« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Pages 172 - 181 & 284 - 287]

The Second World War

by Shlomo Reibel

Translated from Yiddish by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

When Germany attacked Poland on Friday, September 1, 1939, Borchovers did not make a big fuss about it at first. They believed that the whole world would wake up and that would be the end of Hitler. Secondly, they thought that Borchov was too far from the German border, and therefore, that there was absolutely nothing to fear.

Quickly, however, the mood changed. The news on Polish radio from the [Polish] escapees from western Poland, and afterwards from Jews from central Poland, really scared them. There was no organized retreat - the [Polish soldiers] simply ran away. Borchovers told one another that in [Castle] Visichke, when a Polish general was asked what he was doing there so far away from the front while Poland was conducting such a critical war, he answered that Poland has too many generals and that they don't need him!

Very soon some Polish people in high positions started to arrive and after a short stopover in the city they left for Zalechic and Stanislov, towards the Romanian border.

The city itself was not bombed, although a few times air raid sirens were heard. Several air raid shelters were built in the city and in addition, in every house a special room was set aside that had to be protected from gas. In this way, the League for Protection of the Air [literal translation; environment] prepared the population for war.

The gymnasium [high school] started normally at first despite the fact that in all of Poland the Ministry of Education postponed the start of the school year. The reason they started on time was simply to collect the Jewish activity fee from the children because the gymnasium was a private school and the director and teachers were left without any money.

Of course, there was no lack of optimistic news; for example: “the British had landed in Danzig,” and “the French had torn through the Siegfried Line.” They turned out to be false rumors.

Feeling more at ease, the population, especially the Jewish population, received the news on the 17th of September that Soviet tanks were approaching Borchov from Scala. Nobody knew the significance of this at first. There was even opinion expressed amongst the Poles that the Soviets were coming to help Poland in her struggle against Germany, but people quickly became aware of the truth. Polish authorities disappeared and the city was overtaken by a great number of Soviet military [men]. Borchov, as a part of Western Ukraine, was partitioned to the Soviets.

After that, life was organized according to the Soviet system and cooperatives were organized with workshops for the craftsmen. Large numbers of Jews were given very responsible governmental and communal positions - a dream that had never been realized in an independent Poland. Because of this, there was a certain forced closeness among the three nationalities that resided in the city. Giving full equality to the Jews, of course, exposed the hidden anger of the Ukrainian nationalists who maintained that in a Ukrainian state the power should belong only to the Ukrainians. On the other hand, the Poles took the fact the Jews had reached high positions as an act of betrayal on the part of the Jews themselves who were seen as being against Poland.

Later, when the city was occupied by Hitler [these resentments towards the Jews came to the fore.]

In the midst of all this, some Jews established a Yiddishe Folkshule, with Yiddish as the language of instruction. Certain Yiddish nationalist groups started to implore people to send their children to this school and not to the newly established Ukrainian school, and also not to the Polish school as was done previously.

The intention was not to get involved in the struggle between the two dominant nationalities; i.e. not to be considered as a player of one nationality against the other.

In the Polish gymnasium there was also a first class with Yiddish as a language [and] where they even had a Jewish teacher, Jehudit Maisel-Blumenthal. But the class was quickly cancelled under the pressure of the government the moment the gymnasium became a Ukrainian institution though the number of Ukrainian students represented only a small minority.

The Yiddish Folkshule (seven classes) comprised approximately 200 Jewish children. They had men and women teachers. The Director, Berel Turner, was the previous Folkshule teacher who also taught Jewish religion in the Polish gymnasia. The teachers were Sara (Sala) Blumenthal and Zev (Wolfe) Falconflick, Dora Bar-Bedoff and the other women who are still alive at the time of this writing, [1960] Urison and Kallenberg.

The Ministry of Education organized school festivals and “competitions” twice a year. One of the features involved students from the Jewish school who participated in Yiddish and in Ukrainian.

There was a government group of actors in Borchov for a period of time. They were from Tarnopol. One of the plays that they performed was “Tevye the Milkman.” [“Fiddler on the Roof” is based upon the Tevye stories written by Sholom Aleichem.] Before that, this group from Tarnopol had played in Chortkov.

During this time, until the outbreak of the Soviet-German War [June, 1941], very little was heard about the situation of the Jews in the places Germany had occupied. Letters used to arrive with very little factual news because of censorship, but requests to send food parcels were generally answered. Soviet newspapers wrote nothing about the situation of the Jews [in German occupied lands.] No other news reached us, so we did not know what was happening there. People were busy adjusting to the new living conditions that were hard enough. Because of shortages of a number of things, people stood for hours in lineups for bread, etc.

