Zabludow had a huge wooden synagogue that was really amazing to look at. Years later I saw photos of pagodas in Asia, and was reminded of Zabludow because the synagogue looked just like one.
The town market square had a statue of Lenin but someone had shot his head off. Probably one of the Wehrmacht infantry units passing through had taken the time to blow his head off because nothing we carried would have done that kind of damage.
The market square itself was divided into a big one and little one. The little one was for the Jews, and the big one was for everyone else. There wasn’t much else to the town, anyways, other than the stench. They had a tannery and an oil factory inside the city limits which produced an amazing stink. We didn’t stay long there, just long enough to burn the synagogue and part of the town down. The Lieutenant was right. They didn’t have a fire department, and the wide streets did help keep the fire from spreading.
It burned very quickly. The wood was old and very dry. Hans made a very good point when he mentioned “We are really doing these old fools a favor.” He said this as we were standing there watching it burn while the local Jews were wailing and carrying on like we had just shot their children. Hell, we didn’t even burn anyone alive in it, probably because there were no SS or SD personnel around to tell us too. At that point we hadn’t really progressed far enough that burning people on our own initiative was given serious consideration.
He continued “Really, look at how fast this went up in flames. What if they where holding a service in there? They would have been toast. Now they can rebuild it, and this time build it right. I laughed. “Come on Hans. The only thing these Jews are going to be allowed to build is a larger train station so they can be shipped somewhere else faster.” I thought about what I had just said, and added “If their lucky.” Hans just shook his head and took another pull on his bottle.