They are also interested in finding anybody who was present at the burial to learn exactly how the bodies were gathered and buried, and any monuments erected. At this point they would rather remain anonymous, and have asked that all information be gathered via this column. I can be contacted through at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any information will be greatly appreciated.
I recently interviewed a Holocaust survivor who was present as the Russian army entered the town of Czetachowa. The story he told me was compelling but incomplete, and I am now looking for anyone who might be able to fill in the blanks.
The family had gone through the horrors of the early part of the Shoah but were lucky, and at every new selection the men in the family – three brothers and their father – were put into work details. They eventually went to work in the munitions factory in Czestachowa known as the HASAG.
The HASAG factories in Czestochaowa were very large, employing over 5,000 Jewish slave laborers from all of Poland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Bohemia. The Germans deported many of the town’s Jews to be killed in Treblinka. By the end of 1944, there were about 10,000 workers in the HASAG-Pelcery. In December 1944 the HASAG-Pelcery came under direct S.S. control due to the advance of the Russian Army.
On January 15-16, 1945, with the Russians drawing ever closer to Czestochowa, the Germans started to deport the remaining Jews to Buchenwald, where many of them perished. The lines to get on the train were long and many of the Jews had to wait hours to board, all the while listening for the Russians advancing behind them. (Among those deported to Buchenwald were Rabbi Lau of Israel and his brother, Ambassador Naftali Lau Lavi.)
The man I interviewed said that his two brothers and their father were still waiting to get on the train when the Russians approached. During the quick battle that ensued their father was killed and they were forced to run for their lives, leaving him behind. They were given food and medicine by the Russians, and they followed the Russian tanks back to their town, hoping to find other family members or friends.
While in their hometown, they buried the many victims they found and decided to leave Poland. They eventually came to the U.S.
After a number of years, the brothers prospered and eventually went back to Poland. They found four mass graves in the Czestochowa cemetery, and their father was among those believed to be buried in a grave without any names.
It came to their attention that the mass graves had been vandalized, with the massive stone covers broken or removed.
Mass grave in Gzetochowa that had been vandalized
The brothers have decided to rebuild the monuments over the graves and erect a sign over the site telling the story of those interred within. To this end they have met with Rabbi Michael Schudrich to learn the proper procedures regarding any work done in a cemetery.