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Chapter 2:

Lanowitz-Holocaust and its Aftermath

 

[Hebrew pages 56-68] [Yiddish pages 313-328]

In the Lanowitz Ghetto,
From the Beginning until its Liquidation

By Moshe Rosenberg

In June 1941 the Russians authorities packed their bags and returned to Russia. The Soviet garrison that remained held the town for a few days, and then retreated eastward. During their retreat the soldiers lost their way and returned to our town from the direction of Bielozurka. The German army encircled the garrison. Lanowitz became a battleground. The shooting continued for many hours with the residents in immediate danger. Thereafter the garrison surrendered and peace returned to the town.

This is How the Germans Arrived

A group of 3 German tanks arrived at first. The tanks climbed to the hilltop where the Pravoslavic Church is located. They positioned themselves opposite Glinick's house. The Ukrainian residents came out to see the new conquerors. Children and old men came to see the newcomers. This is the first time this crowd had seen a tank, it was sensational. There was also another factor: these people felt instinctively that it is desirable to develop friendly relations with the German platoon. To this end someone went to Zelig's house, where a Russian cooperative was located, took out a gramophone and started to play music in the middle of the street. The gramophone was placed on one of the tanks, playing popular music.

Mechanized troops and cavalry followed the tanks. At the beginning the troops marched through the streets, thereafter they decamped to the “Blote” meadow. The next morning the soldiers spread through the town in search of food for their platoon and their horses. The soldiers entered all of the Jewish houses, removing from them sacks of grains, vegetables, flour and barley, items that saved in these homes for a “rainy day”. There were instances where soldiers forced Jews to bring to their encampment these food items. It was not the food confiscation itself, but the manner in which it was carried out that introduced Nazi mentality to us.

The soldiers asked politely for butter, pork-chops and poultry. This state of affairs continued for a week, accompanied by tension and uncertainty. Confiscation of food for the soldiers and their horses re-occurred daily. The rhythm of life as we knew it heretofore came to a standstill. After a week the army departed. High ranking Nazi officials arrived in private cars and left again. A small number of German officials remained to organize the local government. It is worth noting that at the beginning these officials did not maltreat local Jews. Here and there a bearded Jew was accosted and his beard cut off. The first victim was Michael the blacksmith. His beard was shorn by a soldier's bayonet. Otherwise the German officials confined themselves to uttering slogans such as “Russian kaput”, “Jews kaput”, “Poles are kaput” but Ukrainians are “good”.

Our Neighbors Rule Us

Local administrative power was given to the Ukrainians. During the previous Soviet rule key local administrative positions were given to Jews, this time only Ukrainians were selected for these positions. With Ukrainians having local power, our troubles started. The Ukrainian officials visited Jewish homes to take their men to work. and to kill them. It was clear that these officials first dealt with Jews with whom they wanted to settle personal scores. Yisrael Katz, Mitzi Spiler, Naphtali and Eliezer Viner were their night casualties. These men were killed near the house of Lieber Bronstein and buried there. With Berchik the officials dealt differently, breaking his arm and beating him, then releasing him. He was murdered later, but after the first night, but he was indeed released after his beating the first night.

Sixty men were murdered during the first night of terror. After these killings, the Ukrainian murderers came to Alik Zap and Joseph Kleinman, gave them shovels and forced them to bury the dead. These tow Jews also disappeared. Our impression was that the Ukrainian authorities were gradually perfecting their killing methods.

The Ukrainian officials also maltreated Jewish girls. They either killed them or released them after raping them. In general, judging by the men and women they selected for mistreatments, these Ukrainians were settling old personal scores. For example, Buriah Margalit was dragged from his home to the police station. His parents cried for help from anyone. Next they sought the help of the local German governor, whose office was located next to the railroad-station. The governor mocked his parent telling them “Your son is not being killed, do not bother me. Buriah's parents returned home, helpless. Buriah disappeared. It later came out that Buriah's kidnapping was an act of revenge by a Ukrainian for injury that Buriah inflicted to the man's son.

While all these criminal activities were proceeding, the German authorities stood aside, permitting the locals to do whatever harm to individual Jews as they desired to carry out. The German authorities were content to let the local Ukrainians do the dirty work against the Jews for them.

Forced Labor and Hostage Taking

The second phase of Ghetto incarceration started in August 1941. The Ukrainian authorities started to draft men for public works. Local Jews volunteered for this work at first because of its economic benefits. The Jews worked at loading freight cars at the local railroad-station. The workers would secretly bring clothing and kitchen implements with them for sale to Ukrainian farmers from nearby villages. The villagers waited for them at the freight yard. They trade food for these items. It is to be noted that the hunger in these Jewish homes commenced already during Soviet rule, due to the termination of capitalist trade. Under German-Ukrainian rule starting in July 1941, all commerce between Jews and Gentiles ceased. In this period Jews were primarily concerned to feed their families; they dreamt of food. However, when these Jews got a taste of the conditions attached to forced labor, i.e. the mistreatment on the way to and from the workplace, they started to avoid these assignments. The walk to the job assignment was accompanied by abuse on the part of Ukrainian guards. Young Ukrainians would throw stones at the marching workers. The workers had no one to complain to. Woe to him who complained about being mistreated.

The men who volunteered for work previously would hide in town to avoid being taken to work Women on the other hand were not mistreated. When workers were needed for an assignment, local gendarmes would come into Jewish homes to look for men. They even searched for them between houses. Sometimes they would enter a synagogue and kidnap all the men from young to old. Those who were qualified for work they would send to the work-station and the older men would be held hostage in an improvised jail. The shop of Yitzhak Burstein was fortified, and converted to house jail inmates.

Among those jailed were: Uziel Rabin, Yithak Melamed, Motil Spaizman, Moshe Teper, Moshe Kirschner. To these town notables a few outsiders were added, those that happen to be in the synagogue's Beis Midrash [small prayer room] to warm themselves during that winter month. We never got to see the above mentioned hostages again. We could only guess their bitter fate. These hostages did not have the opportunity to join us in the Ghetto.

