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[Pages 142-146]

How I was saved from extermination

by A. Goldhaber

Translated by Sara Mages

When the war between Germany and Russia erupted on 21 June 1941, the Russians enlisted all the young people to the army. I was able to avoid the draft since no one was able to replace me at work. Immediately after the Russian army retreat, on 6 July 1941, Ukrainians started to attack the Jews who lived in the villages, and thousands of Jews were murdered and executed in different ways. In Swydova [Swidowa], a village near Tłuste, the Jews were murdered and their bodies were torn to shreds, and to this day no one knows where their bones were buried. In Ułaszkowce, fifteen Jews were found drowned in the Seret River and not a single Jew remained alive in the surrounding villages. Also, many young Jewish men who escaped from the Soviet army were murdered. The killer's hand reached them on their way home. There was also unrest in Tłuste. For four days nobody dared to leave his front door, and everyone hid in holes and cracks. Only thanks to the interference of the local priest everything passed in peace. And so we lived our lives in fear until August 1941.

On 3 August 1941, the police brought to town a large number of Hungarian Jews who were exiled from their homes and their towns. A terrible crowding situation was created in town – fifteen to twenty people were forced to live in a small room. Also, food items became more expensive, and the Christians did not want to sell us anything since the police also bothered them. But, despite all of that, the situation was not extremely bad since the Germans were not in town yet, and it was possible to get along with the Hungarian army.

On 1 September 1941, notices were posted in the town legalizing the Nuremberg laws in our place. And so were the words of the notice: each Jew must wear on his right arm a white armband with a blue “Star of David,” Jews are not allowed to trade or buy from “Aryans,” a Jew is not allowed to walk in the main street, a Jew is not allowed to be seen in the street after six o'clock in the evening, and so on and so on… A “Jewish council” (“Judenrat”) was established, a Jewish police was organized and their duty was to supervise the fulfillment of the new regulations.

On 13 September, all the Hungarian Jews were collected and taken across the former Russian border, to Kamieniec Podolski. None of them returned from there, and so around forty thousand Jewish martyrs were murdered. Every once in a while, the Germans came to town. They beat the Jewish residents with murderous blows, sometimes with the help of the Ukrainian police. At first, all the Jewish property was confiscated. Searches were conducted in each Jewish home and every item of value was taken out of it: furniture, suits, clothes, and even underwear. On 25 November, the “Judenrat” received an order to supply 200 Jews to work in forced labor camps. I also received a note, in which I was ordered to report for a transport to a labor camp, but I hid in time because I knew that death was waiting for me there. I hid for three weeks with one of my Christian friends. At the same time the Jews were ordered to deliver all of their silver, gold, and furs to the authorities.

In November 1941, news started to arrive about the “aktzyot” that took place in the nearby towns. On 4 December the first “aktzya” took place in Horodenka, and more than two thousand Jews were taken to a forest near the Dniester River and shot there. On 18 November, the same thing happened in Zaleszczyki, and 1600 Jews were killed there. At the same time, it was relatively quiet in Tłuste. Indeed, there were a few isolated murders, but mass “aktzyot” did not take place in our town. The news about the “aktzyot” in the nearby towns increased the tension, and the Jews lived in constant fear. At the same time, everyone started to dig a “bunker” for himself, an underground burrow where they were planning to hide in time of danger.

On 10 March 1942, the abduction of Jews for a transport to labor camps resumed. At the same period of time, mass “aktzyot” occurred in other towns in our area: in Chortkov [Czortków], Berezdów and Buczacz, and for the second time in Horodenka. In April 1942, the surviving Jews from Zaleszczyki arrived to our town after their town became “Judenrein” – cleansed of Jews. The Germans allowed us to rest from April until September 1942. They came, every once in a while, to the “Judenrat” with unusual and different “orders”, but an “aktzya” did not take place. But at the same period of time we had our own Gestapo men – the people of the “Judenrat” and the Jewish police, who started to collect taxes, conducted searches and took what the Germans left behind. At times, the Jewish police beat people up until they fainted and lost consciousness.

