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A young woman sits in a field of grass in the Dabrowa Gornicza ghetto.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 61172

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    A young woman sits in a field of grass in the Dabrowa Gornicza ghetto.
    A young woman sits in a field of grass in the Dabrowa Gornicza ghetto.

Pictured is Fela Szeps.


    A young woman sits in a field of grass in the Dabrowa Gornicza ghetto.

    Pictured is Fela Szeps.
    June 1941 - August 1941
    Dabrowa Gornicza, [Zaglebie; Katowice] Poland
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Moshe Sheps & Bat-Szewa Sheps Admoni
    Event History
    Bedzin, Sosnowiec, and Dabrowa Gornicza are three neighboring towns located in the Zaglebie district in southwest Poland. On the eve of World War II, Bedzin and Sosnowiec supported Jewish communities of approximately 28,000 each, while Dabrowa had 5,000. The Germans occupied the towns on September 4, 1939. Five days later they set fire to the Great Synagogue in Bedzin. The flames quickly spread and engulfed fifty adjacent houses. Physical attacks were accompanied by repressive economic legislation which forced the Jewish population to relinquish their businesses and personal property. In the first days of the occupation, separate Jewish Councils were appointed in Bedzin and Sosnowiec, but early in 1940 the Bedzin council was subordinated to the Zentrale der Juedischen Aeltestenraete (Central Office of the Jewish Councils of Elders in Upper Silesia), established in Sosnowiec and headed by the increasingly autocratic Moshe Merin. This council represented some forty-five communities in the area and operated its own Jewish police force.
    During 1940-41 the situation in Bedzin, Sosnowiec and Dabrowa was considered somewhat better than elsewhere in occupied Poland. There, the Jews resided in open ghettos and their lives retained a semblance of normalcy. As a result, thousands of Jews from central Poland sought refuge there. In addition to this influx, several thousand Jews from the district were forcibly resettled in Bedzin and Sosnowiec at this time, among them the Jews from Oswiecim, who arrived in the spring of 1941 prior to the opening of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Sosnowiec Jewish Council was responsible for drawing up lists of local Jews to be sent to forced labor camps in Germany and Eastern Upper Silesia established under the Organisation Schmelt program. Jews selected for forced labor had to report to the local transit camp, known as the "Dulag." Failure to comply resulted in their arrest and the withdrawal of their family's ration cards. Transports to labor camps began in 1940 but were greatly expanded in the spring of 1941, after Himmler decided to use labor from the Organisation Schmelt camps for constructing large factories to support German war production. The Jewish Council was also involved in establishing German-owned workshops which employed Jews. The largest of these was the Rosner Fabrik, a network of workshops which produced military uniforms and other goods and services for the German army. From a workshop employing a few dozen people, it grew into a factory complex with three thousand workers. Those fortunate enough to get positions in these enterprises were exempt (for the time being) from deportation to labor camps. Unlike the typical German overseer, Rosner treated his employees with respect and fought to protect them. He even warned them of impending actions. The Rosner Fabrik remained in operation until Rosner's arrest and execution in January 1944. When the schools were closed the local Zionist youth organizations took over the task of instructing the children. They also engaged in agricultural training on small plots on the outskirts of town. In Bedzin the local Zionist youth were allocated a hundred acre plot which was known as the "Farma" and became a focus of youth activity. The first round of deportations to death camps occurred in May 1942, when 1500 Jews were sent to Auschwitz. The following month another 2,000 were deported. Then, on August 12, all the remaining Jews in the three towns were ordered to report to the soccer field in Sosnowiec, ostensibly to have their papers revalidated. Instead, a large selection ensued resulting in the deportation of 8,000 to Auschwitz. The youth movements under the leadership of Hashomer Hatzair activist Zvi Dunski, conducted a campaign urging their fellow Jews not to report for the deportations. They also began to organize underground resistance units. The "Farma" became the headquarters of the Jewish underground and was the site of clandestine meetings with Mordechai Anielewicz, Arie Wilner and other leaders of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto. The underground concentrated its efforts on acquiring weapons and constructing bunkers in preparation for a revolt. But opinions were divided between those who favored resistance in the ghetto and those who stressed the search for escape routes out of the ghetto. In the spring of 1943, the remaining Jews in Bedzin were confined to a ghetto set up in Kamionka, while those remaining in Dabrowa and Sosnowiec were concentrated in Srodula. The two sites bordered on one another and operated as a single ghetto. On August 1, 1943 the final liquidation of the ghetto began. Zionist youth offered armed resistance in several bunkers which hampered the Germans and forced them to spend almost two weeks clearing the ghetto. Some one thousand Jews remained after the liquidation. Most were settled in the Sosnowiec labor camp, established on the site of the Srodula ghetto. These Jews labored in workshops as tailors, cobblers and carpenters. The camp was finally liquidated on January 13, 1944 and its prisoners sent to Auschwitz.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Moshe Sheps & Bat-Szewa Sheps Admoni
    Source Record ID: Collections: 1999.258

