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Crossing the Dniester

All Translations Within this Section by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman

Crossing the Dniester was a tragic chapter in itself. About this also it is hard to tell as one event because many convoys and partial convoys crossed the Dniester to “Transnistria”. Numberless are the gruesome stories that are connected with this crossing. Some who crossed over had “mazel” and they reached the opposite side “b'sholom” and somehow “settled”, others found their death in the world of the river that carried the drowned bodies far off.

Particularly well known in the crossing of the Dniester is the horrific case of a convoy or part of one, that had made their way through Vertuzen-Kaseuz-Otek. Near the crossing point the people were divided into two groups. One group was sent in the direction of Yampole, the

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Second group-on the way to Rezina. The group of Yampole crossed the river safely. The second group perished completely in crossing the river.

One rumor has it that when the people were half way across on the bridge; it was blown up, as they were crossing. According to another rumor the people were lined up near the bridge and they were shot by machine guns. One way or another not one person of that convoy remained alive. The conditions of this are unknown up to the present day because nobody of that group survived. All kinds of rumors abounded: shot, drowned in the Dniester, and blown up on land mines. The dead took with them the secret of their death. Amongst those who perished was Rochel, the sister of Motty Reicher and her 8-year–old talented son. This after they had endured the Kaseuz Forest ordeal where they had left, in the ground, the parents-Eliezer and Golda. Others who perished on the way to Rezineh were the children of Yekl Zilberman, the watchmaker's children, Itzik and Esther and the children Duku and Shulia, as well as the mother Zelda.

Once the “goal” was reached, Transnistria, how were the deported received there to where they had so long been driven? About this “nice reception” there are terrifying witnesses:

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Here on the eastern shore of the river, a high hill rises and the area is full of rocks. The sadistic Rumanians and Germans prepared quite a “reception” for the exhausted broken wanderers. They commanded that each one of the arrivals should climb the hill carrying a heavy stone. And when the unfortunate ones mounted, the order was given to get back to the riverbank. And from the river bank-once more to climb up with a heavy stone. This went on repeatedly, up and down until people collapsed in the middle of their way up and more than a few of the collapsed ones rolled down into the river and didn't have to get up again…Their final way led to the bottom of the streaming river.

On the Bank of the Dniester On the Bank of the Dniester
The departed ones wait to be transported across to Transnistria in points along the length of the Dniester the unfortunate ones were kept for many days. Here the sun beat down upon them, the rain soaked them and the cold nights plagued them. Many lost their lives here. Many drowned in the river. {from the Masias-Karp archive}

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Back in Otek

Mendl Lieberman tells about the night he crossed the Dniester from Mohiliv back to Otek:

“A rumor was spread that the Germans who are accompanying the convoy want to drown us in the water while we cross it. The young of the convoy, aside from myself, there were Zusya Grolnik, Yitzhak Rabuch, Pesach Fishberg, Yacov Rosenberg, Baruch Hindler, his brother Binjamin and others, decided to oppose this strongly if an attempt will be made to commit this sin…we reached the brink of the river. Over the destroyed bridge between Mohilev and Otek a small bridge was erected. Here, on the Mohilev side of the river we stood for a long time. We weren't allowed to sit. We heard the telephone conversations of both sides of the Dniester. From our side they shouted across to the other side to take us. The opposite side countered that they did not want us. Suddenly we heard a German shouting loudly and decidedly to those in charge on the opposite side that either they accept charge on the opposite side that they accept us or we will be thrown into the river.

“It's hard to describe how the night passed for us. With our last bit of strength we stood on our feet because, as already stated, we wern't allowed to sit down. Some held young, crying children in their arms. Amongst the elderly many fainted.

"Suddenly, and unexpectedly the barrier of the bridge was opened and we were told to go upon it. Fear struck us. What do they want from us? Are they considering taking us across to the other side? Or are we being put on the bridge so that from there to be thrown into the river? But there wasn't much time to reflect on this. So we went up onto the bridge and reached Otek, sixty kilometers from Yedinitz.