Neither was there a lack of other difficulties. The Soviets took away the Polish colonists and the prominent Polish activists. The women of Polish officers, the director of the gymnasium and so on were sent out to “the white bears” [probably Siberia]. There was a small group of Jews who were also sent out. These were people who were pretty well off. In the city several Jewish stores and businesses were nationalized.

This difficult situation [made the people realize that it was a general World War]. They hoped that they would live until the end of the war. When the German-Soviet War broke out on the second of June,1941, the Ukrainians couldn't rejoice enough. The [party of Independent Ukraine] thought that finally, with the help of Hitler, the war would be good for them. The Poles, on the other hand, got their comeuppance when the Soviets attacked them.

A small number of men and even fewer women, together with their whole families, ran away with the retreating Soviet military forces. To tell the truth, one must say that the conditions of flight were not at all easy. People had to walk great distances as well as face other difficulties. The whole time the Soviets were with us, the old border between the previous Polish state at the Zbruch River was closed. In order to cross to the east, one needed a special permit. This was not easy to get. When the Germans captured the city of Lvov, on the third of June,1941, there was a great panic in the city and the officials started to leave. It was then that the Soviets started to give permission to all who came and asked to leave. Later, when the general panic grew, it was possible to cross the border without a special permit.

On the sixth of July the Soviets left the city and the Ukrainians took charge. Mikhail Motiln, the Ukrainian nationalist activist, who was an Austrian officer in the First World War, formed a Ukrainian military [troop]. This was certainly a decision of the Ukrainian leaders of eastern Galicia (Bandera movement). From this we glean the fact that as soon as the Soviets left the district, local Ukrainian leaders took the leadership in all of the villages. The same happened in other provinces. In a few places the Ukrainian military attacked the last retreating Soviet soldiers, killing and robbing them.

The city was bedecked with bright white and yellow Ukrainian national flags. There were signs saying “Slava Ukrania” which means “Honor Ukrania.” As a symbol of recognizing Ukrainian independence there was in every little corner a red hill of earth with a cross and a sign on it. The Jews called this short period in the occupation “Independent Ukraine.” The local Jews trusted Motiln, whose father was Jewish and had previously maintained good relations with the Jewish community. The Ukrainians also benefited from more than one favor from the Jews during the time when Poland, and afterwards the Soviets, persecuted the Ukrainian nationalists. So the Ukrainian leader, the son of Motiln, who took over when the Soviets retreated, maintained his positive attitude towards the Jews.

We can draw the conclusion that he was the one who nominated Dr. Wolfe Chessen to serve as a representative of the Jews, because they knew each other very well and the Jews accepted this nomination quite willingly.

The Ukrainians also took up other important posts in the city, such as head of the court and the mayoralty. The only two advocates [lawyers] in the city were Ukrainians.

On the seventh of July at nine in the morning, Hungarian soldiers arrived. They were riding bicycles in the direction of Scala - another group of “saviors.” A triumphal gate decorated with Hungarian flags was set up. Germans were expected and Hungarians came.

On the eighth of July, Hungarian soldiers, accompanied by militia, went from Jewish house to house and took away the people's radios. From time to time they would just rob randomly. The Hungarians weren't interested in the civilian administration. They had no idea that some sort of change had taken place here.

We cannot say that the Hungarians had any understanding of Ukrainian independence. On the contrary, they themselves probably decided that they would incorporate this territory to which they had had pretensions for many years. Therefore, they immediately ordered the removal of the Ukrainian national flags, and in some places where Jews started to be attacked, the Hungarian commanders, with whom the Jews were able to talk in German, intervened on behalf of the Jews.

Then shortly afterwards in the month of August, 1941, Jews and Hungarians who had lived there for many years were chased [out of] Borchov and other shtetls of the area. Now it turned out that these people did not have Hungarian citizenship, so Hungary, under pressure from Germany, [used this as a pretext] to free themselves of the Jews.

On the second of August,1941, a police communication from Budapest announced that 12,000 Jews of “doubtful citizenship” had been chased out. Within two weeks approximately 7 to 8 thousand Hungarian Jews went through the city. Some were held overnight in tobacco warehouses. Nobody could get near them. So Dr. Chessen intervened and appealed to Motiln that they should at least let the Borchovers bring some food in; the Borchovers brought cooked food and bread and therefore a social aid society was established. This committee hired wagoners to take the old and weak to the border. Most of the Jews traveled on foot.

The Hungarian [Jews] were expelled over the bordering Zbrouch River and were turned over to the German military. Beyond Kommenitz all of them, around 10,000, were shot.

