ABSTRACT

Reflecting the triumph of genocidal criminality over economic logic, by late 1942, the Nazi occupiers of the Lublin region in eastern Poland had decided to ‘liquidate’ remaining Jewish work camps. One such camp was located near the town of Kurow, north-west of Lublin, which, prior to the war, was home to a substantial Jewish population, including Samuel Chanesman and his son Joseph, who was fifteen years old in 1939 at the time of the German invasion. By being conscripted for forced labour and relocated to a work camp near Kurow, Samuel and Joseph had escaped the March 1942 deportation from the Kurow Ghetto that had claimed Joseph’s mother and two brothers. Forced labour was only a temporary reprieve from death, of course, and when in November 1942 Samuel was told by ‘a Pole’ that the thirty-two Jews in the camp would be shot the following day, he realized immediate escape represented the only chance for him and his son to survive. The following morning, they somehow achieved this, and Joseph’s account of hiding in the haystack describes their first precarious night on the run – a forewarning of another year and a half of the terror the two experienced as they resisted falling prey to the Judenjagd – the ‘Jew hunt’. According to Christopher Browning, the term Judenjagd was coined in late

1942 by members of Police Battalion 101, then situated in the northern Lublin area. In the wake of the campaign to ‘cleanse’ this region of Jews through ‘ghetto clearing’, the Battalion was given the task of locating and summarily shooting any Jews who attempted to hide in the surrounding fields and forests, as well as those found hiding in the villages – a process that continued until the end of the German occupation (Browning 1992: 122-127). Browning observes that these relatively disorganized and individualistic

Judenjägde, belonging to the latter phase of the Holocaust, have escaped adequate scholarly attention, partly because such ‘personal’ and non-mechanized forms of killing do not fit comfortably into the standard paradigm of Holocaust as ‘systematic’ genocide on a mass scale, but also because of an absence of documentation for these events (Browning 2006). And so we come to Samuel and Joseph Chanesman, survivors of, and

witnesses to, the Judenjägde in the Lublin region. The parallel accounts of their ordeal – produced some forty years apart in two different languages, Yiddish and English, and, significantly, in fundamentally different testimonial genres – document the traumatic experience of the hunted. Not surprisingly, despite understandable discrepancies in detail due in part to the effects of the passage of time on Joseph’s memory, these accounts agree on the stark reality of their time evading capture: their acute physical deprivation through starvation, exposure to the elements and living for extended periods in darkness; their continual relocation from one precarious hiding place to another; their total reliance on a minority of ‘friendly’ Poles for protection, coupled with a constant fear of betrayal from hostile locals; and, finally, the trauma of witnessing the fate of fellow Jews in hiding who were murdered on the spot (including finding the remains of Jews killed by grenades thrown directly into bunkers).1