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{426}

In the Vale of Lament and Anguish (Cont'd)

A Seder Night in the Bolekhov Ghetto

Every Friday afternoon, in quiet times when there was no panic in the ghetto, I had the privilege of taking the Rebbe to the mikva which was at the Jewish hospital. At that time, I spent almost every evening with the Rebbe's family, hearing stories from the past and news that was brought to him during the day by messengers from other places.

We were close to 100 Jews at the Passover Seder of the Rebbe. Each person received a half a piece of matzo, which was very rare in the ghetto. To this day, I do not know from where he obtained the matzos and wine for the four cups. The Seder proceedings, with biter weeping and sighs, cannot be described. We were afraid of a sudden attack. Therefore, we strengthened our guard throughout the entire night, and checked the entrances to the ghetto every hour: Lvovska, Batarego, Luna-Park, Koshniersla, and Berko Joselevitza.

After the Seder, we discussed the tragic situation and discussed how to save ourselves from the ghetto. Should one go to hide with gentiles, or go out to the forests? The brother of the Rebbe's son-in-law, Hershele, a very intelligent man, had come from Hungary and brought with him plans to transfer Jews across the border. Unfortunately, already at the outset, this did not succeed, and the first group of 20 Jews, mainly doctors including Dr. Schiff at the head, were shot at the border. When I told them about Hirsch Ratenbach in the Dolina forests and about Stas in Rozniatow, the Rebbe said, “The accursed enemy will not succeed in killing everybody. Go in good health and be successful.”

Aside from my work as a janitor at the Jewish hospital in the ghetto, I also worked two days a week at building a new train station in Stryj. I worked a half a day with mortar and bricks, followed by 2-3 hours in a wooden hut that carried the name: “Medical Center for Jews”. My work was to administer first aid, bandage wounds, etc.

When I worked at the train station, I had the opportunity to walk through the Aryan streets and see the normal life of the gentiles, with children playing happily in the streets. I painfully recalled what they were doing to our Jewish children. My spiritual suffering was often worse than my physical anguish.

Once, when I was walking to work with a group through the Aryan street, I ran into a group of children with woolen sweaters who were imitating an aktion, running and grabbing each other with wild childish shouts: “Juda! Laus!”, exactly as the Gestapo men. They did not neglect to mock us as we passed by. The parents who stood by the houses beamed with pride.

When I returned to the ghetto broken in spirit more than in body, I stated with resolution, “I am no longer going to work.”

At exactly this time, an order arrived at the Judenrat to provide 100 Jewish workers for the barrel factory in Bolekhov. A price of 20 Harta, that is golden dollars, was the price set to become one of the workers. I did not have this. Therefore, Dr. Kahana did not have any desire to send me. He tried to convince me that we could still live long enough in the ghetto. I did not have that sum and I could not hope to be among the fortunate ones. Dr. Kahana, who was responsible for the workforce in the camp, did not want to send me. They all knew that I did not aspire to go to work for Hitler in Bolekhov, but rather that my objective was the Dolina forest.

Dr. Allerhand, Kahana's deputy, who was responsible for providing the 100 workers, told me to be ready and to present myself at the gathering place of those who were going, and he would sneak me out.

Prior to my going, I went to the home of the Rebbe to bid farewell. He took my hand and whispered quietly. I did not understand that this was a blessing. He patted my shoulder and said: “Go in peace, and may you merit salvation.”

Many of my friends in the camp accompanied me to the ramp, where two trucks were waiting for the workers. One of the drivers was Bil, the former driver of Archie Berger, whom I knew well. He was a sophisticated gentile. After a few words, he understood my situation and my wish. He took my sack, placed me in a corner near the tire that was close to him, and covered me with his raincoat. Thus did I arrive illegally at the barrel factory camp.

Shika Weidman helped me greatly there. He introduced me to the camp director, Rumek Samuel, the son-in-law of Leizer Schindler. He treated me as one of his own. He alerted a few of my friends about my arrival. Magister Zalman Shuster the grandson of Mishel Artman, as well as the dentist Bomek Hamburger of Voynilov came to me. They concerned themselves with obtaining a work permit for me.

I mixed in and went out daily with the people who were going to work. After work, I went to see Sasi Gelobter, Yenti Freudenberg, the children of Striten Kalman's, Shlomole Spiegel, and others.

Riva Weidman, Hersch Mendel Artman's daughter, brought me something to eat almost every evening. In order to get from her waterworks camp to my camp, she had to pass through an opening in a board. I often asked her how this was possible. If one has the intention to do good, one can even cross an iron wall.

On Sunday morning, July 6, 1943, they woke me up from my sleep and told me that the camp was surrounded by German police and Ukrainian militia. Somehow, I was hauled out to the yard, still in my night shirt and pants. There I was informed that they were gathering up the 100 workers who were provided by the Stryj Ghetto.

To my good fortune, at that moment Rumek Samuel, removed from the hands of the militia, to allow me to get dressed. From his wink, I understood what he meant. Instead of returning to the camp, I entered the attic. I had a chance to tell Blumka Kalman to remove the ladder and place it on the other wall. Within a moment, I was caught like a mouse in a small place under the planks. They searched everywhere, including the attic. The bandits then included the Bolekhov Judenrat and Jewish police, and took all 300 Jews to the cemetery, where they shot them.

When I later descended from the attic, I saw that they had removed all items from my camp. Shlomole brought me a jacket and shoes. Sasi brought me some bread and sugar, and Yenti brought me some tobacco. They brought me through a tortuous route to the refinery that was not far from the barrel factory, where the following people were gathered and waiting: Yechezkel Zimmerman the son of Meir, Meir the son of Yankel, Hesi Rosenman, and Barron and his sister from Kalush. As I bade farewell to those who were remaining in the camp, I wish to mention the words of Rivtza Nussbaum, the granddaughter of Yaakov Meir of Rozniatow: “Go and save yourself. Then there will be an extra bullet for us.”

The decision was to set out toward the forests of Dolina. The question arose as to who would show the way. The Kalushers did not realize that the way was completely unknown to them. We became confused and had not yet decided to leave Bolekhov. The lot fell upon me. Each of as had some utensil – a knife, an iron bar, and Hesia had a revolver.

At sundown we went on our way. We walked for a while through the fields and were almost out of the city when suddenly, from a side road, a young Pole came to us and said to us in Polish: “I know you are Jews who wish to save yourselves. Take my advice and go along this way (he pointed with his hands), and you will avoid the police and the militia who are now on all the ways searching for Jews who are fleeing from Stryj, where the liquidation of the ghetto has begun.”

I thanked him and told him that we already have a plan and know what to do.

The meeting between the young Pole and us was exactly at the intersection of three roads. As if by magic, I pushed on and set out along the road which he had shown us. Suddenly, we noticed a shadow parallel to us. We were six people and felt strong enough, so we called him over. It became clear to us that this was a Ukrainian worker who was returning home for a two day vacation from the Budinst work camp in Stryj. He told us that the liquidation began during the day of June 6, 1943. We asked him to guide us along a way that would avoid the murderous militia in Hashuv. This was far out of his way, but with some urging and a high price, he was convinced. He began to run with us and led us along a path with thorns and stones that ended up at the banks of the Hashever water, that is the Bistritza it seems, where there was a large bridge. Then the sheketz returned to his home in his village.

