Betar Jewish Partisans in Hrubieszow

Several years ago, Laurence Weinbaum of the World Jewish Congress and Polish researcher Dariusz Libionka wrote an important article about the Jewish partisan movement in the Hrubieszow district.

In the summer of 1941, the Betar movement underground (ZZW) relocated from Warsaw to Hrubieszow, and the period was described as an "idyll" -- given, according to the authors, "the relatively better conditions on the farms [in Hrubieszow district]" than the "misery prevailing in the Warsaw ghetto."

Shoah survivor Adam Halperin, writing in 1946, notes that Felek Langleben and Asher Frenkel of Betar were in the Hrubieszow area circa 1942. According to Perec Laskier, one of the organizers of the move to Hrubieszow by Betar leadership, "In the summer of 1941, Julek Brant -- a pre-war leader of Betar in Silesia -- appeared in the Warsaw ghetto accompanied by Hans Brandwein, Betar leader from Bielski. They came to Warsaw on behalf of the Judenrat in Hrubieszow, where they were living at the time. After learning about the tragic situation of the ghetto, they came up with the idea of organizing the legal transfer of the Betar activists to Hrubieszow."

According to Lasker, Julek Brant was nephew of the Judenrat chairman in Hrubieszow, Samuel Brandt. Notably, the elder Brandt is described as quite humane and someone who did everything possible to help his fellow Jews in the testimony of Michael Temchin, who was on a transport to Sobibor with Judenrat chairman Brandt in October, 1942. (Temchin escaped through a small hole in the train ceiling and jumped off of the train.)

Continues Lasker, "Julek Brandt managed, through the Arbeitsamt (labor office) to bring about 600 Betar activists to Hrubieszow and agrictultural work was found for them in farming estates in the area."

Fela Szabszyk Finkelstztajn, who was involved with the group, testified in 1997 that Langleben and Chaim Haus were the leaders of the Warsaw Betar group. Another account is provided by Hanka Tauber, who arrived in Hrubieszow in summer of 1941 and was sent to the estate in Dluzniow, 40 km south of Hrubieszow. At this locale there was a Jewish engineer present, Maks Glazerman from Lodz, and Tauber arrived with 29 other Jews. While it is not clear of Tauber was a member of Betar, she describes conditions on the farm as quite good because the Austrian overseers were decidedly anti-Nazi.

As to where Szabszyk Finkelsztajn was sent in Hrubieszow district, as well as the details of where other Betar members were working in Hrubieszow district, there appears to be no answer. Szabszyk Finkelsztajn's testimony in 1997 mentions a locale that does not exist, due to her unfamiliarity with the district and the fact that her testimony was taken 50 years after the fact.

Betar activists from Warsaw in Hrubieszow.

The records of the Hrubieszow Judenrat and ZSS were mostly lost, and those that remain do not mention Betar.

In Werbkowice near Hrubieszow, a Dror Kibbutz was established around 1940-41 and 40 Jews, among them Henoch Guterman, were living on it. There is no evidence that they were in touch with Betar.

According to a document from Yad Vashem, Tosia Altman from the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB) in Warsaw was in Hrubieszow in 1942. Frumke Plotnicka and Chajke Grossman (Hava Follman), two members of Dror, also traveled to Hrubieszow in 1942 to meet with activist Aron Frumer. But when they arrived, Frumer's house had been ransacked and he was no where to be found. (He is believed to have been murdered on May 5, 1942.)

In April 1942, Jews in Hrubieszow powiat were forced to relocate to five 'collection points': Uchanie, Grabowiec, Dubienka, Belz, and Hrubieszow. The order included 200 villages in the powiat, among them Kopylow, Koblo, Moniatycze, Wojalowice, Bialopole, and Czortowice.

At the beginning of September, 1942, all of the Dror activists in Werbkowice were shot.

According to eyewitness Chawa Folman (previously Chajke Grossman), "On approaching Hrubieszow, we became aware of an unusual commotion; big crowds were gathered on the platform. Unsuspecting, we alighted at the station. But we soon learned that the thousands herded there were Jews; men and women, old and young, children pressed among bundles of household effects; cries and shouts of the Germans."

She continues, "Suddenly a horrible scream of a woman is heard, followed by a shot. A woman with a baby in her arms keels over. She wanted to throw the baby over the fence, in the hope that it would be spared. But a moment later she and the baby are trodden to death by the horses' hoofs.

We go through well- known lanes and streets, we reach the house of Aron Frumer, where we used to meet frequently. The door to his flat is wide open, the floor is littered with all sorts of household objects, but not a living soul in sight.

The next day, a 'special' train stands on the platform, filled to overflowing with Jews. The platform is strewn with bundles, pillows, prams, pots and pans. A number of Gentile boys are waiting: as soon as the train streams out, they will appropriate the loot."

Unknown to them, the Jews whom they had seen being deported that day were sent from Hrubieszow to Sobibor (2,000 in all), followed a week later by a further 3,000.

From this transport, 12 people were selected to work at Sobibor, among them Eda Lichtman, Bajla Sobol, and Serka Kac from Dubienka; and 15 year old Jakob Biskubicz and his father from Hrubieszow. Lichtman and the younger Biskubicz later survived the war by escaping from Sobibor on October 14, 1943.

Frumke Plotnicka was a member of the Dror movement and one of the liaison members who operated in all of occupied Poland and in the Soviet Union. After the formation of the ZOB, she went to the Aryan side of Warsaw to operate as a liaison officer. In the second half of 1942 she moved to Bedzin to organize an underground force there. She was discovered in a cellar on 3 August 1943 in Bedzin, and was murdered, aged 29 years old.

Chajke Grossman (Hava Folman) was recruited to the Jewish Underground and was sent out on various missions across occupied Poland. She was arrested in Krakow on 2 December 1942, after an attack by the local Jewish underground on a cafe where German officers and soldiers were sitting. The Gestapo agents did not discover she was Jewish. She was deported as a Christian to Auschwitz concentration camp. She survived and went to Israel.

Julek Brandt and the Polish estate owner where Fela Szabszyk Finkelstzajn was stationed, again we are not sure the name of this locale, divided the Betar activists into groups of five and sent them back to Warsaw. The first group was made up of Salek Hazenszprung, Avraham Bekerman, Olek Halbsztadt, Jerzy Bielawski, and Fela Szabszyk.

Szabszyk Finkelstajn was unaware of what happened to other groups of Betar members, but Chedwa Wicher and Felek Langleben were supposedly arrested on a train to Zamosc and shot.

Julek Brandt would later escape from a train destined for Sobibor and convinced the Gestapo in Hrubieszow to create the Jatkowa Labor Camp in Hrubieszow, of which he became chairman. Sadly, he was murdered at some point by August Ebner, a Gestapo man in Hrubieszow.

From a Nazi report for Nov. 16-Dec. 15, 1942, "As a result of local cooperation with the police, five bunkers sheltering 65 bandits (Jews) were 'finished off'."

Weinbaum and Libionka conclude, "The Hrubieszow Idyll was one of the significant episodes in the history of Betar in Germany-occupied Poland. The few survivors of the Hrubieszow experience were mobilized into the nascent Revisionist fighting organization and heroically fought and died in its ranks."

source: A New Look at the Betar "Idyll" in Hrubieszow, 2009. Yad Vashem.

Julek Brandt, born 1906 in Hrubieszow.

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