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[Page 186 - Yiddish]

Gone

by Yehudit Altman

Translated by Regina Russak

Gone! No more the beloved people from long ago. So grand in their simplicity, humility, so devoted in their readiness to help all those in the throes of great stress.

Gone! No more our devout fathers, who observed the holy Sabbath, and with so much soul extended the final meal of the Sabbath (the “third meal”) until almost night time, until it was time to make “havdalah” (the lighting of the candle denoting the end of the Sabbath).

Gone! No more our devoted dedicated mothers who would not light a candle at the end of the holy Sabbath before there were three stars visible in the sky, and until they did, they whispered in the silence of the twilight, the warm prayer to the “G-d of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Guard your dear people of Israel against all evil”. “Better the bitter page from G-d, than a bitter page from man. Heavenly Father bless me not to have to go to people for help”.

I still remember today so well, her sweet words of this heartfelt prayer, although so many years have passed since then.

No more is there my little mother who prayed with so much devotion and so much heart, for her husband and children, for her brothers and sisters and their households, for everybody, all the People of Israel, she thought of everybody in her prayer. Oh dear G-d, where did all these prayers vanish?

Gone, gone are father, mother, no more father-in-law, mother-in-law and all the others so dear to us forever gone. Not there, even the graves where I could cry my heart out, and cry over your pure clean souls. How can I bend down and tell you that the world is not as it used to be in those quiet times? Life today is so hard, and cruel and the people are often bad and rotten.

Gone! Time is gone with you, the cleanliness, the wonderfulness of the Sabbath, the good feelings of holidays.

Year after year we light commemorative candles for our dear parents, sisters and brothers, relatives, near ones and far ones and friends of blessed memory.

The flames are flickering on the soul-like candles. Slowly, drops are falling like big human tears, our lips whisper name after name, names that time did not erase from our memory. Names of those who have gone before their time, even though they had so much faith and hope in their hearts, such powerful will to endure everything and survive.

Here I see before me the little house of the Boiberke ghetto (the little house in the city where I was born and grew up) and in the yellow light of the dim cool oil lamp, there is the reflection of emaciated faces, and in a corner stands my dear mother (may she rest in peace) and with a shaking hand she cuts bread, everybody's eyes are riveted to the round brown little loaf. The mother, the eternal good mother, may she rest in peace, she would give everything away, she would not begrudge, but one must divide small little pieces, and hide the rest for later or tomorrow, and the tomorrow never came anymore. My dear sweet mother, it seems I have just spoken with you. It seems to me you wanted to tell me something unfinished, they tore you away, so brutal, so murderous.

The murderers made a joke of it: they placed you beside our dear father as if to lead you to the wedding canopy. And with one bullet out of their gun, they shot you both.

Gone. No more the pious mothers, the dear sincere fathers torn away from young, not yet grown children, thrown under the ground. With shaking hands we light every year on the day of memory, we light many memorial candles, and our lips whisper in quiet pain, name after name which time has not erased from our hearts. From the candles drip slowly, hot paraffin, drops like hot tears.

“Yisgadal veiskadash shmei rabah”


[Page 193 (Yiddish)]

The Bitter End

by Itche Karten, Swirz - N.Y.

I am Itche Karten, Moshe Krezel's son from Swirz, a son-in-law of Chaya Ruchel's Moshe Leib from Bobrka (Moshe Leib Shleider).

I will tell you a tale of the first day. The first day when the Germans came, they needed straw for bedding, so they put us to work. They made the Jews go to the goyim to get straw, which the Jews had to drag with their hands. They took a lot of Jews, including me and the Rabbi's children. I grew up in Swirz, a village, and I was used to such labor, but the city children could not do such work. That's why the Rabbi's children were beaten. I had to watch as they loaded the wagon with straw and then pulled it. I cried, but I couldn't help or defend them. I just did my work so I wasn't flogged. They wanted to work but couldn't, so they were beaten to death. That was the first day.

The second day they were told on a pretext to go to the court house to clean it up. I went too. I had no fear. Others were afraid because that's where they killed Jews and made a pogrom. I went and I wasn't afraid.

The third and fourth day they formed the Ukrainian police. The police gave an order that all Jews present themselves on the square. As the Jews assembled, they were told they could not take one step out on the street of the town or they would be shot. The government can give the death penalty for anything you did. Everyone had to wear the Star of David on their clothing. They then read the Nuremberg Laws to us.

That's when we discovered that our real troubles had begun, the genocide of the Jews. Hunger was a result. It was so bad that people colapsed in the street. People ate grass and became swollen. Blotches appeared on their bodies. They fell in the street like straw. The dead were laid on stretchers and that's how they took them to be buried. I also had not much to eat and was swollen, but when I saw their troubles, I didn't feel so sorry for myself.

Before the first “aktia”, I went to Swirz to my father because in Bobrka there was nothing to eat. In Swirz my father had a small field, so I went to him with my family and with my brother Chaim and his children. That's where we stayed over the first “aktia”. In town they thought we'd known something and therefore we'd run away. The only reason we went to Swirz was that there was no food for us in Boiberke and there was some in Swirz.

A decree came through that Jews couldn't stay in small villages. We had to leave Swirz and go back to Bobrka.

