by Tzvi Penster
Translated by Sara Mages
The gloomy picture of the gradual and complete extermination of the Jewish community of Ozeryany is similar, or nearly similar, to the extermination of hundreds or thousands Jewish communities throughout the European Diaspora. Aside the submission, obedience, and fatalistic completion of the victims - there are several bright spots of rebellion on the part of the victims, and also attempts to greet the murderers with active resistance when they stood, face to face, in front of their bitter end.
In the summer of 1943, after the declaration of the Judenfrei, when the survivors from Ozeryany and the surroundings escaped to the wheat fields and hid in the standing wheat, or concentrated in the Dambina forest, an attempt was made by several young men to buy weapons. Two of them remained in my memory: Motel Hollenberg (Krolik), and Yitzchak (Itzikel) Blutstein son of Shmuel the carpenter. The goal, as one of them stated, was short: not to fall again in the hands of the murderers without resistance. Money was collected from most of the forest's dwellers and from those who happened to be there, even by using means against those who didn't volunteer. The first gun, the most elaborate Polish gun, was purchased with a quantity of ammunition and the training began. I found out that there was a lengthy negotiation for the purchase of a larger amount of weapons. However, the bitter fate wanted that one day in late June or early July of 1943 the Germans, under the guidance of the Ukrainians from the village of Konstanzia, suddenly attacked the residents of the forest and killed fifty of them. That night, this gun, which was hidden in one of the tents, fell into the hands of the Germans before they were able to use it even once. The young men, who are mentioned above, survived this small Aktzia, but fell in the hands of the murderers in the forest Aktziot, some of them earlier and some later.
Three members of two families of pharmacists in Ozeryany, Munis and Rosenberg (today their wives, who are sisters and also pharmacists, live in Kiryat Yam near Haifa), hid since the declaration of Judenfrei with a Polish family by the name of Tchaikovsky in a house next to the school building in Ozeryany. These were: the pharmacist Maurycy Rosenberg, his son Janusz (Yakov) and Stepha the youngest daughter of the Munis family.
On 16 October 1943, the Germans appeared accompanied by Ukrainian police officers. When the homeowners saw them they panicked and fled and only the children remained. They saw how the children were taken from their hiding place to the yard. The girl Stepha Munis and the pharmacist Rosenberg attacked the murderers with knives, and the girl Stepha injured one of the murderers in the hand. The three were shot during their struggle with the murderers. Their bodies were taken to the Jewish cemetery and buried in one grave (the testimony was given by Mrs. Munis and Mrs. Rosenberg in the name of the eyewitness that are mentioned above).
In the summer of 1943, when the girls were drafted to work in Kok-Saghyz, also Fruma Neiman from the village of Glovochik arrived to work there together with dozens of girls from Ozeryany. Later on, her brother, Yitzchak Avraham Feibel, joined her and thanks to their stay there they managed to survive the day of the Aktzia. Fruma was a brave young woman. She was courageous and did her best to rebel against the decrees of the non-Jewish and the Jewish authorities. During the fur decree she didn't allow her family to give their furs to the Germans It is better to burn them, she claimed, than give them. She dared, not once, to wear her short green fur in public, and guarded it. She also didn't let her brother to obey the invitations and the various mobilization orders to work in the place and in the camp,
and when he was caught, she moved heaven and earth and got him out.
Thanks to her agility and the quality of her work she found shelter and refuge in house of Krotzk, the estate manager in her village. He was a Pole who helped many Jews, and did his best to ease their situation. Fruma helped to run his household, and also sewed clothes for his family.
In those days, when she met her brother, she reminded him, over and over, not to fall into the hands of the murderers without resistance and without an attempt to kill them. She also told him these things when she met him secretly the day before her death, and that's how she acted on the next day.
In July 1943, after the Judenfrei, about twenty Jews from Ozeryany hid in the buildings of the alcohol factory (Goralnia) which was next to the estate (among them was the family of Leibish Gottesman, the sons of David Feffer - grandsons of HaRav Yechiel, Avish Apelbaum and others). Fruma Neiman was always in contact with these people and she had the misfortune to be in their bunker the day they were captured by the Ukrainian police. They were taken to the Jewish cemetery in Borszczów, and there, next to an open pit - their common grave - they were ordered to undress before their execution. The victims complied out of apathy and total resignation to their murderers command, and undressed, but Fruma, who was wearing her green fur, refused to undress. When a Ukrainian policeman wanted to strip her down, she told him that she would do it by herself. While unbuttoning her fur she surprised the policeman: with one sweep she grabbed his gun and crushed his head with the butt until he fell bleeding profusely. Then, she dropped the gun and started to run, but she fell on the ground after she was hit in the head by a hail of bullets. She was 19 years old at the time of her death.
