by Moshe Korin
Translated by Tina Lunson
Ever remaining in memory,|
forever in my thoughts,
the recent past
gone by not long ago.
And I see it like today:
And I see the lovely picture
Something I don't want to believe
The murderous hand of tyrants
When we think about it now
I still cannot believe it now|
that people could suffer so much,
that ones so alive in every sense
awaited death day in, day out.
One fine day in the month of Tishri
They all went, old and young,
Children clung to mothers,
That entire sorrowful march
Ever remaining in memory,
KriesBorokhov, May 1966
Related by Yitschak Rudman (Mordekhay Branyer's son)
and written down by Avraham Blum
Translated by Tina Lunson
I am going and you may all come along with meit is all according to heaven. These were the last words from Rabbi Itsikel when he was being taken by the Gestapo murderers to the slaughter with 1,200 women, children, and elders.
The murderers permitted himfor their bloody joketo dress in his fine clothing, as if for a holiday, in a prayer shawl and his silk coat and hat, just as though to fulfill God's commandmentsthe rabbi marched quietly with measured steps, accompanied by Fishel and Duvid Margolis, Itsik and Nechemye, Grin's sons, who were also going along that eternal path.
The rabbi went brave and refined, as if he were going to welcome the slaughter, and murmured a prayerperhaps Walking in the shadow of death, I am not afraid, because you are with meand perhaps he protested that he and his lambs were being led to the slaughter while God was silent: The heavenly judge does injustice Himself. Approaching [the village of] Leviatin, two huge pits waited to swallow them. The Ukrainian thieves ordered them to undress and go into the pits, a crack of machine guns, a wailing scream of death, a curse for the murderers, and a shema yisroeland the halfdead bodies of our dearest were buried half alive.
The 1,200 people were from ghetto number 1, located on Starvak Street; the second ghetto was on Butcher Street and had the same unfortunate fate as the first ghetto some six months laterwith the happy exception of a few people, among whom is the tellerYitschak Rudman!
[Page 322 - Yiddish] [Pages 205206 - Hebrew]
Yitschak Vaynshteyn is the author of The Destruction of Radzivilov, the sole and very important document about the destruction of the Radzivilov Jewish community.
In offering his testimony, Vaynshteyn partly repeats some details he described in The Destruction of Radzivilov, but he relates many new details, and especially the recent part of the testimony, which concerns the final period before and after liberation.
Before the war, Vaynshteyn was a merchant, operating large businesses, and was a prominent resident of Radzivilov.
An intellectual with an uncompleted higher degree, he was transformed into a slave laborer in a sawmill during the Soviet and then German occupation.
A person with a realistic orientation, he had but one goal for himself: to save himself and his family. In the testimony, he tells exactly how he succeeded in extracting himself, his wife, and his children from the jaws of death.
For the entire time of the German occupation, he did not push to take on a comfortable position in the Judenrat or police, although he had many opportunities to do so.
Characteristic is his reply to the first head of the Judenrat, Viderhorn, when the latter invited him to take over his post: I have been a giver my whole life, not a taker. I will not be an instrument of the Gestapo, and I cannot take away the last bites from the Jews.
As an illustration of the above remarks, it is worth relating that Vaynshteyn had asked that certain things not be published: when his younger brother Siunye confided in him that he wanted to join the Jewish police in order to make his life easier, I slapped him hard three times and said, ‘Your foot will never dare to cross the threshold of that vile gang. Don't you dare soil your face and tarnish our family's good name.'
In telling about this incident, Vaynshteyn cried hard, and it was some time until he recovered himself.
Vaynshteyn also asked that the following fact not be published: when he worked as an accountant for the Soviets, he did not pay enough attention to the Soviet rules and was denounced. He received as sentence the harsh punishment of being deported to the white bears [Siberia]. As a former bourgeois, they played him up as a saboteur, and it was only thanks to the outbreak of the war that he remained in Radzivilov.
Vaynshteyn was one of the few surviving Jews from the Radzivilov ghetto. And a good thing he was, so that in 1948 he wrote down everything about the life and destruction of the Radzivilov Jewish community while it was still fresh in his memory.
In my many visits with Vaynshteyn, I became more closely acquainted with that noble man, who commanded such respect.
Assessing the importance of giving his declaration to Yad Vashem, he demanded several times that I read the writings and check that the facts were correct.
