[Page 41]

The Beginning or the End

translated by Bat-Zion Susskind
Christchurch, New Zealand

Shaul Spatz


Twenty-eight years have passed since that day and its memory is still vivid.

It was a somewhat rainy Friday, droplets of rain interwove with the sun's light into a braid laced with a silver thread and everything became gloomy and dimmed.

Initially, life continued in its normal flow. At sunset, people still went to synagogue to pray as usual and conducted the Sabbath meal as always. On the Sabbath morning prayer again, like the Sabbath of the week before and the week before that, and like the Sabbath's of so many years before, which are so deeply engraved in my memory from my earliest childhood days. In the afternoon we went, as always, for a stroll either in the fields of Kutchek, the priest, or in the path leading through the brush, which we named “The Little Forest” or “The Valleys of the Germans.”

Everything went seemingly well, as it always did. Still, something was hanging in the air, something threatening, something unsettling. Rumors were flying that Nisko[1] was bombed and that Rzeszow – Reisha in Yiddish – was likewise bombed. Lizhensk, though, was still peaceful.

The following day, on the Sabbath, a glorious day, the eve of the devastation of Poland and the destruction of its Jewish world, nature shone and assisted the German murderers in their task of blight. The blue and bright skies allowed the Nazis to find the open country cities and bombard them with great precision.

Many people gathered with radios near the open windows of the households in order to try and hear the news from the front. If I recall correctly, there was no news about the front. Nothing was mentioned about it. The announcer kept repeating every few minutes the news about England declaring a war on Germany, an announcement that somewhat encouraged us. We did not know then that the invader had already occupied most of Poland. We still did not know then that the ministers of the Polish rule, who were Hitler's friends of long, did not prepare the Polish people to defend the land. Poland was lost.

On Monday, the enemy's planes were already beginning to show up in the skies of Lizhensk. They dropped a few bombs and disappeared silently without any interruption. As a result of the bombings one baby was injured, a few railroad tracks were torn out and one house was destroyed. Workers of the civil defense walked around the houses and gathered people to work on repairing the railroad tracks. The labor was useless. The planes kept returning every so often and bombarded the trains, interrupting their route.

Fear settled within many of the residents. People began to leave Lizhensk. Initially, they tried to go to the nearby villages, they did not forsake the village. They would wake up early, stay in the village most of the day and return home in the evening, to sleep. Everyone sought shelter at some farmer of his acquaintance. Some went to Vizhlitza, others to
Giedlarowa[2] in order to stay and relax on the farm for a few hours a day.

After several days it was not enough. The waves of refugees from the west flooded the roads and blocked them. People ran from fear of the Nazi gangs, which continued to conquer Poland without any resistance.

It became clear eventually that one could not stay at home since the entrance of the Nazis into our city was only a matter of hours, one day at the most. The city began to empty. Mostly young people vacated it. They were followed by whole families who took along with them whatever they could carry in a suitcase and set their pace to continue with the eternal wandering.

One day, on Thursday of the first week of the war, my family decided to join the others. In the evening, we packed a few items and left. I left the city in which I was born, raised, attended “Cheder”, went to school, became a young man and completed my high school education. I left the Lizhensk in which I received my education, tasted the first joys of life, wove dreams and experienced my first disappointments in life.

We did not get very far from the city, we crossed the bombed bridge over the San and we stayed near Kolonia[3] in the hope that Poland would stop the invaders near the River San and drive them away. We stayed in that village for a few days. Flows of tired, barefoot and thirsty people continued eastward.

We were detached from the world. We did not know what was happening, whether there was a front somewhere, where the Germans had reached and where the Poles were. At that point, my father decided to return home. On Monday, he put his bag on his back, a stick in his hand and went. A few hours later, he came back to Kolonia. As someone who partook in the war of 1914, father evaluated this war in term of the previous one according to which matters were likely to escalate and strong battles will take place in the area within hours. He came, therefore, to try and persuade us to move away from Kolonia.

And so we were all forced to keep wandering eastward away from the foreseen front. During the night, the situation changed. The Polish soldiers disappeared without any sense of direction and without shooting one bullet. We could not see any soldiers. The armies disappeared completely.