German Authorities Prohibit Conception of Additional Jewish Children

After a while, Yacub Sotsky, the town's Soltis [elected village head], read a proclamation in the town-square to the effect that effective that day, Jews are forbidden to conceive additional children. He added that the punishment for the ordinance's transgression is castration for men and the sterilization of the woman. The ordinance was read in Ukrainian. Yisraelik reb Aharulis was responsible for its public translation into Yiddish and Polish. This Jew did not understand many of the pertinent Ukrainian phrases. He thus failed to translate the ordinance properly. His incompetence landed him in jail where the rest of the hostages were held. Later, Yerukham Froman and Uziel Reichman were added to those already in jail. Their fate was the same as that of the remaining hostages. In addition to those persons already mentioned to have been jailed, several other previous civil servants active under the Polish regime were also arrested and jailed in the Burstein house. The jail was filled to capacity.

The improvised jail had no toilettes. Its inmates had to “do their thing” inside the jail in the very room where they ate and slept. During the first weeks after the arrest, the inmate's families were permitted to bring them food once/day. Later this service was forbidden. The inmates were left to starve, to suffer a slow death. To this day no-one knows what happened to them at the end. According to accounts related by Ukrainians after the war, the inmates were driven to walk to towards Bielozurka. Those who saw them on this death-march noticed that they looked emaciated, some also wounded. Some locals alleged that they were murdered on the entrance-road to Bielozurka, and buried in a nearby mass grave.

A Ghetto is erected Within Lanowitz

After the 1941 High Holidays a rumor circulated in Lanowitz that the German authorities will be erecting a Ghetto for the local Jews. The first at house to be torn down according to this plan was the home of Asher Fogel. In this case the authorities left the old house standing but demolished the new part that was added to it subsequently. The new addition was attached onto the old house, as was customarily done in Lanowitz.

Jewish workers started the ghettoization project by erecting a 3-4 meter high fence around the planned premises. The raw material for the fence came from Jewish houses that its inhabitants abandoned when they fled the town together with their Soviet employers. With the fence erected, the Ghetto's dimension took shape. At the beginning of the month of Adar [February 1942], a city ordinance was read that ordered all Jewish residents to transfer to within the defined Ghetto within 2-3 days. Locals who lived outside the Ghetto started to negotiate with landlords within the Ghetto for lodging. The Ukrainian Soltis [mayor] ordered the families within the Ghetto to “double up”, i.e. shrink their house usage to accommodate their refugee brethren. This was generally done. The “insiders” accepted the “outsiders” in an orderly manner, sharing the new restriction and Ghetto living fate. Aside from Lanowitz residents, the Ghetto also accommodated the Jews of Bielozurka and those of Katburg, small hamlets located nearby, as well as refugees from German-occupied Poland that ended up in the Lanowitz area.

The Ghetto premises covered the area starting from the home of Ya'acov Gochman [the matzoh baker], then along the main street leading to the main synagogue all the way to the home of Simkhah Schneider. At the Schneider house the fence turned right in the direction of the home of Michael Golender. From there it continued to the home of Zalman Pines, and Shaindel Haikeles, then the home of Hayim Hersh Geller, where it joined the house of the aforementioned Ya'acov Gochman. All houses that were outside the fence were declared Hefker [abandoned property]. These remained empty of residents. The main synagogue now served as a granary [used for grain storage], half faced the free area and half was accessible from the Ghetto. The synagogue's main door faced the free area of the outside world. The synagogue, by virtue of its present usage was no longer under the control of the Jewish community. It's Beis Midrash [small sanctuary, used for weekday prayer sessions] was entirely within the Ghetto. It was used exclusively to house the destitute members of the community who were unable for some reason to arrange private housing within the Ghetto.

The Concentration of Lanowitz Jews in its Ghetto

Two days before Purim 1942 all of the Jews of Lanowitz were herded into its Ghetto. The Ghetto gates were closed, and were guarded by Ukrainian policemen. The latter were forbidden to enter the Ghetto, and its Jews were forbidden to leave it without permission. The Jew's entire existence and social contact was confined to within the Ghetto's small territory.

Before our family entered the Ghetto, we transferred our furniture to our Gentile neighbors. Our idea was to receive periodic food from them in return. We were forbidden to take furniture into the Ghetto, except for small items, for clothing bundles and beds. This restriction was not onerous because with the population density created by the Ghetto's dimension, we would not have been able to accommodate our furniture in the space allocated to us by our new landlord. There was no space for more furniture in the homes located inside the Ghetto, now that its residents had to “double-up”. We saw therefore no reason to keep our furniture. When we met our Gentile neighbors thereafter, they acted as if they had no obligation towards us. They rejected our demand for food, and essentially dissolved their relationship our family.

Many instances of robberies of Jews occurred during the period prior to the establishment of the Ghetto. German officials devised methods through ransom of relieving well-to-do Jews of silver and gold items. This was done officially, through the arrest, then release of a person against a fine. A sort of modus vivendi around this procedure was established

Dealing with robberies by Ukrainians was more difficult. These robbers would into town weekly. They knew their Jewish victims through prior relationships. The Ukrainian would hide near the rear of the house, enter it after darkness and take whatever he desired, for he knew that his victim had no recourse to the law. German officials or police would do likewise. Unlike the Ukrainians, who knew their victims status and resources well, Germans would enter into homes that were essentially empty of goods. They were attracted to jewelry and other items of value [Ukrainians sought more practical items for their kitchen, living room or barn-Ed.]

I remember a particular evening prior to our move into the Ghetto [their house was outside the Ghetto perimeter- Ed.]. That evening my father decided to take a sack of tobacco leaves to our new abode in the Ghetto. His plan was to use the leaves to hand-roll cigarettes, and smoke them to relieve the forthcoming depression he expected to be part of Ghetto life. Our house door opened suddenly, and a German came into our home unannounced. He looked around, took the bag of tobacco leaves and a few other things, and then departed. We had to suffer this robbery in silence, for there was no recourse to the law. The latter did not exist when it pertained to Jews. On another occasion several Germans entered our house [the author does not state whether they were soldiers, policemen or officials-Ed.], took our stored sacks of grain and other items, then left. Unlike the official extortions, which we learned to handle, these random private robberies were particularly painful, for they took our last valuable food item which we relied on to survive the war years.

