« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 289]

Translations by Moshe Devere

Rachel (Rela) (née Sternlieb) Brandes' Story

I was born in Suceava in 1927, to Reuven and Rosa (née Weissbuch). I was the younger sister of the late Sylvia, and after my brother, Shimon, the youngest son, was born. My childhood and all my early life were in the bosom of my family, who took care of all my needs.

I was deported with my family, like all the Jews in the city. We came to Shargorod, where we spent the deportation together with my maternal grandmother Krentze. After liberation by the Red Army, we all returned to our home exhausted but alive. We were happy that despite all the hardships, we all survived.

 

Suc289.jpg
Rela Brandes-Sternlieb (second from right) and her family

 

After my return, I completed my studies at the Jewish School and then went to the city of Cluj to study piano at the local conservatory. In 1955, I married my sweetheart, Kornell (Koppel) Brandes (born in 1924), an electromechanical engineer, and moved to Botoḥani. Our only son, Noel (Nuri) was born in 1960.

We emigrated to Israel in 1974 and arrived in Netanya. My husband worked in the Home Front Command as a shelter engineer from 1975 to 1993, when he retired. My son studied dentistry

[Page 290]

in Romania and now works as a dentist in Netanya. He is married to Hana and is the father of three children: Itai, Tomer and Shir.

My brother Shimon, born in 1946, is a pharmacist and lives in Kiryat Yam. He is father of a daughter, Hana, and a son, Reuven, from his second marriage. Hanna is an English teacher and has a son, Maor. Reuven is a graduate of Yeshivat Seder, is a Torah reader and cantor, and is a law and business administration student.

 

Yosef Berntal's Story

 

The Berntal Family

My family came to Iţcani from Czernowitz in 1926. I was then a two-year-old boy. In Iţcani, my father purchased a country home, a building for a bakery, and a plot of land for various crops on which the family also established a home farm. My family included my father David, my mother Fany, the Jetti sisters, Klara and Berta, and the brothers Mandel, Philip, Leon, Robin, and myself, Joseph. All my brothers and sisters were born at the time that Bucovina belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and only my brother Robin and I were born during Romanian authority.

Our family was considered a middle-class one. The income from the bakery, using crops produced by the garden plot (potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and various other vegetables) as well as the products from the home farm cultivated by my mother (milk and its products, meat, chicken, etc.) enabled the family to make a decent living.

The education we received began in the Ḥeder and in the state elementary school, and later in the high school. In Ḥeder, we learned to read and write in Yiddish, to speak Hebrew, halakhot, customs and Jewish tradition. At home, the atmosphere was traditionally Jewish alongside the accepted cultural atmosphere of the surrounding society. We went to plays, saw movies, read a German-language newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung, subscribed to the satirical Yiddish local newspaper Der Grager (Rattle) published around Purim time, read books, heard lectures and read poems by Jewish authors. My parents attended lectures on Judaism and Zionism, and the young people among us performed plays that the Hebrew teacher started and organized on topics related to Eretz Israel. Our Yiddishkeit, Jewish heritage, was kept by praying in the synagogue on Saturdays, Jewish holidays, observing Jewish customs (kosher food,

[Page 291]

Shabbat observance, traditions, etc.). In short, we were a traditional Jewish family, small and bourgeois, living in peace and good neighborliness with the environs.

Over the years, the older brothers and sisters left home, married and started their own families, some in Bucovina and some in other countries. It was just my parents, my younger brother Rubin, and myself who remained at home. With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, an antisemitic spirit began blowing in from Germany. Attitudes toward Jews changed, hostility increased, and the economic situation also deteriorated. The pro-Nazi “Iron Guard” takeover in 1940 led to persecution against the Jews, humiliation, discrimination, conscripting Jews for forced labor, and holding them as hostages. Uncertainty about the future increased. As a result, young people left Romania and moved to the part of Bucovina occupied by the Russians, hoping that life there would be safer. Among those who left and moved to Czernowitz was my sister Jetti Kreisel, her husband Willie and her young children, Sidi and Sandy. My brother Leon was then held hostage and under guard, along with others in the synagogue in Suceava. On October 9, 1941, my family was deported along with the entire Jewish community to Transnistria. The deportation began one morning when a police officer appeared and announced that all Jews without exception shall lock up and leave their homes, taking with them only hand luggage, hand over all their money and valuables to the local council, and arrive at the Burdujeni train station on their own. At the train station, we were crammed into freight cars, young people, women, old people, children and patients in a number far greater than the capacity of the carriages. The Romanian Army was all around shouting to get into the carriages. Finally, they locked the carriages from the outside and the journey began. Much was written and related about the tribulations and horrors of that journey. Our journey did not differ from the other transports from Bucovina and Bessarabia.

We traveled east, crossed the Dniester and reached Mogilev, a transit station, where we stayed for a short time. We were separated from my brother Leon, his wife Paula, and her family, who continued to Shargorod. We were sent to Vendichany, where we stayed until February 1944. Life in Vendichany was hard. Hunger and malnutrition, hard work and beatings, lack of suitable housing with intense overcrowding, lack of medicines and terrible hygienic conditions. All this and the intense cold in winter had their affected us. My father fell ill and died during that first winter of our stay in Vendichany. My mother died about a year later and my younger brother, Rubin, died in 1943. At the time of the deportation, my family included 24 people, all living in Iţcani, Burdujeni, and Suceava. The family was dispersed throughout Transnistria. In the end, 13 members of the family did not survive, including my mother Fany, my father, and David Berntal, who died and were buried in Vendichany, and my younger brother

[Page 292]

Reuven Berntal, who died and was buried in Mogilev in Transnistria. Blessed be their memory. I was left alone. However, the journey that began with the expulsion from my home is not yet over for me.

In the spring of 1944, the Russians liberated Ukraine and people returned home, including my brother Leon and his wife Paula. They returned to their home and their work; my brother as a dentist and his wife as a pharmacist. {redundant, already mentioned at the start} I enlisted in the Red Army and served until May 1945. During my service in the Red Army, I took part in the war against the Germans and the campaign to be free of them. I reached Koenigsberg, Prussia, with the army.

I returned to Iţcani in fall of 1945, where I found that my childhood home was still standing but was home to a Romanian resident who also operates my father's bakery. I left and emigrated to Israel through the Beitar movement. Until close to the emigration date, I lived with my brother Leon in Suceava. In May 1946, I moved to Bucharest until mid-June for pre-emigration training. At the end of this period, we began the journey to Eretz Israel. The journey began with a two-day train ride to the port of Barka in southern Yugoslavia, where we boarded the illegal immigrant ship Hagana. After a week-long voyage, we arrived at Haifa Port.

In Israel, I spent several months in the illegal immigrant camp in Atlit. I was released from the camp in December 1946, and received a Palestinian Identity Card. I was sent to Pardes Hanna, where I lived with Dr. Robinson's family. He was then head of the local council until the fall of 1947. On November 29, 1947, the day of the UN vote on the establishment of the State of Israel, I joined the pre-IDF. On May 15, 1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel, we became the Israel Defense Forces. I fought in the War of Independence and served in the career army until the fall of 1951.

On March 2, 1952, I married my sweetheart, Ziva. We settled in Haifa, where we still live today. We have four children and nine grandchildren.

While staying with my brother Leon in Suceava, before emigrating to Israel, I learned that my sister Jetti's children and husband had died in Russia, and my sister was left all alone in Lithuania. A few years after my aliyah, Jetti came to Israel alone, where she also passed away. My brother Leon and his wife also immigrated to Israel and lived in Haifa, where they died at a ripe old age. After many years, contact with my sister Klara and her daughter was renewed. So too with my brother Mendel, his son Mauritius, and his grandson David.

Continuity and family memories are kept today by stories I tell my relatives and grandchildren, and by my relationship with my nephew David Berntal, who lives in Argentina.

[Page 293]

Naomi (née Pelz) Gottlieb's Story

After surviving the Holocaust, we only had one dream: getting to Eretz Israel. The road was hard and long because the English then ruled our country. I remember the day we bid farewell to our dear ones and left Schotz. We started on our uncharted journey until we reached the port of Burgas in Bulgaria, where the ships Geulah and Medinah were anchored. Here it should be noted that the Bulgarians are good people and helped us, secretly, of course. On one dark night before, we boarded the rafts that took us out to sea, to the anchored ships. A Christian priest stood there with his entourage and blessed each one with peace and success in his own style. It was very striking that a Christian priest identified with the Jewish people after the Holocaust.

After sailing for days and nights, at some point we noticed that a ship with British Army soldiers was following us. But with fortitude and hope in our hearts, we continued on our way. And on one cloudless day when we were at the height of our excitement, because we had already seen the shores of the country and were filled hoping we had reached and would be soon disembarking to the Promised Land. That was when the British Army attacked us (the illegal immigrants), blinded us with tear gas and exiled us to camps in Cyprus. There, we operated within the underground Haganah. It was not until 1948, when the State was declared, that all checkpoints and fences were thrown open in the camps and all the illegal immigrants rushed home to Eretz Israel.

