Reported by Idl Feuer in Bucharest, April 14, 1945
Tlumacz was captured by the Hungarian occupation forces in July 7, 1941. The Ukrainians nationalists took over control of the government. At their head was the commander of the Ukrainian garrison, Bramski of Dolina, Province Commisar Komarczyk, Prosecutor Zabrewski, and the investigating Judge Yurczak of Tlumacz. No Germans were left in the town after the Russian withdrawal. In 1941 circulars were distributed throughout the town calling for death to Jews, Poles and Hungarians. The circulars were removed when the Hungarian forces entered.
Scores of Jews were arrested when the Ukrainians took over. After several days' detention they were sent home, with broken legs and arms and worn out by torture. The Hungarians did not interfere.
Early in August of 1941, Jewish refugees from Hungary came to Tlumacz, some 1,200 to 1,500 of them. Tlumacz Jews who made ready to help the refugees were sent with them to the same camp, in the direction of Horodenko. Later we learned about the fate of these Hungarian refuges: they were tied in groups with barbed wire and cast into the Dniester. Ukrainians lying in wait on the banks of the river grabbed the survivors and threw them back again.
At the same time that the Hungarian Jews were being driven to Horodenko, the Jews of Tlumacz were pushed on to Hocimierz. When we got there we were received by the commander of the German garrison. He asked the Ukrainians why they had brought the Jews. The answer was: They are Bolsheviks. The officer looked again at the arrivals; they were old men and children. Again he asked: These are Bolsheviks? It turned out that the Ukrainians had no orders to drive the Jews out. The Germans stripped the Ukrainians of their weapons, beat them harshly, and sent them back on the following day. The Jews were detained for several days, questioned, and sent back to their homes.
When we came back we found our homes robbed and pillaged. Some of the spoils were taken back by the Hungarians from the Ukrainian robbers and returned to their owners through the Jewish Council. Later the Ukrainian State was dismantled, and the Hungarians took over the administration of the Stanislawow district. The Ukrainian administrators and militia were expelled, some of them even arrested. They were freed when the Germans took control. This was at the end of August. Krueger, head of the Gestapo for Stanislawow district, summoned the representatives of the Jewish communities and their intellectuals. The delegates arrived, dressed in their best. They were stripped of their clothes and tortured all night. On the next day they took all of them, men and women, out in the field and shot them. This we were told by Dr. Heusman of Stanislawow, the only one who managed to escape.
The same happened in Tlumacz. Two SS troopers came from Stanislawow. They had a list of eight Jews (merchants and intellectuals) and demanded that these be turned over to them Eliyahu Redner was then chairman of the Council and Moshe Mendel Bildner was his deputy. Both immediately informed the eight men that they had to hide. The Germans threated the two with death unless they delivered the eight. They delivered no one and were shot. Later two of the eight were found; three had been evacuated with the Soviet forces, and three hid themselves Advocate Leib Spund, Wolf Spunds and Advocate Gottesman. The Gestapo declared that 300 Jews would be put to death if those in hiding were not delivered. When this became known, the three at once turned themselves over to the Ukrainian militia in Tlumacz. Nothing was every heard of them.
Between Yom Kippur and Succoth we heard that an action of extermination had taken place in Otinia. Remnants of Otinia's Jews told us that 1,800 Jews were taken by trucks to some unknown destination. From the way they were packed aboard, it was clear that they were headed for extermination. A few months later we learned that they had been taken to a forest some three miles from Otinia and executed.
On Hoshana Rabba, Jews arrived from Stanislawow. An extermination action, they said, had taken place there on the preceding day. Some 20,000 Jews were brought to the market square. From there they were taken, by an escort of 1,000 Gestapo men and Ukrainians, to the local cemetery. They were stripped naked, ten by ten, murdered, and their bodies thrown into pits dug earlier. Thirteen thousand died. The action was accompanied with music by a German band. The Germans caroused and made merry. Gestapo Headman Krueger personally took part in this operation. He murdered the children by cracking open their little skulls.
Seven thousand Jews were taken back. The Jewish Council was ordered to pay 10,000 zlotys to cover the expenses of the operation. The amount was paid.
In October 1941, the Jews of Tlumacz were ordered to turn in everything they possessed by way of gold, silver, currency, foreign exchange, furs and soap. Anyone caught with a bar of soap was executed. We were also ordered to outfit 32 rooms where the Germans were to lodge. Tlumacz had the good fortune of being spared until later.
On April 3, 1942, we had visitors from Horodenko District Commander Doppler, his deputy Schaeffer and Agricultural Commisar Metz. Doppler ordered the Jews to report on the fifth and sixth of the month in the building of the Polish public school, for transfer to another area. We had the feeling that we were to share the fate of t he other Jews in the towns around us. However, the permission given to us to take with us 60 pounds of luggage gave us hope that we were only to be transferred.
The members of the Jewish Council and the Jewish Overseers Service went from house to house and asked the Jews to report. After three days in the school building they were taken to Stanislawow and there massacred in Rudolf's flour mill.
Life in the Jewish quarter (the ghetto had as yet not been put up) was unbearable. Famine and hardship stalked the streets. Twice a week and no more we were allowed to go to the market for food, but in those hours the market place was empty. The peasants had gone away.
The Gestapo men used to come to the Jewish quarter with trained dogs whom they set on the passersby. After the dogs had bitten the people and ripped away noses and ears, the Germans bade the dogs to be quiet. I personally witnessed the following incident: Two Gestapo men were strolling and strumming their mandolins. Before them two Jews were walking; according to their armbands, they were authorized to move about. Suddenly the two Germans drew their guns and shot them. As the two men fell, the Germans continued strolling and strumming, as if nothing had happened.
On May 1, the Jewish population in the Tlumacz area was down to 3,500 souls. On May 18 the first extermination action was carried out. It was held under the command of Gestapo men speaking Ukrainian and Polish. A hundred and eighty Jews were massacred, and 350 were put into two camps, in Viniki and Zborow. All the inmates were dead within one month. When I came home I didn't find a single member of my family; the Council had buried the dead before I got there my father and sister. The neighbors told me the story. Two SS men came to our house, together
With Advocate Herzl Shapiro. The SS men tried to set my father's beard on fire. He hunged for their guns, but they shot him dead. They also shot my little son and my sister.