“The group of Yedinitzers who were being chased from Mohilev to Otek numbered around 400 people, and when they looked around and saw that they were not being accompanied or guarded by soldiers, neither Germans nor Rumanians, an argument broke out amongst them, regarding whether or not to try to go home. I was against this. Still, half of the group did set off on the way. The remainder also prepared to do the same. The argument continued

“Suddenly something terrible sprung up before our eyes: Those who had previously left the spot turned back. They were almost completely naked. They told us that on the way they had encountered Germans, Rumanians and local goyish inhabitants who beat them up badly and drove them back. We helped them with whatever we could.

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Water … Water …

Several convoys or splinters of convoys of the wanderers crossed the Dniester during very hot days. These people were dying for a sip of water to drink. The water was after all, so close…all one had to do was stretch out one's hand, scooping up some water and still the plaguing thirst. But woe to the one who dared to stoop down in order to drink from the river. He was shot on the spot. With their last bit of strength, with wounded and swollen feet, the people dragged themselves up the hill. When they finally reached the top, the accompanying guards told them that they have permission to go down from the hill to the river to drink. In spite of their exhaustion all, including the elderly, children, women, nursing mothers with their infants started to run downhill in order to reach the water all the sooner. But it turned out that there was no end to the cruelty of the devilish vile, Rumanian guards. When the exhausted and unfortunates reached the brink of the water the soldiers didn't let them drink. They shot the drinkers, but even the shots did not stop the people from drinking. Some of them even jumped into the water and drank with their last bit of strength…Some remained in the water forever, after drinking.

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Those of us who hadn't set out at least had a chance to rest a bit”

Other facts about the horrors endured by those who arrived:

The convoy in which Yitzhak Girtzman was, arrived at the Dniester. The people got chased onto the bridge, but suddenly the bridge was raised. The guards gave this no consideration and commanded the convoy of Jews to proceed….that is….straight into the water…who will it bother if they drowned?…Yitzhak decided that quickly. He collected from everyone is much as they had, approached the chief officer on the bridge and told him: “If a spark of 'menshlekhkayt' still remains in you, like what we still have left and don't send us to a certain death. The money worked. The officer lowered the bridge and the people crossed the river.

The convoy which included Moishe Steinwartz and his family arrived in Otek in order to cross the Dniester from there. But the bridge was locked. Meanwhile there was a pouring rain. There was no point in returning to the shtetl where not only the ruins but the streets also were full of exiled Jews. Looking for a way out, Moishe Steinwartz accidentally discovered a few non-Jews whom he had at that time served and had done favors for, as bank director. These Christians intervened with those in charge of the bridge. The bridge was opened and the whole convoy crossed the river.

There were also other ”reception ceremonies”. For this there was no uniform plan. Everything took place according to the initiative, ideas and fantasies and mood of the local powers.

Exceptional Cases of “Menshlechkeyt”

There were cases when representatives of the Red Cross awaited the arrivals and they were received with bread and tea, with warmth and understanding, as they are duty-bound in the framework of their activity. There were people who fainted when they saw people handing out bread and tea. One could also see tears in the eyes of those who were distributing the bread….(according to the witness, Yekl Gold)

There were cases as well when the Ukrainian inhabitants of the villages that were near the crossing point who conducted themselves nicely towards the deported Jews whose pitiful appearance elicited pity from them. These Ukrainian villagers brought bread and drink and exchange food for their last remaining things that deportees still had. (According to the witness Mendl Lieberman).

But even these cases that gave an impression of menshlekhkeyt didn't cause any faulty illusions for those who had been driven away, it certainly didn't give them the feeling of security, especially when the Rumanian and German guards started to ”worry” about them. Often the nice “reception” was a swindle. It soon became clear that the deported Jews still had to go through a lot until they reach their “final goal”, a long way, with many temporary stations whose horrors nobody is capable of describing.

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The Fur Coat

In the Verburzn lager the family of the teacher Yosef Shpiro became ill with syphilis. Father and daughter couldn't move at all. The “hero” was the mother Yentah (Mayansky). She wanted to get a bit of milk from the nearby peasants. Perhaps this would help the dangerously ill family members to feel a bit better as they lay on their deathbeds. There was no money, but in the bundle there was a fur coat hidden, from the good times at home.

