside Poland, the name Modrzyce was the most well known on account of the rabbi-family Taub, which ruled over religious life in the Jewish society. Followers of the rabbi from Modrzyce (Demblin), Modrzycer Chasidim, are today living in Israel, the USA, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and other countries. Modrzycer melodies, composed by Rabbi Israel ben Samuel Elija Taub are still popular among all Jews. (See Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume 12, page 207).
Jews were residing in Demblin and adjacent villages since the middle of the 18th century. The Jews in Demblin numbered 550 in 1850. In connection with the construction of the fortification Ivangorod, the number of Jews grew to around 2,000. They were engaged as carpenters, joiners, tinsmith, painters, tailors, shoemakers, saddlers and suppliers to the fortification Ivangorod.
Israel Aron Bantman became president (Prezes) for the Jewish Community after the First World War, 1918. After his death 1928, Shmuel Nachum Luxemburg was elected president by the majority, General Zionists. The Jewish Community numbered 3,300 in 1928. Their social and cultural life was flourishing. The Zionist organizations became more active thanks to support from the Jewish Community. A greater part of the youth belonged to Shomer Haleumi, Shomer Hatzair and Betar. Several young people left Demblin for Eretz Israel after having passed the education hachshera. The president for the Jewish Community, Shmuel Nachum Luxemburg, personally gave financial support to youngsters wanting to make aliyah and secured additional support from the Community. He cooperated with PALAMT in order to obtain certificates for the youths of Demblin.
The Jews in Demblin had their own bank, Linat-Hatzedek, crafts association and a Jewish theatre. The first number of a weekly Jewish newspaper, "Der Obserwator" was issued March 27, 1929. The newspaper existed until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Demblin was a very important strategically military center for Poland. Many Jews served in the 15th infantry regiment and the 28th artillery regiment. The Jewish Community invited the Jewish soldiers for holidays, especially for Pesach.
In 1926 the biggest airport in Poland was built in Demblin. The center for training of fighter pilots was located there. Jews were not admitted to the air force units. Jews were also denied employment at the State railway station and its workshops. In 1936 the Poles began to openly show their anti-Jewish attitude. Pickets were placed at Jewish shops with bills, "Nie kupoj u Zyda" (do not buy from the Jews). Some prominent Jews were sent, without trial and judgment, to the Polish concentration camp Kartusa-Bereska. Jewish suppliers were not allowed to deliver goods to military and public institutions. The Polish anti-Semitism did not decrease in power even under the threat of war from Nazi-Germany.
The Germans started to bomb Demblin with large numbers of attacking aircraft September 2, 1939 at 11 AM. The bombing went on till sunset. The civilian population fled, during the evening and night, to the nearby village Ryki where no military objects were located. In spite of this, the Germans bombed Ryki. More than 500 Jews from Demblin and 180 Jews from Ryki fell victims to the bombing. Demblin was occupied September 15, 1939. The civilian population started to return to their homes in Demblin. In the beginning of October German soldiers burnt down the synagogue and threw 12 Jews into the synagogue to be burnt alive. In the end of December 1939 the Germans drove out all the Jews from the nearby town Pulawy (Yiddish:Pylyw) to Opole Lubelskie. 160 Jews, men, women and children, set out for Demblin. The Germans did not let the group pass the bridge over the river Wieprz. All froze to death.
Shmuel Nachum Luxemburg refused to become president for Judenrat. Instead, the following persons, none of them born in Demblin, were presidents periodically for Judenrat until the final liquidation of the Jews of Demblin: Lejzor Tajchman, Salman Orlovski, Dr. Calman Fries, Shimon Dratfish and Israel Wajnberg. In October 1940 the Jews were driven off the main streets and placed in ghetto. All Jews from adjacent villages like Stenzyce, Ghiewoszow, Konska Wola and Ryczyce Bobroniki were placed in the ghetto of Demblin.
People lived very cramped and under poor sanitary conditions. This, combined with undernourishment led to the outbreak of typhus fever claiming many victims. Despite poor conditions, the Germans forced the Jews to hard labor. Often Jewish workers were beaten to death or badly assaulted. In September 1941, 2,300 young strong Jews, originating from Vienna, were brought from Opole Lubelskie to Demblin's ghetto. Half of them got typhus and died, the remaining were placed in a work camp built by Bauleitung der Luftwaffe. The camp was situated next to the railway tracks to Lublin, Radom and Warsaw, 100 meters from fortress Balony, 200 meters from the river Wieprz and 150 meters from the airport.