Since people were afraid to go to the labor camps, everyone started to search for a job. There were times that they not only gave up their wages, but also paid those who agreed to employ them. This provided the “Judenrat” with the opportunity to collect a large fortune in exchange for obtaining a work “permit” from the labor office. At that time, the economic situation in town was very bad. People walked around swollen from hunger, were satisfied with one potato meal a day and only dreamt about bread.

On 6 September 1942, a great panic suddenly broke out in the streets. From a window we saw Jews running and heard shouts and babies crying. We saw the police and the people of the “Judischer Ordnungsdienst” [Jewish police] abducting Jews in the street – the “aktzya” started! Immediately we went down to the “bunker” and hid. On the same day around five hundred Jews were abducted and sent somewhere by train. The official name that was given to this act was “transfer,” but we already knew that the transferees were transported to their death.

On 5 October, two hundred Germans and policemen suddenly arrived, and a real “wedding” started. 150 Jews were shot to death in the town, and additional 1100 were sent by train. On that day, the first victim from our family fell. My stepmother did not want to hide in the “bunker” and was taken out of the house. When we came back home after the “aktzya,” we found destruction and ruin there. Everything was looted and only the four walls remained. Also the walls and the floors were broken in many places, because they searched for “bunkers” and hideouts inside them. Many Jews were dragged out of their “bunkers” after the Jewish police discovered them there. Terrible sights occurred in the bunkers. Mothers suffocated their children with their own hands so they wouldn't give up the location of the hideouts with their cries and shouts.

The slaughter lasted until seven in the evening. The same thing occurred on the next day in Berezdów and in Uziran [Jezierzany]. After the “aktzya”, the surviving Jews from those locations were transferred to our town. We thought that that they would leave us alone for a few days, but it was not so. Day after day they came to us drunk, and attacked the remaining Jews. Every day there were 15-20 victims. On 3 December 1942, 40 Jews were shot. These acts of murder continued until 15 December 1942. Jews were abducted again to labor camps in the five days between the fifteenth and twentieth of December. This time the matter was easier for them: Jews volunteered to go to the labor camps because they realized that there was no difference, here or there – they were not able to save their lives.

The Germans appeared only every once in a while because of the vast amount of snow and the intense cold outside, but on the other hand the typhus epidemic caused the death of many. No wonder, we lived in crowded conditions, twenty or more in a small room. There were only four towns in the entire Tarnopol region where Jews still lived: Berezdów – 3000 Jews, Buczacz – 5000, Kopyczyñce – 4000, Tłuste – 6000. Those who remained alive anticipated the fate of their dead brothers at any moment. The head of the Gestapo expressed himself once: if a Jew will be able remain alive after the first of January 1943 – I am willing to remove my hat in his presence. All of us waited for a miracle. We realized that there was no hope for a quick end of the war. Many tried to escape to Romania, but only a few were able to get there. Most of them were shot and murdered on the way.

The epidemic spread quickly in town, and there was not a home without a number of sick, three, four and even five sick people. Every day ten or fifteen people died, but no one was impressed by that. Almost everyone wanted to die, and it was better to die a natural death. And so the months of January and February passed. “aktzyot” were not held during that period of time because of the epidemic, but the Germans found themselves another way. Every day they abducted Jews from the streets, and anyone who left his front door was abducted and taken somewhere. In a period of six days, around five hundred people were abducted this way. The epidemic slowed down a little in March. According to the “Judenrat” around 1400 people died from the epidemic in a period of three months. Over four thousand Jews remained in town.

Again, in April 1943, it became known that new “aktzyot” had occurred in other towns. We also found out that an “aktzya” would take place in our town on 8 April. This time we did not see the benefit of hiding in the bunkers, therefore we started to escape to the forests. I also escaped together with my father and brother to a forest that was eight kilometers away from town. The Ukrainian police found out that only a small number of Jews remained in town, and they informed it by telephone to the Gestapo. April 8 passed in peace without any events. We stayed in the forest for three days, and when we realized that it was quiet in town we started to return to our homes, one after the other. We were sure that the matter would take place, but we did not know when. On 1 May, the “Judenrat” received an order to supply one thousand physically fit people to work in the labor camps on the farms. The work itself did not deter us, and we were only worried that it was a new hidden trick to entrap us. Therefore no one went to register. Then, the “Judenrat” enlisted the help of the Ukrainian police, and started to abduct every person they met. These abductions continued day and night. By 20 May, around one thousand Jews had been abducted that way. Around three thousand, three hundred Jews remained in town.

