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{393}

Destruction and Murder

Zecharia Friedler, Bendet Schwartz and Mordechai Stern-Nussbaum
light the candle at the memorial in Tel Aviv, 1971

{394}

In the Vale of Lament and Anguish

by Yeshayahu Lutwak of New York

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Great is the sorrow and greater is the pain. The heart weeps and asks with despair: “How doth sit in loneliness” [1], my town of Rozniatow? How have you become devastated, a cemetery of devastation? I bend my head and weep for the pure martyrs, for our tragedy, and the great disaster.

Who can forget and how can he who has the talent to do so not write? I wish to tell so much, to remember so much, and to once again relive the days in our town, with close and dear people. I wish to proceed chronologically, to the extent that my memory can help me, and concentrate on those stories that have a connection to Rozniatow. I will relate a portion of them that describe the experiences that our martyrs endured during the last days of the destruction in Rozniatow, in order to help erect a symbolic monument for our holy and pure martyrs, who we will never forget.


In the former area of East Galicia in Lesser Poland, Stanislawow Wojewoda, Dolina Powiat, in the Carpathian Mountains with two rivers, the Czeczwa and Duba – there was the small charming town of Rozniatow, a settlement of approximately 500 Jewish families, number approximately 1,800 souls, excluding the Jews from the twenty-something villages around Rozniatow. It was small in area, with a kilometer marker between the home of Bendet and Moshe Yampel and Zisia Aryeh Kupferberg below the city. The second one was near the old Kassner, Yisrael Hirsch Landner, opposite Meshulam Fruchter. The third was before Chaya Adler, opposite Mordechai Deutscher in the old city. Our town was indeed small, with its nickname being “nebech” (unfortunate). However, it was clean, modest, and full of life.

The Jewish population, which lived for the most part in the center of the town, consisted of merchants, tradesman, a few professional intelligentsia, officials, and of course it was not lacking in poor people. The central economic event took place every Wednesday, when the market day took place.

Jewish life literally flourished with us. All parties from the extreme left to the extreme right were organized. They regulated the social, cultural, religious and communal life, and influenced our youth. We should mention here a few people who led these efforts, as follows: Shimshon Rechtschaffen, Moshe Rosenberg – Pesi Reisler's husband, Binyamin Adler, Shabtai Falik, Shule Teneh, Max Edelstein, Avraham Zauerberg, Moshe and Yankel Fruchter, Munti Stern, Yehuda Hersch Stern, Shmuel-Leib Rosenbaum, Getzel Frenkel, Agronomist Leib Meiseles, Muni Lusthaus, Izi Berman, Dr. David Weisman, Izak Barnik, Shabtai Rosenberg, Baruch Horowitz, Wilusz Turtelbaum, Dini Landsman, Philip Ferst, the Brand brothers, and others.

The amateur theatrical club at the “Casino Meczszanski” was led by Shalom Rechtschaffen and Ben-Zion Horowitz, with the participation of people from all parties. Every winter, they livened up the town with performances and balls. They contributed greatly to our communal and cultural life.

Thus did life go on peacefully until Hitler may his name and memory be blotted out began to attack, torture, and drive out our brethren from Germany.

In 1938, when the Jews who were deported from Germany arrived in our town from Zbaszyn, we immediately realized that terrible times were approaching. With feelings of compassion and warm-heartedness, we took in the people who were deported from Germany. Downtrodden, robbed of their belongings, set out to wander, they were a bit happy at that time – for they were simply fortunate to be together with their families and friends.

As far as I remember, the following were among the first of the refugees: Meir Ungar – the son-in-law of Moshe Gelobter, and his wife Dora and two young children; Shmuel Friedler the son of Moshe, and his wife; Menashe Yampel and his wife; Bendet Kassner the son of Alte; Benzi Kassner, the son of Yossel; Zelda Wasserman with her son and daughter; Avrahamche Kahn, the son-in-law of Hirsch Rechtschaffen and his family; Aharon Weisman and his family; Avraham Korenblau, the son of Moshe Mechel; Eli Spiegel's son with two daughters; David Wernick the son-in-law of Berel Berger and his family; Chaya the daughter of Menashe Rosenberg with her husband and children; Shlomo Gross; Benzi Klinger; Chaim Walgschaffen; Sender Rosenberg, Yossel Laufer and his family; Kalman Horowitz the son of Sara Esther; Leika Horowitz and her husband (Kielce). They lived where they could, and they wished to forget about the difficult mood and the tense political situation.

On Friday, September 1, 1939, Hitler's army crossed the Polish border. A panic ensued. Many of our young people who had mobilization cards hurried to their designated military points. Others wanted to be called up. Order did not prevail during the first moments, and few of the mobilized soldiers received their fatigues and weapons.

On Sunday, September 3, a few of our merchants traveled by bus to Stanislawow to acquire a bit of merchandise; however, they returned empty handed and described the terrible scenes of murder and destruction that was inflicted upon the city by the Nazi airplanes. They were also bombarded at as they traveled home. The fear and panic worsened day by day. The nights were dark, and nobody ventured out onto the streets. Whoever owned a radio listened with a pounding heart to the speeches and proclamations that incited anti-Semitism.

The first of the refugees came to town from western Poland. The following people came home: Dr. Wilek Adelsberg, his two brothers Zigo and Lagek, Dr. Leon Horowitz and his wife Jadwiga Sapier and child, Dr. Nunek Lusthaus and his wife Irina Feier, Dr. Avraham Fried, the son-in-law of Shmuel Friedler, Sara Geller, and others.

On Friday September 15th, the following people set out for the Romanian border: the head of the community Zechariah Lieberman, Rabbi Yosef Matzner, Shabtai Rosenberg and his brother-in-law Bernard Menczner. When they arrived at the foot of the Mountain of Krasna on the wagon of Melech Landsman, the horses refused to go further. They returned home and believed that this is probably the will of G-d.

On Sunday morning, September 17th, Molotov delivered his speech, saying that the Soviets would liberate eastern Galicia from Polish domination.

On Monday, anarchy pervaded. Even the police left for Hungary. We, the young people, secretly organized and armed ourselves to protect ourselves from potential ambushes. We lived in great tension, not knowing if we should be happy or fearful. The German murderers were already in Stryj. The Soviets were in Stanislawow. We asked: From where would our salvation arise?

When the local Ukrainians heard Molotov's speech, they were certain that their messiah was arriving, and they began to revolt. The first to be beaten was Reuvele Diamand, the son of Bini Anshel.

On Wednesday morning, September 20th, bright and bold Doni the son of Hirsch Landsman succeeded in escaping from the city with two friends. They ran to the village of Holyn and returned to town on a tank with a Soviet military unit.

Immediately a period of the restoration of law and order began at the hands of the Red Army. The Jews had mixed feelings. Some were happy and some sighed and wept secretly. They began to nationalize property, that means simply confiscating the hard-worked-for businesses and homes of our very wealthy people: bourgeois such as: Yisrael Rosenman, Mordechai Gross, Yaakov Lew, Shmuel, Leib, and Izak Friedler, Meir Frankel, Shalom Hoffman, Ethel Rechtschaffen, Leizer Geller and his partner Yisrael Leib Artman, Yosef Kurtz – Suchi Hersh-Mendel's son-in-law, Mattes Wilner, Shlomo, Shaya and Aharon Weidman, Shaya Sternbach the son-in-law of Mendel Menlich, Leib Eizner, Yossel Berger, Pini Berger, Sasi Heller, Leib Falik, and Wiczi Teneh. In one word, private enterprise and ownership ceased to exist.

