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[Page 330 - Yiddish] [Page 106 - Hebrew]

Destruction and Holocaust

 

***Introduction

by M.K.

Translated by Moses Milstein

With the publication of these pages we are fulfilling one of the most important tasks we had set ourselves in bringing out this yizkor book.

These testimonies, experiences and memories make their way into the book without "historical" improvements. These events and facts are transmitted in different variations, sometimes by changing names and dates.

Today, 12-14 years after the tragic events, it is difficult to demand of those who miraculously survived the hell, an exact, chronological precision by recording the megillah of their anguish and torment. How can you demand of people who were in constant fear of death, persecuted and oppressed, hidden from the light of day, sundered from the world and humanity, hungry and thirsty, that they remember and transmit with meticulous precision everything they endured? Those who violated and murdered them, robbed and persecuted, witnessed and were silent, they have, of course, also written their bloody stories. From them, history will demand an exact reckoning.

We believe that the variability in the telling, the changing of names and dates, the separate issue of assessing the behavior of the Polish neighbor with respect to the persecution of Jews, make the experiences of the Holocaust era clearer and fuller, and permits us to understand and conceive how a Jewish community was slaughtered for their religion.


[Pages 331-361 - Yiddish] [Page 107-130 - Hebrew]

Pages from the Flames

by Moshe Fishel (Haifa)

Translated by Moses Milstein

(The days of devastation and death 1939–1944)

 

Kra331.jpg
Moshe Fishel

 

The attack on Poland by the German killers took place the first of September 1939, two weeks before Rosh Hashanah.

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, some of the German mechanized divisions passed through our shtetl, Krasnobrod, near Zamosc. On the first day of the holiday, we could see them camped nearby. The holiday went by quietly. We saw no military in the shtetl itself.

After Motzi Yom Tov massive numbers of Polish military began to flow into town. Tuesday at dawn, a big battle occurred between the retreating Polish army and the Germans.

At the time, we were in Rav Margaliat's room. He was living with us in those days. The Germans entered our house and accused us of shooting at them. They threatened to shoot us. After much pleading and wailing we managed to dissuade them. Then they ordered everyone to leave town because they were going to burn it down.

The first Jewish sacrifices were: Shmuel–Ozer Kupiec, and his son, Michal. They were burned alive. They were found by Abraham Blechman, and Leibke Kupiec, Shmuel Ozer's brother. Others who fell that day were: Leibish Weinreich, the barber; Eliahu Liebel; the boy Moshe Fuchs, Itzhak Fuchs's son; a boy called Shmelke Shtemer, and a foreign boy whose name is not familiar to me.

On the second day, Wednesday, the Germans gave the Christian population permission to loot the remaining Jewish possessions. They raided the cellars where the Jews had hidden their few personal belongings and household goods.

On Yom Kippur, another battle took place between the Poles and the Germans.

In the first few days, the Germans detained R' Moshe–Yosef Goldberg, and Shmuel Ben–Yakov Gortler along with other Jews and ordered them to bury the horses that had fallen. That night, after the work had been done, they ordered the exhausted Jews to remove their clothes and bury them along with the horses…They beat them mercilessly and then ordered them to dig up their clothes and go home.

During the months of October 1939 – January 1940, Germans would round up Jews for labor and torture them. The work consisted of demolishing the remaining houses and gathering the bricks and stones and transporting them to Lipsko forest. There they were building roads and installations for the German mechanized divisions. Jews also worked on the construction of an airfield at the village of Mirka, near Zamosc.

In February 1940, the Germans sent an order to the town regarding establishing a judenrat. The mayor of the town, Katowski, nominated the following for the judenrat: Moshe Hoz, Yosef Goldstein, Fishl Shlegel, Yosef Lam, David Levenfuss, Yehoshua Babad, Moshe Greenboim, Berl Shak, Yehoshua Wexler, Leibish Lerner, Hershl Shoch, and Leibish Eilboim. Twelve members altogether. Their first task was to register all the Jewish residents, and to open a file containing the details on everybody, especially their trade.

In the same month of February 1940, one fine day, the Gestapo arrived and began to confiscate valuable goods and merchandise from people's homes. They entered my father's home and took his merchandise. An aunt, Ettl Silbergeld, from Grobowiec, was staying with us at the time. The Germans beat her, and took her last 200 Zlotys. They brutally beat my brother, Yechezkel, with an iron bar. I was at the judenrat getting the files ready. They shoved me away from what I was doing and beat me.

The judenrat was required to carry out the commands of the Gestapo: Provide people for labor, and distribute the food they got from the landrat. Those capable of work received “certificates.” The sick received certificates signed by a doctor stating that they were sick. We believed, and we convinced ourselves, that these “certificates” were important for our survival…

In May, or June 1940, two Gestapo details arrived in town and detained people, both the workers and the sick, and sent them to work in Belzec. Their “certificates” meant nothing at all. Of the 32 Jews sent to Belzec, I can recall: Leibish Lerner, Itzhak Greenboim, Moshe Greenboim, Ephraim–Ziml Goldberg, Aaron Gershon, Meir Krelman, Moshe Blumstein, Aaron–Laizer Shpeicher, Yosef Shpeicher, and Wolwish Tentser.

We prepared parcels of food to bring to them. It is 31 km from Krasnobrod to Belzec. We traveled on Shabos, because it was the only day they allowed food to be brought. The picture we saw was shocking. The Germans brutally abused the Jewish laborers. They forced them to sing Jewish songs while working, starved them, and beat them mercilessly.

The work was hard. They had to dig defensive trenches near the Soviet border that were 3 meters deep, with 3–meter high embankments around them, and 6 meters wide. The “work leaders” were Meir Zilf, and Brateczka, may their names be cursed. Later some were sent to work in “Czeszenow” and “Zulkow”.

