[Page 809-810 -bottom]
We have used in our work, both names, Mohilev and Mogilov, as the case was.
As we have previously mentioned, one convoy of the Yedinitz deportees managed to come to Mohilev. The family of Yoel Lieberman was amongst these. Another convoy also, in which Frieda Kuzimer found herself, also reached Mohilev. In the convoy of the Chernowitz Jews that arrived in Mohilev there were tens of Yedinitz families, amongst them the Premislov family, Chayim Hurwich and his family, Moishe Feurman, Yitzhak Borochin and others.
Movilov was a province capital and there the powers concentrated masses of Jews from various places. It was no pleasure to find oneself in a place where there were several thousand deported families.
The memorial stone that stands on large brother-graves was erected in the winter of 1942, according to the Brichan Rov Reb Yechiel-Dov (Berl Yasser), who also wrote the epitaph that was engraved on it.
Translation of the epitaph:
For the eternal memory, for all times of
For the eternal memory, for all times of
Picture of memorial stone in the Jewish cemetery in Barshad lager (Transnistria). IT READS:
Here are buried thousands of deported Jews who perished from hunger, cold and epidemics and who were murdered by beastly humans. Amongst those who perished hundreds of Yedinitzers.
[Pages 811-812 - bottom]
With some of the convoys, as happened with the convoy of Frieda Kuzimer, only seven came from the city. They weren't allowed in lest it be 'too good for them' .
As a stop-station we were left near the Jewish cemetery. We were told: 'Rest a bit'.' We looked around. There were few of us left. We started to 'settle.' We found ourselves outdoors, beneath the sky. The autumn rain showed us no pity. We wanted to eat so we tried to make our way to the fields to search for food. Whoever got caught was shot. In a few days some Germans appeared. They thought it necessary to order us to lift stones, line up one opposite another, and in this pose they took pictures of us. In two weeks time we were taken to an abandoned military camp. There we found cases of ammunition. We threw away the bullets, and the cases, tins, etc. we put to use. Every day we were taken to Mogilov with the excuse that any day now we would be sent home. We were led to the brink of the Dniester and in the evening we were brought back to the lager. This went on for several days back and forth, a distance of some twenty kilometers. The aim was to vex us.
Other deported groups, after spending time in the area of Mogilev, were transferred to the shtetl Skazinetz. Here they were put up in abandoned military structures that were already packed, when they arrived, with deportees from all kinds of places. The new arrivals were hungry, but they weren't given any food. They looked like shadows and were like crazy. Many ate the fallen leaves from the trees. In a few days time the new arrivals were gathered and returned to Mogilov. Then once again to Skazinetz and again back to Mogilov. There were many in these back-and-forth 'excursions'. Those few who survived this peaceful experience 'lived to' reach the stability lager -- Mogilov.
The large capital city Mogilov was destroyed by the German bombings, and the houses half ruined had practically no doors or windows, but even these wrecked houses were overcrowded . The deportees slowly made some order in the houses; cleaned out the filth, pasted paper on the window space, filled the holes with rags, so as to enable them to somehow withstand the winds that penetrated the homes. From the scrap metal, stoves were made, that were heated with anything that came to hand, in order to somewhat warm the exhausted ones a bit in that hard winter of 1942. People spread papers and rags on the floor and sat on them. There were no toilets so people eliminated wherever they could. They had already lost their sense of shame in front of one another, as though it had been like this since the first six days of Creation.
Neither was there any water. The filth and the lice ate away at us. Many who could no longer suffer the conditions took their own lives.
Here is what Matisyahu Karp recounts in the previously mentioned book:
January 26, 1942 - In Mohilev all the Jewish men were taken out to work, without differentiating between age or physical condition. Most were naked. In a dreadful frost they got sent to work ten kilometers away from the city where they are kept at night. Many of them were brought back frozen to death.
But all this was not enough in the eyes of those in charge of the fate of the unfortunate ones. Elders and lower ranking ones abused the bodies of the deported women and girls. In Karp's book he tells the following about this:
May 1942 - In all Transnistria locations where there were Jews, particularly in Mohilev, the ones in power take advantage of their authority to abuse and indulge all their desires, even the sadistic ones. Innumerable women and girls were raped in spite of their opposition and outcries.
The Mohilev gendarmes even allowed themselves the pleasure of gathering a large group of lovely young women and girls, explaining that they had to conduct a medical inspection. All the women had to appear naked in front of the beasts.
