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Stefan B., born in 1932: “Before the war, there were no Jews living in Skaleniec, but some Jewish families lived in nearby villages, such as Szynkielów or Jasień. The biggest Jewish community was in Osjaków. The Jews from Osjaków were mainly traders and artisans: tailors, shoemakers, bakers. Whatever you needed, the Jews would make it for you. They were good people and very talented merchants. Sometimes even lent money to peasants. They would go to different villages to buy cattle, but they never bought pigs, only cows, calves, and horses. They never traded on Saturdays. One day, my parents went to the market in Osjaków. Every Monday it was a market day there. My father wanted to buy a coat. They found one he liked, and the Jew told him it cost 120 zlotys. My mother liked to negotiate prices, she was good at it, so she proposed 30 zlotys. My father was mad at her, he said 30 was not enough, that she should have proposed at least 60 zlotys. But you know what? The Jew sold them that coat for 30 zlotys. Jews really knew how to trade but when the German occupation started, they couldn’t work anymore. They were forced to wear yellow stars on their back and chests and cold not leave the town anymore.” (Witness n°1096P, interviewed in Skaleniec, on August 15, 2019)
Skaleniec is a village in Poland located in the Łódzkie Voivodeship, in Wieluń County. It lies approximately 4 km from Osjaków, the capital of the gmina (Municipality). Before the war Skaleniec was connected with the village of Dębina. Jews didn’t live in Skaleniec, but in neighboring villages, such as Szynkielów and Jasina, as well as the nearest town, Osjaków. In 1921, 759 Jews lived in Osjaków, which comprised 49% of the total population. The political life of the Osjaków Jewish community flourished during the interwar period. According to Yahad witness Stefan B., born in 1932, local Jews were mainly merchants and artisans: tailors, shoemakers, and bakers. They would come to nearby village to buy and sell cattle.
When the Nazis occupied Osjaków in early September 1939, about 100 Jews fled the town. Within the first weeks of the occupation, the Germans ordered the establishment of a Jewish Council, Judenrat. In 1940, the Jews were gradually evicted from their houses and concentrated together in the specific area of the town that became a ghetto. At first, the ghetto area was not strictly guarded, and the Jews could leave it to trade with local peasants in order to get food. While some of the Jews in the ghetto were employed locally as forced laborers cleaning and maintaining local roads and buildings, others were rounded up and sent to labor camps, such as the Bełchatów, Wieluń or Poznań regional labor camps. The liquidation of the ghetto took place in July 1942. Just beforehand, about 500 Jews from neighboring Kiełczygłów were transferred into the Osjaków ghetto. According to Yahad witness, Stefan B., born in 1932, a few weeks before the ghetto liquidation, all the Jews from surrounding villages were gathered in the church in Osjaków. Stefan recalled that Jews who were enclosed there would ask passers-by for food and water. The church was guarded by the Germans and local police. In mid-July, some of the ghetto inmates were sent to the Wieluń ghetto, from where many of them were later deported to the Łódź ghetto. All the others were sent to the Chełmno and Nerem extermination camps, where they were killed.
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