As we were on the bridge, an armed man met us. Seeing that we were a large group, he positioned himself near the railing on one side of the bridge. We were on the other side, and we did not encounter each other.

We were ten on the main road that led toward Dolina. We were very tired from the strenuous day with so many events. We turned off and entered a field, where we all fell down into the haystacks and lay down for a bit of rest.

I do not know for how long we slept. I suddenly awakened, and awakened the rest of the group. Everyone got up and set out on the main road to Dolina.

It was still very dark when we arrived at the edge of the village of Brodotzkov. Suddenly, someone shone a flashlight into our faces. He lay on the grass in the Kolodzin yard which led to the highway. He was holding a flashlight in one hand, and in the other hand an automatic revolver. Without ceremonials, he began to speak to us openly: He knew from where we were coming and to where we were going. He is Stach Babi's brother Heryn. He helps Jews to save themselves from the Hitlerist murderers. He was coming now from Stryj, where he was on a mission from Regina Pilzen of Kalush (who was already in the forests for two months), to bring her brother Feivish, his wife and others from the Stryj ghetto. He mentioned my name as well.

From his words, we could see that we had met an honorable man, for he was capable of killing all of us with a series of bullets. To convince us further he said that he was waiting for Lozerke Schiffman who went to Kolodzin to get food, and then we would return to the forest.”

I was a personal friend of Lozerke for many years. We were last together in Dolina. A few minutes later, he arrived with a backpack full of food. He was accompanied by Plovka Kozak, who was Stach's right hand man in the forest. When Lozer saw me, he embraced me, kissed me, and wept. Then we all set out for the forest.

When day broke, we were already in the forest. They led us to a valley filled with trees, which at one time was the summer residence of Janek Laufer. In that place Yankel Laufer (the husband of Blumka Horowitz), as well as his sister had their retreat. Lozer and Heryn gave us instructions about how to conduct ourselves clandestinely in the forest. They would alert the people in the forest about us.

{431}

In the Forest

Who has the ability to describe our feelings that we all felt as we rested in the grass of the forest, enjoyed the crisp, fresh air, and completely forgot about our situation? I reckoned that it was not my wisdom and daring, but rather providence alone that had dictated to me how to conduct myself and what to do. How can one interpret otherwise the march from the Bolekhov camp to the forests of Dolina, which should have taken two nights, and only took one night? The exit from the camp, the meeting of our two specially sent guides, and the arrival to the right place in the forest. I had the feeling and strong belief that the blessing of the Bolekhov Rebbe accompanied me above all removed my terror, and strengthened my faith that I would survive.

The first to come to us was Stach Babi. He spoke to us pleasantly, about how he would help us. The following distinguished guests came to us at midday: Moshe Klein (who today lives in America), Avraham Haber, Srulka Helfer, and Regina Pelzen. They brought us bread with a full pot of cooked potato soup. It is impossible to describe in words what this was like for us.

The next day, after the customary payment, Heryn began to guide Hesio and the two Barrons to the forests of Perehinsko, where Hesio's brother-in-law Kupferberg and other relatives were hiding.

Yechezkel Zimmerman and Meir Laufer returned to the camp in Bolekhov to fetch from there some necessary items and perhaps to bring as well some friends to the forest. Unfortunately, they were captured and murdered. At that time, it began to rain and the wind began to blow to such a degree that it penetrated the entire body, and it was very difficult on the heart.

Not far from us, in another group, lived Yosef Frischer of Dolina, and Chana Deutscher. All of these Jews had lived in the forest for about a year already. Every one of them had already made contacts with gentiles, who provided food in return for valuables. The best expert whom I found in finding sources of food was Moshe Klein. He would bring a live calf or 10-20 hens into the forest on his shoulders. I attempted to help out in all sorts of ways, including cooking, the maintenance of cleanliness, and keeping the home in order. I became one of the family.

At that time, liquidations of the ghettos and camps were taking place in almost all the cities of Galicia, and those who succeeded in escaping came to the forest from all sorts of places. Heryn became jealous of his brother Stach, who also had some Jews under his care. He decided to take Jews in to his so called “kolkhoz”. In order to get into a camp, one had to pay money and valuable objects, such as gold watches, rings, and jewels. Generally, any Jew who fled to the forest would bring valuables with him. There were also Jews who formed their own groups, such as: the Pilzens, Helfer, Haber, Yosi Lindenbaum, Velvel (Kopel's) Kuperschmid, Shea Teichman of Dolina, Zelig Eber and his sister from the village of Rybno, the two Feier brothers of Stryj, Shlomo and Zani Ratenbach with their two Sobel nephews from Stryj.

The following were in Heryn's group: From Stanislawow – Shaika and Yanka Shrager, Muni and Fanka Kandler, Mondik Zahen and Rita, Karel Ister, Fitzer, Leib and Dvora Schvitzer, Wilek Knoll of Nadworna, Wilech and Siunek Garfinkel of Stryj, Fred Kowaler, his sister Lotti, and their mother, Czesia Zilberman the granddaughter of Landsman from Kalush. Aharon and his wife Regina Walkentreiber, Hirsch Katzman, Dontzi Hochpelzen of Zawirona. Dr. Neuhauser of Dolina, Dr. Stern and his wife and daughter from Mizon, Piniele Stern of Mizon, the dentist Schindler and his wife of Bolekhov, Max and Sabina Katz of Stryj, Shmuel Shlakes, and Shmuelke Teitelbaum the son of the rabbi of Neisands. I got to know the latter at the house of the rabbi of Dolina. Afterwards, I met him many times at the home of the rabbi of Bolekhov in the Stryj ghetto, including at the Passover Seder, and now I met him in the forest. He told me that he worked as an undertaker in the Stryj Ghetto until the last minute. He risked his life by washing and dressing the body of the Bolekhov Rebbe with clean linens as shrouds, and burying him alone in a separate grave at the time when everyone else was buried in a mass grave.

At that time, when Jews were streaming into forests trying to save themselves from the ghettoes, Meirka Turteltaub the son of Itzi Leizer came to us. I will write about his heroism separately.

I slowly became accustomed to life in the forest. It seemed that the danger had passed, and that we might witness the salvation. The main thing was that there was sufficient food. When there was a lack, Hershke Ratenbach gathered together a group of his youths for a “skak”, that is an ambush. He maintained a list of gentiles who had stolen from or caused trouble to Jews. In all of the operations in Dolina, Bolekhov, Rozniatow, Swaryczow, Krechowice, Hershke had at his side our best experienced and heroic Jews: Wilus Weinfeld and Meirke Turteltaub. They brought entire herds of livestock and clothing. They would destroy the property of anyone who did not let them. I remember on one occasion, when they took linens and dresses from a gentile from Dolina. They broke into the house, broke open a crate of eggs, and mixed it with a sack of flour.

