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[Page 430 - Hebrew] [Page 431 - Yiddish]

With the Jews of Bricheva

by Rabbi Dov Yechiel

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

When I came to Bricheva I was quite young, and the thing that made a great impression on me was that the Jews both worked and were enlightened and learned. The youth was very enthusiastic about studying and I found that we had this in common. However, in order to understand the impression, I will tell you about something that happened that could not have occurred in any other place.

When I arrived to take up my position as the Rabbi of Bricheva, I was not married. The Rabbi is a bachelor – that is not respectable. One Jew, learned in Torah named R' Eliyahu Zak, who sat day and night learning Torah, except for the few hours he had to sell sunflowers that his son Avraham Zak bought for him. He said, “How can someone come to the Rabbi to ask a question? What if it's a woman who comes to ask, and there sits the Rabbi and he is not married. That is a disgrace to Bricheva.”

Six weeks later, while I am sitting in the Rashkovi synagogue, this Jew is also sitting there and he find a certain passage in the Talmud difficult to understand and he discusses this with R' Michal Ehrlich, a learned Jew, who also didn't say “Shalom” to me. R' Eliyahu approaches me and hands me the Talmud, saying, “The Rabbi must be able to explain this passage.” I read it and explained. That evening I was sitting in my room with a few people and R' Elya arrives, he removes his shoes outside, and with stockings enters the room, to the Rabbi, to receive a reprimand for his previous behavior. “I insulted the Rabbi and didn't shake his hand. I came to receive what I deserve – a rebuke.” I stayed in my place and didn't know what to do. I am young, and here appears before me an elderly Jew learned in Torah. These are the kind of people who lived in Bricheva and with the people of Bricheva I went through the Holocaust.

I would like to describe the first weeks after the return of the Romanians. During the first riots,

[Page 432 - Hebrew] [Page 433 - Yiddish]

I, their Rabbi, hid with the residents in a barn. Not far from there lived Yasha Shtiglik. He came to my house and asked where was the Rabbi. They answered that the Rabbi was hiding in a barn. He ran to the barn, brashly opened the door and shouted, “Here is our Rabbi who knows how to speak both Romanian and German, and as soon as the riots started he went into hiding.” And then Yasha disappeared.

I felt hurt by his words and immediately ran to the home of R' Azriel Gulirgant, where the military command was located. The soldier standing at the door punched me but I paid no attention and ran inside. After a while, I left accompanied by three German officers and we walked to the market – and dispersed many non–Jews. That very evening a command was given that if any non–Jew from Gizdita or Baravoi will be seen holding loot, he would be shot. And indeed, the next day three non–Jews were shot because they violated the command.

On that day we had our first victim, R' Yisrael–Aharon Kestelman, and we managed to bury him in the cemetery. That night we also buried all the Torah scrolls of the Rashkovi synagogue, because the hooligans went wild and began tearing up the Torahs. On that same night the first Jews were gathered to be exiled.

In the following picture of the deportation from Bricheva I can be seen in a short coat and not a kapota (long coat worn by the very religious). The reason is that when Zonis saw me standing in line, he came up to me and told me that in the previous line the shohet from the village Plop was wearing his kapota, and therefore was tortured to death. What did Zonis do? He removed his new short coat and took my kapota so I wouldn't have to suffer any torture. And who was among the main people in charge of the deportation, holding a rifle? The principal of the school Chibotaro who was considered my best friend.

We continued on our way to the Robelnitz forest and to Kosoutz. There eight–seven sick and old people were gathered. They dug a hole, pushed them in and closed the hole with dirt. The sergeant–major who supervised the task, riding on his horse, was my neighbor; his brother was an actor in the National Theatre. I approached him with entreaties and was able to receive from him a certificate to open the hole, however, of the eighty–seven who were buried, seventeen were already dead.

When we reached Vartizhan, we stayed there for a while and then were divided into two groups – the one that went on the road to Ribnitza were all killed; the others trudged on the roads, collapsed from fatigue, hunger and torture, and only a few survived. I remember Yom Kippur in Olshanka. A convert who was married to a Gentile lived there. The army in charge was Italian, who were different from the Romanians and the Germans. When they saw how the old and children were being led, they gave us pots of brown sugar, cans of meat and other conserves and the convert brought us cooked potatoes. Children, eat!

(Recorded on a tape by S. Parnas.)

[Page 434]

Picture: Caption: A monument that was erected in the cemetery in Brashad in 1942 in memory of the holy ones, initiated by Rabbi Dov Yehiel. The letters were engraved by Haim Shichman z”l, who was also from Bricheva.

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Picture: Caption: Deportation from Bricheva. The teacher Chibotaro, in a white shirt, holding a rifle. One of the rare photographs of the Holocaust period in Bessarabia.


[Page 436 - Hebrew] [Page 437 - Yiddish]


From Hell
(Portion of a letter)

by David ben Shlomo Gulirgant z”l

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

Bricheva, 11.9.46

Dear Frayda Tzinman-Eisenshtein, I remember when I answered the lovely literary letter sent to me by your Yehiel. I added just regards to you in addition to a promise that I would write you a special letter, but I have not fulfilled my promise. And although I know that my promised letter will not bring any news and certainly will not bring you any pleasure, but since you have requested and I have promised, you know of course that the “shohatim” fulfill their promises, I am therefore writing to you now.

