by Simcha Weissbuch
Translated by Moshe Devere
A town on a hill on the bank of a stream with narrow, filthy streets, small and low old houses with clay walls. In 1926, there were 2,697 Jews living there, comprising 61.1% of the population. Before World War II, 3,500-4000 Jews lived in the town, about 90% of its inhabitants, who were organized in their own separate kolkhoz [community].
About a month after Romania entered the war against the Soviet Union on July 22, 1941, the German-Romanian army occupied the town. In the fall of 1941, 1800 local Jews still lived. The rest left with the Soviet army, or were evacuated at the beginning of the war.
The German occupation authorities set up a local authority in Shargorod, controlled by Ukrainian nationalists who were very cruel to the Jews. The Jewish houses were marked by a star, and the local Jews had to wear the yellow patch. The Jews were headed by a committee called the Obshechina. At the outbreak of the war, 700 Jews who fled Bessarabia arrived after being rescued from pogroms by the GermanRomanian armies. Speaking the Ukrainian language, they integrated with the local population without difficulty. Two of them were co-opted to the local Obshechina.
In October 1941, convoys of deportees from Bucovina began arriving. Usually, each convoy comprised deportees from one or two communities headed by longtime leaders. For the first to arrive was an 800-person group from Suceava with the group's leader, Dr. Meir Teich. The local Jewish Committee welcomed the new arrivals and assisted them to the best of its ability. Mainly housing them in the homes of the town's Jews at no charge. A few days later, another convoy composed of 400 people from Kimpolung arrived. They had no place in the Jewish apartments and they had to huddle in destroyed and abandoned houses.
In the whole town, there were 337 old houses with 842 rooms in which 2-3 people could live. They were all housed with some living in Ukrainian homes. Since the severe -40° frosts of the winter of 1941 began, even the deportees from the nearby villages escaped to Shargorod. There they previously lived in harsh quarantine conditions, including Adv. Scheim, who escaped from Vinnytski and Engineer Schwartz, who escaped from Proskurovka and found refuge there until the liberation.
In November 1941, at the height of the cold, another convoy of about 900 deportees from Dorohoi Province arrived. The next day, the group was about to continue on their way to the Bug [River].
The convoy consisted mostly of elderly people, women, and children. Had they continued on their way in the terrible cold, most, if not all of them, would have perished. The subdistrict Governor did not respond to the request of the Dorohoi deportees to remain in Shargorod, at least until the weather improved. Indeed, the convoy set off, but luckily encountered a group of peasant women who came to the city to sell their produce. Seeing the dire situation of the wanderers, they distributed all the foodstuffs they had to the convoy at no charge, and then went to the subdistrict governor and tearfully begged him not to expel the miserable ones.
Following this appeal, the people of Dorohoi were allowed to remain in Shargorod until the spring. They were housed in two synagogues that were evacuated for this purpose by order of the authorities. This noble act by Christians who saved the lives of many Jews places them among the Righteous Gentiles.
The authorities and the regime
When the first deportees arrived, two government heads were found, one was a Ukrainian, a former priest, who at the time was among the Fatliyora people, and a Romanian government representative in charge of the Shargorod Prefect, a Yussip Dindelgan, who arrived in the city just two days before the deportees arrived. He was a violent man, with a split personality. As a result, his behavior toward the deportees fluctuated all the time. On the one hand, he promised to safeguard Jewish life to some extent by removing Ukrainian militiamen. On the other hand, he sometimes acted with unbridled cruelty toward the Jews. He also ordered the gendarmes to impose physical punishment on the Jews every day and even flogged them himself. On March 20, 1942, on his orders, six Jews from Djurin who came to visit their relatives were shot in the town's cemetery. In April of that year, two Jews were shot for other minor offenses. The Romanian gendarme's station that dominated the Shargorod Prefect was first headed by Lieutenant Grama, who received payments from the Jews every month to protect them from the Ukrainian nationalists.