At that time, almost everyone had a roof over their heads, that is an attic covered with tree bark, which served as a place to sleep and take refuge on rainy days. Thus we lived with tension and awaited the true liberation.

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High Holy Days in the Forest

In the meantime, the High Holy Days approached. The two days of Rosh Hashanah passed by with groaning, sighing and memories of past holidays. For Kol Nidre, all the Jews in Stas' camp gathered together. Everyone was in a sublime mood. The candles were lit. Our prayer leader, David Lieberman, made an effort to recite the prayers out loud so that everyone could repeat silently after him. It was impossible to control ourselves. The sobbing and weeping drowned out the voice of the cantor, and not everyone could follow what he was reciting.

Slowly, we calmed down, and only occasionally did one let out a deep sigh and a tear. David led the services with a broken heart and great emotion. The Yom Kippur melodies accompanied by tears rang through the forest like heavenly music, and the each of us trembled with our whole hearts and with tears in our eyes.

How could Jews who left the inferno and arrived in the forest worship with more devotion to the Master of the Universe? Even if someone did not understand the meaning of the prayers completely – our prayer leader David with his weeping and shouting brought us to such a state of ecstasy that all of our limbs trembled and we had the feeling that this time, our prayers would open up the Gate of Mercy and arrive before the Seat of Honor.

{435}

The Battles

Toward dusk on Simchat Torah, we suddenly heard the zooming of engines approaching us. An alarm went out and we fled. Twenty tanks with Vlosoviches driven by German officers first fired shots and then entered the camp. Everything, including the kitchen and all the bunks, was destroyed. The first victims were: Chana the sister of Hershko Ratenbach, Dania Schwartz, and Emil Beril of Krakow the son-in-law of Hugo Fisher. It took us a few days to reorganize and move ourselves deeper into the forest under the “Viesza”.

Rumors circulated that there would be more raids on the partisans in the forests. From that time we began to take more precautions. We stood guard and we left the camp less frequently. From that time, there was more fear in our life in the forest.

In October 1943, we received news that a special army unit came to Dolina to battle he partisans in the forests, clear them out, and make way for the German army which was forced into retreat. This was after the defeat of Stalingrad. It was decided that during the time of the raids, we would move from the Viesza which was in the region of Vygoda, in the forests of Rokov and Krechowice. We packed up on Saturday, and set out on our journey at night.

On Sunday we arrived at the Babiovka, a small young grove near the suburbs of Dolina. According to our plan, we had to wait there for the entire day and move on to other forests at night. Suddenly Stach Babi ran in and brought us the bitter news that we had fallen into a trap. We were surrounded. We should search for places to hide.

The machine gun fire began a few minutes later, and the bullets passed over our heads. Everyone had to lie down under the low, young trees. At first, they shot toward a certain area of the forest. After that, the murderers formed a swarm line of commandoes, which we heard and saw. They spread out into different directions, and searched section by section under the trees. From one place under a shrub near the place where Meirke and I were lying, the murderers discovered the son of Gartenberg the shochet of Bolekhov and a girl from Kalush, and made them stand up. Both fell dead with one machine gun volley.

Until today I often ask myself: How is it that one can see the Angel of Death before one's eyes and have no sign of fear? I spontaneously embraced Meirke and held on to him as if we were one body. I kissed him and said the tender words: “Meirche, in another moment we will already be in the place of eternal goodness”.

A few meters from the place where we were lying, the murderers found Stach's radio equipment. They immediately became occupied in searching that area, and left the area where we were lying. There, I witnessed a miracle with my own eyes, for it was impossible to believe that we were able to escape from the hand of the Angel of Death at that time.

On that day, more than 60 people were killed. In order to frighten the gentile population from helping or hiding Jews, the murderers took 20 gentiles from around the Babiovka and hung them in the Dolina town center. Stach's mother and sister were among the victims.

Earlier, during our good times in the forests, the rumor spread throughout the entire Dolia area that the Babi brothers have an army of partisans numbering 10,000. Therefore, nobody dared enter the forest. However, after the slaughter, the truth became known. We were warned that the murderers, accompanied by a pair of captured Jews such as Dr. Monek Lubliner and David Lieberman, would come to search through the places in the forests where Jews were recently hiding. This caused a great panic. I hid together with Meir, and another pair joined us.

After the raid, it was impossible to find a gentile who would even want to talk to a Jew, let alone help, for a great terror had fallen upon them. Meir was always a risk taker. When the need was great, he entered the village of Krive one Saturday night, where he formerly had an acquaintance. It is impossible to believe that he succeeded in bringing to us a full pot of hot soup, baked potatoes, and rye meal crackers. Our situation at that time cannot be described in words. I want to make note of Meir's ideal character here. He never ate a morsel of bread alone. His greatest joy was when he could help someone. Not everyone was like Meirke! We lived like one family, took council together, and constructed joint plans about how to protect ourselves and how to survive the terrible situation.

However, as became obvious, not everyone could be strong enough to survive the tests of trying times.

The will to live among Jewish people is stronger than anything, especially when one finds oneself in a state of hardship and sees certain death before ones eyes. The situation became more desperate day by day – it simply became unbearable. One could no longer find a place to rest. We wandered from one place to another for the entire day to protect ourselves from attack. At night, we would catch some slumber under a tree. Almost every day, there were victims from a bullet, or cold and hunger.

In November, the cold and wet snow began. Without a warm dwelling, covered with moss, it was impossible to survive in the forest. I could not longer keep up with Meirke – I simply had no more strength. Meirke had weapons, and as a brave youth, he belonged to the group of heroes in the forest. He remained in contact with me, and came to me as often as possible to see me. If it was possible, he would bring me something to eat, and he assured me that he would not leave me alone in the forest. His group planned to wander into Hungary. According to Meirke, they wished to take me with them. However, I reckoned that I was not able to withstand such a journey. I would only be a burden for them, and create problems for them. I absolutely wanted to avoid this.

Aside from the hunger and cold, we suffered with the serious problem of scabies and lice, which ceaselessly made our lives miserable. We all felt a sense of indifference and despair. On account of the frozen earth and lack of implements, we did not even bury the dead. Every evening, we would gather together from all corners of the forest to Slavka Kazak's destroyed house in the Babiovka. We would ignite the oven, and whoever had a potato would roast it and cover it in straw until the morning. Those who still had strength and a strand of hope to survive the present desperate situation would return together to the forest. However, many starving, desperate people would remain lying with closed eyes and wait until dawn, when a pair of Gestapo men on motorcycles would come by in the darkness, and kill the already half dead people with a volley from machineguns or a hand grenade.

As we wandered through the forests from one place to the next, we would encounter dead bodies of relatives and friends. It was completely impossible to bury them. As I came across such scenes, I imagined myself in such a situation. After a long deliberation, I decided conclusively to leave the forest and try to go to Rozniatow.

