Thus was Jewish Demblin destroyed {cont.}



We grabbed onto that answer, like somebody who was drowning would grab onto a sharp knife. But soon he communicated to us he wasn't able to make contact with the commander's office. Nobody was answering the telephone. "Ill try again. Come back in 15 minutes", he said that three more times. Again we waited for another 15 minutes.

Finally we just tore out of there, ignoring the danger. I was imagining a burning city and I saw my child in the middle of the fire, I imagined my child looking for his mother, looking for his father, who should be taking care of him. "No, don't wait anymore I said to myself." I grabbed my coat and we just went together into the town.

We should still hear a constant shooting in the town. When we came to the street wherer the post office was, it was empty. A little Polish boy who had been running by, shouted out:

"Vishedlaion Vas!" [Polish word]

After stopping for a few minutes, the ghetto that we saw from the narrow street of the post office was a horrible site. All of the houses on both sides of Okulna street had their windows and doors smashed in, as well as the shutters on the windows. There wasn't a living soul in sight. From there we came to the old market place and saw how Hitler's devils in broad daylight carried out their barbaric work.

The whole Jewish population from Demblin and the surrounding towns, men and women, old and young, healthy and sick, had been early in the morning in the greatest confusion and stampede, under the threat of death, forced within a few minutes to leave their dwellings. Five in a row, packed together, they stood in the big pig market. Hundreds of murderers in various different kinds of uniforms milled around them, armed with rifles and automatics, as if on a slaughtering field. They used their whips on the Jews heads, on the heads of those who were barely able to stand on their feet.

A Jewish policeman spotted us and conducted us to the group of Jewish workers from the construction site who were standing along the side of the old Jewish houses, in a long line, almost as far as Okulna street. There were also families standing there, families of the Judenrat and of the Jewish police.

It seemed that some of the people had already gotten wind of what was going to happen because not all of the Jews were going to be sent away. Thousands of eyes looked at us with envy. A woman who wanted to run over to us and almost made it over to our side was overtaken by 2 policemen, who beat her mercilessly. Soon she fell. When she stood up again, she held her bloody face and didn't know where to go next.

Soon after that a policeman fell upon the Jew, Yitzhak Yamovitch. Apparently he was looking around for his wife and children whom he'd been separated from in the confusion of the stampede. The policeman beat him murderously on the face and head. He took all of the blows and didn't fall. The whole time he covered his face with his hands. He was badly beaten, but he managed to save his eyes.

Behind me, in the second line, Aleyazor Boyman stood. He continually sang a song of lament, "Oye, Vay ez meyr. I won't have a home to come back to."

"What happened?" I asked him.

He answered, "When I was standing at the threshold of my house, I had a little bit of nourishment. The Christians, before my eyes, ripped out the key from the door. When I tried to stop them, they threw me on the ground, stamped on me with their feet and the little bit of food that I had, they took. It wouldn't have been so bad if they weren't already people that I knew."

"What can I say?" the second Jew said. He was the son of Yidel Becks, who lived in the village of Bobrownik, near Demblin. He began to cry and to sob. "What did they do to you?" I asked him with some disdain. "How can you shame yourself like that, cry? You just watched how they almost beat a person to death and you didn't say a word then. Have a little bit of pride."

"Oh, God, I wish they really had killed me", the Jew didn't cease to cry. "Look at this." He showed his jacket which was spotted with blood. "Today, early in the morning some policemen came to us suddenly and herded up the different families that lived in the village. The old people they shot down on the spot. My father, an old man, was, poor thing, trembling with fear and just couldn't come out of the house he was so scared. I was able to lift him on my shoulders and carry him that way to the spot where everybody had to gather together. I began to run with all my strength. I heard the crack of a rifle and suddenly began to feel a warm stream cross my face and I saw blood. That was the blood of my dear father. They shot him on my shoulders" he cried.

I continually looked in the distance to the great mass of people which was swelling the four-sided pig market. Besides the murderers in the military uniforms, from the distance, I couldn't recognize anybody. No matter how many people I asked around me about my own near and dear, nobody had the slightest idea. It was from the policeman who got close to us that I learned that my wife was in the same section that I was. He showed me where. I couldn't stay in my place after that. I tried to figure out how I was going to get over there. I wanted to at least say good-bye to her.

There were quite a few Germans milling around us who were taking in the bloody spectacle. Very carefully I got out of my line and like one of them, step after step, So that I shouldn't make myself too obvious. Up and down the length of our row I walked and looked and that way I saw my wife and I went to her. She stood in one of the first rows. She had our child behind her shoulders, so that the child wouldn't be visible. I made my way next to her in the row. She told me that my mother and sister, Leah-Tema, were standing here as well, and that a policeman came and told my mother. "Come here old lady", and he took her. My sister, with her little child, who she was carrying in her arms, also went with her mother. She told me also that she [his wife] had a little package of stuff for the child and that on the way to the round-up a little Christian boy had ripped it out of her hands.



- 15 -

We were standing near the highway, which traversed the town from the long main street. Across the street, right across from the administration building, through the market place, to the synagogue, we were standing face to face with the big mass of Jews who had been driven from the city. Only a few steps separated us from them. Fear of death looked out of their tired, terrified eyes. Each one knew that something even worse than what had happened until now, was coming. But, that they were all going to be driven into a gas chamber, where they'd be first suffocated and burnt, that was something that didn't occur to anybody.

For the last time I saw my uncle Joseph here and Chubby Chaim. On the side, on the special free passage place, in front of David Minkas house, there was a big pile of bundles that people had tried to take along with them in the stampede but before they were allowed to carry these things into the market place, they had to throw them away into this pile. Not far from this big pile was the old, sick, pale and gray Leah Zisan. The sub-commander cane to her and screamed:

"The devil with you, what do you think you're doing here?" He gestured with his hand to the big pile and mockingly said, "Oh, is all this stuff yours?"

The murderers around him had a good laugh from that.

"No sir", Leah with begging eyes looked up at him and answered. "I'm a poor, sick woman", she cried bitterly. "I can't stand up on my feet anymore. Just let me rest here. Let me stay here, I beg you."

"Good", the murderer said. "You can stay there." He called a policeman who had just taken an old Jew out of the row of people and said to him,

"The old lady is staying here."