We became aware of this right away from the few who survived. The shooting of these Jews was the first major action in our region and it made a horrible impression. There is a German document that describes this. On the 25th of August,1941 there was a conference in which, amongst other things, it was reported: “Near Kommenitz - Podolsk the Hungarians threw around 11,000 Jews over the border.”

At the same time there arrived in Borchov some of the Jews who had run away from Romania. Most of them had perished on the way.

After six weeks the Hungarians left the city. They were replaced by Germans and with them a new chapter began. The Germans brought in a new legal order limiting Jewish rights. The social aid society was turned into a Judenrat.

We have hardly any official documentation that would help us to reconstruct the history of the Jews in Borchov at that time. All of our attempts to seek out something about the building of the Judenrat [Jews appointed by the Nazis to be the administrators of the Jews in that area] were to no avail. Therefore, this history is being written only according to the information and conversations that we had on the spot with surviving Jews and non-Jews after the liberation.

In time the Germans came out against the Ukrainian nationalists and the leader, Motiln, was arrested, but he managed to escape and to hide for the whole duration of the occupation. Then the German Reich took over. The only position that remained in the hands of the Ukrainians was the position of the Mayor who to the Germans was very insignificant. People still say that, for example, when the Germans needed the mayor, they would call him, “Hey you a--, where are you?” until the mayor came out!

When the Germans came in, a new legal order of limiting Jewish rights began. First of all came the order to wear the arm -bands with the blue Magen David on the right arm. Afterwards, Jews from 14 to 60 were required to work. They were grabbed in the streets, as they were recognized by their arm- bands, so that no mistakes could be made. Every German, even the civilians, had a right to grab Jews. In addition the Judenrat had to supply workers to the Germans.

For Jews there was also a limit to the hours that they could be on the street. They were not allowed to be out of their residences without special permits. They were not allowed to appear on the main street. They had to put up with the capriciousness of the various bosses, even from the simple gendarmes. Another law said that Jews could go shopping in the market just from 12 to 1, therefore the Judenrat opened their own store, but the only ones who benefited were the members of the Judenrat and their relatives.

Another rule was that a Jew was obliged to take off his hat whenever he came across a German. Jews could not wear a shawl because it would cover up the Magen David [in wintertime this was sometimes the only warm thing that the poor people had].

The Germans, of all ranks and positions, made continuous demands to supply them with gold, silver, money, coffee and so on. They would call it contributions. But the demands were a “legal means” of robbing the last groschen [penny] from the Jews. The Judenrat always gave the same reason for this punishment - that the Jews were guilty [of some misdemeanor].

The deadline for these demands was set so that Jews weren't given much time to gather and prepare bribe money. All these demands were accompanied by threats that if they did not come up with anything, either the Judenrat or all the Jews would be shot.

The Jews were thus kept under stress. They did not have a free minute from the beginning [of the occupation] to the end. But still they maintained their hope that if they would fulfill these requirements they would be able to carry on with their lives peacefully until the end of the war. Of course, all these methods of persecution were applied with small variations by the Germans, in the various places they occupied. But the Borchover Jews, just like the Jews from other places, were isolated from the surroundings and did not know [how widespread the persecution was. Indeed they] could not know … ..

The Ghetto

The decree creating the ghetto came in April,1942. A few streets, amongst the worst, were consigned to the Jews. They called the area “Jelnitza”. Jews from better streets had to leave their homes, leaving most of their possessions, for example, furniture, behind. They had to move into a small room in a back street. The ghetto became more and more crowded. The Germans kept taking more of the better homes and even brought Jews from other places and lodged them in the ghetto.

The area included the street that went from the pharmacy to the railway station, the houses around the shul, the bais midrash, and the street behind the shtebel. In addition, some houses from the other side of the main street were added to the ghetto. There were shops that were contained in the ghetto and the whole population was crowded into very small premises.

The ghetto in Borchov was open, not enclosed with barbed wire or walled in. Going out was quite easy, but there was always the fear of coming across a German. Secondly, the curfew was from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. when the Jews had to be confined.

Just as the Jews were forbidden to go out of the ghetto, it was forbidden for non-Jews to enter the ghetto. Any transactions between Jews and non-Jews was forbidden. They were not allowed to deal with each other in any way.

In spite of all this, Jews and non-Jews who were former neighbors managed somehow to be in continual contact. They used to exchange goods, for example, clothing for food. If not for this, Jews would have died of hunger. People used to use non- Jewish acquaintances who they could trust to convey news to other cities, and also to take people and commodities across the border. There was a death threat for anyone who participated [in these activities].