I know that first and foremost you are interested in hearing about your mother who was all alone. We were exiled to a dark Fascist camp, herded and prodded like cows, with sticks, whips, rifles and machine guns. We were forced to walk quickly, almost to run. In the first few days there was still something to eat; after that, all the food we had brought from home was finished, so we grabbed as much produce as we could from the fields we passed, as long as the hooligans, gendarmes and Romanians didn't notice  a cob of corn, a potato, green beets. We had to make do with this and to breathe, while walking about 30  40 kilometers per day in great heat. The healthy ones walked with all their strength and those who didn't have the strength to keep up were shot to death out of so-called “mercy” by the gendarmes. Your Alter[1] could hardly move his feet right from the beginning as soon as he left

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Soroka to Vertujan; poor thing he was so very weak, and we never saw him again. Your mother was always by my side for a whole month in Vertujan, however, when they exiled us to Transnistra, that is over the Dniester to the Ukraine, they didn't send us at the same time. We were sent first, and she was among the others who were sent a few days later. We went through the village of Kosoutz, Liampol. A few of the strongest in the group were chosen for work, supposedly, but were immediately shot to death. Among them was my Pinni Gulirgant, Nahum Zimmerman, Mendel the tailor, Mordechai Gellman (Devorah's Mordechai) Notta Bana and others. The rest were sent over the Dniester and made to run all the way to Labog. You can understand what followed - during the forced run of so many kilometers a number of us fell away. We had to abandon Leible Doninson in a pit in a field - certainly dogs and birds devoured him. We were among the “happy ones,” that is myself and my dear late Elka, with Sima and her small son and my grandson, the son of Aharon, who just happened to be staying with us at that time.

A second group of Bricheva residents was sent to Transnistra by way of Razina-Rivnitza. These people, as we later heard, were shot by the Romanian and German murderers and only five miraculously survived, and they are the ones who told us about it. Among the unfortunate ones who were killed were my brother-in-law Eliyahu Zak and my sister Hantcha with every one of her children. Their place of burial is not known.

Your mother was among those sent later on. Afterward I was told that she died along the way and was buried in a Ukrainian field somewhere near the town of Varhovka. I was told that the date of her death was the seventh or eighth of Tishrei, but what does the exact date really matter?

And who could have recorded the dead and who, at that time, gave it any importance, because each one thought that very soon, tomorrow or the next day, he himself would die. And who could pay attention to the tens of dead people who lay on the ground like carcasses and were scattered on the side of the road where we ran. The thoughts were given to finding a piece of raw beet, dreaming of being lucky enough to find a piece of cold “mamaliga.” They thought more about a miracle of having 15 minutes of rest. We were emotionally stiff and hardened, almost dead ourselves and the brain didn't work  only the heart was full of eternal hatred toward those fascist murderers.

My darling Frayda. I have described merely a drop in the ocean of the sorrow and tragedy, for who can count and remember what the fascist criminals did and what horrible methods they used against us. Human beings are not capable of such actions, only forest animals like wolves and dogs, and even they must be crazed. Damn them. We are too old to take revenge but our children and descendants will never forget those evil persons and their names will be a disgrace forever.

(This letter was given by Frayda Eisenshtein-Zinman, Sao Paulo)


Footnote

  1. Alter Maidenberg, brother of Ita Tzinman. (The editor) Return


[Page 442 - Hebrew] [Page 443 - Yiddish]

Dark Days

by Mirel and Leah Parnass/Rishon LeZion

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

The Soviets came to our town, and after only three days they began to confiscate private property. They established various cooperatives, for instance, a textile store was set up in the home of Avraham Trachtenbroit, a grocery store in the home of Zev Klotzman. The barbershops were joined into just one shop in the home of Dudi Alterman; the shoe store was located in the home of Avraham Lernerman. As time passed some of the owners of these stores were sent to Siberia – Avraham Trachtenbroit, Mordechai Sandelman, Shalom Shpiegel, Yosel Trachtenbroit, Meshulam Shpaier, Dudl Paker, Haim Blank, Leib Tendler, Yasha Delugatsh, Aharon Tzinman, Matat Gutman and others. A club was opened in the home of Aharon Tzinman and there were gathered together all the private libraries, newspapers, and games. In the yard, near the large hall and in the hall itself, were held various entertainment programs, such as movies, theatre and parties. The head of the city council at that time was Haim Lifshitz.

When the war started and the Soviets left town, a group of youth organized a self–defense unit to operate mainly at night. On one clear day, a group of non–Jews from the villages in the area arrived and attacked the town, smashing all the mirrors in the cooperative barbershop, entered the store in the home of Klotzman and destroyed all the merchandise. Rumors spread that perhaps an order had been given that for three days it would be allowed to kill and steal. On the third day, they gathered a large group of Brichevians on the road to Gizduta. A Romanian officer appeared and announced the halting of the killing, and then released the Jews.

After about a month, we were deported from the town. During the day we walked, and at night

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we travelled in wagons from the surrounding villages. A few were killed by the villagers who drove us to the forests.

The deportation was done in stages. The first ones taken were from the upper street. They intentionally separated young couples who were married to residents of other towns. The directive was that any young married person should return to his town. As we passed through the villages we saw graves of Jews from those villages, who had lived there most of their lives. These sights foretold of what awaited us. At night we slept in the fields.