The last time I visited him, I suggested that he put together a map of the Radzivilov ghetto, and he asked me to help him correct it along with a couple of other Radzivilovers so that together we could assemble an accurate map of the ghetto.
Vaynshteyn is a new arrival. It was barely a year ago that he came to Israel from England. He left one of his sons there. One son is here in the Land.
To my question about his plans and the future, Vaynshteyn replied that first he was going to attend an ulpan, and then he would think about his goals.
Names in the Testimony
MosheDuvid Balaban Avraham Vaynshteyn Yisrael Balaban Hersh Linder Shlome Vaser Dubtshekoptician Yakov Boym Dr. Vener Brider Milder Yakov Kitas Manye Vaynshteyn Duvid Margules Siunye Vaynshteyn Sasha Boym Noach Grinshteyn Zalman Goldshmid Leyb Rakhentses Simche Semigran Rabbi Yitschak Lerner Tsvi Kiperman Viderhorn Mandel First chairman of the Jewish Committee Hersh Lizak Yakov Goldshteyn Second chairman of the Jewish Committee Yakov Furman Treybitsh Chairman of the Judenrat Porokhovnik Sheyndel Zats Batye Goldenshteyn
Tushakovski Ukrainian Mateyko Mayor Misha Zaleski Police commandant Tushakovski Sawmill director Marianna Peasant Gorski Lawyer Fayshula Mitka Pietro Lina
Towns Mentioned in the Testimony
Poland USSR Germany England Radzivilov Vinnitsa Hofgeismar bei Kassel Nottingham Kremenets Brody Dubno Rovno
Address: Tel Aviv, 37 King George Street, Bet Hachalutsot
Date and place of birth: Kremenets, Volhynia province
Family members perished in World War II:
FatherR' ShmuelZev Vaynshteyn, born 1879, died in the Radzivilov ghetto, May 30, 1942.
MotherMiryamRachel Vaynshteyn (Bernshteyn), born 1881, died in the Radzivilov ghetto, May 30, 1942.
Avraham Vaynshteyn, born 1901, died in Vinnitsa, end of July or beginning of August, 1942.
His family: wifeEster Vaynshteyn, daughter Ronye and son Yitschak. All died in the Radzivilov ghetto.
Eliezer (Siunye) Vaynshteyn, born 1910, died end of December 1942 in Berezets, Kremenets district, with his wife and motherinlaw.
Yitschak Vaynshteyn Recounts
Recorded by Y. Alperovitsh, May 1962
[Pages 206209 - Hebrew]
Inasmuch as I have written more broadly about Jewish life in Radzivilov before the Second World War (see my memoir, The Destruction of Radzivilov), I will limit myself here to some short remarks on that theme.
Our family moved to Radzivilov. My father was a man of substance and ran very large enterprises. Between the two world wars, my father had a big mill and an abundant livelihood.
My father was a very progressive Jew and gave his children a secular education.
I studied in a cheder in my childhood years. Later, until the outbreak of World War I 1914, I studied in the Jewish Primary School in Kremenets, and later in the High School of Commerce in Kremenets. I also graduated from a Ukrainian state gymnasium and studied mathematics and law at Lemberg and Krakow Universities. Unfortunately, I had to interrupt my studies to help my father in his business affairs.
In 1926, I opened a shop in Radzivilov, selling writing stands and haberdashery. I operated that business until World War II broke out in 1939.
In 1933, I married Batye Goldenshteyn, born in Brody. Our elder son, Yosef, was born in 1936 (he now lives in Israel). Our second son, Shimon, was born in 1938 (he now lives in England).
Before the Polish era, until around 1936, the Jews in Radzivilovas in all the other towns in our areaearned a living. There were Jews in various categories: merchants, craftsmen, retailers. Each was occupied with his issues, some with labor and some with commerce. After 1936, when the wave of antiSemitism flooded Poland, the Jews' situation changed greatly: the Polish government opened Polish shops and incited the Polish and Ukrainian population against the Jews, but no open excesses took place.
When the PolishGerman War broke out on September 1, 1939, there was chaos in the town: it was clear even in the first days of the war that the Polish army was not strong enough to oppose the German army. Many refugees came into our town from western and central Poland.
Every day we expected the Germans to take Radzivilov. The fear among the Jews was great. But, luckily, the Soviets took Radzivilov on September 19, and the Jews breathed more easily.
