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XI. AN "ACTION" ON THE FARM

The harvest work was coming to an end, yet the people from the other farms were still coming for a few days, and occupied the barracks where we stayed before. As September was approaching, we awoke one morning to find that the German and Ukrainian police came before dawn and rounded up close to a hundred people, telling them that they are being relocated to another farm. The Germans took them away with carriages to the nearby forests, where they were shot. Some managed to escape down the mountain and return later.

We were completely unaware of what was going on, since the barracks were located on the end of the farm and the people were taken the back way.

Rumors were reaching us that the Germans did the same kind of actions on the other farms, killing the people nearby and not even bothering to take them to an isolated place.

Mr. Eppner, the German director, later told us that they were taken away because they weren't good workers, but we should stay and continue our good work, because he needs us. We remained in our building, but the others had no choice so they went back to the barracks. We were left with about forty people, twelve in the building and the rest in the barracks.

By this time, we knew there were no more Jews left in any of the city ghettos, and realized that we were next in line, sooner or later. Although we were supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the Wehrmacht (army), evidently the Gestapo had the upper hand. We were spared only because they did not know that some of us slept in the building at the entrance to the farm, away from the barracks.

In the Fall of 1943, the work on the farm was getting scarce; the women had no work except helping out in the kitchen, and I was still helping out in the stable.

Occasionally, once or twice a week, they would bring in some of the remaining Jews from the surrounding farms to work in the potato fields. They would only stay one night in the barracks, and then go back.

A family from Chortkov, the Tannenbaums, was with us all along since we left the city. The man was a building engineer, and had a wife and a son. One day they all disappeared, and went into hiding at a gentile family home. Of course, nobody knew with whom and where in the village.

At about the same time, my mother was friendly with a certain farm hand and his wife, and she would barter with them occasionally. Hearing about the Tannenbaums, she started to negotiate with them about a hiding place for us. He offered to hide us in his attic and to feed us, and my mother promised to give them whatever she had left in the sack, which was not much. I began to get friendly with him too, and found out a little more about him. He was a good natured man, not an anti-Semite, yet: uneducated like the majority of farm hands.

One thing bothered both, my mother and myself, he seemed to lack something, as if he "was not all there," even most of the other farm hands did not associate with him. I finally decided to investigate his place and set up with him to meet one night outside the gate, where he would take to show me the hiding place. I had nothing to lose, except being caught in the village by the Ukrainian police.

His was a very small house with a straw roof, surrounded by other houses just like it. The attic was not much of a hiding place. He promised to close off a small section where we would be sitting or laying down, and would put some chickens in the rest for an excuse to come up to feed them.

The house did not look solid enough and was very poorly constructed. Such a hiding place would be easily discovered, and the proximity to the other neighbor's houses was also a problem. His wife was very gracious and seemed to be sincere.

I told them I would discuss this with my mother and left by myself, trying to avoid anybody on the road. After describing everything to my mother and not feeling too secure with them, she concurred and said she had her suspicions for a different reason. We tried to stall them for a while, and in a case of an emergency we probably would have gone there.

On the right side of entrance, outside the farm wall but on the property belonging to it, was a small building. It housed a Polish farm hand, named Urban, and his family. Adjoining to the building was a stable and yard where he kept some pigs, goats, and chickens. There was also a big stack of hay in the yard which was prepared for the winter. Unbeknown to him, I tried to sneak in there a few times during the evenings--jumping his fence and investigating the place for a possible hideout. Though he was a good natured man, after discussing it with my mother, we decided not to ask him for a hiding place. Instead, I alone would go in every night and sleep in the haystack, without telling any one else.

I still wore my jump suit with tools in different pockets, and without ever getting undressed. I used to sneak in at night, made a hole in the haystack and slept very soundly. It was the best sleep I had in a long time. Because in the back of my mind there was no fear of being discovered, except by the farmer and the most he would do is chase me away. Though, I had to be very careful about sneaking in there so no one would see me. It was a very good solution for me through September, but in October it started to drizzle and the cold was setting in. My mother slept in the building also with her clothes on, ready at all time to join me in an emergency.



XII. THE DREAM

During one of these cold drizzly nights, I had a dream about another action that's going on. The Germans and Ukrainians are running after us, I am being chased, and tired of running I want to give myself up. At that point, my father appears and tells me not to give up, saying it is the last action they are going to make. Pointing out it is the last day of the month and that I shall try to survive this day. The next day, I told my mother about the dream and she said I should still stay in the haystack, even though it was getting colder. She also said that at the end of the month, October, she will come and join me.

On the farm itself, there was even less work for outside people and they came only once a week, and sometimes did not stay overnight. On one of those trips, a small boy came, about 11 years old, and was sent to work in the stable. I knew his family, Ringel, from the city, where we lived in the same neighborhood during 1938. He was happy to see me, since he was alone. The rest of the family was killed in the ghetto, and he joined a group of people as they left for the farms. Now, he decided to remain in our farm, the farm hands let him sleep in the stable, and they also fed him.

One day, when people from a different farm came to work in the potato fields, I met a fellow whose name was Musiek Engelbach. Now, he lives in Jerusalem and his name is Rajski. His brother was a friend of mine, while he was a classmate of my sister in 1939-41 in the Hebrew gymnasium. It was their basement that I remained in when I was transporting bodies at the first Action. They both came to their farm from the ghetto when their parents were killed, and recently the brother was shot during the action on the farm when they both tried to escape.

During our conversation, I noticed he had a flashlight in his pocket. I inquired about it and he said "it's of no value because it is impossible to get batteries." I had not seen a flashlight in a long time and even on the farm, nobody had it. He saw that I was excited about the flashlight, and I told him of a place, outside the main gate, on the hill, where there used to be a building with a tavern. The building was shelled and destroyed during the First World War, and all that remained is a cave-like entrance. The peasants used to tell us that there are cellars and connecting passages which lead to the forest. Additional benefit was that the peasants had a superstition about it, believing whoever goes in there never comes back.

I told him I would like to explore that place for a possible hiding place and asked him for the flashlight. Giving it to me he said, "What are you going to do about batteries? Where are you going to get them ? We decided to meet the next week, if they would be coming to work, and hopefully by then I would have batteries. I was very excited that evening. My fantasy about discovering a hiding place kept me from falling asleep in the haystack.

