Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Testimony # 03/3284
Archives # 2777/232-F
Name: Kalfus Johanan
Date of Birth: 1923 in Wisnicz, Poland
Present address: 29 Erlich St., Jaffa, Israel
Interviewer: I. Alperovitz
Date of testimony: September, 18, 1967
Testimony's language of origin: Jewish (Yiddish).
Translation and commentary by: I. Zelinkovsky
The following is the testimony of a Holocaust survivor - Mr. Kalfus Johanan. In this testimony the witness tells about the distraction of the Wisnicz Jewish community, the murder of the Jews from the Bochnia district. He tells about his escape to the woods, the hiding in a bunker and the activity of the Jewish partisan group under the command of Simon Deringer. The testimony ends with the witness's liberation by the Russians in 1945 and his immigration to Israel.
What is the date and the place of your
The following members of my family perished during the Second World
|My name is Johanan Kalfus, the son of Nate. I was born in Wisnicz
in 1923. My father dealt with trade. He had fields and a tavern. Until the
break of the Second World War in 1939, I used to reside at home. I studied
in a Jewish Chaider and a Polish school. What do you know about the Jewish
life in your town? how many Jews used to live there?
I do not know the exact number of Jews. Most of them were Jewish Chassids. The Jews used to travel to markets in order to sell their fabric products.
How many bais-midrashim1 were there?
What kind of social organizations were there?
Can you specify which youth organizations were
Now, tell us please about the time period in
which the German-Polish war broke out in 1939.
|Following the first snow fall they forced the Jews to remove the
snow. The Shtandartenfuhrer demonstrated his courage by hitting Jews. He
was present when the Jews removed the snow and used to lash them with a whip.
We could not figure out still what was going to happen. We escaped from Wisnicz
but the Germans caught us since they were patrolling around town. This situation
persisted during the whole winter until the end of 1940. At the beginning
of 1941 they started to send people to camps. It became a daily event while
Jews were on their way for a daily service (were walking to the synagogue)
that someone riding on a motorcycle would grab a Jew and beat him. Why and
for what reason we did not know. At night when Jews were on their way back
from the synagogue they were shot at for no apparent reason. On one bright
day in 1941 all the Jews were ordered to gather in the synagogue, the big
synagogue. On Sunday morning we realized that something was not right. I
escaped to the fields together with my brothers and my parents. When the
Jews entered the synagogue they locked the building behind them. How many
Jews were in the synagogue?
One thousand Jews.
Who locked the synagogue?
Did the Germans establish a
Judenrat3 in your place? and if so, who was the head of this
Did the Germans force you to wear the yellow
What other decrees did the Germans impose on
|It happened in the year 1941. We owned fields and I went out to
the field wearing my identifying stripe. I saw a German officer drive by
..... It was the German police commander of Bochnia, his name was Litman.
He asked me, "where are you going, Jew?" I replied that I am a farmer and
I work in the field. I added that I reside in town but also near the fields.
He took away my documents and told me to meet him at the tavern of Wideslawski
before dark. In this place were present Matilda, Hilek, Matek, and Shifra
Wladyslawski. They had a close relation with the Germans. Matilda gave the
Germans food and drink. She served him drinks until he become drunk and then
she asked him to return my documents.
A few weeks later the Germans came and surrounded the town and started to conduct a search in the streets. The Jews started to flee again. Where? to us, since we resided out of the town boundaries. Yankel Plaster took off the tag with the star of David and rode. One German arrived with a taxi. He saw that Yankel is riding so fast on his bicycle. He grabbed him from the car and left the bicycle on the road. Half an hour later we saw from our house before dawn, that a taxi stopped near a house of a Christian not far from our place. The Germans entered the Christian house and we saw them getting out carrying a shovel. They entered the taxi and drove away. Ten minutes later we heard a rifle shot. Through the whole day we lay down hiding in the wheat field since we saw that something had happened. Tczoski the Christian, came and told us that the Germans buried in the woods a Jew that they had killed in about one Km. away from us. We did not know if it was true or not. In the evening we moved farther away to a place were a Jewish sympathizer Christian resided. He was Adventist that observed the Sabbath. He told us that he knew exactly what happened since he was standing on the road and observed how two Germans were pulling someone by his shirt and one of them was armed. Two to three minutes later they shot him. He showed us the place where the person was shot and told us to go there and identify the victim. Me and my brother went there and found a grave that a human hand was protruding from it. The hand was full of sand. We opened the grave and identified the victim as Yankel Plaster.
When did it happened?
Were there other cases where the Germans shot
|There were no other cases of shooting. Most cases were of Jews being
beaten. They used to hit Jews that they caught and this is how they killed
them. There were other cases when Bogusz came to town on a horse-pulled wagon
on a search for bearded Jews. After catching them he was immediately shaving
them. Later the Germans issued a decree that all Jews had to shave their
beards. It was impossible to walk in the street.
How was the nutrition?
Did the Germans erect a ghetto in Wisnicz?
Were there incidents in which the Germans took Jews for hard labor?
In which way did they exploit the Jews?