The vile rulers never ceased their inhuman behavior even when, in 1944, their armies on the front lost one battle after another and they knew that the Red Army was approaching Transnistria. At that last moment, the Rumanian authorities tried to chase after young Jewish females, in order to abuse them, having an intuitive feeling of what would happen to them, just on the brink of liberation there was success in running away to the forests where they hid until they heard that the Rumanian military had completely withdrawn. Only then did they return to the lager in order to join their relatives, if such survived amongst the remnants.
We shall sin against the historical truth if we won't mention at least a few exceptional cases, as a tragic reminder of those turbulent times.
Rochele Milner (Formerly: Fradis), who served as a medic (she had a diploma as a pharmacist) in this lager, wrote about this tragedy and it was published in Ilya Ehrenberg's Black Book:
In the Chukov lager there were our friends from Yedinitz, advocate David Lerner with his wife and 6-year-old daughter. In the month of September when the order was issued to murder all the Jewish children, the Lerner parents hid their child in a sack. The child behaved quietly and wisely and because of this she was saved. For three days the father hauled the little girl to work with him in a sack. In three weeks they got stopped by the famous Kroshkeh, the one responsible for the whole lager, a scoundrel. He approached the sack and kicked it with his foot; the child let out a scream. That's how she was discovered. The hangman, Kroshke, broke out in a brutal rage and started to beat the father and the child. He took everything away from them, whatever they owned, and left the family without anything with which to cover themselves. Still, he didn't kill the little girl, and she remained in the lager. She suffered through a terrible winter, and the little one awaited death every day.
On February 5, during the second 'Sonder-Action,' the child, together with her grandmother, was taken away. On the way something terrible happened to the unfortunate child. She let out a dreadful scream until her heart would no longer bear it. Her heart gave out. Then the screams ceased. The grandmother continued on her way to the pit, carrying the dead child in her arms. In this way the living grandmother and the dead child entered the prepared mass grave and were covered up.
When the unfortunate mother discovered the death of her child, she lost her mind and was shot to death. Not much time passed and the father met the same end: he too was shot.
a heavy downpour accompanied us all the way. People got soaked to the bone. When the convoy entered the village Luchinetz, the rain stopped. The clouds vanished and the sun shone. Someone suggested bribing the accompanying soldiers to allow us to stop, if even for a few hours, in order to rest and perhaps to also dry our clothes so that it would be easier to continue. Everyone agreed to the suggestion and we started to gather the meager groshens. There were those, however, who didn't want to give money for this united effort. One Jew, from Chatin it seems, punished those who didn't want to part with their groshens. He threatened them: 'See how lowly you are .If you think that you're still somebody, you're mistaken'
The Gertzman sisters discovered that one of their brothers was in a kolkaz, so the mother and daughter Esther set out to find him. They found him sick with typhoid in a bad condition. He could only murmur: 'Save whoever you can.' In the evening he died. His body rested amongst all the other dead in the cellar of the building. Esther Gertzman took a sheet and wrapped up the body of her dead brother. She dug a hole and buried the body. The moon and the stars were the witnesses.
Sara Litvak tells about one of the many characteristic cases:
Once I went through a street of Molochne when I suddenly heard someone calling me: 'Frau Gukovsky!'
I looked around, and to my amazement, I saw the younger daughter of Yerachmiel Donyanski lying on the ground unable to move. She was around 18-19 years old, a local beauty. She wanted me to come near to her. She was whiter than chalk. All shook up, I approached her. She took out from a belt that was keeping up the rags she was wearing, a gold coin, gave it to me and said: 'Take this. Buy me some tea and bring it to me, I beg you.' In Molochne they used to sell boiled murky water with all kinds of leaves that were gathered in the field. This was called 'tea.' I brought her a glass of tea and returned the 'change' to her. She didn't want to take the change and said: 'Keep the change. I'm going to die, anyhow. I just have one request of you promise to come to the same place tomorrow and make sure that those who bury me don't strip me naked
maybe you'll have to pay them for that.'
When I arrived the next day to see how the girl was faring I didn't find her. The girl had vanished. It turned out that somebody who was passing by when the two of us were talking noticed that the unfortunate girl had a few golden coins in her hand that she had put into her belt. She must have disappeared because of her belt.
The Shattered PotAs a result of walking almost barefoot, Chana Gertzman's feet froze. This caused her unbearable pain. The only way to save her frozen toes was with hot water. Luckily, a can was found on the way. It was filled with water, but with what could the water be heated? Wood was nowhere to be found, so all kinds of paper scraps were gathered which could be burnt. The warm water was put into an earthenware pot that was also found somewhere. And such a pot retains the heat for some time, so it served as a hot water bottle. It helped somewhat. Once, though, the pot slid out of the hands, fell on the ground, and broke. The whole family mourned over the shattered pot all night.
