by D. L. Granovsky
Translated by Eti Horovitz
These we shall remember:
The fertile land in the devastated countries fertilized with the blood and marrow of the folk who believe in one God. The chain of torture, suffering, the blood and tears of the chosen people, the nation of prophets.
The vast fields strewn with graves of fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, thirsty for life and wishing for redemption.
The ashes. Ashes created by the incineration of one third of a nation; Living ashes of six million holy Children of Israel who once lived and existed among wild beasts; who were educated upon holy commandments, on values, and followed them carefully and correctly.
Among the waves of these ashes, I will dig, look for the shred of an organ or a remnant of a bone. With thirst, I shall mend and mend with my tears. The thousands of dear ones who were buried alive while the defiled soil trembled above them for days and days without rest; our chopped down Cedars, abounding with the freshness and vitality of youth; our tender flowers at the end of their childhood and their wondering eyes.
The best of our sons who died deaths of heroes whilst on their lips the song of life, creation and redemption. What other nation has suffered so?
And heaven was not shaken, and the revenge is yet to come, and their world has not been darkened, and their arm has not been cut off, and their pride has not been shattered, and their home has not been destroyed like our home, and their children were not torn to shreds like our infants, and they didn’t lose their minds, and they are not crying for their families like us a nation of survivors.
And what if we shall shout?
Along the altars we have built in our long path, we will be silent! And we will stand alone with the memory of our fallen in the forest of the Martyrs and we will become one in the passion of our pain and grief, and our tears will join with the tears of generations. A forest of Martyrs on the way to the eternal Jerusalem. A monument we have built for the memory of the Holy Ones of Dubossar and surrounding areas. Its trees will blossom and grow, and will become a thick forest in which the souls of our precious ones will be tied to them and they will be like the continuation of their lives. Their names and memories will exist and be illuminated forever. And when we will come to this sacred place we will pour out our bitter words and we will pray that their souls will join with the souls of the holy ones of our people.
Yisgadal v’yiskadash shemaei raba (prayer for the departed)
(These words were taken from a speech given at the Martyrs’ Forest
in memory of the martyrs of Dubossar and surrounding vicinity.)
by Arkady Timor
Translated by Eti Horovitz
The October Revolution and the following years fundamentally changed the lives of everyone in Russia, in Dubossar and especially the lives of the Jews in it. The nationalization of private property and the means of manufacturing created problems in work arrangements and work relationships.
The Jews were not able to solve these problems themselves but had to co-ordinate with the general policies initiated by the Soviet Union. Even though these policies were extreme, the Jews of Dubossar carried them out in the best way under the circumstances. In this case, I do not refer to the agricultural sector, which I will discuss later. The primary units of industries and manufacture in Dubossar were Artels co-operatives of professionals. Even though the local authorities supervised them, there was also some freedom of creation. In Dubossar there were the following Artels:
The Craftsmen Artel whose members were tailors, hatters, leather industrialists, furriers and seamstresses who were called underwear-makers. This Artel was organized by Idel Tzveighaft, Itzik Barenboim and Isaac Schrier (the three of them were murdered by the Germans).
The Artel of the needle workers (cutters of the upper part of shoes), the shoemakers and the piercers. Its organizers were Abraham Livnet (died 1961) and Idel Plum (died in the Siberia deportation because of Zionist activity). Most of the production of this Artel was aimed at the foreign market.
The Artel of the barrel makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, locksmiths, tinsmiths and other professionals of this field. Even in 1936 this Artel was the foundation of machine repairing factories, a workshop of carpentry products and a factory of military vehicles. The other departments served only Dubossar and its surrounding areas. This Artel and the factories that followed it were organized by the Lindenboim brothers (murdered by the Germans) and the Zemel brothers (the older one murdered by the Germans) and by Yitzchak Belfer (killed in the front against the Germans).
The General Service Artel, whose members were the barbers, the watchmakers, the painters, the washers, etc. Its organizers were Idel Ladzinsky (died 1958) and Samuel Tzolsky Vaktzker (died 1941).
The chain of commerce was in the hands of the government. The government also held the tobacco factory, the dairy, two factories for fruit preparation, two wineries, brick factories, the flour mill, the butter factory and other factories that were not only managed by Jews but most of the employees were Jewish as well.
The construction workers (more than 60% were Jews) and the miners (in the Big Fountain district) were organized in one organization close to the town's council.
I can safely say that from 1922 to 1941, the industry of Dubossar took a big step forward. The extensive electricity mains and water pipes system significantly changed the appearance of the town. Until the Second World War about 2,000 Jews worked in the factories in Dubossar, with approximately 1,800 of them labourers.
The situation in the agricultural field was different, in fact, it was a total failure. At first, there were attempts to forcibly create agricultural communes. Moshe Weiner arranged the first commune in Okna. Twenty-six families from Dubossar were sent there. The second commune was arranged in Yagorlik. Those two communes failed during their first year and their residents went back to Dubossar worn out, thin and starving. Some of them were deported to Siberia due to Failure in Agricultural Operations. One of the victims of these communes was Chaim Kiner, who died in Siberia. From 1930-1931, the first sample Kolkhozes were established in Dubossar, Lung, Cochiery and other places. These settlements specialized in growing tobacco, grapes, fruit and vegetables. Jews took part in each of these fields. Until the beginning of the war, there were about 200 Jewish families from Dubossar indirectly associated with agricultural labour in the kolkhozes and sobkhozes. Among them were the following families: Greenberg, Imas, Barenboim, Shulkleper, Feitel, Wolf and others who lost their lives in the ghetto of Dubossar.
