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[Page 771]

The Expulsion

All Translations Within this Section by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman

The first terrible days passed & people “calmed down”, if such can be said. The murders & robberies ceased. The majority of Jewish residents mourned the death & disgraced honor of their dear ones. On all Jewish homes the authorities hung notices: “Averea Statulia” (State Property).

An order was issued, forbidding Jews to go out on the street; anyone found on the street will be shot.

Yaakov Gold tells that in those days people started to be taken away for all kinds of work – to repair roads, to do clean-up jobs, garden work, etc. People went out to work in lines. At the front & rear of the line there were always Christians. They worked all day until evening. The pay - beatings, mockery, degradation. The work didn't last more than a week.

Suddenly the terrible news came, for which, to tell the truth, we were prepared. All Jewish residents were told to assemble in a minimum of time, part on the central “Torhovitzeh” & others at the Beltz Bridge; there was an expulsion from the shtetl. Whereto? Not one word of indication.

The panic that broke out is hard to describe. Clara Kalmanovich (previously Brand) describes it partially. She was a young child then.

“That day is engraved deep in my memory – the day the Rumanians forced us to leave our homes, not allowing us to take even essentials. I remember, as though today, the noon meal that we didn't manage to finish. We grabbed whatever we could & headed for the assembly point.”

Rochel Skolnik adds her version about the expulsion order:

“The order stated that all Jews must leave the city. Everyone can take a small pack of personal things & a bit of food. In the same order it was said that every Christian who will rescue Jews will be killed, together with his family. Also those peasants who had hidden Jews for a good price turned them over to the rulers. The panic was enormous. The cries & shouts rose to heaven.”

Frieda Kuzminer adds:

“They entered the houses & told everyone to get out on the street. Previously, already, rumors abounded that the Jews would be expelled as punishment for joyfully greeting the Russians when they occupied Yedinitz. We had already prepared packs for the way. On a nice day we assembled on the street & an order came to go in the direction of the east.

Where to? There was no reply. The rumor was – to the Dniester…on all the roads the expelled Jews from Yedinitz wandered near the bridge at Rezineh & Otek, on the roads, both ways, between Secoran & Brichan and back to Yedinitz…Suddenly we met up with those who had arrived from Chernowitz…groups intermingled with groups, but they all had the same bitter end.”

Particularly shocking was the expulsion of the Jews of the Old Folks' Home that was in the building where there had previously been the gymnasia. In the late thirties the gymnasium closed. At that time Shmuel Weinshainker's son, Moishe, came to the shtetl & spent a large sum of money in order to perpetuate the name of his father z”l. The family of Avraham Brunstein also made a large contribution. An additional donation by Shmuel Speyer made it possible to acquire the gymnasia building & to establish an Old Folks' Home for several tens of oldsters there. A women's committee took charge of the daily maintenance of the institution. The women who worked on this committee were: Tzeitl Fradis, Chana Axelrod, Chaya Shpeyer, Henyeh Furman & others.

By a coincidence Chaika Shpayer was present when representatives of the rulers broke into the building & ordered the old folks to leave the building in a matter of minutes. From this terrible description of how several tens of older men & women, amongst them the sick & elderly, frightened & bewildered, left the house, with their small bundles under their arms, Chayke Shpeyer can't free herself, though 30 years have passed since then.

The truth is that even before the Rumanians reentered Yedinitz, there were people who attempted to run away from the shtetl. Intuitively they felt the approaching catastrophe. But where to?! Nobody knew. Perhaps to Securan? There, it was heard, it is “quiet” in the meantime. And perhaps in the surrounding villages? To goyim acquaintances?

[Page 773]

"Deportation" drawn by Avigdor Meller 1946 - (the deceased husband of the Yedinitz woman Sara Shitz-Meller. He did many drawings of the Holocaust theme) Deportation

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Those Who Ran Away To Securan

From Mendl, the youngest son of the Yoel Lieberman family, (the confectioner) we have the following, though he was a very young lad at the time.

