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[Page 231]

The Destruction of Kremenets

Burning Embers*...

Manus Goldenberg

English Translation by David Dubin

 

*Al Hamishmar, February 24, 1944

... Dubna and Zdolbunov were liberated. The thunder of the Red Army artillery already reaches my city, Kremenets. However, there is no longer a single living Jewish soul to joyously hear the echo that brings our salvation, as we heard back in 1919, when Petliura's sword was dangling over the city's head. The city, imprisoned behind shutters for many months, began to emerge, young and old, and filled its lungs with the air of freedom. And now the Red Army would find only smoking embers and mass graves.

Several days after war broke out in 1939, Kremenets received a great “honor”: the Polish government, which had evacuated Warsaw, took up residence there with the diplomatic corps. A few days later, the German airplanes took note of the city and bombed it heavily.

And then Soviet tanks came and rescued her from loss and destruction. And again city life began to flow normally.

My city, Kremenets, has truly fallen.

One day Soviet tanks will again appear in its streets, but this time they will be met with the silence of death and the crowing of ravens from the branches of the trees in old, lush Lyceum Park, the center of Polish culture in the 18th century, where the great Polish poet Slovatski received his training.

On the slopes of a tall, steep mountain, the cemetery stretches between boulders and groves and near babbling brooks. The great, crowded stones look like a chaotic flock of sheep overlooking the city. A large congregation of many thousands is buried there today. They are silent witnesses to the enormous tragedy that befell their children and grandchildren.

And one day, if I come to you, beloved city of my birth, and climb the narrow paths to your cemetery, I will listen to the tombstones and absorb this story of terror and bravery in order to tell my children after me, until the end of the generations....

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The Fate of the Jews of Dubna and Kremenets

Telegram to Davar from the Jewish Antifascist Committee, Moscow, April 3, 1944

The first words that reached us from Dubna and Kremenets after their liberation described the Nazis' enormous cruelties. Not a single Jew remained alive in these two cities. The Jews who were imprisoned in the Dubna Ghetto held out much longer than in other places, since Ukrainian and Polish partisans brought them help and provisions. The Jews in Kremenets actively resisted the conquerors/murderers. With Comrade Bernshteyn at the helm, a large group of young Jews who had escaped from the Kremenets Ghetto assembled in the mountains. This was approximately one year ago. The German authorities posted a large reward for Bernshteyn's head. The Jewish partisans excelled in their actions against the Germans. After a while they joined the Polish-Ukrainian partisans. Bernshteyn and his associates helped the Red Army with important intelligence and disruption of the enemy's supply lines.

Besides the Dubna and Kremenets Jews who joined the partisans – of whom many fell – Jews survived in the Soviet interior. A group of Jewish refugees from Kremenets found shelter in the village of Bogo-Yablonskaya near Tambov. Some of them, notably Rozental and Yosef Berkovits, a former officer, worked in the Caucasus. Some of the refugees now plan to return to Kremenets.

 

In Kremenets Only 11 Jews Remained...

Submitted by the Jewish Information Office in the USSR

“Letters from the Killing Fields,” Davar, November 30, 1944

A refugee from Kremenets, a resident of Cheliabinsk, received the following letter from his Christian neighbor in Kremenets:

I am very happy that at least you of your wonderful family remained alive. I will tell you about your family: when your countrymen went into the ghetto, your mother sold everything, including the furniture. I could not come to your house because I was sick, and your mother was mad at me for that. After that, she wanted to give us clothing to safeguard, but we were unable to because of the German edict that Christians who helped Jews were liable for capital punishment and loss of all their household goods. When the Jews were evacuated from the ghetto, your wife came to me and tossed me your blue suit and autumn coat. “I have someone to give these clothes to,” your wife said, crying, “but I am afraid that they will not want to return them afterwards. You will certainly watch over the clothing.” She was separated from me and left. I did not see her again. They killed them all. Dashke, who served you in your house, told me that she saw your wife as she was being taken by the Germans. Dashke yelled, “Tusye, where are Mother and the children?” She answered, “Mother is in prison, and I do not know about the children.” About a month later they killed them. It is impossible to describe the murder because paper cannot contain the horror of it. Your house is still there, and Biduk, the shoemaker (a Christian), lives there. Your bricks and other things remain with the worker who worked for you. My Tusye wanted to buy the curtains from your mother, but she told her that the curtains were with the workman, and she gave Tusye a letter for him. He asked for an exorbitant price, and Tusye did not want to buy them.

Now, back to the house. I have your suit and coat, but nothing else is left. I will tell you everything when you return here. The horrible thing about your people (the Jews – Ed.) is that only 11 remain, and I do not know them.

Your faithful neighbor, P. S.

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Figure 75. View of the City before the Holocaust

 

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Figure 76. View of the City before the Holocaust

 

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The Holocaust

Betsalel Shvarts (Tel Aviv)

English Translation by David Dubin

The fearsome visions still confront passersby; the screams of our murdered brothers still ring out. Indeed, my eyes saw all these calamities, but even so it often seems to me that since such terrible things are unequaled in human history, these things could not really have happened. Is it possible that a father could leave his child alone, a brother could push his sister to the slaughter between his mother and father, and crowds of people could allow themselves to be led like sheep to the slaughter to be killed and cremated? Hale and healthy people stripped naked and lay in ditches to be shot and saw with their own eyes that their children had the same fate ... how can we not be ashamed, we the survivors, to continue to live after all this!

The world is indifferent to our suffering, even though the spilled blood continues to scream.

 

And Thus the Holocaust Began...

Immediately after the outbreak of the German-Polish war (1939), Kremenets was bombed from the air. Of the 40 initial martyrs who died that day – not all Jews – the vast majority were not killed by the bombs but rather by the machine guns of the jets that strafed and cut down innocent passersby, including many children.

Not long afterward, the Soviet-German war began, and with it began the Holocaust. The area of Kremenets, which was known to have strategic importance, was again defended for a long time, and Germans invaded our vicinity only on the 11th day of the war. Some of the inhabitants fled to the mountains in fear of the bombardment, and others escaped to various places. The flight was chaotic. Thousands held their walking sticks in their hands, but at first they were not allowed to cross the border and were forced back by the army – an action that weakened the stream of refugees.

German soldiers entered Kremenets around noon on June 4, 1941. No battle was fought, since the Soviet army had already retreated; only one military vehicle came by chance to get bread from the bakery, and meanwhile its inhabitants went to the restaurant (the Ras House). At that moment a German scouting battalion entered the city, and a grenade attack immediately began and decapitated a German sergeant. German forces arrived and began to pursue the Soviet soldiers, who in the meantime had taken refuge in Jewish homes. The Nazis shot into the inhabitants' homes, injuring some of them (among them Golde, daughter of the glassblower Shlome). The dead German was buried in the courtyard of Pini Fridman, and the Jews who passed by were ordered to remove their head coverings. Many of them were viciously attacked and imprisoned for not obeying military orders....

