By Chaim Pelech
The children's aktion that the Nazi German beasts perpetrated in Turka was cruel in the full sense of the word. The bizarre grabbing of children from the streets, homes and hiding places was so sly as to be unparalleled.
The murderers rode around on automobiles and snatched the children as they were playing. They tossed them into the autos as if they were stones and beat their heads. One automobile drove from the Lakicz and found children playing near Aharon Leib Weicher's house. They snatched Shua Ajchenbaum's girl by the legs and tossed her into the auto. An outcry arose, and the child's mother came out running, and wanted to take back her girl. The Germans shot the mother on the spot. The grandmother, the mother's mother came out and began to shout, Murderers, why did you shoot my daughter?! They shot the grandmother. The outcry and panic on the street were indescribable. Fear enveloped the entire town. The despair of the mothers and fathers reached the highest degree.
At the same time, the German police and their assistants went from house to house. They snatched the children who were hiding in the houses and drove them to a designated place where they shot them.
A young woman, Esther Weiss, the daughter of Avraham Weiss, went to the Olica near Avrahamche Langenauer's place, with her child in her hand. Two S. S. men approached and violently ripped the child from her hands. She held her child tight, and did not let him be taken from her hand. The S. S. men shot the mother, grabbed him by the legs, banged his head against the wall, and tossed him dead onto the sidewalk
When I was in Sambor in 1945, a Jew from Turka told me a shuddering story that took place in his home during the children's aktion. They drove Chaim Feiler, the son of Shlomo Feiler the butcher, to the designated place. The child cried and sobbed so strongly that it would rend the hearts of sticks. As they were going through the Olica, the boy threw himself onto the earth and screamed: I do not want to go, you are going to shoot me. I want to live. I don't want you to shoot me. I do not want to go. Let me be. I want to flee to my hiding place
The man related further: This went on for a long time until they calmed the child. Then he was taken weeping to the designated place, where they immediately shot him
I sat on the bench as I heard this. I felt as if my body was burning on fire, and I felt as if I myself had been hauled out of that house. I ran through the streets of Sambor as if I had been poisoned. I was broken and wounded.
My only child Avrahamele was shot during that same aktion
|The main street (Legjonow) The Olica|
Told by David Binder
We were about 150 Jews of Turka working in the Blic quarry at that time. During one of the last large aktions, they took us too from work and placed us the transport wagons to be dispatched to the camps. Before that, we again had to stand at roll call, as was fitting for the Germans, as they incited a large hunting dog against us. Blic's wife was also killed during that roll call.
In one of the wagons I met my sister, who had been captured in the aktion and hauled here. She was very worried and told me that she had been captured as she left her house to arrange some matter. Before she went out, she placed her daughter Chava into a hiding place and locked her from the outside. Now, when they are taking her to the death camp, what would be with Chava?… She will suffocate there!
In the meantime, it became clear that more people were captured than were required by the quota. The director of the quarry appeared immediately and brought back from the wagons many Jews who were workers at the quarry. I was among them.
Parting from my sister was distressing. It was the parting of a brother and sister sentenced to death - one of them on an earlier date and the other a bit later… When I left the wagon, I immediately began to think about freeing Chava from her prison. Somehow, I succeeded in getting to my sister's house and freeing her, but my sister, of course, was not able to know that her daughter had been saved…
However, with this, the Chava's adventures had not ended. Difficult days lay ahead for her.
Her father and other Jews of Turka were sitting in a bunker that had been dug for them in Simunka. A gentile informed on them to the Germans for a kilo of sugar and a liter of vodka. The Germans arrived, but during the liquidation and the killing, Chava, who had also been in the bunker disappeared. She arrived barefoot and tattered to some farmer at the edge of the village, and remained there. I found out about this when I was already wandering in the forests of the area, along with other Jews of Turka. I immediately offered her assistance and food. Chava survived… She succeeded in making aliya to the Land of Israel after the liberation.
B. Parents Kill their Children
When we, the last Jewish workers of the quarry, realized that our hope of remaining alive was in vain, we decided to go out to the forests. We found a place for a bunker behind the Jawoda sawmill. However, after our first attempt, we found that it was not all that fitting. We still worked in the quarry while six of our people dug the bunker. Every evening, about 20 of us transferred wheat and food to prepare for life in the bunker.