“As soon as the bombs started falling in the shtetl, I went into the house & informed that we have no more time to wait. Our neighbor, Laib Katzev, harnessed his horse & set out on his way in the direction of Securan-Otek. He did us a favor & took along our mother z”l & my sister with her young daughter. We loaded on only a few of our most necessary items. The men followed the wagon on foot. On the way more families joined us. They also had left the city. The aim was – to cross the Dniester over to Russia. In Securan we found around 1,000 Jews from Yedinitz. All were headed in the direction of Otek with the intention of crossing the bridge over the Dniester. In Otek a whole family joined us – the family of the Yedinitz shoichet who lived in Securan. He got a horse & wagon & we started to move…but on the way we already met shtetl folk who were coming from the opposite direction. They told us that the bridge over the Dniester had been bombed, that German parachutists had shot at or already landed in Mohilev, the city that is on the other side of the bridge, & that there is no chance whatsoever of reaching Russia. We understood that the “game” is over, & we decided to return to Securan. Our neighbor Leib Katzav, decided to return to Yedinitz. The Rabuck family also, who had their own horse & wagon, decided to return to Yedinitz as well. Then we found out that, upon arrival in the village Chepleutz, an advance German patrol met them & killed them. After the war, a peasant from the village indicated where the Germans had thrown the dead bodies. Their son, Itzhak Rabuck (who presently lives in Yedinitz) transferred their bodies to their eternal rest in the Jewish cemetery.

In Chepleutz the Germans & the local villagers killed others, in addition to the Rabuch family – the pharmacist Yesheya Tolpoler & his son Dr. Syoma Talpoler, as well as Dr. Lerner, together with all their family members. They had all run away from Yedinitz in order to save themselves…from the Germans. As far as I know they did not get a Jewish burial. The only ones who managed to save themselves from this village, while alive, & returned to Securan were Laib Katsav & his wife. They told of what they had seen & lived through, that all roads leading to Yedinitz have already been cut off.

Meanwhile we heard that German tanks had already entered Securan & that this shtetl also is destined for the same fate as Yedinitz. The German commandant had even managed to give a speech for the Securan Christians, calling upon them to kill the Jews. We had lived in a house that was on the edge of the shtetl. It could have been considered as belonging both to the Christian section & the Jewish section of Securan. We saw the Rumanian flag on their roofs. We also hung up such a flag & that did indeed save us for a time. During one & a half days during which Securan had suffered from pogroms, we weren't harmed. We took advantage of this time to bury in the ground whatever we still had. In this way we were able to rescue a few things that we were later able to exchange for food.

This calm didn't last for long. Apparently a goy informed on us. German & Rumanian soldiers burst into our house, together with raging goyim. They beat us & took away everything that we had. They even bore our clothes off & we were left stark naked.

At night there was once more strong knocking at our door. We were sure that once again soldiers had come, this time to search for women. We didn't open the door before we let out, through the back door, the women, including my sister Rochel, Tzizi Blanc, Sara Gukofsky & other women whose names I no longer remember. The soldiers broke down the door & demanded that the women be turned over to them for they understood that we had hidden them. They beat us mercilessly but they didn't get what they demanded.

The pogrom in Securan lasted for three days – three days of terror for all the Jews, especially for the few Yedinitz Jews who had run away to there. Many Yedinitzers were murdered there. People were left without anything & in some cases completely naked. Amongst the Yedinitzers who were victims was the Frau of Laib Katzav who had survived the bloodbath in Chepleutz.”

[Page 776 - top]

A Drop of Menshlechkeit

The truth is that in a sea of horrors & terror a drop of menshlechkeit sometime shone through for the unfortunate Jews.

When the family of Yosef Gertzman was battling with the idea of where to go & where to run away to, there suddenly appeared in their house some German officers. These Germans, overcome with fear that had overcome the family, said to the Gertzmans:

“Don't be afraid; we also have wives & children…not all Germans are Hitlerites…we will not harm you.”

And they asked:
“Do you have children anywhere? Where are they? We'll send to have them brought home.”

The Germans took food items out of their packs, conserves & drinks, & shared it amongst those in the house. At the request of the family they sent soldiers to Lipkan to bring home the daughter Chana who had remained stuck there.

The family benefited from this menshlechkeit of these Germans for only two days. Suddenly the later appeared again in Gertzman's house & informed everyone:

“A terrible thing is in store for you. Leave this place as soon as you can. Take along money & valuables. They'll help you a lot en route.”

“ At a certain moment a group of men were led out to the Jewish cemetery. I was in the group. Soldiers showered us with gunshots but an officer who arrived commanded them to stop shooting. We were saved from certain death.