The first ones to be shot in Borchov, in November,1941, were two Hungarian girls from Budapest who were going to Verchnikovetz with a boyfriend to get some products. They went without armbands. They were captured, imprisoned and someone telephoned the Gestapo in Chortkov. Immediately three men from the Gestapo arrived; they came to the Judenrat and “put in an order.” Hesse answered that the Landrat (leader), Morrer, forbade [him] to give anything without his permission, no matter who it is.

The three [Gestapo men] went to the jail, took the three arrested ones out into the yard and shot them. Their leader went afterwards to Morrer to complain about the fact that he forbade the Judenrat to give them anything. Morrer phoned the Judenrat “to go along with their order.” The three Gestapo men came to the Judenrat and demanded three golden watches. They selected the very best ones. One of them came back the next day from Chortkov in order to exchange the watch for another one!

The brother of the two murdered sisters, Jakov Littner, was living in Borchov at the time. (Before the war he lived in Michen and was married to a German woman.) When he found out that “something” happened in Borchov he inquired from the Borchov Judenrat. He got the official reply that on November 14, 1941 “there died in Borchov Littner, Sida, Littner, Irna and Bloom, Viktor. On the same day they were buried in the Jewish cemetery.” (This is copied from correspondence that the writer has.)

The second incidence [of murder occurred] at the end of 1941. Three Jewish boys ran away from the labor camp and rode the train back to Borchov. Two of them stopped in Terezin and went into the city on foot. The third one, Waldman, continued by train to Borchov. At the station the Borchov gendarme, Tauber, saw him and shot him on the spot. The next day he came, bragging, to the Judenrat and told the story, in German. He told them to take the dead body and bury it.


The “Aktions”

[Unlike other areas in Europe, where Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, in this area there was a different “final solution.' For example:]

*Third “aktion” - Pesach, 1943: [Jews] were held there all night and then some people managed to run away. The Gestapo wanted the Judenrat to come, but the Judenrat did not intervene. Later the [Germans] came and took [the Jews] away to the cemetery. Eight hundred Jews were killed in that action.

*The fourth “aktion” occurred on Friday evening, the 5th of June. It started at three o'clock in the afternoon and lasted all night. Seven hundred Jews were led out to the cemetery and shot. The remaining Jews were allowed to live in peace and carry on business. The ghetto was open so that they could go out and they were promised that no more “aktions” would take place. But then, there was another.

*The fifth “aktion” broke out the first day of Shavouth and lasted five days until Shabbos, June 12. Eighteen hundred Jews were marched out to the cemetery and shot. After that, the Germans declared the area “Judenrein” - free [cleansed] of Jews.

After that, everyone was allowed to kill any Jew that they came across, or turn them into the authorities. The Germans who were there did not care what happened. But the Ukrainian police, ordinary goyim [non-Jews], even the children, used to run after Jews, beat them until they died or drag them to the gendarmes and tell them to shoot them. Even after there were supposed to be no Jews left, there were sixty Jews who lived in three houses near the church. They lived there “legally.”

Even German gendarmes came to deal with the German-speaking Jews. They used to express “regret” over what happened to them.

*There was a sixth “aktion” which occurred in July. A German gendarme got drunk and he started to shoot at a chimney. The Ukrainian police heard the shots and they thought that it was an “aktion”, so they went out into the street and they started to shoot at Jews. Fourteen Jews were killed because of the Ukrainian “mistake.”

The German commander of the gendarmes came running and he put a stop to the “aktion” and he apologized to the Jews saying that it was a mistake, that no more “actions” would take place. The intention was that Jews would crawl out of their hiding places and gather in a small ghetto in order that afterwards the Germans would be able to easily pack them off and kill them.

*The last “aktion”, the seventh, took place on the 14th of August,1943 in which 360 lost their lives. After that no Jews remained in the shtetl.

If any did remain alive after all of these “aktions”, they lived in the fields or in the forests, or under the free sky. They lived in pits, holes, dugouts, or bunkers. Some of them [were hidden] by good goyim, under the stoves or in stalls or haystacks.

In the streets the Germans announced that they would give 20 marks for every Jewish head and if they caught a Jew they would shoot him on the spot. If he was found in the house of a gentile, the gentile was also punished with death. On the other hand the German authorities promised a reward to those goyim who would murder a Jew or bring in a Jew who was still alive. For the head of a Jew they got a liter of alcohol, a kilogram of sugar or salt, in addition to the clothing of the one that they shot. [They would also get] a part of the money that they found on the Jew. The peasants preferred to do this work themselves, rather than to turn Jews over to the authorities because that way they could take all the money. Since the goyim believed that all the Jews were loaded with money, it was an additional reason to murder the Jews. The last group of Jews, seven in all, that were found in the garret of the “feldgers” house [“feldger” - a barber or blood surgeon] were shot on 28 January, 1944 by the Ukrainian militia.