It was not so easy for our brethren to get used to the new social and economic structure, along with the removal of class structure. Each of them attempted to obtain whatever work or employment was available, for the motto of the Russians was, “He who does not work does not eat”. Furthermore everyone was afraid, for some families were threatened with deportation to Siberia. Despite the difficulties, Jews managed. Most of us worked and a few of us conducted a bit of business.

It was June 22, 1942.

Already on the first day of the war, everyone was nervous. We felt as if we were standing on the threshold of significant events. All of the Soviet officers and their families hastened to leave the city. The Red Army followed them. If I am not mistaken, this was on Monday, June 30th. About 150-200 Jews left on foot to catch a train to Stanislawow. There was no other means of transport in our region. Unfortunately, their lot was fatal. A Hitlerist airplane attacked the moving train, and almost all of them were killed at Husyatin. I will never forget how Shalom Rechtschaffen, as he fled with his family through the town, shouted loudly: “Jews, why do you wait? Leave your property and follow me.” In this chaos, I had the opportunity to bid farewell to my relative and friend Baruch Horowitz. His last words still ring in my ears: “What are you waiting for? Are you afraid to leave your property?”

These were people with clear intellect and foresight. Unfortunately, not all of the Jews made an accounting about the magnitude of the danger. Just the opposite, there were Jews who thought that it would be possible to live with the Germans.

The city was in chaos. Nobody dared to venture on to the streets. They remained locked up in their houses in great fear. The Ukrainians, waiting with great joy for their Hitler messiah, began to organize and rampage through the city. No Jew wished to look, even from afar, as they pillaged and emptied the remaining Soviet businesses. As the last few soldiers could be seen leaving the city, they were accosted by brazen gentiles who mocked the soldiers at one such store near the Ukrainian church. One of them injured Wasyl Slapak's son with a bullet. This was sufficient pretext for our gentile citizens to begin a pogrom against the Jews. Until today, I do not know who was able to prevent us from being victims of the events. During the ceremonial parade, the gentiles caught Moshe Strassman, the son of Yankel, who was innocently passing by, and beat him severely.

On Friday morning, the 14th of July, 1941, the Hungarian Army arrived. But in fact, the Ukrainians took over the police supervision and administration of the town, under the leadership of Dr. Korbas, Dr. Shlapkas, the priest Kostak, Lupinski, Kowel and others, may their names be blotted out. On Friday afternoon, the Ukrainian militia captured some Jews and ordered them to destroy the statue of Lenin that the Soviets had erected in the Ringplatz, opposite Mechale Weisman. On Friday night, one of those whom we termed a righteous gentile, Ivan Wishinski, came to Mordechai Gross, and secretly told him that the Ukrainian committee had decided that the next day, on the Sabbath morning, as the Jews would leave the synagogue, the Ukrainian militia would gather them all in the Ringplatz, force them to put on their tallises, bring a coffin from the cemetery, put the broken pieces of Lenin's monument inside it, and arrange a grandiose procession to the Jewish cemetery to bury it. Wishinski advised Mordechai that in order to avert the scandal, he should clear it out during the night. Mordechai risked his live, and at 3:00 a.m. on the Sabbath morning, he woke up the son of the guard Chaim Reubele's, and both of them placed the broken pieces into a hand wagon, dragged them to a place behind our slaughterhouse, and buried them in the filth.

From 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., despite the heat (it was July and August), no Jew would appear on the street. The nights were more terrifying than the days. With palpitating hearts, everyone awaited an attack on his house. On one such night, while they were searching for Dr. Nunek Lusthaus (a few gentiles who had a personal accounting), dragged out his father-in-law, the elderly Dr. Isadore Feier, who lived at the time with Yossel Kassner. They beat him and ordered him to carry a sack of flour, which they stole from him. For no reason they arrested Itzi Reis who was Meir Frankel's relative, Azriel Wasserman, and many others. They beat them fiercely. Twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays from 10:00 to 12:00, the Jews were permitted to come to the Market Square to purchase food provisions for an inflated price.

As I lived in the home of Mordechai Gross in Ringplatz, I often witnessed the Jewish trials and tribulations from a distance. On one market day, Pintzi Berger, an elderly, broken Jew, was leaning against the house of Mottel Friedler. Janek Shajok – the bastard of the Anke, may their names be blotted out – approached him and beat him for no reason, threw him to the sidewalk, and trampled upon him. He left Pintzi Berger lying there and came to David Reiner. There the bastard met Leib Weitzner and attacked him, but Leib was young and full of energy, so he was able to escape and flee.

Avraham Hirsch, the son of Shaul Miriam Bine's, was lame. One day he came to Dr. Korbas may his name be blotted out to request a favor. Not even hearing the request, he gave him a push, and removed the cane that the lame man used to support himself. He fell to the ground, and the murderer trampled him with his feet.

Every morning, the Jews had to fill the quota of workers for the filthy, hard and awkward work, that only the devil himself could conceive of. All sorts of trivial and unnecessary tasks were devised in order to torment the Jews. Voluntarily, without being called up, men and women organized themselves and provide the required number of workers at any order.

Once, I, along with Sacherl the son of Pini Berger and Magister Marek Rotter (Shalom Hoffman's nephew) had the job of cleaning the manure from the police stables, which were located on a hill next to the courthouse. The work was very difficult and the stench almost caused us to faint. In order to sustain ourselves, Sacherl took out from his sack a piece of dry, kosher sausage, which at that time was like a treasure, and divided it among us. Exactly at that moment, Atamnaczok, the head of the militia, passed by and saw us chewing something. He fell upon Sacherl like a wild animal and beat him with his gun. I wondered why Sacherl, who was mighty in strength and character and never tolerated any injustice, controlled himself and refrained from expressing his anger. However, I will never forget, how he once asked me with teas in his eyes and a broken voice: “Shaike, will we survive and take our revenge?”

Even worse off were the Jewish workers who were sent to work at the Krechowice train station. Once, a group of 25 Jews were sent there to remove the thorns, gravel and other refuse from the area with bare hands. This group included Dr. Leon Horowitz, Magister Leon Meiseles, Shimshon Rechtschaffen, Shabtai Falik, Shabtai Rosenberg, his brother-in-law Bernard Menczer, Shalom Deutscher, and several others whose names I unfortunately do not remember at this time. This work had to be done while they were bent over on their knees and crawling step by step. When the Gestapo noticed from afar a Jew who attempted to straighten out or rest for a small moment – there would be nothing more to be jealous about.

When Leib Meiseles weakened from the great heat work and slunk to the ground, Shalom Deutscher inconspicuously went over to him and hid him with his body. The Gestapo man noticed this, and came over to ask who is resting. Shalom answered that it was he, and he immediately received his punishment – beatings with a gun. Shalom did not boast about his deed. The others and Leib related this to me. When I later had the opportunity to ask Shalom about this, he answered me: “I had to do this, because I knew that Leib could no longer withstand beatings.”

Once I worked alongside Shalom and others in dismantling the statue that the Soviets had erected in the Ringplatz. We were warned about damaging even one board, and even damaging any nail. Poor Shalom did the work of everybody. He ran from person to person to help. When I asked him: “Shalom, why do you not watch out for yourself? Let us also sweat a little.” he answered me: “You see that they are not all capable, I do not wish to see the gentiles rejoicing as we get beaten.”

These were the characters of the Jews that our Rozniatow produced.

The Ukrainian committee, issued a decree that starting from August 5th, 1941, all Jews must wear a yellow band on their right arms. Since Tisha Beov  fell exactly two days prior to the set date, that is on August 3rd, our Rabbi Yosef Metzner, Zechariah Lieberman the head of the community, and Dr. Feier began to wear the yellow ribbons then to mark the double tragedy. When the gentiles saw this, they joked and called them “the Jewish militia”.