I wish to mention: After a week or two of living in the forest, a Jew from Bolekhov told me that after my escape from Bolekhov, a Pole from Rozniatow inquired and requested that if anyone come in contact with me they should tell me that someone in Rozniatow wishes to help me. I found out that Aharon Weidman knew about this. Through a messenger, he told me that the person was Mishka Jagelavitz. Aside from Viska, Stas and Dozio, I also had trust and relied on help from Ivan Vishinski, Jorka Jaczkov (a policeman) and Jazia Fisher. They came to me in Dolina on more than one occasion and assured me that in a time of need, they would help me. However, now, after the punishments and the hanging of the innocent people in Dolina, a pall fell upon everyone who even thought about helping a Jew.

I had never felt myself in such a desperate situation. After thinking it through, I realized that remaining in the forest is a certain death. There were gentiles that I knew in almost all the villages of the region, and if they did not want to or were not able to help me, they would at least bury me after shooting me. That thought strengthened my resolve to leave the forest.

I took counsel in this matter with Meirke. He was not yet prepared to leave the forest, but he told me that when it was time to part from me he would accompany me to Rozniatow in order to find out my later fate. This was how it happened: On Sunday at dawn, Piniele Stern of Mizin was standing there, attired in tefillin (phylacteries), leaning against a tree and worshipping. Suddenly, I heard him talking to himself: “When one prays, G-d helps and gives good advice. Why should I die here of hunger? It is better for me to go to Stratin-Vizna and take the heifer that I left with a gentile… I will take with me Hesio, Muni Pecker, and Wilek Knoll, and go there at night…”

When Pinie had time to talk, I was already next to them, and I asked them to take me along with them to the crossroads, from where I could go myself to Rozniatow.

I awakened Meirke and told him the news. Suddenly, I felt renewed strength, like a newborn.

We left that place in the evening. Along the way in the forest, we noticed that during the last few days, they killed many of our friends in various places in the forest. I shuddered in terror, and my heart raced.

We were already out of the forest at the crossroads, when Meirke told the group: “I will take Shaika to a gentile and will catch up with you on the return journey.

As they were crossing the long Statin bridge, we snuck along the edge until the Malinuvka next to the Stratin-Vizna gentile cemetery. From there we went through the meadows, and then we were already in the Rozniatow territory. After a few minutes, we were at the house of Jakob Broszka the mailman, close to the Rozniatow forest.

Meirke stood guard with his pointed gun and I knocked on the window. Instead of Jakob, out came an anti-Semite, whose name I no longer remember, who was a coachman in the yard. I did not say a word. The gentile saw before him a personage with a long beard, a tall hat on his head, and a sack over his shoulders held by a pole that looked like a gun. He shouted: “Sviat, Sviat”, fled and slammed the door behind him.

We went to the groves. Our plan was to spend the night in the young forest, and the next day, to observe and figure out where Stas Jurezko's house was located behind the forest, so that we could go to talk with him the next night.

In the meantime, it was impossible to remain. Wet snow was falling. We could not lie down and could not stand – it broke all the bones. We shivered cold and our teeth clattered. It was dark, and we did not hear any sound. We went up from the groves, snuck toward the river and went into the covered garden of the yard that extended the length of several houses, and came to a certain house. Meirke told me: “Mosko lives in part of this house.” Meirke stood with his loaded gun, and I knocked lightly on the window. The face of a girl that I did not know appeared at the shutter. She opened the door and told me to enter. I was not certain, and asked her who lived there. She said that it was the home of her uncle Mosko Jagelavitz.

Even though I looked loathsome and unkempt, he recognized me and knew where I had been. They did not think that any of us had survived in the Dolina forest after the raids.

I gave our password from the forest (a click of the tongue), and Meirke entered. They knew each other. Stefka took us into the warm house, and within a moment, placed a large plate with hot soup, meat and bread on the table. What a good person! When had we last seen such things? Not for years already! I controlled myself and also restrained Meirke – we should eat slowly so as not to injure our innards that had been withered from such a long period of hunger.

Stefka gave us tobacco, and we smoked. She invited us to go to sleep on a divan that was spread out over a footbath. They would wake us up at dawn and tell us what we should do next.

I lay down with Meirke, embraced him, kissed him and wept. The next morning, Stefka took us into the kitchen in the second part of the house. We were surprised to see Idzi, the daughter of Hirsch Landsman, in front of us. I had not known that Mosko had mounted the wagon that was about to transport her to a work camp in Germany, removed her, and brought her to hide in his house.

She kissed us and wept profusely. After breakfast, she prepared for us a warm bath. After cutting our hair, shaving and casting off so much filth from us, it seemed that only half of our mass was left. We were given clean linens and a true bed with bedding. I will never forget that experience.

Mosko was still in Stanislawow, and the people in the house were afraid of searches by the tax collectors who searched the houses for tobacco and liquor. Therefore, Meirke and I spent a few days hiding in a different place. We thought that we would go to Rozniatow for a few days. However, we did not want to set out too far, so that we could come back to the warmth at night. Like a cat, Meirke went to a haystack at the home of a close neighbor Pankowski Matigewicz, lifted up a few sheathes of straw from the stack, and made a hole. We entered the haystack, and hid deep in the hay.

We returned to Mosko late Friday night. We again parted. Meirke returned to the forest on Sunday night to bring back a doctor, and Dozia brought me to Stas' haystack.

On Monday at dawn, Stas appeared in the haystack, and removed a few bundles of hay from a specific place, which opened into a tunnel through which I crawled into a bunker. With the light of a kerosene torch, I saw Aharon Weidman and Meir Ungar the husband of Dora Gelobter, sitting on sheets.

I cannot describe to you my feelings upon this sudden meeting with Jews who were close friends, after what each of us had experienced until this time.

After talking from the hearts, I fell asleep for an entire 24 hour period, and I woke up with a great desire to eat. There was nothing to eat there. Stas brought into the bunker a spoon, and a cup, as well as a bottle for my physiological needs.

Jews, suffering from great tribulations and sufferings, were able to raise themselves to great levels of morality and even greater levels of heroism. I will only relate to you one episode: There was never enough food in the bunker, and everyone suffered greatly. When Stas brought us our food in one large pot, Meir Ungar would take the first spoonful, then Aharon Weidman, and then I. When they got to the end, Ungar began to make a grimace with his lips as if he was saying that he does not want anymore, he has had enough. He dried off the spoon and waited. Aharon did the same thing, and said: “Do you want it Shaike? Finish it!”

After a few days, I realized the truth. They themselves were deathly hungry, but gave me their last bites, so that I could renew my strength.

After some time, Meir moved to Miski's bunker, where his wife Dora and her sister Sasi Gelobter were located. The Ungar's son Harold came to us.

From time to time the Ungars would send Dozia to sneak a package of food to us. Mendel Landsman, who with his wife Chana was also in Miski's bunker, sent me from time to time a package with bread, a few onions, some garlic and a bottle of liquor. I cannot describe to you what this meant to us.

Good deeds such as these strengthened our spirit and will to continue to survive until the salvation.

However, we endured difficult days of suffering. I do not know how to describe the suffering of lying or sitting in a crowded, smelly hiding place, and not seeing G-d's world for long months. Aharon suddenly became sick, and lay down without moving, and without being able to eat even the little bit that we received. It came to the point where Stas advised Harold and I how to find a place in the stable for a grave.

