How Jezerziany was Destroyed
Zusha Peltz recounts
Translated by Yael Chaver
With the outbreak of the war and the arrival of the Soviet forces, I continued at first to trade in grain, illegally. Later I was appointed manager of my own grain yard, which was nationalized. There were actually five granaries in which the Soviet authorities
concentrated the grain that the peasants of the grainrich region of Podolia had to supply according to assignments.
The Ukrainians start slaughtering village Jews, the Germans rob and attack
During the period between the Soviet forces' arrival and the arrival of the Hungarians (July 7), bestial murders of Jews in the villages around Jezerziany took place. In Zielince, Ukrainian murderers tied up Avrom Blanken and his family, five souls, and drowned them in the Nichlava River. In Pilatkowice, all four resident Jewish families were murdered, about 20 souls. In the small shtetl of Ulaszkowce, that was famous for its annual fair, a larger number of Jews were killed. These killings were done under the pretext of revenge for the killed detainees whom the Soviet forces had left in the Czortkow prison. This had been a prison operation, as was the case in most places previously occupied by the Soviet forces. In Jezerziany, the forces of the provisional Ukrainian authority drove about 100 men out of their homes, for the community, and prepared to shoot them in the sawmill yard near the train. The Jews waited anxiously for a few hours, while the local priest and the wife of Dr. Krawecki
tried by various means and arguments to prevent the murders. They succeeded in delaying the execution for an hour and another hour, until a unit of Hungarian soldiers came up. Seeing such a crowd of Jews, they ordered them to go home. A few days later, the same priest organized a demonstration, which he instructed Jews to join. He made a speech praising Hitler and demanded that the entire population of Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews be obedient and loyal to German authority.
Driven into forced labor
On the first day of Rosh HaShone 1941, several Gestapo soldiers came to the shtetl, robbed and beat up a few Jews they encountered on the sidewalk. At that time, the Jews of Jezerziany did not know that Jews were forbidden to use the sidewalk.
The young people who were sent to do forced labor chopped trees in the forest, loaded and unloaded cargo on the train as well as in the surrounding farms and highways. The worst was when young men were sent to the camps around Tarnopol (Borki Wielkie, Stupki, Hlubocka).
If the sons did not appear, the Judenrat ordered the parents to be taken away. Parents of these young people hired Christians who took food packages for the Jezerziany boys in the camps. Conditions in the camps were extremely harsh, and deaths were common. The Judenrat had to send substitutes to take the place of those who had died.
The main employer in Jezerziany was the sawmill, next to the train. I was one of the workers. My brotherinlaw's brother worked as a bookkeeper there, and the director, a Volksdeutsche named Wiesna treated the Jewish workers halfway decently, and protected them during round ups.
On the first day of Peysekh 1942, a decree was issued requiring all Jewish men aged 1460 to appear in Borszczow. This applied to Jezerziany, Borszczow, Skala, Korolowka, Mielnica, and Krzywcze. A great panic erupted in the area. People sought various ways to protect fathers and sons. The names were registered, and retaliation was threatened for hiding. The Tarnopol forcedlabor camps had a terrible reputation.
This was the largest recruitment of victims that occurred in the area before the actual deportation and extermination operations began.It is worth noting that any Jews in the surrounding villages who had survived the initial pogroms were already homeless, because they had been sent to the shtetls as early as August and September 1941.
During the first year of the German occupation, there were no killings in Jezerziany.
There were robberies, beatings, assignment to forced labor, but no murders.
In cattle cars to Belzec
In the summer and fall of 1942, when the wave of annihilation aktions rolled over all of Galitzia and Poland, the Jews of Jezerziany were promised by the Judenrat of the Czortkow region that there would be no aktion in their town. Borszczow Gestapo officer Kellner, who visited the shtetl on the eve of Sukkot and received fne gifts, promised that Jezerziany would not be bothered.