We passed Rublenitz near Soroka, and Vartuzhan, and others. After a number of months we reached Transnistria.

The first ones who died on the road were Zanvel Tzavalir, Alter Dovinarski, Berl and Esther Roizenblit. During this time no food was supplied. Each one had to fend for himself. We were hungry and our food was leaves from the trees and grass from the fields. One time they distributed bread while we were in the Rublenitz forest. One Jew took a slice of bread, and soldiers began to shout at him that he hadn't stood at attention long enough. His daughter approached him and hugged him until the soldier who guarded us shot and killed them both.

As I mentioned, we spent the nights in the fields and forests; occasionally they put us

Picture Caption: On the sad way.

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in schools or other public buildings in those places where the houses were empty. There were times that in the kolkhozs, where we stayed, the local Jews took us into their homes. In Transnistria we were together with thousands from other towns and there we also chose a Committee to deal with the relations with the authorities.

Only after we stayed there for about a year they the Committee began slowly to organize prayers and perform marriages for young couples. There were also other attempts – once they held a literary evening, and so that it wouldn't become known to the authorities, the event was held in the village bathhouse. As a precaution, children were not allowed to enter. What did the children do? In the middle of the performance the children gathered near the hall and shouted, the police are coming! Of course people jumped out of the doors and windows to flee the police. When many were already outside, they discovered that it was just a childish prank.

The burial society was active, every day it collected the dead for a special fee. If they suspected that someone had money but refused to pay, they left the body there until it rotted.

At the end of the war when we returned to Bricheva, we found that all the houses were lacking doors and windows and some were without roofs. Non–Jews were living in some of the houses; we entered the houses and lived together for a long time.

There was no way to make a living. Some travelled to work in Tirnova, and others started to leave town and move to Tchernovitz. Those who stayed worked in the vineyards, flourmills, or oil factory. Pini Shechtman was appointed head of the town.

(Recorded by S. Parnass)

[Page 447]

Picture


[Page 448 - Hebrew] [Page 449 - Yiddish]

During the War and the Holocaust

by Mara Zonis/Kiryat Natzeret

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

Immediately after the arrival of the Soviets to our town in June 1940, significant changes were made in the lives of the residents. Stores and businesses were expropriated which affected mainly the Jews. Most of the merchandise was confiscated and sent, apparently, over the Dniester. Most of the residents were left without any means of support and had to live on their savings and the sale of various possessions. Craftsmen organized into cooperatives. Some of the youth continued to work and study, and others who couldn't find employment in Bricheva, were sent to work in Donbas. After some time imprisonments and deportations to Siberia took place. These included Mordechai Sandelman, Shalom Shpiegel, Matat Gutman, Avraham and Yosel Trachtenbroit, the Shpaiers, Yasha Delugatsh, Leib Tendler, David Alterman, Aharon Tzinman and others.

A delegate from outside of Bricheva, from a village called Kaitanovka, I think, served as the secretary of the Communist party in Bricheva. Publicity and propaganda activities were held in the hall of Aharon Tzinman. It was announced that everyone must attend and take part in the political assemblies.

The Hebrew section in the public library was burned and books in Yiddish and Russian were placed together. The Hebrew schools changed their orientation and content and the studies were held in Moldavian.

Unfortunately, the affliction of informing on others to the authorities spread and caused fear among the residents. However, these days of fear quickly became days of horror when the Holocaust arrived.

When the Romanians returned, who were preceded somewhat by the Germans, began the period of hell on earth for the Jews of the town. The first to be arrested were those who were known or suspected of being communists, after them just regular Jews without any reason or excuse. The arrested were assembled in the basement of

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Baruch Tiomni and were severely tortured. Among those who were shot and killed in the first days were, Yisrael–Aharon Kestelman and Sarah Aichis. Acts of horror like robbery, rape and murder occurred every day.

The deportation started in July 1941; it was carried out by the Romanians with the aid of the Germans. The principal of the school, Chibotaro, initiated collecting money to bribe the Romanians and thus to prevent the deportations. Indeed, those who gave money were not deported, but was only postponed for a few days. By the end, all the Jews were deported in groups of 150 to 300 persons, and the last group had more than one thousand people.

Most walked but a small number rode in wagons that were rented from farmers in the surrounding area at very high prices or in exchange for old clothes and jewelry. Here, it should be noted that the Russians when leaving the area didn't take any Jews with them, not even those who were members of the Communist Party.

The road to deportation lasted several months. We experienced horrors in the Rublenitz forest, in Vartozhan and in Kosautz. There, they divided our people into two groups who were sent on the road to Transnistria – one group went towards Vartozhan and the other group to Razins–Ribeniza. I was in the group that went to Vartozhan. It's difficult to describe what we endured all along the way – hunger, thirst, lice, physical and mental torture by those who were goading us on. I can still see the shocking picture of one of the mothers who had reached the end of her energy and threw her infant child by the side of the road. Also the picture of how Baila Zusman was tortured to death because she had gone out to spill some water in the street and was caught by the Romanians and the Germans. I can't forget the brutal scene when they gathered hundreds of men, women and children in the synagogue in Soroka where they were shut and locked in and left in starvation and thirst. Eventually, very drunk Romanians broke in and murdered and raped women and tortured parents and children.