 

The First Slaughter

The next morning, June 5, the looting of Jewish stores began, with the participation of the local population. There was an immediate shortage of bread. The war had broken out suddenly, and no one had put aside provisions. Jews stood in long lines in front of bakeries to buy bread, but the recently established Ukrainian militia attacked them and forced them out of the lines. Suddenly, the militia began to kidnap Jews – women, the elderly, and children – stood them in groups, and chased them to the city jail in the Dubna neighborhood. They were beaten cruelly, drawing blood.

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Eliyahu Resnik, who was rescued from the kidnapping, went mad; Potive died immediately thereafter. Jon was killed next to his home in front of his family. Other martyrs died at the hands of the murderers during organized outrages, with the active participation of many in the Ukrainian population, a few Poles, the SS, and the German gendarmes.

The unfortunate ones were brought to the jail, where political prisoners had been killed during the Russian administration, events for which the rioters blamed the Jews. With blows and gunfire, the Jews were forced to dig and exhume the executed prisoners' bodies from the mass graves and wash them. Some died from the violence of the blows. Bands of Ukrainian murderers assembled from the surrounding villages, clubs in hands. They ganged up on the Jews, forced them from their homes, and beat and killed them. About 75 percent of residents of the Dubna suburb were killed and thrown into mass graves at that time. Only a small number survived. The massacre continued on the fifth and sixth.

We thought that the end was near for all of us. It is hard to describe the outrages committed then on those in the jail. My wife told me that she had been kidnapped from the bread line. She survived because the corpses covering her stopped the bullets fired toward her. She fainted, sleeping until nightfall, and at night crawled out of the pit, almost unconscious, and returned home via back roads. Many escaped to the surrounding settlements, with some being caught and tortured to death by farmers. Hirsh Barshap's son, who escaped to the village of Saponuv, was captured by villagers with barbed wire and drowned in the river. This was the fate of many who tried to flee wherever their eyes took them. They were attacked on the roads, tortured, and killed in all kinds of bizarre ways. Women were raped. After she was tortured, Dr. Groyzenberg's daughter gave birth to a child, who was given to the Jewish orphanage, and the mother went mad.

The next day the Jews went to the local officer, gifts in their hands and pleas in their mouths, to stop the slaughter. The officer seemed surprised that there had been riots for two days, and he knew nothing about them... yet he got up, went alone to the rioters, and ended the massacre.

During the riots, about 800 people – men, women and children – were killed. Many homes were looted, and many Jews to whom the Ukrainians owed money were imprisoned. Also, the Nazis imprisoned Jews who were hiding in Ukrainians' homes and sent them to a place from which they did not return. Over several days, the Jews hid in their homes, overcome by fear, wailing over the dear souls who had been killed in the terrifying massacre, and fearful of the impending Holocaust that would overcome them all under the Nazi regime.

 

The Jewish Council (Judenrat)

A Jewish Council (Judenrat) was appointed by the city from the notable personalities in the community, some of them refugees from Western Europe who spoke German. The council offices were housed in Rokhel's courtyard on Slovatski Street. The council first organized slave labor, because until then any Jew who asked for food for his family would be captured in the street or even in his home and forced by threat of violence into slave labor; thus the council arranged bread rationing for the working Jews as well as a small amount for the poor.

These were days of riots in the entire region. The most violent were in Vishnevets, where most of the Jews were killed by the Christian inhabitants. This also occurred in Ostrah.

I do not have the exact Jewish population of Kremenets, which almost doubled during that time with the influx of refugees from Western Europe. I remember that there were 20,000 Jews until the Nazi invasion, but I am certain that 8,500 Jews were present in the ghetto in the summer of 1942.

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Decrees and Collective Punishment

The founding of the Judenrat did not stop the cycle of collective punishment. Jews gave of themselves, or tried to give all they had, to pay the punitive tax inflicted on them. The government decreed that every Jew must wear a white band with a blue Star of David on the right arm; then Jews were forbidden to walk on the sidewalks, and Ukrainians would stand on the streets and cruelly punish those who disobeyed. With difficulty, the council managed to abolish this decree, and the Jews were again allowed to walk on the sidewalks. However, Ukrainians and Germans, who did not know or did not want to know about the repeal, continued to beat them. Commonly, a Christian inhabitant who had a German acquaintance would loot a Jewish home with his help. These things occurred every day. No Jew tried to complain to the authorities, because he knew full well that he was not protected by the law. The Jews were summarily evicted from their homes without being allowed to take any of their belongings, and German Nazis and even non-Germans settled in their apartments. Then a ruling was handed down that the Jews had to remove their head coverings before any German, but there were also instances where Germans attacked them for removing their head coverings, saying “Is the cursed Jew our friend, that he greets us?...” People looked fearfully into the eyes of any German passerby, not knowing whether to greet him or not. Ukrainian militiamen also attacked the Jews, also wanting them to remove their hats.... Torture and attacks were our lot every day and every hour. Frequently, you would see a young Nazi grab a Jew and force him to perform “tricks” – crawl on hands and knees, run, fall, etc... Once, a German grabbed a Jewish child walking in the market and forced him to dance on the table; he spat on the child and on the table, and forced the child to lick the saliva, to the great enjoyment of the surrounding gentiles. Then Jews were prohibited from using the market. Those who disobeyed the prohibition paid dearly: the Ukrainian militia imprisoned and tortured them to death, and only a few survived. Nate Barshap told me that he was also imprisoned and tortured, and afterward, people's strength was a mere broken vessel...

 

The Gestapo Arrives

Then the Gestapo arrived in the city and immediately imprisoned political and nonpolitical people and a large proportion of the Polish and Russian intelligentsia who were suspected of Soviet leanings.

The Judenrat was commanded to present a list of people of various trades, reputedly in order to employ them. I cannot tell you with certainty if the Jewish Council knew the fate of those sent to the Gestapo, but it is a fact that after the liberation, in the summer of 1945, they dug and found the bodies in a ditch known as “Pieskovozki” at the foot of Mount Krestova. One of those murdered was the engineer Rozen, an ORT activist, who was recognized by his clothing. The Soviet Historical Society excavated these pits to investigate the Nazis' crimes, and they also revealed a series of mass graves near the jail and in the defensive trenches remaining from World War I on the road to Podlisets.

People who worked near Tivoli saw and knew that these Jews had been kidnapped. The Jews were destroyed, but people did not talk about it. Nevertheless, the Jewish population did not believe it, or did not want to believe it, and the Judenrat encouraged the story that those sent to work were unharmed, that they remained alive, in order to avoid panic. On his return to this city, one Jew who had been rescued from the work camp said that with his own eyes he had seen the Nazis destroy Jews, some of whom were torn to pieces by the dog sent to attack them.

