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[Page 145]

Part IV

The Holocaust

[Page 147]

Yizkor

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Remember the Holocaust of the Jewish people
Remember the loss and the insurgence,
May it be for you a sign and a lesson
To give over from generation to generation
Let this memory
Be always with you
When you lie down and wake up.
Let it be before your eyes
The memory of brothers that are no longer
May the memory be on your flesh, your blood, and your bones
Gnash your teeth and remember,
When you eat your bread remember,
When you drink your water remember,
When you hear a song remember,
When the sun shines remember
When night comes remember
On holidays and festivals remember!

Dr. Dvorzhetsky


[Page 148]

My Hometown

by Dov Sinai

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The 'Scala' on the Ivanus River

The “Scala” on the Ivanus River

 

My hometown of Orheyev stands before my eyes, with many memories, joyous and sad, arising and floating through the heart.

You now pass over the wooden bridges. The water flowing below is used for washing and bathing, and also for Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah. This is the Reat River, which serves the people of the town for holy and mundane uses.

You continue on, and now you are in the city. At the top of the path, around, the large Christian Church, the Sobor, towers over. You now turn left, and a street is before you. You are at the edge of Torgovia Street, the street of the pure Jews.

You continue on your path and you arrive at Bessarabkaya, the center of economic life. It contains the marketplace with the stalls, selling all kinds of merchandise. There are stalls for vegetables, textiles, household utensils, and a general store. Next to it is the Bulvar Garden. At the edge of the street there is a large, glittery building surrounded by a garden – this is the city hospital.

You continue along the alleys and reach the area of the water well and the bathhouse, having passed over some fields – the Shes.

During the evenings and the Sabbaths, people walk along the Street of the Noblemen (Di Poritzishe Gasse), which is Alexandrovskaya. This is a beautiful, wide street, where there are Gymnasium buildings and government cultural institutions. From here, you go to the well-tended Civic Gardens, with a small river flowing through the center, and boats floating along. There are small tables at the edge of the river. Here, the Jews of the town taste of the fruit of the garden – fine grapes – this is the Gorodskvi Sad (Civic Garden).

You do not find the youth next to the tables. They ascend and climb above the vineyards, as they try to taste a cluster of grapes, stolen and sweet – the joyous mischief that accompanies the thoughts of the youth. He goes up and ascends above the grapevines – dreams are woven between its rocks.

Here is a tall mountain, the Ivanus, which is attractive in its charm. In its center is an ancient rock. The youth of all ages and strata wander around in its shade. Every native of Orheyev has memories of the Skala.

You can see afar from its peak – large gardens with large and small white houses in their midst, scattered around by the dozens. These are the rest of the houses of the town.

I have taken you, oh dear Orheyev native, on a short tour of the town as it was – through its roads and houses in which wondrous life was conducted each day. You will remember in this corner that vibrant Jewish life thrived in the town. It was peaceful.

This was my town of Orheyev, which is no longer…


[Pages 149-150]

The Nation of the Holocaust

by Chaya Mundrian

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It was June 1940. Rumors spread through the city that the Russians had issued an ultimatum to the Romanian authorities to vacate Bessarabia. The Jewish population received this news with mixed feelings. There was satisfaction over the departure of the anti-Semitic government that was an impediment to the Jewish community, and there were doubts and concerns with regard to the new authorities, and fear of the disturbances that were liable to come with the change of government.

Groups of youth organized themselves into self-defense units in an instinctive manner, without having any idea of what the community would be facing over the next several days.

At midnight on Thursday night, June 27, the sounds of infantry, wagons and busses were heard. They were laden with military equipment and the property of the Romanian government. They were passing in a state of panic though Bessarabkaya and Torgovia streets, on their way to Kishinev. The light of a large bonfire lit up the darkness of the night. This was the fire of the gendarme building, which the Romanians set on fire along with the archives and office books as they were fleeing for their lives.

That night was a night of confusion for those Jews who lived in Christian neighborhoods. The latter were permeated with hatred of the Jews. The Jews set up barricades in those houses. The next morning, the community breathed a sigh of relief.

The Russian Authorities Arrive

Immediately after the Romanians vacated the city, the representatives of the Communist Party took over the city hall and other communal institutions.

On Saturday morning, June 29, masses of Jews and Christians, dressed in festive clothing, in an exalted spirit, but also with fear of the unknown, went forth in a parade, singing the “International” song. They arranged themselves into rows in a spontaneous manner, the elderly, youth and children, as they followed behind the bearers of the red flags in the direction of the post office, where a delegation of the government was set to appear. The sound of Russian airplanes was heard at 11:00 a.m., and notes of greeting rained down upon the celebrating masses.

When the delegation reached the post office, they were taken to the prefectory building. From there, members of the delegation delivered enthusiastic speeches, promising effusively that the new guard would bring peace and relief to all strata of the population, without difference between religion and language.