Life under the Soviet Occupation
As soon as the Soviets took Radzivilov and set up their administrative apparatus, they began to nationalize all the big shops, sawmills, and mills. My father had three partners in his mill: MosheDuvid Balaban, his son Yisrael, and Shlome Vaser. It goes without saying that the mill was nationalized.
When the Soviets began to deport the former osadniks  and other Polish officials, they also deported Jewish families to Siberiaincluding my father's two partners, Yisrael Balaban and Shlome Vaser. Besides that, they also drove out Yakov Boym, the sawmill proprietor, Nisel Bukshteyn, the Milder brothers, Vaser, Halbershtat, and others.
I quickly evaluated the situation and decided that the best thing would be to give up my shop willingly, before the Soviets took it by force. I turned the shop over to the Soviets and went off to work as a representative to the Soviet cooperative as an accountant, later as an economist. In my business, the Soviets placed the Ukrainian Tushakovski as manager. But Tushakovski began to deal in the black market; that is, he sold a lot of merchandise on the side and put the money in his own pocket.
I must remark that before the outbreak of the PolishGerman war, I had an employee in my business named Manye Vaynshteyn. Before the Soviets, she was an important activist and was elected into the leadership of the professional unions.
Manye Vaynshteyn knew well what kind of merchandise and how much of it we had in the shop. She also knew about the black marketeering conducted by the new shop manager, Tushakovski. She openly reacted to the district attorney in the Party's offices. But it did not help. Tushakovski was not removed from the post, and he remained the shop's proprietor until he had sold all the merchandise.
As I have mentioned already, I went to work as an accountant, later as an economist, in the Soviet cooperative management. The central cooperative management had some 20 departments in town and some 30 in the villages around it.
When the Soviets introduced internal passports in 1940, they did not forget about the former bourgeoisthe rich people received a passport with a paragraph. Those paragraphshtshikes expected to be deported any day and be sent off to the polar bears. My father and I were included in that category of former bourgeois. Apparently the Soviets did not agree that Ias a former merchant with propertyshould be working in such a responsible post in the Trade Cooperative, and I was released from my job.
Having no other alternative and wanting to proletariatize myself, I went to work as a laborer in the sawmill that had belonged to Yakov Boym, whom the Soviets had deported to Siberia. My brother, Siunye Vaynshteyn, Goldberg (now in Israel), and others also went to work in the sawmill. I worked in the sawmill until the outbreak of the GermanSoviet War on June 22, 1941.
The Soviets took my father's house. He and my mother moved to a small room across from the Great Synagogue, not far from his former partner, MosheDuvid Balaban.
The Soviets rearranged everything according to their own style. The leftleaning elements, both Christians and Jews, worked along with the Soviet administration. It was hardly worth mentioning missing foodstuffs or clothing. The delivery of food items into the shops was not something to rejoice about. At every shop there were huge linesotshereden. The crowd was not charmed with such procedures but agreed with the idea that it was better to have the Soviets than the Germans. In any case, no one was expecting pogroms.
Life under the German Occupation
War broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union on the June 22, 1941. The German army advanced quickly, and the Germans approached Radzivilov. The Jewish population began to panic. The Soviets fled amid great chaos. Some Jews tried to flee on horseback, some on bicycles. But the Germans bombed and cut off the roads, and people were forced to turn back.
The German army occupied Radzivilov on June 29. The Ukrainian population received the Germans with great joy, and they promptly organized a Ukrainian selfadministration headed by Mateyko, who had declared himself an ethnic German.
The Ukrainians began to steal everything from the Jews. Besides that, they pointed out Jewish houses to the Germans so they could rob them. A wild terror began. The Ukrainians surrendered to the Germans those Jews who had been active with the Soviets. Among the first victims was Manye Vaynshteyn, whom I mentioned earlier.
I want to say that before the Germans came into Radzivilov, my two brothers and I, with the assent of our families, had decided to flee because it was said that the Germans would capture men in particular. But as stated, fleeing was not possible. Even Grinshteyn, who had his own horse and wagon, was forced to turn back after he left because the Germans had already run ahead.
The First Decrees
The German authorities officially recognized the Ukrainian selfadministration, and the Germans gave the administration broad powers.
At the beginning of July 1941, the German regional commissioner from Dubno appointed a German commandant in Radzivilov. Several SS officers came along with him and instituted the German command. The command promptly issued several antiSemitic orders:
The Jews understood immediately that Jewish life would be outlawed, but with just these orders it would not be ended.