It is indeed difficult to understand and believe how the Ukrainians, with whom the Jews had conducted business, had been good neighbors and lived with closed friendship – were able to turn over night into the bitterest of enemies, and relate to us in such a cruel fashion without shame and without mercy.

I wish to relate a small incident. Until the outbreak of the war, I had a friendship of long duration with Dr. Katz and his wife at the time, who was the widow of the judge Luzinski. At the time that they were under financial pressure, I lent them money on several occasions. At the time that chaos and disorder prevailed in the town, and one could not remain in one place, I came to them and requested if I could stay over for a day. Dr. Katz agreed immediately, however the witch immediately answered: “In my home, there is no longer any room even for my own Jew.” As I left the home my heart was filled with great sorrow for the poor Dr. Katz, who later became the first victim.

For all the years that I knew Melnikowicz, who worked for the notary, I was, as is said, a very good brother. During the time of the Russian rule, he was threatened with a jail term for coming late to work or for not showing up at all to work. I obtained for him a medical certificate, stating that he had been ill for three days. I testified on his behalf in court. He was exonerated. When the Ukrainians took power, he became one of the most important rulers. Among other roles, under his supervision, food was distributed to the workers. I once sent a request to him, that a small portion of bread be set aside each day for the Jewish workers. It would be placed in the medical clinic, and would be distributed to each worker as he went out to work. I greeted him, and he did not answer me. He only shouted in anger: “We are a young nation, and we cannot fulfill the needs of everyone. We have to worry first of all about our own.”

New decrees were issued daily. Life became more difficult each day, especially when the Jews who had been expelled from the neighboring villages arrived in town. At the same time, our Ukrainian supervisors were looking for ways to free themselves of us and make Rozniatow Judenrein. Despite the bribes with items of great value, and despite the negotiations with the governing authorities by people such as Dr. Sapier and Zechariah Lieberman, the Ukrainian authorities secretly decided to round us up and drive us out.

On Tuesday, August 27, 1941 toward evening, Dr. Sabat was issued an order that as of Sunday September 1, no Jew could remain in town. Dr. Sabat immediately informed all of the Jewish medical workers, who were permitted to go out on the streets during the evenings. We knocked on the door of every Jewish home and informed everyone of the tragic, black news, so that everyone could have the chance to prepare to go into exile. We were given a choice of four towns where we could go: Halicz, Kalush Dolina, and Bolechow. Later, rumors spread in town that the non-Jews were intending to expel all the Jews for an extended period so that they can pillage their property in an unhindered manner, and then they would return us home. Therefore many Jews buried their possessions such as gold, silver, dollars and other valuables. On Wednesday morning, the town was teaming with gentiles, as a fair in the good times. They came from almost all the neighboring villages with carts, sacks, axes and hand wagons. They came with the intention of helping and bidding farewell, but the real truth is that they rejoiced over our troubles and tribulations. One had to give over ones most precious and finest belongings, whatever the gentile wished, in order to hire a cart, for they did not want to drive for merely money. Thus did two or three families go together on one cart, taking only their most necessary and important belongings, and set off for exile. The gentiles grabbed items as if from a fire: linens, dresses, bedding, sewing machines, furniture and other household objects. Naturally, the gentile, in order to express sympathy, promised to return them or to exchange them for food products. Jews let themselves be deceived – did they have a choice? They were thankful to have less to take with them, and wanted to flee from the city as quickly as possible.

The Ringplatz and all surrounding lanes were filled with loaded carts. The upper street leading to Dr. Sabat's house was filled with three carts in a row. There, the local gentiles (Ukrainian militia) showed their true murderous evil face. They threw off all the things from every cart, and took whatever they wanted. Fortunate were the families who passed the inspection and were off on their journey. The sun beat down mercilessly, and the heat was stifling to the point that it was impossible to catch one's breath.

In normal times, on such hot days, the dams of the rivers would be opened so that water could flow through the entire town. However, today, they ensured that we would not have even the minutest comfort. Many people fainted from the stifling heat, weariness, and lack of food and drink as they were standing by their group: including Feiga, the wife of the ritual slaughterer (shochet), Sara Lindenbaum – Yossi Rosenberg's daughter, and others. We did not forget to take the kosher Torah scrolls. The non-kosher chumashim, prayer books, Gemaras and other books were packed away and left in the Beis Midrashes with the hope that we would soon return and everything would be in its appropriate place.

We heard that after a few weeks Dr. Korbas, may his name be blotted out, had taken out all of the remaining Torah scrolls and holy books, and transferred them to Kalush. The rest of the books and prayer books were pillaged by the non-Jews who used them for their own private purposes.

After the search of the loaded carts, we were not able to leave the city until an automobile with Gestapo men came from Kalush to take a look at our bad situation. They immediately ordered that we provide four blankets and four sacks of flour. Leizer Geller and his partner Yisrael Leib Artman provided the blankets. Drs. Nunek and Dolek Lusthaus, Dr. Leon Horowitz, Shimshon Rechtschaffen and others ran among the carts, and anyone who had even a bit of flour gave it over in order to be freed from the murderers, and to be able to leave the city quicker. The heartrending scenes among the Jews were indescribable. Without words, the Jews fell into each others arms, hugged, kissed, and shed bloody tears.

Most of the Jews went to Dolina and Bolekhov, for they were very afraid of Kalush. One week previously, the Gestapo, with the assistance of the Ukrainians, went around with a list and gathered all of the professionals of Kalush, such as doctors, engineers, teachers and engineers. Exactly at that time, our Bendet Spiegel, Nachum Artman's son-in-law had traveled from Broszniow to Kalush to rent a dwelling, for the Jews of Broszniow had to leave. The murderers included Bendet among the 300 Kalush Jews who were taken out to the forest and shot.

The pained, suffering, brokenhearted Jews who set out on their journey to the designated cities with their few belongings were attacked and robbed of what they had by the gentiles of Szwaryczow, Krechowice, Vishna Strutyn, and Spas. Those who already succeeded in arriving in the city were fortunate. We arrived in Dolina. They found a place to rest the head and relax their broken bones. The Jews of Dolina displayed great sympathy for the wandering Jews, and helped them with what they could. It is impossible to describe the cramped living conditions. People were literally lying around on the streets. We must not forget that it was not only Rozniatow Jews, but also Jews from Broszniow, Krechowice, Mizon, Vygoda, Beldisz and other nearby towns streamed into Dolina. Those Jews with the greatest means rented dwellings from Christians in the neighborhoods outside the city, and paid with valuable objects or foreign currency – dollars. A large number were put up with relatives or other Jews who wished to help Jews in this type of tribulation. 10-15 people were crowded into small rooms like herring. Dwellings were made out of former shops, stalls, stables, rooms, anywhere where one could have a bit of room for one's head. The deportees also lived in the synagogue, Beis Midrash and kloizes.

At the beginning, the situation was still bearable. However, already in November 1941, when the cold, snow, and blizzards began, the true tribulations began. According to the command of the Dolina S.S. Land Commissar Bebel, may his name be blotted out, a Judenrat had to be set up within 24 hours. The Judenrat had the job of fulfilling the commands of the S.S. and providing all of their needs at the expense of the Jews of Dolina. At first, every Jew had to pay a certain amount as a contribution, each according to his means. Soon after that, they had to give over all valuables of gold or silver. After a few days, the Jews were commanded to supply them with new furniture. A Jew was forbidden from owning cows and horses. Any furs, including streimels (Hassidic fur hats), had to be given to the murderous army, which was already crawling into Russia, so that they would not freeze there. Every morning, the Judenrat had to supply the requested number of Jewish workers. Over and above this, a reserve of several more workers had to be available if needed, so that any request throughout the day could be immediately fulfilled.