Indeed, there was the desire to hope and believe that a new era, bringing with it national and social liberation, was before us. However, already at the beginning of the first week after the reception of the authorities by the delegates of the Communist Party and its supporters, citizens disappeared and were arrested. Some of them were wealthy people whose status did not please the new party, and others were activists, communal heads and Zionists. They were sent to remote Siberia.

The owners of many homes were evicted, and police officials took their place. During the year of Russian rule in our city, dozens of people were exiled to Siberia, leaving their families without protection, susceptible to hunger and cold. Most of the Jewish population was left without a livelihood, since the business was transferred to the hands of the authorities. Bitter suffering was their lot during the time of the rule of the new guard. However, nobody felt this, for across the border of Bessarabia, a great conflagration was running rampant and consuming all of the choicest parts of Europe. The fire was spreading and approaching this remote corner, and would eventually bring with it destruction, ruin and murder. The disaster was approaching like a thief, like a destructive earthquake…

At the end of the month of June 1941, at the conclusion of one year since the Soviet conquest of Bessarabia, the German armies invaded Russia and advanced through Bessarabia to the wide expanses of Russia with almost no resistance. Immediately, an army draft was declared for anyone up to the age of 50, and they were sent to the interior of Russia. The rest of the Jewish population that remained after the “purifications” conducted by the Russian authorities was left without a shepherd and without a leader, and found itself without resources. Before any plan of action could be devised, the German airplanes arrived and dropped a number of bombs that damaged the flour mill that was next to the cemetery. Perplexed and in panic, they waited for the development of the disaster without grasping the full extent of what was to be their bitter fate. A few days later, at the beginning of July, the city was once again attacked from the air, and the news spread that the enemy was stalking near our city without impediment. Caravans of refugees began to arrive in the city from the north, toward the direction of the Dniester. Many people of our city joined these caravans, however many did not make peace with the idea that they had to leave their home of many generations and become helpless wanderers. The situation worsened from hour to hour. The Red Army urged them, encouraged them and helped them flee.

On July 7, at 8:00 p.m., almost all of the Jewish residents of Orheyev, including the women and children, reached Kriulyany on the Dniester. A bridge was immediately erected over the river. The men were directed to cross the bridge first, followed by the families. The men had just succeeded in reaching the other side when German airplanes arrived and bombarded those who remained next to the bank. Many people of our city fell. A significant number remained in Kriulyany completely destitute. Suddenly, news spread that the Germans left the city, and it was possible to return home. A significant number returned to the city, but they found that most of it had been burnt by the Red Army. They returned again to Kriulyany, and from there continued their panicked flight, without knowing where they were going.

As has been stated, the men crossed the Dniester themselves and the families waited by the river. In the interim, contact was lost between them and their husbands. The families wandered throughout the expanses of southern Russia for many months under unbearable conditions, in wagons and trains with indescribable crowding, naked and barefoot in the cold and the rain, under the buzzing of enemy airplanes, in one long nightmare without a shred of hope, as they attempted to reach points of settlement outside the battlefield. Epidemics spread, and countless victims fell. Fathers fell victim in front of their children, and babies in front of their mothers. Those who remained alive were nauseated from the filth and stench in which they found themselves. It was bitter to see the death of the father, mother, baby or child, but it was sevenfold heartrending to see the suffering of loved ones as they withered away from hunger and as their wounds were infested by lice and insects, without any ability to help, due to the lack of a drop of clean water. However, man is stronger than iron! Many, many fell along the way, and their graves are not known. However, many persevered and finally arrived in Stalingrad and its environs, which was far from the front. The government dispersed the refugees in kolkhozes (collective farms), and they were finally able to rest from the tribulations of the long journey.

However, this respite did not last long. The enemy armies advanced forward and reached the gates of Stalingrad after some time. The refugees once again had to pick up the wandering staff and wander thousands of kilometers to unknown places. The refugees were divided into two directions by order of the Red Army. Some went in the direction of the Ural Mountains and others went to Central Asia and Uzbekistan. A large concentration of refugees, including some from our city, was in Tashkent and its environs. Many were absorbed into kolkhozes, and many earned their meager livelihoods as hired day workers and peddlers. Many of the women worked at cotton picking and at other agricultural work, primarily on the kolkhozes. The wages were very meager – about 300 grams of barley for a day's work. Throughout five years, many people from our city lived their lives filled with hunger, diseases, and despair without a shred of hope, without any content or purpose, cut off from any cultural or recreational activities. They were immersed day and night in agony and fear of the shadow of death that stalked them at every step.

1945 came. Hitler and his armies fell. News of peace arrived. Hope sprung that the day was near when it would be possible to return to the native town and rebuild a nest for the survivors.

