Będzin Ghetto

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The Będzin Ghetto
Ghetto in Będzin
Będzin Ghetto in the Holocaust, Modrzejowska Street, 1942
Red pog.svg
Będzin location during the Holocaust in Poland
LocationBędzin, German-occupied Poland
Incident typeImprisonment, forced labor, starvation
Victims30,000 Polish Jews

The Będzin Ghetto (a.k.a. the Bendzin Ghetto, Yiddish: בענדינער געטאָ, Bendiner geto; German: Ghetto von Bendsburg) was a World War II ghetto set up by Nazi Germany for the Polish Jews in the town of Będzin in occupied south-western Poland. The formation of the 'Jewish Quarter' was pronounced by the German authorities in July 1940.[1] Over 20,000 local Jews from Będzin, along with additional 10,000 Jews expelled from neighbouring communities, were forced to subsist there until the end of the ghetto history during the Holocaust. Most of the able-bodied poor were forced to work in German military factories before being transported aboard Holocaust trains to the nearby concentration camp at Auschwitz where they were exterminated. The last major deportation of the ghetto inmates by the German SS – men, women and children – between 1 and 3 August 1943 was marked by the ghetto uprising by members of the Jewish Combat Organization.

The Będzin Ghetto formed a single administrative unit with the Sosnowiec Ghetto in the bordering Środula district of Sosnowiec,[2] because both cities are a part of the same metropolitan area in the Dąbrowa Basin. The Jews from both ghettos shared the "Farma" vegetable garden allocated to Zionist youth by the Judenrat.[3]

Fridrich Kuczynski a member of the Organization Schmelt,[4] sentenced to death for being responsible of 100,000 Jewish victims.[5]


Before the 1939 invasion of Poland at the onset of World War II, Będzin had a vibrant Jewish community.[6] According to the Polish census of 1921, the town's Jewish population consisted of 17,298 people, or 62.1 percent of its total population.[1][6] By 1938, the number of Jews had increased to about 22,500.[6]

During the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland, the German military overran the area in early September 1939. The army was followed by mobile death squads of the Einsatzgruppen, and the persecution of the Jews began immediately. On 7 September the first draconian economic sanctions were imposed.[6] A day later, on 8 September, the Będzin Synagogue was burned.[6] On 9 September 1939 the first mass murder of local Jews took place with 40 prominent individuals executed.[1]

A month later, on 8 October 1939, Hitler declared that Będzin would become part of the Polish territories annexed by Germany.[7] The Order Police battalions began to deport Jewish families from all neighbouring communities of the Zagłębie Dąbrowskie region into Będzin. Among them were the Jews of Bohumin, Kielce and Oświęcim (Auschwitz).[6] Overall, about 30,000 Jews would live in Będzin during World War II.[6] By late 1942, Będzin and the nearby Sosnowiec bordering Będzin (see Sosnowiec Ghetto), became the only two cities in the Zagłębie Dąbrowskie region that were inhabited by the Jews.[8]

The ghetto[edit]

From October 1940 to May 1942, about 4,000 Jewish people were deported from Będzin to slave labour in the rapidly growing number of camps.[6] Until October 1942 the internal boundaries of the ghetto remained unmarked. No fence was built. The area was defined by neighbourhoods of Kamionka and Mała Środula bordering the Sosnowiec Ghetto, with the Jewish police placed by the SS along the perimeter.[9] As was the case in other ghettos across occupied Poland, German authorities exterminated most of the Jews of Będzin during the murderous Operation Reinhard, deporting them to Nazi death camps, primarily to nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau for gassing. During this time, the leaders of the Jewish community in Zagłebie including Moshe Merin (Mojżesz Merin, in Polish) cooperated with the Germans in the hope that the survival of the Jews might be tied to their forced labour exploitation. It was a false assumption.[8]

Major deportation actions, commanded by SS-Standartenführer Alexander von Woedtke,[10] took place in 1942 with 2,000 Jews sent to be murdered in Auschwitz in May and 5,000 Jews in August.[6] Another 5,000 jews of the ghettos were deported from Będzin aboard Holocaust trains between August 1942 and June 1943.[6] The last major deportations took place in 1943 whereas 5,000 Jews were sent away on 22 June 1943 and 8,000 around 1–3 August 1943.[6] About 1,000 remaining Jews were deported in the subsequent months. It is estimated that of the 30,000 inhabitants of the ghetto, only 2,000 survivors remained.[6]


Frumka Płotnicka who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising at age 29, led the uprising in the Będzin Ghetto during Operation Reinhard

During the final deportation action of early August 1943, the Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB) in Będzin staged an uprising against the Germans (as in nearby Sosnowiec).[8] Already in 1941 a local chapter of ŻOB was created in Będzin,[8] on the advice of Mordechai Anielewicz.[9] Weapons were obtained from the Jewish underground in Warsaw. Pistols and hand-grenades were smuggled in perilous train rides. Edzia Pejsachson was caught and tortured to death. Using patterns supplied by the headquarters the Molotov cocktails were being manufactured. The bombs that the Jews produced – according to surviving testimonies – were comparable with those of the Nazis. Several bunkers were dug out within the ghetto boundary to produce and hide these weapons. The attitude of the Judenrat in Będzin to the resistance was negative from the start, but it changed during the ghetto liquidation.[11]

