by M. LeskiGustein
As soon as the first reports began coming in about the clashes between the Soviets and the Germans, the Jewish community of Tlumacz became embroiled in a sharp dispute: should the Jews remain where they were or should they retreat with the Russians. Those who had held positions of any kind under the Soviet regime and those who took part in Comsomol youth activities had no difficulty in making their decision, but they found it hard to bid farewell to their families. In the meantime news came that the Germans had cut the LembergTarnopol highway; the Russian forces were barely able to withdraw.
The last day of liberty came on a bright June day in 1941. On the preceding night the last of the Soviet forces left the town, followed by the officials of the regime. We fearfully awaited the advent of the new German rulers. From a distance, a column of black smoke was rising into the air; before withdrawing, the Russians had set fire to the oil storage tanks near the Palahicze railway station. That night no one slept. People gathered at neighbors' houses to take counsel. We were most concerned about the Jews who lived on the side streets among the goyim.
On the next day the streets were empty. The only ones about were peasants with sacks. They were there to plunder everything the Russians had left behind. The Christian populace of the neighboring villages was all ready to proceed to Tlumacz with axes and sickles, but the cleric Strisky of Olesha ordered them to return. Just then a Jewish girl came running from Niezwiska; the peasants, she said, had already thrown all the Jewish families there into the Dniester.
The Ukrainian intellectuals in the town decided to organize a Ukrainian militia.
A Jewish militia man who had served under the Russians was caught and brutally beaten. The other Jews were taken to forced labor. Each day the Ukrainians beat on their shutters and yelled, Get out and go to work!. The church bell announced the advent of the great day of independent Ukraine.
Before the Germans came, the area was in the hands of the Hungarians. There were some cases of robbery and beatings, but nothing was known about the mass executions. No one even thought them possible.
When Jewish refugees began coming from Hungary, the Jews of Tlumacz were ready to help them. This humane and brotherly action disturbed the Ukrainians. They called together a council, headed by the cleric Klodnicki, and decided to deport the Jews of Tlumacz, or, if that was not feasible, to drown them in the Dniester. The plan was already in operation when the Hungarian authorities halted the move and ordered everyone to go back home. When the Jews returned, they found their houses broken into and pillaged.
Later, in the fall, when the Dniester overflowed its banks and caused the worst flood in decades, the peasants said the flood was the divine punishment for what the Christians had done to the Jews.
by M. LeskiGustein
The year was 1942.
Three of us were left alive out of a score of survivors of our community. The three decided to abandon ship, regardless of the consequences.
The three of us, two men and a woman, were able to get from the Council Clerk three certificates from the local archives. Bertha got a certificate in the name of Stanislawa Sanicki and decided to play the role of a housemaid. Yitzak was to be a daybyday laborer, and I became Josef Grzebik, a good name for a tiller of the soil.
On the following day we came together at an appointed spot for our last meeting, and we went each our own way, separately so as to make it easier for us to melt into the mas of the general populace. I took the nearest road to Buczacz actually to the thick forest around it.
I went to work for a Ukrainian estate owner. Slowly I became used to my new job, although I couldn't tell a grain of wheat from a grain of rye. The manual labor itself was no problem, thanks to the farm training I received in the expectation of going to Palestine.
The end of the harvest season was at hand. Most of the work was threshing. There was constant danger. I dared cross the Dniester, its waters red with Jewish blood. My destination was the home of the farmer Lachowski, who wife was the sister of Madam Sklar. Naturally I had to keep the fact of my being Jewish strictly secret. Of course, said Madam Lachowski. My sister wrote me about you. You can work on our farm. It's a big farm 30 threshing sledges, work animals, barn, hennery.
A girl was taking care of the barn. I had to tend the horses. No trouble, Lachowski said to me in a friendly tone. The way you learned to work in a lumber mill, that's how you'll learn to work in the field.
The farm was about two miles away from Buczacz. I could hear the shooting. I slept in the stable. At three past midnight I was already up, fighting hard to break out of deep slumber. The main thing was that I had no free time to think too much. Working in the field was no child's play. Plowing, planting, weeding, attending to the horses and pigs, spreading the manure all these required training and learning. I also had to go into town every now and then on a variety of errands, at times to deliver orders for farm produce placed by the Germans. Then I had to cut timber in the forest and do Shervarik public service. The working day was from 16 to 18 hors. Late at night I would drag myself to the stable and slump down with fatigue.
At daybreak I would hear Mariusha's high voice, Yosef!. Another work day. But every passing day was like winning in the lottery. Who knows, perhaps I could manage to stay alive, especially now that the front was drawing nearer Harkov, Kiev. What do a few score kilometers mean to a tank? It was already 1943. The landowner still believed that I was a Polish officer hiding from the Germans. The neighbors also thought that I was a refugee from the Warta district, in Posen, a member of the Lachowski family.
On Sundays, Lachowski would allo me to go to church in Buczacz for a few hours. But I used to go to the Jewish quarter and pray in the synagogue. There was a depressiveness in the air. People talked about liquidation. Still they sang, in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian, songs of despair pinpointed with hope. When they saw me they stopped singing. I didn't look like one of theirs.