On the July 15, 1941, a group of Gestapo men arrived and asked the Ukrainian administration for two lists: (1) especially harmful Jews and (2) propertied Jews.
For the first list, the Ukrainians counted the Jews with whom they had previously had personal accounts and former Soviet activists, such as Manye Vaynshteyn and others.
For the second list, they counted especially wealthy Jews and also those who had turned over their possessions to Ukrainians for safekeepinghoping to get rid of them that way. Among others, the second list included Zalman Leviton, Shimon Marder, Duvid Vaser, Ester Grinsman, the Chomut brothers, and so on.
On the same day, Gestapo with whips drove a group of Jews out to the Brody forest in order to dig a pit, not far from the train line between Brody and Radzivilov. The Jews were later shot. We heard about this from a survivor who managed to escape, Leyb Rakhentses.
The next morning, a band of Ukrainians went into the Great Synagogue, threw the Torah scrolls out into the street, and set them on fire. They forced the town rabbi, Rabbi Yitschak Lerner, to dance around the fire.
The First Jewish Committee
In view of the tense situation, a Jewish committee was organized. It was to be a liaison with the German authorities so that Jewish life would not be destroyed. Viderhorn served as the head of the committee.
Viderhorn was a Hungarian Jew who knew German well, and Hungarian and other languages too. Although he was an assimilated Jew, he had a pure Jewish heart and a clear conscience.
Viderhorn headed the committee, thinking that the Germans would deal with representatives from an organized Jewish body and would to some degree restrain the Ukrainians. After a while, when Viderhorn was convinced that the committee was only a tool in German hands to press the Jews for money and valuables and to help the German authorities carry out their orders, he removed himself from the office, wanting to keep his conscience clear.
Viderhorn was a personal friend of mine. He had earlier turned to me to take his place as president of the committee. I answered him, Don't you know me, that I with my character will not and cannot be a compliant conduit for German orders. I rejected his proposition. Then Viderhorn sent me the commandant of the Ukrainian police, Misha Zalevski, a school friend of my brother's, thinkng he might convonce on me. I answered the commandant:
My whole life I have been a giver and not a taker. And I cannot take the last bit of bread from the mouths of the Jews.
So whom should I appoint? the commandant asked.
In the end, when he saw that he would get nowhere with me, he designated Hersh Lizak as president. But he was not the right candidate, and a few days later Yakov Furman was designated as president.
The Radzivilov Judenrat
The Germans wanted to broaden the legal powers of the committee and so ordered that the committee reorganize itself as a Judenrat.
Yakov Furman, the president, was the appropriate candidate for such an institution.
As a person, he was an egoist with a strong character; he kept his own accounting: on the account of the general catastrophe, he wanted to improve his own life and that of his family.
As president, he thought, he could save his own life; it was not important what he didas long as he stayed alive. Of course, Furman was far from any sentimentality and was an obedient instrument for the Gestapo.
The Judenrat worked with diligence. All orders from the German authorities were fulfilled without delay.
The Judenrat began to pump the possessions out of the Jewish population. In handing the contributions over to the Germans, he did not forget to leave certain sums of money and valuable articles for himself.
The Jewish police were an obedient tool of the Judenrat. They used to drive Jews from their houses to their work, requisition various valuables, and play other such games.
Decrees came one after another. (I have written more about them in my memoirs; see The Destruction of Radzivilov.)
On December 20, 1941, there came an order from the commissar of the Dubno area to exchange the white armbands for yellow patches. On February 2, the Gestapo ordered the surrender of wedding rings.
The Judenrat, on the Gestapo's order, ordered some workers to be gathered and sent them to the labor camp in Vinnitsa. They were later killed there. The sole survivor from Radzivilov, Porokhovnik, tells about this. Among those deported to Vinnitsa was also my younger brother, Avraham Vaynshteyn.
On March 5, 1942, a lot of farm wagons filled with peasants and Germans drove into town. The Jews thought that some kind of action was being prepared. Many Jews got into hideouts, whoever, wherever they could. Later it appeared that they had been preparing for a robbery action. The Germans and Ukrainians went from house to house and took everything that had any value at all.
The aforementioned mayor Mateyko directed the robbery action.
