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Before World War I, Podwolocyska was a border
town between Czarist Russia and Austria, under Austro-Hungarian rule. It was
run by Ben-Zion Zimmerman, the first mayor of the town. (His sister,
Sarah-Dvora Zimmerman was the grandmother of Dr. Yaacov Gilson. Six of her
children - Bernard, Paul, Baruch, Isaac, Marcus, and Anna - moved to the U.S.).
The mayor erected a large building (about 150
meters long, 20 meters wide, and 15 meters tall) on the main street of the
town, Tarnopolska Street, for public use. The ground floor was to be made into
shops and stores while the second story was meant to be apartments.
Later on the town hall was built (which later housed the elementary school for
boys), a central two-story building in the town square.
Additional buildings were built along the
west-east axis. The Roman Catholic church was built to the southwest of the
town and the Slavic church was built to the east of it.
On this side of town, near the road to Tarnopol,
the central synagogue was built. Behind it stood the municipal bath house and
the Jewish mikveh. After World War I, a yeshiva for the followers of the Rebbe
from Chortakov was built in the northern part of town. There was another
yeshiva for the disciples of the Hosiatin Rebbe. The more modern Jews built a
"Mizrahi" synagogue in the northeast part of town which was often
used as a meeting place for Zionist youth and for Zionist meetings before
elections to the Zionist Congress. Most of the town's Jews worshipped in the
central synagogue. The town rabbi, Rabbi Leibush Babad, prayed there during
the High Holidays.
The Jews of the town lived harmoniously with
their Polish neighbors. There were no quarrels or fights between them or
public outbursts of anti-Semitism.
However, the larger cities like Lvov, Krakow,
Poznan and Warsaw were familiar with anti-semitic outbursts led by the
"Andaks". The quotas for the acceptance of Jewish students to study
medicine, pharmacy, and technical studies which the Polish administrations of
the universities enforced, were a well known fact. Also well known were the
loud quarrels between the Jewish students and the Andaks, quarrels which
escalated into razor fights on the benches of the universities.
After Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933,
the anti-Semitism in Poland increased as well. There was incitement against
Jewish merchants and professionals. Their stores were expropriated and they
were smitten with harsh decrees- those of Piskozhova and of the Prime Minister,
who found no other problems to solve except for painting fences all over the
country and the problems of Jewish ritual slaughter.
However, the anti-Semitism had not permeated our
small town and the Jews and Poles lived together harmoniously, as mentioned
The relationship with the Ukrainians in the town
was non-existent. There certainly were no friendly relations between them
(during the years 1941-1944, there were two Ukrainian mayors who served
consecutively: Dr. Zhokovsky and Yeruslav Gargoshchuk. Of the two, the latter
was less extremist toward the Jewish population.)
The Jewish population was divided into three
levels. About 15% were wealthy, about 40% were middle-class, and the remaining
45% became impoverished due to the Inflation and difficult conditions of the
years before World War II.
We, the survivors, will remember them from the
distance of time and place: in houses with their murdered inhabitants. We will
pass through our town which has turned into a cemetery. We will remember life
as it was then, in a world which is no more. We will remember brothers whose
dreams fell with them into the ditch.
Tarnopolska Street was the main street. There
stood the Weisnicht family house with the father (the mother deceased) and six
children. At first, the father made his living from a small pub in his home,
and after it closed, the sons maintained the home. The eldest son, Hesyu was a
bookeeper, the second son, Nakchu, disabled, worked as a secretary for various
people, the middle son, Shlomo, was a merchant, Zunyu worked at various jobs,
and the youngest, David studied. The daughter ran the household. Of the
entire family, only Shlomo survived. He moved to Israel as a pioneer before
the war and lives in Israel.
The family of Benjamin Katz lived next door to
them. They traded in wood and wheat. Their son, Aaron and their daughter
emigrated to the U.S. before the war broke out and the father and grandfather
remained in the town until it was captured. One of the daughters married
Reichman, a merchant who went along with the retreating Red Army into Russia,
and who was later seen in Haifa. The rest of the family, the wife and
children, were murdered. His brother Moshe Katz lived next door. He had a
kosher butcher shop in his home. Of his family, the parents and four children,
a son Shmuel, who hid with peasants, and two daughters survived.
One sister died in Varoslav and the younger sister left the town with the
retreating Red Army. She and her family live in Israel today.
Across the street from them lived the widow
Friedman with her four daughters and one son (her husband died before the war).
One son worked as a bookkeeper for the grain merchants before the war. The
daughters worked for people in town. Everyone but Lorka, who lives in Israel,
perished in the war.
On the same street, in a two-story home, lived
the Malkishar family which consisted of the father, a clerk with the railroad
company, a son and two daughters. The children were high school graduates.
None of them survived. Beyond the train tracks at the bottom of the hill on the
outskirts of the town Novi Sviat lived the Rottenberg family, a lone Jewish
family among Poles. There were two brothers in the family. One was married
with three children and worked as a wood merchant in his wood warehouse near
the train station. The Rottenburgs lived peacefully with their Polish
neighbors, the Grokolsky family, who were tailors, the Ovorsky family,
musicians, and the Moshkovsky family. The children studied at a school located
one kilometer from their home. The school was for boys and girls and run by
Mrs. Crock. There were no quarrels or hatred among the children. During the
spring, the houses would be shaded by the fruit trees. In the summer the trees
were covered with the red of cherries, and with apples, pears, and in the
autumn, with plums. The neighbors would send fruit to the Jewish children, and
if someone needed a hand, they would work together, the Jew Rottenberg and the
neighbor Grokolsky or the musician Ovorsky.
