|Ivan (tour guide)||6|
|Arad (chairman of Yad Vashem)||8|
|Degani, Nisim||3, 8, 9|
|Shifris, Bozye (see also Shomrat, Shalom)||3, 5|
|Shomrat, Shalom (see also Shifris, Bozye)||3, 5|
|Shvarts, Betsalel||11, 12|
|Tsukerman, Duvid||3, 6, 7, 8, 10|
Our dear Kremenetsers!
The organization board has decided to strengthen our ties by renewing a project from past years the publication of the booklet Voice of Kremenets Emigrants in Israel and the Diaspora.
We're sure that you still guard those booklets as precious reminders of our friends, the dear people of Kremenets, most of whom are no longer with us. Most of the original editorial board members have passed away over the years, and now we have no way of publishing the booklet in the same form as in the past. Nevertheless, we decided to use our meager talents to publish a booklet. The goal is to approach you again and call on the emotions in your hearts and souls; let us reunite and meet not only for the memorial but on other occasions, such as Chanukah, which was only a minor success due to the small number of participants. Come and let us reminisce and evoke memories of the town and the Jews there who didn't manage to survive after the Holocaust.
To remember and not to forget is our motto. And we who did survive and even immigrate to Israel are morally bound to hold each other close, warm our hearts, and preserve the memory of our town and its wonderful, fair, and holy Jews, who were linked by heartfelt family ties. Don't miss the yearly meeting, which today we consider to be a pilgrimage to our family graves. In a moment of silence, we will remember our dear ones who perished in the Holocaust and our friends who passed away in Israel and the Diaspora after the war.
We'll take advantage of this meeting to strengthen our ties. Let's not allow time to blur everything we hold most dear. We'll also meet for a cup of coffee and create a Kremenetser atmosphere of friendship, dedication, and care that the living monument does not disintegrate.
With a blessing of brotherhood and friendship,
In 1991, the yearly memorial to the Holocaust victims of the Kremenets Jewish community took place as usual.
At that memorial, a Jew by the name of Degani Nisim, from the town of Shumsk, was also present. He told us that on his way back to Israel from a trip to Russia, he decided to visit Shumsk, where he has born. During a meeting with the town leaders, he learned of a plan to erect a monument to the Jews of Shumsk at the place where they were murdered by the Nazis and their helpers. The condition they posed was that the Shumsk emigrants living in Israel come to Shumsk for the unveiling of the monument. Mr. Degani promised them that once he heard that the monument was ready, he would organize a trip from Israel to Shumsk for the unveiling. Mr. Degani's announcement spurred Kremenetsers to join the Shumskers in the hope that they would also be able to visit Kremenets at that time. A working board was chosen on the spot, and many people signed up for this project. As it turned out, only 5 Shumskers and 11 Kremenetsers made the trip. The 16-person group flew to Riga with great excitement. From there, we continued by bus and train (with some hardship along the way), but when we arrived in Shumsk, all was well and good; the better part of the citizens of Shumsk and their leaders greeted us warmly. Masses of people attended the unveiling ceremony, and the monument was covered with a sea of flowers. The next morning, Shalom Shomrat (Bozye Shifris) went to work: he asked the mayor of Shumsk to help us visit Kremenets. The answer was an affirmative. The mayor contacted the mayor of Kremenets and even gave us the use of a bus, which he paid for himself. In Kremenets, we were received by the director of the Royal Museum. Our level of excitement was very high, although it was mixed with sadness and pain at seeing the town without even a hint of the Jews who had lived in the streets; they had been completely erased, and the grand Great Synagogue was destroyed and no longer exists. Like little children, we began to cry. Before going to the center of town, we climbed Mountain Bona, and I related the history of the mountain and the remnants of the castle that stood on it.
At the meeting with the mayor and the museum director, we complained of the fact that a town built mostly by Jews was empty of any trace of the people who had built it. We received another shock when we visited a monument erected by the surviving remnants of Kremenets in memory of its martyrs. The monument was practically falling apart, and the area surrounding it was in neglect.
We bombarded our hosts with complaints, and our accusation was a grave one; how is it that no trace remained of the Jews who had lived here for so many years? Bozye said, You immortalize dogs in the museum, but there's no trace of people who were born here and were the glory of the town. The Jewish graveyard is neglected, the gravestones broken and stolen. The place looks like a jungle.
