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[Page 334]

The Jews in Sanok
at the Beginning of the Time of Destruction

by Chanoch Katz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The destruction of the Jewish community of Sanok, as in all communities of Poland, is considered to begin from September 1, 1939, the day of the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland. The beginning of the destruction could be seen and felt for approximately a year prior to the outbreak of the war as the government of Poland began to make the lives of the Jews difficult with new decrees in various areas. This started for all intents and purposes with the raising of the matter of shechita (ritual slaughter) by the Sejm representative, Mrs. Fristor, and her demand to forbid shechita completely. The anti-Semites found in this a cause to rally around and this act led to a full series of decrees. The situation worsened further when masses of Christian students began to paint over the doors of Jewish stores and did not allow Christians to enter.

The skies of Sanok Jewry covered over with dark clouds and sadness without hope for a better future. Frightening images that could not be expressed with the lips formed in the mind of every Jew in accordance with the adage “The heart does not express itself through the mouth”. Everyone felt that the ground was burning under their feet. On the one hand, there were the evil decrees against the Jews and anti-Semitic propaganda that increased daily and spread to all strata of Polish society. On the other, there was the relationship of enmity that deepened between Germany and Poland with the threats of Hitler towards Poland and towards its Jews in particular. The Jewish population had no possibility of taking measures to save and protect themselves. It was only able to pray and hope that G-d would be merciful and send His help to His people and that the pursuers of peace would succeed in averting war. However, to our great dismay, this hope was for naught. Tribulations poured down on the heads of the Jewish population without let up and became more serious with each passing day.

Even more painful was the relationship and behavior of the Polish people to all that was taking place. Instead of taking council about what to do in order to foil the plots of the Hitlerist demon whose arrows were directed to the Polish people and who prepared to conquer portions of its land, the Poles continued with their own fomenting and activities against the Jews. Their sole desire and thought was about how to make the Jews' steps difficult and to liquidate them both physically and economically. The hatred of the Polish population toward the Jews came to its pinnacle at the outbreak of the war between Germany and Poland. It expressed itself strongly even after the disgraceful retreat of Poland immediately after the outbreak of the war when within a few days the Nazis trampled their army and removed it from operation. The best of its sons and daughters were taken prisoner, its leaders were sent to prisons and concentration camps where they were cruelly tortured. Entire cities were destroyed, and more than half of the country was conquered by the Nazis. Clear thinking and straightforward logic would have required one to see the Jews as brethren in tragedy and partners in fate, to encourage them and awaken them to set up a joint front in order to fight against the Nazi conquerors who were a common enemy. However, their blinding hatred of the Jews perverted their thinking. Instead of helping them, they collaborated with the Nazis with the intent of assisting them in the murder of Jews. The Ukrainians and Poles would inform on the dwelling places of wealthy Jews and expose the hiding places of groups of peoples. Dark impulses won out over logic.

The first terrifying news reached us of about 600 people being taken out to be killed, including Yankele Kasner and David Salik[1], may G-d avenge their blood, in a forest next to Ustrzyki after they were forced to dig a grave for themselves.

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The news was brought to us by a Jew who escaped from there. At first, we treated his words with doubt and could not believe them. Only after a few days, when we saw with our own eyes the tribulation that was approaching us were we forced to believe that the terrible, cruel, Satanic thing which we did not want and were not able to believe was indeed the bitter truth. It is impossible to describe – and it would not be possible to believe – how went those days that we were under Nazi rule after the conquest of Sanok.

Towards the evening on the Sabbath of Selichot[2], we learned that the Germans were already next to Sanok and that they were about to conquer the city. Panicking from this terrifying news, people descended into the cellars. We went into the cellar of Naftali Guttwirt and waited for what was to transpire. At nightfall, caravans of motorcycles arrived from the direction of Zamkowa Street and headed to the center of the city. Following them was a long row of trucks laden with armed soldiers, tanks and all sorts of military equipment. This procession lasted for approximately a half an hour.

Night fell and the lights were put out. People were panicked and frightened. People took counsel, conferred and sought advice and plans about what to do – but nobody knew. Elderly people, women and children all took their places in the cellars. The youths stood guard. It was necessary to be alert and prepared for any ordeal that might come. A deathly silence descended everywhere, to the point where it was easy for us to hear the Nazi announcements of the conquest of the city of Sanok without firing one bullet. At this moment, the local government passed to a Nazi army governor. Immediately after the official announcement, we heard the voice of a Ukrainian who was obligating himself by oath to assist the new police force in all areas of life.

Nobody went to sleep that night. Even though everyone was broken and crushed (and every cellar was padded with suits and coats that were taken from the stores so that the Nazis would not pillage them), nobody thought of catching any sleep. People passed the time reciting chapters of Psalms and dirges and weeping over their fate. Tears choked their throats as they remembered that this was the first night of Selichot. A night that was filled with sublime holiness and exultation of the soul on all other years had this year turned into a night of agony, pain and despair.

The night passed quietly and without shots. Toward the morning, the men girded their spirits, left the cellars and hastened to the Beis Midrash to recite Selichot and to pour out the bitterness of their hearts before their Father in Heaven. This is what happened: in the middle of the prayers - a group of Gestapo soldiers appeared and dispersed the worshippers (who were enwrapped in their tallises and wearing their tefillin) to the center of the city. They forced them to perform all sorts of strange body motions, funny facial expressions and dances while they barked orders, hit them with the butts of their rifles and slapped them. One of the sadists approached Reb Michel Leibish Dorlich and cut off one of his payot and half of his beard. Surrounding these sadists stood masses of soldiers who were laughing at the cruel torture. After their wild game with the poor souls was completed, the Jews were sent off trembling with the fear of death. Obviously, this was the final public prayer service in the Beis Midrash for the Jews of Sanok.

The tempo of events and occurrences was very quick. During one week, decrees were issued against the Jewish population on a daily and hourly basis. Each decree was different and worse than the preceding one. Along with this, cruel events were perpetrated that make one's hair stand on end, such as the burning of the synagogues and Beis Midrashes together with the murder of two Jews – Yosef Rabbach and Yosef Falibker – who jumped into the fire of the Talmud Torah in order to save the Torah scrolls from burning. Both were shot on the spot by the accursed Nazis. Jews were snatched for forced labor that was so degrading as to remove their G-dly image. Financial punishments of astronomical sums were imposed upon the Jewish population.

[Page 336]

It was a heart-rending scene to see how refined and noble Jews such as Mendele Kanner and Reb Michael Leibish Dorlich were hauled from place to place to clean the streets, being forced to dance with the broom and kiss it during their work. The degradation, disgrace and curses inflicted by those beasts in human form would be accompanied from time to time with beatings to the point of causing bleeding. They miraculously withstood these tribulations and returned home broken in body but whole in spirit.

san336.jpg [23 KB] - Reb Yosef Rabach with his son
Reb Yosef Rabach
with his son next to him

May G-d avenge their blood

My father of blessed memory (he died on the 21st of Cheshvan 5703 / 1942 in Dzhalal Abad in Kirgizia where he is buried beside Rabbi Elazar Brumer of blessed memory, the head of the rabbinical court of our city) told me that a group of four men were sent – Reb Asher Berber, Reb Yehoshua Kluger, Reb Yitzchak-Kzak Scheinbach and Father of blessed memory – to work as janitors in the school in which the cruel troops were lodging. One of the murderers ordered them to do a thorough cleanup of the washrooms using their hands, without using any utensils. Reb Asher Berber, who did not hasten to perform this degrading task was beaten with murderous blows and fell unconscious with almost no life spirit. After he recovered slightly he saw that they were busy drinking so he seized the opportunity and fled. When the murderers realized that he was missing, they pursued him to his house and conducted a thorough search but did not find him. When they returned, they poured out their wrath on those that remained. The murderers found a bit of dust on the floor of the washroom which Reb Yehoshua Kluger was cleaning.