The very next morning, the first day of Sukkot, Jezerziany was surrounded. All the Jews were herded into one spot and kept there for a day and a night. The old folks were shot on the spot, some young guys selected for labor, and the rest loaded into train cars and sent to Belzec. One of those deported was my wife Miriam. I was removed from the selection process thanks to my work at the sawmill.
Aktions took place that day in five neigboring shtetls. Katzmann, the SS leader and Chief of Police of the Galitzia District was there. In Jezerziany, the hangman controlled the progress of the aktion personally.
4000 Jews were assembled in that area. The members of the Jezerziany Judenrat and police force were in the same car on the way to Belzec. Some of them broke open a car wall and jumped out. Mendl Shisler, wgo before the war was a member of the community's board of directors, did not agree to join the Judenrat. He was soon discharged from the police force, because he was too fond of the psychological power this position conferred. In other words, he was even arrested due to this.
The remainder driven into ghettos in other towns
The Jews remaining after the Aktion were concentrated in two ghettos, Borszczow and Tluste. No ghetto was established in Jezerziany. The Jews only had to attach white notes to their houses with a Star of David.
I provided myself with a metal Gestapo badge indicating that I was a collector of iron scraps. With that legalization, I returned to Jezerziany, where there were still several Jewish families. The Jews paid Ukrainian militia commander Vyshinsky a regular fee to warn them about Gestapo visits.
The Jews would then scatter into the fields and woods, returning when the Germans went away.
Fleeing to fields and woods
In July, 1943, the Judenrein decree was promulgated, and Jews could no longer legally move around outside the two forcedlabor camps that were under SS supervision. Jews who had held out to this point were now concentrated in two wooded areas in the surroundings, mainly in the oak stand. I, my brotherinlaw and a few other Jews were helped by a nonJew from Lanovce, Adamowski. We paid him as long as we had any possessions. He did not abandon us after we were robbed of everything: he provided us with minimal food. Without the aid of Christians, mainly the Poles (who were themselves persecuted), hardly anyone could have saved themselves.
Liberation too late. Only some dozens saved
In the spring of 1943, a labor camp was set up on the Dobrownika estate, not far from Lanowce, to grow Russian dandelion, a crop from which a substitute for rubber could be produced.
|Three generations exterminated. Grandmother Dora Bernshteyn with her daughter Toybe Heller and granddaughter Genya (the motherinlaw, wife, and child of Yosl Heller)|
Only important people were concentrated in this camp: rabbis, lawyers, propertyowners. Among others interned there were Yoysef Kimmelman from Lanowce,with his daughter Feftsya and her son, as well as Hans and Anya Pohoriles. My hideout bunker was not far from Dobrownika, and at night I would meet up with people from the camp. The camp commander was interested in having the camp exist as long as possible, as it ensure that he wouldn't be sent to the front. He also became friendly with some Jewish personalities in the camp and knew German well. However, all this proved worthless; the camp was liquidated toward the end of 1943 and most of the Jews were shot.
In March 1944, the area was taken by the Red Army. The surviving Jews emerged from their hiding places.
However, the Soviet army was later driven back for a short period; those Jews who were unable to flee with the Russians or hide in their shelters were now murdered. I managed to flee with the Russians. Later, I returned to the area, and worked for the Russians for a year at the same position as before the RussoGerman war, as a provisions contractor. The area became popular with Banderovtsi. I was once captured by them, but survived.
I immigrated to Israel in 1950. My wife's sister was living in Gibton, and we settled not far from her, in Rechovot.
Zishe was a food crop wholesaler for the stock exchange, and in 1925 married Miriam Bloytol, the daughter of the mill leaseholder Avrom Bloytol of Ternivka. In partnership with his brotherinlaw Hersh Bloytol, he founded a food crop company in Jezerziany, which exported beans and other products to other countries.The Peltz family settled in Jezerziany. [signed] R. O.