This review does not intend to analyze the outcomes of the kolkhozes and sobkhozes, but factually, I must mention that despite the great effors of their members, they never could accomplish the level of agriculture production of 1914. In 1930 and 1935 there was great hunger in Dubossar. There was no bread, no meat and no vegetables. Thousands of hungry people could only dream about mamaliga (a popular dish made of corn). People walked around swollen with hunger and many starved to death. In our town, 100 people died of hunger. Keep in mind that those were times of peace.
During the years 1922-1941, the Jews of Dubossar were known for their passion for education, especially the children and youngsters. In addition to a Russian school, a Ukrainian school and a Moldavian school, there were four Jewish schools in Dubossar where the studies were conducted in Yiddish. The level of education in the Jewish schools was high and most of the graduates continued their studies in technical high schools and in higher educational institutes. It is interesting that even though there were enough open spaces in the Russian, Ukrainian and Moldavian schools, many non-Jewish children studied in the Jewish schools because of their high level. Of those, 11 of the graduates of the Jewish schools in Dubossar were 6 Russians, 3 Moldavians and 2 Ukrainians who then graduated successfully in their studies at the Jewish Technical University in Odessa (on 71 Kantana Street). Three of them became engineers.
Up until the outbreak of the war, 1,610 Jewish children graduated from the Jewish schools in Dubossar. 912 of them continued their studies and graduated from professional high schools and higher educational institutions in Odessa, Kiev, Krakov, Moscow, Leningrad and other cities. 38 students of the Jewish schools graduated from military academies and achieved the rank of officer. There were 23 doctors, 41 teachers, 54 engineers, 18 agronomists, 4 archeologists, 361 technicians of all kinds and many other professional experts that contributed to the Soviet society.
The most mentionable Dubossarers are my colleagues: the excellent scientist the scholar Pavlov, the professor Yosifovich Bernboim, the famous mathematician Boris Leibovich Shternberg, one of the engineers who built the Moscow Metro (subway), -David Abramovich Zemel (died close to Moscow in 1941), the steam turbine expert - Abraham Yosifovich Shulkleper, the ship engineer Jacob Davidovich Goryevsky, the surgical doctor Dora Yefimovna Saditsky and more. Private schools for religious education existed in Dubossar until 1929. From 1930, religious education was officially forbidden.
At that time, they also started to close down synagogues and turned them into warehouses (the Main Synagogue, the Attendants Synagogue, the Synagogue on the Gypsies' street) or into workshops (the Craftsmen Synagogue and the Old Synagogue).
In the synagogue that was next to the new market, a club was built. After closing the synagogues, the Jews gathered for prayers in private houses. Until 1941, there was a shochet (ritual slaughterer) and most of the Jews consumed kosher meat. Although the education seemed Jewish (it was taught in Yiddish) and continued until 1941, it no longer reflected any Jewish national value. Even in the twenties any Jewish deviation was persecuted and during the thirties all Jewish content had disappeared. Still, no draconian rules could silence the Jewish hearts. The Jews celebrated the Jewish holidays, kept the Mitzva of circumcision and other Jewish rituals. The national Jewish identity had left its mark upon the lives of the Jews in Dubossar after all.
A rich collection of Yiddish books was found in the public library, which was managed by the comrade G. Grodzinsky (who was hung by the Nazis for Partisan activities). Literary gatherings were held in that library, with participation of various Jewish writers. In Dubossar, there was extensive artistic activity that appealed also the non-Jewish public. The best Russian theatres from Moscow, Kiev and Odessa played in Dubossar. The writers David Bergelson, Peretz Markish, Otkin, Leib Kwitko and others were frequent visitors to Dubossar. In one of the meetings with the Jewish youth of Dubossar where we participated as students who came especially from Odessa, the great actor, Shlomo Mikhoels said: You, the people of Dubossar, are strong and we are proud of you. I will never forget those words of our great actor who was murdered by Stalin's people.
An important part in nurturing the Jewish consciousness of the Dubossar Jews was the model Jewish hospital and the good maintenance of the old and new cemeteries. Dr. Kalman, who died in the Dubossar Ghetto, managed the Jewish hospital for many years. It served also the non-Jews of the area and gained the status of one of the high authority medical institutes of the area. While speaking on the subject of medical assistance, I must mention the paramedic Frucofance, the devoted and loyal Israel sympathizer, who assisted Jewish families for many years. Day or night, rain and storm, he was always there to help the sick and suffering. When he died in 1938, thousands of Jews, young and old, accompanied him in his funeral. Everybody felt obligated to pay their last respects to this kind and noble man Frucofanco.
I will allow myself to mention also the dentist, David Yefumovich Weintroib a warm-hearted Jew who took upon himself the task of guarding the Jewish spark in our town. Jewish ceremonial weddings were held in Dubossar all those years. I remember how the Moldavian violinist, Diorda, played with his musicians The Seating Of The Bride dance and how they accompanied the departing guests until dawn with hearty Jewish tunes filled with joy and melancholy. Diorda died in 1948. This talented Gypsy musician was known as a faithful friend to the Jews during the dark days of the German occupation. Heroically, while risking his own life, he helped the Jews. Up to these days, I can hear his Yiddish speech, fine speech, spiced with Jewish humour with traces of melancholy.
