The Dąbrowa Górnicza Jewish Community during the Holocaust
The German Occupation and the Establishment of the Ghetto
On 3 September 1939, the Germans occupied Dąbrowa Górnicza. In the space of a few days, they began kidnapping Jewish men for forced labor or detention. At the end of September, the Jews were compelled to wear an armband bearing a Star of David. On 8 October 1939, the Zaglębie district was annexed, including the town of Dąbrowa Górnicza, to the German Reich as a regional administrative unit called "Eastern Upper Silesia." In November 1939, a Judenrat was established in the town, headed by the merchant Isaac Burstein, subordinate to the Sosnowiec regional Judenrat (Zentrale) headed by Moshe Merin. This Judenrat was funded by all of the Jewish communities in Zaglębie, with the local Judenrat subordinate to it.
In December 1939, the Germans forced the Jewish Judenrat to pay a large ransom in gold, silver and cash. In order to secure the payment, the Germans took hostages and held them in a prison in Sosnowiec. A few months later, most of the Jewish stores were confiscated and their ownership passed to the German authorities.
At the end of 1939 or beginning of 1940, some 700 Jews deported from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Silesia were brought to Dąbrowa Górnicza, and the number of Jews in the town grew to about 6,300. At this time, hundreds of young Jews were conscripted for forced labor and sent to labor camps in Germany according to lists created by the Judenrat, under German orders. These deportations continued until the liquidation of the Jewish community in the town.
In 1940, an open ghetto was established in Dąbrowa Górnicza that encompassed Polna, Chopin and Okizeja Streets. Many Jews were forced to work in the city as well as in labor companies clearing the snow. Some 2,000 Jews from the town worked in factories established before the war in "Huta Bankowa" (the industrial zone of Dąbrowa Górnicza), manufacturing products for the German army.
In October 1940, some 400 Jewish men were sent from the town to the Gross-Masselewitz camp (now in the Meuselwitz region of Germany, close to Leipzig). Before their departure, the deportees received aid packages from the central Judenrat in Sosnowiec. In November 1941, 450 young Jewish women were sent to a labor camp in Germany, and in March 1942 a group of Jewish factory owners from Sosnowiec was also deported.
In 1940, a public soup kitchen opened in Dąbrowa Górnicza, funded by the J.S.S. (Jewish self-help organization) in Krakow, which served some 1,000 meals a day to Jewish laborers and their families. In the same period, a health clinic also opened, as well as a children's home run by two kindergarten teachers, which housed some 50 destitute children. At that time the ghetto was not yet sealed, and many of its residents would leave it for labor in the town every day. Consequently, conditions in Dąbrowa Górnicza were easier in comparison to other settlements in occupied Poland.