On 25 May 1943, a train with twenty empty cars arrived in town. We were sure that they were meant for us, and again we escaped and scattered in the forests. May 26 passed in peace and, on first light, 27 May, at three o'clock in before morning, four hundred Germans and Ukrainian policemen arrived and started a horrible massacre. Three hundred Jews who tried to escape were shot and killed in the town's streets. Two thousand people were collected and brought to a large plot of land in town, and fifty people were selected to dig pits in the cemetery. Later on the people were led to the cemetery in groups of one hundred. There they undressed them, shot them, and laid the bodies one on top of the other. They threw the children alive into the pit. The Christians who witnessed the sight told us how people went to their death with complete apathy. There were many who lost their mind and started to sing out of madness. When the angels of destruction finished their work, they left town saying: we are not done yet, we will return to this place. For three days the blood of the murdered boiled like in a cauldron, spouted and sizzled like a boiling geyser.

We returned to town the day after the “aktzya.” Not a living soul was seen in the streets apart from those who were busy collecting the corpses. Around one thousand Jews remained in town. On 1 June 1943, all the remaining Jews were force to move to two streets. No one was allowed to go outside the “Jewish quarter,” and Christians were not allowed to enter it. Again, hunger started to bother us, but not for a long time.

Daily “aktzyot” took place at the same time in three nearby towns. In four days the whole area became “Judenrein.” They started to search for the surviving Jews who escaped to the forests, and cut them with their bayonets. Every day we were worried that the liquidation campaign would also reach us. It was impossible to escape to the forest because the police guarded the Jewish quarter. We lost all hope, sat and waited to die. Again, each one of us tried to get a job on one of the agricultural farms, although it was only a kind of “injection”, an “extension of time”, for a few more weeks. All the young people scattered, and only the old and children were left. Parents left their children and sons left their parents because there wasn't another choice. Everyone thought about himself. I was also confused and desperate, because I was forced to leave my father alone. I asked the “Judenrat” to let him go with us, but to no avail.

On Saturday, 5 June, we felt that the ground was burning under our feet, that we only had a few seconds to save our lives. I walked like a mad man, and consulted with my father what to do. He said to me and to my brother: go, you are still young and I have already lived most of my life. May G-d help you! Nevertheless, I decided to stay, so we would go through it together! And we stayed….

On Sunday 6 June, at ten before noon, I went to the “Judenrat,” maybe they would agree to let my father go with us. And suddenly – gunfire….and Jews were running from every direction… we went out, and here we were surrounded by Germans and policemen. The matter began suddenly. It was impossible to run back home. My brother and I started to run to the fields, and the bullets whistled around our heads. Not once we came across the bleeding corpses of those who had been shot to death. In the end we were able to break the circle of death, ran a distance of four kilometers, reached the edge of town and hid in a field. We clearly heard the sound of gunfire and shouts from the town. We heard each burst of machinegun fire, and also the hand grenades that were thrown into the bunkers. A shiver passed through my heart with each shot – again a number of Jews found their death… I was not able to sit down, are we going to find anyone alive when we return to town?

The shooting lasted until the late hour of the night. Before morning, I turned to go back to town without paying attention to the danger. I saw a horrible sight on the way. People were lying in puddles of blood… and it was impossible to recognize their faces for the amount of dumdum bullets that hit them. A number of them were in agony and asked for a merciful killing. I arrived in town and with a shaking heart entered my home. A dead person was lying next to the bed in the first room, and there was no one in the next room. I ran out to the street and asked the “Judenrat” people if they saw my father. But none of them saw or knew. I started to search among the dead bodies in the street, but I was not able to find him. I climbed to the attic and saw the sight that I was afraid of… my father was lying dead. He was facing the ground and there was a bullet hole in his back. My eyes darkened and I became dizzy. My legs became heavy and didn't obey me. I left to find my brother, but when we returned we were not able to find our father's body because it had been removed from there.