Here and there, individuals obtain permission to return to their native city. Fragments of families, broken and mourning over the lost ones, returned to Orheyev. The ground was burnt, and most of its central streets were turned into heaps of rubble. Here and there, an abandoned house stood out, that was also half destroyed. The few that returned, orphaned and bereaved, pining for a warm corner, found a cold strangeness, a frightening desolation. Of the thirteen synagogues, only the Kapestarov Synagogue remained. Of the communal heads, only the chairman Dr. Nirenberg and the shochet and communal council member Reb Moshe Yonovitz survived. Most of the survivors left Orheyev in agony and moved to Kishinev, where they found a larger concentration of Jews despite it being emptied of Jewish content and a warm national atmosphere.

Fate laughed. The cemetery in Orheyev was not damaged in the least.

Written by D. S.


[Pages 150 - 151]

The Last Days of Our Community

Ben-Zion Chaimovitz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In the morning of June 29, 1940, Radio Moscow broadcast an edict that the Romanians must leave Bessarabia. The Romanian population, as well as civilian and military officials, had to leave the region. When the announcement was broadcast, an army force was already ready for invasion. The next day, Saturday, Soviet airplanes flew over the Bessarabian skies and distributed propaganda flyers calling on the population to return to “Mother Russia” and to be freed from the thievery of Romanian taxes, etc. That day at noon, automobiles filled with army personnel arrived at the outskirts of Orheyev. In direct contradiction to the propaganda flyers that promised the “Garden of Eden,” I heard from groups of soldiers who were talking among themselves in the barber shop that “now you bless us, but soon enough you will curse the day that we arrived.” To my dismay, these words proved true. Within a few days, they ruled over all areas of life; they harmed private business and imposed heavy taxes. Persecutions and expulsions to Siberia began. The first expulsion consisted of 42 men, including Dr. Nachum Berkovitz, Chayim Yassky, Lemel Kupchik, Leyzer Shvartsman, Efrayim Pagis, Moshe Frant, Yaakov Vlobsky, Motel Reznik, Gluzgold, and others. The Jewish population subsisted mainly from its former economy. Work was available. The Russians divided up the land and organized groups of Jews to work in the vineyards. (I as well received a vineyard on the Ivanus.) It seemed that life was slowly entering into its normal path. On July 7, 1941, an announcement was issued that permitted any resident to leave the area and move to regions in the interior of Russia. (The train transport would be covered by the government.) The Jewish population began to make feverish efforts to leave the city, for they were afraid that the Germans and Romanians would invade Bessarabia. People began to flee to the border, some by foot, some by train, some by wagons hitched to horses and oxen. Some of those that fled set out for Kriulyany and others for Rezina. Within two days, the city was emptied of its Jewish population, with the exception of the few who did not have sufficient means to flee.

With the invasion of the Germans and Romanians to the city, a delegation appeared before the new authorities and greeted them with bread and salt. Reb Moshe Boks and Reb Moshe Rishtant, both honorable elders, headed the delegation. Apparently, they thought that no harm would befall them. However the evil hand did not pass over them, and they were murdered along with the rest of the Jews.

One day, news spread that the Germans retreated, and whoever wished could return to Orheyev. However, it was verified that this was a false rumor, and many who were caught in the trap met their deaths on their way home.

The action of the deportation from the city to Kishinev was carried out with cruelty, and there were a number of victims. When they reached the lime kilns of Sloboda, they were shot by soldiers that accompanied them. At that time, the soldiers ordered Reb Shmuel Roitman (who was the undertaker of the Chevra Kadisha burial society) to dig a grave for the victims. When he finished the task, they threw him in alive.

In the town of Isacova, the Jews of that village and nearby villages were gathered into the house of Kolichman. A few days later, they were murdered by machine gun. The survivors were sent to labor camps in Balta and Zherinka.

The judge from Orheyev, Reb Avraham Yosef Elkin, met his death in the Rybnitsa Ghetto. As he was walking to the synagogue, he veered from the route by mistake and was shot. The fate of those who remained alive in Orheyev was bitter. The Romanian government libeled them and oppressed them. For example, they ordered the dentist Dr. Averbukh to clean the latrines, and they forced 75 year old Reb Avraham Goldenberg to work at backbreaking work. When he was brazen enough to ask that he be treated as a Romanian citizen and a senior citizen, he was beaten with deathblows. Many of those who succeeded in fleeing were lost on the remote ways to the interior of Russia. Many were separated from their families and did not meet again. Only a portion of them succeeded in persevering the tribulation of their wanderings and returned to Orheyev in the fall of 1944, at the end of the war, and after the Russians once again took over Bessarabia. However, they found the city destroyed and desolate. A few remained in Orheyev. Most of the returnees went to Kishinev and somehow organized themselves there…


[Pages 151-152]

Wanderings

by the lawyer Yosef Shaiovitz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In May 1941, the Jews of Orheyev began to leave their houses. Many people of the region joined them – some by car, some by carriage, and some by foot. The people moved in the direction of the train station or the Dniester with one desire, to flee for their lives from the Nazi and Romanian murderers.

