[Pages 337 363]
Years of Suffering, Pain and Struggle
Ziporah (Fanie) Kiperman. Herzlia
Translated by Morton Lang
(Edited and translated from Polish according to witnessed testimony in Yad Vashem, Tel Aviv,
No. Fei (F) 128/1505 and also from personal recollections)
About Myself, the Family and the Town
I originate from Chorostkow, Tarnopol Province. My father Zishe Fink died at the age of 43. He was an observant Jew but not fanatically, had a piece goods store and came from Bukovina. My mother Blima was from the Harmelin family. Our home life was modern enough, and conducted in a nationalist religious spirit. Of my 3 sisters (Pnina, Fusia and Etke), I was the oldest. I am the only survivor of the 5 member family.
Our town was 16 kilometers from Kopichince and had a population of about 2500. The majority were Jews were surrounded by many Ukrainians and a few Poles. The town was famous for its Monday Yarid (market day) which provided the Jews with an income for the whole week. Generally the Jews were religious, but not lacking in an intelligentsia. We were proud of our own drama circle and our library of 8000 books.
On Tsirilifke Street where I lived, all the houses were close to one another, low and roofs of shingles. Across from the Greek Orthodox Church were several larger buildings: the police station and the Sokol (Polish Sports Society) Hall. There were also several pretty little houses with nicely planted gardens. These belonged to the elite of the town. There lived Dr. Wishnowitzer. He was killed during the first aktion (round up and killing) along with his wife. His son survives as a Christian. The pharmacist also lived there He died before the war. His family survived as Aryans. They were assimilated but to the Germans they were Jews like all the others. The Christians could not understand this. Also living there in a small house was A. Glazner, a wealthy Jew whose children were students (presumably higher education.) He and his family disappeared in the first pogrom.
On Red Bridge Street were the houses of the artisans. There lived Moshe Weber and his sons. He was a fine person, living with honor. The Zionist organizations had themselves photographed by his son in law, a photographer specialist.
In the town there were Hanoar Hatzioni, Hshomer Hatzair, Hitachdut. A beautiful library with a scent of socialism. The one who ordered the books was Tennenbaum a fighter for Communism.
The community supported a Hebrew teacher for the Tarbut school. The community offices, the school, Hanoar Hatzioni were housed in the Rathaus reached from the side street off the Red Bridge On the Half New Street was the Main Synagogue where I , as a child, along with other students used to admire the gorgeous paintings on the walls: the Tribes and their banners, the Western Wall and the like. They were painted very beautifully. I don't know when or who painted them. Before the war they made changes modernizing it, more lights and new colors. However we missed the original. The Germans and Ukrainians destroyed the synagogue.
Facing the Main Synagogue was the Large Sanctuary where my mother Blima Fink prayed. During the High Holidays I used to go there. As a child they chased me out of there because we disrupted the service. The famous chazzan Yitzchak conducted services there. All year round he traveled around, but for the High Holidays he came home. You can still hear his recordings today. He died suddenly after services on the first day of Rosh Hashana.
My greatest pleasure was when I went with my father to the Chortkower Synagogue. Here loftiness ruled. The people I usually saw here had a smile on their face and a song on their lips. There one felt close to everyone. The young shochet, Jantshe, led services there and to this day I remember his beautiful melodies. Occasionally my father Zisie Fink led services there, as did Yeger Kliger who had a very nice voice. He was also the Gabai (Parnass) of the synagogue. He was liked by the common folk, the porters and shoemakers. They always stayed in the background, not wanting to compare themselves to those knowledgeable in Torah. My father, with his kind heart, would first of all go over to them and welcome them with a drink and only later the more prominent members. That is how he conducted himself, not to embarrass anyone. He constantly helped whenever he could.
There was also the Husiatyner Synagogue along with a house of study. Not far from there could be found bakeries and food stores. Everyone looked for a little income and worked hard. However when Shabbat arrived the people changed. The town had its charm until the black wave of Hitlerism arrived.
I finished public school in Chorostkow and later a trade school in Lemberg. During the disturbances in the Fall of 1938, I returned to my birthplace. The outbreak of war in 1939 found me at home. During the Soviet regime ('39 41), I completed 10th year in a teacher's course and became a teacher in the neighboring village Mshantse. At that time Jewish young people felt good. When the Russo-German war began, I was in Chorostkow and a week later, on Saturday, the Germans entered the town.
Germans and Ukrainians Begin to Harass Jews.
Chorostkow was not surrendered to the Germans without a fight. Several stubborn skirmishes occurred in town over a period of several days when the town found itself on the border between local Ukrainians and Western Soviet Ukraine, where the Russians put up considerable resistance.. Already on the first day of the German's arrival in town they killed many people. We remained hidden during the fighting.
Our nearest neighbour on the main street was the Goldflies family. A little further lived the Ukrainian family Warana. The Germans entered the Goldflies home bringing the Ukrainians with them and wanted to rob. Goldflies' daughter in law resisted, the men having hidden themselves. The Germans led out the women and children from the house, shot them and ordered them buried immediately. The same Germans entered our house but saw no one.
Every Saturday the Germans carried out murders and pogroms, with the participation of the Ukrainians. The latter were greater sadists than the Germans who merely bypassed the town. The Ukrainians were those who always lived there and knew everybody. They dirtied the Jews with horse manure and filth from the stalls, humiliated and beat them.
Two weeks after the Germans occupied Chorostkow, the Ukrainians carried out the following provocation: First they gathered signatures from Ukrainian residents to murder the Jews. With this petition, on a given Sunday when the Christian population left the churches after prayers, they seized 20 elderly Jews, gave them red flags, pictures of Lenin and Stalin and ordered them to demonstrate through the town. They had to sing the popular Russian song Moguchaya kiputchaya..A group of peasants and Ukrainian policemen surrounded the Jews and wanted to kill them right there. Suddenly several Germans appeared who simply did not know what was going on. The Ukrainians were certain they would order the Jews shot at once. Something else happened , however. An officer of the German SS first asked: What is this? The Ukrainians answered Communists. Communists One of the Jews explained to the officer in excellent German that they were forced to demonstrate and the German ordered them to go home.