The next day I asked every farm hand I met, if they might have batteries for a flashlight, offering to exchange it for an item of clothing. Nobody had it. I went to the manager of the farm, Mr. Bezpalko, who always used to treat me nice, telling him that I needed batteries for a flashlight. As I mentioned before not only was he a former officer in the Austrian army during World War One, but he was the leader of the Ukrainian Resistance Movement in the vicinity. He smiled and wondered what would I do with it. He told me the village store should have it. He said to go at night, tell them that he sent me, and to make sure nobody saw me going and coming.

I waited a couple of days for a dark, moonless evening and decided to go. There was a light rain falling, I sneaked out unnoticed and proceeded toward the village store on the same road I went to check out.the hiding place at the peasant's house.

Upon entering the store I thought I would faint from fear. All eyes focused on me as the place quieted down. The store was a meeting place of the youth, since they also sold vodka there. Now, the place was full, including some Ukrainian policemen. They immediately recognized me as a Jew and came over to inquire who I am and where I came from. Some of the youths knew me, coming over and patting me on the back for being brave by coming to the store.

I told the policemen that Mr. Bezpalko sent me to get batteries for a flashlight. They walked me over to the counter and told the store owner to give me two batteries. As I was paying, they told me to give Mr. Bezpalko regards, mentioning a couple of names. A few peasants, who knew me from when I rode the horse to the fields, made me sit down with them and have a drink of Vodka. I thanked everybody and was happy to leave the store, especially with the two batteries. Going back, I was trying to be cautious again and not to meet anybody. The light rain was in my favor.

I got back to the farm and told my mother about it and decided to spend the night in the room with her and the other people. I did not want to get out again, it was too late and still raining.



XIII THE CAVE (A POSSIBILITY)

When Musiek arrived the following week to work in the field, I told him that I procured the batteries. He couldn't believe it. Their group was staying overnight, because they had to finish a section in the potato field, so we concluded to meet at night at the cave entrance. I managed to get some heavy rope from the stable knowing we would need it, since I was there a few times previously. As it turned out, it was much easier and safer for us having the rope.

Late in the evening, avoiding the guard at the main gate, we met at the entrance. I had a spade and the rope with me, and we went down to the cave. It was a small place, originally probably a room and where children used to go in using it as a toilet. In one corner of the room, at the bottom, there was an opening and with the help of the flashlight, we could see the ground below. He tied the rope to a heavy rock and around my waist, lowering me slowly down. It was only a few yards down, I touched the ground, and asked for the flashlight.

This cavern was much larger and the bottom was covered with dirt heaps of different sizes, some fresh and still falling from the top. Now I could understand the peasants superstition, because the dirt and gravel was falling from the top and it could kill anyone standing under.

At the other end there was again an opening at the bottom where it was going horizontally. I told my friend to lower himself down on my shoulders and together we tried to figure the next step.

We took the rope and spade and went into the other opening. We couldn't see the end of that hole, but at least we did not need the rope this time. I went in crawling on my stomach, pushing the spade in front of me. I crawled for about 25 feet and found myself in an even larger cavern, this one also with dirt falling from the top.

I called for my friend to crawl through, and together we admired that place. Toward the other end, we saw a narrowing corridor with a cathedral like ceiling carved out in the dirt, and niches were also carved out on both sides. We could not believe our eyes, we could actually stand up in that corridor. We proceeded forward for about fifty feet and then it ended abruptly.

We could not figure it out, was it the end or did it cave in and was blocked? We tried with the spade in a few places, but it was a solid wall.

We were thrilled with that discovery, especially with that alcove and the carved out ceiling and niches where the dirt was not falling. Nobody would risk going in here to look for people. We thought it was a terrific hiding place and we should devise a plan for it, and my friend voiced his willingness to join.

It took us a while to get out.

After telling my mother about it, she was also optimistic, but said, "be careful with whom you confide, because it would be impossible for us to undertake such a task alone. We would have to provide food and water for a long time, as well as some other necessities. Beside, we do not have the money for food".

It was towards the end of October, the nights were cold and even with my winter jacket on I was still shivering in the haystack. For the last two nights of the month my mother came to sleep in the haystack with me, remembering my dream.

She brought along a heavy blanket and we slept together for three nights till the second day of November. Nothing happened in these three nights, and we were glad about it. We both went back to the building and I slept again in my bunk bed. We decided not to get undressed and to post a watch by the window looking out to the main road. Every man had to take a turn one night and it was quite difficult to stay awake all night.

Every day the peasants told us stories about movements of Russian partisans in our area, coming from the west and going eastward.

To substantiate their stories, they used to show us clippings from the Ukrainian newspaper about different sabotage acts and the burning of farmers' harvests, harming the Germans' food supply. With every day, these stories placed those partisans closer and closer to our vicinity.

Our friend, Jonas (the barber), who lived in the director's building, was very excited about it. He was a communist himself and worked as a policeman during the Russian takeover, and now he tried to talk us into joining these partisans should they come closer to us. We, ourselves, were also hoping that they would pass through our village and maybe take us along. It never materialized. Evidently, they were returning from their missions of sabotage and going eastward to join the regular Russian army, who at that time was already fighting in the Ukraine.

The farmers and the peasants in the village hated Jonas for two reasons; first for being Jewish, and second for being on very good terms with the director. Whenever he used to ride in the village with the director or his wife, he used to put down the peasants in front of them.

They knew of his ambition to join the Russian partisans and devised a plot to get rid of him.

They asked the farmers tell us that the Russian partisans are coming closer and on a certain time, during the night, the partisans would enter the forest close to our farm. Our village was a focal point of the Ukrainian underground in our vicinity, therefore Jonas fell for the bait and tried to enlist all of us. Of course, were weren't ready to undertake something like that based on rumors, and without an immediate danger to our lives, we refused.

Some of the farm hands followed him out of the farm to make sure he didn't turn back, later they told us what happened.