Already during the first days of the Second World War, the residents of Kishinev and Orheyev were shrouded in fear because of the German air raids. The Jewish residents remained in fear even after the bombardments passed. They knew that death and annihilation awaited them if the Germans or Romanians would take control, Heaven forbid. This fact urged them to flee for their lives and to leave their property and belongings to the hands of thieves. The train cars were too narrow to contain the masses of Jews and Christians. They went by foot to Kriulyany on the Dniester. Only the children and the sick rode on wagons.

When the German and Romanian pilots recognized the refugees going along the way, they lowered their airplanes, fired at them, and thereby killed hundreds and thousands of people. The refugees of Orheyev went to the villages of Lalova, Stodolna, Zhura and Molovata. They were treated nicely, as guests, in these places. Thus did they wander from village to village until they reached their objective – the train station. After days of walking on foot, signs of hunger could already be seen in their faces. Their energy dwindled, and they became afflicted with serious illnesses.

The wandering and tribulations of the journey took their toll, and after two or three weeks, many of the refugees disappeared. The members of their families did not know to where they disappeared. Some members of the Shaiovitz family fled from Orheyev and others fled from Kishinev. After several months, they met each other at Rostov-on-Don. They passed through Odessa along their journey. Their eleven year old Siuma got separated from her parents and went to bathe in the sea. When the father realized that the son had disappeared, he jumped off the train and ran to the train station. To his good fortune, he found his son at the seashore. He grabbed the boy in his arms and returned to the wagon.

The train was shot at each night. It was necessary to leave behind the destroyed wagons, as the train continued along its way.

Hunger and disease afflicted the refugees in the train. Some of them got out at one of the stations to search for water or bread, and they did not succeed in returning. At times, the train moved along different tracks, and members of the family lost track of each other. The train continued along its way mainly at night, in the dark, thereby attempting to escape the eyes of the Nazi pilots who were pursuing it.

After a month of tribulation, some of the Shaiovitz family arrived in Morozovskaya in the region of Rostov-on-Don, and the rest to a kolkhoz near Rostov.

They found out each other's location by chance. Thus they were reunited once again and lived in Morozovskaya, a town near the Rostov-Stalingrad intersection. In the meantime, we heard of the approach of the Germans, and the family decided to continue wandering to central Asia.

It was impossible to obtain travel tickets. The family remained in the train station for seven days and seven nights, until they were able to go on a train to Rostov, and from Rostov to Liski. Their objective was central Asia.

The train ride with the entire family was under impossible conditions. The women and children were set up first in the train, which set out in the direction of Ponza. Food for the journey consisted of one sack of bread and five kilograms of sugar. However the bread was stolen on the first night of the journey. A portion of warm water and a bit of the remaining sugar saved the people from death.

The harsh winter greeted us when we arrived in Ponza. The people were forced to sleep outside. As a result of the cold and hunger, the child Siuma became ill with the serious illness of scurvy. It was impossible to obtain appropriate food for the sick person there. Therefore, the only choice was to continue on with the journey to central Asia.

Three months passed before we arrived in Tashkent. There was a small garden near the train station. There, the refugees found some rest to the light of electric lanterns that remained on all night. There, they were safe from the German airplanes that dropped bombs. The entire family found themselves a place between the trees. There, they set out their belongings. Someone always remained there to guard the belongings. The rest were able to go about their business. Despite the protection, acts of theft were very common. The thieves did not pay any attention to the guards, and were not afraid of them. They stole anything that they could. There was no point in complaining about acts of theft. Certainly, nobody would pay attention to such a complaint. The refugees lived in this garden until they found another place to live.

On occasion, government officials came, took the refugees out of the garden and transferred them to one of the kolkhozes or to another place. Only those who receive a special permit from the government were permitted to live in Tashkent.

It was difficult to obtain bread-cards. The allotment was only 300 grams per person. The children were always sick and the adults always hungry.

The ride in a transport train from Tashkent to Odessa lasted for a month. We arrived in Kishinev on Passover. At the time, of course, it was difficult to find a place to live. One of us went to Orheyev with the hope that we would find a place to live there, but after he saw the terrible destruction, he retraced his steps. Only two rooms remained of the house in which the family of Moshe Yonovitz lived. Later we moved to Chernovits and from there to Romania. We arrived in the Land at the end of 1950.


[Page 152]

Rescue Missions

(From the archives of the lawyer Shaiovitz)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Much has been written about the murder that was carried out against the Jews of Bessarabia and Romania on their way from Orheyev and other communities to Transnistria. Much time has passed since then, and many things have been forgotten. However, the terrifying impression obtained from one news article that I read at the time in a Romanian-Jewish newspaper still remains etched in my mind.

The following is a summary of the words of that article about the task of the lawyer A. Shapira. (The lawyer A. Shapira was a native of Chinisheutsy in the region of Orheyev.)

You my brothers, please turn your attention for a moment from your private worries about your property that was pillaged, about your homes that were destroyed, about your money that was lost, about your status that has moved out of the world. Turn your ears to the following words:

One morning in November 1941, the well-known lawyer Avraham Shapira came to me, perplexed and emotional. He started telling the following gloomy story.