I stayed in the camp for 8 days. There was an incident I saw with my own eyes. There was a person from our town by the name of Abraham Zabal (if it was his real name I cannot remember). They took him out in the morning with (he was carrying) a package near the fence. A Ukrainian policeman pulled his weapon and shot him near the fence. They said that he attempted to escape. I recognized him immediately. They asked for volunteers to bury him and I volunteered. I did not want to notify his wife about what happened. There was an "Obersher-Mister" by the name of Linder. He ordered all of us to dig for the purpose of building a fence. Our camp Plaszow was affiliated with the firm Kluk. We were called the volunteers since we came to the labor camp by "our own free will". Together with us came "Fararbeiter". On our way back from work he ordered us to dig the holes and to repair the wooden planks for support against avalanche. Beside me was working a Jew with a beard. I told him to shave his beard in order not to stand out. This Jew was a sick man and was not capable of performing this kind of work. Me and another guy used to cover for him. He was crouched over, out of view, and we did the work.
The Obersher Mister came riding on his motorcycle. The Fararbeiter pointed
at me as a person that does not perform. The "Fararbeiter" and the "Obersher
Mister" came closer to me. The "Obersher Mister" grabbed the shovel out of
my hands. He hit me with the shovel and broke my bone. I realized
|that I am finished. I tried to work but I just could not do it.
That afternoon we came back to work near the railroad tracks. A Christian
on a horse-pulled wagon passed by and I recognized him immediately. I jumped
into the wagon and escaped into the woods.
I returned home but there I was told to go back to the labor camp. I went to the local officer and told him what happened and that I am not capable of performing the work. In any case I had to send somebody else to replace me. People knew that I am in a labor camp but what happened to me there they did not know. I was in hiding and the broken bone was treated however it remained broken. I requested to remove my name from the list of the labor camp workers. Every day the police came to look for me but they did not find me since I did not sleep at home. I was hiding in the wheat field. I was among the Christians for 6 weeks until my hand was cured. It was in 1942.
After that rumors started to spread about contributions of money. And people collected money. Whatever they collected it was not enough. There was no one to take from. They took from the living and from the dead. There was nothing to sell and from where to collect. Later we had to give our warm coats and then came the decree that we have to leave town. It was in August 1942. On Saturday morning all the Jews had to gather in the town square with their belongings. At that time we lived outside the town boundaries. We did not know what to do. Here we heard that we were going to be released and there we heard that we will not be released. Everyone was speculating.
I had a different thought in my head. I organized a youth group for the purpose of going to the woods. There was no other way. We set a meeting place. The decree came on Thursday so we decided to meet on Friday at a certain hour. It was a young group of people all volunteers. Every one was laughing at us. Where will you go in the woods. It will not take more than 2 to 3 days before you all come back home. Who knew that things would turn out to be the way they did?
On Friday before dark, mother lit the candles and we sat near the candles
eating or not eating. We were preoccupied with thoughts of what is going
to happen. Our house was a single level house with many doors and windows.
The police knocked at the door and ordered us to open up. At our place were
my father's sister, my mother's sister and her cousin. I was waiting for
my friends to come but no one arrived. Father went to open the door and my
brother and me jumped out the window. My father's sister exited from a second
door and my aunt from my mother's side exited through a third door and escaped.
When we jumped through the window we saw a policeman standing there. We knew
him, his name was Arcik. He ordered us in Polish to get back into the house.
My brother did not delay and jumped on him and threw his weapon aside and
we escaped into the field. Since then I have no idea what happened to my
parents. It was the expulsion from our town on Friday evening 1942. The actual
expulsion took place on Saturday morning at 10 O'clock August 22. When we
lay in the field we saw the local farmers riding in their horse- pulled wagons.
The Germans issued a command for all the Christians to report with their
horses and wagons to transport all the Jews into the ghetto. We saw all that.
We did not have any food. I escaped home with one shirt, one pair of pants,
a pair of shoes and a jacket. On Monday we entered our home to see what had
happened. We did not find anything. The farmers took everything, even the
furniture they removed from the walls. It was the Christian farmers with
whom we lived together for a period of 80 years. My grandfather and my great
grandfather used to
|live in this place. They robbed us and took everything. In the attic
I had hidden a winter coat. I went to the attic and took it out so I would
have something to wear. I shared it with my brother.
On Saturday we lay in the woods near the road to see what transpired. We sent Christians into town to find out what was happening. On that day a decree was issued that all Christians of the ages 18 to 25 had to report to work. This draft was called "Bal-Dinst". Everyone reported as required. We did not know the purpose of it.
We waited all day Saturday until dark. At night time we came to a Christian with whom we lived together for years. We pleaded with her for a peace of bread. Her son came out with an axe and ordered us to leave because they (the Christians) would be shot (due to our presence). In the city (her son said) are posted notices (warning) that people who saw a Jew and did not catch him/her or bring him/her to the police would face a death sentence. They did not give us even a peace of bread and that was a Christian with whom we lived for many years, tens of years. From this point on we were on our own. From this Christian we went to a second Christian. He already gave us the whole loaf of bread allowing us to survive for a while.
On Sunday we sent young Christians, our friends, with whom we went to school together, to find out what happened in Bochnia. They brought us the news that shots were fired. The Jews were held in the middle of the street with no food or drink. Around them stood the police and SS and were watching them. They did not know what was going to happen. Meanwhile the trucks and the Bal-Dinst (forced labor group) were activated. They started to shout at the old people and drive them away. After receiving the news we both did not know what to do with ourselves. However one thing we did know, that our way leads to the forest and that we should look for our friends. Maybe somebody else managed to escape. Organizing a larger group would enable us to survive. Without money it was very hard to survive. Besides that, the police were searching (for Jews) in the villages. It was Sunday, August the 23rd.