[Translator's note to editor's note: The Yiddish alef can be transliterated as either o or ah. There is no vowelization of the initials that sign this note. I have assumed they refer to Rokhl Oyerbakh, who recorded this memoir.] Return
by Yitzkhok Nayman
Translated by Yael Chaver
After World War I, a strong Zionist halutzim movement developed in Jezerziany. Several organizations emerged with the same goals: training for agricultural work and emigration to Palestine. There were about 1800 Jews in the shtetl, most of them merchants who dealt with peasants. AntiSemitic agitation started in the last years before World War II. Picket lines were formed by Polish cooperatives. Jewish merchants and artisans became impoverished. People were supported by aid sent by relatives in America. Thanks to this support, a mutualaid fund was created. Young, capable people started studying, often living off bread and water.
The small shtetl gave rise to a sizable amount of Jewish intelligentsia. Some of these are in Israel today, such as the lawyers Dovid Berman and Tzvi Fenster, the writer M. A. Tenenblat, and others. Some left Jezerziany as halutzim) and are living in kibbutz settlements such as Kfar Shiler.
I belonged to the Betar organization. I went through agricultural training in the Jezerziany area. My sisters, Fruma and Toybe, also belonged to Betar. During 19361938 our entire family was in process of gathering in Palestine. My father was en route through illegal immigration, but deceitful manipulations by the leader forced him to remain in Poland.
Under Soviet rule, in 19441945, I worked as a bookkeeper in the cooperative offices.
The Germans start their decrees, the Ukrainians start their pogroms
On about July 8, 1941, the Germans entered Jezerziany. The peasants carried out pogroms in the surrounding villages of Pilatkowicz and Zhileniyetz, and killed the Blank and Shekhter families (one of Shekhter's daughters lives in Israel). A prohibited area for Jews was designated. Jews wereforbidden to buy food in the market and shops. Only one shop was open, where Jews could sell rye bread and onions. The peasants would bring food to the back doors of houses, and soon emptied the Jewish homes of the best objects.
Vain hopes, bitter disappointments
We gradually became used to troubles. There were even some Jews, such as Dudileh Shulboym, the fur trader, who argued: It's not so bad. The Germans mean only the rich Jews; they will let people like us, in Jezerziany, live.
The Judenrat consisted of wealthy Jews. The deputy director, Leyzer Raynshteyn, now lives in America. The Judenrat chairman, Mendl Mayberger, turned out to be a noble person. He refused to sign an order to send the banished Jews to Belzec. I was one of a few who resisted the Judenrat and the Jewish militia. The Judenrat would send the young people to camps. Once, I escaped from the assembly point, and the Judenrat fined me heavily. When I was caught again, I fled on the way.
The first German Aktion
The Germans carried out their first Aktion in Jezerziany on Sukkes of 1942. The victims were mostly elderly people. Those who were caught were loaded onto train cars that departed in the direction of Belzec. The young people were working in the Borki Wielkie and Stupki labor camps. Some young people were sent for forced labor to Gleboczek. That was a Wehrmacht camp, which produced Russian dandelion, raw material for synthetic rubber. There was a similar camp in Swidowa, near Tluste. The work was outdoors, under the open sky, from sunrise to sunset. Food consisted of black, sugarless coffee twice a day, and a gruel at midday. There were many girls in the camp, among them my two sisters. The prisoners were considered estate workers, while they were at work. Outside that space, any militiaman could shoot any Jew he encountered.
(daughters of Hirsh Leyb Aynhorn)
The camp was guarded by Ukrainians and Gestapo men Regenbogen and Braun. The camp's commandant was Sturmfuhrer Stengel.
He once got the idea that I did not belong to the camp but was a forest Jew. He shot at me, but missed. I raced through the fields, zigzagging like a hare, and finally leaped down the rocky bank of the Seret River. On another occasion, Stengel stood the prisoners in a row and teasingly placed his revolver against each person's temple. When he came to me, he pressed the trigger, but the revolver jammed. He said, You're lucky, you damned Jew!
One day, the Judenrat members, aided by the Jewish and Ukrainian militia, ordered most of the camp's prisoners to leave, and sent them to a regular forcedlabor camp. About 45 people stayed in the Gleboczek camp illegally. They were treated as unpaid labor, and were given no food. This went on for about six months.