I was one of those who brought food to the workers. It was shocking to see the misery of my brothers.

We began to pay money to ransom the Jews. Little by little we managed to get everyone home. After the holidays, the last ones came home: Meir Krelman and Aaron–Gershon Kleiner.

The Gestapo announced that whoever worked in a post would not be bothered. People thanked God for this, thinking their security was assured.

One group of forty men worked on the road from the village of Jacnia to Zamosc. They were paid two Zlotys a day. This was the only place where anyone was paid. Everywhere else, labor was for free. They also worked in the Krasnobrod surroundings, in the nobleman Fodakowski's fields. The steward, in particular, sadistically harassed the Jewish girls.

In February 1941, the judenrat received a communication from Zamosc informing us that we must absorb one thousand, homeless, Jews. We sent a delegation to complain that there were only a few undestroyed houses left in town, and that the people themselves were impoverished. They had nothing left. There was not one place to receive the homeless.

On Friday, a group of Gestapo arrived, Brosch, and Fast, may his name be erased. They gathered the judenrat together and beat and tortured them so hard their cries could be heard in the seventh heaven. When one of the victims passed out, they revived him by pouring cold water on him, and resumed beating him.

The members of the judenrat who were the most horribly beaten were: Moshe Hoz, Yosef Goldstein, Leibish Lerner, and Berl Shak. The torturers taunted them: ‘Now do you have place for them?’

My brother–in–law, Moshe Hoz, was laid–up sick a whole week after this. He was seen by many doctors. We feared he would not survive. His body was beaten and broken, covered with blue–black stripes.

It was the same with the other victims. After this, the murderers went from house to house, beating anyone they encountered.

A few days later, the refugees arrived. The killers brought the Zamosc judenrat along, and in a matter of a few hours, everything was organized. We all helped to hurry the newcomers into houses, because we wanted to see the thugs gone as quickly as possible.

Naturally, new calamities to add to the old were not in short supply. The newcomers were worn out, exhausted Jews, with no resources. They came from Lodz, Kutno, Wloclawek, all cities that were occupied by the German Reich.

We quickly formed an aid committee. Everyone who was able contributed from 5 to 20 Zlotys a month. For flour, which the community received from the landrat, we instituted a tax. Instead of charging 70 groschen a kilogram, we charged one Zloty. With this money we helped the homeless as well as those of our own who had no means of subsisting.

In spite of the fact that you could buy produce from the farmers in the villages, very few Jews ventured down those roads. It was a death penalty for a Jew to be found in the Christian villages. There were not a few times when the farmers would give potatoes or a bit of bread to the Jews. The situation with regard to food was the following: there was not enough to live, and not enough to die…

The aforementioned engineer Kotowski, worked hard to help Jews. He provided potatoes at government prices. Trees in the cemetery were cut down for heating fuel.

It was all of little help. The situation got worse from day to day, and every day, people died of hunger, cold and wretched conditions, so that we even got used to that…

Then an epidemic of abdominal typhus broke out. People ran to get a doctor's certificate so that they could be admitted to hospital. Without permission from the Gestapo, they were not allowed in.

The sick were sent to hospitals in Zamosc, Zwierzyniec, and Shebreshin[1]. Some of them were returned. The rest remained there…Many envied the dead, they had stopped suffering.

And suddenly–new troubles. The German army, which had been sent to the Russian front, marched through town. They pillaged and looted. They wreaked havoc in people's houses and in people's souls.

In October 1941, a group of soldiers broke into R'Nachman Stockhammer's house. They grabbed his daughter, Esther, and dragged her to the fields belonging to Stefan Kostrubiec. What they did to her there is not known. But the following morning, her brother, Shimon, came and told us that she was found dead in the fields. She had been tortured and shot. From what was seen, she must have lived and suffered for a time after she was shot. They saw how she had buried her face in the earth and had ended her life.

 

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Esther Shtockhammer, hy”d

 

On the evening of December 1941, a large company of soldiers that had been camped nearby, stormed into town. They broke down doors and windows, raped women, robbed, poured water on beds, and beat young and old. Our house was invaded by several soldiers. They poured a slop pail into mother's bed, and they beat my brother, Yechezkel, savagely.

When these left, others came.

I pushed against the door, but knowing I couldn't continue longer, my brother, Yechezkel, and I jumped out the window, naked in the cold, and ran away. They came into the house, did not bother the parents, and quickly left. When this had gone on for several days, the chairman of the judenrat, Moshe Hoz, went to see the administrator of the court, Telezinski, to ask him to request from the authorities an end to the searches. Since Germans were formally not allowed to interact with Jews, the argument succeeded. We did not see the soldiers again.

In March 1942, Laizer Weintraub was shot in the village of Luszczacz near farmer Kawka, by the little woods.

In April 1942, Pesach–Moshe Heisman and his son, Laizer, were shot. Motel Unzig was shot in Szur forest.

The sorrow and pain grew day by day, until the tragic end.

 

The Megillah of Sorrows

On Erev Shavuot 1942, Hershel Shuch, and David Glustman, travelled to Zamosc to get the flour ration. On the way, they were both detained by police in the village of Potoczek and imprisoned.

The city was devastated, worried about what to do. The “certificates” didn't work anymore. So, reasoning that a gift would help matters, they bought some big carps, whiskey, and other good things.

Naturally, nobody was keen to travel with all the goods to the killers…Moshe Hoz took on the task. He asked the Jews to pray, and he left for Potoczek. This was the first day of Shavuot.

A few hours later, a detachment of Gestapo arrived, and drove everyone out of town. Whoever could not flee in time was taken. Near Felix Kazenjowski's house, not far from Chaim Bronstein, they assembled them in rows. They went to the judenrat and commanded them to gather together all the jews for deportation. Those who tried to flee were shot on the spot.

