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Summary

In October 1939 I was mobilized into the Polish Army. I didn't have time to put on the uniform before German boots marched boldly on Polish earth, burned villages and trampled Jewish honour. They turned everyone against the Jews.

“The Jews are responsible for the war, the Jews are Communists and parasites.”

They humiliated, vilified, cut off the beards of religious Jews, pillaged Jewish houses, and raped women. I saw our people in every stage of the seven circles of hell: provocation, humiliation, plunder, hard labour, hunger and ghetto. Thirty people in one room. 'Actions' against children and old people. Mass destruction until the end.

All this lasted many years, with each day, each night, even each hour appearing like a year of hell and terror. Who can understand all this? In the long winter nights when the rattle of a motorcycle and the voices of the Germans were heard on the steps, the faces of all present in the house changed immediately. Even the colour of the eyes changed. Nobody looked at the other because nobody knew his fate.

Wild yellings, murderous blows, the silence of the terrified victims — I saw all this. Millions became lawless. Strong men, children, women and girls in their blooming years became outlawed. Each one could do with them all that his heart desired and the murderers were Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians. All of them served the Germans.

We were without leaders, without any guide, without any contact with other countries.

In my young years I studied in a “Cheder” and a “Yeshiva” and belonged to the Betar movement under the leadership of the proud Jew Jabotinsky, who foresaw all this and warned. Therefore, our bitterness was tenfold as much.

My acrimony especially grew when T saw how the religious Jew was dishonoured. They mocked him, and burned the synagogues, together with the praying people. God abandoned us and the leaders left us. We remained like a flock without a shepherd and the murderers did their work quietly and in calmness.

And then we began to wander and to look for help from over the borders. It was our aim to go where we tried to go before the Flood (because of 400 Polish Zlotys thousands of young people remained in the villages, and later the Germans took over the property of the Polish Jewry).

Hut we didn't reach our target and were stranded in Soviet Russia. Many of us were exiled to Siberia, others wandered aimlessly. Our family was split. One of my sisters, with her husband and their two children, remained in the village Kurov. Another sister, with her husband and child, were exlled to Siberia. One brother managed, in the last weeks before the flood, to find passage on the ship “Panta” and arrived in Eretz-Israel.

I with my father and my sisters Chava and Hena, with her husband and child, the brother of my brother-in-law Henick, and my cousin Mundek became stranded in the Ukraine.

We lived one year in the little village Zofjovka, near Luck in Vohlynia. After wandering in many other villages this was our last station.

 

Our Life Under the Soviet Rule

The sentimental Russian songs we heard in Zofjovka were full of hope but they didn't tell the whole truth. Nevertheless wo are grateful to them for the human right they gave us to slay alive during this critical period.

In the nights on our beds or in our conversations with the local young people we used to dream about our goal, our liberation. In Zofjovka we received the terrible news about the passing away of our great teacher Jabotinsky, which depressed us terribly and took away from us the last hope.

On 22nd June 1941 we woke up to the roar of guns. When we got dressed and went outside, we saw the too well known scenery of September 1939. Only the uniforms of the soldiers were different.

Thousands of soldiers, officers and civilians are marching. They don't walk — they run eastwards. Between them there are Jewish officers. They assure us that they will come back soon.

There is a big argument in our family: to leave or to stay. It was decided to stay with our father, who wasn't able to walk. After a few days we were again in the tongs of the German murderers. Incitement against the Jews began. Cartoons appeared in the press which tore pieces of our body. We were compelled to remain silent, we couldn't answer.

In the Ukraine the Germans again released their cruel instincts against the Jewish population. The Jew became lawless in the eyes of everybody because the Soviet rule had been here and all were communists.

Immediately they began to seize for force, labour, to beat, to loot, to rape and murder.

In the spring of 1942 the Germans had already decided to eliminate the Jews in the Ukraine by different ways. Jews were not to be sent to concentration camps, but instead were to be gassed in cars or shot in ditches.

They divided the population into groups — those who went to their death earlier and those who went later.

As we approached the end, we were helpless, broken, depressed, without any Jewish authority.

On a certain morning all the population stood in the square in the center of the village. It was decided that only a small part would remain alive in order to work for the murderers, for the cruel, cold and fat German murderers Olerrenvolk.

The Jews are looking for holes in which to hide: under the floor, in the attic, or with a non-Jew. One prayer is on the lips of everybody: to remain alive, to remain alive, to remain alive.

The forest was three kilometers from the village, but the young people had no courage to go there. The leaders of our people didn't teach us to defend our women and children. We were taught a page from the Talmud or a debate about social revolutions and we mocked and threw stones at those who wanted to learn how to fight.

Of all the Jewish population, which numbered then a few thousand unhappy Jews, only three young boys decided to look for the army and went into the forest.

 

Ditches

I, my brother Chaim and my father were among the first sixty Jews who dug two big ditches in the sandy earth of the pine forest. A German engineer measured the ditch precisely, symetrically perfect — marking the steps down with the same meticulousness used for building a school for children.

Then I saw the trucks of the German Gestapo. They were covered with black tarpaulin, bringing a few of the thousands of men, women and children — wonderful, blooming youngsters, dreaming boys and girls — they brought them all to the ditches. In each truck two Ukrainians with rifles were sitting. The Jews were shouting: “Revenge! Revenge!”