Since it was autumn and winter was approaching and warm hats could be made from the coat, she gave the fur coat to a Jew from the shtetl Brickov so that he would, as he promised, sell it to the goyim and give her the money….the coat was the very last possession of the family for which they could get some money with which, she hoped, save the life of her husband and child.

What happened, though? The Jew took the coat, left, and “forgot” to return. No Brichov Jew was to be found. No coat, no money. Everything disappeared and there is no milk for the expiring family members. The unfortunate and deceived mother Yeteh couldn't survive this grave disappointment and in despair committed suicide.

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The First Stop in Transnistria

Mendl Lieberman, in his writing, tells about the first stop on the soil of Transnistria. He arrived at this cross over point together with all the other tens of families on route from Securan to Otek:

“The following day we were led upon the hill at the foot of which a river flows. A white chalk mark was made all around us and we were told that we must not go beyond this mark. Who so ever does so will be shot. And they carried out their threat. They shot in the direction of the lager so that one bullet could kill more that one person. They didn't allow the locals to approach us lest they attempt to help us. It started to rain and soon it became a heavy downpour. People clung to one another so that they wouldn't be swept into the river that flowed below. There was nothing to eat or drink. The water from the river we couldn't drink because that was where the people relieved themselves. They also threw there the lice with which they were all infested. But even to this water it was difficult to get to because the place was crowded and there were many people. It was hard to see what was going on here. People fainted from lack of food. The situation was unbearable.”

Mendl Lieberman managed, with the aid of some cunning tricks, (on which we can't dwell because of lack of space) and with the promise of a fair amount of rubles, as bribe, so the commanding Rumanian officer of the lager and its surroundings, to take out the Jews from the vale of tears and make it possible for them-now it will appear unbelievable-to continue on their way, free and unaccompanied, deeper into Russia. The people went forward for some distance. The conditions for walking, water and food being as scarce as before. They tried to “settle” in a deserted kolkoz, in an abandoned yiddish shtetl, called Kozlov, basing themselves on a recommendation letter and a permit that that officer had given. But the local civil authorities were against this, motivating its opposition with the supposed “worry” for the peace of the arrivals because, so they argued, Rumanian and German soldiers will a attack them and maybe kill them.

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Suddenly the people saw themselves so called “free” but where were they to go? What were they to do? Some argued: If the decision is in our own hands why not return “home to Yedinitz. But immediately it was obvious that on all the roads and in the whole area there are German and Rumanian militia and it is deathly dangerous to meet up with them. Since Yedinitz is far anyhow, Mohilev is much closer, it was decided to set out for Mohilev.

The Station Molochneh

Only a mean mind could arrange the hour of arrival for the wandering Jews in a new station to occur in the evening hours so that they wouldn't see the ruins where people were being led to and so that the people would get lost in the darkness. They weren't able to settle down even in the most terrible conditions.

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Conscience Or Galoshes?

The convoy dragged along. It was during the hot summer days. The leather-dealer Yosef (Yosl Gertzman) Leib Odesser's neighbor, sent together with his family. Suddenly he got sunstroke and fainted. The accompanying soldiers didn't give this any consideration. They ordered to keep on going…no stopping allowed… Yosl's daughter, Esther gathered courage, approached the officer in charge and said to him:

“You can kill me, I don't care but I won't leave my father…remember, you're still young. You have parents as well.”

While saying this she didn't forget to shove a pair of new galoshes into the hands of the officer. He commanded the soldiers to give Esther some water. Esther revived her father with the water and then gave him a drink. Once he was revived he was able to continue on the way with the convoy.

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That's what happened at the Molochneh station. We came to the lager table in the evening. People were led into a broken dirty building, without doors or windows, without lights, the pouring rain added to the suffering of the people. That night children got separated from their parents, got lost in the roads and some of them were found by the peasants of the area and brought to the peasants homes.

That's what happened to the young daughter of Sara Litvak. The child vanished during the night. It was a few days before the mother discovered that her child is in the home of a peasant family of the nearby village Buda. The unfortunate mother went out to track down her daughter. As a sign there served the shmates in which the child's feet had been wrapped. But here, to the amazement of the mother, the child didn't want to leave the peasant home. “It's good for me here. I want to remain here,” the child sobbed. It was hard for the mother to convince the child to go with her. The mother took the child on her shoulders, and in this way, in the snow and over a frozen stream, they struggled “home.”