In the Gestapo's “action,” most of the Jewish intelligentsia was destroyed, including rabbis, ritual slaughterers, and rabbinic judges.

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It was a fearful sight when the relatives of the kidnapped would bring the Gestapo food packages for the unfortunate ones who were no longer living – and the murderers took the food from them and suggested that they “meet” their loved ones.... And we no longer saw them or their relatives. One of the fallen was Sheyne Shklovin, wife of B. Shnayder from Argentina, a citizen of a foreign country. She brought food for the old leader of the community, the engineer Ovadis. She left an orphan who died in misery from slow gas poisoning during the final destruction.

 

The Destruction of the Great Synagogue

The Gestapo remained in Kremenets until the end of August, and its harvest of blood reaped 800 Jewish martyrs.

One night, we were awakened by a loud sound and a flood of light that overwhelmed the city. We did not understand what was going on. At first, we innocently thought that they were Soviet searchlights, and we were happy that we were about to be liberated. However, it quickly became clear that the Great Synagogue was going up in flames, which burned throughout the night. The Jews did not close their eyes, and they cried bitterly for the destruction of the burning temple. Others consoled themselves by saying that this would be atonement for our souls and that we would have the merit to build a new synagogue.

The next day we found out that the Gestapo had set fire to the synagogue, which had heavy stone walls, after bringing several barrels of benzene, hand grenades, and other explosives inside. City firefighters stood by, not to put out the fire, but to prevent the Jews from doing so and to make sure that the fire would not burn anything but the synagogue. It became known that, the day before, the Gestapo had evicted the sexton from the synagogue and had looted many things from inside. After the fire, when only charred walls remained in memory of the destruction, the Gestapo came to the Jewish Council to “investigate” who had set fire to the synagogue. Afterward, they forced the council to sign a document prepared beforehand stating that the Jews themselves had set fire to the synagogue!

Several days before, German soldiers had caught Lipin and forced him to collect 10 Jews for a prayer quorum in the synagogue. The soldiers forced them into the synagogue to don their prayer shawls and pray. Terrified, they prayed silently, but the soldiers were not satisfied, and forced them with verbal abuse and threats to pray aloud. The soldiers overturned prayer stands, and Lipin himself was forced to hit the worshipers to get them to dance around the central pulpit. After this ceremony, they kicked the Jews out and beat them some more.

 

The Ghetto

In the spring of 1942, a decree was passed to imprison the Jews of Kremenets in a ghetto, and the area chosen worked out to one and a half square meters per person. The ghetto extended west of the city near the Jewish Cemetery up to Gogolevska Street, from there to Lyceum Street going up toward Sheroka Street, and from there eastward to the firehouse. I should add that the ghetto was crowded and stifling. Efforts were made to increase the area – unsuccessfully, due to the antagonism of the Christian population.

The ghetto was surrounded by a three-meter-tall wooden fence. Although the Jews were allowed to take all their belongings, they had to leave or liquidate a good amount because of the narrow confines of the ghetto. This overcrowding grew more intense with the influx of refugees over the course of the year, and against this background there were also scuffles that the Jewish police had to resolve.

At that time, the Judenrat received an order from Miler, the district commander, to dismantle the remains of the synagogue and leave no trace – to clean the area and plant it with grass.

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They were given six weeks to complete the operation. The Jews were given a great deal of work to do on behalf of the German army – and few laborers were available. The Judenrat attempted to fulfill the order, which was difficult. Engineers, smiths, and others were organized, but the results were not satisfactory because the walls were exceptionally hard and fixed, and meanwhile day after day passed. They managed to increase the allotted time, but even after the second time period, not even half the work was complete. The officer then gave a final deadline accompanied by grave threats. The situation in the ghetto worsened, and terror increased. The Judenrat decreed that children aged 14 and over (who were exempted from work by the Germans) and men and women over 50–55 would work daily to dismantle the synagogue. It was a frightful sight – old men, exhausted from hunger, and children standing in long lines, working. As the deadline approached, the destruction of the synagogue was incomplete. The Jewish Council again decreed that every Jew who left the ghetto would need to work to dismantle the synagogue until nightfall after his return and in the morning before leaving for work.

Razing the synagogue was not without its fatalities. A wall collapsed in the darkness of evening and killed several people – and the unfortunate victims' voices shook the ghetto. The district commander, surveying the area on a white horse, allowed the firemen to assist the workers in the collapse. Even the German gendarmerie guarding the ghetto gates came to help. From beneath the collapse, injured and maimed men were removed, who were identified only with difficulty, including the son of Moshe Milman, a nice boy of 17, who had just returned from forced labor outside the ghetto.

 

Difficult Times in Ghetto Life

The Judenrat, which at first included several important members of the city's elite, broadened and branched out. At first, it tried to organize the persecuted population's life to solve the problems of forced labor, acquire bread, intervene with the government in instances of robbery and looting, collect taxes from the public, and the like. However, later, the Judenrat recorded some dismal chapters in the ghetto annals.

At first, the Judenrat was made up of local people who were appropriate and honorable and no doubt had their brothers' interests at heart. One example was Dr. Bozi Landsberg, the lawyer, who had already tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a razor at the beginning of the murderous regime, when he was beaten cruelly by the Nazis because he was against fulfilling the various degrees and paying the “contribution” tax, but he was rescued. His wife, Sonye, the daughter of Yitschak Paltorak, warned the Jews about observing the murderers' laws. Council members Dr. B. Katz and the lawyer Dr. Yonye Grinberg also withstood this incredible challenge. The first two were Zionists; the third was a Bund member. Dr. Katz was taken hostage when Jewish workers were late in cleaning up the barracks in Bialo-krinitse. Only through the rapid deployment of many workers, who quickly finished the job, was he saved.

The Judenrat was forced to assemble a large staff to handle the increasing number of laws and edicts promulgated by the government. Several refugees from the west joined them, including Dr. Mandel from Krakow, who established a Jewish police force from the best people in the ghetto. The Judenrat had different bureaus, with the most important being finance, work, supplies, food, and others. A general kitchen in the ghetto was also established next to the firehouse.

Nevertheless, several of the Jewish refugees recorded an unfortunate and shameful chapter in the history of the ghetto, when, thanks to their facility in speaking German, they drew closer to the Nazis.

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They came from various social spheres, and they showed cruelty toward the prisoners of the ghetto in that terrible situation. They were a disgrace to the ghetto. I will not spend much time talking about them; rather, I will give several practical details.