Rich Jews from Jezerziany were in the same camp; they enjoyed special privileges thanks to their payments to the Gestapo officer. They had separate, heated rooms, cooked meals for the Gestapo men, and played cards with them. The time came when they, too, were sent out to the murder camps.
Tornup dollars for the final trip
One day I got word that another Aktion was taking place in Jezerziany. I wanted to know what was happening with my family, so I sneaked into the town. It seemed to be extinct. Small notes inscribed Judenrein were glued to the doors. My family had survived in a hideout in the attic.
On my way back to the camp, I noticed many torn dollar bills beyond the town. The Jews being led to their deaths tore up their last banknotes, which were now worthless to them.
After Jezerziany became Judenrein, the Jews were concentrated into two ghettos, in Borszczow and in Tluste. My parents and my sister Nusya went to Tluste. Both ghettos were quickly liquidated. At Passover of 1943, the Borszczow ghetto was annihilated. There were three Aktions in Tluste. My parents and sister escaped through the fields. The refugees from the ghetto would enter the Gleboczek camo at night; the number of prisoners constantly increased. Among them were my parents and sister.
One day, a group of Kolchak's partisans burst into Gleboczek. They stayed for one day and night. The overjoyed Jews emerged from their hideouts onto the streets. But when the partisans withdrew, I had nowhere to flee to. I came to the nonJewish cemetery, pulled out a few stones from a grave, and lay there for several days.
I felt that the end was near. The camps of Laskowice and Swydowa were undergoing systematic liquidation. One dark rainy night in autumn, we started out through the forests toward Pienki, between Jezerziany and Gleboczek. We found Jews in bunkers in the forests. The Ukrainian militia surrounded bunkers almost every day and killed those who were hiding there. Tzvi Fenster's wife and child were found in a bunker and taken to be shot. The militiamen thought she was dead and went away. The refugees wandered around, but could not find a suitable spot for a bunker anywhere. After a few days they turned towards the estate, but the guards did not let them in, by order of the Oberleiter.
My sister Fruma, the hero
At that time the Ukrainian militia discovered a bunker in the distillery. The people hiding there were the Gotesman family of Jezerziany, Abish Apfelboym with his wife, Kuptsye Aspis, and the Mer family, a total of about 40 people. They were taken out to the Borszczow nonJewish cemetery. Among them was my sister Fruma. Whenever we met, Fruma would say, There is no hope of surviving. But, die like a decent human being. Remember, die along with the murderer! When they took her out, she was wearing a fur coat. When they took away all the fur coats from the Jews, she didn't hand it over. When she was told to do so at the site, she declared that she would not. The Ukrainian militiaman wanted
to take it from her by force. At that point she wrestled the gun out of his hands and bashed his head, I heard this from an eyewitness, the estate manager Kruczek.
After the Gleboczek camp as well as the bunkers in the forest were liquidated, I stayed in the fields with my parents and two sisters. I went out at night for food and water. We stayed like that for three months, until harvest time. Later, we moved to Lisowice.
The Jews are shot, the camps are liquidated
In Lisowice, we encountered a group of about 300 Jews on an estate. They worked in the fields and the storehouse. They were given no food, and begged from the peasants. My father died in Lisowice. I buried him secretly at night in the field. A typhus epidemic broke out; the sick were shot by the Ukrainian militia. Twentyeight Jews who were threshing were shot by Gestapo men.
At the beginning of the winter of 1944 Gestapo shot the last Jews in the camps. The Vlasovtsy entered Lisowice and murdered several dozen Jews. I heard that Oberleiter Pati was protecting Jews from the Gestapo. I therefore moved there with my family; we lived there until March 23, 1944, when the Soviet soldiers arrived and the Jews exited from the camp, leaving behind 100 victims who were incinerated when the Germans blew up the site.