“ The situation of the Yedinitz Jews was worse than that of the Securan ones, because the later ones did get a bit of food, while we were outsiders. The Securan Jews took pity on us & shared some of their food with us. We looked for food & found some in the abandoned houses. We also gathered grasses from which mother made “shnitzls”. Suddenly the gendarme discovered that in Securan there are around 400 Jews hiding. We were assembled & told that we would be sent back home to Yedinitz. Some of us managed to hide. The rest were sent back to Yedinitz.

“ Sometime later Abraham Gralnik returned to Securan. (He was the youngest of the family). He was from amongst those who had been sent back to Yedinitz. Here is what he told us: 'When they arrived in Yedinitz the returned were accused of having run away with the communists. They were all shot. He, as a minor, was the only one spared. Instead he was sent to a court in Chotin. From there he was sent back to Securan. That's how we found out particulars about the Yedinitz Jews. Until then we envied those who had been sent back to Yedinitz. One day we, I & Tzizi Blanc's husband were sent to the commandant of the gendarmerie & asked to be sent back to Yedinitz. The platoon major started to shout at us: 'aha, you're communists who have run away from Yedinitz in order to inform the Russians about the situation on the front.' How we managed to free ourselves from this murderer I don't know."

“A few days later another order came: to gather in the center of town & march. Where to? According to the route we saw that we were being led in the direction of Brichan, around 30 kilometers from Securan. We marched on foot. Beaten, hungry & thirsty, we continued until nightfall. We only completed half the way. We were commanded to spend the night here… standing on our feet. During the night, we were led further to Brichan. There we tried to ask to be sent home to Yedinitz. But we were marched on back to Securan. We weren't allowed into the shletl; we were chased to the Dneister. This march lasted, without a pause, three days & three nights. To make it all the worse, a heavy downpour of rain fell. The suffering of 'gehenem' pales when compared to our suffering. Finally we crossed the Dneister, reached a place called Koslov. We were told to sit down & rest. Here it noteworthy to point out the treatment of the local Ukrainians there, as opposed to the Christian population of Bessarabia, they took pity on us, brought us water & even exchanged some of our belongings for food. We breathed a sigh of relief. We thought that an end had come to our tzores. That's what we thought but our tzores were just beginning.”

The Jews from the Surrounding Villages

Let us take this opportunity to mention that the Jews who lived in the surrounding villages remained cut off from the shletl. The telephone did not function, there was no mail. From Yedinitz, their “metropolis', enemy action reported arrived about pogroms on the Jews, murder, robberies & rapes. The village Jews had the same fate as all of Bessarabian Jews.

This is what Sara Litvak (Beylin), a resident of Dorjin, with the largest Jewish population of all the villages, recounts: “A week before all these events in Yedinitz, it also “started” with us. On Friday evening all 68 Jewish families were “ousted” from their homes & were taken to a village schoolhouse; they were all shoved into one classroom, in total darkness. They were seated on the ground. The women & children wept. The Jews in all the other villages had the same fate.

[Page 777-778 - bottom]

The Road of Tribulation

Of the 5-6 thousand Jewish residents of the shtetl around one thousand people were murdered during the first two weeks of the occupation. The others were chased away. From the gathering points, from whence they left the shtetl, especially from the “Beltzer Bridge” they cast their final glance at the shtetl where the Jews had lived for many generations. They left behind destroyed & plundered homes, the murdered bodies of their dear ones & the frozen blood on the streets.

[Page 779]

Jews who had been driven out of other locations were later brought to Yedinitz. The Rumanians established a concentration camp there. The Jews who had been brought here occupied the empty houses of the Yedinitz Jews. In some of the houses they found writing on the walls that the Yedinitzer had left.

“Here, in one night 60 Jews were slaughtered.” “Here the fascist murderers killed my family.” Or – “Take revenge – that's our last wish.”

One could notice that some of the writings were written with human blood. Those who walked past this read & for a long time their hearts did not let them wipe away the writings.

Yisroel Shpizl Of Brichan tells about the dreadful appearance of the shtetl at that time. “At the beginning of July we arrived in Yedinitz. The Yiddish part of the shtetl was enclosed by barbed wire. We met none of the Yedinitz Jews there. They had been driven out two weeks before we arrived. The houses were vacant, smashed, shattered, without doors or windows. Inside signs of blood, broken furniture, ripped open pillows, feathers were flying around, etc. There were 2,000 of us herded Jews there…from Novoselitz, Lipkan, Chotin, Hertza, Securan, Chernowitz, etc.”

