Bad Rabka and Zakopane – SD School’s
"The Schools for Scoundrels"
Establishment of SD School at Zakopane
During the first months after the occupation of Poland, the Commander –in – Chief of the Security Police (Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdienst) SS- Brigadefuhrer Bruno Streckenbach founded the Sipo- SD School close to the Slovak border in Zakopane.
Zakopane a winter resort at the bottom of the high Tatra mountains, the purpose of the school was to train selected candidates of the Sipo-SD, collaborating Ukrainians, Polish Police Officers and other Sipo-SD personnel including intelligence gathering sympathisers (V- Agents) under the leadership of the Commandant SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Hans Kruger.
Zakopane was turned into an entertainment centre for senior officers of the SS and Werhmacht, all Jews were supposed to have been removed from the district by the end of November 1939, and in 1940 this was achieved.
The Nazis had set them to work uncovering hidden Jewish “treasures” in the town. Some two-hundred documents relating to the three years of the activity of the Judenrat in Zakopane have survived the war. Immediately after the Nazi take-over, Zakopane’s largest hotel, the “Palace” was converted into the headquarters of the Gestapo. The main hall on the first floor of the hotel was reserved for dances and entertainment for the officers.
Part of the building served as the “labour bureau,” where Jews were sent to register for forced labour. The deep cellars served as an interrogation centre and prison for Jews accused of breaking Nazi rules. According to a number of Jewish witnesses who survived the war, as many as 300 Jews were murdered at the “Palace,” many of them women and children. The “Palace” was known locally as “Death’s Head Resort.”
The leading Nazi officials at the time were the Chief of Gestapo, Robert Weissmann, and his deputy Richard Samish. In late 1939, on the outskirts of Zakopane the Sipo- SD Academy was established in the Hotel “Stamary.” On 20 April 1940, SS- Untersturmfuhrer Wilhelm Rosenbaum was appointed as Police Secretary at the school and deputy to the Commandant SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Hans Kruger.
Rosenbaum’s duties were more of a pastoral care nature, arranging board and lodgings, salaries, welfare of conscripts and general administrative duties. Among the other permanent staff were the brothers Wilhelm and Johann Mauer, who had been seconded for duty at the school.
The brothers, once officers in the Polish army and who spoke Ukrainian, their sister, Lisa Schumacher, nee Kaufmann, performed office work. The kitchen and feeding arrangements were organised by local Polish personnel, the curriculum and training at the school, underwent changes as the war progressed of the war.
Selective recruitment of the SS security services, Ukrainian and Polish collaborators were trained in intelligence and counter-intelligence activities. In Zakopane, through the intermediary of the Jewish Council (Judenrat) Rosenbaum selected male and female workers from the Jewish population for maintenance and cleaning work, care of the gardens and other heavy manual tasks.
The Jew, Paul Beck, was appointed overseer of the Jewish workers to liaise with the SS. With his experience in practical things and a good portion of deceitfulness, Beck who spoke a number of languages knew how to conduct himself and mediate between the Jewish workers and the German authorities.
When in July 1940, the school and its permanent staff moved from Zakopane to Bad Rabka, a number of Jewish workers, among them Paul Beck, to move there. It was at this time the Jews residing in the surrounding areas began to feel and experience the Nazi onslaught on their communities.
The SD School Moves to Bad Rabka
Bad Rabka was a small health resort located on both sides of the Raba River and halfway between Krakow and Zakopane. At the outbreak of war there were approximately 7,000 inhabitants in Rabka. The Jewish population was about 1,500, which increased during the early part of the war. Relatives and friends of the local Jews moved from the larger towns to the area less exposed to persecution elsewhere. This was an age-old custom of Jews who sought protection and comfort in numbers in times of stress.
Institutions and offices of the Reich and Wehrmacht as well as other organizations, established themselves in Bad Rabka. Apart from the local Governor’s office and government departments, there was a military convalescent home, children’s homes and a German guesthouse. Bad Rabka enjoyed all the trappings of a small town, well-served by both road and rail. The adjoining railway station of Chabowka was a central junction for the larger towns in Poland, which also served Bad Rabka.
The SD School initially occupied premises of a requisitioned Jewish religious institution for children, situated near the Chabowka railway station. In the late autumn the school moved to new and much larger premises to the “Theresianeum,” also called Thereska, a high school for girls.
The four-storey building was located in the northern part of the town called Slonna, on a tree –covered slope alongside the Slonna River, that flowed into the the Raba River. SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Hans Kruger arrived with his entourage to the newly converted school and remained there for a short time, when he was recalled to Krakow to take up the duties of deputy to the BdS Dr Eberhardt Schongarth.
For a short period SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Rudolf Voigtlander took over the command of the school, but within a few weeks Rosenbaum was appointed Commandant of the school, where he remained until April 1941, when he was also recalled to Dr Schongarth’s office for preparatory work for “Operation Barbarossa”, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
The SD – Sipo school at Bad Rabka’s activities were suspended but retained a small staff to look after the premises. The school did not recommence activities until November 1941, when both Dr Schorngarth, and Rosenbaum returned from military duties in East Galicia.
In the late autumn of 1941, when Dr Schongarth’s Einsatzgruppen (zbV) had been disbanded and the personnel distributed throughout East Galicia, Schongarth and Rosenbaum returned to Krakow. Dr Schongarth resumed his duties as Commander –in Chief of the Security Police (BdS), whilst Rosenbaum returned to Bad Rabka as Economic Leader (Wirtscharfuhrer) of the SD- Sipo school to prepare and rebuild the school for new courses.