The Ovorsky family's orchestra, headed by the
wonderful falutist Moshe Goldring would play at the Wigler Auditorium for
dances held by the Jewish youth. At parties held together, held at the train
station auditorioum or the Sokol Auditorium Jewish adults and youth and their
families would meet Poles and their families.
For a long time Dr. Rosensweig was the railroad
doctor for the town. Her husband, Dr. Leon Rosensweig and Dr. Bruno Perchip, a
reserve army Captain, and Dr. Gabriel Friedman served the Jewish and Polish
populations of the town day and night. Even on Yom Kippur they were not
deterred from rendering medical assistance to a peasant in a remote village and
would wrap themselves in coats and travel any distance.
Jews and Poles would meet on the town tennis
court. Dr. Perchip and his wife would meet the town officers from the border
town for a game of tennis.
At the municipal courthouse, which was in a three
story building on Tarnopolska Street, Jewish and Polish judges and clerks
worked side by side. Among them were the Jews Fogel and Ashkenazi. The Jewish
notary public Landsberg was the only notary in town qualified as a court
supervisor. The "Palestra" was comprised almost exclusively of
Jewish attorneys: Dr. Orbach, Dr. Cohen, Dr. Gabriel Finkelstein, and Dr.
Sbatler (his son, Leshek Sbatler, who married Gold's daughter, survived. He is
now a professor at the Shechin University). The Polish attorneys were
Gromnitzki, and the Ukrainian Dr. Jakobski with his assistant Magistrate
The town was run by the Polish mayor Bordavcik
and the vice-mayor, Dr. Leon Rosensweig. Members of the town council were
democratically elected by the residents relative to their numbers. Among the
Jewish clerks were Shlomo Wallach (who was drafted when World War II broke out.
He was later killed in a POW camp.), the brother of Zeev Wallach.
The commander of the the joint Russian-Polish
patrol abroad, from the Polish side, was the Jewish Captain Shenkel who had
been wounded in battle.
The relationship between the Jewish and Polish
youth can be described by the pretty young Jewess, Rachel Polchok, who was the
sister of Esther Greenberg who lived on David Street (the entire family was in
the Soviet Union), who had many admirers among the Polish boys. Among them
were Vladislav Vitvizki, the "Komornik's" son, a future lawyer, and
Josef Badak of Kaimovka, who come to town especially to go out with her. She
wound up marrying Yank Landsberg, the notary's son, who completed his
engineering studies in Gdansk. During the war, she fled with her second
husband to the Soviet Union and survived. Apparently, she lives in Leningrad
Contrarily, Munyu Katz admired Wanda Krutsch of
Zadnishovka. Later on, he became Sidonia Friedman's boyfriend. (She was
murdered in the Kamiunki C' camp in Podwolocyska). He was a soldier in the Red
Army during the war. After the war, he moved to the West. He studied medicine
in Germany (He did not have his high school diploma with him because he left it
with Wanda Krutch for safekeeping). He was admitted to medical school on the
basis of a friend's testimony that he had finished high school. Y.G. helped
him in his studies. Later on he moved to the U.S. and worked there as a
physician under the name of Dr. Foster. He also served in the medical corps of
the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He died of a heart attack in the U.S.
Tina Greenhaut married Dr. Crystal, a refugee
from Lodz, during the war. He served as the Kamionki C' doctor in Podwolocyska
and died there during the outbreak of typhoid fever in the camp, while helping
the sick. Pella and her younger sister and their parents were murdered in the
execution of the night of June 29, 1943. Their names appear on the list of
those buried in the mass grave at Feitel Hill (The list was compiled after the
Soviet authorities reentered the town and exhumed the bodies.).
On Railroad Street, lived the widow Teitlebaum
with her two sons, Wilhelm and Mishko, and a daughter, in a small two room
apartment. They all worked: Wilhelm worked for a jeweler in Lvov, Mishko
worked for a textile merchant in town, for Winkler, as a sales clerk in the
The daughter worked as a typist. The entire
family perished, Wilhelm at one of the executions in Lvov, and the others in
Podwolocyska during the transit to Zbaraj.
Adella Zigman, the daughter of Motti Zimmerman,
lived with her three daughters in the Zimmerman home on Railroad Street. After
her father died, she was moved to Skalat. Two of the daughters, Rosa and
Sophia, who were members of the Zionist youth group "Hashomer
Hatzair" moved to Israel before the war. The oldest daughter died before
Bella Greenspan, nee Zimmerman, a widow, lived with her mother Sara in the
Zimmerman home with her three children, two sons and a daughter. The sons were
drafted into the Polish army before the war and never returned. The mother and
daughter perished in Podwolocyska during the expulsion. Two other children, a
son and the eldest daughter, perished in an execution in Zalchov.
The German teacher, Henoch Koppel and his wife
and two children perished during an execution during transport to Skalat.
The widow Kibbetz and her son Shmuel, a tailor,
lived in a one room apartment and were supported by charitable institutions.
They perished while being transported to Zbaraj.
The Findling family, parents and one son, made
their living from their son's work as a bookeeper in the local flour mill owned
by Reichman, Fohorils, and Greehnaut. The young Findling married Dora, the
daughter of Kopke Greenhaut. His parents were taken to Skalat. He died when
the Podwolocyska camp was liquidated. His wife survived and moved to Israel,
where she died of an illness.
The Siegal family, the mother a widow, made their
living from baking bread before the war. The mother had two daughters, one
married to an American who returned a few years earlier. He perished along
with his wife and her sister and mother in the execution in Skalat.
Most of the middle-class families were fairly
well off. They did not own cars or carriages, but they owned a nice sized home
and made a living. Most of the wealthy families dealt in trade.
Sallo Wallach (a member of the Maccabi A' team,
and the best athlete in town), owned a notions store. His wife, Pepe, was the
daughter of Kopke Greenhaut. They lived in a large apartment on David Street.