In the summer of 1942, Metshikhye Bronfeld was appointed head of the Judenrat. He was the one who prepared the lists of those sent to the “work camp” – which included my brother-in-law, Lemberg, who refused – as others did – to go. After that, he extorted money from their relatives and promised to find the missing people, but did not do so. He aspired to leadership in the ghetto and got into a power struggle with Itsi Diamant from Lodz, who replaced him. He had an assistant named Nutin, and together they were connected to a group of international thieves and swindlers. Bronfeld and Diamant were killed with their families even before the liquidation of the ghetto, having denounced each other to the Nazi gendarmes.

A vast abyss of hatred existed between the natives and the refugees, who took every opportunity to establish themselves at the expense of the Kremenets Jews by seizing openings in organizations, work, etc. There were frightful moments in the struggle between the two council leaders. Bronfeld was able to ingratiate himself with Commandant Miler through large bribes. Afterward, Bronfeld's reputation sank rapidly among the populace, and reportedly Itsi Diamant then volunteered to be an intermediary between the Jews and the Germans. That is when the bitter battle between the two sides, including mutual denunciation and defamation, began. One day, Bronfeld was arrested and tried. A similar struggle took place between the Nazis Shuman, head of the gendarmes, and Commandant Miler, both of whom claimed “Jews of his own”.... As a result Diamant and his people were jailed. When the Jewish ghetto police came to arrest him, Diamant jumped over a fence, spraining his leg, yet he was able to escape to Christian acquaintances. Nevertheless, when his family members were arrested, he presented himself. Prolonged mutual recriminations eventually ended with both Diamant and Bronfeld and many of their people being shot in the Kremenets castle. Of course, the Germans who were involved remained untouched. After these tribulations, which continued from autumn 1941 to summer 1942, Dr. Mandel of Krakow was appointed head of the Judenrat. He was well known to all for his honesty and his trustworthy service to the Jewish population until its destruction.

 

The Crimes of Commandant Miler

In the summer of 1941, Miler ruled that instead of an armband, Jews were required to sew gold patches on their backs, and I remember a Christian who cried seeing this humiliation.... At his orders, the Jewish population received 75 grams of bread per person per day, enough to worsen the famine to the point where 10–12 people died of starvation per day. The bread was made of barley flour. His commands worsened by the day. With his own hand, he signed the death warrants of 500 Jews arrested for various reasons. For example, 10 young people who worked for Germans were arrested and shot for being suspected of stealing benzene. Every week, the fines imposed were more than the persecuted Jews' ability to pay. He also ordered them to surrender whites, furs, and winter clothing for the soldiers at the front as well as food. At a time when dozens of people died of starvation daily in the ghetto and most walked around hungry, the ghetto was required to supply 25 tons of wheat! These forced contributions became hellish battles. The Jewish police and Judenrat members jointly raided the storerooms and secret, emergency warehouses in the bunkers in order to hand over the remaining food. The screams of those whose supplies had been looted reached the heavens. In practical terms, these supplies had been acquired outside the ghetto in return for merchandise hidden in the ghetto. During the autumn of 1941, an “action” of house-to-house looting took place, and then Miler, together with the German gendarmerie and the Ukrainian militia, loaded a caravan of wagons with Jewish property.

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All men were forbidden to grow their hair, and women were also ordered to cut their hair. He ordered the destruction of the synagogue, and the Jewish cemetery was demolished. This work was also imposed on the Jews. Tombstones and the cemetery wall were preserved as construction materials, and only a small number of tombstones at the top of the hill were undamaged.

In autumn 1941, Miler ordered the Judenrat to build a brothel for young Jews aged 16–19 in order to degrade them and demoralize the Jews. In the order it was stated that every young Jew was required to visit it and to bring documentation of the fact. This order was repealed with the payment of a large “contribution” from the Jews.

Miler ordered the destruction of the remaining Jewish homes surviving outside the ghetto – and the materials were sold to Christian inhabitants or farmers in the area.

In August 1941 Miler extorted from the Kremenets Jews a heavy “contribution” of 11 kilos of gold and several dozen tons of silver, including religious holy articles from the synagogues and study halls.

 

The Jewish Police

In addition to regular police duties, the Jewish police dealt with special duties imposed by the government of the Nazi occupation. Before the establishment of the ghetto, it helped the work crews recruit workers, collect contributions, and especially act when Jews refused to go to work or pay the fees imposed by the Judenrat. In those situations, the Judenrat was compelled to command the police to bring people to work forcibly, and many were also forcibly recruited to the cruel Ukrainian militia. At first, three days per week of forced labor were required, and those who faltered were compelled to work six days. Their daily ration: a liter of soup and 250 grams of bread.

At first, the Jews refused to join the Jewish police. However, after the Jews were confined to the ghetto, the situation changed, as the German gendarmerie and the Ukrainian militia guarded them. The situation worsened. The Jewish police were given difficult tasks, the foremost being to oversee preparations for the starving and impoverished ghetto inhabitants to do forced labor. People died of starvation in the street. On the order of the Nazis, the dead were placed on wagons and brought without funerals to their graves. Because of lack of nourishment, an epidemic of boils broke out. Even under these conditions, people were compelled to do forced labor – and the order to carry this out was placed on the police. Regardless of our judgment today, the heads of the Judenrat believed that arranging the work and obeying other orders would save the inhabitants of the ghetto from death.

It was a veritable miracle that in these terrible conditions no plague broke out in the ghetto, apparently thanks to the great care taken in sanitation and hygiene. In the ghetto, there were a total of three wells, where long lines stood at daybreak in order to receive the daily water ration. There was a severe water shortage. Lines even formed at lavatories. In general, cleanliness was carefully preserved in the ghetto. The police were careful to maintain order and cleanliness, including near the bakeries and grocery stores. The police also were careful to enforce the 7:00 p.m. curfew on walking in the ghetto and on speaking Yiddish, as requested by the Christian inhabitants.

Nevertheless, the most difficult job for the police was, as mentioned, recruiting people for work. Late at night or early in the morning, they would go from house to house, awakening the dejected people from their sleep and bringing them to the work office, where they were given weak soup from the public kitchen.

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One-half liter of soup and, in particular, the one-quarter kilo of bread given by the Judenrat, on top of the meager ration of 75 grams, held the key for the hungry people. Fearsome battles took place during slave labor recruitment. Many volunteered for work despite their knowledge of the poor conditions but quickly lost their strength during the backbreaking labor. More than one used all sorts of devices to avoid the work. One of the responsibilities of the Jewish police was to bring the lines of workers to the workplaces and return them – only individuals were allowed to go without a guard.

A second reason for the public's disdain for the Jewish police was the strong measures taken to collect the large contributions that Commandant Miler demanded weekly. The finance office of the Judenrat determined each Jewish inhabitant's portion of the general levy, whether per capita or by the amount of property owned. But there were some who were unable to pay, and Germans were waiting for any opportunity to destroy the ghetto. On the order of the Judenrat, the Jewish police held searches in the ghetto and confiscated everything they found. Thus, large storehouses of food were breached, and since not enough contraband was found to cover the punitive tax, these supplies were traded outside the ghetto for expensive items. By bribing the ghetto guards, people brought the goods into the ghetto and gave them to the government as a “contribution.”