On Monday we went to a Christian, a good Christian, who was a partner
with my father, bless his soul. He told us not to allow ourselves to be seen
by anyone. If you need something come to me at nighttime between 12 midnight
to 1 a.m. Come again, I will give you whatever I can but don't show yourself
to any Christians because your best friends want to kill you. He was an old
Christian who had some compassion. He worked with my father in their youth
and served with him in the army during the First World War. Later on, he
had a partnership with him the whole time with cattle, with crops, apples,
plums etc. He was a partner with us in everything. He said to us "Run away.
I was in Bochnia since I wanted to see what had happened there. I don't know
if anybody survived. The young people were sent to a camp. They have exactly
informed me. Also the police force from Wisnicz was in Bochnia through all
the days of the aktion: Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. They told me
that in case that I would find out about Jews they should be sent here (to
Bochnia). They (the Jews) should not remain in the villages. I replied that
I do not know of any Jew. I only came here to find out what happened to
|Also had he told us that all the old people were shot and they had
thrown them up on the trucks5 . The young gentiles who had been
mobilized before, dug the grave (the pit). The sound of the shots were heard
from morning until night. During that time they shot up to ten thousand people.
All that took place in Bochnia6 . The grave pit was dug by 100
to 150 young gentiles. The people were stood up and were shot. Whoever fell
into the grave alive was buried alive. Whoever was wounded and will die,
all together were buried in the grave.
At the train stood SS men and were tearing the children from their parents arms by their hands and feet. Every child was thrown with his head at the train. The heads broke into pieces. The mothers had to observe what was happening. It become a whole mess. Tuesday night it was all over. On Wednesday morning they closed the entire ghetto shut.
We saw that we have nothing to go back to. We started to look for friends. People knew that here is hiding a Jew and there is hiding a Jew. We have decided to go and steal in order to feed ourselves. I was with my brother, bless his soul. The Zbikowice forest was very large. This forest stretched over 375 yards and it belonged to the Firshten (duke) Lubomirski. In this forest resided a Christian Lesniczy (forest caretaker in Polish). We pleaded with him telling him that we did not know how to save ourselves. He answered that he would not say anything and would let us do whatever we wanted. There was a Christian lady named Jutka who resided near this forest. On occasion she used to work at Wladyslawski. Jutka said to us that if we will need something she will help us. She order us to stay there in the forest and at night she would bring us food. Jutka saved our lives. She did not have any money and also nothing to eat. At night we used to steal potatoes and carry it to her. She gave us to eat.
She gave us a shovel and we started to dig a pit. We dug a bunker 2 meters long, 2 meter wide and three meters deep. On the second day, during daytime, again we started to dig the bunker. We have noticed a gentile lady walking through (the forest) she also noticed us. However we kept on digging. The Lesniczy came there and said that the lady came to him and told him that I and my brother Shlomo are digging a pit. She order him to go and give a look and find out what is happening. This is what he let us know. We left the bunker stand open and flee from this place 5 to 6 km deeper into the woods. We have again looked for a place to dig a bunker. We dug and covered for two days. Nobody saw us this time.
At this point we started looking for food. Day by day we went to Christians
for a piece of bread. One night we came to a Christian named Bronek Przybylka.
He was a father of 6 small children. He also had (with him) an old father.
He said to us: "Soon I am going to prepare an accommodation for you". We
told him that we prepared a bunker in the forest to which he replied: "You
will not sit in any bunker. In the stable I will dig a tunnel under the straw
and you will live with me. I will keep you as long as I can.
|During daytime stay inside and go out only at night. I will feed
you as much as you want. Maybe you will manage to survive." We decided to
live with this Christian. The bunker was closed and covered. On the cover
we put branches. Every 2 to 3 days we replaced the branches so they will
not dry out. The earth was taken away from the place.
We started to search for other Jews. A Christian told us that he saw Jews. We walked through the woods for tens of kilometers in search of (surviving) Jews but we did not see any. Once we lay in the forest for the whole night. In the morning we saw the Christians taking their cattle to graze in the fields. We both sat down. I held one piece of tfillin7 , my brother held the second piece and we were praying. We came from a known Chasidic (religious) home. Suddenly we realized that we are surrounded by Christians. They stood with wooden sticks, axes and scythes. "You Jews ! come with us to the police" they called us. Our arms consisted of a stick to which we attached an iron capsule. It weighed about one kilo. Also we had a knife and a revolver to which we had no bullets (ammunition). The revolver we buried under a cherry tree. This revolver was brought by our father from the first world war. With this revolver we could only scare people away. My brother called me in Yiddish saying that we should go with them and see what they would do to us. However we could not go with them too far since we have to save ourselves. They lead us from that village Lipnica Gorna to Ropczyic. Their intention was to lead us to the hands of the police in Lipnica. We looked around and saw that out of the 6 young gentiles remained only 4. Then my brother lifted the stick and struck one of them. After two of them had fallen the third one fleed and the fourth one we chased away. In this way we escaped from the hands of the murderers.
Question: How come they let your brother carry
We survived them once again. For a while we still resided at Przybylka but we had the desire to go into the ghetto. Maybe somebody remained from our family. It was already Rosh Hashanah. At Rosh Hashanah we were at this Christian's home. On Yom Kippur it got into our head that we should go inside the ghetto. It was the year 1942. My father's sister, who ran away together with us was caught soon after, on the third or fourth day. She was taken into the ghetto and we did not know about it. She was working in ghetto Bochnia.
Sunday morning, Yom Kippur eve, we got dressed like young gentiles.
(at that Christian's place we had two suits stashed away) and we went as
if we were on our way to church. We were on our way to the ghetto. On the
way we met young gentiles who recognized us. They inquired for our destination.