I got work as a bookkeeper at the Stanislaw train management, and lived there with my family until April 1945. We then went to Szczecin, and several months later left for Berlin with the first group of Jews bound for thenPalestine. In Germany, we lived in the Tempelhof camp, where I worked as
a bookkeeper for the camp committee. We joined the first mass immigration wave to Israel in 1949. I quickly found work in my profession. I got married in 1950. I now have two girls, 6yearold Ariella and
6monthold Aviva. My mother and both my sisters also live in Israel. Toybe and Nusia got married and have children.
by Bluma Vayntroyb
Translated by Yael Chaver
Fourteen Jews lived in the village of Pilatkowice, near Jezerziany. Although they numbered so few, the local priest incited the Ukrainian peasants against them. In his church sermons, he said that the Jews were to blame for everything. When the Germans entered Jezerziany, the peasants realized that their chance had come. They dragged all the men out of their homes, as well as children and the elderly, drove them into the fields, where they killed them like animals. They simply hacked them to pieces.
The families of the murdered men women and daughters then moved to Jezerziany. Ukrainian peasants also carried out a pogrom in the village of Zieleniec. Among the murdered victims was Nusenboym and one of his sons. His other son escaped.
The Aktion in Jezerziany
The first Aktion in Jezerziany took place precisely on the first day of Sukkes, 1942. They had previously marked a blue MognDovid on the doors of apartments where Jews lived. We had a foreboding that this would not end well. I don't know why they marked the doors of Christians in the same building with a red MognDovid.
When the Aktion was over
we came out of our hiding places, in which a Ukrainian militiaman, of all people, had hidden us. Many Jews were murdered that day. Several hundreds were taken to Belzec. Healthy men were sent to the camp at Janowa, on the way to Lemberg.
In the last days of Decmber, 1942, the Germans decreed a curfew in the ghetto. Jews were forbidden to walk on the street, even in order to draw water from the well. This lasted for several days. Any Jew out on the street to get some water was shot at the well.
The sweet death the Passover Aktion
The Germans would hand out marmalade and sugar to the Jews before each Aktion. At first, we did not grasp their intention. Later, after we realized that each distribution was closely followed by an Aktion, we would say, The 'sweet death' is coming.
This was the case before Passover of 1943. It so happened that there was a fair in Borszczow on Passover. As the main road passed through the ghetto, the street was full of peasants. Suddenly, at about 12 noon, the Aktion started. When the shooting started, the Jews
ran out of their houses and mingled with the peasant crowd. The peasants did not know all the Jews in the ghetto, and in the panic the Germans could not tell Jews and peasants apart. Many Jews were saved thanks to this.
My mother had prepared a hideout for us under the window of our apartment. It could accommodate fifteen persons, and had taken many nights to excavate. However, the night before the Aktion my father, may he rest in peace, came to me in a dream. Looking at the hideout, he said, I don't like this hideout. I told my mother about this; when the Aktion began, my mother did not want to go down into the hiding place. We later found out that someone had informed the Germans about it, and they dragged out the fifteen Jews who had hidden there.
Jews dig a mass grave in rivers of brothers' blood
We then ran into the forest, along with many other Jews. The Germans were shooting, and I saw people falling all around. We stayed in the forest for two days. When we came back into the ghetto, we found out that over 40 members of our family had been murdered. 1200 Jews had been murdered altogether. Those who survived told us that there were no graves to accommodate so many dead, and the Germans had therefore ordered the Jews to dig larger graves for those murdered. As they dug, the Jews were up to their knees in blood. They said that wounded people had also been buried. Of those buried alive, the ritual slaughterer's daughter, Yente Shekhter, survived. I met her after we were liberated, and she told me her story.
The murderers told Yente to stand on a woden board over the grave, and shot
at her, hitting her in the eye. She tumbled into the grave, terrified. That night, she revived, and realized that she was lying among dead bodies. With great effort, she dug out from under and dragged herself, naked and shot through the eye, to a hut. The old woman who lived there took her inside, cared for her, and hid her until the liberation. Yente showed me the glass eye that she had had inserted after the war.
After the Passover Aktion, and another Aktion in June 1943, several dozen Jews remained alive; they were herded into a few buildings.