A decree came on April 9, 1942, that in the next 24 hours the Jews must leave their residences and move into the quarters designated for them in the alleyways of the poorest Jewish section.
At that time, it was ordered that all Jews in the vicinity of Radzivilov leave their homes and move to Radzivilov, into the ghetto. As it happened, the Radzivilov ghetto already had a registered population of 2,600 souls.
The Judenrat had no easy task in meting out the places. The area was small, and people quarreled. Besides that, people slept in attics, in cellars, wherever they could.
Because of the extraordinary crowding, terrible sanitary conditions, and poor maintenance, a number of diseases spread through the ghetto. Epidemics were an everyday occurrence. Jewish and Ukrainian police guarded the ghetto, which was fenced in with barbed wire.
The Jews had to go to various kinds of work outside the ghetto. Each one could bring along something to eat. In addition, they had to do business with the Christian population. There were several ways to smuggle food into the ghetto. The Jewish police did business with the Ukrainian police. Some peasant friends used to toss food packages over the barbed wire. Later, the situation became much worse, when the police began to persecute the Christians who approached the barbed wire.
When I went out to work at the sawmill, I would bring in food for my family. Marianna was an elderly Christian woman, and the times had not changed her. She was a friend to the Jews and, disregarding the severe penalties that awaited her, she helped us in any way she could.
Dividing up the Ghetto
The Germans ordered the Judenrat to divide the ghetto into the useful and the not useful.
The useful would need to get special permits and live in the part of the ghetto that, among ourselves, we called Korea.
The not useful did not get any permits and had to live in the area by the river.
When the Judenrat started to put together the list of the useful, there was a rush for permits. In the process, all the means disappeared, and not without the help of the Judenrat. It turned out that many useful people did not get permits, and specialists who had responsible work had to move by the river.
Of the 2,600 Jews who lived in the Radzivilov ghetto, only 400 received permits. The other 2,200 were designated for immediate destruction.
The idea that the not useful would be killed was confirmed by a report from Rovno and its environs that the Jews there who did not have permits had been shot.
So 440 lucky permitees remained in Korea; 2,200 went off by the river.
My younger brother Siunye and I got permits, thanks to the intercession of director Tushakovski, who provided proof that we were employed at the sawmill.
My parents did not get any permits, of course, and were moved from the Korea side to the river side, where we had been earlier for a short time, but now I had my permit in my pocket.
The Liquidation of the Ghetto by the River
The misfortune came completely unexpectedly. We barely succeeded in getting out, my wife and our two sleeping children in our arms. We ran to the ghetto gate. The police were not going to let us through, but I was able to show my work permit. After a lot of cursing, they let us through.
When we got over to the lucky side, the nervousness of the Jews there was palpable. Everyone was on guard.
Groups of SS men encircled the not useful ghetto on June 29, 1942. The action began. Armed from head to foot, they went from house to house and drove everyone out into the street. Whoever they found hiding, they shot on the spot.
Everyone was driven to the synagogue courtyard, where men were separated into one group and women and children into another. Among those men were the rabbi of Radzivilov, Rabbi Yitschak Lerner, of blessed memory; my father, Shmuel Vaynshteyn, of blessed memory; Yisrael Reyf; Hirsh Linder; and many other important proprietors from the town, of blessed memory.
Those who had been shot were loaded onto peasant farm wagons and taken to the forest. The men were taken to the train under armed guard. Later someone saw that they had turned around to the direction of the clearing by the forest, which led to the Radzivilover wood. Pits had been prepared there, dug by Russian prisoners of war.
At the pits they were surrounded and ordered to undress completely, and the SS began shooting with machine guns. No matter who got a bullet and who didn't, they were all thrown into the pit and then shot through with the machine guns.
After the Germans had finished shooting the men, they came back into the ghetto and repeated the same thing with the women and children.
They led them along the same path as the grave for the men, where a grave was ready for them.
Two graves, one next to the other, located at the clearing in the Radzivilov forest.
Thus the Germans liquidated the not useful ghetto.
I lost my dear parents in that action. After that action, the Germans drove a group of people from the useful ghetto to wash off the bloodstains. I was among that group. At the first opportunity, I ran off to my apartment, where my parents had been. I searched for them in the hideout that I had made earlier and camouflaged for them. I hoped that they had succeeded in hiding. But nothing. They were killed along with all the Jews in the liquidation of the ghetto.
