The Germans ocuppied Radom on 8 September 1939. The persecution of Jews soon followed in the form of robberies, beatings and public humiliation. On the 25 October Hans Frank, Governor General said in Radom: "Be tough with the Jews. What joy! - you can finally get at them. The more die, the better (...). Make the Jews feel we are here (...). We will oppress them everywhere we can." Jews were ordered to wear armbands with the Star of David, they were forced to work, banned from using public facilities and even pavements, their property was confiscated.
On 3 April 1941, the Radom Governor Hans Kujath, issued an order creating closed residential quarters for Jews; the so-called large ghetto in the city center and a smaller one in Glinice. Within a few days, the Poles living in the designated areas were to leave them, after which the Jews were ordered to settle within the ghetto zone. The large ghetto centred around Wałowa with adjacent streets, the area traditionally inhabited by Jews. From the north, the border ran along Reja Street, in the middle were the streets around the Market Square: Szpitalna, Żytnia, Mała, Grodzka and Wałowa. On the other side of the Square were Bóżnicza, Podwalna and Bernardyńska Street as well as the Town Hall Square. This area was relatively densly populated, so the boundaries were naturally fromed by the walls of the buildings and no special walls like those in the Warsaw Ghetto, were built. The windows of the houses looking out onto the Polish side had to be walled up, and the only gate at which Polish and Jewish policemen were stationed was at the junction of Wałowa and Żeromskiego Street. After the resettlement of the Jews from the neighbouring districts, there were almost 25,000 people in the large ghetto.
The living conditions in the ghetto were appalling – dozens of people were squeezed into single rooms, there was no food, diseases spread quickly and most inhabitants were forced to work hard. Leaving the ghetto without a pass was a punishable offence – initially it was a fine, a transportation to a concentration camp or, finally, death. Some German operations were targeted at specific groups - for example pre-war left-wing parties, shochets or clarks, but in fact anyone could be killed a tany time, without any reason. In the occupied Poland the life of the Poles and Jews in particular meant nothing.
In January 1942, Reinchard Heydrich, Head of the Reich Main Security Office, presented a plan for a "final resolution of the Jewish question" – a systematic extermination of 11 million Jews living https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German-occupied_Europe "German-occupied Europe" in occupied Europe. The plan was given the code name Operation Reinhard. Wilhelm Josef Blum was in charge of the Operation in the Radom district, which was carried out in in two stages. On 4 and 5 August, the ghetto in Glinice was liquidated, between 16 and 18 August the one in the city center. The action was personally supervised by the SS and police commander Herbert Böttcher.
On 5 August, the Jews from Glinice arrived at the railway station; it turned out that the Germans had prepared too many carriages so Böttcher decided to bring two thousand people from the large ghetto. In the early morning the residents of Wałowa, Perec, Bóżnicza, Zatylna and Starokrakowska Street were driven out their houses. After separating the work permit cardholders, about 2 thousand people were selected. The train left Radom at about 9.00 am. It is estimated that about 10,000 Jews went to Treblinka on that day and they all perished.
On the evening of 16 August, searchlights were installed along the borders of the ghetto, it was surrounded by the German soldiers and 50 carriages were waiting on the railway siding. The operation was personally supervised by Wilhelm Josef Blum. Only the young workers employed in factories outside the ghetto were released after their documents had been checked. At midnight, the lights were switched on, people were driven out of their homes, taken to the Old Town Square and the young and physically fit from the rest. Some people were murdered while the houses were being emptied. The residents of the nursing home were killed in the so-called Pentz garden (now Limanowskiego Street). The same fate befell all the patients of the nearby hospital. On the night of 17 and 18 August another selection among the remaining residents took place in the Old Town.
In total, during the liquidation of a large ghetto around a thousand people were killed on the spot and over 18,000 were taken to Treblinka. Only one man, Nusyn Berkowicz, escaped from the transport and managed to survive the war.
About 4,000 survivors were gathered in the vicinity of Szwarlikowska Street. Before being assigned to the factories, they had to bury the bodies of those killed during the liquidation of the ghetto in the Pentz garden. They also cleared the ghetto area, gathering anything of value like furniture, clothes and scrap metal. Various objects of religious worship were brought to the former kosher slaughterhouse together with children hidden in homes by their families. The SS men first fired at them, then threw grenades into the building.
The majority of the members of the Jewish Council - the Judenrat and the Jewish administration and the police did not survive the liquidation of the ghetto. Chil Kestenberg, the last rabbi of Radom, was killed while hurrying to rescue a child tormented by a German soldier.
After the war both Blum and Böttcher were tracked in Germany by the surviving Jews from Radom and sent back to Radom. The District Court found them guilty of murder and ill-treatment of civilians. Blum was sentenced to death on 19 August 1947 (exactly 5 years after the liquidation of the large ghetto) and Böttcher on 18 June 1949.
Alfred Lipson, who was assigned to work in a furniture factory in Zamłynie, was outside the ghetto during its liquidation. He recalls: "The headlights came on (...) exposing the doomed ghetto, like a big stage. Nobody slept that night in the ghetto, neither did we. I have never seen a pogrom or battlefield, but the sounds that came to us were indicative of a combination of both. Shooting machine guns, guns, commands, heart-wrenching cries of children, screams of people in panic – they all combined to give a true picture of the tragedy. Listening for hours we despaired, lost all hope and just gazed at each other in silence. Near the dawn we were no longer sure if it was just a nightmare. Can this be really happening in the heart of civilized Europe, for the whole world to see? (…) On Wednesday morning (the operation started on Sunday night), the ghetto was dead silent. All the Jews disappeared except for one group of buildings in Szwarlikowska Street."
Alfred Lipson, who lived in the United States after the war, collected the memories of the surviving Jews from Radom and published them, together with his story, in The Book of Radom; The Story of a Jewish Community in Poland Destroyed by the Nazis.
S. Piątkowski, Dni życia, dni śmierci. Ludność żydowska w Radomiu w latach 1918-1950, Warszawa 2006, s. 41-57; The book of Radom. The Story of a Jewish Community in Poland Destroyed by the Nazis, Edited and Compiled by Alfred Lipson, New York, USA, 1963; B. Gotfryd, Anton the Dove Fancier and Other Tales of the Holocaust,USA 1990.
1. The centre of the so-called large Ghetto, Wałowa Street and the only gate leading to it, the National Digital Archives
2. The decree establishing the ghetto in Radom, State Archives in Radom
3. A poster informing about the sentencing of the Ghetto executioner