Among us was a certain family from Turka who also wanted to go to the forest. However, they had a three year old daughter… At first, they gave her over to a gentile, but for some reason, the gentile quickly returned her. The decision of the parents was frightful: With the active assistance of a friend of the family, they suffocated the girl! It happened that in the first German attack on our bunker to which we fled, after Turka had been declared Judenrein, this third friend was the first to be killed…
C. In the Forests of Opolinik
Life in the forests was difficult and unbearable. Having no other choice, we lived from robbery. We would attack farmers who collaborated with the Germans - and thus we succeeded in surviving as our numbers continually dwindled…
Once, we were told about such a collaborator in a certain village. We attacked him and stole everything that we could: property and clothing. After some time we found out that we had made an error in the address: this had been a gentile that was good to the Jews. Mendel Zeifert and his wife were hiding there. We then gathered together all of the items that we had stolen, including those that we had already distributed to some people, and returned them to the gentile. On that opportunity, we also met the Zeifert family there, and the joy was very great.
The Germans and their collaborators gave us no rest. We were frequently hunted. Once, the Germans attacked us. The person on guard kept the Germans at bay for a long time. He paid with his life, but it was possible for the entire group to escape and disperse.
Two daughters of the Weicher family, one eight and the other ten, were in the group. One of the girls did not have enough time to put something on her feet, and she ran barefoot in the snow and ice for an entire day. The girl got sick, and the pains in her feet were unbearable. We decided to go to the village and place her in one of the houses until she would recover. We knocked on one of the houses, and found an elderly woman there. We commanded her: Behold, the girl is sick. Her feet froze. We are leaving her with you and you must do everything you can to cure her. After a short time, we will return to fetch her…
Ten days later, we went to check on her. We were five people, including her uncle Anshel Weicher. The woman told us that despite all her efforts, she did not succeed in curing her. If we have god in our hearts, we must kill the girl, for her suffering is unbearable.
We answered her that we must consult with the entire group in the forest. The forest decided to kill the girl. The five aforementioned people were designated to carry out the act. Several days later, we returned to the woman in the village, and saw a miracle - the sick girl had recovered! A few weeks later, the girl returned to the forest.
In 1949, five years after the liberation, I visited my friend in the city of Wroclaw in Poland. When I entered his place of business, I saw a young girl who smiled at me and did not stop. I asked her, Who are you? She responded, The girl who was sentenced to death… She was already 17 years old.
by Moshe Hager and Genia Liberman of Netanya
This was the second year that we were hiding in a bunker in the Sianki Forest near Turka. A gentile who had been a childhood friend brought us potatoes and a piece of barley bread twice a week.
One day the gentile, may he be remembered in a positive way, appeared and told us that a cross-border smuggler came to him and asked if he knows of any hidden Jews who are interested in crossing the border to Hungary - in exchange for a proper fee, of course.
W agreed to take a risk, and we went with the smuggler through the forests for eight days until we came to the city of Uzhgorod on the Hungarian border. This was the eve of Rosh Hashanah. A Hungarian Jew agreed to take us by train to Budapest in return for a payment. We did not know the language of the country, and they were searching for refugees along the way.
A search was conducted by the Hungarian police along the way, and we were caught without documents. We were removed from the train and returned to the Polish border, where we were given over to the Gestapo in Sianki. There were 19 other Jews with us who had been caught on that train. All were later shot by the iniquitous hand.
The Germans imprisoned us in a cellar and sent for the Ukrainians to dig a communal grave for us. Indeed, fate mocked us, for that same Ukrainian had worked in the fields of my father Yosef Heger. Now he was digging a grave for us with a faithful hand.
They brought us to the grave toward evening. This was on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. We all stood in a line around the grave, and our hearts were heavy: was this our Day of Judgment? The judgment against us was so harsh - and we were still so young… We were ordered to strip down to our shirts, and we were placed in a line. By chance, we were standing at the end of the line, and each of us was saying to the next one that he wanted to die first, so that he would not see the death of the other. However, as quick as lightning, we decided - to escape! Not in order to save ourselves and survive - for we did not hope for this - but rather to take the bullet from the back, without waiting for it with alert eyes, without seeing how we would be shot and fall.
