Zygmunt Klukowski was a doctor born in 1885 in Ukraine who lived much of his life in Szczebrzeszyn, a small town in Eastern Poland where for thirty years he held the post of superintendent at the local hospital. During World War II, he balanced his medical duties with covert work for the underground resistance organisation Armia Krajowa, for which he secretly supplied daily written reports on German movements in the area. He also kept a personal diary at great risk, meticulously documenting life under the Nazi occupation. The day before he wrote the following entry, German forces had systematically rounded up and killed hundreds of Jews in his home town. Just 24 hours later, Klukowski reveals that the atrocities had continued, but with local authorities stepping in to execute the brutal orders previously carried out by the Germans.
The Diary Entry
The action against the Jews continues. The only difference is that the SS has moved out and the job is now in the hands of our own local gendarmes and the “blue police.” They received orders to kill all the Jews, and they are obeying them. At the Jewish cemetery huge trenches are being dug and Jews are being shot while lying in them. The most brutal were two gendarmes, Pryczing and Syring.
The Jews that were moved yesterday out of Szczebrzeszyn were held at the Aiwa plant. Around 9 p.m. another group of Jews from Zwierzyniec were brought in. Today around noon all were loaded into railroad cars, but by 4 p.m. the train had not moved. It is very cold and rainy. After the Jews were loaded into the cars, factory workers collected and brought to an assembly area money, gold, jewellery, and pearls.
In town some of the Jewish houses were sealed by the gendarmes, but others were left completely open, so robberies took place. It is a shame to say it but some Polish people took part in that crime. Some people even helped the gendarmes look for hidden Jews. The Germans even killed small Jewish children. It is hard to describe.
It is so terrible that it is almost impossible to comprehend. Legally the Jews don’t exist in Szczebrzeszyn anymore, but still many Jews are in hiding. All will be killed sooner or later. I went to city hall today. The total number of Jews killed—they call them disabled—is unknown. Even the best specialists were exterminated. We can feel the shortage of good mechanics.
Zygmunt Klukowski’s diary was first published in Poland in 1958, a year before he died of cancer. Thirty years later it was translated into English by his son, George Klukowski, edited by his grandchildren, Andrew Klukowski and Helen Klukowski, and published by University of Illinois Press with the title, Diary from the Years of Occupation, 1939-44.