The town leaders seemed uncomfortable, but it may have been only a pretense. In any case, they promised that for the next year, the 50th anniversary of the holocaust of the Kremenets Jews, they would build a monument based on a design that we would submit and dedicate a corner of the museum to the Jewish population's memory. They also promised to arrange living quarters for our delegation, as there was not even one hotel in Kremenets, which forced us to return to Shumsk for the night. We did, though, manage to tour Kremenets that day, feeling that the trip to Shumsk was worthwhile in many ways, especially in that we had established contact with the mayor and the museum director.
To everyone who works courageously to fulfill our dream of immortalizing our dear ones who were annihilated in the Holocaust bravo, well done!
Wednesday, September 25, 1991
At 14:00, 11 Kremenetsers and 5 Shumskers who had decided to attend the unveiling of the monument to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust in Shumsk arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. We boarded an Aeroflot plane for a direct flight to Riga. Conditions on the plane were quite good; even the food was satisfactory. After a flight of three and three-quarter hours, we arrived in Riga at 10 p.m. At the airport, we were greeted warmly, and from there we went by bus to the Caravella Hotel, a clean hotel with comfortable accommodations.
Thursday, September 26, 1991
We had breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and took an interesting tour of Riga, including the old city. In the evening, we went to the train station and took the overnight train to Rovno. We spent the night in two-person compartments. The service was very bad, even though the car steward offered us his best service.
Friday, September 27, 1991
We arrived in Rovno in the morning. Our reception there was exceptionally nice. From there, we traveled in an old bus, but we arrived at the Vohlin Hotel in Shumsk in wonderful spirits. The hotel had been built three years earlier but had suffered from inferior maintenance; signs of disintegration were evident everywhere. There was no hot water, but when we paid an additional 10 rubles a day, we received better food. Each night cost 910 rubles, which included three meals a day. In the evening, we toured Shumsk.
Shabbat, September 28, 1991
Our permanent guide, Ivan, who was a professional teacher, was also our translator from English, German, and Ukrainian into Russian. He accompanied us to stores, the pharmacy, and the Jewish area. After the tour, the top echelon of Shumsk and vicinity invited us to a festive lunch. Spirits were high, and our conversations with the hosts were wholehearted. We sang in Russian, Ukrainian, and Hebrew. The town mayor, Mr. Gregorenko, gave a very emotional speech, and Duvid Tsukerman's reply was even more emotional. We had a great dinner in a restaurant.
Sunday, September 29, 1991
Before noon, we joined most of the townspeople at the opening ceremony for a new school in Shumsk. The schoolchildren were dressed in very nice uniforms. We toured the school and then listened to emotional speeches, heard lovely songs played by an orchestra, and received flowers from the children. We returned to the hotel and, loaded with flowers, went to the unveiling of the monument to the Jewish victims of Shumsk. The ceremony, attended by all the townspeople, was very emotional. There were speeches by Mr. Gregorenko, the representatives of Ternopol district, and Jews from the district. David Tsukerman said the Kaddish and the Lord, Full of Compassion prayers. Memorial candles were lit, and stones from Israel were laid on the monument. We had an impressive dinner at the home of a half-Jewish family.
Monday, September 30, 1991
At my request, the administrative manager of Shumsk, Mr. Keziura, lent us a bus to take to Kremenets for the day. At 9:50 we left Shumsk. We arrived in Kremenets and climbed Mount Bona. We very much enjoyed the beautiful panoramic view from there. In town, we were received by the town representative, who brought us to the museum director. To our great sorrow, we did not find even a trace of Kremenets Jewry. From there we went to the mass grave a much neglected place, with the gravestone partially broken. After saying Kaddish and God, Full of Compassion, we laid some stones from Israel there and lit memorial candles.
I accused the town leaders and museum director of neglect and lack of consideration for the dignity of the murder victims. Then, because I was so angry and distressed, I began to cry like a young child. This was an emotional weakness that exploded in me after 50 years. We returned to town, and at my request, I was received by the district manager. David Tsukerman, his wife, and I complained about the neglect of the area in which the town's Jews had been murdered. Dogs are more honored than the town's martyrs, I claimed. Finally, we agreed that they would build a monument and would be invited to the unveiling next year. After that, the Shumsk group left us. We ate lunch in a restaurant called Kremenets and then toured the town and visited the stores. I visited the house I was born in, which now houses the town's central library. In the evening, we returned to Shumsk for the night.