The Jewish police were given a laughable uniform: a hat with a golden covering and two gold stripes on the shoulders with a small cross between them.

The Jewish police caused the population a good deal of suffering, but from an objective standpoint, it appears to me that they preserved the ghetto until the general liquidation, when no concessions to the murderers prevailed. At night, in the dark, smuggling flourished – smuggling food from the outside, in order to sustain families. The Jewish policeman's benefit was that he was allowed to pass the German and Ukrainian ghetto guards without being searched and could therefore take care of his family by selling merchandise in the city. Of course, there were those in the police who excelled in cruelty, and the current catastrophe left its mark on them.

 

In the Jaws of the Ghetto

The good thing about life before the ghetto's establishment was that every Jew could maintain contact with the non-Jewish community and more easily acquire food for himself and his family. The Christians took full advantage of this opportunity, and in return for meager provisions, they acquired furniture, housewares, and expensive items from the Jews. In general, the relationship between the Christian inhabitants and the Jews was one of hostility and subjugation. Whenever the gentile wanted, he could easily loot the Jew of all he had and even cheat him out of his home. These things happened daily. Most of the killers of Jews were from the Ukrainian “underworld,” but even members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were not free of blood.

Already in the first week of the Nazi conquest, a group of Jews was forced to burn down the Jewish library. Between two lines of Nazis and under a storm of blows, they were forced to take out the books and throw them into the fire with their own hands.

In September 1941 we received word of the establishment of ghettos in cities, and soon the decree reached us, too. As mentioned above, the regional commander established a “living space” of one and a half square meters per person. Every effort to increase the size of the ghetto was rebuffed, and, coincidentally, the Christian population was also against the establishment of a large ghetto.

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Enough time was allotted for the transfer, because the governor was interested in ensuring that the refugees would bring all of their belongings into the ghetto. The Judenrat's residency office began apportioning apartments. People were given permission to choose appropriate neighbors. Various arguments in this environment were settled by the Jewish police. In December, the transfer to the ghetto began, using winter wagons harnessed to the people themselves, who dragged their meager belongings. The ghetto was surrounded by a fence, which negated the possibility of contact with the outside world. There was no sign of vegetation and no evidence of any trees in the ghetto, except for the garden next to the hospital, where children were taken during the summer to get fresh air.

People lived under stress and constant terror. Besides the backbreaking labor and struggle for survival, people were always subject to the fear of terrible news and evil decrees hanging in the air – so-and-so returned from work outside the ghetto and said that cars filled with SS men were approaching the city; another recounted that he heard a German say that tomorrow a new contribution of people for the work camps would be demanded or an “action” would be taken against the ill, children, and those unable to work, etc. etc. These gloomy reports gave no rest. During the day, people walked around feverishly. Only at night did a small amount of rest come, and people prayed that the night would last forever.

 

A Typical Day in the Ghetto

Life in the ghetto began early, at daybreak. First, the officers of the Judenrat's work office appeared, sometimes accompanied by policemen, to awaken the men for work outside the ghetto and to escort them there. Meanwhile, people rushed to the wells to get a place in line for water. Then the street cleaners began to sweep the roads. People rushed to the ghetto kitchen to get a little soup. Others went to the food storehouses to get bread since often there was not enough for everyone. Fierce battles would erupt between people, and the police were forced to intervene.

Meanwhile, the corpses of those who had died of starvation were collected for burial. This did not even make an impression on those living in poverty and the shadow of death; the opposite was true – people would say that they died a death of “luxury.”

Next, lines of people congregated by the ghetto gates, among them the best of the young people, to go to forced labor and their places of work, and their hearts sank, knowing their fate. They stood group by group, and in front of each group would stand a Jewish policeman. One after another, the groups would leave through the gate. Outside stood the German gendarmes and the Ukrainian militia. The Jews were inspected, and if something was found on them, the murderers would take it for themselves, always hitting, hitting.

The situation was much worse when they returned from work: more inspections. Occasionally someone would have an onion or a potato that he had been given, and all would absorb the blows on account of one “criminal”; they also inspected women. Any woman bold enough to sneak an egg to her child would be beaten cruelly. She would enter the ghetto crying, even though it was miracle that she had not been arrested, because arrest meant certain death.

Occasionally, policemen who retained a remnant of human feeling stood by the gate, and then the Jews of the ghetto would say, “Today there was a good gate; we were able to take a little bit more with us.” However, miracles like this happened very rarely. At these times, a Jewish policeman and a representative of the hospital stood by the gate collecting donations for the sick from those who entered. Most gave willingly, because the hospital did not receive food rations, and the ill were dying of starvation and lack of medication.

Near the gate, frightful sites were often seen, and cruel examples were made of those who smuggled even a small amount of food. Even so, people took their lives in their own hands in order to sustain themselves.

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The ghetto had a shop where one could buy and sell. Although the store was forbidden by German decree, the Jewish policemen looked the other way. They themselves were among the buyers and sellers. When a warning that the Germans were coming arrived, they would immediately dismantle the store, but when the danger passed, people again congregated, and the trading continued.

On Levinzon Street, near the kloyz, exhausted and starving people would rest. They would warm themselves in the sun and wait for the death that would release them from their suffering. They would sleep in the kloyz on two-level bunk beds made of boards and covered with straw. Filth and insects were everywhere. Even after the burning of the filthy straw, bedbugs would crawl again. Here is where the impoverished lived. At the Grand Hotel, the picture was even bleaker, with people sleeping cramped and crowded on couches in the large and beautiful rooms, the most unfortunate being left alone and extinguished like candles. The fate of the ill lying in the hospital was no better. Some dragged themselves into holes like animals, entering them by crawling through caves or hollows in the ground or through attics. Every day, more and more poor people went house to house asking for bread, cuttings from vegetables, peels, etc.

 

“Good” Germans

Once, a drunken German entered the ghetto. He was on Gorna Street. People were shocked, and they began to run away. Only the children remained. The German distributed candies to them, hugged and kissed them, and burst into tears, crying, “Endangered Jewish children! What has that cursed Hitler done to you!”

The inhabitants of the ghetto were extremely afraid of the consequences if this matter were to reach the governor of the ghetto. Generally, Germans entered the ghetto only rarely, and they showed humanitarian feelings toward the Jews. Even so, a saying appeared in the ghetto: “To a good German – a good death; to a bad German – a bad death.” Every inhabitant of the ghetto was responsible for paying a per capita tax of 20 rubles to the Germans. The Germans also occasionally appeared at the gate guard station and for a bribe allowed wagons filled with supplies to enter the ghetto. In various ways, meat was also brought into the ghetto. As I mentioned, the smuggling was done only at night.

