Starachowice / Wierzbnik, Poland

Strachowice was home to eight of the Boys but many more were held as slave labourers in the city. The story of the labour camp is unusual and contributed to their survival.


Jews settled in Starachowice and Wierzbnik in the 18th century. The two towns merged in 1939. The population of 24,500 residents consisted of 13,880 Jews. Polish-Jewish relations were good-neighbourly and local Poles did not take part in the boycott of Jewish businesses in the late 1930s.

The Jewish community was active in civic and commercial life. Surrounded by forests Starachowice was a major timber centre. Plywood factories and saw mills were owned by Jewish families. The Starachowice iron ore works was founded by a Jewish family in the early 20th century but was nationalised when the town became part of the newly created state of Poland after the First World War. The factory was an important part of the local armaments industry.

After the arrival of a number of Jews from Russia after the Bolshevik revolution interest in Zionism began to grow in Starachowice. The town was also a Hassidic centre and there was support for Agudat Israel.

Jewish children attended a Hebrew school


The German army occupied Starachowice on 5 September 1939 and persecution of the Jews began immediately.

Many refugees from Lodz arrived in Starachowice swelling the Jewish population, as Lodz was part of Polish territory incorporated into the Third Reich.

A ghetto was set up in Starachowice in 1940. Those fit to work were taken as forced labour to the iron ore works, which was now a key part of the Nazi war effort and later became the Herman Goering Werke. Among them were those who later became members of the Boys.

The camp had an unusually high survival rate because the SS used a Jewish council to run the camp.

A number of other members of the Boys were also in the camp, including Simon Kalmowitz from nearby Kielce, Salek Benedict from Lodz and Schmul Laskier from Warsaw.

The Starachowice ghetto was liquidated on 27 October 1942. Those who were not taken into slave labour were taken to the Treblinka extermination camp. About 1500 became slave labourers and 5000 were murdered.

The labour camp was closed in July 1944 and the workforce, which included a number of the Boys, was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp.

When the train arrived, there was no selection at the ramp as the workforce was already considered useful to the German war effort. As a result survival levels were considerably increased.

Some survivors who returned to Starachowice were murdered after the liberation and the vast majority of the survivors left Poland. Most of them settled in Israel.


The synagogue is no longer standing but the city does have a very well preserved Jewish cemetery.


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