The store did very well. They lived in their home until the Soviets entered
the town. After their home was expropriated with the help of the local
Communists, they moved to Lvov. When the Germans arrived there, he was
murdered in the sands of Lvov. His wife and small son survived and moved to
Israel. Their son works as an engineer for the Israeli army.
The two Neuman brothers owned a very large shoe
store in town. The family of Moshe Neuman consisted of two parents and three
children: two sons, Wilhelm and Shimon, and a daughter Rosa. They were well
off until the war broke out, as was his brother's family. The two sons moved
to Israel, one completing his studies at the Technion in Haifa, and the other
at the High School for Trade in Poland. When the Soviets arrived in town,
their property was expropriated. After the Germans arrived, they were
executed. The two sons moved to Israel before the war.
The Forhilis family, one of the owners of the
flour mill, lived in Shimchishin's house, in an apartment with seven rooms, on
the main street. He used to help the poor considerably and contributed to
charitable organizations. When the Soviets arrived, his property was
expropriated, along with that of others. He and his family perished under
unknown circumstances, after the Germans arrived in town.
Winkler, a successful merchant with a textile
store on the main street, Tarnopolska Street, near the train tracks, was also a
philanthropist. His property was also expropriated. He died while in transit
to Skalat after the German occupation.
The family of David Abush Kivetz consisted of two
sons and two daughters. The daughters, bookkeepers, worked in trade companies
in town. The eldest son, Max, was employed by an industrial company and the
younger son, Isio, worked. They lived well. Of the family, which was deported
at the time of the executions, only the youngest son, Isio survived. He moved
to Israel after the war. He works there as an army civilian.
The family of David-Eli Greenhaut, with his wife
and two daughters, Pella and Lila, moved, after the mill was expropriated, to
Zhadnishovka, where he worked in trade. After the murderous Germans came, he
and his family were interred at the Kamionki C' camp In Podwolocyska. They
were murdered during the execution of the night of June 29, 1943, and were
buried in the mass grave on Feitel Hill.
Zalman Kastenbaum was a grain merchant. He lived
well in his home until the German occupation. His son, David, moved to Israel
before the war, after completing his studies in pharmacology in Czechoslovakia.
There he worked as a pharmacist until he died. Their daughter married the
physician, Dr. Kasten, who fled to the Soviet Union when the war between
Germany and Russia began. After the war, he moved to Israel with his wife and
family. Here he worked as a physician until his death. His parents were
killed in one of the executions.
The family of Dr. Gabriel Friedman consisted of
himself, his wife, and their daughter, Julia. Unitil the occupation , they
lived in the house belonging to the attorney Dr. Grumnizki on Tarnopolska
Street, opposite the pharmacy. During the occupation, the Doctor died of a
heart attack. His wife and daughter, after the latter married the veterinarian
Dr. Yaacov Jarchower, were taken to the Kamionki C' camp in Podwolocyska. The
mother and daughter were killed in the execution of the night of June 29, 1943,
and were buried in the ditch near Feitel Hill. The son-in-law, Dr. Jarchower
was not killed on that night, but rather died later on after swallowing poison.
He was twenty nine years old.
The Farber family numbered six people, the
parents, three sons and one daughter. They all lived together until the German
occupation. The eldest son, Sunyu, was an accountant and athlete, moved to
Lvov, where he married. His sister Frieda moved to the United States. The
parents and two other brothers perished in one of the executions. The sons
Sunyu, who lost his family in Lvov, returned and remarried. Afterward, he
moved to Israel with his family. He died in 1985. His wife died one year
Shmuel Jorisch was a grain merchant. He had
three daughters and one son. Until the German occupation, he lived with two of
his daughters, the third having moved to Lvov. The son went to study at the
Technion in Haifa. He continues to live and work in that city as an engineer.
The eldest daughter also survived and lives in Israel. The parents and two
other daughters were killed in one of the executions.
The photographer Brayer, family consisted of six
people, three sons and one daughter. One of the sons was an outstanding
violinist. The youngest son survived and later moved to Israel. He lives with
his family in Kfar Saba. The rest of the family was murdered.
The Brayer's neighbors, Moshe Greenberg and his
family, his wife Esther, their son Mishko and their daughter Racheli, moved to
the Soviet Union. Later on, Mishko left the Soviet Union and emigrated to
Canada. He brought his father over there as well, and he lived to the ripe old
age of 90. As for the rest of the family, the mother died in the Soviet Union
and the daughter, Racheli and her mother's sister still live there.
The family of Naftali Greenspan of the granaries
numbered seven people. His eldest daughter Toncha was married to Yanchu Bomza.
Of the entire family just two sons, Munyu and Joseph survived. They live in
The father of the Wallach family died before the
war. The mother was killed in one of the executions. The eldest son was
drafted into the Polish army and at the beginning of the war fell prisoner to
the Germans and was murdered in the POW camp. The younger brother, Zeev moved
to Israel as a pioneer even before the outbreak of the war. He lives in Haifa.
The Liebling family consisted of seven people.
Five were killed in Zbaraj, among them the daughter Lena, an attorney. Two
brothers were drafted into the Red Army and survived. One of them moved to
Israel and died there in 1984. The other brother, Pimmik, lives in Germany
with his family.
Of the Hirshklau family which numbered six, three
daughters survived. One survived by escaping to the Soviet Union and the other
two, Rachel and Mella survived miraculously. The remainder of the family was
murdered in Skalat.
Of Rabbi Babad's family, which numbered eight
people, all were killed in either Zbaraj or Beljiz. The Rabbi's house had been
the center of religious life in the town. It was a place which enriched the
local youth. Rabbi Babad was one of Poland's three chief rabbis. On Rosh
Hashana and Yom Kippur, the prayers could not commence until the Rabbi's
arrival. When he walked on the street, even the Poles would clear the way out
of respect for him.