A pogrom on which the Ukrainians counted did not take place. But Jews did not appear in the streets for some time. A week later it was ordered to wear white armbands with a blue Star of David. A Judenrat (Jewish Advisory Council) and Jewish police force was established.
The Uberbansturmfeuhrer Otto threw fear unto the Jews. He ordered large contributions and confiscated Jewish wealth. He was helped by the Judenrat. Shmuel Kimmel , the Chairman, would shout: I will not give them my head for you you do it yourselves H e carried out faithfully all the German orders and ordinances.
At that time there was a shortage of wheat and produce. It was bad but bearably peaceful. Everyone lived in their house. I worked on a farm in Owisle which once belonged to Count Pulaski and was confiscated by the Soviets. Now it was taken over by the Germans. Following the combine, I stole a few grains of barley and brought them home.
In the Stupki Labour Camp.
In October 1941 notices were sent out to present oneself for forced labour. We did not have those with protekcie (influence) like others and father had to go. This happened quite unexpectedly. The unfortunate ones were driven to wagons with whips. Some were sent to the village of Kamionka, others, to the village of Stupki (68 kilometers from Chorostkow). Twice a week during the cold days I brought food to my father in camp. We went by sleigh. Once during the night I nearly froze near Skalat. They barely saved me.
In camp there were about 120 Jews. Since there were no atrocities committed there, it was considered as being not so bad. Work was near the railway line on the highway and in the stone quarries. The commandant was an SS Ubersharfeuhrer whose name I do not remember. He did not concern himself especially with the camp. Order was kept by Ukrainian police and Jewish orderlies. One of them, the Jew Kreisler from Czernowitz, (Bukovina), I remember well because he beat and tortured the Jews. In response to my question: how can he beat his own brothers, he responded cynically: If I did not beat them, they would fall even lower
. When the camp was liquidated Kreisler was killed.
My father worked there hoping that he and his family could thereby survive to the end of the war. But there were also difficult moments when he was threatened with death. Once the 22 year old Meshulem Blumenthal of Chorostkow ran away from camp. His sister awaited him and in a sleigh and took him home. The next morning, a Sunday, during roll call, he was missing. A panic ensued. The camp elder selected every 10th person to be shot, my father among them. The victims were led into the field and ordered to dig graves for themselves. We were not aware of this in town. However, several Ukrainian policemen suddenly arrived in town in great consternation and alerted the Judenrat about the escape and the punishment that others would have to bear. Everyone searched for the fugitive while threatened with more shootings. Finally the family surrendered Blumenthal. Those in the field in the meantime waited a whole day before the open graves, saying Vidui (confessions). My father gave them hope, saying he believed they would be rescued. The Germans guarding them waited only for the order to shoot. This ended with the candidates to be shot having to beat the recaptured boy with whips. No one was shot, but I almost paid with my life.
When I learned the whole story that evening, I went to Stupki early in the morning to find out if they shot my father. In Stupki lived a rich Jewish family, Abrahamovich, property owners. Their daughter, Jenia, a pretty girl with completed matriculation, carried on the kitchen for the Gestapo. The Gestapo protected them all. Abrahamovitch, a tall broadly built man, looked like an elegant Polish gentleman in dress and energetically intervened with the Germans when it was necessary. When several other Chorostkower and I arrived at the Abrahamovitches, a young German attached himself to us and threatening with a revolver ordered us to line up at the wall and demanded: Gold or death Abrahamovitch just happened to arrive , berated the German and threatened him with the Gestapo and the hero quickly disappeared.
Angered by this incident I ran quickly to the barbed wire which surrounded the camp. I spotted my father who tried to warn me about the Ukrainian policemen but it was already too late. One of them seized me To be shot and led me to the nearest large camp barracks (about which I will tell more) about ½ kilometer from the guard house. In a blood spattered small room where they slaughtered cattle, I awaited my death. It was getting dark. Later I was taken out and ordered to pass through a double file of Ukrainian policemen and led into a small room. Here they stripped me and 3 policemen, to show off, gave me 75 strokes with a braided rubber whip. I had to count off by myself. I was then so strong and determined that I did not even whimper. I counted up to 37 and felt the strokes. After that I no longer felt anything. They helped me stand up. I then ran to my father because he saw where they took me. I did not want to tell him that they had beaten me so. He was happy that he saw me alive. Actually the Ukrainians had decided to shoot me, but my cousin, Itshe Fink, who saw where the police took me, began to intervene with the Kapo (Jewish camp police), orderlies and others who could help.
And for almost 2 months my body was blue from the beating.
Traveling often to Stupki, I, like others, had to have a place to go to. The police forbade the peasants of the village to allow a Jew to enter their homes. Once they caught me with a peasant woman. They hit me again. This time over the hips. I often went to the peasant Dshola, who lived not far from the camp. Many times I stayed there overnight. After 3 months in camp there appeared a hope to free my father. The story is as follows:
Just like I, families of other camp internees would come to Stupki. Jews from Borshchiv, Koralivke and other places. From the conversations of the women I learned that a foreman of the Kraivker Judenrat, a certain Hallender, who would bring food to his town folk in the camp, was getting ready to take out from there several Jews. This was in January 1942. I began to worry my head how to have my father included among the lucky ones who would be taken out of camp. One day it became clear to me how to achieve this goal.
The camp commandant, Ubersharfeuhrer, had a Polish woman as a lover. He brought her from the Poznan area and lived with her in the Ukrainian National House. He had to leave for the front and as a memento to his concubine he unwittingly revealed to his bookkeeper, the Jew Gershtenbluth, that he is contemplating a gift: a nice sleigh with a team of horses. Gershtenbluth passed this secret on to Hallander who decided to fulfill the German's dream for the price of freedom for a few Jews. I began to search for a way to reach Hallander.