“I have just arrived from Kishinev (I dressed up in captain's clothing to make it here, for civilians were forbidden to move along the roads), with the purpose of alerting Dr. Filderman about the dangerous situation in which the Jews of Bessarabia find themselves. Every day, the danger hovers about that they might be transported across the Dniester. The Jewish leaders in Bucharest are duty bound to take action immediately in order to avert this terrible decree. Some have already been expelled, and the rest await their fate within the coming days. To our ill fortune, the weather is also bad, with rain, cold and mud. What can we do? Gloomy despair consumes our essence. We await your answer.”

Pale and emotional, he awaits our answer, and we have no words in our mouth. With us is also Dr. Shafran, the chief rabbi. With weak voices we utter half words. We have already tried to prevent them, but to no avail… The authorities do not answer our requests.

We attempt to comfort him by stating that Dr. Filderman continues to deal with the matter, and perhaps he might succeed at the last moment in averting the harsh decree. “Perhaps a miracle will take place! Let us wait another 2-3 days…” Shapira is shaken. G-d forbid, my masters! It will be late, too late for any good! He adds – “I intend to return to Kishinev immediately. I promised to return to the ghetto tomorrow.” “We gaze into the pale face of Shapira and tears choke his throat. Finally, Dr. Filderman arrives. To our dismay, he also repeated the stubborn refusal of the authorities to change their decision regarding the Jews of Kishinev. “There is no hope at all for salvation.”, he states in agony. One of us advised that Shapira should save himself and remain in Bucharest, however he refused. “I am the acting chairman of the community of Kishinev, and I cannot leave it in a time of distress to save my flesh. I must return to them, come what may. Wherever it is decreed that they should go, I will also go.”

I met a Jew from Kishinev in 1944, one of the survivors of Transnistria. With trembling, I asked about the fate of the lawyer Shapira. He related thus: Two days after Shapira returned from his mission for the benefit of the Jews of Kishinev, the decree of expulsion of the Jewish population was issued. They were sent in three transports. Shapira went in the first transport. Eyewitnesses relate that, 15-20 kilometers from Kishinev, the deportees were commanded to remove their clothes and shoes, and to give over their money. Those who did not comply were shot on the spot.

Shapira also was among those that fell. The person who risked his life to save the Jews of Bessarabia at the last minute before the deportation perished along with them. May his memory be blessed!

Edited by Y. Sh.


[Page 153 - 156]

Where Does One Run To ?!

By Riva Milshteyn-Rozenfeld

Translated by Marsha Kayser

In memory of my husband, a precious and noble person, Yitzchak son of Avrum Milshteyn

How difficult it is to dig up memories from that accursed time of such savage cruelty in 1940. What befell me, with my two tiny children? What did we have to go through in order to be affected so powerfully by those deep memories? It is too painful: even in the rare event when life brings you something - a happy event - to enjoy, a smile spreads instinctively across your face, and you want to let go of the sadness from your crying heart - the rare smile is only on the outside. But the pain remains - incurable.

Yes, hard to remember that dark chapter, which one wants to forget. Still, I will try to recall only those things that lay so heavy on my heart.

Bright summer 1941: the overblown friendship between the Soviets and Germans had collapsed. The political situation brought on the German assault. Everyone trembled for tomorrow. But the survival instinct kept terrifying thoughts at bay, as the rapid assault approached…”Maybe, maybe the storm will pass over us and not touch us…”

In those dark days, after sending off my unforgettable husband and best friend Isaak Abramovich Milshteyn to Siberia, my boys and I were supported by my uncle Itzel Rozenfeld in Orheyev. With us there were his daughter - dentist Liza Naydelman, Gerisha Rozenfeld his wife, and Veva and Chasya their children. With trembling and terror we waited out the charge but no one's wildest fantasy could imagine to what extent the czars would blow up…

In the clear early morning I went out in the street and saw many shocked and shaken people fleeing. Many had heavy packs on their backs. Petrified, I remained glued to the spot, looking at the terrifying picture, not absorbing it, too dazed by what was happening.

Suddenly, I spotted Udel Snitkovsky-Shistik. I went up to her and asked what was happening. She stared at me in amazement. “What, you don't know that Hitler's air force is approaching Kishinev and their population is fleeing?”

I immediately returned to the house and told everyone about the calamity that was coming.

Shaken by the unexpected announcement, the household debated various proposals. “We should pack up now and flee,” others - “we should wait.” “Where can one run. From death, one cannot hide.” “Maybe the calamity won't happen. And if we are destined to die, could it at least happen in our own beds.” Frightened, I ran to my brother-in-law Yosel Milshteyn for a piece of advice. Where we waited and thought, we heard a faint noise from an enemy plane. Frightened, we ran to find a hiding place…For two whole days we pondered, run or not. In time there were widespread rumors that the Soviets would let Bessarabia go, setting fire to everything. There was great panic. There was no time to think…but with what does one flee, and where does one go?

