The Ełk Jews were loyal citizens of the Kingdom of Prussia and then the imperial Reich. During WWI there were among them soldiers who died for their German homeland: Kurt Scharlach (1889–1914), David Lewin (1892–1916), Moritz Schlochauer (1886–1917), Max Simberg (1896–1918)[3.1]. But the bitterness caused by the lost war and decline of the Empire, enhanced by the world crisis, gave rise to anti-Jewish sentiments. They were revealed intensely even before NSDAP took over. In 1927, at a reunion of local fascists a leaflet entitled “The Jewish predominance” („Die jüdische Überlegenheit”) was distributed. In August 1932, a hand-grenade was thrown into the flat of Leo Frankenstein, the pharmacist. The owner was killed. After the Nazis’ electoral victory of 5 March 1933, there was a new wave of oppression – in Ełk many “serious merchants and ‘academics’” were arrested, including the merchants Kaulbars and Frankenstein. In summer that year, the fascists started to boycott the store of Moritz Hirschfeldt, who was a Swedish citizen and did not fear a formal and official conflict with the local activists of NSDAP and SA[3.2]. The final strain was ”Kristallnacht”, when the synagogue was burnt and Jewish stores were plundered.
The atmosphere in the town became unbearable for the local Jews. The most provident ones decided to emigrate, first outside Germany, then, when it was not possible to go abroad any more – mainly to Berlin. They also chose to go to other continents. A pianist Ibolika Slotowski (born 1901 in Budapest) married Helmuth Slotowski and lived in Ełk. The Slotowskis managed to escape to Shanghai, but they both died there in 1940[3.3].
About 50 Jews who were born in the county of Ełk, sought shelter in Berlin[3.4]. Many former Jewish inhabitants of Ełk or Jews born there were murdered in the camps in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibór, Belzec, Chelmno, Sachsenhausen, Stutthof, Ravensbrück, Dachau, Bergen Belsen, Trawniki, Majdanek, as well as in Raasik (Reval), Bernburg, Königsberg, Głusk and in ghettos in Theresienstadt, Kaunas, Riga, Warsaw, Łódź and Mińsk. They were also kept in the camp in Ravensbrück and ghettos in Łódź, Theresienstadt, Bełżyce. There were about 80 victims[3.5].
Members of several families survived the Holocaust: Alexandrowitz, Berl, Brenner, Czollek, Eisenstaedt, Freyer, Guttfeld, Hammerschmidt, Herrmann, Jacoby, Lewinski, Littwack, Rosenthal, Slotowski.
[3.1] Die jüdischen Gefallenen des deutschen Heeres, der deutschen Marine und der deutschen Schutztruppen 1914 – 1918. Ein Gedenkbuch, Berlin 1932, http://www.denkmalprojekt.org/Verlustlisten/rjf_wk1.htm [as of 21 XI 2008]; A. Kossert, Zur Geschichte…, p. 61.
[3.2] B. Koziełło–Poklewski, Narodowosocjalistyczna Niemiecka Partia Robotnicza w Prusach Wschodnich 1921–1933, Olsztyn 1995, p. 135; A. Kossert, Zur Geschichte…, p. 60–61.
[3.3] http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_2KE/.cmd/acd/.ar/sa.portlet.VictimDetailsSubmitAction/.c/6_0_1L5/.ce/7_0_2KI/.p/5_0_2E6?victim_details_id=1423872&victim_details_name=Slotowski+Ibolika&q1=DvPxalcJ0i0%3D&q2=gJ7VdR3cA9abuOFEV7M0Nlbiw4o%2FlKDV&q3=HJlMgvz09fs%3D&q4=HJlMgvz09fs%3D&q5=En%2BsSDnawEo%3D&q6=s1ZVdXxml0M%3D&q7=T8OEzkf600fWIWH4gFwqtyFqE8hgRhF2&frm1_npage=5 [as of 28 XI 2008]; http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_2KE/.cmd/acd/.ar/sa.portlet.VictimDetailsSubmitAction/.c/6_0_1L5/.ce/7_0_2KI/.p/5_0_2E6?victim_details_id=945970&victim_details_name=Slotowski+Walter&q1=OZPj56ovcrI%3D&q2=fJjppB1xLQyCSPyZHPSEU9sX8daq%2BA5M&q3=1adzRb1e3VE%3D&q4=1adzRb1e3VE%3D&q5=xFkL3XNCVqY%3D&q6=bPtiTRaD1%2FY%3D&q7=diA3wXhVNI%2Bxzpg%2FcIYNTFZ25o1Up%2Bsg&frm1_npage=6 [as of 28 XI 2008].
[3.4] A. Kossert, Zur Geschichte…, p. 61.
[3.5] http://www.bundesarchiv.de/gedenkbuch/directory.html#frmResults [Lyck, as of 28 XI 2008]; http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_2KE?last_name=&first_name=&location=lyck&next_form=results [as of 28 XI 2008].
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