On the same day around nine hundred Jews perished, and only an isolated few who were able to escape survived. The one hundred remaining Jews were forced to go to Chortkov on the same day, and were murdered on the way. And so Tłuste became “Judenrein” – purified of Jews. My brother and I turned to the farm in Lisovtza [Lisowce], and remained there.

But they also did not allow us to live in peace in the labor camps. On 23 June 1943, the Swydova [Swidowa] camp was surrounded, and five hundred Jews were shot and killed there. No one was able to escape. A great panic broke out in our hut to the sound of this news. People started to scatter because they realized that the camp did not provide any security. I was confused – where could I go without a small coin in my pocket? If we fled to the forest – we would die there from starvation. But in fact there was no different in the matter, also here and also there death was waiting for us. My brother did not want to go to the forest, and I did not try to talk him into it because I did not know what was better. Therefore, I got up and went alone despite the fact that the roads were dangerous.

When I passed by the Wierzbowa forest I entered the home of a Christian woman and asked her for a little water. I saw that she felt sorry for me and participated in my sorrow, so I stood and described my situation to her.

She advised me to remain in the forest and said that she was willing to feed me. And so I wandered alone in the forest for about three weeks. On 18 July, I heard the sound of gunfire. I was sure that the shooting was coming from one of the camps. And surely, I was not wrong. Two hundred Jews were shot in the Shipovtza [Szypowce] camp and in Szerszeniowce. Only a small group of the camp's residents were able to escape. On the next day the same thing happened in the rest of the camps. I asked the woman to go to the camp in Lisovtza and find out what happened to my brother, but she was afraid to go.

After the camps were liquidated, they started to encircle the forests, so it was no longer safe to hide there. I dug myself a pit in the forest, two meters long, one meter wide and eighty centimeters deep. I was not able to stand in it, and I was forced to lie down all the time. The surviving Jews who escaped from the camps that were liquidated lived in two camps: around one hundred people in the Lisovtza camp and around eighty in the Ułaszkowce camp.

At that time, we started to see Russian partisans in the forests. A difficult winter started; the Germans came to search the forest very often, and many Jews were discovered. Also, the road to the home of the Christian woman who gave me my food was dangerous, but I did not have a choice and to my luck I was not caught. And so I remained alive until the day of liberation in March 1944.


Segments from the forest diary……

Wednesday, 25 August 1943, I did not close my eyes all night. My whole body is wounded and bruised. This is the third month that I've not changed my shirt. Today I received a newspaper and found out that the British captured Sicily. It is cold in the forest, winter is approaching – and I am naked and barefoot. I can't ask anything from the Christian woman. She is very poor and she is sharing her last piece of bread without any payment.

Thursday, 26 August 1943. It is unpleasant to go and ask for food. This is the third month that I receive my food without the ability of payment. The woman brought me one of her brother's shirts, and also made it possible for me to wash.

Friday, 27 August 1943. On my way to the woman's house I met a group of partisans. They did not hurt me; only told me to hide properly because liberation will arrive soon. I wanted to join them, but they did not agree.

Sunday, 29 August 1943. I can't sleep at night because I ponder day and night. I suffer from headaches and dizziness, my heart is beating very hard and my nerves are very tense.

Tuesday, 31 August 1943. Two Jews who were found hiding in a Christian home in Ułaszkowce were shot.

Friday, 2 September 1943. In the morning I heard the sound of gunfire in a forest not far from me. It is possible that the forest was surrounded at night. I am afraid to leave and go to the woman's house, but I am forced to go because I was left without a drop of water. She told me that the Germans found five Jews in the forest and shot them to death. I hear the news with apathy… it is all the same for me….