When we told them that we were on our way to the ghetto they let us go. When
we came to the ghetto it was sealed with a wooden fence. We removed a wooden
board and went inside in order to spend
|Yom Kippur in the ghetto. We met acquaintances from Wisnicz and
they told us that our father's sister is alive and she is here. We pay her
a visit. Get dressed, we told her, and at night get out of the ghetto. Do
not wait for us because we intend to come later. We wanted to organize, to
gather young people. We gave her the place where we wanted to meet her. We
drew exactly a map of that place and that tree. As we were standing and talking
the Jewish police came over. The Ordnung Dienst were catching people for
forced labor. My brother and I were caught as well. Whether we had to carry
crops from the train to the tracks or from the tracks to the train I do not
remember exactly. They held us half a day without food or drink. During that
time they beat us with riding whips. German policemen were standing by. In
the afternoon they released us and other people were brought in. They brought
us back into the ghetto. At nighttime we went to Kol Nidrey8 .
Then they surrounded the synagogue and again started to catch people. The
two good suits we left at acquaintances named Noyman, because we wanted to
give them away. When they let us register to work in the ghetto we decided
to stay in the ghetto for good. We realized that we had nothing to look for
in the villages. In the ghetto we have met acquaintances and friends. Thus
as they surrounded the synagogue and caught people, we saw, that there is
no other way but to run away. Through the wooden fence we went out and flee
from the ghetto. We ran away back to the village into the same place, where
we already remain the whole time. There we met with our father's sister.
It was winter 1942. It became difficult to obtain food. At nighttime we used to find a place in the hay to hide ourselves. There were Christians who called us to come in and stay overnight. There were Christians who sent us away. Then we found a Christian who wanted to save Jews. But with that Aussiedlung in the year 1943 it become already hard to hide ourselves any longer. Where they met a Jew they caught him. From that time we went through a lot. People were hidden by Christians. On one beautiful night they liquidated ghetto Bochnia.
There was a gentile named Wladek Wyrwa and his cousin Karol Goc who committed themselves, at the time the ghetto was liquidated, to hide Jews for money. Bronek Przybylka was the first that said that he will make a bunker and take inside as many Jews as he only can. Food he had enough and he would feed them but he needed money. At Przybylka we did not stay any more. Most of the time we were staying in the bunker in the woods. Indeed it become hard to live in the snow where tracks were noticeable. We did whatever we could to erase the tracks so they would not spot us. Most of the time we sat in the bunkers. The Christian helped us a lot.
On a beautiful day, there was already snow on the ground, we were informed
that they were liquidating ghetto Bochnia. The news was brought to us by
Wladek Wyrwa. Many Jews were hidden by him and by Goc, whole
|At night we used to go and steal whatever we could. Blazey Narazny
saw us approaching somebody's place. He told us that he would hide us however
we would have to bring food. We then remembered that on the second day after
running away from home, we arrived at a Christian named Mikulski asking for
something to eat. He sent us away. I knew where to find the key to his stable.
Inside the stable we knew our way better than this Christian. We went inside
and drove away a cow. We brought the cow to that Christian that wanted to
hide us. There we slaughtered the cow and gave him all the meat. He told
us that if we had more Jews we should bring them to him. Then we brought
to him several more people: the Pliaster (some live here in Israel, The old
one had already passed away) Ruzza and Shimon. This Christian gave us food
and drink through the snow season.
After the liquidation of ghetto Bochnia, summer, we lived in the forest. We were already armed with revolvers and ammunition that we had found ourselves. We buried what the Polish police had left behind in the year 1939. We took them out and polished them up. We were sitting near the forest. At night, at 12 o'clock we saw people that were going and searching. We signalled them with flashlights and then we recognized our best friends, Jews, who escaped from the ghetto. We kissed them and inquired how they knew where to find us. Yankle Noyman had property in Saslina (Slotwina ?) and became familiar with all villages in the area. He knew every corner like we did. He had the address that we gave him in the Zbikowice forest: the tree with the three notches. There were Yankle Noiman, Barel Brodman and my cousin Yohanan Wladyslawski.
My cousin told me that an underground group from Krakow is located here. Their leader is Shimon Deringer and his wife Yustina Davidson. The members of Akiba made a bunker on the property of the Christian Michal in Wisnicz. These people were from the ghettos in Krakow and Bochnia. There were many people who located themselves around here among the Christians. Slowly we met them all. Many Jews were hidden at the Christians, like Janek Ainhorn. The old Floster was taking refuge at the Christian Proszkowa. We used to steal from one Christian and give to another. We had a very difficult life since we used to be on the run for the whole night. We had found out that Christians themselves killed Jews. Due to that they received death sentences about which I will tell later on. Yohanan informed us that tomorrow two more people will come. We put the three people in another Bunker. We did not let them to reside with us since it became too costly. They brought with them two revolvers and for us it was a cause for great joy.
On the second night we noticed two people approaching. They looked for
the place which we had described and there they stopped. The people lit matches
and looked for the tree with the three notches. When we noticed them, we
signalled them with a flashlight. We asked them in Polish "who is there?"
We used the village dialect which we learned exactly from the Christians.
We observed them and recognized Shmulik and Berel Kauper, two sons of a butcher.
They brought with them a little money, four hundred dollars. We were very
happy. Yet we needed to work again, making a larger bunker which we made
closer to the road. Not far from us resided a rich Christian, with whom my
father's sister Rebeka Kalfus, was taking refuge. She talked to the Christian
and she (the Christian) said to her that she is willing to hide more Jews.