Those shot were: Chaim–Rubin Strickler, Chaim Unzig's elderly mother, Aaron Unzig's mother, Chaya Kupiec and her daughter, and many others.

The herded– together Jews were taken to barracks behind the cloister.

The last ones caught, as I can best recall, were: R'Shmuel Gortler, Esther Freind, Abraham–Yakov's wife. As the policeman was driving her along, she ran to the window of the judenrat and handed over a gold ring. After the Gestapo had brought everyone to the barracks, near the cloister, they went to the judenrat and demanded that they be treated to whiskey and cigarettes. This should be brought to them at the cloister.

We followed their orders…

They were seated around tables in Navojen's house, and they set themselves to stuffing themselves and swilling. Suddenly, Moshe Greenboim went by. He was on his way to the judenrat. The killers played a game: “Who can hit the Jew–dog?” They immediately began shooting. He fell. He moaned terribly and begged for help…

There was of course no help. Myself and Yosef Goldstein and another Jew whose name I can't remember, carried the unfortunate into Shimon Liebel's house and lay him on the bed. He suffered badly and begged us to kill him. The murderer approached and fired two more bullets into him and he was quiet…

In the meantime, Moshe Hoz returned from Potoczek. He had failed to meet Hershl Shoch, and Glustman because they had been moved to Zamosc. So I went with him to see Telezinski and to ask if maybe he could get us some whiskey. We were so foolish we thought that this would help… We did manage to get four liters of whiskey from him. Fishel Schlegel and Yosef Goldstein also found some whiskey. We were planning to deliver them to our persecutors. There were five of us: Me, Moshe Hoz, Leibish Lerner, Fishel Schlegel and Yosef Goldstein. We asked a Jewish policeman where the assembled Jews were being taken. He told us, to work in a camp near Chelm.

 

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Fishl Shlegel–member of the Judenrat. Refused to hand Jews over to the Nazis.

 

As we got closer to the cloister, the mayor, Katowski passed by and winked at Moshe Hoz. “Why have you come? Take him into the gemineh,” he said to us. “And tell him to run away through the back door. Because it looks bad…” He had heard the Germans discussing what they would do to us. But it was already too late. A Gestapo man came out and led us into the gemineh. They confiscated the whiskey and cigarettes. Then they lined us up.

The first one to be taken was Fishel Schlegel. He was shot behind the jail cell. The same murderer returned for Yosef Goldstein and took him to the Christian cemetery and shot him there.

It was my turn. Two SS men drove me, with blows from their rifles, to a car. I was certain that they were driving me to my death. Instead, they put me to work gathering together all the belongings of the captured Jews and transporting them to the barracks at the cloister. There were also Christian Poles doing the work.

Leibish Lerner was still alive. They brought me back from work and threw me into the cell where I found him. Later, a German from the sonderdienst came and ordered us to get on a wagon and bring bread for the “verfluchte juden”. I asked him, “Where are we going to get bread?” “Halt die schnauze, Jude!” was his answer. On the way we met the commandant of the Polish police. I asked him, “Maybe you know where we can get bread?” But he did not know either…

We came to Chaim Bronstein's house, where we found several loaves of bread. When we got to Yehoshua Gortler's house, the German tried to break down the door but couldn't. So he said to me, “Jude, machst du auf!” I answered that I couldn't and didn't say another word. I was afraid that there were Jews hidden inside. The sonderdienst grabbed an ax and tried to open the door and failed again. So we went on to Yehoshua Bronstein's house, found another couple of loaves and turned back.

As we approached the barracks we heard frightening wailing. R'Shmuel Gortler was standing by the window and begging for water for the children. All the interned were thirsty. We went over to the organist's well. He gave us two buckets and we carried water to the unfortunates.

The whole way, the sonderdienst beat us, and then took us back to jail. The pain was so great during the day that we thanked God that we were back in jail. We sat there like that a whole night.

At around 5:00 o'clock, dawn, we looked out the window. We saw many farm wagons. Four people were seated in each wagon and all the Jews were taken for labor at Belzec.

 

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Belzec death camp

 

Then others were brought to the jail. Mashe Shpitseisen and her little daughter, and R' Moshe–Yosef Goldberg and his wife, Taubele. We were convinced we were all going to be shot. A little later, the mayor, Kotowski, came and released Mashe Shpizeisen and her daughter. About two hours later, the mayor returned and let me and Leibish Lerner out.

The scharfuhrer ordered us to find all the hidden Jews and begin to work again…So me and Leibish Lerner went to the forest to find the run–away Jews.

I argued with the scharfuhrer on behalf of Moshe–Yosef and his wife, asking him to free them because I needed them to help me. “Such old people are going to work?” he asked. I told him I would take responsibility for them. I had to sign for them and they were released.

Life began to “normalize.” People began to return from the forests and other places where they had hidden.

They began to look for places to work. They wanted to work in the forests so as not to have to work in the city. No one slept at night, watching the Zamosc road with fear to see if the murderers were returning. But if you're alive, you have to eat. So they began to try to find ways to get flour. I went to Zamosc and they gave me flour for a month. When I asked for more, one of the the Zamosc judenrat said, “If you had had more people deported to Belzec, you wouldn't need more flour.” I said, “If that's such a good thing, try it yourself.”

One day a new blood–hound, a Gestapo from the village of Potoczek, arrived in town demanding that one of the judenrat should immediately come because he wanted a pair of boots.

I went down to Hersh–Leib's yard. I think Ephraim Zitser was there too. They gave me money which I used to buy boot leather. I was told to bring the leather to the Gestapo officer. I was afraid, but I had no choice. I went, and God helped me. I was successful. I settled everything with him, and he didn't bother us again.