For a few days after the establishment of our Ghetto Dr. Lutwack was still allowed to live outside our Ghetto in the [former] Polish community center. One morning he received an order from the authorities to move into the Ghetto. He appealed this order to the German commander, H. Richter, asking for permission to move into the Kremenec [the district capital] Ghetto instead. In his petition he cited his superior intellectual training, suggesting that he would fit better socially into the Kremenec Jewish community, as compared to the proletariat Lanowitz community. It was said that Dr. Lutwack also had friends in the Kremenec Jewish community. Herr Richter, the local commander agreed to Dr.Lutwack's request, furthermore suggested that Dr. Lutwack hire a number of carriage owners to carry all the belongings he wishes to move to the Kremenec Ghetto. Dr. Lutwack was delighted with Herr Richter's courteous attitude towards whim [Still in the pre-war mode of hierarchical thinking, where a Jewish doctor is treated with respect-Ed.] His hopes for a more pleasant future in the Kremenec Ghetto lifted his spirit. The carriages were filled with expensive items, including modern furniture. Once the carriages were all loaded, Herr Richter ordered the carriage owners to deliver Dr. Lutwack's goods to his house, and unloaded there. He told the unhappy doctor that he will not need these items in the Kremenec Ghetto.

[This is a stark illustration of the incredulity of some Lanowitz Jews, and the connivance of the Nazi governor. The latter was going to demonstrate to Dr. Lutwack an aspect of the new National Socialist (NS) order, that no Jew is privileged any longer-Ed.]

I witnessed this episode. The previous day I had to run an errand in the village of Katzenberg. On my return from Katzenberg I met the downcast Dr. Lutwack and wife, on their way to the Kremenec Ghetto.

This sadistic act on the part of Herr Richter opened our eyes to what is in-store for us, the remainder of the Jewish community of Lanowitz.

Organization of Lanowitz Ghetto Residents

Having completed the transfer of all local Jews into the Ghetto, the Community leaders sensed the need to organize many aspects of our lives that heretofore were strictly private or family affairs. We needed to develop:

  1. Means of equitable distribution of food to needy Ghetto inhabitants.
  2. Substitute to municipal services heretofore provided by the town administration such as garbage collection, daily water distribution, settling disputes, performing legal weddings, keeping birth, death and marriage records, etc.

Herr Richter was of like opinion. He appointed a JUDENRAT [city council], and a Jewish police force reporting to the Ukrainian chief-of-police. Both bodies were told that their main task is to carry out Herr Richter's orders in a faithful and orderly manner,

We were fortunate in Lanowitz that the selected councilors and policemen had the community's interest in mind and served us faithfully with minor exceptions [which are detailed subsequently].

[The reader is to be aware that this report by Mr. Rosenberg was written at a time after WWII, when sordid (yet true) stories circulated among survivors of the mean and criminal behavior of Jewish policemen in the Warsaw Ghetto, of arbitrary behavior of Judenrat leaders in the Lodz Ghetto and in other Ghettos]

The Judenrat chief was a refugee German Jew [who understood the mentality of Herr Richter, and was respected by him in turn]. Rat [council] members were:

Benik Grawitz, Mordechai Akerman (the husband of Susia), Bunim Brimmer, and two additional men whose name I no longer remember.

The Jewish police was commanded by Raphael Krepman. Its members were:

Mendel Kishkeh, Azriel Brodsky (son of Zelman), Yekheskel Weitzman, Avraham Karper (of the Mathes family), Leibkeh Weiss, Leiser Rosenberg (my nephew from the town of Tarkih) and others. The Jewish Ghetto police behaved honorably except for one man who failed us tragically due to his stupidity.

The first task tackled by the Judenrat was to organize a “soup kitchen” for the needy. The “kitchen brigade” was tasked to obtain food from various sources, legal and illegal. The Soup kitchen was located in the home of Mr. Wadas. The German authorities provided essential food stuffs, and our kitchen brigade added the rest. In this way we prolonged the life of the residents to some extent, many of whom were starving. The task of the kitchen brigade was not an easy one. An extra day of life was an extra day of hope that one will outlive the war period, and life will return to normal as we knew it. In the first month there was sufficient food for our people using the food reserves accumulated prior to the occupation. In addition, food was obtained from the nearby peasants through barter.

Residents would bring items of clothing to the synagogue. We of the kitchen brigade would take these items to the Ukrainian militiamen that guarded the local grain elevator. With their help we traded the clothing articles for potatoes, bread, legumes, and other items as required for the preparation of basic food that week. The aforementioned synagogue was part of the Ghetto wall, half within, half outside the Ghetto. Its main door faces the outside world. The Gentile peasants would bring their offerings to the door, and we our barter items inside the Shull. This trade continued for a while until we ran out of items to barter.

Hunger and Death in the Ghetto

At the beginning of our incarceration in this Ghetto the barter terms were: one suit= 100 kg sack of potatoes. As our barter supply diminished, the value of a suit decreased. The peasants sensed our poor bargaining position, so they started to offer us valueless item to barter. As time went on many Ghetto residents went hungry, some dying of starvation. The task of the Judenrat in providing for its residents became more difficult by the week.

The Judenrat was also obligated to provide manpower for specified public-work projects demanded by the German authorities. We were fortunate in the Lanowitz Ghetto insofar as these projects were either in our neighborhood, or in the city of Rovno, but no further. Those who were assigned to a work brigade were given a loaf of bread, an important enticement to volunteer for such an assignment. However as the food supply diminished, the Judenrat had to reduce the size of the food incentive. One needs to recognize that this Ghetto held ca. 2000 residents. Besides the Lanowitz Jews, it housed Jews of Bielozurka, Katerburg, of outlying villages and lastly refugees from other Polish towns who tried to cross the old USSR/Poland border nearby but were unable to do so, hence remained in Lanowitz, a border town. Such refugees were to be found in other border towns such as Tarnopol and Ostrog. Even after the annexation of Volyn in 1940/41 to the Ukraine the old border remained sealed.

Hunger hung over the Ghetto. Children's bodies became bloated. Children died in the presence of their parents. The widespread hunger created an atmosphere of hopelessness.