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Moniek Szeps (now Moshe Sheps) is the son of Abraham and Chava (Wohlhandler) Szeps. He was born January 6, 1923 in Dabrowa Gornicza, Poland, where his father was a cigarette manufacturer and his mother, a wigmaker. Moniek had two sisters: Fela (b. 1918) and Sabina (now Bat-Sheva Admoni, b. 1921). Moniek attended a cheder (a religious primary school for boys) and later, the Yavneh Hebrew elementary school in nearby Bedzin. At age eleven, he joined the Hashomer Hadati religious Zionist youth movement and participated in meetings and summer camps organized by the Mizrachi movement. He attended high school at the Fuerstenberg gymnasium, a private, co-educational Hebrew language school in Bedzin. Soon after the German invasion in September 1939, the Szeps family was forced to move to an area of town that was to become the ghetto. Moniek went to work at the local city hall and was given a special work permit that exempted him from resettlement. Going to work everyday outside the ghetto afforded him the opportunity to purchase tobacco for his father's cigarette making workshop and food items for the family. Moniek's sisters both found work at the Rosner factory, which produced military uniforms. On February 7, 1942 both girls were deported to the Gruenberg labor camp. There they worked for the Deutsche Wollwaren [German Woolens] company until April 1945. During their years in the camp they kept a diary, which they wrote on scraps of paper and kept in a cloth pouch. In the final months of the war Fela and Sabina were evacuated and put on a death march that led first to the Helmbrechts concentration camp and ultimately ended in Volary, Czechoslovakia. Fela died in Volary on May 9, 1945, a few days after their liberation. Sabina survived. Five months after the sisters were sent to the Gruenberg camp, the Dabrowa Gornicza ghetto was liquidated and Moniek's parents were deported to their death in Auschwitz. Moniek, who was 19 years old at the time, took it upon himself to send letters and food packages to his sisters in Gruenberg, despite regulations which forbade him to do so. In March 1943 while Moniek was preparing to escape from Dabrowa, he was arrested and interned in the Dulag, the transit camp located in neighboring Sosnowiec. From there he was sent to the Blechhammer labor camp. Subsequently, he was transferred to Bunzlau, a subcamp of Gross Rosen, where he was put to work for the Hubert Land Holzbau [wood construction] company. Moniek remained in Bunzlau until the camp was evacuated in February 1945. He was then taken to the Dora Mittelbau concentration camp. He was finally liberated in Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945. Throughout his imprisonment, Moniek kept a few family photographs concealed on his body. While he was convalescing from typhus in a British field hospital after the war, his friend, Motek Nussbaum, took care of his photographs. Moniek and Sabina were reunited at a displaced persons camp in Salzburg. Moniek later joined in the establishment of a kibbutz hachshara [Zionist collective] on an estate in Geringshof, Germany near Fulda. It was named Kibbutz Buchenwald, and there Moniek studied agriculture in preparation for immigration to Palestine. Subsequently Moniek, and his future wife, Zahava Zilberstein, boarded an illegal immigrant ship for Palestine. The ship was intercepted by the British and its passengers sent to detention camps in Cyprus. Eventually the Szeps reached Palestine. Sabina also immigrated to Palestine. She married Oskar Rotman (later Yehoshua Admoni) from Stanislawow.
    Record last modified:
    2004-07-02 00:00:00
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