The revolt was an ultimate act of defiance of the ghetto insurgents who fought in the neighbourhoods of Kamionka and Środula. A group of partisans barricaded themselves in the bunker at Podsiadły Street along with their female leader, Frumka Płotnicka, age 29,[10] who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising several weeks earlier.[12] All of them were killed by the German forces once they ran out of bullets, but the fighting, which began on 3 August 1943, lasted for several days.[9] Most of the remaining Jews perished soon thereafter, when the ghetto was liquidated,[6][8] although the deportations had to be extended from a few days to two weeks and the SS from Auschwitz (45 km distance) was summoned to assist.[10] Posthumously, Frumka Płotnicka received the Order of the Cross of Grunwald from the Polish Committee of National Liberation on 19 April 1945.[12]

Rescue attempts[edit]

The Christian efforts to rescue Jews from the Nazi persecution began immediately during the German invasion. When on 8 September 1939 the Synagogue was set on fire by the SS with a crowd of Jewish worshippers inside, the Catholic priest, Father Mieczysław Zawadzki (pl), opened the gates of his church at Góra Zamkowa for all runaways seeking refuge. It is not known how many Jews he saved inside until the danger subsided; likely more than one hundred.[8] Father Zawadzki was awarded the title of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations posthumously in 2007. He died in 1975 in Będzin.[13]

While the Synagogue burned, other houses caught fire as well. Many escaping Jews saved by Father Zawadzki were also wounded and required medical help. They were rescued by Dr. Tadeusz Kosibowicz, director of the state hospital in Będzin, aided by Dr. Ryszard Nyc and Sister Rufina Świrska. The critically injured Jews were taken by them to the hospital under false names. Other Jews hid at the hospital also by being given instant employment. However, Director Kosibowicz was denounced by one of his ethnically German patients and arrested by the Gestapo on 8 May 1940. All three rescuers were sentenced to death, soon commuted to camp imprisonment. Dr Kosibowicz was in KZ Dachau, KL Sachsenhausen, in Majdanek (KL Lublin) as well as in KL Gross-Rosen. He worked as prisoner medic and survived. Kosibowicz returned to Będzin after liberation and resumed his position of the hospital director. He died on 6 July 1971; and was awarded the title of Righteous posthumously in 2006 by the State of Israel.[14]

Hundreds of Polish Jews remained in hiding when the Auschwitz deportations ended in August 1943.[15] The survivors were smuggled out of the bunkers in small groups by ŻOB members: Fela Kac, Schmuel Ron and Kasia Szancer. Polish rescuers who picked them up on the 'Aryan' side of the city included Roman Kołodziej, killed for saving Jews on 2 January 1944, and Zofia Klemens arrested by Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp; Klemens survived. She was awarded the title of the Righteous in 1964.[15][16] The Kobylec family rescued over seventy Jews; they received Righteous medals twenty years later.[15]

Escape attempts took place during the ghetto liquidation actions. Cela Kleinmann and her brother Icchak escaped from the Holocaust train in 1943 thanks to a loose plank in the roof. They were rescued by the family of Stanisław Grzybowski, with whom their father had worked in a coal mine. However, Cela was caught while looking for "Aryan" ID paper and murdered. After that, Grzybowski brought Icchak to his own daughter Wanda and her husband Kazimierz in 1944. Wanda and Kazimierz Kafarski were awarded recognition as the Righteous in 2004, long after Stanisław Grzybowski died of old age.[17]


There are several diaries from survivors and hundreds of written correspondences made to relations from those in the ghetto at the time.[6] Photos of many of the ghetto's deportees to Auschwitz were preserved. A collection of over 2,000 photographs was discovered in October, 1986, including many images of life in Będzin and the ghetto. Some of them have been published in a book[18] or in a video.[19] The Eyes from the Ashes Foundation administers the collection.

In 2004, Będzin City Council decided to dedicate the city square to the heroes of the Jewish ghetto uprising in Będzin.[20] In August 2005 new memorial was unveiled at the site of the Będzin Ghetto.[21]

People of the Będzin Ghetto[edit]

Ghetto Partisans:

  • Zvi Brandes (1917-1943), Hashomer Hatzair, commander Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB)
  • Baruch Gaftek (1913-1943), Dror – Halutz Underground, commander Jewish resistance
  • Shlomo Lerner (d. 1943), founder Halutz underground Zaglembia, commander Jewish Fighteing Organizations, ZOB
  • David Liver, ghetto underground
  • Frumka Plotnitzka (1914-1943), leader underground resistance
  • E zriel (“Yozek”) Koszok, leader underground resistance
  • Mordecai Anielewicz, Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), Bedzin, Warsaw
  • Marcus Pohorila (1912-1943)
  • Herschel Springer, leader, underground
  • Rebecca Granz (1915-1943), also Czenstochow and Warsaw Ghetto
  • Israel Kozhuch (1922-1943)