We arrived in Israel destitute but with a lot of hope for the future. This is where we started families, had children, and there are families from our generation who have great-grandchildren. It should be noted that our generation was a wonderful one that knew how to contribute to the Land and to the State. Boys and girls, upon enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces, are on guard day and night. Thanks to them, we are here. Therefore, I wish all my people who dwell in Zion and we alongside them that peace and tranquility shall prevail in our Land for all eternity.

 

Dr. Shmuel Golden's Story

I am Dr. Shmuel Golden, formerly Sandy Goldenberg, born in 1937 in Suceava to Armin (Muniu) and Rebecca (Ethel) née Klueger obm.

My paternal grandfather was Kalonymus Kalman Goldenberg, a landowner who lost his assets following World War I and the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929. He had four sons. My brothers Avi Arnold, Bubi, and Sigmund all perished in Transnistria, as did my grandmother. My grandfather passed away

[Page 294]

at 100 in 1940. From a previous marriage, he had a daughter named Mary.

My grandfather was the owner of the house on ą1 Main Street, which is still under historical preservation. My maternal grandfather, R. Yosef Ḥaim Klueger, was married to Frieda, née Wagner. Her father was Shraga Feivel, who was known as a wise man and advice-giver. They had two sons and two daughters.

My late mother Rivka emigrated to Israel in 1950, as did her brother Aryeh (Leon) Klueger. The daughter Yona (Coca) emigrated to Eretz [Israel] in 1931 together with her brother Shraga Feivel (Jonah) Klueger.

 

Suc294.jpg
Dr. Shmuel Golden (Sandy Goldenberg)

 

I remember Suceava as a quiet town where my father had an electrical goods store that overlooked the entire main street. Before the World War, he had several employees there.

From July 1941, all the Jews in Suceava had to wear the yellow patch. I remember that patch clearly. In October 1941, we were exiled to Transnistria together with my parents and Grandmother Henrietta Goldenberg and her son Sigmund, as well as my mother's uncle Benzion Klueger, his wife Heniya with their two daughters Berta (married Milio Mayer) and Lucia (Leah), who married Moshe Weisbrod, may he live long.

During the arduous journey in the cattle cars, I remember what I said in my request for water and told her: “You are also a human being, so please understand that I am thirsty.” After a walk via Ataky (I remember a grim affair, which moved all the Jews when they found that Yehuda Tennenhaus, then a teenager, had fallen into the frozen Dniester and almost froze cold) we reached the Mogilev ghetto. From there we were transferred to the Djurin ghetto, which was about 40 km from Mogilev and under the command of the Romanian gendarme, the Ukrainian militia, but all were under the High Command of the German SS.

[Page 295]

A year later, my father was sent to a labor camp across the Bug River, where he stayed for about a year, he was sent back, and somehow, he returned to Djurin. My grandmother Henrietta and her three sons died of starvation and disease in Transnistria.

We were liberated by the Red Army in 1944, after bullets and bombs flew over the ghetto from both sides of the front. On our way back, we lingered in Breichen for a few months before returning to Suceava to our the house my father built at 53 Petro Resch Street (today, ą 18). By some “intelligence”, my father learned that all our furniture was in a village a few kilometers from Suceava. but when he came to claim the furniture, they told him that everything had been bought before the war. Among the furniture, he found Philips brochures, and when he opened them, his picture fell out of one of them; clear proof of ownership.

 

Suc295.jpg
Armin (Muniu) Goldenberg's Electrical Goods Store

 

In Suceava, I studied in third grade, and a year later I was transferred to the Jewish High School, where I graduated with honors with an average of 9.87. My close friends were Yehudah Auerbach, who is in Israel; Nikki Maniya, who lives in New York; Shmuel (Sadi) Kimmel, who lives in Kiryat Ḥaim; Moshe Stein, who is now a doctor. I remember the Wagner confectionery shop where the famous cream cake which my wife, keeping with the best tradition, bakes to this day, having received the recipe from my late mother.

[Page 296]

I remember our garden, which was very large with rows of fruit trees that beautified it (today there is an entire school in what was once our garden). I remember trips to the ruins of the Great Ḥtefan Citadel, and trips to Zamca. Yehuda Tennenhaus and the late Boumi Stettner were my counselors when I was a member of the Zionist Youth movement.

My father's family is survived by my cousin Shulamit Anishko, in Petah Tikva; my cousin Mimi Niedermayer née Goldenberg, in Canada.

On my mother's side, my cousin Geulah Rasch; her brother Ilan Klueger, now lives in Israel with their children. Also, my cousins Rebecca and Daniella née Tilles, daughters of Coca Klueger; and Nilli and Moshe Klueger, sons of Jonah Klueger.

Our aliyah to Israel was fraught with many difficulties, but the Jewish police chief named Pupik coveted our beautiful home and therefore allowed my parents to get a permit to leave Romania. In 1950, we emigrated to Israel on the ship Transylvania. After living in Haifa, we moved to Kiryat Bialik.

I studied medicine, spent 25 years as director of the Plastic Surgery Department at Carmel Hospital in Haifa, and now work at the Elisha Hospital. I now live in Haifa, married to Ilana, father of three and grandfather of two grandchildren.

 

Martin Gidron's Story

I would like to commemorate my grandparents in this memoir dedicated to Jewish Suceava, which was wiped off the face of the earth: Yaakov and Amalia Bogen, the owners of the Bogen Hotel that was open from the beginning of the 20th century until December 1934.

My grandparents were wonderful people who were always willing to help those in need. Every Friday night they would set a table for lonely people and people without means, and when some of those regular guests could not attend the meal for health reasons, Grandma would send me with the food to their house.

On holiday evenings and especially for Passover, all the few people from the immediate vicinity were invited to the holiday dinner. I remember their names to this day: Mrs. Sommer, Mrs. Barber, Mrs. Bulchober, and Mr. Rosenstrauch, to whom I became attached to and especially loved because of his nostalgic stories about Emperor Franz Josef and his excellent treatment of the Jews.

My grandparents' attitude to the staff was also warm. I especially remember how they treated

[Page 297]

the waiter, Fritz Keller, who perished in Transnistria. They loved him and treated him like a son.

When my grandfather Yaakov Bogen died in August 1931, the Secretary of the Jewish Community, Mr. Gottesman, came to our house. He laid out before us a map of the cemetery and asked us to choose the burial place we wanted, setting no conditions. He pointed out that there was no place that was too good or too expensive for Jacob Bogen. And indeed, my grandfather was buried behind the grave of [Rabbi] Dr. Avraham Levy, the Chief Rabbi of Suceava. To this day, my grandfather's grave remains in good condition.

 

Suc297.jpg
Martin Gidron

 

The Suceava of my childhood no longer exists. When I returned from Transnistria in 1944, the Great Synagogue was still standing. In 1976, during my first visit as an Israeli, I was astonished to see that the synagogue had been destroyed, and a road had been paved in its place. During that visit, I learned that the old buildings that once belonged to the Jews below the main street and also on Jews' Street, were still standing unchanged. Similarly, the Jewish Community buildings and all the houses in their vicinity all the way to the High School for Girls also remained standing.

However, on my visit in 1988, there was no sign of all those houses and buildings. This hurt and upset me a lot. The Jewish sites that remained were: The GACH Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery, which was active until 1892. Located near the courthouse; the New Jewish Cemetery, which today is a most neglected state.

In contrast, the Romanians left intact the public buildings from the Austrian regime; the Tribunal (courthouse), the Prefecture (the District Building, now a museum),

[Page 298]

the impressive and beautiful City Hall, the high schools for boys and girls, and obviously, all the churches. The grove around the ancient “Chatata” castle was planted at Dr. Levi Bogen's initiative, who was then sitting on the city council.

At the time of the deportation, I lived in Czernowitz. In October 1941, I was deported via Mogilev to the Djurin ghetto, where I stayed during the war, except between May and December 1943. During this period, I was sent to the Troiţa forced-labor camp. There we were to build a bridge over the Bug River. At the end of December 1943, I returned to the Djurin ghetto in poor health.

The Djurin ghetto was liberated on March 13, 1944, by the Soviets. The moment of liberation remains etched in my memory, accompanied by a flurry of emotions. To this day, tears rise in my eyes when I recall it. It was late in the evening and already dark outside. Suddenly, I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door, afraid and fearful of what was going to happen any moment. Suddenly, a Soviet soldier was standing in front of me asking: “Are you Jews?” When I said, “Yes!,” he hugged me and burst into bitter tears. He related that he too was Jewish. He had already walked hundreds of kilometers and had passed many villages, but had not yet met a single Jew. We were the first Jews he had met after a long time. He advised us Jews to leave as quickly as possible, because this place is cursed.