Jews who escaped and hid in the forests were caught by the Ukrainian militia and were brought to the Gestapo, with nooses around their necks.
Two weeks after the second action, the Council was ordered to supply a quota of 70 men. Again 70 old, hopeless persons were put to death. The Gestapo troopers murdered them in the Jewish cemetery and left there a Ukrainian guard with orders to finish off anyone who still remained alive. He told them to go home, with the words, I can't shed innocent blood. This was told by the survivors.
District Commissar Schaeffer appointed three Poles from the Crime Division of the police to manage the affairs of the Jewish quarter: Banderowski, once a public school teacher in Stanislawow; Zborowski, a school teacher from Borislaw, and Sitnik, a public school teacher, son of a school principal in Kamiec. Schaeffer's orders were to have the Jews staff the hospital. Many Jews, ill and starved, volunteered to work in the hospital, hoping to find some care there. When the hospital was filled with the ailing, the three aforementioned managers shot them all dead with their own hands. Later, the plan to set up a Jewish children's home caused dread and fear; everyone understood its satanic implications. The parents refused. In the meantime, three Poles were seen roaming about in the quarter. They shot dead every child they met on their way. Not a day passed without at least ten children thus massacred.
The number of Jews in the ghetto now dwindled to 2,800, and it kept decreasing daily. Food was almost unobtainable. Only the overseers had contact with the outside world. Food was gotten by the Jews by bartering their last possessions ten pounds of flour for bedding or a fine suit of clothes. Lost and hungry children roamed the streets and picked garbage apart for food remnants. Even the tots understood what was awaiting them. Whenever the three Poles came around, they ran and hid.
The Jewish Council sent out men to work outside the ghetto. Gradually the number of those who returned diminished. At that time the Germans took no active part in the extermination, leaving the job to the three Poles. By late summer, no more than 1,200 Jews remained in the ghetto. Now convinced that their state was hopeless, many began to look for the first opportunity to escape. When there were only three hundred Jews left, a new tack was tried. The killings in the ghetto stopped. The Jews were provided with their needs and even allowed to go out from the ghetto for
two hours. The Jews hididng outside the ghetto were induced to return. Eight days after the easements, the Gestapo and the Ukrainian militia surrounded the ghetto. Some Jews were shot to death inside. The others were taken to Stanislawow cemetery and put to death there. Only 80 were left, mostly craftsmen. They were murdered three days later while at work. The experts among them were allowed to finish their work, and were then murdered.
I was able to hid in the homes of friendly peasants in the area and, at times, in the forests. There was danger everywhere. A peasant hiding out a Jew ran the risk of execution. There were instances of peasants themselves killing the refugees, out of sheer fear for their own lives. Such was my state in the winter of 1942/43. My cordial relations with the peasants in the days past now stood me in good stead.
After the liquidation of the Tlumacz ghetto in 1942 I found shelter in the home of a peasant, Dmitri Karpacki. I hid there for six weeks, but had to leave and hide in the forests, on the banks of the Dniester. At night I used to wander from the home of one peasant to the next. Everyone gave me something. In the spring the situation worsened, as the hunt spread to the fields and forests. I had with me a young woman whom I found in the forest. We clung to each other.
Karpacki helped by finding us a haven on the other side of the Dniester a cave in a stone quarry near the river. The opening was hidden from sight by a boulder. Karpacki lived directly across the river. There was a rowboat in the water. We arranged with him to strike the boat with the oar once if the coast was clear, twice to be careful, and three times to denote danger. One day in June of 1943 I heard one strike. I came out of the hiding place. Karpacki asked me to take in three other Jewish women into our hiding place. I hesitated because of the food problem, but the peasant insisted. He brought the three women later that afternoon: Henia Schechter and her daughter Miriam, and Madam Ostriger, all from Koropiec. Even though food was a problem, we managed to stay there a month. In July I found another Jewish woman survivor, and she came to stay with the rest. She was with child. I was uneasy. But the woman threatened to cast herself into the river if we didn't let her stay. A week later her husband found us; he was a tailor from Horodenko. There were now seven of us. Three months later the woman gave birth. She compelled herself to hold back her cries in childbirth. The father tried to throttle the child, lest its crying should reveal our hiding place. He finally committed the act by striking it with a stone. Three weeks later it seemed that our presence in the area was known. We heard shooting in the nearby forest. The others,
in despair, wanted to abandon the hiding place. I objected to it very strenuously. We held fast all day. Night came, and the danger passed.
I went out to get food. From a distance I saw a woman meandering about. I stopped her and talked to her in Yiddish; she was Clara Demblink of Koropiec. She stayed with us. I set the women to work, knitting, embroidering, for our peasant. As autumn came, we enlarged our cave and prepared to winter in it.
On an October day, as I was foraging for food, I was surprised by four Ukrainian policemen. They took me to the place called Olesh. To my amazement they treated me well, fed me, and told me what was going on in the world. Hitler, they said, was willing to let the Jews go to America in groups. Did I know of any large groups of Jews wandering about in the area? I said I didn't. On the following day, when they saw that I would not divulge any information, they began torturing me. When I reached the point of losing consciousness they got in touch with the military police in Tlumacz for instructions. They were told to bring me in.
I was taken to Tlumacz by two guards. One of them I knew from earlier times. He told me to start running, then fired in my direction into the air. I kept running.
The winter of 1943/44 was very severe. Three of the women died of cold. We threw their bodies into the river.
The hatred of the Ukrainians was so deep that they determined to find me. They found my tracks to the hiding place, but the peasants and fishermen prevented them from taking me.
Hope broke through at last. The area inhabitants felt that the Soviet front was drawing closer. One day we say Hungarian soldiers digging a trench along the river bank. While we were happy about the Russian approach, we were afraid that the diggers would find us. Also, there was always the danger that the peasants would betray us. I figured that the battles along the Dniester were going to last a long time, and I decided to find things out for myself.
The peasants on the other side of the river told me that the vanguard of the Soviet army was already in Koropiec. I was speechless; the long-awaited moment of liberation had arrived. I went to tell the good news to the group in the cave. We got hold of a rickety rowboat and, with difficulty, got everyone across. I quartered the people in an abandoned farm and got them food.
