Wąchock | Swietokrzyskie Voivodeship

/ Krystyna J., born in 1931:   “The Jewish cemetery was surrounded by wooden planks. We had an attic window overlooking it. My mom sometimes looked through this window. Executions were frequent, you could hear the gunfire.” ©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Unum Krystyna J., born in 1931: “No graves had yet been dug at the time of the executions, and the Germans quickly looked for people to do the work of burying the bodies. Some Jews were burried near the gate, some further away."©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad In Unum Mieczysław T., born in 1936: “One day, I went with my grandmother to the market. On our way back home, passing towards the synagogue, we heard gunfire coming from the synagogue.” ©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Unum Mieczysław T., born in 1936: “A stream ran by the synagogue. When the horse stopped to drink, the stream was full of blood. Jews had been shot in the synagogue, and others were trying to escape. Their blood ran into the river."©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Mieczysław T., born in 1936, took the Yahad team to the Jewish cemetery, an execution site and a burial place of several Jews killed in Wąchock during the German occupation. ©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Unum Mieczysław T., born in 1936: “One day, I was playing with a friend on a small hill near near the cemetry. We heard unitary firing, so we climbed to the highest point of the hill to watch. We saw 3-4 Germans."©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Unum Mieczysław T., born in 1936: “When the Germans realized they were being watched, they started shoot in our direction. We ran away”. ©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Unum The synagogue in Wąchock, an execution site of several Jews. The building was destroyed during the war. It remained an abandoned ruin for many years. Then it was transformed into a residential building. Today it is in ruins once again.©Pawel Szupiluk/Yaha The Jewish cemetry in Wąchock that was destroyed during the war, but partailly renovated in 2006. A dozen tombstones remained at the cemetery, there is also a monument commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. ©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Unum At the entrance there is a monument: "How sad for those who are gone - the unforgotten (…) The Jewish community of Wąchock numbered 460 people in 98 families in 1939. In 1945, only 24 of them survived. They spilled their blood like water.” ©Pawel Szupiluk The Jewish cemetery in Wąchock, execution site and burial place of several Jews, as well as a few Poles who were killed for helping the Jews during the German occupation. ©Pawel Szupiluk/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Wąchock

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Jewish cemetery
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
At least 5

Witness interview

Krystyna J., born in 1931: “Before the war, I moved from Starachowice to Wąchock with my family. We lived in a house near the Jewish cemetery. There were many Jews in Wąchock at that time, most of them were shopkeepers and craftsmen. There was a stone synagogue near "Kolejowa" street. When the German occupation began, the Germans started to persecute and shoot the Jews. They would take the Jews to the Jewish cemetery in cars, not carts. There, they would ask the Jews to run, and they shoot them one by one. This was not an isolated episode. All the men hid, otherwise they were requisitioned to bury the bodies. The men hid, but the curious children watched. On another occasion, I saw the Germans bringing a very pregnant Jewish woman from Marcinków to the cemetery. She was well dressed and very beautiful. Someone must have denounced her. The Germans killed her. She was already lifeless, but the child in her womb was still alive and moving. She was buried at the cemetery (…)”(Witness N°1355P, interviewed in Wąchock, on August 24, 2022)

Historical note

Wąchock is a town in Starachowice County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland, within the historical region of Lesser Poland. It lies about 6 km (3,7mi) from Starachowice and approximately 42 km (26mi) from Kielce, the capital of the region. Jews began to settle in Wąchock at the end of the 18th century. In 1921, the town was home to 468 Jewish residents, a number that had increased to 650 by 1930. During the interwar period, Wąchock served as an urban settlement in the Iłżecki District. The Jewish community in Wąchock was an integral part of the town’s social and economic life. They had their own distinct culture, traditions, and religious institutions. A synagogue, kosher butchers and a brick mikvah were some of the institutions that served the community. Many Jews worked as craftsmen, including tailors, shoemakers, and carpenters. Others were involved in trade and owned businesses such as grocery stores, clothing shops, and mills. Agriculture also played a role in the community, with some Jews involved in farming and tending to their own land. Weekly markets were held every Monday, providing opportunities for economic activities and trade.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

German troops arrived in Wąchock in September 1939. Due to the destruction caused during the invasion, when some houses were burned down and rendered uninhabitable, multiple families often shared a single apartment. Additionally, individuals from the wider Wąchock region sought refuge in the settlement. During the period of German occupation, Jewish residents from Wąchock were forced to work in labor camps established at the Herman Göring Werke armaments plant in Starachowice and HASAG in Skarżysko-Kamienna. Tragically, many of them perished due to the harsh conditions and tasks imposed on them. Despite this, Wąchock itself did not have a designated ghetto, and until 1942, Jews were allowed to move freely within the settlement. On October 22, 1942, all Jewish residents in Wąchock were forcibly transported to Starachowice and subsequently to the German Nazi concentration camp in Treblinka. Some Jews sought assistance from sympathetic Poles and chose to hide in their apartments or farm buildings. Unfortunately, there were instances where betrayals and denunciations to the Germans occurred, leading to dire consequences for those in hiding. According to oral accounts from two witnesses interviewed by Yahad in August 2022, the Germans executed people of Jewish origin and Poles hiding Jews in the Jewish cemetery in Wąchock during the occupation. According to Krystyna J., born in 1931, executions at the cemetery were very frequent. She saw some of them from the attic of her family house, located near the cemetery. The victims were brought to the execution site by the Germans in cars. After the shooting, the Germans would requisition local farmers and order them to bury the bodies of the victims. Mieczysław T., born in 1936 saw at least two such executions. After one of them, he went to the cemetery and saw four bodies of Jewish men, completely naked. The four men were put into the mass grave and buried by a local gravedigger. A memorial commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is now located in the cemetery. The Jewish community also reappeared in the town just after the war but were victims of acts of violence. Between 1944 and 1946, several Jews who had managed to survive the occupation were murdered in Wąchock.

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