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Forward

Zloczow, a small shtetl [town], lies in eastern Poland (actually western Ukraine) between Lemberg and Tarnopol.

Zloczow was one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Galicia. In the course of time, Zloczow developed an extensive communal life. Yiddish and Hebrew schools, libraries, dramatic circles and other communal institutions took care of the cultural values of the Jewish masses. The poets Moshe Leib Halpern, Shmuel Yakov Imber, Szrul [Israel] Aszenforf, Nokhem Bomze, Hersh Fenster, Arya Szrenzel and other builders of Jewish culture took their first steps in this city.

The German invasion brought an end to the development of Zloczow Jewry. Approximately 14,000 Jews perished during the Hitler years in Zloczow and none of them had a Jewish burial.

The memory of those who perished is dear to each of the surviving Zloczow Jews because among them were our families, friends and acquaintances. In the future, few will have the opportunity to be in Zloczow and those who do have the opportunity will futilely search there for a material trace. There are no matzeyvus [headstones] and the graves that are spread across the entire city cannot be found. The only thing that has remained is the memories of the small group of Zloczow Jews. So that these memories are not scattered and do not disappear in the course of time, I have taken the initiative to translate and publish them in the form of a brochure.

The publication is a modest one. I have limited it to [what was] most important. Some dates, numbers and episodes. The few episodes are not exceptional cases; they are typical and illustrate the martyrology of the 14,000 Zloczow Jews. The majority of Zloczow Jews perished in the same way as did the religious judges Elenberg and Szapira, Chaim Yoyel Horn, Shlomo Majtes, Dowid Lwow, Krantsie Wajntraub, Hersh Tabak, Berish Rozen and others mentioned persons.

I hope that this short history will reach every Zloczow Jew and will represent the stone matzeyvus that were not erected.


I

This Is How It Began

On the 15th of September 1939, the Jewish population of the city of Zloczow experienced a cruel day. The defeat of the Polish Army was unavoidable; with each hour, the Germans came closer to the city. Panic arose among the Jews. The Jewish young began to head for the eastern border by means of every road, believing that there they would find a safe place where they would not be threatened by Hilterism. While the fear of the Germans and the trust of Russia was great, the number of refugees was greater. However, it was shown that with luck they had only suffered from fear. According to a special agreement, Russia occupied the eastern areas of Poland. The Jewish population breathed freely. The Soviet government saved it from Hitlerism. Despite the fact that the Soviet regime brought by Russia did not please everyone, everyone related to the new regime with respect and it was regarded by all of the Jews as a redeemer, a protector from Hitlerism. The situation lasted for a scant two years. The war broke out between Germany and Russia. The Jewish population again found itself in danger. However, this time they were much calmer than they had been in 1939 because, if earlier they had thought little of the military power of Poland, for Jews the Soviet Army was a big deal and there were few who doubted its power and its readiness to fight. Sadly, however, it was obvious immediately on the first day that “something” was not working. The Soviet civilian population secretly evacuated from the city, but the local population was not told anything. The Soviet representatives kept secret the situation in which they found themselves until the last moment and demanded that the population remain calm, not escape and not spread a feeling of panic. It was no secret anymore for anyone and also not for the Soviets that as soon as the Germans occupied the city the Jews would be in danger because the other nationalities were waiting impatiently for the liberation from Bolshevikism. No one found it necessary to evacuate or at least warn the local Jews. When a group of activists decided to leave the city on the 25th of June, they were returned from outside Tarnapol. The assurance with which the Soviet government organs behaved led the population to believe that this was an exceptional strategy; it would not take long and the Germans would be driven out. Therefore, it was decided to remain in the city and wait out the critical days. There was bitter retribution for this mistake. On the 30th of June the last Soviet military divisions left the city. The German air force bombed the city for the entire night. All of Lemberger Street stood in flames. The Germans were not concerned with any morality. Every house, regardless of whether it had a

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military connection or not, was besieged with bombs. There were no longer any hostile soldiers in the city and the bombing still did not cease. Approximately 40 Jews perished during the bombardment.

The first German motorcycles entered Zloczow on the first of July at four o'clock in the morning. An automobile of wounded members of the Red Army stood at the market place. The automobile was damaged. The Germans poured benzene over it and burned it along with the wounded. This was the first terrible act with which they introduced themselves to the Zloczow population.

The “heroes,” one like the other, young members of the S.S., started to wildly go through the Jewish houses; they raped Jewish girls, murdered pregnant women, robbed and plundered Jewish possessions.

The first victim who fell was the city [fool], known by the name “Jopak.” He fell as a result of the first German bullet, not understanding that one could be killed for no reason and that it was necessary to hide.

A woman holding her child in her arms stood behind a closed door on Lemberger Street. The child cried. A German was passing by and noticed this; he murdered the mother and child with two shots. A neighbor, a pregnant woman, started to scream; she did not understand the gravity of the situation and tried to speak to his conscience. His answer was wild laughter and a shot in her stomach.

Many Jews paid with their lives for their naivety on the same day. No one could yet conceive of what the Germans were capable. Someone looked out through a window, another stood at the door, a third dared to go for water. Immediately, on the first day, the local Ukrainians appeared as loyal collaborators of the “victor.” Rich and poor, the members of the intelligentsia, the worker and the peasant, all, without distinction, presented himself for service with the Germans. They had long awaited such an auspicious opportunity; this was the fulfillment of their dreams. Their murderous and criminal instincts finally could be realized.