Among those who were with us, I remember, Berl–Haim Yoels (Roizenblit), Shmuel Kestelman and his family, Baruch Tiomni, Velvel Gelman, and the brothers Shimon and David Gulirgant and their families, Natan Gutman, Mamtzi Edesman, the Tarnirider family, the Vitis family and Sonia Rozental.

Those deported from Bricheva were sent to a few camps in Transnistria, such as, Ovodovka, Bershad, Small Tchernovitz, Chichelnik, Krizhopol. From all these places people were sent every day to work for the Germans over the Bug River. Many of them did not return. The deported lived in stables, barns, ruined and abandoned houses and also in the homes of Ukrainian Jews.

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No food was distributed by the authorities. People sold their possessions for meager amounts of food or they had to steal some fruit and vegetables from fields and gardens. Despite the prohibition, some Jews worked undercover for the village farmers in return for small amounts of food.

In each camp there was a sort of Jewish Committee that administered the relations with the authorities. In the beginning there were still synagogues where the Jews assembled and prayed, but later they were destroyed; if a communal prayer was held it was in a private house. Many died, and their burials were handled by the Burial Society (Hevra Kadisha) of the veteran Jews of Bershad. There were mass burials, in carts, without shrouds, naked or wrapped in newspaper.

I stayed in the Bershad camp until May 1944; when Bessarabia was freed by the Soviets, we started walking from Transnistria toward Bricheva. For two weeks we passed through towns and villages. When we returned to Bricheva we found some neighbors, Davidovitz, David Gulirgant, Naftali Gelman, who helped us settle in. Most of the houses were in ruins that we had somehow to repair a bit so that we could live in them. Mainly we lived on the middle street. The living conditions were very difficult. We searched for some kind of work. I started to administer the school that was shared by Bricheva and Lalinovka. We found Christian families in town who worked in the flourmill and the oil factory. After a short time we started to look for opportunities to go to the big cities to find livelihood there, because in our town there was no possibility of economic maintenance.

(Written by C. Botnik)

Picture Caption: The monument in the cemetery of Bershad.


[Page 454 - Hebrew] [Page 455 - Yiddish]

We Survived by a Miracle

by Esther Shtiglitz (Tarnirider)/Bat Yam

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

In 1940, the whole town came out to greet the Soviets who were the first to reach us. Esther Goldenberg, then a member of the Communist party, went with us in the fields full of wheat and begged us not to trample on the grain since from that day it belonged to us…

After a few days, they started to reform the economy. Various cooperatives were established. In the Tarbut school, for instance, a cooperative bakery was formed; my father z”l was appointed the manager. He received strict instructions that the baking be done correctly, that is, that the bread should not be burned nor under baked. They also threatened him that if anyone complained about the quality of the bread, he would be the first to be imprisoned.

Within a short time all the private property was confiscated. After a while some Jews were deported to Siberia due to their “materialistic past” – Avraham Trachtenbroit, Meshulam Shpaier, Yosel Shpaier, Mordechai Sandelman, Matityahu Gutman and others. Nonetheless, the people of Bricheva adjusted to the new situation – and suddenly, on one clear day, the Russians left town and the Romanians and Germans came instead. They came from Baravoi and the Jews went out to receive them with bread and salt, as was common, but they refused to accept it and the first thing they did was to beat the people. At once a command was given, not to go out into the streets but to remain in the homes.

The next day, a machine gun was set up and the residents were warned that anyone who has a weapon should bring it to the authorities. Anyone violating this order would be shot. After no weapons were found among

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the Jews, the machine gun was removed. A few days later, it was announced that all must assemble in one place. We, who lived on the street leading to Gizdita, were the first ones to go out, without knowing where we would go. We walked day and night and our first stop was the Robelnitz forest. After that came Vartozhan where the residents of the town wanted to distribute slices of bread but the soldiers guarding us didn't allow it.

A Christian servant lived with Mazi Cohen. Before we left Bricheva, while we were gathered near the hospital, he brought us some food. The key to the house was left with him so he could guard the house until we returned… When we reached Rublenitz we took out the food he had brought, dried it in the sun and ate it slowly. We stayed there eight days. The farmers from the surroundings brought food to the camp and we traded our things for the food. However, if the soldiers guarding us noticed it we were beaten violently. We would cook food in cans that we found there using corn flour or plants growing around. Of course some of us got stomach–aches and diarrhea from it.

We were sent out from the Rublenitz forest to Vartozhan where every day people were sent out to work. We had to drag heavy rocks to pave the road and they made us work quickly, actually to run, and if we didn't do so they beat us. From Vartozhan to went to Kosoutz, where we stayed a few days and after that we went over the Dniester and walked a long way to Bershad. It was the time of the Succot holiday and it was cold outside so we were put in an empty kolkhoz.

The Jews in Bershad helped us very much with food and clothes. One evening emissaries from the Jewish community came and asked if there was a shochet among us. If so, they would intervene with the authorities to leave the shochet and his family there. R' Avraham the shochet was willing to stay but on a certain condition, that our family would also stay as we had walked all the way together and had suffered together.

