Ozorków (Brunnstadt) | Lodz

/ Stanisław F., born in 1930, witnessed the public execution of Jews in 1942 ©Piotr Malec/Yahad - In Unum Yahad’s team interviewing Stanisław at the location of the mass grave. ©Piotr Malec/Yahad - In Unum Stanisław is a local historian who shared many of his findings regarding the history of Ozorków with the Yahad team. ©Piotr Malec/Yahad - In Unum Now a parking lot and a marketplace, this is where the public hanging of eight Jews took place in 1942. ©Piotr Malec/Yahad - In Unum The memorial for Ozorków’s ghetto, located on the former territory of the ghetoo. ©Piotr Malec/Yahad - In Unum The Jewish cemetery used to be here. Today there is small forest. Many Jews who died in the ghetto and those who were executed are buried here. ©Piotr Malec/Yahad - In Unum There are no tombstones left at the location of the former cemetery. They were used to pave roads by the Germans. ©Piotr Malec/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Ozorków

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Jewish cemetery
Memorials:
Yes
Period of occupation:
1939-1945
Number of victims:
8

Witness interview

Stanisław F., born in 1930: “The execution was on the left bank of the Bzura, where Plac Targowy is today. It was public, all adult Jews were taken there from the ghetto. There was probably a public announcement before. Gendarmes were surrounded the site. Ten Jews were convicted, but only eight of them were executed. It was announced that the Jews could pay a ransom to be spared. The Jews from the ghetto were lined up in three or four rows, two of them were saved thanks to the money collected by the Jewish police. They collected the money in their hat. The execution was performed at the gallows by other Jews, I believe. The victims were still dressed for the execution and each of them wore a plank with their ’crime’ written on it. The gallows were built on the day of the execution and dismantled right after it. Some people, other Jews probably, brought carts to take the bodies to the Jewish cemetery in the evening. I don’t remember when it exactly happened, and I don’t recall any other executions." (Witness n°1104P, interviewed in Ozorków, on 19/08/2019)

German archives

"[…] The Jews had to stand on one side while the public stood on the other side, they were free to watch. There were as many Jews from the ghetto as spectators. The gallows were erected at the center of the square. There were ten gibbets for ten Jews. I was standing 15 meters (50 ft) away from the gallows and could see everything perfectly. The ten Jews were led up by policemen, including SS in dark uniforms wearing steel helmets. They were not local Ozorków policemen. I don’t know where they came from, apparently from Łódź. […] The Jews had been locked in Ozorków’s police jail prior to the execution. I recognized one Jewish man who came from Pasczenoczew [note: probably a mistake, Parzęczew more likely] located about 6km (3.5 miles) from there. I neither knew his name nor those of the other nine, whom I didn’t know, only where they came from: Ozorków. There were four steps up to the gallows. The Jews had to go behind it, followed by a Jewish policeman.
Then we heard a voice: ’if you still have some gold, we will spare two men!’. It was a SS man who spoke. This was directed at the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto. The policemen of the Łódź commando (the ones wearing helmets) walked among the crowd, they gathered the gold, how much I couldn’t say but we heard the gold tinkling into their hands. There was evidently enough because two Jews were spared and immediately went back to rejoin the ghetto inmates. I don’t know who was spared, or on what criteria they were but I know they were standing on the far-left side. The other eight had to walk up to the gallows. The Jewish policemen had to put the rope around their neck. The policemen were wearing civilian clothes. They wore an armband with the star of David and the inscription ’order’ (i.e police force). I don’t know who pushed the bodies, probably the same men. There was great chaos then, but no one reacted among the Jewish population of the ghetto. As soon as the eight Jews were dead, the policemen led the other Jews back to the ghetto. The locals went home. […] I don’t know who was in charge of the execution, but I saw members of the Łódź commando, SS in black uniform and others in Wehrmacht uniforms.” [Statement of Erwin D., Bochum, May 29, 1968 - German Archives, B162-7431]

Historical note

Ozorków is a town in central Poland in the Łódź Voivodeship. It is situated about 20 miles (26km) northwest of Łódź, on the banks of the river Bzura. A small village founded in the 15th century, Ozorków suddenly grew into an industrial city in the 19th century. Jews first settled in Ozorków around that time, as the city and its textile industry developed. From a small independent Jewish community in 1819, Jewish population grew to 5,837 inhabitants in 1897, about 50% of the city’s population. Most of them worked in the textile industry, but were nonetheless well represented in various different domains, notably in trade and business. Ozorków acquired its own rabbi at the beginning of the 19th century and its first synagogue and a Beis Midrash in 1851. In the 20th century up to the start of the Second World War, Ozorków had an active Jewish cultural and political life. The Zionist movement had a strong foothold in the city. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Jewish parties were well represented on the city council, generally holding a third of the seats.

During the interwar period, anti-Jewish feelings grew in the city just like in the rest of Poland. In the 1930s, attacks on Jews increased while both the courts and police often dismissed them out of hand. In 1935, some people broke the synagogue’s windows and in 1936, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated, with several tombstones being destroyed. Anti-Semitic actions culminated in October 1937, when riots against Jewish manufacturers and businesses broke out. The police did not intervene. In 1939 before the war broke out, there were between 5,000 and 5,500 Jews living in Ozorków, representing about a third of the total population in town.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Ozorków was occupied by the Germans on September 7, 1939. The occupation of the city was brutal and on the day they arrived, German forces carried out several executions, including the killing of 24 Jews. During the following days, they burnt down the synagogue and the Beis Midrash. They rapidly ordered the establishment of a Judenrat and a local Jewish police force. The Jews had to wear armbands and were forbidden from doing certain things, such as walking on the sidewalks. They were gradually forced to move out of their homes as early as autumn 1939, with the ghetto being set up in stages. By late 1941, all Jews had been forced to live in the ghetto. It was fenced in and guarded thereafter. Around 5,000 Jews were in the ghetto when it was formally set up. Earlier in spring 1941, 400 Jews fit for work were rounded up and deported to forced labor camps in the Poznań district. Living conditions in the ghetto were extremely poor; there was little space, food, or medical assistance, while disease was ever-present. Many died of typhus. The liquidation of the ghetto was heralded by the public execution of 10 Jews on the marketplace in spring 1942. The hanging was ordered by an SS commander. The Jews were accused of helping a woman escape the ghetto. The entire population of the ghetto was forced to witness the execution. Two out of the ten people convicted were spared as the Germans offered to let two men go in exchange for a sufficient amount of money. Not long after the execution, in April 1942, all Jews were gathered inside a school building outside the ghetto. There were German doctors present to examine all the Jews, assess their physical condition and sort them into two groups. The group of those not fit for work were all deported to the extermination camp in Chełmno. There were between 1,700 and 2,000 people in that group, mostly women, children, and elderly people. Another group of circa. 1,000 people fit for work were deported to the Łódź ghetto. After these mass deportations, approximately 1,000 people remained in the Ozorków ghetto. It was turned into a forced labor camp. The camp-ghetto was fully liquidated in August 1942, with all remaining Jews (circa. 1,000) were deported to the Łódź ghetto to work. That ghetto was liquidated in the summer of 1944 with all of its inmates being executed at the Chełmno or Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camps. After the war, a few Jewish families who had survived - approximately thirty individuals - came back to live in Ozorków for a time. A far cry from the 5,000 who had lived in the city before the Holocaust.

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