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[Page 221]

Destruction and Annihilation

 

The Russian Chapter in Turka
During the Second World War

By Chaim Pelech

 

First Panic

When the Jews of Turka had discussions: “Yes a war”, “No war” – They awoke on September 1, 1939, and the war was a reality… Whoever had a bit of money ran to purchase various foodstuffs. One did not think about, and one could not imagine what type of a misfortune the times were bringing upon us Jews, despite the fact that there were enough pessimists who sighed and said, “God should help”.

The general mobilization took place shortly. Many Jews were enlisted into the Polish army. That same day, at 11:00 a.m. a German airplane bombarded the sawmill in Stryj, and there were two Jewish victims. Two other Jewish workers were wounded, and the first panic in the city ensued. A terror enveloped everybody. A few days later, Polish army divisions arrived and began to demonstrate what they were: they beat Jewish passers-by with rods and sticks.

Fortunately, they did not remain for long in the city. However, the nervousness of the Jewish population grew day by day, for the German airplanes flew through Turka from Slovakia every minute. The moment that an alarm signaled that they were flying – and people hid in their cellars. The news in the city spread from mouth to mouth that the situation was bad, that the Germans were nearing us with quick steps, and that the Polish army is beginning to leave Turka. Indeed, one day later, the Polish army left Turka completely along with a portion of the Polish population of official status. Turka was left without a government. It became known to us that a certain division of the Polish army murdered two Jews in the city – a Jew from Rymanow and a youth from Nizhneye Vysotskoye, a certain Feiler who attended the Yeshiva.

At that time, the Jews in Turka lived through difficult days. People did not sleep, but rather guarded their houses with axes in their hands, for they were afraid lest the Ukrainians attack the Jewish population. When they heard that the Russians were coming into Turka, they were able to relax a bit.

The Germans suddenly entered into the city on the eve of Yom Kippur, and remained in Turka for a total of 26 hours. They did nothing to the Jewish population. When they left, the Jews were very happy, and they waited impatiently for the Russians to come all the faster.

 

The Russians Arrive

The Russians indeed arrived a few days later, and the Jewish population relaxed a bit. The Russian commando arrived that same evening, and the next morning, several ordinances were already posted. One order is that the businesses must be opened, and that one must not charge higher prices than were charged during the Polish time. The Russian soldiers and officers indeed fell upon the stores like hungry wolves and purchased everything that was possible. Within 14 days, they completely emptied the stores at the old prices, at the time when the same articles would have cost 40-60 percent more in Russia. Thus did the Russian liberators conduct a legalized robbery of the majority of the Turka Jews, and thus was the Jewish population in Turka greatly impoverished and left without livelihood. It was no longer possible to do business in Turka, and there were no places of work such as factories in Turka.

 

Need and Terror

Heavy dark clouds slowly crept up over the Jewish population. Everyone worried greatly: What would be? From where will we earn our livelihood?… What should we do?… People sold household good so that they would be able to purchase a piece of bread. The most important food products were lacking: there was no sugar, there was no flour, and there was no rice and other products. Only bread could be purchased, and it was hard to come by. One had to get up and 5:00 a.m. and wait in a queue until 8:00 in order to obtain a kilo of bread.

In the meantime, there were arrests. They arrested Jews – and nobody knew the reason. People were slandered, and they came in the night to take people away. Very many Jews were arrested during the brief time that the Reds were in Turka. Turka had never seen so many Jewish criminals. Something arose again that Turka had never known about. People were afraid… everyone was afraid. People talked in the city that one must not say anything. People whispered to their acquaintances, and one began to run to the other… And this was indeed not fruitless: It was obvious that there was much investigating going on by the N.K.V. D. of each individual person, and each night, many people were dragged off for interrogation. Every detail was written in a file: how rich he is, how is he employed, to what party does he belong, and who leads the parties in the city – everything was asked and written. One can imagine what type of fear this instilled in the Jewish population. Public trials began to take place in the city, and if one watched them, it would darken the eyes.

