This article was written by Yoram Lubling, Moshe Lubling's grandson.
Moshe Lubling , The Spiritual Leader of the Treblinka Revolt
Moshe Y. Lubling was born in 1902 in the town of Wolbrom in Upper Silesia, Poland, to Rachel and Mendel Lubling. At the start of WWII he resided in the town of Sosnowiec where he served as the chairman of Ha-Oved, Poali-Zion Yamin and The League for working Eretz-Yisrael Zionist organizations. When the Nazis invaded Poland in November of 1939, he escaped Sosnowiec with his wife Zelda-Fisch; 12 year-old daughter Ester; and 15 year-old son Pinchas. First they attempted to escape to the Soviet Union but were caught by the advancing Nazi forces and returned to Sosnowiec.
However, the Nazis started to arrest leaders of socialist and Zionist organizations in Sosnowiec and in early December of 1939 he arrived with his family at the Large Ghetto in Czestochowa, Poland. Penniless, Moshe and his son Pinchas started to work as slave laborers, taking the place of rich Jews who paid the Judenrate (Jewish Council) to be relived of forced labor. Seeing the injustice in this practice, Moshe Y. Lubling organized the estimated 8000 slave laborers and created the Workers’ Council in Czestochowa (the only such institution under Nazi occupation). The Council negotiated better conditions for the slave workers and regularly confronted the Judenrate and the Gestapo which led to his frequent arrests by the Jewish police.
In 1941, Moshe Y. Lubling organized the 8000 slave workers to go on a hunger strike in protest of the unjust activities of the Judenrate. In a 1958 article by Tzvi Rozenvayn (a member of the Workers’ Council, a Gordonian Zionist, and a member of the Czestochowa Resistance Organization) he described Moshe Y. Lubling as the "unforgettable" chairman of the Workers’ Council and quoted him saying to the workers that "the only thing we can lose is our lives." The strike resulted in increased pay for the workers, the establishment of public kitchens, and additional bread for the workers’ families. In the same year, through his contacts with the Polish Popular Army Underground Organization, Moshe Y. Lubling received the information that the Nazis are starting to destroy whole Jewish communities in the Soviet Union. He immediately called upon the Jews of Czestochowa to take-up arms against the Nazis and die fighting, but the failure to secure weapons made the uprising impossible. Soon after that, representatives of other militant Zionist organizations and intellectuals joined the Workers’ Council and the latter started to function as the Jewish Resistance Organization in Czestochowa under Moshe Y. Lubling.
On September 22, 1942, the night before the liquidation of the Large Ghetto in Czestochowa, the last meeting of the Council took place at Moshe Y. Lubling’s apartment on 11 Katedralne Street. According to testimony by Dr. Binyamin Orenstein, the author of the 1948 book Hurban Czenstochow (The Destruction of Czestochowa), representatives of the Polish Popular Army Underground Organization offered Moshe Y. Lubling assistance in escaping the Ghetto without his family. He refused and declared that his fate will be the same as his Jewish comrades.
The next day the liquidation of the ghetto started. His wife Zelda and daughter Ester Lubling were deported to Treblinka the same day where they were immediately murdered. Moshe and Pinchas Lubling were kept by the Nazis as forced laborers in Hutta Czestochowa (a steel factory). After 10 days, during a further selection, Moshe Y. Lubling was deported to Treblinka as well. Upon arrival in Treblinka Moshe Y. Lubling was kept alive as a slave worker sorting the clothes of the murdered Jews and later as a Goldjuden. In Treblinka Moshe Y. Lubling immediately organized a resistance cell together with David Brat Gershon Frendke, two other members of the former Czestochowa Workers’ Council. Their first plan was to smuggle weapons into Treblinka by making contact with the remaining members of the Czestochowa Resistance Organization in the Small Ghetto.