We did not know what to decide. As we were not used to living an irregular life, outside of the home, without a table, without sleeping in a clean bed, with uncooked food, we did not despair and decided to return home – to our home in Lizhensk.

We came out in the afternoon. On the way we came across a group of soldiers, probably a defeated unit. They numbered about twenty or thirty and were headed by an officer who asked us various questions such as where the Polish army camped, where were battles raging and other questions to which I did not know the answers.

We reached the bridge over the San without any incidences. The bridge was demolished but due to the nice weather, which had lasted many days, the river was shallow and we crossed it on foot.

We stayed in our home for a few hours. It was the day before the eve of Rosh Hashana. The following day, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, early in the morning, the first German soldiers entered the city.

A few fellows, some of the derelicts of Lizhensk who were of German origin, collaborated with the invaders from the very first moment of their arrival. From amongst them was also selected and appointed as the mayor Nelis, who was the city's notorious criminal. After the victory, upon the return of the Poles, he was convicted by a Polish court in Rzeszow and executed for collaboration.

The first two days of the occupation passed peacefully. However, on the second day of Rosh Hashana, German soldiers burst into the synagogue, in the middle of prayer, and demanded volunteers for work. A few volunteered. Later though, it became clear that they had different intentions. Immediately after the hasty exit of the worshippers, they began to pour kerosene over the two nearby synagogues and burned them. Our home was close by, but those same soldiers who burned the synagogues moistened with water the adjacent home so that they don't catch on fire.

Meanwhile, Mr. Das, the owner of our house, asked us to leave our apartment for fear that the Germans might burn it. It was just an excuse to get rid of us since on that day, the Germans did not cause the Jews any damage and did not harm either the houses of Jews or non-Jews. It was the first opportunity for an outlet of any anti-Semitic emotions, which were up until then suffocating in their hearts. They also announced publicly that they believed the Germans' stories, which were spread maliciously, that the synagogues were burnt down because the Jews hid in them treasures and valuable items.

We left home. Father took along with him the “Machzorim” (prayer books for the Days of Awe) and we left. We moved into the house of the Vochtelkenigs who likewise returned, prior to the High Holidays, from their futile wanderings.

On the way, a German soldier attacked my father, tore his beard and ripped the prayer books in search of some treasures that supposedly might be hidden in them.

The days passed in constant fear. Other neighbors also moved into the house of Vochtekenig. We sat with closed doors and shut windows. The silence outside was only interrupted by the occasional thumps of the boots of the German soldiers. Little did we know then, that these thumps would become in due time the symbol of the Nazi subjugation of the whole of Europe. The night passed quietly. The following day, we returned to our previous home. Then came somewhat peaceful days.

The Germans were only conducting searches in Jewish homes, taking the men out to work and releasing them in the afternoon. That was all.


{Photo on page 44 (No identification)}


Jews were beginning to return from their wanderings back to Lizhensk. My brother also returned from Tarnograd[4]. We began our preparations to spend a hostile winter in our home. We hoarded stocks of food. Due to shortage of bread and flour, we garnered rye and awaited the future. One day we gathered and, along with a few other neighbors, we went to Giedlarowa, to the watermill of “Yask” in order to grind the rye, one bag after the other for each one. We returned home with the flour without being noticed by the Germans.

The afternoon hours I generally spent with my brother. Once in a while he was visited by Polish or Ukrainian cobblers who would bring him work. They were either from Lizhensk or the surrounding area. We talked to them about various subjects. Some among them sympathized with us in our plight. Others spoke sadly about the Polish residents who were assisting the Germans, making their “task” easier by pointing out homes owned by Jews or occupied by Jews. We learned then that the Polish “collaborators” started with their “assistance” immediately following the occupation.

A few days passed with each one being longer the its previous with the addition of the worries of what tomorrow may bring. “Yom Kippur” of that year was different than its preceding ones. That was the first time, as far as I remember, that the Jews did not pray in a minyan, there was no synagogue to pray in. The hand of the destroyer had demolished all the prayer houses in the city.