The Christians passed the word among themselves that for money it was worth
hiding Jews. The Germans were not coming here, nor any police. Nobody would
|We made this bunker 200 meters away from that Christian's house.
So in the case that something would go wrong at the house they would be able
to escape to the forest and enter the bunker. We dug a deeper bunker. The
work lasted 3 to 4 nights. We carried away the soil and put down (covered
with) wood (branches) in such a way that nobody would be able to notice its
existence. It was already summer. We already made contacts with the (other)
Jews who were hidden by Christians. At nighttime we brought them and showed
them where our bunker was located so they would have a place to run to in
the case that something would happen. The Jews who were hidden at the Christians
did not receive enough to eat. At night they used to come to us. We cooked
cattle and pig meat and gave them to eat and to take with them to their hiding
places. During the daytime we used to hide on that Christian's property.
During the summer time the Christians used to come to the forest in the morning searching for wild mushrooms. In the bunker were my brother and I with the two Kawpher brothers. One of the Kawpher brothers went out due to necessity. It was in the morning.. He came back inside but he did not check around if someone saw him. It was deep in the forest, about one k.m. from the road. It was Sunday morning and we were not aware of anything (unusual). At 12 O'clock, noon time we heard footsteps on top of the bunker. Not of one person but of many people. We got scared, what is happening? We heard them knocking on the bunker and heard them speaking Polish.: "Who is here? come out! we want to see you!. We are not the police but only ordinary Christians."
My brother pulled the bunker's cover aside, he pulled out his weapon and started to shoot. He noticed a Christian who he knew very well. He was a famous thief and murderer. There were 6 Christians; two with carpenters' axes, one had a large stick. They called me and said. Julek (they refer to me by that name) come out. We want to let you know that we did not come here to harm you. We only want to tell you that you are not careful. They told me that in the morning a peasant with a child were looking for mushrooms. The peasant noticed one of us. He immediately went back home and told the neighbors, Christians who were all together: murderers and known gangsters. These gentiles used to live off the Jews in town. They came from villages, and were the owners of small fields but mainly they used to work as carpenters or builders in town. They came to take a look and recognized my brother and me but the two people that were with us they did not recognize. "We will do you no harm", they said, "but be careful. We do not believe that you should let anybody else see you." We did not want to leave the bunker since we knew that at this point Zbyerna and more friends wanted to join us.
The Christians left. At 11 O'clock at night we saw two people approaching.
One of us lay near the bunker and three at the road. They did not came in
through the road but from another side. We signalled to them and asked for
their identity. One of them replied that it is Franek. He brought a bottle
of Samogon9 , a half loaf of bread. It was one of the gentiles
that came to see us in the morning. We came to bring you something to eat,
they said. We want you to know one thing, that we want to protect (help)
you as much as we possibly can. You know where we live, come at night to
us. We want to make a deal with you. You will steal (for us) and we want
to sell (the merchandise). Our involvement in the matter should not be revealed.
They had no means of survival and this is why they wanted to work together
with us. We said to one of the gentiles "you will bake bread and we will
pay for a bread".
|"Good", was the reply, "whatever your heart desires." They helped
us a lot. One of the Christians had an acquaintance, not far from the forest,
in a small house. He told us, that if one of us will ever become wounded
or sick we will be able to get help from that Christian. The name of that
acquaintance was Kruk. Kruk had decided to help us but he required something
(money) to live on. On the second night, while we were lying at the roadside,
we noticed somebody approaching. They were 3 people who had escaped from
the ghetto: Laib Kurtz and two more people (who they were I can not recall).
They looked for us and found us.
We were already seven people. We have decided to go to the wasteland between the forest to Kalina. There were lying small pieces of wood. We sat there and played bridge using these pieces of wood as game cards. It was six O'clock in the morning. Suddenly we heard soldiers marching either at the road or in the forest. We noticed a dog running. Berrel Koupher become scared and started running. We grabbed him, blocked his mouth and laid him down on the ground. One of us held him. We were lying down so they would not notice us. We saw a German policeman coming and with him there were 12 Polish policemen. They made a search in the whole forest. Someone passed the word that there were Jews hiding there. They went straight and kept on going, passed us while we remained on the side. As they went deeper into the wood, we waited 5 minutes and than exited the forest from the other side. We went into the field and hid among the potatoes. There we were safe. This way we, the 7 people, lay the whole day. The police did not go deep into the woods, only less than half a km., and the forest was stretching for tens of kilometers, and came back finding nothing. We noticed them but they did not notice us. We were lucky and again survived. It was another miracle. At night we came again to the bunker. They did not even discover the bunker. The bunker was so well hidden, that it was impossible to discover.
We become aware that Shimon Deringer was the leader of Akiba and that he wanted to move into the village. We arranged him (an accommodation) at Kruk's (property). The whole house was made of one room, stable and a tool shed. Opposite the tool shed they dug a bunker. They (the members of Akiba) decided that this (place) will be their center point (headquarters) of the whole thing (operation).
Meanwhile there were Jews hidden also in other villages. In the village of Tymowa was hiding a whole family: Naigort Markus, his father was hiding in another area. More Jews were hidden on Christian's properties (I already can not tell where). They were paying money. The central point was at Przybylka Bronek. He had a bunker under his whole house. The important people were hidden at his place. Shimon Deringer's brother was hidden at his place as well.
There was another Christian, named also Kruk, a cousin of the first Kruk. One was meeting the other and discussing how to save (the life of the surviving Jews). Shimon Deringer was sitting at Kruk's, and typing day and night on his typewriter. He was striking and striking on the keys. They dropped all kinds of fliers in the villages, saying that here are the partisans from Krakow who committed acts against the Germans. The publicity was not very good. There were Christians who understood and Christians who did not understand what it is. They had another whole new movement against us.