Frieda Kuzminer tells the following about the convoy of the herded ones from near the Belty Bridge. “The convoy left. We were told that we were going to the train station of Ruznitzeh. We were around 1600 people, men, women, elderly & young children. As we left we were counted but not registered. In the evening we reached our destination. Shattered & deathly tired, we fell onto the ground. We were hungry, but thirst plagued us even more. Not far off there was a well, but the accompanying gendarme shot & killed anyone who dared approach it. The goyim stood around & mocked us. They struck on the head, with a rod, anyone who was carrying a bundle over their shoulders in order to throw them down, with the aim of stealing their packs – the last bit that they still owned. Most of those who were struck couldn't get up in order to walk further.

“We were in the village Redin-Mara for a short time & continued on. The nearest destination – the village Klimantz. In the middle of the way there was a downpour of rain. We got soaked through & through. The one who accompanied us & the Christians who passed by didn't cease to mock us to vex us. We were not given food nor water. On the way children got lost. Families were separated from one another. The cries & the wailing reached to heaven.”

[Page 780]

For over a week we passed through various stations, until we approached Otek. The shtetl was completely in ruins. We walked, we wandered, until we crossed the Dneister. Many remained on the way, & the remainder battered & weary, naked & barefoot, shadows of their former selves. The journey lasted two months. For us it was an eternity.

Yekl Gold who was also in that convoy adds: “The mass of people moves the heat around & there is not a drop of water to drink. We weren't permitted to go near the water. We were marched on to Vertuzen. The march took several days. We walked during the day & spent the nights in the fields. On the way many got separated from the convoy. Weaker ones & the elderly who couldn't keep up were killed. Many elderly, therefore, gathered courage & even ran at the head of the convoy.”

Tragic Stations

Who can describe the agonizing journey led across the Dneister - & particularly the tragically famous stopping stations – the Kasseritzer Forest, the shtetlech Obek & Vertuzen on the right side of the Dneister, etc. It was in the midst of autumn, heavy rains soaked us. The winds & the autumn cold pierced as with needles, the weary bodies of the driven wandering Jews. And we must not forget the constant brutal torture administrated by the armed Rumanians who accompanied us. So it no wonder that thousands perished on the way before reaching their 'destination' – the eastern shore of the Dneister. Those who fell on the way were not always buried.

Yehuda Kafri (Dorf) tells about some of the suffering on the way:

“ Where we were given a chance to 'rest' it was generally in the middle of the way for no good reason, even if night was approaching. We would sit down on the ground, actually in an empty field, often in the wet mud & in creeks & swamps. Don't forget that this was in the middle of autumn, the rainy season. During the 'rest' the parents would embrace their children to protect them from the mean Rumanian guards who would let out their murderous madness mainly on the old folks & the children because they held back the 'tempo' of the 'order' of the march. Those who lagged behind were destined to be killed.”

[Page 781]

There were cases when parents tried to disguise their children so that they should look older. The parents Of Yidl Dorf, for instance, dressed him in women's clothes. This trick helped him, so it is believed, to stay alive.

In the Clothes of a Woman

Before crossing the Dneister, the guards who accompanied us, separated the men from the women. Some suspected that the women would be allowed to cross the river but the men would perish. In the best of possibilities the men would remain on this side of the river.

Pinny Parnas also put on women's clothes, smuggled himself into the women's ranks & together with them, crossed the river.

Those Driven Out of Chernowitz

Dobbe Cohen (formerly Gruzman) was amongst those chased out of Chernowitz. The Chernowitz Jews were still living in their own houses at the time that Jews in the Bessarabian cities & shtetlach already found themselves wandering in agony, but they also drank enough from the cup of bitterness. After a brief time in the ghetto the Chernowitz & Buckovina Jews got the order to take the wandering staff in their hands & cross the Dneister. Dobbe tells about this:

“Everyday we get terrible news about the shtetl of our birth. Meanwhile we sleep in our beds & eat at our tables. The truth is – we live in fear & are prepared for the worst, that a great misfortune is approaching us … In half an hour, suddenly, with beatings & threats, we were driven out of our homes & chased to the ghetto.”