The railroad workers brought news about the revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. Reports also arrived about Stalingrad. A group of young Jews began organizing and acquiring arms, for retreat to the forest.
I went back to the far. Again I am behind the plow. The old farmer compliments me. He says that I am guiding the plow like an old hand. It's enough to set the plow at the right angle, he says. The rest comes of itself. The horses plod along the furrow. A slight pull on the reins keeps them in line. Many a time I thought that were it not for the calamity, everything would be so romantic the forest on my left and greenery everywhere.
One day, as I came down from the hayloft in the stable, I heard shots coming from the town, shots and screams. Another roundup was on.
I had to do my daily chores, but this time I couldn't. Everything I picked up fell out of my hands. I tied the horses to the plow, set it and it didn't work. The blade of the plow didn't keep steady, slithering from one side of the furrow to the other. The farmer came up to me, looked at the plow, and yelled, what in hell is going on, Josef? What's come over you? Yesterday everything was fine!
Obviously the farmer saw no connection between the shooting and my work.
Later when I went into town in the wagon I no longer saw people with the Jewish badge on their sleeves. When I came back to the house, the farmer told me that a youth of 20 who worked last year on the railroad for the Germans turned out to be a Jew. He was spotted by a Ukrainian policeman, as the latter was dragging a Jewish girl out from her hiding place. He happened to notice that the youth's face went pale. The young man's documents did him no good. He was stripped of his clothes and his identity became known.
A short distance away from Lachowski's farm, at the edge of the forest, there lived a poor Polish widow. Someone suddenly noticed that she was buying more food than a single person required. The Ukrainian policeman took some of his friends and went out to the shack. Jews, come out right away or we'll open fire! But this time the Jews inside opened fire and threw hand grenades at the police. The Ukrainian heroes refused to give battle. Instead, they set the shack on fire. In the afternoon my fellowfarmhand Piotr invited me to come see roasted human flesh. It looks like veal, he said.
Here and there, Jewish weapons began giving an account of themselves. The Polishlanguage newspaper in Lemberg published an offer of reward for catching the Jewish girl who shot dead a Gestapo man on Bernstein Street.
Officially Buczacz and its vicinity were declared Judenrein. So it appeared during the day. But at night, shadows moved from house to house begging for food. The demands made by these shadows became stronger, more daring, and the sounds cast fear on the Germans and their supporters, even on the District Commissar himself. The shadows threw hand grenades if the inmates wouldn't open. They demanded food for the partisans. One of the most courageous among them was a young fellow nicknamed Red' some time later he fell on the Russian front. In the town of PotokZloty there was a group of Jewish escapees from Buczacz. They were well camouflaged, well armed, and they used to road about the countryside and hide in the forest. The authorities couldn't catch them.
In the winter of 194344, the falling snow revealed the whereabouts of these men. As I was driving from my public work in PotokZloty I met two SS tanks. The Ukrainians in the tanks were boasting that they had just won a battle against the Jewish partisans.
by Loncho Lepold
How the Banda came about and how it was forced to act, after the liquidation of the Tlumacz ghetto in 1942.
I was hiding with Leib Pessias in Itzik Kreus' house. A policeman, Hapiuk, came and wanted to take us away. Knobloch was there and rescued us, claiming that we were working for him. Fellows, he told us, you better get out of here.
We crossed the Dniester to PotokZloty. The town was after the roundup. We went on to Buczacz. We roamed about for two days, then et Urcho Ziller; he had jumped off the train which was taking the Jews to Stanislawow.
We formed a group which would choose its own members. Sissio Haber joined. We kept a joint fund. I had with me three thousand dollars, which I found on the body of my murdered Aunt Scheindl. Later came Munio Ziller and Zioma Weiss, the daughter of Moshe Shlomo Motl. She kept house and cooked for us.
Urcho had a talen for organizing and a lot of courage. He proposed that we accept every Tlumacz Jew and thereby set up a defense unit. We asked Kramer, the head of the the Buczacz Judenrat, to help get us weapons. He told us that he Germans had promised him that no harm would befall the Jews of Buczacz; we could remin, he said, but he asked us not to do anything rebellious. We left him emptyhanded.
We were able to get three guns on our own. We hid out in Buczacz until the roundup was over, then went to Potok to hide out at Streuber's. Later we went back to Buczacz. After the major calamity it suffered, we again went to the Judenrat concerning the organization of resistance. This time our clash with it was sharper. Dr. Zeifer threatened us, and we left with nothing.
One day, two Jewish policemen came into the house where we were hiding (one of them was the notorious Red Max). They demanded that we deliver two of our group for labor in the BorkiWielke Camp near Tarnopol. We refused. Suddenly Urcho broke into the room, gun drawn, and told them to get out. Half an hour later they were back, this time with Albrecht, the Jewish supervisor of the Ordnungdienst. We jumped on Albrecht and beat him. Leib Pessias drew out a long butcher's knife. Albert went away, promising that he wouldn't bother us anymore. Urcho gave him final warning: if any Jewish policeman would dare harm any Jew in Tlumacz, he would suffer for it. Since then the situation improved somewhat.