The Judenrat of Dolina did not have an easy job. The task of the Judenrat chairman, Dr. Julius Weinreb, was particularly unenviable. By nature, he was a quiet man, a man of scruples, and he possessed an ideal personality. He had a warm, Jewish heart. On many occasions, he was put to a test and had to endure great tribulations and pain. Almost every second day, Krieger and Mueller, may their names be blotted out, visited from Stanislawow; Freitag may his name be blotted from Kalush; and Schultz and Mueller may their names be blotted out from Vyshkov in order to confer with our local Dolina commissar Bebel, may his name be blotted out, and others. Every command had to be fulfilled with immediacy. When a fur was not provided at the requested time, Dovchi Weinless was taken to Stanislawow, from where he never returned.

The same cold fate occurred to Miriamche the widow of Mordechai Deutscher and the daughter of Shmuel Schwindler, on account of the fact that she did not tie her badge of shame, the Magen David, in the correct place on her arm in accordance with the orders.

I often recall how we yearned for proper bread or potatoes, and it is difficult to comprehend our Judenrat was able to provide items that had not been available for a long time, such as fabric, shoes, various expensive drinks, hens, eggs, butter, and even chocolate. Not infrequently, we met our dear, honorable vice-chairman of the Judenrat, Efraim Weingarten who was beloved to the Jews, as he was going from house to house with a basket, pleading with weeping eyes for one egg from every person.

The first Jew who had his beard and peyos cut off with a knife by the Shupo (Shutz Policei) was Leibish Kluger of Dolina. Jews who had to go out on the streets and to work would cut off their own beard and peyos out of fear of enduring this torture and embarrassment. Even those who were able to remain in their houses would cover their faces covered with kerchiefs out of fear.

Once, when I took my turn in the Jewish hospital, a Jew entered and said: “Lutwak, I beg a favor from you!.” I saw before me a broken and worn our Jew, without a beard and peyos, whom I could not recognize at all. I asked, “Who are you?” The Jew burst out weeping bitterly and said, “It is the Messianic era, since one brother does not recognize the other. I am Yosef Shimon Stern.”

I want to make sure that those reading these lines will think for a minute about such an image, how our dear and close Jews looked without a beard and peyos.

Immediately after we were expelled from Rozniatow, torrential rains fell endlessly for two weeks and destroyed the wheat and all other produce in our region. The gentiles said that the Jewish G-d was taking revenge upon them for the persecutions that they had perpetrated upon the Jews. Despite the fact that the farmers had to give over to the Germans all sorts of produce necessary for life, they still had a way out. They had freedom of movement and were able to travel to Podolia to purchase and barter the pillaged Jewish belongings. The life of we Jews was bitter and difficult, especially those who had been driven out of their homes. Hunger did not pass over anyone, and everyone was worn out and plagued, and nobody was satiated. It was not possible to obtain milled flour. The gentiles did not bring their wheat to the mill, for they would have had to give a portion to the German regime. Life was even more difficult for the Jews. For a few measures of wheat, rye, barley and even grits, oats or a few potatoes, one had to give over such articles as pillow, bedding, suits, dresses, and other household objects. A price in monetary terms almost did not exist.

We still had a bit of grits in the house, which we ground in a coffee grinder. Others took a piece of metal, made holes in it as in a meat grinder with notches, and turned it day and night so that they would be able to have something to put in a pot with boiling water and produce a dish which we would call “Tsher”.

Shortly after Passover, the Tsher already became scarce. The gentiles brought fewer products into town. The hunger grew from day to day. Jews barely dragged themselves on their feet, searching in the streets, the gentile yards and the fields. Any blade of grass that remotely resembled food was quickly devoured. The number of those how died from hunger grew day by day. The Chevra Kadisha (burial society) under the auspices of the Judenrat ran about all day with hand wagons to bring the dead to a Jewish burial.

Henchie Shapira, the daughter of Dudi Reichels, told me at that time that Stas Jurezko, Heryn Heiduk's youngest son, about whom we only have good things to say, came to Henchie Shapira and purchased a new suit for 8 kilograms of rye and 20 kilograms of potatoes. When he brought the products, it became obvious that instead of 8 kilograms, there were 12 kilograms of rye, and instead of 20 there were 30 kilograms of potatoes. When she next saw Stas and asked him why he gave her the extra kilos, he lowered his head in embarrassment and said: “Don't worry! I know that this is less than a suit is worth, and when I have another chance, I will give you additional food.”

Almost every day, I met Shalom Hoffman, Vove's son, going around with a basket and a few pots to distribute a bit of food to homebound families who were suffering from hunger. He also collected money to purchase boards, and cloth for shrouds for the dead.

I feel a moral duty to give honor and make mention of a Jew of great character, who assisted many hungry Jews during that terrible and difficult time. Hirsch Gelobter, the son of Sasi-Feiga Gelobter of Rozniatow, who lived near the train station in Krechowice, and settled in Bolekhov with his wife and three daughters after the expulsion. They went to live with their eldest daughter Genia Salitir. At the time of the first aktion in Bolekhov, he lost his wife Shendel and two daughters. Afterward, he went to live in Dolina and settled in the place where his sons worked, in Broshkov. For entire days, he would go among the homes of the deportees from Rozniatow to help them with what he could.

As a former merchant, he made contact with gentiles with whom he had formerly conducted business. Despite the fact that conducting business carried the punishment of death, almost every week he succeeded in bartering a calf or a large animal in exchange for various items. He did this alone or with the help of his son. At night, he would stealthily bring the animal to my brother-in-law Mordechai Kornblau, who lived outside the city and had stalls and barns. The shochet would come every Wednesday night to slaughter and render the animal kosher. He would sell portions of meat to his customers who had the means for a preset price, without Heaven forbid taking any profit. He only took the amount that he would need to purchase a second animal.

I remember that Kasrielchi Koflis, who used to come to our house almost every day to get something to eat, once said: “Mantzi, give me Thursday's portion today, for who knows if I will still be alive then.”

Hirsch Gelobter continued with his work for several months with self sacrifice. He was known, loved and esteemed by all the Jews of Dolina.

Once, as he was walking through the city, Hirsch found a group of Jews chopping stones on the street. An S.S. man was behind them, beating them over the head with the butt of a gun. He sat there like a hardened stone, no longer being able to watch the murder. He asked the German to have mercy on the weak, hungry Jews. The murderer threw himself upon Hirsch and began to beat him. Hirsch was a healthy, tall and well-built Jew, despite already being 60 years old at the time. He broke out in a wild fury, took the gun from the hand of the murderer, beat and bit him with his teeth, left him lying there wallowing in his blood, and fled into the fields that surround the city.

Everyone knew where Hirsch was hiding, for nobody wished to do harm to him on account of his good deeds. Even the Judenrat did everything possible to ignore and downplay the event.

{410}

He Fell as a Hero

Hirsch always wished that that the murderers would not take him alive to slaughter. His wish was fulfilled. After the liquidation of Dolina, they found him lying in his dwelling riddled with bullets, with a bloody axe in his stiff hand. The Christian neighbors told about his heroism. Every S.S. man who entered the threshold of his dwelling was honored with his axe. They saw themselves how several dead, bloodied murderers were taken out. The battle continued for a long time, until the hero Hirsch Gelobter, may G-d avenge his blood, gave up his soul in sanctification of the Divine Name.

