2 Execution site(s)
Ernest F., born in 1927: «A Gestapo soldier, a certain B., killed about 30 Jewish children in a park near the pond. The children were aged 7-8 years old. They were killed in a pit that already existed. It was a water tank with public tap. It still exists. The children had to lie down. Then, they were shot in the head with a pistol. My friends and I, we were 10 meters away from the execution site and heard isolated gunshots. It was a horrible experience.” (Witness n°744, interviewed in Biłgoraj, on October 4, 2017).
“[…]During the Aktion carried out on November 2nd, 1942, the Gestapo surrounded the Jewish quarter. All the people were ordered to leave their houses and gather at the May Third square […]. I also had to go to the gathering point. Lots of people were shot during the raid. Gestapo men threw repeatedly grenades into the houses to force the Jews out. At the square, Gestapo chief read aloud a list of people: those were craftsmen’s names. There were 34 people altogether including the women and the children. […] I saw with my own eyes how one Gestapo man killed an 18-year-old Jewish girl by shooting her with expanding bullet in the face. A few hours later, the people from the square were brought to the railway station. We heard numerous shootings. Later, the Poles told us that many people were shot on the way.
A group of seven or eight craftsmen was formed to pick up the bodies in the streets with polish carts and take them to the cemetery, accompanied by Polish police. I was in that group. A pit had been already prepared, so we put the corpses into it. […]
After that Aktion, the Jews in hiding were regularly found. They were shot in the town.” [Deposition letter of Ben A., a Jewish survivor, sent from New York, USA, on April 24, 1968, BAL [Temporary number: 20170718152829214 p.1].
Biłgoraj is a town located 87 km south of Lublin. The first records about the Jewish community in Biłgoraj date back to the 14th century. In 1860, there were 2,070 Jews in the town. By the end of the 19th century, this number increased to 3,810, making up almost half of the Biłgoraj’s entire population. The community had one synagogue, several prayer houses, two cemeteries and a mikvah. The Jews were mostly craftsmen and shopkeepers. The majority of famous Biłgoraj sieve factories belonged to the Jews. Before World War I, the Jewish community numbered 5,595. According to the 1921 census, only 3,715 Jews stayed in Biłgoraj. In the interwar period many Jewish political movements and parties operated in the town. The town had its own bank, closed in 1938, and trade unions. There were Torah and Talmud schools. According to the testimonies, all the children went to the same school. On the eve of the German occupation, 5,010 Jews (60% of the total population) lived in Biłgoraj.
Biłgoraj was first occupied on September 17, 1939 and then on October 7, 1939, after fighting back the Red Army. Approximately 1,500 Jews left Biłgoraj along with the withdrawal of the Red Army. The Judenrat was created shortly afterwards. By April 1940 all the Jews were marked with distinguishing white armbands and forced to perform different kinds of work, such as clearing the town, cutting the trees, and constructing German airbases. By late summer 1940, an informal ghetto was created, where all the remaining Jews were concentrated on four streets. Those Poles who had been living there before had to move out. The first execution was conducted in August 1940 when Judenrat members were shot for having refused to provide lists for the deportation. There were several deportations of Jews from the Biłgoraj ghetto. The first one occurred in early April 1941, when about 6,800 Jews were displaced to Goraj. Those caught trying to flee were shot on the spot. Hundreds of Jewish inmates died due to the typhus epidemics which spread out in the town in June and October 1941.
The second wave of deportations occurred in August 1942, when about 1,000 Jews from Biłgoraj and 1,500 from Tarnogród were first gathered at the Market square and then escorted on foot to the railway station in Zwierzyniec, from where they were deported to the Bełżec extermination camp.
On the eve of the third deportation, known as “Operation Reinhard”, about 70 Jewish craftsmen were separated in a newly created small ghetto. On November 2, 1942, the operation carried out by the SS unit accompanied by Schupo police started. All the Jews were gathered at the market place, and then confined in the barracks along with about 500-1,000 Jews brought from Tarnogród. Many Jews were shot dead while walking in the column towards the barracks. Their bodies were gathered and transported to the Jewish cemetery. The following day, all the detainees were marched to Zwierzyniec, from where they were deported to Belzec. During this deportation Aktion, about 200 Jews were shot dead, bayoneted on the streets. According to some historical sources, on November 4, 1942, more than 10 Jews, patients from the hospital, were murdered and buried by the Gestapo. The Germans continued to search for Jews in hiding. Approximately 300 people were found and executed at the Jewish cemetery. With the help of local witnesses Yahad was able to identify another execution site where about 30 Jewish children were murdered. They were shot dead one by one with a gun. On January 7, 1943, the Germans liquidated the ghetto, killing all the remaining inmates including women, children and elder people. In all, under the occupation, about 4,000 Biłgoraj Jews were murdered either by bullets or in the death camps.
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