The group aroused hatred and fear in many people. They regarded it as the root of all the trouble. But some people looked at it as a selfdefense group and respected it as such. I must admit that we had to pilfer, and that we broke into the storerooms of the wealthy Jews so that we should not die of hunger. Still, we behaved like human beings. The professional Christian gangs in the area learned about us. They felt a kind of kinship with us, and at times they warned us of an imminent roundup and even supplied us with weapons.
In one of the last roundups in Buczacz, as the police stood around the group to keep people from escaping, and even fired in the air, Urcho came up to a Ukrainian policeman and began shooting, giving us an opportunity to break the ring.
Gradually the Jews came to regard us as a combat unit rather than a gang of robbers. When the Buczacz ghetto was liquidated, we decided to flee to the forests of Kopicinze. Only part of the populace there welcomed us. The others hated us. Two days later came a bloody roundup. Our group lost Opochinski, Dunio Ziller and Munio Ziller. This happened as we were jumping over a fence. I got over, but Opochiniski was shot while he was on the fence. Dunio jumped down, attacked a policeman, grabbed his gun and shot him. But another policeman riddled Dunio with his gun.
Another roundup. Our plan to return to Buczacz was foiled. I was caught halfnaked and put into prison. Urcho and Munio Ziller were able to escape.
The next day a group of Ukrainian policemen came into the prison with the Obersturmfuehrer at their head. They selected forty of the young inmates (I was among them) and told us to march toward the forest. We were divided into two shifts and ordered to dig pits. I and a boy from our group saw our chance and began running deep into the
forest. They shot at us, and my companion was hit in the arm. After a day of wandering, tired and hungry, we saw a bonfire in the distance. We came near and saw a farmer sleeping nearby. We woke him up and told him that we were Jews. He gave us some sour milk to drink and took us to his home. At first we were wary. Later we learned that he was the village headman. His wife made us corn porridge and told us to remain. Three days later she took us by dirt roads to the Stripa, next to a hill and the Jewish cemetery. From there we went to the labor camp in Buczacz.
I didn't see Urcho anymore. He went into the forest, taking 40 Jews with him.
This is the sad story of the Banda in Tlumacz. I make mention of Urcho as a noblespirited person who cared for his comrades and shared their suffering. Later I heard that he had joined Kolpak's band of partisans.
(The members of Banda were a group of adolescents, except their leader Urcho Ziller. There are many versions about the group, as well as negative opinions regarding its role. Lonche Lepold is the sole surviving member of the Banda. Let this remain an open link in the chain of blurred episodes from the tragic period. Ed.)
|Reception for Charles Bass and his wife in Israel, 1968|
by Munio Wurman
The size of the Jewish community of Tlumacz at the outbreak of the Second World War can only be approximated. The latest count, called the Second General Census, was 5,946 inhabitants in Tlumacz itself and 118,784 in the entire district, all faiths included, of whom there were less than 10,000 Jews; the Bohdan Watoshinski survey put the number at 8,655, of whom 2,112 lived in Tlumacz.
The low natural increase and low mortality rate kept the size of the community much the same, even with the influx of the refugees from the west. The outbreak of the war didn't change the picture radically, although some Jews moved with the Soviet army or were exiled.
The German invasion changed the situation completely. Jewish villagers were drowned in the Dniester. The Ukrainian police, incited by Ukrainian leaders, kept up a steady killing of Jews, showing themselves to be true sons of Chmielnicki and Gonta of the 17th Century and of Petlura in contemporary days. The violence and pillage abated somewhat after the Hungarians came, but with the advent of the Hitlerite bands, systematic extermination was introduced, particularly once the ghetto was set up. Jews were murdered at will, and the murderers went unpunished. This is illustrated by an incident reported in Tafets' Destruction of the Jews of Zholkow (Zaglada Zydow Zulkerskich). A Jew was murdered in the town when things were yet quiet. The Ukrainian police inspector saw it his duty to conduct an investigation. He turned to a workers' squad, knowing that it had committed the deed. The head of the German unit drew him aside, and with a derisive laugh drew a louse on the wall, indicating a Jew had the same value as a louse.
The unimaginable brutality of the Germans and the Ukrainians, perpetrated against every aspect of Jewish life in the community, made it difficult to organize any semblance of resistance. There were a few individual cases which ended with the heroes and witnesses being slaughtered. The German machine operated deutlich and ordentlich, with typical German efficiency. Germans took delight in playing the game of deceit
Allowing the Jews to hope for exterminating them. They issued stacks of documents, certificates and authorizations of all kinds which gave promise of keeping their recipients alive. They announced population transfers and urged the Jews to take their belongings with them; a few kilometers out of the town the tricked Jews were murdered and their personal effects plundered. Every means was tried to stay alive: bribery, registration for forced labor and becoming members of the Judenrat. As the days and weeks went by, it became evident that all this was a catandmouse game designed to satisfy the Gestapo. The Judenrat attempted to please the German overlords and their Ukrainians by conducting gift campaigns, a form of tribute to be paid to the rulers. Eventually the Judenrat became peopled with Jewish degenerates, who deluded themselves into thinking that they would be spared. Dr. Steinberg was placed at the head of this Council by the Ukrainians because they recalled his fight on their side against the Polish majority on the Town Council. His advice and instructions to the Jews did not help them survive; if anything, it hastened their end. The first Jewish community leaders who undertook to manage the Judenrat, such genuine public servants as Moshe Mendl Bildner and Eli Redner, withdrew from it as soon as its evil purpose became apparent, rather than become collaborators with the German hangmen. Dr. Steinberg may have believed that by allowing part of the community to be destroyed, the other part might be saved, but this is as far as the benefit of the doubt can be given to him and his aides, Herzl Shpirer and Haim Ritzer, whose moral attributes were no better than their leader's.