We decided to run, each of us in a different direction. The destination was the forest, which was very close. We heard shots from behind. We heard the blood-curdling sound of dogs sent after us: to be torn apart by hunting dogs was worse than being shot with a bullet!
The forest drew nearer. We reached it and continued to run. The Germans were afraid of entering the forest out of fear of hidden partisans. Then a miracle occurred! It cannot be believed if we tell it - the barking of the dogs stopped. Perhaps they lost our trace. In any case, this remains a puzzle for us to this day.
We continued to run without knowing to where. Fear quieted any thought. Thus did we wander about the forest for a week, hungry and thirsty, wandering without a path or a road. Our sole objective was to reach the gentile who had at one time dug the bunker for us.
This was the month of September, as has been noted. The cold froze our bones, but we continued to survive. It is difficult to explain this with logic. We reached the home of the gentile on the eighth day. He was very afraid to take us in, for news of our escape had echoed throughout the entire region. Searches for us were being conducted with great diligence.
The gentile gave us digging tools, and we dug a new bunker in the forest with our meager energy. There, we sat hungry and frozen until the Russians liberated us.
After tribulations and wandering, we succeeded in reaching resting place and inheritance. We arrived in Israel on the even of the War of Independence. How great was our joy when we found our four-year-old daughter, whom we had sent to Hungary!
A son was born to us who bore the name of his grandfather. Who would have imagined that we would yet merit to play with his pleasant grandchild on our laps!
Indeed, many are the thoughts in the heart of man, but the desires of G-d will be fulfilled!
by Michael Heisler
The War Began
It was the autumn of 1939. The small war between Poland and Germany, lasting a few days in total, spread throughout the entire land, and to our small corner as well. At that time, I was living temporarily in Turka. Young people, Jews and gentiles, quickly took leave of their families and went to their military posts. Many never returned. I was one of the lucky ones who had a blue military slip and who did not have to enlist in the military. I remained at home.
The first bombardment caused a panic in the town. The shops quickly hid their merchandise in the cellars and there was a shortage of food. The Jewish youth in the city organized a self-defense organization to protect against the eventual attack of Ukrainian nationalists. Some Jews, I and my family among them, fled to relatives and friends in the neighboring villages. There, the panic was no less than in the city… The gentiles had already begun to gnash their teeth and sharpen their knives for the Jews. It seemed like the Germans would come in slowly but surely and slaughter us all. The hours were numbered, and the tension grew.
Great was the joy when, instead of the Germans, the first patrols of the Soviet Army were seen… Jews calmed down and began anew to live and work. There were indeed a few unacceptable deeds perpetrated by the Soviets, such as deporting people to Siberia and nationalizing businesses - but this was quickly finished. Great tragedies did not take place in our region. It was the opposite,
the Soviets related better to the Jews than to the gentiles, and placed greater trust in them.
However, people had predictions that this was only temporary, and that it would not remain this way. Something gave them a bad felling that something would take place, and it would be bad.
We also used to receive news from the Jewish refugees who had already fled from the Germans. They all gave testimony that the time of a greater catastrophe was nearing. Even the Soviets themselves believed that a war with the Germans was inevitable, and was approaching with quick steps. They acted upon this with deeds, such as building fortresses and bunkers.
A few days before the German-Soviet conflict, the Soviets mobilized all of the Jewish youth to military service. The elderly, women, and children were almost all that remained. This time as well, as before, I had luck and I was not mobilized. At that time, I was on a mission to Lemberg.
The German-Soviet Conflict
On June 22, 1941, the day of the German assault on the Soviets, I was caught in Lemberg. I can never forget that day. I will never forget the terrorized faces of the helpless women, as they were running through the Lemberg streets with their children, not knowing what to do. I understood that everything was hopeless - there was no means of salvation. I felt a longing for my wife and children. My conscience bothered me greatly: why did I leave them all alone. I decided to reunite with them at any price.
I Go Home By Foot
I barely stopped at the destroyed railway station. I quickly turned in the direction of Sambor, and
set out by foot. A stone was lifted from my heart - I was going home and I would see them soon. I wanted to fight the Germans; I wanted to slaughter them, tear them, bite them. I would not let my children be killed! I was speaking to myself, asking questions and answering them myself…
Thus did I go the entire way, which lasted for three days and three nights, until I arrived at the Turka Mountain, on the way to Jawor, right near the Turka cemetery. From there, I saw all of Turka. It broke my heart - for I knew very well the misfortune that lay ahead for the poor town. I was greatly comforted that I was already in the town, and from there, it was a few kilometers to my home village. I had a strong desire to turn aside, here in the cemetery, to my mother, who had been laying here for a few decades already. I was here, and I wanted to pay my respects, perhaps for the last time.