He pointed at Leah. The policeman led the Jew back to his place. Then he took out his revolver and approached the old lady. Leah's eyes became twice as big with fear. When the policeman aimed at her, she couldn't hold back a scream. At that point she rose, but with both hands covered her face as one does when lighting the Sabbath candles. When the shot rang out in the air, she instantly threw both of her arms out and fell dead. A narrow, small stream of blood began to appear on her brow and soon her whole face was streaming blood. It was horrible to look at her face. Each there saw our own sorrowful end.

But there was even a greater threat to life. The warn out Jews since morning had been tormented with the greatest sadism. The barbarians ran around among the victims and began to sort them out. In order to torment people even more and intensify the hell, they played a few little devilish tricks, especially separating families. They used to take one from one row and then in a loud voice so that the others could hear, scream, "You stay here!" And then they'd take others from the same family in a second group. And since everybody wanted to save themselves, people began to run from one row to another. One just risked everything and ran from one row to another. And of course, that's just exactly what they'd expected. They surrounded those that were trying to get from one row to another and for a long time, with sticks, beat them over the head, until their victims wouldn't get up anymore.

At the same time that they took so many Jewish lives, they brought a Demblin Jew who had been lying in a hospital in Pulaw, after and operation that he'd had. They didn't forget him. They brought him on a peasant's wagon. His name was Leibela Kamashnmacher. The wagon circled the pig market and stopped near the big pile of packs where Leah, who'd been murdered, lay. The armed policeman who brought this man went to the little commander there and spoke to him for awhile. The whole time, Leibela with a pallid face and terrified eyes, did not stop looking at dead Leah who lay on the ground. The policeman went up and said something to the peasant who had driven the wagon. Leibela grabbed his head with both his hands. The peasant pulled on his reigns and began traveling in the direction of the synagogue. The policeman behind with the rifle in his hand.

Suddenly a rain began to fall. Everything stopped. It was quiet for a moment. Though we heard a few shots from the direction of the ghetto, the rain didn't last very long, the sun came out again and began to shine.

The commander screamed, "Attention! If anybody here stops while they're walking you're going to be shot on the spot. I want you to conduct yourself with full military precision. Understand? March!"

The snake had imparted his poison. Four thousand tormented and beaten down souls, men and women, big and small, young and old, mothers with their little babies in their arms, everybody, the whole city of Jews, were being marched alive to their own funeral. It was the last part of the journey to the shut up rail cars of death.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, the inspector from the work place, a tall, fat German, appeared as if from nowhere and with a raised hand gave a sign that we should stay where we were and not go any place. We were very attentive to that order and we stayed where we were and watched as in the distance our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and children, everybody, everybody, the Jews from our whole city, half dead and ringed out, barely managed to drag themselves on their feet. The length of both sides of the highway the armed devils walked. Everybody was driven out of the market place and it became empty.

"Forgive us", my sister-in-law Rivka said, pale as the wall, when she saw her parents go by. "Forgive us", she sobbed.

Everybody and everything was stuffed into the rail cars, poor and rich, the beautiful refined Jews together with the simple craftsmen and workers, storekeepers, porters, drivers, the whole sacred community which the Demblin Jews had created from generation to generation, for hundreds of years. The Jewish Demblin was gone, her Jewish light was extinguished.

In a matter of an hour Demblin became quiet as a graveyard. Only us, a few daughters and sons of Demblin's last murdered generation were allowed to stay by the barbarians, for their purposes, to serve them as slaves. They stood in the middle of the ruined city. When the fat work inspector allowed us to get out of there we first realized just exactly where we were. A deathly stillness reigned in the ghetto. Like crazy people we began to run around in the empty ghetto. We looked for relatives, perhaps somebody had been able to remain. And in the span of a few hours people who had big families were to be found just utterly bereft and alone, like a stone.

At my mother's house, where I had lived, I didn't find anybody at all. Everybody had gone. My mother, my two sisters with their children. Just one little boy who was 12 years old, who during the whole time of the deportation stood right next to my wife, remained. I just couldn't sit down in the house. And like everybody else I ran around and started asking, "Maybe one of my dear ones managed to remain." When I came to the house of my sister-in-law Rivka, I was stopped in my tracks shaking like a leaf. Right near the house, in a big puddle of blood lay a Jew who'd been shot, my Uncle Joseph. A cold sweat covered me. I felt that my heart was going to break. "How can such a tragedy be?" I thought to myself. I'd just seen him among those who were leaving, in the first row with Chubby Chaim. When I bent over the dead body and really took a good look at it, I realized this was in fact the wagon driver, Shmuel Monishes.

Through the empty ghetto which had been purged of Jews, dark night fell. With a fearful sorrow and sense of terror, we couldn't find any rest at all in those emptied houses. We went and slept at other people's houses. After the terrible day we just couldn't even remain on our feet. The worn out and exhausted brain had not seized to think one thing only. Where did they take them? How many ghastly sufferings did they have to endure in those shut up rail cars? A feeling of terrible guilt began to assail me. I thought of my mother's deportation. I just wasn't able to enter that empty house again.

Just as soon as I lay down, a deep, deep sleep overtook me. A terrible cry woke me up. That was the cry of Yisrael Tsetzikover. He had sent one of the rail workers to check out what was going on in the station. The worker came back and told him the whole night they kept the victims under the open sky, and only just before dawn did they drive them into the rail cars, and take them away. Yisrael was resigned alone, went over the streets without any purpose, only mourned with a howling his wife and children.

Outside it was very early in the morning. In the gray sky there still wasn't the slightest sign of the sunrise. The only people who remained were those who were unrecognizable, as if they had completely changed at night. It was still early when we went to work. It wasn't possible to remain inside. I wanted to go to my brother's, who lived in the old part of town. Maybe I could learn something there about what was going on. On the way, I ran into Moshe Mordechai Molaver's house. He was a tailor and I worked with him. As soon as I crossed the threshold I stopped in my tracks. It wasn't he same house as it was the day before. The window was open, the beds and the cabinets were turned over, thrown all over the whole place, clothes all over the ground. In the middle of the house of Moshe Mordechai stood by a wash basin and washed clothes which his wife had not had a chance to finish.

