By Joscelin Eberle
Sara Spira’s postcards begin in Krakau, Poland on July 5, 1940 where she states that she “will soon be traveling to Gorlice, Poland.” Sara’s next postcards place her in Gorlice on July 2, 1941. According to theYad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos During the Holocaust, on May 18, 1940 Karl Schmid, the German mayor of Krakau, announced the reduction of the number of Jews to 15,000 “productive Jews.” This relocation was to take place by August 15. The Jews living in Krakau at this time were given a notice stating that they needed to move to other places in the General Guberniya within three months, hence the August 15th deadline. If the Jews left voluntarily, they would be allowed to choose their new homes and take their belongings with them. However, the plan to order the Jews to move from Krakau did not go as smoothly as was wished. The goal of having only 15,000 Jews who were productive remain in the city was not reached. When this goal failed, another order was given stating that only Jews who had special permits to stay in the city could, and all those who did not would be deported. After this in 1941, the Krakau Ghetto was formed through an ordinance announced on March 3. The reasons given for the formation of the ghetto were “health concerns and police reasons.” By March 20, 1941, all Jews were placed in the ghetto. Life in the ghetto grew increasingly difficult over time and in 1942, mass deportations were a constant fear for the Jews.
Upon further research, two documents were discovered from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) database for Holocaust Survivors and Victims. A search of Sara Spira’s name turned up two documents with both her birthdate and a picture of Sara. The documents were from a microfilm reel described as:
Electronic data compiled from registration forms created by the Jüdische Gemeinde in Krakau, Poland in 1940 in response to a Nazi order. The index includes name, year of birth, and corresponding Reel, List, and Line numbers.
Also according to the collection of the microfilm reels, the reels contain as follows:
Arranged alphabetically in eight series: 1. General questionnaires of Jews from Kraków; 2. Jews from areas outside Kraków; 3. Denied applications for ID cards; 4. Jews deported (1940-1941); requests for exemptions; requests to return to Kraków; 5. Denied applications for ID cards; 6. Exemptions granted; 7. Administrative paperwork and correspondence related to exemptions; 8. Police registration cards.
This annotation provides proof that Sara was in Krakau before traveling to Gorlice. Because the Jews in Krakau were ordered to move out of the city by August 15, 1940, it can be assumed that the move to Gorlice that Sara mentions in her postcard from July 5, 1940, is in reference to this order. Sara could have decided to move voluntarily in order to avoid being forcibly removed form Krakau and in order to choose where to live and to be able to take her belongings with her. The documents provided by the USHMM could be in reference to the order to deport Jews from Krakau from 1940 to 1941.
Thanks to Professor Bitzan, the translation of the first document is as follows:
Jewish Community Krakau – Skawinergasse #2
Recorded on July 17 1940
In the offices of the Jewish Community in Krakow appeared Spira Sara
merchant-woman from Leipzig Krakau
currently residing in Krakau Wrzesiniska 3 and the witnesses:
a) Wasserlauf Leo by profession __________
resident in Krakau O?bròwki 9 identified by
______________ [hier auf????]
b) Jodeles Abraham by profession merchant
resident in Krakau ??vetelg. 58 identified by his passport
issued by the county government of Nowy Tomyśl on July 14, 1939 No. 040191/490/?
The witnesses declare the following
Spira Sara born on March 30, 1887
in Gorlice Marital status Widow
Profession merchant woman from Leipzig Krakau
currently residing in Wrzesiniskag. 3
pertaining to Gorlice is personally known to us
We confirm the identity of the person named above with the photograph below.
We declare the above for the purpose of the issuance of an identity card by the Jewish community in Krakau in the matter of the relocation of the named person from Krakau to _____________
We affirm the truth of the statements above with our own signatures
Per Professor Bitzan’s work on the documents, the second document could also be a deportation record of Jews from Krakau, which mentions Sara’s name.
I believe that this list contains names of people selected (by whom?) for deportation from Krakow. This is because I found the following description for signature 206 in the archival finding aid:
– Ankiety personalne osób skierowanych do wysiedlenia z Krakowa
(dawna sygn. 206). Lipiec-sierpień 1940 ……………………………………… 218/34 [=new call number]
[People selected for deportation from Krakow, July-August 1940]
According to Professor Bitzan’s research into these documents and the timeline given for the deportation and relocation of Jews from Krakau by the German mayor, Karl Schmid, both of the documents could support the belief that Sara Spira was deported from Krakau due to an official order between the months of August and July of 1940.
 Gai Miron and Shlomit Shulhani, “Cracow,” inThe Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos during the Holocaust (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009), 123.
 Eugeniusz Duda,The Jews of Cracow (Kraków: Wydawnictwo “Hagada” and Argona-Jarden Jewish Bookshop, 1999), 63.
 Ibid., 66
 “Kraków Ghetto Register,” ID: 20737;RG-15.058M, USHMM Archives RG-15.058M, Washington D.C., accessed February 18, 2016, http://www.ushmm.org/online/hsv/source_view.php?SourceId=20737.
 “Starosta Miasta Krakowa,1939-1945. Wykazy dowὀdow osobistych (Kennkartenlisten) wydanych Żydom ( Sygn. 450),” ID: 20737;RG-15.058M, USHMM Archives RG-15.058M, Washington D.C., accessed February 18, 2016, http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn502377.