{442}

Winds of Freedom

Immediately after Passover 1944, good new began to arrive from the fronts. The end was nearing. At the beginning of August 1944, when we heard the explosions of bombs and machineguns, it was to us like the finest musical symphony. The echo was so loud at the time of the destruction of the bridge in the old city that our haystack shook and our air hole was became covered with earth. We understood that this must be the final German retreat. Within a half an hour, the Red Army was already near us.

Stasz Jureczka, one of the righteous gentiles
who saved Jews at the risk of his own life

In the photo, we see Mir Jureczka on his deathbed.
Yeshayahu Lutwak, one of the saved Jews of Rozniatow,
stands over him

On Friday night, Meirke appeared with a Red Army soldier, and brought Harold to Mosko. Throughout Saturday, there were heavy battles in the area of Dolina and Rozniatow. We no longer remained in a bunker, but rather in a hay shed.

On Sunday morning our joy was indescribable, when we saw through the cracks the throngs of gentiles were fleeing with great fear into the forests to hide from the bullets. Our Stas also took his family and cattle and went into the forest. We no longer wanted to risk remaining there. When we saw all of those who were hiding in Mosko's got into a truck to go to Stanislawow, Aharon and I went out through the back door of the stable, walked through the fields, went along the Rivnia and set out on foot in the direction of Stanislawow. When we reached the hill at Krasna, we met other Jews who had left the forests and bunkers: Hirsch Ratenbach, David and Tzili Keish, Hesio and Muni Packer, Klara Segal, and Wilech Knoll. We all walked together in a group, until we arrived at the home of Wilech in Nadworna. There I stayed for two or three weeks. When I returned home, I spent a few days in Stanislawow and then in Kalush. I then returned to Rozniatow late in the night.

The next morning I went to see my parents' home, in which I was born and raised. When I arrived at the synagogue and caught a glimpse of my lane, it became dark before my eyes. No sign remained of any of the houses, including those of Ytzchak Shaya Katzman, Avraham Hoffman, Hinda, Zisa Ziring, Rikel Schwalb's children Chaya and Esther and their families, Kuni and Leib Kartshman, Chaim Shimon Lutwak, Avrahamcha Mark, Yossel Rubinfeld, Avraham Itzik and Mendel Landsman, Sima Zimmerman and Shmuel Hirsch Wechter. They were ploughed over with earth and divided up into plots in which potatoes were growing. Opposite, the house of Shmuel Rosenberg and the bathhouse stood. Through these, I was able to get my bearings and figure out where our house had stood.

With great heartbreak, I leaned on a post of the garden that overlooked our house, wept, and my voice shouted out:

Yitgadal Veyitkadash Shmei Raba…
{444}

Yitgadal Veyitkadash[4]

Small were you my town,
Consisting of relatives, friends and acquaintances,
For you, dear martyrs,
I recite Kaddish, as if for a mother,
A memorial and a yahrzeit for you,
Pained and sorrowful am I.
Brutally annihiliated and destroyed,
We will always remember you,
Until our end.

Zecharia Friedler.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The opening verse of the Book of Lamentations. Back
  2. From Psalm 23. Back
  3. The 'tochacha', reproof or reprimand, refers to two chapters of the Torah which outline the punishments awaiting the Jewish people if they do not follow the word of G-d. The two chapters of tochacha are in Leviticus 26, starting from verse 14 (Bechukotai Torah portion), and Deuteronomy 28, starting from verse 15 (Ki Tavoh Torah portion). Back
  4. The opening phrase of the Mourner's Kaddish. Back


{445}

Through Fire and Blood in the Years 1939-1956

by B. Z. Horowitz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Translator's Note: This is essentially the same as the Hebrew article that starts on page 207. There are some additional facts and nuances in the Yiddish section that are not included in the Hebrew section. One was translated from the other, and my guess is that the Yiddish is the original, as the Hebrew is clearer, more concise, and without some of the embellishing facts. I translated both independently, except for name lists, which I lifted from the Hebrew translation.}
When the “father” of all peoples freed us from oppression and poverty, arrests, persecution and a general pursuit of Zionist and bourgeois began. Houses and rooms that had more than two rooms became nationalized. Jewish shops of leather, shoes, manufacturing, gallantery, confectionery, and food lay empty. All organizations, with the exception of Communist organizations, were “voluntarily” closed. All radio equipment had to be brought to the N.K.V.D. We were “free people”, free from earning a livelihood and from human life.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union without declaring war. On June 28, we were evacuated The Hungarian army marched in from one side and the German army from another side. They barely encountered any resistance from the Russian army, who were not prepared for the illegal war. The Russian party leaders in Rozniatow warned the Jews that they should evacuate to Russia, for all Jews who remained were living under mortal threat. All horses and wagons were with the Rozniatow landowners. Therefore they had to be obtained from the surrounding villages in order to transport the evacuated Jews to Stanislawow, so that they could travel further on from Stanislawow by train. Very few Jews took advantage of this opportunity. Each one had his own reason.

When we arrived in Stanislawow, a portion of the town was in flames, and there was no locomotive. Russian party members who had worked in Rozniatow traveled with us. They succeeded in locating a locomotive from a nearby station, where there were a few open platform wagons loaded with boards. Not paying attention to the heavy rain that was then falling, we sat down on the boards and set out on our way.

At a few places through which the train traveled, we were shot at by Ukrainian bandits. We were fiercely shot at in Przeworsk. However, there, the train station had a large train of soldiers and artillery, which opened cannon fire upon the church from where we were being shot. The church was hit, and the firing upon us was silenced.

As we continued on further, we were bombarded by the Hitlerist airplanes. The train upon which we were traveling from Stanislawow became longer in the meantime. At each station that we passed there were evacuees, and new wagons with people were added to the train. After being bombarded from the air, we arrived in Husyatin on Saturday, July 5, at 8:00 a.m.

The Events in Husyatin

More trains, both military and for evacuees, stood at the station. A German bombardment began a sort time after our train stopped. No alarm signal was sounded. The airplanes flew low, dropped bombs, and shot with guns and cannons.

There was a great panic at the stations. Both soldiers and civilians fled. The panic was so great that not one Russian soldier shot his gun. Were the Russian soldiers to have opened fire with their guns and machine guns from the platforms upon which they were sitting, they would have been saved because the airplanes were flying very low. However, not one shot was fired. The bombardment lasted for several minutes, and the situation was very terrible. The area near the station looked like a ploughed up field, adorned with dead bodies, body parts, people without heads, badly wounded and bloodied people. There was no medical assistance available. The victims, as far as I can remember, were as follows:

The Dead:

Chaitzi the wife of Yaakov Laufer, Mordechai Segal the husband of Beila, the son-in-law of Shmuel Rosenberg, Yehoshua the son of Aharon Zamel, Shmuel Zamel, Rosa Kalman the wife of Adlersberg, her brother Meshulam Kalman, Baruch the son of Aharon Zimmerman, Chana the daughter of Moshe Pares (her head was torn off), Hirsch Friedenberg the son of Leibche and Malchi, Meir Rabinowicz from Perehinsko (his head was torn off), and Bronia the daughter of Chanina Brand.