As I went from house to house, asking for food, I saw men searching the houses for arms. They spoke Russian and assured the inhabitants that nothing would happen to them I immediately understood that these were
Russian soldiers. I came up to them and said I was a Jew. At once a Soviet captain came to me, embraced me and said, with tears in his eyes, that I was the first Jew he had set his eyes upon since leaving the Leningrad front.
The soldiers helped me to get to the farmhouse where the others were hiding and I brought them the news of our deliverance.
by Mina Bikels Rotenstreich
Thirty-five years have gone by and I still cannot erase from my mind that 30th day of July, 1941. At one o'clock in the afternoon of that day, I was in the home of the cleric Teshla. I looked through the window and saw a mass of people milling about. They looked worn out, and there were invalids among them. On the outer fringe of this mass I saw a man, up in years and lame. On his back he was carrying an old woman, also an invalid. The scene was sheer horror.
Teshla evidently knew that the Ukrainians were preparing a transport. He forbade his wife to out into the street with me. He himself went out again to see what was going on. But I couldn't restrain myself and ran out to see if I could help the unfortunates. From passersby I learned that they were allowed to stop and rest a bit in Ring Square.
Teshla's wife wanted to help me, but at the entrance to the Square we were separated by force, and Teshla's wife was threatened with punishment for trying to help the Jews. I was pushed into he crowd. My brother-in-law Moshe Stark, tried to intervene, without results. The Ukrainian militia dragged Jews out of their homes into Ring Square. Toward evening they were taken toward Hozmar, but no one knew where we were going. On the way we were set upon brutally. We were beaten, and some of us fainted. Dr. Salat was beaten most severely. The Ukrainian residents who wanted to give us some water were kept away by the militia, but some of us managed to get a sip.
The Ukrainians of Niezhwiska roamed about the countryside to catch stray Jews, whom they tied with barbed wire and threw into the Dniester, together with the Jews of their own locality. A few Jews escaped when the Polish physician, Dr. Zeno Hoffman, hid them in the hospital where he was working.
In 1942 the Gestapo arrested Dr. Hoffman and the Canon Tabaczkowski, who risked his life by issuing baptism certificates to Jews so that they could escape to the Aryan side. We were given eight such certificates by Tabaczkowski, even though we had nothing to give him in return. The Polish pharmacist Shankowski also helped the Jews as much as he could. Much of the valuables which Jews placed in his keeping were returned to them, although this was dangerous to do.
The Ukrainian cleric Flavluk exploited the disaster of the Jews. He invited my brother-in-law Moshe Stark and others to visit him, and propsed that he transfer all his possessions and those of my father, Shmuel Rotenstreich, to his keeping, in return for his help at critical times. Stark rejected the offer. Our neighbor Roman Halupenko offered his help under the same terms; to carry his point, he took over Stark's mill to prevent its falling into the hands of the Germans. The agreement we made gave us the right of free approach to anything in our dwelling, but Halupenko wouldn't allow us even to take some firewood. He threatened to shoot like birds anyone who dared take anything from the house. Later he disappeared. He withdrew with the Germans.
When the ghetto was still open, several Jews escaped and sought shelter in the Stark-Rotenstreich mill. They had what to eat and got some food to their families. Often they were waylaid, robbed and beaten; members of the Lutzik family, our neighbors, took part in these attacks. Later they told the Germans about it, and Stark was told that the mill would be confiscated. Stark did not yield. He merely changed the manner of his help. Every week he sent several sacks of flour to Yisrael Haller, for distribution among the needy. He also sent food to the public kitchen in the ghetto. Haim Ritzer, whom the Germans put in charge of collecting gold, diamonds, jewelry and furs, was a frequent visitor in the Stark home.
The end overtook everything and everybody. Stark and his wife were put to death in Buczacz on May 5, 1944. My husband Yehiel and my son Risia were killed in the same town on April 4, together with my cousin Gissia Haspel and her husband. On May 5, 1944, when the war was almost over, the monastery delivered all of them into the hands of the Germans. They were all exterminated.
by Max BenEphraim
When fighting broke out between Germany and Russia, and as the Soviet forces withdrew from our area, we anticipated hard times for the Jews under German rule. But we were totally unprepared for what actually happened.
Trouble began when the Russians withdrew and left the Ukrainians feeling that they were the masters. At first the Ukrainians mistreated Jews individually, but according to the decision of the Ukrainian National Council, all of the Jews of Tlumacz were to be driven out, their possessions taken away, and they were to be murdered. The Hungarian authorities didn't allow this to happen, but they were not long in power. The Germans took over. The Judenrat was established in Tlumacz, headed by Eli Redner and Moshe Mendl Bildner, but they didn't last long. The two were replaced by men who helped the Germans carry out their deadly plans. They set about levying special taxes, then they set up the ghetto and arranged for the weak and hungry men to work at forced labor.
I was put into the group that worked at tearing out the tombstones in the old and new Jewish cemeteries. The slabs were used partly to pave the road near the bridge from Wiezhbow Street to Slabodka.
Persecution, hunger and disease and the mistreatment by the Germans quickly reduced the Jewish population of Tlumacz. Our parents were taken to the school building, together with other Jews, then transported under heavy guard to the Rudolf flour mill in Stanislawow. There they were separated my father from my mother. Our mother was sent to the peat mines near Stanislawow, but soon she contracted typhoid and died. Our father was sent with another group to the vicinity of Tarnopol but was soon returned because of his weak condition. In Lemberg he was taken off the train to a hospital, where he died, following an injection.
The Tlumacz ghetto was being rapidly liquidated. When we saw that there was no purpose in remaining there, my sister and I decided to escape. We broke through the ghetto fence at night, near the Polish church. We made our way along Gruenwaldski and Slowicki Streets. No one saw us.
We got to t he railway station at Palahicze. We knew that this was a dangerous course, since many Jews who had tried this means of escape were killed. At the station my sister bought a train ticket to Buczacz. For several hours we hid in the darkness near the station, then got aboard a freight train that was to pass through the Buczacz yard. The engineer, realizing that we were Jews in flight, slowed the train down near Buczacz to let us get off, warning us that we would be arrested if we went to the station.
Those were the days of comparative quiet for the Jews of Buczacz. They were not confined to a ghetto but lived in their own quarter. It was also easier to get food. But this situation didn't last long. After the big fire which burned down the village of Durachow, near Buczacz, 300 young Jews were rounded up, I among them, to repair the damage in the ruined village.