The famine worsened to the point that people risked their lives to get something to eat. For example, Yosef Halpern went to Rozniatow with items that he exchanged for food. On the way back, several gentiles murdered him near the non-Jewish cemetery. The daughter of Itzi Rothbaum of Krechowice went along with her husband Tishenkel to Odenica-Dolina to exchange something with the gentiles. They encountered Krieger in his car on the route. He beat them murderously and then shot them.

Mueller built a death camp in Vishkuv. He would appear in the city a few times a week, capture a few Jews and murder them. One of the first victims was the young son-in-law of Yosef Kassner, the husband of Baltzi – Meir Nestel. A few days later, that selfsame murderer Mueller noticed from the yard of the “Kripa” amongst the forced laborers, the fine handsome youth Shaya Stern of Mizon. He summoned him to his office and shot him in the head without reason. He then ordered Zafart to clean up and leave no trace of the Jewish blood.

Every two weeks, the Judenrat had to supply 25 or 30 Jews to Mueller for Vishkuv. It is impossible to believe how Jews volunteered to go there with the hope that they would at least receive food for the work. The agreement with the Judenrat was that the workers would be exchanged after a month of work in Vishkuv. In praise of the Dolina Judenrat and the Jewish militia, I must mention that despite their tragically difficult work, they did not lose their Divine image, and always treated the Jews of Dolina in a humane fashion. When it seemed that nobody was returning from Vishkuv, and in order to find out what was taking place there, the chief of the Jewish militia, Edzi Poper, went to Vishkuv with a group of Jewish workers, and never returned from there.

{411}

In Constant Fear

By remaining in contact with relatives and acquaintances in other cities, through messengers or via those who escaped, we found out what was going on in Lemberg, Stryj, Bolekhov, Kalush and Stanislawow. Incidentally, I wish to mention that a few friends visited me for a week, and Lunik the son of Vovche Teneh also came for a few days. When Shimshon Rechtschaffen and his daughter Fanchi came to Dolina, they urged me to visit my friends in Kalush for a few days. He had the premonition that perhaps this might be the last time to visit with friends.

During the two days that I was in Kalush, I did not have the chance to see even a portion of our Rozniatowers. A great panic pervaded there. People were afraid to stick their heads out of their houses both during the day and the night. There was great crowding, with 14-20 people in one room.

The residents of Kalush had already tasted the bitter taste of a bestial “aktion” several times. Therefore, they lived in constant fear of the inevitable end. It was hard to recognize the people. They were weary and downtrodden, having lost the spark of desire and hope of living. They did not talk and converse, despite the fact that there was a great deal to talk about. They only looked at each other, etching the image in our memories, feeling that this might be the last time. The scene at my visit with the children was heartrending: Fanchi Shimshon's, Rivcha's Tenchi and Izi. Their weeping and begging of me to remain with them will never cease to resonate in my ears.

People searched for ways and made plans about how to escape. Dr. Nunek Lusthaus and his wife Irina the daughter of Dr. Feier, as well as their young child and mother Mrs. Esther Lusthaus, went to live in the village of Vytoicha where he worked as a physician. Dr. Fried and his wife Loti the daughter of Shmuel Friedler went to Swaryczow to work as doctors. Dr. Hilman of Dolina went to Spas, and Dr. Leopold Karp and his wife Eva went to Lipovetcha.

Jews felt somewhat safer in those places – either as physicians or as other workers, and did not suffer from hunger in those places, as did the Jews in the city or the ghetto. On the other hand, they did suffer from isolation and longing. The following Jews remained in Rozniatow: Dr. Sabat and his wife (nee Weinreb from Asmalada), Litower, Dr. Mina Froiman, her husband Fishel and daughter Aviva, and the pharmacist Margolis. One of them came to Dolina every week and stayed for a day or two to be together with Jews, and draw some moral support. They were very jealous of us, for we were among Jews: shared troubles are half a comfort.

Several hundred exiled Hungarian Jews also lived in Dolina. At the end of April 1942, the German commander issued an edict that, until May 1st, the border at Vishkuv would be open, and they could return home. Aside from the Hungarians, many other Jews set out with sacks on their shoulders and hurried so as not to be late. They fled to the border with a slight hope that they might save their lives. When they were already all at their place in this trap, Krieger arrived with 2 busses of murderers. They murdered all 500 Jews. Later, the Judenrat had to pay for the bullets, and all other costs associated with the slaughter. Thereby, we were assured that there would be no more actions in Dolina, for the 500 martyrs were reckoned on the Dolina quota.

I wish to relate here an incident that illustrates how cheap the lives of the Jews had become. Schultz practiced shooting in the garden of the Gestapo building by shooting at flying birds. Directly on the other side of Altastrasse, near the Dolina courthouse, Yankel Lew was walking home with a pail of water. The accursed man saw the badge of shame upon his arm, recognized him as a Jew, and shot him in the back.

The lawless situation, the hunger the constant fear about tomorrow created such a feeling of apathy within us. The arrival of the murderers at the Judenrat no longer created a panic, and people no longer ran to hide as in the beginning. Not one day passed in which a Jew was not murdered or sent off to Stanislawow.

A day before the bloody slaughter, on the Sabbath of August 29, 1942 I met Rodek Karp, Dr. Leopold Karp's brother, who came home from Waradol for the Sabbath.; Dolek Lusthaus and Baral. They were astonished; not being able to understand what was coming. However each of us was certain that there must be some reason why particularly on that Saturday and Sunday, all of the Jewish workers who were employed in the surrounding villages were sent home to their families.

Knocking his hand on his shoulder, Rodek said: “What can happen hear? Death? Nobody is afraid of that anymore. Today me, tomorrow you.”

That same Sabbath, late at night, my neighbor Yehoshua Teichman brought the bitter tidings that a panic is pervading in the city from where he just came, and everyone is frightened about the next day. Several busses with Gestapo men arrived, and Krieger and Mueller are in the Judenrat conducting discussions with the president Dr. Julius Weinreb. We both immediately went to inform all the neighbors.

I heard shots on Sunday, August 30th, 1942, the 17th of Elul 5702, at 4:00 a.m. I had enough time to place a lock on the door of the barn that was filled with wooden planks. My sister Mantzi, brother-in-law Mordechai, and their children Saralche and Devora and I hid there. I quickly ran to the house of the parents of my brother-in-law where my other sister Hentchi was. Under no circumstances did they want to hide, for she had great faith. They even tried to convince me that nothing serious would happen.

Suddenly, the wild beasts broke down the front door with their axes and shouted: “Get outside!”

They began to beat people with their clubs. There were laments and cries, but the murderers mercilessly dragged out the remaining victims from the beds and couches. At that time, I happened to be in the dark kitchen, and I hid behind the bed. To this day, I do not know how I was able to overcome my fear and maintain control of my senses. I heard clearly one murderer say to another in Polish: “It is too bad that I did not bring my electric flashlight”.

After a few moments, silence pervaded the house. I heard the murderers close up the house with boards at the front and back doors. I crawled out of my hiding place on my belly and saw that there were signs pasted on the windows, which said: “Whoever pillages this house will be shot by the Gestapo.”

I immediately realized that I was safe for the moment, for nobody would break into the house on account of the warning on the windows. I went up to the attic, and from the cracks I was able to see everything that was taking place outside. I saw the S.S. murderers and the Ukrainian militia, armed with machine guns, dragging out the victims from the Jewish homes. There were civilian gentiles with axes and boards, and one with a list to note which Jewish homes were already clear of Jews. They lined up the Jews five in a row, with their hands in the air. The sadistic murderers, pointing their guns from both sides, gathered the Jews into gathering point at the Ringplatz in town.