All of the above were traveling on one platform.

Wounded:

Perel Horowitz – wounded very badly, Yechezkel the son of Meir Zimmerman, Leib Laufer the son of Yankel Laufer, and Chana (Meir Rabinowicz's daughter) Rabinowicz from Perehinsko. I was lightly injured in my left knee. As I was busy helping my sister who had been badly wounded, I did not realize that I had been wounded. People were concerned about me, seeing blood streaming from my wounded leg

Many were killed and wounded, and it was impossible to find acquaintances.

Many of our acquaintances who were not immediately found decided to return to their homes. No argument could convince them that returning home was hopeless. On the other hand, proceeding with the evacuation was the only chance to stay alive. This had no effect.

The following acquaintances returned:

Shalom Rechtschaffen along with his wife and two children, Yechezkel Zimmerman, Leib Zimmerman, Yankel Zimmerman, Chaya Rivka Zimmerman, the children of Meir and Mirchi our cousins, and others.

The train upon which we were traveling to Husyatin continued on its way after the bombardment, leaving behind the missing people. The train was again attacked by air bombardment at the next station. There were many missing people. Our brother Baruch, Hirsch Frost and his wife were killed (we heard the news along the way from the survivors).

After the second bombardment, when it calmed down somewhat, the N.K.V.D and the police came aboard and began to sort out the badly wounded and the dead. The dead were buried in a communal grave, soldiers together and civilians together. A sanitary car was set up for the wounded. The wounded soldiers occupied all the beds of the wagons. The civilian wounded were left standing. My sister was very badly wounded. The wound did not stop bleeding, and she had to be satisfied with a place to sit.

The wounded were given no help. The wounded soldiers were able to bandage their wounds with their own first aid kits. The civilians remained bloodied.

Before the journey, pieces of bread and drinks were bought aboard the train. My sister refused food. However she requested a drink, for she was very feverish.

It was impossible to breath in the wagon. Fever, a foul smell and the groaning of the wounded did not allow us to sit down. All of the wounded were bloodied.

Along our further journey, a group of doctors and nurses from an evacuated hospital of Kiev came aboard our train. They examined all of the wounded. They diagnosed gangrene in my sister's wound and advised my sister that her hand should be amputated. Weeping, my sister categorically refused to have her hand amputated. The head of the group immediately began to clean the wound that had turned green, and declared that if she could hold out for 12 hours, she would be saved.

The fever finally went down, and the doctor declared that the danger had passed provided that there were no complications. But he was not sure if she would be able to move her hand.

After eleven days of travel, our train arrived in Karmonchik, and all of those who were seriously wounded were taken to the large local hospital. I was released after three days, but my sister had to remain in the hospital for longer. However, she absolutely refused to remain, fearing that she would not know where fate had taken me. The civic authority sent us to a village where there was a hospital, 15 kilometers from Karmonchik and arranged that my sister could remain there until she was cured. I was set up in the local kolkhoz (collective farm), and I drove to the hospital every day in a wagon from the kolkhoz.

The situation in the kolkhoz was very good. I was able to obtain products in the kolkhoz for my sister as well, even though she was in the hospital. I requested work for the director of the kolkhoz. I was put to work in the office that distributed produce to the members on their workdays: wheat, barley, vegetables. However, we did not remain there for long.

A short time later, we found out that the Hitlerist danger was already at Kharkov, and our village was 60 kilometers from Kharkov. I informed my sister that we had to prepare to set out on our way once again. The doctor did not wish to release my sister from the hospital, assuring her that if the Hitlerists arrive in the village, he would protect my sister as a relative. The director of the kolkhoz also assured me that nothing would happen to me, for if the kolkhoz was evacuated, I would be taken along with them.

I turned to the accommodations committee and inquired about the possibility of being evacuated deep into Russia. We decided to travel in the direction of Stalingrad. We did not know then that our brother had been killed, and we hoped that we might meet him, for there were many of the evacuated people in Stalingrad. We were taken from the kolkhoz to the train station, and given food for our way.

Finally, we set out for Stalingrad. There were thousands of evacuated people with sacks and bedding at the evacuations office. Our few belongings which we took along the way were lost in Husyatin, so we were light “travelers”. My sister had to continue on with her wounded hand and with the splints that were stuck in her wounded feet. Lists with the name of the evacuated people hung around the offices. We searched for names of acquaintances and found none.

Food rationing and bread cards were instituted in Russia on the day that we arrived in Stalingrad. We were to be sent to a kolkhoz called Lipovka in a steppe 100 kilometers from Stalingrad. The only way to travel to that kolkhoz was with horse and wagon. Since several families were being sent to that kolkhoz, wagons hitched to oxen were already waiting for us. It was a long trip, and the oxen got tired. It dragged on for a long time, and we were hungry. In that area, the nights were already cold, and we were wearing light clothing. Finally, we arrived in our Garden of Eden which was called Lipovka.

In the Kolkhoz

We were put up with a local family, members of the kolkhoz. We slept on the floor. Each day, we were given a bottle of milk and bread. My first task was to drive through the field with harnessed oxen. My sister lay down sick.

I went out to the field at 6:00 a.m. At noon, we cooked unpeeled potatoes. We worked until the sun went down. Nobody went hungry in the kolkhoz. They divided up the last morsels. The people there were poor, but indeed they were good people. Each Sunday they brought us baked and cooked items, milk, sour cream, and sometimes butter.

I was called up to the military in October, at the age of 46. First, they sent me to a commission near the Volga, guarding large war storehouses. The work was not difficult, and I was able to visit my sister.

The good days did not last for long. Hitler's aviators also attacked here. The storehouses with all their contents burnt down.

In November 1941, I was sent to Saratov. This was a military collection point. From Saratov, I was sent to a military unit in a nearby kolkhoz to work, for winter had already fallen and there were not enough working hands to harvest the crops from the fields. I was never hungry while working in the kolkhoz, and I was able to sleep through the night.

Thus did they send me to various work assignments, easy and difficult, until I reached Stalingrad at the end of 1941. There I felt that I was a true member of the Red Army. I participated in various exercises, and 40 kilometer marches with full equipment or with bricks weighing 16 kilograms. The exercises were conducted at a fast pace.

At the end of February, 1942, my unit was led from Stalingrad to Beketovka, 12 kilometers from Stalingrad. There, there were large arms factories and a chemical plant.

The first days were peaceful. One night, all of the factories were bombarded and wiped out, more from being torn apart inside than from the bombs. The survivors returned to Stalingrad.

The first large scale bombardment by 300 German airplanes ruined a large part of the city. Things got more difficult each day. The Hitlerists tore into the city and began their difficult campaign. I was struck unconscious and taken to the hospital.

When I recovered, I was drafted into Zhukov's army, which was called “The Second White Russian Front”. I joined on the difficult march to Berlin.