Buczacz then had its first major roundup. My sister was caught in a bunker and taken to Buczacz. A few kilometers out, she managed to jump off the train and returned to Buczacz. We were also able to evade the second roundup by hiding out in the Jewish cemetery. My sister, weakened by all the adventures, fell ill and died.
Some time later I joined a youth group organized by my brother, Munio Wurman,Yehoshua Bildner and Julik Fisher, all of them from Tlumacz. Several weeks later, led by my sisterinlaw Gusta, I and others went out to the forests in wadowa, Puzniki and Sololow to prepare shelters for the people who would be coming out there. After we were there for about a week, we decided that we couldn't hold out much long. We went back to Buczacz. At that time the Gestapo decided to deport all of the Jews of Buczacz to Kopinchintza. The young people, organized into resistance groups, decided to go along. Several days later all of us were there.
The leaders of our group made contact with former officers in the Soviet army, who were working on the HusiyatynKopichintza railway line. But the calm didn't last long. One day after my arrival there was another roundup, in which Bildner and Fisher and most of our group were killed. I was able to escape and later return to Buczacz, where I hid out in the forest until the Russians came back to the area.
by Shlomo Blond
My account of the Judenrat (the Jewish Council) and its activity in the Tlumacz ghetto is based for the most part on information I received from Jews who lived in the ghetto and who used to visit my family, the Sprechmans, landowners who lived in Jackowka. The Jewish landowners in the villages around Tlumacz were allowed by the German authorities to remain in their estates and work the soil until August of 1942, when they were removed to the ghetto.
When the Soviet authorities withdrew from the town in June of 1941, it was captured by Hungarian regiments. Eliyahu Redner and Moshe Mendl Bildner volunteered to represent the interests of the town's Jews. Some two or three weeks later, Gestapo men came from Stanislawow and took over the government. No Jew dared show himself in the streets. Haim Ritzer was apprehended by chance and asked to divulge information. This was the beginning of his contacts with the Gestapo, and he was eventually made commander over the Jewish Overseers Service in the town. As I learned later, Haim Ritzer proposed that Dr. Steinberg be appointed chairman of Judenrat. I do not recall who the other members of the body were, other than Dr. Steinberg, his deputy Herzl Shpirer and Dr. Steinberg's brother, who came from Otinia and lived in Tlumacz at that time.
The Judenrat, we heard, had to supply people for labor of all kinds, as well as to provide items for the Gestapo: coffee, tea, cocoa, fabrics, furs, gold coins and jewelry.
The members of the Judenrat did not have an easy time of it. Dr. Steinberg himself was whipped by Krueger, the head of the Gestapo, and forced to run back and forth because he was late in presenting himself before the Gestapo.
The Judenrat office was in the Baron de Hirsch School building. Here was also the depot of products gathered by the Judenrat. It was managed by Dr. Steinberg's brother.
The action of the Judenrat during the extermination operations I learned from refugees. In the first operation, 150 young men were taken
to Lemberg, to the Janov Camp. Since the quota wasn't filled, Herzl Shpirer and the Gestapo men went to Yatzkowska to get the males in the Sprechman and Pipper families. They only found the womenfolk there. Pipper's wife was brutally beaten. The murderers found a Torah Scroll in the house and tore it to shreds.
The second major operation was in the spring of 1942. The Judenrat demanded that the men report for volunteer work in other parts of Poland, where it was more quiet. The men were allowed to take their clothes and valuables along with them. The gathering point was the Polish school. Since the volunteers were few in number, the Judenrat members and the Jewish Overseers Services men tried to get the men out of their homes by force. Some hid themselves, and others fled. Most of the exiles came from the lower classes large families with many children.
The Judenrat had to supply a daily quota of workers. The work was supervised by a German Pole, Scheinkoenig. Twice the Judenrat was given a tax quota to collect from the Jews in the surrounding villages, as well.
When the ghetto became completely isolated, the Judenrat had to supply the Jewish population with food. The authorities supplied bread, flour, potatoes and thin milk, everything in limited quantities. Immediately a public kitchen was set up for the poor and for the workers outside the ghetto.
Our family came to the ghetto in August of 1942 and brought with it two barrels of sour pickles and cabbage, which we gave to the kitchen. The manager of the kitchen, a man by the name of Kraut, appointed me to help him in the kitchen to distribute the food. We would boil up a large cauldron of soup buttermilk with potatoes or oatmeal. Twice a week those who worked outside the ghetto were given meat for the midday meal.
It was a sad scene young people and elderly standing in line and waiting for a spoonful of soup. Some left even without this miserable portion, when there wasn't enough to go around.
The Judenrat set up a hospital with a few beds, not so much for treating the sick as to keep the healthy from contracting typhoid. The doctors' names are not known. Dr. Rosenkranz died there.
There was a children's home of sorts, caring for some 12 to 15 children without parents. Several volunteer women took care of them, among them Shya Redner's wife. The ghetto also had a Welfare Fund of meager resources to help the poor who didn't have even the few pennies for buying the allocated bread.
The Crimes Department police made a daily check of the ghetto.
During my fourweek stay in the ghetto I saw daily lines of people
forming for work. Steinberg and Herzl Shpirer were always there. Steinberg used a small cane to keep the lines in order. People tried to shift from one group to another, hoping to land a place with better food, which they could take back to their families.
The death operations were usually conducted in the morning, when the men came to report for work or after they left. Often, on returning to the ghetto, the men didn't find their wives, children or parents. The procession of burials never ceased. Rabbi Itzele Hager, Yisroel Haller and other Jews were always there to give the murdered Jews a traditional burial.
I witnessed one such operation. I was in the kitchen, together with several women. District Commander Doppler strode in, pushing through the crowd. When he learned that we were preparing food for the workers, he let us alone. I didn't see any of the Judenrat people around, nor were the policemen known to me, but I knew those who were being taken away.
I lost my two sons in these operations. While one was going on, I managed to escape from the ghetto to Buczacz. There I met Haim Ritzer. He evidently knew ahead what was going to happen. Dr. Steinberg was taken away in the final operation.
by Dr. Fishel Hudish
In the days of Polish rule, public health care in Tlumacz was limited to two agencies: the Sick fund and the Pszechodnia, supported by the municipal social welfare on behalf of the most impoverished segments of the population.