Within days of the Rabka School becoming operational, a large black flag and a swastika was prominently mounted on the roof, and in large black letters, the following was displayed across the top floor of the building.
BEFEHLSHABER der SICHERHEITSPOLIZEI und des SD im GG SCHULE des SICHERHEITSPOLIZEI
Rosenbaum had no authority or influence in the educational training at the school. As “Wirtschaftsbeamter” his duties were the same as in Zakopane, that is to arrange accommodation for students attending courses.
As a measure of Dr Schongarth’s opinion of him, Rosenbaum was titled “Headmaster” but despite this unflattering title, as Commandant of the School he wielded enormous power. Rosenbaum remained as administrator of the School until the spring of 1943, when the activities of the school were the subject to internal SS criminal and corruption investigations, when he was removed to other duties. During this period, the crimes for which he was indicted after the war were committed.
Selected candidates for the school were recruited from a number of sources, but mainly from the Security Services, Polish Police officers, Ukrainian Security collaborators, including Ukrainian Prisoners of War from internment camps, and the more established SS training camp at Trawniki, near Lublin. Ukrainian candidates were required to be healthy men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five who were ranked and segregated according to their standard of education.
The Rabka School since its transfer from Zakopane had introduced specialist Ukrainian instructors, namely the Mauer brothers, and SS-Scharfuhrer’s Wosdolowicz, Jaworski and Vasilko, who were all previously at Zakopane, and transferred to Bad Rabka to supervise and train Ukrainian recruits.
In overall command of training was SS-Scharfuhrer’s Bohnert and Schuppler, who had been members of the permanent staff since November 1940. SS- Scharfuhrer Bandure was the school driver and SS-Scharfuhrer Dziuba was the clerical officer. SS-Oberscharfuhrer Hermann Oder joined the school in March 1942 and SS- Hauptscharfuhrer’s Walter Proch and Pohland joined the small team in July 1942, and acted as deputies to Rosenbaum.
The female contracted staff and later witnesses were Meta Kuck, nee Speck, Schindler, nee Hendriks, and Engelmann who was secretary to Rosenbaum. In addition to the basic recruits, Sipo – SD officers for the senior command structure were sent to the school for pre-promotion and refresher courses. There is photographic evidence of senior Sipo- SD officers from various districts of the General Government in the classroom being lectured by Dr Schongarth.
These courses for potential SS leaders were of between three and six months and geared to those officers who would return in the short term to the occupied zones, and the future leaders within the SS structure. Lecturers at the Bad Rabka School came from the elite of the Nazi hierarchy, Dr Hans Frank Governor of the General Government, Odilo Globocnik, SSPF Lublin, and Hermann Hofle from Aktion Reinhard Headquarters in Lublin.
Also Freidrich Wilhelm Kruger Higher SS and Police Leader Ost, Scherner, Grosskopf and Muller from the security services in Krakow gave lectures, as did Katzmann, Tanzmann and Hans Kruger from Eastern Galica. Accommodation for Rosenbaum and his guests and lecturers was in the villa “Margrabianka,” known as the “Fuhrerheim” with a sentry posted outside at all times and was situated on the other side of the Slonna River.
A casino was also available for the SS Leaders, a recreation place for the general SS was established in the villa “Haus Annemarie.” This house was managed by Rosenbaum’s lady friend, Annemarie Bachus, whom he later married in 1943.
Shortly after Rosenbaum’s return to the school, he arranged and built new buildings, appointed auxiliary staff and by December 1941, the first candidates were entering the school. On the school’s premises Rosenbaum had installed a variety of workshops, tailor’s shops, shoemakers, saddlers, and a hairdresser’s shop, all administered by the Jew Borger and his son under the direct supervision of Ukrainian supervisors.
The brothers Czarnowicki and the Jew Herman Gold belonged to the Jewish tailors. Zelinger a Jew, worked in the saddlery, Trieger, another Jew was the gardener. Michael Ettinger was the locksmith and driver whose domain was based in the school garage and as such was in a position to observe the school activities on a daily basis.
Hella Baumann, a Jewess had been brought from Zakopane to work in the laundry, the Jewess Sara Schon, nee Luisa Goldfinger, and Ada Rawicz, nee Ada Peller, were cleaners and worked in the “Margrabianka”. Sara Schon also worked as a maid and nanny in the household of the SS-Scharfuhrer’s Schuppler and Proch.
Rosenbaum built more buildings in the school grounds, he also laid out a sports ground and shooting range in the small woods behind the school. Building materials for this construction work came mostly from Jewish cemeteries in the district. From the Jewish cemetery of Nowy Targ, the smooth granite and marble stones were shipped to the Bad Rabka school and used in the construction of the shooting range and the paved area at the front of the school.
Since December 1941 there had been a steady stream of candidates passing through the training courses of the Bad Rabka School. This was in addition to the Senior and Intermediate Command courses that had just commenced. The length of the courses fluctuated, but usually they were for a month for the non-commissioned personnel and between three and six months for the senior commanders.
During the Operation Barbarossa campaign emergency courses were introduced but once the initial phase of the destruction of Soviet Jewry was put in train, the school settled down to a more conventional syllabus, and it continued in this manner until 1944, when it transferred to Berlin due to the Soviet advance.