At the Ruins

On July 15th, 1945, I set out from Poznan to Rozniatow. I arrived on July 21st. The picture of the city was terrifying. All of the Jewish wood houses were destroyed. The Jewish houses made of brick, half in ruins, had been taken over by Russians for dwellings or offices. The Jewish sheet metal houses were sold by the Hitlerists on open auctions to the Ukrainians from the villages, who transported the houses to the villages where they were re-erected. Ukrainians told me that the Hitlerists asked the Ukrainians who purchased the Jewish houses, “Who will again purchase your houses when the time comes again?”

I found the following Jewish survivors in Rozniatow: : Dr. Karpf and his wife, Meir Ungar and his wife, Dora Gelobter and her two children, Soshia Gelobter, Shaya Lutwak and Meir Turteltaub. All of them registered to transfer to Poland. I could not accustom myself to the tragic scene. The Great Synagogue was turned into a warehouse. The Large Beis Midrash, without doors or windows, with its beautiful paintings on its half fallen walls, had not lost its charm. Unfortunately, it had turned into a latrine. I asked the city administrator if we could take out the remnants, and he permitted this. The brick kloiz had turned into the office of the local newspaper, but was not desecrated. I had the rights to not work for a month as a demobilized soldier, and was provided with a dwelling and food cards from the regional office.

In August 1945, the registered Rozniatowers left for Poland. I remained the only Jew in Rozniatow. At that time, gangs raged around our neighborhood. It was very uncanny to remain alone as the only Jew, but above all else, I was alive. I did not become involved in any politics. I often traveled through the forests and met up with armed gangs. They did no harm to me. On the other hand, when Lehrfeld came to Broszniow, demobilized from the army, he was shot by the gangs. I warned Lehrfeld not to play with politics, for it was dangerous. Apparently, he did as he wanted.

In the interim, my sister returned to Rozniatow. Berish Friedler (Leib Friedler's son) also returned, set himself up with work, and lived with us for four years. Nechemia Shapira also returned as a demobilized soldier, as did Chaim Goldmintz, Shemaya's son. Since he was a member of the party, he obtained a party position. We were no longer so lonely. Time passed without any problems until 1953.

The Libel Against Jewish Doctors

At that time, a geological group came to Rozniatow to investigate the possibility of digging for oil. Their bookkeeper, a hooligan but with only one foot, appeared in the center of the city one morning at 7:00 a.m., as people were going out to work. He announced, “Comrades, the Jews, our enemies in white robes, want to poison our leader. Beat the Jews. Free Russia!”

As I was going out to work and noticed a militiaman, I remarked to him that the hooligan is inciting against the five Jews who live in Rozniatow and work for the government offices. I then received his answer:

“We have full freedom of speech, and we cannot do anything about it.”
Since that day I thought about how to extricate myself from the Red Garden of Eden.

In 1955, Berish Friedler told me that Jews were traveling to Israel from Chernovitz, and that at a certain time every evening one could hear Kol Yisrael (and Israeli radio station) from Jerusalem in Yiddish. It was dangerous to listen to a foreign radio station, so I placed my sister outside on guard as I listened to Kol Yisrael, where they listed the names of those who had arrived from Chernovitz.

I decided to travel to Israel. We had to go through strict procedures. We obtained the needed documents through the intermediation of a cousin in America.

As soon as the documents arrived , the N.K.V.D. found out about it. The first result was that I was fired from my job. Then we began to make hasty efforts to request permission to leave Russia. We had to provide 12 photographs, 8 biographies, a declaration that we did not owe any money, as well as other declarations. All of these preparations took weeks.

When all the enclosures were ready, we had to travel to the Avir in Stanislawow. With pounding hearts, we set out for Stanislawow. There, we were told that our request had been confirmed and they would send us the needed documents to obtain a visa to Austria, for our journey would leave from Austria. Of course, our hearts lightened up, but we had to remain serious in order not to display our joy. We returned from Stanislawow as if we were newly born.

Indeed, I was not certain that they would permit us to extricate ourselves from the Red Garden of Eden, and how long it would take until we would obtain our passes. After a month were received official words that we should go to the Has Bank in Rozniatow, pay 1,600 rubles for two passes with the certification of the bank, and then go to the Avir in Stanislawow in order to obtain our passports.

We were received in the Avir in Stanislawow in a friendly manner, wished a good trip, and told that that we should register with the Russian embassy in Israel. If we were not happy or if we encountered difficulties, the Russian embassy would defend us, for we would remain Russian citizens until October 1958. After that, we could extend our passports for as long as we desire. If we were not happy in Israel, the embassy would assist us to return to Russia, where we would be assured of a dwelling and work.

As we left the Avir and returned home, I still was afraid that they would call us back and revoke our passes, for the political situation had sharpened as Nasser had nationalized the Suez Canal.

Nevertheless, our passes were valid to cross the Russian-Hungarian border for one month. One week later, at the beginning of September 1956, we left Rozniatow. We arrived in Vienna on September 7. We remained in Vienna for a week. We arrived in Haifa on August 211, and went to Ramat Gan, to people who we had never met in our lives, but to whom we are eternally grateful.

Thus ended our wanderings in the exile.

Idzia and Miszko Jagielowicz. With their help, the following Jews were saved:
Max, Dora and Harald Ungar, Frumeis, Sashi Gelobter, Aharon Widman, Shalom,
Salka and Imek Shapira, Kuzin, Mendel and Henia Landsman, Buma Horowitz,
Yaakov Laufer, Buchi and Salka Widman, Stach Sokol, Yehuda Frisher,
Mauka Turteltaub, Shaya Lutwak.


Translator's Footnote

  1. I expect that the month listed here is an error, and September was intended. Back


{455}

Our Mighty Ones

by Shaya Lutwak

With the conclusion of the memoirs of my life and the death of our martyrs, I wish to disprove the incorrect notion that Jews went like sheep to the slaughter. Such allegations are like salt on an open wound. Those making such allegations should have respect for the memory of our martyrs, for their heroic spirit as they died in sanctification of the Divine Name. They should look with open eyes at the events of that time, and see and understand the great heroism of their lives and deaths.

With great honor and love, I will mention in brief the heroic stories and good deeds of the following Rozniatower lads: Meir Turteltaub the son of Itche Leizer of Rozniatow, and Hirsch Ratenbach, the son of David and Meirche of Dolina.

Meir the Mighty, whom we all called Meirke; and Hirsch the Mighty known as Hershke – they are etched in the memory for eternity as great Jewish heroes not only for us, the Rozniatow and Dolina Holocaust survivors, but also for everyone who heard of their deeds.

To write about Meirke's experiences from the beginning of the war in 1939 until the liberation in 1945, one must be a talented writer who has the power to portray step by step the fantastic events that took place with those exceptional people who exemplified so much typical humanity and great bravery. I will give over only the following facts in the simplest words.

At the outbreak of the war, Meirke served in the Polish army in an artillery unit. He was wounded in the foot, and he returned home and took over the leadership of the sports organization in Rozniatow from the Soviets. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Meirke was mobilized in the Red Army, and was wounded in the foot for a second time. When he came home, he met his exiled parents in Dolina. Life became progressively more difficult. Meirke could not make peace with the new decrees. When the Kalusher Ordenungs Kommandant came to Dolina, he met Meirka and saw that the Jewish armband was too low on his arm. He took him to the Judenrat for a punitive lecture…

A few days Moshe Ziring, who happened to be present at the Judenrat at the time, described the scene. He saw how Meirke was hauled there in anger and beaten with a chair from all sides.