Certain changes came about in this sphere with the advent of the Soviet forces and the establishment of civilian rule. At that time Tlumacz had doctors engaged in private practice: Drs. Hudish, Haber, Herman, Mark, Winterfeld and his wife, Madam Dr. Feuerman, Dr. Krojtman and Dr. Schwarzbard, and the dentists: Madam Rosenman, M. Gutstein and Doler. Dr. Schwarzbard left Tlumacz with the Polish army as a recruited officer and got to Rumania. The nonJewish doctors in the town were Drs. Lesniakowicz and Zeno Hoffman.
The Soviet administration began setting up a Health Department, headed by Dr. Salat. In addition to the district polyclinic and the local
Polyclinic (in a building opposite the old post office), a 40 bed hospital was set up in the Hof house, with three departments: internal, surgery and gynecology.
Relations between the Jewish and nonJewish doctors were good at that time. When the Germansoviet war broke out and the Soviet forces retreated, Dr. Salat went to Lemberg, Drs. Herman and Krojtman were recruited into the Soviet army, and the other doctors remained in the town.
Tlumacz was first occupied by the Hungarian forces. Political power was in the hands of the Ukrainians who lost no time showing their enmity toward the Jews. The Jewish doctors employed by the hospital and the other health agencies were dismissed immediately. The Jewish doctors continued treating Jewish patients and those nonJews who came to them for help. The doctors treated the latter without charge, despite their antisemitism. The Hungarians showed little interest in what was going on in the town, and the Ukrainians ruled unrestrained.
On July 14, 1941, I heard rumors that Jewish refugees from Hungary were being taken via Tlumacz to some unknown destination. Less than an hour later, we learned that the Hungarian garrison had turned the refugees over to the Ukrainians. The latter decided to deport them, along with the Jews of Tlumacz. The satanic decree was carried out right away. The group was divided in two: the young and healthy, and the elderly, the women and the children. My wife and I were saved because the Ukrainians needed a few doctors to treat their own sick.
The Jews were taken to the Dniester river, near Horodenko, and drowned. Madam Dr. Feurerman was in this contingent. Drs. Haber and Winterfeld were able to hide in their homes. We decided to appeal to the Hungarian authorities and to try persuading them to annul the decree. Dr. Mark and I got in touch with a Jewish doctor serving in the Hungarian army, and through him we got to several high ranking officers. After much intercession, we were able to save the Jews from the claws of the murderers. Orders to return the Jews to their homes were issued to the Hungarian authorities in Horodenko and Niezwiska. Dr. Mark and I took them to their destinations, Dr. Mark proceeding to Horodenko and I to Niezowiska. The Hungarians honored the intervention of the military staff and ordered that the Jews be taken back to Tlumacz, under escort of Hungarian soldiers.
Not all of them returned. Some were murdered along the way. Madam Dr. Feuerman was severely beaten by the Ukrainians. When the Hungarians left Tlumacz, the Ukrainians took over the town and did as they pleased.
When the Germans came, they set up the Judenrat and the health agencies. The five doctors left in the town decided to ask the Judenrat to
Set up a health center in the ghetto, and each of the five would serve one day in rotation. The nonJewish doctors were assigned to treat the Christian population.
A third physician, the district physician Dr. Jurewicz was added to this staff; rumor had it that he was one of the first to take part in the roundups. Outwardly, however, the relations among the doctors were good. The other two doctors stood by when we needed Dr. Lesniakewicz helped me in the case of two Jewish women who required immediate gynecological treatment. Dr. Hoffman helped us obtain medicines. He visited the sick in the ghetto and even left some money with the destitute Jewish patients.
The Jewish doctors had to report, at six in the morning, along with the others assigned by the Germans to forced labor.
Madam Dr. Feuerman managed to get to Stanislawow and was later put to death in one of the actions.
The Judenrat had to provide 160 200 Jews for work daily. The Jewish doctors did everything possible to save the ill from going to work.
At the time of the notorious gold and furs campaign in 1941, 12 Jews, three doctors among them (Drs. Haber, Winterfeld and I) were held as hostages. We were in prison four weeks. The only one still free was Dr. Mark. On January 1, 1942 the Police Chief came into our cell, called us to attention, and announced, In the name of the Führer, I bring New Year's greetings a paradoxical twist of the Nazi mind.
The four weeks over, we returned to our difficult work. The ghetto was thinning out, day after day. We were required to be on hand when the killings occurred, to see to the removal of the bodies and the maintenance of hygienic conditions. At times we found seriously wounded among the presumable dead, and we administered first aid. This helped us, too, otherwise we would have fallen apart.
As long as we were still outside the ghetto, we could treat also Christian patients. Later Dr. Jurewicz ordered us to limit our work to postmortems, in cases of murders committed by and amongst the villagers. Each case of pathology earned us 30 zlotys.
We lacked the most elementary instruments and drugs. The town's Polish pharmacist refused to sell to us.
Dr. Haber and his wife were taken away in the May, 1942 action and were put to death in Stanislawow.
There were only four of us doctors left. We met to discuss ways to combat the spreading typhus plague. We appealed to Dr. Swieder in Stanislawow and to my friends in my home of Colomey. From Stanislawow we received 1,000 doses of aspirin powder, bandages, powder for
headaches, 200 bottles of calamine and some cotton. The hygienic conditions in the ghetto grew worse. We opened an epidemiology department in a synagogue building. The number of sick grew, the drugs we had were gone. We saw that it was the end for all of us. I was given a room nearby to treat patients suffering from contagious diseases. Gina Zakler was the nurse.
I remember that in October, as I was in the room treating a patient and removing an abscess, a Jewish policeman entered and said that the Obersturmfuehrer Schaeffer was waiting to see me. I picked up courage and asked the policeman to wait fifteen minutes. Schaeffer was making the rounds to see how the Jews were doing. A bit later, Banderowski came with a message, Dr. Hudish, take your wife and children. You are under arrest.
All the remaining Jews in the town including the members of the Judenrat were already in the prison yard. We were there about four or five days, then we were taken to boxcars to Stanislawow. I was the last doctor since Winterfeld and Mark were no longer there.
Tlumacz was judenrein.