The next morning an order was given to assemble so as to continue our journey. Then R' Avraham came to my father and said, “Don't go, hide yourselves and wait until the emissaries from the community arrive and will take us.” But my father was afraid that anyone caught would be in terrible trouble. When the emissaries came to take R' Avraham, we were no longer in Bershad.

We reached Piatkovka and also here we survived by a miracle. We would secretly go out to the villages in the area asking for a slice of bread or to do some work in return for food.

After a short time I fell ill and was bloated from lack of nutrition. Father would go with me from house to house to ask for a place to sleep, at least for me, but they didn't always consent.

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One evening, my brother Shalom and I decided to go back to Bershad. We awoke early in the morning and started to walk. Clouds covered the skies and it was cold and rainy. As we distanced ourselves from the camp we saw a Nazi officer riding on a horse coming towards us. I told my brother to cross over to the other side of the road and I would continue walking on this side so that it would not be obvious that we were walking together. The officer stopped me and asked where I was going. I answered to the kolkhoz. He let me go, but he sent my brother back because he told him he was going to Bershad.

After going a long way I sat down and cried not knowing what to do. Suddenly a nice carriage with some Nazis stopped. They asked where I was going. I answered, to Bershad. If so, they answered, we can't help you, we thought you were going to Piatkovka and wanted to give you a ride.

I kept walking in the direction of Bershad and met a Christian woman who was also going there. She knew that I was Jewish yet nonetheless offered to let me join her, without any fear. She would go over the bridge, where the soldiers were standing, with me and after that I could continue without any problem. And so it was and I arrived safely in Bershad.

When I arrived there, it was raining heavily. I looked for shelter in a house, however, unfortunately I was refused because I was covered with sores and the people feared that it might be a contagious disease. I went out into the street crying bitterly. A boy passed by and inquired whether I was, by chance, the sister of Gitman who was in town. I burst out in joy and the boy took me to my brother, however, the lady of the house wouldn't let me in as she feared that I had a contagious disease.

When we left that house, we met my brother Shalom, who had managed to reach town. We were very sad and bitter that we hadn't been able to find a house that was willing to take us in. With no other choice we returned that night to Piatkovka. I went up to the first lighted house we saw. A non–Jew came out to meet us, and welcomed us to his home. He gave us food and put us near the stove. As soon as morning came, we left him and returned to the camp.

A few days later our brother Gitman came and took us to Bershad because the heads of the community there wanted to gather as many people as possible. Slowly, we began to adjust to living there. After a time they began dealing in trade, mainly travelling to a town called called Florina and bringing back various items.

The Portnoi family from Bricheva were with us all the time. Their father, Laizer, died from hunger in Piatkovka, and the rest of the family travelled with us to Bershad. With great difficulty we found a small room, in which we all had to squeeze in. It was so crowded that at night, if someone wanted to turn over on his side, all of us had to turn to the same side. Their mother died from hunger in Bershad.

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We returned to Bricheva in 1944. A short time later we moved to Tchernovitz and in 1946 we went to Romania and lived in Yasi. My younger brothers, Yehoshua and Eliezer, went to Eretz Yisrael as part of the Aliyat HaNoar, Youth aliya. Eliezer joined the army and Yehoshua went to kibbutz Degania. Several months later my brothers Yitzhak and Yossi also came to Israel and lived with two families in Kfar Hess. After two years our parents came to Israel where they were reunited with their children and went to live in Gan Yavne.

My brother Yossi joined the army, Tzahal, in 1952 and reached the rank of Captain. He fought in the Sinai campaign and in the Six Day War – and was killed in El–Arish, leaving behind a wife and two children. Before his death he sent a poem to the newspaper Mabat Hadash, which was published after his death. These are his words:

In the shadow of the trees
Between the stones of the graves,
A widow stands.
And she has children,
Who are the victims –
Child victims of war.

(Recorded by S. Parnass)


[Page 462 - Hebrew] [Page 463 - Yiddish]

How my Parents Perished

by Ita Zimmerman (Yehudit Grinberg)/ Atlit

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

After our tiny town fell victim to the predatory “animals”, to the non–Jews in the area we remained with only our clothes on our backs; after everything was robbed, crushed and destroyed, the order was given to assemble the men, women and children in rows and thus began the deportation and the running through hills and valleys. Whoever made a mistake and fell back a bit behind the accompanying guards was abandoned to the arbitrariness and the mischief of the pre–military non–Jewish youth. These mainly stripped the faltering down to their underclothes and abandoned them. The first occurrence of this type happened with Berl and Lea'ke Roizenblit, who were left naked and barefoot.

After wandering in the burning sun and the tortures of the road, when people were falling by the wayside of unused roads, when the body and soul were dying for a drop of water, they brought us to the town of Vartozhan, where we found already thousands of families from other places. The fate of our family was that we were placed in a storeroom. Every morning the animalistic landowners came to push our father out to work and all this was accompanied by beating and cursing. It's impossible to describe the misery of my good and clean father. We accompanied him with tears in our eyes, but we weren't able to help him.

After six weeks of filth and hunger, suddenly an order was received that half of the town would be deported to Ribenitza, and the other half to Ukraine. We learned later that all those who were sent Ribenitza were killed and buried in a mass grave; none of them survived.