The German & Ukrainian authorities denied permission to bury our dead in the Jewish cemetery located outside the Ghetto walls. We had to therefore bury our dead somewhere within the Ghetto. Whoever speaks of mass graves that resulted from subsequent liquidation action in the various towns in the Western Ukraine, and elsewhere, forgets that we were forced to create additional mass graves within the Ghetto as a result of the above mentioned refusal and the on-going starvation. Every day we would collect the dead by hand, doing away with the ritual cleaning procedures previously performed by the Chevrah Kadishah [Jewish burial society]. We would bury the dead in mini mass-graves somewhere inside the Ghetto. Once in a while permission was granted to bury a person in our cemetery. In such cases we did not have the strength to carry the body the full distance to our cemetery. Instead we loaded the body, or bodies on the only cart we had inside the Ghetto. This cart was pulled by a poor, hungry horse. The cart-driver was Michael Metusis, our traditional burial society driver. Michael transported the privileged dead body to our cemetery to be buried ritually. Some Ghetto residents envied the families whose deceased received such permission.

I do not remember seeing the bereaved crying during these burial procedures. The source of our tears had by then dried-up. We were apathetic, hungry, wishing to live no-longer.

I recall significant crying at only one funeral. It was the funeral of the son of Aharon Mehlmanand Raisel Weisman [not clear why the names of the mother and father are in this case different- Ed.] who drowned in Rabbi Ahareli's pool. [What was the function of this pool insides the Ghetto? –Ed.] The child was 12 years old. He and other children were playing in Rabbi Ahareli's yard. The child's hat fell into the pool. [The Hebrew word used appliers to a pool, not a well!-Ed] The child bent over to retrieve his hat and in the process fell into the pool and drowned. We all cried at the funeral to indicate this useless death was from a cause other than the inevitable starvation or disease. What else could we have offered to our living children in the case of this needless tragedy other than to cry our hearts out?

Zelig, the Doctor saves me from Death

As an experienced farmer I was privileged to travel in and out of the Ghetto in my function as procurer of food and other products for the for the kitchen brigade. The items I purchased were approved by the Judenrat and the Ukrainian authorities. On one occasion the Junderat was requested to supply the German authorities ½ ton of potatoes. We had to bring these from the town of Shumsk. To accomplish this procurement and delivery task I went to see my former business partner, the Gentile Andrusha. I asked him to lend me his horses and cart. [While the author does not state this in this article, my hunch is that this previous relationship with a Goy that lasted in this case, helped him survive-Ed] I proceeded to Shumsk with his transport. On the way to Shumsk I purchased a few products in addition to those ordered for the Ghetto kitchen, to bring to my in-laws in the Shumsk Ghetto, and a few for my family living in the Lanowitz Ghetto. I purchased green onions, beets, carrots and more.

Upon my return I found the Ghetto gate closed. It is normally open, guarded by a Ukrainian and Jewish pair of policemen, whose task is to search the persons and goods being brought into the Ghetto. This time I saw only Ukrainian policemen. My sixth sense told me this is a bad situation. I got off my cart and let him search me and the cart. The Ukrainian policeman found the few vegetables I was attempting to smuggle into the Ghetto. Having discovered my contraband, he closed the Ghetto Gate, preventing me from driving the cart into the Ghetto. Instead, I was taken to the Ukrainian militia's office, located in the former house of Michael Goldner. On the way to the office several my Gentile acquaintances followed us. They took the opportunity to beat me up. My ribs hurt, I was bleeding and my head felt faint. I threw up. When my acquaintances saw me puke, they were shaken by the consequences of their deed. As soon as the captain of the Jewish police, Raphael Krepman entered the office, these acquaintances left the scene. I ran towards the Ghetto gate, trying to save myself. When I reached Zelman Parnas' house, two Ukrainian militiamen can came towards me, and beat me again. I arrived at my home in the Ghetto bleeding, with swollen limbs, and black & blue marks all over my body. For the moment I was totally confused by the beating experience. When the fog in my head lifted slightly I remembered that Andrusha's horses need be returned. I asked my sister Sarah-Yenta's, who knew her way with horses, for help. She fulfilled my request and returned the two horses to Andrusha for me.

The Ghetto lasted for ½ year. In this period we starved and lost all hope for the future.

I arrived at my home in the Ghetto bleeding, with swollen limbs, and black and blue marks all over my body. Zelig Weiss took care of me. He remained with me until I recovered completely. For the moment I was totally confused…
…two horses to Andrushka for me.

The Ghetto lasted for ½ year. In this period we starved, and in the process we lost all hope for the future. The Jews I came in contact with behaved like prisoners who were awaiting their death sentences. Our neighbors sat stoops of the tenement houses, more often silently than speaking. They lost the will to discuss matters, to hope for a better tomorrow. They seem to be afraid to speak lest they reveal the emptiness in their hearts. They seem to sense the oncoming of death and inevitability. They were not afraid of death, but they feared the process of waiting for it.

The worst aspect of this feeling of depression was the loss of faith. Orthodox Jews who in the past were known for their strong faith stopped praying, at least in public. Only a few continued to pray in the privacy of their homes. An additional few continued to hold prayer meetings at the home of Rabbi Ahareli. The Rabbi himself did not pray. Expressions normally used in the past such as “God have mercy on you” and “With the help of God” were no longer heard. Their former users appeared to have lost faith in their God. In that emotional state, the Ghetto Jews lacked the source from which to draw inner strength.

Children, Youth and Companions in the Ghetto

Our hearts went out to the children who previously believed in the power of mother and father to right wrongs, and to feed and cloth them. Now parents were as powerless as their children. They could do nothing to still their children's hunger. The children could not understand why their parents were helpless in this tragic situation. For days there was nothing for these children to do. Their days were empty, devoid of games, of a smile, of being either spoiled or criticized. Under these conditions children lost their emotional contact with their parents. They were instead left to roam the streets. They were essentially left to their own devices. The street scene stripped them of any protection that their parent represented under normal conditions. They lost all delusions that they may have had about life and their future.

At the beginning Ya'acov Margalit collected the children to work with them. With his brother-in-law Shmuel-Moshe Zafes he taught them whatever came to his head. Later he stopped his teaching activity as daily a child became ill and died of hunger. From one day to the next children gradually became phlegmatic, passive to all stimulate outside of food. The plight of our children caused us a level of depression that cannot be fathomed. We prayed for a quick end to our pathetic lives.