A much more horrendous situation awaited the group of deportees in another station-stop as Dobbe Gruzman relates from her own tragic experience.

With our last bit of energy we reached, in one evening, the first kolkaz in the cursed Ukraine. To my last day I shall not forget the terrible scene. In a large broken building surrounded on all sides with filth, there lay on the dirty straw that was spread on the ground, men, women and children who were spasmodic, between life and death – shadows of humans. These were fragments of Bessarabian Jewry. The people were frozen and starved. Amongst them were paralyzed children who could hardly utter their last request. “Give a piece of bread.” And whom did I meet in this gehenom? One of the finest Jews of our shtetl, Shmuel Fradis z"l. He was alone and deserted and was expiring, suffering terribly and prayed that death should come all the sooner because he couldn't suffer any more.

“Tired and exhausted we fell down on the ground and lay pressed together in terrible crowding. At dawn the guards and soldiers ordered: Arise and get going, faster. Many of us never got up again. We continued to go naked and barefoot. The cold penetrates through and through and the hunger is plaguing, oh how it plagues, so much so that we could hardly go on breathing, but there was no help, no salvation came.

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“The Forgotten Child in the Forest”
- a drawing by Zinovy Tolkochev
The Forgotten Child in the Forest

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“A Lengthy Boredom”

There were stops of a “lengthier boredom” if we can express ourselves in this way. These were not permanent camps such as Mohilev, Bershad and others. In such a camp of a “lengthier boredom” we managed to “settle down” so-called. Here we could get food, get to know the inhabitants of a nearby village and establish contact with them.

In one such camp, Katashun, Yehuda Kafri found himself. According to the conditions that prevailed there, we can learn about other stations. Here's his account:

“A convey of around 900 people arrived in the village Katachun and here we were told to stop. People were “quartered” in a stable, without windows. The roof was broken. The hunger increased. The temperature was 30 degrees below zero. A typhus epidemic broke out. Death felt quite comfortable and had a good cut. People fell like flies. More than once the living envied the dead.

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“It happened that the dead would lay for days in the room because permission wasn't granted to bury them. Let's keep in mind that even to bury the dead was an act of courage and a risk. One could either be infected from the dead body or get a bullet in the head from the guards of the camp.”

“When the first winter passed, and it was a particularly cold winter, we could tally up the losses. Two thirds of those who had come to the lager had died. When the remainder saw that they would be here for a long time an attempt was made to arrange 'more comfortable arrangements.'”

The “New Wind”

A small committee was formed that tried to get more “humane” houses in the village. The committee collected everything of value that the people still had. After bribing the camp guards we initiated lengthy dealings with the head of the village. Once more, with the help of a sizeable bribe, we managed to get three deserted houses. True, they were broken and dirty but we managed to repair them and even paint them with lime that we had dragged over from a nearby military camp. The people moved in. This was ideal “housing” when compared to the barn stable where the people had been before.

In the Spring we felt a fresh new wind starting to blow in the treatment of the guards to the camp inmates. They were allowed to go out during the day to look for food in the fields or in the houses of the peasants. If lucky, one got a piece of bread or a bit of a vegetable for the hungry children.

As time went on good relationships even developed with the peasants. Some peasants even employed camp inmates in their places and paid them with a warm meal.

Aaron Chachmovich, for instance, even dug a grave in the Christian cemetery and got a filling warm soup in return, plus a glass of milk and as a gift, a container of potatoes for his family.

When the situation got “better” so to speak, the young people began to think about starting a family. Young people got married and there were also weddings amongst older people.

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In the Ghetto of Securan

We have already mentioned that part of the convoy suddenly got an order to leave Mohilev and return to Yedinitz. One convoy on its “way back” remained stuck in the Securan ghetto. This was in August of 1944. Jews from deportation from Cholin were also stuck in Securan ghetto, as were Jews from Bitshan, Novaselitz and other places. This was in addition to 350-400 Yedinitzer Jews. It seemed that they would be stuck here for a lengthy period.