They began making us run to the Dniester, but before we reached it, they brought us

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to a forest and put the men to work. Romanian and German officers with whips pushed and goaded the men and tore everything they could. When my good father's turn came he was wrapped in a remnant of a blanket, they roughly removed him from his place and ordered him to run. My brother–in–law Notte Gelman, who had married my sister Bracha z”l, went and told them he would go in my father's stead. They responded, “If so, you also should come since you are young and strong.”

So together with the other Brichevians who were snared, these two were also taken. Three days and three nights we stood in the forest and awaited the return of our dear ones, but the expectancy was for naught. Later they rushed us to the Dniester and moved us over the river in boats. We later learned from the non–Jews what befell our dear ones. They were forced to dig pits for themselves and then they were shot and killed.

When we crossed the river, we were brought to a pig farm. Winter was coming, the rains began, snow, cold and frost came. People began dying like ants. My sister Bracha and I contracted typhoid. Also my poor mother contracted a difficult case of dysentery. All she asked for was a cup of hot tea! But who could help? Her tongue could barely move and we didn't understand what she said. She would scream and plead until she died of starvation, cold and pain. The next day we found her dead. I do not know what happened to her body because we were very sick and with a high fever, and we didn't know if she was buried.

They piled the rest of the sick who were still alive in huge wagons and on a cold, snowy day they brought us through endless forests to Bershad. They put us in a neglected ruined house.

Together with others from Bricheva (Dudu Gulirgant and his daughter Sima, his two grandchildren; Shimon Gulirgant, his wife Manya and their son Shlomo) we endured a terribly difficult winter. I recuperated but my sister did not have the strength to walk or even rise and stand. When spring arrived she died and I moved to my cousin Leah Melech–Gulirgant who lived then on a farm where she worked. My sister Roza brought me to her home in Mohilov, and we stayed there until our release.


[Page 466 - Hebrew] [Page 467 - Yiddish]

The Siberian Exile

by Hinda Sandelman/ Rishon LeZion

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

On June 22, 1940 the Russians entered Bessarabia; it was preceded by an announcement broadcast on the radio with instructions that everyone should dress in holiday clothes to welcome the Russians with happiness and rejoicing. Three days later they arrived in Bricheva. Obviously the leftist elements, the communists in town, helped the new authorities re–organize life in the town in all aspects. The first thing, they began collecting merchandise from the stores, and gold and expensive items from the homes. The rich homeowners were expelled from their homes, and the factories were expropriated from their owners.

The first ones who were forced to abandon their homes and their possessions were the Shpaier brothers, Aharon Tzinman, Nahman Roizenblit and others. They moved into small houses and crowded into the homes of their relatives. After a few weeks all the stores were closed and in their stead cooperatives were opened; one was for materials and fabrics in the store of Avraham Trachtenbroit, the second was a haberdashery for other goods in the store of Lernerman. The economic structure changed completely, and soon the worry of getting necessary items arose. Everyone tried to accumulate some food and clothes. The small factories began again to work although they were not able to hire many people. Therefore, many youth travelled away, even reaching Donvas, in order to find employment and a livelihood. Thus the residents began to adjust to a new reality.

The Hebrew schools of Tarbut, of course, became government schools where the language of instruction was Russian or Moldavian. Some of the teachers came from the town itself and others came from Russia.

[Page 468 - Hebrew] [Page 469 - Yiddish]

The head of the local council was Lipshitz and the secretary was Fruma Krimer, but the council had limited authority; the headquarters were in Tirnova.

About a year later a rumor spread that the authorities had prepared a list of 80 – 90 families who would be deported. In reality only ten families were sent away. On June 13, 1941 they were sent to Siberia, the men in one group and the women and children in another. They were sent to an unknown place that later turned out to be Siberia. When the deportation order arrived, each family was allowed to take only 20 kilograms of baggage. The deportees went to Tirnova where they were put in train cars used for cattle; the crowding was terrible, 70 – 80 people in one car, on the floor. During the day they travelled and at night the trains stayed on side tracks.

The trip lasted more than two weeks. The deportees were forced to sign a document that they were willing to settle in Siberia for twenty years. When they arrived in Siberia, each one began looking for employment. The work was very difficult and more than the strength of a person. Whoever could bear the physical work, survived and the others who could not adjust to the living conditions and hard work, quickly died. Every day 10 – 15 people died and were buried in a mass grave, without any marker; they did not receive a Jewish burial.

Among the families that were sent to Siberia, I will mention the following: Leib Tendler and his family, my father Mordechai Sandelman and his family, Dudl Paker and his family, Yossel Avraham and Yossel Trachtenbroit and their family, Yasha Delugatch and his family, Yakel Shichman and his family, Shalom Shpigel and his family, and others. All the men, except Shalom Shpigal who was paralyzed, and Yossel Paker, were not just deportees, but prisoners. The women and children found it hard to adjust and only after a year did we receive any news from them.

Our family was released only after seventeen years, and after my father z”l died there. The liberated families returned to Moldavia or Tchernovitz. What I remember is that Shalom Shpigel died in Siberia a short time after arrival and was able to receive a Jewish burial.