Saturday, 4 September 1943. On the way I met a young Jewish man from Zaleszczyki who wants to escape to Romania. He gave me 2000 Zlotys so the woman will change them in town for dollars. I received the money from him, but I never saw the young man again.

Tuesday, 7 September 1943. A young Jewish man was shot not far from my hideout. According to the woman's description it was the young man who gave me his money. Now I decided to bring my brother Reuven to me.

Wednesday, 8 September 1943. I sent a letter with the woman to my brother in Lisovtza, and told him that the woman would come to take him next week. I also received an answer from him.

Friday, 19 September 1943. A group of thugs attacked me when I walked in the forest at night. They beat me, wounded me, and robbed all of my money. Now I am desperate. I was hoping to be together with my brother and again I was left without money.

Tuesday, 13 September 1943. I obtained a new fresh newspaper. Historical events are happening in high speed. Italy surrounded, and the Russians already reached the Dnieper River. Are we going to be rewarded to reach the day of liberation?

Saturday, 17 September 1943. Again we can see partisans in the area, Ukrainian partisans not Russians. To us, the Jews who live in the forest, they are not less dangerous than the Germans.

Wednesday, 28 September 1943. Again, it is not safe to stay in the forest. 50 Jews were shot in the Uziran [Jezierzany] forest, and 250 Jews in the Skalat forest. I don't have a choice, I must stay here.

Saturday, 1 October 1943. It is impossible to stay in the forest, and the cold is unbearable. Life in the camp is difficult, and desperate people report to the police station and ask to be shot. Many take their own lives, and if salvation will not arrive soon, also the last few surviving Jews will be lost.

Thursday, 13 October 1943. Many Germans are walking in the forest searching for Jews to complete the “quota”. The sound of gunfire is being heard all day, and many Christians hand over the Jews who hide in their homes.

Saturday, 15 October 1943. Again, eight more Jews were found in the forest and shot. Only nine Jews were left hiding in this forest.

Wednesday, 19 October 1943. Three Jews were found and shot in the Teklówka forest, around one kilometer from here.

Friday, 21 October 1943. 36 Jews, who were found hiding in the villages, were shot in Tłuste.

The noose is getting tighter from moment to moment. Are we, the survivors, are we going to be able to hold on?

Tuesday, 1 November 1943. News arrived that the situation in the battlefront is for the better. The front is closer, around 200 kilometers from here. Salvation is approaching, but are we going to be alive then? The echo of canon fire is being heard from a distance, and German airplanes are flying around in the air. Who will give me a few more weeks of life? It is very cold in the forest, but it is not the worst. The worst is yet to come. When the snow will fall, we will be lost, our footsteps in the snow will lead them directly to our den. But we hope that salvation will arrive before the arrival of the snow.

Sunday, 13 November 1943. Until today I lay without food, and now the snow is melting. The Germans started to search the forests with great detail, and every day new victims fall. The Soviets captured Kiev, and they are getting closer. Typhus started to kill again, and those who are not shot to death – die from the epidemic.

Friday, 18 November 1943. This is the third day that I lay sick. My legs are swollen from hunger. I can't walk a step, and I can't walk to eat. Food did not reach my mouth all day yesterday, but I don't want to die from starvation. In spite of that, today I will gather the rest of my strength and go.

Wednesday, 1 December 1943. Reuven came to me this morning. All the camps are being liquidated and the Jews who remain alive separate and go in different directions. Apparently their intention is to kill the last Jewish survivor.

Monday, 5 December 1943. It is snowing all day, but I don't have any choice, I must go outside and walk. May G-d help us…

Tuesday, 27 December 1943. We are fasting for the second day because we are unable to go outside. I lay pondering, how can a man overcome all of that? To lie in a dark pit when the body is diseased and full of wounds and the pain is unbearable. The hunger and the cold bother us, and in addition to all of that – the fear. In spite of that, we are alive… we live with the power of hope, and maybe we will be able to survive if the matter will not last too long. Meanwhile, the end of December arrived – and salvation is not visible on the horizon….