About life in the Securan ghetto Mendl Lieberman tells the following:

“There was a central committee in the ghetto that kept in contact with the committees of the smaller groups. We, the Yedinitzers were the smallest group. Every committee got the bread portions for the group, as well as other products, sometimes sugar too. Everything possible had to be done in order to get as much as possible. We had to worry about the elderly, the feeble and sick who couldn't take care of themselves. I remember I had to take care of the mother of Tzipora Skolnik.”

“We also constructed a bathhouse. The biggest problem was to get wood to heat the bath, as well as to keep it in order inside. Life began to take shape. A small “exchange market” even got built up. People sold gold and silver here, that they still owned. The local goyim from the surroundings started to bring food items in order to exchange it for valuables. The local goyim even looked for craftsmen amongst the Jewish tailors and cobblers, etc.”

“We even constructed a 'factory' of confections and “exported” it out of the ghetto. We found raw material in the abandoned factories that were left without their Jewish owners who had been deported. We also managed to get various medications. The doctors amongst us did everything possible to help the sick and the wounded and save whomever they could.” Then the Jews who were concentrated in the ghetto of Securan were again deported to Transnistria. We find it necessary to record this station also of the martyred Yedinitz Jews.

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In the Ghettos of Transnistria

This long wandering, spending time in the camps and in the ghetto obviously didn't fill our cup of fears and torture…The deported Jews had to taste the taste of an actual concentration camp.

Mendl Lieberman tells something about this place:

“It's hard to describe the Kuzmink concentration camp. Even the word 'horrendous/horrible'is too mild. Everyone was crowded into a small building that was encircled by barbed wire, six meters from the wall. Here we had to live and carry out our minor and major needs. There was no water for washing. We were filthy and full of lice. In order to drink water, we had to go a distance of 500 meters. Soldiers accompanied us, apparently by an order from superiors and they hit us all the way there and back. It often happened that people fainted on the way back and spilt the water that they had brought in spite of the fact that those who went to bring water were happy to go.”

“There was nothing to eat. Food consisted of leaves from trees. Those who were the strongest succeeded in tearing off leaves. Others didn't even have leaves. From the roots a fire was made for cooking the leaves. Up to now I don't understand where we got the energy for this.”

“The days were like 'paradise' compared to the nights. At night the soldiers used to break into the lager like wild animals and look for women and there was also no end of the fights that went on left and right.”

“One girl went to complain to the officer. She was withheld to service him but the nightly attacks of the soldiers stopped.”

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Apathy and Resignation

As many witnesses recount, the convoy of deportees were accompanied by a surprisingly small guard: 4-5 soldiers or gendarmes sometimes led thousands of people. The small watch ruled over the deportees, cursed and mocked them, beat them and killed some and nobody stood up to them. Many ask: How is it possible, why? Amongst the thousand of deportees there were not only elderly despairing ones, pregnant women, etc. There were, amongst them, after all, young men in whom there streamed hot blood. Why wasn't a spark of revolt lit within them?

The reasons are understandably varied, according to the circumstances, but the main reason was apathy, resignation and indifference. These characteristics developed amongst the deportees because of the terrible and cruel conditions in which they found themselves. The hunger, thirst and exhaustion, the endless cases of death during the wandering and in the stop stations – all this atrophied people's feelings, dulled their feelings. People became apathetic to everything and to everyone and nothing could stir them up, never mind revolt. Therefore, it's no wonder that one Rumanian soldier could lead a convoy of hundreds of deportees, do with them whatever he wished, take advantage as much as they wanted without anyone protesting…so it shouldn't surprise us that people remained indifferent, seeing how their parents or children die suddenly on the way. So the dead were left on the way and people continued on their way because – and this was the most important of all – one must not remain behind.

It was proven that anyone who wanted to do anything did sometimes succeed. We have mentioned above the initiative of Mendl Lieberman who risked his life to save his family and together with them, all the people in the convoy.