Then came “Sukkot”. It also was different from its former ones for generations. No longer was anyone loaning or borrowing boards to build “Sukkot”, no longer did we hurry to a hardware store to buy nails, nor did we look for light poles to reinforce the sukka. All of these were not necessary any more. That year all Jewish homes remained exposed without Sukkot attached to their walls. Each family and its wall, each family and its “sukka”…

And in the Jewish street fear walks. Apprehension replaced the joy of the holiday. It was the intermediate days of Sukkot. My brother was visited by a shoemaker from Dembno[5], a Ukrainian. He said that someone heard on the radio that the red army had entered Poland and was approaching the heart of the country. The rumors spread and reached larger circles every day. People began to believe that the Russian army would also reach Lizhensk. No one knew how much truth there was in the rumors, but everyone repeated them in the hope that they would be realized. They were the only hope for deliverance from the yoke of the Nazi oppression.

Meanwhile, a rumor was spreading, prior to the holiday of Sukkot, that there was an edict requiring the Jews to leave their town the following day. We did not know whether to believe or disbelieve it. We knew that the Germans were capable of doing that, but we hoped that all they wanted was ransom money and that once that ransom was given, they would let us stay.

On the following day it became clear that the rumor was true. I don't remember which one of our neighbors told us that we had to leave the house. We fearfully gathered a few of our belongings, anxiously leaving many valuables behind, snatching whatever we could. We went to the market place. There were already hundreds of Jews there. Others arrived after us. Whoever did not come on their own were brought forcefully by the Germans. It was raining. Our bundles were wet and their weight increased by the moment.

Suddenly a few S.S. men appeared and ordered us to walk. They hurried us. Whoever was slow was hit with the rifle butt so that they would hasten their step and not slow down the march. They brought us to the River San. Near the river, they searched our bundles meticulously. They took the remnants of jewellery and money and ordered us to cross the San over the temporary bridge that they built.

The following day, the Russians reached the other bank of the San. So we left our town Lizhensk, never to return. So ceased to be one Jewish community in the first days of the war.




  1. 21.8 miles North North West of Lezajsk: SJK  Back


  2. 3.5 miles South South West of Lezajsk: SJK  Back


  3. Also known as Kolonia Polska, 8.9 miles East of Lezajsk: SJK  Back


  4. 16.2 miles East North East of Lezajsk: SJK  Back


  5. Also known as Debno, 6.4 miles South East of Lezajsk: SJK  Back

 


 

[Page 46] Table of Contents

Table of Contents [Page 271]


Children in the Days of the Ghetto

Genya Spiegel (Basik Tova)

Translated by Bat-Zion Susskind
Christchurch, New Zealand

[Translation Coordinator's note: The same article also appears on page 271 of the Yiddish section under the title “Two little sisters” (in the table of contents) or “Two little sisters in the time of the Nazis” (title on the Yiddish version of the article itself). As the articles are identical in content both are linked to this, the translation of the Hebrew version of the article: SJK]
 

A Ghetto without a Ghetto

With the arrival of the Germans into Lizhensk we were evicted, along with everyone else, across the River San. We went away to the village Wolka, but at the first opportunity returned to Lizhensk.

It was in the beginning of 1940. There were very few Jews in Lizhensk and the Germans gathered them all on Boznitza Street. Though a fence had not yet been erected and the ghetto was not defined, we were condensed into a few houses and each house was crammed with three families. Altogether there remained in Lizhensk and the surrounding areas about 40 families. Some of these were divided where either the husband or the wife or part of the family stayed out of Lizhensk or left and never returned.

As mentioned it was a fenceless ghetto. But life was concentrated in a small area and confined to a few hours a day during which we were allowed to move. Between eight and ten in the morning we were allowed to go out and buy food.

Food was allocated according to ration cards. The Germans employed us and we were mostly engaged in servicing the kitchens of the commanders. There were some Jews who still engaged in commerce but those were few and they dealt mostly in the selling of their household goods.

With the establishment of the ghetto, a few Jews were immediately selected as the Judenrat (Jewish council of the ghetto). I don't have any bad memories of the Judenrat. I was only 14 at the time and already then I heard conversations, opinions and evaluations but I don't have any bad memories of them. They were miserable and tragic but they did not cast shame on their origin and their townsmen.

The Judenrat took care of scheduling people for work as decreed by the Germans.

The Germans ordered the Judenrat to immediately send Jews to uproot tombstones from the cemetery and transfer them to the city square and pave it with them.