After walking the few kilometers to the forest, he saw a bonfire and ran towards it. He approached a group dressed in Russian uniforms and yelled excitingly-"Comrades, I am a Jew and a communist. I came to join with you and fight the Germans. " They were Banderovcis, from the underground Ukrainian Nationalistic group, but they played a little game with him letting him believe they were Russians, sang Russian songs with him, and finally told him who they really were. They tortured him brutally, before killing him.



XIV. THE "ACTION"

We got used to sleep with our clothes on, and every fourth night it was my turn to keep watch at the window. The watchmaker was elder than us, hence he was relieved out of the guard duty chore.

With the passing nights, some of the men began grumbling about staying up and watching through the window. They claimed "it's useless. The Germans could also come for us during the d~." I pointed out to them what a small sacrifice it is for us to assure a safer sleep for the others. But Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Brande were alone and they felt they were being taken advantage of.

Sure enough, one of them fell asleep during his watch, because we were awakened one night by the little boy, Ringel, who slept in the stable adjacent to our building. He was yelling for us to get up, telling us that there are many Ukrainian policemen in the stable. They came from Chortkov for the Jews.

It was the 30th of November, the last day of the month, five o'clock in the morning and completely dark outside. I jumped off the bunk bed, put my boots on and grabbed my mother trying to find a place where to hide. Mr. Brande suggested the basement in the hall. I opened the trap door, Mr. Brande and my mother went down the stairs, I stayed out, having to close the door from the outside.

I then decided to jump out from the second story window which faced toward the village. I ran back upstairs, the window was full with the watchmaker's tools, I then threw them all on the floor and opened the window. The little boy who was next to me said, "I'm jumping." I followed, not knowing if I will hit rocks that covered the ground.

I landed like a cat in the dark--not hurting myself except for a few bruises. At that moment Mrs. Gelber, the watchmaker's wife, started to yell for me to catch her two daughters. I heard her voice, but I knew it would be impossible for me to catch them from such a height. The little kid pulled me away, and we both started to run towards the village, away from the farm.

We ran alongside the riverbank, in the village we crossed the bridge and were running toward the woods which were located one mile across from the farm and river.

When we reached the woods, it was daybreak already and started to rain. We were exhausted and we sat down under a large tree to protect ourselves from the rain. We were still too close to the village, but for the moment we felt safe.

The big forest on the back side of the farm was safer, but we had to run away from the farm. We sat shivering, without much talk for about three hours, but then we heard screams coming from the farm barracks.

I didn't know how many people were there from other farms, yet the yelling and screaming continued. Then we heard rifle shots and machine-gun fire mixed with more screaming. The screams were terrifying.

Then I realized it was the last day of the month, and remembered my dream from before. I had high anxiety about my mother; is she going to be safe there? Will she be discovered?

The screaming and firing lasted for about half an hour, then it all quieted down. The boy and I sat and cried. At times, the rain became heavier, we were soaked and hungry, but we didn't dare to go out.

When darkness came, we decided to go out and look for food. Our hunger pains wouldn't let us sit there, but we did not know where to go. At the same time we wanted to find out what exactly happened, hoping against odds that my mother somehow was spared.

I knew a Polish farm hand in the village who worked on the farm and once, as we rode by to the fields, he showed me where his house was. It must have been late in the evening when I knocked on his window. They were sleeping. He opened the door, crossed himself, seeing me and the boy, and let us in.

We went inside. He told us that they murdered about sixty people outside the farm in the sand pits. The watchmaker and his two daughters were picked up after they had jumped, breaking their arm and legs and not being able to move.

He also told us that he did not see the watchmaker's wife and my mother being marched out with the people from the farm. He gave us food and milk, then said ',~you can't stay here. " We knew that and decided to go toward the forest.

We had to pass by the farm, and I decided to go in and see the Polish family who lived underneath us. They were very kind people, and as we walked into her home, she also crossed herself and said, "Quick come in." She took us to a back room, where we saw the mechanic Mr. Klein with his sister-in-law. (It turned out that she was his mistress, as the wife and son were shot that day.) Also in the room were the watchmaker's wife, Mrs. Gelber and a electrician, Mr. Kessler, who slept in the barracks. Somehow, they managed to elude the Ukrainian police, they hid out, and later came down here.

The woman's daughter, Basia, said to me, 'your mother was not killed. I was watching when they marched the people out from the stable after bringing them from the barracks. They told them they are being taken to another farm to work, and your mother was not there".

I went out and jumped through the fence, since the gate was closed, and searched the building. The cellar trap door was open, and nobody was inside. The daughter still insisted that my mother was not among the people who were shot. The woman told us, "stay here the rest of the night. There is no point in going to the forest. It is winter and you'll freeze and die. Maybe in the morning, the German director will let you stay".

Within an hour of us staying there, trying to doze a little, the door opened and in walked my mother with Mr. Brande. We hugged and cried.

She told me, Mr. Brande decided that it was not much of a hiding place and both walked out of the building. There was a small side gate by the building which was open at that time. By that time it was daybreak, they didn't see anyone at the gate and walked through. The Ukrainian police were by the barracks rounding up the people there. They walked on the main road by the village, nobody stopping them, till they came upon the village cemetery where both decided to hide out between the gravestones. The hunger forced them to go back toward the farm.

The next day, the German director said whoever wanted to stay on the farm can do so. But, he was powerless to stop the Gestapo and the Ukrainian police, because there was no more work here. However, he would keep us till springtime when we will work again.

We gladly accepted, we had no choice except go to the forest in the winter. We didn't know at this time that the Jews in the forest were all dead.

They were killed, either by the Ukrainian peasants while coming out at night in search of food, or by the German and Ukrainian police who combed the woods during daytime.

We were now left, a group of thirteen people.

It was already December 1943, and the news from the Russian front was getting more encouraging. The German armies were defeated at Stalingrad and were retreating. At the time, I was working at odd jobs, but mainly at the stable with the little boy, Ringel.

I decided to proceed with the hiding place in the cave which I and my friend, Engelbach, had explored. My mother let Mr. Brande, Mr. Goldstein, and the mechanic Mr. Klein with his mistress in on the plan.

Mr. Goldstein agreed to buy as much food as possible, and Mr. Brande and Mr. Klein wanted to see the place first before they committed themselves to join and work on it. We then waited for a dark night, the three of us went into the cave with me carrying the rope and the flashlight. Mr. Brande had a problem crawling through the second opening, he was a little on the heavy side, and we had to pull and push him. He worked as a carpenter, and said he will make it wider and build beds for us.