With the Current

I went to my brother-in-law again. He had looked for a truck (this was not at all simple, as all equipment had been mobilized), and I and my children with my brother-in-law and his family moved with the current of evacuees. Not only was it heart-breaking and tragic to have to escape into unknown territory, but for me it was the separation from all my relatives and friends, with whom I had spent the saddest and most difficult days of my life, after sending off the dearest love of my life to Siberia. I found with them a warm welcome and much earnest consolation and had now to desert them, not knowing what the unhappy morning would bring them (they actually were killed).

The major tributary flowed straight to the Dniester River and from there over to Soviet territory. For the first time I understood the substance of eminent artists' paintings of “The Eternal Wanderer,” which I had never seen for what it really was, having seen only the imaginary artistic concepts. And now here I was with my children, one among many sad thousands, taking themselves to faraway and unfamiliar places and delivering themselves to oblivion and fate, terrified of the enemy planes shooting from high in the bright skies with death and devastation…

In Kriulyany we had to halt a few days, because the bombing raids had damaged the ferry. There I encountered many acquaintances from Orheyev and Kishinev (the Raviches, Yosel Munder and wife, Mineylov and family, the doctor Vaynshtok and wife, Ita and Veva Rozenfeld etc.)

Not expecting to be able to cross the Dniester to the town of Kriulyany, we moved, with many others, to Vada-Luy-Voda. But there we could not cross either. All this time the German planes pursued us and continued the bombing. Where the bombs were falling, we sought protection under the thicket of trees near the border forest. Meanwhile we soon ran short of the meager provisions we had prepared, and our hungry stomachs, especially the children's, were empty.

Driven Off the Enemy?

There the informed intelligence gave the impression that the Soviet military had driven back the Germans 60 kilometers and whoever wants to could turn around and go home. I, among many others, also decided to return to Kishinev. As it was, we looked for a peasant, who drove us to the station building in Kishinev and threw us out with our few bags. Not finding someone to drive us into the city, I had to leave the children with my brother-in-law's family and look for someone who would take us into the city.

Tired and weak, I reached Favlovski Street and was terrified to find the place empty, everything locked, no living soul to be seen. Although it was a light summer day, everything looked misty and sad. Suddenly I heard an explosion and a racket from an invisible airplane. Instinctively, I fell to the ground and very quickly thereafter came a second explosion from the direction of the terminal. Shaking with fear for my children, I ran around looking for anyone, to get the children from the station. Finally I met the Brillman family. Mr. Brillman seemed like an angel to me, when he looked for a wheelbarrow and went with me to the station. We found the children unharmed and we returned to the Brillmans.

It's Burning

Late on the third night Brillman awakened me. I looked out the window. Fire! Shocked, we rushed outdoors…The skies were ablaze. Huge sparks fell on our heads. Thick black smoke filled the air in the houses. Frightened, people ran gasping from the smoke. We looked for a hiding place for ourselves. We went into a house by a church, where there were thick trees, and we caught our breath. There we spent the night. In the morning I left to look for a means to leave the city. But the search was futile; there was no way out, except to walk. I went to Tiabashevski Street to my friends, the Goldenberg family, to say good-bye. There I captured an image that pierced my heart and which I cannot forget. When I entered their house and met the old man, sick and weak, begging for mercy from their only daughter Basya, I saw that she wanted to save herself and flee with everyone. But she said categorically that to leave her parents behind would be dangerous. I used all my tricks to persuade her that she should save her young life, because her parents could not flee. With many tears, I said farewell to them, taking my growing silent pain for the parents, and for Basya's self-sacrifice, in order to bear their dire fate with her parents.

Weak, with not an ounce of strength left, I returned to the children, we took some food and a basket of small things for them, and we ran to the station. During that time the bombing had intensified, and crowds of people were running back and away from the station, holding us up, warning us not to proceed to the station, because the entire region was under attack. How I wanted to turn around, but my older son grabbed my hand and shouted, “Mama! I want to run further. If we choose now not to flee, we will never see our father again. Whatever happens, happens” and he started to run ahead.

Alone on the Empty Field

The child's determined words and bold action were intense. I thought no more, and we ran after him under the fire and smoke, avoiding the station. We looked around, finding ourselves in an empty field outside the city and all alone. No living creature except us. Tired and weak, we fell on the bare ground under the burning sun. I looked around and spotted a military transport approaching. I went up to an older officer and with tears in my eyes said to him “Tovarisch [ed. note: Comrade], you are probably a father with children and you can sympathize with me, help me, save my children.” He looked at the children and at my elderly mother and immediately called over a driver and ordered him to drive us to the entrance of the nearby train station where there was supposedly a troop train for transporting refugees.

