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The Jewish Community of Bochnia


My introduction to ghetto Bochnia was by accident. It was in January 1990, my father just passed away and his apartment was sold. All his belonging had to be taken away the next day and I was searching for some family photos of my late parents. Deep in a cupboard behind old clothes I found hidden a small straw box. In the box wrapped in plastic, I found some old letters that my late mother had labeled "Last letters from home." The letters package consisted of letters from my grandmother from Poland and were stamped with the Nazi's swastika. The letters raised my curiosity and I had them translated from German to English. Without understanding the background and the events that took place at the time those letters were written, they did not mean much to me. As a matter of fact, in the initial stage I was not even aware of the existence of ghetto Bochnia and was assuming that the family was taken to the nearby ghetto, in Krakow.

A few years earlier,in 1982, My parents visited me in Canada. On this occasion I recorded my mother and fathers' life story on a tape. Living so far from them made me realize how much I missed them and how little I knew about them. I had long discussions with mother about her family that perished in Europe during the holocaust. She told me of her parents, her brothers and sisters. She described how she immigrated to Palestine in 1938 and how the contact with the family was lost during the Second World War. Mother was very much unaware of what happened to the family during the holocaust. I managed to make contact with a far relative named Bairish Rosenfeld who survived the war and who lived in Montreal at that time. A few days later that person came to visit my mother in Toronto. He asked to talk to her in private and than he talked to her in a very low voice for a long time. Bairish was the last surviving person who saw part of the family before they were transported to Belzec death camp. It was naive of me to even think that hearing details about the family will make my mother happy. Instead it opened her old wounds and brought her much anguish.

After my parents were gone I had this unexplained urge to find out about the family that I never met. I phoned Bairish a couple of times and corresponded with my cousin Yakub Sidenfeld (another holocaust survivor) in Argentina. All what I managed to gather is a very sketchy and incomplete description of the fate of my family during the war. Facing a dead-end with my search of specific information regarding my family I decided to do the second best thing and search for general material regarding ghetto Bochnia. It was very frustrating to find out hardly any reference to ghetto Bochnia in our local Jewish library in Toronto or any other information sources in this city. The lack of information led me to believe that no research was done on ghetto Bochnia and this is why I decided to do my own research on the subject.

When I decided to write my work about ghetto Bochnia I contacted different people who resided during the war in Bochnia. The numbers of holocaust survivors who knew about ghetto Bochnia was limited and I already knew of one survivor, B. Rosenfeld from Montreal. Through him I learned about few more survivors in New York city and later I even found a survivor from Bochnia in Charleston SC. Some of these holocaust survivors did not speak English and


some were just reluctant to talk about their war experiences. Eventually I ended up with a few survivors who were willing to cooperate with me. I wrote to all of them and asked for information regarding the ghetto. Also I requested their cooperation in identifying the location of the ghetto on a Bochnia city road map. In his reply letter, one of the survivors - Mr. Petenboum, advised me of the existence of the book "Dare to Survive" (a book written by a survivor of ghetto Bochnia). He also expressed his doubts about my ability, as a person who did not live in Bochnia during 1939 to 1943, to write any reliable material regarding the evolution of ghetto Bochnia. To substantiate his opinion Mr. Petenbowm told me about an event written in the Book DTS page 198 in which a Jewish policeman surrendered his wife and children to the Nazis for a transport to Belzec. Mr. Petenbowm wrote that he witnessed this event personally and what he saw was an entirely different thing. This event did occur but the circumstances were completely different. If we, two witnesses to the same event, saw different things, said Mr. Petenbowm, how could you, an outsider be able to describe what happened in the ghetto?

At this point I realized that it would be very hard to substantiate any claims or opinions in my research. For some time I gathered more information on the subject. When I found out of the unpublished testimonies in the archive of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem I realized that this might be a solution to my problem. I managed to obtain 9 testimonies from this archive. The testimonies were identified by subject through a computer search. A few more testimonies that mentioned ghetto Bochnia in a sentence or two were not considered. For a very long time I worked on the translation of these testimonies. They were written in Yiddish, Polish, Hebrew, English and partially in German and I had to rely on the help of many people who knew those languages. The translation process took a few years. During that time I managed to interview two survivors of ghetto Bochnia and they gave me valuable information on certain periods that were not covered in any other source. Based on this data I proceeded with my work. The mentioned testimonies were included in this book and I referred to them at any time in which I found it to be relevant. Through my work I tried to relate to factual data only. On the occasions where I had to add my personal opinions and conclusions it was clearly stated as a personal perception of the writer. Although I tried to limit my work within the boundaries of historical facts, I would like to apologize for any inaccuracy that might be found in the future. Any correction or factual contribution would be appreciated.


Outline of presentation method

In the following research you will encounter numerous references to different information sources. The references will use acronyms to specify the book or testimony and the following number will indicate the page number from which the discussed information was retrieved. For example the reference DTS-156 will indicate the book "Dare to Survive" page number 156 as the source of information. For method of abbreviation please refer to the following Glossary of Acronym below.


Glossary of Acronym
AJK - Apteka W Getcie Krakowskim
DTS - Dare to Survive
EHV1 - Encyclopedia of the Holocaust Volume #1
EJV4 - Encyclopedia
Judaica Volume # 4
HFJ - The Holocaust-The Fate of European Jewry, 1932-1945
HWJ - The Holocaust, The World and the Jews, 1933 - 1945
IAJ - I am a Jew
JD - Justina Diary
PHV3 - Pinkas Hakehillot Volume # 3
TBB - The Black Book
TST1 - Testimony, Bertha Braunhut
TST2 - Testimony, Henry Petzenbaum
TST3 - Testimony, Ida Grinberg
TST4 - Testimony, Johanan Kalfus
TST5 - Testimony, K. Pinkas
TST6 - Testimony, K. Pincus
TST7 - Testimony, Dr. Stefan Korenhauser
TST8 - Testimony, Janina Kowalik
TST9 - Testimony, Dov Landau
TST10 - Testimony, Eliahu Richter
TST11- Testimony, Bronya Shapiro
TST12- Testimony, Seidenfeld
WUK - The Warring Underground in Krakow
ZHA - The Zionist Philosophy of the Hebrew Youth Society "Akiba"                                                                                                                                         

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