To achieve this end the cell facilitated the escape of Aron Gelberd from Treblinka 19 days after his arrival together with Lubling, Brat, and Frendke. Mr. Gelberd successfully escaped Treblinka and made his way back to the Small Ghetto in Czestochowa where he contacted the Resistance Organization. However, the task of smuggling weapons into Treblinka proved to be impossible. As a result, three months later (November 1942), the resistance cell in Treblinka, led by Moshe Y. Lubling, facilitated the escape of another prisoner from Czestochowa and a member of the Workers’ Council by the name of Moshe Rappaport. The latter’s escape was also successful and in January 1943 he arrived back at the Small Ghetto in Czestochowa and reported the request by Moshe Y. Lubling. This time the attempt was to organize a group of resistance fighters, both Jewish and Polish, to attack Treblinka from the outside. Although the Czestochowa Resistance Organization failed to organize the fighters, they offered to smuggle Moshe Y. Lubling out of Treblinka and to provide him with forged documents so he can live on the Aryan side of Czestochowa; Moshe Y. Lubling refused the offer and chose to remain in Treblinka in order to organize the revolt.
The resistance cell that was started by Moshe Y. Lubling in Treblinka grew and became the “Organizing Committee” that now included Dr. Chorazycki from Warsaw - the camp physician, Zelo Bloch – a former officer in the Czech army, Zev Kurland from Warsaw - the capo of the Lazaret (field-hospital), and Moshe Y. Lubling from Silesia. The first goal of the “Organizing Committee” was to secure weapons by digging a tunnel from the prisoners’ barracks to the camp’s armory, as well as to bribe Ukrainian guards for weapons. The tunnel never materialized, but later on the “Organizing Committee” succeeded in making a duplicate key to the armory and used it on the day of the revolt to provide guns and grenades to the fighters.
The attempt to bribe the Ukrainian guards, however, resulted in a tragedy when in April 1943 Dr. Chorazycki was caught with a large sum of money and, anticipating torture by the Nazis, immediately committed suicide by swallowing poison (which was provided to all leaders). This event, in addition to the removal of Zelo Bloch to Treblinka II (extermination area) in May 1943 after money was found on members of his working unit, dealt the “Organizing Committee” a nearly deadly blow. Zelo Bloch, however, quickly established a resistance cell in Treblinka II and stood in constant communications with the “Organizing Committee” and Moshe Y. Lubling in Treblinka I. At this time, the remaining two members of the original committee, Moshe Y. Lubling and Zev Kurland, decided to enlarge the scope of the resistance and several new members were brought into the conspiracy. Among the new members were the camp-elder Engineer Galewski, the former Czech Army officer Rudy Masarek, and the Warsaw agronomist Sudowicz. It should be noted that Engineer Galewski opposed the activities of the “Organizing Committee” at the beginning and only joined them after the death of Dr. Chorazycki.
Also, in May 1943 (three month before the revolt) a letter written by Moshe Y. Lubling arrived in the Small Ghetto in Czestochowa through a Polish train driver. The letter reached the leaders of the Resistance Organization in Czestochowa, as well as Moshe Y. Lubling’s 17 year-old son Pinchas Lubling. In this electrifying letter he described the conditions in Treblinka in poetic language by writing that “if all forests were pens and all days ink, it would not be possible to write and describe what was happening in Treblinka.” Moshe Y. Lubling also informed the Resistance Organization in Czestochowa that he is involved in organizing a revolt that will sound around the world. He described the upcoming event as a Jewish and Zionist triumph that will forever be remembered in the pages of Jewish History.
Moshe Y. Lubling directed his final words to his son Pinchas: “I do not intend to survivor the revolt,” he wrote and encouraged his son to survive to see the establishment of the State of Israel. Pinchas kept the letter hidden in his pants until his arrival at the Buchenwald concentration camp in April 1945. While he was ordered to strip and undergo delousing, Pinchas feared that the letter will expose him to the Nazis, and he disposed of it. However, immediately after the war, members of the Czestochowa Resistance Organization (Moshe Rappaport, Aron Gelberd, Dr. Binyamin Orenstein, and Tzvi Rozenvayn) as well as Pinchas Lubling, submitted testimonies regarding the content of this historical letter.