There is a document (p. 215) showing that a priest bought a Jewish house for practically no money.

The total number of Jews in all the “aktions” who were either shot on the spot or taken to be shot, was approximately 8,000. The rest died from epidemics such as typhus that were very prevalent in the ghetto or in work and labor camps where Jews ran to save themselves. Others were murdered by the local population. After the “aktions” the Jewish houses were cleansed. The local population stole everything that wasn't stolen before. They brought everything to the Beit Ha- Midrash ( the house of study) and the goods were sold to our neighbors. The houses were sold for construction material and the people from a nearby Ukrainian community and other rich peasants tore the houses down to the foundation and from the building material they built new houses. On the site of one previously Jewish-owned house an empty lot remained. In locations where other houses and stores were, the [local people] made a garden boulevard with benches and planted trees and put a fence around the area. They made the fence out of monuments from Jewish cemeteries.


[Pages 284 - 287]

Pesach Massacre

by Yaacov Schwartz

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

Erev Pesach, 1943, was on a Monday. There was a major fair (market) on that date in the shtetl. There was anxiety amongst the remaining Jews who were not yet taken away to the extermination camp at Beldjetz or to the labor camps at Barki and Kamyonke. Everyone was aware that there was going to be an “aktion” (a deportation) but they did not know the exact date of the forthcoming murders.

I and my son Shmulik, who was born in 1937, always stuck together, but not in the center of town. My wife and two young daughters and young son were deported on Succot, together with my sister and children and another hundred Jews, relatives, and friends. I had a brother-in-law, Dovid Folkenflick; he hid in the street behind the shul where people felt a little more secure. I had a brother-in-law, Sonya Katz, who was shot on Purim, 1943, by the leader of the Chortkiev Gestapo. That erev Pesach, sitting outside at my brother-in law's place with more Jews, we observed how the goyim were gathering for the market day. We encountered a goy from Mishkitovitz that we knew, carrying a few dozen eggs that he brought for sale. We snuck him into the house, we bought the eggs and divided them amongst ourselves. After all it's erev Pesach! The eggs, I carried away to my sister-in-law, Zeizel, that is to say, Sonya Katz' wife. They lived behind the red church. I didn't take five minutes and my sister-in-law shouted to me, “Run away! People are running for some reason!”

It was exactly twelve o'clock midday. I went out of the house. It's impossible to describe the great panic of thousands of people. Shots were heard and people were running.

The peasants were running, chasing Jews with their horses and wagons. I ran with my six year old son in the direction of the shul so that I would be able to run into the field as quickly as possible but there it was impossible to get through. [There were] two Gestapo men, with their guns in their hands, so we turned around. We started to run in another direction. There was only one possibility: to Menachem Zonenclar's courtyard. There, there was terrible confusion. More families were living there. All of them had bunkers and people were running in that direction. I and my child didn't have anybody to find refuge [with] so we continued running. The courtyard of Zelencroy bordered the courtyard of Mannes Kavalik and on the other side, the Christian, Boguski. There, also, it wasn't so simple. At the entrance stood Maltzia Folkenflik and she was wildly shouting, “Folks, there's no more room in the bunker.” She was the last one who got in there.

I didn't know what to do. I went, with my son, into an empty house. There was no corner there in which to hide but a miracle happened. I saw a ladder standing in the house and not thinking, we went up to the garret and dragged the ladder along with us. In the garret there were scattered pieces of old furniture and clothes. The roof was broken. There were only two small windows on the east side and in the distance it was dark so I started to think about in which corner to hide. Both of us decided, I and my son, that we will hide in the better lit corner and not where it was dark. We covered ourselves up with an old blanket that we found there and on our feet we put a sack with shmatahs [old clothes]. From a distance we heard shouts mingled with song from Boguski's side. There in the garden, Christian girls worked and sang Polish and Ukrainian songs.

The hours seemed like an eternity. The city clock carried out its work very well and rang every half hour. At half - past three we heard a voice in Polish, “Is there a way out of here?” It was the Gestapo - man asking the Christian girls. Soon we heard a terrible knocking and search for the bunker. From the “Ordinance-diner” [storehouse keeper] Ebner they commanded kerosene to set everything on fire. It wasn't necessary, however. They soon found the bunker and pulled out several dozen people from there. I heard the cries and pleas of women, girls and children. Ruchele Manesses was crying and pleading that she wants to work so that they should let her live. The militia man, Lubkia, answered her in Ukrainian, “Jews don't need to live.”