Of the family of Yekel Halperin of Dr. David
Street, which numbered six people before the war, only two survived, the son
Isio and the daughter Clara. They both moved to Israel after the war. The
son, Isio, worked as a bookeeper for a department store chain (Hamashbir) and
lives in Tel Aviv. The daughter, Clara, lived in Haifa until her death.
The Kass family- the father was a textile
merchant, the grandfather Yona, was a teacher. Of the family, their two
children, Sara and Shalom survived. After the war they moved to Israel.
Shalom fell in Israel's War of Independence in 1948.
The entire family of the carpenter Shmuel
Jorisch, except for their son Honchu, who was conscripted into the Red Army,
was killed. Jorisch's son-in-law, the accountant Rosenstrook, gave his fourteen
year-old daughter to the Ukarainian Shigger family, hoping to save her life in
this way. However, one day before the execution at the Kamiunki C' camp in
Podwolocyska, they handed her over to their friend, the Opsturmfurer Ravel, and
she was shot into a mass grave together with the others on June 29 1943.
Shmuel Jorisch's brother, Berel Jorisch perished
with his entire family in Skalat.
Of the Rotter family, leather and coal merchants,
all except Hirsh, who had escaped to the Soviet Union, perished. Hirsh moved
to the U.S.
Of the family of Wolf Feldman, which consisted of
three sons and an daughter, who was married to a doctor in Zborov, only the son
Leon survived. He lives in Haifa. The rest of the family were killed in the
executions at Zbaraj and Zborov.
All of the confections merchant, Yaacov
Birnklau's family of four were shot dead when the C' camp at Podwolocyska was
liquidated on June 29, 1943.
The family of the dentist, Dr. Kleiner, a refugee
from central Poland, was shot at the same time.
Dr. Kramer, a doctor from Shlonsak, was also
murdered, along with his family, on that night.
Of the Levinsons, which numbered six before the
war, two sons remained. The rest were murdered at the executions in
Of the family of six of Feige and Yisrael Netter,
three sons survived, Ichu, Yaacov and Tuvia. Yaacov moved to Israel in 1933,
as a pioneer. He belonged to the Hagana, and fought during the siege on the
old city of Jerusalem, in order to help the besieged defenders. During the
war, he, along with the others, were taken prisoner by the Jordanian Legion.
After his release, he returned to live in Jerusalem where he was active in the
Labor party. He was able to help bring over his two brothers, who moved to
Israel in the 1950's. Yaacov died in 1985. Magistrate Ichu was the general
secretary of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Tuvia worked at the telephone
company for many years. The three of them died in Israel.
The chairman of the Judenraat, Magistrate Shiller
and his wife and daughter were all murdered by his "friend"
Opsturmfurer Ravel when the C' camp was liquidated.
Of the Gruber family, the mother and one son were
killed in the executions. Two daughters and one son moved to Israel before the
war and survived with their families. The son died in Haifa.
Of the Kohan family in Kacanovka, three children
survived. They were saved by Pioter Budnik and he moved with them to Israel
after the war. Now they work in agriculture in Kfar Warburg. One of the
brothers served as a senior officer in the Israli Air Force. The younger
sister is a nurse on a kibbutz.
Capital did not save the capitalists, and the
rich were killed along with the poor. Only blind luck saved some from the
total destruction of the Jews of Poland.
The richest family in town, the Hahn family, who
dealt in grain and did business with all the farmers in the area, could not
save itself. The parents and two children were killed. Where they perished,
be it Zbaraj or maybe a hideout among Ukrainians who killed them, is unknown.
The largest tobacco dealer, Foigelbaum, had
houses and warehouses in town. After the Russians came to town, his home was
expropriated for the Ministry of the Treasury, and he, himself, was exiled.
His wife and three children were murdered on the night of the liquidation of
the C' camp.
The merchant, Metfas, a wholesale iron trader,
and the son-in-law of the head of the Judenraat, Shuller, was murdered along
with his wife and their son Millik.
Of the wealthy Tirhaus family, a rabbi and grain
exporter, his son, his wife and three children were murdered. Just the eldest
son, David, a prisoner of the Yanovski camp in Lvov, fled and was miraculously
saved. He now lives with his family in Bnei Brak.
Of the Berlin family, makers of seltzer and
leather merchants, only the son Moshe, survived. The rest of the family was
Of the Hendel family, wholesale egg traders, one
of the sons, Munyu, survived. He was later murdered while on a business trip
from Poland to Berlin. One of the grandchildren, Mushya Hendel's brother, was
drafted into the Red Army and remained in the Soviet Union. Mushya died in
Israel. All of Mushya's other relatives, parents, grandparents, brothers and
sisters were all murdered, either in Skalat or Zbaraj.
Of the Reis family, which traded in agricultural
machines, one daughter, who lives in Paris, survived. No one knows how she
survived. The rest of the family was murdered.
Of the family of Mr. Tvilling, a wealthy family
of pharmacists, no one survived. Until his pharmacy was expropriated by the
Germans and given to Gorgoroschovna (who later moved to the U.S. or Canada),
the pharmacist continued to dispense medicines, at great risk to himself, to
the people of the Podwolocyska and Kamionki camps. He was murdered when the C'
camp was liquidated.
The families of Solomon and Samuel Wohl, wealthy
merchants were murdered on June 29, 1943.
Of the wealthy family of Isaac Luckman, he and
his son Feibush were killed when the SS first entered the town. His wife,
daughter and grandchildren were killed during the expulsion to Zbaraj. His
son-in-law, a dentist, was drafted into the Red Army and never returned. The
youngest son, Joseph, moved to Israel before the war and lives in Ramat Gan.