Tuesday, October 1, 1991
In the morning, we returned to Kremenets and were greeted warmly. Mr. Sasha, the museum representative, introduced us to a friend who knew many Jews from Kremenets. Most of us scattered in town, each searching for the house he had lived in before the war. A few people and I went to visit the museum. To our surprise, the director showed us a corner that he had dedicated to the town's Jews. We met again with the district vice manager and finalized the plan for to build the monument to the town's martyrs, including text in Hebrew and Ukrainian that we would send from Israel. Continuing the tour, we visited the Lyceum, the ghetto area that had been turned into a large grove with a playground. We climbed the Mountain of the Cross, at the foot of which stood Gestapo headquarters, where all the town's intellectuals were murdered. I invited the museum director and his entourage to a restaurant in town for lunch. I found my birth certificate in the town's census office. I visited my maternal grandmother's house, too. Sasha's wife showed us a photo of the murderer of the Jews, who now serves as a priest in a Ukrainian church in Toronto, Canada. We returned to the hotel feeling that we had made progress toward our holy goal and hoping in our hearts that everything we had been promised would actually be done.
Wednesday and Thursday, October 2 and 3, 1991
At 8:30, with representatives of the district and the press in attendance, we handed a 5,000-ruble donation to the Shumsk school. We received the use of a bus paid for by the town council for the trip to Lvov. On the way, we visited the Pochayev Lavra. We stopped for refreshments in Radzivilov, where I managed to contact my family in Israel. In Lvov we met up with our Intourist guide and stayed at the Dniester Hotel. We took a guided tour of the panorama, the old city, and the Jewish quarter, where we heard an interesting story about the Golden Rose Synagogue. After coffee in a coffeehouse with the locals, we continued touring various sites. At 8:00 in the evening, we boarded the train for Kiev. Conditions on this train were excellent, like a five-star hotel: clean linens, hot drinks, radio in every compartment, central heating in short, excellent.
Friday, October 4, 1991
We arrived in Kiev in the morning and went to the Rus Hotel, where we had a surprise; Mr. Degani summoned us to a very emotional ceremony for the Righteous among the Nations. It was attended by Minister Hammer; Dr. Burg; Dr. Arad, chairman of Yad Vashem; and various invitees from Israel. After the ceremony, we continued touring the city. We visited the only functioning synagogue in Kiev and met Jews from the USA, including Mr. Bush's brother. Posters in Hebrew announcing Never Again and the like were on display in the city. I managed to purchase eight tickets to the ballet Swan Lake for 4.80 rubles apiece (12 cents). The opera house was quite grand, and we enjoyed the performance very much. We returned to the hotel by taxi (25 rubles) for dinner, accompanied by an orchestra and a local wedding.
Shabbat, October 5, 1991
I got up early in the morning and went to the market that runs on Saturdays and Sundays near the Kiev Dynamo stadium. You could buy anything there, for prices that we found laughable. I returned to the hotel for breakfast. Later, we continued with a very interesting walking tour in town. We reached the city center by cable car, where many slogans about Babi Yar were on display. In short, you can say that Kiev is a very pretty city. In town, we bought train tickets for Riga. We arrived for the Babi Yar ceremony. The hosts received us as an official delegation from Israel, and as government representatives, we were given a gigantic bouquet of flowers, which I handed to Mr. Avidar and Mr. Tsukerman. We walked behind them, while local youngsters carrying Israeli flags walked in front of them, accompanied by funeral music. The mistake was discovered, but the bouquet was left in the hands of Avidar and Tsukerman. We continued to participate in the long ceremony, which included many speeches. The cold was extreme, and many of the attendees left in the middle of the ceremony. We joined them and returned to the hotel.