I regretted having come in, but it was too late. Moshe Mordechai saw me and said, "You're looking at my tragedy, you see what's happened to my beautiful house? How can I tell you what's happened here?" (He pointed to his own heart.) "I was a father for 17 years. Just yesterday I had a wife and 3 children, today everything is gone. Wife gone, children gone. I'm alone. I'm alone and empty, dark, just one bloody heart remaining. Yeah, look." He suddenly pulled out a little kid's shirt from the wash basin, crumpled it up and with both hands, waved it in the air and then spread it out before my eyes and held it there. "You see," he said to me, "that belonged to my Meiral. I made it for his birthday. Maybe he wore it twice."

For a long time he stood there, unmoving, with his lips pale, pressed together, the light gone out of his eyes. And he looked at the little shirt.

"Vey es mier [Woe is me]", he said suddenly, spasmodically and in a heart rendering way, threw himself on the bed. He lay there with his face in the cushion and he wailed, "Oh my great, great loss. My great, great sorrow."

The whole way that I went back, the whole time, his terrible weeping accompanied me. From every open window it seemed that I heard Moshe Mordechai's weeping and moaning.



- 17 -

The whole nightmare of the deportation had already been played out before our eyes, and now we were afraid of new, more terrible actions. It was around mid day when the lovely automobile of the building, the man who owned the construction site, drove into the courtyard. The chauffeur, who was an old Pole, quickly came into us. He very carefully looked around and said, "Panovya, the Jews from Ryki are being deported now. It looks like they're going to drive them through Demblin, to the train." I saw this happening and I watched them being driven through the forest of Ryki.

We remained there as if we'd been turned into stone at our places. When we came to ourselves a little bit, we couldn't understand why hadn't they just taken the Jews to the train station at Ryki which was actually closer by 10 kilometers? Then it occurred to us: a very horrible realization that they want to maybe throw in the leftovers from Demblin and drive them together with the Jews of Ryki to the train.

I didn't want to make the same mistakes as I did at the first deportation and I immediately went into the town to my wife and child. The whole way I ran quickly, I could hardly breathe. When I got close to the fields I suddenly heard shooting. Instinctively I stopped in order to better hear. But it quickly became quiet again. It seemed that due to my terrified state of mind it was a fantasy, and I realized that this was a product of my state of mind. I went further. I was just trying to get to town as quickly as I could. I was almost at the gate when I heard some more shooting, but this time it was very loud. Unmistakable. It was very close.

The German, who controlled the permits, wasn't hurrying. At the gate beside me, there were other Poles with their permits. I wanted to avoid them but they saw me. When we found ourselves on the other side of the gate, one of them said to me mockingly, "They're driving your little Jews out of Ryki, they're uprooting everybody", he said in a biting way.

"You're happy?" a second Pole said to him. "Just wait, just wait, the war isn't over yet. When they finish off the Jews, they're going to start in on us. Don't worry, these rats aren't going to forget us either."

I didn't listen anymore to what they were talking about, but kept running on further.

The shots were more frequent now, and louder. In the city I arrived at almost the same moment when the transport of Jews from Ryki came in. When I crossed the highway to the other side of the market place I saw them from a distance. I couldn't go further, I was stopped by a group of Jews who were working cleaning up the ruins of the houses that had been burned, covered with dust from the road, with dark faces from which a look of fear of death emanated. All of the Jews from Ryki, men, women, and children had been running with their last strength. The police were on both sides of the highway and were watching them. They were continually shooting their rifles, aiming at old people and those who carried their little children their arms.

In a matter of a few minutes the whole road was covered with dead bodies. The murderers not only ordered people to run, but they also ordered them to sing. It's impossible to describe the horrible picture of crying, gasping people singing. Thousands of them, thousands of worn out Jews. The deportation of Ryki froze the blood in your veins with its sadism. On peasant's wagons, the bodies of many men, women and children lay, with their arms and legs and heads hanging over.

The horrible, hellish fleeing suddenly stopped. I saw that I dare not remain at that place and got away quickly. There was a deathly quiet reigning in the ghetto. You didn't see any living soul, as if everybody in the last minute tried to save themselves somehow, tried to run away.

Desperate, I remained near my house. There was a sign on the door which had been shut. There wasn't anybody inside. I went to the old part of town and there found my wife with my child, at my sister-in-law's. They were just about crazy with terror. Everywhere they tried to hide felt like it wasn't safe enough. More than once we ran from one place to another, to the outhouses, into the fields, among the trees, trying to hide ourselves. In order that they wouldn't find us or notice us, we lay spread our on the ground. At the sight of anybody, we became terrified. We envied the horse who was in the pasture feeding on the grass. Each minute was an eternity for us. Only when we first saw the first two Jews arrive from the city, did we raise our heads from the grass. The Jews of Ryki were no longer in the town. The murderers had driven them to the train. Only a few hundred Jews were left over for slave labor.

In the morning along the length of the highway, from the city to the train, they picked up 300 corpses and buried them in the Demblin cemetery.



- 18 -

It was the fourth day after the deportation. For all of our efforts to ascertain what had happened to those who had been taken away, we were able to come up with nothing certain. We even paid for some kind of news about them, but those we paid just took advantage of us and fooled us. A Pole told us that he'd followed the train with the Jews until it went over the other side of the border. From the Germans who came into the work place we weren't able to find out anything either.

Day and night the enormous sword of extermination hung over our heads. We didn't stop thinking for a minute about how to save our own children. My brother Meir turned to his Polish friends and acquaintances. He wanted to give them everything he owned, if they'd just hide one of his children. But none of them agreed. Everybody was terrified. They began talking again about having us stay the whole time in the camp. That meant that we wouldn't be able to know what was going on with our families. It was a terrible prospect.

Meir suggested that we turn to the man who ran the construction site in order to get employment here for our wives. If he let us do that then we'd try to get our children in too. As it turned out, the tailors sewed an outfit for the man who owned the construction site, his name was Tila. We prepared this outfit for him and sent my brother Meir to him to take measurements and to have a little talk with him about our wives. He came back quite soon and from his happy expression we made out that he had something good to tell us. It didn't come easy. At first, the business didn't want to permit it. The construction chief, a simple German, couldn't understand what kind of employment there would be for women in heavy construction work. It was only when Meir was able to explain to him that in the kitchen, washing the floors and the barracks and other kind of work like that, that women could do that a lot better than the men could. Then he agreed and gave the order that the women could come in.