Besides hunger, the Dubossar Jews suffered other calamities before the outbreak of the war. Twice, in 1937 and 1941, many know public activists and Zionists wre detained as part of massive arrests. In 1937, the following captured and then shot: The Malkis family, Idel Plum, Veloil Zemel, Jacob Tolmatsky, Berl Steinberg, the brothers Chaim and Aaron Belfer, The Goryevsky family, Chaim Dunievsky and others. All together 48 people were arrested and only two remained alive.
In 1940, right after the annexation of Bessarabia to the Moldavian Republic, more than 60 people were arrested. No official charges were filed and no public trials were held. Among the victims of these arrests were Velvl Katzker and his son Gregory, Yankel Gurevich, the Lipshein brothers, Moshe Kishiniovsky, Lea Shragorodskaya, Aaron Trachenberg and others.
A great loss to the Jews of Dubossar was the killing of two of its famous sons General David Urman and his brother, Colonel Abraham Urman. The brothers Motel, David and Abraham Urman were raised as orphans. During the First World War, while servingin the Czarist Army, David Urman performed as a highly brave, gifted military man. He won three Geiorgy Awards. Right after the Revolution, he received his officer rank following his graduation from the Military Academy of high-ranking Headquarters. He achieved one of the highest possible ranks. He was appointed Deputy Commander of the Soviet armies in the Far East, second in command to Marshal Blucher. His younger brother, Abraham managed, as a military engineer, the fortification works at the Russian-Chinese border. In 1937, David Urman was unjustly accused of spying. He was captured and shot to death. His brother, Abraham, could not consent to his arrest and when they came for him, he shot himself in the chest. David's widow and son are living now in one of the Russian towns.
Special trading centers named 'Turgasin' were established in Russia during the thirties. These trade centers held the best quality of merchandise that was sold in exchange for dollars or gold. The Soviet Union needed dollars and gold at that time. Trade centers of this kind were also opened in Odessa and Tiraspol. Many Jews of Dubossar, who received dollars from their relatives in the USA, Canada and other countries, enjoyed the services of these official and state trade centers.
In 1938, for approximately six months, Russia conducted punishment campaigns called 'Gold Fever', where innocent buyers as well as people who did not buy anything were arrested and were held until they were bailed out with dollars (whether or not they had any). Only with dollars would the authorities pardon the 'sins' of those who did not have dollars and who had to sell their last belongings to buy the dollars that would free their dear ones.
And the Dniester kept on flowing; the river didn't hear and didn't see; the vineyards spread out to the horizon along with the the green apple and walnut trees. Lives were full of fear and danger, sometimes unbearable. The people, our people, the Jews of Dubossar, lived their lives bravely, unable to know the horrible destiny they would face.
In the beginning of 1941, among the 20,000 residents of Dubossar, about 8,000 were Jews. The majority of the employed Dubossar Jews were occupied in local industry` and some of them in the Kolkhozes, Sobkhozes and in the Tractor Stations. 80% of the local educated professionals (doctors, teachers, accountants, etc.) were Jews. There were over 4,000 Jewish children and teenagers below the age of 18, and 1,500 over 60 years. In Dubossar, there werepeople who also lived to be over 100 years old. Among them were: Chaike Kishinevska who was 105 years old, Velvil Belfer who was 102 years old, and Chaim Kalinovsky who was 102 years old. All of them were killed in the Ghetto that the Nazis built in Dubossar.
On June 22 1941, Germany started the war against the Soviet Union. Dubossar was air bombed on the first day of the war, and our first war victims died that day. The Jews of our town were realistic enough to anticipate what would happen despite the fact that the Jews, like the rest of the USSR citizens, did not know the truth about the horrible actions of the Nazis since the Molotov-Riventrup agreement on 1939. Even though for many years the Dubossar Jews had good work relations with the German citizens of nearby regions, most of them decided to leave behind their homes and everything they had achieved over many years and move east.
The members of the special committee that handled the evacuation were: Isaac Orbuch, Baruch Bendarsky, Lea Barzovskya, Mordechai Mechinovsky, Ida Schuster and Shlomo Yusim. The major problem in organizing the evacuation was transportation. The local authorities and the head military commandment recruited almost every means of transportation for the clearing of the archives, the industrial equipment and the gasoline stocks (Benzene and Diesel oil). For the migration of the Jewish residents they appointed two old cars, one tractor with a cart and six carts with horses. These vehicles were not enough even for transferring the sick. So the thousands of Jews from Dubossar, our fathers and mothers, our sisters and brothers, women carrying their babies, went ahead marching east.
During the first days of the war, the military drafted more than 1,300 boys and girls from the Dubossar Community. The Germans aimed their attacks north of Dubossar using the following forces: the third Armenian corps of the fourth camp, the fifth Armenian corps and the 26th Romanian corps. The northern division moved ahead towards Leveznensk, and the southern division turned towards Odessa. Heavy forces of tanks and aircraft supported the attack. The Russian forces that acted heroically, tried every possible defense, but had to retreat. While crossing the Dniester in several places, the Germans proceeded east and southeast. At the end of July 1941, they reached the southern Bog border and severed all the roads leading east.