They did not refer to me and my brother as partisans, but as two murderers,
wild people. They were scared of us. However we went to Christians because
there were so many Jews and they had nothing to eat. And from where could
the people take? they had to resort to robbery. There were rich Christians.
|There was a case in Krolowka where two horse dealers lived. Janek
Noiman knew exactly were they resided. Every Thursday they used to sell colts
and would bring the money home. We were three people. We put on masks and
at night we entered their houses with weapons. We said to them to raise their
hands and to remain still. They started to attack us and we shot twice.
Where was the
There was another Christian Gorpiel Wladyslaw in Lipnica Gorna. He was a dentist. We met him at night by accident. We went to pick up fruits from his orchard. He caught us and recognized us. He said to us that he would not do anything to (harm) us. We told him what we needed. He was a rich Christian. He said to me: "I had known your father Nathan, and will never forget him for the rest of my life. Ask for whatever you want." "Please bake us bread". He had his own horses, and owned a flour mill. We paid him therefore for bread. Also the people needed shoes. They went to a shoe maker and he refused to take any money (for it). He said bring me something (instead).
We mislead the Christians by telling them stories about partisans. That we are partisans and they believed us. They gave us (what we wanted). They had a goodwill toward us and wanted to help us. There was a whole commotion in the villages. People were talking that Jews are roaming the streets. We realized that we should not be seen there anymore. We went to other villages farther away. All the people were transferred to another bunker much farther.
Meanwhile through time we met more Jews who said that in Tymowa hid Nigort Markus, his wife and child. His father was already residing with him as well. Summer, there was a thunderstorm and a lightning hit the barn. The barn started to burn. They did not know what to do and ran away. Then the neighbors noticed them. The peasant pleaded with the neighbors not to tell anyone. The old Nigort escaped to us. The young ones stayed at the peasant's place. Later on they went to hide at a second neighbor's place.
We (they) were at a second Christian's place. The two Christians started to quarrel and they informed the police that there were Jews in there. The Christian who hid Jews earlier gave them away. On one sunny day the police came and surrounded the place. The Jews started to run away. The police shot Markus, his wife and child but Markus managed to survive and came to us and told us. It was already close to Yom Kippur in the year 1943. We realized that our people are present in the whole surrounding area. Meanwhile we left our bunker. We had already another bunker. In this bunker was also my cousin with a wife and two children. Earlier they were hiding at Christians.
All the underground members decided to go and see what is happening
at the Christian who gave away (the Jews). On that mission went Hillek
Wladyslawski, his brother Yohanan, the two brothers Koupher and also Shimon
Deringer. They went there in order to continue with the struggle and to take
revenge. The Christians were already turned against the Jews.
|On Yom Kippur eve, the time people were supposed to go to Kol Nidray,
they went to the action. Wladyslawski was dressed in a German police uniform.
They knocked on the window. One of the sons (of that Christian) came out
with an axe and burst out the door like a mad man. He lowered the axe on
Hilek Wladyslawski and he fell. It is written in the "Yustina Diary". The
gentile managed to escape. He entered the stable, caught a horse and rode
to alert the police that the Jews came during the night. The police came
(to investigate). They (the Akiba partisans) brought Hilek Wladyslawski to
us. He was severely wounded. He could not speak and his entire skull was
cracked open. He died two days later and was buried in that
On the same day the police was mobilized from there, from Tymowa, where they had found addresses. Because Jews were not careful and left (their) addresses (behind). They (the police) knew that in Aleksandrowa there were a few Jews. They came to that address, made a search and then killed 3 to 4 people there. They also took away the Christian (that hid them). Then they searched in the forest. The dogs sniffed everywhere but they did not find a thing and drove away. Then they shot Nigort's father, one named Kolenda (the man that shot the father). At that time started the chapter of slaughter against the Jews since Jews were being killed. At that Christian, the one whose son managed to escape, was a priest. Our people killed him with knives because he was a big anti-Semite. There was a decline in the people's morale after the death of Hilek but Shimon Deringer said: "people, we are starting to move on". Than we had already more arms, more revolvers.
Question: how many of you were there?
Me and my brother talked over with the Christians and they promised (us) big deals. We made with them a contract about a field which one of them had, about a house and the Christians put everything in writing in order to be certain. However they did not realized that nothing would have come out of it. The situation was such, that whether the Jews remained alive or not he would not get (what the contract said he should).
Then the A.K.11 was formed and they began to look for us. We had all kinds of events in the partisan movement. There was one guy named Jozek from the Akiba organization. He used to get dressed like a gentile. He went to Wisnicz, to Bochnia and also he used to take a ride to Krakow. Once a Christian saw him on the way and recognized him as a Jew and grabbed him. Than came several more gentiles and they shot Jozek. Also there was a case with my cousin, the one that hid in our bunker with a wife and two children. He went to look for a piece of wood. The owner of the forest noticed him and followed him with a wooden stick in his hand. He struck him on the head and fractured his skull.
Question: What was the name of your cousin?
|Wisnicz was a point where German police was located. They shot him
right there. His wife did not know what happened with him and she started
to look for him. Meanwhile the children went out of the bunker and people
caught them in the woods. The wife hung herself in the forest. The German
police came into the forest and started to search. They managed to locate
our bunkers with dogs. They threw a grenade into one bunker but no one got
killed in any bunker.