When I was in Stupki, I went to a brother of Abrahamovitch, fell to his feet and pleaded with him for so long, that they should include my father in the group to be chosen, that he finally agreed for a large sum of money. We sold everything in order to free my father. When the commandant received a fine sleigh with 4 horses and a beautiful harness, fur coats, furs and other gifts, he ordered that release certificates be issued. Sunday morning, with the help of interned officials, I went into the office and checked if my father was among the group to be released. The families had to pick up those freed Monday evening. I bribed a Ukrainian policeman with cigarettes so that he should not send my father to work on Monday outside the camp. I wanted to be completely certain of his liberation and it should take place as smoothly as possible. A whole day I watched him through the window as he was kept busy with snow cleaning.
Suddenly my eyes were darkened. About 3 or4 o'clock the sadistic German Tumanek, who was feared by the entire neighbourhood, arrived at the camp
The Crimes by Tumanek and Reibel in Camp Stupki.
Because important work was being done in Stupki (the firm Todd built a highway to Kiev) or because the commandant was easy going, inspectors came there often. Among these inspectors, the commandant of Kamionka, Henker Reibel, where many Chorostkower also worked, was also included. Always arrived unexpectedly and after each visit left several dead. Once I was a witness, when after Reibel's shooting, 5 bodies were left lying on the camp grounds. Now when that SS ogre Tumanek showed up, also unexpectedly, there would be as always victims. From my peasant's Dshola's house I ran to a second house, from where the entire camp grounds were visible.
Tumanek ordered several internees to line up at the trestle where they were sawing wood. I heard several shots. The snow immediately turned red. I was certain my father was among the victims. It was I myself who arranged that he should remain in camp. I shook like with a fever. It grew quiet. Suddenly, I saw from the Ukrainian woman's stable , my father emerge from behind straw fires that some of the internees had made. I did not stop looking at him for a moment. A stone fell from my heart. My father ran over to the gate and mingled with those who were returning from work
I ran out from the house. In the village I moved freely because no one knew me to be Jewish. I saw 7 corpses lying in camp. One of them I recognized, my neighbour of the same age as I Gavriel Shpiegel who did not go out to work that day because he was sick to his stomach. From the Chorostkower Jew, Feimgold, who by a miracle escaped death, we learned that as soon as Tumanek entered the barracks and found several Jews lying there, no excuses helped and he yelled at them and shot them. He left Feingold in the barracks.
For three days Tumanek stormed about in the camp and I therefore could not take my father out. The village quaked with terror not one peasant woman would allow any of us to cross her threshold. We wandered about in the snow without food or sleep. Only on Thursday when Tumanek left Stupki, I was finally rewarded by taking my father home. He sincerely pitied the others who had to remain behind the wire. My father was that kind of man.
Three days later I learned that the camp bookkeeper, Gerstenbluth, who negotiated the transaction with the good camp commandant that freed several Jews for the price of a sleigh with horses, was shot by the same commandant. Gerstenbluth became sick with typhus and moved into the house of a peasant woman with the understanding that when he recovered he would return to his occupation. But during a police search they found him and brought him to camp in his bed sheets, where the commandant as mentioned , shot him.
The camp in Stupki did not last very long. The Germans themselves set it on fire and many Jews perished then. Those who survived were taken to the closest camp, Borki Wielki, where Russian prisoners of war were also held. At the end of 1942/43 partisans set the camp on fire. The prisoners ran away and those who were caught were distributed among other camps.
( To return to Reibel. I heard he was captured in Germany. As to Tumanek, I was a witness at his trial along with 22 other witnesses from Israel, one from Poland and four from the US. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour).
The Deportation to Kopichince.
After my father returned to Chorostkow he seldom ventured out into the street because they often seized for work. It became worse all the time, but generally it was peaceful. On Yom Kippur 1942 my father and several neighbours got a minyan together to pray. After Neila (the closing prayer of Yom Kippur), my father sent a 15 year old boy to another minyan to borrow their shofar. Coincidentally two SS officers arrived in town just then. They followed the boy to our minyan where the people were still standing in their Talesim (prayer shawls) and kitlach (all white gown) preparing to end the day. With the arrival of the Germans much confusion ensued. The Jews ran away through doors and windows with only the oldster Kasriel Lax remaining and he took the entire guilt on himself for organizing the minyan and stated that this was his house. The murderers threatened with their revolvers, shouted at him for organizing an illegal worship and took him to the Judenrat. Lax's sons wanted to save their father and pointed to my father as the one responsible for the minyan. After several days the SS men left Chorostkow and no killings took place. It became quiet but not for long. During Succot (booths) pogroms began in neighbouring towns and settlements. Then it was our turn. At that time I worked in the fields of Owishle. Our neighbour, Kucharska, displayed the picture of the Holy Mother, but I did not believe that such a picture will protect us She advised us to prepare a bunker and we hid.
On a Wednesday after Succot, when a group of people and I returned from the fields, a Polak warned us not to go into town because an aktion was taking place in Chorostkow. We ran away. I took off my arm band and lay hidden all day in the bushes. In the evening I heard the sound of a passing train mixed with cries of fear. I understood that people were being deported for death.
The next day we left our hiding places. The peasants told of terrible events during the aktion in Chorostkow and mass shootings in the woods. I was lucky. Not far from town I found my sister along with my whole family who had hidden in the previously prepared hiding place where 37 people were sandwiched and squeezed together in fearful crowding but survived. The crowding was so intense that one had to step outside in the midst of the aktion. Only my sister Etke did not want to step out. She became ill later.
We hid in the Kocharska cellar. When the Germans searched her house, she told them that her neighbours had left that morning and they believed her.
