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Henryk D., born in 1931: “Before the war, the Jews in Łagów were in the minority compared to Christian Poles. Jews were mostly shopkeepers: bakers, kosher butchers, food stores, fabric stores. They were also involved in crafts, many of them were tailors, dressmakers, or shoemakers. In Łagów, there was also a paper industry as well as a flourishing agricultural industry. Some Jews also worked in other professions, such as electricians, for example. They were the ones who installed the electricity in Łagów before the war. The Jews also owned a sawmill in town. There was a synagogue on Iwanowa Street. The Jewish cemetery, which was surrounded by a wall before the war, was located about 200m past Łagów, near the road that leads to Kielce. The front line was near the Jewish cemetery and so it was destroyed during the war. There was a rabbi in town, he had a 13-year-old son, we played together quite often. There was also a mikveh on Słupska Street. When war broke out, the Germans started to persecute the Jews. One day, the Germans started to set Jewish houses on fire. When a young Jewish woman saw that the German had set fire to her house, she put it out, but the German came back and burned the house next door. Eventually, her parents' store, her house and the other Jewish family's house were burned down, as well as an important part of the marketplace.” (Witness N°1352P, interviewed in Łagów, on August 23, 2022)
Łagów is a village in Świebodzin County, Lubusz Voivodeship, in western Poland. It is the seat of the gmina (administrative district) called Gmina Łagów. It lies approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) north-west of Świebodzin, 45 km (28 mi) south of Gorzów Wielkopolski, and 46 km (29 mi) north of Zielona Góra. In 1921, there were 1,269 Jews in the Łagów settlement, or 50.2% of the total population. They lived mainly from crafts and trade. In 1933, the Jewish community in Łagów, according to the district office's assessment, numbered 1,425 people and by 1937, 1,600 people. Prior to the war, the Jewish population in Łagów played an essential role in the town's economic, cultural, and social life. Jews were involved in various professions and trades, including small businesses, crafts, and agriculture. They owned shops, taverns, and worked as tailors, blacksmiths, and carpenters, contributing to the local economy and providing services to both Jewish and non-Jewish residents. The Jewish community in Łagów had its own religious institutions, including synagogues, prayer houses, and study halls.. In addition to their religious and economic activities, the Jews of Łagów were active in various social and cultural organizations. They established charitable societies to support the needy, cultural associations promoting Jewish arts and literature, and youth organizations that fostered Jewish identity and education.
Łagów was occupied by the Germans during the first week of September 1939. At the beginning of the war, Łagów was severely damaged. In anticipation of the German forces' arrival, a cohort of young Jews made an escape to Eastern Poland, which was then under Soviet occupation. After the Germans entered the city, executions of the Jewish population began; 32 people were shot for killing a German. At that time, the Jewish cemetery near the village was destroyed. Jews were forced to work and ordered to wear the yellow star of David. The Judenrat, established at the end of 1939, had to pay dues to the Germans. The entire Jewish population of the city was forcibly evacuated from their residences and relocated to substandard accommodation in the market area of the town. Initially, the Jews still had some freedom to leave their homes, but in March 1942, the area was sealed off, effectively transforming it into a ghetto. By March, the Łagów ghetto had been completely closed off and surrounded by barbed wire. During the years 1941-1942, approximately 100 Jews from Vienna were captured and held in Opatów and Łagów. In addition, a sizable group of Jews from Radom was transported to Łagów and accommodated in the synagogue. The residents of this confined area experienced severe hunger and deprivation. On October 7, 1942, SS men, accompanied by Ukrainian and Polish police, arrived in Łagów. They forcibly entered homes and rounded up all the Jews, herding them into the yard near the Judenrat building. The sick and elderly were shot, sometimes even in their beds, while many children met the same fate. Some Jewish individuals sought assistance from local farmers, but only a few were willing to help. Many of the hiding Jews were betrayed and denounced to the German occupants. Eventually, about 2,000 Jews from the Łagów ghetto were deported to the German Nazi death camp Treblinka. Amid this mass expulsion from Łagów, the Germans permitted a small number of Jews, possibly only a few dozen, to remain. These individuals were coerced into labor, tasked with collecting and sorting the possessions left behind by the expelled residents, burying the murdered victims, and cleaning the ghetto. However, after some time, they too were tragically sent to the extermination camp.
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