We got right into the car. But the joy did not last long. After riding several kilometers, a military man stopped us and ordered us out of the car, because he was requisitioning it to go to the front. Tears and begging were of no help. We were out of the car and were left again alone in the field. Where are we and where do we have to go? Circumstances forced us on further. Looking for a miracle… and we again realized there were marching military divisions. But not so much as one of them wanted to look over at us, avoiding our desperate shouting and pleading. Finally one of them took pity and took us up in a wagon and brought us within reach of the train station at Bykovetz. There we met transports waiting for the homeless, our Jewish brethren, to send deep into Russia. We went where they were jamming people into the train and immediately were thrown onto the filthy bare floor, not having something to spread underneath us. In a couple of minutes the locomotive gave a wild fearful whistle and blew steam, pulling out of the station and further away from the enemy's air attacks.

The fast tearing away from the place, the dizzying, disappearing hundred kilometers under the sound of the train, carrying us through strange places far from home - I realized quickly how it would break my heart…Now the best and the richest pages from my life story were torn away…and a new leaf, a leaf with inhuman humiliation, from indescribable bitter hunger, hardship and mental anguish and rivers of tears…the page from…homelessness taking shape in my heart.

Only those who have experienced the loss of home still feel the taste of what would have been. Whoever has not experienced the suffering can in no way comprehend it. Consider all the misery, what happened to us early on in the first days after leaving Kishinev behind; it was like a background to which we had to become accustomed on the way to anywhere in far-off Russia and to anywhere in the areas where we were cast away. The second day out of Bykovetz we came to Tiraspol. There we had to change to a second transport that would take us further into Russia. The cars of the train were soon overcrowded. With much effort, we got ourselves into a car. There to our delight we met people we knew from Kishinev. I had been on my own and had not known to buy food, which was soon hard to come by as a matter of course. Finding ourselves among people from home, certainly for me, lightened the misery, with a good word and a chat and essentials that they shared from their limited provisions with me and also with my children. But how to say, they were themselves alone and limited in what they had, so my shy children endured more hunger.

From time to time, they struggled with each other, wanting to still the hunger. Fear came over me seeing them suffer and possibly, God forbid, dying from hunger. At least from time to time, as we came across military transports on the way, they would share a piece of bread or a little soup, but it wasn't enough to stop the hunger. In every train station, we would throw ourselves at the water-cranes and drink up to silence the hunger. On the third day my older child fainted. Fear for the children's fate forced me, at the first opportunity, to remain in a settlement, maybe there I would take something to eat. In the first station where our train stopped, I left our good friends and got off in order to find a little food.

In the Hands of Destiny

With a very heavy mood, I left the friendly people, who had been so kind to my children and who had lightened our suffering and loneliness. I thought that the evacuation would surely proceed in a certain direction and we would meet again. But what happened was otherwise, a nod to the indiscriminate hand of fate. I with my children and mother were saved from certain violent death. The transport, which we had left, went away in the direction of Piatigorsk, where the Hitlerites savagely attacked, killing the entire transport. Because of a miracle, we again survived. After long torment, we came to Krasnodar neighborhood (in Karinovka village.) There we encountered many people from Orheyev and were especially gladdened to see our former beloved teacher Mikhael Groyser, who had already lived there (in Krasnodar) a long time with his children. This again demonstrated how the person is at the mercy of blind fate. I still shudder now, when I am reminded. In Krasnodar I encountered Avrum Lipshin and family. Our shared happiness was indescribable. He related how, as he had a 'good arrangement' in a nearby settlement, Masyedovka, is a bookkeeper in a plant there, and that his wife Tzilia works at her profession (dentist), he suggested that we come to them. I was delighted to accept the proposal. Only my Tsevika happened to become sick from scarlet fever and I could not travel to them then. Meanwhile the Hitlerites approached Krasnodar. I called out for Lipshin to rescue us. My view was that we must, based on newspaper reports, leave the neighborhood as many transports had already done. I could not prevail upon Lipshin. He returned to Masyedovka and I went away with the evacuation. We were saved, Avrum, Tzilia and also others there died tragically.


[Pages 156-157]

Orheyev in 1957

by M. Frayman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

We hereby bring the description of Y. Frayman of Orheyev after the Holocaust and destruction passed over it. Y. Frayman arrived in the Land from Orheyev in 1957. There, he was in the center of Jewish life. Therefore, it is possible to relate to his story as a historical document of the town and the Jews who live there presently.

In his description, he brings to us a picture of life in the town from the era after the Second World War, when the Holocaust survivors began to return to the towns of Bessarabia from their exile.

His story completes the picture of the events of the Jews of Orheyev after the Holocaust. It is the most detailed and clearest greeting that has come to us from Russia of the most recent era, and I believe that it is also the final one, which will conclude the book of Orheyev.

We will not dwell on that part of his story that is known to us from before, and on those things about which others have already written in the book. We will not detail the terrible personal tragedy, the tribulations and suffering that were the lot of Y. Frayman from the time he fled the city until he returned to its ruins at the end of the war. Over the years – Y. Frayman relates – my family and I wandered along a route that was not a route with an endless stream of refugees – thousands of Jews, women, men, and children who were fleeing from fear of the battalions. However, their flight did not prevent the cruel fate that awaited them. The enemy airplanes cut them down along the roads and in the open fields, felling many victims. Only very few escaped. A few succeeded in returning to the town. Frayman and his family were among those.