I took his advice and a few days later, along with a few other Jews from Suceava: Borshi Frenkel, Thea Rones (his future wife), David (Dudle) Rahmut and Mela Frankel, we walked as far as Czernowitz. At Czernowitz, we went our separate ways. I met my cousins there: Friedel, Berl and Ziggy Bogen. We continued to walk together toward Suceava, through Mihăileni and Dragomirna. After a rough journey, we reached Suceava, which was already full of refugees from Fălticeni. Because of its proximity to the front, the residents of Fălticeni were forced to leave their city. I was lucky enough to be warmly received by one of the former employees at my grandparents' hotel. When the Fălticeni refugees returned home, I moved in with my Bogen cousins.

Shortly after Romania's surrender to the Soviets, I reached Bucharest after many hardships. Upon arriving in Bucharest, I immediately contacted the Beitar representative, the movement to which I belonged to before the war, and asked to go to Palestine immediately and unconditionally. There I was told that a ship was going to leave that night for Palestine but it was already full, so I had to wait for the next one. As I was speaking to them, a man came in and announced that he had given up on going to Palestine because he was afraid of sea mines in the Black Sea. So, that was how I got a spot on that ship! I immediately brought them my picture and by evening I was already in Constanta and boarded the ship.

The journey was arduous with a stormy sea. After a few days, we arrived in Istanbul without water

[Page 299]

or food. The Jewish community in Istanbul immediately came to our aid. They took care to supply us with food and water. The next day, we were moved to the Asian side of Istanbul. We continued by train through Adana, Turkey, then through Syria and Lebanon to the Atlit camp.

Because of the war, few illegal immigrants arrived in Palestine, so the quota of immigrants approved in the White Book was not met. So, I was fortunate to have a legal permit to enter the country, which allowed me to bring my wife to Israel legally. I had to wait two years until she could come.

 

Ester Glueckman's Story

My parents: Menaḥem Mendel and Beila Bruria (née Kostiner) Koppel obm

My late mother was born in 5667-1907, in Părhăuḥi, a small village, to Moshe-Michel Yeḥiel and Ester-Leah Kostiner obm. She had three brothers and a sister: Shlomo, Aharon, Yehoshua and Sara-Fruma (later, Hazenfertz). Joshua emigrated to Eretz Israel in the 1920s, married Ḥaya and had a son, Naḥum.

 

Suc299.jpg
Ester (née Koppel) Glueckman

[Page 300]

My mother's family were farmers with land and cattle. After World War I, the agrarian reform dispossessed my parents of their land. In a pogrom they burned down their house, stole the cows, and the family fled destitute to Suceava and initially lived in a temporary apartment, where Grandmother Tsipora Koppel lived with her children. Mother bonded with Hinda, my father's sister, and this friendship lasted their whole lives. Through her, Mother met Father and formed their relationship.

 

Suc300.jpg
Bruria (née Kostiner) and Menaḥem-Mendel Koppel's Immigrant Certificate

 

My late father was born in Bălăceana to David-Aryeh and Tsipora-Baba (née Hess) Koppel. There were two brothers and a sister: the firstborn, Yiddel Hess (Koppel); the second, Moshe Koppel, did not survive Transnistria; and daughter Hinda-Malka-Hadassah. Father was orphaned at five from his father (who was about 35 years old when he died), his sister was only three months old and his mother, my grandmother Tsipora, remained a young widow. Father spoke admiringly of his grandfather, Menashe Hess (his mother's father) and his two uncles, Uncle Mookie and Uncle Velvel, snuggling in their shadow as a little orphan. My late mother was the young daughter, orphaned by her mother (she died young) when she was only in her teens. Her mother's death had a profound effect on her, and would always talk about her longingly. Her father, my grandfather Moshe-Yeḥiel Michal Kostiner, died in Transnistria, was buried there. His two grandchildren,

[Page 301]

my mother's sister Sarah's children were buried beside him. It was a while before Mother learned of her father's death. So, she sat an abbreviated shiva.

I know little about her childhood in Romania, only that she had terrible memories from there. But she had a lot of girlfriends and she was very popular and loved by everyone. Her friends from there immigrated to Eretz [Israel] and here also they kept a connection between them. In particular, Mother was a good friend of Sara Schwarz and Ḥedva Zwibel. Among the girlfriends were Rivka Orenstein, Rivka Pisem, Rachel Horowitz and her sisters and others. My mother told me that she was a member of the Mizrahi Hatzair movement, but was not active. This I learned this from the late Israel Lebanon's books, Find Grace in the Desert and With The Remains of a Sword” and from a document (which I received from Moka Gross) from Beit Hatfutsot. She took part in the third conference of the Mizrahi Youth Association in 5689-1929 and was elected to the presidium on behalf of Mizrahi of Suceava and even took part in their deliberations.

 

Suc301.jpg
Tombstone of Moshe Yeḥiel-Michel Kostiner and his two grandsons in the Morfa Cemetery

 

Father took her to Bălăceana to meet his family. They wanted to get married, but they could not, because my mother's sister, Sarah-Fruma, had not yet married. People were careful not to marry the younger woman before the older one. It took five years as an engaged couple before they got married. The condition was that after the wedding, being Zionist-motivated, they would emigrate to Eretz [Israel]. They married on Lag B'Omer 5693-1932 and six months later, emigrated to Eretz [Israel] on a cargo ship with other people from Bucovina (Pisem, Etel Eisental).

[Page 302]

They arrived in Haifa and rented a one-room apartment in Haifa at 15 Tel-Hai Street by the Weiman family, who received them very nicely. Father was very hardworking and had expert hands: he made furniture out of orange boxes! They were happy and were satisfied with little. Father worked at first at Atlit salt-works, which was very hard work, earning about 30 Grush a day. In -1934, they brought Grandma Tsipora with Hinda and since then they have always been together and even lived together.

I was born in 1935, and named Ester-Leah after my grandmother Ester-Leah Kostiner obm. Dad wanted to move to a moshav because he loved farming and especially planting trees, but Mother did not want to, and about a year later, we moved to Kfar Ata. At first we lived in a rental. When I was one year old, they held a birthday party for me with all their friends from Bucovina present.

In the meantime, Dad started working in construction, also hard work. He built a lot of houses in Kfar Ata. For us he built a private house, and of course dad planted fruit trees and ornamental trees as well. That was where my sister Hana was born. She was named after my mother's grandmother.

During World War II, the Germans made efforts to bomb the refineries. Every night, spotlights would light up the sky to dazzle the enemy planes. Mother was pregnant then and weak. In order for her to be calm, Dad rented an apartment for us with a family in Afula, a quieter environment. My brother David-Aryeh was born there. He was named after my grandfather David-Aryeh (Leibish) Koppel. After my brother's birth, we returned home to Kfar Ata, but the war continued on. Father built a shelter in the yard. When an alarm sounded, every adult took a child and ran to the shelter.

It was very important for my parents that we observe the commandments. They took care to give us what is now called “enrichment” in Judaism, when we were still at home and later on in educational institutions. They sent us to a Young Mizrahi Women's House in Tel-Aviv. Afterward, I went to a seminar for kindergarten teachers. My sister went to nursing school. My brother went to the Yeshiva “Torah ve'Melacha” elementary school. My parents dedicated a Torah scroll in remembrance of their parents.

On 15 Kislev 5734-1974, my mother died of a stroke at sixty-six. Our parents could marry us (their children) off and see grandchildren. But my mother did not live to see great-great-grandchildren. Her death was a major shock to the family and everyone who knew her. Mother was a very righteous woman. She was humble and was always satisfied with little. She always cared for others, a woman of valor in every sense of the word. She cared for Father, who worked hard in construction, and for a time, worked with him at the kiosk they bought. She always sought the good side of everybody.

[Page 303]

We called her “Berdichev”! Several times, she gave up her own needs to bring relatives to Israel, and they even lived in our home for a time. My mother's brother and his family also lived in our house for a while when they immigrated to Israel. After her death, still in the year of mourning, Dad went to visit his ancestors' graves in Suceava and took me with him. We stayed with the Schaechter family, who lived near the synagogue. On the table there were many candlesticks left by people who had moved away but the government did not allow them to take them. Immediately upon our arrival, we went to the cemetery. I will never forget his crying at his father's grave, David-Aryeh Koppel. He spoke about his condition with Mother's death, but also that he had not been there for over 40 years. We also visited the house in Bălăceana where my father grew up. The house was the same house, but it was clad with shingles, looking kind of like wooden scales. The Gentile who was living recognized Father. We went down to the basement and then up to the attic. Father showed me the fireplace he had built.

It was enough for Father to be there for a few days, because what was important to him was a visit to the cemetery (by the way, the graves of my grandmother Ester, Leah and other relatives were also located there). But because of me, we went on a two-week trip with an organized group.