Under the protection of the Germans, they behaved freer in relation to the Jews. The peasants from the surrounding villages, incited by the intelligentsia, armed with weapons, clubs and provided with sticks, went through the Jewish houses. They stole whatever there was: jewelry, clothing, shoes, food – everything that had a little value. The provincials, who did not know exactly where the Jews lived, were helped by the local Ukrainian neighbors. They knew about everything and in the majority of cases they played the role of leader. The more sensible and refined tried to maintain “neutrality” where they lived. Therefore, the rampaging in the quarter was boundless. The Jews did not even try to defend their possessions; they were ready to give everything away in order to save their lives. The murderers went in groups. One group left and another one arrived. What people had saved from the generations–long work was abandoned in one moment.

On the second day, that is Wednesday, the 2nd of July, the leaders of the nationalist–leaning Ukrainian intelligentsia gathered in the Ukrainian casino hall. A committee of 30 men was organized there to which belonged: the businessmen Antoniak, Mudry, Alyszkewicz, Dzwonnik; the

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lawyers Wanio, Jojko; the doctor Gilewicz; the teachers Symczyszyn, Sobolewa, the wife and daughter of the lawyer Wanio, the officials Lewicki, Krawczuk, the priest Mykietyn, Hupalowski, Pawlyszyn and so on.

The committee established as one of its first tasks to organize and carry out an anti–Jewish pogrom. This was supposed to be a political action by the Ukrainian nationalists and therefore had to take on a mass character both in perception and in results. Everything had to be “legally” justified. This legal justification, which made the pogrom accepted among the wide Ukrainian masses, quickly was found.

The Ukrainian nationalists immediately on the first day of the war organized sabotage against the Russian regime bureaus. The Russians answered with mass arrests; all of the arrestees were shot during the retreat. The execution was carried out at the city jail, which at that time was located in the castle and they also were buried there.

The Ukrainian committee issued a proclamation in which they made the Zlochzow Jews responsible for the death of their nationalists. This blood libel spread quickly and [caused the right conditions] for a pogrom. In the proclamation, the committee called upon all of the people to take revenge against the Jews for the spilled “innocent” blood. In addition to the proclamation, meetings were called at which representatives of the committee appeared with speeches. The daughter of the lawyer Wanio particularly distinguished herself on that day.

The Germans received the initiative by the Ukrainians with satisfaction, accepted their plan and promised far–reaching aid in this area. The pogrom was set for the 3rd of July 1941.

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The large house of prayer after its destruction
[Photo Grinzajd]

 

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II

The Pogrom

It was Thursday. The Zoloczow Jews, who endured the hardships of the first two days, consoled themselves with the hope that everything would be quiet and return to normal. They sat in the houses and waited for the agitated mood to be stilled. No one, or more likely, few knew what the enemies had in store.

On that day, seven o'clock in the morning, the Ukrainian representatives adorned with yellow-blue bands on their arms, armed from their heads to their feet, began to go through Jewish houses. Some nicely and some severely, lured the people out into the streets. The pretext was to go to work. Given that everyone was ready to work, many went out willingly. Jews had to bring their work tools with them from home. This calmed the people to a certain degree and they were filled with trust. However, the trust disappeared immediately after leaving the house. The wild horde lay in wait on the streets. They immediately took the Jews into their jurisdiction and drove them to the castle that was designated by the regime as the collection point. The demonstration that was encouraged by the committee found favorable soil. They came from the surrounding areas en masse.

It should be understood that everyone had a sack with him, because the main purpose for everyone taking part was thievery. The young and the old took part in the “sacred” work.

Ten-year old gentile boys chased old Jews and murderously beat them; adult Christians tortured innocent children and, in addition, laughed at them victoriously. The murderers had great satisfaction when an old, sick Jew or a pregnant woman fell into their hands. Whoever was caught at prayer was not permitted to put away his talis and tefilin [prayer shawl and phylacteries], but was driven in them through the streets. Compassion was an unfamiliar thing to the murderers. They used whatever they had for hitting [people]: with sticks, with iron bars and spades… Every innocent work instrument was a tool of murder in their hands. A large number of those Jews who were caught were not brought to the castle, which was the collection point, but simply were murdered on the way. They perished with the first blow if they were sick or weak; strong people had to endure great suffering. Their bodies were tortured systematically and they were condemned to a slow death.

It was said about the death of Hersh Tabak: Hersh Tabak was one of the healthy young people. He was tall, broadly built and stood out because of his extraordinary physical power. The murderers dragged him away to the [non-Jewish] cemetery and there a certain chimney sweep, Serba, beat him all over his body and over the head with a monkey wrench until, bloodied, he fell down to the ground. He was

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tormented and stamped on with feet until he breathed out his soul. (Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that this murderer lives to this day and [enjoys] his freedom.) The Soviet government organs, to whom they turned after the liberation to punish him, did not consider it important and necessary.

Even crueler was the death of Dovid Lwow. When the murderers began to torture him, he did not try to ask for any mercy, but boldly shouted, Shema Yisroel [“Hear O Israel” – the central prayer of Judaism]. A German S.S. man, not able to bear his shouting, fired at him. Dovid Lwow, to everyone astonishment, did not fall from his feet and Shema Yisroel again tore from his heart. The S.S. man delivered a second and third shot and these had no greater an effect than the first one. The soul did not want to leave the healthy body and Dovid Lwow did not give up his belief and with his last strength called out Shema Yisroel. The S.S. man became confused. The patriarchal figure and the extraordinary power of the Jew frightened him and he withdrew. At that moment, a local Ukrainian pounced and split Dovid Lwow's head in two with a spade. The Shema Yisroel remained hanging in the air. One of the most pious Zloczow Jews was dead.