A small number of Jews were working, but their salaries were very small, and impossible to live off of. This was mainly the handworkers, who gave up their own work rooms and went to work in the army workshops. As has already been noted, the monthly salary was sufficient for a week of living. You can certainly already imagine how the workers and handworkers lived during the time of the Red rule.

In the meantime, people lived, moaned and sighed, for one fine night, some Jews were rounded up and deported to Siberia. For what? -- Because they were “wealthy” during the Polish era. This was despite the fact that there were no wealthy Jews in Turka. Turka was one of the poorest towns in Poland. Not even one “wealthy” Jew in Turka was able to establish even the smallest factory. Nevertheless, this did not stop them from taking innocent people and deporting them to Siberia. And if this was not enough – they were talking in the city that there would be a deportation of may more Jews. Jews packed small bags and fled from Turka to wander around in larger cities. The party leaders also fled from Turka, for they would have been among the first who were searched and arrested. It was already known that in other cities, they had already arrested all of the party leaders, especially the Zionists.

All of this broke the Jewish population, and people wandered about like shadows. Everyone hoped that they would live through the night peacefully, for there was fear in Turka during the nights: the Russians arrested people at night, they interrogated at night, and they perpetrated frightful tribulations during the investigations – all at night. However, everyone thanked G-d that they were not under the hand of the Germans.

However, as the Jewish population of Turka went around “without a head”, and asked “what would be later” – they could still not imagine and foresee what type of misfortune was awaiting the Jews of Turka and the Jewish population in general from the hands of the German beasts.

The war between Germany and Russia broke out in June 1941 – and the Jewish misfortune began.


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Stories of the Great Misfortune

by Y. M. Zeifert of Los Angeles

{Photo page 225: Uncaptioned: Y. M. Zeifert.}

For Jews in general, the year 1939 was already unbearable. Pestering and restricting the Jews at every step was the daily program of the officials of the regime, from the highest to the lowest. Anti-Semitism was already so widespread that it could be felt and sensed even by those not so involved in politics. For ever Jewish person, this was the prime time to leave accursed Poland in general, and Galicia with its boorish Ukrainians in particular. I myself had already made all preparations to travel to the Land of Israel. However, to my regret, a great personal tragedy overtook me - the sudden death of my wife.

The war between Poland and Germany broke out. The German airplanes flew over the town every day and sowed disorder and death. The panic was great. There were new alarms every hour. I myself was not afraid. I often thought that a bomb would provide relief from my suffering, that death does not come when one wishes for it, and that I had remained alive to endure greater tribulations and pain.

 

The Retreat

It was not long before the Polish Army retreated and fled; a portion of it went through our town

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on its way to Hungary. Of course, “our” Ukrainians did not feel any regrets over this, and they prepare covertly. Indeed, as the Poles were leaving, the Ukrainians immediately hung their national flag on the town hall. In the meantime, however, about 15 men from the Polish K.A.P. returned, ripped down the flag, and beat everyone that they came across with murderous blows. Some people died, among three foreign Jews. The last Poles left the following day, and a committee was immediately set up to ensure order, to which the hot-headed Ukrainian youth paid little heed. Jews lived through days of great fear.

The first German patrol entered the town on the Eve of Yom Kippur, and a division of the Germany Army arrived a few hours later. For Jews, it was a double Yom Kippur… the weeping was doubled… People were afraid to go to Kol Nidre. The worshippers that came (I myself came, for I lived close to the synagogue) recited their prayers quickly and in fear.

The next day, Yom Kippur, the synagogue was half empty. Young people came, whereas middle aged and older people stayed back and worshipped in private minyanim. At the taking out[1] after Shacharit, people allowed themselves to go out to the street to take a look at the German soldiers who were standing not far from Ringplatz.

In the meantime, people were already telling “stories” about German soldiers. One soldier had felt it necessary to say that one year from now, there would not be one Jew here… Another went to the barber shop and found his colleague getting a haircut there. Hearing that the barber was a Jew, he refused his services, saying that he does not want a Jewish barber to touch his neck… The German who did get a haircut said that not all Germans share the same opinion… And there were many such stories.