I knew the way very well, and fell onto the grave, weeping. I told her everything, speaking from my heart - about the great danger that was hanging over us, about my children and my wife, who was already in her final months of pregnancy with our third child. Everything, everything I told her, as if she was standing before me alive…
I could barely go through the streets of the city. They were full of Soviet soldiers with tanks and cannons. Jews were running to and fro in a disorderly fashion, afraid and desperate, not knowing what to do. I did not stop or talk to anyone. Along the way, I met a few local Ukrainians. I greeted them and asked them what was happening in the village. They did not answer me, but rather smiled from under their visors and waved their finger over their neck, making the sign of a slaughterer slaughtering…
To Escape or to Remain?…
It was not long before I reached my home. The children were very happy to see me. My wife was pale and sorrowful. I understood her sadness very well: A pregnant woman at that time had what to be sad about. I calmed her.
I knew that you would come back, that you would not leave us alone and helpless, she said to me. Look here, she pointed with her finger, I have already packed some items and some food to take with us on the journey. I was only waiting for you.
What do you mean? I asked her with curiosity.
I mean, that we must escape from her quickly, she said. Have you not heard what my sister said when she escaped her from Krakow, barely with her life? Have you not heard what the Germans are doing with the Jews?! I do not want to wait willingly for death; if death wishes to claim us as victims, it will not be so easy, it will have to torment us, to pursue us…
We will travel to another village, to my brother - I said. There, the Ukrainians are a bit better than here, more friendly. They lived well with my parents and my brothers for so many years. There, we even had partnerships in fields with them. You will see that they will receive us well.
Do not trust the haters! she said. They are awaiting the moment when the Germans will arrive. Then, they will finish up with the Jews and steal their belongings.
The door opened and my wife's sister entered. She was an unmarried girl. I heard their debate - she turned to me and said -If you would have seen what my eyes have seen, what the Germans have done with the Jews of Krakow, you would not tarry for one moment. Go rest a bit, for you must be tired from the journey. Do not worry, I am also going with you, and we three adults will not fail!
In he meantime, my wife went out to all the neighbors and told them to escape.
Where should we escape, they shrugged their shoulders. They will go through quickly. Fool, you do not remember, a year and a half ago
how great the fear was when the Germans were about to enter? - And there was peace. Aside from the few people who were killed in Turka under Petrikov, no more bad things took place. In the same way, it will be peaceful again. The Germans intend only for the Communists - what do they have to do with us?…
In the meantime, I woke up from my sleep, and saw how people were gathering and setting out on the way outside. On the road, I meant a Russian officer whom I knew. I asked him what was going on. Not good, he answered. We are retreating from the entire region with all the Russian officers. We are setting out very early tomorrow morning… He told me this last piece of information as a secret, so that nobody would hear…
I barely slept the entire night. I prepared the wagon, made a booth like the Gypsies, and hitched up the horses. In the meantime, my wife and her sister prepared the children and loaded the packages. Not far from my house I saw a few young Ukrainians whispering to each other. They were already waiting, like dogs, to bite…
We set out. Along the way, we joined up with the entire company of Soviet officers and teachers. Several other Jewish families joined us, including Leib Teichman of Nyszny Wysocko, Yosef Shindler of Jablonow, the two brothers-in-law Berl Heger and Yaakov Feldman - all with their families. There also was Avrahamche Feljor of Nyszny Wysocko and his sister, Shmuel Zisha Furmans and his two children: all with horses and wagons. These were the few families of the entire Turka region who succeeded in escaping at the lat minute. Everyone else remained behind.