 

“Buried in the Soil”

When news about destruction of entire communities arrived, and as the Holocaust approached Kremenets, people in the ghetto began to look for salvation. Some escaped quietly from the ghetto and fled anywhere their eyes took them. Some died quickly at the hands of the murderers. Others left the ghetto to ease their situation, going to other cities, where the ghetto police were not as cruel as in Kremenets. Nevertheless, most stayed, building hiding places and digging “bunkers” in the ground. Because of overcrowding, the bunkers were very small, and when the Holocaust arrived, they were not large enough to hold all the members of the household. Besides themselves, people wanted to keep a minimal amount of property in the bunkers. It is easy to imagine the crowding in bunkers of 14 square meters containing 24 adults and small children. When the evil came, people could not stay hidden – and they placed their fates in the hands of the murderers. The inventiveness that people used in building the bunkers was indescribable. Some were built with incredible engineering, including electrical and sanitary fixtures. It was a veritable complete city underground, which required the executioners to burn the besieged ghetto in order to conquer it.

With the continued pressure, physical strength declined in the ghetto, and hopelessness and depression increased. Even the young people saw and felt the coming end, and despair led to acts of desperation ... people became inured to everything, including this. Jews from throughout the land – tried and true leaders, scientists, manufacturers, merchants, soldiers, and journalists, members of the intelligentsia and business professions on the one hand and members of the “underworld” on the other – were crammed into the ghetto.

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Nevertheless, of all these people, there was not one person head and shoulders above the rest who could guide the confused and perplexed. And in everyone's heart lived the hope that perhaps he would merit freedom along with his family....

Meanwhile, the famine became even worse. The stores of provisions were emptied in the form of “contributions.” Food could no longer be smuggled in through the gate. New martyrs fell every day. Corpses were stripped of clothing and shoes. In their desperation, people tried to climb the high fence around the ghetto, and a few managed to sneak a small amount of food into the ghetto. Some were helped in their daring purchases by Christians, and many were imprisoned. Old and young endangered their lives. A 16-year-old girl who could no longer tolerate seeing the suffering of her family went to seek employment from a Christian acquaintance outside the ghetto, perhaps to ask for her life to be spared, or perhaps she was no longer in her right mind. One morning she took a small piece of bread with her and climbed the fence to escape, but before she was able to breathe the clean air, she was shot and killed. This was but one episode of many.

Some Jews left some of their property with Christian acquaintances outside the ghetto in the hope that after their liberation the property would be returned or they would be given provisions. However, only some of the Christians kept their promises; most waited expectantly for the end to come to the Jews so they could keep the goods. Only a few threw packages of food into the ghetto on behalf of their Jewish acquaintances.

 

Toil and Torture

Meanwhile, the ghetto's labor platoons continued to fill large work orders for the Germans under subhuman conditions. The ghetto was divided into seven work areas, with seven officers supervising the work orders. Most of the officers were not of a high intellectual caliber. They tried to lighten the load of the weak and impoverished. They exempted men of means from work in return for payment to workers who replaced them. There were instances where people refused with all their might to go to the most difficult jobs. When Tsiger, president of the Jewish work battalions – who knew the danger involved – began to investigate the reasons for this, he found out that the Ukrainians were viciously attacking anyone who did not fulfill the deadly work quota, which was beyond human capacity. Tsiger informed the German officer Hamershteyn about this, and when he found out the truth, he punished the Ukrainian overseers harshly and sent them to work in Germany.

Hamershteyn did what he did in return for frequent bribes given to him by Tsiger on behalf of the local Jews. This same Hamershteyn participated in the “action” in Rovno, only because the local Jews did not understand enough to get “attention in return for gifts.”

In spite of the great need for men inside and outside the ghetto to work, it was difficult to find work for women. Work outside the ghetto was especially coveted because of the possibility of acquiring a small amount of food. Getting work for women required a great deal of “influence,” often in the form of payment to the Christian who assigned the work. Every morning, as the workers went to their jobs, groups of women entered the Jewish work office and described their suffering and frustration that work was denied to them. There were women who sneaked into the groups of working men. The desire to smuggle a small amount of food into the starving ghetto is what forced them to do so.

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To Work in Rovno

After the first “action” in Rovno and the resulting shortage of manual laborers there, the Rovno government imposed a contribution of manual laborers on the Jews of the close vicinity, including the Jews of Kremenets. On Hamershteyn's order, the Ukrainian and German police, as well as the Jewish policemen, began to gather people in farm wagons to be brought directly to the trains, after all forms of persuasion were unsuccessful. Hamershteyn himself orchestrated the work, and with violence forced the people to get into the wagons. The entire city felt the fear of God. The cries of women and children reached the heavens. Everyone thought that the hour of destruction had arrived, and many began to flee and hide. Some of the Aryan residents outside the ghetto looked upon the spectacle with amusement, and some saw themselves participating – and went on their way. Gripped with fear of their unknown, terrible fate, people went on their unknown ways. Some tried to jump from the wagons at the last moment. The Jewish police even helped several of them, who succeeded in escaping. They hid overnight in the fields and the hills, and the next day returned to the ghetto, to the delight of their relatives, who had held out no hope of seeing them again. The remainder traveled to Rovno.

And behold, all the Jews who had been taken returned to their homes! Very soon the answer became clear: their freedom had been achieved through the payment of ransom to Officer Hamershteyn. The story was that the hand of the Jewish overseer, Tsiger, was also involved. Over time the situation changed, because news came from Rovno that the condition of the men was good, the work was not difficult, and the food was good. Therefore, the second contingent saw men eager to work, and some scandalously paid money to be sent to work in Rovno. Meanwhile, Hamershteyn was transferred to oversee work in Dubna, and Tsiger lost his patron. The German officer Miler, who replaced Hamershteyn, now saw an opportunity to collect the debt from his enemy, Hamershteyn's protégé. This opportunity came to him when Tsiger sent a wagon filled with the corpses of starvation victims through the ghetto gate without permission from him. Miler imprisoned Tsiger, and he was killed in one of the “actions.”

In August 1942, fearful news reached Kremenets regarding massacres in nearby Volin cities – Rovno and Radzivilov. All felt the approaching Holocaust but tried to console themselves by believing that Kremenets would be spared. The pressure was high. The feverish construction of bunkers began, starving people ran to work, and again people paid monthly contributions to the Nazis – and hoped for a miracle from the heavens. People took comfort from the secret news, gathered from radio sets of the Christian neighbors, of the Russian army's successes and the Germans' failures in battle.

 

The Holocaust Approaches

The Holocaust neared. One month before the “action,” on a Sunday morning, the noise of megaphones in automobiles was heard in the streets outside the ghetto. The megaphones called on the townspeople to destroy the Jews. This was propaganda in preparation for the slaughter.