A month later an order was given that the Jews of Chorostkow had to be deported to Kopichince. Only about 250 families remained, among them few families who had suffered no losses
The Jews from several surrounding towns and settlements were also drive to Kopichince. My family lived with my uncle on Chortkower Street under terribly crowded conditions. Everyone prepared bunkers and in our residence we built 3 hiding places where water was available. The Judenrat received an order to dig ditches. We knew they were our graves. There was a constant panic. One could not be certain for a single day. Once the Germans said that only in the Spring will they take care of the Jews. The ditches were filled in by snowfall. It was said that they put off the executions because they did not want to clear snow.
In every house Jewish guards were organized because they sensed an approaching catastrophe. We lived under such tension until Aril 15, 1943. That night we hid in the bunker. The water was up to the knees. In the morning the Germans arrived, found our bunker and drove us out shouting: You are going to the heaven commando. In the street there were many corpses. Houses were closed and at every entrance Germans stood armed also with axes. Many Ukrainians and Poles were there from surrounding villages. They were waiting with sacks until the houses were opened and they could begin stealing. Shouts! Shootings! I feel that I must run. I try to turn to one side. One of the German officers aims his rifle but does not shoot. I returned to the line up.
They take us to the square where all the Jews were assembled. The square is surrounded by Ukrainian and German police and gendarmerie. There were many motorcycles with which the Germans rode to the action.
(What is being described is a typical aktion by anEinsatzgruppewhich operated throughout Eastern Europe implementing the Final Solution'. M.L.)
The young Rabbi of Chorostkow, Rappaport, came over to my fayher who was his friend and suggests that everyone say Vidui (confessions before death). I did not let my father go and he listened to me. We are not dying yet, I told him and I believed it. I already had the temptation to struggle with death. I thought about it as I found myself in the Kopichinitser square on April 15, 1943. My mind was working how do I get away from here
The Event With the Katz Family.
I want to return now to an event 3 days earlier, before the aktion which took place Monday. I was walking along a street on which Jews were not permitted to walk. Before me appeared Zygo Gottlieb a chaver of mine and a good friend of my cousin. We were of the same age. He was a member of the Order Police Service of the Judenrat and not only did he shout at me for walking on a forbidden street but grabbed me and took me to the Judenrat jail in the locked up store of the wealthy wholesale merchant of dry goods, Shapiro. Behind the store were sheds. The jail door was an iron gate with holes through which one could see what was happening on the street. I took this affair quite lightly and from that resulted a complete disaster.
Sitting like this locked up for 15 minutes, I spotted arriving by car Willie Rucks, an SS man about 30 years old and a friend of Tumanek who threw fear on the Jews of Chorostkow and the surrounding areas. That beast would shoot right and left as soon as he appeared. I saw how the town was going dead, everyone running to their homes and hiding places. Jewish police and Judenrat personnel ran around in fear and were shouting The Katzowe, the Katzowe.
In Kopichince on Rinkowe Street lived the lawyer Katz with his wife and child. Someone accused this family of hiding Russian partisans, which was not true. I had heard that Rucks came to the Katz's and from that originated the phrase in town.
People were gathered from everywhere along with Katz's neighbours. The Katz's had obviously run away. Only in the evening was Mrs Katz with her husband and 10 year old girl found. I had the feeling that very soon they would come and get me. They seized about 100 people , locked them up in the sheds in the back of my jail. Later they took them in trucks to the Gestapo. Very worried I climbed walls, pulled at the door and looked for a way to escape.
It was dark when I saw Rucks standing on the sidewalk in a long overcoat and a loaded revolver that was still smoking from the recently fired bullet. To every passerby he shouted Halt and shot him. He entered a house, drove the people out and shot them on the street. Then once again he placed himself at the door which locked me in. Later, I saw the bar maid from the Ukrainian restaurant where the Germans ate and got drunk. She was a pretty young blond girl. He kissed her and embraced her. When he wanted to shoot a Jew, she simply threw herself over him, put
her arms around him and pleaded: Willie, I beg you no more shooting! When in the morning I told this story to the Judenrat, they told me that this girl, Ruck's girl friend is Jewish, but has Aryan papers.
In the meantime I searched for a way to escape. Climbing up to a little window, through which they used to throw merchandise into the warehouse, I came across a small board. After much effort I was successful in removing this board. This revealed an opening about ½ meter wide. I made up my mind that if they should come to seize me I would escape through that opening.
In total silence the last Jews were loaded on the trucks. Rucks also left. I saw how lovingly he said goodbye to the barmaid. The Jewish policemen assembled. I started banging on the door with all my strength, fearing that they will forget me and leave me there. The chief of the Jewish police, I think his name was Helinger, was astounded that they forgot me. He ordered me released to be escorted home. There they were already sitting Shiva for me (traditional seven days of mourning for a departed). I returned as if from the other world. This time Helinger was decent, but he has many of our brothers on his conscience. He lives somewhere in America today.
My Escape from the Extermination Site.
Now finding myself on the square where they assembled the Jews for extermination, I was reminded of my situation 3 days earlier and decided immediately: now I must make my escape. I bend over supposedly to straighten my stockings and say to my mother: I am leaving, you follow me. My mother warns me, but I start moving slowly outwards. I don't even know myself how this happened but I find myself behind the motorcycles. Another few minutes and I am behind the trucks as well. The Germans did not notice me, on the other hand the Jewish policeman, Schechner, did spot me, but pretended he did not. I was dressed in a blue coat, only it was bloody and wet from the bunker. Finally I arrived at the railway station.
Walking on Koleia (Railway) Street, a Ukrainian policeman came from the opposite direction. He did not look my way. Suddenly the voice of a Ukrainian woman is heard: Jew1 Jew! The policeman stops me. He leads me to the open field near the slaughter house. All around me are ravines and graves filled with dead Jews, among whom I recognize my pretty girl friend and her mother, neighbours of ours. The policeman asks me if I want to be shot with clothes on or naked. I say nothing. He loads the rifle. Suddenly, both of us hear not far from us someone is pleading with a policeman in Polish: Holy Mother, save her. The woman whom I met later in Tarnopol, falls to the feet of another policeman, kisses his hands and begs him not to let me be shot. The other one runs over quickly to my intended murderer and shouts at him that I am only 19 tears old. Grabs his rifle and prevents him from shooting. They take me to the closest shack. The peasant woman hands me a clothes brush to clean my coat. I overhear the two policemen holding a conversation: I don't want to go into the forest, I don't want to die. Let the Germans guard the woods themselves. In the forest there are Jews with weapons. I prefer to do guard duty here.