(Recorded by Yaffa Butnik and Shimon Parnass)


[Page 470 - Hebrew] [Page 471 - Yiddish]

What we Endured

by Bella Gutman, Nahalal

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

When the Russians entered Bricheva, all the property in town was confiscated. The wealthy families were gathered together and one night they were all sent to distant Siberia. My father, Avraham–Yossel, z”l, gave up all his possessions to the authorities from his own free will, both what he owned in Bricheva and also what was in Sikoran. All our family moved to Tchernovitz.

When the war began, we endured all the first horrors; in truth the Germans and the Romanians intended to liquidate all the Jews. My father, z”l, was caught and forced to dig pits with other Jews to bury the victims. He himself had to bury about one hundred Jews, and this completely destroyed his spirit. When we had to make a choice whether to hide in Tchernovitz or go to the camps, we preferred to go together with the Brichevians towards Mogilev.

The Brichevians stayed over for a while in the cities of Kopaygorod and Alta. We had with us only some packages of personal effects, which were examined before every move, and many of them were confiscated or just stolen. The enemy mainly tried to destroy documents and pictures. We didn't know where we were being led; we tried to stay together during the ten days that we walked.

When we reached Mogilev, we hardly found a place to stay. The crowding was terrible. There was no room even to exist. A general kitchen was in operation that gave each of us, once a day, a slice of bread and some soup. Goods were sent to Mogilev from Ataki and that caused a type of black market. That is, people traded with the farmers some items they still remained owned and received in return some goods.

[Page 472 - Hebrew] [Page 473 - Yiddish]

After a while a community committee was organized that represented us to the authorities, and the deportees always complained about it. There were no community activities; only on Shabbat the people gathered in some place to hold prayers.

The people were very weak and the number of dead rose. The dead were taken out to burial once a day, but no funerals were held.

I moved from the camps to Romania. And how? The Jews of Romania paid money to bring orphaned children from the camps to Romania. The license was given only for a small number of children, but more were snuck in. Various stratagems were used, like putting the children under the hay on the wagons. The fear was that perhaps the children would be caught and transferred over the Bug to the Germans, where death was awaiting them. The Romanian government in Transnistria was, at any rate, easier on us.

When the Russians conquered Romania, they demanded that the saved Jewish orphans be returned to them. Some were actually returned and others hid and succeeded later to reach Eretz Yisrael.

(Recorded by Zev Shtiglik)

Picture Caption: In line for the ferry to Transnistria.


[Page 474 - Hebrew] [Page 475 - Yiddish]

Far Away and Back

by Lea Gandelman-Lerner / Nazareth-Ilit

Translated by Elan Caspi
In memory of his wife's beloved parents - Shmuel and Lea Lerner

When the Soviets entered Bricheva in 1940 the atmosphere was electric because no one knew what tomorrow will bring. After the shops and businesses were nationalized the Jews had no livelihood. There was no work and the situation was grim. Then the Russians declared that people could register for work beyond the Dniester. Shmuel my husband and I agreed to go to the Caucasus, to the city of Grozny. When we arrived there, Shmuel worked as an electrician at a large prisoner camp. We worked at the camp until 1942.

When the battle front approached a decision was made to transfer the whole camp to the Ural Mountains, to Sobastroy near Sverdlovsk. We transferred with all the other workers. Such a long train journey was not easy. There were German airplane bombing most of the time and it was a miracle that we survived and arrived at our destination after much suffering.

At the end of 1944, when the Germans and Romanians were still in Kishinev, we returned to Bricheva. It had been very difficult for us to get used to life in the distant Ural mountains. But as long as Shmuel worked and our existence was assured we remained there. And then Shmuel had an accident; he was at a hospital for four and a half months and I was left with a little girl and no sustenance. About a year before we left the Urals we planted a vegetable garden that sustained us and even gave us the required sum to return home. We returned through Kiev and Mohilev in August 1944.

When we arrived we couldn't recognize the town. Many houses were ruined and those who returned had to live in them. The general sight was depressing: weeds grew in the middle of the streets; ruins everywhere, and among them those who returned from the concentration camps or the Soviet Union moved like shadows. I began to search for relatives and didn't find any. They had been killed…


[Page 476 - Hebrew] [Page 476 - Yiddish]

The Community that Disappeared

by Baruch (Buzi) Gorodetzki

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

I have before me a fragment of the shattered gravestone of my father with the letters Yosef…Ef. The hooligans in the area of Bricheva smashed the gravestone and many, many others. I took leave of the cemetery in Bricheva before I left for home, to Israel.

Yes, in Bricheva a destroyed cemetery remains; now a path runs through it that the nearby kolkhoz paved. Why through the cemetery, only the local authorities know.

During the past years I travelled to visit my father's grave in Bricheva, and so I did the last time before I went to Israel not long ago. From year to year I found the stones more ruined, more shattered and no one cares. I tried to apply about this matter in writing to the central authority and received no response. Isn't it enough that they liquidated the Jews in the Hitler years, but they have to take revenge even on the dead Jews?

I am looking now at the fragments of the gravestone, and thoughts and memories of the times I came to Bricheva in the last years rise before my eyes, while the Brichevians of the past were gone. I see in my mind the happy Bricheva of the past, the one surrounded by hills, those on the sides of Baravoi, Tirnova, and Gizdita. The wagon drivers had a very difficult time controlling the horses as they barely managed to get through the autumn mud. The wheels of the carriages creaked under the weight of the passengers who would argue about who would sit on the top bench or who didn't want to sit on the opposite bench.