During the final week, the normal routine of the ghetto changed. On Sabbath eve, August 9, 1942, the Jewish work office received an order to send workers to the train station to unload grain after their labors. All the workers were laboring outside the ghetto at that moment. It was raining heavily, and the winds were violent. Jewish policemen gathered next to the ghetto gate and waited for the workers to return. When they came, broken, dejected, soaked through in the rain, and consumed by fear and terror, they were grabbed by the policemen and brought in columns to the train. A few tried to make a break for the ghetto gate, but the Ukrainian police beat them back into line. The Germans apparently already knew that the “action” would begin the next day, and they wanted to take advantage of the final night of those condemned to death.

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The Jewish policemen brought the last group to work. The Ukrainian overseers prodded the Jews with curses to hurry to work. The unfortunate ones were brought back to the ghetto late, ignorant of the fate that awaited them the next day.

 

The Night of Trembling

At night, the evening of August 10, the Jews of the ghetto were jarred awake from their sleep by the thunder of gunshots from every direction in the ghetto. At first the quiet of death reigned in the ghetto. People ran to hide in the darkness of night, expecting that the darkness would serve as cover for them. The rifle shots continued and increased moment by moment, bullets flying everywhere. Screams rose from Gorna Street and from the vicinity of the Great Synagogue.

The murderers were inpatient. The tore down the ghetto fence and broke into Jewish homes to rob and loot. Meanwhile, they shot and attacked right and left, and the first victims died in the ghetto, causing terrible chaos. Babies were wailing bitterly, and there was no one to quiet them. Everyone was sneaking into the bunkers. Others climbed to the rooftops to see what was going on outside the ghetto. Gunshots broke out even there. People wandered aimlessly as if they were mad. Screaming and crying, people dragged linens, clothing, water, and provisions. Some risked their lives and went outside. From every direction, wailing erupted from people who had been separated from each other. Children were pressed close to their parents in an attempt to find refuge and protection. Even the youngest babies sensed the fear of the moment. On hearing their questions, the hearts of the adults shuddered. The young ones did not understand why the adults could not help them....

Dawn broke. It was obvious to everyone that the dawn would bring destruction. The news came that 60 Nazi gendarmes had entered the ghetto with a Ukrainian SS detachment from Bialo-krinitse. The Jewish policemen, whom they had chased away from the gate, told us that the enemy had purposely shot into the ghetto and claimed that the Jews were rebelling – and that this served as a pretext for the evacuation of the ghetto. Immediately, they requested that Jewish Council send all able-bodied men to the gate to report for work, reputedly. The Judenrat in turn called on the population, but only a very few responded to the call and proceeded to the gate. There stood a group of Germans, some in SS uniforms, performing a “selection.” They delivered their judgment – whether to remove from the ghetto or not – according to workplace certificates. Over time, more and more people approached the gate, until they comprised most of the population, old and young, including people with children in their arms.

 

Like Lambs to the Slaughter …

The line of people continued from the Great Synagogue along Levinzon Street to Tailors' Street. The second line extended from the great synagogue along Gorna Street. The Ukrainians stood on either side between the lines of Jews. Indeed, at that moment the Jews had a chance to attack the murderers and take their weapons. But, regrettably, there was no sign of rebellion. People had reached the final depths of hopelessness. No one reacted to the death blows administered by the Ukrainians. People were pushed toward the gate, and everyone assumed that he would thus be saved. Even the ill and swollen crawled and came down from their beds. The selection continued. The fortunate ones were brought through the gate, and in groups of 400 they were taken under heavy guard to Bialo-krinitse. Several tried to flee, and the Ukrainians chased them, killing them with bullets and stripping the corpses of their clothing. The murderers threatened that anyone who tried to escape would be killed. Along the way I recognized the indifferent faces of Christian passersby. Some of them were laughing... I saw Sonye Goldenberg-Shpigl-Gorvits as she was pushed by the blows of the Ukrainian policeman's rifle butt. In her arms she carried her child, who looked into her mother's fearful eyes...

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On the Road to Destruction

On the road, people try to calm each other. Some believe that they will allow us to remain alive; others say that they do not want to live without their families. The first column arrives. Everyone is pushed into stables. Outside, a strong chain of Ukrainian SS men is standing. Many of them are inhabitants of Kremenets, and they show not the slightest evidence of mercy. The thoughts of those condemned to death wander to their loved ones left in the ghetto, many crying bitterly. Others sit silently on the ground. Next to me sits the attorney Yonye Grinberg, covering his face with his hands – and crying. “I am a sinner,” he tells me. “I left my wife and children in the ghetto.” “How could we have behaved this way?” he asks me, and the question strikes my heart like an arrow, and there is no answer.

After the first day of selection in the ghetto, and after some of the men were removed to Bialo-krinitse, the remainder searched for shelter in the bunkers. Of course, not everyone owned a bunker. Some of the first martyrs doomed to destruction were the inhabitants of the Grand Hotel and those lying in the hospital. The Ukrainian policemen and the German gendarmes chased them to the synagogue square, and from there were brought by automobile and even on foot to the barracks, where large excavations were left from World War I. The people were beaten and forced to undress and lie down in rows inside the pit.

The SS murderer, who was sitting at a table, fired volleys of bullets into them. Those who were not struck by bullets were killed by the Ukrainian policemen standing around the pit. The screams of adults and children were heard from far away. There was no lack of Christian neighbors who came from the city to see the spectacle of their Jewish neighbors' murder.

Every row of murder victims was covered with a few small shovels of earth and a layer of lime, through which some bodies protruded during their death throes, and their blood soaked through the earth and lime. On top of them came the new victims. The terrible spectacle was repeated over and over. Several tried to escape naked but were felled by the murderers' bullets. The survivors were forced to drag these victims into the trenches and lie down next to them.

After the mass murder, the German and Ukrainian policemen left to search for those hiding in the bunkers. It is clear that despite the utmost caution, people were unable to control their crying children, whether they were crying from fear or hunger, and thus they were doomed by force of arms or otherwise to leave their hiding places and go to their deaths. In several bunkers, children were strangled when their mouths were covered to stifle crying. Elsewhere, children were poisoned by injection. Others poisoned themselves and their families in order not to fall into the murderers' hands, but only a few had this cherished alternative. Some, for example, Dr. Shklovina, took too small a dose, which caused great suffering. In the deportation area, she begged the murderers to kill her, and a German did her the favor. Her granddaughter, age three, was brought to the pits desolate and consumed by crying, and was thrown onto the pile of corpses.

“Satan Has Not Yet Invented the Revenge for the Death of a Small Child…”

During this selection, men, women, and children were strictly separated. When they found children among the men, they cruelly attacked the former. Two children stayed by their father. The older daughter begged the killers to allow her to say farewell to her mother. They gave permission.