[Page 337]

They forced Reb Yehoshale to sprawl himself on the floor and clean it with his tongue. Reb Izak Shanbach was ordered to fill pails of water and bring them down to the yard and then bring them up to the third floor without any rest at all until his strength literally left him. My father, of blessed memory, who was not able to finish the work in due time was accosted with wild shouts stating that it was because of the Jews that they had to leave their wives and children and that the Jews caused the war. During this torture, the officer raised his gun to shoot and my father was saved from death only because of the intervention of an Austrian soldier. The murderers reached the pinnacle of sadism when they threw two dear Jews from among the honorable people of the city into a cellar with dogs that had been specially deprived of food for a few days. Of course, they met their cruel deaths within moments at the teeth of the incited dogs and were not brought out for a Jewish burial.

Thus did “life” continue on in our city until the 13th of Tishrei 5700 / 1939, the bitter and violent day of the decree of the expulsion of the Jews from Sanok. The command stated that by the next morning at 6 a.m. “All of the Jews must leave the city and whoever remains after that time would be shot on the spot”. It is very hard to describe in writing the mood and feelings of confusion and fear that overtook us that day. We began to discuss with each other and analyze the situation. None of the Jews of the city slept that night. People were busy sewing sacks of exile and packing food, linens, changes of clothes and tefillin. Weeping and lamenting could be heard. People wept on each other's necks over the bitter fate that overtook themthrough no fault of their own.

People looked over the furnished rooms. The furniture had been purchased over many years of hard work and savings and now everything would become ownerless within a moment and would be swallowed up by the beasts of prey.

At dawn on the morning of the eve of the Festival of Sukkot[3] 5700 / 28 September 1939, we left our homes, each person with a sack over his shoulder, and joined the stream of masses of wanderers. Every person bore his own burden of agony and despair, not knowing where to turn nor what the future had in store.

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Translator's Footnotes

  1. The yizkor book incorrectly gives the name of David Salik, consistent with immediate reports of the incident, but it should read Mendel Salik (note by Mark D. Salik, translator coordinator) return
  2. The Selichot services begin on the Saturday night preceding Rosh Hashanah, or one week earlier if Rosh Hashanah falls early in the week. The Sabbath of Selichot refers to the Sabbath after which the first Selichot service begins. return
  3. The festival of Sukkot falls on the 15th of Tishrei. return


[Page 337]

With Patches on the Body [1]

by A. Sockower (From “Mireh the Teacher”) May 10, 1943.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

With patches on the body, cut in strips,
They drove us into the ghetto, they went through the streets.
The houses were attended to, taking leave of them forever
Every ordinance came with stony words.

The elderly men march with tefillin like crowns,
A calf walks together with a village Jew,
A woman clutches a dying, lame person in one hand,
And in the other - a bundle of wood for the way.

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Translator's Footnote

  1. This short poem does not have a title in the text. The first words are used as the title. return


[Page 338]

Sanok During the First Days of Nazi Occupation

by Yehudit Rosenblum-Tratner

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The war had already been in progress for a week. The most surprising thing was the masses of refugees moving from the west to the east, and the remnants of the Polish army also retreating eastward in a disorderly fashion, and only partially armed. The windows were covered with black paper or blankets in accordance with an ordinance of the Polish authorities, so that no ray of light would shine outward and show the path to the city to the German airplanes. There was also a case where a Ukrainian citizen, a member of the militia, suspected that a Jew purposely scratched the window in order to help Germans locate the area. The city was immersed in darkness. Some Jews left the city. We waited to see what would happen. The date was September 8, 1939, the second Sabbath after the outbreak of the war. Strange movement was felt in the city. In the afternoon, an edict was proclaimed for civilians not to panic when they hear explosions, for the bridge to Olchowca was going to be bombed by the retreating Polish Army. A meeting of several civilians was arranged in the city council, and after some time everyone came out with weapons in their hands. When I asked Mr. Arye Werner, may G-d avenge his blood, about the meaning of the situation, he answered as follows: “They are opening the gates of the prison; at this moment we do not have any government; the army and the police have left; and we are organizing a civilian defense against hooligans.”

A bit of time passed, and I suddenly saw the “Civilian Defense” running back to the city council. When I asked again for the meaning of the situation, they answered us that “the Germans are approaching, and they are already at the entrance to the city. We are returning our arms lest they capture someone armed.”

The night passed with us all crowded together. Of course, none of us even thought of lying down to sleep. When we looked outside in the morning, we saw the Rynek (town square) filled with men of the German Army. A military vehicle was in the square. The soldiers were well-dressed. They looked healthy and vigorous. It was evident that they had not yet become tired, since they had not yet fought. This was the Blitzkreig in the full sense of the word. They crossed all of Poland within one week, and apparently without any need to use their weapons. We trembled with fear. The first soldiers entered the courtyard (at first they were afraid to enter the houses) and asked for permission to wash. We brought out washing and shaving implements. As they were bathing, they said that they have nothing against the Jews, they were only fighting against the Capitalists and the Communists, but “woe to anyone who starts up against us.” One of them said, “In Krosno, they shot at us from one house. Believe us, no trace is left of that house, and you should not be envious of its residents.”

There was quiet in the city for several days. These were the days of Selichot [1], and when the Jews saw that there was calm in the city, they went out one morning for the services and Selichot. Suddenly, through a window facing the small garden that was next to us, I saw several Jews dressed in their tallises with their hands in the air, with the Germans behind them. I will never forget that scene as long as I am alive! That moment I said to myself that if the opportunity to leave comes to me, even with empty hands, I would seize the opportunity without hesitation, so long as I never see a German face again.

This time the Germans only did a “rehearsal”: They jumped upon us like beasts of prey and searched for one man who, according to them, escaped to this house. They did not find him. This was Mr. Raff, the son-in-law of Reb Moshe Schneebaum who lived in that house. He indeed succeeded in hiding behind the door leading into the staircase. The Germans simply could not find him. However, from that time, his fate was sealed, and he later fell into their hands.

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Slowly, the Germans began to display their true colors: Their demands increased, and they turned to the Jewish communal each day with new demands. Aside from this, they demanded people for various jobs that, aside from being backbreaking in their own right, were accompanied by degradation and disparagement. There were occasions where people returned from work with the shape of a swastika etched into their cut hair.

Several more days passed. One night we were woken by large flames that were almost licking at our window. This was the fire of the synagogue buildings in the city. That night, the Germans bunt almost all the synagogues in the city, aside from Yad Charutzim. That same night, we found out that two Jews had jumped into the synagogue of the Talmud Torah building in order to rescue the Torah scrolls from the building. The Germans cruelly shot them while they were in the synagogue, literally in the flames. May G-d avenge their blood!

The next day, a delegation of women approached the German city governor, but were received coarsely. He accused the Jews of provocation. He attempted to convince the delegation that the Jews themselves set the synagogue on fire in order to place the blame upon the Germans.

After this incident, of course a pall of fear fell upon the people of our city. The Days of Awe were approaching, and our people did not forgo public worship. They gathered in private homes and worshipped in every place that it was possible to do so.

In the interim, terrifying news spread. We began to hear about the cruelty of the Germans. Jews were captured in the streets and forced to perform all sorts of menial jobs. For example, I saw the elderly Reb Hirshele Wrobel sweeping the streets. Dr. Greenspan's wife was sent to the school - where the German soldiers were housed - in order to clean the toilets. People were also sent to do other similar tasks. Perchance, I saw through the entranceway to our house a German shooting Bamkes to death. He called out “Halt!” to him, and when he did not respond, either because he did not hear or did not realize that it was directed to him, he shot him. I saw how they brought an old man and a girl, who were not natives of Sanok, to the city hall. A few minutes later I heard two shots.