The Useful Ghetto
After the liquidation of the not useful ghetto, I was left with my wife and two sons. The Judenrat and the Jewish police went wild in the ghetto.
Physically and morally shattered, having lost their nearest ones, everyone asked the question: what next? How long would we be allowed to live? Each person understood that the Germans had not granted life for long, so each person began to seek a way out. Fleeing into the forest was not possible because the Christian population was antiSemitic and would turn Jews over at every opportunity.
Plans were hatched about how to dig hideouts. Anyone who knew a good Christian hoped for his help. Jews became secretive. Each hid his plans from the other. People began to fabricate Aryan papers for hefty prices. I managed to get such papers for myself and my wife, who at that time worked as an interpreter for a Christian attorney, Gorski. She went to the post office frequently. Once she was badly beaten by the Commandant Krause for walking around in town.
The Liquidation of the Second Ghetto
Bitter days drew closer. Reports reached us that the Germans were preparing to murder the children in the ghetto. We began to fear leaving the children in the ghetto when we went out to work. So we decided that each of us would take one child to work with us.
I took one son with me. When I arrived at the sawmill to work, I hid him among the boards. My wife did the same with the other son.
At that time, news reached us that the complete liquidation of Volhynia Jews was underway.
At the end of September 1942, news spread that the Russian prisoners of war were digging more pits. No doubt remained for anyone that the pits were being dug for us. We did not wait; we had to decide what to do.
A group of Jews put together a list of the previously mentioned Jews and a list of the living ones, wrote it on parchment, placed it in glass jars, and buried it in the vicinity of the Great Synagogue, in order that someone, someday, would know about the destruction of the Radzivilov Jewish community.
On September 29, 1942, the German and Ukrainian police began to concentrate around the ghetto. Feeling the danger, I was able to take one child and to tell my wife that she should do the sametake the other childand that we would meet at an arranged place in the former not useful ghetto. And so it was: we met in an attic above a little room.
While the ghetto was surrounded, a group of Jewsnot seeing any other way outhad committed suicide by poisoning themselves. Dr. Veber had made poison injections for the pharmacist Dubtshak and his wife and later for Yakov Kitas and his wife, Sashe Boym and his son, and Duvid Margules and his wife.
Finally, Dr. Veber injected his wife, his only child, and then himself with doses of poison. Zalman Goldshmid committed suicide by hanging himself. That is how the group of Jews who did not want to be murdered by the Germans died.
The Germans tore into the ghetto, and just as they had done four months before, they drovethis time men, women and children togetherto those pits at the clearing.
True, before the slaughter, a couple of hundred Jews succeeded in running away, but some of them were caught, brought back, and shot.
I must remark that at the liquidation of the useful Jews, they brought the former president of the first committee, Viderhorn, in a car. The Germans offered him (unofficially) an opportunity to flee, but the noble man with the clear conscience refused and was murdered along with his parents, wife, and two children.
We Flee to Brody
At that time, I was sitting hidden in the attic with my wife and children. But we could not sit there for long. The only way out was to flee to Brody, where my wife had a sister.
Some Jews who had managed to flee before the action had already set out for Brody. Some were felled by bullets along the way.
When my family and I left the attic, I went to the peasant Fayshula, who lived in the vicinity of the not useful ghetto. (After the liquidation, the Christians were allowed to return there to the empty ghetto to their former apartments.) The peasant did not let us in, but he advised us about the way to Brody, across the river. One could not go via the bridge because it was being guarded by the police.
At the bridge, I met a group of Jews that included the rabbi's son, Rabbi Dudel Rotenberg. First I carried both children across in my arms, then my wife. The water was as high as my neck. A Christian, seeing our situation and that we were wet, took us into his house. We stayed there until it was night.
The husband gave us a piece of bread, and we went across the river a second time. In the morning, we arrived safely in Brody.
In Brody, the situation for Jews was not so dangerous. A few Jews even lived in their houses with their families. For security, my wife and I separated, each with a child, so that we would not all be together. Around that time, the Radzivilov police came down to Brody looking for Jews who had run away from Radzivilov.
It was there in Brody, six days after we fled, that we knew the exact details about the liquidation of the useful ghetto, about which I have just written. The liquidation took place on October 6, 1942.
My wife and one child had located in her sister's home. When I went to visit her, I saw that the nephew was sweating and looking for a place to hide. I discussed with him the idea of taking us into his hiding place, too.
