Szmul Goldstein was born on 04.04.1916 (or 1919) in Kozienice, a shoemaker by profession. On 27 September 1942 he was deported from the Kozienice ghetto to Treblinka together with his father, his sister Dwora, her husband Abram Kon and their two children. In the camp he was put to work sorting clothes, which he did for about five months. He then returned to his former profession as a shoemaker. He probably took part in the uprising on 2 August 1943 and escaped into the forest. After escaping, he fought in the Soviet Army, where he was wounded. After the war, he left for the USA.

Portrait of the Goldstein family in Kozienice. Only Samuel (the little boy in front) survived the Holocaust. (USHMM)

In Treblinka camp I & Shimon Rosenthal was one of 50 people who were chosen for labor. My job was sorting clothes. I did this work for about 5 months. I would labor from dawn to dark. Any little mistake carried with it the threat of death. Since shooting was considered a mild penalty, they used to hang people by their feet so the victims would suffer for about 12 hours.

Once my neighbor escaped. I don’t know what happened to him. But the next morning at lineup it was discovered that someone was missing. I and 2 other Jews were taken to Kurt Franz, the Oberfuhrer, to be punished.  He had a long whip with a metal tip. He told us to undress and lie down on the bench. 50 whips was the punishment and we had to count. The lashes my comrades failed to receive I got. Having fainted away I was carried to the barracks and thanks to two Jewish doctors I survived.

In Treblinka I met my landsman Max Bendler. He worked as a clothes sorter. In the big mountain of clothes he found his wife’s coat and then his baby’s diapers. He decided to escape and tell the people the truth about Treblinka, or else he will commit suicide. My friend and I decided to help him escape. We loaded a truck with clothing and hid Max under the packs of clothing and smuggled him out. We also gave him some money. When he arrived home nobody believed him. They said he is meshuge—crazy. When the rest of the inhabitants of our town came to Treblinka they first realized that he told them the truth.

The Uprising- August 2, 1943

Seeing the situation we are in (and we knew that we will have to die soon too) a thought occurred to rise up in revolt. A committee of 12 people was formed (of which I was part). The uprising was announced and a date was set.

The preparation of arms was given to the people who worked around the camp. They knew where the munitions were stored. The people who were cleaning the Commandants bathroom knew where the hand grenades were stored. A duplicate key was made and at every opportunity he stole a few hand grenades. 83 hand grenades were assembled and buried in the sand. Another Jew managed to obtain 45 machine guns from the armory. Mechanics who worked on tanks were given the mission to sever the chains of the tanks before the uprising. Others were given the mission to sever the telephone lines. It was decided to kill the camp Administration members first.

The camp Commandant ordered me to measure him for a pair of boots. As I was taking his measurements another man came from behind with a pipe and clubbed him to death. The same thing happened in all the other departments. The day before, the barracks were disinfected with a lot of kerosene so they would burn better. At 3:30 p.m. Mr. Kurland picked up his shovel. This was the signal that the revolt was to begin.  Everyone went into battle. The SS man Kive arrived and he was the first victim. All of the barracks were set afire. Our fighters attacked the Germans and the Ukrainians with machine guns and hand grenades.

About 1,000 Jews participated in the revolt. Many died and others escaped. The camp was burned to the ground and the gates were open and everyone was free to go where he wanted. But, where could one go? Many heroic fighters fell in this battle. Among them Moshe Sherman, Alter Kohn and his son Isochor. After the revolt the camp as such was liberated. [The camp was still in operation until 20 August 1943]. Only the railroads leading from the train station to the camp remained as well as the foundations of some of the buildings. This was the end of a death camp that swallowed close to one million Jewish people.

Based on the memoirs of Shmul Goldstein, written down by his son Paul Goldstein “A Shoemaker’s Tale”, typescript