Hirsh Barenblat

Hirsch Barenblat, the conductor of the Israel National Opera, was first tried in 1964 for having turned Jews over to the Nazis as head of the Jewish police in the Bendzin ghetto, Poland.[23] Having arrived in Israel in 1958-9, Barenblat was arrested after a ghetto survivor recognised him while he was conducting an opera. Found guilty of helping the Nazis by ensuring that Jews selected for the death camps did not escape, Barenblat was sentenced to five years in prison. On May 1, 1964, having served three months of the sentence, Barenblat was absolved of the charge, freed and Israel’s Supreme Court quashed his conviction.[24]


  1. ^ a b c (in Polish) Będzin in the Jewish Historical Institute community database. Internet Archive.
  2. ^ Dawid Fischer. "The Ghetto of Sosnowiec (Srodula)". Holocaust Testimonies. PolishJews.org. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Jewish youth at the "Farma" collective". Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on December 10, 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via Internet Archive. The "Farma" was a plot of land between Bedzin and Sosnowiec that was allocated to the local Zionist youth movements by the Jewish Council for the growing of vegetables.
  4. ^ Będzin, The Encyclopedia of the Ghettos, Yad Vashem
  5. ^ "Major War Criminal Responsible for Murder of 100,000 Police Jews Gets Death Sentence". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2023-02-26., "Major War Criminal Gets Death Sentence". The Detroit Jewish News Digital Archives. September 10, 1948. Retrieved 2023-02-26.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Maciej & Ewa Szaniawscy. "Zagłada Żydów w Będzinie w świetle relacji" [The extermination of the Jews of Będzin in survivor testimonies]. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Katarzyna Kalisz, ”Będzin - Jerozolima Zagłębia" Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c d e f Aleksandra Namysło, Stanisław Bubin (28 July 2006), Rozmowa z dr Aleksandrą Namysło, historykiem z Oddziału Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej w Katowicach, Dziennik Zachodni via Internet Archive (in Polish).
  9. ^ a b c Cyryl Skibiński (August 23, 2013). "The Bedzin Ghetto. We remember". The Jewish Historical Institute. Sponsored by The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Archived from the original on 2020-07-26. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Michael Fleming (2014). Auschwitz, the Allies and Censorship of the Holocaust. Cambridge University Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-1107062795.
  11. ^ Aharon Brandes (1959) [1945]. "The demise of the Jews in Western Poland". In the Bunkers. A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Będzin (in Hebrew and Yiddish). Translated by Lance Ackerfeld. pp. 364–365 – via Jewishgen.org.
  12. ^ a b Martyna Sypniewska, Adam Marczewski, Zofia Sochańska, Adam Dylewski (ed.). "Jewish history of Będzin". Virtual Shtetl. page 9 of 10. Retrieved 18 January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  13. ^ Paulina Berczyńska (September 2013). "Mieczysław Zawadzki. Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata - tytuł przyznany: 2007". Historia pomocy. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Archived from the original on 2016-06-20. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  14. ^ Dr. Maria Ciesielska & Klara Jackl (ed.) (August 2014). "Dr. Tadeusz Kosibowicz. Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata - tytuł przyznany: 20 marca 2006". Historia pomocy. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Archived from the original on 2016-07-16. Retrieved 2016-01-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  15. ^ a b c Aleksandra Namysło (March 2009). "Nie znoszę, kiedy krzywdzą niewinnych ludzi" ["I hate it, when they hurt innocent people!" Quote] (PDF). Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej. IPN Katowice. Nr 3 (98). pp. 52-54 / 120 in PDF. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-07-28. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  16. ^ "Klemens Zofia | Polscy Sprawiedliwi". sprawiedliwi.org.pl. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  17. ^ Jakub Beczek (May 2012). "Rodzina Kafarskich: Wanda Kafarska, Kazimierz Kafarski. Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata - tytuł przyznany: 2004". Historia pomocy. Archived from the original on 2016-06-19. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  18. ^ Weiss, Ann (2005). The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. pp. 32–37. ISBN 0-393-01670-6.
  19. ^ "The Last Album". The Last Album. 2012-02-17. Archived from the original on 2012-04-21. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  20. ^ "Aktualności Urzędu". Katowice.uw.gov.pl. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  21. ^ "III Dni Kultury Żydowskiej w Będzinie 22.08.2005 - Aktualności - Miasto dziś - Będzin - Wirtualny Sztetl". Sztetl.org.pl. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  22. ^ "Organizations". www.jewishholocaustrescuers.com. Retrieved 2023-02-27.
  23. ^ Portnoy, Eddy (5 February 2014). "Conductor of Israel National Opera Guilty of Nazi Collaboration". Forward.com. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  24. ^ "ISRAELI ABSOLVED OF HELP TO NAZIS; Court Reverses Conviction of Ex‐Polish Gestapo Aide". The New York Times. New York Times. 2 May 1964. Retrieved 28 October 2019.

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