Two days before Sukkot, An order was issued from the German authorities via the Jewish community to go from house to house and request that every household send a representative of the house to the city council the net day at 4:00 p.m. According to the announcement, they were apparently preparing to arrange work, so that those who were not required to work at a specific time would be able to go out to the street without fear. I was among those who, together with a partner, was to go round to convince people from several households on specific streets to go to the city hall. Of course, we did this with full innocence, with full belief that this matter was related to work arrangements. At that time, I worked in the offices of the communal council at various jobs. Even though I was not required to go to the city hall, I went nevertheless in order to find out what the demands were, and what the reason that I urged people to go was. My eyes darkened as I approached the yard of the city hall. People were already standing in rows. A German captain wearing a helmet with the “Totenkopf” symbol [2] upon his head was circulating around. He had the appearance of a professional murderer, and was busy ensuring, with the assistance of the whip in his hand, that the lines were straight. A silence pervaded, as if nobody was alive there. After some time, the captain went from person to person asking for people's trades. I did not hear the questions, for I was standing at the side with Melech Ortner, may G-d avenge his blood. However, I did hear “right-left, right-left.” After this selektion, the meaning of which we did not know at the time, he issued his verdict. Those to the right were to appear before 8:00 a.m. the next morning here at the city hall to be sent to various jobs. Those to the left were to be deported from the city the next morning. Everyone could take

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anything they wanted aside from money and jewelry, even furniture, provided that it fit into a backpack or a suitcase. They were to be deported to Lemberg, and from there to “Palestine-tine-tine…” As I write these words 28 years later, that despicable face appears before my eyes, and the echoes of that German murderer with his mocking words still ring in my ears: “To Palestine-tine-tine.”

It is easy to understand the influence of this sudden decree upon the spirit of the people. In the meantime, it was close to 7:00 p.m., the time of the curfew when it was forbidden to appear on the street, and people had to hurry home. There were already tables next to the exit, and people separately recorded the names of those who had to leave and those who had to appear the next day.

It was clear to me that I was among those who had to leave the city. We spent a night, the likes of which we had never had before with respect to tension and suffering. We placed items into the sack and removed them. Who knows, why should we drag things with us. Perhaps they would liquidate us before we left the city, and we would no longer need anything anymore?

Early the next morning, we did not wait until 7:00 when we were permitted to go outside. At sunrise, caravans of people walking could be seen on the streets, some with suitcases, and others with backpacks, some with young children and others holding up an old man or woman. They were walking in one direction, toward the descent toward Olchowca. They crossed the provisional bridge that the Germans had built in place of the bombed out bridge. That same murderous captain was standing next to the bridge. He asked what was in the sack, and at times he would demand that a suitcase or bag be opened. He would remove something that he liked, and permit the person to cross. In Olchowca, still with the Germans, we rested a bit and then continued on our way toward Lesko. We arrived there at evening-hundreds of people walking on foot from Zarszyn, Rzeszów, Krosno, and other places. On the first night of the festival of Sukkot we were already refugees. The rabbis allowed grocery stores to be opened and bread to be baked to sell to the refugees. Two more days passed. The Germans retreated in accordance with the prior agreement between themselves and the Russians.

That was the way we left Sanok without imagining that we would never see it again. A new era of our lives opened up - life with the Russians in Ukraine and in foreign Siberia.

{Photocopy page 340: The Jews were only allowed to move with a permit, which was not always granted. Translator's note: The photocopy is a sample of such a permit issued in Sanok on March 2, 1942 to the Jew Jakob Gurfein.}

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Translator's Footnotes

  1. Penitential prayers recited on the week prior to Rosh Hashanah. return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totenkopf return


[Page 341]

The Great Beis Midrash Goes Up in Flames

by Henoch Katz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It was the night of Shabbat Shuva, 5700 [1]. The darkness of Egypt pervaded outside. Since the German invasion, a curfew was declared, and there was definitive darkness throughout the entire city during all hours of the evening and night. Every Jewish home was closed and locked, without anyone entering or exiting, and a deathly pall enveloped all those inside.

The residents of the house would wander around like sleepwalkers, without uttering a word. A sort of terror pressed upon the heart. The atmosphere was tense, and the spirits were oppressed, as if we sensed that something was about to happen. We approached the window from time to time and cautiously lifted the blind to see what was happening outside. At 7:00 p.m., we noticed a large light emanating from the Beis Midrash. We thought that the accursed Nazis found a place of entertainment for themselves there. We each returned to our dark corners with hearts palpitating, with a hope and a prayer that this “evening prayer” that we have lately been experiencing each evening and night would become the prayer “would it be morning” [2].

After about half an hour, we again approached the window to check what was happening outside. This time, we were able to ascertain that the light we had seen was no ordinary light. The heart began to beat strongly. The feeling grew that something terrible had taken place. This feeling gave no rest. We again approached the window, and then we saw flames bursting through the windows of the Beis Midrash, turning the darkness of night into the light of day. … Hundreds of Nazi soldiers stood around the Beis Midrash, looking with faces filled with joy and satisfaction at the destruction of Judaism and its sanctuary. As the fire quickly grew, German soldiers came, knocked on the doors of the houses, and shouted to all the residents of the house to prepare buckets of water and to extinguish the fire in the event that fire approached the houses. I seized the opportunity to escape to the house of Reb Shlomo Shub [3] who lived next to us.

I did not find Reb Shlomo at home. His wife said that he was in the garden. When I entered the garden, I saw a terrifying, heartrending sight. Reb Shlomo was sitting on the ground without sensing my presence, and I heard a dialogue between him and our Father in Heaven. He shouted, “Master of the Universe! How can You watch what is happening here? This Beis Midrash that absorbed the Torah and prayers of fine, G-d fearing Jews as well as simple folk who poured their hearts out with sublime devotion throughout the generations, the place where the sound of Torah did not cease even for one moment, is being destroyed by the impure murderers without any reaction, as if, Heaven forbid, there is no Judge and no justice.” As he was speaking, he rested his head on against the tree upon which he was sitting and wept like a small child who was attempting to have his request filled through his tears. When he noticed me, he shouted to me, “Henoch, look and see, this is the Torah and this is its reward?!” I attempted to calm him somewhat, so that the Germans would not hear his weeping, for if they did, we would be lost. Reb Shlomo was unable to be consoled. On the contrary, his screams grew louder from moment to moment. He began to hit his head with his hands as if, Heaven Forbid, he had taken leave of his senses. I tried once again to convince him to stop shouting, for this would cause trouble for us; however, once again I did not succeed. With a silent blessing of “Shabbat Shalom” I took leave of him, and returned home crawling on the ground, filled with fear and trembling from what I my eyes had witnessed and my ears had heard. Was this indeed Reb Shlomo Shub, the great scholar who was not only expert in Torah and Jewish studies, esteemed and deliberate - but also a great believer and man of faith?

When I reached the yard of our house, I saw the Beis Midrash enveloped in flames. We were forbidden to stand outside, and we were unable even to follow what was taking place in the city in general. At dawn, we saw the walls of the Beis Midrash blackened with smoke, standing as monuments to the destruction of Sanok Jewry and its sanctuaries.

Throughout the days, I witnessed the continuation of the process of destruction and annihilation that was wrought by the impure hands of the enemy of our splendid community - destruction without rebirth and loss without replacement.

Regarding Reb Shlomo Shub - I never saw him again…

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Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shabbat Shuva is the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The year is 1939. return
  2. See Deuteronomy 28:67. return
  3. Here, Shub here may mean that he was a shochet (ritual slaughterer) rather than being his official surname. return


[Page 342]

I Saw With My Eyes and Felt With My Flesh
(Chapters of the Holocaust of the Jews of Bukowsko and Sanok)

by Yitzchak Zuckerkandel

Translated by Jerrold Landau

a. The Jews of Bukowsko prior to the Holocaust

As one of the few survivors of the Holocaust from Bukowsko and Sanok, I could not make peace with my conscience if I do not contribute my share to the book, the aim of which is to provide an overview of the life and sunset of the Jews of the city of Sanok and its region. Therefore, I hereby attempt to present a brief survey of the life of the Jews of the city of Bukowsko and its troubles during the time of the Nazi conquest, until the tragic end on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, 1942.

The Jewish population of Bukowsko was 700, all wholesome, G-d fearing people. There was almost no person who did not attend the Beis Midrash morning and night, some to study a class in Gemara, Mishna, Ein Yaakov, etc.; and some to recite Psalms and Maamadot[1],; and others waiting impatiently for daybreak so that they could worship with a minyan [prayer quorum], and then go to their small businesses, or to seek their livelihood afar, outside the city.