Thousands of Jews from Dubossar and the surrounding areas, exhausted from the long walk and the persistant hunger, were chased back west to the Dubossar Ghetto. Even while they were walking back, on their way towards their total destruction, the German Commandant already started applying the monstrous plan of exterminating the Jews, with the active assistance of the majority of Ukrainians and the local Germans. The Selection was performed during this walk. They separated children from their parents, the sick from the healthy, the elderly from the young. Those who could not walk were immediately shot.
Quarantine camps were built at the entrance of Dubossar, beyond the roads leading to Balta and Tiraspol. Pregnant women and old people were forced to dig their own graves and were immediately shot at the site. By the middle of August, 400 people were murdered that way. Esther Imol was murdered during the last month of her pregnancy, and into the pit that was her grave, they threw alive her 3 year old son and her old mother. The Moldavian, Sekortol from the village Longi, who was one of the eye witnesses to the murders of the Jews, told me that they forced a group of old people to tighten with their feet the fresh grave of the murdered Jews. The elderly lay at the edge of the grave and did not move. The Germans ran over their bodies with tractors. They brought another group of people, and again, over the bodies of the old Jews, went a heavy tractor.
Thus, the brave Jewish Community of Dubossar was sentenced to brutal death. At the end of August 1941, the Dubossar Ghetto was built and over 600 of the Jews from our town were imprisoned in it and the road for their salvation was blocked and sealed. The ghetto in Dubossar was concentrated in the heart of the town, in the streets leading to the Dniester and the area called 'The Gypsy Triangle'. Each zone of the ghetto was divided into three camps and they were all fenced with electrical wire. The guards were Ukrainian police officers from the region and different divisions of the S.S. Two of the camps were intended for those Jews who were able to perform physical work, and the third one was for those who were destined to be killed first.
The people in the Ghetto were deprived of everything. They were deprived of the elementary living conditions. There were hardly any food and water and there was no medical aid at all. Upon organizing the Ghetto, the Germans decided to establish a Jewish self-administration and to hand over the internal guarding to Jewish Kapos. We can say, to the credit of of the Dubossar Jews, that the Germans were not able to tempt any of them to co-operate. No traitors were found among them. Furthermore, no one bowed his head to the German murderers!
We shall honor and glorify you, our brothers, the brave people of Dubossar.
Due to the lack of cooperation with the Germans, they hung, in the public park, Yankil Leibovich, Doctor Fine, Ruben Levin and the Isaac Brothers, Idel and Moshe Bernboim. I will mention one more thing: From the first day of the occupation, the famous group of Partisans started to operate. Its leader was the Dubossarer Yankil Guzinsky. Their attacks were very painful for the Germans. Among other actions carried out by this group, I will mention: bombing of the Dniester bridge, bombing the local power station, and other locations. The members of this underground group also organized the transporting of food and medical supplies into the ghetto.
One night, not so far from the "Valley of Death", where those brave ones who would not cooperate were killed, they hung the council's chairman, Metbienko.
The suppression in the Ghetto got worse every day. The local police were placed in the house of the Malkises, where the well-known sadist, Demanchuk, worked. (After the war, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and now he is walking around, free, in Moldavia). Once, after one of his frequent intoxications, he took three Jewish girls to one of the rooms on the second floor 16 year old Raia Tzelnik, 15 year old Mania Rabinovich and 18 year old Velia Reisman. He tore their dresses from their bodies, tossed them through the window and shot them as they were falling down.
Human beings, Remember this forever!
Shlomo Tumashin had beehives. The Germans locked him in a room and put in several swarms of bees. Without any food or water, stung by the bees, he died with dreadful torments a few days later.
At the beginning of 1941, the Germans seized about 600 Jewish elderly, brought them to the former synagogue, blocked the doors and widows, and burned them alive with everything that was inside. An eyewitness of this horrible death, the violinist Diorda, told me many years later: I only heard sounds of praying and the noise of the breaking fire. Then, the ceiling collapsed. I could not bear it anymore and I ran as fast as I could.
Doctor Worobiov's wife, who passed near the Craftsmen's synagogue at the time, saw how the officers tried several times to light the building and the fire went out a few times. Finally, they poured gasoline on top of the entire building, and the flames flared up completely. She also heard the praying voices rising from the burning building.
On the following nights, Jacob Guzinsky and one of his men killed the German chief and the anti-Semitic woman Sonia Kogotanco, who was one those who co-operated with the Nazis. A second group, commanded by Aaron Dorfman, blew up a big military equipment warehouse located close to the old Jewish cemetery. After these acts of retaliation and some others, the Germans began to grasp the nature of the Dubossar Jews. Often I wondered about General Kobpek's Partisans, who were located nearby. I could not understand why they did not try to save the Jews from the Ghetto. They did not help them at all.
At the beginning of September 1941, the Germans finished all their preparations for the mass destruction of the Ghetto in Dubossar. They chose a field outside of town, on the way leading from the Russian-Parboslavian cemetery to the 'Great Fountain' as the place of murder. In normal times, this was a favorite traveling road for the Jews. The shooting lasted day and night. They dug holes of 50 meters length and 4 to 5 meters width. They intended each hole for 1,500 people. People were brought to the holes and shot at the edges. Killed and wounded, dead people and living people were buried together in one enormous mass grave. One man, living today in the town of Tiraspol, Cheven, told me They shot day and night, non-stop. According to the shooting, one could think there was a great battle going on over there.