Sunday, October 6
Before breakfast, we toured the market by the stadium and returned to the hotel. After that, we had breakfast and left for the Kiev train station. It soon became clear that we were in a very bad car: four to a compartment, with strong odors everywhere. We faced the Soviet reality. Nothing could be done about it. All our efforts to change cars were unsuccessful. We endured those conditions for 20 hours. Luckily, we had brought food from the hotel in Kiev. Nevertheless, we accepted the whole situation in good spirits and with high morale. In the middle of the night, passengers from Minsk were added to our car. Mr. Degani disembarked in Vilna for an appointment with a physician. I had met a Jew in Riga who had opened a private business, named Zenith, for optical instruments and children's toys. I visited him at his store, where he told me that his brother had immigrated to Israel and now lives in Kfar Saba.
Monday, October 7, 1991
We arrived in Riga at 9:25 a.m. Our guide met us, and the nightmare was over. The rooms in the Hotel Caravella were clean: we had returned to civilization. After noon, we went to town and did some shopping. We returned to the hotel in the evening, and Degani came back from Vilna. We were glad that everything had ended up all right.
Tuesday, October 8, 1991
After breakfast, we went on a Jewish-oriented tour guided by Tania, a professional physician. Jewish in background, she is married to a non-Jew, with a first degree in languages and a second degree in law and insurance. The tour was fascinating, but we stumbled over the murder of Jews everywhere; the earth was soaked with blood of Jews from Riga and the vicinity. We also visited the synagogue, which is open for one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. It is now undergoing a complete renovation. In the afternoon, we went to the rural ethnographic museum and were very impressed. After the tour, we ate a sumptuous dinner, as a compensation for the time spent on the train. After the meal, we were invited to a concert at the Riga Jewish Community Center, where a German singer performed songs in Yiddish. At my request, he concluded with the song Jerusalem of Gold.
Wednesday, October 9, 1991
Up early. We packed our luggage, ate breakfast, and went to the Riga airport. After a wait of three hours, we boarded a direct flight to Tel Aviv. I have to note that the duty officials did not give us a hard time. We had to pay only for excess weight. At 17:00, we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. Even though we had come from the USSR, we were lucky enough not to be checked by the duty officials. We returned home feeling that we had had an exceptional adventure, one that can be experienced only once in a lifetime.
Sixteen-year-old Communist Union of Youth member Roma K. was keeping a diary in secret. Perched in the attic, he wrote down everything he saw in a notebook as his town was crushed by the Germans. A chilling horror emanates from these records, which describe the atrocities of fascist thugs in Kremenets.
August 8, 1942. The Gestapo reappeared in town. Hangmen confiscated about a hundred spades and shovels from town businesses. There are six district commissar trucks in town. They are equipped with high wooden enclosures. It is clear .
August 9. It began tonight. Policemen from the entire district gathered in town. The ghetto (Jewish quarter) is closely surrounded. At 2:00 a.m., terrible screams come from there, followed by random gunshots. The Germans are acting.
August 10. Martial law is declared. Walking is permitted till 6:00 p.m. It is forbidden to walk down the main street; the Gestapo shoots at anyone who looks out of a window or walks outside a house. These rascals have the impudence to call themselves Christians. Even their belt buckles bear the inscription God is with us.
August 11. 5,000 people were shot yesterday. Outside town, there is an old trench about one kilometer long. The massacre was done there. What a frightening sight! The ghetto gates are open, and behind them is a queue of the doomed two by two. A truck approaches. The queue advances in silence: no screaming, no crying. Drunken policemen hurry the laggards on, ramming the ones lying side by side in the truck with butts. The truck drives away from the town. Another truck hurries in, empty of people but full of clothes. A policeman sitting on top of them plays contentedly with a lady's umbrella. His pockets are full of watches.
The truck arrives at its destination. The doomed get off, strip naked, and move one by one to the ditch, which is full of human bodies. Two Gestapo sit on the rampart, stripped to the waist, cigarettes in their mouths, submachine guns in their hands. Shots are heard. Done. Next! Those who did not want to strip and enter the ditch were terminated on the spot, and their bodies thrown down into the pit. The pit is full to the brim. The policemen cover it with soil.
Here's someone stripped naked who runs away, keeping close to the ground and making loops in the field. The two Gestapo grin and follow him. He runs 100 meters. They both aim at him calmly and shoot. The man falls. Trucks run one after the other. Women, children, girls are on them .
August 14. Several more thousand people are shot. They were found hiding in cellars. As soon as it gets dark, the shooting starts: those who try to run away from reprisal are shot. A strong, putrid smell lingers near the ghetto.