Father huddled in the courtyards of Rebbes and Admors. He had a good relationship with the late Rabbi Rubman. Every year he would collect funds, Ḥanukkah gelt, for Yeshivat Tiferet Yisrael in Haifa. Originally, he was an Antonia Ḥassid and very close to the Sert-Vizhnitz Ḥassidim. Each year he would bring, with love and devotion, pomegranates and grapes from the fruit of his garden to the Rebbe's table. All his life he made a living from manual labor and had the hands of a Hebrew laborer. He set aside time for learning Torah and took part in a regular study session in the early morning.

After Mother's death, Father dedicated a Torah scroll in her name at the time he was recovering from a second surgical procedure to remove a cancerous tumor in the colon. Four years later, Father passed away died on 14 Shevat, 5744-1984, at seventy-nine, and lived to see great-grandchildren. While alive, my parents bought a burial plot in Kiryat Atta, where they were buried. When Mother saw the plot, she jokingly asked: “Is this where I am supposed to live?” About six months later, she died on 15 Kislev, 5733-1973. Blessed be their memory.

We dedicated a Torah scroll in the name of my parents and my husband's parents that my husband Moshe Yitzchak wrote himself. Thanks to my parents, we were born in Eretz Israel and thanked them for us not having to go through the war and deportation. However, we never dreamed that after 60 years we still could not live here quietly and safely. We pray to God to watch over us and keep us safe from all our enemies and live here in security.

 

[Page 304]

Morris Glueckman's Story

I was born in 1924 to my late father Leon and my late mother Mina. We were deported to Transnistria in 1941, and arrived in Morfa. In 1944, I returned to Suceava.

I studied at the Polytechnic in Iaḥi between 1945 and 1949 for a degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. Between 1949 and 1982, I worked in a factory.

In 1983, I emigrated to the United States and worked as a bank teller until 1998. My sister Frima, a pediatrician, was widowed by Andy Jonas Acks and now lives in Bucharest. Family members who perished in the Holocaust: Dr. Philip Kaplansky, his wife Libertina and their son Yaakov, who were exiled from Kishinev. Engineer Marcel Feldman and his wife Frieda, who were also exiled from Kishinev. The wives were my mother's sisters.

 

Suceava and the life of the Jewish population

The inhabitants of the city were Romanians, Germans, Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews. The Jews comprised about 40% of the city. All of them had a social and cultural life, but especially that of the Jewish population stood out.

Ties with the Christians were influenced by the growing antisemitism in the world. Then there is the Jewish tradition that we always stood under the slogan, A people that shall dwell alone (Numbers 23:9). Despite their commercial connections with Christian customers and neighbors, the Jews lived within the community with their particular problems.

My late father had a family tree going back five generations. Apparently, the first was Meshulem Pisem from Lucăceşti near Suceava, who lived between 1750 and 1820. His son, Meir Pisem, from Bălăceana (1790-1850) was the first Jew to settle there. Many Jewish families came to Suceava and the surrounding villages. All Ashkenazi from Galicia and Russia.

Since Bucovina was under Austro-Hungarian rule, the official language was German. Even after World War II, most spoke German, except for the Hassidic population, who spoke Yiddish.

There were several families who had shops between Judengasse, Armashului Street and the GACH Synagogue that were known as “Poilisheh.” Among them were Yiddel Bran and Marilus.

Additional synagogues and a temple were built, as well as the Jewish House (Yiddeshes Haus). After 1920, the homes of Dr. Fuhrer, Zwilling, Hofmeyer and Baruch Alter were built. But near

[Page 305]

the homes of these affluent Jews, in a pretty large area (between Temple, Mirautz Street and Iţcani Street) lived the city's poor, in rundown houses that were ready to fall down.

The transition from Austrian administration to a Romanian one did not cause any particular problems for the Jewish population. German continued to be the spoken language, and for a long time, even an official one. And so the contract to buy our house was still written in German and arranged by Dr. Teich.

The complicated problem was the granting of all civil rights to Jews. From 1920 to 1940, Jewish life continued under the same conditions of tradition and culture as during the Austrian period. The Jews stood out in almost all areas, except the administration, schools, and the military. Thus, most of the lawyers and doctors were Jewish, but there were only two Jewish teachers: Prof. Gingold, a geography teacher at the High School for Girls, and Prof. Feuer, a French teacher at Ştefan Cel Mare High School. The latter one moved to Iaḥi, where he was murdered, together with his son during a pogrom.

 

Suceava's social and cultural life

Within the synagogues and the “Jewish House” and the Zionist movements there were vibrant with various activities. The Jewish House was the focus of social, cultural and sports activities. This building maintains the archives of the Jewish population. It was where the Zionist organizations were accommodated. In the building next door was the OSE, and a well-equipped gymnasium was on a basement floor. There was also a large hall for different competitions/pageants and performances. Engraved in my memory a cultural evening in which Eliezer Steinberg quoted from his parables. Besides the Maccabee team training in the gymnasium, there were also hours for children's gymnastics under Maccabee's auspices. The coaches were Willie Laden and then Fritzy Herzberg. I too took part in outdoor gymnastics in the summer on Shomer [Hatzair]'s court. I want to point out that in 1940, the Jewish community had to vacate the Jewish House, and the Suceava Police moved in there.

The Maccabi football team's activities attested to the city's Jewish youth. Among the team's players were Bozio Slafter, Freddy Dermer, Willie Laden, Heiferman, Hurtig, Rotstein, Bernstein, Merlaub, Totiver, and Director Isidor Rosenberg (Shamisu), later one of the football referees in Suceava. The games took place on the field in Chatta, across from the Christian cemetery. After the founding of the “Chatia Suceava” team, Bozio Salpeter and Freddie Dermer joined.

[Page 306]

Along with the increasing antisemitism, and perhaps as a result of this phenomenon, Zionist activity increased. At the center was the General Zionist movement. The artisans and officials from the commercial sector were mostly members of “Poaleh Zion:” and religious who were in “Mizrahi” or “Agudat Yisrael”. The Revisionist movement was especially represented by the younger generation, but also some adults belonged to it, such as Adv. Vizhnopolsky and Adv. Wolf Schaerf.

Extensive activity to collect money for the JNF. There was not any house without a blue and white box. And then there were also operations to collect money for the Keren Hayesod that was sometimes bolstered by an emissary from Palestine or Bucharest. My father headed the committee that collected sizeable sums. Although the donations were voluntary, the committee determined an amount that each one had to give. A photograph taken to mark the end of the operation under the auspices of the emissary shows Dr. Teich, L. Glueckman, Dr. Tarter, Mrs. Jetti Fuchs, Mrs. Gottesman and others.

A large part of the Suceava bourgeoisie subscribed to the Ostjüdische Zeitung newspaper, which appeared in Czernowitz under the auspices of Dr. Meir Ebner or the Renaşterea Noastră newspaper, which dealt entirely with Zionist activity and settlement achievements in Palestine. Another newspaper, Tribuna Evreiască, put focused on Jewish life in Romania.

However, only some of the Jews of Suceava were involved in the Zionist movement. The majority were active in religious life. There were many synagogues. Almost all of them kept the Sabbath by closing their businesses and taking part en masse on the holidays in the synagogues. Most people observed the kashrut laws. Already at age four, the children received a Jewish education and learned the Hebrew alphabet.

I remember old Moshe (Bord) who came every day and taught me to read the prayers. Klichstein's room was known to everyone, as was the “Talmud Torah” with teachers Carten and Miller. The kindergarten under Mrs. Blanca Isolis will also be well remembered, where we learned the first concepts of discipline. We prepared flags for Simḥat Torah and took part in choirs and dance groups on Ḥanukkah.

On Lag B'Omer we had picnics and on Tu Beshvat we ate fruits imported from Eretz Israel: figs, raisins, dates, tangerines, and so on. Even after the deportation to Morfa, Mrs. Isolis was chosen to accompany children and students who were returned to Romania and were sent to Palestine. Today, of all the synagogues, only the GACH Synagogue remains.

Mr. Nossig, who painted biblical scenes on the dome of the synagogue, should be noted. When I saw him standing on the scaffolding and painting the ceiling, I could not help but think of Michael-Angelo painting the Sistine Chapel, lehavdil.

[Page 307]

Memories of the deportation period

When we arrived in Ataky, we remained there for a few days, maybe hoping that a miracle would happen and we would return home. One day, our cousin Moshe Schmelzer, who passed the Dniester during the first transport, secretly returned, warning the Jews not to convert their money to German Marks at the rate offered, since the true value of each Mark was only 2-3 Lei, and the ruble was still good money.

And that is how I passed the Dniester with a bag with hundreds of thousands of Lei, and so did others. We could bribe the Commissioner of the Mogilev District to get trucks to transport the luggage to the cities of Shargorod, Morfa, Djurin, etc. My late father and several other Suceava men organized several trucks to Morfa, where we were greeted by brutal Ukrainian police officers, a burly mayor and gendarmes from Djurin Province with a young but evil commander. It was necessary to please the Commissioner of the Shargorod District, who was also in charge of Morfa.