A third action was being prepared in Brody at that time. It was already the end of October 1942. Before the action, we all went to a familiar peasant, a Ukrainian, and he hid us in the attic of a sawmill.
The action happened during that time. Hiding in the attic, we observed how the Germans caught the Jews, stuffed them into trucks, and took them off someplace. We saw that the Jews were halfnaked, and when a policeman wanted to free one of his Jews from the truck, he dragged him from the truck halfnaked and unconscious.
In the Attic Hiding Place in the Brody Sawmill
There were 12 of us Jews hiding in the attic. Not even the sawmill director himself knew we were there. During the action, when German police were looking everywhere for hidden Jews, they also came into the sawmill to search, but the director went out and assured them that there were no Jews in the vicinity of the sawmill.
The police went away.
We could not stay in the attic for long. There was no food. Besides that, there was a small child among us. Once, when the child had to empty his bladder, he moistened a worker in the sawmilla peasant. The peasant thought it was rain from the roof, so he came up to the attic to see where the rain was coming in. I saw that it was bad; he could see all of us in the attic and reveal our hideout. I had a flask of whisky with me. I went out to him with the flask of whisky and said, You see us sitting here, 12 Jews in hiding. Our fate is in your hands. You can give us all away to the Germans, and then we're lost. But if you believe in God and you have a clean conscience and a humane heartyou will forbid yourself from doing so. Consider it well before you send us to our deaths. Our fate is sealed, but meanwhile we have a spark of hope that we might survive. The peasant took the flask of whisky and did not betray us to the Germans.
We Leave Our Attic
I made an assessment of our situation, and sitting in an attic in Brody was not a plan for us, so I figured out how to leave Brody.
While I was still in the Radzivilov ghetto, I had discussed with one of the big shots where places existed that we could be hidden. The big shot was Simche Semigran. He and Tsvi Kiperman's family left the ghetto in time and hid with peasants that they knew. I had lost contact with him. But he had given me the name of a Christian, Mitka, who would care for me the same as for them. But where was this Mitka?
I asked the Christian who had hidden us in the attic to put me in contact with Mitka from Radzivilov, according to the code that I had been given. The peasant did so, and a little while later Mitka arrived.
But he explained to me that he could not take me and my family, but only me alone for now, and that he could take my family across later. I agreed to that. Mitka contacted a peasant who settled me in his wagon and drove me to a farmhouse in a field about halfway between Radzivilov and Dubno. Later, the peasant did indeed bring my family to me in one piece. I had also proposed that the peasant drive the Mandel family to us as well, but they did not want to risk it and refused my suggestion.
In a Fresh Hiding Place
The peasant and I began digging a hole in a stall where a cow was kept with a goat and a pig. We dug the hole in the place where the pig was kept. We dug the hole two meters long, one meter wide, and more than one meter high. That hole would have to be our home, the hiding place for four people.
We set up a wooden cone, hammered together with boards. When the peasant or his wife had to bring out food to us, they would lift up the cone and hand the food to us. From time to time, I would take one child and go out of the hole and go to sleep at the peasant's house in order to stretch out my body. A big dog stood watch in the yard, and when the dog started to bark, we knew that someone was approaching the hut, and we quickly crept back into the hole. We paid the peasant well for hiding and feeding us.
Although our hideout was in a farmhouse, wandering Jews stumbled onto the place from time to time, seeking food. Once, such Jews remarked on my sleeping son to the peasant. Mrs. Peasant said that he was her sister's child, but when the child woke up and asked her to take him to the outhouse, the Jews knew that he was a Jewish child.
Once, a Jew asked the peasant's wife if she would let him stay overnight. She would not take him in. I refused my food and asked her to give it to that Jew. She gave it to the Jew to eat but told him to leave the place at once.
We Leave the Hiding Place
And so my family stayed put in the hideout for seven months. In May 1943, we had to leave the place because a neighboring peasant woman had accidentally noticed my wife. The peasant who was our keeper soon also wanted to be rid of us, but he was decent, and he transported us back to Mitka. Mitka showed us to a new temporary address not far from the place where Semigran and Tsvi Kiperman had been hiding. The place was not far from the Radzivilov Jews' mass graves.
In a New Place
At our new keeper's, we were placed with a big hideout in a barn full of grain. From there, I sent the peasant Petra to find out the fate of my fatherinlaw, Yakov Goldenshteyn, in Brody.