We really did not know where we were going, but we traveled in the direction of all the travelers. Tanks, cannons, various military formations and civilians were also traveling. The way was full of
debris. This was not a normal journey, but rather a haunted journey. We were very chagrined… Indeed, we were civilians fleeing - but we were unprotected people with wives and children on the wagons. However, they?! The mighty Russian Army?! Where is their honor, are they not ashamed?!…
Our group, particularly the Jews, stuck together and took care of each other so that nobody would be left behind on the way. If something broke in somebody's wagon, everyone would help fix it, and then we would continue on. We rested during the day and traveled on at night. My wife traveled the entire way as a woman of valor. She never complained. She took care of the children, and from time to time, she let me rest a bit and drove the horses herself.
We traveled in this manner for approximately four weeks, until we reached the old Russian border at the Zbrucz River. When we were on Russian territory, the Soviets pointed everyone in their direction to their homes, but we Jews remained alone without a leader… After a brief conference, we decided to abandon the horses and wagons, and continue on the journey by train.
When I unloaded my packages and children from the wagon, I noted a heavy package that I had not yet seen. My wife had taken along my tallis and tefillin, a prayer book and a few other books. I did not want the German and Ukrainian gangs to have something to mock, she said.
Soon, a large transport of transport wagons arrived, which were full of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees. The transport did not even stop at the station, but continued on. As it was traveling, we threw all the children of our group
onto all the wagons, and we jumped on. Many of our packages were left behind in the station, including my tallis and tefillin. We were happy to have our children.
As we were traveling, we collected our children onto one wagon. We traveled on and on until we mixed in to the large sea of Jewish refugees fro various countries - Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Austrian, Bessarabian and Ukrainian Jews. We all shared in the bitter lot of the refugees.
On August 11, 1941, we received congratulations in the city of Stalingrad. My wife gave birth to a daughter. This was also at the time of the beginning of our tragic wandering through Russia.
In Besieged Stalingrad
After a short rest in a kolkhoz [collective farm] in the Stalingrad region, when the Germans were beginning their terrible offensive against Stalingrad, I was already no longer together with my family. The Soviets mobilized massive forces and sent them to defend the large city with its hazardous factories. Some went into the army with weapons, and others dug fortifications and performed other strategic work under the supervision of military officers and supervisors. I was involved in such a group.
It was already late autumn. Aside from the difficult normal work and terrible hunger, the Russian cold froze my half-naked bones. People died of hunger and cold more than on the fronts.
The Family in a Foreign Place, in Great Danger
My family was far, in a foreign place and in great danger. The enemy was approaching them. This time, they were in greater danger than four months previously, when we fled from our home. At that time, it was still warm outside, and now it was cold and
we had a young child. Who knew if there would be familiar people who would organize and help with the escape? My head was splitting with thoughts: I could not relax. I wanted to run to them, but I was 300 kilometers away. What could one do? - I thought. It was better to die at home together with everybody, than here in the Stalingrad steppes…
After a difficult internal struggle, I decided to run, run. Perhaps this time, like the previous time, I would succeed in coming to them at the right time and to help them escape. I indeed succeeded, and I achieved my objective. After wandering for several days, I met them on the way to the railway station… In my life, I will never forget the moment of our meeting! I later found out that the escape was organized by Chana Furman, Shmuel Zishe's daughter from Borinya - who was only an 18-year old girl! She knocked on all the doors of the local authorities, asking that they help her evacuate the few families. The local authorities fulfilled her request. She herself did not leave the place until everyone had set out. She traveled on the last vehicle, together with us.
It was cold outside. It was raining and snowing. We sat in a deserted railway station, waiting hours for a train. The wagons were filled with war equipment, and all the trains were going in one direction - to Stalingrad. None of them wanted to take us on, especially with young children in diapers.
After begging profusely, a Soviet officer had mercy upon us and permitted us to occupy a small place in his loaded, open platform. Thus did we travel. To protect ourselves from the snow and wind, I made a booth out of pieces of lumber, and covered it with twigs and straw. We all gathered inside. In this way, we were able to nestle together and warm our children. At that time, the oldest was six years old, and the youngest was three months.
A normal journey to Stalingrad would have taken a few hours. We traveled for four weeks. We wanted to cross the Volga through Stalingrad.
On the other side of the Volga, there was still free traffic in the large, wide expanse of Russia, to Siberia, to Kovkhoz, to the Far East, and also to the Middle East. Together with the entire stream of refugees, we entered Stalingrad and waited for a possibility of crossing the Volga.