Several people, including my late father and Naḥum Bacal obm, also went to Shargorod for a meeting with him. My late father stepped in, took out an envelope with 20,000 Lei, and place it on the table and then asked for his help. The man was a little surprised, but put the money in his pocket and promised to sort things out in Morfa.

Upon leaving the Commissioner, my father told those waiting outside, “He's on the take!” A few days later, the Commissioner came to Morfa and immediately several Jews arrived, including my father. To everyone's amazement, he approached my father and slapped him on the face, saying: “I want you out of my sight.” Apparently, someone must have been informed about what my father said in the waiting room. When Colonel Botturauga was appointed head of the Gendarme Legion in Mogilev, my father hoped that there would be a change for the better. But his hope was dashed; the Colonel's cruel behavior disappointed everyone. So, after returning from deportation, we were pleased that the despicable Botturauga was sentenced to many years in prison.

I want to mention another event during our time in Morfa, but this time it ended with the intervention of the N.K.V.D. My late father, together with other Jews, established a grocery store under the community's auspices. The profits were distributed among the community toward a soup kitchen and other expenses. Among the founders of the grocery beside my father were Leinburd, Hersh Fuchs, Knobler, Holdengerber, Noah and Mendel Hofmeyer, all from Suceava, along with several other Jews from Kimplung and Rădăuţi. Buma Schapira acted as the bookkeeper. The sales clerks were Knobler and his son Marcus of Suceava and were assisted by Eddie Eidinger.

At one point, the grocery store was short on cash and decided to temporarily borrow money at interest from people. Among them was a tailor from Kimpolung. When the Red Army soldiers entered, the newly established regime sought to take over every “capitalist” business. No one regretted

[Page 308]

losing a few hundred Marks except the tailor, who went to complain to the N.K.V.D. against my father on the charge that he took the grocery's money. As a result, the house was searched and although no money was found, my late father was arrested, interrogated and later released.

Translated and adapted from English and Romanian by Simcha Weissbuch

 

Mordechai Gross' Stories

 

Our family

The dynasty begins with Avraham Alter and Susia (née Dickman) Kostiner. The family believes that the name Kostiner originated from the village of Costîna near Schotz, home to Abraham Alter's grandfather, named Aharon Kostiner (in Yiddish, “Aaron of Costîna”). And that was written on his identity card.

 

Suc308.jpg
Mordechai Gross

 

In 1888, Avraham Alter and her grandmother, Susia, who came from Stanislaw, Poland, married and lived in Părhăuḥi, a village in the Suceava area. Grandmother made a living from the store they had, and Grandfather studied day and night. During the holidays, Grandpa used to go to Antonia as a passionate Ḥassid of the Rebbe.

[Page 309]

The family had four sons and four daughters. Each child born brought new joy to the home. As the children grew up, they also helped support the family. At the outbreak of World War I, the two eldest sons, Yehudah Aryeh (Leib) and Baruch, were recruited into Kaiser-Josef's army, fought on the front lines and made it as far as Italy. At the end of the war in 1918, Leib and Baruch returned home. Even before the wounds of war healed, the Gentiles rioted and pillaged Jewish property. The family was forced to leave the village and move to Schotz. There, the livelihood fell on the children's shoulders. Leib, the oldest, engaged in the grain trade but emigrated to the United States. In New York, he married Esther and started his family.

 

Suc309.jpg
Baruch (standing) and Leib Kostiner,

 

Kaiser Franz-Josef's soldiers

In 1921, the youngest son Aharon Zvi (named after the above-mentioned Grandfather Aharon) decides to emigrate to Eretz Israel (see a separate article about him and his family).

The rest of the children in Schotz get married and start families: Hadassah (Ida) and her husband Yaakov Walzer move to Vienna and from there, they emigrated in 1933 to Eretz Israel. Miriam married Shlomo Kostiner; Baruch married Golda Kempfer; Tova Rosa married Meir Gross, and Neḥemiah married Liti Orenstein.

The youngest daughter, Etel-Coca went to Czernowitz to attend a seminary for kindergarten teachers. In1937, Aharon Zvi sends his brother-in-law Herzl, who is a Palestinian citizen, to Schotz. In Schotz, he arranges a fictitious civil wedding with Etel-Coca and thus he brings her to Eretz [Israel].

[Page 310]

In Eretz [Israel], Coca married Gershon Fuchs and started a family.

The four families that remained in Schotz grew and had sons and daughters. On Saturday afternoons, all the children, their spouses and grandchildren would gather in the small apartment of Grandfather Avraham Alter and Grandmother Susia. Grandfather tested the grandchildren on the weekly portion and Grandmother honored the entire gang with kugel, egg cookies and dried-pear compote.

Family life flowed peacefully until Sukkot 5701-1940 {should be 5702-1941}. Grandfather and Grandmother, and their four children's families were deported to Transnistria. In Mogilev, Grandfather Alter was placed in some kind of old-age home where he died on Shabbat, 4 Marcheshvan [5702 (October 25, 1941)]. The next day, Grandfather Abraham was brought to the cemetery in the pouring rain. Grandma, Mother, and I accompanied the wagon for a bit. Only his sons, Baruch and Neḥemiah, followed it all the way to the cemetery. A sad end in Transnistria's soil for a Jew with a glorious past. Everyone else arrived at Morfa. Some of them were saved from the death march on the Convoy thanks to the blessed initiative and sacrifice by Abraham (Zuniu) Kanfer's resources (see a story by his daughter Sarah Yaron in this book).

 

Suc310.jpg
Avraham Alter Kostiner

 

On the morning of the first anniversary of grandfather's death, Grandmother Susia rose from her sleep and said that during the night she dreamed Abraham Alter called her. Eight days later, on 12 Marḥeshvan 5702 {should be 5703}, Grandma returned her soul to the Creator of the universe and was laid to rest in the Morfa cemetery.

Upon liberation by the Red Army, the four families returned to Schotz with their children in their entirety. No one was hurt except the grandparents, who remained buried in a foreign land.

In Schotz, the families recovered temporarily. Temporarily, because their whole ambition was to end

[Page 311]

the exile and arrive in Eretz Israel as soon as possible. The parents took some care of their livelihood, the children started studying and tried to complete what they missed while in Transnistria. They were all active in one form or another in the various Zionist movements. The first ones who emigrated to Eretz [Israel] were the grandchildren, Neḥemiah, Muma, Itzik and Aryeh. Baruch and Golda and their daughters Ḥaya and Bluma and the children of the Gross Mordechai family, Ḥaya and Sarah, followed. Miriam and Shlomo Kostiner and Tony and Meir Gross also emigrated shortly after. The last of our family's representatives in Schotz, Neḥemiah and his sons, Meir and Ḥaim Aryeh, came a few years later.

 

Suc311.jpg
Susia Kostiner and seven of her children

From the right: Seated: Baruch Kostiner, Coca Fuchs, Grandmother Susia Kostiner, Tova Gross;
Standing: Miriam Kostiner, Neḥemiah Kostiner, Ida Walzer, Zvi Orni

 

Life in Israel was difficult. The veteran families in Israel; Aharon Zvi's family (he changed his surname to Arni), Ida, and her husband, and Coca and her husband, supported the immigrants and helped their absorption in Israel. The parents looked for a livelihood while the new generation began studying vigorously at universities, the Technion, yeshivas, acquiring professions and starting families.

Leib also immigrated from America in recent years and completed the family picture of all the children of Abraham Alter and Susia Kostiner in the Land of the forefathers. Today, their descendants: grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren are scattered throughout the country from the Golan Heights to Mitzpe Ramon; members of kibbutzim and moshavim; doctors, engineers, merchants, educators and rabbis and established splendid families.

[Page 312]

The Ḥeder {short Yiddish poem}

When I was just a child,
To the ḥeder I went,
Being taught by
My Rebbe, just fine...
You have the best merchandise,
You should only learn the Torah...
The Talmud Torah building in Schotz was donated by the Itzik and Regina Vogel family. Generations of Schotz children were educated within its walls. Between the two world wars, there was hardly a Jewish child in the city who did not spend part of his life between the walls of the Talmud Torah. It was a Jewish religious and national education. It started in kindergarten, learning the alphabet, and then Torah, Rashi, and Talmud. The building was divided into 3 parts: One side had a kindergarten classroom; the second part had four classrooms; the third part functioned as offices and a kindergarten teacher's assistant. There was also a playground and a vegetable garden, a sandbox, and during breaks, there were games with buttons, coins, nuts, etc.

 

Suc312.jpg
Talmud Torah in Suceava in 1923

[Page 313]

Each child began his schooling with kindergarten run by “Aunt” Isolis. Every holiday had its songs in spoken Hebrew. On Passover, ma nishtanah; on Shavuot, saleino al ketafeinu; on Sukkot, four species and dancing with a Torah scroll; on Ḥanukkah, a presentation about Yehudah Maccabi; on Tu Beshvat, eating available fruits from Eretz [Israel]; on Purim with Queen Esther, Mordechai and Haman; bow and arrow on Lag B'Omer.

