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[Page 366 - 371]

IV

Heroism

 

Author Unknown

Translated by Martin Jacobs

Perhaps the most beautiful songs arise from the echo of the indescribable heroism of the Jewish fighters who came from the Jewish towns and swore that German blood would flow unceasingly. They proved that Jewish blood does not cease seething with revenge and can elevate terrible calamity to the level of heroic deeds. These boys and girls from Tarnogrod and Bilgoraj, just like those from Warsaw and Bialystok, like the descendants of the exiles from Spain, would not be Marranos, would not live in subjugation, but with persistent hatred set themselves against their bloodiest enemy. They would no longer listen to the insults of the Nazis, but with the roar of “Pour out thy wrath” [quoted from the Passover Haggada: “Pour out thy wrath upon the nations that know thee not”], hunted down the Germans, and so the history of their last days is not a Book of Lamentations [a book in the Bible describing the destruction of Jerusalem] but a Song of Songs [a happy love song in the Bible], a song which is elevated above all heights, tears through all the heavens, and will not be stilled until the end of all generations.

 

Heroes

The Jewish youths of Tarnogrod could have had much to tell about the battles that they waged in the ranks of the various partisan units, in the regular Soviet army, and in the Polish army. Unfortunately almost all fell on the battlefield. These heroic fighters continued our people's tradition of heroism. Physical resistance has always been a part of our lives, which have at all times been beset by a sea of hatred, wickedness, and murder.

 

tar367.jpg
A group of Jewish youths from Tarnogrod in the partisan division under the leadership of “Błyskawica” – in the woods near Tomaszów

 

When the simple village Jew of Likew [probably the village of Łukowa is intended. It is near Tarnogrod] was tortured to get him to betray the shochet [ritual slaughterer], as he knew what awaited the shochet, he willingly accepted the torture himself and the death of his whole family. Conquering his fear of death with great heroism, he kept quiet and allowed the German murderers to kill him.

 

tar368.jpg
Moshe-Naftali Wasserman and his family

They lived in the village of Likev. When the Germans arrived they found a slaughtered chicken in his house during a household search. They tortured him to make him betray the shochet, but this simple village Jew bore the tortures and remained silent. For that the Germans shot him and his entire family.

 

The Adlers possessed amazing heroism. They fought the Germans with an ax and put fear in their hearts, until they were felled by bullets from German machine guns.

The simple Tarnogrod Jews, who bore the taunts and mockery of their neighbors, showed great moral courage, and, despite all reminders did not lose their sense of inner worth. Deep in their hearts they made light of the carousing, powerful, but spiritually impoverished landowners, and the easily incited peasants, who for generations lived with prejudices against their Jewish neighbors. But even in that situation their wild and unruly neighbors knew that the Jew would not turn the other cheek. Not just once did they feel the blows of the Jewish youths when the hooligans attacked defenseless Jews with mass barbarity.

Such were the Jewish youths in Tarnogrod. The Jewish young men were brought up in this spirit. In those terrible days they breathed the air of glorious moral heroism. Looking at the mountain of Jewish dead, they shifted their look to a higher mountain still, that on which shines the sun of a proud Jewish nation, the equal of all.

 

tar369.jpg
Chana Tintfisch.

Heroic Jewish girl from Tarnogrod who fell fighting in the ranks of partisans against the Nazi enemy.

 

Honor and glory to you, Jewish heroes of the era of slaughter. Your heroic struggles possessed the great superhuman magnificence of the Maccabees, of the martyrs of all generations. This is the power which Jewish revolutionaries, Zionists, socialists, dreamers and fighters for a better world have shown in all times. Your heroism, partisans and fighters at the front, is the Eternal Light in the history of the life and death of the Jews in Tarnogrod. You, heroic warriors of burnt homes, proud conquerors of death, for centuries we will keep your memory alive and make mention of you and repeat like the holiest of oaths the words of our partisan poet:

“Wherever a drop of our blood has fallen our heroism and our courage will spring up.”


[Pages 370]

Acts of Heroism

When historians come to look for material on the terrible Holocaust which descended upon the Jewish people, among which was the dreadful and horrific destruction of the Jews of Tarnogrod and its environs, they will certainly be amazed and astonished at the brilliant pages of supreme Jewish heroism, the heroism of the Jews of Tarnogrod and its environs, heroism without any hope of victory; battles lost from the beginning, daring battles of Jewish heroes in the face of the murder machine of Nazi Germany -- a war for the honor of the Jewish people.