Our youth assembled in various Ghetto corners. I do not know what these boys and girls talked about. They understood that their hopes for the future were cut-short. They seem to move in their own shadow. A boy was no longer drawn to a girl, nor v. v. because they had neither the energy nor the hope of a future together. Only seldom did I see a pair walking together hand-in-hand looking forward to a life together. Instead these young men and women, after seeing each other briefly, hurried back to their respective families. When a boy was attracted to a girl, he visited with her, then returned to his family to make sure they were still intact. The same was when a girl went to see her boyfriend. The fear that a person dear to us would either disappear or die was ever-present in our minds.

The tragedy of our people became obvious when one noticed the absence of gossip. No one dared speak badly about a neighbor. One's heart did not permit one to joke about another person, when all were doomed.

At the beginning of our internment in the Ghetto people still mentioned the great love of Bienik Kopitz for Gitel Kagan, and that between Issac and Bienblatt's daughter. It was said that Bienik Gurwitz loves to visit with the Berchick widow. These discussions were conducted with a heavy heart, as if these stories were bright spots that were slowly fading.

Policeman Rapha'el Krafman who failed Us

On one occasion I brought flour to the Ghetto secretly. It was a miracle that I was able to pass through the Ghetto gate to bring the flour home. Raphael Krafman noticed my deed after the fact, and came to me to demand “quiet money”. When I refused, he complained about my behavior to one of his Ukrainian colleagues. These took me to the Militia station, beat me up, than abandoned me in the station. I felt faint, unable to help myself. I feared to stay at the station lest other militiamen will come and renew the beating. Fortunately for me, Brendele, the daughter of Yidel Buchstein worked in their office. She and Gitel Brimmer treated my wounds, and when I could walk again, accompanied me to the Ghetto, and my house, where I recovered. I later found out that Raphael did not mean to harm me. He merely mentioned my poor attitude towards him, a Jewish policeman, to his Ukrainian colleague. The latter took it upon himself to teach me a lesson in behavior towards a policeman, as a means of showing Rapha'el his collegiality viz. his Jewish friend.

Ghetto Liquidation

On the Saturday prior to the 1st of the month of Elul 1942 [ca. September] we suddenly noticed a large movement of Ukrainian policemen and many German policemen with fierce dogs. Their dogs were scary, constantly pulling on their leash intending to attack their targets. We feared the worst. We waited for the next command from the German authorities. A ring of these policemen, patrolling the perimeter day and night, was hermetically sealing the Ghetto. We knew this was our end. For the last 5 days we heard reports of Ukrainian workers digging large pits. Rumors reached us regarding the diggings by other Ukrainians who were in the past glad to be bearers of bad news. We did not know the depth of the dug pits. We could only estimate the depth based on reports that men dug the trenches and pair of horses were used to remove the dug Earth with steel rakes. We were told that hundreds of men were employed in this task, and many pairs of horses. We were informed of these details on the second day of the digging activity. Three terrible days passed. Our men and women were suddenly disturbed by the tension that the event created. Neighbors who lived with one another peacefully for the past six months started to quarrel with one another. The psychological tension was unbearable. People ran to and fro without any purpose. They wanted to escape, yet knew that escape was impossible, that their world was a closed one. The German authorities stopped paying attention to us. The Ukrainian militiamen looked upon us as bodies that no longer had any life, whose movements were a mere annoyance to them. They wanted us to not bother them in their forthcoming important task, that of ridding themselves of their fellow Jews.

Perhaps because I was strong as a lad, and the desire to live remained with me, I did not settle with my fate. Instead I decided to attempt to escape. to save myself. I too ran to-and-fro. I could explain my plan to no one. Somehow I succeeded to escape to Burshchiska. This was a stroke of luck. The authorities knew that as an authorized agricultural buyer I was permitted to travel in and out of the Ghetto. On a regular day I escaped.

[These statements are disingenuous. It is clear from his other tales that he was a privileged person to the end, and had to his credit, cultivated good relations with key Gentiles living in the neighborhood. In his previous accounts he shows clearly how much freedom of movement he had by virtue of his job as buyer for the Judenrat. Perhaps he tells it this way because of his guilt-feelings regarding his failure save his family at a time when it was still possible to do so- Ed]

My sister Miriam was sent to work, prior to the Ghetto closure, in Polwark, outside Lanowitz. When the Ghetto was closed, she too did not return to the Ghetto. Instead she found out my whereabouts and came to me in Burshchivska. Later, the other girls working outside the Ghetto were collected in one place with the intent to kill them in place. Sarah-Yenta, who worked in the militia office, forewarned the girl of the impending roundup plans. My sister Miriam, forewarned, escaped to the forest near Polwark, where she knew of a Russian POW in hiding there, who worked occasionally for local Ukrainian farmers. The POW being lonely, asked Miriam to join him in escaping to the Russian interior. The two walked Eastward hundreds of kilometers, slept in abandoned train coaches and ate food left over in the fields. In this manner she saved herself.

Sarah-Yenta could not escape with the other girls. She had to work in the militia office until the last day of the Ghetto's existence. A good-looking militiaman fell in love with her, though he was married. She was beautiful. He decided to save her, risking his own life, by hiding her in a village near Bielozurka. His wife suspected his infidelity, and threatened to report him to the authorities. However, she realized that by doing so she risked losing her husband, a fate she did not want. The militiaman placed Sara-Yenta with his sister in a nearby village, and arranged Aryan papers for her. For two months she was free to roam the nearby villages with other girls her age. She spoke the local dialect, so her past was not noticeable. One day when she went to grind grain for her patron, a Lanowitz policeman saw her. At first he did not believe his eyes, then forced her to admit her identity. He took her to Bielozurka. On a hill overlooking the village he murdered her.