There were three Beis Midrashes, catering to three groups of Hassidim:

  1. The Beis Midrash of the Dynow Hassidim, whose dynasty traces to the Admor the author of the “Or LaMeir” of holy blessed memory, then transferred to his son Rabbi Dovidl of holy blessed memory, and then to his son-in-law Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, may G-d avenge his blood, who was murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name.
  2. The Beis Midrash of the Tzanz Hassidim, whose rabbi was Rabbi Avraham Pinter, may G-d avenge his blood. Rabbi Pinter established a Yeshiva that became the pride of the city, and whose good name travelled afar. Youths came from nearby and far-off cities to study Torah from him and to drink his words with thirst. Indeed, the man was dear and revered in the eyes of everyone!
  3. The Kloiz of the Hassidim of Boyan and Sadagora
Voices of Torah and prayer burst forth from all three synagogues from dawn until late at night. The winter cold that dipped below 30 degrees[2],, and the heavy snow and strong rain did not prevent the residents of the city from conducting their holy service on a daily basis. A special atmosphere of holiness enveloped the city on the Sabbaths and festivals. The desisting from labor was general and complete, even in the few businesses owned by Christian Poles. The courthouse and local government refrained from work on Jewish holidays.

The Jews of the city excelled in charitable and benevolent deeds, and in concerning themselves for the needy of the city. People rejoiced with their friends at their joyous occasions, and shared in their grief as well. If the livelihood of one of them weakened, people would immediately come to his assistance to the best of their ability.

With the increase of official anti-Semitism in Poland in 1937, the Jewish community of Bukowsko suffered from persecution perpetrated by the hooligans. There were several cases where Jewish houses were set on fire. A Jewish self-defense was organized in the wake of the persecutions. Jewish youths went out each evening for guard duty, risking their lives and prepared to repel any potential attack. The Jewish community continued living in this manner with its worries until… Until the bitter and accursed day came – September 1, 1939, the day of the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland.

 

b. The Coming of the Disaster

Like the rest of the population, the Jews of Bukowsko thought that the war would not last long, and that the German enemy would be defeated in the not too distant future. There was special general excitement on September 3, 1939, when

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England and France joined the war against the Nazis. There was hope that peace would return after the defeat of the Nazis, and anti-Semitism in Poland would be relegated to past history through the influence of England and France. How great was the perplexity and fear when, after only a few days, the Nazi troops broke through the bounds of the city. On the Sabbath of September 9, 1939, the Polish Army along with the administrative authorities retreated in confusion and disarray. Ukrainians from all the surrounding villages took advantage of the vacuum created by the retreat, and attacked the Jews of the city en masse on during the early hours of the morning of Monday, September 11. They went from house to house, plundering and pillaging anything that came to their hands. They broke and destroyed anything that they could not take along with them. The city looked like a heap of ruins.

The Ukrainian pillagers had just succeeded in disappearing with their booty, and the Jews of the city were left perplexed and dumbfounded over the crisis that had just overtaken them – when giant transport trucks laden with German soldiers armed with machine guns had already arrived in the city. The chief of the guard jumped from a truck and asked, with a bloodcurdling shout, if there was anyone who spoke German. The wife of Reb Chaim Ehrlich, who had escaped from Nazi Germany just about one year previously, presented herself. With a similar shout, he ordered the crowd to disperse, as the guard returned from the direction that they had arrived. The area was again left without leadership. The days were the Days of Awe in two senses of the term. Rosh Hashanah was approaching. The Jews once again gathered in the Beis Midrashes for prayer and supplication. At midnight on Tzom Gedalia[3],, Slovakian soldiers appeared in the city. Their first action was to pillage the Jewish houses from what remained after the Ukrainian pillage. The Slovaks only remained in the city for a few days.

In the morning on the day following Yom Kippur, a large camp of German occupation soldiers arrived. Immediately following their arrival, they broke into the Jewish homes, gathered large piles of holy books and Torah scrolls, and set them on fire. They destroyed the synagogues in which people had been worshipping just the day before. A few youths, including the writer of these lines, endangered their lives at the last moment and saved several Torah scrolls from the synagogue. Indescribable fear afflicted the Jews of the city. All of them closed themselves off in their attics and cellars, waiting fearfully for what was to come. Anyone caught by the Germans was subjected to cruel beatings.

After two weeks of tribulations, torture and hunger, we were able to breathe a bit easier when the Nazi troops left the city. A Ukrainian enemy from the district was appointed by the district of Sanok as the mayor of Bukowsko. He appointed for himself Ukrainian officials and assistants of a lower rank. He began to torment the Jews with all sorts of orders, commands, restrictions, and bans – new ones each morning. Under the threat of death, the Jews were commanded to tie a white band with a blue Star of David on their sleeves as a symbol of degradation. The situation of the Jews improved slightly from an economic perspective at the beginning of the winter, with the forging of commercial ties with nearby Slovakia. Jewish youths snuck over the Slovakian border, and brought over various articles of merchandise, from tobacco and pepper all the way to thread for sewing and American dollars. Private minyanim [prayer quorums] were organized, where people worshipped in secrecy and fear morning and night. Throughout the day, they wandered outside the city and conducted business. At nightfall, everyone closed themselves into their houses. When a knock was heard on the door, the members of the household trembled with fear in the face of an unpleasant night visit. The visitors were usual Gestapo men – the “Sonderdienst Schutz Polizei” and border guards. The aforementioned demons issued incessant threats, and demanded monetary contributions or valuables from the Jews during that period. However, this era can still be considered good in comparison with the times to come. The following depressing and degrading event is etched in my mind. On a Sabbath afternoon in March 1940, runners set out quickly to the city council to summon six of the important

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Jews of the city who had been communal administrators (parnassim) for many years: Reb Pesach Stern, Reb Menachem Langsam, Reb Yitzchok Fischel, Reb Michel Zuckerkandel, Reb Shmuel Scheinberg, and Reb Moshe Ehrlich. They were ordered to present themselves immediately before the Gestapo commanders who had just arrived from Sanok. The news of this summons spread very quickly, and panic broke out in the city. The Gestapo tortured them for several hours, and mocked and degraded them by shaving half of their beards and one of their peyos. Even this sad event still belongs to the “bright era” of the Holocaust, in comparison to the second era.

 

c. Forced Labor

On a weekday afternoon in the middle of the summer of 1940, three Germans wearing civilian clothes first arrived in the city. (Until that time, we were only used to uniforms.) They went directly to the communal office, presented themselves as directors of the “Auto Heil” contracting company for paving roads. The Germans explained that the company was about to begin paving Ostrotagi Street that would connect the Slovakian and Hungarian borders through the forests around Secnova and Kolacna. Armed with directives from the work office, they issued an ultimatum to provide 100 Jewish young people by 7:00 a.m. the next morning to go out to forced labor in building the road. The pleas of the members of the communal council that the restricted time of 12 hours was insufficient to enlist 100 workers were futile. The Germans threatened that if 100 Jews ready to work were not present in the square by 7:00 a.m., the Gestapo would use their weapons. The Jews, who were already well-acquainted with suffering, were indeed prepared in a united fashion to go out to work at 7:00 a.m. Two buses, larger than had ever appeared in the city before, appeared at the exact hour. The forced laborers, the writer of these lines among them, were quickly loaded aboard and transported to the workplace in the forest. With the same alacrity and the same shouting, the tools were distributed among us, and we were rushed immediately to work. We were transported home in the evening. We were transported to work every morning except Sundays, and returned home after ten hours of backbreaking labor and beatings. I should point out the merit of Leib Werner, the chairman of the Judenrat of Sanok, who intervened to free us from working on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This backbreaking labor continued until the middle of the winter of 1941. It was stopped when the snow and cold temperatures made the work impossible.