On September 10, the 'Women's Rebellion' broke out. Jewish women, mothers and wives, demanded to be taken to die with their families. They dropped themselves down on the ground and refused to get up. The Germans shot the children and the women didn't got up. The Germans gave up. They starting taking complete families to be killed together. At the end of September 1941, the day after Yom Kippur, the extermination of the Dubossar Jews was completed. Only one woman, Hanna Paskar, survived miraculously. She went mad and died near the time of the liberation of the city by the Red Army.
According to the Government Committee investigating the horrific actions of the Germans, the numbers of people buried in the first four graves (there were totally 12), is estimated to be 6,000. So there are 6,000 Dubossar Jews buried there. The committee also confirmed that the Germans abused the bodies of the murdered after they died. They pulled out gold teeth, took away their clothes and more.
Until the end of 1943, the Germans brought many Jews to the ghetto in Dubossar and there killed them. From Odessa and Kishinev, from Tiraspol, from Balta and Ribnitze, and even from Czechoslovakia, they brought Jews to Dubossar to be murdered. That way, Dubossar become a huge cemetery for 18,500 Jews.
As was mentioned before, over 1,300 young Jewish boys and girls from Dubossar joined the military. In addition, over 600 of the Jewish students from our town, who studied in Odessa, in Kiev and in other towns, and many of those who managed to escape from Dubossar also joined the armed forces. By the outbreak of the war, over 2,000 of the Dubossar Jews, about 25%, were part of the military. Approximately 900 of them lost their lives in battle. I must mention, that every one of the Jewish Dubossar soldiers, up until the very last of them, received honor awards or medals for their bravery.
More than 200 of them were officers. Elia (Eliahu) Leibovich Pesis was a Major General in the artillery corps; David Grigorovich Glozberg was a Colonel. He lost his life while commanding a tank brigade attacking Posnan; Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Leibovich Litmanovich who served in the Air Force, downed 11 German aircraft during battles. In one of the battles, his plane was shot down and he was critically injured. After a long struggle for his life that lasted more than a year, he died at the end of the war and was buried in Moscow. The commander of the Partisan group, Jacob Guzinsky, died with the people in the Ghetto in the arms of his family after being mortally wounded.
Heroism is probably innate in the Urman Family. At the beginning of the war, 50 years old Motel Urman joined the frontier. His daughter, Riva, also volunteered and served as a Medical Corps instructor in the Tank Squad. She saved many wounded and was injured herself three times; Motel Urman's son Vladimir was the commander of a transportable Artillery Battalion. Several days before the end of the war, he died in the battle at Berlin. They granted him six awards and medals. The brothers Liova and Yitzhak Livnet were exceptionally courageous. Liova was an electrician in a submarine in the Baltic Navy. On one of the voyages to the coast of Germany, the submarine was sunk and Liova died. Yitzhak Livnet, Captain in the Soviet Army, was a commander of a brigade and was killed on October 1942 in Stalingrad.
Monia Bondiriov, a Major in the Soviet Army, was a commander of a Bomber Squad at the front in Leningrad. He performed over 100 flights. On January 1943, during the battle to break the siege of Leningrad, his plane was downed and he was killed.
Misha Shkolnik, an Officer of the Soviet Army, was wounded during one of the battles in the Minsk District on June 1944. It was the fourth time he was injured. However, Misha did not leave the battlefield until the enemy retreated. I saw Misha Shkolnik after the war. He was unrecognizable. His face was mutilated and changed completely. Only Mishka's good and brave eyes remained. And so was his spirit. Well Done, Misha!
Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Rashkovan, the commander of a brigade, had maintained a high level of performance in the military. He was granted many awards and medals. I would like to dwell on the role of the Dubossar Jews in the defense of Odessa. The special Soviet Coast Guard had retreated down the Dniester towards Odessa due to extensive pressure by the fourth Romanian Corps. On August 19, Odessa was surrounded. It was very difficult to protect the city, because the supply of ammunition and food could only arrive through the Black Sea and then, only in limited quantities. During that time, there were 182 Jewish students from Dubossar in Odessa, and all of them willingly joined the forces. The battle for Odessa lasted 68 days. 54 of the Dubossarian students lost their lives defending the city. Yefim Dunayevsky, a 3rd year student in the Odessa University, was the commander of one of the major defense units in Fersip Area. In one of the battles, he was mortally wounded and died within an hour.