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In the meantime, persistent rumors began to spread that the Germans were going to leave the place, and the Russians were going to come in their place. It was not long before one saw that the Germans were already gathering together along the way. Everyone already recited the Neila service in a happier frame of mind - at that time, they would already be willing to be seen outside.

Christians and Ukrainians once again undertook to keep the order. Jewish Communists again raised their heads and prepared to greet the Red Army. Since I was a graphic artist, they would come to me with red canvasses, upon which I would hastily write slogans in various languages with gold letters. “Long Live the Red Army,” “Long Live the Soviet Union, the liberator, the redeemer,” etc. These slogans were then posted on specially erected towers on the main streets. I cannot talk about any payment for my work - I was just a worker, and I had to actively participate in the great joy. In truth, I was indeed happy, as were all the Jews in town.

 

The Entry of the Red Army

The great joy with which the first vehicle with soldiers of the Red Army was greeted is indescribable! Their outward appearance was pathetic. It seems that they were trained agitators. As soon as they jumped off the vehicles, they gathered small groups around them and explained what was happening and what will be: we will simply be in a Garden of Eden. Within a few days, rallies were already taking place, and propaganda films of the new powers were shown. The town was boiling like a kettle. Many former Communists had now become militiamen with weapons that they had been apportioned. Others obtained higher leadership roles.

The shopkeepers began to take in a great deal of money. The purchasers were primarily Russian soldiers. For them, there was no such thing as bad merchandise… They also did not quibble over the price… It was not long until the shelves of the shops were

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empty… Our people, seeing what was going on and hearing that zlotys would be forbidden as currency, wished to exchange their money, but were too late…

We began to line up in lines… Bread was lacking. A little later, the situation improved. Institutions of the civilian government such as cooperatives for basic provisions and other things were organized. People also began to obtain government positions. It was a pleasure to enter the government bank. 90% of the employees were Jewish girls, primarily from poor homes, who had previously taken such supplementary courses. The home militia was dismissed, and Russians took their place. Other people also obtained jobs according to their calling and capabilities. Those who were considered wealthy were deported to Russia and had their belongings confiscated. At that time, this seemed terrible - but later we were jealous of them. Some businesses remained, but they were mainly small, impoverished food shops. They could barely maintain themselves due to the multiple fees imposed upon them. Many fees were also imposed upon the handworkers, and they were driven to organize themselves into cooperatives[2]. Some Jews looked for business by travelling to other places and bringing back things to sell. It was not so bad for them at the beginning, but one by one, they fell into the hands of criminals.

Later, life normalized even more, and livelihood was easily attained. One could purchase everything in the cooperatives. The Soviets concerned themselves with the youth and the children. Many kindergartens were opened, where children would remain from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Therefore, the adults could work calmly without being disturbed by children. Adults also received “political education,” but free living, every person where he wishes, was not possible. This evoked a certain dissatisfaction with the regime. Thus did things go on for more than a year and a half.

 

The German Invasion

Suddenly, as if falling from heaven, the invasion

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of the German military took place in June 1941. On the first day, the Russians still boasted that they were not afraid and that they had enough power to take a stand against Germany. By the second day, they had already fled in a disorderly and hasty manner, leaving behind heavy belongings and merchandise in the civilian and military warehouses. Entire wagons with canvass, uniforms, foodstuffs and even ammunition were left behind. Many people, including several Jews, were arrested. The youth, most of whom were in military service, were quickly drafted into the army. Many of them fled along with the Russians, and the town was left empty and hollow. However, for the remaining Jews, the true hell was now beginning.

 

The Ukrainians Rampaged

This time, the Ukrainians did not sit back and rejoice. Seeing the haste in which the Russians had left the town, they immediately broke into the armaments warehouses and took as many weapons as they wished. They immediately formed a militia and began to rampage.

