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[Page 450]

My happenings during the Nazi occupation

Chana Roten (Lushk)

Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez

When I was 14 years old, the Germans invaded our town. My family was one of the most affluent families in town. About two months later, the Germans, together with the local Militia, searched our house for so called hidden food. They didn't find food, but they filled two trucks with leather, textile and other valuables.

Everything that my parents worked for all those years was gone in an instant.

During the first year of the occupation, Jews had to pay ransom for each soul (contribution) as well as sweeping the streets, cleaning the offices and plowing the snow. In return we were beaten, as they wished.

When Yom Kippur approached on 1942, rumors spread that the Germans plan an “Aktion”[1] in town; I did not know the meaning of this word. My parents sent us - three children - to a Christian family, until things will quiet down. My parents hid in the basement.

The vicious rumors were true. The day after Yom Kippur the brutal German soldiers arrived from Brzezany and with the Ukrainians collaboration gathered the Jews who were not able to find a hideout and took them by trucks to Brzezany. From there to the death camp Belzec.

After about a month and a half, the town was declared “Judenfrei”[2]. We were ordered to leave and move to Brzezany. My mother and I with a few of our belongings left Narajow, leaving Dad and my two brothers at home. The evacuees from Narajow shared a big house in Brzezany, in which a few families shared each apartment. I remember vividly the second day in the new town; we were taken to plant trees. The soil was frozen and I wasn't able to dig. I had warts on my fingers from holding the hoe and I cried out of fear and pain, it was clear to me that if I don't finish my work, I'll have to stay there. Some people felt sorry for me and finished my work for me.

A month later another “Aktion” came upon us; it was on a Friday, the first day of Chanukah, 1942. I was still in bed when the Nazis broke into our apartment and took me and my mom outside. We were standing next to the Judenrat all that day. It was freezing. Towards the evening when hundreds of Jews were gathered, we were ordered to march in rows to the train.

They put us in cattle train cars, unbearably crowded. When the train began to move we all knew it was our last journey.

A few people had small tools hidden in their cloths. With great effort they were able to loosen one wooden plank. Despite the danger they started jumping out. Not everyone was lucky. More than one ended up falling under the train's wheels or getting shot by the Germans that were sitting on the train roof. My mom sat with a few neighbors in the corner of the train car and decided not to jump. She said she was tired of living this way. From where she was sitting she pleaded with me to jump, “Your life is still ahead of you” she said. I jumped and fell without a scratch on a snow pile. My mom was killed in Belzec and she is only 40 years old. I reached my father's house with the help of some adults that were miraculously saved as well.

My dad, my older brother and I left Narajow and made it again to Brzezany. My other brother stayed in Narajow with a few more Jews hoping to find a safer shelter there, despite the fact that Narajow was by that time “Judenfrei”. He really wanted to live and was afraid of the concentration camps, but the cruel fate wanted otherwise. On March of 1943 some Ukranians informed the Gestapo that there were still Jews in Narajow. It didn't take long for the Germans to come.

They were all gathered in the Herz home, killed and their bodies were thrown to the basement. My brother tried to run away but the murderers' bullet reached him when he was in the middle of the street and he is only 18.

Three weeks later there was another “Aktion” in Brzezany. My older brother who was 20 was captured. The next day it seemed like the “Aktion” was over. We went out of the bunkers and my dad went to the Judenrat hoping to save my brother. When he left, I knew I will never see him again. I asked him not to leave but he said ”you can not understand me, in such a short time I lost both my sons” and he left.

A few minutes later my dad was caught and was sent with other men who were able to work to the concentration camp of Kamionka close to Tarnopol. The elderly, the women and the young ones were killed in the Brzezany cemetery.

A few weeks later, my dad met my brother in Kamionka. Every now and then I was able to send them some necessities trough the Judenrat.

ber451.jpg [27 KB] Narajow natives in Yaar HaKdoshim
Narajow natives in Yaar HaKdoshim

 

One day, a childless Christian came to the Ghetto looking to adopt a girl. He liked me and I joined him. On the wagon outside of the Ghetto, I felt an urge to go back, knowing I wouldn't be able to send my Dad and my brother those things any more. Without saying a word, I jumped out of the wagon and returned to the ghetto. Everyone was yelling at me for missing an opportunity to be saved.