This is how things continued. The assembly point was not far from the building of the Kehilla near Feldshus' courtyard. All day long and throughout the night cries were heard from there.

Around five in the morning, the first day of Pesach, a few hundred Jews, men, women and children, were taken away to the cemetary and with machine guns they were all shot.

I and my son were lying under the tin roof, without water, without bread. Around ten o'clock I decided to crawl down because the child already had blue lips and was dehydrated. But I heard a noise in the house below and a conversation in Polish. It was the maid-servant of the German police who [was talking] with the German gendarme, Lange, who the Jewish partisans shot afterwards beneath the train bridge at Djilintz. The maid-servant and Lange figured that there should be a lot of supplies here because a few Jewish families had lived here. When they didn't find anything the maid-servant understood that it must be in the garret. Right away I heard a table being pushed over and the knock of a chair on the table and the door of the garret opened and Lange was already in the garret with a night lamp. I immediately moved to the dark corner. As I was moving this way he came right to our feet. As soon as he saw the sack with the shmatahs, he spilled the contents out. He found a piece of leather there over which he rejoiced and immediately went down.

In the courtyard of Zonenclar he saw a bunker. There were many Jews there. It took a few minutes and we heard shots. The Jews, naturally, paid with their lives… Lange immediately turned around and told the maid-servant joyfully, “I shot five Jews!” He didn't search any more. Both of them went away to the police station building in Dr. Burdovitch's house.

I saw that the situation was bad for my child. He was ready to faint. I went down from the garret with him into the courtyard of Zonenclar. There, I met three of the local police. They looked at their watch and asked where I was. I replied that I was in the field. They said that it's already after twelve and I can now go. I gave my child some water and headed for my father-in-law, Dovid.

It was dreadful to see the masses of Jews, women and children who were lying shot dead and the walls splattered with innocent Jewish blood. At my father-in-law, Dovid's [house], I met the children of my sister-in-law, Zeisel. They were mourning their mother who didn't manage to escape.


[Pages 303 - 308]

Borchover “Gang” (Partisan Action)

by by B. W. Ben-Barak

Translated from Yiddish by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

In October,1941 we started to organize ourselves. There were four initiators: Wolfe Ashendorf, Yoel Weintraub, Kalman Schvartz and Lioveh, a Jewish soldier from the Red Army who had escaped from the German prison and remained amongst the Jews in Borchov. We started to form cells of five men each. Each cell was self- sufficient. The members of one cell did not know the members of the other cells. From April, 1942, I led one group of five which comprised, in addition to me, Yorsky Hershkovitch, Hershel Richter, Srul Laufer, and Aaron Fahrer (Kovalik).

The first job was to supply ourselves with ammunition. There were three sources: one, we used to buy from the goyim; two, Yossi Fahrer, Hersh Laufer, Yossi Gottesman, (the treasurer's grandson), and Menacham Getsela's son worked for the gendarmerie and used to recruit supporters; three, a Soviet lieutenant, Kolya, [assisted them]. After the outbreak of the war, while the Soviets were in charge, he called three men to help look for German deserters. Though we knew one another [by sight] we did not know his name. When the Germans marched into our territory, Kolya disappeared. Later I saw him [wearing] civilian clothing and working as a chauffeur for the Ukrainian brigades.

One day we met by chance and recognized one another. He sent me back with a sawed off rifle, bullets and three grenades. These we kept hidden away outside of the ghetto in the old Christian cemetery, in a family grave, and we awaited news.

We finally came to understand the situation because the messenger from the Judenrat, our neighbor Moshe Zemmer, used to report to Yoel and myself what was going on in the Judenrat about its meetings, discussions with the Germans, etc. Later, he perished during the liquidation of the Borchov ghetto.

From the ghetto we went out into the night on the 6th to the 7th of June, 1943 when [Borchov] was considered “Judenrein.” We were 28 in all including a few women. Others who had previously belonged to our organization had been dragged away during various “Aktions.” We were in possession of four guns, six revolvers and a few grenades. At that moment we did not have a definite plan as to where to go. We also did not have access to prepared bunkers. On the 10th we returned to the ghetto through Polvark, from Tulin Forest. But here we encountered German gendarmes who shot into the ghetto and killed among others, Abba Ekstein's brother. We ran away into the Tulin Forest and from there to the Dzilinitz Forest.