I Visited the Ghetto After it was liquidated

I spent my first day in Burshchivka. I immediately contemplated how to save my family. At nightfall I left for Lanowitz try and find a way. I entered the Ghetto, and went home. My wife was shocked to see me [This bears-out that she at least his wife knew of his plans to escape-Ed] fearing that I was returned to the Ghetto forcibly and perhaps beaten as well. We sat all night, discussing how to save ourselves. We decided that I should leave again immediately, and take along the special buttons my wife prepared for her last dress, buttons that covered several gold coins. They were to be used to entice a Gentile person to save the family. I left the Ghetto that night, headed to the village of Gribova, to the house of Mr. Andrushka, (my former parner). It rained all night. I traveled over the famous island in the local river known to us as “Das Zayde's Stickel” [Grandpa's field]. Due to the heavy rain the river was at high tide, so in crossing it I became thoroughly wet. When I arrived at Andrushka's farm I hid in the chicken coop. Andrushka discovered me the next morning. He gave me fresh clothes to wear.

I urged him to find a way to save my family. He promised to go to Lanowitz, to find out what is happening, and explore ways to save my family. On Thursday Andrushka returned from Lanowitz, and informed me that all Ghetto residents had been murdered already. I cried, I could not believe that the killing had already happened. I wanted to assure myself of this fact, so I left for the Ghetto after nightfall. I found the Ghetto empty quiet, and partly destroyed. There was complete silence. I next entered the home of one of our former neighbors outside the Ghetto, a Mrs. Lutzky. She verified Andrushka's account. All were taken out to the new cemetery under heavy guard of militia and dogs. All were led to the cemetery wagon-parking lot. There they were required to undress. The Ghetto residents were segregated according to sex and age. Men women and children in turn were stood in front of the large pits and shot at close range.

After this terrible night 40 Jews remained alive, saved by farmer Mantuk, also known as the bearded forest robber. He was a good friend of Reb Uziel Rabin. He hid these Jews despite great danger to himself. Among the hidden Jews were Ya'acov Sambirer,Avraham Kreper, Hayim Kreper, Michael Kreper and others whose name I no longer remember. The son of Hana-Reuven Teichman also survived the Ghetto's liquidation. His father gave him all his money and gold that he had. He sent his son to his friend in Gribova. These friends robbed the son and returned him to the Ghetto, where he was murdered.

Someone reported on Mantuk to the authorities, that he was hiding Jews. The latter pulled the Jew out of their hiding places, brought them back to the Ghetto where they were killed. Moshe Kerner hid at Mr. Cherny's place and paid him well. The latter chased him away after a while, and Kerner was murdered by roving Banderovstsy. They threw him alive into a Feces well.

These tales scared me. Mrs. Lutsky confirmed that none of my family survived. I left her place at midnight and headed to Krasnolik, to Mitiah, a friend of my father. He was hiding my sister Idis, the wife of Shalom Segal., and the husband of Golda Mehlman. Mitiah told me that my father left a number of items with him. The local Banderovstsy learned of this fact and demanded to share in the loot. He claimed to have given them all that he had gotten from my father, but they did not believe him and wanted more. To this end, Mitiah said, they are likely to conduct a house-search and kill him if they discovered that he hid me and my sister. He urged us to leave, keeping only Golda's husband, whom he wanted for one of his daughters. Later Mitiah reputedly killed this young Jew.

Azriel Grawitz hid in the area for 18 months, first in Izkowitz, later in Rinkowitz. On his way to Rinkowitz one day, Bandera militiamen met him and murdered him. I myself left Mitiah and arrived at the house of a Stundist [a protestant sect prevalent in Wolyn, named after their custom to study for one hour in German] I confided in him, telling him that I wish to stay alive, and am in dire need of help. I also told him what Mitiah did to us. The studist was not surprised to hear the story he knew Mitiah's reputation, and the danger this man represents in my situation. The Stundist asked for time to consult on a suitable plan with his Stundist congregants. I was shaken by the consequent delay in deciding my fate, but believed in his judgment. I had previous good experience with Stundists, and was familiar with their custom to consult when making important decisions.

The Stundist called a meeting of his congregants in his house. I heard none of the discussion that took place for I was hidden in his house away from the meeting room. During their meeting they prayed as usual, each person creating his own version of the prayer. After the meeting ended, and each person went his way, the host called me out of my hiding place, and told me I am to stay with his neighbor, who is also his best friend.

That night the Stundist heard steps behind his window. He looked out after the person left, and saw no one. He knew that Mitiah is stalking him. The Stundist got scared of Mitiah's visit. I stayed with the neighbor for an additional three nights, then left. I wandered the area until I came upon a religious Gentile who knew me from before the war. I met him 8 months after the Ghetto's liquidation. While the local militia persisted in hunting escaped Jews, this farmer hid me in a hole that he dug on my behalf. This farmer was also a Stundist, and a person I had known and done business with for years., named Kalim. I stayed with him for 11 months, by which time the Red Army freed our area. During that long period he took care of all me needs, bringing me food and drink daily. I knew that his economic circumstances were modest so I sought and found work among the local farmers being paid with food and lodging. I typically worked for a farmer for 1-2 weeks at a time when he needed extra help.

After liberation I was drafted into the Red Army. I left my friend and savior, Kalim with a broken heart. He did more for me than anyone could expect.


[Hebrew pages 69-75] [Yiddish pages 329-338]

The Lanowitz Ghetto and My Escape From It
(The Story of a Child)

By Meir Becker

I was 13 when the Germans entered our village. The town was reeling, both economically and culturally, under Soviet domination. On one hand, our parents were depressed, fearful of what the future might bring. We children, on the other hand, enjoyed the parties and dances, the culture centers that were opened, and the symphony that was created under Soviet leadership. After the Germans marched in, these activities ceased.

With the departure of the Russian authorities, the town lost its active youth. Old people and children remained; at least that was my impression of those days. At first, the Jews hoped that the Germans would allow the community to again operate autonomously in the area of religious practice. They almost blessed the departure of the Soviets. In a few days the local Jews realized their mistake. Among the German authorities was a person by the name of Richter. He was a sadist, who took pleasure in the suffering of others. He would wander the streets of Lanowitz and beat up any Jew that came his way. Richter was the one who made it clear to us that we were powerless from here on.

On the first Sabbath following their arrival in Lanowitz, the German authorities arrested ten Jews. They were placed in the local prison that was created out of Piny Burstein's store. The prisoners were placed in its basement. They were killed a few days later. Among the ten Jews were Motel “Melamed” Speizeman, Ozer (son of Yidel) Kiskovitser, Yizhak Melamed, Moshe Kofets, Uziel Rabin, and others. These were among the cream of Lanowitz jews. Their arrest depressed the rest of the community greatly.