They both liked the place and didn't want to delay any longer, but to start working immediately. Every moon less night we were carrying boards for the beds, pails with water, bread, potatoes, carrots, and other raw vegetables. We were working on it for about three weeks, while trying to avoid the watchmen and the dogs.

Although we were being very careful, we were spotted sneaking out. One of the farm hands told me he heard the watchmen talking, but they had no idea where we were going. We decided on diversion; the next few nights we would go to a different location and start digging.

We picked a building which was located next to the house of the Polish farmer Urban where I used to sleep in the haystack. We made sure the watchmen saw where we spent a few hours every night.

After that, we resumed our normal task and even managed to get a small barrel for water. While working there most of the night, we found out that our candle would only stay lit for a short time, and it was very hard to breathe. We had to think of a way to improve the air supply.

We had no idea how deep we were from the top, but the only way to get air in would be to bore a hole all the way to the top. That was the hardest task we had to face. The carpenter and mechanic took a few broomstick handles, put them together, and attached a piece of blade from a spade.

We then took turns to bore upward, until the skin on our hands were full of blisters. We had no gloves and used rags to hold the sticks. The second night we had to attach two more handles, and we were overjoyed when we reached the top. We tried not to make a larger hole, because there was a road on the top that led to the main gate. We lit the candle and after a half hour, it stayed lit.

The next day, I went by the place on top and saw it was only about three inches in diameter, covered with little snow around it, so I left it alone. With Mr. Goldstein's and Mr. Brande's money, we were able to accumulate a supply of bread and vegetables to last us for a few weeks. We didn't realize that some of it would be spoiled.

In January of 1944, a visitor came to the farm office which was located in our building. He was the new Ukrainian bookkeeper, a nice looking young man in his late twenties with a short beard and a big moustache.

He said he was from the western part of Poland and spoke Ukrainian with an accent. He tried to associate only with the Ukrainian girls on the farm and the office personnel. He had a room in the office, where he slept.

Something about him looked familiar to me, but nobody else was paying much attention to him. He was avoiding the Jews, but I always greeted him by looking straight into his eyes. After two or three weeks, he called me to the office under a pretext that he needs some help. When we were alone, he revealed himself to me as Mr. Marmor from Chortkov and his family used to live in our vicinity. He knew we are from the city too, and begged me not to divulge it to the rest of the people.

A couple of weeks later, he suddenly disappeared, but we could not ask anybody what happened to him. After the liberation I met him in the city as a Polish army officer. He said he left for the big city of Lvov because they became suspicious of him.



XV. IN THE CAVE

Toward the end of January, the farmers were spreading rumors that the Gestapo and police from Chortkov would come to the forests and farms to flush out the remaining partisans and Jews. After a few days with the rumors still persisting, we decided to move into our prepared hiding place.

We were six persons, four men and two women. We snuck out two at a time; I with my mother, Mr. Brande with Mr. Goldstein, and Mr. Klein with his mistress, whom he now called his wife.

We met inside the entrance to the cave, taking our very little possessions with us and some more bread. It took us quite a while till we reached the section with the prepared beds and food.

It was very hard for the women and Mr. Brande to crawl on their stomachs through the small passage. After we settled in, we covered the last hole with a lot of dirt. If somebody would reach that spot, he would see only dirt.

To our disappointment, we found that all the bread, we had accumulated before, was green and moldy. We decided to eat the bread we brought with us first, so it would not get moldy. Everybody was exhausted from the entry, and we settled in for the night in the three beds we had prepared.

Mr. Goldstein surprised us with two more candles, he bought from a farmer. We didn't know how long we would be in the cave, so we decided on food rationing; one piece of bread with a vegetable a day, and a half glass of water three times a day. Mr. Brande would slice the bread and I would distribute the water.

We also started to keep a log of the date and day of the week. Through the opening we made for the air, we could see a trace of light for few hours during daylight, though later in the afternoon that little light was gone too.

One far corner before the alcove, we designated for our personal needs, and there was no way we could wash ourselves, except wet our face when we drank the water.

On the second day while eating, Mr. Goldstein lit a candle for a short while for reasons of conservation. Most of the time we spent sleeping.

During the second night, there was a slight noise coming from the spot where we covered the hole. We could not imagine what it could be, but it persisted. The first thought that came to mind was that we were found out. Now, they are coming for us, probably Ukrainians, Germans or both.

All of a sudden the hole opened up and a man crawled in, followed by two women. It was Mr. Lazar, his wife, and sister-in-law.

I was shocked. How could they have found out! They never followed us, but I realized one of us told them. I remembered how I used to see them huddled with Mr. Klein on many occasions. Evidently they bribed him, they were in the barracks and had no hiding place of their own.

They did not say anything except they would like to stay with us. Of course, we could not throw them out. They would easily betray us.

They did not bring any food with them, which was the main reason why we could not tell more people about the place. We did ask one more person, his name was Hanoch. He was my age, maybe one year older, he was alone, and slept at the German director's building, together with Jonas. He refused, and thought we were crazy for going in there. He was very popular with the Okrainian farmers, Mr. Bezpalko - the director's wife, and the Ukrainian girls, and maybe that was the reason why he stayed behind.

One far corner before the alcove, we designated for our personal needs, and there was no way we could wash ourselves, except wet our face when we drank the water.

On the second day while eating, Mr. Goldstein lit a candle for a short while for reasons of conservation. Most of the time we spent sleeping.

During the second night, there was a slight noise coming from the spot where we covered the hole. We could not imagine what it could be, but it persisted. The first thought that came to mind was that we were found out. Now, they are coming for us, probably Ukrainians, Germans or both.

All of a sudden the hole opened up and a man crawled in, followed by two women. It was Mr. Lazar, his wife, and sister-in-law.

I was shocked. How could they have found out! They never followed us, but I realized one of us told them. I remembered how I used to see them huddled with Mr. Klein on many occasions. Evidently they bribed him, they were in the barracks and had no hiding place of their own.

They did not say anything except they would like to stay with us. Of course, we could not throw them out. They would easily betray us.