When Meir had finished talking to him about one matter, he decided to start in on him about bringing our children into the camp. When he heard about that he said to my brother, "Yeah, I understand. But how are we going to do that? The S. S. provides just enough food for those people who are able to work. Where are we going to find something to eat for the kids?"

My brother saw that this guy was at least with him in theory, he began to talk to his conscience, "You're a father, you'd understand what a father has to go through in this kind of situation. Don't worry, we'll just share what we have to eat with our children."

"OK. Good. You can bring the children into the camp. We got plenty of room here. It's not really going to derail things. We've got a thousand people already, what's the big deal if we have 5 kids?"

It's possible, that at that moment, the simple German decided the fate and the life of a hundred children, because a couple of months later, the same German, when the city was completely liquidated, allowed the parents to take their children into the camp.

After that he himself came into the workshop and said to us that he would make ready the camp and would tell Venkart to prepare a special kitchen for the children and tell him to cook a better kind of soup for them. It didn't take long when we saw Venkart through the window. He came to us quickly. His fat face and long red nose had a very angry look. He came to us and didn't even say his usual, "Good morning gentlemen", and started to scream immediately, "My God, you, in your stupid way, ruined my whole plan."

We looked at him terrified, we didn't understand what he meant. But before we had a chance to ask him anything, he pulled out of his briefcase a bent paper and said, "Look what a crime you committed here. Here I have a list of women that I wanted to take into the construction site and because of your wives who are going to be employed here, everything is going to be impossible. Now they won't even hear about having those other people come in."

He went out and slammed the door in anger.



- 19 -

How terrible was our condition, that we begged to stay in a concentration camp. After Venkart left, our uneasiness grew. The next morning our wives got the order through the Judenrat to come to work at the construction site. They came into the camp with the children.

We had a corner of the big wooden barracks, and there lived a few hundred residents of the camp, cut off with this wall and a little window near the ceiling. Around the walls were double wooden bunks, one on top of the other. There we made a separate entryway for us. And all of the tailors and shoemakers lived together there with their children, all cramped in together.

In an early part of the day, when we went from work to the midday meal in the camp, we saw through the barbed wire my brother's little boy, the youngest resident of the camp, a 3 year old, he sat in the sand and played. Just then, together with us, Venkart came into the camp with a German under officer, Katinger, who lived with us on the other side of the gate in order to keep watch over us day and night. He had a big black dog, Lumpy, who he always used to walk around with. As soon as he started beating one of the camp inmates with his whip or with his revolver, the dog, with great eagerness would throw himself on the victim and sink his teeth into his unfortunate body.

Venkart walked out of a barrack with the German officer and as soon as Venkart saw the kid playing around in the sand, he screamed in his hoarse voice, "Idiots. What do you think a kid is doing outside here? Why don't you keep him inside in the barracks?"

My brother understood that he was screaming because he wanted to get some revenge on us because we were able to arrange these things, of getting our children in here, without even asking him for any help. He asked him where he got an order that a child had to stay inside all day long, inside the dark stuffy barracks without any air? "Is it forbidden? he asked him, "for a little child to spend a few moments in the courtyard out there?"

Venkart's face became red with anger and he screamed in the direction of the under officer, "Shape things up here, the kids shouldn't be found outside."

Among the couple of hundred people who were employed in agriculture in the fields, most of them being women and children, my sister's child, Pinchas, also worked. He was almost just a little child himself, he was very thin, he'd been through a lot, he was just 12 years old. After the deportation he remained alone, without his parents. He did hard work. I had a bad premonition about him. I was really scared and I decided never to go to work until he'd already gone so I could keep an eye on him.

There had never been as there was at this time as many people at the Judenrat, every morning early. A big demanding crowd. Everybody, even the sickest people with swollen feet were standing around asking to be sent to work with tears in their eyes. They begged the police, take pity on them and take them to work. The Jewish police, who were reading from the list that had already been prepared, read out the names of the people who had to go to work. They couldn't give any advice to people who weren't on that list.

"We want to go as a group", those who had not been chosen, screamed. The police heard that and with a lot of arrogance said:

"Yeah, you'd really like to see that, you dog. Try that and you'll never go to work again", he screamed to the person who had protested.

Every time that somebody from the Judenrat itself, one of the people working there, showed themselves for an instance through the open door, they would just peek out and withdraw immediately. One after another the slaves standing around were taken to one job or another and the hell in the courtyard where people were waiting became smaller. The few Germans who used to come early in the morning to take the people to work, knew exactly and understood what was going on. With a little smile and a wink to each other as if to say: "Look how the Jews here are just dying to go to work."

I saw that Pinchas remained. Although I hated to beg I went to the policeman and began to speak to his conscience.

"I can't help", he answered me. "I get a list and I can't change it. Go to him, he's the one who has the final say so." And he waved in the direction of one of the people at the Judenrat.

Although the chances were very slim, especially with this individual, I had to approach, who was upset and wasn't in a good mood and was a real wretch to start with. I didn't have a choice, because the last group was being prepared to go. I went to him and I began to talk very carefully. From his angry expression with which he measured me, I immediately understood my failure. He really began to scream. "Don't bother me!" and turned around and went out. But I tried to talk to him again, maybe he would listen to me this time. As soon as I began to say another word to him I felt his fist in my face with such force that I fell down. At that point I couldn't control myself anymore. Too often had I been driven over the edge the last couple of days. I grabbed Pinchas' little pail with a few potatoes which had been prepared for him to take to work and I smashed the guy over his face and head. Everybody started running over there. Police separated us.

"What's that guy's name?" the Judenrat person screamed.

He had not anticipated the kind of chutzpah that I showed, especially in a moment when Jewish life was so cheap.

"Wait, wait!" he screamed at me. "I want you to know you're going to have to remember me." All riled up he went back into the Judenrat office.

"I don't envy you", the policeman said to me. "I'm afraid that he's going to send you into the punishment camp."

As I learned later, he couldn't do anything to me because of the fact I was employed at the construction site. A double miracle happened at that point because a few minutes later when the tumult died down, the biggest barbarian of the police came into the Judenrat. He used to always go around with his whip in hand accompanied by a big, wild wolfhound, who at the least wink of his master would throw on his victim.



- 20 -

The ghetto became more barren and more empty. The Jews who worked at the construction site were put up there. They began to live there. Only on Sundays, after work, in the afternoon hours with a special pass, were they able to spend a short time at home and taker a look at that little bit of poverty they still had, but they had to come back into the camp very shortly.