The attitude of some Polish peasants towards Jews
The liquidation of the Borszczow ghetto began in June, 1943. I hid in a bunker with six other persons. We sat there without food or water for four days. Finally, we could no longer hold out, and came out. We met no one in the building above; there was only a thick layer of feathers on the floors. Suddenly, a Ukrainian militia patrol appeared at the entrance to the house. With another girl and boy, I managed to jump back down into the bunker. The others stayed behind, and were shot. Once again, we ate nothing for a few days. The militiamen finally discovered our hideout. We suddenly heard voices, and someone jumped into the tunnel leading to the bunker. The tunnel was very narrow, and the militiaman had trouble making his way through to us. As we could not see the militiaman in the dark, I started begging him to spare us. He took pity on us and went back out of the tunnel. We heard him saying up above, They're all already dead.
The next morning, the girl who was hiding with me crawled part way out of the bunker. Someone apparently noticed her, because I heard a voice, Don't be afraid, little girl, only tell me where Blumtche is. It was Pielich, a peasant from Jezerziany, asking about me. I knew we had nothing to fear from him. Pielich used to tell fortunes, and my mother would occasionally consult him. He was an exceptionally good person. He took me out of the bunker and brought me to my mother, who was hiding at the home of the Polish peasant Gansjarowski. She had asked Pielich to find me.
Everyone called Gansjarowski Friend of the Jews.
He had dug a hideout under his feeding trough, in which he hid my mother, me, my sister Chana, and the two Valakh sisters from Jezerziany for nine months. Once, when Ukrainian militiamen came and stood Gansjarowski against the wall, threatening to shoot him if he didn't hand over the Jews, he said, Search away, I have no Jews here. Gansjarowski fed us well; even at the worst moments, when the Germans returned and shots were still heard, he hurried over with food. We later found out that he had hidden six more Jews and an escaped Russian prisoner.
by Tsila KimmelmanKhanin (Hadera)
Translated by Yael Chaver
Tsila KimmelmanKhanin (Hadera) recounts:
After the SovietGerman war broke out, and the Soviet withdrawal, a pogrom took place in Laskowice. It was organized under the pretext of avenging the killing of the convicts left in the Czortkow prison when the Soviets retreated. I do not know the number of Jews killed that day in Laskowice. At that time, I was hiding, with my mother and my youngest brother, in the concrete drain of the stable. My father hid in an attic. That's how we were saved that time. After the first Aktion, we received a written warning from the Ukrainians to leave Laskowice; we moved to Tluste. Other Jews also received such letters from local Ukrainians, and mostly left,
some to Tluste, some to Czortkow and other places. One could take along a few possessions.
We settled in Tluste, made a living by selling our belongings, and worked a bit on the nearby farms that were managed by Germans. The German commander of all the agricultural labor camps was named Pati. He was a Volksdeutsch, treated his Jews halfdecently, and did his best to keep them out of the Aktions. This may be connected to the fact that he had a Jewish woman who lived with him in Tluste. Yet his interventions were unable to save the Jews from Aktions.
Hundreds of Jews shot on a farm
In the summer of 1943, there was an Aktion
on the Roszanuwka farm. That time, several hundred people were shot on the spot. Only those who managed to hide, or escape, remained. There was no selection, but rather a roundup.
At first, I worked on the Kazia Gura farm, and my father
(three daughters who survived live in Israel)
at Roszanuwka. We lived in Tluste. Once, my mother went to a village to find food for us-it was the winter of early 1943 and never came back. Apparently, she had been killed on the road. My older brother Sholem was taken to the Borki Wielkie labor camp near Ternopil to build a road. A year and a half older than me, he was murdered there in 1943. He was a year and a half older than me. I was left with my father and my younger brother.
Following the first entrance of the Russians, the events of the war were not over. In the last phase, Jews congregated in Tluste, where several hundreds were killed by German shelling. Some survived as invalids. Later, the Russians returned later for a while. Jews fled in various directions, fearing that the Germans would return. My father, my brother and I stayed in Grzimalow and Skalat, and witnessed no more Germans.
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