On Monday, August 2, 1943, the “Organizing Committee” agreed to revolt against the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators. This particular day was chosen since it was a relatively short work day in which most of the Nazi and Ukrainian personnel were usually away from the camp swimming in a nearby lake. The time was set for 4:45 pm while early in the day the armory was broken into and weapons were smuggled out and distributed among different groups and hidden. The prisoners who were in charge on the daily disinfection of the camp replaced their cleaning liquid with gasoline and sprayed the barracks and other wooden structures for easy burning. Tragically, however, around 2:00 pm two young prisoners were caught in the barracks and were interrogated by SS guard Küttner. A prisoner by the name of Salzberg gave the order to shoot the SS guard and the uprising unofficially started. Unfortunately, many conspirators were not next to their assigned positions or their weapons. It should be noted that the agreed upon signal for the start of the revolt was the sound of exploding grenades directed at the Nazi headquarters.
However, during the day, the members of the conspiracy, now numbered around 60-100 prisoners, were getting ready for the fateful hour. According to the survivor Richard Glazer, Moshe Y. Lubling was the “contact person” for the entire operation and was situated at the center of the camp. He writes:
Lubling is our contact, and he’s working somewhere near the intersection between the ghetto, the SS barracks, and Ukrainian barracks … from way in the front, near the fork in the path, in the direction of the headquarters building, Lubling gives signal with his raised arm, all the while looking as if he was simply wiping his sweaty face on his sleeves … a nod is enough for Lubling to understand that everything’s o.k. …
… We duck and somewhat reach the yard in front of the Ukrainian barracks. There are only a few of us … Lubling is running along the barracks carrying some kind of a pole in his hand and chasing people out in front of him like a gooseherd, pointing to the back gate, which leads out onto the field surrounding the camp: ‘Outta here, everyone outta here – into the woods!’ The gate is broken down. We run out and across the vegetable field … I’ll tell you (he is talking to his friend Karl Unger), they were so single-minded, they never intended to escape themselves. They just wanted us younger ones to get out. There’s no other way to explain why Lubling herded us out through the fence the way he did … And I never saw him after that. (Richard Glazer, Trap with a Green Fence, pp. 141-144)
In 1945, the Treblinka survivors Stanislaw Kon and Yaakov Miller submitted testimonies to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Jewish Historical Commission in Poland naming Moshe Y. Lubling among the original four plotters of the uprising in Treblinka. In his testimonial article "The Treblinka Revolt," Kon writes the following:
After the gruesome experiences of the day, the four plotters of the revolt met at night around his [Dr. Chorazycki] plank bed and discussed the plans. Their first problem was how to get hold of weapon and explosives which were needed. These men were the above mentioned Dr. Chorazycki, the Czech army officer Zelo – a Jew, of course, Kurland from Warsaw and Lubling from Silesia.(Originally published in Dos Naye Lebn, May 10, 1945)
In 1946 A. Dorshman published an article on the Treblinka death camp naming Moshe Y. Lubling among the leaders of the revolt. The article gets reprinted in the 1947 book Kiddush Ha-Shem in New York. In 1948, Dr. Binyamin Orenstein, a survivor of the Czestochowa Ghetto and member of the Resistance Organization, published the book Hurban Czenstochow in West Germany. Collaborating in the writing of the book were Aron Gelberd and Moshe Rappaport, both escaped from Treblinka and returned to the small ghetto in Czestochowa; Gelberd after 19 days and Rappaport after three months. In the book they confirm that Moshe Y. Lubling, the former chairman of the Workers’ Council, established the first "resistance cell" in Treblinka and that their escape was arranged by the latter. Also in the book, Gelberd confirmed that in May 1943 (three months before the Treblinka Revolt) a letter from Moshe Y. Lubling arrived in the Small Ghetto in Czestochowa from Treblinka containing information about the upcoming uprising. Believing that no one survived from Moshe Y. Lubling’s family, the book prints an obituary in his memory. The above survivors were not aware that his son Pinchas Lubling survived and immigrated to Israel. The obituary described his leadership in Zionist Organizations before the war, his leadership in Czestochowa as the chairman of the Workers’ Council, his refusal to escape the Ghetto and Treblinka, and his leadership in the Treblinka Revolt. Finally, Dr. Orenstein, Gelberd, and Rappaport collectively claimed that Moshe Y. Lubling initiated the idea of an armed uprising in Treblinka and that he died fighting as the "spiritual leader of the Treblinka Uprising."