Even today I remember the face of the square paved with the tombstones with the names of the dead ones engraved upon them. There were cases in which the Germans demanded money for the stones as ransom and that whosoever paid it their family's tombstones would not be taken out. We were the first ones to pay the ransom as required. And indeed the stones were left intact for a few weeks but then they were also taken.

It was mostly the men who went out to work. They were few and most of them were old and tired. They stayed in town as they could not, due to the dysentery epidemic, join those who escaped to Russia. The women were mostly taken to do household chores in the German homes.



Children in the Ghetto

Sad were the conditions of the children in the ghetto. They did not study and did not play. A few would sit with Yosel Melamed who would teach them and keep them busy, but most of them did not study and spent their time in the somber and depressed atmosphere of the adults.

The residents would visit each other's homes. The conversations focused on food, the bleak future that awaited the Jews, and the sanctity of life, which no longer existed. The heart prophesized only evils. The mood in the ghetto was especially sad when one of the residents left and never came back, possibly because one of the Germans felt like shooting him with a few of his bullets.

Jews did not pray in public, there was no synagogue as they were all burned down in the first week of the Germans' arrival. If the Jews dared to establish a minyan during a holiday, they did it secretly and watched for the Germans. In the initial stages we still kept track of the days and observed the Sabbath, but later we lost count of the days and of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was forgotten and not kept in the Ghetto.

Being a child I had the check to go out and wonder a little bit in the city. In my roaming through the streets of Lizhensk I saw many Jewish homes that were occupied by the local gentiles. They also took over the stores. There were homes that were turned into stables and others, the nicer ones, accommodated the Germans.


A Different Patch

We were assigned the patch immediately in 1940. The patch in Lizhensk was not yellow. It was a white ribbon with a blue Star of David, which we wore on our sleeves displaying the Star of David.

I used to wear the patch like the rest of the Ghetto residents. But when I wanted to leave the Ghetto during the forbidden hours, I would leave without the patch. Since I looked like a gentile, I did not suffer from it and I would walk with my former schoolmates as one of them.

Once, while I was walking during the day, a German approached me. He called me out of the group and told me that he knew I was Jewish. He hit me repeatedly and announced that I would be sent to a place from where no one ever returned. Someone probably informed on me. I knew already what that place was and I was appalled. I begged him to forgive me that one time and promised that I would never ever do that again. I cried a heartbreaking sob, but he ignored my imploring and said that I had committed a double offence by not wearing the patch and by leaving the Ghetto outside of the permitted time. He dragged me, put me on the cart and resumed driving. It was my “luck” that he was the most wicked of all the Germans in town. By chance, there was another Jew around whom the German had not noticed. He ran to the Judenrat and pushed them to do something in order to save me.

As he was driving on the cart, I heard him commanding the gentile who steered it to change direction. We reached the house where his mistress dwelled and I knew it. I knew he had a mistress. I asked him to let me go down to the bathroom. I entered her house. We knew his mistress from before the war. I fell down to her feet and begged her to save me. She had a strong influence on him. She listened to me, went out to him and asked him to leave me alone. I was saved.

He stayed at her house. The distance between her house and ours was about 2 km. I began to run with a heavy heart and trembling knees. I knew that the word of my “captivity” had reached the city and that my parents would soon know. I wanted to hurry and announce to them that I had survived and was alive.

My return was a great joy for this miserable Jewish group as if I was reborn to all of them.

Meanwhile, people began to disappear from the Ghetto. It was felt and it was disturbing. The number of murdered people grew more and more. We felt that danger was near and we decided to go away, to return to the village Wolka, our previous hiding place and find shelter there.

We were five people: My father 48 years old, my mother 39, I was the oldest, my sister 9 years old and my only brother 7 years old.

Father, who was a forest merchant and knew a few foresters, looked for means to save his family. He received from one of the foresters, a friend and an old acquaintance of his, a letter stating that he was an expert who was supposedly needed for matters of forestry and so he was let to stay in the forest area.

We stayed in the village of Wolka until September 1942. I used to go to the nearby towns where I bought study books and other little items, sold them in the village and supported my family.


From Ghetto to Ghetto

In September we were discovered and evicted to the Tarnograd Ghetto where all the Jews from the surrounding villages were concentrated.

Once in a while the Germans appeared in the villages, took the Jews out of the houses and killed them on the spot. There were also incidents where whole families were taken out of their homes and murdered in front of each other.