Already mentioned, were the visits to the school by Senior Officers to lecture on a number of subjects, Dr Schongarth would often chair these lectures. Dr Kurt Neiding, from the BdS staff in Krakow, remembers one such lecture given by an SS- Fuhrer from the “Aktion Reinhard” office of Odilo Globocnik :
“I once took part in a commanders meeting in Bad Rabka, which was chaired by Dr Schongarth, an SS-Fuhrer who was stationed in Lublin brought a piece of soap with him. It was an experiment which on the orders of Polizeifuhrer Globocnik had been made out of Jewish corpses. There were obviously attempts being made to use the Jewish corpses to make soap.”
Behind this façade, the school was to become the training area of the SS extermination section, training of German and Ukrainian executioners and students of the intermediate Sipo-SD Command Structure. The idea of executing Jews in the woods behind the SD School appealed to the Gestapo – for the students it was good practice. All forms of murder was used, shootings, hangings and beatings.
It has been estimated that over thirty such round-ups from the neighboring villages were held, and the victims brought to the Bad Rabka School where they were executed in the school grounds. Pious Jews brought into the school were received with particular cruelty and made to run the gauntlet of the SS and Ukrainians who beat them mercilessly on their path to the pits that had been dug in the woods. Their scrolls cut into shreds, they fell into the pits crying “Shema Yisrael.”
To cover up their murder, Rosenbaum ordered the Bad Rabka Town Clerk, Cheslav Triboski, to register their deaths as “victims of heart attacks.” Rosenbaum obtained more Jewish workers from the Employment Office in Nowy Targ. Later on, from May 1942, Jews from the neighboring district of Neu- Sandez and surrounding areas were transported to the school based upon need.
The Jews who worked in the Bad Rabka School and those living in camps and residences on the periphery, had to wear an armband with a blue Star of David as identification, but were able to stay in their own houses. Jews from other locations were accommodated in the proximity of the school in three houses on Slonna Street, now called Ulica Poniatonskiego, which had become a camp surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by armed Ukrainians.
Gradually, the Jewish population from Bad Rabka was massed together there. The Jews of Bad Rabka fared better than other communities, retaining 200 workers, but these were imprisoned within the school compound. Rosenbaum had personally selected many of these Jews from workers brought in from outside the area and taken into the school for labour. The camp kitchen was under the supervision of Alicja Nogala, a Jewess.
The Murder Actions in the School
Apart from the case regarding the hanging of ten Jews in August 1942 the preferred method of killing people was by shooting. The recently constructed shooting range at the school was used by the recruits for target practice exercises.
In addition to the recognised form of static targets, Jews were brought to the school specifically to be used as “running targets” across the shooting range. There are reports that transports of Jewish children were brought to Bad Rabka from Auschwitz and used as “moving targets.” This was not an unusual occurrence as there are confirmed reports from a number of locations where Jews were used for shooting practice at the whim of the SS in the Janowska and Plaszow camps.
In the town of Makov Podhalanski, near Zakopane, Jews were taken to the Gestapo headquarters at the Marishia Hotel, where they were tortured by recruits from the Bad Rabka Sipo- SD Academy, then taken to the courtyard one by one and used for target practice. In the village of Bely Rast, Krasnaya Polyana district, a twelve-year old boy was placed on the porch of a house where he was used as target practice, the Germans then moved around the village taking pot shots at children running through the streets.
In the village of Voskresenskoye, Dubinin district, a three –year old boy was selected for target practice and shot with machine-gun fire. In the village of Basmanova, Glinka district, two-hundred school children working in the fields were rounded up and used for target practice. It was not only the students of National Socialism that underwent instruction. Some Jews had to undergo courses of instruction, but of a very different nature, as recalled by Michael Ettinger:
“Selected Kapo’s of the Jewish prisoners were regularly ordered by Scharfuhrer Bohnert to attend instruction classes, which were arranged early in the morning. We were taken to the fields behind the school where we were given instructions as to how to conduct us, when called upon to dig pits. We were not stupid and knew that people were being shot in the woods. At first they told us that the pits were for anti-aircraft purposes, but this lie had no meaning for us.
After time, even the Germans knew these lies were not practical. The pit had to be dug to precise measurements, which would be given to us at the time. On arrival of the Commandant we had to make ourselves scarce and hide in the bushes with our backs to the pit. On the sound of a whistle we would return to the pit and work to instructions, which meant arranging the dead bodies, and then filling the pits to a level.
Of course, some of us looked at what was going on – groups of people were brought to the edge of the pit and made to undress. Then they were positioned at the edge and shot in the back of the head. The shouts and screams were terrible.”
Rosenbaum gave the orders for all executions and was present at all the following ascertained actions. These actions of both mass shootings and individual shootings were carried out according to a specific plan based upon trained shooting practices in the General Government.
Rosenbaum was a trained killer, having been indoctrinated as to methods at the “shooting seminar” given by Dr Schongarth in Lvov. In the case of multiple executions the Jews who were to be shot were accommodated during the day in a not very secure bunker next to the school, which was guarded by Ukrainians.
Smaller groups, such as in executions of Jews captured on the streets, the victims were locked up in the so-called “clinks”, one of them was a cellar under the pig-sty where they were made to lie face down until the time for execution. According to the size of the group, a number of Jews were ordered to dig graves on the day of execution.
After SS- Scharfuhrer Bohnert determined the exact measurement of the grave in the woods behind the school, not far from the shooting range, the grave- commando set about their task. Digging began under the supervision of a few chosen Jewish Kapo’s, who were responsible to see that the job, was finished on time and according to plan.