There was no incentive for resistance, since it was clear that any such manifestation would result in the complete annihilation of the community. Also, the means for resisting were lacking. All in all, it should be borne in mind that the entire territory had been steeped in antiSemitism for generations on end, and the advent of the Germans was the outlet of this accumulated hatred, which could now prosper materially through plunder, robbery, headhunting, particularly by the criminal elements in the local citizenry which stood by and, with the exception of a very few isolated cases, didn't lift a finger to halt this carnage. True, they were afraid, since aiding a Jew drew a death sentence.
Still, some thought was given to organized resistance. All those who were able to hide and evade the slaughter began building bunkers, primitive at first and improved in time; some of these were never discovered. According to witnesses, there were quite a few such bunkers in Tlumacz. A group of Jewish working men in Wunder's shops, in the Hof, in Kahawa, were able to build an impressive bunker, marvelously camouflaged and
Stocked with food, cooking gas and fuel. In this group were Favek Kautman and Lonek Hertenstein, Yaacov Kath (Shimon Katz's brother), Yitzhak Silver and Kerner. However, the roundup of the Jews came so suddenly that only Lonek Hartenstein was able to use this bunker before his flight to Buczacz.
There were other forms of passive resistance, such as flight to the villages and Buczacz, jumping off trains and escaping from camps, then heading for the Soviet border. These escapes were in time cut off when the German machine began functioning. The hardships and deprivation that these refugees knew they would encounter, in addition to the risk of being caught and put to immediate death in the course of the escape attempt, shows the desire of these Jews to remain alive. They jumped off trains despite the guards armed machine guns perched on the roofs of the cars. They separated the strands of barbed wire with their bare hands in order to get out of the camps.
There were individual cases of active resistance, as when Ducho Ziller of Tlumacz fired at the Ukrainian police during the Kopichinza roundup. There might have been other cases, but no one has survived to bear testimony. The young people were stunned by this outburst of brutality and violence, to the point that they were inert, until news came of resistance movements forming elsewhere, and then they tried to find their way to them.
As aforesaid, the means for resistance were not there. Still as the end of Tlumacz grew visibly near, more and more Jews made the last desperate attempt for freedom. Those who escaped joined resistance movements elsewhere. There was the Flesher group, the BlongSprechman group, the Feuer group, and another unit organized in Buczacz but whose members came largely from Tlumacz. In her work, The Underground Movement in the Ghettos and Camps, Betty Eisenstein mentions the band from Tlumacz. The following excerpt tells the story:
by Shlomo Blond
Jews were brought from Tlumacz (Stanislawow District) to Buczacz. Among the young people of Tlumacz there was a group called Banda, armed and courageous. The band was feared everywhere in the area. They despoiled their affluent brethren. The Jews of Buczacz said that the members of the band feared neither the Germans nor the Ukrainians. They used to put on German and Ukrainian uniforms, during the roundups, as a way of getting Jews out of the town; they pretended to beat the Jews as did the Germans, and with shouts of Cursed Jew they marched them out of eyesight and escaped with them into the nearby forest. (Izak Schwarz, Buczacz, The Labor Camps in the Buczacz Area Archives).
There is testimony and stories about Jews who ostensibly waited in despair for the mass execution, but at a given signal broke away or fell on their executioners.
For example, a member of the Tlumacz band, known for his daring and athletic build, was in the Death Square in the Swidow Camp. He had arms. The Jews asked him to organize resistance. He answered calmly, It's not worth resisting. Nothing will help. This behavior, on the part of a Banda member, spelled the difference between the individual's measure of strength when he is with the fighting group and when he is alone. There was another factor the lack of good youth organizers and counselors.
So much for Betty Eisenstein's comment on the Banda. But certain details bear clarification. First, Jews were not transferred from Tlumacz to Buczacz. Word had reached Tlumacz that the situation of the Jews in Buczacz was better. When Tlumacz was being liquidated, the Jews therefore began arriving there stealthily, traveling by night freight trains or by way of the villages along the Dniester.
The Banda consisted of young fellows from Buczacz, headed by Urcho Ziller. It gained a bad reputation, but it showed courage and helped people in Tlumacz who were in dire straits. Several times they succeeded in saving Jews. When the transfer began from Buczacz to Chortkow, Tlustle and Kopichintza, they moved on the Kopichintza and, after the roundup there,
They gathered about 30 Jews and took them to the Buczacz forests or to the town itself, which was officially Judenrein.
The band also engaged in less worthy practices, such as despoiling their own people and revealing the hiding places of Jews, in the home of farmers, robbing them in the process. The gang also worked with the Polish and Ukrainian underworld, committing armed robberies in the area.