They did not bring any food with them, which was the main reason why we could not tell more people about the place. We did ask one more person, his name was Hanoch. He was my age, maybe one year older, he was alone, and slept at the German director's building, together with Jonas. He refused, and thought we were crazy for going in there. He was very popular with the Ukrainian farmers, Mr. Bezpalko - the director's wife, and the Ukrainian girls, and maybe that was the reason why he stayed behind.

After our shock was over, we covered the hole, made peace with them, and realized that there were nine persons to share the food and water. We were in for a bigger shock yet to come.

The next day. when we started to eat, Mr. Goldstein lit the candle again and after a few minutes, the light went out. We thought somebody accidentally touched it or moved it, because there was no wind inside. Mr. Goldstein lit the candle again and after two or three minutes, the light went out again.

We begun to worry. We realized there was not enough oxygen in the cave, and we would have to bore another opening. We knew how many handles we needed and everybody took turns boring, even the women. It took us most of the night, and we hoped it would not be conspicuous on top, since it was by the road that led to the main gate.

After we rested and were ready to eat again, the candle was lit, few minutes later it went out again. We had to repeat the previous effort, and made the third opening. When we lit the candle for our meal, it stayed on and we were able to even shave by a small mirror. It was a relief to us, otherwise we would be forced to leave the place.

Most of our time was spent sleeping and telling stories in the dark.

By the seventh day, we were getting low on water, and started to give out only two half glasses a day. It was decided that I and Mr. Klein would have to go out and bring water from the farm well, located near the main gate outside the farm. The well had big wooden gutters for horses to drink from, on the way back to the stable. People from the vicinity used to come there and pump their water by hand. At what we thought was nighttime, we took four pails, one in each hand, dug ourselves out, and went to the entrance of the cave. It was a very clear evening, and the moon was out.

We decided to hold off until it was darker, we waited a couple of hours, but a full and bright moon was still out.

We decided not to take a chance and try again the next night. We went back and covered up the hole again. They all thought we were coming back with water, but were very disappointed.

Next night we waited a while longer, and to our delight, the moon was not out. We both went up to the well with the empty pails and put our faces right into the water gutter. We were drinking water mixed with straw, straight from the horses' gutters, yet we could not satisfy our thirst. We did not dare to pump in clean water, because the noise of the pump would attract the guards, so we filled our pails and headed back.

We returned, trying not to spill too much of it while crawling through the hole. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we could hold out a little longer.

Two days later, on our tenth day in the cave, we suddenly heard noises coming from above through the air holes. We could not distinguish what was being yelled, but after a while we realized they were children voices. We also knew that in the winter the village kids came to that hill for sleigh-riding. Very soon, little gravel started to come through those holes followed by what seemed like water. We knew that we were discovered, and there was no use staying any longer. We decided to wait until nightfall to get out.

It took us a while until we all got out to the entrance cave, taking our personal possessions with us but leaving all the food behind. the night was dark and cold, and more snow had fallen since our last excursion. Seeing nobody at the entrance, we decided to split into three groups and go into different directions.

Not knowing where to go, I suggested to go toward the house of the Polish farmer, Mr. Urban, where I used to sleep outside in the hay.

We knocked on his door, and he let us in. He told us that because of our cooking, our cave was discovered, and the Ukrainian policemen had been notified. When we told him that we did not cook, he started to laugh.

He then told us that, after the snowfall in the morning, kids came out with their sleds on that hill and noticed smoke coming out from three holes in the ground. They told their parents, and they came out to look. Knowing that we disappeared from the farm ten days before, they concluded that we were below and have a stove. All the yelling we had heard from above was, "the Jews are below cooking," and that they would notify the police. The snow melted around the three holes from the warm air of our breathing.

To his surprise, we told him that the police never arrived. Evidently, they did not want to go after us at night, knowing the cave is dangerous.

Mr. Urban let us stay over night in his stable, and told us that nothing had happened on the farm since we left, and that everybody is still there.

In the morning, we went back to the farm and joined the other people. We were told that the director had asked about us, and probably would not say anything if he did see us. We were also told that the little boy, Ringel, had disappeared and nobody knew where to. We were quite worried about him and thought that he went back to his previous farm, but he was never seen again and did not survive.

We again began our daily routine. The women were helping out in the director's kitchen, while I went back to the stable with the horses. One day I discovered that our sack was gone with the few possessions we had in, mainly family photos. It was taken by someone who thought it contained some valuables, because we never parted from it, and felt sad about it.

It was February and quite cold. The ground was covered with snow, but we were mostly indoors. At that time, we developed a hygienic problem - lice. Not removing our clothing often and not washing, we all had this problem. Even washing the underwear with boiling water did not help. Each person had to find a spot for himself, outside in the snow where no one would see him, and pick the lice from his clothing. The toughest place was in the pubic area, and everyone had their own routine and time of the day.

One morning a number of military trucks with soldiers pulled into our farm. We were too scared to go out, but the farm hands calmed us, telling us they are a military convoy retreating from the Russian front. They stayed for a few hours, did some repairs on the trucks, and left. We were elated to see the beginning of their retreat with our own eyes.

Within few days, a column of tanks was seen approaching our farm. When we saw those soldiers with the black "death skulls" on their caps, we ran inside thinking they were S/S troops. But, later we found out that they were regular army tanks in need of repairs.

Mr. Klein, the mechanic, was assigned to help them with the repairs. They were mostly young men taking a rest from the fighting, the farm was quite suitable for them, and they extended their stay for a week. Mr. Klein spoke German very good and told them he was a Jew. When he told them what the German occupation forces did to the Jewish people, they could not believe it. He also told them about us, the few remaining Jews here, and towards the end of their stay they came to our quarters, giving us food and military rations. We thanked them, and they encouraged us to hold out a little longer.

They saw the handwriting on the wall, and instead of returning to the front they proceeded into Poland, offering us a ride with them even to Crakov.

It was the beginning of March, still another group of military trucks and soldiers stopped at the farm, on their retreat. These soldiers were very young, some eighteen and nineteen years old. They were very friendly to us, glad they could communicate in German. Finding out that we are Jews and what happened to us and our families, they cried in disbelief, saying "umglaublich umglaublich' - (unbelievable-unbelievable).