The details of her death were given to us by her brother Yitzchak Avraham, who heard them on the evening of her death from the Polish eye-witness Krotzk. When Krotzk found out that Fruma Neiman was caught together with the group of Jews who were hiding in the Goralnia factory, he hurried to the place where they were taken in an attempt to save her. He was unable to save her, but he able to stand close to the place and saw what happened.
At the end of December 1943, the family of Herzl Reinstein (he, his 13 year old son Milia, his wife Musia from the Yugendorf family and her elderly father Maskela) hid in the attic of the home of the Ukrainian Richlovsky in the village of Konstanzia. Their hiding place became known to the Ukrainian police who came to execute them. Unlike their practice in similar cases - to bring the victims down and interrogate them about the silver and gold in their possession with the promise that they'll be able to redeem themselves from death, the murderers immediately killed this family in the attic. According to the words of the Christian that is mentioned above, the victims, or one of them, resisted the police when they climbed to the roof to bring them down, and for that reason they were shot on the spot.
(The information was given by Akivah Zweiback, now in Tel-Aviv. At that time he was staying in that village, and on the day after the incident he visited Richlovsky's home. The latter took him to the attic and showed him the many blood stains in the straw and on the family's possessions).
The last one is connected with the active participation of the members of our town in a partisan group from Borszczów that was known by the name Di Borszczówer Bande. At that time, I wrote a comprehensive report that I gave to Historical Institute of Lodz (Poland) and to Yad Vashem in Israel, about the formation and the elimination of this group. I composed the report on the basis of an extensive testimony that was given to me by
|From the victims of Ozeryany in the Borszczówer Bande
(The Steinig brothers who fell in a group of partisans)
Banyo Weintraub (Barak, who works for The Israel Electric Corp. in Tel-Aviv), who was one of survivors of the Bande [gang]. I also included additional remarks from Kalman Schwartz. He's also one of the survivors of the Banda and was an active partisan in other fronts (I don't know his whereabouts today).
According to this report, and according to what was known to the people of Ozeryany in general, the two sons of Yitzchak (Itzik) and Marzia Steinig: Mondzia and Sali, belonged to the Bande and took an active part in its operations. Rachel Fachman, daughter of Michael Yagolnitzer (granddaughter of Leib Fachman) also belonged to the Bande. She survived, and today she's living in New-York under her married name Alberger.
The Bande was eliminated on 6 December, 1943. A large German army, armed and armored, surrounded the forest of the villages of Zigan and Losyach to cleanse it from the nests of Jewish rebels who were hiding there.
The Germans overestimated the strength of the Jewish power because there were only a few dozen members in the Bande. On that day only 16 of them fought the Germans, and all of them were killed in a persistent and prolonged battle. In this battle, their last, only the members who were properly armed participated in the battle against the Germans. Those, who were less armed (twenty in number) were ordered by their friends to break the German ring, and escape. The two brothers, Mondzia and Sali, belonged to this group. I don't know their fate from that moment - if they perished during their retreat from the battle or later in different circumstances.
by Lunzya Klinger- Schneiderman
Translated by Sara Mages
In my dream I am in a large room, a multi dimensional room which looks like a courtroom. Several people are crowded in one of the corners. Is this my family? Indeed, my father is standing, his head is held high and his back is straight. I look at him and he gives me a sign to approach them. I obey his request and without an introduction he starts: Lunzya, when you traveled from us to Eretz-Yisrael we didn't think that we would ever meet under such strange circumstances, but fate sometimes surprises us. For my part, I'm not sorry for the life that had ended. After all, I lived, I've seen a lot and I was active - but my children, my grandchildren - why did this happen to them? Why the thread of their life was was cut off? Lunzya, you were my youngest daughter, therefore, many details of my past are unknown to you. Now, before the judges arrive, I will be able to present my petitions before them. I want you to listen to my words. I'll start my story from when I married your mother. Happy and interesting was my life with her. I had a big developed and cultivated farm and I was accepted by all the residents - Christians and Jews alike. I was elected head of the council and at times I served as their judge. But the First World War arrived, all my property went up in flames and I was forced to leave our village. At first we moved to Borszczów and later to Ozeryany.