A few months later, I heard a detailed report of the dreadful scene that took place in the Ringplatz from Sani Kassner, with whom I was in the Stryj Ghetto. After they shot his brother-in-law Meir Nastel, Baltche's husband in Dolina, he came on the Friday before the slaughter to take his father Yossel and his son from Bolekhov. In the meantime the wild action broke out on Sunday morning. They lived in a back room at the home of Meir Nastel's older brother in the Ringplatz. There was a German office in the front room, and the windows facing the Ringplatz were covered with placards and notices, so that the murderers did not attack the house and especially this room. Everyone packed in there, and they were able to hear and see what was taking place in the Ringplatz.

The Jewish victims who had been forced there, half naked and in pajamas, had to sit in a kneeling position. Anyone who moved from his place was fiercely beaten by the wild S.S. men and the Ukrainian murderers. Many were shot there. Without mercy, the murderers grabbed young children from their parents, and, holding them by the feet, beat their heads over a heap of stones until they died.

When one of the murderers snatched a child from Moshe Schulman, the son-in-law of Avraham Strumwasser and husband of Chaya, Schulman fell upon the murderer and began to choke him. Immediately, other murderers came to help him, and beat the unfortunate, anguished father to death with they bayonets. Aharon and Mintche Enis and their children Fanche, Tantche and Kuba struggled like lions, and did not let the murderers take them live to the slaughter. They gave up their souls in Sanctification of the Divine name by throwing hand grenades at the murderers from their own home.

After a few days, Dr. Iwashkewitz, later the son-in-law of Kardash, told me about the terrible scene that was told to him by a Ukrainian militiaman who had been present at the slaughter in the cemetery. At 1:00 p.m., the beaten, tortured Jews were placed in front of the three large graves. They were ordered to strip naked and march in a row over a plank that was laid over the pit from one side to the other. Accompanied by loud music, the machine guns sprayed a volley of bullets and mowed down the lives of our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and unfortunate children.

Rivers of Jewish blood flowed through all of the streets where Jews had lived. Throughout Monday, following an order of the Gestapo, the gentiles collected the Jewish corpses and cleaned the thick blood from the streets, in order to obliterate all traces of the murderous crime.

At the same time, the Dolina Shupo group, the Ukrainian militia with the assistance of local gentiles, ran through the fields and forests like poisoned mice to drag out the surviving Jews. Among others they captures Leizer Geller and his young son Zundele Bodzi, Hirsch Mordechai Schwalb along with his wife and children, his father-in-law Mordechai Leib, the dentist Yosef Blau the husband of Matilda Prinz, his brother Salek Blau, Avrahamel Ratenbach, and Yankel Yampel the son of Moshe.

Late Monday evening, I came down from the attic and crawled on all fours like a bloodhound so that I would not fall down and hurt myself. I removed a board from the ceiling so that I could enter the barn where my sister Mantzi with her husband and children Sarache and Dvora were hiding. To my fortune, I found in the ruins my two friends Yossi Lindenbaum and Chaim Wolf Wigdorowicz' son, who had remained here for a while while fleeing from the city. From Yossi I found out that there was no more hope of remaining alive in the city, for Dolina had been designated as Judenrein, and all of the members of the Judenrat had been murdered.

Yossi told me that nobody could forget the heroic behavior of our president, Dr. Julius Weinreb. With a feeling of awe and honor, and a duty to perpetuate the name of this martyr, I wish to relate to you the following:

Our Judenrat president, Dr. Julius Weinreb, was a native of Dolina. He was a lawyer and a Zionist with a warm Jewish heart. He never lost himself in the darkest moments, and never harmed anyone. When the murderers Krieger and Mueller asked Weinreb on the Saturday night of the eve of the bloody slaughter to provide 1,200 Jews with the help of the Jewish Ordnunsdienst (militia), he immediately answered categorically that he is the director of Jewish affairs, and he can fulfill any of their desires on the moment but G-d is the master over Jewish lives.

That answer made the murderers so angry that they immediately decided to liquidate all the Jews and declare the city Judenrein.

The end of Dr. Weinreb was evil and bitter. First, he was held in Dolina, where he was tortured and beaten severely. Then he was taken to Stanislawow. The human imagination cannot conceive of the forms of torture that the sadist Krieger inflicted upon his Jewish victims in his own famous, terrible slaughter house known as Rudolf's mill. There, our president Dr. Weinreb gave up his holy soul in sanctification of the Divine Name.

It was no longer possible to remain in the city and hide at home. The local gentiles would hang out near the Jewish homes and check to see if they heard a sound in the house. Then they would inform the Gestapo. On Wednesday night, we went out to the fields and forests on the Odenitza. On several occasions, we met some gentiles along the route who beat us, but they allowed us to continue along our journey.

We met several Jews in the small forests.

On Thursday night, we arrived hungry, tired, broken and desperate at the home of Stefan Kardash, who lived in a small forest. His son-in-law Dr. Iwashkewitz received us in a very friendly manner. He displayed sincere great sympathy with us, and allowed us to hide in the “fadeni”, that is under the floor of the barn, where we had to remain in a lying position. We crawled out every night to straighten out our stooped bodies.

The doctor and his wife Olga gave us some warm food, and also prepared some food for us for the coming days. They told us news about what was taking place.

On Sunday afternoon, when the gentile neighbors sat in Kardash's yard, the sole topic of conversation was about the bloody slaughter of the Jews. One person said that his father-in-law, who lives in the Harisha opposite the cemetery, told him how the Ukrainian militia with the help of the neighboring gentiles quickly covered the graves and fell like locusts upon the heaps of clothing, searching for valuables.

They also told how the heap of fresh earth over the graves began to pulsate like waves on the water. Sounds of bitter weeping and sighing could be heard from under the ground, where the half living people struggled with the angel of death. This cast a pall even upon the gentiles, and drove them out of the cemetery. The weeping and sighing of those who were not shot did not cease for several days and nights.

It was impossible to remain hiding with Dr. Iwashkewitz. He was indeed a good man, and often helped the Jews. However the Gestapo posted notices that anyone who hid or assisted a Jew would receive the death penalty. We had to find a way to continue on as quickly as possible.

A the same time, the Gestapo put up notices promising that anyone who would turn in a Jewish victim would receive a reward of a pound of sugar, a box of tobacco or a bottle of liquor. The gentiles could not stand up to such an enticement. There were many volunteers.

Meir Ungar, the husband of Dora Gelobter (who lives today in the United States) related to me the following story.

In a village near Bolekhov, a Ukrainian captured a Jewish girl, and asked the Gestapo that, aside from the designated reward, he should first be allowed to take the girl's dress before they shot her. The Gestapo asked him, “Why?” He answered that he wanted an intact dress without a bullet hole in it. This price was too high even for the Gestapo man. He shot the gentile with one bullet and the unfortunate Jewish girl with the second.

Dr. Iwashkewitz knew that in Bordishkov (a village near Dolina in which only Germans lived in the time before the war) there were Jews in the farm area. He made a special trip there, and sought out my cousin Ethel and her husband Shmuel Gelobter. They got in contact with us.

At night, having traveled in a roundabout way through fields, and forests, we succeeded in arriving in Bordishkov. In a forest in front of the city, we met among others, some people who were hungry without energy, and without the will to live: Miriam Kirshenbaum, the wife of Leib Kunis, the daughter of Yitzchak Schwindler from the old village with one child, and Chantzi Strassman who was the wife of Moshe the youngest daughter of Chaya Adler.

We could not remain in Bordishkov for more than three days. During the days, when the Jews worked in the fields, I hid in the Shalom Deutscher's attic. During the evenings, I would steal away to the home of Mordechai Gross and Zisha Aryeh Kupferberg who lived together in one dwelling. There I always met close friends. We talked from our broken hearts, and wished each other that we would meet again while alive.