They wrote letters to their families from our quarters, telling them what they heard from us. They too brought us food rations every day. When the time came for them to leave, they gave us things like chocolate and honey cookies which we did not see or eat for a long time.

They also offered to take us to Poland or Germany. When we could not accept their offer, they brought us a few boxes of candles and encouraged us to hide out during this transition period.

Hanoch, a fellow from our group, took them up on their offer to ride with them to Poland. He was a bachelor, and thought of having a better chance to hide out by himself in a big city in Poland. He advised us to find a good hiding place now that we have enough food. Hopefully, he said, it would not take too long for the Germans to retreat and the Russians to come. I told~him that we would be going back to the cave, though not in the same location, and we would dig out a new hole, big enough to hold us. He said, 'you are crazy for going to the same place. The peasants know, the Ukrainian police know, you're taking a big chance" I told him we did not have any other place to hide, and whether we survive or not, it would not matter. We were living to see the defeat of Germany, and for us this should be enough of a satisfaction. We would try to hide so the peasants would not kill us, for they would be afraid of us being witnesses for the Russians, against them.

It was also nice to know that not all German soldiers were killers, and some even tried to help us, though it was toward the end.

He said 'good bye, " wished us luck, and left with them the next day.

A few days later another transport of young army men arrived. They stayed about ten days, fixing their trucks. They were also friendly to us, and gave us food when they were leaving. They told us that there were no more German troops behind them, and it would not take long for the Russian army to move in.

We decided it was time to go into hiding again. To our disappointment, Mr. Brande and Mr. Goldstein refused to join us this time, saying they will go through the back roads back to Chortkov where it would be safer to hide out on the outskirts. They thought it would be safer than going to a place where we had been discovered before. They left the next morning, and the same afternoon we heard rumors that they were pursued by the peasants and were killed.

After the liberation, we met Mr. Goldstein in Chortkov. He told us that the Ukrainians did chase them with hatchets and caught Mr. Brande, but he was able to outrun them. They sure did not want any Jews left as witnesses.


XVI. LIBERATION

That same night, March Twentieth, we went back into the cave, taking all the food and a few pails of water with us. This time we were seven persons: three from the ~ars, Mr. Klein and his mistress, and my mother and I. Upon entering the cave, I suggested to dig a hole at the first opening. I reasoned that the peasants knew where we were before, but they would never imagine we would be hiding right near the entrance.

Everybody concurred. It was a chance which happened to be the right one.

We, the three men, started to dig the hole, straight down like a grave. We could not finish by morning, so we were very quiet during the day, as not to arouse any suspicion by anyone passing by, and the next night we finished the hole.

It was deep enough for us to sit down, stand up, and to stretch out. We left an opening, big enough for a person to squeeze through, and covered it with dirt. We poked two, short, air holes right into the side of the cave entrance. We planed to use the candles for no more than five to ten minutes at a time.

We also could not dig another hole for our personal necessities. We decided instead that those who wanted to relieve themselves would have to open the hole, go and crawl to the previous spot. This time, we did not have any air vent to the outside and could not tell whether it was day or night.

After two days we heard artillery explosions, and it was music to our ears. We opened up our hole a little, but could not tell from how far they come. It did not matter to us whether it was Russian artillery, German's, or probably both. We knew that the front line could not be far off. It lasted for quite a while, maybe a day and a night and then it stopped.

We opened up the hole again to the cave and saw it was night time. I pulled myself up, came close to the entrance, but could not see or hear anything outside.

After a while I went back, told them about it, and we could not figure out what could have happened. If the artillery shelling stopped, it meant either the Germans retreated and the Russian army passed, or the front stabilized and it was a lull for the time being. But, if the Russians passed, why did we not hear any commotion from the village even at night?

Unbeknown to us, the Russian army had passed the village already. They did not leave any troops there, because that village was the center seat of the Ukrainian Nationalist Resistance. They knew about it, and did not want to take chances with local fighting. It was the twenty-fourth of March and Chortkov was already liberated.

We could still hear, occasionally, faint artillery shelling from far away. For the next few nights we tried to listen at the cave entrance for voices or any noise coming from the village to give us a clue of what had happened. Time was passing, and we were worried when to go out. We did not know the status outside, while our food and water was running low.

The fellow, Hanoch, who hitched a ride with the German soldiers, changed his mind and asked them to drop him off at his home town, Yagielnica, which was close by. He knew quite a few peasant girls who were willing to let him stay hidden in their homes, though he did not have to stay there long.

Within few days, on March twenty-fourth, his home town was also liberated, and a large group of Russian troops remained in there. He did not waste too much

time and volunteered to pinpoint to the military authorities the Ukrainians who killed Jews and collaborated with the Germans.

He also found out that on the twenty seventh of March, the Tenenbaum family, the engineer his wife and son, who went into hiding with a peasant family in our village, were killed on the street by the local nationalists. The peasant, they stayed with, told them that the Germans retreated, Chortkov was liberated, and they could go back home. His deed was a noble one, even if he was paid for it. For, if the Germans would have discovered the hiding place, he and his family would have been shot.

Upon walking out and going toward the main road, toward the city, they were surrounded by some Ukrainians who chopped their heads off with axes.

Again, they did not want any Jews left alive to be witnesses.

When Hanoch heard about this murder, he started to inquire from the few local Jewish survivors who traveled to Chortkov, if they saw or heard about a Morgenstern family who survived. Nobody had heard about us. He could not understand that and traveled to our city to see for himself that we were not there. There were about fifty to sixty survivors at that time who were hidden by Polish or Ukrainian families. Most were single persons or couples, some were still walking on crutches, from being confined to sitting or laying position in crammed spaces.

He went to the military commandant (there wasn't any civilian government yet), and told him that there are a number of Jews hidden in the village of Ulashkovce and they have to be rescued. He also told him about the murder of the Tenenbaum family on the street in broad daylight.

He asked for a truck with a few soldiers to take to the hiding spot, but the commandant refused; saying he cannot divert military vehicles in time of war. Besides, he has no authority to send soldiers to that village, because it is the seat of the Ukrainian nationalists, and the soldiers lives would be endangered.