The station was subordinate to the commander of the Gendarmes Legion in Mogilev, for a time, a Major Urashno. The man treated the Jews cruelly. At times, he sent the Jews to death camps, a decree that hovered over them, until it was canceled in exchange for a considerable sum, a ransom. The Ukrainian militia continued to operate for a time. Its policemen would beat Jews on various pretexts. Anyone caught outside the ghetto was shot on the spot.
Living conditions in the ghetto
A ghetto was set up on in Shargorod and in December 1941, about 7,000 deportees were terribly crammed into 337 houses, synagogues, public institutions, basements and attics. There were no firewood, soap or disinfectants, nor amenities to be had. The streets were filled with filth and a stench rose from the water wells. Most people exhausted everything they had. Food prices soared in the face of high demand and hunger was severe. Most deportees traded old clothes, cigarettes and matches for food. Despite the significant risk in leaving the ghetto, many tried to get food in the nearby villages.
In December 1941, a typhus epidemic broke out, which quickly spread throughout the entire town. Thus, the town became a focal point of disease. Already, in the early days of the outbreak of the pandemic, hundreds of people perished. Nearly 75-80% of the deportees sickened and about 40% of them died. The local population was less affected because it suffered from this disease over the years, which usually grants immunity throughout life. The epidemic peaked in February and March 1942.
The infectious disease ward at the town's municipal hospital had only 25 beds, and there were almost no medicines to be found. Among the deportees were 27 doctors from Bucovina. They fought the disease with devotion, but the 27 became ill and 12 of them died. From Suceava, Dr. Avraham Reicher, Vice-Chairman of the Jewish Committee, Dr. Baruch Hart, Dr. Yosef Wucher, Dr. Aharon Hermann, Dr. Segal, Dr. D. Schieber, Dr. P. Kraemer, Dr. Fishel, Dr. escherichia, Dr. Wagner, and others. Some doctors recovered, such as Dr. A. Weitman, Dr. MargolisKahrnar, and others. The plague particularly decimated the children. Dr. A. Hoch, a gynecologist, worked at the hospital where Dr. L. Schaeffer also worked. For a period, the department also served as a clinic to treat women. Dr. Merdler worked in the Infectious Disease ward, and Dr. L. Shapira was the doctor to the Pretor [or Praetor, the Magistrate]. Several doctors suicided, such as Dr. Wagner in Mogilev, Dr. M. Aronovici and his wife in KamenetsPodolsk, and Dr. Salomovich also attempted suicide but was unsuccessful.
The severe pandemic subsided in April 1942 and in the winter of 1942-1943, the number of people who perished there went down to 21. The medical service also treated 39 dysentery patients, 8 of whom died. An infectious hepatitis C epidemic affected more than half the population, but there were no casualties. Several people died of typhus, including Susia Weitman, Dr. Adolf Weitman's father.
It was only in December 1942 that Dr. Fielderman, Chairman of the Romanian Jewish Association, received permission
from Marshal Antonescu (the two were in the same high-school class) to provide aid from Romanian Jews for the deportees. Thus, a small pharmacy was established in the building where the ghetto management was located, under the leadership of Paula DenkerBerntal and Rafael Aronovici. When large quantities of medicines arrived, they were provided for free to the needy. Over two and a half years, 1,500 people perished in Shargorod, over 1,400 of them in the typhus epidemic.
Mass graves for the dead were excavated in the cemetery. The cold was so intense that the undertakers (Diamant, Saldinger and others) had to light bonfires to thaw the earth before they could dig the graves. The death toll increased every day. There were days when over 150 people died. The mortality rate also increased because of the cold and hunger, and a cart passed and collected the dead people who froze overnight, and transported them to the cemetery. People fell over and died in the street. During that time, again, no one could help anyone else or the one closest to him. In the streets, shadows of a man dressed in sacks wandered, abandoned to the cold and starvation.