This took place on a Sabbath morning. Shots began to be fired, and Jews no longer went out to the street, but rather closed themselves into the houses. Later, it became clear that these were shots of rejoicing, and things became a bit lighter… However, were there to be an escape, and a few Jewish youth indeed escaped, we were curious to see what would happen. They later returned, and explained, with fear on their faces, that it smells like a pogrom against the Jews. While searching the cellars for Russian soldiers, the Ukrainians found a few dead bodies, and immediately spread a rumor that the militia cellars are full of dead Ukrainians who were cruelly murdered by the Jews. The heat grew from moment to moment. Jews fled to Christian acquaintances and requested that they intervene and calm down the hotheaded Ukrainians. Some intervened, but it did not help at all. A large pogrom was about to break out, until some sort of miracle intervened: Someone let out a few shots from atop a hill, and immediately a rumor spread that the Russians were returning… They immediately fled back

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to the surrounding villages; The pogromchiks who were already along the roads in the city turned back.

The militia in the town ascended the hill with great heroism and found out that some simple shepherd who had weapons let out a few shots of great joy…

In the meantime, the dead bodies were dragged out of the cellars. There were four dead people in total: one Ukrainian, one Pole, one Jew, and one Soviet. The dead rescued the town from a terrible pogrom that hovered over everyone's head. The warehouses that the uncircumcised ones pillaged diverted the attention from the Jews. They spent an entire day pillaging and in order to prevent the Jews from appearing on the street, they let out a shot.

At night, there were a few attacks on the Jews, but everyone was overtaken with fear and shame. There were no victims.

*

Until the Germans actually arrived in the town, we encountered various patrols. Sometimes it was a Hungarian (with whom the Ukrainians were scarcely happy) patrol, and sometimes it was a German one. Their task was to seal the remaining warehouses.

In the meantime, some of the youth who were “lost” returned from the Russian military, into which they had been recruited. They did this with dedication, for it was very difficult to return home. Some came straight from the Russian border. Many who were found by the Ukrainians along the way were shot. When they arrived in town, the youth felt that they had been rescued… but later they were all bitterly disappointed.

 

Germans

The Germans slowly settled in Turka. The border guards in Turka paid more attention to

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the warehouses, and the Ukrainians to the Jews. First, they began to snatch people for work, such as sweeping streets, cleaning toilets, and other lowly and vexing jobs. They also did not withhold beatings. For the most part, they beat youth who returned from the German side, to where they had fled from the Soviets in their time. The harshest beater was a certain Sobol, a nephew of the priest of Turka who had become the district commander of the Ukrainian militia. They also arrested youth without knowing the reason or pretext.

Further terrible news came from other places and familiar villages. Entire families were brutally murdered by the Ukrainians, and in some villages not one Jew was left. In Turka at that time, there was a commandant of the border guard named Fidler who saved Jews on certain occasions. As in other cities, the Ukrainians in Turka conducted a “funeral” to “bury” Stalin. The Jews were given pictures, images and books of Stalin to carry. They bound a red band on bearded Jews and prodded them to the cemetery, where they were to bury Stalin together with the rest of the people of the funeral. A great weeping broke out. Wives fainted and men recited the confession, for a similar event took place in Stary Sambor. It was only the intervention of Fidler that saved the Jews from a certain death.

At that time, my brother and his wife, who were saved from a pogrom in Boryslaw in which 500 Jews were murdered, came to me in Turka.

 

The Establishment of the Judenrat

The Judenrat was established a few weeks after the arrival of the Germans, Nobody elected them, heaven forbid; but rather, as if it was a communal institution, they first enlisted

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the communal representative Shua-Nachman Meiner. He brought in his nephew, also named Shua Nachman (Erdman), as well as Melech Wizner. These were the troika, who had to serve as the spokesmen and representatives for the few Jews of Turka. The Jews came in contact with that troika of the Judenrat for all matters, as well as with the secretary Berish Lorberbaum. They received yellow armbands with the inscription “Judenrat.” Leibush Mates was co-opted as the cashier and bookkeeper.