Yakov Goldenshteyn was an electrotechnician and one of the few surviving Jews after the liquidation of the Brody ghetto. I sent two messengers to him and his wife; unfortunately, they did not find Goldenshteyn. He had been caught and shot. The peasant did bring his wife to us. She had been hidden by a Christian named Lina (the Christian is now in Israel).
This was after the Germans' defeat at Stalingrad. We knew that the Germans would stable horses in the barn where we were hiding. We would have to leave the place directly. According to a gentlemen's agreement, we went on to Semigran and Kiperman's hideout.
There were already 12 people gathered there. It was very crowded. Besides, Semigran was ill with tuberculosis. Because of the crowding, I did not want to stay in that hideout, fearing that we could all be infected with tuberculosis. I was forced to find a new place.
At that time, the Russians were getting closer to us. The Russian army was already three kilometers from our place. That is where the front was. I went out to look for a new hideout and met Treybitsh (now in America) and Sheyndil Zats (now living in Tel Aviv). They showed me a place where we could hide in a cellar.
I left my wife and children in Semigran's hideout and went by myself with an 18yearold peasant to find the new hideout. The peasant was also hiding from the Germans. He was afraid that he would be deported to Germany.
During that time, the Russians moved forward, and Semigran and Kiperman's hideout, where my wife and children were hiding, was captured by the Russians.
The village passed from hand to hand seven times. Many were killed on both sides. When I heard Russian being spoken, I went out with the peasant. The Russians forced us to bury the dead. I asked him to come later and make an announcement, since my wife and children were waiting for me. And so it was. When he related that my family was waiting for me, the Russians released us.
But getting to the hideout where my family was, was no simple task. The Germans had organized a counteroffensive and the road was shot up. The Russians retreated. I asked the Russian soldiers not to leave me and to take me with them in a wagon because I had no more strength to go on. But they refused.
Gathering my last strength, hungry and weary, I went back in the direction of the hideout where my wife and children were.
When I got to the place, I could not find my family or the others there. There were other peasants there who were awaiting the outcome of the battle. There were partisans. They asked me to go into the hideout so that I would not be noticed by the neighbors. I obeyed them and went into the hideout.
Inside, I was attacked by insects, flies, and they bit me all over. I realized that my wife and the othersKiperman and Semigranhad left for Radzivilov. I knocked on the proprietor's door, and he opened the hideout for me. After great pains, I arrived several hours later in Radzivilov, which had been freed by the Russians.
In Radzivilov, not far from the Great Synagogue, I found an empty apartment with the few saved Jews: Semigran and his family, Kiperman and his family, Treybitsh, Sheyndil Zats Oks, and a niece, Feldman. Every day, some hidden Jews came back into Radzivilov.
The Soviets signed up all the men to be firefighters. Radzivilov returned to the same administration that it had had before the war.
The Soviets began to deport Ukrainians and Jews to Siberia. I saw that I, too, could be deported to Siberia and turned to a nonJew, a former school chum of my brother Siunye, who had become manager of the finance department, and asked him to take me on as a worker. He replied that he would not take on a former bourgeois in a Soviet institution. I persuaded him that we should turn to the Party secretary about my case. The secretary gave his permission. I started work.
In a few days, there was an announcement that someone should be sent to take a course in Kharkov.
I agreed to travel to the course under the condition that my family be moved to Rovno. The Soviets agreed.
When I finished the threemonth course in Kharkov, I returned to my family in Rovno. I was sent to work at the regional finance committee. I was given housing in a former Jewish house. I lived in Rovno until the deportations to Poland began.
After the end of the war, I went to Poland and settled in Beuthen, where I lived until the summer of 1946. Then I moved to Germany and settled in Hofgeismar bei Kassel. There, I worked in a camp where there were 2,500 Jewish refugees.
In the refugee camp, I was chosen as one of five judges in the court that resolved various conflicts among the refugees, administration, and so on. We had no dealings with the Germans.
|Court in Camp Hofgeismar, Germany (with Yitschak Vaynshteyn) [page 209]|
In November, my family and I moved to England and settled in the town of Nottingham. For the first six years, I worked as a hat maker. Later, I opened my own business.
In 1953, my wife died at the age of 50.
My older son, Yosef, immigrated to Israel in 1956. The younger son, Shimon, remained in England.
I came to Israel in August 1961.
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