The Jewish youth in Tarnogrod, who felt the destruction and the annihilation even before these happened in the ghetto, did not in any manner or fashion wish to make peace with murder. Immediately upon the entry of the Germans many sought opportunities to escape and fight the Nazi invader. Some set their steps towards the woods, in order to join the partisans; others joined the Russian army.

 

tar370.jpg
David Ritzer – Fell in the Polish military in battle with the Germans, and Chaim Wetsher (left) killed in Tarnogrod.

 

All of them sacrificed their lives and did not live to celebrate the great victory over the Nazi enemy. The few of us who remain alive have the duty to immortalize their heroism during the war and the Holocaust.

How many are the hidden treasures of heroism in the struggle of these forest dwellers, who arrived there through their own resourcefulness. But information has reached us only about a few. These we immortalize, lest we forget the destruction of the people and the battle with the cruel enemy.

Let us remember the heroes who fell while fighting.

Let us also not forget those who have remained unknown. Individually they crossed boundaries and overcame dangers. In this way they thought to avoid the enemy, but it was not to be, they determined that they could not run away, they had to fight, they enlisted in the Soviet or Polish army, they fought and fell and no trace was left of them, there were no monuments on their graves.

Let us light an eternal lamp in their memory, in memory of the pure martyrs, in memory of the heroism, the sacrifice, and the dedication.

 

A Monument for Eternal Remembrance!

tar371.jpg
Yakov Tenenbaum

(H) Escaped from Tarnogrod after the Nazi invasion, enlisted in the army in Russia, fought and fell by a German bullet in the battles for Stalingrad.
(Y) Fell in Russia where he was fighting as a soldier in the Soviet army. A German bullet hit him during the relentless battles in Stalingrad.

 


[Pages 372]

Song Of The Partisans

Never Say

Never say there is only death for you.
Though leadened skies may be concealing days of blue–
Because the hour we have hungered for is near;
Beneath our tread the earth shall tremble: We are here!

From land of palm-tree to the far-off land of snow,
We shall be coming with our torment and our woe.
And everywhere our blood has sunk into the earth.
Shall our bravery, our vigor blossom forth!

We'll have the morning sun to set our day aglow,
And all our yesterdays shall vanish with the foe,
And if the time is long before the sun appears,
Then let this song go like a signal through the years.

This song was written with our blood and not with lead;
It's not a song that birds sing overhead,
It was a people, among toppling barricades,
That sang this song of ours with pistols and grenades.

So never say that there is only death for you.
Leaden skies may be concealing days of blue–
Yet the hour we have hungered for is near;
Beneath our tread the earth shall tremble: We are here!

 
http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/resource/pdf/resistance.pdf

Back cover Never say: Hersh Glick, “Jewish Partisan Song,” trans. Aaron Kramer in Folks- Shtimme (Poland).
Reprinted in Anthology of Holocaust Literature,ed. Glatstein, Knox, and Margoshes, 349.


[Pages 373-380]

The heroic struggle of the two heroes, the ADLER brothers

K. Shimoni

Translated by Martin Jacobs

In a bunker where Chava Fefer, two Jewish families from Bilgoraj, and others too, nearly thirty Jews from Tarnogrod, lay hidden, Mrs. Simi Groisman's child began to cry loudly. The Jews hidden there were seized with fear. Not far from the bunker the Germans were running around searching. The German soldier's footsteps were clearly audible above the ceiling. There were also other little children there. It was feared that the crying would become contagious and their hiding place would certainly be uncovered.

The mother of the crying child clasped it to herself and tried in various ways to calm it, but to no avail. The child wouldn't stop crying and, with every passing minute the voices became more and more penetrating and louder. Everywhere people began to murmur and wring their hands with despair: “The child will get us all killed.” Someone screamed at the mother: “Take the child outside, unless you want to have thirty human lives on your conscience.”

With every minute the mother grew more and more desperate. Suddenly the child was quiet. There was a fearful silence in the bunker. Everyone guessed what had happened: With her own hands the mother had strangled the child.

The bunker was horribly crowded. In the course of the three days they were there they had shared the last bits of food. The cries of the Jews whom the Germans had found in nearby hiding places were reaching them. On the third day the Germans picked up the trail of the bunker, which was approached by a tangle of corridors. Breaking through the first entrance, the Germans stopped, not daring to go further. Standing in front of the bunker, they called on the Jews to come out.

