Lomza during the war

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Lomza during the war - From Travel 1 The receptionist at the Polonia...
From Travel 1 The receptionist at the Polonia Hotel told me that, no, there were no Jews left in Lomza, and little left to suggest they had ever been here. When I showed her the photograph of the synagogue, she shook her head it had been destroyed by the Germans. In the last century, the Jewish population of Lomza had been around 70 per cent before dropping down to half that at the time my grandparents left, due, I deduced, to anti-Semitic activity around the period of the failed 1905 revolution in nearby Russia, when border towns such as Lomza became a refuge for fleeing Jews. A small memorial on a wall where the synagogue had once stood told the story of what happened. to the Jews that remained. In 1942, they were rounded up and forced into a ghetto on a street near the river by the Jewish cemetery. The following year, the entire Jewish population all 2000 of them were marched to the nearby forest and shot. Lomza then became the site of a main assembly point for Jews from the surrounding towns who were sub-sequently transported to Treblinka. There was something left in Lomza of Jewish Poland, however the cemetery. It was an odd place, unlike any cemetery I'd ever seen. Effectively, it was a public park with mown grass and paths through gravestones that rose up like a mouthful of broken teeth. About a third of the gravestones were defaced by swastikas; others were daubed with messages such as "Jude Raus! Jew Out!" We left Lomza and drove to Tykocin. Like Lomza, 50 per cent of the population here had been Jewish until the war. As in Lomza, Tykocin's Jews were taken to the forest and shot, buried in mass graves forcibly dug a few days earlier by their Polish neighbors. But unlike Lomza, no new development took place here. Tykocin was preserved as exactly the sort of shtetl town that everyone's Jewish grandparents had left hens pecking in the cobbled streets; old women brushing crumbs from their door with a witch's broom of twigs; the rows of single-storey wooden houses and the old market square, where merchants once met and did their business and gossiped and never dreamed that any kind of vast affliction would ever fall on them. FDR MONTHS, I had been debating whether to go to Auschwitz. Until recently, it had never occurred to me that one could go there that it was still a place on this earth rather than a chamber of consciousness. But a couple of years ago, a non-Jewish friend went to an academic conference in Krakow. There were some good excursions, she told me but the best was to Auschwitz. It turned out that all my non-Jewish friends who had visited Poland had done. the trip, and all pronounced it one of the most traumatic and significant experiences of their lives. What was it that you weren't expecting, I asked sarcastically. In my family, you were never too ycung to learn about the Holocaust. One doesn't think of Auschwitz as having a geography, but it does. "It" is not a single place, but once formed a complex of camps on the outskirts of the town of Auschwitz, which has reverted to its pre-war Polish name of Oscwiecim. An important new book, Auschwitz: 1270 To The Present, by Robert Jan van Pelt and Deborah Dwork (Yale University Press), explains that Auschwitz was really three main installations and scores of sub-camps, designed to be the administrative centre of a visionary plan for the Germanification of Poland. Of those three main sites, Ausch-witz-Monowitz was a slave-labor camp, building a factory for the production of synthetic rubber. Nothing now remains except the factory itself. Auschwitz-Birkenau was built in 1941, demolishing an entire village to make way for it, initially to accommodate 250,000 Russian POW slave laborers who died almost at once in the extreme conditions of cold and hunger. Emptied of their presence, it seemed the ideal place, the Nazis considered, to send the Jews and the Gypsies. Most died as soon as they got off the train. No stripey uniform, no shaved head, no tattoo, just a short march to the gas chamber in -whatever they were wearing when they arrived. The camp that everyone visits! a -million people a year is jiist known as Auschwitz, or Auschwitz I to historians. One's excursion is, in many ways, an exercise in deception, as

Clipped from
  1. The Age,
  2. 25 Oct 1997, Sat,
  3. Page 185

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  • Lomza during the war

    stukawife – 03 Feb 2016

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