One could say that we were lucky:
Father was allowed to stay in Wolka while the rest of us were transferred to Tarnogrod. This Ghetto, likewise, was not closed or fenced and like in Lizhensk the Jews were only limited in movement and hours. The density here was dreadful. The labor was like in Lizhensk. I began working as a clerk registering the crops, which the Poles were required to pay the Germans. My occupation saved me. Time passed and my feeling improved.

On 2.11.1942 my father joined us.

The following morning at 6 a.m. the Germans announced that all Jews had to gather in the city square. We knew that this was the last “action”. From previous rumors, from other cities and from previous similar incidences we knew that such a concentration meant death. It meant the last road. Together with other families with small children, we escaped and hid in a cellar underneath one of the houses the entrance of which was concealed with a closet.

The place was very narrow about 1 meter by 2 meters and we were many souls crammed in this small hiding place.

The children began to cry. The stifling air was suffocating. There were two babies whose mothers used to block their mouths so that they did not expose those hiding there.

I, who had Christian papers, which I acquired a few weeks later and for which I paid a lot of money, could go out and get food. Now, however, I felt that we had reached the end of the road and I did not want to leave my family for a moment. This situation lasted a few hours. During that time we heard shots. We knew that those were shots aimed at those who were hiding, found and killed on their way to the gathering point.

The people in the cellar were beginning to ask me to go out in order to find out what was happening outside. After everyone, including my parents, convinced me, I could not refuse any more and I went outside.


Murders in the Street

The house in which we hid was a corner one, facing two streets. I went out through the back street, looked around and did not see a soul. On the ground were spread the bodies of murdered women, men and children. Blood puddles of clotted blood everywhere where the murdered fell as well as red sprays of blood on the walls.

The sight was shocking. This was the first time that I saw dead people and spilled blood.

My head was spinning. I walked aimlessly in all directions. I wanted to go back and warn them to run away. But I did not know where to turn to. I was engulfed by mist and dizziness.

On my way back I saw a figure in a red dress. I was shocked from what I saw and the world darkened, but the red dress reminded me of my little sister. I ran towards the enigmatic figure covered with the red dress. I doubted its essence, but it was indeed my sister.

She told me that there is nowhere to return to as they were all found and executed.

Father was the first to be executed. From her tired words it became clear that the mothers could not control the babies' crying and it eventually disclosed their hiding place. A Polish policeman and a German took my mother, my brother and my sister, brought them behind the wall that surrounded the city canal. After they had taken all the men out of the cellar first and my sister saw how they shot her father in front of her eyes, she knew what awaited them, she decided to save herself regardless of anything. She continued to walk as if she did not belong there. She was only 10 years old and smaller than her age. They did not notice her when she came out of the hiding place and did not pay attention to her and so she continued to go without any interruption.

And so she arrived there looking for me in order to warn me. When we met she told me all that happened to our family. I did not believe it despite the fact that I had seen so many dead people. My family whom only a few minutes ago I bid farewell when they breathed, lived spoke, cried worried and hoped, how was it possible that they were not alive any more?


Thanks to my younger Sister

I did not believe her and wanted to go back to see them or die next to them, but she, the little one, began to lure me with kisses and hugs begging me to run away. She said: Believe me, I am not lying. I saw it all. With my own eyes and as clearly as I see you. I want to live. Come live with me.

I lost all initiative and wish to live. She, the younger one, became my guardian. I dragged myself behind her and we entered a deserted stable, which was nearby. There were other Jews in the stable. I burst into tears, which upset everyone. They said: “It is not the time to cry now, the crying will only unveil us.”

That night we stayed in the stable. In the morning the desire to go back to my parents was awakened in me. I insisted that I did not believe my parents were murdered. I begged them to try and understand me and since I had Christian papers I could go and search for my relatives. No power could stop me. I told them that I would be back and asked them not to worry about me. I was a Christian.

I went out. I left my sister with the rest of them and I left. On my way I continued to cry and the gentiles understood that despite my papers I was Jewish. Polish militiamen captured me, took my papers and wanted to hand me over to the Germans. That encouraged me. A strong desire to live suddenly engulfed me. I began to beg them to leave me alone and I struggled to free myself from their grip. One of them then told the other to leave me alone since in any case I would be captured and murdered and that he did not want to have it on his conscience. He kicked me twice, three times and told me to go away quickly.