No one answered. The intention was to create among the German the impression that everyone was dead. The Germans were still possessed by a strange fear and they stood for more than an hour calling to the Jews with friendly voices to come out; nothing would happen to them. In the bunker voices were beginning to be heard in favor of giving up and coming out voluntarily. The majority however maintained that it was senseless to come out, as that would mean death.

 

With Cleaver And Revolver

Finally the Jews in the bunker became aware that the number of Germans lying in wait at their hiding place was small and the two Adler brothers decided to go out and make a sudden attack on the Germans. They opened a hidden door and the younger brother, who had a loaded revolver, lurched in the direction of the Germans. The older brother was holding a sharpened meat cleaver, which struck more fear into the Germans than the revolver; they began to withdraw.

He hit the first German, who had placed himself in his way, with the cleaver, and killed him on the spot. Immediately after this the second German started shooting his revolver at them. Then the second brother had to defend himself and fired. The second German fell and the two brothers fled across the street with the intention of breaking through the surrounding German lines and escaping from the town.

This was in broad daylight. The Germans went berserk; they ransacked the cellars and attics of Jewish homes. They succeeded in finding many Jewish families, used deception to get them to come out, and drove them into the marketplace in the direction of the huge mass grave. The appearance of the two armed Jews, one with a revolver, the other with a bloodstained cleaver, greatly terrorized the Germans. Even the Jews, depressed as they were, began to shout: “Revenge, revenge on the murderers!”

Something out of the ordinary was happening among the Germans. At first fear possessed them and they began to retreat. It really seemed that the two Jews would succeed in fighting their way out of the town. But soon the Germans were seen to come to recover their senses; they took up positions with the aim of capturing the Jews alive. Not one shot was fired, but from time to time some one of the Germans attempted to approach the two brothers, but when he saw the threatening cleaver he stopped.

 

Superhuman Heroism

The circle with which the Germans surrounded the two Jews drew tighter and tighter with every minute. A German officer called to them to give up, but the two brothers advanced silently, and when it finally became clear to the Germans that their victims would not be taken alive, they opened fire.

The older Adler began with great force to clear a way with his cleaver and the younger one covered him with revolver fire. After several minutes of unequal and relentless fighting, the older brother fell, still holding the cleaver. A German policeman immediately ran up to him to tear the cleaver from his hand. He was sure that the Jew was already dead, but just at the moment when the prostrate Jew felt the German over him he suddenly pulled himself up and with extraordinary heroism brought the cleaver down on the head of the German, who fell in a pool of blood. Adler gave his last gasp, as if a gasp of relief, and fell dead, just like a post sawed from the bottom.

Much of the German police unit was focusing its entire attention on this scene and this made younger brother's battle with the Germans easier. The Germans turned a machine gun on him. He ran a zigzag, never leaving out of his sight any of the Germans, who tried to get nearer to him. He succeeded in killing several Germans before entering a side street. At first the Germans did not dare enter the street. Young Adler made use of this fact and with his last strength reached the road leading to the forest. Here he hid for a while, wandering about hungry and in tatters, until he succeeded in reaching a partisan group belonging to General Kovpak's army [Sidor Kovpak was an important leader of the Ukrainian partisans].

This incident made an extraordinary impression on everyone who was in the street at the time. For a long time the Poles in the town spoke of it and told of the superhuman bravery of the two Jews.

 

The Last Minutes

The Germans were embarrassed and powerless, and did not dare to pursue him into the woods. They let out all their anger on the Jews they had dragged out of this and other bunkers. The Jews were forced to strip naked and run through a lane of whips, which rained down upon their heads and naked bodies. One after another the Jews fell to the ground from the blows and beatings. The Germans did not stop beating and kicking them, but when they saw that the beaten Jews no longer had the strength to get up they shot them and the young Polish gentiles, who the whole time had been helping the Germans in their murderous work, threw the corpses into the waiting wagons and took them away to the open mass grave.

Long after this the brazen Polish boys, with whom the two Ukrainian bandits Serkis and Kotek very zealously worked continued to murder Jews they found. These bandits lived their whole lives in Tarnogrod and became friendly with the Jewish residents, borrowed money from them, and got various favors from them. Now they dragged these same Jewish acquaintances from their hiding places. The bandits answered all their weeping and pleas not to be delivered to their deaths with cynical laughter: “Shout, cry to your God to forgive you your sins, these are your last minutes, you are about to join your brothers in hell.”

When not one living soul was left in the Jewish houses the hyenas went out to loot them of the last bit of Jewish possessions.