We left Broshkov to go to Bolekhov, where we remained for only a brief time, for the fear of illegally hiding Jews was great.

We went to Stryj. There, Yaakov Lew, who had already been there for a while with his family, helped us to find a place to lie down and rest after having tired ourselves out and depleting our strength.

We were unable to remain there for long. A wild action broke out there 3 or 4 weeks later, in which they sent 2,000 Jews to the gas chambers of Belzec. This was at the end of November of 1942.

The following people perished in that bloody action: Yankel Lew and his family, Gittel Adler, Srultche Rozman, and Avraham Fogel and my entire family. At that time, I was beaten by the Gestapo and left lying among the corpses in the yard of 21 Lvovska Street. After a few hours of lying there, I regained consciousness somewhat and realized the situation I was in. I crawled into a mikva (ritual bath) that was located behind a bombarded, ruined building in the same yard that was covered with garbage. I lay there for 3 days.

The scene that took place in the synagogue for those three days that I was there is impossible to describe. More than 1,500 Jews were packed into a synagogue that could possibly hold 500 people. Many people suffocated, and the dead lay one atop the other. People attended to their needs on the floor. People were not lying, not sitting, but were simply hanging in the air without even a glass of water. The physical and moral suffering torments me until now.

At that time, they still respected and required professional craftsmen and tradesmen. I was taken out during the selection and taken to the Judenrat.

After a few days, I met Sasi Weidman (today in New York), Yossel Gelobter's youngest daughter who risked her life by coming from Bolekhov to Stryj with the hope of saving or at least seeing for the last time her parents, Yossel and Batya Malka, for the last time. Yossel Kassner was killed in that same action. I was together with Drezel Frisch (Meir's daughter) and her husband, for a few days. He was taken out of the synagogue at the last minute. Later, they both died in Bolekhov of typhus, which they had caught in the synagogue.

I now remained alone, like a lost dog, without a home, and without a family. Sasi brought me to the house of her aunt Chantche Sobel, the daughter of Pini Berger, who lived in Stryj. She took me in and treated me like an only child. Almost every night, surviving Jews from various towns and villages that had become Judenrein snuck into the ghetto. The following people arrived with one such group: Dr. Leon Horowitz the son of Shmuel Benzi, Mottel Hoffman the son of Shalom, his cousin Magister Ratner, Yankel Yampel the son of Bendet, his cousins Buni and Tzippe Angelman, Chaya Stern the daughter of Golda and her five year old daughter Edzi.

Dr. Leon Horowitz did not remain in the ghetto for long. He felt unfortunate and alone, and wished to go to his sister Klara Beigeleizen in Lemberg. Two days later I found out that members of the Ukrainian militia captured Dr. Leon Horowitz in Mikolaev on his way to Lemberg, took him to the Gestapo and shot him.

Mottel Hoffman and his cousin Magister Marek Ratner, accompanied by their uncle from Stryj, Blaustein, went to Skole and hid there with a gentile in a bunker. Two months later, at the beginning of March 1943, we were informed in the ghetto that the bunker was revealed, and the approximately 30 Jews who were hiding there were shot.

In Bolekhov there were still some work camps where Jews worked hard with the hope of surviving until the liberation. They slowly began to come to the Stryj Ghetto. Among others there were: Sani Kassner and his wife, his sister Balcha and her child, Rivka Fruchter the wife of Meshulam, and her cousin Tzipora Kreiter the daughter of Moshe Tzipa's, Avraham Yechezkel Zimmerman the son of Meir, Meir Laufer the son of Yankel, Herman Laufer the grandson of Efraim Rechtschaffen, Moshe Milstein the husband of Bluma, the son-in-law of Chaya Gittel Strassman, Yehoshua Strassman, Getzel and Yisraelka Frankel the sons of Meir, and the children of the tailor Yaakov Yehuda – Yenta, Chaim, Wolf, and Shimon.

Dolina Jews who were saved included: Mordechai Teicher and his wife, their daughter Beila with her husband and children, Moshe Landis the husband of Gittel Enis, Dr. Herman Neuhauser, Shlomo Ratenbach and his wife, Itzik Peker; Yosi Lindenbaum and his sister Maltzi, Yankel Klieresfeld and his younger brother, Yutka Leiter and his brother, and Moshe Geller with his wife – the daughter of Leib Hermans of Perehinsko – and their children.

{420}

Piniele

Piniele was a 14 or 15 year old child with the nickname “Simchat Torah” for he was always a happy, joyous child with laughing, intelligent eyes. Now he was like a broken, weary old man. He came almost every evening to see me in the ghetto. He talked about his home, and his terrifying experiences. He had great faith, and like an experienced adult, he hatched bold plans about how to survive the terrible time. He remained in constant contact with his cousin Shlomole Spiegel, the son of Sara Rivka, who in that time was in the Bolekhov camp, and had reserved places in a bunker for both of them. Unfortunately, the Stryj Ghetto was blocked off, and the liquidation began on June 6, 1943.

It is hard for me to describe in words the horrifying, heartrending scene of the death of Moshele the shochet (ritual slaughterer) Weiser, along with his family and others. His grandson, Yankele the son of Zida and Bracha, a firmly built lad of age 16 or 17, brought the following news to me in the Stryj Ghetto. About ten days after the great slaughter in Dolina, Lusi Zitzer snuck out of the bunker one night to find something to eat for his parents and the rest of the people who were languishing in the same bunker, which was located in the cellar of the house of Dr. Redish. Unfortunately, he was unable to do anything. He realized that there was no salvation for them, for Dolina had been declared Judenrein. Lusi was able to do what many others had done – to try and save himself by fleeing into the forests. However, he gave himself over to the murderers like a hero, and informed them of the bunker in order to put an end to the hellish tribulations and anguish of the unfortunate people. From there, they were transported to the Dolina cemetery. Aside from the Zitzer family, there was Lipa Teneh (the son of Hersh) and his wife, Moshele the shochet and his wife Feiga, their son Zida the shochet and his wife Bracha who was the daughter of Yosef and Shimon Stern, as well as their two daughters Chatzi and Reizel and their son Yankel, There was also Moshe Eli's son Yankele the shochet Hochman, with his wife and two children, as well as others..

Moshe the shochet, did not walk to the grave that was dug, but rather danced as if at a celebration in the former good times. With a radiant face, eyes lifted toward heaven, he recited the confessional with great enthusiasm, and recited David's Psalm with a raised voice: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – I fear no evil since You are with me” [2] as he lead the group toward the open grave. With the murderers began to shoot, a bullet hit Zida's son Yankele in the hand. He jumped in to the grave and remained near the edge. After the communal grave was covered with earth, he began to move, and was able to crawl out of the grave at night. After wandering for a long time, he arrived in the Stryj Ghetto. But unfortunately this was not for long. He was murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name during a wild action at the end of October, 1942.

For a long time thereafter, I could not at all understand how one could greet the Angel of Death with such joy. I had earlier heard about how Klara Patrich, the youngest daughter of Moshe Sanes of Dolina, jumped from the death board into the grave holding the hand of her husband Donek Shechter on the bloody Sunday. Among the Jews who were lead to death from an exposed bunker in Bolekhov was Gitzi, the young daughter of Meir Frisch, who marched on her last way with a raised head and a smile on her face as she mocked the murderers.

I thought that I would have the energy to explain in order everything that I had seen, heard, experienced and absorbed. However, I have now realized that a person is too weak to digest all this. I often have the feeling that I will be suspected of exaggerating the horror, therefore, I make an effort to tell only the main points. You, my dear readers, should forgive me when I mention or discuss martyrs who are not actually from Rozniatow or its areas. I do this with the intention of fulfilling my own and our collective moral duty to friends with whom we endured the hell, and who unfortunately have nobody living to remember them.