 

d. The Labor Camp

The rains and snow had not yet passed, the buds were not yet seen in the land, the nightingale was not yet singing, and a summons was issued. On the Seventh day of Passover 1941, all of the freed workers were summoned to appear in work clothes within three days. Perplexity overtook everyone, for we knew that their intention this time was to concentrate us into a work camp, the concept of which had already become well-known. We had heard about the meaning of this term from cities throughout Poland. Attempts were made to evade the summons or to not present oneself at the appointed time, but we immediately learned about our mistake. People were given an ultimatum to leave their hiding places and present themselves immediately. If they did not, the matter would be turned over to the care of the Gestapo, and, in the interim, our parents would be taken to forced labor in our place. When we gathered, we were taken to prison until clear directives were issued as to what to do with those who rebelled. This time, we were given only a strong warning to refrain from repeating such things. After 24 hours of sitting in jail, we were sent to a work camp in the forest. The camp was comprised of wooden bunks set up with three levels of beds. In strong language, we were explained the hours of work, what we could expect if we were lazy or we escaped the camp area, which was not fenced in, etc. This time, the work was particularly difficult. Anyone

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who was unable to fulfill the work quota imposed upon him was administered cruel beatings by the German work supervisors or Polish foremen. The Germans were anxious to complete the paving of the road at the earliest possible time. Therefore, we also worked at night. The reason for the haste only became clear to us on June 22, 1941, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and all sorts of military vehicles began to move through the road incessantly. We were occupied in the road work until its final completion at the end of the summer of 1941. The Jews found no rest during this time. Sudden searches, extortion of money, contributions, and other types of tribulations were our frequent lot. Thus, we entered the autumn of 1941 and the beginning of the winter of 1942 with constant tension, fear, and insecurity. The economic situation also became increasingly shaky. Sources of livelihood dried up and disappeared. On the other hand, the cost of living increased at extreme rates. A Jew who received a bit of fish or wheat from a farmer for a price inflated tenfold was fortunate. He would grind the wheat with a millstone with his own hands, and eat his bread by the sweat of his brow. Even such transactions were carried out in secret and privacy, for the farmers were afraid of providing food to the Jews. Hunger set its permanent residence in the Jewish tents. Tidings of Job regarding the establishment of Concentration Camps and the mass murder of Jews began to arrive – at first from the eastern areas that had already been conquered by the Nazis, but slowly from the areas of the Generalgouvernement as well.

 

e. “Kirchoff”

Fear and trembling overtake us as we recall the vale of tears in the Kirchoff Labor Camp. We first got to know the gigantic contracting company for road paving from Stuttgart at the end of the winter of 1942, when representatives of the company demanded that the communal council provide forced labor for fundamental repairs on the roads of Sanok-Krasno. Engineers from the company who entered into negotiations with the delegates of the community acted as if they were friends who were concerned for our wellbeing. According to the best of their knowledge, every Jew concerned about his wellbeing was obligated to equip himself with a work card that testifies to the fact that he is employed in productive work and is participating in the German war effort – for if not, his life is not a life, and he is superfluous to life on earth. The matter was clear, and Jews enlisted for the work this time almost on a voluntary basis. Large buses appeared once again to transport us daily to the work, and return us in the evening. The work was backbreaking, accompanied by frightful shouts and various curses. Our only comfort was that we returned home to the bosom of our families every evening. However, we did not enjoy contentment or rest during the few hours of the evening. The people of the city always filled us in with terrifying news of the atrocities that were taking place, or were about to take place.

 

f. The First Victims

On the New Moon of Sivan, 1942[4], at 6:00 a.m., the Kirchoff workers gathered in the city square as they did every morning, waiting in sadness and silence for the bus to transport them to work. The bus appeared at 6:15, and loaded up all the workers hastily, as was its usual custom. It sounded a quick siren and set out. That day, the sun shone with full strength, and had already been blazing from early in the morning. Other Jews left their houses, some to see off their sons being sent to forced labor, and others to attempt to find a morsel of bread. When we returned from our forced labor that evening, we were shaken by the news of the horrific murders perpetrated against the Jews of our city that day. At 7:00, news spread as fast as lightning that three Gestapo men -- Krotzman, Kwambusch and Schwerdinger – had arrived from Sanok. The Jews holed themselves up in their hiding places in the attics and cellars. At 8:00 a.m., the

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bitter, frightening news that the murderers had killed with their guns ten Jews who had been standing innocently at the doors of their houses had arrived. They did not know of the arrival of the murderers to the town, and they did not have time to hide. The following is the list of the first victims, may G-d avenge their blood: Reb Ben-Zion Schtortz, his wife and their daughter; Reb Yitzchok Fischel and his son Moshe Fischel; Reb Yehuda Leib Zelinger and his son Aharon Zelinger; Reb Binyamin Sofer and his wife; the young man Schlome Stern the son of Reb Shimon of blessed memory, who was honored and loved by all the people of the town. The youth Leizer Schtortz, the son of the murdered Reb Ben-Zion, fought fiercely against the Gestapo man who wanted to shoot him, and succeeded in escaping from him. When the murderers finished their acts of murder, they immediately turned to the communal council, and with their denigrating language, told them to “get rid of the trash from the streets,” referring to their victims. Then they left the city. As the victim Reb Yitzchok Fischel was dying, he was still able to express the request, “Come to my grave to tell me about the news of victory.” Then he died. A mass funeral was conducted for the martyrs. The rabbi of the city, Rabbi Avraham Pinter of blessed memory, delivered a heartrending eulogy.

The fear of death enveloped the city. Two weeks after the aforementioned despicable acts of murder, the Gestapo demons appeared once again. People hid in their hiding places when they heard the news. The Gestapo men rushed through the city in their car to the home of Reb Yosef Schoebs. They took him, his wife Sheindel and their neighbor Reb Shlomo Yosel (known by his nickname Shlomo Fogel) out of their houses, and murdered them at the doorway to their houses. Like the previous time, after the murder they turned to the communal council and commanded them to “get rid of the trash from the street.” Then they returned to Sanok. The murdered people were brought to a Jewish grave that very evening. We returned from their fresh grave mourning, with covered heads[5],, broken and weakened in body and spirit. The sword was cutting down outside, and there was fear inside.

 

g. Prior to the Expulsion

Events progressed rapidly from that time and onward. Tiding after tiding reached us about the deportation and murder of Jews from near and far cities. News reached us that the Jews of Rzeszów and Rymanów had been deported from their homes and city to an unknown location. Scanty news filtered through about the setting up of death camps and gas chambers in Belzec and Majdanek. Then came the news about the disorderly arrival of the “special unit for the extermination of the Jews.” Jews from all the surrounding villages, who had been expelled and deported from their homes, naked and bereft of everything, suddenly entered Bukowsko. Even Jews from Zarszyn and Nowosielce were brought to Bukowsko. The Jews of the city opened their homes widely to the deportees, and shared their meager bread with the Jews who had recently arrived. Thus did we remain, oppressed and anguished, groping in the dark and waiting for the mercy of Heaven.

 

h. Expulsion and Total Extermination

I will admit and confess: I am not worthy to even give an overview of the tragic events and to describe even a small amount of the atrocities that took place during the final black phase. Can a human heart comprehend, and can human thoughts absorb, not with imagination, the feelings of people who were sentenced to death, with a sharp sword lying on their necks? At the beginning of the month of Elul 1942 well-founded rumors that the turn of the district of Sanok for deportation and extermination was about to come very shortly. At the same time, we found out that a concentration camp had been hastily constructed in the area of the destroyed paper factory in Zas³aw near Zagórz. Similarly, we found out that a ghetto was being set up in Sanok, into which only “the fortunate few,” that is, Jews who had a trade that was of benefit to the Nazis, would be housed. The rest of the Jewish population was to be exterminated. The panic and oppression that pervaded upon hearing this terrible news is indescribable. Voices of weeping, prayer and pleading burst forth from every Jewish home. Every person felt that his end was approaching. The ground was burning under the feet.