Their first task was to take whatever money was left from the people. Then they had to provide workers for the Germans and Ukrainians. Since the work was of a nature that not everybody liked, they would drag the entire town into the Judenrat, and instead of five, the number grew to 50: secretariat, court, payment office, and executive. Later the Jewish militia and officers were appointed. The higher roles were played by the first five: they were the money collectors, the dispensers, and the suppliers. In fact, they concerned themselves first and foremost with obtaining means. In truth, their task became more difficult and, they did not seize anything - but later, they became very profitable.

With the arrival of the German gendarmes to Turka, the tribulations and expenses of the Jews increased. The Judenrat was the de facto providers for all the Germans and their institutions. They would come to the Judenrat for the smallest minutia, and the Judenrat had to provide money for everything. The gendarmes themselves enlisted 20 workers-bricklayers, carpenters, tinsmiths, painters and unskilled labor. The Judenrat was supposed to pay them, but they did not do so. If anyone refused to work without pay, he would be reported and be whipped 25 times on his naked body. People would say that if the Gestapo comes to visit, they would suck money and blood from everyone. During the most severe times of hunger, they would allot two or three kilograms of bread per person per month. Sugar was not allotted for the most part, but was sold for a high price,

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with the excuse that the Judenrat was in need of money. Nevertheless, the end of all the Judenrat members with their belongings was no different than that of the other Jews.

*

The first gendarmes came riding into Turka on Rosh Hashanah. Already the next day, they searched everyone and went through the attics and the cellars. They were indeed successful in many cases. They took various types of merchandise, clothing and provisions - for them, something kosher did not exist; everything was treif.

Various decrees were issued. Everything was forbidden for Jews: meat, butter, and wheat. Then, there was the decree to wear armbands made out of white canvas with blue Stars of David. The Ukrainian militia greatly excelled in upholding the decree. They would often arrest a Jew while standing at his own door, who was not wearing an armband.

The work office (Arbeitsamt) that was quickly formed had an outside office at the Judenrat. It concerned itself with stable work without wages for everyone. Bread became scarcer, for the Germans forbade the Christians from bringing any supplies into the city. If anyone brought anything, it was immediately confiscated. In the streets, and later also in the homes, they would search the smallest packet and take even two or three kilos of potatoes or oats, the primary sources of food in the town.

The hunger continually increased. People began to swell up and die. Well-to-do people would leave their houses, having no choice, and beg for something to eat. A bit of bran was the best type of food that a person could beg for. The people's kitchen that the Judenrat had founded provided about 200 people daily with a bit of soup - in truth, a bit of dirty water - thereby satisfying the suffering of the hungry people for a few days.

At the same time, announcements were posted in the Judenrat that the building enterprise was seeking workers who would be paid and also

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would receive a half a loaf of bread daily. People who felt they had the energy, or even barley felt that they had the energy, went to work at rebuilding damaged bunkers and other buildings. This came in the winter time, and most people did not have any warm clothing, for they were already long given away for a bit of oatmeal. They went out to work in light summer clothing. The work was very difficult, lasting for twelve hours a day. They received a half a loaf of bread for the first few days, but when the saw that more people signed up, they began to divide up the half loaf…

People worked very hard, dragging iron wire, large rafters and sacks of cement. They exerted themselves with their last bit of strength, and they would often become weaker and weaker at the work and fall under the heavy loads. The supervisors did not believe that they had no energy and they shouted that they did not want to work… Every day, some people went home beaten. They were not able to leave the work, for the Ukrainian militia already knew how to force them to return to work. They were also threatened by the Gestapo.

There was already enough fear in town. Different angels of destruction came every day -- at times the S. S., at times the E. S., and a times regular civilian Germans who went from house to house taking everything that they wanted.

Above everything, Jews lived with the hope that the salvation would come. People talked about various types of help for our town, including that which may be offered by the Hungarians, but nothing came of it.

 

The Great Tumult, or the First Aktion

On January 6, 1942, the 7th of Tevet, that which we had only heard about from other cities took place here. At noontime, four Gestapo men arrived, and by 3:00 p.m., a great panic and escape took place from the Ukrainian militias, who

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fell upon their victims like wild beasts. At the outset, this took place from all corners of the city together. They would capture people from the streets and houses and prod them to the militia, where they were beaten and murdered. There was no family that did not suffer from the misfortune. The capturing continued the next day.