Our commander at that time was Ashendorf.

From the forest Yankel Kovalik and I were sent to the labor camps where there were still Jews: Lisevitz, Dobronivke, Yagolnitze. We tried to convince people to run away with us. The Jews there did not want to do this. They argued that as long as they are still breathing and they had something to eat, they should not run away…

A Czortkover 'boy' was sent to us from Lisevitz Camp [by the Jewish inmates] to see if it was worth our while to keep up the fight. He came, looked around, then returned to his camp and reported that it would not worthwhile to leave the labor camp.

In the Yagolitze camp one of the men, Wasserman, from Czortkow, promised to organize a cell of five and come to us - by the time he did this we required ammunition from each one - but he was caught in an “Aktion”, and was taken away before he could do anything. We ran away from there with a wagon and a peasant took us to the Dembin Forest. From there we went by foot to Jelinitze Forest. Here we met up with our group. Unfortunately, Ashendorf and others became ill in the forest and Shia Zucker assumed the command.

First he divided us into two groups: one group of fighters who had ammunition and food. The second [was] a group of commandos who had no ammunition and they used to get three potatoes a day. We made sure that they did not leave the place where they were living. From one group to the next was a distance of three kilometers. We did not like this and after one month we again reunited.

Ashendorf was of the opinion that we must not stay in one place and we should take as little food as possible from the peasants. Zucker did not agree with him; we had large deposits of food that we kept in a bunker which was seven meters long, 2.5 meters high and three meters wide.

We ourselves lived in mud huts. I felt ill the whole time because I had damaged my back when I had worked in the forced labor camp. We worked very hard. We loaded sacks of grain.

We found out that in Germovkifke there was going to be a gathering of Ukrainian police. We knew that there they were going to get drunk and that we would be able to attack them easily, chase them away and take their ammunition. So we decided that this is what we would do. At night we headed for Germovkifke. When we got to the [nearby] forest Zucker told us to go back.

In August 1943 we attacked the barracks where three guards were guarding grain. The old Budner (a Ukrainian) led the way for us. He gave us a signal and we attacked the guards, tied them up, gagged them, took their clothes, and their ammunition and went away. The three uniforms enabled us to carry out the attack on the Borchover (criminal) jail. This was on November 17, 1943. At that time, there were around 500 Germans in the city who had come from the front for leave. So we knew that we would be able to move around without difficulty because they would not notice the “new” Germans. We put on the three uniforms and as Germans we led two bearded men as though they were prisoners. We knocked at the entrance, told them to open up and when the guard did that we gagged him, tied him up, grabbed all his keys and opened all the cells.

We told the prisoners that we are Soviet partisans and have come to free them. The prisoners all ran off but the Jews didn't want to go with us because they recognized us. They remained and later betrayed us. Among the approximately forty prisoners there were sixteen or seventeen Jews. Among them were the two Ungar brothers. We freed Budner's son. The Germans [had jailed] him and were going to try him. [First he had] presented himself to the Ukrainian SS [to be drafted into the army?]. [But then] he regretted it and did not want to go. With our help, his father rescued him and he joined our partisan group. In the forest we met in August,1943 with the retreating partisans from the defeated Kofax division. They withdrew one by one and passed through our forest.

With the Kofax partisans Moishe Soifer, Etti Roznishtok, Leova Fromm, Kalman Shvartz from Yaz, Issya Videberg (who later on was killed), and Yankel Kovalik (perished) also joined us. There remained in the forest about thirty or thirty two fellows. I also wanted to go with the Soviet partisans but Zucker did not allow this. He told the Soviet commander that I was sick and that I would not be able to go…

We also had encounters with bandit gangs in the forest. We once shot at them and chased them away. But because of this we had to change our location.

The attack on the jail and the complaints from the peasants caused us to be encircled by 2000 Germans on December 6, 1943. Those who had ammunition, around sixteen men, stayed in the forest to fight the Germans. The unarmed were told to retreat deep into the forest and save themselves by running away. I was in this group. Earlier, my ammunition was taken away from me because I was against Zucker's behavior. Our group's fight lasted four hours. All of our people fell, amongst them: Lonyek Jung, Joel Weintraub, Shia Zucker with his wife, Nussia, Berish Zucker, Yossi Fahrer, Itzia Neuringer, Yossi Gottesman, Yossi Hershkovitz, Mendel Fahrer, Wolfe Ashendorf, Yossi Shvartz (from Skala), Budner Bodin (a Ukrainian), Shmerel… , Muncia Shteinik (from Ozeran), etc. Seven people ran away: Aaron Fahrer, Edzio Shteinik, Etti Fahrer, Ruchel Pachman, Esther Jagendorf, Nussia Rosenshtok and myself. We ran off to the Tzigan Forest.