It also is difficult to forget the terrible death of the Kosower religious judge, Elenberg. He was praying; he was pulled from the house, tied by his beard to a motorcycle and he was dragged through the streets until his body became a formless, bloody mass of flesh.

The cries of the tormented and murdered Jews filled the air. All who were still in their homes understood from the voices what was happening outside. It became clear to everyone who had not be fooled into leaving the house that they needed somewhere to hide. However, this was difficult because the murderers searched everywhere up to 10 times.

Death threatened everywhere. A number of Jews had Christian friends and tried to hide with them. However, very few succeeded. The majority had to pay for their false illusions with their lives. Salek Parnes can serve as an example.

Salek Parnes had a Christian wife. It was shortly after the wedding. They loved each other. Despite all of these circumstances, right on the first day after the Germans entered their residence, she pointed to her husband, about whom it was difficult to recognize his racial background, and declared that he was a Jew. The Germans took him. He succeeded in escaping from them, but later he fell a victim.

The fate of young Friedlender is also widely known. The Jewish workers from the Zloczow canned goods factory tore through a thousand dangers on that day in order to enter the factory. Since the factory was built and belonged to the Jew Oskar Robinson who had acquired a good reputation for his relationship to the workers without regard to background, the Jews believed that the Christian workers in the factory would help them during this difficult time. However, they were bitterly disappointed. They were allowed into the factory, welcomed with friendship and when the doors were closed behind them,

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the knives came out. [The daughter of] Friedlender, a young girl of 14, who was hiding with her father, was raped by the murderers and then bestially murdered; the father had to watch this with his own eyes. A number of Jewish workers successfully escaped from their “friends” and saved their lives. Among the above-mentioned murderers, those who particularly stood out are Malyk, Stryk, Szluz, Szczerban and so on, who the entire time played the role of friends of the Jews and who even succeeded in becoming trouble makers for the Soviets.

It is characteristic that during the pogrom days all those who had presented themselves as friends of Jews were our greatest persecutors and bitterest enemies. It is enough to remember the sadly famous S. Wanio. She would spend time with Jews, was the choreographic leader at the Jewish Dramatic Club, “Ansky,” and during the Hitler days this S. Wanio was one of our greatest enemies. She gave speeches at meetings, traveled through villages, organized pogroms and personally took part in them. She beat and murdered dozens of Jews with her own hands. The well-known merchant, Antiniak, distinguished himself no less. He, who had traded with Jews for all the years, was friends with them, placed himself at the head of all anti-Jewish aktsias [actions, often deportations].

It turned out that all of our friends had forgotten us; in the best cases, they acted passively or acted as if they did not remember us.

However, during the first days, it was not easy for the Jews to free themselves of their inborn optimism and of their trust in the justice of their fellow men with different beliefs. The case of Dr. Eisen is typical. When the murderers brought him to the castle, he met a Ukrainian acquaintance by chance, who wanted to save him. He [the Ukrainian] told him [Dr. Eisen] to go home and bring a rope.

Dr. Eisen, in his naivety, did not understand the true intention of the Ukrainian and returned quickly with the rope.

There was a similar case with the fish merchant, Peysye Bloch, and several other Zloczow Jews. They paid with their lives for their naivety and trust.

It was no accident that immediately on the first day, the majority of Orthodox Jewry was annihilated. Their faith was so great and so strong that they did not even try to hide. They could not understand of what the enemy was capable. The older ones among them remembered the pogroms and various persecutions that they had lived through and, therefore, believed in modesty and in God's care.

Chana Opper, a …[1] Rabbi Feywl Rohatiner, a woman in her 60s, refused all opportunities proposed by her neighbors to hide. During the fervor of the pogrom she sat alone in her house and recited Psalms. A band of murderers under the leadership of the house owner barged into the residence and forced her out to the collection point. She recited Psalms on the way there. Because of her age, the barbarians treated her particularly murderously.

After the liberation, that is three years later, when a Soviet Historical Commission opened the mass graves at the castle, among the

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the first found was her body. It was apparent with what barbarism she was murdered. Only the ring that she wore on her finger allowed her to be identified.

Those saved from the castle told about a horrible and simultaneously wonderful scene that played out before their eyes: when the group, among whom were the religious judge B. Szapiro and his brothers, the ritual slaughterers and their families, the pious Jew Shlomo Tenenbaum (known as Maite's son Shlomo), was brought to the execution spot, his son Sholem, Dovid Lwow's son and other pious Jews began to sing aloud with ecstasy. Their ecstasy grew and their prayers were transformed into song. The murderers began to shoot into the wonderful group. One by one, they fell from the bullets; those who still were on their feet continued singing with their last strength. But, from minute to minute, it became quieter and weaker and when the last of them fell, a martyr, the singing ceased.

At the same time, the murderers did not forget that the defilement of houses of prayer also belonged to a pogrom. A group of Ukrainians under the leadership of the S.S. left in the direction of the houses of prayer. They shattered the doors, looted whatever had a practical value and destroyed everything else. They gathered all of the sacred books and set them on fire.

