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[Page 73]

Berschad
(Ukraine)

48°22' / 29°31'

Translation of chapter
“Berschad” from Volume II:

Geschichte der Juden in der Bukowina

Edited by: Hugo Gold

As told by: Max Rendel, Caracas Venezuela

Published in Tel Aviv, 1962

Translated by:

Jerome Silverbush


This is a translation of the chapter “Berschad”, Geschichte der Juden in der Bukowina
{History of the Jews in the Bukovina} Edited by: Dr. Hugo Gold,
As told by: Max Rendel, Caracas Venezuela, Published in Tel Aviv, 1962


Bershad

As told by: Josef Löwy, Anschel Nachman and Elieser Menczer

In the years 1941-1944, the scattered ghettos in Transnistrien were the stage for a never before seen kind of bestiality. The victims went through all the terrors of death. Hunger, cold, homelessness, forced labor, sickness and epidemics resulted in mass deaths in which the sadistic Nazi German and Romania murderers took great pleasure. Among those doomed to death were not a few Bukovina men, women and children.

Those who suffered the most can raise no complaint. Their voices are silenced, from the mass graves that conceal their corpses, no news comes to us. The few survivors try to forget experiences which they don't want to think back on because their souls are wounded beyond healing. Therefore, not all have complied with our request for information about their experiences in the camps. Many conclusions however can be drawn from the reports that have come in. The methods of organized mass murder were everywhere the same, death as a result of demonic torment, only the names of the victims were different.

Berschad

The Ukrainian village of Bershad had the tragic fame of holding first place among the murder camps for Jews of Bukovina and Bessarabia in Transnistrien for the number of victims as well as in view of the animalization of the German and Romanian officials whose sadistic barbarity by chance was exercised the most here. The following circumstances contributed to this situation:
  1. Right at the beginning of the war, thousands of deportees along with women and children were driven to Bershad. From the beginning, the idea was to murder these masses there. Therefore, no one gave any thought to the restricted housing and feeding possibilities.

  2. Since the city had no railroad line, the unfortunate ones arrived completely exhausted after marching for weeks through snow and cold. They were also spiritually broken since during the march a large number of their relatives had been shot by the gendarmes or perished through hunger and sickness and had been left along the highway.

  3. Bershad had a constant inflow of Jews from the nearby camps because they felt themselves safer there since it lay far away from the Bug River and therefore the danger the danger of being transferred to the Germans who were on the other side of the Bug was less. This, in spite of the fact that leaving a camp on your own was punishable by death and many of the unfortunate ones were seized by gendarmes on the way to Bershad and paid for their gamble on the spot with their lives.

  4. At the outbreak of the war, some of the Jews who lived in Bershad were put to death and others fled before the German-Romanian army units. In their half destroyed houses, decrepit barrack, through whose roofs the rain dropped, with defective doors and windows 10 to 20 people were squeezed into a single room.

  5. The supply of food and fuel was cut off. There were no possibilities for bathing, no soap, no sanitary facilities. Hunger, cold and spotted fever swept the unfortunate ones away.

The situation of the deportees changed from year to year. In the first winter of the war, 1941-1942 the most deaths occurred. Of approximately 21,000 people, 18,000 died (over 85%). The Romanian commandant, Generaru was supposed to have been the son of a general and was a depraved individual, notorious because of his sadistic cruelty. It was said that one day, to pass the time; he tied a Jew to his motorcycle and dragged him behind at full speed. It was fun for him to continually think up new ways to take Jewish lives. His successor, G. Petrescu, who had more human feelings later on appeared to many inhabitants of the camp as a rescuing angel. The second and third winters brought a little relief. Thanks to the efforts of Jewish charities shipments of clothing and medicine were received intermittently. The Zionist organizations remitted large sums of money and its representatives made sure the money was distributed fairly. Gradually, private deliveries of money and material found their way to the deportees, even though a great part was stolen in transit.

An eye witness (Mr. Josef Löwy (Kiriat Bialik) sent the following report:

“We, the exiled from Bukovina, exhausted and with no strength left because of days of walking in pouring cold autumn rain and snowstorms were driven by Romanian guards over muddy fields and through forests. We sank in clinging mud, but with blows from their rifle stocks, the gendarmes drove us away from dying parents and children and for night quarters put us in deserted and demolished stalls which were filled with light from the west. So in the last November and first December days of 1941, we reached the village of Bershad. Right at the beginning of our stay in the mostly demolished houses herded together on the snow and ice covered floors began the mass deaths from spotted fever along with the gruesome deaths from hunger and freezing. The number of those who dared to go to farmers in the surrounding area to acquire food for themselves or their dying relatives and were shot to death by the gendarmes was not small. Emaciated, children marked for death used their last strength to go from door to door begging in a heart rendering way for a bite of bread. Many of them died in the street. Daily, sleds filled with corpses slid to the nearby cemetery. Since digging mass graves in the frozen ground was impossible, the corpses were left piled up under the open sky inseparably twisted together until they were buried next spring. Viewing this terrible scene made one wish that he was also among the dead so as to be spared further torments. Columns of exhausted, half starved people were placed at the disposal of the SS people by the Romanian gendarmes for heavy labor building bridges and roads.
Because of the bestial treatment by the Germans, few came back and these for the most part, in spite of the selfless treatment by the ghetto doctors could not be rescued. To complete the tragedy, hundreds of the deportees were suspected of either belonging to the partisans or supporting them and these suspects were shot without further ado.