When the digging was completed a signal was sent and a short time later, small groups of 3-5 victims, sometimes more, were taken out of the “clinks” to the graveside and executed. The gravediggers had to leave the pits as soon as they saw the victims arrive in order not to be shot. In order to come out of the mass grave quickly from the three meters deep pits, the Jews built steps based upon their experience to assist a hurried exit.
The people brought for execution were frequently beaten and ordered to undress facing the pit, during this time the gravediggers withdrew to hide in the undergrowth or among the trees in the woods. At this time of the proceedings, Rosenbaum would appear with other SS officers and Ukrainians. Sometimes terrible scenes took place. The victims screamed for fear of death and begged for their lives.
Mother’s were imploring the Commandant to shoot them first before shooting their children. Women refused to undress and their clothes were ripped off by force from their bodies. Then those Jews had to stand at the edge of the graves or sit around the graveside. A single shot in the nape of the neck killed them. The bodies fell into the grave or were given a kick by their executioner, directly after the shot.
The grave was a horrifying sight. The bodies were lying in total disorder, one on top of the other and covered in blood. The gravediggers were called, usually with the blow of a whistle, and were sent into the graves to arrange the bodies. Often they would notice that some of the Jews shot were not dead, Rosenbaum and other executioners would fire additional shots to finish them off.
After the shootings had finished the bodies were covered with chalk and then with earth. The execution site was then grassed over. The clothes of the victims were collected by the Jews, taken to the school and cleaned, repaired and used.
The Aktion of May 1942 – Jews from Rabka and Nowy Sachs
Rosenbaum had obtained lists of Jewish population in Rabka through the Judenrat. Based upon these lists he ordered in late April or early May 1942, for the Jews of Rabka to report to the school. After he had assembled a few hundred of mainly old and disabled Jews at the school premises he commenced to undertake a selection. Jews who were fit for work did not have to appear although many of them had accompanied their elderly parents to the school.
Rosenbaum sat at a table with lists of the Jewish inhabitants in front of him. He instructed the Jews to walk in front of him while Beck, his Jewish interpreter was reading the names. Together with SS- Scharfuhrer Bohnert, Rosenbaum inspected the Jews and made notes of the names that interested him, especially the disabled Jews who he marked with a cross.
After a final roll call he allowed the Jews to return to their homes.
On the 20 May 1942, Rosenbaum ordered, through the Judenrat for at least forty-five Jews from the list, the old and disabled to present themselves to the Sipo – SD Academy. Among these Jews listed was the mother of the Jewess Nogala, Mrs Paster, as well as the grandmother of the Jewess Schon, Mrs Ernestine Kranz, and her uncle called Beim. The grandson of Mrs Kranz, Mark Goldfinger, remembered the day his grandmother was taken away:
“I remember being at home with my mother and grandmother in our house, which was not far from the SS School. There was a knock on the door. My grandmother went to a prepared hiding place at the back of the house. When my mother opened the door there was an SS man and a Polish policeman standing there with a list. They asked for Ernestine Kranz. My mother told them that she wasn’t at home, to which the SS man said,” that my mother should come instead.”
"My Grandmother must have heard the conversation as she suddenly appeared and identified herself. She was taken away to the SS School. On the next day I took some sandwiches to the school, hoping to give them to Grandmother. I approached the school from the rear and when I reached the clearing by the woods I saw that a grave was being prepared.
I was watching from behind a bush when suddenly a Ukrainian guard saw me and told me to clear off as fast as possible. That same evening, my grandmother was among a number of Jews who were shot into the grave. My sister Sara, who worked for Rosenbaum, told me later that Rosenbaum had come to her and regretted that her grandmother had to be shot, but assured her that he hadn’t allowed her to suffer.”
The Jews listed came to the school during the day not expecting to remain and certainly did not expect what was to follow. After their arrival, the Jews were locked in the bunker next to the school building and guarded by Ukrainians. They had to lay flat with their faces towards the floor.
That same day, the Jewish grave commando started to dig and prepare a grave on a small clearing in the woods behind the school. SS – Scharfuhrer Bohnert had chosen 20-25 Jews to do this work. Bohnert had selected a larger area in the woodland glade for this purpose, which had to be 3 metres deep. The work was done according to instructions. At 5pm the imprisoned Jews in the stalls were taken in small groups by the Ukrainian guards to the place of execution, beating them and urging them on.
The gravediggers had left but were concealed in the bushes nearby facing away from the execution site. The Jewish victims were ordered to undress and then stand or sit around the pit. One Jewess who refused to undress had her clothing ripped off her body. Rosenbaum arrived with a posse of executioners and immediately shot six Jews with his pistol in the back of the neck.
SS- Scharfuhrer Bohnert, Oder, Bandura and the Ukrainian Wosdolowski all shot Jews, and pushed them into the grave. The grave commando were recalled and set about arranging the bodies as instructed. The graves were then concealed in the normal manner.
Rosenbaum believed the Jews from Bad Rabka and from the immediate area were not sufficient in number for the work to be carried out at the school. He requested more workers to complete the projects he had in mind. The Labour Office at Nowy Sachs was the Central Employment Agency for Jewish Labour, so he made a number of requests for more labour.
Between May and July 1942 on the orders of Dr Schongarth at least three working transports were sent to Bad Rabka from Nowy Sachs. The first transport organised in Nowy Sachs was by the Head of the Employment Department for Jewish workers (Jewish Employment Office). The Jewish Office kept files on the Jews who were fit for work and available for transport.