“A short time later an order came to start wandering. This was already a half year after the churban of Bessarabian Jewry. We wandered for days & nights. We were dragged along side roads. We were also punished from heaven with rain & storms, in addition to the beatings & vexation from the Rumanian guards. Even to the present day, the shouts of the guards clang in my ears. Their shouts – “get going… further… further”. They had no pity for sick women, old folks or young children who lost their strength & couldn't continue to walk. We were forced to leave them behind while their bodies wrangled between life & death. And we had to continue on … further.

[Page 782]

“On the way the supply of bread ran out. The murderers succeeded in satisfying their thirst for murder very easily without wasting even one bullet. People let out their last breath on the way from hunger & cold. It didn't take long & from those who set out very few remained, without a spark of hope.”

It's hard to give the chronology of the resting stations along the way where we stopped, where the driven ones passed through. There were various main convoys, groups separated from other convoys joined others. There were cases when part of the convoy were sent back & others led by the same route to the Dneister. In the following lines we shall attempt to relay what happened at various stops & from this particular case we shall be able to get a general idea of the way.

In Kaseuz Forest

Winter was approaching. The convoy in which Yehuda Kafri (Yidl Dorf) was, paused in the Koseuz Forest. Kafri tells:

“Around 200 people were shoved together in a cattle-barn near Kaseuz Forest. People were hungry & thirsty. There was no drinking water. The 'mazel' was that the roof of the barn was covered with snow & ice, so people broke off icicles from the roof & stilled their thirst. Even this they could only do when the guards dozed off. People took advantage of the night hours to gather from the fields a few potatoes & other vegetables that remained in the fields. Others reached the homes of the peasants of the nearby village & they exchanged valuables if they still had any for a piece of bread, some potatoes & that's how we was able to calm one's hunger somewhat.”

[Page 783]

In the Lager Camp of Vertuzn

One of the worst stations was the Yiddish shtetl that is in the banks of the Dneister – Vertuzn. Sara Litvak & Frieda Kuzminer were there. They recount:

“The shtetl Vertuzn was abandoned by its Jewish inhabitants. They saved themselves by escaping across the Dneister. The houses were broken into & the surrounding goyim emptied them out. The newly arrived Jews “settled” in the abandoned houses. If there still remained a window or a door in the house, these were used to light the stove in order to warm one's bones a bit & to dry the soaked bodies. The shtetl was surrounded by a fence in order to separate the Jews from the village goyim. On both sides of the fence there would be an exchange market every day.

“The Jews would give away whatever they had for a piece of bread, a few potatoes or beets. Everything was good for exchange: an article of clothing, shoes, shoelaces, thread…people sold the last shirt off their back. They went around in socks, shmates & even wrapped their body parts in paper. They were hungry & shivered from the cold. There were people who had nothing to exchange for something to quiet their hunger. Shmuel Fradis organized a collection for the hungry. Everyone who could gave 2 lei for the needy.

At this station, amongst the ruins, it was the period of Rosh Hashana at that time. The men gatherd in a “kloiz” a ruin, without doors or windows; they davened while standing. In the middle of prayers soldiers arrived and chased the congregants to work. They were made to carry stones up and down the high hill beside the river for no purpose at all, just in order to “sweeten” the holy yom tov for the Jews. In order to satisfy their sadism they grabbed old men and cut off their beards. Amongst those who had their beards cut off was Reb Aron-Ber Gershl.

At this point many Jews perished, amongst others, Yisrael Rosenthal, Choneh and his wife Henyeh Akerman, the mechutonim Chayim Froim Gutman and David Shwartz (Dudyeh de Jerobs. They died the same day) etc.

[Page 784]

Events of Vertuzn (and once more it is difficult to know whether it happened to the previously mentioned convoy, as with a part of another convoy. Actually it doesn't change anything) as told by Frieda Kuzminer:

“When we arrived at Vertuzn our papers were taken away from us and destroyed. We met Jews from the whole Chatin Region here. People were looking for food. We went to the “market” where the goyim were looking for bargains. We had almost nothing left to sell. It was a long time since we had had to part with our valuables. Even our clothes were rotting, shmates. For this we got a bit of flour, mixed with earth. We cooked a mameligeh. You can imagine what kind of a taste it had.