Every Jew who lived in the ghetto felt that death stood before him, and that it might come at any minute of day or night.

When fear and terror are a daily occurrence, when the impossible and the unbelievable become an actual phenomenon, all that one can do is to adapt to the prevailing situation. Simply, one accepts the uncanny reality.

The main thing was to obtain a work certificate – a legitimization that gave one “the right to live”. One could deceive oneself that one might be saved. I worked for a time in the Jewish hospital as a disinfector, and I often had to go to the Aryan street outside the ghetto to the jail ostensibly to obtain disinfectant. When Jews were imprisoned, I was able to find out the reason for the arrest, to assist them, and free them. In this way, I met Esther Lusthaus in prison, with her daughter-in-law Irena Feier and child. Together, we bemoaned and wept over our common fate. We remained in contact and found out that Dr. Nunek Lusthaus, who worked temporarily as a doctor in the village of Vytoicha near Bolekhov, was searching for a way to escape from there and go to the Stryj ghetto. The murderers captured him as he was already far from Bolekhov on the way to Stryj. They brought Dr. Nunek Lusthaus to Stanislawow, and his mother, wife, and children were brought to a prison in Stryj. Yankel Yampel, the son of Bendet, worked hard to obtain the valuables and funds which were needed within 3 days to free the Lusthaus family. Unfortunately, a contingent action took place in the meantime, and they were the first victims from the prison.


There are moments in the life of an individual that are etched in the memory and remain there in perpetuity. For I, who lived through the hell, every event, episode and shock that we endured each day is a frequent guest, and often comes to me in nightmares. I recall that almost every night, the doctors came to a room in the hospital and conducted spiritual séances. They sat around with their hands resting on the table, spoke about death, asked questions and came up with answers to explain the tragic situation. When I once was shaking, not agreeing with Dr. Herman Neuhauser's opinions and belief in the séances, he simply got angry at me. A few months later, when I was living together with him in the forests, he mentioned that it is the psychological nature of humans to believe in good news and keep away from evil prophecies. Often, we would deliberately interpret and put a positive spin on the apparent good news from the front that we heard on the underground radios, and spread it among the Jews in the ghetto to sweeten their bitter lives.

There was an adage in the ghetto, “the salvation under the shoulders and the angel of death before the eyes”. The greatest acquisition for Jews in the ghetto was when one could obtain a portion of “cyankali”, that is capsules of strong poison that look like saccharin crystals. People would wear it as a pouch around the neck like an amulet from a holy rabbi. They would guard it carefully and be prepared to use it at the last moment, in order not to fall in the hands of the murderers. Many Jews gave away their last belongings to the gentiles for fake poison, which was nothing more than saccharin.

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Bunkers

The Jews displayed a great deal of initiative, original ideas and inventiveness in constructing and building the various bunkers and hiding places. Ensuring a place in a bunker during the time of an action was a great worry and problem.

Many Jews earned their livelihood by digging and building the bunkers. The following people were experts in camouflaging such bunkers: Yankel Yampel the son of Bendet, Buni Engelman the husband of Leache Chaya Golda's, Tzipa's husband Herman Laufer the grandson of Efraim Rechtschaffen, Meir Laufer the son of Yankel, Avraham Yechezkel Zimmerman the son of Meir, and grandson of Sashi Feiga's.

It is literally something to marvel at and something unbelievable how Jewish minds created such brilliant concepts in the building these bunkers. I will attempt to describe one of the several bunkers in which I hid myself during the actions in the Stryj Ghetto.

In the Stryj Ghetto, on 14 Lvovska Street, in the front room home of Wolman-Milstein where there had been a shoe workshop, the following people lived: Leibush Feldman and his two daughters Tzila and Minka; Buni Engelman and his wife Tzipa and four year old daughter Edzia; Buni Milstein; and I. Milstein's relative Sara, her daughter Chana and son Moshe who jumped off a moving train during an action and broke his leg, all lived in the kitchen. Another relative of theirs, the young, fine boy with us, Moshele Hauser, was also with us. The agronomist Hesi Hoffman lived with his elderly, ill mother and sister Libchia in the lower room. Yankel Yampel was often with us.

In the closed yard there was a well and a shed that had a common wall with a lavatory. A pit was dug in the entire area of the shed, covered with beams and boards, and then covered over with earth. At the end of the wall, parallel to the lavatory, there was a small opening with a striped cover. Various utensils and broken furniture filled the entire room. A lock hung on the outside of the door. By removing a board from the roof of the lavatory, one could descend through a corner of the shed straight into the pit with the assistance of a small ladder. The last one in had to fold up the ladder, replace the board on the lavatory, and also close the opening of the pit. It took no more than five minutes to arrange ourselves completely in the hole. In order to mislead the murderers, we would always throw articles of clothing near the well and on top of the ladder that hung folded up atop a high fence.

At the end of December 1942 or January 1943, all of the working Jews were concentrated in Bolekhov. The old people and children were either hidden somewhere or already killed. At that time, the Rabbi of Bolekhov, Rabbi Shlomo Perlow, and his entire family were brought into the Stryj Ghetto. Yechezkel Reder of Lvovska 16 took the rabbi and his family into his house. All Jews, including the Judenrat, treated the Rabbi of Bolekhov with exceptional reverence and respect. They comforted themselves and hoped that in the merit of this holy man that was now with them, their agonized lives would become easier. Unfortunately, the situation worsened, and every movement in daily life was fraught with great mortal danger. People would say that all of the curses of the reprimand [3] fell upon our heads. Despite all this, people did not lose their Divine image and they helped each other in any way possible.

{425}

Righteous Gentiles

I saw a ray of hope through contacts outside the ghetto walls, when Blumka Horowitz-Laufer was suddenly brought into the ghetto. After the bloody aktion in Dolina, she succeeded in coming to Rozniatow after difficult wanderings. She lived for six months in a haystack that was owned by Stas Jurezko, at the edge of the forest. She was brought something to eat once or twice a week.

On one occasion, children were playing in the yard, they noticed Blumka. That night, Stas and his friend Duzia Dodenko brought her to the Stryj Ghetto.

I would have to have a writer's talent and be able to write books in order to describe her experiences. To this day, I cannot forget the terrible situation she portrayed. She lost her power of speech from her six months of not talking. She simply could not express a word. She could only whisper. She was terrified of everything, including the light. It took a few weeks until she was able to regain her human form, and then they took her back to Rozniatow.

Both gentiles were among the righteous gentiles who helped and saved Jews. Stas advised me to organize a group of 10-15 Jews with financial means. He would dig a bunker in the Rozniatow forest not far from his house, provide food and all necessary supplies, and thereby help us survive the difficult time. When I took this plan to Dr. Kahana and two other of his friends who were able to provide the finances, he laughed at me and wondered why I wanted to place myself into the hands of such a person as Stas Heidok. My arguments and convincing did not help. Stas' words to me are etched in my memory: “When you find yourself not far from me, I will help you!”

At almost the same time, Hirsch the son of David and Vovche Ratenbach of Dolina, arrived in the Stryj Ghetto. I was a friend of Hirsch from my youth in the Dolina gymnasium. I found out from him that in Dolina there were Jews from various different places of the region, who were under the supervision of the brothers Stach and Heryn Babi. On several occasions Hirsch endangered his life by going to remove Jews from the Stryj Ghetto and Bolekhov camp and bringing them to the forest.

His plan to bring the Bolekhov Rebbe to the forest unfortunately did not work out. When he was in the ghetto for the last time, someone reported him, and he barely managed to escape from the ghetto.

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