In the Bunkers

I returned to my sister a different person. I returned a stubborn and awakened person with a strong desire to do everything in order to live.

We sat there for a few hours until one Polish man came to warn us saying that someone had informed on us and that we should leave. Indeed he was the one who had informed on us in order to get rid of us.

When we got out we could see from a distance a few German horsemen approaching us. We ran and we hid among the crops of a field and they could not find us. When they disappeared, we decided to continue and move as far away from that place. My sister was barefoot and the cold was bitter. We entered one of the deserted homes, I took a pair of shoes for her and we walked. We did not know where we were going. We reached the forest near Wolka, the village where we lived earlier.

We recalled that our father once told us that he had prepared a bunker in one of the deserted homes of a Jewish man who lived alone in that forest. We were going to go to that bunker where we were going to hide. It was by chance that we remembered the location of that section number. We came first to the bunker in the deserted house where we stayed about a week. At night I used to go out to another village to look for food while my sister stayed in the bunker. I was afraid to take her in the cold, I was worried about the snow, the rain and mostly I was afraid of the dogs lest they might bite her, lest they might scare her, she had had enough fear of human beings and their deeds.

There were some who gave me a piece of bread and a little bit of milk but requested that I did not come any more. Others knew me from before the war and therefore did not disclose us. There were those who unleashed their dogs at me and kicked me out. There were times when I returned to the bunker with food for the two of us. But other times I came back empty handed and my legs were torn from the bites of dogs that were unleashed at me by some human beings.

Incidentally, we were surprised in the first bunker when we found a Jewish man hiding there. Our childish instinct told us that he was Jewish and that there was no need to fear him. We likewise explained to him that he should not be afraid of us. He turned out to be a Lizhenskian by the name of Hanflink. I don't recall his first name (he is now in the States)

A few days after we settled in the bunker, a few gentiles came and scared us by telling us that the Germans had supposedly found out about us and that they were coming to take us. We ran away. We were worried about informants.

We moved, along with Hanflink, to the second bunker in the forest. This time I had to worry about food for him as well. But he helped me, he stayed with my little sister. She was all pain and fear. Her legs were injured, she had little clothes. I was comfortable knowing that someone older than her was with her while I was going out in search of food.


Footprints in the Snow

One day I returned from roaming around in the villages and I saw footprints in the snow. They led into the bunker but not out of it. The first thought that ran through my mind told me that it was a German who had discovered our hiding place. I rejoiced. Strange, but it seemed like a redemption. I was tired and exhausted from my efforts to look for food and I was depressed from my young sister's condition. She was freezing and her legs hurt. I was praying for something that would put an end to our lives and our suffering. I did not hesitate for a second and walked into the bunker ready to be captured and murdered. I did not have any more strength and death was better.

It was a Christian, a forester from the neighborhood, a regular visitor in our home during the peaceful days. He recognized us, searched for us and found us. Now he invited us into his house at the edge of the forest and also promised to give us something to eat.

We believed him. We told him to wait for us and that we would come in the evening. Hanflink warned us not to be tempted by him. He would murder us. Though I myself was worried, I disagreed with him. If he had wanted to murder us what was to prevent him from doing it there and then.

We came to his house in the evening. He gave us bread and milk. We ate plenty. We did not have the strength nor the desire to return to the cold of the night, to the bunker. We asked him to let us sleep close to the house, in the stable, barn or the cellar. He did not refuse, he was afraid for his family. According to his advice we went to an acquaintance of his, another forester who had known and respected my father. They consulted with each other for a long time and eventually decided that we would spend the night at the second forester's barn. We entered the barn and were about to close its doors from the outside. Hanflink refused to allow him to do that. He saw in it a conspiracy to imprison us and deliver us to the Germans. He left and we remained. We were ready to be imprisoned as long as we could warm our frozen limbs.

We promised the forester that we would leave early in the morning while it was still dark so that no one would notice us.

In the morning, we did not feel like coming out. We waited for him to come and kick us out. He did not come. He enjoyed his sleep and he woke up late. When he got up he was upset with us and threatened to kick us out. I had a gold watch of my mother. I gave it to him in return for another night in the barn. My heart ached for my sister. I could not let her go out into the debilitating cold.