“In Vertuzn a committee was established for mutual help. There was no shortage either of sickness and epidemics. Worst of all was the dysentery. It was caused by unclean water with which we quenched our thirst and suddenly proclaimations appeared in Rumanian saying “The Jews want to return home”. In one day the men were separated from the women and were sent to Kasevtz. When a few days passed and they did not return, we asked the authorities where they are. We didn't receive any reply. Only Pinsy Prenson managed to escape from the lager and return to us in Vertuzn.”

Incidentally the matter of gathering the documents gave a source of income for the Rumanian soldiers and guards – much to our regret, also to some of our fellow Jews who made the shady deals and had suspicious business with the Rumanian soldiers. It wasn't a mater of normal papers such as identity cards or birth certificates that had long ago lost their significant value. It was a mater of professional certificates, academic titles, etc. which could, so it was believed, serve their owners in the future in question of personal security and income. The suspected persons understood that for such papers their owners would pay any price just so that they will be able to hang onto them. The people mentioned weren't wrong.

Regarding one case of taking away papers and documents that happened in the Kosevitz forest lager as well Clara, the wife of Dr. Shyovich of Chernovitz (she herself from Brishan) tells: The family was on their way of deportation and came to that forest. Dr Shyovich and his family were ready to endure all measures of pressures and threats and all the draconic means in order to not give away his doctor's license, especially when the family no longer had any valuables that the robbers were willing to take for the documents.

Yekl Gold confirms, as a witness, that two of our Yedinitz Jews were amongst the band of those who worked along with the henchman, much to our pain and disgrace.

[Page 785]

Yom Kipur in the Forest Lager

If for Rosh Hashana, the refugees could daven partially within the walls of a “kloiz” in Vertuzn, even though it was a dirty and neglected place, they were destined to observe Yom Kipur outside, beneath the sky, in Kasevtz Forest. Such a Yom Kipur one doesn't forget until the day of one's death.

Yekl Gold Tells More:

“The morning of erev Yom Kipur an order came that the Vertuzn lager-people must “march on”. It appeared that they were going back on the road they had come from “We're going home” – was the rumor that was spread. Avraham Greenstein (Kechel Klugman's son-in-law) was sure. “Children, we're going home”. Meanwhile we walked. It started to rain – in order to “lighten” our way and make it “pleasanter”.

“At the approach of evening, we came to a forest, Kasvitz Forest. It was the eve of Kol Nidre… we sat down on the ground on the soaked earth from the rain of the whole day. Only the fallen leaves served the unfortunate ones as aid against the forest swamps. The mothers held the children in their arms, pressed them to their skinny bodies, hoping to perhaps warm the little ones in this way.

“That's how the Yom Tov was ushered in. At first the davening was very quiet, in a whisper, but then the prayers got stronger and louder until they turned into a mighty cry that wasn't, however able to shatter the leaden heavens… the soldiers and guards couldn't stop the crowd. They also, these sub-humans with ice-cold hearts, were embarrassed and moved by this dreadful sight.

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“And it's very dark. We gathered dry twigs and we light fires to boil water in order to warm ourselves. The fire spreads throughout the whole forest. It gets light as day. These fires were instead of “memorial candles” of those who had fallen and were thus spared further suffering. Their bodies and souls were thus redeemed.

Kol Nidre Eve/Night in the Kaseuz Forest

Kol Nidre Eve/Night in the Kaseuz Forest

 

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A drawing by the world-renowned artist, Ben of Paris Special for “Yad Yedinitz”
During the visit of the world renowned artist Benn, in Israel in the winter of 1971 in connection with his Song of Songs show, he heard from his old friend, Yosef Magen, the story of the Kol Nidre night in Kaseuz Forest. The story made shuch a strong impression on the artist that the artist drew the terrible night as he pictured it when the lit outdoor fires burned like Yiskor candles.