On December 1944, when I was at the front, I received a letter from one of the Dubossar girls, Lena Tulmatsky (I have kept the letter until these very days). Below are some paragraphs of her letter:
Very few of us remain. 99% were shot and buried alive. Our friends are no longer with us; our dearest ones are gone. Avenge us Arkady! Revenge for all the torments we are going though! On January 29 1942, my husband was killed during the battles of Krakow, and I became a widow at the age of 22. Do not spare the enemy! This is not only I who ask. I am asking on behalf of all the widows, all the orphans, on behalf of the thousands of our tortured. Revenge!Later in this letter, Lena referred to our warrior friends:
Dear friends! Avenge the death of Arkady's wonderful mother, avenge the death of his little brother, his two younger sisters. Vengeance for me too. You see, I also desire happiness. Vengeance for thousands of women like me. Well, the Jewish soldiers from Dubossar did take revenge, courageously, at every frontier.Finia Glozberg and Esther Bandersky started a committee to search for Dubossarers in Bozulok during the war. These noble people had a very important task. After an exhausting 12-hour day of labour, they made the effort of sending hundreds of letters throughout all of the country, searching for the people of Dubossar. Whenever they found someone, they informed everyone else about him. In addition, they assisted each son of Dubossar that came across their area, close to Bozulok, to settle down. This committee also collected information about the soldiers, and sent them modest but precious gifts.
At the end of March 1944, the Second Ukrainian Frontier Corps reached the border of Dubossar and heavy battles took place. On August 30, 1944 the 52nd Corp battalion, under the commandment of General Lieutenant Korotiev, coordinating with the Sixth Tank Brigade, started the decisive campaign to release the town from the Nazi Occupiers. The town was indeed released, but its 8,000 Jews did not live to see the liberation. The Jewish Section was burned down, destroyed. The chimneys protruded from the destruction like pillars. It was almost impossible to recognize the town. Some of the tombstones in the graveyard were shattered and the fences were broken. The factories and workshops were completely destroyed. The town was a ruined place. From every corner, from each pile, the voices of the tortured screamed silently. An Acacia grew in the yard of my home (that was also the yard of the Litmanoviches), and around it, I saw piles of stones Only stones.
The remaining Jews started returning to Dubossar on October 1944. Among them were the war invalids: Aaron Belfer, David Ladginsky, the Greenbergs, Abraham Sokolnik and Abraham Tukman. Thirty-six families 80 people returned. Some of the Dubossar survivors did not return at the end of the war, but settled in Eastern Europe and in Siberia, (about 40 families), in Kishinev, Riga, Moscow, Leningrad and in other places. Today, there are 200 families of Jews from Dubossar, living throughout Russia. The very few Jews returning from the war felt it was their obligation to humanity and to history to commemorate the thousands of martyrs, and to renew the community life in our town.
On July 1945, the old soldier, Motel Urman, came back to Dubossar. Motel was an extremely gracious and vigorous person. Soon he also became known for his excellent organizational skills and his brave struggle for the honor of the Jewish people. I said "brave struggle because it took great effort to fulfill the tasks he took upon himself. The economic situation of the people who were returning was very poor. There were no apartments. There were not any jobs and no food. Under these conditions, Motel Urman started the activity of the Jewish Committee on August 1945. One of their assignments was reconditioning the apartments for the returning people and arranging for heaters for the winter. (This was not an easy task).
When winter came, they somehow managed to find housing for everyone and then in December of 1945, the Dubossarers living in the USA, Canada and Argentina started sending their support. This assistance literally saved many from hunger. When they had managed to provide appropriate living conditions, they decided it was time to renovate both of the cemeteries the old one and the new one. They also wanted to give a dignified appearance to the "Valley of Death" of the Dubossar Jews. This was one of the most difficult missions they faced because the local authorities had explicitly disapproved of the committee's plan. While the Prevoslavic cemetery had already been renovated, the military cemetery repaired, and the monument for the "Anonymous Soldiers" had been built in the park, the burial place of the Jews was still wild with weeds.
After a long correspondence and many travels to Kishinev and to Moscow, Motel Urman got the approval for renewing the Jewish Cemeteries the old and the new, and to build a fence around the location of the mass murder of the Jews. In 1956 the people of Dubossar who served as officers in the Soviet army, requested from the Soviet Union Marshal, G. K. Zukov, to assist them to commemorate the 18,500 Jews that were murdered in Dubossar. After several days, the local authorities granted their authorization to build a monument to the memory of the eighteen thousand Soviet citizens from Dubossar, that lost their lives during the war. "Soviet citizens", without mentioning the word Jewish.
The funds were raised among the Jews from Dubossar who were spread across Russia, as well as from those who lived in USA and Canada. In 1957, I flew to Dubossar specifically in regards to the building of the momentum. When I asked if it would not be more appropriate to add to the words "Soviet Citizens" the word "Jewish", and also add to the inscriptions that were there in Russian and in Moldavian, an inscription in the Jewish-language, I was accused of being a "Bourgeois-Nationalist"! My high military rank, my 14 pledges, my 5 times being injured in battle none of those helped. I must admit this was one the hardest blows I suffered and it hastened my return to Judaism.
The fence around the area where the mass killing took place, 800 meters long, was built twice, and twice was ruined by those who were foraging for housing material. Nevertheless, the committee and its chairman Urman did not give up. Instead of stone substructures, they laid out concrete and dug around it a deep canal. This is how the fence appears today: Eighteen pits protected by 60 cm high concrete walls. A low fence with a deep canal around it surrounds the entire area. At the entrance, in the middle of the pits there is a statue of a soldier holding a machine-gun, kneeling down with his face lowered toward the graves. Next to him stands a little grieving girl.