He went back to his hometown, got a hold of a Jewish army officer, and told him about us being trapped in a cave and the Tenenbaum family murder. The officer told him to prepare two bottles of vodka, and he will arrange it right away.

The next day was March the thirtieth, the Jewish officer provided an open army truck with three soldiers, and they left for the village with Hanoch as their guide. When they drove through the village main road and pulled up in front to the entrance of the cave, the peasants realized that they came for us, and they started to gather across on the main road.

We passed most of our time, in the hole, by sleeping and telling stories. Mr. Klein was a very good story teller and we enjoyed listening. He was also very confident that we would survive and promised everybody that when we would be liberated, we would come and stay in his place in Chernovitz (formally Bukovina-Romania).

Still not knowing the time of day or what date it was, we heard a distant sound of a motor. Being deep down, we could not make out whether it was a truck, tractor, or something else. The sound continued, and we decided to open the hole a little. At this point, we could tell it was the sound of a truck and a voice yelling.

We were scared.

Our first reaction was that the truck is in front of the entrance, and we were discovered. We closed the little opening, afraid it would be spotted, if they come in.

We did not know whether they were Germans, Ukrainian police, or both. Minutes later, we heard the voice yelling from inside the entrance. We tried to listen in a deafening silence through the air vents, and were able to make out the voice of Hanoch, calling in Yiddish my name and Mr. Klein's name.

We did not know what to do! Maybe he was caught, and they are forcing him to lure us out. The calling came from all directions because he did not know the exact spot our hole was. Again, we decided to open up a little and now we could clearly hear him yelling, "Boomek, Klein, kymt aroys--the Sovieten zeynen du" (Boomek was my name in Polish.) (Come out, the Soviets are here.)

We were deciding whether to comply or sit tight, as he keeps yelling, "Mir kennen nyscht schteyn mehr" (We cannot stay more.) But, some of us were still apprehensive; it was an old German trick to catch a child or man and force them to give out the hiding place of parents or friends.

He came very close to our hole and yelled, "Boomek, Klein oyb ihr hertmich- doos letzte mool, kymt aroys. Mir kennen nyscht schteyn mehr" (If you hear me, for the last time, come out. We cannot stay any more.) That calling for the "last time" triggered our reaction. Though, we did not understand what he meant by "we," we started to dig out the opening, saying whatever will be, will be.

I used a spade. Mr. Klein was digging with his hands helping me through faster. I was pushed out, and when I saw Hanoch, we kissed and hugged. He said the Russians are outside the entrance and we have to get going fast. Mr. Klein was pushing up the women, while Hanoch and I were pulling them out. The last were Mr. Lazar and Mr. Klein. When the Russian soldiers and the Jewish officer saw us coming out from the cave, black with dirt, weak and confused, they burst out crying. It must have been some sight.

The officer told us to get on the truck and lay down, and the soldiers helped us up. Then, I noticed the big crowd of villagers standing across the road, gazing at us, and realizing why the soldiers and Hanoch came here.

It was starting to get dark, and as the soldiers were covering us with a tarpaulin, shooting broke out, and bullets started to fly. The truck was hit in a few spots, but we were in a daze unaware of what was going on. The soldiers on the truck and in the cabin were returning fire, going full speed by the crowd and out of the village.

They brought us to their army post in Yagielnica, Hanoch's home town, bathed us, and gave us food and different clothing. We probably looked like animals to them. They kept us overnight for safety reasons, aware of the Ukrainian nationalist in the area.

Next morning, after breakfast, they put us on a truck and brought us to our city Chortkov. We kissed and thanked them for liberating us from the cave and probably a certain death by the hands of the Ukrainian nationalists. It was March thirty first 1944, one week after Chortkov was liberated.


XVII. FREEDOM

We were dropped off in center of the town not knowing what to do first. We split up, as Mr. Klein and his mistress decided to hitch a ride with the Russian soldiers to their city Chernovitz, in Bukovina, which was also liberated. He begged us to come there later and look him up. My mother and I decided to go over to a Polish family, our former neighbor, where we lived by the river, during the 1930's.

My mother thought maybe they would put us up for few days and help us find a small apartment later.

After greeting and kissing us, they said, "Oh how nice that you survived," asking where and how? They were somehow shocked to see us, they were not too happy to receive us, but still asked us to stay for dinner. It must have been a guilt feeling by some, for looking the other way during the annihilation of the Jews.

They gave mother a couple sheets and pillow cases. We thanked them and went back to the center town square, not knowing where else to go. Our hope was to meet other Jews who survived, and we soon met some people. Some were on crutches, and were glad to see anybody who survived.

To my biggest surprise, I met my best friend, Dolo Wartenfeld (now in Israel,) who survived with his sister and an eight year old niece; all hiding in a former maid's house. We cried and hugged. He was liberated already for a week, and lived in one of the buildings where the families of the German Gestapo and police lived before being evacuated. Now, there were a few other Jewish survivors living in the building.

The building was near the city prison and before the war was occupied by Polish officers and their families. He said there were plenty of unoccupied rooms filled with furniture. He took us there, and we settled in one of the rooms, happy to be near them. We had the sheets, a bed to sleep in, and his sister gave us a blanket and a pillow.

Mother and I were still like in a lethargy for the first and second days. We did not realize what was going on and what we were supposed to do. Though by then, I knew that I no longer had a father and a sister.

The explosion of artillery shots and some air raids by German bombers made us realize that the war was still going on, and the front was only fifteen km away. In the beginning, we used to run down to the basement when the planes came, later we got used to it, even when the building was shaking, and we stayed in our rooms.

On the fourth day of our staying there, the third of April, the German army launched a counter offensive and broke through the Russian lines. The Russian army was retreating again.

We and the other Jewish survivors in the building decided to go with the army and leave right away. It was snowing and cold. Mother and I were wearing sandals which the Russian soldiers gave us in Yagielnica. Our feet were wet. It was a short-lived freedom We were walking through the city like ghosts toward the road that led eastward to Russia.

On the outskirts of the city we met more Jews who also decided to follow the Russian army. Everybody tried to get on an army truck, but it was not easy. All the trucks were packed with soldiers and when they had room for one or a few persons, we had to split up. They tried to be helpful to us, knowing what the Germans would do to us.