Only us tailors and shoemakers were an exception because we had to use various accessories and materials for our work. We continued to receive monthly passes and we were able to go into the city that way.

Every day in that period we would see strange, unfamiliar people in the morning who had come into the Demblin ghetto during the night. Our sorrow was very great. It was so great that we couldn't even really look at these people as we passed them, we didn't even ask them where they came from because what was the use of asking? We already knew the story. We knew this person, stranger that he was, immediately. His pale sorrowful face was familiar, the hopelessness and terror in his gaze, the result of having to conduct a desperate struggle for survival every hour of the day, in fact, every minute of his life. That look of fear showed that these people had run from the hands of murderers during the deportation or had escaped from a sealed rail car and jumped out on the road.

One morning on the road I came upon such a person, an old Jewish woman. People were walking by to work and she just stood there by the highway which led to the slaughterhouse, with both hands on a little wooden fence in front of a peasant's hut, just along the side of the road there. She was barely able to stand on her feet. She told me of her big family, sons and daughters, even great grandchildren, not one was alive anymore. She'd heard that in Demblin there were still Jews and with her last strength she'd wandered at night through forests and fields and barely alive had made it here. Later when she got here she saw the same kind of tragedy that she had seen everywhere else. She didn't have any place to go and that's the way she stood there, all alone, resigned, just staring at the world, not knowing what to do with herself next.

If you exclude the kind of brutality that we already were quite familiar with, with the Nazis, even knowing all of that, it still was very hard for us to believe that they would simply take a whole city of men, women and children away with the purpose of simply killing them. It was still hard for us to get that through our heads. There was just a spark of hope that still flickered in our hearts until one day when even that little spark was extinguished. A Christian brought a letter to one of the people who was with us in the camp from his cousin in another city and the letter read, "My most unfortunate brothers and sisters of Demblin, light candles and say Kaddish for your families, who the Germans took away on the 6 th of May from your city. Not one of them is alive. Believe me, I wish that I wasn't so sure of all this. Believe me, I wish that I had the slightest doubt about their fate. Had I such a doubt I wouldn't write you this bitter news."

And so, our surprise was very great, when on the 9th day after the deportation, we hard that the Germans brought into town a couple of thousand Jews from Czechoslovakia. We saw a good sign in this fact that they were bringing people in. We began to hope that maybe the same thing happened with our loved ones, maybe they just took them to one place and sent them to another. We breathed a little bit lighter. I just couldn't stay at my work place. I was just very anxious and very restless and curious and my curiosity to see these Jews from Czeckia was intense. Maybe through them I could learn something about the fate of the Polish Jews. I immediately went into town.

The whole empty square by the burned down synagogue, from the spot where the town pump was all the way down to the meadow, was fully packed with Jews. We hadn't seen Jews like this in Demblin for a good, long time. Those who arrived were spotlessly dressed and clean, looked quite healthy, freshly shaven, in beautiful sports coats and shoes of various colors and with high boots all the way up to their knees. Among them was a high chatter and in various languages, in Czeck, in Hungarian, in German, and in Yiddish. A big part of these people were dressed in orthodox fashion. The children had rosy cheeks (blood and milk) full of Jewish charm, rosy, red, round cheeks and black eyes. The little boys with round hats and long wide payes. You could see right away that these people had left substantial possessions behind in the homes that they left. They brought with them quite a bit of food, the best sausages and frankfurters, stuff that we hadn't seen for a very long time, and all kinds of different conserves in boxes. The Germans gave them special rail cars to travel in, so that they could take all their stuff with them. They even took the little children's play wagons.

Right in the front of this mass of people there stood 2 elderly Jews who spoke. One of them tall and slender, a second one, a very short old man. They stood there and spoke in a very refined way, with a very dignified stature in long silk coats with wide brimmed hats. They really attracted my attention. I understood that these people were Rabbis. But one thing was hard for me to understand about the scene and that is that their faces were shaven, just as the other men's faces. I went over to them, very boldly I thought, and asked if the Germans hadn't made them shave their beards off or shave them off themselves.

"What" You doubt it?" the old man with a sense of a wounded tone asked me the question back. And his wise eyes cheerfully settled on me. And as if he would emphasize this he laid his trembling fingers on his chin and said, "Look, look what they've done to me."

"You see Rabbi", the younger one said to the older one, "what we've already had to live through? People are actually suspicious that we ourselves actually shaved our beards off. But the Lord above should have some pity by now on His Jews", he concluded sorrowfully.

"Don't take it so hard" the old man comforted. "Things will get back the way they should again and God will help within half a year and once again we'll have our beautiful beards back."

That was the first and last time that I saw the elderly Rabbi of Preshov. I did see the younger man once again, a couple of months later, in the early evening. By then it was extremely difficult to even recognize him. He was extremely thin and dressed in just a short jacket from which his long thin arms hung out, all the way up to the elbows. On his head he wore a big Polish hat which fell down over his ears. He ran from one courtyard to another avoiding the Gendarmes who at that moment were making their rounds through the ghetto and woe to the one who was unfortunate enough to be found in their way. Although we weren't able to find out anything about Polish Jews from the Jews from Preshov, they hadn't seen anything, they hadn't heard anything, they certainly didn't know anything about Polish Jews being sent to Czeckia, we still held out some hope that somewhere our deported ones were still alive.



- 21 -

Meanwhile the ghetto came back to life. The Judenrat was occupied with settling in the Jews from Preshov into the apartments. They had not suffered as much yet from the German murderers and didn't anticipate what they were about to encounter. When they had to go into the muddy courtyard and the small narrow half sunken little outhouse, full of excrement, there was really quite a tragic, comic scene. The women didn't want to go in there and they complained that the Germans had promised them that the place to which they were going to travel, they would find everything they needed there, all the conveniences. Now they were complaining to their men as if they'd all come here just of their own free will. The men comforted them that the War would be over pretty soon, maybe another 5 or 6 months and them with God's help they would just travel back home.

In the ghetto it became very crowded again. Two or three families were pushed together into one little house with only a little bit of air to breath and the scarcity grew.