At about this time, Hershel Shuch, David Glustman, and Mordechai Greenboim from Nemirowka,, escaped from the Zamosc barracks where they were held to be transferred to Belzec. They came back to the forest.

In July 1942, some Germans raided Chaim Bronstein's bakery. Itche Fuchs lived there. They took his daughter, Leah, and shot her on the spot. No one knew the reason.

Several days later, an SS group arrived wearing steel helmets, and carrying golden rifles. They surrounded the houses of Nathan Lifsh, Chaim Bronstein, and Yankel Laizer and set them on fire with incendiary bombs. The houses began to burn. Anyone coming out was fired upon. Everything, including the people inside, was burned.

I give here a list of the sacrifices that I can recall: Nathan Lifsh and his family; Berl Shak and his family and his mother–in–law, Leike Liebel; Shimon Liebel and his family; Yehoshua Wexler and his family; Yosef Aaron Shochet and his family and his father–in–law, Baruch Eli Broder, and his family; Yechezkel Unzig and his family; R' Yakov (Laizer's) Gortler, and his daughter–in–law (Yehoshe's wife), and the children; Shmuel Rendler and his family; Moshe Aaron Freiman, Itche Fuchs and his wife; and Chaim Bronstein and his wife.

The fires burned until morning, and the bodies of the martyrs smoldered for days.

Later, the Germans raided the cellars and took everything they could find there.

Several weeks later they found Yosef Dichterman in the village of Kaczuka and shot him.

One day the Germans visited Leibish Lerner. He lived in Pinye Rotheiser's house. They took Shmuel Dichterman and beat him severely. Then they ordered him to dig a grave because they were going to shoot him. His family members began to lament so strongly–his son Isrulke was living there at the time–that they released him.

In August 1942, Hindeh Greenboim left Shoshke's house. A sonderdienst who was always in town saw her, and, simply, stoned her to death. This took place near Micholowski on the sand. He then called on the farmers to have them bury her. You could hear her cries as they buried her alive.

That same month, the Germans appointed Yakov Hersh Kreiden as chairman of the judenrat. He was a tailor and made clothes for them. So they appointed him to power. (Yakov Hersh remained chairman until the end).

One day he came to see us and reported that the sonderdienst had shot two Jews at the bridge. I was at Shmuel–Yankel Laizer's house. He lived at Todzik Shpiro's. Yakov Hersh Kreiden ordered us to bury the two Jews. Shmuel Gortler and I went. We also took Yakov Hersh along. There we found a boy of about 17, and a man of about 40. They had both escaped from the Zamosc ghetto. They had Aryan passes and were trying to get to Czechoslovakia or Hungary. The sonderdienst recognized them. He shot the older man on the spot by the bridge. When he tried to shoot the other one, his gun jammed. He chased him until Franek Marusha's fields, and there he beat him with a club. The sonderdienst was still standing there when we came to bury the boy. We heard his strangulated breathing…In Franek Marushak's field, we dug a grave, broke some branches and laid them in the bottom so that it would become an aron[2]. We wanted to wait until his soul left his body. But the murderer returned and ordered us to bury him alive. We lowered the martyr into the grave and our hearts bled…The farmers stood around and looked at us with sadistic satisfaction at how low we had fallen…

A few days before the big aktion in October, Yehoshua–David Goldstein was travelling from Krasnobrod to Hutow. People were afraid to spend the night in town. A Gestapo member accosted him near the sazhelkes, and killed him. He was buried where he lay. Exactly where, I don't know.

On the eve of the big aktion, Sunday, October 10 1942, Aaron Greenboim, Shimon's son, came to Krasnobrod from Zamosc. He worked and lived in Zamosc. His father and both of his sisters, Leah and Chaya, were in Krasnobrod. He went to Ettl Schleger's home. She was then living outside town by Gresztis hill, at the peasant woman Dzadowska's. From there, it was easy to escape. I was also there. I was standing and davening. A young boy came running in, Shmuel Tentser's son, Bereleh, and told us that in Shebreshin, Jewish men and their families had been rounded–up. They were put in cattle cars and taken to Belzec. Along the way, he was pushed out of the window by his mother. Then she jumped out after him. They were shot at by the Gestapo escort, and his mother was killed. The little boy–I don't know how he found the strength–ran through the forest until he got to Tomaszow, and from there, to his aunt Ettl in Krasnobrod. He refused to eat a thing before davening. I don't know how old the child was, but he was very smart. He picked up a siddur and began to daven

 

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Shmuel Tentser and his family

 

Ettl Schlegel's two sweet children knew Hebrew as well as German. They studied with my sister Shoshe Hoz's boy, Velvele. We had two teachers, Meir Perele, and a woman teacher from Grodno. We kept on teaching the children the whole time, believing that we would survive the cursed murderers.

We did everything to save the children. They were given to farmers to work as shepherds. The farmers wore them out physically with too much work and not enough food.

One day, Velvele came running back from the colonia. “I don't want to be with the goyim anymore!” I begged him to go back to the village so that he might be safe. But he refused. Maybe if I had taken him back with me, I might have been able to save him.

So we all stand there and go on davening

 

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Kaile Friedlender and Etl Shlegel with her children

 

In the house, there arose a great wailing, everybody certain that we are parting forever, that we are davening together for the last time. And so it turned out to be. I never saw my near ones again.

In the evening, Aaron Greenboim left. He argued that he was not afraid for himself.

He had enough money to buy himself out. A sonderdienst caught him by Pawlowski's barn and shot him. He tore the clothes off him and sent them to be hidden in the firemen's remizeh. He was buried right there.