The committee and its chairman, Motel Urman, maintain a connection with all of the Dubossarers in Russia. They also keep in touch with all of those who were hospitable to the Jews of Dubossar during the war, in Siberia, the Urals and Middle Asia. They are often sending them letters and gifts of produce from Moldavia. We must forever remember the compassion and self-sacrifice of those people, to whom we shall be grateful for all time. Thank you, Kind Russians from Siberia, the Urals, and Middle Asia for sheltering and feeding our brothers and sisters during the difficult years of the war!
Our old Dubossar no longer exists. Its ruins are covered with weeds; its chimneys, that seem like tombstones have disappeared. In its place, we have built the new Dubossar. A hydro-electrical power station was built 1.5 kilometers north of Dubossar. Between "the Small Fountain" and the Cocheers is the living zone. The Jewish cemetery is at the heart of the living zone. Most of the families who came back are living in reconstructed houses from the old Dubossar. They are not re-building Dubossar as it was.
In an empty field near the house of the Mulokshers a bus station was built. Four times daily there is a bus to Kishinev, and three times to Tiraspol. Once a day, a bus travels towards Kotobesk (Birzula) and Balta. A new bridge was built over the Dniester River at Lunga. A port was built in the river (near Kiner Gardens), and light boats sail from there to Grigoriopol and to Bender. From the port near the hydro-electrical station, it is possible to sail to Rivnitze. In the old mill's location, there are car repair shops. There are three cinemas and a few clubs in Dubossar. The tobacco factory was enlarged significantly, and so were the fruit drying and other agricultural industries.
These days, there are 150 Jews among the 25,000 residents of Dubossar. One hundred and fifty Jews out of a population of 25,000 people, as opposed to 8,000 Jews among 20,000 residents before the war. There are no Jewish schools in Dubossar, no Jewish library or Jewish hospital. There are hardly any Jews, and there is no Jewish atmosphere. The typical atmosphere of old Dubossar, the known andbeloved Jewish Dubossar - is lost for good. Some of the old people gather for prayers in private houses and life goes on. A new generation is growing up that will know about our beautiful heroic lives only from the stories of the seniors.
The Jews in Dubossar are working in different jobs. Some of them are working in the hydro-electrical station, which supplies electricity also to Kishinev, Tiraspol and Odessa. There is an eternal sadness in the eyes of every Jew. Each stone in Dubossar is screaming. Each stone is brushed with the blood of the Jews.
Every year, on Yom Kippur, the Jews from all over Russia gather for the Memorial Prayer for the Dead. I came to say goodbye to Dubossar on Yom Kippur Eve, before I left Russia. We walked in silence from one ruined place to another and we thought of scenes from the past. We walked holding each other's hands, dreading the moment of departure, although we knew, in our hearts, that we would be together again. Present were the soldier Yefim Zemel, and Fima Granovsky the son, an excellent engineer in the flour industry. There was Misha Finezilberg, the metal expert- his gray head bent and his wide shoulders secretly shaking. There were Doctor Rashkovan and Riva Litmanovich, the daughter of Leiba Limanovich, and Rosa Livnet and Jacob Shulklepfer. We walked silently but full of pride! People stopped, uncovered their heads and bowed to us.
We saw the dry land. Very soon, we saw the place that had become the destiny - the bitter destiny of our most precious ones. Motel Urman led the group. Suddenly we started singing a sacred song from the Day of Atonement. Mournfully, the tune went on, entered our hearts and re-opened the wounds that had yet to heal: Remember, human being.You are mortal and the Judgment day awaits you! Dear God, please undo our vows. Release us from them, our dear God, God of our ancestors. Tears washed our faces, and everyone whispered:
Great lord, accept out oath: We shall never, ever forget them, for as long as we shall live.
by D. L. Granovsky
Translated by Sam Blatt
At the end of the second world war our Landsleit (fellow town-dwellers) in America, at the head of which was Moshe Feldman, of blessed memory, and his friends Harry Sheer, Leibish Levine, and others, may they live to a ripe age, - organized the first help-action for the Jewish survivors of Dubossar in the Soviet Union. In the course of a short time they sent over thousands of packages of food and clothing, as well as medicine to our Landsleit in Russia, an action also joined by former Dubossar Jews living in Argentina, at the head of which was Bernardo Gurevitch, of blessed memory, and L. Rubin, may he be well. We should stress thanks to this material help, the majority of our surviving brothers and sisters in Russia were spared hunger and cold.
A good deed brings on a good deed.
In addition to the help-action, for us Dubossarer Jews, whom fate spared the terrible catastrophe that happened to our brothers in Europe, it became clear to us that with material help alone for the survivors we were far from fulfilling our debt owed our martyrs and heroes who perished Al Kiddush Hashem and in the battles at the fronts against the most deadly foe of Jews of all times. We saw it as a holy duty to create a memorial work to eternalize our community, and the nearby communities, which, in the course of its four hundred year existence, had a rich lore in the history of Ukrainian and Russian Jewry.
After the liberation, our brothers in the Soviet Union undertook an initiative to erect a concrete fence around the looming mass-grave in Dubossar, where are buried 6000 of our Lansdleit, and another 12,500 Jews from the near and farther communities, from towns and villages: Akneh, Zacharivkeh, Yagarlik, Tyrospol, Grigoriopol, Kryulyaneh, Argeyev, Rizineh, Rivnitzeh, Balteh, Kishinev, and Odessa, as well as Jews from Czechoslovakia, who were brought to the Dubossar ghetto and murdered by the Germans and their helpers from the local non-Jewish population. This initiative was enabled thanks to donations of the Dubossar Jews in Russia, the U.S., Canada, and Argentina.