Of the Chwekun family, two brothers and their
families were transported to Zbaraj or Skalat. No one survived. Their home
and property was given to the Ukrainian, Shigger, who has already been
The giant ditch near Feitel Hill, not far form
the Zbroch River that once represented the Polish-Russian border, bears
testimony to the final day of the remainder of the Jews of the town who were
shot dead on the night of June 29, 1943.
The band of murderers headed by the Opsturmfurer
Ravel returned to Kamionki after committing the crime in order to celebrate
there, along with their SS and Gestapo cronies. They also planned the final
liquidation of the Kamionki A' amd B' camps and all those remaining in Skalat
along with the remnants of all the camps who were brought in from the Tarnopol
and Stanislvov districts from 1941-1943. The emissary of the SS General
Katzmann, Hildebrandt, chose July 10, as the date for the final liquidation of
all the camps. Everyone was to be killed, including the women working in the
camp laundries who lived near the A' camp.
On July 10, they brought us, in vehicles, to
Kamiunki A' where the ditches were already waiting for us. They ordered
everyone to strip and forced us to run, naked, according to some random order,
to the edges of the ditches, where they were cut down by the machine guns of
Hitler's helpers. Hildebrandt was in command of the operation.
I sat at the end of the group, which was brought
in for execution, not far from the camp food warehouse. From where I was
sitting, I could see trucks coming up to the warehouse and taking out the
remainder of the supplies which had not been distributed to the prisoners: jam,
margarine, etc. Then I broke away from the group and jumped into the
warehouse. I was still dressed, but without a yellow star. I joined those who
were loading the trucks, intending to hide inside one of them. When I got into
a truck with a box of margarine, I heard Hildebrandt call out "Ein Jude
hat sich verstekt!", meaning "One Jew is hiding!" Then I jumped
back into the warehouse, awaiting my fate like the others.
In the meantime, as one truck pulled away, and
another pulled in, the Ukrainian commandant, Korrol, came into the warehouse
and ordered the storage clerk, the lawyer Koenigburg from Tarnopol to take the
keys and follow him to Commandant Ravel.
I decided to take one last chance at possible
survival. I grabbed some large keys which were lying on some barrels, and,
pretending to be a storage clerk, I followed Korrol and Koenigsburg to a car at
the exit, from where they were supposed to bring the storage clerk to the SS
commandant Ravel, to his home where the SS office was. Koenigsburg asked me
what I was doing there. I told him that I am helping the storage clerk and that
I have keys too. He understood that he'd best keep quiet. When we reached
Ravel's house, which was a farmhouse on the top of a hill in Kamionki, Korrol
entered first, then Koenigsburg, and I jumped to the side in the yard. Nearby
was the outhouse and there was a large pile of stones surrounded by various
sorts of wild bushes. I hid in the bushes. Suddenly I heard the voice of SS
officers asking the Ukrainians who were standing around- it was some Ukrainian
holiday- if they had seen a Jew running away. "Yes," they answered,
and pointed in the opposite direction. They were afraid to admit that they had
not seen anything. The SS officers and Ukrainian police went off in the
direction they had pointed.
It was already about three or four o'clock in the
afternoon, and it was a summer day. The wind began to blow, and it began to
rain. I sat in the lion's jaw, waiting for a miracle. Luckily, no one went
out to use the outhouse, near where I lay, under the cover of wind and rain.
I lay there until after it was dark. The
Ukrainian police patrols circled the hill upon which the house stood,
surrounded by diggings and lit up all around. I waited until midnight. I
calculated the amount of time it took for a policeman to circle the hill. I
bent the barbed wire, and the moment the policeman passed, I jumped down. One
policeman called to another. I stood up against the dirt wall in order to
remain in the shadow. Again, I took advantage of the moment and ran toward the
brook, which was a few meters away. I swam across the brook and I headed
straight eastward, in order to get away from the camp, while the grain made
swooshing noises around me. I went into the grain field and walked eastward,
gaining distance from the place of death. Dogs barked all around. Under the
cover of their barks, I went past the village Molcanovka and continued onward
to the village of Kacanovka. I had been a teacher there during the Soviet
occupation. I had also sent my two brothers to the village earlier on in order
to hide at the farm of a farmer I knew.
By morning I found myself in the Kacanovka
fields, where the harvest had already begun. When I lifted my head above the
wheat, I could see German soldiers' hats about 200 meters away. They were
guarding the working peasants from partisans. Of course, I couldn't come out,
for fear of being spotted.
While I was laying down among the wheat, two
peasants from the village approached me. I had once worked with them in
something involving the Polish population. I cannot recall their names. When
they saw me, they asked how they could help me. I answered "Bring me some
bread, water, soap and a razor." They told me to stay put. I took a
risk, because I did not know if they were collaborating with the Germans. But
they weren't. An hour later, they had brought what I had asked. They asked
when to bring more food. I thanked them and I told them that I would wait for
them there. But when darkness fell, I left my hiding spot in the wheat field,
and after crossing the village, I went to the farm where my brothers were
hiding. When the farmer's family saw me they crossed themselves because they
thought that I had been killed in the camp.
After they set up a proper hiding place for us in
the stable, we went underground.
We stayed hiding under the ground in this
farmer's stable until March 1944. At my request, the farmer went to a Polish
family in Podwolocyska, the Mitchel family, and brought food and grain for us.
They also brought money we had hidden in the ground by our former house.
Once an armed German soldier walked into the
stable, and we barely had time to cover our hole with straw. Luckily, the
stable was quite dingy, so the German didn't notice.