Wild scenes that would make you think of the jungle were then played out. At the beginning the Poles and Ukrainians stuck together and helped each other load up their sacks to the top. Later quarrels and fights began to break out among the bandits themselves.

 

Alone With Her Brother

Little by little everything grew quiet again. After the terrible wailing an empty stillness prevailed, as in a cemetery. Chava Fefer was alone in her house, hiding under a bed. The Germans suspected that someone was still in the house and shot into all the dark shadowy corners and into the bedclothes. It was a great miracle that none of the bullets hit her. The house filled with feathers and the Germans were convinced that there was no longer a living soul there and in resignation left the house.

Frightened and pale as death, Chava Fefer decided to creep out of her hiding place. She became aware that she was alone, the only survivor in the emptied ghetto. She barely took a step, shaking at every rustle. Suddenly she was startled. In a corner of the yard, near the gate, she noticed a figure, which stood as if pressed into the wall. She started to run away, but just at that moment she heard her name quietly whispered. The figure was her brother.

They embraced each other arms in silence. They would have cried, but their eyes were all dried out. Their words stuck in their throats. They took each other by the hand and moved carefully, like people lost in a dark wood. She remembered the name of a Pole, a close acquaintance of theirs, whom she believed would save them. But at that very moment heavy soldier's boots echoed through the empty street. They stood for a moment frozen with fear. Her brother panicked and without a word began to run back. In despair she wanted to call to him to go on with her, but he had disappeared from her sight and she ran on in a different direction, to the house of the Poles, in whom she placed so much hope.

She finally succeeded in reaching this house. The people there, frightened by her appearance, stood in the open doorway, not knowing what to do. But they let her in and for three weeks hid her in their house.

Her first request was that they find out what happened to her brother. Carefully the Polish people began to creep around every house in the ghetto, looking for a trace of the brother who had disappeared. After long searches they succeeded in finding out that on that same day, immediately after running back to the house, he poisoned himself. The Germans found him dead.

 

Meeting A Man

Chava Fefer realized the danger in which the Polish people hiding her found themselves. These were good and honest people and she did not want to put their lives at risk. After about three weeks she fled into the woods.

It was on a cold evening at the end of autumn, when, finding herself on the road to Czeplic, she suddenly spied a young man, a Pole, eighteen years old. Fear seized her. In those days young Gentiles stopped fleeing Jews and turned them over to the Germans. Frightened, she looked around for an escape route. As she stood confused the young man approached her. He must have noticed that she was afraid. He began to calm her.

His voice, his polite speech inspired trust. He introduced himself and told her his name was Frantiszek Czapek. As long as he had lived, he said, he had never yet done anyone any harm, and she could be absolutely sure that nothing would happen to her.

They walked along together and he told her the he belonged to the underground and so was forced to hide out at his sister's house. She lived not far from the woods and he believed that she too could hide there. The young Pole did indeed bring her to his sisters'. There she was hidden for several days in the barn.

Every evening the young man brought her bread and water. He was somewhat embarrassed at this and assured her that he too ate the same thing, because he was busy day and night working for the Polish underground. He smuggled weapons for the Polish partisans who were in the near-by woods. In all probability he took no money for this and therefore fed himself very poorly. He really did share his last morsel with the Jewish woman.

After several days the young man announced that he had to go away. He was leaving for Central Poland, which at that time was separated off by a border and was called “General Government”. Chava Fefer saw no other way than to accompany him, since no one was left who could get her anything to eat.

They set out together on the road and passed the border, and went on until they arrived at the village from which the young man came. For a short time she hid in his parents' house. When it became dangerous, he reached an understanding with the parish priest, who agreed to hide Chava Fefer in the church. She stayed there until the Liberation, when the Soviet army took the village.


[Page 381]

Through Rivers of Tears and Seas of Blood

Avraham Haler – From My Diary

Translated by Martin Jacobs

On September 1, 1939 a black cloud of fear and anxiety descended on our town. Before our eyes the Polish armies were crushed and the cruel fist of Hitler's gangs began to hang over our heads. The German military entered Likev on the second day of Rosh Hashanah on Friday afternoon. They fired off a few rounds from their machine guns, blindly, but no one was hurt. Immediately the next morning, the Sabbath of Repentance, several German soldiers came into my haberdashery shop and began throwing the merchandise onto the street, where the Christian townspeople immediately gathered and looted it. Whatever it didn't pay for them to take they trampled on and destroyed.