In 1949 a symbolic headstone for Czestochowa residents that died fighting the Nazis was erected in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Czestochowa and Moshe Y. Lubling’s name appears first (ironically, the cemetery is now the property of the Polish steel company, Hutta Czestochowa). In 1956, a major work on Jewish resistance during the Holocaust is published in Israel by the Milkamot Hagetaot Holocaust Institute, under the title Sefer Milkamot Hagetaot (The Wars of the Ghettos). Stanislaw Kon’s article "The Treblinka Revolt," that named Moshe Y. Lubling among the four leaders of the Treblinka Revolt is translated into Hebrew and included. Also in 1956, the Holocaust scholar and former partisan M. Bakalczuk published an article on Jewish resistance during the Holocaust in the Polish-Israeli Magazine Reviews naming Moshe Y. Lubling among the leaders of the Treblinka Revolt. In 1958, the book Czenstochower Yidn (The Jews of Czestochowa) is published in New York. Mr. Tzvi Rozenvayn, a former member of the Czestochowa Resistance Organization and a Gordonian Zionist, writes an article entitled "The Hunger Strike in the Czestochowa Ghetto." In the article he describes the activities of the "unforgettable Moshe Lubling" as the chairman of the Workers’ Council, and states that Moshe Y. Lubling "died later as the leader of the uprising in Treblinka." In 1967 the Israeli Defense Ministry awarded Moshe Y. Lubling a "Citation of Heroism" for fighting the Nazis in Treblinka.
From 1967 to 1979 both Stanislaw Kon’s article "The Treblinka Revolt" and Dr. Binyamin Orenstein’s obituary for Moshe Y. Lubling were reprinted and cited in multiple publications; 1967 Sefer Czestochowa; 1967 Anthology of Jewish Literature edited by Glatstein, Knox, and Margoshes; 1974 Jewish Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Eastern Europe by Reuben Ainsztein; 1979 Jewish Response to Nazi Persecution by Isaiah Trunk; 1979 The Death Camp Treblinka – A Documentary by Alexander Donat. In his 1974 book Reuben Ainsztein made the observation that Stanislaw Kon’s account "clears up a number of crucial points … (that) the Resistance Committee at first consisted of Dr. Chorazycki, Zelo Bloch, Kurland of Warsaw, and Lubling, a Jew from Polish Silesia. It was enlarged to include … (others)."
Finally, in 1992, the Treblinka survivor and uprising fighter Richard Glazer published his testimonial book Trap with a Green Fence in Germany (his testimony was available since the 1950s). In the book Glazer identified Moshe Y. Lubling as a member of the "Organizing Committee" and the "contact person" for all the fighting units during the uprising. He also identified him as the person who blew open the east gate of the camp (leading to the Vegetable field) and freeing prisoners, including Glazer and his friend Karl Unger. In more than one place in the book Glazer puts Moshe Y. Lubling among the leaders of the Treblinka Revolt. He confirmed that Moshe Y. Lubling declined the opportunity to escape during the revolt and, in fact, returned to the camp to fight and to die. This observation confirms the content of the May 1943 letter by Moshe Y. Lubling to his son and colleagues in Czestochowa. This is the third time Moshe Y. Lubling refused to save himself during the Holocaust. It should be made clear that his goal in leading the uprising was motivated, not by the mere desire to escape, but by his militant Zionist ideology and his burning desire for Nekama (revenge).
Finally, in 2007 Moshe Y. Lubling’s grandson, Dr. Yoram Lubling, a Philosophy Professor at Elon University in North Carolina, USA, published Twice-Dead: Moshe Y. Lubling, the Ethics of Memory, and the Treblinka Revolt (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 2007). The book contains a special Foreword by the Nobel Laureate for Peace and Holocaust Survivor and writer Elie Wiesel. The book admonishes the Holocaust establishment for their poor scholarship in forgetting Moshe Y. Lubling’s contributions and leadership in the Treblinka Revolt, i.e., killing him for the second time. The book also provides a new and reconstructed account of the "Organizing Committee’s" activities, its various make-ups and preparations for the uprising, and a minute to minute time-line account of the fateful August 2, 1943 day. The success of the book assures that the activities and heroic death of Moshe Y. Lubling will never be forgotten and that he will not be killed-twice, once by the Nazis, and second time by Holocaust historiographers who overlooked his name.
See also: Samuel Rajzman, Revolt in Treblinka