On one of the days of the winter of 1943-44, the
farmer returned from the forest, from where he would bring back wood in his
cart, and he told us of two women he had found hiding there who were in very
bad shape. I told him to bring them to us by covering them with wood in his
cart. He did this, and they remained with us until the Red Army entered the
When we got a machine gun from a Jew in the Red
Army, I had a weapon.
One day I was invited by Ukrainians who had
collaborated with the Germans to meet them in the forest. I had already heard
about two guys who had hidden out in the village of Ivanovka and had been lured
into the forest by Ukrainians where they were shot. After the Red Army had
come in, all the collaborators wanted to get rid of anyone who could testify
against them. I told them that I would happily meet them there, but of course,
we didn't go. We informed the Soviet authorities of their plan and they were
arrested and sent off to Siberia.
On one cold March day, we returned to our town of
Podwolocyska, which was about 12 kilometers from Kacanovka. When the residents
of the town saw us, they crossed themselves in amazement.
We only stayed in the town for a few days. While
we were there, the Ukrainian residents headed by the lawyer Navrotzky, all Nazi
collaborators, offered to make me principal of the high school in Podwolocyska.
Thank you very much. Not one of them gave me a hand during the difficult days
of the occupation.
A few days later, we three brothers volunteered
to serve in the Red Army.
After completing a course in anti-tank and
anti-aircraft artillery, I was sent to the front in Visla, to the seventeenth
anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery regiment under the command of Major
Yaglinsky. With this unit I went through a number of battles on the Lublin
front, through Warsaw, over the frozen Visla River, over the Uder River to
One day before the great Allied march through the
streets of Berlin, I stood on my command car. The brigade commander, General
Prokofovitz passed by and saw me standing and crying. "What happened, Lt.
Gilson?" he asked. I answered, "Here we have beaten the fascists,
but I will never see my murdered relatives again, so how can I keep from
crying? The crying comforts me some. This is how I feel, and this is how
millions of others of various nationalities feel." "I know that you
are being considered for the Warrior's Cross, which you deserve, because you
were always one of the first in battle. I saw you pass through mine fields.
You were one of the bravest fighters in the brigade. My subordinate, Major
Bialo often praised you to me."
My younger brother, Zigmund, an infantry soldier,
was seriously wounded near the Pomran Dam. My youngest brother, Binyamin, aged
17, joined one of the Warsaw units.
After the liberation of Poland, we could not
immediately begin the search for the criminals who had to pay for their crimes.
We could not yet execute the last will of Yakchi Berger, who when sick with
typhoid fever in the C' camp in Podwolocyska said one night when I brought in
drinks for the sick people, "If any of us survive, it is our duty to tell
the world of these horrible crimes committed against us."
Eventually I did execute the will of this woman
who was later executed by the SS and fell into a mass grave.
Upon moving to Israel in 1957, I started to
search for the criminals, even before I took care of my family. I wrote to a
few prosecutors in Germany and supplied them with the names of some of the
criminals. With the help of the historian and archives director. Dr.Yosef
Karamish, a board member of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, I found out that
Ravel changed his name to Herring. I reported his whereabouts to the
prosecutors office in Stuttgart where I had already testified previously.
Based on this information, all of the Gestapo and SS officers of the Tarnopol
district were arrested, including the Gestapo commandant Hermann Miller and the
I appeared in the court in Stuttgart in answer to
a summons. In the courtroom, they presented me with a lineup of SS officers so
that I would identify Ravel. I pointed him out immediately. But he insisted,
"I do not know you." Then I reminded him of his visits to the camp,
how he ordered the camp director, Schwartz, to report to him, how he used to
come to the camp at night after the parties at Shigger's house, how he beat
prisoners, etc. When he heard what I had to say, he turned pale and said
nothing more. They brought me a Bible to swear on and I swore, with a crystal
clear conscience, in the presence of God and man, that this man was Ravel, the
commandant of the Kamionki camps, Podwolocyska and Skalat. Ravel was arrested
During the Tarnopol trials in Stuttgart, a number
of survivors testified, along with me, in the name of tens of thousands who
perished. Among them were Ravel's driver, Ladovsky, who was brought over from
South America, the veterinarian Rodek Jarchower, the physician Dr. Reichenbach,
my youngest brother, Binyamin, and others who were brought from various places
in the world to give testimony. My brother, Sigmund, testified before judges
who came to Israel from Germany for he felt that he might break down upon
giving testimony in Stuttgart.
On the thirty eighth day of the Stuttgart trials,
the ex-Gestapo commandant, Hermann Miller, while openly sobbing, made the
following declaration to a very still courtroom: "I now know that my
previous testimony was false, and I want to express my deepest regrets for what
happened and what I, myself, have done", and then turning to Dr. Gison and
his family said "to you and your family."
On this day he admitted his horrible guilt, on
this day he wished to apologize to his victims, and profess the immorality of
Dr. Gilson was well aware of the historical
significance of this declaration made by the Gestapo commandant of the Tarnopol
district, as a representative of the Gestapo and SS and the Germans in general.
This was a statement made in a court in
Stuttgart, in front of the world, the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and
in the presence of judges and all those present in the courtroom, including
members of the German and international press corps.
In this courtroom in Stuttgart it had been
determined that the SS and Gestapo were responsible for the annihilation of six
million Jews. Gestapo Commandant Hermann Miller's statement made on February
2, 1966 was reported extensively in the German press, such as:
Stuttgarter Zeitung Nr.26
Suddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 29
Suddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 30
Bayrischer Rundfunk - Kirchen Rundfunk February 13, 1966
was also reported in Israeli newspapers: Nowiny i Kurier (February 3, 1966):
"SS EXECUTIONER EXPRESSES REGRET"
Former SS Officer Hermann Muller, one of 10
defendants on trial in Stuttgart for participating in the extermination of the
Jews of Tarnopol, broke down in court yesterday and begged forgiveness for his
crimes. Turning to the witness Dr. Gilson from Israel, whose parents perished
in the gas chambers in Belzitz, Muller said "I feel the need to ask
forgiveness of this gentleman for what I did to him and his parents. I admit
my guilt and express my deepest regret for what I did."