They are few familiar with the heroic death of Chaim-Yoel Horn. Chaim-Yoel Horn was a simple man-of-the-people. He was the shamas [assistant to rabbi] of the large synagogue for all of his years and, like the majority of the shamosim, a very poor man. He had a large family; however, his home was the synagogue. He was dedicated to it from very early until late at night. During the day of the pogrom, he could in no way decide to stay at home. He wanted to be where he usually was – in the synagogue. Not listening to the pleas from his wife and children, the old, broken Chaim-Yoel hurried through the city during the most intense time of the pogrom and reached the synagogue where the hangmen rampaged. It is difficult to understand what happened then. Chaim-Yoel saved a sefer-Torah [Torah scroll] from the flames and started to run away with it. The murderers watched with mockery and laughter and when he reached the small bridge that crossed the river, they shot after him. The bullets reached him and Chaim-Yoel fell into the water with the scroll. The water ejected the body of Chaim-Yoel Horn several days later. His hands holding fast to the rescued sefer-Torah.

At the same time, cruel scenes were played out at the castle. The gathered Jews were forced to dig up the pits where the Soviets had buried the Ukrainian nationalists. The corpses had to be removed by command and were photographed.

(The pictures were printed later in all the newspapers with the headline: “The Victims of Jewish Terror.”)

It was a hot summer day. The sun burned without mercy. The dug up dead smelled terrible. People vomited and fainted from the smell. The Germans and Ukrainians, holding handkerchiefs to their noses, did not trust themselves to go closer. Few could endure the work. The people fell like flies. The Ukrainian corpses that were removed from the pit

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were carried out of the area of the castle. Finding an opportunity, a small number of those gathered at the castle succeeded in sneaking out and running away. Few of those who ran away survived because the murderers lay in wait everywhere. When the pit was empty of the Ukrainian dead, an order came to fill it with Jews. In the rush, people were thrown in half alive. When the pit was full, the murderers threw in a few grenades and shot into it with dum-dum bullets.

The Jews had to count their own victims. One of the Germans, who it appeared was still new to the work and still had a spark of humanity in him, said to one of the Jews that they should count more (that is, they should be deceptive), it would be better. However, the Jews did not trust him and saw a new trick in this.

At three o'clock a German general arrived at the execution spot to learn about the number of victims; he considered the number sufficient and ordered that the slaughter end until four o'clock. Those carrying out the pogrom still had authority for not quite another hour. They tried to make use of the time as much as they could. The general stood with a watch in his hand and counted the minutes. When four o'clock arrived, he ended the slaughter. At this time, he told the surviving Jews to run home “schnell” [fast]. The murderers shot after [the Jews]. They ran over each other in fear. There was a tumult. The majority were exhausted and could not run. Therefore, they paid with their lives. Only a small number were successful in saving themselves from this hell on this day.

It rained in the evening. Many who had fainted, but whom the murderers believed had died, were in the mass graves. The rain revived them and they [regained consciousness]. They waited until darkness fell and then with great effort they came out from under the corpses with which they were covered. So as not to be noticed by anyone, they entered the river that flows not far from the castle and entered the city in the water.

The victims in the graves had hugged each other and pressed firmly against each other at the moment of their being shot.

One of those remaining alive could not leave the pit because a corpse held him so firmly by the foot that he could not free himself from the dead one's hand. Not wanting to be buried alive, he was forced to cut off the hand and he entered the city with the hand that was pulled after him all the way.

Those who returned from the castle had changed so much in just one day that it was hard to recognize them. They could not eat anything for a long time. What they had lived through on that day took away their sleep for a long time. Of them still alive today are: A. Rosen, K. Sznap and Wilner. – I spoke to the last one. It was difficult for him to describe in words what he had endured and it was even harder for me to write it down.

Three thousand five hundred Jews were murdered during the days of the pogrom. These were the most precious of Zloczow Jewry. The majority of them found their rest at the castle. The remaining lie spread over the entire city: at the marketplace, on the old ramparts, on Lemberger Street, at the sportsplace, in the courtyards of the Linsk [Hasidim], of Lipa-Mer and many other places.

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Everywhere that Jews lived, they were murdered and where they were murdered they were buried.

The Germans declared on the second day after the pogrom that nothing would happen to whoever reported to make order after the pogrom. Despite the fact that they had little trust in their promises, they went out so as to carry the few corpses that lay in the streets and to cover them with a little bit of dirt. (Understand that there could be no talk of burial according to Jewish law.)

The pogrom of the 3rd of July was the beginning of the downfall of Zloczow Jewry. Each of the 3,500 murdered Jews has his own story. One story is more terrible than the other and all of them together are an accusation against the “peaceful” Ukrainian citizens and their German teachers with whom we lived together for many generations.


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III

Judenrat – Contributions

A deathly pallor reigned over the city on the first day after the pogrom. They did not dare go out into the streets; they had fear of the bright sunshine. They sat in their houses and quietly mourned the victims of the pogrom. There was not one family in the city that had not been touched by the pogrom. Every Jew was a mourner. The grief was great and to this grief was added the fear for one's own fate. They did not know what the morning would bring and did not know with what it would end. Hooligans, who did whatever they felt like doing, still were threatening in the streets from time to time. There was fear of crossing the threshold to bring in water. There was no talk of providing food. This situation lasted for two weeks. The German administration that took over the city was not satisfied with the condition of business. It had the task to exploit, as far as possible, the economic estates of the city and this could be done only with the help of the local population, of which the majority were Jews. The robbing of Jewish possessions by the Ukrainians also was against their interest. They had to reserve this for themselves so as to take it over legally at the appropriate moment. Therefore, placards in two languages were hung over the entire city that warned the population [against] further anti-Jewish pogroms and [against] robberies. These placards calmed the mood to a certain degree. They began to leave their houses, to take care of their daily bread.