When he returned to Orheyev, he did not find the town or its Jews. No remnant remained of his house and of the entire street upon which he lived for many years. Only a small area in the east of the city remained complete. The entire area that was populated by Jews was turned into a ruin. Few people, half shadows and half men, walked on the dirt of these ruins, digging through the mounds of ruins as they searched for a spark of their lives of yesterday. These were people who returned from the expulsion, were without hope, consumed with despair, and afflicted with hunger. A few were from Orheyev, and the rest were from the towns and villages of the area.

In this gloomy atmosphere where people walked about as mourners, the life force continued to strengthen. These Jews along with Y. Frayman began everything from scratch. The ruins were re-erected and improved. Some of the ruins of Orheyev were rebuilt.

At first, they wished to reconstruct some sort of synagogue. To this end, they rented the Kapestary Shtibel, the only synagogue that was designated to serve as a gathering place for the Jews in a place where they could pour out their hearts to each other. Of course, officially, this was a house of prayer.

At the end of this holy task, they started to restore the cemetery. There were two aspects to this restoration: the entire eastern fence, and many of the monuments that had been destroyed. Many of them were taken by the local non-Jewish population for their personal needs. Stolen monuments were also used for communal buildings.

Once a storm broke out, and strong thunder damaged the mill that once had belonged to Gluzgold. The building fell, and 28 corpses were removed from under the ruins, including 7 Jews. Monuments from the Jewish cemetery were exposed among the stones of the ruin. After this incident, the thieves began to return the stones to the cemetery.

Slowly but surely, Jewish life began to grow there. A Jewish community council was established, headed by Y. Frayman. Of course, these activities were dependent on a permit from the local Soviet authorities, with the exception of the appointment of the chairman, which was delegated by the local authorities and required a permit from the “Rispulkum” in Kishinev. (The Rispulkum presented a document which noted the name of the candidate, and which had the signature of 20 Soviet-Jewish citizens from that city.) According the law, each community had to have a rabbi in addition to a chairman. A similar procedure took place with regard to the selection of a communal rabbi, with the addition of the need for letters of recommendation from two rabbis from two large cities of the U.S.S.R. Officially, there was no contact between one community and another, and between one rabbi and another. The connection between them was through the intermediary of the Ministry of Cults and Culture. In accordance with that law, Y. Frayman was selected as the chairman of the communal council. Later, he was authorized by the authorities to serve as the rabbi of the community. He served in these roles until he made aliyah to the Land.

Approximately 450 Jewish families live in Orheyev today. Most are old timers of the city who returned. Some of them are Jews from the villages of the region. Jews did not return at all to the villages, and therefore, one cannot find Jews in the nearby villages. These Jews earn their livelihood primarily from trades, official positions, and free professions. Some of them are organized into cooperatives: shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, locksmiths, and others. There are no Jews working in building and street paving, other than Jewish engineers. There are Jewish doctors and teachers. There are no Jewish schools. Until the age of 11-12, children do not receive nationalistic education at home. However, when they get older, the desire to know more about Jews is awakened in them. Longings for Jewish life are awakened. Of course, as they get older, a longing for Israel is awakened. Most of the children are circumcised at birth, except for the children whose parents hold high government positions. Most speak Yiddish to their children. However, at school and on the street, Russian and Moldavian are used.

Jews go to the synagogue to pray every day of the week. However, on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays, the synagogue is too small to accommodate all of those who come. The courtyard and entryways are also filled to capacity. The non-Jewish population also is restricted in religious affairs, but not to the same degree as the Jewish population.

The synagogues that were not destroyed serve other purposes. The large Kloiz is an institution for the handicapped. The Shister Shul (Shoemaker's Synagogue) has turned into a cooperative carpentry shop. The Yeshiva has turned into a dormitory. The Jewish youth desire higher education in university. Of course, this is not always possible. They know what is going on in Israel. (From letters, every detail is spread around from mouth to ear.) Jews have no role at all in the civic leadership and the police. The relationship between the Jews and the general population that numbers approximately 25,000 souls is not good. In the most recent period, several industrial enterprises have opened, primarily based upon local raw materials that service the agricultural sector. There are two flourmills, and a canning factory that employs 50-60 people and produces juice and jam from local produce. There is a beer factory that exports its products to Kishinev. There are limekilns, and a factory for tiles and pipes. There is a textile factory that also produces blankets. There is a large winepress that produces wine from the grapes of the kolkhozes in the area.

Thus, the city has arisen and continues anew upon its old ruins. It is possible to surmise that the city will develop better than it was previously. However, we Jews have no part in it.

We only have sad memories that are tied with the old cemetery and the chilling, gloomy reality. Its Jews have only one hope – Israel.

Transcribed by M. Frank

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