There we rescued Etti Fahrer's father from a bunker and we went to the Jelinitze Forest, to our old spot. There we settled into a bunker [that was] our previous warehouse. We no longer lived as we did before in mud huts. Here we met Avraham Kassirer and Zunia Shvartz. During the day we remained in the bunker; at night we went to look for food from peasants whom we knew. Once Aaron Fahrer and E. Shteinik went to the village to a cobbler and were captured by Ukrainian militia. They did not return.

Another time the father of E. Fahrer and Kassirer went to the peasant Hisbah from Tulin. They brought [back] bread, but the next day Germans arrived because they had detected something that was left in the snow. It was December 29, 1943. The Germans came right up to our bunker and threw in some grenades. Kassirer was killed and Etti's father was badly wounded and he immediately died. I managed to survive because I had crawled down under the covering of the potatoes. I covered the four girls who were lying there, unconscious, with rags. They were crying and shouting from their high fever. The Germans left; I buried the two fallen ones in the bunker because to do it above ground was an impossibility for me, as I was afraid of leaving marks. The girls did not know about this and when they got well they asked where the others were.

We moved to another bunker that we had dug, a much smaller one, and remained there for the winter.

Pietr Glud, a peasant, used to bring us food. When the front neared we could no longer remain in the forest. Then Glud took us to his place where we hid in a potato celler. At the end of March,1944 we were freed. We returned to Borchov by crossing a lake. Shvartz separated from us and continued on alone and on the way Ukrainians shot him.

Once more the Germans entered. We again hid in a bunker with other Jews. Stachhovyak, a Pole, brought us food. After a short time the Germans ran off and the Soviets returned.

From our group there remained alive, aside from me, Ruchele Pachman (from Skala), Esther Jagendorf, Nussia Rosenshtuk, and Etti Fahrer, who later died in Poland.

The Pole, Pietr Glud, helped us while we were in the forest with ammunition and food. His son-in-law, Nicolai Shcherba, also helped. The latter was once captured by the Gestapo, led off to Chortkow, severely beaten, but he did not betray us.

These people helped us as much as they could and that was without having anything to gain from us. When Glud found out that Etti Fahrer was sick (she had lost her father, her brother, and her bridegroom in the forest) he brought her an “amulet” that he had obtained from a peasant (obviously a converted Jew) and this had a good effect on Etti.

We used to requisition flour from peasants. A horse and wagon would be loaded and we took off to beyond the forest. The sacks of grain were unloaded and the horses were left by the railway so that they could make their way home.

We later gave this flour to peasants whom we knew, for baking. We did not lack food. We had a whole storehouse with meats, fats, etc. Only at the beginning was there a problem with food. At that time Zucker divided everyone into two groups. In order to get some money they accepted a few people as members of their group in return for payment.

Caption of picture on p. 307:

Pietr Glud with baskets in which he carried food for Jews [hiding] in the forest. From right: his wife; from left: his daughter-in-law Shsherba, in front his three grandchildren and surrounding him the rescued Jews.


[Pages 308 - 309]

Celia Zucker's Account

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

(Celia Zucker was the mother of Shia Zucker, the commandant of the partisan group, who perished. During the period of his partisan work he lived in a bunker not far from the position of the partisan group.)
In January of 1943, Budner brought us food and demanded that we free his son from arrest: if not, he would stop bringing us food. The [boys]… .. carried everything out and freed 50 Jews (only one survived) [as well as] Budner's son. My son was dressed in a German uniform. They only tied the guard [up]… .but what was the net result, because they [the partisan group] were recognized… ..

In addition the partisans attacked the tobacco warehouse, the printing shop and “Dos Narodnye”. [They did this] together with Kofax soldiers (amongst whom were also some Jews). [After,] they were beaten up [in an area] behind the Carpathian Mountains, so they “nebbich” ran back to near Borchov. A part of the Jewish partisan group went along with them: Issya Videberg, Moise Soifer, two Czernovitser fellows. They destroyed the Jelnitze train bridge. They also burnt the [railway] yard in Osyaron, when we were in the ghetto. Once they captured the gendarme from Tzigan, tied him up, and left him and his wagon in the village [square]. They called together all the goyim, and told them that soon Germany would suffer a defeat and therefore it would not be worthwhile to help the Germans.

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Borszczow, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max Heffler

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 29 Jul 2011 by LA