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After she had said farewell to her father, she went over and took leave of her mother, subsequently walking quiet and pale with the line of children who were being pushed into the trucks. Only the young son grasped his father, screaming with heartrending cries, “Father, I don't want to go!” One of the killers rushed forward, kicked the boy with his foot toward a second murderer, and the second kicked him to the third – and in this way the boy was thrown with harsh mule kicks on top of the heads of the children standing crowded in the truck.

 

The Murderers' Methods

To make it easier to find people hiding in bunkers, the Nazis spread a rumor that the remaining few people would not be taken out and killed but rather left alive to inventory the murdered Jews' property. Also, it was incumbent on them to remove the other people from their hiding places in the bunkers. Escorted by the Germans and Ukrainians, these people went before these homes and yelled aloud, “Jews, leave! No one else will be harmed! We only have to go to work now!”

Many who heard the Yiddish speakers or heard the voice of a Jewish acquaintance left the bunkers. They were brought together and transported to the prison. After they did their job of burying the masses of corpses exposed in the street, they were massacred in the prison yard. There were Jews who tried to save themselves by giving large bribes to the policemen, who promised to free them from the ghetto, but as soon as they escaped from the ghetto, the policemen opened fire and killed them.

Next to the ghetto gate, in the direction of Gogol Street, a woman with a child in her arms jumped outside the ghetto and was seen by a policeman. The woman yelled, “I surrender!” But the policemen shot her, and the woman and her child fell in place. The child was still alive when they threw them both onto the wagon with the dead.

The Christian inhabitants outside the ghetto continued their normal lives as if nothing had happened.

During the nights of the “action,” people left the bunkers to find themselves a little food or water to sustain themselves or to meet their relatives and try to find a way to escape the ghetto – something fraught with double danger, because the Aryan population as well as the policemen and their families would enter the ghetto at night to loot the homes of the Jews of everything inside.

 

The Mound of Destruction

The evacuation of the ghetto continued for two weeks, and despite the exertions of the murderers, there were still remnants left in the bunkers, and the murderers set fire to the ghetto from every direction. To prevent the fire from taking hold outside the ghetto, firemen were brought in from all the surrounding towns, and they were occupied not with putting out the fire but rather with preventing its spread. The unfortunate remnants were forced to leave their hiding places, which were consumed by flames, and the vast majority were murdered by the firemen or the German gendarmes and Ukrainian policemen.

The Nazis then spread the rumor that the remaining Jews themselves had set fire to the ghetto. This was contradicted by the Christian inhabitants, who saw with their own eyes that the Nazis had set fire to the ghetto in several places. It is a fact that the Germans did not allow the ghetto fire to be put out, but rather made sure to burn it down to its foundations in order to destroy the evidence of the crimes and kill anyone hiding in the bunkers. The burned bodies were collected by the Aryan inhabitants after the entire ghetto area had become a heap of ruins.

A long time after the fire, the murderers still found Jews living in a bunker in the cellar of the home of Milshteyn, manufacturer of the well-known Kremenets kvas.

[Translation Editor's Note: Kvas is a fermented beverage made from black rye or rye bread.]

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Live Jews were also found inside the bunker in the Fild house in the soda water factory. In this bunker were the Fild family, with a small child, and Basis, son of Golde and Shlome Koval, with their families and small children.

 

The Murder of the Remainder

Those left in the Kremenets prison suffered great torture after the “action” in the ghetto. Starving and filthy from the long stay in the bunkers, they were brought to the prison and awaited their death. The murderers waited until their number reached the hundreds. They were kept on the ground night and day, in the burning sun by day and in the cold by night, without food or water, as the children cried bitterly until the bitter end came. They were shot in pits prepared on the prison grounds. The pits were plowed over and turned into a garden so that even their place of burial is unknown.

Before their liquidation at the prison, the Jews awaiting death heard one of the Ukrainian murderers say that their judgment day had arrived and that they would no longer be able to suck the blood of the Aryans.

Despite this, many succeeded, through large bribes to the policemen, to leave the ghetto by ladder, but they were caught by the German policeman or Aryan villagers. In the village of Visolivke near Bialo-krinitse, old farmers caught several such Jewish refugees and dragged them back to the prison. Others, appearing to give them sanctuary in their homes, later handed them over to Nazis or Ukrainian policemen. They took advantage of Jewish girls with the promise of saving their lives and betrayed them afterward. Gofman of the Yashpe-Gofman Company, who before the liquidation of the ghetto gave his property to a Christian inhabitant and during evacuation managed through various means to contact him, was handed over by him to the murderers, who in turn attacked him harshly and continued to beat him in the prison until he lost consciousness. A physician in the prison took mercy on him and ended his misery with a fatal injection.

 

Our Spilled Blood Will Yet Be Avenged!

Next to the trenches at the barracks, one of those condemned to death provided words of comfort and encouragement that the innocent blood that was being spilled would eventually be avenged. Leybele the ritual slaughterer, Hokhgelernter's son-in-law, also provided words of comfort and vengeance to the ears of those going to their death.

During the final years before war broke, out a Jewish doctor named Meler settled in Kremenets. His daughter remained alive after her parents and all the Jews of the ghetto were destroyed. The girl spent a prolonged period in the prison under the protection of the policeman who worked there. She managed to calm down a bit and began to feel more comfortable with the policeman, who would frequently take her on walks in the prison yard. However, one day he received an order from his superiors to kill the one remaining survivor. The policeman took the girl on a walk in the garden, and as she was playing innocently near the flowers, he shot her with his pistol.

 

The Behavior of the Aryan Population

There is no escaping historical speculation – from the outrages of 1648–1649 to the final destruction. Of the 14,000 people of the Kremenets community, only 13 survivors remained, and yet in Kremenets, surrounded by mountains, there were many possibilities for salvation! Besides these 13, 7 other Jews from various towns were saved, mostly with the help of individual Christians. Eight Jews found refuge with a Christian woman, and four with another Christian. The Christian population hardly lifted a finger to save the Jews.

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kre077.jpg
Figure 77. The Killing Field (behind the Barracks)

It should be noted that the Christian who saved four Jews was later killed by the Ukrainian militia headed by Bandara in the Vishnivits suburb. In comparison with other nearby cities, such as Dubna, the Aryan inhabitants of Kremenets were particularly antagonistic toward the murdered Jews of the city.

 

Conclusion

Kremenets as a city of Israel was destroyed and has disappeared forever. The entire area is now alien to us. The ghetto area, which contains terrible secrets of torture and suffering, is a mound of destruction.

Kremenets, you and your inhabitants are cursed. We will eternally keep in our souls the memory of the holy tombs of those dear to us, and we will never, ever forget them.


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