The Jews from Preshov worked very hard where they manufactured iron rail ties at the Shultz company. The women and children from age 12 on, worked in the fields. For the slightest infraction at these jobs people would get beaten hard and often, and sometimes shot. After a very hard day of work, sometimes the whole 24 hours, the slaves had to go back to the ghetto singing. These people in just a short amount of time had changed so dramatically that it was really hard to recognize them. In the early part of the time they were there, the Jews from Preshov sold off the different frankfurters and sausages and conserves, exchanged them for bread and potatoes. They also, as long as the Germans permitted, received money and letters from their friends in Czeckia. When they first arrived, the Gendarmes stayed away from the ghetto. They seized the practice temporarily or just dragged people to forced labor. This went on just long enough for the letters from the Jews of Preshov to arrive in Czeckia and spread the good news that they were alive and well and living in Poland. But then everything changed suddenly. The Gendarmes who had busied themselves elsewhere came back again and the hell that we were familiar with resumed.

One Sunday, this is after returning from the ghetto from the murderers, I and my younger brother Yidel, came into the ghetto. The streets were bare and empty. People were terrified of the Gendarmes, who were with great completeness carrying out their point of brutality. We made our way through the courtyards.

When we came into our mother's house where Jews from Preshov were living, I encountered Mrs. Cohen, a tall, thin woman who was lying in bed. She had 8 children. Her pale long face was blue. I asked her what happened. With a very weak voice she said:

"Two days ago a Jewish policeman came here and my daughter, who'd just returned from work, was asked to come right back from work. I begged the man to let her stop for a moment to have a little something to eat. He became furious. He began to scream. "What do you want? You want me to put my head on the chopping block for you?" With a big fat stick that he had in his hand, he began to beat me with blows that were so heavy I immediately fell to the ground and until today I can't get up."

The barrenness in the ghetto really terrified us. As we returned to our camp even earlier than we'd planned, when we came to the gate of the ghetto and wanted to go out, we were trembling. We suddenly heard a heart rendering cry coming from a courtyard as if they were tearing someone piece by piece of their living flesh. We ran there to see the horrible picture. With his back to a wall, Leibel Deitcher's son-in-law stood with blood pouring down his face, between 2 gendarmes who on both sides had him cornered and were pushing in and with bayonets, hacking at him over the head. With his last strength he begged them: "Sirs, my dear sirs, don't you see I'm already dead."

"Shut up, don't scream", the sadists screamed at him and hacked at him some more. "Today we need a whole lot more pigs like you to kill."

When the victim fell from his feet, like a tree that had been chopped down, only then did they leave him be and went looking for another victim. That day they killed 9 Jews in that way.



- 22 -

The next Sunday I went into the ghetto again. As I passed through the train tracks I saw the Preshov Jews for the first time at work. With legs spread out in tall black boots, the German Rudolf stood, the most notorious murderer and brute of the Shultz company. In the middle of the Vexel train line, the thin, ragged Jews from Preshov carried rails from one spot to another. Rudolf stood with a long whip in his hand with an angry face and roared like a beast, the whip was always held in the air over the heads of the worn out slaves, a number of whom already showed the signs on their faces and heads of being hit and the signs were bloody. Every time that another person fell to the ground from his blows, that person would get up immediately and go back to work.

A certain early evening we saw thick smoke in the direction of the air base. Something there was burning. In the morning when we came to work, we realized that a barrack with asbestos had burned. We didn't take special note of this and forgot the whole thing. But, 8 days later, on a Sunday, when everybody was standing in a line to get a little bit of thin soup, we heard the police call out, "March in here!" And everybody had to leave behind their bowl of food and hurry into the place where people had to line up. The police were already waiting there and they drove people on and beat them with sticks on the head. When everybody was lined up there, the murderers began to walk between the rows, looked everybody over very carefully as if they were looking for something. They would look right through you with their murderous eyes so that your heart would just about stop bearing with terror. After standing there for a long time, we were barely able to stand on our feet, they took out a list and called out 7 men who had worked in the barrack that had been burned down on the day of the blaze. And then the murderers took them someplace else. Later people said they took them into the forest at Ryki and shot them.



- 23 -

A couple months had gone by and we just weren't able to find out what had happened to the Jews of Demblin who had been taken away. Sometimes people did say that Shlomo Beitzman's son who was taken away with his family during the deportation managed to find his way back later on to the camp and told how they had murdered all of the Jews from Demblin. And he told how he himself had buried his father with his own hands. Soon after that the boy disappeared.

A second time, on another occasion, we were able to stop the Poles and talk to them on the other side of the barbed wire, where one of the assistant officers, Katinger, lived. I was able to talk to one of these Poles and I asked him what people were saying in the area, maybe somebody knew something about the Jews who had been deported. He answered me that they were saying they took the Jews out to a special place in the forest and there they shot them and burned them. And they wouldn't let anybody get near that particular place where that was done. Day and night you could smell even in the distance the odor of burning human flesh. We weren't able to believe it, even in a time of such savagery, that they were actually capable of burning men, women and children. We thought that the Poles were just making this up in order to hurt us and just increase our suffering. But, be that as it was, we still took those kinds of stories to heart.

The High Holidays were approaching. The days were becoming shorter and the heart was becoming more sorrowful. We were drawn into going into the town. I got my pass and I started waking in that direction. I hadn't gone half way through when somebody met me who was coming from the town and was running fast away from it. Not even bothering to stop, he screamed at me:

"Go back, go back, there's a deportation going on now in town." And he pointed to the train line where a train with boarded over little windows was very slowly moving and pushed by a locomotive to the train station. I turned around fast and went back to the camp.

There, there was a great confusion and tumult. Everybody knew about the deportation. The gate of the camp was quickly shut because the orders were not to let anyone in. And people stood there, just inside the gate, terrified, and waited for news. Those who still had relatives in the town or at other work places, rung their hands and cried.

A rumor began to spread quickly in the camp thatt he Jews from several of the work places were going to be sent away. A young man, Paviyanetzer, who had worked for a German, appealed to the German that he worked for to bring his father and brother who found themselves by accident in town during the deportation, back to the camp. He kept pacing back and forth in front of the gate looking for them. When at last he saw a young German soldier leading both his brother and father to the gate, he raised his two hands and his beautiful black tear filled eyes piously to heaven and very loudly thanked God for the great mercy of what he had done. After that he fell on his father's neck and cried like a little kid. Afterwards he remembered the soldier who had brought them back and he thanked him. The soldier said to the father as if he was answering him, "Believe me, I haven't shot any Jews during this deportation."