Upon completing kindergarten, we began attending elementary school, but in the afternoon we returned to the Talmud Torah building. R. Ḥaim Carten began teaching Hebrew back in 1918, began issuing Talmud Torah certificates like at school, with scores for grammar, written expression, Rashi, etc., and this led to competition in studies. Graduating to a higher class, we transferred to melamed Goichman to study Gemara. Upon completing a tractate, my grandfather Yeshayahu Gross appeared with a broad smile on his face as he walked through the classroom in his special way of asking students some questions.

These were years of studying for its own sake, the most beautiful days of our young lives in the Romanian exile. It was peaceful until World War II broke out.

Regarding Grandfather Yeshayahu; “Five years to Scriptures” (Avot 5:27).

I was Grandfather's only grandchild. All the others were girls: my two sisters, Ḥaya and Sarah, my Aunt Klara's daughters, Ester and Hana (Anika).

In my childhood, the school year was divided into two semesters: From Passover until Rosh Hashanah, and from Sukkot until Passover. From 5691 (1931), I studied the alphabet for two years with melamed Fischberg. During the intermediate days of Passover, at age five, they studied Torah and Rashi. There was an argument between my late father and teacher, and Grandfather Isaiah, who would go with Mordechai for the first time to the Bible melamed. My father gave in to Grandfather Yeshayahu.

Immediately after Sukkot, my grandfather took me to the ḥeder, to melamed Kalchstein. Along the way, Grandfather described the melamed to me. “You should know Mordechai'le, the melamed is not as tall as the one you studied with before, and his beard is not long either. Don't panic, the melamed is a hunchback, short with a thin beard. His eyes are sharp with wisdom. He is an expert on the humash (Pentateuch) and Rashi.”

We arrived at melamed Kalchstein's apartment. It was a large, well-lit room. In the middle of the room stood a long table with two long benches for students. The teacher sat at the head of the table on a high chair with a kanchek (a short stick with leather strips at the end). First, Grandfather introduced me to the teacher, and I was asked to sit on the bench next to the teacher with six other students around me. Despite the teacher's high chair, he was the same height as us, because of his short stature. The language of instruction was Yiddish.

We began with Leviticus, not Genesis. Why was that? Because the contents of the Book of Leviticus are

[Page 314]

sacrifices; the aleph [in the opening word it is written smaller] holy, and a Jewish child is pure and holy, and therefore he begins [his studies] with Leviticus. Grandfather Yeshayahu sat on the side and listened until he left, leaving me alone with the teacher.

It should be noted that the teacher never really used the kanchek, but it was enough for us when it was raised to be a warning. It was clear to all of us we had better listen carefully and absorb his words.

We received an explanation of Rashi's script. This is how the studies went: A verse from the humash and then Rashi's commentary, then an explanation. This was then repeated. By the end of the week, we knew almost everything by heart. After two hours of study, there was a break. We washed our hands and went out to the yard to eat our sandwich.

Every Shabbat, Grandfather would test me. A few months later, my grandfather told me that every single day between Afternoon (Mincha) and Evening Prayers, he studied one verse with Rashi from the humash for one hour with the rabbi of the city, Rabbi Meshulam Roth, who lived in a four-room apartment, in a large two-story house belonging to the community. In the courtyard, there was also a clinic for patients and all kinds of other institutions.

Was that possible, only one verse for an hour? My grandfather smile and said, “Come with me and you will see.” And so, one day, Grandfather took me with him to pray by the city's rabbi. In his house there was a long corridor full of holy books, where the Rebbe's special quorum was held. We entered and recited the Mincha prayer. After that, they studied a verse from humash with Rashi and perused all kinds of books whose contents I did not yet know: Rambam, Mishna, Rishonim and Aharonim, Gemara, etc. Thus, an hour or more passed before they had finished discussing one verse. Thus, after the Evening Prayer, everyone parted with a handshake from the city's rabbi, and even I shook his hand and got pinched on the cheek.

 

About Grandfather and a Torah scholar

In Schotz there was a Jew, a scholar, named R. Shamai Schapira. In 5707-1977, when I emigrated to Eretz [Israel], I said goodbye to him. My grandfather Yeshayahu had died four years earlier. R. Shamai had a son, R. Meir Schapira, head of the Yeshivat Hacham Lublin, who died at a very young age. R. Meir was a friend of my uncle, R. Yehudah Leib Kostiner, my mother's brother, who lived in the United States and named his son Meir after his best friend.

When I was a six-year-old boy, my grandfather would tell me stories about his daily life. He said that he occasionally studied a folio of the Gemara with R. Shamai Schapira, who had been blind for many years. Medicine at the time was underdeveloped, and it was impossible to operate on a blind person and restore his sight. “How can you learn Gemara with a blind man?” I asked Grandpa, and he smiled and answered: “I'll take you with me and you'll find see.”

[Page 315]

And so, one day, Grandfather took my hand and we to R. Shamai. It was a two-story house on the main street. We went up the stairs and entered R. Shamai's apartment. After a handshake and greetings, Grandpa opened the Gemara and studied aloud, and R. Shamai Schapira continued to recite entire lines from the Gemara by heart. I sat on the side and listened and watched both grandparents. My grandfather had a long white beard and every time he looked at me and smiled. I sat alert, constantly amazed by what I saw. The picture of these two grandfathers, one reading from the open Gemara and the other doing so by heart, often passes before my eyes.

 

25 Kislev 5704 (December 22, 1943)

“We light these candles because of the miracles and wonders” is the third year that we welcome these miracles and wonders, but it was just the opposite. We deeply languish in the harsh winter in Ukraine, far from home, without hope and light, without hope of getting up tomorrow morning with a new song in our hearts.

The generation of grandparents has passed away, and the war is in full swing. Very little news reached us. Bits of news arrived via JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency). It was a whisper that the front is approaching us and who knows what tomorrow will bring. Many people were felled by the typhoid epidemic. Among the deceased with us in Morfa was an important Jew who sat at the East Wall of the synagogue in Schotz with Rabbi Yaakov Moskowici. It was Rabbi Meir Schwarz, who was called “Der Poilisher” (the Pole). I remember seeing him sitting on weekdays after prayers with a long pipe with an open gemara in front of him. The man brought with him to Transnistria among the few things, something he held very dear: a small bag of soil from the Land of Israel. At his funeral, all the participants crowded about and asked to touch the bag before its contents were spilled into the open grave; symbolic that one day they could live in the Holy Land, in the Land of Israel.

Purim 5704 (March 9, 1944) Rumors spread that the German army had suffered defeats on the front. There was a feeling that liberation was approaching. On Shabbat, March 18, 1944, the streets (of Morfa) were filled with retreating German soldiers. But fear of them was still great. On Sunday, March 19, 1944, several Germans barricaded themselves on the mountain across from the town and sniped on the houses. A few hours before noon, the first Red Army soldiers arrived and dispersed among the houses and returned fire. After a while, the shooting stopped, and there was silence in the town. The Jews went out to greet the Russian soldiers with food, vodka and there was happiness.

A normal life began slowly returning to the town. A Komsomol woman, who was once

[Page 316]

a teacher, was appointed mayor. The people gathered their few possessions and returned home to Romania.

Shavuoth 5704 (May 20, 1944) Most of the deportees have already left town, and so did we. We thought about how to return. Uncle Neḥemiah (Kostiner) and Uncle Shlomo (Kostiner) left after Passover with their families. Still left with us in Morfa, was Uncle Baruch (Kostiner) and his family. The grandparents' generation is gone, but the rest of the families, thank God, are whole. Nobody was hurt. This reminds me of a story that happened many years ago. My grandfather Avraham Alter obm used to travel every year from Rosh Hashanah until after Sukkot to the Rebbe of Antonia. One year, Grandmother Susia demanded that grandfather ask the Rebbe for a blessing for a livelihood. At the last night of Sukkot, a slightly ashamed grandfather approached the Rebbe and conducted approximately the following dialogue: “Avraham Alter, tell me what is your problem?” “How can I help you?”

“My wife asks for a livelihood.”
The Rebbe stroked his beard and smiled, “Abraham Alter, that is not important at all. Longevity, pleasure from the children and their offspring; the main thing is the integrity of the family. That no one, God forbid, will be missed. That's my blessing and an answer for your wife.” All our families returned intact from the Transnistria exile. We bought a horde and wagon and began moving to our home. The roads were dangerous. They wanted to take the horse, threatened to take the men to work in Dombes {swamps?}. But after a long journey through Mogilev, Ataky, we arrived in Bereznyi, in Bessarabia.

Passover 5705, and after almost a year, we are still stuck in Bereznyi. During this time, we made a little living transporting with the wagon. The Jews who gathered in Bereznyi, including some of the Schotz natives, organized into a community. The danger of being sent to work deep inside Russia hovered over our heads, but everything passed, and after Passover, we sold the horse and wagon and returned via Iaḥi to Schotz.