My mother had hopes of reaching Kiev. Maybe someone survived from her or my father's family, and we would stay together. As we were getting a lift on one of the trucks, we could hear artillery explosions in the distance.

We went to the next town, Kopytchynce. The trucks made an overnight stop and would continue the next day. We were put up in a school auditorium on cots. The next morning we met our cousin, Jack Glaser, who lived in the town. He was walking on crutches, since he had been confined to a crawl space for a long time, hidden by a friendly peasant's family.

He was the sole survivor from a large family, all were murdered by the Germans; his wife and children, parents, sister, aunts and uncles, and their families. He was very happy to see us, but could not join us. He was recruited to the army and had a notice to report to duty. Mother met a Russian army officer who was from Kiev, and he took us on his truck promising to take us there.

The second night, we reached the town of Podwolochisk which was on the prewar Polish-Russian border. We could not continue. The snow storm made the road impassable, and the convoy had to stop. The soldiers mobilized the local population, with shovels, for an all night road cleaning job. Because of heavy drifts in the road, it looked like a job for a few days. Therefore, the officer with whom we traveled took a room from a peasant's house and we had food and a warm place to stay with him. Other people were not so lucky, they had to stay outside with the trucks.

The next day we went to the center of the town to look for any Jewish survivors. Someone told us that there were two brothers from Buchach who were working in the army recruiting office.

My mother had hopes of reaching Kiev. Maybe someone survived from her or my father's family, and we would stay together. As we were getting a lift on one of the trucks, we could hear artillery explosions in the distance.

We went to the next town, Kopytchynce. The trucks made an overnight stop and would continue the next day. We were put up in a school auditorium on cots. The next morning we met our cousin, Jack Glaser, who lived in the town. He was walking on crutches, since he had been confined to a crawl space for a long time, hidden by a friendly peasant's family.

He was the sole survivor from a large family, all were murdered by the Germans; his wife and children, parents, sister, aunts and uncles, and their families. He was very happy to see us, but could not join us. He was recruited to the army and had a notice to report to duty. Mother met a Russian army officer who was from Kiev, and he took us on his truck promising to take us there.

The second night, we reached the town of Podwolochisk which was on the prewar Polish-Russian border. We could not continue. The snow storm made the road impassable, and the convoy had to stop. The soldiers mobilized the local population, with shovels, for an all night road cleaning job. Because of heavy drifts in the road, it looked like a job for a few days. Therefore, the officer with whom we traveled took a room from a peasant's house and we had food and a warm place to stay with him. Other people were not so lucky, they had to stay outside with the trucks.

The next day we went to the center of the town to look for any Jewish survivors. Someone told us that there were two brothers from Buchach who were working in the army recruiting office.

We were in for a nice surprise. They were our cousins Jozef and Israel Rabinowicz who survived with their wives, hiding with a peasant family. The front line was near their city so they left and settled temporarily in this town. Working in the army recruiting office was a privilege, exempting them from fighting at the front and allowing them to move freely with special documents.

We met their wives and told them about our plan of going to Kiev. They tried to talk us out of it saying, you don't know whether anybody from the family is alive, besides when the war ends, we an have to try to get out and go to Palestine."

They also told us that the Germans did take back Chortkov for only three days, but then were pushed out of the city, again. It is now safe to go back and they would issue us special travel documents (with forged signatures), allowing us to move freely. We decided to go back to Chortkov and looked for a ride on a truck. Most of the army convoy also started to return, therefore we had no trouble getting back to the city. Somehow, I was separated from my friend Dolo, his sister, and niece, and I was hoping they would also return.

Coming Back to the city, we found out that the front line was pushed 30 km away, instead of the previous 15 km. We could still hear the artillery explosions from far away, but the air raids by German planes stopped. This time it was the turn of the Russian planes, every day I saw them flying toward the German lines and returning after the raids. Also news on the radio announced daily that new cities and towns, including Lvov, were being liberated from the Germans. After consolidating their victories, the red army stopped their offensive for two to three months before starting the next one, deeper into Poland.

The place we stayed before, the former Polish officer's building, was already occupied by new Russian families who were assigned to take over the normalization of the city life: commerce, industry, banking, and general civilian life.

My mother met a Jewish woman she knew. She also survived with her son and daughter hiding at a peasant's home. They did not escape with us, but went back into hiding for the few days the Germans came back. Afterwards, they were able to secure for themselves a nice apartment in a former Jewish house whose owners did not survive. The woman invited my mother and me to stay in one of the rooms and help her sell various items in the market place.

During the German occupation the house was taken over by a Ukrainian family who worked for the Germans. When the Germans retreated, they and many other families like them, having a guilty conscience, retreated with the Germans into Germany. After the war most of them surfaced as refugees in the U.S.A. and Canada, Iying on their application.

I went to the newly reopened office of the grain concern where I worked before, 1939-41, hoping to get my old job back. There was a new Russian director and staff and only one girl knew me from before. She was very happy to see me, and I got my job back without any difficulty.

They needed more people, but the problem arose for males with army eligibility. They started to call males from eighteen years and up to join the Russian or Polish army. They created a separate Polish unit, consisting of former Polish and Jewish prisoners in Siberia. They also included former Polish citizens from our territory.

My friend Dolo came back with his sister and niece, and they also had to look for a new place to stay. My mother and his sister were worried about us being taken to the army.

Most of the single fellows who survived did not wait to be called, they volunteered and were shipped out. A few of them died later in battles on the Polish or German territory. My mother had hoped that the war would end soon. There was no question the Russian army would be victorious with or without the allies. We would then go to Kiev, maybe some of our relatives survived and we could live near them.

I was able to collect my first Biweekly paycheck at work. Mother managed also to earn some money in the market place. We had enough money to live temporarily, but she still worried about me being called to the army. She came up with an idea that Dolo and I should go to Chernovitz which was in Bukovina, formerly Rumania till 1940. We had the address of Mr. Klein who was with us on the farm, and maybe he could help us.

Some people were able to go to Bucharest in Rumania, with the hopes of getting to Palestine as soon as the war would be over. Rumania itself was barely touched by the war, neither was its Jewish population. The German army never occupied their territory, and the Jewish population there did not suffer as much as the other European Jews.

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