Saturday, 31 December 1943. Again, eight new victims: six in Holovtshintza [Hołowczyńce], and two in Tłuste.

Saturday, 21 January 1944. It is eight days that I lie with a forty-degree fever. A disease attached itself to me, “a blow” to my side, and I suffer from terrible pains. I can't lie down or sit, and I revive my soul with a little bit of snow…

Wednesday, 15 March 1944. I did not write during the past few weeks because there was nothing new. Every day was the same – hunger, fear and terror. The Christians tell us that the Soviets are getting closer, and we should expect them to arrive in a week. It is simply difficult for me to believe it…

Monday, 20 March 1944. The sound of gunfire is explicit and obvious. Is it truly possible that we were chosen to survive out of three and a half million Polish Jews?

Tuesday, 21 March 1944. The gunfire is increasing, there is a large movement of airplanes, Germans and Russians all mixed up. The heart is beating hard from happiness and hope… here is the salvation that we are waiting for the past three years, and millions of Jews were not rewarded to see it…

Wednesday, 21 March 1944. I hear the sound of footsteps. I thought to myself – here comes our end… but it was the Christian woman who came to give us the news that we can come out: the Soviets arrived. So we came out of the darkness of the pit to the air of the free world.

Caption next to the photo: R' Aharon Goldhaber, one of the best teachers in town. He knew how to throw bitterness at his students and sweetened their studies. He was rewarded that his offspring live in Israel.

[The same in Yiddish]

[Pages 147-149]

In the Labor Camp in Kamionka

by Eliyaho Albin

Translated by Sara Mages

In 1939, when war broke out between Germany and Poland, panic spread among the Jewish residents who feared that the Ukrainian population would hold pogroms against the Jews. A general mobilization was announced, and people walked confused and helpless because they didn't know what tomorrow would bring. However, this situation didn't last long. The Poles withdrew within seventeen days and the Russians took control of Eastern Galicia under the agreement between Russia and Germany. The Jewish population calmed down a little, but with that, there were concerns about the future. It was not known how the war would end and to whose hands the region that we lived in would fall.

The concerns were confirmed. The bitter hour arrived when the war broke out between Russia and Germany. The fear of attacks by Ukrainians became very real and, indeed, such attacks took place in the villages around Tłuste and almost caused the total extermination of the Jews in these villages. However, nothing happened in Tłuste and this time we only paid with fear. The German radio announced with great satisfaction that the Ukrainians murdered over sixty thousand Jews in Galicia, especially in the villages. And indeed, this was true. Jews were brutally murdered with work tools and cut to pieces with knives held in the hands of their Ukrainian neighbors.

Our fate slightly improved in the first period because our area was occupied by the Hungarian army who behaved more or less humanely. For a bribe they even helped us to bring the Jews who were murdered in the villages to a Jewish grave. This relative calm lasted three months, and then the regime changed and transferred to the hands of the men of the German S.S. A “Judenrat” (Jewish council) was immediately assembled and, before long, one hundred and fifty people were sent from Tłuste to a labor camp. Each person who was recruited to work received a draft order in which he was ordered to report on a certain date to the district office in Chortkov [Czortków]. No one dared to evade. All the recruits, myself included, reported on time to the office in Chortkov, and from there we were taken to the labor camp in Kamionka.

The concentration place of the recruits was the large square in the yard of the Chortkov Rabbi. There, we met young people from all the cities in the area and also a number of old people. People were organized by cities, and the men of the S.S., who were holding lists in their hands, called the name of each recruit. They announced that we should be ready to leave immediately for the road, each with a backpack on his shoulders. And indeed, the journey to the train station began immediately. At the beginning of the march we realized that it wasn't just a departure for work, and that we would return home at the end of six weeks as was promised to us by the Judenrat. From the moment the S.S. men took over control of us, they started to beat us with rubber clubs for every small delay during the march. Most of the blows fell on the elderly because they didn't have the energy to walk at the required pace. In this manner we marched to the train station and saw with a trembling heart how people were beaten at no fault of their own.