Although at that moment the words of the German were beyond my understanding, they fell on my heart like heavy stones. No more people came from the city.

The whole day our nerves were strung out. The hell was continuing. Each minute we looked at the highway with terror, wondering if they were going to come and take us as well. We didn't know anything about what was going on in the city or if they'd already taken the Jews from there away. Just before night, when the sun began to go down, we began to hear along the whole length of the road that led from the town to the train station, a distance of about 2 kilometers, a continuous shooting with rifles. We understood that now they were taking the Jews to the train. Those who didn't have their relatives with them there in the camp wailed and moaned very loudly.

Afterwards, a few people came running to the camp and with great terror told that they'd taken people away from their work places. The panic grew. We were afraid that they'd take people out of our camp as well. That was the most horrible and terrifying moment. Something that is absolutely impossible to convey. That moment of danger, where you hang between life and death.

A few times I went back into a part of the barracks where we were living, but then, as if I was anticipating something was going to happen, I went back to the gate. It already had been night for quite awhile. At the gate weeping people stood. Each one thought that they'd gotten everybody and that the deportation was over. Suddenly though, from the distance, we saw in the dark the very thing that we'd been frightened of the whole day. Two S. S. men drove up to the gate of the camp.

"Where are the police?" one of them asked.

"Here", answered the Jewish policeman who was standing at the gate.

"What?" the S. S. man asked him. "Why aren't there any German police here?" Not waiting for an answer they turned around and with the same speed traveled back in the other direction.

D. Meir, a Jew from Vienna, Herman Venkart's assistant, in his deportation, smacked his hands together and screamed at those who were standing around near him, "My God, you're making such a mess out of everything. Get away from the gate."

At that moment I saw a whole squad of military men marching from the highway to the camp. I ducked into the living quarters where everybody was. The women and children, everybody who was in there, came out and stood at the fence and they were able to with their hands dismantle part of the barbed wire, and one after another pushed their way through and began running into the field in the direction of the construction site. Quiet from terror, in the courtyard of the Germans, we one after the other huddled up against the walls until we came to the work place where we worked during the day. Very quietly, so that the Germans shouldn't hear us, we opened the door, went inside, we all lay down packed together in one heap, the women and children in a corner.

Suddenly I remembered that in the stampede and the hurry we forgot little Pinchas and left him behind in the camp. I went back in and managed to find him and lead him out.

When I returned with him, the big bright electric lights of the big mess hall where the Germans ate were pouring out of the windows. They lit up the courtyard which had previously been dark. I looked inside and saw that the Germans were eating very quietly and peacefully as if nothing had happened. At the tables with the clean white table cloths sat about 15 savages eating their evening meal.



- 24 -

We sat in the dark and knew exactly what kind of terrible end awaited us if all the people in the camp were to be deported. Even the children, just like the adults, felt the enormous danger and silently, as if they wanted some kind of shelter, huddled up against their parents. That was without a doubt one of the most terrifying moments. Each one of us felt the sword hanging over our heads. And just in the utter apparent indifference of the Germans we saw the worst kind of sign. "Aren't they even interested that all of the Jews in the camp are going to be taken away? Maybe they don't even know about it yet and we should tell them", somebody offered from the desperate quiet that enveloped us.

We immediately began to think that over and we sent Meir to the Germans. I went with him just until he actually went into the kitchen and shut he door behind him. I stood at a distance and waited with my heart beating. I looked through a window.

It didn't take very long before one of the young Polish girls in a white apron came in from the kitchen went to the first German who was sitting by the door, bent over him and said something to him. The German stood up immediately, walked over to the man who owned the construction company and began to speak with him. All the Germans listened in to what they were talking about with great attention.

Everything, everything, even the pictures on the walls of the Fuhrer, of the Third Reich, made a deep impression on my eyes. And like a very well performed play in the theater, where everybody played their roles very smoothly with great poise, how could reality, such a murderous, cold blooded reality, when one knew about it, when it was not very far away, exist only a few steps away, when hundreds of people were desperately trying to scratch their way out of death?

Just then, when they stopped eating, the first one to rise was the leader of the construction operation, and after him the other ones filed out of the hall. The light was turned off and in the courtyard it became dark again. The Germans began to walk in the direction of the camp. I didn't know exactly where to be at that point and I returned to the courtyard and from there back to the barracks. There wasn't any point any more in staying there and so everybody went back into the camp.

One after another of us crept through the barbed wire into the camp. Inside it was dark and quiet. We didn't see anybody. From the black wooden barracks with the well disguised covered over windows, not a single ray of light escaped. Totally worn out from the terrifying day we fell down on our hard wooden bunks and went to sleep.

That night, when we woke up in the early morning we saw our new loss. In the camp were missing a couple hundred workers who were employed where they dealt with the coal. "Only healthy and strong men do we need here", the murderers in the last moment had lied to their victims. Just one woman who hadn't wished to be separated from her husband was allowed to go with him. Also the young man from Paviyanetzer, the one who had the old father, who had thanked God for bringing back his father from the ghetto, wasn't there any longer either.

In just a few hours we had become even more orphaned and the despair had increased greatly. People from the town came and told us that all of the Jews had been sent away except for the Judenrat and the Jewish police. Many people were now standing at the gate and begging to be let into the camp. In the city hundreds of corpses remained and there wasn't anybody to bury them.



- 25 -

More than usual I was drawn into going to the town to see with my own eyes the enormous crimes that the Germans had committed. In a dead, finished city I arrived. Fear presided over the bright day and terror emanated from the deadly quiet, from the abandoned houses, from the locked doors and shutters. I wandered around looking, hoping to come up with something, fruitlessly. But besides the corpses that lay everywhere in the market place, I didn't see a living soul. I didn't even see a policeman. I made my way to Okulna street where the city pump was. On the other side of the highway, I saw the open door of a Jewish establishment. This had been where Moshe Kamin, who conducted the work office at the Judenrat had a little restaurant there once upon a time. I went inside and at a little table near the entranced there sat some young people with pale faces, half asleep. I wanted to go out again and one of them asked me suddenly:

"Tell me, have you been to the ghetto yet?"

"No. I'm going now", I answered him.

