Portrait of a Jewish man in the Bedzin ghetto.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 05137
- Bedzin, [Zaglebie; Katowice] Poland
- Variant Locale
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Morris Rosen
Portrait of a Jewish man in the Bedzin ghetto.
- 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.
- Morris Rosen (born Moniek Rozen) is the son of Jakub Rozen and his second wife, Golda Chaja Warszawska. He was born October 11, 1922 in Dabrowa Gornicza, where his father worked as the official distributor of two state-controlled commodities, tobacco and acetylene. Moniek had two siblings: Josek (b. 1924) and Bluma (b. 1926), and eight half-brothers and sisters from his father's first marriage to Pola Frochwajg (who died in 1919): Leosia (b. 1898), Yehiel (b. 1900), Yitzhak (b. 1902), Rubin (b. 1905), Rozka (b. 1913), Israel (b. 1914), Ruchcia (b. 1912), Sala (b. 1917) and Tamara (b. 1918). After the Germans occupied Poland, the Rozens remained in Dabrowa. In August 1942 Moniek's parents were deported to their death in Auschwitz. At the time of their deportation Moniek and two of his brothers, Srulek and Josek, were at the Mittelstrasse labor camp in Dabrowa. In October 1942 Moniek was transferred to the Szczakowa [perhaps Szczepankowo] labor camp, where he worked in a leather workshop. A year later he was moved to the Annaberg labor camp and then to Gruenberg, where he worked in a textile factory. While in Gruenberg, Moniek was temporarily reunited with his sister Bluma. He remained there until April 1944, when he was transferred to the Kretschamberg labor camp. When this camp was evacuated in February 1945, Moniek was sent on a forced march to Buchenwald that lasted six weeks. Soon after his arrival, Moniek was transferred to Theresienstadt, where he was liberated by the Soviets on May 6, 1945. Moniek's brother-in-law, Szabtai Klugman, discovered him in Theresienstadt, and together they went in search of surviving relatives. Szabtai's wife (Moniek's older sister) Leosia was killed on a death march just days before liberation. In the course of their search, they encountered a group of young women from Dabrowa, who had barely survived a death march from the Helmbrechts factory camp in Muenchberg, Germany to the town of Volary in Bohemia. After locating his surviving siblings, Moniek went to live at the New Palestine displaced persons camp near Salzburg, Austria. He immigrated to the United States in September 1949 and settled in Baltimore. Of the eleven Rozen children, five perished during the war. Of the six who survived, one moved to America before the war, one fled to the Soviet Union, and the other four lived through ghettos, labor camps, concentration camps, and death marches.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Morris Rosen
Record last modified: 1998-04-14 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa31242