Meirke was very industrious and never sat idly. He always made plans as to how to escape from this hell. He tried to cross the Hungarian border, but was captured in Vishkuv and brought back to Dolina in chains. After spending a few days in prison in Dolina, he was sent to Stanislawow (today called Ivano-Frankovsk) in a transport. There, the well-known murderer Krieger was active. He conducted his murder activity in a place called Rudolf's Mill. After a brief time of hard labor, Meirke succeeded in jumping over the barbed wire fence and fleeing to Kalush. The Jews in Kalush were afraid to keep him. They gave him a box of cash and a sack with farming implements over his shoulder. Thus, he dressed himself up like a farmer and set out on foot for Rohatyn, where his cousins, the grandchildren of Mendel Nemlich, lived.

At the beginning of June 1943, when they began to liquidate all of the ghettos and concentration camps of eastern Galicia, Meirke fled from Rohatyn to Stryj. However, they soon began to liquidate the ghetto there as well, and Meirke fled from there. The guard noticed this and shot at him. Without looking back, he jumped over the Stryj Bridge into the water, hid among the reeds, and miraculously succeeded in arriving in Bolekhov alive

He did not remain for long in Bolekhov, for he found no place to rest there. As they were fleeing from the Bolekhov ghetto, the following people were shot: Shimshon Katzman the son of Shaya Katzman and Herman Laufer the grandson of Efraim Rechtschaffen of Rozniatow. Miraculously, Meirke arrived at Heryn Babi's camp in the Dolina forests. I was already a resident there, and was very happy to see him. Meirke became a resident, a beloved friend of everybody without exception.

Given that the main problem of the fighters in the lack of weapons and ammunition, Meirke was given the task of searching for a source of weapons. He decided to set out for Rozniatow, where he had many gentile friends. He hoped to solve this difficult problem with their help. According to his plan, he was to return in eight days at the latest. However, more than two weeks passed, and we did not hear from Meirke. Everyone was very concerned, until Stach Babi came to the camp on one occasion and said that a youth from Dolina had murdered a Gestapo man, but nobody knows who that youth is.

A few hours later, a panic broke out, and Heryn brought to us the heroic youth who had killed the Gestapo man. From all sides, people came out to greet the hero. Before us stood a human personage with torn and dirty clothes, but on his face there was no sign of a human form. His face was covered with a swollen blue mass. His voice sounded familiar, but it was only when he called me Shaike that I realized that he was Meirke.

It is difficult to describe what we felt at that time.

I wish to describe briefly Meirke's further heroic battles. In Rozniatow, he met up with a few of his gentile friends. He discussed with them about weapons, and then went to the bastard Vasyl, who worked for Baron Walisz. Vasyl advised Meirke to hide in the storehouse of the mailman Jagelavitz. There he would shortly being him something to eat.

Instead of food, the bandit summoned the officer Jarasch with a full band of police and Ukrainian militiamen. The surrounded the storehouse. Meir surrendered and was arrested. He was murderously tortured for several days. Then he was sent to a prison in Dolina. In the prison, he removed a brick in the wall with a nail, and hoped to be able to escape in that manner. Unfortunately, the guards captured him during his work. He beaten harshly and his hands were bound with iron chains

His sixth sense for ingenious ideas, which often appeared as supernatural, helped Meirke this time as well. He had a bit of wire in his pocket, which he used to open the chains. In the forest, he showed us how he did this. Then they took Meirke from the jail to the Gestapo. Aside from the driver, there was a Gestapo man with a loaded automatic gun pointed at Meirke. As the car drove on the hills on the Harishe on the way to the Dolina cemetery, Meirka took the opportunity, opened the chains, jumped out of the car, and started running through the houses. He arrived in the field.

The driver stopped the Gestapo car and the Gestapo man started to run after Meirke. When Meirke arrived at a tall barbed wire fence, he started to climb up. A bullet hit him in the foot. The Gestapo man took the bloodied Meirke down from the fence and began to beat him profusely with his gun. With his last strength, he began to beat the Gestapo man with the chains that were still in his hands. He succeeded in delivering a strong blow to his eye. The Gestapo man fell over, dying and bleeding. Meirke took his gun and attempted to shoot him on the spot, but there were no longer any bullets. He beat him to death with the gun, dragged him to the fence, and hung him on the barbed wire. He removed his cap. Then he hid among the bushes with the gun in his hand, and later went to a garden between the tall stocks.

Of course the Gestapo immediately sounded an alarm, and dozens of policemen and Gestapo men gathered in the area. They set out for the cemetery, and spread out among the monuments through the entire night.

Meirke remained silent in his hiding place. He did not make a move with any limb until the Gestapo men and police departed and left the forest.

Months again passed, in which we suffered from need and hunger. Finally returned to Rozniatow, where Meirke had survived with Mosko Jagelovitch.

After the liberation, Meirke, like all the rest of the partisans, had the right to remain in Rozniatow. However, the modest youth, who was the embodiment of Jewish strength, decided to voluntarily enlist in the Red Army. He went out to the front, and fought heroically against the murderers of his people.

Today, Meirke lives in America with his wife Irke and their only son Yankele. They live a peaceful and modest life.

Hirsch Lutwak

Dolina and Bolekhov were already Judenrein. Only a few Jews survived and were hiding in the Dolina forests. Hershke was one of those who arranged the bringing of saved Jews to the forests. Hirsch had often sneaked into the Stryj Ghetto and told the Jews that Jewish divisions are being set up in the Dolina forests under the leadership of the brothers Stach and Heryn Babi. He would also often go into the Bolekhov camps and bring Jews to the forests from there.

His great struggle to find a way to remove the Bolekhov Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Perlow, from the Stryj ghetto, forms an interesting chapter. However, unfortunately, this proved to be impossible.

Hirsch Ratenbach was noted for his strong desire to help. He had a good word and a loving smile for everyone. On the other hand, he showed no mercy during his battles with the enemy during the partisan penal actions against them, in which they murdered Jews.

After the liberation, when a few surviving Jews settled temporarily in Dolina, they went to a Christian girl who displayed great self sacrifice by hiding Jews during the difficult times. The surviving Jews knew that they must not leave her alone in Dolina, where the murderers will take revenge upon her and murder her. Here as well, Hershke displayed his ideal character and magnanimous heart. Without concern for all the difficulties, he took her with him on his following journeys.

When he was in Lemberg, he found out that there was a Jewish child who had been hidden in a church. He took her with him so as to save her from gentile hands. He arrived in the displaced persons camp in Berlin with a rescued Jewish child and a Torah scroll. His gentile wife Mani converted in Berlin, and they got married according to Jewish law. Aside from the rescued child, they have a fine son David. They conduct a Jewish household, and live happily and contently in Buenos Aires. May they live until 120.

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