On 28 February 1042, our Ghetto was erected. It was built by our own Jews. I remember how they carried the boards through the streets. I do not remember where they got the materials for its walls. In a few days a wall, 2-4 meters high, was erected around the ghetto, and all Jews had to move into it. Beside the Lanowitz Jews, the Ghetto also housed the Jews from Bielozurka and Katerburg, even a few from Kremenec, and a few from other parts of Poland that came to Lanowitz in the hope of avoiding the German occupiers.

The Ghetto included Targowa Street (the house of Raphael Krepman and Benjamin Yishphe). From there , it included the house of Reuven Teichman, Joseph Twerman, Yeshayahu Wittelstein, Ogrodovoa Street, and the street that continued from the house of Moshe Steinberg (who walked poorly), to the house of Michael Goldener. The Jewish police were housed in the old Polish school. The number of rooms within the Ghetto was limited, so circa 5 families had to live together in one house.

The Jews were allowed to bring into the Ghetto only that which they were able to carry on their back. A situation was created that whole families had no items to sleep on. The food they were able to take with them hardly lasted for 2 weeks. The Jews felt hunger from the first day of their arrival in the Ghetto. There were daily deaths, with no chance to change their fate.

According to the commands announced daily, Jews were forbidden to leave the Ghetto, except for departure to forced labor destinations and return. After a few weeks, an order was announced that forbade movement within the Ghetto at night.

The only entertainment available within the Ghetto was to wander the streets, to see other faces, and to hear small talk. With this restriction, life became more difficult. The Ukrainian guards watched us from a tower, to assure that this order was fulfilled.

The Judenrat and the Jewish Police

With the creation of the Ghetto, Germans took Jews out for public work outside of town. Daily, scores of men and women were taken to work. They were beaten often, while not receiving any bread [This is contrary to other reports in this book, probably unreliable information because he was so young. He probably heard it from others – Ed.]

The Germans organized a Judenrat for their convenience. The active members of the Judenrat I remember were Yerukham Forman (the son of Ben Avraham Mash'hes), Abramov, a refugee from Katowitz, a German Jew whose name I never knew (for they always called him, the Jew from Germany) who lived in the house of Leibel Zelkes. The Judenrat's task was to provide workers for the Germans. Their fate was most unfortunate. The Germans also established a Jewish police whose task was to assure that Jews went to work, and to carry out periodic forced-monetary contributions.

One time the German authorities requested a set of “young and beautiful women.” Our parents knew the consequences of this demand, hence offered a significant sum as a financial alternative. The task of the Jewish police in these cases was a difficult and shameful one. Among the policemen were Raphael Karepman, Hershkey Chaikiss (Lashek), Azriel Brodsky, Motil Kreper, Yeheskel Weitzman and others.

As a 13 year old, I was also taken to work. We were asked to load sugar-beet roots in season. The work was difficult, and was carried out under supervision of armed Ukrainian guards. These would beat us when they noticed us slackening off at work. We would secretly bite off a piece of root to still our hunger. We worked at Bureskowitz. We typically left on Monday, and returned on Saturday. Others who worked in town returned home nightly. In the evening, the police would search them for any bread they may have smuggled on their body. In Bureskowitz, there were several Jews that earned a living from the large mill and from fishing. In general, Bureskowitz was a rich village. When we arrived, we found out that all of the village Jews were killed by the Ukrainians.

To Rovno and Back to the Ghetto

Each time I was sent to Bureskowitz, I was scared that the local Ukrainians would kill me, without trial. Yet, I had no choice but to go. Once the Judenrat was asked to send young boys to work in Rovno. I volunteered and was sent with 20 others. I wanted to distance myself from my unfortunate town, in the hopes of a better life.

On the first day of arrival, the Rovno Jews were called to the center of town to receive injections against an alleged epidemic. Eighteen thousand Jews were collected in this matter. None came back. They were all killed that day.

We worked for a “Folksdeutsche” family that lived in Rovno before the war, or came there recently. These men were managing local plants. During the first days of my work in Rovno, my uncle Ya'acov Beker, who lived on Voliya Street, Rovno, came to visit me. Later he disappeared. From other local Jews I found out that he and his household were murdered one day during a local action.

The Germans did not consider returning us to our homes. The yearning to see my parents overpowered me. At night I would cry, wishing to escape to Lanowitz no matter what. The task was punishable by death. I felt I could not resist the desire to see my parents. What finally made me escape was the news that the Jews of the Rovno region were being killed. I arrived in Lanowitz without a hitch. No one snitched on me. The poverty in the Ghetto was widespread, and the atmosphere depressing. Several people I knew had been killed. Two days after my return, the brothers Naphtali & El'azar Viner were killed.

Several of the Ghetto residents were sick with no doctors to treat them. Dr. Lutwack, our Polish-speaking physician, had previously transferred to the Kremenec Ghetto, where he was shot. I, however, was relatively fortunate to be back with my parents.

Yellow Star

In the meantime, an order was promulgated that each Jew must wear a yellow star on one's back, and on the left-front, over one's heart. In Those days, I was in the Ghetto illegally, so each time persons were taken to outside work, I was told to go into hiding. The people in the Ghetto were resigned to their fate. They did not quarrel anymore. They had no energy for such matters. The Rabbis wandered about like shadows; they were superfluous. Jews no longer prayed, nor did they feel a need to pray. There was a case early-on when the Ghetto was established, ten Jews were arrested during a prayer session and killed on the spot.

Children and Youth in the Ghetto

The Ghetto children were bored and depressed. Some played quiet games underground. The children were warned by their parents of the danger of playing underground. The children were looking for something to do that would distract them from the constant feeling of hunger. They adopted an exaggerated carelessness and lack of interest in anything. Like old people, they too suffered disappointments and hurt.

The pain of our youth was great. Young men were drawn to young women, but something blunted the attraction, because they saw no future, and the attraction waned.

