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[Page 75]

“Der Steinbruch (Cariera de Piatra)”

The Stone Quarry (1942-1943)

As told by Prof. Dr. H. Sternberg

Translated by Jerome Silverbush

A softly rising hill covered with lush green and meadow flowers and in the distance the silver ribbon of the Bug.

From the meadow rose a naked cliff, jagged and craggy: a stone quarry. Tracks for guiding iron cars were visible, everywhere were traces of earlier explosions.

We find ourselves in a prison camp in the Ukraine not far from Ladejin. Here at one time convicts did forced labor. Here are their former barracks, robbed of their doors and windows, deserted ruins that stimulate the fantasy. They ate here, they slept here, and they had the hope that after they served their sentence they could start a new life.

How enviable their lot was in view of the situation of the thousands of men, women, children and elderly who now pursued by executioners, present the sadistic Nazi murders and Romanian criminals with the show of the mass death of people who are starved, despairing and driven to madness.

For here were brought the deportees from Czernowitz in order that the survivors could later be murdered by the Nazi beasts in the work and death camps on the other side of the Bug. They were gathered here on the Cariera de pista, the stone quarry. According to the survivors the first transport received, after three days of living under the open sky, a weak soup and a slice of barely edible bread and then after three more days were turned over to the Germans on the other side of the Bug.

The other transports which were held for almost six months in the stone quarry before they were moved to other locations received absolutely nothing to eat. The local farmers were allowed to come to the camp once a week to sell the deportees food for money or barter. The Romanian gendarmes allowed this activity. To keep them in a good mood, the more “ambitious” Jews collected money from their fellow inmates, not letting the fact they were extortionists bother their conscience, out of which the gendarmes received their “baksheesh.” If the corporal was in a bad mood, either because he didn't get enough or because he was in collusion with his Jewish intermediaries who wanted to prove their indispensability, he drove away the farmers when they had hardly laid out their offerings. That meant a week of hunger also for those who still had some means and was at the same time a lesson that in the future they had to give the middlemen what they demanded without resistance. Payment was made in German marks which was not a valid currency for the occupied territories. Because the Ukrainian farmers had suffered under the Soviet regime and were nowhere able to buy the necessary supplies, was a salvation. a pair of defective shoes, a threadbare shirt, a pinafore, a moth eaten coat, a handkerchief, anything from the rucksacks of the unfortunate ones that they could spare was hotly desired by the farmers who were demoralized by Bolshevism and they would joyfully trade bread, eggs, butter and even a chicken. Besides the creatures who profited from the misery of the masses there were also among the deportees also men with heart and conscience who helped to build a “soup kitchen” from which the poorest who had nothing left to trade could get a thin bowl of soup once a day.

The winter approached threateningly. Scattered bricks were gathered, the windows of the barracks were closed up with the bricks and kitchens were set up. The people made preparations for survival in spite of hopelessness and desperation.

Mortality reached an inconceivable level. Graves could not be dug for the corpses. They were carried to the shore of the Bug to provide carrion for the birds and stray dogs.

The camp was commanded by a Romanian medical core lieutenant who lived in a comfortable villa outside of the camp. It was known that almost every night he invited guests from the near garrison for orgies for which he had the gendarmes bring certain women from the camp. A camp inmate who had with difficulty obtained a violin provided the music. He was a famous violin virtuoso. The lieutenant had the assignment of providing for the camp's cleanliness to prevent epidemic typhus from spreading to the guards. For this purpose, he had the Jews stopped and examined. When the gendarme entrusted with this task found a louse (or pretended to find one), the entire camp including women children and the sick on stretchers were forced out of the barracks and were assembled in the open and in front of all, the unhappy one was stripped naked and given 25 lashes of the whip.

Otherwise, when the “Herr Lieutenant” was in a good mood, he would engage the intellectuals in the camp in conversation. To them he expressed his amazement that one could hear the laughter of children bathing in the nearby Bug, even though everyone knew that they (the children and his conversation partner) had at most three months to live. He demanded gifts of money (baksheesh) under every title and never seemed to get enough. After some time one learned that the dishonorable vile creature had ended his existence on the “field of honor.”

The tragedy of the mentally ill Jews who were deported from insane asylums in Czernowitz and interned in a ruin surrounded by barbed wire at the foot of the hills. was indescribable. Driven by hunger, they broke out and begged in the camp and searched like dogs in the garbage piles for bits of food. The last survivors of this group were finally “liquidated” by the Ukrainian militia who were in the pay of the Germans.

On August 19, 1942, most of the camp inhabitants together with wives and children were taken by the Germans with the agreement of the Romanian commander and were brutally mistreated as they were transported over the Bug in trucks. Among them was the chief editor of the Czernowitz Morgenblatt, Julius Weber, the physician Dr. Demant, Prof. Karl Kronenfeld with his wife and children, Engineer Schmergel with his wife and daughter and many many others. They were all murdered in concentration camps by the sadistic executioners.

Those remaining were taken a short time later to the village of Czetvertinowka but returned several weeks later escorted by gendarmes.

In January 1943, the last inhabitants of the camp in the stone quary were brought to Trostianczek and other camps. A chapter in the gruesome story of pain of the Czernowitz had found its temporary conclusion.

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