When the partisans of Kolpak passed through the Sokolow forests near PotokZloty, they were joined by Ziller and Teitelman of Buczacz. Teitelbaum remained later with Ziller in the Swidow Camp near Tluste and met his death there, as Betty Eisenstein reports.
In the Kopiczynze roundup, a young man from Tlumacz, Ducho Ziller (no relative of Urcho), shot dead a Ukrainian policeman known as a Jewhunter, and was immediately riddled like a sieve by the bullets of the other Ukrainian policemen.
There were pockets of resistance in all the towns of Eastern Little Poland. Some of them became much larger in time. They arose spontaneously, and there was little contact among them. Their leaders were not outstanding, but there was great hope for survival. We know very little about most of the, since they left no survivors. Such groups existed in Brodi, Surczow, Skala, Tarnopol and others, as well as in the camps (Janowska in Lemberg), whence information has come about attempts at active resistance and escapes, obtaining weapons, cutting through barbed wire fences, and flight into the forests. Burczows's group set up resistance pockets in the camps inKozaki, Sasow, Toporow, Landska. Zucker's group from Borsczow was also very active.
After the liquidation of the Tlumacz ghetto, Henik Sprechman and his family hid in the Jackowka Forest, in the home of the farmer Kshminski. When the Soviets liberated Tlumacz in March of 1944, the entire village knew that the Sprechmans had survived. Three weeks later the Germans recaptured the town. Several of the Sprechmans returned to the forest; Peretz and Mania fled to Czernowicz.
The front drew near the village. German soldiers were quartered in the forest, in Ksheminski's yard and home. Going back there was highly dangerous. Henik couldn't stand it. One night he left the bunker in the forest and went into the village. He found shelter in the home of the Polish widow Kobilenska. At night he went to the home of his former neighbor, Marusia Ferstei. This visit was his undoing. Someone followed him and
told the village headman about it. The headman surprised him in his hideout. He was arrested by Ukrainian policemen. Amongst his personal belongings they found a loaded gun. The Ukrainians delivered him to the Gestapo in Stanislawow. There he was tortured in an attempt to force him to divulge the whereabouts of the other members of his family. Marusia was also arrested on suspicion that she had the information they wanted. Henik couldn't bear his torture. He decided to put an end to his life and to take the information with him to the grave. One night he tore his shirt into strips, fashioned a rope, and hanged himself from the window of his cell. This was later told by Marusia, who was freed after Henik's suicide.
A cell of opposition was organized in Buczacz back in the winter of 1941. In December, the Buczacz Judenrat received orders to send groups of Jews to work on the railroad and in the quarries. The first to be sent were the nonresidents then in the town and those who did not have a Judenrat certificate. I and a dozen others working in the Ligenschaft (formerly the Potocki estate), were ordered to report to the Judenrat, ready to leave. We decided not to show up. The Ukrainian police and the Jewish militia looked for us. We hid out for weeks in the Ligenschaft yard. The Judenrat finally gave in. We were given green certificates (ostensibly rendering us immune). This first try taught us how to handle the matter in the future. It was also the beginning of the organized resistance.
One of our comrades told us about the situation in the Julag (Judenlager) camps. Munio Weitz was caught and transferred to the Julag in Kamionka. He wasn't there very long. He managed to cut through the wire fence and escape back to Buczacz.
The escapees from Tlumacz told us about the acts of the Germans and their helpers in Tlumacz and throughout the Stanislawow District.
Yeshoshua Bildner, spirited out in a casket from the cellar of the Janowka camp, told us of the violence there. Wilhaus, the camp commander, together with his helpers the Gestapo, SS, Ukrainian policemen and Russian soldiers murdered hundreds of innocent Jews in cold blood.
Our leaders in the preparations for resistance were Margulis, Zahler, Evenstein from Buczacz, Silber from Horodenko, Bildner, Fisher, and my wife Gusta (Weitz) Wurman. I was put in charge of command.
In strict secrecy, we proceeded to organize the youth in cells of five. Berish Engelberg, the secretary of the Judenrat, and a member, Dr. Julius Merengel, were our liaison men with the Judenrat. It was decided that we acquire arms. We refrained from disarming Germans because that could
have had grave consequences for Tlumacz Jewry. The young people reared in the Hashomer Hatzair and Betar movements joined our ranks. We made contact with the Jews in the surrounding towns. Everywhere the situation was ripe. We learned from Engineer Zis (deported by the Russians from Tarnopol) and Dr. Merengel about the surrender of von Paulus in Stalingrad and the defeat of Rommel in Africa. We already had several pistols. I arranged with our people working in the sawmill to smuggle some dynamite to us. I made contact with two other groups in Buczacz. Weisinger decided to get to the Puzhniki Forest and join the Niedjewiecki group, but they barely got out of it alive. The FrienlanderDunaier group spurned us because of our nationalistic ideology. They decided to remain in Buczacz. I tried to contact the Poles, and after many promises I obtained one pistol, paying a full price for it. A Soviet army major, in Buczacz as a prosyuz official, advised us to get to White Russia. We decided to stay in the forest and to try breaking any future roundup in the area with shooting. All this time we did not stay in our dwellings.