My parents came to see me at night and begged me, “Go to Shoshke's house and take the children and sneak over to Turzyniec.” My brother–in–law, Moshe Hoz, had been in hiding at various Christian locations since the beginning of the aktion. I embraced my parents, and said farewell forever. We went to Turzyniec to stay with a Christian whose name I can't remember. We crawled up into an attic with straw, and met my brother–in–law, Moshe. Around two in the night, we heard the sounds of machine guns. My cousin, the engineer, Jungman, was also with me. So Moshe said, “Let's get out of here.” I did not agree. Moshe and the children went to another attic. I found a large wheat barrel and my cousin and I hid in it.

At daybreak, the farmer climbed up to the attic and began to search. He found my sister and drove her out. So she left, wrapped in a shawl, to Szur, to a goyeh she knew. She was spotted on the way and pursued. But she escaped from their sight by hiding in the nearby forest. She spent the night with a goyeh in the Tarnawatka forest, near the village of Zielone.

Around two a.m., Moshe came and called to us softly. I heard his voice and we descended from the attic. I told him I did not know where Shoshka ended up. He left the children with a farmer in Antonowka, and we went together up to the Risker forest. There we separated. He went back to the children and I went with my cousin to Hutkow. I never saw him again.

On the third night in Hutkow, my sister Shoshke unexpectedly showed up. She had spent the whole night in a field. At daybreak she went to the farmer where we were hiding in the hay in the attic.

I told her about Moshe and the children. The farmer came up and apologized that he could not hide such a large group. So my sister got up, and went out to the fields. I found out, that at night, she had met up with Moshe. I never saw her again. It was the last time I would be with my one and only sister.

 

The tragic end

As Sunday turned to Monday on the 26th of October 1942, the German murderers finished with the Jews of our shtetl, Krasnobrod.

They rounded up all the Jews, young and old, herded them into Itche Fuchs's unfinished bakery building, and murdered them all there.

The farmers reported that the Germans immediately set to burying the victims, the living and wounded along with the dead. Their cries and wailing carried through the whole neighborhood. Groans and movement in the earth of the mass grave continued for days. The few remaining Jews were put on wagons, and were driven by the Germans to Izbica. Among them–my parents.

Firok, the farmer from Turzyniec, told me that the Nazis had spared some Jews, because the Gestapo at the cloister needed tradesmen. These were: Yakov Hersh Kreiden, the tailor, and his second wife; R' Yosef Edelstein, or as he was called Yosel Tveed from Hutkow; a kamashenshteper; a girl, Rivkah Freiman, Shmuel Rind's granddaughter; and, I think, Hershl Gross, a shoemaker and his wife; and Hershl Shuch, Elem Glaser, in total, about 6–7 people.

Those escaping from the slaughter were: Moshe–Yosef Goldberg and his wife, Taubele; Laizer Gartler, The “Yetchakhe” and her son Leibl Bleichman, and a few others.

The farmers helped the Germans in their hunt for Jews. They caught Moshe–Yosef Goldberg and Taubele in the Risker forest. He pleaded with them to shoot him in the back. He and Taubele had vowed not to be taken to the Gestapo. So they “did them a favor,” and shot them. The farmers caught Leizke Gortler also in the Risker forest. They brought him to the gemineh to shoot him. From great fear he lost his ability to speak, and could only utter wild cries. They shot him by the gemineh. The goyim caught the “Yetchakhe” in Majdan. She was also shot by the gemineh. Yakov Schneider and his wife and little girl were caught and killed in Hutkow. Their older daughter, Leah, was hidden by a farmer and she survived. Today, she is in the United States.

I heard from farmers that many of the escaped later gave themselves up to the Gestapo, and begged to be shot.

I was distraught worrying about my sister and her children and husband. So I sent the Beltsher with a letter to the place I knew they had to be at. He brought back the news that they were alive. But he had not talked to them.

On the third of December 1942, Motzi Shabos, I went into town to find something to sell. When I got there, Teofil Kozinowski told me that my sister, Shoshke, and her husband, Moshe Hoz, and their two children, Velvele, and Yeshiahu, were captured in the village of Klocowka. They were taken to the jail in Krynica. They probably knew where they were going and what awaited them there. They were all shot there, and buried by the mill. A farmer told me about this. He happened to be passing by there and saw the killings.

Our bitter life continued. The farmer from Hutkow was afraid to keep sheltering us. He proposed to us that we should go to a man called Monastyrskow. We had no choice but to transfer over.

In December, a Gestapo officer accused Hershl Shuch of having contacts with the Polish partisans. He was taken to the nearby forest and shot. Later, in celebration, he ordered Yakov Hersh Kreidan, the tailor, to marry Yosef Eldstein to Rivkah Freiman. They did get married and lived together until they were deported.

In February 1943, captured were: Yakov–Hersh Kreidan and his wife, the cobbler and his wife, and Yosef Eldstein and Rivkah Freiman. They were all shot together on Todzik Szpiro's property and were buried there.

With this last killing, the Germans succeeded in completely wiping out the Jewish community of Krasnobrod.

* * *

In 1940, a peasant woman who lived behind the cloister bought a kilo of flour from Nathan Lifsh. She then went to the Gestapo to report this. The Gestapo first got a wooden board, and wrote on it that the “verfluchte Jude” had cheated a “Polish woman,” and that he deserves to be beaten and killed. They nailed it to a pole. A German then brought Nathan to the Gestapo. There, they beat him and jailed him. After a few days, he was released. His skin was black and blue from the blows.

In December 1942, in Teofil Kazinowski's yard, I met Abraham–Yakov Freind. He pleaded with me to lend him some money. I told him that I was supposed to get some money on Saturday evening from Kazinowski. We agreed to meet later. When I arrived at the appointed time to give him the money, he got frightened, didn't recognize me, and ran away. I never saw him again. I found out later that he was murdered by the peasants in Hutkow forest.