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Bershad

Some convoys, so it was conveyed to us, as soon as they would cross the Dniester, will be lucky and arrive at the large lagers of Mohilev, Bershad, etc. But before reaching this hoped for “aim” the deported ones had to pass, as we have seen, various stop stations, mainly in open fields, without water, without food, without a possibility of resting one's head. During the autumn they were exposed to pouring rain. Winter, the snow covered them and they were frozen in the cold. Epidemics spread death non-stop amongst them.

Clara Kalmanovich (then Brand) recounts frightening scenes from those days:

The living mixed with the dead…parents bemoaned the death of their children and children – over the dead bodies of their parents. Throughout the lager the plaintive cry could be heard. “God, take a look at your people, how it is being destroyed…'Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echad.” No answer came ,though. Why? I kept asking with my childish sense…for what sins? I saw how goyishe children go to school happy-go-lucky. So I asked myself. 'Why have we Jewish children been so punished?'

That convoy from which a part perished on the way to Rezina, after much painful wandering and Tzores, arrived in Bershad. The wandering from the time they left Yedinitz, until they reached Bershad, took altogether two months, but “for us it is an eternity.” Frieda Kuzimer (Mitl) sums it up. She was in that convoy:

“Bershad was a neglected Yiddish shtetl in the Ukraine. There we already met a large number of deportees. We were told that here we are remaining and we have to 'settle.' Where? The stables, the barns, the rooms, the stores, the cellars and in general every hole was already full. And it was winter. There was no where to warm up. The cold and the hunger increased. That winter people died like flies. Often the snow covered the dead bodies and nobody paid attention to them.

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A Search for Lice

The “plague of lice” was the worst of all the plagues that affected the deportees. The lice accompanied us everywhere. They took up residence in the human bodies and became a part of them. People came to the conclusion that in the deportation circumstances there was no means of warding off the lice plague, and came to terms with it. People got so used to the lice that even when they could get rid of them for a short while, they had the feeling that they are missing something. That they can't live without them.

Chaika Mayanski investigated this development. Once she happened to visit the house of a Ukranian Jew. This Jew saw her terrible condition and that of her husband and daughter so he asked the family to spend the night with him.

He gave them the opportunity to wash and a room in which to spend the night. For the first time in a long while, their bodies had the chance to feel water on them. True, they washed, put on clean under clothes, feeling sure that the night would pass with a deep sleep. But what happened? They didn't shut their eyes all night but tossed and turned from side to side. Why? The lice… They were already so used to sleeping that without these blood suckers, they couldn't fall asleep. Chayka Mayanski also noted that men have more lice.

Lice survive only on living bodies from which they draw, curse them, their sustenance. As soon as the body is dead, it seems that their source of sustenance vanishes and they leave the body. They disappear as though they had never been on the body.

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Bershad (continued)

But when the snow ceased to fall, the dogs sensed the smell of human flesh. The luck of dogs . .

“From Bershad we were sent to all kinds of work, to places near and far, and we even reached Balta. We were even interested in going to work with the aim of finding lost family members and relatives. And there were indeed cases where people found one another. In the villages one could also get a meal sometimes.”

The family of Yitzhak Brand were also in this lager. Clara was then a little girl, and in Yedinitz, a pupil of Frieda. She recounts about that terrible winter in Bershad.

“Winter 1942 was the worst time. More than half the people in the lager died. Snow covered the people who froze to death. Daily the dead were removed in order to be buried. The ground was frozen so the earth would be slightly dug up, put the dead body there and cover it with snow …

“When springtime came we hoped that maybe we would have a chance to gain our freedom… but then the typhus epidemic started and once more people fell like flies.”

The Typhus Epidemic

Yedl Gold adds: “One third of all the deportees died during the typhus epidemic.”

A group of deportees from Chornowitz and Bukovina also arrived at Berhad. Amongst them was, as said before, Dobbe Gruzman who recounts:

“In Bershad we found around 10,000 people, remnants of North Bessarabian Jewry.” To them there were later added arrivals from Bukovina and Rumania. These people lived in broken and deserted houses of the local population, Bershad Jews who ran away with the retreating Red Army. Whatever the Jews left, the local Ukrainians plundered and wrecked. It was terribly crowded. The epidemics took a great toll mercilously. There was no medicine. There was already nothing left to exchange for a bit of flour. Some didn't even contemplate allowing themselves such a 'luxury.' Others, if they did get a bit of flour, they sold it and ate the chaff.