During this period, an operation was organized and regulations were put in place at the initiative of a group of activists headed by Dr. Meir Teich. Thus, the head of the group from Suceava with money, saved three institutions: A bakery where bread was baked and sold cheaply, a soup kitchen that provided up to 200 bowls of every day for Suceava veterans, and a cooperative, a kind of small store, which provided essential products, headed by P. Glueckman, A. Schor, A. Kolber and others.
Those who did not come in an organized group, such as the deportees from Vatra-Dornei, Czernowitz, Wiśnica and Dorohoi, were left with no support. Therefore, in early November 1941, it established a unified leadership for all ghetto groups.
A twenty-five-member council was formed comprising three or four representatives from each community and three members from the local committee. Of these twenty-five, a six-member committee was chosen. The Committee chairman was Dr. Meir Teich and his vice-chairman was Dr. Avraham Reicher. The new ghetto leadership established various services, foremost was concern for the ghetto's security. To this end, the Committee organized self-defense, which pledged to stand against the abuses of the Ukrainian militia that tortured the Jews by day and robbed them at night. Therefore, the Committee demanded permission from the authorities to establish a Jewish Police force. Despite the protests by the head of the Ukrainian government, the Romanian representative in charge of the subdistrict eventually approved the Committee's request.
That the two local rulers were at odds with each other helped a lot in getting the approval. Indeed, the Jewish Police were established after the Ukrainian representative was removed. For several weeks, the security of the town was entrusted to the Jewish Police until a Romanian military unit arrived. The Jewish Police included 17 young men, headed by Adv. Dr. Koch of Kimpolung, who was a former reserve officer.
Among them were two local Jews who later joined the partisans. Besides protecting the ghetto, the Jewish Police also had to maintain contact with the unit of Romanian gendarmes stationed there. The voluntary committee's field of activity quickly expanded. It had to represent the Jews before the authorities and maintain contact with the Jewish organizations in Romania. Most of its operation was directed toward developing services that would enable regular life and ghetto rehabilitation activities. Each of the services established was headed by one of the Committee members. These services employed officials who also worked for the first few weeks without pay but were subsequently received modest salaries and food rations. The soup kitchen under the leadership of Adv. S. Klueger increased the number of meals to 1500 per day, the bakery increased its output until it met all the needs. The cooperatives were expanded, and they could get the essentials, as well as setting up clothing and food warehouses.
Later, the Committee established an agricultural farm on ten dunams of land that was made available to the community by the local authorities. Among others, L. Weitman, Z. Weitman, and A. Ebner of Suceava worked there. The farm's produce helped meet the ghetto's needs. The medical service expanded the hut that served as an isolation ward for patients with infectious diseases. Besides the municipal hospital, which was gradually transferred from the Ukrainians to the Jews, a second hospital with 200 beds was organized, as well as a ward for prevention and disinfection.
The technical service established a sanitation station with several shower rooms and two disinfectant ovens installed, and disinfections were carried out for people, household items, and clothing. Likewise, the technical service also restored the power plant, which provided power to the institutions. In one of the water supply facilities, a steam bath was operated. Also, the wells were cleaned and fenced in. In addition, public toilets were built and a street-cleaning service was organized. A soap workshop was established that provided all the needs of the Jewish population. Over time, the committee also organized several additional services, such as a personal situation registration office, managed by three lawyers, as well as a tax service that recorded the voluntary donations and imposed direct and indirect taxes.
Over time, many deportees infiltrated from all over the area, including Ukrainian Jews who escaped from the area beyond Bug, where the Germans were in control. On June 30, 1942,
the authorities evacuated some of them to nearby villages, and the Chairman of the Jewish Committee had to guarantee that deportees would no longer infiltrate the ghetto. However, in various ways, the Committee could hide Jewish deportees and refugees who joined the ghetto. To this end, the Committee exercised its right to issue identity cards given to the deportees earlier on behalf of Gendarmerie headquarters in Mogilev. In this way, about 400 refugees who were not registered or registered under false names, were hidden and thus saved.