"If you're going now then take a sip of this before you go", and he pointed at a flask. "Without this it's not possible to live today. Take a drink, it will make it easier for you to die, because that's what is going to happen to you."

With a fearful presentiment and sorrow for the terrible things that awaited us I made my way, one of the most unfortunate victims of our awesome terrible fate and I went to see the terrible end, the brutal destruction and extermination of our Jews. Wherever my feet took me and wherever my eyes reached in the courtyards, in the streets, in the fields that surrounded, I saw puddles of blood that hadn't dried in them murdered Jews. In some places whole families lay one on top of the other. Some of the courtyards it wasn't even possible to make your way through. I had to constantly jump over dead bodies and over puddles of blood.

The whole city seemed like a slaughterhouse. Suddenly out of this funereal silence, the silence of the graveyard, I heard a great lament from right out of the grave. When I came to the place I saw a sister and a brother, both young people, pale as the wall, who were barely able to stand on their feet. In order not to fall, they leaned on one another. They cried bitterly and wept for the young woman who was laid out on the ground, her face covered with a rag. The mild gentle wind was constantly playing with her gold blond hair under the rag as if the wind wanted to show the crime of this young life which had been cut off, wanted to show that to everybody.

When I left that place it didn't take long before the weeping stopped and again a deathly quiet as before.

The burned out synagogue had an especially frightful appearance. Here there were whole piles of corpses, one on top of the other. It was to this place that the sadists had led their victims en mass in order to show them before they killed them what kind of a horrible death they were about to have. They forced the half dead, the worn out, to crawl on top of the pile of the dead and shot them there and from here, as I was told, one heard screams and cries of those who were being done in.

I didn't realize that I stood there as long as I did. As if I would turn to stone there by the giant pile of bodies with their bloodied heads and their feet and arms sticking out. It was only when a big group of huge black birds flew over my head that I shuddered and roused myself from the sorrowful dark thoughts. I saw that the sun had already gone down. It was the beginning of Autumn, the days were becoming shorter. It was the time of the High Holidays. Night fell quickly over the murdered ghetto and everywhere around, darkness, sorrowful darkness, spread. Terror overcame me, with quick steps I made my way back to the camp.

When I was not far from the burned out synagogue, near two little mountains of garbage, a terrified black dog sprang out of them and began to run very quickly but soon the dog stopped and looked back at the place that he'd been running from. I understood that the dog had something there and he really didn't want to leave. When I went closer I saw that there was a murdered man there, his head had been smashed in. I began to throw a stone at the dog. He took off quickly, but he stopped again soon, as if he knew that neither he nor I dare to be found in the city, that both of us needed to be afraid of being here. He began to bark at me, angrily, so that the whole city heard, and I saw that I didn't dare remain there. The dog was able to get what he wanted and I went back, the corpses lay there for the dogs and the crows. They lay there in death, defenseless just like they were while they lived before the German beasts.



- 26 -

In the morning I got my little boy, Itchela, who was with me in the camp, and I went with him into the city. The child should see with his own eyes the great bestial crimes of the German brutes. "Maybe he'll be able to outlive this horrible War", I thought to myself. "And he should be able to tell the world about this most huge and incomprehensible barbarism in the 20 th century that the cultured and civilized German people carried out for years before the eyes of the whole world."

In the city nothing had changed as the day before, the same horrifying scene and the quiet that went with it. Even the Poles after the shooting of the day before were afraid to go into town. Just today the Judenrat received orders to clean out the dead quickly so that disease wouldn't spread. Two young people, one from Warsaw, Sevek, and the other one, Brochal Sherman's son, practically still a child, were the only ones to be found in emptied out Demblin. They were driving around now in a wagon with two big iron wheels. From the courtyards, from the streets, from the surrounding fields, they'd gathered up all the dead and taken them to Akeyvala Maneysha's big garage. Whenever one of them would see among the corpses somebody that they knew, he'd yell out to the other one, "Look who I found. Look who's lying over here."

When I looked into the garage, it was overflowing with the dead, who lay in rows, one on top of the other. Outside near the garage there were big piles of documents and photographs. More than 500 dead had been gathered up in the first days after the deportation in Demblin. They buried them all in some big mass graves at the cemetery.

A few days later they discovered still more people who'd been shot, who they hadn't known about before. They found them in the houses and in other places where they'd been trying to save themselves. Whole families were found shot.

After the deportation, nothing changed in the town. One rarely saw a Jew. There wasn't any talking, because a Jew wasn't allowed to be there at all. The murderers didn't bring anymore Jews into the town from other localities.

Not withstanding the facts and appearance of Demblin's latest destruction that it endured in its last pre Yom Kippur days, I still had a little bit of stubborn hope that as long as a Jewish heart beat in the town, the tradition of many generations of Demblin would not be completely extinguished. I spoke to that with Davidel Yetzchakiel.

"But there's nobody with whom to pray, there's no minyan", the Jew answered with his face looking down embittered.

I said to him, "It will be."



- 27 -

By shut doors and shutters, in well covered windows, David Yetzchakiel, who by that time didn't have his wife and children anymore, dressed up in his coat which was worn at the High Holidays, and he tied it with a sash and wrapped himself in a tallit, put it over his head and he stood and prayed, the Mayrev prayer of Yom Kippur. Two little dripping candles burned, only a few young people were there. With a choking crying voice and a broke heart he said the last Kol Nidre, quiet, resigned and almost not rocking back and forth. The few remaining Jews stood with heads bent over, their prayers, and as if for the last time, said word by word, Al hat, and quietly stuck themselves on the breast with the hand, davening the whole time. They stood before my eyes, a few people very close to me, our beloved ones, those who had been killed and deported. And as well I saw in my mind all of the nightmarish scenes of the whole time that we'd endured. The empty barren city, the blood and the tears of the ghetto.

After praying, when one, because it was after all Yom Kippur, wished everybody a good year, Barrish, Davidel's younger brother, who still had at that time his wife and children with him, while shaking hands, cried and prayed that the greeting we should give him is that at least you won't be separated from your family.

When, after praying, one by one quietly, and with a deathly fear, shuffled off, hugging the walls in the dark courtyard, the moon, full and pale, shined down from among the clouds as if he were looking for something in the emptied slaughtered town, perhaps the Jews who used to greet the moon, and quickly she disappeared again among the clouds.


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