From this conversation I understood that the Ukrainians were stationed there to prevent Jews from running into the forest where there were Jewish partisans. This gave a new desire to live.
Finally one of the policemen took me outside with the rifle aimed at my back. He starts to bargain with me: Maybe it would be better to shoot you. Maybe someone else will catch you and kill you Let me live, I plead. He tells me that every day he must kill 100 Jews, but he likes me. May God guide you, pray for my soul and lets me go. Suddenly the watchman of the slaughter house appears and threatens the policeman that he will report him to the Gestapo because he frees rich Jews. They started to argue. I took this opportunity to run away to where I came from. After a few more steps I find myself back on the railway line. On a parallel road appear Germans on motorcycles. From nowhere a large wolfhound appears beside me. He starts to scratch and bite me. I feel I must act decisively, namely to throw off from me every suspicion of Jewishness. I must not show fear. I start stroking this mad dog. He calmed down and left me. Two Germans appear near me. They speak in a friendly manner. They ask where Jews can be found. I point with my hand In town. They start laughing that they are already himmel commandos(heaven commandos). I smiled and they began to play around with me. I tell them that I am late for work and they let me go
I hide in a lime cavern on the railway line which was eroded by rains and lie there a whole day. Across from me there is a storage area where workers repair train rails. One of them must certainly have seen me because in the evening when I left the ditch and sat down on the sand, I heard someone coming. He was a 30 year old intelligent Ukrainian. He introduced himself but I do not recall his name. He said that as overseer of the workers, he kept them there especially until nightfall so that none of them would hand me over to the police. He wants to help me. He takes me into the hut of the railway guards, brings me a bed cover and wants to take me to his mother. He is convinced I am Jewish, but is afraid of the anti-Semitic neighbours. He even asked for the address of my parents in town so that he can find out whether they are alive. Without trust and hesitantly I gave him the address. We decided that in the morning I would hide in hay stacks which stood not far from the shacks.
I waited in the field all day to hear something from the Ukrainian , but he did not come. I started out alone for my home. While still outside the door I hear the voice of my mother and sister. They survived. My father was not home. He was looking for me among the victims. How were they rescued? By a miracle. On the square of death there were not enough trucks to take away the unfortunates so they returned them to the warehouse of Shapiro's business, there where I was in jail.
Several hundred Jews were detained there, among them my family. My sister Etke noticed a beam of light on the ceiling. When she stood up she took out the same wooden board which I loosened a few days before to open an exit. She was the first to get out to freedom, thanks to that opening. After her my mother, my father and my sister. Later about 60 more bold ones risked escaping. They hid in the bunkers.
My sister told me that the Ukrainian was in fact at our house, told them about me, but he did not see my father. It is therefore possible that he did not want or could not return to the railway line.
All of this happened on the Eve of Passover. You can imagine what a sad holiday that turned out to be for us.
The Aktionen of May and June. I Run Away Again. Jewish Resistance.
After 5 weeks of unabated fear, a new aktion. But during this period new bunkers and hiding places were built. One day near dawn lights were seen in the administration building and it was anticipated that there would probably be an aktion. At 4 in the morning I hurried out to the neighbours to see what they were preparing to do. In the street a Ukrainian policeman caught me. He led me to the nearby orchard and shot. I fell on the grass, but he missed me. So he stood me up against a wall of a barn so that he could aim better. A second policeman arrived and said to him he should turn me over to Sorotzki, who was known to be a swine and sadist. They began to discuss who should kill me - so in the meantime I ran away. I ran into the barn. I noticed a cow and near her in the corner a calf was lying down. Without much thought, I quickly threw the calf out and lay down myself, covering myself with straw and dirt. The calf began to suck and the cow started to moo. The policemen ran onto the barn, searched, messed things up but did not find me, In the meantime the woman owner came running I think she was Polish although she spoke Ukrainian. She grabbed the calf and put it back on top of me. The woman pulls up the straw sees me lying there, pretends she does not see me, covers me again and tells me to lie still.
But how can you lie still when you hear shooting all around, screams and Shma Yisroel. They caught many Jews and killed them right there.
In the evening the husband of that good woman returned home and found out that in the barn lies hidden a Jewish girl. He came and chased me out, although the action was still going on. Crawling on all fours between dead bodies and pools of blood, I returned to our home but found no one. I was concerned and lay there all night. No one came. Only in the morning several Jewish survivors began to appear and said that my nearest were murdered. My younger sister Etke, ran away together with my parents. The older sister was taken with the young people. They took all of them in trucks from the yard of the administration to the ditches which the Jews dug earlier near the forest of Kopichince and shot them.
Friday, there was another aktion. This time only in the streets. The houses were not touched. Every Jew in the street was shot immediately. Friday evening the murderers led to be killed a number of youngsters whom they did not appear to want to liquidate a day earlier. Through the window I observed them march to death. I even heard several girls singing. This was not a single occurrence. A day earlier, during the aktion, I heard two sisters from the village of Suchostav, as they were being led in a group to their death, sang Am Yisroel Chai (the Jewish people lives--)
That Friday evening, by chance, a Christian funeral passed by and I saw through the window that a girl from those who were being led to be shot, quickly mixed in with the funeral procession and saved herself like that.
I also know of other cases of resistance. A girl friend told me that during the first action in Kopichince, when the Chorostkower were not there yet, the naked beautiful Bronia Brondshtein, stood by the open ditch, when a young SS man began to pinch her breast, she slapped him. The murderer cut off a breast with his bayonet then shot her.