 

Kra353.jpg
Velvl Giter and his family

 

That same month, they caught Itchele Rodoshcher while he was riding a wagon. He was hiding in a village there. They took him to the police station in Potoczow. The Gestapo forced him to dig a grave. He begged them to shoot him from behind. They buried him in the grave he himself had dug.

The Pole, Pakula, caught Liba Eilboim, Yonah, the shoemaker's daughter, Yehoshua Babad and his family, and Malka Babad. They brought them to the Gestapo and shot them. They caught others after, but I can't recall their names.

At the same time, Velvel Giter sent his young son to buy some bread. The farmers caught him and locked him in a stall. Overcome with fear, Velvel Giter hung himself.

This is what I could find about how all these people met their end.

 

Wandering

We stayed with the Christian woman, Monastyrska, for a few weeks. She used to inform us about the Jews caught and killed by the Germans, sometimes with the help of the peasants. She began to be afraid of hiding us. “Go in good health, I am afraid for my life.”

So we moved to the Hutkow forest, and came to the village to buy bread. We continued like this until the month of January 1943.

Later, we went into the town to meet Janek Lubiesz and offered to pay him 30 Zlotys a day. He took us in and hid us for two weeks. He too became afraid, and asked us to leave his house. We wandered around in the Vilker forest and in other areas, wherever we could. We were exhausted, starved and worn out.

One night, in February 1943, we went into the stall where the city scale was kept, owned by Franek Maruszek. It was filled with hay. On entering, we had the feeling that someone was sleeping here. We got very frightened. But because of the cold that gripped us, we decided to take a chance. Once lying in the hay, it became clear to us that the “someone” was afraid to expose himself to us. It was Feige Fuchs. She had heard us speaking Yiddish, and came out of her hiding place. We were overjoyed to see her. We were with her for two days, then we separated. Where she went, we did not know.

In the Vilker forest where we wandered, we came across a search party of the German army, and Poles helping them. They were hunting partisans. From our hide–out, we could hear them going by and speaking in Polish. It was only by a miracle that we did not fall into the hands of the murderers.

The next day, we went to Stach Fiele and begged for bread. Stunned, he said to us, “What's wrong with you? Right next to me lives a Polish policeman, and you are wandering around…I am very afraid.” But pity forced him to hide us in the barn loft. He brought us food. We stayed there hidden for almost two weeks. I paid him money for this.

In the meantime, the Poles were now being rounded up. They were sent off to Germany to work. Every day, more and more Poles began to leave their homes and hide so that we almost intermixed with them.

Hannah Giter arrived from Majdan and also came to Fiele. He immediately brought her to us. We were very happy to see her. We asked her where she had been. She said that she was in Majdan Wielki and some peasants were hiding her. The peasants are now fearful of the Germans themselves. Every day, they are rounded–up and sent to Germany.

Hannah Giter soon left us. We asked her if it was possible for us to move over there. She agreed.

A few nights later we took to the road. When we crossed the Hutkow bridge, we heard the loud baying of dogs. We turned back. It turned out that God was guarding our every step. Hannah Giter was indeed killed there.

In the meantime, a revolt against the Germans broke out in the village of Dzeranze. The peasants and the partisans who were active in that area, were attacking the Germans. They were close to taking Tomaszow. The battles went on for several days.

At the time, we were leaving Krasnobrod at night for the fields of Hutkow. One night it was very bright. The snow squeaked under our feet… Suddenly we heard footsteps, and immediately after, shots. We instantly began to run and kept going until Hutkow.

We went into the first peasant hut we saw. The peasant was happy to see us and asked where we were coming from. He asked us to stay with him in his house.

Throughout the day, his friends kept coming and asking “where the guests are coming from?…” For us, the frequent visits were not so comfortable. We sat there in some anxiety. But we did not dare to show our fear.

The next day, the peasant told us that the Germans had crushed the revolt. Now the Germans intended to initiate aktions against the Poles. As a result, we had to leave the house. We had to go back to the forest.

And thus the days dragged on until summer 1943.

When the wheat began to grow in the fields, we hid there. At night we would steal out to a village to beg for food. Or we would go to the Grabnik, to Borakovitch and the nearby farmers.

One time, we had been to Borakovitch and were leaving with some bread. We heard someone running away from us, stopping and listening–and he recognized us. It was Isrulke Zitser. He asked us where we were hiding, and when we replied that there's plenty of place in the fields, he asked us to take him with. He ran to get his father, Ephraim Zitser, and we left together for the fields.

We were staying in a field where peas grew. Sometimes we were together, sometimes separate. We often snuck out at night to pick turnips from farms where we knew the farmers had been deported to Germany. My cousin found Feige Fuchs in the pea fields. She told him that Ruchele Rotheiser and her children were also here. That's the last we heard from her. She was later killed.

When the peas were ripe, on a Sunday, we discussed the possibility that the farmers might begin harvesting them tomorrow. And that's what happened. Monday morning, hidden among the plants, we heard movement. Before we could react, the farmers and their oxen appeared before us. There were: Stach Hacze, Franek Maraszek, and some other Krasnobrod farmers. They were in good spirits, and told us the news that Italy had surrendered to the allies. It won't be long before the Germans suffer defeat. “We just have to survive,” they encouraged us, “and the war will end.”

Ephraim Zitser did not want to stay here any longer. He believed that we should leave this place. We explained to him that we had nowhere to go. If he wanted to leave, he could go in good health, and if he should find a spot that would also be good for us, he could let us know.