There was a cellar under my shop where I had hidden various goods as well as cigarettes and tobacco. One of my Christian neighbors informed on me about this to the Germans, who broke into my shop and began to beat me furiously. I had to open the cellar and the Germans threw me in and ordered me to hand out the hidden goods. All the time I was handing out the goods, accumulated with years of exhausting labor, the Germans did not stop cursing and threatening me.

 

tar381.jpg
Avraham Haler

 

[Pages 464-465]

Annihilation and the Struggle for Life

Sender Spiegler

Translated by Tina Lunson

Each word that is written about the dreadful destruction that befell our people, I swallow with great sorrow, and I think that every surviving Jew must from time to time read through a book that tells about the life in the ghetto. We are forbidden to forget the great destruction that has no comparison in the history of human kind.

One must learn about the destruction not only of one’s own shtetl [small village], but also of all the towns and villages in Poland. The memorial books and everything in which the murderous Jewish annihilation is spoken of are our keyver oves [graves of our ancestors] because there are no graves for our nearest and dearest with whose ashes the fields around the Hitleristic death camps were fertilized.

This memorial book for our shtetl was written by us alone. Each surviving Tarnogrod Jew brings a brick to the construction’s account, to the gravestone to the memory of our martyrs. We tell about the life of our grandfathers and fathers, about the heroic struggle that they conducted for life and about their martyrs’ deaths. We tell about the persecutions that were done both by the Germans and by the Ukrainians and Poles. We also tell about each noble act that was performed by the righteous of the nations, the individual Poles who risked their own lives and brought help to the pursued, tormented and persecuted Jews. There were such exceptional people everywhere and they were also in Tarnogrod and in the surrounding shtetlekh [villages].

We tell about the good-heartedness of our dear Tarnogrod Jews, who lived side by side for decades, became bound together as can only happen with good and sincere souls.

Tarnogrod Jews had an insight into the best Jewish character, for charity and for acts of loving kindness. In 1939, when the Hitler troops attacked Poland, thousands of refugees streamed through our town and all were taken in with open arms. A special committee was formed whose assignment it was to see that no refugee went hungry. Even the poorest people took their bread and shared it to the last bite. No refugee was left without a place to sleep at night.

In a far-off Russian town where I lived with several other Jews, there came to us some Jews who had been freed from a camp in Siberia. When we got to talking and they realized that I was from Tarnogrod, two of the Jews stood up and came over to me and greeted me with the greatest warmth.

“We will never forget,” they said to the whole gathering, “the warm hearts of the Tarnogrod Jews, the goodness they showed us when we were fleeing the Hitler hell.”

In their memories was etched the name of Yeshaya-Leib Walfish in whose home they stayed four nights, not considering that they were not the only ones. Many others spent the nights there too and to everyone he showed the same hospitality and brotherly love.

These liberated Jews related that throughout their entire wandering they had not found such good-heartedness as they had been shown by the Tarnogrod Jews.

I later learned several facts from the Tarnogrod Jews who had met people in far-off Siberia who considered it an honor to speak with Tarnogrod Jews because they had not forgotten their touching impression of our town.

Such was the character of the Tarnogrod Jew. And we will also teach that spirit to our children, with reverence and love for those martyrs, for whom we bow our heads in deep and ongoing sadness.


 

[Page 466]

 

tar466.jpg
Yosef Fink

 

In Memory of My Parents

Yosef Fink

Translated by Chesky Wertman

Dedicated to Joseph Fink Z”L who helped
me discover the treasures of Tarnogrod

I see you, Tatte
In the early morning hours,
Wrapped in tallis and tefillin.
Also you, Mama,
The children to cheder
You escort them with a prayer.

I see you, Mama,
Blessing the candles.
Fingers covering the eyes,
A sweet prayer
You whisper quietly,
Hovering over the candles.

I see you, Tatte,
By the Shabbes meal -
Children around the table,
Mama glistening
With adoring love
She serves the Shabbes fish.

Erev Yom Kippur,
When blessing the children,
I see you also then,
Heartfelt pleas,
Somberly expressed
Upon your face at that time.

How is it that you perished,
My precious and beloved?
I am reflecting on this now:
Also Shlomo, Hinde, Sara
And Dobtsche with her child.

Everlasting memories,
Are carried in my thoughts -
This is a holy mission.
Always and forever
You will dwell in my heart
Until my last step…

Brooklyn, 24 May 1963

Translator's note: Tatte is Yiddish for father

 

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