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People were running around as in a trip, searching for a method of salvation. However, all the routes were shut off. Even our Polish “friends” who sought our welfare, with whom a portion of the Jews of the city thought they might find shelter until the wrath passes, made themselves strange to us. When the Gestapo sensed the panic and melancholy that had overtaken the Jews of the city after their satanic plans for general annihilation had become known, they apparently wanted to prevent instances of opposition of mass hiding by the Jews. Therefore, they resorted to calming tricks. To this end, an “urgent telegram” was sent to the Sanok Judenrat by the high command in Krakow stating that “the deportation of the Jews from Sanok and its environs has been postponed indefinitely.” To strengthen their claim, the Gestapo men went to the Judenrat with a “festive promise” stating that their relationship to the Jews of the city was to undergo a complete change. This “good news” rapidly spread throughout the entire region, and a large portion of the Jewish population of Bukowsko accepted it with joy and enthusiasm.

On day in the middle of Elul, 1942, the Kirchoff workers gathered in the city square at dawn, as was their custom, to wait for the bus to take them to work. However, the bus did not come. The optimists saw this as a hopeful sign that the end of the evil days was close, and that the salvation was drawing near. From Sunday to Thursday throughout that entire week, the Kirchoff workers waited in vain, and the bus did not arrive. The Jews of the city breathed easily, and deluded themselves with false hopes. I will now beg forgiveness of my readers for departing from the general survey and moving a bit toward personal incidents. On Thursday afternoon, two German transport trucks of the Kirchoff Company arrived in the city square from the direction of Sanok accompanied by Jewish collaborators and sycophants, announcing clearly: “Any Kirchoff workers who are interested in the protection of the company, so they can escape from the bitter fate awaiting the Jewish population in the immediate future, must pack their bags within two hours, leave their homes and families, board the trucks standing at their disposition, to be transported to the new Kirchoff Camp that has been set up near the brick kiln in D¹browska.” Furthermore, two Jewish traitors serving the Germans hinted that, in return for payment of a proper bribe, they would be able to accept several other Jews under the protection of the company, even though they had not yet been registered as Kirchoff employees. This news caused general panic. As if poisoned, people ran from place to place to seek the advice of friends and relatives. Should we leave our families, and abandon them to their agony? The decision was difficult and fateful. My father of blessed memory, Reb Michel Zuckerkandel, told me, “I am now close to 60 years old. Both good and bad have been my lot in life. If this comes from G-d, I will cast my lot to G-d. But you, my son, are young, and I order you to search for any means of salvation. Go in peace, and may G-d be your help.” With a heavy spirit, I packed my bag and joined the rest of the Kirchoff workers who presented themselves without exception at the appointed time. When we arrived at the place in D¹browska in the afternoon, senior officials and road engineers from the Kirchoff Company greeted us and warned us, with gentle and refined voices, to refrain from leaving the area of the camp. I cast my life aside and set out for Sanok. In every Jewish home there was fear, apprehension, anguish and grief. I returned to the camp broken and depressed. They did not take us out to work the next day or on the Sabbath. We wandered around the area as sheep without a shepherd. On Saturday afternoon, we received the terrible, awful news from a youth who had infiltrated Sanok that the decree had already been issued that the Jews of Sanok and Bukowsko were to be deported from their homes within two days and concentrated in the Zaslaw Camp. We took council together and decided that we must “forgo” the protection offered to us by the Kirchoff Camp and join our families in Bukowsko at the earliest possible time. The panic, confusion and perplexity of the Jews of the city, as we found them at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night after

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our dramatic escape from the D¹browska Camp, is indescribable. The men were enveloped in despair and gloom. The women were weeping and banging themselves. With torn hearts, they begged the mercy of Heaven, at least for their children: “Master of the Universe, please act on behalf of the sucklings who did not sin.” We were told that during the day, large signs from the district governor were posted in the outskirts of the city, declaring:

  1. A general curfew is imposed upon the gentile population of the city for three days.

  2. All Jews of the city must be ready on Sunday exactly at midnight, without exception. Everyone must be at the door of their house.

  3. Everyone is allowed to take all of their belongings and movable property.

  4. Transportation is guaranteed for everyone, with all of their belongings and movable property.

  5. After the locking of the doors and sealing of the houses by the Gestapo, every person would be given back the key to their houses.

I knew that a large proportion of the Jews of the city had left, or were about to leave, their houses to go to their hiding places that they had prepared from the outset or to the far-off forests. I pleaded with my parents that entire night and said that if the decree of annihilation had been decreed against us, and our fate was sealed, we should at least be together in the final moments. I also urged my father of blessed memory that we should also seek a hiding place in the thick forests. However, all my urgings were not accepted by my parents and my sisters of blessed memory. They all concluded unanimously that I must return to Kirchoff. After the recitation of Selichot (this was the first day of Selichot) and bidding farewell, my father gave me a significant sum of money, and I returned to the D¹browska Camp with some other Jews. When we arrived on Sunday afternoon, we found out that our absence from the previous day had not been noticed at all. The Kirchoff Company simply ignored us as if we did not exist. We also found out that a new camp for Kirchoff workers was set up in Trepcza near Sanok, and Jewish workers had already been brought there two days ago from Sanok, Lesko, Ustrzyki and other towns. On Monday morning, we were able to watch from afar as the Jews of Bukowsko were led in a long caravan through D¹browska Street, with the women and children, to the Zaslaw Camp. All that day, we attempted to make contact with the directors of Kirchoff in order to find out our fate. That evening, we received reliable information that Kirchoff delegates would also transfer us to the central camp of Zaslaw for “registration.” They also promised us that immediately after the procedural registration, they would bring us back to our workplace under the protection of the Kirchoff Company. I took council with several youths, and we decided to absent ourselves from the departure to Zaslaw. In great haste, we decided to prepare a hiding place in the cellar of the brick kiln. We decided to go out to the forests after the evacuation of the place on Tuesday night. On Tuesday morning, I entered the hiding place along with six other youths. During the afternoon, a Gestapo man arrived from Zaslaw with several Jewish collaborators. They issued an order to all the youths to gather together without delay. The entire process reached our ears in the cellar. My conscience afflicted me strongly during those moments, as if it was whispering to me, “do not separate from the community,” “follow after the majority.” At the last moment, I left the hiding place and joined those marching toward the Zaslaw death camp. We were led through the main streets of Sanok to the large city square, where we were eyewitnesses to the tragic scene. Several Sanok Jews stood before us as after they had attempted to save themselves in some hiding place that they had prepared for themselves. However, they were captured after one day. These people were tortured and beaten before our eyes in a most brutal and cruel fashion by the German Sonderdienst. After the torture, they were loaded upon the trucks and taken to an unknown place. At that instance, we were also warned that a similar fate awaited us if we were to absent ourselves or defy orders. We were arranged in threes and led on a quick march to Zaslaw.

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i. Zaslaw

{Photo page 349: Zaslaw, the former camp buildings.}

In order to clarify the implication of “Zaslaw” – the place where thousands of Jews were tortured and taken out to be killed – I must note that from the moment of the edict of deportation, the Zaslaw Camp was designated as the central gathering place for the Jews of Sanok and the entire region, including the Jews of Bukowsko, Lesko, Ustrzyki, Baligród, Terka, and other places.

Within only a few days, this place concentrated approximately 20,000 Jews from the aforementioned cities and towns. Fram afar, we could hear the echoes of sounds of weeping, screaming, and barking of dogs. We arrived at the gates of the camp in the late afternoon. The camp commandant, a man named Fuchs, came to receive us with his gigantic dog that accompanied him at all times, and never departed from him even for a moment. Fear enveloped us from the moment we crossed the threshold of the camp. With wild shouts, we were made to run to the western corner of the area. I cannot describe the atrocities, torture and torment that took place in that terrible place. Thousands of people were crowded into a very small area, wandering over the ground covered with mud and slime, thirsty for a drop of water. The traitors of our Jewish people who were member of the Ordnungsdienst ran from place to place, whipping indiscriminately with their long whips. These traitors had no mercy even on young children. The commandant Fuchs presided over the arrangements. Anyone who did not find favor with him fell victim to his mad dog, who would tear the victim to pieces. With great effort, we managed to make contact with our parents who had already been there from the previous day. How have they changed during these two terrible days! We could not recognize them. That night, the night of perplexity, will never be erased from my memory.