During the Spring aktion in 1943, the youth of Kopichince did not have any opportunity to organize resistance. But they wanted to do it and waited for an opportunity. In line with this I must relate a an episode from even earlier:
In March 1943, there appeared in Kopichince 2 or 3 Soviet partisans, distributed articles from Pravda ( the Soviet newspaper Truth) and recruited for the partisans. They suggested to me and my girl friend that we go into the forest, but I did not want to leave my parents. Several young people left with them but returned a few days later, without their boots, shoes, watches and better clothing. They were not given weapons but were beaten. Thus ended their desire to fight against the Germans in a Soviet partisan group.
I now return to the ongoing story of what I lived through:
Of my family, as I said, I am the only survivor. I noticed another woman with a child fro Buczacz who survived. Her husband was shot in the toilet where they found him hiding. Several other Jews who managed to remain alive, wandered around the haunted emptied Jewish homes, searching for needy things for themselves in order to remain alive. (did the Christians have to steal better that our own took for themselves articles necessary for sustaining life. Thus one lived from one aktion to another.) When the woman from Buczacz and her child returned home, she raised a shout that they stole a sack with leather. She ran to the Judenrat with an accusation. Since I and later 3 young men had been in the house, the Judenrat members Roller and Tennenbaum, ordered the chief of the Jewish police, Shmeterling, from Kopichince, that he should accuse us. He was a scoundrel, doglike slavishly serving the Germans. He took me into a room and started to beat me in a wild rage, threatened and demanded a confession that I saw the 3 boys take the leather.
In the midst of threatening and beating me, this sadist, Shmeterling, disappeared. (Later the Germans tore him to bits.) I ran into the street. This is mid day on Sunday, June 12. The peasants had just not long ago left their churches and were waiting around with sacks to steal Jewish belongings and goods. There is shooting and chasing of Jews All are running away but where? I ran into a garden with a high fence. This is the villa of Novotchek, the director of the Ukrainian school. With this high fence he sought to isolate himself from the Jews. How I jumped over the enclosure I really don't know. I hid under a thick bush of currants. It starts to rain. In the garden there was also a pond. Every once in a while I hear someone jumping into the water. Others are hiding in the garden. The garden is surrounded and besieged. Novotchek's daughter, a good soul, has hidden several Jews in the stables and alone is now playing a guitar. Almost all the Jews who were hiding in the garden and the pond were caught. Many drowned. Later it was revealed that the woman manger of the Novotchek household exposed the hidden Jews.
Around midnight, when I got very cold, I left my hiding place. I wandered around a little while until I found inside a Jewish house the policeman, Shmuelik Edelman. He did not allow me into his bunker, but showed me another one and led me alone there. There I stayed until the end of the aktion. Thursday afternoon there was another aktion. This happened 2 or 3 times a week. Only I remained in the bunker. Later, in June, 1943, on German orders, the Judenrat instituted an official ghetto in Kopichince for the few living Jews. I decide not to go into the ghetto.
Back to Chorostkow.
One day I heard that Alena Warana is looking for me in Kopichince. She was a woman in her 50s, who came from Chorostkow especially to take me with her and to save me. This woman was an angel. She lived close to us, near the stream, with her husband Timek and her old mother. She helped my mother with housekeeping every Monday when the yaridim (market days) were held. When I was a small child, this woman Warana, whom we called Waraneche, was my governess. She found out that of the entire family I was the only survivor. Now we met in Kopichince, warmly kissed each other and cried. Her first words were: Where I will be, you will be; what I will eat you will eat I answered her that I have no money. She replied: I don't ask you.
The other evening, when with a small valise, I went to the railway station to meet Waranecha, it was stormy which made it easier to leave town. I was so certain of this, that I bought a ticket at the wicket myself.
I am back in Chorostkow. Alina hid me in the attic. I lay there whole days looking out of the small window at what is happening on the street. She fed me well. Later when the situation worsened my food also worsened. Her husband Timko was a perpetual drunk and at night he would become aggressive and he would chase me out of the attic, yelling that I am Jewish. But when I took my bundle and wanted to go, both of them would not allow it or Alena would get dressed up like for a holiday and declare she is going with me. Timko quickly sobered up and begged both of us to remain. That I should not be bored, Waranecha brought the 16 year old Fannie Goldhirsch to the attic to also hide.
There were still Jews in Chorostkow. After the Fall 1942 aktion there still remained a few Jews in town and from surrounding settlements. For the period of only one month in 1943 there was a ghetto in Chorostkow. After liquidating the ghetto, the Germans set up a labour camp of Jewish policemen, their families and other survivors on the estate near the palace of Count Sieminski-Potocki. It was from this camp that Waranecha brought me Fannie. A few days later her mother and sister were due to arrive, but they did not. A week earlier they ordered ditches to be dug. The people were told that it was to store beets. On a Sunday morning when people were still sleeping in the barracks or the hay lofts, everything was set on fire. The camp was totally aflame. The former Jewish policeman Ashkenazi, broke the door with an axe and with others began running away from the fire. They did not run far. They were shooting at the people in the burning building and those caught still living were ordered to get undressed and shot at the ditches for beets. I was told later that one girl would not allow herself to be undressed under any circumstances, so they shot her with her clothes on. She was Pepa Fink, a frivolous person but to undress before everyone, she refused.
Fannie and I remained in the attic. She was self centered and capricious. She became very sick with typhus and raved with fever. Later she became deaf and finally developed an eruptive skin itch. I go down from the attic only at night. Timko's elderly mother, an aged paralytic who barely moved on all fours, was always praying for us. She had the following responsibility: - in case of danger to bang on the ladder that led to the attic. They all worried about me. They even provided me with Ukrainian newspapers to read.
Several neighbours did know that Waranecha was hiding Jews. There was this Polish lady, Baranowska, where 2 girls from Yanow were hidden, Fancia and Musia. The Baranowska comes once to Waranecha to feel the pulse, to find out whether Jews were with her. Discovering that here too there were some, she calmed down and visited us more often. Also the neighbour Multanka, also Polish, the wife of the Ukrainian Multan, hid in her house Arie Feinshtein from Chorostkow with his wife who, was from Bessarabia, along with their two boys. Multan's house stood opposite that of Waranecha and from my attic I could see what was happening.