Freight cars already stood ready for us at the train station. We were ordered to enter quickly into the cars and, again, those who weren't able to carry out the order at the required speed were beaten. There were also big dogs that helped the oppressors to scare us into the cars, so each of us felt himself happy when he was deep inside the cars. It was so crowded in the cars that it was impossible to sit and we had to stand all the way. In this way we traveled until the day turned dark. Suddenly the train stopped, the door to the car opened, and two S.S men broke into it and started to hit us without mercy. Naturally, those who stood by the door received all the beatings. By chance I stood at the other end of the car. After that, an order was given that all items of value – money, watches, soap and even food – had to be given to the men of the S.S. who stood on the side. Those who stood nearby gave all they had in their possession and the others also gave something. Then, the S.S. left us with additional blows. They continued to do so in all the cars, and when the act of robbery ended the cars were locked and the journey resumed. We didn't know where we were going, but based on the stops along the way we realized that they were taking us in the direction of Tarnopol. We traveled until the late hour of the night. People got very tired standing so tightly, but there was no other choice. In addition, it was bitterly cold and snow was falling outside, something quite unusual for that time of the year, 15 November.

At three o'clock in the morning the train stopped next to one of the stations, but it didn't approach the station. The doors opened and the men of the S.S. welcomed us with blows and shouts: get out immediately and run down. We ran downhill accompanied by blows and scolding of the S.S. and the Ukrainian policemen, and chased by police dogs.

The road downhill was covered with snow and it was difficult to walk on it. Each person who slipped and fell was beaten to death by the S.S. and the Ukrainian policemen who stood along the road, a distance of about one hundred meters from each other. When we got down, a new gang of S.S. thugs welcomed us with a shower of blows with their rubber clubs. They ordered us to line up in rows of four and marched us to the camp. In this manner we marched, beaten, wounded and groaning from pain, a distance of four kilometers to the notorious Kamionka labor camp.

Two S.S. men, and two Ukrainian policemen, stood at the entrance to the camp and counted us with blows. The leadership of the camp was in Jewish hands. The commander was, Mr. Kalts, a German Jew with a good personality. His deputy was one by the name of Yisraelik who had the merciful quality of a Jewish man. They took us to the barracks where we had to sleep. There were already people in the barracks. They had arrived before us from the district of Tarnopol. Fear fell on us when we saw people walking with bandaged faces. Most of them were wounded in the head and face. We asked the meaning of it, and it was explained to us that this was not a camp for a six-weeks stay, but a death camp from which no one comes out alive. They beat here incessantly: they count and beat on the way to work, and count and beat on the way back from work, and not mentioning the time at work. Yisraelik took us to our beds – four wooden beds, one on top of the other, and each for two people. We lay down to sleep, but none of us was able to fall asleep from the excitement and the concern for our future.


At five o'clock in the morning they already chased us out for the roll call. S.S. officers arrived at seven and started to check, according to the lists, if everyone was there. In any case, it was impossible to escape from there because the camp was surrounded by an electric barbed wire fence. The matter took until eleven, and at the end of the roll call they ordered us to hand over any sum of money or a watch in our possession under the threat of death by shooting. Apparently, no one dared to defy the order and handed all that was left in his hands, either local currency or foreign currency. All that lasted until two in the afternoon. After that, we were ordered to get a haircut and be ready to go to work after roll call on the next day. In this way our first day in the camp has passed. It was extremely cold outside and a lot of snow fell. It was also very cold inside the barracks. Eight iron stoves stood in each barrack, but they stood there only as a decoration so the representatives of the Red Cross would see them when they inspected the working conditions in the camp. A delegation of the Red Cross came to visit the camp twice while I was there, but none of us dared to approach them and tell them about our sufferings, about the beatings and the meager ration of food which wasn't enough to sustain a man. They clearly saw our condition, but they also didn't dare to ask questions.