One night we heard shots. A roundup! Quickly we stole across into the Aryan quarter. One of our men, Anderman from Trybuchowce, near Buczacz, was halted by a Ukrainian policeman. He drew his gun and killed the policeman but was himself shot to death. The roundup s topped. The SS men and the Ukrainian police gathered around police headquarters, assuming that the shooting of the policeman was the sign of a general uprising in Buczacz. However, our weapons were too few. The German and Ukrainian murderers became uneasy, suspecting the existence of a strong underground organization.
We were told that the Jews of Buczacz were to be deported. We decided to go into the forests in small groups. The wooded area covered more than a thousand acres, and we could move about freely. We dispatched three groups with tools to build bunkers. The first, in charge of Ertrachter from Koropiec went in the direction of Puzhnic. The second, headed by my wife, proceeded toward Koropiec and Potok Zloty on the Wadowa. Those forests were not large, but in them were settlements of the Seventh Day Adventists and they could be trusted. The third and main group, under Nudelman of Potok, went to the Sokolow forests near Potok Zloty. Ten days later they were back, bitter and desperate. It rained all the time that they were in the forest. I talked to Lonek Hartenstein. He saw no way of holding out in the forests and decided to head for the Dniester.
We received news of further deportations. We decided to get some of our people into the forest and the rest of Kopichintza. I went with the
Latter group. The Judenrat showed great understanding. I left the leadership of the local group in the hands of Julek Fisher and Bildner, together with my brother Max. We remained in Buczacz several days, then received word from Fisher: A youth group had organized in Kopincinze went out to the forest and made contact with former Russian army officers working on the KopincinzeHyesatin railway line.
Two days later Fisher let us know that a major roundup was in the offing in Kopincinze. We left Buczacz for the forest and were joined there by the survivors among our Kopincinze men, my brother Max among them. He told us that the SS had surrounded the area. Our men tried to break through a way out for the people but not many did. We lost 80 of our men, Fisher and Bildner among them.
We set up an intelligence system. My wife was placed in charge of the operation. Disguised, she would come back with information and food.
The Kolpakow partisans became more active. News of armed Jews among them cast fear among the peasants. They were now careful not to enter the forests and we had greater freedom of movement. We met two groups of the Kolpakow partisans. They had suffered a defeat in the Delatyn area and were no eager to accept Jews.
Winter was approaching. We had to set up bunkers. Kopel, Munio and Izo Weitz undertook the job. They dug out a bunker more than 12 feet long and 8 feet wide, to a depth of about 10 feet. About six feet from the bottom we put beams across, topped by planks, for the ceiling. On top of the planks we laid straw with packed soil on top of it. The hideout had rows of bunks along the walls, separated by a narrow passage. At the end of the bunks was a narrow corridor with a ramp leading up to the surface, about seven feet from the bunker itself. The trapdoor opened within an enclosure of bushes. No out sign revealed the presence of the bunker. We got air through a pile of branches. The bunker could hold 16 people.
The snows came and we kept indoors so as not to leave tracks. Munio Wurman and Izo Weitz went foraging for food at considerable risk to themselves. One winter morning the forest was surrounded by some 600 SS men, armed with three tanks and cannon. We managed to slip through and escape. A group of some 300 Jews who had set up a village in the forest with about a dozen bunkers was not as fortunate.
Days and nights went by. We could hear the thunder of cannon. Trucks by the thousands rumbled along the BuczaczStanislawow highway. The German forces were in retreat. A Hungarian army unit went by.
It kept shooting all the time into the forest, fearful of the partisans. Then came twelve hours of quiet and the Russians.
We returned to Buczacz. Jews were coming back from the bunkers, the forests, the homes of friendly peasants. Several Jews managed to escape because of their Aryan documents. There were more than 700 of us, among them Judge Yechil Mintzer, Julek Mandel, Gutstein, my wife, Max and I. We were alive but far from happy. Too many were missing.
Ten days later the Russians withdrew and 70 of our people went with them. The others went back into hiding. When we came back, three months later, not even 20 of the 700 remained alive. Among the dead were Advocates Julek Mandel and Yechil Mintzer, both of Tlumacz.
We didn't accomplish much. There were too few of us, poorly armed, surrounded by enemies: Germans, Ukrainian police, hunted everywhere, even by the populace. Our resistance lay in our determination not to fall victim to the Nazi beast. The fact remains that most of the survivors are those who put up this kind of passive resistance. Cruel though the story of Tlumacz may be, those who managed to survive put up a good fight.
In his History of the Jews, Shimon Dubnow ended the classical work with the words, At the beginning of the 19th Century there were on the face of the globe more than three million Jews. Now, a hundred years later, they number more than 16 million. The nation is growing, and nothing will hinder this growth. This is proven by the history of the Jews over the past four thousand years.
These words were written immediately after the First World War. The Hitler regime has wiped the six million European Jews off the face of the earth. Among the six million are the few thousand Jews of Tlumacz. May the account of Tlumacz Jewry be a memorial to those who have fallen. Shimon Dubnow was not wrong. True, the Jewish people paid a tremendous price in the Second World War, and Dubnow himself was one of the six million. But the establishment of the State of Israel will give spur to the growth of the Jewish people in the days to come and Dubnow's words will emerge as the eternal truth.
by Munio Wurman
Tlumacz was liberated from the Nazis in March of 1944, but in April it was retaken by the German army. The front was halted near Obertin,
and only in July was the town finally liberated. On that day the Soviet forces entered Tlumacz. In the evening, my family and I left our bunker in the yard of the farmer Ksheminski in Jackowka and went into the town so as to be with the Russians. We spent that first night in the house of the Dombek family. Their welcome was mixed with fear that the Germans would come back and find us in their home.