The Besieged City
Stalingrad was full of refugees. Tramways and cars could not go through… People pushed, tore through, and even fought for a corner where they would be able to protect themselves from the harsh wind and snow. Many were frozen, and squeezed themselves together.
After a few weeks of terrible suffering, and order was issued by the supreme authorities that the entire population, including the refugees, would be evacuated. For that purpose, the regime enlisted ships and small boats on the Volga. There was terrible chaos as the ships were loaded… the voices and warnings, the running and shoving - everything looked like a sinking ship full of people in the middle of the sea… Entire families were scattered in this admixture. Our intimate group, which had held together the entire time, was also separated there. We never saw each other or met up again.
After long and difficult months of wandering with various means of transportation, my family and I reached Central Asia, directly below the Himalayan Mountains. There, we met many families from Poland who had traveled there some time previously from Poland via the Soviet Union.
There, we felt secure and out of danger. We remained there until the summer of 1944.
by Esther Brand of Kiryat Bialik
Righteous Gentiles have a place in the World To Come (Tosafot Sanhedrin, 13)
A great deal has been written about the Holocaust as well as about the anti-Semitic population that helped the Nazis carry out their plots. On the other hand, not much has yet been written about the righteous gentiles who often endangered their lives to save a Jewish soul. As one of the survivors of the Holocaust, I believe that I have not fulfilled my obligation if I fail to write in the pages of this book about one Polish family in whose warm home I found refuge during the days of the Holocaust.
It was November 1942. The winter was in its full strength. The cold penetrated the bones, as was usual in my native city of Turka. On Rynek Street, one could meet Ukrainian villagers next to their winter sleighs who came to sell the produce of their land, such as potatoes, rye flour, and other such items - all in small quantities. At times, one could notice a Jew wearing the Star of David patch, exchanging words with a villager, turning from side to side to see that there was no German around. In general, the exchange ended without results, for the farmer demanded astronomical prices in terms of clothing, kitchen utensils, and the like for a kilo of potatoes. The Jews who remained after the aktions were very few in number, about 500, broken in soul and lacking of means. A Jew who failed to wear the patch would be punished with death. Despite this, I endangered myself and sometimes went on the streets without the patch. My Aryan appearance helped me. However, as I was walking on the street that time, I was overtaken by fear for some reason and I wore my patch on my arm. I approached one of the farmers and asked him if he would like to purchase kitchen utensils from me in exchange for food. The farmer agreed, and followed me to my house. I showed him all types of pots and dishes. He looked at them, but instead of asking for their price, he invited me… to accompany him, for he was willing to hide me until the end of the war. He said, I saw announcements that you must be prepared to go to the Sambor Ghetto. We have no children at home, and we want to perform a good deed in this world and save a young soul from extermination. His offer enticed me
greatly. I told this to my mother, who of course agreed. We agreed to meet next to the Cygalnia (brickyard). I was to dress like one of the Ukrainians, to set out on my way and stop the sleigh in which he would be sitting, and ask the driver to take me to Wysocko-Wyszna.
It is easy to imagine how difficult it was to part from my home and my family. Indeed, we knew that there was no hope of surviving in Turka, and there was no ray of light for salvation, but we still wanted to remain together. We wept, wailed and comforted each other. We said in our hearts that G-d only knows if we will see each other again. My younger brother Shlomo of blessed memory, who was ten years old at the time, asked and begged to join me. He was only comforted after I explained to him that he was the only male in the family, and he must protect everybody. Accompanied by my friend Henya Schreiber, who lived with us after the death of her family, I left our home and set out on the journey. We had to cross the river, with the fear of the Germans who used to wander over the bridge. The road led us to the meeting place. From afar, I saw the approaching sleigh. I signaled it to stop by raising my hand, and asked the sleigh driver to take me to Wysocko-Wyszna in return for payment. The Ukrainian acceded to my request. I sat down and glanced back to my friend Henya, who had set out in the direction of the house to inform my mother of my departure.
We sat in the sleigh: a Ukrainian police captain who was the sleigh owner, the Pole in whose house I was to remain for the remainder of the war, and an elderly Ukrainian woman. The woman explained while weeping that the Volksdeutchen had conduced a search in her house and taken all of the belongings that she had purchased from Jews. The Pole told me the same thing, and I found out that all of the kitchen utensils and blankets that my mother had given him had been confiscated by the Volksdeutchen. Along the way, the Ukrainian wanted to talk to me in German, boasting that he had succeeded in learning the language during the course of his job. I pretended to not understand even one word, and he translated the discussion into Ukrainian for me. To me, the entire matter seemed like a joke suffused with pain.