The orphanage as a cultural center
On the first winter of their stay, many children were orphaned, 186 of them from both father and mother. They became beggars, abandoned to disease and famine. When regular aid deliveries began arriving from Romania, an orphanage was organized. This institution absorbed the 186 orphans and about 400 other children who were orphaned from one of the parents, enjoyed two meals a day.
They were from 1 to 15 years old and were in extremely poor condition. The children suffered from malnutrition, anemia, skin diseases, were filthy and naked. They received treatment, education and guidance under the direction of teacher Dr. Rosa Levy of Suceava.
One member of the Jewish Committee was responsible for the orphanage where a Hebrew teacher, nanny, nurse, gym teacher and seamstress were employed. Prof. Frieda Wigder of Suceava also taught several children in her apartment who did not have books or notebooks in all the subjects since she had always given lessons to children.
The orphanage was housed in a large building outside the town, in a sprawling garden. The children were divided into classes by age, and were also instructed in several crafts. Under the guidance of their educators, a social and cultural atmosphere was created, and even plays about ghetto life were put on. Also featured was an amateur band composed of members from the Zionist Youth movement. Similarly, there was a group from Beitar, headed by L. Schaerf and A. Klueger. The direction of artistic activity was by a 17-year-old young man, the same Libby Schaerf, later a professor at Tel Hashomer Hospital. He composed several plays, ballads, and stories whose subjects were drawn from ghetto life (Shargorod Kinder, Typhus in the Ghetto, Shargorod Tango, A. Tearful Song, etc.) and even wrote the history of the place in a literary manner. The composer, Mottel Polanski, a native of Yedinitz in Bessarabia, who previously took part in the Yiddish Theater in Bucharest, organized concerts in the ghetto. The orphanage operated until the spring of 1944, when all orphans from Transnistria were returned to Romania.
Help from outside
Even before support from the Assistance Committee in Bucharest arrived, the local Jewish Committee had secretly received unexpected help from some Ukrainian government officials. The Ukrainian cooperative provided food needed by the ghetto Jews. The director of the state flour mill, a local German Julius AndrejevicMoore, who publicly wore a swastika on his chest, secretly provided large quantities of flour to the Jewish Committee. Before Passover, he even prepared the mill and distributed flour to the Jews to make matzot. It was unbelievable!
The sums of money were transferred through couriers who took at least 30% of the amount given to the Jews, and sometimes the money did not arrive at all. In December 1943, a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross, headed by Charles Kolb, visited the ghetto. Likewise, a Jewish delegation from Romania (P. Shraga, Y. Artzi and others) visited the ghettos in Transnistria with explicit directive from Governor [Gheorghe] Alexianu not to contact the ghetto administration. However, the Shargorod ghetto management conveyed information about what was happening in Shargorod and provided them with documents from the ghetto archives.
In the spring of 1942, the provincial authorities demanded that the first labor detachment be sent to work nearby. The ghetto management used every possible pretext to evade this demand. The result was that gendarmes began hunting people in the streets and in houses. More people than necessary were taken than what was necessary to enable those who could to pay bribes for their release.
In order to prevent such phenomena, the Jewish Committee took it on itself to organize the work. It established a work bureau, which prepared lists of workers on a more equitable scale, such as suitability in terms of age, health, marital status, etc. And so, three of the best doctors were added to determine three groups according to the following scheme: 1) People who could carry out all types of work outside the town. 2) Those who could only work inside the town. 3) Those who were unqualified for any work. The first group included only people aged 20-45 and not 12-60, as previously required. In the second groups were people aged 46-55. Women were taken only for the lightest work. Similarly, the first were taken were bachelors aged 20 to 30 years, then married men of the same age, and later, the older ones.