We came to Boiberke not long after December 8th when the second “aktia” began. By the second “aktia” they took my family with children and my brother away. I didn't want to stay there anymore. I had two unmarried brothers, Hersh and Israel, and we decided we wanted to leave. We went back to Swirz in the forest. We partially stayed with a goy and partially in the woods.

After the snows, we went into the woods to dig a hole where we could hide. On the 13th of April we were occupied the whole day digging the bunker. At night my brother would go to a goy to get some milk. The goy said he was in Bobrka and there had been an “aktia” there. In the morning we sent a messenger to town to find out what happened. He came back saying there were no Jews left in Bobrka. He also said our father Moshe Karten was burned to death. Our hearts were so heavy that if you stuck us, blood would not flow. That's how broken up I was.

From this messenger, the people in another camp learned where we were and they were able to joind us in the forest.

When they came to the forest, that was the first time we were able to help them. We gave them their first food and showed them how to live in the forest.

It was about May-June 1943. At that time we thought we were the only Jews left in the world. Afterwards we found out there was another forest called Chanitchover where other Jews lived. To make sure the news was true, four or five boys went to check it out. One of the Karten brothers (Motel Erlich and others) went to the Chanitchover forest and found Jews in dire straits. As the Jews in the Chanitchover forest saw the Jews of the Swirz forest, they couldn't believe their eyes. They thought the Jews fell out of the sky. They were amazed to see Jews who were cleanly dressed and they wanted to follow them to the Swirz forest. That's where my brothers found 2 of our cousins - our father's sister's 2 children. In the end they didn't survive the war.

Slowly people began to get together and we numbered 115. We conducted ourselves in such a way as not to antagonize the Poles so they would not discover us and turn us over to the German police. This is how we lived until December 1943.

In December 1943 we discovered a goy called Krinitski who gave up a Jew to the Germans who killed him. Eight of our young people from the forest went to the town of the goy. They beat him and then shot him. They told his wife that his was the payback for killing a Jew.

Eight days after that there was a consequence because we killed a goy. A goy by the name of Franek Baltzer sent a message to us on Friday night and told us to be careful because something would happen to us. The punishment would occur on Saturday or Sunday. We left immediately. Saturday morning the Germans overran the place in the forest but we thank God we were in another location in the big forest. We thank God we were all saved and survived.


[Page 204 (Yiddish)]

Escape from the Death Camp

by Moine (Moshe) Erlich (New York)

Translated by Claire Rosenson

I, Moine Erlich, a son of Berl Erlich and a grandson of Sender Erlich from Strelka will tell you briefly how I survived the Hitler years, may his name be cursed.

When the second action began, I was sick with typhoid fever. We were awakened in the middle of the night and told that the town was ringed by Germans, so I got dressed and ran to the cemetery. On the way I saw Germans and headed across a frozen lake. It was winter. As I walked through the cemetery I fell into a deep hole and passed out. Towards morning I awakened. With all my strength I got out of the hole and went to Lanke. In Lanke I entered the Strilker Forest. I hoped I would meet up with people who lived there. I hoped I could meet peasants who would hide me.

In the forest I met Gershon Shleider, Yoshse Shleider's brother, a son of Moshe Leib Shleider and with him I went to a peasant woman I knew and she gave us milk and told us all the Jews were murdered and there was no town left to go to. We had nowhere else to go so we left at night anyway to go back to the town. Gershon died that night.

Now a few words about the third action, the liquidation. They gathered all the remaining Jews at the shul and sorted them. Those sent to the right went to the concentration camp -- those sent to the left were shot. In the middle was a box and all jewelry, gold, and valuables had to be thrown in. I had a few rings from my mother and I threw all but one of them in. It came in handy in the camp. I bought bread with it.

On the way to the camp they put us into cattle cars that were full of clothing of our honored dead who had been killed in Wolowe few hours earlier. In the back were two militiamen who went through the bloody clothing and linings and removed any money and valuables. There were another two men who wanted to attack them and then run away, but they were afraid.

We got to the camp towards morning. We were counted and had to be classified as to who worked at what job. When I told them I was a mechanic, they took me to Lemberg. My job was to take apart locomotives so they could remake them into guns in Germany. I was there seven weeks and met up with my brother Motl Erlich and we devised plans to escape. We couldn't escape together because we didn't work in the same place together. We had to find different clothing. My clothes were prisoner clothes with the number 8473 printed on the front and back. As soon as I got other clothing, I hid in a locomotive where they shoveled coal, and locked myself inside. Around 5 o'clock when people went back to the camp they discovered I was missing since I was the first of the fifth group. They started shooting but they couldn't find me.

In the middle of the night I opened the door and left the locomotive. I was aware of where I was and in which direction I could go. I could go to the Strickler Forest, but my plan was to go first to the cemetery in Wolowe. All night I ran and hitchhiked in back of a wagon. In the morning I came to the cemetery's hole in the ground in Wolowe. My first plan was to say Kaddush and to remember all the people I knew. After that I went into the forest and went from one goy to another and one of them told me where to find Jews. The Jews were the Karten brothers and other Kartens. Thanks to them I stayed alive.

My brother left the camp a few days later and we met up a week later. He also went from one goy to another and found out from them where to find me. After that we lived together with the Kartens in the forest until the liberation.

 

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