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“In Bershad we met many from our shtetl and some whom we knew quite well, amongst them: Dvoreleh, [808] the sister of Ephraim Shwartzman and her husband. The following day we heard that they were no longer alive. The same happened with Chaya Cooperman. An old friend of ours, Avrom Baron, we came across as he was expiring, lonely and forlorn, in an open house. We thought to ourselves that we will not come out of here alive.

“The men were sent far off to work – to build bridges for the German army. We remained with the children, without protection. Only a small number of the men returned from the work for the Germans. The others – either they were shot or they couldn't survive the hard labor in the stone cutting and other heavy work. But slowly, we got used to the tzores as though we had been born here and this was our eternal destiny. But here there also grew the lust for life and the hope that a miracle would happen. That 'Netzach Yisrael Lo Yizkar.” Thanks to this hope the remnants remained alive. Whoever lost this hope, even for one day, didn't wash themselves or wash their clothes didn't survive to the next day. People set out for the villages even though it was forbidden to leave the larger, and thereby they risked their lives. A 'mini-market' was also established. People took out the few shmates they still had, resewed them, mended them. Pieces of old sheets were made into table clothes which the Ukrainian women grabbed up from us. How did we do it? Our Yiddish heads came to our aid. Where there was a large hole in the sheet we embroidered a nice large flower… and where there was a smaller hole, smaller flowers. These resulted in 'lovely' embroidered tablecloths. There were also other 'parnoses'.”

The Tragedy With the Children of Salvadore

We have dwelt at length on the problems of the adults, their painful wandering. When we reached a “place.” The parents suffered immensely seeing their children going around idle. The children didn't even have a chance to learn what an “Aleph” looks like. The children themselves looked with envy at the local Ukrainian children who went out, happy and cheerful, on their way to school. There were also children who had lost their parents.

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This is How Yenkl Fradis Perished

The child of Pesya and Yenkl, the son of Shmuel Fradis (in the lager of Obodovke) got very ill and was expiring. The father went out of the lager in order to bring some water from the well – perhaps with that he would be able to revive the feverish child. When the Rumanian officer of the lager commanders saw this, his murderous instincts were aroused at the “chutzpah” of the Jew who dared to draw water from the well. He approached Yenkl and gave him a blow on the head. Yenkl dropped dead on the spot.

The Tragedy With the Children of Salvadore (continued)

Some of those who had already been in the lager for a while in Bershad showed some initiative and started a school for the children that became a “Children's' Home” – patricianly an “orphanage” where the children remained until they left Bershad and with the help of the Red Cross, emigrated to Eretz Israel.

One of the founders of the school was Dobbe Grusman who tells about the construction of the school, the studies and the education of the children.

“We gathered together all the learned ones and the teachers as volunteer teachers in the school – actually an orphanage. We got assistance from Bucharest in order to supply food for the house, as well as clothing and medical help. There were 200 children there. The majority were weak and sick, and it was hard to ignite even a spark of hope in them for a better life. We tried to celebrate with them all the traditional and national holidays. We washed them every day and washed the 'shamtelach' that covered their bodies. That's how we cared for the children until a delegation arrived from Rumania to take the orphan children from Transnistria, including the orphans from Bershad (amongst them was also our only daughter Chedva Z “L) and take them to Eretz Israel.”

As is known, the children were loaded on the Bulgarian ship “Salvadore” and when it was in the middle of the sea a German ship torpedoed it and it sank, together with three hundred and fifty illegal immigrants, amongst them, 150 children rescued from Transnistria. It's ironic because “salvadore” means “Rescue.”

The people of Bershad paid a heavy price for their attempt to survive all the plagues and torture. The number of dead was greater than the number who survived. The majority of the dead were buried in the Bershad Jewish cemetery. And when the day of liberation came, the survivors of Bershad erected a memorial-stone on the large brother grave. On the stone there was engraved an epitaph in Hebrew that was written by the Rov Dov Yechiel (Berl Yaser) of Bricheva, (see picture page 811).

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