Mendl Lieberman recounts another incident related to bread: how hungry Jews fell upon a wagon that was transporting bread to be distributed amongst the Yedinitz Jews who had arrived in the Ukrainian village Kianovkeh.
With the leader of the local kolkaz it was pre-arranged that the new arrivals should work in the local shops. The kolkaz sent a wagon with bread and apples. The arrivals who hadn't seen bread for a number of days, and fearing that there would not be enough for everyone, threw themselves upon the wagon, and each one grabbed whatever and as much as possible.
Afterwards, the people worked in the local kolkazes.
The conditions were harsh. Here, Rochel, the wife of Hershel Fishberg, died. As wel as Gitl. Tendrich, the wife of Zysye Grolnik, Henye Gutman, and others from Yedinitz. They were buried not far from the village.
[Pages 819-820 - bottom]
According to the witnesses of the survivors themselves, some internal subjective reasons can be given as well as some external subjective reasons.
Dabbe Gruzman (Cohen) says firmly:
The greatest enemy of people, under such conditions which is also the cause of most of the deaths, was the apathy. Whoever succumbs to the terrible conditions, whoever accepts their lot, without any opposition of this fate, in whatever form it may be, whoever doesn't have the strength to endure, the survival instinct, under all conditions and to this category belonged, to our great sorrow, the majority of deported Jews, that one was destined to die. The zealous weak ones were the first to die.
Rochel and Yechiel Milner were also of the opinion that they remained alive above all because they didn't lose hope of remaining alive. Those people who made a decision in their hearts not to succumb to the fear of death, did all that was possible and impossible in order to survive the dangers. Those craftsmen who wanted to work for the peasants in the surroundings were particularly capable of overcoming everything. They earned enough for their survival and even a little more.
The case of those who became apathetic to life fared badly as they came to terms with the hunger and filth in which they found themselves because they believed that 'there's nothing left to lose.' Such people sat and awaited death.
There were, however, those who took courage, mustered all their will power, developed all kinds of ideas and initiatives, even when this was connected with various dangers, in order to save themselves,, and no only themselves. We have already included such a case with Mendl Lieberman.
[Pages 821-822 - bottom]
And there were some according to witnesses as Y. Kafri, Chaya Mayanski, Roza Chockmavich, Clara Kalmanovich and others who went to work for the peasants from around the lager in order to get something to eat and to save a little of this food for their family. In a district where others were partisans some of the young people joined them.
There were those who went amongst the houses of the peasants and begged for a piece of bread. There were quite a few cases of good goyim who saved Jews from certain death. Yehuda Kafri and Chaya Mayanski tell that: We were saved from a certain death by the human kindness of goyim who gave the hungry ones a piece of bread, a few potatoes, beets or some other vegetables with which to ease their hunger somewhat.
I'll never forget Chayidin, this goy was very poor himself, but he always put aside a piece of his meager bread in order to quiet the hunger of my young daughter, Chayke Mayansky, amongst others, tells us.
[Page 823 - top]
In Yedinitz some 70-80 families remained. They started to more or less settle down. Some opened stores; co-ops got organized according to the style of the 1940s. Hardly any youth returned.
It was told that during the German occupation only one Jewish soul remained in the shtetl Saskye, Schmuel Hersh's, the cobbler's, daughter. She lived with a Christian until the return of the Soviets.
The returning Soviet powers consisted of foreigners, not former shtetl dwellers. The local Jewish communists even tried to regain power, but without success.
The whole Jewish community life centered around the 'kloiz' (shul), but this didn't prevail for very long. In order to use a house as a shul it was required to pay a high tax and so the kloiz was closed.
Frieda Kuzminer adds:
We were several hundred souls. In comparison with the remnants of other shtetlach who returned home Yedinitz seemed less stricken than they. Though the streets were smashed up and the houses wrecked.
The goyim had removed the doors and the rooms and the wrecked houses looked like broken skeletons. We visited the Jewish cemetery. It was also neglected and shattered. We looked around deploring what had become of us. For us the foremost question before us was: What now?
Most of the remnants left the shtetl, the land the continent. Only a handful of Jews remained in the shtetl.
The gravestone in the burial ground of Avraham Yehuda,
son of Yisroel-Moishe Zaiv
Monuments in the Jewish Cemetery of Yedinitz, as found by the returnees.
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