Around the holiday of Shavuoth on 1943, the last “Aktion” in Brzezany was performed and Brzezany was declared “Judenfrei”. They did not discover our bunker.

On Sunday a few people from our bunker went out, some to bake some pita bread because of the hunger and some to fetch some drinking water. One woman, who gave all her belongings to a Christian lady, was waiting outside for that lady to come and take her with her. This Christian woman saw her and informed the Gestapo about it. Immediately the house was surrounded and 13 people including myself were caught. Three Germans put us all in one room and gathered our valuables. While they were busy dividing the plunder, I tried to hide under the bed but they saw me. When we went downstairs, I tested my luck again and slipped through an open door, this time successfully! I went back to the bunker. The rest were murdered in the cemetery.

That night I left the bunker together with my aunt and her three children and we escaped to the forest. I spent 14 months in the forest, life there was very harsh. We ate watery soup once a day from vegetables we gathered at night from the fields. More than once I drank filthy water. In winter, the snow served as drinking water but the frost was difficult to handle. Months passed with out washing my body, the lice were eating me and the sores hurt.

At the end of July 1944 we were rescued by the Russian army. I was the only one left from my family and from the whole town there were around 25 survivors. The rest of my dear ones and my towns people were murdered in the sanctification of God's name (“Kiddush Hashem”), may their memory be blessed.


  1. Term used for any non-military campaign to further Nazi ideals of race, but most often referred to the assembly and deportation of Jews to concentration or death camps Return
  2. In German: free of Jews, a Nazi term to designate an area free of Jewish presence during The Holocaust Return

[Page 452]

The Avenging Jew – Yankel (Yankale) Fenger

Rina Zlatkes (Rozenblat)

Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez

I would like to tell a story, in a few words, to try and contribute something to the commemoration of this figure, one of the Holocaust heroes. Yankel Fenger, who was known to all as Yanka'le was a Narajower, the son of Henya and Pinchas Fenger, from a village called Bile in the Peremyshlyany region,

18 year old Yankel turned during the world war into a hero surrounded with a radiating halo. The mention of his name alone would make the Jewish hating Ukrainians' hearts shiver with fear. Yankel Fenger didn't belong to any Partisan or military organization but he belonged to everyone.

Operating as a “lonely wolf”, Yankel was supplying food to children, but his main attention was given to avenge the actions of those Ukrainians who collaborated with the Germans and murdered Jews.

With time, Yankel became the symbol for the “Avenging Jew” in the area. He was a mysterious figure who took revenge of the Goyim[1] for every act of hurting Jews. He had a pattern for his actions, every night he would get out to look for food (which in the partisan's language was called “skokim”) in daring ways. He would bring back his “catch” in a sack on his back, or using a farmer's wagon.

Yankel Fenger, who had the complexion of a Ukrainian, would leave to his nightly operations wearing Ukrainian Police uniform and carrying a bag full of hand grenades. He acted mostly in the village of Narajow where the Ukrainians handed over to the Gestapo the Jews they helped hide in their homes, in return for money.

With these Ukrainians, Yankel was going to settle the blood account. In the middle of the night he would knock on the door of a collaborator. He would present himself as a Ukrainian underground member and say that he heard Jews were hiding in this house. He explained that the Jews hated the Ukrainian people and that if it's true, the owners will be punished.

If the farmer started justifying himself saying that he already handed over the Jews that he hid to the Gestapo – Yankel would reveal his real identity and kill him on the spot, him and his wife. He didn't harm the kids.

After he was done he would leave a note saying: “Here was Yankel Fenger, who killed the house owner and his wife in revenge for handing over Jews to the Nazis”

The stories about the avenging Jew passed from ear to mouth and the Ukrainian farmers dreaded him.

When Narajow was taken over by the Red Army, Yaakov Fenger volunteered to the Soviet militia, whose job was to destroy the Ukrainian underground. Yankel Fenger excelled in this mission and revealed many of the hiding places of the “Bendrovtzim”. In one of those actions, he was killed.

Young Yankel Fenger became a legend while he was still alive. Even the Soviets considered him a hero and built a monument to commemorate him in Narajow.

I would like to note that I got the information about Yankel Fenger from Mr. Yunes who heads the Yiddish programming department in “Israel broadcasting Authority” during a meeting in Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem with Yankel's step father who was visiting Israel from Montreal Canada.


  1. Gentiles Return
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