The next day, early Wednesday morning, we sensed some sort of preparations. A contingent of Gestapo and S.S. men arrived. After surveying the area and taking notice of their victims who were enveloped in deep fear, they began to make a partition between the western and eastern part of the camp. To this end, they utilized the butts of their guns and rubber batons, with which they beat the heads of the unfortunate people. Their dogs were also utilized for this purpose

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and played an active role in this task. After the task of partitioning had concluded, the members of the Ordnungsdienst set up an electrified wire fence in order to prevent any contact between the two sides of the camp.

 

j. The Transports

It was 9:00 a.m. A transport train with sealed cars arrived at the eastern gate of the camp. At that moment, the Nazi murderers, with the full assistance of the Ordnungsdienst, began to push all the residents of the eastern portion of the camp toward the trains in the cruelest fashion. Were I to take hold of the writer's pen and dedicate an entire thick volume solely to this first deportation, I would still be unable to describe the tragic events during those frightening hours, three days before Rosh Hashanah 1942. Many children were taken from their mother's bosoms in a brutal fashion and tossed onto the cars or shot on the spot. I note an attempt of opposition by a young woman from Ustrzyki who succeeded in injuring the Gestapo Commander of the Sanok District, Schweringer, with a hand knife. The woman was killed on the spot. Ninety people were thrust into each car, without food or water, and the car was hermetically sealed. An armed S.S. man stood next to each car. 3,600 people were loaded into 40 cars. The loading lasted for five hours. The train set out eastward at 2:00 p.m. It is almost certain that a large portion of the Jews on the cars suffocated even before reaching their final destination – the gas chambers of Belzec. We became orphaned! Almost all the Jews of Bukowsko, including my parents and sisters, were among those sent out in the first transport. I was not even able to accompany them on their final journey with a farewell glance. May their memories be a blessing.

{Photo page 350: The memorial plaque to the martyrs of Zaslaw erected by the government of Poland.

 

k. The Selection, and the second Transport

Perplexed, cramped, and with all possibility of reaction removed, we stood and watched as the train went off. However, we who remained were not given time to contemplate our situation. The registration and selection began about a quarter of an hour after the transport set out. This activity lasted for almost two full days without interruption – from Wednesday afternoon until early on Friday, which was the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Throughout that entire time they selected, enumerated and counted – for the staff of wrath or for mercy. With beatings and shouts, they made us run from place to place in the area of the camp. The elderly and weak

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to the left, and the young to the right. Men separately and women separately. When the train arrived on Friday morning and stopped at the gates of the camp, the tragic scene of two days previously was repeated in full force. Once again, the victims were pushed onto the train, 90 people per car. The people of the Ordnungsdienst ran around like madmen through the area of the camp, searching for children that had perhaps been hidden by their mothers. With cruelty and coarseness, they removed the children from their hiding places and tossed them into the train cars. The weeping and crying could be heard from afar. At 2:00 p.m., the train set out eastward with 3,500 Jews, to the death camp and gas chambers of Belzec. After the transport, the eastern half of the camp appeared like a battleground to us. Corpses and wounded people, tens of thousand of valuables, articles of clothing, shoes, and all sorts of household utensils were strewn throughout the entire area. A recess was declared. Those who remained were ordered to search for sleeping places in one of the buildings or bunks in the area of the camp. For the first time after three days of fasting, we received a piece of bread and bit of coffee from the camp kitchen. We greeted the new year in despair and gloom. The next day, which was the first day of Rosh Hashanah, they began to make us work, under strict supervision, in organizing and counting the items that remained in the area after the deportation. Anyone who was lax in the work was murdered on the spot or mauled to pieces by the dog. Throughout the entire time, Jews who had been caught in various hiding places were brought to Zaslaw. Any people who were recognized by the members of the Ordnungsdienst as having been people of means in the past were forced to give over their money and other valuables before being killed. Throughout the next few days, approximately 2,000 Jews were taken out to be killed in the hill outside the fence of the camp. Immediately after the deportations, representatives of various enterprises appeared in the camp to request forced laborers for their enterprises. Among others, representatives of the Sanak rubber factory, the railway car and locomotive factory, and the large Tarak sawmill came. On Tuesday morning, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, representatives of Kirchoff appeared. The youths from Bukowsko were willingly accepted by the representatives, as veteran workers of Kirchoff. We were happy to leave the hell that was called Zaslaw, as we moved from the pot to the skillet.

 

l. Trepcza

{Photo page 351: The railway tracks of the extermination transport from Zaslaw to Belzec.}

Nine measures of afflictions on the route to extermination became the lot of the approximately 700 men who were Kirchoff employees in the Trepcza Labor Camp. This camp was set up in a very small area, and was composed of several small bunks

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surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Wooden platforms three layers high were placed in each bunk, to house 150 people with terrible crowding. We exited the gates of Zaslaw weak, tired, and hungry. A guard armed with drawn pistols accompanied us with cruel beatings to the San River. There, we were forced to strip and enter the cold water. Nazis in rubber boots tortured us for about two hours. They whipped our naked bodies with long whips until blood flowed. We were at the point of utmost despair. After the torture, we were ordered to get dressed, and we then continued on our journey to Trepcza. When we arrived at the “awaited” camp in the evening, we were received by the commandant Liput and his assistant, who removed all of our personal belongings from us. With beatings and curses, we were pushed into the bunkers, which were extremely malodorous. Noise, tumult, screams and groans from those beaten continued throughout the hours of the night. The day began at 4:00 a.m.. With a single whistle call and blows from the whips, they made us hurry to the camp square. After we were divided into various work groups and given a moldy morsel of bread, we were led for an hour and a half march to Dolina. (Other groups were put to work on the D¹browska road, the quarries, etc.) There, we were ordered to enter the San River and gather rocks from the chilly, autumn water. For ten hours a day, with a noontime break of only a half an hour, we were forced each day to work at backbreaking work, accompanied by cruel beatings. When we returned to the camp in the evening starving, beaten to the point of bleeding, with swollen, blistered feet, we had to stand in line in order to receive a portion of soup. This was also accompanied by blows from the whips and shouts of curses. We ascended the hard benches to catch some rest and sleep. The noise, screams and weeping lasted for hour upon hour. If I finally succeeded to fall asleep, or at least to doze off, in the wee hours of the morning, a sweet dream would immediately envelop me and take me far off in the wings of imaginations… to my mother's home. In my dream, I was reciting Kiddush of wine on Friday night in Father's home. Fresh, sweet challas peered out from beneath the woven cover. The challas gestured to me and called me to taste them quickly, lest I be late. I quickly washed my hands to recite the Hamotzie blessing, when suddenly… a strong fist returned me to reality. This was the camp director or a member of the Ordnungsdienst, calling out in a fury: “Get outside, you accursed ones.” On occasion when the Commandant Liput could not sleep, he would order us to get undressed and run around the camp yard in the middle of the night. During such an event, he would stand there with a group of his accomplices, the sons of evildoers, and beat us with their batons with great cruelty.

The picture would not be complete if I did not mention, for eternal shame and disgrace, the S.S. men and Jewish Ordnungsdienst members – corrupt people and evildoers of Israel – who excelled in their coarsest behavior. I must point out that there were no Bukowsko natives in this congregation of wicked people.

After three weeks of suffering, starvation, backbreaking work, and inhuman living conditions, we reached the point of complete lack of energy. There were many sick people among us, but they bore their suffering in silence and attempted with their remaining strength to conceal their illness. In this state, we found out that the camp directors intended to return us to Zaslaw for extermination, and exchange us for fresher, more productive forces.

 

m. Atrocities in Sanok

During one of the morning roll calls at dawn on one of those days of madness, we were surprised to see a group of Gestapo men in the camp square. Their appearance at such an early hour aroused worrisome thoughts. They demanded approximately 200 volunteers from among the Kirchoff workers to carry out the task of emptying out the houses of the Jews of Sanok, who had been deported from their homes. Despite the danger awaiting us by being under the direct supervision and custody of the Gestapo, I decided without hesitation to join the remainder of the volunteers. Various reasons moved us to volunteer for this dangerous, degrading task:

[Page 353]

  1. Exiting the place and leaving the hell that was known as Trepcza.

  2. Our clothing was torn and worn out, and we thought that we would be able to discard our ragged clothes in the Jewish houses and exchange them for good clothing that had been left behind by the deportees. (Recall that this was autumn).