In the fields there were scores of dead Russian soldiers, their weapons still with the. On the next day all these soldiers were stripped of their clothes and their weapons were taken away. This was done by Bandera's men in the neighboring villages. The dead were buried. On the way to the town we met two cars with Soviet officials in civilian dress. They were to govern the town. I knew some of them, among them the head of the Finance Department, Werbeniak. He recognized me, and his first remark was, You alive, Blond? When we reached our house in Jackowka we found it empty. We were told that the Germans had maintained in it a field hospital. Nearby was a large cemetery with hundreds of wellkept graves. Later the Soviets removed the graves.
The town was in ruins. All the Jewish stores were empty and locked. All the homes were empty, except the few occupied by Christian families. We went into the home of the Silber family, which was also the home of the Volksdeutcher Knobloch (he left with the retreating Germans). There was no food in the town. We got ours from the Soviet kitchen. Later farmers from the surrounding villages began coming into town to sell their produce. A few Jewish families and individual survivors appeared: Moshe Inzlicht, Haim Boltuch, Shlomo Knippel, Mina Mintzer, the dentist Gutstein, Dora Swarcz, Adela Krum, Debora Doller (the dentist's wife) and a family from Niezhniew named Buchwald. Later Peretz Sprechman came, Mania Sofer (Sprechman), Sonia Kerner and others. I found employment in the GosBank. One day the postman brought me a sack of mail from Russia, from Tlumacz Jews who had fled thither. Some letters were dated 1943 and others from a later period. Sorrowfully, we had to return them because the addressees were no longer alive.
There was tension in the town. Bandera's men started attacking Soviet institutions, even military units. Firing and explosions were heard every night. We were in fear. The Soviet police and the NKVD fortified themselves in the courthouse behind barbed wire. In the street every Soviet citizen carried arms. Large and wellarmed Russian army units were brought in. They opened a campaign against Bandera's men, who were hiding in the Olesha forest. The entire village was evacuated and its women and children were taken to Tlumacz and quartered in the Loan Society building.
One evening large units of Bandera's men attacked the town, blowing up part of the fortified jail, killing in the action many arrested Volksdeutcher and Ukrainians. Many of them were let loose. That was a terrible evening, especially for the Jews. Next day Jewish soldiers from the Soviet army visited us and advised us not to live all in one house. In all the urban localities the Soviets hanged two or three Ukrainians as a warning. Two such young men were hanged in Tlumacz in the Ringplatz opposite Zampler's house. The peasants who came into town Wednesday hastened back home. The corpses hung three days.
Czech forces formed in the Soviet army passed through Tlumacz on their way back home. There were Jews among them. They listened tearfully to what had happened to the Jews. They gave us gifts of food and soap.
Life began to return to normal. Trade was renewed when suddenly another tragedy happened. My brotherinlaw, Peretz Sprechman, who was living in Stanislawow was on his way back home in his horsedrawn wagon, together with Haim Inzlicht, when Bandera's men forced him to drive to the Palahicze forest and murdered both of them. The terrible news was brought by Leiser Buchwald who was with them and had jumped out of the wagon at the last moment. After this tragedy the Jews moved to Stanislawow. I sent Inzlicht's children there with my wife, since I had to remain on the job until my release in February of 1945, when the law providing for Poles to return to Poland was adopted. I left Stanislawow in April of 1945, taking Haim Inzlicht's children with me and my family.
by Munio Wurman
Dr. Henryk Kaufman
He came from a pious family and was given a European education. His father came from Cracow. His mother, a Szpitzbach, was from Tlumacz.
The SzpitzbachKaufman family was widely known in the vicinity. It owned a steamoperated mill, a foundry and electric hammers.
Henryk, as we called him, came to Tlumacz when he was 11. He
Quickly gained the respect of his teachers and classmates, and became the most outstanding boy in the school, as a student and a friend. He was devoted to his parents and he amazed us with his erudition. Even though he was raised in an enlightened home, he was faithful to tradition, quite different in this respect from the others. He was the only one who never violated the Sabbath by writing in the classroom, but this did not keep him from being at the head of his class. Even the antiSemitic teachers liked him.
He was 15 at the time, in his first year of high school, when he joined his friends Yosef Korn and Munio Wurman in their decision to revive the Hashomer Hatzair. But Henryk didn't remain in the movement very long. One winter evening Maczek Orenstein (Mordecai Oren, the known prisoner of Prague) came to Tlumacz, and Henryk had a debate with him on the goals and views of the movement. A few days later he told his friends that he was leaving Hashomer Hatzair because its views were not compatible with his own.