Then we started to take revenge. We had already a group of 35 men. We knew about several peasants who gave away Jews. We burned, hit and killed. We used to do it at night so people would not be able to tell who did it. We worked at another Christian's place. Przybylka Michal. At his place was the main point. My aunt, my father's sister, was hiding at his son-in-law's. The A.K. found out about her. They took her and cut off her head. Then they buried her. For four days we did not know what happened to her.
Meanwhile we found out about what happened to Gusta Davidson in Krakow. She was jailed in Montelopich and managed to escape from there, I don't know how. She resided at the same Christian's who gave refuge to Shimek. That was where they gathered for their meals. Shimek Deringer, who was the overall leader, used to go to Krakow. Upon his returns he used to tell (us) what is happening there. He told (us) that our people threw grenades into the Ciganeria, where the German officers came to get drunk and for entertainment.He said that several grenades were thrown and that many people got killed and that there were that many Germans. He went again to Krakow and on the same night they caught him.
We had a bunker in the Kabilinski forest, near the Lubomirski castle. In this bunker were hiding people from Krakow. When They caught Deringer in a house, he sent a telegram, that there was a disease, a typhoid. The bunker was located on Michal Uczynski's property. Michal at that point was dead drunk and did not say a thing (to the people in the bunker) about what was happening. The police intercepted the whole telegram. The head commander of the Polish police in Wisnicz was Ludwikowski. He used to help Jews and thus gave a warning (of the danger) but it was too late. The Police came and discovered the bunker with several people, which they killed on the spot.
A night earlier, there was such a case: Two of our people lead a cow, that they had caught, into the Kabilinski forest and slaughtered it. They came and searched with dogs which sensed the smell of meat in the bunker. The two Kowpher brothers, Simcowits and others got killed there. After they killed so many people and caught Shimon Dringer, we, the remaining people moved farther inside the forest, in the mountains. Jews were hiding there as well, about which we knew. They called us "come, we want you to stay with us". We kept going farther on our way. We knew that a certain Christian was informing about Jews. We struck him with a wooden stick and we burried him. We took him out of his house and burried him. There was a priest who talked about things he shouldn't have from the platform. We came at night and burnt (down his church). This was our revenge.
In Wisnicz they freed all the criminals. All the political prisoners
and all the murderers. Among them there were Endeks12 and they
become the main leaders of the movement which advocated the killing of Jews.
They searched everywhere. They knew about everything and indeed they
|Later was a case in the Kamienna Gora (mountain) where we made a
large bunker. We moved all our people into one bunker. With us there was
one person named Mottle Fishler who became our finance minister. He had a
little money, dollars, pieces of gold which he managed to carry from ghetto
Bochnia. He used to exchange it. On every step and every corner the Christians,
the A.K. and the police were looking for us. Even there in the mountains
they were searching for us. However they could not guess exactly where we
On one day in the morning came a forest caretaker. He noticed a Jew Lewkowitz, They caught him and than they brought him to a certain Christian house. Also they caught Minka Naigort, Markus Naigort's sister. They brought them to the police. Lawkowitz knew the location of all our bunkers. We got scared and had to be careful.
It was already the snow season. Our bunkers were located farther away, in another area. By night we came there: Me, my brother, Yohanan Wadislawski and Yankle Noiman. We came to have a look, at how the people were doing. There was rain mixed with snow. We noticed that our friends were lighting a fire in the bunker, it seems that they were cooking something. The smoke was quite high. We asked why they did not use dry wood since if they would have cut dry wood, it would not make so much smoke.
My brother and I went out with a saw to cut some wood. As we were standing (in the forest) we heard a shout: "Heraus fun here!". We started to escape. We heard how they threw a grenade into the bunker and then killed 8 to 10 people. It was done by the Germans. The Polish caretaker of the forest, gave them away after he met Fishler going out (of the bunker). He asked him in Polish, what he was doing there, this anti Christ. Fishler did not notice that this gentile kept observing him and went back into the bunker. The gentile informed the police and the Germans came at once. In the bunker the people were not aware of the situation. My brother and I were lucky since we ran away. Together with us also escaped Yankle Noiman, Yohanan Wladyslawski and Nigort. Then at night we, the five of us, came (back). The police shot at us and we returned fire. Luckily it was a rocky terrain. The whole bunker was made out of rock. The stones and bullets flew over our heads. We ran toward our area all day until nightfall. We got there at night, and after that we kept going the whole night. It was about 25 to 30 km. We had to run during the day since we did not know what was happening there. Would they catch anyone alive, would he give away the information of our bunkers' whereabouts? When we came (there) we called all the people in the forest and told them to scatter. It was the month of Cheshvan (October) and it was raining and snowing. It was very hard but still we decided that we must go farther. We went to Przybylka Michal and he would help us. He would hide our people. There were also sick people among us. We came to that Christian and he openned a bunker for us right away. At that Christian was the case with my aunt, the one whose head was cut off..
It was summer and it was raining. He came in and told us that such and such had happened. People had found a head of a woman. Who could it be? He brought us to that place at night and I recognized that it was my father's sister. She was (hiding) at a place belong to a member of the Przybylka family.
We started to investigate what had happened. What was the cause that
lead to her death? No one should have known that Jews were hiding at this
place. We, four people, were moving in the forests and in the villages. From
one village to another, here and there, in order to see what would transpire.
|there were people in bunkers who could not go out. There were people
with all kinds of diseases, typhoid, cold and sick. Whoever felt well enough,
went out during the night. People were inside a barn or a storage room. During
day time the people were standing and grinding wheat while the gentiles stood
in front on guard against anyone approaching. We ground the wheat and gave
it to the Christians and to our (people).