Once Mrs. Multanka went away and closed up the house. I noticed that not far another neighbour, the Ukrainian Pupko, who served in the secret police, was roaming around. Then before my eyes developed a fearful picture. Mrs Multanka brought Germans. A terrible thought crossed my mind:- Mrs. Multanka knew of our hiding place! Even her 80 year old mother knew the secret, because once, on a hot day she saw us crawling out of the attic. I was certain that this time we were lost. Warana's mother was banging our ladder. Waranecha and her husband took her out of the house. Fannie and I left the attic quickly and hid under the bed in the bedroom of the owners. We shook with fear and were ready to meet our death.
Later they told me that they took the Feinshteins out of the house and shot them. Everyone, however, talked of the boldness and daring of Mrs Feinshtein, the Bessarabian. She shouted at the Germans in Ukrainian and German: We will outlive you; they will do to you what you are doing to us. The Jewish people will live forever! And she sang a song that much disturbed the murderers. She was the first to be shot.
The Germans left and we were saved. At night Alena and her husband returned home. After this event, I was no longer at ease. In our neighbourhood also lived the Ukrainian Stach Schevtchuk who also hid Jews and knew of our secret. Once he boasted to the neighbours that he would scare us. It was supposed to be a joke of his and Alena found out that after it happened that it was a joke.
It happened on September 30, 1943. Warana went to work in the fields. I was lying in the attic only in a nightshirt. Before I fell asleep, I hear a banging on the door Jews out! I ripped out a piece of thatched roof and Fannie and I jump out. She twisted a foot. We run and hear whistles and shouts. A whole night we sat on a stone hugging one another. In the morning we return to Alena. She was looking for us all night. We look at Timko who says nothing to us, but runs quickly into the house. We were sure that he was going to expose us. We start running without noticing that we came to the gate of the betrayer Pupko. We hide there in a corner, although I am wearing only a nightshirt.
We hear a tumult, shouts and curses and guess that the Germans came to get the wheat consignment. Pupko went around with them everywhere but never brought them to his own place and this was a miracle for us. Lying in Pupko's yard we were saved. When it got dark I rushed to the Polak Warana. He got scared , but I knew he would not betray us. I asked him what was happening at Timko's and Alena's. He told me that there the Germans turned everything upside down searching wheat which wealthier peasants tried quietly to hide. Alena was worried about our disappearance. We returned quickly to our saviour. She cried of happiness and luck. In this way Schewtchuk's joke turned out to be our saviour, because the Germans searched even in the attic
I Run Away to Tarnopol.
One time when Waranecha was showing me her picture album, I spotted the photograph of her daughter Sosia, approximately my age who ran away to Russia early in the war. I also saw there her school report cards. When Waranecha was not home I took these documents out of her album. I thought that since Sosia is in Russia, her picture and papers could be useful to me. One of these documents was from the Ukrainian religious school in Stanislawow issued in 1939 to Sofia Warana. In October 1943, after spending two months at Waranecha, I left Chorostkow with a small valise and Aryan documents. I wanted to go to Lemberg, but in the waiting room in Tarnopol was one of our familiar train employees, the 40 year old Polak whose name I cannot remember. He was there with his wife. They knew my parents and in Kopichince they proposed taking me to the Aryan side because I had a proper appearance. At that time I never wanted to leave my parents and always turned down such plans. When this railway man spotted me now, his happiness was real, thinking that I came to him. However at that moment they were planning to go to Krakow. He gave me the address of his housekeeper and in a few words told me that I should move in there. He added a whisper in my ear that in about two weeks the Red army is due to arrive there.
I said goodbye to these good Poles, glanced at the address Kotshala Street, 11. But in the meantime I did not go there. For the present I had other plans. I had an opportunity to smuggle and speculate on the TarnopolTrembowla line. I was in Trembowla during a search for hidden Jews that had not yet fallen into German hands. But to lead this kind of life for long was risky. I had to find something more stable. My address Kotshala 11, was not suitable. I could not find the woman and besides I discovered that not very far away was a happy house for Germans.
During my wandering in Tarnopol, I recognized many people, specially women smugglers and traders. I became acquainted with a young Pole, a chauffer, Stanislaw Kowalski, a trustworthy Christian. I told him a story that I came from Lemberg, was deported to Germany for forced labour and I escaped from there. I therefore had no papers and which made it difficult to report. Kowalski led me to a widow of a Polish officer and when I had to run away from there, he gave me another address to a woman Julka, her surname I don't recall, on Rinkowa 4.
Kowalski also took me to his family; he was familiar with everything and helped me a great deal. He told me he sympathizes with Jews because of the great catastrophe that befell them. Finally I revealed to him that I was Jewish. That did not disturb our friendship. Kowalski even took me to the movies.
On the streets of Tarnopol I never met the woman who saved me from being shot near the railway station in Chorostkow. Whenever she saw me she turned away her head so that I should not be afraid that she might betray me. This particularly pretty and gentle Polish woman told Kowalski after the liberation (we met in Poland) that every time she saw me, she ran immediately to church to thank the Almighty that I am alive. Her name was Marila and in Tarnopol at that time was busy with smuggling.
The Murderer Rakita.
Once Kowalski pointed out on the street the ogre of Galician Jews, Rakita. After that I would meet him often on the streets of Tarnopol with his riding crop in hand which he used often. For a period of time Stashek Kowalski worked for Rakita as chauffer and he told me with what swinishness he killed Jews and afterwards took away their possessions. Whenever I saw Rakita my heart stopped in fear. I swore then that if I ever survive to the end of the war, I will revenge myself on him. Was always looking for a way to avenge myself on the Nazi murderers. Such not very smart thought turned over in my head but for now you had to run away from the Germans and hide.