The number of Jews in ghetto was constantly kept to above 12,000. A transport of 2,500 Jews, men women and children from Demblin-ghetto to death camp in Sobibor took place May 6, 1942. The Germans were assisted by the 1st company belonging to Luftwaffe and the 1st infantry company from the 283rd Bavarian regiment. Soon thereafter more than 2,000 Jews arrived to the ghetto from Pressburg (Presov), Czechoslovakia. Of them, about 150 youth were placed at Bauleitung der Luftwaffe. The rest died from hunger, diseases or were shot by the Germans and Polish police. 3,250 Jews were transported to Treblinka September 15, 1942. In October 1942 no Jews were left in Demblin-Irena. In connection with the transports, hundreds of men, women and children were murdered by the Germans and their collaborators. They were buried in mass graves in Bobrowniki.
From January 1941 to July 18, 1944 the following persons were liable for the fate of the Jews in Demblin: Landeskommissar Hans Lenk, Polizeikommandant Franz Filippi and gendarmes Karl Petersson, Rudolf Knapeider, Edek Majewski, Kirsch, Abel, Pusch, Klasen, Jaworny and Puzio. Polish police: Commandant Czeslaw Grabarczyk and police men Madej, Wrobel, Laskowski, Migdalski, Teleszkiewicz, Rybicki, Wojcik, Zajac and Bielecki. In addition, the Polish fire brigade assisted at the deportation of the Jewish population.
The above-mentioned German gendarmes and Polish policemen also actively took part in the murder of 140,000 Russian prisoners of war, buried in the fosse of the fortification (Stalag 307). Today, a memorial plaque marks the location. 25,000 Italian prisoners of war, mostly officers, were confined in the fortress Balony without food and water. All of them died and were buried at the site (Oflag 77). The event took place when Marshal Badoglio surrendered to the Allied forces in September 1943. A memorial plaque marks the burial site.
The labor camp, Bauleitung der Luftwaffe, was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, which was easy to force. 1,200 Jews were held at the camp. The camp was poorly guarded since the Germans knew that the Poles would kill every Jew found in freedom. In spite of this, 12 youths escaped April 12, 1944 to the surrounding forests. The youths dismantled six machine-guns from the German Foker-Wulf planes and took some hand grenades. In the village Podlodow all 12 were murdered by A. K. (the Polish underground army). In the beginning of July 1944, two groups of Slovakian youths set out for their homes. They reached Golomb, 12 kilometers from the camp, where they were murdered by A.K.
The biggest slaughter of Jews in Poland since the beginning of the 1920s took place July 20, 1944. It was committed by the Poles after the German's retreat. The German Wehrmacht evacuated Demblin July 18, 1944 and left an Oberstabsfeldwebel and five soldiers to guard the transport of the labor camp prisoners to the factories Hasag-Warta in Czenstowchowa. Demblin was no man's land for almost two days. The Jews were unaware of this but the Poles and A.K. knew that the Germans had left.
July 20 at 5 AM the 1,200 camp prisoners were loaded onto open railway cars. The guard was non-existent. A few hundred prisoners tried to escape to the river Wieprz in order to meet the approaching Red Army. Poles from adjacent villages and members of A.K. waited for the escaping Jews on both sides of the river. 64 young Jews were murdered and the bodies thrown into the Wieprz. 6 Jews managed to escape and survived. The camp commandant Bartenschlager at Hasag-Warta counted the number of prisoners at their arrival. 70 Jews were missing, confirming that the Poles killed 64 Jews. After liberation the survivors from the camp in Hasag-Warta met the 6 persons who had escaped. 82 Jews out of the 1,200 prisoners returned from the camp. The rest of the prisoners from the camp had been transported to different concentration camps.
Camp commandants for Bauleitung der Luftwaffe were periodically: Kattinger, Dosi, Braun and Rademacher. Jewish assistants to the guard were almost all from Austria. Herman Wenkart was vice commandant. He survived together with his wife, a very old mother-in-law and a 4-year old daughter. Commandant for the Jewish police was Kurt Engel.
Czenstochowa and the camp Hasag-Warta were liberated January 16, 1945. 82 Jews returned to Demblin-Irena. From the end of January until the middle of March, the Poles murdered 9 Jews, among them almost all of the survivors of Shmuel Nachum Luxemburg's family - the president of the Jewish community before the war. All Jews left Demblin during the summer 1945. Today, no Jews are living in Demblin-Irena.
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