Those unfit for work were not registered, when a registered Jew died, the card was marked with a cross in the files and then destroyed. The transports to Rabka was organised by the Gestapo Chief in Nowy Sachs, SS- Obersturmfuhrer Heinrich Hamann, who was no less efficient than Rosenbaum having already shot 881 Jews in the nearby Mishana Dolne.
The first indications of a call for Jewish labour were by the Judenrat and the Jewish Police who posted a request for male Jews between the age of 15 and 40 to present themselves in the former “Maccabi” clubhouse.
After a short medical inspection by the Employment Office at least 60 healthy and fit Jewish men of the required age group were selected and ordered to present themselves with their luggage in a few days at the Jewish Employment Office in Nowy Sachs.
On the 9 May 1942, the transport with the selected Jews left Nowy Sachs for Bad Rabka. The transport was received in the afternoon by members of the Judenrat of Rabka and by the Jew Paul Beck, from the Sipo-SD School. The transport escort handed over a list of names to Beck who brought the Jews to the town baths where they were shaven. Beck then allocated them accommodation in one of the three houses in the work camp close to the school.
The following morning the newcomers were brought to the school and were received by SS-Scharfuhrer Bohnert who checked if the transport was complete. Rosenbaum arrived in a horse drawn carriage, Beck informed the Jews, “Here comes Lieutenant Rosenbaum.”
Rosenbaum gave a speech and expressed with sharp words that one had to work and work again, whoever did not work was “dealt” with. Accompanied by Bohnert, Rosenbaum inspected the Jews. The Jewish workers were divided into 4 or 5 groups and each group had a Kapo, who was chosen from the ranks. The Jewish Kapo’s were Farber, Sammy Frolich, Lonker, Hennek Grossbard and Joseph Grossbard.
The Jews were sent to their places of work in the school. Separate groups were levelling the terrain around the school. Other groups had to build a cellar under the pigsty, later to be the bunker for the prisoners and the biggest building project, the installation of the shooting range, which was planned a few hundred meters behind the school in the woods. In order to build the lines of fire, considerable amounts of earth had to be removed.
Already Rosenbaum and Bohnert, during their inspection walks had made notes of individual Jews. Rosenbaum had a list of eight Jews in his notebook. He would approach a work group and say to a Jewish worker, “What’s your name?”
This selection was entirely random, in no way did it concern weaklings or Jews unfit for work – it may have been the Jew wore glasses, or looked in a particular way. Among those “noted” Jews was the fit and healthy butcher Wieldstein who just happened to have a scar on his face. For the time being these ‘noted’ Jews were ignored. On the day that the action against the Rabka Jews was carried out, these ‘noted’ Jews were separated from their work groups and brought to the bunkers where the Jews from Rabka were imprisoned.
Together, with them, they were shot in the early evening hours in a way described above. Among them was the Jew Schermer who probably was not part of the chosen victims but was in the grave to arrange the corpses and had failed to get out in time.
The Aktion of May 1942 – Jews from Nowy Targ
On the 8 June 1942, a squad of Sipo- SD led by the Gestapo chief Weissmann went into a feather plucking plant where many pious Jews, young and old were working.Provoked further by the traditional Jewish appearance of these workers, the Sipo-SD squad ordered them to walk in procession to the cemetery. Many of them wrapped themselves up in their prayer shawls, knowing that these were their last moments.
In the Nowy Targ cemetery they were first beaten brutally and then taken to prepared pits, which had been dug by local Jews in advance. All those gathered were then shot, together with the gravediggers, some were still alive when the pit was filled in and the earth covered them.
The “aktions” continued in Nowy Targ, in July and August 1942, those Jews who had been imprisoned for foreign currency offences were all taken to the Rabka School where they were shot in the pits behind the school. The remainder of the Jews in the town were rounded up and taken to the railway station and shipped in boxcars to the Belzec death camp.
Finally, the Gestapo commanded by Weissmann rounded up all the sick, disabled and elderly Jews who were transported to the Bad Rabka School and murdered in the usual way. In dealing with the Jews of Nowy Targ, the Gestapo worked according to lists which had been prepared with the help of local Poles. During the “actions” more and more Jews were brought to Nowy Targ from neighbouring towns and villages:
Shchavnitza, Ohotniza, Habubka, Mamanova, Manioba, Caminitza, Shaflari, Hoholov and Kroshcnenko –on – Dunaietz. These incoming Jews remained in Nowy Targ awaiting their fate, the congestion was unbearable. The Judenrat had been spared the initial deportation were pressed by Weissmann for a ransom to avoid their own departure.
In late August 1942, despite assurances by Weissmann, cattle cars arrived at the railway station. The Judenrat were told that work had been found for the remainder of the Jewish population in the Ukraine where they would work on the land. Those that volunteered boarded the transport believing they had been saved, however, this was not the case, the transport left calling at Rabka, Skawina, Krakow, and its final destination the death camp at Belzec – there were no survivors.
On the 30 August 1942 the remainder of the Jews in Nowy Targ were ordered to assemble in the Pilsudski Stadium. A barrel was placed at the centre of the field and the Jews were ordered to drop in the last of their valuables, such as heirlooms, rings, bracelets. Weissmann then made a selection of workers and non-workers. A mother and child whom he considered were walking too slowly were shot on the spot.