The necessity to organize emerged, to create an administrative body that could represent and act in the name of the surviving Jews. Dr. Meiblum, the longtime vice mayor and chairman of the general Zionist organization, took upon himself this task. The [members] of the created committee, in addition to him, were Dr. Szotz and Dr. Zlatkes. Their first task was supposed to be to establish the exact number of the pogrom victims. There were optimists who believed that the calamities had ended and that these events had to be preserved in writing so that people would not forget that a pogrom took place in the 20th century.

Dr. Zlatkes and Dr. Szotz went from house to house and everywhere recorded the exact number of victims. The work lasted for four weeks. At that time, the German city authorities called on all of the Jews to assemble at the market. The Jews, for whom the memory of the pogrom still was fresh, did not appear for the assembly. Only 25 Jews dared to do this. The purpose of the assembly was to inform the Jews how they were to behave, the symbols they had to wear and so on. The Germans demanded that a Judenrat [Jewish council created by and beholden to the Germans] be created with which they could maintain contact. The already existing

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committee reported and promised to maintain contact with the Germans and to carry out all of their orders. The Judenrat, which was given a series of tasks, such as keeping order among the Jews, providing workers for the German firms, and so on, had to increase the number of its members. Many Jews, who were proposed for this post, refused.

Despite the fact that the tasks that the committee had to fulfill were still enveloped in a fog, there were people who foreswore its traitorous role. Among those who categorically refused and warned everyone else of the game into which they were being drawn was Dr. Tajchman.

In time the Judenrat was completed. Dr. M. Gruber, Dr. Prager, Dr. M. Rubin, Dr. Diwer, Dr. Hreczanik, Dr. Gerber, M. Cukerkandl, Jakier, O. Szmirer and Bernsztein joined. Dr. Glanz and L. Cwerling were unofficial members.

As soon as the members of the Judenrat were freed of work obligations, other children of influence sneaked in, often as assistants in this institution. It should be understood that only the intelligentsia benefitted from this “luck.” “Jewish Social Aid” was organized under the direction of Dr. G. Kac, Dr. Kitaj and Dr. Szwager. Their task was to organize aid for the needy, maintain contact with the camp Jews and their families. They even dreamed about making contact with the JOINT [Joint Distribution Committee], but understand that this was a clear case of Don Quixote… Dr. Kahane, Wajsztok and Tauber also joined as assistants at the Judenrat. They were representatives of M. Cukerkandl and their work consisted of providing the Germans with the goods they wanted.

A Jewish militia was organized at the same time under the leadership of D. Landesberg. His representative was Steinwurcl. The task of the militia was to keep order among the Jews. It should be understood that one had to have patronage to become a member of the militia. However, not everyone benefited from it. There were many who foresaw the shameful role that the militia would play and therefore did not want to be found in its ranks. That was said about a certain Gershon Spodek, who was a militia member during the first days but understood the role he would have to play and, therefore, immediately resigned from it. The same thing was done by L. Walfisz. The situation began to be relatively normal. The mood turned optimistic. Newspapers published in the large ghetto cities, like Warsaw, Lodz and Bialystok, reached Zloczow.

A certain F. Prager, who for the entire time had been a member of the militia in the Warsaw ghetto, returned from German captivity. It appeared that the ghettos everywhere were [part of a] system and one grew accustomed to them. Theater was created; newspapers were published; communal life was developed. The belief began that the German was not terrible and if things continued this way, they would survive somehow. The entire bitterness of the Jews was turned against the Ukrainians who persecuted the Jews in their daily life with their poisonous hate and with all means. It was enough that a Jew bought something from a peasant and it was noticed by a Ukrainian and a crowd would gather that divided the purchase (it was a lucky thing if the buyer succeeded in escaping with his life). Because of financial motives, the Ukrainians were interested in grabbing and handing over the Jewish “criminal” who succeeded in buying something from a peasant because everything

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[that had been bought] was given to them. This was part of the normal troubles that was called gezunte tsores [healthy troubles].

It did not take long for the Germans to make a new word popular in the Jewish neighborhoods: contributions [actually, mandatory payments]. An order came “from above” that Jews must pay contributions. The Judenrat became responsible for providing the contributions. The amount of the contribution was kept secret for the mass of the people. It was said that it was a giant sum, about half a million zlotes. The Judenrat was the appraiser and the dunner. [It determined how much each Jew would pay and it collected that amount.] It [the Judenrat] took whatever it could. No amount was enough. The Judenrat was a tool of the Germans in the collection of the contributions.

The German administration in the city grew larger from day to day. Every day new officials arrived. The Judenrat had to provide everyone with a place to live, services and so on. It was taken from the Jews and given to the Germans. J. Tauber and Wajnsztok, who had large businesses before the war, knew exactly what each Jew had and, therefore, they were given this refined work. The nobles[2] were satisfied with their work, the Jews less so. Jewish furniture, bedding and clothing migrated to the Germans and the Jews had to provide it to them. The wives of the rulers had other caprices every day and every caprice had to be accommodated.