Note: Dr. Hudish and his wife escaped by jumping off the train. Their little boy was killed in his mother's arms.
by Idl Feuer and Mechl Sommerfreund
During the last days prior to the Russian withdrawal, I worked in Palachicze, filling the oil storage tanks. The Soviets promised that they would take my wife to Russia. My sister came to Palahicze and told me that all the inhabitants had fled, and that my pregnant wife was left in Tlumacz. I went back right away. On the way I met Soviet soldiers in flight. On Thursday evening a group of Soviet soldiers returned to Tlumacz, broke into a large store and took away all of the high quality merchandise; the rest was pillaged by the local Christian population. The mob shouted, Death to the Jews, the Poles, the Hungarians!
The Hungarians put the Jews to forced labor. The Ukrainians were the supervisors. I was taken to work in Palahicze. The Russians had set fire to many oil storage tanks before they withdrew, and the conflagration lasted for days. For some time I worked at putting the area back into shaped after the fire. At the end of July the Jews were driven out of CarpathoRussian and were turned over to the Ukrainian administration which pushed them around from town to town, robbed them of their belongings; many were killed on the way. About 1,000 Jews of Tlumacz were placed in one of the big transports and taken to Horodenko. My mother and sister were among them. On the following day this group was brought to a large farm near Chocemierz. We didn't know whether the previous transport had been taken. In the Hungarian force in Tlumacz there was a dentist who lived in the home of Madam Roseman. He reportedly interceded with the Hungarian authorities on behalf of the Jews. When the Jews got to Chocemierz, they were freed by the Hungarians.
We then learned that the other transport had been taken to Horodenko. My brother Kopl came to Jackowka and got a horse and wagon from Sprechman. We took the son of the farmer Witkow and drove to
Horodenko. There, in the home of the Blond family, I found my mother and my sister. We returned to Tlumacz.
That fall there were heavy rains, causing serious damage to the population along the Dniester. I was put to work restoring farms in Nizniow.
In the winter the Jews were put to work clearing the snow away from the roads to Horodenko and Palahicze, to make it easier for the Landkomissar to drive his car through. In Tlumacz there was a mounting hunger among the Jews. The Ukrainians took the food supplies as they were being delivered. The situation grew worse when there was nothing left to exchange for food.
I was then a young lad and I had to deliver announcements for the Judenrat. Every day 150 to 400 Jews were recruited for forced labor. The authority over the Jews was supposedly the Judenrat, but actually it was the Crimes Department of the police headed by Schubert who was assisted by Zawidowski, Sitnik and Banderowski.
The regular police did not interfere with Jewish affairs. Shmuel Held worked for the police as an attendant.
In one of the actions more than 200 Jews were murdered and another 180 deported to the Yanowska camp in Lemberg. The police added Shmuel Held to this transport. Following this action the ghetto was closed and Jews were brought there from the neighboring villages. Only the farmers were left outside.
The ghetto suffered from famine and disease. The Crimes Department men were everywhere. With them was an Evangelical clergyman. Murder of Jews was a daily occurrence. Every Friday they were rounded up in the prison and sent by train to Stanislawow and on to Belzetz. Only a few managed to return to Stanislawow. One of the porters at the railway station helped a few individuals to hide and return secretly to Tlumacz. That was how the Flesher family and mine got back.
I remember the action in the Jewish cemetery. I was working nearby cutting up tombstones. Fifty Jews were brought to the cemetery. A few minutes later I heard a volley of shots, then saw Schubert and Banderowski leaving the cemetery together with a group of Ukrainian policemen. Among the people I saw Sommer's wife and children and Meir Unna. The
Burial Society people, among them Rabbi Hager and Israel Haller, toiled hard to bury the murdered, the victims of the famine and of disease. The number of children put to death was larger than the rest.
For a long time, we, those who worked on the farms, were not harmed. Finally the orders came to bring the Jewish farm workers into the ghetto. First came the order to present ourselves at the Sokol building. With my brotherinlaw, Peretz Sprechman, I went through the fields at night to take counsel with Stark. He advised us to report and said that he, too, would join. However, he didn't come to the spot on the next day.
Everyone presented himself before Doppler, gave his family name and address. All were released, but a few days later all the Jewish farmers were in the ghetto. My family was quartered in Sommerfreund's house. Sommerfreund mentioned the famine. There were many children in Tlumacz whose parents had been taken away to their death. These starving children roamed about the ghetto looking for something to eat.
Steinberg (Dr. Steinberg, chairman of the Judenrat) wanted my brotherinlaw, Israel Sprechman, to join the Ordnungsdienst (law and order maintenance unit), but he refused. The Judenrat sent me to work in the public kitchen. The one in charge of the food stores was Dr. Steinberg's brother from Otinia. There were three or four of us working in the kitchen. The food was very bad and was given only to those who went out to work. I was given 100 liters of buttermilk and cereal to cook into porridge; at times I would also get half a sack of rotten potatoes, and once a week I was given inferior meat. Every day there was a mustering of the men going to work. Dr. Steinberg was present at the distribution and labor assignment, swagger stick in hand. On one occasion 150 men were taken from the ranks of the laborers and added to the death transport.
The hospital was set up in the building of the Jewish school. The patients were suffering from stomach ailments and contagious diseases for which there were no separate rooms. Some of the patients managed to recover. There was also a shelter home for infants. We managed to send food there whenever we could.
During one of the raids, I remember my wife rushed into the kitchen, put on an apron and began carrying water. A few minutes later the Evangelical clergyman came in with the Germans and the Ukrainian police to see if anyone was hiding in the kitchen.
The Judenrat had a loan fund, but I know nothing about it. All I re
member are the scenes of hunger, deportation and the daily murders in Tlumacz, right up to the day that I escaped.
The situation within the ghetto shifted quickly. On Rosh Hashana 1941 the Jews still prayed in the synagogues. On Yom Kippur there wasn't a single Jew there.
When the roundups began, we went out to work. Leaving our mother hidden in a shelter we prepared for her until our return. There were many cases of Jews being dragged out of the ghetto and murdered. The Crimes Department people, and at times the Gestapo, would come into the ghetto and shoot Jews down indiscriminately.
As the number of Jews diminished, the dimensions of the ghetto were reduced as well. Before the final roundup August September 1942 the entire ghetto consisted of two block houses where the Jews were quartered. These belonged to Gottlieb and Abend.