We passed near the Ukrainian police in the village of Borinya; however, nobody came out to greet us. We reached Wysocko-Nyszny, and even then they did not stop us. We were all surprised. The Ukrainian captain explained that the police had found a Jewess a few days ago in this place who had been hiding in a coffin that was being transported by a villager. The villager was cruelly beaten and then turned over to the Ukrainian police. Of course, the villager also
received his punishment. The captain said, It is interesting that now, when there is no Jewess with us, they are not conducting a search. Everyone burst out laughing. They laughed and joked. I also laughed with my voice, but inside I was weeping bitterly, in accordance with the words of the prophet, My soul weeps in the hidden recesses. I thought about how downtrodden our people were, how we had become an object of mockery and derision - were our sins really to great to bear?! Sadness overtook me and a spirit of depression fell upon me, but I quickly recovered and continued to laugh… I recalled the words of the wisest of men, There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. We continued to travel on, as we were chatting and laughing.
Suddenly, I felt a light kick from the foot of the Pole. I understood that this was where I was supposed to get off… I paid the Ukrainian four zloty and got off. The Pole also got off and politely offered to accompany me because of the darkness. I agreed and after a tiring half-hour walk in the deep snow, we arrived at his house. This was a typical village house. His parents and three sisters lived in one part of the house - and they did not know about my arrival and my presence in the house until the liberation! He and his wife lived in the second section. When they saw me, his wife expressed her joy and welcomed me warmly. She served me supper and made my bed. This was my first night in this house in which I spent close to two years.
|The sawmill near the Stryj River|
The next day, which was a Friday, the Pole, whom I had started to call Mr. Wlodomierz, joined his Volksdeutche neighbor, and they both set out for Turka. I gave him a letter for my mother, in which I describe my success. Among other things, I asked her to give him belongings that they were not going to take with them to the ghetto, and to try to convince him to take my sister along as well. This was one day before the transfer of all the Jews of Turka and the region to the Sambor Ghetto. The villagers knew about this, and therefore they all came to the city in order to purchase anything that the Jews had. Indeed, Mr. Wlodomierz returned late at night with a chest full of all types of items - but he did not bring my sister. In his words, he was afraid of the Volksdeutche. The next day, Saturday November 28, 1942, corresponding to 21 Tevet, 5703, all of the Jews of the villages were deported to the ghetto. I stood next to the window for hours looking outside. I saw Jews - men, women and children from the villages - walking with suitcases, packages and sacks. Some wept, and others were just sad. From time to time, they peered backward, as if to cast a final glance at their houses in which they and their ancestors had lived - and who knew if they would see them again. I then thought about my family and was sad that we were not together and that we could not comfort each other.
I spent my first week in the village in a closed room. Then, I entered the hiding place and remained there for the entire winter. The hiding place was a crate with a double bottom. There were potatoes on top, and I slept on the bottom. I was not able to sit. I only left my hiding place once a day, for a half hour at midnight, in order to attend to my needs and breathe fresh air. Mr. Wlodomierz and his wife Maria called this crate, The Ark of Moses. Frequently in the evenings, neighbors gathered in our house and discussed various issues. I heard conversations about the advance or retreat of the army, about the conquest of cities, about the capture of Jews, about Jewish partisans in the forest, and about everything that was taking place in the world. I paid attention to all of these conversations, and listened quietly without moving. Once, I heard a light knock on the window and I realized from the discussion that somebody was asking for food. The next day Maria told me that a young Jewish girl from the Fejler family of Turka was hiding with her father in the forest. She would come to her window from time to time to request some food. Of course, she was never sent away empty handed.
I lay in this crate until the spring. They had to liquidate the crate when the stock of potatoes ran out, in order to avoid arousing suspicion. Mr. Wlodomierz, who supported himself by building ovens, dismantled the old oven and built a new one with a hiding place for me. Now,
it was more comfortable for me. I was able to sit, embroider, write and read. This hiding place was also less suspicious than the previous one. Thus passed days and nights, that merged into weeks, and the weeks into months - until June 1944. The German Army suffered defeats in all places and retreated from the fronts. The Bandera gangs attacked the villagers, burning, pillaging their property, and spreading ruin and destruction in every place that they passed through. Fear and trepidation fell upon the residents of Komarniki.
