500 Testimonies from Occupied Radom

27 October 2017

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On the 75th anniversary of the execution which claimed the lives of several dozen residents of Radom, the first 500 accounts of victims and witnesses of the German occupation in the Radom region were published on ChroniclesofTerror.pl.

In 1942, following a clash between a Home Army unit and a patrol of the German gendarmerie at the train station in Rożki, the Germans carried out a number of retaliatory public executions in various parts of the city. Several dozen people perished in these killings, including many employees of the Arms Factory in Radom.

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In October 2017, acting out of the need to commemorate these terrible events, we published the first 500 testimonies devoted to Radom and the Radom region on ChroniclesofTerror.pl.

Testimonies pertaining directly to the events of October 1942 have been supplemented with accounts concerning the mass executions conducted in Firlej, life in the Radom ghetto, the brutal interrogations carried out at the Gestapo Headquarters at Kościuszki Street, and the pacification of local villages, among them Karolin and Zwoleń.

The presentation of testimonies on 9 October was attended by Prof. Magadalena Gawin, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage; Karol Semik, a representative of the municipal authorities and Vice-President of Radom for Education and Culture; and Dr. Wojciech Kozłowski, Program Director of the Center.

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Dr. Wojciech Kozłowski (Program Director of the Center), Prof. Magdalena Gawin (Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage), Karol Semik (Vice-President of Radom for Education and Culture)

“Chronicles of Terror” plays an important role in the process of restoring our memory of both places and the people who suffered terrible atrocities at the hands of two totalitarian regimes. It is an opportunity for the residents of Radom and the neighboring villages, and in particular for the families of the victims, to discover the wartime fates of their loved ones – observed Prof. Magdalena Gawin, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

We would like to inspire all the citizens of Radom to develop their knowledge of the city’s unique history through the personal accounts of its inhabitants. We hope to revive memory both within families and local communities, and at the same time bring it to the attention of a global audience – added Dr. Wojciech Kozłowski, Program Director of the Center.

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High school students participated in a history-themed urban game, based on the events that occurred in 1942, while their teachers had a chance to discuss possible ways of utilizing “Chronicles of Terror” in their everyday work.

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On 9 October the residents of Radom found postcards with photographs of pre-war Radom in their mailboxes. The cards contained an invitation to search ChroniclesofTerror.pl for one from a hundred personal accounts in which residents of the city depicted their fates under the German occupation.

The residents could also send historical postcards to their loved ones and friends through the Scouts’ Bicycle Post Service that was established especially for the occasion.

THE ARMS FACTORY IN RADOM

The “Łucznik” Arms Factory, the history of which is intimately connected with the events that took place 75 years ago, stands as a sobering symbol of the fate of occupied Radom. Set up in the Second Polish Republic, the factory was a leading manufacturer in the rapidly developing city, which was of key importance for the Central Industrial District. It not only manufactured firearms for the Polish Army – the famous Mausers (license-built) and Vis (Radom) pistols – but also “Łucznik” bicycles, popular throughout the country and also exported abroad in large numbers. A walking ad for them was an employee of the factory, Stanisław Kłosowicz – an accomplished cyclist, Polish champion and Olympic medalist from Amsterdam. When he married Wanda Myślińska – the first Miss Radom, who was noted for her charity work – they became the most famous couple in Radom and, indeed, the pride of the city, instantly recognizable across country. Kłosowicz survived the war, but as a witness of the Katyń Massacre he was later persecuted by the Communists.

The Third Reich’s invasion of Poland and the concomitant occupation put a brutal end to the city’s peacetime growth. Since Radom was the capital of the newly-established German district, it soon became garrisoned with sizeable police and army forces, which spread terror to every township and village in the region. Repressions targeted both the elites and ordinary citizens, residents of towns and rural settlements, resistance fighters and civilians, and ethnic Poles and ethnic Jews alike. In 1942 the Arms Factory, the employees of which secretly supplied the underground movement with rifles and pistols, witnessed one of the most appalling crimes to be committed by the Germans in Radom.

TERROR IN THE RADOM REGION AS REMEMBERED BY WITNESSES

Thanks to “Chronicles of Terror”, the statistics and analyses of historians have been given a human dimension that helps emphasize the tragedy of the Second World War – a conflict that affected the lives of real people, and not just some faceless and nameless entities.

Eugenia Jastrzębska (born in 1916) recalls an execution carried out by the Germans on the premises of the Arms Factory in Radom in October 1942:

On 14 October 1942, while working at the Arms Factory, I heard the noise of axe blows. My friends told me that the Germans were erecting a gallows nearby. Because my husband’s brother, Władysław Jastrzębski, whom the Germans had arrested on the same day as my husband and who also worked at the factory, had been executed on the gallows by the Kielce road in Radom the day before, I guessed that all the other factory workers arrested by the Germans, including my husband, were about to be executed. I didn’t have the strength to watch him and his comrades die.

Józef Szewczyk (born in 1902) was forced by the Germans to dig a hole in which they subsequently hid the bodies of residents of Karolin and neighboring villages whom they had shot in March 1942:

After the hole had been dug, the Germans began to lead those whom they had arrested out of the school in Kazanów. The arrestees, who had been tied together in fives with all sorts of strings and ropes, were lined up and then the Germans started the execution. The bodies of those whom they had shot fell into the pit.

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