I tried to give my children an education. I sent them to high school and to the university in times when only a few allowed themselves such luxury, and also our situation wasn't always bright. Your mother always said: The fire can eat your assets more than once - but the education remains. In recent years my concerns for the family lessened and there was happiness and respect. Mother and I could have lived for many more years and enjoy our happiness, but, then came Hitler.
This is not the time to cry for roses when the forests are burning my mother interrupts his words, how can you be sorry for our life when our loved ones are no longer alive? After all, our death was our redemption because we were tortured by the thought that never left us for a moment: What will happen to our beloved children and to our grandchildren? Do you know Lunzya how our beautiful Sabina, her husband and her children died? Do you know what our good Ester thought when she was separated from her children? Did you see the face of your
brother Moshe, the lawyer who was loved by all when he marched with his wife and his child to the Ghetto of hell? And our Mina? Why didn't she poison herself, her husband and her daughter?
After all, as a pharmacist she always kept poison in case the need arises Do you know under what torture they had died when the farmer, who hid them in his house, handed them to the hands of the Gestapo?
Lunzya, my mother says, but her words choked in her mouth because five boys and one girl suddenly appear, as if in a row, and call: We, Markom, Yakov, Zivno, Milo, Aros and Nusia, demand an answer! Why we were doomed to die? We were so young. We could have been helpful to our nation, our homeland, our family and maybe to all mankind. And here came the devil and with one sweep destroyed and annihilated everything.
There was no answer or I didn't hear it, even though I listened all the time without saying a word and without moving from my place. I held out my hand to hug them, to touch their beautiful curls, but then everyone escaped and disappeared- - -
I woke up trembling and my lips whispered the words from Ojciec zadzumjonych by Juliusz Słowacki [a Polish romantic poet].
It is told there about a family of nine who were infected by plague when they crossed the desert. In a period of three month all of them - apart from the father - died in great agony.
And the father, who's infected with the plague, calls in despair:And I can't even mourn them on their grave -
Here, under the Sheikh's wave, our entire family is buried
My family isn't buried!
They were shot!
They were burned!
And they will not return!
And the heart is beating as it beat
when the thunderstruck senses became blunt.
I won't see them again, never, never,
my world went dark when their world was annihilated!
A footnote from the editorial board
by Dr. Avraham Bedor (son of R' Shmuel Bedler)
Translated by Sara Mages
To the sacred memory of
My father-in-law: R' Elimelech son of R' Yitzchak Wagshel.
My friends: Yeshayahu son of R' David Wagner
Avraham son of R' Meir Zeidm
Who perished in the Holocaust, in Ozeryany.
The living tradition of our people, People of the Book, sees in a book, in every book, a value of holiness, or at least, a lasting cultural and educational value, value for generations. Therefore, while I'm working on the Ozeryany Book a question is pecking at my brain: What will this book give and what will it add to our sons after us?
Because here we are, the survivors, the last remnants from a small town in the Diaspora, we worked hard to establish a name and a memorial for an ancient Jewish community which kept the Holy Flame when our people wandered in foreign lands. With love we preserved precious childhood memories, memories about dreams, longings and explorations, about struggles for freedom and redemption - and we give these expressions, here, in this book.
And the question is, as stated: Is all this work is just for us? This book, that many of the former members of our town worked hard for, gave a helping hand and didn't spare any trouble and effort - writers, artists, intellectuals, and men of action from the village and from the city - is this book is just for us so we can read it with affection, cling to our memories that are stored in it and return to visit our loved ones whose names are immortalized in it, or - it is also for our sons after us, my son, your son and your daughter? And if so, here is a second question: What will this book give our children? What it can give them?
After all, they weren't born in Ozeryany (Praise God!), they don't know the town and their heart doesn't cling to childhood memories
in Ozeryany - so, all this trouble was just for us, was it worth it?
Such and such I asked myself - until I found the answer for myself, and then I said: I will bring the words also before my sons, our sons.