So I went to the neighbourhood of the Polish woman Julka. She lived in the kitchen with her unruly child and gave me the bedroom. As a smuggler I had to travel often for lengthy periods. To tell the truth I did not have much money in order to do business and also did not want to risk large purchases, because the goods were often confiscated. I dressed like the majority of smugglers at that time: a kerchief on the head and a large handbag. I often bought a ticket to Ivan Pusti, the last station on the Tarnopol line and spend the night there and then travel to several other railway stations, returning home after several days, in order not to arouse suspicion. But I lived through enough fears every trip.
I was sitting in a train compartment with a Ukrainian. I always tried to be with Ukrainian or Polish women. Suddenly a train inspection. Train conductors with Gestapo personnel. The Ukrainian identifies himself with his I.D. card, I with my school certificate. They look me in the eyes, confer among themselves and question. I pretend to be disinterested and play the role of not understanding a word of German and the Ukrainian translates. The control leaves, but quickly return. Only thanks to the Ukrainian do they leave me alone.
This Ukrainian was looking for his sister in Tarnopol but knew no one in town. In gratitude I gave him the address of Rinkowa 4. A month later when I had long forgotten this whole incident, this same Ukrainian did me a favour again.
Julka often entertained men in the kitchen. I was so naïve that it took me a long time to figure out Julka's occupation. Of her visitors, I recall a certain Pole, Marian, who served in Kripo (Criminal Police) He probably had more than one Jew on his conscience, because in the police, he specially learned he specially learned Yiddish, in order to be able to catch Jews. He even wrote something in Yiddish and showed it to me, so I deliberately turned the paper upside down saying that I know nothing in that language. Marian wanted to get closer to me because my appearance reminded him totally of his sister. It never occurred to him that I was a Jewish daughter.
Julia let me in on the fact that she would like me to join her socially because she was organizing in her bedroom a great party. Several men were expected to come, along with one of her girl friends. She wanted very much that I should remain at home for that evening, because the party would end with an orgy.
The day arrived and I helped her cook and bake. Although my heart was faint from hunger, her meals made me nauseous. And I was very fearful. I prayed to my mother that a miracle should take place (I always prayed to our God in our language, even when I was kneeling in church). Suddenly the door opens and the young Ukrainian enters, the one whose sister I was supposed to help him find. Luckily I ran with him into town. I was successful in avoiding the party of the prostitute Julia.
The Ukrainians sister lived under the railway bridge. She was happy to see us and graciously asked us to remain. Because of the curfew it was impossible to go home. So I stayed there overnight. In the morning I returned back to Julia's and I truly had a great miracle. The drunken and celebratory company had with its shouting and tumult attracted the Gestapo who left only Julia in the house because she had a little book'. As for the men and Julia's girl friend, they were all arrested. The Germans also carried out a thorough inspection of the house. I found my room like after a pogrom.
I felt that it was no longer possible to live there. One evening the Germans began knocking on the door because they saw a German go into the house. There were two doors there. The first they ripped out. I got ready for a suicidal escape because I had to jump from the 3rd floor. At the last moment the Germans noticed a crack of light in Julia's room. She had a conversation with them and they left. I was saved once again.
However, I had to run away from Julia immediately. I moved to a Ukrainian family, Zagurski. The woman was close to the underground although not a bad one. Their house was opposite the Ukrainian police station. I often met with these uniformed people at the water pump and not once did they help me drag the water containers. I had problems identifying myself when the Germans carried out inspections and searches because desertions from their army had begun. The Zagurskis also became suspicious of my nationality. On a certain evening when I feigned sleep, I overheard what the old woman is saying to her husband. She is Jewish. I decided to get away from there.
From Tarnopol Back to Chorostkow.
At last it began to dawn. I wanted to read in the face of the Zagurskis whether they already betrayed me. Quietly I stole away from the kitchen into the corridor where I had prepared a small valise. In the street it could be seen that the Germans were running away, the front getting closer. This was February 1, 1944. But I had a feeling that in Tarnopol it did not appear that the Russians would arrive so soon. I decided to return to Chorostkow. A long enough road awaited me in the midst of winter about 60 kilometers to the Zbrucz River, practically on the front line. And with a Ukrainian kerchief on my head I start out.
Once on the road, I meet a German military auto. They picked me up and took me part way. They tried to talk to me in broken Polish and Russian. Later I ran into an elegant auto where a high officer was seated. He allows me to go in. In Mikulnice the auto drives directly to the house of the Gestapo. Everything within me dies. I slide out pf the auto, thank the officer sincerely and take off. (Later I found out I was driving with the SS Chief of Eastern Galicia, Miller.)
After walking several days eastward and avoiding the villages near Chorostkow where I was known, I finally arrived in the town of my birth. I ran right to Alena's. She was very happy and we kissed. In her house 3 Jewish girls were hidden and saved. Fancia Goldhirsh and the two sisters Chawa and Matilda Krenkel. (Matilda is author of First Letter
translated earlier ML) Now we were 4. Chawa was lying above the oven, Fancia in the library trunk, Matilda and I lay, not moving in the made bed under 2 feather covers. Women came to Alena gossiped with her much, mainly about Jews. We heard everything. We were terrified. Late at night we emerged from the hiding places to stretch our bones. And how many fears did we live through there when Timko got drunk. He sang anti German songs, threatened Hitler and the Ukrainian police. But no matter how drunk he was, he always kept us in mind not to betray us with careless utterances or unnecessary word.
On March 22, 1944, the Soviets came in. We were saved! (Fancia now lives in Argentina and the Krenkel sisters in the US.)
After liberation 5 more Jews came to Chorostkow. Altogether 8 Chorostkower Jews survived. For a period of time I was a teacher, later repatriated to Poland, went to Wroclaw (formerly Breslau) where in 1947 I married Jacov Kiperman from Radziwilow. In 1950, with 2 children, we made aliyah to Israel and set up our home in Herzelia.
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