All the Jews undressed completely, went down into the ditch and laid down according to the famous German order. The German in the black uniform shot a series from his machine-gun and immediately another group went in not even sure whether the former one, which had been covered, was dead or alive.

The 'action' was commanded by a few Germans helped by thousands of Ukrainians, Poles and Lithuanians. Later the relatives of the Ukrainians and Polish murderers came from the surrounding villages and plundered or took away secretly. They tried on the clothes, snatched the furniture and took away the windows and the doors. On the floors and in all the corners only the pictures of the children, parents and relatives remained scattered.

The sky was clear and blue. The birds in the forest were singing and the pine trees, as usual, gave off their scent.

 

Yom Kippur 1942

I already belonged to a partisan group under the leadership of G. Rosenblat, Ch. Wotchin, and my brother Ch. Rosenson. I already had the honour to be with them in the forest and to stand guard with a rifle in my hand. Wanting to pray “Kol Nidre”, they left the forest and returned to the Ghetto. I went also, desiring to pray with my father, and be with my sisters.

But when we got up on Yom-Kippur, we found ourselves surrounded by the Germans. My father fled and was shot in the field.

My sister Chava hid herself in a barrel in a farmer's house. Also my other sister Hena, her husband Shmuel and their child hid themselves.

I was carried, together with another thirty young people to dig ditches for the last ones. We were guarded by sixty Ukrainian policemen and three German officers.

On the way, armed only with spades, we decided to fight.

After we threw out the first clods of earth we attacked the guards, beating their heads and bodies with spades.

We ran a few kilometers under a hail of bullets until we came to a forest. All of us except one, the organizer of the revolt, fled into the forest. Then a hunt began, they wanted to seize us alive. A friend of mine, who was running next to me, fell from a bullet. I managed to reach a thick grove. I lay there the whole day, listening to the mooing of the cows, the whistling of the shepherds and the shooting of the last women, children and men.

I walked in the darkness, over groves, fields and pathways until I saw a light in a house. Here the Ukrainians were drinking and dancing with the Christian girls. I stood there for awhile, under the window, and then continued on my way.

I met again my cousin Mondek, with whom I had dug the ditch. We found my sisters, Hena with her husband and child, and Chava. Chava told us that our father had been shot when he tried to escape.

I was with my family a few weeks in the forest. We built huts in the earth. We lived with the help of the Christians who took from us our property in exchange for a place to hide.

We gave my sister's little daughter to a poor and childless Christian.

The winter approached and we worried about how to hold on when the rains and snows arrived. We began to envy all those who went to the ditch. We looked with envy at the dogs because they had their kennel and received their food and a patting from their master.

I wandered lonely in the forests in order to find the partisans. When I met them I fell sick.

We performed operations against anti-Semites and Foresters in order to obtain arms. I managed to buy a gun with ten bullets. I brought it to my brother Chaim. It was a rifle with a cut off barrel. I was happy with this piece of iron, even though it was almost impossible to shoot.

Planes dropped saboteurs with modern and automatic arms. The commander of the saboteurs was a general, a Jew from Moscow. The situation improved. The saboteurs chose the good fighters among us and took them with them. One of them was my brother Chaim, who was now called Henryk. He performed great acts of revenge and many hard military tasks, such as blowing up trains and attacking German patrols.

We began looking for our family. When we came to the place where I left them, we found the huts perforated with bullets.

We took revenge against the Christians who had brought the Germans. My sisters, though, had managed to escape to other forests.

Cossacks, Russian soldiers who deserted from the Red Army, collaborated with the Germans. A big force of these Cossacks attacked us. We fought a few hours. At night we entered into White Russia. We found there deep snows, isolated houses and thick forests.

We rested for a while and cried. We regretted that the other young people were not with us.

My sorrow was more. My whole family was separated. The little girl was in the home of a Christian. Chava, Hena and Shmuel roamed hungry and naked in the forest (before being murdered after the first snowfall). My brother Henryk was fighting, revenging himself. He would fall in combat and receive a Lenin distinction.

We joined a big fighting partisan division under the command of Major General Kovpak.

This was the happiest day of my life. I belonged to a normal military group and now we would be able to fight and annihilate the German murderers.

I marched with Kovpak's division all over the Ukraine and White Russia, in swamps, and marshes, in rains and snows. For days and nights, we engaged the Germans in hard battles, until we arrived in the Carpathian Mountains. The last march brought us to Poland. Our task was to clean up the way for the armies, and to convoy three hundred wounded men. During this operation I was wounded.

I was hospitalized in liberated Kiev. I was flown in by plane. We had made our way over the front. I was cured and granted a distinction.

In Kiev I met more Jewish partisans. We were disappointed at the deadly hatred all the non-Jews showed against the saved Jews.

We saw the burnt villages that had been full in the past with Jewish life. Now, all this was wiped out.

I took the child from the Christians. I found my sister Chava and my brother-in-law Hersh with his two children, and together, we began the journey to our homeland, Eretz- Israel.

In the long nights on guard duty in the Israel Army, I often said to myself: “What a pity that Vanka doesn't see me here on our little soil with a rifle in my hand; we too have a home.”

 

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