(For Hartenstein's recollections, see excerpts from Max Hartenstein's Diary)
I recall a night in the ghetto. Eleven o'clock. The drunkard Landwirt came back to Tlumacz. Near the ghetto gate he took a shot at the Jewishs policemen Weintraub and Seifer. He was in the company of several Ukrainian policemen. They began shouting Judenraus and shot whoever came out in the morning. We had to drag ten or more bodies to the storehouse. By order of the Judenrat we buried them in the evening.
Although the number of Jews dropped, the mustering still went on, in Steinberg's presence. Old Man Schoenking (a Volksdeutcher of German origin) took the Jews to work. In those days there was no refuge in labor. The Crimes Department men and the Ukrainian police would come to the place of work and murder the workers on the job.
About ten days before the final roundup, twenty of us Jews were
Taken to the Tishminitza ghetto. Not a soul was left there. We were told to gather up the furniture and clothing and everything else behind by the Jews of Tishminitza, together with all the Jewish books and burn them in one pile. We were told that we, too, would be liquidated, but ten days later we were allowed to go back to the Tlumacz ghetto. We managed to escape before the final liquidation of the Tlumacz Jewry.
by Wolf Sisser and Shlomo Blond
The following are excerpts from a diary kept by Max Hartenstein (present name: Zavadi), a survivor of the Holocaust. After being with the underground he came to the Armia Krajowa with forged documents and served there without his origins being known. When the area was liberated by the Soviet forces, he joined the Polish army and had opportunity to wage a war of vengeance against the enemy, weapon in hand. He came to Israel in 1948.
After the liberation he met with Polish friends. They told him that they knew he was hiding. Among the Christians in Tlumacz it was said that Max was related to a German general supposedly of Jewish parentage. The legend about Max was disseminated among others by Banderowski, one of the arch murderers in Tlumacz and a leader of the Crimes Department in the town. He searched for Max and even placed a prize on his head, but didn't find him. His burning desire to catch Max probably grew out of the postcard that Max sent him after he found concealment in Warsaw. According to the diary, Max wrote to Banderowski in sharp language, calling him the scum of the earth and warning him that he would not escape retribution. (Ed.)
Early in August 1942, as the harvest was nearing its end, we learned that orders had come from Stanislawow to round up all the Jewish farmers around Tlumacz and take them to the town's ghetto. The Ukrainian police set about this action during the latter part of the month, and before August was out, my family and I were inside the ghetto. It was a harsh blow. We were taken out of our dwellings, deprived of freedom of movement and of the access we had to food. We took nothing with us but the clothes we needed and some food. We left all the property and the livestock with Sagdin, an old time farmhand.
We were quartered in the Sommerfreund house, near the Baron de Hirsch school. We were all in one room the families of Bloch, Schwech
ter, Hutt, Blond, Sprechman. The congestion was very depressing but we felt that this was only the beginning; worse things would probably be visited upon us. Back on the farm we didn't have too much room, but at least we could hide in the nearby forest whenever there was a roundup.
I went to work for Kapanowski in the photography shop he set up in Riesel's store. As a photographer, he was allowed to work outside the ghetto. At times I remained in the shop for the night, this being safer in case of a roundup. In developing films of the ghetto I often made copies.
Banderowski, Zawidowski and Sitnik used to visit the ghetto almost daily, looking for gold, robbing, plundering and killing.
September 6, 1942. Today they caught my mother and my sister Julia, who tried to get to the Buczacz ghetto, thinking that the situation there was easier. Several Tlumacz families had gone there, making their way stealthily past the villages to the other side of the Dniester and thence to Buczacz. Others went by way of Palahicze or Oleshow, and from there to Buczacz by train.
Since my work took me to the Aryan part of town and in contact with the Poles, I tried to have my mother and sister released, to no avail. They had been taken by the Gestapo to Stanislawow, from which no one comes back. My sister Adela and her husband made it to Buczacz.
September 7, 1942
This night I also remained in Kapanowski's shop. I wanted to make copies of some ghetto photographs. Also, something told me to stay away from it perhaps the sixth sense of impending danger. I couldn't work. Suddenly there was a loud banging on the shutters. I opened the door. There stood the drunken murderer Banderowski. He stretched himself out on the sofa and said that on the next day, September 8, the Tlumacz ghetto was to be liquidated. He had come to save me torture by shooting me dead on the spot. I finally convinced him that I had to prepare several films for the only film lab in tlumacz and he left.
I made my way stealthily to Steinberg's quarters near the Judenrat and told him what I had heard from Banderowski. Steinberg's brothe and several other members of the Council were there. They didn't believe that their end was near; after all, the authorities had promised that no harm would befall them. Steinberg's niece said she would flee with me. We went to Sommerfreund's house. On the door there was a placard, in German, Polish and Ukrainian: Government property. No pillaging under penalty of death. We climbed into the house through a side window.
September 8, 1942 At dawn we were awakened by sounds of movement. From the window facing the Tuzhinkewicz mill came shots and screams. We peered through the window and saw many trucks, Gestapo and SS men,
Policemen, all of them armed and helmeted. They were prodding the Jews in the direction of the square between the church and the mill. We saw Wunder's wife among the Jews; she was holding a baby in her arms. A policeman came up and shot the child. The Germans kept flailing the Jews with their guns.
The Jews were kept in the square from dawn until four in the afternoon, hands held high. If anyone moved, there would be a shot, and a body would topple over. At the very end, the members of the Judenrat were added to the mass.
Toward evening the shooting died down. In rows of eight abreast, flanked by a tight column of Gestapo men and Ukrainian policemen, the mass of Jews moved forward toward the railway station, their death march.
Late that night we stole out from the Sommerfreund house to the home of Mendl Schwechter. I knew about the shelter there, because I had helped Hersch Schwechter build the house. I remove several tiles from the floor of the kitchen porch, and we went down in the bunker, under the parlor floor.
September 10, 1942. At night I stole out of the house and made my way through the gardens to the home of Madam Tuzhinkewicz (not the mill owner). She gave me food. She confirmed what Banderowski had told me: Tlumacz had been declared Judenrein. The only ones left were the workers in the Wunder home, finishing their assignment for the German army, and those who were removing the bodies of those murdered in the final roundup.
September 11, 1942. At might I left the bunker. In our yard, I ran into our former farmhand. He ran after me, axe in hand; evidently he did not want me as a partner to our property and possessions. I ran to Ungar, got some food and dropped by Ostow on the way. Then I went to Yanek Vronski (he was once a clergyman). I now made up my mind to flee from Tlumacz during the night. I had been in the bunker five days and nights, going out at night only to get food.