No, there are no longer any small houses and the people are there no more. There is no teacher, R' Alter. To reach his heder we had to go down some steps into the basement. There was a little window there,

[Page 478 - Hebrew] [Page 479 - Yiddish]

whose height was just a few centimeters from the ground. Generations of children studied in this heder that was on the lower street not far from the bath–house. A stream flowed through the valley, much smaller than the Riout. Children aged 4 – 5 went to the heder, they didn't look at the clock. In the morning when the cows were put out to pasture, the children would run to heder, and they would go home when the cows returned. Whoever was lucky enough to scratch the legs of the rebbe, something he enjoyed, was allowed to go home early. We would also go home early if there was a case of “kriyat shema” (saying Shema Yisrael) for a woman giving birth. R' Alter would put on his holiday kapota and his festive hat and lead the children to the home of the woman.

Here is a later scene, with the teacher, Pini, where the children learned Hebrew. He truly wanted us to learn and so used various methods to teach us. One was the use of nicknames. I, for instance, was chubby with a full, round face and was called “jaws”. Haim Paker (who lives now in Siberia) was very thin and therefore was called “skinny bones”. Pini sometimes would hit us. Skinny bones would faint after the first smack. Then the teacher would get frightened and say, “You, don't go crazy.” And me he would send to get water quickly. But, I, who knew what was going on, wouldn't hurry at all.

I walk among the ruins near our old house. Where are the people? There's no Dudi Shlomo Shohats who used to pray in the synagogue of Shachne Weizman (“Bet Yehiel”), not far from our home. On Shabbat we would stand and wait while Shmaya the sexton went to call him, then R' Avigdor Edesman, the prayer leader started the prayers the sound of which still rings in my ears to this day. When I returned to Bricheva the first time after the war, I met R' Dudi together with another few Jews. He came with me to the cemetery, said the traditional “Ail malei rahamim” prayer and recited the “kadish.”

He gave me some books of Shalom Aleichem. He said, “Take them, Buzi'le, I hid them then and now I found them.” He himself died later in Siberia. They buried him as they did millions of Jews, like my mother Raiza, my grandmother Miriam, my aunt Eidel, my uncle Naftali, my uncle Laizer and my aunt Dinah'tzi, who was a dentist, with her children, and thousands of others.

I look around – gone are the gardens that used to slope down to the Riut. The Zionist youth used to sit on the grass under the trees and have conversations or dance accompanied by the croak of the frogs. Gone are the famous goats that used to gather around the house of Moina. Gone is the garden of R' Nisan Parnass. We, the children, used to pick his apples at great risk. Sometimes it cost us ripped pants, but the taste of

[Page 480 - Hebrew] [Page 482 - Yiddish]

the apples was the best in the world. Because of our torn clothes and the scolding we received at home, we decided to take “revenge” on R' Nisan. On the night of the Pesach seder, when he opened the door reciting “pour out thy wrath” instead of the prophet Eliyahu coming in, it was his goat, which we kids pushed in.

There is no sign of the field near our house where we used to play soccer all day. Vanished is the home of Aharon Tzinman, with his hall, where we watched the performances of Sidi Tal, Dina Koenig and even the Vilna Troup. There were also lectures and literary parties. And the youth, the youth filled the hall.

Yes, this was a happy, cultural town – that has disappeared. I would like to finish with a poem about the past that I wrote in Bricheva itself in 1956.

A Summer's Night in Town

Here bright torches are lit;
Couples are already going out of the gates.
The moon shines, the stars twinkle,
Worries are quiet, suffering is quiet.

The night envelops the valleys and forests,
The golden paths in the fields whisper.
The hearts sigh to each other in an oath,
An oath of trust for ever and ever.

The sound of words from tree to tree;
The river flows quietly and happily.
The air is clear and breathing is easy,
I am enchanted and dancing and hum a tune–––

–––The dawn rises in the east and glows,
It returns us to the daily worries.
The night, that induced rest and peace,
Is hidden–disappeared to some place as a dream.


[Page 482 - Hebrew] [Page 483 - Yiddish]

To my Mother

by Avraham Balaban/ Hulda

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

Two eyes lamps,
Hair pulled close to the head, as if tired.
Around the mouth accumulated during the long years
Sadness of the eyes.
The words cover their shadow
And lay in the room as pictures
Covered in dust.
She speaks to me.
She is not here.
Now she plays again
In her father's house, with the brothers,
Or with the blue eyed doll,
A low voice, rough.
My father, may his memory be blessed.
A distant place.
The warm bosom of mother.
Pinkele, Monia.
On soft fingers
She counts the names of six brothers,
And the eyes redden again from the smoke of the war.

During the lullabies she sang to me
I would hear sometimes
The face of her father, adorned with a long beard,
And he prays.
Six brothers. Who survived? Who remains?
Hah, who survived. Who remains.
The thorns of distant cemeteries,
The hair on her arms suddenly standing on end.
Father led the prayers in the synagogue,
When Pinkele was ill we all travelled to him,
To the hospital.
Later he recovered.
The eyes cloud for a moment.
Later the war broke out.
She is silent.
On her last journey
She goes alone.

[Page 486]

Picture

 

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