{Photo page 235: Reb Avraham, the gabbai of the Wanowiczer (Vanovichi) Rabbi.}

A few youths saved themselves at night by jumping from the first storey onto the ice of the stream that flowed near the militia building. More would have been saved, but the Judenrat misled them. Meilech Weisner arrived just at that time and assured everyone that the young people were to be left alone, and they had no reason to fear…

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Thus did they remain due to the promise - and died just like the others. From those who saved themselves, we found out about the murderous beatings and the difficult torments endured by the Orthodox Jews, especially the rabbi of Wanowicz. They said that during the time that the murderers were beating him fiercely, he did not contort himself, but rather continued with his recitations. They tormented him by stating that if he was a man of G-d, G-d should help him…

The next day, all of the transport wagons that were in Turka bitterly came. They took away all the unfortunate victims from the militia building to a place far behind the city, beyond the brickyard, where large graves had already been prepared a few days earlier. After they made the victims remove their clothes, they shot them with machine gun. The victims fell one atop the other, some still alive, and then they covered them over. Those whom they were not ready to handle that day were driven back to their place of arrest with vehicles, and then shot first thing Friday. I received a greeting from my mother, indicating that she was still alive on Friday. This greeting was given to us by my mother's brother's daughter-in-law Sara-Nistl, who succeeded in escaping, already undressed, not far from the grave.

A command was issued that nobody dare to approach the mass grave where the victims lay. We hoped that with this, the misfortune would end, and things would get better in the city… However, to our disappointment, this was only the beginning.

Every time the district commander [kreizhauftman] came to Turka, he brought with him a new decree. Even before the tumult, he honored us with a visit. The Jews, hearing that the district commander was present, already made sure not to appear on the street and awaited a new tribulation. If it did not come, it was fortunate; but his visits were so frequent - and here he comes again! Now the Jews must register again, and the decree would come a few days later - without difference between the sexes, everyone must cut their hair, beard and peyos very short. When people met on the streets, they could not recognize each other…

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Two or three months later, there was a new decree: People age 17 and over who did not have a stable, legitimate work situation were to present themselves at a committee which would inspect their health situation for work. People came, and fifty of them were sent immediately to Sinawick where they worked at building a railway bridge. Letters arrived from there in which they described the terrible situation in which they found themselves. The work was very difficult, and was supervised by murderous supervisors. The main thing was they did not receive food. Their situation was desperate, and they requested help from the Judenrat. A committee was formed to collect money and to send them bread from time to time. It later became known that only a portion of the bread was given over. Some people succeeded to escape from there with great self-sacrifice and return to Turka. Others swelled up from hunger and died there. Others were killed by the murderous overseers. An escapee from there related that an overseer tossed the carpenter Shlomo Binder off a bridge over the water. Seeing that he was struggling to the edge, the overseer went down and beat him to death.

 

The Sunday Aktion

On a fine summer Sunday about six months after the first tumult, a vehicle with Gestapo men arrived unexpectedly and began to snatch people from the streets and the houses - young, old and children - a total of 150 people. The only information was terrifying. Yosef Birenberg, a hairstylist, was exiting the militia office where he had been serving a few murderous Ukrainian policemen. On the doorstep, he was severely beaten on the head, and tossed dead onto a cargo truck where other victims were already lying. Almost all the victims of that aktion were captured in the same manner. Berish Lorberbaum the Judenrat secretary and Anshel Goldberg of the militia were also snatched in that action. For the first time, young children were also taken.

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I cannot describe how much pain the ban on worshipping in the Beis Midashes caused even for the non-religious people, and even for those who never prayed. Perhaps this was because so many Jewish children had been orphaned, and there was no place for them to recite Kaddish? Later, an order was issued to remove the furniture from the Beis Midrashes. Regarding this people would say that they had heard that in a certain city, they gathered the few Jews into the Beis Midrashes and burnt them down.