  3. We hoped that we might be able to satisfy our hunger somewhat in Sanok.
I had an additional personal reason, over and above the aforementioned reasons. I already had in my mind the idea of escaping. While I was still in Zaslaw, I found out in a very unclear manner that Reb Isaac Schwerd of Bukowsko had succeeded in finding a hiding place in one of the dense forests around the Slovakian border. I had hoped that I might find some Pole from Bukowsko in the outskirts of Sanok, who might help me make contact with those who were in the forests. Thus, we were driven, running and suffering from beatings from whips, for around an hour until we arrived in the desolate, mournful outskirts of the city of Sanok. Indeed, how desolate it was! The city that was bustling with Jewish and cultural life in ordinary times appeared as if it had sunk into slumber. Aside from the murderers that ran through the city, almost no living soul could be seen in its streets. There, we were divided into groups of ten people. Every tenth person was appointed as the head of the group. We entered the abandoned house and began clearing them out and transferring the movable objects to the collection center in the Gestapo warehouse. With a torn heart and tears in our eyes, we took account of the poor objects as well as the valuables that we found at times, which had been purchased with great toil throughout generations. We took notice and said to each other: They have murdered and also taken possession[6],. At night, we entered the Sanok Ghetto to sleep. On the fourth day of our work, all of the groups working in clearing out the houses throughout the city were called to present themselves opposite the flour mill of David Barth. When all of the groups, as well as the residents of the ghetto, gathered together in the area of the mill in D¹browska, we were witnesses to a tragic scene that curdled our blood and etched itself into my memory to this day. The incident was as follows: A group of ten Jews, all from Ustrzyki, came across a wine cellar that was apparently owned by a Christian tavern owner in the course of their work of clearing out a Jewish home in D¹browska. The poor people innocently thought that the drinks belonged to a Jew, and indulged. The wicked owner of the tavern took notice of this, and was unwilling to heed the pleas of the poor souls. She informed the Gestapo without any delay. All ten of them, including two 13-14 year old children, were murdered before our eyes with shots from a revolver, with their faces to the wall. The German district governor who was present “comforted” us in Polish that the same fate would await us were we to touch property that “is not ours,” from a string to a shoelace.

The victims were loaded upon wagons and sent to Zaslaw for burial, while we, the living dead, returned to our work, oppressed and downtrodden. We were returned to Trepcza two weeks later, when the clearing out effort had ended. Liput, the camp commandant, came out to receive us as we arrived at the camp gates toward evening. With a cynical laugh, he informed us of his decision to send us for “inspection and convalescence” to the Zaslaw Concentration Camp. We were taken under armed guard to the Zaslaw death camp that very night.

 

n. In the Vale of Murder

Many evil tribulations encompassed me in that vale of murder. Torture and degradation, whose details cannot be described and written down, took place. I will only survey one of the many selections that took place in Zaslaw almost on a weekly basis. The ringing of a bell was heard on a Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. As Zaslaw veterans, we knew “for whom the bell tolls.” This was a summons for all the camp prisoners to immediately appear in the large roll-call area. Members of the Ordnungsdienst, the traitors from our Jewish brethren, ran out in haste with their batons in their hands and dispersed through the camp buildings, cellars and attics, to ensure that nobody would be missing from the fateful roll call. The few women who had miraculously succeeded in

[Page 354]

hiding their children from the eyes of the murderers and their accomplices, attempted in vain to find a hiding place for their children at the last moment.

{Photo page 354: the mass grave of the martyrs of Zaslaw.}

It was a heartrending scene as the children were forcefully torn from their mothers' bosoms by these traitors and tossed to slaughter. Pleas for mercy did not help. All the residents of the camp had gathered in the yard within a few minutes – men separately, women separately and children separately. Everyone fell silent as the camp commandant Fuchs appeared in the yard. He was a particularly cruel man, in whose hands the fate of everyone rested. He stood there, with a cigarette in his mouth, surveying his victims in order to establish their fate, for punishment or mercy. Who would fall into his murderous hands today and who would be given a reprieve for additional days or weeks, if they were able to continue to give of their strength for a certain time, suffering harsh tortured and backbreaking work? He began to read out names from an alphabetical list in his hands. If the person called found favor in his eyes and seemed to be able to continue with harsh labor, he was moved rightward with a gesture of his hand. If the person seemed sloppy in his dress or his face did not find favor in his eyes, he was sent leftward with shouts of “lass” and lashes of the whip. He concluded his examination with the letter S. He counted and enumerated, and then said decisively, “all the rest to the left.” Members of the Ordnungsdienst beat the poor people on their heads with their batons, prodding them onward toward the left. My name was among those people, not for any intrinsic reason, but because my name began with the letter Z. When the selection of the men finished, he turned to the women, and the same scene took place. Within a short period, a group of about 30 children joined us. They wept and pleaded for bread. The murderer ordered that food be brought to them to satiate them before death. As I sat at the threshold of the grave and saw from afar the pits that were prepared for us, I could not come to peace with the idea that my end has arrived. Some mysterious force prodded me toward life. The murderer Fuchs approached, with a bag in his hands, declaring, “Give over your money. You have no further need for money.” The poor people removed

[Page 355]

their meager coins from their pickets and tossed them into the sack. He left us and turned toward the woman. He appeared again with Leibush Strassberg, who was one of the close friends of my father of blessed memory. I asked Strassberg for assistance. Fuchs asked if there were any electricians among us. Five electricians presented themselves before him. He registered their names and sent them to the right. At that moment, Strassberg pointed to me and told the Gestapo man: This youth is young, healthy, and fit for work. Fuchs banged me on the head with his baton, and shouted at me to join the electricians on the right side. That time, Strassberg saved my life. After we ran to those standing on the right, we noticed a car with a group of Gestapo men with machine guns entering the gates of the camp. After about 20 minutes, the air filled with the sound of shots that put an end to the lives of approximately 500 men, women and children. This also sealed the grave on the remnant of the Jews of Bukowsko, may G-d avenge their blood.

My life was indeed saved in the aforementioned selektion; however there was still a long journey before the end of the torment and suffering. I cannot give too many details about the additional wanderings in the direction of Zaslaw-Trepcza, and about the daring escape from Trepcza to a small group of friends hiding in a bunker in a thick forest, for my hand is too small to write down even the smallest part of all the events and hellish occurrences that I passed through until I arrived there – as well as our struggle for life after that point. Furthermore, it is not the purpose of a memory book to perpetuate the events of an individual or group of individuals.

I will not forget to mention here that in the Holocaust in Bukowsko, the wood and stones were also destroyed. The Germans ordered the destruction of all the Jewish houses, so that not a remnant would remain of the Jewish community of Bukowsko. During my wanderings almost every night, along with other friends living in the pit in the forest, we went in the direction of the city, several kilometers away, in the cold and snow, in order to obtain a piece of bread from gentile acquaintances in the area. Through the darkness, we saw our Jewish city in complete destruction, a fundamental destruction without any remnant.


[Page 355]

I Will Look At You

by Zeev Schick

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In this hour before the thought
Of a profound death in a living body –
I will look at you
A continuous column,
Of my thick bearded fathers.

And I will see
A sadness of wisdom in your eyes
The wrinkles of your faces hidden
In your bright beards
The sadness of forgoing and doubt
In the wells of your eyes.

The human physicality so
Formed in your grandchildren went up in smoke
A different stream of life unsheathed
The sinking of your soft shoes
Your monuments have sunk in the dunk

Zeev Schick (“Layla Gadol” -- Great Night)

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Daily selections of Bible, Mishna, and Talmud, recited in place of the daily sacrifices. return
  2. I suspect that this means 30 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit. return
  3. The minor fast day that takes place the day after Rosh Hashanah. return
  4. May 17. return
  5. A biblical term for mourning. return
  6. I Kings, 21, 19. return

 

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