1 Execution site(s)
Feliks K., born in 1927, recalls: “The ghetto was closed from the beginning. It wasn’t possible to get outside of it. There wasn’t any fence though. It was just guarded by Jewish policemen who wore uniforms. They had black uniforms. They had an armband bearing the Star of David. It was green, if I am not mistaken. They weren’t armed but they had batons. There were also civil Germans who guarded the ghetto. They had guns and didn’t hesitate to shoot.” (Witness n°1052, interviewed in Opatów on June, 6th 2019)
“1/ Date and place of execution: November 24th, 1942
2/ Type of execution: hanging
3/ Data concerning the killed people:
Poles, Jews, foreigners: Poles
How many people: 10
Where were the victims from: from Lublin” [Questionnaire on mass executions and mass graves n°32 (Miejscowocs: Opatów; Gmina: Opatów; Powiat: Czestochowski; Wojewodztwo: Kieleckie)]
Opatów is located 62km east of Kielce. The first records about the Jewish community go back to the 16th century. They had a synagogue, built in 1633, and their own cemetery. During the war the synagogue was destroyed and until today only rubbles remain from the building. In 1676, 200 Jews lived in the town comprising 53% of the total population. By 1788, the community grew up to 2,000 Jews, out of 3,000 population. The majority of them lived off small scale trade and industry, especially in the garment, food and leather –tanning industries. Some Jews were artisans. At the end of the 17th century the Hassidic movement started to grow in Opatów. In 1856 66% of the population was Jewish. In 1921, out of 8,827 people, 5,432 were Jews, making up 62% of the whole population. There were different schools such as Talmud Torah, a Yeshiva, a state public elementary school for Jews and Poles and a Tarbut school. On the eve of WWII around 5,200 Jews remained in the town.
Opatów was first invaded by the Soviet Army. At this period several young Jews managed to flee to the East, on the territories taken over by the Soviets. Germans occupied the town on September 7, 1939. During the first days of the occupation the Jewish houses were destroyed and burned down. About 1,000 citizens, Jews and non-Jews, were rounded-up and held in the theater. While the non-Jews were released immediately, the Jews were subjected to torture and humiliation before being released at their turn. Shortly, after all the Jews were marked with armbands bearing the Star of David and those Jews apt to work were subjected to perform forced labor. According to Feliks K., born in 1927, Jews couldn’t sell freely from the beginning of the occupation. Their shops and other businesses were confiscated by Germans. In the summer of 1940 several hundred Jewish men were sent to the labor camps in the Lublin area.
In April 1941 a ghetto was created in a Jewish area and it numbered around 6,000 people, including the refugees from Vienna and other localities. Starting from October 1941 the ghetto was closed, even though there were no physical barriers, according to the local residents. The ghetto was guarded by Jewish police and Germans. By September 1942 the population in the ghetto reached 7,000 Jews. According to another source, they were 10,000 Jews. On October 19-22, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated by the Gendarmerie, the Security Police (or Sipo) from Busk, and auxiliary units from Radom. During the liquidation more than 6,000 Jews were rounded-up and marched to the nearest station located 28km away. From there they were deported to Treblinka. Another group fit to work was sent to the labor camp in Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski. Some 300 Jews, mostly elderly, sick and those who attempted to hide, but were found out, were shot on the spot or taken to the Jewish cemetery to be shot. The bodies of those shot in the houses or on the streets were gathered and buried at the cemetery. According to Feliks K., born in 1927, bodies were burnt on the Jewish cemetery after the liquidation of the ghetto. People smelt burnt bodies and smoke was visible. According to him once all the Jews were deported their belongings and houses were sold at auction.
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