Our second day of our stay in the camp arrived. Two "Ordnungsdienst" (Jewish policemen), who were under Yisraelik's command, entered the barrack at four in morning. They woke us up with shouts and whistles and ordered us to go and get our “breakfast.” There was one kitchen for one thousand five hundred people. By the time that we, the new people, arrived to the kitchen to receive our cup of coffee, there was already a very long line and not enough coffee for all of us. At six, we had to appear at the location of the roll call. The camp commander and his helpers were already there and they ordered us to line up with shouts and scolding, so much so that terror has fallen on us.

At eight, the men of the S.S. arrived to take us to work. They divided us into different types of jobs, and each of them was difficult and hard. I was sent to work in the quarry, a distance of ten kilometers from the camp. The quarry was inside a forest, and non-Jewish workers also worked there, but they worked under humane conditions and also received wages and food. We, the Jews, didn't get anything all day long, apart from blows. There were also other jobs, such as pulling railway tracks and wooden railway sleepers for paving. Some worked in road construction. They were forced to sit in one place and chop rocks, and many of them caught a cold. Others delivered rocks in wheelbarrows. They were exhausted from the hard work and lack of sufficient food. I decided that it was better for me to work hard than take a chance of catching a cold in lighter work, and somehow I managed to hold on. There were those who weren't able to hold on and died from starvation.

Two members of the Ukrainian police led us to work, and during work we were guarded by the men of the S.S. and Ukrainian policemen. In addition, big dogs guarded the area so none of us would be able to escape. Every day we were brought back to camp tired and exhausted, weary and wounded. There were those who didn't have the strength to walk and then we took them between two of us so the killers wouldn't notice it. Two S.S. men and two Ukrainian policemen stood at the entrance to the camp and counted those who entered, again accompanied by severe beating. After we returned to the camp we had to go to the kitchen and receive a cup of soup for dinner. The soup was prepared from beans and grits and included a little meat. However, this meat was from horse carcasses, and those who ate it immediately came down with diarrhea. Eventually, a typhus epidemic broke out among the camp's workers and the weak weren't able to recover from it. The sick were taken to the corridors and many died there of hunger and torture. The bread ration was distributed at ten in the evening, a loaf of bread for twenty people. Each of us was forced to be satisfied with eighty grams of bread a day. From day to day, the number of workers was reduced under these horrible conditions. After a short time, only half the people who were brought to the camp remained, and every once in a while new people were brought to the camp to replace them. There were many who ransomed themselves with large sums of money and with the intervention of the Judenrat. Liberation from the camp cost from eight to ten thousand Zehuvim per person, and there were those who handed their last coins to free their father or brother from the death camp. Once, the Judenrat announced that for one month it was possible to release people from the camp dirt cheap, for only one thousand Zehuvim. At that time the money was already gone from the pockets of many, but those who had the means handed the money to the Judenrat. In the end, all this money was lost because no one was liberated. From time to time the Judenrat found different excuses to take money from Jewish residents and use it to save their own friends.


Not many who survived the camp in Kamionka are still alive. Here, in Israel, there are a few people from Tłuste who witnessed everything that happened in this camp, but I doubt that there is a man who has the strength to tell and describe everything that he saw and experienced there. Every hour and every day, they had enough material for an entire book. Is it possible to imagine that a brother could beat his brother to death to please the oppressors? But the fact is that a “nice young man,” Yisraelik, has done that. During roll call he hit more than the S.S. men. This roll call usually took place once a month, on Sunday at eight o'clock in the morning. Not once it happened that one of us wasn't able to stand and collapsed. If the S.S. men didn't notice it – Yisraelik noticed it, and then the poor man received his punishment. I will never forget the horrible sight that I have seen in one of these roll calls. A young man from Probużna, about 16 years old, collapsed and fell. One of the S.S. men attacked him and beat him with his rubber club until he lay helpless. The heart shrank at the sight of the young man who was writhing in pain and moaning in a heart-rending voice. We saw these sights more than once. At times people died on the spot, and then the murderers set their dogs on them and ordered them to drag the people from the place.

Jews who helped the Nazis were also punished – none of them remained alive. A few managed to escape from Kamionka camp, others were ransomed with money paid by their relatives, the rest were exterminated by the Nazis and the camp was set on fire.


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