One day, my savior decided to remove me from my hiding place for my safety. They transferred me to a field and put me in a haystack. I remained in the haystack for three months. They would visit me daily and bring me food. At night, I was overcome with fear of the rain, thunder, and barking dogs. Once, Germans came to get some hay. They went straight for my haystack, but Mr. Wlodomierz, who was working in the field at that time, directed them to another haystack, explaining that this particular haystack had rotted from the rain. One night in the month of October, they brought me back to their house and hid me in the attic. However, I remained there for only one night - the Soviet Army arrived the next morning!
My saviors did not want to reveal to the village residents that they had been hiding a Jewish girl. They only told this to their relatives who lived in the other part of the house. When they came to see me, the looked at me as if I had fallen from another planet. They did not believe the sight of their eyes. The next morning Mr. Wlodomierz took a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk, and we set out on the road leading to Turka. We walked on foot for eight kilometers and arrived in the city. It was difficult to recognize the city of Turka. It looked as it had suffered a bombardment. We did not find even one intact Jewish home. Not only had they removed the windows from the Jewish homes, but also the ceilings and floors. There were also homes without any remnant. We did not find even one intact room in our home, the Kleist home in which five families had lived previously and which consisted of approximately 20 rooms. We wandered through the streets of Turka, and I recalled Turka from before the Holocaust… streets that had bustled with Jews, tradesmen, merchants, wealthy people, poor people, and members of the middle class; coffeehouses and other such places. All that was left from all of these was a heap of ruins, without any Jewish remnant. I was very depressed that we did not find my family. I thought, was it possible that I remained alone in the world?! I was overcome with despair. I was encouraged somewhat when I met a few people who had just returned from the forests. These included the Bruner family, David Binder, Moshe Meiner, Moshe Kirszner with his brother Yosef, Tova Pesi and Moshe Shreiber, Shalom Erdman, Hillel Erdman,
Avraham Liberhart, Chaya Goldreich and her mother, Esther Shein, Shaul Kleist, Ben-Zion Bronanka and his brother, the Ringel family who had come from Sambor, the Kris family and others.
A few weeks passed before I succeeded in setting myself up with work. In the meantime, I received assistance from Wlodomierz and Maria Komarnicki, in whose merit I had survived.
I express my gratitude to them.
by Y. M. Zeifert of Los Angeles
|We are lying beneath the hay in the attic of the stable, hiding
From the Hitlerist murderers and from death;
From one morning to the next, we wait for the liberation,
To redeem us from tribulations and need.
As we count the days and nights in this manner
The month of November has already passed,
It does not want to remain quiet for long
Near me, my child tells of his dream:
|And when she wakes up in the morning,
She said that in her imagination -
She heard joyous voices outside,
As the woman householder, our gentile, came up
And said, The war is over,
The confusion has ended,
You can come out of your hiding place now -
Hitler has suffered his downfall…
My child, would it be that your dream would come true,
December 7, 1943
by Dr. M. Dvorzhitzki
Remember the Holocaust of the Jewish people, remember the loss and bitterness. It should be for you a sign and a lesson for generation after generation.
May this memory accompany you always - when you walk on the way, when you lie down, and when you arise.
May the memory of brethren who are no longer here be bound to you forever.
Let the memory be on your flesh, your blood, and your bones.
Gnash your teeth and remember; as you eat your bread - remember; as you drink your water - remember; if you hear a song - remember; as the sun comes out - remember; as night falls - remember; on a holiday and festival - certainly remember.
If you build a house, leave a part unfinished so the destruction of the House of Israel will be before you always.
If you plough a field, set up a mound of stones - as a witness memorial to our brethren, who were never brought to a Jewish burial.
When you lead your child to the wedding canopy, bring to the forefront of your joy the memory of the children who will never be brought to the wedding canopy.
Let them be as one: the living and the dead; the victim and the survivor; those who went on their journey and are no longer, and those who remained alive.
Hear, oh member of the Nation of Israel, the voice calling to you from the depths; do not be silent, do not be silent!
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