Dr. Meir Teich claims in an article he wrote about what happened in Shargorod that others should be allowed to judge whether or not he acted properly, partly because he knew he was a controversial personality. In 1942, the Jews of Shargorod, Murafa and Djurin took part in the construction
of the Murafa-Ierusinca Road. The authorities promised payment for this work. For five months, 1,500 Jews recruited from various locations in the Mogilev district worked there.
Engineer S. Koenig, native of Suceava, was in charge of the works. The work-site doctor was Dr. A. Weitman. The workers were housed in kolkhoz huts or barns and were given a minimal lunch and dinner in Tubin. The promised wages were not given to the workers, but after their work was finished, 42 tons of barley, 5 tons of peas and small amounts of wheat, sugar, oil and salt were delivered to the ghetto committee. The committee handed over some of these supplies to the employees and divided the rest among the welfare institutions that supported the families of those who went to work. Portions were also set aside for Jews who were unable to work.
In October 1942, 200 Jews were sent from Shargorod to chop trees in the city of Ciubotarca near Kryzhopil, 130 km (80 miles) from Mogilev. Living and work conditions at the site were most harsh. Starvation and cold claimed many victims. During the same month, an order was issued to send 1,500 people; men up to the age of 60 and women up to the age of 50, to collect tobacco. However, only 1,100 people could be recruited. In the spring of 1943, an 80-man group headed toward Nestervarka in the Tulchyn district, and a second group of 175 walked toward Troiţa in the Ochakov district, where the Germans built a bridge over the Bug River. Others were sent to work in coal mines in the Balta. Many of the deportees died in these camps. Nine of them tried to return to the ghettos without permission, were captured by Romanian gendarmes and shot dead. Their burial place is unknown, only the month and year, June 1943, is known.
Among them were four Suceava veterans sent from Shargorod: Bibi Schmelzer, Marzel Sperber, Zvi Becker and A. Avraham. Hardy Kolber was caught running away from Tulchyn and sent to a prison in Tereshpol'. Before the Germans withdrew, they took the inmates out of the prison and shot them. Among those who managed to return safely from Troiţa were Shimon Weitman, Yitzchak Fallenbaum, and Ḥaim Neuberger. During this period, workers were also required to work on farms and in factories around Shargorod. Thirty Jews were sent to Kozachëvka Farm, 60 km from the town. Likewise, several veterans from Suceava worked in sugar factories in Derebchyn. They enjoyed better conditions. Among them were L. Schleier, J. Nussbrauch, B. Schieber, M. Hurtig, M. Tein and others.
After the pandemic stopped and the famine no longer claimed casualties, the Jews began to keep the Shabbat and holidays. There were four synagogues, one of which was a large stone-built one, built in 1492. During Soviet rule, synagogues became grocery stores and merchandise warehouses,
except for one, the smallest. In fall of 1942, the Jewish Committee got permission to reopen the doors of the Great Synagogue.
For Kol Nidre of Yom Kippur night, all the Jews of the town gathered as a shochet (ritual slaughterer) from Kimpolung led the prayers and held a memorial service for the 1,500 who perished in the ghetto. From then until the Russians arrived, the Great Synagogue remained open. Weddings, ceremonies for circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, etc., were held there, as well as quorums, both on weekdays and on Shabbat and holidays.
Already in 1942, the activities of a partisan group in the town's vicinity were known. Its commander, N. Malinsky, communicated through Tolstoy, a Ukrainian official, with some of the committee members, who offered material help to the group. In January 1943, the authorities in Zhmerynka discovered a secret organization and lists of some of the partisan leaders in Shargorod. The said N. Malinsky, Padia Stefanov and Dr. Dreishpitz were arrested and prosecuted before the
Military Tribunal in Tereshpol'. All were sentenced to 10 years in prison. N. Malinsky died in prison, and some of the sentenced escaped and find refuge in the Shargorod ghetto. Afterward, they were transferred to the partisans in the area.