Later at night we went to burn a priest's residence. On that mission went Yankle Noiman and I. It was September 7th, 1944. The priest spoke from the platform, saying that there were still Jews in that area and they must be liquidated. At night we went on this burning mission and a Christian showed us the way. I called my brother Shlomo, bless his soul, to come with us but he declined. We left on our way.
Four weeks back our people caught a gentile in the forest who was observing the place. We did not know who it was. Meanwhile he was one of the A.K. partisans. We went away from that place and burnt the priest's residence. We came back at two O'clock. We heard the sound of arm fire. When we came closer we heard a gentile lady screaming that all the people got killed. Among them also was my brother. It was the 19th day of Elul in the year 1944. All together eight people were killed there. The Christians burried them during the day.
From there we fled to another Christian. He made bread for us. We hid at his place for four weeks. Later we hid with a second Christian. Then, after that, we ran into the woods. It was snowing already. We suffered like that until the liberation.
Question: When did the liberation come?
Question: What happened after the liberation?
Question: When did you get
Question: According to your estimate, how many
Jews from Wisnicz survived the war?
The testimony of Yohanan Kalfus provided us with information about the developments around Bochnia during and after the ghetto formation as well as the subsequent time period after the liquidation of ghetto Bochnia up to the end of the Second World War. We have here a detailed description of the way the local Polish population treated the Jews during the war. Some Poles did help the surviving Jews and even took a personal risk doing so. However a noticeable portion of the population including the partisan movement of the A.K. did look at the extermination process in a positive way. Not only did they not offer any help but they actually took an active part in helping the Nazis or even killing Jews themselves. At the time of the Jewish rebellion the Jewish underground movements attempted desperately to form an alliance with Polish rebellion movements. These attempts failed in general (except the contacts with the Communist rebels) since the Polish rebels were interested in keeping Poland free of Jews as well as Germans. According to this testimony the killing of Jews by the A.K. continued even after the war had ended. However the incidents of robbing Jewish property during the time of the expulsion should not have been perceived as acts directed specifically against Jews. As we found out in this testimony, given the opportunity, the local peasants robbed each other as well, in order to survive.
In this testimony we learned about the fate of the Wisnicz Jewish community and the close affiliation between the German command of Bochnia and the one in Wisnicz. The implementation steps leading to the large scale exaction that took place in the village of Boczkov are covered here in great details. We learned of the situation in ghetto Bochnia after the first Aussiedlung. The cheap Jewish labor was used on any occasion. Whenever the authorities had a need for any kind of physical labor they always exploited the vast Jewish manpower that was at their disposal. We also learned here about the way the ghetto was fenced and the ease of breaking into or out of the ghetto. Mr. Kalfus described here the struggle of the Jewish partisans for survival in the harsh Polish winter and amongst a hostile population. It is not surprising that the surviving Jews turned into outlaws since the protection of the law was denied to the entire Jewish community in the very early days of German occupation.
The last portion of the testimony covers the operation of the surviving Jews against the collaborating Poles who gave away Jews to the German authorities or who participated in actual killing of Jews in hiding. This portion mentions the Akiba partisans group who was active in the Wisnicz area at that time. The witness kept in contact with this group and assisted the Akiba members in finding a new hiding locations when the need arose. I would like to emphasize one piece of information, provided in this testimony, that I found very interesting. I refer here to the sequence of events regarding the final arrest of Shimon Deringer, the Akiba partisans' leader.
The prevailing opinion of historians regarding the imprisonment of Deringer
and his wife Yustina is as follows. During the time that Deringer was on
one of his trips to Krakow the Germans discovered his bunker near Wisnicz
and killed all his friends there. Subsequently, realizing that there was
nothing to go back to, he decided to escape from Poland. Deringer with his
wife Yustina and her little nephew attempted to escape from Poland. When
Shimon Deringer came to pick up his false documents he was caught by the
Germans. A short time later Yustina surrender herself to the German authorities
and both of them were never seen alive again.
|In this testimony the sequence of events was different somewhat.
Mr. Kalfus is testifying that when Deringer was caught he sent a telegram
warning the people in his bunker about the danger. Obviously if Deringer
was caught he would have not been allowed to send any telegram or keep any
contact with anybody outside the prison. More then likely Deringer upon
realization that he was identified by the Germans (and probably was followed)
sent a telegram to Wisnicz to warn his friends there. The telegram was
intercepted and this is how his friends were discovered by the German
authorities. Since other supporting testimonies indicate that Deringer was
attempting to escape from Poland at that time I believe that the sequence
of events was as follows:
It is hard to say why this testimony does not support the sequence of events mentioned in the Yustina Diary. Maybe there are other testimonies (that I am not aware of) that contradict Mr. Kalfus' testimony on this subject. However the sequence of event in the Yustina diary was not written by Yustina herself but by historians who researched the subject. Keeping that in mind we can see that some areas regarding the research pertaining to the Jewish rebellion in Krakow are not clear cut and can be interpreted in different ways.
Another historical fact that does not agree with the Yustina diary is
the timing of the punishment actions against collaborating Polish peasants
executed by the Jewish partisans. According to the Yustina Diary quite a
few of these actions took place before Hilek Wladyslawski's leath. This testimony
indicates that the action that lead to Hilek's death was the first action
and the main revenge operations took place right after that. If there were
revenge actions by Jewish partisans prior to that, they might have been minor