Today F. was carried off. I cannot conceive of this, but it is very hard for me.
She was a good, brave girl. She rode with her head proudly upright. I am sure that even in death she will not lower her head. F., I want you to know that I will remember you and not forget, and maybe some time, I will get revenge.
August 31. I pass through the trenches where the people who have been shot are lying. The smooth white square. The bodies decompose and swell. Legs and arms are visible on the surface. Dogs pillage the dead.
September 2. Tonight a part of the town was set on fire. Four hundred houses burned down.
September 4. Poles burnt all around, scraps of rags, the smell of burning. Not so long ago, 7,000 people lived and worked here. Now it is a vacant lot and a pile of stones. All this was done by the German cannibals.
Unveiling of the Monument
A year later, we organized a return trip to Kremenets for the unveiling of the monument, to be accompanied by a memorial service for our relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust. Again, the trip could accommodate 40 people, but this time only 23 people actually went.
We took advantage of the trip to visit some of the major cities in Russia.
My dear friends, I would like to share with you our emotions when we unveiled the monument, which so strongly evoked the character of our hometown that it made most of us cry. We each vowed to not to allow the memory of the Jews of Kremenets to disappear, regardless of our anger at our enemies.
Flight delays and a bus ride from Odessa under the worst possible conditions did not bring us great pleasure, to say the least. But when we stepped onto the soil of the city, our troubles were forgotten. The government welcomed us very warmly and put us up in an intermediate-level hotel. The facilities were poor and often lacked water, despite our hosts' sincere desire to shower us with attention and improve conditions.
It wasn't only our hotel that suffered from a lack of water. Every city shared this misery. Good heavens! Kremenets without water! Wasn't there plenty of water spring water if you just dug three feet underground with a spade? This is the result of the destruction of the city's Jews.
Some of us went to see the monument, and it turned out that the memorial plaque was missing because it had not yet been finished. Sonye Tsukerman and Yakov Shrentsel complained bitterly about this. Back at the hotel, we were promised everything, and so the next day, the hosts prepared for a solemn ceremony with television coverage, but without the unveiling. Unfortunately, this did not work out because there was not enough time, since we had to get to the airport to catch a plane to Kiev. The ceremony was held with a large crowd of local people in attendance, and lots of flowers covered the monument. The board was also recognized with a star of David and an inscription in Hebrew and Ukrainian. Also present were some Jews from cities surrounding Kremenets. The mayor and important officials gave uplifting speeches. The arrival of a famous singer who sang songs in Ukrainian added greatly to the occasion. Duvid Tsukerman said Kaddish, and the Jewish crowd responded. With heads bowed, we listened to the chanting of "Lord, Full of Compassion," and our eyes filled with tears. We ended the ceremony by singing "Hatikva."
Mr. Shufman read a related story, and Senye Kagan, the oldest among us, read psalms about bringing the dead to life, symbolizing the revitalization of the nation.
In my view, this trip to visit the grave of our ancestors was a dream come true, and in our hearts, we felt we had done a great thing.
After the ceremony, city leaders invited us to a dinner party, where the mood was high. We parted cordially from our hosts, and the next morning, we went on our way to Kiev.
Thus ended an important and exciting story for Kremenets Jews living in Israel and the Diaspora.
Tel Aviv, February 28, 1995
Renew Our Days as of Old
We decided to produce a Voice of Kremenets and Shumsk Emigrants in Israel and the Diaspora booklet as a continuation of the booklet that was received so warmly at home and in the Diaspora (USA, Canada, Argentina, and France).
If its contents succeed in reawakening you from your complacency and tendency to forget and mainly in attracting young people we will be completely satisfied and feel rewarded.
We request that our future readers, especially the young ones, join and send us material, which we will gladly print.
In memory of those who passed away in recent years:
|Balance at the beginning of the year||1,835.43|
|Dividend from securities||880.00|
|Medical aid for an immigrant:||100.00|
|At the request of the Shumsk Emigrant chairman||200.00|
|Obituary T. Shrentsel, of blessed memory||544.05|
|Postcards and printed invitations to the memorial||352.60|
|Purchase of short-term certificate of deposit (Bank Hapoalim, date of maturity June 1995)||4,000.00|
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