At the beginning of November 1941, the first labor camp was organized 12 kilometers from Zloczow in Lackie Wielke. The administrator was the known murderer, Hauptsturmfuhrer [Nazi party rank equivalent to captain] Warzok. On the same morning, all of the streets were closed and manned by S.S. members. People were grabbed; they were packed into vehicles and they were taken to Lackie Wielke. No one knew what this meant; the methods with which they “recruited” the people did not indicate anything good. On the same day, 200 people were grabbed. Among those caught were found those who were employed in other German firms and those who stood in the service of the Judenrat. The Judenrat intervened for them. They made contact with the murderer Warzok and an exchange of a number of those “caught” was proposed to him. The negotiations were carried out by Lonek Cwerling. He succeeded in winning the trust of the German, who nominated him as the regular intermediary between him and the Jews. They asked Warzok that no more “recruiting” take place, but that he should communicate with the Judenrat and it would provide as many people as would be needed. Warzok agreed to this proposal. In time, Lonek Cwerling, with his doggish nature, made himself beloved with Warzok, was an intimate of his and even had a little influence over him. He could ransom whomever he wanted from the Lackie camp for a nice diamond or for another object. At first he only used his influence “for the good of the people,” but in time he understood that he could procure money through this. He became a dealer of people. He was responsible for who would be in the camp and who would be freed from it. He became the Jewish Warzok. Whoever could, tried to be on good terms with him; everyone else tried to encounter him less and less. Whoever did not please him was sent to Lackie immediately and Lackie sounded like a death sentence for every Jew. The role he played during the war years was not a surprise for those who knew Lonek Cwerling from before the war. He belonged to the intelligentsia that had great aspirations and they had not succeeded in attaining the communal and

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material position of which they dreamed. A bankrupt and a defrauder, a Moszke Polak [a Jew who was obsequious to the Poles] and a card player. It was not difficult for people with such baggage to tumble down to a position of traitor to their people. Alas, it must be understood that among the traitors there also were people who were contented with their good reputation; however, they let themselves be drawn into the devilish plan and became assistants of the Germans. However, this was a small percentage. The majority of the traitors had assimilated earlier or were simply the type that society should have spit out long ago.

The second Jew, who sadly made himself well-known in the downfall of Zloczow Jewry, was Dr. Glanc. He was an advisor to the labor office. Who and where one had to work were dependent on him. It was in his power to free someone from work. However, as this insignificant person's greediness for money conquered every other human feeling, the old people and the sick had to go to work and the young and healthy would ransom themselves from the obligation to work. He was autocratic in the matter and no one would dare to offer him advice. He was the second individual after Cwerling.

In addition to these two, still others distinguished themselves: Oyzer Szmirer, Dr. M. Gruber, Sztajnwurzl, D. Landesburg and so on. Their names are covered in shame and will always be remembered for being in the ranks with the Germans and other murderers of Jews.

Mass hunger came to Zloczow Jewry immediately during the first months of 1942. I write “mass hunger” because just hunger was not unusual for the poor of Zloczow. The Jews had to endure a great deal to be able to provide themselves with a little food during the first months of Hitlerist rule. There were many families that did not have anything with which to survive the day, but they still benefited from the compassion of the richer Jews. However, in time the supplies from the rich Jews grew smaller and they began to fear for their own fate. It was difficult to convince them to open their wallets. The Germans, who were occupied in breaking the morale of the Jews to make it easier to annihilate them physically later, increased their numbers. Money was raised to such a level, as people saw it as the only way to save themselves. The Germans freed people from the camps for money; they freed people from work for money; they gave people their lives for money; they provided the means to live for money. Money was a tool with which they murdered the Jewish conscience. They forgot all of the ethical and religious laws. Colossal antagonism arose between the hungry and the sated. One hid from the other. They ate behind closed doors so no one would see. However, in the atmosphere of self-centeredness, there were people who organized help for the hungry. To these belonged S. Safran, Ch. Zimand, B. Lifszic and others. However, their number was so small that in the created situation their help could only have a minimal effect.

The German defeat outside Moscow gave the Jews courage and hope. However, it did not have any effect on the hunger. The self-centeredness increased. They calculated how long the road back from Moscow would take and if they would be able to survive during that time. They began to keep things for themselves and not give anything to another person. People became swollen from hunger. They went out and

[Page 19]

searched on the pile of garbage. They ate whatever they could find. It was not rare to kill dogs and cats in order to avoid a deadly hunger.

At that time, new camps arose in the Zloczow area. Kozaki, Yaktoruv, Plew, Zarvanitsa, Olesko, Sasov. They demanded workers. The Judenrat again received the order and again it began to trade in people. However, this time, the Herrn [Misters] Cwerling and Glanz had experience in their work and their appetites were so great, for what they did not want to say. They held to the principle: “If one eats pork let it pour out over the snout” and it ran over their snouts… The rich people brought them the most expensive gifts and poor people took their place in the camps. As the conditions in the new camps were no better than in Lackie, the majority of people did not last long there. Exhausted and hungry, they were not capable of work and the Germans did not need anyone who was incapable of work… Selections took place every day and hundreds of people were shot every day. Warzok was commandant of all of the camps in the Zloczow area and wherever he reigned, death reigned there.

The Jews had not yet washed their hands of the first contribution and they received a second one, larger than the first. The same procedure took place as with the first contribution. The Judenrat appraised, dunned and threatened. The Jews sold their last [possessions] and paid. Everyone believed that obeying the German would quiet him. However, it became apparent that these were false hopes. The German worked according to a systematic plan and, alas, his purpose did not remain a secret. After the success of breaking the morale of Zloczow Jewry, he began the physical annihilation. The first step was the aktsias [actions, usually deportations].


[Page 20]

IV

Aktsias – The Death of Sh. J. Imber

Rumors arrived that the Germans were organizing aktsias [actions, usually deportations]. No one knew exactly what they were. Aktsia is an innocent word and it can be understood to mean whatever one wishes. Optimists said that they were taking people to work in Russia – pessimists, that they were being taken to a death camp, where soap and other useful articles were being made from the people. They could not imagine the exact the purpose of the aktsias; but it was clear to everyone that people were being taken away and that someone the Germans took away no longer returned. If the mass of people still had certain doubts about the matter, the Judenrat [Jewish councils appointed by and beholden to the Germans] was well informed as to what kind of aktsias and to what they led. Such aktsias already had been carried out in surrounding cities and the Zloczow Judenrat knew very well about them. It also was clear that Zloczow would not be spared. However, there were people who convinced themselves that the Zloczow Judenrat was empowered to do a great deal and as a result [could] also block the edict. Moshe Cukerhandl was successful in befriending the heads of the Gestapo, in bribing them and in delaying the aktsia. Understandably, this cost the Jews a great deal of money; however, this did not prevent the Germans from carrying out the aktsia a short time later.