About six-hundred young people, the workers, were sent to labour camps, including some to the Rabka School. The rest several hundred, were taken to the local cemetery where they were lined up in batches against a wall. The Gestapo executioners went from one victim to the next shooting each one in the temple and pushing the bodies into a huge pit that had been prepared earlier.
After the slaughter in the cemetery, the Germans gathered in the clubhouse and celebrated their victory over the Jews. One SS-man, Schmidt, boasted that on that day he had murdered “his 1,000 Jew.” To celebrate this achievement, he wrote the number on the cork of a beer bottle and put it around his neck. Later Schmidt committed suicide.
The Aktion of July 1942 – Jews from Nowy Sachs
In June 1942, a further transport of Jews from Nowy Sachs arrived at the Bad Rabka School, and at the end of July 1942, in the early afternoon, another transport of Jews arrived from the same place. Some of the one hundred strong group were orthodox Jews with “pajes, “ beards, and dressed in traditional clothing. Some of them were carrying holy books and Torah Scrolls. The Jews were young, fit and healthy to be employed on the building sites in the school.
The Jews were met by the Gestapo and the Ukrainians and Paul Beck, and taken to the baths. On the march to the Sipo- SD School, between five and ten Jews from this transport were shot by the escort. Some of the corpses were buried on the spot at the side of the road, others collected later by lorry and taken to the school to be buried with others killed on that day.
The Aktion of August 1942 – Jews from Jordanow
Jordanow’s location near the Slovakian border also led to an early occupation by German forces. Like Nowy Targ, the Jews were immediately subjected to the now familiar restrictions. A Judenrat had been formed and the Jews ordered to register for labour.
The young were sent to work as forced labourers in the stone quarries where, like the Jews in Nowy Targ, were made to break up rocks for no apparent reason. The women cleaned the streets and other menial tasks at the whim of the Germans. In 1940, the Jewish Quarter was placed under curfew and the armband regulations introduced. In 1941, all Jewish property was confiscated.
Jews from the town of Sluptza in the Posnan district were deported to Jordanow, the Judenrat had to arrange accommodation for them in the dilapidated Jewish Quarter. At the beginning of 1942, the Nazi destruction machinery commenced with the introduction of resident lists of all the Jews in the town. Ransom levies were demanded from the Judenrat. The Judenrat, who were unable to pay such large sums, went to their community for help. Great efforts were made to meet these quotas, many of the Jews removing their gold teeth.
On the 30 August 1942, on the same day as the Nowy Targ liquidation’s, recruits from the Rabka Sipo School, assisted by the SS from Nowy Targ, carried out a brutal action in the town of Jordanow. The Jews of Jordanow were rounded up and taken to the town square where they were assembled for selection. For some unknown reason at that time, Mothers and small children were separated from those assembled and marched off separately.
Local Poles, who needed no invitation, assisted the SS in guarding the Jews, and when the Jews were ordered to remove their clothing and shoes, the Poles took it away for their own use. Rosenbaum, who had taken personal charge of this ‘action’, had sent a team under the supervision of SS Oberscahrführer Proch to prepare the pits in the Jordanow cemetery. Apart from the mothers and children, every Jew in Jordanow was shot into the pits using the ‘plank and walk’ technique perfected by Proch.
Many were not killed outright but no ‘mercy’ shot was given. The pit was filled in, burying many of the Jews who were still barely alive. Reports that the ground was heaving are not exaggerated. The Ukrainians and Poles who were guarding the gravesite had to stamp the ground to even out the heaving earth.
On checking their lists, the action squad discovered that some Jews were not accounted for and still at large. All houses in the town and surrounding villages were searched ferreting out those they could find who were immediately shot on the spot. Some Jews escaped into the nearby forest and tried to cross into Slovakia. Local Poles assisted in the search that then extorted from the Jews their last valuables before handing them over to the Gestapo, who killed them on the spot.
Local farmers with their wagons collected the corpses and took them to the horse cemetery at Ushlatz. That day there was a great celebration at the Rabka Sipo-SD School for a job well done. Late in the afternoon, directly after the slaughter, horse-drawn wagons arrived in Rabka fully laded with young mothers and very small children (babies and 3 - 4 year olds). The local Jewish community did not know about the massacre at Jordanow and were perplexed at the arrival of these wagons and their distressed cargo.
The SS had killed every Jew in Jordanow, with the exception of these young mothers and children. The mothers from Jordanow were in shock after seeing their families shot in the cemetery. On Rosenbaum’s orders, the mothers were taken to the Judenrat who were ordered to house and feed them.
Mark Goldfinger, who was then aged 11 years of age, was with his mother when this dreadful sight entered the town. Mark remembers going with his mother to collect clothes, food and blankets for the unfortunate women of Jordanow. The Jewish community could not understand why the SS had spared the women and children. They knew enough not to expect humanitarian considerations. A few weeks later, on a date to be determined, all became clear, Mark Goldfinger recalled:
“I was living in Rabka with my mother, in a house within a few hundred yards from the SS School. My eldest sister Lucia who was twenty years, worked for Rosenbaum in his villa. Our family knew exactly what was going on in the school, that Jews were being systematically killed by shooting. We all lived in fear of the happenings in Rabka. Our home was so closed that we could hear the gunfire, and when the wind was in the right direction we could hear the screams and distress of the prisoners. I can remember the horse and carts coming into the village street with the women and children. I went with my mother to collect food, clothes and blankets we went house to house collecting for these women and children. “
The arrival of these women was the first indication of what had happened in Jordanow, that every Jew, with the exception of the women and children had been murdered. The explanation of the selected seizure did not take long to emerge. A few weeks later, all the women and children were rounded up and taken into the School. They were imprisoned in the stables and bunkers where previous prisoners had been held.