We returned to Schotz after two years of wandering. The apartment we lived in was destroyed, but we reorganized. The parents took care of the livelihoods and we, the young people, joined the Zionist youth movements. Beitar, The Zionist Youth, Bnei Akiva, Dror Habonim and Hashomer Hatzair were operating in Schotz. Of course, I was in Bnei Akiva. I remember the 1947 summer camp at Haţeg in Transylvania. The adult trainees trained for what was coming with their aliyah to Eretz [Israel].

That was not what all the youth did. I saw my friend at a communist demonstration. He sat with me at seudah shlishit and sang, ...God is my shepherd at Rabbi Ḥaim Hager's table in the Vizhnitz Synagogue. He yelled, “Traiasca Soarele! (Romanian for 'Long live the Sun'; i.e., Stalin)” “Are you crazy?” I asked him. Another friend hinted to me to keep quiet and whispered to me to be careful around this friend.

Young and old, organized and emigrated to Eretz [Israel] in different ways. Aliyah gimel

[Page 317]

was overland through Europe, and by ships from various ports on the Black Sea. Our turn also came. On December 22, 1947, we were among the 50 families from Schotz who boarded a train in Iţcani to reach the Bulgarian port of Burgas. There, the ships Pan York and Pan Crescent awaited us. The boarding was accompanied by very moving sights. There was a Jew dressed in a capote and streimel, marching with a Torah scroll adorned with a crown. He was followed by an entourage of immigrants dancing and singing. Everybody on board stood at attention until that Jew and his entourage boarded the ship. And so we set sail. In the Mediterranean Sea we were surrounded by British ships and on January 1, 1948 we were to disembark in Cyprus. Eight months later, we emigrated to Israel and I joined the IDF.

 

A Matzah cover tells about the Exodus from Egypt
(Also published in a local brochure in Ashkelon)

Again this year on the Seder night, Mordechai Gross will present to his children and grandchildren the special matzo coverage he has been carrying with him for decades and will tell them his story, as in the “commandment to relate about the Exodus from Egypt”, about everyone's Exodus and the personal one. The story of the matzo cover, embroidered by his mother on the eve of Passover 5687-1927, during the first year of her marriage, begins as a lovely family curiosity and continues accompanied by the hardships of the Schotz-Bucovina community in Romania.

Mordechai relates, “In the summer of 5686-1926, my father, Meir Gross, married my mother, Tova-Reiza. That year, my father's sister, Krintzi, also married to Yaakov Lerner. So Pesach 5687-1927 was the first Passover for the two young couples. Aunt Krintzi surprised her husband by embroidering a matzo cover to exhaust her handiwork. My grandmother, Sarah, who sought to avoid embarrassment from my mother, leaked Krintzi's secret to her and suggested that she also embroiders a matzo cover for her husband. On the Seder night, the two young women surprised their proud husbands with handsome handmade matzo covers, and so everything was happy and satisfied.”

 

Thanks to the matzo cover

Along the way, we got wheat for baking matzos. On the Seder night of the Seder, Grandpa took out the matzo cover that my mother embroidered for father (auntie's cover remained at home). He told its story and wished us all “that thanks to this cover, the Holy One blessed be He will redeem us as he redeemed our ancestors from Egypt.” We all wept because we did not know what was going to happen to us the next day.

[Page 318]

A secret celebration

Mordechai, Meir and Tova Reiza's eldest son, was born in 5688-1928. According to the plan, after the Bar Mitzvah, he was supposed to go to Vizhnitz and study there in the yeshiva. However, the German invasion of Romania a year earlier disrupted that plan. The celebration of the Bar Mitzvah was held in secret and in haste, since the law had already prohibited the gathering of three Jews in one place.

Next, the authorities turned the synagogues in Romania into closed detention camps, where more and more Jews were gathered. After a while, an announcement passed along the streets ordering the Jews to concentrate at a certain time at the train station, with their packages.

 

Rachel (Berl) Gruenberg's Story

I was born in Suceava, Bucovina, to David and Esther Berl. We spoke Yiddish, German, and Romanian. I learned English, Hebrew and Romanian privately. Already at an early age, I invested a lot of effort in learning Hebrew. After graduating from high school and after studying Hebrew for many years, I went to Czernowitz to study at a teachers' seminary. After graduation, I was hired as a teacher and kindergarten teacher in Zhadova (Storozhynets). I was welcomed there with open arms; respectable people from the town came to study Hebrew with me. During the day I taught children and youth, and in the evening, the adults.

My father, the late David Berl, was a great man; clever, intelligent and loved by all of us. To our great sorrow, he became ill with cancer and, on Lag B'Omer 5694-1934, he passed away and was buried in the Suceava cemetery. We were left without a devoted and good family head. We all had to bear the burden of the family and its needs.

My brother Shlomo Walzer had already gone to Eretz Israel back in 1924, and my sisters Tova Meiselman obm, and the late Sarah David, also emigrated to Israel. My older sister, the late Miriam Kerzner, lived in Suceava with her late husband, Mendel, and their family. After my sisters Tova and Sarah emigrated to Eretz Israel, I returned home to be with my mother.

My mother Esther (née Schaechter) obm, and I lived in Suceava on Ciprian Porumbescu Street, a central street, in a house with windows facing the street. Sometimes people knocked on our windows during the day or evening and frightened us a lot.

[Page 319]

One clear morning we heard drums drumming and announcing, “All Jews must leave their homes.” We could only take what we could carry by hand, and all the rest had to be left behind. Immediately after this announcement, my late mother made bundles, such as bedding, that could be taken by hand. The residents of the street where we lived had to leave their homes on the first day, and on the second day, they had to clear the street where my late sister Miriam lived. So we left our home and Mother and I moved to my sister Miriam. Thereby we earned another day until the deportation. Dr. Meir Teich, head of the Jewish Community, organized a group of people to leave the house on the third day of the deportation. So, we were exiled only on the third day after the Romanians announced the deportation.

The Romanians deported us to Transnistria, across the Dniester River. We arrived in Mogilev, a border city in Ukraine. Some people who left their homes during the first two days drowned while crossing the Dniester River. From Mogilev we had to walk 40 km to Shargorod. The walk was very difficult. My late mother had swollen legs with bulging veins, but she walked from Mogilev to Shargorod. In Mogilev, they opened a nursing home for the adults. Many people tried to convince me I should leave my mother there. I could not agree with this. Wherever Mother was, that was where I would be. In Shargorod, we lived with ten people in one room. There was no running water to bathe so, we went to bathe in the river. The lice scourge spread, and Mother died of typhus. This happened on 4 Nissan, 5702-1942. I buried my mother in Shargorod. My brother-in-law, the late Mendel Kerzner, my sister Miriam's husband, had a kind soul and helped many people in their distress. On the day of my mother's death, he went with me to the cemetery in the early evening and helped me with the burial arrangements. A week later, he too died of typhus, which cut down many people in the camp. Hundreds of Jews accompanied him on his last journey. I continued to teach and also worked there as a Hebrew teacher.

With the end of the war, we headed home. On the way back, we passed through Mogilev. I returned with my sister Miriam obm and her children – Moshe Yosef (Mushko) obm, and Sarah Oppenheimer, may she live long. On the way, Ukrainian police forcefully conscripted Mushko into the Ukrainian army for training. Obviously, I wanted to get him out of there. I came every day to give him money to buy at the canteen, after which he went back to the army. So he thereby gained their trust. One day, I came to give him money and aimed at him to follow several girl friends who stood in different places along the way. I was afraid I would be followed, so I waited for him at the end of the trail, far away from the military base. So that was how Mushko was saved from the Ukrainian army. He was about 20. Here, in Eretz Israel, he served in the Army Corps of Engineers as a sapper, and was killed in the War of Independence in Beit Naballa. He is buried in the Haifa military cemetery.

[Page 320]

Finally, we arrived in Suceava. Our house had been broken into, and only two empty closets stood in the middle of the room. I went to Bucharest and lived there for a few weeks. There, too, I taught Hebrew, from morning to evening. From Bucharest we went to the port city of Constanta, where I was detained for three weeks. I went back to Bucharest and then returned to Constanta. On the first Aliya after the War [of Independence], we sailed by ship to Haifa. My brother Shlomo Walzer obm, met us at Haifa Port.

In Israel, they were happy about my arrival, because I was fluent in Hebrew. The Hapoel Mizrahi Women Workers' Council welcomed me gladly and offered me a job in the movement. I was accepted as a kindergarten teacher at a children's home on Benzion Boulevard in Tel-Aviv, opposite Habima. But, so they would not say that abroad they teach differently. I went to study at a teachers' seminary in Israel.

Here, bless God, I started a family. I married the late Gedaliah Gruenberg and had two successful daughters, Esther and Hannah. Esther graduated with an advanced degree in mathematics, computers and business administration and works in computers at Bank Leumi. Hannah also graduated with an advanced degree in mathematics and computers, and works as a math teacher at Zeitlin High School in Tel-Aviv.