On the 28th of August, the Judenrat received an order to present 2,700 souls. Panic arose among the population. They [the Judenrat] had to provide people from among them [the population] and give them into the hands of the hangmen. The Judenrat, which was ordered to carry out the aktsia, found itself in a repugnant situation. They had to decide: either work with the Gestapo at the aktsia or passively oppose it.

A small shtetl [town], Sasow, was located in the Zloczow area. When the Sasow Judenrat received an order to submit people, it warned the population and they escaped to the forest. When the Gestapo came, all of the houses were empty.

However, the Zloczow Judenrat lacked the courage to take such a step. They decided to cooperate at the aktsia. They convinced themselves that if the Judenrat took part, the aktsia would be carried out with compassion and they would have the opportunity to “fool” the German, that is, they would give away the inferior element of the city (the sick, the weak, the old) and save the young, the healthy and the intelligentsia. Time revealed how much a false calculation this was. Those, who sincerely believed in the opportunity their action [would provide] did not understand their naivety, that is, if “A,” one must also sooner or later say, “B.” For the

[Page 21]

mass of people, the decision of the Judenrat was a knife in the back. They thought of it as treason and it was that.

On the 28th of August 1942, the Tarnopol Gestapo arrived in Zloczow. The Ukrainian militia from the entire area was mobilized. All of the streets where the Jews lived were closed and attacked. The aktsia began. The Jews hid, some in an attic, some in a cellar and some in rooms. The murderers banged on closed doors everywhere. Since the murderers were no great heroes and since they were afraid to happen upon resistance on the part of the hidden, a representative of the Judenrat or of the Jewish militia had to accompany each group [of the murderers].

The Jews had to walk in front and open the Jewish houses and when this was of no help, they were given axes and they hacked open the doors. All of the Judenrat members took part in this shameful work. The only one who refused to [take part] was Dr. Majblum. The people were attacked without restraint during the aktsia. They tried to provide the designated quota as quickly as possible. (It should be said that one of those taking part in this aktsia, Dr. Gerber, still is alive and lives in Paris.) D. Landesberg, the commandant of the Jewish militia, promised Jewish children candy and thus induced them to go out to the street. B. Szapiro went to his woman friend, R. Rozenbaum; he knew that she had a small child. He did not leave until he found the child and he took it from the house. The chase for souls lasted two days. The victims were brought to the train station where they had to wait kneeling for the train wagons. They were not permitted to have any food or drink. During the wait for the train wagons, a number of those caught were freed due to their patronage. There also was no lack of cases of magnanimity, where people refused to be freed. Krancja Wajntraub was given the opportunity to leave the train wagon with the proviso that she must leave her child there. However, she decided to die with her child. There was a similar case of Etl Fodernacht, who did not want to leave her sick sister-in-law during the second aktsia.

Train wagons were provided on the third day. Two thousand seven hundred people were placed in the train wagons like cattle. So many people were pushed into each wagon, as many as could stand; there was no place to sit or to fall. There was no place for someone who fell ill. Those who died on the way had to stand hanging among the living. The transport went to Belzec near Rawa-Ruska. The newly installed crematoria waited at Belzec. Two thousand seven hundred hearts ceased to beat. Many tried to save themselves on the way by jumping out of the train. However, few of those who “jumped” were successful in saving their lives. A number of them fell under the wheels. Some were shot and some were given to the Germans by the peasants. It was said about Mekhl Trajber: he decided to take a chance with his wife and child. His wife jumped first; she fell down and did not move from the spot. He took his child on his back, tied it with a handkerchief and he jumped with the child. When night fell, he went to look for his wife. He found her in terrible condition, she did not recognize him; she had gone insane. With great effort he succeeded in bringing her to the city. They all perished during the liquidation…[3]

[Page 22]

…only ones who sprang from the train and survived until the liberation, were R. Szenker and her son.

The second aktsia took place eight weeks later, on the 2nd and 3rd of November 1942. This time the city had to provide 2,500 victims. The Judenrat provided them. Special emphasis was given to children during the second aktsia. The living children were packed into sacks and they were taken to the train in vehicles. The most precious Jew produced by Zloczow at that time, the poet Sh. Y. Imber,[4] perished during the second aktsia.

Sh. Y. Imber, the author of the book, Asy Czystej Rasy [Aces of a Pure Race], a publication of the journal Oyg Oyf Oyg [Face to Face], was born in Zloczow. In 1941 he was in Lemberg under the name Weiss and disappeared from there and settled in Gline, a small shtetele [town] where his mother-in-law's parents lived. He had to escape from there and he came to Zloczow. He hid with his brother-in-law, Dr. Hreczanik, in Zloczow. Dr. Hreczanik, who was director of the Jewish hospital, arranged for him to work with him. In his free time, Sh. Y. Imber wrote a great deal and he strongly believed that he would survive the difficult times. He would read his new creations to personnel and to the sick and, in so doing, encourage them. However, he [his work] could not be confined to the hospital society. It reached the city, where the Jewish masses lived, where a word of consolation was needed. The second aktsia found Sh. Y. Imber in the city. It was too late for him to enter the hospital because all of the streets were besieged by the murderers. Sh. Y. Imber hid in a cellar with his friend whose guest he had just been. The cellar was discovered and Sh. Y. Imber emerged to share the fate of 2,500 Jews from Zloczow who were taken to Belzec on the 3rd of November 1942. After his death, his friends gathered all of his manuscripts, hoping to publish them at some time. However, alas, all of his friends perished and, along with them, the literary treasure of Sh. Y. Imber.