With the creation of the State of Israel the idea of eternalizing the memory of the martyrs of Dubossar and surrounding areas began to mature through a special undertaking in Israel. It is to be noted that this time also our Landsleit in America Moshe Feldman of blessed memory, and Harry Sheer, may he be well, L. Rubin of Argentina, and Moshe Faerman of Blessed memory, of Canada, were those who raised the thought to plant in the Martyr's Forest a treed area in the name of the martyrs of Dubossar and surrounding areas.
This idea was accepted with much support by the Dubossar circle in Israel, and in the month of Sivan, (May) 1951, the first meeting of a group of Dubassar members took place, with the goal to found an administrative committee to undertake the practical implementation of the memorial work. A temporary committee was elected at that meeting, which immediately started on the actual work.
In the month of Tamuz, 1951 the founding assembly of the Dubossar Landsleit Organization in Israel took place, at which participated sixty-five persons. At this meeting we declared that we would plant a forest in memory of the Dubossar and area Martyrs, in the Forest of the Martyrs. We also elected an Actions Committee, which consisted of the following members: A.Y. Golani, of Blessed memory Chairman, Ram-Visoky, of Blessed memory, and may they be well, the following members: B. Basin, Y. Kantor, D. L. Granovsky (Secretary), Moshe Bick, Ze'ev Brodsky and Zvi Sukai. At the same meeting we started a campaign to collect funds for the memorial.
Working closely with the Dubossar Landsleit Organization in America and Argentina, we collected the funds necessary to plant the memorial forest in the Jerusalem hills, on the grounds of the Keren Kayemeth. After three years we planted the forest comprising 10,000 trees.
Three years ago a Dubossar family emigrated to Israel, who related to us many details of the massacre in our city, and about the amazing heroic actions of many Dubossar Jews in the ghetto, and the many fighters from the front as well as partisans sons and daughters of our city (as described in detail by A. Timor in this book.) This family also brought along a little sack of earth form the mass-grave. We immediately contacted the Keren Kayemeth office and advised them of our wish to bury the sack of earth in the forest, in the name of the Dubossar Martyrs, and also our wish to erect a monument in memory of those killed. The office of the Keren Kayemeth immediately concurred with our requests, and also undertook the planning of this initiative.
As the eleventh of Tishrei (a day after Yom Kippur) 1941 was the day that the Nazis completed their extermination of the Dubossar ghetto, the Dubossar survivors in Russia decided to make the eleventh of Tishrei the memorial day for the murdered. On that day the Dubossar Jews come together from all corners of Russia to the mass-grave, to be united in the memory of the Martyrs. The Dubassarer in Israel, Argentina and the U.S. also accepted this day as a memorial, and the day after Yom Kippur we stand together with the memory of our Martyrs.
Also, on the day after Yom Kippur, September 29, 1963, the Dubossarer living in Jerusalem gathered in the Forest of the Martyrs to uncover the monument (the office of the Keren Kayemeth had taken on the responsibility to have it ready for that day), on which was inscribed the following:
Here lies buried earth which was brought from the mass-grave, wherein lie 18,500 Jews from Dubossar and environs, and the last defenders of the city of Odessa, who were murdered and buried alive at the hands of the wicked, in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur 1941.In the sack of earth was also buried a history about the destruction, written on parchment, signed by all the participants in the memorial.
The monument stands near the sign: Forest planted in the name of the martyrs of Dubassar and surrounding area.
With a shiver those assembled listened to the details of the mass grave, told by the man who brought the sack of earth. The grave is made up of 12 pits; in each pit are buried 1500 Jews. The man who told these details was a high officer in the Soviet army, and together with other officers, Dubossarer, succeeded in obtaining permission from the government to erect a concrete fence around the mass grave. At the entrance, in the center of the pits, the government erected a monument, which portrays a soldier with a machine gun, kneeling, with bowed head at the graves of the murdered.
The man also related that the cement wall around the mass grave in Dubassar is the only one in the whole area, and perhaps even in all of Ukraine. Unfortunately there are disquieting signs that the local regime is not interested in maintaining the gravesite. However, those few Jews who still live in Dubassar undertook to care for this holy site their whole lives.
The monument that we erected in Israel in memory of the 18,500 buried in the Dubassar mass grave is located in the Forest of the Martyrs of Dubassar and Region, near the Sheuva highway, at kilometer 17 on the road to Jerusalem.
Thanks to the contribution of Harry Sheer of America, we hung a plaque in memory of our Martyrs in the Cellar of the Martyrs in Jerusalem.
This particular memorial book is in its third publication. Here-in is told the history and the life of the Jewish community in Dubassar from the first days of its founding until today. And if tomorrow your children will ask you what is the purpose of this book? You should answer them: This book serves to note and to memorialize the wonderful Jewish community in Dubassar, where a creative, exuberant and heroic Jewish life was cruelly cut-off together with hundreds of other Jewish communities in that horrible time, when the most terrible enemy of the Jews lowered his murderous axe over Jacob's tent in the galut (diaspora) of Europe. With their deaths they sanctified our lives, instructing us to continue to build a Jewish life in the State of Israel and wherever Jews live.
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