The district commander came again and again, each time with new decrees. Six months had elapsed between the first aktion and the second; but now, decree after decree was issued. People began to escape and lie around in the cellars, attics and empty places. People built shelters which were mostly covered, and thereby, some Jews were saved in the interim.

Then, placards were posted decreeing that all the Jews who live in the villages must immediately leave and transfer to the city. Then there was an influx of villagers. Wives, children and older people - the younger people who were busy with legitimate, steady work were left alone in the meantime. The influx lasted for several days. Many people besieged the work office of the Judenrat in order to obtain work legitimacy papers. However, these quickly became worthless.

 

The Large Aktion

On August 4, 1942, the snatching began early in the morning. The adults were already weak. Hearing that children were also being captured during this misfortune, we all went up, barely dressed, to the attic in a great hurry. I had prepared some sort of shelter there, and I locked us in. In a few minutes, we heard the voices of the Jewish militia, who were calling out in all the houses - all the Jews

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must present themselves at the train in an hour. Every person is allowed to take 25 kilograms. This was a thorough liquidation. In a few minutes, I heard the easily recognizable voice of the gendarme Shlamilch, the representative of the post command, and recognized his merciless beatings. He was shouting: All Jews must go the train within half an hour; whoever does not go will be shot immediately. There was a commotion on our lane. I looked through a crack and saw that people were going, small and large, young and old… entire families.

I understand that a few neighbors remained. I heard further shouts from the Jewish militiamen as well as the Gestapo. I heard repeated shots, and the movement became greater… About three quarters of an hour passed, and then everything became quieter and quieter… I was hot in the attic, and we were sweating from the heat and fear. Hearing that everything was calm, my sister-in-law began to become afraid. She claimed that she wanted to go to the train, and does not want to be shot here. I, however, decided to die here in the attic from hunger rather than in some camp.

At about 2:00, when we were still in the attic, Judenrat members and other hired people began to transport the Jewish belongings, including furniture, bedding and clothing, and pile them up in the Beis Midrashes and the synagogue. At 3:00, we heard the train depart. Shortly thereafter, we heard them drive to our street, and saw them load up the meager belongings from the neighboring houses. They went from one house to another, and then stood near ours. As they slammed our door, the Jews who were helping load up already realized that we were there. I opened up at a moment when the gentile wagon drivers were not present, so they would not find out. The Jews finished with my house as quickly as possible - but nothing more happened. My brother Yehuda and I opened the door and saw, as if it were, the helpers loading up the furniture. When the opportunity presented itself, we went out from our dwelling, got dressed, and took something for the children to wear. As we were opening up the house,

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two shkotzim [gentiles] ran by and stole from us two outfits, a pair of boots, and a pair of shoes.

We spent an entire day and night sitting in the hiding place. The next day, we found out that many people had been shot. Those that had legitimate papers from the quarry gendarmes were freed from the train. They told of the terrible scenes that they witnessed at the train.

About a hundred elderly people and children were shot on the way to the train. At the station, everyone had their luggage removed, and then they were beaten with murderous blows. Gestapo men and soldiers traveled in cars. The entire gendarme and the Ukrainian militia also took part in the aktion.

Small transports of people were also sent the next day, Wednesday, as well as on Thursday. The gendarme Jaski, who himself shot 50 people, excelled as a good murderer. As he was returning from the command office, he told Avraham Kleist, who worked regularly with the horses of the gendarmerie and knew him well, “Go home, I shot your wife and child, as well as the others who hiding with them.” When he returned home, he indeed discovered that the murderer was not joking… The gendarme Shlamilch also repaid his hairstylist Wilojsz as well as the veteran hairstylist and manicurist Freida Weicher for their good service; he himself brought them to the second transport.

Two thousand people were taken away during the second aktion.

A few weeks later, they distributed the articles and furniture that had been collected in the Beis Midrashes. First, they selected the best items and gave them over to the Reichsdeutchen. Then, the Volksdeutchen[3] took their share, and finally, auctions took place. Thousands of gentiles from the city and town came and took everything that was left gratis.