In the Israeli newspaper "Maariv" of
February 2, 1966, the SS executioner's statement was reported on the first page.
The dramatic confession was reported in the same
style in many European newspapers, as in America and all over the world.
This declaration made by Hermann Miller in the
Stuttgart court contradicted the false claim made by the neo-Nazis that six
million Jews were not murdered, as has already been mentioned. The generation
which came after the war, only forty years later, does want to know of the this
We never accused the entire German people and we
do not accuse the younger generation of murder. However, the people, from
among whom were drawn the mass murderers of innocent people whose only crime
was that they were Jews, must educate their children and point to this horrible
historical tragedy, so that it may never recur in the near or distant future.
At three important trials, in Haagen, Stuttgart
and Bermann, all of the Gestapo and SS officers who murdered Jews and looted
their possessions in the Tarnopol district were put on trial. In Haagen, the
SS officer Tomnek was tried for participating in murders committed in Kamionki
and Zbarov. In Stuttgart, the SS and Gestapo officers who were active in
Tarnopol and Kamonki were tried, and in Bermann the SS Obersturmfurer
Hidebrandt, who implicated the Opsturmfurer Ravel in his testimony, was put on
trial. Ravel claimed there that he had been ordered by Hildebrandt to liquidate
the camps. See the "Bremer Narchrichten" and "Weser
Kurier" from August 4, 1966 for more.
All of the defendants were sentenced to either
life terms or long prison terms. It was only at the Nuremberg trials that the
important Nazi leaders were tried and sentenced to death. The master murderer,
Hitler, together with his crony Goebels and his mistress committed suicide,
before the Red Army entered Berlin, in the bunker where he had hoped to find
refuge. Many of the "insignificant" criminals, SS and Gestapo
people, fled to various countries where they were supported by fascists. They
hid them there and still provide them with safe haven. Even until this day, the
hand of justice has not touched them. Except for Eichmann, who was tried in
Israel and hung, no Gestapo or SS person has been sentenced to death.
All of the German newspapers reported the
statement made by the head of the Gestapo in Tarnopol. The shock among
Hitler's supporters was so great that they couldn't digest it. The
self-degradation, bowing before the Jews and the admission of committing crimes
under the order of the Berlin central command, Hitler, Goebels, Himler, and
other important leaders, was a slap in the face to the entire Gestapo as it was
to the SS and Sund-dienst, and all the criminal gangs.
Now, when the entire world knows what happened to us, how much innocent blood
has been absorbed into the ground, the blood of those shot en masse, how many
were tortured in the Gestapo prisons, how many skeletons are scattered about
the ground of all of German-occupied Europe, now they dare to whisper among
themselves while sipping wine:
"Morgen auf Gottes Befehl diese Deutschen
die Kameraden, die ordnung in Deutschland aufbauen Juden, Ja gestern die Juden
und willen en neueneohitleristische."
They still adore the Hitler beast.
They still desecrate Jewish cemeteries.
On May 5, 1985, on the fortieth anniversary of
the end of the World War II in Europe, and the fall of the National Socialist
regime in Germany, the German, Richard von Weitziger gave a speech in the
German Bundestag and blamed Hitler and the German people for the outbreak and
consequences of the World War II. His historical speech, and his call to the
young generation not to despise others but rather to strive for coexistence,
the call to strengthen democracy and support peace, liberty, justice and
lawfulness - all this produced a strong echo in the world press and among those
Germans who believe in freedom and democracy.
How could a people of philosophers, poets, and
scientists in all fields of human knowledge, allow a deranged paranoid to
reach the heights of power in Germany? How could it be that a band of
criminals under the leadership of Hitler held a conference in Berlin of January
20, 1942 under the title of "The Final Solution to the Jewish
Problem"? It is a fact that the head of the Secret Police the
Obergrupenfurer Heidrich, who was commissioned by the head of the Reich,
presented a detailed plan for the elimination of 11 million Jews in the
The Reich -131,800 Jews
East Arya -43,700 Jews
Eastern territories- 420,000 Jews
General Gobernman - 2,284,000 Jews
Bialystock - 400,000
Czechia and Moravia - 74,200 Jews
Estonia is free of Jews
Latvia - 3,500 Jews
Lithuania - 34,000 Jews
Belgium - 43,000 Jews
Denmark - 5,600 Jews
Occupied France - 165,00 Jews
Unoccupied France - 700,000 Jews
Greece - 69,600 Jews
Holland- 160,800 Jews
Norway - 1300 Jews
Bulgaria - 48,000 Jews
England - 330,000 Jews
Finland - 2,300 Jews
Ireland - 4,000 Jews
Italy and Sardinia - 58,000 Jews
Albania - 200 Jews
Croatia - 40,000 Jews
Portugal - 3000 Jews
Romania and Bessarabia - 34,200 Jews
Sweden - 8,000 Jews
Switzerland - 18,000 Jews
Serbia - 10,000 Jews
Slovakia - 88,000 Jews
Spain - 6000 Jews
European Turkey - 55,500 Jews
Hungary - 742,800 Jews
Soviet Union - 5,000,000 Jews
Ukraine - 2,994,684 Jews
Belarus (not including Bialostock) - 446,584
A total of 11,000,000 Jews
The murder of the Jews was to be carried out in
phases under the proper management and in the proper manner.