When, in January 1944, the Romanian Police Secret Service demanded of the Jewish Committee in Shargorod to send two Jewish policemen to the village of Ivascauti to collect information about partisan groups, two partisans were sent together with the committee chairman. They arrived at partisan headquarters in the area and were welcomed by the commander of a Red Army Division, a Russian general, who had been parachuted in the area. He thanked the Jews for their support and promised them full support if necessary.
On March 16, 1944, as the Russians advanced, the Romanian authorities abandoned the area. Several German army units were still passing through the town, causing panic. The Jews hid in basements and pits excavated during the persecution, fearing that their fate would be like that of Derebchyn, where the Dobrowol'chyy murdered 11 Jews. According to the data of the Bucharest Assistance Committee, 3500 Deported Jews and 1800 locals were found in Shargorod in March 1943. In September of that year, Gendarmerie statistics listed 2731 deportees from Bucovina and 240 from Bessarabia. Besides them, there were also 345 veterans from Dorohoi Province at the time.
Thanks to mutual help because of internal organizing and volunteer operations, approximately 70% of the deportees brought there were saved. The people of Suceava were also joined by several local women who married men from Suceava, such as R. Srebravnich with Z. Bogen, P. Metzkina with S. Goldschmidt, as well as Dr. A. Weidenfeld, W. Giter, S. Grossman. The Romanian authorities then threatened to return them to the Soviet Union. There were some who remained in the Soviet Union, such as H. Hollinger, S. Landau, D. Wagner, G. Margolis, and others who disappeared there, such as G. Schulz, W. Roul, and S. Totober. Some people who fled from Romania to the Soviet Union in 1940 returned at the end of the war, including J. Gronich, H.L. Fuchs, J. Nussbrauch and others.
Phases of the liberation
At the end of December 1943, 649 Jews from Dorohoi were returned. On March 19, 1944, a Romanian sergeant arrived in the town accompanied by two soldiers. And one of them warned the Jews of the danger they faced when his unit would arrive; that their men used to kill all the Jews they encountered. The Jewish Committee informed the partisans and Soviet headquarters. That same night, armed partisans entered Shargorod and the next day, a Soviet cavalry unit arrived. In the afternoon, a division general arrived with Polkovnik (Colonel) Yehudi Stern. He warned the Jews, off the record, not to stay there under Soviet rule. That
evening, the committee chairman, together with the partisan commanders, signed a document handing the town over to the Red Army. When the Soviet secret police, the denouncing began.
The Soviet authorities demanded that Dr. Teich hand over all merchandise, food, clothing warehouses, medicines, and the ghetto fund, which contained a considerable amount. His pleas not to leave the Jewish population with no aid did not help. He was arrested and held in prison for four days, and eventually had to hand over everything, including ledgers and archives. A memo he sent to Stalin describing the status of the deportees and a request to return to their places remained unanswered.
The Soviet authorities recruited several dozen more Jews for work. During the first few weeks, some deportees left Shargorod to return to their original places. Those who stayed for a while but left afterward, arrived in the towns of Bereznyi and Belitsa in Bessarabia. But they were stuck there because the Soviet authorities prevented them from continuing on their way. It was only in April 1945 that they were allowed to return to their places. Because of the closure of the border between north and south Bucovina, Engineer D. Rachmut and his sister T. Rachmut of Suceava had to wait on the outskirts of Czernowitz. There they were shot dead by renegade General Bendrov's gangs who allied with the Germans and fought against the Red Army.
Dr. M. Teich was arrested again after being denounced again. He was held for questioning in a prison in Vinnytski until November 1944 (over six months), and then released after being acquitted of all charges. Returning to Shargorod in the spring of 1945, he still found 24 families who left the area near that time and arrived in Briceni, where they joined the others. Of the 150,000 deportees to Transnistria, about 90,000 died or were killed, including about 1,500 Jews from Suceava.
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