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The Contingent

Two weeks after the large aktion, a new registration was ordered. Soon afterward, a decree was issued that 100 people must present themselves. This time, it was carried out solely by the Jewish militiamen. One can imagine what type of situation it was when a Jew had to turn over another Jew to the enemy for a certain death. Jewish militiamen did not refuse to participate in that work. They gathered the people and sent them to Sambor.

The contingent was delivered and the systematic extermination of the Jews did not stop. A few days later, on a Friday at 12:00 midnight, there was another knock on the door. I heard that they were talking in Yiddish. I heard a woman's voice begging for mercy, that they leave her alone. The weeping stopped and I heard that they were knocking on other neighbors… In the morning, I found out that there had been a “small” aktion at night - they only captured sixty something people. This time, it was perpetrated by the Polish criminal police who worked according to a list given by the Judenrat. They were assisted only by the Jewish militia. After this it was told that one Polish criminal policeman who apparently unwillingly fulfilled the function of rounding up innocent people to be shot, asked them, “Why do you Jews not kill, and why do you let yourselves be shot as sheep, without resistance?”

New decrees: We had to set up a separate quarter for Jews. Among other things, it was further stated that they were requesting from the Judenrat several hundred people without legitimate work papers to be sent to Sambor. This was primarily a decree for women and children… One decree led to the other: they were discussing the place becoming Judenrein.

 

The Sabbath Aktion

At 5:30 in the morning, my brother went out to work in the quarry, which had lately become a hell for the Jews. There was

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an engineer there who was a sadist, who mercilessly beat Jews with a whip at work. I was also selected to go to work, and I set out. Miriam Rand came up my steps and told me that I should not go, for just now, two Ukrainian militiamen took Bertshe Malka Beiles (Hauftman) from his house with his wife, whose house shared a wall with her. She and her children escaped from the house, leaving everything unprotected.

I immediately knocked on the door. My sister-in-law and her children quickly got dressed, and went to the hiding price together with this woman. I remained in the house alone. I soon heard knocking on the doors of the neighboring houses. I looked out and saw the Ukrainian militiamen driving out people. At 2:00, the murderers were at my door. They knocked it down with axes. I heard them going up the steps, where they found the second door closed inward. Now, they knew for sure that there were still people there. I was certain that they were going to pry it open, so I shouted to them that I would undo it. When I went out, a bullet immediately flew by my ear. Then two militiamen immediately attacked. One of them hit me, making my ears ring. “Give over what you have,” said the second militiaman. I felt that I could buy him off, so I gave him several hundred zloty. He took it, and then immediately began to search and overturn the house. Then a shegetz [gentile] whom they sent over came in. Together they took whatever they wanted. Then they asked me about my family. I answered that I was alone, for the others were at work. They began to search, and went up to the attic where the shelter was located, but did not discover it.

Four militiamen led me away. I tried to beg them and show them my work papers. They took it and put it in their pocketbook… Three of the militiamen went away from me, and I asked the last one to leave me alone. I promised him some leather. He agreed, but he

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wanted the leather immediately. I then realized that it had been tossed away[4], as was the money that I had given them.

He led me to the militia post. The commandant entered. He recognized me, for I had worked for him on several occasions, and he was always happy. “Leave this man alone!” he told the militiaman. To me he said, “Escape home!” I ran out, and when I had already gone a distance, the same militiaman shouted to me again that I must stand still. He captured me again and took me to the station, where the transport was. I met the post commander of the gendarme by wagon. I asked him again, and he recognized me. Immediately, an order was given to the militiaman to free me. I went home.

I went off knowing that I had remained alive. I heard the departure of the train.

*

We had been saved for the meantime. We prepared to leave the city and find a hiding place with a farmer in a nearby village.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. I suspect that this refers to the taking out of the Torah, which does take place right after Shacharit. Return
  2. Artels. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artel Return
  3. The Reichsdeutchen are the Germans from Germany and the Volksdeutchen are the local Germans. Return
  4. This likely means that giving it over had proven useless. Return

 

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