My own situation became most difficult. I wanted to live and save myself, yet I did not find the courage to escape the Ghetto. I knew of cases where Ukrainians, good neighbors of yesterday, caught their Jewish neighbors and turned them over to the German authorities. Among the Ukrainians, only Somolatski hid and saved Yisrael Brodsky. He was one of very few. There was a second Ukrainian, Mentach, who hid a number of Jews. However, when his neighbors noticed them, they reported him to the Gestapo. All those Jews were pulled out of their hiding place and killed. [The author does not say what happened to Mr. Mentach – Ed.]

Among the most famous Ukrainian murderers were: the son of Bantenko, and Mishkeh, the middle son of the Blacksmith Herutz [or Herotz]. These two created their own “Jewish Cemetery” near the “Seven Brooks.” After the war, a mass grave was found there in addition to the mass grave the Germans created.

I was afraid to leave the Ghetto. I looked for ways to save myself, fearing to sink into an “I-don't-care” attitude. We had no bunkers inside the Ghetto [At least he knew of none -Ed]. Aharon Millman created a hiding place in his father-in-law Shalom Weissman's house. The bunker filled up with water, and Millman's infant son drowned in it. This contributed to the death of Shalom Weissman, who so loved his grandchild. I had no information regarding the goings-on outside the Ghetto. The neighboring Ghettos were separated from us so we had no information about their fate. I continued in this manner, to seek a way to save myself, until August, 1942.

Ghetto Closure

That day the Ghetto gates were closed. No one could leave. We were under a curfew for four days, without knowledge of what will be. We heard periodic shooting. Each shooting probably killed a Jew. I decided to save myself. At 8:00 a.m., on the first day of Elul, we were ordered to move, under heavy guard to the Jewish cemetery. Two large pits had been prepared previously. Several men, dressed in white-smocks were completing the second dig. I knew none of the diggers. On the way to the cemetery, one of the guards shot Reb Ahareli Rabin. I did not see the act myself, but was told about it.

The Final Liquidation Of Lanowitz Jews

The Ukrainian guards placed the men next to the first pit, and the women and children next to the second pit. The men had to undress in sight of their wives and children. When they were naked, they were ordered to face the pit. Following a command, the Ukrainians and Germans fired at them, and they fell into the pit. Next they did the same to the women and children. While this took place, I sneaked into the high wheat field nearby [This sequence seems unreasonable; how did he remain dressed? Perhaps the real story is somewhat different – Ed.] The guard did not notice my escape. The wheat field hid my low profile. I escaped, hearing shots behind me.

My Escape

I ran from certain death. I covered 35 kilometers through wheat fields in an unknown direction. I reached the village of Koshlek [=Koshlaki in Ukr.], on the old Soviet border. When I arrived, a man and his wife were harvesting their wheat. When they saw me, they took pity on me. They put a scythe in my hand, and asked no questions. I crossed the border with them from their field to their home [He apparently escaped dressed – Ed.] The farmer did not let me sleep in their house. Instead, I slept on a bed of straw. I cried all night. My hands were cut from the wheat sheaves. I cried because of my pain. I was also in shock. I knew in the morning that I must leave the village.

I continued my way, reaching Medyn. It was once a Polish village. Its Jews used to come to Lanowitz to purchase cows. A Jewish family I knew from the past put me up for the night, but asked me to leave the next day. It was Saturday. They directed me to Podvolochisk, a nearby town. As I left the village of Medyn, a strong rain came down. I was wet to my bones, so I returned to Medyn. The aforementioned family took pity on me and let me stay for several months. The family hid me in the attic, and fed me regularly.

One day the Germans came and evacuated the Jews of the village to a nearby Ghetto. I found this out when I no longer received food. I was hungry so I escaped to Podvolochisk. There I found Laiser Klemchick, the son of Hannah Shachnes. He was already informed on the liquidation of Lanowitz Jews. The Jews of Podvolochisk were already imprisoned, so I hid in the prayer house and later escaped to Zbarazh.

In Zbarazh a strange situation existed. Its local Ghetto was unfenced. The Jews lived in one section of town, and the Judenrat provided daily workers to the German authorities. The Judenrat police caught me and supplied me as a worker. On the way to work, I found out that we are all being shipped to Auschwitz [Very doubtful that the Jews knew the intended destination – Ed.] I escaped to the local bath house, and hid in its boiler room. When the local situation settled, I escaped to Tarnopil, from there to Leiserne [=Jezierna in Polish], to Bobricka to Khodoriv. I traveled at night. In Khodoriv, the local Jews were housed near the train station. The trains brought sugar-beets to a local processing plant. Because the trains were needed for beet shipment, none were available to take the local Jews to Auschwitz [How did he know this? – Ed.] From Khodoriv I escaped to Skole, then to Lawachina on the Hungarian border. There I met another escaping Jew. Together, we hid in railcars that took us to Munkatch. When we emerged from our railcar hiding place, Hungarian police caught us. They wanted to return us to Poland. In this place many Jews were assembled for shipment to Poland. Some cut their wrists, in desperation. From there, I escaped to Budapest [No details given as to how he got from Munkatch to Budapest – Ed.] The local Jewish community placed us in a camp for refugees inside the town. In 1944, I left Hungary for Romania. I reached a village near Grosswardein [=Oradea, Rumania], but did not know how to cross the border. I was told of Hungarian farmers who smuggle persons across the border for a fee, but I had no funds.

I visited one smuggler, who told me to see a particular woman regarding my fee. This Jewish woman, a Mrs.Teicher, was from Krakow. She was with three children and needed help carrying them across the border. I volunteered for the task. She paid the smuggler my fee and her fee. Unfortunately, as we crossed the border one of her children started to cry, so we were caught by the Rumanian border guards. We were brought to their commander in Belnish, who transferred us to Arad.

The local Jewish Community paid a ransom to the guards to free us. From Arad, we traveled to Bucharest, where Zionist functionaries were actively recruiting Jews to volunteer to travel illegally to Palestine. Three ships left Constanza to Israel: Mfakra, Marina and Bulbul. The Rumanian Navy escorted the ships to the high seas. In the high sea, the ship Bulbul was attacked by Germans and sank. Only five survived. We collected them at sea. This way we arrived in Israel.

I left Israel after I fought in the Israeli Army. My friend, Mrs. Teicher, stayed in Israel. Her two sons are already married.

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