More time passed. Once we were on the Grabnik on our way to get some bread from the house of a farmer and we heard the sound of someone running away. It frightened us too and we ran back to the fields. A little while later, we heard someone calling us in our agreed– upon Polish names, so we knew it was Ephraim Zitser. He gave us two moldy loaves of bread, and broke into tears because he had no place to stay.

We did not see each other again until liberation.

We continued to wander around in various places. We met Ruchele Rotheiser and her children, and, for a time, we hid together in a potato field in bunkers next to each other. When the farmers began to dig up the potatoes, we found ourselves with nowhere else to go.

One night I went out to the new village , to Lubiesz's, to beg for some bread, and I noticed an unfinished house, locked up everywhere. It had belonged to Wilczinski from the hoif. So we, that is my cousin and I, decided to get in there and stay as long as possible. We pried out a board covering the window, and we got up to the attic. The attic was empty. We closed ourselves in so that no one could know we were there, rested and slept. At night, we would creep into the village to get some bread. It would have to last us for half a week, or sometimes, a whole week. We stayed there until winter arrived and it began to snow. It was almost December and we were suffering from the severe cold. Furthermore, we could not get any food now. Our footsteps would be seen in the snow.

My cousin had a female cousin who was hiding in Warsaw as a Christian. She was trying to find out what was happening to us. She wrote a letter to Berbeckin, from Zagaria. She first asked if he had received any letters from Yuzek and Kube who had been sent away to Germany. When Berbecki, replied that he had, she sent him 1,000 Zlotys. These funds came from the money raised by the underground movement and sent via the lawyer Szwientowski, from Zamosc, to support those running from the Nazis. The lawyer, Szwientowski knew my cousin well.

Berbecki himself was always asking about us. We found out he was living in the guardhouse of the sanitorium.

When we visited him he received us warmly and revealed to us that he had a letter for us from the cousin containing money. But he hadn't claimed the money yet. We asked for an advance, and he gave us 200 Zlotys. We asked him if we could visit again. He gave us a big loaf of bread, around three kilos. He gave us the rest of the money at our second visit. We asked him to send off another letter requesting another 1,000 Zlotys.

In the meantime, I found out that the watchman for the unfinished house was Fztule Juzek from the new village. I went to see him and begged him to let us stay there, explaining that the snow was falling heavily, and it was freezing cold, and we could no longer exist in the forest. He gave his permission. We also asked him to bring us food every second day, and if we could use his name to receive money from Warsaw, to which he agreed.

At first, he brought us food. Very quickly though, he became frightened, and he let us know that if the money arrived, he would pass it on to us but…for now, we had to leave this place. We could come back later.

So we snuck into a potato cellar belonging to Lubiesz. It was dug out of soil in the field and was empty.

We had agreed with Berbecki to meet on Saturday night, the 5th of February 1944. We climbed out of our potato cellar and into a blizzard. The snow was knee–high. I was sick, and passed out in the storm. My cousin barely revived me. We had to postpone our journey. In the morning, we received the news that the sanitorium guardhouse had burned down, and that Hershel–Leibel Briks and his wife and children perished there.

The peasants thought that our continued survival showed the hand of God protecting us from doom.

In about the same month, Ruchele Rotheiser and her daughters, Feige and Frume, were captured by peasants on the Grabnik. They took them to Suchowola, and, there the German murderers killed them.

We went back to Yuzef and begged him to let us back into the attic of the unfinished building. He let us back, and brought us food from time to time, for which we paid him. Sometimes, we snuck out ourselves to find food.

In May 1944, the Germans launched a raid in the new village. Many peasants fled.

Two Germans came to our building, tore open the boards over the window. They peered in, searching with their eyes. We were in the attic shut up so that no one could suspect. “There is nothing here, just stones and wood,” said one of them, and soon after they left…

We left the attic on July 22 1944.

 

Liberation

On Saturday, July 21st, the Germans left. That night there was deafening shooting. In the morning, we saw the Soviet soldiers passing through. Nevertheless, we waited a few more days in our hideout.

On Tuesday, the Germans tried to stop the Soviet assault on Suchowola, and wanted to retake Krasnobrod. But, they collapsed under the fire from the Katyushas…

We were liberated.


Translator's notes

  1. Yiddish name for Szczebrzeszyn, a town about 25 km northwest of Krasnobrod. return
  2. Ark return


[Hebrew page 131]

How did I survive?

by Fishl Malka (Haifa)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

 

Kra131.jpg
Velvl Giter and his family

 

When the Germans first invaded Poland, they immediately turned their anger on us. They expropriated our house with all our belongings, and left us only a small room. The Poles also did not sit quietly, and they made us suffer too. First and foremost is the person who framed my brother Motl, who was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the prison in Tomaszow. There he was interrogated for a long time, but no one was able to prove anything against him, and he was released after several months. We thought that was the end of the matter, but the Poles wanted to harm him, and could not understand how a Jew got out of trouble. Therefore, they began to look for plots. When he understood this, he began to hide. He succeeded in this for 16 months, during which he lived a life of suffering, without a proper meal and without a place to lay his head, while the fear of the Gestapo who were looking for him hovered over him. Until March 10, 1942, when he was caught and taken to Zamosc. There he was interrogated by a Gestapo man, Foss, who was known for his cruelty. After four months he was taken to Lublin. There he was treated inhumanely. We then received a letter from him, through the son of the police chief, in which he asked us to do everything to save him because he was afraid that he would not withstand the torture they were inflicting on him. But what influence did we have then? We lived the life of those “without rights.” No lawyer wanted to represent us regardless of the consideration. We could only hope for the mercy of heaven. From Lublin my brother was taken to Zamosc, and from there, with another shipment of Jews, to Belzec to be burned. On the way to Belzec he managed to escape. A farmer brought him to us half-dead. When he left us, he was a strong and healthy 22-year-old man, but when he returned his condition was uncertain. He was beaten and injured, his face was blackened, and he could hardly stand on his feet. As a result of his suffering in the prisons, his health deteriorated. And we had neither a good and worthy house to live in, nor a doctor, nor medicine, and everyone had to hide because he was an “escaped prisoner.” Thus, he lay in the cemetery keeper's cabin,

[Hebrew page 132]

on the floor, and died. Before his death he spoke only of revenge. He wished us all a long life, and wished that we would have the opportunity to avenge his early death. He died on July 28, 1942.