Mr. Anschel Nachmann (Kiriat Frostig) reported the following sad detail: “At the end of 1943, I was sent to Warwerowka for forced labor. One day a man was missing at roll call. To make an example, the camp commander ordered that 10 prisoners be publicly hanged. One of the 10 condemned to death was a certain Wallach from Sereth. The rope was put around his neck several times and every time the rope broke. The man's fear of death caused him to have a heart attack and he fell to the ground dead. However, this wasn't enough for the monster and he had the body hung from the gallows like the rest.

With the retreat of the German army, the front line advanced ever closer to the village of Bershad. In 1943, a command post for the village was set up lead by Major von Breitag, a worthy representative of Nazi bestiality. Arbitrary murders of Jews took place almost daily. Only after years did it become known that during his morning walk this infamous individual expressed the wish to kill three dogs and three Jews on that day in order to improve his mood. The two legged beast immediately put his wish into action. First in 1959 did a West German court order an investigation of this case.

In the course of the war, the fear of the partisans, who operated in the rear of the German army and were credited with countless acts of sabotage, rose. This led to outbreaks of hysteria. Innocents were suspected and were terribly tortured to death. With Jews, the slightest suspicion was enough to provoke sadistic attacks against them. Numerous Jews were arrested and after a brief hearing, executed, this at a time when the German soldiers were retreating and filled the streets of the city. One of the victims was the lawyer Schrenzel from Storozynetz. Because of supposed support of partisans, he was condemned by a German military court, mishandled terribly and finally executed.

The former businessman Korn was in charge of the ghetto of Bershad. He organized the local Jewish police, supervised the distribution of the donations that arrived and made sure things were administered in an orderly manner. After the Russians marched in 1944, he was arrested because of supposed cooperation with the Romanian-German military authorities and never returned. His fate was shared by many other Jews.

Within the framework of the existing possibilities there was in Bershad opportunities for an intellectual life. Behind closed doors, lectures and artistic performances staged by dilatants which were appreciated, occasionally took place. In Bershad, the Jewish poet Jakob Friedmann (deported from Czernowitz in 1941) wrote the work for which he later received the Sholom Aleichem prize in Paris in 1959. The painter Arnold Dagani (Korn) who had fled from a German concentration camp on the other side of the Bug to Bershad preserved his memories in many water colors and sketches. He is the author of the book “Groapa Este in Livada de Visini” (Bucharest, Sosec et Co. 1947), which in addition to diary pages from the ghetto contains reproductions of many of the artist's works. It should also be mentioned that in Bershad a school in which the youth received thoughtful instruction operated intermittently. Teachers in Bershad, among them the Süss brothers, and Mrs. Fanny Sperber-Hecht as well as Prof. Dr. H. Sternberg and Mrs. Friedmann, selflessly served to educate the youth. The children were happy to learn and were thankful to their teachers. Only a single time did they run from the school building crying and shaken by fear when they learned that partisans were publicly hung from lamp posts in several places.

Among the people who sacrificed themselves and gave their best to be rescuers in need were the doctors: Dr. Bacher, Dr. Fränkel, Dr. Kahane, Dr. Kram, Dr. Marian, Dr. Menczel, Dr. Menschenfreund-Tiger, Dr. Schajowicz, Dr. Scherer, Mrs. Dr. Sternberg, Dr. Stiglitz, Dr. Tabak and Dr. Weiner. Dr. Jusiud Bacher and his wife, before their arrival in Bershad did excellent charitable work at the Steinbruch (Cariers) alongside the doctors: Dr. Benzion, Dr. Jaslowitzer, Dr. Rath, Dr. Mayer and Mrs. Dr. Zloczower. There was in Bershad a primitive “emergency hospital” in which surgery was performed and there was an out patient clinic. Available medicines were distributed according to need. It is worth mentioning the efforts of the dentist Kimmelmann and the pharmacists Rosenberg and Druckmann.

Mr. Elieser M. Menczer (Ottawa Canada) reported about an unusual monument in the Bershad cemetery. He wrote, “Among many mass graves in which tens of thousands of martyrs rested, still under the regime of the tormentors (1943), under the threat of death, because the cemetery lay outside of the ghetto and therefore no one was permitted to enter it, a unique monument was set up at the initiative of teacher Josef Löwy from Czernowitz.

According to a report by Mr. Löwy the monument had the form of a five sided marble prism. On four sides the names of the dead were engraved and the front face bore an inscription in Hebrew, the essential meaning of which follows:

In eternal memory of the destroyed world,
   of the eternal people for eternal time.
In the vale of tears remains unforgotten the mourning for
   the tens of thousands of Israel without leader, without a redeemer, Father and
   sons, children and the elderly,
in brother grave, inseparably united with one another.
They died from hunger and struggling with the cold,
   the martyrs of the exile, robbed of freedom.
The blessed of the land, the victims of tyranny,
   united in life and death.
In the year 5702 in Bershad,
   among the thousands known, also those
   whose names are recorded.
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