Group photograph of children from Bochnia, Poland
Between the two world wars, some 2,500 Jews lived in Bochnia, constituting about a quarter of the city’s population. Bochnia’s Jews made a living in trade, craftwork and industry.
On 3 September 1939, the Germans occupied Bochnia, and immediately started to take Jews away for forced labor. In 1941, they started deporting Jews to labor camps in the area. In the face of this persecution, the Jews of Bochnia tried to maintain normal life as far as possible, optimistically hoping for a better future. They established mutual help organizations, opened a medical clinic, and even set up a soup kitchen. On 16 March 1942, a sealed ghetto was established in the city. Jews who worked outside the ghetto smuggled food in, despite the threatened punishments of imprisonment or deportation to labor camps.
On 24 August 1942, the first Aktion took place in the Bochnia ghetto. Most of the ghetto’s inhabitants were deported to the Belzec death camp. Jews found hiding were murdered on the spot. After the Aktion, the ghetto took the form of a labor camp, and the killings continued from time to time. In November 1942, Jews who didn’t have work permits, and women and children were deported from Bochnia to Belzec. The hospital patients were murdered there and then, as was part of the medical staff. In the same month, hundreds of Jews still remaining in the surrounding communities were brought to Bochnia. In August and September 1943, the last Jews of Bochnia were sent to the Trzebinia and Plaszow camps. On 1 September 1943, Bochnia was declared “Judenrein” – cleansed of Jews.
Yad Vashem Photo Archives, 71BO5