[Page 23]

V

Ghetto

Immediately on the first day, when the Germans occupied the city, the Ukrainians turned to them with a request that the Jews be enclosed in a ghetto. However, the Germans did not yet consider this as necessary. It was still too early to create a ghetto and they did not yet have any instructions for this. They limited themselves to creating special houses, in which only Jews were permitted to live. The Jews had to leave the houses in which the majority of residents were Christian. The Jews were not permitted to appear in recreation areas or in gardens. They were not supposed to cross the threshold from [areas] designated for Jews. All of this was too little for the Ukrainians. They besieged the regime organs with pleas to create a ghetto. They [the Germans] paid no attention to them [the Ukrainians] for as long as it was not an actual question. However, this did not last long and instructions arrived to create ghettos in all of Galicia. The Ukrainians were full of joy. However, the Jews still convinced themselves that they would get around the edict. They bribed one official after another and the Jews were left alone for a time.

On the 1st of December 1942, the ghetto was closed. All of the surviving Jews were driven from all of the surrounding shtetlekh, such as Olesk, Bialy-Kamen, Sokolawka and so on. About 9,000 Jews were taken. These Jews were quartered with up to eight to 10 souls in one room.

The area occupied by the ghetto was very small. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by Ukrainian militiamen. There was the threat of death for crossing through the fence. However, there were many who risked their lives to obtain bread. The hunger, however, was greater than all of the orders. They risked their lives to obtain a bread or a few potatoes. It reached the point where they gave away their most expensive suit of clothes for a bread. The peasants knew to make use of the situation and to speculate on Jewish need. It was winter. There was no heating material in the ghetto. Hunger and cold was felt at every turn. In addition, the ghetto population had to endure great hardship from the members of the Gestapo and from their Ukrainian collaborators. Two members of the Gestapo, Zwillinger and Mury, particularly distinguished themselves. Their names already evoked feverish trembling from every Jew and from every Jewish child. They [the Germans] found their sadistic pleasure in the terrible torture of people and they particularly liked to beat naked women and children. As soon as they appeared in the ghetto street, the Jewish inhabitants hid in their residences and watched through their windows to see where they were going; everyone breathed with relief when they did not stop. Not everyone had the luck that Zwillinger and Mury would pass their house and not

[Page 24]

stop. My brother, Elye-Meir, said, “A Friday night is especially set in my memory; the Shabbos candles were burning on the table. News spread like a flash of light that Zwillinger was in the ghetto. This was enough for the Shabbos to be a sad one. We sat with fear in our hearts and waited for the joyful news that Zwillinger had left the ghetto. It was revealed that Zwillinger was visiting a certain woman, Gutfrajnd, who lay sick in the crisis stage of typhus with a temperature of 40° [C. - 104° F.]. Moans, screams reached us for an entire hour and then suddenly the voice stopped. We understood that the murderer had left the neighboring residence and I went to the sick woman. She lay naked on the ground; the window was open, the ground was wet from much water and the woman's small daughter stood crying and the blood ran from her. There were visible signs of beating on the body of the unlucky woman and her face seemed liked a bloody mask. When the woman was successfully revived, she said that Zwillinger carried out his beloved sadistic sport on her child and on her. He drove the sick woman out of bed, forced her to undress and to open the window; then she had to stand on a chair and the sadist poured ice-cold water over her for an hour and smacked her with a thick whip. He constantly warned her that if she stepped off the chair, he would inflict the same torture on her 11-year old daughter. The woman fainted after an hour and fell off the chair. However, this did not satisfy the sadist enough. When the mother lay on the ground, he carried out the same torture on the 11-year old child. When the mother came to and heard the crying of her child, she quickly stood up, took down the child and stood herself on the chair. When the woman fainted the second time, falling off the chair, Zwillinger finally left the room, convinced that the woman no longer was alive.” (Told by E.M.)

Thus the days and nights passed in eternal fear and in eternal trembling for their fate. Dozens of corpses were taken out of the ghetto each day. Among the corpses were the victims of German bestiality and victims of hunger. The corpses were the only ones who had the right to leave the ghetto. The boxes in which the wagon drivers took them were not searched because the Ukrainian militiamen were afraid of catching an illness. The wagon drivers used this fact that the boxes were not searched and smuggled potatoes and other produce into the ghetto in them [the boxes]. It was horrible. There was the threat of illness, but the people did not consider this. A typhus epidemic broke out in the ghetto.

[Page 25] (unnumbered in book)

 

The personnel from the ghetto hospital in Zloczow
Dr. Sh. Jolek and Dr. M. Flaszner survived. All of the others were murdered during the liquidation of the camps


Translator's Footnotes

  1. In the source text, a piece of opaque tape has been placed over the words represented by the three dots and they cannot be read. Return
  2. The author is using irony in his descriptions of “refined work” and “nobles” and so on. Return
  3. The corner of page 21 is missing and part of the sentence is missing. Return
  4. Shmuel Yakov Imber was the nephew of Naftali Herz Imber who wrote the lyrics to Hatikvah – now the national anthem of the State of Israel. Return

 

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