There had been a recent intake of about a 100 Ukrainian and German personnel. The mothers and children were used in small batches of 3 and 4 at a time and used as examples by the SS staff at the School to show the new recruits how, and the best way to murder, when engaged on Ghetto clearing duties and other actions.
Recruits who showed dissatisfaction after these exercises were carefully noted and removed from the school. After the completion of these exercises, the bodies of the women and children were disposed of in the usual way in the woods.
Small Scale Murders of Jews at Bad Rabka – Sipo /SD School
There were a number of examples that particularly demonstrate Rosenbaum’s brutal activities:
July 1942, Approximately one month before the deportation en-bloc of the Rabka Jews, Rosenbaum ordered 5 Jews to dig a grave in the woods supervised by the Ukrainian Jawoski. The gravediggers had to hurry-up in order to finish on time. Some diversion brought Jawoski to say the following: ‘Let’s go, hurry up, if Rosenbaum finds you still working, he will kill you all!’
All of a sudden, Jawoski ordered: ‘Get out of the hole and disappear 10 metres in the vicinity; when you hear a whistle, show yourselves again!’ The Jews hid in the surrounding bushes and trees. Directly after that, Rosenbaum, whose voice could already he heard approaching appeared with SS-Scharführer Bohnert. A family: father, mother and their 20 -year old daughter with grandchild were brought to the graveside.
They were Jews, who had been arrested either caught with Aryan papers and denounced, or had moved outside of their residential area. The victims first realised what was about to happen when they saw the pit and started to scream. They were forced to undress and stand on the edge of the pit. The mother of the child begged Rosenbaum to shoot her before the child. Rosenbaum shot the child first and then the mother.
After the execution of this family, the Jews appeared on the command of a whistle blow. The Jew Susskind was ordered to get into the pit and arrange the bodies. When Susskind touched the child he almost fainted. Rosenbaum yelled and cursed: ‘You dog, if you do not turn these people around, I will shoot you!’ The Jew Form took his working colleague and fellow Jew out of the pit and took his place. During this time, Rosenbaum, who was standing at the edge of the pit and was watching the Jew Form working to complete the task. The grave, as usual, was closed and levelled.
August 1942 – Ten Jews Executed.
A few days before Sunday the 30 August 1942, when the deportations took place in Bad Rabka, a new type of execution took place deviating from the now practiced methods.News about a forthcoming deportation had filtered through to the Jewish population. Some Jews, who belonged to the permanent staff at the School decided to escape. Two of the escapees, the brothers Czarnowicki who both worked in the tailor’s shop escaped overnight and managed to reach Krakow.
More Jews escaped which prompted Rosenbaum to close off all other escape routes. The Jewish accommodation, whose 3 houses were situated below the School premises were closed. Based on this development, Rosenbaum decided to put a plan to the test in order to avoid further escapes. About 5 days before the Rabka deportation, directly after the days work, the Jews were ordered to gather for a roll call on open space behind the School. Not less than 100 Jews paraded. In a shed on the building site, at the back of the School, preparations were made for a hanging. Ropes were attached with hooks to horizontal beams. Underneath there were boxes or barrels covered by boards.
Apart from the Jews, Rosenbaum, and SS –Scharführers Bohnert, Oder, Badura, Paul Beck and the Ukrainians were present. Ten Jews were brought to the spot, among them was the young boy Edek Liebenheimer who was Rosenbaum’s ‘boot boy’. Among these chosen Jews was one member of the Judenrat, Simon Zollmann.
The 10 Jews were placed on the prepared barrels and boards and the ropes were placed around their necks. Rosenbaum yelled to the gathered mass that workers had escaped and therefore these Jews would hang in retaliation. The gathered Jews were ordered to look in the direction of the execution place. The boards were pushed from under the victim’s feet so they fell; the ropes tightened and strangled the victims.
It didn’t all go according to plan. The Jew Liebenheimer’s noose ripped or he slid through the noose of the rope and he fell on the ground. Liebenheimer tried to escape and when the guards were about to shoot him, Rosenbaum yelled in wild excitement: ‘Do not shoot, hang again!’ Liebenheimer begged Rosenbaum: ‘Mr Untersturmführer, please shoot me!’ Rosenbaum yelled at him: ‘you dog, for you I am not an Untersturmführer anymore, you will be hanged!’ He was hanged a second time. This time, the noose also ripped and he again fell to the ground. The third attempt was successful.
The Jews took the victims to the grave in the woods. One living victim, carried by the Jew Kalfus, was shot on the way. Shots were fired in the grave to make sure all were dead. Rosenbaum stayed at the execution place until the end of the hanging action.
End of August / Early September 1942
The end of August, beginning of September 1942, (a few days after the hangings) the widow of Simon Zollmann (one of the hanged) was arrested
with one of their two sons. The Jewess Zollmann and her son were locked up in the bunker and the pig’s sty with other Jews including a Jew named Stern.
The Jew Gold, with others, was ordered to dig a grave in the woods, the usual procedure. The locked up Jews were brought to the graveside, including the Jewess Zollmann with her son. Zollmann begged Rosenbaum for mercy and implored Rosenbaum to keep her son alive, as he doesn’t know he is a Jew. Rosenbaum shot the child and then the mother. The grave was covered in the usual way.