And if my sons will ask me - what is it? - I will answer: The Ozeryany Book - a small link in a long distinguished chain, a small stone in a tall fortified wall and its importance - its uniqueness.
And here, there is a great project in our country: Yad Vashem, and alongside it another important project: The Encyclopaedia of the Jewish Diaspora. The Ozeryany Book is only a modest number and a tiny tile in these big projects.
The value of these projects is twofold - historical and educational. Because we know that there is no nation without history and without a past, and there is no unity without the continuity of tradition. The history of our past generations has taught us that we cannot survive without recognizing the historical continuity of our nation. The Holocaust, which has plagued our nation during our generation, illuminates this recognition with a frightening light and reinforces it sevenfold (If I forget you, Diaspora ).
Since these projects have a scientific value, there is no doubt that they came to reveal an important and frightening chapter in our history. Their historical value is clear - they reveal superior humanity and the beast inside man, the decline of culture and the struggle for the renewal of humanity and nations.
Since these projects have a scientific-historical-value, they also have an educational value. History, as an educational science, bestows moral and guides us for the future .
This and more - the great men of spirit and action, including our mentors and leaders, who have brought us here, nursed the majority of the fundamental values of their spiritual world - from the Diaspora. To understand their teachings and follow their footsteps we must recognize and know these sources.
Moreover - the main thing is: our sacred duty, national and human alike, is to know all the chapters and all the phases of the terrible Holocaust.
Every person as an individual, that a human being isn't foreign to him even if he isn't Jewish, must think deeply, investigate and interpret this chapter of human history that its content is: The rise of Nazi Germany and its doctrine ,which, at that time, was distributed in a large scale all over the world (Italy, Spain, Poland, even France and England, in America and the east - and even reached Japan!), the weakness of other nations (the Ethiopian War, Munich!) and their concessions until they recovered, and the mighty struggle (Churchill, Charles De Gaulle ) to control Nazi fascism.
Therefore, every Jew must be interested and know:
And now, my sons, here I come to the essence of things that I wanted to tell you. Please listen attentively!
If you accepted my words, if you agree to their conclusions, then, this is the start (and it isn't difficult!). The gate that you - the children of the former residents of Ozeryany -
have to enter to this painful and terrible history is - the Ozeryany Book.
And this is not because of your parents' sentimental connection to this town and its people that you don't know - but because of the well-known psychological truth, that a person understands matters that are illustrated and acquires them for himself.
This illustration, this magic act, that revives and sets before your eyes the concept of the Diaspora - will be made in the actual image of the town of Ozeryany with its institutions and its personalities, that they or their children are standing before you, and indeed, they are your parents and your relatives.
And that's not all: The Holocaust- is also vague to us in its generality and abstraction. A person cannot capture it and definitely cannot arrange it for himself - the horror is so great, its dimensions are bottomless! However, by illustrating a small town, by listing the names of people who are known to us and to you, they or their sons, by the description of small acts - with the help of all of these we can penetrate the darkness of that big chapter, and our duty is to come to this gate in order to know it.
Therefore, go forth and learn my sons! This book contains: chapters of vibrant life; dramatic struggles of a small Jewish society who aspires to live, to tear a window into the world and open the gate for human and national redemption; it contains a rich gallery of interesting special characters; it has a description of the fateful tragic changes that occurred during the two worlds wars and between them; it has a descriptions of the life of generations of dreamers, fighters, pioneers and fence breakers who paved new roads - for them and for us.
Here is the whole world in a small scale - read it and you will see!
This is the value and the uniqueness of the Ozeryany Book - and this is its importance.
As stated in the Torah (Deuteronomy 16:3) - So that you shall remember the day when you went out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. The Mishnah brings us the dispute of the Tannaim and the Sages say: The days of your life - this world (= the Diaspora). All the days of your life - the days of the Mashiach (Berachot 81 Mishna 5).
Therefore, my sons, although we were granted The days of the Mashiach, and just because we were awarded them, our duty is to remember and remind our Exodus from Egypt (= the symbol of all of our exiles!), because: In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally has come out of Egypt (Pesahim 516).
Therefore, observe and recall - Observe and recall in a single utterance!
|From the survivors of Ozeryany, Wegscheid DP camp near Linz (Austria) 1946.
The family of Tzvi Penster, Yoel Heller, Leib Muster, Moshe Feingold, Yehudah Schachner
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