I bought our Lives

The following day I prepared some gold coins from my father's treasure in the forest. I gave him a coin everyday. He did no know that my father had died. It was his ethical duty towards my father, which prompted him to help us, and I told him that father was alive. I promised him gold coins and so we stayed with him day after day for two whole years.

I did not ask him for food. I only asked the leftovers of what he was feeding his pigs and if he could not give us those then, I told him, I would support myself. I fulfilled my promise. When he had no leftovers from the pigs, I went out roaming around the various villages in the frosty night and brought us food. The bread slices that I gathered froze on the way back and we could not eat them. We were lying on them to warm them with our poor body's heat and only then they thawed and we could bite them.

Every week he made new demands that we leave his yard and every week we extended our stay – with money.

The truth was that his life became tense. In which every moment was a danger to him and to his whole family. If the Germans ever discovered it, he would have died. It was a very serious offence.

During that time he would get drunk often, perhaps to overcome his tension. He would appear at the entrance to the stable drunk, unclear telling us to go and bid our family farewell (we told him the whole time that our family was still alive) since he was going to murder us, bury us and leave no trace of his serious offence.

We were afraid. We knew that he had a gun and a knife but we still stayed. He did not murder us.

One day another Jew joined our bunker. He was dirty, full of lice with which he infected us adding yet another plague to our misery. Our bodies were covered with itching ulcers, which we kept scratching. The stable also had tics and other insects. Life became very bothersome and each second was full of physical and spiritual suffering.


A righteous Murderer

The condition of the forester got worse every day and that added difficulties to our lives. Though we were practicing caution, it became clear one day that his family knew about his “superfluous underground” and that even the neighbors were occasionally hinting that they knew about it. He was not worried about them. The neighborly relations in that village were ideal and heart warming. They would never disclose to an outside element. But towards the end of the war there were some gangs forming which were ready to receive the ruling inheritance once the Germans had left.

In our area those were Polish who called themselves “The army of the homeland” and more than they were preparing to take over control, they were engaged in activities to get rid of the Jews.

Later I was told that that by doing that they wanted to remove any trace of evidence that they had collaborated with the Germans once judgment day came.

This “army” would search the villages at night, capture the Jews and their protectors and kill them. The danger that awaited our gentile was twofold- during the day from the Nazis and at night from the Poles. There were nights in which we went out to hide in the fields and awaited a sign from his as to whether it was safe to come back. His days turned into a hell of tension, caution and watching. I could never forget him, that righteousness sacrificing his life for our salvation. It was as if suddenly he was overcome by a deep religious desire to help those God forsaken people who were fighting for their survival with last of their strength. He did it by endangering himself and thus sanctifying God's name.

Until this very day we correspond with him and we send him parcels in order to express our gratitude. By his deeds he was a lighthouse, which signaled us hope, a haven and a renewed belief in man.

While we were staying with him, his wife gave birth to a daughter. He named her after me without my knowledge. Later he explained to me that he loved us, an admiring kind of love, for wanting to live and defying the Nazis- the murderers of mankind.


In the Bunker after the Liberation (or Polish Nazis)

With the arrival of liberation day, he did not allow us to stay in the village or go out to other liberated areas as the danger of the Poles was greater than that of the Nazis. He hid us in various places outside of the village. Then he dug and built us another bunker underneath the stable and another in a hidden place in the forest. Once we were surprised by a large Polish hunt. The whole village was surrounded by those ignorant hoodlums and he was stuck with us in the midst of the deep clear danger. He saddled his horses to the cart, put us on it, covered us with straw and transferred us through the lines of the searches, to our hiding place in the forest.

When we returned, we learned that two Jewish brothers were found and murdered in front of everyone by the Poles.

With the arrival of the Russians we returned to Lizhensk. Other Jews returned with various thoughts. There were those who wanted to start anew but then a stream of Polish pogroms commenced. Its purpose was threefold: Robbing of assets, murder of home owners who claimed their homes and murdering possible witnesses to the crimes that they committed under the Nazis.

In the winter of 1945 the pogroms erupted. They lasted a few days. All of the Jews left Lizhensk under the advice and supervision of the Russians.

This time we left it forever.

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