We did not have the opportunity to mourn our dead properly. It was the time of the aktions, and the living envied the dead. The last aktion was carried out on 26.10.42 and since then Krasnobrod has been “free of Jews.” At the same time, my husband also died, may God avenge him, and I was left with a six-month-old baby. With the baby in my arms, I managed to escape to a village and hid in a haystack. Inside it, I made room for me and my baby, and only at night would I sneak out to get a little food. Several weeks passed. The cold grew and snow covered the ground. I realized that I couldn't continue hiding like this. So, I decided I must do something, and I came out of hiding in the daylight. When the children of the village saw me, they started chasing me and yelling, “Here is a Jewish girl with a baby.” I ran away to the forest. The fact that it was starting to get dark assisted me, because the farmers were afraid to go deeper into the forest when it was dark and cold. And so, I managed to escape from them. I sat under one of the trees, and I pressed my baby to my fluttering heart and prayed in my heart that he would not burst into tears, and hand me over to my persecutors. I sat all night frozen from the great cold and did not feel how, slowly and quietly, my child was dying. Only in the morning, when I tried to walk, I saw that his body was dead and frozen. I dug a grave for him in the snow. My heart overflowed with grief, but I did not want to die. Maybe it wasn't the will to live that was strong in me at that moment, but the terror of death. I started wandering in the forest and found another group of refugees, among them were also my mother and my sister Chaya'le. I burst into tears, and the three of us began to cry over the great disaster that had befallen us. We also started talking about the rest of the dead and mentioned, besides my brother, my husband and children, also my sister Sarahleh, who was caught on 1.10.42 by the police and shot, and also my sister Marsa who was caught and shot three weeks later. And when will the trouble come to an end?

I decided not to stay in the forest and headed to Belzec, looking for a way to hide. I searched for many days and in the end, I returned to the same pile of hay in the field where I had hidden with my baby, because I couldn't find another place to stay. In the evening, I went out to look for my sister and mother in the forest, and suddenly I heard a scream. I recognized my mother's voice. She had apparently come out of the thick of the forest, and was captured. I started to run towards her, but a gentile came towards me and stopped me. I started struggling with him, breaking away and running, but he

[Hebrew page 133]

tried to dissuade me: “Where are you running? Do you really think you can save her? You are running towards your death; you are running straight to the mouth of a wolf. Come with me and I'll hide you in my house, maybe you'll be able to save your life.” And after all, for days upon days I had been looking for a hiding place because I was afraid of death. And actually, his words were words of wisdom. That's how my mother was killed on December 5, 1942, and I stayed with that gentile until January, until he came and told me that he was also afraid for his life. I left him one evening, and while I was wandering, I encountered my sister Chaya'le, who I didn't even know was still alive. She was also without a place to stay. We sold the rest of our belongings, and I paid a gentile to hide her until everything would calm down. He agreed, but when he realized that she had no more money, he took her outside on 20.3.43 and shot her. I learned about it from a gentile whose house I arrived at another gentile's house when I was looking for a hiding place. He then ordered me to go up and hide in the hay in the attic.

After several weeks, the Germans organized a hunt for bandits and among other things, they arrested my sister's killer and his entire family. “My” gentile told me about it the next day, with an expression of satisfaction on his face. He said to me: “As you can see, there is a God in heaven, your sister's death has also been avenged and you have one less enemy in the world.”

I stayed with this gentile, who was a Righteous Gentile, until the end of the war. Two weeks later, I stopped hiding. I was naive to believe that there was no need to hide anymore. The gentiles I met shared in my sorrow, apparently, and wept with me. And through tears, the question which froze my blood arose again and again: “Look at her, how are you still alive?” And the tone in which this question was asked revealed what those who cried with me really thought and felt. On that night, a group of Poles came to the one who rescued me and demanded that he hand over the “Jewish girl.” He crossed himself and swore that there was no Jewish woman in his house. They started searching the whole house and also looked in the attic. I dug myself into the hay and the searchers came close to me but didn't notice me. To this day I don't understand why I had the right to be saved. At dawn I left the village and went to Tomaszow. The horror of the last “rescue” still lingered in my bones and my strength was running out. Close to the city, I met a Polish woman I knew. She took pity on me and persuaded her son to take me to the city with his cart. I was in a state of exhaustion and the gentile brought me to the hospital. I entered the office and found the manager, a nun, dressed in black. I told her what had happened to me, and asked for medical help

[Hebrew page 134]

because I was sick and I didn't have a house or any money. Her answer was: “How wonderful, another Jewish woman remained alive.” I burst into bitter tears: “Has the world come to an end? That there is no hospital that helps a sick person, and the nun is brimming with venom and hatred. After all, they are always going on about love!” And here the doctor came in and asked me: “Why are you crying?” I explained it to him, and he answered me bitterly: “Don't cry queen of the history of the Jews, everything will be good!” He admitted me to the hospital, where I remained for four weeks until I recovered.

I slowly recovered and when I heard that Jews were seen in the city, I got up immediately, and ran quickly, I literally flew, to see their faces, to speak to them in our language, to once again be together with Jews, and to merge with them and never separate from them again.

Since then, there and also here, I live among my people. And I have a prayer in my heart that I will live here until my last day.

 

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