The chimneys of the crematoriums smoked, the
slaughter and the murder, unparalleled in human history, was done in front of
the entire world and with cynical exactness.
A report by the National Jewish Council in Poland
to Yitzhak Schwartzbard, a member of the National Committee in London, dated
November 15, 1943 states:
We are writing to you with the blood of tens of
thousands of Jews that is being spilt again. We are now enduring the epilogue
of our tragic history in Poland. The Hitlerian barbarians, despite their
defeats, are murdering the few who remain of the Jewish population.
They started in the Lublin area, where the front
is gaining upon them quickly. The Germans have concentrated a number of camps
in which about 40,000 Jews have been rotting away. They are mostly from Warsaw
and the Lublin area. The largest of the camps are Treblinka (10,000) and
On Wednesday, November 3, at 6:00 a.m., all of
the men were ordered to come forth in order to dig supposed anti-aircraft
ditches. Two hours later, they were surrounded with machine guns and all of
them, without exception, were killed. At the same time, fifty vehicles
arrived, with all of the women and children loaded in them. They were made to
march to the same spot, strip, and were then executed in the same fashion.
Afterward, 3,000 Italian Jews were brought into the camp to await a similar
On Friday there was a similar massacre in the
Lublin camps. There, thousands of Jews were murdered. At the same time a
bloody "selection" was made at the Poniatov camp. Most of the men
and practically all of the women and children were sent off to be killed.
During the first days of November, the Germans
turned to eliminating the Jews in another area close to the front, in eastern
Galicia. From one camp on Yanovska Street in Lvov, where there were 7,000
prisoners, 2,000 were "selected". They were cruelly murdered in a
killing field in Piaski.
We have no doubt that in the coming days and
weeks the remainder of the Jewish population in the camps and ghettos will be
put to death...
Last month, we estimated the number of Jews in
the entire country to be between 250,000-300,000. In a few weeks there will be
barely 50,000 left.
At the last minute, before the Jews of Poland
become extinct, we are calling out to the world to save us. No one has done
anything. Aside from words, nothing has been done to save a people sentenced
to annihilation by murderers."
In the protocol of the conference, which was held
at the RSHA (Head Office of Reich Security) on January 10, 1942, and was
dedicated to determining a plan for the destruction of European Jewry, it
states "...In the process of implementing the final solution to the Jewish
problem, the Jews must be exploited for work in the East under proper
leadership and in a fitting manner. Great ranks of laborers must be formed,
the two sexes must be separated and those able to work should be directed
towards building roads. Of course many of them will die by natural elimination.
While the Final Solution is being implemented
Europe will be surveyed from West to East. The deported Jews will be housed in
transit-ghettoes, from where they will be sent back eastward."
The plan for the murder of the Jews of Europe was
executed by the Germans in their criminal fashion. Today the neo-Nazis dare to
say that it was all "a lie". If this is true, then where are the
European Jews? Each labor camp like the Kamionki A'B'C'D' camps were
concentration camps where Jews were killed through murderous labor, by whip or
by machine gun. The trials of the SS and Gestapo officers which were held in
Germany after the war are a parody compared with the horrendous crimes these
people committed. Instead of sentencing these people to death, they were
satisfied with giving life sentences to only the most outrageous criminals;
instead of hanging them in the cities of their birth, so that all could see
their guilt and be seen, so that future generations would not witness such a
In the aftermath of the tragedy of the
destruction of one third of our people, the world recognized our right to an
independent homeland, to Israel. Then Jews started to move there from all of
the lands of their dispersion, especially the Jews of Europe, fresh from the
camps and ghettos.
A town of about 4,500 Jewish inhabitants who
practically all perished, killed in gas chambers, murdered in caves and
forests, streets and fields. Just the earth and wind, snow, rain and frost
were silent witnesses to this tragedy, unparalleled in history. Only a few
were spared from the destruction, in order to come forward and tell the world
of it, to testify in court when World War II was over. Only a few Jewish
witnesses were able to testify in court to what they experienced, and what
they saw during the executions. Only the Christians, amongst whom the Jews of
Europe had lived, could bear witness to what they saw with their own eyes from
1933, in Germany, and from 1939-1945, in German-occupied Europe.
None of the thousands of German criminals were
bothered by their consciences. The representatives of the "pure
race" were never tortured by their consciences after raping Jewish women
and then taking them out to the field to execute them. Only a few men and
women survived the horrific experiments performed upon them by Dr. Mengele and
others in the camps. The lexicon has not yet been compiled to describe the
pain of an innocent man, whose only crime was to have been born Jewish.
Twenty two witnesses survived from the Jewish
community in Podwolocyska. The tragedy of this specific community is shared by
all of the Jewish communities of Poland and all of Europe.
The Jews were brought to the concentration camps
from all over Europe, in order to be put to death, Their property was looted,
from jewels to shoes, women's hair and children's clothing - all taken to be
sent back home to Germany. Then they claimed that "they didn't know"
where the property came from nor that millions were being killed. There are
those who even deny that it happened.
When our wounds were bleeding, when babies'
brains were shattered on walls in front of their mothers, when their bodies
were being burned in the crematoriums, the world knew and kept silent. If the
world leaders had sent planes to bomb the death factories, the pace of the
killing could have been slowed considerably.
Let the house at 120 Tarnopolska Street, one of
the abandoned houses with its paneless windows battered by the wind, void of
the life which once filled it, continue to serve as a reminder to all of
humanity, that delusions of grandeur can cause people to forget what this
world is and what humanity is.
This essay will relate to them what history could
not fathom. The historian Shuleiski, my high school teacher over fifty years
ago once said, "When the discussions around the table come to an end, the
cannons begin to talk." Then they still spoke of tanks. Modern weapons
speak much louder.
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