Two years later, having absorbed the ideology of Betar, he became an ardent believer in Jabotinsky's course and remained true to it until his last day. He devoted much time to betar activities, but didn't neglect his studies. He aroused much attention in Betar by his lectures on Jewish and Zionist history. He arranged trips for the branch and directed scout work. When the branch Executive decided to publish a periodical by mimeograph, Henryk headed an editorial board that consisted of Moshe and Yitzhak Katz and Yosef Sommer. He worked hard to raise the level of the publication, doing the writing, editing, and at times also the mimeographing. The periodical was later taken over by the command in Stanislawow and Henryk used to send it material from Vienna.
While still in the lower high school grades, he became known for his helpfulness to others.
He showed special interest in languages. In school, Latin and Greek were taught along with Polish and German. He studied Hebrew privately. He was also attracted to mathematics, chemistry, physics and the natural sciences. He used to invite us to his home to watch his experimentations in chemistry and physics. We also built a raft on the Tlumaczyk that flowed past the orchards of the Kaufman family; at that point, the stream was about 35 feet wide and quite deep.
On graduation from high school, Henryk decided to gain more knowledge in Judaica, and he studied with Strauber, the Talmudic scholar. His time was divided between studying Talmud and cultural activity in Kadima and Emuna. He was enrolled in Vienna University, in the Depart
ment of Semitic Languages. On graduation from the university, he received his Ph.D. degree at the same time that he received his rabbinical degree from the Seminary of Dr. Z.F. Hayyes.
Henryk spent his vacations in Tlumacz. In the evenings he was in Betar hall, lecturing or teaching new songs from EretzIsrael which he had picked up in Vienna. He taught the members of Kadima and Emuna to sing the students' poem Gaudeamus, to a Hassidic tune.
On completion of his advanced studies, Henryk Kaufman was invited to serve as Deputy Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazic community in Belgrade, capital of Yugoslavia. Even while at that post, he corresponded with me on matters of the movement, commenting and advising. Only when the war broke out and the Russians invaded the area did our correspondence cease.
In 1942 the Hitlerite bands broke into Yugoslavia. Chief Rabbi Schlang was arrested and died a martyr's death. The Hitlerites hunted for his deputy but didn't find him. They assumed that he had joined the partisans.
One version has it that Rabbi Kaufman did indeed join the Yugoslavian partisans and was killed fighting the Germans and their Ostashim collaborators in Yugoslavia. Another version says that he joined the Yugoslav army and fell in battle.
Honor to his memory!
Yehoshua Bildner, M.A.
Born to a pious family. His father, an exporter of eggs, was also a community worker, between the two wars. After the German invasion, he and Eli Redner tried to save the Jews of Tlumacz from extinction, but was killed by the Germans, together with Redner.
Yehoshua excelled in his high school studies, although he had to help his father. He was imbued with national consciousness while still in the lower high school grades. He was also interested in sports. After graduating from high school he was accepted to the Department of Law in Cracow University. He remained at home for almost a year, studying and helping his father out in his business, and still managed to maintain his connections with the young people. He helped work for Betar and filled an important role in Emuna. A month before exams he went to Cracow and devoted himself exclusively to his studies except for attending the weekly lectures given by Emuna on Jewish current events.
After completing his studies, he worked some time as an apprentice, but even then he continued helping his father and maintaining his ties with the young people.
After the German invasion, as the family was still mourning the tragic death of the father, the Germans arrested Yehoshua and took him to the Janowska camp in Lemberg. There he witnessed the brutal murders committed by Wilhaus, the camp commandant. Yehoshua found his way to the underground camp and with its active help (they carried him out on a dead man's stretcher) made his escape. He made his way to Buczacz, was in a roundup, and welcomed the news that a resistance movement was being formed. He and Julek Fischer were among its leaders in Buczacz, along with Lonek Hartenstein and Gusta WeitzWurman.
Julek Fischer, M.A.
His father was a dealer in grain. After graduating from high school he attended a university and worked for a while in apprenticeship. He was active in Betar throughout his stay in Tlumacz, as well as in Emuna. During the Russian occupation he tried to organize underground activity, but he realized that the attempt would be exposed in Tlumacz, particularly after 40 Betar members had been arrested in Stanislawow, as they held a memorial meeting for Zeev Jabotinsky.
Shortly before the liquidation of the Tlumacz ghetto, Julek managed to get to Buczacz with a few survivors from his family. In Buczacz he took part in organizing the resistance and planning for the future aliya to EretzIsrael. As the Buczacz ghetto was facing liquidation, he was in favor of going on to Kopichinza where he saw possibilities for working with the young people. He set out, together with Yehoshua and a group of youngsters. The surrounding forests, covering thousands of acres seemed ideal for the purpose much better concealment than in the Buczacz forests.
Several days after his arrival in Kopichinza, Julek sent a report back to Buczacz. Our people were not venturing from the forest except to get food in Kopichinza and be in touch with the youth groups there. He had also made contact with a group of Russian army officers, taken prisoner and now working on the KopichinzaHusyatin railway line.
One night he and his group were caught in a surprise roundup in Kopichinza. They tried to fight their way through the S.S. troops and the Ukrainian policemen, but they were caught one by one and taken, along with the Jews of Kopichinza, to a common grave in the forest. One of the group tried to shoot an S.S. man with his pistol, but was mowed down with the others by machine gun fire. Only a few managed to escape back to Buczacz. Julek and Yehoshua were among the dead.
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