 

Bluma Dinur's Story

 

My city Schotz (Suceava)

My name is Bluma Dinur, daughter of Shlomo and Miriam Kostiner. I was born in Schotz and lived there until the deportation on October 10, 1941.

Like every girl my age, I went from elementary school to a vocational high school. I attended that in the morning and went to the Beit Yaakov school in the afternoon. I have fond memories of my childhood days in Schotz.

There were many Jewish institutions in Schotz. Few people know about an association for mutual aid called Agudat aḥim. Father was a member of its board. The board meetings were held in the Vizhnitz Synagogue across from the Great Synagogue. The members of the society helped those in need not only with money but also visited the sick, and organized a watch at a patient's bedside at night, at home, to make it easier for the family. Relations between the Jews and the local population were good.

[Page 321]

In 1940, when the Russians occupied northern Bucovina, many non-Jewish refugees from the north arrived in the city. In the same year, there was a decree that all Jewish stores shall be open on Rosh Hashanah. The Jews had no choice regarding this decree, but the Gentile villagers, who knew it was a Jewish holiday, did not come to the city to shop. After Rosh Hashanah, they considered what to do on Yom Kippur.

A Jew named Gruenberg, who was well connected with the authorities, lived close to us and passed by every day. Father approached him and asked him perhaps he could help the congregation. After a while, Gruenberg returned to Father and said that the governor had asked who could help the refugees with a large sum of money. Dad collected money from all the merchants and asked that in return the stores remain closed on Yom Kippur. The governor accepted the request and only demanded that one store of each type of business remain open. They cast lots for each type of business for which store would remain open. And again, the Gentiles did not come to buy.

 

Dr. Zvi Hoch's Story

I was born in Suceava to my father, Dr. Immanuel, and my mother, Valia Hoch.

In the deportation to Transnistria, we were in the city of Shargorod, together with grandmothers Jetti Rappaport and Jetti David, and with my aunt and uncle, Pina and Martin Wander. We all returned to Suceava from Transnistria in 1945.

We emigrated to Israel in 1955 and arrived in Haifa. My mother and father passed away there.

My family and I are living in the United States while our two daughters are living in Israel.

Translation from English by Simcha Weissbuch

 

Dr. Zvi (Harry) Holzer's Story

Memories of the Suceava-Copaigorod journey

Just before I was six years old, we were deported from our home to an unknown destination. We lived on the outskirts of Suceava and I remember for weeks on end the endless convoys of German soldiers on their way to the front. On the deportation day, we joined groups of Jews and walked to the Burdujeni train station. We were shoved into cattle cars. As a child, I felt

[Page 322]

the tremendous distress we suddenly found ourselves under. The search for family members, the thirst for water, the soldiers guarding, the shouting, instilled in my consciousness, as a child, that we were traveling toward some terrible things.

The next picture that appears in my memory is our presence in Ataky, in the courtyard of a synagogue. Darkness, screaming, crying, shooting, fear. In the middle of the night, we were brutally gotten up and started walking, with everything we had, into some field. As we were walking in a line, suddenly two thugs, probably Ukrainians, emerged from the dark, and grabbed the bundles from two women who were marching in front of me. Apparently, a mother and daughter, who in a single moment became destitute. This image always comes back to me. These poor women were probably among the first deportees from Suceava who were lost because they were left from the first moment with no means of existence.

 

Suc322.jpg
Dr. Zvi Holzer

 

We made the crossing of the Dniester on makeshift rafts when on all sides there were terrible cries of those who had fallen or been thrown into the water. What I remember next was the walking for long hours with bundles, people drinking from the swamps along the roadside, gunshots, crying, and shouting. Suddenly, the rumor spread that anyone who could not walk was shot. I felt the sense of horror and fear when a Romanian soldier with a rifle and a whip approached. As a child, I felt the helpless situation we were in when a soldier, who did not even have boots but was fitted with makeshift opinci, but could do whatever he wanted wearing a smile.

[Page 323]

I remember arriving somewhere at night, and finding a place to stay, in a warehouse, when gunshots and bullets were constantly heard whistling by. In the morning, Father left us and I was very anxious about his safety. A few hours later, Father returned with three loaves of bread and potatoes. It turns out that we arrived at a place called Copaigorod and a small portion of the convoy of Jews from Suceava, those who found a place to settle, remained there. But the majority continued their journey to a place called Shargorod.

Our family group included my paternal grandparents, with whom we met in Ataky, Aunt Jeanette and her husband, the step-grandmother on my mother's side, my parents, Willy and Erna Holtzer and I. We tried to keep together as groups and not become separated. My grandfather, Shloime Holtzer, moved to Suceava when the Jews were expelled from the villages. He came from the village of Minciuneşti, near Gura-Humourului, where he worked with his sons raising cattle and sheep and marketing them. My maternal grandfather, Hansel Freiling, was a scholarly Jew. The family made a living from a small grocery store they used to own in a front part of the house, the same house I was born in. Moshe Rosen, later Chief Rabbi of Romania, would come as a teenager all the way from Fălticeni, a town neighboring Suceava, to study with my grandfather. I never got to know this grandfather, but his second wife, my step-grandmother, lives with us.

My father (Willie) demonstrated an amazing survival ability, when in the first few hours of our stay there he could find a place for us and bring us food. It turns out that Father went out to become familiar with the place and discovered a restaurant. He suggested to the owners that he work for them, cutting up meat carcasses, after seeing that they were having difficulty with that. Father's expertise on the subject was limited to past observation, but he dared because of the circumstances. Apparently, they seemed pleased with Father's work and, in return, gave him loaves of bread and potatoes.

The storeroom where we found a place to live belonged to the local community's rabbi. The Rabbi welcomed us into his home, where we stayed until the liberation.

My uncle, Baruch Holtzer, and his family, Aunt Malzia, the girls Hilda and Madi and the sons Herbert and Irwin, did not stay with us at first in Copaigorod, but continued to march onward to a place called Bar. This place was under German control. My uncle, who was a master sergeant in the Austrian Army during World War I, one German soldier empathized with him and gave him food; kitchen leftovers. One day, the soldier came and forced my uncle to take his family and leave. No request to remain was helpful. My uncle and his family left and somehow came to Copaigorod where we were reunited. The next day, all the Jews of Bar were murdered. It turns out that the German soldier saved my uncle and his family, probably because Uncle Baruch was a master sergeant in the Austrian Army.

[Page 324]

The local rabbi, whom we lived with, had a daughter who was a year older than me. We played together, and she once showed me hiding places around the house. One day, there was a rumor that Romanian and German soldiers were going from house to house, looking for people and sending them to forced labor in Troiţa. I showed my parents the dark hiding place and the whole family pushed themselves into it. When the soldiers came, they only found the elderly grandparents who were of no interest to them. I was very proud to have helped my family hide. Unfortunately, that did not prevent my cousins Herbert and Erwin Holtzer from getting caught and sent to Troiţa for hard labor. Erwin obm did not return from there.

The first winter was tough. I would look out the window and see sleds full of bare human corpses being hauled to mass graves. Dozens of people died every night from hunger and typhus. The Copaigorod ghetto was controlled by Romanian gendarmes and there was also a Romanian border police unit. The most common punishment for Jews in the ghetto was being given was 25 lashes. My cousin Herbert experienced this and could not sit down or move for a month. There were no Germans in Copaigorod, but we would hear all the time from survivors from German-controlled areas about the mass murder of Jews, about soil soaked with Jewish blood that was constantly moving. One day, a German junior officer appeared in the Copaigorod ghetto. I saw him in the morning, accompanied by two Romanian soldiers. Suddenly, an order was given that all the Jews of the ghetto gather in the center of the ghetto with their belongings. It quickly became known that we were being taken out into the forest to be killed. And indeed, toward the evening they took us out to the forest, which was about 6 km from the ghetto. We were placed in barb-wire-fenced pens. Then, shots were heard. The next day we were returned to the ghetto. It turned out that although we were supposed to be murdered on the orders of the Germans, which that German officer brought, an order came at the last-minute to return us to the ghetto. The shots we heard were of murders that started on the edge of the forest. It was related that on that day, Orenstein, the ghetto chairman, was taken to the forest and ordered to dig his grave. It was said that his hair turned white while he was digging, but he returned to the ghetto together with the others.

I remember the moment of the liberation. As soon as the convoys of Romanian and German soldiers left, the partisans appeared. I was deeply impressed because leading the partisans was the ghetto's tinsmith. I knew him very well because he once made me a toy rifle. Suddenly, I saw a crowd and among it were two children I knew, ages 12-13, with guns in their hands, expelling two Germans who held their hands up. The mob led the Germans to an open field where they were shot. There were sounds of satisfaction and jubilation. Then, as a child, I felt it was all over and that we were going home.

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Suceava, Romania     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max G. Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2022 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 21 Apr 2022 by MGH