September 13, 1942. At 11 at night Steinberg's niece and I left the bunker, making our way via Slobodka to Palahicze. On the way Vronski and Tuzhnikewicz joined us. Yanek Vronski bought us train tickets to Stanislawow.
September 14, 1942. At 6 in the morning we boarded the train to Stanislawow. I met there former pupils of mine, Bilinska and Jalenkovna. I talke to them and they promised to the secret. At the Stanislawow station we ran into a close search; the police were looking for food
Smugglers. I had nothing with me and I walked calmly past the inspectors and out of the station. Outside I met Stephan Plawiuk. He was amazed to see me alive, but he made no move. Here Steinberg's niece and I parted.
The roundup in Stanislawow was still going on, but I went to the home of my former teacher, Stanislaw Smoter, and hid for few days in his home.
September 19, 1942. Went to the railway station, took the train to Lemberg and Prsymislani, so as to get to Crakow.
September 21, 1942. Arrived in Crakow. I had a friend there, Matushinski. I tried my luck with him. He sent me to Warsaw for safety.
September 30, 1942. From September 21, I was in Cracow and Warsaw, where I found that the hiding place was not available. I went back to Matushinski (he lived across the street from SS Headquarters in Cracow). He gave me another address in Warsaw. I obtained shelter in the estate owned by Shwidarski, the soninlaw of the Endek leader Boyanowski. From Warsaw I sent a postcard to Banderowski, calling him the scum of the earth and promising that soon he would pay for his crimes.
October 15, 1942. As a persecuted Polish patriot, I was accepted into the Armia Krajowa, under the command of Karol Hodkiewicz, the brotherinlaw of Zosia Hoffman of Tlumacz.
by Moshe LeskiGutstein
Six official bureaus represented the German occupation in Tlumacz, during 194142:
All these bribes availed nothing when it came to postponing the dates of the actions. In order to make sure that their demands would be filled, the authorities took hostages. The first phase of the liquidation came a few months after the Germans had instituted their reign of terror. The aged, the infirm and those too weak to work were gathered in the Polish school. About a thousand of them were taken to Stanislawow cemetery, shot to death and buried. Later a ghetto was set up in Tlumacz, into which Jews were brought also from Nizhniew and Otinia.
A curfew was placed on the ghetto after seven in the evening. Jews were forbidden to walk about without the patch on the sleeve, to leave the town or to walk on the sidewalk. They were not to own a radio or
any valuables. Jews could do only manual labor, without wages, supervised by Ukrainians and Poles who were German nationals. Still, the Jews wanted to be put to work, assuming that this would stave off the danger. For a certain period, Jewish artisans, doctors and dentists were allowed to practice their professions. The Jewish Council set the quotas. Not a day passed without the Jews at work being beaten, tortured, insulted and put to death for no reason. They worked for the municipality, paved the streets with Jewish tombstones, did house work for the rulers, toiled on the railroad and on the neighboring estates.
Some Jews, called badges, worked in German factories and carried tags on their person to show it. They were allowed outside the ghetto to gather scrap iron for the Germans. A few Jews were allowed to maintain contact with the farmers and sell them their last belongings in return for potatoes, bread or beans.
Inside the ghetto Banderowski roamed the streets, pistol in hand, shooting down old Jews and anyone who looked unfit for labor. He killed Buchwald's wife, Fridl Haber, because she had accepted a bottle of milk from a Pole.
The executions took place at set times. For these events Krueger came from Stanislawow with his crew, and the local authorities joined them. The murders lasted from dawn to dusk. On the next day the survivors went to work as if nothing had happened. After each execution the Germans tried to soothe the people and lull them into believing that life would now be normal, since the useless had already been liquidated.
The sole remaining comfort was the hope that the Russian front would come nearer. Even under those horrible circumstances, the yearning for survival was strong. The Germans did everything to break down the spirit of the people. They had the Jewish Council set up health clinics and welfare agencies, and allowed the free professions to function. As the Germans pressed on deeper into Russia, the hopes of the Jews dwindled. Then came the winter, and the situation of the Germans in Russia grew precarious. Carloads of frostbitten Germans kept coming from the front. The hopes of the Jews rose again, and the German radio blared hysterically not to allow the Jews to rejoice.
Conditions in the ghetto worsened. Hunger and distress were everywhere. Moshe Stark sent sacks of flour from the mill every day, but they were like drops in the ocean. The Dniester floods destroyed the crops in the fields, and not even jewelry could buy beans and flour. Desperately, the Jews made soup out of fallen leaves. Hershl Berger's son and grand
Children dried field vegetation and ground it for flour. My sisterinlaw Sarah dried apple peels and served them as tea leaves.
Bread was allocated by card. Jews received halfportions. The black b read was as sticky as mud. Jews received no other sustenance. They ate whatever they could get, and those who had to observe diets forgot about such things as liver or gall bladder ailments or ulcers.
Those who succeeded in staying alive, in fleeing and hiding, set themselves up as for a siege. Tall closets were used to conceal doorways. Wooden planks and bricks were used to camouflage the hiding places. I was living in those days in the home of Madam Getziya Schreier. In the kitchen there was an entrance to the cellar. I boarded up the entrance, then loosened a board elsewhere to get into it. The hiding places in the forest were also camouflaged with branches.
The German invasion came at the end of the summer. It was an exceptionally beautiful summer, followed by a comfortable autumn. In normal times this was the season for the young people to go swimming or to stroll in the park. But this year people stayed indoors, even before the decrees were published, much as they yearned to be out in those places that we knew so well from our young days. Later the glow of the sun and the color of the flowers lost their charm. We sought the security of the darkness. When it was stormy outside or if a downpour was inundating the town, we felt that the elements were easing our hardships. In such weather the murderers were inside their dwellings, and we could breathe more freely. Our enemies liked to do their work in broad daylight. They saw no need for darkness to hide their acts. That, too, was welcome respite.
At seven in the evening we had to be inside, while our neighbors came together in their saloons and meeting places to recount their accomplishments during that day.
Suddenly someone who had his ear glued to the muted radio announced that the Russians had gone over to the offensive. Immediately we began figuring how many days it should take the Russian tanks to reach our town. These tanks were the last hope of the few Jewish survivors in Tlumacz.
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