In Kaseuz Forest

The dislocated ones “spent” several days in Kaseuz Forest. Every day, but particularly the nights brought its sacrifices who were burned in the depths of the forest. Yitzhak Shpizl, who has already been mentioned, recounts:

“We were led deep into the thick old forest. The tops of the tall trees closed off the view of the sky. In addition, it rained. We sat in the puddles and the mud. We had no water so we drank the stagnant pool water. In order to calm our hunger we ate the beets that we gathered from the long-ago harvested fields. We ate everything raw, naturally, because the surrounding peasants didn't let us get near & hit anyone they found gathering in the fields. Families were lost. Somehow the days passed but the nights! Dear G-d. This was indescribably horrible. People sat all huddled up – the living and the dead. People fell like flies. In the morning we saw how many had died. Pits were dug, the dead were undressed and buried naked. The others were hungry and thirsty and swollen. Sickness, the epidemics of the typhus and dysentery because of the dirty water and the raw food cut down lives mercilessly. Woman aborted. Other women died in childbirth. It was dark. Close relatives held one another by the hand. When they let go of hands they lost one another. The young people were gathered and let out of the forest. The elderly were left. They had to take care of themselves.

“Those who did the burying had much work. They gathered the clothes and documents from the dead ones and shared them with the soldiers. Amongst those who did the burying was the tragically familiar traitor, Sh. L of Yedinitz. (It was told that after the war he managed to reach Brazil where he was killed in a car accident.) His partner in this sin Sh. G---M disappeared. Nobody knows where or when.

[Page 788]

“Finally the saving order was given in Kaseuz Forest. (At that time it was like a rescue from hell): “Get up and march”. The next stations was the shtetl Otek near the Dniester, the Jewish residents had long ago left this shtetl. They had crossed the Dniester in order to save themselves, running away deep into Russia. The houses had been burnt and destroyed. Everywhere one could recognize signs of the pogram. Dead bodies were still in the streets, yards and cellars. On the walls there was writing in blood in Yiddish: “you who will pass here say Kaddish for the soul of …(and a name would follow). It was written with their own blood, that of the victims themselves or those who were present. Who can know who left this kind of a “matzeyvah”? You who in those days were sleeping in your beds will never be able to imagine it, the immensity of our suffering, the horror of the filth, the degradation. How tragic is death when it comes so far from one's home. Yizkor! Remember those who died at the roadsides.”

Who could count the dead in Kasevtz forest that burned into a huge burial ground? Many of the dead weren't even buried. It was only later that we realized the extent of the deaths that took place in the Kaseuz Forest.

And the “fortunate” ones who came out of there were exhausted, weak, tired, dressed in rotten rags but still there was a spark of hope in their hearts because if they had succeeded in emerging from this hell, nothing will be able to overcome them.

The Arrival at Otek

We reached Otek. There there were several thousand chased out Jews. Dr. Maier Teich, a familiar Jewish community worker from Bukovina, a leader of the “Poele Zion” and head of the Jewish community of Suchaveh, (presently in Israel) who was there before the Jews of Yedinitz and the Jews of other shtetlach arrived there, was a witness of the arrival of “Kaseuz” in Otek. He later described what he saw:

[Page 789]

“It's very dark. It's wet and dirty; cries and wailing and yet people are standing on their feet. Parents have lost children, children lost parents, Chaos! People are searching, shouting, howling; hunger, despair, death! In vain is the attempt to comfort, to calm. There is no food available and most go to bed hungry with fear for tomorrow and with the hope that the night will be long and peaceful. Nobody sleeps, yet the night passes quickly and with trembling hearts we greet the new day. Soon the peasants arrive with some milk and bread but they demand very high prices and most don't have money to pay.

“Suddenly we hear a murmur from the distance. It gets stronger and louder until it turns into a lament. The Yedintiz Jews arrive. They are naked, hungry, and are driven like a pack of dogs. Here they are. I'll never forget that sight. It's not humans whom I'm beholding. These are skin-and-bones, dressed in rags, who can hardly drag themselves along. They are shivering groaning, wailing. There is a deathly-fear in their eyes, just like those of an animal that is being chased by a pack of dogs under a spray of bullets. This herd that is being beaten and chased with whips and with armed guns of soldiers, moves as one with slow movements, worn out, almost unconscious. The beastly ones don't allow anyone to stop and keep on driving us towards the Dniester to the “gehenom” but we surround them and in the few moments of confusion we manage to hand them some bits of food, garments, even managing to sneak away a few of them and hide them amongst us. The soldiers, though, soon manage to break up our circle and after reestablishing the convoy, I heard the orders for the first time, the order that from that time forth will often ring in my ears:

“Whoever can't move on, remain behind – you'll be shot.”

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