A woman, man and young girl aged 18-19 years old, most probably a family were arrested and brought to the School. The Jews Kalfus and two others from the Neumarkt transport, Bier and Grunspan were ordered to dig a grave in the woods. The victims were ordered to undress and face the pit. One of the SS executioners supervised by Rosenbaum who was watching, said that the girl was so fat that soap could be made out of her. Rosenbaum executed the family in the usual way.
End of 1942
Towards the end of 1942, when the ground was already frozen, the Jews Form and Stammberger were ordered to dig a grave in the woods in the usual way. In the afternoon, at least 15 Jews from the bunker were brought to the graveside. While passing the bunker the Jews selected for execution heard yelling and screaming through the grated windows, the prisoners were hungry and wanted food and water.
Among the Jews who were walking towards the wood was a father, mother and a 4-year-old child who was being carried in the father’s arms. When the group knew what was about to happen, they hugged and kissed each other.
Among the group was a girl in her teens. She was approaching the grave cheerfully in protest. One of the guards or maybe it was Rosenbaum, went to the girl and yelled: ‘Do you not know where this is leading to?’ The young girl answered: ‘I want to show you how a Polish girl faces death!’ Rosenbaum carried out this execution in the usual way.
The Murder of the Jewish Family Rosenbaum from Rabka
In Rabka there was a Jewish family who had the same name as the School Commandant (Rosenbaum). There was a mother, father, and a 15-year-old daughter and son aged about ten years old. Before the war, the mother’s side of the family owned a haberdashery shop near the railway station. Until the German occupation, the father was a ‘driver’ who travelled the country on business.
When the SD School was transferred to Rabka he became a worker in the School where he worked on the small farm and guarded the sheep. Only when the Jewish population had to present themselves in the School, in the spring of 1942, did Rosenbaum noticed that there was a Jewish family in Bad Rabka with his name. He could not stand the thought of this.
Well before the war, Rosenbaum realised that he had a name with a Jewish sound and filed an application to change it but was never finalised. It was a standing joke among the School staff who would talk about Untersturmführer Beck (the Jew) and the Jew Rosenbaum (the Commandant).
This was the basis for him being shocked and mad that this family Rosenbaum from Rabka apparently confirmed the Jewish origin of his name. Since the general roll call, family Rosenbaum was living in fear from the Commandant. One day, in the summer of 1942, quite a while before the general deportation of the Rabka community, Rosenbaum killed the family Rosenbaum. In a late afternoon, they, the father, mother, daughter and son were brought to the School.
After the family had been assembled in the School Rosenbaum appeared and rushed at the father, cursing: ‘You damned Jew, with what right are you carrying my good name.’ And he proceeded to beat the father. Rosenbaum called for Scharführer Bohnert and ordered him to shoot the family there and then. The order was carried out immediately in Rosenbaum’s presence. The news of the shooting quickly spread throughout the remaining Jewish community and resulted in an increase of outrage, fear and fright among the Jews.
"We Jews of Rabka were only 1500 souls, in a population of 10,000. On the 31August 1942, all the Jews were rounded up and later sent to
their death in Belzec. The Poles were warned not to help Jews, nor conceal information about them, under pain of death.
Many Jews were shot wherever they were found. Those who tried to escape were hanged. The common graves dug for the victims in the woods at the Rabka School contained seven times as many corpses as there were Jewish inhabitants in Rabka before the war. Eight days before the deportation, my mother and I hid in an attic. My father was working for the Germans in Nowy Targ. Our hiding place was not discovered because the attic had a secret access. We survived the war due to the help of a Polish neighbour, Mrs Wagner."
On Yom Kippur Eve, 1942, many Jews were rounded-up for failing to report for a deportation (to Belzec), Hirsch Schiffeldrin recalled:
“There was no way out the Gestapo was making ready to deport the Jews. I had to return to the labour camp. At the railway station I presented my travel pass, but the Polish policeman ignored it and took me to the gathering area in Rabka. I saw my family there, along with the others we were divided up by Rosenbaum I found myself in a special group of four, a man named Shaut a tinsmith, Yehiel Tirk a mechanic, Finkelstein a locksmith, I an electrician was the fourth. We were put to work on maintenance of the target practice range.
On Yom Kippur Eve 1942, the four of us were taken to a spot where 30 Jews were to be executed for failing to report for the deportation. The Germans shot them Next to the pit stood a barrel of lime. The four of us were ordered to pour lime on the corpses and cover the pit with earth. All the possessions of the Jews were taken to a large warehouse for sorting and refurbishing.”
Dr. David Yacobovitz:
“Untersturmfuhrer Willhelm Rosenbaum was the worst of all the Gestapo men in the Rabka district. The others tried to hide their barbaric acts by committing them some distance outside the town. Rosenbaum and Heinrich Hamann, head of the Gestapo in Nowy Targ, committed the atrocities in broad daylight for all to see.
Rosenbaum’s favourite place for executions was the densely populated Salona quarter. The doctors in the sanatoriums complained that the cries and shootings disturbed their patients, but Rosenbaum paid the complaints not the slightest heed. Hamann selected Mishana Dolna for his executions. He demanded that the Judenrat collect an exorbitant amount of money, supposedly to pay for the deportation of the Jews. When the Judenrat could not come up with the payment, Hamann gathered 800 Jews in the square and murdered them.”
Used with Full Permission of the Author Robin O’Neil by Chris Webb
Copyright Robin O'Neill & Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2007